It started with a cat. Or, to be more accurate, it started with the death of a cat.

Moon had been in the Novak family since Cas had been nine years old. His older sister Hael had begged their mother for months to buy them a pet, until Naomi had finally caved in and brought them home a little gray Siberian cat. As Hael got older, though, her interest in Moon slipped away, but Cas was happy to take a responsibility for the cat. He loved her and she became one of his best friends.

Not a lot of people understood the connection he shared with his furry little friend, but Cas didn't care. It was their loss anyway, because they must have never felt the love of an animal.

But Cas did. Moon loved him as much as he loved her. The moment Cas came back from school, Moon would be there jumping into his waiting arms. He would feed her, clean her, play with her and in return she would keep him company. Doing homework, studying, reading, watching TV- all of it became unimaginable without her curled in his lap, his fingers petting her long, soft fur.

For that reason it hit him hard when she suddenly got sick and died.

On a rainy Thursday in November, he got home wet because he had forgotten his umbrella that morning, and his best friend Dean was sick so he couldn't give him a ride like usual. As he shut the door behind him, he noticed his mother waiting for him. She furrowed her eyebrows when he gave her a questioning glance.

"Castiel. Something happened," she paused, "Moon wasn't feeling well, so I took her to the vet."

Cas nodded, he had noticed Moon's unusual behavior. "Is she going to be okay?"

Naomi's eyes softened and she tilted her head. "Oh, sweetie. I'm really sorry, but she suddenly got worse and there was nothing the vet could do. She passed away quickly and in minimal pain."

Cas was sure getting hit by a truck would hurt less than those words. His vision blurred and he stopped breathing for a moment. Naomi was talking, but none of her words reached him.

A hot wetness traced down his cheek, and his mother's arms enveloped him in a tight hug.

For a moment he hoped it was all a dream, but the pain in his heart was too real.

The next day, he stayed home. He refused to get out of his bed, eat, or talk. Only when Dean came over later and coaxed him into eating did he give in.

The following few days weren't any better either, but he couldn't avoid going to school.

More than a week later he walked to his locker, aware of everyone's eyes on him. He wasn't surprised, he had seen himself in the mirror earlier: dark bags hung under his tired eyes in stark contrast to his skin, which was even paler than usual. Considering he hadn't slept for a week, his appearance wasn't surprising.

Though he knew he looked like shit, he didn't appreciate some ass asking him when he had turned into a zombie. Not feeling like his usual self, Cas awarded him with his deadliest glare, but spared him an insult.

His best friend stood beside his locker, waiting for him and not even trying to hide the concern plastered on his face. Any other time, Cas would be elated that Dean was paying attention to him, but at that moment he wanted to be left alone.

"Hey, Cas. How you doing? Have you eaten anything? You look like shit," Dean bombarded him with inquiries the moment Cas was close enough to hear him.

"I know I look like shit. I feel like shit, so it isn't surprising," Cas answered as he dug through his locker. "You don't have to worry about me, Dean."

"I'm your best friend. It's in job to worry about you," Dean said as he put a hand on Cas' shoulder, forcing Cas to look at him. "Do you want to come over to my house later? Mom baked a pie."

As he stared into those pleading green eyes, Cas couldn't bring himself to refuse the offer. Not being alone might be better for him; it would distract him from sad memories.

Accepting the offer, he received a radiant grin in return. Even in his grieving state that grin made his insides squirm, and a small smile of his own formed.

Later he went over to the Winchesters' house and was greeted by a gentle smile belonging to Mary Winchester. She was always nice to him and it wasn't any different this time. As soon as she saw him, she hugged him.

"Oh, honey. I'm so sorry about Moon. I know how much you loved her."

"Thank you, Mrs. Winchester."

Mary sent him to Dean's room with a plate of delicious smelling pie and he hurried upstairs, where he heard the sound of familiar arguing.

"Dude, Iron Man is so much better. With the armor and everything."

"It's only because he has money, Dean. Captain America is better."

Cas knocked on the half-open door and walked inside the room. "Hello, Dean, Sam."

"Cas, I'm glad you're here. Now I don't have to listen Dean's stupid arguments anymore," Sam told him, smirking at Dean before his eyes fell on Cas and softened. "How are you, Cas?"

"I'll be okay, Sam. Don't worry," He ruffled Sam's hair and the younger boy pouted.

Dean laughed at Sam, but smiled when Cas sat beside him on the bed. "Hey, Cas. Have you tried the pie?"

"I'll try it now. Are we watching a movie?"

Not waiting for an answer, he took a bite of the pie and moaned in appreciation. After he had eaten it all, Sam and Dean got into another fight about superheroes. In the end they didn't watch a movie. Still, it was nice spending time with his friends. It made the pain fade away for a couple of hours.

The first serious sign of a problem showed up a couple of days later, when Cas got an F on his English test, shocking everyone, most of all his mother.

"I know you've been having a hard time lately, but you can't let this become a norm. Think about your future, Castiel," Naomi said, her eyes filled with concern.

"I'm sorry, mother. My teacher will let me retake the test and I'll study harder this time, I promise."

He knew his mother worried about him and not about his grades, but Cas decided to keep his word. Not only because of her, but because English was his favorite subject and the foundation of his dream career. For several years, he had planned on becoming a writer, and failing English class wouldn't help him achieve that dream.

The main problem was his inability to focus. He was used to studying while petting Moon, and he found himself unable to do it any other way.

Anything he had tried had turned out to be useless. He had even gone so low as to try petting a pillow and had been left frustrated and sad.

Cas needed a warm, living body to cuddle with and he needed it soon.

While lying in bed that evening, Cas went through his options. Buying a new cat or any other pet so soon was out of the question; he wasn't ready for that step. Without any other choice, he was left with humans to consider.

His mother and sister weren't affectionate, at least not in a psychical way, so it'd be unusual if Cas asked them for cuddles. Not to mention that he was eighteen years old and had outgrown cuddling with family members. Doing it with friends brought another problem: it was considered a romantic activity. Despite that, he tried to think of someone who would agree to do it.

Hannah was a friend from school. They weren't too close, but Cas was sure she would say yes. However, he was also sure that she had more-than-friendly feelings for him and he wouldn't want to lead her on.

Charlie was another friend and she was a lesbian, so she wouldn't confuse his request with an attempt at seduction. He had met her through Dean, who was closer to her, and Cas was afraid their friendship wasn't on that level yet, so she wasn't the right choice either.

Which brought him to the one person he didn't want to think about: Dean. His friend since first grade. His crush since freshman year. Oh, how he would love to hold Dean in his arms and be held in return... but it would never happen.

Dean was straight. Three ex-girlfriends and his current one, Lisa, were proof enough. But maybe, maybe if Cas explained and asked him cuddling just one time Dean would say yes. They had been friends for a long time, so maybe the fact they were both men wouldn't bother Dean too much. Maybe.

That idea, that horrible idea, refused to leave his head. For the next couple of days, every time Dean was close, Cas got an urge to throw himself into his arms. So he started avoiding Dean, especially when he was with Lisa.

Lisa was an amazing person, and even though she was with a person Cas wanted for himself, he couldn't bring himself to dislike her. She was his main reason for avoiding Dean, because, no matter how wonderful Lisa was, jealousy had taken root deep down in his chest, which in return invoked guilt. Either way, he was surrounded by negative emotions without seeing a way out.

Something was up. Dean was pretty sure Cas was avoiding him, but he couldn't figure out why. Maybe it was related to his grief. Moon's death had hit Cas hard and Dean realized he should have done more to comfort his friend.

The following Friday, he decided to spend the whole weekend with Cas, only the two of them. The last time they had spent more than fifteen minutes alone had been too long ago and Dean missed it. He was sure Cas did too.

After school he went home, took a quick shower, and hurried to Cas' house.

"Dean, Castiel didn't tell me you'd be coming over," Naomi said, as she opened the door.

He scratched the back of his neck with a sheepish smile. "Sorry, Ma'am. I kinda forgot to tell him. If it's a problem I can come back later."

"Don't be silly. He's in his room, I'm sure he'll be glad you're here."

Dean grinned and made his way upstairs. When he got closer he heard loud metal music coming from Hael's room. That girl was hardcore and if he hadn't known her for years Dean would be a bit scared of her. She shared that trait with her brother.

He informed Cas of his presence with a light knock on the door, but he didn't wait for an answer and barged in.

Not in a million years would he have imagined the sight that greeted him. Cas was lying on his bed surrounded by dozen of stuffed animals, holding them close to his chest and nuzzling the one closest to him.

