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Shorten the Distance

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(art by angelwhoisinloveiwithyou)

They met online. On a dating site, no less.

At first, Dean immediately rejected the idea of joining an online dating website—he was a fairly good-looking guy, completely capable of finding dates on his own—but Sam constantly reminded him that he wasn't getting any younger, and that the people he picked up in bars weren't really long-term relationship material.

Dean usually couldn't care less about actual relationships, but he signed up for dateangels.com so that he could get his brother off his back. He filled out his profile with the minimal amount of information—Username: Impala67, Name: Dean, Age: 29, Interested In: Men & Women, Hobbies: cars & food—and uploaded a picture from his phone as his default picture.

He forgot about his account for a while, not logging in or checking his inbox or browsing his Match List. He frequently hooked up with people at the local bar, only a few blocks away from the house where he lived with Sam. Sure, they don't last long, or develop into anything deep, but Dean didn't feel he needed the romantic connection or anything serious. All he needed was his car and his brother and the occasional fuck.

Or so he thought.

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One Thursday afternoon after Dean’s garage shift, he received an email from the website ("Are you still with us? Visit us again to see our new site-wide changes!"). Dean rolled his eyes, clicking the link to log on, possibly to ‘stumble’ over the unsubscribe option. In the corner of the page, next to the 'My Profile' link, there was a little yellow envelope with a red number one next to it.

Dean had a message. Possibly from an interested party. 'Who would be interested in me?' Dean thought; he didn't exactly set up his profile to be the most appealing character, even though everything he put on there was true. Maybe they were just attracted to his profile photograph. Dean had to admit, he’s pretty fucking sexy.

The message was from a user named 'nerdytr3nchcoat.' Dean huffed at the strange username, rolling his eyes, but clicked the link to his profile. Nerdytr3nchcoat was a 32 year old man named Castiel, whose profile had just as much personal information as Dean's. 'Interested In: Men & Women, Hobbies: Books, work' was all that was written in the info boxes. Castiel's profile picture was a terribly taken photo of a man with dark messy hair, or 'sex hair' as Dean’s mind would describe it, vivid blue eyes, wearing a suit, an askew blue tie, and an unbuttoned tan trenchcoat. Dean would also admit, horrible flash photography aside, the man was kinda hot.

The message itself was short and to the point.

'Hello Dean,

My name is Castiel, and I would like to get to know you better. Please let me know.

+Castiel'

Dean scoffed at it. This was probably just one of those mass cut and paste messages that people send out on these sites to get a large pool of respondents. Even on a dating site, he still got spam mail. He deleted the message without a second thought.

But only a week later, Dean got another message from Castiel.

'Dear Dean,

I sent you a message seven days ago, but I don't know if you received it. I would like to get to know you.

Please let me know.

+Castiel'

Dean considered the message. This time, it didn't seem like it was copied and pasted. Perhaps this guy was actually sincere in wanting to get to know Dean. Clicking reply and opening up a new message box, he decided to send Castiel a message back; it couldn't hurt to have a little chat with this guy, even though Dean wasn’t really interested in anything.

And if he didn't, Castiel might keep sending him messages.

The message he wrote in return was in the same style: straight and to the point, with no fluff added.

'Hey Castiel,

Sure, what would you like to know?

Dean'

Only half a day passed before there was a reply waiting in his inbox. Dean was kicked back on the couch with an ice cold beer in front of his laptop before he opened the message. He was met with an intimidating wall of text and Dean had to blink back his surprise and take a sip of his beer before he started reading.

'Dear Dean,

Thank you for your reply. I suppose before asking you questions about yourself, I should introduce myself first.

My name is Castiel. I understand that it is a strange name. It's pronounced 'Cas-tee-el' and it is the name of the angel of Thursday. I am 32 years old and I am a theology high school teacher in Boston.

I have a few hobbies. One of them is reading. I would say that I read from all genres, but they are mostly centered around my area of discipline: world religions. I also enjoy running, swimming, cooking, going to the theatre, and trying new things. I love being a teacher and teaching young minds, but I guess I shouldn't call that a hobby.

But enough about me, I would like to learn more about you. Your profile isn't very informative, but yet again, neither is mine. Please, tell me about yourself. What do you do? What are your hobbies? Your passions?

I apologize for the lengthy message and I look forward to your response.

+Castiel'

Dean sat back and sunk into the back of the couch. 'This guy definitely writes like a teacher,' he thought, taking another gulp of his beer while he processed what he just read.

Castiel, Cas-tee-el, seemed like a decent enough guy, from what he could glean from a simple message. Nerdy, for sure, just like his username suggested, but nice. Although, this was over the web, and Dean wouldn't know if Castiel was actually a 32 year old nerdy teacher or a 50 year old creepy dude in a basement or even a 14 year old girl sending messages as a joke with a stolen profile picture.

He clicked on 'reply' and cracked his knuckles as his computer opened in a new window. He stared at the blank text box, trying to figure out exactly what he was going to say about himself without revealing too much information to a complete stranger.

'Hey Castiel,

My name is Dean, pronounced 'Dean,' and I live out in California. I'm a 29 year old auto mechanic during the week and work as a bartender part-time. I like cars and music, but only have a deep appreciation for the classics. You could say my hobbies and my job also overlap, just like you and your books.

