“Can anyone tell me the function of the ceruminous glands?”
Dean knows this one, obviously. It’s, in his opinion, the most basic of the glands in the integumentary system and can generally be summed up in one simple word—earwax.
He doesn’t raise his hand though.
“Anyone? Mr. Novak, perhaps?”
Dean looks over at the pupil in question, Castiel Novak, who isn’t paying attention and is coloring his fingernail with a black Sharpie. Castiel looks up at the sound of his name and raises his pierced eyebrow in a silent enquiry.
Mr. Adler inhales deeply and lets it go slowly, clearly exasperated at having to repeat himself to the less-than-interested boy. A few people snicker at the scene in front of them. “The ceruminous glands, Novak. What do they do?”
Castiel shrugs and shakes his head. “I don’t know.”
“Okay,” Adler says, faux-polite. Dean can hear the attack behind his words, though, like a lion getting ready to pounce on a deer. He suddenly has the urge to protect Castiel. “What about the ciliary glands, where are those located?”
Castiel clenches his jaw and looks at Adler with boredom in his eyes. “Don’t know,” he says again.
“Is there anything you do know?” Adler asks snidely as he circles him like a vulture.
“I know the hair on top of your head was grown from a bottle,” Castiel says plainly.
The class erupts into fits of ooh’s and scattered laughter, and Adler’s face goes red with what looks like a mixture of embarrassment and anger as even Dean cracks a smile.
“Out. Now,” Adler gets out through gritted teeth, pointing to the door to the classroom as he stares daggers at Castiel.
Castiel just sighs—he’s used to this, Dean knows—as he picks up his beat up black bag, and Dean gets a glimpse of some of the patches pinned to it—some from movies like Star Wars, some from bands he must listen to, some different varieties of rainbows. He walks out of the classroom in silence, taking something unspoken with him.
“Alright, everyone shut up now,” Adler demands, running his hands over his thinning, apparently-bottle-grown hair. “Winchester. Ceruminous glands.”
Dean swallows reflexively and forces himself to get at least one word out. “Earwax,” he says, and his voice doesn’t even shake.
Castiel makes no indication that he cares about what happened this morning when he’s at lunch. Dean sees him sitting with his friends in a circle underneath a large tree, and his face is as bored and tired as it always seems to be.
Dean wishes he could talk to him. Like, really talk to him. He wants to find out why he seems so withdrawn. He wants to find out what makes him smile, and what makes him cry. He wants to find out if he really doesn’t care about everything as much as he appears to, or if it’s all an act. He would like to know exactly how much of Castiel’s put-on persona is make-believe. Pretend. For show.
“You’re staring again.”
Dean rolls his eyes and fixates them on a point a few feet away from Castiel when they open again, on a patch of flowers in the garden in the center of the courtyard they’re sitting in.
“What can I say?” he shrugs, shielding himself from the onslaught of sunlight as it emerges from behind a cloud. “I love peonies.”
“Are you sure it’s not the forget-me-nots blooming in Castiel’s eyes you love?” Charlie asks, her voice gooey, and Dean flushes at the sound of the name of his pointless crush.
“His eyes are the color of forget-me-nots, aren’t they?” Dean mutters, ashamed he even knows that.
Charlie just laughs at him.
Dean looks back over at Castiel and his friends, and his stare immediately focuses on the girl with dark, curly brown hair draping herself over Castiel. He looks uninterested as she puts her arm around him, but that doesn’t stop the pit from forming in Dean’s gut at the sight. He’s not certain, but he’s pretty sure Meg is Castiel’s girlfriend, which is kind of nausea-inducing for a list of reasons Dean is too tired to list.
Because of course Castiel isn’t single, and not only that, he’s straight.
Dean turns away and focuses on Charlie for the rest of lunch.
The acrid nausea never goes away.
“Dean,” Ms. Mills calls out from the front of the classroom. Dean looks up and she’s holding a little slip of paper that someone dropped off. “You’re wanted by the guidance counselor.”
Dean frowns and feels his heartbeat pick up on its own volition. What did he do? He’s almost 100% sure he didn’t do anything. He never does anything he’s not supposed to, unless you count reading further than Ms. Hanscum says to in his book for English.
