He knew the diagnosis before he could even get his hands dirty. The orchid's leaves were a sickly yellowish-green, the dirt soaking wet like a sponge. When he lifted the plant from its pot, it only confirmed his suspicion: root rot. Worst case of it he'd seen in a while. The stench of rotting plant matter made his eyes water and itch. He rubbed at them—
"I knew you were sensitive, but I didn't think you'd cry over a dead plant."
—and snapped them open to find Charlie, all red hair and attitude, standing there, hands on her hips. She flashed him a cocky smile, her cheeks like apples and smudged with dirt. If she wasn't his best friend, he would've kicked her ass a long time ago for giving him shit. Luckily, she came with a few perks: her wit and carefree personality got him through the really long, shitty days here at the garden shop. And the beignets she made? They kept him fat, happy, and full. She wasn't a half-bad boss, either.
Unless she was being a smart ass. Like now.
"First of all, fuck you. Second... it's not dead. It's still got some life in it. I just have to cut the roots back a bit."
Charlie crowded him and peeked over his shoulder. "A bit? Dude, those roots have to start from scratch. They're rotted all the way up to the leaves." She folded her arms over her chest. "I don't think you can save this one."
"The hell I can't," he returned quickly.
"The hell you can."
"Wow, I can't believe you're doubting me right now," Dean said, mock offended.
"Oh, please. You may be smooth with the plant ladies and have a super green thumb you stick God knows where, but there's no way—"
"Shit. Sounds like an awful lot like you're getting your Star Wars panties in a bunch already and it's not even eleven o'clock," he shot back. Charlie flipped him off. "And if it's all the same to you, princess, I'll make you a bet. If I can get this thing up and living in a month, you owe me at least twelve beignets."
"Two weeks and I'll give you fifteen. But if you don't," she added before he could respond, "you have to sort out that mess of a storage room. The same one you should've cleaned, oh, five months ago."
The fucking storage room. It was the Mount Everest of boxes, pots, tools, and who knew what the fuck else. He studied her carefully. Two weeks to miraculously bring a mostly dead plant back to life. Mouthwatering beignets or cleaning that storage room. He narrowed his eyes. Charlie had a wry grin on her face. They had a stare off for five seconds before she mouthed the words "I dare you," effectively sealing the deal.
"Fine. You're on."
They both spit in their hands and shook on it. Charlie wiggled her eyebrows and slapped the counter as if she had run him blind in a poker game. "I can't wait to tell you I told you so. Oh, and just so you know, I'm wearing my Harry Potter underwear today. Boom. There you go. Suck it, mister know-it-all."
She flashed him a Vulcan salute like it was some sort of gang finger sign and walked away, a little extra skip in her step. Dean rolled his eyes and grumbled to himself and looked down at the plant. As if it were in a coup against him, the orchid shed a yellow leaf. Typical. He planted his hands flat on the counter and stared the orchid down, rounding his shoulders a little more to look tough. Determined. The plant seemed to wilt before his eyes.
He sighed. "Look, buddy. You gotta work with me here. I've got beignets on the line." The plant stared back hopelessly. Time to lay on the charm. "Listen, I'll split them with you and that's a pretty fair bargain. You just gotta... you know, do what you do. Grow and shit. It's gonna be hard, but you can do it."
Yes, he talked to plants. He'd read it helped them. For those deliciously fried little desserts, he'd do what he had to to win, including, but not limited to, talking to plants. Befriending them. Serenading them with some kickass rock and roll if times got really tough.
He flipped on the radio because, hey, times were tough. While AC/DC's Big Balls did its healing magic, he reached for the scissors and began snipping the dead, spongy roots. The shop's old-fashioned bell rang overhead, signaling that a customer had come in. Dean glanced up—just in time to catch a fleeting glimpse of someone headed down the far aisle, ducking out of sight. He looked toward the humming in the back room. Charlie was probably on her break, stuffing her face with a granola bar and chasing it down with Diet Coke. Which meant it was up to him to tend to the customer. He looked at his emergency patient, to the far aisle, and back again, and sighed. "Hold on, little guy. Gotta take care of something."
Dean stepped away from the cash register and tapped on the back door. "Hey, man the front. We got a customer."
He abandoned his station and headed toward the far aisle, following a fading trail of aftershave or cologne, or something. It was a heady scent; vanilla mixed with something earthy and a note of something darker, exciting and a little dangerous. He followed it like it was his catnip, weaving in and out of the aisles, past outdoor lighting, cheap-ass bird baths, indoor plants, and pots. Way back to the soil amendments, where garden pros usually headed first.
He rounded another aisle and stepped into the wide open space. Bags upon bags towered high. The pungent smell of fertilizer—organic manure, the real shit—sizzled his nose hairs. He found his wayward customer crouched low, back to him, studying a bag of shit as if it were the key to understanding the universe. From his vantage point, the guy had a nice ass under those tight jeans. His hair was messy like he'd just crawled out of bed. Not bad.
Dean coughed in his fist. "Hey, welcome to Over the Rainbow Gardening & Nursery—"
His customer stood up and turned.
He'd seen a lot of hot guys come into the shop before, jacked off to plenty of them too. But this guy? This guy would be in his spank bank for months, with his strong jaw line, five o'clock shadow, and a body he'd kill to have under him—and none of that took his eyes into consideration. They were blue—hydrangea blue—and full of... something different. Like his soul was too big or something and half of it was coming out through his eyes. He had a look about him that suggested he had wisdom beyond his late-thirty years, dignified and otherworldly. Enough to make him think in clichés and wax poetic about nothing.
The guy stared at him like he was a weirdo or the best puzzle he'd ever get to solve. The kind of staring that went under the skin, straight to the soul. And when he smiled, just a little bit, Dean got lost. The guy had lips he could kiss for hours, letting the day slip by without a care in the world. He was gorgeous and totally out of his league—the GQ to his high school drop-out.
He was basically drooling over him when it hit him. GQ was still a customer, and he was an employee of Over the Rainbow Gardening & Nursery. An employee who was just standing there, like a complete jackass.
"Uh. Yeah, sorry." Dean cleared his throat and stood up a little bit straighter. "Any help... uh—do you need it? Er, help, I mean."
It didn't help that his voice cracked like a twelve-year-old kid going through puberty.
GQ tilted his head as if he were an odd little bird. His blue eyes narrowed. Dean nearly peed himself when GQ opened his mouth and said, "Yes."
It was as if Heaven itself had opened up and sang Hallelujah. If his face and body weren't enough, GQ had a voice that could—his dick finished the thought for him. Dean shifted uncomfortably, pretending everything was cool, while sporting a major hard-on. If this was a Disney movie, hearts would be floating over his goddamn head.
"Uh—okay," Dean answered dumbly. Standing there. Staring. Heat crawled up the back of his neck. "You, uh... you looking for dirt?"
Dean cocked an eyebrow and glanced to the shelves. Bags of dirt surrounded them like soldiers in an army. "You get lost then?"
It was GQ's turn to look at the bags. Nothing else here but dirt, more dirt, and other dirt. The guy cued a perfectly sheepish smile. Dean practically melted on the spot. "Yes."
Dean took in a breath for the first time in ten minutes. He smiled back and leaned toward one of the displays, missed the connection between elbow and shelf, and nearly fell over. His face burned Christmas red, and like nothing ever happened, he straightened up and adjusted his bright green work vest.
Come on, dumbass. You're employee of the month. You got this. Be cool.
"Name's Dean," he said, holding out his hand.
GQ looked at his hand, studying it, before he took it in his own. Warm, soft fingers—not strangers to hard work if the calluses were any indication. It was a good handshake, somehow firm yet gentle. "Castiel."
"Castiel," Dean repeated, testing the name on his tongue. It felt good, like it belonged there. "So. You a gardener?"
"No." Dean looked at him weird like he'd spoken Greek. Castiel must've taken the hint, and added, "I have a garden that needs work. And... I don't know the first thing about gardening." He looked down to the floor, as if maybe he were ashamed. Then, eyes only, Castiel looked up at him. "Perhaps you could help me."
"Me?" Dean squeaked. He cleared his throat again. "Oh, yeah, definitely. I have tons of help in me. Oodles. Yep. Pretty much... endless amounts of help." He flashed a smile. "Just for you—and whoever else comes in. Of course."
Castiel smiled a little.
"So, uh... what were you thinking? You know, help wise?"
"Do you have books—"
"We have a whole shitload of books!" Dean coughed. "I mean, yeah, we have books. Follow me."
Dean whirled away before his face could turn an even brighter shade of red. He was making the biggest dumbass of himself. Par the course for any super attractive person that wandered in here, chick and dude alike. He took a much-needed breath and headed toward the register, taking a second to steal a glance over his shoulder. Blue stared back at him. It was only him and GQ in the store. He got ballsy and took the risk of opening his mouth.
"So, uh—you new around here?"
He knocked into a table of potted plants, righting a spineless cactus before it tumbled off the edge.
"Yes," Castiel said. "I bought a new home two months ago."
"And the garden's a mess?" Duh. He already said that. "Got any plans for it?"
"Some flowers," Castiel said, stopping at the register. He reached for something in his back pocket, pulled out a folded piece of paper, and handed it to him.
Dean took it and unfolded it gingerly. It had drawn pictures of flowers and bees all over it. Some sort of flyer. Plant these; Save the Bees was printed at the top. "A bee garden," Dean announced to the cash register and sick orchid. "Awesome." He handed it back and leaned on the counter. "Like bees, huh?"
