He's lying on his back in a bed he doesn't recognize. It's larger than a regular motel bed and placed in a room that seems lived-in. Not because of anything Dean can pinpoint. It's just a feeling, an impression of belonging growing in his chest as his eyes trace over the large dresser, the shining oval mirror and the pictures on the wall that seem little more than swaths of color to Dean. He looks to the left. There's a white shirt Dean almost recognizes slung over a black leather chair beside the door. Turning his head the opposite way, Dean sees dark green curtains parted enough around a large bay window to show a velvet navy sky and the sparkle of a million stars. No cities nearby, he thinks hazily, but then a pleasurable sensation turns his thoughts blank.
Warmth and wetness, sliding over the erection he hadn't noticed. In fact, in a distant part of his mind Dean realizes for the first time that he's naked. Cool silky sheets whisper along his bare skin as Dean squirms and writhes against hard sharp jolts of bliss rocketing through his body. His head falls back, eyes tightly shut and he focuses on the mouth on him, on the broad hands locked gently around his hips. In a room where he belongs, with pleasure bombarding him and someone cradling him, holding him steady, Dean feels safe and content.
He reaches down blindly, sighing happily when his fingers touch short soft hair and tangle in through the strands. Holding on just as gently as he was being held. Dean stretches his legs, feels strong shoulders pressing against the back of his thighs and suddenly Dean wants to see. See who he's laid out for and who's giving him such carefully attentive pleasure. He struggles to lift his head and when he sees the eyes watching him closely, Dean can only think one word.
"Cas," he sighs. Cas releases Dean to smile and rub his cheek against Dean's cock.
"Dean," he answers and his voice sounds so wrecked that Dean feels the pleasure grow infinitely more insistent and unsatisfied. He wants Cas' mouth back and to lose himself once again in the feelings Cas is giving him. The ones that make him forget about pain and hell and the end of the world.
"Please," Dean whispers, thrusting his hips forward in short jabs. "Please."
But he is left cold and unfulfilled. His head falls back, this time in disappointment. He can still feel hands holding his hips, but no matter how many times he pushes forward or how much he begs, Castiel's warm loving touch doesn't materialize again and Dean begins to ache, a blunt painful throbbing in his groin that no amount of moving will relieve.
He wakes up thrusting into a hard motel mattress.
"Son of bitch," he grumbles and flips over on his back. Sam is still snoring in the other bed, oblivious to what Dean imagines was an embarrassing display of moaning and humping. But somehow the embarrassment he would have felt if Sam had seen him doesn't even come close to the gut-wrenching breath-stealing humiliation he feels over waking up from a wet dream about fucking Castiel. Castiel, the very male angel who wouldn't know sensuality if he fell over it in the street. There's nothing sexy about Cas. Everything that comes out of his mouth is either cryptic or annoying, his movements and communication style is painfully awkward and the boxy suit he wears hides any real glimpse of his body. So, no, not exactly wet dream material.
Except...the way he looked at Dean in the dream. It's not reality, of course, but it's not far off. Castiel's attention is always absolute, his gaze always consuming. Transferring that focus to a sexual setting, remembering how his blue eyes had blazed with passion and Dean's dick is throbbing anew.
"Shit," he growls before throwing the blankets off his body and stumbling into the bathroom to put himself out of his misery.
He spends the rest of the day with that vulnerable feeling you get when someone reads over your shoulder. It's obvious that no one knows what he did, but Dean just feels like it's screaming off his body. That his hands are marked and every person he sees knows exactly what he did and who he thought about while he was doing it.
"Are you okay?" Sam asks at breakfast while Dean hides behind his menu.
"M'fine," Dean grunts.
Sam's phone rings.
"Yeah? Hey, Cas," he says and Dean's insides clench, caught between panic and affront that Cas didn't call him instead. "We're at a diner called May's at the corner of Fifth and Westwood."
Cas' indistinct rumble of a voice gives Dean a flashback to hearing that same voice whispering his name while he watched Dean with lust-brightened eyes. He squirms in his chair, earning another strange look from Sam.
"Sure. We'll see you in a minute," he says, but distractedly, his eyes fixed on Dean's fidgeting. Sam closes the phone with a snap and tosses it on the table. "Dude, what is your problem?"
"Who says I got a problem?" Dean asks, but it's not very convincing because just then Castiel walks in the door and Dean feels his heart jump into his throat. His reaction must have shown because Sam narrows his eyes in that speculating way of his and peers between Dean and Castiel. Dean hopes that whatever Castiel is about to tell them will distract Sam's mind.
Up close, the effect of Castiel's stupidly deep voice is even worse. Dean actually feels his spine tingle. He resolutely keeps his eyes on his hamburger. He's pretty sure Sam's eyes are burning into the side of his face, but he doesn't care. If he looks at Cas, Dean's sure he'll give himself away.
"Hey, Cas," Sam says. "What's going on?"
"We're speaking," Castiel answers with a hint of confusion.
"No, I meant, why'd you drop by? What do you need?" Sam clarifies. He's showing far more patience than Dean, who's practically trembling against the desire to shoot out of his chair and away from Castiel before he can pop an inappropriate boner right there in the restaurant.
"I have no news." Now he sounds vaguely uncomfortable and Dean is tempted to peek at him. Not enough to actually do it, but it's a struggle.
"So...why are you here?"
Dean frowns at Sam. He doesn't have to be rude to the guy. So Cas showed up out of the blue with apparently nothing to say. Doesn't mean Sam has to make him feel like an idiot. Dean would say this if he weren't determined to melt into the background as if he didn't exist.
"Forgive me. I didn't mean to intrude," Castiel says. Dean thinks he's hearing a hint of sadness in Cas' voice and that won't do. Fuck his embarrassment. It's not worth letting Cas wander away with that lost look on his face Dean finally sees now that he's lifted his eyes.
"Whoa," Dean says, his hand shooting out to snatch Castiel's wrist. "Where'd you think you're going?"
"I was...I don't know," Cas admits, staring down at Dean's hand.
"Well, you wanted something," Dean points out, though in truth he is more than a bit distracted by the blood racing under Castiel's skin. He tries to remember if he's ever touched Cas like this before, if he's ever really noticed that Cas apparently does have blood pumping through his veins. He wonders if the blood movement is a new development.
