Dean had always been flexible in that department. There was something to be said for the way his hands fit along the curves of a woman's hips, but still the men, with their hard muscle and sharp angles, were always a welcome challenge. When he'd started coloring outside the lines of sexuality at age eighteen, he'd expected some strong reactions. But John Winchester was blinded by obsession. As long as Dean could memorize Latin and shoot a crossbow, his sexual escapades were his own business. And Sammy was still young enough, and in a bizarre twist, sheltered enough by the hunting life, not to have been colored by any conservative prejudice. Dean was his big brother, and while he was smart enough to know that Dean sometimes made some dumb choices, he couldn't do anything (or anyone) that would change how Sam felt about him. As far as anyone else was concerned, despite their generally backwater appearance, hunters tended not to care about that sort of thing. Taking down the demon that wanted to bleed your ass dry was usually more of a priority than whether the guy who was handing you salt rounds preferred to spend his off hours chasing skirt or liberating young business men from their tailored suits. Since Dean was interested in playing both teams (and they were both interested in playing him, that was for damn sure) why deny himself the chance to double dip?

But the first time he had stood before Castiel, Dean had found his loose boundaries stretched beyond their limit.

"I'm the one who gripped you tight and raised you from Perdition."

And snap. Dean had felt a shiver under his shirt where the brand of Castiel's hand still lay raised and tender. The tenuous net of ideas that Dean had clung to all his life about attraction, about sex, hell, about love was unraveling in face of this rumpled, gravel-voiced stranger. Dean, being the pragmatic guy that he was, attempted to process this self-discovery in the most reasonable way possible: by stabbing Castiel in the chest with a knife made to kill demons.

A year later there was much water under the bridge, but sometimes Dean still thought that jamming a knife in the angel's chest was the best way to deal him.

The thing about Cas was that he wasn't human. He looked human, and from time to time he could act human, so that Dean would almost forget, but underneath that vessel was something entirely different from the common man on the street. Castiel was a warrior of God. He was a soldier on a never ending tour of duty. Cas had, for lack of a better word, a language barrier. Two millennia of observing humanity and he was barely literate when it came to body language. What Dean (and the average person, he liked to think) translated as "take me against this wall right here and now" Cas understood as "I have something of minor importance to tell you". It was frustrating, to put it politely. Toss that in with a demon blood addicted brother, the recent death of most of the people he had considered his family, and the goddamned Apocalypse, and Dean was about ready to call it in.

It had started with Bobby, who put a knife through his own ribs to keep from killing Dean after the old hunter had been possessed by a demon. He had died, of all places, in a hospital. Ellen and Jo had not been so lucky. Dean could still hear the explosions in his dreams, right along with the baying of hell hounds and the screaming of every soul he had torn apart in Hell. Then there was Sam, trapped in a hell of his own making and Dean had no idea how to pull him out. Through it all, flickering sporadically in and out of his life, was Cas. Castiel, whose long stares made Dean's heart ache and his spine tingle. Whose increasingly bitter sarcasm tore at Dean like Alistair's knife. Christ, Dean was tired. Tired of losing people he cared about, tired of failing his little brother, and tired of dragging down an angel who could never love him back. Who shouldn't have to.

The final straw came outside a seedy motel in a town that had succumbed to the insanity of religious fervor. Cas was drunk. Castiel, Angel of the Lord, was drunk, his hair disheveled and his glorious blue eyes glazed over in pain as his hangover set in. It had to end. Dean made his decision that night, his heart growing cold as he pulled out of the parking lot, Sam's voice still calling after him. He drove all night, replaying his greatest hits. Every one of Sam's smiles (Jerk. Bitch.). Every touch of Cas' hand, accidental or intentional (What the hell? Guess again). He found Lisa, saying his goodbyes to what dreams he'd had of an ordinary life. God there was so much truth in what he said to her. He'd wanted it, the family, the mundane life with a son and a garage and a lawnmower. Before an angel had pulled him out of Hell and put him back together, writing his name across his heart and leaving his handprint on his soul like a neon sign that read "Property of Castiel". Before Lucifer had put his claws into Sam, dragging him closer and closer to the edge. There would be no peaceful life for Dean. But it would be over. He finally understood what Gabriel had meant. No more Sam battling with himself. No more Cas, dying before his eyes. He just wanted it to be over.

In a small town outside of Milwaukee, Dean went in search for Michael. Another angel found him first. Castiel stood across from him in a dark alleyway behind a church where Dean had hoped to find one of the angels' informants. Cas stared at him, unblinking, his gaze scouring Dean body and soul, whether in rage or relief Dean didn't know.

"Not for nothing Cas," Dean snapped, "But the last time someone looked at me like that, I got laid."

Castiel's stare crackled between them, before he slammed Dean against the rough bricks.

"It that all you want Dean? To get laid?" Castiel's eyes were an accusation, laced with something else that Dean couldn't make out as Cas' fist collided with his jaw, leaving stars behind his eyes. "Is that why you went to that woman? Is that who you give your only goodbye to?"

"Cas, please-" His finger's scrabbled against Castiel's hold, but the angel was unforgiving, his terrifying strength pinning Dean to the wall as his wrath poured forth, his blows raining down.

"I gave up everything for you, and you want to throw it all away." Suddenly the angel's strength seemed to give out, and he allowed Dean to slump against the wall, a cut on his face bleeding sluggishly as the angel stared down at him.

"I died for you, I fell for you," Castiel's voice was barely a whisper now, "I love you. And this is how you repay me?"

Cas loved him. Cas loved him. Cas loved him. That revelation pounded through Dean's skull like a crashing tidal wave, tearing down the wall of deadened acceptance he had so carefully built, setting his heart racing inside his chest. For a minute he forgot where he was. What was he doing? Why the fuck would he say yes to Michael when Castiel loved him?

"I didn't know!" Dean burst out, hands in front of himself like a shield, "Cas, I had no idea. If I had thought for a second-fuck, I would have never-Cas. Cas, you love me." A goofy smile was spreading across his face, stinging against his split lip. Dean thought he must have a concussion, grinning like a lovesick fool at an Angel of the Lord in full on smiting mode. He struggled to get to his feet, Castiel's eyes flashing dangerously as Dean took a step toward him. Dean's grin vanished. He stared into Cas' eyes. They still held a lot of anger, and heartbreak. Dean had put that there. He was grateful for every bruise that was blossoming against his ribs, and every cut that stung his skin. He deserved worse, for making this angel suffer like that. But after Dean's words, Castiel's midnight blue eyes also held a spark of hope. It was the most terrifying, painful kind of hope. Dean knew it intimately. He had felt it every time Cas had brushed against his shoulder in battle, every time the angel had let his stare linger a little too long, every time Dean regretfully had had to remind the angel about personal space.

"Please Cas," Dean pleaded, "I love you too. I love you."

In the wake of his confession Cas stared at him, chest heaving, eyes hard as diamond. The silence hung in the air, cut only but the angel's ragged breathing. Dean reached his hands out, tentatively offering himself to Castiel. The angel responded immediately. Faster than Dean could see with human eyes Cas clamped one hand on Dean's upper arm, fingers lining up precisely over the brand he had left in Hell. Dean felt something like an electric shock as Cas's other arm wound around his neck. With a rough jerk, Cas pulled Dean's lips down to meet his.