"What the actual-" Dean didn't get the chance to finish the question because Cas realized he was there and sat up, sending a couple of toys flying to the floor.

"Dean! What are you doing here?"

"I came over to hang out, but I see you've already got company." Dean pointed at the toys on Cas' bed. "Where did you get those?"

"Attic. They are Hael's old toys. I-I was, I mean I don't usually play with stuffed animals, but I wasn't in a good mood and- and, I needed to pet something."

Dean quirked his eyebrows as Cas stuttered his explanation, "Pet?"

"Yes. You see, when Moon was alive I would always pet her, and now that- that she's gone... I miss her and I can't focus on anything because I'm used to having her around." Cas admitted while moving the toys to one corner of the bed.

"Oh, man. I'm sorry you're feeling this way, but you don't have to feel ashamed. You lost someone important." Dean walked over to the bed and sat on the edge, "Is this why you've been acting weird lately? And avoiding me?"

He didn't mean to sound bitter, but as the words came out of his mouth he realized Cas' behavior had hurt him more than he had thought. They were supposed to be best friends, and best friends told each other when something bothered them.

Cas looked down at his hands, "I'm sorry. I didn't think you'd notice."

"Of course I noticed, Cas!" Dean almost yelled, but he softened his voice when Cas flinched. "After mom and Sam, you're the most important person in my life. Of course I noticed you were avoiding me."

"Thank you, Dean. I promise I won't do it again." Cas fidgeted and still refused to look at Dean.

"It's okay, buddy. Is there something else bothering you? Can I do anything to help?" Dean asked and he was sure Cas blushed at the question. What was that about?

At last Cas looked up, biting his lower lip. "There may be something you can do. I'd be really grateful if you did. I know it'd be weird, but I think it would help me. And you are the only person I can ask. It can only be for few minutes and I can bake you a pie in return or anything else you want and-"

"Wow, stop talking, Cas," Dean cut in and put his hands on Cas' legs. "I'll do it."

"You don't even know what it is yet. I won't be mad if you say no because I know you don't like that kind of thing."

"Cas! You're blabbing again. I'm sure it's nothing bad, just say it."

"I want you to cuddle with me!" Cas exclaimed.

Silence stretched over them as they stared at each other.

"You… what?" Dean croaked. Cas wasn't a fan of physical contact, so his request left Dean baffled.

"I-I want- actually, forget I said anything. It doesn't matter." Cas lay on his side, turning his back to Dean.

"Woah, man, no, wait. It's just- you're usually not touchy-feely at all, so I'm just confused." Dean put his hand on Cas' shoulder to turn him around, so Cas could see he was being serious, "Come on."

"Most people have a need for close physical contact. When I had Moon, she fulfilled that need, but now..." Cas shrugged, but still didn't turn around. "I'm sorry I asked you. Saying it out loud made me realize how stupid it is."

"No, Cas, it's not stupid." Dean rubbed his neck, "I get it, man. If you really want to, I can do it." When Cas jerked around, his eyes wide, Dean pointed a finger at him. "But only once."

Cas responded with a vigorous nod and beamed. "Thank you so much. You have no idea how much this means to me."

That grateful, happy expression was enough to convince Dean that he was doing the right thing, even though he couldn't shake off the slight awkwardness. Guys usually didn't cuddle with other guys. Unless they were into that. Which Dean wasn't. But since this was Cas, he guessed he could get behind it.

"Don't tell anyone," he said.

Cas nodded once again, "Of course not. I realize this may be an inconvenience to you."

Dean sighed. "No, it's not 'an inconvenience' it's just not anyone else's business."

Several moments of staring at each other later, Dean cleared his throat and looked at the floor. "So any idea how we're gonna do this?"

"Well, um, you should lie with me on the bed." Cas scooted closer to the wall and patted a spot beside him.

Dean complied and they found themselves lying on their sides beside each other, propped up on their elbows, their eyes locked on each other's. Despite their initial intent, contact between their bodies was nonexistent.

"So, you gonna come here or what?" Dean spread his arms, suggesting that Cas should move closer.

Cas frowned at him, "I think I should hold you, so you should come here." He copied Dean's previous action and gestured towards himself.

"Dude, no. I'm doing you a favor here. You ain't gonna hold me." He grabbed Cas' arms and pulled him towards himself, but he used too much force and they bumped their heads.

Cas toppled onto him, and the sudden weight on his torso made him groan in pain.

"I'm sorry, Dean. I-" Cas attempted to get up, but he lost his balance and fell on the floor, dragging Dean with him.

This time, Dean collapsed on top of Cas. After a few moments of catching their breath, Dean laughed. He looked up and caught Cas frowning.

"Cas. We're so dumb." He grinned and was relieved when Cas smiled back. "Come on, let's try again."

Dean got up and offered his hand to Cas, hauling him to his feet.

Without letting go of Cas' hand, Dean laid down on the bed and with a gentle pull he led Cas down. They found a comfortable position with Cas lying on his side, head on Dean's chest and his waist in the firm hold of Dean's arm, their legs tangled together.

After the slight awkwardness wore off, they both relaxed. Cas let out a sigh and burrowed himself further into Dean's arms.

It was... nice. He and Cas didn't share prolonged touches often, but Dean found himself enjoying the moment.

Cas' hair tickled his neck, so when he tried to move around to avoid it, he caught the amazing smell of Cas' shampoo. In the most subtle way he could, he brought his nose closer to Cas' hair and inhaled deeply.

"Dean, are you sniffing me?" Cas asked. He sounded amused and Dean's face grew hot.

"I- um. Yes, but I, I mean, I wanted to know what shampoo you're using. It's nice. Shampoo, that is." Dean stared at the ceiling as he babbled like a fool.

Cas chuckled, "Calm down, it's okay. I didn't accuse you of murder, no need to be so defensive."

"I'm not." He was. "I'm surprised it smells so nice. Better than Lisa's. Hers smells too flowery."

Dean swore he could feel Cas rolling his eyes and was about to tell him off when Cas stiffened in his arms.

"What is it?"

"Do you think she would be angry if she found out we're cuddling?"

"Who? Lisa? No, she'd understand. I mean guys usually don't get snuggly with their guy friends, but this was an emergency and she'd get that. Besides, she won't find out."

Cas hummed in agreement. "If you're sure... I don't want to cause any problems for you. Cuddling is usually done between... romantically involved people."

Dean snorted at Cas' choice of words. "Don't worry about it, buddy. It's not like we're actually romantically involved."

The way Dean said it made Cas' chest tighten. Of course, Cas knew Dean would never feel the same, but still, hearing him say it, in an almost mocking way, hurt more than he'd expected.

Cas lay there, Dean's heartbeat drumming in his ear and realized how foolish he was- asking for this. Now he would have to continue his life with knowing how it felt to be in Dean's arms, but he would never get to enjoy it again.

He sighed and made a move to sit up. They had been cuddling for more than ten minutes already; it had to be too much for Dean.

"Where are you going?" Dean tightened his grip around Cas' waist, drawing Cas back against him.

"I think that was enough, Dean. Thank you for your help, but if you'll please just let me-" Cas struggled to wriggle out of Dean's hold.

"No, Cas. I think you need more time. Plus, I was starting to doze off," Dean grumbled and refused to let him go, so Cas looked up.

His friend had closed his eyes. Rolling his own eyes, Cas relaxed again. If Dean was going to use this for napping, he could too.

For at least an hour, they stayed in the same position, sleeping until the loud sound of 'Ramble On' shook them awake. Dean fished his phone out of his pocket and answered it.

"Hey, Mom. No, sorry, we were watching TV and I completely lost track of time. I'll be home in five minutes. Yeah, okay. Love you too."

"I'm sorry for making you late for dinner. I fell asleep," Cas said and disentangled himself from Dean's hold. He sat up and rubbed his eyes.

"Don't worry. I fell asleep too," Dean said and when Cas raised his chin to look at him, he was wearing a small, fond smile which Cas couldn't help but return. He was glad they weren't awkward with each other.

Dean's sudden chuckle made Cas frown in confusion. "You've got a bedhead, Cas."

"Oh." Cas tried to flatten his hair, but he failed, judging by the way Dean was trying to stop himself from laughing. "Don't laugh at me, asshole."

His words made Dean burst out laughing and Cas joined in, unable to resist.

After their laughter died off, they kept looking at each other until Dean looked away and cleared his throat. Cas wasn't sure if he saw it right, but he could have sworn Dean's cheeks turned pink for a few moments.

