A/N: I do love me some Cas/Balthazar. I thinks it's the 'the virgin and the whore' dichotomy. One day I will actually write a fic for it. One day. In the meantime, have some Dean Being A Jerk. Also strongly features Sam as The Most Awesome Brother Ever, because I really admire that about him. As much as I love Dean, you could not pay me enough to put up with his crap.

This took four hours to write. I kid you not. I have had ficlets and school papers half this length that took days and this just- pbbt. Four hours. Although I really shouldn't complain. As God himself once said, writing is hard.

Dean doesn't actually intend to sabotage the best thing that's ever happened to him. He just kinda does it, operating mostly on instinct and adrenalin and sheer, blind panic. In his own defense, he's an idiot with all the emotional maturity of a guppy; he never intends to hurt anyone, especially Cas, because he would sooner cut out his own heart and serve it up on a silver platter than purposely hurt Cas.

He just… wakes up, one morning, and realizes. He realizes he's asleep next to this guy who he's been living with for over a year now, and they adopted a fucking cat last month even though cats kind of scare Dean, and he's eating rabbit food because Cas and Sam ganged up on him, and Dean suddenly realizes that he's been domesticated and when the fuck did this all happen. This was supposed to be a quick, wild ride with the guy with the stupidly blue eyes and the sort of voice people pay one-ninety-nine a minute to have whisper dirty things to them. And now they're adopting cats? What the hell?

If it had been a work day, Dean probably would've been good, because Sam would've been there, and Sam can tell at a hundred paces when Dean is contemplating something stupid. It's standard equipment in the Little Brother Radar package. Sam would have whapped Dean across the head and told him to not even think about it and spared Dean, not to mention Cas and Sam himself, a world of drama. But this was Saturday, so it was only Dean and his hamster wheel of thoughts, and then the bar and the booze and the pretty girls there, and naturally this doesn't end well.

Dean gets home Sunday at about noon, smelling like rose bubble bath and alcohol and sex, and Cas has the gall to look at him with a hurt, disappointed look when this is clearly all his fault, and before he knows it Dean is yelling at him and he doesn't even know why.

And that's pretty much the end of that.

Sam had gone off to Stanford at eighteen, with a full ride scholarship, but there was that thing with Jess and the fire and he'd come back brokenhearted and hollow-eyed and with nothing positive to show for it, although even Dean isn't enough of an asshole to say that.

Dean had let Sam move in after that, and had gotten him a job at the shop, and generally fulfilled the role of awesome brother with ease. That had been four years ago, though. Since then, Sam had kind of drifted off the garage floor and into accounting- Dean's given up on teasing him about that, figuring geeks will be geeks- and gotten his own place and started healing. He's even going out with this nice, feisty little brunette named Sarah who's big in the art world, just don't ask Dean exactly what it is she does.

When Dean shows up on Sam's doorstep with a bag full of his clothes, Sam opens the door and lets him in and calls him an idiot, because Dean isn't the only one who's an awesome brother.

"I knew this was going to happen," Sam tells him one morning, three days later, once he's gotten enough pieces of the story to figure out what he isn't being told. "I'm surprised it took this long."

"Thank you for your support, Sam," Dean says into his pillow. "It means a lot."

"Why do you always do this?" Sam continues.

"Go away," Dean orders, since it's maybe six thirty and he's in no mood for Sam's nosy old woman crap.

"This is my living room, Dean," his brother reminds him, and Dean groans and buries his head under the pillow and vows to find a new place as soon as possible, even if it means camping out in a by-the-hour fleabag motel.

"Forget how sad it is that you're thirty-one and living on your brother's sofa," Sam continues, "How could you do this to Cas? What did he ever do to deserve your… you?"

Dean moves the pillow enough to squint one eye up at his freakishly tall brother. "He gives awesome head," he growls out. "But recently he's been whining about his knees or something, I didn't really listen. Turns out he wants me to suck him off now. I told him back at the beginning, that's a deal breaker."

"You're a jerk," Sam informs him. "And, also? You're the one who screwed it all up, Dean. You don't get to be angry."

"Bite me," Dean mutters and retreats back under the pillow.