Some of my other hobbies include camping and hunting trips with my brother who I live with and working on my car. I like going out to bars and movies, but juggling two jobs makes it hard. I guess I also like trying new things, depending on what they are.

Dean'

Dean double- then triple-checked his message, for grammar and possible stupidity, before clicking the send button. He felt like an ass for writing so little in comparison to Castiel's essay, but he didn't know what else to say.

If anything, he’ll just bore the hell out of this guy and he’ll move on, leaving Dean in peace.

However, it was only a few dozen replies and two weeks later that Dean realized he wasn't just entertaining this guy by writing back, but he actually looked forward to messages from Castiel. He wanted to talk to him.

Their usual topic of conversation was their jobs, Castiel often praising it and Dean often condemning it. Honestly, it felt good when Dean could bitch about the guys at work to someone other than the other guys at work and Sammy had enough stuff going on in his life to listen to Dean all the time.

They were to the point where their messages were so quick, it almost seemed like instant messaging. When Dean refreshed the page a few minutes after sending his own message, there would be a bright yellow envelope and a number 1 next to it in the corner, indicating a new private message from Castiel. They both stopped writing out long, fully-coherent messages and stopped being so formal with each other. Messages were short, casual, friendly, and without pressure.

From Impala67: 'Hey Cas, what are you up to today? Those students still giving you trouble?'

From Nerdytr3nchcoat: 'You could not even begin to imagine. Someone just handed in a 3,000 word paper that is more than 3/4 quotes directly from the Bible. I don't understand what's on these children’s minds when they write.'

From Impala67: 'Well, fail em then.'

From Nerdytr3nchcoat: 'I always feel horrible when I fail a student.'

From Impala67: 'But they deserve it. If they actually wanted to pass, they would have tried.'

From Nerdytr3nchcoat: 'I suppose I'll have a talk with them. Perhaps they're going through a difficult time.'

From Impala67: 'You're too nice to them.'

From Nerdytr3nchcoat: 'I know.'

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From Impala67: 'Sometimes my brother is an ass.'

From Nerdytr3nchcoat: 'If only you knew mine, we could compare brothers.'

From Impala67: 'You have a brother?'

From Nerdytr3nchcoat: 'I have five brothers and one sister. But go on, tell me about Sam.'

From Impala67: 'Damn! Giant family. But dude, he keeps on bugging me about dating. Asking about if I'm meeting people and shit. I thought signing up for this site would get him off my back, not asking a million more questions.'

From Nerdytr3nchcoat: 'Well, are you meeting new people? How many people have you been in contact with?'

From Impala67: 'Uh... one.'

From Nerdytr3nchcoat: 'Just one? That person is me, I'm assuming.'

From Impala67: 'Yeah, it's you. I don't know, I haven't exactly been interested in searching for someone online.'

From Nerdytr3nchcoat: 'Oh.'

From Impala67: 'That doesn't mean that I don't like talking to you!'

From Nerdytr3nchcoat: 'I'm glad to hear that, Dean.'

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From Nerdytr3nchcoat: 'You don’t seem like a person who needs a dating service.'

From Impala67: 'Neither do you.'

From Nerdytr3nchcoat: 'You are a nice, good-looking person who seems to have many charming qualities.'

From Impala67: 'Aw, you sure know how to make a girl blush. (:'

From Nerdytr3nchcoat: 'I am serious. Why did you join this website? If you don't mind me asking.'

From Impala67: 'To be honest, I only joined because my brother was bugging me about it. I'm not that great at relationships, especially serious ones, if you know what I mean.'

From Impala67: 'I mean, I just haven't been looking very hard, and he's just being overly worried about me.'

From Nerdytr3nchcoat: 'That's kind of him, I suppose.'

From Impala67: 'More like overbearing.'

From Nerdytr3nchcoat: 'I'd have to agree.’

From Impala67: ‘What about you? Why do you use this site?’

From Nerdytr3nchcoat: ‘Meeting people. I’m not the most social person, so it is difficult to make friends.’

From Impala67: ‘Fair enough. No dating?’

From Nerdytr3nchcoat: ‘No, dating just doesn’t seem to be for me. It makes me nervous, plus I’m more interested in making friends at the moment.’

From Impala67: ‘Ah. Okay.’

From Nerdytr3nchcoat: ‘May I count you as a friend?’

From Impala67: ‘Of course. We’re friends.’

From Nerdytr3nchcoat: ‘Thank you. I have to go, lunch period ends in four minutes.'

From Impala67: 'Good luck with those little shits.'

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Over the next two months, Dean learned a lot about Castiel while chatting with him every day.

He learned Castiel's last name was Novak, and his middle name was James, and that each of his siblings were named after biblical angels. He even had an older brother named Lucifer, who tore up the family when he suddenly left more than a decade ago and no one has seen him since. Castiel didn’t get along with most of his family and Dean thought of him as the black sheep of the Novak clan.

He also learned a bunch of small details about Castiel that normally wouldn’t be important, but Dean remembered them anyway for some reason or another.

For example, Castiel liked to grade papers in a small independent coffee shop on the edge of Boston, where the drinks were cheap and the wifi was free. He taught three different classes, Monday through Friday, and was obscenely dedicated to his students. His students were of the stereotypical teenage variety, but he fully admitted to having favorites. He had lunch every day in the teacher’s lounge with a history teacher named Balthazar, and Crowley, a fellow theology teacher, constantly gave him a lot of trouble. Castiel headed up the Book Club every Tuesday afternoon, attended every soccer game, and chaperoned Homecoming and Prom every year.

