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(Dis)Affection

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Dean tapped his fingers against the table again. Across from him, Castiel was checking his phone…again. The silence between them had stretched on for entire minutes, but it wasn’t because Dean was nervous, or because Castiel was ignoring him. The situation wasn’t even uncomfortable, per se – even though Dean was sitting across from a person he’d never met before and who, according to his asshole brother and friends, was “a perfect fit for him.” So perfect, indeed, that Dean’s asshole (ex-)friends had decided to trick him into going on a blind date with an equally oblivious Castiel. A blind date in itself wouldn’t have been so bad, if their friends had bothered to ask either of them. As it was, Castiel hadn’t known anything about a date before sitting down, and neither had Dean, and that made Dean mad.

Dean tapped his fingers against the table again. Dean was furious, and judging by the way Castiel threw his phone on the table, so was Castiel. Dean could fully sympathize. He had been expecting a trip to the movies with his brother, Sam; Sam’s fiancée Jess; his best friend, Charlie; and her girlfriend, Jo. It was the day before Sam’s birthday, after all, and though Sam had said that he didn’t want to do anything special for his birthday, Dean had assumed that going to the movies together would be a sort of low-key celebration. It had been jarring to arrive to the coffee shop and realize that, instead, he was supposed to spend time with a man he hadn’t wanted to meet in the first place. Furthermore, he’d specifically told Sam, Jess, Charlie, and Jo, all of them, that he didn’t want to try dating men again. He’d told them all that, and those assholes had deliberately ignored that.

It wasn’t even a great coffee shop. It was Biggerson’s, for crying out loud. If this had been a real first date, Dean would’ve been out the door before Castiel had even planted his (admittedly, very nice) ass on the seat before Dean. Besides, the choice of the coffee shop made Dean question his friends’ tastes altogether. He was sure that Sam had suggested it, because Charlie would have at least picked a better place for a forced date.

Across from him, Castiel picked up his phone and glared at it, before setting it on the table again. Dean could understand that. From the few words they’d exchanged, Dean had surmised that Castiel was friends with Charlie and Jo, and even knew Jess in passing. With so many mutual contacts, it was surprising that Dean and Castiel had never met. Dean could sort of see why Sam, Jess, Charlie, and Jo had all decided to set them up on a date; tying up loose ends, so to speak. It was just annoying and maddening that they’d decided to do so without their consent, which was precisely what Castiel had said in a strongly-worded text he’d just sent to Charlie. His bitterness had been evident in the disappointed “oh” Castiel had let out when he’d seen Dean. Dean had filled the silence with his tapping and fuming, but even he had to admit, it was getting old.

“So,” Dean said for the umpteenth time – they had waited for their tensely ordered coffees for a long time, and in the meantime, all they’d done was glare at everyone in the coffee shop. At least they weren’t mad at each other.

Or about each other, but that was neither here nor there.

“So,” Dean said again, giving the table a final, loud tap. “Our friends are assholes.”

“Agreed,” Castiel said. He frowned, as if trying to come up with an adequate insult. “And cowards,” Castiel finally added.

Dean nodded. “I’m going to kill Charlie when I see her. This whole scheme has her written all over it.”

“Get in line,” Castiel said. His voice was rough and low, more so than Dean’s, and despite the circumstances, Dean recognized that he liked Castiel’s voice. “I told her I wasn’t ready to date, and two days later, here I am.”

Dean cringed in sympathy. “Same, dude. I told her I didn’t want to date guys again, and well, you’re one.”

“I’m not sure if that’s an insult.”

“It’s an observation,” Dean protested. “No offense, but my last boyfriend was, er… Never mind.”

“Oh.” The look in Castiel’s eyes softened, even though he couldn’t possibly read all the meanings behind Dean’s words. He wasn’t ready to talk about Nick, especially not with a stranger.

Castiel’s phone beeped then, and he grabbed it from the table. His face darkened as he read the text he’d gotten.

“Pathetic,” he grouched.

“What does it say?”

Castiel slid his phone to Dean. There was a conversation open between Castiel and Charlie, and Charlie’s answer to Castiel’s protest about her methods was, “We just thought you’d be perfect together so now you’re on a date!! Have fun and don’t stay up late!” It was followed by, “Hey that rhymed! Srs tho have fun! <3”

Dean rolled his eyes. Charlie’s matchmaking idea had to be among the most unimaginative ones ever, and all Charlie and her little helpers had managed to do so far was piss off both Dean and Castiel. It wasn’t exactly a beginning of a charming love story.

On the bright side, Castiel wasn’t the problem here. It wasn’t Castiel’s fault that their mutual friends were assholes with no regard for other people’s feelings. Actually, Castiel seemed quite nice, based on those tense five minutes they had been sharing a table. He had nice eyes when he wasn’t glaring daggers at all of humanity, and Dean supposed that Castiel was attractive when he wasn’t dripping with anger. (Or perhaps, because of it. Dean had some kinks he definitely wasn’t ready to talk about with a stranger.) And if Castiel’s sharp answers, shrouded with such deadpan sarcasm that it was hard to tell if it was intended or not, were an indication of anything, he was also smart. In any other circumstances, Dean would have been over the moon to be sitting with a man like that. This time, he was just angry.

