“He’s an asshole,” Dean said with all the vehemence he’d mustered every other time he’d said it. Sam Wesson, his best friend, sat across from him at the diner. They were on their lunch break. They often grabbed a bite together to bitch about the day or make plans for the weekend. Sam was a good listener. He had the patience of Job. Right now though he looked quite put upon. He was put upon to be honest. Dean had been stuck in one track for the past month. All conversations either began or ended with some mention of the asshole neighbor.
“Just talk to him for Christ’s sake,” Sam tipped his head back as he said it, letting out a sigh of epic frustration.
“There’s literally nothing I can do. I live in a gated community on the edge of the city limits. His house is just outside of the city limits. He can do whatever he wants out there.”
“Seriously, Dean. It will hurt literally nothing for you to try reasoning with him. You make no sense, you know.” Sam scooped up a forkful of salad and took an angry bite. “You make deals all day, get people to do your bidding.” He swallowed the bite he was talking around and continued, “Why can’t you just walk over there and ask the guy to do something about his roosters?”
“I don’t try to make impossible deals.” Dean speared a piece of boring looking chicken on his plate. A waitress walked by with a steaming, cheese oozing burger. His mouth watered, but he looked away. Good health was something to be cherished. You only live once after all. Dean decided to redirect the conversation. “Come over this weekend. We’ll barbeque.”
“Sure. You thinking lunch time or dinner time?”
“Lunch. Bobby and Ellen will be there, and I might be able to get Jo to stop working on her thesis for half a minute.”
“You still trying to set me up with her, because she already made it abundantly clear that that was not gonna happen?” Sam laughed at Dean’s look of innocence.
“I just want my friends and family to get to know each other better. Can’t fault me for that.” Dean glanced down at his watch and realized that eating needed to happen faster. He scooped up a bite and powered through.
“Sounds good, just don’t be awkward. If you get weird, I’ll go next door and invite the neighbor to join us.”
Dean waved his fork at him and said, “Do that and this friendship ends.” To add to his point he said, “Bitch.”
“Jerk.” Sam laughed though. They finished out the meal in a comfortable silence.
Dean went home that day, feeling light. He had accomplished a lot to be proud of. A small merger was happening because he set it in motion. After Zachariah mysteriously left, Dean had been moved up into his job. The pay was great, the perks were great, and overall, Dean was happy. So the building had that pesky haunting the year prior. So he still wondered about all the ways that his world was just odd. In the grand scheme of things though, it hardly mattered. He had a new friend out of it all, and a rather good life.
When things had settled back down after Zachariah’s abrupt departure, Dean decided he wanted to try country living. Now, Dean’s idea of country living and everyone else’s idea of country living are likely very different. Dean decided that a move to a small gated community on the edge of town was country living. His home had a wide manicured front lawn, stucco walls in Santa Fe colors, and a small fountain that was some sort of ancient Greek monster creature spitting out water toward the sky.
He got one of the last homes in the community. The southern end of his property butted up against a high stucco wall that surrounded the whole collection of houses. This wall marked off the edge of his property and the too small barrier between his lands and his neighbor's.
Now most would not be so irritated by Dean's neighbor. Dean was use to a certain measure of quiet though. The first day spent in his new home was a day of work. He moved everything into place. He unpacked and sorted. There was method and reason to all that he did.
When he finished, he looked on it all with satisfaction. He went into the backyard and surveyed his domain. It was sunset, and the sky glowed all pinks and oranges. It was beautiful. A rooster crowed loud and long.
At the time Dean had grinned at the wall in the direction of the creature's noise. It was a sign that he wasn't in the city proper. It was a country sign. At the time it made him quite happy.
The next morning, Dean had woken up at his usual early hour, and the rooster crowed his greeting. Dean had the day off to finish getting his new home in order, then he'd be back to work. An hour into his day and the rooster crowed again. This time he sounded different from the time before.
This went on sporadically throughout the day. Here a rooster crowing there a rooster crowing at various times and for various durations. It was still new though, so Dean didn't hate it just yet.
A week passed, and Dean came to hate it. Some nights the blasted rooster would crow at 3:00 am. Sam was of no help. He suggested noise cancelling headphones.
Dean just built up a full mythos for why there were roosters practically in town and why his neighbor felt they were worth having. Dean also determined that there was at least three separate roosters. No one needs three roosters.
He almost went over one afternoon when the neighbor added his own voice to the crowing chorus. The guy was talking to the rooster. “Now Balthazar, this is nothing to crow about.” The voice was rough and deep. Dean didn't want to associate this neighbor with anything positive. His body disagreed with him though.
A good voice always got to Dean. He'd made many mistakes over an accent. The guy kept talking. “You keep crowing at all hours and you'll have to fill the stew pot.”
Dean felt hope surge. Oh please god yes. Kill the fucking rooster. The rooster crowed again though, and instead of the blessed sound of an ax whacking the noisey head off the thing, Dean heard the man laugh and mimic the crowing in his own rich baritone. Shit.
The next day was somehow worse. When Dean came home, he decided to whip up a quick meal and eat it on his back porch. The sky was shifting into twilight time and the sound of cicadas began filling the world with a certain quiet melody. Dean smiled at the little bit of paradise that he seemed to be occupying in that moment.
Then the rooster crowed. He heard the back door of his neighbor’s house open and close. “Balthazar, it is nowhere near time for all of that,” the man called out to his stupid rooster. “A promise is a promise though.”
