They "make it official" on a Friday at Cas's house, with Dean stammering and blushing his way through the stereotypical I-really-like-you-in-a-different-than-friends-way speech and Cas listening, terrifyingly impassive, right to the end, at which point he grabs Dean by the shoulders and kisses him.
Dean doesn't tell anyone about it after he's gone home, dizzy off the high of finding out Cas actually likes him back, wow. Not because it's a secret, but because it's just not that big a deal. They've been edging towards this ever since they met for the first time back in grade ten science class, when Cas rolled his eyes and said, "The burner's not going to light if you don't turn the gas on. Duh," with just a hint of a smile behind the not-so-encouraging words. Anyone who hasn't seen this coming probably needs a good strong pair of bifocals. Anyways, they're in high school, which is generally agreed to be life's most notorious rumour mill, with the effects extra-concentrated by going to a small-ish school in a small-ish city. Dean-and-Cas-are-dating will be all over the place by Monday.
Except that, somehow, it's not.
They show up at school on Monday and smile at each other, and Dean's heart does that stupid little flippy thing that makes him go lightheaded for a second; and then Jo snaps at him to pay attention, you're supposed to be helping me with these stupid trig identities, and after a moment of confusion it clicks that hey, she doesn't know. Neither do any of his other friends, who just carry on with their usual conversations at lunch. Or anyone in any of his classes. Or any of the infamously nosy teachers.
"This is so weird," he says to Cas when he slips into the seat next to him in fourth-period calculus.
"I know," says Cas, and he laughs in a disbelieving sort of way.
It's kind of like being secret agents for a day, minus the guns and the tight leather outfits. Although—
Um. Anyways. Surely it'll pass after a day or so.
But the week ends, and then another one starts, and then that week ends and still no one says anything. Not even his friends, not even his parents, not even Sam. And the same goes for Cas's side of things, when Dean asks. Maybe it's because of Cas's firm anti-PDA stance, which means that all they ever do in public is brush hands once in a while or sit with their legs touching under the table at lunch. Maybe it's because Dean never actually bothered coming out to anyone, aside from the obvious exception of Cas; it was more sort of him strolling out of the closet only to find the rest of the room entirely empty, and then wandering off with a shrug to see what was going on in the kitchen instead. Maybe—oh, who knows, maybe the stars just weren't in proper alignment—but anyways, whatever the reason, the fact remains that Dean and Cas seem to have found themselves in an accidentally top secret relationship.
It's kind of cool, actually, once the initial amazement has worn off. Something to share between each other, to laugh at in private and discuss in furtive whispers in the middle of the school hallway. If anyone asked, of course, Dean would tell them yeah, we're together, as would Cas—but no one does ask, and so it stays that way. Their own accidental secret.
And the further they go, the more unbelievable it gets. Like when Cas shows up to school wearing the hoody Dean left at his house the night before and no one says anything, or when the pair of them skip out on plans with the rest of their friends to just hang out with each other and no one says anything, or when Dean arrives to lunch with an arm slung over Cas's shoulders and no one says anything.
Over Christmas break he spends a few nights with Cas's family up at their cottage, and his parents don't even try to give him the be-safe-and-make-good-choices-and-don't-do-anything-if-you're-not-ready talk. All he gets is, "Have fun," from his dad and, "Mind your manners, sweetheart," from his mom, and Sam complains that he wants to go too, you guys always do fun stuff without me. Because Cas is Dean's (boy)friend, but he's conveniently managed to befriend Sam as well over the course of their acquaintance; which is a good sign for their relationship overall, but also kind of infuriating for Dean trying to get Cas to himself sometimes.
As for Cas's family, they even stick the boys in the same room. Different beds, okay, and most of the time at least of one Cas's siblings is hanging around; but still. There aren't even any hints with significantly raised eyebrows about how sound carries really well in here to keep them in line. Not that much ends up happening, aside from some heated making out on the couch once when the rest of the family's gone off for a cold, snowy walk. Still, though. Maybe keeping things on the down-low does have a few unexpected advantages.
Sometimes Cas comes over "to study", supposedly, and with Dean's mom making dinner downstairs and Sam doing his homework at the kitchen table Cas ends up straddling Dean with his hands up Dean's shirt, dry-humping until they're as close as they can get without either of them actually creaming his pants. All Dean has to do is crank his music loud enough to cover the moaning and the occasional thump of something (or someone) sliding off the bed, and make sure to allow enough cool-down time to alleviate suspicion before either of them leaves his room. Once in a while Mary looks at him, or Cas, or him-and-Cas in a way that says their accidental secret might not be quite so secret as he thought; but again, she doesn't say anything about it, and so neither does he.
