Gargoyles on Motorcycles

Author's Note: This was originally posted on LiveJournal for the Dean/Cas Big Bang. You can find it there (where I'm mandraco) with artwork done by deadflowers5. This was beta read by tattooeddevil.

This is an all-human AU, but contains characters from as late as 7.13 "The Slice Girls".

This is the non-explicit version I originally intended to write. If you want to read the original story including one explicit sex scene between Dean & Cas, it's available on my LiveJournal and Archive of our Own.

x X X x

Dean held Emma's hand as they waited for Sam on the steps of the courthouse. Sam finished his conversation with his lawyer colleague and joined his brother.

"I really hope this is a wake up call for you, Dean," said Sam. "You can't keep sleeping with everything that so much as glances your way now that you have Emma."

"Can it, Sam," said Dean. "I'm going to live my life the way I want to live it. Emma doesn't mind, do you sweetheart?"

Emma smiled up at Sam. She was the only girl Dean would ever need, but that didn't mean Dean had to change everything about himself for her.

"It's not like I can't change," said Dean. "I stopped going out in a suit, didn't I?"

Sam just shook his head. But Dean was long used to Sam's disapproving frowns. If anything changed in Dean's life, it wouldn't be because Sam had frowned at him.

x x x

Dean got that familiar prickling feeling under his skin a week later. He needed to get out and lose himself. If he stayed inside for a second longer, he would burst out of his skin. Jo had a knowing look on her face when she came to pick Emma up for their girls' night, but Dean ignored it. There were some things he just had to do.

Dean made his way to the Roadhouse and ordered a beer before taking a look around the place. It was a Friday night and thrumming with activity. Dean could feel it beating in time with his heart, settling that jittery feeling inside of him.

Without conscious thought, Dean's eyes started scanning the bar for potential bed partners. He skipped over a few faces who looked at him appreciatively simply because he'd slept with them before. They'd want something more than Dean wanted to give. The longer he stayed in Lawrence, the harder it was to keep his sexual encounters expectation-free, but despite that and everything Sam thought of him, Dean couldn't bring himself to change. He didn't want to.

A brunette at the other end of the bar locked eyes with Dean. Something in her gaze sparked a fire in Dean and he made his way over with no more thought given to it than anything else he'd done that night.

"Hey there," he said with his best grin. "Can I buy you a drink?"

She flashed a smile back at him. "Absolutely."

x x x

Dean woke to the mild thunder of his hangover. He was the good kind of sore, the kind he'd been hoping to be after last night. And though last night's alcohol had seized his brain, he felt a lot better overall. He rolled over and was greeted by the sight of a dented pillow. He was alone in an unfamiliar bed.

Dean stretched and went looking for his pants. They were in a crumpled heap at the foot of the bed. He dressed leisurely, grabbing his phone and wallet and lacing on his boots, then fumbled his way toward the bathroom. He washed his face and rinsed his mouth. He dragged a hand through his hair as he walked out into the hallway of the apartment. The rest of the apartment was empty. Dean guessed the girl he'd spent the night with had gone out for breakfast. He checked the time. He couldn't stay for breakfast, he had to pick up Emma.

Dean left the apartment and made his way to the street. He'd left the Impala at the Roadhouse and they'd taken a taxi back to the woman's apartment. But it wasn't too far a walk if you were sober. Dean set off, letting the morning air clear the cobwebs from his mind and replace them with thoughts just as delicate. He'd grab Emma and then they'd go and have pancakes at that place she liked.

Dean was just trying to remember the last time he'd done laundry when he got to the Roadhouse. His hands automatically reached for his keys and came up empty. He must have left them back at the apartment. He scanned the lot absently. The Impala was missing. The bottom fell out of Dean's stomach.

x x x

Dean pounded on the door of the Roadhouse until Ellen, who occasionally spent nights at the place on weekends, came down to give him a stern talking to. She probably would have called him an idjit if she didn't have qualms about stealing Bobby's turns of phrase, and she had no idea what had happened to his car. Dean called Jo to tell her he'd be late and had to put up with her reaming him out for not spending time enough with Emma before he could hang up.

Dean made the trek back to the building he'd woken up in and spent ten minutes trying to remember which apartment he needed exactly. Then he stood outside the door for a further ten minutes when he remembered that he'd been a Good Samaritan and locked the door on his way out. And the chick still hadn't returned. Dean had a bad feeling she'd stolen his car. It would figure that not only would he sleep with the only woman in the bar not only dumb enough to steal his car, but also dumb enough to steal it when he knew exactly where she lived.

Dean gritted his teeth, swallowed his pride, and called Sam. He was going to owe Sam the biggest of favours.

x x x

Sam kept most of his snide comments to himself when he arrived to pick Dean up and take him to the police station to report his car stolen. Considering Dean didn't have his keys, he was going to have to change all his locks. Thank god he left his work keys on a separate key ring.

The cops found the Impala that afternoon completely totalled. They found the girl Dean had slept with, too. Apparently she hadn't been able to sleep and had decided to take a joyride in Dean's car. Considering she was still drunk, it hadn't ended very well. While Dean tried to be glad that she was still alive, it didn't change the fact that his car was going to need a lot of TLC and hard work before she would be roadworthy again.

As he and Sam waited for Bobby to arrive with his tow truck, Dean came to a realisation. "I have to stop this," he said. "Before another innocent gets caught in the crossfire."

"I am all for that," said Sam.

"I mean it, Sam," said Dean. "I am swearing off random hook-ups for good."

"Oh please. As soon as the Impala's up and running again you're going to go right back to your old ways," said Sam. "You decided that before, remember? After Emma? But you still went out last night and went home with a stranger."

"Screw you, Sam," said Dean. "I'm going to do it."

"And I bet you won't," said Sam.

"All right," said Dean. "Let's make it official. What do you want?"

"Oh nothing," said Sam. "Smug satisfaction will be enough for me."

"You've changed since you became a married man," said Dean, pointing an accusing finger at his brother.

Sam just shrugged. The soppy smile on his face gave away that he was thinking about Jess. "How long do you think it'll take you to fix the Impala?"

"Two months," said Dean. "Depending on work and Emma and how long it'll take to get parts."

"Two months then," said Sam. "I bet you can't go without sex for the next two months. Actually, I'll be generous and make it an even eight weeks."

"No sex at all?" said Dean. "I was only swearing off random hook-ups."

Sam looked at Dean. "They're the same thing in your book."

Dean couldn't argue with that. "Two months," he said. He pulled out his phone and set a reminder on the calendar. Dean didn't believe in second thoughts, but already his skin was starting to crawl.

x x x

Sam drove Dean to work on Monday but Dean would need to organise a new car for himself soon. Replacing the Impala even just for a couple of months felt like cheating on her but he couldn't keep relying on Sam and his Dodge. Dean worked at a car magazine. No matter what anyone said, everyone there judged everyone else by the car they drove. It wasn't even a conscious thing most of the time.

Take Matt for example. He was Dean's boss since he was the CFO and Dean was in charge of ad sales and therefore half the company's revenue, but since he was currently engaged to Dean's ex, Dean rarely treated him that way. Matt drove an Audi. He was kind of attached to the brand. But up until a month before he proposed to Lisa, he'd been driving a two-seater convertible. Everyone had been talking about his plans to propose as soon as he'd rolled up in a new four-door sedan. Even Lisa had known to expect his proposal.

Jo, Dean's sister and cousin in every way but blood, used to drive the old pick-up truck that her mother had taught her to drive in while she painstakingly pieced together her dream car from the bits that found their way into her now-stepfather's salvage yard. She dreamt big and was determined to get whatever she wanted, but practical enough to actually make it happen.

Balthazar, the only guy at work Dean had ever slept with (so long ago now that they barely remembered it had ever happened), was European in every way but for the fact that he lived in Kansas. His classic British import had the driver's seat on the right, but he never had any problems remembering which side of the road to drive on. He refused to have it converted, and gained an obscene amount of pleasure from startling people who momentarily thought no one was driving the car.

Dean did not want to be the dude with no wheels who had to rely on his younger brother for a ride when everyone knew he was really the guy who was way too attached to what most other people would just call an old car.

Matt was waiting for the elevator when Dean got there. "I didn't hear you pull in," said Matt.

Dean had been at work for all of two seconds and it was already starting. Dean groaned. The lift arrived and the two men got in together.

"I've been meaning to talk to you about something," said Matt once the elevator doors had closed and Dean was effectively trapped with him for the next minute or so.

"I don't suppose my day could get any worse," said Dean.

"Lisa's going crazy with the wedding seating chart," said Matt.

Dean grimaced. "Better you than me."

"You RSVP'd plus one," said Matt. "And Lisa wanted to know who your date was. Apparently it's vitally important that the right people sit next to each other."

The elevator arrived on their floor and Dean walked out first, followed by Matt.

"I don't exactly know yet," said Dean. When was the wedding again?

"Lisa thought that might be the case," said Matt, putting his hand on Dean's arm to stop him from walking further into the office where all of their co-workers would be able to hear them. "She wants you know that if you're bringing a date just so that you can prove to her that you're a 'put together guy', you don't have to because she knows you better than that."

Dean knew that, but he still couldn't help but feel offended. "That's not why I'm bringing a date." He'd put down that he was bringing a date because he wanted company amongst all the people who would be looking at him and wondering why he wasn't the one marrying Lisa.

Matt looked at Dean as though he didn't believe him. Matt always was one to jump to conclusions. "But since you don't have one at the moment," said Matt. "Lisa would really rather you didn't bring anyone at all. It makes you easier to seat that way."

Dean frowned. He was sure there was an insult in there somewhere. He'd been invited to bring a date. Lisa couldn't just rescind that. Not with just... Dean checked the calendar on his phone. Less than two months notice. It was right there: Lisa and Matt's Wedding. And the very next day: Sex Ban Over. "Crap," he said. "I have to bring a date."

Dean didn't have a good track record with weddings. At the last wedding he'd attended, Bobby and Ellen's, he'd engaged in a probably illegal ménage a- cat? No, that wasn't right. What was French for four? Ellen didn't speak to him for a month afterward and Jo still teased him about it almost every day. At Sam's wedding he was in and out of the coatroom with three different people. Hell, family lore said that he'd been conceived during his parents' wedding reception. Dean plus a wedding equalled sex. After two months minus one day of no sex there was no way he was going to be able to last a whole wedding without a sexual encounter.

"There's no arguing with her when she's like this, man," said Matt. "You know that."

Dean did know that. He'd known that before Matt ever had.

"Do you really want to bring a date anyway?" asked Matt. "I mean, it's not like you're seeing anyone, and whoever you pick up at the last minute will probably be crazy anyway." There was the insult.

"Look... If I don't have a date I'm going to end up having an orgy in the middle of the dance floor."

"Try it and I'll call the cops," said Matt as he began walking toward his office. "If you really must have a date, you can always ask someone who's already on the guest list."

And as though there actually was a benevolent god who answered unspoken prayers, the elevator dinged, the doors opened and out walked Castiel de Ciel, wrapped in his tan trench coat as always.

Castiel drove a generic hybrid. It was dependable, had a funny name and was kind of quirky, but utterly lacked in soul. It ran only by the grace of a computer, was designed to perform a narrow range of functions remarkably well, and always looked out of place among the others in the magazine's parking garage. Dean was pretty sure that Castiel always managed to park it exactly square with the lines and the wall, while everyone else parked slightly off-centre and at an angle to best ease their way in and out of the space. Dean would never drive a car like Castiel's, which made Castiel the perfect choice to be the date Dean would never sleep with.

"Castiel!" Dean greeted the man with a smile, startling the composed expression off Castiel's face and replacing it with one closer to terror. Dean slung his arm over Castiel's shoulders as though they had ever spoken more than a hello when they ran into each other. Castiel froze up completely. "How are you today?"

"I'm well, thank you Dean," he said. "And yourself?"

"Could be better, actually," said Dean. "But enough about me. Have you got a date for Matt's wedding?"

Castiel looked as though he didn't understand the question. "I had intended to attend on my own," he said. "I wasn't aware that a date was required."

"No worries," said Dean. "In fact, that's great." He kept smiling at Castiel and maintaining extreme eye contact. "And you wouldn't ever consider having sex with me, would you?"

If Dean thought Castiel was stiff before, that was nothing on how entirely frozen he was now. Frozen, that is, except for the blush spreading over his cheeks and highlighting his cheekbones. The man was certainly attractive, but far too much of a statue. Dean couldn't get involved with such a non-sexual creature. He was perfect.

"I beg your pardon?" said Castiel, his voice on the edge of breaking.

"Sex," said Dean, enjoying flustering the man this way. "Sexual intercourse. Fucking. You and me. Yes or no?"

Castiel broke away from Dean's arm and took a step backward. "No," he said, emphasising it with a shake of his head.

Just as Dean had suspected. The man was so drawn in he didn't have a sexuality. "Then it won't be a problem if you're my date to the wedding."

"But-" protested Castiel.

"Nope," said Dean, cutting him off. "I'm not taking no for an answer."

"Dean," said Castiel.

Dean put one of his fingers to Castiel's lips. "Come on, Cas," said Dean. "Say you'll go with me."

After a moment, Castiel nodded and as he moved, Dean's finger slipped across his lips. "Okay," he said, the word caressing Dean's finger. Dean dropped it to his side, surprised by his reaction to the sensation.

"Thanks Cas," said Dean, making his retreat to his office. "I owe you one." Something was telling Dean that this was a bad idea. But Dean didn't see any other way around the wedding predicament. He just wouldn't touch Cas. Wait- Cas? What was he thinking giving the man a nickname? Dean wouldn't touch Castiel, and everything would be fine. Actually, he should just avoid touching people in general. Two months, no touching. He could do that.

x x x

That evening, Dean waited in his office until the last second before making his way down to the lobby to wait for Sam. He stood as still as possible beside a potted plant, trying to avoid being seen. As soon as he heard Sam pull up, he walked out as quickly as he could without drawing attention to himself. Dean jerked the passenger side door open and got in. The door slammed shut too loudly behind him and Dean winced. "Drive, Sammy."

Sam, the helpful brother that he was, did not press his foot to the accelerator. "What's going on?"

Dean's eyes were on the elevator, watching for any sign that anyone he worked with was about to see him. "You know, if someone was after me," said Dean. "We'd be dead by now."