Dean wondered if this meant that the rooster was going to be done for. He listened, breath held for the tell-tale sounds of death. A small part of him felt a bit guilty. Maybe the rooster didn’t have to die. He started to push back from the table a little to move toward the wall. Maybe I should say something. Then there was music. The song from Titanic filled the once peaceful space.
It just can’t get any worse, Dean thought. Then the man started singing loudly along with Celine Dion’s melancholy song. The rooster crowed in response. The man seemed determined to sing the whole song. “You’re here. There’s nothing I fear…” The man was singing in notes that were too high for his voice. The rooster started crowing yet again. Somehow it apparently had some flight capabilities, because it got up on top of the wall. Dean could see it now, all wild yellow and russet brown feathers. It flapped its wings then held them stretched wide open.
“Shit,” Dean said aloud. The crowing grew louder now that the wall wasn’t between them. The man kept singing. The rooster actually looked angry, and Dean understood that anger. This song was not one that Dean respected. Then the rooster took a flying leap from the wall back into his yard.
The singing stopped with a string of curses. The rooster had apparently landed on the singing man. “Goddamn it. Balthazar stop! Fuck!”
Dean started laughing, a deep full bodied laugh at what he assumed was happening. The man’s laughing stopped abruptly. Dean stopped laughing at the same time. Shit, he heard me. Then more curses. The rooster seemed to be continuing his assault. Celine Dion’s singing was coming to an end though. Thank God for small favors. Then he heard the door open and close with a slam. Dean laughed again, and the rooster crowed out with a noise that sounded like victory.
He could have gone over to complain any number of times, as Sam suggested, but he didn’t. He just wallowed in misery. At least by the end of the month, it felt like a routine bit of misery. The roosters were predictable. He had been wrong about it being random. There had been crowing at 3:00 am, dawn, 5:00 pm, and also at twilight. Sometimes one would get bonus crowing. Occasionally, the man next door would break out music to sing at the offending creatures. That always ended badly, no matter the song.
Today would be okay though, even with the crowing. Bobby, Ellen, and Jo were coming over. Sam was coming too. He liked the idea of them all lazing around his place, enjoying the warm afternoon. The weather was good too, not too sticky with humid summer heat. He popped a cap off of a beer, and gulped down half the bottle. The drippy condensation on the bottle was cool in his palm. The doorbell rang, and the first of the guests arrived. Dean ushered the Singers into the yard after a brief tour of the new home. They were all rather impressed with the place. Sam showed up later with a green cooler full of beer.
“Not too late am I?” Sam asked as he hauled the cooler into the backyard.
“Nah, I haven’t even tried reminding Jo to date you yet.” Dean winked as Sam set down the cooler. Bobby and Ellen had taken up residence in lounge chairs by the little koi pond. Jo was filling a plate with salad and some chips and guacamole.
“Hey Jo,” Sam said as they drew up close to her.
“Hey yourself Moose.” She smiled. Dean decided that the nickname meant that she was interested. He endeavored to give her another opening.
“Just so you know, the Moose is still roaming free. You oughta see if you can domesticate him.” Dean winked. Sam sighed, Jo just rolled her eyes at him.
“You’ll never change,” she said.
“Looking unlikely.” Dean pulled her into a little sideways hug. She hugged him back with her one free arm. “Grab some snacks Sammy. Meet ya at the old people circle.” Dean moved on down the yard to Bobby and Ellen.
He took his seat as the rooster crowed. Bobby shot a glance at the wall. “So that’s the notorious rooster we’ve all heard so much about?”
“That would be him or them. Not sure how many he has over there.”
Ellen laughed, “It’s not so bad. It reminds me of the farm I lived on growing up. You’ll get use to it.” The rooster was still crowing up a storm. Dean just glared at the wall.
“I think you might be wrong on that score.” Then the rooster hopped up onto the wall to better project is noise. Dean could hear his neighbor’s back door open and close.
A moment later and he heard the neighbor say, “There you are Balthazar. You know you don’t belong up there. Then two hands popped up over the top of the wall to grab Balthazar. Dean noticed that the hands were ringless. He wasn’t sure why it mattered. The voice still did things to him. Balthazar chose not to be grabbed. He hopped into Dean’s backyard.
Jo sidled up to Dean’s side and said, “Well, now Dean, it does seem like you’ve got some unwanted cock in your yard.”
Dean stepped away from her, and said, “Yeah, did I mention today how much I hate that bird?”
They all laughed at him now. Sam said, “You know, I maybe didn’t pick up on it. You hate the cock?”
“I swear I want to strangle that damn bird!”
Sam snorted, “You wanna choke the chicken.”
“Shut-up.” Dean strode toward the bird. “It hates singing.” He tossed back at them over his shoulder. “Watch it freak out.” He started to sing “My Heart Will Go On,” and the rooster got into what could best be described as a fighting stance.
Dean kept singing. The voice from the other side called out. “You really shouldn’t do that.”
Dean called back, “What? Worried I might sound better than you and your horrible rooster?” It was the first time they’d exchanged any sort of communication.
“No, I just don’t think Balthazar likes the song so much.”
Dean started singing at full, unbelievably screechy volume. Balthazar dug at the dirt with one foot, like a bull setting up for a charge. Sam said, “I think you should stop singing, Dean.”
Jo moved to Sam’s side and said, “Now you know, Dean never listened to anyone’s good advice.”
Dean sang louder. The voice from the other side of the wall just said, “Okay. I tried to warn you.”
