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The Bachelor

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Dean’s heart was beating a freaking death march, and he couldn’t keep his hands from shaking. The people kept rising up out of the limousine, demanding to be seen, to be heard. No matter how many times he willed himself to be normal, his fingers betrayed him with a slight tremor.

This time he was on the opposite side. Instead of being one of many men trying to win Rhonda Hurley’s heart, it was him that got to do the picking and choosing.

He had nothing to be scared of. No one could send him home. But as every beautiful person came up and said their practiced speeches and ditties, he felt himself giving more and more of his energy to them. He wanted to be on- like a lamp in a room. To be able to answer their questions with witty retorts, to return their eager smiles with a practiced thousand watt grin. He wanted to be able to remember all their names without Benny, the producer, having to remind him before every conversation. But it was so taxing.

And it’s not to say it hadn’t been interesting. There was a guy who rode up on a horse (Dean had to pretend he wasn’t terrified of animals bigger than himself and pet it. His hand still smelled like horse musk), there was a gorgeous red haired girl who brought her knife collection and made him stand against the tree while she hurled knives at him(He had a bone to pick with Benny about that one. He almost shit the expensive suit forced upon him), and there was Becky who kept trying to smell him talking some nonsense about werewolves and scenting.

No, it had been a night for the books. But as the people just kept coming, like circus folk out of a clown vehicle or something, Dean could feel his charm simmering down. It was getting harder and harder to turn it off and on in between takes, and he was beginning to curse ever agreeing to this arrangement. He could have been back in his apartment drinking beer and watching some other sucker from his season managing twenty seven singles.

And second to last (not that he was counting or anything) walked through the limo doors. Because Dean was supposed to make comments for the audience he let out an obligatory “Wow.” Because this guy deserved a wow. Around Dean’s height with eyes so blue they almost looked fake. He waited for the mans cute introduction, or attempt to sum up his personality or their relationship in some corny display. But the man didn’t even say hello. Just looked at him curiously. And for the first time Dean felt like he had when he was on the season before- like he had to compete or prove himself as to why he was there to this random contestant.

But no, America had liked him. They had chosen him to come back, Dean assured himself. No matter how scrutinizing this man’s gaze was.

“Why hello there Angel.” Dean allowed himself to flash the man his signature grin. And he waited for a smile back, some type of acknowledgement. But blue eyes just peered at him, face giving no clear expression for Dean to read from.

“Hello.” His voice reminded Dean of the scotch his Dad used to drink, and he had no idea why his brain made that connection.

“Going to give me a name to go with that mug of yours?”

The man blinked. “Castiel.”

Odd name, but okay. Right as Dean was about to ask for elaboration Castiel walked past him and towards the room where the other contestants sat. Dean knew the camera was going to capture his expression, his reaction. One camera following the fine ass walking towards the room like a man on a mission, and one camera carefully trained on Dean’s face. But for the first time of the night his laugh came easy.

“Okay then.”

And while the man was strange, and somewhat rude, Dean kind of appreciated that there was someone there who hadn’t taken any energy, any effort from him. Granted, he wasn’t endeared to the man. But in a glass house it was nice to see one thing that he didn’t have to be afraid of breaking.

**************

It was random chance that Cas got chosen to continue the first three rounds. With the sheer amount of people in the house Dean had limited interactions with almost everyone. And even though he had to make it seem like he had deep educated reasons for every choice, he really was just picking the people easiest on the eyes until it all narrowed down. Castiel was easy to look at, even if he had no social skills to be seen. Dean didn’t consider him a key player, mainly because the man made no attempt to get to know him, but hey Dean liked seeing the blue eyes out in the crowd.

Then the next three rounds Cas was given a rose so Dean could weed out the crazies.

Drama had hit the fan in the house. And somehow, despite the fact that all contestants were fully formed adults capable of handling themselves, it was Dean who was responsible for their mental wellbeing. (Which made Sam snort because Dean could barely handle his emotions when there was a family gathering without pie.)

Gordon had full on punched Cole in one altercation and Dean just dismissed the man on the spot when he saw the fist sized shiner. Ruby was pitting girls against each other, and Dean got to the be the one to navigate that fun “she said/she said” game. Not to mention Pam and Billie were found getting down and dirty in a shower (which Dean couldn’t even be mad about but it was against their contract and rules). In short Dean needed to get the toxic people out of the house, and Cas? Well Cas hadn’t done anything. Which was good, because he had no drama with anyone in the house, as far as Dean knew. But he also hadn’t tried to talk to Dean at all on the group dates. Which was weird. Who goes on a reality television show to sit in a corner?

It gave the guy an air of mystery that the other contestants didn’t have. It was refreshing when he had people like Bela aggressively attempting to own him like a chew toy. Cas didn’t ask anything from him, expect anything. He was just…there.

“So you must like accounting.”

“It pays the bills.” And instead of elaborating, or asking any questions Cas sat on the pool chair looking at Dean.

Dean had no idea how to further the conversation so he nodded. While the silence would probably be cut and edited to seem awkward and uncomfortable, it wasn’t. Dean enjoyed the silence. It was the first reprieve from the craziness since he walked through the front door of the mansion. He ran his fingers along the wicker bench they were sitting on and it hit him that while they were by a pool, the chairs had probably never touched water. They smelled like plastic as opposed to chlorine.  The water was close enough to illuminate the lines on Cas’s face and his ponderous expression but these chairs were just decoration. For people to flounce and flop around on in expensive dresses and tuxes for cameras.

Yet the silence reminded him for the first time, that even at night there was a functional pool there, even if it was being used as a decoration. There were people in the house- not just characters. And while Dean felt like a Ken doll, he was still Dean. Just Dean. Dean sitting on a pool chair with a person who was averse to talking. And weird as it was, the real Dean liked it.

But it was short lived when someone came to steal him away. And like makeup products at a grocery store, he let himself be stolen by grabby hands and varying intentions.

So it must have been around the fifth round when Dean finally was able to corner Cas on a group date to talk to the man for more than three minutes. Bela and Aaron had interrupted, but Dean held his ground and said he’d catch up with them later. Focusing instead on the man he’d dubbed as Cas, who couldn’t have looked more disinterested if he tried. The way Cas watched everything, Dean had no doubt that the man was sharp, shrewd, and noticed more than he let on. And people that were smart always scared Dean, because he imagined they could really see him.

But wasn’t that the point?

Dean said his pleasantries, trying to explain to both the man and the camera why he was talking to him. Using simple terms like he had to explain his motivation behind trying to get to know someone who was supposedly here for him. But Cas wasn’t giving him anything. Just looking at him in a way that made Dean feel like he had infringed on the other man's space.

“So Cas.” Dean had no idea where to go from there so he decided to get down to the nuts and bolts. “Why are you here?”

“Because my brother signed me up without my knowledge and then blackmailed me into coming.”

Well. That certainly wasn’t the answer Dean expected. All he had heard were answers about connections, true love, and sentiment. Blackmail definitely wasn’t a common answer in the least.

Dean looked at the camera crew around him. Weren’t they supposed to weed out situations like this? But they were looking at him expectantly. Basically waving at Cas that he needed to address the situation. He needed to throw a fit, or be offended or something.

But instead he asked. “What did he blackmail you with?”

He could tell by the way Cas blinked, that was not to answer he was expecting. Benny was shaking his head and Dean knew him well enough to know that Dean wasn’t doing what the crew needed him to do or what he should be doing. And it made sense. It wouldn’t endear him to the audience if he tolerated people who didn’t take the process seriously.

“He stole money from my account, and took my cat Bee.” Cas answered.

And Dean, instead of yelling or kicking the other man out, found himself smiling. “So what’s the deal? You have to stay on here as long as I keep you?”

Cas tilted his head. “Yes, which I had imagined would be much sooner than it has been.”

“So the longer I choose to keep you, the more your brother's torture drags on?”

“That is the general idea.”

 Dean laughed. Which not only shocked the camera crew, but Cas as well. Cas looked stunned, his eyes trailing along Dean’s face and did Dean mention the man was hot? Being the subject of those blue eyes gave Dean chills.

“Well I wouldn’t want to make it easy for you.” Dean answered with a laugh. “As a big brother I have to take your brother's side on this one.”

Cas was still tilting his head, and instead of looking disappointed Dean swore he could see the corners of his mouth attempting to turn into a smile.

And despite the way it would look to the audience, Cas got a rose that time.

 

*********


In fact, Dean made more of an effort to talk to Cas on every group date after that. He teased the other man constantly.

“I bet your brothers plying Bee with candy right now.”

“Actually that does sound like a plausible scenario.”

“Bet he’s using your money to do it.”

“If Bee dies I take comfort that the death will be on your head.”

Cas glared but his glares were without any real heat. Without fail the interactions made Dean laugh. And like that it was tradition to tease the man about the fact that Dean was keeping him hostage. In fact, it became one of Dean’s favorite parts of the week.

Dean wasn’t used to people paying any mind to him, caring so much about his opinions, lavishing him with so much attention. In fact, he was typically the giver in most of his relationships. And as nice as it should feel to be the center of someone's attention there were moments it felt like someone who never learned how to swim but dreamed of the beach getting caught in a flash flood. 

Cas made it easier. With Cas he didn’t attempt to impress, or validate, or play some dance of who could be cuter or kinder. He was the person Dean trusted the most in the house.

In fact, the drama in the house was constantly ebbing and flowing. And one of the main people Dean took an interest in was at the center of it all. Everywhere he turned Anna, Aaron, even Lisa would make a snide comment about Cassandra’s actions and words. Dean himself couldn’t see it, and when he asked for specifics, no one seemed able to give him any example of her rotten behavior. But at every rose ceremony he was being pulled aside so someone or another could grouch about this one girl that Dean could find no fault with. And when he tried to talk to the girl in question about it she told him people were attacking her because she was his favorite.

But Dean wasn't blind that something had to be done.

He pulled Cas into a room with a fireplace. It was warm and he was sure the flush he felt came from the increased heat and not because he was there alone with Cas. 

“I need your help man.”

Cas gave a half smile.

“Why should I?” And if Dean wasn’t wrong, Cas was teasing him.