To call what they were doing kissing was like calling a hurricane a light shower. Sure, there was mouth to mouth contact, but there was also fire and lightning. No, really. Dean was kind of afraid for his life. The minute their lips met Cas lit up like a beacon, flooding them both with what Dean guessed was angelic holy fire or something. It burned against his skin, and his eyes hurt, struggling to stay open. If his injuries were still there, Dean couldn't feel them, overwhelmed by this new sensation. An electric current flowed through Castiel, thundering in Dean's heart and pooling low in his stomach. It was painful, and disorienting…and Dean wanted more ofit. He melted into Cas's kiss, wrapping his arms around the angel's waist as an unnatural wind whipped at their clothes and hair, enclosing them in a pillar of fire and light. Dean could feel the searing heat everywhere that he touched Castiel, even through the layers of flannel and cotton that separated their skin. The burning only increased as Dean parted his lips and licked into his mouth, sending a shudder down Cas's spine that reverberated through the inferno that surrounded them. Cas was grasping at the short hairs on the back of Dean's neck, tilting their heads so that their mouths could slot together more completely. Dean shut his eyes as the light became overwhelming. All he could process was the taste and feel of his angel, burning through his doubts and fears in this crucible. The fire was welding them together. Dean could feel every cold dark place buried in his heart being torn open and flooded with lightning and hope and Cas. And through it all, through the thunder, and the fire, and the slow burn of Cas's stubble against his jaw he could feel vibrating though his bones: I am yours I am yours I am yours.

He didn't know if his voice would even register amidst the raging winds that surrounded them, but he broke the kiss, letting his lips trail up Castiel's jaw until he could whisper against the delicate shell of his ear.

"I'm yours too Cas," Dean said, his nose brushing against his angel's soft hair, "For as long as you'll have me, I'm yours."

Dean felt Castiel's hand on his face, and he opened his eyes to see the light fading around them. His angel was still glowing, but Dean could look at him again without burning his eyes of his head. The wind died down, and Cas sagged in his arms, exhausted. Dean held him firm, kissing him chastely one last time before resting their foreheads together. Castiel continued to run his slender fingers along Dean's cheek, his other hand still tight over his handprint on the man's shoulder. The electricity there remained, though it was now subdued. Cas opened his eyes to stare into Dean's, his blue eyes still hot with heavenly power as they locked with earthly green.

"Dean Winchester, Son of John," Castiel's voice rang out, and yet seemed to whisper only to him, "I am Castiel, Angel of the Lord. In the eyes of my Father in Heaven, we are one." And with that life altering proclamation he closed his eyes, falling against Dean's chest, his head fitting perfectly against Dean's neck. Dean let his legs fold beneath him, depositing himself back on the cold ground of the alleyway with his arms full of angel. He stared in wonder at this being who he had just promised his life to, waiting for the inevitable panic attack. It never came.

He felt it, rather than saw it, when Castiel suddenly smiled against his skin, that bemused half-smile Dean thought about on difficult hunts and bad days with Sam.

"What?" Dean asked, his arms wrapped awkwardly around Cas' shoulders. Even after that makeout session/wedding/lightshow, the idea of touching Castiel, of being allowed, was a little alien. Considering a stoic shoulder grab was about as close as they had gotten up til now, Dean figured a little time for transition was to be expected. Dean could feel every point where their bodies were pressed together, from the soft pillow of Cas' cheek against his neck to the slightly uncomfortable elbow digging into his ribs down to the tangle of their legs on the dirty pavement. Dean could get used to it. Even the awkward tug of the angel's trencoat, tangled tightly in some places and pooling in others, was beginning to feel right against Dean's hands. His angel. His Cas. It gave him a warm, possessive feeling that he didn't want to lose.

"Cas?" Dean prompted again, remembering the smile that ghosted across the angel's lips. Castiel spoke, his fingers running absently along the zipper of Dean's jacket in a way that made Dean's heart flutter.

"Hail Dean Winchester," he said, looking up at Dean with celestial blue eyes, "Full of grace." His eyes crinkled at the edges, and when he felt the soft huff of Cas' breath against his throat Dean realized the angel was laughing.

"Cas, was that a joke?" They had just literally had a cosmic moment, and Castiel was making biblical puns. Dean knew how to pick 'em. Cas' hands moved up to Dean's face, tentatively exploring the line of his jaw as the angel looked on in quiet amusement.

"It was," Cas admitted, "But only partially. You do carry a small part of my grace now." Dean felt a slight buzz as the grace inside him reacted to Castiel's voice. Or maybe that was just him, knowing that Cas had trusted him with literally a part of himself. Dean felt the quiver of anxiety at that, but it was buried in the flush of affection that he could finally wear out in the open.

"We, uh, just took a pretty big step, huh angel?" Cas's slim fingers were tracing the cut of Dean's cheekbones now, moving to brush across his lips. That set Dean's heart racing in an altogether different way, but he shook himself out of it. One thing at a time, Winchester. Cas' eyes were serious for a brief moment.

"I believe we just took the biggest step there is to take," he said solemnly. Their eyes were locked, and Dean could see the flash of fear in Cas' eyes. Fear that Dean would push him away, fear that he had opened himself up to hope, only to face rejection. Dean just held him tighter in his arms, kissing first the fingers that still traced the shape of his mouth, then Cas' lips, soft and dry against his own. It was a chaste thing, tentative, but with no doubt. Dean didn't want Cas to ever have to doubt him again.

"Whatever it is Cas," Dean murmured against his skin, "I'm all in. Just tell me: What did we just sign up for?"

Angel marriage. ('That's not what we would call it,' Cas had corrected, 'Though the sacrament is equivalent'.) Cas had initiated the ritual when he had made his preliminary claim on Dean in Hell, leaving his Mark on Dean's body and soul. ('So you've had angelic dibs on me this whole time?' 'I wasn't going to mention it,' Cas admitted sheepishly, 'It was the only way to pull you from the Pit.') The dormant ritual went active when Dean had confessed his feelings for Castiel, which was what had caused the lightshow. The physical sensations had been a result of the bonding spell, which had literally transferred a small part of Cas' grace to Dean ('Am I gonna have awesome demon smiting mojo now?' Cas had looked at him, head tilted in that way that Dean was now free to admit was adorable. 'No Dean.' 'Damn.') In angel terms, they were now paired for life, or in Castiel's case, for the rest of Dean's life ('And eternity after that, as far as I am concerned' Cas had assured him.) Dean was now off limits to any other angel seeking a bond or a vessel, even Michael. ('Now all we need is to get Sammy married off to one of your buddies and the whole apocalypse will be cancelled!' 'Ignoring the cheapening of our sacred vow that you just implied, no. Lucifer would not be kind to an angel who attempted to lay a claim on his True Vessel.' Cas had shuddered at the image.)

Dean was alone now, back in Bobby's guest room. Cas gladly gave him a little time to mull over this new development, parting with a shy kiss and a new light in his eyes. ('I love you.' His had held Dean's gaze in his own for a moment, before ducking his head with a blush and vanishing in a flutter of wings.) He had popped his head downstairs, to assure Sam that Cas had beaten some sense into him and he wasn't on the 'Say yes to Michael' train anymore. Sam had punched him in the face, then wrapped him in a rib-crushing hug, which pretty much summed up their relationship. Dean would have to earn back some of Sam's trust, but they would be ok. Dean turned in soon after, citing his angelic beatdown. He didn't mention the events that followed the beat-down. Sam would know about him and Cas soon enough. Just for one night, he wanted to keep it all to himself. Castiel's grace was a warm light flickering in his chest, like the first lighter raised for a power ballad. As Dean drifted off he imagined where his angel was now, where he ever went when he vanished. If Cas was feeling anything like Dean was now, he was off doing loop-de-loops in the sky somewhere, whooping at the top of his lungs.

Dean awoke to see Cas perched on the edge of his bed, his gaze sliding appreciatively over Dean's bare chest as he rubbed the sleep from his eyes. He was holding one of his hands closed tight in his lap.

