Dean winced as the crappy "safety" razor nicked him again, then he pressed a towel to his face and threw the stupid thing in the sink. "Sam! Give me a hand in here!"
"He's not here," called back a rasping voice from the other room and Dean felt himself almost have a heart attack.
"Don't do that, Jesus Christ!"
"He's not here either." Dean saw Castiel poke his head into the open bathroom doorway, his brow furrowed. "Why are you injured?"
"I'm not..." Dean looked down at the blood spotting the towel and sighed. He lifted his wrapped and braced right wrist. "One of Alastair's love taps. Haven't been able to shave in a week, I was starting to feel like a hobo."
Castiel's head tilted. "You...were beginning to feel like a transient who illegally travels by railroad?"
Dean chuckled. "Got it in one, Cas," he said, and he saw Castiel straighten up, like he was proud of himself for finally having finally gotten one of Dean's references. "I just suck doing this left-handed."
"I could assist you."
Dean's first impulse was to say no, he was fine - that was always his first impulse - but realistically he knew it was either accept the offer or wait for Sam to get back from wherever he'd wandered off to. "Sure. Why not?"
Castiel shrugged off his trenchcoat and suit jacket, hanging both on the hook on the door as he rolled up his sleeves. He retrieved the razor from the sink and crouched in front of Dean, frowning as he tested the blade on his thumb. "This is very poor quality, Dean."
Didn't Dean know it. "Yeah, my electric died. Here's a tip, don't ever let Sam go shopping for you." Castiel gave him another dubious look and Dean sighed. "It's what we've got, Cas. C'mon, let's go."
Castiel adjusted his grip on the unfamiliar handle, examining Dean so keenly Dean almost felt like Cas could see under his skin. He tipped Dean's chin up, as serious as if planning a course of attack, then very, very carefully he scraped the blade against Dean's skin. All went well until he got to the curve of Dean's chin; Dean winced as the stupid 99 cent blade nicked him again and Castiel jerked back like he'd been burned. "I didn't intend..."
"Don't worry about it," Dean said, holding the towel against his chin. "Not your fault."
Castiel sat back on his heels, his hands steepled in front of his face. "This blade is unacceptable," he said. "You don't have anything else?"
Dean ran his tongue over his lips, weighing his options, then lets out a deep breath. What the hell. "In my pack. Over in the side pocket." He watched Castiel reach into the bag and pull out the folded-up straight razor tucked next to his phone, the sound when Castiel snapped blade open making Dean shiver. He heard that sound too often in his dreams. Had heard it just the night before, as a matter of fact. "That was my dad's," Dean said, shaking the thought away. "Carried that with him all through 'Nam."
"Why didn't you bring this out earlier?"
Dean shrugged. "Don't like to look at it." He settled back, drumming his fingers against the edge of the tub. "Get this over with, would ya? Got stuff to do today."
Castiel crouched back down beside him, his eyes doing that hyper-focused thing Dean still hadn't figured out how to counter. This time when Castiel tested the blade a drop of red blood welled up on his thumb and Dean had to look away. Cas nodded with satisfaction. "Much better." He rinsed off the blade and crouched back next to Dean.
"Careful with that, Cas."
"I've been wielding a blade since before there were humans on his continent, Dean," he said, dry irritation creeping into his voice. "I believe I can handle this one, too."
Dean decided it probably wasn't the brightest idea to roll his eyes at a super-powered being holding a razor to his throat. "Fine, whatever, man. Just get it done."
He felt Castiel run the blade over his skin in smooth, careful strokes, and Dean had to admit that for someone who'd never done this before Cas wasn't doing that bad a job. "You've been pretty scarce since that whole mess with Alastair went down, Cas."
"There was much to attend to." Castiel was using just the tips of his fingers to tilt up the angles of Dean's face as he worked, just the smallest amount of pressure, as if Dean were made of the most delicate glass. It was impossible to escape the impression that Castiel could pop his head like a grape if he got the urge.
All the same, it was kind of...intense, being at the center of that focused attention. Intense and weird, the way everything about Castiel was weird. There was almost a reverence to the way he was touching Dean, his brow furrowed as if this was an incredibly important task he'd been entrusted with instead of a nuisance chore Dean managed hung over half the time. He was surprised at how quickly it was over, Castiel examining his work with a satisfied glint to his eye. "I think I did an adequate job, Dean. Take a look."
Dean checked himself out in the mirror and while he was absolutely not going to say it, Dean didn't think he'd ever had a better shave in his life. "Thanks, Cas. I appreciate it."
Castiel leaned against the wall, a thoughtful look on his face as he wiped his hands on the towel Dean handed him. "What does that feel like?"
For a second Dean thought he'd misheard him. "What, shaving?" Castiel nodded and Dean turned on the tap to rinse off the blade. "It's...huh." He realized he'd never really thought about it. "I don't know how to put it. I'm sure the dude you're walking around in has shaved, ask him."
