I am SO sorry for the delay - roadblocks beyond my control! Screw bronchitis. Right in the face, as Dean would say.

So, little ducklings, we're coming to a close so let me just say, THANK YOU so much to all of you who commented, favorited, subscribed, etc. The support means the world to me and I appreciate it so much - more than you know. You guys are so awesome for sharing the love.

I really hope you enjoy the final (no I wasn't getting choked up... I was just... clearing my throat. There's... dander... *ahem*) chapter. Maybe a little choppy, but i like it anyway. And hey - who's running this thing!

The Start.

Dean had one goal, one intention, and that was to make certain that what he had found with Castiel, would not be taken from him. Or, ruined by him. He'd had the doubts and uncertainties, simmering in his blood, from day one - good things didn't last long in Dean's experience. But he was determined to make that streak break for him and Cas.

For the past couple weeks he'd had it in his mind to ask the Angel for something more, a promise of continuation, in no uncertain terms. But he had yet to pull the trigger. Something inside Dean, despite knowing, like he knew how to breathe, like he knew Sam was his brother, that Castiel loved him, possessed that irrational fear of being left.

Dean wanted, desperately, a confirmation that this happiness wasn't temporary, that Cas planned, as Dean prayed he would, for this to be permanent. He wanted to tell Cas once and for all, that this was it for him. That Dean friggin' Winchester was ready to be monogamous.

Dean was ready to utter... the L word.

Right. Then I'll just go grow a uterus and get highlights...

Despite the heaviness of his heart when thinking about the possibility that Cas may be too rational, too pragmatic to sign his heart away forever and not just for one today at a time, Dean was the happiest he'd ever been. He'd been alone so long, that he'd forgotten he was lonely. He'd forgotten a lot of things.

Like how it felt to have someone to look forward to, to have someone get you completely, to have someone to share secret knowing looks with (even when around others), to have someone to wake up beside, to have someone who simply allows you to rant even though your outrage is most likely ridiculous.

Dean, if he ever knew, had forgotten what that was like.

But Cas was reminding him.

Ever since they'd completely given in to this thing they had, Cas was having his own fun too, playing a little game with Dean's excitable heart. He seemed fascinated with the bodily effect he could have on Dean, and was all too eager to find out what caused his stuttered heartbeats to occur, what made it flutter even more. Castiel would pop in unannounced, per usual, and gage Dean's responses. Sometimes simply seeing the angel was enough to cause Dean's heart to flutter. But Castiel, ever the student, was eager to experiment more. Sometimes he would appear in bed beside Dean, or in the car with him, or would make himself silent until he gripped Dean from behind, hard, by the hips and pressed his lips to the crook of his neck, scraping his teeth across the skin, sending the poor man's heart into summersaults.

In some ways it was a near-clinical study of their situation. Castiel was loving being a scholar in the subject of Dean Winchester.

It was also a selfish side of Castiel that he himself had never seen before - wanting to use Dean for his own pleasure, wanting him all to himself. And it was wrought with a mischief he never thought he possessed. But even Castiel knew that when Dean looked at him, he could see the glint in the angel's eye as he got off on knowing what he could do to the man.

Dean, for the record, was torn between wanting to tell Cas to fuck off for playing with him like a pet, like some kind of ragdoll...

and begging him never to stop.

Frankly, it was a bizarre but fascinating new experience for the Hunter. No one had ever studied him so in depth, so slowly and expertly, taking their time to learn every little thing that makes him tick, that makes his breath hitch and heart flutter.

It was enough to occupy his mind, to keep him from wanting to talk about the fact that they were still in the same nowhere town ignoring the fact that evil existed out there in the world.

There had been a particularly hard day, where Dean's cabin fever and restlessness had rioted to an apex in the wake of he and Sam staying put for longer than they ever had before. Dean had yelled and fought with Sam and panicked over growing roots into this strange little town that was fusing itself to his soul, turning the place into home one disasterless day at a time. He was starting to love the place, the house, the people in town, odd though they were. They had been through something truly bizarre together and it had melded them into more of a community, a family of people who'd seen each other at their weirdest and decided not to hold it against each other.

People who accepted that he and Sam had to remain somewhat of a closed book and didn't ask any more about them than was friendly.

