Dean felt uncomfortable in his own home. Granted he hadn’t lived there for years, living on his on own in an apartment over the garage he and his dad ran together. But this house was his home, his childhood had been here, his adolescence and even early twenties. It was supposed to be comfortable, and not make him want to run out of the house and escape into his car.
There were a lot of people over, it was more crowded than usual as Sam and Jessica had seemed to invited everyone they’d ever met – ever – over for some impromptu party. Which Dean had been told by Sam was kind of a family meeting. So why the hell were non-family members like random friends Sam had made at college sitting all over his mother’s new furniture.
"Dean, sweetie," his mother called from the kitchen and he made his way past his ex-girlfriend Cassie with an uneasy smile, he hadn’t seen her in weeks and it was always awkward, and Jessica’s best friend Ava to join his mother in the kitchen. Missouri and Ellen were in there too, both at the counter cutting up cheese and vegetables respectively for appetizers. His mother greeted him with a warm smile. "Bring that punch bowl out to the living room, the paper cups are in the back of the pantry."
Dean shrugged and picked up the huge bowl full of his mother’s classic non-alcoholic punch she’d making for their parties since he was born he figured. "Do you know what this is about?" he asked.
She gave a small knowing smile but didn’t supply any kind of answer. Dean guessed that was answer enough, he wasn’t stupid, he had a pretty good idea where this was all going himself. What bothered him was he didn’t know why he was feeling so damn disgruntled about it all.
He coughed awkwardly when he reached Cassie and Ava again by the kitchen doorway, and they moved to make room for him the bowl, nearly overfilled with the punch. Cassie met his eyes as he passed and gave him a small smile, he returned it – he hoped amiably and made his way through people he didn’t know until he reached the coffee table, which his father and Bobby Singer were sitting.
"Do you know what this is about?" his father asked gruffly pinning him with sharp brown eyes.
Dean rolled his eyes, only his dad would be clueless on this but he decided to follow his mother’s lead and just gave his dad a mysterious smile. "Gotta get the plastic cups."
Bobby laughed as John let out a huff of annoyance and muttered something Dean thought sounded a bit too much like, ‘that boy is too much like his goddamned mother’.
This time when he got to the door, Cassie was alone and looking like she was waiting. Dean stifled a sigh and gave her another friendly smile and feeling a bit like an insincere ass as he did so. It wasn’t that he wasn’t unhappy to see her, but she’d dumped him, broken his heart a bit in the process too and he wasn’t really sure he’d as much as he wanted to he’d ever be able to fully forgive her.
"I wanted to talk for a second...before the announcement," Cassie said, sounding uncharacteristically insecure.
Dean shrugged and indicated for him to follow her as he made his way through the kitchen to the pantry. He opened the door and walked in stopping short when he found his brother and Jessica in quiet conversation inside. "Sorry," he muttered as Cassie not expecting his abrupt stop half walked into him.
Sam grinned happily however, somewhat doofily Dean thought but could he really blame the kid considering what was happening. "It’s okay, we were just talking about when to make our announcement."
Jessica was hiding her left hand, Dean noticed and tried not to sarcastically say smooth to her by biting his tongue. "I was just expecting Anna to be here by now, and I want her here."
Anna Milton was Jessica other best friend. She, Anna and Ava were practically a single three headed beast at times. Dean had thought it odd Anna wasn’t around.
"Ava told me something about that," Cassie said behind him, stepping into view.
Sam and Jessica exchanged quick looks at Cassie’s presence with Dean but otherwise kept quiet and Dean was happy he’d too bitten his tongue. "What? Nothing’s wrong is it?" Jessica asked.
"No, she just said Anna left her a message about probably being late and she was looking for you to tell her Anna said not to wait."
Jessica bit her lip. "I better talk to Ava, come on," he grabbed Sam’s hand. Dean and Cassie pressed their backs against shelves to make room for the couple to pass them by.
Dean walked deeper, toward the shelf full of the plastic green cups his mother liked to buy. "What’s up, Cassie?" he asked, trying for nonchalant and thinking he maybe almost succeeded.
Cassie started to fiddle with the ends of her hair, a habit Dean had always found endearing and now hated because he it still was endearing, damn it. She seemed to swallow very hard, a sign she had made her decision on how to say whatever it was she wanted to say. "I wanted you to know that Victor and I are getting married."
Was it a disease? That was Dean’s first thought, which was actually a relief because a year ago if he’d heard that same phrase from Cassie’s mouth he’s sure he’d had felt knifed in the gut. He smiled, wide and genuine. "Cassie, that’s great!"
Cassie’s face relax and a large, slightly annoying, glowy smile formed on her face and her voice took on a faraway tone. "Yeah, isn’t it."