He fell into those eyes again, hopelessly mesmerized, and couldn't help but smile. Castiel smiled back minutely, and then went back to serious mode like it was his factory default setting. They stared for what seemed like forever before Castiel made the first move to say something. His lips parted, and if he had said anything, Dean didn't hear it. He was gone, wondering what it'd be like to kiss him, if it would be gentle and soft, chick-flick kind of kissing, or rough and hungry like a—
Somewhere, a pot clattered to the floor. He looked up to find Charlie at the far end of the aisle, eyes wide and mouth agape, staring at the floor. She glanced up, gave him a huge nervous smile, and flashed him a thumbs-up. When Castiel began to turn—
"So, hey. Look! Books," Dean said, surprised, as if they had popped up out of nowhere. "This one's good." Dean shoved the book in his hands. Castiel grunted. "Gardening 101. That should do the trick."
Castiel looked down at it, thumbing through the pages.
"It has pictures," Dean stated, because he liked pictures in his books. So should everyone else.
Castiel looked up at him, frowning. But not... mad frowning. Maybe thoughtful frowning. "This is... acceptable."
"Awesome. I'll ring it up for you."
Dean took the book from him, rounded the counter, and scanned it. Castiel looked at the sick orchid and thumbed a yellow leaf. He was so careful with it, and it made Dean think he'd spent a lifetime around plants, caring for them. When Castiel smiled at it, Dean's heart fluttered. "We rehabilitate plants. So, you know, if this doesn't work—" He lifted the book. Castiel pulled his eyes away from the orchid. Hydrangea blue stabbed him somewhere in the soul. Dean gave him a dumb smile, and Castiel smiled back.
"So, yeah. It'll be thirteen ninety-five today."
Castiel fished for his wallet.
"Do you want to sign up for our newsletter?" Phone number, e-mail address required. "Great tips on gardening—"
"No, thank you," Castiel said, handing him his card.
Dean notched his head in a nod, almost as quick and sharp as his disappointment. He swiped the card and handed it back. "Receipt?"
"I'll carry it."
Castiel took the book and stood there a moment, studying him, before turning away, heading toward the way he'd come in. Dean waited for him to look over his shoulder or something, and when he didn't, when Castiel left without a glance back, he deflated.
"Have a plant-iful day," he whispered mostly to himself. Dean sighed and ran a hand down his face. He couldn't have been more of an idiot if he'd tried. Too many things had gone wrong and he must've been standing there, thinking about it for way too long, because Charlie was suddenly in front of him, snapping her fingers in his face.
"What?" Dean growled.
"You didn't hear me?"
"I try not to on a regular basis."
Charlie rolled her eyes. "I've been standing here for at least two minutes slamming you with some of my best insults." When Dean gave her a blank look, she sighed dramatically. "Hello? About the guy that just left?"
"What about him?"
"Are you serious right now?" Charlie propped a hand on her locked-and-loaded hip. "You. That guy... could you have been any more obvious?"
"Obvious about what?"
Charlie used up the last of his patience when she leaned forward on the counter, chin in her hands, and began batting her eyelashes obnoxiously. "'Are you new around here? '," she mimicked in false baritone.
He finally got it.
"Fuck you," Dean grumped. "Wait a goddamn second. You're calling me obvious?"
Charlie thinned her lips.
"You're the one acting like this is one of your stupid spy missions or some shit." Because Charlie was synonymous with spy shit. One time, she'd bugged the cash register area for a whole day, then, while they were closing up, proceeded to give him tips on how to better pick up chicks. Way back when she thought he only dug chicks.
Like he needed tips picking up chicks.
"Is that what this is about? You mad because I don't include you on my top secret spy missions?"
Dean frowned. "What?"
"Never mind." She waved him off, hands back on her hips. "I just..." Charlie shook her head and sighed again, looking nearly exasperated. "You scared him right off, dude. I mean, that was stellar flirting."
"I wasn't fucking flirting," Dean snapped. "You'll know when I'm flirting."
"Oh yeah? You're pretty smooth, huh?" Charlie quipped. "Running into the cacti—that was all part of your game?"
"Don't you have inventory to do?"
Charlie smirked and turned away. "Let me know if you need to up your game, Casanova."
Dean rolled his eyes and scowled at her back. When she disappeared into the aisles, he turned back to the orchid. "I wasn't flirting," he repeated. Dean thumbed a yellow leaf.
For the rest of the day, he couldn't stop thinking about hydrangea blue.
"You're really fucking annoying, you know that, right?" Dean glared at Charlie over the orchid's yellow leaves the next day. She beamed a wide shit-eating grin, which he returned with a frown. "It's been one day, Char. I got it yesterday, remember? As awesome as I am, I'm not a fucking miracle worker."
"Whatever. All I hear is the sweet, sweet sound of you cleaning that storage room, buddy." Charlie poked his nose and turned away from the cash register, skipping toward the aisles like some three-year-old.
Dean sulked. One fucking day and she was already on his ass. He threw a glare toward the storage room's door as if it'd laughed at him just then, as if it too were involved in the conspiracy. Probably was—and so was the orchid. He gave the plant a withering look. "Some help you are."
The shop's bell rang overhead.
Charlie ran in, flailing her hands like a bird, making a sound teenage girls made when they watched romance movies about sparkly vampires. She ducked behind him, grabbing him close, and peered over his shoulder. Dean squawked in protest, opened his mouth... and gawked.
In came GQ, wearing dark jeans, a white shirt and black vest combo, and a blue tie. Completely inappropriate for garden supply shopping. Fucking sexy as hell.
"Is that the guy from yesterday? Cas-something?" Charlie whispered in his ear. "He's so dreamy."
"Shut up, Charlie."
They stared at him while he looked around—the kind of looking when a customer needed help. GQ, er, Cas, smiled just a touch when he saw him. Dean died a little inside.
"I'll watch your dead plant for you. Why don't you go help your boyfriend?"
Charlie push-nudged him with her elbow. Dean stayed put, rooted in place, watching Cas walk over like a runway model. Those fucking legs—Charlie turned him and all but threw him out from behind the register, making him trip over his own goddamn feet. He righted himself before smacking into Cas, stopping mere inches from him. Body heat and cologne, blue, blue eyes, fucked him right over. Like a ragdoll, he slumped a little and smiled like an idiot.
The way his name rolled off his tongue... It shouldn't have been so arousing, but it was, and his dick rose to the occasion, making an awkward situation even worse. Worse still, a happy squeak drew his attention, and he found Charlie, chin in her hands, staring at them like they were the best couple in the best chick-flick she'd ever seen.
Dean scowled at her. Charlie flashed him a grin.
Without a word, Dean grabbed Cas by the arm and hauled him away. Not only did Cas look like he belonged on a magazine cover, but he felt like it too. His biceps flexed under his grasp and fuck, were they rock-hard, much like he was right then. The dude must work out, pumping some serious iron and probably looking real pretty while doing it.
"So, hey," Dean began. He checked over his shoulder. Charlie was aisles away, hopefully still at the cash register. "Didn't think I'd seen you again." When he turned, he found bright blue eyes staring back.
Because I'm an idiot.
"Uh, because our prices are too high?"
Cas narrowed his eyes as if he didn't understand.
"Never mind." Dean smiled. "How can I help you today? Did that book work out for you?"
Cas wasn't looking at his face anymore, but his lips, studying them, looking up well after he had finished his sentence. It was enough to get the wheels turning in his head. Images of Cas stretched out long and lean under him, while Dean kissed and touched him... He sucked in a lungful of air and held it.
"Book? What—" Cas paused then nodded slowly, as if he'd just remembered yesterday. "Yes. It was fine."
Time ticked by as slow as melting ice. Neither of them moving, or breathing, or adding to the conversation. They just stood there, gravitating around each other, until Dean was the first one to snap out of it.
"You looking for something in particular today?"
"Yes," Cas supplied at length. "Dirt."
"Dirt," Dean echoed.
Dean traced the dark little curls at his neck with his eyes. Adorable. He smiled absently, then frowned. "What kind of dirt?"
"The... brown kind?"
"No, I mean—" Goddamnit, Winchester. Concentrate. "Why do you need dirt? Is there something wrong with the soil in your backyard? Uh, I assume you have a backyard. Right?"
"Right." Cas nodded. "It's... it has rocks in it. Possibly not good for the flowers, I'd suspect. It won't hold water well enough and I need fertilizer. So, not dirt, but soil amendments." Cas frowned as a flush came over his face. "At least... that's what it said in the book you gave me."
There were acceptable things to get a hard-on over: busty Asian beauties, his car, a glass of good whiskey—but dirt? Really? Dean shifted a little to balance the sudden load in his pants and smiled. "Soil amendments," he repeated. He tilted his head toward an aisle, and winked. "This way."
Dean turned on his heel, his back to Cas, and screamed internally. Between his hard dick and the wink, he didn't recognize himself. No longer was he the cool, badass Dean Winchester Charlie always said he was (when she was drunk), but a high school kid, blushing over his crush. He rolled his eyes at himself and stalked over toward the next three aisles, charging into the soil amendment section like he was on a mission. He stopped suddenly and Cas bumped into him, all heat and hard muscle. It blew his fucking mind.
"My apologies," Cas muttered.
"The soil amendments," Dean declared, just wanting to forget about hydrangea blue, messy hair, and personal space issues. "There's a wide range of them. Anything catch your eye?"
"I—" Cas sighed. "I don't know."
"Look. Tell you what." Dean leaned in and, after a second, so did Cas. Their shoulders touched. "I'm going to tell you my secret soil recipe. Plants love this stuff. You'll have so many bees in your garden, you won't know what to do with them. And if it doesn't work—" Dean smiled. "You can come back to the store to get a refund."
Cas stared at him with those blue eyes of his, eyes that dropped to his lips again and lingered there for the longest time. Being this close to him, with Cas practically memorizing his mouth... the dirtiest shit he'd ever thought of doing with another person raced through his head in about five seconds flat.
"That sounds... fine," Cas said.
"It's a deal, then. Okay, so... soil amendments." Dean spun away and blew out a breath. He scanned the shelves, trying to think of something other than Cas and him... doing things. "How big is the space for the flowers?"
"I don't know."
"No problem. We'll get you a couple of bags of each. Anything you don't need, you can bring back for a refund. Sound okay?" Dean glanced at him. Cas nodded. "Good. Hey, stay here a sec."
