CHAPTER 2 - It's not the end of the world.

Dean doesn't expect to see Castiel again. The guy got what he wanted, after all – virginity well and truly fucked right out of him. But Dean's not really surprised when Cas comes back either. The man may have come to him to fulfil a simple request, but it turned out to be a pretty damn good night, for Dean as well. So, sure, Dean is glad to see him again.

Not to mention, the guy is hot, after all. And Dean wouldn't have even thought it was possible, but the second time is even hotter than the first. Cas is a little less hesitant the second time around, a little more greedy, now he knows what's coming. He evens moans Dean's name more, louder, like he's been practising. And doesn't that thought bring a grin to Dean's face, every time it happens.

The third time Cas comes back, Dean knows the guy is sweet on him, because the first thing Cas does is go down on him, worshipping his cock like it's God's gift to man. And he doesn't know if it's just that Cas has already learned all his tricks, or that Cas was never a virgin in that sense to begin with, but he doesn't really care. It's been so long since anyone's done that for him, Dean comes so hard he screams.

He rewards Cas for it by eating him out, nice and slow, then fucking him good and hard, all night long. And in the morning when Cas' voice is hoarse from screaming, and the man can barely walk to the door, Cas actually asks if Dean would mind if he kept coming back. If Dean wasn't sure the guy had a crush on him already, that there would've been a dead giveaway.

But Dean's not really worried about it. He's used to it. It's not the first time a client's gotten attached to him. Not the first time, and not the only one Dean's currently sleeping with that has a crush on him. As long as Cas doesn't turn out to be some kind of psychopath then it's not a problem. In fact, Dean thinks it's a little adorable.

Not that he would ever admit that. To anyone. Including (especially) himself. Acknowledging the fact that he kind of likes it is a slippery slope he isn't about to let himself fall down. Not when it never lasts anyway. No matter how much of a crush a client thinks they have, they always get over it eventually. It's not real. Dean's just playing a role, fabricating a fantasy to fulfill whatever needs can't be satisfied elsewhere.

It certainly keeps his sex-life interesting though, that's for sure.

"Winchester," Crowley barks in his permanently whisky-burnt growl of a voice. "Management had some complaints about the noise last night," he scowls. "Kindly remember that we're not actually running a brothel, and that we actually have legitimate, paying guests staying there as well."

"Aw come on Crowley, you make more money off us boys than all your legitimate guests combined," Dean shoots back.

"Nevertheless, we don't want to draw attention from the local constabulary. Any more than you already draw, that is," Crowley smirks. "Eliot's waiting for you at the bar, by the way."

"Yeah, I know. I'm heading upstairs now," Dean grins to himself, wondering if Eliot might use his handcuffs on him tonight, and feeling a little giddy at the possibility. But then thinking about Eliot reminds Dean of Cas' Columbo-coat, and he remembers why he came into Crowley's office in the first place. "Oh yeah, I'm giving that Castiel guy a permanent go ahead too."

"Mmm, I thought you might," Crowley leers, waggling his eyebrows suggestively. "Lips like those? I would love to slip my cock right in between them. Have you tried yet? Bet they're fantastic."

"That's none of your business," Dean snaps, drawing back in shock almost as soon as the words are out of his mouth.

Crowley's eyebrows shoot up into his hairline at the outburst, and he pointedly looks down at Dean's hands, where they're fisted at his sides.

Dean forces his fingers to unclench, staring at them in bewilderment. He doesn't know why he reacted like that. It just came out of nowhere.

"A little touchy today, are we?" Crowley taunts, tsking at him. "Didn't get enough beauty sleep last night?"

And just like that, Dean finds himself fighting down another burst of anger. Because, no, he and Cas barely got any sleep at all last night. And so what? Big deal. But for some reason it feels like Crowley's hitting too close to home. Dean can't even think up a snarky comeback as Crowley circles him, like a hound going in for the kill.

