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It’s a hot night but Dean still hasn’t taken off his jacket. Force of habit, he guesses. Better safe than sorry. Always better to keep what you got on you.

After they (with a fair amount of dignity, Dean thinks) flee the brothel, Dean drives them around until he spots a Ruby Tuesday off of Main Street catty corner to a Home Depot and across a long, flat stretch of still sizzling asphalt from a WalMart Supercenter. Dean wheels them into the lot, thinking screw it, he deserves a treat and Cas might kick it tomorrow—why not splurge? Besides, Dean’s a generous date.

Dean snorts at his own joke, overwhelmingly in a good mood and still a little tipsy as he shepherds Cas from the car and into the restaurant towards a vinyl booth. The shitty overhead speakers crackle with a Janis Joplin number.

“You know I don’t need to eat or drink, Dean,” Cas says after Dean orders drinks for two. He phrases things like this, sometimes, like he’s informing Dean of Dean’s own knowledge. It has the interesting effect of being bizarrely endearing—someone so blunt, so unlikely to mince words as Cas stating the obvious, stating that he is aware he is stating the obvious. Doing it anyway. Like he’s pointedly making conversation for the hell of it, like it’s an indulgence. Dean guesses it kind of is.

“Yeah,” Dean agrees, easily, happy to indulge at the moment. “Just like you don’t need sex. Don’t make it any less important.”

Whatever Cas is about to say gets cut off by their waitress’ brisk return with two beers. “Here you go,” she says. “Ready to order?”

“Haven’t even looked yet,” Dean chirps.

The waitress nods like this is what she expected, unfortunately. There’s no one else in the joint so she was probably hoping to close up early. She lingers at the table like she’s expecting them to come up with their order here and now, and meanwhile Janis sings, “Like a turtle hiding underneath its hardened shell, but you know I'm very well protected, I know this goddamn life too well.”

“You know,” Dean says, trying to be friendly because he knows this schtick, he’s been this schtick, and he knows it sucks. He points vaguely upwards. “My mom played this album all the time when—”

“It’s a good album,” she cuts him off, gestures like she’s capitulating and says, “alright, you take your time.” Adds with not a breath spared, “We do close in forty minutes, though.”

“We’ll be quick,” Dean says with a wink. The waitress, Karen her name tag reads, gives a lock jawed customer service smile and bows out. Tough crowd.

Cas watches the exchange with a little wrinkle in his brow like he’s puzzling out the nuances of human conversation. God, Dean just fucking—likes him. A lot . “Come on,” Dean coaxes, pushing a menu Cas’ way. “On me. Obviously. First rule of team humanity, don’t turn down free food.”

He smiles at Cas and Cas gives a little half-smile back, the same one from outside the brothel. Dean’s gotta duck his head into the menu to keep from beaming right in the guy’s face. He’s apparently figured out a pretty sure way of getting Cas to smile—monkey-see, monkey-do; machine learning, except . . . . Well. It don’t seem artificial, is the thing. The way Cas frowns as he reads over the appetizers, glancing quick looks over at Dean.

And Cas gave up everything, everything, for them. His home and his family for Sam and Dean. Who else has ever done more for them?

Done more for me, Dean revises, mentally, taking a long drink. Cas barely knows Sam; Dean doesn’t even think they like each other very much. Cas did this for Dean. Not Sam. Screw Sam, this one thing is his.

Dean’s never had a best friend before. Not really. It’s . . . fuck, it’s nice. It’s really nice.

He kicks Cas under the table. “What’re you thinking?”

“I’m thinking that you shouldn’t waste money on me,” Cas advises, immediately. “The prices here are exorbitant.”

“Come on, man.” Dean nudges him again for emphasis only for Cas to quirk an eyebrow in his direction. “This is America—we serve you dinner before we kill ya. Hey, even Jesus got a fancy last meal, right?”

“I didn’t know the man personally but I still have much to say on what modern human’s consider to be the historicity of Yeshua of Nazareth’s life,” Cas grumbles.

Oh, this Dean has to hear. He leans forward, resting his cheek in one hand. “Yeah? Hit me with a little known fact.”

“He was a very funny man, apparently, though humor, I find, is subjective. Also, he was a sodomite.”

Dean splutters, choking on his own spit. “He—”

“Ready to order?” Karen the waitress interrupts. “We close at nine.”

“Uh-hu, caught that,” Dean grumbles, unfairly, and takes a swig from his drink while mentally blacking out the word sodomite from his short-term memory. Easy enough with all the concussions over the years. “You know what you want, Cas?”

Cas meets his eyes. “I’ll defer to your judgement, Dean.”

“Alright, then,” Dean says and when he smiles, Cas smiles back.

*

They get two buck hickory bourbon bacon sirloins, the 8 oz ones that cost an insane nineteen bucks each, like one of them’s getting married tomorrow or something because Cas revealed he still has the cash Dean gave him to get laid with and hey! How different is steak from sex, really? Dean said he was splurging so he’s fucking splurging. It’s the end of the world, baby, they might as well eat like it.

The problem, which quickly becomes apparent after Cas starts listing off nutritional facts instead of making noises that Chastity was supposed to have him make, is that Cas—

“—can only taste the molecules?” Dean outrages through a mouthful of his fucking awesome, thanks, meal. “What the hell do you mean you can only taste the molecules.”

“‘Taste’,” Cas says, finger quotes and all, “is the approximation of how I translate my vessel’s experience to—me.”

“You.”

“Me,” Cas agrees, looking slightly chastised but not really. Sometimes Dean gets the sneaking sensation that he’s anthropomorphizing the guy, which is weird since Dean is looking at a guy. “Dean, you know I’m not . . . .”

“I know,” Dean rushes to say, feeling a little wrong-footed like he does when Sam chastises him for using a word he’d thought was perfectly appropriate only to be told, that’s actually really offensive, Dean in his Stanford educated voice. “I know. But—I mean, why does that mean you can’t enjoy the little stuff? The little stuff being a steak that’s half a pound but still.”

Cas studies Dean for a long moment like he’s trying to puzzle out the right words. Dean lets him stare, stares right back because, fuck it, it’s not like anyone’s around to judge except Karen the bitchy waitress. Finally, Cas says, without breaking eye contact, “You—that is, human beings—have roughly between nine and twenty-one limited external senses as well as some internal.”

Dean frowns, shifting in his seat, feeling a bit like someone’s—that is, Cas’—lab project but not entirely finding the experience to be all that unpleasant, if a little embarrassing. “Sure,” he agrees easily. “So?”

“So, I possess those same senses,” Cas continues, patiently. “Only on a heightened scale, plus another odd three thousand exclusive to angelic beings on the astral plane. What I experience in my vessel translates over as a relatively minor sensation to my true body.”