When Cas and Dean had met, Cas had been Hot Coffee Shop Guy. Dean liked to think that Cas thought of him as Godlike Customer Guy, only to realize later that he'd paid for his coffee the first time with his credit card and Cas knew his name from the beginning. As it turned out, Hot Coffee Shop Guy was, in fact, Hot Coffee Shop Owner Guy, and he wasn't bothered at all by Dean's sledgehammer approach to flirting. He'd roasted special brews for Dean and invited him to try out some of the pastries and bakery goodies that he made to supplement the coffee.

The day Cas had produced a tray of personal-sized apple pies and asked what Dean thought, Dean had expressed his approval by taking him into the back and giving him a blow job that had him crying out so loud the book shop owner next door had stopped by later to offer sly congratulations.

Then Cas had started setting aside one of those mini-pies for Dean every day, even though most of them were gone by seven in the morning and Dean never got there before eight thirty, and it was pretty much a done deal.

The weekend after that fateful Sunday morning in which Dean had fucked it all up, he's lounging on the couch watching something on the Food Network and eating cheese puffs out of a two-gallon plastic tub. Sam comes in right as the judges are getting ready announce who won the latest round of the infamous cupcake wars.

"Where're you goin'?" Dean asks, tipping his head back on the arm of the couch so he's watching his brother upside-down.

"Out," Sam says, as if Dean couldn't have figured that one on his own, hunting through his jacket pockets for his keys.

"Out where?" Dean demands, tossing a cheese puff at his brother and punching the air triumphantly when it lands perfectly in his pocket. Sam stops and carefully turns the pocket inside out, dumping the puff without actually having to touch it.

"Just out," he says, kicking the puff back over to the couch so it won't get stepped on and ground into the carpet because he's a big girl who thinks about things like that. "We're going to an exhibit on urban art at the museum," he adds. "I read about it in the paper."

Dean takes a moment to translate this. Then, "Dude. You're going to a museum to look at graffiti?"

"And you're going to lay on the couch eating cheese puffs and sulking because you're an idiot and Cas threw you out," Sam counters without missing a beat.

"He did not throw me out," Dean begins hotly, trying to sit up and succeeding only in falling half-off the couch and spilling cheese puffs everywhere. Sam's face twists into a sour frown at the sight.

"He's not the one crashing on someone else's couch," he points out. Dean grumbles a moment as he squirms about, trying to get comfortable again.

"I thought Sarah was out of town," he says, a lameass attempt to change the subject.

"She is. Estate sale in Minnesota."

"Then who is 'we'?" Dean asks with a frown.

Forty-five seconds later, when Cas makes the mistake of answering his phone, Dean greets him with, "Who told you you could hang out with my brother?"

"Sam did," Cas answers easily.

"You- you're not-" Dean groans and rakes a hand through his hair, pacing over to the couch, some small bitter childish part of himself rejoicing at the sound of cheese puffs crunching into the carpet under his feet. "Do I need to explain the rules of a breakup to you, Cas?"

"Please, do," Cas says, his tone pure ice. "You know I cannot survive in this world without someone to hold my hand and explain everything to me."

"Yeah, and maybe if you lived on Earth with the rest of us humans I wouldn't've spent half my life explaining common human behavior to you," Dean snaps back.

Castiel hangs up on him.

Two seconds later Dean shoots off a text message- if were sharng custody of sam i want weekends w th cat, which is stupid and petty and stupid again, because he doesn't even like cats, but unfortunately the feeling of being a total idiot doesn't set in until seven seconds after he hits Send.

The thing is, it's not like Dean knows the rules of breaking up to explain to anyone, never mind someone as people-dumb as Cas. Before this, his idea of a breakup line had been 'that was great, but you do realize I only wanted the one night, right?'. People rarely form any sort of an emotional attachment within a one-night window, unless of course they're some breed of super-stalker psycho, which is always a danger with a turnover rate as high as Dean's.

It would be nice if real world breakups followed the TV ideal, which always seems to involve angry post-breakup ex sex; it sounds hot as hell, because angry Cas is take-no-prisoners Cas and the few times that side came out to play in bed Dean hadn't been able to walk right for days. He gets the feeling hell will freeze over first, though.

Dean's solution to any sort of emotional issue, pre-Castiel, was to go out and get drunk and take home a girl who would hopefully be half as hot in the morning light as she had been the night before. That this sort of behavior is what got him into this mess doesn't register until he wakes up in front hallway of Sam's house, alone and miserable and sporting a hangover that could kill a horse.