“Dude when we get out; I will buy you freaking cat toys, galore. Hell I’ll even buy you another cat if you’d like.”

“Bee wouldn’t do well with another cat, but I sense your distress. I’ll take pity on you. Continue.”

Dean smiled, which made Cas smile in return. And besides the ones Cas had been trying to hide or smother, it was the first easy grin he’d seen. And boy was it beautiful. Which wasn’t fair. The person in the house with the prettiest smile was the only person who wasn’t trying to get into his pants.

There was nothing for Cas to gain, and so nothing could keep him from stating the truth. “Okay, so everyone has been talking smack about Cassandra. And I gotta know, is she a bitch or what?” 

“She does not resemble a female dog, no.” But Cas knew what he meant, the guy was just calling him out on his word usage. Which ok, fair.

“Okay let me rephrase that.” Hopefully this was the version Benny edited in. “I have been hearing various rumors about how Cassandra has been rubbing people the wrong way. Have you seen anything I should be made to be aware of? Is she being attacked? Is she attacking others?”

Cas thought about it for awhile.

“She’s intense because she’s convinced she’s in love with you." The way Cas said it made it sound like it would be a sin, loving Dean. "As are all the people she is fighting.” And yeah, the disgust did nothing for Dean's ego.

“But you aren’t in love with me?”

Cas shook his head at Dean, mirth playing out on his face. “Somehow, it takes more than three conversations for me to fall in love.”

“Pity. But back to the people I stand a chance with…”

“She likes to brag about the strength of your relationship and attempt to make the others question their own. It’s not done out of hate though. She seems to be trying to assuage her own standing with you." Cas tilted his head. "Not everyone does well competing for love.”

Dean nodded. How true that was.

“Okay so do you think I should get rid of her?”

Cas blinked in surprise before his mouth turned up again, and Dean realized that this interaction was the longest he had ever seen Cas’s smile.

“If I tell you to, you’ll just give me another rose.”

Dean laughed. “You're getting a rose either way. Don't think I’d let you off that easy Cas.”

“Lucky me.”

“Damn right. See now you're getting the hang of this game.” Cas’s smile faltered so Dean quickly brought it back around. “So about the other Cassie here?”

“Unless you're certain you have a way to alleviate her fears or know for sure she’s the final one, I would get rid of her. The longer you keep her the more dissension and tension you will have with the others.”

That week Cassie left, and Dean could feel the entire house taking a collective breath. Cas was right. And Dean was certain the drama had leveled out. Little did he know it was just the calm before the storm. 

*****************
It was a luau on a destination date that was the breaking point.  There was fire everywhere. People blowing it, waving it, torches around them. And it was the first time Dean needed out of the barbie plastic world around them. He had already given Ash the rose for the group date(the dude could Hula as good as the dancers and it deserved some type of recognition). So most of the contestants were arguing, or bickering, figuring the date was over and packing up to go.

With Benny’s help he found a way to pull Cas aside and towards a bonfire on the beach. Which was where Dean talked about Mary dying as a kid and how much of a fuck up John was.

The only other person in the house he had talked about it with was Lisa, and while she was a great listener he spun it into some story of how much growth it caused in his life or how he overcame his problems. He shed a few tears which she kissed away. Because that’s what she expected, that’s what America expected. But when Dean told Cas, he skipped all that bullshit. He knew the cameras wouldn’t show this conversation at all, because he cussed every other word, he talked shit about himself, he drank from the beer he stole from Cas’s hand (although how Cas got it when it was in their contract to drink only the sponsored wine he had no idea). He told him about the knitty gritty shit he’d waded through that haunted him. And Cas, Cas didn’t kiss away his tears. He didn’t stroke his hair, or tell him how proud of him he was. No, that wasn't what Cas did.

“I swear. If I hear you use the word unloveable to describe yourself one more time I will hold you down and strangle you.”

“Wow Cas. You’re supposed to be nice to me.”

“No, that is not my job. Being nice to yourself, is your job.”

“My job is to take care of Sammy.”

Cas nodded like that made sense to him. But it shouldn’t have. Most people would have pointed out that Sam was a grown man capable of taking care of himself.

“Nothing to say to that?”

“That’s honorable and respectable.” Cas conceded, watching Dean out of the corner of his eye.

“Believe me I am neither honorable or respectable.”

“That’s not true Dean.” Cas was looking at him now, and this time it wasn’t a forced blank expression. It was a steely, resolved and certain expression.

And instead of fighting it or brushing it aside, Dean believed Cas. Because Cas never lied to him.

Dean kept Cas around. He never questioned it. He wanted the dude there. Even if Cas, himself might not actually want to be there. 

***********

He wasn't surprised when the truth about how Cas came to be on show was revealed. But was it really necessary to leak it to the most emotional person in the house?

“What the hell Dean? I mean we have all wondered why Cas was here because,” Anna hiccuped. “He’s weird.” She wrinkled her nose, and somehow it squeezed out more tears. “But you find out he's here because he’s blackmailed and did nothing!” Her voice reached a screeching pitch that Dean was certain only dogs could be able to hear. “He’s here for himself, his own gain, and you knew. You knew.” Anna shook her head, and Dean turned to glare at Benny.

Dean knew why it was Anna that found out. Production wanted to fan the flames now that Cassie wasn't there to do it for them. Benny had warned him this is how the game was played.

“Seriously, you have sent home people home that want to be here for you, so that you could keep the one person that doesn't even want to be here!”

Dean knew speaking wouldn’t help the situation, so he tried to comfort her by stroking her back gently. Which only made her let out another sob.

“Knowing all that you still keep him around. Do you know how insulting that is?”

Dean had an idea. But before he could comment on it, Aaron was pulling him aside. Which made Anna cry harder.

“Look Dean, clearly the house it upset.”

Dean had to try really hard to contain his “You think?” to himself. Sometimes he had to pretend to be Sam to get through the explosion of feelings and emotions that were sent his way. Sam would keep his calm. Sam wouldn't yell at anyone to grow the fuck up. Sam would take a deep breathe and go all Doctor Phil on them. Which was what Dean was trying his hardest to channel when all he wanted to do was throw in the towel or bury his hand in the sand until it all went away. 

“Yes.”

“Do you have anything to say for yourself?”

And Dean knew everyone was expecting an apology, but Dean didn’t want to apologize. He didn't regret keeping Cas around. When Aaron saw that Dean wasn’t going to comment he sighed like that was his answer.

“I don’t know if you have a crush on him because he’s the only one that doesn’t like you, or you just like taking away opportunities from the people who actually care about you. Whatever the reason? I can't do this.”

Dean nodded. He was in the habit of not fighting for people. If people chose to continue without him, they were probably making the right choice to begin with.

“I understand.”

Aaron shook his head again. “Really? That’s all you have to say?”

But what could Dean actually say? Either way, everyone would be offended.

“Dean, I hope you figure out what is going on in that head of yours.”

Cas walked around the corner, his face more mellow than Dean had seen in awhile. And Aaron saw the glance between the two.

“Every rose ceremony you keep him around it’s just going to get harder for the both of you. But, I can’t pretend to know what you’re up to.” Aaron kissed Dean's cheek. “I hope you get whatever you need from this.” And Dean walked Aaron down the long and windy driveway to the limo outside. He passed Cas on the way out but didn’t look at him.

At the rose ceremony that night, Dean was certain America was on the other side of screen cheering the contestants on. Because- they had a point. Dean was keeping the one person who didn’t want to be here. But that didn’t stop him from choosing Cas for the first rose. He heard all the contestants gasp, sigh, snuff, and grunt. But Dean instead watched Cas.

Cas blinked, looking between the rose and Dean. It wasn't the look of a man that hoped to be freed, but that of shock and a bit of confusion. The way his fingers played absentmindedly with the petals led credence to that assumption.

“Look, there’s been a lot of talk in the house about Cas and his intentions. I’d like you to know, Cas and I have talked.” Which okay, they kind of hadn’t at all that week. “Just like I have different relationships with you all, Cas and I do as well. I am not attempting to toy with any of you. If I chose to send someone home it has nothing to do with Cas. So I ask all of you to trust me, that I know what I’m doing. Aaron has left, and if anyone else wants to they may as well. I won’t even be mad. But uh, let me do my own picking and choosing.”

The contestants didn’t seem happy, but no one willingly walked out so Dean considered it a win.

Benny told Dean the days following that Cas was being bullied in the house. Benny was clearly hoping that Dean would intervene in some heartfelt or dramatic way, but Dean knew Cas could handle himself. Sometimes when he would go to the house to pick contestants up for dates he would see it in action. He would see the way Cas sat off by himself, or even heard the snide comments from Anna or Cole made in their sotto voice directed at Cas as he addressed them all. So it came as a surprise when he almost walked in on a conversation between Meg and Cas. As far as he knew, Meg and Cas didn’t even know each other (besides the obvious fact they were living together).

“Still doing alright there Clarence?”

“You don’t need to keep checking on me every ten minutes.”

“Someone's got to be on suicide watch. And since your boy isn’t stepping up to the plate, I thought I would help.”

Dean didn't like Meg. In fact, the producers had written it into his contract that they got two picks per rose ceremony until it got to the top five. And had that not been the case, he would have given Meg the axe weeks ago. But for some reason the producers liked her, and Dean was just thankful she and Cole were their picks as opposed to some of the other choices they had to begin with.

“I'm not going to kill myself. Now, or on this show. And Dean isn’t my boy.”

“Isn’t he, though?”

Dean slid further into the hallway he was listening from. The cameras following him knew well enough that this wasn’t a shot they could do anything with, and they could see he was trying not to interrupt the conversation in the kitchen (which it would have if cameras got involved). So the camera men sat around him listening in to whatever was happening without moving. It made him feel a little less pervy, to not be the only one sitting in a hallway eavesdropping.

“Unless, of course, you’re looking for more of a woman.” Dean wasn’t sure if Meg was offering herself, or just sussing the man out.

“Come on now Cas, I’m trying to help.” Dean frowned, doubting that to be the case. “Really, how are you doing?”

“I assure you I am well.”

“You are wearing two different type of shoes.” Dean hadn’t noticed that. “Just so you know, if you go upstairs one of the pairs is in the back of the toilet in the girls bathroom. But I hardly think that would help you now.”

