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The (Mostly Accidental) Courtship of Dean Winchester

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For future reference, if you were an angel who wanted to court a human, Dean was pretty sure you ought to let said human know sometime soon after slapping the initial engagement hand-print on their soul, if not earlier—not after completing step 180 out of 200 (fucking seriously?) and showing up naked in their motel bed in the middle of the night after ignoring their three previous attempted summonings.

"What the hell?" Dean had said, and, "Where have you been?" and, like Cas was the boy blocking his calls and Dean was three steps away from turning stalker, God help him, "Why didn't you answer me the first three times?"

"I was busy," Castiel said.

And really, Dean should have asked this first, but, "Why are you naked?"

Castiel's expression was peevish, like he'd been observing Sam's bitch faces to pick up tips, as he said, "You summoned me by my true name. Be grateful I'm wearing a vessel."

"Oh," Dean said. Then—and this was where it would've been really fucking helpful to know that step 180 was summoning followed by contact—Dean reached forward to press his palm briefly to Castiel's shoulder. It wasn't a gesture filled with a lot of intent or one that said anything like, "Marry me and bear my half-human half-angel monster babies." It was just an absent-minded gesture to ground himself in the reality of Castiel, solid and there and safe despite having had a banishing sigil carved into his chest and subsequently activated it.

The instant Dean's hand touched Castiel's shoulder, a jolt of energy shot through Dean, something like if a lightning strike and an orgasm got together and had kids made of pure painful ecstasy. When Dean jerked away, a livid red mark rested on Castiel's skin in the shape of Dean's hand. If anything, Castiel looked even more irate, which was his own damn fault for failing to tell Dean until he asked, voice rough and shaking, because he was still coming down from the afterglow, "What the hell was that?"

"You really," Castiel said, rolling off the bed and away from Dean, though the damage was already done, "shouldn't have done that."

"But what did I do?" Dean pressed.

"Claimed my soul as yours," Castiel said gravely as he walked casually over to Dean's duffel bag—because seriously, naked angel here—and rifled through for a t-shirt and jeans.

"What?" Dean said, then, "If you're stealing my clothes, take some underwear. Jesus."

Castiel just gave Dean one of those I remain unimpressed by your existence looks and zipped up the jeans like he had no fear and angels didn't have to worry about shit like chafing.

"Was there a point to your calling me?" Castiel asked, sliding the t-shirt over his head and drawing Dean's eyes to the partially healed banishing sigil still visible on his chest, a gruesome companion to his newest scar.

"I—we—were worried," Dean said, watching the sigil and hand-print disappear under black cotton.

"That wasn't necessary."

"It wouldn't have been if you'd just called," Dean said bitterly. "No, seriously, what did you mean by I 'claimed your soul'? Is this—does this have something to do with my carving the banishing sigil or something? Because I don't remember this happening when we tried summoning Raphael." Dean knew he should've made Sam do it, but Castiel had looked uneasy at the prospect of anyone coming near him with a razor, and they'd finally settled it with rock-paper-scissors.

"The ritual shedding of blood was the 179th step," Castiel said. "I hadn't realized the alleyway was close enough to count for my part." From his glare, it was obvious Castiel blamed Dean.

"Wait, wait," Dean said. "You beat me up, so I get your soul?"

"In most cases, only a few drops of blood were necessary." Castiel walked to the door. "Our actions might be considered—excessive."

"Dude, you do not get to leave that easy. The 179th step?" Also, because something told Dean this wasn't over or anything so simple as how to win an angel's soul while attempting to stop the freaking apocalypse, "The 179th step to what?"

"Union," Castiel said. "If you don't want to reach the last step, don't summon me by sigil again."

The asshole didn't even use the door to leave.

Dean considered asking Sam or Bobby for research help, but every time he tried to visualize himself explaining the situation, he could only imagine Sam's laughing face and a response about the beauty of schadenfreude and other shit about how German vocabulary was out to destroy Dean's life. Instead, Dean what he did best: denial.

He was already in denial about his chances of getting them through the apocalypse without destroying half the world, in denial about Sam's faith in him being built on something actually connected with reality rather than childish dreams of how they wanted life to be, and in denial about his own ability to hold true to the course. What was a little matter of having somehow bought an angel's soul with blood and some ominous words about some sort of union?

The whole thing was pretty easy to ignore when Castiel was missing and they were dealing with some monster of the week stuff, but when he reappeared in Bobby's salvage yard still clad in Dean's jeans and black t-shirt—and it wasn't very likely that he'd picked up boxers or briefs somewhere along the way, and there were some things Dean really did not need to know or be focused on when he was standing right next to his little brother; there was something seriously wrong with Dean—it was kind of difficult to forget, especially when Castiel pinned Dean to a car and said, "Dean, did you reject someone's request for intercourse last night?"

"What the hell," Dean said, because apparently confusion never got old, and he'd be laughing over Cas using the word 'intercourse' if not for his preoccupation with Castiel's current limited wardrobe despite his brother, who, like a total traitor and despite all his talks about family loyalties lately, had shot Dean a clear look that he wasn't going to get involved and taken several steps back to leave Cas to it.

"Dean." Castiel's face was a bare two inches, if that, from Dean's, and for a nerdy little dude, he could fucking loom. Slowly, voice low and utterly serious, "Did you reject someone's request for intercourse?"

"Why does it matter?" Dean asked.

"Yes," Sam chimed in helpfully, and what had happened to staying out of it, Dean wondered, attempting to communicate I will kill you with his eyes alone.

"Why?" Castiel pressed, just as urgent in spite of already getting his first all too intrusive answer.

"Because in case you didn't notice, Cas, there's the small matter of an apocalypse," Dean said, "and I thought it was maybe just a little bit more important than getting laid."

"Dean." Castiel looked at Dean like he could extract the truth from Dean by sheer force of will.

Dean glanced reflexively at Sam, who threw up his hands and said, "I really don't want to know." Sam went inside, abandoning Dean entirely to Castiel's interrogator stare.

"What's the hand-print mean?" Dean asked quietly.

"Nothing," Castiel said, "and everything. Its significance is in its context."


Castiel's eyes lowered—only so far as Dean's lips, holy fuck—and then lifted again to meet Dean's. "This," and Castiel placed a hand over Dean's shoulder, gripped tight and unerringly the scar through the fabric of Dean's shirt, "has no particular meaning on its own. It holds only potential."

Dean swallowed hard and pressed his own hand to roughly where he'd seen the mark he'd left. "And this?"

And there, that was the kind of smoky gaze that Dean had already warned Castiel usually led to Dean getting laid. "Is the last mark of intent."

It was like extracting information from demons, or Castiel and Uriel in the early days of the apocalypse. "Intent to what?" Dean grated out. "What—exactly—are we talking about here?"

"Union," Castiel said, because he loved those one word cryptic answers like they were the only good thing God left in the world. Finally, taking apparent pity on Dean, "Marriage."

"Oh," Dean said. His voice had risen half an octave, but he couldn't help it, because—"You're saying these are freaky angel engagement rings?"

"Yes, Dean," Castiel said, and it occurred to Dean that this was Castiel's long-suffering, I am half-married to the most oblivious member of mankind expression.