He packs up his things slowly, his stomach in his throat, before making his way to the main office. When he tells the receptionist he’s there to see the guidance counselor, she smiles politely at him and points down the hall.
He gets to the door to her office and hesitates. Does he knock? Does he just go in? In most situations, you’re supposed to knock on a door before you open it. So that’s what he decides to do.
“Come in,” Mrs. Moseley calls.
He walks in and almost walks right back out.
Castiel Novak is sitting across from her desk.
“Dean, thanks for coming,” she says. “Sit down, please.”
Cas looks up at him from where he’s slouched in one of the chairs in the room, but there’s no expression or recognition on his face, he just looks bored.
“Dean, we’d like to talk to you about… an opportunity, per se.”
Dean swallows to wet his throat, and he nods, unsure of what else to do, as he sits down.
“How would you feel about becoming a tutor?” she asks, clasping her hands under her chin.
Tutor? Tutor… Castiel? Ha. Yeah. Right.
He’ll totally be doing that.
“I already told you, I don’t need a fucking tutor,” Castiel interjects, sulking in his seat.
“You use that word one more time in front of me, you’re gonna need a lot more than just a tutor, boy.”
Castiel narrows his eyes. “Was that a threat?”
She ignores him and looks back at Dean. “Castiel needs a tutor, Dean. How would you feel about doing that?”
Dean looks at her blankly. He’s already sweating buckets at sitting this close to him, how could he possibly be expected to tutor him? Be alone with him for prolonged periods of time?
“Why me?” he gets out.
“Ah,” she says, pulling something up on her computer. “You’re in the majority of his classes, your grades are excellent, and you just so happen to have zero community service hours out of the twenty you need to graduate. Doing this will complete your hours, of course.”
Dean looks at Castiel out of the corner of his eye and the boy is just slouched in his chair, looking for all intents and purposes like he hates the world.
And, because Dean’s brain-to-mouth filter rarely works properly, he says, “Oh—okay.”
“Give me your phone,” Castiel says in his deep-as-the-ocean voice when they’re walking back to their respective classes.
“Huh?” Dean gets out, like the genius he is supposed to be.
“Give me your phone so I can put my number in,” Castiel explains with a flick of his fingers, motioning for Dean to hand the device over.
Castiel Novak wants to give Dean his number.
What universe is this? Because surely this isn’t the universe where shy, introverted know-it-all loser Dean and subdued, bored, surrounded-by-friends-and-girls-all-the-time Castiel exist.
“Um. Here,” he says, pulling it out of his pocket and handing it to him.
Castiel doesn’t say anything else before he presses the screen a few times, typing in his number. He hands it back over after a second, and just like that, Dean has Castiel’s number.
“Text me your address and I’ll come over after school,” he tells him.
Castiel looks at him blankly, his black-lined eyes lacking any emotion whatsoever. “Yeah? I’d like to get this over with as soon as possible.”
“Right,” Dean mutters, rubbing the back of his sweaty neck with his even sweatier hand.
Castiel squints at him, like he’s a predator sizing up his prey. At least, that’s how it feels to Dean. “Sorry,” he says slowly, like the word tastes unfamiliar in his mouth. “I don’t mean to be a dick to you. I know this isn’t your fault.”
Shit, is Castiel gonna be nice to him? That’s not going to help the whole crush thing. He’s always heard that Cas is an asshole, like, kind of standoffish and not very pleasant to be around.
So this is a surprise.
“Oh, that’s—yeah, it’s fine.”
Castiel nods and walks away without even so much as a glance behind him.
Dean is pretty sure he’s this close to waking up from a dream.
He pinches himself when he sits down at his desk in English.
Apparently not dreaming.
Hi, this is Dean. :) Hi Castiel, it’s Dean. Hey Cas, this is Dean Winchester.
Hey Castiel, it’s Dean. From school. Your tutor.
My address is 1402 Waterlake Dr.
I’ll meet you after school.
Dean has butterflies in his stomach, his chest, his head, and every other place in his body capable of holding winged creatures throughout the entire day. He feels legitimately sick, like he could throw up at any given moment.
When the bell rings at the end of the day, Dean walks outside with his heart in his throat and he stops just by the entrance to the school to wait for Cas. A boy clad in all black save for the blue of his eyes walks up to him after a few minutes, and the ever-present boredness of his face doesn’t shift an inch.
