Disclaimer: This belongs to the Kripkeeper and the CW.
A/N: Huge thanks and credit to nanoochka for the helpful and swift beta cleanup.

White Winter Hymnal

Christmas, Dean had long since decided, was possibly the most obnoxious holiday of them all. It was repetitive, offensively and falsely chirpy and, the worst part, absolutely one-hundred percent inescapable. Not only were the streets littered with bright lights and glowing snowmen and Santas that all seemed to give off sex offender vibes, but it was physically brought to his door.

He'd politely excused himself from no less than fifteen sets of carol singers that week alone (and not so politely excused himself from three). Even to a man like him, a man who wasn't religious, didn't celebrate and made no excuses for it, people persisted with the plastic, happy bullshit that was flimsily coated-on, thinly masking the thunderous stress and frustration that bubbled violently underneath.

Alright, so call him bitter, but it was Christmas Eve and he'd just about had enough. Yes, sure, it would be over in a day or so and he could look forward to getting absolutely and utterly wasted out of his mind over New Year's, but this nonsense started in October. He wasn't kidding. He saw Christmas decorations alongside their Halloween counterparts in the store.

Twelve days of Christmas? Bull. Shit. He would hardly be surprised if a few years down the line it eased its way into twelve months of Christmas. But right now he was close to tearing his hair out, close to punching the next guy who offered him a candy cane in the face.

And Dean wasn't actually all that cynical—he didn't begrudge people their fun. Really, he didn't. They could all go hotbox themselves into an eternal winter wonderland of Yuletide cheer if they wanted; he just wished they'd leave him alone. He just wasn't into Christmas. He'd tried, oh believe him he'd tried, to get into the 'holiday spirit'. Over the years he'd sat down to Christmas dinners with his family, exchanged gifts with girlfriends. Hell, one year he even decorated his crappy, one-bedroom apartment. Garlands and all. But no dice. He just could not get into it. It reeked of falseness, of a fantasy as fake as his plastic tree. It felt empty.

The whole period, year after year made him feel uncomfortable and unsteady. So he just stopped. Didn't bother writing out cards or sending gifts to anyone that wasn't his parents or Sammy (because he did not want to have to deal with both his brother and his mom complaining at him over the phone). Didn't bother pretending to be happy and peppy and eager to please when in actuality he felt no different than usual. He just didn't bother with Christmas. And it would be great, fool proof even, if everyone else would just get the memo already. Dean Winchester did not do Christmas.

Which was why he'd skulked out of his home on Christmas Eve, cellphone-less and free in the biting-cold air, through the sludge of slushy streets and into a quiet, Scrooge-friendly café. It was the only one he'd found in the city that didn't have any decorations or Christmas songs playing. They weren't even serving 'nog. It was freaking awesome. It was paradise.

The place did, however, offer some of the best hot chocolate he'd ever tasted, and while he didn't like Christmas, he loved winter, loved the way the elements came together to make something so volatile and beautiful as a simple snow storm, or how the nip of unfriendly wind made you wrap yourself up in silly knitted materials until you could barely breathe beneath their weight.

He loved how angry and destructible the weather was, how honest. Winter breathed around him, some amalgamation of horrible and wonderful that blended together without a frayed seam, without a hiccup. It was something at which to marvel and detest and love. Winter was starkly, undeniably real, especially next to the brass fairytale of Christmas.

And there was something distinctly winter-ish about the hot chocolate they served at this café. Dean guessed it had something to do with the slight bite of cinnamon that blended into the rich cocoa like a liquid happy ending, though he was probably just a little distracted by his over-active tastebuds.

But it was hot and comforting and right now just what he was craving. And Dean had the slight suspicion the drink was fast becoming what he resorted to to take the edge off of life, as opposed to his usual glass of Jack. It really wouldn't surprise him. The stuff was fucking delicious.

And that was part of the reason why this blissfully untouched-by-Christmas café was the ideal place for him to be right now. He'd been going there for a little over two weeks, absolutely besotted from the moment he'd tentatively opened the door and heard no carols snaking out from inside. It was regularly quiet, especially in the evening. He figured most people desired an environment more friendly to their manufactured good spirits, and left in favour of somewhere that didn't play a strange mix of Zeppelin, Wham! and T-Pain. That was something to get used to, at least.

The guy that worked there—owned the place, he supposed—was Gabriel, as he'd discovered from the man's brassy name tag. He was short, forthright and a little annoying, but seemed to be a good guy. Dean found he didn't mind him chattering nonsense or putting whoopee cushions on his chair, as long as he kept the holiday out and the cocoa flowing. It also helped that the guy's pie—especially the cherry pie—was freaking amazing.

So he walked briskly to the café—a fifteen-minute walk from his apartment in the cold, snow lightly falling above him, but it was so very worth it for the chance to breathe—lugging his laptop along with him, intending to get some writing done and, ha, that was a joke. He'd been stuck halfway through the second chapter of his third novel for more than four months. Something was just... jammed. He couldn't pull ideas from their confines within his uncooperative psyche and, even when he could, he found it overwhelmingly difficult to get them onto paper. Or word processor. Whatever.

Writing his first novel had been challenging and difficult, but he'd had so much fun, relished the catharsis of articulating his most private thoughts, twisting them into unrecognisable characters and watching them play out across the pages. It was exciting, invigorating and no small amount of comforting. And it had been successful, in the cult sense, enough that Dean was glad he'd written it under a pseudonym, because he heard the conventions got more than a little rowdy. He never got recognised—he didn't release his personal details and kept a low profile anyway—but that suited him just fine. He enjoyed his privacy and, coupled with the fact that people were enjoying his work in a way that paid the bills, well, he didn't mind the anonymity.

The second novel... that was different. He barely knew what it was about, didn't quite remember the words he'd written. It was after his brother had married Ruby, and two weeks later he met Adam—his dragged-out-of-a-soap-opera, illegitimate half-brother from an affair his dad had twenty years prior. His parents had gotten divorced, no surprises there, and Dean had watched, helpless, as his father, his hero, descended into heavy alcoholism.

His life began to reek with the stench of liquor and piss, John refusing his help, responding with slurred threats and sluggish violence whenever Dean tried to intervene. And he was alone to do so—his mom didn't have the strength to care, Sam was in California, and there was no way Dean was asking the kid for help. Adam had no idea what he was getting into when he showed up on his parents' doorstep, and that wasn't his fault. Then there was the accident, and what happened, happened.

Dean had been helpless. He could do nothing. But write.

And so, he wrote.

This latest attempt, however, wasn't like his first novel; he didn't strive for the best, didn't ponder over particular words or phrases or struggle with character development. He didn't even have a plot in mind. He would just move in front of the laptop and write. The words would seem to flow out of him, without the granting of his conscious mind. There was an ebb to them, a wave.

It was... difficult to explain—even he had no real recollection of the emotional passage he went through. It was distant, dream-like, and the result had the same quality. He hadn't read over a large percentage of the novel, but what he'd gathered was that it was about a man—a good man—in hell, the angel who saved him, and a road. It read theoretically, abstract, but mostly it presented the notion of loss, decay and anchors. About losing a sizeable chuck of your soul and finding it again in another person. It was... trippy.

He never showed it to anyone: no publishers, no fans. Not even Sammy. It was his. Some part of him was embarrassed, other parts scared. Terrified, even, of what it contained, what secrets it spanned about the quietest screaming corners of his mind. It was personal, more so than the pathetic anthology of his own weepy, mournful poetry gathering dust in his nightstand. More so than the blog of thoughts he totally didn't have, but updated every night before going to bed. It wasn't intended for alien eyes—it wasn't intended for anything really—it just was. And it was his, his own little slice of perdition laying heavy on his hard drive.

He'd started work on the third novel to take his mind off it, to produce something for his fans because they'd been waiting six years and he sure as hell wasn't gonna show them his novel. No matter how much his fingers didn't want to type, or his brain didn't want to think, Dean was determined to get this damn book written and out on bookshelves by December next year at the latest. (Because if the Christmas season was good for anything, it was selling crappy literature en masse). So that meant he sat with his laptop clutched to him every waking moment he wasn't peeing or socialising. Or procrastinating.

But hey, maybe tonight. Maybe Christmas Eve would work some of that magic everyone was always crooning about, and he'd actually finish the goddamn chapter.

Maybe he'd grow gills.

Sighing, he trudged across the street, feeling a calm prick of relief set in as he saw the warm glow of the café—open, as he knew it would be, when everywhere else was shut. It always stuck Dean as amusing, heathen atheist that he was, that he found blessings in the nonreligious. Confusing and oxymoronic, sure. But he didn't find all that much comical these days. Who was he to judge his own sense of lumpy humour?

Shaking his head, Dean pushed open the door and stepped into the café. He shuddered as the warmth lapped at his freezing skin—even after he'd buried himself amongst layers of wool and flannel and the cosiest coat Walmart could offer—and exhaled. No tinny music, no tinsel, no fairy lights. Damn, he loved this place. Looking around, he also realised the café was entirely empty, which, alright, it was gone 10pm on Christmas Eve, but not even Gabriel was tinkering behind the counter. Frowning, he turned around to look at the door to verify that it was actually open, because yeah... awkward.

But the closed sign was facing him, to his relief, so he shrugged and made his way to the counter, wondering where the hell the little guy was. He shrugged his wet coat off, dusting snowflakes from the shoulders with gloved fingers, then folded it over the back of a stool. He peered behind him, just double checking no-one was in there, before clearing his throat.

"Hello?" he called out, looking over to the door that seemed to lead to the kitchen area. He heard a thud, pulling a slight jump from him, followed by what sounded like someone running down a flight of stairs.

"Just a moment!" came a deep, gravely and unfamiliar voice, and he half-wondered whether he'd interrupted a burglary or something, because that was some serious force behind those pipes. If there was such thing as the perfect serial killer voice, that was probably it.

He narrowed his eyes at the door, his endless nights of distractedly watching horror movies coming into play, because he knew how to handle this situation, damn it. It involved being prepared, not asking stupid questions and absolutely not tripping up. Okay, so he was probably getting a little ahead of himself, because people he was suspicious of rarely turned out to be serial killers. Or zombies. Or Mormons. But he was a writer. He had a naturally over-active imagination.

Just not when he actually, y'know, needed it.

The door slammed open as an out-of-breath man scrambled through it and... wow, okay, his mom always told him not to judge a book by its cover, and he was trying to cling to his serial killer theory, but... Well, let's just say he was waiting for his brain to catch up with his dick.

The guy was tall—an inch or two shorter than Dean himself, but tall—his dark hair bed-messy, and Dean couldn't help wonder if that's what he was doing when Dean came in. If that was the case, he wasn't gonna lie, he was a little jealous of whoever was responsible for sliding fingers through those soft locks, or pushing him down and making his hair look like... that. Jesus-freaking-Christ.

At first glance, the other man appeared thin, just this side of scrawny. But no, even through the cosy-looking knitted sweater he wore, Dean could see muscles, could see the sinewy, slender form of someone who worked out but not, obviously, like a body builder. The guy had the shape of a gymnast, all subtle muscles and misleading slimness. This dude could kick Dean's ass if he wanted to. And coupled with the hard set of a stubbled, speckled jaw and the almost-darkened expression that projected experience—the bad kind—the man was clearly someone who could take care of himself. Someone a little fierce, a little guarded.

But looking at the man's face, the soft, apologetic clench of chapped pink lips, the earnest arches of his eyebrows—he wasn't a dick. One of the few gifts that came with being a writer meant Dean was good with first impressions, with summing people up without hearing the words from their mouths like a cold reader. But the intriguing thing was the conflict in this guy. The closed body language, the deep worry lines contrasting with the gentle slopes of his expression, the wide honesty of his eyes.

And his eyes, dear sweet Odin, his eyes. Alright, alright, Dean thought, you've heard it all before—the tall, dark stranger with the "blindingly, knee-shakingly, soul-penetratingly, beautiful ocean gaze" coupled with all the over-romanticised adjectives and metaphors you could think of, but no. Really.

It was kind of ridiculous. No man or woman or creature had any business being in possession of eyes so very fucking blue. Enough to make the hard-lined, masculine face pretty as hell. And Dean didn't usually go for men. There had been instances in the past, of course, and hey, he was an equal-opportunity flirter, but it was rare a guy caught his eye. Just... damn. If it did turn out the dude was a serial killer, and if Dean knew how predictable the global press were (and they were), he'd be dubbed something shallow and insulting. Babyface. Or Angelface, if they were feeling particularly zesty.

The man moved behind the counter, quickly yanking on a black apron over his clothes. He inclined his head slightly towards Dean in what was possibly an apology; it was quite difficult to tell. He didn't... move like most people.

"Sorry, I had to urinate," he said, grave tone crisp and brutally frank. Dean blinked, searching the guy's face for a hint of irony, humour—something—but he just stared right back at him, intense and unwavering, completely oblivious to the sheer oddness of that first impression. Dean felt the corner of his mouth twitch up despite his bewilderment at the nonchalance. The slightly awkward mode of address, the honesty... it was winter. It was refreshing.

"Don't worry about it dude, nature calls, right?" He smiled. The guy tilted his head to the side, eyebrows drawing together as though deciphering Dean's words, like English wasn't his first language, and maybe it wasn't. That'd actually make sense.

"Yes," he said after a beat, the word drawn-out slightly like he was still pondering his response. He pulled out a notepad. "Nonetheless, I am sorry to have kept you waiting. What can I get you?"

"The, ah—" Dean braced himself, coughing, "—'Hot Chocolatey for Fatties'." Gabriel, Dean was sure, was absolutely a sadist. The annoying man practically squealed with glee whenever Dean complied with his demands to 'say it properly', almost relishing his humiliation. But he always gave Dean extra whipped cream when he did so. And now it had apparently been conditioned into him. Fantastic. "Grande," he clarified.