"Well, I gotta go, but I was thinking, maybe we could hang out together this weekend. And actually do something, not just sleep." Dean rubbed the back of his neck while he spoke.

Cas started to nod before he remembered his plans, "No, wait. I can't, actually. We're going to visit my uncle. But maybe next weekend," he added the last part after disappointment crossed Dean's face.

Dean lit up. "Yeah, of course. But, I really have to go now or Mom's gonna be pissed. See ya," He clasped Cas' shoulder and left the room.

Cas laid down again and wondered if he had been dreaming. But he caught Dean's smell on his pillow and stupid butterflies started dancing a tango in his stomach. He groaned, but couldn't stop the smile forming on his face. After all, he had slept in the arms of a person he loved and even though it wouldn't happen again, he could let himself be happy for a moment. That was probably the best and the worst experience he'd ever had.

Considering the fact that Cas had other plans, Dean decided to take Lisa on a date on Saturday. She squealed with delight when he called her, and they agreed they would go to the cinema.

He and Lisa had been dating for five months and they had been on several dates, but most of the time they hung out with their friends or they made out in one of their rooms. The change of routine was refreshing, but for some reason he didn't feel too excited.

As he got ready and put on his best clothes he remembered the day before and what he and Cas had done . He would never admit it out loud, but he loved cuddling.

When he was a child, he had always cuddled with his mother, but at some point he had gotten too old for it and they'd stopped. Or if he was honest with himself, they had stopped because he'd felt embarrassed. Especially because of his father who had always teased him about it, in a meaner way than he should have, considering it was coming from a parent. John Winchester had died a long time ago, but still affected Dean's judgment sometimes, even though he was aware how wrong his father had been about many things.

But he missed cuddling. He missed being in such close proximity with another person while they held each other and shared their warmth. He and Lisa kissed often, sometimes while laying in bed, but it wasn't the same. They never just laid together and relaxed.

That was why he had loved doing it with Cas. It was completely platonic and nothing else was expected of them. Even more, Cas was the one who'd asked for it, so Dean not only turned out to be a great friend who'd jumped in to help, but he also didn't have to admit that he loved it. He wasn't sure if Cas was going to ask for a repeat, but Dean was down for it and he even thought about subtly suggesting it to Cas.

He drove to Lisa's house and waited a couple of minutes until Lisa opened the door with a huge smile.

"Hey, Dean," she wrapped her arms around his neck and kissed him.

Dean kissed her back with equal eagerness. When they parted, he looked her over, "You look amazing."

"Thanks, you too," Lisa said and winked.

The ride to the cinema was quick, but buying the tickets wasn't.

"I'm sorry," Dean said, as they waited in a line. "I should've bought 'em earlier."

"Don't worry, babe, we still have time. Besides, we can always watch something else, or, you know, ditch the movie altogether and go grab something to eat."

"Ah, you know me so well, I'm always in for the food."

They laughed, then Dean's phone beeped.

"Who is it?" Lisa asked him while he read the new message.

"Cas. He's at his uncle's, so he's miserable. He's been texting me all day." Dean shot Cas a reply and turned off the sound on his phone, not wanting it to go off during the movie.

"Oh, is that the one who likes pranking people? Poor Cas."

"Yeah, that's Gabriel. I swear to god, seven year old Cas was more mature than him. But, he's not all that bad."

Gabriel was the brother of Cas' dad, Michael, who had left his family without any warning when Cas was two years old. Ever since then, Gabriel had stood by Naomi's side, cutting all ties with his brother. Dean respected him for that.

Five minutes later, they finally bought their tickets. The movie wasn't anything special, in Dean's opinion, but almost everyone had seen it and Dean didn't like being behind on pop culture. And as someone who planned to major in film studies in college, he had to be involved with new movies.

During the movie Lisa's soft and delicate hand rested interlocked with his own on the armrest between them. It reminded him of the day before when he had briefly held Cas' hand, which was bigger and more masculine. Dean had liked the fact it was almost the same size as his own because it fit better in his grasp.

Not that he wanted to hold Cas' hand. He was only stating the facts, Lisa's hand was the only hand he wanted to hold, even though her ring was pressed against his finger and it irritated his skin.

Two hours later, they went to the Roadhouse and grabbed a meal.

"You two kids are on a date, huh?" Ellen asked them when she brought their order. "Well, I won't bother you and I'll tell Jo not to bother you either."

"Thanks, Ellen," Dean answered with a smile.

Ellen was Mary's best friend and she was like an aunt to him. He used to be scared of her when he was a kid, but now he couldn't imagine his life without her or her daughter Jo.

"We haven't been here in a long time," Lisa said. "But I still remember the first time you brought me here."

"Yeah. I wasn't sure if this was a good place for a first date, didn't know what you were expecting from me," Dean answered. He had been so nervous, but the minute Lisa had assured him she liked the place, he had been relieved.

They spent another hour there, talking and laughing. Dean was ecstatic and glad to be there with his girlfriend because they had been busy since school had started and hadn't had time to talk for this long.

After he drove her home they made out in the car for several minutes before Lisa's dad knocked on the window. They parted with a laugh and said their goodbyes.

Dean went home and changed into his pajamas. He took his phone and saw two unread messages from Cas.

I'm not sure who'll kill him first: my mother or me. He told me to turn on the TV and there was porn on there. My mother turned green.

I'm sorry for interrupting you. I just remembered you are on a date. Have fun. :)

Dean smiled and sent his reply: At least you got to see that look on your mom's face. And don't worry, you didn't interrupt.

When no reply came, Dean sent another message, presuming Cas went to bed already.

Good night, Cas. Sleep well. :)

The next week was busy. Tuesday marked the beginning of December which meant Christmas was around the corner. Cas loved it. His mother was often home, baking; his sister didn't stay locked up in her room, and his family always went to the Winchesters' on Christmas day where they exchanged gifts.

Cas loved buying presents and seeing the happy look on people's faces when they received them. The only problem he had was the ride to the mall. While he could take a bus, he would prefer company while shopping. Asking Dean was out of the question for a couple of reasons. First, Dean wouldn't leave Cas alone so he could buy a gift for him. Second, Dean hated early Christmas shopping and preferred to buy everything at the last moment.

So when he saw Charlie wearing a Christmas sweater in school, he knew he had found his new shopping buddy and Charlie having a car was a welcome bonus.

He walked to Charlie's locker and saw Lisa and Dean standing few feet away, laughing together. Cas sighed and averted his gaze, but to his surprise Charlie was looking in the same direction he had been. While he couldn't see his own face, he suspected it was similar to the one Charlie had at that moment.

"You like Lisa," he blurted out without thinking.

Charlie jumped in surprise and turned around to look at him. "Jesus, Cas. Don't spy on other people." She closed her locker and glanced at the happy couple before walking away. "And I don't have any idea what you're talking about."

Cas followed her. "Charlie, wait. I'm sorry. I only noticed because..." he trailed off, unsure if he should admit the truth.

His silence was enough to ignite Charlie's curiosity, she stopped to observe him. He was saved from an awkward confession when he saw the knowing spark in her eye.

"Oh, shit. Dean, huh?" She looked sad, and he had a perfect understanding of how she felt. "We're very alike, you and I. Falling for straight people, the biggest mistake you could make."

Cas nodded, but wanted to avoid talking about that subject. "There's another thing we have in common. I wanted to talk about it with you, actually."

"Oh, what is it?" She looked up at him with a smile and not a trace of sadness.

"Christmas," he answered and gestured at her sweater. "I wanted to ask you if you would like to go shopping with me."

Charlie's smile grew bigger. "Of course, buddy. I'm so happy you asked me. I thought you didn't like me."

"Oh, no. I like you a lot, but I was unsure if you really wanted to be my friend, considering Dean introduced us."

"You didn't have to worry about that," she reassured him. "You know what happened right now, right? We became best friends." She laughed and punched him on the arm.

Cas rubbed the painful spot. For someone so tiny, Charlie could punch hard. Ignoring his pain, he smiled at her. "I'm glad. I have to go, but we'll talk more later."

"You got it, dude." Charlie answered and they walked away in different directions.

Cas was in an excellent mood for the rest of the day. Even seeing Dean and Lisa kiss goodbye didn't ruin it.

"What's got you so cheerful today?" Dean asked while driving them home.

"Charlie and I are going Christmas shopping," Cas answered.