Dean grabbed her, hugging her, the bag of cups hitting her back a bit harder than one would expect. "Oops, sorry," he said letting her go.
"I just didn’t want you to hear it from someone else."
He smiled as he started heading out, he was thankful to Cassie for that because even if it didn’t hurt the way he would have expected, he doubted hearing it from another source would have felt this right. "Thanks," he said, turning back to make sure she saw the smile.
Cassie nodded. "You’ll find someone too, Dean."
Dean stopped in his steps, staring at his ex-girlfriend. "Why would you say that?"
Cassie’s face fell for a second but she kept going. "Dean, I just meant you’ll find the right person and soon there’ll probably be another party like this for you."
Dean grimaced, thinking the last thing he’d want is a big whole hoopla involved if he ever was about to announced an engagement that wasn’t going to surprised anyone. "Party’s like this not really my thing, Cassie."
Cassie shrugged. "But commitment; totally your thing," she kissed his cheek. "I want the best for you."
Dean stood still after the peck she left on his cheek and felt uncomfortable again, this was reminding him of why they broke up, about how fast she had seemed to run away from him when he’d asked her for more than she could give him. But she was about to give another man even more than Dead had asked for. Okay, maybe it still twisted like a knife in his gut. "I’m good, I like where I am right now, not really looking to change it, Cassie." He held up the cups in his hands. "I better get these out, people have to be thirsty it’s warm in here and getting warmer."
Dean turned around then, maybe a little too fast and made his way through the crowd away from Cassie, and too the coffee table where there was a group gathered around staring at the punch they couldn’t drink. He announced loudly that he had cups, and started to handing them out one by one to the outstretched hands. All the while hoping Sam and Jessica got on with the announcement so maybe he could make an escape outside for some air. He’d been feeling uncomfortable tonight in the crowd for reasons he didn’t really understand, or want to dwell on, and Cassie’s last few words weren’t helping.
Castiel Novack had only one doubt about his decision. It wasn’t a tiny niggling doubt either, it was a doubt the size of a beautiful nine year old girl who had been for the past two years his only true and sincere friend, let alone the best thing he’d ever done with his life. Leaving Claire, his daughter, behind was the only thing that nagged on him about his decision to leave Pontiac, Illinois. But when he thought about everything else, the way sometimes, despite her understanding and friendship, Amelia still had this look of raw hurt in her eyes. She’d married him thinking it forever only to find out years later she’d married a man who’d been lying, not only to himself but everyone around him. His family, his parents, his uncles they’d never accepted that he was gay. Every time he tried to be with his family, to just be with his family invariably something would come up about him stopping ‘this silliness’ as was his mother’s favorite way of saying it. Castiel swallowed and focused on the smiling face of his daughter in the picture and then closed his eyes. "I’ll miss you, Pumpkin," he whispered to her hoping the sentiment would somehow make it’s way to his daughter through the time and space between them.
It had been facing the end of his relationship with Robert that had really sent him running. Robert who had made him face the truth, who had given him the courage to look inside two years ago and say yes he was gay and he had to stop living a lie. Robert who was passionate but also a bit crazy. They’d been an odd coupling, it’d been up and down and full of fights since the start. And Castiel had to think that maybe it had been more friendship with lust thrown instead of something real, something that was closer to what love felt like. He loved Robert but Castiel now wondered if he’d ever been in love with him. Robert left him for someone else, someone else more suited to handle his passions and his moods, someone who just worked for him better than Castiel ever would or could. And if Castiel was honest, Robert wasn’t really someone who fit him as well as Castiel wished. They’d never been completely happy, Castiel had just been thrilled to not be living a lie anymore and when that wore off he’d had to accept that the man he’d left his wife for, wasn’t really the man he wanted – it was just as well, considering Robert had already figured out he’d needed more than Castiel could give him.
Castiel sighed and looked at his watched. Soon, soon they’d be at the bus station and he’d be starting new. Fear filled him because he hadn’t really thought this out, he’d just known a few nights before sitting in an impersonal hotel room that he couldn’t stay in Illinois anymore. He’d quit his job selling ad space on public radio with no notice, called his parents and told his mom he was going away for a bit and would call when he had news. Then he’d driven to his and Amelia’s old house, told Amelia and then sat with his daughter for a long while, telling her that it would never be goodbye. It’d been then the doubt hit him, in Claire’s face as she said she’d miss him but that she would try to understand... and he didn’t think she really did, she was just acting brave for him. It made him love her more, and he had to stop thinking that was impossible because Claire always proved him wrong.
Then he’d taken only a duffle bag of clothes, his laptop and a few books and gotten on a bus. He hadn’t looked at the destination that first time but when he ended up in one of the Dakotas he realized where he was heading. To Anna.