The new guy even managed a flicker of a smile at the words, his blue eyes shining with amusement and, alright, it really wasn't that funny. "Of course," he replied, and yep, that was definitely amusement in his low voice, fuck Dean's life.

The man turned around, fiddling with the machines behind him, surveying the controls as though he didn't quite understand how to get them to work. Dean was a little nervous he wasn't going to get his hot chocolate after all, before he heard the encouraging whirring of something electric come to life.

It was actually the only sound Dean could hear—the empty café was incredibly quiet. Awkwardly so, given he had never met this man before. He cleared his throat, compelled to fill the silence by some creepily engrained sense of societal duty or something.

"So, uh... I haven't seen you around before," he said and oh god, now it sounded like Dean was hitting on him, which he absolutely wasn't. Mostly. The guy didn't turn around to answer, busied with the task of preparing Dean's drink.

"No, I'm covering for Gabriel," he responded over his shoulder, raising his voice a tad over the noise of the machine. Dean nodded, which he realised afterwards was stupid and insufficient as a reply, because the other man couldn't even see him.

"Right. Uh, where is Gabe, anyway?" he asked, genuinely curious. "Doesn't come across as the Christmas-celebrating type." His eyes flickered around the café again, eyes drinking in the distinct lack of decorations. Nope, not at all.

"Gabriel... likes to, um, party," the guy said, removing the mug from the machine and adding what Dean figured was whatever made the cinnamony taste. "Christmas usually provides plenty of opportunities for that. Whipped cream?"

"What? Oh, uh, please," Dean said, half-distracted by the guy's ass, which was really rather nice, the suggestion of whipped cream catching him dangerously off-guard. "So, what? Did he bribe you into working Christmas Eve?"

The man made a huffing sound as he squirted a sizeable amount of cream over the drink. "It wouldn't be beyond my brother to bribe me, but no. I don't celebrate either," he replied, twisting around slightly, eyebrow quirked in a question. "Chocolate sprinkles?" Dean grinned.

"Hell yeah." Because, c'mon, what's hot chocolate without sprinkles?

The man's smile widened a little, shaking his head at Dean before adding a generous amount of sprinkles to the beverage and turning around to place it in front of Dean. "One, ah, Hot Chocolatey for Fatties," he announced, expression bemused and just a little mocking. Dean rolled his eyes, ignoring the warmth of his cheeks as he reached out and gripped the mug.

"Mock all you want, this drink is so worth the humiliation," he said adamantly, and it really was. He brought the mug to his mouth, breathing in the rich, aromatic mixture of chocolate and cinnamon, and sipped at the drink through the cream. He closed his eyes, unable to fight against the small moan that resonated from his chest. Warmth seeped through his body, spreading down his torso, and drew a pleasant shudder from him. God, it was good.

He opened his eyes to find the guy staring at him, the same amused half-smile on his face as he watched Dean's outright display of pleasure.

"Satisfactory?" he inquired, with a small head-tilt. Dean snorted.

"Very," he said, cradling the mug toward him like it was something precious. "Dude, everyone needs to experience this at least once in their lives." It should probably be law, actually.

"I must confess, I haven't yet had the pleasure," the guy said, and Dean noticed his posture had relaxed somewhat since he'd first laid eyes on him. Oh, he still stood as straight as if he had a monumentally large pole up his ass, but there was an openness about him that hadn't existed two minutes earlier. Maybe it was the cinnamon.

"See, that... that's just wrong," Dean said, shaking his head in half-serious dismay. "C'mon, you gotta have some. It's totally the weather for it, too." He inclined his head back towards the window behind him.

"I'll even spring for it." He wasn't sure why he was so keen for this stranger to try the drink, aside from the obvious mission he'd adopted for everyone in the immediate area to hear the good news. He just knew it would brighten his day a little to see the guy's eyes closed in reverence as he sipped at the warm beverage, a pink glow illuminating his cheeks at the heat. The guy smiled at him, a little indulgently.

"Maybe later," he said, leaning against the counter a little. "I was always more of a tea person." Dean wrinkled his nose up, remembering all of the fruity girlish brews Sam invested himself into. He'd tried the camomile once. It tasted like ass.

"That's... tragic," he replied, earning himself a small, gentle breath of laughter in return. Dean's eyes flickered to the guy's chest—because he really couldn't keep mentally referring to him as 'the guy'—in search of a name tag, frowning when he was met only with the sticky-looking black fabric of the apron. Okay, a switch in tactics.

"I'm Dean." He smiled, all charm, as he stuck out his hand. The other man peered at it questioningly for a heartbeat, as though sizing up the protocol, before he wrapped a firm, strong grip around the proffered hand, shaking it steadily.

"Castiel Novak," he responded and, at the confused little twitch of eyebrows that appeared on Dean's face, he ducked his head a little, smiling, obviously used to questions about his name (one of which was, admittedly, on the tip of Dean's tongue). "It's the name of an angel," he clarified, "the angel of Thursday, though he shares that title with the angel Sachiel." Dean nodded, releasing the attractive hand he'd been holding a second or three too long.

"So, uh, is that like a family thing?" he asked, "The angel name thing?" Castiel's eyebrows furrowed slightly, the head-tilt coming out to play again.

"Yes," he said slowly, "how did you know?" And if he was anything at all like Dean, he was probably sizing up the chance of him being a stalker. Or, incidentally, a serial killer.

"You said Gabriel was your brother, right?" He shrugged. "Like the archangel. I just figured... " Castiel nodded, lips opening slightly in understanding. "Gabe for a brother... that's gotta be interesting." Dean really hadn't known the shorter man all that long, but he was, after all, an excellent judge of character. Having Gabriel for a sibling was not something he would be envious of. Ever.

"He is... a handful at times," Castiel agreed, eyes fond. "But he is the closest friend I have, as well as our sister, Anna."

That Dean understood. Sam annoyed the absolute crap out of him, but he'd die for the overgrown bitch in a heartbeat and take anyone he needed to down with him. He didn't shy away from the fact that Sam was the absolute most important thing in his life. Even living on the West Coast, he still felt the need to check in with him at least once a day, make sure he was alright, that Ruby hadn't eaten him alive yet.

He'd hated that chick at first. Freaking despised her. But eventually... he'd warmed to her, begrudgingly, because, well... she was made of bark and bite laced in sarcasm and wit, and she could take care of herself; but most importantly, she loved Sam. Having seen them marry, that much was evident. She looked at Sam the way Dean's mom used to look at his dad. He just hoped their marriage wouldn't crumble quite so easily.

"Say no more," he replied to Castiel, holding his hand up. "I got a kid brother, Sammy." He paused, backtracking. "And a half-brother, Adam, I guess." His eyes quickly darted up to Castiel's to ensure he didn't notice the hesitation in his tone, because so he did not want to have that conversation with a stranger. But the man's face was composed, showing no hint of recognition of the touchy subject as he nodded, happy to listen to Dean's story.

"Sammy, though," Dean continued, satisfied his awkwardness had gone unnoticed, "him and me... we're close. Always have been. Even if he is a giant girl." Castiel snorted softly, dropping his head a touch in amusement. Dean found he liked pulling out those tiny smiles from the man, liked the crooked set of them, the buttered quality his eyes took on.

"He's been nagging at me for weeks to come stay with him over Christmas, all puppy eyes and sympathy because you can't be alone at Christmas, Dean!" he rolled his eyes, quite proud of his incredibly accurate Sammy impression. It was true, though. The Sasquatch had been pestering him nonstop to come up there with their mom, who ended up going without him, but Dean wasn't in the mood to play happy families and act all Brady Bunch and smiles over Ruby's shitty turkey, and giving shitty gifts he couldn't really afford anyway. He'd rather be doing nothing at all but lounging around in his boxers and reading all about his favourite busty Asians.

Not that he told that to Sam, because he wasn't an asshole. He didn't want to be a downer to his little brother's fun, but the kid should know by now that Dean wasn't into all this bullcrap. He just wasn't.

"You're not a fan of Christmas either," Castiel said. It wasn't a question. He pulled over a stool from behind the counter and arranged himself opposite Dean. "Sorry, I've been standing all day. I'm fairly certain my legs will have to be amputated."

Dean let out a huffed laugh. "Not used to it, huh?" He smiled, sipping appreciatively at his drink. "What do you do when you're not working your ass off while short slackers go get their groove on?"

"I'm a librarian," Castiel replied, nimble fingers fiddling with a little packet of sugar. "It's actually a lot more of an active occupation than you might think. There's a lot to be said for the amount of energy it takes to devote your day to referencing and developing collections. Though I suppose I should be grateful I'm no long a Page".

And okay, Dean knew Castiel was still talking... but he'd kind of zoned out around 'librarian'. And now he was drifting far away from this conversation, his mind conjuring up images of Castiel in a fitted sweater vest, delicate glasses balanced on his nose, framing his eyes beautifully as he strode around a library somewhere, organising errant books, running strong, gentle fingers over the spines, gliding his fingertips over the pages, caressing the written words...

"What about you?"

The pleasant rumble of the man's voice snapped Dean out of the mental movie set of Sexy Librarians 4: Time to Pay Your Late Fees and he jerked his head up to look back up at Castiel, a guilty flush spreading over his cheeks as he tried to recall exactly what Castiel had asked, coming up blank since all his energy was focused on stopping his dick from getting any harder at the parade of mental images. And really, the task was stupidly difficult to accomplish while Castiel continued to look at him through the thickness of his dark lashes, speaking to Dean in a voice that really shouldn't be used in public. Dean was pretty certain it needed to be saved for the bedroom. Or a sex line. And oh crap, he was staring again. He shook his head, summoning a strained smile.

"Sorry, I was, ah, lost in thought. What did you say?"

"I enquired about what you do for a living," Castiel said with patience, a skill Dean supposed he'd obtained through living with Gabriel.

"Oh, uh, I'm a writer." He grimaced at how that sounded. Every hipster with a blog was a 'writer' these days, every pretentious douchebag with their oh-so-very insightful piece of recycled bullcrap comprised of the thoughts and ideas and metaphors of someone else. And Dean didn't really blame them. They used it to score chicks or to appear creative and relevant, but he didn't want people thinking he was one of them. Actually, no. That was a lie. He didn't give a fuck what people thought about him or his line of work. Just, oddly, this one stranger. It's not like he had any real impression he needed to make, didn't have to create an image of excellence for himself. It was doubtful he'd see this guy that often, if at all. But for some reason he felt the need to clarify.

"A novel-writer. I write novels."

Castiel's eyes visibly lit up at the words, his whole posture becoming more interested as he leaned forward, as though he wanted to move deeper into the conversation. "That's wonderful. What genre?" he questioned, speaking a little faster, just a tad more excitably than earlier.

Dean swallowed a mouthful of warm liquid and pondered for a moment, debating how to answer that. His first novel was a supernatural/sci-fi fluff piece set in the Old West, barely breaking any mould whatsoever but still somehow managing to achieve a core group of loyal followers, solidifying its cult status.

The second... Well, he didn't think "acid-trippy-journey-fantasy-thriller" was considered a genre. And the third had started out as sci-fi, but sometimes, when he finally got to writing, it felt like romance. Dean wasn't sure how to classify it because he wasn't sure what it was. He had no more idea where he would to take that book than he the numbers for next month's big lottery win.

"Um, sci-fi mostly," was what he decided on, for the sake of ease. Castiel looked appeased by the answer and glanced down at Dean's laptop bag.

"I suppose it makes sense to lug that thing around with you, then," he remarked, features curling up as though repulsed by the computer. Dean snorted.

"Dude, what's the poor laptop ever done to you?" Castiel sniffed, looking away from the laptop like it had said something to offend him.

"Computers and I... have a frosty relationship," he explained, much to Dean's amusement, picturing Castiel engaged in battle with his one great personal archnemises: Microsoft, "There is a lot of hate. It's mutual."

Dean found himself actually laughing at this, louder and clearer and with more heart than he could remember laughing in a long time, putting his cup down, lest he spill it.

"I'm glad you find it amusing," Castiel deadpanned, folding his arms across his chest. "But those things are abominations and have eaten no less than seven original documents of mine that I had no copies of." Dean shook his head at his tone, wiping his eye in amusement.

"That's your fault for not backing things up, man," he said, still chuckling lightly. "You can't blame computers for your lack of foresight." When Dean thought about it later, it occurred to him that it was probably a little odd, a little rude maybe, to be teasing a guy you'd met less than a half hour earlier, but Dean found he couldn't help himself. Couldn't help the cheeky, lazy grin rising on his lips, couldn't stop the warm, familiar manner in which he addressed this guy he had no business being familiar with at all. Castiel, however, didn't seem to mind.

"I back up everything I write," Dean continued, ignoring Castiel's rather petulant eye roll, and it was true. He did. When he actually wrote. "I've got a drawer at home full of pen drives packed with old drafts of my work. It would suck to write your magnum opus and then lose it to the evil robot overlords the rest of us regular folk know as computers" He grinned at Castiel again, delighted with the snort of amused offence he received for his efforts. The other man leaned forward, hooking the palm of his hand under his chin.

"What are you working on now?" he asked, eyes flickering to the laptop, but as Dean paused, he sat up straight, eyes widening a little in shock. "Oh, I'm sorry, that's personal, of course. I... sometimes I find myself making invasive enquiries without thinking. When I was younger, the therapist my mother made me see informed me I had trouble with personal boundaries. I suppose I haven't yet grown out of-"

"Cas!" Dean interrupted. "You're blabbering, dude. Chill. It's fine." Castiel seemed frozen for a heartbeat, paused in mid-tirade, lips pursed in a pink 'O' of an unfinished sentence as his eyes roamed Dean's face, considering.

