Title: The Slow Path
Rating: PG, with some language
Genre and/or Pairing: Angst, Dean/Castiel
Spoilers: Up to S7:17
Warnings: Language
Word Count: Around 1,500
Summary: How Dean fell for Castiel.
A/N: So yeah, this is how I deal with all my Destiel feels. This is the first part of a three-part series.

Falling for Castiel hadn't been like falling for pretty brunettes. Dean couldn't remember a moment when it happened, but rather many situations. He had descended slowly, but deeply. He teetered on the edge the moment they met, when Castiel's power sizzled before him. He was an incredible, striking being in the guise of a man, and with every meeting, Dean sank a little more.

"You should show me some respect," Castiel had growled to Dean in a dark voice one night. It struck Dean that his voice in that moment wasn't angelic at all. He found that Cas had the skill of rendering him speechless with so few words. Dean tried to work up the courage to lash out defiantly, but he found he couldn't even meet Castiel's eyes. Unexpectedly, he felt hot. He felt Castiel's steely blue eyes inspecting his face, and, for the first time, Dean desperately wanted to close what little space Castiel allowed between them. The intensity of Castiel's eyes represented only the tip of the iceberg that was his allure. Dean was only inches away from a strong, unshaven jaw and a mess of dark brown hair that seemed perfectly in disarray. Most importantly, there was a wave of power and knowledge in the vessel before him that pinned Dean in place. One glimpse into Dean's mind would have revealed a man tempted to bend to anything the angel asked. He swallowed back a 'Yes, Sir' with difficultly. Silence had been the greatest form of rebellion Dean could respond with to Castiel's words.

Castiel was gone just as quickly as he had come and Dean found himself curled back up inside his sheets, pleading and complaining to a God he didn't even like. Thanks, God. Thanks a lot. This is just embarrassing. Why'd you have to send me a damn GQ angel? Stupid Cas. Sneaking into my room. Respect? Respect this. I should have... have... As angry and uncomfortable as he'd been in that moment, an hour after Castiel left Dean still hadn't been able to think of a suitable comeback.

The situation Dean was having only got worse. Fueled by denial, at first he was heavy on the insults. Sometimes he treated Castiel like his little angelic guinea pig and Cas never failed to amuse. Dean tried to get him drunk and tried to get him laid, never once admitting to himself that he - more than anything - wanted to skip the women so they could be alone. He prodded his angel for kicks and took mental notes of his innocent and interesting reactions.

No matter what he did, Castiel stuck close. He had faith in Dean when Dean didn't believe in anything. Dean lost count of the number of times Castiel had saved his life and Sam's. This powerful weapon became his best friend, which was something he had never had before.

Dean tried to convince himself many times that Castiel was just a friend. The shit had hit the fan and he didn't have time to question his heterosexuality, he told himself. Yet, being near Cas was like being near a hearth. He found that he didn't move when Castiel invaded his space. When Castiel pondered Dean like he was one of life's greatest mysteries with his peculiar gaze, Dean's eyes would meet Castiel's, sometimes pausing at the man's lips. Push it down, Dean. It won't exist if you don't let it.

He did exactly that. His burgeoning love for Cas got filed away in a drawer in his mind where it tangoed with memories from Hell. Although he may have joked about it, Dean never wanted to truly corrupt Castiel. If he said anything or acted on his desires, things would change. Certainly, if his sensual fantasies ever became real, Castiel would be sullied. Dean wanted him to stay exactly the same. Perfect, trustworthy Cas.

Gradually, it happened. Dean had crawled to the point where he had faith in Castiel. He would forfeit his life for that goofy angel that had no concept of proper porn-watching etiquette. When Cas wasn't around, a constant longing built up in his chest. It was something that he could never tell Sam about. When he prayed and called for the angel, Castiel never failed to come. Until, for reasons Dean would never understand, his best friend stuck a dagger directly into his heart.

In that moment, he felt a different kind of heat. It was behind his eyes and clogging his throat. What was he supposed to believe in if he couldn't believe in Cas? Dean's world was rarely, if ever, put together, but having Cas had been the most powerful glue in his possession apart from Sam. He called him his brother even though he was so much more. Now he didn't even have that.

All his friends died or left him. Dean told himself he was an idiot for thinking he could have anything good. God must have been laughing at him. Taunting him by making Dean capable of so much adoration for the angel only so he would feel especially raw when Castiel was no longer his.

Castiel clung to Dean, promising to make everything right, but his hands were still fresh with blood. Dean tried frantically to sever every bit of feeling he had even though his instinct was to grab him and never let go. He wanted to dig his fingers into Cas, to yell at him, and abuse him. Instead, Dean watched him drown in his own mistakes. Castiel was taken away by something that was a greater evil than his pride, leaving nothing but a trench coat behind.

Bobby had tried to get him to talk. Sam wanted him to admit that he was not okay. Neither of them knew just how deep it all went because Dean had been pushing everything down almost from the start. He was fragile, trying so hard to be guarded.

By some cruel fate, he was forever drawn back to Cas. Just when he believed he had reached a point where he had no feelings for his blue eyes and his somber face, Castiel strolled right back into his life, threatening the walls Dean had built around himself. He found a completely new way to feel pain. Finally, he left Castiel with Meg because he knew the longer they were together, the easier it would be for his soul to be crushed yet again. He didn't want Cas, he said. He didn't need him.

Even though he hadn't looked back, Dean's pain hadn't dulled at all.

"Aw, brother," Lucifer chuckled. "You are way too easy."

Castiel chewed the inside of his mouth and sat as still as possible as his never-ending torment continued. Even when Lucifer had been on Earth, he had known the easiest way to torture Castiel. He knew exactly what buttons to press. He didn't need to make the walls run with blood, to peel Castiel's skin off, or even to tell Castiel what a failure he was, how filthy. It always came back to Dean.

"Does it bother you that he never had a clue? Oh, what am I saying, of course it bothers you!" Lucifer answered his own question because Castiel almost never did. He delighted in their current exploration with a sick glee. He mocked Cas, fluttering his eyelashes, "'Baby, I did everything for you.' After all that crap you still never got fucked? Way to fall for the stupid one, Cassie."

Castiel shut his eyes tightly because he was tired of crying. Somehow he thought that would help keep his tears in. Now that Lucifer was in his brain, he had the advantage of every single one of Castiel's memories. His favorite ones were all full of Dean. Castiel loving the way Dean loved his car. Sharing fries and eating burgers. Castiel attempting to catalog Dean's freckles and his rare, but beautiful smiles. Dean's confusing jokes, his quirks, and most importantly, his bravery, were all featured prominently in Castiel's heart. There was almost nothing he did not love about Dean.

When he opened them, he kept his eyes off Lucifer and fixed them on the floor. Even with a voice constantly in his head, Castiel had never felt more alone. It was more accurate to say that he had been abandoned, and Lucifer knew very well how Castiel felt about that. The angel tried to keep the pleasant memories close as his only weapon, but it was all too common for thoughts to surface that told him he was exactly where he deserved to be. His vision focused on a pair of shoes and trailed up a pair of rugged jeans and a familiar jacket. A hallucination wearing Dean's smile greeted Castiel. Cas tasted blood as he bit his mouth too hard. He scurried back on his bed in shock, his back bumping against the headboard.

"Getting into position?" Lucifer teased. The Dean that wasn't Dean raised his eyebrows and watched Castiel, every handsome feature on his face reminding Castiel of what he would never have.

"You miss me?" Dean asked softly and even that was enough to break Castiel's heart.