“Hey, Cas. Uh, Castiel. Sorry.”
Cas scoffs in amusement. “You can call me Cas, Dean. Everyone does.”
Dean just nods, looking at the ground, trying not to blush at the sound of his name coming out of Castiel—Cas’s mouth. “Okay. Should we, uh, get going?”
“Yeah. Did you drive to school or are you walking?”
“I’ll drive us then,” he offers, gesturing to the parking lot.
They walk to Cas’s little black (of course) car and each get in, and if Dean thought he had a hard time breathing standing next to Cas in a crowd, it was absolutely nothing compared to how it feels to be next to him in a confined space like a car.
He can do things like smell him, and look at his perfect, hard-lined face from up close.
Before he starts driving, Cas plugs a cord into his phone and quiet rock music starts to play out of the speakers.
“I can’t really drive without music,” he explains. “Makes me all anxious.”
“That’s fine,” Dean says as Cas pulls out of his parking space. He relishes in learning something new about the mysterious boy beside him. “I always play the same cassettes over and over when I drive. It drives my little brother insane.”
Cas smirks softly (Dean knows, because he can’t stop staring at him) as they get stuck in a line of cars all trying to exit the school. “Yeah? What do you listen to?”
“Uh, old stuff mostly. Like Zeppelin and Metallica and stuff.”
Cas raises his eyebrows and picks up his phone to flick through it, before Ramble On starts playing throughout the small space.
“Awesome,” Dean says, a smile spreading on his face of its own accord.
So he has stuff in common with Cas. That sure was going to make this easier. That sure was going to stop Dean from further convincing himself that they’re meant to be together.
“How old is your brother?” Cas asks him.
“Uh, 13. Starts high school next year.”
“Good luck with that,” he says ominously, and Dean chuckles down at his lap.
They get to Dean’s house a few minutes later, and he leads Cas inside and to the living room.
“Just set up on the coffee table there. I’ll be right back,” Dean tells him, and Cas says a quick ‘okay’ before Dean takes off up the stairs.
He rushes into the bathroom and checks his hair like a madman, making it perfect, before quickly swishing some mouthwash throughout his mouth that still tastes like his lunch.
Not that he’s going to be doing anything involving his mouth, other than talking. He knows that. But they’re probably going to get a little close to each other, proximity wise, and Cas might be able to smell the pizza still clinging onto his teeth, so it can’t hurt.
He lets out a deep breath and inhales just as slowly, before heading back downstairs.
Cas is just slouched on the couch, his elbow resting on the arm of it as he looks around the room with a less-than-enthused expression. Dean kind of still can’t believe Cas is in his house.
“Hey,” Dean says when he stops in front of him, because he doesn’t know what else to say.
He nods, for some reason, and sits down across from Cas on the other side of the coffee table. “So, um. What exactly do you need help with?”
Cas frowns and lightly claps his hands on his knees. “Well, I suck at everything.”
“No you don’t,” Dean says automatically.
“Yeah? Then tell me why I’ve got straight D’s and one C.”
“Grades don’t define intelligence.”
He rolls his eyes and scoffs. “Come on, Dean. You can say it, I won’t get mad: I’m an idiot.”
“You’re not an idiot. School is hard. For everyone. Even for—for dumb nerds like me.”
“Dumb nerd is an oxymoron.”
“Did you just call me a moron?”
“Shut up,” Cas snorts, and it almost sounds fond. What the hell.
Dean just smiles, before fumbling around for an expression to school his face into. He’s having a casual conversation with Cas and it feels easy, and natural, and he doesn’t know what he’s supposed to do with that. They stare at each other for a beat before Cas breaks the silence.
“So I need help with almost everything, if you didn’t gather,” he says.
Dean nods and leans forward, ready to work.
“Dean,” Cas intones, and Dean has to work to suppress the shiver his name coming out of Cas’s mouth ignites in him.
“Yeah?” he mumbles, pretending like he’s paying attention to his assignment in front of him.
Cas twirls a pencil around in his hand skillfully, Dean sees out of the corner of his eye. He looks away quickly, because he doesn’t need to be focusing on Cas’s hands and what they can do.
“Is this right?”
Dean leans over and looks at the paper in front of Cas, hyper-aware of how close they’re getting.
“Which one?” he asks softly.
