Chapter Eighteen

It was always generally assumed that Becky Rosen would tear Sam and Dean apart, but in the end, she actually puts them back together.

She starts by patching up the basement, roughly repainting the main Devil's Trap, and while the paint is drying, she helps Sam to carry Castiel downstairs. Dean is lurking in the kitchen, trying not to bleed all over the place and generally feeling a little neglected when Becky comes back in, red-cheeked from the exertion of lifting a dead-weight angel, and tells him to budge up, shut up, and stop fussing. Then, without further ado, she carefully sets his wrist, bandages it tight, and stitches up his shoulder – apologising as she does so that she's blurring the thumb part of what she calls 'the romantic mark left by Castiel calling dibs' . Dean isn't too bothered, considering that she is literally sewing his skin back together.

Becky chatters to him as she works. Turns out that she hadn't thought much of Sam's Code Maroon bullshit either – as soon as Sam sent out the signal, she had packed up her small collection of animal bones and bile jars for some serious Summoning. She'd won Gabriel's favour by putting her primarily-useless fangirl abilities into crudely sculpting a supermodel out of nothing but Twix bars, and then got to the bottom of exactly what was going on.

"See, the witch wasn't just any old witch – in her true form, she was an Indian warrior, known as Dhurga," Becky explains as she ties a neat knot in Dean's stitches. "And Dhurga just happens be baby sister and BBFL to none other than Kali, and so of course Gabriel is totally under Kali's control since they got together – you remember, in Hammer Of The Gods? When Lucifer tried to kill Gabriel, I mean. Remember? And so Gabriel wanted to tell you guys, and he tried really hard when he realised what was going on – he came to see you and everything - but he just couldn't because Kali had put some big spell on him using his true Enochian name. Luckily enough, Kali forgot about one little loophole – me!" Becky finishes breathlessly, flushed with excitement. She wipes the last of the blood from Dean's shoulder and applies a large gauze sticking bandage over the stitches. "There, now be careful with that. Go easy on it... but otherwise, you're good as new!"

"Thanks." Dean smiles up at her, and he means it.

Three days and several trips to the hospital later, Bobby gets home, and by that stage the house has at least been restored to some semblance of order, although patching up the roof tiles and broken floorboards will take more time still. Seeing him again is a massive relief and slightly unsettling in equal measure, as Dean can't shift the feeling that any second now Bobby's going to melt into some hot, psychotic chick. Thankfully, Bobby shows no signs of going batshit, except to complain loudly and at length that the monster that's been pretending to be him for over a month had better be the handsomest devil under the sun, although by that time, poor old 'Dhurga' is little more than ashes. Dean and Sam mutually decide not to mention the enormous tits.

And Sam. Well... it's a massive freaking cliché and sometimes it makes Dean's skin crawl, but he's never seen Sam so happy, and he can't resent Becky for that. Together they run all around the house and property: tidying up, restoring order, burying bodies, the whole shebang. Becky doesn't flinch from scraping dried demon blood from the floorboards, or from digging graves while Dean's broken wrist has him out of action. She also eats like a bear, putting Dean to shame with her love of double-cheese-and-bacon burgers (heavy on the cheese and bacon) and tries her hardest to get Sam to join in. She fails, of course, and Sam sticks with his pansy salads, but she's only human.

Then again, humanity is under-rated.

Every night Dean is woken by the sound of Castiel's hollow screams drifting up from the panic room. Dean wonders if Castiel will remember the little things, like sneezing and drunken hysteria and the warmth of Dean's body curled around him. It's a lot to ask for, he realises – he would just settle for Cas.

There's unfinished business first.

Dean walks out to Sioux Falls early one morning before the others can tell him off, and he gets on a bus headed for Cicero, Indiana.

It's a four-day trip there and back, made more difficult by the fact that he has to battle with things like duffel-bags and doors like a one-handed gimp, but he's gone further with worse before. He sleeps on cold, hard benches in bus terminals and eats hot meals from crappy fast-food chains. People stare. He doesn't entirely blame them; he catches glimpses of himself in the bathroom mirrors when he brushes his teeth in the communal bathroom. Bust lip, black eye, split eyebrow, and general bruising over every inch of his visible skin. He feels like an advert for domestic violence.

