Almost a month later John Winchester came home.

Dean saw his old truck pull up in front of the hotel while he was outside waxing the Impala – he'd never gotten around to mentioning they'd switched hotels but it didn't surprise him that his dad had no problem finding out – and Dean walked up to greet him. "Hey! Didn't know you were back in town!"

"Finished things up early," John said, giving Dean a quick hug. "Where's your brother?"

"Doing some school thing. One of his teachers loves group projects." Dean stepped back, realizing what his father had just said. "Wait, you mean finished up, finished up? For real?"

"Finally. I was starting to think I'd never get this hunt put to bed."

"So we're finally out of here?"

"Once I tie up a few loose ends." John cast a dubious look at the hotel. "How many more days you have here?"

"Three, I think?"

"Did you really get some girl to put you up here for a month?"

Dean shrugged, grinning as he finished wiping off his hands. "What can I say? Girls like me." His father was giving him that look where he knew if had to be more than that and Dean knew it was time to change the subject. "Man, I can't tell you how much I missed the road."

"I missed you boys."

Dean had to look away. It was an unusual admission for his father to make and Dean didn't want to make it obvious how glad he was to hear it. He wondered if the job had been rough if it was making his dad this mushy. "Sam's actually gonna be at sleepover tonight so I don't know if he'll be around. I could go get him..."

"Don't worry about it. I've got a few people I need to touch base with so I'll be away until morning. We'll all talk then."

888

A few hours later Cas knocked on the door, looking shifty and flustered with a bag in one hand. "Hello, Dean," he said, not looking at him.

"Hey, Cas. I keep telling you to take one of the damn key cards when you head out. Where've you been all day?"

Castiel stepped inside, closing the door behind him. "I had a check up with the doctor."

"Why didn't you say anything? I'd've gone with you."

Castiel shook his head. "You were busy."

Dean sat on the arm of the front room sofa. "So, what's the verdict?"

"The doctor says I'm fully recovered," he said, looking at Dean with almost a shy smile.

Dean caught his meaning. "So, that means we have the all clear, then?"

Cas nodded, his hand tightening into a fist around the bag. "I bought condoms," he blurted out, blushing bright red. "And lubricant. I've been viewing pornography to prepare for..."

Dean laughed, jumping up and kissing Cas as hard as he could. "Can't believe I'm saying this," Dean said against his lips, "but porn isn't exactly how sex really goes. It's fun but it's not a manual."

"I didn't want to disappoint you," Cas said back, still just as close. Dean felt his arms reach around his waist.

"That's the last thing you have to worry about, Cas," Dean said, sliding his hand under his shirt and trailing his fingertips down his skin. "You sure about this?"

Castiel nodded, his breathing catching as Dean found a still tender spot along his ribs. "I want this. I've wanted this for so long, Dean."

Dean smiled, pressing Castiel against the wall and kissing him until he had Cas gasping. "Let's not make you wait any longer, then."

He led Castiel back toward the bedroom, kissing and losing clothes the entire way, shoes kicked off, Cas' belt dropped to the floor (although not before Dean slid the leather against Cas' skin, watching how his eyes fluttered), Dean's shirt thrown over the sofa and Cas' button down undone carefully, slowly enough that Cas moaned in frustration against Dean's neck as he undid the last button. Finally Dean slid the shirt from his shoulders at the threshold to the bedroom, trailing his fingers over almost-faded bruises and the scar down his side.

Dean lay back on the bed and pulled Castiel down on top of him, kissing his neck as he slid his hands past Cas' waistband and over the curve of his hipbone, chuckling to himself when Cas bucked against him. "Relax, relax," he said. "Don't try to rush. We got plenty of time. Place is all to ourselves tonight, remember."

Castiel nodded, kissing a trail down Dean's neck as Dean finished easing him out of the last of his clothes. Dean shucked off his own jeans and pulled Castiel back against him, the heat of being able to touch him, just skin against skin was everything Dean had hoped it would be. He rolled them both over so Castiel was beneath him and Dean kissed a slow trail down his chest, intending to finish what he'd started that first night. Nothing had ever gotten him harder than seeing Castiel's hand clench in the sheets the way they were now, the way his stomach fluttered under Dean's lips when Dean licked just the right spot. "You're all tense, Cas. You don't have to be nervous, I know what I'm doing."

