A/N: My excuse? I watched all of Teen Wolf. And then I started watching all of Star Trek. However, no matter how many deep-space adventures I witness, I cannot purge thoughts of this story. I daydream about it constantly, even if my writing rate is slow. It appears I'm stuck finishing this thing, even if it runs me into the ground!
Cas was doing his staring thing when Dean got out of the shower.
This should of upset him more, but by now he'd come to accept the behavior as an irreparable part of the man's personality.
No, it wasn't the staring that disturbed him.
It was the look on Castiel's face.
"Cas?" At his name the man looked up hurriedly, and yes, there was that look. The look of someone who has just been diagnosed with a terminal illness. "You okay?"
If 'uncomfortable' was a rainstorm, then there was a typhoon in Castiel's features. A flush ran from his cheeks to his neck. His eyes met Dean's before skittering away. "Y...yes."
"You look like you just ran over a puppy."
"I amn't!" Said Castiel, sharply. "I mean... I didn't."
Dean raised his eyebrows. "Oo-kay." Clearly something was upsetting him, but if he didn't want to talk, Dean wasn't going to push. He could, however, offer a distraction from whatever was grieving him. "Tell you what, I'm gonna throw on some clothes, you meet me in the Impala."
He tossed Cas the keys from where they'd been lying. The former angel caught them with a look of surprise. It wasn't every day you were given the keys to Dean's baby. "But where are we going?"
"To debauch your clean little soul."
"Another brothel?" Castiel seemed even more alarmed than Dean would expect at the thought. The guy was really in an edgy mood.
"Nah, we got lust down. Let's move onto a different sin."
Cas perked up. "Wrath?"
It was easy to forget how utterly enormousLas Vegas was. The lights, the sounds, the fountains- it was both overwhelming and exhilarating. The Impala fit the crowded streets perfectly, sleek black exterior reflecting the glare of casino signs. Cas still seemed upset, only nodding without looking at Dean as he explained the rules of various games. But he had no doubt the man's mood would improve once he discovered the joys of getting rich quick.
"So you remember everything I said about hustling?" Asked Dean, pulling his car into the parking lot of a smaller casino. It would be lacking in both an entry fee and elaborate security- making it easier to cheat.
"Disguise your talents so your competitor underestimates you, and places higher bets in their own favor." Recited Castiel.
"Exactly." Said Dean, glad Cas was at least responding to him. He started walking across the parking lot, the other catching up hurriedly.
"But Dean, is that not dishonest?"
Dean looked over at Cas incredulously, blinking twice. "That's the point."
"These people came here for fair sport, we should respect that."
Dean scoffed. "These people came here to take each other's money. All we're doing is beating them at it. Besides, look at their fancy suits. They have plenty to lose."
It was true, walking into the building had him feeling somewhat outclassed. The patrons were dressed lavishly, even in a small establishment like this one. Cas and Dean on the other hand wore the usual jeans, and in the former's case, leather jacket.
"Very well." Surrendered Castiel.
Dean went immediately to the pool table, most familiar with this game. He played straight, relying on his talent to earn twenty bucks. Cas watched intently, absorbing the mechanics of the casino games while Dean whooped with boyish excitement.
"You wanna give it a try?" Offered the hunter, parading over to Cas and presenting a pool cue.
He took it uncertainly. "Do you think it's a wise idea?"
"Of course. Give me your game face."
Castiel stared blankly at Dean, meeting his eye for the first time that night.
"No, you're too confident-looking! You have to pretend you don't know what you're doing. They'll bet higher, and that's when you hit 'em!"
"But I really don't know what I'm doing." Pointed out Cas, examining the stick with a quizzical frown.
"That's why I'm teaching you! Give me that." Dean took the stick from his hand and turned it right-side-up. "You can't play with your cue backwards."
"Are you sure?" Questioned Castiel as he was steered towards the pool table.
"You'll do fine." Coaxed Dean.
Five minutes and twenty lost dollars later, it became clear that Castiel in fact was not fine.
"I'm sorry, Dean." Said Cas, relinquishing the pool cue. He'd hit the balls too hard, sending them flying off the table and into the backs of other patrons. Dean found the money he'd won parted from him all too soon.
"Nah, it's okay. It was just twenty dollars. We have the whole night to earn it back." Dismissed Dean with a wave of his hand. He was in too of high spirits to let this daunt him. "I didn't explain how it's done well enough. Maybe you should watch me play some more and give it another try. You gotta be gentle, sorta nudge the ball in the right direction. It's not football."
The hunter proceeded to recite a lifetime of techniques he'd picked up, but Castiel was staring elsewhere.
"What's that?" He pointed, interrupting Dean's lecture.
"Huh?" Dean looked and saw a large target at which darts were being thrown. "Oh. Wow. Never seen one of those in a place like this."
"Is it like pool? Can you make money from it?"
He peered over to the spot and saw that a ring of men were standing around it, betting on who could hit closest to the center of the target. "Yeah, looks like it. Why, it tickle your fancy?"
"I want to try." Answered Cas, staring at it seriously.