People who accepted he and Cas (the rumors of their public kiss had spread like wildfire through the dusty rural town) and found no reason to make things difficult for them.

Overall, Dean and Sam were actually fitting in for once.

Everything was becoming far too comfortable for Dean. Naturally, he freaked out.

He exploded one day, out of the blue, yelling at his brother about what the Hell they were doing there, and that they had a job to do... Sam of course argued that they'd done enough. He argued that their happiness should be their next job.

The hardest one yet, no doubt.

Dean didn't really have a good response to that. His panic, his motive for this fight, it was all blatantly obvious. Sam shook his head with a sigh as his brother stormed out of the old house.

Dean always did have a hard time letting himself be happy.

Storming down the unpaved roadway from the house, Dean fumed, but he wasn't sure why. He came to a crossroads and stopped in it, contemplating his life in its entirety; his past, his future, his current situation. His mind was buzzing as he kicked around the dusty pebbles.

"I wish you wouldn't stand there."

Dean whirled around to see Cas standing directly in the middle of one of the four paths, smiling his small smile at Dean.

That certainly makes choosing a direction easy.

Dean laughed quietly, feeling his panic quell minutely. "'Fraid I'm gonna make a deal?"

"You wouldn't have time to seal it," Cas stated.

Dean knew he was saying that he would smite the smithereens out of any Demon before Dean's lips got anywhere near it. And it was a possessive, semi-violent insinuation, but Dean didn't mind.

"You're upset," Cas informed him, and Dean laughed that Cas always felt the need to tell him about his own feelings.

"Nah," he lied. "Just... we haven't really talked about it but... I think Sam wants to stay. Here. With her."

The bitterness in his voice was childish, and Dean knew it.

Castiel nodded, understanding.

In all honesty, Dean liked Ivy. Too much - he already knew he'd love to have her as a sister. But it had been just him and Sam for so long, all their lives basically, and he found himself perpetually territorial. It was a hard line to walk, trying to keep his brother to himself, and trying to let him be happy.

He didn't want Ivy to be just one more person they lost.

He sighed heavily.

Castiel squinted into the distance, a breeze blowing through the grass and dusty road, the only sound between them for a while. "You don't want to stay?" he asked simply, though there was something complex behind it.

"I don't know," Dean sighed, answering honestly. "It's hard to even think about settling down, you know? Never thought... I just... There's more to do. Always is. There's still monsters and evil. And I tried to be normal before but... I don't think I can ever not be a hunter. Not now." Dean looked down at his boots, shifting his weight absently. "Even if..." he didn't have it in him to finish the thought.

Even if I really want it.

They were quiet a moment, and then Castiel began to smile, and Dean noticed with a suspicious smirk of his own.

"Perhaps you need distance from the issue," Castiel suggested, a truly intoxicating spark in his eye. "A place far from your problems. To think."

Before Dean could respond Castiel had stepped in close, his palm pressing to Dean's jawline, his thumb tracing Dean's lips. Dean relaxed and closed his eyes.

There was a slight shift in the world around him, not so much disorienting, just a change in pressure. And when he opened his eyes, he was on a balcony, looking out at a bustling, but beautiful, and most definitely foreign cityscape.

Castiel gave him a moment to observe his surroundings.

"Europe?" Dean guessed broadly.

"France," Castiel stated. "Paris, to be exact."

"Oui oui," Dean joked in his absolutely ridiculous French imitation.

Castiel smiled, rolling his eyes.

"You brought me here to think?" Dean joked.

"No," Castiel stated firmly, squaring his shoulders to Dean's. The door behind them clicked open (Dean realized, by Castiel's telekinetic doing) into a small but bright Hotel room with a large, plush bed.

Dean turned back to the angel, entranced by his blue-flame stare. "No?" Dean asked, his voice rough.

"No, Dean." Cas stepped in close, "I brought you here to not think."

Dean barely had time to smile before they were fused at the lips, falling clumsily backward into the room.

. . . . .

Several hours and a great deal of debauchery later, they were lying in their overly fluffy Parisian bed, in their closet-sized Parisian room, the ceiling fan twirling lazily as the sweat was all but dry on their skin.

"Do you like Paris?" Castiel asked honestly.