Anna Milton was his cousin, before him she’d been considered the main black sheep of the family, being into painting and sculpting, she also was a beautiful writer. She’d skipped out on the family years ago and somehow ended up not in New York where he’d expected but a small town in Kansas. She was taking art classes at the college there and as her letters put it finding her real family in the form of two best friends. He felt a bit guilty because he’d waited until he’d heard it was only ninety minutes to the last stop in Kansas, Topeka, to call her. She’d sounded harried, surprised but happy to hear his voice but a bit put out at the suddenness of his arrival. He’d heard it in her voice, relieved that after so many years of mostly just emails that she and he still had their own language and could read the other. He’d started to say he’d get a cab to Lawrence, to her place but she’d cut him off, saying she’d be there. Castiel promised himself though that he wouldn’t impose onto her life too much, he’d find a job, get his own place and be out of her hair if not her day to day as fast as possible. He may be running from a part of his family but he knew he needed someone in his corner and Anna had always been then for him. Even when he’d came out, she’d called him every day and night, in fact it’d been a late night phone call to her when he’d first said that he was gay out loud. Anna of course hadn’t been surprised, she’d always known and always hoped he’d ‘see the light’ as she put it. She’d been the only one besides Robert ecstatically happy for him. But he wouldn’t take over her entire life, he already owed her to much for that and had a feeling he’d end up owing her more.
Castiel felt the bus lurch to a stop and realized he was there. Kansas. Almost to where he was going to try to make himself a new home. He took a breath, grabbed his duffle from the overhead and made his way off the bus. Stepping off the bus, he follows the crowd into the main area and starts to look for Anna. It’s easy to spot her, her red hair a huge neon sign telling him where she is. He makes his way over to her, cutting against the crowd more than working with it. Anna spots him when he’s about a foot away and closed the space between them hugging him so much force he nearly topples over.
"Always were a bit of klutz, Castiel," she said, hugging him tightly.
Castiel laughed. "I think you mean you, Anna. It’s good to see you." And it was, she was just the same, happy, real and smelling a bit like the oil paint she used on her canvases.
"Same here. I can’t believe you finally come to see me and don’t give me any warning. My apartment is a mess and we need to hurry, we need to get to a party."
"Only reason I’m not interrogating you on this surprise landing at my feet, Castiel. My Jess is announcing her engagement tonight. We have to get to her fiance’s parents house quickly because while I will miss the announcement, I am not missing the whole party. And as great as the Winchesters are they will kick everyone out after midnight, I’m sure." Anna went on a mile a minute, taking his hand and plowing them through people to get to where she had parked her car.
Chapter 2: Two
Castiel found a door to the outside in the Winchester’s kitchen and slipped out to the outside. It was an early spring night, warm but a bit chilly, but it the cooler air felt good on his skin. The house was packed fill, Anna’s friends Jessica and Sam were going from group to group of people – seeming to have friends from all walks of life. Anna herself also flitted between Jessica, Ava and a few of her other friends. Castiel had meet the two most important people to Anna, and therefore himself Jessica and Ava. Jessica tall, Ava short, Jessica lively and Ava a bit quieter but with a quick-witted mind. He’d enjoyed talking to them both, answering their simple questions as simply as he could – thankfully noone seemed to be questioning about why he was here. The friends more curious about another view of Anna, Jessica and her guests more interested in her upcoming marriage. Sam Winchester, Jessica’s fiancé had turned out to be an intelligent and friendly young man and Castiel had found it easy to talk to him before his other friends had whisked him away. After the initial meetings and Anna checking on him every five minutes it felt, Castiel had ordered his cousin to go have fun and he’d quietly watched the party for awhile. It’d been refreshing to see so many people together in one place, laughing, talking and getting along – all the family gatherings he’d been too of late had ended in arguing and shouting. Usually about him.
Castiel frowned and sat down on the bottom step of the short span of steps that led out to a small patio. He noted that the backyard was a good size, there was a large tree that still sported what must have been Sam Winchester’s tree house when he was child. It looked well built and sturdy, Castiel felt curious to see if it would still hold a person, to check the inside. He’d always wanted a tree house as a kid but had never dared ask if one could built on the tree out back. Instead Castiel had sat hours at its trunk reading his books and writing in his journals. They had been good hours, Castiel thought and damped his urge to snoop into someone else’s childhood. He let his gaze fall onto the rest of the yard, there was a horseshoe pit and Castiel couldn’t help but grin when he caught sight of old fashioned outdoor clothes hanger... his grandmother had one just like it. He’d used to help her get the laundry down when he was little, she’d hand him all the wooden clothes pins and make him feel it was the most important job in the world. She’d been his favorite relative as a child and he often wondered if she’d agree with the rest of family about him now but she’d died when he was twelve. In all his memories of her she always seemed more like him and Anna – he wondered if he was sentimentalizing her.