"Oh. Are you sure? We don't have any cash, so if you don't make it we'll have to ditch th-"
"Give me a dart."
And so Dean found himself holding his breath as the former angel stared summatively at the target, dart held delicately in his fingers. He'd bet fifty dollars that Cas could beat the other men's attempts at hitting the center. He knew Castiel, angel of the Lord, could make any shot with flying colors. But this was human Castiel, who got carsick from reading and who for a week shook uncontrollably.
This human Cas now narrowed his eyes in a calculating way that made Dean's stomach do an inexplicable little flip, and then with a flick of his hand the dart was flying at break-neck speed into the center of the target.
Dean had to lift his jaw from where it'd dropped to let out a long whistle. The other players were making similar expressions of shock, except the one who'd betted against Cas. He just looked biter as he handed over fifty dollars.
"Well damn. What a lucky shot!" Exclaimed Dean loudly. There were murmurs of agreement.
When Castiel turned around and gave him a look, Dean pulled him aside.
"How'd you do that?" He whispered.
"It wasn't a lucky shot. Aim is a learned skill. I haven't forgotten anything."
Dean remembered the chronic headaches and was happy to hear that they hadn't resulted in any memory loss. "Well that's amazing. But don't let them know that." He gestured to the men still staring disbelievingly at the bulls-eye shot. "They'll stop betting against you."
The next throw Castiel made was strategically astray, but his face gave away his motives by displaying no surprise or disappointment. It was obvious the shot was purposefully bad, and the ring of gamblers refused to place any more bets.
But Cas's expressionless face had already given Dean another idea. He nudged the other man and began leading him towards a different part of the building.
"I don't think it will be lucrative for me to try any more of these games." Said Cas, dejected from not being able to earn much even while finding something he was good at. The complex lying and masks involved in Dean's money-making were not to his taste.
"No way, I know one you'll kick ass at." Dean stopped before a long row of chips-and-card-scattered tables. "What do you know about poker?"
"We're rich!" Shouted Dean, and started giggling hysterically for what seemed like the tenth time that night. "Rich!"
People entering the casino glared at the two men exiting.
"Cas, I gotta tell you man, I always knew you had a poker face..." More giggling. "But... but I never expected that. You were like a poker... a poker machine!"
"I don't think you should of accepted so many martinis." Reprimanded Castiel, but there was a smile behind the words. The night had passed in a blur of poker chips and scantily-clad women offering drinks.
It turned out Cas was really, really good at poker. Better than Dean- who wasn't too shabby himself- had ever been, and he'd learnt the rules in a matter of minutes. As the chips the two of them won started to pile up, so did the good moods. And in Dean's case, the drinks. Not enough that he couldn't drive, but the tipsiness was apparent in each step towards the Impala. He hadn't seen Cas accept any alcohol, but nevertheless, the former angel was noticeably jubilant. Whatever grievance ailed him before seemed to have been forgotten.
"Why not? I deserve to celebrate! We're going to be living like kings!" Dean whooped, and had to stiffle the odd compulsion to reach over and ruffle Cas's hair. He wasn't that drunk.
The festive mood continued into the car ride home, Dean playing 'Money Made' and singing ridiculously as he drove. He expected Castiel to be nervous about being driven by a near-drunkard, but when Dean turned around he saw that the former angel wasn't. In fact, he was just staring with an expression on his face that made Dean stop hollering mid-lyic.
It was pure, unadulterated... something, as if him lip-synching AC/DC was the most inspiring thing he'd ever seen. It was awkward, unfiltered, and intense, making Dean want to squirm or run. But all he could do was stare back. His stomach flipped uncomfortably for the second time that night as their eyes met and held. Then Cas seemed to come to his senses and look down posthaste.
What the hell. Thought Dean. Nothing about that was normal. How Cas had been staring, how he himself had reacted, and most of all the fact that Cas noticed his own awkwardness. Even looked away, contrary to his usual obliviousness. That definitely wasn't standard nerd-angel behavior.
Dean cleared his throat and took his eyes back to the road, no longer singing along. The celebratory atmosphere had become stifling, the joyfully blaring rock music just blaring. The companionable silence that pervaded between them shifted into something uncomfortable. Neither were willing to acknowledge the look that had passed. Dean did with the event what he did with all feelings he didn't like- ignored it completely. And if Dean-Castiel's navigator in the world of human complexities- didn't address it, then there was no way he would.
Castiel was beginning to develop a new respect for Dean Winchester. It had always been clear that the man repressed himself- from the memories of Hell to grief over his lost father. As an angel he had passively noted this, and as a friend he'd quietly disapproved. But he'd never realized how hardit was.
Feelings popped up unbidden when he least expected, ambushing him like birds of prey. He'd decided shortly after discovering his attraction towards Dean that the urges were both confused and inappropriate. The man was his charge, friend, and caretaker- all things that shouldn't illicit these feelings. He didn't understand them, where they'd come from, what they meant. He'd spent most of the night struggling to repress them, unable to even look in Dean's direction without triggering a complicated mix of dread and intoxication. The fun of poker had let him mostly forget, until he'd stupidly slipped. It had been such a little thing, but such a Dean thing, him tipsy and happy and shamelessly singing. Castiel didn't even realize he was staring until Dean was staring confusedly back.