"Oh," Dean said weakly. "But we still have, uh, twenty steps to go, right?"

"Nineteen," Castiel said.

"What?" Dean suddenly understood why Castiel had been asking about Dean's nonexistent sex life. "Seriously? That was—seriously?" Dean hated the world and everything in it. "What if I'd said yes?"

"You would have owed me three more marriage gifts," Castiel said levelly.

Dean had questions—Dean had enough questions to last the next several decades—but Sam came right back out to say, "Hey, Bobby said there are omens in Massa—am I interrupting?"

Dean abruptly realized that not only were he and Castiel about two inches of breathing space from an inappropriate—or apparently, in their case, entirely too appropriate—meeting of mouths, but with the whole hand-print hands-on illustration thing, they were also actively clutching one another like any moment it was all going to devolve into hugs and confessions of undying friendship or whatever.

"This conversation isn't over," Dean warned Castiel before turning to Sam to ask, "Where are we headed?"

So the whole naked thing? Was apparently not a one time deal when it came to summoning Castiel with his name written out in Enochian sigils.

"What happened to your—my—clothes?" Dean couldn't help but ask, because hey, they were ratty old jeans and a cheap cotton t-shirt, but they were still Dean's clothes.

"Do you enjoy making me repeat myself?" Castiel growled.

"Oh my God," Sam said, "why is he naked?"

"Dean," Castiel said to Sam, not bothering to crouch down behind the barrels beside them, "knows better."

"You did this on purpose?" Sam asked. "You couldn't have saved the angelic booty call for after we got rid of the demons?"

"Oh my God," Dean said, horrified, because Sam was right. This was totally the angelic equivalent of calling up your fiance for sex.

"God," Castiel said grimly, "had little involvement in this."

Then he hopped over the barrels—naked! because this was Dean's life, and it hated him—to smite the remaining demons in the warehouse. When he was finished, he stalked back over to Dean and said, "Remove your pants."

"Feeling a little uncomfortable here, guys," Sam said.

"Just because I called you—" Dean said, wondering how best to explain his plan had not included sex with Castiel on a dirty warehouse floor.

"You're wearing boxers," Castiel snapped. "Remove. Your. Pants."

Dean did so, because—intentional or not—a guy did not say no to that look on his sort of fiance's face. Dean handed over the jeans, realizing that he would likely never be able to reclaim them; he didn't offer his underwear this time.

As Castiel pulled on Dean's jeans, he said, "Eighteen steps," like Dean couldn't do simple arithmetic unaided.

"You didn't answer your cell phone!" Dean said, because hey, it wasn't like stabbing himself to draw Castiel's name in blood was the first thing Dean tried.

"I really don't need to be here for this," Sam said and retreated for the warehouse door and, presumably, the car.

"Eighteen," Castiel insisted, stepping inside Dean's space like he didn't notice that he'd driven Sam away.

"So, um," Dean said slowly, trying to pretend that he was unaffected by the whole nearly naked Cas thing—like he'd been unaffected by being told to take off his pants in that firm, gravelly voice—and was wearing something more dignified than thin white boxers inscribed with hearts, "what are the other eighteen?"

"Remember the seals to Lucifer's prison?" Castiel asked, and this conversation shouldn't be sexy, damn it. Dean blamed the partial undress and lingering adrenaline. "There aren't eighteen specific prerequisites."

"Oh," Dean said. "We just—have to meet eighteen more of them." Considering they'd already managed 182, Dean didn't feel too good about their chances of avoiding them.

"The last," Castiel said, "is fixed."

"Like killing Lilith," Dean said, and wow, Castiel just kept creeping further into Dean's space until their noses were practically touching.

"No," Castiel said. "Much simpler than that." He leaned in to rumble into Dean's ear, "Why did you call me?"

"Um," Dean said, because no one could think clearly when confronted with a half-naked angel a half-inch away. "Demons?"

Castiel almost looked disappointed, like Dean was the continually under-performing student who had potential, but squandered it by staring out the window all day. "You owe me a shirt," Castiel said finally, taking a step back.

"I gave you a shirt!" Dean said.

There, the under-performing student look again. "And subsequently removed it."

. . . The whole angel booty call thing was apparently like something out of porn.

"Fine," Dean said. "Whatever, we have extra clothes in the car." Which was a good thing, because Dean was not driving back in boxers.

Castiel, always one to show his gratitude, was gone before Dean made it even halfway across the warehouse floor.

The next time Dean resorted to Castiel's name, he was only halfway through the first sigil when Castiel appeared, sudden and unexpected at his shoulder. "Dean."

Dean explained about the hunters and Sam, and they were off, Castiel's entire focus, like Dean's, on finding and saving Sam. It was only afterward, when Sam was rubbing feeling back into his wrists and Dean was hanging up from his anonymous 911 call that Castiel said, "The next time you summon me by name, I expect to fuck you," like someone else might say, "The next time we throw a party, you're bringing the beer."

"Really?" Sam said. "You guys can't wait until you're alone to have these little talks?"

Dean found it kind of hard to care about Sam's whining and the way he flounced off in a huff like he was seven and Dean was talking about girls again when Castiel had just uttered the words "I expect to fuck you." It was like someone had recorded those five words on a loop, and Dean couldn't hit pause until Castiel placed his hand on Dean's upper arm, his grip tight and voice low as he said, "Understood?"

Dean swallowed hard and nodded.

Castiel's eyes were dark, considering, but he released Dean and took a step back. "We should go."

"Right," Dean said, because the police were on the way, and he and Sam had been in the middle of a hunt, interrupted by Sam's kidnapping. Vampires weren't going to kill themselves.

Several days later, Dean insisted on separate rooms.

"Or you could wait out in the car," Dean said, because they'd resorted to that when money was tight, "but you'll be waiting a long time."

"I'm good." Sam snatched his room key, hefted his bags, and left Dean to it.

Dean called Cas—on the phone, this time.

"Dean," Castiel acknowledged. "Where are you?"

"Wait," Dean said. "What you said about, uh—" He trailed off awkwardly.

"I meant a summoning," Castiel said, the pay attention unspoken, but nonetheless painfully clear.

"But if I, uh, if I wanted—" Once upon a time, Dean was good at this; he was smooth like Glenfiddich going down. It was hard to imagine those days now, trying to figure out whether Castiel really minded that they were on step 182 and counting.

There was a brief silence, then Castiel said, "Tell me where you are."

"Jasper, Florida. Days Inn, room 115."

The words were barely out of his mouth when Castiel was suddenly there, well within Dean's space and crowding in closer. Dean opened his mouth, and even he didn't know what he planned to say, but it didn't matter, because Castiel used the opportunity to lick his way inside, his hands spread wide over Dean's shoulders, his hips bumping into Dean's, crowding Dean back, back until the backs of his knees hit the edge of the motel bed. Castiel's eyes were dark, his irises blown, as he pulled away to say, "Seventeen steps—" and his hands moved to Dean's belt, "—if we do this."

"I thought—" Dean swallowed, had to try again, because Castiel was on the zipper now and pulling Dean's jeans open, "I thought that was if I summoned you."

