Dean Winchester ordered his first coffee on the 17th of November, 2012 at precisely 15:42pm.
It was not his first coffee ever, far from it, but this exact beverage became one of the most significant objects in Dean’s life, and so precise details regarding such item are almost essential for the telling of this tale and, most importantly, it was his first coffee in the presence of Castiel.
Dean didn't particularly care for Castiel, offered him less than a glance as he entered into the politely sized Starbucks and didn't think twice about learning his name. He swaggered up to the counter like he had a million dollars worth of poker chips in his pocket and lady luck sitting on his shoulder, throwing a lopsided grin to the girl who was currently prodding at the various machines. She was elegantly shaped with tanned skin, dark hair and darker eyes, and, if Dean had a type, she would probably be it. But he didn't have a type; he was nineteen years old, majoring in engineering at MIT, and famed for an oversized ego and a give ‘em hell attitude. Willing, if anything, would be his type.
The low hum of chatter and occasional sound of a newspaper page being turned casted a pleasant, relaxed atmosphere within the shop. Jo grinned as she bustled by Castiel and nudged him lightly on the shoulder, still managing to cause him to lose his footing and stumble back slightly as he tried to wipe down the table nearest to the attractive, albeit painfully straight, man waiting for his order. “It feels like Christmas!” She sing-songed, and a few customers’ eyes lit up like the bulbs of the various trees dotted around the floor. Castiel raised his eyebrows.
“How can it possibly feel like the holiday?” He asked, patting himself down and awkwardly placing the cloth over his shoulder as if he wanted to do it carelessly and skilfully, but just couldn't trust himself to be so aloof. “It’s still more than a month away.”
“But it’s cold,” Jo explained, folding her arms to protect her spirit from being dampened and glancing outside like the frost on the windows is all the evidence she needed for her, in Castiel’s opinion, obtuse argument, “people are buying presents and humming Christmas songs under their breath as they come in to order the mulled wine we’ve just started selling. Everything is leading up to it, can’t you taste it in the air?”
Castiel simply tasted the bitter sting of confusion.
“I don’t understand how temperature can replicate a day of the year,” he stated, noticing that the man at the counter tensed his shoulders as he leaned back to overhear the conversation, “mulled wine can be drunk all year round in the same way a gift can be given at any point. The winter solstice provides a day for worship and celebration, but that is all. I mean- is it customary to exchange presents at this time of year?”
“Dude,” the man breathed as he twisted around to stare at Castiel in much the same way as Jo. There were a sprinkling of freckles across his cheeks that looked like the minuscule droplets of snow outside had fallen from the clouds and stained a delicate pattern across his face and, at that moment, Castiel concluded that it was totally unfair that attractive people should exist at all, especially if little things like freckles and exhaustingly bright eyes are included to make them just as adorable as they are devastatingly handsome, “you’ve never had a Christmas present?”
At least half the customers were watching now, not even trying to hide their curiosity, and Castiel was unable to do anything but stare back, give a small shake of his head, and say “no.”
The man raised his eyebrows, but, before Castiel has a chance to explain himself, Lisa presented him with a warm drink and warmer smile, and Castiel returned back to the role of the nameless colleague of the perfect woman.
“Winchester, Dean,” he heard the man introduce himself, and Castiel was left pondering what a peculiar first name Winchester was.
“His name’s Sammy,” Dean, his name is Dean, said, his features coming alive at the opportunity to boast, “but now he’s ten he thinks he’s too old for that- it’s Sam or Mr Winchester to us common folk.”
Lisa didn't fling her head back in a fit of laughter like most girls seemed to do when Dean said something mildly amusing- to show off their necks or make their hair wave or something like that, Jo said- but just dipped her head forward as her grin grew wider, and she let out a small chuckle, like it was a secret joke that no one else could know.
Dean kinda liked it.
Dean had been coming in at least every other day and, more often than not, Castiel had been asked if he could reheat the coffee due to Dean spending so long staring at Lisa he’d forgotten that her job was to make and serve drinks and not an excuse to complete the mating cycle. It was getting colder by the hour and Boston was slowly becoming darker, frostier and more threatening; to Castiel it suggested inconvenience, to everyone else it suggested Christmas cheer.
