Castiel wakes up before Dean does and listens to the comforting sound of his steady breathing for a few moments before rolling over and opening his eyes.
Dean doesn't always look peaceful when he sleeps. Sometimes his face contorts in pain or anxiety from his nightmares. Sometimes he's so tired or drunk that he looks dead. He looks peaceful now. Castiel has missed being here to see him like this.
Other than that Castiel isn't sure how he feels right now. That happens a lot when one is human. No feeling exists by itself. It's always tangled with other things. He feels the warm pleasant feeling that being with Dean gives him, and at the same time he feels the cold aching feeling that he'd felt when he'd been asked to sleep alone in his room again. He's mad at Dean for drinking again, he's a little mad at Dean for not telling Sam, which is ridiculous because Sam knows. And he also feels like he can't be mad because he still feels so incredibly guilty about the terrible thing he did last night. He's mad at himself because there is something about the way his human body needs touch and comfort and sex that makes him feel weak.
And on top of and despite it all, he's happy.
Because he was promised that the growing pains would fade, and that this would be his reward. He was promised love and family. He was promised the ability to grow and change and learn. To eventually grow old, die, and go to Heaven.
Being human is very complicated.
Dean's eyes open and he looks at Castiel, blinking into the sunlight behind him.
"How did you sleep?"
"Well. But there is a pain in my neck."
Dean smiles the smile he gives Cas when Cas is being "cute". Chelsea gives him a very similar smile but it doesn't make him feel warm all over the way Dean's smile does.
"Yeah." Dean yawns. "We shouldn't have slept on the couch. I'm too old and battered for that."
Cas laughs. He runs his hand down Dean's arm and tucks his fingers into Dean's. Dean squeezes them and Cas is suddenly a lot less mad.
"Last night was pleasant?" Cas is embarrassed that he makes that sound like a question. But Dean never talked to him about the last time they'd had sex and he feels a little unsure and exposed.
"Yeah," Dean says. He brushes his hands through Castiel's hair and some of Gabriel's confetti falls out. "It was."
Castiel wonders if this is an appropriate time to tell Dean what he wants in order to make this work. He knows that you're not supposed to just tell people what you want, but being coy about things makes them too difficult and confusing.
But he can soften the blow a little.
He leans forward and kisses Dean. "I'll make pancakes if you make bacon?"
It's been a couple of weeks since Dean and Cas, for lack of any other term, got official. Cas had had a few demands. Dean had said yes to all of them. Because it took nearly losing Cas to Tony to make Dean realize just how serious a hit that would have been to him. And because Cas smiled when Dean said yes and Dean had been sick of getting nothing out of Castiel but a look of disappointment and stretched patience.
And all of Cas's demands had been reasonable. A little too reasonable, actually, but Dean was still struggling. The worst part was that he was beginning to realize that what he was actually struggling with was the idea of being happy.
Cas wants Dean to come clean to Bobby, Karen, Ellen, and Thomas, he'd told Dean that Dean could do it on his own timetable, but that's what Cas wanted.
Thomas should be easy. He had his little hunting story about his gay buddy. Thomas isn't family like everyone else, he's just a coworker, but he's Dean's only outside friend right now. Dean decides to tell him first, but never finds the right time. He does tell Thomas that he'd turned down the invite to the next poker game because Cas wanted him to dry out. It should have been the perfect segue into telling him that it was more than friendly concern… but Dean hadn't said anything. Thomas had clapped him on the arm, told him that there didn't have to be alcohol and asked him to come along to the next one.
So Dean's got that impending guys night hanging over his head. Not being able to tell Karen or Bobby yet is getting stressful too. A regular Friday night dinner has started since Sam got back. Chelsea is a feature at this dinner too and last Friday Karen had asked Dean to help her carry in a casserole dish from the car and asked him why he didn't give Chelsea a second chance. They got along so well and he clearly cared about her.
Bobby is also still pushing for Dean and Cas to be on the paperwork for the house. Dean can't sign the papers until Bobby knows. It's too much of a lie.
Cas's other demand was that Dean couldn't be secretive around Sam and Chelsea. He wanted the elbow and shoulder touching back. He wanted to be hugged. He was particularly insistent about the handholding. So now, if the four of them settle in for a little TV, Dean has to endure the annoyingly proud look that Sam or Chelsea or both sometimes give him when Cas slips his hand into Dean's.
And it's not just the fact that he's over thirty and after two weeks is in the longest relationship of his entire life, and it's with a guy, and that guy used to be an Angel, and Dean practically nursed him back to health over the last year, and he has to deal with all of this while his brother is back from mystical parts unknown and still Coo-Coo for Cocoa Puffs.
It's also that Sam's point about their father, about how unimportant Dean and Sam had been to him, is still eating at him. He can't stop thinking about it. And not just in an all over… haunting type of way, every once in a while something sticks him like a goddamn knife. He'd known that his father was possessed because he'd told Dean he was proud of him. He'd called his father for help a hundred times and he'd been ignored. He'd had a son that he'd actually taken out for father-son things that didn't involve knives and gore and never told Dean that he had another younger brother.