"Hello Dean." Dean smiled at his angel, but grimaced when he saw time glowing on the face of the bedside clock.

"Dammit Cas, it's 2 AM," Dean groaned. Cas had the wherewithal to look chastened before he spoke.

"My apologies. I have something for you," Cas ducked his head, suddenly shy as a blush creeped up his cheeks in the dim light, "I-I could not wait."

"Okay," Dean said, sitting up. He saw a glint of metal as Cas unfurled his hand between them, revealing two slim silver rings covered with delicate etchings. They seemed to glow faintly in the darkness of the seedy motel room, filling Dean with a sense of warmth and protection. He looked up to Cas with wide eyes to see a small, hopeful smile steal across his angel's face. He took Dean's hand in his own, so that they held the rings together in their cupped hands.

"There are many human rituals that I do not yet understand," Cas began, "But I do understand that rings are an important symbol for human unions…and I wanted us to have that."

"Cas," Dean interrupted, "I don't need you to-"

"Let me finish Dean," Cas said, his gravelly voice gentle, "I want these rings to be a symbol of our bond for humans, as my grace that thrums in your veins is a sign to other angels. But more important, I want them to be a reminder between us, a reminder that I am still learning. I am… not human, but with you I have learned to love as one. I want to learn more, to learn everything, so that I can be everything you need. I want these rings to remind us both to have patience, and to seek understanding from each other."

As the angel spoke, Dean could only gape at the small metal rings sitting heavy in their hands. They only gleamed brighter, as if they knew the significance that Cas gave them. Dean wondered at the turns his life had taken, all the years of pain and grief that had led him here to Castiel, who wanted everyone, on Heaven and Earth, to know that he was Dean's. It was all worth it, he thought, for this moment. Cas wanted patience? Dean could do that.

"Dean?" His eyes snapped back up the angel who literally held his heart and soul. "Will you wear it?"

Dean smiled. "Always," he vowed, "Til the day I die, angel."

Cas's face was nothing short of beatific. He took one of the rings, sliding it surely onto Dean's left ring finger, where it sat like it had been there all his life, just waiting to be noticed.

"With this ring," Cas declared, "I thee wed." His triumphant expression became uncertain as Dean chuckled quietly to himself.

"That is the traditional saying, if I was correct in my observations-" Cas muttered, the blush blooming once more in his cheeks. Dean laughed again before placing a kiss in Castiel's unruly dark hair.

"Don't mind me Cas, that was perfect," Dean assured him, "Don't ever change." He took the remaining ring from Cas and, with fingers he wasn't ashamed to admit shook a little, managed to get it safely on his angel's left hand.

"With this ring, I thee wed Castiel," he vowed, "Til death do us part. Knowing us, probably not even then."

They both stared at their joined hands, now complete with matching rings. Dean looked up to Cas with a crooked grin.

"So…" he began, clearing his throat, "Do I…kiss the bride?"

At that Cas laughed, his face lit up in a rare full smile.

"I'm not sure that would be considered "the bride" in this situation," he said, breathless, "But yes. Kiss me Dean."

They started off slow, Dean carefully taking Castiel's face in his hands, brushing their lips together in between smiles and self-effacing laughter at the absurdity of the whole situation. There was a goddamn apocalypse literally looming on the horizon and here they were kissing like teenagers in the dark. Cas was lit up, not with holy fire and lightning, but with joy and wonder as they explored each other, mouths light and tongues quick and cautious. Dean imagined his face couldn't look that much different, part of him still in disbelief. This was real. Something like a spark passed between them as they both processed this fact, a vibration of excitement and want and promise as their touches started to get less gentle, their tongues less cautious. Castiel was restless, unable to decide what to do with his hands as they roved over the planes of Dean's bare chest, skimmed over the muscles in his back and shoulders. When his left hand brushed over the brand on Dean's shoulder, he gasped, giving Cas' hair an accidental yank as a shot of electricity went straight to his groin. With a sharp breath of his own the angel pressed the mark again, finding the exact fit of his hand against Dean's skin. Dean's vision went blurry for a moment as he let out a whimper of pleasure, waves of sensation coursing through him, throbbing low in his belly. He didn't know if Cas was equally effected by the touch, but when his eyes were clear again the angel was no longer on the side of the bed, but on his lap, still fully dressed, his hips rolling unconsciously as he laid kisses on Dean's eyelids, nose, and mouth. Dean let his hands fall to Castiel's waist, feeling the tight muscles underneath the ill-fitting clothes, only adding to the ache between his legs. He laid siege to the hard lines and soft skin of Cas' neck, sucking and biting, then soothing with his tongue.

"Dean," the angel said, hips starting to develop a more deliberate pressure against his own, "There is another human…unngh…ritual that I am aware of…that I would like to try." Dean was nosing into the collar of Cas' shirt, exploring the dips of his collarbones and the curve of his adam's apple.

"That's what married people do, right Cas?" Dean's hands started to work on Castiel's tie, pulling it loose as the angel started to pant with need, hands roving across Dean's chest and lower.

"Yes yes yes," Castiel was falling apart, and Dean was there to catch him, "Oh Dean I want…God I want…"

"I want too Cas," Dean was tugging off the angel's coat, rolling him over onto the mattress to go to work on his buttons, "Fuck, I've wanted you so long."

Dean had never seen Castiel undressed. Even asleep the angel had always remained in his rumpled suit and ill-fitting trenchcoat. Once, in the heat of an argument over strategy with Dean, Cas had removed his jacket. The rolled up sleeves of his white button down had been nearly pornographic, exposing his lean forearms and the full expression of his wrists as he gestured furiously to various pages of the ancient manuscript supporting his argument. Dean had quickly given up his opposition, if only to escape to the shower, where he could touch himself under the burning jet of water, overwhelmed by the sight of so much of Cas' skin, ashamed for wanting to see so much more. Now, the sight of Castiel, wholly unclothed, pupils dilating with want, want for him, was almost too much for Dean to bear.

They twisted together in the sheets, Dean working his way between Cas' legs, the touch of the angel's bare skin against his fingertips almost as hot as the clench of his body around his cock. They fumbled occasionally, then found themselves in sync again as they learned the feel of each other's bodies. Castiel made up for his lack of real experience with enthusiasm and pure physical strength, literally pulling and pushing Dean where he wanted him. He looked for guidance, asked questions, but then he would surprise Dean with a certain twist of his hips or flick of his tongue, always with mind-blowing results. He would only respond to Dean's gasping queries with a cryptic "I learned that from the Pizza Man." Dean would laugh, and the vibration of it between them would spark a whole new set of pleasures. As Castiel shuddered to his first orgasm under Dean's touch, he couldn't help but marvel at the duality of his angel, so powerful, so sacred, and yet here, flesh and blood in Dean's hands.

"I used to dream about this," Dean confessed later as Castiel laid a track of kisses down his chest, carding his hands through the angel's dark hair, "I used to imagine us together like this, but I thought I was crazy to even picture you wanting me."

Castiel licked into Dean's navel, then blew the damp skin, looking at Dean thoughtfully, watching as the chill of his breath sent a shiver up Dean's spine.

"I never imagined this," he said, breath now ragged as he returned to Dean's body, his lips whispering over the dip of Dean's hips, "To be allowed to touch you in this way, to feel you moving inside me, sharing my Grace. It surpasses my capacity to imagine."

Dean drew breath to respond, but suddenly Cas took him in his mouth, and all that escaped his lips was a string of profanities and Castiel's name, over and over, in the first fervent prayer of his life.

