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Run Boy Run

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Notes and thanks and stuff

Holy shit, guys. This is actually a thing that's happening, and it's kind of really hard to believe, but I'm so excited to share it with you! But first, so many thanks are in order!

My artist, the absolutely fabulous Silvia. I had so much fun working with you, and your art is so goddamn beautiful, and I know I've told you this before, but it makes me smile so wide whenever I look at it. Thank you for everything; I don't know what I did to deserve an artist as talented and sweet and wonderful as you, but I'm so, so glad I did <3 Please check out her art masterpost on tumblr or lj and leave her all the love!

My beta, the always-amazing Athenae. She beta'ed the shit out of this story, listened to my freak outs and anxieties about it, and helped make it so much bettah. She saved you guys from literally 3905849 ellipses, too; she should get a medal. She's also the one behind Cas calling Dean "cowboy," and Dean liking to smack Cas with his cane when he doesn't move fast enough. Thank you so much, lovely! <3  

***This fic is now also in Russian (!!!) thanks to Julia!***

And now for general notes:
1. I'm not blind, and I don't know anyone who is. I did a lot of research to try and make everything as realistic as possible, so any inaccuracies are totally on me. Please let me know if there's something outright wrong or offensive, though, and I'll remove or fix it right away!
2. I've never run a marathon. The closest I've come is a 5K, so same thing as above applies: any inaccuracies are on me, and please let me know if anything major should be changed.
3. I took some artistic liberties with timing, deadlines for qualifying for certain marathons, and Boston weather.

Aaaaand that's it! I really, really hope you guys enjoy this; thanks for checking it out! <3

 

 


 

 

In your eyes are all the colors that the rainbow forgot.
The Mountain Goats, “Snow Owl”

 

 

The picture has been sitting on the nightstand for over a year, but it’s never gathered any dust because Cas is always picking it up, just like he’s doing now.

He reaches for the frame, letting his thumb run across the dark wood as he studies the picture behind the glass. Sometimes he gets teased for looking at it so often, but he can’t help it; there’s barely a day that goes by when he doesn’t at least glance at the damn thing, and he doesn’t see that ritual changing anytime soon.

As he shifts his thumb so that it’s now tracing one of the faces in the picture, he starts thinking about how different his life is now, and how none of it ever would’ve happened if his sister hadn’t asked him for the most outlandish, unexpected favor in the world.

 

 

"I'm sorry, ma'am, but we can't--"

The woman standing on the other side of the customer service counter stares daggers at Castiel, hands on her hips and a very unamused expression on her face. "I don't know why this is so hard for you to understand--" she squints at his name tag "--Cas-teel. We bought tickets online for yesterday, but the weather was horrible, so we didn't come. There were flood warnings!"

Castiel is aware of that; he had to walk through said flood warnings with soaked shoes and an umbrella that decided to break halfway to the museum.

"I understand, ma'am, and we would gladly refund you the money for your admission if we had closed yesterday, but we didn't, so I'm afraid there's nothing I can do. I'm sorry."

For a split second, Castiel fears for his own safety; this woman's out for blood, and he would prefer that it not be his.

"I want to talk to the manager," she says bitingly.

"Ma'am, I--"

"Manager, Cas-teel."

Castiel holds his tongue and nods tersely, trying (and probably failing) to keep the pleasant demeanor that had been drilled into his head a year and a half ago during orientation. He glances down at the desk underneath the counter and pages the manager on duty before looking up at the woman and offering her a tight smile. "He'll be with you in a moment."

She doesn't bother to respond.

A few moments of awkward silence later, Michael emerges from the back, a wide, accommodating smile plastered across his face. He claps Castiel on the shoulder and pauses on his way by and whispers, “It’s ten of three, just take off, okay?” and Castiel is taken by surprise by this small act of kindness. He nods quickly, mouths a polite thank you, and makes for the breakroom.

