Author's Note: Wow, SPN fandom. Haven't seen you in ages. I hope it doesn't show XD. So I wrote this for the dean_cas Secret Santa fic exchange over on LJ, which was a ton of fun and also a lot harder than I expected it to be. I'm pretty pleased with how it turned out, though, so I thought I would spam the hell out of everyone and post it everywhere I could think of XD. I hope you all enjoy.
Warnings: This is slash (Dean/Castiel) and it's rated for a reason (a reason other than language, although Dean's potty mouth also falls under the M rating), so if you're opposed to two dudes bumpin' uglies, you may want to avert your eyes. Also, spoilers for episodes 5.10 and 5.22 (though no season 6 spoilers to speak of).
Dean and Sam are at Bobby's two days before Christmas. It's not like they planned it, and it's not like they were invited, but when Dean starts taking all the familiar turns and bypasses toward Sioux Falls, Sam doesn't protest; and when they show up at the salvage yard, duffel bags in hand, Bobby just grunts out something about being just in time for an epic snow storm, so planned or not, it looks like they're stuck.
They don't talk about Christmas, or celebrating Christmas, or even acknowledge Christmas's existence. It's an unspoken agreement: any time something holiday themed comes on the TV or radio, one of them wordlessly changes the channel and the subject. They all have their reasons—if asked, Dean would simply say that he'd had enough of religion to last him a lifetime—but the real bottom line is that the world is ending, and they are running out of ways to stop it. The reality makes the importance of Christmas seem small, in comparison.
Dean likes Christmas, he does—likes the idea of spending time with family, likes getting presents (who doesn't?), likes hot chocolate and turkey dinners and long nights by the fire. He hadn't really had a lot of that growing up, sure, but what he and Sam and their dad had done had always been enough. He likes to think he would have been open to the idea of having a little get together at Bobby's this year, one last hurrah, so to speak, a chance for them to get together and relax and drink eggnog and just fucking chill for a day or two, take a breather from this whole saving the world thing.
Ellen and Jo dying had ripped that tentative enthusiasm into a thousand tiny pieces, and any hope of redemption died when the Devil failed to do so.
Anyway, since Dean had been the only one really even considering the possibility of celebrating this year, the whole fantasy just sort of fell to the back burner, and Dean's in no hurry to pick it back up again. He'll take a few days of forced relaxation at Bobby's, consider it a good opportunity for them to get some quality sleep before diving back in to something that looks increasingly like a hopeless situation.
He doesn't need all that Hallmark bullshit. He doesn't need Christmas.
Christmas comes anyway, though, and it brings a surprise guest with it.
It's the morning of the 24th, and Dean's outside on the porch, drinking coffee and enjoying the sight of Bobby's salvage yard covered in two feet of snow, when there is a sound like a jet passing overhead and then loud crash from inside, followed by Sam swearing and a furious "what the hell?" from Bobby. Dean's back inside the house in five quick strides, though he draws up short just inside the door and just stares, because Bobby's kitchen looks like a small bomb went off inside of it, cupboards unhinged and fridge door ajar and broken glass from the ruined cabinets strewn across the floor, and amidst the remnants of what was once a sturdy oak table is a huddled mess of dark hair and tan trench coat and—
Feathers. Black feathers. They're everywhere, floating down like a giant black chicken has just exploded over their heads, littering the ground and the furniture and Sam's even got a few in his hair, which would be hilarious except that it isn't because Castiel is crouched on the ground, staring up at them with wide, wild eyes, like he's just popped in on Satan's clubhouse by accident, and oh yeah, did Dean mention that he has wings? Impossible huge, bigger than his body, probably too big for Bobby's small kitchen, should he extend them, and Dean's mouth is hanging open stupidly but he can't help it. Two dimensional shadows splayed across the back wall of a barn could not possibly have prepared him for the sheer awesomeness of an angel's wings.
Holy fuck. Cas has wings.
It takes Dean a ridiculously long time to realize that, despite provoking an awe-inspiring first glance, the wings are not at all perfect or pristine. They look ragged, feathers crumpled into strange and painful looking alignments, sticking out like someone has just grabbed a handful and twisted, and Dean swallows a lump in his throat when he takes a closer look at the right one and sees that it is hanging at an awkward angle, held away from Cas's body, tip dragging along the ground. Dean knows right away that it's broken; he doesn't have wings but he's broken his limbs enough times to know what it looks like when you've got no control over your arm, can't hardly touch it but for the pain, and a place deep inside aches to see such a beautiful and powerful structure so clearly mangled.
The last feather has settled by the time Dean finally gets it together and takes a tentative step forward. "Cas?"
Castiel stares at him, bright blue eyes glassy and listless and frighteningly vacant; he struggles to focus on Dean's face for several too-long seconds before a full-body shudder passes through him, and it's the only warning Dean gets before Cas's eyes are rolling up in his head and he's pitching forward in a dead faint.
And that's how Dean comes to spend Christmas Eve tending to an angel with a broken wing. Castiel comes around sometime after lunch and provides them with the whole story: apparently one of his dick brothers had cornered him during one of his hunts for God and tried to drag him back to Heaven for a little celestial reconditioning. When Castiel had fought back said brother had slapped him with some kind of ancient spell that had forced his wings to manifest against his will. Dean listens intently to the explantation, he really does, but a lot of what Castiel says goes right over his head. He thinks he understands the basics though, which go something like this: Castiel's wings are basically tied to his grace, which means that when his wings are visible his grace is vulnerable to attack, which means that any demon with a sledgehammer could take him down right now, which means that Cas is out of commission until either his wings heal or the spells wears off, which means that Bobby has another uninvited guest for the Christmas party they aren't having.
It's all very existential and mystical and way beyond Dean's pay grade, which is why he mostly lets Sam handle it and focuses on doing something about the wings themselves, because while he may not know how to break an ancient Enochian binding spell he does know how to set bones and correct dislocations. He's never popped a wing back into place before, true, but he figures it can't be that much different than fixing a jacked up shoulder, and it's not like they have a lot of other options besides just sitting around doing nothing, and that's never been Dean's style.
When it's all said and done, Cas's right wing is realigned and taped securely against his body, Sam has a bloody nose from getting a little too close to Cas's good wing while Dean had been trying to force the dislocated joint back into place (and really, Sam should know better, because it's not like Dean's never accidentally clocked him during one of their rougher first aid sessions), and Bobby is out a few lightbulbs. Pain-wrecked and trembling, Castiel manages a quiet apology for the damage. Sam shrugs it off good-naturedly and Bobby just thanks him for leaving the windows intact.
They're snowed in, so there's not a lot to do other than sit around and enjoy one another's company. They have leftovers for dinner and watch TV for a while, but that eventually gets to be too depressing so they move on to cards. Dean organizes a poker game in the den, clearing their Apocalypse-related research off the big oak desk and pulling up three seats and making room for Bobby's wheelchair on one end.
"Hey Cas," he says, "wanna play?"
He knows Castiel has to be in a fair bit of pain right now, so he's surprised when he sits himself gingerly in front of the desk, back ramrod straight to keep from bumping into anything. "I don't know the rules," he admits, picking up the cards Dean deals to him and looking at them like they're written in the one language he doesn't speak.
Dean grins. "That's okay, neither does Sam."