He got to the first round of the chorus and really belted it out. This was his revenge for 3:00 am wake-up crows, arousing deep voiced crow conversations, and the ultimate frustrations that came from this man’s general presence on the other side of the wall. The chorus was happening. Bobby covered his ears. That was when Balthazar had apparently had enough too. He flew at Dean, a rush of feathers and angry flapping. Dean stopped singing abruptly and raised his hands to shield his face. The creature pecked and clawed. Dean turned tail and ran for his house. He could hear the laughter of his family in his wake. Their laughter was mixed with heady laughter coming from the other side of the wall. Dean kicked and swatted out at the rooster and got himself away just a bit. He yanked the back door open and launched himself in, kicking the door closed in his wake.
“Asshole!” Dean called out through the now closed door at maybe the rooster, maybe his family for laughing, or maybe for the neighbor for ever even getting roosters in the first place. Through his sheer curtains on the glass paned door, he could see Balthazar pacing like he was just waiting for round two. Dean sat on the floor and wondered how he’d get back out there with any shred of dignity left.
He decided that outside was for the birds and chose to just sit and stare in frustration at the furiously pacing creature. Balthazar showed no signs of giving up his newly acquired territory. There was movement on the porch behind the bird. The curtain obscured his appearance a little, but Dean could see that he was tall, dark haired, and wearing a blueish loose-fitting shirt. The man’s voice pierced past the door. “Time to go home Balthazar. Stop bothering the nice man.” He came down onto his haunches, and seemed to be looking right at Dean through the sheer curtain.
“I hate that fucking bird,” Dean called past the door.
Balthazar paced a little frantically as Dean spoke, like Dean’s voice had reminded his chicken head of why he was furious. “Cock is an acquired taste.” Dean swore he saw the man wink. The guy reached out for the door handle then.
“Oh shit no. Don’t let him in!” Dean nearly shrieked and scrambled back away from the slowly opening door.
“I’m just getting him to come back to me.” And sure enough, the rooster shot toward the door. The man reached out to him and picked him up. “You’re safe to come out now.” He got up and bumped the door open. He had the rooster held close to his chest. “Maybe don’t talk just yet. I’d hate to have the little guy getting all upset again.” He moved away from Dean’s door.
Dean came out onto his porch and just stared at the man that had been his neighbor for the past month. He was a fucking hippie god. His hair was a mess. His shirt looked like some sort of home died nature fabric. It fluttered about around him with the little breeze. Dean’s eyes swooped over him, taking in the whole picture. He was a gorgeous picture. Dean decided that it was most likely the eyes that sealed the deal. Forgetting the request for silence, Dean said, “My name’s Dean, Dean Smith.”
Balthazar looked like he was going to make an attempt at an escape, but the guy held him closer and angled him away from Dean. “I’m Castiel, just Castiel, no last name.”
“Seriously?” Dean swallowed back extra words, seeing the effect his voice was having on the bird. Castiel left Dean standing in his doorway and walked over to the wall. He lifted the rooster and unceremoniously tossed him over the wall back into his yard.
“Is he okay with being tossed like that?” Sam asked.
“Balthazar likes a good tossing.” Castiel smirked. He glanced back at the wall and added, “Actually, it’s not that much of a drop. I’ve seen him make the leap from the wall a bunch of times. Moreso before you all moved in.”
Dean said, “Oh, they don’t all live here, just me.”
“Oh, my mistake.” Castiel seemed to be looking him over rather intensely.
Bobby cleared his throat. “Well, now that the chicken drama is finally over, how about we eat. I ain’t getting any younger here.”
They all laughed. Castiel said, “On that note, I’ll be heading home. It was nice meeting you.” He moved toward the side gate that he’d apparently come in through. How he’d gotten past the community gate was beyond Dean.
Dean rushed over to him before he could leave. “You wanna stay for dinner?” Dean didn’t know why he’d asked. He’d spent the better part of the last month calling the guy an asshole chicken hoarder.
Castiel seemed startled by the request. “Oh, um...I’m pretty sure that would be an imposition.”
“My house, my dinner. Wouldn’t have asked if it was an imposition. Besides, you might be needed to wrangle Balthazar if he comes back.”
Castiel looked off at the wall and seemed to consider. “You make a fair point.” Dean clapped him on the shoulder then and guided him back to the group.
“Castiel is gonna join us,” Dean announced. Ellen smiled and got another chair for the new guest. Dean made sure to sit next to him. He had a unique scent, something earthy and warm. Dean made a point of not being a creepy sniffer once the initial sniffing was done. He was subtle like that. Castiel took a plate of barbequed chicken that was passed to him.
“Seems appropriate that we dine on chicken tonight,” Castiel said to the group.
“So, how many chickens you got over there?” Sam asked.
“Too many.” Castiel tipped his head back as if to count them up. “I’ve got fifteen laying hens and three roosters. Pretty sure they all hate me except for when there’s food about to be served up to them.”
Dean shifted a bit in his seat and picked up his fork to eat. “So, Cas, why does a guy need three roosters?”
Castiel laughed before he answered and it was low and deep and stirring. Dean shifted in his seat again. “One does not pick the chicken’s gender, Dean.”
“I’m just saying, why would you keep so many roosters?”
“I’m indifferent to my chicken’s genders. Like I said, they just are what they are.” Castiel shrugged and ate some of the meat. “Good stuff,” he said around a bite.
Ellen chimed in then, “I think what Dean really wants to know is, don’t the crowing little bastards drive you nuts too?”
“Thanks Ellen,” Dean said.
“Don’t mention it,” she said as she winked back at him.