Sam rolled his eyes, but pulled the car out. "I'm not going to drop this," he said as they turned onto the street.

"I just didn't want anyone to see me in your douche-mobile." Dean tried to pass it off as flippant.

Sam darted a surprised look at his brother, never one to fall for Dean's falsehoods. "That's what you were so worried about?"

"I'm not about to tell everyone in my office that I slept with some crazy bitch who stole my car."

Sam couldn't help a laugh. "Well, short of replacing the Impala with a fake, you're going to have to come up with something sometime."

"I would never replace the Impala," said Dean. "I don't know how you can drive this thing."

"Since this thing is your only mode of transportation for the moment, I think maybe you should be a little more polite. I could always choose not to pick you up tomorrow morning."

Dean sighed and wiggled his ass into his seat, trying and failing to get comfortable. "Maybe you shouldn't bother. I should get a rental."

"You should," said Sam. "But you won't."

"Maybe I'll discover a new appreciation for buses."

Sam shook his head with a snort and pulled up in front of Dean's apartment building. "Same time tomorrow, then?" he asked.

Dean stared at the spot usually reserved for his car. "I guess so." Sam pulled out, leaving Dean behind. One day down. Fifty-five days to go.

x x x

The first thing Dean said to Sam when he arrived to pick him up the next morning was, "We need to stop for coffee."

"Did your coffee maker break?" asked Sam. Dean woke every morning to the smell of his favourite brew. He'd have one cup, then would pour the rest into a Thermos to be savoured until the early afternoon. Dean didn't ever go out for coffee.

"No," said Dean, waving his Thermos in Sam's face.

"So what's the deal with the coffee?" asked Sam, indicating to get into the nearest Starbucks drive through.

"Not here," said Dean. "The good place on Stewart."

"That takes twice as long," said Sam. "I've still got to get to work on time after I drop you off, you know."

"I owe a guy a favour," said Dean. "Thought I'd start making it up to him with coffee."

That piqued Sam's interest and he pulled away from the Starbucks queue to make the drive to Stewart Street. "What did you do?"

"Always with the accusations," said Dean. "I didn't do anything."

"Then why do you owe him a favour?"

"Because he's doing me one."

"You're being evasive," said Sam, smirking at the road. "This has got to be good."

"I invited him to be my date to Lisa's wedding," said Dean.

"I thought you were going alone," said Sam.

"Maybe I would have," said Dean. "If you hadn't made that stupid bet with me."

"So who is this guy?" asked Sam. "It's not Balthazar, is it?"

"No, not Balthazar," said Dean. "His writing partner. Castiel."

"Castiel? I've never heard you mention him before."

"Because he's a soulless automaton," said Dean. "Up until yesterday the only words we'd ever said to each other were hello and goodbye. He wears this trench coat and I've never seen him take it off once. Not even in the office."

"And you asked him to be your date?"

"Someone has to stop me from sleeping with everyone."

"You could bring Emma," said Sam. "I bet she'd love to go to a wedding."

Dean shook his head. "It's an evening wedding. It'd completely screw up her beauty sleep."

"You do realise that after you bring this guy coffee you can't actually sleep with him."

"I'm aware, Sam," said Dean, gritting his teeth.

Sam's eyes slid over to his brother. "Does that mean you don't want to? Is that why you've never mentioned him before, when I've had to listen to every minute detail of Becky and Chuck's epic romance?"

"He's like a statue," said Dean. "Trying to seduce him would be like... It would just be wrong."

Sam eyed his brother again, then the unmoving traffic in front of them. "This guy had better be worth it."

x x x

The detour for coffee made even Dean late for work, so Castiel was already hard at work at his desk when Dean set the paper cup in front of him.

Castiel looked up from the cup, tracing the length of Dean's arm before finally settling on his face. "Hello Dean," he said, his expression not changing.

"Hey Cas," said Dean with a smile. "Just wanted to say thanks for agreeing to be my date."

Castiel looked down at the coffee cup. "I don't drink coffee," he said.

"Oh," said Dean, pulling back. Of course he didn't. Why would Castiel like something so normal? "Um, well, if you don't want it..." Dean's eyes landed on the empty desk beside Castiel's. "I could give it to Balthazar."

"Don't do that," said Castiel, putting his hands on the cup. "I appreciate the sentiment." He slowly brought the cup to his mouth and took a small sip.

Dean watched the way his lips pursed and snatched the cup from him, lifting it up so that Castiel couldn't take it back. "Pretending to like it sort of defeats the purpose," said Dean. "I'll get you something you like." He looked at Castiel appraisingly, trying to figure out which beverage he'd most appreciate. "Green tea?"

Castiel's pursed lips didn't loosen, but Dean guessed he was closer.

"Black tea?" asked Dean. That was the extent of his knowledge of tea. When Castiel didn't say anything positive with regard to that, Dean changed tact. "Lunch. You eat, right? Let me buy you lunch."

Castiel looked up at Dean with wide blue eyes. "You want to buy me lunch?"

"Well, why not?" said Dean, reflexively taking a sip from the coffee he'd brought for Castiel. It was sweeter than he usually liked it.

Castiel blinked. "Okay," he said. "On Tuesdays I get the number three sandwich from Delaney's and eat it at my desk."

Dean's mind whirled trying to process that. When Dean had suggested lunch, he'd thought he and Castiel would eat it together. But of course Castiel had a routine he liked to stick to. He was programmed. Dean hadn't been suggesting a lunch date, but he felt strangely rejected all the same. "What time would you like your lunch delivered?" Dean asked, barely refraining from automatically snapping back. Castiel didn't mean to offend Dean, but a lifetime of defensiveness was difficult to reign in.

"One PM, thank you," said Castiel. "Not having to retrieve my own lunch will allow me to regain the minutes I've spent talking with you."

That was a dismissal if ever Dean heard one. "I guess I'll see you at one, then," he said, turning to leave.

Balthazar chose that moment to burst into the room, his blazer flapping out behind him. "Winchester," he said with a smile, snagging the coffee cup, removing the lid and taking a long swig. "You are a god amongst men."

Dean frowned. "That was Castiel's," he said. Never mind that Castiel didn't want it.

Balthazar grinned wickedly. "Threesome in a cup," he said, looking down at the brew. "I like it." He took another mouthful in through his grin.

Dean tried not to sound amused but his snort came out less derisive than he'd hoped as he continued toward the door.

"Chai," called Castiel.

Dean stopped and turned. "What?"

"It's the Hindi word for tea- in a quite a few Asian languages, actually- but the Western cultures apply it to a blend of tea and spices brewed with milk."

Dean found himself staring. That was the longest sentence he'd ever heard Castiel speak, even to someone else.

"That's what I like to drink," said Castiel.

Dean found the corner of his mouth tilting up. "I'll remember that," he said.

x x x

At twelve-thirty, earlier than Dean would usually take his lunch break, Dean closed the spreadsheet he'd been working on, and made his way out of his office. Matt shot Dean a disapproving glance as he passed by his doorway, but he didn't say anything.

Dean didn't often eat at Delaney's. The line was always long and they didn't do burgers, the only kind of sandwich Dean would wait in a line for. Occasionally Matt or the other execs would force him to take an informal business lunch down there, but Dean usually got his food from the diner around the corner. It was a slightly longer walk and a slightly grimier place, but the food was good, cheap and quick.

The line wasn't too long when Dean got there; he guessed he'd gotten here earlier than the majority of the lunch crowd. Looking up at the chalkboard of sandwiches on the wall, Dean's eyes automatically skimmed to number three. It was called the Blue-Eyed Delight. It was a strange name for a sandwich, but the rest of the sandwiches were similarly themed: Eight-Armed Envy. Red-Haired Wonder. White-Toothed Whale. The Blue-Eyed Delight had nothing blue about it, and Dean figured it was named after someone. Figuring he might as well see what the fuss was about, Dean ordered two of them. And then, because he saw it on the drinks menu underneath the café latte, he added a chai latte to the order.

The man behind the counter looked at him with golden eyes. "You don't look like Castiel."

Of course the guy would know who Castiel was. He apparently came in here every Tuesday. "Just picking up his lunch for him," said Dean, figuring he shouldn't jeopardise Castiel's relationship with this guy even if he did think it was none of his business.

"Is he eating at his desk again?" The man rolled his eyes and popped a lollipop into his mouth. "Like he isn't already pale enough."

If this guy talked to all the customers like this, Dean could see why there was always a line. Dean muttered something non-committal. He didn't know Cas well enough to be passing judgement or sticking his nose in anywhere.

"Tell you what," said the dude, finally starting to actually make Dean's order. "I'll throw in free fries and a soda if you get Castiel out of the office before he dies of a vitamin D deficiency."

Dean raised an eyebrow, but nodded anyway. He couldn't refuse free fries. And Castiel's sandwich was probably pushing Dean's healthy food threshold. The fries and soda would bring it back down. "Okay."

It was another few minutes before the sandwiches and the fries (hand-cut with the skins on) were ready. Just before the guy handed Dean the take-out bag, he said, "Now remember, I'm going to know if you don't get Castiel out of the office. You won't like me when I'm pissed off, Dean."

Dean took the bag. "Wait, how do you know my name?"

The guy had the audacity to wink at him before suddenly becoming very interested in his next customer.

Dean shrugged it off and headed back to the office. He could always ask Castiel.

x x x

Castiel was hard at work at his desk. Balthazar, other the other hand, was sitting in his chair, tossing a stress ball into the air and catching it with the opposite hand.

Balthazar looked up when Dean entered and paused in his game. "Winchester," he said with a smile. "Imagine that. Me seeing your pretty face twice in one day. Aren't I a lucky bastard?"

The lascivious twist of Balthazar's smile was enough to remind Dean why he'd slept with the man all those years ago. He half-wondered why they'd never become friends afterward. Relationships were messy and best avoided. Especially with people you'd slept with.

"It's one o'clock," said Dean.

Castiel looked up at that moment as though he hadn't registered Dean's presence until that second. As though Balthazar hadn't just called out his name. But if Dean had to work as closely with Balthazar as Castiel did, he'd probably tune him out as a survival instinct. "Dean," he said.

"The one and only," said Dean.

"Lord, I hope not," said Balthazar. "My balls would have fallen off by now."

Castiel looked Balthazar. "We may break for lunch, now."

"Aye-aye, captain," said Balthazar with a salute. He picked his wallet and keys up off his desk and slid them into his pockets. As he passed Dean, he deliberately pressed his hip against Dean's crotch. Dean rolled his eyes, trying not to let that meaningless pressure get him aroused. They were in the middle of work and it wasn't like Balthazar intended to follow through. Not to mention the bet.

Dean looked back at Castiel who was once again staring at his computer screen in concentration. Okay, the guy at the sandwich shop was right. Dean didn't have to know Castiel well to realise that he worked too much. A little sunlight wasn't going to kill him and was probably going to do him some good.

Dean set the cup of chai down in front of Castiel, the way he had that morning, then followed the action by turning off Castiel's screen. He kept hold of the bag of food.

Castiel frowned up at Dean. Of course he'd be the sort of guy who hated it when other people touched his things.

"I wasn't going to pay attention to the guy at the sandwich shop," said Dean. "But he's right. You need to get some sun."

"Gabriel never has learned to mind his own business," said Castiel.

"You know him?" asked Dean. It didn't sound like they'd become friends simply because Castiel came into the shop for the same thing every week.

"He's my brother," said Castiel. He took a sip from his cup. "Thank you for the beverage."

Dean took a second to re-evaluate Castiel, comparing him to his mental picture of the man in the sandwich shop. "And people say my brother and I don't look alike," he said.

"He's my foster brother," said Castiel. "We do not share any blood relations."

And that sounded like a topic Dean didn't want to touch with a ten-foot pole. "Come on," he said, waving the bag of food. "Let me eat lunch with you out in the sunshine."

Castiel frowned and looked back at his computer screen. But Dean grabbed his hand before he could use it to turn it back on.

"Uh-uh," said Dean. "I'm taking you someplace special."

A crease appeared in Castiel's brow. "I have work to finish. You were late to work this morning. You should need time to finish your work."

Dean shrugged. "Your writing practically sells itself," he said. "And I'll be back late tonight anyway. I've got to wait for my brother."

"Why would you have to do that?" asked Castiel.

Dean pulled Castiel out of his seat. "If you eat lunch with me, I'll have time to tell you the story."

Castiel made no further protests until they got into the lift together and instead of hitting the button for the lobby, Dean hit the one for the highest floor, level twelve. Level twelve housed an insurance company. It wasn't anywhere anyone would want to go to eat lunch, not even the actuaries who worked there. "Where are we going?" asked Castiel.

"If I told you then it wouldn't be a surprise," said Dean.

"I detest surprises," said Castiel.

Of course he did. Every time Dean learned something new about Castiel, he couldn't help feeling it was something he should have known all along. "Live a little, Cas," said Dean.

There were a couple of people waiting to get onto the lift when Dean and Cas got out, but none of them asked what they were doing. Dean dragged Castiel past the receptionist to the end of the corridor to the fire stairs. Dean stopped at the window there. It was closed, but not locked and Dean pushed it open. He started to climb out, but Castiel pulled at his belt, forcing Dean back inside with a strength Dean hadn't expected.

"What do you think you're doing?" Castiel's voice was harsher than its usual gravelled tones.

"Relax," said Dean, gesturing to the window. "Look." Castiel hesitantly look a step forward, and stuck his head out the window. By the architect's design, the twelfth floor was narrower than those below it, and the roof of the eleventh floor, though not designed to be a balcony, was large and sturdy enough to perform the function of one.

"I had no idea this was what the rooftop looked like," said Castiel.

"The insurance guys keep it a big secret," said Dean. "But I think they spend too much time looking at risks because no one ever actually comes out here. Too chickenshit, I guess."

Castiel pushed himself up and through the window, staring out at the horizon. "We're standing directly on top of my office," he said. "But the view is so different."

"It's all a matter of perspective," said Dean, casting an appreciative eye over Castiel's silhouette. He should have known the man would look good out here. Like some sort of otherworldly gargoyle.

