A/N: I started writing this story almost a year ago. 0_o It was based on a prompt from moonlettuce for the Renegade Angels challenge. The prompt was "Castiel tries to woo Dean using a Cosmo article entitled 20 ways to get your man." The fact that I started writing it before season 5 may reflect in the writing. I couldn't have finished it without the AprilTwitfic challenge on twitter, so thanks to all my fellow twitficcers!
Castiel is sitting across from Dean in a small diner in Gary, Indiana when he realizes he is in love with him.
He's known for some time that he loves Dean. Love is an emotion he understands very well. For all his long existence, Castiel has loved his Father and his brothers and granted them faithful devotion as an expression of that love.
It's not really the same kind of love he has for Dean.
The faithful devotion is still present, but Castiel never wondered what it would be like to kiss one of his brothers on the mouth and slip his arms around one of their waists. He'd loved all this brothers equally, but Castiel loves Dean above all other humans.
Instead of feeling guilty, Castiel feels rather pleasant. Dean is laughing at one of Sam's jokes and while the shadows of the failed apocalypse haven't faded from their eyes, Castiel knows both brothers are slowly healing. They'll have time to continue with their lives, free from the pressure of the world's fate on their shoulders. And for the first time, Castiel truly realizes how much he wants to be a part of that life.
The only question is how. He doesn't have any experience with human romance. From the few television shows he's watched with Dean on those late nights when sleep proved impossible for the human, couples typically have a great deal of trouble finding their way into each other's arms. Castiel wonders if they've already met their 'trouble' quota. It took him nearly three years and an entire apocalypse to transform their relationship from one of open dislike to genuine friendship. Maybe they can skip the awkward side-stepping and go straight to the obvious pursuit.
The only problem being that Castiel has no idea how to pursue a human for romantic purposes. The people on those television shows and movies were well-versed in a secret language of unspoken words and gestures that Castiel can't fathom. But if he wants to entice Dean into his arms, he'll have to play by human rules.
He watches Sam for a moment, focusing on the dark smudges under Sam's eyes, the way the laughter caught in his throat isn't present in his heavy gaze. It isn't fair to occupy Sam's mind with Castiel's romantic quandary. And asking Dean would defeat the purpose. They are the only two humans that Castiel knows well enough to ask, so that leaves one option.
When they finish their meal, Castiel excuses himself. Dean gives him a curious look and Castiel imagines he sees a hint of disappointment as well. Castiel promises to return that night. As he walks away, feeling Dean's gaze on his back, Castiel thinks to himself that it's probably a good thing he's giving the brothers an afternoon alone together. He worries that he intrudes too much on time that should be theirs.
A moment later, Castiel walks into the main library in town. He stops in the doorway and peers at the hundreds of books lining dozens of shelves.
He has no idea where to start.
There is a young woman with a bored expression seated behind a desk with a sign that says, 'Help'. Just the thing.
"I need help," Castiel announces to her after approaching the desk.
"Um, ok. What do you need?" Castiel can't read the expression on her face, but he senses her general surprise and faint amusement. Once again, he's managed to make himself stand out without even trying. He pauses for a moment, trying to find a way to word his next thought so that he doesn't sound suspicious.
"I am in love with a man named Dean and I need to research ways to start a romantic relationship with him," he finally says, satisfied that this is a concise explanation.
Her amusement grows.
"I see. Well, you mean like...love advice?" She taps a pencil against the desk and her expression turns thoughtful. "Well, I don't know. I think Cosmo has some good pointers." She pauses, looking at Castiel from under long dark lashes. "I don't know how well it works on gay guys though."
"Oh, Dean isn't gay," Castiel assures her.
Her eyes do a strange thing where they widen and narrow within a short moment. "But you're...?"
Castiel ponders the unspoken end of her sentence. He's not very good at guessing hidden meanings, but the best he can tell, she is asking Castiel if he is gay. Castiel has never really noticed the physical attributes of any other human. Dean is the only person Castiel's ever watched, the only person whose smile made Castiel's breath stutter in his chest. He's the only human whose touch sends searing heat along every inch of Castiel's body.
"I don't believe I have a sexuality outside of my attraction to Dean," Castiel says.
"I don't think they have a magazine for that," she answers. "I would try Cosmopolitan."