"What if no one ever finds out and then we just suddenly announce we're engaged," says Dean, when it's January and it's freezing cold and they've pulled the blankets of Cas's bed up over their heads because it's after school and no one's home.
"What if they all think it's just for tax reasons and we can never convince anyone we're actually dating," says Cas. And then, because it gets kind of hot and stuffy with two teenage boys both wearing sweaters and jeans under a duvet, they run downstairs to the freezer to see what kinds of ice cream Cas's family currently has in stock. Which is another great thing to do when no one's home, because it means no one to tell them to put that down, it's only an hour till dinner.
There's a certain clandestine thrill in keeping up what's kind of become a game for them. Being young and jam-packed full of hormones makes every touch exciting anyways, even if half the time it's through three layers of fabric, but the fact of being Dean-and-Cas to each other while they're apparently just plain old Dean and Cas to everyone else adds an extra high-voltage jolt. Eventually they go buy condoms for just-in-case, and even though the box gets shoved into the back of Cas's closet for ages until the subject even comes up again, just being in the store and checking with unnecessary furtiveness for anyone they know has its own kind of kick. Secret agent boyfriends. Cool.
They end up going on kind of a break during second semester because of how all the schoolwork starts to pile up, which is fine until Dean starts missing him like crazy and the way Cas seems more or less unfazed by the situation sends him spiraling into a what-if-I-like-him-more-than-he-likes-me panic. This is when Jo nearly finds out about them, because Dean tries to tell her outright; only he doesn't explain things very well over his slightly hysterical two-a.m. phone call, so she just ends up trying to vaguely reassure him through her own hopeless confusion. And before he has a chance to clear things up he clues in that hey, maybe it would be a better idea to talk to Cas about this; and when he confronts Cas about it, Cas gets all hurt that he would even consider that in the first place, and they have an almost-argument that turns into them making out in the forest behind the school until Cas says he can't feel his toes from the cold and Dean realizes he's late for dinner. When they see at each at school the next day they both grin in a slightly embarrassed way because honestly, yeah, the whole thing was pretty stupid, and after that things are basically back to normal, or what passes for normal in this whole absurd situation they've got going on.
April rolls around, and at this point it's been nearly six months since they started dating; and still no one's really said anything, which is kind of getting ridiculous. He's almost starting to wonder if they should just make a frigging billboard or something to drag around behind them: WE HAVE BEEN DATING FOR SIX MONTHS, THANK YOU FOR NOTICING. Except that, well, they've been together for six months, so as weird as it is to continue keeping their accidental secret a secret, it would seem almost weirder to go around announcing it now after six whole months.
All in all, the whole incident with Pam under the bleachers comes as more of a relief than anything.
It starts out as him and Cas studying for next week's chemistry test under the bleachers, because it's finally a nice day out and the bleachers offer relative peace; which turns into Cas being annoying and tickling his knees until Dean kisses him to make him stop; which, mysteriously, deteriorates into him pressing Cas up against the back of the bleachers, and they're both still fully clothed because it's not that nice out yet but there's some pretty serious grinding going on. Because what with Sam always being home after school and Cas's older siblings being back from university for the summer, they've been getting frustratingly little time alone together—which is a problem for two guys who fit the horny teenager stereotype just about as well as is physically possible. Necessity being the mother of invention and all, of course, they've both managed to develop a sense of adventurous opportunism, and—
"Oh my God," says Pam, and Dean jumps back from Cas in surprise, stumbling over his own feet before managing to regain his balance. Which is nice, only it's difficult to look chill with a face that's probably flushing fire-truck red and an insistent boner.
She stares at them. They stare back. It's kind of an unexpected situation for all parties involved.
"How's it going," says Cas eventually.
"Um," says Pam, though it seems to take her a minute to remember exactly how speaking works. "Um. Good, yeah. Sorry, I didn't—uh—I didn't—"
"No worries," says Dean.
Her eyes flick between the pair of them, apparently struggling to reconcile what she saw a minute ago with what she's seeing now with what she's hearing now.
"I have to, uh…" says Pam, completing the sentence with a vague gesture before speed-walking away.
Dean turns to meet Cas's gaze and says, "Awkward."
Cas nods, miraculously straight-faced, and it's Dean who ends up losing their not-really-a-competition by cracking up first.
Later that evening he walks past Sam's room on the way to his own, then pauses and backtracks. If he knows Pam—and he thinks he sort of does, after four years—they probably could not have picked a more efficient way of spreading the word. And, okay, she's in grade twelve like him whereas Sam's only in grade nine, but the thing about small-ish schools is that the limited news base gets spread indiscriminately throughout the entire population, teachers and, yes, even grade nines included.
He leans against the room's doorframe and says, "Hey."
"Hey," says Sam, glancing up from whatever smart-kid book he's currently reading.