Castiel turned to shoot Dean a questioning look when he realised he hadn't yet been followed. Dean climbed through the window and slid it shut behind him. He sat with his back against the wall and opened the bag of food, only now realising that Gabriel had gypped him out of his free soda. Dean pulled out some napkins and set the bag of fries on the ground beside him. Castiel was still standing, still as a statue, looking out across Lawrence. Dean wondered what he was seeing. In Kansas it was easy to forget that mountains existed with only sky surrounding them for miles.

"Grub's getting cold," said Dean, giving in to the urge and throwing a wrapped sandwich at Castiel. He was surprised when the man caught it reflexively. Dean grinned at Castiel's disapproving look.

The other man sat beside Dean, and began unwrapping his sandwich. Dean tore the paper off his own and took a bite. He had to remind himself what was actually in it because he could hardly taste anything. It was exactly the sort of sandwich Sam would like. Mostly leaves with the slightest sliver of cheese and an even slighter sliver of ham. Still, the bread was good, and when Dean pried apart the bread to add a handful of fries, the sandwich was actually pretty divine.

Castiel watched him do all of this with a deepening frown on his face. Dean smiled at him with cheeks chipmunk-full.

"You said you were going to tell me why you had to wait for your brother," said Castiel.

Dean swallowed in one gulp. Castiel looked away. "A crazy bitch stole my car and totalled it," said Dean. He hadn't wanted to tell the story to anyone he worked with, but he had a feeling that Castiel wouldn't spread the story around. This felt like a safe place. Like no one but the wind and the rooftop would ever know. And Castiel, his own personal gargoyle.

Castiel blinked. "That sounds rather dramatic."

It occurred to Dean in that moment that the last sexual experience he'd have to look back on over the next two months was with a woman with bony elbows who'd destroyed his beloved Impala. He should have thought this bet through a little better.

"It's too bad," said Castiel. "I liked your car."

"Everyone loves her," said Dean. "It's going to take a while," said Dean, "but I'm going to get her back into shape and on the road again even if it takes my lifesavings."

"I wasn't aware you were also a mechanic."

"She's the only car I've ever spent much time on," said Dean. "And I don't have any of the qualifications."

"The skill required to undertake such a process is quite impressive," said Castiel. "I confess if I ever found myself in the same situation I would simply replace my car."

"That's because your car is... replaceable," said Dean, refraining from using a more insulting word.

"I must admit I have no emotional attachment to it," said Castiel. "It merely serves my purposes."

"I should just get a rental," said Dean. "It'd be easier on my brother, but I feel like I would be betraying my car if I did that. We've always been in it together."

Castiel looked at Dean as though he was the most curious person he'd ever met. Dean knew how that felt. "If it's too much of a bother for your brother, I could drive you home."

Dean looked up from his sandwich. "You're offering me a ride home?"

"It would likely be more efficient," said Castiel. "So long as we don't live on opposite sides of town."

"Don't worry about it," said Dean. "You're already doing me one favour."

"Accompanying you to a wedding I was already planning to attend?" asked Castiel. "Perhaps it would help if we determined how much of an imposition it would be first."

Dean reluctantly named his suburb. It turned out that although Castiel didn't live two blocks away from Dean the way that Sam did, Dean's house was almost directly on his route home. Castiel wouldn't take no for an answer after that.

"Thanks Cas," said Dean. He checked his watch. "I'd better call Sam and tell him he's off the hook."

Castiel smiled at him. Dean refused to believe that his heart skipped a beat because of it.

x x x

As Dean waited for Castiel to finish work (actually throwing in extra preparation for tomorrow's meeting with the woman from Divine Detailing), he pondered the efficiency of this action. He couldn't wait after work this long every day. Castiel might not have anyone to get home to (though Dean didn't know for sure), but Dean had Emma. Dean seriously needed his own wheels.

An hour later than he would usually have left the office, Dean was finally packing up his things and following Castiel to his car.

"I apologise," said Castiel, as they walked through the parking garage. "I do not normally stay so late."

Dean had no idea whether that was true or not. "I guess that was my fault, huh?" said Dean.

"I didn't mean to imply," said Castiel, looking like he'd stepped on Dean's puppy. Or Emma, for lack of a puppy.

"Relax, Cas," said Dean. "But if this is going to be a habit, I'm going to have to get Sam to give me a lift home."

Castiel nodded, and Dean felt kind of bad about refusing the guy's hospitality. But was it really hospitality if it ended up being more inconvenient?

Dean refrained from saying impolite things about Castiel's car. He'd imagined being squashed into a sardine can when Castiel had first offered him a ride, but it was surprisingly roomy on the inside. It did however have the obnoxious smell of a new car, something Dean wasn't used to, even in Sam's car.

Castiel started the car (with the press of a button!) and drove off smoothly. For all that he looked like he'd be ill at ease behind the wheel, Castiel was surprisingly comfortable. Almost too comfortable, thought Dean, for someone who doesn't have any attachment to his car at all.

Castiel didn't turn on the radio, and Dean could respect that, but it was uncomfortably quiet. The only way Dean knew to fill an uncomfortable silence was with dirty jokes and he doubted Castiel would appreciate them. He found his eyes straying to Castiel's hands on the steering wheel, watching his grip tighten and loosen as he adjusted their course. No. Dean was not going to make a dirty joke or think dirty thoughts. "How about them Jayhawks?"

"I'm sorry?" said Castiel, his eyes not straying from the road. If it weren't likely to lead to his death, Dean would like to test that concentration. So much for not thinking dirty thoughts.

"Not from KU, then," said Dean.

"I received my Bachelor of Arts from Boston College," said Castiel. "My major was in Communication."

"And you ended up writing about cars," said Dean.

"I find the differences between machines built for the same purpose infinitely engaging."

Dean blinked. "I've just always liked cars."

"And yet you work in advertising sales."

It wasn't something Dean liked to talk about. This wasn't where he'd expected to be in his life at this point, but he was happy with it. "You have to believe in your product to be able to sell it," said Dean. "But I have to say your articles practically sell themselves."

Castiel refused to allow the conversation to hone in on him. "My articles are only a small part of the magazine, and even then I must share all the credit with Balthazar. I believe our magazine's continued ability to stay afloat in this environment is thanks to your ability to convince local businesses to purchase ad space."

"It's always as good a deal for them as it is for us," said Dean. Screw this awkward conversation. "Mind if I turn on the radio?" Dean asked. He reached for the dial before Castiel could respond and then spent the next few minutes tuning the radio presets when he realised that Castiel had never done so. He narrated the entire process so that the other man couldn't get a word in edgewise.

Dean settled on a classic rock station and when Castiel didn't object, spent the rest of the ride listening to it. The silence between them sat more comfortably with the radio as a buffer.

x x x

On Wednesday evening, Castiel showed up at Dean's desk at exactly five o'clock with his keys out as though Dean was going to run away without him. It was almost cute. Dean smiled and powered down his computer. He wasn't going to miss his lift.

x x x

By Friday, Dean and Castiel had a routine. They'd start the ride in silence. Then Dean would say something and they'd make awkward conversation before Castiel inevitably said something that Dean found too uncomfortable- usually something too complimentary, but occasionally something too insightful- and he'd turn on the radio. The last ten minutes of the ride when they'd listen to the radio and make an occasional comment about the music were Dean's favourites. However awkwardly it began, Dean always regretted having to get out of the car and watch Castiel drive away.

It was on Friday that their routine was shaken up. It started when Dean and Castiel were still in their awkward silence phase. Castiel's cell phone rang and rather than let Dean answer it, Castiel insisted on pulling over and taking the call. Dean got to awkwardly half-listen to Castiel's side of a conversation with his brother.

"Gabriel," said Castiel into the phone. "You knew I would be driving home at this time." Castiel tilted his head as he listened to what Gabriel was saying. "That is not my problem, Gabriel. I have plenty of fun. There is a difference between loneliness and being alone."

Dean felt the need to cough. Castiel looked at him as though he truly had forgotten Dean was there. Castiel turned toward his window, putting more of a metaphorical barrier between himself and Dean.

"Dean is with me. I told you-" Castiel huffed a frustrated sigh. "He is not-" Castiel's eyes slid over to Dean, then back to the window. "If Dean agrees. Otherwise, I will see you tomorrow as planned." Castiel shut his phone.

It was then that Dean remembered that the guy at the sandwich shop, Gabriel, had known his name. He never had asked Castiel how Gabriel had known. "How did Gabriel know who I was the other day?" he asked.

Castiel looked at Dean as though trying to work out what he was thinking. "I've spoken to him of all the people in the office."

"But how did he know it was me?"

"I assume he put it together because I'd informed him you'd asked me to be your date to Matt's wedding."

That made enough sense for Dean to let it go. "So what do I have to agree to?" he asked.

"I beg your pardon?"

"Gabriel said something to you. On the phone."

"Oh," said Castiel. "I would much prefer it if you did not in fact agree."

"Well, you've got to let me know what it is first," said Dean. Whatever it was, he had a strong suspicion he'd be taking Gabriel's side. Castiel needed lessons in how to behave like a normal person.

"Gabriel's at a bar and he would like me to join him for a drink," said Castiel. "But knowing Gabriel, one drink will turn into several and then I'll be driving him home."

"But you'd have to drive me home first and that just seems like a waste of time," said Dean. "Why don't you want to go? It sounds like fun. Since Sam got married we don't get to hang out alone as often as we used to."

"There is no danger of Gabriel getting married in the near future," said Castiel.

Dean waited for Castiel to answer his question. He wasn't usually this evasive. If he didn't want to talk about something, he just didn't.

"Gabriel has a tendency toward lewd behaviour when he's drinking. Although I enjoy drinking sociably, I do not enjoy wrangling my brother."

Thoughts of Emma whirled through Dean's mind, but he would have all day with her tomorrow. "I could help you," he said. Going to a bar should have been one of Dean's triggers, one of the things he was avoiding in the hopes of avoiding sex for the next two months, but if he was there with Castiel and Gabriel how could he get into trouble? And like methadone for the heroin user, maybe he could use it to wean himself off.

"But you always need to go straight home," said Castiel.

"Yeah," said Dean. "I can call Sam. I owe you a couple of favours by now. Might as well collect while doing something I enjoy."

"Okay," said Castiel.

But though Castiel was comfortable talking to his brother in front of Dean, Dean wasn't. He got out of the car to call Sam. "Can you take Emma for the night?" he asked Sam when he picked up.

"Why the short notice?" asked Sam. "Can I collect on that bet already?"

"No," said Dean. "Castiel invited me to get a drink with his brother."

"Then it won't be all night, will it?" asked Sam.

"Probably not, but you know how Emma is."

"And you want to leave your options open," said Sam.

"Dude, it's not like that," said Dean.

"I guess not," said Sam. There was a pause where neither brother said anything before Sam broke it. "Is he hot?"

Dean spluttered, subconsciously checking on Cas through the window. He was tapping something into his phone. But as Dean watched Castiel, the other man seemed to sense it, lifting his head and locking eyes with Dean. Dean waved half-heartedly to indicate that his call was almost over. Castiel nodded.

"Well that answers my question," said Sam. "Don't do anything I wouldn't do."

"Bitch," said Dean.


Dean got back into the car. "I could really use a drink," he said.

x x x

It turned out that the bar was less bar and more nightclub. Gabriel was drinking something fruity and embraced Castiel warmly as soon as he saw him. Dean was a little stunned at the way Castiel immediately loosened and relaxed into the embrace, but he shouldn't have been. If Castiel couldn't relax around his brother, then he had serious issues that Dean hoped he would have noticed by now.

Gabriel smacked Dean on the arm in a friendly manner when he was done with Castiel.

"I believe you owe me a soda," said Dean.

Gabriel grinned and Dean wondered if he'd planned this. If Gabriel'd wanted Dean to go out with him. If Dean had somehow failed to notice that they were flirting the day they met. If tonight he was simply using Castiel as an excuse to be with Dean.

A week ago, Dean would have been flattered, but tonight the idea disturbed him. It was strange. Dean had thought that his self-imposed abstinence would make him want sex more simply because he couldn't have it. But he was starting to think it was freeing. Because he couldn't have sex he didn't have to think about sex, how to get sex and whether or not everyone he was talking to was thinking about sex too.

"Hey, since you've been a good boy bringing Castiel here, I'll make sure they put some whiskey in your coke," Gabriel said with a grin.

Dean's eyes slid over to Castiel. "Virgin's fine," said Dean.

Gabriel raised his eyebrows, but didn't make a comment. "How about you, little bro?"

"I have to drive home," he said.

"Vodka shots it is," said Gabriel before dancing away and leaving Dean and Castiel sitting on cushioned stools at a table.

"He's not actually bringing you vodka shots, is he?" Dean asked. Something about Gabriel was hard to pin down.

"He might," said Castiel. "And if I do not drink them, then he will."

"I can drive you home," said Dean. "You should be able to have fun with your brother."

Castiel shook his head. "Then you would be stranded at my house."

Dean had forgotten he no longer had the Impala.

"I have an almost inhuman tolerance for alcohol," said Castiel. "I metabolise it quickly."

Dean blinked. On one hand, Dean couldn't imagine a drunken Castiel. On the other, Castiel looked like a lightweight. Yet Dean had no reason to doubt the man was telling the truth. Castiel was blunt and upfront like that. Dean was growing to like that about him. There was no pretence involved.

When Gabriel returned with the drinks, Dean found that his had been spiked, and that Castiel was telling the truth about his metabolism. The funny thing was, Castiel also got drunk really quickly. After one shot, he was almost falling over, and in the next minute, he was back to being completely un-fazed and sober.

"How the hell do you do that?" Dean wondered aloud.

Castiel shrugged. "Gabriel has theorised that one of my birth parents was an alcoholic and the other a teetotaller."

Dean blinked at the casual reference to his parents thrown in. "So you never met them?"

"They passed away when I was three," he said. "My memories of them have been largely forgotten."

And because Castiel was sharing, Dean did too. "My mother died when I was four. In a fire. My dad was murdered six years ago."

"I'm sorry," said Castiel. And Dean could tell he meant it unlike most people who did feel sorry, but didn't really understand.

Dean wanted to get away from the awkward conversation, and since he didn't have the radio to fiddle with, he turned his attention to the dance floor. "You're single, right?"

"I am not currently in a romantic relationship with anyone," confirmed Castiel.