She points to the left, indicating a section of shelves that display a number of glossy magazines. Castiel remembers to give her a polite smile and a thank-you before walking away to the magazine rack. It takes very little time to find a magazine with the word 'Cosmopolitan' printed across the top, although the word is obscured by a picture of a smiling blond woman. Near the bottom of the cover, Castiel is very pleased to see the words, '20 Ways to Get and Keep Your Man's Attention.' He assumes they mean in a romantic sense. This is exactly what he needs.
Castiel reads the article. There isn't much about it that makes any sense to him, but he'll trust in the authority of a successful modern-day advice column over his own other-worldly instincts.
"May I make a copy of this?" he asks the woman at the desk, pleased that Dean insisted on Castiel carrying a few dollars with him at all times.
"You know what, honey, why don't you just keep it," she answers, her amusement once again making itself apparent.
"Thank you," he says as he carefully rolls the magazine into a scroll and slips it in his front pocket.
He's ready now. It's time to 'get and keep his man's attention.'
Maintain careful eye contact. You want to look at your prospective man long enough to show interest, but not so long that they get freaked out. Two or three seconds of a warm glance ought to do the trick!
Castiel is dismayed to discover that the amount of time he watches Dean is far too long. When he returns to the motel that night, Dean is watching a baseball game on television, but Castiel can tell by his glazed eyes that Dean is not really paying it much attention. His gaze snaps to the door when Castiel walks in and the grin that makes Castiel's stomach do odd things breaks across his face.
"Where'd you go?"
Castiel counts silently in his head.
One. Two. Three.
He looks away before answering.
"I had some business to attend to."
"Business? Like what, you got some bills to pay?"
Castiel infuses his gaze with warmth like the article advised and put his eyes back on Dean's face.
One. Two. Three.
During his three seconds, Castiel notices that Dean looks somewhat confused. But before he can investigate further, he has to look away.
"No, nothing like that. I'm done with it though. What would you like to do tonight?"
His gaze is directed towards the far wall while he talks. Castiel doesn't like this very much. It's difficult to properly communicate with Dean when he can't see the emotions that flare so briefly in Dean's eyes.
"Honestly? I kinda just want to sit and watch a movie or something," Dean says. Castiel thinks he sounds distracted, but he doesn't want to chance giving him another look just yet.
"I think I'm actually sick of bar-hopping now," he continues.
Castiel certainly is. He understands Dean's need to go out into the public he worked so hard to save and have a celebratory drink. Many celebratory drinks. Castiel will admit to harboring a fondness for the open guileless expression Dean forms while drunk, but bars are too crowded for Castiel's tastes. He loves humanity dearly, but would rather not spend hours pressed close with it.
"Sam's turned in," Dean says with a certain care in his tone. Castiel decides to give him another look.
One. Two. Three.
"Is he alright?" Castiel asks the dresser. He hears Dean stand up and approach him.
"Are you alright?"
Even without looking at him, Castiel can tell that Dean is annoyed with him. He frowns. This isn't how this was supposed to go at all. Castiel sneaks a peek at him.
One. Two. Three.
"Stop it," Dean orders, catching his chin and holding him in place. "Why do you keep looking away from me?"
That heat that is both new and familiar explodes along Castiel's senses, warming his face. Without thought, he sways into Dean's space and thinks to himself that this was what he'd been trying to accomplish. Except Dean looks exasperated and, to Castiel's horror, the slightest bit hurt.
"I didn't want you to 'get freaked out'," he quotes, hopeful that Dean is aware enough of the rules of human dating to understand Castiel's meaning.
"It's not working," Dean says. His thumb strokes the space just below Castiel's bottom lip, the tender gesture at odds with his hard tone. "You're Castiel. You stare. Anything else is weird."
Castiel didn't know whether the magazine had given him good advice or not, but as he could feel Dean's hips pressed into his own and Dean's hand still caressing his face, Castiel decided to count the encounter as a success.
Be an interested listener. No one likes to think they're boring! Make sure whenever your guy is talking that you listen and listen well. Even if he's waxing eloquent about football stats, ladies, you should act amazed!
"And then this huge fucking bat appeared out of nowhere. I swear to God, it was like a foot across and it must have been possessed or something because it swooped down on Dad over and over like he was dinner," Dean exclaimed. Sam slides further down in his chair, body shaking with silent laughter.
"Why," Sam gasps. "Why did I have to go to college? A bat..." His voice fails under the strain of more laughter and he slips further, now in danger of sliding into the floor.