Feeling cooler, Castiel let himself sigh and allowed the feeling of missing Claire to wash over him again. He’d been pushing it away but just before he’d decided he needed air Sam’s parents had quieted the room to make speeches. His mother, Mary, had gone first a beautiful woman with blonde hair and the same warm smile Castiel seen on Sam. She’d started talking about her little boy and Castiel couldn’t stop the thoughts of Claire. He’d listened through, waiting for the applause to start before making his way outside. Castiel pulled out the picture of Claire again and ran his thumb down the side of her face in it. She was smiling, laughing and looked gorgeous. He’d call her first thing tomorrow, after Anna interrogated – which he was sure his cousin would do – it’d be the best time. After being drilled by Anna, Castiel was sure he’d need a friendly voice and Claire’s was the friendliest she knew.
"Your kid? She’s pretty?"
Castiel flinched shocked by the voice, it was then he realized someone was standing behind him on the stairs and he jumped up and turned around. And found himself staring up at a man so good looking, Castiel felt his stomach drop to his knees. The guy looked like he should be in a magazine, Castiel thought.
"Sorry, didn’t mean to startle you. I’m Dean. Sam’s brother."
Castiel nodded, had Anna mentioned a brother, he hadn’t seen him at all inside. Castiel was sure he’d have remembered seeing him. "Hi. I’m Castiel."
"Yeah, I know," the guy grinned. "Anna caught me trying to make a break for it. To head home and told me she’d only let me skip out on the party early if I took you with me."
"Go home with you?" Castiel prayed he wasn’t sounding as stupid as he sounded.
"Anna rents from us, I live across the hall," Dean explained.
"Oh. I... it wouldn’t be a bother?" Castiel asked, he wouldn’t mind leaving and he silently thanked Anna for thinking of him.
"It’s no trouble at all," Dean said with a grin. "Oh hey, don’t lose this!"
Castiel followed Dean as the man stepped down, bent down and picked up the picture of Claire. Castiel blinked, when had he dropped it and he cringed at the thought of losing that picture it was his favorite. "Thanks, that’s my favorite of her."
"What’s her name?" Dean asked holding it out for Castiel to take.
Castiel took it, looking down at his daughter’s smile and grinned. "Claire Madeline."
"Nice. How old is she?"
"Nine. I feel a bit unsure about my plans, moving so far away from her."
"So your moving here?" Dean asked.
"Uh, yeah. I need a fresh start, clean slate and it makes sense until I think about Claire back in Pontiac."
"Couldn’t have picked a place closer for the fresh start?"
"No Anna," Castiel said with a wry grin. "Though, I am wondering if that was selfish on my part, I made her miss the announcement."
"Oh she already knew," Dean laughed. "Plus, Anna’s pretty great. You two a couple? I thought she was flying solo lately but I can never keep up with Jessica and her other two heads."
Castiel laughed. "No, she’s my cousin. Family. I wanted to be near someone I knew and loved."
Dean nodded. "I get that, couldn’t imagine not seeing mine all time. Of course that said I really want to get out of here. Let’s walk around the house, so we don’t have to go back in."
Castiel couldn’t help but check out Dean’s ass as the man walked ahead of him taking long strides on long bowed legs. Castiel followed him amazed at how hazy and numb he suddenly felt from his attraction to the man. He’d been attracted to many men over the years but never quite like this. There was something about this Dean guy, even his voice seemed to be perfect, low but not too rough. Castiel swallowed and fell to a stop next to Dean, wondering why the other man had stopped.
"Anna said your bag was in her car. I figured you’d want it." Dean pointed to the small yellow Dodge that Anna drove.
Castiel nodded and opened the back door, where he had thrown the duffle and pulled it out.
"Packing it pretty light for a move to a new state, huh," Dean said and then pointed toward the driveway. "I"m here, and good no idiots tried to park behind me."
Castiel followed Dean’s finger, it was a really nice finger too, and saw well detailed black car, it looked like a classic but Castiel wasn’t really sure. "Classic?"
"Yeah. 1967 Chevy Impala," Dean said his voice filling with pride. "Best birthday gift my dad ever gave me. Got her when I was eighteen, been keeping her in top shape and she’s as good as new."
Castiel slide into the passenger seat, expecting for some reason to find it smelling new car scent new, instead he got a whiff of what he thought might be cheeseburger.
Dean started the car and Castiel just kept darting glances at him, unable to take his off of him. His hands looked strong and sure on the wheel as he maneuvered the car and Castiel had to force himself not to imagine them on his body.