"It's a good thing that's not true, or else you'd still be a seventy-year old man," Sam snipes back, handing him a beer. He offers one to Bobby and takes his own seat. "You still owe me for that, by the way."
"I'll make it up to you, Sammy," Dean promises, taking a generous sip of his beer. "I'll buy you a pony for Christmas."
Sam rolls his eyes. "Christmas is tomorrow."
"I know, the pony's in the garage. Act surprised."
Sam makes a face like he's caught between laughing and grimacing. "Awesome, thanks. We gonna play, or what?"
Dean gives Cas a rundown on the basics and then they're off. None of them really have any cash to spare (Cas searches through Jimmy's pockets and comes up with some lint and an old peppermint), so they play for favors. Three rounds in and Dean owes Sam a foot massage, Bobby owes Dean a handle of Jack, and Sam's up on everybody, the bastard. Cas keeps folding right before they make their final bets, claiming that he can't think of anything to bet with. Dean thinks he just has crappy cards, but how would he know? Cas's default expression is the perfect poker face.
They play until the light starts to fade and the cold starts creeping in. Bobby yawns mightily and sets his cards down.
"Well, I think I've had all the fun I can take in a night. Better turn in early, get rested for our big day tomorrow."
It's clearly sarcasm—or at least, clear to Dean and Sam. Castiel shifts guiltily and frowns; his good wing pulls up close to his back like he's expecting a blow. "I apologize if my presence here has complicated your holiday plans. I realize my arrival was…unexpected."
Dean doesn't quite know how to tell an angel of the Lord that they weren't really planning on celebrating Christmas, so he just exchanges a helpless look between Sam and Bobby and says, "It's cool, man. I'm sure we can find a place for you around the dinner table somewhere."
And just like that, Christmas is back on the menu.
The morning of the 25th dawns bright and cold—so bright and cold, in fact, that Dean wakes up at around six thirty and can't go back to sleep because he's somehow kicked off all his blankets and there's a sun beam shining directly in his face. Swearing under his breath, he pulls on a pair of old sweatpants and a dons what he dearly hopes is a clean Henley from his duffle, wishing he had slippers or something. A pair of socks suffices, and he heads downstairs for a cup of desperately needed coffee.
Bobby's still snoozing away on the bed in the den, his chair pulled up beside him for easy access. It's still early, so Dean doesn't wake him; he tiptoes past the bed as quietly as he can, avoiding all the creaky floorboards between him and the kitchen. He draws up short just outside the door though, his eyes falling on the sight of Castiel curled up in the big armchair in the corner of the den, his good wing wrapped around him like a blanket. A rush of affection surges through him, followed by a twinge of concern, because Castiel never sleeps, and doing so now must mean that his grace has taken a serious blow. Dean has a sudden, overwhelming urge to make this up to Cas somehow, to make it better, although he's not sure how. He just knows that if he hadn't convinced Cas to help him, Cas would be with his own family today, and not slumming it down here, in pain, with Dean's.
He's extra careful passing by the armchair and into the kitchen, and he tries to make a pot of coffee as quietly as he can, but as he's measuring the grounds into the machine, Castiel wanders in from the den, rubbing sleep from his eyes.
"Morning," Dean offers, watching him take a seat in a surviving chair (the table still hasn't recovered from its impromptu use as an angelic landing pad). Castiel nods at him, grunting out an appropriate greeting in return. He still looks a little pale, Dean thinks. "How's the wing?"
"Painful," Castiel admits, "although better than it was yesterday."
"Yes. I can still feel the broken bones shifting when I move, though."
Dean winces sympathetically. "Yeah, you probably need a splint or something. Don't know why I didn't think of that earlier. Sit tight for a sec." He grabs two rulers from the desk in the den and goes to stand behind Castiel. He begins unwinding the bandages wrapped around the top of Castiel's right wing—there's a clean break in the top arch, just beyond the joint there, and it's clearly not healing correctly, if the inflamed tissue around the area is any indication. When they'd patched him up yesterday they'd used a website with step by step instructions on how to properly wrap up a bird's wing, which had told them to place the wing in its natural folded position and tape it securely to the bird's (or angel's) back. Unlike the bird in the picture, though, Castiel's wings don't fit perfectly along the length of his spine; the top joint sticks up well above his head, so while their taping job had prevented the base joint from being dislocated again, it didn't provide much support for the broken bones up top. The website hadn't said anything about employing the use of a splint, so Dean had assumed one wasn't necessary. Hopefully it isn't too late to correct the damage, though.
He aligns the two rulers alongside the break and starts to rewrap the bandages. It's slow going—Dean's only got two hands and it's hard to keep the tape tight while maintaining his grip on the rulers, but eventually he gets it done and steps back. He's about to move away when he notices that some of the feathers on Castiel's left, uninjured wing are lying out of alignment, sticking up in random directions and matted in places. He reaches out to touch and stops, fingers hovering over the tangles.
"Does this hurt?"
Castiel looks back over his shoulder to where Dean's hands are almost but not quite touching. "Not really. It's irritating, more than anything, but I haven't been able to reach them without putting further stress on my injuries."
Dean inches closer, licking his lips unconsciously. "Can I—do you want me to—?"
Castiel hesitates a fraction of a second, then nods. "Please."
Before he can question the sanity of it, Dean's got his fingers buried knuckle deep in the feathers of Castiel's left wing, straightening the bent and twisted plumes into alignment with his fingertips and smoothing the frayed edges under his palms. He works without comment, and Castiel offers nothing, so he takes it to mean that he's not hurting him and doesn't stop at this one patch—he works all the way through the wing, correcting and soothing until he's got it looking almost perfect again. He's down to the long flight feathers at the very tip when he feels the wing start to—hum, for lack of a better word, and the feathers, which have been as soft and sleek as real bird feathers up until his point, start to feel sort of insubstantial, like Dean's running his fingers through a patch of warm, heavy air. His skin is buzzing and he feels—strange. Peaceful, rejuvenated, whole and complete and contended in a way he hasn't felt in months—years—and Dean doesn't want to stop, doesn't want to let go, and it's only when Castiel makes a small, soft sound and shifts the wing restlessly does Dean realize that this might be kind of inappropriate or something.
He yanks his hand back like he's been burned. "Shit—sorry, did that—?"
Castiel shakes his head. It might be Dean's imagination, but he thinks Cas's cheeks look a little red. "No. It felt. Um. Pleasant, actually. Are you all right? I didn't mean to lose control."
Dean shakes his hands out—they have that weird tingly feeling whenever you sit on them for too long. "What the hell was that?"
If he didn't know any better, he would say that Castiel looks embarrassed. "My grace. It's tied intrinsically to my wings and your touch…brought it to the surface."
Dean blinks at him. "Dude. You just groped me with your grace?"
"You were the one groping me," Castiel says sourly, and yeah, there's no doubt about it—he definitely looks embarrassed. Dean wonders if this is like, the angelic equivalent to popping a really inappropriate boner, and he's about to open his mouth to say as much when Bobby's growl from the doorway cuts him off.
"If you've gotta do that in public, do you think you could find a better place for it than the kitchen? I eat in here, you know."
Dean just splutters for a few seconds, unable to come up with an explanation that doesn't sound completely sketchy. Bobby's already gone by the time he gets it together, so Dean just clears his throat uncomfortably and excuses himself. Really, he should just be glad it was Bobby and not Sam. He'd never hear the end of it otherwise.