A waiter finally brought their coffees to them, and Dean retracted his fingers to his lap. They sat in a tense silence as the waiter arranged the cups, glancing at each other over the drinks. They quickly looked elsewhere as their eyes met.

“Worst date ever,” Dean muttered.

“That wounds me,” Castiel said. It was said with such a deadpan tone that Dean wasn’t sure if he was he serious or not.

“Ain’t your fault.” Dean rolled his eyes, and amended, “Honestly, I don’t think this is going that bad. I’ve been on worse ones.”

“You’re not making this any better.”

“Oh, shut up,” Dean said, but he smiled, and Castiel tentatively answered it. “Sorry. Not your fault, I know. But I was supposed to be watching Tarantino’s newest and making fun of all the fake blood covering the screen, not…be…here,” Dean finished lamely.

“Sounds like a fun date,” Castiel quipped. He took a sip of his coffee, and then battled down the urge to spit it back, because not only did it taste awful, it was also boiling hot. Dean followed the motion, and took a tentative sip of his own coffee, only to do the same.

“Jesus, how do you fuck up black coffee?” Dean muttered.

“Very easily, it would seem.”

“Eugh.”

“I suppose bad coffee is statutory on awful dates,” Castiel said, and Dean had to admit that the small crooked smile looked downright adorable on him.

“So, you got any horror stories?” Dean asked.

“Aside from my friends being nosy and taking too much interest in my non-existent love life?” Castiel asked dryly. Dean grinned, taking another sip from his coffee. It was still awful, but at least he had something to do with his hands. “My last date ended with him complaining I was too boring and too invested in my work. And that I’d never amount to anything.”

“What an asshole,” Dean said. “What do you do, then?”

“I work for a non-profit organization,” Castiel said. “Funding, communications, whatever there is to do.”

“Wow,” Dean said.

“You don’t think that’s…lame?”

“No, I think it’s cool you have something to be passionate about.”

Castiel glanced at him, and Dean stared back, unsure what Castiel was seeing. He’d never really thought in detail what kind of person would work for a non-profit organization, but as he looked at Castiel, the answer seemed obvious. Someone who cared, deeply, but was still sharp enough to be organized and calculating. Castiel seemed more intriguing by the second.

“What about you? Any horror stories about dating?” Castiel asked then, looking as though he was curious but didn’t want to pressure Dean into talking. How he managed to pull that off in a single look, Dean didn’t know. He blinked.

“Well… My last attempt ended with him disappearing from the diner and leaving me to pay the check by myself.”

“I’m sorry to hear that,” Castiel said. He put the coffee cup down. He eyed it like the liquid in the cup was an insult to coffee everywhere. To be fair, it absolutely was. Dean felt bad for the waiter, but he wouldn’t be leaving a huge tip over this. “I think I understand now why you said you didn’t want to date guys.”

“It’s one of the reasons,” Dean hedged. “I’m bi, anyway, so it’s not like my dating life is over forever.” He felt suddenly awkward, and to cover that, he asked, “What about you?”

“I’m utterly indifferent to sexual orientation.”

Dean blinked. “So you’re pan?”

Castiel shrugged. “If you say so. I’m not interested in labels, but I understand why people find them comforting.”

Castiel seemed to sense that this was a touchy subject for Dean, and thankfully didn’t continue. Instead, he asked, “What do you do?”

“I’m a detective. With the state police.”

“Really?”

Dean stilled; sometimes, people reacted strangely to that revelation, and Dean knew that a few times he’d been walked out on just because of that. That deep-rooted fear and hatred of cops was weird – although sometimes merited – but people could have hang-ups because of the strangest things.

“That’s great,” Castiel only said, and his small smile told Dean that he meant it. He relaxed again.

“Huh,” Dean said. “Charlie was right for once, I guess. You are nice, for a person I’m forced to spend time with.”

“Thank you?” Castiel said. “For a hypothetical date, you aren’t so bad either.”

“I’ll be sure to tell my hypothetical friends that,” Dean said. Castiel gave that small smile again, just a tiny curve of the corner of his mouth. Dean was glad to earn that smile nonetheless.

“I’m sorry you’re missing out on Tarantino’s newest because of this. That must be more interesting than, well, this.”

“Eh, it’s alright,” Dean said with a shrug. “With my luck, if this was real, you’d be a crappy date, anyway.”

Castiel narrowed his eyes at that, and Dean grinned, letting Castiel know that he was joking.

“I take offense to that,” Castiel said then. His voice was deadpan again, but Dean thought he was starting to hear the humor underneath. “I’ll have you know that, hypothetically, if we were dating, I’d be an excellent movie date. I don’t hog popcorn – much – and I don’t speak during dramatic moments. I also pretend not to see that people are crying when E.T goes home.”

“Well, that sounds like my kind of date,” Dean winked. “Unless you think a sex show is appropriate for a second date.”

“Of course not,” Castiel said, looking affronted. Dean didn’t want to tell him that his example had been from his own personal experience – one of his dates had really taken him to a BDSM club for their second date. Dean had hightailed it out of there faster than you could say “creepy.” His vague interest in the practice aside, it had been way too much and way too soon. He hadn’t liked the girl enough to even consider kinky sex at that stage.