"Seriously, if your starting over why just a duffle, man?"
Castiel nodded his head. "I didn’t really think it through, I was afraid if I made more solid plans I would talk myself out of leaving because of Claire. But I had to get away – I’ve been living in a hotel for the past year, just not being able to bring myself to find a place, I’ve always been pretty bored at my job and well my family kept trying to get me to go back into the closet. I just had to get away."
"Anna’s mentioned a few times her family are bunch of religious freaks – that sucks man. I mean my dad – not all that thrilled I go both ways but he’d never disown me or anything."
Bisexual? He was bisexual. Castiel shook his head it was just an attraction the last thing he needed right now was a crush, or anything, plus Dean was being nice and all but he didn’t seem to be all that interested. No. This wasn’t going to happen, he’d get over it, the guy was just sex on a stick – who could blame him?
"Yeah well the family disowned Anna for wanting to be an artist and not a wife – so..."
"Jesus, is that why she took off? Never really got the details."
"Well you two got each other. And Jessica, Ava and Sammy – it’ll be good." Dean turned toward Castiel then, as they were at a light and smiled. Castiel couldn’t take his eyes of Dean – not only because of the eye crinkles and the freckles he could see due to the streetlights but the pure sincerity on his face.
"I have Anna."
Dean was still looking at him and he nodded, then jumped when the car behind them beeped and Dean turned. "Crap, missed that..." and he drove through the green light.
Chapter 3: Three
Dean stepped into his apartment and flicked on the lights, "I have the key to Anna’s in here somewhere," he said, and crossed the main room, past the small island that separated the main room from his kitchenette. Once there he opened the refrigerator. He needed a beer because it wasn’t as if his wasn’t spun enough before meeting Castiel now he felt totally upended. It would figure, Dean thought, pulling out two bottles of El Sol, that Anna’s cousin would be fucking gorgeous. All worn and rumpled from travel, with messy hair that somehow looked stylish, scruff that was would soon turn to a full beard if the man didn’t shave, full lips and the most intense damn eyes Dean ever looked into. He’d found himself trying to avoid eye contact because he kept getting trapped in them. Missed a light turning green and thinks he may run a stop sign too, he was blaming Sam. It was his damn engagement that had feeling all out of sorts for reasons Dean seriously wanted to stay unknown, but fuck if Cassie hadn’t hit a nerve. He turned and saw Castiel standing uneasily on the other side of the kitchenette, between the two stools there, glancing around at the apartment.
"Sorry, I just really need a beer. Here you go," he used his ring to pop open them two beers and slid one over to Castiel.
Castiel picked it up, with long fingers that looked strong but soft and Dean licked his lips before focusing on his own beer. "You collect records?" Castiel said.
Dean grinned. "Vinyl. Classic rock, my music of choice, is meant to be heard on vinyl in the home and cassette in the car. My brother tells me I live in the dark ages, but it just doesn’t have the same – grit to it or something. Doesn’t feel right," Dean shrugged.
Castiel mirrored is shrugged. "I don’t really have an opinion on that, but I will admit I left quite a lot of CDs back home... my ex is keeping a lot of stuff for me until I decide where to settle."
The awkward conversation with Cassie came back to Dean and prompted him to ask. "You get along with him, the ex? I mean it’s not weird?"
Castiel took a swallow of beer, Dean darted his eyes down to the counter’s surface, staring at the black Formica, trying not to visualize how Castiel’s Adam’s apple moved with the motion. "Robert and I ended in odd circumstances...I mean technically he left me for someone else, but I realized the minute he told me it was over and he loved someone else that I hadn’t been in love with him for sometime. Perhaps never."
"Huh," Dean said.
"We are friends, but it is awkward. Mostly because he was – I had an affair with him during my marriage. I’d cheated before, but brief drunken things while I kept trying to tell myself I could deny who I was. But with Robert it was a true affair, I found the strength to stand up and say who I was. Stop lying. So he is special to me, he kept setting me up with people, double dates with him and Mitchell... it was unsettling."
Dean found himself nodding. "I get it. Cassie, my ex was at the party tonight, and well I asked her to live with me going on two years ago now and she dumped me so fast it wasn’t funny. Said she wasn’t ready for that kind of commitment and why couldn’t we just stay the way we were. And well now she’s getting married, and my little brother is getting married – and that kind of bugs me for some reason..." Dean trailed off and took a swallow of beer before continuing. "Sorry, don’t know why I’m telling you all this crap."
"I haven’t told Anna any of the stuff I’ve told you," Castiel said with a chuckle and Dean looked up catching sight of a smile that made Castiel look less worn around the edges.
Dean licked his lips again, unable to look away from Castiel this time. Plus it wasn’t like he was driving, Dean thought and he lifted his beer bottle up to his mouth and took a swallow.