All told, it's a pretty pathetic Christmas, as far as tradition goes. No decorations, no elaborate food, not even a single present.
Or at least, not until Sam ambushes him after breakfast with a month's subscription to Busty Asian Beauties Online, purchased on his laptop with one of their many fake credit cards.
"You sly dog," Dean praises, examining the screen with definite approval. "When'd you think this up?"
"This morning," Sam says, grinning with a mixture of pride and sheepishness. "I couldn't exactly pop off to the nearest gas station for some skin mags, but I figured this would probably do."
"It does, it totally does," Dean says, admiring the model on the home page. She's startling bendy. "Now I feel bad for not getting you that pony."
"You don't have to get me anything. I just…well, what's Christmas without at least one Christmas present, right?"
"Thanks, Sam." And he means it. Trust his brother to come up with something like this, just to keep tradition alive.
The presents keep coming, and apparently this year there's a theme, because Bobby's yuletide gift to them is a string of condoms, each.
"Well, it ain't like I'm gonna be using 'em," Bobby says with a shrug. Sam's makes a face like he's not sure which is more appropriate—laughing or vomiting, and the end result is so hilarious that Dean almost spills his beer.
"Merry Christmas, Bobby," he says, toasting him. "You always give the bests gifts."
Bobby's glare is tinged ever so slightly with mirth. "Oh yeah, smart ass? Let's see you do better."
"Uhh…" Dean racks his brain, coming up with the one thing he knows he's the best at. "I'll cook dinner tonight. I'm pretty good at scraping together something from nothing, right Sam?"
Sam grins. "Best chef since Boyardee."
"Well, in the meantime I suggest we all sit around in our pajamas and drink till we can't see straight," Bobby says, downright cheerfully, and Dean raises his glass in agreement.
"Hear, hear!" He takes a long swig of beer and kicks back on the couch, feet propped up against the coffee table comfortably. Sam turns on the TV until he finds something relatively innocuous (a football game) and takes a seat in the armchair, long limbs contorted until he's neatly settled in, and Dean thinks that so far, this is probably their best Christmas in a long while, maybe ever. The Apocalypse is still going strong, of course, and Lucifer and Michael are still out there, waiting to jump their bones, but for some reason all of that is easy to forget right now, all of their troubles swept neatly under the rug today, and for Dean, that's enough.
He's got his eyes closed, head reclined against the couch back as he listens to the sound of the game in the background, but he looks up when a shadow falls over him. Castiel stands in front of him, and he doesn't look happy.
"What's up?" Dean asks, frowning. "Your wing bothering you again?"
"I didn't get you a present," he says, and Dean gets it.
"Cas," he says, touched. "It's fine, man, I don't need anything."
"You and Sam and Bobby exchanged gifts. I should have something to give you," he insists. Dean shakes his head.
"It's cool, really. And I didn't get you anything, either, so we're even."
"You're making dinner."
Dean raises an eyebrow challengingly. "You gonna eat it?"
"I will if you make it."
A funny feeling uncoils in Dean's gut, like he's just swallowed something warm after being out in the cold, and he's grinning without really giving his face permission to do so. "You can pay me back later, then, if you feel so bad about it."
Castiel nods like Dean's just done him a great service. "I'll do that."
Then he sits on the opposite side of the couch, intense gaze focused on the TV, although Dean gets the feeling he's not really watching the game. He's in good company—Dean's not watching it, either.
Dinner that night is a mixture of about eight kinds of themes, from breakfast (eggs and pancakes) to mexican (burritos with ground up hamburger meat) to home-made casserole (boxed macaroni topped with three layers of cheese), and although it would probably make Martha Stewart cringe and run away screaming, Dean's pretty proud of it. Anyway, it's enough to feed four people, because true to his word, Castiel does make up his own plate and eat with them. They sit around the TV and watch the holiday programming, because Dean thinks that if Cas has to be stuck down on Earth for Christmas, he should at least see all the classic Christmas movies.
They're about halfway into A Christmas Story when Bobby breaks out his stash of hard liquor—apparently he hadn't been exaggerating when he'd planned to get drunk past the point of coherency, and by the time the movie ends he's made up a batch of eggnog with so much rum it could probably strip the paint off the Impala.
In other words, it's some really good shit, and Dean drinks a lot of it.
He doesn't know how they end up cuddling on the couch, but he suspects it has to do with the six or so glasses of said eggnog swimming around pleasantly in his stomach, keeping company with the whiskey and beer he's been consuming throughout the day, because when Cas slumps against his shoulder halfway through It's a Wonderful Life, his eyes at half mast and his breathing peaceful and even, Dean casually slips an arm around his waist and draws him closer, completely indifferent to the fact that Sam and Bobby are sitting in the same room, that Sam is sitting on the same couch. It's a far cry from his normal, sober reaction, which probably would have involved clamming up and blustering out some excuse about personal space and inappropriate touching, but Dean can't seem to bring himself to care about stupid shit like that right now. He's warm, comfortable, contented, and more than a little drunk, and Cas probably doesn't even realize that this is cuddling, anyway, so it doesn't count. It's probably easier on his wing to sit this way. Dean's just trying to be accommodating, that's all.
It's late when the movie ends, late enough that the only things on TV are infomercials and religious nut-jobs talking about the true spirit of Christmas (which is dumb, Dean thinks, because technically Christmas ended an hour ago). Bobby grunts out something about getting his beauty sleep and rolls into the den, brushing off Sam's attempt to help him into bed ("What, you think I just sleep in my chair when you boys ain't around? I may be an crippled old man, son, but I ain't helpless.") Sam retreats back into the living room, looking sheepish.
"Looks like Bobby's got the right idea," he says around an immense yawn and a spine-cracking stretch. He used to do that when he was a kid, too, the hems of his perpetually too-short pajamas riding up around his stomach and ankles. Sam's all grown up now (and all his clothes fit properly), but Dean can remember it easily, especially now, the combination of rum and damn fine whiskey and a big dinner making him all warm and fuzzy inside. "I think I'm done for the night, too."
"Wuss," Dean says, grinning stupidly. "Your movie marathon-ing skills need work—it's only one o'clock."
"There's only so much mind-numbing, wholesome family programming I can take. I didn't even think you liked It's a Wonderful Life."
"It's a classic," Dean says, frowning. "And as Cas's sole instructor in the complex study of popular culture, I felt it was my duty to school him in the classics."
The angel in question speaks up, somewhere from Dean's shoulder. "It was inaccurate, long-winded, and overdramatized. Hardly what I would call a classic by human standards."
"You're just grumpy cause they made angels out to be wimpy little shoulder-perchers with comb overs."
"And the idea that we somehow earn our wings by helping human with their problems is just ridiculous." Cas continues as if Dean hadn't spoken, lifting his head so stare at him sternly, like a teacher delivering a lecture. They're so close, Dean could count individual eyelashes if he wanted to.
"Lucky you met me after you'd already earned yours, huh?" Dean says, totally ignoring his point. "You'd never get around to flying if you had to solve all my issues."
"That's putting it mildly," Sam says helpfully. Dean throws a pillow at him.
"Very funny, wise guy. You staying or going?"
"Going," Sam says. "You guys have fun. I'm gonna get some shut eye."
Dean shrugs. "Suit yourself. Do me a favor and put in Christmas Vacation before you go? I don't think I can stand without falling over."