"I had not seen you in several days," Cas says quietly, looking up to meet Dean's eyes and Dean sort of forgets about anything else. Maybe the emotions are different, but the intensity remains the same as Dean's dream. He is caught by it, his breath slowing in his lungs, lulling him into a peaceful comfort that snaps the instant Sam starts talking.
"Oh man, I'm sorry," he says, genuinely contrite. "It's just you usually have something to tell us. Here." Scooping up a menu and an extra plate, Sam clears a space for Cas. Beside Dean, of course. But that pleasant moment is now gone and when Cas slides in beside him, Dean scoots to the far side of the bench, his body tense against the nervous pleasure being this close to Castiel creates in him.
It just gets worse as the day passes.
Through breakfast and research and interviewing a distraught widow, Castiel stays close by Dean's side. Close enough to touch, but never crossing that line and it drives Dean crazy. Half of him wants to push Castiel away entirely and the other wants to gather Cas close so he won't have to see that unhappy little rejected expression he wore at breakfast ever again. But neither half wins and so Dean spends the day becoming more and more frustrated. It's a relief to collapse into bed that night. He vaguely hears Castiel offer to watch over their sleep and just before he drops off, Dean feels a flash of panic that he'll start humping the bed again.
And then he's dreaming.
It's different from last night. Instead of being held and pleasured, Dean is laying behind Castiel, his arm draped over Cas' waist. They are both naked and Dean definitely feels turned on, but what's more mind-blowing is the savage protectiveness in his chest. Cas won't ever feel left out or lonely again. Nothing and no one will ever hurt him. Dean presses his face into Castiel's neck and takes a deep satisfied breath.
"Got you now," he murmurs.
Castiel shudders and relaxes in Dean's grip, melting against his chest. The motion forces Castiel's hips against Dean's. Heat and friction join the overwhelming emotions and Dean thinks maybe he's losing it because no one's ever made him feel this desperate in his life.
He wakes up on his back as hard and aching as last night, but thankfully not thrashing, moaning or thrusting. Sam's light snores are only reassuring for a split second because as soon as Dean understands that he's fully awake and not pressed lengthwise against Castiel's naked body, Cas' voice is floating across the darkened room.
"Are you alright, Dean?"
Dean flails for the blanket, only relaxing when he discovers that he's not dislodged it during his dream. Although there's nothing really all that relaxed about the way his heart is pounding in his ears or the tension seizing every muscle in his body.
"Yeah, I'm fine," he grounds out and flips on his side, away from Castiel.
"Are you certain? You seem distraught. Did you have a nightmare?" Cas' worry sounds closer than before. Dean tucks himself further into the blankets, becoming a defensive ball that he hopes expresses his message of 'please go the hell away.'
"No. I'm going back to sleep." His tone is rougher and ruder than Sam's had been earlier and guilt edges in around Dean's discomfort. It's not Castiel's fault that Dean's unable to control his own dreamscape. But if he takes it back, Cas might come closer and Dean's afraid of what he'll say or do. He doesn't want to force Castiel to deal with his unfortunate attraction.
"I see," Castiel answers. Dean hears him moving away, back to the chair he'd been using. The silence that fills into the room is oppressive. Not even Sam's snoring or occasional tossing can ease the quiet strain pressing against the walls of the room. He can't say for sure, but Dean's almost positive that Castiel's staring at him in the dark. It's easy to imagine his eyes as star bright pinpricks in the shadows and Dean knows if he turns to look, he won't be able to stop. So he punches the pillow into a more comfortable shape and wills himself to sleep.
Sleep doesn't come until dawn is creeping over the windowsill.
The next day is excruciating. Every time Cas comes near Dean, he feels like jumping out of his skin. Every look Castiel sends him seems to drag over Dean's skin and climb into his chest to shake things up. At lunch, when Cas accidentally brushes Dean's hand while handing the salt to Sam, Dean jerks back so hard he knocks his Coke over. The dark liquid shoots towards Sam as if magnetically drawn to him and just before Sam's lap is soaked, his eyes narrow with suspicion. Luckily for Dean, Sam is then distracted by freezing cold soda drenching his pants. The thrashing and girlish screeching amuses Dean to no end, but when he turns to Cas to share the joke, he's met with a frown.
Dean realizes as he immediately sobers and looks away that this newfound awkwardness between them is entirely his fault.
It doesn't mean he can stop himself though.
The uncomfortable tension between Dean and Castiel grows over the next couple of days. It infects Sam, who bitches at Dean endlessly as they research their hunt in a local library. Castiel takes off for most of the third day. Whether because he has business or because he's sick of bickering Winchesters, Dean isn't sure.
The dreams become more plentiful. Two and three a night. By the fourth day, Dean's dream self has had Castiel in every position and location imaginable. He kind of hates himself, but his favorite location is that unknown bedroom with its pervasive sense of belonging. He can't pick a favorite position. Each dream is hotter than the last and Dean knows he's really in trouble when he dreams about Castiel thrusting hard inside him and he wakes up in the middle of a powerful orgasm.
Sure, Dean can't honestly say he's never in his life looked at another man that way. But the occasional second glance is different than night after night of sexually charged and uncomfortably emotional dream experiences.
And then, all of a sudden, it stops.
Cas joins them for breakfast on the fifth morning. Unlike the previous days, he seems calm and determined. More his old self. If he dislikes the way Dean stutters and turns red when he walks through the door, Castiel doesn't show it. Sam explains their plan to capture and eliminate the family of ghouls and Castiel agrees to help them. Even feeling jumpy around him doesn't stop Dean from being glad Cas is there. They could always use the extra insurance.
Turns out Cas is an amazing advantage. The ghouls can sense the holy aura that apparently hangs over Castiel. They scatter the moment the brothers and Castiel show up and their frantic scrambling for escape make them fairly easy to take out. Not without some pain though. Both Sam and Dean earn a couple of scratches and bruises for their effort, but considering the bloodbath they met the last time they dealt with ghouls, the brothers consider the hunt a success.
That night before Dean turns in, Castiel touches his arm and gives him a slight smile.
"I hope you sleep well tonight, Dean," he says.
Dean just nods and looks away. If his pattern holds, he'll be in Castiel's arms in just a few moments. Which makes him feel weird as fuck in his waking moments, but feels amazing while it's happening. He's pretty sure he's going to sleep fantastic.
Except it's not Castiel that visits him in his dream.