"Maybe it is because we are strangers," Castiel said.
"What do you mean?" Dean asked.
"You know, people always say sometimes it is easier to talk to a stranger than anyone close to you. So that’s probably why we unloaded."
Dean nodded. "Sounds good to me. To unloading on a stranger," he held up his bottle.
Castiel lifted his bottle up and repeated the toast. "To unloading on a stranger."
The clinked the bottles together, Dean didn’t take his off of Castiel, Castiel was looking straight at him and licked his lips. Dean knew in that moment that he could put down his beer, walk around the island, invade Castiel’s space. He could push into Castiel, grab his hips, feel up his rib cage and find out for sure if the loose fitting shirt he was wearing hid lean muscle tone... and once he felt skin, Dean knew he’d be taking off that shirt and he’d have to have Castiel. All Dean had to do was do it.
"So, huh," Dean broke the silence and their stare. "I find that key now, you must be beat from the trip."
"Buses aren’t very conducive to resting, no," Castiel said.
Dean put down the beer and walked over to the drawer where he kept the tenants keys, rather than around the island. He couldn’t make a move on Castiel just because he was horny and unsettled, Dean thought. Castiel wasn’t some guy from a bar, he was – he was a new neighbor. He was Anna’s cousin. Anna and he had their own weird relationship to navigate, Dean wasn’t sure what their casual sex and friendship meant in terms of relatives – was that off limits? He’d never been good with unwritten rules, but sex aside he liked Anna, she was a friend and Jessica loved her like a sister. And Jessica was his family. So Anna was family – and Dean told himself to shut up because the train of thought was getting to weird. Plus Castiel shared a lot tonight, he was starting a new life, the last thing the man probably wanted was some casual hook up the first night in town. Dean picked up the keys and had to admit that he wasn’t in the right frame of mind for it either, that he had to push away the bad memories of Cassie, the weird feeling he’d had tonight at her words about him wanting a commitment and the strange grumpiness Sam’s engagement made him feel. He was just being stupid.
Dean turned back to Castiel, of course the man standing in his place just had to be freaking sex on a stick, he stifled a sigh. "Here they are, let’s you get into the new place, huh?"
Anna opened her door, went to turn on the light but decided against it, remembering that Castiel was there and probably on the couch. She only had the one room and her place was pretty crowded what with all her unfinished paintings laying around, and the surprising amount of paperwork teaching art to teenagers created. Anna let her eyes adjust to the low light, coming from the light above her stove in the small kitchenette in the northeast corner of the room. Castiel was on the couch, on his back, mouth open and a picture of a Claire laying on his chest. It made Anna’s heart ache a little bit, he knew how much her cousin loved Claire, how amazed he was he’d helped create such a wondrous little person. Soon Claire would start to grow into woman, Anna smiled at the thought and hoped that she was right and her cousin was staying in town for the foreseeable future. With Castiel around it meant she’d get to see Claire more often. Anna had loved her since Claire had been placed in her arms after birth. She’d taught Claire to draw and was still getting pictures in the mail – her young second cousin had talent and Anna wanted to help it grow.
Anna made her way to the closet and pulled out a blanket. Then she knelt carefully down by Castiel, took the picture away as slowly as she could to keep it safe. She placed it carefully on her coffee table, on top of her history book – briefly wondering when the last time she went to that class was – and then turned to cover up her cousin.
Only Castiel was awake, he looked at her sleepily and she wondered if she’d come into focus yet.
"What time is it?" He asked sitting up.
"You aren’t going to try set a curfew for me are you, because you may be older but you aren’t the boss of me," she said teasing.
Castiel rolled his eyes. "I didn’t know I fell asleep."
"You must be tired."
Castiel sat up. "I am, didn’t sleep much on the trip out here."
Anna nodded. "Speaking of that? Why are you here? Am I right in guessing you plan to stay despite the light luggage."
Castiel nodded back and Anna waited. Castiel licked his lips, took in a few deep breathes before he locked his eyes on hers. "I had to get away from them, Anna. They were getting crueler and crueler – and saying things to Claire... and staying friends with Robert while great also, it’s strange and I felt I need space to figure out a few things."
Anna moved from her positioning crouching on the floor and onto the couch, next to her cousin and leaned her head down on his shoulders. "I’m glad you decided to do it near me."
"Couldn’t think of anywhere else to go, didn’t want to be anywhere else I guess," Castiel said. "But I’ll find my own place, I don’t want to intrude."
"You aren’t. You won’t. I don’t think you would know how."
Castiel let out a loud yawn.
Anna laughed and stood back up. "I’ll go get you a pillow, put Claire back in your wallet, she’ll get lost in this mess of mine."