"I don't make a habit of rifling through my vessel's memories, as a rule."
"So that's why you're thousands of years old and still can't get any jokes."
He saw Castiel settle back against the tub, his head tilted to the side. "Could you show me?"
Dean blinked, trying to figure out what they were talking about now. "Wait, are we back to shaving?"
Castiel nodded. "Return the favor, I believe the is the term. Unless your injury is too disabling."
"Nah, it's not that, I..." Dean trailed off, realizing too late he'd completely missed his out. Over the years he'd been beat up and forced to use his left hand enough that it was almost as strong as his right; not quite ambidextrous, but usually good enough. Good enough for this, anyway; shaving someone else was easier than shaving himself.
The hand wasn't the problem.
He heard the echo of a scream. The dream had been bad enough that Sam had shaken him awake; they'd been bad the whole week since that bullshit with Alastair, the kinds of dreams he wouldn't tell Sam about no matter how many sappy we-need-to-talk looks he sent Dean's way. He didn't want to get into how in the worst dreams, the ones that had him shaking until the sun was long past up, he wasn't the one strapped to the rack.
He saw Castiel's blue eyes staring at him in the mirror and had to look away; his hand was wrapped so tight around the razor handle his knuckles were white. "Quit staring at me like that."
Castiel's brow furrowed in confusion. "Have I done something wrong?"
That did it. That look dragged Dean back to the dream like a barbed hook; he remembered finding himself back in the Pit, his hands and arms covered in so much blood he looked like he was wearing red gloves. Remembered staring at Castiel stretched out on his Rack, his wings visible and flayed open like an illustration in some fucked-up anatomy text book. In the dream Cas had been awake but so far gone he couldn't even talk, couldn't make a sound and Dean knew just how much working over it took to get someone to that point. It was the look in his eyes that had sent him reaching for the whiskey the second Sam had turned his back, though; the entire time he'd looked up at Dean like he couldn't understand why Dean was hurting him like this, like he didn't understand what he'd done. He remembered Castiel mouthing words as he'd brought down the blade, not begging but apologizing. As if he thought he must have done something to deserve Dean hating him this much.
Dean remembered Castiel's hand twitching toward him once, the pain so bad that for a second he'd actually forgotten Dean had been the one who'd caused it. And Dean had tried. Castiel's bloody fingers had brushed his hand, his desperate eyes looking up at Dean like he thought maybe Dean was there to save him now. Like this had all been a demon trick; after all, he'd pulled Dean from Hell. Of course Dean would never do this to him.
Dean had tried so hard. But he hadn't been able to control his body, and when he'd tried to talk it was Alastair's voice, Alastair's words that had come out. Dean had never actually wanted to kill himself but there had been plenty of times when he'd wanted to die, and aside from Cold Oak he'd never wanted to more than when he saw Cas' eyes change when Dean slashed the blade across his throat, that fragile hope dissolving into confusion and pain, they way those eyes had begged Dean Why? right before Castiel started to choke.
Dean had been holding a straight razor then, too.
He took a deep breath and shook all that away. Just a dream. One more fucked-up Hell dream to add to the pile. "No, Cas," he said, finally remembering that Castiel had asked him a question. "You didn't do anything wrong."
Castiel's head tilted to the side. "I was concerned there was still some animosity over my role..." Dean saw him drop his gaze. "Over what I asked of you."
Dean couldn't hold back the shiver. Maybe that was where that dream had come from. "No," he said, staring himself down in the mirror. "I'm not pissed at you, Cas. Not, you know. Not really." Castiel just kept staring at him in that way he had, like if he kept it up long enough he could peel Dean apart like a grape. "I had a dream," Dean finally said. "I..."
Dean spun around. "What do you...?" Castiel just gave him a do I really need to spell it out? look and Dean shook his head. "Dude. If you saw that..."
Castiel cut him off before he could voice the obvious question, Why would you be in the same room as me and a blade? "Because I've also seen your soul, Dean," he said. "Between that and a single dream I know where to put my faith." He shrugged. "Shall we, then?"
Somewhere along the line this had turned into some strange dare. "Suit yourself," Dean said, tossing him the bottle of shaving cream. "Lather up. Not too thick, though, that actually makes it harder." After a few seconds of watching Castiel examine the bottle like it was rigged to explode Dean rolled his eyes. "Give me that." He snatched it back, squeezed some out into his palm and started to spread the shaving cream over Castiel's face. "Gotta do everything myself."
He took so long even Cas commented on it. "Is it necessary to be this thorough?"
Dean sat back on his heels and wiped his hands off on a towel. The click when he opened up the straight razor was so loud he flinched. "I just...I don't want to cut you, Cas."