Sam goes ballistic, of course, because this means Dean drove himself home while mostly unconscious. He declares the house a dry zone and its occupants teetotalers, and Dean's head hurts enough from his shouting that he agrees readily. Sam also takes away his car keys until such point as he's gotten tired of chauffeuring Dean around.

A few minutes later, Dean sifts through his phone's text history because he's a drunk texter, and finds he sent Cas an increasingly incoherent stream of texts that basically amounts to my life sucks now and I blame you, culminating in what he thinks might have been a drunk man's attempt to type out you stole my mojo.

He makes Sam take away his phone, too.

The week before the Dean 'n Cas Show came to a messy end, Bobby had hired a new kid, some tiny blonde thing named Jo. Dean happily gives her holy hell, not because she's a girl, but because she's a rookie.

For three weeks after his breakup, Dean uses Jo as his caffeine mule. He forgoes the mini-pie, figuring it would be too identifiable, but every morning and sometimes in the afternoon, depending on what kind of day it's been, he sends Jo to Cas' coffee shop to procure some black gold. Jo isn't happy about it but she goes along with it with minimum complaints, because as far as hazing goes, this is nothing.

Sam hears about it somehow one day, and two minutes later a memo pops up explaining that Dean Winchester is to get his own coffee, and no junior members of the garage need to feel pressured into getting it for him. Dean replies by breaking into Ash's office and dragging him away from World of Warcraft and drafting a memo of his own about how Sam Winchester is a whiny bitch who needs to mind his own business. This quickly devolves into the sort of name-calling that second graders would be proud of, and it ends only when Bobby appears in the office doorway behind Dean and says, "You do realize that's an open memo system an' we can all read what yer sayin', right?"

He sounds curious, not pissed, but Dean knows him better than that. He issues one last memo apologizing for his behavior and beats a hasty retreat back to the garage floor.

The unfortunate aspect about having Hot Coffee Shop Guy as a boyfriend is that coffee comes as part of the package; he'd started out a whatever-the-normal-is,-black-please kind of guy, maybe twice a week. But then, there was that awkward time before crazy-hot sex became a part of their routine and Dean was only hoping and spending a lot of time and money on the coffee shop, trying to seduce the guy through the tried-and-true technique of constant exposure. And then the crazy-hot sex had become part of their routine, and Dean started spending even more time around the coffee shop, hoping to catch the guy on one of his rare, unpredictable breaks. And now, Dean doesn't even have a favorite coffee anymore. His order changes every day, like how Tuesday is the day for Brazilian roast with hazelnut creamer and a touch of nutmeg and whipped cream and maybe even chocolate sprinkles and oh my God Cas turned him into a girl.

He misses the coffee almost as much as the sex. And considering this is Dean Winchester saying that, that means the coffee is really, really good.

Two days after Sam cuts off his caffeine pipeline he just can't take it anymore, so he stops by Cas' coffee shop on the way to work. At eight thirty, it's far too late for any but the most basic, boring pastries to be left, and he doubts Cas would have set anything aside for him, so his plan is to duck in, order his coffee, and retreat and hope Cas didn't mix in saltpeter instead of sugar.

Thus was the plan. What happens is somewhat else.

The door is sheet glass set in a wide metal frame, the classic storefront door, and Dean freezes as he reaches it, looking through the glass at Castiel.

It's been three weeks since he last saw this man, the man he loves and betrayed for some stupid reason that had presumably made sense at the time, the man who is currently kissing someone else.

They're at the register, a steaming paper cup on the counter between them and a couple of bills in Cas' hand, changed spilled across the walnut paneling. That rat bastard's first two fingers are curled into the collar of Cas' shirt, pulling him in, and there seems to be a lot of tongue action that the female patrons of the coffee shop are watching with undisguised interest.

It's slow and sensual, the slip-slide of skin, teeth gently nipping at lips, tongues exploring each other, fingers daring to trace feather-light touches, Cas' lashes a dark fan over his pale skin and the tiniest hint of a blush staining his cheekbones.

They break apart to breathe, no more than necessary, and the other man smiles and rests his forehead against Cas'. It's the book shop owner from next door.

"Excuse me," a whiny female voice says from behind Dean, and he abruptly realizes he's blocking the door.

"Yeah, sorry," he mutters, and makes sure he's well away by the time the bells on the door jingle and Cas looks up to see who's outside.