"Can't say I've seen much of it," Dean smirked at the angel. "But yeah, so far it's awesome."

"It's the city of love," Cas denoted as if it were a little-known factoid. "I thought it appropriate."

Dean never would get over how seamlessly Cas could mingle bluntness and subtlety; it was a strange sort of gift.

They laid there, in their tiny hotel room, wrapped in their white sheets, breathing easily as the sun started to set on Paris outside the window. Cas settled down against Dean's body, laying diagonally across the bed, his head against Dean's arm and chest as Dean sat up against the headboard. They gazed out the dusty glass at the city, and Dean couldn't help but admit, it was beautiful.

Ask him now, Dean. The timing is perfect. He couldn't say No if he tried. Ask him now.

Dean cleared his throat, toying with Castiel's fingers in his own, staring down at them.

"Hey Cas?" he started awkwardly, as if he were going to ask if he knew what the weather was going to be like tomorrow. Castiel shifted so that he could look at him. "I was, uh, wondering if you were thinking about this being, uh... long term."

Castiel tilted his head against Dean's arm, "You want to stay in Paris?"

"Uh, no. Don't get me wrong, it's great, but that's not really what I meant." Dean held a little tighter onto Cas' hand, hoping it might hide his nerves. "I meant... you and me."

Castiel's brow furrowed a moment as if he didn't understand, and then his face went smooth.

And Dean was relieved not to have to explain himself any further, but that relief was short-lived, when Castiel looked down, brow furrowed, and then settled back against Dean, no longer facing him.

Dean panicked inside.

"I am still a soldier of Heaven," Cas stated, sounding far too official for the intimacy of the conversation. "I can promise nothing of the future."

Dean's heart cracked in two.

Castiel must have heard it. He rolled over on top of Dean, laying his face to the man's chest, his ear resting over Dean's heart. "Except that I will love you," he promised against Dean's skin.

Dean's heartbreak was assuaged, remotely. But there was still the dull ache of knowing that Cas wouldn't be planning on a tomorrow. The world was too unpredictable, Dean supposed. But the impossible promise would have been nice to hear anyway.

. . . . .

When they returned to America Castiel returned to his work in Heaven, flitting in and out of Dean's life much like he once had - but with a great deal more frequency, and good news instead of bad. The good news usually being, that he was horny. The location or situation Dean was in when Cas did make himself available was a good indication of that. If Dean was halfway through a steaming hot shower and then suddenly there was and angel wrapped around him, it made Cas' intentions pretty clear. Sometimes Cas would appear, just for a moment, just to kiss Dean, and then leave again.

It was obvious he was having his fun, teasing Dean in a way. But it was so much of a dream come true, Dean hardly gave any effort into looking put-out.

One time, while Sam and Dean were working on the house, Castiel seemed to arrive simply to lean into Dean's back, his hands sliding lightly up his sides, and whisper in Dean's ear.

Sam had blatant eyes on the two, as if telling them to behave, please.

Castiel leant in and whispered and Dean's face flushed beet red. He looked at Castiel in a bashful kind of awe, "Where did you learn that?"

The Angel deadpanned, "Casa erotica."

Sam shot them a reproachful look, praying that A) they didn't forget he was there, and B) he never had to hear what gratuitous nastiness Cas whispered in Dean's ear that actually managed to make him blush.

The expression Dean shot Cas was a definite mixture of shock and appreciation.

"After our first sexual encounter I realized that it was decidedly in my best interest to study sexuality as much as every other facet of human existence. I have learned a great many things which I feel will very much please you. In fact, I am most likely more knowledgable than you now, as far as coitus."

Dean's eyes bugged as he stared at the presumptuous Angel. He laughed conceitedly, "I doubt that, Cas. See," he put on airs, giving his best sexy-eyes, "I'm uh, pretty damn knowledgeable."

Cas barely hid a smirk. "We'll see."

And then he was gone.

Dean immediately felt the challenge. "Oh we'll see alright!" he yelled at the empty air. "You'll see." He nodded, the adrenaline of the challenge getting him worked up. Then he noticed Sam was still there, looking utterly displeased at the nature of the conversation, and Dean assured him, "He'll see alright."