Dean woke up in Bobby's guest room with a conspicuous lack of angel wrapped around him. The sheets next to him were still warm, which told him that Cas was not long gone. The morning light snuck through the narrow blinds to throw stripes on the worn carpeting where Dean's jeans lay in a crumpled pile. He tugged them on, eyes adjusting to the light as he looked around for his shirt. The white shirt he plucked from the end of the bed was not his, but Cas's. For lack of his Zeppelin t-shirt, Dean pulled his arms through the white button down, the fabric tight across his back where it had sat so loosely on Castiel's shoulders. Dean let the shirt hang open on his chest as he made his way downstairs, bare feet padding across the chilly kitchen tiles. He was scanning the fridge for orange juice when he felt a kind of tickle at the base of his skull. It was a pleasant sensation, one that made him think of a scruffy angel and the slim silver ring that decorated his left hand. Dean smiled. Cas was nearby, and he was happy. Dean looked around the house, poking his head into the living room before heading out to the front porch in search of his Cas.

Across the yard, he found Castiel, perched comfortably on the roof of the Impala. His face was turned up to the morning sun, contentment etched in his features, but Dean wasn't looking at his face. Dean's eyes were glued to the twin shadows that sprouted from Cas' shoulders. Wings, he realized, he was looking at the angel's wings. He watched, enraptured, as they rustled and stretched, black feathers shimmering blue as they were caressed by the weak sunlight. Dean felt an odd surge of possessiveness as Cas flexed his shoulders with a yawn, wings flaring out to their full span behind him. That was his angel, more beautiful than all the illustrations in Bobby's dusty library, feathers black as his Baby reaching past the end of the trunk. Dean made his way across the lawn, still fixated on Cas' previously unseen appendages, though he noted with a pleasant tingle that Cas was in fact wearing his missing Zeppelin shirt from the previous night. Cas noticed him the minute he stepped off the porch, wings folding quickly against his back as he blushed slightly.

"Hello Dean," Castiel greeted him, eyeing Dean's wardrobe choice appreciatively. He shuffled over, making room as Dean climbed up beside him on the warm metal.

"You were missing when I woke up," Dean commented, no reproach in his voice. Cas was here now, that was all that mattered.

"I'm sorry," Cas acknowledged, "I sensed the sun coming up, I felt the need to…feel it."

"Feel it."

"Yes. I feel very…in tune with my vessel recently," Castiel continued, preening under the warm light, "I have discovered it is one thing to know the sunlight through my Grace, and it is a different thing to feel it against my skin." At this Cas reached out a hand, skimming a finger along the muscle of Dean's forearm. Dean blushed, enjoying the simple pleasure of the angel's touch.

"Are we still talking about sunlight here Cas?" he asked playfully, catching Castiel's hand to twine their fingers together loosely.

"Not entirely," Cas admitted, "Though you are the sun in my sky."

Dean groaned, causing Castiel to tilt his head, confused.

"To most humans," Dean informed him, "That would be considered a really cheesy line."

Cas shrugged, an expression he must be picking up from Sam and Dean.

"It is accurate, nonetheless." He fingered the white fabric of his shirt where it sat against Dean's collarbone, tugging it down so that he could set his mouth against the curve of Dean's neck, then his jaw, then lightly on the hunter's mouth as the early morning light set his eyes sparkling. Dean moved their lips together easily, enjoying the feel of his t-shirt hanging loosely on Cas' slim frame under his fingers. They broke apart, Castiel's wings giving a contented flutter behind Dean's head.

"So," Dean began, looking behind them, "Are we gonna talk about those?"

Castiel was still staring, a pleasant dreamy expression on his face.

"Talk about what?"

"Oh I don't know, the giant black wings sprouting out of your back all the sudden?"

Cas' eyes widened with surprise. "You can see my wings?" Dean watched the feathers ruffle in agitation, as though self-conscious now that he had called them out.

"Yeah angel," Dean said, "They're huge. And fucking gorgeous, in case you were wondering."

Castiel blushed deeply, wings curling against his back modestly.

"It must be my Grace within you," he said, "Now that it's active, you can see more of my True Form."

"So if anybody were to walk outside right now-"

"They would see nothing," Cas confirmed, "Except perhaps a shadow on the ground, as you did when we first met."

Dean grinned, liking the idea of Castiel's wings being there for only him to see. He was going to have to watch out for this possessive streak he was showing.

"So why haven't I seen them until now?" he asked, eyes raking over the luscious black feathers, "We've been all bonded and stuff for almost a day."

"I don't usually wear them out," Cas admitted, rolling his shoulders, "They are…cumbersome, in tight spaces. But it feels nice to stretch them." As if to demonstrate, the shadowy forms flexed behind Dean, forming elegant lines against the bright morning air as they reached out to their full length. Dean watched as the black feathers shimmered blue and purple as they caught the light.

"Can I," he swallowed, suddenly shy, "Can I touch them?"

Castiel smiled, looking self-conscious but pleased.

"Of course Dean," he said, "My body is yours." And damn if that didn't go straight to Dean's dick, but those silky black feathers were beckoning to him, just begging to be ruffled through. He scooted behind Castiel's shoulder, sitting up on his knees to reach a hand out, fingertips just brushing the long pinions that lined the angel's wings.

Cas' breath hitched at his touch, his body stiffening as the ridge of feathers along the crest of each wing puffed slightly. Dean cautiously continued his stroke down the long wall of feathers, appreciating the taut muscle that hid underneath the glossy surface of Cas' wings. His fingers flexed against the delicate bones that held them in their proud arch, reveling in the tremble that shook through his angel every time he massaged one of the hidden joints. At the base of his wings, where they connected invisibly to his shoulder blades, the feathers were smaller, and soft, like down on a baby bird. Unable to resist, Dean pressed his nose into the small patch of down, nuzzling into the dark feathers with a warm exhale. At the touch of his breath Castiel's back arched sharply, and his hand clamped down on Dean's thigh.

"Dean," he breathed, gripping with bruising fingers. Dean chuckled as he blew on delicate underneath of Cas' wing one last time.

"Who would have guessed that angel wings were so sensitive," he said, running a fingertip along the crest of feathers as high as I could reach. Castiel was still clutching his thigh, his head tilted up as though he were in the midst of a prayer of supplication.

"I had no idea," he confessed, voice even rougher than usual, "Dean, you touching my wings, it makes me want to…"

If Dean was waiting for another profound declaration of love and devotion, he was sorely surprised as Castiel's hand suddenly moved up from his thigh to a much more exciting area. Castiel turned to look at him, black wings framing his pale skin and dark, predatory eyes.

"It makes me want to fuck you into our mattress until you scream my name in worship."

Dean felt his heart skip a beat, then slog into overdrive as he processed the angel's words. Castiel ground the butt of his hand against the growing tent in Dean's jeans, snapping him from his trance with a spike of pleasure. The angel's wings twitched impatiently.

"Back upstairs." His voice cracked sharply. He didn't care. "Now."

"Agreed." Cas placed two fingers against Dean's forehead, and with a rustle of midnight feathers he was suddenly tangled in the worn cotton sheets of their shared bed, completely naked, and being attacked by an angel in the best possible sense of the word.

When they resurfaced around nine o'clock, they were both respectably dressed. Castiel, back in his suit and trenchcoat, showed no sign that he had just mauled Dean like a wild tiger except for his incredible case of sex hair, which Dean, in retrospect, figured was pretty much what Cas' hair looked like all the time. Sam was seated in the kitchen, laptop already whirring away, when Dean shuffled in, sore and stiff. Cas had not been joking around. Sam nodded in greeting, then paused in his web browsing to observe Dean as he hobbled to the fridge to fish out a beer. His eyebrows knit together in concern as Dean joined him at the table, gingerly seating himself on one of the hard kitchen chairs.