Benny had told Dean that some of the men in the house were stealing things from Cas in retaliation. Dean had tried to bring it up to Cas, to address it but Cas raised an eyebrow at Dean effectively reminding Dean it wasn’t his business and to shut up. So Dean had shut up, still it made him mad that people were picking on the weird dorky guy.

“Thank you.”

“Remember. If you want someone to do some damage to Cole, or a cozy bed to sleep in when the nightmares come, you know where to find me.”

Dean didn’t like the last idea, but still the idea that someone had Cas’s back or was even talking to him at all was a comforting one. Giving Meg a rose didn't seem like such a bad idea. 

But still, Dean felt guilty. The guy was there because of Dean, he was being attacked because of Dean. Dean should have done the smart thing and just set the man free. Cas clearly expected it if his wide eyes at every rose ceremony was any indication. But Dean couldn’t. Which in itself was odd because Dean had always been the one sacrificing for the sake of others. But Cas, he wasn’t willing to give up. Being with Cas was the only time he felt like he could drop the act, stop playing the game. In a house full of people that were in love with him- it was nice to have a friend.

So he invited his friend on their first intimate date. Partially to show the house where he stood, and mostly because it was time. Being as Cas was the only person in the house who hadn’t gone on a one on one date with Dean. But to Dean’s surprise, the producers didn’t attempt to put them in some romantic candle lit place with famous artists crooning love songs to them. No, the two were sent to a gym with famous hand to hand combat specialists. There Dean and Cas were taught the basics of fighting, and told to go at each other.

Both took very easily to the activity. It didn’t take long for Dean to realize Cas had some martial arts training as a child, because the man was wily. He was quick, fast, full of tact, and looked damn good shirtless while wearing tiny shorts.

“That all you got there bucko?” Dean taunted, after flipping Cas so he was on top after the other man had pinned him to the ground.

“I don’t believe you should be commenting seeing as you’ve been pinned by me numerous times today.”

“Maybe I just like being underneath you?” Dean teased, but was taken off guard when Cas escaped from underneath him.

“Or you like losing if your current strategy is of any indication.” Cas growled before taking Dean down yet again. And true, Dean had seen a lot of the mat today. In fact he was sure it was covered with imprints of his face.

“What are you? Ronda Rousey?” Dean grunted as he tried to escape from Cas’s embrace. But he couldn’t. And to be honest, he liked having Cas pin him down.

After they had rolled around on the mat in a totally manly way, they got to the dinner portion of the date. Only to be surprised that instead of some one on one thing it was a dinner event. A publicity event would have been more accurate. It was a homeless shelter that had raised enough money to advertise on the show. But Dean? He loved stuff like this. He knew why they had chosen Cas to accompany him the minute they entered the place.

The producers expected Cas, who was terrible (as far as Dean could tell) at human interaction to come across as emotionless and unwilling to help.  To further set him up as the villain in this story. And Dean wanted to yell at Benny for making the process even harder on Cas. To everyone’s surprise, Cas got along quite well with the people around him. He didn’t seem uncomfortable or awkward, on the contrary, he seemed at home in the last place Dean ever thought he would fit in. He talked to a man who was clearly mentally unstable about how the world was going to end because of some broken seals that would release the devil. Instead of backing away from this man and finding someone sane or camera worthy, Cas stood there and asked questions. He nodded and listened like the babble coming out of the man's mouth made sense or was important. And while Rapheal gave Dean the heebejeebes, Cas didn’t even blink. By the end of the conversation Cas gave the man his black peacoat, convincing him it would protect him from the weather better than the man's ratty sweater did.

Dean watched Cas play with the children that the producers led them to. And once again, where Dean expected aloofness and an inability to connect- Cas’s seriousness was a hit with the children. They both played colors with them, a game a little girl with fuzzy brown hair around the age of five explained the rules to. And as they essentially played a game with running from one side of the gym to the other, Cas would slow down so the children could catch him. When he was “it” he would put considerable thought into his answers as if they were the most important things in the world. When he found Dean was helping the children sneak by around him- Cas forced all the kids to help him pin Dean for one last time in the day and tickle him. At the end Dean definitely wasn’t the only one laughing.

As they were leaving the little girl tugged on Cas’s hand and asked him why they couldn’t stay. And despite the fact that the cameras were distracted by something else, Cas got down on her level and had a five minute conversation with her about her dreams. Even the snot rocket filled ones.

They didn’t kiss that night. But Dean, as Benny looked at him expectantly, turned to Cas for the closing sequence of the date, and wished for the first time he had the strength to grab Cas’s hand. It would be uncalled for. So he did the only other thing he could think of.

“If Gabriel gave you all the money back, and the cat of course, would you still be here?”

Cas looked up in surprise. “Would you want me here?” And while it was a question, Dean knew Cas well enough to tell it wasn’t a real one. It was one of those rhetorical questions meant to make you think about the question.

And while Dean didn’t answer, he could have answered it easily. Yes. Yes, he did.

 

 


So Cas stayed. He stayed until the final five home town dates. And as Dean met the contestants’ families he played the game as it should be played. He focused on the families, the smiles, the introductions, playing the part. Lisa stood out in the hometown dates, him and Ben having hit it off automatically. And it was nice to see a bunch of different family units that seemed to welcome him. Well…until he met Cas’s.

“So Dean do you believe in God?”

Dean looked down at the mush on his plate that was supposedly some type of casserole. “Uh. I don’t know.” He said. And as soon as he did he could have sworn the silence was so tangible he could have reached out and touched it as though it was an actual person. So he looked to Daphne to attempt to salvage what was quickly becoming clear was an unsalvageable mess. “My mom used to say angels were watching over us.”

“Angels are warriors, they don’t have time to follow us like invalids.” Jimmy said as he passed rolls to Dean. “They are the beings sent to save or destroy villages, as well as proclaim miracles. They are God’s most chosen.”

“Seeing as you aren’t God the Father, you can not assume to know the purposes behind angels.” Cas refuted, looking to Dean with apologetic eyes.

Jimmy looked like Cas. In fact, were it not for the obvious age gap they could have been twins. But his eyes didn’t hold humor, light, or any affection. All this time Dean had pegged Cas as unaffected and robotic but now he saw what Cas really would have been like if scrubbed clean of all warmth. The reality gave him chills.

“Hellllooooo. People across America, I’M HOME!” Gabriel yelled as the came through the front door and sat at the dinner table.

“We weren’t aware you were coming, dear.” Daphne didn’t looked pleased to see Gabriel, but Dean was. Dean felt relieved that there would be one more person at the table. One more person to share the awkwardness with.

“Well I couldn’t miss America’s most famous bachelor now, could I?” Gabriel wiggled his eyebrows at Dean. Which was a difference from holier than thou church talk, but maybe not the direction he wanted to step in.

Still he should try to be nice. “Hello! You must be the brother I have to thank for meeting Cas.”

He looked at Cas and was pleased to see the man smiling down at his food.

“You found out his true motivation, huh?” Gabriel raised one surprised eyebrow while facing Cas. All the eyebrow action made Dean feel like he was in an amateur porno. Were there classes you could take? Eyebrow gestures 101?

“It came up.” Cas answered concisely. And Dean knew Cas well enough to know that’s all he would say about the subject.

“I bet that’s not all that came up. Am I right?”

Dean looked at Daphne and Jimmy, waiting for them to call Gabriel out on his innuendo, but it seemed it went over their heads. And instead the room went back to silence.

Even Benny seemed unnerved by it, sending one of his messengers to come direct the show along.“Okay, so this is typically the time where people in the family talk to both Cas and Dean one on one. To Cas you give advice and ask any questions you have about his time on the show or how he feels about Dean. To Dean you try and give him the older brother speech. You know, the you better take care of him or try to talk Dean into choosing Cas, what have you. So how about we start with Jimmy. You talk to Dean first, while Gabriel you speak to Cas. Jimmy, tell Dean you need to talk to him. We clear? Good. Now go.”

So Jimmy asked Dean to follow him. They walked into a room covered in crosses, and Dean could not have been more uncomfortable if he tried. It looked like they were starting a vampire slayer weapons unit.

“Dean.” Jimmy said. But he didn’t say anything else. They sat there in uncomfortable silence until Benny interrupted and tried to feed questions to Jimmy. Jimmy eventually chose question Dean about his education

Which Dean fumbled through some lame ass answer of why he only had a GED but got lucky because he owned his own restaurant. Instead of asking for a sample dish, or a future taste test like the other parents, Jimmy just nodded. Clearly not listening or caring.

Daphne was even worse. Instead of asking any questions about Cas or Dean himself, she spent the whole time trying to convert him into believing in Jesus. Dean found it best to nod along.

When Gabriel finally came in the room that had been designated as the ‘talk to Dean’ room and asked him to take a walk with him, Dean almost cried for joy. He was so thankful to leave the oppressive room covered in pictures of Jesus and these statues like people that could care less about Dean or it seemed, their own son.

“So what’s your end goal here? I mean I know it’s to end up in love and what have you. But I mean, really. What do you want?”

It was the first time Dean saw how Cas and Gabriel could be related. The straightforward questioning that demanded real answers.

“Honestly? I want a family. Not just love. But you know, a partner.”

“And what does that look like? Because let me tell you if it’s unending compliments, P.D.A, a trophy spouse, bright smiles and pearls that’s not Cas.”

Dean laughed. No it wasn’t. Cas wasn’t a “I slaved all day in the kitchen for you” type of guy. He was the type to look at you while you were complaining you were hungry and remind you that you have two working hands. Cas wasn’t the type to buy you bubble bath and massages for anniversaries with declarations of love. Instead he would buy you some really poignant book you read in your childhood and leave it for you on the bed without a card or any mention of the act itself.

“He is no June Cleaver, I’ll give him that.”

Gabriel looked at Dean, like he was trying to figure him out. He’d gotten that look all week from people he didn’t know. But this time, this time he wanted Gabriel to see him. Not the front, but all of him, all the dark gritty, shitty parts. He wanted Gabriel to really see every part of him, and honestly tell him, with everything, if he could ever be worthy of a guy like Cas.

