Downstairs, Sam is listening to annoying, twangy country music at full volume, and Dean has the kind of hangover usually reserved for tourists stupid enough to buy roadside moonshine in New Orleans.
He didn't even touch the hard stuff last night. It shouldn't be possible to feel this sick from the cheap beer he's been drinking for years without consequence, and yet here he is. One wrong move away from hurling every cookie he ever ate. It's not even remotely fair. It's Charlie's fault, he knows that much.
Last night had been his twenty-fourth birthday, and he'd decided to make it a quiet one at home.
Just a few friends, a couple of drinks, a little music. It started out that way. But then his best friend—currently on probation for that title, he decides now—suggested they watch the Star Wars trilogy. And then someone else suggested they take a drink every time Chewbacca makes a noise, and every time a stormtrooper actually hits the thing they were aiming at, and chug continuously any time the force was being used to choke someone.
Soon, Dean was drunk enough to start digging through the cupboard under the stairs for something to do, pulling out old toys and clothes and halloween costumes that Mary had elected to keep for reasons unknown. After that... he thinks there was singing. He's not entirely sure.
Groaning, he crushes his face into the pillow and wills himself to go back to sleep, but then Sam throws his bedroom door open. No such luck. At least he's turned off the music. He's grateful for about three seconds.
“Rise and shine!” Sam says cheerfully, and pitches a Jayhawks logo stressball at him. It bounces off the wall and smacks him in the back of the head, and Sam laughs. “Oops.”
“What the fuck, Sam?”
When he looks up, Sam's standing there in a slightly too-nice shirt, filling the entire doorway with his ridiculously oversized limbs. He pushes his hair out of his face.
“Can I borrow the car?”
“I'm meeting Jess for lunch.”
Dean stares over at him for a long moment, blinking, and eventually shuffles to the edge of his bed, reaching down for yesterdays jeans and digging through the pockets. His keys are cool against his hand, and holds them up in victory. He waits for Sam to step forward to take them before he lifts his hips and shoves them directly down the front of his boxer shorts.
“Sorry, unless you want keys covered in ball sweat, you're shit outta luck.”
Sam gapes at him.
“You're such a dick,” he says, and Dean snorts.
“Should've thought of that before you threw a football at my head.”
“It was foam!”
“It was foam,” Dean mocks, and shoves his head back into the pillow. He listens to Sam stomping down the hallway as if he's nine instead of nineteen before leaning back up to shout to him. “Enjoy your walk!”
Faintly, he hears muttering, and then the front door clicks shut, and then the house is perfectly, blissfully silent. He breathes out slowly, closes his eyes, and lets his hangover pull him back to unconsciousness.
When he finally wakes again the sun is setting, and he gropes around for his phone, finally finding it wedged under his pillow. It's almost seven in the evening. He's got three new messages. The first is from Charlie, who, if there's any justice in the world, should be in as much pain as he is. It makes no sense and he's pretty sure that confirms her hangover is terrible.
The other two are from Sam. One to tell him that there's a town fair going on near Jess' place and he wont be home until late. The other—the first one sent—just says “Sorry not sorry” and if that isn't ominous as shit he doesn't know what is.
He finds out what Sam means half an hour later, as he's waiting for the microwave to finish heating his pizza rolls. Leaning on the kitchen counter with the barely-functional laptop he'd inherited along with the house almost three years ago, he opens up Facebook.
He doesn't even like Facebook, but he's been informed by the small amount of family he and Sam have left that it's a non-optional form of communication, and so he dutifully logs on once a day to see if there's a new message from Ellen or Pastor Jim or, very rarely, Bobby. His friends list is miniscule—no work colleagues, no acquaintances. No one but the friends of his late parents who were close enough to be called aunts and uncles, his brother, his brother's girlfriend of two years, and his three closest friends, Charlie, Benny and Aaron. He likes it that way. It makes the stupid website an unobtrusive and manageable part of his daily life.
At least, it usually does.
Today, the first thing he sees on his newsfeed is a photo of himself, taken last night and shared by Sam. His mouth is open. One of his eyes is closed. He's wearing a child's t-shirt with a picture of a hug-loving teddy bear on it, and it's not only skin tight but short enough to expose his not-exactly-toned stomach. He's got a plastic viking helmet on, his elbows are pointing outwards, frozen in what appears to be some appalling attempt at an Irish jig, and he's so drunk in the photo that he doesn't entirely remember it being taken. He kind of remembers finding the helmet. Vaguely.