"I don't," Cas gasped out, throwing his head back as Dean licked up his stomach.

Dean took the second to suck on Cas' neck before pulling him up from the bed. "C'mon, get up. I know what to do."

He led Castiel into the shower, making sure the water was warm but not hot before pulling him under the water. "I want you nice and relaxed," Dean said, kissing his curve of his neck as he held Castiel in front of him. Castiel leaned against him, his eyes closed as Dean trailed his hands up and down his torso, down his thighs, tracing his fingers feather light up his cock and feeling him shiver. Dean kissed across his shoulder as he wrapped one hand around Castiel's cock, working slowly up and down and almost getting light-headed from how Cas pressed back against him. When he felt the combination of the warm water and the contact start to ease the tension out of his muscles Dean very, very carefully slid one finger inside him, sucking on his ear when he sucked in a shuddery breath. "Told you I know what I'm doing, Cas."

"Have you..." Castiel moaned and Jesus, he was already grinding against Dean. Dean wanted to be inside him so much he could hardly see straight but Cas wasn't ready yet. "Have you done this before?"

"With girls," Dean admitted. "Doubt the mechanics are all that different, y'know?" He crooked his finger and Cas moaned so loud Dean bet the next room heard him.

Dean thought he'd figured out what part of the problem was. "Let me try something," he whispered into Castiel's ear, sliding his finger free and ignoring his soft little moan of dismay. He maneuvered Castiel against the shower wall and dropped to his knees in front of him.

The way Castiel's eyes went wide when he realized what Dean was about to do, surprise and lust and anticipation all mixed together, got Dean so hard it hurt. "You don't have to..." he said in a small voice, like he couldn't bring himself to finish the sentence.

"Cas, there's not too much I'm still a virgin at, okay?" he answered, water dripping off his hair and into his face. "Let me have my moment." Castiel settled against the wall, anticipation shaking him and Dean tried to figure out his plan of attack. He was new to this, that was true, but he'd had it done to him enough times to know what felt good. Even if deep throating was something he knew you had to work up to, he thought he was still up to the task.

Dean wrapped his hand back around the base of Castiel's cock and took him into his mouth, licking slowly around the head, the way Cas moaned just from that letting Dean know he was off to a good start. He sucked hard, pumping his fist up and down Castiel's shaft. "Dean," Cas murmured, his voice breaking around the name. Dean felt Castiel's hands trail through his hair, the combination of that and the water sliding down his back making him shiver. "Dean."

Dean set himself in a rhythm, sucking and licking until his neck started to ache but as long as Cas was moaning his name like this nothing could make him stop. Dean scraped his nails down Castiel's thighs and Cas moaned, his hands going tight in Dean's hair. Dean felt him start to shake and knew he was close; Dean braced himself against the wall and took Castiel as deep as he could, sucking hard. Cas moaned, his hips bucking forward and Dean reached up to hold his hips steady. He flicked his tongue around the head of Cas' cock one more time and Cas let out a low, shuddery moan as he climaxed. Dean pulled back and licked his lips as he swallowed, proud of himself for not gagging at all. He looked up at Castiel and took in the sheer amazement in Cas' eyes as he stared down at him and couldn't understand why he'd fought this so long.

Dean pushed himself back up to his feet, turning off the water as he kissed Castiel, sucking on his lip. "There," he whispered, licking along the line of his jaw. "Now we both did something we've never done before." He made a perfunctory attempt at drying them both off, Cas not helping at all. He guided Castiel back toward the room and dropped him on the bed, relaxed and boneless and as happy as he thought a human being could get. Dean climbed back on top of him and started kissing him again, making his already overstimulated body shiver. He felt Castiel's hand wrap around his cock and moaned into his mouth. "Jesus, Cas. I'm trying to work here."

"I want to make you come," Cas whispered into his ear, and Dean didn't think Cas had any idea what hearing Cas talk like that did to him. "I want to see that."

Dean lay Cas down, reaching into the bag Cas had dropped by the bed and finding the lube he'd brought. "Plenty of time for that," he whispered, putting a leer into his voice. Cas was already getting hard again and Dean stroked up his cock to help that along. "We don't have to rush. We're gonna take this slow and you're gonna know how awesome this feels as many times as I can manage it," he said, making each word a promise.