Sam nodded in a patronizing way, but Dean couldn't care. He had to start wracking his brain for ways to blow that Angel's mind.

When Cas blew into the room a few hours later Dean all but tackled him, taking him down to the floor easily. Cas tended to put the super-strength on the back-burner when he was with Dean, which made the playing field more even - something they both liked.

Cas was pleasantly surprised to eat his words from earlier, having successfully revved Dean into a nearly incorrigible state of lust and desperate need to display his sexual prowess.

It made their entire previous conversation about dominance a moot point. But Castiel didn't mind, Dean was in his element. And he thoroughly enjoyed letting Dean prove it.

In fact, when they were done, and recovered, Dean stood over Castiel pulling him to his feet and the angel found himself embarrassingly wobbly in the legs.

They ate. They teased. They crashed lazily into Dean's bed, side by side, backs to the headboard.

A thought occurred to Dean - the broken pieces of his Castiel-mug had been brought with him from the Motel when he'd finally had mind to move out of the room. He kept it in a little cardboard box just beneath his bed - beside his extra salt rounds and sawed-offs.

Dean figured it was about time he put humpy dumpty back together again.

"Hey, can you do me an Angelic favor?" Dean started, hefting his body over Castiel's, stretching lazily over his lap to reach under Cas' side of the bed.

Cas' eyes narrowed suspiciously at the request, even as they traced every curve and plane of Dean's body, reveling in the feel of him, heavy and shifting in his lap.

Dean glanced up at Castiel, seeing the suspicious look and the simultaneous darkening of his eyes. "Relax, I'm not gonna ask you to smite anyone."

"Pity," Castiel deadpanned, "I haven't had occasion for smiting in quite some time."

Dean shook his head, chuckling as he practically sprawled on top of Cas, rocking over the end of the bed a little, knowing exactly what he was doing.

Cas, almost too smoothly, slid his hand to the back of Dean's thigh, then up to Dean's buttocks, smoothing over the fabric-clad swell of his cheeks. Dean turned his head to look at the angel with pure mischief in his eye. Cas shrugged, squeezing a little.

Dean managed to get as far as pulling the box up from under the bed, but he never did get to ask for that favor.

Sam spent far too much time making absolutely sure they hadn't been slipped into some alternate reality by a Djinn or an Angel.

Most people who've lived hard lives have a hard time believing that the good things will stay. Sam was like that too. Only he also had a hard time believing the good things weren't an illusion cast by a supernatural nemesis.

Life seemed almost too good to be true, and that made him nervous even while it made him happy.

But it wasn't all perfect, he supposed. For example, how he at 6'4" ended up sleeping in a just-under queen sized bed in a tin-can of a mobile home while Dean got that great big house to himself... Sam would never quite understand. But hey, he couldn't complain. Even with his feet hanging off the end of the bed, he was counting his blessings. From the feeling of legitimate safety, to the ruckus of the crickets outside the open window, to the warm summer breeze drying the sweat on his skin, and most of all, the pretty, fascinating, hilarious, and gloriously naked young woman slowly falling asleep beside him.

The way the moonlight came in the window, making her skin glow and her hair look like silk, he couldn't help but touch her, if only to prove to himself that she wasn't a dream.

He brushed a tress of her hair from her shoulder, reveling in the smooth skin there, the couple of beauty marks that freckled the curve. When he looked to her eyes, she was looking back, her eyes shining, a sleepy smile on her face.

He smiled back - big and goofy and entirely unhidden. She did that to him - made him feel light, almost silly, happy in a way that he couldn't push down under everything else like usual.

And when she bit her lip and leaned toward him, a spark of mischief in her eye, he knew exactly how thankful he was for that. And for her. And for how spectacularly well they played off each other physically - even cramped in this trailer. Sam felt as though with this girl, it didn't matter where they were, how tired he was, how many of his fingers were stiff and bruised rebuilding that house all day, as long as she was involved his mind was likely to be blown. She'd proven to be spontaneous and adventurous, and funny but sincere in a mind boggling way. And she proven it on the bed, the kitchen counter, the bed of her pick-up, the grass right outside the trailer...

As he moved smoothly on top of her, parting his lips against hers and feeling her sigh against him, hitching a thigh over his waist, he couldn't help but think...