Castiel set down his fork and dabbed at his mouth with a corner of his napkin. “I’ve threatened Balthazar more times than I can count. He seems to view it as encouragement though, and merely crows louder. Aside from eating him, I hardly see any real solution. Plus, I’m a bit attached to him at this point. He’s cantankerous and old. I feel a certain kinship with him. He’s just loud because he wants to make sure we all still know he’s alive.”
Dean wondered if this guy was for real. He looked sincere though. Dean followed the move that he made to take another bite of his meal. The way his lips dragged over the tines of the fork sent a little shiver over Dean’s body. “Well, it’d be nice if we could get him to stop doing the 3:00 am crowing. That one is the worst,” Dean said.
“Well, that one we can blame on Oberon. He’s an idiot. When they were handing out chicken brains he didn’t get in the queue.” Cas reached over to the basket in the center of the table for the biscuits. Dean had spent a fair amount of time on them in the morning. He rolled out the dough and brushed a generous amount of butter on them for the baking. They were golden and warm. “Maybe the next barbeque can be at my place. We’ll have a bit of Oberon for supper.” He smiled around the pronouncement.
“Seems kinda wrong to eat something that you named,” Bobby said, which was funny given the fact that Bobby would eat literally anything.
“Maybe we just start calling him 3:00 am Dinner,” Jo offered. “Or just Dinner. I mean, that bird sounds like it just wants to die being all crowy at 3:00 am.”
“I’m inclined to agree on that note,” Dean said. “Would you feel bad about that one biting the big one?”
Castiel seemed to consider for a moment. “No. He’s actually awful.”
“Well, then I guess we all have something to celebrate.” Sam lifted his beer and then realized that Castiel didn’t have one of his own. “Here.” He pulled one from the cooler next to him and passed it to Castiel. Then he raised his bottle again and said, “To never hearing Dean complain about that damn rooster again.”
Everyone chimed in “here here!” and then clinked their bottles.
Dean said, “I didn’t complain that much.”
Jo snort laughed and spit a little beer onto the table. Sam gave her a few pats on the back to stop the choking. “Seriously, Dean,” Sam said. “You were driving us all crazy.”
Castiel spoke up then. “I’m so sorry. I had no idea what my cock was doing to you.” Now it was Dean’s turn to choke. They all laughed at him, except for Castiel, who just looked entirely comfortable with his choice words. He drank down a bit of his beer while everyone enjoyed themselves.
The evening was pleasant, filled with all sorts of old stories brought back up to the surface. Bobby and Ellen had a new soul to share with, so old embarrassing Dean stories had to be handed out. They did the same the first time that they met Sam too. Dean blushed a little as they told the story of how Ellen ended up learning that Dean wasn’t entirely straight. Castiel, to his credit seemed to enjoy that story.
The story also lead to Castiel saying that he did not think that anyone was entirely straight. Dean let that thought roll around in his head for a bit. The stars were just starting to make their appearance when one of Castiel’s roosters pierced the evening with its nightly crowing. Jo laughed and said, “I guess the roosters think we need to be going off to bed.”
“Nah, I think they want to make sure you stay up. Noisy bastards couldn’t possibly be encouraging sleep.” Dean started picking up plates though to clear away the remains of their meal.
Castiel started helping. “Again, I’m very sorry about the noise.”
Dean waved him back into his seat. “Let me get that. It’s really not a big deal.”
“See Dean,” Sam said. “You should have listened to me a month ago and just gone over to talk to the guy.”
Dean shot him a look. “Talking to someone doesn’t make roosters stop crowing.”
“Well, it’ll make Oberon stop crowing next weekend,” Cas offered.
“I wasn’t really fancying a conversation that went like that. I mean, can you even imagine. Hey neighbor, I hate your roosters. Could you maybe kill them? Thanks.” Dean shrugged and kept cleaning up the table.
“Well, can you imagine how it must feel to know that your cock has been tormenting someone for over a month?” Castiel looked entirely innocent as he said it.
“You do know that you can call it a rooster right?” Dean said.
“I like the way it makes you look all uncomfortable. It’s funny. Plus it’s a completely appropriate word for them.” Castiel paused a moment and then went on. “They’re all cocks, and next weekend we’ll all be eating one of them.”
Ellen laughed and got up. “Well, on that note, I think we’ll be heading home. You boys have fun cleaning up after us.” She nudged Bobby, who was half dozing in the seat next to her. “Come on old man.”
“What, time to leave already?” Bobby said as he grunted and eased up out of the chair.
“You coming home with us Jo?” Ellen tossed back at her as they rounded the table.
“Well, I did ride here with you.” She got up and so did Sam.
“I could drive you home,” Sam offered. Dean smiled and pretended not to be paying attention.
Jo looked at him, her lips rolling up into a half grin. “Now, Sam, that would make no sense at all. Why would you drive me home when my parents are already driving there?”
“You could stay longer,” Sam offered.
“I really can’t. I have too much work to do on my thesis. We’re fast approaching the deadline, and I still have miles to go before I can sleep.”
“Oh.” Sam looked like he lost a little.
“Next time though?” She asked.
Sam perked up. “Or maybe I can bring you dinner some time, like when you need a writing break.”
“Sounds like a plan. I like dim sum.” She turned to Dean then and gave him a hug. She whispered into his ear, “Stop looking so pleased with yourself.” She kissed his cheek and followed her parents to the gate.
Sam was just frozen there. Then he said, “She just said she’d have dinner with me right?”
“Well, kinda. Sounded like she said you could buy her some dim sum or something,” Castiel said.
