one. the Earth is frozen solid, like a heart that will not love

Of all the stupid things to forget: upstate New York is cold.

Forget April being the cruelest month. It's February, Dean thinks, tugging his jacket closer around him. His hands are red and chapped and his ridiculous hat isn't doing its job, not one bit; Sam had sworn the ear flaps would be effective and while it's maybe better than the alternative, but it's not great.

"Why would anyone want to practice witchcraft in this weather," Dean asks, voice flat. The forecast this morning had been for an ice storm and the wind is certainly backing it up. If there's any way angels can affect the weather, well, with what's going on in the metaphysical skies right now- that wouldn't surprise Dean one bit.

"The heart of winter provides an appropriate setting for some rituals," Cas begins, and Dean shakes his head. He already knows that they're here tracking down some horrifying version of Jack Frost. Sam's at the diner interviewing some girl whose girlfriend was frozen alive in a block of ice, face a terrified rictus, and as bad as that might be, Dean's mostly jealous that Sam is somewhere where he has easy access to hot coffee and pancakes.

They're going through the back woods of some farm looking for the summoning site. Or, possibly, another victim. He can feel the storm coming through the sharp bone-chills icing through the air, harsh and unavoidable.

"We need to turn east," Castiel says, and Dean looks over at him. The angel's nose is bright red and his cheeks are flushed.

Instead of asking if he is now the more accurate angelic version of Google Maps, Dean says, "aren't you cold?" and Castiel looks up at him like he is a distraction.

"Not until you mentioned it," he replies. Dean rolls his eyes, because angels and vessels are something he won't ever pretend to fully understand, won't try to because it freaks him out (also, Jimmy went pyrotechnic in the end, so-) and now Cas is shivering, red blooming in his cheeks.

"Come on," Dean says, unwinding the scarf from around his neck and draping it over Cas's shoulders. "It's getting kinda late- let's go back into town and find the stores. We probably should get you a real winter coat."

two. my love a beacon in the night

It is, honestly, the farthest thing from a nightmare Sam has ever had. In his dream it is spring at Stanford and they're walking around Lake Lagunita like they did when they were first dating, him and Jess hand and hand and giggling quietly at all the serious joggers with their heart-rate monitors and several-hundred-dollar shoes.

Enough signs and portents have invaded his subconscious that he knows to enjoy this while it lasts, the feel of Jess against him and the sight of her long blonde hair against the greening scenery; it's only when her hand is missing from his and the warmth against his side turns cold that Sam turns around and feels the dream shift.

Before anything can happen, though, he wakes up. Sees Castiel's face, not exactly worried but not entirely neutral, and feels a glass of hot tea being placed into his hand. The wind is whipping through the trees outside, such a contrast from his dream-world of Palo Alto

"I apologize for waking you," Castiel says.

Sam shrugs and says, "nah, really, it's okay, thanks," and Cas nods, however cautiously.

three. a candle burned on the table

"No," Dean says, even though Castiel didn't ask the question as much as he implied it. "I'm not going out tonight."

This motel room has a couch, and even though it looks like it lost some sort of grand furniture melee, Dean sinks down onto it, turning on the TV. "There's a new SNL on now," he explains to Castiel as the opening credits play, New York shiny and light-coated, "maybe we'll actually be lucky for once and it won't be absolute shit. I put some beer in the minifridge, if you want to grab two cold ones."

Cas ignores the latter half of his statement, even though Dean would really, really prefer that he didn't, and sits politely next to Dean, leaving four inches of space between them even though it means he's sitting on busted foam.

"I thought you didn't really get personal space," Dean says, rolling his eyes, and he reaches out and yanks Castiel closer.

four. words are only painted fire

Castiel likes poetry, likes Emily Dickinson with her dashes and e.e. cummings with his bent punctuation and words that are not words; Dean can only tolerate Shakespeare if it's one of the history cycles with scheming and witches and ghosts.

Sam gets Cas a library card. It's probably a mistake when Castiel spends the drive from Des Moines to Toledo speed-reading through the first three Harry Potter books.

"You're going to have to return those, you know," Dean says, turning down the cassette player. "I don't think angels of the Lord are supposed to have overdue book fees."

Castiel glares at him through the rearview mirror, closing Prisoner of Azkaban with a sharp snap.

"And besides, aren't those kids books?" Dean continues relentlessly. It's been too quiet in the car ever since Cas discovered public libraries and Sam got noise-canceling headphones.

"Shut up," Sam says after Castiel goes practically a minute without blinking. "They're good."

Dean laughs loudly.

As revenge, Cas spends a week trying to get him to appreciate Robert Frost. On the other hand, Dean uses it to pick up an English Lit major in Bloomington, and leaves Sam in the motel to deal with Castiel in explaining the reasoning behind Dumbledore's death.