“As you can see we grew up in an interesting family. And I’m not saying that to make you feel sorry for Cas. He doesn’t need pity or whatever. All families have their blessed little problems. But Cas isn’t a people person. He doesn’t connect with people, he doesn’t side with people.”

Gabriel looked at him knowingly.

“Wait? You think he sided with me?”

“All I am saying is, based on the conversations I just heard, he is acting like he is already part of a team. And Cassie has always played the game alone. Maybe a partner is an apt term for that?” The way Gabriel looked at him- expectantly head tilted to the side, it was clear he was trying to drive home the fact that he was using the same term Dean had used earlier.

And Dean didn’t know what to say to that, so he just nodded.

“I’m surprised he’s stayed this long.” Gabriel said, as they wandered back to the house.

Dean snorted. “Why? You’re the one that’s blackmailing him. I just met him but I can tell you Cas is one stubborn son of a bitch.”

Gabriel’s eyes were wide, but then his lips curved into a smirk. “I put Cas’s money back in his account when you were down to fifteen and told him he could have his cat back. He’s been free this whole time.”

“Huh.”

“Huh, indeed.”

Needless to say, Dean knew Cas was going to get a rose that week.

********


Dean told himself every week, that next week would be the week that he got rid of Cas. But next week always rolled past, and Cas stayed, Dean told himself that Cas wasn’t a real contestant. Hell, he and Cas had never even touched one another but that didn't matter.

 There were other people who wanted Dean, who would fight for his heart. And that’s not to say he didn't play the game with them. He did. Granted, not like he played in the season with Rhonda. He wasn’t getting nasty with anyone on the dates. But there were people he actually enjoyed kissing, enjoyed getting to know.

Lisa in particular always held his attention. She was everything he dreamed and hoped he’d find on this adventure. She was unerringly kind. Her warmth and niceness was like a blanket. All around him, giving him a vague sense of warmth. She had great anecdotes to help them get through the awkward scenes of shooting. And for someone as touch starved as Dean, she met that need easily. She always gave up her hand to hold, her arms to embrace, her lips to kiss and it was fun kissing her. She held a life full of pie, touch and future children in her eyes and that was all anyone could hope for.

“Dean,” She pulled him close to her, on the balcony of the mansion.

“Lisa.” He smiled, and let himself be pulled.

“I think I may be falling in love with you.” She told him. Her body was open. Open to giving Dean whatever he needed. Her eyes spoke only of truth and kindness. And he should have been over the moon. He rewarded her honesty with kisses instead of answering. I don’t know how to love, he thought as he kissed her tight. Is it that easy as just saying it aloud? He nibbled on her bottom lip and she opened her mouth to him. Shouldn’t I just know if I did love you? He swept his tongue into her mouth. And while his mind was running a million miles a minute, he was still so aware of every body part and how they moved with Lisa’s. He moved, and she would move, like a choreographed dance.

After a while he heard a gasp. He realized belatedly that he should been so lost in this little moment that that gasp should have went unheard. It shouldn't have stopped him. But instead he easily disentangled himself from Lisa to look over at the balcony and saw Cas standing there.

He couldn’t see Cas very well or for long, because the other man quickly flew inside. And while he was unsure of so many things there was one thing Dean knew for certain in that moment. He really hoped there had been sorrow in Cas’s eyes. Because sorrow meant that Cas felt something for Dean and he didn't care if it made him a terrible person because he hoped it were true.



When Cas was given a rose that night, Dean spent way too long looking at Cas trying to find any emotion in those eyes. He searched, waiting for something to come to to the top that would give him some sense of clarity. He perused until Benny coughed, reminding him that there were other people who demanded his attention. And that’s when Dean realized Cas could draw him into a personal world with only one look.

So he was down the final three. Lisa, Ash, and Cas. The three people he could be less of a doll around and more of a person. The three people he didn’t have to worry about murdering each other. But the final three meant long day romantic dates of his choosing and the overnight card.

The overnight card.

Back when he was a contestant Dean didn’t worry at all about how America would perceive him. Not even a smidgen. So he kissed, and played the game with abandon. But now, now he was representing his family, he was representing his business. And he had Sam on the other end of the phone every night reminding him of this.

Hell, Sam expected more of him than a pastor would. “I don’t understand Dean,why are you keeping Cas around? From what you’ve told me the man is making no effort. America won’t be sympathetic.”

“I don’t know Sam. I just like the nerdy guy alright? I mean is that a sin?”

“No, but this isn’t ‘make best friends for life’. This is The Bachelor. You’re supposed to want to fall in love.”

“I do.”

“Then why are you self sabotaging yourself?”

To that Dean had no answer. Or he had many, but none of them actually addressed the question.

“So what are you going to do about the Over Night Card?”

That was the question wasn’t it?

“Sammy if you’re trying at hint something. Just be a big boy and come out and say it.”

“You shouldn’t give anyone the overnight card.” That wasn’t what Dean was expecting. He was waiting for Sam to tell him to give it just to Lisa and Ash, or something of that nature. “Look, the bachelors that went on to give the overnight card to all three people were crucified. And the network wouldn’t like it if you only gave it to one person because then they would have indications of who you are planning on choosing in the end. It’s a catch 22. Just tell each person you have a reputation to uphold and you wouldn’t feel comfortable giving anyone the card.”

“I thought the whole point of this show was to sleep with as many people as possible.” Dean had originally had that thought process when preparing for the show, but since he met the actual people he had long given up on that mindset.

“I think you can keep it in your pants for one night.”

“I don’t know Sam, it’s been a long five weeks.”  Dean smiled when he heard a disgusted groan from Sam.

“I am just saying it might not be in your best interest. Look America won’t know what to do with Cas. They won’t like that you kept him on. In order to forgive you for having some weird relationship with a guy who you have no romance with, they will assume you chose him the whole time because you knew from the beginning that your choice was going to be Lisa. And it was easier to keep someone around who wasn’t competing. If you give the overnight card to Cas, or even Ash, America can’t think that anymore.”

Turns out it was almost a moot point. When it came up with Lisa, after their long day of swimming in some remote cave and a candlelit dinner she had seen the over night card on the table and gave him a speech about how as a mother she couldn’t make that decision with a clear conscious. Which was a relief for Dean. After a long night spent at an AC/DC concert with Ash, both decided they were too tired and needed to sleep for the next day.

Leave it to Cas to make things complicated.

Cas and Dean spent the morning fishing. And honestly, it was perfect. They were both content to sit in quiet solitude except for the moments when Dean got to teach Cas how to bait the hook and reel it in. It was better than fishing with Sam because Sam felt the need to talk every couple minutes. But Cas, Cas sat next to him in the sun, overlooking the pier. Their knees bumped against each others every couple of minutes, or their hands grazed as they leaned them back on the wood behind them. Dean felt like Cas was somehow getting to know him better with silences than anyone else had with long conversations. When Dean finally caught something, he showed Cas what to do next. And even as fish guts spilled over their fingers, Dean still felt a spark when Cas’s hands overlapped his.

While Dean had planned romantic adventures that culminated in dinners in villas so freaking sappy it could have melted the heart of Death himself, Dean figured Cas would want something a little more down to earth. So after fishing, and washing up from the smell, Dean planned a date for the two of them to cook the fish they caught and just chill.

After all, the kitchen was Dean’s home away from home. He had imagined it being a cozy little affair of him trailing along after Cas, teaching him how to make every dish sometimes letting his arms fall around the other man's waist or chin on his shoulder. But it didn’t turn out like that at all.

“Dean, stop! I know what I’m doing!”

“No, you’re doing it all wrong.”

“Dean, I know how to handle my fish.”

“But do you know how to handle your meat?”

Cas’s face still held it’s smitey complexion that suited him so well but Dean could see the smile in the man's eyes. And it thrilled him that he knew Cas well enough to spot it.

“You’re infuriating.”

“I’m adorable.”

Cas scowled which made Dean laugh.

“What Cas, I don’t do it for you?”

At that made Cas full on blushed. After that Dean tried to reach around Cas to help with the fish, just for an excuse to touch the man again.

“Dean, get your own damn fish.”

Dean started his own fish, his competitive spirit kicking up. But at his burner he felt too far away from Cas. In the pretense of giving advice, after all he was a professional chef, he edged closer to where Cas was still frying his fish.

“Dean, I swear if you touch me or this fish I’ll…”

“You’ll what Cas?” Dean loved this side of Cas. The take no prisoners, determined, jaw clenched, sexy blue eyes flashing, side.

“I’ll quit.”

Dean knew it was a joke so he let out a hearty laugh. Which only made Cas scowl harder. “I don’t think you can just quit Cas.”

“Yes I can. The rules state I can leave at any time.” It was true. Cas could have left at any time, Gabriel told Dean as much. Yet here he was.

“You’d quit right before I offered you the overnight card?”

Cas took the fish off the burner and turned to start peeling the potatoes. “Who says I want the overnight card?”

Which, true. Dean hadn’t expected Cas to even care. But that didn’t stop Dean from teasing him with it. “What are you saying you don’t want to spend the night with me Cas? Be careful, you might hurt a guy's feelings.”

“I somehow think you’ll survive.”

“You don’t know what you’re missing out on man.”

“A night of you correcting my sleeping habits?”

Dean smiled. “A night of me in all my glory.”

“Your glory?” Cas raised an eyebrow.

“Mhmm. You. Me. A bed. Throw in a little of this, a little of that.”

If Dean wasn’t mistaken, Cas was flushing a bit again.

“A recipe for disaster I’m sure.”

Dean smiled. “A recipe for something, that’s for damn sure.”

“You sound like you want me to accept this overnight card and yet you haven’t even offered it to me.”

Dean realized, within all the teasing that he could. It was against everything Sam had said but a night spent with Cas. A night to be able to lay next to him, to watch him breathing. Damn, it was too alluring of an idea to pass on. After all they had spent the whole morning in silence. Which hadn’t REALLY given them the time to talk. A night would fix that. A night to just get to talk, to be real.

“Would you, uh, want to?”

“Want to what Dean?”

“Spend the night with me.” Realizing how this might look to America he amended himself. “Talking, and getting to know each other. You know, that stuff.”