Castiel has no idea why the story is funny. He strongly suspects one would only find the amusement if they were intimately acquainted with John Winchester. The image of his father running from a determined bat must present an extremely comical visual for Sam.
Still, while he might be out of the loop, Castiel knows what he's supposed to do.
"I'm amazed," he says, remembering only after the words have left his mouth that he should attempt to sound amazed as well.
Something about it apparently strikes a different, but equally hilarious chord within the brothers because they both break into fresh peals of laughter.
As Castiel watches Sam finally land on the floor in a jerking noisy heap, he thinks to himself that this venture was not quite as successful as the first.
Touch him! Guys understand touch better than words, girls. So when you want a guy to take notice, give him little touches along his arm, over his knee or if you are more daring, drape your arm around his shoulder. He'll get the message real quick!
Castiel rarely touches Dean.
It's not because he finds the idea repugnant. Clearly. In fact, Castiel very much enjoys touching Dean, but it never seems appropriate. But it's possible that feeling stems from his being an angel. Angels don't use touch for communication. To physically touch one of his brothers would create an uncomfortable intimacy that Castiel knows humans don't feel from simple casual touches.
So it's both a challenge and a pleasure to increase the number of times he allows himself to touch Dean.
He starts as the article suggests by running his fingers along Dean's arm. In the supermarket one afternoon while Dean examines the best cuts of steak. As they wait at a red light in the Impala. Walking together down the street from their motel to a local music shop.
Every time the back of Castiel's fingers graze over Dean's warm skin, Dean shivers and tries to get closer, but he never says anything.
It's a start.
They are sitting in a dark movie theatre watching a film about men with fast cars when Castiel decides to graduate to knee-fondling. The timing feels right to Castiel. The theatre is nearly empty, they are without Sam and Dean is already in a good mood from watching the vehicles zip around the screen. So Castiel reaches down and curls his fingers over Dean's knee.
Dean's body tenses and Castiel nearly pulls away. But then he remembers the article. Dean won't get the message if Castiel backs down. So not only does he leave his hand in place, but he squeezes his fingers.
He hears a sharp intake of breath, but again, Dean doesn't say anything or even turn to look at Castiel. They sit that way for long enough that Castiel starts to feel self-conscious. He wonders if he should pull away his hand and curses the magazine for not having advice for this situation.
Then Dean's hand brushes over his and Castiel stops thinking.
Fingers rough with calluses wrap around Castiel's hand and tug, pulling his hand till it rests on Dean's thigh. Castiel freezes, eyes firmly fixed ahead and has a slight moment of panic. He has no idea where he is supposed to go from here. With Dean clutching his hand, he can't attempt to put his arm around Dean's shoulder. But perhaps the hand-holding is message enough? Castiel can't be sure and he's afraid that if he moves, he'll do something to ruin it.
And then Dean's voice whispers soft in his ear.
"You gotta relax, dude," he says, his tone low and intimate. A strange shiver crawls up Castiel's spine and the flesh along his arms pulls tight into tiny bumps. Dean squeezes his hand, but then to Castiel's dismay, releases it. He can't remember reading if this counts as a rejection in the magazine. In fact, the magazine didn't speak of rejection at all. It seemed to believe the plan it set forth could not fail. Castiel turns to speak, perhaps apologize, but then Dean's arm slides along the back of his chair. His hand curls over Castiel's shoulder and he is pulled close, pressed along Dean's side. Castiel stares at him in shock, his face close enough to Dean's that he could lean forward but two inches and he'd be kissing Dean's cheek.
"You're missing the movie," Dean says without looking at Castiel. His lips twitch in a curious manner that makes Castiel think he is trying not to smile.
It seems this part of the plan is a success after all.
Try to get his attention by spicing up your language. Drop subtle sexual references into your speech. "Trying out a new restaurant is such a turn-on!" or "It's so warm in here! Are you as hot as me?" will both make his mind go places you want it to be!
Castiel is fairly certain that Dean understands the meaning of their slowly evolving relationship. He may not be well-versed in human communication, but Castiel knows that men in Dean's culture rarely hold hands unless their intention is romantic.
Still, he's not quite sure how to make the transition from fairly innocent touches to sexual contact. In fact, he's not sure if that's the right move to make or if there should be an emotional component discussed first. Castiel wishes to create a relationship that is both sexual and emotional, but the magazine is fairly strict on initiating sexual congress first. And given Dean's history with romance, Castiel believes that must be the correct route.
