As Cas is leaving the Bunker, Dean thrusts a box in to his hands. It weighs about a pound, is distinctly square, and is wrapped in pink paper covered in rainbow unicorns. Cas looks up questioningly.

“For you,” Dean says awkwardly, shifting his weight, eyes downcast. “I just, yeah.”

“Okay,” Cas says. He stows it in the duffle Dean presented him with earlier, which is filled with what Dean calls ‘toiletries’ and a bunch of Dean’s old clothes, as well as some dried food and a bladder of water.

Dean hasn’t looked at Cas directly since he told him he had to leave three hours ago, but now he pulls Cas in to a tight hug. Cas remains rigid. Dean snuffles at Cas’s neck a little and says wetly, “It’s not you, Cas, it’s me. I…”

Cas moves to rest one hand on the small of Dean’s back and presses back in to the embrace. “It’s okay, Dean. I understand.” He doesn’t, really. He’s realised these past few days how little he actually understands, but for now, he can be strong for Dean.

Dean drives him to the nearest bus station and hands him a wad of cash. They sit in the car for a little while, not talking, and the silence is nice. Peaceful. Like there’s nothing left to say between them, although Cas knows that’s far from the truth.

When Cas’s bus is due to arrive, Dean leans across the seat and presses his lips to Cas’s cheek. It’s not at all like it was with April; Dean’s lips are somehow softer and his stubble burns Cas’s skin and Cas feels like he’s missing something.

“Stay safe,” Dean says, voice thick with an emotion Cas cannot describe. He nods, smiles, and leaves the Impala, heaving the duffle up on to his shoulder.

It’s not until Cas is lying on a motel bed somewhere in Illinois that he opens the wrapped box. Inside is a disposable cell phone and a scrap of paper, a note scrawled across it in Dean’s tight script. There are instructions telling Cas how to delete all traces of contact from the phone, and the words, Stay safe. Keep in contact. I’m so sorry, Cas.

Cas leaves the phone on the bed and takes a shower, spending longer than he should under the scalding water, turning it off only when his skin is a bright, angry red and the pads of his fingers are wrinkled and numb. He returns to the bedroom and finds an old shirt of Dean’s and some underwear before lying back against the headboard of his bed. Everything smells like Dean, now, and it’s a painful sort of comfort. Taking the phone, he presses Dean’s number in to the keypad and taps out a short message. He deletes it once the message is sent and sets the cell on the beside table before turning off the light and falling in to a restless slumber.

At 1:08am, he’s still asleep when Dean’s text comes through. Cas will wake with the dawn, sunlight curling its fingers around the shutters, and smile at the message that appears on the screen. Miss you, too, he’ll reply, ending the first of many text conversations to come.

“I can’t sleep, Dean,” he says, standing in the doorway to Dean’s room for the third time that night - an inked shape drawn in broad brushstrokes against warm yellow light. Dean rolls over and blinks blearily at the intruder.

“Cas?” Dean’s voice is sleep rough and heavy, like he’s spent the last three hours sucking on cotton balls. His first instinct is to reach for the gun kept in the drawer beside his bed. “Everything okay?”

“No,” Cas says, shifting his weight. “Every time I close my eyes, I’m transported to a new place. It’s disconcerting.”

Dean can’t help himself; he chuckles quietly. He removes his hand from where it’s hovering in the air between the bed and the table and eases himself back under the sheets. “You’re dreaming, Cas.”

 A tiny, irate huff comes from the foot of his bed. “Angels don’t dream, Dean.”

“Angels apparently don’t eat PB&J sandwiches or watch romcoms, either, but hey - there’s a first for everything.” Dean sinks further into the warm, gentle comfort of his memory foam mattress. “Your dreams’re probably a result of the fall, or something,. Go back to sleep.”

Silence. Three minutes pass. Dean can still feel the angel’s eyes watching him, and, judging by sound, Cas probably hasn’t moved an inch. Hell, the dude watched over earth for millennia; he could probably comfortably stand there all night.

Dean, on the other hand, doesn’t do well at being watched.

“I’m not gonna get rid of you, am I?” Dean mumbles irritably when the red numbers on the clock beside his bed indicate that fifteen minutes have passed. “C’mon, then. I’m not having you ‘watch over’ me all night, or whatever.”

More silence; Cas doesn’t move. Dean opens his eyes simply so he can roll them - since when was playing mom to angels part of his job description?

“That was an invitation. We ain’t got all night, sunshine.”