Let Dean and Cas have their fun in that great big house. He was fine right where he was.

Dean had always believed in the profound bond. But now he was wondering if it wasn't growing even stronger. It was an exciting but terrifying thought - how utterly connected they'd become.

Sometimes even though he couldn't see Cas, Dean knew that he was there. He could feel him somehow, and he would speak out to him. Sometimes he would feel the ghost of lips on his cheek, or a breeze through the room, a tug at his heart. Just enough to confirm the angel was there, and to say that he wished he could do more than pass through.

But Dean supposed Heaven didn't really take a lunch hour.

Sometimes there would be messages, or gifts - Castiel might have left a newly acquired weapon on his bed (an odd sort of gift but romantic in his way) or Dean would wake up, sadly alone, but with a piping hot cup of coffee on the bedside table.

It was a nice way of knowing that even when they couldn't be together, they weren't really that far apart.

One dismal afternoon Dean was waiting in the Impala Sam to emerge from Ivy's trailer, when his driver's side window started to fog. Noticing the unnatural steam, Dean had his hand on his gun, ready to pull it on whatever the cause, when suddenly he stopped -

As if by invisible finger, a symbol was drawn into the fog on his window. Dean smiled as he recognized the C, with Angel wings on wither side.

By the time Sam got in the car what was left of the fog showed the fading symbol, dripping, easy to miss, but Dean's smile was firmly in place.

Sam had been waiting for Dean to take the lead, to say once and for all in his cryptic Dean way, that they were going to stay. Or to command in his blatant Dean way, that they were to go.

But he never did.

And while Sam was enjoying himself, he couldn't help the stab of guilt every time Ivy mentioned something she wanted to do in the future, then looked at him nervously realizing maybe she shouldn't make plans like that, then tried to cover it by talking about something else even though Sam could feel her hurt from across the room.

She wanted him to stay. She didn't dare ask him, knowing how important his life's work and his relationship with Dean was. Sam had been as clear about all that as possible, and Ivy had nodded and taken him with a grain of salt despite the fact.

But she couldn't stop the longing in her heart.

And neither could Sam.

Staying with her thus far was great, but it was starting to wear on him that he didn't know for how long he would be staying. And he'd been waiting for a sign from Dean, but the man seemed hopelessly stuck himself. So they didn't bring it up. Sam gave him time. And more time...

But the day finally came where Sam wanted to talk about it.

They'd come too far as brothers for Sam to demand they stay, or to tell his brother he intended to leave him. He knew that couldn't be how things went this time. Sam knew, that if he wanted Dean to understand, to maybe consider this, he had to make it clear that he would follow Dean forever, if that's what Dean needed, if that's what he decided. If only because he couldn't let his brother fight the world alone.

Sam would let Dean know, without a doubt, that he would stay with him if he decided they had to go.

But Sam would also let Dean know, that he loved this girl, that he would regret not being with her, that he would miss her and probably love her forever regardless of seeing he rarely if ever again.

Sam was a little ashamed of the manipulation, knowing Dean would feel guilty about breaking his little brother's heart. But Sam really did want to stay. Leaving her hardly felt like an option. And even more, Sam wanted Dean to stay too. He wanted the both of them to slow down, settle, attempt to be even remotely safe. So he pulled out all the stops to make that happen.

And Dean had responded much like Sam had figured he would. He was resistant to the idea of staying, a little too lofty on his high horse about their responsibility of "saving lives". And then surprised but obviously touched when Sam promised not to make Dean do it alone, even if it meant leaving Ivy.

Ultimately, they came to a compromise - they would work, with this new home of theirs being HQ. It would be the place they always came back to. And they would always come back after a case. No more non-stop working, jumping from one case to the next. They would get into a rhythm, and Sam hoped, slowly work their way out of that life.

All in all, it was the smoothest any life-altering conversation had ever gone for the boys.

Dean's conversation with Castiel, had been a little more bumpy...

. . . . .

Practically high off of the ease of the decision that was made with Sam, Dean called Cas down to talk, to revisit the issue that had been lingering in him since the start.

Seeing Sam ready to make a commitment, ready to stay, made him want the same thing. Of course, being Dean, he attacked the issue head-on like John friggin' Cena - abruptly - attempting to strong-arm an Angel into compliance.