How he even managed to fit into a t-shirt he hasn't seen since he was seven years old is a fucking mystery for the ages.
The worst part, though, is that Sam uses Facebook like the social media junkie he is. He's befriended literally every person he's ever had a conversation with since he got an account, which means that approximately—Dean checks—eight hours ago, he shared this horrible photo with something in the vicinity of nine hundred people. The caption below the picture reads “incredibly single & ready to mingle ;)” and roughly half of them have liked it. Dean has never been so embarrassed in his life.
He's going to murder his brother and the judge will give him a full pardon. He'll probably get a fucking medal.
The microwave beeps, and Dean takes the plate out, dumping it on the counter next to the laptop so he can eat while he glares. He picks one up and burns his fingers. Dumps it back on the plate and scrolls down, looking for the button to untag himself so that at least he'll be stripped of any connection to it. The button, wherever the hell it is, is invisible. He really doesn't use this website enough to know this shit, and now that he's noticed the number of comments that have been made—seventeen—he can't not read them.
Mostly they're from people he knows. Kids Sam has been friends with since elementary school, Sam's girlfriend, Dean's three closest friends (who, having betrayed him in this manner, can all go directly to hell), his aunt Ellen and his cousin Jo. Mostly, the comments are just some form of laughter, though Ellen also makes a joke about how she thought she'd taught him how to handle his liquor a little better.
But in amongst them all are two comments from people he doesn't know.
Gabe Novak: He's single AND ready to mingle? Someone tell Castiel Novak we've found his soulmate.
The second is a response from the guy tagged in the first one.
Castiel Novak: Wow Gabe, you did it. I think I'm in love.
It's rude, is what it is. Dean reads the comment about a dozen times, getting more and more pissed off as he does, because who the hell does this guy think he is? They're talking like Dean can't see their comments. Like they think they can be judgemental dicks with no consequences.
With a glower almost strong enough to melt the screen, Dean clicks on the guys name, figuring he'll take a look through all of his terrible photos and retaliate with a snide comment of his own, but then his profile page loads, and Dean gets a little distracted.
The last thing he posted was a link to an article on why the latest Star Trek movie sucked, and the thing before that was a complaint about Sunday drivers, and before that, a close up photo of a bee perched on the edge of a bottle of El Sol, the attached caption an impressively corny “bee-rrrrrrrrr!” that makes Dean snort out a laugh despite himself.
He can't help but keep scrolling, after that, and he learns that Castiel lives in Lawrence. He learns that his favorite books are mostly things Dean has read and liked, and his favorite music includes an mix of classic rock, classical and jazz. He's an astrophysics major at KU, and he posts a lot about marriage equality and saving the bees, and halfway down the page there's a larger image of his profile picture. It's of him, presumably, standing proudly in front of a gold 70's Lincoln Continental, and while it's basically a pimp car—if Dean's being perfectly honest—he looks so excited about the set of keys he's holding up that it's actually kind of endearing.
When Dean starts clicking through the rest of his photos it becomes increasingly apparent that he doesn't actually have any terrible ones. The guy is gorgeous. Blue eyes and perpetually tousled hair and a wide grin that makes his eyes crease and his nose crinkle, and—
Shit, Dean thinks. This. Has. Backfired.
Still, he finds himself going back to his profile. Clicking the about section. He tells himself he's not looking for his relationship status or his preferences or anything like that, and up until the point that he sees that the section is set to friends only he believes it. He sends a friend request without really considering how embarrassing that is until after he's done it, but by then it's too late.
Navigating his way back to the home page, Dean scrolls back to the comments to find another has been added.
Sam Winchester: Hey Castiel Novak you're Gabe's brother, right? Friend me! :)
“You're a whore, Sam,” Dean mutters. He knows it's kind of hypocritical considering he just did the same thing, but it makes him feel a little better to say it. He's pretty sure he's just made an ass of himself, after all. Not to mention the fact that he's still tagged in the damn photo.
He slams the laptop shut and heads for the couch with his room-temperature pizza rolls. It's a long shot, but he's hoping a few hours of Animal Planet will make him forget about the entire thing.
Sam gets home at half past ten, and when he walks in the door and sees the look on Dean's face, he tries his hardest not to laugh. He doesn't succeed.
“Okay, maybe I'm kind of sorry,” Sam says through his laughter, and Dean throws a couch cushion at his head. Sam tries to shield himself with a half eaten bag of cotton candy.
