fThe party is perfect. It's a barbecue in a large park, with Dean and Cas's family and most of their police friends, just like old times. Cas eats an impressive amount of burgers. Bobby regales people with stories about dumb criminals. Chuck is hilarious when he's drunk. Balthazar's arrived, clean and sober. Gabriel and Lucas have their own little background subplot, one that involves fake snot, fake poop, and Lucas constantly storming off for one reason or another.

Somehow, Dean knows when to appear at Castiel's side and when to leave him alone. It's a year of practice and a lifetime of friendship. But Castiel is doing so well, with all these people around, all the activity. Dean is so proud of him.

The cake is vanilla frosting with white cake. It's the total opposite of what Dean likes (if he has to have cake, he likes chocolate-on-chocolate, but would prefer pie), but it's Castiel's favorite.

"Thirty-five candles," Sam counts, "and one for good luck."

"Thirty-four," Castiel corrects in a whisper.

Dean gets it immedietely: Cas doesn't want his lost year to count. "Right. Thirty-four," and he plucks a candle from the cake.

The toasts begin. They're a lovefest like none Dean has ever seen before. He's certain he likes it more than Cas does. Dean can find it amusing that Gabriel chokes up and Balthazar's eyes mist when they give their toasts, but to Castiel, it must be uncomfortably out-of-character. Everyone getting sentimental, shining a light on Cas. Cas can handle all the attention, but he would prefer not to have to.

"Cas is the best little brother a guy could have-no offense, Sam. Although they both can look the part a little more. Am I right, Dean?" Gabriel toasts.

"Speak for yourself, shrimp!" Dean calls out over the laughter.

"Seriously, though, there's not a lot of brotherly unison going on for the Novaks, but we can all agree on how much we love our kid brother, and um, how proud we are of him."

Finally, the toasters make it around the table and finally get to Dean. He stands up and looks at Cas. What could he say? Or should? They're all family here. He knows all the speakers meant well. But he thinks he and Cas could use a little privacy and normality. There's no need to gush in an attempt to show how much he loves Castiel.

"I think it goes without saying," Dean begins, "that Cas is a pretty cool guy. So how's about we dig into the cake?"

He sits back down, trying to acknowledge Castiel's grateful smile without drawing attention to it.

Castiel cuts the first slice, and then the multitude of guests clammer to cut and hand out slices, chatting away.

Underneath the table, Dean holds out the thirty-fifth candle. Castiel takes the other end. Together, they break it and let it fall to the grass.