"For the record, Dean, your little sexcapades are my business. Don't forget that," Crowley sneers. And Dean knows that, but he can't explain why it still makes him want to clock the man. Crowley must sense it off him too, because he eventually concedes, backing out of Dean's personal space with a condescending eyeroll. "But I suppose it is good business to respect your client's privacy," Crowley sighs overdramatically. "Do what thou wilt. I'll put him on the list," he says, waving dismissively at Dean.

Dean takes the brush-off for what it is and leaves. But even after he's put a good distance between him and Crowley's office, Dean finds his hands are still trembling, and he has to take more than a few deep breaths to make them stop.

And that right there, should've been Dean's first hint that he might be in trouble. Sure, Crowley is a grade-A sleazeball, and Dean wants to punch his face in on a regular basis, but the man's never managed to get under Dean's skin like that before.

But hand-in-hand with Dean's motto of 'Fake it 'til you make it,' goes 'Deny 'til you die.' So that's what Dean does. Passes it off as some kind of sleep-deprived post-coital endorphin crash. A one-time thing. And if by some chance it should happen again, well… Cas will tire of him eventually and move on. Like they all do. And then it won't even be an issue anymore.

The thing is, though, Cas just keeps coming back. Almost every week. Sometimes even more. So often, that Dean actually starts feeling a little guilty about it. Guilty about leading him on. A guy like Cas deserves to have someone of his own. Or least be out there looking for them. He shouldn't have to waste his time and money on Dean. (And that should've been another sign).

But deny, deny, deny. It's not Dean's problem, anyway. And the sex just keeps getting better and better, every time. So Dean just focuses on enjoying the ride, and tries not to think too hard about the inevitable day Cas stops coming to see him.

~

That day comes sooner than Dean expects. And it's not because Cas finally decides to find someone else. No, it all started with Anna, and it ends with Anna.

It's nearly 4:30 am when Cas gets the call. Dean's already half-awake anyway, nose buried in the back of Cas' hair and slowly rubbing up against his rear, working up the interest to suggest another round. But when Cas' phone rings, it sends the man flying out of bed, scrambling frantically through his discarded clothes to find it.

At first Dean is annoyed. Castiel was such a warm, wonderful weight in his arms, and then suddenly all Dean has is a face full of pillow. (Granted, a nice smelling pillow, but still). And Dean doesn't know anyone who answers their phone at 4 and the hell o'clock in the morning. Well, maybe his clients in law enforcement, like Eliot… But even Dean's married clients don't jump to answer their phones like that. Especially not on the first ring.

Well, that's probably because if they're with Dean in the first place, they're probably trying to escape the whole married thing for a night anyway. But still. Dean finds himself bristling at the reminder that there may be more important things to Castiel than staying right there, in bed with Dean.

As Dean keeps watching though, his annoyance gives way to concern. Castiel's barely said hello to whoever's on the line before he's heading straight for the bathroom, turning the sink on to clean himself off. Less than a minute later Castiel comes back out and starts pulling on his clothes, phone still in hand and barking short, curt answers into it. And there's something so efficient about the whole process that tells Dean this is something Cas does often – pulling himself together with almost military precision, ready to go at a moment's notice. For a second Dean thinks Cas might actually be in the military or something, until he sees the barely concealed panic in Castiel's eyes.

"Is everything alright?" Dean asks when Castiel ends the call.

"It's Anna," Castiel replies. "I'm sorry, I have to go," he says, and that's when Dean remembers Castiel's sick sister.

"Is she okay?" Dean asks, not bothering to cover himself as he stands up off the bed, his frown mirroring Castiel's.

"They're not sure yet," Castiel answers. "I'm sorry, Dean, I don't want to leave, but I have to. I'm the one taking care of her."

Dean tries to give Castiel a reassuring smile as he pulls Cas close, but he thinks it comes out more resigned than anything. When Castiel sags into his arms, clinging onto Dean with a shaky sigh, it just makes Dean want to hold him all that tighter. "Tell me somethin', Cas," Dean murmurs into his hair, "Who takes care of you?"

Maybe he's not really thinking when he says it. Because when he usually says it, it's a lot more playful, and it's almost always answered with some variation of, "Why, you do, Dean." To which Dean will usually reply with something snarky and teasing like, "Damn straight, I do," and, "Don't forget it," followed by, "Now which part of you would like some 'taking care of' next?" …with obvious repercussions.