He’s talking about steak, Dean has no right to be offended. “So it’s like I’m offering you a Tic Tac and calling it a traditional Thanksgiving dinner like in the movies?”

“I don’t know what a Tic Tac is.”

Dean waves this concern away. “What you’re saying is that you got so much going on with, y’know,” he figures broadly to Cas, the space around Cas, as though he is simply an invisible creature bundled inside of this Ruby Tuesday on a plane slightly to the left. Hell, maybe he is. Dean’s been downstairs and back and he’s still never wrapped his head around the metaphysics of the whole thing. “That exorbitantly priced steak is barely making a blip on the ol’ Cas-dar.”

Cas nods slowly. “I believe that’s what I’m saying, yes.”

“Okay,” Dean nods back. “We can work with that. I happen to know a sure fire way of dulling down unwanted senses.” And he waves Karen the waitress over from her bored perch over at the bar.

She pastes on her customer service smile again and Dean asks, “What’s the most alcoholic drink you got under ten bucks?”

“Long island iced tea,” Karen answers immediately.

“Two of those.”

And as soon as they’re plunked down on the table in front of them Cas is off to the races—downing one whole glass in an even six gulps before doing the same with the next one right in front of Karen’s horrified face.

“You—” Karen says, low voice cracking high as she stares at Cas.

Cas tilts his head and frowns at the empty glass.

“That was, like, five shots,” Karen says.

“He has a high tolerance,” Dean informs her with a winning smile. “It’s a curse. Family thing, I think. Livers like steel traps.” Karen barely glances at him.

“Can I have another?” Cas asks, looking directly at Dean instead of their waitress which for some weird reason Dean gets a kick out of.

Dean smiles at him. “Sure, Cas,” to Karen he adds, “and another beer for me.”

“Are you going to fucking chug it again?” Karen asks, the customer service persona left by the wayside. “‘Cause I’m not getting fired over some jackass who wants to die of alcohol poisoning on a weekday.”

“We’ll be good,” Dean says, grinning, shooting a glance over to Cas as he nudges him under the table feeling this side of buzzed himself now. “Right?”

Cas nods, solemnly, a sympathetic twitch to his lips warming his face up to something almost resembling coyness. He kicks Dean back, soft, just this side of bruising. Dean’s heart, a year resurrected and not quite up to snuff, squeezes and starts double timing in his chest.

Karen glances between them when Dean thinks to look back to her. A weird knowing look flits over her face before she assents and gets them their drinks.

“Sort of a hard-ass,” Dean says under his breath to Cas. “Minimum wage kills the spirit, Cas.”

“She’s worried about her girlfriend,” Cas informs him, matter-of-factly, gaze following Karen over at the bar. “They’ve been living together for a short while but she’s moving back home for an indefinite amount of time because her mother is dying and, despite their fraught relationship, she still loves her and she doesn’t trust her siblings to take care of her. Karen wants her to stay but won’t ask because she knows it’s selfish and she doesn’t want to admit she needs her that badly. She’d go with her, but that would only make things worse for her girlfriend and Karen’s got her whole life here, anyway. It’s a conundrum, they’re fighting about all the wrong things.” Cas stares a beat longer, then blinks and looks back to Dean. “Dean, I think I might be feeling something.”

Dean laughs, reaching across the table to cuff Cas’ arm. “Yeah?”

Cas, rumpled as he always is, looks no more closer to drunk than he did a few minutes ago but he still half smiles back at Dean. “I don’t think I would’ve paid that much attention otherwise.”

“What, like you did with Chastity back at the bar?” Dean shakes his head. “You’re a pretty focused guy, Cas. Good listener even without the mindmeld crap.”

“You’re biased,” Cas points out fiddling with his silverware and hazarding another bite of his steak.

“Yeah? How come?”

“I like paying attention to you,” Cas says, simply, with his mouth full, “significantly more than I do any other human I’ve come across.”

Dean’s face burns. Reflexively, his mouth says, “And you’ve met Jesus.”

“Not personally, Dean,” Cas corrects him. “As I said.”

“Well.” Dean says, sawing off a piece of his steak busily. “At least my bitching has cosmic repercussions now. Karen over there’s just gotta get a new roommate. One that she’ll have boundaries with this time hopefully.”

“They’re girlfriends,” Cas says, slowly, chewing, like he’s puzzling something out.

Dean shrugs, mouth full. “Guess friendships between two chicks can get pretty intense. Emotional and shit.”

Karen brings them their drinks and they tuck in full force into their meals, Cas nodding in consideration at Dean’s coaxing like he’s trying to teach him wine tasting or some shit. Detect the notes of meaty sweetness in each bite of nineteen dollar steak.

“I think,” Cas hums around a mouthful, sauce collecting outside the corners of his lips, “that I may like this.”

Dean can’t help but laugh, swallowing hard to keep from choking. “Oh, you may, huh?”

“Yes.”

“Well, I’m glad,” Dean says, and he is, too. Even if it doesn't taste quite like it’s meant to, an approximation ain’t bad. Good enough has always been more than enough for Dean.

“Besides,” Cas continues, not in any way, shape, or form in the ballpark of drunk but maybe just a little buzzed, just enough to be more loose lipped than usual. “If by the slightest chance I do survive tomorrow, and things continue on as they have been, I may start to further drift out of the celestial plane and ground myself in this vessel. I’ll lose most of my senses that way.”

Dean blinks. “You’ll fall.”

Cas doesn’t look up from his plate. “In a manner of speaking.”

“Like Anna.”

Cas glances up at that, sharp and quick. “Anna carved her grace out. I’ll slowly be suffocated from mine.”

“Shit,” Dean says.

The look Cas levels him is unreadable, almost comically serious with glaze all across his lips. “It was just a hypothetical. It won’t come to that. It won’t.”

“Yeah,” Dean agrees with a long drink. “Yeah, no.”

Cas nods and goes back diligently to his food. Dean watches him a second longer.

“I mean,” Dean says, and Cas gives him a warning look. Dean proceeds heedless but slow, “I mean, that would be bad. Like, very bad. For everyone involved, obviously.”

“Obviously,” Cas repeats like, so why are you saying it, dumbass.

“Yeah,” Dean continues. “But you know—on the bright side, you think this steak is good now? Let me tell you, buddy, you ain’t seen nothing yet.”

Cas stares at him. “I hardly think that a slab of meat soaked in alcohol and garnished with the meat of a different animal can compare to losing a source of heavenly power when trying to avert the apocalypse.”

“I dunno,” Dean shrugs. “It’s pretty good steak.”

Cas keeps staring at him.