He looks over it and does the mental math in his head, before coming to the conclusion that Cas’s answer is right.
“Yep,” he says. “X equals twenty-two.”
Cas smiles as he looks down and Dean’s heart basically cracks in his chest cavity, because he’s never really seen Cas actually smile before and holy shit is it a beautiful sight.
“What?” Cas asks as he turns his head to face Dean, his smile turning into a frown.
“What?” Dean repeats, feeling himself flush under his intense stare.
Cas just looks at him for a beat longer before he returns his gaze to his homework, and that’s the end of that.
Cas shows up at school one day with dark pink hair.
Dean stares at him a lot more that day.
“Do you like it?” Cas asks when they’re at Dean’s house that afternoon. He’s ruffling his fingers through it and mussing it up, and Dean is just looking.
“Yeah,” he gets out, barely. “Yeah, it looks great.”
“Thanks,” he chuckles. He pauses before asking, “Do you ever think about dying your hair?”
Dean scoffs dismissively before he can stop himself. “Yeah, no.”
“Everyone would be staring at me.”
“So… maybe I don’t want people staring at me.”
Cas shrugs and looks at himself in the coffee table, the glass serving almost as a mirror as he ruffles his fingers through his hair some more. “You should,” he says easily. “It would look good.”
It would look good.
Apparently that’s all Dean needs as a kicker.
Because he suddenly has found himself standing in the beauty supply store in the corner plaza, right in front of the hair dye.
“What color?” Cas says, flicking through the little tubs and examining them closely.
“I can’t believe I’m doing this,” Dean mutters. One little almost-compliment from Cas and he’s whipped.
“Just pick a color, Dean.”
“Blue,” he spits out, and Cas looks up at him in approval.
Cas’s hands are in Dean’s hair.
And Dean is having trouble breathing.
“Relax, Dean,” Cas says, and it almost feels like he’s massaging his scalp. “It’s semi-permanent, so it won’t even last that long.”
Dean doesn’t know how to say that it’s not the hair dye making him nervous, so he doesn’t say anything.
When Cas is done and Dean’s whole head is covered in dye, Cas tells him he has to leave it on for at least 30 minutes.
“So I’m just supposed to sit here for half an hour while this… stuff probably fries my brain?”
“It’s perfectly safe, Dean,” Cas says with a roll of his eyes. “I’ve done it a thousand times and I’m fine. Although… I am this close to flunking out of high school so… maybe I’m wrong.”
Dean huffs and shakes his head. “You’re not gonna flunk out of school, Cas. Tell you what, while we wait we can go over your notes for your History test coming up. Okay?”
“If you say so,” Cas shrugs.
*cough cough* i’m sick :(
Boo you whore.
lmao seriously though i have mono wtf
Who have you been kissing??!
no one!! i swear!!!
So you mean now I have to sit by myself at lunch?
you could always sit with your new bf CAS
Yeah I’ll just intercept the death glare from Meg and plop myself down right on his lap. Thanks for the advice.
Dean chuckles at his phone as he sits down at his usual table by himself, setting his tray down in front of him. He takes a bite of his lukewarm spaghetti and is chewing slowly when his eyes travel of their own accord to Cas.
He’s always looking at Cas, so that’s nothing new, but the surprising part is that this time, Cas is looking back.
What’s even more surprising is when he cocks his head to the right, a gesture that can clearly be read as come here.
No, Dean mouths, shaking his head. As if he can just get up and go over there. No way.
But Cas rolls his eyes and does it again, he cocks his head in a clear indication that he wants Dean to come over there.
I mean, there’s a great possibility that he’ll go over there and make a fool of himself in front of Cas and all of his friends and his maybe-girlfriend.
But there’s also a possibility that they’ll all be nice and welcoming to him.
But maybe Cas doesn’t even want Dean to sit with them. Maybe he just wants to tell him something.
When Dean stands up uncertainly, Cas raises his eyebrows like he’s impressed, and Dean just swallows and takes a deep breath before lifting his tray and making his way, ever so slowly, to Cas.
He reaches their little circle and Cas has this small grin on his face, like he’s mocking him but not actually laughing at him. It’s affectionate somehow.
“Hello, Dean,” he says, and everyone in the circle looks up at him.
“Hey, Winchester!” a guy with an unabashed mullet says excitedly. “Did you do something to your hair?”