“I prefer the aquarium,” Castiel said.

“Gotta admit, for a second date, that’s creative,” Dean said. He didn’t know if Castiel was serious or not, but it hardly mattered, since they weren’t ever going on a second date. They were just spit-balling ideas for the fun of it. “And definitely worth a third date. Unless you’re a vegan.”

“I’m not,” Castiel said. He amended, “I tried it in college. It didn’t agree with me.”

“Points to you for that, I guess,” Dean said. “With my luck, though, you hog the covers.”

“If we ever were to sleep in the same bed, I can assure you, I don’t hog the covers,” Castiel said, with that dry determination that made Dean grin.

“Sure you don’t.”

“I also keep spare toothbrushes in my cupboard.”

“Dude, are you trying to make yourself sound like a good boyfriend?”

“I don’t have to. Hypothetically, I would be a great boyfriend.”

“If everything you’ve said is true, I’d say you’d be an excellent boyfriend,” Dean grinned. “And it’d probably annoy the hell out of everyone.”

A look of understanding passed between them, and their grins grew wider. Dean leaned forward, looking Castiel meaningfully in the eye.

“Hypothetically, if we were dating, I’d kiss your cheek every time you’d enter the room,” Dean said. Castiel smirked, understanding.

“Hypothetically,” he said, “if we were dating, I would hold your hand in public and adoringly gaze at you when you’re not looking.”

“Hypothetically, if we were dating, I’d say I was the luckiest person alive and rub it in every person’s face daily. Especially Charlie’s and Jo’s and Jess’s. And Sam’s, the fucking traitor.”

“Hypothetically, if we were dating, I’d make sure to tell them every sickening detail of our dates. Especially to Charlie and Jo.”

“Hypothetically, if we were dating, I’d sit on your lap everywhere. Especially in their company.”

“Hypothetically, if we were dating, I would cuddle you every time we sat down. Especially in their presence.”

“Hypothetically, if we were dating, we’d be the happiest, cutest and grossest couple ever. Especially in front of them.”

“Hypothetically, if we were dating, we’d be the most annoying couple alive. Especially in front of them.”

“Hypothetically,” Dean said.

“Hypothetically,” Castiel repeated, with a magnificent evil glint in his eyes.

This was going to be so much fun.

 


 

Dean discovered in the next hour that despite his tendencies to hatch lovely, evil plans, Castiel wasn’t much of an actor. In fact, he was downright horrible, which was hilariously contradictory to his aloof nature.

But, if Dean was honest, he had to admit that he wasn’t much better. The first sign of trouble appeared when they “accidentally” ran into Sam and Jess when they stepped out of the coffee shop. (They’d abandoned their cups of coffee after a few more minutes of pain – both fearing for their stomachs – and decided to relocate somewhere else to plan out their strategy.) Dean and Castiel were both savvy enough to realize that Sam and Jess must have been spying on their date, and while the thought of that made Dean’s blood boil, he channeled that frustration into a smitten look he gave Castiel. Castiel blinked, caught unaware, and before Dean could warn him, Sam and Jess were crossing the street.

“Dean!” Sam called, like this whole thing hadn’t been a giant ruse. Dean forced a smile on his face. “How’s it going?”

“How’re you doing, Cas?” Jess asked, just as unsubtly. Castiel gave her an awkward smile, and that was the sign that made Dean reconsider the whole plan.

Castiel was a horrible actor. If Jess knew Castiel at all – and she probably did – she’d see through them in a second. Dean had to step in and save the day.

“It’s going great,” Dean said. “I guess this is one way to introduce you to the family. Sam, Castiel. Castiel, Sam, my brother.”

“Nice to meet you,” Castiel said, polite but clearly tense. He shook Sam’s hand, and his smile wasn’t one bit more convincing than before, but Sam seemed to buy it. Dean seethed when he saw the meaningful look Sam threw to Jess – like all their plans had been brought to fruition, and the apocalypse had been averted by their brilliant tactical skills. Castiel seemed to notice the same, because his smile faltered.

“So, how do you two know each other?” Dean asked Castiel, nodding towards Jess.

“We used to live in the same building,” Jess said, smiling sweetly. “Then I moved in with Sam, but we’ve kept in touch ever since.”

“Yes,” Castiel said, and Dean nearly flinched – if he could hear the coldness behind the word, then Jess and Sam could definitely hear it, too.

“We, uh,” Dean scrambled to say, “we should get going. To the movies.”

“Right,” Castiel said. “The movies.”

“Oh! Don’t let us keep you,” Jess said.

“Have fun,” Sam said, clasping Dean’s shoulder meaningfully – the way that said, “This is a good thing you have going on, don’t fuck it up.” Dean gave Sam a smile that he hoped was convincing, because in reality, he wanted nothing more than to wring Sam’s neck. He’d told Sam why he didn’t want to date guys again, and his asshole of a brother hadn’t listened.

Time for payback, Dean reminded himself. Grossing out Sam and Jess with Castiel would be worth every “you can do better, Dean” and “I just don’t understand why you’re so afraid of this” speech.

“See you guys later,” Dean said neutrally. He gently touched Castiel on the forearm, prompting Castiel to follow, and, a bit surprised at the contact, Castiel did.