“So are you visiting Sammy and you parents for the holidays?” Lisa asked, nice and innocent and everything Dean shouldn’t be interested in if his leather jacket was anything to go by. Dean shrugged, which immediately caught Castiel’s attention; for days all Castiel has heard of was the brilliance of Sam, the dry humour of Bobby and the all round terrifying wrath of Ellen, Jo’s mother, who had made it her mission to cook the largest Christmas dinner known to man (Jo slapped Dean on around the head but proceeded to agree wholeheartedly). Throughout all this, he’d never mentioned parents, but he didn't have to. He had a family, and it didn't need to be in blood, and it was more than Castiel could hope for.
Castiel had relations but he didn’t have a family. They had a house but no home. They protected but didn't love. He never really realised he was missing out.
“They’re coming here, but I don’t know if I, uh, can be bothered, you know?”
Lisa added too much sugar into Dean’s coffee and slid it over the counter, only Castiel seemed to notice the small grimace he made as he took a sip. She smiled like she understood, but she didn't- she appreciated and empathised but she didn't realise that everything Dean was saying was absolute bullshit; Dean loved his family more than Castiel could comprehend, and he could always be bothered to see them. Castiel sighed as he moved around Dean to clean up his designated tables and, although in tune to every movement the other man made, he was oblivious to way Dean's eyes followed him the whole way.
“- and tell Dean I say 'hi'!” She sniffed as Castiel dragged the phone away from his ear and shivered slightly; he felt ill just hearing her wheezing from the other end of the phone and, even though he apparently had an immune system worthy of surviving chemical warfare, Lisa had won 'Employee of the Month' for perfect attendance more times than Castiel had even been considered so whatever left her grovelling in her apartment must have been made of the strong stuff.
Castiel didn't want to tell Dean that she said 'hi', Hell, he didn't want to say 'hi' himself. He'd much rather ignore the obvious chance to instigate social interaction with an attractive man, therefore avoiding the disappointment of rejection and the harsh reality that he couldn't hold a normal conversation to save his single life. It was December 8th and Castiel had been forced to wear a glittery halo that he believed held no relevance or purpose other than to make his mop of black bed-head look even more ridiculous; Jo declared that it was ironic because of his name, and Castiel lacked the energy to point out that it's merely humorous and not in any way ironic.
It was three minutes past five when Castiel found himself standing on a rickety step ladder, reaching above the counter to rid of the peculiar plant growing from the fixtures. If he was correct, it could be poisonous.
“Avoiding the risk of an unwanted kiss?” A chirpy voice quipped from behind him, forcing Castiel to hold onto the stepladder handle for dear life because Dean was trying to talk to him, and not Jo -who's job it was currently to serve the drinks- and not Lisa- because she was probably surrounded by tissues and bacteria- butCastiel.
If only Castiel had a coherent reply.
“..kiss?” He squeaked out like he was three years old and the thought of pressing your lips to someone else's was as absurd as wanting to be friends with girls in the first place.
“Right,” Dean nodded, rolling his eyes as he tucked his hands into his pockets and glanced up to Castiel beneath lashes that were far too long and thin and perfect to logically exist, “you're mister-I-don't-understand-that-tradition, aren't you?”
It was a fairly accurate observation. Castiel neatly climbed down from the ladder and turned to stand in front of Dean, resisting the urge to move so that there was barely an inch between them. “Commonly regarded as Castiel Novak,” he said, “and I'm afraid Novak Christmas traditions are somewhat similar to an ordinary Sunday, though, with perhaps far more intense studying sessions of Christian philosophy.”
Dean's face moulded into something between concern, confusion and amusement. He shook his head, chuckling, before he haphazardly pointed towards the plant- now above them- and raised an eyebrow that got Castiel quickly quaking in his politely polished, practical shoes. “So, you don't know what that is?”
Of course Castiel knew what it was, it was a form of unwanted plant.
“No,” he answered, because an explanation would surely lead to a longer conversation and Castiel was going to get as good as he was allowed, “but I assume it was placed there for a reason?”
“It's mistletoe, dude,” Dean replied, so casual and relaxed that Castiel felt inclined to try and slump his own shoulders, “it's.. you know.. if there's two people beneath it, they gotta kiss.”
“That's what Christmas is about, stupid shit that makes people happy.”