"Cas?" he asked with that same head-tilt and oh, crap, Dean'd called him that, hadn't he? It just... slipped out. Felt comfortable. Felt right on Dean's tongue, affectionate and fond, wrapped comfortably in the exasperation of his tone.

"I, uh... do you mind? Castiel is kind of a mouthful," he said rather sheepishly, a coy smile on his lips. Castiel nodded after a moment.

"Of course. You just... caught me off-guard," he explained. "Only Gabriel and Anna have ever referred to me as 'Cas'. The rest of my family, friends and colleagues all feel my full name is more... proper." Castiel showed no outward signs of discomfort, or any negativity in his words, but there was a curl to his tone, a shard of regret digging into the smooth rumble of his voice.

There was history there, history Dean had no right to know or want to know, but he did. There was a story behind those eyes; the conflict between their brilliance and the dark circles underneath hammered the notion into him. Part of the allure was in the mystery, he had to admit, and Dean couldn't help but listen to the wavered lull of Cas's voice and wonder what had happened. Castiel brought a fist up to his mouth and coughed politely into it, signalling his wish to change the subject.

"So, uh, do you not mind telling me what you're writing currently, then?" he asked, stammering a little over his words. And Dean, fuck help him, found it impossibly endearing. Even though he didn't often talk about his work to anyone besides his frustrated publisher, he found himself wanting to tell Cas. Shame there wasn't actually anything to tell—no words, no ideas. Because actually impressing the guy with a decent piece of writing was far too easy for Dean Winchester's life. Naturally.

"Um, it's my next novel..." he began, frowning a little at his laptop as though it was to blame for his chronic writer's block, and well hey, maybe the whole disdain for technology thing was catching.

"It's... not going so well. I'm pretty sure my brain dried up all my ideas. Or some alien asshole has sucked them up. Or maybe the government." All of which were completely feasible ideas. He was fairly certain the CIA had been tracking him and his brilliance for years. Castiel nodded in sympathetic understanding.

"Perhaps you require some inspiration... Have you thought about a change of environment?"

"Uh, yeah, that's actually how I found this place to begin with," Dean replied, gesturing vaguely to the café. "I was wandering around, looking for an escape from Saint Nick so I could fake writing in peace, and I stumbled in here to get the hell out of the way of a group of particularly vicious-looking last-minute Christmas shoppers."

He shuddered. The experiences he'd had with gift-hunters out for a bargain in the past were not pleasant, to say the absolute least. But there was a wry look on Castiel's face and that sort of made relating the story worth it.

"And I guess I never really left." And he didn't. Not really. The pathetic part was even when Gabriel would finally kick him out or he decided he should probably go leave to shower or something, his mind was still on the quiet little haven, still focused on when he'd next get to enjoy a cup of the most perfect hot chocolate in the world, awful name aside.

He realised, with a sudden sinking rush in his stomach, said hot chocolate was going cold as he conversed with Castiel. He rushed to rectify this, pulling the mug back to his mouth and swallowing a large gulp down, sighing deeply in pleasure.

"You said this was your next novel?" Castiel asked when the mug left Dean's mouth, the man's face oddly flushed, words a little rushed. Curious. "Does this mean you've written before? Have I read your work?"

Dean grimaced. He could play the vague, 'oh probably not, hey have you seen that show Suits?' change-of-subject card, sure, and avoid the subject entirely and not at all subtly, meaning Castiel would view him as closed-off and skittish and would probably create an air of awkwardness around the rest of their conversation—something he'd been greatly enjoying so far. Which, in itself, was extremely odd. Dean wasn't anti-social, per se, he just... didn't usually enjoy socialising. Or people. And especially not strangers in what was supposed to be the quiet solitude of his writing time. But speaking with Cas, listening to his stories, meandering over fumbling words and mismatched communications—it was nice. He didn't want it to end yet.

But on the other hand, he could confess his authorship of the semi-popular paranormal sci-fi Western, Colt, thereby revealing himself as the unknown object of affection of the "Cult of Colt", as his delightful fangirls and fanboys dubbed themselves.

And that could go three ways: a) Castiel being unfamiliar with the book—fairly embarrassing due to the fact the guy was a librarian, b) Castiel had read the novel and liked it, which lead to the sub-outcome b1) he was secretly one of those fans, which didn't really seem likely, looking at his calm demeanour and lack of Colt/Morse OTP merchandise anywhere on his person. Or c) he'd read the books and didn't like them or was indifferent, which was... yeah.

"Uh... possibly," he said finally, after several awkward seconds of staring. "I write under a pseudonym, though... so you wouldn't recognise my name." He crossed his toes, hoping that would be a satisfactory answer.

"What's your pseudonym?" Castiel asked, clearly intrigued, as that was just Dean's personal brand of luck.

"Uh, Ackles," he coughed, "Jensen Ackles." Castiel's eyes widened slightly and glimmer of recognition shone in his eyes as he sat up a little straighter.

"As in... the Colt Jensen Ackles?" he asked, and ah, we definitely had recognition at least. Dean grimaced because, now that he reminded himself yet again, Castiel was a librarian. Most likely deeply versed in the most well-crafted literature humanity has ever had to offer. There was a chance—a substantial one—that he'd kick Dean out of the café, pelting him with muffins and scones for his crimes against literature.

"... If I said yes, will there be pelting?" he asked, inching away just in case. Castiel blinked, then frowned, the picture of confusion.

"... No," he replied, the word coming out slowly as though Dean needed extra time to decipher the complicated syllable. Or equally likely, Castiel needed a moment to figure out what the actual hell Dean was talking about—a feat easy for no man.

"Dean, that novel is... frankly outstanding," Castiel said, voice surprisingly grave for a compliment. "I'm not usually a fan of the genre... but my sister recommended it to me and I was pleasantly surprised. Very much so." Dean snorted- as happy as he was to hear from a fan, he wasn't naïve. He knew the book suited a purpose—to entertain the target audience, to hit expectations. It did fairly well with the critics. But it was by no means outstanding.

"Uh, I appreciate the compliment, man, but that book..." He paused for a moment to find the correct words. How could one honestly describe their own work? "It was... expected. It did what it was supposed to do. Entertain for a couple hours. There's so real... substance." He shrugged. He wasn't self-depreciating, he was realistic. His book was suitable for a Dungeons and Dragons-playing sci-fi nerd to pass the time in a line-up for the latest "I need this" video game, but they wouldn't be teaching it in high school lit classes anytime soon.

"No," Castiel replied simply, tone adamant, his hands flat on the counter as though shit was about to get real. Oh god. What if he was one of those fans?

"... No?" Dean repeated quizzically, "Dude, you can't just say 'no'. I wrote the damn thing. There's very freaking little in the way of thought behind it, trust me." Castiel shook his head, almost in disappointment.

"Dean. There is a lot more depth to your work than you give yourself credit for," he began. "And perhaps it is a testament to your own character that you didn't need to think about what you were writing. That it stems from impulse and emotion. And having read the book, I could readily believe that."

Dean frowned lightly. He felt a vague sense of discomfort at Castiel's words—not because they were full of praise or that they were personal, but because they were laced in this tone of sheer certainty, that Castiel believed what he was saying was nothing but the honest truth.

"The plot itself," Castiel continued, like he'd already reviewed Dean's work in the past, like he'd studied it in depth, "is of course intricate and fascinating... but it is the characters you have woven that make this novel truly great. The volatility with which they feel, with which they need to save each other, to save everyone... to carry that weight on your shoulders and not break... is remarkable." Castiel paused for a moment, looking off to the side in thought.

"Colt's sore anchor is Morse—his only sense of balance drawn from camaraderie—from a family with no blood shared, but curiously symbiotic nonetheless. Without each other they are flawed, scarred human beings. But together, those flaws become strengths. It is easy to perceive the novel as a tale of a man and his partner aiding those in danger and destroying vampires and wendigos because it's the 'right thing to do'. But the core of the story, the thread amongst the narrative, is this idea of family. That we need each other to fight. That without family, without people, there is nothing to fight for."

Castiel stared at Dean, who was sat across from him, eyes flitting about in some kind of desperation to understand Castiel's passion. To comprehend where the hell he got this... faith. Faith in Dean's characters, in Dean's tragically flawed, selfish, hedonistic characters. Faith in Dean's ability to write, to a degree that warranted this kind of passionate observation. Faith that his unqualified beliefs were true. It was... unnerving. When Dean didn't speak, Castiel wet his lips and carried on.

"I always believed that Colt... was a reflection of his creator," he said quietly, and Dean felt his eyebrows go up because, wow, that was almost an insult. "He is a man with—pardon the pun—demons. He has a history, he has seen and done things that would make the average person recoil. But he is not average. Nobody takes great notice of him... but he is exceptional. He is heroic and just, yes, but that is not his saving grace."

Dean swallowed, stomach twisting oddly because, for a fleeting moment, Castiel wasn't shaping his tongue around his thoughts on a fictional character; he was curling around Dean, capturing him unapologetically and with earnest appreciation, spreading warmth around him that was just ridiculous because he wasn't talking about Dean. Not really.

Dean had lived an average life, had seen and nothing extraordinary, had experienced nothing more troubling than the next faceless guy in this human cesspool of angst and loathing. He was plainly, obnoxiously mundane. He was just... Dean Winchester. He frowned and listened, since Cas wasn't done yet.

"What makes Samuel Colt so impressive, so sympathetic is his devotion." Castiel's eyes were almost pleading, so impassioned with his love of this piece of Dean's psyche, this tiny fragment of his imagination. Like he needed to believe in this man's righteousness, actually cared what his faux existence depicted. "His devotion to his tasks, to his friend, to humanity, so strong that he will not give up. He persists and he persists with the impossible because everything is screaming at him that it is unachievable, that he will fail, but he cannot let it weigh him down. He fights when all else has surrendered around him because he cannot give up. Until there's absolution, he won't."

Like writing this goddamn book. Dean thought bemusedly, half-wondering how Samuel Colt would feel to have the stifling heat of his furious passion and devotion compared to an obnoxious author's struggles to put pen to paper and smear his brains across a starved page. He would probably, certainly, shoot him.

"But what makes the book itself so very much more than simple 'entertainment' is that it is holds a mirror up to humanity." Castiel's left hand was clenching and unclenching expressively, clutching at intangible ideas, completely immersed in his task of explaining Dean's own novel to him.

"It portrays this man, so full of compassion and unwavering love amongst the most consuming rancour and hatred. So righteously driven and selfless, but somehow unhingedly violent, with selfish, hedonistic motivations. The universe you have created is hostile and welcoming. The characters charitable and consuming. The book is paradoxical, oxymoronic. It is human. It is... honest."

Dean stopped for a moment and blinked at him as the man took a few deep breaths, some brand of tension vibrating around them, the heavy speech on Dean's work, Dean's life, lingering taut in the air. Dean felt invigorated, his flesh tingling, inspired by Castiel's passion, drawn in by how his face looked as he recounted his ideas of the novel; the wide, dewy eyes blinking slowly as he animated his mouth around concepts, then narrowing, eyebrows tightened as he pressed his points down. The way his body shifted forward, leaning into Dean's space over the counter, his form compelling and captivating. The pink seconds of tongue coating over chapped lips in his excitement. The movements of eager hands.

It both healed and ripped open something inside Dean, some gaping wound he didn't know existed was scabbing over, some netted mass of bitter compunction pulled wide apart. At these simple words he found himself so close, so simply close to believing. Not in the plastic lullaby of religion or Christmas or even his own wavering talent, but in... something. For the first time in years, watching this man, listening to his passion, he... felt.

Dean swallowed.

"Honest, huh?" he said, voice strained. Castiel smiled.

"As honest as winter."

And with the ice of the sky falling outside, cocoa warm in his hands and sole words connecting heartbeats, Dean couldn't be expected to do anything other than hear familiar sounds drop from a stranger's tongue and fall fast, half gone in an instant.


In all Dean's life, he'd never had that experience of sinking into conversation with another person, drifting into their pull, honestly focusing on just that moment. Of truly losing himself to spoken words that weren't accompanied by the lamenting moan of a guitar. He and Sam had watched a documentary together years ago—when there was nothing on and they were both more than a little drunk—that spoke of how time for objects moving in the gravity of another larger object slows down. And talking to Castiel, Dean thought, could only be compared to that.

There was something compelling, something seasoned in his storytelling, the rounded edges of a husky voice dusting over observations far too sage for a man of, what? Thirty-four? Thirty-five? He was obviously intelligent, a depth to his eyes and compassion in his words as well as drive. He and Dean had disagreed on several topics and had squabbled and bickered in the sort of kindred nature that, to an onlooker would betray nothing but familiarity. And indeed, this was echoed in their posture, so relaxed, so... intimate as they leaned across the bar in debate, eager to stress their points.

Discussing other areas of literature outside of Dean's work, it seemed, found them particularly at odds, with Castiel insulting that Vonnegut was over-rated, lacking in style and crafting characters just this side of Bella Swan in their blandness. Which of course meant Dean had to retaliate with a quick-tongued snipe at Keroac's work for being outdated, unimpressive and rooted in the taboos of a nursing home.

And since calling out one's favourite author is akin to insulting them personally, this lead, inevitably, to a scolding clash of thoughts and ideas, neither of them backing down until they each received some kind of recognition of the greatness of the writers they each respectively defended. And it was... invigorating. Call him a recluse, if you must, but this was the most stimulating and fascinatingly, brilliantly alive conversation Dean had experienced in years.

He was captivated by Castiel, completely taken in by the way the words wove around his lips, by the stillness of him countered with his busy, birdlike hands. The stupid, quirky, nonsensical jokes he made mid-way through a tale that had nothing to do with the punchline, but accompanied by that awkward little smile, the pleasure in his face at saying something funny, so base and content for a second or two that Dean had to laugh along. He had to relish in the pleased self-satisfaction Cas radiated like he was just learning how to joke, so proud of himself that he'd gotten it right, which was probably a little too presumptive of the guy but whatever.