He gets his first opportunity to try out his new and improved sexual innuendo on Dean after their first hunt following Lucifer's downfall. A low-level demon that escaped hell's lockdown possesses a beautiful woman and seduces men into committing heinous crimes. They track the demon to the vessel's apartment and there is a prolonged battle that ends with Castiel expelling the demon from the woman's body. The black smoky essence of the demon screams out of its host and the woman falls to the floor panting and gasping for air. As Castiel watches Sam run to her side, he smiles and says to Dean.
"Exorcising demons is such a turn-on."
The look Dean gives him is not at all encouraging.
Castiel doesn't try again until a few days later while he sits with Dean in the motel room. Sam has left to spend the evening on a date with a local teacher, leaving his brother and Castiel to pass the night alone together. He suspects Dean will eventually suggest they go to dinner or a bar, so before that can happen, Castiel takes advantage of the opportunity. Recalling the magazine's advice, he clears his throat and says, "It's so warm in here. Are you as hot as me?"
Dean's eyes flick up from the newspaper in his hand and he frowns.
'Hot' being a euphemism for sexually aroused, Castiel doesn't feel too guilty about lying. Whenever he is with Dean, Castiel always feels somewhat sexually charged.
"But you're angel'd up again," Dean says, casting away the paper. He stands and moves to Castiel's side, pressing a cool hand to Castiel's forehead. "Do you feel sick? When did it start? Why didn't you say anything?"
Castiel knows the plan's gone awry again, but it's hard to care when Dean is hovering over him, a possessive hand on his head and waves of concern rolling over Castiel's grace.
He'll count it as a success.
For a bit of sexy fun, try excusing yourself to the bathroom and slipping off your panties. When you get back to your table, find a way to quietly slide them into his pocket. When he finds them, he'll know exactly how the night's going to end!
Castiel had no idea that humans engaged in such obvious gift-giving rituals. The presentation of one's undergarments must surely signal a definite statement of intention. It puts Castiel in mind of the mating behavior in the animal kingdom. Not that he thinks of Dean as an animal, of course. He's grateful for the magazine's advice in this. It would have never occurred to him to give Dean Jimmy's pair of boxer shorts.
He decides to attempt this latest bit of sexual symbolism while they dine with Sam one evening. As Sam has already stated his intention of seeing an art film that Dean said he'd rather set the Impala on fire than attend, Castiel thinks this could be the night they initiate sexual relations. The thought gives him a strong thrill of nervous anticipation.
It's when Dean and Sam are first occupied with eating their meal that Castiel decides to make his move. He slides out of his chair and turns towards the restroom.
"Where you going?" Dean asks, frowning at him. It only then occurs to Castiel that he's neglected to think of a good excuse to leave. He has no need of bathrooms.
"I...wish to...examine the restroom."
There is no mistaking the incredulous looks both Winchesters are giving him. Even Castiel knows this is a bizarre statement. His mind turns quickly, settling on an issue that might satisfy the brothers' curiosity.
"I believe I saw a patron visit the bathroom who may be possessed."
Dean's hand immediately drops to his side where Castiel knows his gun is hidden. Sam's hands stay put, but his body tenses and his focus zeroes in to the hallway where the bathrooms are located.
"What's the plan?" Sam asks quietly and that's when Castiel realizes he's lost control of the situation.
"I will go investigate and then return," he says, but Dean starts shaking his head halfway through the sentence.
"No way you're going in there alone. You need back-up."
"I do not," Castiel reminds him. The scowl he earns is both endearing and irritating. Dean knows that no single demon is a match for Castiel now that he's reconnected with Heaven, but he doesn't like not being there to protect his friends. That Castiel registers in Dean's mind in such a manner is beyond satisfying.
"Yeah, right, I'm coming with you," Dean declares. Castiel sighs.
"Fine, but you must stay back in the hallway. I don't want to alarm the demon into leaving," he says with some discomfort. The magazine didn't say it would be encouraging outright lying.
Dean jerks his head in a signal for Castiel to move. He strides straight towards the bathroom while Dean hovers more casually towards the end of the hallway. Castiel suspects Sam is also out of his seat, probably at the diner's counter pretending to order another item. This mating ritual has come to involve far too many parties.