“And kissing makes people happy?” Castiel scoffed, unable to remove his gaze from Dean's until Jo sent a skilful wolf whistle their way, causing them both to blush and look downwards. Or, Castiel had, and he had assumed Dean would be too, but when he looked back up Dean was practicing an omniscient smirk and had stepped forward, right shoulder nearly pressing against Castiel's left, mouth angled towards his ear.
“Never had a present and never been kissed?” He commented conversationally, like puzzle pieces were slowly slotting together, “well, Cas, I know what I'm getting you for Christmas.”
Meg master was an expert in the skill of making Castiel uncomfortable. Or perhaps it was the fact that Dean was seated next to her and, to the other side of him, a small boy with long hair, a large fringe and inquisitive, innocent eyes. Sam Winchester was in an oversized AC/DC jumper that Castiel figured was Dean's, and was chewing at the sleeve contently as he observed his surroundings. It was a week till Christmas and Starbuckswas going full on out with decorations and cheer - a free snowman shaped marshmallow stick with each Eggnog or Gingerbread latte, reindeer decorated blankets thrown over the armrests of every plush chair, tinsel covering everything but the customers themselves.
Castiel was nervous. Castiel wanted to impress Sam Winchester, because Sam Winchester held the key to everything Dean loved most and, maybe, Castiel had to make a lasting impression on Samuel before he could convince Dean that he did not want to kiss Meg Masters under the mistletoe. Not in any circumstance or universe could that situation amount to anything but Castiel running away to join Gabriel in wherever-the-hell-he-was-now.
“I like your apron,” Meg purred, the 'Irish' part of her coffee becoming increasingly pungent in her breath as she hooked her slender fingers around the collar of Castiel's regulatory uniform and practically dragged him over the counter, “I'd love to see you take it off.”
“Right!” Dean declared, pulling Meg off her stool and out of the door, “let's get you back to the hospital you psychotic whore.”
Meg giggled and waved at Castiel over Dean's shoulder, “such a charmer, Winchester,” she sneered, yelping when he practically manhandled her into the Impala. Sam fidgeted on his stool for a little while longer, obviously conflicted between following his brother and the she-demon outside, and staying behind to finish off his mug of hot chocolate.
“I can make that to go,” Castiel suggested, retrieving a paper cup and cardboard sleeve from behind him, writing Sam's name in handwriting that was almost calligraphic. Sam took the cup, but then slid it back and studied Castiel curiously.
“Can you write your phone number on it, please?” He asked, “for Dean?”
Mariah Carey blasted on the speakers and Castiel froze, pen almost falling out of his hands. “For... Dean?”
“Sure,” Sam shrugged, rolling his eyes like everyone in entire World was stupid, “he's been throwing guys and girls in your face every day for like, a week now, because he's stupid and doesn't realise that he's been inadvertently throwing himself at you.”
Seeing a ten-year-old use the word 'inadvertently' was enough weird to throw Castiel out of his momentary coma, and he carefully wrote his number on the other side of the cup, passing it silently to Sam. Sam smiled like Castiel had made his Christmas and Castiel grinned back- he’d just given his first ever Christmas present, and the gratitude in return was something wonderful.
Dean didn’t call.
It was three days until the 25th and Dean had not entered the coffee shop, nor had he picked up the phone and dialled the number on Sam’s cup. In fact, Castiel had begun to wonder if he’d imagined the existence of Dean Winchester all along, it would explain the immaculate features and cheesy one liners Castiel’s brain must have summoned from watching too many late night straight-to-television romantic comedies. Well, Cas, I know what I'm getting you for Christmas.
And what had Dean got him? His hopes up, mainly, but also a ridiculous variety of unattractively brash individuals who Castiel prayed he never runs into on campus. Crowley was the worst, and he still hadn't managed to get the stains off his favourite blue sweater.
Lisa had returned the day before and he'd seen her sneak looks at her phone every four minutes on the dot, little fleeting glints of amusement adorning her features when a new text had presumably arrived. Castiel spent that day filling coffee cups like monotony was his drug, saying his regulatory 'merry Christmas' to each person he served even though the words tasted bitter in his mouth. Sam was wrong. Dean was simply bringing possible date after date into the shop to provide a distraction from Lisa's absence, and far be it from Castiel to resent that in any way. Two perfect people are supposed to be together, that's how romance works, opposites attract was a theory created to give the underdogs hope.