“That counts,” Sam said, a grin spreading wide over his face.
Dean elbowed him as he passed with the plates and said, “Sure does buddy.” He moved off toward the house with the plates, leaving only a few behind for a later trip.
Sam called up after him, “I’m gonna go. You mind?”
Dean called back to him, “See ya at work tomorrow.” He turned back to the house and headed inside.
He set the plates down on the counter and turned to head back out for the rest. Castiel beat him to it though. His hands were full of all the remaining serving bowls and the basket of biscuits. “These were amazing.” He nodded down to the biscuits. “Pretty sure I ate ten of them.”
Dean laughed. “Well, glad you liked them. I got up early just to make them from scratch.”
“You are a talented man. Why don’t you weigh 700 lbs?”
“Just said I made them. Didn’t say I ate them.” Dean started scraping the leftover food into the garbage disposal.
“Oh, Dean. That is an absolute tragedy.”
Dean turned to look at him. “What?”
Castiel reached into the biscuit basket. Dean set down the plate he was holding and rinsed off his hands. He turned back to look at Castiel. “These are as close to heaven as I’ll ever get.”
Castiel pinched a small piece off the edge of the biscuit and slipped it into his mouth, eyes rolling back a little as he enjoyed the buttery taste of it. “Glad you liked them,” Dean choked out.
Castiel stepped closer. He pinched off another small piece. “Open.” It was a simple command. Dean immediately obeyed. Castiel’s long fingers slipped the little morsel right on in.
Dean’s lips brushed over Castiel’s fingers as he closed his mouth around the little piece of the biscuit. “I guess I have some talent,” he finally said. The biscuit was good. He was trying to avoid too much fat and carbohydrates. This little bit wouldn’t kill him though.
Castiel pinched off another bite and ate it. “It’s divine.” Dean watched the bob of his throat as he swallowed. They were standing entirely too close. Fuck, what am I doing?
“I should have you take home the leftovers. I don’t want to be tempted by the biscuits.” Dean was watching Castiel’s hands like they were performing some fete of magic.
Castiel took another piece of biscuit and brought it to Dean’s lips. Dean let his lips part for the food. Castiel dragged his fingers over Dean’s lips after leaving the biscuit on Dean’s tongue. “I’d be happy to take the biscuits home. My home is a safe haven for all the temptations.”
“What’s that mean?” Dean managed to ask.
“Just that, I’m a free spirit. I don’t like labels, and I don’t like denying myself the things that I want. Life is short. Why not just bang a few gongs before the lights go out?”
Dean didn’t know why he was confessing, but the next words out of his mouth were, “I have called you an asshole no less than a hundred times in this past month.”
Castiel laughed. “Really?”
Castiel didn’t back away, but he did set down the biscuit on the counter. Dean felt the slightest regret, because now he couldn’t justify finishing off the thing. There were other reasons for regret too, but he pushed those aside. “Because of my noisy cocks?”
“You can call them roosters.”
Castiel stepped impossibly closer. His chest was practically pressed to Dean’s. “Cocks,” he said again. The word puffed out on a breath.
Dean rolled his eyes. “Is this how you flirt?”
“Flirting implies so much less confidence. You flirt when you don’t know the outcome. It’s a way of testing the waters. Like, if I put the tiniest piece of biscuit on his lip, will he eat it? If I brush his lips with my fingers, will he suck them into his mouth?” Castiel’s eyes darted down to Dean’s lips then back to his eyes. “That would be flirting. Saying ‘cocks’ right up next to your lips like this is far more blatant.”
“Really?” Dean swallowed.
“Really,” Castiel responded.
“So you think I’m easy?”
Castiel’s right eyebrow shot up. “Was hoping.”
Dean took a step back. “I think in another life I was a leap before I look kind of a guy.” Dean wondered if he’d regret not leaping tonight. He knew from past experience though that nothing in life was ever easy. Plus, Cas was his neighbor. If this went wrong, he’d be right there on the other side of the wall as a constant reminder.
“In another life?”
Dean went back to cleaning the dishes. Castiel picked them up from the sink as Dean rinsed them and put them into the dishwasher. Dean continued, “Yeah, I think we all live multiple lives. Kinda like reincarnation.”
“You don’t seem like the type to believe in that.”
“I wasn’t, then I was. Some things happened to change my perspective. Not everything can be explained easily, and sometimes it’s easier to think that there’s more to life than what’s right in front of us.” Dean realized he was sharing a bit too much. “You seem like the type to believe in things that aren’t so easily explained.”
“I don’t know what I believe. I mostly practice hedonism and animal husbandry. I like to keep it simple.”
“My life is complicated. I’m also too busy for most people to consider me relationship material.”
“You work a lot. I got that from the dinner conversation.” Castiel wiped down the counter and started wrapping up the leftovers to put them in the fridge.
“Yeah, that’s the understatement of the year. I have some seven day weeks. I travel when the company needs me to. I just finished up the final details on a merger that goes public this week. This was the first full weekend I’ve had in ages.”
Castiel was at his side again. He tossed the towel onto the counter. “So what you’re saying is that if I want to see you in fewer to no layers, I’m going to have to accept you as a workaholic that can’t spare much time for the fluffy relationship business?”
“What I’m saying is that I don’t want to rush into things, and also yeah.”
Castiel nodded. “So no sex tonight then.”
Dean laughed. “Yeah.”
Castiel took a step back. He let his eyes rove over Dean again. “Getting a mental picture set.” He smiled and turned toward the door. “I’ll just be going.”