Dean rolled his eyes. "I should've known you two would bond over that." He smiled. "But I'm glad you're getting along with her. She's awesome."

"That she is."

On Friday afternoon, Cas got ready for the shopping trip and went downstairs to wait for Charlie. In the hallway, he bumped into his sister who was entering the house.

"Hey, baby bro."

"You do know you are only one year older?"

"Yep, that's why you'll always be my little brother." She pinched his cheek and laughed. "You going somewhere?"

"I'm going to the mall with Charlie."

"Charlie, huh? That's Jo's friend, right?"

"Yes." Charlie and Jo were best friends, but since Jo went to a different school, they didn't see each other often. Both he and Charlie met Jo through Dean, but Cas didn't get close to her as Charlie did. "You know Jo?"

Hael played with her lip piercing as she nodded. "Yeah, from the Roadhouse. I hang out there sometimes."

As his sister turned around, he noticed her hair was a different color than that morning.

"I like your hair."

"Thanks," she said as she stopped and looked at him again. "I grew bored of the blue, so purple seemed like a good choice."

"It suits you well."

Hael smiled at him and left.

Even though she could be intimidating, Cas knew his sister was sweet deep inside.

A loud horn interrupted his thoughts. Charlie waited for him in her car and he hurried towards her.

"Hey, there. You ready for shopping?"

"Hello, Charlie. I'm more than ready. Thank you for doing this with me."

"Hey, I'm doing this for me too. I'm used to shopping alone. Sometimes I drag Jo with me, but she's not fun at all. She always complains about hurt feet."

"Dean is the same." Cas said and they laughed. After a few moments Cas decided to speak, "May I ask you something?"

"You just did." Charlie grinned and Cas rolled his eyes.

"Why didn't you try dating Jo? Didn't you use to like her? And she's bisexual, right?"

"I did like her, but I realized I liked her in a best friend kind of way only. Besides, she's head over heels for someone else," Charlie explained and in a quiet voice added, "and so am I."

"If you want to talk about it, I'd be more than happy to listen."

"Nah, I'd rather talk about your crush."

"There's nothing to talk about. I like him and he's straight," Cas said, sounding grumpy even to his own ears.

"Well, I don't want to get your hopes up for no reason, but when I met Dean I didn't think he was straight. Though, when we became friends I forgot about it because I don't like speculating on my friends' sexualities much."

"You could have been wrong."

Charlie sent him an offended glance. "Do you know how many times my gaydar has been wrong? Only two times."

"I guess this is number three. Trust me, I've known Dean for years, I would know if he was interested in men."

"He has a crush on Dr. Sexy."

"Oh, wow. That proves everything," Cas said and Charlie laughed.

"So, you know sarcasm. I like you more and more."

They pulled into the parking lot of one of the shopping malls in Lawrence and Cas focused all his energy on finding perfect gifts.

Cas and Charlie spent most of their savings at the mall, but they had fun and Cas regretted ever feeling insecure around her. She was an amazing friend.

But she could never replace Dean. Even though being in love with Dean hurt, he was still Cas' best friend and Cas wished he could simply eradicate his feelings and go back to normal.

He decided he would make himself fall out of love starting that weekend, but the moment Dean stepped into his room on Saturday afternoon, he knew there was no way he could do it.

"Hey, Cas. Ready for the movie night?" Dean said as he sat on Cas' bed. "I brought Raiders of the Lost Ark." He waved the DVD box in front of Cas' face and beamed.

Cas shook his head. For a heterosexual man, Dean had an unusual fascination with Indiana Jones. "Let me put it in."

Usually, they watched movies at Dean's house, but for some reason Dean asked to come here today. Cas didn't have a DVD player nor a TV in his room, so they used his laptop.

"Should I put it on the foot of the bed?" Cas asked, holding the laptop in his hands. "I'm not sure if we'll see well."

"Well, we could hold it on our legs. So it'll be closer," Dean said and scooted closer to the wall, so Cas could sit beside him.

When Cas sat down he remembered the last time they were in a similar position and felt himself flush at the thought. Their legs touched and Cas carefully placed the laptop on both of their thighs.

He started the movie and turned to look at Dean, "Can you see okay?"

Dean nodded and they turned their attention to the movie. Ten minutes in Dean started fidgeting.

"Hey, Cas," he said after pressing pause. "Do you need more, uh, you know? What we did last week."

"You mean cuddling?" Cas asked, amused by Dean's awkwardness. "I'm okay, Dean."

"Oh, well. I thought, maybe if you wanted to do it again, we could. Like, now. Because it would be more comfortable for us to watch the movie."

Now that Dean mentioned it, Cas realized they were pressed against each other in an uncomfortable manner. And since Dean brought it up there was nothing to lose if he said yes.

"I guess you're right," he agreed after a moment, and Dean looked relieved at his answer. "Put your arm around me."

Dean obeyed and wrapped his arm around Cas' waist, so he snuggled into Dean's chest, while settling most of the laptop on Dean's legs.

"Is this better?" Cas asked.

Dean sighed and leaned his head on top of Cas'. "Yeah, it's good. Can you unpause the movie?"

They watched the movie in silence, but Cas couldn't focus on anything but Dean. Their heads were touching and their legs were glued together. Cas' skin tingled under Dean's warm breath and Dean's steady heartbeat made his own heart threaten to break through his ribcage.

He was hot and he thanked God that he had already watched this movie a hundred times, otherwise he would have embarrassed himself for not noticing anything.

At one point Dean laughed and it shook Cas' body like an earthquake- a pleasant one. No falling out of love for him today, it seemed.

Towards the end of the movie Cas relaxed, but when the credits started to roll a different type of panic crept inside his mind.

"You okay, Cas?"

No. I want to stay in your arms forever, Cas thought.

"Yes, Dean. Just tired." He got up and placed the laptop on the desk.

"Do you want to take another nap?" Dean asked, looking up at him. "You know, with me?"

Cas tried to hide his shock. Dean wasn't acting like himself, offering something like that a second time in a day.

"There is no need for that, it's getting late. You should go home," Cas said after a moment. Even though he would enjoy it, he should stop torturing himself by getting so close to something he would never have. "But thank you for the offer. I appreciate it."

"No problem, Cas," Dean answered with a smile and got up. "Well, I guess I should head out. I'll call you tomorrow, okay? Bye."

Dean left and Cas let out a huge breath of relief.

Dean walked home, enjoying the cool air on his skin after being pressed against a warm body for the last two hours. He smiled when he remembered how good it had felt being close to Cas, holding him in his arms.

Still, he felt bad for not telling Cas how much he enjoyed it and in some way using Cas' ignorance for his pleasure. But, it'd be a humiliating and awkward confession for both of them, so he was sparing them an uncomfortable situation.

Somewhere deep in the back of his head there was a thought that normal friends didn't cuddle like he and Cas did, and they certainly didn't enjoy it as much, but Dean pushed it back, still high on happiness.

"Hey, Mom. I'm home," he greeted Mary and made his way to his room.

When he lay down on his bed, he realized he had forgotten his DVD. As he grabbed his phone to text Cas, his phone beeped to inform him of a new message.

You forgot your DVD. I'll bring it to you tomorrow. Good night, Dean.

He texted back, smiling. Thanks, baby. Good night.

The second he pressed send, he noticed his phone auto-corrected his spelling, so he quickly sent another text. *Buddy. Damn autocorrect.

Dean burrowed his head in the pillow to hide his blush even though there was no one to see it. Today seemed to be a day for embarrassing things.

He was late. For the first time in years, Castiel Novak was late. His alarm clock apparently stopped working in the middle of the night, so he was awoken by the pounding on the front door.

He dressed quickly and hurried to the door.

"Hey, man. Where were you?" Dean said as soon as Cas opened the door. "And why aren't you ready?" he added after giving Cas a once-over.

"What are you talking about. I'm ready," Cas said as he put on his shoes. "My alarm didn't go off, so I woke up when I heard you knocking. I have to get my bag." Cas ran up the stairs, but he tripped and fell.

"Shit, Cas. Are you okay?" Dean was at his side in a second.

"Yes, I'm fine." Cas brushed Dean off and went to his room. Of course, his bag was nowhere to be found.

"Cas, hurry up. We're gonna be late," Dean shouted and Cas let out a frustrated sigh. As he didn't already know that.

After checking under his bed, he found his bag and rushed downstairs. Dean waited for him in the Impala with the engine running.

The second Cas closed the door of the car, Dean was driving off.

"I can't believe we're gonna be late because of you. This has to be the first time you were late, huh? How does that feel?"