It's his second night when he actually starts to think. He's settled for the evening in Davenport, Iowa. He's licking the last of a steak sandwich from his fingers, considering washing up so that he can get some sleep, and watching the last buses pull out of the terminal, one by one, and disappear into the glitter of street-lamps and fluorescent road-signs, when he remembers that the Braedens have moved house.

Shit. They've moved house. They've already moved a couple times around Cicero – maybe they're still there. They might have given up though, and completely relocated. City, state, everything.

He pulls out his cell phone and flicks through the old numbers. The number that Dean has been using has a Utah area code.


He isn't even sure whereabout in Utah either... he doesn't know Utah too well, and he has no way of looking up the number to see where it is. If Castiel was here, he could just zap Dean to the right place instantly – Castiel always knows exactly where he needs to go. Dean could call Sam, ask him to Google it, but that would feel like admitting defeat.

There is just Dean. Sitting stranded in a bus terminal in Iowa, and the Braedens live in freaking Utah.

Of course, Dean could always call Lisa up and ask her directly... except it's past ten PM, and she'll be busy or tired or having fun, and the last thing she'll want is to hear from Dean so that he can find her.

Actually... the last thing she would want is to hear from Dean. Period. Tonight, or tomorrow, or next week when he rolls up sweaty and dirty from travel. He'll just appear on her doorstep and ring the bell, and what? What would Dean do if he did find them? Lisa has some new guy – Keith or Kevin or something – and Ben has grown up. Dean tries to picture himself there, bloody and bruised and imposing on their nice family dinner. 'Hey, I just dropped by to say...'

He didn't drop by to say anything. He doesn't really want to go back so there would be nothing but vague, unhelpful apologies that do nothing but stir the past back up. I'm sorry I never came back. I'm sorry that you thought I was the perfect father. I'm sorry that I wasn't. I'm sorry.

Dean stares out of the wide, grubby window in front of him. In the harsh, sterile light from the overly-harsh station bulbs, he can see the smears of tiny hands from sticky children on the glass. On the other side, a young woman shifts from foot to foot, shivering in the chilly air as the sun goes down. Her cascade of glossy dark hair is all at once so like and so unlike Lisa's that Dean feels unreasonably frustrated, as though he's been deceived. He wishes things could just be simple – like the long, calm looks he shares with Castiel when shit piles up too high. Dean would give anything for one of those looks now, no matter how socially inept or patronising.

Maybe Dean isn't mean to find the Braedens. Dean has learnt enough about the way the world works to know that destiny isn't just a trick that old women with tarot cards pull on young romantics. Lisa has someone else now, and Ben will feel Dean's absence for a time, but he'll forget. Dean was nothing more than a boyfriend, a romantic experiment for his mother, and there will be others. The best thing for Ben and Lisa is to forget, and for that, Dean is the best place he could ever be. Lost.

Well, that's just great.

That dissatisfying revelation leaves Dean sitting dumbly in a cold bus terminal, feeling stupid and hurt and a bit sorry for himself. He should go home. Home to Sam and Becky giggling idiotically at some chemistry joke – although if he hears another joke about the guy who kills himself ordering H202... – home to Bobby's grouchy endearments and alcohol cupboard, home to new monster cases and never resting in the same place long.

Home to Castiel.

This is when Dean thinks, for the first time, strangely, that perhaps he can't stop coming back to Castiel not because he's a constant, but because he's the only one Dean ever wanted.

That's it. No earth-shattering moment of clarity. No epiphany.

Dean just sits on a bench in Iowa and says to himself, "Oh."

He is there for all of two minutes, sitting in stupor and watching the buses pull out. Then, in a heartbeat, he is snatching up all his bags in his one good arm and barging inelegantly through the revolving door, out into the evening, because one of these buses will be the last bus going towards South Dakota, and he'd damn well better be on it.