As he leaves, he can hear Michael, in his best accommodating manager voice, ask the woman how he can help her today. Castiel never wants to be a manager.

He’s heading to the breakroom when he feels a tap on his shoulder, and he turns around to see a harried woman with a small baby balanced on her hip and a toddler wrapped nervously around her right leg. She’s got a badly wrinkled museum map in her hand, and she looks at Castiel expectantly.

“Do you work here?”

No, Castiel wants to say. No, I don’t, and even if I did, I think it’s pretty clear that I’m on my way out, and so I’d really appreciate it if you found one of the other twelve people walking around specifically for this purpose, to help guests, and asked them your question. That would be so, so wonderful.

But instead he just says, “Yes,” and proceeds to help the woman find an exhibit that’s halfway across the museum. He skirts around the edges of exhibits as much as possible on his way back to the breakroom, trying to make a clean break for his freedom, and once he catches sight of the door marked EMPLOYEES ONLY, he sighs in relief before swiping his ID card and pushing the door open.

The employee breakroom is deserted when he enters, and Castiel makes a beeline for his locker, shrugging off his red vest as he walks. The TV is tuned to a sports channel, as usual, showing highlights from past Red Sox seasons, and Castiel ignores it. He’s pretty sure that even if there were a national emergency going on, the people of Boston absolutely wouldn’t be denied their Red Sox games.

He arches his back a little as he hangs up his vest, pressing his hands into the small of his back in a weak attempt to stretch after his shift. He had been assigned to spend the day at the front welcome desk, which is one of his least favorite aspects of his job at the Museum of Science, but if he’s being honest with himself, nearly all of his job duties are his least favorite. He can handle leading tours through the Butterfly Garden and taking tickets for the IMAX movies at the Omni Theater, but everything else makes him wonder why the hell he liked going here so much when he was young.

A giant group of tourists is entering the museum just as Castiel leaves, and he's silently thrilled at the fact that he doesn't have to deal with any more museum-goers until the day after tomorrow (which will undoubtedly come too soon). The museum is normally insane, especially during nice weather, but it’s seemed particularly crazy lately, and Castiel breathes in deeply through his nose to try and rid himself of the anxiety and tension that had built up during the day as he makes his way into the bright Boston sunshine.

The subway stop—no, the T stop; Castiel has been here for nearly four years, he should know that by now—that’s closest to the museum is called Science Park, and is right near the end of the line, so whenever Castiel gets on, there usually aren’t many people in the car with him. Today is a different story, though; with the nice weather, people have taken advantage of the shopping center at the end of the line, and so the train is already packed with people on their way back into the city. Castiel briefly reconsiders the idea of walking home instead of cramming himself into a stuffy, already-full train car, but his decision is rushed as the conductor clangs a bell impatiently, signaling that the train is about to depart. Digging into his back pocket for his Charlie Card, Castiel taps the card against the turnstile to gain access to the station and climbs up into the train, searching desperately for a bit of free space.

Unsurprisingly, there are no open seats, but Castiel’s eyes lock on an opening near a man holding a book in one hand and standing against a window near the middle of the train, and he makes a beeline for it. Once he gets there, though, he understands why the spot is open in the first place; the guy smells rank. Castiel is immediately slammed with a piercing, sour odor that smells like a mix of overcooked peppers and a full diaper that’s been left out in the sun for too long; he covers his mouth, pretending to yawn, and a girl sitting a few feet away catches his eye and gives him a sympathetic smile.

It could be worse, Castiel tells himself, breathing steadily through his mouth, careful to not let any air sneak in through his nose as he reaches above his head to grip one of the bars to keep his balance. It could be rush hour, I could be pressed right up against him, it could be a really hot day, he could smell like two dirty diapers…Jesus, does he even know what a shower is…

The train lurches to the side suddenly as it makes a sharp turn, and Castiel’s grip on the bar above him tightens instinctively. He’s been riding the T since he was young, so adapting to the T’s jerky, clunking movements is second-nature to him.