In the middle of the week Sam texts Dean from Cas's phone. Chelsea's giving them run of the pool for a while and Cas wants to get groceries. They'll be home late.
Dean's been resisting the urge ever since Sam reamed him out… but he's got the house to himself for a couple hours. And he can't not look into it.
He digs out his dad's journal and reads through it. And this time, he's not amazed at the way his father could trace a pattern of bizarre across decades and miles. He sees the obsession. The obsession that was different than other Hunters. Different from the way Sam could become a machine when he needed to. Different from the way Bobby had nothing else but Hunting.
His father's obsession had been like Gordon's. Cold. Overwhelming. Eating away at everything around him.
Dean reads through the whole thing. Cover to cover instead of entry by entry. The entries start out clinical and brief. John was there. He killed this. A brief description of habits and weaknesses. Like a field guide.
Within a year they'd blown through detailed and dived head first into crazy.
Lengthy descriptions of the amount of blood that gushed out of a vampire's decapitated body. The sound a ghoul made while being killed.
He goes back over a few entries that he'd never given much extra thought to back in the day but now… with a few years and discoveries under his belt… he sees them differently.
There was an entry about a monster from a few years back. Every victim was described in exhaustive detail. The hunt wasn't. There was one line- one- about the hunter he'd been working with who died. And reading over it, knowing what he knew now, he realized that the nameless, one line worthy Hunter, was Jo Harvelle's father.
There are a few entries from after Sam left for Stanford that Dean had never looked that far into. No mention of monsters or demons or useful intel. Just short notes with a little notation he'd never thought much about.
It only took about 10 minutes of research to find out what the notation really was. Coordinates for Windom, Minnesota.
That realization isn't one he needed right after Cas and Sam took all the booze out of the house. Sam had bailed. Dean had been falling apart, and his father hadn't been out Hunting by himself. He'd been with the only Winchester son who had ever been taken out to the ball game.
It's just masochistic to keep going, but he does. He's a mess when Cas and Sam get home. He pretends that he's not, and they both see right through him. Sam goes upstairs for the longest shower anyone has ever taken. Cas tries to nudge, but since Cas is the world's worst nudger, Dean ends up telling him exactly what's wrong and refusing to talk about it. Cas yells at him for being "emotionally constipated". Dean caves, but refuses to talk to him about it until later in the night. They'll get dinner dealt with and then they'll talk about it. It's obviously not what Cas had in mind, but they make dinner. Something complicated and overly-health concious for Dean and Cas, something mushy and brothy for Sam.
Cas crowds Dean a little while they cook, standing too close, touching him for no real reason. There's nothing Dean can do about it though- he promised. And hell if it doesn't make him feel better. Even with Sam in the room, not watching but not by any means oblivious… it's the type of thing they'd done before things had gone from a little too intimate to actually intimate and it's kind of a relief.
Dean still doesn't want to deal with it, doesn't want to admit that he's this fucked up about his father's stupid journal. It makes him feel like he did when he first picked Sam up from Stanford. Lost. Like he wasn't his own person at all. Like he really was just Daddy's little blunt instrument and he couldn't go out Hunting alone. He puts in a movie after dinner just to delay the conversation. Sam falls asleep before it even gets going. Cas turns to Dean and crosses his arms when Sam starts to snore.
"Fine," Dean sighs. "But first things first."
Dean gently shakes Sam awake. Sam shuffles up to bed, he's asleep again by the time Dean and Cas have their teeth brushed.
Cas undresses, slips into the pajamas that Chelsea had bought him when she realized that he was sleeping in his clothes. Dean's been a civilian for the better part of a year and he's never the hang of pajamas, he drops down to his boxers and tee shirt. Cas crawls into bed and gives Dean an expectant sort of look. Then he holds his hand out.
This is really the weirdest part. Laying down with Cas every night. Talking to him. Touching him. Waking up with him every morning. The fact that he's a guy is weird, but not as weird as the relationship thing is. Dean's not afraid of commitment. His life has been dedicated to fighting evil since the day he ran out of his burning house with his little brother crying in his arms. He knew that men were supposed to be running free and spreading their oats and whatever in Hell, but he knew exactly what that life looked like and it wasn't heroic it was lonely. But even if he's not afraid of it, it's still bizarre that he has it. Dean settles down next to Cas and after a second, takes his hand.
"You're upset," Cas says. "Something happened to you today."
Dean reaches out and flicks off the light. "You know I hate dragging my ass through all this feelings crap."
He feels Cas's fingers tuck into the hair at the nape of his neck. "I know that. You know that it's good for you to drag your ass through this feeling crap though." Cas kisses him. "Tell me what's wrong."
Dean's first instinct is to refuse. To bury it under violence and alcoholism. Then he realizes who ground that reaction into him and it makes him so angry that it takes him a minute to calm down before he can talk to Cas.
He tells him about the journal. The things about it he'd never noticed before. Cas listens. He rubs his fingers against Dean's scalp while Dean talks. Dean doesn't go overboard. He's sharing, but he's not about to kumbaya all over his big gay bed. Eventually he blows his own anger out. Cas scoots closer to him when he quiets, and kisses him. He runs his hands through Dean's hair and Dean kisses him back.