At first Dean doesn't recognize the attractive blond who straddles his lap and begins kissing along his throat. He's loved women too long not to respond to the soft curves pushing against his body, but as Dean leans up to kiss her mouth, a flash of surprise shoots through him, changing the tenor of the dream.
It's Chastity. The prostitute he'd tried to give to Castiel all those months ago. And it's weird because she's good-looking, but Dean wasn't tremendously attracted to her. He doesn't like the vague blankness in her eyes, so different from the passionate intensity he's grown used to seeing from his imaginary Castiel. More like every other wet dream he's had in his life. It confuses and upsets Dean so much that his mind reaches for wakefulness. For a long moment, Dean stares at the ceiling and shifts through that sense of distorted reality he always feels when he wakes up mid-dream. And then Castiel's voice startles him.
"Dude, what the hell," Dean snaps, shooting up in the bed and glaring at Castiel. Anger out of proportion for Castiel's crime pumps through Dean's veins and it's very difficult not to start yelling at him.
"I'm sorry," Cas says. "I sensed you wake. Were you not enjoying your dream?"
No, Dean doesn't say because he can't even explain to himself why a sex dream about a hot blonde is bad.
"I wasn't dreaming," he grunts instead and lies back down. "Why're you hanging around with us every night anyway? Don't you got a dad to look for?"
"I've been leaving to continue my search," Castiel answers. He sounds confused, but Dean doesn't know if it's because of the question or the tone. "I considered leaving for a longer time. But I wanted to make sure you would not be angry with me."
That makes Dean push himself up again.
"What are you talking about?"
There's something different about Castiel as he begins answering Dean. Something so bothersome and distracting that Dean misses everything Castiel says as he looks for the reason and when realization hits, Dean's chest hurts.
Cas isn't looking at him. He's staring down at the hands he's folded in his lap. The anger Dean's feeling surges. First in his dream and now in real life, he's lost Castiel's ardent gaze. It's annoying. Both because Dean doesn't have it and because he wants it. He wants Castiel's eyes on his face and Castiel's hands on his body and damn it, he wants Castiel's mouth covering his own.
"Hey," Dean barks, interrupting whatever Castiel had been saying. Cas' head jerks up and surprised hurt streams in the pretty blue eyes Dean had been wanting to see. Guilt crashes in after the anger and mixes together, giving Dean a stomachache.
"Why would I be angry at you?" Dean asks, his voice practically a whisper in comparison to his angry outburst.
"Because of the dreams."
The stomachache gets worse because now agonizing humiliation joins the guilt and anger. Heat streaks across Dean's face and body. How much had Castiel seen? How many times had he watched Dean's dreams of taking advantage of him? The dreams weren't so bad. This was the nightmare.
"You spied on my dreams?" he asks. His voice sounds soft and dangerous, but it's more panic lowering his tone now than anger.
"I thought your nightmares had returned," Castiel answers defensively. There's no apology in his tone and in fact, he sounds kind of pissy, like it's Dean's fault for making Castiel worry about him.
"So what? You skimmed my mind, saw what I was really dreaming and decided to watch me dreaming it?"
What the hell. That's gotta be weirder than Dean dreaming about Cas in the first place. Not to mention an extreme violation. All those considerations are swept away though by Castiel's belief that Dean would be mad at him. Weird was one thing; that plain didn't make any sense.
"I did see what you dreamed," Castiel says in a careful tone and Dean thinks maybe he's finally hearing a hint of contrition. "I'm not naive, Dean. I understand your discomfort with the sexual nature of those dreams has strained our time together. I assure you, I meant to leave as soon as I could ease the dreams. It was not my intention-" He draws in a quick frustrated breath and tries to gather himself. Dean's never seen Castiel's emotions so close to the surface.
"I never wanted to burden you with my own...feelings," he says in a controlled tone.
That is not what Dean expected Castiel to say. And what's more, he doesn't even understand what it means.
"I assumed that you must have noticed how my behavior towards you has changed," Castiel explains regretfully. "When I realized it was altering your dreams, I felt obligated to fix the situation before taking my leave again."
Dean tosses the blankets away and stands up. He can't have this conversation lying down. In fact, he's not sure he can have this conversation at all. Castiel is making such little sense that Dean begins to feel angry again. The urge to march across the room and shake the answers out of Castiel's stupid angel brain is very strong.
"Are you trying to tell me you have the hots for me?" he demands. When Castiel's light blush and dodging gaze gives Dean his answer, he continues, stomping right up into Castiel's personal space. "And you thought your...what...horny angel vibes were making me have dreams about you? So you thought you'd send me a hooker stand-in?"
There are so many emotions vying for his attention that Dean doesn't know which one to concentrate on. Should he indulge his right to be pissed that Castiel was messing with his mind? Or should he encourage that seed of hope growing in him that Castiel wants Dean just as much as Dean wants him? Or should he just double over with laughter because seriously Cas sent him a dream hooker?
"Chastity was the only person I could think of," Castiel growls, defensive again. "She's the only woman I've been physically close to."
Dean really wants to know just exactly how far Castiel got with Chastity, but now is not the time. Not with his emotions running so high. So instead, he slides his fingers across Castiel's face, smiling a little when Cas twitches with surprise, but doesn't move away from Dean's touch. Nor does he look up, so Dean pushes his hand until it wraps around the back of Castiel's head. His fingers thread into Castiel's hair and Dean uses the hold to pull Cas' head up, silently demanding his gaze.
"Those were my dreams," he says and Castiel must feel his breath because his darkening eyes flick to Dean's mouth, then back up. "You had no right to take them away."
It occurs to Dean that this must be the real reason he's upset. Not because of the brain tampering, but because he'd been expecting Castiel in his dreams and he'd been disappointed. And now Castiel is trying to disappear on him again after giving him a very poor substitute.
"I'm sorry," Castiel says vaguely, his eyes falling to Dean's mouth once more. Dean feels it against his chest when Castiel's breath hitches. "I thought you didn't want to experience me in that manner."
"Yeah, well, next time, ask me," Dean answers just as vaguely. His mind is quickly checking out of this conversation as all his focus zeroes in on Castiel's now uneven breathing and his dilated eyes. On his scent and his warmth and the way his hands are clenching into fists at his side.
"Do you want to experience me in that manner?" Castiel asks gruffly and maybe it's a little weird how Dean doesn't even once think about how Castiel is an angel or a guy or a good friend, but those thoughts are nowhere to be found when Dean clutches Castiel's shoulders and pulls him close.