Dean hears Cas move towards the bed. He slides stiffly between the sheets and lies on his back, hair a murky splash against the pillow, skin glowing gold in the half light. His body remains entirely rigid. Dean sighs. In the morning, he’ll blame it on exhaustion and the fact that he was half asleep, but he trails his fingertips down the length of Cas’s forearm in an effort to comfort him, whispering in to the air between them, “It’s okay, Cas. You’re safe.”

Cas relaxes, then, like someone’s let all the air out of a balloon. Dean feels tentative nails scratch against his palm before Cas curls his fingers between Dean’s, a tiny smile playing across his lips.

“Thank you, Dean. You’re the best at chasing monsters away, after all” is the last thing Dean hears before he falls back to sleep.

It hurts. 

As soon as Cas mentions having sex with someone who isn’t Dean, it hurts. Dean pretends it doesn’t, of course, but it’s agony – like a salted knife blade pressed against his chest. He chokes on his food, jealousy – acrid and hot – pooling in his stomach, and he lurches forward, emotion bleeding in to his tone. “You had sex with April?”

Sam makes some sort of snipe, but Dean honestly doesn’t hear anything above the angry buzzing noise inside his skull. Cas inclines his head slightly, confused, clearly unable to understand whatever feeling Dean is currently projecting. Dean realises this could go either way; he could befuddle Cas further by acting possessive, by getting angry at Cas for something he doesn’t understand, or he could pretend that everything’s okay. That the thought of another person’s hands all over Cas’s body doesn’t make him want to throw up.

He chooses the latter and paints on a smile, because he’s not some immature character from goddamn Days of our Lives. This isn’t a soap opera. This is his life, no happy ending guaranteed, and his smile feels tight and saccharine, pushing melodramatic, but it works. Cas’s face relaxes in to something a little less concerned; Dean just feels sick.

He clears his throat.

“So er, did you use protection?” It sounds vaguely uncomfortable, the words gruff as they try to stick in his mouth, but it’s okay. And Cas - Cas, fucking bless him, nomatter how much Dean is hurting right now - mentions angel blades, because of course he’s never had a sex ed class in his life and probably thinks condoms are a sort of greasy oblong balloon. He’s never had to worry about petty human things like illness before.

Dean just turns Cas’s response in to a joke, and Sam plays along with it. Thankfully. But then Cas mentions how he reckons they’ll make great teachers, and that’s got to take the fucking cake, because Dean’s not gonna lie, his mind spends a lot of time rolling in the gutter, and he automatically thinks about teaching Cas about sex. Which is something he’s thought about a lot, actually. He feels his expression shift to something resembling discomfort, but he’s not gonna go there. It’s too late now. Dean has stood up to Lucifer and damned himself to an eternity in Hell and carved out a place for himself in Purgatory, a land with no laws, but he can’t tell a fucking ex Angel of the Lord that he’s in love with him. He’s a coward, pure and simple, because although he can finally admit to himself that he has feelings, he can’t deal with the thought of getting even more emotionally invested in something only to lose it. Again. Too bad it’s already too late.

As Cas moves off, seemingly satisfied with their discussion and oblivious to Dean’s current emotional state (and why shouldn’t he be; he’s never had ‘occasion’ to learn the nuances of the human condition), Sam sends a questioning glance at Dean, like this isn’t how he imagined Dean would react to finding out that Cas had sex for the first time. And yeah, to be honest, Dean thought he’d be the one to take Cas’s virginity, so this is totally unexpected for him, as well. He never thought he’d even have to react. He’s never even been able to reconcile the image of Cas having sex with someone else, because although he knows Cas is a sexual being (he’s seen him pop a boner at a porno and make out with a Demon), he’s also the guy who freaked out at the thought of fucking a prostitute, who always equated sex with love. Dean’s treading on new territory, here, and it’s entirely disconcerting.

But then Sam disappears before he can reprimand Dean, the strange flicker of his features as he changes in to something more mechanical - Sam-but-not-Sam - demands immediate attention, and all Dean’s inconsequential thoughts about sex disappear, because reality check, there are more important things than where Cas does or doesn’t stick his dick. All Dean wants, though, is a reprieve; a moment to take a breath, to collect his thoughts, to try and figure out what he needs to do. But of course he’s not granted even that, because this is his life, and there’s always a problem to be solved, people to be saved.

Or an ex angel to disappoint, Dean thinks bitterly. This is his life; his choices. Is this who he wants to be?