They slowly walked away from Sam and Jess, their steps lining up. Dean held his tongue until they turned the corner – Dean had no idea where the nearest movie theater was, because planning that part had supposedly been Jo’s job, and so he just led Castiel to the closest street corner. When they were out of sight, he stopped and turned towards Castiel.

“What the hell was that?” Dean demanded.

Castiel blinked. “Excuse me?”

“That was pathetic. Sam’s going to call me tonight and assume I need comfort because the date went horribly and you weren’t interested!”

Castiel frowned. “Need I remind you which one of us looked like they wanted to bury an axe into their brother’s back?”

“Shut up,” Dean said. He refused to flush. He was far too old for that. “Fine. Okay, maybe we both need a little bit… uh…”

“Practice?” Castiel supplied. “And planning?”

“Exactly. So we know how to look disgustingly in love.”

“After one date?” Castiel asked wryly.

“Hey, it can happen!” Dean said. “And besides, this is a long-term relationship.” Castiel’s eyebrows rose at that, and Dean hurried to correct, “Prank! I meant prank. Long-term prank. We just need to plan this better.”

“Should we really do this?” Castiel asked then, worrying his lip between his teeth. Dean tracked the movement, and then said, distractedly,

“You came up with this.”

“Yes, but all the same… Aren’t we a bit old for this type of prank?” Castiel asked.

“Speak for yourself. Personally, I don’t think you’re ever too old for revenge.”

“True,” Castiel said. His face darkened. “Charlie and Jo have both been calling me nonstop for five weeks and trying to set me up without my consent. Jess did the same when I ran into her three weeks ago. They deserve every bit of discomfort we’ll inflict upon them.”

If Dean wasn’t careful, he would grow to actually like Castiel. He snorted and clapped Castiel on the back. “There you go. We’ll be the grossest couple in no time.”

“I can only imagine,” Castiel answered. “Now, we’re supposedly on our way to the movies. Where’s the nearest theater?”

“I was hoping you’d know,” Dean said. “No idea.”

Castiel, luckily, whipped out his phone and googled it with such a rapid speed that Dean was almost envious of those nimble fingers. He blinked back to reality when Castiel coughed, “Right. We’re in luck, it’s just a few blocks away.”

“Should we go?” Dean asked. “I mean, if Sam and Jess are still watching…”

“It might be for the best to at least go in, for appearance’s sake,” Castiel agreed. They walked on, the silence stretching between them until it was growing to be uncomfortable, but neither knew how to break it. Dean periodically glanced behind him, checking to see if Sam and Jess had followed them, but they didn’t show up. However, when they reached the movie theater, Dean stopped dead in his tracks. Castiel stopped as well, confused. Dean quickly leaned closer to Castiel, and if he wasn’t concerned with other things, Dean might’ve noticed how adorable Castiel’s face was when his eyes crossed a little, attempting to track Dean’s.

“This is a goddamn conspiracy,” Dean hissed.

“What?”

“Charlie and Jo are across the street!”

Castiel’s eyes narrowed, and a dark look set upon his features when he noticed Charlie and Jo standing on the other side of the road, waiting for the light to turn green.

“This is going too far. Even if we were on a real date, spying on your friends to this degree is…sad.”

“Tell me about it,” Dean muttered. “What do we do?”

The light turned green, and as Charlie and Jo started to cross the road, now having definitely noticed them, there wasn’t much time to plan strategy. Dean still flinched when Castiel grabbed his hand. Dean shot him a panicked glance, and Castiel discovered his mistake when Dean gripped his hand painfully hard.

“What are you doing?” Castiel whispered. Dean’s fingers kept twitching so much that Castiel had to fight to keep the handhold going. It felt like Dean was simultaneously trying to get away from him and trying to get closer.

“Nothing,” Dean muttered. His fingers twitched and nearly slipped away from Castiel’s hold, but before Dean could do that, Castiel corrected the handhold into a more sensible one. Just in time, too, because Charlie and Jo were suddenly right before them.

“Oh! Hi guys! Fancy running into you here!” Charlie said, going for shocked but not really pulling it off. Jo rolling her eyes wasn’t helping matters.

“Yes,” Castiel said, sarcasm dripping off of his voice. “Fancy that.”

“How’s the date going?” Jo asked, her grin widening when she saw them holding hands. Dean was suddenly unsure if this whole scheme was worth of all the jokes Jo would make about Dean finally “getting in touch with his feminine side” and “being the sap I always knew you would be.” Just because Dean had cried during Titanic that one time didn’t mean he appreciated Jo’s needling.

“Fine,” Castiel said, because Dean was no help right then. Dean realized that he was holding Castiel’s hand too tightly, almost attempting to cut off his blood circulation, and lessened his hold.

“We can see that,” Charlie said. If Dean had been unsure when it came to Jo, Charlie’s self-satisfied smirk evaporated those worries in a second. Yes, this whole scheme would be worth it, and Charlie and Jo would be so uncomfortable that they’d beg for them to break up.

“We’re actually on our way to the movies, so…” Dean said, trailing off as he looked Charlie in the eye. She instantly got the meaning – Dean had told her one detail too much about the time he’d banged a girl in the back of a movie theatre, a few years back. Charlie had claimed that she’d needed to take a shower after that tale, and Dean was counting on her remembering that.

