*Some parting fluff, Bela getting it (thank you, SidewaysCope), and my heart breaking because I never wanted to part with this story lol. I am going to miss you guys like crazy!
"The sun is breaking in your eyes, to start a new day
This broken heart can still survive, with a touch of your grace
The shadows fade into the light
I am by your side, where love will find you…
What about now, what about today?
What if you're making me all that I was meant to be?
What about love, it never went away
What if it's lost behind, words we can never find
Baby before it's too late, what about now…"
~What About Now by Chris Daughtry
Dean slid his key into the door and pushed it open, one hand still intertwined with his soon-to-be husband's. John sat on the sofa, reassembling a hunting rifle. He looked up and his knuckles strained white against his hands as he balled his fists. Dean didn't flinch, even seeing the Smith & Wesson cradled across his bear of a father's lap. It was partly due to the strength in the small but sure hand gripping his. John averted his gaze from Dean to stare at the blue-eyed man behind him with disgust. Castiel stared back evenly.
Dean cleared his throat. "Hey, Dad."
"So this is your whore, then?"
Had Cass not grabbed his arms and held him back, Dean would have lunged into an attack. He almost turned on his fiancé without thinking, knocking him off, but the gentle strokes of Castiel's fingers against his biceps reminded him that they were on the same side. When his muscles uncoiled, Cass released him. Dean turned back to his father. John's eyes were muddled by a milky film, and there was a semi-transparent smear on the rifle from his sweating palms. He was drunk.
"We're engaged, Dad. I'm going to marry him."
"I heard," John spat. "It's all over the papers ever since you two announced it in front of the whole fucking airport. Bela's taking care of things, so it serves you right, boy. I'm just sorry your brother has to bear the consequences of your faggot ass shacking up with that skinny bitch beside you."
"Don't you ever talk about Cass that way. I will take that gun right out of your hands and blow your motherfucking brains out." Dean's voice was so calm that it was terrifying.
"Now now boys, let's not get ahead of ourselves."
Dean and Castiel tensed. Bela emerged from the hallway, long hair twisted up in an upsweep, body stuffed into a silken red dress. Evil has a beautiful face, Dean thought. But now that she had shown her true colors, he looked at her and could only see the ugly. He almost expected her to hiss with a forked tongue. Lost in thought as he was, he didn't notice Cass had moved from his side until he saw that lithe form stalking across the living room. Dean smirked. Demure as he may appear, Castiel Novak was not someone you wanted to piss off.
This was proved when Cass slapped Bela hard across the face, spitting out the words, "You bitch."
She pressed a hand to her cheek, a bloodied scratch marring her face from Castiel's ring. She raised a hand to return the favor, but Cass effortlessly caught her wrist and pinned it to her back, rendering her immobile. As a past abuse victim, raising his hand to someone didn't feel quite right, but he was too furious at what she had done to Dean to hold himself back. Bela shrieked in pain and yelled for Dean to call off his dog.
"That's laughable, sweetheart. I'll call him off the second you put things back the way they're supposed to be with mine and Sam's careers."
She struggled against a grip she had no chance of escaping. "Not happening." Then she glared over her shoulder at Castiel and added, "Hasn't anyone ever told you it's wrong to hit a woman?"
His response was deadpan. "Sorry. My father had a habit of slapping dogs. Guess it runs in the family after all."
"Two-bit tramp that couldn't charge a dollar an hour because you'd have to give change."
She had no reply for that one.
He took advantage of her silence and pushed her against the wall, one arm across her upper chest, holding her still with no effort. He got in her face, voice dropping to a snarl. "Put right what you've done, Bela. Or I swear as God as my witness that I will not ruin your life, I will ruin you. Let's see how that pretty little face looks when it meets a friend of mine in a dark alley." Cass stood back, relishing the widened, greenish blue eyes staring at him. "Let's go, Dean." Dean took his arm and led him out, though Castiel pulled him to one more stop. "Just a second, sweetheart."
Castiel pulled his fist back and brought it forwards into John's face, sending him to the ground, clutching his bleeding nose. Dean watched his massive father hit the ground, taken down by skinny little Cass, and burst out laughing. Dean tucked his fiancé under his arm and kicked John on their way out.
"Cass, you're awesome."
"I learned from the best."