Dean was joking and Cas knew it, but he couldn't stop himself from snapping. "Shut up, Dean. This is the worst thing that could have happened today."

"Wow, sorry for trying to lighten the mood. You're real bitchy today."

Cas didn't respond. He knew he was being rude, but he refused to apologize. Everything was Dean's fault anyway.

Yesterday afternoon, Dean had insisted on studying together and then proceeded to distract him, so after Cas had gone home he'd had to study all over by himself. Of course it took him a long time. He had gone to bed at two a.m. and overslept. Usually he woke by himself before the alarm, but this one time he was too exhausted for that and then his damn alarm hadn't gone off.

He had a test today and he hadn't got enough sleep. Did Dean really expect him to be in a good mood?

When Dean parked in his usual spot, Cas left with a short 'bye'. The school hallways weren't empty yet, which meant they hadn't been completely late. After grabbing his book, Cas hurried to the first class of the day.

Mr. Adler's math was every student's nightmare. He was strict and he didn't care about any of them, so it was a real struggle to pass the class. Of course, both he and Dean were acing it and it made Adler furious.

"How nice of you to join us, Mr. Novak," Adler spat out as Cas entered the classroom, only two seconds after the man himself.

"No problem, sir. I saw you running to the classroom, and I thought it would be fairer to let you go in first, so you could sit down and rest as soon as possible. I'm sure you needed it, considering..." Cas gestured at Adler's large stomach.

Adler's face grew red and Cas regretted his words, but after everything Adler had said to him and others in the past that couldn't even be considered an insult.

For a few seconds there was no sound in the classroom and Cas noticed stunned looks on everyone's faces. Despite the trouble he was in, he felt proud for causing a scene all by himself. Every other time when it had happened in the past, Dean had been involved. Cas was sure that if his friend was in this class, he would have started clapping by now.

"Novak, to the principal's office! And you'll be staying after school for detention. I don't want to see your face again today. Am I clear?" Adler shouted and Cas nodded.

Great, now he had to go to the principal. That was what he got for speaking before thinking. At least Ms. Moseley wasn't as strict as Adler. He was sure her punishment wouldn't be excessive.

A few moments after he knocked on the door a female voice told him to come in.

"Hello, Ms. Moseley. Mr. Adler sent me here."

"Castiel, I'm surprised to see you here. Sit down. What did you do?"

"I-I insulted him and made fun of his body proportions. I regret my words now and I promise I won't do it again."

"I'm disappointed in you, Castiel. But I know you wouldn't do it without any reason at all… Did something happen?"

"I didn't get enough sleep," Cas admitted. "Mr. Adler is always rude towards me and the others and today I-...I lost my patience."

"I know he's not the most pleasant person to be around..." Cas snorted and Ms. Moseley glared at him before continuing, "There have been problems with him in the past, but I don't want to fire him now when he has only few years before retirement."

"I understand. He said I should stay after school for detention. Will that be all or do you have something to add?"

"Come here after school. I'll come up with something until then," she said and gave him a small smile. "You know I'll have to call your mother, right?"

"I suspected as much," Cas said and avoided thinking about a talk he would have to have with his mother.

"Okay, then. Go back to class." Cas must have made a face at that, because Mr. Moseley regarded him and said, "Maybe you should go to the library instead. Give him time to cool off."

He nodded and left with a grateful smile. At least he would have time to revise in the library.

Dean's mood dropped after talking to Cas. He wasn't used to Cas being pissy with him, at least not so intensively.

After the first period Benny, one his friends from the wrestling team, approached him.

"Hey, brother. Did you hear what your boy did in Adler's class?"


"He pretty much called him fat and got his ass sent to the principal."

Dean groaned, "That idiot. He was so pissed off this morning, I should've known something like this might happen."

"Maybe you should go talk to him?" Benny suggested.

"Yeah, and have him bite off my head," Dean said, only half-kidding. "No, thank you."

"You got Adler today?"

"Yeah, last period. It's gonna be hell."

"Well, you should learn how to control your boy." Benny smirked and walked away.

"He's not my boy," Dean yelled after him and shook his head.

Benny was the only good guy on the wrestling team. If it weren't for him, Dean would have dropped out much earlier. With Benny's help Dean had stayed until the end of the junior year, when he had quit to focus on his schoolwork and because he had lost all patience for few intolerable teammates.

Speaking of them, Gordon and his goons were walking towards him.

"Winchester, heard what your boyfriend did? Tell that asshole it's better for him if I don't see him. Adler's gonna be riding my ass today 'cause of him."

"Leave Cas alone, Walker. It ain't his fault you're an idiot who doesn't understand basic math."

Gordon glared and walked closer. "Don't get smart with me. I'll kick your ass."

Dean contained his laugh. He had always been better than Gordon and for that reason Gordon couldn't stand him while Dean had been on the team. Once he quit, Gordon threatened him almost everyday, but none of the threats ever came true because they both knew Dean would end up the winner.

"Whatever," Dean answered and walked away.

"You gonna go find your boyfriend, let him cry on your shoulder, or you're gonna go hang with that redhead lezbo bitch?"

Dean was on Gordon before the other boy blinked. "Don't ever call her that again. You hear me? Leave my friends alone," Dean said while he held Gordon against the wall.

Gordon obviously didn't know when to give up. "What about your beard girlfriend? She's real hot, probably a slut. I could..." He never finished the sentence because Dean's fist in his face stopped him.

Dean would have continued punching him, but a teacher came and pulled him off Gordon.

"What's happening here? Winchester, to the principal right now. And you come with me."

The teacher dragged Gordon away- to the nurse, Dean presumed, and he closed his eyes, sighing. He shouldn't have lost his temper, but Gordon really crossed a line with his insults. Dean could take anything aimed at him, but if his friends got pulled into the mix, he hulked out.

At least Gordon wouldn't do anything to Cas today, not after this, Dean was sure.

Missouri didn't look surprised to see him.

"You two always come as a pair," she said as he sat down. "What did you do?"

"I punched Gordon Walker in his face. He deserved it and I'm not sorry."

She sighed, "I'm gonna call your mother. I should suspend you but I know Gordon is a bully, so you'll get two weeks of detention, starting today. I know you're a good boy, Dean. Don't let something like that happen again. You're lucky your mother is my friend."

Dean smiled, "Thanks, Missouri. I mean, Ms. Moseley," he corrected himself after she glared at him.

The rest of the day passed without further incident. During the lunch break Cas didn't come to their table and Dean figured he was hiding in the library as he did sometimes, so Dean didn't try to find him. Still, his eyes wandered across the room several times, hoping to catch a glimpse of his friend.

His last period was terrible because Adler spent most of the class shouting and calling them incompetent idiots. Dean couldn't believe Cas had pissed him off that much. Despite Adler's torture Dean couldn't resist feeling proud of Cas, who usually managed to stay cool and not blow up, for creating mess so big the whole school suffered.

Afterwards, he went to Missouri's office. She hadn't told him where detention would be held, so he had to ask her. She always tried to come up with imaginative ways to do detention and sometimes it even ended up being fun.

Cas stood in front of the office, probably there for the same reason.

"Hey, Cas."

"Dean." Cas looked up, surprised. "What are you doing here? I'm sure you've heard that I have detention, so we won't be going home together."

"We will. I've got detention too."

"What did you do?"

"Punched Gordon."

Dean knew Cas didn't like violence. As the anger danced in Cas' eyes, he prepared himself for a lecture, but in the end Cas only shrugged. "He probably deserved it."

Dean raised an eyebrow, "He did. He threatened to beat you for what you said to Adler and he talked trash about Charlie and Lisa."

Cas nodded and they waited in silence. Dean watched Cas while they stood there. He didn't look as angry as before, but he looked sad. Just as he decided to ask Cas what was wrong, Missouri came out of her office.

"Hello, boys. It seems like only the two of you will be here today. I found an excellent task for you," she said and walked away. "Follow me."

"What about Gordon? You won't punish him?" Dean asked.

"Oh, I will, don't worry, but he had to go home early today. Apparently, someone punched him so hard he could barely stand." Missouri gave him a knowing glance, "Come on, boys."

She led them to a large unused classroom.

"Do we have to clean up or something?" Dean asked.

"You have to paint the classroom. Everything you need is here, I expect at least half of the classroom to be painted in two hours."

As she left, Dean stood there for a moment, unsure how to proceed seeing as he hadn't expected a physical activity.