The book shop owner is tall and lean and blond and smarmy, with a casual smirk and a Eurotrash accent. Dean had hated him on sight, because Cas is a bibliophile and the deep end of Dean's literary pool is Vonnegut and the Shakespeare he'd been force-fed in high school. Cas and Blondie could happily spend hours dissecting plot nuances in Charles Dickens' Bleak House, while Dean's only contribution would be about the Doctor Who episode wherein the Doctor met Dickens.

It didn't help that Blondie was constantly flirting with Cas. Dean had never done anything about it, mostly because he himself flirts with everything with two legs and a pulse, partially because he highly doubts Cas ever even noticed. Book guy's approach was too subtle for him.

Apparently, now that Dean's out of the picture, Blondie tried a different tact. Dean tells himself it doesn't matter, that Cas deserves to be happy, that Dean is a jerk and he really shouldn't be dragging that decent person down with him.

He wonders if the jealous ex etiquette allows for firebombing the book shop.

"Please," Dean says, trying the word on for size. He doesn't use it much.

Jo looks up at him and puts her hands on her hips, and Dean knows he's screwed. "You know, the guys told me why you can't go get your own coffee," she says, and oh yeah, so screwed.

"Bunch of lying bastards," Dean says.

"I like Cas," she says. "You shouldn't have cheated on him, dickhead."

Dean considers this for a moment. "Pretty please?"

"Drink the road tar in the breakroom and suffer, you soulless bastard," the evil witch tells him pleasantly.

Dean's caffeine addiction doesn't care about his wounded ego. It wants caffeine. Since Dean would rather sell the Impala than go to Starbucks, he swallows his pride and slinks back into the coffee shop a few hours later.

Cas looks up at him with his sinfully blue eyes and absolutely no expression.

"Just black?" he asks, using his bland barista tone, and Dean realizes he's treating him like just another customer. Which makes sense, because that's all Dean is anymore, now that Cas is moving on.

With the book shop owner.

God damn it.

"Sure," he says, fishing out his wallet.

It's all perfectly bland and formal, the normal day-to-day grind, the meaningless brief connection with a nameless face. No one would guess that, not even a month ago, they had celebrated their two-year anniversary and Dean had convinced Cas to break out the whipped cream.

Dean wonders if Cas ever got those sheets clean or if he just gave up and threw them all out.

Which reminds him. "Uh, when should I be by to, you know, pick up my stuff?"

"When you have a place to put it," Cas answers evenly. Dean glances around slyly, trying to see if any of the people here were there this morning, when Cas and the blond bastard were putting on their little show. He can't say for sure- he'd been looking at the vulnerable line of Cas' neck, watching the slow lazy slide of tongues, not looking at the audience.

He and Cas had kind of skipped over the whole kissing thing. They'd gone right to sex. They'd gone back to kissing afterward, of course, but by then Dean had known how Cas tasted, what he sounded like when someone was taking him apart. Dean regrets that now. He should've spent more time kissing Castiel in the beginning. Or at all, really.

"Dean," Cas says suddenly, and Dean comes back to reality with a snap and realizes he's been staring at Cas' lips and most likely broadcasting his thoughts to every person in the place.

Whatever he had expected, it hadn't happened. He had made, at some point, a conscious decision to destroy everything he had with Cas and whatever he thought he'd get out of that, he hadn't. He misses Cas, misses the sex and the friendship and the rare gentle smiles and the occasional exasperation and the mini-pies and homecooked meals that are actually edible and even that goddamn cat. He misses being a guy who's kind of a jerk but is still mostly likeable. He misses how Cas would lean on him while Dean watched football and Cas read something bought from that rat bastard's store. He misses it and he wants it all back now, thank you.

He wonders how Cas would react if he just leaned over and kissed him, the way the book store guy had earlier.

Dean takes his coffee and his change and leaves.

Three days later, Jo fumbles the car lift remote and hits the wrong button while trying to catch it, and the last thing Dean sees before waking up in the hospital is a mint-green Chrysler Sebring descending towards him.

The damage is all superficial, the doctor assures him before he can pierce through the drug haze and begin to panic. The car hadn't really landed on him, just kind of clipped him, so he's got some spectacular bruising and a busted wrist and a concussion from hitting the floor and that's it. The doctors want to keep him there overnight for observation- standard procedure with concussion patients, and Dean doesn't bother telling them it's not exactly his first rodeo.