Once he's in the empty bathroom, Castiel undoes the button of his pants and slips them down. There is a moment of fumbling before he realizes he must first remove the shoes. Being that this is the first time he's ever undressed, Castiel decides not to feel foolish and instead soldiers on till his pants are off. Next goes the shorts. Castiel examines them. He's never looked at them before. They shine brightly and alternate a pattern of deep and medium green. He pinches the fabric between two fingers and decides it's silk.
At Dean's voice, Castiel hurriedly folds the shorts into a small square and redresses himself. He is surprised to discover that the rough fabric of his suit pants feels different now that it presses against his naked groin. Interesting.
"I was wrong," he announces to Dean as he opens the door. "There is no one."
"You sure?" Dean pokes his head in and glares around. While he is leaning passed him, Castiel takes the opportunity to push the square into Dean's pocket.
"Cas is insane," Dean announces to Sam when they return to the table. "There wasn't anything."
"Oh. That's good, I guess," Sam says, giving Castiel a suspicious look.
Their dinner continues normally until it comes time to pay the check. Dean snaps up the ticket, grumbling as he reads the price and then reaches into his pocket for money. Confusion flickers across his face as he pulls out the shorts.
"What the hell?"
He unfolds it, his expression turning more and more amazed as it becomes apparent what he is holding.
"Dude, are those yours?" Dean hisses to Sam as he shoves the shorts out of sight.
"Right because I'd randomly put underwear in your jacket," Sam says, his eyes rolling.
"They're mine," Castiel says. He hopes Dean's inability to identify the owner of the underwear doesn't mean anything negative.
He is met with twin expressions of disbelief. The brothers' eyes widen and their lips part in the exact same manner, but then quickly change. Amusement creeps into Sam's face and he suddenly turns, coughing into one hand. On the other hand, Dean's face turns a deep scarlet.
"Why the fuck did you give me underwear?", he growls so quietly that anyone not graced with angelic hearing would have missed it.
"So you know how this evening will end," Castiel says in confusion.
There's a short explosion of noise behind Sam's hand and then he drops it. His mouth works hard against what Castiel suspects is a huge grin.
"At the laundry mat?"
Dean shoves an elbow into Sam's side.
"What are you talking about, Cas?"
Castiel tugs out the Cosmo and hands it to Dean. If Dean doesn't understand his moves already, then Castiel is at a loss. Perhaps allowing him to read the plan will help Dean get onboard. Dean takes the magazine.
"You must be joking," he murmurs as he reads. The grin Sam was hiding bursts forth and he falls against the wall as his body shakes with silent laughter. Castiel frowns.
"I don't understand."
"Cas...this...Cosmo..." Dean appears unable to string his words into a coherent sentence.
"You can't...you don't need to Cosmo me!"
His voice grows so loud at the end of that statement that he draws some attention from fellow patrons. He glares at them before leaning over to whisper loudly over his empty pie plate at Castiel.
"Dude, next time you wanna seduce someone, ask me, not a freaking chick magazine," he says in a rush. Castiel's grace wilts a bit.
"I don't wish to have a 'next time'," he says softly and something about the words makes Sam stop laughing. He looks like he wants to escape, but Dean's got him penned in and his attention is focused solely on Castiel.
"That's not...damn, Cas, are you..." Dean tosses the magazine on the table, face growing even redder. "Are you trying to get into my pants or what?"
"Both, I think."
The angry embarrassed expression on Dean's face softens and Sam begins to stare determinedly out the window. It only then occurs to Castiel that Dean may have misinterpreted the intention of the plan. Or perhaps Castiel misinterpreted the plan. Sexual intercourse is one of his goals, but certainly not the most important. His frown deepens. He wonders if the magazine has led him astray.
"I love you, Dean," he says, in case that wasn't abundantly clear.
That's when Castiel understands that his plan could have been much simpler. Awe lights in Dean's green eyes and his body relaxes in a way that Castiel thinks may be tension built over the course of years finally fading away. Sam makes another noise, this one pained, but he is ignored.
"Yes," Castiel confirms again. He suspects he will have to do so many times in the future. Dean has not heard those words often enough.
"Oh." He doesn't say it back, but Castiel doesn't mind. It wouldn't be Dean if he didn't let his eyes speak for him. If he didn't allow hooking one finger around Castiel's thumb become his own declaration. "Okay, good."
Castiel leaves the magazine sitting on the table as they walk out.
He does not see the underwear again until the following morning.