When he called on Castiel, the angel could immediately see the tension and frustration in Dean's stance, his fists balled tight and his shoulders squared as if ready for a fight.

"I want you to promise me something," Dean started, his voice hard, like this was just another job.

Castiel nodded concisely, finding no reason yet to argue.

"I want you to promise me that you and me, this thing, is forever. No letting Hunting get in the way. No letting Heaven get in the way. Just you and me against the world, forever. I'm talking full-on 'til death do us part'."

Cas' eyes grew distant, suddenly understanding Dean's battle-stance. "Dean, I have explained this already-"

"No, you didn't. You gave me some half-baked crap about being the Host of Heaven and blah blah. But I want you to tell me that we're more important than that. I want you to promise that if you have to choose -"

"Dean," Castiel began, his voice tight and his eyes flaring, "my place is in Heaven."

"Your place is with me."


This is it, Dean thought. The impass. The divide we can't bridge.

They stared, the air in the room even going still, for fear of sparking these two titans.

"You know I love you, right?" Dean ground out. He thought it was obvious, but this was the first time he'd said the word. It felt dangerous to utter it, but necessary.

It had the desired effect - Castiel visibly softened at the claim, nodding that he did know.

"Then what?" Dean asked, frustrated.

Cas sighed heavily, obviously at his wits end, not understanding why Dean couldn't let this go. Dean waited for an explanation, and Cas didn't give it.

After minutes of silence Dean's resolve was starting to crack. He thought going at this thing head-on, tough, would make it easier. He thought that Cas might fold. But he gave no indication of doing so. He simply stood there. And Dean couldn't stand to think that Castiel might reject him. The thread of panic inside him started to unravel.

Dean all but begged, hating himself, "You left Heaven for me once before."

"To fight the Devil," Cas corrected.

Dean deflated, his heart wrenching. "I'm not saying it'll come to that," he offered. "But if it did," he knew exactly how needy it would sound and with the panic of losing Cas altogether rioting inside, he honestly didn't care, "you would leave Heaven for me... Right?"

Castiel said nothing.

"Not for a cause, for me."

Castiel looked down at the floor.

Dean was visibly shocked, literally taking a step back. Just as he'd begun to suspect, he alone, was not enough. "Wow..." he gave a self-deprecating laugh to cover the searing pain scooping out the semblance of safety he'd gathered within himself in the past few weeks.

"Dean," Castiel pleaded. But Dean threw his hand up to silence him. Cas started again, "What you're asking... Dean, I do love you. But I am what I am."

Dean said nothing, his back turned to Castiel.

Castiel became visibly flustered, "I don't know what I'm supposed to do to make you know that I love you. I try telling you, and you hear me, and I think you understand but then... But then it's as though we are having this same fight over again. Is there something I'm supposed to do, that I haven't done yet? Please, Dean. If there is, I'll do it."

Dean turned toward Cas, his eyes hard, but so obviously only to hide the hurt. "You could have said I was worth it."

Castiel struggled to make sense of Dean's emotions. He protested honestly, "I would do anything for you. You know this."

"Anything but promise to stay."

"I can't promise what I have no control over!"

"That's not the point!"

Cas sighed, throwing up his hands. He sincerely did not understand.

"I've never asked anyone to stay with me," Dean admitted quietly. "Not once." His jaw flexed, a familiar sign that he was fighting emotion and Castiel loathed to think he'd hurt him, but he didn't know what to say. Dean stated simply, "People leave me, that's how it works. That's how it's always worked. And I don't have it in me to grovel, to beg them to stay even if they don't feel like it," he bit coldly.

Castiel wanted to speak up, but he could think of no argument. Sadly, Dean had been left, many times. Castiel hated the fact.

Dean's voice went thin, but low, as he attempted to cover his emotion, "But I'm askin' you. If it comes down to it, if the chips are down, I need you, to pick me."

Dean's every dark fear and vulnerability was right there, plain as day, and it was written all over Castiel's face that he could see it, his usual stoic expression now heartbreakingly sympathetic. Dean waited, his heart in his throat, feeling naked and defenseless, searching Cas' eyes for his answer.