The point was, Castiel—from what Dean had witnessed—was freaking awesome. So much so that not only did he forget all about his hot chocolate—the drink long having cooled and begun to congeal in the mug—but he forgot about life. Forgot anything existed outside of that café. And like approaching something large and floaty in space, time just... slowed, stopped even, when Dean sat down with him.

It was only when he happened to glance up mid-laugh at Castiel's explanation of the karmic merits of proper referencing that his eyes fell upon the plastic clock high up on the wall, and he realised with a start that 1:13 am had snuck up on them when they weren't looking.

"Shit," he exhaled, scrambling into his coat pocket in search of his phone, then remembering with a strained grimace he'd left it at home, the joyous, grey shade of guilt washing over him because, sure, he'd wanted a break from the putrid stench of mulled wine and candy canes for an hour or so. But he hadn't planned on spending over three hours with a stranger, not when his mother was probably fretting that he didn't answer her before-bed Christmas call. Which was, granted, quite sad given he was a grown man in his thirties, and didn't actually have to check in with his mom before he went somewhere, but still. He didn't like knowing she'd be worrying on Christmas Eve, since the occasion meant something to her, at least.

Castiel startled at his sudden movement and followed Dean's line of vision over his shoulder and up to the clock. His eyebrows shot up far into his hairline, pulling out a pocket watch from his pants to verify whether the time on the wall was lying to him, groaning lowly in annoyance when it was confirmed.

"Dean, I am so sorry... I didn't realise the time," he began, pulling his apron off and fiddling with the register. "I was supposed to close up at half-past eleven. I got carried away with our conversation." His tone was all pleading apologies, like he didn't realise Dean had been just as strung up, as unawares as he was. He wondered if Castiel, too, felt the faint bite of disappointment in his chest.

"Cas, dude, don't sweat it," he replied, slipping his arms through his coat and shrugging it on, "I had no idea it was that late either." Castiel seemed to linger for a moment before deciding it was an appropriate answer.

"Gabriel will no doubt whine at me for losing him money," Castiel grumbled, half bitch-facing at his absent brother as he thumped at the machine, seemingly trying to open it.

"Just tell him it counts as overtime for working over Christmas," Dean muttered, watching Castiel's struggle long enough to get frustrated with his utter inability to work with technology. The other man gave an amused snort of incredulity and Dean could feel himself smiling faintly, because if they'd learned anything about each other in their time together, it was that neither of them gave a rat's ass about Christmas. The sound cut off with a short growl of annoyance as Dean stared at Castiel's trial, eventually succumbing to his urge to bat Castiel's hand out of the way and press a few buttons, opening the register with a high-pitched sound and a smug look on his face, met with a grateful, narrowed-eyed glare from Castiel. Dean shrugged.

"I worked in a convenience store for a while. Same kind of register." He laughed quietly at Castiel's soft huffs and eye-rolling and yanked out his wallet. "So how much do I owe you?" Castiel waved his hand.

"On the house," he replied without looking up from sorting the takings. Dean raised an eyebrow.

"Dude, you can't just give m—"

"Dean, I should probably be paying you," Castiel cut in, holding up a finger to silence Dean's protests. "I would have been excruciatingly bored and very... alone if it hadn't been for you and your friendly nature. Instead I had a very enjoyable conversation and the pleasure of meeting a remarkable young man with some very thought-provoking ideas about the world. It is more than worth a cup of hot chocolate."

Dean ducked his head, ignoring any of his senses that alerted him to the rapid reddening of his cheeks under Castiel's kind scrutiny, and he imagined he could know this man for forty years, not four hours and he would still not be used to his direct praise or his unabashed statement of thought. It was like the guy didn't know to keep his comments—good or bad—back. It was mind-numbingly relieving.

"Just call it a Christmas gift," he said, eyes all bright and blue and warm. Dean shook his head, smiling lightly. Apparently they had a running joke now and, well, damn.

"You sure?" he asked, waiting for Cas' nod before putting away his half-pulled-out wallet, "Thanks, man." He stretched his arms above his head and yanked on his gloves, getting ready to face the unrepentant cold once more. It was fairly warm in the café, the soft, golden, calming light much more welcoming than the harsh, cheap lightbulbs in his own apartment, the company far more preferable than the distant static of infomercials or the drone of a late-night telenovelas.

It was normal to not want to exit from soothing warmth into harsh winter wind, but he couldn't help but feel a large part of him didn't want to leave Castiel, didn't want this to be over in the next few minutes. He hadn't felt so relaxed in years, hadn't felt this inclined to like someone since he'd first met Jo, his childhood best friend. He'd never met this guy before. What were the odds of him walking out the door and never coming across him again? Whatever they were, they were way too high for Dean's liking. He could use a friend. And by the looks of things, so could Castiel.

"Listen, uh... we should do this again sometime." He cringed as soon as the words left his mouth. Again, that sounded like a pick-up line, and that was not where he was going with this at all. Or at least, not especially. "I mean rant about books and things. It was cool." It was so incredibly sad that a professional writer had such a severe lack of a way with words. But he kept his back tall and his expression kind and, if there was any justice in the world, he wouldn't look like the awkward bag of socially inept fumbling he felt like.

"Yes. I would very much like that," Castiel nodded, stilling his hands in the register, attention focused solely on Dean, and when Dean realised he wasn't going to look away, he found himself less and less desiring to move his own eyes elsewhere. Didn't even know if he could.

"I will be covering for Gabriel over the next few days while he sleeps off his newfound holiday spirit," Castiel groused, earning him a slight chuckle from Dean, "so I will be here if you... feel the need to discuss whether Brett Easton Ellis' sexism is ironic or a true reflection of his own beliefs. For example." Dean felt that vexatious, lofty twisting in the pit of his stomach again, and he shouldn't, he really shouldn't. He had no desire to talk about that asshole—he hadn't even finished American Psycho. It was Castiel. The idea of talking to him again, experiencing the casual, amicable atmosphere, the tiny expressions he would get to catalogue. The fact that the guy was already planning it. And, oh yeah, Dean already had it bad. This could be unfortunate. But that kind of felt... inconsequential.

"That sounds awesome, dude." He smiled, pushing his stool closer to the counter, preparing to leave. "It was good meeting you." He extended his hand, relishing when Castiel's strong one wrapped his in a handshake mirroring the one they shared a few hours earlier.

"You as well," Castiel replied, withdrawing his hand, fingers lightly brushing against Dean's roughened skin as he did so, sending a shiver chipping into Dean's spine. "Even if I did distract you from your writing." He nodded his head towards the evil laptop of doom. And oh, crap, he'd actually forgotten about that. Another day, another chapter not written. But for once he felt no bitterness at the realisation. Couldn't summon even a slither of regret.

"Eh, don't sweat it," he replied, lugging the laptop bag over his shoulder, "If not for you, I would have spent the past few hours reading Wikipedia articles about adhesives and glaring at my monitor, and I still wouldn't have written anything." It was true. He'd done exactly that at least twice before.

"You will get it done, Dean, you needn't worry," Castiel replied earnestly. "Inspiration, I find, has a tendency to sneak up on you."

"Yeah, well, it's been doing a pretty good job of keeping hidden so far," Dean grumbled without rancour and quirked his lips at Castiel, taking in the sight of him for a couple of seconds, knowing he'd inevitably turn up here tomorrow looking for him, and he couldn't even dredge up the idea he should be embarrassed by his eagerness.

"I'll see you around, Cas," he said, watching as Castiel gave a short, quick nod and a quiet confirmation of assent, but the other man's words were cut short, his eyes widening as they flickered over to the door.

"Oh, dear," Castiel breathed, making Dean sit up straight at the obvious sudden worry and distress in his posture, then turn to follow his line of sight. He jolted when he saw what had Cas so concerned.

"Fuck!" Dean exclaimed, clambering his way over the door for a closer look. Somehow, in the time they'd been talking, the snow had been falling heavily, neither of them noticing as inch after inch of freezing, powdery flakes built up on the filthy ground outside the café.

Dean squinted out into the night, barely able to see through the sheet of white, the near-blizzard quarrelling around them, so thick that the other side of the street was barely visible. It was arctic and he hadn't even noticed, hadn't felt it get colder, hadn't heard the wind pick up, hadn't seen the outside get gradually whiter. He narrowed his eyes, panicking slightly. How the hell was he going to get home in that?

"We... appeared to be snowed in," Castiel's low, rumbling voice said from somewhere behind him, breath hot on his neck, making Dean shudder a little. Did this man have no concept of personal space? But he was right. The snow was piled up, climbing nearly a quarter of the height of the door. There was no way either or them could leave right now.

"Yeah," he said stupidly, but what else could he say? It's not like he had any bright suggestions for how they could dig their way out of there. Dean sighed and turned his back to the door, coming almost face to face with Castiel, a scant few inches between them. He hoped the other man didn't notice the way his eyes flickered to his lips, hoped he couldn't ear the pulsing of his heart in his ears. Dean swallowed and summoned a lazy smirk.

"Guess we're welcoming in Christmas day together, huh?" And actually... taking a second to think about it, he was strangely, perfectly okay with the idea. Sure, it was a little annoying he couldn't get home, couldn't get to his cell to call his mom, but he could think of worse things than hanging out with Cas for a few more hours. Castiel looked down, almost a little embarrassed.

"I'm sorry to have kept you so long, Dean," he said, his eyes openly apologetic. "If you had left earlier, this wouldn't have happened."

"Dude, seriously, don't sweat it," Dean said, placing a hand on Castiel's shoulder before he could think better of it. But it wasn't like he could just pull it away again like he'd been scorched or something, so he had to keep it there—don't judge him—acutely aware of Castiel's sinewy muscles under his heavy hand, the heat of his body so close to his own. "You didn't know it was getting that bad. I'll just... order another drink or something." Castiel frowned.

"Dean... I really do have to close up the café." He began looking decidedly uncomfortable. "Gabriel is annoyingly particular about the utility costs." Dean felt his eyebrows knit together slightly because, what? Were they supposed to sit here in the dark and wait for the storm to pass? Surely Gabriel wouldn't begrudge his brother a little electricity, right?

"But... well, I'm currently staying in the apartment upstairs and you're... welcome to join me, if you wish?" Castiel fumbled over the words, fingers fiddling idly at his sides, but his gaze did not waver from Dean's, didn't know how to, and Christ, the poor guy was nervous.

"I don't want to put you out—"

"Dean, it is really no trouble at all," Castiel cut in. "Honestly, I would be glad of the company." Dean nodded to himself. He understood that much. His silent apartment paled in comparison to what Castiel was offering. He inhaled and looked the other man up and down carefully.

"You're not a serial killer, are you?"

Castiel cocked his head, utterly and completely confused by Dean's question, the sides of his mouth pulling up in a baffled grimace to match the clench of his eyebrows.

"Don't you think asking a person whether or not they're a serial killer is a little unwise?" he asked, eyes roaming Dean's face like he was wondering what the hell he'd gotten himself into. "It is not as though they would confirm their status." Which was probably very accurate. But you really could never be too careful.

"That kind of attitude is how people get murdered," Dean said sagely and withdrew his hand from Castiel's shoulder. Yeah... that really had been there too long, if the faint blush on Castiel's cheeks, was anything to go by.

"If you're sure..." Dean asked, waiting for Castiel's nod before continuing "C'mon then." He side-stepped Castiel, removing himself from the heated intensity of his stare and proximity, and gestured a hand towards the door to the back room.

"Lead the way."


Castiel's apartment was small—unsurprising since it was perched on top of the little café—and plain, nothing remarkable aside from the fact there was no television, which, whoa, what? There were stains on the red carpet, probably from various spillages and accidents, a messy pile of books on the coffee table, dishes in the sink, and dust on a few surfaces. It was comfortable, lived-in. Honest. Of course.

"I'm sorry about the mess," Castiel said hurriedly, batting at a couple of cushions on the couch in an effort to straighten them up—an admirable but futile attempt. He gestured for Dean to sit. "Please have a seat. Can I get you anything?" He frowned, squinting at the kitchen. "I possibly have some leftover lasagne. Possibly."

"No thanks, man, I'm good," Dean replied, sitting down, shivering a little. The apartment was a lot cooler than the café, like no-one had ever turned on a heater up there, the frost of outside making its presence known in the draft. Castiel winced in response.

"The boiler is broken, I'm afraid," Castiel said, sitting beside Dean. "I can fetch you a blanket or something?" Dean shook his head.

"It's cool, I'm alright." He wrapped his arms casually around himself, circulating his body heat because he had his pride. He wasn't going to sit there bundled up in a blanket like a child.

Castiel sighed and leaned back into the sofa, resting his head against a cushion. "You make it very difficult to be accommodating," he muttered into the cotton. Dean rolled his eyes and rested his head on his hand.

"Seriously, I'm fine. I'd be bitching at you in a heartbeat if I wasn't." Castiel snorted and murmured something that sounded like agreement, and Dean would have pretended to be offended if his body wasn't humming with delight at the casual teasing, the simple pleasure of it making him feel all stupid and floaty. Castiel looked up at him through soft, relaxed eyes, surveying his features like Dean was something important.

"I hope I haven't kept you from anything urgent tonight," he said quietly, the same taint of guilt marring his expression.

"Cas, you worry too much, dude," Dean sighed, turning his body slightly around so he was facing Castiel a little more. "The only thing I had to do was call my mom... wish her a merry Christmas. He snorted, shaking his head in exasperation. "I always call her on Christmas Eve. She's probably had a little freak-out already." Castiel frowned, all concern and remorse.