It’s not to B.O. Guy, though.

Castiel finds this out the hard way, when he feels the man stumble hard into him. His hulking frame smacks into Castiel’s wiry one, and Castiel does his best to smother his disgusted gasp. Instinctively, B.O. Guy reaches out and, instead of grabbing one of the handle bars, grips a handful of Castiel’s shirt to try and steady himself. Castiel stares down at him, unsure of what to do, but knowing that at the very least, he shouldn’t just shove this guy away, no matter how badly he wants to. After a second or two, B.O. Guy pulls his hand away and grins, giving Castiel a “what can you do” shrug, then goes back to his book.

Castiel is quick to get off at the next stop.

 

 

The man’s peppers-and-diaper scent follows Castiel all the way to his apartment, and at first, he just thinks the smell has burned itself into his nose, but once he unlocks his apartment door and takes a cautious sniff, his stomach clenches as he realizes that the smell has somehow attached itself to him.

Wonderful,” Castiel breathes, stripping off his shirt and holding it far away from him, as if he’s dealing with some kind of toxic waste. He’s about to bring it into his bedroom and drop it into the hamper but thinks better of it; one shirt is bad enough, there’s no way he’s letting that smell get into all of his clothes. He heads for the kitchen sink and drops it in there instead, leaving it to be dealt with later.

He’ll deal with it later. That’s how Castiel has spent most of his life since moving to Boston to be closer to his sister Anna, too hesitant and set in his ways to really change anything more about his life, instead just telling himself that he’ll handle it later. He’s been living here for almost four years and still hasn’t gotten himself any new furniture; most of what’s scattered through his tiny apartment are things he picked up off of curbs during move-out day, affectionately referred to in the city as Allston Christmas: a couch with a torn cover and a questionable stain embedded in one of the cushions; a rickety coffee table with uneven legs, a pair of barstools that have seen better days. Everything looks like it should probably smell like peppers and diapers, but Castiel is proud that it doesn’t; his things might be worn and his apartment as a whole isn’t exactly HGTV material, but they’re familiar, they’re his, and he feels comfortable here. Calm.

Castiel heads into his bedroom and digs through the drawers of his bureau--he’s particularly proud of this one, he found it on the curb of a fancy apartment complex in Brookline without a scratch on it--and fishes out a pair of shorts and a T-shirt, changing into them quickly and scooping up his sneakers before heading back to the living room.

The chime of his phone starts going off right when he bends down to start lacing up his sneakers. Not bothering to lift his head up, Castiel reaches up onto the coffee table and palms around until his hand lands on his phone. Distractedly, he unlocks it and tucks it between his ear and his shoulder, resuming tying his laces as he answers.

“Hello?”

Castiel almost immediately regrets picking up the phone when he hears Anna’s voice on the other end.

“Castiel? Favorite brother of mine?” Her voice is high and hopeful. Castiel sighs, already resigned to the fact that his sister needs his help, and judging by the fact that she didn’t even try to exchange pleasantries first, he knows it’s big.

“Anna,” he says.

He can hear the bustling of the office in the background of his sister’s phone call, and she sounds slightly flustered when she replies. “Listen, Castiel, can I ask you for the biggest favor? Like, ever?”

“You already have,” Castiel tells her, tightening his shoelaces once more before straightening up. “When I was living up in New Hampshire, remember? The ‘I left my keys in Fenway after the game and they wouldn’t let me back in to get them since they were closing, so could you please please please drive an hour and a half to come get me, then another hour to Adam’s so I can get my spare key, then back to Fenway to pick up my car, then another hour and a half back to Manchester’ situation. Remember that?”

Anna is silent on the other end of the line, but he can practically see her lips pressing into a thin, pissed off line. “That was five years ago, Castiel.”

“Funny, feels like just yesterday.”

Anna sighs. She’s pinching the bridge of her nose exasperatedly now, he can tell. “This one isn’t just about me,” she says. “I need you to help somebody else.”

