He's in the goddamn Best Buy on a goddamn Saturday night. This means that it's officially the worst night of his life, or at least the worst night of the past month. His fucking microwaveable burrito was cold in the middle, and his nicest jeans have a hole in the crotch, and now he's in the goddamn Best Buy, trying to find a– he's not even sure what, exactly. It's for Sam. Sam wrote it down for him, somewhere. Jesus fucking Christ. Best Buy. Why this. Why him. Why.
There's a cute salesgirl stocking shelves when he reaches the audio section. She turns towards him, gives him a falsely cheery smile. She's probably dealt with eight other assholes that look exactly like him today, so he doesn't blame her. "Hello, sir," she says. "We're coming up on closing time, just so you know. Can I help you find something?"
Dean briefly wonders when he became sir. He hasn't even graduated yet. Sir. Jesus, that's depressing. "Uh, yeah," he says. "I'm looking for a–" he glances down at his phone– "an, uh, an Insignia 6' 3.5mm– um, Mini-to-RCA Stereo Audio Cable? Maybe?"
The salesgirl blinks. "Right," she says. "Insignia 6' 3-point-whatever. Sure. Audio cables are that way." She gestures vaguely in the direction of the next aisle. "If you need help finding anything, just let me know, okay?"
"Yeah, thanks," Dean says.
He heads over to the next aisle, starts combing the shelves for an Insignia-whatever, and then, bingo, that's a– an Insignia 6' 3.5mm Mini-to-RCA Stereo Audio Cable. Jackpot. "Thank fuck," Dean breathes, except as he reaches to grab it he runs straight into some other schmuck shopping at Best Buy on a Saturday night.
"Shit, uh, sorry," Dean says, quickly. "I was just– um, 'scuse me, I was just reaching for this audio cable thing, don't mind me."
"I was– also reaching for the audio cable."
Dean steps closer to the thing. "Well, great, great news, pal, I'm just gonna grab it, then, if that's okay, it's the last one in the store and my brother kind of needs it, for something, I don't even–"
"Wait, no," says the guy.
"No, what does that mean, no, I need the–"
"I mean, no, I– also need this audio cable," says the guy.
Dean stares at him. "Look, man, I don't want to be, you know, a jerk, or whatever, but I gotta get this thing. This specific cable. For my brother, and all. My persuasive, needy brother. I'm at Best Buy at 9pm on a Saturday for him. Trust me, dude, if I did not really and truly have to be here right now, I wouldn't be."
The asshole still has his hand on the box. Dean feels like that's kind of unfair, so he puts his hand on the box, too. The guy gives Dean a sharp look. "I fail to see how you have any superior claim to this audio cable."
"Okay, what, superior claim, what are you even talking about, there is no claiming anything, I just need to grab the damn thing for my brother, can't you come back, I don't know, any other day of the week?"
"Can't you?" the asshole asks.
"Oh, for– how old are you, five?"
"I'm simply pointing out that it should be equally easy for you to return to Best Buy later this week."
"Oh, yeah?" Good comeback, Winchester. Sharp. Witty. Erudite. "Well, you can, that's. That's." He was going somewhere with this. He was. "See, you know, my brother, he's a good kid, okay, and I want to do something nice for him, it's– he asked, you know, very sad, very lonely kid, needs an audio cable for his– his project, his audio stuff, I don't know, something?"
The guy gives him a thoroughly unimpressed look. Wheedling, yeah, never exactly Dean's strong suit. "I'm sure it's available online," he says, and then suddenly he's just pulled away the fucking Insignia 6' 3.5mm Mini-to-RCA Stereo Audio Cable and is heading to the checkout, before Dean can even react. Fuck.
"Asshole!" Dean shouts, after him. The cute salesgirl pops her head around the corner and gives him a supremely disapproving look.
"Family-friendly store, sir," she says. "Also, we're closed. Have a good night."
Dean fucking hates Best Buy.
It turns out okay, anyway. Dean finds the thing on the Best Buy website and ends up ordering it off of Amazon. The internet is a wonderful, wonderful thing.
The whole incident is completely out of his mind by the time December rolls around, and then there's a lot of Christmas planning, and Charlie talking about asking out the cute girl from the computer repair shop, and then there's Dean's favorite coffee place in town closing up shop.
And, like. Great. Merry fucking Christmas. Life sucks.
In mid-December, Dean finally gives in and goes to Starbucks. Charlie comes with, wrapped up in a gigantic scarf and maybe sixteen sweaters. Gotta love these Midwestern winters.
It's pretty empty when they walk in. There's a middle-aged woman with a girl who is presumably her daughter, and the daughter is drinking what looks like one of those iced caramel macchiatos– which, why, it's like negative degrees outside.
Dean sees a girl he knows– Ruby, from one of his engineering classes last year– manning the nearest coffeemaker. He doesn't wave. Mostly all they did was snark at each other in the back of the room until they were sort of friends. Enemy friends. Frenemies. That probably doesn't constitute a wave. Charlie disappears to go use the restroom, and Dean heads up to the counter.
