The next morning, Dean woke up in his old room, with Castiel curled up against him. When they'd first started sharing a bed, Castiel had slept facing away from him in a fetal position, clutching a pillow like it was some kind of security blanket. He still slept in a fetal position, but now he faced Dean, his arm forever reaching toward Dean, as if he was trying to keep him from getting away.
Dean had never had a normal sleeping patterns due to years of keeping watch over Sam while his parents were gone and four and a half years of doing most of his studying and reading at night. Since he'd met Castiel, his hours had become more regular and he'd gone from his normal four hours to six or seven hours. He wasn't sure why having Cas nearby had made him sleep more. Maybe it was because he didn't have to look out for Castiel like he'd had to look out for Sam. Maybe it was purely comfort. Maybe it was because Castiel was somewhat of an old man and spent hours in bed, sleeping, grading papers or reading. He didn't know why, but he certainly didn't mind it.
Dean reached his hand over and brushed a piece of hair off Castiel's face. He still needed a haircut.
Castiel stirred, always a light sleeper, and smiled up at him. "Hey there. Merry Christmas eve."
"Merry Christmas Eve. Today we celebrate the day before the birthday of some dude a bunch of delusional people think is God." Dean said, chuckling a little bit.
"You're such a heathen." Castiel said. He moved out of his fetal position, rolling onto his back and stretching. Dean took in the bit of skin that showed around his waist when his thin grey t-shirt rode up.
"Mmmm." Castiel moaned, stretching more, jutting his hips upward, trying to shake out the kinks from his body.
"Are you trying to get me all hot and bothered first thing in the morning?" Dean murmured. He reached over and dragged his fingers along Castiel's hips. "Doing that."
"I'm just stretching." Castiel's voice was rough, but it had some humor in it.
Dean flattened his palm on top of Castiel's left hipbone. "Sure you are." He whisked his fingers up the side of Castiel's body, keeping his touch soft, barely applying any pressure. He traced the notches between his ribs and he felt Castiel shudder. Dean knew his weak spots now and these feathery touches were one of them. Getting straight to the point, he scooted close to Castiel and straddled him, without putting his full weight on top of the smaller man. He bent over and kissed him on the forehead and then on the mouth and moved his hands up the front of his shirt, continuing to barely apply any pressure.
"You are awful." Castiel groaned.
Dean just shut him up by pretending his fingers were spiders, moving down the front of his boxers. Castiel just groaned as Dean worked out the rest of his kinks
When Dean finished, he leaned over Castiel and whispered in his ear."That was the first of many Christmas presents."
"Mmm, then you might have to give me another one once I've woken up some more." Castiel said, yawning.
"I think I could oblige that." Dean said, grinning and rolling over on his side and propping himself up on his elbow.
He looked beyond Castiel and out the window. it was uncharacteristically sunny outside. He was used to spending his holidays in Oregon. It didn't really snow that much in the Pacific Northwest, not like it had during his childhood in Kansas. He had actually been looking forward to a white Christmas, as clichéd as it sounds. Instead, it was sunny and bright, the temperature not dropping below 35 once since he'd been home.
Castiel turned over and looked at him. "Are you glad you came back?" He asked, semi-seriously, still post coital and sleepy.
"I am. I don't know why I stayed away for so long. What about you? Be honest."
"I am. I love your family. They've made me feel very welcome."
"They do that." Dean admitted. "As fucked up as my family is, they're actually pretty great with new people. Especially Sammy. I know I've said this, but that son-of-a-bitch can read people. I'm glad my dad isn't here though. This would have been a totally different experience if he were hanging around for some reason."
"Where is he, Dean?"
"I don't know. I haven't spoken to him in almost a year. He's probably drunk somewhere. Sam hasn't seen or heard from him since he came and saw him at the hospital. My mom just doesn't really mention it. I think it hurts too much."