“Who?” Castiel can’t keep the curiosity out of his voice as he grabs his keys off the kitchen counter and locks the door to his apartment behind him.

“It’s something for work. Can you come down here on your next day off? I’ll tell you about it then.”

“Why can’t you tell me about it now?”

“Castiel.” Her voice is stern and unwavering, and Castiel is suddenly struck by how much Anna sounds like their mother in this moment. “It’ll be easier to explain in person, and I can answer every single question you might have, no matter how idiotic.”

Castiel opens his mouth to retaliate, but before he can, Anna continues. “Next day off, please.”

“Tomorrow,” he says with a resigned sigh.

“Can you get here by one?”

“I guess so. Yes.”

“Okay.” He pictures her flipping through her ridiculously overflowing planner and scribbling in a note about their meeting. “Thanks, Castiel. See you tomorrow.”

The call disconnects, and Castiel sighs. Getting to Anna’s office at the Massachusetts Association for the Blind will require an extra trip on the always-pain-in-the-ass Green Line, and after riding it six days a week, he’s not thrilled at the prospect of spending his day off squeezed into an already-packed subway car just to hear his sister ask him for a (probably) ridiculously outlandish and unreasonable favor.

The sun is bright and hits him immediately when he exits his building, and he feels around the top of his head for his sunglasses before dragging them down in front of his eyes and starting on his afternoon run.

He doesn’t particularly like the acts of dodging cars and wayward tourists that go hand-in-hand with running, but running has afforded him the ability to discover and explore countless backroads and side streets that he never would have stumbled across otherwise. He keeps his music turned off as he listens to the sound of his sneakers hitting the pavement over and over; their steady rhythm slowly but surely calming him down. Once he reaches Kenmore Square about ten minutes later, he clicks on his headphones and turns the streaming crowds of fans heading to that night’s Red Sox game into an obstacle course. He weaves through confused-looking families, elderly couples searching for a place to sit, and ticket scalpers insisting that their tickets were the cheapest available this side of Lansdowne Street.

As Castiel dodges the guitar case of a busker playing a very-off key version of Neil Diamond’s “Sweet Caroline,” he finds himself wishing that he could just keep running all day, that running could be his job. People get paid for that, right? Hell, people get paid to shop, so he should get paid to run.

Castiel's mind wanders back to when he first started running, to dodge bullies and older kids on the playground, and can't help but marvel at the fact that his now favorite hobby grew out of fear. It started as a necessity--don't get beat up--and it still is one now, but for entirely different reasons. He doesn't do it to avoid getting tormented anymore, now he does it to avoid the stresses of his everyday life. The simultaneous rush and exhaustion and post-run high make him happy, and one day, something switched in his head, and running didn’t associate itself with fear anymore.

He jogs in place at a DO NOT WALK sign, keeping his eyes focused on the deep orange words that most Bostonians ignore. Pedestrians essentially own the city; if there aren’t any cars coming--hell, even if there are--they take first dibs on moving, but Castiel decides to stay where he is today. Keeping his pace just means he’ll be one step closer to having to go see Anna, be guilted into a favor he most likely really doesn’t want to do, then go to work again, so the few extra moments of running and being outside is exactly what he wants.

The dark orange turns to white too quickly, and Castiel follows the sea of people flowing from one side of the street to the other. Before he knows it, he’s passed the gas station, a dilapidated sandwich shop, and a pizza joint that’s been written up one too many times for health code violations and is back in front of his building. Castiel stops, his chest heaving and T-shirt dotted with sweat under his arms and around his neck. He laces his fingers together behind his head and takes a deep breath before heading through the door, his thoughts about running being replaced once again with what kind of favor Anna wants from him.

 

 

 

The Massachusetts Association for the Blind is tucked into an old-fashioned building on a side street, and Castiel spends a bit too long admiring its intricate architecture and the brick wall surrounding it before entering the lobby and grabbing a visitors’ badge. He’s been here enough times to know that his sister’s office is on the second floor, and starts trekking up the steep, awkwardly proportioned stairs.