"I'm afraid I don't own a telephone... " he said, and Dean half-suspected this guy had a full-blown guilt complex given the way he was taking blame so readily—snatching at it—like all the problems in Dean's life were his fault.

"Cas, relax, it's alright," Dean said in what he hoped was a soothing but firm tone. He didn't want Castiel worrying about this, not at all. "I'll just call her in the morning, let her know I got snowed-in. I mean, it's not like I'm big on Christmas. She probably figured I went to sleep early or something." He shrugged, stating the obvious.

"Why aren't you?" Castiel asked, head turning to the side against the sofa, "Big on Christmas, I mean." Dean paused, a little out of sorts. Half of him protested furiously, raging with alarm bells inside because he didn't talk about that. Not with his mom or with Sam or anyone. He just didn't even know how to talk about it, didn't know if he had the capacity to. And to spill his heart out to a stranger... But the other half wanted to tell Castiel everything about himself, to learn everything there was to know about Cas in return, and it clawed at him because he'd never been asked that question. Nobody cared to know. But Cas. Castiel wanted to know him.

The other man watched Dean grow silent and closed his eyes, squeezing them shut as he let out a groan of annoyance, a hand coming up to pinch at his brow bone.

"I'm sorry, I've done it again, haven't I?" he sighed with self-irritation. "What's a socially acceptable way to gag yourself in order to avoid further prying?" He looked miserable. Big blue eyes so open and sad Dean couldn't help his breathy laugh. He knew that Castiel wasn't being nosy, wasn't being rude. The dude just didn't have any idea about how to censor his own tongue. It was beyond endearing by this point.

"Maybe you could bite on your fist?" he suggested helpfully, Castiel squeaking out a whimper and burying his face into the cushions in response. "But, uh, honestly I just... I don't have it in me to believe any more lies. I can't buy into another thing that seems all happy candy-coated on the outside when it's really broken and screwed to hell. I guess I just... don't have the energy."

He frowned, feeling a knot form in his throat, like the words were caught there, desperate to come out, only his own resistance holding them down. Castiel sat quietly listening to him, face neutral but receptive, fully entering listener mode like he knew something in Dean had just snapped, yearning now for words, to be able to finally speak. Like this was something worth trying, for this moment. For his own sanity he would try. Try to be as honest as Castiel's monologue on his work, as the crunchy snow on the ground, the quick, frank wind. He wanted to do this.

"I... I'm not good with talking about it... I never have been" he looked down, rubbing his fingers self-consciously together, avoiding Castiel's eyes like the blue truth in them would deter him from what he was about to do, "But... this whole season reminds me of home. And not in a good way." He breathed a humourless laugh, screwing up his nose.

"When I was a kid... fuck, most of my adult life was as shiny happy as a bunch of fairy lights, y'know? All gingerbread houses and pretty bows. I mean, there were bad days, sure, but it was all so... solid, I guess. Like Jenga." He licked his lips briefly, pausing in memory, "My mom and dad were... unbreakable. Like a force. John and Mary. Together. Unstoppable. The one thing I knew in this world for certain is my parents would be this forever thing. A given."

He snorted, wondering how much of a petty child of divorce he sounded like right now, how insignificant these problems really were. And he wasn't an idiot, he knew he was grown enough to handle them on his own, knew people made mistakes, grew apart; tough shit, that was a fact of life, and it was no use whining about it. But goddammit, he couldn't stop the words from falling now that he'd pushed them over. He swiped over his face, continuing.

"But it was a lie, of course it was," he murmured, "My dad had another son—Adam—had a whole different life away from us, and my parents divorced. My dad... he always seemed so together, but I guess I must have missed something because without my mom he... I don't know, man, he just fell apart." Dean exhaled, the lingering odour of whiskey and urine flitting in and out of his sensory memory.

"Started drinking. A lot. Got heavy into debt and gambling. Practically ate his cornflakes in Jack. And I couldn't help him. I tried. Fuck knows I did... but the money I threw at him to get help went on alcohol, the times I tried to drag him to hospital in case the dumb fuck puked out his liver always ended in a black eye or a split lip." He sniffed, feeling the angry, bitter resentment, undiluted sadness and guilt curdling in the pit of his stomach as he bit back the pathetic sounds that wanted to break free of him.

"And one day, y'know, he just went on this tirade about what a fucking failure I was. The way I didn't take on the family business like he wanted. That I had no real job, no wife, no kids. Nothing but a shitty novel and a couple of bucks to my name." Dean grit his teeth, ignoring the way Castiel fiddled at Dean's side like the guy was debating whether or not to touch him.

"And it shouldn't have bothered me, it really shouldn't have, but... I had spent my life trying to please that asshole, trying to be the perfect son, and I was there cleaning up his puke and the drunken fool was spouting his mouth at me, telling me how disappointing I was and I just... I flipped. Screamed at him, told him to go fuck himself. And you know what the bastard said?" He looked up to Castiel, seeing the man's compelling irises shine with anger, the refreshing lack of feigned sympathy beautiful on his face. He shook his head.

"He told me to make myself useful and go get him another six pack from the store." Dean laughed loudly and brokenly, rubbing his hand over his chin. "I just fucking left. Saw red and left, telling myself I'd come back in the morning to make sure he hadn't choked on his own puke. But.."

His voice wavered, sobs caught in his gullet, wedging into him with blinding remorse, but he couldn't even think of stopping, couldn't let go of this now. He wouldn't.

"But he went out anyway. Old fucker climbed into his truck and drove to the store." He paused, breathing heavily as he closed his eyes, feeling them brim with defiant tears, "He... there was an accident. A girl—Bela—she..."

He felt a hand on his forearm, a thumb stroking over his skin and he realised he was trembling, shaking heavily under the pressure of letting out these memories, tightly wound up for so long, clawing into his chest, carving them out and spreading them for Castiel to do with them what he would. He heard a hollow, elongated cry, only realising it crawled from his own throat when he felt Castiel grip him tighter.

"Dean, what happened that night was not even close to your fault," Castiel said, voice stern and powerful, like he was slapping Dean out of his state with words, but goddammit, he'd heard this before. He didn't want excuses. Not for himself. Not when that woman was rotting in the ground, so needlessly, so avoidably. If he'd just stuck it out... He shook his head furiously against the pain exploding in his chest, unwinding into his sides with verve as he scraped restless fingers over his eyes.

"Dean." Castiel took his face into two steady hands. "Your father is a... an asshole for treating you like he did. He took advantage of your kindness and unloaded responsibility onto you. He was an adult who fell apart because of a broken heart. But he was an adult. He had no right to pull you down with him. No. Right." Castiel's teeth were gritted, eyes burning with ire and fury like John was the scum of the Earth, and some part of Dean still wanted to jump to his defence, but people had been doing that this whole time. Lawyers, Sam—hell, even his mom. Spinning half-truths about how he didn't deserve the life sentence, how he was a decent man who crashed into alcoholism, bleating out the same old excuses over and over until they soaked themselves in the lie, so saturated in its acid that they believed it. Like Christmas.

The thought, coupled with the burning intensity of Castiel's stare, was enough to snap Dean out of his cascade of twisting regret, anchoring him in the present, with Castiel. The stranger who looked at him like he was relevant, who sat and listened and actually gave a damn. People didn't give a damn. Not about Dean Winchester. Not in this universe.

He felt the sudden weight of shame at unloading this onto Castiel, at bleeding his emotions all over the other man's coffee table like this was a therapist's couch or something, like he had a right to pinch at the rest of Castiel's night with his soap-opera dramatics. He wiped at his eyes, face blotchy and tear-strained, and drew back with a weak smile. Castiel's hands slipped from his face and rested near his knees, the knuckles barely grazing them.

"It's... it's in the past," he whispered, dropping his head almost to his chest. "That woman is dead, I have some amount of blame. I'm... I'm dealing." Castiel looked thoroughly unconvinced, seeing straight through him, calling bullshit in the harsh lines of his incredulous expression.

"Dean... "

"Really, Cas. Let's drop it," he said, inching away. "I'm sorry for going there. I don't know what came over me, man." He really didn't. It was though he had been seized by claws dragging him into a frame of mind where he thought it was acceptable to share his dirty underwear with other people, like it wasn't the most uncomfortable, obnoxious thing he'd ever done. But Castiel... Castiel didn't have an ounce of anything that reeked of discomfort or awkwardness on his face. Not right now, not at Dean's words.

If anything he looked ready to shovel more of Dean's past right out of him, soak it all up and patch him right back over again, like he had the ability to mend Dean's body and soul, sealing over the wounds with magic band-aids. Like he wanted to take care of Dean. And Dean wasn't done poking at his own guilt, not by a long shot. It raged and consumed like a forest flame, but there was a whisper of catharsis unfurling inside him. Tiny and vulnerable, but there was this whisper of feeling like he could get there. It was possible. He wouldn't lean on Castiel, wouldn't cry on his shoulder. But just knowing he could...

"You can talk to me as much and whenever you choose to, Dean. About any topic." Castiel exhaled, gravel tone softening over the syllables. "Especially this one." Dean nodded and wiped at his eyes with the back of his hands.

"I... I realise we haven't known each other long at all..." Castiel said hesitantly. "But... sometimes it's easier to talk to a stranger. Especially a stranger you have an affinity with." He met Dean's eyes again. "But I don't wish to remain a stranger, Dean. And I want you to know that I have ears and I intend to use them." Dean snorted weakly, sitting up taller as he composed himself.

"Thanks, man," he said, clapping Castiel twice, lightly and quickly on the shoulder, "I... appreciate it." And he did. He wasn't about to pour his heart out all over again, but Castiel was earnest in his offer, genuine and warming, the air glittering with something that felt like safety. There was just something about the guy... something alien and familiar, like he could just slide right into an empty slot in Dean's life and fit there seamlessly, like he was supposed to be there. Dean didn't believe in any of that destiny crap, but he figured that whatever it was supposed to feel like had its basis in nights like these.

"You totally owe me your anti-Christmas story now, though," he joked with a bleary smile.

"I... it's not very interesting," Castiel said with a frown and, oh crap, what was with them and breaching personal boundaries? It was like a disease. Verbal diarrhoea, like he couldn't resist poking around in Castiel's life, wanted to discover it all, like he was starved for it.

"You don't have t—"

"No, I'm just considering how to properly phrase it," Castiel said, worrying his bottom lip slightly, a pink tongue smoothing over the bite marks afterwards. In spite of himself, Dean felt his mouth dry out just a touch, a heat spreading through him. He was getting sick of the betrayals of his body around this man. Normally it was very well-behaved—composed, functioning, steady. But around Castiel he was all out of sync, so far removed from his normal self, like he'd escaped some shell he barely knew was there.

"It's nothing too alarming..." Castiel began, folding his hands in his lap. "I suppose it's just overkill." He lifted his head up and let his gaze float around the room, resting somewhere to the right of Dean's head as he drifted back into memories.

"My upbringing was very religious. Very oppressive." His eyes glazed over a little, squinting into his past. "Christmas was a time for praying and thinking about what sinners we were. It was a time of fasting and of... corrective, loving punishment." He smiled wistfully. Dean sucked in a breath through his nostrils, a spike of protective anger slicing into him at the suggestion.

"We would be punished for expressing interest in that which wasn't God or Uncle Raphael's warped vision of Christianity." Castiel scrunched his nose up in distaste. "You should have seen the reaction when I one day found my way into a library and discovered my favourite book was Wuthering Heights, not the holy book." He snorted wistfully, incredulous at the idiocy of his extremist relations.

"Music was, of course, the path to the devil. And I don't think I need to tell you decorations and presents were absolutely forbidden. That wasn't what Christmas was about. And now..." He shrugged. "When I think of Christmas I remember solitude, anger and sadness." Dean's insides twisted horribly at the words, absolutely hateful of whomever had made Castiel, someone so obviously, overwhelmingly good as Castiel, feel that way.

"Even if we put aside consumerism and say that Christmas is for family..." Castiel sighed, resting his head against the sofa again, "The only family I've spoken to since I was seventeen is Anna and Gabriel. And our cousin Balthazar." There was a flash of weary sadness behind Castiel's eyes but mostly he just looked... resigned. And that was something Dean understood. To settle. To accept your lot in life like you couldn't do anything about it but stew in the shit.

But staring at Castiel, watching the shadows of memories swipe over clenched features, it made Dean realise that he—that they—could have something better. That Castiel deserved better, shouldn't have to settle. Should have exactly what he wanted. And it wasn't his place—he barely knew the guy and he had to keep reminding himself of that, otherwise it would slip his mind—but he wanted to change things for him. Or at least improve them a slither.

"And Anna doesn't celebrate," Castiel continued. "Even less than I. And Gabriel and Balthazar... well, I don't much enjoy their, ah, brand of celebration." Dean let out a quiet snort at the image of Castiel getting wrecked and snorting special blends of various drugs off the bellies of toned strippers, shaking his actually rather awesome behind on the dance floor and passing out in a puke-covered pile of post-orgy bodies. Because those were the activities his imagination supplied for what Gabriel was up to. It... didn't suit Castiel one iota, but it made for a grotesquely amusing thought.

"So... basically our families fucked up the holiday that's supposed to be all about celebrating family?" Castiel nodded. "Well, you gotta appreciate the irony." They sat in comfortable silence for a few seconds, the quiet whispers of clicking from the clock and the howl of the icy wind the only things audible before Dean got an idea, sitting up straighter and turning his body more towards Castiel.

"We should start our own holiday," he said, catching Castiel's attention with his enthusiasm. "We should call it... Meet-a-Cool-Guy-in-a-Café-and-Get-Snowed-In Day." Castiel huffed a laugh and propped his head up on his hand.

"It does have a ring to it," he said with a smirk, sarcasm lazy on his lips. Dean shoved him playfully.