Dean squeezed some lube into his palm, giving himself a moment to sit back and take Castiel in, his pale skin gleaming and damp and his lips parted as he tried to catch his breath.

Dean knew he had a lot to make up for. Time to get to it.

888

Dean opened his eyes to see the clock reading 3:45 and yawned as he wrapped one arm around Castiel. "Cas? You up?"

"Mhm-hmm," he murmured, just making Dean pull him closer.

"Liar." Cas snuggled closer, which Dean supposed made up for it. "How do you feel?"

"I don't think I'll ever move again."

Dean grinned. "Good. That means I did my job."

Cas nodded, sighing as he rested his head on Dean's arm. "When are you leaving?"

"Leaving where? For once I don'thave to sneak out before dawn."

"That isn't what I meant."

"Then I'm not following you," Dean said, kissing the nape of his neck.

"I saw your father's truck," Cas said, the quiet words cutting through the sleepy afterglow like a sword. "Is it just another quick visit?"

"No. Not this time."

Castiel nodded. "So when do you leave?"

Dean felt like he'd been dunked in ice water. "I don't know. Usually a couple of days."

Cas was quiet for a while. "Were you going to say anything to me?"

"Yeah. Yeah, of course I would've...Cas I swear, I didn't even think about it."

"I'm going to sleep at home for the next few nights."

"Are you sure? Is that safe?"

"I believe so. My brothers and I seem to be at some kind of truce for the moment. They can't prove I gave your father that information and until they can I think they're willing to leave it be. Your father's been very careful about revealing what he knows." Dean didn't know how many people would be able to hear the catch in Castiel's voice, but Dean knew him too well to miss it. "Don't call me until you're on the road. I don't want to know until then."

"Cas, I...if you knew why didn't you say something?"

Castiel shrugged. "It wouldn't have changed anything."

Dean felt his stomach tie into hard knots. "Why'd you go ahead with this, if you thought I was leaving?"

Castiel turned over and looked at him like he didn't understand the question. "Because otherwise I'd miss my chance." Castiel pressed back against him and Dean couldn't understand how Cas could stand touching him. "I knew from the day we met you wouldn't be here forever, Dean."

"Come with us," Dean said, the words coming out before he even knew what he was saying. "You're smart. You'll pick things up quick."

Castiel seemed to find something about that amusing. "Dean, I'm seventeen, I'm fairly certain that would count as kidnapping. My brothers may have tolerated my indiscretions so far but they won't allow your father to just take me. Even if just out of spite." His voice went soft. "And even if they did allow it, I doubt your father would."

Dean swallowed hard because he knew that was absolutely true. Travel light. No excess baggage, Dean. "Hey. You're gonna be eighteen in June, right? That's, what, six months away? We'll probably back in the area by then, we can swing by and get you then."

"You're going to go back on the road and forget all about this place," Castiel said, the words twisting in Dean's gut like a snake. "You said that yourself."

"I won't forget about you, Cas. I don't wanna leave you here, you know that."

He saw the corner of Castiel's lip twitch up into something that was absolutely not a smile. "It's all right, Dean. It's what always happens."

After a few minutes Dean felt Castiel's breathing go deep and even as he fell back asleep. Dean didn't know how much longer he lay awake, holding him and feeling like his stomach as slowly turning to ice. He didn't remember falling asleep but when he opened his eyes the sun was up and he was alone in the bed. He stumbled into the shower and turned the water up as hot as it would go, trying to scald away the cold pit where his stomach used to be.

888

Sam took the news about as well as he ever did: "No!Why do we have to to go now? Just once I want to finish out a school year, why can't we do that? I like it here, we both do." Sam looked over to Dean in desperation. "Dean, tell Dad that we can't go."

Dean lowered his eyes. The flash of betrayal on his brother's face went into Dean's heart like a knife. "C'mon, Dean," Sam said, the hope leeching out of this voice. "We gotta stay. Tell Dad."

But Dean stayed silent. "Sam, start packing up. We leave tomorrow," John said, his voice definite. "Go now."

Dean knew no one had ever been as disappointed in him as Sam was right now. "I'm gonna go to college some day and I swear, I'll never come back," he said as he stormed back into the bedroom, slamming the door behind him.

