May, 1936. Thursday.
Cas fiddled with the tuner on his kitchen radio as he sipped his morning coffee. He liked to listen to the broadcast each morning to hear what was happening in the world; the radio was often much more reliable than the newspapers. Cas also listened in order to hear other news, the news that the papers wouldn’t report. More specifically, any news that was not Nazi propaganda.
The small resistance group that Cas had been a part of had long since broken up, having split shortly after the “Night of the Long Knives” in July of 1934. Cas had become mostly disconnected from the resistance after that, only staying in touch with a few other former members. Cas felt that, if nothing else, it was his duty to stay informed about what was really happening in his country and around the world.
Cas wished there was more he could do to help the people the Nazis were persecuting. As a closeted homosexual man himself, he empathized with the struggles that German homosexuals were facing. It was a large part of the reason Cas had joined the resistance in the first place.
It was just after the first concentration camp, Dachau, was established in 1933 that Cas had enlisted in the group. Around that same time, the Nazis had started arresting homosexual men and the Gestapo had compiled lists of “confirmed homosexuals” in Germany. Two years later, the expansion to Paragraph 175 had criminalized thousands more homosexual men for “crimes” like sending another man a love letter or “exciting desire” in another man, and more men were imprisoned every day.
Ever since the group had split up, Cas had felt useless, like he wasn't doing his part to help the people in need of assistance. He wished he could do something bigger, such as housing prisoners, but he couldn’t risk getting caught. He had managed to stay off of the Gestapo’s lists thus far, and he knew that getting caught would result in death. Whether it would be death by Nazi, his family, or suicide, Cas didn’t know, but he did know that he mustn’t be found out.
Despite his desire to help, Cas wasn’t about to give up his life for people he didn’t even know.
Cas lived alone, miles away from the rest of his family. He had a large extended family, comprised mostly of Nazis and Nazi sympathizers. Cas’ cousin Lucifer was a high-ranking SS officer in close proximity to Himmler himself, and despite being a few years older than Cas, they had been practically inseparable growing up. Lucifer, despite some of his faults, had always been good to Cas, keeping him safe and consistently having his back. Once they had matured into adulthood, the cousins hadn't had opportunity to hang out as frequently, but Lucifer did come over on occasion to catch up. Cas appreciated Lucifer, even if he disagreed with most everything his cousin stood for.
This morning was like any other in Cas’ house; after his coffee and breakfast, he got ready to go to work at the small bakery that he owned in town. Cas enjoyed his work at the bakery. He liked seeing the various people come and go from the shop each day, he liked the feel of soft dough beneath his palms, and he absolutely adored the smell of freshly baked bread that filled the air at all times.
Cas picked up his hat and tan trenchcoat from the stand by the door and walked outside, locking the front door behind him before beginning his short trek to work.
As far as places went, Cas’ neighborhood was quite an idyllic one. One could almost forget about the imminent threat of war that lingered in dark corners and amongst frightfully whispered rumors while walking past the other men, women, and children all going about their daily business in their small German town.
Cas didn’t have many friends in the town, so to speak, but he didn’t have any enemies either. He generally preferred to keep to himself. In the past, Cas had found that drawing attention to himself never ended well. That wasn’t to say that Cas was impolite to his neighbors, though. Cas tipped his hat whenever he passed an acquaintance in the street, and he made small talk with the nice old lady next door if they ever happened to be outside at the same time. He’d even brought her fresh bread one time when he heard that she had sprained her ankle climbing the stairs.
Castiel Novak prided himself on his manners, but he didn’t feel a need to form relationships with people, platonically or otherwise. He had lived on his own for all of his adult life, yet there wasn’t any gaping hole inside of him that craved a companion. Cas didn’t mind being alone; in fact, he sometimes preferred it. Anyway, he interacted with people all day, every day at the bakery. He did occasionally mourn his lack of a sex life, but the Nazi regime made it kind of hard to get any sort of action beyond his right hand.
As Cas entered the bakery, bells jingling as a way of a welcome, he made his way into the back room of the shop, swapping his hat and coat for an apron and hairnet. Cas checked his pocket watch; it was eight-thirty in the morning which gave him half an hour to begin baking before the bakery officially opened at nine. He poured some flour on his workspace and rolled up his sleeves. Time to begin.
As the time neared seven in the evening, Cas began closing up shop. He served the last few customers in line and began wiping down empty tables, hoping to get home as quickly as possible after closing. At seven o’clock exactly, the last customer left with her toddler in tow, the latter clutching a large, chocolate chip cookie. Finally done for the day, Cas locked up the bakery and began his walk home.
When he arrived, he began fixing himself dinner on the small stovetop in his kitchen. The sky was darkening outside Cas’ front window as he drew the shades and picked up the day’s newspaper, settling down to eat. He started to read of the country’s preparations for that summer’s Olympic games in Berlin. Cas looked forward to listening to the games on his radio, but he was slightly jealous of his brother, Gabriel, who would be attending. It wasn’t every day that the Olympics were held under 300 kilometers northeast of your house.