“Tell you what,” Dean says. “We survive this? All of this, I mean. We live through everything by the grace of God or you or me or whoever the fuck wants to pony up and you’re a real human boy at the end of it? We’re coming back here and you’re going to try this stupidly overpriced delicious fucking steak again and you’re going to say, ‘Dean, you were right’. Sound good?”

“Sound good?” Cas echoes. “Dean, if I lost my powers, there’s no chance for me to live through the year to come.”

The year to come. Immediately the summer seems to be ending far too soon. Dean squares his shoulders to suppress a shiver. “Don’t sell yourself short. Humans have got a knack for surviving what doesn’t kill ‘em.”

“Dean, that doesn’t make any—”

“Cas,” Dean interrupts, before Cas can completely obliterate his good mood. “Does that sound good to you?”

Cas looks at him then, it seems, for a long moment. “Yes, Dean.”

Dean nods like it’s all settled. “Then that’s what we’ll do.”

*

By the time they finish up, long past Cheap Thrills has concluded, Karen for some reason has apparently warmed up to them. “So what was the special occasion?” she wants to know as she does up their bill. She didn’t bother to bring them the check, just waved them over to the computer when Dean thought to look for her.

Now Dean rests his forearms on the counter lazily, watching Cas out of the corner of his eye frown at a stained glass light fixture by the entrance. “Hm?”

“Special occasion?” Karen prompts. “You come in here all giggly half an hour before close and stay for an hour after I’ve locked the doors and my coworkers have headed out, all without noticing a damn thing. I sure hope there’s a special occasion.”

Dean hums, thinking it over. No good way to say, my buddy here thinks he’s sacrificing himself for the greater good tomorrow; angel shit, you know how it is. “He, uh, he’s got a family thing tomorrow. I was trying to take his mind off it.”

Karen nods like she knows what’s up. “Family can be hard.”

Dean snorts. “Tell me about it.” 

He fishes out his wallet and barely reels in a dramatic groan at the just-under-three-digit-total, forking over the cash when a thought occurs to him out of the blue as he glances at the calendar behind the desk. “Y’know, we’re exactly a month off from the day we met,” he says, almost to himself, surprised by how tickled he is by the thought. He laughs out loud and Karen gives him what has a fighting chance at being a genuine smile. “Hey, Cas! Go figure! We’re a month early for our anniversary.”

Cas points up at the light fixture he’s been studying. “I have a sister who looks remarkably similar to this lamp.”

Dean guffaws, turns to Karen like she’s going to find this as hilarious and charming as him to see she’s offering him back two twenties. He stares at them uncomprehending.

“Um.” Dean says, not exactly sure he wants to look a gift horse in the mouth.

Karen hands off the bills with a shrug. She has deep, miserable bags under her eyes, Dean notices and he wonders if his own are that bad. Somebody’s world is always ending somewhere. “My hand slipped, punched in the code for three long islands and a couple beers. Funny that. Just subtracted it.”

Dean blinks, a little at a loss.

“Karen is committing employee theft for our benefit, Dean,” Cas informs him, straddling the line between simple Casism and the realm of the eldritch and ever so slightly inching towards tipsiness. “I think she likes us and also probably assumes we’re in dire straits because our clothes are filthy and you smell, correctly, like you haven’t showered in several days.”

“Hey!”

Cas shrugs, a put upon human gesture, attention already drifting. “I like it.”

The clothes or—Dean’s brain screeches. He blinks back at Karen.

Karen smiles soft at Cas’ back before glancing over to Dean. “It’s late and I fucking hate this joint,” Karen tells him.

And well, Dean’s not one to turn down pity, but still . . . . he nods and slides the two bills back over to Karen’s side of the counter. “I was never planning on ending the night with this cash, anyhow,” Dean tells her, stupid and honest. “And I didn’t have anything to tip you with anyway, so.”

It’s her turn to blink at him.

“Get her a little something,” Dean advises with a wink, like he’s just happened upon her woes.

He sort of expects a dirty look or a request to vacate the premises, but Karen huffs and gives him a wry little smirk. “That work with him, huh?” she nods in Cas’ direction.

Cas is back to studying the lamp. Dean smiles, shaking his head at the thought. “He might not look it, but he’s a real pistol.” And, quietly, he confides, “Ain’t never known anyone like him my whole life.”

Karen snorts. She goes to unlock the door for them. “You’re calling a cab, right?”

“Yes, ma’am,” Dean lies through his teeth, tugging Cas along with him and smiling at how Cas lets him. “You have a good night.”

“You too,” she says, before she locks the door behind them once more to finish closing out. Through the glass, she waves.

It’s a hot night. Dean hip checks Cas playfully as they walk back to the Impala and stumbles, groaning and laughing, when it's like coming up against a brick wall. Cas steadies him and smiles his little mirror smile back. Dean takes off his jacket before slipping into the driver's seat, throws it without ceremony into the back.

There’s a little motel off to the side, just at the end of the little outlet, and Dean drives them over to park closer. A liquor store is right across the street but Dean hesitates once he’s out of the car. 

He crawled out of his grave with a virgin liver and no tolerance to speak of, but since he’s been drinking himself hard to sleep at night most nights—he’s pretty sure Cas is healing his liver whenever he heals whatever gaping wound requires his primary attention which is . . . weird, yeah, for sure. But also nice.

Mostly weird. Dean hasn’t brought it up just in case he’s right in his hunch as much as in case he’s wrong.

But cirrhosis bullet dodging aside, his tolerance is still wonky; on a full stomach and only a handful of beers (plus two shots, earlier) over the past four hours, he still feels this side of buzzed. He considers the liquor store, again, and the risk of the credit card he’s already going to make on the room.

“Dean?” Cas says, gazing at him from across the hood of the car, purple-pink neon lights bouncing up and off and practically making him glow in the dark. Dean stares at him. “Dean?” Cas repeats.

“Yeah,” Dean grunts, shaking himself. “Hang on, lemme just—” and he high tails it for the liquor store and (cha-ching!) gets them a six pack.

Cas is waiting patiently for him out front and Dean winks at him as he passes by again. “Come on.”

And, well, it turns out it really is a small motel—there’s only two rooms available, the elderly woman behind the desk explains, both singles. 

First thought that comes to Dean’s mind is, screw it, might as well blow the card on two rooms but then he thinks, shit, cause Cas doesn’t sleep and what a waste that would be. He considers just getting the one, opens his mouth, glances back at Cas standing just behind him, too close and too focused on the back of his head, and then the woman and her bored, expectant, semi-judgemental look.

“We’ll find somewhere else,” Dean decides. “Thanks though.”

So he packs himself, the beer, and Cas back into the Impala without a backwards glance.