Dean quickly abandoned Cas in the aisle, turned down another—and practically ran face-first into Charlie. "Dude, do you mind?"
"How's it going over there?" She asked, grinning.
"I don't know. Why don't you tell me. You've been listening the whole time."
Charlie Bradbury. Modern-day James-fucking-Bond.
"You need to up your game," Charlie said. "Flirt a little."
"What? He's a customer."
"So? You obviously like him."
"Do not," Dean growled.
"Slide over the damn truck."
Charlie smirked, turned, and slid over the fork hand truck. Dean grabbed it from her and wheeled it away.
"Flirt with him!"
He rolled his eyes and headed back to the dirt aisle. Cas stood right where he left him, beautiful, metrosexual, and seriously out of place. Dean parked the hand truck and smiled when their eyes met. Flirt a little, my ass. He could barely breathe around him let alone make a goddamn move. Dean tossed a glance over his shoulder. Charlie did her thumbs-up thing. Dean turned back to blue, blue eyes, and nearly choked on his tongue. "Hi."
He swallowed thickly. His eyes gravitated to Cas' lips, which were partly open, ready for him. Kissing him... that was all he'd thought about since he met him—and he could totally admit that he'd jacked off a few times last night to the fantasy of kissing him alone.
They stood there, saying nothing, doing nothing. The air had a sort of tension that could be cut. Flirting with him was out of the fucking question. Just standing next to him—
"I like manure," he blurted out. What the fuck? "I mean, it's a great soil amendment. Top grade. We, uh—we have some here." Dean turned away, face burning red, and pulled down a few bags of Black Kow, organic manure. "It's not the best smelling thing in the world, but, hey... if the flowers grow—"
He put the bags of Black Kow on the hand truck, along with bags of vermiculite and peat moss. Cas trailed behind him as Dean wheeled the load to the front of the store, to the cash register. He scanned them in, and motioned to Charlie's newsletter out of habit. "Do you want to sign up for our newsletter? Great tips—"
"No, thank you."
"Okay," Dean said. He asked him about that damn thing yesterday. "Seventy-five sixty."
Cas swiped his card. Another successful sale.
"Need help out to the car? That's a lot of bags. I mean, not like, you know, you can't handle it on your own or anything—just..."
"Help would be fine."
"Great! I mean.. yeah."
Dean wheeled the hand truck around and went out the door. All he wanted to do was get this over with as quickly as possible and go about a normal, stress-free day. This whole... Cas thing...
"It's the white Prius over there."
Hot as fucking hell, knew how to dress, and environmentally conscientious. Dean stopped at the car. Once the back was open, he looked at it skeptically. "You gonna have room for all this?"
"The seats flip down."
Sure enough... Dean hauled the bags into the back and almost wrenched his back doing it. He'd definitely feel that tomorrow along with the shame of being a complete, total dumbass. He slammed the hatch closed and said, "So, mix one-third of each and apply it to your soil after you get all the rocks out, okay? That's it. Have a plant-iful day!"
Like a bat out of hell, Dean turned and sped off, dropping off the hand truck before going inside. He breathed a sigh of relief as soon as the shop's doors closed behind him. The coast was clear. Dean stole a glance outside. Cas' fancy white Prius pulled out of the parking lot and drove off, out of sight. He'd probably never see him again and he deflated.
Head down, shoulders slumped, he retreated back to the cash register like a dog who'd been caught peeing on the carpet. Charlie gave him a pouty face when he walked up. "You didn't flirt with him at all."
"Dude, I'm not gonna flirt with him."
Charlie sighed sharply. "You're such a dumbass. He was gorgeous and perfect for you. You probably don't even know how to flirt."
"How do you know? You've never seen me in action," he snapped. "I invented flirting."
"Sure, and I'm the Wizard of Oz."
"More like the Wicked Witch of the West," he shot back. Charlie picked up one of the newsletters and threw it at him. He squawked a little and said, "Don't you have someone to terrorize?"
"Oh, don't worry. I'll do plenty of terrorizing if he ever comes back." Charlie wiggled her eyebrows.
He didn't even know what that meant. He scowled at her and she grinned, skipped away again as usual. Pissed off, the day completely ruined, he went back to work. He didn't stop thinking about Cas. Not once.
The next day, he stood at the cash register, staring at the orchid. The leaves were still the very same shade of yellow and there'd been no new root growth. Not that he'd expected an earth-shattering change on day two, but still. The plant not being as droopy as it had been would've been a nice start. A greener shade of yellow—hell, even better. Proving Charlie wrong? Amazing.
As it was going, Charlie would have her precious storage room cleaned by the beginning of week three.
Dean tossed a glare over his shoulder. The storage room's door looked even more intimidating today, like it knew he'd be in there soon, sorting all the mess he'd made over the months. He could sense Charlie was laughing at him somewhere, delighting over his—
He jumped clear out of his skin when Charlie appeared next to him. Dean lunged for the orchid pot and kept it from tipping over, and Charlie giggled, plopping a new shipment of... something on the counter. Frazzled, grumpy as fuck, he glared at her, but she didn't notice. She was wide grinned and sparkly eyed, snipping the scissors in midair before going about cutting the tape on her package.
Dean looked at her, the box, then at her again. "What's in the box?"
"None of your business."
Dean frowned, then narrowed his eyes. "Is that more of your—"
"Are you kidding me?"
"Hey, you like cars. I like—"
"Creepy fucking security cameras and pen recorders."
"It's a hobby, all right?" Charlie snapped.
"You're not James Bond."
"I could be!"—then—"You're just jealous."
"Of what? You spying on people?"
"I don't spy. I observe."
"Whatever." Dean rolled his eyes and turned away, rearranging the newsletters. Behind him, Charlie shuffled around with her box for a while, then leaned in close. Her breath tickled the back of his neck.
"Don't you want to know what I got?"
"No," he deadpanned.
Dean growled under his breath and turned, arms crossed over his chest. Charlie grinned wide and held up some... walkie-talkie thing and what looked like an ear piece? "What the hell is that?"
He opened his mouth—and the shop's bell rang overhead. Charlie gasped like she'd seen a ghost. It would've been funny if... He looked toward the front of the store and nearly shit himself.
"Dude, I guess you didn't fuck up too badly because he's here again! Thirddayinarow!"
Between Cas, Cas, Cas and Charlie's squealing, he could barely understand her. He stood there, staring—Cas smiled back—then his world jerked and jostled as Charlie dragged him away, from the cash register and into the storage room.
"Dude, what the—"
"Shut up and listen to me." She began fussing with his clothing, spiking his hair—he swatted her hands away. "Mr. Dreamy is back and you're gonna make a move."
“The hell I am!”
“The hell you are,” she snapped back. “Do it or you’re fired.”
“You heard me.” She messed with his hair again. “Don’t worry. I’ll help you. I got a plan.”
"A plan? What kind of fucking plan?"
"A brilliant one," she grabbed his shoulders and shook him a little. "Man, you are going to owe me. I can't believe this worked out the way it did. I mean, I just got them because they were on sale. I didn't think I could actually use them for an actual mission!"
His head swam. "What mission? What the fuck are you talking about?"
To his horror, Charlie held up her walkie-talkie thing, tiny earpiece in her other hand. "This is what we're going to do—you're going to put this in your ear..."
"Fucking no, dude."
"Fucking yes! Then, I'm going to talk you through flirting with this guy."
"What? Are you shitting me?"
"I know! I'm brilliant!"
"There's no way in fucking hell, Char. I'm not putting that thing in my ear—no! Let go of me, goddamnit!"
"Stay still, you big baby!"
There was a lot of grunting and something somewhere crashed to the floor. Somehow, with her fucking Ethan Hunt ninja skills, Charlie grabbed him, held him still, and stuck the damn thing in his ear. She stepped back to look him over. "Can't even see it. What a great buy."
Dean growled. "I'm not doing this—and you can't even fucking tell me you bought this on some... whim."
"No, you're right. I bought them specifically because you can't seem to bag this dreamboat. Thank God Amazon ships overnight."
"This isn't Mission Impossible, Char," he hissed.
"Depends on how much you suck at flirting," Charlie countered. "But don't worry, I got this. It'll be easy. I promise."
"Dude, no way."
“Just do it! What’s the worst that could happen?”
Dean sighed and fiddled with the earpiece. “This is the stupidest thing I’ve ever done.”
“Not really. You’ve done worse.”
“Remember that one time in Vegas—“
“Shut up. I told you to never mention that again.”
Charlie winked, her grin getting real big. She waved her walkie-talkie spy thing around. "I’m going to give you instructions through this. You follow them to a tee. Got it? By the time we’re done, you’ll be going at it like rabbits near the hydrangeas.” Hydrangeas screeched in his ear. “Oops. Sorry. Let me fiddle with this a sec." Charlie turned dials, flipped switches, until her voice rattled nicely in his head. "Good? Okay. Anyway. Worst case scenario? You’ll just get his number.”
“Worst case scenario he’ll think I’m a fucking freak and I’ll never see him again.”
“Or that,“ Charlie shrugged with another grin. “I don’t know, though. Who could think you’re a freak with that face?” She pinched his cheeks.
He swatted at her hands again. “You’d be surprised.”
“Doesn’t matter,” she said, putting something in his pocket. When he went for it—"It's the receiver. Don't fucking touch it."—he was pushed toward the door.
“Flirt or I post a job ad today. Got it?”
“This is fucking stupid,” Dean growled.
Out the storage room he went—right into Cas' line of sight. He met impossibly blue eyes with a sheepish grin. Cas stood on the other side of the counter, cracking one of his patented barely-there smiles. They stared. The world froze. There was nothing but the two of them—“Testing, testing. Nod if you can hear me.”—and Charlie.
Dean seethed and nodded.
"Okay. I think it's official. Operation ‘Getting Dean Laid’ is a go.”