Cas looked at Dean, watching him carefully like any tick might give Dean’s true intentions away. After accepting whatever he found he nodded. “You know I always enjoy our conversations.”

Dean’s stomach basically gave a fist bump of pleasure at the idea, lurching in such a weird excited way.

“Dean, have you given up on your fish? Would you like for me to show you how it’s done?” Cas was smirking, and Dean rolled his eyes to get back to their competition. They would see who's tasted better.

And the rest of the night was easy between the two of them. Both agreeing that Dean’s fish tasted better, but Cas’s was pretty good as well. Both enjoying each others mashed potatoes and salad they brought to the table and just talked. They never discussed the competition or the other contestants. Hell, it didn’t even feel like they were in a game. It felt like both were on a real date at some random house, and it felt easy.

Well, until they went to the bedroom without the cameras. It was awkward, the shifting as they both took up either side of the bed. While it was agreed upon the night was for talking, neither were particularly chatty. Neither had changed to anything other than their regular clothes, hell both had their shoes on, but they were laying in the dark, having brushed their teeth like they weren’t sure whether to sleep or converse. So they did neither but lay there.

And God, it made Dean want to roll over. He wanted to touch Cas, to cuddle close with him. He wanted to hold the sturdy man in his arms until morning. He wanted… he just wanted.

“This bed is uncomfortable.” Cas whispered, like he was unsure of whether or not they could speak in the dark.

Dean snorted. “I think the idea is they don’t want us to sleep.”

“What, do they want us to play croquet?”

Dean laughed at the idea of both of them on the bed, pushing around balls. But then the idea of playing with a different kind of balls came to his head. He was so screwed.

“I’m going to undress.”

Okay things like that really weren’t helping.

“I mean, just down to boxers or something. I can’t sleep in jeans and shoes.”

Cas. Cas next to him in just boxers.

“You will be giving them what they want!”

Cas raised an eyebrow. “Who?”

Dean struggled to find a reason to make Cas keep his clothes on. “The producers.”

“There are no producers, cameras, or anything of the sort in this room Dean.” Cas sounded amused, and got up but Dean knew he had to stop it. The second Cas took his clothes off, all restraints on Dean would be down.

“That’s what they want you to think.”

Cas gave him the same look he did right before he pounded Dean into the mat. He slowly started taking off his jeans. “You think the producers can somehow see this?”

And Dean, clearly not able to think straight with even the idea of Cas in any state of undress, ran over to Cas and started trying to force the other man to pull up his pants. Which resulted in a wrestling match between the two of them. Never had Dean struggled with someone's clothes before, let alone forcing them to keep them on. Both of them tugged and pulled at the same pants, attempting to move the other around the room so they could get a better grip. Cas was trying to get them to the floor so he could eventually get the pants around his feet, where as Dean was trying to keep them standing. In the end they ended up against a wall. The second Cas crashed into it they looked at each other.

And instead of realizing the strange situation they were in, Dean could only see the heavy way Cas was panting. His lidded eyes, his lips. His Cas. Cas, if anything started breathing harder once they stopped struggling. His breathing picked up every second he looked at Dean’s face, at Dean’s lips.

Without questioning it, Dean leaned forward and captured Cas’s mouth with his. And the soft lips below him gave way and all Dean could feel was perfection. He had no idea how he moved his body, his lips, whose hands were whose but somehow he felt Cas all around him. He felt like every push and press of Cas was an extension of him. The half of him he had missed all his life and hadn’t known until the man nibbled his bottom lip and swiped his tongue along Dean’s.

Dean pushed Cas harder into the wall, and instead of just going Cas pushed himself harder into Dean. They both gasped and touched each other fervently. Capturing each other’s moans with more open mouthed filthy perfect kisses.

The second Dean moved to kiss Cas’s neck, Cas gasped and opened his eyes. They caught each other's eyes, and the spell was broken. Just like that both knew they stood on a precipice. They could continue kissing, both knowing where that would lead or they could step away from each other.

Before Dean could think about it, Cas was slipping out of Dean’s grip, leaving him alone against the wall, attempting to figure out what the hell was going on.

“You’re right. We should probably keep our clothes on.”

Cas laid on the bed, and didn’t move or speak the rest of the night.

*****
Dean knew Lisa would charm the pants off his family. And she did. She walked in with wine, and a huge smile and everyone was captivated. She looked completely out of place, her nice black dress and designer sweater in a cabin surrounded by Dean’s family and Charlie(who had been able to get one day off of work). Who all just happened to be in plaid. But Lisa smoothed over the rough edges and was her charming self.

It was somewhat comical watching her navigate conversations about Star Trek, larping, hunting, greek mythology, even alcohol when they clearly were not her areas of expertise but she stayed by Dean’s side the entire night so he could help steer any conversation back to a comfortable level.

It was important to give his restaurant good publicity so he made duck with mulberry mustard, a favorite at his restaurant. It was a bit fancier than what he traditionally made for family dinners. He knew Bobby would grouch and complain, and Jo would just push it around on her plate but it sounded right up Lisa’s alley. And every step of the way she was in the kitchen with him, coyly flirting and asking to help him cook, a page right out of his fantasy book. But all Dean could see was the week before, Cas slapping his hands telling him to move out of the way.

Just to spite the memory he gave in and flirted with her around the kitchen. He tried to pin her against the oven as they cooked and instead of it feeling coy, it felt…forced. And he watched as this life long dream he used to have about his future fell into his hands and broke, the broken ideas of it disintegrating in his fingers. It made everything in the kitchen uncomfortable and he was eager to just eat.

While eating Lisa kept her hand on his leg, smiling at him easily and every time she did Dean felt guiltier and guiltier. Why? He had no idea. But he just kept trying to smile back and nodding as people spoke around him.

“So. Dean, as I’m sure you know, had a hard upbringing.” Ellen started, and Dean felt himself blush.

To his relief Lisa circumvented the situation easily. “But it helped shape him into the amazing man he is today.”

And like that the conversation was done. Before he knew it the night was over and they were back in the living room discussing how awesome Lisa was and going to sleep before they did it all over with Cas.

Dean couldn’t sleep that night, imagining all the ways Cas could crash and burn. Because somehow he knew it was going to. It had to. If dinner with Cas’s family was any indication, and add that with Cas’s social skills at the mansion it was a bonafide recipe spelling out disaster.

And yet.

And yet when Cas came over the next day, Dean put on his best shirt and eagerly introduced him to his family.

Sam was standing in the corner, bitch face on and ready to go. Which meant an even more uphill battle for his favorite underdog.

“You must be Sam.” Cas said, reaching his hand out. And Sam shook it with force.

“Nice to meet you. Cas was it?”

Cas nodded, tilting his head to the side. “I must say you are taller than I imagined. Every time Dean discussed you he made you sound…little.”

Sam tried to hide a smile. “I’m sure he did. Dean’s always had a problem admitting how little he is in comparison.”

Dean grunted. “Don’t let the height fool you. Underneath the height he’s still a big baby.”

“Boys, I know you didn’t let the poor boy come to our house to hear you two bickering with each other.” Ellen quickly brought Cas into a hug. And while he wasn’t expecting it, Dean watched as Cas carefully wrapped his arms around the woman and leaned into the hug.

“Hello Cas, it’s nice to have you in our home.”

“Hello m’am. It’s my pleasure I assure you.”

“None of that m’am stuff with me. I’m Ellen. You hear?”

Cas nodded, his eyes betraying how happy he was at that moment. And Dean realized that Cas and Dean had something in common. While Dean had spent his youngest years with Sam weaving in and out of families that they didn’t fit into, Cas had been stuck in one for all of his life. He knew that look Cas was giving Ellen. It was the same look Sammy had given her when they first got assigned to their house. It was the look of someone being treated with a motherly kindness they had never known. And damn if that didn’t both break and warm Dean a bit.

“Now I think Dean is whipping us up something in the kitchen.”

“Do you want to help?” Dean asked, but Cas only gave him a raised eyebrow.

“I think we have established already that you are bossy in the kitchen.”

“Oh he’s bossy everywhere.” Jo answering, coming down the stairs to get a good look at Cas.

“I was going to ask if you would like to come get to know us while he finishes everything but I think I have my answer.” Ellen laughed, looking between Cas and Dean her eyes sparkling with amusement.

Dean felt a prickle of anxiety about that, but Cas looked calm as ever. “I would love that.”

“Don’t be too hard on him. I want my man back in one piece you hear?” Dean joked. But automatically as the words came out of his mouth he felt silly. Cas wasn’t his man. Cas was blinking at him, as if trying to make sense of what he just heard but before either could address the awkwardness that was Dean’s lack of filter, Cas was whisked away by two eager women. Dean went into the kitchen. This time he was making his famous burgers. Much more of a regular meal at their house, and somehow he imagined if there was any food to crack the lining of Cas’s armor it would be a nice home cooked burger.

But Sam came in to join him as he cooked. It worked well with Benny’s whole need to get different interviews.

“Your man huh?”

“Shut it.” Dean started rolling out the patties, getting ready to take them outside to grill.

“No I just… does he know he’s your man?”

“Sam,” Dean’s voice was a warning but when had that ever stopped Sam before?

“I’ve never heard you call anyone yours before.”

Dean scrunched his eyebrows together. “Sure you have.”

“Nope.” Sam popped the P and made a weird lip duck pout that made Dean want to give him a noogie or something. “No you haven’t.”

“Look are you going to stand here all night Doctor Phil or are you going to actually talk to the man in question?”

As soon as he suggested it, Dean wished he could take it back. Last thing he needed was Sam grilling Cas while Dean was helplessly grilling outside unable to swiftly handle any confrontations.

“Nah, Ellen’s showing him old childhood albums. I really don’t need the reminders of what your pale pasty ass looked like thanks.”

Dean groaned. “She brought those out?”

Since Sam was standing in the doorway of the kitchen he looked around it before turning back to Dean. “What’s more is that Jo seems to be providing commentary.”

“Great. Just great.”

Dean opened the door to go outside and found Bobby outside on the porch swing drinking a beer.

“Hey old man. Don’t you think you should go in and introduce yourself?”