Cas sat in the kitchen, eating and reading as the world outside transitioned into the quiet lull of nighttime. Soon, the only noises were the soft sounds of the occasional passing automobile or pedestrian. Although it wasn’t especially late, Cas was exhausted and soon found himself beginning to doze off at the kitchen table.
It must have been an hour or so later when Cas was abruptly woken from his rest by a hasty rapping on the front door. Out of impulse, Cas quickly rose to answer the knocks, blearily wiping sleep from his eyes with the heel of his palm as he walked. Alarm bells rang in his head, a little voice in the back of his mind immediately assuming the worst.
Who would be visiting at this time of night?
Cas cautiously opened the door to find a man standing on the doorstep in dirty clothes, looking around furtively with wide, scared eyes. Wide, scared eyes that just happened to be the most beautiful shade of green that Cas had ever seen. Cas was certain he had never seen the man before, but he looked to be in trouble. It dawned on Cas that the man might have been a Jew or someone else hiding from the Nazis. That didn’t, however, explain what he was doing on Cas’ doorstep in the middle of the night.
“Cas-Castiel Novak?” The man’s voice was hoarse, sounding as though he hadn't spoken in days.
Cas nodded, still confused. “Please, step inside, Mr..?”
“Winchester. Dean Winchester,” the green-eyed man supplied. The tone in which Dean said this made it seem like Cas should recognize the name, but Cas was drawing a blank. Was this man famous? Why would Cas know who he was?
Cas stepped back to let Dean enter the house, then quickly shut and locked the door behind them. He was glad he had closed all the shades earlier. If this man was on the run, it wouldn’t do to have neighbors looking in on them.
Cas motioned Dean over to the kitchen table where the former had been sitting before Dean arrived. Both men sat in silence, Cas considering Dean and Dean looking uncomfortable at the unwavering attention, until Cas addressed Dean again.
“Uh, sorry, Mr. Winchester, but what are you doing here?”
Now it was Dean’s turn to look confused, a hint of fear evident in his eyes. “I was told I could come here? You’re part of the resistance, right? An ally?” Dean seemed to tense up further at his own words, wrapping his arms over his chest in some semblance of a hug.
Cas nodded jerkily, still not understanding. “I’m part of the resistance, yes, but I didn't agree to hide you at my house. I don't hide people; I think there’s been some sort of a mistake.”
Dean looked down at the table, crestfallen. “Oh,” he said to the tabletop. “Um, well, could I at least stay here tonight? It's really late, and I don't really want to spend another night in an alley…” Dean trailed off, a haunted look in his eyes. “I don't want to impose, but you won't have to do anything; I’ll sleep in the basement, find my own food, everything. You won’t even know I’m here.”
Cas looked Dean over, considering it. Dean seemed to be, beneath the layer of grime, a handsome and respectable young man. He had dirty blond hair, freckles, full lips, those striking green eyes, and Cas could tell that despite being underweight at the moment, Dean had a strong, muscular form.
No. What was he thinking? Castiel Novak didn't hide the hunted; it was his one rule! Cas opened his mouth to turn Dean down, to politely tell him that no, he couldn’t stay there, but it seemed that Cas’ mouth had a mind of its own.
“Yes, of course you can. Feel free to stay here as long as you need until you find a more permanent place,” Cas heard himself say. Wait, what? “Go shower and I’ll make you something to eat. You’re terribly underfed and I can practically smell you from here. Bathroom is right there—first door on the left. Towels are on the rack.”
Dean sat there without moving, staring at Cas incredulously. Honestly, Dean’s expression was one that Cas would have made at himself in that moment.
What had he just gotten himself into?
Cas prompted the other man again, firmly but not unkindly, “Go!”
Dean slowly got up, not breaking eye contact with Cas as he backed away from the table. Dean then ripped his eyes away and headed into the bathroom, closing the door carefully behind him. Cas didn’t move, didn’t even breathe until he heard the water running, and only then did he exhale, rubbing the back of his neck in distress. What would he do with this man? Cas was already breaking his one rule, letting Dean in his house. Cas wasn’t about to sacrifice himself to save a man he only just met.
Cas decided not to worry about the future just yet. Right now, there was a hungry man in his house whom he had just offered to feed. Cas was about to slice up some salami to serve with a side of fresh whole-grain bread, but he quickly realized that he still did not know anything about the man. If Dean was Jewish and kept Kosher, Cas wouldn’t want to offend him by offering him something he couldn't eat.
Returning the salami to the icebox, Cas instead spooned some vegetables and cheese onto the plate with the bread before adding half of a baked potato left over from his own dinner earlier. It wasn’t much, but it would have to do. Germany was still suffering from the Great Depression and there wasn’t a large excess of food to be found anywhere.
Cas resolved to ask Dean about himself over dinner and find out if he was, in fact, Jewish. It would make mealtime easier, at least.
Cas heard the water shut off and the tell-tale sounds of Dean getting out of the shower. The door creaked open as Dean came out of the steamy room, his hair spiked with water. He looked cleaner, but he was still wearing the soiled outfit he had arrived in.
Cas jumped to his feet. If he was hosting, he was going to do it right. Amelia Novak didn’t raise her boys to be ill-mannered. “No. You're not wearing that! The clothes are the dirtiest part. Wait here, I'll get you something better to wear.”