"C'mon, it'll be fun," Dean insisted. "We can create an annual tradition of drinking hot chocolate and debating literature and having spontaneous heart-to-hearts."

"Well..." Castiel looked upward, a smile still lingering on his cheeks as he pretended to consider it. "I think I could be persuaded." And oh man, there was that goddamn frustrating thrumming in Dean's chest again, the unsheathing of a brilliant glow inside of him like it had any right to take him over at the tiniest engravings of happiness in Castiel's eyes. Like discovering each bloom of momentary contentedness was the most ludicrously amazing thing he'd ever experienced. And maybe it was.

Because Castiel deserved those little slices of peace. Dean knew that. Knew he wanted to be the one to give them to him. To take in everything about the guy and find room for it in his life, which was crazy, it was. He didn't do this. Didn't move this fast in anything. Not in friendships or relationships or in hey you're my new neighbour, can I borrow some sugar-ships.

He sailed along slowly when he wasn't dragging his feet. He didn't jump right into "I want you in my life" a few hours after meeting a person. But here it was. And it was unavoidable, the feeling of it clenching right into the very core of him, and he couldn't let Castiel go. He wanted to learn him, all of him. He was already absolutely fascinated by every facet of what made him Castiel.

The silly little things he said, the adorable quirks of his head, everything. He'd accepted he was in serious trouble a few hours ago, but the harder part was that he wanted to show himself to Castiel too. Wanted the guy to see him like no-one else did, not even Sammy, because for some reason he knew in the glass shards of his blood that Castiel could take it. Could take Dean for what he was and still want to know more. He could understand.

Decision made for him by his sudden and uncharacteristic spontaneity, he reached into his pocket and pulled out a pen drive, staring at it in silent deliberation for a moment before thrusting it towards Castiel, who frowned in response, and Dean was half-certain he'd never seen one of those contraptions in his life, such was his fierce hatred and avoidance of technology.

"Here," Dean said waggling it out at Castiel before he changed his mind, "it's your 'Meet Cool Guy in café and Get Snowed-In Day' present." Castiel reached out and cautiously took hold of the USB device, glaring at it suspiciously like it was about to explode.

"What... what is it?" he asked Dean slowly.

"It's a pen drive." Castiel rolled his eyes.

"Yes, thank you, Dean, I'm not so technologically naïve I don't know what a pen drive is," he huffed indignantly. "I meant does it contain anything, or are you gifting me with an empty flash drive?" Dean ducked his head, suddenly nervous about what he'd literally shoved into the palms of Castiel's hand. Castiel was unknowingly holding the most spacey, gangrenous ooze from the edges of Dean's mind. He didn't even know what was on there for certain, couldn't fight through the haze to remember, and he'd just readily passed it over to a semi-stranger without a second thought.

"It's, uh... it's my second novel," he muttered, avoiding Castiel's searching irises. "I... never released it. Nobody has ever read it. I've never even read it. It could be absolute shit, but..." He shrugged. He didn't have an ending to that sentence. He barely knew why he wanted Castiel to have it, and had absolutely no idea why he'd actually surrendered to that desire and given it to him.

The apartment descended into abrupt silence once more, long stretches of nothing between them for Dean didn't know how long, until he finally caved and brought his line of vision back up to meet Castiel's face. The man in question was staring at him with wide eyes, lips slightly parted in shock, fingers curled gently around the device like it was something unbearably fragile. Dean squirmed and opened his mouth to say something—what, he didn't know—but anything was better than the unrelenting quiet soaking up the air, but his speech was ripped from him.

"Dean..." Castiel breathed, breaking his trance, "I... I can't accept this." He looked back down at the drive, thumb gliding over the smooth plastic with absurd gentleness. "It... it's obviously very personal to you," he whispered, not looking at Dean, " I can't steal a piece of your soul like this." Dean swallowed, part of him sinking in defeat, ready to take back his offering and retreat into the protection of his privacy, but a greater part couldn't let go now. Not after coming so far. He swallowed and summoned the last shavings of valour he possessed.

"Just... please?" he murmured, cheeks pinking over, burning. It was probably pathetic that he was begging the guy to accept this, and if he had a shred of self-respect, he would snatch it back out of his hands and shrug it off, but he just... couldn't. He wanted someone to know him. Wanted Cas to know him. "I know it's not much... but I'd feel better if you had it."

Castiel's unearthly, spider-blue eyes climbed back up to his face, raking over him with such vivid intensity it was all Dean could do not to flinch under its force. It was like Castiel was deciphering him inch by inch, like there were clues written in the maps of his flesh, the curves of his face, like there were answers hidden there.

The man looked positively anguished and awed, melded together choppily, precariously balanced like Dean was holding the end of the thread to unravel it all. He stretched seconds into sluggish minutes of just staring in this broken wonder at Dean, unmoving, barely breathing. And when Dean was about to sigh and give up, he placed the pen drive softly down on the coffee table, edged closer and wrapped his arms around Dean's neck.

Stunned, Dean stared out behind him, blinking slowly as the man's long limbs squeezed him tight against his body, head ducked into the hollow of his shoulder, the solid heat of his form reminding Dean that he should, yeah... probably move. Slowly, he brought his own arms up, tentatively returning the embrace, fingers wrapping into Castiel's shirt, twisting tighter into the fabric.

Dean shifted his face slightly into Castiel's neck and breathed, soaking up the lightly spiced scent of the man, the press of their bodies as they shared this simple action of human affection. Dean hardly knew the last time he'd held and been held by another person, and he didn't miss it. Never did. But somehow, right now, he couldn't imagine how he'd been without it. The reassurance, the hard lines of another's body telling you it's alright, that you're not alone. He closed his eyes and melted into Castiel's grip, hands digging down harder into his shirt.

"Thank you," Castiel whispered into his neck, hands rubbing down Dean's back softly, a prayer in every touch of his fingers, stroking over his tense muscles like someone devout in his reverence. As though Dean had accidentally granted him absolution. His breath was warm and heavy on Dean's chilled skin, the whipping of the draft having long since removed a good portion of his body heat, pulling out a shiver from him. Goosebumps jumped out at the warmth, trailing over his flesh as the comfort of Castiel's body spread through him, so close, so perfect against him.

Castiel pulled away a few scant inches, their noses almost touching. Their eyes met and Dean was helpless to stop the surges inside of him, was able to feel the tattoo of Castiel's heartbeat, the nearness of him. He was acutely aware of every minute movement between them. He could catalogue the slow expanding of Castiel's chest where his had ceased—breath caught in his throat, the rare flutters of his eyelashes, like he was fighting off blinking, like he didn't want a reason to stop staring and Dean got it, fuck, he got that.

Castiel's pink tongue swiped out, wetting his lips a little and Dean couldn't avoid tracing it with his eyes, following the path it left, his pupils blown wide as his heartbeat picked up pace. There were probably a million different reasons why this was a bad idea, but he was racking his brain for a single one and came up empty-handed.

To say the idea of pressing his lips to Castiel's was tantalising was a gross understatement. His veins throbbed with urgency, heart stuttering hard at the thought, need and want coursing through him to have this, just for a moment.

This was far past appropriate platonic acquaintance-like behaviour at this point, the tension thick and palpable between them. To attempt to brush it off like they weren't seconds away from... something, well, it was frankly laughable.

They couldn't go back to a few moments prior, they couldn't lather on another layer of illusion without the ensuing awkwardness, but goddammit Dean didn't want to try, didn't want to pull away now, not when Castiel was so incredibly close, so real next to him.

But Castiel's eyes were open and soft and deep with sincerity, hesitancy and nervousness written into the lines of his face, and Dean realised this was on him, that Castiel was there and waiting and all he had to do was take.

He paused for a moment, eyes boring into Castiel's to double-check he was seeing what he thought he saw, the gentle sweeps of the other man's features, the background sense of calmness hiding in his expression confirmation enough as he pushed away the lingering voices of sniping doubt, telling them to go fuck themselves. And then Dean was shifting forward, the inch between them blissfully lost as he pressed his mouth against Castiel's.

It was light, barely a brush of flesh at first, just two men falling into each other with some kind of inevitability curling in the air. Dean could feel the cold weather on Castiel's lips, rough and chapped and so fucking perfect, so impossibly gentle against his, moulding into him seamlessly. He felt Castiel's hand on his cheek, a thumb brushing over him with care, like he was something delicate and he knew he should probably protest— he wasn't some dainty maiden—but there was sweetness in it, wonder, and Dean felt himself melt, pressing closer, aching for more.

He moved his lips carefully and reverently, memorising the curve of Castiel's bottom lip, the fullness of his mouth, the corners pulled into the tiniest of smiles, every square inch of his body urging him to press forward and possess everything about the man in front of him and give himself in return.

He gasped quietly as Castiel's tongue licked at the opening of his mouth, parting instinctively and submitting himself to all Castiel had to offer, not even bothering to put up a fight as the gentle hand cupping his jaw tilted his head to an angle, pulling Dean closer to him.

Castiel kissed the same way he looked at Dean, like he was something to study and figure out, the eager explorations of wet muscle licking over his tongue, stroking over the roof of his mouth. Kiss-swollen lips sucked at the curve of his pout, fingers moving up to card through his hair and all Dean could think about was Cas.

He tasted faintly of mint and Dean's tongue chased it around his mouth, in love with the roughness of stubble against his jaw, the solid form, strong and firm around him and against him. His senses were consumed, so alight, so ignited by the briefest of touches, desperate and hungry in the way his arms slid around Castiel, the pads of his fingers digging into his back like he couldn't possibly get too close, like crawling inside of him wouldn't be enough.

Dean moaned softly, consumed with how ridiculously amazing this was, relief flowing through him like he'd been pining for this for years, not hours, and it was all he could to not to rush this, not to get lost in the tender smoothness of Castiel's kiss.

He shivered, from the intensity of his blooming emotions or the coldness of the apartment, he didn't know, but he couldn't find the drive to care, couldn't hope to pay attention to anything that wasn't this absurd, infectious man, didn't want to.

He was breaking apart, so close to snapping in two under the overwhelming sensations, more than he knew what to do with, but Castiel kissed him and kissed him and didn't even think to stop, like he was holding Dean together and maybe he was. But something rebellious in Dean was breaking off and he bit back at the kiss with pure passion. All teeth and tongue and grabby hands and Castiel just took it, leaned into it and gave him and equal measure of urgent want, challenging him in the hard press of his lips, the lascivious groan emitting from a roughened voice.

He nipped at Castiel's full lips, licking at his tongue and taking and taking with greed and desire he didn't even know he possessed, communicating his passion to Castiel in every press of their lips, the twist of his fingers in his hair, the half-moans where on anyone else there would be words, but words weren't a Dean thing. They were choked out in awkward fumbles, breaking on his lips before he got them out completely, and he didn't even know how to tell Castiel how much he wanted this, how fucking happy he was to be able to reach out and just hold and have and take, but he didn't have to. He showed him in every fleeting moment of intensely fantastic connection, wrote it into his cotton-covered back with eager fingertips and he felt Castiel just drink it up, open and wanton and shoving right back and how the hell did Dean ever do without this?

Castiel pulled back slightly, panting and staring at Dean with huge, darkened eyes—the colour almost completely swallowed by pupil. His lips were reddened and swollen, hair sticking up in crazy tufts like he was some wild creature. He looked fucking beautiful.

Castiel's eyes flickered over Dean's lips and he let out this low, desperate moan, like pulling away from Dean was the worst idea he'd ever had and he wanted nothing more than to dive back in and Dean concurred. This, whatever it was, should never stop. He had never felt so far gone, so intoxicated by just a kiss, and he wanted more. Fuck, he wanted so much more.

Castiel let out a shaky breath, looking half-hesitant and questioning, fingers still gripping into Dean's shirt as he rested his head against Dean's, breath hot over Dean's lips.

"Do... do you want...?" He could taste the words against his mouth, sought after them with a swipe of a zealous tongue and Christ, he needed, he just had to...

"Yes."

Dean had no real idea was he was agreeing to, no clue what Castiel was offering, but he wanted it, wanted everything the other man could give him, and he barely knew it was possible to feel so much desire for one person, couldn't get a firm grasp on how quickly he'd fallen under.

And he wrote sci-fi—he half-suspected Cas of being a succubus or some kind of lust demon or some crap, but right then, for once, he couldn't summon the will to give a fuck. Couldn't do anything but breathe the man in and wait for whatever it was he was willing to give.

Castiel nodded and joined their mouths back together, pulling out an embarrassing whimper from Dean as he sucked at his tongue, deft fingers stroking over the nape of his neck. Castiel's hands found their way to Dean's hips, sliding up the back of his shirt and gliding along his skin.

Dean gasped into his lips, the warmth of Castiel's hands on his freezing skin amplifying the simple touch. Dean's hand rested on Castiel's bicep, gripping into it with encouragement, half ready to climb onto the other man's lap, before the perfect lips were torn from him again, leaving him with a whine falling from his lips, and he'd probably flush if he had the presence of mind to, but nothing was more important right now than just touch.

"Bedroom," Castiel panted against his lips. Dean's heart picked up speed, hammering against his chest and okay, yes, he could definitely get on board with that. And as soon as Dean let out his breathy agreement, Castiel stood up and lead him backwards towards the bedroom, their hands tearing at each other's clothes, shoes kicked off haphazardly around the apartment, kissing fiercely all the while.

Weird thing was, Dean didn't actually do this often, rarely went home with anyone. He couldn't even remember the last time he actually took someone back to his place. When he was younger, sure, anonymous sex was pretty commonplace, but he'd grown sick of the brevity of the false comfort and kind of just... stopped.

But this, this now with Castiel so hungry and firm under him as they toppled onto the other man's unmade, slightly stained bed, hands grabbing at clothes, slipping against skin... he couldn't say no to this. Didn't want to, not for a second.