"Hell, yeah, I do," he says, tone rough and commanding, but he doesn't kiss him. Because he might not be thinking clearly, but he can still hear Sam's breathy snores and he really doesn't want Sam to wake up to his brother screwing a dude in the next bed.
"Then I will allow you to get back to your dreams," Castiel says with a smile just before he touches Dean's forehead.
It turns out that wet dreams are way more satisfying when someone joins you for them.
It's until about six months after they start sleeping together that Dean realizes he's in love with Castiel. It's stupid really that it took him so long to understand that damn fluttering in his chest when Cas appeared or the gnawing hunger to see Cas when he wasn't around or the sweet contentment he felt when he fell asleep at night with his head resting against Cas' shoulder.
But then Dean's always been pretty stupid about romance. The very few times he's let someone get close like that, Dean's found a way to screw it up or misunderstand it.
He really doesn't want to screw things up this time.
So the first step is the realization itself. It's not a very romantic moment. They aren't lying in bed, giving each other tender looks and gentle touches or some bullshit like that.
Not that they don't do that kinda crap sometimes. But that's not the point.
The point is, Dean's big revelation isn't romantic. Nor is it violent. He doesn't realize he wants to live out the rest of his days by Castiel's side when he sees a powerful demon sling the fading angel against a wall. No, the emotions pumping in Dean's veins just then aren't remotely loving. It's nothing, but rage when he shoves Ruby's knife into the demon's chest and nothing, but fear crowding his throat as he falls to Castiel's side and begs him to wake up.
A pretty dramatic moment, yes and one that probably looked like the end of a romance novel from the outside, but the only thing that changes between them after is that Dean holds Castiel a little tighter that night.
No, the change didn't happen until breakfast one morning. Dean's not entirely surprised that his realization involved food. He's sitting in a diner with Sam across from him and Castiel pressed close against his side. Sam knows about their new relationship because he has to get his own room now. The dream sex was fun and convenient, but Dean prefers the real thing. So there's nothing out of the ordinary about sitting in that booth with his arm stretched along the back of Castiel's seat. Nothing odd about the way he's bugging Cas to try something. He suggests French toast because 'hey, you like French kissing', which makes Sam gag a little and really, that's the most normal thing of all.
"Very well," Castiel says as the waitress approaches. At her polite questioning, Castiel smiles and points to an item on the menu. "I will have an omelet, please."
Dean snorts. He's almost positive that Cas ordered something other than French toast just to annoy him. Sam gets some kind of dish involving egg whites and Dean orders the short stack. Just as the waitress is turning to leave, Castiel touches the side of her arm and smiles again as he speaks.
"Could you please bring extra butter and blueberry syrup? Dean prefers these things," he says.
And that's when it happened.
Dean turns to Castiel, staring at him and all he can think is, Holy fuck, I love this guy.
Because of butter and pancake syrup.
Alright, maybe more because of the protective love and care the butter and pancake syrup imply, but still.
Although Dean has to admit, he does a love a good breakfast, so if he's going to fall in love over pancakes, it's not the worst thing in the world. The only question now is whether he tells Castiel about it. Because it's one thing to know how you feel about a person. But when you don't know how they feel, that's when things start to get a little hairy. Dean's pretty sure he couldn't handle if he told him and Cas didn't or couldn't feel the same way. Anna was absolutely wrong about angels not having feelings, but what if their feelings could never quite be human? Castiel is becoming more human by the moment, but he still thinks like an angel. If he's hoping to ascend back into Heaven when the mess they created is cleaned up, then Dean feels it would be better to keep this love shit to himself.
His plan doesn't quite work out.
Dean tries. He honestly does try not to love Castiel so much, but Cas just keeps doing things that make Dean's heart squeeze in his chest. No matter where Cas goes to look for his Father, he always sends Dean a text message at the same time every night to assure Dean that he's still safe. Every time he returns, he brings Dean a little gift. Exotic food or t-shirts with band slogans scrawled across the front or pretty rocks he finds along ocean shores. Just anything he says reminds him of Dean. And then there's the way he treats Dean when they're alone. With a gentle devotion even more profound than Dean created in his dreams. It doesn't matter if it's lazy early morning sex or heart-pounding brutal fucking or anything in between, Castiel always touches Dean like he's a precious thing. He always lets Dean push in close and cling to him without a mocking word.
But really, the most endearing thing of all is how he treats Sam. The way he cares for Sam and tries so hard to make Sam understand that he's not bad or evil. The effort he makes to share Sam's interests and the way he physically protects Sam from threats.
The way he understands how much Dean needs Sam.
It's hard not to love a guy after all that.
A month or so after Dean's big love reveal, he finally breaks.
This moment at least has the potential for real romance. They are lying in Dean's motel bed, naked and satisfied and curled up together. A difficult battle against a demon close to Lucifer the day before means that they are getting close. So close to the end and now that Castiel has a solid lead on his Father, Dean reckons it was only a matter of days before they have their final showdown. The question pressing heavily on his mind refuses to be quieted.
"Will they make you stop this?" Dean asks and he sweeps his fingers across Castiel's bare back to indicate which 'this' he means.
"I believe that by the time this battle is over, the angels won't have any power over me," Castiel says. The sadness threaded into his tone makes Dean draw him closer and press a kiss to his mouth. They both know what Castiel is becoming. The ability to retain his faith and the loving support he receives from both Dean and Sam keeps Castiel from changing all that much. But it doesn't mean he doesn't miss his home and his powers.
"I'm sorry," Dean says for what seems like the millionth time because he could say it once a minute for the rest of their lives and it would never be enough. But Castiel never likes to hear it. He places his fingers over Dean's mouth and shakes his head.
"Please don't claim responsibility for my decisions," he says.
Dean just nods. They've already had this conversation and it's not the one Dean wants to have now anyway.
"Alright, so...then what are you going to do? Will they put you back the way you were?"
"I doubt it. Even if my Father offered me the chance, I've changed too much to function as a good soldier," Castiel says and in this sentence, Dean hears no sadness, but rather pride. "There's a reason why angels are not given free will. Once we've tasted it, it's difficult to turn away from it. I suppose you are stuck with me for good."
