A/N: This fic was written for 42footprints on livejournal for deancastiel's Renegade Angels challenge. Thank you to my beta, Jessica.

It started the night of that huge thunderstorm in Paducah, Kentucky.

Actually, come to think of it, maybe it started in that bar in Tuscaloosa.

No, still not right. It was probably the night Castiel fought those archangels. Although that only happened because of everything that happened in Heaven's waiting room.

Alright, let's just say it's one of those things that built up slowly. For argument's sake, we could say it started the moment Castiel laid his hands on Dean in the fiery depths of Hell, but that would be going back a little too far. After all, part of this story has already been told. So, in order not to cover familiar ground, let's just start off with Castiel's archangel fight and by the time this is over, you'll understand how we got from tentative friendship to making out in a rainstorm.

After Sam killed Lilith and let Lucifer free from his prison, Dean figured they were screwed. Screwed with their pants on. Screwed with a capital 'S'. He thought that was it. They were over. Castiel was over. The world was over and the angels were stupid for ever believing Dean would be able to do anything against the bright eye-searing light of immense power shooting from the crevices of blood cutting into the floor at their feet. His only consolation was that Sam was at his side and had helped Dean destroy the demon bitch that nearly Yoko Ono'd her way into breaking their relationship apart for good.

A relief, yes, but not quite as good as say, living another day and not being consumed in a flash of demonic radiance while Castiel was likely being blown to smithereens by his older brothers.

So, it's not quite enough to say that Dean was surprised when the light built into a beam that shot through the ceiling and away from them completely.

"Was that...?"

They exchanged a glance. It's a weird thing about siblings. Sometimes you can tell what the other is thinking without even looking at each other and it gets even worse when you actually do look at each other. Dean could tell they were both wondering the same thing. Why didn't Lucifer take over Sam's body?

Not that Dean isn't relieved, but now that it hasn't happened, he realized both of them kind of thought this was where the whole ordeal was building. Dean isn't the type to look a gift fallen angel in the mouth though, so he grabbed Sam's arm and tugged him away from the gaping burned hole and Ruby's dead empty body.

Dean didn't have much plan in mind beyond get the fuck out of here when he stumbled out of the convent, dragging Sammy along behind him. It wasn't until he saw the cars sitting outside the convent that he realized he'd been banking on finding Ruby's mustang.

But his baby was parked right there, under a big weeping willow. For a brief moment, longer than he probably had, Dean just stared at the car and when it sunk in, his heart began thudding in his chest. He couldn't waste another second worrying about it, but as he hauled Sam to the car, Dean couldn't help wondering if this was Castiel's screwed up idea of a goodbye present.

It's when they are forty miles down the road that Dean's hands finally stopped shaking and the buzzing in his ears died down enough for him to hear Sam's breath hitching continually in his lungs. It took another thirty miles before Dean found his voice.

"That went well."

When all else fails, sarcasm is best. That has been and always will be one of Dean's most treasured proverbs. Judging by the wild-eyed panic in Sam's eyes, it wasn't quite working as well for him.

"Dean," he gasped. "I did it. I started the apocalypse. I can't believe...I trusted...oh my God..."

"Sammy!" Dean used his harshest tone, the one he reserves for Sam's most special fuck-ups and you have to admit, releasing Lucifer into the world has got to top that list. "You listen to me. You screwed up, ok? So did I. We're both started this shit and we'll both end it." As far as Dean was concerned, he was more at fault since he broke the first seal to get himself out of pain and Sammy broke the last because he thought it was going to help people. "So stop feeling sorry for yourself and tell me what exit to take to get us back to Chuck's."

They'd reached the highway by then and Dean wasn't entirely sure he knew where they were in relation to Chuck's. He needed Sam to get his head out of his ass and play navigator. Sam's eyes were still kind of wide, but he tossed off a nod and dragged his phone out with trembling hands. He gave Dean the directions.

He only needed them for about forty-five minutes because that was when Castiel appeared in the backseat.

Dean nearly drove them off the road and wouldn't that have been somewhat ironic. Escaping the deadly wrath of Lucifer only to die violently by wrapping his beloved car around the nearest oak tree. It wouldn't be the worst way Dean's died in his hundreds of deaths, but he wouldn't want anything to happen to the car.