He has an appointment.

It's a long, dusty two days back, on cheap buses that rattle and stink of bodily fluids. Dean climbs off at the Sioux Falls stop exhausted and ominously stained by the bus furniture – a great start for a melodramatic gay love declaration, or whatever it is that he's been vaguely planning on the way back. It's a long walk out of town to get back to Bobby's place as well, so Dean reluctantly gives in and calls Sam.

"How was Vegas?" Sam leans over and teases through the window as he pulls up.

"Shuddup," Dean says, throwing his duffel-bag in and aiming for Sam's smug face. He swings in, taking care with his bad arm, and hits the radio for music. He cranks the music up high and relishes in the unimpressed face that Sam pulls. "So where's the Beckster?"

"The Beckster?" Sam echoes incredulously, his eyebrows almost lifting to his hairline.

"Yeah." Dean looks across, straight-faced and bobbing a little to the music. "What's wrong with – what? Come on! Beckster? Beckenator? No?" Dean huffs and scowls at Sam. "Cut me some slack, dude, I'm trying to – I dunno – welcome her to the familyhere or something. Okay, shut up. Shut up! Just... drive."

Sam is still laughing, but he puts the Impala into gear and heads off. "Becky's helping Bobby to fix the roof-tiles," he explains as they gun down the main road out of town. "Well, I say helping. She has like a lifetime supply of vouchers for Home Depot so she's really just knocking herself out with that, and I think Bobby is just kind of watching over her to check that she doesn't decorate the house with bunting and sparkles or something."

Snorting, Dean shakes his head. "She'll be tattooing you with unicorns if you take your eyes off her for a second," he warns – jokingly, but with a nervous edge, seeing how Sam will take it.

"Pfft – tattooing me with fanart of our incestuous romance, more likely," Sam says, pulling a face. "Although she swears to God she's moved on – she says... well." Sam glances at him, the corners of his mouth quirking disobediently like he's trying really hard not to laugh. "She seems to have a thing for you and Cas at the moment."

"What?!" Dean exclaims, almost choking on his own spit. "Seriously? Seriously. How do you even know this?"

Sam grimaces. "I found a doodle. It was very detailed." He clears his throat and seems to be focusing very intently on the road ahead. "I think there was a lot of, uh, caressing," he adds awkwardly.

"Caressing," he repeats. "Okay. Right. Well. Wow." He puffs out his cheeks, exhaling slowly and trying not to be weirded out. "Just so you know, there is no... 'caressing' going on or anything. You can tell her that."

"So..." Sam looks over at Dean briefly before the turn onto Bobby's property. "What is going on, then?" he asks almost too innocently.

Dean starts like he's been jabbed with a cattle-prod. "What? Nothing. Nothing is going on." He narrows his eyes suspiciously at Sam, who is very deliberately only watching the gravel road ahead and wrestling with the beginning of a shit-eating grin. "What?" Dean demands. He exhales roughly. He looks up to the ceiling, vaguely hoping that the mothership will beam him up and take him away from this conversation, because quite frankly, he'd pick the Fourth Kind Butt Encounter over this discussion of his freaking intentions or whatever. "I mean, yeah, he's – but – no. No! Okay, look, Sammy, I appreciate that you get off on talking about my feelings, but I don't need this. I don't need your... your little smirks and winks and implications that I'm in love with the dweeby alien."

Sam's tiny smile cracks into a big, stupid grin. Dean wants to shove that grin face-first into a wall, because it's never good. "I never said you were in love with him."

Yeah, Dean should have definitely pushed him into a wall. He rolls his eyes. "Holy crap, this is turning into an actual talk about my feelings." He beats at the car door with his fist. "Stop the car. Let me out."

Laughing so hard he shakes, Sam jerks the car to an untidy halt as told, but says, "Hey, man, I'm just telling it like it is! I warned you about going Brokeback, but-"

Without further ado, Dean smacks him upside the head with the back of his hand. A surprised laugh bursts out of Sam; he twists around and tries to hit Dean back, but Dean ducks out of the way. Sam settles for shoving him back into the car door.

