He's not quite sure how they got to this point. A pile of boxes and salvaged household appliances not included in the rent had been abandoned by the door, the fridge had barely been stocked, and the makeshift curtains had just been strung up over the windows. Hell, the closest thing to a bed in the one room apartment at the moment was a couple of unrolled, army-issue sleeping bags. And there was a disconnect over what had happened in the last ten minutes in Dean's mind. He had dropped the last of the boxes off, remembered Cas shoving perishables into the fridge in the tiny kitchen, and then… Well, something had to have happened, or been said, because now the hunter reconnected to the situation with a lapful of Cas and lips on his neck.
It wasn't as awkward as he thought it might be. But he really had no idea where this had come from. He wasn't about to complain (though the temptation to joke about Cas' summer spent in a church was harder to quell). One minute he was helping the kid get settled, the next they were on the makeshift bed of uncomfortable material. A comment about a nice ass flooded Dean's mind, and his memory supplied the reminder that he had spent the summer avoiding the kid when he remembered that celebration night a year ago. But this? This was all desperate contact and lust.
"When did you get this?"
A thumb ran over the black mark on a pale hip, traced the strong lines of the design that peeked out just above Cas' denim. Dean knew that it probably wasn't in his best interest at the moment to get distracted— not while he had Cas directly above him, straddling his hips and grinding down in a particular way that was nothing short of a promise— but he had never thought of the kid as a tattoo kind of guy. It was familiar, though, the sort of image he had seen sketched out in hundreds of research-ready books and notes the Singers had put together for him over the last year.
"Summer. Are you going to kiss me again, or not?"
A grin, and Dean obliged. Thoughts of figuring out what the tattoo meant were very quickly replaced with better ideas of making sure that Cas was in a more accommodating position. It was nothing to get the younger man on his back, bunching up the material of the sleeping bags around them. Dean wanted to leave marks, make sure he could look at Cas and think about this for months to come. Just in case he fucked it up again.
He had worked a hand into the younger man's boxers when the drive to put his mark on Cas' neck was interrupted by a reminder of reality.
"There's no lube."
Half a second to pull his mouth away and Dean grinned at the slightly wrecked look he had produced on Cas. That look was definitely going to have to be elaborated on. "There's other things to do, kiddo."
"I can't believe Bobby let you even get a tattoo." The apartment needed better ventilation. That had been Dean's first thought when he came back to himself. But then he had caught sight of the black design again and actually voiced the newest thought to come to mind.
"He practically insisted when I told him my idea for it." The hint of a grin crossed Cas' lips— lips that Dean couldn't resist tasting again. "It was Pastor Jim who gave me the book with the design."
"Seriously? What does it mean? Looks familiar." Sweaty, sated, and already thinking about taking over the tiny bathroom, Dean touched a few light, teasing fingers over the tattoo he could see properly now. It was fresh, or at least still dark and bold. To Dean, it looked like a spiked flower covered in marks he really could barely identify. If it was a language, he knew it wasn't English or Latin.
Cas' hand closed over his, pulling the touch away from the marks. His tone was matter-of-fact, if a still a bit breathless. Dean thought that he could get used to the sound. "Hand of God, with Psalm ninety-one, eleven in Hebrew."
"And that is?" A squeeze to the hand before the hunter pulled away and sat up. A shower would definitely be nice.
"Protection. It should ward against possession, too." Cas squirmed away from the too-hot material of the sleeping bags that had bunched around him on the floor and ran a hand over his face. Dean had to look him over; it was practically a necessity now, especially the way Cas stretched before he shoved the offending material away completely. "Shower?"
"I call it first."
"I think, at this point, we can share, Dean."
Dean had to pause at the mental image that suggestion produced. Dean's pause gave Cas enough time to get up and dig out the toiletries from one of the boxes, but the hunter was up and after him in a moment. An arm closed around Cas' waist to pull him close again. Lube was definitely going to be on the shopping list before Dean skipped town. "You're going to ruin me, Cas."
