Wouldn't It Be Nice - Casloveshisfreckles (2024)

Chapter 1

Chapter Text

Wouldn't It Be Nice - Casloveshisfreckles (1)

5:30 am

“It was the heat of the moment, telling me what my heart meant...”

With a groan and his eyes still shut, Dean Winchester reaches out to fumble with his phone enough to shut the alarm off, the sounds of Asia cutting off abruptly. He sits up in bed because if he doesn't, he'll roll over and go back to sleep and that would be very bad for him and the dinner he's planning tonight.

Rubbing the sleep out of his eyes with the back of his hand, Dean turns off his second alarm and drags his ass to the shower, his morning off and running. He doesn't bother dressing in more than a pair of joggers and a gray hoodie when he heads out, the sun just starting to rise in the East, the sky lightening in shades of blue and gold. Dean can smell the ocean as he climbs into his car, a sixty-seven Chevy Impala he's had since before he could even drive. Her engine purrs as Dean pulls out of the driveway, pointing her toward his destination.

If he doesn't get to the farmers market in time, he'll lose out on all the best cuts of meat, which isn't a euphemism, even if his butcher is kinda cute. Too bad Dean doesn't have time for dating right now. His work has to take priority. If he loses concentration and something goes wrong, they will replace him faster than he can say patisserie, which reminds him to stop by the fruit stand to see if they have peaches today.

They do, which means he can make his tarts, which means he will also need to stop at the market for more gluten-free flour.

It's incredibly easy for his morning to fill up.

But such is life as a private chef working in the Hamptons for the summer.

7:30 am

The sun is up by the time Dean makes it back to the house to prep breakfast. The 'house' is more like a mansion with its nine bedrooms and sixteen bathrooms that Dean is happy not to have to clean. It's situated right on the beach alongside a lot of other enormous houses that cost more than Dean could ever imagine having.

It's the farthest from anywhere Dean's ever seen himself getting, but the money is good and he gets to do what he loves all day, so Dean can't complain. It's his fourth year out on the island, and lucky for him the family he cooks for—The Novak’s—includes room and board for him and their other employees during their whole three-month gig, so Dean can't f*ck it up. Dean has already sublet his shoebox of an apartment in Brooklyn, so he'd have nowhere to go if he got fired, and he can't imagine having to ask his ex Max for a night or ten on his couch again.

Dean dumps the groceries in the kitchen before he goes to his room to change into a pair of shorts and a t-shirt, his normal daily uniform. When he works in the city, he wears typical chef pants and jackets, but out here during the summer, there is no dress code. The Novak's encouraged him to be comfortable after his first day when he sweated through his chef's jacket that first dinner. It's been locked inside his trunk ever since.

Now he works in whatever he's most comfortable in, a pair of headphones fixed securely over his ears and Zeppelin turned on as he works. He secures a bandana, hunter green today, over his hairline to hold his hair back, his need for a cut way past due. It's summer though, so Dean's in no rush.

Once he’s back in the kitchen, it's time to prep the gluten-free dough he needs for a focaccia and the eggs he’ll use for breakfast. Everyone in the family has their preferences, but Mr. and Mrs. Novak are fairly easy to please, while their son Michael is gluten-free, so Dean has to make some accommodations.

Today he’s making omelets which everyone can eat, so breakfast is easy for Dean to get on the table. He makes himself a pour-over, the coffee getting his gears grinding as he slips into his happy place, the rhythm of his kitchen. It’s one of the best he’s ever cooked in, and Dean’s cooked in plenty over the years. The Novak’s is filled with state-of-the-art appliances, including a stove that costs more than Dean spends in a year on car maintenance (which isn’t cheap for an old gal like his Baby). The kitchen also includes large, wrap-around counters and a beautiful marble-topped island that gives Dean plenty of space to craft his meals with room to spare for plating and prep. It’s Dean’s own version of heaven on earth.

8:30 am

When breakfast is ready, Dean plates the omelets, some fresh-cut hash browns, and fruit parfaits enough for three, alongside a specific coffee order for each member of the family.

Michael prefers an espresso and a flat white to follow it, made with almond milk Dean makes himself. His father, Chuck, likes his coffee black, but as a pour-over, like Dean prefers. Dean prepares him an entire personal carafe, which he leaves at his place at the table so Chuck can refill his cup as often as he wants. Once Dean’s back in the kitchen, he starts the second carafe Chuck will finish while he eats and reads the newspapers Dean picked up this morning at the market.

Last but certainly not least, Dean leaves an insanely dry cappuccino at the head of the table for Naomi, the matriarch of the family. Head surgeon for a fancy hospital in the city, Naomi is a commanding presence who runs her home like a tight ship, even though Dean thinks she might have a soft spot for him. After a few martinis, she is always telling him he makes the best branzino she's ever had. She's a little stiff compared to her husband, who is a best-selling writer. They couldn't be more night and day, Chuck in his day-old pajama pants and Naomi with a matching tennis outfit for every day of the week. She spent Dean's first week showing him how to perfect her cappuccino, and it's recently joined the best of list as well.

At least if this private chef thing doesn't work out, Dean could make a killing as a barista. He's looking forward to good coffee for the rest of the summer, too.

9:30 am

While everyone eats, Dean works on a marinade and the dough for his tarts, which he throws in one of the fridges to chill. The Novak’s have three altogether, one for food prep alone. By the time he’s done, the Novak’s breakfast plates are empty and left outside on their patio table where they take all their meals during the summer, weather permitting. It's an incredible outdoor space, the long dining table shaded by the patio cover, with ceiling fans that spin lazily above. The patio looks out over the pool and the ocean beyond that, and it's one of Dean's favorite spots to work.

It's where he sets up after he's cleaned the kitchen, his laptop open so he can check his menus and his own carafe of coffee waiting for him to finish, along with the omelet he made himself. He also reheated some bacon he made yesterday, planning to use the rest for the BLTs he's making for lunch. The house smelled amazing yesterday when he cooked through ten pounds of it for various reasons. It's all frozen now, waiting for him to pop it in the air fryer or in a skillet for different meals (or just a snack if Dean can't sleep).

He spends the next few hours placing orders and going through emails, a few from Mrs. Novak with special requests and events she has planned. Most days the house has visitors from her tennis club friends to the Novak’s weekly bridge club every Sunday. Dean orders extra seafood for this week's meeting, per Mrs. Novak's request. Time flies as Dean works, headphones over his ears and the ocean breeze in his hair. Sure, the hours are long and sometimes his days get hectic, but sitting out here beside the Atlantic, recipe planning, and getting paid to feed people, Dean has no complaints. He's been responsible for making sure his family has eaten for years. Why not get paid to do it for someone else's?

11:30 am

Lunch prep. Dean's first stop is the lavish gardens the Novak’s have next to their house. He grabs a basket before he steps back out into the sun, his ray bans going over his eyes before he gets more than two steps. He's whistling something that sounds like Metallica before it quickly evolves into “Whistle While You Work”, from that Disney movie with the girl and the little guys that worked in the mine. Snow White. Dean feels a little like a Disney princess while he gathers literal vegetables from the garden, birds singing and chirping around him while the ocean crashes in the background. It feels appropriate. He half expects a squirrel to show up and help him peel the corn husks or something.

Unfortunately, Dean has to do that himself, but it's worth it to add fresh corn to the summer salad he's thrown together for lunch, a side of crusty French bread with Meyer lemon dip to go with it. He has to special order the Meyer lemons for it, so he always makes a little (big) dish for himself whenever he makes it.

12:00 pm

Since he has already prepped and stored most of his sandwich ingredients in the prep fridge, throwing together lunch is simple. Dean heats enough bacon for extra sandwiches and puts three plates together for his clients, who all pick up their lunches in between calls and, in Michael’s case, on his way out the door. The three of them come and go constantly, which is why he has to stay on top of their calendars and his menus to have enough to go around. He makes himself a sandwich which only takes a few bites to devour and then he’s cleaning the kitchen again, just so he can do a bit more prep for dinner.

The cuts of steak he bought this morning have been breathing out on the counter since he brought them home and now that they are room temperature, they can go in the marinade he made, layered with sprigs of oregano and sage for flavor. He checks on his dough and wipes everything down one last time before he’s satisfied, and ready to hang up his apron and take a break knowing he has nothing to worry about, besides the normal sh*t he’s worrying about on a regular basis.

2:00 pm

Which reminds Dean… His plan was to take a nap, but he knows he won't sleep unless he checks his phone first. Fishing it out of his nightstand, Dean turns it on, not expecting anything and getting just that when he checks his messages and finds nothing new from his little brother Sam.

Off in California chasing his dreams, Sam's acceptance into Stanford University was one of Dean's proudest days. After their dad died, Dean worked his ass off in various ways until a stint as a short-order cook put the bug in him. He still worked his ass off, he just did it in hot as hell kitchens and questionable food trucks all over the northeast. Every penny that didn't go to gas or food went into an account for Sam. Dean sent half to Sioux Falls while Sam finished high school staying at their Uncle Bobby's while the other half went into a savings account for Sam's tuition. Sure, some nights Dean slept in his car, but the Impala was as close to home as anywhere else Dean's ever laid his head, so he really didn't mind.

His bedroom at the Novak’s, however, is elite. It’s big enough for a king-size bed and a small sitting room, everything decked out in white. Dean thought for sure he’d spill something, but it's his fourth summer here and he has done no permanent damage so far.

After he turns his phone off and tucks it back into the drawer, it’s easy to fall face-first into his extra soft pillows, a place Dean stays with his face mushed into them. It’s quiet here, and for a moment, Dean lets himself enjoy the silence and the stillness. He doesn’t have trouble keeping up with his hectic life—if anything, Dean thrives—but sometimes… sometimes it’s nice to just slow down and catch his breath.

It’s even better when Dean can sneak in a nap.

4:30 pm

Dinner prep. But first, coffee.

Dean never meant to enjoy iced coffee. His dad would cringe at the sight, but Dean doesn't care, not when he's filling his mason jar with a cold brew he makes himself, which means it's f*cking amazing. Yes, Dean uses a mason jar, so the f*ck what, it's huge, it has a lid, and he can see when he's ready for a refill, all reasons it's a superior glass for iced coffee and co*cktails. He even uses a smaller set to serve his peach bourbon iced tea. Considering how many peaches he bought, he might have enough for a batch to serve with dinner tonight. It's a quick change to his menu. His previous co*cktail was just a classic martini.

Again he has to visit the garden for the salad fixings and he finds a bushel of just harvested sweet potatoes waiting for him, perfect for dinner tonight. Dean sends silent thanks out to the gardener Joshua for being so awesome at his job. Dean’s cooking benefits amazingly with fresh ingredients, and he gives his thanks by feeding the staff when he can.

Once he’s back inside the kitchen, Dean spends the next hour slicing and chopping various vegetables and the peaches he needs for his tarts and his co*cktails, the methodical work a balm to his usually racing mind, a way for Dean to get lost in the rhythm of his work and favorite thing to do. It makes time fly, and soon, he’s ready to head out back to fire up the barbecue. It’s one of Dean’s favorite things to cook on, a massive grill that he takes advantage of as often as he can. Tonight it’s marinated steaks and grilled eggplant, and once that’s plated and served, Dean will grill a few halved peaches out here as well to top off his tarts. Anticipation courses through him, the hope that all his flavors come together and hit the mark keeping Dean sharp so he can stay on track to serve dinner exactly at six.

6:00 pm

Everything goes as planned. A few minutes before six, Dean has the steaks seared perfectly on both sides, ensuring that all the cuts of meat have time to breathe as he plates the eggplant and the baked sweet potatoes that were kept warm in the oven while he was outside grilling. He adds the steaks to his plates and presents dinner with three bourbon peach iced teas, all served out on the patio while the sun drops behind the horizon, illuminating the endless sky and reflecting water with an explosion of color, the perfect backdrop for Dean’s perfect dinner.

He keeps the patio doors open in case anyone needs anything while he’s inside preparing dessert, and all Dean can think about is the extra steak waiting for him, the one he sliced pieces from to make sure the marinade was right and the sear went all the way through. He’ll enjoy it later with his own baked sweet potato and an extra ear of corn left over from last night’s dinner that he didn’t use in the salad during lunch. His stomach is growling at the thought, but all Dean has time to think about is his peach tarts.

The Novak’s prefer custard tarts, so Dean’s halfway through mixing his custard when a commotion outside pauses his frenzied stirring. He steps out onto the patio and before he can figure out what he’s looking at, the setting sun shifts just enough for a beam of light to hit Dean right in his eyes. He hisses and raises one hand to shield his view, and that’s when he comes into focus.

There’s a man standing beside the patio table who must have come in through the dining room, because he certainly wasn't here before. Dean would remember him—no—he'd remember if the Novak’s were expecting someone for dinner.

He's a little short, but broad-chested, with tousled dark hair, a pair of clubmaster sunglasses pushed up into the wild curls. His clothes are a little douchey, a black short sleeve v-neck under an open blue plaid vest, his pants a little too short and a little too tight, a worn-out pair of black Chuck Taylors on his feet with no socks. He freezes mid-sentence when he sees Dean, his open arms dropping instantly to his side, his mouth falling slack on whatever word just died on his tongue. His surprise only lasts a second but feels like a lifetime to Dean, who feels frozen where he stands, from the moment he met the man's striking blue eyes. They glitter like broken sea glass in the low golden light and Dean can't move, stuck stuck stuck in the moment as his brain comes back online.

A slow grin curls over the man's chapped lips, his eyebrow following in amusem*nt when he finally breaks their stare in favor of looking Dean up and down from head to toe.

“And who do we have here?” If the guy's left eyebrow could get any higher, it would be in his hairline. “Does Michael have a new boy toy?” He glances around at the grimacing family around the table. “Ooh, does dad?”

Dad? Dean narrows his eyes.

Chuck clears his throat violently and Naomi slams her hands on the table, making everything rattle. “Take your seat , Castiel, without another word.” She looks sharply at Dean. “Please bring out another serving Dean. My youngest son is going to be joining us.”

All Dean sees before he nods and gets the f*ck back inside his kitchen is the devilish smirk plastered across the guy— Castiel’s face as he takes the empty seat across from Michael. Dean doesn't even know what to think as he gets to work putting together another plate. The extra steak he was saving for himself goes right in the middle.

He was really looking forward to that cut.

Dean makes quick work of serving this elusive new son, bringing out utensils and another spiked iced tea with the loaded dinner plate following, all while trying to ignore the icy tension that has engulfed the patio while the four of them stare each other down. He doesn't linger.

His hands are trembling for some reason when he goes to finish mixing his custard, and Dean has to shake them and his shoulders out to ease the sudden tension making them bunch. His mind reels with too much to think about, from his responsibility to still serve dessert on time, to the changes he’ll need to incorporate to increase his servings from three to four and why he’s suddenly got a lot of work to do.

Because… Castiel.

Dean didn’t even know the Novak’s had another son. For four years, Dean’s spent his summers here, working countless dinners and three birthday parties for Michael, who was born in the middle of July. Dean thinks that at some point, the guy should have shown up or, at the very least, someone should have mentioned him. Then again, based on the reaction to him even standing on their patio, maybe Dean’s never heard of the guy for a reason.

He hates that he’s intrigued. Dean doesn’t have any time for this sh*t. He has a job to do.

Shaking his head clear, Dean does everything necessary to serve dessert, including hitting the grill one last time to caramelize the peaches before adding them to the tops of the steaming tarts. Before serving them, he collects the dinner plates and his blood boils when he sees that Castiel barely touched the piece of steak, seared to a perfect medium rare that left the meat still melt-in-your-mouth tender and pink. His heart cries a little at the sight of the now dried-out, uneaten portion that should have been appreciated by him. Dean would have made all the appropriate noises enjoying that steak. He curses when he scrapes the wasted food into the trash.

Maybe Dean sets down Castiel’s dessert a little rougher than everyone else’s when he serves a peach tart to him after. Castiel doesn’t even bother to look up from his cell phone when Dean drops the plate in front of him.


9:00 pm

Dean throws himself into cleaning his kitchen after that, headphones secured over his ears and his determination taking the lead. He doesn’t want to think about anything besides finishing up and closing the goddamn book on today. How it went so sideways, Dean doesn’t know.

Until that confusion walks right through the goddamn patio door.

Dean doesn’t notice at first until movement in the corner of his eye makes him jerk his head in that direction while pulling the headphones off his ears. They settle around his neck as Dean’s eyes meet that hypnotic blue, Castiel’s eyes that much more shocking up close. Dean’s so stuck in them, he doesn’t notice that Castiel is frozen at first, his hand wrapped around the neck of the bottle of bourbon Dean was using to make the co*cktails. There’s about half a bottle left, and Dean had plans of his own for it, since his steak got stolen.

Now it seems like he’s getting the sequel.

Dean opens his mouth to say something but the words die on his tongue when Castiel holds up a finger to his lips, that wicked grin back and making Dean blink too much. For some reason, he can’t stop looking at Cas’s tanned arms. He licks his lips in an attempt to steady his chin that wants to shake, and he doesn’t miss the way Castiel’s eyes drop to his mouth before he steps back, bottle in hand.

He still doesn’t say anything, but he also doesn’t stop staring at Dean as he backs up towards the door he left open, that goddamn grin on his face still as he flips the sunglasses in his hair back down over his eyes. Bouncing his eyebrows once, Castiel slips out the door, never uttering a word with Dean’s favorite bourbon in hand.

Dean realizes his mouth is hanging open. Snapping it shut, he scowls and grinds his teeth together.


Dean knows he’s too worked up when he realizes he’s been scrubbing at the same spot in the marble countertop for the last ten minutes. He doesn’t know how Castiel managed, but the guy is under his skin. His movements are jerky as he yanks off his apron and hangs it up, and he has to slap at the light a few times to hit the overheads off and he hates how rattled he is by the time he gets back to his room.

11:00 pm

Even a shower and a hundred push-ups don’t stop the electricity thrumming under his skin, and as a last-ditch effort, Dean gets out his laptop and a bottle of lube, hoping a little one-on-one time with his hand gets him sleepy enough to drift the rest of the way off, so he can at least get the four hours he needs to function. His traitorous brain keeps wandering away from the vaguely hot video he found and back to those goddamn ocean eyes and his stupid sunglasses and that smirking mouth. Dean would kiss that smirk right off Cas’s mouth if he—

With a groan, Dean finishes hard over his fist, making a mess of himself over an asshole with a bad attitude, the annoyance and humiliation warring for first place in Dean’s head.

He tosses and turns all night.

Chapter 2

Chapter Text

5:30 am

“It was the heat of the moment, telling me what my heart meant...”

Dean sits up straight in bed, his alarm jerking him out of a dream that was just blue, blue, blue. He can still see it behind his eyelids. In an attempt to clear it away, Dean rubs his eyes as he shuts his alarm off, slumping back into bed with a sigh.

Yesterday comes back to him in a rush.

Castiel. Sunglasses. Those annoying little chest hairs that poked out of his v-neck that came back to Dean in his dreams.

Dean’s irritated with himself, and he hasn’t even been awake for five minutes. He pushes himself out of bed, and since he doesn’t have to go to the farmer’s market this morning, he decides to go for a run instead, that anxious energy from the night before still burning in his veins.

Soon he's on the beach with the sand under his bare feet as he runs, chasing the two miles to the jetty where he'll be forced to turn around thanks to a mound of jagged rocks, tide pools hidden amongst them. Sometimes Dean comes out here when he needs to think, or recharge his batteries, but there’s no time for that today.

It doesn’t matter how fast he moves, Dean can’t outrun his thoughts of the newest household member, and if he can’t escape, he might as well make those thoughts useful and figure out how to include him in his meals. Since Dean knows his kitchen, he knows breakfast and lunch will be covered, but he will have to go back to the store after lunch to accommodate his dinner plans, which just ruins his plans to deep clean the three fridges.

The agitation remains under his skin.

The crashing waves and rising sun provide a slight balm to Dean's soul as he finishes up his run, and instead of focusing on things he shouldn't, Dean locks in on his revised to-do list.

First up, a shower.

8:30 am

Making adjustments to breakfast is simple. He uses the leftover sweet potatoes to make a hash that could feed a small army. Dean will freeze any leftovers for sweet potato cakes for tomorrow. It's easy to make plenty of eggs Benedict for everyone and maybe Dean's only showing off a little when he makes a batch of waffles for the hell of it.

Not that he has to prove it to anyone, but Dean can handle his f*cking kitchen.

He sets the table for four and serves the usual three people who arrive like clockwork. The fourth place setting remains untouched throughout breakfast, but at least Dean doesn’t have wasted food this time. He didn’t bother serving Castiel, which ended up being smart on his end because the guy never shows.

If Dean’s lucky, Castiel is gone, departing just as unexpectedly as he arrived.

Unfortunately, when Dean peeks outside, he sees an old Volvo parked next to his Baby that wasn’t there yesterday. The Volvo looks battered and out of place in the pristine driveway. So he has to ask when he gets the chance, which ends up being when Michael comes in for his daily wheatgrass shot, which he keeps in a drawer in the main refrigerator. Dean is in the kitchen working on his grocery list. He taps his pen against his notebook, hoping it gets Michael’s attention.

Michael just grimaces as he takes the shot, oblivious to Dean standing there staring at him.

Dean clears his throat.

That seems to do the trick because Michael turns to him, eyebrow raised. Must be a brother thing.

“Uh yeah, so, your brother? That was weird, right?”

Michael doesn’t respond.

Okay. Dean tries again. “Do you happen to know how long he’s staying? I have to adjust some menus and I’m working on my list for the store so…” He trails off, not sure what else to say.

Michael slides the empty wheatgrass container across the counter. Every week, Dean has to blend that sh*t fresh and pour it into these stupid little bottles and they’re gross and hard to clean and it’s one of Dean’s least favorite things to do around here. Michael doesn’t care about any of that, though.

He studies Dean. “If there’s one thing you need to know about my little brother, Dean, it’s that he’s completely unreliable. He does what he wants, when he wants.” Michael is thoroughly unimpressed. “I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s already gone.”

“His car is in the driveway,” Dean mumbles.


“His car,” Dean says, louder this time. “The Volvo? It’s still in the driveway.”

Michael thins his lips in a way Dean’s seen Mrs. Novak do. “Then he could be staying. Like I said, he does whatever he wants. You’re better off asking my mother. He seems to have a shred of respect for her, anyway.”

Apparently, their conversation is over, because Michael strides out of the kitchen without another word. Dean sighs and checks his watch.

10:00 am

Mrs. Novak has already left for her tennis club, so Dean doesn’t have any choice but to make adjustments to the next few meals to include Castiel. It’s not an impossible feat by any means, but it will require him to go to the store after lunch like he thought. He spends the next hour adjusting his shopping list and his schedule, two things he lives and dies by. After, he heads back out to the garden to harvest what he needs for a salad, which he plans to serve with some cold cucumber soup he has in the fridge. Time flies as he washes vegetables, chops, shreds, and blends ingredients to make homemade dressing too, everything fresh and made from scratch. It’s a requirement of his employment.

When he found this job, Dean had only worked in a few commercial kitchens and only one place that could be considered close to high-end. After he entertained the idea of culinary school (which he quickly got past), Dean decided to do what he does best, and teach himself. He’d been getting by that way his whole life, so why would learning to cook be any different?

Plus, there is a video for everything on YouTube these days. Literally. Dean found that out because he used to spend hours, like hundreds of hours, watching YouTube and f*cking around in the kitchen of his first apartment. All it had was a hotplate so Dean struggled like hell at first, until he started dating Max, who was fresh out of culinary school and already hired at a Michelin rated restaurant in Manhattan. For Max, it meant crazy hours at work. For Dean, it meant hours alone in Max’s apartment teaching himself how to cook with a real kitchen and real tools, and it meant an eager teacher in Max, who would come home still humming with kitchen adrenaline, ready to show off his cooking skills and sometimes other skills in the bedroom.

Dean would never admit he liked their time in the kitchen more.

That could be why they broke up in the long run. Still, he remains friendly with Max, their interests aligned enough for that, anyway. The New York cooking scene was small, so it was best for Dean not to burn bridges if he could help it.

He definitely lied on his resume, though. Enough to get him hired as the Novak’s private chef every summer. Last year, Mrs. Novak even asked him if he’d be available for events with her caterers during the rest of the year, but Dean had to decline. He’s never worked well with others.

2:00 pm

Dean can’t say he isn’t disappointed when he returns from the store and Castiel’s sh*tty Volvo is still in the driveway. He was hoping the extra food he bought would just save him a few extra trips instead of going to use. Castiel never showed up for lunch either, and that irritated Dean even more, considering the extra portions. He’s determined to eat them before he tries to squeeze in a break before dinner, his day thrown off by these sudden changes.

His arms are full of bags (because Dean only needs one trip, damn it) when he gets inside, and as he’s dumping them all on the kitchen island, his eyes scan the backyard… and freeze.

There, out by the pool, is Castiel, stretched out on one of the chaise lounge chairs like he doesn’t have a care in the world. His arms are propped up over his head and those damn sunglasses are covering his eyes, his hair wild and blowing in the beach breeze. Slowly Dean’s eyes drift further south and his brain goes offline, just static, a dial-up sound at the sight of Cas’s bare chest under the sun, golden and glistening, covered in sweat? Suntan oil? Dean's tears because there's no way he can be expected to function with Cas looking like—


Mrs. Novak’s voice snaps Dean back into reality. He jerks his head toward the sound of her voice to find her in the kitchen doorway in full tennis whites.

“I see you've been to the store. That's good. My youngest is going to be staying for some time, so please adjust any menus as necessary.” Her eyes keep flicking towards the backyard while Dean is determined not to glance that way once. “Also, we've changed our plans for dinner. We will be going out tonight.”

Every once in a while, the Novak’s head into town to have dinner, but it's always on their calendar. It means a night off for Dean, so he usually makes plans. The unexpected night off isn't anything to be mad at, though.

All he does is nod in acknowledgment, which Mrs. Novak returns, their usual way of communicating. She's always been to the point, and doesn't entertain a lot of talking, traits Dean can appreciate. He's a man of few words himself.

And at least he knows what to expect now.

3:00 pm

He's too keyed up after unloading the groceries to stop working, half his attention on the backyard and Cas, who seems to have woken up from his nap or finished his tanning session, whatever he was doing out there when Dean got home. Now he's pacing around on his phone, shirtless and in a pair of black shorts that are a little too small, not that Dean's looking that close. He keeps throwing his head back with laughter and part of Dean wants to tell him to shut the hell up, and another, much louder part wants to make Cas do it himself.

Dean tries to stop those thoughts by baking. Lots and lots of baking. Brownies and a King Cake for tomorrow's Bridge night, and a few loaves of bread for everyday use. Since he suddenly has the night off, he has no reason to stop and he busts his ass until his stomach is growling, all while trying to ignore the man outside by the pool.

Castiel has spent the afternoon doing a whole lot of nothing besides sleeping, talking on his phone, and stretching for some f*cking reason. At one point, Dean even thinks he sees him smoking.

Dean has to work very hard not to stare.

8:00 pm

Eventually Dean's stomach won't stop growling. All the good kitchen smells aren't helping and out of nowhere, he gets the bright idea to grill himself a few burgers on homemade buns. Only problem is, using the grill would force him to go outside, and he really doesn’t want to deal with any of that tonight.

Except he wants a burger more. Even as he's mixing up enough spices for two servings, Dean battles with the obligation to offer Cas dinner. Technically, by extension, he's Dean's client too, right?

Just as he's about to go out there and offer the guy dinner, Dean looks up, only to find an empty backyard. It's just as well.

Even the tantalizing smell of grilling burgers doesn't draw Castiel back out from where he's staying in the Novak’s guesthouse, which is situated at the back of the property closest to the beach. Dean has served a few meals out there when the family has had guests visit throughout the summers. It has a small kitchen, but most people aren't visiting to cook for themselves when there's an in-house chef on call throughout their stay.

9:00 pm

If Dean just so happened to make enough burgers for two, so what? Castiel never appears, so Dean ends up wrapping up the extra burger, figuring he'll have it for lunch tomorrow if he has time between all the prep that will take up most of his day. Thankfully, he's ahead of the game with half his desserts already done.

They've got to be cool by now and once he's done wiping down the stove, Dean plans to put both the king cake and the batch of brownies he made away for the evening.

He's rinsing out his washcloth when the patio door swings open. The Novak’s won't be home until at least eleven, so Dean knows it can only be one person.

The smell of marijuana comes with him as Castiel enters and heads directly for the main fridge. He's dressed at least, although still in the too small shorts and barefoot. He's added a short sleeve blue striped shirt but left it open like it's meant to be a total distraction.

Dean refuses to notice the smattering of hair across Cas's chest.

That smirk is back, too. It’s even bigger when he emerges from the fridge with the hamburger fixings in hand. He holds the plate up. “Is this for me?”

It was. Dean just nods.

Cas wiggles his eyebrows and gets to work putting the burger together, dipping back into the fridge for different condiments, all while humming under his breath. He’s messy about it, pieces of lettuce and juice from the tomatoes somehow finding their way onto the countertop Dean just wiped down. Maybe Castiel doesn’t notice or maybe he just doesn’t care, but he doesn’t make any moves to clean up after himself as he picks up his plate, one of Dean’s beers he keeps in the back of the fridge wedged between two of his fingers. Before stepping back out, he snags one of the brownies Dean was about to put away and takes a bite, chewing thoughtfully while eyeing Dean, who is still frozen where he stands.

“Not bad,” Cas says, holding up the rest of the chocolate square, a stupid sparkle in his eye. “Might be better with a little infused butter, if you know what I mean.”

Dean does, but he isn’t interested in taking baking tips from this guy. He only raises an eyebrow at the suggestion.

That makes Cas huff out a laugh. He turns to go, and Dean remembers he has a job to do.

“Hey, speaking of added ingredients, you got any food allergies?”

At the sound of Dean’s gruff voice, Castiel pauses and looks back, head co*cked. He tries to school it away, but Dean still catches the surprised look on his face.

Dean gives him a moment to answer and sighs when he doesn’t. “Like your brother and his gluten thing? You allergic too?”

Something flashes in Cas’s blue eyes before he snorts. “My brother doesn’t have any allergies. He’s just a snob.”

While Dean’s brain processes that information, Cas walks out, the patio door shutting behind him.

Dean sags against the counter. He’s just here to cook, damn it.

10:00 pm

After Dean cleans up the mess Castiel left behind, he finishes the rest of his actual work, shutting down his kitchen in the methodical way he prefers, so he can wake up to a clean workspace ready for whatever he has to do. Tomorrow will be a busy day, since he has to make food for Mrs. Novak’s bridge club. It’s a good thing he baked so many of his desserts already.

He makes his shower a quick one, and when he’s back in bed, he digs his phone out of his side table. With a sigh, he turns it on and opens the phone app.

The phone rings long enough that Dean thinks he’s going to get voicemail until…


“Sammy? Hey, it’s me. Can you hear me?” It sounds loud wherever Sam is, the noise blaring in the silence of Dean’s room across the country.

“Dean? That you? Hey, hang on a second okay?” There’s a lot of scuffling on the line, and Dean can hear Sam saying something to someone else before more noise fills the line, enough for Dean to lower the volume on his cell phone.

Sam comes back on the line after a few moments, the background noise much lower now. “Dean? Can you hear me?”

Tension bleeds out of Dean’s shoulders. “Yeah, man, can you hear me?”

“Sure, Dean. What’s up?” Sam seems harried.

“Just checking in. Our regular call, remember?” They’ve been talking weekly since Sam moved out to California almost three years ago. “Unless you’re busy? I can call you tomorrow, maybe?”

“Yeah Dean, about that…” Sam’s distracted, and Dean braces himself. “I kinda got a job? So I’m not sure if we’re gonna be able to keep having our weekly calls.”

Dean takes a deep, slow breath through his nose. The urge to crush his cell phone in his hand flares in his gut, hence the need for some slow breathing. He tries to make sure his voice doesn’t shake when he responds.

“Sammy, I thought we talked about this. You don’t have to work.”

They had made a deal when Sam ran off to California for school. He’d focus on it, not waste the opportunity, and Dean would pay for it, so Sam could make something of himself. Dean was determined to give Sam the chances he never had, which meant Sam should focus on his classes and not work.

Sam disagrees. “I’m sick of asking you for money, Dean. I told you that. You don’t have to kill yourself, so I can take Jessica out for a pizza.” Jessica is Sam’s girlfriend going on the last few years. They met at freshman orientation and can’t get enough of each other for some reason.

Dean doesn’t mind helping Sam out though, something he’s made very clear throughout the years. He doesn’t need to check the balance of their joint bank account to know there’s more money in there than Sam’s gonna earn flipping burgers or whatever kind of job he’s got himself.

“What's the job?”

Sam sighs loudly over the line. “Bagging groceries.”


“Dean, it’s fine, it's only a few days a week. It won’t mess with school at all, I swear.”

The phone creaks in Dean’s hand because he’s gripping it so tight. He needs to relax. If he yells at Sam about this, the kid will hang up. He tries to keep his voice steady. “Sammy, listen to me for a second, okay? I get it man, I do. You wanna work, but you got plenty of time for that after you graduate. Spend your time studying, spend it with Jessica, take up bike riding or something, I don’t know. What I do know is, I made more today than you’ll make bagging groceries in a week, so please, just forget the job, okay? If I gotta pick up a few catering gigs on my days off, I will. It’s no big deal.”

“Dean, I want you to work less, not more. And I don’t even know how to ride a bike.”

Sam’s missing the point. “You’re missing my point, Sammy.”

“No, Dean, you’re missing mine. I’m not a kid anymore. You gotta let me start making my own decisions.”

As if going all the way to California for school wasn’t one hundred percent the biggest decision Sam’s ever made for himself. But if it makes the kid feel grown, Dean supposes he can get okay with him bagging groceries a few times a week.

He sighs. “If any of your grades drop even a little…”

“I’ll quit the next day, I swear.”

“Damn right you will,” Dean mutters, hating the feeling that he just lost a battle. He’s been taking care of his little brother his whole life and more and more often, Dean can feel that slipping away. Taking care of Sammy gives Dean purpose and without that, he doesn’t really know who he is.

Sam ends their conversation after that, saying he has to get back to orientation. Dean still promises to call him next week. Sam can’t promise that he’ll answer.

Going to bed frustrated is getting exhausting.

Chapter 3

Chapter Text

5:30 am

“It was the heat of the moment, telling me—”

For the first time in a long time, Dean turns off his alarm and goes back to sleep. f*ck reality. He’s not ready.

6:27 am

Dean’s eyes flutter open three minutes before his next alarm is set to go off. He groans. He hates it when that happens.

After a quick shower, Dean grabs his keys and heads straight for the docks. There’s a small fish market there, and the head fishmonger always saves the good stuff for Dean if he knows he’s stopping by. Dean had told Benny last week that he was planning some seafood dishes for Bridge Club this week, so he knows he has some fresh shrimp waiting for him to pick up.

Benny is grinning broadly when Dean arrives, sunglasses and a hat hopefully covering his tired appearance.

“Rough night, brother?” Benny teases on sight.

Dean sighs. “Something like that.”

“Wait till you come hang out with me and my buddies. You won’t be able to walk the next day.” Benny’s been inviting Dean out for drinks since they met. Dean’s not really a social drinker, so he hasn’t taken him up on the offer yet. If his booze keeps getting stolen, he might have to, though.

“Don't listen to him, Dean. He hardly ever goes out with those dumb friends of his anymore.” Benny’s wife Andrea appears beside him, her dark eyes mischievous.

Benny rolls his eyes as he wraps one of his big arms around her shoulders. “Alright now, darlin’, don’t go give away all my secrets. It’s not my fault I’d rather be home with you and our Bébé.”

She melts into his side with a happy smile.

Dean looks down at his feet. He knows he isn’t allowed to want anything like what Benny and Andrea have. Rather than think about that, he clears his throat. “You guys got any good étouffée recipes?”

That gets both the Lafitte’s attention, no problem. Dean walks out of the fish market with two bags full of crawfish and shrimp, and a recipe for a killer authentic cajun dish. He may have also agreed to attend one of their card nights soon, but Dean’s sure he can get out of that. It’s not like he doesn’t like Benny and Andrea, Dean’s positive they would be cool to hang out with. It’s more of a him problem. Put Dean in front of a table set for twenty, or a catering job for a hundred, and he’s fine. Dean works better under pressure like that. Socially? He’s a nightmare. The anxiety alone can cripple him, so Dean usually doesn’t bother. Give him a bar where he can be anonymous any day of the week compared to that kind of situation.

Dean just does better on his own. He’s got too much to stay focused on, anyway.

Like Mr. Has to get a job bagging groceries.

He’s still grumbling about that when he pulls back up to the house, parking his Baby next to the Volvo that hasn’t moved since it arrived. It’s even leaking oil onto the driveway, something he’ll be sure to have to point out after Castiel leaves, so no one can blame his Baby. Come to think of it, Dean should just fix that sh*t, so he can avoid getting accused altogether. He has a day off coming up, so he makes a note to include the Volvo when he checks on his Baby.

7:30 am

The sun is rising and filling the house with warm light when Dean drops his grocery bags onto the counter. He can’t figure out why, but something seems out of place, until he turns around and gets his full bearings, only to notice two platters out on the counter that Dean is sure he didn’t leave out. He turns on the overhead lights which confirms it—both platters are covered in crumbs.

With his heart sinking into his stomach, Dean stalks over to the extra fridge to be positive and, sure enough, the two platters with his sweet potato cakes and an entire batch of brownies are missing. He turns back to the abandoned platters, and it takes all of Dean’s will not to fling them both across the kitchen in anger, the flecks of left over chocolate and bits of mashed sweet potato mocking him and all the time and effort he put into both dishes yesterday.

Instead, he grips the counter tightly while he takes a few deep breaths, trying to focus on the cool marble under his fingers instead of the rage burning through him like a fuse. Dean knows there’s an explosion waiting at the end, and the threat is enough to calm him the rest of the way down. There’s nothing he can do about the situation except fix it, which is what he’s expected to do. It’s what he’s always been expected to do.

Duty straightens Dean’s back, and he gets to work. Lucky for him, the platters don’t crack when he tosses them into the sink to be washed later. He doesn’t have time to go out to the kitchen supply store on top of everything else he has to do today.

First up though is breakfast.

8:30 am

Because Dean is who he is, breakfast doesn’t get served a minute late. Even while he’s gathering everything he needs to make crab cakes to replace the sweet potato, Dean manages to put together a homemade granola to go with the overnight oats he always has on hand, served with the rest of the peaches. With every item he still finds in the fridge, Dean’s relieved. While he works, he practices what he might say to Castiel when he sees him, if he can overcome the urge to throttle him like he still wants to. It helps to pretend he’s capable of asking the guy not to eat all his food without turning it into a fight.

Dean’s always talked better with his hands. Max called it anger issues and that had pissed Dean off something fierce. It took a really long drive in the Impala for Dean to figure out he had a problem. He turned around in Massachusetts and vowed to do better. YouTube has videos for anger management too, turns out.

Castiel doesn’t show up for breakfast.

10:30 am

Dean’s kitchen is in full swing. He couldn’t wait for breakfast to end, his to-do list a mile long, made worse by the food he had to replace. Every surface of the kitchen is filled with either a cutting board, a bowl, a pan, or a vegetable. Both ovens are running and Dean has covered every burner with a pot or a pan where he is simmering or frying something delicious. He’s lost track of how many timers he has set and for what.

There’s a moment while he uses a red bandana to tie the hair out of his eyes that Dean decides not to think about Castiel and his bullsh*t anymore. He can’t afford to let someone like that unnerve him and if it means being straight with the guy, well, Dean will do what he has to.

12:30 pm

Lunch is sandwiches and homemade potato chips for Chuck and Michael, who will soon disappear once the Bridge Club ladies arrive. They have dinner at the country club on these nights, so Dean won’t see them again until breakfast tomorrow. Castiel remains MIA, but Dean’s not thinking of him, so it doesn’t matter. Dean didn’t bother to make him a sandwich, but he did take a few minutes to himself to polish one off because he knows he makes a damn good one. He’s heard rumors about chefs who hate their own cooking, but Dean doesn’t have that problem at all—his cooking is f*cking delicious.

Eating is a good idea too, because it recharges Dean’s batteries. It's what he needs to get through and pull everything together in time for this afternoon. With Zepp in his ears and a clear head for once, Dean motors through cooking up the crawfish étouffée and a killer shrimp gumbo, a recipe he's been working on since he stayed in Louisiana one summer. It will get served with red beans and rice, and a gigantic fresh garden salad, enough food to feed the twenty-five tennis club goers that Mrs. Novak hosts every week. He usually doesn't go this hard on the menu, but for some reason, he feels like he’s got something to prove.

Plus, he’s ended up with more than a few phone numbers slipped into the pockets of his aprons, some with actual catering jobs and some with other kinds of offers. Dean can appreciate a cougar here and there, but he doesn’t tend to mix business with pleasure, and the way he overhears these ladies gossip, Dean knows he’d be the next Aaron the pool boy, a guy they talked about last summer to no end.

4:30 pm

By four thirty, Dean is hustling, between plating the salad and his crab cakes and serving up a mix of the last batch of his peach bourbon iced teas and Aperol spritz’s, a favorite of the club. The women like to eat their appetizers and then play for the next three hours, during which Dean will put the finishing touches on his main dishes and keep them all liquored up. He opens a few bottles of red wine so they can breathe before he serves them with dinner, which will begin after they play. Dean has no idea how to play Bridge, except for the fact that it involves a lot of cards and occasionally, the ladies lose their tempers over it.

Dean stays in the kitchen when they start yelling.

7:00 pm

Tonight everyone seems to keep their head. Pouring their drinks light might help. Still, everything is going smooth as Dean puts the finishing touches on tonight’s cajun themed tablescape. He always serves dinner out on the patio since the sun is setting and maybe he’s just as proud of his table presentation as he is the meal he’s about to serve on it. He’d stumbled upon the art of a good tablescape when he went to a county fair once, the blue ribbon going to a table with napkins that matched the runner and plates that complimented the flowers and for some reason, Dean got a little obsessed. It’s a craft, and he only gets to practice it on nights like this, so Dean takes advantage.

The compliments are like a drug, more praise on top of what he gets after they taste his food. Everyone is always surprised he’s more than a pretty face. That was the first year or two, anyway. Now he’s well known, and an invitation to Mrs. Novak’s Bridge Club came not just with social status, but with an incredible meal to boot.

Dean doesn’t make a habit of flaunting his reputation, but secretly, he loves it.

It’s a bonus on top of the satisfaction he sees when he’s able to pay off another tuition bill.