He liked to listen to classical music, but had admitted to having a secret love of horrible top 40s pop like Ke$ha and Britney Spears. Castiel drove a silver 2001 Honda Civic and rarely took it in for tune-ups, much to Dean’s dismay. His favorite color was golden-yellow, he always wore a suit and tie to work, and in the fall and winter, he never left the house without wearing his trenchcoat.

All these little details came together to paint a picture of Castiel, really solidifying Dean’s mental image of him, since he really only knew what Castiel looked like by his shitty profile photo. Dean felt that they were already good friends, even though he never met the guy in real life.

On the other hand, Dean also shared more about himself than he ever thought possible. As a person who rarely ever opened up to anyone, including his own brother, it was astounding that he spoke so freely with Castiel.

He told him about trying to balance two jobs and how his busy schedule doesn’t allow for much free time to spend with the one family member he has left, and about his love for his car which was his dad’s before he passed away. He slightly alluded to his shady past which included hustling pool and illegal gambling he used to do just so he could to pay for the other half of Sam’s university tuition that wasn’t covered by scholarships and their living expenses. Hell, he sometimes even talked about communication problems he was having with his brother at times.

In fact, the most heartfelt conversation Dean’s ever had in his life thus far was with Castiel, and it was about how he missed living in Lawrence, Kansas, even though it wasn’t his home for more than twenty-five years now. Both Castiel and Dean knew he missed Lawrence for more than one reason, but neither one acknowledged how much Dean missed his family—the complete one, the Winchester family of four.

He wasn’t a chick-flick, heart-to-heart kind of guy, but that conversation meant a lot to him. He would never have had that kind of conversation with Sam, especially since Dean dropped everything and moved to Palo Alto so that he could help support his brother while pursuing his dream of becoming a lawyer.

Once, Castiel pointed out that Dean would do nearly anything short of jumping off a cliff for Sam, and Dean agreed.

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From Impala67: 'Hey, my laptop broke so I gotta get it fixed, so I won’t have a computer or internet for a week or so, do you text?’

From Nerdytr3nchcoat: ‘Yes. My number is 617-556-2730. My current plan includes unlimited text and data.’

From Impala67: 'Great, me too. Thanks.’

[650-242-8613: Paging, Mr. Castiel. Paging.]

[617-556-2730: Dean, I assume?]

[Dean: Yup. How’d you guess?]

[Cas: Sheer luck, I suppose. Actually, I often get random texts from unknown numbers. Usually they’re students who somehow got ahold of my cell number and send prank texts.

[Dean: They just *love* you, don’t they? Whatcha up to?]

[Cas: Just finished my last class of the day and have a planning period before the school day ends. Then I have to stay after in case students or parents want to see me.]

[Dean: Do kids ever come in after school?]

[Cas: Not really, no. Sometimes I’ll get students who are upset about their grade, but it’s not too often. Usually, I can finish all of the day’s grading before I go home.]

[Dean: Lucky. I’m on my lunch break. I’ve got a double shift at Bobby’s garage today and I told the bar owner that I’d pick up a shift tonight.]

[Cas: You work too hard.]

[Dean: Bills, man... bills and tuition.]

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[Cas: I cannot believe a student just called Elizabeth Bennet an ‘indecisive slut.’]

[Dean: what]

[Cas: I’m trying to encourage reading with good literature, and sometimes students are just so frustrating.]

[Dean: Hah! Book club? Tuesdays, right?]

[Cas: Yes, and we’re reading Pride and Prejudice this month. Have you read it?]

[Dean: Yeah, probably in high school though. I’m more of a horror-thriller Vonnegut type of guy.]

[Cas: I enjoy his books, but his books are banned at this school.]

[Dean: Why?!]

[Cas: Violence, vulgar language, and sexual content.]

[Dean: But that’s the best part!]

(art by kuma-la-la)

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[Cas: asl0kd9fjow32ihviwaj538slkjj2]

[Dean: Excuse you.]

[Cas: Sorry, I accidentally pocket-texted you.]

[Dean: For a moment, I thought you were trying to signal me in code.]

[Dean: Perhaps a student was giving you a hard time about a bad grade you gave them and were being attacked in your classroom.]

[Cas: No, definitely just a pocket-text. And no student of mine has ever resorted to violence over a grade. But even so, I could handle myself.]

[Dean: Are you sure? You don’t need me to come fend off the angry failing students?]

[Cas: Yes, I’m sure. I have a black belt in Jiu-Jitsu.]

[Dean: Holy shit. You could probably kick anyone’s ass.]

[Cas: I’d rather not. It’s only to be used in self-defense.]

[Dean: Okay, okay.]

[Dean: But just saying, you could.]

[Cas: Yes, Dean, I could.]

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[Dean: Sometimes I think my brother is a zombie.]

[Cas: Is he not sleeping well?]

[Dean: Honestly, I don’t think he’s sleeping *at all.*]

[Dean: All he does is wander around the house with his nose shoved into a book and go to class.]

[Dean: When I go to bed, he’s studying. When I wake up he’s studying. When I come back from work, he’s studying.]