In a Try to keep up tone, Castiel said, "That's one. This is another."

It was difficult to think when Castiel had moved on to divesting Dean of his boxers and was biting gently at the side of his neck. "Wait, so summoning and sex, it's a two for one deal?"

"Yes," Castiel murmured against Dean's skin as he palmed Dean's ass like he planned to canvas every inch of Dean's body with his hands.

"So we can only have sex seventeen times before we're, uh, we're angel married?" Dean asked as he helped Cas pull his shirt over his head.

"And after," Castiel said, like he thought Dean was worried they'd stop having sex, and then his mouth was closing warm around one of Dean's nipples. Dean couldn't decide if it was more unfair that he was expected to have any semblance of a relationship conversation while having sex or that he was the only one naked here.

"Seriously?" Dean squeaked.

"Honestly?" Castiel took a step back, and Dean almost followed after, but Castiel apparently wasn't so much pulling away as using the space to pull off his (Dean's spare) shirt. "I doubt we manage seventeen."

Castiel had a point—sex hadn't been the trigger the last 182 times. "And you don't mind?" Dean said, because Castiel hadn't exactly seemed enthused when Dean had accidentally branded him.

"If I did, the mark would not have held." Castiel apparently hadn't picked up underwear anywhere along the way. Dean swallowed as Castiel moved forward, slotted their hips together, and tumbled them to the bed.

"Do you?" Castiel asked much, much later, running a soothing hand up and down Dean's left side, and at first Dean had no idea what Castiel was talking about. "Mind," Castiel clarified.

"The last point's fixed, right?" Dean asked, struggling to speak around a yawn. Any other person since Cassie, he'd either be asleep or out of bed and out the door by now.

Castiel's hand stilled. "Right."

"There you go," Dean said. "We just avoid that, whatever it is. Not a big deal."

Castiel was silent after that, and if he spoke again, it was after Dean had drifted off. When he woke, Castiel was gone.

"So you and Cas—" Sam said over pancakes the next morning.

"I thought you didn't want details." Dean drizzled fake maple syrup over his bacon and chewed open-mouthed with his most annoying smile in reply to Sam's look of disgust at Dean's eating habits, like somewhere between growing up together and the past five years on the road, he still expected Dean to have somehow found table manners somewhere along the way.

"I don't," Sam said, "exactly. I just—is it serious?"

"Yeah," Dean said, stabbing another piece of bacon with his fork, "we sat up all night talking about the beautiful babies we'd have and exchanged promise rings." He rolled his eyes and asked around his next mouthful, "What do you think happened?"

"Asshole," Sam said and clutched his plastic cup of water hard like he wished it was Dean's throat. "I want you to be happy."

"It's the apocalypse, and I have an angel lined up to ride me like I'm Space Mountain." Dean pointed at Sam with his fork. "Do you really think that makes me happy?"

Sam smirked. "Depends on the angel."

Dean choked, but he had to admit he'd earned that one.

"Really," Sam said once Dean stopped coughing. "I'm happy for you."

Because Sam, at least, had mercy, he left it at that; that didn't stop Dean from chomping down the rest of his food with wide, open bites.

Castiel was gone for another week, and when he turned up again, he looked dour and impatient, like the entire world existed to vex him. Dean, currently hanging suspended by chains attached to the ceiling and spinning in slow circles, could relate. Kidnappings and warehouses. Why did it always have to be warehouses?

"Little help here?" Dean asked, tugging ineffectively at the chains and setting himself spinning in the opposite direction.

Castiel lifted a hand, closed it in a fist, and dropped it. The chains holding Dean—and Dean himself—dropped with it. He hit the concrete hard enough to bruise. When he'd gotten his breath back, Dean levered himself up to glare and said, "Thanks, Cas."

"You're welcome." Castiel turned as if to go, like this was an unnecessary interruption and Dean wasn't worth the time, never mind that only a week ago he'd pressed Dean to the motel's thin mattress and whispered kisses like promises against Dean's neck and mouth. Dean was, understandably, feeling a bit like the prom date who'd put out and was never called again.

"You're not going to stick around and help?" Dean asked, scrambling to his feet, and he really wished he sounded older than a particularly bitter seventeen—seriously, Rachel Mulligan and the universe intent on avenging her, Dean was sorry he was such a jack-ass in high school—but the best he could reasonably hope for was that the clanking of the loosened chains falling to the floor covered his shame.

Castiel turned back, and yeah, still looked unhappy, but this time more like it was Dean specifically vexing him. "You don't require assistance."

"Witches?" Dean said. "Who kidnapped me? Ringing any bells? How'd you find me, anyway?"

"There are matters of more import," Castiel said, "than three hedge witches who wish to be left alone." His tone indicated that he sympathized more with them than Dean at this point.

"They came after me!"

"You came after them," Castiel corrected. "If they had wanted you dead, you would be."

"They left me hanging from a warehouse ceiling!"

"They used your cell phone to alert your first listed contact," Castiel said, like that was the end of it.

"They stole my cell phone!" Castiel pulled said cell phone out of his pocket and tossed it to Dean in answer, because despite having been strung from a ceiling, apparently Dean wasn't allowed to work up any sort of righteous indignation, like there was only so much in the world and Castiel was busy using it all.

Dean stuffed the phone in the pocket of his jeans with barely a glance, because Castiel looked like he was going to disappear any second again, and Dean still didn't know how they'd gone from half-married and having sex to Cas treating Dean like he'd started slaughtering kittens for kicks. Dean strode over to Castiel's side—he did not run; Winchesters did not run after people like they were starring in a bad romantic comedy—and grabbed Castiel's shoulder. Castiel stared at Dean's hand like he couldn't decide whether he wanted to forcibly remove it.

"Cas." Dean swallowed and made the decision to suck it up and just ask. "What did I do?"

His fingers dug in of their own volition, and Castiel blinked, shuddered under Dean's hand for a brief second. It occurred to Dean that his hand was nearly directly over the brand. When Castiel met Dean's gaze, he looked less distant, but just as irate. "Nothing," Castiel said. Despite this, his tone indicated the fault rested squarely at Dean's door.

Dean licked his lips, and Castiel's eyes tracked the movement. "I don't understand."

"Exactly." Castiel took a deliberate step backward, brushing Dean's hand from his shoulder and breaking contact.

"So that's it," Dean said, low and angry, and he always was better at being furious and a dick than he was at trying to make it up to someone. "You say you don't mind before you've fucked me, but after, you're suddenly uncomfortable with it? What—"

Castiel tried to interrupt, said, "Dean," half like he wanted to punch Dean, half like Dean had just punched him in the face, but Dean couldn't stop himself.

"—Was it not what you'd expected? I've never had anyone complain before—" which was a lie, because Dean's prowess was more a practiced skill than inborn talent, "—but there's always a first. Or maybe it's not the sex you have a problem with." Now Dean was getting into a painful insecurities place, but he really could not shut up, even as Castiel looked like he was tilting more and more toward the physical violence side of things. "Maybe it's me."