Dean's heart leaps. He hadn't expected Castiel to just come out and say it like that. If he could find a way for Castiel to have his free will and still be an angel, he'd do it in a heartbeat. But if Castiel has accepted his new existence, Dean just feels relieved he wants to spend it with Dean. All the loving feelings he'd been trying to repress swell all at once and Dean finds himself pushing Cas into the mattress. He covers Cas with his body and brushes a soft kiss against his lips. He's going to say it. He can feel the words building in his chest and he just hopes that Castiel won't laugh or pity him or any of the other horrible reactions he could have to Dean's impending declaration.
"I love you," he says, his nerves sending blood roaring in his ears.
Cas smiles pleasantly and massages the small of Dean's back.
"I love you too," he answers, genuine, but casual. As if they say it every day. Dean lifts his head and frowns down at Castiel.
"That's it? You love me too?"
A matching frown grows on Castiel's face. "Isn't that what you'd like to hear?"
Point, Dean thinks, but he still feels grumpy. Here he is pouring out his heart for the first time and Castiel acts like it's nothing at all. He expected more from a creature who only just learned to love in the last two years.
"Well yeah, but this is a big deal to me, okay? I've never...not really. I mean, I've said it before, but I never meant it as much as I do now," Dean says, flustered and embarrassed. Castiel's frown deepens.
"Did you not mean it this much when you said it three nights ago? And the night after that?" he asks, obviously bewildered and maybe the tiniest bit upset. Dean stares down at him in similar confusion.
"What are you talking about?"
"You told me you loved me," Castiel accuses, glaring up at him. "You were sleepy, but you turned to me and you said, 'I love you, Cas'. I heard it!" he exclaims as if he believes that Dean will snatch the sentiment away again. "You said the same the following night. I responded in kind. You seemed pleased."
"But I wasn't...I don't remember it..." Dean sags. "So wait, do you mean to tell me that not only was I asleep for our first time, but for the first time we said I love you? My god, am I going to be awake for any of this fucking relationship?" Dean grouses.
"You were sleeping?" Castiel asks in surprise.
"I must have been," Dean says. He puts a hand on Castiel's cheek and holds his gaze steady. "Listen to me. This is the first time I've ever consciously chosen to say these words to you, okay? I love you."
Castiel's expression turns slightly awed and Dean adds it to his list of things to love about him. Even if it does make Dean feel totally vulnerable because seriously, there's no way he deserves it. But Dean keeps his mouth shut because if he said anything about it, Cas would go from adoring to angry in seconds and Dean doesn't want to ruin the moment.
"Oh," Cas breathes. "Oh I see." His hands press down on Dean's back and his legs widen a bit so that Dean falls further against him. "Then this is the first time you've heard my chosen answer."
"Um, yeah, I guess," Dean says and god, he actually feels shy.
"I love you, Dean," Castiel says clearly and deliberately. He punctuates the statement with a kiss. "I have always loved you." Another kiss. "And that is how I will feel for the rest of my human life and I suspect, beyond that."
Okay, so that's nothing at all like pity or awkward rejection. Dean doesn't feel smothered by Castiel's talk of eternity. That's just how angel minds work, he reckons and so he grins and kisses Castiel again.
If he's truthful with himself, it actually sounds pretty nice.
Castiel's fully human by the time it's all said and done. He can't talk directly to God without having his brains melt in his skull, so God puts Castiel into a kind of bubble thing so they can chat. Dean's not real sure what it is actually. He just knows that Castiel comes away from the talk with bright eyes and a serene expression that Dean really likes. Apparently God is proud of his kid and while being an angel again won't work out, Cas is forgiven for all the crimes he committed and could count on seeing Heaven again someday. Dean kinda gets the feeling Castiel could have wrangled angelic status again, but he lets it go. Castiel's pretty freaking protective of his free will and really, they've fought enough about this issue. The decision is final.
The point is, Castiel's human now and while he's pretty good at things like remembering to eat and bathe, he has a lot to learn about human nature. Both his own and others. For instance, Castiel is initially upset by the new need for alone time. The first time Dean notices him being edgy and snappish ends in a noisy confession that Castiel wanted Dean to go away. Dean patiently explains that all humans need to be alone sometimes and that it's less painful to plan for time alone rather than blowing up at someone to scram.
Little things like this happen occasionally. Castiel will find himself feeling blue for no reason and then too embarrassed to ask for comfort. Or he'll stare sightlessly off into space and become increasingly restless until someone points out that he's bored. Dean thinks he might die of laughter when Castiel becomes angry with his own penis. I'm too tired for sex, he informs it one evening when he can't quite will down an unwanted erection. After he got done laughing, Dean pushes Castiel back into the bed and takes care of it for him.
Dean doesn't mind dealing with Castiel's confusion and slow learning about his own human nature.
It's the times that Castiel doesn't get the human nature working around him that drive Dean crazy.
Okay, for the most part, it's pretty harmless. After Cas becomes human, Sam takes him under his wing, so to speak. Dean thinks it's because Sam never had the chance to be a big brother and always wanted to try it. His careful attention to Castiel confuses the poor guy though and he becomes worried that Sam has a crush on him. And truth be told, the protectiveness Sam lavishes on Castiel is pretty similar to how Dean treats him.
"I thought that's how humans in love acted," Castiel explains, blushing with embarrassment while Sam gapes at him and Dean rolls his eyes.
"Dude," Sam says and then he shakes himself. "Dude. Dean is not a good template for humanity."
"Hey," Dean snaps because it sounds rude. Although once he thinks about it, he has to admit, Sam's got a point.
"I just meant people are all different," Sam huffs at Dean before turning back to Castiel. "Just because someone's being nice or helps you, doesn't mean they like you romantically."
Castiel's eyes fill with comprehension. Sam waves off his apology and life moves on without things becoming awkward.
A week later, Dean seriously begins to wish Sam hadn't taught Castiel this lesson. At first it's not so bad. The girl taking their drink orders at a coffee house gives Castiel a lingering appreciative look that Dean certainly understands. Her tone while asking Cas what size coffee he wants is more flirtatious than strictly necessary, but Castiel, now thinking she's just being nice, smiles back and answers politely that he wants the largest size they have. Considering how much the man now loves coffee, Dean decides if he's going to lose Cas to anyone, it might just be the coffee chick. So he drags Cas away and makes him sit at the table while Dean gathers their drinks.
Then it gets worse.