8:00 pm

By now, the guests are finishing up the first course, and Dean’s in the middle of a story while he serves his étouffée. It’s a good one too, about his summer in Louisiana when he ended up in the mudflats searching for fresh crawfish. He’s reassuring them all with a laugh that he wasn’t knee-deep in any muck to bring them their dinner tonight when a crash from his kitchen draws away the attention of all the guests.

Mrs. Novak stands up in alarm.

Gasps go up around the table when Castiel stumbles out of the kitchen, his arms clutching his sides as he howls with laughter. He’s barely on his feet, obviously drunker than a skunk, and apparently not alone. Another laughing guy follows him out, except oven mitts Dean recognizes cover his hands, which are holding the pot of gumbo he’s had simmering most of the day. The gumbo thief is wearing a deep-cut v-neck and too-tight pants and he just screams douchebag, aside from the obvious disdain for leaving food alone that isn’t his. Must be why he’s friends with Castiel.

As Dean wars between throttling them both and saving his meal, the guy holding the pot makes a beeline for the guest house. Castiel somehow has enough sense to notice the crowd of women and Dean staring at him in horror and he stops short, his laughter draining out of him as his chest heaves. He’s wearing a black vest over a white shirt today, and dark jeans that hug his thighs a little too well. Dean can’t stand to look at him.

Castiel gets away with mumbling out an apology to his mother, his eyes only flicking over to where Dean stands once before he quickly looks away. Dean hopes he saw all the rage inside of him that he’s projecting with his glare. Thankfully, Mrs. Novak is a pro, and she’s able to redirect her guests back to their plates while Dean’s able to escape into his kitchen, where he finds an overturned saucepan that thankfully had nothing but leftover simple syrup for his co*cktails. Dean thanks all his lucky stars that those assholes left his desserts alone this time. That’s not to say anything about his second main dish.

Dean’s forced into overdrive. If he didn’t keep an organized kitchen, he wouldn’t know that he has all the ingredients necessary to make an easy sausage and rice dish to replace his lost gumbo. Dean hopes it burns the mouths of those goddamn thieves when they eat it.

10:00 pm

The dinner party is long over. Dean’s exhausted, but a small part of him is thankful that the rest of the night went off with no further interruptions. When it happened, Dean was shocked into action, no choice but to come up with a replacement meal on the fly. Lucky for him, he’s burned more than his fair share of main courses over the years, so he’s honed the ability to come up with something without warning. He never thought he’d need to use the skill because some drunk idiot decided his gumbo looked too good to pass up. It pisses him off, how selfish that sh*t is, and how much harder it makes his day.

He pulled the rest of this dinner out of his ass though, and his desserts seal the deal, making Mrs. Novak’s guests forget all about her son’s rude interruption. Dean can’t forget it though, and for the first time in a long time, he’s adding up his expenses as he rage cleans the countertops; cell phones for him and Sam, insurance for his Baby, never mind her registration coming up next month. If Dean quit now, he’d have to find somewhere to stay on top of everything else. If he quit now, there’s no way he’d make Sam’s next tuition payment either. Bagging groceries ain’t gonna pay that tuition bill, Dean knows that much.

Dean’s still having trouble deciding if all this sh*t is worth it.

The last thing he's expecting is a knock at the patio door. He doesn't have to turn around to know it's Castiel. Dean turns just as the door opens.

Castiel enters with his hands up in surrender. “I’m here to apologize,” he blurts out, hands bouncing as he ducks his head. Looking him over, he seems a lot more level-headed and a lot less hammered. He’s lost the vest and the jeans and is almost deceivingly soft in his white t-shirt and plaid pajama pants that pool on the floor around his bare feet.

Dean doesn’t know what to think. He doesn’t even know what to say. All he can do is give his head a sharp shake.

“It’s not good enough, I know,” Castiel says. “Can I just—” He holds up a finger before he sidesteps back outside. He returns a second later with the empty étouffée pot, washed clean. He holds the lid open to show Dean that his oven mitts are inside. “I washed it. Ah—taking it—it wasn’t my idea, actually, it was Balthazar’s, and—”

Dean cuts in. “Save it.”

Castiel’s mouth snaps shut.

“You two almost ruined my—” Dean clears his throat. “Your mom’s dinner. It’s a big deal to her.” And to him, but Dean doesn’t need to tell Castiel that.

Castiel has the decency to look ashamed. He holds the pot up, his blue eyes too big. “Want to tell me where this goes?”

Dean narrows his eyes. “You can leave it on the counter. It’s a pain in the ass to put away.” It’s the largest pot, so it goes all the way in the back of a cabinet Dean needs a step stool to access. He already put everything else back for the night since he had no idea when he’d see his giant pot again if he was being honest.

Castiel hesitates, but he does what Dean asks. “I really am sorry. Day drinking with Balthazar has never proven to be the most productive thing to do.”

Dean just stares until Cas starts to fidget. He has to ask, though. “And what about my brownies? And the potato cakes?”

It shouldn’t be possible, but those ocean eyes get wider. “Were those for today? Oh, f*ck—f*ck me, I had no idea.” Cas runs a hand through his hair as he shakes his head. “I just thought those were leftovers or something.” Those blue eyes turn pleading.

Dean looks away. Out of all the speeches he practiced in his head, Dean never prepared one in the event Cas was sorry. He collects his thoughts as he unties his apron and hangs it up for the night. Pushing a hand through his hair, Dean slips his bandana off.

Cas’s eyes widen.

“I’m just here to cook, man.” He holds out his arms. “Do you think you can stop making my life harder than it already is?”

Dean doesn't wait for an answer. He even turns off the overhead light as a final f*ck off to the man he leaves standing there. All he can do is cross his fingers and hope he isn’t fired in the morning but if he is it wouldn’t be his fault. How could anyone expect to weather that sort of dark-haired hurricane when he’s only ever been treading in calm waters till now?

Dean’s never been a strong swimmer.

Chapter 4

Chapter Text

5:15 am

Dean’s eyes open on their own before his alarm has a chance to go off. He turns it off before it disrupts the silence of the morning and instead of getting up, he stares at the ceiling, watching the fan above rotate in lazy circles. He turns it on to keep the air moving since the central air keeps the house a cool seventy-two degrees, and it makes for something good to focus on when Dean feels like he’s spiraling.

He doesn’t have an answer for how to deal with Castiel. The guy is a wild card and usually, Dean has no problems with his poker face but with Cas, he just can’t get a hold of his feelings.

Thinking about yesterday only pisses him off. Sure Castiel apologized, but how can Dean believe he’s even sincere? He doesn’t know the guy and everything he does know about him is negative. He’s yet to be sincere, so why would he start last night?

The ceiling fan isn’t providing any answers, so all Dean can do is push through. He starts by hauling his ass out of bed and into a shower.

6:00 am

Dean’s gotta make a grocery store run, and the first place he stops is the kitchen to check on a few things that may need replacing. He stops short when he sees a bright blue post-it note stuck to the fridge, out of place against the pristine stainless steel.

Dean snags it off the fridge so he can read it better:

I’m allergic to strawberries.

— CN

The gears in Dean’s head immediately start to turn.

8:30 am

There's a very old saying in food service that Dean's heard for years: you don't f*ck with the people who make your food.

It's apparently a lesson Cas needs to learn. He shouldn't have armed Dean with a weapon so easy to wield. Dean had to visit the farmers market and two grocery stores to get what he needed for the changes to his menu today, and he isn’t even mad about the extra gas he burns.

Not that he expects Castiel to show up, but breakfast is strawberry-topped pancakes with strawberry scones served with their coffee. Dean makes enough for leftovers if only in case Castiel comes snooping again. The guy doesn’t make an appearance, but Dean won’t let that deter him.

12:00 pm

There’s still no sign of Castiel when Dean starts on lunch, so he doesn’t include him in his serving sizes. Instead, he slices enough pieces of bread to feed three, only to have to go back and cut a few more slices for himself, once he sees the finished product of his improvised lunch.

Strawberries are hard to serve as a savory dish, but Dean’s no slouch, so after a few tries, he finds the perfect combination of cheeses to go into a grilled cheese sandwich. Dean is methodical as he mixes the goat cheese with different herbs and honey so he can slather the mixture on each slice of bread before layering more cheese and sliced strawberries on top. He grills each sandwich on a hot skillet, and soon the kitchen smells like caramelized sugar and honey and Dean isn’t mad when he enjoys his own sandwich after the family finishes lunch.

2:00 pm

Dean stays methodically on track. He doesn’t know what he’s trying to prove, but whatever it is, it motivates his ass to catch up on his to-do list, including deep cleaning the refrigerators like he meant to do days ago. He works with headphones covering his ears and doesn’t glance outside once, even going so far as to pull the gauzy white curtains shut to avoid temptation. Dean’s proud of himself for not knowing if Castiel wasted his day out there again.

He never showed his face in Dean’s kitchen, anyway.

Dean’s so on track, he even manages to do a little dinner prep before he decides he’s charged up enough for a run on the beach rather than a nap. He’s running on adrenaline still and can hardly recognize his energy as such. The iced coffees he’s been drinking probably aren’t helping either.

They get him all the way down the beach though, and it's not until Dean reaches the tide pools does he collapse in the sand and give his body the break it’s been begging for during his last half mile. His chest heaves as he tries to collect his breath. Dean’s thoughts crash in his mind louder than the waves crashing against the shore.

He’s f*cking up. His control is slipping away.

Dean hates it.

He hates even more that he has to keep redirecting his thoughts away from ocean-blue eyes and that exasperating personality. The guy is living rent-free in Dean’s head (and in the guest room Dean bets) and it’s pissing him off.

He tries to focus on the rest of the week instead.

Tomorrow is Michael’s birthday. On some years, he’s thrown bangers that Dean’s spent days prepping for, but as he gets further away from college, his friend group seems to have gotten a lot smaller. Last year, Michael hosted a small group of ten and this year, its down even more to six. Dean will cook enough for ten now that Castiel is here, and this year Michael has requested a full surf and turf menu. Dean’s gonna have a busy day tomorrow.

He probably shouldn’t be antagonizing the massive pain in his ass living in the guest house the day before, but he’s never been smart like that.

6:30 pm

Dinner is so goddamn satisfying.

Dean spent hours leading up finely slicing and chopping everything he needed to make a basil strawberry salsa that he puts on top of grilled chicken, serving that with a cauliflower puree topped by a strawberry glaze reduction, one Dean had to make twice after he overcooked the first one. He cut it close with that, both sauces taking almost two hours to cook to perfection. Dean got it on the second one, though.

As always, Dean tosses together a dinner salad, but he sprinkles a little f*ck you on top in the form of sliced strawberries and almonds, turning his otherwise eatable salad into something Castiel can’t touch either. Maybe it's a little f*cked up to make everything inedible, but it’s also a little f*cked up that he stole Dean's entire entrée. Or his boyfriend stole. Whatever.

He gets over any misgivings he had about his plan when he sees Castiel at the dinner table, his eyes downcast. The conversation dies when Dean steps out onto the patio with his hands full, but he's used to that. He takes his time serving everyone their salad and a round of martinis.

Cas doesn't hesitate to pluck the olive out of his and suck the drink down, tipping his head all the way back to get every last drop. Dean ignores the long column of his throat as is moves, his Adam's apple bobbing as Castiel swallows.

Dean serves him water for the rest of the night.

When he brings out the main dish with its basil strawberry salsa, Dean's pleased to see Castiel's salad deconstructed but barely touched. Dean did not go light on the fruit in any way. Even the chicken he's serving now has pieces on top cut too finely to be picked out.

Castiel is still staring at the table when Dean puts a plate down in front of him, but now he's glaring so hard Dean thinks he might burn a hole through the plate and table under.


Mrs. Novak notices her son's discomfort and Dean can see the moment she realizes why when she looks down at her plate and then at Cas and Dean.

Dean keeps his face neutral. “Something the matter Mrs. Novak?”

She glances around at all the plates before she speaks again. “It's the strawberries, Dean. My apologies, but Castiel is allergic. I must have forgotten to mention it.”

Dean feigns surprise but switches to a sweet, reassuring smile. “That's okay ma'am, I'll keep that in mind for next time.”

She nods. “Do we have anything tonight without strawberries?”

Dean pretends to think. “Hmmm. Nope.” He catches Cas’s flinch when he pops his P. “I really wanted the fruit to shine today because it was so ripe and sweet. Plus, I'm sure Castiel is still full from all the gumbo he ate last night anyway, right?”

Castiel's head snaps up at that, eyes ablaze with something, a challenge maybe, if he's an idiot. But then that look is gone, and he's grinning that dumb grin and pulling the bread basket towards himself. It's the only other thing on the table without strawberries.

“May I have some more water, Dean?” Is all he asks in a tone just as fake and just as sweet as Dean just gave his mom.

Dean leaves the entire water pitcher on the table when he serves the strawberry shortcake he made for dessert.

9:00 pm

It’s another night of rage cleaning. Dean's blood pressure can't take this. He must be some kind of idiot, to stay here and let Castiel continue to humiliate him. And it's not like Dean can serve strawberries in every meal all summer.

Today was fun though. Remembering how pissed off Cas was when Dean brought out the chicken brings a smile to his face, at least.

His smile fades at another knock at the back door.

Castiel enters when Dean turns towards the sound. Tonight Dean might have considered Cas handsome, if he wasn't so annoying. His hair is still wild, but at least it appears as if he tried to tame it with some kind of product, the ends sticking up and not falling over his forehead. He's scruffy, but it only adds instead of detracting from his features. His white button down is open a little too low, and his dress pants are a little too long. Dean wonders why none of his clothes seem to fit right.

Cas doesn't seem like he wants to be the first to speak, but Dean will be damned if he breaks first. He's not the one who started this sh*t, so all he does is cross his arms and wait. It's fascinating to watch Castiel decide how to respond, his eyes studying and jaw clenching as he thinks.

He finally tilts his head to one side. “So I take it you got my note?”

Dean bursts out laughing. Out of all the things he expected Castiel to say, out of all the reactions ranging from more apologies to a punch in the face, Dean didn't expect a joke and a funny one at that.

Castiel's pleased when he leans over the counter, his hands sliding forward so he can lean on his elbows and lace his fingers together. “So… Truce?”

If he hadn't just made Dean laugh harder than he has in a long time (years even), he'd probably say no. Instead, Dean huffs out one more laugh as he shakes his head. “Yeah, man. We can call that a truce.”

It was really what Dean was hoping for, anyway. He really doesn't want to quit his job.

The relief is clear on Castiel's face before he flattens his hands on the counter and pushes himself back to standing. His eyes flick over to the bowl of apples on the counter beside Dean, but he turns to go without saying anything else.

Dean should let him go. He’s not that smart, though.

“Hey man, hang on a minute.”

Castiel stops, looking back with his brow furrowed. He watches Dean walk over to the bulk fridge and pull out a plate with a ridiculous sandwich that he made for himself for later. Dean’s less sick about giving this sandwich away, knowing he can just throw together another one. Maybe the way Castiel’s blue eyes almost glow when they light up helps.

Until the light goes out. Cas holds up a hand. “I can't take that. It's obvious you made that for yourself.”

Dean snorts and steps forward, holding out the plate. “When has that ever stopped you? Just take it.”

“See! That’s why I can’t take it.” Cas shakes his head. “No. I'll take one of those apples over there. It's what I deserve.”

That has Dean rolling his eyes. “Okay, now you're being an idiot. Just take the damn sandwich, Cas.”

Whatever nonsense Castiel was gearing up to respond with disappears as he processes what Dean just said, his righteous mouth melting into a warm smile. “Cas?”

Dean frowns with his eyebrows. “That's your damn name, ain't it?”

“A shortened version, yes.” Cas grins wider. “I like when you say it.”

“Alright, I'm keeping my sandwich,” Dean grumbles, done with this game. He hesitates just long enough for Cas to snatch it away with a little howl of "Noo."

Dean turns away before Cas can see his smile.

“Thank you, Dean,” Cas says to his back before Dean hears the door shut.

He wishes he could have seen Cas’s face when he said his name.

Shaking his head to get rid of that thought, Dean can only sigh, and make himself another sandwich. He has no f*cking idea what he’s getting into.

Chapter 5

Chapter Text

5:00 am

Dean’s eyes open on their own. He needs to check his menus again.

It’s his first thought of the day.

Blue eyes are his second, but he’ll never admit it. He doesn’t have time for those kinds of thoughts today, anyway. It’s Michael’s birthday. There are about a thousand things he has to remember and about half as many things that he needs to buy and as he showers and gets ready for his day, going over everything he has to do is the only way to keep himself focused.

Dean has to hit the ground running. He’s proven the fastest when he’s the first one through the gate when they open the fish market. Only Andrea is awake that early to sell Dean the large box of lobsters he ordered when he was there last. She invites him to a poker night Benny is holding next week. Dean tells her he appreciates the offer and promises to think about it.

7:30 am

Dean’s the first through the door at Citarella, an extra bougie gourmet market where all the local private chefs shop. They can all be recognized by the exhaustion in their eyes and the giant headphones covering their ears. Dean blends in with them and he even does the friendly head nod thing people do when they know each other from work, but neither of them has time or even wants to talk to each other. He gets in and out because he knows the aisles and his shopping list by heart and in no time, he’s walking out with a full cart.

Before he unloads it, Dean pops the trunk and looks around to make sure there aren’t any prying eyes watching him as he works. With the coast clear, he raises the secret panel built into the bottom of the trunk, something his dad installed when they were on the road all the time, to hide their valuables. Dean still does the same, keeping an old cigarette box with his most prized photos and documents on one side. On the other, he keeps a few plastic bins full of decorations for his tablescapes. It’s one of these he pulls out to use later tonight. He secures the panel when he closes it, so it blends in with the lining of the trunk to the naked eye.

He loads his groceries on top, filling the deep trunk of the Impala and surveying the many bags and the few boxes that hold everything Dean needs to put out an amazing spread. Satisfied, he slams the trunk shut.

Dean’s got work to do.

8:30 am

Breakfast has to be a quick-serve today, considering how much of the kitchen he needs to prep for the party. It's easy enough to throw together some açaí bowls and a breakfast skillet, which he can take right out to the table once it’s not too hot.

Dean doesn’t expect Castiel in the mornings. He still leaves the last of the strawberries out of breakfast, though. He slices them up and throws them into a bowl of cornflakes which he eats, hip leaning against the kitchen island as he plans his next steps. Dean’s brain goes on autopilot and he hardly even notices the bites he’s taking as he plans; first stop at the garden for all of his veggies, followed by washing them along with the breakfast dishes. He’ll need to tidy the kitchen after that before he gets full swing into starting his food. The party starts at four, so his appetizers have to be ready by then. Dean has to serve dinner at seven, and once that’s done and he’s cleaned up, he’s off for the rest of the night and the next day, too.

He’s never been more in need of it.

10:00 am

Dean runs through his tasks at a steady pace. He’d never call himself a runner, never had the urge to complete a marathon, not when so many of his days in the kitchen feel like one. Today is a great example.

His first wind kicked in after his cereal and, of course, his iced coffee, and by now Dean’s on his second jar and it’s draining fast as he preps the mushrooms for his stuffed mushrooms. His oven is pre-heating and there's a pot of water boiling on the stove full of macaroni for the mac and cheese he’s baking for the main course. There’s a lightness to Dean’s steps as he moves through the kitchen, chopping and washing, getting out baking trays, and stopping to wash a few of his best knives when necessary. One of the first things he learned working in a kitchen was the importance of a chef’s knives, and Dean spent a paycheck or two on his own set back then. Now they’re like another part of him, the handles worn to fit Dean’s hands because he uses them so often. When he uses them, he feels like a real chef, and not like the professionally trained phony he lies about being.

What does it even matter when Dean is still just as good at his job as anyone who graduated from culinary school?

Case in point, the way he’s in command of his kitchen on days like today.

12:30 pm

By now, Dean is in the zone. He didn’t have to serve lunch today since everyone cleared out so that party prep could happen throughout the house. It also means Dean can listen to his music over his speakers and not with headphones on, since there’s already a slight hum of noise filling the place. Half an hour ago, the house cleaners showed up, along with the event planner, who arrived with a bunch of other people to set up tables and chairs out by the pool. Soon to follow will be a DJ, an actual bartender, and even a cigar sommelier, according to the party schedule in Dean’s inbox. He had to google what the f*ck that even was and it turns out, it’s actually someone’s job to know a f*ck load of information about cigars. And, for enough money, you could hire one to come to your party and teach your guests about expensive Cubans.

Money, man. Dean will never get over it.

No one is bothering Dean though, and besides having to redirect the occasional worker, Dean’s zooming through his to-do list. With his music playing low in the background, the patio doors are open and his kitchen is filled with yellow summer sunshine and a salty breeze—perfect working conditions, in Dean’s opinion. With his mac and cheese baking, and his lobsters almost done cooling, Dean is about ready to take them apart so he can serve the tails with dinner and keep the rest of the meat for the remainder of the week. After that, he’ll cut up the last of his veggies and get them roasting while he preps the steaks and lobster tails for the grill.

But first, Dean has to take his stuffed mushrooms out of the oven. The timer hasn’t gone off, but Dean just knows they should be done. As he pulls on his oven mitts and opens the oven door, he’s interrupted by the beep beep beep of his timer. Dean grins to himself. His intuition is always right. That thrill, the buzz under his skin that Dean gets when he’s in the kitchen, keeps him riding high, better than any drug he’s tried over the years. He can’t keep the smile off his face as he works.

Thoughts on his lobsters, Dean turns with the hot pan in his hands and he almost drops the entire thing at the sight of Castiel standing there in the open doorway. His hair is a mess. That’s the first thing that registers, like he just woke up or just got—

“Hello, Dean.”

Those two words cut off Dean’s traitorous thoughts. The night before comes back to him, and this time, he’s facing Cas when he speaks, and he can’t keep his eyes from dropping to Cas’s mouth.

It spreads into a small smile.

Somehow, Dean manages to put down the hot pan without dropping it. He clears his throat. “Mornin’ Cas.”

That small smile grows. His eyes rove around the kitchen. “You seem to be quite busy. Is there any chance I just missed lunch or…”

Dean shakes his head. “No lunch today. Everyone is at the club until party time.”

“sh*t, is that today?” For some reason, Cas pulls out one of the barstools that is tucked under the far side of the kitchen island and he sits down. “It must have slipped my mind.”

Dean narrows his eyes. “Your brother’s birthday slipped your mind?” Sam’s birthday is engraved in Dean’s brain—May 2nd, practically a holiday to Dean the way he’s always treated it. This year he sent a card with money and had a devil's food cake delivered, Sam's favorite.

Cas just shrugs, though. “We're not exactly close like that. He probably doesn't know my birthday either.”

That doesn't make any sense to Dean. “I doubt that. When is it?” He doesn’t know why he asked that.

Cas tilts his head. “September 18th. When is yours?”

That makes Dean want to squirm, but he manages to hold still. “January 24th.”

“Mmm an Aquarius.”

Dean shakes his head. “I'm not into any of that astronomy mumbo jumbo.”

“Astrology,” Cas corrects. “And an Aquarius would say that,” Cas says, a gleam in his ocean eyes.

Dean needs to get back to work. He busies himself with pulling the lobsters out of their ice bath so he can ignore the heat rising up his back. From the corner of his eye, Dean can see Cas looking over everything he's got going on. He gets to piecing out the lobsters and pretends not to notice Cas watching him. “So, are you going to the party?”

Cas snickers. “Hell no. I'm not invited. I'm not exactly his favorite person.” He reaches out to pluck one of the stuffed mushrooms from the pan, only hissing a little when he picks up the hot appetizer. He looks at it and blows for a second before he pops it in his mouth.

Dean can kind of relate to that. “But still, it's his birthday. Also, that's hot.”

Cas is already experiencing that fact. He's trying to chew as fast as he can and also wave the heat away from his mouth, his hand flapping away at the steam of the stuffed mushroom fresh out of the oven.

Dean shakes his head and keeps cutting apart his lobsters.

Cas clears his throat after he swallows the mushroom down. “Although it is indeed the anniversary of the day my dear brother graced this earth, I can tell you for sure that Michael would prefer my absence to my attendance.”

Dean reaches for another lobster. “Whatever you say, man.”

Cas is still watching him. “Can I ask you a question, Dean?”

“You just did.”

“Another one, then.”

Dean hides his smile and motions for Cas to get on with it.

“Are scissors a normal kitchen utensil for dissecting lobsters?”

He looks down at his hands. “Well, first of all, they’re kitchen shears.” Dean has to ignore Cas grinning at being corrected this time. “And B—” He snaps the shears open and shut a few times for emphasis, loving the sharp sound the blades make. “They cut through lobster shells like they’re made of paper. Even my best knife can’t do that.” Adding shears to his knife roll was a total game changer.

Cas has the decency to look impressed. “I learned something new today, thank you.” He leans on the counter, propping his chin in one hand. “Wait, what are you doing to them now?”

When he was explaining his shears, Dean finished separating and is now moving on to the part where he has to butterfly all the tails open. It’s a process, using the shears to cut down the middle of the tail’s shell and then turning them over to loosen the meat and pop it out of the cut he just made. Cas listens as Dean explains with rapt attention. He licks his lips occasionally and Dean tries not to cut off the tip of his finger.

“Later I’m gonna make this killer lemon herb butter and cover these bad boys in it before I grill them.” He does a quick recount of all the tails he’s lined up on a baking sheet as he’s prepped them.

“That sounds incredible.” Cas’s eyes keep going back and forth between Dean and the lobsters. There’s enough for each guest plus a few for extra people and the rest of the Novak’s, Cas included. Dean doesn’t tell him, though. “What will you do with the extra parts you don’t use?”

There’s a considerable bowl of meat left and Dean already has plans for it. “Lobster rolls and some pasta, probably. If I have enough, I’ll make some kind of dip.”

Cas’s stomach responds by growling loud enough for Dean to hear. He drops his head and covers his stomach with one hand. Dean ignores the way it’s big enough to cover the whole thing.

“My apologies. I did come in here looking for lunch.”

Dean sighs and wipes his hands on his apron before he begins pulling a few things out of the fridge; mayonnaise, some butter, a lemon, and a few containers of pre-chopped vegetables he keeps on hand. Throwing everything into a bowl, he snags two of the lobster claws and uses his shears to cut them both in half so he can squeeze the meat out. He cuts it into respectable pieces before mixing it with the rest and spreading the whole mixture between a couple of dinner rolls from his bread drawer.

Cas doesn’t take his eyes off Dean as he works and if he lets himself notice, the crawling heat returns. Instead, he focuses on what he’s doing, and he’s proud when he slides a plate across the counter towards Cas with an incredible-looking lobster roll and some of his homemade salt and vinegar chips. He won’t tell Cas they’re his brother’s favorite.

Dean made a sandwich for himself too, after he checked his watch and made a few mental calculations. As long as he eats fast, he can race through chopping his vegetables and stay on track.

Maybe Dean doesn’t mind the delay so much when Cas takes his first bite, and groans in a way that makes Dean thankful there is a kitchen island between them. Usually hearing people enjoy his food only feeds his ego, but hearing Cas enjoy his food does something to Dean he isn’t expecting even a little. He has to clear his throat so he can swallow down his first bite.

1:30 pm

“That was incredible, Dean. I can’t believe you just threw that together without hesitating.” Cas seems sad his plate is empty. “I’ll admit I was a little disappointed not to be getting any of that lobster.”

Dean hums as he goes to fill another roll with the last of his lobster mixture. “Good thing one of those little babies has your name on it, I guess.” He deposits the second sandwich on Cas’s empty plate. He’s not getting the chips out again, though.

“Thank you, Dean,” Cas says, softly, surprised but looking at Dean in a way that feels dangerous.

He turns away to clean the dishes. The timer for his mac and cheese interrupts any thoughts Dean might have been having, thank f*ck. He’s gotta focus. Taking the almost-done dish out of the oven, Dean moves it to the warming rack and makes an executive decision.

“Right. So, this ain’t an episode of Bake Off, ya feel me?”

Cas tilts his head, his mouth full of lobster roll.

“I’m not putting on a show here. I’m working. It’s my job to feed you, but if you’re gonna hang around, you’re gonna have to help out.” It would save Dean a boatload of time if Cas cut up his vegetables for him. “You can handle chopping some veggies, right?”

If Dean lets Cas use his knives, no one needs to know that.

“Don’t cut your finger off, your mom will fire me,” is all the warning Dean heeds once he gets Cas set up with a cutting board and all the vegetables he needs cut up so he can start roasting them. There’s also a bunch of sh*t that needs to get cut up for the salad he’s making, so Cas has plenty to do if he manages not to slice anything off with Dean’s incredibly sharp knives.

Dean has steaks to prep.

3:00 pm

Cas gets a rhythm going after a while. Only towards the end does Dean need to jump in and help. Once he figured out how to talk and slice at the same time, he flew through the pile of vegetables Dean put in front of him. Dean needed some stuff for his bruschetta that was going out first with the mushrooms and the oysters, also special ordered. Another sommelier showed up (wine this time) and they brought their own bites to pair with their wines, so that’s even less for Dean to prepare.

Cas has been talking his ears off, asking question after question like Dean actually is on a baking show. Cas doesn’t mind a short answer when Dean doesn’t have more to give, and he appreciates that. He’s never really narrated his work before, but Cas asks interesting questions, like what seasonings he’s using for the various vegetables, and why he’s preparing cutting boards full of butter and herbs, and salt. It’s for the steaks, and most people don’t give a flip about how Dean prepares them, but he finds himself enjoying answering Cas’s questions about his methods. It makes him that much more proud of his abilities.

Dean will not admit to feeling a little disappointed when Cas excuses himself closer to five. He still has too much work in front of him.

7:30 pm

All of Dean's plans come to fruition, and he serves dinner to the partygoers without a hitch. Hardly any of Michael's guests acknowledge him, Dean just another part of the help to them. Dean’s used to it.

All he cares about is getting off work for the night. He doesn't see Castiel again, even though he serves dinner to Mr. and Mrs. Novak in the dining room. Dean’s on edge, expecting him to come through the door at any time, and his nerves are totally frayed by the time he finishes cleaning up and he still hasn't shown. Dean leaves a plate fixed up for him, anyway.

He didn't have to serve dessert (the event planner brought Michael's favorite cheesecake from the city) so he's able to hang up his apron at a decent hour with fingers crossed that no drunk ex-frat boys (or devastatingly handsome stoners) raid his kitchen during the night. The party is picking up so Dean has no idea what the rest of the night will bring. He’ll be in his bedroom ignoring it all, thank you very much.

10:15 pm

A light knock on his bedroom door startles Dean out of his doze. His television is playing Jeopardy at a low hum, and his sheets are twisted around his middle. He must have dozed off catching up on his DVR’d episodes. Dean doesn’t have much time for TV, but he makes a point to record Jeopardy and maybe all the reruns of Dr. Sexy M.D. It’s a guilty pleasure. Sue him.

He glances at the clock as he frees himself from his sheets, figuring someone’s come up with some reason for him to cook something, which has happened during a summer party or two. It’s why he can’t sleep naked anymore, just in case he needs to jump out of bed for something weird.

He isn’t expecting the weirdest person he’s come across in a long time when he yanks open his door.

Cas raises his hand to hold his fingers up to his lips in a shhh gesture. There’s a joint between his two fingers. He raises one eyebrow and jerks his head to motion for Dean to follow him before he’s gone from the doorway.

Dean barely has time to think about why he’s jamming his bare feet into a pair of flip-flops and hurrying out of his room.

10:15 pm

Cas leads him all the way out of the house and down the Novak’s private path that leads to the beach, a path lit with small solar lights that illuminate Cas as he practically floats away towards the beach and the crashing waves.

Dean can hear them over the terrible nineties music the DJ is playing. Dean swears he’s heard enough Counting Crows and Dave Matthews Band to last a lifetime, working Michael’s parties. He's panicking a little, which is why he's trying to focus on what he knows, like all the words to Smashmouth’s “All Star”. It's better than thinking about why he's sneaking out to the beach with his boss's pain in the ass son to smoke a joint.

They don't say anything for a long time, long after they're both settled into the sand at the water's edge, each wave kissing their toes, their shoes discarded next to them. It's even after Cas lit up the joint and they passed it back and forth a few times, Dean only hoping it doesn't make him anxious like it has in the past.

Maybe it's the sea breeze or the sound of the waves against the shore, or maybe it's sitting this close to Cas, Dean doesn't know. But he's okay. More than okay. Relaxed, the more they smoke and don't talk, the expectation non-existent, the moment enough as it is.

Sure, he's coughing here and there after it's his turn to pull from the joint, but for the first time in a long time, Dean's breathing is clear.

It's probably why he's the first one to break the silence.

“So why aren’t you and your brother close?”

Castiel is holding the joint, and he freezes with it halfway to his lips. Dean eyes his silhouette from the corner of his eyes, afraid to move, afraid he just f*cked up the moment.

It feels like forever before Castiel finishes bringing the joint to his mouth. Dean pointedly stares into the darkness of the ocean.

“We were born sixteen years apart. Michael was away at a private school during our mother's entire pregnancy.”

Dean looks over at him in shock as the words register. His brain is slow on the uptake, thanks to the weed. He knew there was an age difference, but not one that big.

Cas blows out the smoke he's holding. “To him, one day I wasn’t there and the next I was. He went to college and pursued his Ph.D. and I grew up in his shadow, encouraged to be like my phantom of a big brother, who only showed up for holidays or parties our parents were throwing for their doctor and publishing friends.” He takes another drag before he passes the joint back. “I barely had a brother… beyond name, anyway.”

Dean takes back the joint and tries to wrap his mind around that. Sam's always been the center of Dean's world for as long as he can remember. They only really had each other after their mom died and their dad fell apart. The acrid smoke from the joint burns the back of Dean's throat, and he thinks maybe Cas can't relate to that, given who his parents are.

He passes the joint back. Maybe it's the weed, but when Cas's fingers brush his, a shock goes up Dean's arm, like a bullet aimed straight for his gut. He doesn't think the bleeding will be minimal, but he ignores it anyway.

“It could be worse,” Dean says.

Cas pulls on the joint and this time Dean's looking when the cherry glows brighter and draws out the shadows of Cas's profile. His strong brow dips down to his broad straight nose, one that Dean can tell has never been broken in a stupid bar fight, like Dean's. With his head tilted up toward the stars, Dean thinks he's looking at art.

He shakes that gay as hell thought away immediately. Just because he is gay as hell doesn’t mean he has to go thinking thoughts that could get his ass fired faster than his stoned mind can think of a clever gay metaphor.

He’d be royally boned. There.

The joint is almost spent, and Cas offers it over one last time. Dean waves it off. He’s plenty stoned, and he lets his head fall back so he can look at the stars instead of Cas’s mouth as he finishes the weed off.

Cas only coughs a little on his last hit. His voice is extra gravelly from smoking when he speaks again. “I’m just curious. What do you think could be worse than my current situation with my brother?”

Dean closes his eyes. He should have kept his mouth shut, but when has he ever done that? What he should do is tell Cas to forget it, to just shut up and enjoy the sound of the waves, but instead, his usual bluntness makes an appearance.

“You had your parents through all that, right?” Dean shrugs.

Beside him, Cas snorts. “If you could call it that. They were both in deep pursuit of their careers at that point. I think I was an accident, truth be told. They both seem to resent me for it, anyway. Most of the time, I can’t stand my parents.”

Dean doesn’t know if Cas thinks it makes him seem cool to hate his parents or what, but to Dean, he just sounds spoiled. He wouldn’t know what to do, if he had to grow up acting like a parent to his brother, instead of a sibling, because his parents are dead and/or too drunk to function depending on the year.

Dean opens his eyes to stare out into the darkness, resenting Cas’s privilege. “Well, they’ve always been nice to me. And the truth is, despite all that, they’re still better than nothing.”

Cas goes still beside him. After a moment, he turns toward Dean, serious now. “Dean, I—my apologies, truly, I had no idea—”

Dean cuts him off. “Don’t be sorry, you couldn’t have known.”

Cas’s shoulders drop. ”Still.” He turns back towards the water. “I could try just shutting the f*ck up once in a while.”

A bark of laughter slips past Dean’s lips. “Couldn’t hurt to give it a try.” He can’t really be mad. No one expects a person his age to have no parents. They’re both quiet for a while, but Dean can tell it’s driving Castiel crazy not to say something. He keeps fidgeting, and looking at Dean and part of him wants to let Cas squirm, but another part…

Dean decides to let him off the hook. “Are you trying to figure out how to ask about them?”

Cas ducks his head. “Kinda? More like… trying to figure out how to ask you how it feels?”

Dean finally looks at him then. “How what feels? To not have parents?”

Even in the darkness, Cas’s eyes glow but he shakes his head. “To be free.”

Dean scoffs. He can’t believe this sh*t. His high is quickly evaporating. “Man, do I look free to you?”

Castiel shrugs. “You could leave here tomorrow.”

As if. He swallows back all the reasons he can’t, specifically thanks to a six-foot-four college student he’s responsible for. Cas could never understand that. He deflects instead. “So could you,” he points out. “Matter of fact, I've been told to expect it.”

Cas’s eye roll moves his entire body. “See? That's the sh*t I'll never be free of.”

“What’s that, asshole siblings? Everyone fights with their siblings.”

“Worse,” Cas replies. “Expectations.”

Oh, now Dean’s heard it all. From what he can see, Cas does what he wants, despite how it makes his family look. Bridge Club night is still too fresh in Dean’s mind.

“At least there are people who care enough to expect something from you.” He can’t help the bitterness in his voice at this point.

“Why do you say that like it's a good thing?”

Dean doesn’t know how to explain it to someone like Castiel. “No one cares what I do.”

“That sounds like freedom to me,” is all he says, and that’s when Dean reaches his limit.

“It’s lonely,” Dean spits out, climbing to his feet. He brushes the sand off his hands. “I wouldn’t expect you to understand.”

Dean doesn’t give Cas the chance to respond before he shoves his feet back into his flip-flops and tries as hard as he can to look fierce as he stomps away from the shore and the entitled man he left speechless, for once.

Chapter 6

Chapter Text

6:30 am

Dean wakes up pissed for two reasons. One—it’s his day off and he didn’t have to set an alarm and still, he’s awake before the sun. And B—Last night is still fresh in his mind.

He tries to roll over and go back to sleep.

His traitorous mind won’t let him. It won’t shut the f*ck up, playing over and over again the conversation he had with Cas, and the way it ended. Dean stayed up far too long, tossing and turning when he got back to his room, and resuming that activity now that he’s awake is more than enough reason to get Dean out of bed.

f*ck it. The first thing he does is strip his bed. He spent half the night feeling the sand in his sheets, thanks to his walk, so he stuffs those into the washer on his way to the kitchen. If he’s gonna be awake, Dean needs coffee.

6:45 am

Soon enough, Dean is settled into one of the chaise lounge chairs by the pool, a cup of coffee in hand as the morning sun rises and fills the patio with cool, blue light. The air is clean and crisp, and Dean breathes it in, the aroma of coffee mingling perfectly as he soaks in the quiet. A hard contrast to the night before, when music filled the air and people filled the patio. Now, you can’t even tell there was a party there the night before, everything cleaned up and back to normal. In the distance, Dean can hear the waves crashing against the shore.

He tries to ignore them.

He wonders how long Castiel sat out there after he left.

8:00 am

After Dean finishes his cup and makes another, he showers up, still sipping on the delicious elixir as he makes his way out to the garage. Like he told Cas last night, he’s always liked the Novaks, and part of the reason is that they allow Dean the use of their garage when he wants to work on his car. It’s fully stocked, despite Dean never once seeing anyone in the house show any interest in cars. No one’s ever asked him about his Baby anyway, and she’s a classic, just sitting in their driveway waiting to be admired.

Dean’s pumped to give her the attention she deserves. His car is pretty much his life. He’s called it home more consistently than anywhere with a foundation, and he keeps that in mind when it comes time to tune her up. She deserves that respect. She’s been in his family since before he was born.

He stops short when he steps outside though, almost spilling his coffee. Castiel’s car is gone. Dean can admit he wasn’t expecting that, but a small part of him is relieved.

Another part of him is disappointed, but Dean’s not gonna admit to the size of that piece.

He gets to work under the hood of his car, ignoring the oil stain on the driveway he covered in cat litter, not three days ago. After he’s done with his work, he’ll sweep it away now that Cas is gone. Cranking up the classic rock on his car stereo, Dean spends the rest of the morning burying himself under the hood, where all that matters is making sure he gets her oil changed without adding any stains to the driveway too.

Dean loses all track of time.

It’s almost disorienting, the way Dean can get lost in an engine, so he’s confused when he hears a rattling sound that only gets louder and louder the longer he listens. Pulling himself out from under the hood, Dean squints into the sun only to see Castiel’s old faded red Volvo pulling up the driveway so he can park next to Dean again. Dean can see him behind the wheel, hair wild and those damn sunglasses covering his eyes. Something that wasn’t there before springs to life inside of Dean to see that Cas is back.

Cas seems surprised to see Dean, but he can’t really do anything but climb out of the car after he puts it in park and turns off the engine. He doesn’t come around the car, instead closing the door and resting his folded arms on the roof instead. He tilts his head. “Hello, Dean.”

Why does that go right to that open wound in his stomach?

Cas isn’t done though. “Have you decided that you hate me today? I was a bit of a dick last night.”

“That’s one way to put it,” Dean says, crossing his arms over his chest. At least Cas can acknowledge that he was being a jerk. Dean still rolls his eyes when Cas grins and straightens up.

“I'm going to take that as a no. My apologies, by the way. I get too introspective when I smoke, sometimes.”

“Maybe switch strains, then,” Dean suggests, narrowing his eyes.

Cas bounces his eyebrows until he seems to notice that Dean is doing something other than cooking. His grin dips. “You're working on your car? So there's no breakfast?”

Of course, he's hungry. Dean drops his arms so he can get back to work on his spark plugs. “Yeah, sorry about that. It's my day off. You'll have to fend for yourself.”

Cas frowns as he comes around his car. He's wearing a heather gray crew neck tee with a pair of black track pants and, of all things, he's barefoot. Who the f*ck drives barefoot?

Dean frowns.

Cas looks down and wiggles his toes.

Dean has to turn back towards his car. “There's some cereal in the pantry and some of that yogurt stuff your parents like, if you're really hungry…” He says all this mostly over his shoulder, only glancing back to see if Cas is listening and that's when he trails off, struck dumb at the sight of Cas stretching his arms over his head. It would be fine, if it wasn't causing the hem of his shirt to ride up way too many inches, exposing so, so, so much tan skin, and the most shameless, stupid hollowed out dips, pools from his hip bones that are split by a dark trail of hair that Dean can only imagine leads to all kinds of trouble.

Cas yawns loudly, and that snaps Dean out of his daze. He almost hurts his neck when he turns back to the Impala so fast. Dean should not be looking at that, and he’s so busy chastising himself that he doesn’t notice when Cas materializes out of nowhere to suddenly be at Dean’s side, leaning over to peer inside the engine.