It wasn't that Dean forgot how fast Castiel was—it was just that after all this time, despite everything that had happened, Dean never expected Castiel to use that speed against Dean. One second, Castiel was a measured two feet away; the next, he had his hands fisted in Dean's shirt front, his face up close and personal with Dean's, and Dean had only an instant to think shit and brace for a blow before Castiel's lips landed on Dean's mouth instead. It was a hard kiss, full of teeth, and Castiel's hands moved to Dean's shoulders and held on with bruising force. Castiel bit Dean's lower lip too hard, drawing blood, and he backed Dean up against one of the many large metal shipping crates spread around the place like abandoned Legos pieces. Castiel kissed like an argument, like a fight; like it was this, or a repeat of that time in the alleyway.

Dean let him. Hell, Dean encouraged him, turned on like Castiel had flicked a switch connected directly to Dean's brain, pulling Castiel in and spreading his legs to let Castiel get closer, closer, closer, like he wanted to crawl inside. Fuck, Dean thought, is this make up sex or break up sex? It was kind of difficult to care when Castiel was pulling away to regard Dean with an unhappy stare.

"Yes," Castiel said. "It's you."

Then he was tearing at Dean's shirt—Dean had gone clothes shopping more these past couple months than when he'd hit his high school growth spurt—and sucking a mark into Dean's collarbone, because, contrary to all Dean's expectations, Castiel was the boyfriend who'd rather have sex than talk about his feelings. Dean was unaccountably disappointed and never, ever going to let anyone know.

Afterward, Castiel cleaned them both off with Dean's torn t-shirt, inexplicably gentle, and stared at Dean like he was a puzzle Castiel was giving his full consideration.

"So, uh, sixteen, right?" Dean said.

"Thirteen." Castiel reached out to trace the teeth marks he'd left on Dean's skin. There were a lot of them. Sometime early on, Castiel had seemed to realize the extent to which Dean had liked Castiel using his teeth, and Dean had mostly appreciated Castiel putting this knowledge to use, excepting that brief, unfortunate, absolutely terrifying moment in an otherwise awesome blowjob.

"Thirteen?" Dean straightened, the afterglow suddenly a distant memory. "How did we get to thirteen?"

"Does it matter?" Castiel's expression hadn't changed, and it was almost unnerving, Castiel's steady scrutiny like any moment he might figure out how to place the last piece.

"I guess not." Dean shrugged uncomfortably. "It's the last step that's the big one, right?"

"Yes." Castiel leaned in and licked the bruise spanning Dean's left shoulder from his earlier fall.

Dean considered pointing out that his twenties were behind him and sex as a distraction didn't work as well three minutes after the first round. Then again, Dean found it near impossible to object to Castiel touching him, and it was nice, like the sexy version of cuddling. I did not just think that, Dean thought, because dude, there were lines, and there were lines, and cuddling wasn't the Winchester way. Dean cleared his throat. "This step we're avoiding, what is it?"

"You," Castiel said, then bit the bruise.

Dean made an undignified sound, but managed to scrape together enough brain cells to ask, "Me, what?"

"This step you're avoiding." Castiel pulled away and grabbed his shirt (Dean's spare, and damn it, Dean had just realized he was about to go shirtless here looking like he'd barely escaped a beating followed by a half-hearted zombie attack).

"You—you want to—" Dean couldn't quite verbalize it, didn't fully understand it in the first place. Angel-married. Union, the memory of Castiel's voice whispered low in his ear. The air felt tense, suddenly, primed, like the sharp smell of ozone immediately preceding a lightning strike. "You'd say yes?"


Something shot through Dean, centered on his scar, something sharp and sweet and powerful. Castiel's face was impassive as he turned away. "Twelve."

There was the sound of wings, and Dean was alone.

"Oh," Dean said. "Shit."

Dean would love to say he was rational about the epiphany—and he probably shouldn't have been surprised—that Castiel was a forever kind of guy. Dean would love to say that he thought it over and was able to accept it without first running to his little brother—his little brother, because Dean was both pathetic and really, really screwed—for research help. Dean would love to say he didn't blurt out, "What do you know about angel divorce?" the instant Sam picked up the phone.

Dean could say all of this, but he'd be a fucking liar.

"Divorce?" Sam asked. "What did you do?" Before Dean could ask why everyone was blaming him for shit, Sam said, "And why did Bobby call me, laughing, and say I should head to Rockford? How'd you get in trouble at a library?"

It finally occurred to Dean that B was in front of C on his contact list and he would likely never live down being knocked out by teenagers yet again. "Witches, man." Dean hoped Bobby hadn't mentioned the teenagers part. "And I'm serious, this is an emergency."

"What happened to promise rings?" That sound of a door slamming shut had better be the rental car and indication Sam was on his way.

On second thought—

"Meet me at Bobby's," Dean said. As much as he didn't want to face Bobby's—fairly deserved—mockery, Bobby had all the best books.

"You didn't invite me to the wedding?" Bobby said in lieu of a greeting when he opened the door, and Dean changed his mind. Mockery over teenage witches—witches!—sounded pretty good right now.

"We're not actually married," Dean said and tried—failed—to ignore Bobby's snort and, "Could've fooled me."

He wheeled back to let Dean into the house and asked, "If you're not married, why do you want to know about divorce?"

It occurred to Dean that this might require some explanation, and he'd already earned enough mockery to last a lifetime. What was a little more?

"Out with it," Bobby said.

"Cas—" Dean stalled out before he really began.

What could he say? That he and Cas were fucking and it was some of the best sex Dean had had since that long weekend with Lisa? That Dean knew he was terrible at commitment, had no illusions on that front since Cassie, but for the second, maybe third time in his life, he almost wanted to try? That he and Cas were something like engaged, but Dean—despite having had little input in starting it—found that it wasn't the actual engagement that freaked him out so much as the near overwhelming suspicion that it would all go horribly wrong and the blame would, as always, fall squarely on Dean?

Sure, and next he and Bobby could hug and talk about it some more like actually healthy people instead of operating on a steady diet of alcohol and repression. Sam would love that.

"Don't strain yourself," Bobby said.

"It's—complicated," Dean said finally.

"Resorting to Facebook for your relationship decisions now?" said Sam, rounding the corner with a book in hand, because right, what Dean really needed now was for Sam to show up and mock him, too. Sam looked at Dean with a great deal of pity. "You could just ask him, you know."

"Right," Dean said. "Because angels are so well known for their willingness to hand out information."

"I don't know," Sam said. "Castiel seemed pretty okay with giving me this book." Sam shoved said book at Dean's chest and wandered back toward the kitchen.

"Your angel already dropped by," Bobby said.

"My—" Dean choked.

Bobby gave him one of those Stop being an idiot stares. "I expect to be invited to the vow renewals." With that, Bobby followed Sam's path away, leaving Dean to stare at the battered, leather-bound book in his hands. Maybe, just maybe, Dean could get some painless answers for once. Then again, there was nothing painless about Bobby saying the words vow renewals.

The thing about blowing through town after town and spending most of your time not in school stitching your dad's wounds or making sure your baby brother had enough to eat was that it didn't leave you with a lot of time left to read. Between that and all the time-critical research, Dean had learned to speed read early on, a skill he was abusing now. Even with his best intentions, though, he kept stopping to stare disbelievingly at the neatly hand-written text.