“Oh!” Charlie said, immediately getting the message. Dean was pleased to note that the one-way telepathy was working, and Charlie was beginning to flush. “Well, in that case, we should go. We’re, um, meeting up with some friends, anyway. Right, Jo?”

“What?” Jo, having missed the wordless exchange between Charlie and Dean, was confused, but didn’t protest when her girlfriend took her hand, tugging her away. “Okay, okay, I’m coming. Have fun, guys, and don’t forget the condoms!”

“See you later,” Castiel said pleasantly, even if the ire was visible in his eyes.

They watched Charlie and Jo walk away, and the second they were out of hearing range, Castiel turned to watch Dean. Castiel was still holding Dean’s hand, and Dean didn’t dare to drop it, because Charlie and Jo might still turn to watch them. Instead, Dean glanced elsewhere.

“What happened there, exactly?” Castiel asked.

Dean gave him a petulant look, and kept holding on to Castiel’s hand. “What? I gave Charlie a hint, she took it. Problem solved.”

“I didn’t mean that, Dean,” Castiel said, gentler. “You don’t like this,” he said, punctuating the words by tugging on Dean’s hand. Dean instinctively stilled and tried to get away, before catching on and telling his brain to stay still. They needed to look convincing.

“Sorry,” Dean muttered. “You just…surprised me.”

“Hmm,” Castiel said. He clearly didn’t believe Dean, but decided to drop it for now. Dean was grateful for that; he knew he had some fucked up skeletons in his closet, but he really didn’t want to talk about them right now. He’d deal with them on his own and get through this scheme.

“How was that even a hint to Charlie, if I may ask?”

“I just reminded her that we needed privacy,” Dean said.

“In a movie theatre?”

“I uh, may have banged someone in a movie theatre once.”

“In a movie theatre?” Castiel asked, sounding scandalized.

“What, like you’ve never done that before?”

“No, Dean, I haven’t. I’m not into public sex.”

“Oh. Well, uh, neither am I. Sorta. Kinda.”

Castiel snorted. “Clearly.”

Dean flushed. “Fine. I might’ve embellished a few details to Charlie, to get her off of my case. It was just some clothes-on action. And some minor fingering.”

“So, you did what every teenager does in a movie theatre,” Castiel said. Dean would have protested that, but he saw that Castiel’s eyes were twinkling.

Then Dean spotted Charlie and Jo, who hadn’t walked away after all. They were watching them from the corner of the movie theatre. He was about to roll his eyes, but stopped the movement at the last second. It wouldn’t have looked good, rolling his eyes at Castiel.

Dean turned towards Castiel, stepping closer. “Shut up and kiss me. They’re watching us.”

“Are you joking?” Castiel whispered, furiously. “We’re on a first date. We’ve spent approximately an hour together. Hypothetically, if this was a real date, I wouldn’t kiss you yet.”

Dean refrained from pointing out that sometimes, one hour was enough for him to kiss, get naked, get his rocks off, and leave. Since they were supposedly infatuated with each other and on their way to the greatest romance of the century, Castiel was right. They needed to take it slow, or no one would buy their grossly romantic relationship.

“Fine,” Dean said. “You prude.”

From the corner of his eye, he could see Charlie and Jo still lingering in the corner of the movie theatre, and it didn’t take a genius to figure out that they were watching the conversation. Castiel, having seen the same, decided to use what he had and leant even closer to Dean. Dean blinked, forcing the nervousness down. From this distance, it would have been easy for them to kiss; Castiel’s nose touched his cheek, and Dean could feel the stubble scratching against his chin. Despite the uncomfortable closeness, it was a nice feeling.

“We have to establish some ground rules,” Castiel whispered into Dean’s ear. Dean forced himself to stay put and not back away, like he wanted. Castiel was nothing like Nick, or Al, he told himself. Despite coming up with the scheme, Castiel had given Dean no reason to distrust him. With that in mind, Dean aimed himself towards Castiel, so that their chests were almost touching.

“Are they still watching?” Castiel asked.

“Yeah,” Dean said. Goddamn, those two were stubborn. But Dean and Castiel could be even more stubborn.

“This isn’t weird at all,” Dean snorted, a slight note of panic in his voice. “Is this what you normally do on a first date?”

“Um, I don’t know,” Castiel said. Castiel’s breath was tickling Dean’s ear, and he eased the handhold before it turned painful again. “Perhaps? It would depend on the person.”

Charlie and Jo finally disappeared behind the corner, and satisfied, Dean stepped away from Castiel. In fact, he flinched away so fast that if Charlie and Jo were still watching, they would have been able to spot how fake this all was in a second.

“Fine. Okay. You’re right. We’ve got to establish some ground rules,” Dean sighed.

 


 

It turned out that they both lived quite close to the coffee shop, so in order to plan in peace, they decided to make a tactical retreat for the rest of the evening. Castiel’s apartment was closer by a few blocks, so they decided to walk there. Dean still complained about having to walk, since he’d left his car home. (He hadn’t thought he would need it – the coffee shop was within walking distance from his place, as well.) Dean nearly had a heart attack when Castiel said that he didn’t even own a car – as he put it, his workplace was very close, and so was everything else he’d need in the city.

