Summary: Historical AU, northern Wales 1284. As Edward I's army creeps forward in its painstaking invasion of Wales, one of his knights and one of his draftsman pass the time in the sun. Sir Dean of Winchester is, after all, a temptation too strong for human frailty to resist. Besides, Dean's wrists look really really good in those vambraces.
Pairing/Characters: Castiel/Dean. Edward I and Sam mentioned.
Written: 16 September 2012.
Warnings/Tropes/Other things: Knight!Dean, craftsman!Cas. Some mention of religious themes, corresponding uncertainty about how to understand homosexuality. As they're in the middle of a military campaign to subjugate Wales, there's some mention of the Welsh as primitive or traitorous.
Note: The first few paragraphs originally written as a commentfic here.
“How many castles does he need?”
Castiel glared at where Dean was lazing around on the lush Welsh grass, and added another note to his plans. It was hard enough designing a castle that could be thrown together in a couple of months, for yet another strategically awkward location, and which would be secure at every point of construction in case the evasive Welsh came charging out of the hills. It was harder doing it on a wax tablet too small to sketch properly, with too little parchment to waste on drafts, and his table set up on uneven ground.
It was close to impossible with the knight insisting on lying around next to him all the time and interrupting.
“As many as it takes, Dean. You know that.”
“Might as well build a chain of feed sheds. Bet you a pheasant it’ll never see any action. What’s the point defending against an enemy that never turns up?”
Dean chewed absently at the tail of the leather strap buckling the light vambrace to his arm. There was no need for him to be wearing it. They hadn't seen a Welshman in weeks, and this terrain was impractical for equestrian activity anyway, so if they did suddenly attack the king would be more likely to deploy lancers and archers than his precious knights. But Dean just liked wearing them.
Castiel carefully didn’t think about how much he liked the look of Dean’s wrists, cuffed with dark leather.
“If you’re bored, Dean,” he suggested, trying to make his voice stern instead of placatory, “you could always depute someone else to command your men and return to Winchester.”
Dean made a sound, lazy and indignant, and rolled over onto his belly to grin charmingly up at Castiel. “Nah, Sammy’s got it all in hand. Kid enjoys that sort of thing, books and management and keeping the tenants happy and not pissing off the Bishop. ‘Sides, I like it out here.”
With you, he didn’t have to add. The dark edge to his grin and the promise of sin in his eyes said it all for him.
Castiel ducked his head, reddening, and wondered frantically if it was true what the chronicler said about the Welsh, that they ate grass because there was nothing else in the land. Clearly King Edward didn’t think so, or they wouldn’t be here.
“Cas,” Dean wheedled, lower and a little closer.
Castiel accidentally jabbed his stylus into the wax so hard that it scratched the wood underneath. There was promise in that voice. It was the sort of promise that led to lips trailing down spines in the dark, and shared gasps of laughter stifled under blankets, and incomplete confessions to the priest.
“Dean,” he said, and was very proud that he managed to keep his voice even.
He tucked the stylus into his tablet, and folded the tablet away.
Sir Dean of Winchester had a power over Castiel that was more than worldly. Castiel suspected sometimes, in the cold grey of the pre-dawn light, that the knight had his hooks in Castiel’s very soul. But when Dean’s face lit up like that, delighted as a child and brilliant as the sun; when the beam broke out across his face, cocky and shy at once and somehow innocent, impossibly innocent despite the thoughts it heralded - then, ah then, Castiel could not find it in himself to resent Dean for it.
“Come on, Master of the Royal Works,” Dean teased, warm and off-hand. “Something I gotta show you.”
Castiel sighed at the title. It was grand, too grand for him, and though he appreciated the generous daily wage of three shillings, he would appreciate even more receiving the money to pay his vast team of workers before they starved and wandered off to find something that they could actually live on. Kings, he sometimes thought, were too accustomed to paying with promises. They did not appreciate that a king’s promise can buy bread only for a king, not for the merchant or common carpenter who has received the promise as coinage.
“I have not the luxury of your eternal leisure, Winchester,” he grumbled, because Dean usually expected it of him and Castiel was weak, would do anything to coax that grin across his face. “Castles rarely spring fully formed from the ground.”
Dean threw back his head and laughed, bright and open, and Castiel selfishly revelled in it. “That’s where you’re wrong, Savoyard. This here?” He swung around, arms open, encompassing the vast and forbidding wilderness of mountains around them. “This is Wales, the land of Merlin and the giants. Pretty sure the chronicles say they’ve done that lots of times.”