Bobby looked up to Dean. “Didn’t know he was here yet. Figured you two would be attached at the hip and all like yesterday.”

Sam, leaned once again in the doorway watching Dean get the grill ready. “Nope. Apparently Cas would rather be with the girls than helping Dean cook.”

“Trouble in paradise already?” Bobby took another swig.

“No.” Dean ground out.

“Wait, you left him with both Jo and Ellen?” Bobby whistled. “Boy, is that an introduction to the family. How do you know they aren’t plying your angel with alcohol and forcing confessions out of him.”

Sam laughed.

“My angel? Getting a bit sappy there Bobby? You haven’t even met the guy yet.”

Bobby laughed. “Really? Castiel, is the name of an angel.”

“Wait, what?”

“You didn’t know that?” Bobby squinted at Dean.

“It’s not like Cas knows what Dean means.” Dean said, flipping his burgers enjoying the mix of nighttime with the last rays of the run in the sky.

Before long, the girls came outside, bringing Cas with them. And to Dean’s amusement all seemed like they were on the brink of giggling.

“See he wasn’t killed or drugged. Bobby meet Cas. Cas, Bobby.”

As Cas went to shake Bobby’s hand, Bobby laughed. “Do you know the etymology of Dean, boy?”

Cas squinted, clearly unaware of the reason behind the segue. “Uh, I believe it means valley. Or in Latin there is the word Decanus which means leader of ten people.”

Sam seemed to be having a field day with the making fun of Dean portion if his laughter was anything to go by.

“Ten is a specific amount of people.” Jo commented, smiling even though she had no idea what was going on.

“Well he has five right now. Halfway there.” Cas offered. “And I assure you he had more than ten in the mansion.” Everyone laughed a bit at Dean’s expense, and any annoyance Dean had was gone on the spot. “But I must ask, why is Dean’s name pertinent?”

“We were discussing your name.” Bobby offered. “Angel of Thursday.”

“Ah,” Cas said with a genuine smile. “You know your angels then?”

And just like that Bobby and Cas were off on some tangent, and despite his earlier antics, Sam was unable to resist anything slightly nerdy so he joined in the conversation as well.

The night was going well, Cas fit in better than Dean could have pictured. In fact, he was afraid now that Sam and Bobby had stolen him, he might never get Cas back. And it was stupid, truly stupid because the night before he had felt smothered, overwhelmed by Lisa’s constant touch and here he was craving it. Hell he was getting jealous of his family members for getting to know things about Cas he hadn’t yet heard from the man himself. He was sad that they were getting smiles and reactions he hadn’t seen yet.

So he quickly finished the burgers so he could be part of the conversations. They sat at the table, everyone much happier with his cooking choice this time around. And the moan that Cas made when he bit into the burger? May or may not have been filed away in things for Dean to think about when he rubbed one out in his personal time.

“So. Dean, as you may or may not know, didn’t have the easiest time when he was younger.” Ellen started.

Really? She was going to use the same beginning she had used the night before? Just when everything was going so well.

“We have discussed it, yes.” Cas looked up, regarding Ellen with care.

“It makes him a very interesting person. Different.”

“You’re making me sound like I have special needs.”

“You do have special needs.” Cas said seriously. And Jo looked like she was going to spit out her food with laughter. “Everyone has special needs based on who they are. Your past has shaped you into the person you are today and that means you have different needs and ways of dealing with things than other people who may have had easier paths. That’s not a bad thing.”

“And you think you could navigate those paths?” Sam asked, everyone at the table electing to ignore Jo who was trying to hold back her laughter and failing.

“I think anyone could navigate them if they took the time and cared enough.”

Okay that wasn’t a promising answer. And Dean didn't miss the look Sam gave him over it.

“Yeah, yeah I’m a difficult person to love. Now can we move on?”

“No.” Cas was angry. His face was unforgiving and normally it was an expression that would have turned Dean the hell on, but he was confused about how Cas could get so passionate so quickly. “You are a strong, selfless, hardworking, bright soul. Angels, drones, narcissists, anyone could and would start wars over you. Do you understand?”

With the way Cas was peering at him, like he could see into his very soul, there was no other answer Dean could give than a meek yes.

“Uh, I… so Cas we heard that there was some drama in the house.” Sam interrupted and Dean wanted to kill him. It was already stressful enough with whatever that conversation it was still lingering around the table.

“Yes.” Cas nodded solemnly. “Though I am told that is normal for this show.”

Sam cracked a small smile before reverting back to his serious face. “I heard that you were….disliked.”

Cas nodded, hardly seeming phased. “Yes, it seems I didn’t fit in well at the mansion.”

“Because people doubted your intentions towards my brother…” Could Sam try any harder to ask a question without actually asking the question?

“As I stated, Dean is the type of person people would wage wars for. Many people fought to protect him and his heart, I can hardly find fault in that. It was unfortunate that I was the target, but I don’t begrudge them.”

“And what are your intentions?”
Dean quickly jumped up, not even allowing himself to look at Cas, or anyone else at the table. It was a question Dean wanted answered, but not like this. Not with his family weighing their opinions and arguing about it.

“That’s enough asking my prom date about his plans for the end of the night thank you. You want to bring out your guns as well?”

Dean felt Ellen’s hand reaching across the table to brush over his gently. “So Dean, have you told Cas here about your larping competitions?”

But no matter where the conversation teetered the rest of the evening, the question Sam asked kept coming to Dean. It was like a broken record, skipping in his head and causing him to get more and more stressed throughout the evening. He didn’t think it showed, his family and Cas easily navigating conversations, but it was there.

When the end of the night arrived and Dean walked Cas to the door, he knew. He knew it needed to be asked. But how could he? Could he handle hearing Cas say something along the lines of “Dean I never told you I wanted anything romantic. You knew that” or anything else he might say?

Worse could he handle Cas telling him the kiss meant nothing? But no, Dean remembered Cas’s lidded eyes, the small gasp. He remembered Cas kissing back. And that had to mean something! People didn’t go around giving life altering kisses and saying they were a mistake.

“Dean?”

“What are your intentions?”

Cas’s face was blank. And it killed Dean a little. How could he know anything for sure? The man was a master at hiding and surpassing any and all emotion. Maybe it all was a joke, him pitying Dean or something.

“I’m sorry?”

“No, you know the question. You’re here. I want you here. I’ve chosen you to be here. And I… look it’s coming to the end. I have to….”

Cas’s face was still as controlled as ever. He must have trained, done some acting or something because it was so unnatural for someone to look that blank while someone else is spilled their guts.

“I need something. Something.” Dean begged.

Cas looked down, as if weighing what to say in his head. And it sucked. It shouldn’t have been a hard answer.

“You do what you have to do Dean.”

So Cas was bowing out, he was telling Dean to choose someone else without just exiting the competition himself. What a coward. He just let Dean carry him along like the tide, never knowing where they washed up. If Dean chose him would he even have an opinion? Or just go along with that as well

“No. None of that. I need to know what you want man. You have to give me something.”

Cas sighed, and there! There was a crack in the exterior. “I’m not good at games Dean.”

“But if it wasn’t a game.”

“But it is.”

“Cas, in a week it won’t be.”

“There are people who have loved you in spite of games, in spite of it all. I’m not… Dean you…”

I’m not in love with you? Was that was Cas was going to say? Dean had no idea. He couldn’t wrap his mind around anything that was happening. Was Cas trying to reject him, or saying he didn’t think he deserved him?

“I wish we had met in everyday life.” Cas said, and there was something in his eyes, like resolution.

“Me too.” Dean whispered. And he did. Maybe he could have bought Cas a coffee and they could have fallen into love without a timeline hanging over their heads.

“When you watch this, everyone will assure you that you can do better than me. And you’ll be able to see it.” Cas answered, his voice level.

Did that mean Cas had done something in the house that he was afraid Dean couldn’t live with? Why wasn’t he just explaining himself? But Cas was looking at Dean like he was the most precious thing in the world. How could he look like that if he didn’t care? His gaze roamed over Dean’s like he was hungry for every pore, freckle, eyelash, hair he could commit to memory. His gaze lingered on Dean’s lips. And right as Dean thought he was about to do something Cas said a solemn “goodbye Dean.” And ran to the hired car.


It’s tradition and expected when Benny forces the family to have an actual sit down to discuss both Lisa and Cas. Dean’s heard from other contestants that it was at this point they really just wanted their family to validate their formed opinion. But for the first time Dean was thankful for Benny’s weird rules and formats, because normally Dean didn’t do heart to hearts. He didn’t like to seem weak or unable to make up his mind.

But Dean was in between a rock and a hard place. He knew the answer he should chose. It was simple. And Dean favored simple choices.

“Well they were both very nice, dear.” Ellen said, fidgeting in her chair as the cameras circled around them. Dean could tell she was having a hard time staying in one place. Like him, she was the type that liked to have deep conversations while doing something. Sit downs across tables with eye contact weren’t as easy as it was while drying dishes or cleaning guns.

Benny gave Dean a look, reminding him of the script. First was a Lisa breakdown, then a Cas one. But Dean would rather skip ahead to the end of the script- get to the tough part so they could all call it a day and be done with the heart to heart.

“So…uh…”

“Which did we like better?” Sam answered for him.

Dean sighed in relief that he didn’t have to ask the question.

“Personally or for you?” Jo asked.

That was something he had never even considered. “Are the answers different?” But Jo didn’t answer, she just shrugged and leaned back in her seat.

Great, his family got an A+ for communication.

“Well,” Sammy said, attempting to save the spiraling disaster. “You can’t make a wrong choice.”

But Dean could. Both he and Sam knew that it wasn’t true. He could. Cas would be the wrong choice. He didn’t know what the man wanted from him, why he was even there anymore. And if he chose Cas and Cas said no, not only would Dean feel like a fool but he would have insulted a beautiful woman he had the possibility to love, and could offend America in the process. And America helped make or break his business. And his business helped pay the family's bills. There was more at stake than just Cas and Dean.

Ellen opened her mouth, but then closed it.

“Well let’s get it out there. Lisa’s nice and all, but I like Cas.” Jo spoke.