“What are you doing?”

Dean snatches up the socket wrench he was using and resumes tightening his spark plugs. He has to talk over the clicks of the tool as he turns it. “Finishing these spark plugs. Oil change is next.”

Cas makes an interested sound. “Aren’t there places that will do that for you?”

“Yeah?” Dean huffs. “When was the last time you took that car of yours to one?”


“Did you know it's leaking oil?” Dean straightens and catches Cas as he snaps his mouth shut. “One of those places could probably fix it… Or do you a favor and junk the entire thing.” He mutters that last part under his breath, but Cas hears it anyway.

He smirks, amusem*nt in the purse of his lips. “Beauty’s in the eye of the beholder. But yes, you’re right, I should take her in to get serviced.”

Dean doesn’t know why he can’t keep his mouth shut, maybe because Cas called his car her and Dean’s the only one who ever does that but, “If you pop the hood, I’ll take a look at the engine for you. See if I can find what’s causing that leak.”

Cas’s eyebrows go up behind his sunglasses. “No, that wasn’t what I was aiming for, I swear. You shouldn’t spend your whole day off working on cars. I’ll just take it down to the Jiffy Lube or something.”

Dean wrinkles his nose at that. “Jesus Christ, no, don’t do that. I was going to check for the damn leak anyway, so just make it easier for me and pop the damn thing.”

Even as he’s finishing his sentence, Cas is already moving back towards his driver’s side door. “I’m serious, Dean.” He still opens the door and leans in to pull the latch that releases the hood’s lock. “There’s gotta be better ways to spend your day off.”

Dean rolls his eyes as he reaches under the edge of the hood to find the latch. “Yahtzee,” he mutters when his fingers brush the square metal. Applying a little pressure, the hood of the Volvo goes up with a loud creak.It’s less dusty than Dean expected, and thankfully still has its hood holder. It’s a good thing he bought extra oil last week. He sighs and looks at his watch. “Don’t worry man, I gotta be outta here in a few hours.”

“Where are you off to?”

“Do you always ask so many questions?”

“When I can get away with it, yes.” There’s that grin again.

Dean ignores it. “I'm heading out to Riverhead. Theater over there is having a horror movie marathon.”

“The Suffolk?” Cas pushes his sunglasses up, his eyes wide and reflecting the sky.

Dean is momentarily distracted by blue until he's more surprised than anything. “You know it?”

Cas nods enthusiastically. “I've seen a few shows there, local bands mostly. I didn't even know they showed movies. Can I come?”

That makes everything inside Dean jam up and he has to play Cas's words over again to make sure he heard what he heard before he narrows his eyes. Cas is making fun of him. He crosses his arms over his chest. “Don't make fun of me, dude. They're just dumb movies.”

Cas tilts his head to the side, the crease between his eyes deepening. “Why would I make fun of you? I like movies.”

Who doesn't like movies? Dean drops his arms because Cas still seems thoroughly confused. “You don't really want to come with me, man.”

Why would he want to hang out with the help, is what Dean is thinking, a small part of him smart enough not to say that out loud.

Something makes Cas's shoulders sag. “If you don't want me to come, just say that.”

Dean scowls. “That isn't what I said. I said you didn't want to come with me.”

“I never said that.”

Dean wants to argue back that yes, he did, but no, Cas didn't. Part of him wants to cross his arms over his chest again, just to keep his chest from flying open like it wants to. Instead, he reaches in to hover a hand over the Volvo’s engine.

“This is almost cool enough for me to look at, so can you be ready to go by one?”

That wipes the kicked puppy dog look off Cas's face that Dean was trying not to look at.

“I can do that,” is all he says before he's turning away.

Dean's almost able to relax before Cas whirls back on his heel, toes in the air. He presses his palms together like he's praying. “Is there any chance you might want to make us something to eat before we go?”

Oh, now he's switched to his angel mode. That's a new one. His eyes are still out too, and it takes all of Dean's strength not to reach over and push down his sunglasses. Or push them off his head. Dean's traitorous eyes dart down to Cas's full mouth, still in a pout. He's such an idiot.

“Hell of a way to wrangle lunch out of me, but fine.”

Cas claps his hands once in victory.

Dean scowls.

“Oh come on now,” Cas chides. “You can't blame me for being the best chef I've met, surely.”

Turns out buttering up Dean works. He goes back to the engine. “Don't call me Shirley,” he mutters.

“I don't understand that reference,” Cas calls out as he walks toward the house.

Dean scowls harder over his shoulder at him. “I thought you liked movies,” he calls back, just as Cas heads around the house toward the side gate that leads to the backyard.

Sighing, Dean looks back at the dusty engine. He has no idea how he got himself into this mess.


Dean has regrets. So many regrets. He regrets working on the cars; he wishes he never made plans; he doesn't even want it to be his day off anymore. Hell, if he’s gonna spiral, he regrets having this job in the first place!

This isn't a place he likes to be.

Not literally, he likes it here at the Novak’s a lot actually, until their second son showed up.

Their other son, who they never mentioned, whose pictures aren't on the walls and whose face isn't even included in the very few professional family portraits scattered around.

Dean only began to notice these things. He didn't even know he was noticing until Cas mentioned his crappy relationship with his family, and then it was all Dean could see.

He walks from his room after a shower to the kitchen and he notices. There isn't a trace of Cas anywhere.

It bums Dean out for the guy, just a little. It also puts last night a little more into perspective.

Maybe it's why he uses the last of his lobster to make another little mix, one with shredded cheese, some cream cheese, and garlic this time, seasoning it all before pressing it between four slices of sourdough that Dean made himself. He doesn't know if a lobster grilled cheese will make up for years of resentment, but it doesn't hurt to start chipping away at it.

He'd probably be happier if someone brought him a sandwich this good, too.

1:00 pm

Cas is waiting out by the cars when Dean shows up. He’s changed into an oversized navy blue cable-knit sweater, threadbare in some places. Those damn sunglasses are hanging by the vee of the sweater. His jeans are too long, but at least he’s wearing shoes now, paint-stained black chucks. It’s obvious he showered by how his hair is still wet in some places and dry in others, the sea breeze catching it and flipping it up. He’s a whole lot to take in, and because he’s on his phone, he doesn’t notice Dean taking an extra second to look, despite knowing better.

Dean clears his throat. Cas tucks his phone into his back pocket.

“Hello, Dean,” he says.

He still can't figure out why that rearranges his insides.

Dean nods in response and holds out a paper-wrapped sandwich. “Bon appétit, or whatever.”

You'd think Dean was handing him solid gold the way those blue eyes light up. He snatches the sandwich from Dean like a hungry goblin, turning it over in his hands and trying to smell through the paper.

“What kind today? Wait, don't tell me. I just want to be surprised.” He looks up at Dean. “Can I eat this and drive, or will it be too messy?”

Dean snorts. “First off—you’re not driving.”

Cas nods at that like it's no skin off his back and he heads for the passenger door of the Impala. That’s when Dean shakes his head.

“That’s the other thing… there’s no way you’re eating in my Baby.”

Cas freezes. The corner of his mouth goes up. “Your Baby?” He makes a move to lean against her instead keeping his eyes on Dean.

Dean raises an eyebrow and Cas stops. “Nuh-uh. You definitely ain’t got leaning privileges yet.”

Cas nods like that’s obvious. “Yet,” he agrees, as he hops onto the hood of his own car, not even flinching when it groans under his weight. He crosses his legs and tears into the wrapper and those blue eyes get wide and wild as he realizes what he's holding. “Lobster? Grilled? Cheese?!”

Heat rises under Dean's collar as he climbs up onto the hood of the Impala to sit on the edge so he can eat, too.

“Oh, you can sit there?” Cas is talking with his mouthful and it shouldn't be even a little cute.

Dean scowls. “Did you just change her oil and spark plugs?”

Cas shakes his head. He takes another bite and at least swallows it before he speaks again. “Did you figure out what's wrong with mine?”

“Just needs a new seal,” Dean mumbles before taking his own bite. The cheese is perfectly melted and gooey. A string stays connected between his mouth and the sandwich when he pulls it back. Nice.

“Can we get that while we're out?”

Dean was already planning on making a stop, but the mouthful of food and hearing Cas say we steal any words he might be able to form. He opts for nodding instead.

Cas seems satisfied, and he goes back to eating his sandwich.

2:00 pm

They’ve been in the car for ten minutes, and Dean's already losing his mind.

He maintains that this was a bad idea. He knew it—the moment they pulled out of the driveway and Cas flipped his glasses down, and Dean got brave enough to steal a real glance at him.

Under less experienced hands, they'd be in a ditch.

Maybe it was the sun glinting off those sunglasses, or his profile against the ocean behind him, or the dumb way his hair blew in the breeze, but goddamn, Dean wasn't used to that riding shotgun. These days, he isn’t used to hardly anyone beside him, but someone as dangerously good looking as Castiel?

Dean needs to keep his eyes on the road. He flips the radio on to fill the silence. The Classic Rock station is playing Pink Floyd.

It only makes Cas turn to him and start twenty questions again, the first being, “Is this your favorite kind of music?”

Since it's the only acceptable kind of music there is, Dean nods.

For how long is Cas's next question, and so on and so forth. He's a nosy bastard, but Dean finds he really doesn't mind answering. The questions lead Dean to tell Cas about growing up on the road, and how that meant a lot of motel rooms and hours in the very car they were riding in, his dad always on the hunt for his next big job. John would find one and they'd settle down long enough for Dean and Sam to enroll in school and for Sam to make friends and then they'd be gone again, hardly a memory to anyone they left behind.

“I used to tell people he was still a Marine, thinking it explained why we moved so much. Easier to explain than him just being a chronically unemployed drunk.” Cringing even as he says it, Dean didn't realize how far his guard had dropped with all the other questions. He glances over at Cas, who only has his head tilted and wide eyes full of concern.

Dean doesn't need that. He clears his throat.

“Sorry, that was a bit of an over-share. You don't need to hear about that sh*t.” What could Castiel understand about tough sh*t like that, anyway?

Out of the corner of his eye, Dean can see Cas shrug. “My dad used to take extended vacations ‘to visit his great aunt Mildred’.” Cas does actual air quotes around those words. “Mom would get mad when I would ask why I couldn’t go too, only to find out years later there was no great aunt Mildred. Dad just liked his nose candy a little too much, if you know what I mean.”

Dean f*cking does. He grips the steering wheel a little harder.

“But that was the eighties for you. Cocaine was very popular. Still is, or so I’ve heard. Dad kicked the stuff years ago.” Castiel pauses. “Am I the one over sharing now?”

Yes. “Yes,” Dean says. “That’s my boss you’re talking about.”

Cas waves that away. “It’s your day off. This is all off the record.”

Dean doesn’t think it works that way, but ever since Cas has come around, he’s learned a lot more about his clients than he ever wanted to. “It’s still not exactly appropriate,” Dean says.

“Yeah, I hear that a lot.”

“You don’t say.”

Cas snickers. Thankfully, they’re saved by the movie theater, The Suffolk coming into view as Dean turns the corner. He can’t help but check his watch, bewildered at how fast it feels like they got here, even though forty minutes have gone by.

Cas buys Dean’s ticket before he can stop him. He says it’s to say thanks for letting him tag along.

Dean insists on buying the popcorn. His stomach does a weird flip when Cas gets excited over the licorice Dean buys. Sam always used to complain about it being gross, even though it’s the supreme movie snack after popcorn. Kid’s smart enough for Stanford, but not this.

Cas surprises him. While Dean was expecting twenty questions again when the movie started, Cas only asks if there's anything he needs to know going in, and he's satisfied when Dean tells him no. They're seeing Hatchet Man: All Saints Day parts one, two and three, so lucky for Cas, they're starting at the beginning. He ends up being a great movie-watching partner. Dean’s only ever had Sam, and that kid can't sit still, let alone ever agree on the same movie Dean wants to see. He also hates horror movies, but Cas seems more than into them.

During the movie, his eyes stay glued to the screen, unless something good happens, and then he's looking to Dean to see if he saw that, or if he's reacting too. Dean's not really sure. Dean finds himself watching Cas more than the movies, though, probably because he's seen them so many times. Cas confessed after the first movie ended he doesn't really watch a lot of movies, or even television before he disappeared to refill their popcorn and drinks.

Dean finds he doesn't mind the fib.

9:00 pm

“See, that's what made me think they were leaving the third movie open. They show Hatchet Man's truck being towed out of the lake he crashed into, but do they ever show a body? No. They don't.”

After the last movie ended, they headed back home, Cas talking Dean’s ear off the entire time. His brain must be like a sponge or something, the way he went over all three movies in order, pointing out themes and open ends that only Dean knows actually do feed into future installments of the movies, eventually. He’s impressed, if he’s being honest, considering most people just dismiss most horror movies as nonsense and easy gore, which they are, at surface level. They actually talked about the movies, and compared favorite scenes in order of best blood splatter, of all things.

It’s stupid and thrilling, and again, forty minutes flies by.

Dean's keyed up. It's probably the movies, but a small part is afraid it's just because he's this close to Cas. Cas, who likes licorice with his popcorn too. Cas, who's dissecting one of Dean's favorite movies like he loves to do.

He tries not to think of it like that.

When they get back to the house, their conversation flows right inside and into the kitchen, Dean going on autopilot when he pulls his apron off the hook and puts it on, already going to the sink to wash his hands.

Cas takes his seat at the island. “It just felt very obvious to me, even if they left out the ‘To Be Continued…’ chyron.” He uses air quotes again and Dean will not admit that it's cute. Why would it be cute?

He shakes his head and turns towards the fridge. “You’re right,” he says over his shoulder. Pulling it open, he studies the contents and grabs two beers out first. He opens them and slides one across the island. “They made five more. Unfortunately, the director changed, so they got really cheesy.”

Cas grins at that as he accepts the beer. “The last one was plenty cheesy, though. One vending machine death was enough, but making the soda cans fly out and kill a man? That was stupid.”

Dean snorts and turns back to the fridge to grab what he needs to fix them a few burgers. “Well, that's horror movies for you. The next three involve cheerleaders and summer camp, somehow. They really jumped the shark.”

“Oh yeah? You're saying you don't enjoy the short skirts and inevitable running on the beach in a bikini cliché?”

Dean looks up from seasoning the hamburger meat. Cas is taking a pull from his beer but he’s still watching Dean closely and if he didn’t know based on his question alone, Cas’s eyes give away that his question is definitely some kind of test.

Dean decides to tread the waters, even if it feels like Cas is fishing. He chooses his words carefully. “I think I’d prefer if it were men in speedos.”

The very last reaction Dean expected from Cas is the beer he’s drinking shooting straight (ahem) out of his nose, but it’s the one he gets.

Dean slides the bowl of hamburger meat closer to himself and leans over to pluck a napkin from the holder on the counter. He raises an eyebrow as he passes it over, Cas coughing and shaking his head and grabbing for the napkin.

“Holy sh*t, that hurt,” he breathes out, blowing his nose as beer still drips out of it.

Dean suppresses a laugh.

“My apologies.”

“You gonna be okay over there?”

“Shortly, yes.”

“Good, you can clean up your mess after.”

“You’re gay?”

Right to the point, then. Dean sighs. “Didn’t know I had to say it like that, but yeah.” He isn’t sure if he has to be on the defense yet and holds on to his reluctant optimism that Cas isn’t going to go full hom*ophobe on him and try to get him fired or something.

The way Cas’s face lights up says otherwise. It’s like the goddamn sun rising, the slow spread of delight taking over and softening his face. He holds his beer bottle out.

“Well, then cheers. I’m bi.”

Dean’s in a daze when he lifts his bottle to tap it against Cas’s. Never in his wildest did he think he’d be coming out to anyone tonight, let alone Cas. He can’t even begin to process that Cas is queer too.

He tries to busy himself with making them food.

Cas of course, keeps talking. “We’re a very LGBTQ friendly household. Mom’s on a couple of boards in the city, and dad, well, I spilled the beans about his proclivities when we first met.”

Dean rolls his eyes. “You really are a bit of a dick, aren’t you?”

Cas tips his head back, and he laughs. It fills the kitchen and Dean’s bones, warming both through and through. Between that and the long column of Cas’s throat, Dean’s feeling far too good about it all, a feeling that’s dangerous, one he rarely gets to keep.

Blue eyes lock on Dean’s green, and Cas is flushed and grinning and—well, too much, actually.

Dean has to turn around for his own sanity. He ducks into the pantry to grab a few potatoes… and also let the heat drain out of his face. A few deep breaths do the trick.

He shouldn’t be letting Cas get under his skin like this.

When he emerges from the pantry, Cas is standing. “Do you mind if I go change? I can't stand wearing jeans for this long. Or shoes, for that matter.”

Dean waves him off. “Food'll be done in about fifteen.”

Cas smiles at him for a moment before something in his eyes changes and one begins to twitch, his cheek and then shoulder following suit. Raising his hands dramatically, Cas staggers back toward the French doors, nearly crashing into them.

Dean almost drops his potatoes reaching out before Cas stops and, hands still up, he stares right at Dean and—

“I'll be right ba-ack,” he says in an awful intimidation of David Yaeger from the Hatchet Man movies.


Dean throws one of the smaller potatoes at him, and Cas breaks character, catching it and laughing as he pushes his way out of the house. “I’ll be right back, Dean,” he sing-songs out one more time before he disappears, and only the ocean is left to listen to.

Dean sighs and gets to finishing their dinner.

10:00 pm

Dean serves dinner outside on the patio. While their burgers cooked on the grill, he set a quick table for them using the normal dinner settings, not even noticing that he lit a candle like he normally does. He realizes his mistake when he takes a seat across from Cas and the candlelight sneaks across his sharp cheekbones, and Dean can't look away.

Especially not when Cas takes his first bite. The sounds he makes are, well, p*rnographic if Dean has to describe them. He shifts in his seat and tries to fight the blush that keeps rising.

“This burger,” Cas says in between bites. “It's incredible.” He holds it out to stare in almost disbelief. He takes another bite before swallowing, satisfied. “These make me very happy, Dean.”

“Okay, okay,” Dean mutters. "You want to get a room?”

Cas pauses, chewing to raise an eyebrow and Dean scowls to cover his embarrassment at what he just said. Snickering, Cas keeps eating.

Dean shakes his head and gets back to his burger. He likes that Cas likes his food.

They eat in a content silence through their first burgers, but it's during seconds that Cas starts talking about the movies again, much to Dean's enjoyment. He can talk movies all day. They're deep into it when they're both startled by the patio door opening.

Chuck sticks his head out, surprised when he sees them both. “Oh, hey. I wasn't sure who I was going to find out here.” He glances over their spread. Dean can only imagine what it looks like, him sitting out here by candlelight with his son.

Dean stands, almost knocking his chair over. “Did you want something to eat? We were almost done here.”

They weren't. There's only a few bites taken out of both their burgers, the two of them too busy talking to remember to eat.

Chuck seems to notice. He waves him off. “I didn't mean to interrupt, just wanted to let whoever was up know we were home.” If Dean's off work, the Novaks go out for dinner, either to the country club or one of their favorite local places. “I'll let you boys get back to your dinner.”

He doesn't seem mad to find Dean and Cas eating together, which Dean's glad for. He still takes a step forward. “I'm happy to fix you up something. There are extra burgers.”

Cas makes a pained noise at the table that Dean ignores.

Chuck shakes his head. “The club served prime rib tonight. I had more than enough.” He pauses before he ducks back inside. “Are you going to be around tomorrow, Cassie? I'd like a word at some point if so.”

Dean turns to stare at Cas for that one. “Cassie?” He mouths at him, making Cas narrow his eyes for a second before he flicks his eyes over to his dad.

“Sure pop,” he says. “I'll come find you.”

“Sounds good, son,” Chuck says, his shoulders relaxing. He nods at Dean. “You boys enjoy the rest of your night.”

And then he's gone.

Dean stares at the patio door and thinks about what to do.

Cas sighs behind him. “Would you sit down? It's fine. We're just eating.”

He's right. Deans being stupid. He drops back into his seat and picks up his burger. “So. Cassie?”

Cas groans. “Oh, f*ck off. I hate that nickname, but my family loves it.”

“Are you sure? I can make the switch if you don't like Cas.”

“Don't you dare,” he says, leveling Dean with a death glare.

“Fine, Cassie.”

A fry hits Dean in the forehead for that. He pops it into his mouth. “So. You were halfway through a question before your dad showed up. Let's hear it.”

“Oh sh*t, that's right.” Cas takes a bite and thinks about it. “We were talking about all those dumb horror clichés. I was going to ask why you like the genre so much if it's so predictable.”

Dean shrugs. “I've just always liked it. When I was growing up, my dad would disappear a lot, on jobs… On benders.” Dean doesn't look at Cas even though he can feel those blue eyes burning a hole in the top of his head. “I used to have to pretend not to be scared, for my little brother, you know? Horror movies helped. I didn't have to be scared because I knew the bad guy was always gonna lose.”

“It didn't give you nightmares?”

“Nah.” Dean shakes his head. “Real life was bad enough.”

Cas has stopped eating. “I'm sorry, Dean,” he says quietly.

“Don't be,” Dean replies. “I'm good. My little brother’s good. He goes to Stanford. Did I tell you that? Pre-law.” Dean’s proud of that, more than anything. Part of him wants Cas to understand so that the pitying look he's giving Dean will go away.

“You must have been an excellent role model,” he says instead.

“Hardly,” Dean scoffs. That stupid blush is back. No one's ever told him he did anything right by Sammy before, even if he knows he did everything he could. “I just kept the kid alive, really. He did the rest. Smart as hell, that one. After our dad was gone, he was able to stay with our uncle in Sioux Falls, stay in the same high school longer than a few months. I'd gotten my GED by then, so I was already back on the road after a while, sending money to our uncle.”

He leaves out the part where he tried college in Sioux Falls, but it didn't stick. School never did with Dean.

“And how did you land on cooking?” Cas is hanging on Dean’s every word between bites and sips of his beer.

Dean takes his own sip, thinking. “It’s easy to find work if you can make a decent burger.”

Mouth full, Cas makes a noise like he totally understands.

“I learned how to work a line upstate and an old friend I was staying with knew a restaurant owner in the city, so I came down to check it out.”

Cas nods as he swallows his bite. “You read my mind. My next question was how you ended up in New York.”

“You always so nosy?” Dean takes a big, obvious bite. He doesn’t mind Cas’s twenty questions, he just wants to give the guy sh*t for them to call it even.

Ducking his head, Cas waves him off. “You don’t have to answer if it’s too personal.”

Dean shrugs. “It’s just not that interesting. I got my ass kicked by culinary school and the New York City restaurant scene, and then I heard about going private.”

“You do this during the year, too?”

“Nah. Catering jobs mostly. You can get gig work every night if you want it. A few of the same companies keep me busy, and it keeps things interesting. Gives me the freedom to hit the road again, if I ever wanted to.” Dean says that last part lightly, the memory of their spat on the beach still fresh. Presently, he doesn’t have any plans to take off anytime soon, and he doesn’t want to plant any unnecessary seeds if he can avoid it.

Cas puts his hamburger down. “You want to leave?”

Dean sighs. “No. But if I had to, I could.”

Cas is frowning now. “What would make you have to leave?”

“If Sam needed me,” Dean says, no hesitation. He avoids Cas’s eyes when he says the next thing. “And other… possible complications.”

Cas sits up straighter. “Possible?” There’s relief hidden by the levity in his voice.

Dean takes the out and narrows his eyes. “Eat your burger.”

That gets him another full-throated, head tipped back and throat working laugh, and yeah, complication is putting things far too lightly.

Chapter 7

Chapter Text

10:30 am

Tomorrow morning after he skips breakfast, that complication climbs into the Impala’s front seat uninvited. Dean is moments from heading out to the store when Cas decides to join him.

Last night after they finished dinner, Cas headed off to bed and Dean stared at the ceiling all night, wondering what kind of trouble he was inviting into his life or if it was all in his head thanks to his usual over-thinking. Maybe he was being too cautious, or just plain stupid, thinking Cas could be anything more than just friendly, or at the very worst, lonely. Dean doesn’t sleep until he decides to play it cool going forward and keep things professional.

Cas didn’t get the memo. He’d probably ignore it anyway. Much like he’s ignoring Dean, who’s turned in his seat to stare pointedly at him as he secures his seatbelt.

“Can I help you?”

“My mother said you were going to the store.” Cas slides those stupid sunglasses over his eyes. “I thought I’d hitch a ride, see if you want to visit a little farm stand I like.” He’s in a black hoodie today, and ripped jeans.

Dean grips the wheel a little tighter. He doesn’t have time for this. Today is his market day, and with the Novak’s heading to the club for lunch, Dean had plans to restock his necessities in the kitchen and maybe get inspired for dinner tonight.

He clenches his jaw. Maybe the farm stand will have an interesting vegetable he can work with.

Cas claps when Dean answers by putting the Impala in drive.

They pull out onto the road, and Dean pretends not to notice when Cas reaches over to turn on the radio. Usually, no one’s allowed to touch it. Cas doesn’t know that, and he uses a finger to poke at the flap in the tape deck where the tapes go in. “This plays cassettes?”

“Under your seat,” Dean replies, not knowing why. If he doesn’t let anyone touch his radio, he sure as hell doesn’t let anyone touch his tapes. They’re practically a prize possession.

Cas pulls the little wooden box out and whistles under his breath.

Dean drives and tries not to watch Cas touch each tape with his fingertips as he reads what’s written on the labels. They’re all classic rock, tapes Dean’s bought over the years or left over from his dad’s collection. He knows every word on every side of every single tape, all of them a part of his history, the words, and melodies ingrained in his mind.

They're almost a part of him.

And now Cas is popping one of the cassette boxes open and sliding the tape inside. “Whole Lotta Love” from Zeppelin II fills the car and Cas nods, satisfied before he slips the box back under his seat and settles in for the ride.

Dean reminds himself to keep breathing. There's no way in hell Cas could ever know this was Dean's go-to album if he's looking to impress someone. Led Zeppelin is his favorite band and has been forever and if Cas likes them too… Well…

As if he can read Dean's mind, Cas says, “This is one of my favorite bands.”

Dean almost drives them into a mailbox.

An hour later and they're on the north side of Long Island and surrounded by farmland. The contrast between here and the sandy hills of the south shore sends Dean back to the Midwest and his long drives down all the various highways. Like back then, he cruises by farm stand after farm stand, each of them boasting fresh fruits and vegetable combinations, along with other seasonal things like pumpkins and flowers. Dean sees the word pie so many times, it's killing him not to stop.

Another cause of death? Cas's singing. Sure he's off-key, which is cute and unexpected, and of course he doesn't care how he sounds, singing loudly whenever a song calls for it. No, Dean can survive all that (mostly). What makes him think he'll arrive DOA at their destination is the fact that Cas… Well, Cas knows all the words to all the Zeppelin songs. And Dean means like, all the words. Even the background vocals—even some harmonies, which, given the aforementioned pitch problems… Cas tried. That's all that matters in Dean's book.

It's how their mom knew their dad was the one for her.

It counts for something, and it makes Dean want to be the one asking all the questions, like how Cas came to memorize every song, and how long they've been his favorite too.

Instead, Dean grips the wheel tighter and keeps the car steady.

It doesn't take much longer until Cas stops mid “Living, Loving Maid” to tell Dean the farm is coming up on their right. It saves Dean from having to listen to Cas sing “Ramble On”, at least. He slows and turns in at the sign for Tatooine Farms.

“Nice name,” he says, chuckling as he parks the Impala.

Cas shrugs. “I think it's a family name.”

Dean stares at him, eyes narrowed. “I knew you lied about liking movies.” He pushes open the door.

Cas scrambles out behind him. Dean appreciates when he doesn't slam the car door. “I didn't lie, I do like movies. I just haven't seen that many.”

“And that list includes Star Wars.” Dean shakes his head as they walk toward the farm stand.

“How did you know? I never admit that. People get mad.”

“And rightfully so. It's a classic.”

“Did I hear someone say they've never seen Star Wars? Get out.” They've reached the stand and, standing behind it with a mischievous glint in her eyes, is a woman with short, red, curly hair, and a green Tatooine Farms shirt. She’s quick to drop the act though, when she seems to notice who is in front of her.

“Castiel!” She hurries around the table so she can throw her arms around Cas, who’s grinning and wrapping her up in a hug that almost makes Dean jealous. He averts his eyes to the table filled with bell peppers in various colors. “We haven’t seen you in forever. How are you? How’s Columbia?”

Dean’s trying not to listen, but he glances back at Cas, who cuts his eyes over to Dean before he’s grinning at the woman again.

“Charlie, how are you? How’s Kara?”

The woman—Charlie—almost melts at that name. “She’s great, she’s up at the barn gathering more eggs. She’ll be down soon.” She glances between them. “Who’s your friend?”

“This is Dean.” Cas seems relieved that the conversation moved on. “He works for my parents. Dean, this is Charlie. She and her partner Kara own this stand.”

“Ah,” Dean says, holding a hand out. “The Tatooine’s.”

Charlie cracks up, letting go of Dean’s hand so she can fold in half she’s laughing so hard.

Cas narrows his eyes.

“Oh man, Kara is gonna love that one.” She smacks Cas’s arm with the back of her hand when she comes back up for air. “You’ve really never seen Star Wars? It’s a classic.”

“So I’ve been told,” Cas says dryly.

Dean snorts and turns his attention to Charlie. “Your stand is pretty awesome. You been at this for a long time?”

In all his years working summers here, Dean hasn’t ventured far from the Hamptons, which provides its own variety of farm stands for him to shop from. Charlie’s stand, however, is overflowing with stuff. All the tables form a big U-shape, and each one has sections for all the different things Tatooine Farms is selling. Beside the bell peppers are more vegetables, big bunches of fresh asparagus, and bushels full of carrots and bi-color corn. Then comes all the fresh fruit; blueberries and blackberries and plenty of late spring strawberries.

Dean smirks at those.

On the other side of the stand are more bushels full of bunches of fresh-cut wildflowers and giant sunflowers. Dean thanks all the stars in a galaxy far, far away when he sees the sign for pie with too many flavors listed for him to choose just one. He already knows he’s going to spend a stupid amount of his budget here.

And it seems like he asked the magic question, because it unlocks Charlie’s excitement to talk about her business. Dean learns that she’s from Chicago, which is where she met Kara, who owned a bakery back then named Second Breakfast, which Charlie said made her stop there in the first place. Dean would have stopped there too. He loves the Lord of the Rings. Charlie was working for a corporate overlord, as she puts it, in IT for Richard Roman Enterprises, which even Dean knows is bad news. That guy is the literal definition of Eat the Rich.

She tells Dean about her and Kara falling in love and craving adventure, which made them uproot their whole lives and move to Long Island to run their own farm. They grow everything they sell, and their inventory changes all year along with the seasons. Kara does all the baking while Charlie runs the farm, including all the events they hold year round, like a pumpkin patch come fall and an Easter egg hunt in the spring. They even have a small copse of fir trees they grow all year to sell at Christmas time.

It all sounds awesome to Dean. While he’s been chatting with Charlie, Cas disappears, Dean only getting a glimpse of him walking up toward the barn in the distance. He can’t help but wonder how long Charlie and Kara have known him. It makes him wonder how well they know him too, considering how comfortable he seems here and how Charlie asked after wherever he’s been… Columbia, whatever that means. The city? The country?

Dean suddenly realizes how little he knows about Cas, compared to what Cas knows about him.

The stand is busy with cars of people coming and going, some to browse like Dean and others who know exactly what they want, which most of the time is pie, along with a variety of other stuff. Dean already had Charlie set aside two for him, a pecan to serve after dinner tonight, and a caramel apple that he plans to save for himself. Charlie tells him to come back before the end of the season for a cherry pie with his name on it.

Pretty soon, Cas returns with a smiling dark-haired girl, Kara, whom Dean is introduced to. It seems that Kara adores Cas just as much as Charlie does, judging by the way they both fuss over him. Again, Dean burns with curiosity at their connection.

They end up spending quite a while shopping—well, Dean shops while Cas talks, telling Charlie and Kara stories that make them laugh and that are said too low for Dean to hear, not that he’s trying to listen. By the time he’s done, they have to make two trips to the car and Dean’s thanking those stars again that his Baby has a huge trunk. Dean drives away with a considerable haul of fruits, vegetables that he plans to serve with roast chicken tonight, and enough pie and pastries to keep the Novaks happy for the rest of the week and give Dean a break when it comes to baking. He also leaves promising Charlie that he’ll visit again before the end of the season, and that Cas will have seen Star Wars by then.

“We’re watching a movie?” is all Cas asks, because he only heard the tail end of Dean’s promises.

Dean just tells him to get in the car.

On the drive back, Cas flips the cassette tape and turns the radio up, and yup, Dean can take a hint. Again, he chastises himself for wondering too much about Cas’s life, when it's obvious the guy doesn’t want Dean to ask. It reminds him of the vow he so quickly forgot about, to keep things professional between them.

Maybe Cas got the memo after all.

He’s still decent company. When Dean has to stop at the butcher for the chicken, Cas follows him inside and asks a bunch of questions about the different cuts of meat and how it's prepared. Even the butcher raises an eyebrow, and Dean can only shrug and keep explaining why the sirloin cuts are more tender than the flank or round cuts. Cas hangs on every word and Dean wonders for the first time if Cas has any interest in actually learning how to cook.

It would explain a lot.

Maybe the guy just likes food.

That feeling only gets stronger when Cas hangs around in the kitchen when they return back to the house. At first he says it's to help Dean put everything away, even though Dean insists he doesn’t need help. He lingers, disappearing only for a moment or two while Dean begins to prepare dinner, starting with the two chickens he has to roast. Cas insists on washing and chopping the vegetables Dean needs, even if it takes twice as long as it might take Dean to do himself. He’s still asking a lot of questions, but he doesn’t bitch about Dean’s music, so he calls that a win.

Sometimes though, Cas turns his head, and Dean catches a glimpse of these little dark curls behind his ear that make him a little crazy, but other than that, he’s managing.

Overall, Dean can’t complain.

8:30 pm

If he must say, Dean is pretty damn good at his job. Dinner comes out great, and his table looks fantastic with fresh sunflowers in the middle, care of Tatooine Farms. All the Novak’s seem happy, and no one is fighting, which Dean considers another win. He even considers that it might be a good thing that Cas disappears after, if only for his sanity. He takes his time cleaning up like he always does, but tonight he’s just thinking about their day together, and the way it felt to listen to Led Zeppelin with Cas next to him.

It sounded brand new.

Dean didn’t even know that was possible, and now he doesn’t know how to feel about it and if there’s something Dean hates, it's confronting his feelings about things. Before he can get too deep in the weeds about it, the patio doors open. Dean already knows who it is before he turns.

“Hello, Dean.”

Cas has changed since dinner. His clothes are softer, and so is his hair, and so is the shade of stubble that’s covering his jaw.

Dean swallows hard and nods in greeting.

“I just wanted to come in and say thanks.” Cas clears his throat. “For today. I had a good time and was hoping you did as well.”

Dean had a great day, actually. He nods again. “Charlie was cool. I wish I got to talk to Kara more about her baking, though.”

“Her pecan pie was amazing.”

Dean served it with dinner like he planned. He saved himself a piece, even when everyone requested a second slice with the homemade vanilla ice cream Dean served with it.

“It was,” he agrees. He rubs the back of his neck. “So yeah. Guess I gotta thank you for hijacking my shopping trip.”

That makes the corner of Cas's mouth tip up. “Better than Citarella?” he teases.

With you, yeah is what Dean thinks but doesn't say. Instead he nods again, his head bobbing up and down like a damn bobblehead.

Cas doesn't seem to mind that Dean doesn't say things out loud. He lingers, like he maybe wants to say more or maybe he is waiting for Dean to say something.

Neither of them does.

Cas finally gives him a nod in return, and slips back out, "Goodnight, Dean," on his lips as the door shuts behind him.

Dean’s left alone with the echo of his heart banging against his ribs.

Chapter 8

Chapter Text

5:30 am

“It was the heat of the moment, telling me what my heart meant...”

Dean’s first conscious thought of the day is that he has to change his goddamn alarm tone. It’s obnoxious and annoying, which is why his next thought is of Sam.


Dean sits straight up in bed. He hasn't looked at his phone properly in days. It isn't like him to forget to check it at least once a day, to see if Sam has checked in.

The only new notification he has is for a spam email about premature hair loss.

He runs his hand through his very healthy hair. Dean doesn’t like this. He’s always been diligent, always responsible in the off chance there was an emergency and Sam needed him for some reason. It didn’t go that way this time, but if it had, Dean wouldn’t be able to forgive himself.

The guilt sets in by the time Dean’s making his first cup of coffee. It’s not like him to forget to check on Sam. It’s been ninety percent of his personality for most of his life. Then again, he really hasn’t felt like himself lately. Everything has been off-kilter, and if that wasn’t bad enough, a cold realization drips down Dean’s back like a spilled iced coffee.

He hasn't prepped any of his menus for the week ahead.

It throws his morning into chaos.

Usually, Dean’s two steps ahead of himself but today, he’s at a loss as his mind whirs like a Rolodex through all the recipes he knows, and what he can throw together in a pinch, which means he’s rushing from one corner of the kitchen to the other, from stirring a bowl of gluten-free pancake mix to slicing peaches, the last of his stash. Mentally, Dean makes a shopping list too, knowing he’ll have to not only go to the store but probably do an online order for the things he’s running low on. He’s cursing himself too, a few of the expletives slipping out under his breath when Dean remembers yet another thing he forgot to do yesterday during his regular prep day.

All his f*cking bread making.

Dean remembers when he goes for the gluten-free bread Michael likes for Dean to toast and serve with marmalade (which Dean thinks is kinda gross and a pain in his ass to make) and finds none, his bread drawer pretty much crumbs at this point. He scowls when he has to add four different flours to his list in order to make the bread, too.

When he has to step outside and apologize to Michael for not having his favorite breakfast side, it hits Dean about why he’s been f*cking up so badly.

The fourth empty chair at the breakfast table.

Dean backs out of the patio so fast, his shoulder hits the edge of the door frame as he stumbles back. Pain shoots down his arm, and he hisses, sagging against the counter as he grabs his arm to rub the pain out.

How could he be so f*cking stupid?

Everything is on the line for Dean here. His reputation and his competence mean he gets to keep his job and when one slips, the other is soon to follow and that… that isn’t a risk Dean can take.

He skips eating breakfast so he can get a head start on his bread dough.

11:30 am

It takes Dean hours to prep all the dough he needs to replenish his bread supply. Once he’s in the zone though, he’s unstoppable. While his dough is rising, Dean multitasks by placing an online shopping order and driving to the market to run through their aisles while they prepare his delivery.

He doesn’t even have time to nod a friendly hello toward any of the other chefs. They give him leeway, though, recognizing his frenzy like it’s their own on any given day. Dean’s efficiency gets him back to the house with the time he needs to preheat all the ovens while he preps lunch. He moves like water through the kitchen, fluid and taking up every inch because he can, because it’s his space to work on his craft and where he can focus and remember why he’s here in the first place.

He makes a mental note to check for the due date of his next Stanford payment.

Lunch is a huge summer salad (minus the strawberries) that Dean fills with the fresh fruits they bought yesterday. He adds a plate of roasted vegetables too, knowing everything is going to taste amazing, fresh from the farm. It’s where his mind is when he steps out into the summer sun to find all four chairs occupied.

Cas is deep in conversation with his dad, but he stops when Dean steps outside. He’s wearing a backward black hat and his dark blue shirt is threadbare and stretched across his chest. The letters that cover Cas’s pecs are too faded to read and obscured by a small hole that’s big enough for tanned skin to press through.

Dean almost drops the salad bowl, but the memory of his anxiety and worry throughout the morning stops him and straightens his back. He breaks the eye contact they’re holding as well in favor of dropping off the salad and turning straight back toward the kitchen. Somehow Dean delivers the rest of the meal with his eyes averted and he doesn’t waste any time ducking into his room so he can check his accounts like he said he would.

He tries to pretend there’s another reason it takes him a few minutes to catch his breath.

4:00 pm

Dean remains busy. After lunch, he’s able to make up for his lack of meal planning, which results in another shopping list, although not as long as today’s. Having the rest of his week worked out helps some of Dean's anxiety disappear, even if his biggest underlying issue is yet to be resolved.


Dean's working overtime to avoid him.

First, he tried to pop into the kitchen after lunch with his hands full of dirty dishes. so it was surprising when Cas walked inside. All he could do was nod toward the sink and ignore the hopeful look in Cas’s eye before he ran away like a coward, ducking into the bathroom off the kitchen. The second time, Dean bailed before Cas even made it inside. He was so on edge, he noticed the shape of him crossing the yard beyond the patio doors and he made himself scarce long enough to finish his meal planning and ensure the coast was clear.

Dean can’t let himself slip again.

He throws himself into dinner, giving himself enough time to make more dough, an easy but delicious pastry crust that he adds rosemary and a few other bits of herbs to, to enhance the flavor of the chicken pot pies he’s making. He wants it to be the star, complimented by more of the vegetables from the farm and the chicken he picked up this morning and both of which he has been slow-roasting since he got home.

Once his dough is rolled out and ready, Dean uses the drippings from the roasted chicken and vegetables to make a roux, chopping and shredding everything to add it all together and make the creamy pie filling that he’ll layer between double crusts inside individual ramekins that will cook a personal chicken pot pie for each family member (plus one for himself). The kitchen smells like heaven and the pies haven’t even gone into the oven.

While they bake, Dean preps dessert, some blueberry tarts, since he has leftover dough and more ice cream from the night before. Dean has the tarts prepped, and he’s sliding them into the oven when Cas appears from the doorway to the dining room. There are three entrances to the kitchen, and Dean's never seen him hovering in that doorway before.

“Hello, Dean,” he says, his uncertainty written in the crease of his brow and the arch of his worried eyes. “I just wanted to say—”


Mrs. Novak’s call for her son interrupts whatever Cas was going to say next.

Dean thinks its for the better anyway.

Cas scowls. He could just turn and go but he doesn’t. He hesitates, staring at Dean until Dean can’t handle that anymore, and he looks away. When his gaze flicks back to the doorway, Cas is gone.

7:30 pm

Dean serves a vintage Sauvignon Blanc with dinner, thankful when he finds two bottles in the wine cellar. The Novak’s don’t need to know he plans to take one bottle to bed so he can forget everything he’s f*cking up. Despite being caught up serving dinner, he can’t shake the feeling that he’s forgetting something.

Castiel is staring daggers into him when Dean brings out his platters. He can feel it under his skin, digging deeper the longer Dean avoids his hot gaze. Every time he comes out with something new, the flame grows.

Dean fears for the ice cream by the time he serves dessert.