Cas just nodded a little bit, not probing anymore, even though Dean could tell there were questions about John Winchester on the tip of his tongue. Dean flopped back on his back and the two of them laid there in silence for awhile, Dean drifting in and out of sleep. It was warm and comfortable in his old bedroom and even though it had been years, it still felt familiar. He remembered when he and Sam were kids, they would wake up at 5am, while it was still dark, and scurry down the stairs and sit next to the tree, shaking their presents and peeping into their stockings. Sam would always beg Dean to wake up their parents, but Dean always made him wait until the sun rose. He remembered one Christmas, one of the last years when John Winchester had been around regularly, his father had gone into the front yard and drawn reindeer tracks into the snow. Dean was too old for it at that point, but Sam wasn't, so he went right along with his father, feigning shock and excitement. Dean remembered how his father used to smell like coffee and pipe tobacco instead of whiskey, sweat and ash. He remembered the ecstatic smile on Sam's face when he saw the reindeer tracks, how his eyes had lit up and he'd been overcome with so much joy. Sam's eyes didn't light up anymore, but honestly, that was mostly chemical.
So much had changed, so much had gone wrong since the fake reindeer tracks, and it amazed Dean that he was still so comfortable in this house. Here he was, laying in bed with another dude in his childhood bedroom, which should have freaked him out, but it didn't. In fact, he didn't mind it at all. Like the night before, Dean felt warm, happy and loved. He didn't really give a shit about the holidays, but the sentiment was definitely there this year. He glanced over at Castiel who was staring at the ceiling and blinking, a soft smile playing on his lips. Dean felt like he had known Castiel for years, not a mere four and a half months. Everything felt different now. Cas made Dean sleep and he made Dean reunite with his long lost Kansas family.
After some more sleep and more Christmas sex, he and Castiel padded down the stairs to greet the Winchester family. Sure enough, Mary Winchester had made a large breakfast for the four people staying in the Winchester household. Sam was already awake, which surprised Dean because he usually slept in until 1 or 2 during holidays (and these days, all of the time), and he was sipping coffee and reading the paper. For the thousandth time since he'd arrived in Lawrence, he was struck by how normal Sam seemed.
"You're up early." Dean said.
Sam looked at him darkly. "Someone was loud."
Dean's face turned red. Castiel was really, really fucking loud. Dean kept forgetting that he was sharing this house with other people. This was the second or third time they'd woken Sam up. He was pretty sure that his younger brother would never let him forget it.
"Don't worry, Dean. It just reminded me of when we were kids." Sam said, chuckling a little bit. "You tried to be so quiet when you sneaked those girls in. Oh man, Cas, I could tell you some stories."
Castiel just smiled a little bit, but actually looked a little green. Dean couldn't tell if it was because he was envious or embarrassed. Knowing Cas, it was probably a combination of the two.
Mary Winchester came into the dining room and pointed them to her pancakes and eggs and the four of them sat around the table talking and joking, a very picture of domestic bliss. That was until Mary brought up the very subject that he had tried to avoid at brunch the previous day and in bed with Castiel just an hour earlier.
"Your father called." She said carefully.
There was no escaping it. There was no way he could return to Kansas without dealing with the man. Even the magic of having Castiel around and having a normal version of Sam sitting next to him could prevent that.
Dean just groaned. Sam blinked a few times, but he had seen their father in the last few months, while Dean hadn't seen him in years.
"Dean, it's Christmas." Mary said. "He's your father. He's my husband."
"It's not like I had a choice in either matter." He said. Dean hated his father. He hated him. John Winchester was one of the reasons that Dean hadn't come home in so many years. Whenever he came back to Kansas, his father always tried to insert himself back in his life, full of promises and niceties. It never ended well, since they didn't get along and because his father was a drunkard who treated them like crap.
Mary winced. "He just wants to come over for dinner tonight. I didn't say yes. I swear. Not yet."
"I don't want to see him. You shouldn't either. I don't know why you haven't made him sign the divorce papers." Dean said.
Mary winced again and didn't respond.
"Dean." Sam said quietly. "She has a point. It is one dinner. You haven't seen him in years."
"That's the point. I didn't come back here to see him. I came back to see the two of you."