The second floor is bustling with people, some crowded around a conference room clutching notepads and pens, others lounging at their desks, absentmindedly playing with paper clips while discussing different fundraising activities on the phone. Castiel lets himself zone out for a few seconds as he walks, only to be jerked back to reality by someone calling his name.

“Castiel!”

He glances up to see Anna poking her head out of a glass-walled office in the corner of the room. She motions for him, and Castiel hurries into her office. Anna closes the door behind him and runs a hand through her hair before heading toward her desk. She had just recently been promoted to the head of the public relations department at MAB, and although Castiel knew she was thrilled with the new opportunity, he could also see the toll that all the added responsibility was already taking on her.

“Are you okay?” Castiel asks hesitantly, taking a seat in one of the plastic chairs set out in front of her desk.

Anna huffs and hops up onto her desk, letting her legs dangle in front of it. “Fine,” she says. “Just busy.” Her face softens almost immediately though, and as the sunlight streams in from the window behind her, Castiel thinks her orange hair makes her look almost angelic.

Almost. Depending on what her favor is.

“So,” Castiel says, shifting awkwardly in his seat, “about this favor…”

Anna claps her hands together, almost like she’s praying, and holds them in front of her mouth and nose for a second before bringing them back down and giving Castiel a hopeful smile. “You still run, right, Castiel?”

“Yes.”

“Good. Okay.” She takes a deep breath, seemingly more to calm herself down than Castiel. “Just know, you’d be doing me and someone else a huge favor, huge, and I wouldn’t be asking if I had the resources, but we’re still working through some budget cuts and--”

“What is it, Anna?”

“Okay. So, I was on the phone the other day with a guy named Sam. Really nice, very personable and sweet.”

“Okay.”

“And he’s got a brother. Dean.”

Castiel stares at her, a random--albeit horrifying--thought forming in his mind. What if she’s planning on setting him up with this guy? This brother, this Dean?The last blind date Anna had set him up on ended with him buzzed and crying in the back of a taxi, and Castiel is adamant that nothing like that happens again. “Anna, I don’t--”

“Dean is blind, but he wants to run the Marathon next year.”

Castiel perks up at this. “Really?” It’s admirable that this Dean person wants to run the Marathon, but Castiel can understand how being blind might get in the way of an aspiration like that. Regardless, though, he still finds himself interested in how the man plans to pull it off, and more importantly, why Anna is telling him about it. “But—”

“Every year, qualified blind runners can participate in the Marathon with a guide.”

“Like a guide dog?”

Anna shakes her head and hops down from the desk. “No, Castiel, like a human. People run alongside the blind runners, letting them know if there are obstacles or other runners they need to avoid.”

“That’s nice, but Anna, wh--”

“I need you to be Dean’s guide in the Marathon,” Anna blurts out.

Well. Not exactly the setup he was expecting.

Castiel’s eyes go wide, and he gapes at his sister. “Excuse me?” He doesn’t know how to react to this; how can he be expected to guide someone when he can’t even guide his goddamn self? He also doesn’t run competitively, and he sure as shit doesn’t run with other people. His mind flies through every excuse in the book to try and get himself out of this, but none of them sound daunting enough to convince Anna that he’s the last person she should give this job to, until:

“Don’t I need a degree or something?”

Anna wrinkles her nose. “A degree?”

“Yes.” Castiel is already fumbling over his words, feeling the excuse already collapsing down around him. “In order to, I don’t know, work with him.”

“He’s a human, Castiel, not a lab experiment. So no, you don’t need a degree. Just be a nice person.” She studies his face--which he’s sure is still frozen in a look of shock--before continuing. “Dean went blind a little less than a year ago, but before he did, he had run a qualifying time at the Chicago Marathon, and was planning to participate in Boston’s. He’s still entirely eligible, and according to his brother, he wants to do it. Now he just needs a guide.”

