Parallel Orbits

Rating: General Audiences

Relationships: Castiel & Dean Winchester (platonic), Castiel/Dean Winchester (romantic)

Characters: Dean Winchester, Castiel

Tags: Pre-Slash, Trans Character, Queer Themes, AU

Summary: “Guy-shaped,” Cas says with an appraising smile, “I like that."

Originally posted on the Archive of Our Own on December 30th, 2020. Complete.

Dean’s lying on the mattress in Cas’ apartment halfheartedly trying to balance some forms for the auto repair when Cas asks, “Dean. Would you like me to make some tea?”

Dean glances up. “Uh, yeah, sure man, thanks.” He’s not much of a tea drinker, but Cas makes it all the time, so it’s been growing on him. They’ve been friends for—what, a few months now?—and the guy’s already got him cracked. Dean’s gone soft.

He flips over on the mattress and tugs on the tendril of the spider plant hanging over the bed. From the kitchenette, Cas, whose back is to Dean, calls: “Don’t do that.”

“Sheesh, sorry.” Dean holds back a smile and returns to his forms. The telltale whistle of the kettle comes a few minutes later, and Cas returns to the room bearing two mugs of tea. He hands Dean the one nearest to him, a white mug with a classic yellow smiley face on the front.

“Why the happy face?” Dean asks, pointing to the mug.

Cas frowns at him. “Why not?”

“Can’t argue with that,” Dean says, and takes a sip of the tea, which burns his tongue. “Fuck,” he yelps, setting the mug down on the side table.

Cas looks at him haughtily. “You always do that.”

“Tha' tho?” Dean says, looking at his tongue through crossed eyes. “That so?” he corrects.

Cas stirs his tea, blows on it, and takes a cautious sip. “Remind me why you’re here, Dean?”

Dean shrugs. Harsh . “Just wanted to talk, man. Haven’t seen you for a week.”

Cas considers. “That’s fair.”

“So what’ve you been up to, pal? Any more riveting adventures to the library?”

“No riveting adventures of any sort. I went to the pharmacy yesterday, though. But I doubt that interests you.”

Dean shrugs. “Pharmacy? What for?”

Cas picks up a tiny glass vial resting on the side table near Dean’s elbow. “This.”

Dean squints at it. There’s a clear liquid inside, and the label on it is printed with “TESTOSTERONE CYPIONATE”.

“Testosterone?” He reads, confused.

“Hormone replacement therapy,” Cas says. “Used in gender transition.”

...Gender transition? Dean squints. “What do you mean?”

“I thought you knew this, Dean. I’m transgender.”

Dean definitely did not know this. He tries to wrap his head around it. “Wait, so. Are you—I don’t know if I’m saying this right, sorry—are you girl going to guy or guy going to girl?”

“I was assigned female at birth, if that’s what you mean. And I’m not really ‘going’ anywhere” —he does his air quote thing— “I don’t really have much sense of gender.”

“...You’re a dude, though, right?” Dean says.

Cas looks unruffled. “I suppose. In the way that, if I had to pick something, I’d be a man. And I did pick. To be technical about it.”

“But by ‘pick’ you mean that you…?” Dean gestures around his waist vaguely.

“Dean.” Cas gives him a look.

“Right. Sorry.”

Dean presses his forehead into the palm of his hand. “So let me see if I’ve got it right. Your family was like ‘it’s a girl!’ but you were like, nah, not quite, and took… testosterone? Still take testosterone. To be more guy-shaped. But not exactly a guy.”

“Guy-shaped,” Cas says with an appraising smile, “I like that. And yes. That’s a more or less accurate summary.”

Dean has some brain rewiring to do. When he first met Cas, he was absolutely certain the guy was gay. Straight-up Kinsey 6. But if Cas wasn’t born a guy, but now he’s a guy, but he isn’t quite 100% in guy-land, then what the hell does that make him?

(Dean has very little self-awareness. He does not pause to think about why he cares so much about Cas’ sexual preferences.)

“So are you still gay?”

Cas frowns. “What do you mean, ‘still’ gay.”

“I mean—I thought you were gay when I met you. You never flirt with chicks, for one thing, and you didn’t show any interest when we went to during the summer. But like… with all this” —he waves his hand around— “gender stuff, doesn’t that complicate things?”

“You thought I was gay?” He looks incredulous. Dean feels flustered all of a sudden.

“Well, yeah , I mean, reasonable assumption!” He rubs the back of his neck. “So? Are you?”

“By definition, I guess.”

“What do you mean, you guess ?” Dean asks, a little exasperated.

“Well, some would say feeling a lack of gender disqualifies one from counting as a gay man. Emphasis on man.”

“That’s dumb,” Dean scoffs. Then he reconsiders. “Unless… do you agree with that?”

Cas looks up at the ceiling. “I guess not. All things considered, ‘gay’ fits the best for me. For now at least.”

“Uh-huh.” Dean’s brain hurts. “All this is a lot to take in, Cas.”

“You did pretty well.”

Dean gives him a look and turns back to his forms. After a few minutes, though, something occurs to him.

“Is that why you left Utah like you mentioned? Because of the whole gender thing?”

Cas sighs and drains the rest of his mug. “That was part of it, yes. But that wasn’t the only reason. There’s a lot you don’t know about me, Dean.”

Fair enough. “Fair enough,” Dean says. He reaches up to the spider plant and twirls his finger around the nearest tendril. “How’s this guy doing?”

“The plant is fine, Dean. It doesn’t require much maintenance. I'm starting to get the feeling there's something you're not telling me."

"What?" Dean splutters. "No. Nothing."

Cas eyes him warily, then gets up to put their two empty mugs in the sink. "I've got work in twenty minutes. Are you planning to stay here?"

"Work? On a Saturday? Fuck, dude, you've gotta talk to Mrs. What's-her-name about that. Or unionize with the other clerks, or somethin'."

"Or something," Cas mutters, distracted, grabbing his coat. That fucking coat. Dean doesn't think about it. "So? Are you staying?"

"What, at your house? 'Course not, man. Mind if I" —Dean rubs the back of his neck— "Mind if I come with? Walk you there?"

They stare at each other for a moment too long. "Of course," Cas says, slowly, and Dean lets himself smile.