They pass a Best Western and then a Holiday Inn but Dean doesn’t stop at either and Cas doesn’t point it out. Dean stops looking. He’s spent most nights that he didn’t need to wash his clothes out in his car anyway, like he did before when he was on his own, without Sam to bitch about cramping his massive-ass legs. He’s not sure why he bothered to check this time. Cas doesn’t sleep and he’s a little guy anyway.

Instead, Dean cranks his window down and gestures for Cas to do the same. It’s a hot night, but not unbearable, and the wind battering him on either side is dark and warm as it is cool contrast and it fucks Cas’ hair up something awful in ten seconds flat, even worse than it was before. Dean laughs and reaches out to cuff his head and Cas—

Immovable, takes-a-punch-like-a-steel-two-by-four Cas just—lets him. Like he let Dean drag him in and out of a Brothel, and maneuver him into a booth, and feed him overpriced steak—Cas ducks his head, glancing over at Dean with that same little crooked smile.

Oh fuck, that’s insane. That’s—okay, fuck yeah.

And then, oh and then, this next bit hits Dean like a brick fucking wall: Cas isn’t mimicking him at all, he’s just not smiling at the same thing Dean is. Cas’ smile isn’t taking cue from Dean’s laughter, he is smiling at Dean’s laughter. Oh, fuck.

A blasting honk from the car behind him jars Dean back to himself. Oh yeah. He’s driving. Cas and Dean were just smiling at each other for an indeterminable amount of time and Dean is driving—well, slightly swerving into the accompanying lane but. He hauls himself back over and into an even coast. When he risks a glance back over at Cas, Cas is glaring back at the car behind them like he’s the one who was being rude interrupting their staring contest. Dean laughs again, lets the whole thing roll off his mind. Focuses his attention on finding a safe place to pull over because he’s apparently drunker than he thought.

Over the roar of the wind, Dean cranks up the 80s rock radio station he’d found earlier; loud, real loud, to hear, to feel in his molars.

It’s a Springsteen song, one of the popular ones, going a little fuzzy as he turns off onto a backroad off of the one wrapping around back of the shopping center. He thinks of how just the other day “Cover Me” had come on and Dean had thought of Cas, unbidden, and it was weird because it was clearly a love song about some random chick but then, it was a natural connection, Dean guessed: they’d spent the better part of a year literally and metaphorically covering for each other.

About a mile down the road, where the trees have gotten dense and dark, the station collapses in on itself with static indistinguishable from the wind as the road starts to narrow and turn to gravel. Dean flinches but perseveres, patting the Impala’s side out the window with the flat of his hand. He slows as little rocks ping against them.

Dean turns down the radio. Under the ringing screams of crickets, Dean can just pick up the sound of running water. The road continues on. Perfect.

He flicks absently through channel after channel of static as he cautiously continues along until eventually the tail end of an Animals’ song comes through crystal clear.

“There we go,” Dean says, quietly pleased. “The Sun Ain’t Gonna Shine Anymore” by the Walker Brothers picks up where “We’ve Gotta Get Out of This Place” leaves off, only a split second hiss of dead air between them. Apparently somewhere out there there’s a disc jockey clairvoyant enough to know it’s the end of the world. Dean snorts.

The road curls underneath a stretch of highway that Dean suspects is I-95 and just past a defunct overgrown little gravel lot, a vein splits off the road and into the trees. Dean pulls them into it, carefully, and the sound of rushing water grows louder and louder. Finally, the road pools into a flat of asphalt directly under the highway and leading down onto a ramp descending into the rushing river, low with drought.

“Perfect.” Dean turns off the engine but keeps the radio going, turning it up a little. He nudges Cas and throws him a grin as he grabs the six pack, glass clinking together under his arm, before slipping out the driver’s side. Arethra Franklin kicks on, the one about saying a little prayer for some hopeless guy. “Hey, it’s your song, man,” Dean jokes. “Come on.”

It’d be cool to climb up where the highway is supported by a sloping slate of pavement done over in obscure graffiti but that’s probably Dean’s cognitive impairment talking; well, that, and he’s felt a little like a teenager this whole night.

Instead, Dean opts to haul himself up onto the hood of the Impala reclining back with a solid view of the thrashing, dark water. The air tastes like decaying moss and wet earth.

Cas watches him get settled but makes no move to join.

“Well,” Dean urges. He pats the metal on the other side of the six pack. “Come on.”

It’s another angel thing, Dean knows. Don’t need to sit or whatever. Fucking bullshit. Cas looks subtly (read: near indiscernibly) pleased as punch as he perches, ram-rod straight spined.

Dean chuckles, gets a hand on Cas’ shoulder to get him to lean back. “Come on. Relax.”

Cas glances at him out of the corner of his gaze. He molds back onto the windshield, head tilting back, as he mirrors Dean’s position. “Like this?” he asks.

“Like that,” he agrees and turns back to the darkness, the scatter of a few stubborn stars bookending the highway, the shadow of the river. He opens a beer for Cas and then one for himself.

He is suddenly very aware that song playing is, in fact, a love song. Dean snorts into his drink.

Cas looks at him, head tilting inquisitively. Fuck, he’s like a puppy dog. Dean can’t remember why he was ever scared shitless of him.

“Nothin’,” he explains, shooting him a wry look. “I was just thinking, man is this night totally wasted on us.”

“What do you mean?”

Dean takes a long drink, trying to pull together his thoughts. “I mean, star gazing? By the water? Total hookup fodder. Chicks eat that shit up.”

“It seems you also enjoy it.”

Dean jolts to glare at Cas but Cas is just looking at him with open, naive curiosity. Dean lets out a breath and relaxes. Fuck, he’s not even joking. It’s just . . . an observation. God help Cas if he does become human.

“Yeah,” Dean grunts, shifting a little. “Don’t go tellin’ anyone.”

“I won’t, Dean,” Cas promises. “But I don’t think this night is a waste. You remember I was content to just sit in contemplative silence with you.”

Dean harrumphs but he smiles a little at that. “Oh, was I included in the silent contemplation agenda?”

“Of course,” Cas says, sincere as anything. “This has been a very . . . solitary experience. I’m not accustomed to being an I, let alone being one alone.”

Fuck. Dean can’t even wrap his head around that. “Sort of a part of the deal, man.”

Cas nods like this is some profound wisdom. “Yes, it’s often very lonely. It took some time to recognize the feeling, I’ve never had reason to experience it before.”

Dean thinks of his early to mid twenties without meaning to, the ache in his chest as he curled up in the backseat of the car that still smelt like his dad underneath the cloying aroma of fast food. He’s thought a lot about those days the past month or so on his own. Loneliness so aching that it digs in deeper than hunger.