"He's family, just like we are." Sam said.
"He's not my family."
"Dean, honey, please. I promise, this time he won't stay over. He'll come for dinner and leave. He wants to see you. He doesn't even know what you've been doing with your life. He didn't even know if you had graduated or not." Mary said.
"Well, whose fault is that? He has my number, Mom. He could have made an effort. He could have gone to see Sam when he was in the hospital without being an asshole. He could have stopped drinking himself to death when we were kids and stuck around for more than a few days at a time. He could have been a father. He could have, you know, not beaten the shit out of you for years. He chose not to do any of those things though." Dean yelled.
Mary recoiled as if Dean were the one hitting her. Sam's face darkened and he lowered his head into his palms. Castiel, who was sitting next to him, visibly tightened up and drew his mouth into a taut line. His mother's eyes filled with tears and she stood up and bolted out of the room. They heard the front door slam.
"That's the Mary Winchester we all know and love. Running away whenever that fucking asshole comes into the picture." Dean said. He was angry at her but he also knew it was his fault for being so cold. He couldn't help it. His dad pushed all the wrong buttons, brought an angry side of him out that he rarely showed anyone.
He stood up and began clearing the table, ignoring Sam and Castiel who were both staring at him as if he were the smoke monster from Lost. He didn't know if they were mad at him. Sam always got angry when he upset their mother. It didn't matter how right or wrong Dean was, Sam was fiercely protective of their mother, probably because he had never really known how bad John Winchester could be. This was because Dean had always tried to shield him from it. He didn't know what Cas thought. Dean wasn't actually sure he'd ever told Castiel about why he really hated his father.
Dean went into the kitchen and began to do the dishes. His eyes prickled with tears. Things had been going so well. He thought this trip back to Kansas would end up being perfect, a treat. He thought things had changed. Before the mention of John Winchester, he thought this trip home would be the one that would keep him coming back.
Castiel came in and stood next to him, staring at him in that curious, resolute way that had creeped him out when they first met. He knew now that Cas was studying him, trying to figure out the best way to confront him without creating conflict.
"I'm sorry, Cas. I'm sorry you have to put up with this crap." Dean grumbled. "I don't think I ever told you about that. You shouldn't have had to hear all that."
"You told me once." Castiel said. "That night you puked on my Toms. It didn't surprise me then and it doesn't surprise me now. I don't blame you for not wanting him around."
"He's just such an asshole, you know? I hate him. I hate how angry he makes me. I hate how much he hurts her, both physically and mentally. I hate him for not even knowing Sam. I just wish he would get out of our lives completely." Dean whispered.
"He sounds like an awful person." Castiel said bluntly.
"I don't know why she just won't leave him completely. They haven't even been together in years. Sam said that he heard that he's dating women around town and has been since she threw him out for the last time when she came back from Ohio."
"She loves him. It's stupid, but she's right. He is her husband and your father. But I disagree with her and Sam. That doesn't mean you should have to allow him a place in your life."
Dean set the dishes down and turned to Castiel. "What about all that stuff you said about blood yesterday?"
"Blood doesn't mean family. I know that… I should know that better than anyone. I always knew that. That's why I haven't looked for my mother since grad school, since things got bad because of my dissertation and my search for her. She's not my family and a man like your father doesn't have to be yours." Castiel said, staring at his shoes.
Dean sighed. "I know, Cas. I know this."
"Sam and your mom are family though." Castiel said pointedly.
Dean groaned again, hating Castiel for always being right, hating him for making him confront this yet again. They went back out to the dining room. Sam was still sitting there, teeth gritted and anger etching his features. He looked like he was trying not to yell or cry or possibly both. He looked up at Dean and didn't say anything.
"I'm sorry. I shouldn't have said all that to her." He said.
"I just hate it when she leaves like that." Sam mumbled. "It just reminds me when… well, when things were really bad." He glanced at Castiel and shut his mouth.
"I'm going to go upstairs and sketch." Castiel said, leaving them alone.