The guy at the register looks vaguely familiar, in that way that celebrity lookalikes without comparison photos look familiar, like you can't really place it but you know you've seen their face somewhere else before.
He's also wildly, wildly attractive.
"How may I help you?" he asks, and, yeah, Dean definitely knows this guy from somewhere.
"I don't know," Dean says, and then, for no reason whatsoever other than the fact that he's a world-class douche with no self-control, "maybe by giving me your number?"
Ruby coughs. Loudly.
The guy raises his eyebrows. "You want my number?" he asks. "Interesting. Last time we met you referred to me as an 'asshole', if my memory serves me correctly."
And then it clicks. The hair. The voice. Oh, God.
"Wait, what the fuck, you're the asshole?" Dean blurts out, which, yes, yep, this– this asshole is definitely the asshole. From the goddamn Best Buy. Dean is low-key horrified, and then he feels kind of bad about being horrified. "So I take it you're not gonna give me your number, then, huh?" Which is, nope, that's not what he meant to say, that was not supposed to come out of his mouth, that was, that was unprofessional, or–
"Next in line," says the guy, maybe a little louder than he has to. Ruby mouths, nice going.
"Whoa, hey, wait," Dean says, even though he kind of deserved that. "I'm sorry, man, that was out of line, can I–" make it up to you with dinner? his brain supplies, and, no, no he cannot. He probably can't even afford dinner. "Can I make it up to you, somehow? Like, I don't know, drinks, somewhere, on me?"
Not better, Dean Winchester.
"Next in line," the guy repeats, looking a little distressed– probably because there are no other customers in line. That's just. Yeah. Dean must be making a sparkling first impression.
"Wait, wait, I'm sorry, hold on, that was wrong, I'm not trying to– I'm not that kind of scumbag, okay, I'm really not usually this much of an asshole, I, um, I just, I feel like shit about the whole– you know, the, the Best Buy– thing. The Best Buy thing. So, I'll, I thought I–"
"Hey," interrupts Ruby. Worst frenemy of all time. "You gonna order something, hot stuff, or are you gonna stand there trying to unsuccessfully flirt with Castiel all day?"
Castiel, what– Dean's eyes flicker down to the guy's name tag. Oh. Castiel. Castiel. It's kind of a weird name. Kind of nice, too. "I'm, what, no, I was going to–"
"Going to ask him out, going to get turned down, going to stop holding up the line?" Ruby grins, smarmy. Dean hates her, a little bit.
"There's nobody else in line, Ruby," he snaps, which is when Charlie returns from the bathroom.
"Did you order?" she asks him, and turns to face the counter. "Oh, Cas, hey! Hi."
Castiel waves, weakly. "Hello, Charlie."
"What the fuck," Dean says. It doesn't make him feel any better.
Castiel, as it turns out, goes to his school and is majoring in medieval studies, which Dean supposes is kind of cool. They actually don't live that far from each other, and Castiel knows Victor, and Charlie, and even vaguely knows Jo, even though the two of them have never officially met.
Dean starts going to Starbucks more– just until he can find an actual good local coffee shop to support, is what he tells himself. Because Starbucks is the worst. Castiel keeps making him try new things, and the wifi is actually really spotty, and Charlie won't even come with him most of the time. So he's left to wait around drinking his weird-tasting experimental drinks and give Castiel these horribly gooey open smiles that he can't keep off of his stupid traitorous face.
It's just, see, after the embarrassingly terrible first encounters, he and Castiel have sort of become something like friends. Which is a shitty, shitty place to be, because even if the initial assholery has faded, the initial attraction hasn't, and Castiel knows, and it's, well. He hasn't done anything, is the thing. Hasn't said, like, hey, remember that one time you came into Starbucks and tried to get my number, are you still on board with that whole deal, or what?
Not that Dean's said anything, either. But, come on. It's not like he's been subtle, right?
"No," Victor says, when Dean tries to talk to him about it. "Stop. Stop right there. Not another word about Castiel, man. Not another word. For fuck's sake. Take some initiative, how hard can that possibly be?"
Hard, is the answer. Very hard.
Dean first tries to talk to him on New Years' Eve, except then everyone's kind of drunk and he figures, huh. Maybe not such a good idea. Or a good time.
After New Years, Cas friend-requests him on Facebook. The image of Cas using social media platforms– Twitter, holy shit, Castiel on Twitter– makes Dean grin so wide that his face hurts.
"What the fuck is wrong with you," Victor says, and smacks him on the back of the head. "Go drink some water and stop thinking about your barista boyfriend."
So then they're Facebook friends. Dean doesn't even know what the fuck that is supposed to signify, like, has he unlocked a new achievement? Is this some kind of next level? His mother sees the pictures he's been tagged in and then calls him, all excited, asking why he hasn't told her anything about his new boyfriend, and is he going to bring him around anytime soon?
"Actually, uh, he's not my boyfriend, Mom," Dean says, and then drops down on the couch. "Just, you know, a friend, he's a medieval studies major, I think he also does some Roman literature shit– I mean, stuff. Roman literature stuff."
