Dean's never been good with presents.
It seems to be a knack that some people have and others don't. Sam has it. Everything he gives, he gives with a part of his soul attached. His gifts are a symbol of how much he loves the receiver, even if all he has to give is a crate of beer and some air fresheners from the local garage. He'll still take time to stick a silly little bow on top of the beer, still hand write a beautiful card. Sam is eloquent. He knows how to speak his feelings in so many ways that Dean doesn't understand.
Dean's presents are always lacking. He doesn't take care with them. He just grabs the nearest thing and throws it at Sam. He gets his brother gifts that are really more for him than for Sam – a new tape for the Impala, a fresh baked pie, a trip out to a diner that makes the best burgers in the area. Sam always endures these birthday treats with a wide smile and only throws it back in Dean's face when they're at their worst moments.
It's not fair in a way because Dean does so many other things to show his love, but he just can't get this one thing right. It should be something meaningful but Dean fears that he might end up giving too much of himself away with his gift so he fails. He only has so much of himself left to give after Hell and he's fearful about giving it to the wrong people.
Castiel doesn't have a birthday. He tilts his head to the side when Dean and Sam bring it up. He can remember his conception, his moment of awakening with all his brothers and sisters looking down at him, the youngest of their flock. He can remember all of that but there were no days when Castiel was created. Time came later. It was a human creation.
Dean doesn't remember which of them it had been who suggested Castiel had to have a birthday. Dean has a horrible suspicion it was actually him.
Eventually Castiel chose the date of Dean's resurrection as his birthday.
"It was the date I was reborn too," he said, looking at Dean with a fondness that made Dean wish he was anywhere but under Castiel's intense gaze. It was always too much. Always too soon. Everyone they met mentioned the fact that Castiel was tainted by Dean, by his touch. He didn't want Castiel celebrating the date that had started it all but Sam pointed out that it was Castiel's choice.
Others might see it as a curse that it had been Castiel who'd rescued Dean. Castiel saw it as a blessing. They had to accept Castiel's version, no matter how much Dean just wanted to run away from it.
In time, the date rolled around. Dean wanted to drink it away but Sam wouldn't let him. Castiel arrived early in the morning, sitting at the table of their dingy little motel room, face expectant, almost excited at the prospect of a day devoted to him. Before he met Dean and Sam he probably considered such a thing as sacrilegious. Since being cut off from Heaven, Castiel craved every ounce of love that the brothers could give him. His happiness at the idea of his birthday cheered Dean up a little, made him grateful that he hadn't slunk off to a bar because then he would have missed one of Castiel's genuine smiles.
Sam gives his presents first. There are beautiful leather bound books, passed on from Bobby's library to Sam and now passed on again to Castiel. There is also a band new book, which has a library sticker inside the font cover because Sam had slipped it out, hidden underneath his jacket. It's a book on the subject of bee keeping. There are a lot of little bee related things – bee key rings, bee erasers, a bee notebook. Everywhere they've been, Sam has picked up some sort of bee related keepsake. Dean's almost surprised at his dedication.
"Thank you, Sam," Castiel says softly, gathering the key ring into the palm of his hand.
"I know you like bees," Sam says, rubbing at the back of his head, cheeks slightly pink.
"Girl," Dean snorts under his breath. Sam's like a teenage boy, throwing gifts at the object of his affections. Dean knows Sam wants to buy Castiel's happiness. He wants Castiel to know he's needed and wanted. It's sweet really. Castiel would be so much better off if he'd put his mark on Sam, rather than Dean, if he'd fallen for Sam rather than Dean. Sam could have given him the devotion Castiel craves. It's all wrong that Castiel wants Dean instead.
"And what did you get, Dean?" Sam asks pointedly.
Dean coughs because Sam's gone and done it now, Castiel is looking at him with expectant, hopeful eyes.
"I'll be right back," he says, pushing his chair back and running for the door.
He's had months to plan for this date, just the same way Sam has, but he hasn't done anything. Behind him, he doesn't even need to look to know that Castiel has slumped in his chair and that Sam is patting his arm gently, trying to reassure him. Dean wishes he could articulate himself better, but he has this chance to prove he can give a present that means something so he tries not to feel bad about leaving Castiel waiting without a word.
When he comes back, the cake has already been cut. Sam is flipping through channels on the TV, trying to find something to catch Castiel's attention but Castiel hardly seems to notice. Dean bangs the door open noisily and both of them look up at him.