“Why doesn’t one of his friends do it with him?”

“None of his friends run,” Anna answers, as if it’s the most obvious thing in the world.

“But, but I don’t run competitively.”

Anna sighs exasperatedly. “Neither does he, Castiel. He just needs someone to help him finish the race. That’s it. It doesn’t matter if he comes in first or two thousand and twenty-first. You’re the only one I know who doesn’t think of running as a chore.” She looks at him pleadingly. “Please, Castiel.”

“Don’t…” Castiel casts desperately for some other excuse he can give, some reason why he’s the last person his sister should be considering for this job, when he lands on one that actually makes sense. “Don’t I need to qualify, too? Isn’t it against the rules for me to run if I’m not qualified?” He tries to keep the pride out of his voice and the triumphant smile off his face at finding this loophole in his sister’s logic, but his heart drops when Anna shakes her head.

“You’re not the one who’s actually competing, so you don’t need a qualifying time. You just need to work with him and make sure you can keep up with him, then, just, run with him.”

Well. So much for that.

Castiel hesitates, even though he knows from experience that he’s way too susceptible to Anna’s pleas and pouts. That doesn’t mean he can’t pretend he’s still unconvinced, though. “I don’t know, Anna.”

Please.” She rests her chin in her hands and stares at Castiel. “Let me just give you his contact info. You two can meet, see if you hit it off, and if you don’t--” she shrugs “--then you don’t. At least give it a try, though.”

Castiel sighs, pinching the bridge of his nose between two fingers and trying to well up the last remaining fragments of resistance he knows are hidden somewhere in his mind. “Fine,” he finally says.

Anna’s face brightens immediately. “Really?”

“Yes. I’ll try. Try being the key word, Anna.”

“Great!” She bounces off her desk and envelops Castiel in a quick hug, ending the hug almost as quickly as it began. "I've got all of his contact information here, let me get it for you..." She starts rummaging around through the sea of papers on her desk. Castiel studies her as she grabs a file folder and holds it up triumphantly.

"I’m glad you said yes, Castiel,” she says, handing him the folder. “This makes it much easier."

"How's that?" Castiel asks, taking the folder from her and absently flipping through it.

"I already told them you said yes."

Castiel freezes, almost drops the folder. "What would you have done if I said no?"

She shrugs. “Beg until you changed your mind.” She smiles at him warmly. “I know your weak spots, Castiel, and even if you don’t like to admit it, helping people is one of them.”

Castiel opens his mouth to respond, but ends up just staring at his sister again. He doesn’t understand why she thinks he’d be a good fit for this thing; he can barely take care of himself half the time, she knows he can barely take care of himself half the time, so what the hell is she thinking, setting him up to guide someone who can’t even see that Castiel will be fucking everything up?

“Anna, I--”

“They’re expecting you tomorrow night, around eight,” she says, taking a few steps forward and handing him a couple more papers before clasping his hands firmly in her own. “All of their information is in here.” She smiles at him. “Thank you, Castiel. Really.”

Castiel swallows hard, trying to fight back the urge to throw up his lunch. He’s successful--relatively, at least--and manages to give his sister a forced smile.

“Sure.”

“And I mean, if you really don’t want to do it, just make Dean hate you.” Her tone is joking at first, but Castiel’s face must betray the fact that he's seriously considering doing just that, because she quickly turns serious again and adds, “Don’t do that.”

He jerks his head forward in an awkward attempt at a nod, then chuckles nervously, wondering if she can tell that he had been planning on doing just that. "I won't, Anna."

  

 

 

Help someone run.

He’s got to help someone he’s never met, someone who can’t even goddamn see, run a goddamn marathon.