Sam is there, naturally, playing cool and unconcerned and sitting in one of those godawful chairs right next to Dean's bed, and Dean strongly suspects his baby sister was holding his hand before he'd woken up. After being Public Enemy Number One for so long, that dick who cheated on that sweet cute guy who owns the coffee shop, Dean appreciates the concern, however well hidden.

He doesn't realize Cas is there until he hears a nurse saying something to someone out in the hallway and that familiar rough voice rasps out a reply.

Dean's moving before he knows it, barely managing to avoid landing in a dozing Sam's lap as he falls gracelessly out of that ridiculous bed. He stumbles and gets his feet under him and heads into the hallway, where Cas is at the counter at the nurse's station filling out paperwork.

Still riding the high of some sort of low-grade painkiller, Dean lurches and wobbles his way down the hallway, probably looking like a newborn giraffe in terms of grace and suaveness. He reaches the station and runs into the counter and kind of bounces off into Cas, who stumbles and makes a surprised noise before catching himself and planting his feet, leaning into Dean to support him.

"Hi Cas," Dean says with what he suspects is a sloppy, sappy smile. After a moment it occurs to him that that's about as far as his plan went, conversation-wise, and now he's standing here leaning on the guy and grinning like an idiot, and the nurse at the station is giving him a look and he knows he could prevent a nuclear holocaust and she will never respect him again.

All the same, this is kinda nice. He likes it when Cas leans on him like this, even if he's the one doing the leaning here. They'd do that at the coffee shop, sometimes, when Cas' feet hurt and he was tired and he wanted to sit down but couldn't because if he did he'd never get back up; he'd lean against Dean, letting him take all of Cas' weight. Most times he would tuck his face against Dean's neck, and Dean would count the number of soft breaths that fan over his skin before the oven timer dings and Cas drags himself away with a protesting moan.

"Hello, Dean," Cas says, bringing Dean back to the moment. "Should you be up?" He looks at the nurse as he says this.

"Not really, but he should be fine," she says, taking the paper away from Cas and passing him a new one. He's Dean's medical proxy, since he's not actually family and it was the only way to get through the bureaucratic bullshit.

Dean rests his cheek on Cas' hair, breathing in the scent of store brand shampoo. It had come as a shock to him, the first night he'd stayed over for real, to learn Cas' hair just naturally does that. He noses the dark ruffled mess, letting one hand creep up the back of Cas' neck and sliding his fingers into the short hair at the base of his skull.

The nurse is giving them an arch look, apparently only just now realizing the general flavor of their relationship. Cas is kind of leaning into him even more, shoulders rigid but head instinctively tilting to allow better access. Dean remembers the show he and that rat bastard had put on for the coffee shop and dips his head a little further and licks a line up Cas' jawline.

This has the unfortunate side effect of shaking him out of his half-done reverie, and his chin comes down and tucks against his chest and he pushes into Dean with his shoulder, pushing him away a little.

"His room's down that way," the nurse says, pointing down the hallway, and now she's glaring at Cas like he's some sort of subhuman thing. Cas doesn't notice these things, doesn't take offence when he does, so Dean does it for him, bristling indignantly.

"C'mon, Cas," he says in his best gone for sex, be back later voice. He hooks an arm around the smaller man and tugs him in the proper direction. "Lez leave th' mean lady to her boring life."

Which, oops, didn't mean to say that one out loud, but at least Cas goes without fighting.

"So how've you been?" Dean asks when they're halfway down the hallway. Cas hasn't figured out the trick to steering the stumbling deadweight that is his ex and so has run him into a wall twice and a doorway once, and if it weren't for the fact that he rarely goes for that sort of passive-aggressive crap, Dean would think he's doing it on purpose.

"Well enough, under the circumstances," Cas says. Dean hits the wall again, then just goes kind of boneless and leans there, pulling Cas over to almost lay on him awkwardly. He rests his forehead against Cas' temple and simply breathes him in.

"Sorry I'm such a jerk," he murmurs. He isn't sure if he's apologizing for the awkward silences, of the angry phone calls and texts, or the screwing up in the first place. Cas shifts a little, takes a breath like he's about to say something.

"Oh," Sam says from the doorway to Dean's room. "Oh crap. Cas, I'm sorry, I didn't see him-" His long legs eat up the distance and he reaches over and just kind of picks Dean up, like he's a rag doll or something, and Cas retreats a good ten feet at least.