"Wow, Dean. How much of that eggnog did you have?" Sam says, fumbling around in the half-light for the requested DVD. Dean's pretty sure it's a rhetorical question, but he answers it anyway.
"Not as much as Cas. He was knocking 'em back like a seasoned pro."
Sam finds the play button and stands back, smirking. "And yet he's still more sober than you."
Dean makes a face. "He's using his angel powers to cheat, obviously."
"Or you're getting to be a light weight in your old age—"
Dean is unfortunately out of pillows, so he just talks over Sam in his loudest, drunkest voice. "Thought you said you were going to bed? Night's not getting any younger, Sammy."
Sam raises his hands in the universal symbol for surrender. "All right, all right, I know when I'm not wanted. Just keep the volume down, all right? My room's right over you."
"Uh-huh, sure thing. Night."
"Night, Dean. Night, Cas."
"And God bless us, everyone," Dean says, in his best Tiny Tim impersonation. Sam throws the pillow back at him ("Jerk." "Bitch.") and tromps upstairs. His footsteps have just faded out when he hears Cas say something indecipherable, feels him mumble the words against his neck.
Cas's eyes are even bluer in the weird half-light, the white-bright radiance of the TV giving his skin a ghostly glow. "I was just echoing your sentiment, Dean." He repeats whatever it was he said, and Dean feels a little better for not having understood him the first time, because while he is pretty impressively drunk, he's still sober enough to understand English when it's spoken to him, and the sounds spilling from Castiel's mouth are definitely not. Cas must have noticed his perplexed expression, because he takes pity on him and elaborates. "It's Enochian. A prayer to my father to bless this house and everyone in it."
Normally such a declaration would make Dean scoff and roll his eyes (because despite the threat of an literal biblical Apocalypse hanging over their heads, Dean still doesn't believe that God exists, and if he does, he certainly isn't doing much blessing), but his blood-alcohol level is at dangerous levels so he just smiles and says, "Thanks, Cas."
Cas shifts against him, feathers rustling softly. "I'd like to give you my present now, if that's all right."
Dean is surprised; when he'd said that Cas could make it up to him, he'd assumed he meant later, as in, after he'd healed enough to fly off and grab him a beer or something. But whatever, this worked, too. "Sure, okay. Hit me."
Cas moves again, twisting an arm behind him. Dean only catches on to what he's doing when Cas's body gives a sharp jolt and he hisses in a breath. The feather he presents to Dean—the feather that he just pulled out of his own wing—is long and sleek and oil black, light and insubstantial in Dean's hand and yet incredibly heavy.
"Cas—" He really doesn't know what to say. This seems like a much more meaningful gesture than cooking someone dinner or buying a subscription to online porn. Dean's not sure what it means, but he's pretty certain he doesn't deserve it.
"It's all I have to give," Cas explains somberly. "If you cannot accept it as a gift, then consider it a thank you for helping me. Please accept it."
"Thanks, Cas," Dean whispers. It's all he can say.
"Merry Christmas, Dean."
Dean thinks he's being very mature by resisting the impulse to point out that Christmas is over. "Merry Christmas, Cas."
Dean tries hard to stay awake through the duration of Christmas Vacation, since without him to play interpreter Cas doesn't understand most of the jokes (he looks at Chevy Chase like he's an alien and doesn't even crack a smile at the cat-in-the-Christmas-tree gag), but eventually the alcohol catches up to him and he conks out before the ending credits roll.
Next thing he knows, he's waking up from a very, very good dream involving Angelina Jolie and Megan Fox and a lot of red jello, and while good dreams are usually a-ok in Dean's book, in this instance it has caused a very awkward situation because a) he is embarrassingly hard and he's only wearing a pair of boxer-briefs and some old, threadbare sweats and b) there is an angel asleep on top of him.
An angel. On top of him. Sleeping. Shifting around and making soft low sounds and brushing up against Dean in ways that are making little thrums of pleasure shoot up and down his spine, into his belly and lower—and then Dean's hips are moving without his permission, rutting up against Castiel's hip like he's been doing it all night and ohmyfuckinggod he has probably been fucking humping an angel of the Lord in his sleep what the actual fuck.
He has never been quite so glad of Cas's recent need for sleep because Dean would probably have died of the sheer mortification if Cas were awake. Not that it would have gotten this far if he had been, because Cas probably would have smote him by now. Dean counts himself lucky that he's going to get out of this with nothing but a serious case of blue balls (because he's not going to risk moving—moving would be a very, very bad idea) and lies back, trying to think of unsexy things like Sarah Palin and baseball and Sam's secret nose-picking habits and Bobby naked—
Turns out picturing that last one is a pretty effective hard-on killer. It's also mentally and emotionally scarring, so he doesn't think he'll ever be thinking about it again. In fact, he'll be brain bleaching from now until he dies, Jesus Christ.
After a few deep, stabilizing breaths, Dean thinks he's pretty well calmed down, enough to maybe make an attempt at extracting himself from their tangle of limbs, since he doesn't want to spend the rest of the night sleeping on the couch if he can help it.
Then Castiel moves, parts his thighs and slips just slightly to one side, and Dean's breath catches, because that little motion has lined them up crotch to crotch and Cas—Cas—has a fucking boner. Dean can feel the hot hard length pressed up against his own dick and fuck, it shouldn't feel as good as it does, but it does. It feels really fucking good, and just like that Dean is ready to go again, thoughts of his naked father figure be damned.
Dean is stone cold sober. The day long binge has finally run its course, the alcohol has long since metabolized, and he is fully and completely in control of his own faculties. His head actually feels clearer than it has in months, so he has no excuse for the way his hips move, grinding up against Cas in little insistent circles, or the way his hands wander up to Cas's sides, his waist, his ass, no excuse except for the very real possibility that he has finally lost his mind, because there is no way he should be doing this—Cas is a guy (or at least, he's possessing a guy's body, and Jesus, that just adds a whole other layer of wrong to this scenario that Dean can't even begin to wrap his head around), and Dean isn't into dudes. It's not even like he's having a big gay crisis (as Sam would probably call it) or anything like that. Dean has only ever been attracted to women, has liked boobs and pussy and long hair and curves since his teenage libido first exploded onto the scene, and at absolutely no time has he ever been more than fleetingly, superficially attracted to another man (he's secure enough in his masculinity to admit that Eric Bana is a fine looking dude, but it's not like he wants to fuck him or anything).
But Cas—Cas is different. He's not even really a man, technically. He's an angel, a badass mother fucking warrior of God, and he's not just any angel—he's the angel who pulled him out of Hell, the angel who rebelled against Heaven for him, the angel who spent Christmas with him and prayed for him, blessed him and called him Righteous even when Dean felt worthless, and Dean has no fucking clue what any of this means in the context of sex, except that suddenly, he doesn't want to do this.
Not while Cas is asleep, anyway.
Because he might not know how he feels about Cas (or might not be ready to admit that he does feel, probably more than he should), but he knows that he respects him enough to show a little restraint and not fucking molest him while he's unconscious.