"Jerk," he tells him, trying to look sad and disapproving, but his mouth quirks up at the corners, all I-swear-I-wasn't-in-the-cookie-jar like he used to be.

Dean pushes the car door open, but pauses with one foot on solid ground before he swings out. He turns slightly and they just look at each other.

Maybe all's not forgiven... but everything's okay.


Sam sits back in his seat, grinning, before they climb out of their respective seats simultaneously, the slam of car doors ringing like a gunshot. They head up Bobby's front steps and as they reach the door, Sam turns to Dean and makes one final comment, with exaggerated solemnity: "Just remember, Dean, that when you settle down, the prettier one has to be the bride – and with your eyelashes-"

Dean is aiming a kick at Sammy's kneecaps when the front door creaks open. Bobby scowls at them – Dean especially – and grumbles, "Where in the hell've you been?"

"Good to see you too, Bobby," Dean replies cheerily, stepping past him. "You wouldn't have a beer open ready for me, would you?"

Bobby scowls, obstreperous as ever. "You are such a pain in my ass, boy. What do you think I am - a waitress?"

A thin arm appears out of nowhere, dangling over the side of the drainpipe lining Bobby's porch roof, and flails to get their attention. "Can I have one too, please, Bobby?" Becky chirps excitably.

A loud babble of mocking laughter follows Bobby back into the house as he heads through to the kitchen, shaking his head and grumbling as he goes. Dean throws his duffel-bag onto the couch, barely missing a tall stack of leather-bound books piled up high on a cushion; clearly Bobby is already remaking claim on his home, returning it into his own.

"How's Cas, by the way?" Dean calls through the room, searching around for the TV remote, his injured hand tucked protectively into his stomach. He puts conscious effort into the casual disinterest in his tone, and tries not to crane after Bobby for the answer.

"Out!" Sam exclaims, grinning as he comes through. He quickly finds the remote under a tatty newspaper and flicks the TV onto a wildlife documentary. Recently Sam has been taking an unhealthy interest in beavers.

Dean's head snaps up instantly. "What?" he says, feigned coolness slipping away. "He's out of the panic room?"

"He's better than that," Bobby shouts from the kitchen. "He's out in the yard. Communing with nature or something."

"Put my beer on hold, will you?" Dean says as he brushes past Bobby on the way to the back door, his feet a blur beneath him. He can hear muted laughter from the library along with the sound of beaver footage squeaking happily, and something like idjits and then he's out.

Dean slams out through the kitchen door like a man on a mission but he stops dead, one foot on the gravel outside and one foot still hovering inside. All the resolve and determination that has carried him all the way back from Iowa is beating thunderous in his head, but he feels a little like he might throw up, like his stomach is trying to samba its way out of his butt and take all the other organs with it. His fingertips are fizzing.

Castiel is standing out by the garage, face lifted to the sun. He is wearing his trenchcoat.

His name bursts from Dean's mouth in an instinctive breath of affection, seeing his face turned up to the sun, cold December air pulling through his hair. "Cas." He walks forwards.

"Hello, Dean." Castiel is gazing up at the sky, arms slightly out from his sides as though preparing to take flight, or just enjoying the sensation of being able to. He has a black eye, purple ridges stark at his brow and cheekbones, and a swollen, bloody lip. Dean imagines he looks much the same. Still, the skin beneath Castiel's bruises is flushed and warm, and if the corners of his eyes are pulled down and crinkled from not getting enough sleep, at least he's sleeping.

Dean settles comfortably to stand beside him, but when Castiel turns his head to look over, his eyebrows pull together and he studies Dean with pained concern. "You look terrible," he says bluntly.

"Wow, thanks, man," Dean says sarcastically. "Don't worry – you look like shit too."

"I'm sorry to have done this to you," Castiel says quietly, completely ignoring Dean's usual douchebaggery.