Those are the thoughts that tumble over themselves again and again in his head as he makes his way toward the Pour House, the only bar in the city he knows, where Balthazar is waiting for him. One of the few co-workers he can actually stand, Balthazar is the exact opposite of Castiel: loud, flirty, sassy, and confident. Castiel doesn’t know why he enjoys Balthazar’s company so much; all he’s sure of is that the man had promised to pay for Castiel’s tab if he came out for a drink with him tonight, because according to him (and most people in his life), Castiel “needs to get the stick out of his ass and live a little.”

The bar is packed when Castiel enters, and he takes a deep breath as he starts making his way through the throngs of people. He cranes his neck and finally catches Balthazar sprawled out in a booth near the back, located underneath a statue of a scantily clad female pirate. Castiel feels like her hollow eyes are following him, and he shudders uncomfortably before sliding into the booth across from his friend.

“Cassie!” Balthazar looks almost surprised to see him, and Castiel can’t blame him; he’s got a bit of a reputation for backing out of plans at the last minute. He recovers quickly, though, and tips his half-empty glass toward Castiel in greeting. “How’s tricks?”

For a brief second, Castiel entertains the idea of acting like everything’s fine, like he’s not on the verge of having a panic attack because he’s too nice to say no to his sister and her ridiculously outlandish requests, but Balthazar catches on quickly. He reaches across the table and pats Castiel’s hand. “How about a beer.” It’s not a question, and Castiel allows Balthazar to order for him.

Half an hour later, Castiel is starting in on his third beer and is halfway through a basket of cheese fries, and he’s just reaching the conclusion of the saga that was his afternoon. “And now,” he says, running a hand through his hair and bringing the bottle to his lips once more, “I have to go meet him tomorrow.”

Balthazar is silent for a few seconds, studying Castiel over the rim of his glass before taking a swig himself and pursing his lips in consideration. “Honestly, Castiel, you need to stop worrying. Hell, when you get right down to it, it’s just running with a partner.”

Castiel raises his eyebrows. “Do you want to do it, then?”

Balthazar barks out a laugh. “Christ, no, of course not! I’m just trying to make you feel better, mate.” He tilts his head back and downs the rest of his beer, swallowing quickly before setting his bottle down on the table with a clatter. "Your sister obviously thinks you're the man for the job."

"Just because I like to run," Castiel says miserably, slouching down and dropping his head into his hands.

Balthazar suddenly smacks his open palm against the tabletop, and Castiel jerks his head up, startled. “Exactly," his friend says. "You're doing something you like to do, so It won't be that bad." It's a stupid solution; Castiel knows he likes to run, but doing it with someone else, with someone he's never met, will turn his one activity of solace into a train wreck he already knows he won't be able to bear. As he thinks about this, his stomach clenching with panic at every passing second, Castiel notices the way his friend's eyes wander to follow a cute waitress delivering some burgers to a neighboring table, and realizes that Balthazar probably has other things on his mind than Castiel's dilemma. "Just think of it as a babysitting gig. A long...unpaid babysitting gig where you look after...a grown man." Balthazar pauses for a second, then wrinkles his nose. "Christ, that does sound awful."

Castiel sighs, running a hand through his hair before taking another sip of his own beer.

"Maybe you'll get a karma point or two out of it," Balthazar says with a shrug.

"I don't want karma points; I just don't want to do this. I'm not qualified, I've never even met a blind person before. I don't know what to do, even though Anna seems to be convinced I do.”

Balthazar studies him for a few seconds, then waggles his eyebrows seductively, and Castiel’s eyes widen slightly as he follows Balthazar’s train of thought before averting his gaze.

“No, Balthazar.”

Balthazar groans and throws his arms up in the air dramatically. “Oh, come on! Why not?”

“Because I’m not you,” Castiel says exasperatedly. He snatches up a fry and dips it in the enormous puddle of ketchup in the corner of the basket.

“Christ, Castiel, the mystery of why you’re so uptight all the time could be solved with a simple fuck from the wonderful Dan Westchester.”

Castiel can feel his cheeks burning with the bluntness of Balthazar’s statement, but instead of a rebuttal or dismissal, he says, “Dean Winchester.”