Dean hadn’t expected anyone to side with Cas. And hearing that validation soothed his heart a little bit. But then again, it was Jo. Jo had a tendency to make snap decisions about people that were entirely unfounded. Hell, growing up she had hated Charlie on first sight because she thought Charlie was attempting to seduce Dean. And not only had she been dead wrong, but she had also hated the girl for two years after when she found out the truth about her proclivities. Now they were close friends, but for awhile there it was a touchy subject.

“Hell I don’t know what you are going to do. Both are educated, easy on the eyes, and far gone on you.” Bobby was shaking his head.

Far gone on him? His family had been informed throughout the process on all the updates with Cas. They knew the stickiness of the situation. And that Cas wasn’t obviously far gone on Dean, otherwise a lot of his questions would have easy answers. And if Cas was far gone on Dean wouldn’t he have continued the kiss? Wouldn’t he have fought the night before?

Far gone meant past the point of gone. It meant past the point of ‘I wish I’d met you at a different time, place or moment.’

“Just in different ways.” Jo agreed.

“With Lisa, you could never do any wrong. She will always see the best in you.”

Why did she make it sound like a bad thing. That sounded like everyone's dream.

“And Cas?”

“I get the sense that he sees all of you- dumbass parts and all.”

Ellen sighed. “Look, Cas plays his cards closer to the chest. But if I had to guess I’d say that boy loves you something crazy.”

“You got that too?” Sam asked, watching Dean carefully. Dean would have thought they were put up to this by Benny. Cas didn’t love him. Hell, he didn’t even know if Cas liked him. But Sam was giving him that ‘don’t argue with me’ look which meant he was honest. He thought Cas loved Dean.

“Have to be blind to miss it.” Bobby grumbled.

Jo swiveled in her seat a bit “Great Dean’s loved. Can we get back to the important parts?”

“Wait, wait. So you’re saying Lisa will let me get away with anything because she can’t see me as an imperfect person?” That didn’t sound like Lisa at all.

“No, she’s a mother.” Ellen’s eyes were warm. “A mother knows how to call people out. But you will get away with very different things than you’d get away with with Cas.”

“No I see that.” Sam agreed. “I don’t know, Cas seems more like you as a person. Like he could take your bad days without taking it personally or you having to hide it. He wouldn’t take your sh-crap.”

“Lisa seems like the type of person to get on you about leaving clothes on the floor, or dishes in the sink.” Jo was quick to add.

“Yeah, and Cas probably wouldn't care about those things. Or if he did, they wouldn’t be real fights. Did you hear Cas when you tried to insult yourself? He won’t put up with that. I also see you fighting more with Cas in general.” Sam broke it to him gently.

“Okay, so with Lisa we’d never fight and that’s a bad thing because with Cas we’d fight all the time. How does that even make sense?”

Ellen grabbed Bobby’s hand. “Honey a little bickering is never a bad thing. Heaven knows you’ve seen your share. Both good and bad. But what it comes down to is what type of relationship do you want to have? With Lisa you may become the best you, you’ve ever been. Learn how to hide and smother all your dark sides. Or you want a life that’s a little more complicated, and maybe a little tougher. Me? I personally like to argue. Makes it interesting, and I like that hard headed asshole part of myself and that I have someone to share it with who enjoys it themselves.” Bobby snorted. “But after all you’ve been through, only you know what you want.”

Dean rubbed his temples. This is why he never had heart to hearts. People couldn’t just say what they were feeling. They had to go all philosophical to make a point.

“I disagree. Why is wanting to be the best version of yourself a bad thing? Isn’t that what we all should want? Someone that makes us better?”

Great now they were arguing about philosophical points. Sam had a point, Ellen had a point, everyone had a goddamn point but none of them made any sense to him.

“Okay so just who would you pick?”

“Cas” Jo said at the same time Sam said “Lisa.”

And yeah, hearing Sam say Lisa hurt. He kind of knew to expect it, what with what the guy had been ranting about every phone call. But he had hoped, for some reason, that the hometown date would have changed that.

Bobby shrugged. “Dunno son. They both seem like good people. Couldn’t tell you if I wanted to.”

Dean turned to Ellen, begging her to be of some help but the woman just raised her hands. “No, no. I know how this works. I say something, you just go out and do the opposite. I don’t want to say one person and then have to face the other person the rest of my life, both of us knowing I didn’t chose them.” At his face Ellen paused. “Honey, you will be alright. You got this. Just follow your heart and you can’t be wrong okay?”

And with a forehead kiss, and a bunch of well wishes Dean was out the door.

*********

The next few days were a blur. It was the end of the rope. He was being whisked to look at rings, it being heavily hinted that engagement was the next step. But if Dean saw one more wedding band he would be sick. He couldn’t propose. Not when Cas and him hadn’t even discussed emotions, and Lisa wasn’t even at the forefront of his mind. Yet, day after day they brought him back to a jewelry shop as if prolonged exposure would change his mind.

But it taunted him. The idea of forever. Because whenever he tried to picture either in his forever it came out mushy. With Lisa he pictured the apple pie life. The life he thought he always wanted. But somehow it felt cheap, forced. He could see baseball games holding hands, kisses on foreheads when they woke up in the morning, refusing to argue before bedtime and making up for the sake of making up even when both of them still believed the other was wrong.

With Cas he pictured chaos. Everything he thought he was trying to run away from. But it felt real, it felt tangible. He could imagine fights over who was stealing the blankets that only ever ended when one of them fell asleep in exhaustion or both stayed up the entire night and walked around cranky the next morning until one of them eventually caved and kissed the other. He could imagine a life where his business might close, and coming home to find Cas curled up with a book. He could see himself crawling next to Cas like a cat, and letting Cas just run his hands through his hair. And instead of making a plan on what to do next, he knew, clear as day, Cas would suggest insane ideas like running away, driving forever with no clear plan. And they would suffer financially because Dean would give in. They would run away from their problems for a short while on a clear road, hands griped tightly, arguing over directions.

With Lisa Dean saw a happy life, happy moments. But with Cas, he saw sad moment, mad moments, and the ways they would go through them to be happy.

The hardest part was Sammy’s decision. Because if Dean pictured Lisa walking around his house, he saw the disconnection with his family. She was nice, was kind, could bridge it with smiles and laughs but she just couldn’t connect. Her and Sam would always orbit around each other as Dean’s most important people, but the idea of them talking more than on Holidays or when Dean was in trouble didn’t sound fathomable. Her and Ellen would relate, both being mothers, but Lisa would always be Ellen’s equal. She would never let Ellen mother her, or be useful in all the ways that Ellen loved. Lisa would smile and encourage Jo and Dean’s nerdy excursions but she would never go. And she would charm Bobby, but she would never sit up in the study with him and talk about literature or theory.

Cas though. Cas loved Ellen already. Dean had no idea how Cas felt about him, but he could tell you that something warmed in that boy when having a mother figure be kind to him. Ellen would love fussing over yet another person in the house, and Cas would be eager to let her. Dean could see Jo and Cas teaming up against him to send dumb pictures of him to each other. He could see her talking Cas into anything social and both Dean and Jo laughing at Cas’s dumbfounded expression of “why do I put up with this” on his face. But he would be there, every time, without fail. He could see Bobby and Cas not pulling any punches with each other. Cas wouldn’t charm Bobby, or suck up to him. If anything he could see Bobby fake gripping all the time, just like he does with Dean and Sam. But he could also see Bobby addressing Cas in times of crisis, trusting Cas to be the shelter Dean needs. And he could imagine both of them teaming up to get him to do things. And most of all he could imagine the ease in which Sam and Cas would communicate. Cas would call Sam when Dean was acting funny, Sam would text Cas about book recommendations. Sam would be over all the time and Cas wouldn’t even bat an eye. In fact he imagined the two would sometimes have days when they were annoyed at him and sought out each other to complain.

So the idea that Sam chose Lisa made no sense to Dean. Was Dean completely wrong in the dynamics of the family. Had he seen it all wrong?

“Why?”

“What?” Dean could hear people talking in the background meaning Sam was most likely in school.

“Why did you chose Lisa?”

Dean could hear Sam sighing, and he spoke to someone around him before he found a quieter place to talk.

“Dean, you don’t know Cas’s intentions.”

Ah the big elephant Dean kept trying to imagine didn’t exist.

“So you choose Cas and what happens? A, he could say yes but why would he if he’s given no indication beforehand of being interested? Most likely you get up there, make a fool of yourself, and then the truth comes out. The big reason he was faking it the entire time. What’s more? When that happens Dean, your business and reputation will suffer. Is it worth throwing that all the line for a guy who has given you nothing?”

Sam had a point. Okay he had a huge point. But there was another huge point Dean’s brain kept making.

“But what if I chose Lisa, and I just always wonder?”

“Isn’t it fair to say it goes both ways? After you’ve been rejected won’t you always wonder about what you threw away with Lisa?”

“Yeah, yeah you got a point.” Again. Dean wished for once Dean could refute one of these points.

“Look, I like Cas. A lot. But the truth is I want you to end up with someone you know loves you. Not someone you have questions about. Besides, you said it yourself Lisa and Ben? Felt like they could be family. Lisa comes with everything you’ve always wanted, a family. Does Cas even want a family? You don’t know Dean.”

“Yeah, okay I get it.”

“Dean? You know I love you right? I just want what's best for you.”

“And Lisa’s a safer bet.”

“Look, I’m not saying you have to marry her. I’m just saying give her the chance to get to know you better. She’s earned it, and you deserve the type of love she has to give.”

“I’m not dumb enough to think I deserve either of em.”

Sam groaned. “You aren't dumb Dean.”

“Bitch.”

“Jerk.”

“Okay well thanks Sammy.”



*********************

While Sammy’s lecture was supposed to make everything better, it somehow just made it all worse. Dean was more confused than ever. He was certain, despite all the times he told himself he would be getting rid of Cas that week, that he was going to bite the bullet and choose Cas. He felt he had to. After that kiss, he had been able to do nothing but replay it in his head over and over. In fact he replayed every glance, every touch like a housewife with the six hour Pride and Prejudice marathon.

“Benny what should I do?” Dean asked after all the camera crews had started packing, it became clear that Dean wasn’t going to choose a ring today. They stood outside of the shop, the sun in the sky and random people looking at them funny as they passed.