When Dean still won’t make eye contact, Castiel must finally get the picture, because he’s gone by the time everyone finishes and Dean can go collect the dishes. He tries not to glance toward the guesthouse, but his eyes betray him and it only makes him more confused when he sees all the lights lit, even the little window on the faux-second floor.

Dean grinds his teeth together and gets to the rest of the cleanup.

By the time he’s finished, Dean’s done, drained of the last of his energy and all but dragging his feet back to his room, later than usual. While he cleaned, his limbs felt heavy and everything took twice as long and as much as Dean wants to fall face first into bed, he checks his phone instead.

There's one missed call from Sam.

Dean's heart sinks. He swipes at the screen and tries to call him back, but his call goes to voicemail. Dean tries three more times before he gives up, throwing his phone into his sheets in frustration.

He never works too late on the day of their calls. Dean never forgets, either. He's the worst brother for missing that call.

His head is in his hands when a knock at his door interrupts Dean's self-deprecating spiral.

Dean thinks about ignoring it.

Unfortunately, it’s persistent, and that just pisses him off. Dean wouldn't even be in the position to miss his little brother’s call if he hadn't had to spend the day catching up on work he missed because of the guy knocking on his door.

Dean throws the door open with a scowl on his face.

Cas is standing there, dumbstruck. He takes a step back.

“You need something?”

The vulnerability in Cas’s face melts into a hardness Dean hasn’t seen before.

“Yeah,” he says. “I want to know if I did something—something to piss you off or—”

“Man, don't.” Dean cuts him off. As much as Dean wants to tell him off, he knows he can't. “You shouldn't be here.”

“I thought we were friends,” Cas blurts out, and the words make Dean reel.

He doesn't—He can't—on instinct alone he begins to shut the door, but Cas stops him with a firm hand.

“Hey wait, you can't just shut the door—”

“Yeah I can, man, it's my door,” he argues back, opening the door again anyway. “I can't do this with you, you know? You already got me so crazy I missed a call from my brother and I never—”

“I have you so crazy? Dean, what are you talking about?” The hurt and confusion overpowers the anger in Cas's voice. “I thought we were actually becoming friends.”

That word and the trouble it's already causing scares Dean down to his core, and his mouth responds violently before Dean can think anything he says through.

“Well, maybe you thought wrong.”

Dean regrets it instantly when Cas shuts down like he's on autopilot. Like Dean himself flipped the switch, the light leaves his eyes.

Dean hates it so much that he thinks he should explain, but all that comes out is, “I can't be friends with you,” and that's like the final nail in Dean's coffin.

Cas is already fleeing down the hall when Dean closes his bedroom door.

Chapter 9

Chapter Text

Two things happen after that, which throw Dean even more for a loop.

He still can't reach Sam.

And Cas disappears for a few days.

Dean tries to comfort himself by being as routine as possible because his anxiety is at an all-time high and, for once, it's not all about Sam.

He knows he royally f*cked up, and that he's the reason Cas is gone. He tried to eavesdrop on as many meals as he could, but no one really seemed phased when Cas didn't show up for dinner the next day or any of the meals after.

Dean's been beating himself up about it. Relentlessly. His whole life, everything he touches turns rotten, and he was naïve to think this place would be the exception. He's poison, toxic, and Cas is smart to stay away before Dean can hurt him worse.

The first night, Dean drinks about it, and eats his entire pie from the Tatooine Farms, every bite bitter in his mouth. Because Dean doesn't deserve nice things.

He didn't know Cas was such a nice thing. (Metaphorically. Dean fully respects Cas's autonomy and all that. He's not a monster.)

In the days that follow, he throws himself into work, making elaborate dishes and more pastry and bread, things that require kneading, work he has to put his back into because if he stops and thinks about the things he said, and the devastated look on Cas’s face that he put there, he’ll lose it. He has to work like hell to convince himself that this is for the better, that having Cas in the house has done nothing but turn his life upside down, which is something he can’t afford right now.

Dean still can’t help but wonder if Cas is okay. He didn’t seem okay when he walked away from Dean’s room. It bothers Dean that it bothers him, and when another day passes and that old red Volvo still isn’t in the driveway, Dean can’t take it anymore.

He stops Michael when he comes into the kitchen after lunch for another glass of iced tea. “Hey, so, uh… your brother?”

Michael raises an eyebrow. Maybe at being stopped, or maybe at the question, Dean doesn’t know. He takes a second to recover, and his gaze flicks up and down like that will give away why Dean’s asking. “What about him?”

“I just wanted to know if he’d be back? For the meals, you know?” Dean doesn’t give a damn about that, but it is the perfect cover, especially since Dean has his notebook out, a partial shopping list written.

“You can plan for the three of us, as usual. As I told you before, Castiel is unreliable.” His tone is cool, indifferent, but he’s still studying Dean. “I saw you in the parlor the other day, looking at our family portraits.” He tilts his chin up. “He doesn’t show up. If you’re wondering why my brother isn’t in them.”

Dean stills.

Michael goes on. “This is probably for the better, Dean. For all of us.”

His heart drops right into his stomach and, like a punch to his face, it hits him. Cas was right, they were becoming friends because Dean knows in that moment just how bad of one he’s been to Cas. He stands a little straighter. “Yeah, maybe. Do you mind if I ask for his number, though? He asked for a recipe and I didn’t have time to give it to him before he left.” It’s a weak excuse but the best he can come up with on the fly.

Michael studies him for a second more before he shrugs and rattles off the number. “If he responds to you, tell him to call my mother.”

Dean would never do that, but he nods just the same as Michael leaves. He doesn’t hesitate to dig his phone out of his pocket and compose a text.

Grilling those burgers you liked for dinner tonight. Better get your ass back here. There’s a couple with your name on it.

He taps his cell phone against his chin while he thinks.

This is Dean, by the way.

Dean doesn’t get a response.

When the time comes, he throws himself into making dinner anyway. His nerves are a wreck, the pressure to cook a great meal coupled with the anxiety that Cas hates him and is probably never coming back, no matter what he says or does. Dean vows that if Cas does show, he'll find a way to apologize properly.

He cooks his ass off in the meantime, baking fresh buns and perfectly cut french fries, and a colorful fruit salad with the last of the stand haul. As he slices the fruit, Dean tries to keep his eyes off the stool where Cas should be sitting and helping him and talking his ear off. Dean works in silence alone tonight.

When he goes to set the table outside on the patio, Dean still sets it for four. He’s done it all week, and no one has asked him to stop. His message remains unanswered, but Dean still plates four meals and makes four drinks, peach bourbon iced tea that he’ll probably finish himself if Cas doesn’t show. Dean’s hands tremble with nerves that he keeps trying to shake out and even as dinnertime rolls around, he still isn’t sure what he’s going to see when he steps out onto the patio to bring the first of the plates for Mr. and Mrs. Novak.

His eyes go right to the normally empty seat and Dean stops short when he sees that tonight, it's finally occupied again.

Cas is here, and he's already staring at Dean when green finally meets blue again. Dean isn't expecting the relief that goes through him, the weight that lifts his feet off the ground so he can practically float to the table. He has to fight back the grin that wants to break free. Instead, he gives Cas a brief nod and gets one in return.

Dean resists skipping back to the kitchen. He knows he needs to chill, but he can't help it. It was a long shot, his text, but it worked, and now Dean might have his chance to make it right.

He slips an extra burger onto Cas's plate before he brings it out. The tiny smile Cas gives him sends Dean to the moon. He leaves a platter for the rest of the table and is even in a good enough mood to eat a burger, his unsettled stomach finally feeling better.

Dean does his best to act normal when he brings out dessert, and Cas seems to do the same by pretending to listen to whatever his mom is talking about. His eyes still flick over to Dean, lingering long enough for it not to be an accident.

Something flutters inside his chest that makes Dean feel reckless. It beats against his ribs and stays there, thrumming against every bone and giving Dean a boost of energy to get the kitchen cleaned up in record time.

When he gets to his room, all Dean can do is pace back and forth. What if Cas didn't come back for him? What if it's just a coincidence? He considers going to the guest house, but shuts that idea down after about two seconds. If he's misinterpreting things, that wouldn’t help. He bites his fist as he paces, and he worries about making things worse. It's what he does, usually without even trying, and if he follows his instincts, they're sure to be wrong.

A light knock on his bedroom door takes the decision out of Dean’s hands. He turns on his heel and pulls it open.

Cas is there, holding a joint between his fingers, and Dean swears he’s having déjà vu. Up close, Cas is a little worse for the wear with a scruff on his jaw and shadows under his eyes Dean didn’t notice before. There’s caution on his face but hope in his bright blue eyes and Dean’s powerless to do anything but follow him when Cas motions for them to go.

Dean doesn’t want to have another conversation in his doorway, either.

The walk down to the beach feels like the longest trek of his life, like he's on his way to Mordor with The Ring, uncertain of what awaits him at the end. Cas could be walking him out here to tell him off, or shove him into the ocean, Dean has no idea. Their track history sucks, and considering how Dean acted the last time they were together, he wouldn't blame Cas if he wanted to throw a punch or two. Dean’s taken a few to his chin during his time on the road, so if that’s how Cas needs to work things out, he could bear it.

Cas stays silent though, and he sits down in the sand with only the moonlight in his hair.

Dean takes a deep breath to calm his nerves and takes a seat beside him. It’s a lot more quiet this time, the soft waves the only music tonight and for a second, Dean just soaks in the moment. He could probably stay silent, but Cas deserves more than that after the way Dean acted.

He clears his throat. “Cas, look, about what I said—”

Cas cuts him off. “No Dean, wait. I want to say something before you apologize.”

Dean leans away so he can give Cas a proper side-eye. “How did you know I was going to apologize? Way to take the wind out of a guy’s sails.”

“I just had a feeling.” The corner of Cas's mouth twitches. “And that's part of what I want to say, that it isn't necessary. I know I was presumptuous about a lot of things between us and that wasn't appropriate.”

Dean makes a noise of protest because that's not exactly how it went. Cas won't hear it.

“No, you were right, you work for my parents and I guess I assumed that didn't matter. I respect your job, Dean, your work, and I wouldn't want to do anything to jeopardize that, not that I could. My parents love your cooking, they never shut up about it really, and—”

Dean has to interrupt this spiral. “Cas, you're saying a lot.”

It jolts him out of it, and he relaxes. “Yes, my apologies. I tend to ramble when I'm nervous.”

That shouldn't be cute. “You don't have to be nervous,” Dean mumbles. He thinks about suggesting Cas light the joint he brought, but Cas has been turning it around with his fingers and Dean thinks maybe it's keeping his hands from shaking.

Dean resists grabbing them, if only to steady him, and give Cas something to hold on to.

“I owe you a genuine apology, Dean. I've never been good at making friends or getting signals right, and I think I overstepped. I was a mess from the moment we met, arrogant and pissed off at the world instead of my own failures, and I didn't even know I was hurting you by stealing your food.” He looks away from Dean then. “And when I did, I didn't really care.”

Dean clenches his jaw. Cas's words are salt in a wound Dean thought had already scabbed over. He doesn't need the confirmation that Cas could be so thoughtless. Something inside him won't let him be so dismissive though, as he studies the curve of Cas's jaw. Its scruff is almost blue in the moonlight and Dean watches as Cas swallows hard, like he's swallowing back emotions he doesn't trust himself to have.

Dean knows the feeling. Part of him wants to tell Cas to forget it, but another part wants to know what Cas is gonna say. He stays quiet.

Cas swallows hard again and keeps going. “I was wrong, though. And that was f*cked up of me. I let someone's influence get the better of me, and it caused you work you didn't need to do, so I'm sorry. Truly.”

His words soften something inside of Dean. He isn't angry about the food, Dean's done dumb sh*t when he's been drunk, he's made mistakes he regrets, and he's said things he didn't mean for a number of reasons and he's never been so brave to apologize for those things like Cas is doing tonight. He turns the words over and realizes he’s already forgiven Cas. For everything.

Dean wants to know one thing, though. “Why did you come back, Cas?” He can't believe it was only to tell him all of this. Talk about arrogance.

His question finally turns Cas's intense gaze back towards him. The moon casts shadows over his handsome face, but his stare is as steady as it always is when it pulls Dean in.

“You called, Dean.”

Those words and the open honesty written across Cas's face cause the rest of Dean's walls to crumble. Before he can think, before he can stop himself, he reaches for the front of Cas's black hoodie, the fabric as soft as Dean imagined it to be, bunched in his fist. Cas's eyes widen and for a second Dean thinks he's still going to get that punch, until Cas's eyes flick down to Dean's mouth and then they're kissing—kissing hard, hot, and on the verge of frantic. Dean isn't even sure who moved first, but it doesn't matter, because all that matters is the way Cas is kissing him back, and rearranging something inside him that seemed unmoveable before.

Dean pulls away before that feeling can get unmanageable. He can't bring himself to go far though, pressing his forehead to Cas's. He only needs to catch his breath.

Cas takes the opportunity to talk, of course. “Does that mean you accept my apology?”

Dean answers with another steaming kiss. He's always been better at actions than words. Cas responds in kind, one hand going to Dean's shoulder to pull him closer and the other sliding up his neck and into his hair, which pulls a groan from the back of Dean's throat.

Cas breaks their kiss with a grin. “I'm taking that as a yes,” he murmurs, chuckling when Dean presses another kiss against his lips.

“You can't run off again,” Dean finally replies. “I know I was a dick, but… you just can't do that. Okay?”

Cas gives Dean the same answer, another searing kiss that checks all his t's and crosses all his boxes. Dean forgets why he asked in the first place, the way Cas kisses. Maybe it's the waves singing against the shore, or the salt in the air getting caught on their lips that does Dean in, but soon he forgets to care about anything really, except chasing his next hit—the taste of Cas's tongue and his hand pulling at Dean's hair.

The joint Cas brought is discarded in the sand, along with Dean's sanity and self-preservation. This could all go wrong, so fast and so easily, but Cas makes Dean forget about all that. He makes Dean forget about a lot of things, actually.

Chapter 10

Chapter Text

They stayed together in the sand kissing for hours, or maybe minutes, or maybe days for all Dean knows. What he does know is that it was good. Like teeth tugging on lips and tongues sliding together good. Cas still tasted like the apple pie tarts Dean served for dessert, cinnamon mixed with the salt in the air, and something that must be just Cas, all mystery and sweetness in one. Dean kept going back for more.

After, Cas found the joint and got enough of the sand off for them to actually smoke it, and then they just sat and talked about a little of everything, including Cas apologizing again and Dean getting his chance to murmur the words out too. The weed loosened his tongue, and he got a kiss for it, so all in all, Dean can't complain.

The air was a lot more clear between them when they walked back to the house. Cas stole a kiss on the dark path before he disappeared toward the guest house, leaving Dean to float back to his room somehow.

He wakes up with sand in his sheets and a grin on his face. Until…

“It was the heat of the moment, telling me what my heart meant...”

Dean sits straight up in bed, the smile wiped right off his face. A sense of dread creeps through him, his stomach turning because he knows what he's going to see when he picks up his phone from where it sits on his nightstand, facedown and alarm blaring. He silences Asia and cringes.

3 Missed Calls from MOOSE 🫎

1 New Voicemail

The calls came while Dean was outside. Outside kissing. Outside, kissing his boss's son.

Dean groans and punches the voicemail button glaring at him from his screen.

Sam's voice comes out tinny, but clearly annoyed. “Where are you, Dean? I only have a few minutes before I gotta get to work, so I need you to call me back.” He huffs and something scratches across the mic, so all Dean can hear for a second is muffled noise until Sam comes back clear. “The school says we missed a payment.”

Dean's stomach almost falls out of his ass. He almost tumbles out of bed he moves so fast, his sheets still twisted around his legs. Sam is still talking on his phone but Dean isn't listening anymore, hell-bent on opening his laptop.

The browser is still open on Stanford’s website. It looks like Dean got as far as the log-in page before he probably got distracted by something else and forgot. He f*cking forgot to make a payment for his little brother's fancy as f*ck education.

A hysterical bark of laughter slips out before Dean clamps his mouth shut, frantically hitting all the buttons and typing all the passwords necessary to make that payment. He tries not to look at the added "administrative penalties" the school tacks on if a payment is late.

When he replays Sam's message, he finishes it by telling Dean he won't be able to attend class the next day if it's not paid, something Dean finds f*cking ludicrous, but sure, okay Stanford, cheap f*cks. Dean thinks he's given them enough money to open a wing in his name, but yeah, don't let the kid go to class if the payment is a day or two late. He checks the time and decides to shoot Sam a text anyway to let him know it's paid, that Dean's sorry, and that it won't happen again.

It's three in the morning in California, so Dean's surprised when he gets a thumbs up emoji in response a minute later. His finger hovers over the call button for a second or two, but Dean turns his screen off instead. His hands shake a little from the adrenaline, his panic real and hot and giving him the worst kind of energy. Deans tying on his running shoes before he thinks too hard about it.

At least Dean can watch a beautiful sunrise while it feels like his life is flashing in front of his eyes. He's definitely gonna get fired now, now that he's swapped spit with his boss's son. He doesn't have another job lined up, and while he knows he could go upstate to Sonny's early if he really had to, it would mean a bigger gap in income than he had planned.

At the end of every summer, Dean leaves the Hamptons with his bank account stuffed well enough that he can actually take a little break from work. He always heads up to the Catskills for a few weeks to see the scenery and clear his head, plan his next steps, all while helping his old friend and mentor Sonny. Sonny runs a boy's home, and Dean likes to go up and teach the kids to cook, if they're willing. Some kids aren't, but Dean usually gets them to come around by the end of his stay. Since Sonny was the one that showed Dean around a kitchen, he feels like he owes the guy. Plus, his property is on the grounds of an old summer resort, so Dean can have his own bungalow and pretend he's as cool as Patrick Swayze for a few days. It feels like an extended summer camp, and he warms to the idea of heading there early even more by the time he's done with his run.

It helps take the edge off, if Dean's getting the ax halfway through the summer. Didn't even make it to the Fourth of July. He can't help but feel a little regret. He really likes this job. Would it be worth losing over some guy?

Some guy who kissed him breathless the night before? Some guy who makes him smile and who he can't stop thinking about, even though he's tried really f*cking hard?

Dean's conflicted, to say the least.

The only thing he can do is put one foot in front of the other and keep his head down. He used to be a pro at making himself invisible inside a motel room to avoid his dad's wrath, so how hard could it be to avoid the Novak’s in their gigantic house? He hardly sees anyone until mealtime, anyway.

With a plan in mind, Dean's anxiety is shuttered for now, the dread still there but sated, knowing he could be on the road to the Catskills before noon if it came down to it. The house seems as quiet as it was when Dean left it, and he makes a quick stop in the kitchen for some water, and to hit start on the coffee pot. As he tips his head back to drain his glass, a voice in his ear startles him, causing him to spew water all over the counter.

“Hello, Dean.”

It’s like Cas materialized out of thin air.

“Jesus f*cking christ, man,” he says, chin dripping. “We need a bell on you—hey, what the hell are you doing up so early?” Dean looks at his watch before he swipes at his chin. It's barely seven, and Dean's never seen Cas before ten at the earliest.

“Maybe I have places I have to be this early,” he replies, a tease in his voice that goes right through Dean. He shudders when Cas's hot breath ghosts against his ear. “I didn't know you were a runner.”

Every word crawls under his skin in a way that makes Dean want to lean in. If he turns his head, he could be kissing Cas in the middle of the kitchen.

The morning comes rushing back to him.

Dean has to put some space between them.

Paper towels.

“I need paper towels,” he blurts out, pivoting out of Cas's personal space so he can breathe and grab the only thing he could think of that would put some distance between him and temptation. Dean takes a breath before he grabs the roll, only to turn back around and find Cas right back in his face, a sly twist to his mouth. His dark hair is sticking up in the back like he just woke up, rumpled and soft and way too much for Dean to handle. He shoves the roll of paper towels at him. “You ever heard of personal space?”

Instead of stepping back, Cas pulls him closer, his hands going over Dean’s on the paper towels. “I thought you liked me in your personal space.”

Heat blooms in his belly. Cas is close enough now that Dean can smell the peppermint of his toothpaste and the heat of his breath and already knowing just how sweet that mouth is makes Dean’s resolve crumble, just so he can get a quick taste.

When Dean kisses him, Cas makes the same sound he made when he ate Dean’s burgers.

He has to cut it short, though. Dean knows he shouldn’t even be doing this, let alone in the kitchen, but that temptation is just that—too f*cking tempting. Dean can try to deny it all he wants, but even getting a better look at him now is making Dean feel out of control. Aside from the hair Dean wants to mess up more, Cas is kiss swollen, and grinning at Dean like he knows they shouldn’t be doing this too. They still have their hands tangled around the roll of paper towels, and Dean pushes it at Cas again.

He takes the hint this time and slips out of Dean’s grasp so he can clean up the mess Dean made. Dean feels the sudden loss, and he has to clench his fists to keep from chasing after it again. It doesn’t help that when Cas turns away, Dean gets a look at what he’s wearing this early in the morning.

He has to bite his fist to keep himself in check. What’s Dean supposed to do when Cas walks into his kitchen wearing a pair of black athletic shorts that are way too short and showing off way too much of the thickest thighs Dean’s ever seen?

Cas turns back toward him and catches Dean staring. “My eyes are up here, you know.” Amusem*nt sparkles in them when Dean coughs into his fist, like that was the reason he had it up to his mouth and not because he wanted to groan at the sight of those thighs.

He deflects and gestures towards Cas's green sweatshirt. “You play tennis?” New York Tennis Club est 1989 is printed on the front.

Cas nods. “And you run.” Somehow, he's back in Dean's personal space again and leaning in and Dean can only close his eyes. His lips part in surprise when Cas doesn't kiss him, his mouth going to Dean's throat instead. Dean can't help it when his head falls back.

Cas makes a breathy, Oh, sound before he takes full advantage and tastes Dean's skin, his tongue leaving behind a trail of fire as he drags it up Dean's throat. When Dean finally gets that kiss, he can taste the salt of his own skin. Faint alarm bells are going off in the back of his head, but Dean isn't listening, not when his mind and body are being turned upside down. He wants to fall into it, even when he knows it’s going to make a mess of everything.

The kitchen is infused with warm, early morning light when they finally pull apart. Cas is softer in this light, and something clenches in Dean’s chest. He has to fight the urge to brush a few fingers against the cut of his jaw, just to see how sharp it is. Instead, his common sense starts to filter back in. They shouldn’t be doing this, let alone doing it in the kitchen, not with a house full of Novak’s under the same roof. Too bad one in particular is setting up shop under his skin.

Dean has to take a step back. Cas doesn’t seem to mind, a content set to features, relaxed and pleased to have spent the last few minutes making out like teenagers. Dean never got to be a carefree kid who got to kiss their crush, so why should he get to be one now?

“We really shouldn’t be doing this.” He regrets the words the moment they leave his lips.

They wipe the sweetness off Cas’s face, and something flashes in the depths of his blue eyes that’s quickly replaced by something harder. He tilts his head. “Did you think I was coming in here to propose marriage or something?” There’s an edge to Cas’s voice that wasn’t there before. “Last night was fun and since we’re friends now, I thought you might be interested in adding some benefits.”

Dean swallows hard. “Friends with benefits? Are you serious?”

Cas just shrugs. “Think about it. Could be a better way to blow off steam than running, anyway.”

“Says the guy about to go play tennis.” Everything inside of Dean is screaming that this is a bad idea, but he can’t take the wounded look on Cas’s face he keeps putting there.

“Oh, that reminds me. I’m probably late now.” Cas grabs Dean’s wrist to look at his watch. “sh*t, yeah, I gotta go.”

Dean isn’t expecting Cas to push him against the counter, his hips pressing into Dean’s in a way that leaves him powerless. The kiss that follows takes him out at the knees.

“Like I said, think about it.”

And with that, Cas is gone, and Dean is left sagging against the countertop. The hard-on Cas leaves him with doesn’t help him think clearly either. He’s so screwed that he needs a new word to describe it.

That feeling doesn’t leave him all day. Dean tries to shower it away but the whole time he argues with himself about Cas’s proposition. He’s still debating through breakfast, which Cas doesn’t return for. Dean eats his portion of the eggs benedict he made him and still doesn’t know what to do. He should end it, make it clear that he’s here to work and not play, that he doesn’t have time for friendship, let alone any extra benefits. He could just go, tail between his legs, and Impala pointed upstate. He’d never be able to come back, or even use this job as a reference down the line. Then again, he has to consider that option off the table no matter what, considering that there’s no way for any of this to end well for him.

Like Cas said, they aren’t about to get married or something.

The rest of the Novak’s don’t seem to notice that anything is amiss. Dean’s food is still coming out on time and it still tastes good, so when he’s serving grilled salmon with a quinoa salad for lunch, no one looks at him strange or with accusation in their eyes. Cas is even back, and sitting there like an angel while his dad talks about his latest book, even though he’s a goddamn demon underneath it all. He proves it when Dean brings out four dishes of melon sorbet after, and Mrs. Novak motions for him to stop.

“Dean, a word before you go back inside?”

All the blood in Dean’s body drains out of him. No one else seems phased. Michael is on his phone, and Chuck is reading the newspaper. The only person paying attention is Cas, and he’s got trouble written all over his face. Dean can only pause and wait for the ax to fall.

“There will be a change of plans for dinner. We’ll all be dining at the club tonight.” She stares at him, and doesn’t notice the way her son is leaning back in his chair.

Dean clears his throat. “Everyone?”

She nods, and doesn’t see Cas slightly shaking his head. “Yes, now that Castiel is staying for the rest of the summer, we may do that more often.”

Dean can’t help but glance at Cas, who is wearing a devilish smirk. He mouths, ‘ Not me,’ and bounces his eyebrows once, covering it all quickly with a fake cough, when his mom glances over at him.

She continues to address Dean. “After lunch is cleaned up, you’re welcome to take the rest of the day off.”

All Dean can do is nod and get the f*ck out of there as quickly as possible. He knows without a doubt that he’s doomed.

Later, Cas fakes a migraine to get out of dinner.

Dean’s in the kitchen making himself a sandwich when Chuck comes by on their way out the door to let him know. Automatically Dean asks if there’s anything he can make him, but Chuck just assures Dean that Cas will stay in his room all night with the headache and he doesn’t have to worry about him at all.

Yeah f*cking right.

It takes less than twenty minutes until Cas materializes in the kitchen and is stealing the other half of Dean’s sandwich.

Dean scowls. “Migraine, huh?”

Cas grins as he chews. “Did you think about my proposition?”

“Do you always talk with your mouth full?”

Cas swallows before he speaks again. “This is amazing. What the hell is it?” He finally takes his eyes off Dean so he can examine what he’s eating.

Dean gives him a once-over while he’s distracted. Cas looks good, his hair wild as always. He’s changed into a faded red flannel that looks soft with a pair of worn jeans that hang loosely off his hips. The flannel only has a few buttons closed, and the sleeves are rolled up, revealing way too much tan skin for Dean’s comfort. Already he feels hot under his apron.

Dean ignores the rising heat to put together another sandwich. “It’s just egg, bacon, and tomato, but you throw a little sriracha on top and put it all between some Portuguese buns and boom, a little bite of heaven.” Maybe he kisses his fingertips because, honestly, this sandwich is just that damn good. “It’s my favorite.”

“I think it’s my new favorite too,” Cas says. Dean shouldn’t be jealous of a sandwich. “You don’t have to make another if it’s too much.”

“Someone stole the other half of my dinner.”

Cas huffs a laugh as he pushes himself up to sit on the counter next to where Dean is working. “I really couldn’t stomach the idea of a night around my parent’s friends. Plus, the food there isn’t half as good as this.” He pops the last bit of sandwich in his mouth and nudges Dean with his bare foot.

Dean rolls his eyes and slices the second sandwich in half. “You want a beer?” He tries to go past Cas to get to the fridge, but he’s stopped by Cas stretching his long leg out to block his way. Dean tilts a look at him.

Cas looks right back and shakes his head. “Want you.”

“Is that why you immediately took my food?”

“I guess it’s just a bad habit.” Cas is still staring Dean down when he curls that leg around Dean to pull him in.

On one hand, Dean could stop this right here and now. Tell Cas they can’t do this, tell him he has priorities Cas could never understand, priorities that have always come first in Dean’s life. Priorities he’s spent his whole life living for.

But Dean’s so tired. And Cas looks so soft, even under the bright kitchen lights, so Dean lets himself be pulled. Cas presses his heel into Dean’s back and his eyes flick down to Dean’s lips and then he’s on him, kissing Dean and licking into his mouth with a groan. He tastes smoky and spicy and so much like himself that Dean lets himself fall, lets himself get greedy about it, grabbing handfuls of that flannel so they can get even closer. Cas wraps his arms around Dean’s shoulders and it’s good, it’s enough, and Dean decides not to give a sh*t about anything else for once if he doesn’t have to.

And Cas makes it so he doesn’t have to.

Chapter 11

Chapter Text

Dean gets a little reckless after that. If there’s one thing he's great at, it’s compartmentalizing. He takes all of his anxieties and all the things he’s worrying about, from Sam to his job, and he locks all of them up in their own little boxes inside his head. Sometimes it takes a little juggling, but if he has a distraction as good as Cas is turning out to be, Dean can ignore pretty much any thought that tries to creep into his head. Anytime Dean starts to think too hard, Cas never seems far away.

And Cas is a master at manufacturing moments where they can be alone. After that night in the kitchen, which concluded with Cas's hand down Dean's pants and a shared glass of whiskey for dessert, Cas has found multiple ways for them to fool around in various places. His favorite is the beach.

The first time Dean followed him outside again, he found a blanket waiting for them, which made his stomach do somersaults across the sand. It didn't help when Cas tugged him down and pulled out his phone so he could put on music. More goddamn Zepp, like Dean wasn't having a hard enough time holding the line. No, Cas had to add crashing waves, a bunch of twinkling stars, and then Zeppelin to boot.

It's just incredibly easy to get caught up in him. Especially when Cas is so skilled with his hands and mouth, which Dean found out that night on the beach. They shared a joint while Dean laid on his back and Cas sat on his hips (an aversion to personal space, Dean's also finding), and then Cas dry-humped Dean stupid, all the way to the edge until he almost sent him careening over by asking roughly in Dean's ear if he could blow him.

Dean had to bite his lip to hold himself off.

He almost lost it again when the tip of his co*ck bumped the back of Cas's throat, which made Cas groan in delight. He kept his eyes on Dean and his lips around his co*ck while Dean came down his throat, his hand tight in Cas's hair and his name falling out of Dean's mouth over and over.

Dean's never gotten a blowie during “Stairway to Heaven”, but he can certainly relate now.

When Cas isn't being hands on, he's being a distraction in other ways, like when he spends his afternoons lounging in the backyard in minimal clothing. Cas is devastatingly handsome, a fact that Dean can't ignore even though he's tried. Desperately.

Dean's life would be a whole hell of a lot easier if Cas wasn't so hot.

It would also be easier if Cas didn't make him laugh. Dean doesn't laugh. Dean barely cracks a smile some days, but whenever he's with Cas, he has to fight them back. Sometimes he thinks he's grinning too much. One night, he went back to his room and couldn't figure out why his cheeks hurt.

It's ridiculous. It's not like him.

But neither is Cas.

Dean’s trying not to think too hard about it.

Instead, he tries to focus on work, and his menus, and not letting it show that he’s doing inappropriate things to his boss’s son right under their noses. Thankfully, Dean is great at his job, and the Novak’s are very preoccupied with their own lives, so as long as he doesn’t slip up, he should be golden. He lets Cas distract him, and he pretends that none of it is going to blow up in his face.

Dean even smooths things over with Sam, catching up with him over a quick call where Dean swore up and down that it was a bank error, and that Sam didn’t have to worry about anything like that happening again. By the time they hung up, Dean even believed himself.

Summer creeps by, the end of June looming. The Novak’s like to host a lot of garden parties in July and August, so Dean spends a substantial amount of time pre-planning his menus and shopping lists so he's ready when the time comes. On one particularly hot and humid day, Dean returns home from a massive grocery haul, only to find an empty house and an email from his boss that they have changed their plans for the day and will spend the evening in the city. Occasionally, Mrs. Novak gets called for surgeries, so this is nothing new to Dean.

The only thing new is their son, who doesn't accompany the rest of his family. It doesn't take long for him to appear. Dean's unpacking his groceries and thinking about lunch when Cas shows up in a pair of black work pants that are torn at the knee, and a half open white button down with the sleeves rolled halfway up. There's a royal blue tie hanging loosely around his neck, and it's ridiculous and preppy and just so very Cas, considering the black chucks on his feet. His hair is wild again, and those damn sunglasses are back and sitting on top of his head.

Dean wants to yank on his tie. He glares at him instead, when Cas leans over and stretches his long frame over the countertop.

“Hello Dean,” he says, looking up at Dean through his dumb eyelashes. "I heard they gave you the rest of the day off."

Rather than kiss that look off his face, Dean nods. “You heard right. Kitchens closed.”

Cas's blue eyes sparkle. “Wanna get out of here?”

Dean is a weak, weak man. He also won’t admit how much he’s been thinking about seeing Cas inside his car again.

The real thing is even better than Dean remembered. The real thing has a tendency to make Dean want to drive his car off the road, though. That’s a hazard Dean wasn’t imagining. This trip, Cas surprises him by pulling a cassette tape out of his front pocket, instead of going to Dean’s box of tapes.

He holds it up triumphantly. “There’s an old record store in Greenport that sells cassettes and the last time I was there, I found this.” With fingers Dean shouldn’t stare at, Cas takes the tape out of its box so he can slide it into the tape deck. The roar of a crowd pours out of the Impala’s speakers before a man speaks. “Welcome to Los Angeles…” Another roar from the crowd drowns him out.

Dean raises an eyebrow.

Cas grins. “It’s a bootleg of Zeppelin’s best concert.”

“The Forum?” Dean can’t believe it. “No way. Recordings of that are super rare.”

“I know,” Cas says, his grin widening. “The owner didn’t seem to care. I thought we might go back there and see what other treasure we can find.”

Dean’s already starting the car. Cas had him at old record store. A curl of excitement unfurls in his chest, ready to bloom. Cas might as well be holding a watering can, the way he’s making Dean feel. He wants to reach over and brush the lock of hair off Cas’s forehead that fell there when he brought his glasses down. Dean puts the car in drive and keeps both hands on the wheel instead.

For both their safety.

Greenport is in a part of Long Island that Dean’s never been to before. There’s one street that runs through town, and it’s lined with old buildings and a ton of charm Dean can’t ignore. All the buildings have worn brick with ivy and tall trees, and Dean can even park right in front of the used record store, which sits between a thrift shop and a used bookstore. There are people walking along the sidewalks, couples and families, some of them riding bikes and others walking dogs. It's all so simple and calm and Dean's at ease before he even climbs out of the car.

Cas climbs out behind him and points across the street. “There's a sandwich shop over there you might like. It doesn't open for another half hour, though. I thought we'd go to the record store first.”

Dean nods and holds an arm out. “Lead the way.” He pretends not to notice how phenomenal Cas's ass looks in those pants.

When they step inside the store, noisy jazz music coming from speakers around the store immediately assaulted Dean’s ears. Tables of records line the walls, and additional tables divide the store into rows of different media. Dean sees signs for records, CDs, cassettes, and even a video section in one corner. Cas is already heading for the cassettes. A guy behind the counter gives them a nod, but otherwise doesn’t seem to care that he has customers. Dean and Cas head towards the tapes, and soon enough, they are both rummaging through the various boxes of tapes that customers have traded in or donated to the store for credit.

Cas was right about digging for buried treasure.

Dean didn’t expect it to be so fun. Dean never has fun. During his time on the road, he’s stopped at a thousand record stores and browsed through tons of music, but he’s never had any fun doing it. Maybe it's something about the ever changing music—after the jazz came some country and then a long classical piece, followed by The Steve Miller Band and then some Taylor Swift thrown in to boot. Dean pretends not to notice that Cas knows all the words to both of the last two. Maybe it’s the collection of random and rare cassettes they keep coming across, both of them with a tall stack by the end.

Obviously doing something he loves on an unexpected day off is probably enhancing things a little, but still, Dean can’t really put a pin on why.

It definitely isn’t because of the way Cas looks up at him with excitement every time he finds another good tape. He gets this ridiculously charming, boyish gleam in his eyes that takes over his entire face when Dean confirms he’s found something for the keep pile. Dean loses track of how many times he thinks about kissing that face.

Its gotta be something else.

After they peruse through all the cassettes, they move on to records, and it launches them into a conversation about LPs and what sounds better and which will stand the test of time. Dean keeps seeing records he’d love to take home, but a record player isn’t exactly a necessity. Dean doesn’t have the luxury of lugging something like that around everywhere, not without a permanent place to call home.

Cas seems to notice right away that Dean isn’t building a stack of records to rival his own. He nods at the record box Dean is going through. “You just spent fifteen minutes convincing me that vinyl sounds better than anything and you’re not buying any?”

Dean stops flipping through the albums. “I convinced you?”

Cas gives him a flat look. “To be determined. How will you prove your hypothesis if you’re not picking out anything to convince me?”

“Oh, is that what I’m looking for? I thought my arguments were compelling enough.”

“I’m still on the fence.” There’s mischief Dean’s getting used to hearing in his voice.

He tamps down the flare in his chest. “Well sorry, buddy, you’re just gonna have to take my word for it because I ain’t hiding a record player in the trunk.”

Cas tilts his head, his grin widening. “I have one we can use. Pick something out that you want me to hear.”

Dean isn’t expecting that flare to turn into a flame under his skin. And heat rises. It curls up from under the collar of his t-shirt. Cas wants to hear music in a way Dean loves. Music has always been personal to him, getting Dean through years of loneliness on the road and even when their dad used to drag them everywhere as kids. Dean always had his Walkman and his tapes, his own lifelines to keep him sane. Cas can’t possibly know what he’s asking, or why it would make Dean so flustered. He nods and huffs out a laugh, expecting to see smoke.

Cas seems pleased and gets back to his searching.

Dean hopes his blush fades as he takes his time picking out the perfect album.

After they leave the record store, they head across the street to eat at the suggested sandwich shop, which is fine, but doesn’t hold a candle to Dean’s own abilities, at least in his opinion. The fire inside him from earlier had died down by then, but when Cas leaned in to whisper that Dean made a better sandwich, it ignited again. It stayed lit after, when they ducked inside the thrift store and picked up a few things each, flannels and band t-shirts that they argued over. An annoying voice in his head suggested they just share them, which is how Cas wins all their arguments and walks out with an arm full of cool shirts.

Cas suggests they drive around and listen to a few of the cassettes they just bought before they head back, and that’s when Dean has to pull the car over so he can yank Cas into a kiss, using that stupid blue tie to do it. Dean rubs the satin of it between his fingers and tries not to moan when Cas responds with enthusiasm, his hand tangling in Dean’s hair while he grins into their kiss.

Dean has no idea how he resisted this for so long.

He has to straighten his shirt before they get back on the road. Cas had his other hand under it while they made out, his fingers brushing Dean’s ribs and his nipples and making Dean want to yank him into the backseat.

The humidity hasn’t lifted all day and as they drive around listening to music and talking about bands, dark clouds have accumulated. Summer thunderstorms are normal, but it’s easy for the roads to get bad, so Dean points the Impala toward the house sooner than he wants to. By the time they’re pulling into the Novak’s long driveway, the rain is already thrashing against the windshield.

The lights are still off inside. Dean considers how long they can get away with staying inside the car, when Cas takes the decision out of his hands, the moment he turns off the ignition.

Strong hands pull Dean into a searing kiss. Cas is great at kissing, thorough, talented with his tongue while also finding ways to include his hands. He’s always pulling at Dean’s hair or cupping his cheeks, which is how Cas kisses him now, palms warm against Dean’s stubble, his lips soft despite how chapped they seem. Cas sighs against his mouth, pecking softly a few times before pulling back.

“Did you enjoy yourself today, Dean?”

Despite the rain, the fire remains. He leans in for another quick kiss. “Days not over yet, Cas.”

Cas presses their foreheads together, and they breathe like that for a minute. Cas’s breath is warm on Dean’s lips. His heart races. “Do you want to stay here, or…”

More than anything, Dean wants to stay right here. It isn’t smart or safe, though. And it sure isn’t how friends with benefits act. Dean pushes them apart a little further. “Make a run for the kitchen? I can throw something together for dinner if you’re hungry.”

“Oh, I’m hungry.” Cas tries to pull Dean back into a kiss, but Dean puts his hand on the door handle instead.

He turns his head. “Better get a move on, then. Don’t want to let rain inside the car.” Dean pushes the door open rather than stay for Cas’s reaction.

The rain is cold on his flaming cheeks. He hears the creak of the other Impala door and how it slams shut quickly after. He knows Cas is on his heels when he unlocks the door that will take them through the garage and into the mudroom. It's next to the laundry room, which takes them through a short hallway to the kitchen—where Dean stops short at the sight of Chuck, who’s standing in front of the open fridge in a pink robe, a leftover apple pie tart halfway to his mouth. He freezes as Cas crashes into Dean’s back.

“What the hell—wait, what the hell—”

“Boys! Castiel! Dean? I thought you were out for the night—wait, Castiel, I thought you were still not feeling well—you were out? Together?” Chuck’s bewildered, the tart in his hand long forgotten. So is the fact that his robe is hanging almost all the way open, giving Dean more of an eyeful of his employer than he ever wanted.

Cas steps in front of Dean, blocking the sight from view. “Dad, don’t you think you should cover up?”

The words seem to snap Chuck back into the moment, and he drops the tart in favor of tightening his robe. Which he then seems to realize is pink and satiny. He closes the door to the fridge with a quickness, plunging the kitchen into darkness. The storm rages outside.

Dean coughs into his fist. “I’m gonna—I gotta go—head to bed. Yeah. That’s—that’s… yeah. Good night.”

He can’t make eye contact with Cas as he flees down the hall to his room. As he goes, he can hear Chuck ask Cas if they’re friends, or something. Dean’s bedroom door is closing before he hears a response. He doesn’t want to hear it anyway. He knows he’s f*cked. On no planet should he be doing what he’s doing with Cas, let alone the making friends part.

Dean gets right to pacing. He should forget all of this, call it all off, the friends, the benefits, all of it. He should put his head down and cook, stick to his menus and his shopping and all the recipes he’s been perfecting for years, things he hasn’t thought about in weeks, thanks to Cas.

Outside, the storm continues. It doesn't stop inside Dean’s head either. The rain beats down on the roof as Dean stalks back and forth across his room, considering all his life choices. He’s so deep in his head that he doesn’t notice the break in the storm until he hears his phone buzzing on his nightstand.

Dean scoops it up, nerves buzzing.

1 New Messages - Cas

Dean swipes open the notification.