[Cas: Law school is a lot of time and effort. He seems like a very good and dedicated student.]

[Dean: That’s great and all, but he’s gonna run himself into the ground.]

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[Cas: I have a snow day today.]

[Dean: Lucky. I don’t even think those exist out here. I could use a few, I miss snow.]

[Dean: What do you plan on doing on your sudden day off?]

[Cas: There’s only a few inches on the ground, but most things are shut down because the city does not know how to handle it. There isn’t much to do other than read or do chores or work.]

[Dean: Ugh. You should do something fun on your snow day instead. Make a snowman for me or something.]

[Cas: *photo enclosed*]

[Dean: Oh my god I didn’t think you’d actually do it.]

[Dean: It’s so tiny. What is it’s nose made of???]

[Cas: I didn’t have a carrot so it is the cap of a pen.]

[Dean: And the buttons?]

[Cas: Those are raisins.]

[Dean: Dude, that’s one of the most awkward-looking snowmen I’ve ever seen.]

[Cas: *photo enclosed*]

[Dean: YOU’RE A MURDERER.]

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[Dean: could u come pick me up]

[Dean: @ ellens]

[Cas: Sure, just give me time to save a few hundred dollars and to book a flight and pack a suitcase and I’ll be right there to get you.]

[Dean: Cas, shit, sorry wrong number. Trying to text sammy]

[Cas: Are you okay?]

[Dean: yeah just kinda got drunk after my shift ennded]

[Dean: more like wasted]

[Cas: Ellen is a friend?]

[Dean: No!!]

[Dean: well yeah, i work at her bar. Second job, remember?]

[Cas: Oh, yes, I hope you get home safely. Please get some rest.]

[Dean: will do]

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[Dean: Sorry about last night.]

[Cas: It’s alright. How are you feeling?]

[Dean: Killer hangover. Good thing I’m not going into work today. Saturdays are the best.]

[Cas: They are. No classes, but a lot of grading.]

[Dean: Take a day off from that. Every time I ask you what you’re up to, you say grading.]

[Cas: It needs to be done, fall semester finals are coming soon.]

[Dean: And then you have a break?]

[Cas: For a few weeks.]

[Dean: Great. You can finally relax and do whatever it is that you do in your seemingly non-existent spare time.]

[Cas: I’ll probably visit my brother Gabriel for Christmas.]

[Dean: Aw, no big reunion with your gigantic family?]

[Cas: We’re not exactly on the best terms right now. Gabriel is the only one I can put up with other than Anna, and he never attends family events.]

[Dean: Why’s that? And why aren’t you on good terms with your family?]

[Cas: Gabriel doesn’t agree with father’s perspective on things. One could say Gabriel is more of a free-spirit. And as for my family, we had another argument about my career.]

[Dean: What about your career?]

[Cas: My family is very religious, and they were hoping that I would go into the seminary. I thought that teaching theology would appease them enough, but I guess not.]

[Cas: Every once in awhile, my parents bring it up. Gabriel is the only one who actually defends my viewpoint.]

[Dean: And what does he do?]

[Cas: He owns a candy shop in New York.]

[Dean: Sweet. Pun intended.]

[Cas: Wow, Dean. I haven’t heard that one before. So creative.]

[Dean: Jackass.]

[Cas: Assbutt.]

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[Dean: Merry Christmas, Cas! :)]

[Cas: Merry Christmas, Dean.]

[Dean: You at your brother’s place yet?]

[Cas: It took the bus 4.5 hours to get there, but I made it.]

[Cas: How is your Christmas thus far?]

[Dean: Well, it’s 10AM and I’ve already broken out the rum and eggnog, so good, I guess.]

[Cas: A bit early for that, isn't it?]

[Dean: Yeah, but hey, it’s Christmas, why not? I kinda panicked and went last minute shopping for Sam last night and wrapped it up this morning.]

[Cas: What did you get him?]

[Dean: I couldn’t think of anything, so I ended up getting him one of those Kindle things. Dude's a nerd and loves to read, so I think he’ll like it. Plus, he can put his textbooks and shit on them.]

[Cas: That’s very thoughtful of you.]

[Dean: I hope he thinks so. Get Gabriel anything?]

[Cas: We don’t usually exchange gifts, but I left season three of Gilmore Girls on his desk last night and I found a bag of saltwater taffy in my suitcase this morning.]

[Dean: Sweet. Ehehe. I wish I could get you something.]

[Cas: Actually, you could.]

[Dean: What?]

Incoming Call: Cas

Dean’s breath hitched, like an inaudible gasp, as he stared down at the phone in his palm. Cas was calling him. This was bold, rather surprising coming from Castiel but at the same time, it was something he would do. They’ve been chatting and emailing and texting for several months now, but they’ve never actually talked on the phone before, even though it’s been an option this entire time.

Dean quickly collected his thoughts and pressed the button to answer it before it went to voicemail.

“Hello?” Dean answered tentatively. “Cas?”

“Hello, Dean,” came the reply across the line.

His eyes widened at the sound. Cas’s voice was a lot lower and rough than Dean initially thought. He usually imagined that Castiel had a higher pitched voice that suited his nerdy profession and personality, but nothing this... hot.

“Woah, Cas. I didn’t expect you to sound like this,” Dean chuckled.

