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Appoggiatura

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1 bedroom to let. Meals provided. 50mb wifi, quiet odd music student preferred. 

Dean knew that ad was only going to stem the frenzy a little bit, but at least his voicemail was full of people saying, “I’m a music student! Oh, and my friends say I’m odd.” Most of them didn’t realize that quiet, odd, music student wasn’t best two out of three. But it’s been days and he’s only had a few people who seemed all right to come by, and none of them had passed so far. 

He had been slicing and de-seeding blanched tomatoes when the phone rang, and he wiped his fingers without thinking and answered the phone on speaker before he remembered he was letting them go to voicemail. 

"Hello," he said, since he had to make the best of it. 

"Good morning," a low voice responded. "My name is Castiel Bauer. I saw your ad about a room to let. May I answer your questions?" 

There. That was the politest, oddest phonecall he'd gotten yet. "You're a music student?" 

"Yes. I am just beginning music school. I got a scholarship." 

"If you're just beginning, you're on the fast track to student housing," Dean said. "Can you tell me why you want to live off campus?" 

"It's not peaceful," Castiel said. "And ... I have found that people are unwilling to vacate the practice rooms on residence. I'm certain that they only want to excel, but it hampers my desire to excel.” 

Definitely quiet, Dean decided. "You got a scholarship? Which one? 

"The Deanna Campbell Memorial Scholarship," Castiel said, and Dean quit slicing tomatoes. 

"So piano, then." 

"I have a portable, and it has headphones," Castiel said. 

That might do for midnight inspiration, but not for the right housemate. "I'd like you to come and see me, Castiel. I'm here all morning." 

"I can come right away. I am on the campus." 

"So am I," Dean said, and gave Castiel the address.

*

 

Dean answered his door ten minutes later and thought, He's got odd in the bag. 

Castiel Bauer had ruddy skin that had spent days in the sun, blue eyed, dark hair cut short to fight a curl. He had on a white shirt that looked old fashioned, heavy and sturdy, and black wool pants that looked old fashioned too. his boots were black, shiny, but old. he wore a brand new looking belt, the kind worn with jeans. 

"Good morning," he said. "I am--" 

"Castiel Bauer," Dean said. "Dean Winchester. Please, come in." 

Castiel stepped inside and immediately toed out of his boots. Dean didn't know if that was habit, or observation of his own sock feet. 

"You are cooking tomatoes," Castiel said. "Did I interrupt your canning?" He said it like it was a perfectly ordinary thing to do. 

"Kind of," Dean said. "I haven't gotten anything in cans yet." 

He'd told this guy he canned tomatoes. What on Earth. Castiel, with his slightly just out of time clothes, looked at what he could see of the rooms and the staircase leading straight up just before the door. 

"This house has love in its walls," Castiel said. "It's a very good house." 

Definitely odd. Castiel looked back, and Dean realized that they were just standing there in the foyer. "It was my grandmother's," Dean said. "A lot of this stuff was here when I was a kid." 

"It's settled into itself," Castiel said. "I like your house." 

Which could have sounded presumptuous, if Castiel wasn’t so humble. "Come with me, I'll show you around." 

Castiel didn't touch anything, but he made observations. He recognized little details on decorations, the original floors, the plasterwork walls, never folding forth but Castiel was definitely someone who knew a thing or two about craft and artisan building. But when he saw the piano, he shut right up. 

Dean thought, well. this is it, and his phone rang. 

"Excuse me," Dean said. "One minute?" 

Castiel nodded, and Dean said hello to a dead phone, kept on talking as if there was somebody there, and put himself in the sitting room he never really used. He watched his clock spin one minute, and walked back. 

Castiel had barely moved. He shuffled a bit, to get a look at the bend side and the graceful curved legs. But he stood out of arm's reach, hands behind his back. That was a good sign. 

"My grandmother's last piano." 

"It's so beautiful," Castiel said. 

"It's from the 20's, but it’s fully restored. I keep it maintained, but I'm not much of a player." 

"I learned on an upright," Castiel said. "I bought a portable, and it sounds...eerily right, but something like this," he sighed. "Mr. Winchester, if you consent to have me live here, would you allow me to play it sometimes?" 

"Dean." 

"Dean," Castiel said. “Please call me Castiel.” 

"Castiel, you can play it right now." 

"Thank you," Castiel said, and carefully pulled out the bench. "This is mahogany," Castiel said. "Real mahogany." And then he didn't say anything else. he sat up in the bench, set his fingers down, and played. 

Dean knew it - Sonata 19 in G minor, Beethoven. Grandma had said that it was deceptively simple, especially the beginning, but a developed musician played it differently, and Cas did. He played the andante with a gliding delay in places, his grace notes light as air. He brought a sweetness and yearning to the andante that made Dean remember that great musicians reached past your ears and into you, and pulled out pieces of yourself. 

Dean remembered his grandmother. He remembered sitting quietly and listening to her. And he remembered how they traded songs - she would play one, and he would play another. Everyone would take a turn. 

So he said what he always said to Grandma when she was done. "Thank you, Castiel." 

"Thank you, Dean." Castiel rested his hands on his thighs, turned to look at him. "This piano has love in it too." 

Grandmother's piano was a test. Castiel had passed it with flying colours. The weird clothes didn't matter. He fit. He didn't touch it, let alone play it,until given permission. But it wasn't just that. It was what he chose, and how he played, and Dean wanted very badly to convince him to revive the tradition of playing for each other. Dean wanted to play for him. He wanted to know what pieces of Castiel he could bring out. 

But first things first. 

"The room's empty, you can move in any time. I can give you a form for the bursar and you cane have your residence stipend sent to me." 

"Thank you, Dean. And, may I play this beautiful piano sometimes?" 

"Piano hours are 6:00 am to 10:00 pm," Dean said. "You never have to book a practice room again." 

When Cas smiled in response, it pulled another piece from Dean. It made him remember that Sammy'd gone to Julliard. It made him remember to be careful.