At a bar one evening, there's this seriously hot girl who keeps glancing Castiel's way. She's exactly the type of woman Dean would have gone for before Castiel happened. A part of Dean can't help thinking he wouldn't exactly blame Cas for dumping Dean and going off to screw this chick senseless.
The rest of him would murder Castiel in his sleep.
Anyway, Castiel is fairly oblivious to her attentions. Even when she sidles up to him at the bar and starts asking him stupid questions about his name and job and boring shit like that. But of course, Castiel just thinks she's 'being nice'.
"I don't have a job," he informs her cheerfully. "My Father provided me with wealth enough that I can pursue other activities."
Of course, he means hunting, but Dean can tell by the drooping smile on the woman's face that she now thinks Cas is some kind of worthless playboy who relies on his rich daddy to live. The image actually cheers Dean up because it's so fucking ridiculous.
"Ah, well, that must be nice," she says, apparently willing to put aside her standards to get some ass because she brightens her smile and leans forward enticingly. "How about we get out of here?"
Which means it's officially time for Dean to step in.
"He's already getting out of here," Dean growls, whirling off his chair and slinging his arm around Castiel's shoulder. "With me."
There's no reason to rub it in the woman's face, but man, it's hard for Dean not to add a petulant 'so there!' to the end of his statement. Castiel looks a little confused by the confrontation, but he shudders happily against Dean's body. Even when he doesn't quite get it, Castiel adores each and every little possessive gesture Dean makes towards him. Dean sometimes wonders if it's because Cas spent so much of his existence being totally owned by Heaven, but he really doesn't want to compare himself to those dicks, so he never asks. At any rate, later than night after Castiel's done enthusiastically showing his appreciation for Dean's manhandling, he turns to Dean and asks, "What happened?"
"She wanted to have sex with you," Dean says. "She didn't know we were together, so I let her know."
Castiel frowns. "But she was only being nice to me."
"Okay, so sometimes when people are being nice, they do want to have sex with you," Dean explains with exasperation.
"How am I supposed to know the difference?"
"Well if they're thrusting their tits in your face, that's a pretty good indication," Dean says.
"Oh I see."
The advice works for a few weeks. Along with Dean and Sam's help, Castiel begins to learn how to identify the signs of romantic interest. Turns out, Castiel is extremely popular with women. Bobby says it's because he looks like a lost puppy. Sam decides it's the combination of Castiel's respectful demeanor and unusually bright colored eyes. Dean declares it's because Castiel's the hottest guy they've ever seen and that's that. Castiel reminds Dean that he's not the example for all humanity, but Dean argues that he is when it comes to this point.
Then Sam tells them to get a room, so they do.
Anyway, the point is, women love Castiel. He likes talking to them, but is understandably wary till he begins to really understand the difference between flirting and regular talking. Once that happens, Castiel discovers that he enjoys being around what he calls 'feminine energy'. Dean has no idea what that means, but he suspects it has to do with hanging around people who don't shovel down three pieces of pie and then belch in his face.
Whatever. As long as he doesn't screw them, Dean's all for foisting Castiel off on random women they find in bars while he kicks Sam's ass at pool.
The problem happens when Castiel begins drawing interest from men. Dean's not psycho enough to resent it when Castiel shares a friendly chat with some guy. Nor does he mind the casual card games Castiel manages to find wherever he goes. Sometimes guys just like to hang out and that's A-OK in Dean's book.
It's when Castiel accidentally makes a date with a guy named Mark that Dean goes ballistic.
"He wants us to watch a movie together," Castiel explains patiently. "You said you wanted to spend tomorrow night making sure the Impala was ready for our next trip, so I thought it would be a perfect time to watch a movie."
Dean knew he didn't trust that guy. They'd met him in the library of all places and while Mark never overtly touched Castiel, there was no mistaking the lust in his dark brown eyes as he leered at Castiel. But since he didn't thrust tits at Cas, as it were, Castiel totally missed the little clues.
"You can't just go on a date with some guy!" Dean explodes, a combination of fear and fury building in his chest. Because he's not sure he'll necessarily come out on top in a competition with Mark. Dean's pretty sure he's hotter than Mark, but he's also certain Mark's a zillion times smarter than Dean. All he does during their one meeting is talk with Castiel about ancient languages and ask interesting questions and suck up like a nerdy brown-noser. Most of what they say is so far beyond Dean, he might as well be another species and reminding himself that Castiel once was a different species doesn't help in the slightest. All he can think is that he's too dumb and too boring to hold Castiel's attention for the rest of his human life.
And now Cas is going on a date with the guy.
"It's not a date in the romantic sense," Castiel argues, sounding annoyed. "We're just viewing a film together. I have no interest in pursuing Mark in that manner. Nor do I believe he is interested in me."
Dean snorts. "Yeah, right."
"I know I'm new to humanity," Castiel says, his tone now reasonable and placating. "But you must trust me. Everything will be fine."
It's not Castiel he doesn't trust. But Cas doesn't ask for much, so Dean swallows down his protests and bites his tongue while dropping Castiel off at the theatre.
"I can't believe you let him go on a date with another dude," Sam comments from the passenger side.
Dean rests his forehead against the steering wheel.
"I'm going to kill myself."
About forty minutes later, Castiel phones Dean.
"Could you please come and retrieve me?" He sounds seriously annoyed. Dean agrees immediately because he's tired of pacing from one end of their motel room to the other. When he gets to the theatre, Castiel is standing out front, arms crossed over his chest and his expression is dark with anger.
"What happened?" Dean asks as Castiel climbs in.
"You were right about Mark," he spits. "Not thirty minutes after the movie began, he placed his hand on my knee and tried to put his arm around my shoulder!" Dean's too busy being awed by the righteous indignation burning in Castiel's eyes to indulge his desire to hunt Mark down and rip out his spine. "He misrepresented his interest in this venture altogether," Castiel continues, fuming. "As if I would indulge his advances when I have you. As if he believes he could compare to you in anyway. As if anyone could," he snarls.
"Dude." Dean turns to him, amazed and relieved and not a little overwhelmed. There's no doubting the vehement sincerity in Castiel's tone. "Cas."
"Watch the road," Castiel snaps.
Dean grins and obeys.
Jealousy isn't a problem as much after that.
"Cas?" Dean asks sleepily, reaching out blindly to confirm his suspicions. He sighs when his hands touch nothing. Cas is out of bed yet again.