Dying would be pretty good right about now.
"You can start by saying hello or something. Sheesh!"
Cas smiled—and that's when Charlie practically lost her shit. She started squealing and giggling, then a shit load of static came through, which could only mean she had imploded. Crackle. Hiss. She came in again, rambling on about how cute he was, his smile, and what it meant.
“He wants to kiss you!” she sang.
Since when was she the expert on dude-on-dude?
“Back so soon?” Dean asked.
“Smile at him! No, no! Wink at him!”
Dean clenched his jaw instead.
“Tools,” Cas said. “I forgot… tools.”
Dean thought back to yesterday. Soil amendments. No—
“Dude. Tell him ‘I got a tool for you.’ I want to see his reaction.”
“You’re not helping, goddamnit,” Dean mumbled under his breath.
Dean recovered with a gigawatt smile, the same smile he used to get laid and, more importantly, to get himself the fuck out of trouble. "What kind of tools are you looking for?”
“I… don’t know,” Cas said. “I need to get rocks out of the soil. Mix the dirt…”
“Yeah, okay. Tools.” Dean nodded. Charlie giggled about tools. Twelve-year-old. “They’re this way.”
Dean led Cas through the aisles, past the bird baths, the soil amendments—
"You could take him in the back and fuck him. I wouldn’t care, you know.”
—and nearly tripped over a rake. Dean cleared his throat and set it upright, flashing a sheepish smile back at Cas. Out of the corner of his eye, Charlie ducked back into one of the aisles, her red hair a signal flare. She'd never been the most graceful thing in the world, and proved him right when a pot crashed to the floor. The noise reverberated in his ear. Charlie squeaked in distress—which he heard too thanks to the fucking ear piece—and the commotion naturally grabbed Cas' curiosity. He began to turn his head and Dean could see their mission going up in flames, could see Cas hating him for the rest of his life. He couldn't have that. Not in a million years.
Think fast, dumbass.
Instinct kicked in. Without thinking, Dean reached out and cupped the underside of Cas' chin, gliding a thumb across his jaw line. The touch drew Cas' attention, and he slowly turned his head. Their eyes met. Dean let his fingers linger. His skin... it was warm like the sun, the good kind of scratchy where the stubble had grown in. And those eyes, this close... they stole his breath away.
He wanted to drag Cas out of here, go somewhere quiet where no one would ever find them, and explore every inch of him, touch everywhere, kiss him until he'd covered his entire body. Cas let out an unsteady breath and it ghosted his face. They teetered on touching. They—
"Kiss him, you dumb shit."
He blinked and let his hand fall. Gone was the cool, confident kid from high school. In his place stood drop-out Dean with five bucks to his name, practically drooling over himself.
"Uh... hi." Another dumb smile. "So, yeah, tools are right there. You'll definitely need a shovel and probably a garden fork to get the rocks out of your garden. Maybe even a bow rake for the smaller ones. Also, it's a good idea to get a wheelbarrow. Just throw in all the soil amendments and mix it up. Easy as pie." Dean nodded, then, remembering something, pointed. "Oh, and I suggest getting a trowel now, too. You can use it later when you’re planting your flowers.”
It all came out in a clump of run-together syllables. For a second, Cas narrowed his eyes as if he were confused. And who could blame him? He was standing in front of a moron.
Dean's confidence took a nose-dive in manure.
“Dude, what happened? You had him where you wanted him!"
Dean grit his teeth. Without a word, Cas nodded and stepped closer to the tools, peering at them quizzically. Studying them like he seemed to study everything else. The silence was deafening. He loitered, hanging around Cas like a fly on shit. He wanted to say something. Anything.
"Hey. You're fading on me. Ask him how he’s doing. The chicks love that.”
This was stupid. But maybe Charlie had a point.
“You doing okay today?”
Cas turned to look at him. Studied him closely like he was a new tool he hadn't yet considered. He couldn’t tell if it was surprise or annoyance in the varying degrees of seriousness on his face. Then, just a touch, Cas smiled.
Dean almost stumbled over nothing.
“I’m fine, Dean.” The whole world began to spin. “Are you?”
“Uhh—I’m fine. Great, even. Real great,“ Dean sputtered. “Best day of my life, to be honest.”
“Laying it on a little thick there, Mr. Sunshine.”
Cas narrowed his eyes, waiting for something profound, probably. A reason that'd shake up his world and change it for good.
"Uh..." Dean stammered, rubbing the back of his head vigorously. “Well, it’s a nice day, and uh—you know, just great.”
Charlie tried to help him recover. “Tell him you think he’s pretty!”
“I think you’re pr—err…“ Dean coughed. “Hey, lookin’ good, man. You probably work out.”
Cas frowned, eyes almost thin lines. Dean cleared his throat—Apologize. Do something.—and opened his mouth.
“Thank you, Dean,” Cas said coolly. “I run.”
His slack-jawed stare pulled up, and Dean gave him a winning smile, standing half way between super-fucking-happy and wanting to run far, far away. Nothing more to be said, Cas spared a miniscule smile, turned back to the tools—and bent over.
“OhmyGod," Charlie squeaked. "Now’s your chance! Grab his ass!”
Dean flinched. “Are you fucking crazy?”
“I didn’t know you had a preference on tool brands,” Cas said, hand hovering over the Black & Decker garden trowel. His frown said everything.
“Um—well.” Dean swallowed hard and played it cool. “Just want you to get the best, dude. Try Fiskars instead. Real sturdy and economic. Best bang for your buck.”
“Damn. Nice save. You sure do know your tools.”
While Charlie giggled like a high school girl, Cas narrowed his eyes at him. Dean boiled in his skin. It was getting hot and uncomfortable in here. He made a mental note to check the air-conditioning.
“I’ll try it. Thank you,” Cas said. Tone… a tad dismissive.
Dean took it as his cue to get out of Dodge. “Anyway, let me know if you need any help. I’ll be at the register.”
He turned and walked away, head low, mood much lower. Charlie griped in his ear and her voice came across the airwaves as nonsensical static compared to the real, clear ache in his chest.
“Go back. We had something good going on!”
“We had nothing going on,” Dean hissed under his breath. “The dude thinks I’m an asshole. Thanks. Real great friend you are.”
He took the earpiece out and put it on a shelf, hidden away. It was over. He'd fucked up. No smooth recovery this time. Or next time. Hell, ever if he was being realistic.
Dean stormed over to the cash register, and just stood there, simmering. He had one job: impress Cas enough to get his fucking number. He blew it. Dean glared at a tiny cactus on the counter, boring a hole into it with the heat of his anger and disappointment. He'd send the thing crashing to the floor if he wasn't afraid of hurting it. Some big, strong guy he was. Couldn't even take his anger out on a plant.
The sound of wheels made him look up. Cas did well for himself in the tools department by his guess, coming up to the cash register with a wheelbarrow and the tools he’d recommended. Dean didn't have the balls to look at his face. He didn't want to see the disappointment there. He'd seen that enough in his life.
“Need anything else today?”
His tone came out razor edged, completely unintentional. Cas took a sharp breath—he could hear the disapproval in it—and didn't say anything. If he bothered to look, Cas had probably shaken his head in the negative. Nothing else, just ring me up, and get me the hell out of here. He felt like more of an asshole.
Dean rang up the tools in silence, gave him a discount—Charlie would understand—and didn’t bother with mentioning the newsletter. Like usual, Cas gave him his credit card, and like usual, he took it. Their fingers touched. Dean thought nothing of it and turned his eyes away for what seemed like a second, but lasted longer than that. Way longer. Lost in thought or some shit, staring off into absolutely nothing.
Somewhere, a piece of paper fluttered.
Dean snapped out of it and turned back... to find Cas holding up a sign-up sheet for the newsletter. A completely filled out sign-up sheet. Full name, home address, e-mail, and phone number. If he could think, he probably would've realized he was pretty damn close to pissing himself.
“This is my phone number,” Cas said, pointing at it, as if he didn’t know what a phone number was.
His gut did a flippity-flop thing, his heart jumping around in his throat. Dean gripped his hands into fists at his sides—to stop his fingers from shaking right off—then took the sheet and filed it away. Nice and easy, like it didn’t matter, like it wasn’t the most important piece of paper in the history of ever.
“Have a plant-iful day,” Dean mumbled, and gave him his receipt.
Cas lingered for a few seconds, why he didn't know. The sound of squeaky wheels told him Cas was headed to the front of the store and out, and Dean looked up. Maybe he should've apologized for being weird when he'd had the chance. Though he was excited he'd gotten Cas' number—holy shit, he'd gotten his number!—it was tempered when, again, Cas didn't look back before leaving. Along with the hum of the artificial plant lights, what he should have done, did, and never would vibrated his head. He should've handled this on his own; he shouldn't have been so weird; fuck, he ran into that rake; he'd never get to fuck—
From beside him, Charlie cleared her throat. He turned. She beamed a grin. "Lilies or French Tulips?”
“Lilies or French Tulips? You know, for your wedding.”
“Shut the fuck up, Char,” Dean growled.
"I know, I know. You're still mad at me." She bumped shoulders with him. "But hey. Chin up, buttercup, you got his number. Now you owe me as usual."
Dean rolled his eyes. When he glanced at her, she beamed a triumphant grin and he managed to crack a smile.
Fuck yeah. He got Cas’ number.
That night, he stared at the sign-up sheet for hours, fighting between calling Cas and burning it so he wouldn't have to deal with the what ifs. Five times, he picked up his cell phone. Twice, he had the courage to type in Cas’ number, never once actually calling him. He hadn't been this nervous since he'd lost his virginity, and even that had been a little easier; his deflowering lasted five seconds. He'd been clutching his phone for over two hours.
Dean stared at Cas’ number on his phone’s screen. All he had to do was hit the call button. Easy, but in reality, fucking hard as hell. What if Cas hadn't actually wanted a call from him? What if he was just being... Cas?