"He knows everything about us, doesn't he?" Sam asked. His voice was bitter. Dean hadn't realized that this had bothered Sam, then he remembered the night before, when Sam had been so embarrassed about Mary's forward attitude about his medication schedule in front of Castiel and Jo.
"Pretty much." Dean admitted. "I don't know, Sammy. I trust him. I love him. Telling him about everything, letting him share some of this crap you and I have been dealt has made a lot of difference. It's why I'm here now, dealing, instead of following mom out the door."
"You told him about the abuse? Does he know everything about me too?" Sam asked, his eyes darkening.
"Not everything. Not every detail." Dean said. "I wouldn't do that to you. He doesn't know about… things that happened. Just the basic stuff."
"So he knows that I am schizophrenic and that I'm routinely hospitalized and that I see demons when they taper down my antipsychotics too much?"
Dean gulped. "I'm sorry."
"You said it though. He's the reason you're here."
Dean just nodded. It was true. He never would have come back here if he hadn't met Castiel. He probably would have chickened out and stayed in Plainville over the holiday if Cas hadn't agreed to come with him. There was a chance Dean would have gone two more years without seeing his brother if he hadn't tripped over Castiel in the quad five months ago.
"You've changed." Sam said roughly.
Dean just nodded again, his cheeks heating up. Sam knew all this talk was embarrassing him. He hated seeming too vulnerable, too trusting, even if it was just in front of his brother. Hell, especially if it was in front of his brother. He'd cared for Sam for so many years that he still couldn't lift the façade that he could shoulder everything.
"Then I'm glad you told him. I'm glad he's here." Sam sighed. "If he's the reason for you sitting here with me, if he's the reason you're happy, feeling less burdened, then he's okay in my book and I guess I don't mind him knowing all of our dirty secrets."
Mary Winchester didn't come back for two hours and the house became unbearable, so Dean took Castiel and Sam over to the Singers for a few hours to exchange gifts. Being in the presence of the Singers, who were so jovial and so apple pie normal made Dean feel even worse. As Jo unwrapped the girl-shaped lava lamp he had gotten for her at a Goodwill in Plainville and screamed with laughter, he couldn't even laugh along with her. He could barely muster up enough spirit to return Jo and Bobby's bear hugs. When they left to return to the Winchester house, Dean understood acutely why Castiel had left the Singer house feeling so empty the day before. After all, the grass is always greener at Singer Salvage.
When Sam, Dean and Castiel arrived back at the house and Mary was still gone and not answering Sam's phone calls, Dean opened the bottle of whiskey he'd brought for "emergencies" (aka a normal day in the Winchester house) . The three of them spent the remainder of Christmas Eve day watching South Park holiday reruns because A Christmas Story made Dean want to shoot people. Dean didn't chug the whiskey, but sipped on it, allowing it to dull the sharp edges of pain and anger that wouldn't leave him.
Sam, as usual, was handling it remarkably better than he was, making small talk what to do for dinner that night and taking his pills exactly on schedule, making a point to announce it to Dean, to prove that he could still be normal, despite the slightly fucked up circumstances. Dean was glad for it, but he didn't understand how someone with such a fractured mind could be so calm. Dean had dealt with this for years and it had just broken him down. Broken him down so much he'd run 2000 miles away. Dean hated his father and he didn't like his mother very much right now, but always running, that was a trait the three of them shared.
"Do you think she's with him right now?" Dean asked, his voice slurring a little bit. He had been drinking since 3pm. Now it was 6:30. Mary had been gone since 11 and had ignored seven of their phone calls.
Castiel glanced at him, looking a little worried. He knew Cas hated it when he drank liquor. He had hated it since the night at Trickster's. Dean understood because he hated it when Castiel drank liquor too. Sometimes they just couldn't stop each other.
"I don't know." Sam said. "I wish she would at least call. It's Christmas Eve. Nowhere is open. I don't know where else could be."
Sam wasn't handling it so well now.
"I'm sure she's fine." Castiel said nervously.