But Dean forgets to be playful about it when he asks Cas. And Cas just gives him this… look in response. And Dean can see in Cas' eyes that he wants to say something, he even takes the breath to say it, but then he doesn't. His eyes dart away, shoulders slumping a little as he exhales with a sigh.

"It's not- I don't-" Cas mumbles, before taking another deep breath and looking up again. "She's the only family I have left."

"Hey," Dean croons, reaching up to cup Castiel's cheeks with his hands, stroking his thumbs soothingly across Castiel's skin. "I get it, Cas. Really, I do," he murmurs. "It's going to be okay."

He leans forward to kiss Castiel then, and when they finally pull apart, Cas gives him a small smile.

"That's better," Dean grins. "Would've hurt my pride if you'd left here without a smile on your face."

"Thank you, Dean," Cas murmurs, before slipping out the door.

But that isn't the last time he sees Castiel.

A few weeks later, Anna dies. Cas comes to Dean after the funeral, a complete wreck. He looks exhausted from trying to hold it all together, and Dean's afraid to touch him, he looks so close to breaking.

Dean doesn't even know what to say either, having learned from personal experience how ineffectual the usual platitudes can be. He remembers what it was like when his dad died. The shock of it, the numb disbelief, the anger and isolation of having deal with things like funerals and wakes and endless condolences that eventually seem to lose all meaning and sincerity, when all you want to do is crawl into a corner and sleep for a week. At least.

"What do you need, Cas?" Dean asks him instead. "Tell me. Anything you want," he says. And even though it's a phrase he's used countless times, he's rarely ever meant it as much as he does now.

"Can I- Will you- Can we just lie down for a while?" Cas replies wearily.

"Yeah, sure, Cas," Dean says, and he gets it. He knows what Cas needs. Taking Castiel by the hand, Dean gently leads the man towards the bed. He carefully helps Castiel out of his trenchcoat and suit jacket, stripping off a couple layers himself before loosening Cas' tie, and lays Castiel down, pulling him into his arms.

Cas hadn't explicitly asked for it, but Dean knows he just wants to be held. It makes Dean wonder just how really alone the guy must be in the world, to have to come to someone like him for such a basic comfort like this. Someone whose time he has to pay for. Not to mention, someone who had slept with his sister first. The sister who then had to recommend Dean to her own brother because Castiel was supposedly incapable of finding anyone else.

Dean's aware that on paper, his previous involvement with Cas' sister makes the whole situation sound a little messed up. But it hadn't stopped Cas, and it sure hadn't put Dean off either. It's certainly far from the most fucked up thing Dean's ever done anyway. Besides, if things hadn't played out that way, Castiel might be totally alone right now. And Dean's glad he isn't. Dean may not be the ideal person for this, but at least Castiel has someone right now.

At least when John died, Dean still had Sam, and they'd helped each other through it. There'd been a lot of yelling and drinking, and maybe it hadn't been the healthiest grieving process, but at the end of the day they were still family, and they still had each other.

Dean doesn't know what he would've done without Sam then. What he would do without Sam, at all. The thought makes him shudder, holding onto Castiel all that tighter – holding Castiel together, as the man falls apart in Dean's arms.

~

"Hey, Sammy."

"Dean, hey! It's been a while."

"Yeah, well, you know me, living the life. How 'bout you? How're you doin'?"

"I'm good. Got a big essay due in a couple of days that's been driving me up the wall, though."

"I'm sure you'll ace it. Like you always do."

"Thanks, Dean. I wish I could remember what my bed looks like though. Or the inside of my shower."

"Ew, dude. How does Jess put up with you?"

"I don't know. I really don't. Dean… I'm thinking of asking her to marry me."

"…What? For real?"

"Yeah, for real."

"You didn't get her pregnant, did you?"

"Dean!"

"Just kidding, Sammy. I mean…Wow. That's... Wow."

"I know, right?"

"Well it's probably for the best. No one else is going to take you."

"Ha. Ha. Very funny."

"No, but really, little brother. That's great news."