Castiel leaned forward and picked up the picture. "I feel as if its attached to my palm. Can’t seem to let it go once I pick it up."
Anna paused in the middle of the room, midway between Castiel and her linen closet, "It’s going to be hard away from her, isn’t it?"
"It’s killing me, Anna," Castiel said, looking down and the hand not holding the picture coming up to his eyes.
"Well, we’ll just have to get you settled pronto, so she can come visit," Anna said with determination.
Castiel nodded. "The wouldn’t have any other free apartments here, would they? I should’ve asked Dean."
Anna quickly grabbed a pillow and made her back to the couch, sat down and ran a hand down Castiel’s back. "No. It’s full up."
"Maybe Dean knows someplace," Castiel said threw a yawn.
"I doubt that. He’s a mechanic not in real estate."
"Could have warned me by the way."
"About?" Anna said.
"Before sending me home with sex on a stick, could have warned me," Castiel said.
Anna laughed so hard she snorted through her nose, which made Castiel laugh until it turned into a yawn. She threw the pillow at him. "Go to bed." She stood up but before she got to far she felt compelled to warn Castiel. "Castiel?"
"Yeah," Castiel said from where he’d already burrowed into the couch, under the blanket, his face marks already on the pillow case.
"Dean Winchester – he’s awesome, he thinks of you as friend you can turn to him for anything. But, he... he tends to just do casual flings. I mean it’s fine if it’s fine with you," Anna felt herself blush, and figured she’d should admit it. "I’ve gone there more than once myself, honestly, but I mean... you are you, you know?"
Castiel gave her a weird look, then he glanced at the door to the apartment as if looking at Dean Winchester and back to her. "Casual? Huh?"
Anna nodded. "Yeah."
Castiel nodded back and let his head fall back into the pillow. "Night, Anna," came his muffled voice.
"Goodnight, I’m glad you’re here."
Chapter 4: Four
"So, Cassie?" Sam said the second after Jessica and their parents left the booth in Harvelle’s Restaurant they’d taken over. Dean felt like hitting him in the jaw, looking at Sam’s big grin as he lazily brought the beer he was nursing up to his mouth and waited for Dean to answer.
"What about her?" Dean asked, playing dumb and trying to figure a way out of having this conversation with his pushy little brother.
"You and her, our engagement party...made us wonder."
"Made you wonder what?" Dean asked.
"Jess and I, we both thought maybe it meant you’d be getting back together? You know give the two of you another shot."
Dean rolled his eyes and looked down at the scotch he’d ordered, wanting harder liquor than his usual beer because of his crappy mood the last few weeks. And it looked like it was just going to get worse what with Sam wanting to match make. He really didn’t want to have this conversation.
"Come on, Dean," Sam said, "I remember what you two were like, you were happy. Happiest I’ve ever..."
"Whatever," Dean said cutting Sam off. "Look, Cassie and I broke up. It’s history. Drop it."
"Then why were you two going into the pantry together, huh," Sam said with a look that said he knew he knew the answer.
"I was going in the pantry to get cups. Cassie had something to tell me. You’d really suck as a detective, you know."
Sam’s face fell as if he’d just opened a present thinking it was what he wanted and it was socks instead. "Oh. Then what was it?"
"What was what?" Dean said, once again trying to not have the conversation.
"Dean, come on?"
"She’s getting married. To Henricksen."
"Shit, man, are you okay?" Sam asked, leaning across the table staring at him as if trying to study him to find the answers.
At least this part wasn’t too hard, because he was okay with Cassie getting married. In fact the marriage he kept finding himself grumbling about was Sam’s – and he really didn’t want to face the reason why it bothered him at all. It would just open way too many cans of worms and he had a good life. No reason for change.
"I’m fine with it. Cassie and I dated it didn’t work out and I’m really happy for her. She deserves good things and Henricksen seems like a good guy – he’s always exposing bastards in his television reports anyway. Helped him out that one time, remember? When he was looking into shady mechanics. Guess he and Cassie somehow met because they are both investigative reporters, even if she’s for the paper and he does television." Dean kept talking, hoping if he gave his brother enough to sink his teeth into, he could a) change the subject a bit to shady mechanics – it was always good to rant about others in his field felt it was okay to rip off people – and off of him and his lack of real relationships.
"I’ll never get why it didn’t work out with you two," Sam said, leaning back in the booth again and dropping his still half full bottle of beer back on the coaster, looking at Dean with a sad confused expression on his face.