"So we should get you laid," said Dean. "I make an awesome wingman."

Castiel stiffened, every trace of the two shots he'd taken completely gone. "That will not be necessary."

"Oh come on, Cas," said Dean. "When's the last time you got laid?"

"I don't believe that's any of your business."

"Which means it's been a while. So just take a look around and let me know when you like what you see."

Castiel didn't even bother with a cursory glance over the crowd. His eyes remained fixed on Dean. "I don't believe in casual sex."

Shocker. "Alright, fine. Who would you like to date?"

Still, Castiel's gaze remained on Dean.

"Don't tell me you don't date, either," said Dean.

"I don't go looking for dates. I'm happy with myself and my lack of romantic attachments."

Dean didn't believe that for a second. "What do you mean you don't go looking for dates?" The concept eluded Dean.

"Occasionally I am asked and I consent," said Castiel. "And occasionally someone catches my eye. I don't go looking for companionship."

Dean found himself shaking his head. "That's all I ever do." Or did, up until a week ago. "Sometimes I just crave being close to someone and I can't help but follow through."

Castiel frowned. Dean squirmed under the force of his disapproval.

"Don't look at me like that," said Dean. "I'm an adult, spending time with other consenting adults. Does it really matter if I spend it with a lot of different consenting adults?"

"Don't you think it gives your relationships less meaning?"

"Well I don't generally consider them relationships unless we've slept together more than once," said Dean. "When I'm with someone, I'm always with them. If someone else comes along I always make sure to break things off before they go anywhere with someone else."

"Can you even call that a relationship if you're so quick to call it off?" asked Castiel.

Dean looked at the other man. "You'd rather I kept up a farce and cheated on someone?"

"No," said Castiel. "I'd rather you thought a little harder before getting into a relationship in the first place. I'd rather you thought before you dropped your last relationship. The next one never lasts, does it? Is it ever worth it?"

Although Dean had dated, he could count his serious relationships on two fingers. He'd dated Cassie Robinson for two months when he was twenty-two. And he'd spent a year with Lisa Braeden just before she got together with Matt. In both cases, Dean had been dumped, not the dumper. He didn't think Castiel had a right to say anything about his relationships.

"Well what about you?" asked Dean. "You're too afraid to date at all. How are you supposed to get a serious relationship out of that?"

"At least I won't be hurting anyone," said Castiel.

Dean stared at him. He was sick of this conversation. He was sick of Castiel and his judgemental eyes. Dean was fooling himself if he thought he'd gotten to know Castiel. He looked over at the dance floor. "I'll be over there when you want to leave."

Castiel's frown deepened, but he didn't move or make any other sign of acknowledging Dean.

Dean made a half-hearted attempt to find himself a dance partner before deciding he'd rather just get a taxi home. He checked his watch. If he left now, he could take Emma home for the night and spend the evening curled up with her. As he thought about her, he found himself calming down. He also found himself suddenly dancing with Gabriel. Gabriel, who was getting a little too close for comfort.

"Hey," said Dean, stepping away a little. "We don't know each other that well."

"We could," said Gabriel with a smirk. And yeah, they could. Gabriel wasn't a bad looking guy. He was obviously willing and there had been no mention of him having a partner. But Dean wasn't looking to back out of his bet. And he thought it would be weird with Castiel's brother. He didn't do office affairs because they made it a difficult place to work. The brother of a co-worker probably counted too.

"Not tonight," said Dean. "Tell your brother I'm getting a taxi home."

Dean walked away, out of the club and onto the street.

x x x

"Wait," called out Castiel from behind Dean.

Dean stopped and turned to look at the other man.

"Let me drive you home," said Castiel. "Gabriel can look after himself."

Dean wanted to say no but the truth was that he was tired. "Drop me off at Sam's," he said.

Castiel nodded.

The drive to Sam's house was silent save for Dean giving directions. That wasn't unusual for them and by the time they got there, it was almost comfortable. Castiel pulled the brake.

"I'm sorry if what I said offended you," he said.

Dean sighed. "It wasn't what you said." Dean knew that he couldn't keep going on the way he had been. It was why he'd taken Sam up on the bet. He'd known for years, if he was being honest, but he hadn't managed to force himself to try it. After Emma it felt like it didn't matter because he had her. "I've been trying to be different lately. I'm afraid it's not going to last."

Castiel looked at Dean. "I think you can do anything you put your mind to."

Dean winced at the cheesiness of the statement, but he appreciated the sentiment. "Thanks for the ride."

Castiel nodded. "I'll see you on Monday."

Dean smiled and got out of the car. He had a long way to go, but maybe he didn't have to take it more than two months at a time.

x x x

"Hey," said Sam when he opened the door for his brother. "What are you doing here?"

"I'm taking Emma home," said Dean, pushing past his brother into the house.

Sam shut the door behind Dean. "She and Jess are getting ready for bed," said Sam. He stood between Dean and the stairs to the upper storey of the house. "What happened?"

"I don't even know," said Dean. "We had a couple of drinks. We were talking and then... I don't know why I got so upset. I don't get upset." He was sometimes caught off-guard, or off-balance. Pissed off, defensive, sad, worried... but not upset.

"He struck a chord."

"We don't know each other," said Dean. "Not really. And he apologised. I just feel like he shouldn't have had to in the first place."

"Maybe it's because you're getting to know each other," said Sam. "You don't really have any friends."

"Gee thanks," said Dean. "You don't, either."

"I guess we're the same sort of screwed up." The Winchesters didn't have friends, but for two brothers whose parents were deceased with no siblings, they had a lot of family.

"By the way," said Dean. "You're going to drive me and Emma home."

Sam rolled his eyes. "You may as well just spend the night."

Dean hadn't realised it, but that was exactly what he needed.

x x x

With no further discussion about Friday night's events, Dean and Castiel fell right back into their routine. Dean looked forward to every morning and evening. Instead of a twenty-minute drive where he spent less time enjoying the feeling of driving and more time thinking it a necessary chore before he could get back to Emma, Dean had a twenty-minute ride of quiet companionship with Castiel. It was peaceful and exactly the right thing to get his head on straight.

Castiel was a punctual person. He arrived at Dean's house at exactly eight-thirty in the morning and came to get Dean from his desk at exactly five o'clock. So when Castiel hadn't shown up by ten past five one night, Dean got up to see where he was. As Dean got closer to Castiel's office, he heard a strange sound: Castiel's laughter.

Castiel wasn't a laugher. If he found something humorous, the corners of his mouth would tilt up or his eyes would sparkle. If he made a joke and Dean found it funny, he sat there with a pleased expression on his face. Nothing Dean said, crude or otherwise, could provoke laughter from Castiel. But whoever was in there with him now had him almost falling apart. Something that could have been jealousy burned through Dean's gut. Dean thought it was probably his competitive streak rearing its head.

When Dean entered the room, he was surprised to see that it was only occupied by Castiel and Balthazar. Balthazar wasn't funny. He liked to think he was, so sometimes Dean went along with it, but his jokes were terrible and often bordered on too rude for even Dean's taste. It was hard not to be in a good mood when Balthazar was in the room, but that was because he was good humoured and exuberant, not because he was witty.

As soon as Castiel saw Dean, he stiffened. Automatically he sat straighter at his desk and the wide smile slid off his face. "Dean," he said.

Dean nodded at Castiel in return.

Balthazar grinned at Dean. "Hey there, Dean-o."

"Balthazar," said Dean.

"I'm sorry," said Castiel. "Balthazar has been distracting me."

"I can see that," said Dean. Usually Dean would throw in some quip about exactly how Balthazar was distracting him, but tonight that sounded like it was too close to home. Dean didn't like it, and it was harder for Dean to brush off that feeling in his gut as competitiveness.

Balthazar's grin widened, but he stood and grabbed the leather folder he used in place of a briefcase, getting ready to leave. He was always quick to leave the room when Dean came in to share lunch with Castiel, but tonight he stopped by Castiel, ruffling his hair and pressing a kiss to his temple. Castiel tolerated it as though it happened all the time. It gave a new meaning to Castiel's hair being in a constant state of disarray. Did he keep it that way because Balthazar liked to mess it up? "Bye Cassie."

But Balthazar must just have been in a playful mood because he reached out to pull Dean into an inappropriate lip lock, then bumped his hip against Dean's as he left.

Dean couldn't possibly be jealous of Balthazar, but maybe he hadn't been completely honest with himself about his feelings for Castiel.

Castiel's cheeks were flushed and he avoided eye contact with Dean. "I'm ready to leave now," he said and walked straight out of the room before Dean could say another word.

x x x

"What is it?" Sam asked his brother. They were at Bobby's, Sam ostensibly escaping his own house for some brotherly bonding. Actually, he'd been parked at Bobby's kitchen table working all afternoon and trying to hide that he was the workaholic Jess painted him out to be. Sam probably wasn't fooling her. He had no reason to take his laptop with him if he wasn't going to be working.

Dean had spent the afternoon wandering between Emma and the Impala. He was unable to keep his mind on either of his babies for longer than a second and distracted Sam every time he ambled past. "What's what?" Dean asked, not looking at his brother.

"This mood," said Sam. "You've got Emma, you're working on the car and heck, even I'm here. You should be over the moon but you're pacing around like Captain Pissypants."

Dean drew up short. "I'm not in a mood."

"Fine, deny it," said Sam. "I've got a few more depositions to go over." He hit the space bar on his keyboard.

Dean went over to Emma and sat with her for a minute before grabbing a beer and sitting down next to Sam. "I think I'm jealous," he said. "And I don't know why."

"Jealous of what?" Sam asked. When Dean didn't offer anything further he amended his question. "Jealous of who?"

"I don't know," said Dean. "Balthazar maybe. Or Castiel." He took a gulp from his bottle, still avoiding eye contact.

The corner of Sam's mouth tilted up as though he'd expected that. "I see."

Dean pointed the lip of his bottle toward Sam. "You're not a damn shrink. You don't see anything."

Sam outright laughed. "Oh come on, Dean. You've been totally into Castiel since the day you made me drive you to get coffee. He's been picking you up in the mornings and driving you home every night, and every time we have a conversation you slip his name in every sentence. It's kind of cute, actually."

"Dean Winchester is not cute." But that was all he said on the subject. It didn't feel like a revelation to Dean. He liked Castiel. As with everything about Castiel, Dean felt as though he'd known it forever.

Dean set his bottle down and went out to the Impala. The car managed to keep his attention until evening.

x x x

Something about their relationship had to change now that Dean acknowledged he had feelings for Castiel. At the same time, Dean didn't want things to change at all. Besides not wanting to lose the bet, Dean didn't want Castiel to think that he was just another one in Dean's string of relationships. They were friends now, and romantic feelings aside, Dean didn't want to lose his friend. Sam hadn't been exaggerating when he said he didn't have any.

Though Dean hated to admit it, he'd put off getting a rental to replace the Impala for long enough. Dean was going to have to go back to being self-sufficient to leave room in their relationship for dates and dating. Because if Dean spent too much of the same, work-related time with Castiel, they were going to remain friends forever without any hope of more.

The night Dean decided was going to be his last ride home with Castiel was the first night Dean invited Castiel into his house.

Castiel blinked at him. "You want me to come inside?"

"Yes," said Dean. "There's something I want to show you."

"Okay," said Castiel, finally parking the car in Dean's driveway.

Dean waited as Castiel made his way around the car to Dean's side. Taking a chance, Dean reached for Castiel's hand. "This way," he said, leading him around the house.

"I thought you'd invited me inside your house," said Castiel.

"Well, yeah," said Dean. "But I want to show you something first."

The frown in Castiel's forehead deepened, but he didn't say anything. Dean walked over to the shed in the backyard, unlocked the door and pulled it open. He hit the light switch, and the single bulb illuminated a tarpaulin. Dean lifted the plastic sheet, and exposed his brand new motorcycle to Castiel.

"A motorcycle?" said Castiel, taking a hesitant step closer.

"A Harley Davidson," said Dean. "I used to have one of these back in high school. Before dad let me take the Impala to college." Sam had given Dean the idea inadvertently. He thought it was ridiculous and dangerous. Dean thought Sam's real objection was that he'd still need to give him and Emma rides sometimes.

"A Softail," said Castiel.

"Yup," said Dean. "I thought maybe I could take you out for a spin. To thank you for all the rides over the past few weeks."

"Oh," said Castiel.

Dean walked over to the shelves at the side of the shed where two black motorcycle helmets sat beside some gardening gloves and safety goggles he never used.

Castiel was still blinking, dumbfounded.

"You're not scared of them or anything, are you?" Dean asked.

Castiel scowled. "Of course not."

"Then come on," said Dean, tossing a helmet to Castiel. The man barely caught it. Dean watched as Castiel fastened the helmet over his head. The edges of his trench coat flapped in the breeze coming in from outside. "You're going to have to lose the coat. But I've got a jacket you can borrow."

Dean went inside to grab his dad's old leather jacket and the motorcycle jacket that had been thrown in free with the bike. He stopped to switch his leather shoes for boots. Castiel had removed his trench coat and his suit jacket. It was the most undressed Dean had ever seen him, though his shirt was still buttoned and he was still wearing his tie. Even at the club he'd kept his jacket on. Dean swallowed. "Here," he said, handing over the spare jacket.

"Thank you," said Castiel, sliding on the jacket.

Dean slid on his old helmet then threw his leg over the bike. "You ever been on a bike before?" he asked when Castiel hesitated to follow.

"Gabriel has always had an interest in motorcycles. We used to race motocross."

Dean blinked. He learned something new about Castiel every day. "Do you want the driver's seat, then?"

"I'd like that," said Castiel. "It's been years since I last rode."

Dean was more than willing to shift backward to be the one to wrap his arms around Castiel's waist.

Castiel took them on a course around a couple of blocks, passing Sam's house before he turned back toward Dean's. Dean wished they could take a longer ride, but Jess would be dropping Emma off soon.

When Castiel parked the bike in the shed and removed his helmet, it was with a genuine smile on his face. Dean couldn't help matching it. Had Castiel's eyes always been so blue?

A horn honked, and they both blinked, looking away from each other.

"That's Jess," said Dean. "I've got to go get Emma."

Castiel nodded.

Jess was unbuckling Emma from her car seat as Dean and Castiel walked up.