"Cas!" Once he straightened out the car, Dean veered it safely off the side of the road into park and spun around. "Dude, I thought you were toast for sure!"

"Toast? Why? What happened?" Sam's ability to care about anything, but how monumentally fucked they all were returned with sudden force. He grabbed Dean's arm and pinched hard. "What happened?"

"Ouch! Stop it," Dean snapped and may have slapped Sam's hand away in a girly manner. "Cas went head on with some archangels after he beamed me to you."

"Archangels? As in more than one, are you kidding me?" Sam's voice did that thing it does when he's freaked out and it goes all scratchy and booming. Dean didn't need more freaking right now. Not when he'd just realized that Castiel hadn't said anything yet and instead, had just been staring ahead sightlessly since he materialized in their backseat.

"Cas? Are you ok, man?" Dean gentled his tone, like he was talking to a scared puppy instead of a formidable Angel of the Lord. "Can you hear me?"

Dean didn't like the way Cas' hands were clutched together over his stomach or the tension holding Cas' body captive and when he started to slump to the side, it wasn't surprise, but rather anger that filled Dean near to bursting.

"Damn it, Cas," he spat because the dicks who really deserved Dean's ire weren't available. He grabbed Castiel by the upper arms, holding him in place and barked to Sam over his shoulder. "Hold him up!"

Sam obeyed while Dean kicked open the door and almost skidded to his knees on the gravel whirling around to the backdoor. Jerking it open with another curse just because, Dean slid into the seat and helped Sam guide Castiel's head into his lap.

"Do you...fuck...do you see any blood on his legs?" Dean asked while he ran his hands over Castiel's head and neck, checking for injury. If he weren't trying to swallow down a mess of sick worry and hot anger, Dean would have found it amusing when Sam planted his knees in the front seat and leaned his massive body over into the back, peering intently at Castiel's legs.

"No. Do you think they hurt him so bad he can't heal up?" Sam asked, voice muffled by the blood running to his head.

Dean didn't hear the question because he'd managed to pry Castiel's hands away from his stomach and was trying not to throw up bile at what he saw. A long and jagged gash cut into the flesh of Castiel's belly and when his hands released it, bright red blood welled up and spilled down the sides of Castiel's body. Gross, yes, but that wasn't what made Dean feel the contents of his stomach shift.

The wound was trying to heal itself.

On either side of the injury, the edges of torn flesh reached for each other sluggishly, trying and failing to heal together. Dean only watched in horror for a brief moment before he tore off his jacket, then his shirt and pressed it against the seeping wound. Castiel whimpered through the pain and turned his face into Dean's stomach.

"Sorry, buddy," Dean muttered as he pressed harder.

"Dean, he's-"

"I know," Dean bit. As many times as Castiel had been thrown around and Dean had never seen him sustain an injury that wasn't healed instantly.

"Get us to a motel," he said between clenched teeth. With gentleness he didn't think he'd have possessed in that moment, Dean cradled Castiel's head in one hand and lifted it, scooting until he could shut the door behind him. Castiel made another one of those hurt moans that made Dean want to seriously kill something, but it couldn't be helped. "Sorry," he said again and laid Castiel's head in his lap while the other hand kept his favorite green flannel pressed to the wound. "Man, you owe me a new shirt."

So that's how Dean found himself in the backseat of his own car holding Castiel's guts inside his body while Sammy drove like bat out of...well, anyway, drove very fast away from the site of Lucifer's reentry into the world.

All in all, he'd seen better days.


It took them thirty minutes to reach the nearest town and its own brand of craptastic motels. Thirty minutes Dean spent watching his green shirt turn crimson and unconsciously brushing Castiel's bangs off his forehead time and again. By the time Sam secured them a room in a true and actual dump called the 'Valhalla', Dean thought the blood had slowed somewhat. Not that he'd chanced pulling the shirt away. Just that it seemed like the stain of blood, Castiel's blood holy fuck, wasn't growing as quickly.

Sammy kept casting furtive glances around them as he helped Dean haul Castiel out of the Impala and into their room, but Dean could care less if National Geographic were taking pictures of the process. The only thing he could think about, wanted to think about, was getting Castiel somewhere horizontal, so he could stitch up the wound and find out what happened. He couldn't imagine it mattered very much anymore if they got in trouble with the law.