Dean takes another deep breath and commands his hands to stop their winding track down Castiel's spine, stops them from settling in the small hollows at the base where back becomes backside, forces them back down to his sides in a carefully neutral position on the couch cushions. It actually takes a considerable effort to make his hips stop moving against Cas's, mostly because Cas won't stop moving against him—he's got a white knuckle grip on Dean's Henley, his face pressed against Dean's neck, breath sweeping hot and moist against Dean's skin as he pants for breath, rocking his hips in a way that is making it very difficult for Dean to stick to his resolve, but since the last thing he wants is for Cas to wake up with Dean's hand down his pants, he forces himself to grab onto Cas's hips—in a very not-sexy way—and try to gently pull their bodies apart.
Cas whines—legit whines—at the sudden lack of friction, and then his thigh is hitching up on Dean's, and Dean realizes, very reluctantly, that he's going to have to wake Castiel up if he's going to have any chance of salvaging this.
"Cas," he says, whisper-soft, and when that fails to garner the appropriate reaction (Cas just nuzzles the underside of his jaw and hikes his leg a little higher up Dean's thigh), he says a little louder, almost a hiss, "Cas. Wake up."
"I'm not asleep, Dean."
Which makes Dean poor little heart lurch in absolute, utter shock, because wait, what?
"What the fuck?" Dean says succinctly, wondering when he had stepped off the plane into the fucking Twilight Zone. He stares up at Cas, who is very much not asleep and looking down at him with dark eyes and an unreadable expression. "You…I mean…you're not—"
"You were much more responsive when you thought I was asleep," Cas comments calmly, and he's stopped moving now, but it doesn't matter anymore because Dean is still about six steps behind and struggling to catch up.
"I thought you might be too uncomfortable to continue if you knew I was awake, so I feigned sleep," Cas explains reasonably, like this is the most natural thing in the world. Dean has trouble stifling his noise of absolute disbelief and Cas's brow furrows. "You're uncomfortable, aren't you?"
"Yes, I am fucking uncomfortable," Dean says, grabbing his wrists and rolling them, only just remembering in time to roll them to the left so that Cas doesn't land on and crush his bad wing. They're pressed face to face on the couch, barely room for the both of them like this, close enough to kiss, and maybe Dean really isn't uncomfortable so much as surprised out of his goddamn mind. And okay, maybe a little pissed because he'd had that big crisis of morality for nothing, since Cas is apparently okay with a little somnophilia. "You could have said something, Jesus."
"I was afraid you would stop if you knew. And I was right."
He sounds grumpy and put-out, the same way Dean would if he'd just been massively cock-blocked, and it's just so surreal it almost makes him laugh. "So what, you were just gonna lie there and let me hump you into oblivion?"
"I had no objections."
It shouldn't be a turn on, it really shouldn't, but the way Cas says it, it almost sounds like an invitation, and Dean's dick gives a little twitch of interest. "Fuck, Cas, that's—" Creepy. Hot. Creepily hot. But it also brings up an interesting point, and Dean just has to ask, has to make sure—"Do you…do you want this?"
Cas awards him the kind of look he only busts out whenever he thinks Dean is being particularly obtuse.
"Obviously," he growls, in that I-will-smite-your-puny-human-ass-unless-you-do-what-I-want tone of voice that has always sent a shiver down Dean's spine, only now it's for completely different reasons. He opens his mouth to say something, some stupid jibe about how Cas can "smite" his ass any day, but then Cas shifts, rolls his hips until their cocks brush together again and even through multiple layers of fabric if feels so, so good, a spark of white hot heat in his gut and a desperate, urgent need to be closer taking him over. Dean can't help his response—he presses in until their bodies are aligned, threading a leg between Cas's and just fucking going to town, rutting up against him like his fucking life depends on it.
He supposes it's only natural, the next logical step in this thing they've just started (and Dean refuses to give this a name yet, doesn't want to ruin it with a label), but Dean's still a little surprised when Cas's lips brush his, hesitant at first and then with bruising force as Cas attacks his mouth with all the fervent inexperience of a two-thousand year old virgin—and that thought pulls Dean back a little, makes him pause, because holy shit, this is Castiel's first time—first time kissing, first time bumpin' uglies, his first time doing anything, and he's doing it all with Dean—and that…that's a little daunting because Dean doesn't really know what he's doing here, has never done this with another guy, and what if he fucks up? He wants to make it good for Cas, he realizes, wants to make him pant and gasp and writhe and really enjoy it, because who knows when they'll get another chance to do this again?
"Dean," Cas gasps into his mouth, his hands on Dean's face, on the back of his neck, in his hair. "Stop thinking."
Dean does. Or at least, stops thinking about the what ifs and the whys and the afterwards and just focuses on the feel of Cas's lips (sort of chapped, but warm and full and soft inside), concentrates on taking back some measure of control, reigning in Cas's desperate, sloppy movements with both hands on on his face, the pads of his thumbs tracing his cheekbones as he kisses him slow and deep and filthy. Cas is a quick study, nipping at his lower lip before drawing it into his mouth and sucking, and Dean smirks a little into the kiss because yeah, he could get used to this.
He's just about to teach Cas the joys of of a hickey when something brushes against the small of his back and a rush of what feels like pure fire floods his veins, lighting up his skin in places that aren't even sensitive, places that aren't even being stimulated, and it's like coming but not—just a burst of pleasure so intense it briefly blinds, and Dean growls and pushes Cas back, pins him against the back of the couch just so he can get closer, get inside, get more—
Cas's short, choked-off cry brings him back down so quickly that Dean almost blacks out from the sudden sensory depravation, but when his vision clears his heart drops somewhere toward the vicinity of his stomach because Cas is shaking and pale, his expression clenched in pain because Dean has just shoved him back first against Bobby's less than padded couch, and this is exactly what he'd been afraid of—hurting Cas, fucking up, losing control.
"Cas, shit—I'm sorry, are you—?" They're so tangled up together than Dean doesn't know where or how to begin extracting himself, but he feels like he should back off, should give Cas room to breathe.
Cas shakes his head and clutches at Dean's shirt as if he's read his mind (and yeah, hello, angel—he probably did). "No, it's fine, I'm fine. It was my fault, I didn't think…"
"What the hell was that?" Dean asks, though he thinks he already knows. He's felt that rush of power before, that feeling of pure energy and overwhelming sensation of wholeness, although it's never felt quite so…kinky.
"My wing," Cas says somewhat breathlessly, confirming Dean's suspicions. He can feel it now, the unbound, uninjured one that has somehow slipped underneath Dean's left arm so that the long primary feathers can brush at his spine like ghostly fingertips. It feels the same way it felt in the kitchen that time—peaceful, warm, vibrating—and it's awesome, but it doesn't make Dean feel like he's about to come in his pants.
"That's never happened before," he feels compelled to point out. Cas half smiles at him, the tight lines of pain around his eyes finally starting to fade.
"We've never been so intimately connected before," he says, and only Cas can describe "rutting on the couch like bunnies" as "intimately connected." "As I've explained to you before, Dean, my wings are a physical manifestation of my grace. You and I already have a connection—" his hand snakes under Dean's left shoulder, long fingers skating over raised skin and pressing against the handprint there, "—and my grace reaches out to it, to you. The reaction is obviously stronger if we're being…amorous."
Dean's not as fazed by this revelation as he probably should be (because Cas has basically just said that they're soul-bonded, or grace-bonded, or whatever, and that's pretty fucking intense), but it's not the weirdest thing he's ever heard, and honestly, it kind of makes sense. Besides, his immediate concern isn't what caused the reaction, but the reaction itself. "That gonna happen every time we try to get frisky?"
