Partially under a cut to spare your dashboards.
Dean hasn’t checked the List in days.
He likes to read it at least once a week, even though he memorized the words months ago. Reading it helps more than just remembering it; it bolsters his courage and reminds him that he is Dean Winchester, lady-killer extraordinaire, and Cas isn’t the first angel he’s successfully managed to get into bed.
But this thing with Cas — the feelings Dean has tried not to put a name to but knows all the same — isn’t about sex. Sex is easy, not terrifying in the same way that emotions are, and Dean manages to ignore the ‘emotions’ aspect up until he comes face to face with Cas and opens his mouth to speak.
The words that want to pour out of his mouth are cliche or clunky or too sappy. Dean can’t say them; they’re not his words, not really, if only because he doesn’t say things like that. It doesn’t mean he doesn’t feel it.
He wants to tell Cas, he really does, if only to get confirmation that Cas doesn’t feel the same way. Cas can’t, he’s an angel, and even if he weren’t, Dean is still Dean.
There’s a tiny little voice in Dean’s head that asks him ‘but what if Cas does?’, but he ignores it. He has to because he can’t afford to hope and then be let down by reality. Not with this.
Sam’s currently out getting groceries and Cas is busy up in Heaven; no time like the present. He takes the sheet of paper from his pocket and runs the pad of his tumb over one semi-smooth side. He had dropped it once or twice in the mud, but he can no longer see the stain, and he smiles wryly. He’d been carrying this for too long.
He opens it up gingerly, trying not to tear it at the well-worn creases.
The handwriting on the page isn’t his. It’s still familiar, but it isn’t his.
Dean’s about to crumple the page up, fury pumping through him, and demand that Sam return his list, but then his eyes catch on the words ‘personal space’ and he stops, paper half-crushed in his hand. He smoothes it out and begins reading, all traces of fury vanishing as it’s replaced with shock. His throat tightens as he reaches the end, chest already squeezed in a vise, and the last three lines sear into his brain as though etched there with a fine laser.
'don't tell him'
'don't tell him'
'don't tell him'
"Fuck," he murmurs out loud, voice wrecked. He puts the list down on the mattress beside him, hands shaking with an influx of emotion he hadn’t expected. He runs a hand over his face from forehead to cheek, dragging at the skin and then rubbing his palm over his lips. Hope is bubbling in his gut, mixing with the shock and making him nauseaous.
If this is a prank, it’s a very, very bad one.
If this isn’t a joke, though…
"Cas," he says, pleased that his voice, at least, is steady even though his emotions are currently on a fantastic roller coaster. He knows that Cas will come and he is simultaneously excited and terrified. "Hey, ah, buddy… I need to talk to you."
Even as the words are leaving his mouth, he’s regretting them. Cas may have once told him that ‘good things do happen’, but Dean’s answer now is the same as it was back then; ‘not in his experience’.
But, he thinks as he hears the sound of Castiel’s wings, they had defied the odds before, they could do it again.
"You called?" Cas asks from behind Dean. Dean turns, heart already tripping over itself in his chest. There’s a crossroads coming up and his family has an ugly history with those.
Cas is standing in the far corner, wearing jeans and a dark blue T-shirt beneath his ever-present trenchcoat. He still wore the suit and tie sometimes, but Dean suspected that his new penchant for comfortable clothes was a remnant of his time as Emmanuel. Dean certainly isn’t about to complain about the view, though it does mean that they have to wash clothes a little more often now.
"Yeah," he hears himself say, picking up the sheet of paper next to him and standing. He walks toward Cas and extends the list for the angel to take. "Sam found this."
Cas frowns as he takes the list, not recognizing it for a moment, but Dean can tell the instant he does. His lightly bronzed skin pales alarmingly, and though his expression barely flickers, his hand does drop immediately to his pocket. Dean can hear paper crunch quietly, muffled by the cloth, and realizes where his own list must be.
Had Sam switched them on purpose?
Dean puts the thought aside to examine later, much more anxious about Cas’s reaction than anything Sam may or may not have done.
Cas looks up from the list to meet Dean’s eyes. Cas’s gaze is choked with sorrow and regret and pain and Dean’s emotions change from worried about Castiel’s reaction for selfish reasons to selfless ones as quickly as flipping a switch.