“What?”

“His name is Dean Winchester.”

Balthazar smirks at him. “Getting protective of him already, eh?”

“It’s nothing like that--”

“It’s actually a lucky break,” Balthazar muses. “He won’t even be able to see what an ugly mug you’ve got for yourself, Cassie.”

Anger and embarrassment, hot and bright, start to well up in the pit of Castiel’s stomach on Dean’s behalf, and Castiel glares at his friend. “That’s rude, Balthazar. And I don't even know anything about him, or what he looks like, or if he's single--”

"I bet he is."

Castiel glares at him, and Balthazar raises his hands in mock surrender.

“Fine, fine, have it your way.” He rolls his eyes and grabs a couple of cheese fries. “But really, Castiel, I know you practically majored in over thinking in college, but just this once, try not to, huh?”

“You told me two minutes ago that it sounded awful,” Castiel says in disbelief. “How the hell am I not supposed to overthink it now?”

Balthazar smirks and leans forward, clapping a hand on Castiel’s shoulder. “I’ve got faith in you, Cassie. But the therapy office is closing up for the night; I’ve got an opening shift tomorrow.” Balthazar slowly slides out of the booth, pulling a few bills from his pocket and dropping them onto the table. He smacks his open hand against the wood again and grins at Castiel. “Just remember, though, running releases aphrodisiacs.” He waggles his eyebrows, and Castiel rolls his eyes.

“I think you mean endorphins, Balthazar.”

Balthazar shrugs. “Same thing.” His face goes serious and he pats Castiel on the back. “See you at work, Castiel.”

Castiel watches as Balthazar snakes his way easily through the people he had awkwardly tried to maneuver around. He watches as Balthazar flashes a bright smile at their waitress before winking at a girl sipping a midori sour at the bar. He watches as he makes effortless small talk with the bouncer at the door, clapping him on the shoulder as if they were good friends, even though they had most likely just met that very moment. He watches all these things happen, and wishes he could do them, too, which just as much ease and candor as Balthazar does.

He shakes his head and orders another beer.

 

 

 

The T is much less crowded at eleven when Castiel finally leaves the Pour House and starts heading for home. Still a bit buzzed and full of cheese fries, Castiel reaches into his shoulder bag for the file Anna had given him earlier. He glances out one of the scuffed, smudged windows of the train, then opens the file with a sigh.

He didn't know what he was expecting--maybe something closer to missing persons files they show on Law and Order--but it definitely wasn't what's sitting on his lap right now.

The meager information his sister had gathered on Dean Winchester didn't even warrant its own folder. The wrinkled piece of paper is likely to have been ripped from Anna's notebook mere moments before Castiel had arrived; it'd explain the flushed breathlessness his sister had greeted him with. There's not much at all on the paper, just a few bullet points written in Anna's neat script.

  •       Dean Winchester, 27
  •       485 Rochdale, Wellesley
  •       Diag. RP Dec. 2013
  •       Chicago marathon time: 2:30:56, 10/2013
  •       2015 marathon, no guide
  •       Sam: 617-555-3726
  •       Castiel

Castiel sighs, tracing his finger along the three lines under his name. He would've at least appreciated a picture of the guy.

"Dean Winchester," Castiel breathes, testing the name out on his tongue. It sounds rough, rough but warm--rustic, maybe--and as much as he doesn't want to, Castiel finds himself liking the sound of the name. He looks down at the paper again before closing the folder and resting his palm on it. Keeping it there, he glances out the train's window and notices that they've reached the stops that are above ground, and that the city is slowly tucking itself in for the night. Cars are becoming more scarce, a few straggling pedestrians are making their way home, everything seems to be slowing down around the train. Castiel's eyes catch the moon, half-shrouded in clouds and hanging high in the sky, then glances down at the folder once more. Castiel takes a deep breath and softly, hesitantly, mutters, "See you tomorrow, Dean Winchester."