"Sam, go away," Dean snarls quietly. "We're talking like… like… human. Things."

"People," Sam supplies flatly. "You're stoned, Dean."

"I should go," Cas says, still retreating.

"Don't go," Dean says, trying to step towards him, but the gorilla holds on to him with ease and he gets to watch Castiel walk out of the hospital and, most likely, out of his life.

"I hate you," Dean says to Sam a few minutes later, still staring at the empty doorway.

"Yeah, and you know what's really awesome about all this?" Sam asks as he hauls Dean down the hallway like he weighs nothing. "You did this all by yourself. Well done."

Dean gets home Thursday morning, armed with a neon-green cast- because the nurse had been a bit insulted by his flirting but had been taken in enough by his charming smile to not inflict pink cast hell on him- and orders to take it easy. He drops by the garage that afternoon, when he's already going stir crazy, and Jo apologizes approximately eighty-seven times and Bobby tells him to come back when he's not hobbling around like a bent old man, although he gently claps a hand on Dean's shoulder as he says it.

Friday afternoon, he's watching TV and sulking because he can't do jack shit with his right arm in that stupid cast when the doorbell rings. His bruises are in that painful blue-green stage so he ignores it, because moving is more effort than it's worth, and when Sam answers it, he steps outside and closes the door behind him so Dean can't see who it is.

A moment later he's back and heading towards Dean with something cradled in his arms.

"Cas dropped by," he says, and Dean tries not to sit up like a dog on point at the mention of Cas. "I'm assuming there's some explanation for this?"

And he drops the cat into Dean's lap.

The cat is a Maine Coon fluffball, a mostly-grown kitten at that stage in its life where it's all long legs and dramatic fur so fluffy the actual cat itself is almost impossible to find. It has alien-green eyes and a deep rasping purr and, sometimes, a poise and elegance that a tiger would envy.

It only has three legs- its front right leg had to be removed, after it had healed wrong. The cat had been hit by a car.

Dean decides he likes the irony.

If Dean were going to point out any one thing that was the final straw that led up to his panic attack, the adopting of the cat would be it. It was the first thing he and Cas had done together, the first permanent thing. The house is Cas', Dean had just moved in, and they both have their own cars they owned before they met, so the cat was the first time their names appeared on any sort of paperwork together.

The cat had liked Dean, naturally, the way cats always like people who don't like cats. Cas brushed and fed the damn thing, took it to the vet and cleaned out its litter box, and any time Dean sat down the cat would be there within minutes.

Its fur is ridiculously soft against Dean's calloused fingers, and it sleeps on his chest and purrs like it's trying to wake up the neighbors, and it still likes Sam even after he steps on the poor thing's tail.

Cas comes by Monday morning, before the coffee shop opens, and takes the cat back. And Monday night Dean can't sleep for the loss of that warm weight on his chest. And, okay, maybe he's finally realized he did something kinda stupid for no real reason, and Sam and Sarah and Bobby and Jo and everybody and their mother was right and he's an idiot. He gets that now, thank you.

Epiphany had, realization made, Dean spends a few minutes mentally chewing himself out.

Then he commences with planning the Get Cas Back campaign.

He doesn't actually sleep that night, so it's easy enough for him to be up and about at five thirty Tuesday morning. He barges into Sam's bedroom- after checking outside and making sure Sarah's car wasn't here, because that's the kind of mistake you're only allowed to make once- and turns on the lights.

"Up and at 'em, Sammy," he bellows as Sam flails and swears.

"Dean, what-?" Sam begins, squinting at Dean through his epic bedhead.

"It's five-thirty-two," Dean informs him. "Time to get up."

"You're not actually Dean, are you?" Sam groans, pushing his hair out of his eyes. "The aliens came and swapped him out with you."

"I'm gonna win Cas back," Dean says. "Come on, you're driving."

"You're what?" Sam asks, rubbing at his ear as if that might be the problem.

"Can't drive with my arm, Sammy, so get it in gear," Dean orders, his words relatively gentle, because nobody is at their best when their semi-psychotic brother comes barging into their bedroom at some ungodly morning hour.

"Why couldn't it have been the aliens?" Sam appeals to the world as a whole, but, proving that Dean has the world's most awesome brother, he's getting out of bed.

Dean takes along the paper with his campaign strategy, because Sam seems interested in it, and hands it over for the kid to read while they're at a red light. It doesn't take long.