“Let me walk you out.” Dean followed him to the door then down to the sidewalk that ended at the password protected gate. “How’d you get in before?”
“Oh, I watched some people type in their passwords. Thought it’d be useful to know how to get in. You all have a pool after all.” Dean laughed at him and watched him go.
“See you around.” Dean gave him a little wave.
“Yeah.” Castiel waved back and was gone.
Dean questioned many of his life choices as he finally crawled into his bed. He could have ended the all too long dry spell. He also knew that sleeping with his neighbor that he literally just met was an exercise in stupid. He fumbled for his nightstand drawer wondering if he even had any condoms in it. He flicked on the light and leaned forward to peer inside. There was one sad little condom pack laying in the corner.
Dean resolved to hit the drugstore on the way home from work, just in case. You never know. He flicked the light off and turned to his side. He closed his eyes and slept until 3:00 am when Oberon began his nightly song.
Dean’s day at the office was full if uneventful. This was a good thing, since he found his mind wandering. He’d been propositioned plenty of times. He’d accepted plenty of times but it had been a long time. This just felt like something he needed to be careful with.
Sam popped in at lunch. He came into the office so quietly that Dean didn’t even hear him. At the moment, he was looking out the window at the passing clouds and thinking of lips that he didn’t kiss.
“Penny for your thoughts.” Sam slid a box lunch across the desk to Dean as he took a seat.
Dean glanced at him then down at the box lunch. He tossed his tie over his shoulder and started opening the box. “What the heck is this?”
Sam rolled his shoulder in a slight shrug. “It’s what they had. Figured a burrito and some chips and guac wouldn’t be so bad.”
“This has so many carbs.” Dean started to push the box away. It smelled good though, so he pulled it back to himself. He glanced at Sam and saw the small smile toying at his lips. “What?”
“How’d last night go?” He had that tone that was all innocent and yet entirely not.
“Fine.” Dean picked up the burrito and took a bite.
“Just fine?” Sam still had the tone, and Dean knew full well, what he was saying.
“Yeah, fine.” Dean made his way through half of the burrito in just a few bites. It was damn good. Fucking carbs.
Sam rolled his eyes and said, “So, you’re really not gonna elaborate? Nothing to say? Really?”
“What the hell are you going on about?” Dean knew exactly what he was going on about.
“That Castiel guy...the chicken neighbor...Seriously!” Sam reached over and pushed Dean’s hand aside as it was about to deliver more burrito to his mouth. “Did he stay the night?”
“What the hell, Sam!” He stopped and schooled his tone. “I just met him.”
Sam laughed and said, “Yeah, and the way he was staring at you, well you were staring too. We were all taking bets out on the driveway about how things were going to go.”
“Ew, that’s kinda gross Sam.”
“Ellen and Bobby are my family man.”
“Well, to be honest, they were laughing at the whole situation. Jo and I were the one making bets. We were all just happy that the chicken drama conversations would likely be at an end.”
Dean set down the burrito and tipped back his head a moment. He got up and wandered over to his mini-fridge. He pulled out two bottles of water. He tossed one to Sam, who caught it with ease. He came back to his seat and twisted off the cap. “He helped with the dishes and then I sent him home.”
“You sent him home?”
“Yeah, why do I have to repeat everything for you?” Dean gulped back some of the water.
“You’re irritable. You really didn’t get with rooster man?” Sam set his water on the desk. “You need to fix that. We’re all plenty tired of all your pent up, frustrated energy.”
“Really. You all been talking about me?”
“It has come up.” Sam sighed. “You work too much. You need to let off some steam. Hotty McNeighborman seems like a good outlet for said frustrations.”
“Sam, when did this become my life?” Dean picked up a chip and jabbed at the guacamole. “I don’t need to spend my lunch getting awkward relationship advice from IT.”
Sam’s face fell a little. “That’s just rude. Plus it’s not relationship advice. In fact it’s way less relationship advice than you pushing Jo and I together.”
“Shit, Sam. I’m sorry. I…” Dean sighed. “You know I didn’t mean it.”
“Yeah, well, sometimes I’m just the better friend.” He started to get up. “Guess I should head back to IT and work.”
“No, Sam. Wait. You just got here.” Dean waved him back down. “I was an asshole.”
Sam looked at him for a moment. “You gonna eat those chips?” Dean pushed them toward him. Sam sat back down and swiped one out of the box.
“He made it clear that he was interested,” Dean offered up the information like an olive branch.
“So, why did you send him home?”
Dean knew why he sent him home, but he’d had a whole day to have some regrets on that front. “I don’t know. He’s my neighbor, and I really don’t know much about him.”
“Is that a requirement?”
“It’d be nice. I mean, it’d be neighborly at the least.”
Sam laughed. “When’d you get so old?”
“What, because I want to know someone a little first?” Dean snatched another chip from the box and ate it.
“Sorry, just picking on you a bit. That’s actually kinda nice. It’s just that you’ve told some stories about how you were before getting into the corporate life. It’d be nice to see you out there a bit, maybe finding someone. You can only do that with some sort of effort though.”
“I don’t think I’m cut out for that apple pie life, Sam. I think this is what I’m gonna be doing. Working the long hours, lunch with my brother from another mother, and nights at home with the melody of roosters punctuating the night. It’s a good life. I got no complaints.”
“Could be a better life. You might think this is terrible actually, if you let it go on like this for too long.” Sam reached over and gave Dean’s arm a little pat. “I know you Dean. You aren’t a solitary soul. You like having people around. Maybe give Castiel a chance to punch a little hole in this little world of yours.”