And then, on December the 22nd at precisely 20:19, his phone rang.
Castiel's hands nearly crushed his phone as he fought to keep a grip on it, his palms sweating and the interference and background noise from the other side of the line shooting through his brain like an arrow. Oh yeah, he was supposed to reply.
“Look, man, sorry I haven't been around much. Bobby and Ellen are keeping me busy, you know? And Sam needs someone to play his geekzoid games and whatnot with and I figured you're busy enough in the shop without me taking up all the space-”
“-plus I was an idiot to try and introduce you to a load of low-life douchebags, 'cause you deserve better than that. I mean, I know we're not exactly 'friends' and it's not like I know you that well but-”
“-but, just from the way you smile when you see someone enjoy their coffee and your eyes light up like fucking stars when you get a measly tip it's like, it's like you're doing more than making coffee, you know? You're not doing it to pay your rent or student debt or whatever, you're doing it 'cause you like the people and the fact that you can make their day bearable by serving the best damn coffee you can, and believe me, your coffee. Shit. I cannot even begin to describe how good it is.”
Castiel heard some rustling and sighing from the other end, something that sounded like an exasperated scratch of the head. “So I heard Lisa's back,” Dean said finally.
“Yes,” Castiel replied, crawling into the darkest depths of his mattress so he could begin burrowing himself a hole to live in forever, “back and better than ever.”
“Yeah, heh, about that,” Dean gave an awkward chuckle that unnerved Castiel. Dean was the confident, self-assured (let's be honest here) dick who, even with Castiel's professional martial arts skills, made him squirm with just a smirk. Self-conscious Dean? Well, It wasn't right. “She, uh, you know she has a fiance?”
In all honesty, no, he did not know that. He had worked with Lisa for little under eight months and yet he hadn't managed to sustain a significant friendship with her- he didn't even know her last name, less still her relationship status. He had assumed her relationship status of course, he had presumed that she was single, available, packaged and ready to be courted by Dean until they realised that it was time to settle down and live the white-picket fence life somewhere near a good school where Lisa would run a community yoga class every Thursday evening. Their children would be fans of classic rock and classic cars whilst still being selfless and loyal, witty and smart and unbelievably good looking. “...is it you?”
“Wha- Cas! That's ridiculous, like, seriously fucked up, man. Do I look like marriage material?”
“You think I visited every day for Lisa, don't you? 'Cause that's where it all went wrong, really. The 'plan.'”
“Dean, Bobby says if you don't get into the kitchen and clean your goddamned dishes right now he's gonna burn every picture of Clint Eastwood you “don't have” in your journal that's “only for doodling shit and not for dumbass emotions.”” Jo's voice rang interrupted and Dean groaned. “Sorry, Cas. Hey, er, I'll come see you on Christmas Eve, okay? You working then?”
“Yes, of course.” Castiel said, his voice misty and lost in thoughts that he couldn't place, “I will see you then.”
“See you later, Cas.”
It was snowing. Heavily. Cars had parked up for the night with little else to do and families were huddled at home in blankets and oversized jumpers, watching 'Miracle on 34th Street' and drinking a weird assortment of bucks-fizz and hot cocoa. Castiel was behind the counter watching the clock chime ten o'clock, time to shut up shop. He rested his head in his hands and watched the city becoming blanketed in white, no doubt by tomorrow morning entering or leaving the shop would be completely impossible, not that anyone would. They'd be at home, celebrating like they should be. Castiel's family had yet to send him anything resembling a Christmas card, the last phone call had been from Raphael two weeks ago telling him that there was no need to come home for the holidays, his room was being used to house their cousin Zachariah for the period and it would be far too crowded to be convenient.
Dean Winchester entered the shop on the 24th of December, 2012 at precisely 10:01pm.
He slammed the 'open' board to 'closed' and locked the door, only looking around to check he was alone afterthe melodramatic display of urgency. Castiel watched stoically from his position, wondering if Dean was aware that he was there at all, and considering the idea that Dean was some form of coffee-theif taking Christmas Eve as the perfect opportunity to steal the industrial sized beverage making machines.