Something was pressing and urging inside of him and he needed this, needed Castiel like he hadn't needed anyone in a long time, and it should have been scary, should have intimidated the hell out of him because, hello? He'd met the dude only a few hours ago, there was no way he should have been feeling these things, and definitely not this intensely.

But he was pulling Castiel closer, not trying to escape. Groaning into his plush lips as the smaller man writhed up against him, and when the hell did he peel himself out of his sweater? Dean shrugged it off, too busy, too far gone as he found his hands were pushing Castiel down into the sheets, demanding and forthright like the idea of him leaving was terrifying and they were doing what they could to protest. It was all fucking crazy, but he couldn't bring himself to care. How could he when Castiel so perfect, so willing beneath him?

Dean moaned, this weird low rumbling sound he'd never heard himself make before, and his body surged and rolled with this new curve of want, seizing Castiel's wrists with gentle fingers, thumbs rubbing soft circles into the pulse points as he pinned them to the pillows above Castiel's head.

He wasn't trying to hold him down, not really, didn't want this to be just him taking from Castiel. Didn't want to make it about restraint—and holy hell he hoped it wasn't about restraint, because he was kind of running low on that right now. But he parted their lips and peeled heavy eyes to stare down at the man beneath him, lids shut, cheeks pink, body squirming out of his clothes, and he felt the breath get knocked out of him.

Curling a pink tongue over kiss-bitten lips, he stopped and looked and thought that he maybe kind of wanted to test Castiel, to see how far he could bend, to find his boundaries, to study his wants and desires, his needs and impulses. He wanted to be a connoisseur of Castiel, the expert on his body, his pleasure spots. Wanted to find each any every little bump of sensitive flesh on him, wanted to discover what got his heart racing and his dick wet and hard.

He wanted to know everything, and found himself promising mentally that if they ever got to do this again, he'd take his time, learn Castiel like a devout man learning his scripture. But right now he could barely see past the thick haze in his skull, the buzz of energy thrumming beneath his skin, demanding that there be more, now. And Castiel was apparently working in tandem with Dean's id, because he'd had more than enough of waiting around, if the way he was kicking his own pants down past the cut of his hips, teeth fixed his to the tender hollow of Dean's neck with a softened, needy growl, was anything to go by.

And Dean got that, found himself nodding, breathing out whispered confirmations of his agreement, ghosting the words out over the delicate shell of Castiel's ear and soaking up the shudder he elicited. And then he was leaning back, sympathetic to Castiel's whine of discontent, but his hands were unsteadily working into the cloth of his shirt, pulling it up, up over his head, slipping out of his own, cock giving a more than interested twitch when Castiel kept his arms firmly where Dean had placed them, not evening thinking about moving. Dean bit his lip on a whimper.

It was that very image the stupidly beautiful man made that had Dean rearing back down, claiming those ridiculously brilliant lips with this kind of indescribable mass of feeling that shocked the hell out of them both, but he couldn't stop, couldn't let go. He wouldn't.

Castiel moaned softly, bucking up against him, grinding his boxer-covered erection into Dean's pants with open, undisguised want, and Dean was beginning to notice that about the other man. He could read it in the way he moved, all insistent and wanting, unabashedly eager, not bothering to stifle the mewls or groans playing in his throat, not attempting to disguise anything.

For all the mystery the man seemed to project, in here, in the inches separating them, it was as though every thought, every feeling was written loud and brash across the canvas of his body.

But this was just minutes into it, the grounds so unfamiliar, so foreign. Dean didn't know if he was treading right, if he was assessing things correctly, except... he weirdly kind of did. There was this odd sense of familiarity in Castiel's touches, in the curling sound of his moans, even in the guy's scent. It was all sandalwood and nutmeg and ocean air and nothing betraying his occupations—be it the dusty smell of old books or the rich, aromatic air of the café.

It was like his body, like he transcended the dull monotony of everyday life, like he existed both outside and comfortably inside the bland. He wasn't the guy from the coffee place, wasn't the dull librarian or the repressed Christian boy. Not here. Here, with Dean, he was just Castiel. Just Cas.

Those other things were just facets, small parts of him that Dean could love—kind of already did, stupidly—but he could feel it, feel Castiel, like everything he could possibly want to know about the man was just bubbling under the surface, waiting him to reach out and take and say I want to keep you, and he did. He would, given half the chance. God, he would.

It wouldn't be fair to suggest that Castiel's deep groan vibrating hard and needy against his lips moved him out of his revelry. He was still there, still in this odd sense of awe about what he had underneath him, what he'd been given. But it definitely pressed the matter that they needed clothes off, needed to be naked and touching now because Dean wanted to collect those noises, every last one of them, for his own. They would be his to listen to and know and answer with his own. He knew they needed that, they both needed that.

Fumbling clumsily for a few seconds with his stupid fucking cock blocking belt buckle, he pushed his pants down, knees almost shaking with want as Castiel took the opportunity to arch up in this kind of feline curve. Dean bit out a curse, breath tangling against his tonsils because enough was enough, he couldn't take this heat, this need, didn't think for a second Castiel could either, and then his hands were moving of their own accord and their boxers were around their ankles and finally, finally, he could feel the hardness, the heat between Castiel's legs open and naked against his own.

Gasping softly, Dean spat into his palm, dirty and human in his want as he took them into his hand, blinking his eyes open to watch the deep pink flush blooming over Castiel's cheeks and forehead as the other man fucked up into his hand, going on some instinctual need to have. Those perfect lips had fallen open, staggering silently like he was clutching for words, for pleas or demands, his body going taut and firm, fingertips digging into the cool pillow. God, he was breathtaking.

And Dean would comment on it, but for a writer, he had no way with words, not like this, not now. Couldn't find his way out of the throb-throb of his lust-laden haze to tell Castiel how perfect, how beautiful he looked, how incredible the hard length of his cock felt in Dean's hand, the wet slide of him against Dean's dick. Words weren't important right now. Importance was created in their bodies and their movements—the nice, sloppy rhythm, the coiling inside him and the similar need he found traced over Castiel's face.

It was embarrassing how close to coming he already was, how wet his cock was getting, the urgency of his moans, but Castiel was there with him, lurching forward, sucking at his neck around desperate, throaty little noises, hands finally slipping free of their invisible restraints to paw at Dean's back, nails slipping down his spine as the other man rolled his hips up and up, slipping hard and fast into Dean's hand and holy fuck. This was too good, too hot to sustain itself, and Dean could pull out every trick he knew to keep it from ending so soon—squeezing his eyes shut, counting to ten, picturing Bobby in freakishly yellow speedos, but there's no way he could last. Not with this man, moving like this. He was helpless.

Dean was about to slow down, to make his concerns known, to do something, because this couldn't be over yet, no fucking way would he let this be that brand of quickly. It meant more, felt like so much more to him. He wanted to take Castiel in his hands, in his arms and burrow down, wanted to sink into his body and soul—fuck into his life, if he could—wanted to imprint himself there like he needed to claim this man. And it was weird and intense like nothing else had been, but he wouldn't risk fucking up, wouldn't let himself loose it, not now.

But then Castiel's hands were brushing down the dip of Dean's ropey spine, cupping over the globes of his ass and squeezing, lips slipping over the pulse point of his neck, curling his moan around Dean's at the friction as he whispered out words Dean couldn't quite make out. There was a strained whine that couldn't have possibly come from Dean, and he'd deny the noise to his deathbed, but he leant back to allow Castiel's words to come to fruition, instead of allowing them to get lost between the breathy pants and sweaty slapping noises of their bodies.

Swallowing once, five times against the swarming sting of his pulse, he summoned the breath to encourage his lips to form the words he needed to ask Castiel to repeat himself, the sounds barely recognisable as English at this point, but Castiel understood, more than understood.

The wide blue eyes were slits now, peering up at him black and muddled with some flavour of ecstasy as Castiel's head flopped against the pillow, panting up at him, and Dean almost missed what Castiel was saying again, he was so caught up in the other man's appearance, but there was no missing those words, not this time.

"Dean... Dean. I want, I want for you to be inside me," Castiel slurred, whimpering, so far gone and Dean was pretty certain his eyes were bulging out, knew his heart rate sky-rocketed at those words, a curse falling from his lips, but Castiel wasn't finished. A nimble, shaking hand found its way between them, fingers curving around his shaft, ignoring the hiss of pleasure as Castiel let his legs fall open, spreading them wide and looking unashamedly filthy in that second as he pointed Dean's cock down between his legs, sliding it against the divot of his ass cheeks.

"Can you be inside me, Dean?" he breathed, hot and open and too damn honest, always so honest, and it was all Dean could do to avoid coming, a muscle in his jaw clenching and flexing under his concentration.

Dean found himself nodding dumbly, eyes wide and disbelieving. He didn't expect this, didn't even let his mind wander enough to consider it, to consider that they might share that kind of connection. Like they could fall into this so easily, without overdoing it, without trying too hard. Like this was second nature. Like something just between them just clicked.

It was odd and no small amount of confusing, but he couldn't help notice that same sense of familiarity in the hot, hot press of Castiel's words against his lips, the deep, gravelly tone silky with want. If he believed in past lives, he'd have bet they'd done this before. And even if this had been half as good, there was no way he'd have refused Cas, and he sure as hell wasn't going to now. Didn't even think he could.

"Yeah," he murmured after a few seconds of trying to regain some semblance of control over his ragged breathing, hands sweeping over the hard lines and planes of Castiel's torso to distract himself, focusing like he was learning the braille of his body. "Yeah, Cas, I got you."

Castiel's lips flickered into a small, strained, relieved smile as he pushed himself up onto his elbows to meet Dean's lips in a gentle kiss, the action so at odds with the rest of their bodies, the rhythmic thrusting and shameless gyrating of their hips. They lingered for a few moments, enjoying the lazy kiss, sucking languidly on each other's tongues as they were both bombarded with the realisation of what they were about to do.

Castiel breathed out over Dean's lips and pulled away slightly with a final kiss, the cold seeping into the new space between their bodies, much to Dean's distaste, as the other man leaned over to the bedside cabinet. Dean squinted over at Castiel to find him scrambling inside what looked like a large, porcelain, cat-shaped container. It was when he pulled out a small bottle of lube and a condom that Dean's eyebrows twitched into incredulity. Castiel must have picked up on this if his faint blush when he turned back around was anything to go by.

"Gabriel," he stated simply and Dean snorted. No further explanation necessary.

Castiel shifted back into place as his teeth ripped open the condom packet in a way that shouldn't have been sexy at all, the tempered tear of white teeth on the blue packet, heat in those blue pools—it was matter-of-fact, simply for the purposes of practicality. Tell that to Dean's dick. He groaned long and low, still slowly fucking against Castiel's thigh, smearing sticky fluids against him, and man that should be gross, it was gross, but Castiel's breath was hitching and his tongue peeked out in arousal, and Dean knew this wasn't just him. He wasn't alone here.

Dean watched as Castiel sat up slightly, taking the edges of the readily-lubed condom between delicate fingers and pushing it slowly over the reddened head of Dean's cock. Those eyes sloped up his face slowly until he met Dean's gaze, open and watching him right back, surveying Dean's reaction to the teasing pump of his fist. The little fucker. Dean let out a strangled groan, a shock of pleasure burying itself into the centre of his spine, twisting upwards until it exploded like tiny spiders under his skin. Oh wow, this man was going to kill him.

Biting around a softening growl, he pressed forward, grabbing Castiel's hands once more, keeping them pinned at his side. He really couldn't last like that, and if Castiel wanted this as badly as he did, the teasing touches would have to take the bench for now because he just couldn't wait. He didn't even know if it was physically possible any more. Everything was so different with Castiel.

But Castiel didn't seem to mind; he stared up at Dean with eyes that were half begging, half challenging, and Dean wanted nothing more than to rise to the occasion. He soothed Castiel's worries with a few sweeping, soft brushes of lips, telling him clear and outright that this was happening, as his hands searched around for the lube, heart thundering inside its confines when he found his prize.

Without breaking their kiss, he uncapped the lid, squirting a generous amount of the stuff onto his fingers, slicking them over in the cold fluid, rubbing a little to warm it up. Cold lube, he knew from many a masturbatory session, was a surefire way to work towards turning a person way off, which he really, really did not want to happen here. He brushed over the tight, pink rim of Castiel's opening with the flat of his fingers, circling the entrance lightly just to see Castiel's breathy sigh, kissing it from his lips haphazardly, and he knew then that this was something he could never grow tired of, would never get used to.

Castiel gasped against his lips, the sound cutting off into this whine-moan hybrid when Dean's finger breached him with a slow press, his other hand settling on his hip, pushing down slightly to counteract the pressure. He wasn't ashamed to admit he'd done a little... self-practise in terms of fingering, and if Castiel was built anything like him, he had an idea where to touch, how to move his digit, pumping gently for a moment to allow Castiel to grow used to the intrusion before curling around and up, searching for the slight raise of the silky muscle.

There was a moment of awkwardness where Dean's fingers prodded away, horribly sloppy in his lack of expertise, and he kind of thought that maybe Castiel wasn't as sensitive as him, maybe he was doing this completely wrong. But then Castiel arched up, a shockingly graphic curse tumbling from his tongue, draped in this kind of broken cry and Dean found himself huffing out in relief, moving comfortably back into pace.

Paying careful attention to hit the spot several more times, he curved his finger against the muscle surrounding the gland and applied gentle strokes before slipping in a second, taking time to squirt a little extra lube, wanting this to be as pain-free as possible for Castiel. But the other man just rolled with the motion, body swallowing Dean's fingers like it recognised him, his hips fucking back against him instinctively as he babbled nonsense words into the charged air, this calm, reserved man a picture of lust and pleasure beneath him. How the ever loving hell had Dean gone without this his whole life?