“Yeah,” Dean agrees, quietly, a half-formed wish that Cas wasn’t dead set on his God quest. “Yeah, it’s lonely.”

He takes a long drink and motions for Cas to do the same. More stars are becoming clear as Dean stares up at the dark.

“Sometimes,” Dean says as the memory strikes him, “when I was a kid, y’know? And Dad dropped Sammy and I off at Bobby’s for a couple weeks, I’d sneak out back into the autoyard at night, climb up somewhere stupid dangerous to look up at the stars. Damn near got tetanus God knows how many time, fuck knows we weren’t up on our shots and shit, but I got this stupid idea in my head, this little compulsion, or something—star gazing or whatever. It helped me turn my brain off.” Dean hasn’t thought of that in years, sweating in too big clothes or shivering with an afhgan drawn tight around him, craning his neck to look on high.

When he falls silent, he notices Cas smiling down into his drink. “What’re you laughing at chuckles?”

“I’m not laughing,” Cas shakes his head wistfully, looking up to smile at the stars now. “I just—well. I was a part of a brigade, many years before Earth, tasked with building celestial bodies. Much of my work is still viewable from Earth’s surface; in fact, I find that a considerable number of light sources humans believe are stars are, in fact, the light reaching Earth from angels’ true forms building stars. You may have gazed upon me long before I gazed upon you.”

Dean stares at Cas. A chill runs up his spine and his chest feels tight. “You—”

“I find the thought that I may have provided you some measure of solace in your youth comforting, Dean,” Cas says, simply, then frowns when he sees whatever look is on Dean’s face. “Is that odd?”

Dean has to force himself to stop staring, laughs awkwardly down at his lap. “Nah, Cas. It’s, uh, real sweet of you, is all.” Dean cringes at his own words and finishes the rest of his beer before saying quickly, “Real intense, yeah. A little creepy and, sure, weird. But . . . yeah.”

Cas nods like this makes sense.

“Drink,” Dean reminds him and Cas does as he asks.

Turns out the radio station is just an indiscriminate 60s station which, hey, Dean’s not complaining. Suite: Judy Blue Eyes” makes Dean nudge Cas and laugh, Son of a Preacher Man” makes Dean nudge Cas harder and laugh harder still.

“Your night, man,” Dean chuckles. It is also no coincidence that he is halfway through his second beer.

“Last night,” Cas, who may not be even a little drunk but seems more relaxed regardless, says wryly.

“No, no, no,” Dean shushes. “Ain’t over ‘till it’s over, man.”

Cas raises an eyebrow. “That is how it works,  yes.”

Dean shoulders him clumsily, smiling despite himself. He’s, like, ninety percent sure Cas is screwing with him. Eighty percent, maybe.

He feels good, though. Really good. He doesn’t want to think about Cas dying because Cas dying would suck, it already did suck, but now—now, Dean thinks it would be worse. So he’s not thinking about it. Winchester modus operandi. 

Instead he’s thinking about how it’s a nice night, dark and warm, and the river is low and rushing and the sky filled with stars made by the weird little guy next to him drinking his beer, perfunctorily, without wavering, swallowing in smooth gulps because Dean offered it to him and fuck God and the Devil hiding in the dark of the woods, Dean’s having a good night. When was the last time he had a good night?

On the radio there’s a brief ad spot for some local mattress joint, a retirement home, a harvest festival, and then—

“Oh, oh yeah ,” Dean calls out when the static fuzz yields into the start of a familiar Solomon Burke song. “Fuck yeah, man. Dirty Dancing , Cas, you ever seen it? ‘Course you haven’t. Let me tell you: shit was formative. Swayze always gets a pass, man.”

Cas takes this all in with a simple nod.

“Nah, man,” Dean says, shaking his head. “You don’t get it. This was—fuck, I couldn’t have been more than eight? Nine, maybe? Sammy was talking in sentences and running around, y’know, real handful, getting harder and harder to just lock him up in a motel room for the weekend, right? I tried to put aside money for when it got real bad so we could walk on over to a discount theater if one was around. That afternoon we theater hopped from The Lost Boys, Masters of the Universe, and Dirty Dancing which Sam fell asleep halfway through but I’ll tell you what, man: I was taking notes. That’s the difference between Sam and I. To this day, I see Dirty Dancing on cable, you know I leave that shit on.”

“What’s the difference?” 

“Huh?”

“Between you and Sam?” Cas asks, eyebrows raised.

“I,” Dean says, with dramatic flair, “have moves.”

“Moves?” Like he doesn’t believe him or some shit.

Dean laughs. “Is there an echo out here or something? Yeah, Cas, moves. Like—like—okay, let me set the scene for you, okay?” And he hops off the hood of the Impala and leans in the open window to crank the music a little louder and turn on the headlights. On second thought, he slips out of his open button up, throws it in the car, and swaggers back out in front of the lights in just his black t-shirt.

“Okay,” Dean says, spreading his hands wide, still clutching his beer in the one, “you gotta picture it: Patrick Swayze, shirtless, and Jennifer Grey, tastefully conservative. Johnny’s just said the saddest shit you’ve ever heard in your life, he goes, ‘I’m nothing!’ and Baby goes, ‘You’re everything! ’,” Dean does a fair impression of both, if he does say so himself, though Cas gives little reaction beyond tilting his head in the shadowed recess of his perch. “And they argue, yada yada, long story short he says, ‘I’ve never known anyone like you. You’re not scared of anything.’ and she says, ‘I'm scared of everything! I'm scared of what I saw. I'm scared of what I did, who I am. I'm scared of walking out of here and never feeling for the rest of my life the way I feel when I'm with you!’.”

Dean’s panting when he’s finished and Cas is blinking at him like he’s something peculiar.

“And then,” Dean says emphatically, “this song comes on, and Baby says, ‘Dance with me.’”

He finishes off his drink and lobs it off into the darkness, where it shatters distantly against the pavement. Dean grins, starts swaying in a way he knows must look goofy, gestures broadly with his hands before placing one on his chest and the other on the back of his neck. “She, y’know, holds him like that and then he,” he pantomimes it with a partner under Cas’ rapt attention, “dips her, like that, and they grind and dip for a while until it’s fucking stupid they haven’t kissed yet. And then they do kiss. That , my fine feathered friend, is Dirty Dancing.”

“And that was formative? To you?” Cas inquires, politely.

Dean scowls. “Okay, fuck off. You wouldn’t catch me dancing in public if my life depended on it, okay? But that is the human condition, bitch—shit’s good for the soul. Also, as I said, it works wonders on the ladies. You should know these things if you’re planning on sticking around.”

Cas gives him a critical look. “I don’t have a soul.”

“Well, grow a pair, man. C’mere.” He waves him over into the overlapping spotlights and Cas obediently gets up off the hood of the car, maintaining eye contact as he pulls the last few swallows from his beer.