Cas tilts his head. "I don't know. Probably. Is that a problem? It was my understanding that you found the connection to be quite pleasant."
"Yeah," Dean says, trying not to sound too eager (because pleasant didn't even begin to cover it), "yeah, it was awesome, Cas, but…I hurt you."
"You caught me off guard," Cas says, and he almost sounds embarrassed. "It won't happen again." He leans in and brushes his lips against Dean's teasingly, but Dean draws back.
"Cas, maybe we should just call it a night—"
Cas's expression hovers somewhere between stung and righteously pissed. "Dean. It's not my intention to emasculate you by saying this, but believe me when I say that you could not possibly hurt me unless I allowed you to."
His traitorous half-hard cock gives a twitch of interest at that—not at hurting Cas, but at Casletting Deanhave control, have power over him—but still he hesitates. "Right, I know that, but what if—"
Cas's mouth is over his before he can get the rest of the words out, and this time, there's nothing teasing about it—it's hard, insistent, full of teeth and tongue, and Dean thinks distractedly that maybe he taught Cas a little too well, because by the time Cas pulls away Dean's panting and light-headed like he's the blushing virgin between the two of them.
"Dean." Only Cas can say his name like that, putting whole sentences behind one syllable. "I want this. Please." He's begging, literally begging Dean for this, but he still manages to make it sound like a command, and either way Dean is completely helpless to refuse him.
"Okay," he says, rubbing up against him with renewed interest, planting wet, nibbling kisses down his neck. "Okay. How far do you wanna go with this, exactly?"
"As far as we can," Cas says simply, like this isn't complicated and fucked up and just really a bad idea in general, like them dry humping on the couch isn't going to be awkward later. It's honest and straight-forward and totally Cas, and it reassures Dean in some weird way, gives him comfort in the knowledge that this doesn't have to be anything but what it is, doesn't have to be any more than sex if they don't want it to be, doesn't have to go any farther than what they're doing now, rocking together in a slow hot rhythm and exchanging kisses and silent declarations and learning one another by touch.
This doesn't have to be love, but it can be.
And this is Cas, Cas who dragged him from the Pit and rebuilt him from nothing, Cas who knows him inside and out. What is there to be afraid of? Dean feels whole and safe and wanted, and honestly, that's better than he's felt in years, and it's more than enough.
He kisses Cas without reservation this time, drawing on all of his considerable skill to make Cas gasp and pant and moan into his mouth; he kisses and licks and bites until Cas's lips are red and swollen and his eyes are wild with want. He doesn't remember consciously making the decision to slip his hand past the elastic waistband of Cas's borrowed sweats and into his boxers, but when his fingers curl around Cas's cock, hard and hot and already pearled at the tip with pre-cum, Cas gives a startled moan and bucks up into the touch, and Dean thinks it's the best decision he's ever not-made.
The angle is kind of awkward, true, their bodies impossibly entwined in a tangled mess of elbows and kneecaps and wing-joints and Bobby's couch is perhaps a bit too narrow for two grown men to lie on it like this, but Dean's made do in worse situations than this (the Impala, for one, because as much as he loves his baby, the backseat ain't all that comfortable) and he doesn't think he could stop now if he tried. The sounds Cas makes, the little grunts and gasps that tumble from his lips like the pleasure surprises him; the way his body responds, so open and honest, to Dean's hand on his cock; the way his mouth falls away from Dean's, too distracted, too overwhelmed to keep up with the kiss—it's perfect, and Dean is immediately, incurably addicted to it.
He's only just started to introduce some of his best moves—the things that get him off the best when he's doing this to himself—when Cas gasps out something incoherent, something that Dean suspects isn't even English, his face pressed into Dean's neck and his body tensing like a rubber band stretched tight.
"Come on, Cas," Dean whispers into his hair. He runs his thumb over the head, gathering the sticky wetness there and spreading it messily over his cock. Cas makes a sound very close to a whimper and jolts, hips thrusting into the circle of Dean's hand in a harsh, broken rhythm and his fingers tightening on Dean's arms hard enough to leave bruises.
He sounds lost, and he doesn't look much better, mouth slack and eyes dazed, the intense focus and confidence from before obliterated by the feeling of his first impending orgasm. Dean distinctly remembers his own first, or at least, his first time with someone else (Jennifer Swanson, freshman year, under the bleachers between third and fourth period. She could do things with her mouth that make Dean blush even now, and if ever there was a time that Dean believed in God, that had been it), so he thinks he can sympathize.
"Let go," he says, moving his free hand lower, between Cas's legs to run his fingers over his balls and that's it—Dean feels the velvet soft flesh draw taut and Cas goes rigid, soft sounds muffled against Dean's neck as he comes, hot and messy against their bellies, Dean's hand trapped between them, slowly jacking him through it until Cas stops trembling and goes limp.
Dean just holds him for a minute, content to bask in Cas's afterglow and feel smug and accomplished because he did this, he made Cas into this pliant mess of sweaty skin and mussed hair and deep, slow-sated breaths, and he doesn't know why he was so nervous before, because making Cas feel good is the easiest, most natural thing in the world. He'd be perfectly amicable to just lying here for a little while longer, drinking it in, but his dick has a mind of its own and soon his hips are moving, seeking friction against the smooth, hot skin of Cas's stomach.
Cas shifts sluggishly, blowing out a long, satisfied sigh as he throws a leg over Dean's, his calf pressing up against the back of Dean's thigh to draw them closer. Dean takes the invitation for what it is, one hand on a boney hip and the other on the leg sprawled over his, fingers tracing the juncture where Cas's thigh meet his ass as he ruts up against him mindlessly, occasionally brushing up against Cas's over-sensitized cock and drawing a gasp and a shudder from him, and while it's amazingly hot and feels awesome, it's just not enough.
"Cas—" Dean's pretty sure he's going to die if he doesn't get to come soon. He can't remember ever being as turned on as he is right at this moment, and he needs Cas to touch him, needs his hand on his dick and his mouth painting wet, lazy kisses against his jaw. When Cas finally reaches between them to tug Dean's pants and boxers down his hips Dean gives a needy groan, thrusting up against him eagerly.
Cas's fingers close around his dick and Dean's whole body shudders in intense, bone-deep pleasure, his head falling back against the couch cushions with a moan he only just remembers in time to muffle. It almost takes him by surprise, how amazing it feels, because it's been years since Dean has felt this good, been years since he's had the kind of rapturous high that comes from being touched by someone he cares about, done this with someone who knows him and not just as a quick fuck in a shady hotel room with nameless girl who will leave Dean in the morning with nothing but her scent in the mattress for him to keep. This is ten times better than that, and Dean almost forgot what it feels like be the center of someone's whole world, just for an instant, and really, Cas has always been good at making him feel more important than he actually is, so this is just the next step up.
It's only a handjob, and it's far from the best he's ever had, even with Cas trying to mimic all the things Dean's just done to him, but it's getting him off like nothing else and he doesn't even care that he's already embarrassingly close to coming.
"Fuck—" he says, too caught up for anything more elaborate. "Oh fuck, Cas—"
"Good?" Cas's eyes are so blown they're almost black, only a thin ring of familiar blue around the edges. He licks his lips and Dean follows the movement of his tongue with a groan. God, he wants to feel Cas's mouth on him, wants to see how those full, pale pink lips would look stretched around his cock, but that's going to have to wait until next time because the thought itself is hot enough to hurtle him perilously close to the edge. He just needs—he's so close—
"Yeah. Yeah, just—fuck—" He reaches between them and wraps his hand around Cas's, guiding his movements, making it tighter, faster. Dean is this close to coming, so close it almost hurts, can feel it building all over in a delicious, agonizing burn that is making him writhe and pant and swear and just generally lose his fucking mind.