Coast is clear
🚫🌧️ 🚫🧔

Oh, the guy likes emojis. Okay.


Dean paces for a little longer. He should go to bed. He should go outside. He should grab his sh*t and hit the highway for Sonny’s.

Instead, Dean changes into a pair of black sweatpants and a grey hoodie, sandals on his feet. He doesn’t plan to be outside long. They can still smoke, Dean can ask for a raincheck on the album listening and then he can pull back the right way, to avoid anyone getting hurt. To avoid putting any more sad looks on Cas’s face. It’s better this way. This way, Dean will be the only one who ends up hurt when all is said and done.

He’s used to that.

The kitchen is empty when Dean passes through, and when he steps outside, the stars shine through a break in the storm clouds. The breeze is cool against Dean’s face as he walks toward their usual spot on the beach, his hands shoved in the front pocket of his hoodie.

Cas is already smoking the joint when Dean approaches. He’s a silhouette in the dark, a shadow against the crashing waves, the ocean churning as much as Dean’s stomach, only his isn’t because of the storm. It’s because of the man whose eyes glow neon blue every time he inhales.

Cas turns around and Dean can see when his shoulders relax as the tension goes out of him.

“I didn't think you'd come.”

“Almost didn't.”

Cas holds the joint out. Dean takes it and goes to stand beside him as Cas turns back to the ocean. The smoke is acrid and goes straight to his head when Dean takes his first hit. He’s standing close enough to Cas for the backs of their hands to brush together, and he tries to focus on not coughing up a lung instead of how that touch goes through him like a shock.

Cas is the first of them to speak. “I told my dad we were together.”

That makes Dean hack up his second hit so bad that Cas has to smack him on the back and encourage him to breathe. If the wind wasn’t whipping away the noise, Dean would have probably woken up the entire household. He can at least gasp out a few words. “You… did… what?!”

Cas is on him in a second, arms around Dean’s shoulders to help him back upright. “Oh sh*t, no—Dean, not like that.” Dean swears he hears laughter in Cas’s voice. “Not like that, okay? Like, went to the record store together, not made out on the side of the road together, okay? He was fine with it.”

Now Dean’s the one laughing, and still wheezing, which isn’t the most comfortable but tends to happen under the influence. “Please, Cas, stop.”

Neither of them stop. Cas is unhinged, the weed making him silly while he makes up fake confessions like blow j*bs on the beach together, or dry humping in the pantry together. If the sand wasn’t wet from the storm, they’d probably both be rolling in it. Dean knows it's the weed, but maybe it’s a bit of relief too, to know Chuck really didn’t care that they were hanging out. Either way, it feels good to laugh, to let go, and to be doing so with Cas by his side.

There could be something behind this friend thing after all.

They finish the joint with their shoulders pressed together, both of them leaning on the other while slips of laughter still sneak out. There’s only one hit left to the joint, and Dean passes it back to Cas. “Finish this off.”

The chuckle that comes out of Cas is deep and full of innuendo. “It would be my pleasure,” he replies, the words and the quick shift of the vibe making Dean shiver. He could blame the wind that’s picking up around them, but he knows it’s Cas. If Dean were stronger, he could resist the guy, but there’s no way in hell Dean could do so in his current state. Especially when Cas takes that last hit and leans in so he can press his forehead to Dean’s temple until Dean turns to meet him, his mouth falling open when he realizes what Cas means to do.

Cas cups Dean’s cheek so he can press their mouths together, and shotgun the smoke into Dean’s mouth. Dean can still taste him, even on the smoke. He breathes Cas in, feeling him fill his lungs and hit his bloodstream, changing Dean on every level. Dean’s hands curl in the softness of Cas’s shirt and then they’re kissing, the smoke bleeding out between kisses. Each brush of Cas’s tongue against his makes Dean want him more, and soon they’re pressed head to toe with only the stars above and the waves beside them to provide the soundtrack to their evening. All the songs they listened to earlier swirl inside his head, and Dean can only hold on to Cas tighter, and kiss him harder.

Neither of them notice when the stars disappear. They’re too lost in each other to realize that the waves have reached their feet, so it’s too late to run for cover when the sky opens up again. One minute they’re entangled, mouths locked together and the next, they’re soaking wet and laughing again, the rain falling like a bucket of water being dumped over them.

If someone wrote a cosmic plan to separate them, it fails miserably. Just as fast as they realize what is happening, they’re back on each other, rain be damned. They are soaked from top to bottom anyway, so why bother trying to run away? Dean’s always been more fight than flight, anyway.

The first clap of thunder overhead that rattles them to their bones has Dean rethinking that stance.

Cas seems to have the same idea. His hands are soaked when they cup Dean’s face, the rain pouring off his forehead, his hair flattened over it. Cas’s face is shining, he’s happy, and he nips once at Dean’s lips. “Let’s go back to the guest house?”

Dean swallows hard. Looking like that, asking like that… Dean can only nod and take another press of Cas’s wet lips to his, and then Cas is lacing their fingers together and pulling Dean towards the guest house he’s been occupying since he got here.

It looks a lot different from the last time Dean served in here. Then, the main room was pristine, with a leather couch and small kitchen table next to a kitchenette, everything clean and rarely used. Now, books and what appear to be art supplies cover almost every surface. Cas scurries around with a laugh to collect the little piles of clothes that are strewn about.

“I tend to get home and just drop all my clothes in one place,” he explains, taking the pile through the open French doors that lead to the bedroom. It’s dark, and Dean’s glad. He doesn’t know if he could handle seeing Cas’s bed right now. He’s absorbing enough information as it is. And dripping water all over the floor.

Cas is two steps ahead of him though, and he reappears with a pair of folded sweats and a t-shirt, both sitting on top of a fluffy gray towel. “There’s a shower in the bathroom if you want it.”

Dean wants to kiss him again. But he also wants to be dry. For a second, he considers asking Cas to shower with him, but he figures that’s probably not what friends do. He accepts the dry stuff with a nod.

Cas doesn’t let go of the bundle quite yet. He leans in, eyes burning a hole in Dean. “I’ll make us some coffee,” he says.

As if that’s not the sexiest thing Dean’s ever heard. He leans in to steal one more kiss before he has to duck into the bathroom. He closes the door and leans against it, closing his eyes so he can keep it together, and remember why he’s here.

To hang out with his friend and maybe make out a little. A slightly hysteric slip of laughter gets out. Dean doesn’t know what his life has become.

When he gets out of the bathroom, Dean’s hit by the delicious smell of coffee and a cozy scene. Cas has cleared off the couch and set out two steaming cups on the coffee table. Right next to them is a turntable, and a stack of albums. Their bags from the record store are leaning against the table and the record player is open and ready to be used.

That warm feeling goes through Dean again.

“How was your shower?”

Cas steps out of the shadow of his bedroom. He’s changed again, this time into a pair of black sweats like the ones he gave Dean to wear, and a faded Columbia shirt. His hair is a lot dryer, and curling at the tips. He’s just so much, gorgeous in a way that shouldn’t be legal.

Dean nods and makes a beeline for the couch. “Good water pressure in there.”

Cas brightens. “I agree. The one in the bedroom has a steam shower.”

“Fancy,” Dean says, settling on the couch and not thinking about Cas in a steam shower. He grabs his mug so he has something to do with his hands.

Cas drops onto the sofa beside him, pulling his legs up to sit criss-cross. He reaches behind a cushion. “Care to make that coffee Irish?” He presents a bottle of dark bourbon.

Dean holds his coffee cup out for a slug, which Cas tips into his mug with a smug grin. He tips a little more than Dean might have, but they’ve smoked, so Dean can tolerate a little more than normal. Cas puts the same amount in his mug before nudging his chin toward the bag of records.

“I’m anxiously waiting to hear the album you chose.”

“Is that right?” Dean slants a look at him. “On the edge of your seat, huh?”

“Obviously.” Cas smirks and sips his drink. He stares at Dean over the rim of his mug, and he waits.

Dean heaves a sigh like it’s a real pain, but really he hopes it calms the fluttering in his belly. Cas’s eyes on him are heavy, making Dean aware of every flex of every muscle. He licks his lips as he reaches into the bag, knowing Cas is watching to see what he’s going to present. Dean pulls the album out of the black plastic bag.

“Pet Sounds.”

Cas makes a sound of protest.

“Now, hear me out. I know people are unsure about the Beach Boys, but Pet Sounds… this album changed the way albums were made. It’s meant to flow together, to be listened to in one sitting.”

Out of the corner of his eye, Dean can see Cas smile and settle back on the couch. “Good thing we have all night,” he comments.

Dean wills his hands not to shake as he loads the record onto the player, making sure the needle doesn’t scratch when he drops it. The opening track, “Wouldn’t It Be Nice”, fills the room, the storm outside forgotten in the background.

Dean picks up his coffee again and tries not to listen to the lyrics. Instead, he explains how this album caused a cultural shift in the way albums were made, in the way music was heard, and in the way it was listened to, increasing the volume of hits for many artists, including The Beach Boys.

Cas listens intently and adds to the discussion, his insights about music impressing Dean. No one ever wants to talk about music with him, and if they do, it's usually a ploy to get in his pants once they know he enjoys it. Cas knows his sh*t though, and he’s already got access to Dean’s pants, so he knows that isn’t what it’s about. Their connection is genuine, and again, Dean finds himself having a great time, their spiked coffee making both of them talk a little too much. They keep scooting closer together too until Cas’s knee is pressing against Dean’s thigh. Dean wants to share his warmth with Cas and thinks it would be way more comfortable if he stretches Cas’s leg over his lap, so he slides a hand down Cas’s calf to pull him closer.

Cas just unfolds his leg from under himself and lets Dean pull it, lets himself be pulled practically into Dean’s lap. Dean loops an arm around Cas’s waist. Cas hooks an arm across Dean’s shoulders. “God Only Knows” plays around them when Dean buries his nose in the crook of Cas’s neck. Dean breathes Cas in, and brushes his lips against his neck, the scruff there making him breathe harder. Cas threads long fingers into Dean’s hair so he can tug at and play with the strands. They’re still listening, but all Dean can hear is Cas, Cas, Cas.

The record player is fancy enough to flip the record itself, which is good because they’re lost in each other by the time the record needs to be turned over, Cas fully straddling Dean on the couch by the time they reach the end of the B side. It pains Dean to take his hands off Cas’s ass when he insists on getting up to flip the record back over so they can start it over. He opens his arms back up so Cas can come right back, but Cas seems to have other plans.

He holds a hand out to Dean as “Wouldn’t It Be Nice” starts up again. “Dance with me?”

Dean bites down on his bottom lip. Dance, sure, they can do that, friends dance. He takes Cas’s hand and lets himself get pulled off the couch.

Cas smirks at the bulge in Dean’s sweats before he pulls Dean to him. “Put those hands back,” he murmurs, sliding his own down to the swell of Dean’s ass, leading by example.

Dean does as he’s told. The song goes on about a couple that wishes enough time had passed where they ended up together at the end, and Dean can’t help but think about wanting that, wanting Cas there, wanting his cake and eating it too. For one weak moment, he wishes this were real, that they were just two guys finishing a great date with a sweet dance and a chemistry neither of them can resist. If they were just two regular guys, there wouldn’t be anything stopping them.

Instead of thinking about any of that, Dean pulls Cas close and enjoys what he has, which feels a little like everything, wrapped in his arms. Cas is the one to nudge their lips together, to pull Dean into kisses that get deeper and grow with intensity until Cas is coaxing breathy moans out of Dean with every other kiss. The album plays on, but all Dean cares about is Cas’s hands on his hips, guiding him back, back, back until he’s enveloped in darkness and his legs are hitting the side of Cas’s bed.

Outside, the storm surges again, thunder and lightning putting on a show while Dean and Cas pay it no mind. Rain lashes at the windows and the skylight above, but all Dean cares about is Cas. Cas, surrounding all of Dean with his energy, with his body, with his wide-open heart. Cas, pushing him down onto a mattress for the very first time and making Dean feel things and want things he hasn't in a really long time, if ever.

Dean's in a free fall, but this time it feels like he jumped.

Wouldn't It Be Nice - Casloveshisfreckles (2)

Chapter 12

Chapter Text

Before Dean opens his eyes the next morning, all his brain can process is that he’s warm and that it's quiet, the storm having passed in the night. All his instincts scream to burrow in and stay right where he is, comfortable and content.

Until the rest of his brain comes back online. Slowly, Dean realizes he’s so snuggly because he’s being snuggled, as in embraced, held in Cas’s arms, one of Cas’s legs thrown over Dean’s legs. Right on cue, a soft snore is warm against the back of his neck, and that’s when Dean realizes he’s naked. Completely naked. With Cas pressed all the way against him.

Also very naked.

Little Dean perks up at that.

Dean has to clench his jaw and will those thoughts away. He doesn’t want to open his eyes, because if he does, it will confirm that it’s morning and that Dean spent that night, and that’s just not okay, that’s not what friends do, and yup, he’s spiraling.

He takes a few deep breaths, as deep as he can without disturbing Cas. Dean can’t wake him, can’t have a conversation about this, or anything right now. All he can do is pray it’s still early enough for him to sneak back into the main house unnoticed.

Dean takes one more deep breath before he tries to slide out of Cas’s arms strategically. He really doesn’t want to. The sheets are so soft and Cas is so… Yeah. Dean has to make a move. Slowly, he shifts his trapped thigh a fraction of an inch, only for Cas to snuffle and tighten his arms. He also slides his leg off Dean’s, which is a minor miracle. Cas’s strong arms trap his shoulders, and for one last time, Dean considers staying put.

He can’t, though. Before he slips out from under Cas’s arm, he leans in to leave behind a gentle kiss. Cas sighs softly. When Dean slips out of his grasp, Cas reaches for Dean’s pillow instead, burrowing his face in while Dean melts off the bed. He throws a glare at that pillow while he grabs the first t-shirt and pair of sweats he sees on the ground, not giving a damn if they’re his or not. He shimmies into them, his underwear completely MIA.

His heart is racing, and he knows he’s gotta move, but Dean still can’t help but glance back at Cas one more time before he leaves the room. White sheets cover Cas’s lower half, and Dean’s eyes trail up the dip of his back and over his tan shoulders, his muscles bunched and his arms still wrapped around the pillow. His dark curls rest on the white pillowcase and with everything in him, Dean doesn’t get back in bed. As quiet as he can, Dean slips out of the guest house instead, leaving Cas still snoring softly behind him.

He knows he’s an idiot.

But he wants to remain an employed idiot.

His watch tells him it’s early enough for him to take a shower before he has to prep breakfast. With everything crossed, Dean opens the patio door with caution, only relaxing until he can confirm that the kitchen is empty. He doesn’t forget to turn on the coffee as he passes through. Most importantly, Dean tries not to panic.

He was so careless. Spending the night sleeping naked in each other’s arms isn’t a thing that friends do. That’s a thing that boyfriends do, and they aren’t that. A stupid little voice in his head reminds him they were basically on a date yesterday, so Dean tells that voice to shut up. Benefits don’t include sh*t like that.

They need ground rules.

While Dean showers, he tries to think of how to approach Cas about it. It’s for their own good, if Dean’s going to keep his job. And his sanity. One thing for sure is that he has to keep everything business as usual.

For Dean, that means cooking. When he gets inside the kitchen, Dean goes through his routine, from tying on his apron to making his morning coffee while he checks his menus. He has three meals to cook for the family today, and a party at the end of the week he has to prep for.

But first, bacon.

And one of his favorite oatmeals to make, with apple, carrot, and walnut mixed in and topping the oats. It tastes like a little bite of apple pie mixed with carrot cake and Dean gets to work on a batch big enough for two days. Just the simple act of shredding carrots and slicing apples is enough to help Dean relax. By the time he’s toasting the oats, and the kitchen smells like bacon, Dean’s got some music on and is in the groove… and on his second cup of coffee.

After toasting the oats and adding oat milk to them, Dean turns back toward the counter for his chopped up ingredients, only to find Cas standing just inside the patio doors, head tilted, hair sticking up in the back of his head.

“You left,” he says. He’s dressed in clothes similar to the ones Dean snuck out in, except he’s got Dean’s gray AC/DC shirt on. The one Dean was wearing yesterday. It’s obvious Cas threw on what he could find, just like Dean did earlier.

Dean swallows hard at the sight of him. “Had to make breakfast.” It’s a miracle his voice doesn’t shake. It makes Dean stronger. “Want some coffee?” He points the wooden spoon in his hand toward the coffee pot.

It puts Cas closer to him when he goes to help himself.

Dean braces for him to ask again about Dean leaving. Or for him to get up in Dean’s personal space.

Cas makes himself a cup and sits at the kitchen island instead.

Dean grabs his cutting board and gets back to his oatmeal.

Eventually, Cas speaks. “Do you require any assistance, Dean?”

He stops stirring. Takes a deep breath. Friends. “Sure man, can you shred the rest of those carrots and maybe cut those apples into bites? They’re toppings.” Dean glances over his shoulder to see Cas lean over and pull the second cutting board towards himself. Dean always uses a few while he’s working.

Friends, he reminds himself again as he watches Cas pick up his knife.

Dean manages not to burn the oatmeal at least. Cas stays in the kitchen until it’s time to serve, and then he’s grabbing the tray of everyone’s coffee orders Dean prepared before he slips into his seat at the table. Dean serves the rest and goes back to the kitchen to clean up. He has to prop his hands against the counter to keep himself steady and upright.

They’re playing a dangerous game. Part of Dean wants to see it play out.

So he cleans the kitchen and checks his ingredients for lunch, finding them short the crusty kind of bread he likes to serve with the Greek pasta salad he has planned. By the time he’s done preparing the dough, the family is done with breakfast and Cas is gone, so Dean just clears the table and finally serves himself some breakfast. Checking his watch, he sees that if he plays it smart, he can check his lists again while he eats and maybe plan for next week to get ahead of things. There are a few things for the party Dean wants to get started on too, and sure, maybe he’s trying to keep himself busy, but he has to.

Waking up in Cas’s bed messed him up. Usually, he’d be thrilled, sure, freaked the f*ck out, but excited too, to like a guy, the way he’s really starting to like Cas. Even admitting it to himself now makes everything inside of him clench up, and not in a terrible way. If it was in a terrible way, Dean could ignore it, but even letting himself think of the warmth of Cas’s breath on the back of his neck this morning feels dangerous. Because it felt so goddamn good.

Dean’s so f*cked.

He’s double f*cked when he’s got a bite of oatmeal halfway to his mouth and the patio door is pushed open again. Cas has showered since breakfast, his hair still a little wet and curling (another thing Dean can’t get enough of) but he’s changed out of Dean’s clothes, anyway. Dean ignores the flair of disappointment. Cas looks good in the purple henley and ripped jeans that are a bit too long. He’s barefoot again, of course. He also has a notebook or something tucked under his arm.

Dean wants to kiss him so badly.

Cas’s gaze sweeps over the kitchen counter where Dean is working in his notebook, laptop open. He takes out what’s under his arm. It’s a sketchbook. “Mind if I join you?” Cas’s eyes are extra blue today.

Dean should say no if he knows what’s good for him. Instead, he shrugs.

Cas takes it as the invitation to sit that it is and takes out the pen he had in the sketchbook’s spiral before he opens it.

Dean drags his attention back to his own work. He tries to be casual. “After breakfast I switch to iced coffee, but I can make another pot if you want some?”

Cas glances at Dean’s jar of iced coffee. “Can I have it like yours, in one of those fancy jars?”

Those are Dean’s fancy jars. But he can do that. He rises off the barstool.

So does Cas. “You don’t have to—”

“You said you want it like mine, and you don’t know where my fancy jars are, do you.”

A grin twitches at the corner of Cas’s mouth. “No, I do not.”

“Okay then. Sit down and do whatever you’re gonna do.”

That grin wins and flashes across Cas’s face for a second before he’s doing what Dean told him to do.

Dean concentrates the best he can on making Cas an iced coffee, even though his mind is going a million miles an hour in a million directions. He could kick Cas out of here, or bail himself, but he has work to do, and Cas isn’t hurting anyone just sitting there so sure, he can stay.

He slides the finished coffee across the countertop, which Cas scoops up so he can take a big drink. One of those noises comes out of him again.

Maybe he should go.

Dean sits down and accepts Cas’s compliment after he’s drank half the jar. Cas gets back to whatever he’s drawing after that, so Dean tries to get back to what he was doing. From where he’s sitting, he can only see a little corner of what Cas is working on, so it's no use trying to peek. Not that Dean would do that. Not that he’s burning with curiosity about it. He keeps his eyes on his own work.

For once, Cas is quiet while they both work. Dean didn’t know it was possible and almost misses Cas’s chatter. The only noise he’s making is when he occasionally hums along to whatever is playing on the radio. Sometimes he sings softly too and Dean doesn’t even think he notices he’s doing it.

Dean’s hand itches to reach across the counter to touch Cas’s.

That’s why he’s gotta get over this.

He’s glad when he has to get up to finish baking his bread. Cas watches him work, only murmuring his thanks when Dean refills their coffees. He watches while Dean preps his cutting boards, and he nods when Dean raises his eyebrows to see if he wants to help chop a few things for the Greek pasta salad he’s making for lunch. At one point, Cas pretends to be sneaky and Dean pretends not to notice when he steals a few pieces of the cheddar cheese Dean’s cubing while the pasta boils. Dean pushes a few extra cubes towards Cas before he adds the rest to his mixing bowl. By the time Dean’s plating everything and Cas is slicing the freshly baked bread Dean took out of the oven, he knows letting Cas hang out was a bad idea.

Dean usually hates people in his kitchen. They get underfoot; they don’t know what they’re doing, and they usually put him behind.

He doesn’t hate Cas in his kitchen, though. Cas is helpful, and annoyingly cute about it. He asks good questions, and he picks things up easily, and working beside him to make a meal shouldn’t make Dean feel so warm and fuzzy inside, but goddamn it, it does.

He hopes Cas disappears after lunch is over. The rest of the family does, all of them headed to the club for the afternoon. That usually means Cas will appear sometime soon, ready to pull Dean into the pantry or something. He braces for it even, thinking it would be great if Cas took the decision out of Dean’s hands by staying away.

Dean’s never been a lucky man.

Cas shows up just as Dean’s finishing the dishes. He surprises the hell out of Dean when he sits back down at the island and pulls his sketchbook out again. Part of Dean feels disappointed that Cas’s hands are not on his ass, but no, this is better.

Dean finishes his clean up and settles back in to finish his work. He takes over an hour to place a massive online grocery order for a bunch of stuff he’ll need to do all the batch cooking he’ll be doing for the parties, including bulk ingredients. He can get everything delivered and only go to the store for the fresh ingredients. Cas stays quiet while he works, his pen scratching against the paper, sometimes in long strokes and sometimes short. Dean’s still dying to know what he’s drawing, but figures Cas will show him if he wants to share.

After he places his order and makes a list for the grocery store tomorrow, Dean decides it's break time, the perfect opportunity to eat some of the pasta salad from lunch and the last of the crusty bread. He fixes Cas a bowl too and slides it across the island to him.

“I got about an hour before I need to prep dinner. Wanna grab some fresh air?”

Cas was watching him put the food together, and he lights up at the invitation. “I love fresh air.”

Dean huffs. “Do you like peach iced tea?” When Cas nods, Dean pushes his bowl towards him. “Take this and I’ll meet you out there with a few glasses.”

Dean tries very hard not to stare at Cas as he leaves. He shouldn’t objectify him, but the memory of that heavy, curvy thigh is still fresh in Dean’s mind as he watches Cas head outside. He blinks himself back to reality when Cas finally sits. Dean’s gotta get it together.

Making quick work of it, Dean puts a pitcher on a tray with two glasses of tea. He needs a steadying breath before he picks up the tray. They’ve been alone for over an hour and they’re just hanging out, not needing to talk. Cas hasn’t asked about Dean sneaking out, and Dean only wants to reciprocate and keep quiet about the talk they need to have about ground rules. He doesn’t want to be the one to f*ck up the weird peace that’s settled between them. Maybe Dean doesn’t have to say anything if he can keep it normal-friendly, and not sleepover-friendly. He can handle that.

When Dean takes the seat across from Cas, he doesn’t expect his smile to rival the sun that’s finally peeking out behind the clearing storm clouds. He doesn’t expect Cas to tangle their feet together under the table either, but it is more of a relief than he expects to have Cas touch him again. Cas even gets to chattering, going on about some of the stuff he read up about Pet Sounds. Dean is shocked that Cas went out of his way, and he even asks when the hell Cas found time to do any reading. Cas just gives him a sly smile and keeps talking. Dean picks up his bowl and settles back in his chair, listening and letting his foot rub absentmindedly against Cas’s.

Dean rarely enjoys his breaks this much. He almost doesn’t want to go back to work, but dinner isn’t going to cook itself. Tonight, he’s serving white chicken chili for dinner, with a key lime pie for dessert. That needs to go into the freezer for a few hours before serving, so time is of the essence.

Cas puts a hand on his arm when Dean stands up to clear their dishes. “Are we okay, Dean?”

Dean freezes. He waits for the followup question about this morning but doesn’t get one. He relaxes, and Cas takes off his hand. “Dandy, as long as you’re gonna hang around and help me with dinner, too. I have more stuff for you to chop.”

Cas rises out of his seat too. “What are you preparing for tonight?”

“Already hungry? I just fed you,” Dean teases, as he heads toward the patio doors.

Cas huffs, amused. “Always hungry for your cooking, Dean.”

Heat warms his belly and he beelines for the sink with their dishes. “White chicken chili, cornbread, and key lime pie for dessert.” He glances back in time to see Cas make a face at that last thing. “What, you don’t like key lime pie?”

Cas snorts. “My apologies. It’s just not my favorite.”

Dean can respect that. “What is, then?” He tries to seem like it’s not an important question, even if it is.

Cas makes a noise like he’s thinking. Dean can hear him pull out the barstool again as he piles their dishes in the sink. He grins to himself.

“Do you ever make cheesecake?”

Dean can make one hell of a cheesecake, that’s an easy one. “Sure do,” he says. “Usually topped with strawberries, though.”

Cas rolls his eyes with his whole body. “Got anything else you can put on top?”

Dean nods. “Can you slice peaches?”

“I think so. Will I ever graduate away from the cutting board?” Cas sees the look on Dean’s face. “Don’t get me wrong, I’m happy to keep chopping up whatever you need.”

Dean shakes his head. “You gotta earn your way off the board, just like everyone else.”

“Ah,” Cas says, nodding. “Like the car.”

“Yeah, just like the car.”

“And cooking school?”

Dean’s moved on to preparing what he needs Cas to slice and chop, and the beans he needs to soak. He also has to prepare a chicken to roast. Instead, he freezes at Cas’s question, but only long enough to get his head straight again. He clears the rest of his sudden memories out of his head with a forced huff of laughter. “Yeah man, just like that too.”

Dean stays facing away from Cas, so he doesn't catch the suspicious look that flashes across his face. It's gone when he turns back toward the kitchen island, ready to see the joke through.

“Just wait until I put you in charge of the boiling water. You'll be begging for the cutting board back.”

Cas makes a face at that. “I think I’ll stick to the peaches.”

“Smart man.” Dean lines up the vegetables and a few peaches for Cas to slice up. He checks on his beans and moves on to seasoning the chicken and getting it into the oven and the entire time, he hopes Cas doesn’t ask him about culinary school again. The story of Dean dropping out of culinary school isn’t exactly one he wants to tell anyone, let alone Cas. Not that Dean thinks he’d tell his parents that Dean lied on his resume, but he can’t take that chance on top of all the other chances he’s already taking.

Luckily, they fall back into the comfortable silence they’ve been working in all day, until Dean’s hard at work stirring the cheesecake mixture when he hears a sniffle coming from Cas’s direction. He slows his arm and starts to actually listen, thinking he may have misheard. But no, Cas sniffs again, and that’s when Dean glances up.

Tears are running down Cas’s cheeks, even though he’s trying to blink through it and keep working. For a second, Dean thinks this is his fault until he notices the half-cut onion on the cutting board in front of him.

“Oh sh*t, Cas, let me do that. The jalapenos are worse.”

Cas shakes his head and waves Dean off. He sniffs again and tries to wipe some tears away with his forearm. “No, Dean, I can do this. It hardly burns.”

“Man, I know you’re lying. After I pour this cheesecake, I’m taking over.”

“No, no, I think I have a solution.” He puts down Dean’s knife and heads straight for the kitchen sink to wash his hands and rinse his eyes. Water drips down his face and his blue eyes are red-rimmed, but he’s grinning when he passes by Dean. Dean knows he’s feeling okay when Cas uses the opportunity to grab his ass as he heads toward the hallway. He disappears for a moment, re-emerging with a pair of blue ski goggles in hand. He holds them up triumphantly before pulling them over his eyes. “Don’t ask why there’s ski equipment at the summer house, but I bet these will help.”

The goggles are a little crooked, and when Cas pulled them over his head, they made his hair stick up in the back. He looks f*cking ridiculous. Dean stops resisting and steps into Cas’s personal space this time so he can finally kiss him. His nose bumps the stupid goggles, but Cas practically giggles into his mouth and Dean wishes they weren’t in the middle of cooking dinner.

He pushes Cas back toward his cutting boards, satisfied at the crooked grin he leaves on Cas’s face. Dean’s even feeling so good, he shows Cas the right way to cut the rest of the onion to avoid more tears, and then again with the jalapenos. Cas picks everything up with ease, and he grins again when Dean flicks the front of his goggles and gives him a thumbs up before he gets back to his own work.

Their peace doesn’t last. Dinner is coming together nicely, the kitchen smelling like roasted chicken and all the fruits and vegetables sliced and diced. Cas washed his hands when he was done, and just pushed the silly goggles on top of his head before asking if Dean needed more help. When Dean said no, he went back to his sketchbook. Dean’s eyes have been sliding toward him all afternoon, and they’re on him when they’re suddenly not alone in the kitchen anymore.

“What the hell’s going on in here?”

Michael is standing in the doorway to the hallway, dressed in athletic clothes. He's glancing back and forth between Dean and Cas, suspicion all over his face. Dean doesn't know why, considering they're on opposite sides of the kitchen.

Before Dean can say anything, Cas stands up, a storm cloud on his face.

“Nice way to say hello, brother,” he snaps out, in a voice Dean hasn't heard. “Did you conquer all your opponents this afternoon?”

Michael narrows his eyes. “It was only Pickleball Castiel. Must you always be so dramatic? I was simply asking what you were doing in here.” He glances over at Dean. “Isn't there adequate space for you to do your drawings elsewhere?”

“Dean doesn't mind that I'm here.” Castiel tips his chin up in defiance.

Dean feels stuck in the crossfire. He holds his hands up in surrender. “It's fine with me,” he says, not wanting any part of this. “I'm just trying to get dinner on the table.”

Michael glares at him. “Well, if you care to be discreet, you can email my mother.”

Cas huffs. “He doesn't 'care to be discreet', okay?” (The air quotes are not not cute) “He's fine, I'm fine, everyone was fine before you came in here with your questions. I think what we'd both like is for you to mind your own business. Do you think you can try that?” Cas's voice is dripping with sarcasm.

It's kinda hot. Dean shouldn't be thinking about that though, not when it looks like it's taking everything Michael has not to throttle Cas.

Cas has a matching look on his face.

It reminds Dean to call Sam.

He's had enough of this, anyway. He claps his hands, and it startles both brothers back to reality.

Cas at least looks a little guilty.

“I'd like to serve dinner on time tonight, fellas, if that's okay?”

Michael levels them both with a look of contempt before he stalks away.

Dean heaves a sigh and goes back to his chili.

“He's such an asshole,” Cas says behind him, the venom gone from his voice. Now he just sounds tired. “Do you mind if I get out of here for a while? I think I need to clear my head.”

Dean doesn't want Cas to go, but he can't say that. Instead, he keeps his back turned, and he nods. He closes his eyes when he hears the patio door close.


Dinner comes out perfectly and on time. Of course it does. Regardless of the storm clouds that linger over the dinner table while the two brothers glare each other down, Dean still serves a delicious white chicken chili with cornbread, followed up with the requested favorite cheesecake. Serving it to Cas is the only time Dean sees him smile all of dinner.

Dean feels for the guy. Unfortunately, he knows this kind of misery, when brothers are being brothers and all you want to do is burn through all that anger and energy with a good fight. He and Sam have duked it out a time or two in the past, the worst being the night Sam took off for Stanford. The original plan was for him to leave at the end of summer, but he chose to go right after graduation. Their dad blew up, Dean got in the middle and yeah, they both left a little worse for the wear that night.

While he cleans the kitchen, he thinks about the way Cas disappeared after Michael showed up. He thinks about the things he should have said to commiserate, to get Cas to forget it and ignore him. It's what a friend would have done.

By the time Dean's hanging up his apron and shutting off the lights, he's made a decision. He goes straight for his phone when he gets inside his room. Habit has him checking for messages from Sam first, but he doesn't find himself as bothered tonight when there aren't any.

Dean's a little preoccupied. He opens up his text thread with Cas next and only hesitates for a second before sending off a message Cas will understand:


He's about to pace when the phone vibrates in his hand.


Dean's never moved faster. He's almost out of breath when he runs outside, slowing down when he sees Cas doing the same from the other end of the beach, his head whipping back and forth. With the moon almost full, Cas is shining, and even from here, Dean can tell that same wild energy is still pouring off him. The moment he sees Dean, he breaks out into a run again.

Dean hardly notices when he does the same. The only thing on his mind is getting to him, getting to Cas and making sure he’s okay. Both their chests are heaving when they crash into each other, Cas’s arms and legs going around Dean before their lips crash together too. Cas’s mouth is hot when Dean licks into it, pulling a groan from the back of Cas’s throat. It makes Dean greedy, his hands full of Cas, arms tightening so he can press Cas down into the sand and make him forget all his problems for the night.

It’s the least he can do as the guy’s friend.

Wanting to forget about that for a little while too, Dean kisses Cas harder, and keeps his hands on him, one to cup his neck and the other to keep his thigh wrapped around Dean’s back. Their kisses are hot, both of them desperate for the other, desperate to ignore everything else and pretend none of it matters, just for a little while.

Cas moans Dean’s name every time he trails his lips across his jaw, and every time he does it, it turns Dean inside out and makes him want more, makes him want to take Cas to pieces, to pull his name from his mouth in more ways. He makes his way down the curve of Cas’s neck, putting his mouth on all the places he’s been thinking about all day, like the dip at the base of his throat, and the place under his chin that’s shaped like a heart.

With every brush of Dean’s lips, Cas tips his hips up, driving Dean mad with every thrust. He grinds down, hands pushing up and under Cas’s shirt just so he can feel him. Before he can push that shirt up and put his mouth places, Cas cups his face to pull him up.

Under the moon, Cas’s eyes are like sapphires, navy and sparkling and wide open and wanting. Dean wants to give him whatever he wants.

Cas’s voice is a rumble. “You don’t have to stay the night but, Dean… will you take me to bed?”

Dean’s breath quickens.

Cas isn’t done. He brushes his lips against Dean’s before he speaks again. “I want you, Dean.” He kisses Dean again, his next words almost lost in the wind. “I want you to f*ck me.”

Like Dean said, he wants to give Cas whatever he wants. Forehead pressed against Cas’s, he nods. “If you ask me to stay…”

“You’ll stay?” The hope in Cas’s voice is clearer than anything.

Dean kisses him again. “Just ask.”

Cas smiles so wide that Dean has to kiss him again, and again, and again, until he’s kissed Cas senseless, and he’s pulling him up from the sand, and scooping him up to do a fireman’s carry across the sand. Dean tries to concentrate on not slipping while Cas laughs his ass off, his hands on Dean’s ass. Dean reciprocates if only to steady himself. He only smacks that cute butt once to encourage Cas to hush so they can sneak into the guest house undetected. Cas keeps it quiet until Dean drops him on his bed, and then he bursts out in laughter.

It warms Dean all the way through. He needs to hear it just as much as he needs to be between Cas’s legs. His mission revised, Dean doesn’t bother to keep the eager grin off his face when he kneels on the bed. Cas is smiling under him and Dean wants to taste it, and here, tonight, there’s nothing to stop him from taking what he wants. Before Dean can, he gets caught in Cas’s heated, happy gaze, and all he can do is stare back, and hope Cas knows how much Dean wants him.

In case he isn’t sure, Dean does his best to show him too. More than once. And later, when they’re both boneless and wrapped together, Cas asks him to stay. Dean answers by pulling Cas on top of him again and situating them so Cas can fall asleep in the crook of Dean’s neck, and Dean can press kisses into his wild hair, even long after he’s already snoring softly.

Dean can’t think of anywhere else he’d rather be before he drifts off too, face still buried in Cas’s hair.

Chapter 13

Chapter Text

Dean spends the rest of the week having sleepovers every night in Cas’s bed. Most nights they fool around, but sometimes they just stay up all night talking and Dean doesn’t know which he likes more. Cas is funny and interesting, and smarter than Dean ever guessed, his knowledge about just about anything vast, rivaling only the one other stupidly smart person Dean knows—Sam.

When Dean thinks Cas and Sam would get along, he knows he’s in trouble. It’s dangerous to think about that. In reality, Dean knows he doesn’t live in a world where Cas and Sam ever meet, let alone become friends. That throws him in a funk for a whole day until he watches a movie with Cas that night and they end up giving each other mutual hand jobs on the couch. Dean almost goes back to his room that night, until Cas tells him he bought Dean a toothbrush, so Dean can stop putting his in his pocket every night.

The toothbrush is purple.

Dean knows he’s falling hard. He doesn’t like to admit that, but it’s getting harder to deny. Dean knows he’s doomed for a hard landing, which makes him determined to enjoy the ride. The summer doesn’t last forever, so their time together is already on the clock. Usually by Labor Day, Dean’s ready to hit the road, but he already knows driving away from Cas is going to be next to impossible.

Dean can’t think about that.

Live in the moment, don’t get fired; the two things at the top of Dean’s to-do list. The latter of which Dean needs to focus on today.

It’s the Fourth of July and Dean’s running at full speed. Despite the early hour, Dean has already made a trip to the grocery store and is now on his way to the docks. The Novak’s are hosting ten of their closest friends for an early dinner before they all head to the Yacht Club for The Hampton’s famous fireworks. The fireworks are visible from almost any beach in town, and Dean plans to be there after he spends the whole day in the kitchen prepping and cooking the seafood boil Mrs. Novak requested. Michael has plans with friends in Montauk, so Dean figures he might get a few hours to spend alone with Cas after everything settles down. Unless he has plans to go to the Yacht Club, Dean doesn’t really know.

The docks are busier than usual, people picking up their orders for their own parties and gatherings. This area lives for the Fourth, so Dean’s not surprised when he has to wait in line at Benny’s stand to pick up his order.

The guy grins when he sees Dean next in line. “Hey brother,” he greets him. “Long time no see. How ya been? I was just telling Andrea we haven’t seen ya and then your order popped up.”

Dean rubs the back of his neck. “Not too many parties this summer. What can I say?” Usually, Dean’s here at least once a week, but this summer has been quieter than usual, not that Dean’s complaining.

Benny seems to understand. “Not today though.”

“Definitely not today,” Dean agrees.

Benny gets back to business. “Andrea,” he calls over his shoulder. “Order up for Dean.”

Moments later, Andrea pops up, a closed crate in her hands, and a warm smile on her face. “Dean, it’s good to see you.” She slides the crate over to him. “Looks like someone is having a big seafood boil tonight.”

Dean shoots her a finger gun. “Got it in one, Andrea. You guys cookin’ up anything good tonight?”

“Benny already has a big pot of gumbo on. We’re having a little party ourselves, aren’t we, hon?”

“That we are, cher,” Benny says, grinning at his wife. He hooks an arm around her before taking Dean’s money. “You should swing by, brother, if you’re not working late. Come watch the fireworks from our boat.”

The Lafittes live on an honest-to-god houseboat, which they keep docked permanently next to their fishing boat in the harbor behind the stand. Dean’s dropped by a summer party or two of theirs, and it’s always a good time. He’d probably be accepting their invitation if he didn’t think he might get to spend time with Cas tonight.

“Ah, I wish I could, but I think this party might run late.” He picks up his crate of seafood. There are a few lobsters in there, along with a box of crab legs and another of clams and shrimp, everything Dean needs for a feast. “Maybe next time?”

“You’re always welcome, Dean,” Benny says. “Invitation’s open if you finish work early tonight.”

Well, at least if Cas takes off, Dean has options. Better than sitting at home alone, anyway. He thanks the Lafittes for everything and then he hits the bricks again. His last stop is the gas station to fill up his Baby, her needle having just dipped under half a tank. Dean rarely lets it get any lower than that. While the gas pumps, he leans against the Impala so he can dig his phone out and check his to-do list again, his mind already thinking about what he has to do when he gets back to the house. There aren't any messages from Sam, but there is a new email in his inbox from Mrs. Novak, and it's marked as important.

Despite the cool morning air kicking off the ocean, Dean breaks out in a nervous sweat. Did someone see him sneaking out of the guesthouse this morning? Different scenarios race through his head in some crazy way for Dean to mentally prepare for anything he might see when he opens the email, including the two words he’s dreading the most: You’re fired.

Dread fills his gut when the subject line says Open Immediately. His hands are clammy when he taps on the email, but whatever bed he's about to be in, Dean knows it's of his own making.

Mr. Winchester,

Effective immediately, we will no longer hold today’s party and the ones following for the next several weeks.

Dean thinks he's going to throw up right here in the gas station. He keeps reading.

In the early morning hours, I received a call from a hospital in Italy that needs my expertise as soon as possible.


Shortly after, arrangements were made for me, my husband, and Michael to leave on a flight to JFK as soon as possible. Our flight leaves today at noon.

Holy sh*t. Dean's so surprised he barely registers the click of the gas nozzle.

Usually, this would be where we would arrange for you to return toward the end of summer. However, since this should only be a brief trip, we ask that you remain in the home until we return. Please enjoy the house and the pool, as well.

The rest of the email goes on to tell Dean his compensation will remain the same and that they will keep him updated with their plans for returning and goddamn son of a bitch, Dean can't believe what he's reading. He reads the email twice more, to be sure.

The Novak's are leaving. And leaving Cas behind. With Dean. In his haste to get back to the house, Dean almost drives away still attached to the gas pump. When he arrives, there's a black SUV town car idling in his parking spot, the back open and already filled with luggage. Cas’s car is gone, so Dean steals his spot and hurries inside with his crate of seafood.

He runs into Chuck halfway to the kitchen.

“Oh, Dean, did you see Nay’s email? We're leaving. She's been called to do some surgery in Italy and—”

“I saw it, Mr. Novak, I saw it,” Dean says. “Can I throw together something for the plane? Sandwiches? I just bought fruit and—”

“Oh son, yes, that would be amazing. Those private planes never have good enough snacks, and we won't be leaving JFK until it's almost dinnertime.”