Oh right. Dean has forgotten that Castiel, as a demon, had been using him as a human punch-bag. He shakes his head. "It wasn't really you. It's okay. Besides, if it's any consolation, the arm was someone else."

Dean lifts his bust arm, wincing as the stitches pull, and makes a face, but Castiel doesn't laugh – not even when Dean points out that Castiel's bust lip has given him a hilarious lisp. Neither of them mentions how his lip got so torn up. Dean wonders if Castiel even remembers that.

"What about you, then?" Dean prompts instead, gesturing vaguely in the direction of Castiel's head. "Can't you just mojo yourself better already?" A horrible thought hits him, sinking cold and clammy through his veins. "You did get your mojo back... didn't you?"

"Yes, I did." Castiel turns back to face forwards, tips his chin up a little, and watches the sky – which is clear and bright and cold as far as Dean can tell, but Castiel seems fascinated and content. The morning light picks out the thin lines around his eyes, more pronounced when a serene smile pulls faintly at his lips. "I can hear the Heavenly Host again. They're unimpressed," he adds ruefully, "but I can hear them. As for my injuries... I've decided to let my vessel heal naturally. Like a human." Castiel doesn't check Dean's expression but he seems to sense his confusion; he presses his lips together as though considering his words before explaining delicately: "In the past few days, they have served as a reminder to me whenever I'm weak."

"Weak?" Dean echoes, frowning.

Castiel looks over, his eyes sharp and solemn. "Thirsty."

"Oh." Dean doesn't really know what to say to that. He knows that Sam had some problems with his addiction for a while after he was detoxed, but he has kind of assumed that it would be different to angels. That they'd be less vulnerable. "How are you though?"

"I'm okay. Some days are harder than others. It's getting better, though," Castiel says. He looks down and flexes the fingers on one hand experimentally. He cracks a knuckle; makes a fist. "In general, it... hurts – but that's good. I remember that my face hurts because there are people who think I'm stronger. I remember that my back hurts because I'm finding my wings again, and I don't want to lose that. If I were to drink demon blood again..." he trails off, and Dean can't see his lip curl but he can hear the disgust thick in his voice. Castiel huffs a short breath and seems to recompose himself. He changes the topic. "Besides, that much demon blood could have destroyed my vessel – and I like my vessel."

"Me too," Dean says on auto-pilot.

Castiel's eyes flash sideways to meet Dean's and he has this dorky, amused glint there.

"What?" Dean says defensively. He can feel that humiliating flush heating up his ears and neck like some dumb pigtailed school-girl. He shrugs, trying to shake it off. "You know. It's kind of... uh, narrow. Goofy-looking. Shut up, man."

Castiel is trying not to smile, although Dean doesn't know why he looks so goddamn smug. It's not like the body is his. Maybe he's just relishing in the way that Dean's being reduced to an embarrassing state of red-cheeked, awkward, hand-flailing.

Dean hates himself. Hates Castiel more. Dean doesn't even know why it's such a big deal admitting that he's got a boner for the skinny dark-haired guy, man-bits and all. Ugh. He's such a homosexual. He wonders if he would still feel the same way about Castiel if he was in a busty Asian beauty – but of course, that wouldn't happen, what with the whole One True Magical Vessel thing. He wonders idly if Jimmy Novak's daughter would be hot when she grows up.

"Dean!" Castiel says, sounding scandalised. "Claire is twelve years old!"

Blinking bewildered, Dean snaps back into the real world and promptly shoves at Castiel with his good hand. "Dude, get out my head! That is not the reason we gave you back your juice!" he says indignantly, reddening a little again. He hopes that's all Castiel was eavesdropping on. "Besides, she'll be twenty-one one day."

"And you'll be thirty-nine."

"And you'll be, what, ten millennia?" Dean retorts.

Castiel raises his eyebrows slightly and then his eyes lift to the sky again, seeking answers or maybe just remembering. "Try six-hundred-and-fifty-thousand," he corrects absently, squinting in the light.