"What the hell happened to you?" Sam asked as Dean took a swig, rolling out his shoulders.

"Me." Castiel leaned against the doorway, looking incredibly satisfied with himself. Sam expression of confusion was almost as comical as the shock that quickly took its place. Dean thought his eyes were gonna pop out of his head as his head whipped back and forth between Dean and Cas, taking note of the new ring on Dean's left hand.

"You-wha-Dean!" Sam sputtered. Dean rubbed his eyes with the palm of his hand. It was too early for this. Castiel came to stand behind Dean, resting his hands on his shoulders. Dean leaned into the gentle touch as Cas murmured in his ear.

"I believe I shall go 'receive revelation'," Cas said, air quotes tangible, "I think this is a talk you and your brother should have alone." He placed a kiss on Dean's temple before nodding at Sam, not really meeting the hunter's eye as he vanished.

"Pansy," Dean chuckled, knowing that the angel could probably still hear him. He'd pay for that later. Hopefully. He eyes his brother from across the table. Sam looked like he might have blown a microchip. Dean sighed, stretching out his back one more time before standing. He grabbed the keys to the Impala and tossed them to Sam, who caught them, looking if possible, even more surprised.

"Let's take a drive Sammy," Dean said, "I think I've got a few things to tell you."

"So you and Cas are what…married now?" Sam and Dean sat on the edge of the Impala, surrounded by open highway. Sam's face was a hilarious mix of shocked, concerned, and just plain confused. He swallowed a few times, eyebrows all cinched up.

"That's not what he would call it, though the sacraments are equivalent," Dean said, scowling when Sam looked at him like he was nuts, "I'm quoting Cas here, all right?"

"Not really, no! One minute you're gone, off to give yourself up to Michael, and the next thing I know your back and everything's fine and now you and Cas-" Sam took a deep breath, "Do you even know what you've gotten yourself into Dean?"

"I do Sammy," Dean said honestly, "I don't really understand some of the fine print yet. But whatever I'm in, I'm in it with Cas. I love him. And I don't say chick stuff like that unless I'm serious."

"You do seem…calm," Sam admitted, "Given your track record with commitment."

"I know right? I should be flipping my shit right now, but…" Dean searched for the right words, "I feel right. Cas has literally 'put a ring on it,' and I'm ok. Beyond ok. More ok than I've been probably my entire life. I was in a dark place, and Cas pulled me back."

Sam nodded, pulling a flask out of his jacket pocket. He unscrewed the cap and took a swig, examining the silver casing thoughtfully before abruptly splashing the contents in Dean's face. Dean sputtered as the cold liquid flooded his nose, running down his back to soak his jacket.

"What the fuck-holy water?" Dean exclaimed, "Are you freakin' serious Sammy?"

"Just checking!" Sam made a break for it, laughing at the sight of his waterlogged brother. Dean took off after him down the dirt road.

"Yeah you better run! You're gonna wish I was a demon when I'm through with you, Bitch!" Dean caught the back of Sam's jacket, pulling them both to the ground and putting his giant little brother in a headlock.

"Jerk!" Sam was still laughing, and Dean couldn't keep the grin off his face as Sam broke his hold, flipping them both in the dirt. They wrestled for a few minutes until they collapsed in a pile, red-faced and out of breath. They stared up at the sky, and Dean was reminded of when they were kids, playing in the grass while their dad laid out all his research on the hood of the Impala and made battle plans.

"I know things have been rough for us, what with Jo and Ellen… and Bobby," he said, watching the clouds pass overhead, "With fucking Michael and Lucifer. But I'm not giving up anymore. Things are only gonna get tougher, but we're in it together. You, me and Cas. To the bitter end. I promise." Sam just nodded as a warm breeze swirled through the grass.

"Dean?"

"Yeah Sammy?"

"I'm happy for you, man. For you and Cas."

"Thanks Sammy."

"It's a good thing too, 'cause if I had to stand in the middle of one more longing staring contest I was gonna-" Any further comments were abruptly cut off as Dean lovingly pummeled his gigantic little brother into the dirt, ignoring any slowed cars on the highway that were wondering why two grown men were wrestling on the side of the road.

"This is so fucking typical Dean! You say we're in it together, you say you're going to start trusting me again, and you can't even listen to me!"

"This isn't about trust Sam! This is about saying yes to goddamned LUCIFER!" Dean and Sam had been having it out for the last twenty minutes, arguing in circles over Sam's plan, which Dean had pointed out several times already, was literally suicide. Castiel listed by Dean's side, watching the two men trade barbs with concern.

"Dean," Sam tried, head shaking, "How many more people are going to have to die over my mistakes? You? Cas? No. Gabriel gave us a chance with the key to the Cage. This is our shot."

"It's a fucking poor shot Sammy-"

"It's the best one we've got Dean! This whole thing is my fault, and it's time for me to take responsibility for it!"

"I am not gonna let you lock yourself in Hell-"

"You're not 'gonna let me' do anything." Sam's eyes were serious. "This is my choice Dean. You can help me or not, but I am not going to let the Devil kill everyone I love trying to hunt me down. He needs me, and this is our one chance to use that against him."

Silence hung in the air between the two brothers like a lead weight. Sam was serious, Dean could see it. But even if he could overpower Lucifer, which was essentially impossible, it mean Sammy locking himself in a cage with the Devil for the rest of eternity. Every big brother instinct in Dean was screaming, beggin him to lock Sam up, to keep him safe until this whole thing was over. Castiel, reached out to touch his hand, giving a comforting squeeze as Dean looked to his angel's blue eyes. There was understanding there, understanding of the conflict raging in Dean's heart. Sam was a man, and as much as Dean wanted to shelter him from all this, that wasn't his place anymore. Dean sighed deeply before turning to his brother.

"Alright Sam," he conceded, "I'm not happy about it, but we'll try. I'll have your back. Like I said, no matter what."

Sam's shoulders relaxed as his face lit up with relief.

"Thank you Dean."

"Don't thank me yet," Dean grumbled, "We've got a lot of work to do."

Sam still smiled, and it made Dean's heart ache. Whether Lucifer won or not, he had just said goodbye to his brother.

They practically crashed into counter as they rematerialized in the kitchen.

"Sam?" Dean called out, as if he expected his brother to be sitting in the living room, poring over one of Bobby's collection. As if Sam wasn't worse than dead, trapped in a body with Lucifer's mangled Grace. "SAM!" Dean's voice broke as he cried out for his brother, Cas trying his best to restrain him, though where he was trying to run he had no idea.

"He's not here Dean!" Castiel shook him, "Lucifer vanished and Sam with him."

"NO!" Dean lashed out against the angel who held him, his fists pounding against Cas' chest, as effective as raindrops against the Impala's windshield. "We have to go back! We have to back and get him. We can't leave him again…I can't leave him again! SAMMY!"

It had all been a waste. Gathering the Horseman's rings, tracking Lucifer down, pumping Sam full of demon blood (Dean felt his stomach threaten to revolt as he remembered his little brother drinking the gallons of hot, black blood.). The moment Sam gave his yes Lucifer had swallowed him up, tamping down on his soul easy as crushing a cockroach underfoot. ("I told you, this would always happen in Detroit.") Then he had vanished, and Dean had stood shell-shocked while the seedy hotel room had collapsed around him. He would have let himself be buried in the rubble if Cas hadn't grabbed him, bringing them both back to Bobby's empty house. Dean could do nothing but call Sam's name in anguish, rage and hate and guilt pouring out of him.