He chewed on his cuticle. A single touch of technology could make or ruin his life. His heart hammered in his head. He even felt a little dizzy. If he thought about it, his mouth was dry, his fingers shaking a little bit.
Now or never.
Dean wet his lips and took a deep breath. He hovered his thumb over the—
His phone chirped at him and he jumped ten feet into the air. The thing tumbled to the bedspread, Charlie's text—Just call him, holy shit!—glaring at him angrily from his phone's screen.
Dean looked around, just in case Charlie had installed surveillance cameras in his house, and actually took the time to search his room. It delayed the inevitable—nope, nothing under the lamp—and made him look pretty stupid, even if it was just to himself. After fluffing his pillows, and checking inside the pillow cases for good measure, he took a seat on the bed, grabbed his phone, and stared at it.
He took a deep breath.
Nut up, Winchester. He's just a dude.
A gorgeous, smart dude with a body to die for.
Dean slumped a little and tried to calm his erratic heartbeat. His stomach lurched. This was it. He was going to do it. This time, he'd actually press that button.
For another thirty minutes, he didn't.
"Fuck this shit."
He closed his eyes. Took a breath—and hit the call button.
World War III didn't start, but what happened was worse.
Cas picked up.
All the tension of the last three hours just… melted away when he heard his voice. It curled around his spine, his muscles, and made him feel gooey. Light-headed… fuck, even a little nauseous. He was either going to throw up, pass out, or die and he didn’t know which option was better.
“Uhh—hi," Dean squeaked. "Cas, hey. It’s me.”
The line went silent. Dean pressed the phone into his head. Cas' breath came in rhythmic and soothing, telling him that Cas was still there, that he hadn't lost him.
“Yeah. Dean. From the store," he said as if Cas knew a ton of Deans. "I—uhh… I just wanted to call and"—think, think—“check on how the flower beds were doing,” he blurted out.
The silence on the other end mocked him.
“At 10:00 p.m.?”
“Uhh—“ he looked at the clock. Fuck. “Wow. Yeah, look at that. Ten o'clock. I guess I should’ve checked the time before I called." Dean dropped his head in his hand. "God, I’m such a dumbass.”
“I prefer the word 'unaware.' Less dumb. Less ass.”
Dean smiled at that. It disappeared when Cas let out a heavy sigh. Dean crushed the phone against his ear, hanging on to every breath. “What is it, Cas?”
“The flower beds…" A pause. “I’m in over my head, Dean. This whole—“
“It’s okay, Cas. I can help.”
It sounded like more of an accusation than a question.
“I could—I don't know—show you how it’s done, you know? Teach you.” He was on a roll. “Couple of beers, some sun. It could do us both some good.”
Heavy silence. The kind that was crushing in its refusal. That was it. He'd done it again: fucked everything up.
Dean sighed. "Look, sorry, I—"
“Are you… suggesting that you come over?”
“Tomorrow is Saturday.”
“Okay. Yeah. Would that work?”
Cas' breathing on the other end of the phone… it was like porn, only better. God, he felt like such a loser.
“That’d be fine.”
“Really?” His voice cracked, then got deeper to compensate. “I mean, awesome. Yeah, okay. So, tomorrow?”
“Great. See you then!”
He hung up and threw the phone to the other side of the bed as if it had just gotten Ebola. His heart raced at an alarming rate, and he actually got a little dizzy. He even fist-pumped twice before stopping himself. He felt good, real good. Good enough to full-on Tom Cruise this bitch, and slide across the floor in nothing but socks, shirt, and underwear—
Dean lunged for the phone, and typed out a hasty text message to Charlie. She'd flip her shit.
dude... tomorow... cas's plce.
It dawned on him before he ever sent her the news: he didn’t know Cas’ address. He’d forgotten to ask.
For the next fifteen minutes, he stared at his phone like it had teeth and he was the main course. When he finally gathered his courage (thirty minutes later) and called Cas again, Cas picked up immediately.
He melted back into the mattress, gooey all over again.
“Hey, Cas. So…” Dean rubbed his head. “I don’t know your address.”
“Oh." If he could hear Cas narrowing his eyes... "I thought I filled it out on the sign-up sheet.”
Dean plucked the sheet from under his pillow and looked. His eyes went wide.
“Yep, got it right here. See you tomorrow!”
He hung up and chucked his phone again.
He felt both dumb and completely giddy at the same time.
It was Saturday. It was also six o'clock in the fucking morning, hours until he’d meet Cas over at his place.
Dean grumbled and flipped over, face-checking his pillow in an effort to get comfortable. He spent fifteen minutes like this, trying to sleep and not able to because Cas. All he could see on the back of his eyelids was Cas' face, his body, replaying the few times they'd touched over and over again. The fact he’d get to see him today buzzed in his chest. The longer he stayed in bed, thinking, the more excited he got.
At 6:33 a.m., Dean bounced out of bed like a kid on Christmas morning, blasting through his morning routine in varying extremes. He didn't just take a shower, he took to power washing his every nook and cranny, scrubbed his teeth clean, and sculpted his hair. He dressed appropriately and immaculately—a clean black T-shirt, dark blue jeans—and had breakfast; eggs, bacon, a fuckton of cheese, and orange juice. It was eight the next time he looked at the clock, and he wasn't meeting Cas until ten that morning. Plenty of time to kill.
Plenty of time to do something stupid.
At five past ten, he knocked on Cas’ door and waited while fumbling with the gifts he’d bought. Yes, gifts, because somewhere between eight and ten, he'd lost his goddamn mind.
Before he had the smarts to turn and hightail it, Cas opened the door. His bed head was adorable, tufts of dark hair every which way, and his blue eyes were vibrant. The rest of him was well put together as usual, and he looked like belonged on a Calvin Klein clothing ad. Shit, he even smelled good.
Dean smiled stupidly, and Cas’ eyes dropped to the things Dean carried in his hands.
“Uhh, these are… for you.” Dean swallowed thickly and shoved them into Cas’ hands, storming past him, away from embarrassment and away from the risk of doing something stupid. Again.
“Lavender… and honey?”
Boxes lined a small hallway that led to a wide-open living room. A couch, a TV, some small end tables, and a nice rug. Mostly well-loved things and not the high-end, economic modern with sleek lines—or whatever the fuck the decorating craze was these days. It was practical. Cas-practical.
Cas' question lingered in the air.
“Yeah, you know. Honey because you like bees and shit, and it was on sale, so. Why not, right? And uhh... yeah, lavender, I guess, because it was on your flyer thing.” Dean coughed and fled in the direction of the sliding glass door. “The garden through here?”
Cas sounded distant, weirded out maybe. Still walking, Dean shot a glance over his shoulder. Cas had a wide smile on his face. He looked… happy. He—
The impact knocked him for a loop. He couldn’t think beyond holy fuck, ow and the fact that he'd somehow ended up on his back, on the floor. His ears rang, his face hurt like a motherfucker. Beyond it—
—he could hear Cas calling for him. His vision filled completely with Cas' concerned beautiful face. Gentle fingers—scratched to hell, oddly enough—began touching him, his cheeks, his nose... and somehow nothing seemed to hurt anymore.
Wait, never mind. No. It fucking hurt. A lot.
“What the fuck?”
“My apologies,” Cas said, still touching. “I should’ve opened it.”
Dean moistened his lips—and tasted blood. He shot Cas a bewildered look.
Cas tilted his head to the side. "You walked into the sliding glass door, Dean."
Dean closed his eyes tightly and prayed for lightning. The Apocalypse. Anything to save him from embarrassment. While Cas fussed over him, Dean gauged the damage himself. He touched his cheekbones—sore, very tender—then his nose. His fingers came back bright red. Great, a bloody nose. This wasn't how he wanted this to go. Not at fucking all.
Dean struggled to get up. Somehow stronger, Cas pushed him down by the shoulders. "Don't move."
“Dude. I’m okay, all right?” Dean snapped. “S'just a bloody nose.”
How he sounded, all stuffed up and weak, must have been comical.
Dean opened his mouth to protest, but Cas was gone, scurrying to the other end of the house. Something clattered in one of the rooms, and there Cas was again, towel in hand, with some sort of first aid kit. Cas sunk to his knees next to him, and applied the fresh white towel to his face.
“Let’s get you to the couch.”
“No, I’m fine.” Dean's voice came out muffled and irritated. “Would you stop? I’m okay.”
“You’re not okay, Dean. You’re bleeding.”
He'd said bleeding as if it were the end of the world. As if he didn't know that Dean and his brother, Sam, had never gone through a weekend without blood of some kind; either by horsing around, climbing whatever they could find—and falling—or fighting, with each other or the other neighborhood kids. Blood, he could handle. Cas touching him like he was, warm hands on his arms, body pressed so close he thought he'd explode... that, he couldn't handle, not at all. And despite the pain of moving, breathing, existing, he was able to pop half a hard-on. Cas didn't notice—or did and didn't say anything—and they moved to the couch like a well-oiled team, like they'd done this more than once before.
"Put your head back, nose up," Cas instructed while holding the towel. Dean obeyed, staring up at the white, freshly painted ceiling. Cas nestled in at his side, and it stole the breath out of Dean's lungs.
"Stay here. I'm going to get some ice."
Like he'd move even if he wanted to.
Cas was up and back again before he could count the seconds without him. Dean sat there quietly while Cas peeled the towel—no longer white, but horribly red—away from his face. Blue eyes studied him, and the world as he knew it didn't really exist anymore.
“I’m going to check to see if it’s broken.”
“I told you, I’m fine.”
Cas ignored him because the next thing he knew, his gentle fingers were all over his face again, every poke and prod as soft and careful as the first. Those blue eyes looked past his nose and the brittle bone, past the blood and pain, and sank deep into his darkest places. For some reason, Dean felt as if Cas knew what he was doing, as if he'd done this very thing often. After more touching, Cas leaned back a little and looked at him as a whole.