“Sound like what?” Castiel asked, oblivious to the sentiment.

“I dunno, this low and...” Dean searched for the right words, “... gravelly-sounding?”

Castiel made a muffled disapproving noise. “I don’t know how to respond to that.”

“I meant it as a compliment.”

“Then thank you. You also sound very nice.”

Dean was stunned by the sheer genuine sincerity that was behind the statement, but quickly shrugged it off in favor of a joke. “Just ‘nice?’ Gee, thanks.”

“Dean, you sound lovely,” Castiel amended.

‘Well, damn,’ Dean thought. They were both silent for a minute; they could hear each other breathing over the line, and it was kind of creepy, to say the least.

“So…” Dean began, trying to end the awkward silence that had already gone on too long. “What are you calling for?”

“My gift.”

“Which is what?”

Castiel’s reply was simple, like Dean was missing something so painfully obvious. “To hear you.”

“Oh.” Dean replied, dumbfounded.

It was such a small and incredibly sappy request, like a true chick flick moment taken right out of a movie, but he secretly wanted to hear what Castiel sounded like too. It would have been nice to put a voice to all the words they’ve been exchanging, and now Dean knew there was a hot voice to accompany the hot face of Cas’ bad profile picture.

“I’m sorry. It was stupid-” Castiel started, sounding unsure of himself all of the sudden.

“No, Cas, really. It’s fine,” Dean assured him, wondering if Cas would be hanging up anytime soon. He was met with more silence, so Dean mentally went through his list of casual conversation starters. “So, what’s on the agenda for today?”

“I’ll probably go out for a walk through the city pretty soon to meet Gabriel for lunch.”

“A walk? Isn’t it snowing there?” Dean asked, thinking back to the national weather report that Sam had on during breakfast. Palo Alto was supposed to be chilly and cloudy all week, but New England was getting hit by another snowstorm.

“Just a little. It’s still nice enough to take a walk. Gabriel’s candy shop is only a few miles away.”

“Wait, he works on Christmas?”

“He says it’s one of his biggest selling days of the year.”

“Crazy dude.”

“I’d have to agree.” There was a pause as Dean could hear phone buttons clicking on the other end. “Gabriel texted. I’m going to head out now.”

“Alright. Stay warm, man.”

“Don’t worry, Dean. Goodbye.”

“Bye, Cas.”

There was a click as the call was disconnected, and Dean closed his phone and slid it into his pocket. He moved across his small kitchen to get a glass of water. Taking a big gulp, he ran a hand through his hair.

‘Fuck’, he thought. Now he had a voice to go along with his rapidly-developing fantasies.

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Castiel called Dean the next night, just as Dean was cleaning up his late-night snack of a large slice of pecan pie bought from the bakery section of the grocery store. AC/DC’s “Hells Bells” sounded through the kitchen as Dean fumbled through his jacket pockets for his phone. Sam went to bed an hour earlier, so hopefully Dean’s phone didn’t wake him up.

“Hey.”

“Hello, Dean,” came Castiel’s low rumble.

“What’s up?” Dean perched the phone between his shoulder and ear as he started rinsing his plate under hot water. Dean glanced at the clock on the wall, doing the math. “It’s pretty late there.”

“I’m at a party.”

Dean furrowed his brows. “And... what? You’re calling me? Really? Right now?”

“I don’t want to be here, but Gabriel is hosting.”

“Oh... Not having fun? No one else as awesome as I am to talk to?” teased Dean.

“Gabriel has very...” Castiel struggled to find appropriate words. “... interesting friends. They’re loud and obnoxious and very, very drunk.”

“That sucks, man. Can you escape anywhere?”

“There’s nowhere to go, not at this hour. Not without a car.”

“Take Gabriel’s,” Dean suggested. If his dick of a brother was going to host a party without consulting him, Castiel should be able to borrow it.

Castiel sighed. “Gabriel doesn’t have a car. He likes using public transportation.”

“Lame.”

“There’s no one interesting to talk to at the party,” Castiel hesitated and Dean held the phone closer to his ear. “... so I was wondering if I could just talk to you?”

“Sure,” Dean agreed, smiling a little that Cas wants to talk to him when then there’s an entire apartment of people he could talk to instead. “But I’m not really that interesting.”

“Please, Dean.”

He didn’t think he could ever deny Cas’ requests, not if he said them in that low-pitched growl of a voice.

For the next two hours, they took turns telling past holiday stories when they were younger. Dean’s Christmases were never traditional with how much his dad had to travel for his career. Being a widower bounty hunter with two kids always on the move made celebrating family holidays a little difficult, but Dean always tried hard to make Christmases enjoyable for Sam, even if their father didn’t. Dean would usually give his dessert to Sam, and later on he would take him to see a movie late at night when their dad was either sleeping or out tracking down a criminal. He bought small gifts for Sam with his own pocket money and always made sure there was a smile on his face.

On the other hand, Castiel’s past Christmases with his family were so traditional that they weren’t. Since he came from a highly religious family, his Christmases were not like the usual Hallmark ones with wrapping paper, trees, cookies, and presents. No, they were with his large family, waking up early and dressing up to go to church, then hours of praying and reflection, then going to do community service, then going home to have a moderate meal. There was no formal exchange of gifts, but Castiel assured Dean that his siblings secretly gave each other gifts when their parents weren’t looking. One year, when Castiel was fifteen, Gabriel bought Castiel a porn magazine, where their father found it under his bed and he was grounded for three months and was subject to a series of church retreats and seminars.