Cas walked to the paint, paint rollers, and brushes, which were on a desk in the corner of the room. Dean noticed a ladder, which stood by the wall, and he sighed as he realized they would have to climb up. He hated heights.

"You can take the bigger one." Cas passed the biggest roller to Dean and took a smaller one for himself. "We should start with this wall and then do that one." He gestured to each wall.

"You're the boss," Dean said.

They took one desk and placed the paint on it. As they started to work Dean wondered if he should ask Cas about his test and if that was the reason he was in such a bad mood.

"So, how did your test go?" Dean asked after they had finished the first wall and moved on to the second one, hoping Cas was more relaxed.

Cas gave him a sideway glance before responding, "Terrible."

"C'mon. You always say that, and get an A every time. It'll be fine," Dean said to cheer up his friend.

But, it didn't work because Cas turned to him with eyes full of anger. "You can't know if it'll be fine or not. Only I know how much I knew and how I did. Please refrain from commenting on something you don't know anything about. All of this is your fault anyway."

Dean would have taken everything, but that this was his fault? No. "How the fuck is this my fault? You took the test, not me."

"You distracted me yesterday, so I had to study until late in the night. I didn't get enough sleep and you know how much I need sleep to function properly. If it weren't for you, I wouldn't be here and you probably wouldn't either."

"If I was such a distraction you could have left earlier," Dean said. "And I thought you studied for this test before yesterday. How is it possible that you didn't know anything?"

They glared at each other while the half-painted wall dried.

"I told you, it's difficult for me to focus lately. I need more time to learn and remember things," Cas said and turned back to his task.

"You could have told me no and studied alone. Don't put it all on me when you screw up."

Cas didn't respond and Dean got the message. They finished the job in silence.

Missouri was satisfied with their work. "Dean you'll have to finish it alone tomorrow unless some other student joins you. You can go home now."

They walked out of school side by side, but still not talking. When Cas continued walking towards the bus station, Dean rolled his eyes and grabbed him by the shoulder.

"Look, we're mad and all, but it'd be stupid not to drive you home when we live on the same street."

Cas glared some more, but went to the Impala. The whole drive home was filled with tense silence. Dean hated it, but he refused to apologize because it wasn't his fault. Not this time.

They parted without a word and Cas made a show of slamming the front door behind him.

"What a drama queen," Dean mumbled.

Cas locked himself in his room and stayed there all afternoon. Hael brought him some food and left it in front of his door which was generous of her, but not enough to cheer him up.

He was miserable. Not only because he'd yelled at Dean, who had done nothing wrong, but because their fight reminded Cas of Moon. He was getting used to her absence, but today was a tiring day and he would usually turn to her for comfort.

When the evening came his guilt increased, so he decided to go and apologize. He opened the door of his room and almost crashed into Dean, who was standing with his fist raised mid-air.

"Hello, Dean. I was just going to see you," Cas said after he overcame his surprise. "Come in."

"Are you feeling better?" Dean asked and sat on the bed.

"Yes," Cas said, still standing by the door. "I'm so sorry for my behavior today and for accusing you for something that wasn't your fault."

"Apology accepted. I came here to apologize, too." Dean raised his hand to stop Cas from cutting in. "I should've been more considerate of your... needs. You told me you were struggling with studying and I didn't try to help you. I promise, no more distractions."

"Well, thank you, but you did try to help me, two times actually, remember?" Cas said.

"Oh, you mean the cuddling thing. I guess, but I could've done more."

"It's not your job to look after me." Cas sat beside Dean, "You do more than you know. I'm lucky to be your friend."

Dean grinned, "Thanks, Cas. I'm lucky to be your friend too. Even though you yell and glare at me sometimes."

They laughed until Dean turned serious.

"I was so worried you were seriously mad at me. You usually come to find me a few hours after we fight. So today when you didn't, I had to come here and make sure everything's fine," Dean confessed, his voice almost a whisper. "I don't like it when we fight, even if it's something small."

"I don't like it either. I'm sorry it took me so long to go to you."

"Don't worry about it now. We made up," Dean smiled.

"Should we hug it out?" Cas asked, half joking and half hoping they would actually hug.

"Do you need a hug?" Dean asked. "I've got no problem hugging you if it'll comfort you or whatever."

"Um..." Once again, Dean was offering something Cas desired, and he was only human after all. How could he refuse? "I wouldn't mind a hug. It's been a long day."

"Yeah, you look exhausted. So, do we get up, or?"

"It'd be easier that way, yes." Cas rose and Dean followed.

"What now?"

"You've hugged people before, Dean. We hug."

"This is different," Dean said, but his hands snaked around Cas' waist. Cas put his own arms around Dean's neck and rested his head on Dean's shoulder.

"How long should we stay like this?"

"As long as you want," Dean murmured and leaned his head against Cas'.

What if I want forever? Cas thought.

They didn't move for several minutes and Cas felt his eyes closing before their peaceful moment was ruined by his loud yawn.

Dean chuckled, "Don't fall asleep on me. Do you want to go to bed?"

"No, this is nice."

"I know. But, I have an idea. Go get ready for bed. I'll wait here, okay?"

Cas reluctantly let go. He took his pajamas and went to the bathroom. In a hurry, he changed his clothes and brushed his teeth.

When he returned to his room, Dean was lying on the bed.

"What are you doing?"

"Turn off the lights and come to bed. I'll stay with you until you fall asleep."

Cas' heart beat fast and hard as he did what Dean said. This had to be a dream.

He joined Dean on the bed and Dean positioned them until they were spooning with Cas as the little spoon.

"You comfortable?"

"Yes, thank you, Dean."

"No problem, buddy. Good night."

"Good night."

If Cas weren't so tired, he wouldn't have managed to fall asleep due to his excitement. The warmth of Dean's body behind him seeped through the material of their clothes and awoke sparks of desire in Cas.

But he didn't get to enjoy that feeling for long because he was fast asleep only few minutes later and when he woke up Dean was long gone.

"Ho ho ho, Merry Christmas."

"Don't make fun of me, Dean."

"I'm not. It's the last day of school before Christmas break. I'm cheerful."

Cas rolled his eyes, "Whatever you say."

The two of them stood in the line in the school cafeteria. Everyone was in a good mood today and the cafeteria was full of cheery chatter.

"So, you're coming over for Christmas, right? My mom is already preparing everything."

"Of course, Dean, but I have to help my mother with baking tomorrow."

"Are you gonna make a pie? You know how much I like your apple pie."

Cas flushed when he remembered the last time he baked for Dean, pleasurable moans had flustered him so much he'd had to excuse himself and run to the bathroom. He wasn't a great cook or baker, but over the years he'd perfected his skill for apple pie because he knew how much Dean loved it.

"I'm planning to do it, yes, unless your mom is doing it."

"There can be two pies, you know. Especially if Ellen and Jo come by."

"Okay, then I have to go to the store later. Could you drive me?"

"Of course. I'll do anything if it means I'll get that delicious pie."

Cas laughed as they took their food and started walking towards their usual table. "It's not that good, Dean."

"Maybe it isn't perfect, or as good as my mom's, but you still deserve an ego boost." Dean winked and bumped their shoulders.

Charlie and Lisa were already sitting at their table and chatting about Christmas related subjects.

"Hey, guys. What took you so long?" Charlie asked.

"Didn't you see the line?" Dean shot back before he turned to Lisa and pecked her cheek. "Hey, Lis."

Cas turned to Charlie while Dean and Lisa exchanged their hellos. "What were you talking about?"

"Oh, we thought we could meet up the day after Christmas. Maybe we could go to Jo's, she's got room in her basement."

"That sounds awesome," Dean said. "But the important question: will there be booze?"

"Probably," Charlie answered. "So are you guys in?"

Cas nodded along with Dean and Lisa. "Who else is going to be there?"

"Oh, Jo invited Meg."

"Meg Masters?" Dean asked. "Why her?"

"They became close since Meg changed schools," Charlie responded. "She's changed, you know. She's cool."

"If you say so. But I don't trust her, not yet," Dean said and Cas understood his distrust.

Meg used to hang around with a group of older kids who once attacked Sam while he was in the park. The situation had been resolved quickly thanks to a police officer who had been nearby and Sam hadn't been hurt. Meg had gone to another school soon after, and no one had heard about her since, but Dean had never forgotten about the incident in the park.

"You can invite someone if you want, but stick to one or two people. We don't want this to turn into a party. Jo'd never forgive me for that."

"Then I shouldn't invite any of my friends. The whole school would know about it by the end of the day," Lisa said and glanced at the table where a group of loud girls were sitting.