"Hi daddy," she said with a grin.

"Hey baby," said Dean, smile softening automatically when he saw her.

As soon as she was free, Emma made a beeline for her father.

Jess smiled. "One daughter, delivered in one piece as promised."

"Thanks Jess," said Dean. He had no idea what he'd do without Jess to take care of Emma until he got home from work every day.

"We had fun today, didn't we, babe?"

"Uh-huh," said Emma. "We finished the book about bears and started a new one about elephants."

"She likes their trunks," said Jess.

"I wanna know why they're called trunks," said Emma. "'Cause they're not like tree trunks. But elephant legs are like tree trunks."

"I guess we're going to have to look that up together, huh?" said Dean. "Thanks again, Jess."

"No worries. I love spending time with my niece." Jess waved one last time before driving off.

Dean noticed that Castiel was standing way too close to his car. He should have figured out how to bring up Emma to Castiel more smoothly. If there was any chance at all that he might have feelings for Dean, he was probably going to run off now that he knew Dean had a daughter. It was why he kept her a very private part of his life. Even when he was bursting with parental pride, Dean was careful about whom he shared Emma with.

"Come on in, Cas," said Dean, indicating the front door with his head.

"Cas?" asked Emma. For all that Dean had been keeping Cas from Emma, he found himself unable to keep Cas away from his conversations with his daughter.

"Yup," said Dean. "That's Cas." He continued to stare at Castiel until the man moved away from his car and toward the door. He smiled and shifted his daughter to his hip so that he could carry her one-armed.

"Hi Cas!" Emma waved and threw Castiel a brilliant smile.

Dean melted.

"Hello," said Castiel.

Dean realised that Castiel had no idea what Emma's name even was. Dean had probably slipped it into the conversation a time or two, without any reference to the fact that she wasn't his sister or some other family member, but was in fact his daughter. "Castiel, this is my daughter Emma. Emma, this is Cas."

"It's a pleasure to meet you, Emma," said Castiel. He smiled at her and Dean's grin widened. It was official. There was no resisting the charms of little Emma Winchester.

x x x

Dean set Emma down in her chair at the dinner table with her favourite doll. She was composing some sort of story with it. He shucked his coat and hung it up by the door on the hook labelled 'Daddy'.

Dean looked at Castiel who was still hovering by the doorway, looking ready to leave. He'd left his trench coat behind in the shed when they were interrupted, so he was still wearing the motorcycle jacket. "Sit down, Cas," said Dean, pulling a chair out with his foot. "You're staying for dinner."

"I don't want to intrude," he said.

"You're not," said Dean. "So unless you had plans with someone else, you're staying."

"I did not have other plans," said Castiel.

"Well then I hope you like spaghetti." Dean had half a dozen meals semi-planned in his head if Castiel didn't, but the man made no protests.

Dean looked at Castiel, sitting awkwardly stiff across from his daughter. "If you want a dolly too, you can grab one from the basket over there." Sitting on the sideboard was a fabric-lined basket of dolls and soft toys. If you wanted to be specific about it, they were Dean's toys. Emma's toys were kept in the living room and in her bedroom. But when she got old enough to start inventing her own stories and games, Dean had needed his own props to keep up. It wasn't something he'd ever told Sam. Dean had tried to stick to more manly toys (dinosaurs, robots, the Raggedy Andy to her Raggedy Ann), but a few of the toys that Emma didn't like ended up in his basket too. It was amazing how the simple act of putting a toy into his basket suddenly made it ten times more appealing to Emma.

From the kitchen Dean had a good view of the dining table and his daughter. He bent over to retrieve a saucepan, and when he looked up again, Castiel had a doll in his hands. He was examining it as though he had no idea what to do with it. Dean couldn't help his chuckle and smiled when Castiel looked up at him. Dean listened with half an ear as Emma explained her game to Castiel.

As Dean stirred the sauce he almost dropped the spoon when he heard Castiel laughing. Emma's giggle harmonised with Castiel's bass rumble. Dean set the spoon down and watched them. Apparently during the course of their game, the hair on Castiel's doll had gotten caught in its wings, and while trying to extricate it, the button on Castiel's shirtsleeve had also become entangled. Dean found he wanted to frame the moment and hang on to it forever. More than that, he wanted Castiel to stay forever.

Dean didn't let himself dwell on the depth of his feelings. Instead, he made his way over to help Castiel release the doll from his sleeve. As Dean brushed his fingers over the inside of Castiel's wrist, he felt the other man shiver. Their eyes locked for the second time that night. When the last of the doll's hair fell from the button, Dean found himself bringing Castiel's wrist up to his lips where he pressed a kiss to it. "All better," he said.

Emma burst into giggles. "You're only supposed to do that when someone's hurting."

"Oh really?" said Dean, raising his eyebrows and turning all his attention to his daughter. "Then I guess you don't want a kiss right now."

"No daddy," she said with another giggle and a smile.

Dean bent down to tickle her as he peppered her face with kisses saying, "What about here? What about now?"

Dean didn't notice Castiel stand up and check on the sauce, but he was thankful once Emma had collapsed into a limp pile and he remembered he'd been cooking dinner. When he looked up, Castiel was straining the noodles.

"Two seconds and we're going to have dinner, okay?" he said to Emma.

"Okay," she said.

Dean went over to the kitchen and tasted the sauce before setting a small portion aside for Emma and adding chilli flakes to the rest. Emma set her doll aside and Dean helped her wash her hands at the kitchen sink while Castiel piled pasta onto plates for himself and Dean.

"I don't know where to put Emma's portion."

"Chill out, dude," said Dean, walking over to the table and setting Emma in her chair. "Sit with Emma and I'll get it. You're a guest."

"Is Cas a guest?" asked Emma. "We never have guests."

Dean could feel himself colouring slightly as Castiel looked at him. "He's a special guest."

"Of course he is," said Emma. "He's our only guest."

Castiel sat down at the table, carefully and quietly.

Dean made up a small bowl for Emma, slicing her noodles into shorter pieces so that she could eat them more easily. He spooned sauce over the two larger plates and brought everything over to the dinner table. "Dig in," he said as he sat down. Dean followed his own command, eating quickly as he watched Emma with her own bowl and toddler-sized fork. Dean had figured out early on that it was better to eat quickly when Emma was around, or he might not end up eating at all because she'd inevitably get into some kind of trouble.

Castiel ate at a more sedate pace. "This is very good," he said.

"Thanks," said Dean. "It's a variation on one of my dad's recipes."

"Was your father a cook?"

"No, but a single dad has to cook sometimes. This version's actually healthier, because someone told Miss Emma that she had to have vegetables with every meal. My dad's was entirely hamburger."

"Daddy, you're the one who told me I needed to eat vegetables."

"Was that really me?" asked Dean. He set down his fork to wipe a smudge off his daughter's face. "Are you sure that wasn't Evil Daddy?"

"It was you," said Emma.

"Who is Evil Daddy?" asked Castiel.

"He's my evil identical twin," said Dean. "He's the one who gets Emma to take her baths and tells her when she's being naughty. We always dress exactly the same so sometimes it's hard to tell us apart."

"I'm never naughty," said Emma. "Auntie Jess said so."

"Auntie Jess lets you get away with a lot more than I do, honey."

They kept the conversation family friendly as Dean relayed to Castiel how he was trying to get Emma to have better taste in music. Mostly this consisted of Dean playing her his favourite songs. Since most of them contained objectionable lyrics, Dean now had tapes of only the instrumental solos.

"My favourite song is the banana ad," said Emma.

As songs from ads went, it wasn't so bad. But Dean would still rather listen to renditions of Baa Baa Rainbow Sheep. At least the song had more lyrics, nonsensical as they were. What kind of sheep had rainbow coloured wool?

"What is your favourite line?" Castiel asked Emma.

"The one that goes banana, banana, banana," said Emma, singing.

"Are you sure?" asked Castiel. "Don't you prefer the line that goes banana, banana, banana?" Castiel sang the same line back to her.

"That's the same," said Emma.

"I think the whole song's the same, baby," said Dean.

"No it isn't," said Emma. "There's the bit that goes higher. Banana, banana, banana."

"That's a key change," said Castiel.

"Oh," said Emma. "Banana, banana, banana," she sang, a semi-tone lower. "Is that a key change too?"

"Exactly," said Dean.

Castiel silently finished his dinner as Dean sang along with his daughter. Dean would be the first to admit that Emma could carry a tune better than he could, but she never seemed to mind him singing along.

Soon the meal was over, and Dean started to wrangle Emma into her pre-bed routine.

"I'd better go," said Castiel.

Dean wanted him to stay, but it was difficult with Emma right there. Grudgingly, he let him go. "I'll see you at work."

"Yes," said Castiel. "I suppose you will."

x x x

"Your daughter is very intelligent," said Castiel when they were eating their lunch on the rooftop the next day.

Dean had to stop himself from sighing. "She is. She reads like a five-year-old and has the vocabulary of a seven-year-old. I don't know what I'm going to do when she's ten and twice as smart as me."

"You are not unintelligent," said Castiel.

"I'm also not a genius," he said. "All my life I thought my brother was a genius, then my little girl was talking at six months old. I don't know where she got it. It certainly wasn't from my side of the family and her mother-" Dean cut himself off. Lydia was half the reason he didn't talk to people about Emma. He wouldn't call sleeping with her a mistake, but afterward he always wondered how he hadn't noticed that there was something off about her.

"I understand if you don't want to talk about it."

But Dean had to say it if he wanted to get anywhere with Castiel. And Dean definitely wanted. "Lydia set out to get pregnant so that I'd marry her, and if she couldn't get that, she wanted child support payments." The back of Castiel's hand brushed against his and Dean found himself able to finish telling the story. "When I found out that she'd gotten pregnant on purpose I knew there was no way in hell she was going to be raising my child. It took forever, but I finally got full custody a month ago thanks to Sam. Lydia still gets to see her once a month but Emma never spends the night with her."

"You never mentioned her," said Castiel.

"It's hard for me to talk about it," said Dean, illustrating the point by taking a bite from his burger. He took his time chewing and swallowing, and Castiel waited. "I can't pretend that I was looking to have a kid at this point in my life, but as soon as I heard about her I wanted her. I loved her. It's hard for me to share her with anyone else."

"I understand," said Castiel.

"I don't think you do," said Dean. He had no idea when he'd decided to put himself out there, but he wasn't going to back down now. "When Emma said we never have guests, it's not because we don't have people over at our house. Obviously Sam and Jess are over all the time. And Jo, Ellen and Bobby always want to see Emma. They're my family." Dean looked at Castiel to see if he got it.

"But I'm not," he said.

"No, you're not," said Dean. He leaned forward, hoping to make his intentions toward Castiel physically clear. But the other man stood, leaving Dean scraping his palms on the concrete.

"I'd better get back to work," said Castiel.

Dean blinked. The sting in his hands echoed that in his heart. How had he miscalculated? Dean thought he'd finally been able to get through Castiel's stoic, robotic exterior. He'd thought the other man was starting to relax, to become the man he could be around Gabriel and Balthazar.

Balthazar, thought Dean. Was that it? Were Castiel and Balthazar together? Did Castiel like Balthazar as more than a friend? He'd dismissed the possibility of Balthazar being into Castiel, but maybe it was the other way around.

Or maybe it was Dean. Way back when Dean had asked him to be his date to the wedding, Castiel had told him he wouldn't have sex with him. Maybe that was still true. Maybe Castiel didn't have sex with anyone. He'd been so reluctant that night at the bar.

Dean sighed and slumped back against the wall. He wasn't going to be able to figure this out on his own.

x x x

Dean had been expecting it. He was actually surprised that it hadn't happened sooner between all the hours Dean spent at work and slaving over the Impala at Bobby's. It didn't stop him from groaning when he saw Jo in his doorway after work that night. She came inside his office and closed the door behind her. Dean was effectively trapped with the woman.

"You and Castiel," she said. "Spill." Then she walked over and sat in the chair opposite Dean's desk. It was entirely there for show. Dean didn't have meetings with people in his office. Clients he wined and dined on the company's paycheck, and the two guys he was in charge of knew better than to sit down in his presence.

"What do you know?" he asked. There was no point explaining everything if she already knew.

"Everything," she said. "But I want to hear it from you."

"If you wanted to hear it from me then why did it take you a month to walk in here?"

"I was giving you space."

"Jo Harvelle being considerate? Tell me it wasn't you who broke the seals on Lucifer's cage."

"Ha bloody ha," she said. "Fine. I'll let you skip to today. What happened during your little lunch date?"

"It wasn't a date," said Dean.

"Mm-hmm," said Jo, leaning back in her chair like visiting royalty.

"I guess Sam told you I had Cas over for dinner on Friday night?"

"It was Jess, actually," said Jo.

Of course it was Jess. No one had expected Jo and Jess to get along as well as they did. Jess was more prim and Jo was more brash, but they both loved Sam, so it was inevitable that they either loved or loathed each other. Dean still wasn't sure which would be worse.

"I introduced him to Emma and he went straight home after dinner. Then today I was telling him about Lydia. I leaned in to kiss him and he just walked away."

"What exactly did you say?" Jo asked.

"I don't know," said Dean. "I was trying to tell him that he was important to me. You know how I am with Emma. And I let him meet her and stay for dinner and play with her. I was well on my way to a declaration. And I don't do declarations."

"I know," said Jo. "I still remember Lisa forcing you to tell her that you loved her by threatening to do something horrible to the Impala if you didn't."

"That should have been my first clue that that relationship wasn't going to work out."

"It's not like you didn't love her," said Jo. "If you hadn't slept together you probably would have been friends. If you didn't sleep with everyone you'd probably have more friends."

"You don't have any friends either."

"I have Ash," she said.

"I still can't believe you invited him to the wedding."

"If I hadn't, I would have had to listen to months of him telling me exactly how little sex he was getting and how much more he would get at a wedding." She glared at Dean. "You set such a bad example."

"I know, I know, I'm the root of all evil. What are you still doing here?"

"I have to admit the idea of you and Castiel never crossed my mind," she said. "But it really is kind of cute."

"Cute. Great." He sighed. "That is if I can ever get him to go out on a proper date with me."

"Does he know about your stupid bet?" Jo asked.