"You have got to be shitting me," Dean said finally. "Sharing food?"

"If it's any consolation—" came Castiel's voice behind him, and Dean's chair, already teetered back on two legs, went out from under him. Dean made a highly undignified noise, but didn't actually hit the floor. Castiel held the back of the chair casually with one hand, Dean tilted back at a ridiculous angle staring up at him, and finished, "I'm sorry I took your burger while under Famine's influence."

Dean swallowed. "Even though you—want this?"

Castiel pushed the chair fully upright, the front legs settling gently to the floorboards with a tiny thok. "I want you to choose this."

"What if—" Dean scrubbed a hand through his hair. "What if I can't?" Unspoken, What if I'm too fucked up for this?

Castiel leaned down and brushed his lips against Dean's. "Then you can't."

"Thanks, Cas." Dean glared, but let Castiel pull him in for another kiss, because it wasn't like Castiel didn't already know Dean was easy. "That's really reassuring."

"You're welcome," Castiel said, because the mockery was coming from all fronts today. When Castiel followed that by sliding his tongue into Dean's mouth, though, Dean found it hard to mind.

"So," Sam said later. "Cas."

"Really don't want to talk about it," Dean said.

"Dean, after I—"

"Really don't want to talk about that, either," Dean said. They did anyway.

In the end, Sam extracted a promise that Dean would have Castiel—Lisa—anyone, so long as he wasn't alone—and wouldn't try to come after Sam. Dean didn't want to give it, but it was his little brother's last night on Earth; he couldn't deny him anything.

Castiel went to play sheriff in Heaven, and Dean went to Lisa's, who took one look at him and said, "You are definitely coming in for that beer this time." It wasn't a request.

She fed him dinner and sent Ben to bed, then dragged him out to the back porch with a six pack. "You can stay as long as you'd like," Lisa said. "I have a guest room, and it'll keep my sister and her husband from visiting a while."

Dean downed every can she handed him before he asked, finally, "Why are you being so nice to me?"

She stared at him. "I don't know. Why'd you save my son's life?"

Dean took the guest room for the night, but—

This wasn't what Sam had meant, and this wasn't something Dean could do. In the morning, he was gone.

He ended up back in Lawrence, back at the graveyard, sprawled across dew-damp grass and absolutely wasted on a fifth of whiskey. He hadn't put up anything for Sam, couldn't remember exactly where he'd fallen, but it didn't really matter. One hand curled around the bottle, Dean reflected on the fact that there was one way to keep his promise to Sam. He was pretty sure he still had the leftover materials in the trunk. Standing was difficult, as was the set up, but drawing the necessary sigils was almost easy, familiar, and flicking the lighter was an everyday event.

"Dean," Castiel said, caught somewhere between startled and unhappy, "what—"

Dean threw the lighter down in the oil without thinking it through, which was how, when the holy oil went up and trapped an angry angel who'd acquired archangel powers and who was also Dean's ex, Dean was still inside.

Castiel looked from the fire, to Dean, back to the fire. He closed his eyes and very visibly counted to ten—apparently someone in Heaven was teaching Castiel anger management coping mechanisms—then opened them to regard Dean with a terrifyingly intense stare. "Was this really necessary?"

Dean cleared his throat awkwardly. "I'm not actually sure."

Castiel closed his eyes again. The counting lasted much longer this time. Finally, rough and grating, like every word was being dragged unwillingly from his throat, "Give me your pants. I'm not having this conversation naked."

It figured that while lighters were easy, belts were like trying to operate heavy machinery. Castiel helped, impatient and looking like he was seconds away from getting his smite on, and Dean really, really wished he were drunk enough not to embarrass himself, but apparently his dick didn't care about dignity when Castiel was naked and his hands were touching Dean.

"Fuck," Dean said when Castiel pulled his jeans down.

"Unlikely," Castiel said tightly. He didn't say anything more until he'd pulled the jeans over his own bony hips and pulled up the zipper. "What," he asked slowly, "is so important that a phone call was inadequate?"

"You guys get reception in Heaven?" Dean asked, surprised.

"I'm an angel," Castiel said. "I have reception wherever I want." His expression, though, indicated he was seriously considering blocking all of Dean's future calls.

Now that Castiel was here, clad in nothing but denim, the light of the fire licking orange softly across his bare skin in an all too distracting way, Dean was having trouble coming up with something that made sense and didn't boil down to I miss you and I have more abandonment issues than any twelve orphans. Castiel didn't look like he wanted to hear it, anyway.

A forlorn and sulky voice that Dean absolutely was not going to admit belonged to him said, "If your coverage is so great, why didn't you call?"

"Maybe I erroneously thought it had occurred to you," Castiel said, "that I was busy searching for a means to extract your brother from Hell without also freeing Lucifer."


Castiel's expression softened, and he said, "Did you consider how you would leave?"

"What?" Dean asked.

"I thought as much."


"Unless you want third degree burns," Castiel said, "be quiet."

Castiel assumed a look of concentration. The night had actually been fairly bright, the moon full, but it grew suddenly dark, and the crack of thunder sounded in the distance. Wind blew at Dean's hair and clothes, and if Castiel were wearing his trench coat, he would probably have looked pretty epic with it flapping around his ankles, instead of ridiculously half-naked and still kind of sexy.

"Please tell me you're doing this," Dean said.

"Be quiet," Castiel repeated.

Lightning flashed closer this time, and the first drops of rain pelted down against them. A few seconds more, and it was a downpour, drenching Dean near instantly. The flames from the holy oil flickered defiantly one last time, then went out. Castiel regarded Dean for a long, tense moment, and Dean wondered if he would just flit away, leave Dean in the dark and the rain to sleep it off in the Impala's backseat. Instead, Castiel reached out and touched Dean's jaw, slid his hand up to cup Dean's cheek. His palm was warm in contrast to the rain flattening Dean's hair against his skull, trickling down his spine, and his voice was steady as he said, "You could ask me to stay."

"Cas—" Dean was too drunk for this, but he had to know. "How many steps?"

"Only the one." Castiel withdrew his hand. "You have my number."

Dean shivered, but he told himself it was just the rain. "I do."

Dean was going to suck it up and tough it out, but somehow the next night, lying on top of the scratchy motel comforter and without having really thought it through, the phone was in his hand and already ringing.

"Dean," came Castiel's voice, and Dean closed his eyes.

"Cas," Dean said. "What are you wearing?"

"Nothing," and for one shining moment, Dean thought that Castiel had finally gotten the point of phone sex. Then, of course, Castiel went on to say, "I'm currently incorporeal."

"Then how are you talking to me?" Dean asked. "Wait, never mind." He didn't actually want to know.

"What do you need?"

"I'm just, uh, checking in," Dean said. Then, "Have you heard anything about—"

"When I find Sam," Castiel said, and Dean couldn't describe how it made him feel, that Castiel said when and not if, "you will know."


There was a brief silence.

Getting to the heart of the matter, in that annoying, I know your soul way of his, Castiel said, "You can call me to talk."