On top of being angry at his parents and worrying about Sam, Dean hated himself for objecting Castiel to this. He had never wanted Castiel to experience this part of his life. Right now, Dean wanted to be back in Plainville so badly that he could taste it. If he could leave Sam alone in good conscience, he would have forced Castiel to drive them to the airport or at least to a hotel in Topeka.
"We shouldn't be sitting here moping." Sam said. "Let's at least make some dinner. I think Dean needs something solid in his system."
"I agree." Castiel said, glancing at him again.
Dean watched as Castiel's eyes began to dart back and forth. He could tell that Castiel was reverting, just like Dean himself had when he'd opened the bottle of whiskey three hours earlier. At the sight of the skittering eyes, Dean sighed and set his glass down on the table. "I'm done. I'll put that Digiorno pizza in the oven."
Castiel followed him into the kitchen.
"You alright?" Dean asked him.
"I'm okay. It's just unfortunate that she chose to do this on a holiday with you back in town." Castiel said. "What about you?"
"Honestly, I'm surprised the visit was pleasant for nearly two days." Dean said, shrugging. "This is what it's like. This is what it's always been like. Hell, I'm used to it. Sam's used to it. I'm just sorry that you have to get used to it."
"It could be worse. At least we're here together." Castiel said, smiling feebly. His right eye twitched.
"Cas, your eyes." He said. "When you start getting all twitchy, I know something's not right."
"I'm sorry. It's just… I don't know, I can't help it. When I get nervous, I twitch. Always have."
"Dean drinks. You twitch. I talk to my imaginary friend, Ruby. Mom runs. We've all got our issues." Sam said, coming into the kitchen.
Dean grinned in spite of himself. Leave it to Sam to make him smile. "He's got a point, Cas. In the grand scheme of things, I guess your eyeballs moving a little bit doesn't really compare to how the Winchester clan deals."
Castiel relaxed a little bit at the sight of the smile on Dean's face. Dean immediately felt better, even though he was a little bit drunk.
"Sam, not to be even more of a buzzkill, but she's not—" Dean started.
Sam waved him off. "Not in months and months, Dean."
"Leave it to Sammy to make the best of this situation. God love you, little brother." Dean said.
After dinner, the three of them sat in the living room, not talking too much. The air was still tense and there wasn't much for any of them to say. As usual, Sam passed out on the couch. Dean had South Park on, but he was no longer watching it. Cas brought his sketchbook down and sitting with his legs coiled underneath him, a position Dean never had found comfortable, furiously sketching something with a black ink pen.
Dean glanced over at it and as usual, it made no sense to him, a tangle of black lines, all intersecting, surrounded various 3-D shapes drawn to appear as if they were melting. Dean wondered what it meant, was dying to know what any of it meant, because Cas got so into it. Cas was currently ignoring him completely, his glasses perpetually falling down his nose, his brow furrowed in concentration. He bit his lip as he shaded in one of the melting triangles.
"Cas, what are you drawing?" He asked.
Castiel actually jumped, so absorbed in his work that he was surprised by Dean's voice. He cleared his throat and looked down at it.
Castiel stared down his sketchbook, silent. "I don't know." He said after a minute.
"None of it makes sense to me." Dean said. "Whenever I look at it, I'm confused. You're good though and you're always drawing. I want to understand it."
Castiel shrugged. "It doesn't make sense to me either."
"So you're like, an abstract artist? Like, Dali or something?" Dean just said the guy's name because there weren't too many artists he knew and Cas had a Dali print up in his living room in Plainville.
Castiel's eyes widened and he let out a barking laugh. "Dali? No Dean, I could never hope to be that good."
"What about those paintings? The ones you shredded? What were those all about? I liked them." Dean said.
He was being earnest because the second he'd saw those paintings, he was pretty sure he'd fallen just a little bit in love with Castiel. They'd been so bizarre yet so brilliant, so unlike the dry academic he'd assumed Castiel would be. Seeing them had surprised Dean completely, showing him a side of Castiel that he knew many people didn't see.