“According to the chronicles, Englishman,” Castiel replied dryly, trying not to let his heart skip out of his chest at the delighted crinkle in the corners of Dean’s eyes, “Merlin has not been seen for many centuries, and the Welsh are not in the habit of building towns, let alone respectable fortalices.”
Dean bumped against his shoulder. “So we show them how. Once we gank that traitorous son of a bitch Llewellyn they’ll see that it’s better with us around. Hey, no, this way.”
Castiel looked, with some trepidation, in the direction Dean was pointing. Away from the road that led to the pass: steeply up and up through worn rocks and the coarse banks of red-brown bracken, to the highest point of the peak. His calves ached just looking at it.
“You do realise that there could be fifty Welshmen lying in wait between us and that nearest outcrop,” he pointed out flatly, not even bothering to make it a question.
The too-familiar weight of Dean’s palm curved suddenly around the back of his neck, hot and a little slippery from the distance they’d climbed already. It was probably meant to reassure, but the bolt of shameful lust that shot down Castiel’s backbone and curled his toes was not a soothing thing at all.
“What do you think I do with my eternal leisure, mason?” Dean murmured in his ear, voice rich with laughter. “I’ll trust you to build walls that don’t fall on my head, and you trust me to know where the enemy isn’t. Deal?”
Castiel couldn’t find his voice to reply.
It was a tiny nook, scooped as if by the hand of a giant from the rock high up against the backbone of the mountain. The land fell away below them, dizzying slopes and falls of grey and red-brown streaked with green and blue, fading into the purple of distance, wild and incomprehensible as the mind of its Maker.
Castiel breathed in awe with the thin mountain air.
The wind cut at their hands and faces, and he belatedly drew his mantle tight about him.
“Guess it’s not exactly the Alps?”
Dean sounded almost shy again.
“It’s beautiful, Dean,” Castiel said, and his voice came out gruff and curt.
Dean let out a soft breath. Castiel almost thought he felt the warmth of it against his cheek; but that was ridiculous, as Dean was more than an arm’s length away.
(What was this strange influence Dean had over him? that Castiel felt him when he was not around, dreamed him at night, spent all his waking hours longing for his smile?)
Dean sidled closer, and his fingers tangled with Castiel’s, weaving and locking as if they belonged there. “Step back into the lee of the hill, you dreamy freak,” he said, soft enough that his words were almost lost. The French language in his mouth sounded coarse and sweet – as it did, to be fair, for all English men, but Dean’s voice made it sound rich in a way that Castiel could never quite place.
Castiel shivered, and hoped it was the wind.
Dean tugged, gentle and inexorable, and Castiel let himself be led, as he always did. As he could not but do, with Dean.
Even though everything about him was so very, very incomprehensible.
It was warmer out of the wind, and the grass was lush and thick, and Dean’s fingers were tickling on the back of his neck when Castiel turned suddenly in his arms to look at him.
Something about the expression on Castiel’s face must have startled Dean, because the teasing that was almost always lurking in his eyes faded.
“Cas?” he asked, and it was serious, and warm, and almost uncertain under the bravado of the older brother and the knight.
Castiel opened his mouth, but could find no words. Dean’s eyes were too strong, too beautiful, looking at Castiel as if he were the divinity himself. As if Dean could see through to that spark of the original Divine in his soul, see him as truly and unrelentingly as the Father.
This thing that we are doing, he wanted to beg, what do you think it is? How do you understand it? Because I have read, and I have read again, and I have searched over and over in all the volumes and authorities stored in my memory. And they speak of the most shadowed and obscure things, and I do not understand. They say nothing of your fingers on my lips, my mouth on your hip. Where do we sin, Dean? What is it that we do? Where are the lines that we must not cross without destroying that most precious part of ourselves?
“You undo me,” was all he could find to say, the words strange and broken in his mouth.
Dean’s mouth quivered, and twisted into something soft and indecipherable at the corner. The tip of his tongue loosened the dry lips against each other; and Castiel ached to lean in and trace that same path with his own tongue.
“Yeah, well,” Dean replied, hoarse and dark. “You terrify me. So.”
Castiel could not understand how there could be anything terrifying about his slight, awkward self; but uncertainty in Dean was a painful thing to see, and the fingers still twined with his were taut, all knuckles, and he could feel the harsh beat of Dean’s heart under his hand, as if all the layers of wool and flesh in between were nothing.
So he leaned in, and touched his mouth cautiously to the furrow at the edge of Dean’s.
Dean’s breath shot out all in a fevered rush against Castiel’s cheek.