Dean wanted to protest, but finally, voice heavy, settled on, "I know."

"You could also tell me where you are," Castiel said carefully.

Dean smiled. "Cas. Are you asking to come over?" Before Castiel could change his mind, Dean gave his location, a cheap motel outside of Greensville, Illinois.

Castiel climbed into the bed with him and proved: no, not so much an ex after all.

Dean ended up back at Bobby's a few weeks later for zombie redux. He and Bobby were trapped in the closet again—upstairs, this time—though at least these zombies weren't smart enough to try the lock.

"So on a scale of one to ten," Dean said, watching the door rattle under the pounding fists of at least five zombies, "how screwed are we?"

"Eleven," Bobby said.

The pounding stopped. Dean wondered if he was wrong about these zombies' locksmith skills. There was the sound of footsteps falling steady and deliberate, then several meaty sounding thuds. Silence.


Dean and Bobby shared a look, Bobby's saying quite clearly, Thank God for your angel boyfriend.

Dean opened the door to Castiel, who had blood spatter across his coat and up the left side of his face. Dean had to step over corpses to get to Castiel, and okay, yeah, blood spatter, kind of gross, but that didn't stop Dean from pulling Castiel in close and hugging the hell out of him.

"You weren't answering your phone," Castiel said by way of explanation for his presence and sheer bad-assery in the face of a zombie threat.

"Dropped it in the scrapyard," Dean said.

"We have Sam," Castiel said.

Dean froze, arms still wrapped around Castiel, feeling like his world had bottomed out, opened up, a great and terrible hope seizing hold of his chest.

"Well?" Bobby prodded. "Are you going to give him back?"

"When he's ready," Castiel said.

"When he's ready?" Dean asked, pulling away.

"Heaven has changed. Human souls may once again travel at will," Castiel said. "Sam wished to speak to several people before he returned."

Which—okay, Dean could understand that, but it didn't change the fact he wanted to see Sam right this moment.

"I could—" Castiel began, tracing two fingertips against Dean's forehead.

"No," Bobby said while Dean considered it, "you are not killing this idiot—however temporarily—just because he can't wait a few hours with the rest of us."

Dean licked his lips, made himself say, "Thanks, but—I can wait."

Castiel offered, "I could distract you," and Bobby huffed an amused noise and tromped out the door, closing it pointedly behind him, and loudly down the stairs. Dean heard the front door close distantly, and apparently saving their lives from zombies was a free pass in Bobby's world to let Castiel drive him out of his own house. That, or Bobby was going to retrieve the rest of the weapons and make sure Castiel hadn't missed anything.

"We're, uh, we're kind of surrounded by corpses, here," Dean said finally, because angel fiance or no, this wasn't exactly a romantic moment here. "And you've got—" He touched Castiel's cheek, the blood gone cool and tacky.

"We aren't," Castiel said, and wow, all of the zombies were gone, "and I don't," and there went all the gore. It seemed Castiel wasn't above abusing his powers in hopes of sex, and there was something wrong with Dean to find that this hot.

"There's not—" shit, Castiel's mouth was hot against the curve of Dean's neck, "—there's not—a bed."

"There is," Castiel said, and Dean was not going to explain to Bobby how he'd suddenly acquired a new guest bed in his office, but neither was Dean protesting, pushing Castiel towards the wide, welcoming mattress and determined to break it in.

"I have to go," Castiel said abruptly while Dean was still basking in the afterglow, high on endorphins and trying not to fall asleep. Castiel extracted himself from Dean's arms, and when he stood, he was fully dressed. Dean was unaccountably disappointed that he was deprived of a strip tease in reverse.

"When you come back—" Dean said around a yawn, "—you'll bring Sam, right?"

"Yes," Castiel promised.

Dean woke up to Sam's voice, offended and unhappy. "I can't believe you kicked me out of Heaven!"

"You were causing a disturbance," Castiel said.

"Just because—"

"Sam?" Dean bolted out of bed, and he ignored Sam's look of horror—it wasn't like Dean had the power to magically shift clothes onto his body, so Sam was just going to have to suck it up and deal—to pull him into a hug.

"Where are your clothes?" Sam asked.

"You don't want to know," Dean said at the same time as Castiel said, "I removed them."

"Dean's right, I didn't want to know." Despite his words, Sam hugged Dean back with bruising force, like it wasn't affection until someone got hurt.

"So," Dean said finally, "how was Heaven?"

"I'll tell you whatever you want to know," Sam said, "if it gets you to put on some pants."

After being pulled out of the box, Sam had been given some downtime in Heaven while they put his body back together—a process, Dean understood, that was not unlike detailing a car—and he'd seen Jess, their parents, and several hunters at Heaven's copy of the Roadhouse.

"Ash started it," Sam said.

"And I finished it," Castiel said.

"Wait," Dean said. "Wait. Why were you fighting Ash?"

"I wasn't," Sam said. "Ash was fighting me. And Dad. And twelve other guys."

"There was a discussion of a religious nature," Castiel said. "It didn't end well."

"No shit," Dean said. "I don't understand how it ended up in fisticuffs."

"Alcohol," Castiel said.

"Lots of alcohol," Sam said.

"So alcohol and religion," Dean said doubtfully.

Sam mumbled something.

"What was that?" Dean said.

"I may have accidentally called someone an assbutt in Enochian," Sam said.

Dean laughed. "What? Assbutt? Seriously?"

"It sounds more menacing in Enochian," Castiel said.

Sam said, "That's how Raphael got involved."

"You were in a bar fight with angels," Dean said.

"As I said," Castiel said. "He was causing a disturbance."

"It wasn't my fault!"

Dean couldn't help it; Sam's indignation was hilarious. He started laughing, and it took a long, long time to stop.

When Bobby got back—he'd gone into town to make sure the latest iteration of the zombie apocalypse hadn't spread any further than the wrecking yard and in the process found the cause, another teenage witch who'd just been trying to raise her father, leading Dean to wonder if they were packaging spell texts with copies of Tiger Beat these days—and Castiel flitted back off to Heaven, Sam recounted the story a second time.

"Tell me again," Bobby said, "about Ellen knocking John over the table."

"You're enjoying this too much," Sam said.

"I can't believe I missed it," Bobby said. "Don't they have video cameras in Heaven?"

Sam directed Dean a look that said clearly said help me out, here, and Dean grinned and said, "I would pay to see that."

Later, they had lunch, which was interrupted by a call from Rufus. "Don't blow up my house while I'm gone," Bobby said.

"We could help," Sam said.

Bobby snorted. "You just got back. Rufus and I can handle a few errant mermaids. We may be old, but we're not dead."

"Couch or the floor?" Sam asked once Bobby had left.

"Actually," Dean said, "Bobby's got a guest bed now."

"Since when?"

"You don't want to know."

Dean retrieved a bottle of whiskey and two glasses from the kitchen despite it barely passing on three and settled at the couch with Sam, pressing a half-full glass into Sam's hands. More quietly than when he'd asked about Heaven, he offered, "Want to talk about it?"

"There's nothing to tell," Sam said.

"C'mon." Dean poured his own glass two fingers full. "This is me you're talking to."