Dean kissed him in gratitude, and the drive to Harvelle's was a lighthearted one. Castiel met Dean's friends in person and was warmly welcomed, hugged and fawned over, even by Ellen. Dean sighed and watched the woman that had been threatening to kick his ass since he was a teenager go all lovey-dovey over Cass. Figures. They sat at the bar, recapping what had gone down at the Winchester house. Andy offered Castile a celebratory joint, which he declined as politely as possible.
"So, I gotta ask," Ash started. "Would you really send somebody to beat a woman up?"
"Of course not." Castiel smiled wickedly. "But she sure doesn't know that."
They were interrupted by the door swinging open. Jo looked up from handing Ash another Bud Light and grinned. "Hey, Bobby. Come meet the future Mr. Winchester."
"Future what? Lord, what are you idjits up to in here?" He ambled over and leaned against the side of the bar.
Castiel braced himself and rose. He could see the widening of Dean's eyes and knew that if the opinion of anyone mattered, it was the man that had just walked through the door. He straightened his spine and extended his hand. "Castiel Novak-Winchester, sir." My God that sounds amazing.
The man - Bobby, Jo had called him - shook Castiel's hand firmly and seemed satisfied by the shake he got in return. "Bobby Singer."
"It's a pleasure to meet you," Cass said sincerely.
Bobby maintained his clasp on the younger man's hand, looking at Castiel from head to toe, sizing him up. He looked at Castiel's understated clothing, sure stance, and proud way of making sure his engagement ring faced up for the world to see. Bobby locked his eyes with Castiel's, and Cass wondered what the older man was looking for, and if he found it. He met the bearded man's gaze with as much respectful confidence as he could. When Bobby released his hand and turned away to face Dean, Castiel ducked his head, sure he had made the wrong impression.
"This one's a keeper, son."
Castiel's head snapped up, and he held back a shocked laugh and condensed it into a smile. Dean leapt to his feet and wrapped both arms around Cass' waist from behind him, kissing the photographer's temple excitedly. "I know he is, Bobby. You're comin' to the wedding, aren't ya?"
"And you better damn well invite me."
"Already planned on putting it in the mail, old man."
"What did you just call me?"
Cass backed up, laughing as the two men scuffled playfully. Ellen shook her head fondly, Jo and Andy taking bets on who would win if it was a real fight. Ash grinned and sipped his beer. Castiel perched on his barstool and watched his future husband play fight with the man Cass assumed to be some sort of father figure to him. He smiled when Dean, out of breath, returned to his side and kissed him. Castiel kissed back chastely in respect of the company, and laughed as Dean pulled away.
"What was that for?" he asked.
Dean shrugged. "'Cause I felt like it."
It was little things like that, the things that made Castiel start feeling less like a frequently sexed up boyfriend and more like Dean's husband. Husband. The word still tasted foreign, but he loved it. He would be proud to introduce himself as the husband of Dean Winchester, the companion to such a man. And he knew now that Dean would claim his matrimony to Castiel with the same pride. There were no regrets between them, and before the two was an open road, waiting to be traveled. Castiel leaned his head onto Dean's shoulder and knew they had rid themselves of old demons, and were ready to tread that path unshackled by their pasts.
Thirty-six years later, everything had fallen into place.
Dean drove them to the hotel room they were staying at until in the morning. Their flight was scheduled for nine a.m. They walked in, closed the door behind them. Castiel twisted his engagement ring around on his finger and watched the muscles moving in Dean's back as he stripped his clothes off. There was still tension there. Not the kind that Cass had seen and later found out signified the fear Dean harbored for their relationship, but something about Dean's pensive silence felt personal. Cass knew that whatever was going on inside his lover's head, he had nothing to do with it.
He wondered if he should intrude on Dean's privacy, ask him what he was thinking about. If Dean had something important to say, he would say it, but the stubborn ass still had a hard time talking about his feelings. Castiel knew Dean wouldn't be angry, per se, if he asked, but if it was something his fiancé would rather not discuss, he didn't want to push. Dean had waited patiently for Cass to come forth about his college years, he intended to show Dean the same respect. At the same time, he wanted Dean to know that if he needed to talk, Cass was there to listen.
They changed into clothes to sleep in. Dean quietly thanked Castiel for handling the situation at the Winchester house earlier, and muttered under his breath what sounded suspiciously like, "Since I was too much of a coward to stand up to my own damn father."
"What?" Cass inquired softly, hoping he hadn't heard that right.
"Nothing." Dean's voice left no room for negotiation. This was something cared little for talking about.