His mom laughs. "Alright, whatever you say." They talk for a little while longer, but then she's gotta go pick up Sam from some rowing thing. Crew. Whatever the fuck it's called. "Well, I have to go, honey. Love you. And maybe you should read that boy some Catullus." She laughs and hangs up.
"Wait, what?" says Dean, to the dial tone. "Who the fuck is Catullus?"
He Googles it.
"Fucking hell." Dean rolls off of the couch and onto the floor. He just lies there, face-down, for a minute or two.
"I can't believe you would lie to your mom like that," says Victor's voice, somewhere above him. "Castiel is definitely your boyfriend."
"I hate you," Dean says, into the floor.
Cas gets in the habit of texting him before tests, and before classes, and then just in general, with pictures of trees and small dogs and blurry restaurant signs. His latest: Good luck. I feel certain that you will do well :-), with the fucking smiley emoticon, and everything, and it took Dean an extra five minutes to get out of his room this morning because he needed to do some deep breathing and regain some semblance of his sanity.
Dean blows the test out of the water, and so Cas comes over to celebrate. Victor leaves before Cas even gets there.
"Wait, what, why?" Dean asks, mystified. "You love Lord of the Rings." Maybe a movie marathon is not much of a celebration. But Cas loves Tolkien. And movies. So.
"You think I wanna sit in an enclosed space with the two of you making eyes at each other? 'Cause let me tell you, bro, you fuckin' thought wrong."
"Oh." Dean considers that. "Sorry."
"You're not, really," Victor sighs, and claps him on the back. "It's okay, though, don't worry. Anna's got some art gallery show sale thing going on downtown. Ruby's taking me and Charlie to go see it. I think it ends at, like, ten? So. Be, like, decent, and stuff, by that time."
Dean blushes. "Come on."
"Hey, I'm just saying. Ground rules, dude. Ground rules. No sex on my beautiful couch, either."
"Get out of here, asshole."
"Don't worry, I'm outta here."
Cas arrives ten minutes later, rosy-cheeked and wearing a completely ridiculous sweater, and Dean thinks, holy shit, which sums it right about up, in his opinion. Fuck. This is, like, love, or something.
"Do you want to order pizza?" Dean says, which is about the only thing he trusts himself to say.
They get half-Hawaiian, half-pesto– which is a weird mix, and happens because while Dean has let Cas convince him that fruit on pizza is somehow acceptable, he still refuses to give up his pesto.
So then they're eating and Frodo is passing out all over the place and it strikes Dean that this might be a pretty mediocre time to have a conversation about things. He sets his plate down on the floor in front of him, since they're too cheap for a coffee table, and clears his throat.
"Don't talk," Cas says. "This is a good part."
"Every part is a good part."
Cas doesn't spare him a glance. "Then don't talk."
"Can I pause it?"
Cas glares. Dean pauses it anyway.
They stare at each other for a couple of seconds. It's kind of ridiculous, actually– not even kind of, no, Victor is way right, this is, this is completely insane. Jesus. Jesus Christ. "I, I was thinking," Dean starts, and then tries again. "I mean, no, I've been thinking, like, for a long time, or not even that long, I guess, but since, since a couple of months ago, when I kind of– when we, you know, when I tried to get your number, at Starbucks, I mean, and I was an asshole?"
"Yes," Cas says, carefully. Dean can't read him. Doesn't try, in case it stops him from saying this. 'Cause he's gotta say it. At this point, he owes it to both of them.
"The thing is, I don't know, like, I wasn't joking, is the thing, or I wasn't trying to, and I guess at first when you were telling me about your classes and I was– see, I mean, and then, and then, the New Years pictures on Facebook, Cas, my mom saw those, and she thought– I mean, that's what she thought!" Cas's expression is not promising. "It's just, fuck, at first I could've– I acted like, we both acted like it was nothing, but there's something, everyone says so, and– I don't know, Cas. But, fucking hell, man, I am really tired of pleading the fifth, okay? This is– neither of us have any plausible fucking deniability, is what I'm saying. The smiley faces, bro. The smiley faces."
"The smiley faces," Cas echoes, in the tone of voice he usually reserves for talking about traffic or The Mentalist.
"Yeah, Cas, the smiley faces. She told me to read you Catullus!" Dean throws his hands in the air. This is just– God, this is not how he pictured this going.
Except that, apparently, is the thing to do it. "Your mother?" Cas asks. "Your mother– told you to read me Catullus?" He's smiling. Asshole.
"Yes, and don't worry, I fucking Googled him, I know what– I mean, Jesus, as if I needed another reason to not learn Latin–" and then Cas is kissing him, and, and he can't even think. It's not a very good kiss, for the first couple of seconds, because they're both sort of surprised and in the wrong position, and then there's some moving and some oh, shit, and then things are good, things are very good.
"I feel that I should let you know," Cas mumbles, when Dean finally pulls back enough for the two of them to speak actual coherent words to one another. "Catullus would not have worked. At all."
"Oh, really?" Dean grins. "Odi et amo, asshole."
Cas scowls. "Not romantic," he says, "not romantic at all," and Dean fucking loves Best Buy, and Starbucks, and Catullus, and even Frodo Baggins. That's all he really has to say about this whole thing.