Dean snorts. One of the many things about Cas that, from time to time, trips Dean’s brain up is that as much as Cas being inhuman was a threat of its own, at first, Dean thinks now that if Cas were a born and raised human he wouldn’t quite feel right about the way they are together sometimes. Thing is, Cas doesn’t know it’s weird to teach another guy to dance, to stand so close and stare so long, and that sort of makes it okay. Plausibly deniable. Safe. He doesn’t know better and hell, Dean’s got no room to judge, he’s new as shit to the friend game.

And who says this shit ain’t normal? What about when Kevin Bacon taught Chris Penn how to dance to “Let’s Here It For the Boy'' in Footloose? Maybe he’s just overthinking it all because Cas is an angel.

But that’s another thing, Dean thinks as Cas finishes his drink and sets in gently back in the cardboard carrier before approaching him: if Cas were human Dean thinks he might’ve . . . well. Dean thinks he might’ve been jealous of him if that were the case. Cas and his complete lack of interest in social conventions, in the norms, but completely capable of absolutely annihilating anyone who gives him trouble over it. The kind of guy in high school who Dean might’ve itched to poke fun at just to rile him up, get him into a fight, see if he was really that tough and prove that he wasn’t. But Cas can knock back three girly drinks and a case of beer without a care and still beat the toughest guy in the room at arm wrestling.

Unbidden, as he often is, at the thought of the toughest man in the room, Dean thinks: Cas could beat my dad at arm wrestling, and nearly throws himself into the river to see if the gravity of that thought alone could drown him.

“Well,” Cas says, expectant, right in front of him.

Dean blinks and shakes his head, roughly, thoughts rolling right out of his mind.

Fuck, he might actually have a hangover tomorrow.

“Well,” Dean says, looking at Cas’ face, half lit up in a glow, half shadowed, and laughs. “You hear that?” he says, signifying the tripping beat of the song by drumming his hands on either of Cas’ shoulders. Cas allows him to with a slight, bemused smile.

“I hear it.”

“Okay, good,” Dean says. “Now, just —” and he grips Cas’ shoulders lightly and moves him in an easy back and forth sway, mirroring Dean.

 It looks . . . well, it looks fucking bad. Real fucking bad. It’s hilarious. “Loosen up!” he orders and Cas raises an eyebrow. “Oh, no, not the singular eyebrow of debasement,” Dean laughs aloud at him. “Come on, Poindexter, we’ll make a dorky little Gene Kelly out of you yet.”

“I feel . . .” Cas blinks and frowns like he’s trying a new food and isn’t quite sure if he likes it, “silly.”

Dean beams. “Step one to a good old fashioned ego death, Cas—it’ll do you good.”

They sway and shuffle, leaving room for Jesus and several of his disciples between them, and, fuck, Dean hasn’t laughed this hard in years. Yeah, Cas ain’t Swayze, and he sure as shit ain’t no Baby, but damn if this isn’t fun.

The song ends but the next one picks up easy and fast. The Crystals, he thinks. Cas doesn’t break in their movement so neither does Dean; instead, on a high of good vibes, Dean grins and takes Cas’ hand, lifts it and ducks under his arm with no help from Cas.

He chuckles to himself and moves to grab their last two beers. When he looks back, Cas is still obediently shuffling back and forth, waiting for him with his arms straight down by his side. Dean nearly chokes on his laughter then has half a mind to feel bad when Cas gives him a look, so he swallows the neck of his bottle and sprints into the circles of light as the music surges, giddy, jumping dramatically and taking Cas’ arm up in a do-si-do, swinging them around as he hands off Cas’ beer.

“‘If they don't like him that way, they won't like me after today,’” Dean sings along, loud and obnoxious, purposely tuneless to make Cas squint at him judgmentally. “‘I'll be standing right by his side when they say, ‘he’s a rebel and he’ll never ever be any good’’.

It was true what he said before: Dean hasn’t laughed this hard in years, but since Hell (the strange metaphysical translation of it that exists in his head, makes it hard to sleep or breathe or live without dragging him under) he doesn’t know if he’s had much fun at all. He feels a bit like a little kid.

So he swings Cas around and around, wonderstruck by his allowing Dean to do so again, slopping beer over themselves and each other, until Dean is so dizzy, Cas has to grab him to keep him from falling over.

“Oh, God,” Dean wheezes out, nearly doubled over in mirth, “Cas, you’re going to kill me.”

“I believe you were leading, Dean.”

“Okay, smart guy,” Dean says as the Ronettes start up. “Here: you lead. Show you what to do when you got a girl with you.”

A breeze chuffs off of the river and a chill runs over Dean’s bare arms, goosebumps raising up. He takes Cas’ free left hand in his right, moves the one still holding the bottle to his own waist while slinging his own over Cas’ shoulder. There’s still a generous void of space between them but Dean still laughs a little at how close their faces are all of a sudden, Cas blinking his sleepy eyes wide at him, a little like he did when Dean handed him off to the girl at the brothel. Yeesh, the guy is afraid of women.

“Alright,” Dean says, “there. Nice and polite. Don’t push it just—weird, you being shorter than me but just—” 

And then they’re swaying in a circle, nice and easy.

“You got it,” Dean praises and Cas smiles that sweet little smile. “Now if she’s real receptive you move in a little closer, put your hand on her lower back but, uh, you know. You’ll know what to do when you’re at that point, let’s just keep where we are.”

So they do, spinning slow around their circle of light like it’s nobody’s business.

And it ain’t, Dean thinks, nonsensically, taking a long drink and looking over Cas’ shoulder at the dark rush of water, ain’t nobody’s business but ours.

“You got real big friggin’ hands, dude,” Dean remarks, squeezing the one in his before flexing his fingers and pressing them to mirror Cas’. Dean’s are almost an inch shorter. Jesus.

Cas squints at him. “Comparatively, perhaps.”

“Youch,” Dean laughs. “Okay. I deserved that, but no, seriously, dude. It’s a compliment. Girls like that.”

“You seem rather well versed in what ‘girls’ like.” The air quotes are very much implied.

Dean smirks. “Don’t like to brag but y’know.”

Cas spins them loftily while giving Dean a contrasting dry look. “Yes, Dean, you’re very sexually active, so you’ve said.”

“Damn right,” Dean allows. Privately, he thinks about how it’s been a hot minute since someone’s touched him this nicely, let alone had sex with him. 