Cas held his gaze, until he couldn't.

Castiel broke first. Dean had his answer.

Dean walked away, and Castiel let him.

It was a hard couple of days after that. Cas had popped in often, feeling that he'd broken something between them but unsure he could identify what it was.

Dean couldn't muster the strength to play along when Cas walked up and kissed him like everything was fine. And Cas could feel it. But he kept trying to make it right, by putting things back to normal.

It was an ignorant, childish attempt. But it was the only thing the awkward angel could think to do.

At first Dean didn't play along because he was angry. A dark part of him even thought maybe Cas was confusing love for lust, and when he'd gotten all he could out of Dean he would be bored and learn to 'love' someone else. It wasn't impossible - Cas barely knew what feelings were...


Dean knew better. He could feel that Cas loved him. But he couldn't help but be confused. The angel had been willing to lay down his life, his purpose and more, or so he'd said. Now he was backtracking?

Ultimately, Dean knew that he was too deep in this. Hopelessly so. He would take whatever Cas was willing to give, pathetic as that was, even if it meant that in the end, he would end up alone.

If Cas destroyed him, in the angel's own words, so be it.

Castiel showed up soon after Dean had made this resignation, hoping to show the man physically where his loyalties did truly lie. He took off his trench, throwing it over a sawhorse, and went to Dean placing a hand on his waist, another on his neck, pulling him in for a kiss. And Castiel kissed him as deeply, and as best as he knew how, letting his lips tell Dean without words how much he loved him.

And Dean seemed to understand, clinging to Cas, returning the kiss in kind with honest passion of his own.

But after weeks of the intimate and careful study of the hunter, Castiel was concerned when he felt that something had tainted Dean's heart's reaction to him.

Dean's heartbeat was slow, as if the thing could limp, its beat fractured somehow. The flip and flutter it would give whenever Cas arrived, or touched him, was ruined by a surge of heartache that would weight the thing down, as if reprimanding it for its excitement, and for its happiness. It was particularly obvious in this moment, where Castiel would expect the sound of rioting beats, he was greeted with a single skipped beat singeing with ache.

Dean was a physical kind of man. Castiel had been certain if he couldn't explain himself in words, he could certainly express through touch how sincerely he loved him. Castiel laid Dean out on their bed, giving him everything he could, making it slow and perfect, drawing every ounce of pleasure he could from the man.

Yet something in Dean's soul was restless.

Even as he brought Dean's body pleasure, there was an aching somewhere inside the man that tainted it with pain. Every touch Dean returned, was like goodbye. Every move, every caress, every twist of fingers in Cas' hair was desperate, as if Dean didn't know if it might be the last.

It only took a few hours after that for poor, oblivious Castiel to realize fully how much he had hurt Dean. He began to watch him, invisible, knowing the man would rail against such an invasion of privacy. But Castiel couldn't help it. And seeing Dean, alone in a house built for a family, quiet but not at ease, calm but not content, lonely, had Castiel wondering exactly why he'd been so certain he couldn't give Dean what he wanted.

Cas realized, after a great deal of self-examination, that it wasn't betraying Heaven he was concerned about; it wasn't betraying God he was afraid of.

It was giving up home.

In truth, Heaven had long since been Castiel's home, he'd said as much to Dean. But it was still his place of origin, the place he could go, in the event the world ended... in the event... that Dean no longer wanted him.

Heaven was always there. Even if it wasn't paradise for Castiel, in fact it was barely comfortable, at least it was there. A back-up plan.

If he chose to cut ties with Heaven, he'd have no back-up plan if things didn't work between them, if Dean didn't love him anymore. And that was terrifying.

Castiel realized, that Dean had done away with his own safety net, with much difficulty and bravery, and jumped into this at Castiel's insistence, and yet he himself had not done the same in return. He had thought he'd offered the same vulnerability, but he saw now, that he hadn't.

Not as long as he was still willing to put Dean second, in order to protect himself.

He could see now, what had to be done to repair the fracture in Dean's heart.

. . . . .

Dean was in the back yard, digging in the dirt to install a pipe when Castiel appeared beside him, an odd smile on his face.

"Hey," Dean smiled, and it was sincere, but his heart twinged at the sight of the angel.