"No," said Dean. "I didn't want him to think less of me."

"It's a good thing," said Jo. "Not because of that, but because you don't want him to think the only reason you're doing all this is because of the bet."

"I'm not sure that it isn't," said Dean. The bet had started everything. If he hadn't needed to land himself a date quickly, he never would have even looked at Castiel. He could hardly believe that he'd chosen Cas because he didn't think he could be attracted to him. Who had he been trying to kid?

"Shut up," said Jo. "He was right there. You would have seen him eventually."

Dean really wanted to believe that. But part of him couldn't help but wonder if he was only fixating on Castiel because he wasn't going out to be with anyone else. Castiel was a great guy and it was good that they were friends. But it didn't mean that they should be anything more than that. It didn't mean that Castiel didn't have something going on with Balthazar. "You know everything that goes on in this place, right?"

Jo looked at Dean, wondering where he was going with this. "They call me the water cooler."

"Right," said Dean. "Did Castiel and Balthazar ever do anything?"

"Balthazar?" She laughed. "Why don't you just ask him yourself?"

Dean frowned. That wasn't a no.

Jo looked at him. "I'm pretty sure Castiel didn't have a libido until you came along. I can't believe you're second-guessing yourself like this. You really like this guy."

Dean had never felt this level of insecurity over a possible relationship before. With Cassie and Lisa he'd just fallen into it. They hadn't tiptoed around each other, hemming and hawing. They'd known what they wanted and gone for it. But Castiel was different. And Dean was pretty sure it wasn't because he was a man. "I guess I do."

"Then don't take no for an answer," said Jo. She stood up and reached over to pat him on the hand. "Good talk." Then she walked out as though she'd never been there.

Jo never took no for an answer. It was the only advice she could give. But Dean was going to take it. If Dean could just get a minute to explain himself he could fix this.

x x x

Dean was having trouble finding a minute. He had a few deals to close before the deadline for the next issue of the magazine so he was working lunches. Dean and Cas no longer had the commute to talk over and whenever Dean could scrape a minute between calling sponsors, Castiel couldn't look up from his keyboard or Balthazar was there and not leaving any time soon.

It was frustrating Dean, so he told Sam that the fuel line on his bike had come loose and he'd need a lift to work. He made sure Jo saw him climbing out of Sam's car. Then during his lunch break, Castiel came to ask Dean if he would like a ride home.

Dean couldn't help smiling, surprised that his plan had actually worked. He'd been sure that Sam would be driving him home that night. He'd thanked Castiel before rushing out of the office to meet Crowley, the owner of Kansas' largest classic car restoration company and the one negotiation Dean had to get through before he could call it quits for the quarter. Through no fault of his own, Dean's work was seasonal. It was like everyone wanted to wait until the last second before they decided whether or not to renew their ads for another issue. But Dean was good at what he did, and in his six years with the company he hadn't lost a client yet.

That evening, Dean didn't let them drift into awkward silence. With his captive audience he went straight for the hard question.

"Why did you run out on me on Monday?"

"I didn't," said Castiel in a perfectly even tone, though Dean could see his hands grip the steering wheel tighter. "I'd forgotten I hadn't set Balthazar a task to perform."

"Balthazar isn't a child," said Dean. "I thought he was your partner, not your slave."

"He needs reminding," said Castiel.

"Did I say something to offend you?" asked Dean. "Because I wasn't trying to and I'll apologise right now if you tell me what I did."

"It's nothing," said Castiel.

"The thing is, you kind of didn't let me finish what I was trying to tell you," said Dean.

"I was unaware. I thought the discussion had ended. I understood what you were saying."

"If you understood then why has it been so hard for me to talk to you this week?"

"I've been busy. You yourself have been busy."

Dean decided to just go for it. "Do you want to come over for dinner again?"

Castiel's eyebrows drew tighter together. "At your house?"

"Yeah," said Dean. "Was my cooking that bad?"

"Will your daughter be home?"

"Well, she does live there too," said Dean. "I'm kind of attached to her."

"I don't understand," said Castiel.

"It's dinner. What's to understand? You, me and Emma at my house. If you hate my cooking we can order in. If you hate my house we can all go out."

"You said you only have family at your house. I'm not family."

"And I was trying to tell you that you were exception," said Dean.

"Oh," said Castiel. He suddenly sounded a little surprised. "I'm afraid I misunderstood."

"You and me both, dude."

"I thought it was an accident," said Castiel.

"What was an accident?"

"Meeting Emma," said Castiel. "I enjoyed the ride so much I couldn't make it any shorter. I thought you invited me in to be polite."

"Meeting Emma could have been handled better, but I wanted you there. Why do you think I asked you if you wanted a ride on my bike?" asked Dean. Dean could see how Castiel might have gotten the wrong impression, though he'd tried to be as welcoming as possible. "The dinner I'm inviting you to? I'm asking you out on a date. And yes, Emma will be there, but we're kind of a package deal."

They were suddenly parked on the side of the road, half in someone's driveway.

Castiel lifted his hands slowly from the wheel as though they were disobeying him. "You're asking me out on a date?" His eyes locked onto Dean's, searching for something that Dean wasn't sure was there.

"I believe I did, yes."

"Oh," said Castiel.

"Is that all?" Dean found himself wiping sweaty palms on his trousers.

"I was unaware that you dated men," said Castiel.

"Well I don't, usually," said Dean. "Trying to change, remember? But, uh, Balthazar? Duh?"

"Balthazar?" said Castiel. "You slept with Balthazar?"

Castiel seemed a bit too confused by the idea.

"It was years ago, but yes," said Dean. "It wasn't a secret. I thought everyone knew."

"I don't pay much attention to office gossip."

"Well neither do I," said Dean. "But Jo's always telling me things."

"You and Jo are close," said Castiel.

"I haven't slept with Jo," said Dean. "If that's what you were asking."

"I didn't mean to imply..." Castiel coloured.

"It's okay," said Dean. "I mean, if we're going to go on a date you should probably know this stuff. Though I guess it's not usually the sort of thing people bring up on first dates."

"You don't need to tell me."

"I do. And since we're talking, uh, you probably already know this- I mean, it's something else I assumed you did know, right up until you said you didn't know about Balthazar."

"What is it?" said Castiel.

"I used to live with Lisa," said Dean. "Matt's fiancée. We were together for a year. I still go to her son's baseball games."

Castiel seemed to stare into space, processing.

"So if that's not too much baggage, I'm still waiting on an answer to my question."

"Okay," said Castiel.

"Okay as in, you're ready to give me an answer, or okay as in, that is your answer?"

"Okay as in, yes Dean, I'd like to have dinner with you and Emma."

Dean's smile almost broke his face. "Awesome." Thinking about this date brought Dean's thoughts to the first date. "I should probably apologise."

"For what?" asked Castiel. "The misunderstanding was my own."

"Not for that," said Dean. "I kind of sprung the whole wedding date thing on you. I shouldn't have just asked you like that."

"I didn't mind."

"Because you're an awesome guy," said Dean. "And um, if dinner goes well, I'd like it if you were really my date to the wedding."

Castiel smiled a real smile. It swept away worries Dean didn't know he'd had. "I'd like that too," Castiel said.

Castiel's smile also drew Dean's thoughts to his lips. "Cool. And um, I know I've been doing a lot of asking tonight, but I swear this will be my last question."

Castiel's eyes sparkled with amusement. "By all means, ask away."

"Can I kiss you?"

The soft press of Castiel's lips against Dean's was all the answer he needed. As first kisses went, it was pretty good. A meeting of mouths just long enough to affirm a mutual attraction, and just short enough to leave Dean wanting more.

They parted with swollen lips and heavy breaths. Castiel reached up to slide his hand across Dean's cheek, caressing his jaw before dropping it to the gear stick.

The rest of the ride home was silent, and the most comfortable Dean had ever spent with Castiel.

x x x

Dean and Castiel's first proper date was... not at all what Dean had expected. It started when he found himself freaking out about what to wear. Dean didn't freak out. He especially didn't freak out over clothes and first dates. Usually at this point, Dean would have called Sam, but Sam would never let him live this down. Dean was afraid that if he called Sam it would be real. Sure, he'd asked Castiel out on a date and the man had said yes, but Dean had also cleverly used his daughter as a buffer and pretended that it had to be that way.

Instead, Dean focused on Emma. He bathed her and changed her into a dress she'd picked out herself. (She hadn't, actually, but Dean didn't want anyone to know how long he'd spent looking at the little racks of tiny dresses covered in ribbons and trying to dress his daughter.) Once Emma was ready, she distracted Dean with a game of hide and seek. It was only when the doorbell rang that Dean remembered he'd been putting off choosing an outfit and was still wearing the ratty jeans and t-shirt he'd worn all day while working on the Impala. More than that, he was sweaty and grease streaked. Dean didn't even remember touching anything greasy. Dean and the garage were as bad as Emma and any bathroom she happened to be left unattended in.

Dean opened the door for Castiel and Dean had no idea what he was expecting, but it wasn't Castiel standing there with his trench coat over another suit with his tie askew. He couldn't help the smile that crawled across his face.

"Hey," said Dean. "I'm sorry I'm a mess. Emma got a little carried away."

Castiel just stared at Dean. Dean was pretty sure it was the good kind of staring, but it unnerved him a little.

Dean stepped aside. "Come in and uh, I'll just..." He didn't want to ask Castiel to baby-sit Emma while he changed, but it was probably the best solution to the problem.

"I assume you haven't had time to cook, either," said Castiel not unkindly.

"Uh, no," said Dean. What the hell had he been thinking when he planned this date? Somehow, in his head there had been wine and candlelight and Emma eating with silverware. Clearly he'd been going crazy. Castiel was making him crazy. "Guess it's delivery."

"Emma and I will choose what to order while you shower and change," he said.

"Thank you," said Dean. "But I don't want you to feel like you're the baby-sitter."

"Then don't take too long," said Castiel. The look he gave Dean sent shivers up and down his spine.

With the time limit, and seeing Castiel dressed the way Dean saw him every day, it was much easier for Dean to pick out clothes this time around. He spent most of his time in the shower removing the grease from his face and neck and hair. He towelled dry quickly and threw on a dark green shirt and a pair of jeans that didn't have any holes. He stayed barefoot and quickly went downstairs to make sure Emma hadn't done something irreparable.

Castiel had managed to find the take-out menus- God, what had he found while looking for those?- and was on the phone, asking Emma to repeat every item from their order. Castiel was ordering Indian food and though Dean didn't order there often, Emma was still able to recite his usual order with ease. He wondered what it said about him that his two-year-old daughter, genius though she was, could order dinner for him.

The highlight of the date was watching Castiel interact with Emma. Castiel was the kind of guy who would say that he wasn't good with kids because he wasn't the kind of guy who would make stupid faces at them or talk baby talk. But Castiel was the stoic kind of guy that little kids just gravitated toward, as though they knew, better than their parents, that he would never hurt them.

Emma was still working on her fine motor skills, so her words did come out with a baby lisp, but she was too smart to be spoken to as though she was a baby and Castiel never did. It was clear that she liked Cas. Of course, Emma had liked everyone she'd ever met. Even her pre-school teacher, an uptight woman who almost had Dean pulling Emma out on the first day because she didn't look like she had a sense of humour. But Emma had liked her, and Dean would always do what Emma wanted.

Castiel actually listened to Emma's stories. Like all little kids, her stories could be intensely long and rambling with absolutely no point to them. Even Dean, who loved every word that came out of her mouth, found himself hard-pressed to listen sometimes. But Castiel did so willingly and easily.

The best part was that Castiel stayed after Dean put Emma to bed.

"We should do this again without Emma," said Dean.

"I like her," said Castiel.

"I know," said Dean. "I felt like the third wheel on your date."

"I didn't mean to ignore you."

"It's okay," said Dean. "I'm glad you got along with her. It's pretty much the hottest thing ever."

"Oh," said Castiel in that way that he always did. As though Dean was highlighting some new corner of the universe.

Dean kissed his parted lips, pulling Castiel in close with a hand in his perpetually messed up hair. Castiel's hands made their way to Dean's waist, tickling slightly and making Dean squirm closer to him.

If this were any other of Dean's first dates, they would already be in bed at this point. But it wasn't, and Dean was enjoying that. He liked that there was no expectation to go farther. He liked that he hadn't felt the itching under his skin that made him go and get drunk somewhere and not come home all night. He liked that he could have this other, but maybe even better, feeling without leaving his home at all.

They didn't get below the belt or under their clothes and Dean didn't think he'd enjoyed making out with someone so much in years. Unfortunately, eventually they had to part.

"Same time next week?" asked Dean. "I'll get Jess to baby-sit."

"I'd like that," said Cas. That the smile on his face was still shy and it endeared Castiel to Dean more than he would have thought. He already couldn't wait.

x x x

Dean went on his third date with Castiel the week before the wedding. Dean found himself more nervous than he was on their first date. He knew what third dates meant to people who dated. He also hadn't exactly talked to Castiel about the fact that he wasn't having sex with anyone because of a bet. But the bet didn't matter so much to Dean as much as the fact that for the first time in his life, he wasn't ready for sex. He liked where they were and he didn't want to ruin it.

So after go-karting and dinner, when Castiel parked his car outside Dean's house, Dean didn't invite him inside. But that was where his self-control ended. The goodnight peck he'd been planning turned into something he wouldn't want his daughter to see. Ever. Not even after she had her own children if he ever allowed her to have children.

Dean's hands were trailing across the skin on Castiel's back. With what little of his brain he had left, Dean contemplated how far south he could go without getting into trouble. Then Castiel made the first move forward by sliding one of his hands down the front of Dean's pants.

It surprised Dean enough into pulling away. He wouldn't be surprised if he'd accidentally broken Castiel's fingers with the speed at which he pulled back. "I have to call my brother," said Dean and got out of the car.

He was going crazy, he knew it. He definitely could have handled that better. He was dialling Sam even before he got inside his house. Just as he calmed himself enough to turn around and look back at Castiel, the other man started his car and drove away.

"Hello? Dean?" Sam's voice sounded foreign in the night.

"Hey," said Dean.

"What did you do?" asked Sam, suspicion evident in his tone.

"Nothing," said Dean.

"Right," said Sam. "I suppose you're just checking up on Emma."