Must have been Anna, actually, after Hell it just—but he doesn’t want to think Hell. So he thinks about Anna and then he’s thinking about the moment Anna’d placed her hand on the brand on his shoulder, how his ears had rang, his sinuses clicked clear, how the brand had ached alive and something like electricity snapped his body tense down to his curling toes before going liquid, relaxed, and when Anna kissed him again with her hand clutched there he’d keened into it and flung a hand back like he was Kate Winslet. The brand the same size and shape as the hand pressed to his side, warm but for the cold condensation of the bottle knocking lightly against his hip. And then he doesn’t want to think about that, either.

He feels a strange gnawing guilt without knowing quite why.

“I’m sorry about your virginity, man,” he says, taking a shot in the dark at remorse, “but you know something? If I couldn’t get you laid, at least I gave you a good first date.”

Cas frowns at him, without pausing in his movement. “What do you mean?”

“Y’know—dinner, dancing . . . .”

“Plus the brothel,” Cas interjects.

Dean laughs out loud, ducking his head into it. “Nah, man, in future endeavors I’d suggest you skip the brothel.”

“Oh, good,” Cas says. “I didn’t enjoy the brothel.”

Dean laughs again, but still has to say, “The rest though? You enjoy the rest?”

“Yes, Dean.”

“Good. Dinner and dancing, Cas, that’s some classic shit,” Dean breathes out, chuckling, a little dizzy. “If you were a chick, I would think that I earned a goodnight kiss at the very least.”

“And the parameters of a ‘goodnight kiss’ are, what, exactly?”

Dean thinks on it for a second, a little giddy with excitement that he gets to be the one to teach Cas this shit. He takes a drink and when Cas mimics him, he immediately feels the loss of contact and it rubs him wrong right up until Cas puts his hand back on his waist. “Okay, so. If the girl you're with isn’t going to put out or you can’t hook up for some reason, but she still had a good time and she wants to see you again, she’s going to kiss you at the end of the night. On the lips, usually, and especially if you’re being obvious about wanting her, but I’ll let you in on a little known secret, dude: she’s only going to kiss you on the cheek if she’s really, really sweet on you.”

Cas takes this all in with a rapt sort of intrigue before flatly stating, “That’s all fairly convoluted, don’t you think?”

Dean laughs. “Yeah, Mr. Spock. Us humans and out stupid rituals, huh?”

“Yes,” Cas agrees.

They keep on swaying, half off the beat because Cas can only follow human rhythm so far apparently, and Dean finishes his beer but doesn’t toss it after seeing Cas’ pointed display with placing his used bottles back in the carton. Cas finishes his in a final, dainty sip and Dean gets hit with a dizzy spell that spins the whole world on its axis crazy enough that Dean lets go of Cas’ hand to grab his other shoulder for balance, laughing.

Cas lets his bottle smash at their feet in his haste to steady Dean at the waist with both hands which, fuck are they huge. God damn

“Dean,” Cas says, with a worried pinch to his brow as he shifts them away from the broken glass. “Are you alright?”

“Aw, Cas,” Dean wheezes. “You’re a sweetheart, you know that, man?”

“Dean, are you alright?” Cas insists.

Dean smiles at him and has to look down a little to match up their gazes with how close they’ve stumbled. “Yeah, I’m—I think I’m a little drunk, dude. Don’t think I don’t notice you fucking around with my liver which, not that I’m complaining, y’know, ‘cause I’m pretty sure I’ve saved a shit ton on booze. Convenient, right? With sleeping ‘n shit, I mean, but fuck,” he laughs, “fuck, you’re making me look bad. Feel like a kid.”

Cas’ worried look doesn’t resolve. “I can sober you up, if you like.”

“No!” Dean immediately blurts. “Fuck no!” He is very adamant on this point but not exactly cognizant as to why.

“Alright,” Cas allows, still frowning.

Dean frowns back at him, imitates his angelic pout. “Quit it,” he complains and presses two fingers to Cas’ forehead like Cas has done to him, like, a million times, except Dean can only nudge at the wrinkle of his brow to try to straighten it out.

 It works, but only because the gesture lights Cas up with amusement, looking at Dean like he’s endeared to him or some shit. The way you look at a little kid who’s done something sweet but ultimately useless.

Dean scowls at Cas, face burning a little, and Cas huffs in gentle amusement which—yeah, that’s awesome. But still.

“Fuck off,” Dean scoffs, smiling despite himself. Cas smiles back, minutely.

The song on the radio slides into the next and Dean immediately perks up.

“Next lesson,” he says, “very important: slow dancing, proper.”

He rolls his bottle aside in the direction of the Impala, stumbling a little as he straightens which works with his objective, however, because he’s able to slip his arms right around Cas’ neck as Judy Collins starts singing.

The Judy blue eyes,” Dean mumbles, laughing a little, “how ‘bout that?”

Cas fumbles his hands back to lightly settle on Dean’s waist.

Dean can’t help but chuckle at his awkwardness, sways in close to keep from looking him in the eyes. “Yeah, I’m sure she’ll appreciate your civility, Cas, but if a girl gets this close to you that’s usually a sign you can—” and immediately, Cas’ hands press warm and firm, slide to steady him two separate places low along his spine.

A shiver whips up from the places of contact up to the base of his skull. Dean slumps in closer. “—Yeah. That. She’ll probably let you do that.”

“Would you?” Cas asks as they sway ever so slightly.

They’re practically cheek to cheek, chests brushing minutely. Cas in all his rumpled layers, Dean stripped to nothing but essentially a second skin, the warm diminished space between them. Dean’s got no idea when he closed his eyes. “Hm?”

“Let me,” Cas elaborates, softly. “Would you let me?”

Dean snorts. Maybe Cas is drunk. “Dunno if you noticed but I ain’t no chick, man. Don’t worry, though—we’ll find you some girl dorky enough for your ass eventually.”

When Cas doesn’t answer immediately, Dean adds, to emphasize his point, “You’re good though. I’d—if I were a girl, y’know—if I—I would totally let you. Totally .”

Cas pauses, but at last he says, stilted and solemn, “Thank you.”

“Yeah, man, of course.” Distantly, Dean thinks of some girl in some near future with the opportunity to dance with Cas slow and close like this. She’s blurry in his mind’s eye but Cas is crystal clear, his big hands and steady arms drawing her in close, closer. She’ll be a real lucky gal, whoever she is.

Dean exhales heavily and crosses his arms around Cas’ neck, ducking his chin down onto Cas’ shoulder like the girl in his imagination, just to give Cas the full picture. It brings their chests together, warm and solid, and Cas’ one hand sweeps up his back, pressing between his shoulder blades while his forearm falls down the line of his spine.

Cas doesn’t need to breathe, he told Dean that once. His sigh runs over the short hairs along the back of his scalp. Dean shivers again.

“Are you cold?” Cas asks in that same low, soft tone, like he’s in reverence.