In the end, it seemed like neither Castiel nor Dean have had at least one traditional Hallmark Christmas. Dean wondered if he would ever get a regular Christmas, and if he had one, would he even like it? Sure, the delicious food sounded appealing, but the decorations, tree, and other things seemed extraneous. Who knows? Maybe he’d miss the Winchester Way of Cruddy Christmases.

Dean didn’t get to finish his train of thought because Castiel yawned, a long and surprisingly smooth sound streaming out of the receiver and into Dean’s ear. He sounded exhausted.

“You tired?” Dean asked, already knowing the answer.

“Incredibly,” another small yawn, “and people are starting to leave. I think I’m going to head to bed now. Hopefully no one is in there.”

“Okay,” Dean huffed out a laugh, standing up from the couch and stretching. “You do that.”

“Thank you for keeping me company.”

“No problem, Cas.” Dean smiled through the phone. “Anytime,” he quickly added, hoping Castiel would get the message to call him again sometime. Cas seemed to catch on.

“Talk to you soon, Dean. Goodnight.”

“Night.”

Dean crawled into bed that night and stared blissfully at the ceiling. He’d listen to Castiel’s voice for hours more if he could; it was strangely hypnotic and angelic in its own way. Like he gargled gravel, but also remarkably soothing. If he wanted to, Cas could have easily been a radio host or an audiobook voice actor. Either way, Dean would have listened to both, endlessly.

Flipping onto his back, Dean thought back to their conversation, and how Castiel spoke wistfully about his family and childhood. Dean had never met anyone—outside of Sammy—who had less than ideal holiday experience like he did, until Castiel. Now more than ever, Dean wanted to know everything there is about his online friend.

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Calling became a regular thing after that.

Castiel always called in the evenings when Dean was eating dinner and Castiel was getting ready for bed, because of the time difference between California and Massachusetts. Although they talked for about an hour every night, they still texted each other throughout the day, often just continuing on the conversation from the night before and leading into the next phone call. They would normally start with what they did that day: what shenanigans Gabriel dragged Castiel through and what Dean did with Sam, even though Sam still studied the majority of the time during the break.

In all honesty, Dean didn’t know how a simple message with no intentions on a dating website he didn’t even want to be a part of could have evolved this far. One day, it struck him that he was texting a guy all the way in Boston he’s never met all day, having an hour-long conversation with him on the phone at night, and then maybe jerking one off to the thought of his face and the sound of his voice every once in awhile.

Dean winced at how terrifyingly creepy that sounded.

All that aside, he wasn’t really interested in an actual online relationship with Cas, was he?

Wait.

... Shit.

Dean liked Castiel, sure, and he definitely thought he was hot, so there was sexual attraction. But Dean wasn’t looking to date Castiel, right? Even though Cas was kind, nerdy, funny in the dorky kind of way, caring...

‘No,’ Dean decided. ‘I’ve got too fucking much going on to date.’ Between working long hours at the garage all week and late shifts at the bar on the weekends and being there for Sammy, Dean didn’t really have time for anything other than the occasional one night stand. Besides, he wouldn’t want to wreck his friendship with Cas. Even so, long-distance would be so difficult—nearly impossible, really, especially Palo Alto to Boston. That was thousands of miles, an entire country away. Ocean to ocean, coast to coast.

Wait. What the hell was he thinking? Why was he even considering that it was even remotely possible?

It’s been a long standing tradition that Dean Winchester doesn’t date. One night stands and short weekend affairs were more his forte. Not to mention, none of his relationships have lasted over a few weeks, and he felt lucky that Lisa dumped him before he could let her down even more. ‘Dean’ and ‘date’ don’t go in the same sentence unless the word ‘doesn’t’ was in between, and he’d hate to mess up his friendship with Cas. Besides, Castiel said himself that he wasn’t interested in dating, just making friends.

But still… a little piece of Dean still wanted to try it.

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Missed call from: Cas

[Cas: Happy New Year, Dean.]

[Dean: Hey, happy new year to you, too.]

[Dean: How are you bringing in the new year?]

[Cas: Anna insisted we would go out to a few bars.]

[Dean: Gotta have a good old bar crawl for the new year. Have you left for that yet?]

[Cas: I’m waiting for Anna to get dressed. What are your plans tonight?]

[Dean: I’m just hangin at home with Sam. We’ve got a lot of liquor stored up for tonight. James Bond and Die Hard are marathoning back to back so I figure we’ll just watch those.]

[Cas: Not going out?]

[Dean: To be honest, I’d like to, but Sam is finally taking a break from studying, and he studied on Christmas, for god's sake. I’d rather spend New Years with him.]

[Cas: That’s very kind of you.]

[Dean: Nah, it’s selfish. I’d rather see his ugly mug than anything else right now.]

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[Cas: Anna said we were going to a few bars, not ten.]

[Dean: What?? Dude, how drunk are you?]

[Cas: Not very; thankfully I have a high tolerance. She’s pretty drunk, though. I’m going to have to stop her soon and take her home.]

[Dean: That sucks.]

[Cas: She seemed to have fun tonight. I don’t mind.]