Cas swallowed and looked away. Dean felt his heart drop a little bit more, which was the exact opposite of what he needed tonight. Castiel closed his sketchbook and held it tightly against his chest. Dean watched him closely and to his dismay, Castiel's eye twitched.
"I'm not a good artist." He said, suddenly evasive, as if Dean were poking around somewhere he shouldn't be. Dean was reminded of the day before Thanksgiving break, when Castiel had gotten defensive and slightly angry when Dean had poked around his sketchbook.
"Yes, you are. Baby, you're great." He said, leaning forward and wrapping his arms around Castiel's narrow shoulders, bring him closer. He expected Castiel to relax against him, lose the tension like he usually did, but he didn't. If anything, he clutched the sketchbook closer.
Dean released him and his heart fell even further. "Sorry." He muttered.
Castiel's eye twitched again and then he blinked several times, as if he were trying to stop it. Dean knew he was wound up because of the day's events and possibly still reeling from the two days spent with the Singers. Dean knew he was being selfish, objecting Cas to all of this. He'd expected too much from him, expected him to adjust to his family, his life here in Lawrence, when really, it was too much for him.
"You're a trooper. I'm sorry to put you through this." Dean said, almost begging for his forgiveness. "As soon as my mom gets back, we'll go home, okay? I'm sorry, Cas."
Castiel sighed and closed his eyes for a minute. He finally released the sketchbook and set it on the coffee table in front of them. "Dean, once again, you underestimate me." He groaned.
"I'm not underestimating you, but you're so… tense right now. You have been all day. I don't want you to be. You shouldn't have to put up with this."
"Dean, I'm not putting up with anything. I am not here to indulge you. I'm here I want to be here. I love you and I want to be in your life completely. Your life here isn't easy, in fact, it's more difficult than I imagined, but I'm dealing with it and so are you. That's what matters."
"But you're so wound up, Cas. You don't seem okay."
Castiel's eyes opened and he actually looked a little angry, "Dean, for the love of God, drop it. I've told you, a million times, I am not going to break. I am not made of glass." He hissed, glancing over at Sam's sleeping form, trying to keep his voice low.
"Cas, I know you aren't, believe me, I do. I'm just worried. You're so tense and your eye is twitchy and you're drawing weird shit. I'm worried because I care, that is all. I want to look out for you." Dean said. He knew saying that would piss him off, but he was genuinely so worried.
"Dean, I could say the same thing about you drinking and getting pissed off. We are both dealing in our own ways, okay? You don't have to take care of me all of the time." He said, his eyes getting darker. "Right here, this is the package. This is me. When I get nervous, I get tense and my fucking eyes move around a lot. I can't help it. I draw because it makes me feel better. It doesn't mean I'm not okay."
Dean couldn't respond to that. Once again, Cas had just put him in his place. He suddenly felt extremely idiotic for fawning over his boyfriend like he was a porcelain doll. He was fawning over him, worrying about him, like he was Sam. Except Cas wasn't Sam and neither of them needed him trying to take care of them all of the time. As Dean thought this, Sam began to snore, as if he was bored by Dean's attitude toward.
He looked at his brother, who was 22, had a near genius level IQ and had dealt with the day's events better than any of them, chemical imbalance be damned. He looked at Cas, who looked extremely annoyed, yet also extremely adorable. Then he remembered that Cas could hulk out and he looked less adorable. Sam and Cas had layers and Dean was not their caretaker.
"Dean, come back to me." Cas said, repeating one of Dean's own lines back to him.
Now Dean was blinking, realizing he'd spaced out for a minute. Cas reached over and stroked the side of his cheek. "I love you. I care about your family and what happens to them" He said, his voice softer. "You know that, right? That is why I'm here, twitching and sketching like I am."
Dean almost made a joke, but he didn't. He was suddenly exhausted, too tired to be good humored, too tired to worry about anyone anymore. Instead, he just leaned against Cas, who pulled him close, and whispered more "I love yous" and reassurances in his ear. Dean fell asleep on his chest.