Somewhere over the last four years of living and sleeping with Cas, Dean's gotten to the point where he can't stay asleep if Cas leaves the bed. Most of the time, it's not a problem. Like when it's morning and Dean should be dragging his ass out of bed anyway to get ready for work. Or when Cas gets up in the middle of the night to take a leak and returns immediately. But when he gets up and stays away for longer than fifteen minutes, Dean inevitably wakes up.
It's unavoidable at times now. They both have to get up and stay up a bunch of times during the night. But Dean just got back from feeding and changing Nathan not an hour ago. He shouldn't need anything right now and if there's a problem, Dean knows Cas would have woken him up. So that means Castiel is doing it again. Dean heaves a sigh and throws back the blankets. This has to stop.
Sure enough, Castiel is in Nathan's room, looking down into the child's crib. Shadows fill the room, but a streak of moonlight shows Dean the expression on Castiel's face. It's the same one he's been wearing since they brought Nathan home six weeks ago. A mixture of fear and disbelief with just a touch of deer-in-the-headlights shock.
Alright, so Dean can understand that. He's still reeling about the whole having a kid thing himself. When Dean looks at Nathan and holds him, he could almost burst with pride and love. That's his kid. Dean's very own son and the thought hasn't stopped making Dean feel a hundred feet tall. So he has no problem with Castiel feeling overwhelmed. But this is getting ridiculous. Castiel worries over every little thing Nathan does. He frets over every noise and every movement and Dean's going to kill him soon.
"He's sleeping," Castiel says quietly. He sounds like he'd been expecting Dean to appear.
"Yeah, so why are you in here?"
"I thought I heard him crying," Castiel explains. Dean joins him beside the crib and looks down, smiling at how peaceful Nathan looks. For an infant, he doesn't really cry all that much. Dean wonders if he'll grow up shy and quiet or if he's just doesn't like a fuss. He reaches down and pulls the blanket further up Nathan's chest.
"C'mon," he says, tugging Cas away, leading him to their living room rather than their bedroom. Cas hates having serious discussions in the bedroom. He says it's too tempting to fall into sex rather than actually talk.
"Alright, what gives?" Dean says once he's plopped Cas down on the couch. "Look at you. You're about to fall over from exhaustion. All you do is worry anymore. You need to relax before you kill yourself or I do it myself. Having a kid's hard work, but some of it's supposed to be fun, you know."
Castiel scowls at him.
"You'll forgive me if I'm not accustomed to raising a human child. I never thought I would be in this position," he grumbles.
"Well, I didn't either, yet here I am," Dean says, but apparently that's a mistake. Castiel tenses and glares at him, his arms crossed over his chest.
"It's not the same thing, Dean. You thought you wouldn't have the chance for something you wanted your whole life. I never even wanted it. I didn't know how to want it. And now that I'm a parent, I have no idea what I'm doing!"
His face grows red, his voice ragged and upset. Dean immediately slots himself in beside Castiel and gathers him up, fighting back against his own wash of panic. This is good. Castiel's been building towards a breakdown for awhile now. Dean just needs to remain calm and help him through it.
"Hey, hey," Dean murmurs in that soft gentle voice that never fails to lull Castiel into comfort. "It's alright. You've been doing fine, okay? You're just missing out on the good stuff because you're so worried all the time."
Castiel sags against Dean. "I'm afraid I'll miss a step and end up hurting him," he admits, his tone shamed and Dean's heart pretty much shatters in his chest. He pushes Cas back enough so that he can look into his anxious blue eyes.
"You could never hurt him. Ever. And kids are pretty resilient. I made all kinds of dumbass mistakes with Sam and he turned out okay," Dean says, but his teasing tone misses the mark. Castiel's eyes narrow at him, switching from concerned to irritated instantly.
"Nathan is not the same as Sam or any other child," Castiel declares.
"When it comes to keeping him alive, he is," Dean argues. "Look I'm not saying Nathan isn't our special snowflake, man. I'm just saying, you're making this too hard. When he's hungry, feed him. When he shits himself, clean it up. When he's tired, put him to bed. It's not rocket science."
"But what about his emotional well-being," Castiel frets, turning right back into a nervous nelly. Dean wonders if it's possible for the pregnancy hormones to affect an adoptive father months after the child has already been born. Then he realizes that he's the only one in this relationship with any kind of mothering instinct and promptly derails that train of thought.
"I think he'd be a lot happier if his dad quit freaking out on him and tossed him around a bit," Dean says gently. Castiel scowls again. Dean knows it makes Cas jumpy when Dean bounces Nathan up and down in the air, but honestly, Dean knows he's not going to drop the kid. Castiel needs to trust himself more.
"Look, you reached down into hell and dragged my sorry ass out alive. I think you can get through a game of peekaboo without slaughtering your own child."
"Dean," Cas admonishes him, but Dean can tell by the way he's relaxing that Dean's point is getting across.
"He trusts you and you know what's more? He likes you," Dean says. Castiel looks startled and then a bit shy.
"Oh yeah, man, he lights up like a friggin' Christmas tree when he sees your face," Dean says with a grin and it's no lie. Nathan adores Castiel. He must because even though Cas has been too edgy to really play with him, Nathan's been perfectly content with their epic length staring contests.
"I see," Castiel says quietly to himself.
"So you're okay?" Dean asks and Castiel nods.
"I think I will be."
"And you promise not to get up every five seconds, especially if he's not crying?"
Castiel makes a face, but he nods again.
Dean pulls Castiel into his lap and kisses under his jaw. "Good."
"I thought you wanted me to sleep," Castiel comments breathlessly.
"I do," Dean answers, his lips grazing just below Castiel's ear. "I know something that knocks you out every time."
Castiel ends up passing out on the couch, his tension completely eradicated by Dean's words and his touch and if Dean sneaks back upstairs to check on Nathan one last time, well, Castiel never has to know.
Dean leaves Castiel and Nathan contemplating Cheerios in the cereal aisle.
Well, Castiel is contemplating Cheerios. Nathan is wedged into the front of the cart and is busy driving his toy cars up and down Castiel's chest as Cas stares at cereal boxes. Dean whips around the other side of the aisle in search of pancake mix and while there, he hears Nathan and Castiel talking.
"This is Tommy," Nathan says. Dean assumes he's talking about one of his cars. "Say hi, Daddy."
"Hello, Tommy," Castiel answers distractedly.