“What’s the prognosis, doc?”
“It’s not broken,” Cas said. “And I’m an EMT. Not a doctor.”
“So you can save lives, but can’t till dirt.” Dean winked, but even that hurt.
That earned him a small smile, which grew into a smirk. “You should remember who ran into the glass door.”
“Hey. Fuck you, man. It didn’t look like anything was there,” Dean squawked. “Not my fault it was basically invisible.”
The little smirk on Cas’ face found a life of its own. It spread into a full-fledged grin. A chuckle bubbled up. All signs pointed to one thing: Cas was laughing at him.
“You think this is funny?”
Dean frowned. It wasn’t funny at all. Okay, maybe a little funny. When Cas’ grin caught on, Dean couldn't help but smile, then he was laughing too. Because running into a sliding glass door was incredibly fucking stupid, hilarious, and embarrassing. They laughed until Cas applied ice to his face.
"Fucking ow, dude. Be gentle."
"I am being gentle."
"You're pressing too hard."
"Perhaps you need to... toughen up a little bit."
"Toughen up?" Dean turned his head away from the ice, then shot Cas a glare. "I ran into a fucking door. That shit hurts."
"You said you were fine."
"And I am—ow!"
"Stop moving, Dean."
While his hands were gentle and efficient, his bedside manners were shit, but maybe that only applied to nurses and doctors. Cas insisted that he hold the ice to his face even though Dean had two very capable hands of his own. After struggling a little, and being scolded, they settled into a quiet EMT-to-patient relationship, with Cas doing the caring and Dean behaving himself.... mostly.
He couldn't help but imagine those hands elsewhere, couldn't concentrate on anything but wanting to kiss each tiny scratch on his fingers. While Cas dabbed at his face, Dean took a deep breath to catch a note of him—cologne, sweat, anything—and got hell for it in return. His sore nose fought back and throbbed, and Cas was there to rescue him, soothing him with ice and touch. His face was cold while the rest of him was hot, one side completely adjacent to Cas', burning with their combined body heat.
He thought of them fucking, kissing, and after fifteen minutes of his own torture, Dean shooed Cas away. "I'm good now."
Cas frowned. "Maybe we should try gardening another day."
"I said I'm good." Dean touched his nose with a thumb and forefinger. Hurt like a motherfucker.
"I don't think it's a good idea..."
"All I hear is you makin' excuses, Cas. We gonna do this or what?"
Cas narrowed his eyes.
Dean smirked and held his hands up in surrender. "Okay, I get it. You're afraid of dirt. That's fine." Cas got up when he did. "No, no. You stay right where you are, princess. I'll handle it."
He headed for the patio door—
“Do you need help? Maybe I should open it for you.”
—then shot Cas a dirty look.
Cas cracked a small smile.
“We gonna garden? Or you gonna stand there and be a smart ass?”
That small smile grew and Dean melted a little inside.
Beyond the sliding glass door, the patio needed a good coat of paint. It looked a little run-down with its shade of lackluster gray, and the single lonely patio chair made it look even more depressing. The garden itself wasn't much better. It stretched out long and nondescript. Barely any grass, lots of weeds, and no flowers. Nothing they couldn't fix with a bit of teamwork. All it needed was a little love.
“Nice space,” Dean said, a touch dry. “Where’s the garden going to go?”
Cas pointed to a patch nestled in one corner of the fenced-in yard, past the tools, bags of soil amendments, and wheelbarrow. The only spot cleared of weeds. Dean looked back at Cas, then down to his scratched hands. “How’d that weed picking go? You wear gloves?”
“Glad I brought an extra pair.” Dean nodded toward the clear patch. “Let’s go. I’m going to teach you how to garden. You’ll be a master in no time.”
Together, they headed down to the would-be garden, and stopped at the edge of the cleared area. Cas bumped into him like he had the other day at the shop, and Dean froze, partly out of pain, but mostly because holy fuck. The physical contact made him feel warm and giddy, completely fine, and stupid with a sudden flash of courage to do something about it. When he turned, when Cas gave him a sheepish smile that lit him up from the inside out, that courage had disappeared.
Dean cleared his throat. “Uh, so... what were you thinking about the layout?
Cas wetted his bottom lip. Naturally, Dean's eyes dropped to his mouth and he stared. It took them a long time to circle back to reality. Somehow, Dean was able to react first. "Layout. What were—
“I thought we'd just... make it up as we go along.”
Dean stared at him. Not doing anything more profound than just thinking. About them. In bed. Cas frowned. One of those deep-thinking ones.
“Why? What do you suggest?” Cas asked finally.
“Uhh, what? Oh. Well.” Dean rubbed the back of his neck. Was it hot? It was hot. “Thing is…” He didn’t know shit about the specifics of a bee garden.
“Patches,” Cas blurted out. “One meter by one meter patches for each species of plant. It’ll allow bees to forage in one spot for a long period of time. If the plants are scattered, it means bees have to spend a lot of energy flying from one plant to the next, making them less efficient pollinators. They'd have to essentially work harder to get their food." Cas looked up at Dean, then down sheepishly. Adorable. “I… read it on Google.”
"Google, huh?" When Cas nodded, Dean shrugged. “Okay. Patches it is, then.”
“And—“ Cas continued, brushing past him. The heat of his body, imagining it under all those clothes... There was a brief thought of sex before his nose throbbed and hurt again. “I was thinking here… I’d have a table or some sort of… garden column with a bowl on it. Filled with marbles.”
“I’m not much of an exterior designer, Cas.“
“It’ll be filled with water, but not too much,” Cas explained, frowning at the blank space. “The bees need to be able to land on the marbles and safely drink the water.”
Dean crossed his arms over his chest and watched Cas mill about his imaginary bee bowl, filled with water, but not too much. Cas continued to mumble to himself about the well-fare of his bees. Dean smiled.
“I think they would be happy here." Cas looked up. “If we do it correctly.”
“You care a lot about bees, huh.”
“I find them… interesting,” Cas said quietly. Their eyes met. “Smart… handsome.”
“What was that last thing?”
His blue eyes widened. “I said social.”
Social wasn't what he'd heard, and when Cas turned away, face bright red, Dean knew he was right. How bees could be handsome, he didn't know, and chalked it up to Cas being Cas.
“What do we do first?” Cas asked.
“Watch and learn, padawan.”
They spent the morning and afternoon getting rid of the rocks in the soil. They applied the soil amendments, and talked about bees and their families under the warm sun. Cas adored his sister Anna, owner of a bakery in California, and wanted to be more like his brother, Gabriel; not as socially awkward, funnier, and more carefree about life. Cas liked guinea pigs, loved cats and thunder storms. Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches were his favorite. And hamburgers? Cas fucking loved them as much as he did.
“What about you, Dean?” Cas asked, throwing a rock in the pile.
“What about me what?”
“Your family. Things you like.”
“Nothing interesting about me, Cas. Got a hotshot lawyer brother in New York City... happily married, kids, the whole shebang." Dean wiped the sweat off his brow and winced. Doing anything hurt. "Remember that billion-dollar oil company case a while back? All over the papers? They wouldn't help the employees that'd gotten hurt after the big spill. Remember that?"
Cas nodded, pulling out a stray root he'd missed. "I remember."
"My baby brother was the prosecutor on that case. Won the good guys millions." Dean beamed. "My brother did that."
Cas folded back to sit on his ankles, looking at him with a smile on his face. "You're proud of him."
"Proud of him? Shit. I'd sing it off the top of a mountain if it wouldn't go straight to his head. Anyway." He shrugged. "Mom and Dad are retired in Lawrence, Kansas where I grew up. Pretty normal life. Nothing special.”
"What things do you like?"
Dean could feel Cas’ eyes on him. “I like my car, my music, and pie.”
“Pie,” Cas stated. “What kind of pie?”
“All kinds of pie,” Dean said, digging his fingers under another rock. Big fucker. “My favorite, though—“ Dean pulled. It was stuck. “—is my mom’s apple pie. The crust’s golden brown, flaky. The filing just right.” With a tug, the damn thing finally came free from the soil. “Best pie I’ve ever had.”
“Pie,” Cas stated again.
Just before the sun came down, they headed inside to clean up their hands and faces, and wash the day down with ice-cold glasses of water. The stove's clock read seven on the dot. Time to go. Cas followed him to the front door.
“The flower beds need to rest a while," Dean said. “We could… finish up next week, maybe?”
“You could come by the—”
“—shop and get flowers,” Cas finished.
They shared a smile.
“I’d like that,” Cas said.
“Yeah, me too.” Excitement didn't even touch what he was feeling right now. “Monday? Around nine a.m.? We open at eight, so, you know, it gives you an hour to—“
“I’ll be there.”
“Great. Yeah, that’s great.” Dean grinned and pointed. “So, Monday.”
“At nine o’clock.”
Dean opened the front door. “Don’t be late.”
“I won’t be,” Cas said.
Dean nodded. “Night, Cas.”
Dean stepped out onto the stoop and into cool evening air. Happy, giddy, and totally fucking overwhelmed.
Cas wasn’t late on Monday. It was 8:37 a.m. (he'd been staring at the clock since the store opened) when Cas walked through the shop's door. That day, they went over the benefits of sunflowers and how nice they might look next to a patch of lilacs. For once, Monday didn't suck.
On Tuesday, it was more of the same. Dean stared at the clock until Cas arrived (always before nine), and they greeted each other with a smile before diving headlong into a deep conversation about buttercups and poppies. Throughout the day, they snapped together like magnets, personal space be damned. When Cas thumbed the sick orchid's yellow leaf, he wished Cas would touch him like that, and when he did, a soft accidental brush of fingers, Dean found himself frozen to the spot, gasping for air. Dean couldn't remember breathing for the rest of the day.