Honestly- (and yeah, they're kids books, but one time he left most of his cassette tapes with Dad when he had to drive out for supplies, and the first two books were on audiocassette at a Goodwill; Dean bought them and listened whenever he got the chance for two weeks. He read the rest of the series as it came out, ended up covertly stealing them from Sammy's duffel by the end of it, and he will not admit that to anyone on pain of death-) Dean should have known.

Maybe he'll try to get Cas to read Fight Club next.

(Sam recommends Jane Eyre. For that, Dean punches him in the ribs.)

five. fire is never a gentle master

When Dean was young and stupid (and he is now older and arguably still sometimes stupid, though with a dash of clever) he used to pretend he wasn't scared of anything.

He doesn't do that anymore.

(See: planes.)

Amongst other things, he builds fires in fireplaces now when he gets the chance. A benefit to hunting down demons in New England is that they don't always stay at chain motels; there are inns, real genuine inns with fireplaces and wood neatly stacked on the hearth. Because it wasn't the fire's fault that his mother died, it was the demon, and the fire was just a tool, like the knife he carries with him or the salt in the trunk of the Impala.

"I can put a ward on the hearth," Castiel says.

"Where'd you come from?" Dean turns to him, dusting wood grit off his hands, and strides over. "I thought you had a thing."

"It has been dealt with," Cas responds, "and Sam will be back soon with supper. He has not forgotten the pie."

"That's good," Dean says, and looks for his jacket. It's draped over the bedpost and he pokes through the pockets, looking for a book of matches. "Only little bitches forget the pie."

"I am sure Sam is well aware." Castiel shifts from right foot to left, and Dean wonders why he hasn't just gone ahead and stuck his hands in his pockets already. "I will put a ward on the hearth if you would like, Dean."

Get out of my head, Dean thinks, and Castiel now has the social skills to at least look slightly ashamed.

"There is a certain mysticism about the hearth and home," he says, because clearly he doesn't yet have enough tact to drop the topic. He's sitting on the corner of the bed. He always does this, sits neatly, and it makes Dean wants to push him so that he sprawls for once. "It wouldn't take much energy to protect it."

There's nothing critical in his expression, just kind understanding, and Dean's shoulders relax from where they're bunched up tensely around his ears. Dean looks at him, smiles. "Thanks," he says finally, lighting a match. It flares around his fingers. "But I think I'm okay."

six. thou art all ice - thy kindness freezes

Sometimes Dean's moods are dark and tinged with insecurity, and Sam knows him when he gets like this, knows that maybe it's best if he just goes out to see a movie, or to a cafe with the lapop, just gets out of Dean's way so that he can rage and be pissed with heaven/the world/their father/himself.

But it's been like this for three days and the last time Dean let himself be angry and unsure for so long he went out to kill two wendigos by himself and ended up with bloody gashes all over his torso, striping up to his collarbones and a nasty, bleeding cut on his scalp. And yeah, Sam knows that scalp wounds bleed like hell, but it was damn unpleasant and he hates the sterile smell of antiseptic.

"Go pick a fight- with a human, god, not something that will slice you to ribbons- I'm going to the bookstore," Sam says, and makes sure to slam the door behind him.

Sometimes bad moods are infectious. Dean swears at the closed door and then begins to lace up his boots.

He's just reaching for his jacket, annoyed at Sam for being right and annoyed at himself, ready to go find a bar, when there's that slight warp in the air and Castiel is suddenly too close beside him.

He doesn't read it as Cas, just thinks danger and invasion and whirls around to punch the other man in the jaw. His fist makes contact and there's a noise that's mostly just pain transmuted through sound waves.

"Fuck," Dean says, cradling his fist. "Jesus, this is why we talked about personal space."

"I have warned you not to do that," Castiel says. There isn't even a mark on his face, a spreading, purpling bruise, unlike Dean's knuckles, which are now a palette of red.

"Fuck you," Dean says, elaborating. "What is your problem, why are you here- this is like my night off or something, goddamnit, go bother some other poor soul."

"You are the only poor soul I have to deal with on a daily basis," Cas says quietly. "Everyone else is incidental."

Dean blinks. "That's a helluva thing to tell a guy," he says finally, grasping at words.

"Yes," Castiel agrees, an arch look on his face, and then he is gone as suddenly as he came.

seven. it is not light we need, but fire

Sam hates sprained ankles.

They're not real injuries, because real injuries aren't a nuisance brought on by being clumsy and having too much leg for your own good. It's just pain. And a lingering, creeping annoyance with himself.

He's stuck in the motel room while Dean is out fighting snow demons, and while on any other day he would be glad to be inside, research is becoming disenchanting and the news is all about contentious local school board elections.

There is a knock at the door, brief and polite, and Sam hobbles (fucking hobbles, ugh) over to open it.

"Hello, Sam," Castiel says. One hand is wrapped around a steaming cup; the other holds a fairly crumpled brown paper bag. "I heard you were indisposed."

"Yeah, that's one way to put it," Sam says. "What's up?"

"I brought you hot chocolate and a muffin," Cas says, and sets them on the rickety end table. "My condolences." So yeah, Sam knows this means Castiel can't use his angelic mojo to heal his ankle, but still. It's a nice gesture.