John just sighed. "He'll get over it." Dean didn't know how to say that he wished his father would take that threat seriously.

Dean waited until he was sure Sam was out of earshot before he spoke. "I don't want to go either," he said, his throat so dry he could barely get the words out. "I wasn't going contradict you in front of Sam but he's right, this place isn't so bad. He's got friends, y'know, and I might even be able to sucker these people into letting me graduate."

John stepped back and gave Dean a long, penetrating look before shaking his head. "What's her name?"

Dean lowered his eyes again. "Cas," he whispered, the cowardice of that wrapping around him like a giant hand.

John sighed. "Look, Dean, I'm sure she's great and you're both in love but believe me, there are lots of other girls out there. And if this is something serious, we should be back in his area in a few months and the two of you can pick up again then."

"That's not enough," Dean said. "Cas...He doesn't have anyone else." Dean saw the flash of surprise in his father's eyes and pushed forward before he lost his nerve. "His father ran off so long ago Cas wouldn't recognize him if they passed in the street, he doesn't even know where he is. All he's got are these brothers and they're...they're dangerous, Dad. And they don't give a shit about him. That name, Azazel? He's the one who found it, not me. If it wasn't for Cas we would never know." Dean crossed his arms over his chest and stared at the floor. "Everyone runs out on him. I'm not gonna do the same thing." He raised his head and set his jaw, staring his father down. "I'm eighteen, you can't make me go with you. I..."

John took one step forward and Dean felt his nerve wither and die. "That's enough," he said and Dean's eyes lowered back to the floor. "We'll talk about this in the morning. Go help your brother."

Dean nodded, tears pricking his eyes. "Yes, sir." Dean knew if morning came and his father told him to head out he would do it. He would do it because it was his job to take care of Sam and he'd been obeying his father's orders since he was four years old. It hit him what a hypocrite he was, always telling Cas to rebel when he didn't have the guts to do it himself.

"Dean, look at me."

Dean looked up, forcing himself to meet his father's eyes.

To his surprise, his father put one hand on his shoulder. "You don't have to play those kinds of games with me. You understand?"

Dean's heart was pounding so hard he didn't know how the whole world couldn't hear it. "Yes, sir."

"Okay," he said, stepping back. "Go help your brother."

Dean walked out of the room, his legs shaking so much he didn't know how he stayed upright.

Dean woke up the next morning at 8 AM, two hours later than his father usually let them sleep. He wandered out of the bedroom looking for John but instead only found a cell phone sitting on the kitchen table, a post-it stuck to it that just read DEAN. When he picked up the phone he found a new credit card and a copy of the Impala's title and registration; Dean couldn't imagine why his father would take those out of the car until he took a closer look and realized it they were new and his name was the one on the dotted lines.

Dean was so stunned it took him a second to remember how to breathe. He finally remembered he was holding the phone and looked at it, noticing the voice mail icon blinking. Dean checked the voice mail, sitting down when he heard his father's voice. "I wanted to do this face-to-face but Bobby ran into some trouble that couldn't wait." Dean heard his father sigh. "I gave this a lot of thought and decided that if you're old enough to talk to me like a man I should give you a chance to prove you can act like one. You've done everything I've ever told you since you were four years old and never backtalked me once, so if you're ready to defy now it must be something important. And besides, it sounds like you've found a hunt of your own I expect you to make good on." John paused again, like he was trying to find the right words. "So tell Sam he gets his way this once and the two of you can stay." Dean knew that if he hadn't already been sitting down he would have been on the floor. "But there are conditions. First of all, you stay out of trouble and you keep Sam out of trouble. And second of all you graduate, and I don't mean just skating by. I'm going to keep in touch and if I hear about you getting anything below a B I'm coming back and throwing you in the trunk. I'd tell you to take care of the car but you've been doing that for two years already. You've earned her."

His father let out another long sigh. "When the school year's over I expect you to go hunting, and I expect results. I trained you too well otherwise. Check in the way I taught you." There was another pause. "You boys look after each other."

The message ended and Dean sat there with the phone to his ear, staring at the Impala title with his name at the bottom until Sam wandered in. "Dean? Where's Dad? It's late."

"Dad gave me the car." He realized his hands were shaking.