"Maybe I could invite Benny. I don't get to hang out with him as much since I quit wrestling."

Cas tried to hide the sudden growl that left his mouth but, judging by the smirk on Dean's face, he failed.

"Why don't you like Benny?" Charlie asked. "I mean he looks kinda scary, but he's actually a big softie."

"He makes fun of me," Cas said and it was the truth. Or at least one part of the truth. Benny always called him Dean's boyfriend, boytoy, or something similar. He was sure it was because Benny knew of his feelings toward Dean and was making fun of him.

"Benny's just joking around, Cas. He actually likes you." Dean took a bite of his sandwich and continued talking with full mouth, "He used to tease me all the time too. Well, he still does, but the point is, it's a good sign. You should give him a chance."

Cas sighed, "Okay, Dean."

Later in the day, Cas walked into a grocery store, Dean following closely behind.

"How long is this gonna take? There's a rerun of Dr. Sexy at 8."

"I only need a few things. It won't take long."

Forty five minutes later, they exited the store. Both of them carried bags not only full of ingredients, but Christmas ornaments too.

"I'm sorry, Dean, but you know how much I love Christmas decorations."

Dean sighed, "Yeah, I know."

It was Christmas morning and Dean was awoken by frantic steps hurrying down the stairs. Sam was thirteen, but still excited about presents. Dean smiled and burrowed his head into the pillow because he was old enough to know that sleep was better than presents.


He let out a defeated sigh. Sleep was great, but his little brother was more important.

Downstairs, Sam was opening his presents and admiring them.

"Merry Christmas, Sammy."

"Dean, Merry Christmas." Sam hugged him, "Thank you. How did you find it?"

"Well, I have my ways."

Sam had wanted a certain book for a while, but couldn't find it anywhere, not even on Amazon or Ebay, so Dean, being an awesome brother, decided to find it. Luckily, he had a friend who was an expert on tracking things.

"I can't believe it. I already gave up, and you found it."

"Found what?"

They both jumped up hearing Mary's voice. She stood in the doorway, watching them and smiling.

"Mom, look," Sam showed her the book.

"Oh, wow."

Dean chuckled at her attempt to sound surprised. She knew about the gift because he borrowed some money from her, not having enough for all the presents.

They exchanged 'Merry Christmas-es' as all three of them shared a hug.

"We have something for you, Mom," Sam said and handed a small box to her.

When she opened it, her eyes teared up. "Oh, boys. It's beautiful." She lifted the necklace, which had her wedding ring hanging on it. Dean took it from her hands and put it around her neck.

"We knew you were sad you couldn't wear the ring at work, so now you can wear it around your neck," Dean said.

"Thank you," she kissed their foreheads.

They exchanged the rest of the gifts. Dean was delighted to receive all six seasons of Dr. Sexy, M.D. on DVD, even though Sam teased him about it.

After breakfast, Dean decided to call Cas. He knew his friend liked to sleep longer, but he was sure Cas was already up today.

"Merry Christmas, Dean," Cas sounded joyful when he answered.

"Hey, Cas, merry Christmas. Did you get nice presents?"

"Yes, Hael bought me a beautiful journal and mom bought me tickets for that ballet I wanted to see."

"That's great. I got Dr. Sexy DVDs and some socks."

"Oh, amazing. You've been complaining about lack of socks lately."

"I know, right? Santa always knows what we need," Dean said and they laughed. "So when are you guys coming?"

"My mother insisted we watch a couple of Christmas movies together as family, so we'll be at your house around three."

"Can't wait to see what you bought me," he wanted to say more, but Sam called him over. "Man, I gotta go. Sam needs me for something. But I'll see you soon, 'kay?"

"Yes, bye, Dean."

The next few hours passed quickly, and at three o'clock there was a knock on the door.

"I'll go," Dean got up from where he was sitting on the couch and went to open the door.

Cas and his family stood there and they were all smiling, even Hael.

"Hello, Dean," Naomi greeted him.

"Come in."

They all gathered in the living room and exchanged best wishes and typical Christmas talk. Naomi and Mary soon went to the kitchen to take care of the food while Sam dragged Hael away to show her his presents. Cas' sister seemed rough and aloof, but for Sam she had always had a soft spot.

When they were left alone in the room, Dean finally got a good look at Cas. His friend was wearing what was probably the world's ugliest sweater, but Dean couldn't stop a stream of fondness rushing through him.

"You're such a dork."

"What did I do to acquire that title?"

"You were being you."

They talked for a while before they were all called down for lunch.

This was Cas' favorite time of the year. His own family and Dean's all together having lunch and having fun.

His mother was relaxed and there was no trace of worry on her face, which was usually there because of her job. Hael was happy and talking more than usual, which was Sam's doing. He and Hael were in a deep competition to see who knew more random facts.

That game, a tradition since they were children, was something Dean and Cas had come up with, but once their siblings joined in, they'd given up. They didn't have a chance of winning next to those two and they were both sore losers, so they'd concluded it was better if they didn't play at all.

After the meal they sat in the living room and exchanged presents. Dean loved the small Star Wars figures and the Winter Soldier DVD that Cas bought him and in return Cas got a couple of books.

"I have something else for you, but it's in my room, so I'll give it to you later, okay?"

While Dean played, yes, played with his new figures (if Cas was a dork, then Dean was a huge geek), Sam took Cas to his room and showed him all new things he got for Christmas.

After a while Hael joined them and smirked. "I see you two are having fun without me, maybe I should go."

"No!" Sam jumped from the floor where he had been sitting. "I have another fact. Since 1900 there have been more than 2,600 serial killers. In the U.S only."

Cas shook his head. Sam had an unexplainable fascination with serial killers.

"That's interesting, but did you know that in 2000 in Finland, throwing mobile phones became an official sport and it has been an international event since then."

As they continued their game, Cas decided to leave them to it.

"I wish I was more like you, you're really cool." Sam said after Cas left the room.

"Ha, Dean would go nuts if that happened. Maybe if you feel the same in a few years, I'll help you." Hael's response was the last thing he overheard before he retreated downstairs.

In the kitchen he found Dean eating the pie Cas had baked.

"I see you found the pie," he spoke and Dean jumped up.

"You scared me, dude," Dean said, his mouth full.

"Sorry. Is it okay?"

"Okay?" Dean exclaimed. "It's fucking delicious."

Cas let out a relieved sigh. He had to bake another one that morning because the first one had turned out terrible.

Dean offered him a piece and they ate with their mothers' laughter and chatting as a background noise.

When they finished and cleaned up, Dean invited Cas up to his room.

"This isn't a lot, but I think you'll like it. Or, well, I hope you will," Dean said as he gave him the other present.

Cas removed the wrapping paper and found a framed picture. It was of Dean and him sitting on the bed with Moon between them. They were playing with her and looking at each other instead of the camera. Cas remembered when it was taken. Two years ago, Sam found an old camera, so he'd had a phase of taking pictures of whatever he could. He'd taken this one when they were unaware of him being there.

"Thank you so much, Dean. It's amazing." Cas felt tears in his eyes and willed them away.

Dean rubbed his neck. "You should thank Sam, he was the one who took the picture."

"But you remembered it. Now I feel like my presents weren't good enough."

"Dude, you got up early today to bake me a pie. That's pretty awesome."

Cas tilted his head. "How did you know?"

"Your mom told me." Dean smiled. "You don't have to give me anything else ever if you keep making pies like that."

Cas rolled his eyes before they fell back on the picture. He remembered feeling so in love that day and the same feeling was overpowering him again. But how could he control it when Dean was so beautiful, especially when he laughed like he did in the picture?

"Cas, you okay?" Dean asked after they were silent for a while.

"Yes. But can I have a hug?" he blurted the question out before he could back out.

"Of course." Dean wrapped him into a warm embrace.

"Thank you," Cas said and closed his eyes.


Soon after, Naomi called them down so they could go home. When they were saying their goodbyes, Dean asked Cas when he should pick him up for the tomorrow's gathering.

"Oh, Charlie is picking me up. I assumed you'd be spending the day with Lisa, so I didn't want to bother you with driving me."

"You wouldn't be bothering me, but if you already made plans, I guess I'll just see you there."

Jo's house wasn't big, but her basement was spacious. Cas and Charlie arrived first because they promised to help and half an hour later, everything was ready. Jo got the drinks ready Cas raised an eyebrow at the amount.

"I didn't steal it if that's what you're thinking. I just have good connections."