Chuck is flustered, so he’s rambling and he doesn't notice that Dean is barely listening, his brain skipping on Chuck calling him son. He doesn't have the capacity to process that right now. Luckily, Chuck disappears as fast as Dean happened upon him, so he focuses on what he has to focus on and tucks the rest of it away for a spiral after everyone is gone.

Things get chaotic after that. The Novak’s called in their personal assistants who usually stay in the city most of the summer to handle their affairs, but since this is an emergency, they were asked to come in and help them pack and also cancel appointments and arrangements for all the parties. They keep passing through his kitchen but Dean hardly notices, his focus on cutting up crudites, and putting together enough sandwiches for all the Novak’s and a few extras, just in case. By the time everything is ready, Dean's inbox has a few more emails that contain itineraries with open-ended return dates and the promise of updates to come.

Dean feels like he's still processing what's actually happening, even as he watches the town cars zip out of the driveway, the Impala the only car remaining. He stares for a few more moments as the dust settles, and then he's heading back to the kitchen in a daze.

He just can't wrap his mind around it.

The rest of the Novak's are gone. Gone. Soon to be on another continent type of gone, not five miles down the road eating crappy prime rib gone. He's on autopilot when he sits down at his laptop so he can update his calendars. His brain is just skipping like a needle at the end of a record, now that he has nothing to do with his hands. Could it really be true? Alone with Cas indefinitely?

Dean doesn't know what to do with himself.

A door slamming down the hall to the garage is like the record needle scratching across his brain.

“Dean?” Cas's voice sounds muffled. He practically crashes into the kitchen, he's moving so fast. “Dean? What the hell?” His phone is in his hand and his chest is heaving. The bag in his other hand falls to the floor with a thud. “I checked my email before I left my lessons. Is it true? They left?”

Dean stands and takes Cas in. He's windblown, and back in his green tennis sweatshirt and short tennis shorts. It's obvious he rushed back from wherever he was because he's still wearing shoes—white tennis shoes, actually. Dean checks his watch. “About fifteen minutes ago. You just missed th—Oof!”

His words are cut off by Cas suddenly in his arms, his legs wrapping around his back and his mouth on his. Cas kisses him hard, over and over until they're both laughing. Dean's hands go under his ass for a feel before he's sitting Cas on top of the nearest counter. Dean slips his hands up the back of Cas's sweatshirt instead, finding Cas's back slick with sweat.

Dean groans into their kiss before he pulls back. “Where are you coming from? Why are you sweaty?” He leans back in to breathe in Cas's sweet clean scent. He wants to taste him so he does, because he can, and that makes him smile when the salt hits his tongue and makes Cas moan into his hair.

“You better be planning to f*ck me against this countertop, Dean,” he pants out, tightening his legs so he can grind his crotch against Dean.

Dean holds him tighter and licks another stripe up his throat. “Maybe if you tell me what made you taste so good…” He drags his mouth up to Cas's ear. “It might make me want to taste the rest of you.”

“Oh f*ck,” Cas hisses out. “f*ck, okay, I was in between tennis lessons when I looked at my phone.”

Dean pulls all the way back, not expecting that. “You take tennis lessons?”

“Take?” Cas tilts his head. He's all disheveled from Dean's kisses, which gives him a strange sense of pride. He goes on. “Dean, I'm the teacher.”

Oh that's hot. “You teach at the club?”

Cas wrinkles his nose. “No, those people can afford their lessons. I volunteer with the Boys and Girls club in Brooklyn, and this summer, they're busing the kids to Long Island for camp.”

Dean can't believe what he's hearing. It rings incredibly close to the work he does at the end of the summer with Sonny. “You're telling me you wake up early to give free tennis lessons to underprivileged kids?”

A grin dances on Cas’s face. “Well, when you put it like that…”

Dean pulls him back into a kiss. Cas earned it. He’s earned many in Dean’s book, and damn if Dean isn't determined to give him each one. And he can, right here in his kitchen, and he doesn’t have to worry about it. Dean didn’t wake up this morning expecting to get things he didn’t even know he wanted, but here they are, wrapped up in his arms.

Instead of cooking, Dean has Cas for lunch. He does as Cas asks, bending him over the counter and only pulling those shorts down far enough to get what he wants. Cas keeps asking for things, begging even, for Dean’s mouth and his fingers in different places, sometimes the same places, and Dean can only oblige, here to serve and give Cas whatever he wants.

Dean almost gets off on the pretty way Cas moans against the granite. Instead, he takes his time until he knows neither of them can stand it, and then he’s turning Cas around and pulling him close, close enough to take both their dripping co*cks in his hand so they can come together. They make messes of each other, which makes Cas laugh and pull him down to the floor so they can kiss a little more while Cas wipes them down with a towel from his tennis bag.

Cas’s stomach growls in the middle of it all. He covers it and groans, tipping his head against Dean’s bare shoulder. “My apologies,” he grumbles, his voice rough from all the noises Dean pulled out of him. “Someone worked up my appetite.”

Dean laughs. “It wasn’t the tennis?”

“That too.”

“Well, I can’t make us lunch like this.” Dean gestures at them, both half-naked with ruined pants. He brushes a few fingers against Cas’s stomach. “We could grab a shower first?”

Cas presses a kiss to Dean’s shoulder as he makes an approving noise. “I have some of your clothes in the guest house.”

Dean turns his head so he can steal one more kiss. “Didn’t you say you have a steam shower in there?”

It earns him a gummy smile. Dean is the first one of them to pull away from another make-out session when his stomach grumbles next. He pulls Cas to his feet and chuckles when Cas molds himself to his back while he gathers up their shirts and grabs Cas’s bag. It’s ridiculous, this octopus act, but it warms Dean all the way through as they slip through the patio doors. He only takes a few more steps before he dips down to encourage Cas to jump on his back, which he does without hesitation.

Dean can’t remember the last time he was so happy.

After they stay in the shower long enough for the water to run cold, they get dressed, Cas going for Dean’s AC/DC shirt again. Dean ignores the smug look on his face when Dean throws on one of Cas’s shirts, a faded KISS tee Dean’s seen him wear once or twice before they became friends.

The concept is lost to him right now. Dean doesn’t have to care about it, so he doesn’t. He just enjoys himself, all the way back to the kitchen. He stops short, though, when he sees the crate of seafood still waiting for him. Cas crashes into his back, recovering by slipping his arms around Dean’s waist. His lips move against Dean’s ear. “What’s in the box?”

Dean puts one hand over Cas’s on his stomach and uses the other to point at it. “What’s in the booox?” He chuckles as he side-eyes Cas to see if he’s laughing.

Cas just looks confused.

“Oh come on man,” Dean says, exasperated. “Seven? Brad Pitt? Another classic you’ve never seen?”

“Well, I haven’t seen every movie ever made, Dean. That would be impossible.” Cas is mumbling all his words against Dean’s neck, which is why Dean can’t even be mad.

“We’re making use of the theater sometime this week,” he grumbles, walking them over to the crate. Dean sighs. “This was going to feed fifteen people tonight. What the hell are we gonna do with all this seafood?”

Unfortunately, Dean has to unlock Cas’s interlaced fingers and untangle himself so he can open the lid. Cas hops up on the counter to observe.

When Dean pulls out the pry bar he keeps in a drawer just for these crates, Cas gives him a look. “You’re very attractive with all your different tools.”

“Oh yeah?” Dean bounces his eyebrows. “I know one tool you really li—”

Cas cuts Dean’s suggestion off with a hand over his mouth. “Dean.”

Dean gives his eyebrows another bounce before he kisses Cas’s palm. He’s grinning when Cas takes it off. He opens the crate, and the smell of very fresh seafood fills the kitchen. Both their stomachs respond.

“So,” Dean asks. “How hungry are you?”

Dean ends up scaling back his original plans but sticking with the seafood boil but just for the two of them. He boils the extra lobsters so he can throw some in a batch of mac and cheese and save the rest to put in meals for the next few days. Cas really liked a lot of his lobster dishes, and Dean has a few ideas he wants to try. Since he has so much goddamn seafood, Dean freezes some and puts Cas to work peeling and slicing a crap load of potatoes while Dean shucks a bunch of clams for some clam chowder, which is one of his favorite soups to make and eat. He’ll make enough to freeze a big batch too for future meals. With the radio blasting and the patio doors thrown open, and Cas by his side, Dean’s having the best day.

Maybe that’s why he does something incredibly dumb when they’re finally sitting outside on the patio, their feast spread between them. Cas’s fingers are slick with lemon butter, and he’s driving Dean crazy every time he sucks them clean in between pieces of lobster and crab legs. He even looks cute eating corn on the cob, so it’s no wonder Dean’s clarity is all screwed up.

Their feet are tangled up under the table again, and Dean taps his foot against Cas’s to pull his attention from the corn he’s going to town on.

“Hey,” he says. “Do you wanna go to a party?”

The docks are a different kind of crowded when they get there after the sun has already set. After they finished eating, they only made it as far as one of the pool chairs, where Cas pulled Dean down so they could lie together, Dean between his legs, his back to Cas’s chest. He did his octopus thing again, and Dean’s never been more comfortable—warm under the sun, full of delicious food, and wrapped in Cas’s embrace. They watched the sunset like that, Dean turning in those arms by the end so he could kiss Cas in the fading light of day. Cas was golden, his smile the sun that makes the heat rise under Dean’s skin.

They almost didn’t make it out of the house. Cas insisted though, and eventually Dean was pointing the Impala back towards the harbor for the second time that day.

When they get there, the parking lot is mostly full, but Dean gets lucky and finds a spot that faces the water. String lights have been hung up along the dock to create a warm glow, and most of the boats have been decorated in a variety of colors. Since this is the commercial side of the docks, a much different crowd gathers compared to the other side, where the club and the private yachts and sailing boats are moored. It’s a different tax bracket, and it shows. Everyone walking around this side of the docks are people like Dean and Benny, people who work at the club, not the members.

For a second, Dean isn’t sure if it’s the right place to bring Cas. It’s a stupid thought, one he shoves away. He owes Cas better than that, and considering how goddamn awesome Dean already knows he is, Dean knows it's a stupid idea to entertain.

While he leads them over to Benny and Andrea’s boat, Dean points out the fish market, and tells Cas a little about the couple Cas is about to meet, like how they had originally come from Louisiana and that they have a four-year-old daughter named Elizabeth. Cas is asking good questions and they’re both in high spirits when they climb aboard, The Andrea painted onto the side of the boat in black. It’s crowded, there’s music playing, and everyone has a drink in their hands.

“Dean! You made it!” Andrea spots them first. She yells towards the front of the boat. “Benjamin, come say hello to Dean and his friend!”

A few heads turn towards them, but most people seem unbothered. Benny pushes through a group with a big grin on his face and he’s already holding his hand out for Dean to shake when he gets to them.

“Dean, you made it after all. It’s good to see you, brother.” Benny’s handshake is firm. “And I’ve been told you’ve brought a friend.”

“I didn’t think you’d mind.”

“Hell no, not even if he’s more than just a friend,” he teases, lowering his voice. He raises it again. “The more the merrier.”

Dean hopes Benny doesn’t notice the heat in his cheeks. He steps back to present Cas, his hand hovering around the small of his back. “Benny, meet my friend Cas Novak. Cas, meet Benny and Andrea Lafitte, the best damn seafood suppliers in town.”

He can see the moment Cas’s last name registers in Benny’s mind. Everyone in town knows the Novak’s, and everyone in town knows Dean works for them. Benny’s grin slips for a second before it’s back in place. He holds a hand out to Cas, who grasps it with enthusiasm. “It’s nice to meet ya, Cas.”

“Thank you for having me. Dean’s right about your seafood being the best.” Cas is charming as hell, and oblivious.

“Well, any friend of Dean’s is a friend of ours.” Benny returns it with his southern charm. “If you gents care for a beer, you’ll have to go aft and see my good friend Bucky. He makes a hell of a home brew that’s got quite a kick.”

Dean tries not to notice that Benny won’t really look at him. He can pretend everything is kosher though, and he takes the out. “We will, Benny, thanks again.”

Andrea tells them there’s food back there too, and reminds them to make sure and grab a bit of railing on the bow for the best view of the fireworks. Cas offers to go save them a spot if Dean will bring him back a beer and it’s an easy deal for Dean to make, considering how hard he’s trying to keep his cool. As he heads aft, the thought that it might have been a mistake to come here darts through his head again. Dean’s too far in denial to see it as the bad omen it is.

By the time he gets back to the front of the boat, he finds Cas talking to a few people from around town. Dean recognizes a fellow chef and a few people from the docks. Cas’s eyes light up when he sees Dean, and he’s quick to take the two bottles of beer out of the crook of his arm, his hands full with a bowl of Benny’s gumbo for each of them.

“What did I miss?” he asks, trying to gauge the vibe of the conversation.

Cas seems at ease as he trades Dean a bowl for a beer. “Everyone was talking about their summer.”

The chef, a spunky blonde Dean’s worked a few side jobs with named Donna holds up her beer as she nods at Dean. “We were just about to ask Cas here what he does.”

Cas is taking a pull from his beer, but he bounces his eyebrows in acknowledgement. “I’m an artist,” he says after he finishes.

Donna leans back to repeat him. “Starving Artist! Everybody drink!”

To both Dean and Cas’s astonishment, everyone around them cheers and holds up their drinks before taking big gulps. Dean shakes his head when they’re done. “I have no idea what’s happening.”

Donna laughs. “It’s a dumb joke. Some of us are here for the summer to make money, not because we like what we do. For instance, I’m actually an actor.”

“I’m a writer!”


Random people continue to shout things out. Everyone is laughing and clinking their bottles together over their great joke. Dean can’t really relate, considering he cooks because he likes it, but he gets that not everyone is like that.

Donna keeps going. “Okay, starving artist. What’s your day job?”

Cas tilts his head. “I don’t think I understand.”

“Oh you know,” Donna says. “Where are you working this summer? One of the restaurants? Unless you’re a chef, like Dean here. Is this your first summer in the Hamptons?”

Every question Donna asks prickles Dean’s skin, because he knows Cas doesn’t have any answers for questions like that.

Before Cas can clarify anything, someone else steps forward. “He doesn’t know what you’re talking about because he isn’t one of us.”

Donna turns towards the voice, but all Dean can see is the color drain out of Cas’s face.

The guy keeps going. “He doesn’t work for anyone because he doesn’t have to.”

Dean finally turns his glare to whoever is saying this sh*t, shocked when he recognizes the guy. His name is Cole-something, and Dean thinks he’s one of the fish mongers that works off one of the other boats. Dean never really liked the guy, and now he remembers why.

Donna is the one confused now. “What does that mean?”

Cole sneers. “It means he’s got a trust fund. He’s one of them.” He spits the word out like it’s poison.

Dean takes a warning step forward. “Man, if you don’t shut the hell up—”

“What?” Cole steps up, posturing. “You gonna tell me I’m wrong? Coming up here with his privilege while we work our asses off all summer? He should go back to the other side of the docks where he belongs.”

Plenty of people around them are objecting, but between his anger and the stricken look on Cas’s face, Dean can only see red.

Cole isn’t done. “See, no one here will say it to your face, but I don’t give a sh*t about that.” He’s up in their faces now. “Don’t you get it? He’s not welcome.” Cole turns his scathing look on Dean. “And neither are you, if you think you can bring his kind here.”

Beside him, Cas has curled in on himself. “I think I should go,” he mumbles, already pushing past Cole.

Cole uses the opportunity to shoulder check him, and that’s when Dean snaps. Dropping his bowl, Dean’s already pulling his arm back to finish what Cole started.

A firm hand stops Dean before he can punch Cole’s face in. “Whoa, brother, hey, we’re not gonna do that on my boat.”

Dean’s blood boils over. He yanks his arm free, turning on Benny. “Oh, but that asshole can say whatever the f*ck he wants to Cas? Push him around? Why, because of some stupid classist sh*t?”

“Easy, Dean, I’m not the one arguin’ with ya.” Benny holds his hands up in surrender. “Cole’s a mouthy son-of-a-b, and there’s no way in hell he’s gettin’ away with that move. That’s why Andrea’s gonna kick his ass outta here in about ten seconds.”

Cole scoffs but he’s yanked out of it mid-way by Andrea grabbing him by the scruff. “We don’t disrespect each other on this boat. And we certainly don’t put our hands on other guests. We’re rescinding your invitation.”

It looks like Cole wants to fight, but he cowers when Andrea tightens her grip and sharpens her glare, and hustles his ass right off the boat.

Dean turns back to Cas to find his face hardened. Glancing around, the once interested crowd is no longer making eye contact. Donna looks as pissed as Dean feels, but at least she’s nice enough to give him an apologetic shrug. Benny is already cleaning up the mess Dean made when he dropped his bowl.

“I’m f*cking sorry, man,” Dean says to him, feeling about two inches tall. They need to bail. “We can go. I didn’t mean—”

Benny straightens. “You didn’t do anything wrong, neither of you. Please, stay.” He looks at Cas. “Are you alright? My apologies. I can bring you out some more gumbo to make amends.”

Cas rubs his shoulder, and Dean wants to take him home immediately to see if he’s okay. Cas stops him when he nods. “We’ll stay. Thank you,” he says, his words jilted and rough. “Your hospitality is appreciated.”

“Sure thing, boss,” is all Benny says before he’s gone.

Dean immediately pulls Cas against the railing. “We really can go if you want to. That was total bullsh*t. I should have known some idiot would try to start sh*t.” He wants to examine Cas’s shoulder, but Cas has it turned away. “Are you sure you’re okay?” The party has resumed around them, the din of voices rising as people forget the scene they just witnessed. Dean scoots closer to Cas and slides his hand from Cas’s elbow up his other arm. He catches Cas’s vacant stare. “I’m serious. We’ll go. Just say the word.”

A clearing throat has Dean dropping his hand. Benny is back. “Last time I interrupt. I just wanted to drop off this gumbo and a few more beers.”

Cas seems to snap out of his daze and he accepts them with a nod.

Benny chuckles at that and gives them one last nod before he blends back into the crowd.

Dean’s shoulders sag. “Are you sure? One hundred percent?”

“That’s never achievable, Dean. So I am as sure as I can be. Let’s just try to enjoy the night.” He finishes their discussion by taking a long drink from his bottle.

Dean doesn’t believe him. He hates the idea of staying, but he wants to respect Cas’s decision.

It ends up another regret on his list. Cas proceeds to drink both the beers Benny brought plus the one he already had. Dean tries to slow him down, but Cas seems determined to have a good time, getting himself back in Donna's orbit for some drunk banter. Like Dean said, Cas is naturally interesting, and soon he's asking Donna all about acting.

One minute he's fine and the next, the homebrew turns on him. Dean can see when his eyes go out of focus and his words start to slur. He knows they gotta go when it's obvious that the railing is holding Cas up more than his own legs. Without even thinking about it, Dean loops an arm around his waist and excuses them. He's right about Cas barely being able to stand, so he does his best to support his weight and coax him to walk on his own. Cas is drunk enough to at least be willing, and having Dean's arm around him seems to perk him up.

They run into Benny and Andrea as Dean tries to sneak them out. Cas doesn't help by clapping when he sees Andrea, slipping out of Dean's embrace so he can go to her. Dean tries to catch his arm before he falls into her, but Benny is quick to pull him aside. Dean makes sure Cas is good, relieved to see Andrea hugging him with a grin on her face.

Benny is a little more serious when Dean finally looks at him. His arms are crossed over his chest. “I'm only gonna say this if you understand that I'm saying it as a friend.”

Dean would prefer Benny say nothing, but he nods out of respect for the guy.

“You're venturing into dangerous waters, Dean, fooling around with your client. You gotta know that, brother.”

Dean starts to protest. “It's not like that, Benny, come on—”

Benny cuts him off. “Now don't try to kid a kidder, Dean. I may have been born at night, but it wasn't last night, and I could see plain as day the way you two have been making eyes at each other all night.”

“Making eyes, Benny? What are we, twelve?”

Benny scoffs. “Man, I know a smitten kitten when I see one. You two look at each other like me ‘n Andrea do.” He softens and punches lightly at Dean's shoulder. “Just be careful. That's all I'm sayin’.”

“I'm fine, Benny.” Dean sighs. “But thank you.”

Benny nods. “Now you better get the both of you home safe, or Andrea will kill ya.”

“You got it.”

Andrea hugs him too and threatens Dean with bodily harm if he doesn't drive safely and all but deposits Cas back into his arms. Cas is much more steady on his feet while they make their way back to the Impala, but he stops Dean before he can guide him over to the passenger side.

“Do you think we can wait a few more minutes so I can try to clear my head? I do not want to throw up in your beautiful car.”

Dean's heart flutters. “Oh, well, since you recognize her beauty…” He climbs up on the hood and pats the spot beside him.

Cas’s eyes widen before he scrambles up, the gravity of Dean's offer cutting through his drunk haze. He sucks in a sharp breath when Dean takes his hand.

“I'm sorry,” Dean blurts out, at the same time Cas does.

“Don't be,” they both say again at the same time.

Dean huffs a laugh and squeezes Cas’s hand. “Stop saying everything I'm saying.” He runs his thumb over Cas’s knuckles. “They shouldn't have treated you like that.”

Cas scoots closer. “It's fine. It wouldn't be the first time.”

That frustrates Dean more. “It's not fine, man, and it's not right that it's happened more than once.”

“You're right,” Cas says. But unfortunately, we can’t always expect people to act kindly. At least in my experience.”

Dean's heart hurts. He tightens his grip on Cas’s hand.

“Plus, people find me odd. They always have, even when I was a child. Sometimes I think my parents think so as well, although I believe they are finally coming around to the idea of it not being a bad thing.”

“There could never be anything bad about you, Cas,” Dean says, pissed off anyone ever made Cas feel like that.

Cas chuckles and leans in to press their shoulders together. “You're sweet. Has anyone ever told you that?”

Dean scoffs, glad it's dark so Cas can't see him blush.

“You’re also wrong.” Cas goes on. “You seem to forget how awful I was to you when we first met.”

So much has happened between them that Dean did kinda forget about that. He shrugs. “You apologized. I forgave you, obviously. People make mistakes, that doesn’t make them bad. And neither does being ‘odd’.” Dean does air quotes with his free hand and that at least draws a smile out of Cas.

“Not everyone would agree, but I appreciate you saying that. If only everyone were as open-hearted as you, Dean. I may not have so much trouble fitting in wherever I go. I keep dropping out of art schools once it gets unbearable, even trying to get people to work with me. Once that happens, I lose my motivation and can barely even pick up a pen, let alone finish my coursework.”

Dean’s stomach does a flip. “How many schools?”

“Columbia was my third. My mother was pretty upset when I showed up and told her I wasn’t going back. She said she wasn’t going to pay for the fourth, so I could tell she was upset.”

“Do you want there to be a fourth?”

Cas sighs. “I don’t know what I want.” He tightens his grip on Dean’s hand. “About that anyway.”

Dean swallows hard. Cas can’t mean… No, Dean can’t think about that possibility. He does want Cas to know he isn’t the only one, though. It’s a risk, but this seems worth it. “I never finished culinary school.”

Cas leans away to stare at him, mouth wide open. “No way. How is that possible? Are you saying that you’re self-taught?”

Dean ducks his head. “Mostly?” He tells Cas about growing up throwing meals together for Sam, and how a short stint in a boys home led to him learning how to cook, and getting the bug, which then opens the door to explaining Sonny’s, and what led Dean to get picked up for shoplifting, all so he could make Sam a sandwich after they hadn’t eaten for the last day.

Somehow Dean ends up spilling his guts all in an attempt to make Cas feel better. He listens attentively, sometimes asking questions or just squeezing his hand back. At some point, Cas puts his head on Dean’s shoulder and they sit there together, talking quietly and sharing each other’s stories, until a loud boom and a shower of colorful sparks interrupt them.

The fireworks illuminate the whole harbor and it’s like the two of them are the only ones under the entire sky and it's lit up just for them. When Dean cups Cas’s face in the palm of his hand so he can pull him close for a kiss, Dean knows something inside him is changing, thanks to this night, thanks to this man. Dean doesn’t think he’s odd. Dean thinks he’s kinda perfect actually, even if he steals food.

Then again, who amongst the two of them hasn’t?

They keep holding hands and even better, keep kissing until the fireworks end, and then they’re laughing as they jump off the hood so they can get in the car and beat all the other cars out of the lot. Dean takes Cas’s hand again and holds it on the seat between them the entire ride home. Cas puts in one of Dean’s Zepp cassettes and when Dean parks the car, he pulls Dean into another make-out session until the tape ends. They steam up the windows of the Impala before Cas is whispering in his ear and asking Dean to take him to bed.

Tonight, hell every night, it feels brand new with Cas, and when he takes Dean's hand to pull him straight towards the guest house for the night, Dean doesn't hesitate to follow with a smile, and the knowledge that in the morning, he has no reason at all to leave the comfort of Cas's arms.

Chapter 14

Chapter Text

Dean does not expect to wake up alone. It’s almost jarring, considering how many mornings he’s spent slowly blinking awake with Cas wrapped around him. Sure, he’s not wearing any clothes, but waking up alone makes him feel naked in an entirely different way. Dean frowns when he opens his eyes until the scent of fresh coffee invades his senses.

It turns that frown upside down.

Now that he’s more awake, he realizes that there are noises coming from outside the bedroom. More nosey than interested in getting out of bed, Dean crawls to the end so he can peek out the open French doors. He’s rewarded with the sight of Cas, completely naked still and pouring two cups of coffee. Dean’s mouth goes dry at the sight of those long, golden legs with their thick thighs covered in soft dark hair Dean’s run his tongue through. His ass is perfect, round, and perky and a little bruised where Dean sucked a mark the other day.

Dean has to scramble back into the sheets when Cas picks up a tray with their coffee before turning towards the bedroom. He pretends to still be sleeping, only shifting when he feels the mattress dip down beside him as Cas crawls back into bed. Dean turns towards him so he can reach out and pull him closer.

Cas chuckles and moves around him, burrowing his face into the curve of Dean’s neck. Dean can feel his smile there when he presses a kiss into Cas’s hair.

“Good morning, Dean,” Cas says, his voice a sleepy growl. “I thought you were still sleeping.”

Dean lets out a loud snore where he just left a kiss.

Cas cracks up.

Dean decides it's his favorite thing to hear first thing in the morning.

Cas tries again after he stops giggling. “I brought you coffee. And I made toast. Are you sure you’re still asleep?”

Dean finally lifts his face out of Cas’s soft curls. “You made me food?”

Cas wrinkles his nose, still smiling. “It’s just toast. And I burned it.”

Now it’s Dean’s turn to laugh. He needs to kiss that sweet morning mouth too, so he does. After he’s had a few of those, he says, “See what happens when you don’t have proper supervision?”

“Mmm, now I understand. I need my teacher.”

“That’s right,” Dean murmurs, nibbling at Cas’s jaw.

Cas tilts his head back so Dean has more access. “Okay then, Chef. I’ll remember that for next time.”

Dean’s head goes up. He blinks a few times to get the blood flowing in his brain again. “Say that again.”

A wicked smile comes over Cas’s handsome face. “Yes… Chef.”

Dean practically devours him in a smothering kiss. Why that revs his engines so much, he does not know, but hearing Cas call him chef is doing everything for Dean. Cas melts into Dean’s enthusiasm, his fingers going into Dean’s hair. Dean groans in the back of his throat, and Cas opens up to swallow that sound, matching Dean with his own sweet moan. Add that to the fact that Cas made him food in the first place…

It’s all doing something funny to his insides. Dean wants to chase the feeling.

So, he does. To say thanks, Dean trails kisses along Cas's throat, loving the scruff of his stubble against his lips. “Maybe don't shave today,” he murmurs before he continues down to Cas's collarbones.

“Yes, Chef,” Cas replies, his voice breathless now. Dean grins and leaves kisses in the dip of his clavicle, valleys he thinks about exploring every day. Cas's hand is still in Dean's hair and his grip tightens when Dean traces a hot breath over Cas's nipples, making them harden with only the ghost of his mouth. He presses a kiss to the dark freckle above one of them before he moves further down, unrelenting in his quest to taste every inch of Cas's skin and show him just how grateful he is, and not just for the burnt toast.

He takes his time mapping out Cas’s stomach, using his tongue to leave trails over the hills of his abs and the valley of his belly button. Beneath him, Cas shivers and lifts his hips to meet Dean's mouth, all the while encouraging Dean with the rise and fall of his moans.

Dean's always been good with reading maps.

He takes his time getting back to Cas’s mouth, wanting him more when Cas pulls Dean on top of him, so Dean can straddle his hips. Part of him wants to line them up and roll his hips so he can hold them both in his hand, something they both enjoy. Cas has also bottomed for him, which was incredible, and something Dean can’t wait to do again. But something about being able to stay, and the way Cas looks beneath him, has Dean wanting more, something he hasn’t asked Cas for yet, something he wants so badly, he can taste it.

It tastes like Cas’s kiss. It looks like the trust in his ocean blue eyes, and Dean’s not afraid when he asks softly if Cas will f*ck him. Cas almost glows, the way he lights up, and it’s like a switch gets flipped in him, the way he pulls Dean closer. He guides them into a deep kiss, one of his hands firmly around the back of Dean’s neck and the other sliding slowly down Dean’s back. Cas doesn’t stop until he’s sweeping his hand over Dean’s ass so he can cup it, and inch his fingers close to Dean’s hole. He doesn’t rush; he isn’t rough and all Dean can do is kiss him, and try to press into his fingers and grind against his hard co*ck at the same time. Dean wants all of Cas, and it makes him ache.

Cas swallows up every noise he draws from Dean’s throat. When he pulls Dean back, its only to whisper against his mouth.

“Turn around, Chef . We can get each other ready with our mouths.”

A hard shiver goes all the way through Dean and then he’s nodding and kissing Cas one more time before he re-positions himself, spreading his legs wider and dipping down to take Cas in his mouth. Cas’s co*ck is wet and flushed, hard and ready for Dean to suck down. He tastes so good, Dean's mouth floods with saliva, helping glide Cas past his lips.

Cas’s hands are already spreading Dean apart as his tongue slides up from his balls, flat against him until he reaches Dean’s hole, his breath burning hot. When he covers it with his mouth, Dean has to pull off Cas's co*ck so he can moan, the sound that leaves him rough and wanting. Dean’s never even heard himself make that noise before, but Cas seems to love it if his enthusiasm is a sign. Dean keeps stroking him as he sits up, grinding his ass back.

“f*cking yes , Chef, give me that hole,” Cas mumbles, making Dean make that sound again. Cas responds by wrapping a strong arm around Dean’s waist to keep him there, so Cas can lick into him and use his tongue to stretch Dean open. Dean can only brace himself, one hand gripping one of Cas’s thick thighs, and the other grabbing Cas’s hand. He laces their fingers together and gets lost in the rocking of his hips and the rhythm of Cas’s tongue, loving the way Cas shamelessly encourages him and moans against his hole. Cas knows when to slow down though, knows by now when Dean’s getting close to the edge, maybe by the way his thighs shake, or maybe by the way his voice goes funny, catching on Cas’s name as it falls from his mouth. He stops them, his firm hands on Dean’s hips to help him turn back around and line him up, his co*ck rock hard as it fills Dean.

Cas handles Dean like he's something special, gentle in a way Dean’s never had before. He actually seems to give a damn if Dean’s okay, guiding him slow and whispering to him how good he feels, how gorgeous he looks taking his co*ck and how f*cking good he tastes, words that take Dean apart, each one a little more. By the time Dean’s seated, he’s almost begging Cas to f*ck him, to which Cas responds with a very rough, “Yes, Chef,” before he finally does what Dean’s asking for.

Dean’s positive he isn’t going to walk right for the rest of the day.

After—f*ck, after— Cas takes care of everything. He makes sure Dean is comfortable before he grabs a washcloth to wipe Dean down with, which he abandons after cleaning his own stomach first and opting to use his mouth on Dean instead. Dean’s astonished when he gets hard again, which only makes Cas determined to make Dean come one more time. Cas swallows every drop that he works out of Dean and after, he kisses his way back up to Dean’s mouth.

Dean’s practically boneless by the time Cas is kissing his lips, but it brings him back to life, and he pulls Cas against him so they can be useless together. They’re tangled up in one another when they fall back asleep for a few more hours.

When Dean opens his eyes again, Cas is already awake, his eyes already on Dean. They’re facing each other and sharing a pillow, only a breath of space between them. A smile plays at Cas’s lips. “Hello, Dean.”

“Heya, Cas.” Dean softens. “You know watchin’ me sleep is a little weird, right?”

That smile peeks out more. “I was counting your freckles.”

Dean closes his eyes to will away the growing heat in his cheeks and the love blossoming in his heart.

“Oh, there’s one of my favorites.” Cas brushes a finger over his eyebrow.

Opening his eyes, Dean reaches up to grab that hand and press a kiss to its palm. He keeps it there, so he can’t say anything stupid.

The smile comes out for real.

Dean has to bite his tongue so hard he tastes blood.

Cas asks, “What do you want to do today, Dean?”

“You,” Dean says, not even thinking.

Cas chuckles and closes the space between them to peck at Dean’s lips. “I think that’s a given. I mean, you don’t have anywhere to be today, so is there anything you want to do?”

Dean playfully mocks Cas’s tone. “I understood your question, Cas, and I maintain my answer.” He leans in to return that kiss. “Can we start with breakfast, though?”

“What, my toast isn’t good enough?” Cas is still smiling.

“Oh, I’m gonna eat the toast. That’s my toast. But I think someone worked my appetite up for a little more than what toast alone can satisfy.”

“Now I’m not satisfying you?”

Cas’s mock outrage makes Dean laugh. Cas kisses his throat when his head tips back. Dean kisses his mouth in response.

“How do you feel about waffles?” is all Dean has to say to get Cas’s fine ass out of bed after that.

They go back to the main house after another shower together, and Dean lets Cas help him beyond the cutting board, mostly because Cas is back to being wrapped around him. Or vice versa, when Cas slips away because Dean sends him to get something from the pantry. Dean can’t help but follow him in to cop a little feel or give Cas a little squeeze, all in the pursuit of making Cas laugh and bat at him. They’re a little ridiculous, but Dean can’t bother to care.

He’s having way too much fun.

They end up spending the rest of the day outside by the pool. Dean makes sure they have enough to eat while Cas is on suntan lotion duty, a job he takes seriously by making sure to re-apply some to Dean's back and nose every few hours. He spends equal time kissing all the new freckles that pop out thanks to the sun, which leads to hand jobs by the pool, and eventually blow j*bs by the pool, all of which just keeps fueling their appetites for whatever Dean can whip up, and each other.

When they're not playing around in the pool, they're sharing a lounge chair, Cas between Dean's legs or vice versa. They even nap under the afternoon sun like that, all warm skin wrapped together, sated and full and just satisfied more than anything. It hovers over them, this sense of stolen normalcy, a stranger to them both. If Dean could have all his days just like this one, he'd die a happy man.

Dean doesn't think about that though, he can't. He doesn't want to miss out on now, thinking about tomorrow. It never does him any good.

Instead, he thinks about what he's going to make them for dinner. His stomach gives his thoughts away with a growl. Cas rolls over and gives it a kiss.

“Insatiable,” he murmurs, leaning back in to cover Dean's belly with more kisses.

It tickles, but Dean isn't sure that's the only reason for the flip in his stomach.

“What are you thinking about, Dean?”

Dean pushes a hand through Cas's hair. It's all curls, dried after swimming, and maybe a lot of pulling at one point. Maybe Dean can't keep his hands out of it when Cas is just lying here between his legs like this. He's truthful about his thoughts. “Thinking about what food goes best with sex.”

Cas sputters a laugh against Dean's stomach, which makes Dean laugh too. His blue eyes sparkle. “And did you come to a conclusion?”

Dean bounces his eyebrows.


Seafood lasagna, to be exact. It's a lot of work, but the best kind. And with an eager and sexy sous chef like Cas, it takes cooking dinner together to a whole new level.

Cas watches him prepare his kitchen at first, his eyes on Dean while he ties in his apron, and lays out his cutting boards and knives. He says nothing when Dean turns the radio on, but down, so the music is more of an afterthought than a main ingredient. Cas helps when Dean takes out a bottle of red wine from the small wine fridge in the kitchen, stocked for whatever Dean might need to cook with or drink from. He already has wine glasses for both of them by the time Dean pops the cork. They only stare for a few beats too long before Dean pours, and even then he holds on as long as he can, caught in Cas's eyes and not wanting to be anywhere else.

Cas tips their glasses together but doesn’t say anything else before he takes his first sip. Dean does the same, keeping his eyes on Cas, even as he licks away the leftover wine on his lips. Cas is licking it out of Dean's mouth not a moment later.

Dean doesn’t care that cooking with Cas takes twice as long. Partly because Cas is genuinely eager to learn, and partly because Cas is genuinely eager to be touching Dean at all times. Sure, he asks questions about making a good cream sauce, but does he have to do it wrapped around Dean's back, with a hand up the front of his shirt?

Dean's voice cracks, talking about adding clam sauce when Cas tweaks his nipple. Goddamn demon. Dean's so obsessed with him.

Cas isn't very helpful when Dean's trying to finish layering the lasagna, and Cas won't keep his hand out of the back of Dean's shorts. They're still in their trunks, but Dean insisted on t-shirts since they were going to be cooking. Before Cas can distract him further, Dean gives him a chore.

“Can you go down to the cellar and get a nice bottle of white wine? The ones on the far left are great for seafood.”

Cas has a handful of Dean's ass cheek, and he squeezes it in acknowledgement, hard enough to make Dean yelp. Blood rushes immediately south, and right up the back of his neck, which makes Cas hum. He kisses right over Dean's blush.

“I enjoy making you turn that color,” he says. “And I know my way around the cellar. I even know where the good stuff is.”

He comes back with two bottles, which he pulls the corks from immediately to let them breathe.

Dean got the lasagna in the oven, and he's closing it when Cas is removing the last cork. He can't help but stare at those hands until Cas is done.

“Ahem,” he says, pulling Dean out of his daze. “My eyes are up here, Dean.”

Dean glances down at Cas's mouth. “The lasagna needs an hour in the oven.”

Cas is in front of him in a blink. “Turn around, Chef.”

The growl in Cas's voice has Dean turning without hesitation. It even has him arching his back a little, just to press into the front of Cas's shorts. Cas shifts closer to press back. He's hard against Dean's ass when he leans in to kiss the back of his neck.

“You said we have an hour?” His kiss turns into dragging teeth. “Since we didn't make a salad or something, can I have you as my first course?”

His horny haze keeps Dean from understanding. “You want me to make a salad?”

Cas chuckles and pushes up the back of Dean’s shirt. Both hands go down the back of Dean's shorts this time, and Cas squeezes again. This time Dean moans.

He picks up what Cas is putting down when his shorts get pushed down to his ankles. Dean fumbles for his apron strings but Cas stops him with a hand on his wrist, fingers circling it.

“Remember how you asked me not to shave today? You can return the favor by leaving the apron on.”

Dean swallows hard. “You got a food kink or somethin’?”

“I got a you kink,” Cas mumbles, his hands sweeping over Dean's ass. Dean yelps again when teeth follow, and scrape against one of his cheeks, his surprise turning into a groan when Cas actually nips at him. The heat spreads, the quick bite of pain quickly melting into sticky pleasure. Dean can feel when Cas smiles.

When Cas slides a hand up the middle of Dean's back to encourage him to bend, Dean does, his breath quickening when Cas nudges his legs further apart before he kisses the back of Dean's thighs, his tongue leaving trails of fire up and up and up, until he's right in Dean's sweet spot, Cas's only goal to make Dean shake apart, one flick of his tongue at a time.

The lasagna only gets a little burnt.

Dean spends the next week in Cas's bed and he doesn't have one goddamn regret about it.

Chapter 15

Chapter Text

They really take advantage of their freedom. One day, they go for a drive, Dean’s old green cooler loaded with lunch. Dean knows a spot by the beach where the reeds are high, so he can park the Impala and give them privacy. They eat on the beach and throw a baseball back and forth for a while before taking a swim. The beach is private enough that it's deserted, so no one will give a sh*t if they spend a long time kissing in the waves. Cas is weightless in the water with his legs wrapped around Dean's waist. All Dean can think about is tasting the saltwater on Cas's lips and making Cas laugh, so he can swallow each one and keep it, for when he doesn't have them anymore.

After their swim , they dry off and then wait until sunset, when they climb into Baby's backseat so Dean can show Cas around. They fog up the windows, Dean’s handprint left behind on the glass. At one point, he needs to brace himself so he can get into the right position to grind against Cas. After, Cas teased him and called him Rose and Dean was so proud that he had actually seen a movie.

Cas said it was one of his favorites.

Another day, they went back and retraced their steps, hitting up the record store again and finding a few more gems. They spent the evening listening to the records and drinking wine, sharing joints until they were both a little drunk and a little stoned, just enough to want to turn the music up and just listen. They found they listened best laying on the floor, wrapped up in each other.

Dean finds himself there more and more. It's a bad habit, always wanting to be touching Cas in some way or another.

Dean's not smart enough to stop, though.

One morning, Cas tries to slip out to go teach his tennis lessons, but Dean doesn't let him go alone. While he's showering, Dean makes a pot of coffee, which he puts in two thermoses, along with a few quick and easy breakfast burritos for the ride. He's leaning against Cas's car when Cas comes out, tennis bag in hand.

Dean kisses him, cops a feel because he's in his green tennis sweatshirt and little shorts, and holds the passenger door of the Impala open so Cas can climb in. While Cas teaches his lessons, Dean runs laps, until the last one when Cas is coaching a young boy who can't be over seven or eight. Dean watches from the other side of the courts, where he hopes Cas can't see him. The racket is practically bigger than the little boy is, but Cas is patient, and encouraging, and more than Dean deserves in a man, if he's being honest. All the kids seem to adore him, and Dean's right there with them by the time Cas is done.

Cas also doesn't hold back when Dean challenges him to a quick game, even though Dean knows nothing about tennis. He figured it was just hitting a ball back and forth (how hard could it be, his dumb ego said) until Cas whooped his ass and ran around the court cheering, arms in the air until Dean chucked his tennis shoe at him. His arm was so sore, it missed by a mile.

When they got back to the house, Cas turned on the hot tub and then gave Dean a blow j*b, so all was forgiven after that. That night they spent a few hours in the Novak’s home theater, a room with a big projection screen on one wall and multiple couches facing it. They piled onto one with arms full of blankets, a bucket of beer, and a platter of hamburgers and fries and watched as many Hatchet Man movies as they could before they fell asleep, Cas with his head in Dean's lap, Dean's fingers tangled in his hair.