Then he turned his head and his mouth opened sweet and fierce under Castiel’s, and Castiel had to concentrate desperately on the texture of the embroidery against his fingers as he clenched his hand around Dean’s collar, because the judder of Dean’s breath in his mouth and the rush of delight in his stomach were threatening to take his knees out from under him.
Dean groaned with him, desperate as a wounded man, and the sound of it was so strangely textured when Castiel felt the vibrations in his own skull, against his own teeth. Did a woman groan like that, when she was kissed? Castiel couldn’t believe it.
Dean’s hand slid into Castiel’s hair, scratched deliciously against his skull, tilted his head back. Castiel opened hungrily under it, slid closer into the enveloping warmth of Dean’s body, and burrowed cold hands in under the collar of Dean’s tunic to find the musky softness of his skin. His mouth tilted under the press and prayer of Dean’s, under the sudden shocking clarity of the scrape of teeth against lip, the lush slow tease of tongue over tongue.
So very naturally they moved, he couldn’t help but think, hazy with wanting. As if this were ordained by…
Castiel growled, and shoved Dean backwards.
Dean went, stumbled, stunned and stupid with passion, lips gleaming and swollen and open with questions. Castiel stalked after him, pinned him to the rock wall, and tore open the clasp of his tunic.
Dean’s eyes went wide, startled into dark heat, and it took him a moment before his fingers were fumbling too fast for efficiency at the clasp of his belt. It came loose with a clatter and curled into the grass like a snake, as Castiel shoved Dean’s mantle off his shoulders and dragged his tunic up from the knees to pull it over his head. Dean was almost laughing when his face emerged, hair mussed and face reddened, and all the skin of his chest was flushed with eagerness.
Bright, bright, and so impossibly innocent in his lust.
Castiel had to kiss him, had to lean in and take the intoxicating taste of his mouth, beloved and close. And his hands mapped out their new territory, flanks and ribs and stomach; delighted in the jump and quiver of the muscles under his touch.
Do not lie with man as with a woman.
But what did that mean?
There surely could never be, with a woman, the intensity of flesh on flesh, the surge of sheer raw power that Castiel felt when Dean was stretched out under him, moaning for the slightest touch. There could not be, with a woman, the depth of friendship and understanding that were possible with a man: with a woman you had to hide so much of yourself, hold back your strength and your weaknesses and your honest opinions. Dean and Castiel, they roared and raged at each other, they laughed at board while sharing a plate and into each other’s mouths in bed, they had wept and fought together. And in moments when death had seemed near, they had both heard each other’s confessions, soldier-style. Nothing with a woman could be so terrifying, so much Dean and Castiel, so very them.
“Cas,” Dean murmured into his mouth, and Castiel tasted his smile. “Let me?”
His fingertips skimmed feather-light over Castiel’s collarbone, and his thumb toyed with the bone clasp between the wings of it. A tease, only a tease: because then his hand swept firm and sure down Castiel’s side, and curled possessively around his belt.
“I am letting you, Dean” came out peevish and muffled around Dean’s tongue, and Dean cackled like a mischievous child and leaned back just far enough to smirk, eyes twinkling at Castiel though the weave of his lashes.
“Can’t have my foreign genius catching a chill, can I?” he purred, rich and dark as honey, and he unhooked Castiel’s belt as smooth and quick as if he’d had no trouble at all with his own.
Castiel tipped Dean’s head back and turned the smirk into noise, ragged and demanding: slid his mouth over the wind-cool skin of his throat. He nipped at the stubble there, at the little ragged scar over the collar bone, at the sensitive skin just under the ear, and Dean’s hands quivered against his stomach as they slid lower.
He didn’t understand why it was that the taste of Dean’s skin in his mouth, the sweet heavy salt of him, should set his blood racing as it did. There was no logic to it, and nothing he could find in any book to explain it.
The brush of Dean’s fingers, though, against the hardened flesh straining inside his trousers, the leap of that flesh in response as Dean worked the wool open just enough to touch... that, that was very comprehensible. Carnal and simple, powerful as only simple things could be, shouting out its joy and hunger to the skies. The rough slide of Dean’s fingertips against overheated flesh was uncomfortable and beautiful. Delicious enough to savour for eternity.
Castiel let himself sob into Dean’s neck, just for a moment, because he couldn’t have contained it if he tried.
Dean murmured something wordless and tender, as if he thought he could replace all of God’s eternal love with his own. His smile curved against Castiel’s ear, followed by the rough drag of his beard, and Castiel slid his hand greedily around to span the luscious expanse of Dean’s back and pressed himself in against Dean’s touch.