Then Cas's wing—his grace—sweeps down Dean's spine, over his ass and JesusfuckingChrist between his legs before coming back up again and it's all over—Dean's vision whites out as a wave of crushing, all-consuming pleasure smothers him, every nerve, every fiber of him burning up with it, and he pushes up against Cas like he's trying to crawl inside, plastering himself to the length of his body, back arched, hands everywhere, and there's a single rational thought somewhere in the back of his mind that's screaming at him to stop before he hurts him again, but Cas is like a rock, immovable and steady—the anchor holding Dean down as he flies apart, piece by piece.
When he comes back to himself, they're still twisted up together and Dean's pants are halfway down his thighs but he doesn't care because Cas is lazily running his fingers through his hair and Dean think's he'd be purring right now if he were capable, he's just that happy. He feels raw, but in a good way, tired and aching and endorphin-soaked, utterly exhausted but content in a way he hasn't been since Cassie, and even that isn't a good comparison because Cassie never made him feel like this, whole and complete and cherished. He might not deserve any of it, but that doesn't stop him from enjoying it when it's offered.
He might've drifted off like that, lulled by the feeling of Cas's hands in his hair and his warm body pressed up against him everywhere, but eventually his bare skin starts to prickle with goosebumps and the sticky mess between them just becomes too uncomfortable to ignore.
"We should clean up," he says, softer than he means to, less insistent. He thinks of the bathroom in the hallway and the distance just seems astronomical.
Castiel hums in agreement, and in the next second they're both clean and dry and Dean's pants have somehow found their way back up around his waist.
"Nice trick," Dean comments around an immense and unstoppable yawn, and he feels Cas huff out a laugh.
"Go to sleep, Dean," he says, and presses a chaste kiss to his temple, soft and sweet.
Dean wraps his arms around Cas's waist and lets his eyes fall closed. His sleep is dreamless.
The next time Dean wakes up, it's sometime in the early morning—early enough that it's still dark outside—and he is alone. Dean scrubs his face with the heels of his hands and stretches, looking around for Castiel, expecting to see him nearby, watching him like he always does. But the living room is empty, and Dean gets the feeling that he's been the only one on the couch for sometime, as his own body heat is the only thing keeping him warm underneath the blanket. In fact, the blanket is the only sign that Castiel was ever there at all, and Dean catches himself frowning heavily at what that might mean. It's not the first time he's woken up alone after sex, tucked into bed with an arm around someone who's long gone, so he's not sure why it bothers him, but Dean feels a little hurt that Cas isn't here, isn't still wrapped around him and holding him and being held. Hurt, and maybe a little used, which is just stupid, because Cas isn't like that, isn't like Dean, who has done his fair share of using in the past and has never been shy about admitting it. It's fucking ridiculous, and hypocritical of him, but the feeling's there all the same and Dean kind of hates himself for it.
Clearly he just needs to put on his big boy pants and stop overreacting. All that talk about soul-bonding or whatever must have gotten to his head. He and Cas'd had sex last night. Just sex, nothing complicated, just a mutual handjob between friends (if such a thing existed)—it's not like they were dating now or anything. Dean had needed to get off and Cas….well, Cas had probably just been curious. Two thousand year old virgin and all that. Dean had gotten what he'd wanted out of it in the end and so had Cas. Period. End of story. All's well that ends well.
…God, he can't even pretend that's true in his own head, much less in front of Cas. And that's the truly scary part, because if asked, Dean doesn't think he'll be able to lie. Not about this. Maybe it had started off being just about the sex but somewhere along the way, it had become about Cas, about them, and maybe it's taken Dean until morning to figure it out but he knows that what they did last night has changed things—he just doesn't know if the change is for the better or for the worse.
Dean makes a noise that's part sigh, part growl and heaves the blanket off him. There's no way he's going back to sleep and he's not going to suffer through this emotional bullshit any longer without getting some caffeine in him first.
He's already through his first cup of coffee by the time he happens to glance out the kitchen window and into the backyard. The sun isn't up yet, but the snow makes everything brighter, somehow, so he can clearly see Castiel sitting on the hood of the tarp-covered Impala, his black wings standing out against the white of the world. Dean can't suppress a shiver—it can't be much more than twenty degrees out there and Cas isn't even wearing a shirt.
It's probably a sign of how far off the deep end he's gone, but Dean's pours out two more cups of coffee—putting a healthy amount of cream in the second one—and, after bundling bundling up in his coat and throwing on his boots, heads outside, steaming mugs in hand.
The cold hits him like a punch to the solar plexus, almost knocking the wind out of him, and he has to blink rapidly to keep the sting of tears at bay as a frigid gust of air smacks him dead in the face. He thinks longingly of the blanket he'd left inside, but he grits his teeth and continues walking, thankful that at least there's a clear path to the Impala and he won't have to tromp through any waist high snow dunes. If Cas were to get sick because Dean was too much of a pussy to withstand a little cold, he'd never live it down.
Cas doesn't look at him as he approaches, eyes fixed somewhere on the distant horizon with a faraway expression. Dean thinks he shouldn't look quite so contemplative, quite so remote, because it looks too much like regret and he hates to think of Cas having that look now, the morning after, hates to think that maybe he's having second thoughts when Dean is still clinging to the memory of them.
He shoves the coffee mug under his nose and grunts out a rough, "Here."
Castiel takes it delicately. "What is it?"
"Coffee," Dean says, through chattering teeth. "If you're going to sit out here like a crazy person you should at least have something warm."
Cas smiles (just a small twitch at the corner of his mouth, but a smile all the same), takes a sip of his coffee, and says, "Thank you, Dean," like Dean's just offered him the world and not just a cup of joe.
And if this is going to be one of those awkward conversations where Dean just stands around half the time and says stupid shit just to fill the silence, then he'd just as soon do it inside. He's about to beat a hasty retreat when Cas pats the snow covered hood beside him invitingly and says, "Sit with me." He doesn't say please, but Dean is still just as unable to refuse him now as he was last night (as he's always been, maybe), so he clears off a patch of snow and does so, wincing a little as the cold damp instantly starts to creep up his pants.
"What are you doing out here, anyway?" He asks, genuinely curious. He gets Cas's full attention at last—Cas turns away from whatever faraway land he's been gazing at and turns to face him, eyes bright and cheeks reddened from the cold, and Dean knows then that he is utterly fucked because all he wants to do is kiss Cas, kiss him and forget about everything, kiss him and pretend that everything's okay, just so they can have this. He wants Cas, and he doesn't want to let go.
Yeah, he thinks, somewhat dizzily. That's what changed.
Cas is looking at him like he knows exactly how Dean feels, but if he does, he doesn't comment on it. Dean wishes he would. He hates this game they're playing, hates feeling like he's simultaneously three steps ahead and yet so far behind he'll never catch up.
"I'm watching the sunrise," Cas says, and it takes Dean a minute to realize that he's answering his question.
"Oh," he says, and then, a little belatedly, "Aren't you cold?"