Castiel speaks first, "Sam showed me the discovery channel. We watched a documentary on bees."
Dean guesses Sam is probably tired of bees by now and would really like a break, but he brought it on himself by trying to appear interested in something he wasn't. Castiel isn't human. He wouldn't have cared if Sam sat through the documentary with him or not. He would have just been pleased Sam thought enough about him to find it for him.
Sam's outdone himself in thoughtfulness today. He's gone above and beyond to show Castiel that he's part of the family, that Sam accepts him. Dean's just been a jerk again. Dean really hopes that his present will make up for it.
"I got you something," he says, holding out the shoe box he's had tucked under his arm since he got out of the Impala.
Castiel looks at it with mild surprise.
"You got me shoes?" he asks and Dean doesn't need to be told he thinks that's a subpar present after everything Sam's given him.
"Just open it!" he says impatiently, forcing the shoe box into Castiel's hands.
Castiel opens the lid of the shoe box and the tiny black and white kitten pokes its head out. It blinks owlishly up at Castiel and mewls hungrily at him. It was the sickliest, smallest looking runt in the pet shop. There had been some really good looking kittens there, tough little furballs that would grow up to be real hunters but Dean had been drawn to the tiny kitten sat on its own, quizzically watching him. It had reminded him of Castiel.
Now angel and kitten are sizing each other up, staring at each other unblinkingly.
Dean shifts uneasily from foot to foot.
"You said you thought we should get a cat," he says, certain he's made a mistake again. Maybe Castiel should have chosen his future cat, not have Dean pick it out on a whim.
Castiel tears his gaze away from the kitten and his eyes are shinning.
"He's beautiful, Dean," he says reverently, setting to shoe box down and reaching to stroke his fingers across the kitten's head. The kitten pushes into his touch, purring. "I will name him Opiel. It is the name of my brother who helped humans find love."
Dean coughs again and Sam laughs.
"Oh my god, Dean. That kitten is you and Cas's fur baby!"
"Shut up, Sam," Dean glares at his brother but Castiel simply smiles. He picks Opiel up and steps closer to Dean.
"Thank you, Dean. He is perfect."
"Yeah, well, I wanted to get you something you'd like," Dean says, feeling that uncomfortable tingle at the back of his neck again. He wishes he could run again but he can't. He has to wait there and accept Castiel's gratitude. It's worse in a way than if he'd made a mistake. Castiel looks so happy, as if Dean has guessed the one thing that Castiel secretly desired in all the world and found it for him. It's not as if Castiel ever shut up about liking cats. He was always finding one to pet, always telling them that their lives weren't full enough. Dean didn't do anything special, but Castiel is looking at him like he did.
"I do like him, I like him a lot, Dean," Castiel says, leaning forward and brushing their lips together.
The two of them have danced around their feelings. Dean knows Castiel is in love with him. Castiel knows Dean cares about him. They don't do anything with each other. Dean can't make himself do something because he knows he'll end up hurting Castiel, but now Castiel is kissing him. The careful romantic cold war they've had together is broken. Dean can't pretend this isn't happening. He can't ignore Castiel's feelings any more. He fists his fingers in Castiel's hair and kisses him back as hard as he can, wanting to make him breathless and desperate, as broken as Dean feels he is.
The kitten mewls again and Dean feels its little paw bat against his chest. He pulls away, eyes drawn down to Castiel's swollen, kiss bruised mouth and he moves forward to kiss him again when Sam interrupts.
"Maybe you guys should let me take Opiel," he says, holding out one hand which is large enough to hold the tiny little creature fully. Castiel carefully sets the kitten down in his palm and Sam draws him close into his chest. He tickles the kitten under the chin with one giant finger. "Hi, little buddy, I'm your uncle Sam. Let's go and get you some food."
Opiel purrs again and then nibbles happily at Sam's finger.
"I'll just give you guys some alone time, okay?" Sam says, never taking his eyes from the kitten resting against his chest. His stumbles towards the door, easing it open and taking himself and Opiel out into the mid-afternoon sun to try and find a market.
Dean waits for the door to slam, kicked shut behind Sam's retreating form and then he grabs Castiel by the lapels of his trench coat, dragging Castiel forward and presses their lips together again. He's scared and uncertain, but for once Dean's going to try not to be afraid of giving himself along with his gift.
Castiel can have both him and the kitten.
Dean knows that's what Castiel really wants.