Dean blanches a little at being addressed, and about his hair, no less, but he stutters out a, “Y—yeah, I, uh. Cas was kind enough to dye it for me.”
Meg looks at Cas with a frown and then back at Dean, staring daggers at him.
“This is Dean,” Cas tells everyone in the circle. “Sit down, Dean. You’re making me all anxious just standing there.”
“I thought driving without music makes you anxious,” Dean responds as he sits down next to him, ever so warily.
“Two things can make you anxious, moron.”
That little interaction gets Meg’s attention as well, and she narrows her eyes at Dean. “Who the hell is this?” she asks Cas.
“Dean,” he tells her with a frown. “I just said that.”
She scoffs and turns her attention to a blonde girl sitting by her, but she keeps looking over at Dean every so often, and it’s making him incredibly uncomfortable.
“Your hair looks awesome in the sunlight, Dean,” Cas says, reaching up and running a finger over a strand of Dean’s hair that’s sticking out, and Dean feels a bucket of sweat start to pool all over his body.
But after a moment, he snorts.
“What? You don’t believe me?”
“No, it’s just… did you just say awesome?”
Cas looks down at his lap with an uneasy expression, before looking back up at Dean. “We’re spending too much time together,” he says darkly. “You were supposed to be making me smarter, not dorkier.”
“Oh, how did you do on that—that history test earlier?” Dean asks him.
“Don’t know yet. But I didn’t feel like I failed it, so. We’ll see, I guess,” he shrugs nonchalantly, like he doesn’t care either way.
“Good,” Dean says, trying to convey that he almost feels proud of him, without actually having to come out and say the words.
But from the look in Cas’s eyes, Dean thinks he knows.
Cas’s hair is green today.
It looks amazing, obviously. Dean has the fleeting thought that it matches his eyes and then he blushes at even thinking something like that. Ridiculous, is what that was.
Meg is sitting next to Cas, talking into his ear animatedly, but he, as always, looks bored and uninterested, which makes a sick twist of pleasure twirl in Dean’s gut.
Cas looks around the courtyard, scanning the scenery, before his eyes settle in Dean’s direction. When their sights connect, he stares at him for a moment before abruptly standing up, shaking Meg off, and making his way over to him.
Dean’s stomach does somersaults as he watches him walk, and he runs his fingers through his messy, unstyled blue hair absentmindedly.
“Hello,” Cas says as he sits, sliding into the picnic table seat effortlessly.
“Why aren’t you sitting with us?” he asks as he gestures behind him to his circle of friends.
“I don’t know, did you want me to?” he mumbles childishly, picking at the wood of the table with one of his fingernails.
“Would I have asked if I didn’t?” Cas counters, raising a pierced brow.
Dean gulps and hums like he’s disinterested. “Meg doesn’t like me.”
“Meg doesn’t like anyone.”
“Doesn’t she like you?”
Cas shrugs mindlessly. “Maybe. She knows I don’t swing that way though.”
Doesn’t swing that way…
“You’re gay? Since when?”
Cas looks at Dean blankly. “Birth, maybe?” He pauses before adding, “Are we about to get into a debate on whether or not you’re born gay? Because I have to tell you, my research might be a little outdated. I haven’t brushed up on it in a while.”
Dean feels himself flushing, and he tries to backtrack. “S—sorry. I just. Didn’t know.”
“Is there a problem?”
“No, no. Of course not. I—I’m… you know.”
Cas narrows his eyes in a mixture of amusement and confusion. “You’re, you know?”
“I’m… bi—sexual?” he utters, the word sounding unfamiliar coming out of his mouth, given that he’s never even said it out loud before. He’s told Charlie, obviously, but he never used the actual word.
Cas just chuckles harmlessly at him, the sound like literal music to Dean’s ears. “Cool.”
Dean shivers involuntarily then, given that it’s 40 degrees out right now and he decided to only wear a thin henley with no jacket over top today.
“When did it get so cold?” he complains, mostly to himself, rubbing his biceps to warm them up. “It wasn’t even this cold this morning. That’s why I didn’t wear a jacket.”
“Do you want my hoodie?” Cas asks, gesturing to the jacket over top of his clothes, and Dean flushes straight up to his ears at the idea.