"Really." Sam rolled his glass between his palms. "It's not that I don't remember. Cas—Cas pulled us forward. We were there maybe a few seconds, and Michael and Lucifer hadn't let go of each other yet."

Dean—Dean couldn't describe the relief he felt, knowing Sam hadn't been at the mercy of two angry archangels for the past several weeks. "Are you sure?" Dean said.

Sam rolled his eyes. "No, I'm lying so you'll feel better until the next time you talk to Cas and he spills all."

"Bitch," Dean said, holding up his glass.

"Jerk," Sam said, smiling, and clinked their glasses together.

That night, Dean slept deep and easy for once.

Over breakfast—Cheerios, because Bobby apparently owned neither flour nor baking soda for pancakes—Sam said, "Thank you. For keeping your promise."

"What promise?" Dean asked.

"You know." Sam waved his spoon. "The whole apple pie thing. You and Cas." Dean was quiet, and Sam smirked. "Or are you going to tell me you're still at 'it's complicated' on Facebook?"

Dean stopped eating, directed Sam a stare that said I will seriously break out lube and bite-marks level detail if you push me, and asked, "Do you really want to know?"

"I don't need the details," Sam said.

"So," Dean said after a while, because Sam wasn't the only curious one in the family, and there had to be a reason relationships were on Sam's mind. "Jess. How'd that go?"

"You know how normal people—" Sam said normal people the way another person might say unicorns, like he didn't think they actually existed, "—when high school is over, move away or go to college or whatever? And if they're dating, one of them says, 'Let's take a break,' and what they really mean is, 'I don't think we'll see each other again'?" Sam prodded a stray cheerio with his spoon. "Yeah."

"That's rough," Dean said.

"That's why—I'm going away for a while. I'm going to take a road trip to Stanford, I think, visit our old apartment."

"Need any company?" Dean offered. To be honest, given the option, Dean would handcuff Sam to the table to keep him out of trouble forever, but he'd also meant it when he'd said that Sam was an adult and it was time to let him make his own decisions.

Sam smiled. "Thanks, but—I think I need to do this one alone."

Dean nodded and wondered if the angels had an equivalent of Crowley's coin trick, if he could convince Cas to drop one on Sam before he left.

"Besides," Sam said, "aren't you overdue for a honeymoon?"

"Shut up." Dean grinned. "I thought you didn't want details."

"I still want you to be happy," Sam said, entirely too sober for the moment.

Dean thought about it, said, "I am."

"Never thought I'd see the day you willingly tied yourself down," Sam said, smiling again.

"Me, either," Dean admitted. "But things change."

"You're a happily married man." Sam smirked, but couldn't hold it for long before it was an actual grin.

Dean thought about saying, You'll never grow too tall for me to take you, but it was still too new, too good, Sam being out. Matching Sam's smile, Dean's own only a little forced, Dean said, "I am."

And look, here was the thing. Dean didn't know. Dean hadn't actually read that fucking text all the way through before being interrupted by Cas and then the whole final showdown of the apocalypse thing. Maybe he could've checked it out later, but he would've thought Castiel would have told him if it were that mindbogglingly simple. As with many angel things, apparently all it required was a yes. All it required was acknowledgment. Dean's words were as much a performative declaration as stating, "I do."

Castiel appeared suddenly in front of Dean, his eyes wide, and he clutched at Dean's shoulder just in time for them to both fall over, energy like lightning centered on the mark, pleasure and pain and power all rolled into one. At some point, Sam must have shown himself out, because when Dean came down from the high, came back to himself, he was curled naked around Castiel on the kitchen floor, and they were alone.

"Shit," Dean said weakly.

"Next time," Castiel said, though they both knew there wouldn't ever be another next time quite like this, because this was a once-and-forever kind of deal, "call first."

Dean pulled away slowly, wincing at muscles strained from what had been some incredibly athletic cuddling. Dean wondered if he would live it down if he pulled something from just holding Castiel, even if there had been some strange angel soul shit in there, too.

"How do you feel?" Castiel asked.

"If anyone asks," Dean said, "I pulled something while having sex. Or hunting monsters. Anything that doesn't boil down to me being inept at hugging."

"It wasn't—" Castiel started, and Dean glared. Castiel huffed out a small breath that might've counted as a laugh from anyone else and pressed two fingers to Dean's forehead. All the soreness fled, leaving behind only a gentle, pleasant ache centered on the mark. Castiel followed his fingers with his lips, kissing Dean's forehead with a startling, devastating gentleness. He pressed another kiss to Dean's cheek, his jaw, the corner of his lips, and pressed one hand against the now incredibly sensitive hand-print, swallowing Dean's gasp with his mouth.

Dean wondered for a moment if he were going to have the first married sex of his life on Bobby's kitchen floor, but Castiel drew away to rest his forehead against Dean's, moved his hand up to curl against the base of Dean's neck. "I didn't expect you to say yes."

If Dean had thought it through, he would've taken that soft admission as reason to lie like his life depended on it, anything to keep Cas warm and vulnerable and looking like any moment he was going to draw Dean back upstairs to dirty the fresh sheets Dean had laid out on the guest bed. If Dean had thought it through, he would've said, "Neither did I," and licked his way back into Castiel's mouth, pressed his hands to Castiel's body to see if Castiel's mark was as sensitive as Dean's. If Dean had been thinking at all, he would have never frozen and said, "But I didn't."

Castiel went tense all over, the soft lines of his eyes and mouth gone suddenly hard. He pulled much further back this time, pushed Dean fully off himself to stand. "What—" Castiel stopped, clenched his hands into fists like he was physically holding onto something, holding himself away. His voice was deeper, rougher than usual, and his eyes were fixed on the toaster, like he couldn't bear to look at Dean. "What, exactly, was the nature of your conversation with Sam?"

"It—I didn't know," Dean admitted, like that would somehow magically make a difference. Sam had smiled over Dean's supposed apple pie happy ending, and Dean hadn't been able to take that from him, hadn't been able to tell him about the drunken night in the graveyard, his uncertainty, the way he worried that at any moment Cas would snap out of it and realize the kind of person he'd chained himself to. Dean had said it, and he'd meant it, but at the same time, he hadn't thought it was actually true. Miserable, he said, "I thought I had to consent."

"You did." Castiel looked like he was contemplating killing one or both of them. "Heaven's big on technicalities."

Castiel, Dean thought, had a point on that whole wanting to kill Dean thing. It wasn't like he hadn't had it hammered in again and again that Heaven considered the "informed" in "informed consent" to be an unnecessary triviality. "So what do we do?"

"I," Castiel declared gravely, "am going to find another liquor store."

Because this was Dean's life, Castiel did just that, disappearing before Dean could stop him. Dean tried calling twenty-seven times that day, and either Castiel was ignoring him, or he actually had blocked Dean's number. Dean considered trying the whole summoning ritual thing, but he wasn't exactly thrilled at the prospect of being murdered by a probably already drunk and very naked angel, so eventually he gave up and went to bed. It wasn't like he had anything better to do—Sam had left a message on his phone letting Dean know he was on the road with one of Bobby's loaners, and Bobby had called to say he wouldn't be back for a few days because he and Rufus were in the middle of brokering some sort of treaty with the mermaids, who apparently had a whole civilization under Lake Michigan.