Castiel said nothing as Dean wore himself out, stoically taking Dean's anger upon himself as the hunter's blows dissolved into wretched tears. Eventually Dean collapsed against Cas' chest, anger replaced by bitter grief.

"I was supposed to protect him," Dean sobbed into Castiel's neck, "And now he's gone. He's gone."

Dean heaved shaky breaths in the arms of his angel as Cas endured his painful hold. Sam. His little brother had been the only constant thing in his life until Castiel, and Dean had just let him walk into the Devil's trap. And now Sammy was gone, and Dean could only see Lucifer, desecrating his brother's warm smile with his cold eyes. Dean felt like there was a gaping hole in his chest. He was falling into darkness. He held tighter still to Castiel, the spicy scent of his skin and the soft dry fabric of his trenchcoat the only barrier between Dean and oblivion.

"Cas," he keened, his nose rubbing against the hard line of the angel's jaw, "Cas I need you…"

"I'm here Dean." Castiel pulled Dean in front of him, forcing him to meet his blue eyes. They were filled with grief, and with guilt that mirrored Dean's own. Dean grasped at Cas' face, their foreheads meeting as tears streamed down his cheeks. Castiel's eyes were dry, but Dean could see the long years in them, ancient and full of loneliness. He crashed their lips together in a bruising kiss, desperate to feel, to touch, to know anything except the terrifying emptiness that was threatening to overwhelm him. Cas parted his lips instantly, licking and biting with abandon, his hands rough as he clutched at Dean's hips with painful strength. Dean wove his hands into his dark hair, giving a sharp tug as Castiel bit his lower lip, eliciting an unholy groan from the angel. Dean was running out of air, but he kept their mouths unbroken, reaching still deeper, his grip unforgiving as he carded through Cas' hair. He would rather drown in Castiel's arms than face the void left by Sam. He finally took a breath, gasping, as Cas worked along Dean's jaw, sucking painful marks into Dean's neck. Dean rolled his hips forward, feeling the heat of Castiel's arousal as their already tightly pressed bodies fought to become one. He leaned forward, leaving his own trail of marks along Cas' jaw before murmuring in his ear.

"Cas," Dean pleaded, "Cas, I'm so empty. Fill me up." Castiel actually growled as he ground his hips against Dean's, and for a moment Dean only saw stars as the angel began roughly removing their clothing. Buttons were torn away and seams ripped as they sank to the kitchen floor, bodies intertwined in a tangle of limbs and desperate mouths. Cas made short work of Dean's pants, tossing them across the floor before working on his own, Dean scrambling at his zipper blindly, frantic for more of Cas' skin against his. Finally they were both free, Castiel hot and hard against him, the slide of their skin burning like hellfire. Dean's hands were on Castiel's ass with a grip that would leave bruises on a human, dragging the angel's heavy erection against his own. Cas gasped, making broken noises as he panted against Dean's neck.

"Not enough," Dean was pulling their mouths together again, begging against Castiel's lips, "Not enough. Cas I need you." He canted his hips up, brushing against Cas again as he spread his legs, waiting for his angel to fall between them. For a brief, horrifying moment, Castiel vanished, leaving Dean to clasp at the empty air, hands reaching like a scared child. Then he was back, his body weight pressing Dean into the cold kitchen tile as he pulled their mouths together once more, Cas' right hand cradling Dean's skull even as he fucked Dean's mouth with his own. His other hand was between Dean's legs, his fingers now cold and slick as they pressed against Dean's entrance without warning. Dean gasped, riding the line between pleasure and pain as Cas worked his fingers inside him one by one, opening him up with wordless urgency.

"Fuck," Dean, groaned, "Faster. More…" Castiel looked at him, his blue eyes a thin ring around black pupils, full of concern as Dean whimpered. Dean nodded, growling as he ground his hips down, pressing Cas' fingers further inside, voice breaking as he pressed against something that made his whole body wrack with sensation.

"I can take it," Dean panted, "I'm ready. Please Cas." He needed this. He needed Castiel inside him, forcing him open, or he would shut down forever. Already the fear was choking him, fear that he would return to that cold, blank place he had been trapped in. He had prayed then, and Cas had saved him. Cas and Sam. But Sam was gone, and Dean was praying now. Praying with hands that caressed the angel's skin as he lined himself up against Dean, his every kiss and soft cry a supplication as Castiel pressed in slowly, filling Dean inch by inch with burning pressure and heat.

"Fuck, fuck, fuck yes," Dean screamed as Cas bottomed out, his forehead slick with sweat as he writhed against Dean's chest, adjusting to the clench of Dean's body around his cock. Amid the sting and the burn of Castiel inside him there was blessed wholeness, filling him with a quaking relief as their bodies became one, if only for a short time. There would be no abyss. There would be no giving up, no hollowing out and going through the motions. Not when he had Cas here to pull him back from the edge. There would be pain, and sorrow. The ache of Sam's loss was still a fresh gouge in Dean's heart. But Sam hadn't left him alone.

"Cas." Dean lifted the angel's chin, pulling their lips together as they lay as one on the tile. "Cas I love you."

"Dean." Castiel braced himself against Dean's shoulders with a shudder even as he returned the tender kiss. "I love you. I love-Dean, I need to-" His hips were stuttering between Dean's legs, desperately seeking more friction but trying to restrain himself for Dean's sake.

"I've got you angel. Move."

"What do we do?" Cas asked as they lay together on the ground, spent and sated.

"We find Sam," Dean had answered, "We try again."

"Yes." Castiel agreed. "How?"

Dean didn't have an answer.

For two days they existed, ghosts in Bobby's house. They cooked, cleaned, and searched Bobby's library for anything on freeing a Vessel from its Host. They left the news on all day, waiting for any signs that could lead them to Lucifer. They heard nothing and found nothing. They fucked like drowning men desperate for air, taking each other's frustration and anguish onto their own bodies, offering comfort and punishment where it was needed. There were moments of hope and moments of despair. There was Dean and there was Cas.

On the third day, Dean received a text message. Sam's number flashed across the screen of his phone. Dean and Castiel read the message together in the kitchen.

:Hello Dean. I have decided to pay your mother a visit. It was Sam's idea. I'm sure it would do him well to see your face.

Pay your mother a visit. The Devil was in Lawrence, looking for his final showdown. He wanted to see Dean, or rather Dean's face with Michael behind it. Here was their lead. Their last chance to reach out for Sam and lock up Lucifer forever. Their chances were slim. Dean would be walking in against the Devil with nothing but the love of an angel and his belief that Sammy wasn't completely gone. It would have to be enough.

"I guess this is it," Dean whispered, his green eyes looking only for his angel. Cas's gaze held millennia of existence, and a few short years of love that had burned away all the rest. His hands shook as he took hold of the hunter's.

"Dean."

Dean simply backed him up until he was against the refrigerator, kissing him gently as his hands worked on the angel's zipper. He buried his nose in Cas' hair, breathing deeply. Dean planted a soft kiss against Castiel's forehead, and one more on his lips, before sinking to his knees, hands pulling on the band of the angel's boxers. There was no sound except the clatter of falling magnets and Cas' muffled gasps, his hands in Dean's hair and on his shoulders like a benediction as Dean labored, worshipping Castiel with his hands and mouth for what they both knew could be the last time.

They found Lucifer in the middle of Lawrence Cemetery. His back was turned as they approached, pulling the Impala right to the edge of the maze of graves. Sam's body stood at the foot of Mary Winchester's grave, ignoring the roar of the Impala's engine. They approached cautiously, Castiel taking hold of Dean's hand as the Devil stirred at the sound of their footsteps on the gravel.

"Castiel?" Lucifer's back was still turned, but his head tilted to the side in puzzlement, an eerie perversion of Cas' endearing habit. "Why am I seeing two of you?"