The familiar fingers spread eagerly around Castiel’s length, cradled him in the welcome of Dean’s palm (Dean’s flesh), gave him a warm cavern to shove himself into. Fingertips skated down towards the base, almost a tease. Castiel’s hips pushed forward, all of their own volition, and the sensitive head of him bumped blindly against Dean’s wrist just as Dean’s fingertips nudged against the delicate skin of Castiel’s testicles.
Dean made a noise against Castiel’s cheek, open-mouthed and panting hot. It sounded like wonder.
Castiel echoed something back, a little answer, and didn’t know what it was or what it was meant for, but he couldn’t leave Dean unanswered, couldn’t leave him alone. This was them, together. Clinging together, burning together.
So he summoned his courage, and lifted his head, though it felt like leaden weights were hauling it down.
He was too close to make out much detail. All he saw was impressions: the lust-blown softness in Dean’s eyes, the fall of sandy lashes against reddened cheeks. The flash of a mad smile, familiar and dear.
Behold thou art fair, o my beloved, he thought, desperate and besotted and blasphemous, behold thou art fair, thine eyes are as those of doves. The voice of my beloved, behold, he cometh, leaping upon the mountains, skipping over the hills.
He slid his fingers in under the tie of Dean’s trousers and tugged until it was loose, shoved it down over the beautiful curve of his rump, and kissed that smile.
Dean opened to him at once, delicious and willing, and Castiel slid inside, drank in the moans from his mouth as if they were life’s blood, gave him the same in return.
It was frantic, and hot. Begging without words, worshipping without words, and Castiel would do anything for this man but the blood was beating so hard in his head and his stomach and in the pulse of his flesh inside Dean’s hand that he thought he might scream, or lose himself.
His breath went wild, harsh little pants like a plea, and Dean’s sped up too. Castiel could feel the push of Dean’s member against the side of Dean’s hand, sliding forward on every other stroke to shove slick and blood-hot against the crease of Castiel’s thigh, and it was too much. Too much joy, too much terror, too much blood.
“Easy,” Dean growled, and it sounded violent but it promised no pain. “Easy, sweetheart. I got you.”
Castiel sucked a shuddering breath out of Dean’s mouth, and bit down on his lip. Dean hissed, and squeezed him tighter for a moment, like retaliation or a game. Then he let go, let Castiel catch breath to growl relieved objection into Dean’s mouth.
His fingertips, slick with the emissions of Castiel’s body, drew in gentle, tantalising curves up the swollen skin; and the pad of his thumb nudged bluntly up under the crown.
“Dean,” Castiel insisted. He tried to burrow in closer, back into the rough warmth of his hand, clutched tighter at Dean’s hips and slid one hand around to curve over the sensitive flesh behind his thighs.
Dean hummed breathlessly, lifted his messy hand and licked it, sloppy-wet. The pink of his tongue darted over the sword-callouses, peeked out from between the V of his fingers and nudged at the webbing, caught at the dampness there and added his own; and Dean caught Castiel’s eyes and held them, smirking and addictively bright.
Then he slid his mouth down, chased a gleam of moisture over the blue vein of his wrist, curled the wicked tip of his tongue over the luscious dark leather that clung to his wrist like the hand of a supplicant. And he winked.
Castiel lost all his breath at once and pushed forward, chasing the insistent thrill, sliding damp and hot against the shock of Dean’s damp heat. Dean whined and grabbed for him, teasing gone in a rush, powerful grip closing blindingly tight and good around both of them to crush them into pleasure together.
The skin of Dean’s back felt so delicate under Castiel’s fingertips, incongruous for the strength that Castiel knew lurked underneath. He raked the tips of his fingers up to the knob of Dean’s spine, dragged them hard back down, down the dip of his back, down to the bone of the tail, down with fingernails over the swell of his ass where is was scraping against the rock. Dean’s back arched against his touch, against the rough coolness of the rock, so that his whole body rocked against Castiel’s, thigh and hip and heaving chest.
Dean’s free arm hooked around Castiel’s neck, hard and possessive, and Castiel bucked up into his hand so hard that he slid right up over Dean’s wrist to nudge slick against the butter-smooth leather of his cuff.
He lost himself in a rush of light and lust and clarity, in the taste of Dean’s mouth and the strength of his arms and the inescapable safety of his touch.
The warm haze of it couldn’t last, not with the cut of the cool air against his flushed cheeks, and the little shivers of cold and desperate lust in Dean’s skin under his hands. So Castiel pushed at him, little sluggish shoves of his hands and knees, until Dean sank down to sprawl out in the grass, debauched and desperate and naked save for his fabric-tangled legs, blood hot and dark under his skin.