"Hi, Daddy," Nathan says in a high-pitched voice Dean thinks might be his imitation of Tommy. There's a rustling sound that Dean identifies as Castiel selecting a box of cereal and placing it in the cart. They move along down the aisle, probably turning for the side opposite Dean toward the canned vegetables. Dean quickly grabs a box of pancake mix, smiling at it fondly as he remembers the day he realized he loved Castiel. Then a crashing noise tears his attention away.
"Oh, I'm so sorry," Castiel says urgently as Nathan gasps.
"It's alright," an amused feminine voice answers. It tickles something in Dean's mind. He almost feels as if he's heard the voice before, but he can't place it. "I do that all the time."
Castiel must have not been watching himself and charged straight into some poor woman's cart. It sounds like something he'd do. Castiel usually pays a great deal of attention to his surroundings, but get him in a grocery store and it's like his ears and eyes shut off. His focus on purchasing the least expensive and healthiest meals is borderline obsessive. The only other time he's that immune to outside stimuli is when he's fucking Dean and the reminder makes Dean happy enough to refrain from commenting on his shopping crusades.
"I think they're stuck together," Castiel says in dismay.
"Daddy," Nathan scolds lightly and the woman laughs.
"Wow, they really are," she says over top of the clanking sound of two metal carts pushing against each other. Dean knows he should come to Castiel's rescue, but he's way too invested in the comedy of this situation to end it just yet. Plus, he wants to figure out how he knows that voice before the woman's face gives away the answer.
"If you push down and I lift up, we might be able to separate them," Castiel suggests and together, they do just that. It takes a couple of tries and Dean swears he hears Castiel curse under his breath, but finally the carts come apart.
"There we go," the woman says. "No harm done."
"I really am sorry," Castiel says.
"Honestly, it's okay," she says, raising her last word to a questioning tone that Cas immediately understands. Dean smiles to himself. Cas really has come a long way.
"Cas," he says, probably holding out his hand.
"Well, it's short for Castiel. My partner gave me the nickname however. It's been a long time since I was Castiel," he says thoughtfully, apparently unaffected by her incredulity. Dean, on the other hand, is frowning. There's no reason to sound all that surprised by his name. Cas is far less weird than Castiel. "And this is Nathan."
"Hi," Nathan says brightly.
"Hello, Nathan," she says. "I'm sorry. I was just surprised because I'm Cass too. Well, Cassie. My partner gave me that nickname as well."
Later, Dean will ask himself why he immediately ducks around the side of the aisle and he won't quite know the answer. He thinks it's mostly just the shock of finally understanding where he's heard that voice. Or rather the shock of knowing that the first love of his life literally ran into the second love of his life in a random grocery store in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.
"Cassie?" Dean blurts.
"Dean?" She looks and sounds just as shocked as him, although Dean knows that's not possible. She doesn't know just who she's standing beside. Doesn't know that her former lover is now batting for the other team and raising his own little mascot. Well, not until Nathan pipes up.
"Papa!" he shouts delightedly. "Daddy crunched into someone."
Time appears to grind to a halt for Cassie as she pieces together the evidence. Papa and Daddy and that vague term partner that Dean can't get Castiel to stop using. There's a brief moment where she looks suspicious. As if Dean hired some actors to catch her unawares in a grocery store and pretend to be his family. Then it sinks in and her eyes open so wide that it's comical. Except Dean's not laughing. He remembers holding this woman in his arms and hoping against hope that he could keep her forever. And now she's staring at the man that Dean never expected and can't live without.
He's always heard it's a bit strange when an old lover meets a current one. But this is just excruciating. Maybe because Dean's only ever had two loves. Not sexual partners, but people he actually cared for. Sure, his feelings for Cassie can't really compare to the ones for Castiel, but still. He's standing beside a giant display of baked beans with his son and two people he's fucked. It's weird.
"Um, hi," he says lamely.
"Is this...are you...you have a son now?" she finally asks and now Dean has to bite back the urge to laugh. She's probably wondering to herself if she somehow turned Dean gay. But the only person with that power is beside him, cocking his head to an inquisitive angle as he peers between Dean and Cassie. Well, him and maybe Dr. Sexy.
"Yeah, Nathan's mine. Cas too," Dean says because that's not what's making him feel awkward. He loves Cas too damned much to shrink away from claiming the guy. Even to former girlfriends. Or perhaps especially to former girlfriends.
"You're Cassie," Castiel says suddenly, nodding to himself. "It's good to meet you."
Dean winces. Thanks a lot, he thinks. Now Cassie's going to think they talk about her all the time when in truth, Dean only talked about her once with Castiel. In the interest of full disclosure. It's just that Castiel remembers every minute detail of everything Dean's ever told him.
"You too. Wow, Dean, this is...this is great," she says sincerely. "I'd always hoped..." Her voice trails off, but Dean gets her meaning. She always hoped Dean would find someone who could handle the shitty cards he was dealt. Someone who wouldn't run away. Someone who could make him happy.
"Yeah," he says. "Me too."
They talk a bit longer, giving and getting brief updates about the last ten years. Cassie's only in town for a few days visiting an old college friend and when Castiel insists they have dinner together, it's obvious Cassie is charmed by Cas' blunt and hopelessly awkward social skills. She agrees and Dean thinks he might be okay with the plan. Because yeah, it's weird to see the two of them together, but Castiel's understandably curious about her and he did used to care about Cassie a lot.
"She's nice," Castiel comments after they go their separate ways.
"Uh huh," Dean agrees.
"Pretty," he adds and Dean glares at him.
"Don't start with me."
6. A surprise bonus emotion: Overwhelmed
It's the end of a long and tiring day. Between hours of work and hours of watching Nathan stumble around a soccer field, Dean's about had it. Cas is obviously tired too because he leaves the dinner dishes piled up in the sink and joins Dean on the couch while the ten o'clock news plays out on the television. Nathan's already tucked in and sleeping upstairs. The house is peaceful and quiet save for the babble of reporters. Castiel slips his arm under Dean and scoots close, squirming in until Dean lifts his own arm and gathers Castiel close.
The moments tick by as Castiel gradually falls asleep against Dean. The love Dean carries for him, the immense frightening love Cas creates in him, fills Dean to bursting and he is bowled over by it, pulled under and bolstered up by it. And yes, he is overwhelmed.
But really, it's been that way for fifteen years now. Dean's pretty much used to it.