“Can you at least take it down now?” Dean asks.
Sam looks at him like he's an idiot.
“Dude, it's been up for like twelve hours,” he says, tossing the cotton candy over to him as he stoops to pick up the cushion, “everyone's seen it by now. There's no point.”
“Ugh,” Dean says, flopping back against the couch as he opens the bag, shoving a lump of the bright pink spun sugar into his mouth and speaking through it, “I'm keeping this, by the way. Payment for damage caused."
“You know I had to retaliate,” Sam tells him, carrying the cushion back over and plonking it down before sitting right on top of it, “it's basically the first thing in the brotherly rule book.”
“You had to retaliate? For what?”
“You put the car keys in with your junk,” Sam says with an air of obviously. Dean pulls a face at him.
“I put the car keys down my shorts because you threw a football—”
“Stressball,” Sam cuts in.
“—at my head,” Dean points at him accusingly, “it was shaped like a football. The pointy end got me.”
“Should we schedule an MRI?”
“I'll schedule... you,” Dean says lamely, and Sam raises an eyebrow at him, “shut up.”
“I don't know why you even care, anyway. All your friends were here when the photo was taken. Except your new friend, obviously.”
“What new friend?”
Sam wriggles his eyebrows cheekily, and Dean feels the blood drain from his face. He digs his cell phone from his pocket and opens the app he barely uses to find that his friends have increased by one.
Castiel Novak has accepted your friend request.
“Oh,” he says mildly, slipping his cell back into his pocket as if he doesn't even care, “cool.”
He waits until Sam disappears into his room before grabbing the laptop again, and is three parts thrilled and one part full of nerves when a refresh of Castiel's profile page turns up the wonderful words single and interested in men and women.
He doesn't agonize over the first message he sends. Not exactly. He considers for a while, sure. He ponders. He ruminates. It's an entirely normal process, and he's not going to be embarrassed by it, even though he kind of is, and he's definitely not going to let anyone else make a big deal of it.
Certainly not Sam.
It's a little difficult, though, because he's been sitting on the couch for nearly an hour with an empty word document open on the laptop—it's not weird, he just doesn't want to risk accidentally sending a half-typed message—and Sam keeps walking behind him. And because he doesn't want Sam to start making fun of him, he keeps having to flip to another window.
Which is why he's only managed to get as far as Hey Castiel! in forty-seven minutes. He stares at the blinking cursor, mocking him with every flash, and highlights the Hey. Changes it to Hi. Frowns for a while and changes it back.
Sam wanders past again, this time with an empty mug as he heads into the kitchen, and Dean flips the screen over to a game of solitaire. Waits a couple of seconds. Re-opens the file. Deletes the exclamation mark because he's not in junior high. Puts in a period instead. It looks too formal. Like he's about to start a serious conversation or something. Shit. Sam walks back past. Solitaire.
“Are you still playing that same game?”
“You could put that ten over—” Sam points, and Dean slaps his hand away.
“Don't help me.”
He walks away again. Dean flips back to the word document. Deletes everything. No greeting necessary, he thinks. Nice and casual. He flexes his hands, cracks his knuckles. Puffs out his cheeks and starts typing.
So tell me--was it the viking helmet or the I wuv hugz shirt that did it for you? Be honest.
He reads over it a couple of times. It's good, he thinks. Kinda flirty, also kinda not. Either way, he'll get away with it. With a quick copy-and-paste he's got it in the messenger window, and he clicks send, and then he looks at the time. It's two thirty in the goddamn morning. This guy is going to think he was up all night trying to think of something to say to him.
Which... maybe he was. But it's so much more hopelessly pathetic when you put it in so many words, and damn it all to hell Dean is not this hopeless when it comes to talking to people he's maybe interested in.
A little voice in the back of his head says, yeah, you kind of are, and he tells it politely to fuck right off.
With a miserable slump to his shoulders, Dean shoves the laptop onto the coffee table and goes to bed.
He checks his phone the moment he wakes up, even though he feels like a loser for doing it, and there's a reply. It came through four minutes after he sent the message. He's not sure if that's better or worse than if it hadn't been until this morning.
Castiel Novak: Honestly, it was your eyes; like two blurry, pixelated jewels. I especially like the half closed one. Very distinguished.
Dean reads it while he's still in bed, laying there with a goofy smile on his face, and his half asleep hands fumble the phone when he attempts a response. He drops his cell. It hits his nose. The message is far from articulate.
Dean Winchester: irvp Pobts.)