He tries not to think about the… context of what's happening. That this isn't an isolated incident anymore. It's routine. It's not just him and Cas alone in this house with this thing between them building just outside of his conscious awareness of it.
Chelsea knows what's going on, Sam's asleep in the next room, Cas is rolling him onto his back and slipping his hands under Dean's shirt.
And he wants this and the people who know keep telling him he can have it.
He's letting go of his "it's only sex if you get in" idea. Cas has no expectations and Dean's starting to think Cas might be fine with it if they camp out on second base for so long they have to plant crops and build a town hall.
This not-exactly-dry-humping thing that he and Cas do together is starting to feel like some of the best sex he's ever had. It's not physically intense. It's not the kind of thing where you fight back the orgasm like hell, thinking about any distracting thing you can possibly dredge up to keep it from ending too fast.
It's all… close. It's having his hands knotted in Cas's hair. It's Cas's breath hot in his ear. It's his tongue in Cas's mouth and sometimes Cas's legs wrapped around his back. He never has to pull back in his mind and think about cleaning his guns or a particularly nasty salt and burn. He can just concentrate on Cas.
And it's weird, but it's also kind of awesome.
Bobby jumps a little when Karen sets her hand over his shoulder.
"Sweetie?" She asks. "You okay?"
"Yeah. Yeah, why?" Bobby asks, shaking his head. He'd been a little hypnotized by the rhythm of the passing streetlights and gotten lost in his thoughts. It was all that driving at night over the years that did it.
"You missed our exit," Karen replies.
Bobby looks up at the street signs and realizes that she's right. And because he's taken this highway so many places so many times he realizes that he's actually missed it by a pretty solid distance and she's only pointing it out to him now. He merges into the left lane. The next exit's not for a few miles.
Karen turns the radio volume down a little. "Sam seems to be doing a lot better this week. Maybe he'll even be ready for cake in time for his birthday."
"Yeah. That's coming up," Bobby says.
"It's a relief to see Dean get him back too," Karen says. "It's strange, actually."
Karen shrugs and fiddles with the radio again. "You were so… adamant, that you couldn't be trusted to have children. And they're… your boys."
Bobby feels a shiver of discomfort at that. The strange thing about getting your wife back decades after losing her is that it's almost like starting over, but not quite. The old fights and old memories are there, but there are so many gaps. So many ways you have to relearn each other. Especially when one of you had been a Hunter and one of you had been dead.
"Well. Except for the holes that John left in them," Bobby replies. He'd often wondered, back when Dean and Sam were little, if he'd been overstepping his boundaries as "Uncle Bobby" by never doing anything John asked him to do with the boys. When John said gun drill, Bobby took them out to play ball. When John said research skills, Bobby took them hunting. It had been years of taking in the ankle-biters for a week here and a weekend there before he realized that part of it was how much John reminded him of his own father. John wasn't just a mean son of a bitch. He was grieving, and trying, and at first, he'd loved those boys. And Bobby was sure that he'd loved them at the end too, but… there were things in-between, where he had to wonder how far off the reservation John had really gone. And there were too many things- like the look on Dean's face when he'd admitted to selling his soul to save Sam- that Bobby would never forgive John Winchester for.
"Yes," Karen sighs sadly. "Well… Sam seems to have recovered from him pretty well. Dean will heal. You did."
Bobby doesn't respond to that. He wants her to believe it about him, he wants to believe it about himself, but it's not true and sometimes when he looks at Dean he wonders if it can ever be true, and hopes like hell it can.
Karen's right, they are his boys, which is why he'll never play favorites, but he's only human, and he does have a favorite. He sees too much of himself in Dean not to sometimes… prioritize him over Sam. Sam is sick and recuperating, but he's got three people looking out for him and even with Cas and Chelsea propping Dean up as much as they do, Dean is usually still alone in his head somehow.
"You know what Dean needs?" Karen goes on. "A girl. I don't understand why he and Chelsea aren't together. I know Dean doesn't know me all that well, but I've got half a mind to drop by and take Chelsea out to lunch. Little… girl talk, I guess."
Bobby spots the exit sign he was waiting for. "Dean's not dating Chelsea because he's sleeping with Castiel," he tells her.
She gives him a skeptical look. "What makes you say that?"
"Coupla things. For one that's a three bedroom house and you don't have to be a genius to tell that no one sleeps in one of them, you just have to be a nosy son of a bitch. For another… there's just something about those two. And there has been, ever since Cas pulled him outta Hell."
"Oh," Karen says. "Well, now I feel bad. I've been… pushing Dean a little bit about Chelsea. I mean… I just want him to be with someone that sees how special he is. And Cas is… well, I mean I like the boy… Angel… you know what I mean."
"Yeah," Bobby agreed. "That's why I've basically been trying to give the idjits the house."
"Do you think we should say anything?"
"We'll give him a little more time. You can tell that he's getting better. They all are. That's what's important."