"Set him here," Dean instructed. His hands tucked under Castiel's arms, Dean maneuvered him until Castiel's head was resting on a pillow. Sam, who was continuing admirably in his 'Castiel leg duty', swung the lower half of the angel into place and instantly reached up to tug Cas' ruined shirt out of his pants.

Something weird happened inside Dean.

It was kind of like a combination of his heart dropping a few inches and his stomach filling with acid. Dean had no idea what it meant, just that there was a territorial element because for a split second all he could think was that another fucking someone had their hands on Cas and it was Dean's fault. Whatever the feeling was, it made him feel sick and stupid, but before he could think to stop himself, he caught Sam's hand and threw it off.

"Go and get the kit," he growled. This was his problem. Dean was the person who'd talked Castiel into recklessly throwing his life away. He'd be the one who fixed it. If Sam would just fucking hurry up and give him the kit before Castiel bled out all over the fucking floor.

"Ok, ok, calm down," Sam placated as he handed Dean their medical kit and Dean felt himself flush. He hadn't realized he'd been talking out loud. For what felt like the hundredth time that night, Dean muttered an apology. Then he turned his attention to Castiel. Sweat gleamed on Cas' forehead and temples, turning his hair even darker and plastering it to his skull. His eyes were shut, but only because they were clenched tightly closed in pain. Dean thought Cas was conscious, but couldn't tell if he were coherent.

"Cas?" He carefully peeled the sopping bloody shirt from Castiel's stomach and earned himself a soft groan. As he thought, the blood wasn't running as quickly. Not that it made him feel any better. "Can you hear me?"

Castiel's white button down went next. Dean didn't want to move him, so he just took the scissors and cut bits of the fabric away. The wound was still trembling, still trying to heal.

"Hey, Cas, take it easy," Dean said, struck by a sudden idea. "Just relax, ok? You can't heal right now, so just relax and let me fix you up, ok?"

The straining continued for a moment, so Dean, with an embarrassed glance to Sam, leaned closer to Castiel's face and stroked his fingers through Castiel's hair.

"Relax for me, Castiel," he whispered. He didn't know if it was his tone or if Cas became distracted trying to decide why Dean used his full name, but his grimace slowly smoothed away. A quick glimpse at the wound told Dean it had stopped trying to heal itself.

"Thanks."

Dean felt Sam's gaze on his face, but if he stopped his life every time Sam gave him a searching look, he wouldn't have time to shit or eat. So, instead he got busy cleaning and closing the wound. Once he'd wiped away all the blood, Dean discovered the tear wasn't quite as large as he feared, though he wouldn't have been surprised if Castiel had managed to heal it a little during their drive.

"See, this isn't so bad," Dean commented as he sewed Castiel's skin together. Sam snorted.

"Not bad? Since when do we need to patch Castiel up?" Dean felt him stand up and begin pacing. "Dean, what if he's not even an angel anymore? How are we going to know what the angels are doing if Cas isn't our go between?"

"Dude, shut up," Dean hissed in Sam's general direction, though he kept his eyes on his arduous stitching job. "You're going to make him feel bad."

It wasn't like Castiel was only useful for information. Although, Dean couldn't really say what else he was useful for and yeah, maybe that was all they used to care about when it came to angels, but things were different now. He didn't know how, but they were.

"Besides, he was trying to heal up, so he must have some angel mojo left in there. It's just...he needs to charge up the batteries."

That had to be it because Dean refused to entertain the notion that Castiel had lost his Grace on Dean's behalf.

Sam flopped into a chair and let Dean sew Castiel in silence.


It's weird how normal problems keep on trucking even during bizarre events like the end of the world.

About an hour after Dean finished performing minor surgery on an angel, he was struck by gut wrenching hunger. The kind that makes you feel like your stomach is trying to gnaw its way through your spinal cord and sometimes food doesn't even sound good, that's how hungry you are. He tried to remember how long ago it was since he ate, but couldn't. Probably because his last meal was interrupted when he was slammed against a wall by an armful of ultra-determined angel.

The same angel who was now sleeping at Dean's side.

Yeah, bizarre events were a dime a dozen around the Winchesters nowadays.