Wednesday rolled around, and Cas stayed until lunch time. They ate a burger together; Dean's extra onions to Cas' double-patty combo. More bee facts over milkshakes afterward. Dean couldn't stop staring at Cas. The way he sucked on his straw... There was probably a medical condition for having a hard-on for more than four hours.
Thursday began with a heart attack. Cas hadn't shown up at half past eight or even nine o'clock. Dean scoured the store at nine thirty, and thought about sending out a search party at ten. At 10:15, Dean found him in the old storage room—the same one he was going to have to clean soon according to his and Charlie's two-week bet—whispering with Charlie herself; thick as thieves and up to no good.
Friday came and went with heavy discussion over goldenrod, toadflax, and tansy phacelia, and an agreement to meet on Saturday at nine o'clock.
Dean woke up at six.
He jumped out of bed and buzzed around like a hyperactive bee, bouncing from one room to another in his small apartment. Since it was way too early to head over to Cas' place, Dean did stuff just to pass the time. Or tried, at least. He started reading a book only to put it down a minute later. He made tea, only to forget about it in the bathroom. He was a fucking mess. Yesterday, they had planned to finish up Cas' garden today. Once it was done…
Dean stopped thinking, got dressed, and left at 6:42. With nothing to do and nowhere to go, he showed up at Cas’ place at seven. The house was dark which meant Cas was probably sleeping. He’d wait a couple of minutes then go... run some errands or something.
Dean flipped on the radio. Soft rock music filled the car—and he woke up to a knock on the window. Cas stared at him, coffee in his hand, dressed in a light blue robe. Fuck. He looked at the clock (7:56 a.m.) and flashed Cas a smile before rolling down the window. “Hey, Cas.”
“I, uhh—“ Dean cleared his throat. “I was in the area.”
Cas nodded and said nothing of it, a saint for putting up with his bullshit. Dean watched Cas as his blue eyes fell over the Impala’s curves. A smile lit up Cas' face. “I like your car.”
Dean’s stomach flipped.
“She’s a beaut, isn’t she?” Dean ran a hand over the dash. “She’s my girl. Dad gave her to me the moment I learned how to drive.”
Cas touched her fondly as if he didn’t quite believe she wasn’t made out of liquid. Dean had washed and waxed her right after work on Friday, just so she could be pretty for today. For right now.
"Do you want to come inside?" Cas asked in a rush.
"Uh, yeah. That's cool... pretty early—"
"It's all right," Cas deadpanned, turning on a heel. His whole body was stiff, his spine rigid and ramrod straight. If he could see anything beyond that bulky robe, he’d no doubt find his muscles tight... maybe even a stick up his ass.
Cas was either nervous or pissed he'd shown up so early.
Dean had no time to contemplate either. Cas was off like a skittish dog, fast-walking toward the house, leaving him behind. Dean got out, locked up the car, and followed just as fast. “You okay?”
When he got into the house, Cas had already fled to the kitchen. He was waiting by the refrigerator, fidgeting, looking pretty nervous.
“Hey, if you don’t want to do this gardening thing..."
“Have you eaten breakfast yet?” Cas blurted. Before Dean could answer, Cas turned and opened the refrigerator, producing a white box. He set it on the counter. Dean looked at it, then up at Cas.
“It’s for you,” Cas clarified.
“What is it?”
Cas fumbled with the ties on his robe while Dean grabbed the box and slid it over. Kind of adorable to see Cas nervous as fuck. It made him incredibly human. Vulnerable, even. Dean gave him a reassuring smile and lifted the lid on the box. The smell hit him first. Apples, cinnamon, that buttery-flaky crust...
“You said you liked apple pie,” Cas said. “It’s not your mother’s, but…”
Fuck. Dean blew out a breath as if someone had punched him in the gut. Fuck if it wasn't one of the sweetest things anyone had ever done for him besides his own family. He stared down at it, speechless.
Cas shuffled closer to peer into the box. "Is there something wrong with it?"
Dean looked up. Cas was only a few inches away, close enough to grab by the neck and pull in for a kiss. If he had any balls, he'd do it; kiss him until neither of them could breathe. In another lifetime, where he was smarter, not such a loser, and maybe a little more handsome, he'd fuck Cas against the counter. Because he was who he was, Dean settled for staring, and got lost in those blue eyes. He licked his bottom lip, and as if Cas were a mirror, Cas did the same. All he wanted to do was slot their lips together and taste him, discover Cas was as sweet as the apple pie's filling or better. If nothing else, he wanted to brush that stray dark hair off his forehead, and maybe thumb his cheek as an afterthought.
Instead, he swallowed, cleared his throat, and took a step back. His shoulders drooped, and he looked down at the pie with a frown. "Yeah, there's something wrong with it."
He looked up and found Cas' pensive face. It was on the verge of breaking apart.
"The pie's still here. That's what's wrong with it," Dean said with a wink. "We gonna eat it or what?"
Cas smiled back, one of his bigger ones, and turned away. His shoulders heaved as if he'd breathed a sigh of relief. They ate pie on plain white plates and drank iced tea out of bee cups (the only cups Cas said he had). They talked about the nuances of baking, different pies, and homemade cooking. They reminisced about family dinners during holidays, and teased-bickered over which was better: Christmas or Thanksgiving. Came to find out, they had another thing in common. Halloween was their favorite holiday.
Once they had finished, they cleaned up together. Since the dishwasher hadn't been hooked up yet, he took over washing the dishes while Cas was left with drying duty. Each time Dean handed him a clean plate, their fingers brushed, and an electric current zipped down his spine. Cas was so fucking close, and every word he said puffed against his neck where hairs stood on end. The only thing that kept him from getting a boner was how hot he had the water.
"Well, at least you know how to wash dishes," Dean said when they were done.
"I know my way around a kitchen better than I do a garden, Dean."
They shared a cheeky smile.
"Well, hate to break it to you, buddy," Dean said, flopping the dishtowel on the counter. "That whole garden thing... There's flowers that need planting." Dean wiggled his eyebrows. "Time to get a little dirty."
Dean led the charge toward the garden. Waiting for him on the sliding glass door was the bee flyer. Suspended in midair by four neat strips of tape.
“So you wouldn’t run into it again,” Cas chirped behind him.
“Ha, ha. Very fucking funny.”
Cas took Dean’s playful glare good-naturedly and flashed him a smile. Together, they moved out into the garden. The plants were set out, basking in the early-morning sunshine, and the plant beds looked well watered, ready for the hard work it’d take to give the flowers a new home. Cas sidled up next to him, the concept of personal space lost on him as always, and Dean smiled. His warmth, the fresh air… it made him feel—
Like he needed to pee.
“Crap,” Dean said. “I need to use your restroom. Too much iced tea.”
Cas nodded. “Down the hallway, to the right.”
“I’ll be right back.”
Dean took the porch steps two at a time, charged into the house and zipped down the hallway. The bathroom on the right was quaint and neat, with light blue wallpaper, gray towels and a matching bath mat. He did his thing in record time, zipped up, and washed his hands before stepping out into the hallway again. It didn't occur to him to snoop until Dean edged out into the living room and saw Cas was waiting in the garden, looking up at the sky. Oblivious.
He tiptoed down the small hallway and peeked into rooms he had no right to peek into. Three inconspicuous bedrooms. Another bathroom. He opened the last door on the left and stepped in. It was an office with a desk, a chair, some shelves... He did a double take. His eyes flew open. He practically choked on his own startled grunt.
On the shelves stood trophies, tied around the trophies were ribbons—most of them blue. Dean inched closer to read one of the plaques. Best in Show. Gardening competition. Tomato plants. Dean stood there, dumbfounded. Confused. Cas said he didn't know how to garden. Clearly he knew... right? So, if Cas knew how to garden… and he was pretending he didn’t…
Dean chewed on a cuticle and thought over the last week. Their discussions about flowers, soil amendments, patches, tools. The check-outs afterward, the discounts... pie... blue eyes. Cas. Dean caught himself smiling a little and sobered up, frowning at the mystery. He stood there in the small office, staring. Thinking.
Dean snapped his fingers.
Cas probably needed it—which Dean had given him, above and beyond what was necessary (and Charlie would kill him once she found out).
Yeah, the discount. That was probably it.
Dean nodded and stepped out into the hallway, the living room, and out onto the back porch. Cas smiled at him as he came down the steps. There was something different about this smile. It was warmer, bigger, took up his entire face—and he kind of recognized it. It was the same smile Dean had on his face every morning he got into his car, and every time he saw Sam, Jess, and the kids at Thanksgiving. Charlie called it his super-fucking-happy smile, and it was that very same smile he himself had on that very second. Cas beamed a little bit brighter because of it.
As soon as Dean stepped next to him, Cas seemed to gravitate closer, brushing up against his side in a way that was... intimate. Right then, it hit him.
Maybe Cas liked him.
It was definitely the discount. Cas couldn't possibly like him. How could he? Cas was Cas, all gorgeous in the sunlight and way out of his league. He wanted to lay one on him just to prove himself wrong so he'd shut the fuck up and move on with his life. Once this gardening thing was over, Cas would be gone. He was sure of it.
Dean caught Cas staring at his lips, like he did quite often, and Dean swallowed hard. Cas nodded, then plucked two hand trowels off the ground, offering one to him. Dean took it. Their fingers touched—and it took everything Dean had in him to resist the urge to grab him right then and there and kiss him. Everything.
He blew out a steady breath. “One meter by one meter patches, huh?”
“Yes,” Cas said.
“And you got that from Google?”
Dean nodded. “Patches it is, then.”
They went to work, digging and planting flowers, packing them into their little squares. One type of flower per patch, just like Cas had suggested. They stuck close together, working side by side on their respective flower beds. While Cas planted a full bed of vibrant lavender, he worked on a new home for the penstemon. They looked nice next to each other, yet another thing Cas had suggested with his infinite "Google knowledge."
Google or not, discount or no discount, Cas looked happy.
That was all that mattered.