And he sounded so damned sure about that. Dean started at the curve of his jaw and worked his way down to his chin, exposing his pale skin inch by slow, careful inch. It burned in the back of Dean's mind that he'd never touched someone like this; he'd shaved people before, his dad when he'd been too hurt to do it himself, Sam when he'd just been learning, girls here and there who'd been into it, but this felt didn't feel like any of that. Each stroke of the razor revealed Castiel a little bit more: the way the planes of his cheeks sloped down from his cheekbones, the slight cleft to his chin Dean had never really noticed before. The stubble under his chin took a couple of tries to remove completely and Dean took extra care around the curve there, not willing to risk even a scratch. Even accounting for him using his off hand Dean knew he was taking three times as long he really needed and couldn't have said why. He just needed to do this. By the time Dean scraped the last inch of shaving cream away Dean knew he had learned the contours of Castiel's face so well he thought he'd know Cas by touch in the dark.
All that was left was the stubble down Castiel's neck. He could feel Cas watching his every movement, the blue of his eyes barely visible under his hooded lids. Dean pressed the edge of the the razor against Cas' skin and thought about how little pressure it would take to open his throat right now. He'd done that so many times in Hell; one flick of his wrist and it would be done, just like he had in the dream. There was a part of him he'd tried to bury, the part of his soul Alastair had spent so much time hollowing out and living in and that little voice was whispering to Dean to apply that pressure now, to watch the blood well up and flow down that exposed skin. He remembered the scratch of Castiel's nails as he'd grabbed for Dean's arm right at the end, his eyes still lost and confused as his blood flowed hot over Dean's hands.
"Dean," Castiel said, gently pulling Dean from the memory. "Sam will be back soon. We should finish."
Dean nodded – Dean really did not want to have to explain this to Sam, the thought catching Dean by surprise because really, it's not like they were doing anything wrong – and he tightened his grip on the razor. Castiel closed his eyes and tipped his chin up, baring his throat to Dean. Like it was nothing.
Dean didn't think he'd ever done anything so carefully in his life. When he was halfway through he paused for a moment and felt Castiel swallow. His voice was soft when he said, "I'm sorry I caused you pain, Dean."
Dean doubted Cas was talking about nicking him earlier. "Don't worry about it," Dean said, and just like the the whole mess with Alastair was tabled and done with. "I heal fast, anyway." Dean tipped his chin up just a bit more. "Now hold still a second." He scraped the razor very gently over Castiel's Adam's apple, holding his breath the entire time.
He was finished before he knew it. "All set, " Dean said, wiping the trace amounts of shaving cream left from Castiel's face with the towel. "Usually there's aftershave too, but we can skip that. Whaddaya think?"
Castiel rubbed one hand over his now smooth skin, frowning. "I don't know if I prefer this sensation."
Dean had to agree. "Gotta admit, you look weird without your scruff."
Castiel nodded and levered himself up from the edge of the tub, standing so quickly Dean had to take a step back to keep them from colliding. "Thank you for indulging me, Dean."
Dean shrugged. "Hey, no big deal." He did look strange without the stubble, especially standing there with his sleeves rolled up and no coat adding heft to his thin frame. Younger than he had seemed just a short while ago. Maybe even a shade more human. "Why'd you pop by in the first place? Something going down?"
"Always. But nothing pressing at the moment."
That didn't actually explain anything, but Dean decided he didn't really care. Castiel reached over to grab his coat and suit jacket from the door, draping them over his arm; he smelled like Dean's shaving cream, still so close Dean could feel him breathing. He put one hand on Cas' arm. "Hey," he said, before he even realized what he was saying, "don't stay away so long. Started to get used to you hanging around for a while there."
Castiel's eyes got very bright for a moment. "I missed a spot," he murmured, wiping away a bit of shaving cream from Dean's cheek.
Dean had to close his eyes against the careful touch. "Cas," he started to say, but before he could finish the sentence the room was filled by that tell-tale sound of wings. He opened his eyes and saw he was alone; a second later he heard the motel door open.
"Dean? You okay?" called Sam's voice. "You're not answering your phone."
"In here, Sammy," Dean said, his voice so rough it startled him.
Sam leaned against the bathroom doorway, worry clear on his face. "You okay?" he asked again.
Dean could still feel that phantom touch against his cheek. "Yeah. Yeah, I'm good," he said, realizing that for once he meant every word. His heart was pounding, the promise of what would have happened had Sam come back a few minutes later still heavy in the air. He let out a long, unsteady breath. "Definitely good." Sam gave him a look and Dean knew he'd have to change the subject; he barely had a grasp on what had just been going on, hell if he could explain it to anyone else. "We got a hunt?"
Sam nodded and started going over the hunt; it was all standard stuff and Dean found himself checking out halfway through.
He was too busy thinking about how the next time he saw Cas he was going to make damned sure they picked up right where they'd left off.