“You sure are going to bat for him rather quickly.”
Sam laughed and then drank down the last of his water. “I liked his humor. You need some of that in your life. It’s literally what I think you’ve been missing.”
Sam got up. “I’m not so sure.”
“What’s not to be sure about? Maybe get to know him. Ask him out if you need that.”
Dean got up and walked him to the door. “Maybe.” Dean pulled his tie back to the front of his shirt. He ran a hand through his hair. “I still hate the roosters though.”
“Who knows, maybe they’ll grow on you.” Sam turned back to him with a smirk. “Besides, I think you really like the cocks.”
Dean slugged him in the shoulder. “Asshole.”
Sam stalked off down the hall laughing.
Dean got home at a semi-decent hour. He noted the biscuits that were wrapped up on his counter. He considered pulling one out to have with dinner. He counted the food sins of the day and said, “Fucking carbs.” He pulled open the fridge and made a salad. He added some grilled chicken to it from the weekend barbeque.
It was still light enough outside to venture out to the porch for dinner, so he did. He settled into the seat and just started eating when he heard music startup next door. This time it was an Adele song, that “Chasing Pavements” song. Dean smiled as he heard Cas’ voice join Adele’s. He got up and walked over to the wall with a chair. He set it next to the wall and climbed up on it to peer over.
Cas was standing in the middle of his yard, shirt off, singing away at the gathered chickens while he sprinkled some feed. “Heya, Cas.” Dean leaned onto his arms on the top of the wall.
Cas seemed startled at first, then a smile bloomed across his face. “Hey yourself, Dean.” He let the last of the feed go, and the chickens scrambled after it. “The singing bothering you?”
“Not a bit. You seem to get really into singing for your chickens.”
“I read that if you find the right song that it can soothe the savage beasts. I’m attempting to make them happy. I’m also hoping they’ll crow less at night, but, well, you’ve seen how that has worked.” Cas walked over to the wall and gazed up at him. “It’s funny looking at you up there like that.”
“Yeah, like you’re something out of a movie or something.” Castiel grinned wider and said, “Like Juliet on the balcony.”
“So I look like a preteen girl?”
“Juliet was a teenager.” Cas closed his eyes and recited, “ My child is yet a stranger in the world, She hath not seen the change of fourteen years.”
“Well, aren’t you just the scholar.”
“I read.” Cas laughed. “You also look like Juliet, minus the teen girl part.”
Dean laughed. He also cleared his throat and said, “Castiel, Castiel, wherefore art thou Castiel? Deny thy chickens and I’ll pledge you all of myself.” He laughed.
Castiel, without missing a beat turned to his chickens and said, “You’re all dead to me!” Turning back to Dean he said, “Was that enough denying?”
Dean just laughed. “Pretty sure I also just asked you why you are just Castiel. Wherefore means why.” He winked. Learned that back in the day.”
“You want to know why I have just one name?”
“Well, it’ll cost ya.” Cas winked back and wandered over to his porch.
“Name your price.”
“You got any more of those biscuits?”
“I’ll be right over.” Dean was already climbing back down into his yard as he said it. He scooped up his plate as he went back into the house. He ate the salad quickly while standing in his kitchen. It wouldn’t do to go over too hungry. He did a quick breath check and cursed himself for not stopping at the drugstore on the way home. It’s biscuits. That is not a leap that requires condoms. Calm down.
He grabbed the biscuits and wandered out as casually as he could. He passed the gate to the outside and saw the path that meandered through the thick stand of trees toward Castiel’s home. As he approached, Castiel opened the door. He leaned into the doorframe all lean and casual. He hadn’t bothered to put on a shirt.
Dean did his best to look calm. His heart beat a bass drum in his chest. He was sure that if he spoke now it would come out like a squawk. I am a confident man. I am not nervous. Dean’s eyes swooped over the whole form of him—his tight muscles in and around his abs, his tanned arms folded in front of him, his loose-fitting cotton pants that looked like miracles were all that held them up. I’m so fucked.
Dean stepped up onto the porch. “Your biscuits.” Dean held the biscuits out in front of him like an offering. Castiel looked at the biscuits then took them, nodding into his home.
Dean didn’t move right away to follow him in. Castiel seemed to notice without even having to turn around. “Close the door on your way in.” Dean rushed to catch up with him. He wandered into his kitchen, which was one of those old country kind of kitchens--a lot of cabinets all clapboard white. The appliances were dated but tidy. Castiel opened up the bundle of biscuits and put one on a plate which he then put into the microwave. “You want one too?” he asked in that deep voice that did things to Dean.
“No, I’m good.” Dean applauded himself for sounding respectable.
The microwave dinged a moment later and Castiel pulled out the plate. “Your loss.” He took a bite of the little steamy thing. He hummed his pleasure around the bite. He nodded again to the back door. “Want to sit out back with the chickens for a bit?”
“Sounds like a plan.”
Castiel popped open the fridge and pulled out a bottle of beer. “Here.” Dean took it. He grabbed a second one and carried it and his plate to the back door. Dean followed.
“Wow,” Dean said as they stepped out the door. “It’s way bigger than I realized from just peaking over the wall.”
“Yeah, it wraps around a bit to the barn out there.” Castiel pulled up a chair, and Dean slipped into the one next to him. “Let me open your beer.” Dean passed the beer over to him. He pulled a keyring out of a pocket in his pants. He popped the cap off the bottle and handed it back.
“I really shouldn't be drinking this either.” Dean took a sip.