Dean slid under the covers but remained sitting, legs folded Indian style. Castiel sat across from him and, after a moment of debate, held out his hands. Dean sighed and took them, resting them on the bed between the two. Cass was silent at first, choosing his words carefully. He averted his eyes down to his too large T-shirt, which was one of Dean's. It was filled with holes and covered in stains from doing paint jobs in his father's shop, but Cass refused to part with it. He looked back up at Dean and inhaled.
"I just…want you to know that if you ever need to talk, someone to listen, I'm always here. Always will be."
Dean wasn't upset by the words. He leaned across and kissed his fiancé tenderly. He unwound their hands and drew Cass to him, and Castiel could hear the erratic beating of Dean's heart slow as they held each other. He wrapped his arms around Dean's waist and said nothing. Neither did Dean, for a long time.
Castiel heard a hesitation. Not in the sentiment, but as if that wasn't all Dean had to say. He waited. Dean rubbed the knobs of his spine under his oversized shirt, releasing a sigh. He was searching for words, and Castiel was patient until Dean found them.
"My Dad raised me with a firm hand. Real firm." His voice shook slightly on the last two words, but he plowed on. "I took it to protect Sammy from the same treatment. I'm pretty sure as he got older, Sam figured out what Dad had done. One time he thanked me without ever saying what he was thanking me for. I think I know, though. I never regretted what I went through to keep him safe, and he never stopped being grateful, even though any sibling in my situation would do the same thing."
"Not every sibling," Castiel interjected quietly. "It takes a Hell of a man to do what you did for your brother, Dean. Most big brothers, or sisters, wouldn't even bother. But you put yourself through that to shield Sam from it, and that has to be the most noble, kindest thing I have ever heard."
"…You don't think I'm a coward for not standing up to him today?" It was betrayed in his voice that how Castiel replied mattered, more than he would admit.
"Never," Cass responded sincerely. "You were the bigger man. Lowering yourself to his level wouldn't make you any better than him. Maybe I shouldn't have slapped Bela, but Gabriel always told me gay men are close enough to women so it isn't domestic violence."
Dean chuckled. "Thank you. For being there…for telling me it's okay."
"You have done the same for me more times than I can recall. I'll always be here when you need me."
Castiel looked up. "Yes?"
"I'm glad I met you. I can't think of anyone else I would spend the rest of my life with, but now I can't see my life without you in it."
Cass blinked. Dean leaned down, and they kissed with passion. Their earlier fatigue over the day faded, and they made love right there, Castiel seated atop Dean in his lap, moving languidly with his fiancé. They kissed throughout, pulling away only for air, to whisper in the other's ear, to gasp out in pleasure. Dean was the one to fall asleep in Castiel's arms, face buried in his photographer's neck. Castiel lowered them onto the bed, and fell asleep with Dean held close to him.
Dean was back to his usual self the next morning. He teased and played as always, and Castiel smiled in relief. Last night, opening up about his father, seemed to have helped Dean move past it. Dean seemed even more upbeat than Castiel was used to, messing playfully with the photographer as they got ready to leave. Cass laughed several times as Dean made faces at him or plucked things from his hands as he tried to pack them. The behavior was light and childish in the most endearing of ways.
"Caaaaassss…" Dean sang from behind his fiancé. It was a pleading tone that, when Castiel turned towards, was paired with large, green puppy dog eyes. Uh oh.
Castiel was infected by Dean's smile and felt one of his own come into place. "Yes?"
"I want to take a picture with your camera."
"Okay." Castiel shrugged and pulled his point and shoot from his the pocket of the leather jacket Dean had bought him from Italy, extending it towards his model. It was an odd request to be paired with such hopeful eyes.
Dean grinned wider, his pleading expression furthering. "The big one."
Oh. Dear lord. Big one…Castiel paled. The only other camera he had with him was his professional one, a Hasselblad D40, 64 mega pixels and a forty thousand dollar camera. He stared at Dean's large and sometimes clumsy hands, then up at the big jade colored eyes fixed on his. Cass was obscenely protective over his cameras, especially that one. It was his most prized possession, other than his engagement ring than he parted with only to shower and the outfit Dean had bought for him.
But he trusted his fiancé, and he didn't want to hurt Dean's feelings by turning him down.
"Alright. Go ahead," he said, sounding far more assured than he felt.
Dean's smile was worth it. Just the fact Castiel trusted him enough to handle the camera thrilled him, and it showed. Cass watched with a fond, if not worried, smile as Dean extracted it from its case and held it up. He examined it with curiosity, but his hands grasped it carefully, not once slipping. Castiel winced a bit as Dean flipped it onto its side roughly to examine the switches there.