"Thanks, Dean. I've already got a part-time job lined up so I can start saving up for the ring and the wedding and everything..."

"You know if you need help I got you covered, right?"

"Yeah, I know. And thanks. One of these days you're going to have to show me these infamous cocktail making skills they pay you so much for."

"Well, Sammy, you know it's not just the drink, but the service that comes with it. And the better the service the better the tips."

"Uh-huh. You mean the more you flirt, the more you get tipped."

"Now, now Sammy, it's my flirting that's putting you through law school."

"And you know I'm grateful, Dean. But I am old enough to have a job now too, you know."

"Yeah, but it's my job to take care of you. So let me do it. Besides, who's going to bail me out when I finally get arrested for indecent conduct in a bathroom?"

"…"

"You're making a bitch-face right now, aren't you?"

"Jerk."

~

"Oh fuck oh fuck oh fuuuck!" Dean gasps as he comes all over himself, his client pounding into him hard and fast and right on target.

Well, he likes to think of Eliot as more of a sugar daddy than a client, if anything. Eliot is one of those guys who are so completely consumed by their jobs they don't have the time or patience for romance, so they end up finding guys like Dean to satisfy their needs. But since Eliot is a Fed, he doesn't go through Crowley's usual channels. He never just pays Dean straight out for sex either. Instead he leaves money behind "for the room" or "for some new clothes" or so Dean can "go see a show" or something like that. And that way they manage to get around the illegal aspects or their "relationship."

Eliot is pretty classy for a Fed though, right down to the long overcoat he always wears. It reminds Dean of Cas sometimes, though Cas' trenchcoat is a lot more lived-in and rumpled.

"Well, that hit the spot," Eliot huffs, sitting on the edge of the bed and leaning his elbows on his knees as he catches his breath.

"Sure did," Dean chuckles breathlessly. Eliot laughs.

They take turns cleaning themselves up in the bathroom, and on the way back to bed, Dean stops by the minibar and brings over a couple glasses of whisky.

"Well, aren't you thoughtful," Eliot grins, accepting a glass.

"You love it," Dean smirks. Eliot hums in appreciation as he swallows down a gulp of the fiery liquid, smacking his lips in satisfaction. When the man turns to Dean again, there's something contemplative in his eyes.

"When you gonna settle down, kid? Find someone special," Eliot murmurs. Out of nowhere.

Dean blinks in surprise. Not just at the rare moment of sentimentality, but at the question itself. It's not something Dean's really thought about. But now that Eliot's brought it up, Dean thinks it might be something he's always wanted, deep down.

Not that he sees it happening anytime soon. So deep down is immediately where that idea is going back to.

"Maybe I already have found someone," Dean replies instead, winking playfully, and Eliot laughs. He knows Eliot isn't the kind of man that needs to be flirted with, but Dean likes doing it. Eliot's good to him.

As Eliot puts on his too-serious overcoat to leave though, Dean can't help but think of Cas again. It's been weeks since Dean's seen him, and he's worried about how the guy's doing.

At least, that's what Dean tells himself the next day, when he finds himself pulling into the carpark of the local library.

He doesn't plan it. It's a nice day outside, and he wakes up feeling a little restless, so he decides to go for a drive. He doesn't plan to end up there.

But end up there, he does.

So Dean figures, since he's there and all, he might as well pop in for a second, check things out. Maybe he can take a look at that new Carver Edlund novel everyone's been talking about. And if he happens to catch a glimpse of Castiel, see with his own eyes how the guy's doing, that'll be enough. It's not like they have to actually talk or anything.

It's a good plan, Dean tells himself, again, as he heads to the door. But he doesn't expect to crash into Castiel the very second he steps through it, sending the stack of files and books in Cas' arms skittering to the floor.

"Dean!" Castiel blurts in surprise when he looks up.

"Shit, sorry, Cas!" Dean flusters, bending down to collect some of the mess.

"What are you doing here?" Cas asks incredulously, reaching distractedly for some of the files as he stares openly at Dean.

"Looking for… a book?" Dean shrugs, grinning lamely as he hands over some of Castiel's papers.

