"You are forbidden from speaking to Cas ever again!" Dean shouted at Sam as soon as he walked into the motel room later that night. He stunk of cigarettes and whisky, and was a little unstable on his feet.
"Dude, I'm not having this conversation with you while you're drunk. Sleep it off."
"This is not a conversation; this is an order. No more putting stupid ideas in Cas' head. He gets confused and then I have to deal with awkward angel feelings all over the place."
"Me putting ideas in his head? You're the one that's been taking him out on chastity dates for the last two months. You've been driving him crazy!"
"Hanging out!" Dean corrected him. "We were hanging out! God, why is that so hard for everyone to understand?"
"Because you don't hang out with people who confess being in love with you. It's called leading them on, and it's cruel."
"So now I can't spend time with him because he's in love with me? I lose one of my best friends just like that? In what universe is that fair?"
"In the universe we live in, Dean. Nothing's fair. We make tough choices, and we try to make the best ones. So you need to choose now. Break it off clean with Cas, so he can move on, or just go the whole route and make him happy. I don't care which one you choose, but do it quickly."
Dean glared at his brother, with what he hoped was righteous indignation in the face of Sam's lucid and sober argument. He decided he was way too drunk for the conversation, and ready to worry about it later, because later was a good time to worry about other things.
In the heated silence of their motel room, Dean climbed into bed and went to sleep. Tomorrow was later.
When Dean woke up, he stayed in bed, silent and still, to see where Sam was before he got out of bed. Tomorrow wasn't later enough to have the discussion. He listened carefully, and determined that Sam was not in the room, which was curious, but not too worrying. Sam might be out getting breakfast, or, also not wanting to continue their conversation from the night before. Either option was okay with Dean, so he sat up in bed, stretching and scratching himself. He rubbed the sleep grit from his eyes, looked across the room, and saw Castiel sitting in a chair staring at him.
"Goodmorning, Dean," he said, his expression blank and unreadable.
Dean grunted at him and got out of bed to go to the bathroom. There was no way he was going to deal with Castiel with a full bladder. When he stepped out, Castiel was still looking at him, though his expression had changed a little bit, his eyes looked a little bigger. There was a mix of sadness and hope in those eyes. Like that puppy look he'd had when he asked Dean out on their first date. Their only date, Dean insisted to himself.
"Did you talk to Sam again this morning?" Dean asked, dropping into the chair across from Castiel. His voice was rough from sleep, and immediately accusatory.
"I thought you didn't want to hang out with me anymore?" And now he sounds a little hurt.
"I don't," Castiel said, and then hesitated. "I do, but I can't," he admitted.
"I want us to be friends, Cas. I like hanging out with you. You're my friend."
"I know. But this is... confusing for me. And sometimes, it hurts," Castiel added quietly.
Dean rubbed his face hard, an attempt to refresh himself from the heavy conversation. "I'm sorry, Cas. I didn't realize I was hurting you."
"I know," Castiel said. Because he did know. It didn't make it hurt less, to be so close to Dean and not be able to touch him. But it was better that Dean hadn't been cruel. He hadn't been ignoring Castiel's plight. Just oblivious, which he could forgive.
"Would it really be that bad?" Castiel asked after a long silence, while Dean sat there awkward and nervous, unsure what else to say.
"Would what be really that bad?" Dean asked.
"I don't know, Cas," Dean said, rubbing his face again, harder this time. "No. I don't think it would be that bad. It probably wouldn't be bad at all. But, you want me to love you, and I don't. Not like that. You want me to go on dates with you and fall in love, but how are you going to feel when I don't? You'll be more hurt than before."
"I already hurt so much, how could it hurt more?"
"You'd be surprised," Dean tried to say lightly, smiling at Castiel's innocence in the complication of a relationship. Even a relationship like 'brother' or 'friend' could hurt so much sometimes, when you were close and you cared. 'Lover' could hurt a lot, too.
"You're my best friend, Cas. I like spending time with you."
"I like spending time with you too, but... It is painful for me not to be closer."
"So that would be it then? We can't hang out anymore. We can't just be friends."
"No," Castiel said sadly, looking away from Dean.
"What do you want, Cas?" Dean asked quietly, not looking at Castiel, but at his long, thin fingers, splayed on the table between them.
"I want to love you, Dean. I would like you to return that, but mostly, I just want to love you."
"I can't promise you anything, Cas. I can't promise I won't break away, and run off, and get angry... or just..."
Castiel reached across the table slowly, to where Dean's hands rested, nervously fluttering about, gripping and twisting at each other. He covered Dean's hands with his own, slipped his hand between them, twined his fingers with Dean's thick calloused, scarred fingers. Dean's hands stilled suddenly, and he looked up at Castiel.
"Just promise that I can love you."
Dean nodded, and gave Castiel's fingers a squeeze.