Dean hums. “Nah, man. I’m all good.” Truthfully, he can feel himself perspiring now that he’s slowed down enough. “Sorry, m’probably rank.” Cas, with all his layers and angelic bullshit, just smells like the earth around them, like the river.

“I don’t mind,” Cas says, sounding brutally honest. “I find the smell . . . pleasant.”

Dean laughs, breathily, tucking his face down to rest his cheek on the solid plane of Cas’ shoulder. “Can’t say shit like that, man,” Dean thinks to remind him.

“Why not?”

“It’s weird.”

“What’s weird about it?”

Dean shrugs. He doesn’t want to think about it. He grips his own bare forearm draped over Cas’ back to keep them linked. “Dunno. Just is.”

They sway gently for a while before Dean remarks, “My mom liked this song.”

“Oh.” Cas says. “Why’d she like it?”

It’s a good question but Dean’s not expecting it; it’s not the question most people would ask. Mary’d liked rock ‘n roll and folk. Had a couple of blues albums, too. Handful of country records. She’d play music all the time, swoop Dean up in her arms and dance him around the room. Sometimes his dad would, too, and Mary would laugh and cheer them on. Those were good times.

“Dunno,” Dean says. “She liked Judy Collins. Might’ve made her think of Dad, y’know? Leaving the life you know with some guy.”

He can picture it easily: his mom with her head tucked safely on the sure bulk of his father’s shoulder, like Dean is at this moment with Cas, John’s hands steady on Mary’s back as Cas’ are on Dean’s. Can picture Mary with her eyes shut thinking, someday soon, someday soon.

It wells up a lump in his throat. Dean swallows hard and holds tight to what he’s got, presses his face in as close as he can, that ugly fucking coat under his hands, his cheek. Cas holds him right back. They’re only dancing by the loosest definition.

He thinks of his parents, that easy picture made easier, made younger, by what he’s seen in the past, and can’t help but catch the incongruity with the wholesome image; ‘He loves his damned rodeo as much as he loves me,’ ; he thinks of Mary, alone and scared, secretive and desperate; he thinks of John, thought of by his wife as a sweet child and made a fool by her secrets.

Dean thinks, without intent, clinging thoughtlessly: I will not be them.  

And then: What was I just thinking about?

“Shh,” Cas hushes gently. Dean is shaking, he realizes faintly.

Cas rubs a broad palm, hard in pressure and tentative in touch, up to the back of Dean’s neck where the heat of skin over damp skin sears like a whole new brand, is almost overwhelming even before Cas squeezes him there, firm and gentle.

It ricochets up his cranium and down to his knees. Dean lets out a long, trembling breath and is reduced to little better than dead weight. It doesn’t matter: Cas has got him, sure and strong around the waist.

Another song plays, and then another. For a while there it’s almost like he’s fallen asleep standing, no thoughts, just the dark and warmth and illogical feeling of safety. Dean knows he’s not safe, objectively. He’s never been safe.

When a commercial break crashes over them with a crackle of static, Dean draws in a sharp inhale, feeling something like waking up.

He pulls back slowly and Cas lets him, arms gently disentangling. He looks at Dean with a peculiar expression, but Dean can’t puzzle it out and recalls that Cas is just a weird guy.

“Sorry I fell asleep on you.” Dean smiles a little sheepishly before breaking into a yawn, jaw cracking with it. Dean winces.

Cas frowns. “I’ve healed your TMJ I don’t know how many times now and it still persists. You should consider a night guard.”

Dean laughs. “Yeah, don’t hold your breath.”

“I don’t need to breathe, Dean.”

“Yeah, well.”

Cas reaches out to touch his fingers to the bolt of Dean’s jaw but Dean ducks away.

“Hit me with your mojo tomorrow when I’m hungover,” Dean advises. “Don’t waste it.”

Something flickers on Cas’ face, but it’s too quick to figure. “Right.”

“Hey,” Dean says and reaches out. He pats Cas on the cheek, nudges his chin gently. “You got the moves, man. Ain’t nobody putting you in a corner anytime soon.”

Cas’ lip quirks at the corner. “They certainly wouldn’t have an easy time of it.”

Dean laughs, throwing an arm around his shoulder to guide him back to the car, making a conscious effort to collect what salvageable bottles remain and put them together in the carrier to shove into the back. “I’ll show you Dirty Dancing sometime, alright?”

“That is if I don’t die tomorrow.”

“You won’t,” Dean says. “As a favor to me, because you haven’t seen Dirty Dancing, yet.”

Cas gives him a look as they split to different sides of the car. “Alright. As a favor.”

Dean shakes his head, chuckling. They both slide into the front seat but Dean’s too tired to care, Cas’ll soothe the crick in his neck tomorrow and tonight there’s a gentle, cool, breeze coasting through the windows. The commercial on the radio has just ended. He turns off the headlights but only lowers the volume of the radio, leaves the thing on for the time being even though it’s hell on the battery. So be it.

He rests his head back against the soft leather, slumping down low with a sigh. He lulls his head over to glance at Cas, already looking back at him like the freaky little night creature he is. Dean smiles. “Hey.”

Cas smiles back. “Hello Dean.”

The radio crackles softly between them.

“This was a really nice night,” Dean feels it’s important to say, soft and low like a secret.

“It was,” Cas agrees.

“Yeah?”

“Yeah.” 

It’s been a long time since he was a sappy drunk even if he’s still not an angry drunk, not like how his father got a few drinks short of catatonia. Dean is an anesthetic drunk—uses alcohol to anticepticize his brain like he would an open wound.

But the breeze is soft and smells like the earth and hot asphalt and he knows, because his subconscious is keen on a pattern that he will not admit to, that he will not have nightmares tonight.

So Dean reaches out and pats Cas’ left shoulder clumsily. “Good,” he mumbles, tilting his head back and shutting his eyes. He squeezes Cas’ arm before letting his hand drop. “Good.”

“It is,” Cas agrees.

On the radio, The Mamas and the Papas sing: “‘Love can never be exactly what we want it to be.‘”

Dean huffs at the solemnity of Cas’ tone, so close. “‘Night, Cas.”

“Goodnight, Dean,” Cas says, breath coasting warm over Dean’s cheek just before there’s the slight, sweet press of chapped lips right against the skin over his cheekbone. Half asleep already, Dean lets the pleasant shiver from the contact pass over him before Cas tilts away again. Fuckin’ Cas, man. He’ll have to explain tomorrow that guys don’t do shit like that, that he’s misunderstood, but as it is Dean might be dreaming this anyhow which’ll make it weird if he brings it up later. It’s just them, anyway.

As it is, Dean just smiles soft to himself and Cas, a sure thing beside him, watches over him as sleep pulls him under.