That was a good day. All the days are good days with Cas.

One of Dean's favorite days started out simple, him in the kitchen and Cas back at the island with his sketchbook. The kitchen needed a little restock, so Dean spent some time making a list and then they went to the store together, Cas pressed to his side as a weak replacement to holding hands or doing that damn octopus thing Cas likes. Cas rode back to the house in the middle seat, not happy until Dean's arm was around him and the ocean breeze was in his hair. Dean likes to kiss Cas's temple when he's that close. Cas likes to play with the radio. Dean lets him.

After they got home, Dean cooked a little, and Cas drew a little, and then they were packing up another evening picnic and heading out to their spot on the beach. Where Dean went crazy with food and the picnic settings, Cas matched his enthusiasm with candles and a speaker tuned to a Playlist filled with all the records they've listened to this summer. The sun dipped below the horizon and filled the sky with gold, but all Dean and Cas could see were each other, everything else inconsequential beyond their blanket.

When the Playlist changed to Wouldn't it Be Nice , Dean didn't hesitate to get up, and ask Cas to dance again. With the waves rolling up to their feet, Dean and Cas dance and kiss in the fading light, until it's all gone, and only the moon and the candlelight remain. Cas pulled Dean back down to the blanket after that, and took his time undressing them both, only letting Dean lay back and watch. Cas looked beautiful, naked and writhing on top of him while he rode up and down on Dean's co*ck, fully in charge of his own pleasure. Dean watched, mesmerized, and tried to commit every second to memory.

They spent the night on the beach, wrapped together under the extra blanket Cas brought. The candles burned all the way down while they slept, and in the morning, the first rays of sunlight filtered through Cas's hair and changed the way Dean watched a sunrise, probably forever.

Dean knows he’s down bad. Real bad.

He never meant for it to happen, which is why he has to keep it to himself. Instead, he focuses on enjoying what he can while he still has it. The summer is running out. Time flies when you’re having fun and all that, but Dean wishes it would slow down. He wants more, but he knows he’s in no position to ask for that, or for anything, really. So he does what he’s good at, which is to maintain the status quo and try to forget the rest. It’s easy with as much practice as Dean’s had.

Plus, why would Dean want to think about any of that when he has a devastatingly handsome guy who likes to sunbathe in these tiny blue shorts that should be illegal, and who insists on sleeping nude to keep him fully distracted from anything else he doesn’t want to think about?

Another week passes of them lazing around, eating, f*cking, and watching as many movies as Dean can think of, Cas always game no matter what reason Dean gives him. Cas stays in contact with his parents, who decide to extend their stay to go on a Paris river cruise, something out of Dean’s price range, anyway. All it means to him is more time with Cas and less time to worry. They fully indulge too, the days of Dean living by his alarms and schedules gone, traded in for long, lazy mornings in bed with the doors to the beach thrown open while they lie around and enjoy each other, eat food, and share joints, not leaving their bed until the sun is overhead and shining.

They’re especially greedy one morning after they stayed up a little too late doing inappropriate things to each other. With both of them being switches, they’ve gotten into the habit of not finishing until they both had a turn. Sex with Cas is never boring, which is why Dean doesn’t bat an eye when Cas wakes up with his hard-on pressed between Dean’s ass. Dean just turns around and guides Cas’s hand to his equally hard co*ck before he takes Cas in hand. They come together, fists bumping as they get each other off, Cas moaning as Dean sucks on his bottom lip. They snuggle right back together after, both of them falling back into a light doze.

The last thing Dean expects is for the Star Wars Imperial March to jerk him out of the beginnings of a really good dream. Cas was wearing a Zorro mask, and Dean was bent over and—

The sound is coming from Dean’s phone. He’d brought it, along with a few other necessities from his room into the guest house, since that’s where he’s been spending all his nights, anyway. Realization freezes his insides when Dean remembers whose ringtone it is.

He’d set it as a joke, a way to tease Sammy when Dean got his first cell phone. He’d joked that Sam never called just to chat, so Dean would know to be on guard if the song ever played.


When Dean jerks awake, he twists so fast that Cas yelps as he’s jostled out of his own snooze by Dean almost throwing his arm and leg off his body to get to his phone. Dean falls on his ass on his way out of the bed, banging his knee and groaning as he reaches for the phone, still droning on.

“Dean, what the hell is that?” Cas does not sound happy.

Dean finally gets his stupid feet under him, snatching the phone out of the top drawer to answer it. He doesn’t hesitate to slide his hand over the mouthpiece and stalk outside toward the beach.

He cringes when he hears Cas call his name one more time. All he can do is pray Cas doesn’t chase him too.

“Sammy— hey,” Dean says, smacking his head when his voice breaks. He clears his throat and steps further onto the beach, his nerves making his stomach turn. The last time Dean spoke to Sam he was pissed at him for—oh f*ck. Oh no.

“You missed another payment.” Sam sounds ten thousand percent over him.

Dean doesn’t blame him.

Sam starts yelling.

Dean makes a run for the house. He realizes he's naked as he's pushing into the kitchen and the cool air hits him. There's no time to care about that. His laptop is on the kitchen counter and he almost skids past it in his haste to get it open. It makes a cracking noise when he pushes the screen up. When Dean logs in, he finds YouTube still pulled up and paused on the end of an old Three Stooges movie he had shown Cas the day before. They’d cooked fried chicken together and stood there eating it and watching the old black and whites, sipping beer and exchanging kisses.

Dean swallows hard and blinks away the memory. He opens Stanford’s website instead as he puts his phone back up to his ear.

“—totally derail my education with this sh*t, Dean, it’s just not okay. Which brings me to another thing!” Sam has worked himself up into a real frenzy. “You’ve missed our last two calls, Dean. You gave me a bunch of sh*t for living my life and missing a call here and there and now you can’t bother to answer when I call? I take time out of important sh*t for you, Dean, and—”

Dean’s blood boils, even as he hits submit on the late payment. Now Sam is mad? He was the one begging Dean to lighten up about the calls, and now he’s giving him sh*t about missing two? f*ck that.

He interrupts Sam’s rant. “Dude, you need to stop.”

Sam sputters. “Don’t tell me what to do, Dean. You’re always telling me what to do.”

“That’s right, Sam, because nine out of ten times, I know better than you. And nine out of ten times, I’m the one calling you and getting no answer. And you know what, Sammy? I just smile and nod and keep payin’ the bills, do whatever it takes to keep Sammy happy, to keep Sammy safe, to take care of Sammy, no matter the cost.” Dean hates the way a lump grows in his throat. He tries to swallow it away. “Dad never cared what that did to me, and then, after you left, and he died… Well, let’s just say you’re more like him than you know.”

When their mom died when Dean was only four, his whole life changed. He was suddenly in charge of a baby when he was still a baby himself. Their dad checked out, and Dean was left holding the bag, responsibilities that only got heavier the older the brothers got. By the time Dean was fourteen, he was working under the table to keep food on their table, their dad too far gone on the bottle by then to work. He dropped out of school to work full time at sixteen, and they coasted like that until Sam got old enough to escape at the soonest possible moment. And again, Dean was left with the bill. It was only after their dad died too that Dean could find the time to get his GED, and that was only because Sonny encouraged him to.

Sam doesn’t know any of this. He’s never even asked about those years. Dean’s never blamed him, but that doesn’t mean he can’t resent the fact that he’s hardly ever had a life of his own, not one that didn’t revolve around taking care of Sam. Only since he met Cas has Dean felt like he’s had any autonomy, and even now it feels like Sam is trying to take that away too.

The idea makes Dean feel the most out of control.

Sam protests, but Dean doesn’t want to hear it. He cuts his little brother off. “No Sam, you’re gonna listen to me for once. I’ve given up my entire life for you, and you’re not even thankful. Never once have you said thanks. In fact, all you do is tell me how much I inconvenience you. When we talk, you somehow make me feel two inches tall, like I’m a bank account you have to keep track of. Would it be easier if I just gave you access to my account and we just drop this goddamn facade already?”


Dean doesn’t want to listen. The corners of his eyes burn as he goes on. “I paid the bill. You can go to class, log in to your portal, or whatever the f*ck that snooty school stopped you from doing because your benefactor went out and found a life this summer. I even set that sh*t up on autopay, okay, so we don’t have to have this conversation again. Hell, if you want to make your life easier, like you so desperately tell me you need, don’t bother worrying about our call next week, okay? Or ever, if you’re that goddamn tired of me telling you what to do all the time.”

Dean doesn’t wait for an answer. He ends the call and turns his phone off, sliding his phone away from him. Dean needs both hands to hold himself up, his chest heaving as the tears that have been threatening to fall finally follow through, and spill down his cheeks. A sob escapes, Dean’s self-hatred at an all-time high over what he just did. His whole life, his whole life, he’s sacrificed everything for that kid. He’s never stopped, never had a chance to do anything for himself, nothing that didn’t benefit Sam in some way. Even with culinary school, between the pressure and the fact that he had to keep working to pay for Stanford… it meant burning the candle at both ends, a feat Dean just wasn’t strong enough to maintain. And rather than being able to quit working and focus on school, Dean had to make a choice between the two.

Sam has always won out.

Even now, he got what he wanted. Dean’s bank account is considerably lighter and Sam is probably skipping back to class, all his problems resolved.

And Dean’s naked and crying like a baby in the kitchen.

Another sob gets tangled with a laugh and that’s when his pity party gets interrupted.

“Dean? Are you… did something happen?”

The sound of Cas’s voice makes Dean’s shoulders relax. He turns into Cas’s arms, which are held open like an invitation. It’s like years worth of responsibility and resentment come pouring out of him, Cas just holding him, his arms tight, unrelenting, and not letting Dean fly to pieces like he thinks he might when he considers the implications of his conversation with Sam.

Cas just holds him and rubs circles against his back and doesn’t let go.

When he pulls his face out of the crook of Cas’s neck, Dean knows he looks a mess, but Cas doesn’t even blink. Instead, he leans in to kiss away the last few tears left on Dean’s cheeks, kindness that makes his eyes well again.

“You shouldn’t be nice to me, Cas,” he whispers, feeling a few tears fall.

Cas whisks them away his the backs of his fingers. “I think I’ll continue, regardless.”

“I don’t deserve it,” Dean says miserably. “I just acted like a real asshole to my brother.”

“Dean.” Cas rubs his thumb against Dean’s jaw. “You’ve met me and Michael, so you’ve already seen brothers act unkind to each other daily. These things happen.”

Dean shakes his head. “This is different. I think I finally said some things to him that I can't take back.”

Serious blue eyes study him. “Do you want to tell me about it? Or do you want me to take your mind off it?”

That draws a wobbly smile out of Dean. He only wants two things as soon as possible. He leans in to take the first from Cas, brushing their lips together and only lingering for a second or two. Cas sighs against his lips and cups his face when he kisses Dean back.

The second thing is coffee.

They take a walk on the beach with two tumblers in hand. Cas dressed before he came to the kitchen, and he was good enough to bring Dean clothes too, sweats and one of his hoodies. When Dean pulls it over his head, he breathes in Cas’s scent, that sweet earth mixed with something all him. It takes the rest of the tension out of Dean’s shoulders.

The tide is still high when they get out to the beach. Dean didn’t notice when he ran out of the guest house, but it's cloudy today, instead of the sun they’ve gotten used to. The cool water laps over their feet as they walk, and Dean gathers his thoughts. He doesn’t even know where to start.

Cas saves him from figuring it out. “Dean, I have a small confession… I came to the kitchen before your call ended. You… you were very upset, and I didn’t want to intrude and, well, I heard some of what you said to Sam.”

Dean shuts his eyes briefly, ashamed. Cas shouldn’t have heard him talking to anyone like that, let alone Sam. “I’m sorry, man, you didn’t need to hear any of that.”

Cas is quiet for a moment. And then he says, “I didn’t realize you were supporting your little brother with this job.”

Damn, Cas must have heard a lot. Dean shrugs and takes a sip of his coffee, hoping it hides the way his chin trembles. Cas has seen him cry enough for a lifetime. “Don’t know why I bitch about it. Nothing I said is gonna change anything.”

“What would happen if you stopped?” Cas presents the question like it’s an actual option.

Dean shakes his head. “Couldn't do that to the kid, no matter how mad I get. He’s my responsibility.”

“If he’s in college, Dean, he’s old enough to be responsible for himself,” Cas says gently. The words still bite at Dean.

He bites back. “Says the guy whose parents have paid for three art schools.” Even as the words fall out of his mouth, Dean wants to take them back.

More so when he sees Cas deflate beside him.

“Man, I’m sorry,” Dean says, so fast he barely realizes it. “I told you, I’m an asshole. I don’t stop and think, and when I get pissed, the words just come out. You don’t deserve that, you deserve so much better than—”

Dean stops short when he realizes Cas stopped walking a few seconds ago. He’s standing in the shallows, his eyes on Dean’s the moment Dean turns back. As much as Dean knows he should stay away to protect him, Dean can't help when his feet take him back to Cas's side. His heart is jerking around in his chest and getting closer to Cas slows it down enough for Dean to believe he can breathe again.

And then Cas takes his hand.

If Dean wasn't already in pieces, this would be the final blow. He hangs his head. “You can't do that, man, you can't keep— being nice to me. I'm down bad enough as it is.”

“I don't care, Dean.” Cas responds, tightening his grip on Dean's hand. He leans down so he can put his coffee tumbler in the sand and uses his freed hand to tuck a few fingers under Dean's chin to guide his face up. Dean swallows hard as green meets blue, as clear as the ocean behind him. “I don't care, Dean, because I like you, and I'll be damned if I stand here and let you continue berating yourself.

You're a fine man, Dean. One of the best I've met. Hard-working, kind, funny, and you have the patience of a saint, patience I've been testing since the moment we met. You’re incredibly gifted in the kitchen, which requires more than just being able to put together a meal, something I recently learned because you taught me. And you have such an extensive knowledge of movies and music that it shows how smart you are and how interesting your mind works.”

Everything Cas is saying feels like a thread of gold, spun specifically to fill cracks inside of Dean he didn't even know was there. It burns, makes him fidget, but Cas just holds onto his hand tighter as the determination grows in his eyes.

“All that to say, you deserve the chance to ‘find a life’, as you said.” Cas and his air quotes. “And no one should make you feel bad for wanting that.”

Dean can’t say anything to that, considering the life he’s found, the life Cas says he’s free to want, is still way too far out of Dean’s grasp, even if it is holding him together at this very moment in time. He knows if he opens his mouth, he’ll ruin everything.

Dean crushes Cas in a hug, instead. He tries to discreetly wipe away what he hopes are the last few tears of the day, even as Cas is burying his face in Dean’s shoulder and sniffing a little himself. The world keeps spinning, the waves keep crashing, the wind still whips through their hair, but none of that matters to them, not more than this, not more than each other.

They hold hands when they make their way back to the house. They don’t stray from one another either, Cas molded to Dean’s side while he makes them a late breakfast. After, they do little besides staying close. Mentally, Dean’s drained, and by the time it’s late afternoon, he doesn’t have a lot of energy to give to making a big meal. Instead, grilled cheese and tomato soup are the best he can do. Cas shows just as much enthusiasm for the meal as he has for any other. Dean’s so grateful for him it aches in his chest.

Cas just makes everything feel easier.

After they eat, they end up back outside. The sun is setting the horizon on fire as it drops out of the sky. The scattered storm clouds reflect the light, as if they're burning too. It turns the whole patio orange and as they settle on a lounge, Cas maneuvers Dean between his thighs so he can wrap him in his arms and his legs. They brought beers with them, and Cas had a joint behind one ear. He pulls it out so he can put it into Dean’s mouth before he fishes the lighter out of his pocket to light the thing.

The smoke burns Dean’s lungs as he holds it in. He exhales, and the world gets softer around the edges. It also gets brighter, or maybe that’s just Cas, shining under the golden fading light. Cas’s hands are clasped over Dean’s chest, so Dean leans over so he can hold the joint up to Cas’s mouth while he takes a pull.

Cas smiles when he exhales and holds Dean a little tighter. They smoke the rest of the joint like that, with Dean turning in Cas’s arms until he’s facing him, and able to kiss him in between pulls off the joint. Between the weed and Cas’s lips, Dean’s skin is buzzing like bees under his skin, creating a hive of activity. Kissing Cas tastes like honey dripping over their mouths until they’re stuck together. Dean melts into him, over him, all around him until Dean can’t tell where he stops and where Cas starts.

It’s enough. It’s everything.

And when it shatters into a million pieces, it’s just as unexpected as falling in love.

“Good Lord, why does it smell like a skunk ran through the—what in God’s name is going on out here?”

When they pull apart, faces flushed, neither of them expects to see Michael standing just outside the patio doors, equal parts shock and disgust fighting for dominance over his stormy face.

Overhead, thunder rumbles. “Oh, f*ck,” Cas says as Dean’s stomach drops, and the sky cracks open, soaking them all in a pouring rain.

Chapter 16

Chapter Text

This is Dean’s worst nightmare come true. He’s even tempted to pinch himself, in case he dozed off after the joint was gone, and didn’t just get caught making out on the back patio, Cas’s hand fully down the back of Dean’s pants and everything.

Unfortunately for them both, it’s not a dream.

They spring apart so fast that Dean falls off the lounge and lands with a groan on his hip. Cas is already on his feet. Water streams into both of their eyes as Dean climbs to his feet to follow Cas under the patio cover.

“What the hell are you doing here, Michael?! You’re not supposed to be here. Mom said you weren’t coming back for another two weeks at least.”

Dean was unaware Cas knew when the Novak’s would be back. That’s the least of his problems, though. Michael looks like he wants to murder them both.

Mom sent you an email last night about my early arrival. There were too many tourists, so I decided to come home early, and see if I could relax a few more weeks before my next rotation starts.” Dean’s never seen a person's lip curl in disgust, but Michael achieves it as he looks them up and down. “I can see why the two of you missed it.”

“Listen, Michael, I can explain—” Dean tries to fumble something out, but Michael cuts him off with a hand up.

“Please stop. You are extremely fired, and extremely fired people do not get to talk right now.”

The air goes out of Dean like a deflating balloon.

Cas loses his mind. “You will not speak to Dean that way. This is none of your business and you have no right to fire him, you have no right to—to—”

“What, Castiel? Cook got your tongue? You couldn’t find anything better to do this summer? Now I understand why you didn’t join us…”

Halfway through Michael’s rant, Dean decides he’s had enough. Neither brother notices when he creeps toward the door, too wrapped up screaming in each other's faces. At least they moved under the patio to do it, so they aren’t in the rain anymore. Dean slips inside, where it’s quiet and where he can melt the f*ck down in privacy.

He’s such a f*cking f*ck up.

Maybe it’s a good thing he isn’t speaking to Sam, so he doesn’t have to explain to him how he lost his job. Already his brain is going into survival mode, a setting Dean is starting to believe is his default. His mistake was thinking he’d earned a semblance of normalcy. He can’t think about that now, though.

Right now, he has to pack. When he opens the door to his bedroom, Dean is hit with the closed up musty smell of a room that hasn’t been occupied in a while. Which reminds him that half his sh*t is now in the guest room. Dean has no choice but to cut his losses.

And not just the toiletries and clothes he’s leaving behind.

Dean has to fight back the rising bile in his throat as he yanks off his wet clothes so he can get into the first dry shirt and pants he can find. He pulls his duffle out of the closet, emptying the remaining contents of the dresser and closet into it. His hands shake as the implications of what just happened really sinks in. Not only is he out of a job, but he’s probably gone and f*cked his reputation all to hell too, once word gets out. Which it will. It always does. The Hamptons is known for it, Michael will be sure to tell everyone why he got fired, and Dean will never be able to work out here again. Nevermind how he’s immediately going to have to start hustling, probably before he even gets up to Sonny’s.

Sonny’s. Something for Dean to focus on. Someone Dean knows will help him if he really needs it, not that Dean would ask. He’d work his ass off, whatever it takes to make ends meet. It wouldn’t be the first time. Dean’s sorry that he was stupid enough to think he’d seen his last.

And that’s what stops him—being rocked with the realization that his time with Cas is over, that he let his feelings get away from him, and now he has to leave with his tail between his legs, and that he has to do it knowing he’s head over heels in love with the guy.

Dean swallows down the emotion that fills his throat. Is it his fate to always be the one to lose everything? Deep down, in his most secret of thoughts, Dean had dreamed about things somehow working out between them, but never did he think it would be ripped out of his hands like this.

He scrubs away the tear that falls free. Dean can’t think about that right now.

He’s about to grab the last of his toiletries from the bathroom when his—the bedroom door gets flung open.

“Dean, stop.” Cas’s chest is heaving and his blue eyes are wild. “You are not fired. Michael does not have the authority to do that—”

“Cas, come on, man. It’s over.” Dean has no fight in him.

“No,” Cas snaps. “Do not say that. Michael left okay, he's gone. He isn't going to tell my parents, either. Please, you can't go.”

“No, Cas, he definitely is, and they are definitely going to fire me. What we've been doing,” Dean says, hating every word. “Well, we knew that was gonna blow up in our faces, even if we didn't want it to. Michael just sped up the inevitable.”

Cas is shaking his head like he can't accept what Dean's saying, and that's when he can't take anymore.

“I need to get my crap from the kitchen,” he mumbles, pushing past Cas so he can get out of that tiny bedroom as fast as he can. Dean can't breathe, his chest too full of all the words he wants to say, but can't.

Cas follows him, hot on Dean's heels. “Dean, please, you don't have to do this. No one is asking you to go. My parents don't need to find out.”

Cas sounds desperate, and it doesn't help Dean feel any better. He tries to ignore the way his hands shake when he opens his knife roll. Half his knives are drying in the sink and out of most of his stuff, these can't be left behind. He tries to keep his voice steady as he collects them.

“They will though, Cas. Don't you get it? It's them or us, man. If I stay and work with Michael holding that over my head, I'll go crazy. If I have to see you every day and pretend—” The words get jammed in his throat as his vision swims. Dean blinks hard. “I just can't do it Cas, I don't think—oh goddamn it!”

In Dean's haste to ignore his tears and gather his very sharp knives, he picks them up too quickly to avoid the bottom of one blade, slicing the fat of his palm open with one quick swipe. All the knives clatter back into the sink with a few drops of blood as Dean hisses and grabs his palm to apply pressure, bolts of pain shooting daggers up his arm.

“Oh sh*t, oh my gosh, are you okay?” Cas is at his side in an instant. “Here, let me see.”

Dean can't do anything but turn and let Cas cradle his hands. If Cas asks, Dean will blame his tears on his cut. Which is also bleeding a little too much for Dean's comfort.

Cas nudges the faucet on with his elbow as he guides Dean's hand to the sink. “Let's get this washed up first.” With gentle fingers, he prys Dean's hands apart to expose the wound, which immediately turns the water pink as it washes away the blood. Dean groans in pain as Cas pumps some of the antibacterial hand soap by the sink into his hands so he can clean the cut, the soap stinging more as he washes.

Cas narrows his eyes at the cut as Dean rinses the soap away. “Well, I think you might need a stitch. Maybe two.”

“No, no way,” Dean shakes his head. “No hospitals. I think there’s some super glue in a drawer over there—”

“We are not using super glue on a wound like this, Dean.” Cas chews on his bottom lip as he thinks. “There’s a first aid kit in the closet. Hold pressure here while I fetch it.” He guides Dean’s hand back to stave off the still-bleeding wound. His gentleness almost pushes Dean over the edge.

Cas only takes a moment to duck into the hall before he comes back with a white first aid kit in his hands. He opens it on the counter and rifles around, sighing when he finds what he’s looking for, a little white box with the words Liquid Stitch written in blue. A travel-sized bottle of antibacterial spray and a roll of white bandages follow, and with proficiency he had to have inherited from his mom, Cas tends to Dean’s wound.

Dean watches him work. He can’t look away from their hands as his heart aches and his mind races. He doesn’t know what to do, what to say, how to breathe, hell, how to survive this, and like a stopped bottle, everything Dean wishes he could say gets jammed up in his throat. Cas works intently, his touch feather-light as he pats Dean’s wound dry before spraying it, and leaning in to blow lightly at the ointment. It’s not just the cool air hitting Dean’s hand that makes him shiver.

“Sorry if it stings,” Cas murmurs, still concentrating, a crease breaking up the smoothness of his forehead. Dean’s heart skips as his gaze travels down the strong slope of his nose and over his frowning mouth, features Dean tries desperately to memorize.

“It’s fine,” he mutters back, knowing nothing is fine. Swallowing that down leaves a bitterness in Dean’s mouth.

Neither of them says anything, the silence between them heavy and expecting. Finally, Dean has to ask, something Michael said bothering him. “Were you supposed to go on that trip?”

Cas sighs. “Yes, and no.” He focuses on opening the little bottle of liquid stitches. “Yes, my mother invited me, however, it wasn’t until a few days later, when they were already in Italy.”

“Why not just bring you along to begin with?”

“She called it an oversight,” he replies, his voice quiet but revealing more than just what he’s saying.

They forgot about him.

Anger mixed with despair makes a strained noise come out of Dean’s throat.

Cas closes his eyes for a second. “You know I wouldn’t have gone, anyway.”

“That’s not the point,” Dean says, distracted from his wound.

Cas just shrugs. He won’t look at Dean. “This might hurt,” is all he says, pinching the skin around Dean’s cut together as gently as he can.

Dean still hisses as pain shoots up his arm.

Cas’s hand is steady as he applies the liquid stitches, leaving a thin layer over the cut. He leans in again to blow gently until it's dry. He finally says, “You have to try to understand, Dean. I’ve made a point in my life to be invisible to them. When I came along, they were much more career-driven than they are now. That work ethic is why they can afford to jet off to Italy at a moment's notice. It’s why they have this summer house in The Hamptons.” He glances up at Dean, his features softening. “It’s why we were able to meet, if you think about it.” Something shutters closed behind his eyes. “But it’s also why I’ve always felt like I’m in the way. Having me wasn’t enough to derail them. I was never enough.” His voice shakes, even if he’s trying not to show it. “So, I grew up removing myself from the situation. It’s always been easier this way, for all of us.”

Dean’s heart is in his throat. He thinks about the family photos without the whole family.

Cas moves on to wrapping his hand in the bandage.

Neither of them says anything until he’s almost done. Then Dean asks, “Why do you come back then?”

Shrugging, Cas secures the bandage around Dean’s wrist before he finally meets his gaze. “Maybe… maybe I always think this time will be different.”

Dean leans in until their foreheads touch. “This time it was.”

“Yes,” Cas agrees, his voice gravel. “This time it was.” He closes his eyes, and the sigh that leaves him is vulnerable and hot against Dean’s lips. “Which is why I have to go.”

The bottom of Dean’s stomach drops as he rears back. “What? No—what?”

“This isn’t what I want, Dean. I need you to know that. This isn’t what I would choose.” Every word is a plea. “But it’s what I have to do, because it’s the right thing to do. I’ve made so many selfish choices, Dean, my whole life. In an attempt to be invisible, it made me only care about myself. Never did I think about how my decisions affected others. Even when we met, I was self-centered.”

“But knowing you, Dean, knowing you has changed me.” His blue eyes swim with unshed tears. Dean’s sure his green eyes match. “And what you have riding on this job is a lot more important than the selfish things I want.”

Something inside Dean cracks clean in half. He’s almost certain it’s his heart.

Cas goes on. “So that’s why I promised Michael that I would go, in exchange for him not telling our parents about us, so that you could finish the rest of the summer.”

Every word feels like one of Dean’s knives cutting him somewhere else and leaving him open and bleeding. He has to take a few steps back, the weight of reality bearing down on him.

“You—you made a deal with your brother?”

“To save your job, Dean,” Cas says, that pleading tone back. “During our time together, I’ve learned many things for sure about you, and one most of all is that you fiercely love your brother. You will do anything for him, and that’s why I must do this for you. Please tell me you understand? That you can forgive me?”

Some of those tears spill over both their cheeks. Dean feels like he’s been hit by a bus.

“Cas—I—I don’t want you to do this.” Dean’s having trouble articulating. “I… I don’t want you to go.”

“But you know that I’m right.”

“That doesn’t mean I want you to do this.”

“Just because I have to do this, Dean, doesn’t mean I want to.”

And there it is, the truth of both their lives. Always coming down to need versus want, being selfish, or doing what’s right, even if it rips out their hearts in the process. A million scenarios, a thousand different lives, run through Dean’s head, the loudest being to grab Cas by the hand and go with him, and then just not look back. The fantasy is far too real, so much so that Dean can almost taste it when he finally succumbs to the wrecked look on Cas’s beautiful face by stepping back into his personal space and gathering him up into a deep kiss.

It feels like their last night on earth, and there’s no way in hell Dean’s spending it alone.

They end up back in the bed they’ve been sharing, Cas insisting that Dean let him do all the work, on account of his injury. Dean’s only allowed to use his uninjured hand to hold Cas by the hip when he’s riding him, or to tug Cas’s hair when Cas’s mouth is wrapped around him. The best way though is when Cas holds his hand as he presses it into the mattress, their foreheads touching so they can breathe and come together, their names tangled between passionate kisses, kisses they throw themselves into, like each one might be the last.

No one ever knows which kiss is the last one until it's all over.

Dean hopes he remembers every single one.

They stay like this for hours, and with each one that passes, Dean fights sleep, knowing what tomorrow brings and trying his damndest to prolong the inevitable. He doesn’t want to lose Cas, and he doesn’t want to let Sam down, and never has Dean ever wanted to choose himself over his brother more.

And yet, Dean still feels like those choices have been made for him.

So he does what he’s good at, and he puts all those feelings into a little box where he doesn’t have to face them because no matter what he does, tomorrow is going to come. Dean still fights what he can’t stop. He wills sleep away by pressing kiss after kiss against Cas’s jaw, across his brow, and on his sweet mouth, which still keeps smiling, even though they both know what’s coming. At different points, those smiles turn watery, but they ignore it, choosing instead to kiss any tears away that escape, all the comfort they need found right where they are.

Dean knows he must have lost the war when darkness clouds his vision more often than Cas’s ocean eyes. He knows he’s lost, that he’s slipped past his own defenses, that his eyes are closed and he must be dreaming, because there’s no way it can be real when Cas says what he says, words whispered in his ear.

“I love you, Dean. I love you, I love you,” he says, words Dean sure he’s imagining. “We’ll find our way to each other again.”

Dean already sees him, waiting for him in his dreams.

Chapter 17

Chapter Text

When Dean wakes up in the morning, Cas is gone.

This time, he isn’t naked in the other room making them coffee. He isn’t going to appear looking adorable, with a blue mug in one hand and a green mug in the other, mugs he’ll put aside so he can crawl back into bed and kiss Dean awake properly.

No, when Dean wakes up in the morning, he is utterly and truly alone.

Sometime between dreaming and awake, Cas got out of bed and packed all his stuff—clothes, sketchbooks, records… everything—and left. He must have been awake for some time, because after Dean discovers the empty closet and bathroom, he finds all of his stuff on the couch. His clothes are folded and stacked with a few records on top. Pet Sounds is at the top of the pile.

The urge to break the record over his knee is strong.

Dean walks out of the guest house instead, arms empty.

The main house is just as silent and empty as the guest house. Like he’s on autopilot, Dean moves around the kitchen, gathering his laptop and his phone before heading straight to his room. The click of the door shutting behind him is like a gunshot, shot right through his heart and taking all the wind out of him in one fell swoop.

Dean barely makes it to his bed before he falls to his knees.

Why did this have to happen to them? Why did Cas make that deal with his brother? In the worst of his thoughts, Dean wishes he had just gotten fired. Then maybe there would be a glimmer of hope that they could work things out. Instead, he’s left with nothing and no way to make things right.

Dean crawls into his unused bed and doesn’t come out again for a few days. The house stays empty. Wherever Michael went, Dean hopes he’s doing all that relaxing he wanted to do, at the expense of Dean’s goddamn sanity. He knows he’s losing it, every day that goes by and he only gets out of bed to piss, eat toast, and get more beer. He’s under the covers, otherwise.

As he works through the hell he’s made his life into, Dean alternates between who he’s the most mad at. There’s Michael’s dumbass, obviously. He’s the easiest for Dean to hate. Some days, it’s Cas he’s the most mad at, for various reasons. If he had just stayed away, this never would have happened. If he had continued to be obnoxious, Dean would have been able to avoid him. Sometimes Dean gets really mad about the fact that Cas is so goddamn loveable, like it’s his fault, like Dean never had a chance to begin with.

Maybe he didn’t.

Most of the time, though, Dean’s just mad at himself. It’s an old itch to scratch, a well-worn groove in his mind, his self-flagellation, that endless drumbeat of failure, reminding Dean over and over that people always leave him, because he drives them away. He thinks about how much he hurt Cas because if Dean had been stronger, he could have resisted his urges and saved them both a lot of heartache. Cas has seen enough of that. Dean never wanted to add to it.

So he beats himself up until he can’t anymore.

The Novak’s are returning.

The news comes as an email, letting Dean know they would be back before the end of the week, and that they would host bridge club the day after their return. In the darkest hour after that email came, Dean wondered what would happen if he refused to do any more cooking.

Dean takes his first shower the next morning. It takes the smell away, but there’s nothing to be done about the dark circles under his eyes. He shaves away the rest of his shame, a five o’clock shadow that was almost turning into a beard due to his lack of giving a f*ck.

He knows he looks like sh*t when he heads to the docks. Because of course the Novak’s requested a seafood menu. Why can’t they just like chicken the best?

It feels like his tail is between his legs when Benny stops short at the sight of him.

All his friend does is sigh and say, “Now brother, I told you it was a bad idea.” He also sends him on his way with a container of Andrea’s crawfish étouffée.

Dean swears he doesn’t cry until he gets back inside the Impala. At this point, the tears just leak out when crosses his arms over the wheel so he can bury his face in them. He gives himself this moment, considering the last time he was here. This time, he takes the long way back, so he doesn’t have to see that spot near that field with the windmill in it, where they’d kissed, where Dean knew he was falling, a tiny little cut out in a road Dean can no longer drive down.

He’s doing fine. Everything is just fine.

Dean makes it his mantra. He repeats it, over and over, when he gets back to the house, needing to keep it together long enough to get through each of the tasks he's set for himself. So what if he needs to spend a few extra minutes in the pantry, trying to catch his breath? Anytime he remembers, anytime his eyes slide over to the empty barstool, Dean's lungs tighten, and getting air in and out of them is impossible.

Through it all, Dean does what he's always done. He cooks.

Except when he gets into the kitchen again, it doesn’t feel like his anymore. Maybe he’s out of sorts, thrown so far off track by all this sh*t that he can’t find his groove. It’s frustrating, but Dean tries to power through. He lets the work consume him, and concentrates on perfecting sheets of pasta for the homemade lobster ravioli he’s making. Already cooling is an angel food sheet cake he cooked first for the strawberry shortcake he plans to serve tomorrow. He can do that now. Except he can’t bring himself to do much more prep for them, even the sight of the bright red berries making Dean’s heart hurt.

He can’t help but wonder if Cas is okay. After the night they had, Dean’s sure Cas woke up feeling a lot like Dean’s feeling now, probably worse considering he had to be the one to pack everything. Dean would have helped him if he had just waited… Then again, he doubts he would have been able to resist saying screw it all and leaving with him.

No, Dean can’t think about that.

He keeps himself busy prepping everything he needs and then some, including bread, mostly as an excuse to pound the sh*t out of something when the dough has to be kneaded.

Nothing he does quiets his racing thoughts, and every sound makes him jump, until finally, the Novaks return. It's late, too late for a full meal, but not too late for the sandwiches Dean made and kept wrapped in the fridge for them. Michael returns with them, back from wherever he's been hiding. Dean's was just about to hang his apron up for the night when they all came in from the garage, their voices a murmur. Michael doesn't look at him. Chuck and Naomi just look tired.

Neither of them give Dean any strange glances, or like they know he's been doing inappropriate things with their son all summer. They just thank him for the sandwiches and ask for eggs Benedict in the morning.

He's numb when he climbs into bed. Dean doesn't think he sleeps a wink. Part of him waits for the Novaks to barge in at any moment and fire him. Another smaller part hopes Cas will come back.

Dean hates that no one asked about him.

A half-hour before Asia should blare from his phone, Dean turns his alarm off. On autopilot, he pulls on his running shoes, but going for a run does nothing to stop the nerves fraying under his skin. Even a shower that's way too hot doesn't help, his mind too preoccupied with all of his annoying thoughts.

All he can do is hope cooking helps. It's never let him down before.

So Dean tries. He swears. He tries so hard to stay focused on his work; on poaching the perfect egg and not burning the (second) batch of English muffins he bakes. Never has he tried so hard to make everything perfect, even if his mind is a thousand miles away, or however many miles Cas has put between them.

Somehow he serves breakfast with no other hiccups, and no one looks at him funny, except Michael, who doesn't look at him at all. Dean doesn't know whether to be thrilled or terrified. When the other shoe drops, it's gonna feel like a thousand-pound weight. He doesn't know how to brace for something like that, so he just keeps his head down.

He has work to do, anyway. Bridge Club isn’t going to feed itself. The work keeps him busy, not just on the main course and sides, but the appetizers as well, tons of stuff that require chopping and peeling and cutting up vegetables and fruits and cheese. Through it all, he misses Cas, and not just for the extra set of hands. If Cas were here, he’d be asking Dean about all the fresh cheese he’s serving and would end up knowing something obscure about the random city in France the cheese came from.

It makes Dean ache, thinking about him.

While he cooks, the rest of the house is in motion to set up for hosting. Occasionally, Naomi stops in to tweak the menu, and once Michael comes searching for his wheatgrass shot. Dean made a fresh batch this morning. More than usual, though, is Chuck, who keeps passing through. The first few times, Dean’s too busy to notice, but he starts to when he looks up from washing a sink full of basil for a Caprese salad to find Chuck lingering in the doorway to the dining room, his eyes glued on Dean as he works. He ducks into the other room when he realizes Dean’s noticed him.

And then he keeps showing up. Passing through. Stopping to ask Dean what he’s serving. Asking him what wine he can bring up from the cellar.

Chuck has never blinked an eye in Dean’s direction while he’s worked, so needless to say, Dean is freaking the f*ck out.

He knows they’re caught. His mind is in a dark place as he imagines Chuck is just working up the nerve to fire him, probably once Dean serves this meal to all the women taking over the house. Chuck confuses him more by asking if Dean can serve hamburgers for dinner later in the week.

By the time Dean serves dinner to the Bridge Club, his head, nerves, and stomach are all a wreck. Nervously, he paces back and forth once he’s in the kitchen again, too sick to eat and too anxious even to clean.

A throat clears behind him and freezes his blood like ice. “Dean, son, do you have a minute to talk?”

Dean f*cking knew it.

He swallows hard and turns slowly, reluctant but ready to face his firing squad.

At first glance, Chuck doesn’t even look mad. Dean still doesn’t lower his guard. He nods and takes a step forward.

Chuck gestures towards the patio doors. “I think it might be best if we take this outside?”

Considering their dining room is full of women, Dean can understand if Chuck doesn’t want to yell at him within hearing distance of half the town’s biggest gossips. Not like word won’t get out, anyway.

Solemn, Dean nods and takes the first steps toward his destiny.

He doesn’t expect Chuck to lead them to the guest house. Dean’s heart pounds in his chest as they step inside. He can only hope the pile of stuff Dean left behind gets mistaken for Cas’s.

Chuck clears his throat. “I’ll be honest Dean, I really wasn’t planning on speaking to you about this, but, well, I’m feeling like I’ve reached the end of my rope.”

They’re standing right inside the doors, and while Chuck's eyes slide around, Dean’s just trying to breathe normally. The guest house smells like Cas, that mixture of earth and salt and Cas, Cas, Cas. He also thinks he’s going to throw up, so things aren’t great. He braces himself for whatever Chuck is gonna say next.

He says, “I was wondering if you’ve spoken to Castiel.” Chuck fidgets. “He hasn’t responded to me, or his mother, which is unusual.”

“It is?” Dean asks, interrupting.

Chuck seems surprised. “Yes, it is.”

If Dean’s getting fired, he might as well say what he wants to say. “I thought you guys didn’t give a damn about that.”

“About what?”

“Where he is, what he’s doing, stuff like that.”

A wounded look crosses Chuck’s face. “Is that… is that what Castiel said?”

Dean shakes his head. “He didn’t have to.”

That upsets Chuck more. “We love our son, Dean. His whereabouts and well-being are always on our minds. Yes, we both have held time-consuming jobs, but we did what we could to give our sons the best life and the most opportunities, and yes that may have taken us away from our kids more than it should have, but we’ve been attempting to do what we can.” Something seems to occur to him. “But I don’t have to explain myself to you, and that’s also not why I brought you in here.”

Dean narrows his eyes. “Still doesn’t change the facts. He’s not even in the family photos.”

Chuck yanks at his curly hair, a lot like Dean’s seen Cas do when he’s stressed. His voice takes on a hint of hysteria. “I never said everything was perfect, but I did say we’re trying. I’m here, aren’t I, asking you if you know if my son is alright? That’s something a father should know.”

Something dawns on him. If Chuck is really asking, does that mean he doesn’t know about them? He crosses his arms over his chest in an attempt to keep his cards close. “Well, what makes you think I’d even know?”

Chuck looks at Dean like he’s grown another head. “You seem to know so much as it is, so I thought you two were close. You’ve been on top of each other all summer.”

Dean’s face flames hot.

“Every time I turned around, you two were together. When we asked Michael, he scowled and said he gave you Castiel’s phone number ages ago. Plus—”

“Okay, okay. I get it.” Dean interrupts. He doesn’t want to hear anymore. Chuck is just clueless. “The answer is no, okay?”

“Then do you know why he left? Did he say something to you?” Chuck twitches. “Did he have another fight with Michael?”

Dean averts his eyes.

Chuck sighs. “Well, if you hear from him… or if you might ask him if he’d call us? Or at least, send a text full of emojis?”

The laugh in Dean’s throat dies when he remembers he isn’t going to be talking to Cas anytime soon. “I’m not really sure if that’s something I should do.” When Dean looks back up at him, Chuck is studying him.

“Dean, can I show you something?”

Not expecting that, Dean’s a little dumbfounded when he nods.

Chuck motions for Dean to follow as he heads into the bedroom. Dean tries not to look at the bed, instead keeping his eyes on the back of Chuck’s head as he walks to the corner. Reaching over to the window, he pulls out a long wooden pole, stretching it up toward the ceiling towards a panel Dean’s never noticed before. The stick has a hook on the end, which Chuck uses to pull the panel open. He’s prepared when he stops the set of expandable stairs that fall from within the hidden ceiling panel.

Dean’s mouth hangs open in astonishment.

Once Chuck struggles his way through expanding the stairs, he holds a hand out. “After you.”