"Cas?" he asks, taking a half-step forward as Castiel’s hand clenches around the list, ripping the paper.
"Sam should have returned this to me," Cas says lowly, quickly, then falls quiet again. He glances away, as tense as if the vessel he inhabited was still new and unfamiliar. "And you should not have read it."
Dean inwardly flinches at the coolness of Castiel’s voice, but there’s incredibly relief pouring through him as well. Relief and terror, because now Dean knows it’s his turn to be laid bare.
But if all goes well, maybe Dean’s emotions aren’t the only things getting stripped naked tonight.
He clears his throat and swallows heavily to banish the dry-mouth before shoving his fantasies out of his head. He wants to do this right, even if he’s allergic to emotional honesty and this is one of the scariest things he’s ever willingly done.
"I know," he says. He clears his throat again and gives a jerky nod to Castiel’s pocket. "If you want to make it even, I think Sam gave you mine. Must have gotten them mixed up at the Laundromat."
"Yours?" he asks, still tense. Dean nods again, sharp and brief because the wait is killing him.
The air is thick and full of fire between them; Dean feels like moving even an inch would get him burned. He watches with baited breath as Cas folds his list and reaches into his pocket to produce the muddy, half-crumpled thing Dean recognizes as his.
Cas stares at him a moment, then opens up the sheet of paper and begins to read. Dean can see his eyes flick over the lines on the page, wariness fading to shock fading to awe.
Dean can tell exactly when Cas gets to the bottom of the list, because the angel inhales sharply and his eyes widen ever so slightly. Dean feels his face heat, remembering that he did write ‘love’, but he can’t bring himself to care. It’s true and he doesn’t know how long it’s going to take him before he’s able to say the words out loud, but he wants Cas to know it, too.
He can’t force his eyes away from Cas, heart pounding in his ears as he waits for the angel to look up.
Cas doesn’t take his eyes off the page for a long minute, gaze fixed on the words as though committing them to memory, but then he finally looks up. His eyes are wide and hopeful, expression disbelieving.
"Dean…?" he says softly, voice almost a whisper as he steps forward slowly. They’re close now, well within each others’ personal space, and Dean can feel every nerve ending in his body come alive.
Dean nods, unable to speak, gaze dropping involuntarily to Cas’s lips. There’s a new kind of thrill in staring because now staring is a prelude to crossing the distance rather than just wanting to.
"Do you mean it?" Cas asks, sounding like he doesn’t quite dare to hope. Dean knows that feeling intimately. He swallows.
"Do you?" he asks.
Castiel’s expression goes fierce all at once. It’s just a subtle clench of the jaw, a fire in his eyes, and at this proximity, Dean imagines he can feel the angel’s body temperature actually increase.
"Yes," Cas says simply, but firmly, like there is no question. In that one word, Dean can hear echoes of an emotion so deep and so powerful it’s almost frightening. Then again, he can feel something equally powerful welling up within his own chest, filling him up to bursting, and he leans forward to kiss Cas before the words start spilling out of his mouth.
Cas meets him halfway and for a second, it’s just lips, and then Dean opens his mouth. He slides his tongue along Castiel’s bottom lip and Cas welcomes him in immediately.
Dean’s not sure when their bodies closed the last of the distance - maybe it was at the same time their mouths did - but he has both arms around Cas’s waist and Cas has an arm around Dean’s back and a hand in Dean’s hair that he uses to pull Dean even closer. Cas takes control of the kiss, technique rough, but Dean doesn’t care.
There’s a rasp of stubble against his face, unexpected but surprisingly soft, and though Dean has until this point only allowed himself to kiss women, it feels fucking fantastic. It is a little strange, but it’s Cas and all Dean can think about kissing Cas is ‘yes’.
But he needs oxygen and so he breaks away, Cas trying to follow for a moment before he remembers that humans need to breathe. Cas is panting too, lightly, more from emotion than exertion.
Dean doesn’t want to stop, not even for air, so he’s still a little winded when he leans in again.
Neither of them hear the Impala pull up or the motel room door open. Neither of them notice when Sam pokes his head in, mouth open to ask for help with the groceries. Neither of them see Sam pause to stare for a moment, shocked, or see the slight smile that forms on his face before he carefully shuts the door and leaves.