He was determined not to let something like that happen again.
But it was hard.
Cas had just gotten dressed after a shower and push-up session when Dean came up to him and started insisting he learn how to shave.
"Come on dude, it's hardly even stubble anymore, you're going to start growing a beard!" Dean extended the razor farther, trying to get Castiel to accept it.
It was true, in his two weeks on Earth Cas hadn't bothered shaving. It seemed like a delicate and painful process. "I don't see why that is a problem."
"It's not, if you're going for the homeless look." Quipped Dean. "Look, I got some fake IDs in order, we're going to interview the Nevada Geology Council about all the sulfur they found. It might help us track down your grace, but they're not going to take you seriously if you look like a hobo. Professionalism and all that."
At the mention of his grace, Castiel finally took the razor. "You're sure this won't cut my face?" He'd seen it used with no ill effects, but his past experiences with sharp objects in his face had been unpleasant.
Dean scoffed and beckoned for Cas to follow him into the spacious bathroom of the hotel room. "Here." The hunter took the razor back and set a stream of warm water flowing from the sink. "Watch." He doused his face with the liquid and spread a small amount of shaving cream across his cheeks and chin.
Castiel's eyes glued to the sight of the blade dragging slowly down Dean's face, leaving a path of smooth skin in it's wake. He worked across each cheek in long, leisurely movements. It was hypnotizing.
"Be careful around the chin." Instructed Dean, startling Castiel.
He realized with shame that he'd been staring as he had the previous night. He'd never seen the fault in looking at people- it allowed him to read their expressions easier so he could interpret the meaning behind their words. And eye to eye contact was sometimes more effective than stumbling over double-meanings and social pit falls. But with both the general public and Dean, he'd noticed a degree of uncomfortableness caused by this.
Maybe this is why. He thought, as Dean began to move the razor over the soft jut of his chin. Maybe it was because of how he kept catching himself looking at the man now. It wasn't an innocent, perplexed gaze. It was full of lust and a passionate affection he realized had been underlying for a long time. Maybe when humans stared at each other it was usually with these feelings, and they assumed this of Castiel. No wonder.
Dean finished shaving and raised his chin proudly. "See? No cuts. Just smooth, non-homelessness." He ran a hand over his face to demonstrate, handing the razor back over. "You try."
Cas repeated Dean's actions, applying warm water and some of the white foamy substance, then taking the blade and driving it firmly down his left cheek. It was effective but hurt, the skin left behind red and agitated.
"No, you're pushing too hard, take it easy." Dean corrected, watching him like a teacher looking out for cheaters on a test. Cas tried again, this time pressing down lightly. Too lightly, as it turned out, only flattening the hairs to his face. "Not that easy, and you have it at the wrong angle... here."
Cas's breath hitched as Dean took the razor again moved closer, drawing a line through the shorter man's stubble and staring concentratedly at the mirror so he could see where to shave. Clean, bare skin was left behind. "See?" He repeated the action, tilting the blade so is cut cleanly. The brush of cold metal to his cheek sent shivers skittering down Castiel's spine. His pulse hastened and his mouth went dry.
"You're like a friggin baby. Got to do everything for you." Teased Dean, raising a hand to steady Cas's head while he shaved with the other. Castiel didn't trust his voice enough to respond. The only sounds in the room were the brisk sliding of metal over skin and what Cas swore was his own pounding heartbeat.
Dean stepped so he was directly behind him once he got to his chin, shaving in small, precise strokes. There was now virtually no space between them, and Cas stiffened. Dean's head tilted forward in concentration, breath tickling his ear.
This isn't fair. He thought. It was hard enough trying to quell these new feelings just being in the same room as Dean. Now with the hunter's chest pressed against his back, Cas felt panicked and trapped. He was stuck, the telltale signs of excitement surfacing with each movement Dean made. He didn't want or understand them. There wasn't anything sexual about being taught how to shave. And yet to his desperate frustration, he could feel blood rush distinctly downwards when the hunter shifted slightly behind him.
"Lift up your head, I can't see." Came the complaint, along with a halt in ministrations. Castiel was reluctant to comply, afraid of meeting the other's eyes. He didn't think he'd be able to deal with the soulful green. Not now. But comply he did, raising his head from where it'd been angled at the ground and facing his reflection.
He was surprised at how heavily he was blushing- either from shame or arousal. Maybe both.
Dean seemed to note this too. "Aw, don't be so embarrassed. I was kidding about the baby thing, you're more like a teenager." Cas wasn't sure if this was supposed to assuage him. "Every guy has to learn how to shave sooner or later. You're just a late bloomer. Like, thirteen billion years late, but that's okay."
"Give it another try." The razor was placed in Castiel's hand. He lifted it up uncertainly, not trusting his movements and began to mimic Dean's actions on the other side of his face. Much to his relief, Dean backed off a few steps, allowing him to complete the task without worrying he was going to faint.
Castiel left the bathroom that morning clean-shaven, but feeling less clean internally than he ever had.