Startled, Dean glances at Castiel. The early sunshine is harsh and brings out his eyes to a colour that Dean would call kind of stupidly blue, which is just so unfair. Dean tears his eyes away and stares out over the totalled cars piled up around the place. He came out here with a million intentions and he doesn't have the balls to do anything. Instead he tries to wrap his head around the millions of years for which Castiel has existed, stoic and stern and endlessly patient with the floundering of humanity – and the fact that he is here now, with a thin pink scar through his hairline and a black eye. He gives a low whistle. "Whoa."

"Approximately," Castiel adds nonchalantly. "I lose count. It's been a long time."

Dean finds himself staring at him in yet another moment of realising that he barely knows Castiel at all, feeling small and inadequate. He has known Castiel for three years, which seems like forever from his perspective, but Cas has probably seen whole amoeba evolutions in less time. Dean clears his throat and shifts his weight from one foot to the other. "So I guess this all seems pretty stupid to you," he says awkwardly.

"No." Castiel's voice is soft, rumbling reverent in his chest. He meets Dean's gaze, unperturbed by Dean's awkwardness and currently burning with that familiar, almost painful intensity. "In all my years, nothing has been more important than what I have found here."

In that instant, Dean knows what is coming. They are going to talk about their feelings and Dean isn't prepared. He came running all the way back through the Midwestern states for this, but he can't do it. He's never been able to – took his dad for granted, took everything Lisa had in exchange for sullen silence, showed his brother he cared through jokes and bottles of beer and shared bags of popcorn. Dean thinks he might throw up.

"I know what Gabriel said to you," Castiel says calmly. His face is a construction, carefully blank and stoic. Angelic.

"Uh," is the first thing that Dean says, because he's a literary genius like that. The second thing he says is: "What?"

Castiel doesn't dignify Dean's stupidity with a response – just holds Dean's eyes. There, Dean sees it now: a flicker of uncertainty, of mindless bravery, of determined confrontation. Something like hope. And through all of that, something much simpler, softer, carried in the crease of his battered brow and the slight downwards curve of his mouth and the way he looks at Dean.

Shit. Dean swallows hard. His throat is very dry. "Oh." His eyes drop to stare blindly through Castiel so that he doesn't have to focus on the wide blue eyes and the – the love that is written so terrifyingly plain across his features. He gulps again. "Yeah?"

"Yes," Castiel says simply.

Dean's words hadn't even been intended as a question, more as a provocation for Castiel to continue with his awkward little monologue, but it's out there now. Yes. Castiel loves Dean, and he says it so shamelessly, like he's completely sure of himself. Dean wishes he had that. All he has is the overwhelming, deafening pulse of fear and want and hope and fear through his ears, and the clenched fists to keep from trembling. "Okay," he tries again. "Uh. Well."

Dragging his eyes away, Castiel gives a small, frustrated sigh, and quietly says, "I don't expect anything from you, Dean." Now it's his turn to stare stonily into the distance, his face scrunching up under the scrapes and bruises, jaw pulled tight.

Okay. This is Dean's chance. He's just gotta... go for it.

"But, Cas—" Dean starts hesitantly, and his throat chokes up. "What if-" He licks his lips roughly, takes a deep breath, and blunders on. "What if I expect something from you? What if I... want something?"

Head still turned to one side, Castiel's eyes flicker over to watch Dean cautiously, like a trapped bird. Slowly, he comes back to face Dean, and his head tips over a little to the side. "What do you want?" he asks, confused and wary.

"Right now?" Dean laughs nervously. "To be honest, right now I'd really like to stop feeling like I'm gonna hurl. But also, I—"

Castiel is still watching him. The light is in his face, making him screw up his eyes and nose, his eyelashes casting feathery shadows over his eyes. He is waiting.

"Right now, I also want to kiss you," Dean finally blurts out. "Just once – or a couple times, maybe, even, you know – but, uh – just - without... without you going unconscious, or turning into a demon, or trying to kill me – and without Sam freaking interrupting, okay? That's it. That's what I want." He sucks in a deep breath, rocking back on his heels, and gives a curt nod. "Yeah."