“You worry too much about things that don’t matter.” Castiel took another bite of the biscuit. “God, you should be eating these. It’s a crime to miss out on something this good.” Dean watched the way Castiel’s neck bobbed with the swallow.
Dean drank a bit more of the beer to distract himself from the looking. “I’m just glad you like it.”
Castiel set the plate aside on a little table. “Well, I guess I owe you a story.”
“A story?” Dean looked at him with a raised brow.
“For the biscuits. You wanted to know why I only had one name.”
“I think you need to eat more carbs so you remember better.” He got up and stood between Dean’s knees. He reached down and pinched off a piece of biscuit. “I swear, you might just have to come over daily for me to carb you up.” He leaned down and slipped the biscuit piece into Dean’s mouth. “Wouldn’t want that important brain to wither away.”
Dean chewed slowly and smiled up at him. “I do have much to think about. I reckon I could use some help.”
Castiel seemed pleased with that response. He picked up another piece of biscuit and brushed it over Dean’s lips. Dean, overeager, wrapped his lips around Castiel’s fingers and sucked in the morsel. “Fuck.”
“You owe me a story first.” I am not nervous.
Castiel took a step back. “I do.” He turned away from Dean and said, “I have two deadbeat parents. My mom was never in the picture and my dad did the bare minimum until I was of age.” He sighed. “I decided I didn’t want his last name. My first name was unique, so I decided that I didn’t need anything but that.”
He turned back to Dean then. “Wow.”
“Yeah, wow.” He shrugged. “Not the best story for getting in a guy’s pants. I’m not so good at this. I’ve been a bit out of practice,” Castiel said as he dipped his head to his chest.
Dean got up then and walked over to him. “You seem to be doing just fine.” He ran a hand up Castiel’s arm to his shoulder where he let it settle, giving him a little squeeze.
“Well, you got me over here with little to no effort.” Dean smiled. “What happened to the whole flirting is for people testing the waters guy?”
“Oh, him...Some guy shot him down when he was pulling out all of his best moves.”
“Well, some guy is stupid.” Dean leaned in and came close to kissing him. He lingered in the space a moment, waiting to see if Castiel would finish the move. “Real stupid.”
“He hates cocks too.” One of the roosters decided that that was the exact moment that it needed to crow at the twilight sky.
Dean laughed, a deep belly laugh. He leaned over and rested his head on Castiel’s shoulder. “Goddamn roosters.”
Castiel laughed into his neck. “Fucking cock blockers.” He stepped back and hollered over to the offending rooster. “Oberon, you have literally six days left.” Dean laughed at him again.
“So that’s the little 3:00 am nightmare.” Dean walked to the edge of the porch.
“Yeah, meet next weekend’s dinner.” Castiel waved a hand at the yard and the offending rooster.
“Well, I’m looking forward to full nights of sleep.”
Castiel leaned into him a little. Their arms lined up all warm against each other. Dean liked the way he felt, all strong and solid. “You want me to whip you up something carb-free?”
“Nah, I’m gonna head home. I really do have to get up early for work. Gotta make sure I get a few hours in before your buddy down there decides to wake me up.” Castiel looked a little disappointed. Dean reached up and ruffled his hair. Castiel looked disappointed in a different way then. Dean didn’t care. He liked the way Castiel’s hair spiked out in all directions. “You’re goddamn attractive, you know that.”
Castiel leaned into him, kissing the edge of Dean’s mouth. It began and ended so fast, Dean could almost believe that it never happened. “What should I do to get you over here tomorrow?”
“Pray for a miracle. I might even stay at the office all night. The merger goes through on Wednesday and I need to be sure all is right in the world tomorrow.”
“I’ll pray for a miracle then. I’m going to make a casserole. Come over when you get home.”
“I feel like you think miracles happen pretty easily. I’m fairly certain I won’t be home tomorrow.”
“Maybe you just need to have a little faith.” Castiel leaned in again, and this time let the kiss linger a moment longer.
“Don’t count on me, but I’ll damn sure try.” Dean glanced out at the yard. Oberon looked like he was gearing up for round two. He fluffed up his feathers and flapped his wings.
Castiel walked into the house and Dean followed. He picked up a small pad of paper off the counter in the kitchen. He wrote something on it and handed it to Dean. Dean glanced down at the rough scrawl. “My number. You can call me if a miracle doesn’t happen, so I don’t wait up. Don’t text. I don’t have a cell phone.”
“You should get a cell phone.”
“No.” Dean leaned in this time and kissed him. He pressed him back to the counter and felt the solidness of him. Castiel opened his mouth a little and let Dean press in a bit. Dean knew that much more of this and he’d be staying. He wanted to stay. He came over with some intentions after all. Now that he was here though, he knew that tomorrow would be rough enough without some small measure of sleep. Not like I’m going to be able to sleep at home after this. He kisses like a pro. Dean kept up a running dialogue with himself over the taste of Castiel, the feel of his body blooming into arousal pressed up against him.
Castiel settled his palms on Dean’s chest. Dean broke the kiss. Castiel said, “You staying?”
“I really can’t.”
“Well, then at least let me walk you out.” Castiel wrapped an arm around Dean’s waist. They walked to the door together, then Castiel had to release him. Dean took his hand and walked down the path to the gate. When they got there, Dean punched in his code, but lingered at the now open gate. “So ‘til tomorrow then.”
“Maybe, if there’s a miracle.” Dean kissed him quick and moved to his side of the gate. Castiel gave him a small wave and stepped back to his path. “Good night, Cas.”
“Good night, Dean.”