He wonders what it would be like to hug an angel. Nice, he decides. Well, if it's Cas he's hugging. Maybe.

eight. when walking on thin ice, you may as well dance

"You look cold," Dean says.

"I am fairly sure you are not supposed to wear a jacket indoors," Castiel responds. His teeth are chattering, Dean notices.

"That's never stopped you with the trenchcoat before," Dean points out. Cas shakes his head.

"That was different," he says. "Isn't this establishment supposed to provide us with heat?"

They're in North Dakota, in some inn off the highway, and not only is it snowing, there's a shrill, icy wind coming in from all directions. The TV is turned on to C-SPAN, literally the only channel it can pick up, and the monotonus droning of some representative from Vermont about farm subsidies is probably Heaven's way of punishing Dean for an infraction he didn't even know that he'd committed.

"Yeah," Dean says, "the radiator's on, can't you hear it? But it isn't doing much. The window was open before, I have no fucking idea why."

Castiel sends him a mild look but whatever, profanity is appropriate in cold-as-balls weather. Dean sighs. "Get your jacket," he says. They'd bought him the jacket at some general store in upstate New York and it was way too expensive, but it's warm and has a hood. Cas had objected to the hood, but he pretty much came with pre-existing hat hair so Dean sees no reason for complains there, either.

"This isn't better," Cas says, even after he's wrapped up in like $150 worth of down and heat-keeping microfabric.

Dean says, "yeah, you can stop whining now, thanks," but he gets to his feet and pulls back the covers on the bed. "Come on, climb under here." He slides in himself, wiggling his toes and grabbing the remote. Maybe he can at least get some PBS or gory local news stories.

Cas pauses at the corner of the bed hesitantly.

Dean rolls his eyes. "Really, it's fine. If it shuts you up, even better." He rolls his head around on his neck. "Can't believe Sam got to stay at Bobby's."

"You chose to venture out," Castiel says. "There was no severe weather predicted when we left."

"Whatever." Cas is in the bed by now, the fake fur trim on his coat tickling the side of Dean's face. "You look ridiculous."

"Feeling cold is ridiculous," Cas responds, and Dean laughs. It comes straight from the belly, and before he knows it he's practically doubled over, clutching his stomach. He slings an arm around Castiel.

"Maybe some day we'll get to work a job in Florida," he says. "Or Texas. In the summer. Then you can feel the other end of the spectrum."

"I didn't like deserts, even in the beginning," Castiel sighs.

"Then you just gotta wait for spring," Dean says. His arm around Cas tightens, becomes more of a hug. "That's the thing, one follows the next."

"As I have observed," Cas says dryly, but he's smiling, just a little.

Dean doesn't want to move his arm, or the head he's currently leaning on Cas's shoulder. He doesn't want the way Cas is sort of relaxing into him to change. He wants to stay like this as long as possible.

The thought hits him like it hasn't quite before: all it would take is a half-turn on his head, and their lips would meet. The barest of movements, really, a natural shift. He slides a sidelong glance at Castiel, who appears to be following the hearing on farm subsidies with interest.

It would be way too easy.

Dean leans into Castiel just a little bit more.

He wakes up in the morning with pins and needles in his arm and Cas looking at him. Their ankles are intertwined and C-SPAN is still on. It's a different representative, but they're still talking about farm susidies.

"Good morning," Dean yawns, his voice rough from sleep. "You're still here."

"We're working together," Castiel says. "And you appeared comfortable. I didn't want to disturb you."

"I appreciate it," Dean says, and begins to haul himself out of bed. "Let's do this thing."

nine. love is a friendship caught on fire.

Dean gets his resolve up in Oregon. It's still cold, because apparently this is the winter of America's discontent, but it isn't as frigid as North Dakota.

Cas still wears his coat.

They're sitting in a cafe called The Grind, waiting for Sam to come back with food, when Dean does it.

Because he's been thinking about. He thinks about it whenever Cas leans into him for warmth (because that was it's functional, you see, it's not just cuddling, despite what his brother insinuates-) or when Cas pulls that ridiculous hood up over his ridiculous hair.

And maybe he choses now because he can blame it on the cafe's acoustic guitar music later, but Cas is leaning on Dean, his head on his shoulder, and Dean tilts his face just the right amount so that their lips meet.

It's, well- at first Castiel isn't kissing back, and Dean's eyes open. He hesitates, begins to pull back, begins to string excuses together.

Cas's hand on his arm stops that, and Dean feels the angel smile against his lips.

"Suddenly I'm not cold anymore," Cas murmurs, and Dean doesn't care that the whole damn cafe is probably staring, that Sam is going to be an absolute bitch in approximately thirty seconds.

"Neither am I," he says, and wraps a hand in Cas's hair, knocking off the hood. "Guess you don't need that coat anymore."

"We'll see about that," Castiel responds, and kisses Dean back.