"Huh? What're you talking about?"

Dean showed him the title and registration. "Look. Look, Dad just gave me the car."

Sam's mouth dropped open. "Holy crap. That's pretty cool."

"He's letting us stay," Dean said, the daze finally lifting.

"Wait, what?"

"He's letting us stay out the year. Then we've gotta...I gotta call Cas," he said, standing up so quickly the chair toppled over. He could tell Sam was so thrilled he didn't care about the whys and Dean retreated back into the bedroom, sitting on the floor next to the bed. It took two tries to dial in the number, his hands shook so hard. It didn't even occur to him that he could just use his own phone.

"Hello?"

"Cas? You up?"

He could almost hear Castiel frown. "Obviously. Dean? Is that you?"

"Of course it's me."

"This isn't your number."

"Oh, yeah, sorry. It's a different phone."

"Are you...are you gone already?"

"No, Cas, listen. My dad changed his mind. He's letting us stay."

Castiel was quiet for so long Dean thought he'd lost the call. "Please don't make fun of me," he whispered.

"I would never do that Cas, you know that. Not about something important, anyway. But listen, there's conditions. I've gotta graduate, and I mean with decent grades, otherwise the deal's off the table."

"We can do that. I'll do all your homework if I have to."

"There's other stuff too, but I don't want to go over it on the phone."

"...You're really staying?"

"Yeah. Yeah, we really are." He drummed his fingers against the floor. "So, um...you wanna go see a movie? I don't know if anything good's playing, but we could check..."

"I don't care what's playing."

"Cool. I'll pick you up in an hour, okay? I know it's early but we can drive around, get breakfast. We got a lot to talk about."

"I'll be waiting."

He hung up and Dean leaned his head back against the bed. He heard a knock on the door, and a second later Sam poked his head in. "Hey, Dad apparently bought his place out 'till June. What'd you say to him?"

Dean could only shrug. "Wish I knew."

"How's Cas?"

"Good. We're going to a movie later."

"Cool. You'd better spring for dinner too, you don't want him to feel easy."

Sam laughed and ran away before Dean could punish him properly for that, and really, Dean was so happy he decided to let it go. Just this once.

888

Two days after graduation was Castiel's eighteenth birthday, a big day for more than one reason. Dean finished tossing the luggage into the trunk as Sam and Cas walked up. "Shotgun," Cas as he approached, a shy smile on his face.

Sam let out an exaggerated groan and Dean smacked his shoulder. "He won fair and square and anyway, it's his birthday. That reminds me, Cas first decent diner we pass we're gonna stop and get you some birthday pie."

"Is that really the tradition?"

"It's our tradition, so yeah, it is." He slammed the trunk close; Sam stretched out in the back seat and took out a video game as Cas slipped into the passenger seat. When Dean got behind the wheel of his baby, his baby he couldn't believe how right this felt, the three of them all together like this. "You sure you're okay with this, Cas? We can stay a while longer."

Castiel shook his head. "There's nothing left for me here."

"Glad to hear it. We gonna be looking over our shoulders for them?"

"I don't know. They've said nothing to me."

Dean shook his head. "They even have the decency to wish you a happy birthday?"

Castiel wilted. "As I said. There's been nothing."

"Dicks."

"Anna sent a message," he said, brightening a bit. "She wished me luck."

"Maybe you should've had more sisters." Dean let out a long breath, the excitement of a new hunt getting under his skin the way it always did. "We'll track down your old man, Cas. My dad's the best, and he taught me and Sam everything."

"What if he wants nothing to do with me?" Cas said, not able to look at Dean. "What if we do find him and he won't see me?"

Dean just reached over and grabbed Castiel by the collar, pulling him into a deep kiss (and earned an exasperated Guys, come on! reaction from Sam in the back seat.) "If that's what happens then me and Sam'll hold him down so you can kick him 'till you feel better. Right, Sam?"

"Yup. We'll take over if you get tired, too."

Castiel looked away. "I don't think that will be necessary. But thank you."

"That's what friends are for, Cas." He looked behind at Sam, then to Castiel. "Everyone ready to do this? You all have everything?" They both nodded and Dean turned the key in the ignition, taking the moment to listen to his baby purr.

Then he put the car in drive and they left the town behind them to the dust.