Castiel could feel it, and his stomach turned, leaving him all the more resolved. "If it was fear that kept me from you, I would never be able to forgive myself."

Dean's eyebrows raised, surprised at the severity of such a statement in lieu of Hello. "Um..."

"Yes," Cas continued, absolute. But Dean merely blinked back at him. Castiel clarified, "The answer to your inquiry: Would I forsake Heaven for you and only you? Yes."

Dean squinted at the angel, not able to respond, his expression unreadable. But his heart thudded with hope.

"I am sorry, that I waited so long to tell you," Castiel added quietly, his eyes gazing anywhere but Dean in that familiar gesture of insecurity. "I was... It appears I was afraid." He gave an awkward laugh that had Dean nearly taking a step back from him out of pure shock. Castiel looked him in the eye, "I do love you, more than Heaven," he admitted, sincerely. "No matter how blasphemous that may be. And I would gladly lay down my sword for you."

Dean would have squirmed at the sound of the proclamation, like he was some kind of damsel and Cas was his knight, but he was just so damn relieved... he decided not to sweat the little things.

"I have taken action," Cas stated, stepping toward the visibly affected Dean, "in order to ensure I am able to be with you. Limiting my Angelic responsibility for the next five years, when I am to check in with Heaven for some rather ridiculous-sounding 'assessment'. I have... invented my own station. As of this day, I am... a Hunter's liaison. Keeping my Angelic power, but changing my location. If you allow, I would like to join you on your cases from time to time."

Dean could hardly believe his ears, and he certainly couldn't manage words. "S-so..." he choked out shakily, not able to finish, not willing to jinx what he thought he might be hearing.

Cas smirked at him, "I believe you would say I told them to suck it."

Dean smiled, but then suddenly his eyes went wide, "What if they strip your wings-"

"Then you'll have to teach me how to drive. You'll have to teach me a lot of things, I'm afraid. But... I won't regret it."

"It's not fair, if you're the only one who is sacrificing anything. That's not equal." Dean's face screwed up into a look of utterly childish distaste.

Cas smiled and shook his head, "Dean, do you honestly feel that you have not sacrificed enough?"

Dean gave a cold laugh.

Castiel stepped toward him and brushed his fingertips to Dean's collarbone, robbing the laughter and any remaining oxygen from the man's chest, "Giving up Heaven for you wouldn't be a punishment, it wouldn't be a sacrifice, it would be an honor. It would be my honor."

"Cas..." Dean started bashfully, looking down at the ground, his cheeks blushing.

"I know," Castiel put up a hand, "People don't really talk like that." He shrugged as if to say he couldn't help it.

Dean was glad he couldn't. He smiled up at Cas, then nodded his head toward the house. Slowly, shoulder to shoulder they made their way toward the old wreck that they both suspected was fast becoming home.

"So..." Dean asked easily, "What're we gonna do? I mean... what does this mean? For... us."

"I don't know. But I can assure you, we have plenty of time to figure it out."

Dean nodded, content with the answer. They wandered slowly across the grass, looking out towards the horizon.

Heading toward the house slowly, shoulders brushing, looking out at their plot of land, Dean thought about the possibilities, as Castiel smiled silently to himself.

Cas shifted, and the rustle of cheap trenchcoat fabric caught Dean's attention, causing him to look over just in time to see Castiel pulling something from his coat.

Without looking at Dean, Castiel handed him the cheap, ceramic mug, made whole once again. The slight, knowing smile on his lips was evident.

Dean took the mug in his hands, wondering at it like it was precious. It felt oddly like what he imagined a gold ring in a velvet box would feel like to most people.

He held onto it tightly.

The End.

You thought I was gonna break them up there for a minute didn't ya? DIDN'T YA? Yeah, I had you goin'... But, I'm a sucker for a sweet resolution.

I really hope that I wrapped it up to your satisfaction.

PS - i love you.

Yeah, you! You know who you are! All of you who stuck with me through lulls and bizarre chapters about Castiel breaking Dean's pants... (wtf?) Thank you guys so much! You made the "where is this going?" struggle SO worth it.

I've already got another story brewing, but in the meantime I'll be reading your stories for my own personal pleasure.

So until next time... See ya on the flip side!