Fortunately, for the shop and Castiel himself, Dean locked eyes on his target and instantly strode towards him, moving around the counter so they could stand with nothing but painfully one-sided unresolved sexual tension between them.
“We need to talk,” he said.
And then Dean kissed Castiel at precisely 10:05pm.
The kiss was hard and solid and that was mainly because Castiel had no idea how to react to the pieces on his imaginary chessboard being completely thrown out of the fucking game because he was not expecting this. 'This' did not fit his elaborate plot of the future, the apple-pie life that Lisa and Dean would share whilst Cas and Meg Masters consumed copious amounts of alcohol and bitched about the world to each other until one of them died an uninteresting death.
And.. and.. why was he fighting this, again?
He threaded his fingers around Dean's neck and pushed them into his hair, yearning to get chest-to-chest as quick as possible, feeling Dean's hands move from harshly gripping Castiel's apron to slowly sliding to rest on his waist and pull the, closer; the kiss was softened as Castiel leant back for air, licked his lips and only locked eyes with Dean's as he stepped forward for more. Dean pushed him against the counter and laughed as Cas stumbled to sit against it, his whole body completely running on adrenaline.
“You're okay with this, then, I'm guessing?” he said, his voice even lower and rougher than usual.
“I'm not Lisa,” Castiel replied weakly, his hair sticking in every direction, pupils large and dilated, lips kiss bruised and parted.
“And I'm not her fiance,” Dean said, smiling, and fitting smugly between Castiel's legs for round two.
“You know she always put too much sugar in my coffee.”
“I know, I knew you knew too.”
“Well I knew you knew I knew.”
“Stop being ridiculous, Dean,” Castiel yawned, wrapping the reindeer blanket further around them and pushing Dean further into the largest armchair Starbucks had to offer, his own legs draped over Dean's whilst his head was rested calmly into the crook of his neck. “My own romantic intentions were skilfully hidden through the course of the month.”
“Please, I knew you wanted the D the moment you caught sight of my badass leather jacket.”
“I immediately regret this decision,” Castiel murmured, contrast to the way he let his lips brush along Dean's jawline. “We shouldn't be here past closing time.”
Dean chose to ignore that pathetic statement, “so by now I guess you've figured out that I only came in every day to grab the attention of the pretty blue-eyed nerd employee who's never had a proper Christmas. Jo and Sam have been constantly mocking me about it for-just-about-ever, but I thought you were straight, then I just decided you weren't interested 'cause why would you be? I'm far inferior to whatever the hell you are, and it took weeks of convincing from Lisa to force me to actually interact with you.”
“I have one question,” Castiel said.
“Why did you tell Lisa you 'couldn't be bothered' to house Sam, Bobby, Ellen and Jo, when it's clear that they're the world to you.”
“Well, that's exactly it, kinda,” Dean said quietly after an elongated pause, “'cause it took a lot of pushing to get me to go to college in the first place. Sam practically threw a three-month long hissy fit before I agreed to try it out, and every time I even hear their voices I wanna give it up and go back to Lawrence, stick with what I know, what I'm good at. A family Christmas is exactly the kind of thing that's going to make saying goodbye even harder.”
“But, that doesn't matter too much now, 'cause you've shown me that there are people here I can be clingy and co-dependant with, anyway. So get ready, Novak, you're not going anywhere.”
Dean Winchester and Castiel Novak exited the shop on the 25th of December, 2012 at precisely 00:00am.
They were hand-in-hand, fluffy knitted mitten against ring adorned bare skin. They spent the rest of the day with the family, their family, after a list of firsts Castiel could barely keep up with; his first Christmas present (consequently his first kiss), his first Christmas card (an interesting artistic impression of Dean and Cas drawn by Sam, in which Castiel was a dinosaur), his first traditional Christmas dinner (“Turkey is supposed to be dry, Dean Winchester, quit your complaining or so help me you will not be having pudding”), first Christmas cracker, first viewing of 'Home Alone' and first night he'd spent in a bed that was not his own.
All in all, Castiel's first Christmas was pretty much the best damn Christmas in just about forever, and Castiel's never been happier that Dean Winchester decided to order his first coffee on the 17th of November, 2012 at precisely 15:42pm.