[Dean: But did *you* have fun?]

[Cas: I prefer quiet nights in: reading, making dinner, watching television.]

[Dean: I’m glad the words ‘grading papers’ wasn’t in that. I wish you were over here with us, we’re watching Octopussy.]

[Cas: I’ve never seen it.]

[Dean: You’ve never seen Octopussy?? What about Goldfinger? Diamonds are Forever?]

[Cas: I don’t think so.]

[Dean: WHAT have you seen any of the James Bond movies?]

[Cas: I guess not. I’ve considered reading the novels.]

[Dean: What do you even watch then???]

[Cas: Historical documentaries, mostly. The occasional cooking reality show.]

[Dean: You’re missing out]

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[Dean: HAPPY NEW YEAR! :D]

[Cas: Happy New Year! Again.]

[Dean: Got any resolutions?]

[Cas: Not really. I don’t usually make New Years resolutions. My goals are my goals. Do you?]

[Dean: Nope, neither do I.]

[Dean: Besides, usually people fail at their resolutions anyways.]

[Dean: You there? Did you get Anna home?]

[Cas: I just got back from her house.]

[Dean: What are you gonna do for the rest of the night?]

[Cas: I was thinking about going to sleep. Being around all those people tonight was exhausting. I’m not exactly a social person like my sister.]

[Dean: I won’t keep you awake, then. Night, Cas.]

[Cas: Goodnight, Dean.]

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[Cas: It’s a new year, a new semester, and a new group of annoyingly arrogant students.]

[Dean: Jeez, tell me how you really feel about them, Cas.]

[Cas: I already did. I just told you.]

[Dean: Dude, joke. Isn’t it your first day of new classes? You can already tell that they’re bad?]

[Cas: Of course. My World Religions students already think they know everything about the world.]

[Cas: They have another thing coming.]

[Dean: Aw yeah, you show them!]

[Cas: Is today your first day back at work as well?]

[Dean: Yup. I go in in like an hour. I’m still rolling around in bed.]

[Cas: Sorry, did I wake you up?]

[Dean: No. I keep my phone on vibrate at night. I forgot to close the blinds last night, so the sun is pretty fuckin bright right now.]

[Dean: What are you doing now?]

[Cas: Technically, it’s my planning period but it’s the first day back and there is nothing to grade.]

[Dean: What are you teaching this semester?]

[Cas: Morality, World Religions, and two classes of Religious Ethics & the World.]

[Dean: Sounds deep.]

[Cas: I can only hope my Ethics students are less annoying.]

[Dean: I dunno, man. High school kids? You don’t get more annoying than that.]

[Cas: We’re supposed to treat them as “young adults.”]

[Dean: That’s bullshit.]

[Cas: I know.]

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[Dean: Sam has been freaking out all day about his internship interview tomorrow morning.]

[Cas: Why? What type of internship is it?]

[Dean: It’s some law firm south of town. He’d start as soon as summer break starts in May and it would run into next year.]

[Dean: It’s unpaid and everything. I think he should find a paid one, but he says it’s really prestigious.]

[Cas: And what is he worried about?]

[Dean: Just the usual stuff. Messing up, making a bad impression, saying something stupid, dressing poorly.]

[Cas: I’m sure Sam will do fine, judging by the way you have described him.]

[Dean: Yeah, that’s what I keep on tellin him. That and ‘get a haircut.’]

[Cas: He has long hair?]

[Dean: He’s got a friggin lion mane. It’s almost down to his shoulders. I mean, he rocks it, but dude. Way too long for a law firm.]

[Dean: Actually, it’s definitely approaching girlishly long.]

[Cas: Why does he keep it that long?]

[Dean: I have no idea. Long hair isn’t a family thing, but yet again, Sam did get some of the weird traits of the family.]

[Cas: That makes sense. I don’t really look like anyone in my family.]

[Dean: Yeah. Speaking of which, could I have a pic of you? I kinda like to put a face to a voice.]

[Dean: I mean, I don’t know if your profile pic is old or anything. For all I know, you could look totally different.]

Cas didn’t answer back right away, but a few minutes later, Dean’s phone buzzed beside him. The phone took a moment to download the file before making a cheerful ding that signaled success.

[Cas: *photo enclosed*]

Dean grinned a little.

The file was a picture of Cas, in a dark navy suit, white shirt, and crooked blue tie. Dean could see the trenchcoat from his profile photo laid over the back of his rolling desk chair. He was sitting at a simple wooden desk in front of a whiteboard with a ton of writing in red marker scrawled over it. Various papers and worksheets were sprawled out in front of him in different stacks, and a modest but worn black briefcase sat perched open to his left. Cas’ hands laid limply across the desk in front of him, like he didn’t know what to do with them when the picture was taken.

What really drew Dean’s attention was Cas’ face. His dark hair was a little messy, just like his profile photo. ‘Must be a perpetual state of sex hair,’ Dean smirked to himself. Full pink lips offset the manly square jaw they were set upon, and he also had five o’clock shadow and a very subtle smile, one that you could only see if you were looking for it, like Mona Lisa’s smile.

‘Dude, you’re hot,’ Dean wanted to text him.

[Dean: Nope, you look the same as your profile. Except this is a much better pic. Thanks.]