Meg arrived next and hugged both girls. When she noticed Cas she looked him over. "I know you. Clarence, right?"

"It's Cas, actually. Pleased to meet you, Meg."

She smirked and walked closer to him. "I'm very pleased as well."

Cas nodded because he didn't know what to say. He suspected she was sexually attracted to him, judging by the way she was eyeing him, but he wasn't sure how to behave in that situation.

Thankfully, there was another knock on the door and he was saved.

Dean and Lisa walked into the room, holding hands, Benny followed behind them.

Everyone greeted each other and their 'party' officially started.

At first Cas refused to drink, but as the evening went on, Dean and Lisa stayed glued together and Benny's presence angered him, so he accepted a bottle of beer that Meg offered him.

Dean enjoyed hanging out with his friends and his girlfriend. It had been a long day and he needed to chill for a bit.

At some point they started talking about Christmas presents and Lisa proudly lifted her hand to show them a new bracelet.

"Dean bought this for me. Isn't it beautiful?"

He was glad she liked it because it had been expensive and the reason why he had to borrow money from his mother.

"Look at you, brother. Seems expensive, did you have enough money for other presents?" Benny said, but before Dean could answer, Benny smirked and looked at Cas. "I hope you didn't leave your boy with nothing."

Dean sighed as he noticed anger in Cas' eyes. "Don't, Benny. You don't want him pissed off."

Cas continued glaring at them, but Benny took it as a challenge.

"I'm just looking after you, brother. Making sure Dean is taking good care of you." Benny walked over to Cas and patted his shoulder.

"I don't need Dean nor you to take care of me." Cas threw off Benny's hand. "And you're not my brother."

"Okay, guys. Why don't you calm down?" Jo said and they all went back to normal conversation.

Dean knew Cas was still angry. As he started getting up to go comfort him, Meg walked over to him and handed him some beer, which Cas gulped down. He frowned because Cas wasn't the drinking type, so he must have been shaken.

"They are getting along," Lisa said in his ear.

"Who?" Dean asked as his eyes darted to her.

"Meg and Cas. Maybe he'll finally start dating."

"What?" Dean spoke more loudly than he expected, so everyone looked at him. He smiled at them and waved it off.

"It'd be good for him, don't you think? He needs someone to be there for him."

Dean drank his beer and didn't respond. His eyes were glued to Cas and Meg as they talked. His stomach clenched with uneasiness when he noticed how Meg was looking at Cas and how Cas smiled at her. For some reason that made him angry. There was no way Cas would start dating and he sure wouldn't start dating Meg of all people.

I'm always there for him, why would he need her? He wondered and finally moved his gaze away from them.

After a few hours Lisa got a text from her parents telling her she had to go home.

"Okay, I'll drive you." Dean said and got up.

"You don't have to go yet because of me. Besides, you were drinking."

"It was one beer two hours ago."

Benny cut in, "I'll drive you, I have to go too, so it ain't gonna be a problem."

Lisa thanked him and they left. When Jo came back after walking them to the door, Charlie attacked her with a hug and started crying.

"What's wrong?" Cas asked.

Jo sighed and rubbed Charlie's back as she cried. "She's drunk. I'll take her to bed," she said and dragged Charlie upstairs with Meg's help.

"Is she going to be okay?"

"Yeah, Cas. She'll probably have a killer hangover, but she'll be okay."

When Jo came back she looked tired. "Well, I'm never letting her drink again."

"Where's Meg?"

Dean frowned at the worried tone of Cas' voice. They'd only talked for few hours and were already besties?

"She went home. You should go too and I'll clean up."

"Don't be stupid, we'll help," Dean said and they threw themselves into work.

When they were finished Jo walked them to the door and gave them a half empty bottle of whiskey.

"You can take it. Think of it as a 'thank you' gift.

"You just don't want Ellen to see it. What are we supposed to do with it?" Dean asked.

"You can drink it now or hide it for another time. I don't care." Jo said and closed the door behind them.

"So, where to, Cas?" Dean asked as they sat in the car.

"We could go to my house. I already told my mother you might be sleeping over."

"Awesome. I said the same thing to my mom. No wonder we're best friends, huh?" Dean smiled and winked.

They drove in silence until Dean couldn't take it anymore and had to ask an important question. "So, you and Meg?"

Cas didn't respond for a while and observed Dean instead. "Are you insinuating that there is a romantic connection between us?"

"I wouldn't put it that way, but you were getting close today. She was all over you and you didn't seem to mind."

"I know you don't trust her, but she's actually very nice. I do believe she tried to 'hit on me' as you say, but I'm not interested in her."

"You're right, I don't trust her. I'm kinda glad you're not into her. I think you could find someone better."

Cas snorted and turned his head in the direction of the window.

"Did I say something wrong?" Dean asked after he realized Cas wasn't saying anything.

"No, but I don't want to talk about it any longer. Besides, we're here."

"I know we're here, I'm the one who's driving," Dean said as he pulled into his driveway.

In Cas' room, Dean opened the bottle of whiskey and took a huge sip. "Shit, it burns. You want some?"

Dean was sure Cas would refuse, so he was left with his mouth hanging open when Cas took the bottle from him.

"Oh, I'm not sure I like it." Cas said after drinking it.

Dean smiled and scooted closer to Cas. "You have to get used to the taste. Try some more."

"Are you trying to get me drunk?" Cas said, but drank again.

They took turns drinking and soon after they were both laughing for no reason.

"Shh, Dean. Those women I live with are sleeeeping," Cas slurred and it made Dean laugh harder.

"Okay, Cas. I can't believe you're drunk. Never thought I'd see the day." Dean wasn't as drunk as Cas, so his words sounded clearer.

"I'm not drunk. Your face is drunk."

"That doesn't make any sense."

"Your face doesn't make any sense."

"Wow, dude. Your comebacks are worse than mine." Dean got up from the floor where they had been sitting and tried to pull Cas up. "Come on, let's get you to bed."

"That's rude. I'm not 'easy'," Cas said, but relaxed in Dean's arms.

Dean huffed a laugh. "You're actually a pervert, aren't you? Maybe I shouldn't take your clothes off, or you'll think I'm hitting on you."

"I can take off my own clothes," Cas said and pulled out of Dean's hold.

He took off his shirt and started working on the zipper of his jeans, but he lost his balance. Dean predicted it, so he was ready to catch him.

Once he had laid Cas down on the bed, Dean took Cas' jeans off, leaving Cas only in his boxers. Cas found his sleeping t-shirt and put it on as Dean took his own clothes off, borrowing one of Cas' t-shirts to sleep in, and laid down beside his friend.

"You don't mind me sleeping in your bed, right?" Dean asked when he noticed Cas watching him.

"No. You can sleep in my bed whenever you want."

"I thought you weren't easy."

Cas rolled his eyes. "Turn around."

"Why?" He raised an eyebrow.

"So I can spoon you," Cas said and left Dean in shock.

He didn't expect Cas to demand cuddling because ever since the first time, it had been Dean who had initiated it. But they were drunk (maybe not too drunk, but still) so he could pretend the alcohol was the reason he turned around and let Cas put his arms around him.

Also, for the same reason, he let out a pleased sigh once he was in Cas' tight hold.

"You smell weird," Cas said after he rubbed his nose on Dean's neck.

"Well, thanks. You really know how to charm a guy," Dean said before he remembered something. "Lisa gave me cologne for Christmas."

"I don't like it."

Dean chuckled, "Don't tell her, but I don't like it either."

After a few minutes Cas relaxed behind him, so Dean let himself follow his suit. Cas' arm was around his waist and Dean covered his hand with his own. For some reason his heart was beating fast, but he didn't pay it any attention. He was so comfortable in Cas' arms. He had no idea he would enjoy someone holding him as much as he did and he wondered if he would let this happen if they weren't drunk.

"Go the fuck to sleep, Dean," Cas mumbled in the back of Dean's neck and it sent shivers through Dean's body.

"You go to sleep, dickhead." His lips pulled up in a small fond smile. "I love you."

Dean startled at his own words, but there was no way he could take them back. He had only said those words to Sam and Mary, so he wasn't used to saying it to someone else, but Cas was his best friend and he deserved to know Dean cared about him.

Silence ruled the room for few minutes. Dean was sure Cas fell asleep and didn't hear what he had said, but then a quiet "I love you too," broke the silence.

His whole body flushed, but Dean smiled wider than before as all the tension faded away. Soon he fell asleep enveloped by Cas' warmth.