Dean does not know what to expect as he climbs up the rickety stairs to the actual attic above the guest house. It smells like a small space, but with something more, like the craft aisle at the store. Behind him, the stairs creak as Chuck follows him up. There’s a click as he flips a switch, and the room gets flooded with light.

The room is the same size as downstairs. On the other end, there’s an easel with a palette of dried paints next to it on a table. Across from that is an old couch, books stacked on the floor beside it. It would be a normal-looking attic, if it weren’t for one very specific thing.

On every wall, leaning on every surface, even hanging from the ceiling, are paintings and drawings, hundreds of them at first glance—each one bearing Dean’s likeness in one way or another. Each portrait is in its own unique art style. There’s a portrait in full color of Dean working in the kitchen, and another of him up close in black and white. There’s one where he’s drawn in cubes and another in abstract shapes, Dean’s eyes and the shape of his face still recognizable on the canvas.

Dean can’t help but try to drag air into his lungs, which are refusing to cooperate. Chuck brushes past him, taking in the room and all the different paintings. He smiles when he gets to one that Dean can’t quite see from where he’s standing.

“You’re a sad clown in this one. That’s kinda funny.” He turns to point at another painting, propped under the window. “I think this one is my favorite, though. I almost thought it was a photo, the first time I saw it.”

The painting is incredibly lifelike, but Dean’s never seen them kissing so passionately, not from this angle anyway. The blood drains out of his face as Chuck admires the art.

“My son is incredibly talented. Tell me, Dean, is he pulling this from memory, or is it simply an artistic expression?”

The out presents itself to Dean perfectly. Lie his way out of things, tell Chuck he doesn’t know where Cas got that idea from, that they’ve only ever been friends, nothing more.

It's a lie that carries a lifetime of consequences, not just for him, but for Sam, and Cas too. Steeling himself, Dean takes a deep breath and tips up his chin.

Before he can get a word out, Chuck cuts him off with a chuckle. “You don’t have to answer that. I can respect my son’s privacy. And yours.” His face softens. “You know, all I’ve ever wanted is for Castiel to be happy. And it seems like ever since that’s happened, other things have fallen into place.” He looks around the room again, satisfied, before he digs something out of his pocket.

He holds out a folded piece of paper for Dean to take. “Take the day off tomorrow, Dean. Go for a drive.”

Dean can’t believe what he’s hearing. He takes the paper, but doesn’t open it. “What—what is this?”

“It’s where my son is staying.”

“But—you asked me—you said you didn’t know—” Dean’s bewildered.

“I asked you if you knew if Castiel was okay. I never asked if you knew where he was.” A sly, secret smile plays over Chuck’s face. “Go find out and let us know, will you?”

Chapter 18

Chapter Text

“It was the heat of the moment, telling me what my heart meant...”

Dean's eyes blink open at the sound of the alarm he's no longer accustomed to, the music jarring him out of a sleep he'd barely slipped into. With a groan, Dean rubs the grit out of his eyes with the back of his fist while he gropes for the phone with the other. He slides his finger over the screen to turn it off.

The room plunges into silence. Dean sighs into it.

Yesterday was an entire mind f*ck. After his talk with Chuck, Dean moved through the rest of the day in a daze, his mind trying to process everything they said and everything he saw. Dean walked out of that guest house a changed man and he couldn't help but wonder how that kept happening.

Before he went to bed, Dean spent a little time in the kitchen putting together one of his favorite sandwiches. Between a few slices of fresh sourdough, Dean took his time layering cheese between turkey and roast beef, topping it with apple slices and a garlic lemon aioli he whips up. He takes the panini press out of the pantry and while it warms up, Dean gets his plate ready, filling one side with some leftover salt and pepper potato chips he made for the bridge club. For a few moments, he can get lost in the simple tasks at hand, his only thoughts on what comes next.

The first bite is always the best, and Dean hums in satisfaction when all the flavors he wants to combine do so perfectly, creating a party for his taste buds. Without even thinking, Dean's eyes slide over to where Cas usually sits, the idea of checking his reaction popping like a bubble over his head at the empty chair.

Dean took the rest of his sandwich to bed after that.

Now, he takes his empty plate to the kitchen, washing it before he retreats to his room. Dean takes his time, going through the rest of the motions to get ready for the day. When he looks in the mirror, he flinches, the dark circles still there and taunting him. Dean tries to wash them away with a shower with minimal success, but at least when he leaves the house he doesn't look like hammered crap.

When he climbs into his Baby, he looks back at the house. It appears normal, no different after turning Dean’s life upside down. Maybe he’s the only thing that’s changed this summer.

When Dean finally hits the Long Island Expressway, it’s late morning, and the sun is bright. Dean slides sunglasses over his eyes and ignores the pull to turn on the radio. Music… music just hasn’t been the same since Cas left and Dean wants to keep his thoughts clear as he makes his way toward his future.

One way or another.

The car is silent, only the soothing sound of Baby’s tires on the highway—until it isn’t. The muffled ringtone of “The Imperial March” from the pocket of his jeans fills the inside of the car.


Dean takes the next exit and a deep breath as he parks his car in the closest parking lot, which is for a Dunkin Donuts.

His hands only shake a little as he calls Sam back.

Sam answers on the second ring. “Dean? Is it a bad time?”

Dean swallows back his nerves. “No, I—” He clears his throat. “I was driving, had to pull over. That’s how I missed your call.”

“Ah,” Sam says. “Uh, better safe than sorry, I guess.”

Dean holds out his phone to make sure he called back the right person. “Yeah, I guess.” Usually, Sam doesn’t think twice about Dean’s well-being. Still… There's a reason for his call and considering the last time they talked, Dean has no idea what it could be about. He clears his throat again.

“Oh, right, so…” Sam trails off. His nervousness takes Dean’s guard down a peg or two. “The last time we talked—Dean—You said a lot of stuff that pissed me off.”

Dean rubs his eyes. He should have known it would be this type of call.

Sam goes on. “But I think that’s why I got so mad, you know? Because you didn’t say anything that wasn’t true.”

Huh? Dean’s mouth falls open.

“Sometimes I forget how much you do for me—how much you’ve done. I guess I never realized…” Sam sighs. “My friend Eileen lost her parents when she was young, but she only had an aunt to take care of her. She knew how expensive everything was and I guess, well, I guess what I’m trying to say is, I never realized. You—” Sam’s voice hitches. “You made it so I didn’t have to worry about that kind of stuff, Dean. And instead of being grateful, it just made me mad you were gone all the time. Eileen told me to consider that I was mixing up my resentment for Dad with our complicated relationship.”

Sam sounds so irritated that it makes Dean huff out a wet laugh. “Is Eileen a psych major, by any chance?”

“How did you know?” Sam seems surprised Dean could put those pieces together.

Dean snorts. “Lucky guess.”

“Dean…” Sam sounds like he’s gearing up again.

“Sammy, come on, is that why you called, to therapize us? I thought we’ve always said no chick flick moments.”

“You love chick flicks,” Sam accuses, his voice thicker now. He clears it away. “But no, I mean—yes, I wanted to tell you that, but I also wanted to let you know that…” Sam takes another audible breath. “You won’t be able to access my student account anymore. After we talked, I went to the financial services department and took you off.”

Dean can’t believe what he’s hearing. “Sam, why would you—”

“I did it at the same time I applied for financial aid.”

“What, Sammy—No. We talked about this.” They had agreed that Sam didn’t need to get bogged down with student loans, knowing he’d end up paying three times as much as he borrowed. f*ck that. Dean’s ready to remind him when Sam stops him.

“I got approved for a few grants, Dean. I’m already on the Dean’s list, and only having my grocery store income, the school was almost falling all over itself to cover my tuition.”

Now Dean really can’t believe what he’s hearing.

“I really should have done this a long time ago. I don’t know how I’ll make it up to you, but I will.” There’s a tinge of desperation in Sam’s voice Dean hasn’t heard before.

Years of making sure Sam’s okay jumps Dean into answering him. “Aw Sammy, come on. You don’t owe me, man. I’m your big brother. It’s in the job description to look out for my pain in the ass little brother.” Dean tries to keep the wobble out of his voice. “I’m proud of you, kid. Don’t think I say that enough.”

“Thanks, Dean,” Sam whispers.

It’s quiet between them for a minute or two. Finally, Sam tells him he has to go, and apologizes one more time for interrupting his day. Dean tells him it’s okay and asks if they could talk again next week. Even if Dean doesn’t know where he’ll be by that time, he knows he’ll always have time for his little brother. Sam promises to call.

After they hang up, something inside him crumbles. For so long, Dean’s had to be strong, had to work the hardest, and give up things that have almost meant something to him. And Cas— Cas —f*ck. When Dean thinks about him, it scares Dean more than anything to think that he might have lost Cas too.

It’s why Dean has to try.

His resolve gets him back on the highway.

The address Chuck gave him gets Dean the rest of the way. It was a surprise at first to see an address in Brooklyn, knowing Cas was so close yet so far. He’s nervous when he turns down a tree-lined street, his eyes scanning for number 143. He finds it halfway down the block—a two-story ivy-covered brownstone with wide stone steps leading up to a faded red front door. Dean double-checks the address just to be sure before he finds a parking spot not too far away.

It gives him a chance for a little pep talk before he gets to the door. Because Dean can do this. He can take control of his destiny and give himself a chance for once.

Before he climbs the stone steps, Dean tries to stretch out the growing anxiety clogging his throat by tilting his head from one shoulder to the other. When he gets to the top of the stairs, Dean leaves the small bag of groceries he brought to the side of the front door before he takes a deep breath and knocks.

No one answers. Enough time passes for Dean to be stuck in that in-between place—knock again or run, tail between his legs. Too bad he doesn't give up that easily.

Dean knocks again, a little more insistent this time. He leans back to see if any of the windows might be open, when the door gets wrenched open, almost startling him off the stoop.

“Dean?” Cas stands in the doorway, looking much worse for wear compared to the last time Dean saw him. Despite it being almost mid-day, Cas is still wearing pajama pants - black ones with little yellow bees all over them. His black shirt is wrinkled and ripped along the collar, and his hair is the most disheveled Dean has ever seen, standing up on all ends. The worst thing, though, are the dark circles under Cas’s gorgeous but bloodshot blue eyes, which are wide with shock and blinking like he can't believe what he's seeing.

He's a sight for Dean's very sore eyes.

Dean can only think of doing one thing. He opens his arms as he steps forward, and Cas’s face crumples when Dean wraps him in a tight embrace.

With Cas in his arms again, Dean finally feels like he's home.

Even if Cas is silently crying into the curve of his neck. Dean just holds him tighter, nowhere else he’d rather be.

Cas’s cheeks are tear-stained when he finally pulls his face out of the crook of Dean’s neck. “What are you doing here? I don’t understand.”

Dean uses the back of his hand to wipe Cas’s tears. “Why don’t we go inside and talk about it?”

Cas grabs that hand so he can press a kiss to the middle of Dean's palm before he threads their fingers together. Dean is so thankful to hold Cas’s hand again. He squeezes it before he reaches down to pick up the groceries. Cas’s quizzical look only deepens as he pulls Dean inside.

Cas doesn't bother with a tour as he leads Dean through a wood-paneled foyer. They go past the open doorway of what looks like a sitting room, and a staircase with a faded red carpet runner. Dean's trying to take in as much as he can while being very aware of Cas’s hand in his. A hallway leads to the back of the brownstone, which opens up to a big room with large windows along the back wall, showing off a small patio and tall trees. On one side of the room there is a lumpy sofa covered in blankets facing a television paused on a scene with a forest.

The opposite side of the room has a cozy kitchen that has the same wood paneling as the foyer, with updated appliances and a small island to match. The countertop is littered with takeout boxes and other trash, dirty dishes and other clutter.

Cas lets go of Dean’s hand so he can try to gather some of the trash up, his cheeks red as he tries to avoid Dean’s eyes. Dean just pushes some old Chinese food over so he can put down the bag of groceries. He sighs. “Cas. Stop.”

Cas freezes.

“You don’t have to do that right now,” Dean says, following Cas around the counter. He takes the grease-stained takeout bag out of his hands, tossing it to the side. Instead, he gathers Cas back up in his arms. He didn’t think he would get this back, so Dean’s gonna savor it.

It’s like Cas feels the same when he melts into Dean’s embrace. His arms are quick to snake around Dean’s waist and pull him tight, like Cas missed him just as much.

“I missed you so much,” Cas sighs into his neck, confirming Dean’s thoughts.

He buries his nose into Cas’s hair to breathe him in. Dean aches with the smell of home. He presses a grateful kiss to Cas’s temple before he can get too emotional. “I missed you too.”

“I haven’t gotten out of bed in a while, so I’m not sure you’re even real. I’m pretty sure this is a dream, but I don’t even care.”

Dean doesn’t like that. He pulls them apart so he can steer Cas toward one of the barstools along the island. “Sit,” he instructs. With a few fingers, he tilts Cas’s face up. Weary blue eyes stare up at him. Dean leans in to press a kiss to Cas’s pink lips. “I’m gonna clean up all this fast food sh*t and cook you a proper meal.”

Before he can move away, Cas catches him by the wrist. “If this is a dream, I don’t want to wake up.”

Dean smiles. “If this was a dream, I’d have to tell you. That’s inception.”

“I think you’re thinking of entrapment.”

“Whatever,” Dean says, leaning in to steal one more kiss. Cas is smiling by now, and that’s all Dean needs. “I’m gonna make you some food now.”

Cas’s stomach growls in response. “What did you bring?”

“Not strawberries,” Dean says, letting Cas go so he can start clearing off the countertop.

Cas huffs out a laugh. That makes Dean feel better. There’s an overflowing trash can at one end of the island, so Dean starts there, quickly finding a cabinet with trash bags and cleaning products, both of which he pulls out. Cas tries to get up to help, but Dean sends his ass right back to the stool. “If you stay put, I’ll let you help.”

Cas settles into his seat. “And tell me how you got here?”

“Well, that’s an easy one,” Dean says, sweeping an armful of trash into a bag. “My Baby, of course.”

“Dean.” Cas levels a look at him that makes Dean smirk.

“A little bearded birdy named Chuck gave me the address.”

That gets Cas’s attention. “You spoke to my father?”

“Your parents came home.”

“What? They were supposed to be gone for another week at least.”

Dean shrugs as he sprays the cleared countertop with disinfectant spray. “They showed up and threw their weekly bridge party, business as usual.” While Cas considers that, Dean finishes wiping down the counter. “Your dad said they were trying to reach you? Seemed concerned you had left, so he asked me to come check things out.”

Cas squints at him, like he’s trying to work out what Dean’s saying. Considering his story is full of holes, Dean can’t blame him. He clears his throat. “What is this place, anyway?” From what Dean has always understood, the Novak’s live in Manhattan.

“It’s my parent’s first home. They’ve lived in Manhattan since I was ten, but this was where we lived before that. After I got accepted at Columbia, they offered it to me.”

Dean’s mouth drops open. “You live here?”

“I crash here,” Cas corrects. “But yes, I suppose technically if I wanted to live here, I could. It never really feels like I live anywhere, but it helps that this is already my mailing address. It just always feels like another way to live under my parents' thumbs.”

Dean can’t really argue with that. Even so, he can’t discount the way Chuck took the news of them in stride. Dean would even say that Cas’s parents approve of them, considering Chuck sent him here. “Maybe they’re not so bad.”

Cas narrows his eyes. “Why? Because they sent you to check on me?”

Dean knows he has to set the record straight. He squares a look at Cas. “They know about us.”

A range of emotion races over Cas’s face. Shock, fear, confusion, and back to shock again, his blue eyes wide and blinking. “What—How—Did Michael—”

“No, no, Michael kept his end of your little deal, which is something we’re putting a pin in for later, by the way. Your negotiation skills are sh*t.” Cas seems like he wants to protest, but Dean’s on a roll. “Your pops figured it out, Cas. He noticed you—”

Cas’s mouth is the one to drop open this time.

“He noticed that you’d changed… that you were happier.” Heat rises up the back of Dean’s neck. “He admitted he was trying, that they’d f*cked up along the way.”

Something sharpens in Cas’s eyes. “He said that?”


It seems Cas needs a minute to chew on that, so Dean gets to work. He was in a hurry when he stopped at the store, so he could only grab the essentials to go with the container of leftover lobster he snagged before he left the house. Laid before him is everything he needs to put together his lobster grilled cheese sandwiches. Cas’s eyes flick to the blocks of cheese Dean brought. Dean pushes a few over to him with the cheese grater he found in a drawer, giving Cas instructions to shred half. As he pulls open every drawer and cabinet looking for what he needs, Dean makes a mental list of missing kitchen tools, including a spatula on the list for a minute or two before he finds it in a random drawer filled with takeout menus.

It’s so easy to fall into a rhythm together. Dean folds in the cheese that Cas is grating into the lobster with an aioli sauce to bind it all together before he presses it between some fresh brioche bread and more slices of cheese.

Pretty soon, the kitchen smells like butter and cheese and cooking lobster, and even Dean’s stomach is growling by the time he’s serving up their sandwiches.

Cas stares down at his when Dean slides it in front of him. He keeps staring when he says, “Did my father fire you, Dean?”

Dean sighs, grabs his plate, and takes a seat next to Cas. He slides a hand onto Cas’s knee so he can turn his body towards him, stopping when he's caged between Dean's open thighs.

Cas still won't look at him. “I'm not sure if I can bear it, Dean, if I'm the reason he did. I never meant to show up and bulldoze everyone's lives, especially not yours and your brother’s, and—”

“Cas, I quit!” Dean says it loud enough to cut off Cas’s spiral. “I quit. Your dad didn't fire me because I quit.” He cups Cas’s face and finds his cheeks wet. He wipes them with his thumbs, leaning in to kiss a few tears away. “Please don't cry, sunshine.”

Cas sniffs and closes his eyes. “You can tell me the truth, Dean. I wouldn't put it past my father.”

“I wouldn't lie to you,” Dean says. “Truth is, he offered me more work. But I turned him down, Cas. It didn't feel right.”

Cas blinks up at him with wet eyelashes. “Why not?” His voice is a whisper.

Dean considers his answer. After Dean and Chuck left the guest house, they stopped in the kitchen, where Chuck offered Dean the opportunity to work for them in the off-season. He explained that most of the time, they ate in restaurants, or used delivery, normal New York City options for busy, important people like the Novak’s. Chuck told Dean that the one thing they could agree they missed while away on vacation was his cooking, which was when they came up with the idea. Dean can still hear Chuck in his head after his proposal for Dean to use one of their extra rooms in the city too, if he accepted.

“If this thing with my son is more… one-sided… I would understand your apprehension. You’re both young, though, and those feelings will fade. Castiel doesn’t visit us in the city very often, if that helps.”

Dean couldn’t bear the thought of letting anyone think for a second that he didn’t care about Cas too.

“It’s not one-sided,” he had blurted out. “And while I appreciate your offer, I can’t accept it. Knowing what I know and feeling how I feel about your son—I just can’t.”

The funniest part was, Chuck wasn’t even surprised, like Dean didn’t need a room full of art to convey his feelings, even though Dean would fill a thousand rooms with paintings of Cas if he knew how to draw even a little. That’s how he knows the answer to Cas’s question.

“Because I’m in love with his son.” The words come out easier than breathing to Dean. “And I knew I couldn’t keep working for him, just in case his son feels the same way about—”

Cas cuts the rest of Dean’s sentence off, closing the distance between them by throwing himself in Dean’s arms. He kisses Dean’s face, over and over, planting kisses on his cheeks, and his lips, and his nose, all while repeating the same mantra.

“I love you, Dean, I love you, of course I love you.” Over and over until it’s written over the old grooves of his mind, the ones that told Dean he wasn’t good, that he couldn’t be loved like this. Dean knew every word to be true, because he could feel every word etching itself into his ribs, like a tattoo, like a brand, one that bound him to Cas forever.

Even if they didn’t make it out of this, Dean would be forever changed.

Their sandwiches grow cold. Dean can’t even be mad. He’d remake sandwiches for Cas forever if it meant they all went cold because they were too busy tangled up in each other. It’s easy for Dean to reheat them with a little butter over a hot stove, which he does with Cas pressed to his back, his arms firmly around Dean’s waist like he might disappear. Dean keeps one hand over Cas’s clasped ones, needing Cas to know that he isn’t going anywhere.

They eat, and after, Dean manages to separate them long enough to go start a sink of dishes, happiness thrumming through his veins. Sure, he’s unemployed with nowhere to live but to him, he has what he needs. He’s home where it counts.

Dean’s just about to dive into the dishes when the sound of The Beach Boys fills the kitchen.

Wouldn't it be nice if we were older…”

Dean turns away from the sink slowly, only to find Cas standing there at the end of the island with a hand held out to him.

All he says is, “Dance with me Dean?”

Dean forgets all about the dishes when he takes Cas’s hand. Cas tugs him into his arms and buries his face in the curve of Dean’s neck. Dean wraps his arms around him, and he never wants to let go.

They don’t stop swaying, even when the music ends. Time slips by and the sun follows, filling the brownstone with warm golden light that wraps around them, otherworldly, like they’ve fallen into some kind of fairytale, ready for their happily ever after.

Real life has to come first though, unfortunately.

Cas is the one to ease them into what’s next by asking Dean one question.


He asks as if Dean might say no. He doesn’t know Dean doesn’t have that word in his vocabulary when it comes to Cas.

“We can go back for whatever you left behind tonight if you want—”

Dean presses a finger to Cas’s lips. “The Impala has a big trunk, remember? I’ve kinda got everything I own in there… including everything you left behind.”

Cas cringes, but Dean shakes his head. “Hey, it’s fine. I got you, Cas.” He can’t help it when he leans in to brush a reassuring kiss against Cas’s mouth. His lips are soft and warm. “And I’ll stay. As long as you don’t mind that I’m currently unemployed and won’t be able to pay rent for a while.”

Cas snorts. “This place is paid for, Dean. I hate it, but in this economy, there’s no way I can complain.”

“Okay, okay, I’m gonna go grab my stuff before you get going about capitalism again.”

Cas levels him with a look. “It’s a plague on this world, Dean,” he says, dead serious.

Dean skips down the steps of the brownstone, still chuckling. When he gets back with his knife roll and his duffle slung over his shoulder, Cas is there, waiting and ready to pull him into another kiss.

“A guy could get used to being welcomed home like that,” he murmurs when they finally come up for air.

Cas smiles his sweet smile against his lips. “Are you ready for the full tour, then?”

Dean shrugs and plays nonchalant about his next question. He turns his head to peer up the stairs before he asks. “This place got a secret art room, too?”

Cas turns to stone in his arms. “What did you say?”

“A sad clown Cas? Really?”

Those blue eyes widen and, for once, Cas seems speechless.

Dean has mercy on him. “Your art is incredible, Cas. I never told you this, but I was always tryin’ to get a peek at it when you stayed in the kitchen with me. I’d be up all night wondering what you saw in the world that was good enough to put down on paper.”

Glassy tears fill Cas’s eyes, reflecting like tiny waves in an ocean of blue. “It was always you, Dean. It was always you.”

Those tears spill over when Dean steps in to kiss him, his duffle falling to the ground with a thud so Dean can cup Cas’s cheeks in both hands. Love and adoration flood his heart, his soul, everything that makes Dean want to be a better man, to be someone Cas will always want to call his. f*ck, Dean loves him more than words could ever say.

Dean has to tease him a little about the secret art room when the brownstone just has a normal studio instead. “I thought you were a little obsessed with me, Cas. What happened?”

“I haven't been here long enough to fill up the room yet, Dean,” he responds, his words dry but still enough to make Dean’s cheeks heat.

“So then you are obsessed with me,” he says to cover his blush.

Cas kisses the tip of his nose. “Maybe I am. Would you like me to show you just how much?”

Dean's cheeks flame red. “I mean, you know, your bedroom is on the tour, right?”

“Our bedroom,” Cas corrects, turning to tug Dean by the hand and lead them up the stairs.

Dean hates to do it but he has to check. “Cas. Wait.”

Cas stops, only two steps up. For once, Dean looks up at him. “I wasn’t kidding, before. I really don’t have any prospects. The restaurant season doesn’t kick up again until the fall and, to be perfectly honest with you, the thought of starting at the bottom in a new kitchen sounds like my version of hell, you know? And you—you deserve someone who can support you, who can take care of you and right now, that ain’t me.” It kills Dean to admit his faults, but Cas has to know what he’s getting into with Dean.

Cas tilts his head, brow furrowed. “Dean, do you think I'm some kind of prize?”

Yes, obviously, Dean immediately thinks but doesn't say.

“I have even less to offer.” Cas goes on, ticking things off his fingers in a way Dean doesn't like. “I've never held a proper job and I have an unfinished art degree. What the hell do I have to contribute to this relationship? It's you who deserves the best, Dean. It's you who deserves more than me. I never pointed it out before because I kept waiting for you to figure it out on your own.”

“And yet? Here I am.” Dean holds his arms out like he never had a choice, because he really didn't. He couldn't have avoided falling for Cas for reasons that always seemed obvious to Dean. Maybe they aren't so obvious to Cas himself, though. Dean slides his hands up Cas’s arms to coax them around his neck. Looking up at him, Dean speaks his truth.

“You're enough, Cas. To me, you're enough. More than enough.” Tears shine in Cas’s eyes and Dean knows his do the same. “You see me… And I see you. You're ridiculous and carefree, barefoot and ready to climb into a man's car with a sandwich without a second thought. No sense of self-preservation, while probably caring too damn much about the things you love, like your tennis and your taste in music. I see the artist in you, the magic in your fingers… And not just because all your art is of me.”

Tears are streaming down Cas’s face by now, but that makes him huff out a laugh and go to wipe his face with the back of his hand. Dean catches him by the wrist so he can press a kiss to the tips of those fingers he mentioned. His voice is rough when he goes on, still determined. “I see you, Castiel, and I love you, and I don't know what's next, but I'd like it if we could figure it out together.”

Cas is already nodding, which means this is the part where Dean gets to kiss him. He goes in for it, but the firm hand on his chest surprises him.

“Now I'm the one that needs to stop you, Dean.”

Dean blinks as he processes not doing the kissing.

Cas says, “You said something before that isn't sitting right with me.”

There's no way Dean f*cked this up already. He thinks he suddenly can't breathe.

“You said I deserve someone who could take care of me—support me, is what you said.” That crease is back between Cas’s brows as Dean remembers what he said. “That isn't why I want to be with you, Dean. I don't want you to believe you have to take care of me. If we're going to do this, it's as partners. I am aware of and respect what you do for your brother, and I'd never want to add to the financial burden you already carry. I won't have that Dean. I'd even be willing to help where I can if one of those payments needs to come first. I know we can make it work, but like you said, we have to do it together or—or not at all.”

Goddamn Dean loves him. He wants to yank Cas into the tightest of hugs, one that would swallow the man whole, if he could. The simple affection alone overwhelms him and reaffirms why he's here in this random brownstone in Brooklyn and not in a South Hampton kitchen right now. All Dean's choices were always leading him right here. He's more certain of that than ever.

Dean gets that kiss this time.

Later, he’ll tell Cas about Sam and his financial aid and maybe he'll have the bright idea about seeing if Sonny wants to add a tennis instructor slash artist to camp for a few extra weeks.

Tonight though, tonight they get to say goodnight and stay together, and finally, Dean has the answer.

It is nice.

Chapter 19: Epilogue


(See the end of the chapter for notes.)

Chapter Text

“It was the heat of the moment, telling me what my heart meant...”

With a groan, Castiel rolls over and turns off the alarm on Dean’s phone. He knew it was coming, the familiar Asia song he hears on an almost daily basis. Cas frowns at the space beside him until the smell of coffee hits his nose. A slow grin builds on his face as he stretches his arms over his head to shake off the rest of his sleep. Now that he’s more awake, Cas can hear music drifting up from the kitchen below, even though Dean has it turned down low enough to think he’s the only one who can hear it.

Castiel’s smile grows. He knows how much Dean loves to cook with music playing.

It doesn’t take long for the smell of bacon to confirm what Cas already knows. The urge to help gets Castiel the rest of the way out of bed.

As he throws on a pair of sweats and their AC/DC shirt, Cas can’t help but think about how much he loves his life with Dean. And today is a big day for them, as far as big days go.

Today, Castiel meets Sam for the first time. In the year since Dean arrived on the doorstep of his parent's brownstone, Cas has been present for many of the brother’s weekly phone calls, usually with Sam on speakerphone while they all chat. Things were rocky at first, with Dean doing a lot of worrying and Sam doing a lot of reassuring, but soon enough Dean was too busy to worry too much about his brother.

They had showed up at Sonny’s with a duffle bag between them and a trunk full of art supplies, tennis rackets, and records, hoping Sonny would take mercy on Dean arriving a month early and with Cas in tow. Sonny was more than happy to have them. Cas liked the man immediately.

Their summer at Sonny’s was perfect, as far as summers could go, or at least those fantasy-type summers Castiel always envied in television and movies, where the light was golden and everyone bonded and had the time of their lives. Sonny’s embodied that fantasy trope. Sure, some boys that stayed there were tough on the outside at first, but soon the three men would break down their walls even more so than Sonny already had before they arrived. The camp was exactly what Castiel sought to do with his tennis clubs, his only regret at leaving the Hampton’s so abruptly. Luckily, he could send Balthazar in his stead, which Dean didn’t approve of at first, until Castiel explained Balthazar had disappeared for the summer because he had been in rehab, and was actually doing well. They’re still friends, although not the type to do any kind of partying like they used to.

Those days are behind Castiel. He never enjoyed them anyway, not really, more angry about being in the loud clubs and the obnoxious parties. He’d lamented about it one night over beers with Dean and Sonny. The three of them would end up sitting on the dock and sharing a six-pack (and sometimes if it was extra late, a joint) which often led to deep conversations that Castiel will cherish forever. Sonny gave him some words of wisdom about forgiving his parents, the actual source of Castiel’s anger and probably why he acted out the way he did for so long. There were a few nights when Sonny would flex his psychology degree at both of them, knowing neither could deny that they could use the advice. He was never unkind about it, just understanding, and many nights, Cas and Dean would lie awake for hours after, going over more intimate memories and working out their complicated feelings.

They headed back to the city when the leaves changed, and Castiel swears he came back a different man. He definitely returned deeper in love with Dean.

They also returned with plans.

Castiel wants to keep painting. During their downtime, he researched artist co-ops, studios that brought in artists under apprenticeships in order to grow their talent and hopefully showcase their art in their space. They were becoming popular for galleries to buy from, and to hire for in-house sales. It would also help Castiel find his path in the art world, even though he thinks he’s honing his style, especially since he met Dean.

He can admit, he never expected Dean to see his art room. He doesn't mind, in hindsight, but it likely would have taken him years to own up to it and share it with Dean. Knowing how much Dean loved it, and how it made him sure that Castiel returned his feelings, means Castiel can't be that upset about it, even though he had a discussion with his father about privacy after.

Castiel had a lot of discussions with his father when they returned to the city. He was ready to have those discussions by then, and Chuck was ready too, insisting they have their talks under the watchful eye of a family therapist. Castiel didn't argue. They all needed the help, and even Michael attended, even though Castiel suspected it was under protest. At least at first. It took quite a few appointments for him to apologize for his role in Castiel's relationship. They're still attending therapy together, though not as often.

Things with his family are good, in Castiel's eyes. The first time he brought Dean to his parent's penthouse in Manhattan was interesting, but they all walked away happy, Chuck and Naomi all but begging them both if they could hire Dean for events at least if they were uncomfortable with full-time.

When they were at Sonny's, they had decided they would find their own place when they got back to the city, and the money the Novaks offered just for Dean to cater three events was enough for the down payment they needed to rent a small studio in Washington Heights.

There were six co-ops taking portfolios within walking distance, or a train ride away too.

Dean had his own dreams to chase from there as well. When they were at Sonny's, all the boys and Sonny himself loved Dean's food, but they raved about his sandwiches, and Castiel could only agree that Dean made the best he's ever tasted as well.

Thus began Dean's business idea, to own his own sandwich shop. Gourmet taste without the gourmet price was where he felt he shined above the trendy sandwich shops popping up all over the city. Dean's would be authentic, with fresh ingredients and fair prices, and all he would need were investors, the part that stopped him in his tracks during his initial pitch.

Dean underestimated how many people believed in him, and how many loved his cooking.

The Novak’s were Dean's first investors. Dean protested, of course, but they came with a contract and lawyers and they meant business, not charity, and when Dean realized that, he accepted.

His second investors were Benny and Andrea. They also became his seafood supplier and some of Dean's best customers. The first few months, Dean hosted a variety of pop-ups, starting in territory he knew, the Hamptons. The Novak’s lent them the summer house for Dean to cook and prepare his food with Cas by his side, doing all the cutting and chopping and various other things Dean needed help with, including booking gigs.

Cas isn't just a pretty face who's good with a pen, Dean likes to say. He also has a knack for PR. Maybe it's growing up adjacent to his parent's social circle, but Cas had an eye for events that fit Dean's intended demographic. He happened to speak rich people too, so booking gigs through the holidays for Dean came easy to him.

At every turn, they fit. Where Dean needs help, Castiel fills the gap, and vice versa. Before he met his muse, Castiel thought his art career was over, that he had lost his skill along with his inspiration, things that were only dormant until Dean awakened them again.

Even now, a year later, Castiel will look at Dean and feel that familiar urge to draw him. It’s hitting him now, as he comes down the stairs of the new apartment they just moved into. It’s a two-story loft above what used to be an empty storefront, but will soon be the home of Dean’s new sandwich shop. They will complete the renovations over the summer. They are being overseen by Michael’s property management company, the man himself in charge of the project. It was his brother who came to him with the building, a rental in Washington Heights he had recently bought. It was in a high-traffic part of the neighborhood, and with the residential space above, it was more than perfect for what they wanted. The loft was big enough to hold their bed and a small art space for Castiel, while Dean could make the downstairs his domain with a big open kitchen taking up a lot of the space.

It still smells like fresh paint and half of their stuff is still in boxes, except for Dean’s cooking tools. His priority was setting up his kitchen, just right. Cas sat on a barstool and kept their wine glasses full, and he couldn’t stop smiling at him. It got him a lot of kisses that night.

This morning, Dean is standing at the stove in only his black boxer-briefs, and Castiel’s green tennis club sweatshirt, his hair still sticking up on one side from sleep. Castiel can’t stop staring at Dean’s long, bare bow legs as he sways back and forth to an old Vampire Weekend song. He sings under his breath and occasionally holds up the spatula he’s using on the bacon as a microphone.

Cas leans against the banister to watch him until he can’t resist him for a moment longer. He joins his love with a little pep in his step, and Dean lights up when he glimpses Cas from the corner of his eye. The full-watted smile he turns on Cas makes his knees go weak, but he recovers by sliding into Dean’s open arms. Dean presses a smiling kiss to his temple before giving him a “Good morning, sunshine,” and nudging him toward a steaming cup of coffee next to the coffeemaker.

Of course, Dean heard Castiel get up.

And of course, the coffee is made exactly how Castiel likes it.

The mushroom omelet Dean slides in front of him moments later is delicious as well. Castiel considers it rude to admit to how much weight he’s gained since starting his relationship with Dean, but given how much he plays tennis, and how often he and Dean go on evening runs, it’s all muscle in his legs and his thighs, for some reason. He’s had to buy all new pants lately, considering he split a perfectly good pair of dress pants when he squatted down to pick something up a month ago. Dean’s started calling him thunder thighs, but in the same tone he uses when he talks about pie, so Cas knows it's a compliment. Dean also leaves them littered with bite marks, which Cas had to make him tone down so he could wear shorts at Sonny’s.

Instead of sitting down with him, Dean is still moving about the kitchen, still getting food ready for later. Sam’s flight arrives at noon, and then they’ll drive north to Sonny’s. It’s only a few hours to Poughkeepsie, but Dean knows a place about halfway where they can stop and have lunch next to a nice lake.

Castiel thinks he might be asking the obvious, but he still asks. “Are you nervous about seeing your brother?”

Dean doesn’t miss a beat. “Are you?” Castiel should have expected it. Dean is whip-smart and just as fast at deflecting any question he isn’t ready to answer.

Cas gives him a moment before answering. He even sips his coffee first. “I’m not the one buzzing around his kitchen. Can I help with anything?”

Dean shoots him a desperate look. “I’m already running out of things to do.”

“Then come sit down with me. Eat breakfast. Then we can go upstairs and I’ll blow you in the shower.”

Dean’s gaze sharpens. “You know that’s my favorite.”

“I do,” Cas says. “Now will you please come eat your bacon?”

Dean slumps onto the stool beside him. “What if he hates it?”

“What? Summer camp? Swimming in the lake? Sonny said he’s going to start Sam in the barn. Don’t you want to see him muck out some stalls?”

“Yeah but… What if he doesn’t like that Sonny’s an ex-con? Or what if he changes his mind about how I ended up there in the first place?”

When Dean invited Sam and his girlfriend out to Sonny’s for the first two weeks of their summer break, he had to come clean about how he had met Sonny and how their dad left him there. Sam was shocked but said he always suspected their dad had lied about a lot of things, especially when it came to Dean. Never in his life had Castiel been glad a person was no longer on this earth.

He places a calming hand on Dean’s shoulder. “You’re spiraling, my love. Sam isn’t going to change his mind. I think all the texts he’s been sending this week with questions about what to pack and what we’ll do there prove that he’s excited.”

“I am looking forward to fishing together.”


Dean’s shoulders are unbunching, which pleases Castiel the most. He gives Dean’s shoulder a squeeze before he gets back to his omelet. “Now please eat, so we can go upstairs.”

Dean cuts half his omelet in half so he can spear it with his fork and eat it in one bite.

Castiel rolls his eyes. “Sam will not be pleased if we can’t pick him up because you choked to death.”

Dean bounces his eyebrows. “Oh, I think we know who’s going to be choking soo—”

Castiel covers Dean’s mouth with one hand. “Dean.”

“And it aint gonna be me,” Dean blurts out, the moment Cas drops his hand.

Cas can’t help but dissolve into laughter. That makes Dean brighten and stuff a piece of bacon in his mouth. When Cas kisses him, he tastes like salt and happiness and home. Castiel knows that wherever he is, as long as they’re together, he’ll always feel like that, because he knows in Dean’s emerald eyes he’s enough.

Dean never stops reminding him. He loves out loud, which Cas would have never understood until he was being loved by Dean. It’s in everything he does, whether he knows it or not. It’s in the way he’ll visit every art shop in five boroughs to find the canvases or the specific paints Cas wants. It’s in every meal he makes for them, or for anyone, Dean’s passion for cooking found in every bite. It’s why he got hired for three separate Valentine’s Day dinners thanks to the Christmas parties he cooked for. His love was in the way he turned working on Valentine’s Day into something for both of them, bringing Castiel along as his sous chef so they could spend a few hours cooking together (something they both love) and making a few extra servings to take home and eat together, naked in bed (another thing they love). Then, they would make love and, well, it was more than Castiel could have ever dreamed of.

But that’s all of his life with Dean.

It always feels like more than Castiel deserves.

Whenever Castiel feels like that, Dean reminds him again.

And now Castiel will support him through this, and whatever else comes next with as many shower blow j*bs as Dean requires (another thing Cas loves because of how much Dean enjoys them). Later, after their shower, Cas will hold Dean’s hand on the drive to JFK, and he’ll show off a bit of the sign language they both learned so they could talk to Eileen (Dean’s idea, one of those out loud things Cas mentioned). He’ll take the backseat when he and Sam reach for the front door handle at the same time, both embarrassed for different reasons. Dean’s quick to scold Sam for not wanting to sit with Eileen, but Cas doesn’t miss the grateful look he gets when Cas insists on taking the back so the brothers can catch up.

Eileen teaches him their sign names and more of the alphabet on their drive.

When they stop for lunch, Sam is stunned into silence when Dean presents all the sandwiches and salads he made that morning. Just as Dean seems unsure if it’s a good or bad thing, Sam launches into nothing but praise for his cooking. Cas doesn’t miss the relief that flashes in Dean’s eyes.

Sam insists Cas ride in the front the rest of the way.

They take a few moments to get settled, and just as Cas is expecting Dean to pull back onto the highway, he turns in his seat instead. Resting his elbow on the seat, he squares a look back at Sam.

“So… I'm gonna ask Cas to marry me, probably real soon. Are you cool with that? You gotta let me know now.”

Every mouth in the car drops open. Somehow, Castiel recovers first. “Dean?” His heart is crashing around in his chest. “What are you saying?”

Dean gestures at Sam. “I'm saying, if he's gonna have a problem, it's a shorter trip back to JFK than it would be if we kept going. Sorry Eileen, but this guy here is the love of my life, and I'd sooner leave you two back at the airport than—”

Sam cuts Dean off with an indignant “Dean!” while Cas wastes no time smothering Dean's ridiculous words with a deep kiss.

“You lunatic, you absolute menace, I love you. Did you know that?” Cas can't contain his heart. “Are you asking me to marry you, Dean Winchester? Because I'm saying yes, there's no other answer in the world.”

Dean peels them apart, his cheeks red. “Now, now, I'm not asking you yet. Cool your jets. I had to ask your parents, then Michael for some reason, and now I'm checking with Sammy here to cross all the i’s and dot all the t's, you know? There's even a ring in my duffle, just in case the moment presents itself.”

Castiel can't believe what he's hearing. “ Dean! Get my ring out right this moment, before we get back on the road.”

Dean ignores him to give Sam a pointed look. “Well? Can we get going?”

Cas whips a look at Sam, who can only nod dumbly. A strangled sound leaves Cas’s throat when Dean puts the car in drive.

“Sorry sweetheart, you gotta wait until I pop the question. Sonny has some ideas but I think the right moment will present itself.”

“Sonny knows?” Cas is outraged. “Who else knows?”

Dean slips his sunglasses over his stupidly handsome face. A face Cas is gonna marry soon. “Sam was the last person I had to run it by,” Dean reassures him, causing Sam to sputter from the backseat.

“I kinda had a feeling,” Sam mumbles, which makes Dean and Cas protest, which makes Eileen laugh.

Cas is still insisting Dean pull over when Dean takes his hand, and silences him by pulling that hand to his mouth, and pressing a kiss to his still-empty-but-not-for-long ring finger.

“Can you wait a little longer for me, Cas?”

“You know I'd wait forever, but please don't make me.”

Dean throws his head back in a laugh, and Cas can't wait to make him do that for the rest of their lives. He plans to love Dean back, just as loudly.

Wouldn't It Be Nice - Casloveshisfreckles (3)


Well, that's my Pinefest! I hope you enjoyed it and the wonderful art! Please leave some love for KitShay and Happy Pining!


Wouldn't It Be Nice - Casloveshisfreckles (2024)


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