“All I’m saying is, that’s not natural!” Dean was still arguing when they made their way up the stairs to Castiel’s apartment. Castiel lived on the fifth floor, and had passed the elevator without a glance toward it, so Dean was forced to follow. “How do you get around if you have to go out of the city?”

“Public transport. Taxis. Carpooling,” Castiel shrugged. “And I have friends who are willing to loan their car to me.”

“You’re joking.”

Castiel raised his brows. “I’m…not?”

“It’s a good thing we’re not on a real date, or this would be strike one,” Dean said. Castiel shook his head as he unlocked the door.

“I used to have a car,” Castiel said. “Well, technically, I still have it.”

“So you do have a car,” Dean said, gleefully. “Wait, what do you mean, ‘technically’?”

“It broke down. The cost to repair it would have been unreasonable, so I decided to leave it be.”

“So where is it now?”

“At my parents’ place. They live just outside of the city.”

Dean hemmed. “I could look at it sometime,” he said, the proposition escaping his lips before he could reconsider. “I mean, if you’d like.”

“You’re a mechanic, too?” Castiel asked, looking more impressed than annoyed, like Dean would have thought.

“Amateur.” Dean shrugged. “But I like to think I’m pretty good. It gives me something different to do on weekends than to think about my job. I rebuilt my car, from the ground up,” he finished, feeling awkward again. He didn’t usually blabber in this much detail during first dates – not that he and Castiel were even on a date. But something about Castiel made it seem like Dean could talk to him, even if Castiel was withdrawn and somewhat hard to read. When Dean talked, he felt like Castiel gave him all of his attention.

Castiel regarded Dean with a small smile, and then nodded. “That would be nice. Maybe sometime.”

It wasn’t a yes, but it wasn’t a no, either, so Dean didn’t feel like he’d overstepped any boundaries.

Castiel’s apartment was a nicely furnished place, way better than Dean would have thought, but he wisely didn’t voice that thought. Dean didn’t exactly know what kind of apartment a non-profit worker would have, but maybe he’d pictured it a lot more hippy-ish or new age-y. There was nothing new age-y about Castiel’s apartment, though. It was clean, with sharp edges and modern furniture. The walls were half-white and half-blue, with the white blurring into the blue in the bottom. It made the apartment look peaceful and quirky at the same time. The living room was dominated by a large bookshelf, sparsely filled with books and DVDs, and there was a white couch by the left wall and a TV. On the right wall was the bookshelf and a door in the middle of it; it was closed, and Dean assumed that it led to the bedroom. He’d never seen a bookshelf that so wholly dominated a whole wall and encircled a door, and his gaze lingered on it, slightly jealous. There were too few books and DVDs for a shelf that size, though, and that seemed odd to Dean. Maybe Castiel was incredibly picky about what he bought.

The open kitchen was only separated from the living room by the kitchen counter, so Castiel motioned for Dean to sit down on the couch while he crouched by the fridge to take out some beer.

“Now you’re talking,” Dean said when Castiel handed him a bottle and joined him on the couch, leaving moderate distance between them. Dean appreciated that. “I’m gonna need booze for this conversation, anyway.”

“Flattering,” Castiel remarked, but Dean could tell by the twinkle in his eyes that he wasn’t hurt by that.

“So, guess we should get this show on the road,” Dean said after a long gulp from his bottle. He didn’t know the brand – it was some hipsterish crap, but surprisingly, it wasn’t that bad.

“Yes.”

“If the plan is that we’ll be the sugariest, grossest, disgustingly cutest couple ever,” Dean grinned, “then at the end, we should also break up. Messily. Horribly. Publicly.”

Castiel nodded, thoughtful. “Tears may be involved. And throwing things.”

“Fighting over the custody of a goldfish.”

“Calling our friends at two a.m. just to cry.”

Dean laughed. “They’re going to feel so guilty for introducing us to each other that they won’t know what to do with it. Charlie will provide each of us with a lifetime supply of ice cream if we can pull off the right moves.”

“She’ll do it anyway, because Jo will threaten her to,” Castiel said.

“Nice,” Dean said. “A lifetime supply of ice cream sounds like a good compensation for all the crap they’ve pulled on me.”

Castiel nodded. He hesitated, and then asked, “Ice cream aside, Dean… Are you absolutely sure you want to do this? A prank of this magnitude will take time, and you won’t be able to date anyone else.”

“Hey, back at you. You okay with this?”

“As I’ve told Charlie and Jo many times, I’d rather stay single for now.” The irritation was clear in his voice. “I don’t think I’m ready for another relationship yet.”

“Bad break-up?” Dean asked, even if he realized that it was too early in their tentative relationship to ask something like that.

As he’d expected, Castiel only muttered, “Something like that.” He glanced at Dean. “Why would you do this?”

Dean shrugged. “This’ll get them off of my back. I’m not cut out for relationships, anyway. A one-night stand here and there is enough for me.” Then he added, “I mean, assuming you’re okay with—or, well, it’s not like you’d care, but—”

“As long as you don’t get caught, because that would be a hard thing to explain to them,” Castiel said. “I’m not going to rat you out, obviously. Otherwise, do as you see fit.”