Dean sighed, so much for changing the conversation but damn if he was telling Sam the truth about him and Cassie now. He’d tried once, right after Cassie had broken up with him. Asked Sam over to get drunk with him, to lay it all the line about how he’d asked her to move in, was already saving up money for a ring but the second he mentioned they’d broken up. Dean looked away from Sam for a moment, a stab of anger and hurt rising up at the memory. Sam’s first words to him on hearing the news had been. "What? Why? What did you do wrong? Tell me, we can fix it." It’d made Dean shut down with more hurt and he’d ended up throwing Sam out and gotten drunk on his own. And though, he’d forgiven his brother, he’d made a choice that night to never ever let any but family into his heart again – it hurt way to much when they disappointed you, or worse didn’t love you back as much as you loved them.
"Look, Sammy – I get that you are all in love with Jess, and you got the wedding and are thinking pretty much of this crap twenty-four-seven right now – but I’m fine."
Sam shook his head. "You don’t want that?" Sam pointed behind Dean indicating something.
Dean turned and wasn’t surprised to see his parents sharing a dessert at the bar, sitting as close together as possible face to face. They were whispering and smiling; Dean knew they’d tuned out everyone around them and were in their own world. He laughed and turned back to Sam. "Mom and Dad, come one. They are a rarity. No one really gets that."
Sam frowned. "I did. With Jess."
Dean laughed again. "I think you need to be married at least twenty years to get to that point." He pointed his thumb over his shoulder.
Sam shook his head. "No. I have that with Jess. I know it."
Dean shrugged but he hoped his kid brother did have that, it’d be great to know Sam always had someone in his corner and on his side. Specially someone as strong and smart as he knew Jessica to be. "Hope so, but it’s not the norm. And me. Nah. I’m going to get something like that."
Dean picked up his scotch and downed it in one fast swallow. "See you Sammy, I think I’m going to go hit a few bars and have some fun." Dean gave Sam one last large smile, he prayed his brother didn’t catch as a fake and took off before Sam could say more. The conversation wasn’t going to end if someone didn’t end it – and since he wanted out, he did. It was only when he reached his car, did he decide that he was going to go a bar and headed in the direction of a local one that played classic rock, might have a good cover band... and he might just find someone there to help him deal with the fact that words love and marriage kept coming up in his head against his will.
Castiel opened the door, Anna had assured him the paper would be there by 7:30 a.m., and he was happy to see she’d been right. He wanted to start looking for a job, any job, he’d do anything right now just to start making money until he figured out exactly what it was he wanted to do, or could find a better paying option. It was a whichever came first thing at the moment, but the not knowing was starting to get to him. He’d slept restlessly the whole night, dreaming about being laughed at every interview he went too – even McDonald’s. Castiel picked up the paper and let out a breath and told himself it was time to start circling, calling and printing out resumes from his laptop. When the door across the hall opened, he looked up from the paper expecting to see Dean Winchester for a sleepy morning ‘Hi’ but instead found himself looking at young twenty-something boy that looked liked he belonged in the garage at his parents house trying to play the guitar.
"Hey Dude," the guy said with nice enough smile. "Look, you know how to get to the highway from here?"
"Crap," he pushed his hands into his jean pockets and started down the hall.
Castiel watched him for a moment, thinking back on Anna’s words about Dean’s casual sex life and felt unsettled pit in his stomach. This definitely backed up that theory, Anna was right but...Castiel sighed. The things Dean had told him about his ex still rang in Castiel’s head, they’d been sincere and from Dean’s reaction to saying them out loud not easily admitted. It was Castiel experience that things not easily admitted were sometimes the most true.
Dean’s door opened again, just as Castiel was about to turn back into Anna’s apartment, Castiel turned and found himself facing Dean who was wearing nothing but black boxer briefs that left little to the imagination. Castiel used his imagination anyway and somehow found the ability to say hello in an neutral tone.
"Hey," Dean said leaning down to pick up his paper. "Early riser huh?"
Castiel held up the paper. "Need a job as soon as I can find one. Any job, really."
Dean nodded. "You know, a family friend, Bobby Singer, he’s got this salvage yard, his bookkeeper is retiring in two weeks and he needs a replacement. I could make a call, you good with numbers?"
"Fair. I could do that," Castiel said.
"I’ll make the call, drop by downstairs at the garage around 1, I’ll have talked to him by then I think."
"Sure. Thanks," Castiel said.
Castiel nodded at that and stood in place akwardly. They’d finished the conversation, he was trying not to stare, he was trying not to wonder about the contradictions he’d found about Dean, and he was really wondering why he wasn’t going inside. The thing was though he didn’t seem to want to move.
Dean cleared his throat and broke the silence. "So, uh, I need my coffee."
"I should start reading, you know, in case your offer doesn’t pan out."
"Yeah," Dean agreed.
"See ya," Dean said and disappeared into his apartment.
Castiel stood for a second longer in the hall, took a calming breath and then went back inside Anna’s.