Castiel followed him down, knelt over his thighs and looked him over.
He considered, for a moment, biting. Making a chain of bites, across the luscious expanse of skin and flesh there, leading down from his collar bone, marching across his stomach to the jut of his hip. A chain like the king’s chain of castles, slung across Wales: proving that his army was not just moving across this land, transient, gone tomorrow. Proof, and possession. Marking land that he had conquered forever as his own.
Dean’s mouth was a lush thing, all temptation and promise, and Castiel smiled at it and slid two fingers in there.
Dean’s eyes went shock-wide, and Castiel knew that he was on the very edge of completion and that teasing would be cruel, but he couldn’t help but explore the dark heat of Dean’s mouth, stroke the insides of his cheeks and trace his fingertips over his tongue.
Dean’s reaction was unexpected. He groaned, ragged and deep, and let his head fall back as if in submission, and his mouth closed hungrily on Castiel’s fingers. His tongue swirled around them, shoving up between them, suckling them in deeper, as if they were all he wanted of the world. As if he only wanted to take, even if it was too much.
Castiel’s heart beat in his throat, too loud; and he closed his free hand around the answering throb in Dean’s flesh, and gave his beloved more.
Dean reached his completion with three fingers stuffing his mouth full, and Castiel’s hand hard and tender on him, and his naked body cushioned in the grass of a Welsh mountain whose name they did not know.
Dean always liked to wrap around Castiel from behind and nibble at the back of his neck, afterwards.
Castiel found it bemusing, but he rather liked it.
As a king is the head of the country, and a man is the head of his household, so does the man lie on top of the woman in the marriage bed. This is the natural order of things, the image of God’s relationship with His Creation. For a man to let another lie on top of him, be it woman or man or beast, is to subvert the natural order, to make the image of God and Man imperfect.
There were so very few things that were clear about this, about what was a sin, about what was unnatural. That bit was clear, though, so Castiel insisted on lying side by side, not one on top of the other.
Dean thought it was pointless, but enjoyed it anyway. Castiel thought it must have some point that he didn’t understand. It seemed such a small thing, compared to everything else.
“Cas,” Dean mumbled, into the side of his throat.
Castiel rolled over, and eyed Dean. Most of him was hidden under the mantle he’d tugged lazily over himself, but Castiel could make out enough of his chest to think impure thoughts about it.
Dean squinted up at him. There was a sleepy little smile playing at the corner of his mouth, and he looked sweet and young.
“Dude. You think too much.”
Castiel made a grumbling noise, to satisfy him.
The smile slid towards a smirk, just for a moment, then softened back into something deeper. Dean’s fingers slid up to rest against Castiel’s shoulder, light and unreasonably warm through the wool of Castiel’s clothes.
“Hey,” he murmured. “We’re okay, you know.”
So sweet, so simple. As if it could all come down to that.
Castiel let himself fall back down into the grass, and stared at the sky, at the incomprehensible vastness of the heavens.
“I don’t understand,” he confessed at last.
Dean’s hand brushed against his hip. “Me neither.”
He didn’t sound very worried about that.
--- --- ---
The trouble with conquering Wales was that the Welsh kept hiding. They didn't have much in the way of permanent settlements, certainly not large communal living, so their method of dealing with the English attempts to conquer them was mostly Be Elsewhere And Let Them Waste Their Money Tramping Around Looking For Somewhere To Fight. In the last quarter of the thirteenth century, though, Edward I (later aka Longshanks and Hammer of the Scots) decided to solve this once and for all. He built a chain of castles, complete with fortified towns (settled by English), across northern Wales. This provided a supply line as well as a series of defensible positions, a permanent settlement that the Welsh couldn't just drive out as soon as the king's army left.
Incidentally, in doing so, he spent about ten times his annual income every year, but hey! There's lots of Italian bankers over there that he could borrow money off, and if all else fails, he could always drive every single Jew out of England and annex all their property to the crown to be auctioned off. Edward I was the king of money-making schemes.
Setting a story in the middle of this, and having no voices in it but the voice of an eager young knight who's only ever heard the 'Wales is meant to belong to us and Llewellyn is a traitor' line and the voice of a foreigner who's been employed by the king, is of course a very incomplete picture of events. Just to be clear: no, I don't agree with Dean when he brashly repeats the party line.
Also, Castiel has stolen the role, title, and even the wage of the Savoyard Master James of Saint-George, who was the real engineer/architect/mason/designer behind most of Edward's Welsh castles.