After a beat, Castiel says haltingly, "Okay."

Dean starts, confused. For a second he just stares. "Okay?" he repeats incredulously. Then he laughs again – he can't help himself – and he feels his shoulders sinking, like a weight has been lifted. "Okay, fine. Okay." He exhales a long, shaky breath. "You know—"

"Dean," Castiel says, taking one neat step forwards. "Stop talking."

Idiotically, Dean doesn't; instead, he says, "I can do that."

Castiel is close enough now that Dean can see the line of blood cutting through his lip. Dean swallows again, hard. He can feel Castiel's shallow breath on his mouth. Castiel is less than an inch away, not moving, not speaking. He just looking up into Dean's face through his lashes like he's waiting to be pushed away, and Dean doesn't. Castiel's gaze falls to Dean's mouth - Dean's breath snags – and then Castiel clumsily pushes their mouths together.

The kiss is almost painfully light; Dean can feel the thin scab where he bit through last time. There violent hammering against his chest, and it takes him a dizzy second to realise that it's not his heart but Castiel's, beating desperately with every second of contact, every careful, soft grazing of lips and then, later, every cautious push of tongue. Dean's good hand settles gently on Castiel's waist under the trenchcoat, warm even through his T-shirt, and Castiel lifts both hands to curl into the short, fine hair at the nape of Dean's neck, anchoring him there. Castiel leans forwards and then they are pressed together, their bodies one long, solid line, and they cling to each with gentle, split-knuckled hands like each is the only thing holding the other up.

They are interrupted, as always.

A high, piercing scream comes from the near-distance, followed by the garbled words: "Oh my god, it's CANON!"

Right. Of course. Becky is still hovering on the freaking roof.

Dean pulls away – trying to ignore the low, needing noise that escapes Castiel's mouth as he does so – and looks over at Bobby's house. Becky is crouched by the chimney, pressing her fists into her mouth as she tries not to shriek anymore, and, Jesus Christ, she's actually shaking with excitement. Worse still, Dean sees a flurry of movement from the kitchen window, like a furtive audience scrambling to get away from the scene of a crime.

Dean groans, his eyes closing in dismay. He hears the far-off rattle of roof-tiles and drainage-pipes as Becky scrambles to get down, presumably to run inside and flail some more with Sam.

When he opens his eyes again, the first thing he sees is Castiel. Still close enough that Dean can count the pale pinpricks of stitches-scars from when he bashed his head on a table. Still pressed into him so that Dean can't tell where the heat of one body ends and the other begins. Fingers still pushed through his hair and holding him steady. Castiel's eyes are blue and unspeakably soft, watching Dean intently as though he still expects him to back off and run away.

"I think I was a little too ambitious in asking for all that and no interruptions," Dean says, smiling weakly.

"Perhaps," Castiel replies. He breathes slow, blinks once, and then pushes forwards again until his nose bumps Dean's – and there he pauses, finding Dean's eyes again and says, "But I get the sense that they're going to leave us alone now."

"You should really stay out of people's heads," Dean tells him distractedly, his attention caught like a broken record on the planes of Castiel's body and his slightly-parted lips. "And there may still be an aftershock."

At that, Castiel actually laughs, just a short huff of breath. "Isn't there always?"

He kisses him again, shallow but insistent, and the hand on his waist slips around to press flat against the small of his back and pull him closer. Every nerve ending is static as Castiel sighs softly against his mouth, hands drifting until his thumb lines up with the slope of Dean's jaw, fingers curling underneath.

The universe doesn't stop around them; there are no fireworks. This is real, not a fairy-tale, and the world keeps going, relentless. Somewhere out there a demon is making some poor bastard his bitch and a poltergeist is tearing a family apart and Sam is planning his picket fence, but right now Dean is grounded.

He has the weight of Castiel's body, the calloused scuff of his hands, and they're going to soldier on.