"Dean, there's three things on here," Sam says.

"I like simple," Dean shrugs.

"And one of them is illegal."

"I thought you wanted me off your couch," Dean says.

Sam tosses the list into the backseat and drives on without another word.

The list is not long, for all that it's the product of a good four hours of brainstorming. It's bordered by a sketch of the Impala in one corner and random doodled shapes along the margins, and a limerick about a man from East Kent at the bottom.

The list itself goes like this:

get cas back-

1- apologize

2- see what happens

3- firebomb book shop

Sam keeps the list and, proving he can indeed be simultaneously the world's most awesome and bitchiest brother, gets it framed. He gives it to Cas for Christmas.

Sam opts to stay outside when they get to the coffee shop, which Dean both appreciates and doesn't. He wants privacy for this, but it's nice to know his brother supports him even when there's a potential he's planning something illegal.

The front door is locked but the lights are on, and Cas comes out of the kitchen in the back when Dean knocks on the door. He hesitates just a moment when he sees Dean but rallies easily.

"Hello, Dean," he says solemnly once the door is open. Dean kinda wants to curl up around him and never let go. "How are you feeling?"

"I'm good. It's a pain, is all." He gestures briefly with the casted arm, meaning to display the limited range of movement.

Cas has flour on his hands, and a streak in his hair where he'd no doubt run his fingers through it. Dean can't seem to look away from that dusting of white.

"I just," he begins. "I wanted to-" God, this had seemed so much easier last night. He'd had the whole speech prepared and planned out, because he knows himself well enough to know he'll fumble horribly and only make things worse if he tries to wing it, but he'd forgotten how stupid-making those blue eyes are. Dean's never stammered in his life, but he's getting close to it now.

"At the hospital, what I said," he says finally, catching hold of a fragment of a phrase from his speech floating through the quicksand mire his brain has become. "I meant it. I'm- I'm a jerk, and I'm sorry. About everything. I'm… It was stupid. What I did. And I don't want you… It was my fault, all my fault. You didn't deserve that."

He keeps spitting out those fragments, hoping that what he lacks in coherency, he makes up for in sheer quantity. Cas is still looking at him but he's gone from patient to watchful, and Dean knows him well enough to know he's on the edge of either fixing this or fucking it up royally. He takes a deep breath, takes his ego and his dignity and some vague fragile hope and presents them all to Cas on a silver platter.

"I fucked up because I'm an idiot, and I don't know how to just be happy. I'm sorry."

He tries to leave then, moving back to the door and turning away, not daring to look and see what expression is on Cas' face. He stops there, though, and taps his fist against the metal frame of the door, head low and shoulders up. Then he snarls wordlessly and turns on his heel, going back to Cas in three long strides.

They never really just kissed, not just for kissing's sake. If Dean gets only one chance to try it, he'll take it.

Castiel just melts into him, which certainly helps, opening his mouth and falling against him and wrapping his hands into Dean's shirt, holding onto him almost desperately. Dean cards his fingers through that dark mop and chases the taste of coffee into Cas' mouth. Cas makes a deep, throaty noise of approval when their tongues meet that shoots straight down Dean's spine and right to his dick, and why the hell is he only just now giving this a try? Was he born defective, or did this take a lifetime of working at it?

Cas lets go of Dean's shirt with one hand to brace himself on something behind him; Dean pulls away for a second to see he's backed Cas up into the counter. Cas says up and Dean smiles and puts his good arm around Cas' waist and lifts him up and sits him on the counter. He leans back, away from Dean, long enough to open his knees and let Dean in, then they're back together and kissing again. Cas has the height advantage now with the new angle, and Dean leans up into him and worships him with mouth and body.

Dean's going to miss this, he can tell that right now. Hell, he's still got this, and he's missing it already.

Finally, finally, they pull apart. Dean's perfectly comfortable where he is, close enough to Cas to taste him if he wants. He puts his face against Cas' neck and feels Cas put his cheek against Dean's hair, shifting a little bit and spreading his legs so they fit together, close as possible, and it's like two puzzle pieces clicking together.

Dean nearly falls asleep there, Cas' breath in his hair and his heart beating close enough for Dean to hear.