"No," Cas shakes his head. "I don't feel the cold as you do."
"Oh," Dean says again, and opens his mouth to say something else. It doesn't come, and Cas just looks at him, not expectantly, just looking, and Dean wishes he could read Cas's mind, because Cas isn't acting at all like he'd been expecting him to, not bashful or repentant or even, as Dean hoped he might be, happy. He looks the same, completely unchanged, which is just so unfair because Dean feels like a whole different person.
"Listen, Cas—" He's going to have to bring it up first, as Cas obviously isn't too keen on discussing it, and he hates that he's going to have to ruin this moment with a serious discussion about how sex can change a friendship, but for once in his life Dean has to talk about this. He needs to know where Cas stands, needs to tell him that—tell him that—
Cas leans forward and presses his lips to Dean's, and Dean thinks oh, fuck it. The kiss is soft and unassuming, not like the tangle of teeth and lips from last night, sweet but intense, with just a hint of promise as Cas runs his tongue along Dean's bottom lip. Dean responds eagerly, body moving instinctively closer, one hand moving up to the nape of Cas's neck so he can tangle his fingers in the short hairs there. They kiss until Dean fills warm all over, and it's not until they pull apart for breath that he realizes that's not just his emotions talking—Cas has his good wing draped over Dean's shoulders like a blanket, a pocket of heat trapped under the feathers and sustained by his grace. Dean rests his forehead against Cas's and just breathes for a bit, enjoying the feeling of heat all around and inside, and it's almost enough to make him forget, but not quite.
"What are we doing here, Cas?" he asks, a bit helplessly. He's not expecting an answer, though he gets one anyway.
"We're kissing," Cas says, and when Dean starts to protest (why me, why now, why this?) he just kisses him again and shakes his head. "Because I want to. I want to be with you, like this, for as long as I am able. Is that so impossible to believe?"
"I'm sorry," Dean blurts, because he is and he's never said it before now. "I'm sorry I dragged you into all this."
"Don't be. I made my choice. I made the right choice. We will win this, Dean, I'm sure of it."
It's not the first time Dean's heard it, and he's still not really sure he believes it, but that's okay because right now he's warm and safe and he has this, has Cas, for a few more weeks, and he'll cherish every minute of it.
"To future Christmases," he says, raising his cup of coffee and bringing it up against Cas's with a soft clink.
"To new traditions," Cas adds, and Dean musters a smirk.
"By that you mean watching the sunrise? Or the sex?"
"I am amicable to both."
Dean laughs. "Yeah. Yeah, me too."
ONE YEAR LATER
It's closing in on three in the morning when Dean abruptly decides that he's going go. He's been waffling about it all day, and as he lies awake in bed, staring up at the ceiling and listening to Lisa's deep, sleep-even breaths he finally makes up his mind. During the day it had been easy to convince himself that he didn't need to do this, that he had finally reached some kind of closure and that by giving in he was basically going to ruin the shaky stability he'd managed to build up over the last few months. Watching Ben and Lisa open their presents had helped strengthen his resolve. Their enthusiastic reactions, their warm embraces, the sense of belonging as they had presented him with their own gifts—it said you have a life here, Dean, don't fuck this up.
But when the daylight started to fade, when the cold started to creep in through the walls, Dean's determination had wavered. The turkey dinner he had helped prepare turned to ash in his mouth. His promise to take Ben sledding tomorrow got stuck in his throat. He only made it about a quarter of the way through It's a Wonderful Life before excusing himself, spluttering out some bull shit story about being tired after a long day of doing nothing. Ben had whined, "But it's tradition!" and Dean'd bitten the inside of his cheek hard enough to draw blood.
Lisa had been wonderful about it, never pushing too hard, only accepting what Dean was willing to give. Her huge brown eyes were full of understanding, not pity, as she watched him force down another spoonful of homemade cranberry sauce at dinner, and when Dean had fled to the bedroom at half past nine, she made no effort to coax him back out again. Dean thinks he couldn't have possibly picked a better place to get his head on straight again, or attempt to get his head on straight, or whatever the hell it is he's trying to do here, because Lisa doesn't ask difficult questions, doesn't make him open up. She's trying her best to pick up the pieces of him, and Dean appreciates it, he really does. Over the last six months she's been altogether too good to him, really, which is why he feels like shit for what he's about to do, where he's about to go. It feels like a betrayal somehow, like he's taking all she's given him and throwing it back in her face, but when it comes down to it, Dean knows he's going to go. He needs this, needs this one last shred of a past he's desperately trying to burn, needs to fill the hole inside him for a while, just a little while, needs to find peace tonight or tomorrow will be just another day, just another long string of failed coping mechanisms and alcohol induced sleep.
He rolls out of bed at six thirty, avoiding all the creaky springs in the mattress and shifting his weight carefully so that his movements don't wake Lisa—not that she would make him stay. Lisa would never make him stay, and that's exactly why he'll crawl back into bed with her if she wakes up and asks, oh so easily, where he's going, so he creeps around like a man cheating on his wife, throws on a pair of jeans and a sweatshirt in the dark and pads down the hallway, past Ben's bedroom door, slips on his boots and steps into the garage. It's cold, colder than he remembers it being, so he steals back inside briefly for his coat, then gets in his truck and drives.
He's got about half an hour until the sun really starts to rise—plenty of time for Dean to just cruise around the outskirts of Cicero and try to get his hands to stop shaking. He tells himself it's the cold—the heater in his truck has been busted for a while. He tries not to think about what will happen if this falls through, how he'll cope, but he figures the worst that'll happen is he'll just drive back to Lisa's and slither back into bed for a while before getting stupidly, thought-obliteratingly drunk, and really, he's had worse ideas in the past.
Dean would really, really like this to happen, though. He's praying for it, to whoever will listen, but mostly to the one person who might actually be able to make this bearable again.
It's nearly seven when he pulls into a small scenic overlook just outside of town, the kind of place Dean might've taken a date ten years ago, the kind of place he would take Lisa now, if he could pretend like their relationship was anything remotely sexual. Before Lisa, Dean'd never slept in the same bed with a women he didn't intent to have sex with, but he's been doing it for months now and he doesn't think their arrangement will ever change. It's just one more thing Lisa is being endlessly patient about. It was even her idea to move him out of the guest bedroom and into hers. Her sympathetic smile and her promise of "It's okay. We'll just sleep, Dean" had been more than enough to convince him, and it wasn't until he first gave in and lay down next to her that he realized that the only way he could sleep now was when he could hear the steady sounds of someone else breathing in the same room. Sometimes he catches himself wishing that Lisa would snore, just for that added touch of familiarity.
But he's not thinking about Lisa now—her or anyone else, and if he has to rub the wetness from his eyes, it's because they're stinging from the cold. He thinks of only one person as he pulls a single black feather from his pocket, thinks and prays, and he's not sure how long he stays out there, perched on the hood of his truck, but he thinks it's close to fifteen minutes because his fingers are starting to go a little numb.
The horizon is getting pink by the time Dean decides he's wasting his time. He doesn't get up, though. He came all this way, he might as well watch the sunrise, even if he has to do it alone.
Then he hears the sound of rustling wings, and a warm breeze brushes over him like a caress; he smells freshly brewed coffee, and a voice tells him, "Merry Christmas, Dean," and the tears have nothing to do with the cold, this time.
"Merry Christmas, Cas."