Anyway, the point is, Dean's hunger sent Sam out into the night in the search for food with Dean's parting advice to 'avoid anyone who looks like they might secretly be the Devil in disguise.' Dean assigned himself the surprisingly pleasurable task of watching Castiel sleep. Not pleasurable in that creepy stalker way that Cas preferred. More pleasurable in a sort of 'I never thought I'd see this' way. A novelty if you will. Castiel looked different asleep. Which Dean wouldn't have expected because it seemed like a human attribute. But there was no denying that Castiel was less stern in his sleep. His features were utterly relaxed. Dean hadn't realized how uptight Cas looked most of the time.

"You're going to be the death of me," Dean confided to the sleeping form. "Sam already was and now you're taking a shot." He sighed. "I gotta get less stressful friends."

It annoyed him to no end that he felt a flush of affection when he said the word 'friends'. At least he assumed it was affection. Dean didn't have a great deal of experience with the concept of having a friend he made for himself. So it could just as easily been acid reflux. Either way, it was a good thing when Sam showed up with the food because it made Dean stop staring at Castiel and wondering if angels were allowed to have friends.

They ate in silence, each other shooting Castiel what they probably thought were sly glances, but were in fact totally obvious. For his part, Castiel didn't move or otherwise make a peep until a few hours after Sam had thrown out the empty food bags. And instead of groaning and slowly waking up like a normal person, Castiel went from flat and out cold to sitting up and staring wildly around the room in an instant.

"Cas?" Dean leapt up from the motel's one table and took a cautious step towards Castiel. "You ok, man?"

"Dean." His eyes snapped to Dean's and while they were no less panicked, they were at least focused. "He's gone."

"I...what? Who's gone?" Dean asked uneasily.

"Jimmy Novak." Dean hadn't heard Castiel sound this wrecked since they met in Dean's fishing dream. "They took him. The archangels...they killed him."

Dean's blood ran cold and his stomach clenched into knots. And not just because he felt sick inside over Jimmy's final demise, but because Castiel's face was glowing with emotion. More emotion that Dean had ever seen there before. Regret mixed with guilt mixed with sorrow mixed with...fear. There was no doubt about it. Castiel was terrified.

"I don't understand," Dean said. Against his better judgment, because he knew exactly how this looked, Dean sat next to Castiel on the bed and curled a hand around Castiel's wrist. "Why'd they do that?"

"It's my punishment," Castiel said. His eyes fell to Dean's hand and for a minute, Dean thought it was going to stop Castiel from continuing, but then he was talking again, ragged and frantic as though the words were making him sick to his stomach and he wanted nothing more than to spit them out as quickly as possible.

"They stole him from me. They stole him and trapped me." His grief was palpable, a thick veil falling over his face.

"Trapped?" That did not sound good at all.

"This body," Castiel said and he jerked his hand away from Dean to press against his own chest. "Human bodies. We're not meant to own them, Dean. Not meant to rule them. I can't leave this body an empty shell. It would be an abomination."

"Wait a second," Sam cut in, which was good because Dean could do little more than gape at Castiel. "When you say 'can't', do you mean you don't want to? Or you physically can't?"

When Castiel answered Sam, his eyes stayed fixed on Dean's and there was such overwhelming loneliness there that Dean felt the breath shallow in his lungs.

"I can't. Not until this body is destroyed and if I let that happen, I won't...I would be abandoning my duty," he finished, but Dean thought he meant to say something else. Which was a new development. Castiel always said exactly what he meant.

"But you're still an angel?" Dean asked softly.

"I don't know what I am," Castiel answered and he finally looked away from Dean, to the fidgeting hands now curled in his lap. "I can't hear my brothers. At least not very clearly. I don't know what else has changed, but I know I have changed." A sardonic smile curled along one side of Castiel's mouth. Dean hated the way it looked. "What's the saying? I'm half the man I used to be."

Being seated more deeply into a human body apparently turned one cynical.

"That's real funny, Cas," Dean deadpanned. "Meanwhile, while you were out, Sam and I managed to start the apocalypse." And as he was saying it, Dean realized he was effectively telling Castiel that he'd made his sacrifice for nothing.

"I see," Castiel said, rather more calmly than Dean suspected he felt about the issue. "Then my imprisonment is the least of your worries."


The only thing they could do that first night was stay put and wait for Castiel to heal.