Cas ignores him and takes it off, revealing just a thin, black long-sleeved shirt underneath. “Here,” he says, offering it to him.
“Um.” He takes the jacket and stares at it for a second before looking back at Cas blankly.
“It’s not a marriage proposal, Dean,” he says seriously. “It’s just a jacket.”
Dean laughs awkwardly. “Right. Thank—you.”
He puts it on slowly and he doesn’t smell it. He doesn’t.
Except he kind of does.
And it smells like Cas, obviously.
It doesn’t smell like cologne or anything, which makes sense because Dean can’t really picture Cas wearing cologne. It just smells like pure soap and skin, which is the best kind of real person smell, one Dean couldn’t even make up in his mind.
“So Meg is having a party tonight,” Cas tells him.
Dean fidgets in his new jacket that’s slightly too big for him and resists the urge to cuddle into it. “Yeah?”
“Mhm. You want to come?”
“Uh… I’m not really the party type, Cas. I’ve never even been to one before,” he says, not really sure why he’s telling him this.
Cas doesn’t laugh at him though, which is somehow not surprising. “There’s no such thing as a ‘party type’, Dean. Do I look like the party type to you?”
“Well,” he gives him. “Not really.”
“Yet I’ve probably been to a thousand.”
“I thought you’ve dyed your hair a thousand times.”
Cas laughs, showing teeth and everything, and Dean preens at making him do that. “What is it with you?”
“I was just kidding. I do that sometimes. You can’t always tell.”
“Come to the party,” Cas ignores him. “It’ll be fun.”
Dean shrugs his shoulder and plays with the slightly-too-long sleeves of the hoodie. “I’ll go, if only to see a thing you consider ‘fun’.”
Cas narrows his eyes again, looking at Dean like he’s some kind of rare creature. “Weirdo. If anything just come to give me my hoodie back.”
Meg’s house is at the end of a long and winding street, and it takes Dean a good fifteen minutes of circling the neighborhood until he’s pretty sure he’s found it, if the music and cars are anything to go by.
The inside is no less thriving and packed than he expected. There’s music coming from a large stereo near the front of the house and people in every corner. It looks exactly like the house party one would expect to see in a PG-13 horror movie where everyone gets killed by their estranged best friend.
He looks for what feels like ten extremely long minutes, searching in bedrooms and the kitchen and everywhere in between for the elusive Castiel, but he doesn’t find him anywhere. He goes out the back door, thinking it’ll be more quiet out there and he can decide if the possibility of seeing Cas is worth staying, but he doesn’t have to be out there for long to see that someone else had the same idea as him.
“Dean,” a figure says from the darkness, and Dean would’ve jumped if he didn’t know that voice better than he knows his own.
“Hey, Cas,” he says, walking toward his voice and finding him sitting on a bricked ledge, feet dangling over the edge as he smokes a cigarette.
“You came.” He sounds surprised, but Dean also detects a note of something else in his voice, something that almost sounds like pleasure.
He holds the jacket in his hands out to give back to Cas, as much as he might not want to. “Had to give this back.”
“Thanks,” Cas says as he takes it and puts it on quickly, giving away how cold he must have been. “You didn’t actually have to give it back though.”
“I bet you say that to all the girls you give hoodies to,” Dean mutters as he sits down next to Cas on the ledge.
Cas shakes his head, chuckling as he looks at the ground. “You’re the only one.”
And that… doesn’t mean anything, obviously.
It was a joke.
A playful combination of words that has no significance in it whatsoever.
So Dean sets his hands down on top of the ledge without thinking, but when he looks down, he sees that Cas’s left hand is laying close to Dean’s right, so close that they’re almost touching.
It feels like it’s not even his own decision, that it happens of its own accord, when his pinky finger slides over Cas’s, making them touch ever so gently.
Dean keeps his eyes on their hands as they slowly but surely join together. He doesn’t dare look up, for he’s sure he’ll only see confusion or disgust or some other repellent emotion on Cas’s face.
But when a cigarette is dropped to the ground out of the corner of his eye and a hand falls under his chin, tilting his head up deliberately, he finally does raise his eyes. And what he sees is Cas is looking at him with an expression on his face that Dean’s sure is mirrored so clearly on his own.
“Cas,” he whispers, like a plea. “Please.”
And so he does.