Castiel huffs a little laugh at that, and Dean relaxes a bit, finding himself relieved at the reaction. There was a chance he might not have been welcome at Castiel's workplace, but mostly Dean's relieved Cas laughed at all. The guy can't be doing too badly then.

"Are you leaving?" Dean asks once they've managed to pick everything up off the floor.

"Yes, I was going to head home early and do some work from there. It's quiet today and Chuck can handle everything here," Cas explains.

"Well, can I give you a lift?" Dean offers. "Or did you drive?"

"No, I was going to take the bus," Cas frowns. "But I thought you wanted a book?"

"It's okay, Cas. I'm in more of a driving mood today anyway. And I'm not going to let you lug around all this stuff on the bus," Dean replies.

"Oh, well, thank you," Cas says, flushing slightly.

"No problem, Cas," Dean grins. "After you," he says, holding the door open for the other man. Cas flushes again as he walks past Dean, their bodies brushing slightly against each other with the movement, and Dean finds himself involuntarily leaning into Cas at the proximity, chasing more contact.

Dean shakes it off. It's not the time or the place. It's inappropriate enough that Dean's showed up at Castiel's workplace, but he's not going to… solicit the man as well. Dean resolves to keep his hands to himself.

Once Cas settles in the frontseat of the Impala he points Dean in the general direction of his apartment, but after that, the car quickly fills with silence. Dean side-eyes the fuck out of the man, wondering if he should turn on the radio or something, but there's a fragility about the guy right now that tells Dean loud noises and sudden movements probably aren't a good idea. Hell, add bright lights to the list, judging from how pale he looks.

"So…" Dean ventures cautiously, "how are you doing, man?"

Castiel heaves a sigh. "Alright, I suppose."

"Hmm," Dean hums in reply. "Yeah, I get it," he says. And he does. He recognizes the exhaustion around Castiel's eyes, the tired slump of his shoulders, even though he's a little stiff with awkwardness from the current situation. But as much as Dean wants to help, he doesn't really know where to go from there. Doesn't really know how to provide comfort outside of the bedroom. Talking about feelings and stuff has never really been one of his strong points. He's much better at drowning his miseries in a deep bottle or a willing body.

Cas huffs another little sigh, glancing at Dean sheepishly and acknowledging the awkwardness. "I appreciate this, Dean, thank you," he says, half apologizing.

"It's really no problem, Cas," Dean reassures him, "Like I said, it's a nice day for driving."

"…It is," Cas replies, looking out the window and sounding like it's the first time he's bothered to notice. Dean lets him appreciate the scenery for a moment, the silence between them becoming a little more comfortable as Cas soaks it in, relaxing a little. Eventually Cas' attention is drawn back to his more immediate surroundings, as if seeing them for the first time as well.

"What kind of car is this?" he asks, running his hand over his side of the dashboard. There's respect in the way he does it, as well as appreciation, and Dean grins with pride.

"1967 Chevy Impala," he answers. "Ain't she beautiful?"

"Yes," Cas replies. "I can tell it means a lot to you, it's very well kept."

"Yeah, well, I spent a lot of time in this car when I was growing up. After our house burned down this car was more like a home to us than a lot of the places we rolled through while my dad was looking for work," Dean explains. He leaves out how to this day, the Impala still feels more like home than the apartment he rents now – too big and rarely used unless Sam is visiting. "Besides," Dean says instead, "my dad… he'd probably roll over in his grave if I didn't take care of her right."

Dean doesn't really talk about this stuff, ever, but maybe this way he can at least let Cas know he understands what the other man is going through.

"I'm sorry," Cas says quietly. "How did he die?"

"Heart-attack. Couple years ago," Dean answers.

"And your mother?"

"She, um…" Dean swallows tightly. Some things just don't get easier no matter how long it's been. "She died in the housefire when we were kids."

"Oh, Dean. I'm so sorry," Castiel murmurs gently.

"S'okay, it was a long time ago," he replies automatically, shrugging it off the way he usually does whenever the topic comes up.