The Devil faced them then, and Dean felt his heart plummet. Sam's warm brown eyes were ice cold as Lucifer's gaze moved from Cas' face to Dean's, then down to their joined hands. Dean tightened his grip on Castiel as the Fallen angel huffed in laughter.

"Well well well Dean," the voice that was no longer Sam's was laced with contempt, "It looks like somebody kissed and angel and liked it. You carry Castiel's grace within you. I can see it now."

"And you still carry Sam's soul," Castiel said, eyes narrowed, as if he could see inside Lucifer. The Morning Star shook his head, an expression of saintly patience giving Dean chills.

"Quite bold of you Castiel," Lucifer continued, ignoring Cas's interruption, "Laying claim to another angel's True Vessel. I would applaud your audacity, but I'm afraid I have an appointment to keep with Michael. So I will need you to relinquish your hold on Dean now."

"Never." Castiel, faded, tired Cas, held his ground in front of the Devil himself. "As you say, Dean Winchester is filled with my grace. We are bonded in the eyes of Heaven and earth. No angel, not even Michael, would attempt to usurp that sacrament. Dean is Michael's True Vessel no longer."

"That's true Castiel," the Devil conceded, his eyes wistful, "But only as long as you are alive to make that claim. I'm sorry brother."

Lucifer snapped his fingers, and Cas screamed. Dean could only watch in horror as Castiel disintegrated, turning to ash in his hands. Dean's vision swam, the final look of desolation on his angel's face burned into his retinas as he scrabbled at the empty air for the slender hand that was no longer there. Cas. Cas. He could the tiny flicker of Castiel's grace still inside him. It was shivering against his skin, looking for its owner like an abandoned dog.

"Now Dean," the Devil's voice broke through the wall of shock, "Since you are no longer occupied, I would like to speak to Michael."

Dean's despair was replaced with a white hot rage.

"You Son of A BITCH!" Dean roared, charging his brother's body, all thought of self preservation forgotten. A blinding lance of pain shot up his arm as his fist connected with Lucifer's jaw. The Devil rolled his neck, the vertebrae cracking as he threw Dean back against the Impala with his other hand. Dean saw stars as his head collided with the metal frame. With inhuman speed Lucifer was in front of him, eyes burning like liquid nitrogen.

"Do you see what you've pushed me too?" Lucifer lifted Dean by the collar, their faces close enough that he could feel the Devil's cold breath. "What else do I have to take from you before you give me what I want?"

He could see the anguish in the eyes that were no longer his brother's. The archangels, all of them, were just another broken family, Dean realized.

"He's not coming," Dean wheezed, throat constricted by Lucifer's grasp, "No matter what you do to me, Michael's not coming."

Lucifer saw the look of pity in Dean's eyes and snarled.

"I. Just. Want. To. See. My. Brother!" The Devil roared, slamming Dean against the side of the Impala with each word. Dean could hear his baby's windows break as his ribs cracked on impact. Angry flashes of red and black flared in his vision as he felt Lucifer's wrath. Finally Sam's hands released him, letting Dean slide to the ground, broken and accepting. This was it. Cas was waiting for him. Dean closed his eyes, waiting for the final killing blow that would finally free him from the never ending mess of his life. It didn't come.

"And I just want to see mine." It was his brother's voice.

Dean opened his eyes to look for the Devil, but all that stood above him was Sam. Sam looked at his hands, covered in Dean's blood, then at his brother, crumpled on the ground. His eyes, burning already with the Fire of hell, were alight with shock.

"I've got him Dean," he gasped, jaw clenching as he fought, "I've got him. I'm here."

Dean reached for his brother's hand, their grasp fumbling as Sam pulled him to his feet. Dean could feel his bones knitting back together as he stood, Sam healing him enough to stay conscious and walk.

"The cage," Sam gritted out, "We have to open it now!" His voice was getting weaker. Dean pulled the rings from his pocket, casting them to the brown grass at their feet. A vortex opened in front of them, howling and spitting, already pulling at Lucifer's mangled grace that resided in Sammy's bones. Sam shoved Dean back as the Pit yanked him forward into the abyss.

"Sam!" Dean scrabbled to his feet again as his little brother was mercilessly pulled toward the darkness.

"No Dean!" Dean could just hear his voice over the roar of the wind, "It's OK. We did it. It's over."

The last thing that Dean saw of Sam before he tumbled over the edge was his eyes, bright with fear, but also purpose and resignation. Then he was gone, and the Four rings flew apart, slamming the Cage shut with an audible crash. Dean stood alone in the silent graveyard for a few minutes, before falling to his knees with a broken sob.

On the dawn of the third day after the Apocalypse that wasn't, Dean was breaking the wax seal on another bottle of whiskey when Castiel appeared in the middle of the kitchen. Slung over his shoulder was Sam, looking very unconscious and very heavy. Dean gaped.

"He will be alright," the angel said, indicating Sam, whose chest Dean could now see slowly rising and falling, "He was in Hell. Very briefly, but his mind needs time to recover. When he awakens, he will be whole." Thus declared, Castiel dropped Sam's deadweight to the floor with a thud before following, his body crumpling to the tile. Dean let the bottle in his hand fall as he caught hold of Cas and lowered him slowly to the floor, cradling his neck in the crook of his elbow. Castiel's breathing was shallow, and his blue eyes brimmed with tears as he desperately clung to Dean.

"You're alive," Dean gasped, pressing his lips against his angel's skin anywhere he could reach, "Thank fuck, Cas you're alive."

"They're gone," he whispered, "Dean my wings are gone."

"It was my Father."

They were curled on the living room floor, Sam sleeping fitfully on the couch behind them. Dean had managed to move his unconscious brother to the sofa, his long legs tucked awkwardly over the edge of the cushions which were too short for his lanky frame. Every few minutes Dean couldn't help but glance behind, waiting to see Lucifer's cold stare, but every time it was just Sammy, curled up asleep, like when he was nine years old tucked up in the back seat of the Impala. Cas' only cushion was Dean's body, his head resting against Dean's chest, his hands still wound tight in Dean's shirt. He hadn't spoken since Dean had caught him in the kitchen, just shivered, drifting in and out of awareness like he had some kind of fever. Dean, too relieved to feel Cas in his arms again to be worried, waited patiently, his legs falling asleep on the hardwood floor before Castiel spoke.

"It was my Father," Castiel said again, "He intervened. God waited for all our choices to play out, then intervened at the necessary moment."

"Yeah, very Dao de jing of him." Dean tried to keep the bitterness out of his voice. Cas was alive. Sam was alive. Whatever his beef with the big man upstairs, that was all that mattered.

"He spoke to me."

"What happened Cas?" Dean asked, arms wrapped tightly around his angel.

"I was with you in the cemetery, and then Lucifer-oh Dean I'm so sorry-("Shhh Cas you're here now. Just tell me the whole thing.") Then Lucifer killed me, and I was in agony, then I was nothing. Just for a moment. But then my Father called my name, and I existed again."

Castiel drew a shaky breath.

"He told me…that I had done well. That he was proud of me. He asked me if there was anything I wanted. If I could have anything, what would I choose. I told him He would know what was in my heart better than I did myself. It's…hard for me to remember exactly what happened after that, but the last thing I could hear was him asking me to carry something back to Earth for him. Then I was in the kitchen holding up Sam, and you were there. I thought I would never see you again." Cas' fingers curled a little tighter in Dean's shirt as he said that, and Dean just pressed his nose into his hair, breathing deep.

"I'm here angel, I'm here." He murmured against Castiel's skin, but Dean's words only made his shoulders shake in a dry sob.