After gauging his own wound, Cas believed he'd be back to fighting shape by the next morning and though he told the brothers they should just leave him there, Dean refused, on the grounds that a fuzzy connection to angel radio was better than no connection at all. Castiel pretty much immediately ruined that excuse by being unable to discern any information of any use. Sam couldn't find anything unusual in the news either, so they were basically clueless about Lucifer's whereabouts or plan of action. When they questioned Cas about it, he guessed that Lucifer sought Sam for his second in command rather than as a vessel.

"His power would be wasted when combined with Lucifer's much more significant repository," Castiel had said. Sam actually seemed kind of annoyed about that, though Dean didn't know if it was because of the slight against his power or because he didn't like being referred to as a commodity.

At any rate, Dean made Sam swear on a stack of hotel bibles that he wouldn't become Lucifer's first lieutenant.

The next morning found Dean in a shitty mood because he'd spent the night sleeping upright in the room's one chair while Castiel and Sam sprawled across the two beds. Stretching hurt like a bitch, but Dean did it anyway as he walked over to Castiel and poked him in the shoulder.

"Hey. Wake up."

This time, when Castiel stirred, he did it like a normal person. Sometime in the night, he'd turned over on his stomach, which Dean assumed meant it was now healed. His arms stretched over his head, smacking against the wall with a crunching noise that was personally satisfying to Dean, and his feet popped out from the other end of the puffy green hotel blanket. Dean made a mental note to get Cas to remove his shoes the next time he went to sleep.

"So I take it part of your diminished capacities includes the need for sleep," Dean said. He hadn't been sure yesterday when Cas fell asleep against him if it was due to a permanent need or to speed his recovery. When Castiel didn't answer, Dean clasped his hands together and rubbed them, considering all the insidious ways he could torture Castiel into the world of the waking. He'd just decided to start with blowing in Castiel's ear when the angel flopped onto his stomach and started with surprise at how close Dean was leaning over him.

Then there was a weird long moment where they just stared at each other.

Looking down into Castiel's face from above made it look different. Softer somehow or maybe that was the expression he wore, abruptly shy and self-conscious. Castiel was vulnerable like this because seeing him this way should have been a secret Dean didn't know. Except he couldn't pull himself away. So the task fell to Castiel.

"Dean?" Sleep roughened his already coarse voice. "What are you doing?"

He honestly didn't know.


The next few weeks were filled with experimentation.

Among other things involving the apocalypse, but that isn't our story really. Suffice it to say that things got a little hairy pretty quickly. Dean nearly lost several important body parts in a prolonged battle with two mega powerful demons, but the combined power of Sam and Castiel was enough to burn them out of their hosts before any permanent damage could occur.

More relevant to the climax of this story were the changes that Castiel began to catalogue.

The first were the obvious changes. The need for sleep overwhelmed him every third night or so. On those nights when Cas wasn't tired, he positioned himself beside their latest motel room's door and kept a watch. It seemed to relax Sam, who slept a lot better with their angelic alarm system. Dean, on the other hand, couldn't sleep on display. Not that Castiel spent the whole night gazing at him. It just seemed that way whenever he glanced over at Cas and saw the pinpricks of moonlight shining in Cas' eyes pointed in his direction. He never could tell if Cas had already been looking at him or only turned to look at him when he noticed Dean moving to look at him.

Dean lost a lot of sleep trying not to look at Castiel looking at him.

Those nights when Castiel did sleep weren't much better because of the lack of room. If Dean thought he and Sam had it bad trying to check into motels together, it was nothing compared to the raised eyebrows they got when the three of them requested a single room. He could just see the clerks imagining the epic all-night gay sexcapades. If anyone asked, Sam always explained that he and Dean were brothers and Castiel was their cousin. Not that it was any of their business, of course.

Anyway, Dean refused to let Castiel sleep on the floor, but also refused to share a bed with either him or Sam. So half the time, he slept on the floor or in a chair and half the time he slept in a bed while Castiel squeezed onto the other bed with Sam. This was an extremely comical visual that was stored on Dean's cell phone multiple times.

The sleep discovery was quickly followed by the hunger discovery.