Cas doesn't say anything after that, and Dean doesn't push either. Cas may not be in a great place right now, but at least Cas doesn't look like he's making a mess of himself the way Dean did when his dad died – staying out all night drinking and partying and waking up in other people's beds. At least Cas can actually make it to his day job.

Dean glances over the other side of the frontseat where Cas is resolutely staring down at his hands, and sighs. "You're gonna be okay, Cas," he says.

He can feel Cas' gaze on him them, heavy and familiar, and even though they don't say anything else for the rest of the drive, Cas doesn't look back out the window.

When they arrive at Cas' apartment building, Dean offers to carry some of Cas' stuff upstairs. He doesn't know how Cas expected to carry it all up to the top floor by himself, with the elevator apparently not working. Dean wonders if the building's even safe enough to live in. It looks like it hasn't even had a fresh coat of paint in years, let alone any major repairs.

The apartment itself turns out to be tiny, made even smaller with all the boxes and books covering nearly every surface, and there's a thin layer of dust on everything. Everything that's not a book, that is. Cas offers him coffee in return for his help, and Dean figures it's only polite to accept.

"Sorry about the boxes," Cas says. "I haven't gotten around to unpacking yet."

"When did you move in?" Dean asks. And doesn't say: why the hell would you move here?

"Um… about a year ago?" Cas answers, like he isn't really sure.

"A year ago?" Dean echoes, incredulous.

Castiel sighs. "I needed a cheaper place, because of Anna's medical bills. And with her in the hospital all the time, I was hardly ever here," Cas explains. "I guess I just got used to it being this way… I haven't really felt like unpacking."

Dean nods, hiding his frown behind his mug. He's suddenly acutely aware that with everything Cas has been going through, financially and emotionally, that Dean has been his only vice. And an expensive one at that.

The thought makes him feel a little ill. At the very least he's sure he's grossly overstepped his bounds by being there, a blatant reminder of Cas' difficulties, in the face of the man's grief as well.

"Dean-"

"-I should go," Dean says abruptly, talking over him. "Thanks for the coffee."

"…Of course," Castiel sighs, and Dean hears the weariness in Cas' voice too well.

He tries not to make it seem like he's fleeing the scene, but that's exactly what it feels like.

~

It's almost easy to forget that the men and women Dean takes to bed have lives outside of his hotel room. That they exist and keep breathing during the daylight hours Dean sleeps away. Almost easy to pretend that they're there for Dean's pleasure, and not the other way around. But now that he's seen where Cas works, where Cas lives… those few day-bright moments are burned into Dean's memory, more vivid than so many collective nights in that dimly-lit hotel.

Cas comes back to see him, not even a full week afterwards. And Dean's not sure if it's a good thing or a bad thing, for either of them. But as soon as Castiel's lips find his, he decides it doesn't matter. It's been far too long since he's had his hands on Castiel's skin, too long since he even held Castiel, that night after his sister's funeral. And when they finally fall into bed together, Dean sighs into Cas' mouth with relief.

They are both frantic and unhurried, at the same time. Needy, and yet needing it to last, for as long as they can. But there's something in the way Castiel clings to him, touching him as if memorizing every moment, and searing each moment into Dean's memory with every touch… It feels like Castiel is saying goodbye.

Dean knows it. Just as he knows now that something has irreversibly changed between them. He's not sure when, or why, or what. But there's a heavy finality in the weight of Castiel's touch, pressing into Dean until he's sure he'll be crushed by it. And all of a sudden he finds himself remembering what he told Cas, the first night they spent together, repeating in his head like a mantra, "it's just sex, it's just sex, it's just sex," over and over again – trying to convince himself nothing's changed at all.

They lay in silence afterwards, long after they've caught their breath and wiped themselves off, just staring at the ceiling through the thick unspoken something in the air. When Castiel finally slides out of bed, making a move to leave, Dean stubbornly grabs onto his wrist and asks, "When will I see you again?"

"I'm sorry, Dean," Castiel sighs, tired and resigned. "I just- I can't afford to rely on you anymore."

And there's more than one meaning there, that Dean thinks he understands. But he tries not to think about it too hard.

It's just sex. It's not the end of the world.

~ tbc