"Yeah, you know me," said Dean. "Dutiful dad."

"I suppose you're also calling to make sure I don't think you're sleeping with Castiel at the moment."

"I wouldn't," said Dean. He hadn't. Sam hadn't even heard about his first date until Dean was getting Jess to baby-sit for his second date. And last time Dean and Cas had been out too late for Dean to call without waking his brother.

"Emma's good," said Sam. "Ate all her vegetables and now she's sleeping. But I think I'm going to have to start reading more difficult books with her."

Dean sighed. "The no sex thing means no sex, right?"

"You've held out this long and you don't think you can last another week?"

"Of course I can," said Dean. "But I don't know if Cas can."

"I can't believe I'm about to say this," said Sam. "But you know that I only wanted you to stop having sex because I wanted you to stop sleeping with everything on two legs."

"Well there was that one chick with the prosthetic leg," Dean said, wincing at his pathetic joke.

"Not the point," said Sam. "I never expected that you'd actually be dating someone, and if you really like Castiel then the bet shouldn't have anything to do with how your relationship progresses."

"Get behind me, Satan," said Dean. "If I do anything with Castiel this week you're going to rub it into my face that I couldn't stick out two months."

"That's not what I'm trying to do," said Sam.

"I just want to know how you're defining sex," said Dean. "Like if I gave him a blow-job would that count?"

"Too much information, Dean," said Sam. "And yes, it would count. Penetration is the key word. Anything else doesn't count. Now can we please stop talking about your sex life?"

Dean was up for that. "Do you think Emma's reading at a first-grade level now?"

x x x

Castiel wasn't avoiding Dean, but there was a distance between them now that hadn't been there once they'd begun dating. They still ate lunch together. They still kissed when they saw each other. But a crevasse had opened and Dean had no idea how to bridge it.

Dean knew it was bad when he found himself crossing the street after work to see if he could talk to Gabriel about it. Dean didn't think he even liked Gabriel, but he was Castiel's brother and besides Balthazar, the only person Dean knew who was Castiel's friend rather than his.

Dean was surprised to find Lisa standing outside Gabriel's shop, staring up at Dean's office building as though it held all the answers. She was biting her bottom lip. Lisa didn't do that. She didn't get nervous. She was never unsure about anything. While Dean was certain that she'd put a lot of thought into breaking up with him and kicking him out of her house, she'd been secure in her decision once she'd made it. And she always made the right decision. The fact that she was standing there looking like a lost little girl was akin to any other woman having a nervous breakdown.

"Lisa," said Dean, putting his hand on her shoulder.

Lisa startled as though she hadn't seen Dean cross the road and walk toward her. "Dean," she said.

"What's wrong?" asked Dean. He could never resist a damsel in distress. Even when the damsel was not a friend and way less hot than Lisa.

"The wedding's on Saturday," she said.

"I know," said Dean. "You invited me, remember? Shouldn't you be at a rehearsal dinner or something?"

Lisa shook her head. "I'm just waiting for Matt."

"Across the street? In the cold?"

"Yes, the cold," said Lisa. "I don't think I should be talking about this with you."

"Then call your sister," said Dean. "Better yet, cross the street, ride the elevator and go talk to Matt."

"If I do that," she said. "I'll probably end up breaking it off with him."

"What? No," said Dean. He hadn't gone through all of this trouble with Cas for Lisa to call off the wedding. "That's beyond ridiculous."

"No, you know what's ridiculous? That I'm still with Matt after all these years."

"I don't know," said Dean. "You seem pretty compatible to me."

"We're not," said Lisa. "You and I are compatible. Matt and I are like oil and water."

"Which one of you is on top?" asked Dean.

She ignored the comment. That was a bad sign. He changed tact.

"If you and I were so compatible then why did you break up with me?"

"We would have been comfortable together the rest of our lives," she said. "I mean, you moved in after one beer. We fell right into it."

It had been easy for Dean, living with Lisa and Ben, even knowing that the kid wasn't his. He'd wanted to be a father. He'd wanted to be... he'd wanted to be Lisa's husband and he'd kind of assumed that it would just happen eventually. When it didn't, it had made Dean question everything about his life, thrown him a loop he was just now straightening.

"Being with Matt isn't easy," said Lisa.

"Maybe it's not supposed to be," said Dean, thinking about Castiel. "It's why you broke up with me, isn't it?"

"Well, yeah," said Lisa. "But I didn't think I'd marry the first guy I slept with after you. He was supposed to be a rebound."

"I think you could have chosen a better rebound than my boss," said Dean.

"Shut up," said Lisa. "You got over this years ago."

"So why are you freaking out? You've been with him longer than you were ever with me."

"I'm not freaking out," said Lisa.

"If you're not freaking out then why are you standing outside a sandwich shop two days before your wedding?"

"I'm-" She cut herself off. "I'm freaking out."

"Yup," said Dean. "So say what you need to say so you can stop."

"I need to talk to you," she said.

"We are talking."

"I mean I think that's why I'm here instead of inside," she said. "You're the one person who can tell me if I'm being stupid."

"You're being stupid."

"I've been wondering if I was wrong to break up with you," said Lisa. "I didn't want to think about it, but I am. All you've done since I broke it off is have a long list of one-night stands. And I've been happy. I don't think I have a right to that. And before we even got together I think I was just waiting for you."

"Lisa," said Dean, looking straight into her eyes. "I love you. I always will. But you're looking for excuses right now, and you're not going to get them from me. I might not be as happy as you are, but I don't think I would be any happier if we were still together. And," he added, "I'm sort of trying this thing with Castiel. I wouldn't have that if it weren't for you."

"Ben has more in common with you," said Lisa, not yet processing his words. "You only lived with us for a year but I still think Ben thinks of you as his dad."

That, Dean hadn't been expecting. Feelings filled him up inside, warm, but guilty, too. It was the way Dean was used to feeling whenever the topic of family came up. "I can't say I ever stopped thinking of him as mine. But I'll tell you what I told Ben when I realised he was worried about how he'd fit into my life when Emma was born: There's always room in your heart for more love. And I'll always come to your baseball games."

Lisa cracked a smile. The first one Dean had seen all evening.

"And if one dad can have more than one kid, why can't a kid have more than one dad?" Dean added.

Lisa hugged him. "Thank you," she said. "That's exactly what I needed to hear."

"What are exes for?" asked Dean. He sighed as he saw Castiel leaving over Lisa's shoulder.

She turned to look. "Is that Castiel?"

"Yeah," said Dean.

"Let me buy you a sandwich and you can tell me about him?" she said, indicating Gabriel's shop with a tilt of her head.

"Uh-uh, no," said Dean. "No more stalling. You're going to walk right over there and tell Matt you love him and that you're looking forward to marrying him and then you're going to go home together and I am not going to imagine what happens next because you might not be like a sister to me, but you're still family."

"By the way," said Lisa as she was about to step onto the street. "You totally saved me by choosing Castiel as your date. I was going to have to sit Ben's grandmother with my mother."

"Wait," said Dean, and she did. "Who were you going to sit Castiel with?"

"Dean," said Lisa. "You're sitting with Castiel now. You're the ones sitting with Ben's grandmother."

x x x

Dean pushed the door of the sandwich shop open.

"We're closed," said Gabriel. He threw a dishtowel down onto the counter and crossed his arms.

"I was kind of hoping to talk to you," said Dean.

"Okay," said Gabriel. "Start with who the woman was."

"The mother of my child," Dean said, rolling his eyes. "Absolutely no threat to whatever it is I have going on with your brother."

"Okay then," said Gabriel. "Maybe I don't have to hit you just yet."

"I need you to tell me why the hell your brother's pulling away from me."

"Sorry, I don't get involved," said Gabriel, not looking sorry at all.

"I know I kind of pulled away, but I've been trying to make it up to him and he's not letting me get anywhere."

Gabriel groaned. "You are so pathetic," he said.

Dean would have been offended, but it sounded like Gabriel was actually going to help him out.

"Castiel's parents died when he was too young to remember," said Gabriel. "For some reason people thought he was weird, so he was never adopted. When I was seventeen and he was twelve, my dad decided to be a foster parent, so we took in Cas. Fostered a few other boys as well, but Cas was the only one who stayed. And then my dad left and my mom was left with an extra kid she didn't really want. So Castiel tried to be a good son, but he was never going to be hers biologically, so it never seemed to matter to her."

It was strange hearing Cas' story from Gabriel. Like Dean was spying on him without his permission. But Gabriel had told the story freely. He hadn't asked for it. "I get it," said Dean. He had to be sure that he wanted Castiel for the long haul, because if he didn't, the damage might be irreparable. "Thanks, Gabriel."

"If you really wanted to thank me," said Gabriel. "You'd buy me candy for the rest of my life."

Dean looked at him. "A bag of M&Ms," he said, trying to think of the least romantic kind of candy around.

"With peanuts," Gabriel said with a grin.

Dean rolled his eyes and walked away.

x x x

Dean had a plan to corner Castiel on Friday. It involved spending a lot of time bribing Jo with favours she could cash in, which he was sure to regret in the future. She was sure to make him do something humiliating but he thought it would be worth it to talk to Cas before the wedding. If he didn't, he'd inevitably make a scene hopefully at the reception but probably right in the middle of the vows. He should have been a professional wedding crasher.

But Castiel wasn't at work. He'd called in sick. And when Dean considered going to visit him to check up on him, he realised that he had no idea where Castiel lived. Dean was pretty sure he had the general neighbourhood down, but short of going there and knocking on every door he saw, he didn't think he was going to be able to find Castiel.

Cas picked up when Dean called, but he coughed and retched and had to hang up before he could get a sentence out. It would have wrenched Dean's heart, but he was pretty sure that Castiel was faking illness to avoid him. It was childish.

However little the time they'd spend together, Dean liked to think he knew Castiel. And Castiel wasn't going to skip out on Matt and Lisa's wedding unless he really was dying because he'd made a commitment. So, if Dean had to make a scene or tackle Castiel physically, that was what was going to happen. They needed to talk. And wasn't that a new experience for Dean? His relationship with Lisa had come together so quickly that he'd never had to talk to her about it. Their deepest conversations had come after their break up. With Cassie, she'd done all the talking and he'd gone along with it. But now, all Dean wanted to do was talk to Castiel. Sex had become the farthest thing from his mind.

x x x

Dean spent the morning of the wedding putting the finishing touches on the Impala. True to Dean's estimation she was ready to go, almost factory fresh if you didn't count the Legos, the army men, the scratched initials, and Emma's car seat. Dean had been looking forward to being the one to drive Castiel to the wedding, but that wasn't happening today.

Sam rolled his eyes when Dean went to dump Emma on him earlier than expected. Dean showed up at the wedding long before it was scheduled to start. He was pretty sure he was the first guest to arrive who wasn't reading or an usher. Lisa's mother kept shooting him dirty looks as though he was going to try to steal her daughter away from her own wedding, especially after he decided to sit on the bride's side of the church. He half wanted to tell her that he'd had the opportunity two nights ago and that he'd made sure she wouldn't be running away from her own wedding. It wasn't that they didn't get along, but it was no secret that Mrs Braeden thought Matt was a better match for her daughter. It didn't seem to matter that Dean agreed, though he wasn't entirely certain that Matt deserved Lisa.

Castiel didn't show until the very last second. As soon as he'd taken his seat the bridal march began. Dean was keeping an eye on where Castiel was sitting, but there was nothing he could do about it until the ceremony was over.

His attention was caught by Lisa in her flowing white gown, and the look on Matt's face when he saw her. Dean focused on Ben standing beside Matt, looking so grown up in his little tux. Dean should have brought a camera. He guessed he'd have to make do with copies of whatever professional photos were available. Ben looked nervous, but proud. Dean felt exactly the same way, looking at him.

When the minister called for objections, Dean didn't miss the way Matt's eyes flickered in his direction. Dean couldn't resist pretending he was about to get up and turning the motion into a stretch and a shit-eating grin. No one else said anything and the minister moved on.

The second Matt and Lisa were pronounced husband and wife, Dean immediately began thinking through his exit strategy. Unfortunately, he didn't have one. He realised he was too far away from Castiel. The second Cas saw him stand, he was gone, and Dean knew he wouldn't be able to catch up with him until much later.

The reception didn't officially begin for another couple of hours, and Dean had a feeling he wasn't going to see Castiel until then. And that was only if he was lucky. He sucked up his feelings and went to see if he could get to spend some time with Ben. He didn't get to see the kid nearly often enough. Some of the strain eased when Ben gave him a hug and Dean ruffled his hair. Ben complained that his mom would nag about it and Dean told him he'd take her on for him. Dean let himself relax. If Castiel wanted to ruin the experience by being childish that was fine. Dean was going to enjoy himself. He was going to drink champagne and eat canapés made of unidentifiable animals and vegetables and make sure to tell embarrassing stories about the bride and groom to people he'd never met before.

x x x

Dean's table at the reception turned out to be a hodgepodge of misfits from work (including Jo and Ash) and a couple of older friends of the family: Lisa's next door neighbour, Ben's guitar teacher and of course Ben's grandmother. Between the year he'd lived with Lisa, and working with Matt for the past six years, Dean realised the guests were largely composed of people he knew, if only in passing. He had no idea why Lisa had had such a hard time seating him.

Castiel finally showed up when most of the guests were in their seats, rather than milling around. He stopped to talk to everyone at the table except Dean before he finally took his seat and generally acted as though Dean wasn't there and that he wasn't supposed to be Dean's date. Just as Dean opened his mouth to say hi, the master of ceremonies introduced the bridal party, and the enthusiastic applause and music drowned him out. Just as Dean guessed Castiel had planned. How he had the timing down so perfectly was beyond Dean.

Then there was dinner, and speeches between the courses, so there wasn't much opportunity for conversation. It didn't help that Jo kept making kissy faces at him. Dean knew she wasn't stupid. She knew he and Cas were not in the best place in their relationship, but she was persisting as though it was supposed to help. Clearly she did not understand the gravity of this situation.

But Dean was thanking God for Jo when the speeches and the sit down dinner were over and she dragged Castiel onto the dance floor. It didn't take more than her smirking at him for Dean to step up and cut in before Castiel knew what was going on.