"I think that depends on whether or not this is something we talk about."
"You're a paranoid dick, you know that?"
"Dean, the last time we slept together, you refused to acknowledge it. And this time you can disappear for months at a time."
"Okay, yeah, I'm a jerk. I got it. Shower now?"
"You owe me."
Cocky grin in place— something that Dean wasn't sure he could have maintained under the strain right now— the hunter slipped his hand down to stroke Cas. "I'll make it up to you."
It wasn't on the first night that Dean realized that Cas had nightmares. Hell, Cas wasn't even in the apartment when Dean found out just how bad some of Cas' nights were. The kid was out on errands while Dean tried to make sense of what was in half the boxes— journals, textbooks eons behind in the sort of research Cas could do in a weekend for a hunt, books borrowed from Pastor Jim or Bobby, a handful of tattered printout studies… There was really nothing Dean hadn't already expected or hadn't seen before. At least, nothing unexpected was found until he pulled out a book a hell of a lot like his dad's journal.
He knew that Bobby kept a handful of journals around to track research progress, hunts, mistakes, the usual. And it seemed natural that it was a habit passed on to Cas. But Dean couldn't resist flipping through the pages before he had to pretend he never saw it. There were bits and pieces he recognized— his hunts, laid out in notes and jotted ideas before they were filtered down to him in easier terms and concrete results— from the past year, and then…
Pages of Cas' neat, precise writing seemed to fall away to marginalized notes and scribbles he could just picture were written at two in the morning. Half-finished notes on dream analysis, precognition, dreamscape theory… It all littered a handful of pages until it just stopped making sense in Dean's head. It hadn't made much sense to begin with— the notes and scrawling theories had shared the same tone as Cas' far neater analysis of earlier research, complete with the pseudo-psychology and terms Dean had never bothered to learn unless he had to— but it stopped being a flurried mess of research after three pages and started getting personal. Sentences were scratched out, a page obviously torn, a picture of Pastor Jim's church with a date— a future date; April 2006— with a note about a 'woman in a red jacket'.
Now it was starting to look a lot more like John Winchester's journal of patchwork hunting research.
The flurry of information, the mention of a woman in a red jacket, vanished easily in the next couple of pages. The mess of haphazard scrawling analysis of something that had clearly disturbed Cas, was gone. The journal reverted back to the neat research, annotated, dated, accompanied by a list of books and where to find them. Margins were still scratched away with little messages about dreams and, for a while, times when the notes were made. But those soon got lost beneath the more methodical research.
Dean felt ashamed to see it. Like he had pried too deep into something he really should have just ignored. It had felt like he had skimmed the journal for hours, and he snapped it shut to toss aside. He gathered up the books within easy reach and started stacking them on the cheap shelves they had found in a church shop down the street. He owed Cas some measure of privacy, and if the kid didn't want to talk about it, then he didn't have to think about it.
"Are you actually cleaning up?" Shopping was dropped by the door while Cas worked his boots off. "I didn't think it was possible."
"Funny. Where do you want the textbooks?"
"Shelf is fine. I got doughnuts."
Dean didn't grin, not sure if he could while he tried to push the journal from his mind. But he smiled, something fond, looking over Cas. "You're awesome."
A glint of silver around Cas' neck caught his eye— near one of the marks that still made the hunter flush with want— and Dean dropped the books on the shelf in no random order. "Since when do you where jewellery?"
"What?" Fingers touched the disk hung from a thin cord, and Cas shrugged. He gathered up the groceries again and padded to the kitchen that was little bigger than a walk-in closet. "Just haven't found a place to put it, yet. Might as well wear it."
"What is it, anyway?" Dean couldn't really harp on anything like a talisman, since the one Sammy gave him years ago never left him.
"Sigil of Gabriel."
Now Dean grinned, having found a familiar ground to tease Cas over. "If I didn't know any better, I'd say you were getting religious."
There was a clatter as Cas dropped a second set of keys on the kitchen counter. "You'll just have to come by more often to make sure I'm properly corrupted, then."