When he picks his phone back up he can see the telltale dots at the bottom of the screen that mean a response is being typed, and he wants to crawl into a hole and die.
Castiel Novak: But obviously that was before I learned of your way with words. You're like a poet, Dean.
Dean Winchester: I may have dropped my phone on my face. Very nearly lost one of my beautifully pixelated eyes.
Castiel Novak: Which one?
Dean Winchester: The half closed one.
Castiel Novak: A true tragedy has been avoided.
Dean laughs, sitting up properly against his pillow, and as the conversation continues he finds himself smiling more and more. It's not until his stomach starts growling that he realizes how long they've been talking, and he climbs out of bed, tapping out another message as he walks downstairs.
Dean Winchester: Noticed you drive a gold pimp car.
Castiel Novak: Noticed you drive a shiny black phallus.
Dean Winchester: Touche.
When he gets to the living room, heading past the couch toward the kitchen, he sees Sam playing solitaire on his laptop and snorts.
“You'll never beat my high score,” he calls out.
“Uhuh,” Sam replies, distracted, but so is Dean so he doesn't really care.
He makes toast in between messages to Castiel, and then eats his toast in between messages to Castiel, and soon enough he's spent most of his day talking to a guy he'd been planning to send one snarky insult to. It's not exactly how he'd expected his Sunday to go, but he's not complaining.
They only stop exchanging messages when Castiel has to go to dinner with his parents. Dean still finds himself checking his phone for the rest of the night. He tells himself it's ridiculous to feel disappointed when no further messages come through, but he feels it just the same.
He goes to bed at ten.
Sam's still playing solitaire.
Six o'clock in the morning comes around with a blaring alarm, and Dean slaps it before crawling out of bed. He showers to wake himself up, and makes a vague attempt at eating breakfast, and heads to the garage.
It's not until he gets home that afternoon that he lets himself look at the Facebook app.
When he does, he almost chokes on his own tongue.
Sam Winchester, Benny Lafitte, Gabe Novak and eight others liked your relationship status!
Dean blinks at his phone.
“My relationship what?
Once he's opened his profile page he stares in abject horror at the words that seem to take up the entire screen. He can't quite seem to close his mouth.
Dean Winchester is in a relationship with Castiel Novak and it's complicated.
“What the fuck?”
Somewhere nearby he hears Sam snickering to himself, followed by a muffled “oh shit,” and then feet slamming on floorboards. The front door slams. Suddenly all that solitaire is looking a lot more suspicious. Now that he's thinking about it, Dean can't remember logging out of Facebook on the laptop on Saturday night.
Dean looks out the window to see his brother running from the house, cackling like a lunatic. He drops the phone on the counter and runs after him, yanking open the door.
“You'd better run, you dick!” he shouts, and Sam just laughs harder as he disappears around the corner, vanished behind the hedges at the front of the yard.
“Goddamnit,” Dean says, slamming the door and heading back to his phone with a plan to delete the status and everything associated with it. But when he looks at it, it's changed.
Dean Winchester is in a relationship with Castiel Novak.
Apparently it's not complicated. He's still trying to figure out exactly how it got changed without him doing anything when he gets a message.
Castiel Novak: I wouldn't want people to think we're fighting, Dean.
Dean has no idea how to respond, but in the end there's really only one thing he can say.
Dean Winchester: So, my brother is an ass.
Castiel Novak: I'm more than a little familiar with that phenomenon.
Dean Winchester: We should teach them both a lesson.
Castiel Novak: What do you propose?
The anxious feeling that had overtaken him has dissipated, leaving him with all the adrenaline but none of the panic, and he chews on his lip for a moment before tapping out another reply.
Dean Winchester: Dinner?
Castiel Novak: Dean, we can't eat our siblings. That's illegal.
Dean Winchester: Ah.
Castiel Novak: It would be far more effective if you and I just started dating. Less police involvement. Less need for an industrial sized oven.
Dean Winchester: Clearly you haven't been on a date with me yet ;)
Castiel Novak: I know. I haven't. Perhaps it's complicated after all.
Dean Winchester: I'll make it up to you. Tonight?
The little dots flash along the bottom of the screen, once, twice, three times, then stop, and for a moment Dean waits, worried that Castiel is going to turn him down. When his cell starts ringing he nearly jumps out of his skin. He answers breathlessly.
“Hello, Dean,” Castiel says, and theres a smile in his voice that makes Dean's heart pound, “Tonight would be perfect.”