Castiel frowned at Dean, but allowed himself to be led. Dean was a terrible dancer, and even worse if he wasn't leading. There was something too unsettling about being unable to see where you were going. When the song ended, Castiel tried to walk away but Dean kept a firm grip on his hand.

"Cas," said Dean. "Can you please stop avoiding me?"

Castiel looked at Dean for a moment, before he stared at the other guests. "Okay," he said.

They moved out of the main hall and down the corridor.

"I agree," said Castiel. "We should break up."

"Wait, what?" said Dean, feeling like he was in high school all over again.

"Obviously things aren't progressing the way either of us want them to, so yes, we should break up."

"Look, I get that I pulled back a little," said Dean. "But I backed up an inch and you ran like ten miles. Are you saying that's all because you thought I wanted to break up with you?"

"I like you, Dean," said Castiel.

"Well I like you too," said Dean, leaning in. He wanted to end this conversation right here. He wanted to push away all thoughts of Castiel leaving him- with his lips.

"Dean," said Castiel, his frown set deep. "I like you. I found you attractive the moment I first saw you. I only grew to like you more, to see youmore, as I got to know you."

And God help Dean, but he had to ask. "So why did you say no when I asked you if you'd ever sleep with me all those weeks ago?"

"I thought that was a joke," said Castiel. "I thought Balthazar had let slip something about my feelings for you."

"Feelings," said Dean. At the time he'd thought Castiel was an unfeeling statue. How could he have not noticed a guy as good-looking as Castiel was interested in him?

Maybe Dean had noticed. Maybe that was why he'd never given Cas a second glance before two months ago. He'd always had a rule never to sleep with anyone he worked with. He'd only slept with Balthazar because he hadn't known they worked for the same magazine at the time. Balthazar was new and hadn't actually had his first day of work yet. So while Balthazar had been under contract at the time, they hadn't been working together.

"I didn't know you," said Castiel. "But I liked you then and my feelings have grown. When I see you with Emma I want you both in my life so badly."

"Then why do you want to break up with me?"

"Because these things don't just happen. The man I have a grade-school crush on isn't supposed to turn around and suddenly see me one day. He's not supposed to be charming and witty and the absolute best person I've ever met. You're not supposed to get more beautiful every time I see you. You aren't supposed to have a daughter I can see myself loving years into the future. You're not supposed to be perfect. You're not supposed to be real."

"For starters," said Dean. "I am so far from perfect. I drink too much. I'm way too attached to my car and my brother. I swear worse than a sailor. My not-yet-three-year-old daughter is smarter than I am. I break the speed limit as a matter of course." Dean paused, gathering his next thoughts. "I have trouble talking about my feelings. Up until two months ago I slept around like I needed sex to survive. I use jokes and laughter as a defence mechanism. I try my hardest to keep people away and when I let them in, I can't let them go. They become a part of me and I'm never whole again without them. I'm full of empty spaces and cracks. I can't be beautiful because I'm not real."

"Yes you are," said Castiel, putting his hands on Dean's shoulders and squeezing him tightly, gazing so deep inside Dean that he couldn't get away even if he wanted to. "You're brash and arrogant, but you're gentle and kind at the same time. You're loud and obnoxious but you're sincere and honest too. You love with your whole heart. And that's why I know we can't be together. Because I'm not one of the people you hold to yourself so tightly. And I can never be that."

"Castiel," said Dean, making sure the other man was looking at him. Dean tried to pour all the love and affection he couldn't speak into that one look. "You already are. Why do you think I've been chasing you around all day? I can't let you go." Dean honestly hadn't thought much about it. Thought about why he didn't just let Castiel pull away from him. Why he didn't let the relationship fade out. Castiel was already part of his family.

It was as though Castiel became a different person. The stiffness he'd always carried disappeared entirely. Castiel leaned forward and Dean met him halfway in what had to be their best kiss to date. Maybe they hadn't spoken those three words yet, but they'd both heard them.

Screw the bet, thought Dean. Screw Sam. He was going to screw Castiel tonight. They couldn't let this newfound openness get away.

x x x

The woman at reception smiled at them knowingly as Dean paid to spend the night in the hotel. Neither he nor Cas could wait the time it would take to get back home. Why had Lisa decided to have this wedding right on the outskirts of town?

Dean and Castiel made out like horny teenagers in the elevator, taking turns pressing each other against the mirrored walls and chasing friction from each other's hips. They accidentally got out on the wrong floor and ended up pressed against someone else's door for ten minutes while Dean tried to get the keycard to work before Cas worked out that the numbers didn't match.

Dean couldn't bring himself to care as he distracted Castiel from his laughter as they took another trip in the elevator. With Cas in the lead this time, they found the right room and dove onto the bed together like teenagers on prom night.

"I can't believe you're here," said Castiel, stroking his hand along the stubble on Dean's cheek.

"Believe it," said Dean, feathering kisses along Castiel's jaw. Cas' head tilted upward to give Dean better access and he let out an uninhibited moan. Dean followed with a moan of his own.

Fingers pressed along shirtsleeves as suit jackets and waistcoats were finally removed and shoes were kicked off. Belts and ties were loosened and slid off. Trousers went next and naked knees parted naked thighs. All the while they battled between trading kisses on lips with kisses on other body parts.

Shirts were unfastened painstakingly and Dean groaned with frustration when he realised that although his chest was now bare, Castiel was still wearing a sleeveless undershirt. Castiel laughed and Dean didn't think he'd ever heard the man laugh so much as he had in the last half hour. Dean danced his fingers at the edges of the fabric, along Castiel's naked skin and he was rewarded with a ticklish burst of laughter.

"Stop that," said Castiel, trying to regain control over himself.

Dean grinned. "I don't think I can."

Then Castiel's hands were down Dean's boxer briefs and he forgot what he was doing, squeezing Castiel's hips tightly and thrusting forward into Castiel's grasp.

A beeping sound came from somewhere on the floor and Castiel looked up, some of his earlier stiffness returning.

"Ignore it," said Dean, using Castiel's distraction to pull his undershirt over his head and finally expose his naked chest to the world. It was the first time they'd been this bare with each other. It was fitting that it would also be the first time they made love.

"I love you"s were spoken as they climaxed together and nothing could stop Dean's tongue from finding Castiel's and joining their lips in a mating dance. They wiped themselves as clean as they could and then curled up together under the sheets, sweat-slick, sated and supine.

They tangled their fingers together and their breaths intermingled across the scant distance between them.

"Tell me why you thought you weren't good enough for me," said Dean, stroking a circle along Cas' back.

Cas sighed, and buried his head in Dean's shoulder. After a moment he turned his head so that he could speak. "I saw you with Lisa and the two of you were so relaxed together. I didn't think we could ever have that."

"Is this it?" asked Dean. "Do we have that now?"

"Yes," said Castiel, pressing a close-mouthed kiss to Dean's lips. "We have more than I ever imagined."

"Great," said Dean. "Because I'm going to sleep now, and I really want to wake up with you here in the morning."

"Always," said Castiel, and he tucked himself tighter against Dean. Dean wrapped his arm around him and drifted off to sleep.

x x x

For Dean, waking up was familiar in its unfamiliarity. The sheets beneath his skin weren't his own. The air carried the tang of sex. He was completely naked and there was a comfortable throb in his ass reminding him of everything he'd done last night with Castiel. Remembering Castiel was the best part of waking up. He liked that he could have this moment and would savour it again and again with Castiel.

Dean rolled over and found wrinkled sheets where he'd expected to find Castiel. It was a little disappointing, but not cause for alarm. Castiel had promised he'd be there. Dean sat up and blinked the last of the sleep from his eyes. Though Dean saw his clothes piled neatly on the single chair in the room, there was no sign of Castiel's clothing. The door to the bathroom was wide open and though the light had been left on, it was completely empty. The room didn't have a balcony.

Castiel was gone. And from the looks of things, he wasn't going to be coming back.

Dean threw himself back under the covers. He was so sick of this. Of having Castiel and having him slip away again. He'd thought everything that needed to be said had been said. What could have sent Castiel away before Dean had even woken up?

Maybe it had nothing to do with him. Maybe Castiel had left him a note or something. Dean looked around the room, but the complimentary hotel stationery remained untouched. Dean picked his phone up off the top of his clothing. The first thing that showed up was a little window with the words "Sex Ban Over" displayed. The calendar reminder he'd set back when he and Sam had made the bet. He'd completely forgotten about it. And Dean hadn't been the one to leave his phone on the chair. If Castiel had seen this... there were a lot of ways he could have interpreted that, given their history of miscommunication. Dean didn't think there was a way he could have interpreted it flatteringly.

Dean sighed and dragged his hands through his hair. He was going to fix this. And with any luck, it would be last time. He made his way to the shower. He couldn't pick up his daughter looking like this.

x x x

Sam looked at Dean and saw that he was wearing yesterday's tuxedo. "Did you sleep with Castiel?" he asked.

Dean looked straight into Sam's eyes. "Yes," he said.

Sam smiled. "I'm glad."

"Because you won a fucking stupid bet?" Then Dean remembered the beeping that had temporarily interrupted them the night before. That was his calendar alarm. He hadn't technically had sex with Castiel until after midnight, though it was a foregone conclusion at that point. "It was after midnight, so you didn't even win."

Sam raised his eyebrows at Dean. "You're usually happier after you've gotten laid."

"The one time I want to wake up in the bed with the guy and he's not there," said Dean, unintentionally letting Sam see how much this was hurting him.

Sam let Dean into the house. "Jess has Emma in the bath again. I told her not to put syrup on her pancakes."

Dean managed a smile at the image.

"If you want to stay," said Sam. "We don't have any plans for today."

"No thanks," said Dean. "I just want to take Emma home."

"You know I'm always on your side, right?" said Sam. "I want this to work out for you."

"Yeah," said Dean, already moving toward the stairs. "I know."

x x x

Dean didn't want to think about it. But on Monday morning, Dean ended up in the elevator with Castiel. The fact that the other man didn't even look at him pissed Dean off. He hit the elevator stop button and stood in front of the panel so that Castiel couldn't get to it.

"We need to talk," said Dean.

Castiel frowned. "We don't have anything to talk about."

"I'm pretty sure we do," said Dean. "You walked out on me yesterday morning."

Dean had been expecting Castiel to make an excuse, but he didn't. He stood right in front of Dean's face and said, "I did."

"Is this about what it said on my phone?" asked Dean. "Because maybe you shouldn't have been snooping in the first place."

Castiel seemed to treble in size and Dean wondered if Castiel was going to hit him. That would be a relief for Dean, actually. Dean knew where he stood in a fist fight. In a relationship, with someone whose communication skills were as poor as Dean's own, he was a mess.

"You lied to me," said Castiel.

"Omitted some less than savoury facts about myself," said Dean. "Don't tell me you haven't done the same." Dean didn't want to piss Castiel off, but he felt like it was the only course of action he could take. Otherwise Castiel would just ignore him until the end of time. Dean wasn't willing to accept that. Maybe this would end their relationship for good, but Dean didn't want to be left wondering 'What if?'. He had enough of those in his life without adding this to the list.

"I never lied to you," said Castiel.

"Well bully for you," said Dean. "I didn't lie to you. I made a dumb bet with Sam and didn't tell you because I didn't want you to think I was a moron. I didn't want you to think that some stupid bet was dictating the way our relationship progressed. I didn't care about that bet. You know what the prize for winning was? Absolutely nothing."

"Then tell me why you made the bet," said Castiel. "You certainly haven't been honest about that."

It was time for Dean to put the rest of his cards on the table. He could only hope that Castiel realised it was time for him to do the same. "I told you I used to sleep around a lot more. I guess you could say that Emma was a symptom of that, but Lydia wanted to have her, so that wasn't entirely my fault. I'd get this urge and the only thing I could do was go out for a drink and go home with someone. Preferably someone I hadn't gone home with before, because I didn't want things to be complicated. And I know this is going to sound stupid, but two months ago, I slept with a woman, who stole my car and trashed it."

Castiel nodded. He'd heard these pieces of the story.

"Sam and I were waiting for the tow truck when we made the bet. He bet me that I wouldn't be able to go without sex for as long as I wouldn't have my car. I fixed the last of it the morning of the wedding, but the bet didn't officially end until midnight. Sleeping with you had nothing to do with the bet and everything to do with the fact that I thought we'd agreed to move forward together. That you'd stop pulling away from me."

"I don't think I can trust you," said Castiel. "I want to believe you, but I can't."

"Cas," said Dean, leaning closer to Castiel. They were a whisper away from each other and though their breaths intermingled, Dean could still feel a barrier between them like a layer of cling wrap. "I can't make you trust me overnight. I can't make you believe me right now. I just need to know that you still want to be with me."

"I do," said Castiel. "I've wanted you, in one way or another for years, it seems. I've ached for you, Dean Winchester."

"Then take me," said Dean.

"I don't know if I can," said Castiel.

"Cas," said Dean. "I can only help you- help us- if you tell me everything. I need to know."

"I don't know how to love anyone," said Castiel. "My parents died before I knew them. I never lasted in a home longer than a few months until Gabriel's father took me in. I thought I loved him, but he left. I tried to love my foster mother, but it was hard because I knew she never loved me."

"You love Gabriel, don't you?" said Dean. "I mean, you guys are pretty close and you're not even blood-related."

"Yes," said Castiel.

"And, do you think he's going to leave you? Do you think he might one day pick up and go somewhere else without telling you?"

"I fear it," said Castiel, thinking about it. "But no, I don't believe it will happen."

"It's the same here," said Dean, taking one of Castiel's hands and placing it over his own heart. "You're afraid. I get that. It took years before I let anyone in after my mother died. But you don't have to let that feeling control your life. You can let yourself love me. I love you."

"I love you, too," said Castiel.

"And just so we're clear," said Dean. "I've slept with a lot of people over the years, but I'm kind of hoping you're the only one I'll ever have sex with ever again."

"Dean," said Castiel, trailing a finger across Dean's cheek.

"Yeah Cas," said Dean. "I'm right here."

They kissed, opening themselves up to each other, sealing their promise with a kiss. Dean released the emergency button and the elevator started moving again.

"Tonight," said Dean, tugging Castiel to his side. "I'm driving you home. It's time you and my other baby got acquainted."

x X X x

A/N: Thanks for reading!