“You know I can’t answer that for you brother.”

Dean slid down the side of the building, sitting on the dirty sidewalk. “You know what you want me to do for the show. Can you at least tell me that?”

“Follow your heart.”

“What are you? A fortune cookie? All my problems are now magically solved.”

Benny sat down next to Dean, despite the gray suit pants he had on that were most likely going to be ruined.

“Look I’ve seen a lot of people in this process. And I hate to break it to you, but it rarely ever works.”

“So you’re saying it doesn’t matter at all. Wow, you should win the gold star for helpfulness.”

“I’m saying I’ve seen a lot of people think with their head, and a lot of people think with their heart.”

“Think with their head?” Dean tried to look at Benny but the sun was too bright so he went back to looking across the street.
“Question everything. Maybe this person isn’t what they say they are, maybe the camera is catching something I’m not seeing, maybe it’s just the ambiance making me feel this way. How will viewers like them? How will it reflect on me if I chose them? See what I mean?”

“It’s a little late in the process to add or dispel those thoughts now buddy.”

“What I’m saying is the people that followed their heart had a better chance of anything at the end. And yeah, I’m not going to lie to you brother. Sometimes it blew up mighty big in their faces.”

“Great.”

“But I bet you big dollars that if you went and asked any of them if they regretted it they would tell you they don’t. And that the backlash eventually died down.”

“But how is it worth it if they don’t even end up with the person and on top of that end up as public enemy number one?”

“Dunno. But they gave it their all and that’s what matters. Besides, some of them stayed together. One of them thought with his head, changed to his heart and America hated him. But now he’s married with two kids and you can’t find a happier couple. And I bet to them it was worth all the doubt and backlash.”

“Think with your heart.”

“It can’t steer you wrong.”

“Next you’re going to tell me there are worse things than being rejected on national television.”

Benny smirked, slowly getting up, not even looking at the stain. “Aren’t there?

Which gave Dean an idea. “I’m ready to go to the jewelry shop I think.”

Benny nodded, squinting in the sun to see Dean better. “Well we better be on our way now, shouldn’t we?” He looked to the crews and told them to start unloading. A decision had been made.

*******

Telling Lisa had been hard. Along the journey he had really come to care for her. And a part of him did love her, knowing that in another life she would have been the dream. Her tears had made it worse. Because he really doubted if he was doing the right thing. For all he knew he could have been sabotaging his life all for a question he had no idea what the answer would be.

But when Cas walked up, all doubt flew from Dean’s mind. Cas looked like an angel, with the sun casting rays on his tousled hair that the makeup crew had tried to tie down. His face assured Dean more than anything else. He looked like a sad puppy expecting to be kicked. There were some times, despite the confusion of everything else going on- Dean felt he could read Cas’s facial expressions, his body language, or just sense what the man was feeling. This one was resolved, sad and ready to be rejected.

And while there could have been many reasons for this face, Dean chose to believe it was because Cas thought this was the end of the road for him and was actually depressed by the outcome. He trusted that feeling and instead of letting his head enter all the other scenarios it could be, all the possible mistakes he could be making, he decided it was time to let his heart do the talking.

“Cas, it's been a long weird journey.” Cas’s frown got deeper. “Throughout it all I have,” when Dean looked to see Cas’s face he recognized pain. And here he was giving a long ass speech that was making the guy more worried. Not to mention, speeches and all that? Weren’t them.

“Will you accept the rose or not?”

Okay so he could have phrased it better.

Cas’s eyes got wide. “What?”

“Look this process for us has been a messed up situation. But it’s you. Okay? It’s always been you. So just accept the damn rose.”

Cas blinked, still not caught up to where Dean was. “I…”

“Oh!” Dean remembered the ring in his pocket. “Obviously I can’t ask you to marry me yet but I got you this ring. It’s got cool engravings and it reminded me of you. So there.” He shoved the ring towards Cas, instantly regretting how he was handling all this. Cas deserved roses, he deserved, well? Everything. He definitely deserved better than a Dean Winchester declaration of love.

But the way Cas gently handled the ring, with wide eyes let Dean know even his botched up love still meant something to him. “A promise ring?” He asked somewhat reverently.

“What are we high school sweethearts? No, it’s for a different finger.” Cas’s smile made Dean feel choked up. “And I will get you a damn good ring one day. I mean if you want that. I mean after all the other stuff of course. Gotta do this right. So uh Castiel” that sounded wrong and Dean winced. “Cas.” He corrected himself. “I wanted to know if you will accept this rose and agree to date me. Preferably move in with me so we can date.”

Cas shook his head, and Dean’s stomach dropped. He had gotten this all wrong. He was about to be made a fool of. And he didn’t even care about that, in fact the worst part was knowing he was going to be losing Cas.

“I don’t… Dean…YES.”

Dean blinked. “Wait what?”

“Yes, I’ll take the damn rose. Yes, I say yes. To you, to moving in. I just…”Cas gulped and shook his head like he couldn’t believe it. “Yes Dean.”

Dean went to kiss Cas, but the man instead ducked his face down into Dean’s neck for a hug. Which Dean was not going to have any of. He had played by Cas’s rules, and damn it he wanted the prize.

He pulled away, taking Cas’s chin in his hands when he noticed that the other man was attempting to avoid eye contact. “Hey man. Look at me.”

Cas finally did, and to Dean’s relief it didn’t look like Cas regretted his decision or was faking anything. He instead looked red, shy, embarrassed or something.

“What’s up?”

“I don’t want our kisses to be in front of the cameras. I want them to be between us.” He mumbled, but both knew that the cameras and microphones on them would pick it up anyways. And Dean almost laughed in relief. Cas still was choosing him. He wasn’t running away or telling Dean he was a fool. He was just asking to put a hold on what they were building between them.

“Normally I’d agree,” Dean said as he placed a kiss on Cas’s temple and leaned back to look at him again. God, he’d never get tired of looking at him. “But you do realize this is the last time we will be together for the next five to six months right?”

And before he could blink, Cas’s mouth was on his. And it was perfect, just like he remembered. Dean gasped, unready for the onslaught, but that gasp just gave Cas room to explore his mouth, to taste him. His tongue was sucked on by Cas, and the motion combined with the realization that yes this is what he was searching for, and he had it, made him give a gasping sob while kissing Cas. Cas pulled away at the noise. But he didn’t go far.

His arms held Dean tight as he kissed every part of Dean’s face. And Dean swore his skin felt different, tingly after every peck.

“I love you,” Cas whispered as he kissed Dean’s eyelids. “I mean, who falls in love in six weeks?”

And Dean tried hard not to tear up as he heard the words. He knew. He knew god dammit. This is what it was supposed to feel like.

“I love you too. I love you too, man. So much.” Dean managed to get that out before Cas was kissing him again. And every kiss felt like home. Like standing on solid ground in the clouds or something.

He never wanted to stop kissing Cas, to stop running his hands along the sturdy body that was now his to touch. And Cas didn’t seem to want to stop anytime soon, if his basically pulling Dean’s legs towards his waist were any indication. He was trying so hard to hold Dean or get Dean to climb him like a tree or something that they both toppled over on the hill, falling in a mess of limbs.

And while both should have been examining their injuries, going back to be bashful and embarrassed- it was laughter that met them on the landing. Neither were willing to stop touching each other for long enough to get up from the ground. So they stayed there, just smiling at each other like idiots. And it was perfect.

“I love you Dean.”

He would never get tired of hearing that. “Why didn’t you tell me sooner you idiot?” He ran a hand along Cas’s cheek fondly to make sure the man knew he was not actually mad. Hell, he wasn’t sure he could ever be angry again.

Cas reached back for Dean, rolling him under him so Cas could look at him. “I wanted it to be real. Not just because we were surrounded by scenery or part of a game. I wanted…I am not a good contestant.”

Dean snorted in agreement.

“I mean, I didn’t… I can’t deserve you.”

Dean shook his head, certain in his gut he would always be the lucky one when it came to Cas. “Bullshit. Do you want me to strangle you?”

Cas laughed, a reminder of one of their first conversations.

“I mean I will, but I’d rather it be a sexual thing or something.” Dean joked, his laugh bellowing when Cas nipped at his nose in retaliation.

“I love you Cas. You. Despite the scenery, the game, the other players. Despite your best efforts to get me to not.” Dean ran a finger upon the perfect bow shape of Cas’s lips. “You got that you dumbass?”

A soft chuckle made Cas’s lips shake under his finger. “Is that any way to show your love?”

Dean grumbled before kissing his Cas. Showing him all the ways he loved him. They kissed until morning turned to night. Both clinging to each other, eagerly touching and feeling every part of the other. They traded gentle kisses, that turned into heated open mouthed moans. They kissed until Cas was basically humping into Dean, and Dean had the good sense to remember where they were.

The camera crew around them looked bored as hell. They had been there all day watching basically the same thing happen, but Dean couldn’t find it within himself to care. Not when he had an eager, beautifully looking wrecked angel on top of him.

“Thought you were camera shy?”

Cas kissed Dean’s cheek. “I don’t want to stop. When we stop….” They had to be separated. They had to fill themselves with texts and skyping to curb the loneliness. “It will be like a dream. Like it never happened.”

“Never.” Dean promised. “You got that? Never. It happened. And while apart you and I are going to find ways to ship your stuff to my house. We are going to make grown up decisions on our future. And then when this show finishes wrapping up you are going to move in with me. We are going to live a normal, boring day to day life with each other. I will make you dinner before you get home at night, because I would have been long gone at the restaurant to have made you breakfast. You will lecture me on leaving my clothes strung around the room. I will get mad at you for calling me out on being a jerk. We will fight, make up, have dirty filthy sex. And best of all, we will be together.”

“Not a dream.” Cas agreed, reaching for Dean’s hand.

“Not a dream. Real.” Dean assured him, squeezing their hands tight.

And the camera crews eventually forced them off of each other and into separate cabs and planes for the journey home. But Dean’s phone buzzed every couple of seconds. And while it was hard to be sure, everything felt like an odd combination between a fairy tale,a dream, and a weird episode of Doctor Sexy, the text in his hand was proof.

Not a dream.

 I love you.