Castiel understood sleep better than hunger. Probably because he tended to fall asleep like a narcoleptic, awake one moment and slobbering on Dean's shoulder the next. Hunger, on the other hand, baffled him in the beginning. For the first few days, Castiel was fine. Focused on their latest problems and trying his best to deal with his new existence. Round about the fourth day, Dean began to notice that Castiel seemed a little curt. Well, more curt than normal anyway. He didn't say anything about it because none of them were exactly in a good headspace what with the end being nigh and all.

Then one afternoon, Castiel stood up from a tableful of research and nearly toppled into the floor. Dean shot out of his chair and grabbed Cas around the waist.

"What is your problem?" he asked, looking down into glassy blue eyes. Cas sagged against Dean's body and pressed his forehead into Dean's shoulder.

"This body has been growing weaker," he mumbled into Dean's shirt. "I didn't want to alarm you."

"So you thought waiting until you were on the verge of collapse would be less alarming for me, did you?" Dean asked, aggravated and scared and aggravated by how scared he felt. Dragging Castiel over to the bed, Dean dumped him out of his arms and knelt before him, hands curled around Cas' arms to keep him upright. He peered up into Cas' face.

"Weaker how? What's it feel like?"

"Just..." Cas shook his head and covered his eyes with the heels of his palms. "I feel a painful emptiness, but it's also feels full. As if the emptiness were a living thing gnawing inside me. It makes my stomach and head ache terribly."

Relief flooded Dean's body so strongly, it made him lightheaded and he pitched forward, letting his forehead fall onto Castiel's knee.

"I'm going to kill you," he told Castiel's thigh.

"Why?" Cas asked plaintively.

Gathering his strength, Dean popped up from the floor and stalked back to the table. Throwing himself into a chair, he grabbed a nearby pack of peanuts he'd been saving for himself and whipped it at Castiel's head.

"It's called hunger, you idiot."

Castiel's hunger didn't act like normal humans. He could go two or three days without feeling the side effects, though he chose to join the Winchesters for a meal at least once a day. But it was a pretty handy set-up if they ever ran low on funds and needed someone to go without for a little while. For the most part, Castiel liked healthy food like crisp raw vegetables or lean turkey sandwiches, though he was known to steal French fries from Dean's plate. Dean didn't think too much about what it meant that he let Castiel get away with it.

On the angel side of matters, Castiel's tests of his old powers proved that he could hear his brothers sometimes if he concentrated very hard, though he'd yet to hear anything useful. He couldn't leave Jimmy's old body, but he still had his wings. He could still travel around the world in the blink of an eye, but he could no longer travel through time. Potentially useful, but all parties agreed it'd be more helpful to keep Castiel close by than to send him wandering the countryside. Castiel agreed because he confessed he couldn't sense Lucifer anymore anyway and would have no idea where to start looking. Dean agreed because he knew he'd go crazy with worry if Castiel was out on his own hunting for the Devil. And Sam agreed because he knew his brother very very well.

So that's how it went for a little over a month. They moved from city to city, searching for clues and picking up the occasional hunt along the way. Castiel grew used to his new alternative lifestyle and Dean grew used to having the angel less than five feet away and Sam grew used to the way Dean glared at him when he woke up with Castiel's face pressed into his neck.

Then the natural disasters started.

First it was an earthquake in California. Nothing unusual except it was a little on the strong side. Then there was a bout of freak hailstorms in Michigan followed by a strange hurricane that invaded Texas, but didn't dissipate until hundreds of miles inland. It was the night of massive F5 tornadoes in Alabama that drew the Winchesters and Castiel. Mostly because they were close by and had a chance of arriving on the scene before Lucifer skipped town.

They ended up in Tuscaloosa. Half the town was gone, wiped away as it never existed. The other half was in pristine condition. The divide cut exactly through the center of town, leaving civilians confused and hunters in no doubt that the storm was supernatural.

Dean and Sam posed as FEMA officials and questioned local residents while Castiel pretended to be a bystander and looked into their hearts for the truth of their words. Like their own personal lie detector. Later, he verified that while there might have been some exaggeration, none of the witnesses were lying when they told the brothers about a tall broad shouldered man in a three-piece suit strolling down the main drag of town during the height of the storm.

Later that night, Castiel told Dean he felt that these ecological catastrophes were Lucifer's way of celebrating his rising and that the major confrontations between angel and demon were still in their future. Not that Dean needed another reason to hate Lucifer, but the thought of killing hundreds of people as fun made Dean sick with rage. He began to fervently hope the angels were right about his destiny to kill the son of a bitch.