The host walked past Dean and entered his bedroom, heading straight for his wardrobe. Thankfully, it seemed like he and Dean were about the same height. Cas figured that Dean could wash and dry the outfit that he arrived in, but he would need a pair of sleeping clothes for that night. The host chose a simple, striped sleep shirt and matching pants for his guest, as well as a pair of boxer shorts and socks.
When Cas emerged from the bedroom with the selected outfit, he found Dean standing exactly where Cas had left him in the doorway of the bathroom, now wrapped only in a towel. Dean seemed to be holding himself taller now that he had showered, but he stood defensively, almost like he was trying to hide his body from view. Cas didn't know why—Dean had (from Cas’ perspective) an amazing body, tall and muscular. Standing straight, Cas could now tell that Dean was about an inch or so taller than he was.
Despite his stature, Dean still looked timid and unsure as he stood in the bathroom. The poor man had probably gone weeks, if not longer, without a hot shower, and Cas felt badly for him. Blame it on his Novak manners, but even if he was only staying for a few days, Cas wanted his guest to feel as comfortable as possible.
Cas kept his gaze firmly above shoulder-level as he handed Dean the clothing. “Let me know if it fits,” Cas requested.
“Wow, thank you,” Dean replied shyly, taking the small pile. He retreated into the bathroom again and shut the door.
Cas made his way back into the kitchen and brought Dean’s plate to the table. He realized that he should probably offer his guest a drink, so Cas hurried down to the basement to grab two bottles of beer. To be fair, Cas also needed a beer after the evening’s surprises.
When Cas returned to the kitchen, Dean was once again hovering outside of the bathroom, looking awfully out of place. Dean looked quite endearing in Cas’ pajamas, his hair still drying from the shower. Cas was reminded of a scruffy puppy. He smiled warmly at the taller man, raising the beers and motioning Dean over to the table.
Dean shuffled over in his socks and sat down in the same chair he had occupied before. Cas took the seat adjacent to Dean, handing him a beer and his plate of food before popping the lid off of his own bottle and taking a long sip. Dean simply sat there, eyes wide in disbelief as he stared at the food in front of him.
Finally, Dean spoke, his expression wary.
“Why’re you being so nice to me? You aren’t going to hand me over to the Gestapo, are you?”
Cas tilted his head at Dean, his brow furrowing slightly. “Of course not,” he replied. “I’m your host, Dean. You look hungry, so I gave you food. It’s what anyone would do.”
“Not anyone,” Dean muttered, mostly to himself.
“What?” Cas inquired.
“Nothing,” Dean said quickly. “Thank you, Mr. Novak, really. This is really unnecessary.”
Cas waved off the thanks. “Call me Cas, please, and eat the food before it gets cold.”
As Dean ate his dinner and Cas drank his beer, Cas asked the freckled man questions about himself. Dean was willing to answer most of them, but he seemed to skirt around any details concerning the place he had stayed right before showing up on Cas’ doorstep.
Cas learned that Dean had grown up in Berlin with his father and younger brother and had apprenticed as an electrician, but that he had ran away in 1933 when the purge of homosexuals had begun. Dean knew that he was on the list of confirmed homsexuals, as he had occasionally visited the Institute of Sex Research in Berlin before it was seized by Nazi Youth in May of that year. Tensions had been running high for a while, so when Dean had seen the Institute’s contents burning in the opernplatz, or city square, he quickly realized what was happening. Returning home only to grab an extra pair of clothing, some food, money, and a photograph of his family, Dean bid his father and brother farewell before disappearing.
It had been almost three years, and Dean hadn’t seen his family since he left. From what Dean had told Cas, he’d bounced from barn to basement all around Germany for two years, never staying in one place for too long. The one exception, he explained, had been the house immediately before Cas’, and Dean had stayed there for over a year before leaving. Dean didn’t seem to want to elaborate on this, so Cas didn’t push him.
Overall, the night went pleasantly. Cas and Dean conversed easily and got along well, and before either of them knew it, it was past midnight. Dean already acted infinitely more comfortably than he had upon arrival, but he still seemed tense and afraid of making any decisions for himself. Dean let Cas make every decision for him, as though he had forgotten what it was like to have free will.
Both men were beginning to doze off, so Cas decided to get Dean situated and hidden away. Cas had almost forgotten that Dean was on the run and it was a shame to make him sleep in the cold basement. There was a growing part inside of Cas that just wanted to wrap Dean up in blankets like a human burrito and put him in his own bed. If only the circumstances were different… But as it was, they could take no risks. Logically, Cas knew that it would be deadly for them both if they were caught.
Cas brought a mattress and as many warm blankets as he could find down to the basement and made up Dean’s bed in the space beneath the stairs. The area could be easily concealed by moving several large boxes, and the large number of blankets made the makeshift bedroom feel rather cozy.
Dean expressed his gratitude towards Cas once again, thanking him profusely for all his generosity, and the two exchanged “goodnights” before Cas returned upstairs to his own bed. This was not how Cas had expected his day to go when he had woken up that morning, but he couldn’t honestly say that he was displeased with how it had turned out.