Groaning softly, he began rocking his hips, ending up humping the bed like some kind of animal, but right now it was a scarily accurate comparison. He felt stripped, reduced to this primal state of mating and claiming and having, but Castiel's hands were urging him on, clawing over his back and shoulders, head thrown back in something like ecstasy. Dean's name and barely English sounds tangled together and poured from his lips.

Castiel's hips were jackhammering onto Dean's fingers, impaling himself as they stretched him open, a third finger slipping in easily, his greedy hole clamping down and squeezing tight, so needy for more of this. He wanted this just as much as Dean, just as desperately, and god, he looked fucking radiant, that was really the only word left.

Castiel's thighs were trembling, one hand buried deep in Dean's hair, twisting into his locks and pulling, the other palming his ass, urging him closer with a grunted "Dean", a demand and a plea in one syllable. Dean couldn't refuse any longer, couldn't let this stretch any further because they were both pushing limits, both too close to the edge to take their sweet time. Maybe next time...

Withdrawing his fingers carefully, he took hold of his own cock, looking down, the sound of his blood pumping loud and brash in his ears. He rubbed the tip of his erection against Castiel's tight hole, puffy and red from the languid finger-fucking, teasing it open with a circling of his hips.

Castiel groaned deep in response, and dropped his legs wider, ankles hooking in the curves of the back of Dean's thighs, pulling him closer as his hips rolled violently downwards, forcing the thick head of Dean's cock to breach him with a quick stab, both of them letting out startled breaths.

Dean's eyes were round and glazed, boring down at Castiel like he couldn't believe they were here, now, doing this, as he thrust his hips, slipping forward into that heat. The slick channel around him was clenching and flexing experimentally, hot and welcoming, and Castiel's heartbreakingly blue eyes were staring right back at him and this couldn't be anything but real.

Gradually, he pressed into Castiel's ass, his body shifting forward to lean on his elbows, eyes frittering around Castiel's face like he wanted to get lost in his features. The man's eyebrows clenched up from what Dean suspected were hints of pain coupled with the stupidly scorching hot pleasure curling and coiling in Dean's body, mirroring into Castiel's.

Dean slipped an arm under the curve of Castiel's back, splaying his fingers along his spine as he finally bottomed out, pubic bone nestled closely against the soft slopes of Castiel's ass. His mouth fell open around a cry then, the completely incredible, tight, so fucking tight, heat of Castiel's hole hot and open around him, fingers slipping over him with lover's familiarity, mapping out his sweat-slicked flesh with worshipful fingers as Castiel squirmed beneath him.

Dean rested his forehead against Castiel's, the tickle of messy tufts of dark hair against his skin making him shudder as they paused to catch their breath for a moment. He brushed his lips over the angle of Castiel's cheekbone, letting the other man grow used to the thick pressure of being full, fingertips tracing patterns into his skin as he listened the thump of Castiel's heart.

And then Castiel was nodding small and almost unnoticeable in silent permission, and Dean was pulling out again, not giving them a chance to mourn the loss of contact before he was snapping back into place, and that's it, fuck, that's it.

Castiel fucking howled, legs tightening their grip around Dean's waist, ankles linking together tightly, clinging on for dear life as his body juddered with Dean's ragged thrusts, squeezing and clamping down on him like he existed for this, like there was nothing he wanted more than this moment here with Dean, sharing something... well. Sharing something.

It was hard to put into words. What this was. It meant more than Dean could describe in simple terms, hell, more than he could describe in flourished terms. This... this just was. He was actually pretty sure there was no word for the feeling of being buried inside Castiel's body, linking into him like he was the only thing that could fill the spaces. And he wanted that in every aspect, wanted to fit into Castiel's life, bury himself in it like he belonged exactly there, right there, with Castiel.

The room was cold, fucking freezing in the absence of any central heating, but it was so hard to notice with the slapping of their flesh and the grasping of their hands, so vital and fervid, and Dean was sweltering in it. His hips were pumping steadily now, beginning to pound into the man, his insistent desires not allowing him to take this any slower, but Castiel didn't mind, wanted it, begged for it.

"Dean. I need... harder. Harder!" Dean hushed him softly, lips nuzzling and biting gently along Castiel's stubble speckled jaw, licking over the roughness as his cock speared into the other man's heat, Castiel bending backwards and screaming at the increase in pace and there was no way they were gonna last now. Not this time.

Castiel's fingers wrapped around his bicep, squeezing over the muscle like he wanted to claim Dean, nails gouging little crescents into the skin. It was maddening how brutally strong this pull between them was, like they both needed to be swallowed, both needed to give, and to take. Their bodies were jolting like insane things, nails and teeth and moans reducing them to the skin they were in.

There were no words shared between them beyond the litany of curses and half-slurred nonsense cries, but instead they communicated in scratches and kisses and the jerking of their hips, flesh trapped so warm and alive between the two of them and Dean knew, he knew, nothing would ever be this good.

Dean lifted his head, wanting to look, to see what he was doing to the man underneath him, wanting to watch him fall apart, just as Dean was. He gulped audibly, eyes eagerly taking in the picture of Castiel squirming and thrashing around, any stoicism he might have held earlier long since emancipated, stripped down bare to this mass of nerves and need, spread wide, body pliant and accepting. Dean's hips pounded furiously faster, some instinct telling him to push Castiel harder, to bury himself in the man's mind as well as his body, to imprint his mark on him because there was no way he'd let Castiel forget this.

He was rewarded for his trouble with a choked cry that lasted seconds upon seconds as Castiel's hips stuttered, his cock wet with precome, hard, purpling and rigid against his belly and his face. Striking in his handsomeness in conversation, Castiel was fucking beautiful in , white and brilliant from the raging snowstorm outside, shone through the thin glass of the windows, curling over the pair, painting Castiel in its delicate flare, and it was an optical illusion, Dean knew this, but right then? Castiel was glowing. He looked so far gone, so mentally and physically overtaken by this, the narrow lines and ridges of his face screwed up helplessly, sanity lost to the fervour of their hips. And that it was Dean doing this to him, that he'd let him into his memories and then his body, that he had chosen him, that had Dean tumbling down right there with him.

Feeling the tension growing and coiling within his groin, he began pistoning his hips violently into Castiel, angling his head to mutter a dark touch yourself into the smaller man's ear, needing him just as close as he was. Judging by Castiel's quick obedience and the barely comprehensible, pleading praise of "yes, yes, Dean!" he received in return, that wasn't an impossible want. Not by a long shot.

He watched, rapt, as Castiel's hand moved fast on his cock, pumping furiously, his other still gripping strong and unmoving at Dean's shoulder, his eyes tightened in pleasure. Dean threaded his hand over Castiel's, holding the man's fingers against his skin, his other sliding around Castiel's neck, cupping the back of it gently, sharing breath with his lover.

"C'mon, Cas," he managed to murmur, shaky and breathless, "let go for me, baby, I got you. Come for me."

And, just like that, he did. As soon as the words were out of Dean's mouth, Castiel was again obeying, hips jerking up into his own hand before he came between their bodies, back curving as he painted himself in release, Dean's name jubilant on his lips.

Dean was working overtime, trying to distract himself from the convulsing around him long enough to embed the image Castiel was making deep into his mind, lest that be the only chance he would get to do so, but then everything became too hot, too tight and he could only manage a few more thrusts before he was coming as well, letting loose a wrenched sob into the pulse of Castiel's neck.

It was sloppy and ardent, no finesse as their orgasms worked through them, rhythm faltering, forms contorting together. Dean was acutely aware of every square inch of his skin where he was pressed against Castiel, where he wasn't, where he was buried, where he was held. The surface of his flesh buzzed, hairs standing up, and everything in him was stretching out, grabbing at that feeling, chasing it like he'd never get it again. But, honestly, he half thought that just having it now, like this, would be enough.

When the world began to look like the world again, his climax passing out of him with gentle shocks and ripples of after-pleasure, he found himself spread out atop Castiel, face buried in some corner of his body—he wasn't quite sure where—panting and completely and utterly sated.

His mind was working sluggishly to form words, pathetic-sounding little whimpers the only noise escaping him, and he would've tried to feel embarrassment were there not was a gentle hand petting his hair and a the rapid thud of a heartbeat beneath his ear. It just... didn't matter.

He found himself drifting after a few moments, for once uncaring of the world outside, of his family dramas, of his books, of Christmas. None of it had any meaning in that second, and he realised he was strangely, awesomely okay with that.


Dean didn't remember going to sleep exactly, didn't have a damn clue how long he'd been out, but waking up freezing and pressed against a solid, breathing mass of flesh definitely wasn't something he'd forget about so easily. They were nestled close together, bodies curved tightly against each other, which meant the strange position of Castiel's elbows and knees were digging little dints into Dean's skin. But their bodies didn't seem to mind, given how closely they were wound, fingers clinging onto flesh to conserve whatever warmth they could in the cold, tiny apartment. Dean must have slipped out of Castiel in the time they'd been asleep, but the minuscule distance between them made up for it. He found he liked the awkward angles of Castiel's arms, the joints prodding into him, the insistent locking of their legs. It felt nice. Weirdly, weirdly, nice.

Castiel shivered in his arms and Dean let out a soft grumble in response, totally in agreement as he reached behind himself, hands searching for the corner of Castiel's comforter, tugging it over their bodies when he located it. Wrapping himself up in the duvet and Castiel, he felt too sated, too comfortable to do anything but curl up, lazy and open, and somewhere alarm bells were going off because there was no way it could just be this easy. It wasn't supposed to be as simple as finding a guy—a pretty damn amazing guy—falling hard and quick, taking him to bed and then just...being. But it was. It was.

Some innate Winchester urge inside of him was yelling at him to make this complicated, to overthink it and dissect it into little useless fragments, but he was done with that bullshit. He was done trying to provide excuses, trying to give reasons. For once he was content to just stop and feel.

Castiel stirred at his side, head nuzzling into Dean's shoulder, and Dean grinned at the little mumbling, angry noises the man made at being woken up, and he found himself needing to know what Castiel was like in the mornings. He was guessing the other man wasn't much of an early bird. It'd be all right, though. Dean would bring him coffee and do something ridiculously sappy like kiss the complaints away from his mouth as Castiel frowned at the intrusive sunlight peeking in through the curtains. And well, damn, now he was acting like a total creeper. A total schmoopy creeper.

Two bleary, tired eyes peeled slowly open and stared up at him, confused and dazed for a moment, like he couldn't quite place what was going on, before the sharp awareness filled them once more.

"Hello."

Dean smiled. Castiel's gruff, thick voice was heavier after sex, jagged corners doused with a healthy helping of smoothness, reflecting the way the man had melted against him, moulding effortlessly around the shape of his body like they were made to fit.

"Hey," he responded softly, eyes hooding over. He found himself tracing patterns into Castiel's hips, arms having looped around the man's lower back. Castiel hummed lightly and nestled his head against Dean's chest, apparently too relaxed to be questioning things right now.

"Not thinking too hard, are you?" Castiel asked, rubbing his lips feather-light over Dean's collarbone.

"No." It was an easy syllable, real and truthful on his tongue, and Dean was relieved by it. "No. This is good."

He felt Castiel smile, small and secretive against his skin, and pulled the other man closer, tangling their legs tighter together. For a second, he felt like maybe he had one of those fancy Christmas miracles he'd heard so much about, right there, naked and sleepy in his tired arms. But then, he was pretty sure he had something better.

They were quiet for a while after that, the soft sounds of breaths against his neck the only soundtrack to his slow, meandering thoughts, and he was almost positive Castiel was sleeping again. But then muffled words were murmured into his skin and Dean had to pull back slightly to hear them.

"What?"

"It's better. Christmas," Castiel said sleepily. "It's better like this. It feels..."

"Better?" Dean teased with a gentle grin, nose buried in Castiel's dark hair, listening to his feigned, put-out huff.

"Much better."

Dean smiled, pressing his lips to Castiel's head, whispering a quiet, "I know." He felt like he wanted to say more, like this whole thing needed words, needed explaining. But then, his editor was always telling him that was his problem—trailing of into reams and reams of run-on sentences, losing himself (and naturally, the reader) in the progress. He figured maybe this time he'd just shut up. Let things happen. There'd be time to talk about things later, time to learn Castiel, to speak his language.

He imagined himself watching the other man eat cold, vegetarian pizza—because that just suited Castiel—for "Christmas dinner" tomorrow, talking about inanities and telling awkward jokes. (Dean didn't know which of them was the worse comedian, actually, but they'd learn). He could picture them piling into the Impala, Dean complaining all the way to IKEA, because Castiel thought they needed a new lamp for their bedside table when Dean insisted the old one was just fine. They'd bicker about trivial little things like they were getting paid for it, and Castiel would hog the blankets and his feet would be cold every night, just like they were right now. But it would be okay, because Dean would like the pointless arguments, he'd like the way he'd have to curl right in close to Cas to get warm, even when his stupid, freezing feet weren't helping. He'd like Cas. He'd like that life. And he wanted it. He wanted it for them.

It wasn't rational, but laying there with Castiel, this stranger he should have never met, Dean knew they'd get it, just as surely as he knew Sammy would be a great daddy one day, or that Adam was going to be a doctor. He thought maybe this didn't need explaining. Maybe it should just be allowed to be.

Snuggling down, he got comfy against the pillow, a hand splaying itself out on the rope of Castiel's spine as the other man settled next to him, quiet breaths deepening once more. The snow continued to fall outside, locking them in that little apartment above that little café, forcing them closer and tighter in their pursuit of warmth, keeping them there, together. And Dean's last, irrational thought before he sank back into his sated sleep was that the snow, the winter, was made just for them.

End.


~Merry Christmas, everyone. :) x