"Please don't break it," he requested worriedly.
"I won't," Dean promised. "Now, smile big n' pretty for me."
Castiel laughed, impressed when Dean managed to open the flash and take the picture with only a couple minutes of figuring out how it operated. Dean took several pictures, asking Cass to turn this way and that, instructing him to pose a certain way. Castiel couldn't help but enjoy the brief role reversal.
When Dean finished, he had Castiel help him shut it down correctly, and replaced it gently in its case. Castiel thanked him for his consideration. "You're a natural photographer," he complimented.
Dean kissed his cheek. "You're a natural model."
Cass blushed, and watched as Dean pulled a case out of his pocket. It was long and hard, probably about an inch and a half thick. "What's that?"
"Somethin' I picked up on my way home from work the other day. I almost forgot about them until you were posing, and I realized something was missing."
Confused and interested, Castiel opened the dark brown case. It revealed a pair of classy, black framed spectacles. He saw that they were a prescription suited to his eyesight problem, and knew that whatever Dean said, this had been premeditated. They would have had to have been special ordered. He pulled them out, opened them, and stared down at them. It was a shock how touched he was, right down to his heart, by such a simple gesture.
"I remember you told me about what Balthazar did to your old ones, and I thought maybe you never wore glasses again because he made you think there was something wrong with it."
Castiel nodded, stunned by the accuracy of the observation. "Dean…thank you." He slid the glasses on, a little self conscious. He wondered if he looked nerdy, or too old, or-
Dean kissed his thoughts away. Staring at Castiel with nothing less than full adoration, he said, "Now that…that is what I call perfection."
Dean took another picture, this time of Castiel in his glasses.
He would later frame it, and it never left his dresser.
Nineteen Days Later
If you later asked Castiel to recount that day, he would be likely to do so, if not with a dazed smile and fond look towards his husband. He could tell you so much about it, small details that no one else noticed but he would remember for the rest of his life.
The suit was white, matched to a silk tie the exact shade of his eyes. Jimmy helped him into it and fastened his cuff links. His eyes were red and watery, jaw clenched as he fought tears. They were not tears of unhappiness, but seeing his twin dressed in white and about to be married knocked him for a loop. Castiel laughed quietly. The infallible, tough as nails Jimmy Novak was crying. At a wedding. Who would have thought?
It was a traditional wedding, minus a lacey dress. Jimmy walked his twin down the aisle, and Dean drank in the sight of Castiel with an adoration that was reflected in his eyes. Cass smiled like the sun, and moved with the fluidity of water. Sam was his big brother's best man, and shared a fond look of amusement with Gabriel. He imagined the small, blond man in a suit of such splendor, and smiled with anticipation. They had gotten engaged one week ago.
Dean and Castiel were a vision, standing in the New York Botanical Gardens, surrounded by friends and family. John wasn't there, and neither was Anna. This suited the grooms just fine. Crowley was there, with Balthazar as his date. Castiel had been shocked to see his ex but saw the protective way Crowley grasped his lover's arm, and welcomed the two warmly. Whatever reservations he had with Balthazar, and however many times he had considered the wild possibility that Crowley had at some point felt something for him other than friendly care and lust, the sight of them did not put him ill at ease.
Sam and Dean's careers were left unscathed after Bela was threatened. Castiel's was getting better every day, and his title was becoming a regular sight in fashion magazines around the world. He had even been featured in National Geographic a couple times. Dean modeled for various designers, debuting several male lines of people that usually made clothes for women. He had regular shoots with Armani and Gucci. Often, people requested both him and Sam. The press ate up the Winchesters for all they were worth.
It was a beautiful wedding. The kiss they shared was magical, and so was the smile they shared afterwards. At the reception, they danced their first dance as a married couple to John Barrowman's cover of the ever clichéd, but so touching song "Heaven." Castiel didn't care who thought it was sappy, and forgot the rest of the world as he laid his head on Dean's shoulder and swayed to the music, loved and safe in the arms of his husband.
They were legally married in the state of New York, now. Castiel listened to the name he was pronounced, repeated it to himself, and laughed joyously at the sound. He wondered, in a moment of rapture, if this was where they had been meant to be since Castiel walked into Studio 17 and met this impossible man, whose name he now carried. He had undergone a transformation of proportions known to few, and the new man that emerged now carried a new name.
This name, was Castiel Winchester.