They searched the town for two whole days and found nothing. Sam, as their lone supernatural radar, sensed nothing. Dean had the feeling that Lucifer wasn't going to be found until he was good and ready.

On their third morning in Tuscaloosa, something happened that ripped Dean's attention clean away from the whole Lucifer thing.

It was one of Castiel's sleeping nights. Sam had flat out refused to share his bed with anyone, so Dean piled up a bunch of blankets on the floor between the beds and slept there. When he woke up the next morning, Castiel's hand was warm against his chest. Under his shirt.

Castiel's hand was up Dean's shirt.

The whole thing looked weird. Still on the bed, Castiel's face was smashed into the edge and his right arm hung down into Dean's space. Somehow, during the night, his hand had snuck under the edge of Dean's t-shirt and his really rather warm fingers were splayed directly over Dean's heart. Dean supposed he was lucky Castiel's hand hadn't wandered in the opposite direction and if the image made him feel funny in an unexpected way, Dean chose to ignore it. Instead, Dean extracted his hand and gently tucked it under Castiel's hip.

"Stay," he ordered the hand.

Castiel never woke up during the interaction and more importantly, neither did Sam. Dean claimed the shower and by the time he got out, Sam was up and ready for his turn.

Castiel slept on.

Dean shrugged and ate breakfast. He was halfway through cheese danish that had seen better days when the moaning started. Just a soft mewling whimper that Dean dismissed as waking up noises. Then louder , resonating from deep in Castiel's chest, harsh wet gasping sounds that sped Dean's pulse and seared heat across his face. He knew he should do something, anything but stare as Castiel's hips began moving, pistoning and holy shit Cas was humping the bed in his sleep. Torn between the weirdest desire to watch this to its natural conclusion and to stop Cas before his heart beat out of his chest, Dean did nothing for long enough that Cas' moans actually turned to staccato grunts and his hips began jerking off rhythm.

Then Sam's shower shut off and Dean launched himself out of the chair to Castiel's side. No way was he going to let this continue with Sam in the room.

"Hey, wake up," he pleaded and maybe he felt a little guilty for interrupting what was probably Castiel's first orgasm, but it was better than letting him soak the bed sheets just as Sam walked into the room.

"Cas! Get up!"

Castiel whined low in the back of his throat and he sounded amazingly annoyed for someone who was still mostly asleep. Dean chanced shaking Castiel's shoulders, though the last thing he wanted to do was touch the angel. The shaking did the trick because Castiel suddenly rolled onto his back with a gasp of surprise and when his eyes snapped open, Dean could clearly see the confusion mixed with the arousal dilating Cas' pupils.

"Dean?"

"It's time to get up," Dean rasped, then backed away, retreating to the safety of the table just as Sam exited the bathroom for real this time.

"Your turn," he called cheerfully to Castiel.

Slowly sitting up, Castiel stared down at his lap, perplexed. The blanket still covered most of Castiel's body, so Dean couldn't tell what was happening, but he didn't have to guess because Castiel didn't know the difference between 'appropriate' and 'inappropriate'.

"Dean, I think I have an erection," he said calmly.

Out of the corner of his eye, Dean saw Sam screech to a halt, hand outstretched to grab his phone from the bedside table. The warmth still lingering within Dean exploded into a flushing heat of embarrassment and that curious protectiveness he first felt when Cas was injured. Suddenly, Dean wanted nothing more than for Sam to go really far away, but there seemed little chance of that happening because as soon as Sam recovered, he sat down on the bed and leaned forward, fascinated.

"Really? Have you had one before?"

Trust Sam to treat this like a fun learning experience.

"Not that I know of," Castiel answered and he shifted uncomfortably. "I don't like this feeling at all."

"Seriously?" Dean blurted because this may be awkward as hell, but come on, erections are one of life's primary joys.

"It..." Another shift of discomfort. "It feels like reaching for something that's not there," Castiel complained.

"Oh." Come to think of it, if the only feeling you knew of sex was the build-up and had no concept of the climax, it probably would suck.

"You need-" A whirlwind of vivid images regarding what Castiel needed flashed through Dean's mind, robbing him of the rest of his words.