"I'm not an angel anymore Dean," Cas whispered, "My wings, my Grace, they're both gone. My father took them." Cas lost it, just for a moment, saying the words out loud making it hit home as Dean held the shivering man against his chest, stroking his hair as Castiel gasped.

"I must have angered Him," Castiel muttered against Dean's shirt, "He offered me a blessing, and I told him to look into my heart to know what I wanted. It must have displeased Him, what he saw."

Dean pondered, lips still against Cas' brow. He could still hear Sam's steady breathing behind them on the couch.

"Or maybe this was what you wanted."

Castiel looked up at him, as though Dean had suggested he wished to go ballroom dancing with Raphael.

"Just hear me out Cas," Dean continued, "Who do they tell you again and again is God's favorite species? I mean, how many thousands of years has it been and Lucifer still has his panties in a twist over us mud crawlers."

"I highly doubt that Lucifer wears women's under-"

"Not my point Cas," Dean interrupted, "All I'm saying is-"

"You think that humanity is my Father's blessing." Castiel's voice was doubtful.

"I mean, I'm human, and I think it's alright," Dean said softly.

Cas laughed, a soft and tentative thing.

"Technically," he pointed out, "You're currently more angelic than I am, as you still have some of my Grace inside you."

"That's me," Dean agreed, "Dean Winchester, full of grace."

Cas laughed again at their old joke, before growing quiet once more. It had only been a week or so before when they had laughed in that damp alleyway, but it seemed like years.

"Dean, if you…were no longer interested in… keeping our bond, I would feel no anger," Cas offered, eyes cast down, "I know that without my grace I will not be as useful as I once was-"

"Stop." Dean was surprised by the vehemence in his own voice. He wound the fingers of their hands together, clasping tightly as their matching rings glinted in the warm lamplight of Bobby's library.

"Do you see these rings?" Dean shook their hands in front of Castiel's eyes, "These are a symbol, you told me. They're a sign for everyone to see that we belong to each other. And they're a symbol for you and me, to remind us to have patience, and to seek understanding from each other. That's still true for me. Is it still true for you Cas?"

Castiel's eyes were wet with tears.

"Yes, of course," he said, voice filled with love and relief as he wound his arms around Dean's neck, pulling their lips together. Fucking angels, Dean thought to himself as he moved his mouth over Cas', reacquainting himself with his man's (His man's) soft and dry lips.

"Mojo or no mojo," he mumbled against Castiel's skin, "You're still my angel, Castiel."

They stayed on the floor, wrapped together as Sam snored on the sofa.

Epilogue

They worked together in the kitchen. It was a few days later, and Cas said he was tired of eating hamburgers. ("If this body is truly mine now, then I'm going to treat it like a temple" Cas had insisted.) So they dug one of Bobby's cookbooks out of a dusty cupboard and started working their way through it. Sam encouraged them from his place on the couch, still a little pale from his trip downstairs but getting stronger by the minute under Dean and Cas' watchful eyes. Dean liked the feel of it, daytime TV murmuring in the living room as he chopped vegetables and Cas measured out dry ingredients for pie crust. It was pleasantly domestic, considering Dean had earned his knife skills flaying monsters and Cas was still able to measure flour based on the weight of it against his hand. Dean leaned over to press a kiss against the former angel's temple as Cas examined a teaspoon of salt, counting the grains for accurate measurement. A tiny shimmer of silver tucked into the lush dark brown of Castiel's hair caught his eye. Dean felt his knife fall against the counter, dinner forgotten.

"Cas," Dean felt a distinctly masculine tear threatening to make a break for it. "Cas, you have a gray hair." Castiel touched a tentative hand to his hairline, as if he would be able to feel the difference.

"I don't understand why that's relevant," he said, looking at the musty cookbook in front of him, "I have noted that many human males exhibit grey follicles as they begin to age. You yourself have several-" The penny dropped, as did the salt, and Cas's blue eyes widened as he looked at Dean.

"We are both aging at the same rate." Castiel's voice was the same gravelly calm as when he explained angel hierarchies to Sam, but Dean could see that he understood the gravity of what he had just said. They could grow old together. They could go to the same restaurants over and over and not have to explain why one of them never aged a day. They could live in one place and get to know their neighbors. Castiel would not have to attend Dean's funeral in a thirty five-year-old body. Dean could see as each of these ideas occurred to him, the possibilities sparkling in his eyes like stars. Cas smiled, his rare, beautiful full smile as he took Dean's face in his hands, wiping away tears Dean hadn't realized were falling. He rested their foreheads together as a few rebellious tears of his own made their appearance, streaking down his cheek like falling stars. Dean laughed as he kissed each drop away, imagining what they must look like, two grown men crying in Bobby's kitchen over gray hairs. He wound his fingers gently through his angel's locks as he found Cas's mouth. Their lips moved together softly, broken only by the smiles that couldn't help but bloom in between kisses. After a few tender moments Cas broke the kiss, pressing his lips softly along the line of Dean's neck before resting his head on his shoulder. Dean, winding his arms around his partner, let his nose fall into Cas's dark hair, admiring the few tiny strands of silver along his temple that meant so much to their future life together.

"I love you Cas," he murmured, pressing his lips to the former angel's temple. Castiel's arms tightened around Dean's waist, still firm and strong despite his newfound humanity.

"As I love you." Cas sighed contentedly against Dean's shoulder. They stood swaying for minute or two before Cas straightened up, tilting his head quizzically as he looked at Dean. A mischievous smile hinted at his lips.

"Dean, could we buy a house?"

"Woah there Cas," Dean said quickly, "That's a big ticket item. We'd have to figure out a lot of things before we can-" Cas stopped Dean's words with a gentle hand over his mouth.

"You misunderstand," he said with his half-smile, "I'm asking you can we buy a house. In the grand scheme of the cosmos, are we now capable of future home ownership."

Dean got it. "Yeah," he said, with a smile of his own, "Yeah we are." Castiel nodded.

"Dean, could we get a dog?"

"Yes, Cas. We could."

Over the years, it became a kind of game. Anytime Cas felt the loss of his grace, he would come seek him out. Dean would be in the shower, or under a car in Bobby's garage, or watching Dr. Sexy MD on the couch and he would sense Cas sitting on the damp tiles, or see his feet appear next to his tool box, or feel a pair of gentle hands rest on his shoulders. "Dean, could we retire to the Bahamas when we're sixty?" "Yeah Cas." "Could we get matching tattoos?" "Yes Cas." "Could we have a baby?" "Well, biologically no, but there's ways around that." "So, yes?" "Yeah angel."

"Are you guys making out in there? 'Cause that's gross."

Sam's teasing brought Dean back to the present moment, and he rolled his eyes affectionately, kissing Cas once more before calling towards the living room.

"Go to hell Sammy!"

"Already been, didn't agree with me!"

"Oh ho ho, you are hilarious." Dean looked back down to his angel, glad Sam could make jokes again.

Castiel was examining his hand, one eyebrow raised. Not one to question the thought processes of the former angel, Dean was still curious.

"Whatchya doing Cas?"

"I understand now my humanity is a blessing. But I am wondering," Castiel mused, "If there is one angelic power my Father saw fit to leave me with."

"Jeez Cas," Dean said hesitantly, "It seemed like a package deal kind of thing."

"Perhaps."

Without preamble Castiel clapped his hand to Dean's left shoulder, squeezing tightly. Despite the layers of cloth between their skin, Cas's fingers locked onto the brand on dean's shoulder with a force like an electromagnet. The sound Dean made was not human. As his knees threatened to buckle and his vision whited out with pleasure, he could hear Castiel chuckle darkly.

"God is good."