“Awesome.” Dean took a gulp from his beer. “So, let’s talk strategy. We can’t just Edward and Bella this from the beginning—”

“Excuse me, what?”

“—I meant, we can’t jump right into sucking face in front of them. We’ve got to lay down some groundwork.”

Castiel nodded. “True.”

“So, today was our first date. We hit it off, watch a movie, trade numbers, blah blah. What’s next?”

“Second date, obviously,” Castiel said. “Let’s say on Thursday. Lunch date, perhaps? I kiss you at the end of it.”

“No, I kiss you first.”

Castiel raised his brows. Dean held his intense gaze. “What makes you think you’d initiate it?”

“What makes you think I wouldn’t?”

Castiel didn’t say anything; he simply raked his eyes over Dean, that unnerving blue gaze sending shivers down Dean’s spine. Castiel could really convey multiple emotions with just one simple look.

“Fine, you can have the first kiss!” Dean snapped, not wanting to be scrutinized anymore.

“Thank you,” Castiel said, a bit smugly in Dean’s opinion. Dean rolled his eyes, taking another sip of his drink.

“Next week, I’ll take you to an amusement park,” Castiel mused.

“You can’t take me to an amusement park.”

“Why not? It’s very romantic.”

“It’s also overly cute,” Dean cringed.

“I thought the point of this was that we’re overly cute.”

“Yeah, but on the third date?”

“Fourth, then.”

“Wait, wait, what’s the third supposed to be, then?”

“A walk in a park?”

Dean snorted. “That’s so romantic that I’m going to gag.”

“Meaning, it’s perfect,” Castiel said. He finally took a sip of his own drink, tilting his head in consideration. “There’s a park near the Roman Enterprises. You know it?”

“Yeah?”

“Charlie works at Roman.”

Dean grinned. “I may slip something to her about an after-work date. Knowing her, she’d hack the CCTV in and around the park if she got desperate enough.”

“And send all the pictures to Sam, Jess, and Jo,” Castiel said. “Among others,” he added then.

“She’ll probably post them on Facebook or something, if we’re cute enough,” Dean sighed. “That girl is a force of nature when she wants something enough.”

“How did you become friends?” Castiel asked. Dean gave a little laugh. The story of how he got to know Charlie always made him chuckle, and to this day, he was still unable to tell the exact details with a straight face.

“I don’t think you’d believe me if I told you the unabridged version, so I’m just gonna give you the short version. We were at the same high school. She was a freshman and I was a senior, and…you know what, let’s just say that one thing led to another, and one day she was protesting the price of lunch, I went to her defense, and we both got detention for standing on the cafeteria tables.”

Castiel snorted. “Little rebels, you.”

“Viva la resistance,” Dean nodded. “Anyway, we blew off the detention and started a Comic Book Club. We also got detention for that, because we didn’t think to ask for permission to use the classroom for that.”

Castiel grinned, and Dean grinned back. Despite appearing withdrawn and cold at first glance, there was surprisingly lot of warmth in Castiel, Dean thought. It was just buried beneath the surface.

Dean nodded at Castiel. “How’d you meet her?”

Castiel gave a little laugh as well. “I don’t think you’d believe me,” he said, with a teasing smile.

“Try me.”

“We met at Comic-Con, almost ten years ago.”

“What.”

“I was dressed as Han Solo. She was Leia. It was inevitable that we got to talking, I think.”

“How did flirting with a lesbian go?” Dean asked, grinning.

“There was no flirting involved,” Castiel said. “Even if she hadn’t attached a lesbian pride flag to her bag, the Slave Leia she was kissing would have made it abundantly clear.”

Dean laughed; it sounded exactly like Charlie to do something like that. She had asked Dean to attend Comic-Con with her a few times, but Dean had always turned her down. Now he kind of regretted that; it sounded like he had missed out on a lifetime of adventure, not to mention, he’d had a chance to meet Castiel sooner.

“How come we haven’t met before, dude?” Dean asked then. “I mean, I’ve been friends with Charlie forever, and you’ve been friends with her for years, and you even know Jess and Jo…”

Castiel shrugged. “Ill timing? Unfortunate circumstances? Fate?”

“Not sure I believe in fate,” Dean said, “but okay. Let’s go with that.”

They drank comfortable silence for a moment, glancing at each other. If this had been a real date, Dean would have congratulated himself on the job well done – they were having fun, and they got along great. But making a new friend – or partner in crime – was great as well.

“Do you suppose it’s too early to gaze adoringly at you on a second date?” Castiel asked then.

“I guess not,” Dean answered after a while. “Don’t overdo it, though. And do you even know how to make heart-eyes?”

“I’ll have you know that I’m great at conveying affection.”

“Really,” Dean said, unbelieving.

Castiel shook his head. “You’ll see.”

“Come on, then,” Dean said. “Show me what you’ve got.”

Castiel turned to look at him, but while his gaze was heavy, Dean wasn’t convinced. Castiel’s eyes were huge, and blue, and you could definitely drown in them if you looked long enough, but Dean couldn’t see even an ounce of affection in them.

“If those are your heart-eyes, I’m not exactly swooning.”

Offended, Castiel leaned backward on the couch. “Alright. Let me see what you look like when you’re head over heels in love.”