"If it gets too bad, you sometimes have to, um...well, take care of it yourself," Sam said after giving Dean a strange look.

Castiel frowned. "You mean masturbation."

"Yeah," Sam agreed, now grinning and Dean considered punching him. "Lesson number one of tension release when you live with other people. The shower is your best friend."

Dean shot out of his seat again. "I'm going to find something to eat," he growled and escaped out the door before Sam could start giving Castiel pointers on the best ways to stroke himself to climax.

When he returned an hour later, Castiel was dressed and slumped in Dean's vacated chair, legs stretched carelessly before him, head resting against the back of the chair and he looked far more relaxed than he ever had. "Hello, Dean," he slurred.

"Great," Dean mumbled under his breath. That's all he needed. Castiel, Angel of the Lord, addicted to jacking off.

"Hey, I had an idea while you were out," Sam announced from his seat on the bed. A book of magic lay open on his knees and Dean felt a thrill of hope that Sammy had managed to find a viable location spell. Quite frankly, the sooner Dean could stop the Devil and quit living on top of his brother and an angel, the better.

"Yeah?"

"Yeah. We've all been running nonstop for over a month now and clearly, we've built up some tension," Sam said, nodding in Castiel's direction. Cas looked anything, but tense as he lay puddled in that chair, eyes fluttering half between open and closed. "Well, he was tense earlier anyway and I think we all need a break."

"That's your idea? We need a break?" Dean raised an eyebrow at him. "You don't think finding Lucifer is more important?"

"I'm not suggesting we drive to Key West, Dean," Sam bitched. "We were going to finish up here in Tuscaloosa, then get going tomorrow morning anyway. I just think we could stand to spend a little time doing something fun tonight since we're just going to be here anyway."

"Oh." Dean glanced at Castiel, who gave him a beatific smile. "What'd you have in mind?"

"Well..." He dragged the word out for too long, raising Dean's suspicions. "I thought it might be interesting to take Castiel to a bar."

"You want to get him drunk?" Not the world's worst idea, Dean thought. If nothing else, the comedic value was worth the price of admission. And they'd be there to take care of the poor guy, make sure he didn't do anything too embarrassing or dangerous.

"Drunk or maybe, I don't know...teach him about the opposite sex," Sam said, casual and smooth as if he hadn't just suggested the worst idea in the history of bad ideas. Dean's hands curled into fists at his side.

"I'm sorry? Did you just suggest we whore out an angel of the Lord?" The venom in his tone surprised them both, judging by the way Sam's eyebrows crawled into his hairline.

"Look, Dean, for better or worse, that body belongs to him now and apparently, all systems are go," Sam said, arms crossed over his chest. "Or would you rather he abstained forever?"

Truthfully, the answer was yes, but if Dean said that, he'd get a thirty minute lecture about how Dean, of all people, wasn't allowed to demand anyone abstain from sex and if anyone in the room was a whore, it was Dean. And any other number of accusations Sam could fling that would have more than a grain of truth to them. So instead, Dean turned to Castiel and gave him a stern look.

"Do you want to go and pick up women?"

"No," Castiel said and Dean experienced a brief moment of triumph that petered out when Cas kept talking. "But I will admit to being curious about human sexuality. It never affected me before, but this body..." He trailed a hand down his chest in an obscene manner. Or at least, obscene as far as Dean was concerned.

"It feels so much," he breathed and the thought of Castiel unleashing his untamed sexual fervor onto the women of Tuscaloosa sickened Dean. They'd be helpless when faced with the dark heat glowing in Castiel's strange ancient eyes.

"Isn't it, like...illegal for you guys to have sex?" Dean stuttered, hopeful the rules were on his side.

"For angels, yes," Castiel confessed. "But I'm not angel anymore. Not really. It wouldn't be wrong of me to use this body because I own it now. However much I wish that weren't true," he added, the bitterness in his voice erasing the erotic edge.

"That's decided then," Sam said, popping up from the bed. "And don't even tell me you aren't interested in having some fun," he added to Dean. "When was the last time you were alone with a girl anyway?"

The fact that Dean couldn't automatically remember meant that in this, Sam probably had a point.

Which is how they came to be in a bar in the surviving half of Tuscaloosa on a night three weeks before Dean's life changed forever during a storm in Kentucky.