"I wanna try again," Dean says to Cas' collarbone, when he finds the courage to continue. "I don't deserve it and I wouldn't blame you for telling me to go to hell, but…"

"When they called me and told me you were in the hospital," Cas begins after a long moment, his voice so rough and deep and Dean can feel it in his bones. He doesn't finish that sentence, just tightens his hold on Dean, telling the story without saying a word. Then he sighs. "It won't be an easy fix, Dean."

"I know." He pushes back a little, looking Cas in the eye and daring to offer his aren't-I-pretty smile. "We good?"

"We will be," Cas decides after thinking it through. Then he pushes Dean away and slides off the counter. "Now go home. I have work to do."

Home still means Sam's couch, but Dean goes without protest.

Two weeks later, Cas starts saving muffins for Dean again. And a month after that, he makes the mini-pies again, and Dean takes him back into the back as he had that first time, when Cas had been Hot Coffee Shop Guy with the stupidly blue eyes and the sort of voice people pay one-ninety-nine a minute to have whisper dirty things to them. And Dean takes him apart and holds him as he shakes and whispers promises into that dark hair, so many promises.

And he keeps every single one.

An epilogue of sorts -–

"I like the pecan," Sam says, tone far too clinical considering his girlfriend is sitting next to him with glazed eyes and an expression of rapture, like she'd just had the best sex ever.

Cas tilts his head a bit, short sharp movements like a bird's, and focuses those crazy-intense eyes on Sam.

"More or less than the chocolate?" he asks, and Dean snorts and opens his mouth to say nothing beats chocolate, but that's as far as he gets before Cas, without even looking at him, stuffs a mini cinnamon roll in his mouth.

"I'm not a big fan of chocolate," Sam says thoughtfully.

"Your cushtomah bashe ish sheventy pershent women," Dean says thickly through a mouthful of half-chewed cinnamon roll. "Keep the shocolate."

"God, Dean, how old are you?" Sam demands, all scandalized, and Dean opens his mouth and sticks out his tongue and dear old Samantha practically falls off the chair trying to get away.

"Dean," Cas says warningly, and Dean swallows down the cinnamon roll with the aid of the kickass coffee that may not be the main reason he loves Cas but is certainly one of the big ones.

Sam resettles himself in his chair, jostling Sarah as he does so and jolting her out of her post-orgasmic reverie. She shakes herself off and claps Sam on the shoulder.

"Sorry, Sam," she says. "You're a great guy and I love you, but I think it's time to break up."

Sam says something like "bwuh?", looking like she'd just kicked his puppy. Sarah ignores this and turns to Dean.

"You don't mind sharing, do you?"

"Yup." Dean gets another cheesecake roll off the plate Cas had set on their table. "Sorry. Go get your own." He catches Cas' wrist as he says it, tugging the shorter man closer to himself.

"Ah well. Good news, Sam, we're back together." And Sarah takes the last chocolate roll and snuggles up against her confused boyfriend who in turns scowls at Dean, as if it's somehow his fault.

Something dings in the kitchen and Cas shifts his weight. Dean lets him go but follows, watching as he pulls a tray of muffins out of the industrial-sized oven and letting him put the tray on the cooling rack and turn the oven off before pinning him against the sink and kissing him until they're both dizzy.

"Haven't fucked it up today," he says against the fragile skin over Cas' collarbone. He can feel a fine tremor work its way through the lithe body beneath his.

"You don't need to tell me that every single day," Cas says, tilting his head back. Dean takes the hint and gets busy worshipping the vulnerable line of his throat.

"Do too," he says, inching his fingers up under Cas' shirt. He smiles when Cas pushes up into him. "Balthazar's here, he can watch the register."

Balthazar is the book shop owner. He's not a half-bad guy, since Dean totally kicked his ass and got Cas back and can be unbearably smug and a dick about it. He'd taken a sort of c'est la vie approach to the whole thing, gave a shrug and a win-some-lose-some smile, and got Dean a first edition copy of Hocus Pocus, which runs as a close second as his favorite Vonnegut book.

Dean still doesn't like him. Just on general principle.

"We should tell him, then," Cas says, halfhearted at best, as Dean begins to nudge him towards the back room. Sex in the kitchen could get Cas hit with all sorts of health code violations, and after all the shit Dean's put him through, he can't add that on top of it.

"He'll figure it out," Dean promises, and he kisses Cas again, and all thoughts not related to here and now and them fades.

A tray of muffins gets burned, and it takes hours to air the smell out of the shop. And it's totally worth it.