After hours of digging and planting, Dean and Cas met on the border of gilia and geranium. Their shoulders bumped together and neither of them said anything. The image of throwing Cas down and fucking him in a bed of flowers wouldn’t go away. His pants grew unbearably tight. He felt like a goddamn teenager with his crush.
Dean caught Cas’ blue eyes and smiled. Cas smiled back. There was no way Cas liked him, and he was about to prove that to himself right now.
“Here,” Dean said. He grabbed Cas’ hands and sunk them into the soil. Together, they kneaded the dirt. Their fingers slid over one another, warm and soft. “Massage the dirt in there, Cas. Don't be afraid to give it a little love.”
He expected Cas to freak out, punch him maybe, or use a slur he was so used to hearing. But he didn’t. Cas stared down at their hands, didn't flinch or pull away, and neither did Dean. The world stopped with them on their knees, not an inch spared between them, hands intertwined. When Cas looked at him, really looked at him, his stomach twisted and his heart climbed up his throat.
Cas hooked a pinky around his and squeezed.
Dean didn’t know what to do, so he jerked away. And ran.
Two stairs at a time, Dean took to the porch and busted into the house. He could barely breathe and stumbled toward the living room, bumping into the couch. He leaned over and braced himself against the armrest, just to get a handle on his spinning head. Maybe Cas did like him. Maybe—
Get it together, man. Concentrate.
Dean searched for something that would grab his attention. Anything. There were handmade pillows on the couch, a shirt draped over the armrest. He thumbed the fabric. Cotton-soft, well made...
The sliding glass door closed. Dean whirled. Cas was there, eyes downcast, and Dean stood teetering on wrecked nerves. When Cas moved closer, stopping just inches in front of him, his stomach twisted into a hundred knots. The smell of his sweat, fresh dirt... it was more intoxicating than any cologne. The sun had toasted his skin golden, his eyes were hydrangea blue.
Cas took his shirt off and Dean nearly fell over.
They were going to do this. Kiss. Have sex.
Dean stopped thinking.
He grabbed his face and kissed him. Cas’ lips were tough and unyielding under his. Not soft like he'd imagined, but hard and rough. Under his hands, Cas tensed and jerked his head back. His blue eyes were wide. Horrified. He’d done it again. Read everything all wrong, fucked everything up.
Standing there, shocked, silent, Cas pulled the shirt from the couch’s armrest.
Cas didn’t like him at all. He was just getting his fucking shirt.
The pinky thing? That was just—
“Shit. Sorry. I—“ Dean took a breath. "This was a mistake."
Dean didn't wait for a response. He shouldered past Cas, but that was as far as he got. Next thing he knew, he'd been grabbed and yanked, and was now facing Cas, a beautiful flush-faced Cas.
"No, it wasn't, Dean."
Cas tossed the shirt aside and pulled him in by his neck. The kiss they shared was anything but hard and unyielding like the one moments ago. This time, it was soft, mutual, and slow, like they were okay with taking their sweet time. Their lips slotted together easily, and they explored each other with their hands. Cas was the first to be a little daring. His fingers dipped under Dean's sweaty T-shirt and took a long, arduous journey up his middle, spreading out over his chest as if Cas were studying him through touch. When Cas lightly pinched his nipples, Dean let out a low growl and bit Cas' lower lip, sucking it until Cas whimpered under the duress. It took him a minute or two to muster up enough courage to touch him, and when he did, he touched all of him. Every single inch. The curve of his perfect ass, the planes of his toned stomach, his runner's thighs. His favorite part: his hip bones. Narrow and perfectly angled for his hands alone. At least that's what he told himself.
Touching and chaste kissing was over with as far as Cas was concerned. Dean felt the impatience trembling in Cas' body well before Cas pushed him back over the armrest, into the couch's cushions. He landed with a grunt, tossed a pillow aside, and backed up a little bit until he was at the opposite end. A perfect vantage point to watch Cas crawl up the couch like he was the cat stalking his share of catnip. Dean reached for him—and got his hands swatted aside for the effort. Cas grabbed his belt and pulled, jerking him down, and then went to work, unbuckling, unzipping, and throwing clothes who the fuck knew where. There was a hungry, animalistic quality to him. It scared him shitless and made him so fucking horny he couldn't take it anymore.
Cas must've felt the same.
Dean didn't have any time to marvel over Cas' naked body, the perfect tone of his stomach, thighs, and arms, his strength, the fact that he must run a lot, before Cas straddled his hips. He wanted to take it slower, but Cas wouldn't have it, grinding against his dick like the world was going to end tomorrow. With Cas punishing him like he was, rolling his hips forward and back, making the most incredible friction in fucking ever, Dean didn't give one shit how impatient Cas had become. It felt good. Really fucking good.
So good, he was about to blow.
"Shit, Cas," he growled out. "Gonna come like this..."
Dean held onto his perfect hips and helped them torture him more, moving them faster, pushing them down for harder. Cas was completely oblivious. His eyes were closed, his lips parted, chest heaving like he didn't care they weren't going to be able to fuck. Fucking wasn't on the menu tonight. That was cool with him.
This was good—"Fuck."—this was really good.
Good until Cas stopped altogether.
His blue eyes flew open. Then Cas was off and gone, scrambling to the room on the right, what he thought was the quaint bathroom. Something was opened, something else crashed to the floor and broke. Frazzled, with his hair even more of a mess now, Cas popped out, stark naked, and shot across the living room, to the couch again.
In his hands were a condom and a bottle of lube.
Dean tore the condom package open with his teeth and Cas squirted lube on his hands. They came together with a flurry of body heat and hands, with Dean putting on the condom, and Cas rubbing him down. Cas' fingers were tight around him and Dean bucked into his fist, pushing up with his hips. Cas watched with fascination, using his other hand to rub his thigh, drawing a line up his hip, his side, to his chest, with his fingers.
Then Cas straddled his hips and sank down on his dick. No prep needed.
If Cas hurt himself with the rush, he hadn't noticed, too caught up in everything Cas and holy shit. The suddenness of his heat, the hard and fast rhythm Cas set... Dean let out a strangled gasp. Cas supported his body weight on the armrest with his two hands, using it to push back on his hard cock. Over and over. Harder and faster until Dean had no choice but to groan every single time Cas' body crashed into him.
"Holy fuck, Cas..."
Sweet and adorably awkward by day. Freak in the bed by night.
Wanting Cas for so long, having him in his arms now, fucking him... there was no buildup. No warning before he blew. Dean arched his back with a shout and came hard and fast. It wrecked him, leaving him in a puddle of his own afterglow. Cas was riding him hard, neck and chest flush with signs of orgasm, his dick untouched between his legs. Dean curled a solid fist around it—and that was all it took for Cas to lose it.
Cas cried out, spilling over Dean's fingers and onto his chest. Then, they collapsed together, chest to chest, and rode the downward wave of their sex. Next time, they'd go slow. Right now, he wasn't complaining. Cas was nestled in his arms, sweat soaked and completely sated.
They cuddled until all Dean could hear was the rumbling of the refrigerator in the kitchen, and the thunder of his own heartbeat in his ears.
"So," Dean said when he'd caught his breath. "Tomatoes, huh?"
Cas looked up at him, confusion clear on his face. When Dean tilted his head toward the hallway, Cas must've caught on because his eyes widened like a deer in headlights.
"Dean," Cas whispered.
"Why'd you lie, Cas?"
"I... didn't know if you were..." Gay, Dean read in the pause. "Or if you'd be... interested." Cas studied him, then said, "I don't know how I could've gotten your attention otherwise."
"Giving me your number that first day would've worked."
"That seems so—"
"Practical?" Dean supplied.
"Forward," Cas finished.
With all of Cas' perfect hair, body, and clothes, maybe he was as lacking in self-confidence as he was. Dean smiled at him, and nosed his forehead, giving him a light kiss. "It's okay, Cas. I'm kinda glad you did—lie, I mean."
Cas relaxed in his arms, wrapping around him comfortably like an octopus.
"I guess this wasn't about the discount either," Dean said two seconds later.
Dean smiled and kissed his forehead.
It took two months for the flowers to come in fully bloomed—just in time for their two-month anniversary. It'd be a tradition now, Dean decided, to bring a plant and something bee related every time they wanted to celebrate something special.
Today, he brought a bag of marbles for Cas' new bee bowl, the one he'd fill with water, but not too much. The plant, well... Dean set the sickly orchid—now alive and vibrant—next to the pitcher of iced tea and white pie box.
No, he hadn't won that bet with Charlie. It taken a full month for the orchid to get on the road to recovery. And yes, he'd finally cleaned out that fucking storage room, to Charlie's delight. She'd sent ahead the twelve beignets she promised (she'd taken pity on him, she said) and a bouquet of white lilies and salmon French tulips, with a card that read: Which one do you like better? Think wedding! Charlie's flowers brightened up the table with their colors and fragrance. The garden beyond looked immaculate, smelled amazing, and filled him with pride.
He and Cas... they did that. Together.
Cas came up behind him, brushing a hand at the small of his back. That little touch made him shiver, and it was little touches like those he savored. Dean smiled at him and they sat down—two porch chairs instead of the lonely one. They ate pie and drank iced tea, enjoying their time together and the gentle breeze that came through.
He was on his second piece of pie when Cas jumped to standing in the middle of a bee-fact pop quiz. Staring out into the garden as if he’d seen a ghost. Mouth open, pie crust falling on his shirt, Dean followed his gaze.
"Dean. I see one," Cas whispered, voice filled with wonder. "Look. It's a bee."
Sure enough, a little bee hopped from a sunflower to another. Three more of its buddies buzzed lazily in a patch of tansy phacelia, at least four more zipping around the lilacs.
Cas sat down on the edge of his seat and watched them in awe. Dean smiled, scooted his chair close, and wrapped his arm around him. That was when Cas gave him the best kiss ever.
Two months ago, Cas had set out to give a couple of bees a good home. In the end, they found it.
So had he.