“Easy peasy,” Dean scoffed. He put his beer on the floor (there was no coffee table, which Dean thought was weird, but didn’t see fit to criticize this detail), and turned to look Castiel properly in the eye. Once again, he concentrated on the different shades of blue in Castiel’s eyes, trying to summon the feeling he’d felt when he’d been going out with…

Dean didn’t even know. He’d been pretty happy with Lisa, maybe? Or Cassie? He settled on thinking about Cassie, disregarding the fact that their relationship had lasted for a few short months and had gone up in flames when she’d moved for a better job, and stared into Castiel’s eyes.

It was intense. Castiel stared back, once again scrutinizing Dean, and Dean felt compelled to say, “I feel stupid.”

“Well, perhaps because this is rather pointless.”

“You’re the one who wanted to see my adoring gaze,” Dean said.

“And I’m not convinced.” Castiel frowned. “You look constipated.”

“Shut up.” Dean gave up and tore his eyes away from Castiel. “Okay, we’ll wing it. Just think about puppies or some shit when you look at me.”

“I can think of my guinea pigs,” Castiel mused.

“Wait, what? Do you have guinea pigs?”

“Yes,” Castiel said, and the smile that spread on his face was nothing short of dazzling. “Their names are Super and Man.”

Dean couldn’t help it. He burst out laughing and was unable to stop for a minute. Castiel didn’t look offended, and he grinned at Dean’s laughter.

“Oh my god,” Dean, wheezed. “That’s ridiculous, man. That’s the best thing I’ve heard today.”

“Would you like to see them?” Castiel asked.

“Why the hell not?” Dean said. He didn’t particularly like cats, or even dogs, unless they appeared in a short video on YouTube, but he didn’t have an opinion on guinea pigs.

Castiel smiled, stood up and led Dean through the bookshelf to the door. There indeed was a bedroom behind it. The room was dominated by a king size bed that was meticulously done and had a drawer next to it. In the corner, there was a caged area for two guinea pigs. They were beige, and both looked plump to Dean, but he had no idea how fat guinea pigs were supposed to be, so he said nothing. The guinea pigs let out loud squeaks when they walked closer, and one hid behind the little cottage that was in the middle of the cage.

“Hello, little ones,” Castiel said, crouching in front of the cage. “How are you today?”

“You actually speak to them?” Dean asked. He didn’t know whether that was adorable or dorky. Or both.

“Sometimes,” Castiel said. The other guinea pig was braver, and came curiously to sniff Castiel’s hand when he held it out. It let out loud, excited squeaks, and let Castiel take it to his hands. “This is Super. He’s the braver one.”

“Great choice of name, then,” Dean said. The other guinea pig, Man, was still hiding behind the cottage, and let out much higher squeaks than Super. Maybe he was scared.

“Would you like to hold him?” Castiel asked.

“Um. Sure?”

Gently, Castiel put the guinea pig in Dean’s hands. Its little nails felt weird against his skin, but it wasn’t uncomfortable, and when Dean touched the fur, he was surprised by how soft it was.

“His fur looks rougher than it is,” Dean said. Super squeaked something at him, and Dean grinned. He smoothed his hand over the guinea pig’s back, and it felt amazing that this little ball of fur let him do that.

“He likes you,” Castiel said. He glanced at the cage, where Man was trying to blend into its surroundings. “Sorry about Man. He’s a little jumpy.”

“Nah, that’s fine,” Dean said, still petting Super. He put his face closer to it, grinning. “Hi, little guy. You’re nice.”

Castiel let him pet Super for a few more moments, but when the guinea pig started to squirm, Castiel took him from Dean’s hands and placed him back in the cage. Dean watched as the guinea pigs ran around, going from the water bottle to the hay, and running around again. It was surprisingly engaging to follow their lives, even just for a moment.

Castiel noticed the way Dean looked at the guinea pigs, and smiled at him. “I do that often. Just watch them. It’s calming, to look at something that has no cares or worries of the world on its shoulders.”

“Yeah,” Dean said. “I get that.”

They talked for a while after that, but when Dean noticed that night had settled over the city, he realized that he needed to leave. They’d spent nearly three hours together at that point, and Dean was surprised how fast the time had gone by. Castiel walked him to the door, and before Dean stepped outside, they swapped numbers.

“So, I’ll see you on Thursday,” Dean said. “We’ll have a disgustingly romantic lunch date.”

“I can hardly wait,” Castiel deadpanned. “I look forward to kissing you,” he added mischievously.

“No tongue or I will not be held responsible for my actions.”

“I’ll keep that in mind,” Castiel said. “See you on Thursday, Dean.”

“Bye,” Dean said, still looking at the door when Castiel closed it. Smiling, Dean started to skip down the stairs, foregoing the elevator again.

If this had been a real first date, it would have been amazing. Dean couldn’t recall the last time he’d enjoyed someone’s company so much, or a date that involved Dean holding guinea pigs. Dean was lucky that his co-conspirator was such a nice guy.

Dean couldn’t wait for Thursday and putting their plan into motion. They were going to gross out everyone.

With a glee that a thirty-one-year-old man shouldn’t possess, Dean laughed as he skipped down the stairs and into the street.