"So, just so you know, Cas and I are together," says Dean. "Like, dating together."
"Whaaat?" Sam wrinkles his nose. "Since when?"
"Since, uh, like… October, I think. Yeah."
"What?" Sam does a weird sort of full-body twitch that nearly sends him rolling off the side of the bed. "Is this supposed to be a joke? Are you joking right now?"
"Not even a little bit."
"But… that's, like, that's six months!" It's like he can't tell whether to be pissed off that Dean kept it a secret from him for half a year, or completely, mind-blowingly astounded that Dean managed to keep it a secret from him for half a year. Accidentally, of course, but somehow that detail doesn't seem to mean too much to Sam right now. "You guys were dating for six months and you never bothered to tell me?"
"Well, I mean," Dean says with a shrug, "we kind of just figured people would pick up on it. You know. Our suspiciously crush-like friendship. High school being high school, and all. Only they didn't and, yeah. But anyways, Pam knows, which basically means everyone else will know by tomorrow morning, so I just figured I'd give you a head's up."
Sam stares at him, and, after a while, stares at him some more, and Dean mentally snapshots this entire scene for posterity's sake because this is pretty much the first time he's ever managed to render his snarky little brother actually, legitimately speechless, and he fully plans on cherishing the memory for the rest of his life.
Eventually Sam remembers about vocal cords, mostly that they exist and that they can be excitingly vibrated to create sound, and he blurts out, "What about Mom and Dad? Do they know?"
"Nah, I'll tell them later," says Dean, and he wanders off to get some actual studying done for that dumb chemistry test, since Pam was rude enough to interrupt their vigorous academics earlier.
It's basically the same thing at school the next day. Some staring in the hallways, a bit of whispering, and he's been with Cas at their lockers for approximately 0.05 seconds before Jo comes storming towards them, followed by a surge of their other friends.
She opens her mouth to speak, or possibly shout, and Cas says, "Six months."
"What?" Jo asks, momentarily distracted.
"That's how long," Dean says.
"To be fair," Cas points out, "I don't think you can reasonably argue that you guys didn't see this coming. I mean, I sulked for nearly three weeks when Lisa Braeden asked Dean to semi-formal last year."
"Six months, though?"
"Yeah. Um. Sorry." Dean musters what he hopes is an endearingly apologetic smile.
Jo glares at him, and then at Cas, and then at him again, and then at Cas again, and Dean can practically smell the smoke as her brain goes into overdrive trying to put all the pieces together. "So that phone call in the middle of the night that one time, you were talking about—"
"Yep," says Dean.
"And whenever you guys ditched us, you were—"
"Yeah," says Cas.
"Really, though," Dean says, "I mean, what did you think we were doing?
"I don't know! Manly bonding time, I guess! And, and," continues Jo, who is apparently a big fan of her new role as relationship forensics expert, "when Cas missed that whole week of classes in February—"
"Uh, that was laryngitis," says Cas. "And Dean was at school with you guys for, like, the whole time, so..."
"Whatever." Jo waves it away, and her face clenches into a scowl once again. "You guys still kept it a secret for six frigging months!"
"It wasn't a secret," Dean objects. "We just didn't tell you guys."
"That's what the word secret means, dumbass!"
"I mean," he clarifies, "we would have told you if you'd asked."
"Only none of you ever did," says Cas.
"So we, you know, just kind of went with it," says Dean.
From behind Jo, who still has the dangerous, slightly volatile look of someone who might provide a real-life demonstration of spontaneous combustion at the slightest provocation, most of their other friends just nod understandingly as if this actually makes any sense at all. And that's it, they're—well, they were official before, but now they're high school official. Officially official.
Dean's parents and the entirety of Cas's family find out at approximately the same time, which happens to be about a month later when prom tickets go on sale and the boys announce they're going together, no Mom, like together-together. Which goes over basically fine, except for the look of mild horror that crosses Dean's father's face as he itemizes all the times he's teased Dean about being such close friends with Jo and the ceaseless stream of gleefully embarrassing jokes that the announcement kick-starts from Cas's brother Gabriel.
And before too long they've been dating for eight months and it's the final push, a frantic scramble to get through their exams in one piece; and then they're doing the YMCA with all the rest of their friends at prom and then hey, look at that, high school's over forever. Only two months to go until university and all that. Crazy. Almost as crazy as being in an accidentally secret relationship for the greater part of a year. Which, he suspects, is a story that's going to take a while to die down. Oops.
In mid-July Dean and Cas go out to sit on the dock at Cas's cottage in the evening, and Cas says, "What if we get married some time and just don't tell anyone for, like, two years."
Dean considers this for a moment before countering, "What if my brother never becomes a lawyer because he gets sentenced to life imprisonment for a double homicide."
"You raise a valid argument," says Cas.