He woke up sometime in the middle of the night to Castiel's weight jostling the mattress and his hot breath against the side of Dean's neck, curling into Dean like a very large, very inebriated cat. "What—"

"Staying," Castiel slurred, his lips brushing Dean's skin with every syllable like he was trying to press his words into Dean by touch, "would have been a step. Before."

"Oh," Dean said, like he understood, like he wasn't abso-fucking-lutely confused by Castiel's arms around Dean and his face pressed warm into Dean's shoulder.

Dean hadn't thought angels slept past the occasional bouts of time travel related unconsciousness, but Castiel's breaths went deep and steady, and he didn't move again until sometime after Dean finally fell back asleep. Dean stayed awake, staring at the curve of Castiel's cheek barely visible in the dark, for a very, very long time.

In the morning, Castiel was gone. Dean thought about calling, and then he thought about the text, battered and still in his duffel bag. While research and studying were more Sam's deal, Dean liked reading, and he liked knowing what was going on, so this was like a two-for-one special. Dean kicked back on Bobby's couch with a beer and cracked the book back open, intent on finishing it this time. Dean went slow, like he'd been given a driver's manual and he wanted to memorize all the features. When he was done, his eyes hurt, his back popped when he straightened out of his reader's slouch, and shadows had stretched large across the living room floor. Dean drew his sleeve up to examine the mark on his shoulder, which was now as raised and red as it had been that very first day, and he drew his fingers lightly across it, hissing in a quick breath between his clenched teeth.

There were so many things Castiel hadn't told him, but then, Dean wouldn't blame him for expecting Dean to know. How oblivious did someone have to be, Dean wondered, to not get that the second mark was potential fulfilled? How oblivious was Dean not to have realized that it was a two-way street, him and Cas, and that while the mark wouldn't have held if Castiel hadn't wanted it, Dean couldn't have given it if he hadn't felt it, desperate and lonely and missing Castiel like an ache deep in his gut, wanting only to keep him close? How could Castiel have fallen for such an unthinking asshole?

Finally, Dean called Sam, who was apparently taking it incredibly slow, because he'd only just hit California. "Did you—" Dean swallowed, tried again. "Did you read that book Cas gave you?"

"The one I gave you?" Sam asked.


"I flipped through it." Sam paused. "If I'd known you hadn't—I mean, if you need me to come back—" Sam cut himself off to say, "I didn't think I should stick around for the honeymoon, but if something's—wrong—"

"It's fine," Dean said hurriedly. "Everything's—great. I just—did you ask Cas how accurate it was?"

"From what I understand," Sam said slowly, "he wrote out the translation himself."

Dean fingered the worn leather cover and wondered how long it had taken Castiel, when he had started, if he'd cheated and used time travel to have it for Dean faster. Dean wondered if he'd wanted something, someone, that much, if he would've gone to that much effort to make certain the other person knew how to say no, how to leave. Dean wondered how he would feel if, after the point of no return, the other person decided to go. He tried to picture Cas cutting him off, going back to Heaven for good and revoking visitor's access once more. Even the theoretical scraped something raw and hollow deep in his chest, and Dean thought, oh, maybe something like that.

"Thanks," Dean said. "Do you—is there anything you need?"

"I'm good," Sam said. "Are you sure everything's okay?"

Dean said, as dry as he could manage, "Did you really change your mind that much on the details that you want to see them firsthand?"

"No," Sam said, laughing. After a moment, "I think—I'm going to stop for the night."

"See you when you get back," Dean said, pretty sure it wouldn't take Sam as long on the return trip.

Sam was close, so close to his destination, but Dean could understand why Sam was holding off on that final step.

"I am not seriously this pathetic," Dean said when he'd managed the first five digits of Castiel's number and backed off for the seventh time.

"I would disagree," Castiel said from behind him, and teleportation was officially Dean's least favorite superpower.

"How, uh, how long have you been standing there?" Dean asked, letting the crack slide, because one, Castiel was right, and two, if someone had jerked Dean around this much, he'd have moved on by now, not lined up to get metaphorically punched in the face over and over again.

"Long enough." Castiel offered, "I could leave."

"No." Dean lurched forward to clutch Castiel's wrist. "No. Don't leave."

Castiel stared at Dean's hand a moment before meeting Dean's gaze, startlingly intent. He asked, "What do you want, Dean?"

And look, normally, it would be a point of pride to point out that Castiel had come to him, but—now that Dean had noticed, he was really trying his best not to punch Castiel in the face anymore.

"I'm a moron," Dean admitted.

"You're not," Castiel said, and the certainty in his voice was embarrassingly warming.

"About this—" Dean waved his free hand between the two of them, "—I am."

"You are," Castiel agreed, no hesitation, just as certain.

Dean cleared his throat, brushed his thumb lightly against the flutter of Castiel's pulse. "Given a second chance—" Dean would probably fuck it up again, actually, but—

Castiel kissed him, his lips dry and chapped and perfect, and apparently Castiel was still the boyfriend who'd rather have sex than talk about his feelings. Dean could relate, but apparently Dean was the boyfriend who needed to talk out every last detail these days, and he pulled away to say, "I'd choose you, okay? Given the choice, I'd choose you."

"Dean." Castiel mapped his hand against the mark, and Dean made noises even more embarrassing than his earlier words as Castiel spoke against his mouth, "I know."

And that, not even that was enough for Dean, because his traitorous mouth said, "Marry me."

Castiel looked perplexed. "Dean—"

"I get it," Dean said hurriedly, "I get that we are as far as it goes for you, but—but humans, we, uh—"

Shit, Dean didn't even have a ring; Castiel was looking at him like Dean had started speaking some strange new language; and Dean had never been that guy, the one who decided on a spring wedding and wanted peonies in the bouquet, and had his heart set on a Hawai'i honeymoon. This could only end disastrously.

"Yes," Castiel said.

"Oh," Dean said, all the blood rushing suddenly to his head and leaving him dizzy, holding onto Castiel's shoulders to steady himself. "Good."

Then, because this was Dean's life, instead of having sex, Castiel wanted to work on wedding plans.

"One more word," Dean said, "and you're kicked out of the wedding party."

"Cas," Sam said, "if Dean won't let me be his maid of honor, will you make me your best man?"

"I've already promised Jo that position," Cas said mildly. Castiel wasn't above using his new position in Heaven to get day passes for everyone, and Dean was very much avoiding thinking about the fact that his mom and dad already had invitations.

"One word," Dean warned.

"Who will you get to replace me?" Sam teased.

Dean's best friends consisted of his brother and the person—angel—whatever—Dean was marrying. "Bobby," Dean said finally.

"Already walking Cas down the aisle," Bobby said.

"What." Dean stared at Castiel, who turned his face to the side, eyes crinkled, and huffed out a breath of air like a laugh.

"Regretting your decision?" Sam asked, grinning.

Dean really wasn't that guy, but he sought out Castiel's hand with his own as he said, "No. Never."