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There were no replies from Cas until after Dean got home from the garage near dinnertime. Close to the time when Dean normally gets a call from Castiel, he got a text instead.

[Cas: I’m quite busy tonight with parent-teacher meetings, but may I have a picture of you as well?]

Dean stared at the message before shrugging. It’d be unfair if he didn’t send one back.

He scrolled through the photo gallery on his phone, only finding pictures of exotic and expensive cars he’d worked on at the garage in the past few years, a few glamour shots of his baby, and nearly a hundred blurry far-away pictures from Sam’s undergraduate graduation at Stanford.

Dean didn’t have many photos of himself; they were either too old, too blurry, or just plain terrible and embarrassing.

He wandered through the house, phone in hand, looking for where Sam might be. Dean found his brother in his room, sitting at his desk, pouring over interview notes he’d written and rewritten furiously over the past few days.

“Hey,” Dean tapped on the open door. “Knock knock.”

They were close brothers who didn’t need much privacy from each other, but they’ve established a knocking habit so Dean doesn’t accidentally waltz into one of Sam’s intense study sessions or worse, one of his much needed naps. “Can you take a picture of me?”

Sam studied his notes for a few more seconds before ripping his eyes away towards his brother. He cleared his throat and nodded a little as he stood up and crossed the room, meeting his brother at the doorway.

“Sure,” he took the phone out of Dean’s outstretched hand and flipped it open. “What, new Facebook photo?”

“Something like that.”

Dean arranges himself against the white wall of the hallway, pulling the wrinkles out of his grey henley and running a hand through his hair for good measure. At first, he threw out his usual ‘cool guy’ look, but then quickly relaxed and changed it to a slight smile at the last second.

Sam cocked an eyebrow at both Dean’s behavior and suspicious reply. “Hmm...” he hummed, aiming the phone at Dean, leering at him again before pressing the button.

Snap.

“Thanks, man.” Dean quickly snatched the phone out of Sam’s hand, glanced at the photo and escaped back into the den, leaving Sam standing alone in the skinny hallway of their house.

It wasn’t the best photo of him ever taken—his hair was a little messy from the day and his freckles stood out more than ever against his cheeks and nose—but it’ll work for now. Dean sent it immediately to Castiel after he finished looking it over. The rest of the night was relatively quiet, save for Sam’s sporadic freak outs and Dean haircut teases.

He woke up to Castiel’s reply waiting in his inbox the next morning, which was simply [Thank you.]

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One Tuesday morning, a few weeks later, Sam practically cornered Dean in the kitchen, using his gigantor body as a wall between Dean, the sink, and the coffee maker. They were both helping themselves to cheap store-brand coffee before the day started when Sam shot him a suspicious look.

“So,” Sam began, eyes narrowing at his older brother as if trying to read his mind. “How’s that dating site going?”

Dean peered over his mug at Sam, eyes narrowing in response. “Fine.”

“... Meet anyone?”

Dean made a noncommittal noise and sputtered over his coffee.

It was then that Sam grinned triumphantly. “You met someone,” he smiled. “I knew it.”

“Just a friend!”

A smirk played on Sam’s lips. “A friend that you talk to for an hour every night? Don’t think I don’t know about that.”

“Dude, shut up!”

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[Cas: I’m busy tonight, again. I’m sorry I will not have the time to call.]

[Dean: No prob. More meetings?]

[Cas: No, it’s Anna’s birthday. She’s 30 today. Gabriel came up to Boston for her birthday as a surprise.]

[Dean: Sounds great. How are you guys celebrating?]

[Cas: We’re going out to dinner and a bar with a group of her friends. I’m baking two pies for the occasion right now.]

[Dean: You bake PIE? Pie’s the best.]

[Cas: Yes, apple and cherry.]

[Dean: You’re a perfect human being.]

[Cas: I am not.]

[Dean: Dude, you bake pie. You’re perfect in my book.]

[Cas: If you say so. What flavor of pie is your favorite?]

[Dean: I like them all. Apple, blueberry, cherry, pecan, pumpkin. You name it, I like it.]

[Cas: Funeral pie?]

[Dean: wtf is funeral pie?]

[Cas: Raisins.]

[Dean: Ugh. Gross.]

[Cas: So I win?]

[Dean: Win what?]

[Cas: I found a pie you don’t like.]

[Dean: I guess so, but I’m sure if you made it, I’d like it.]

[Cas: I’m not too sure about that.]

[Cas: I have to go pick up Gabriel from the bus station and then meet everyone at the restaurant. I’ll text you later.]

[Dean: Have fun and don’t let Anna get too wasted like New Years.]

[Cas: We’ll try.]

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[Cas: Gabriel is not a good roommate.]

[Dean: He’s staying at your place?]

[Cas: For the weekend. Everywhere I look, I find piles of candy wrappers. I know he’s a candymaker, but I feel like he should have diabetes at this point.]

[Dean: That’s hilarious.]

[Cas: He could at least put the wrappers in the trash.]

[Dean: Well, they can’t all be winners. Have any plans for the day?]

[Cas: I was thinking about taking Gabriel to some of the local landmarks such as the Old City Hall.]

[Dean: Uh, yeah. You have fun with that.]

[Cas: He’s eating candy for breakfast.]

[Cas: It’s going to be a long day.]

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Having his older brother as a house guest didn’t stop Castiel from calling Dean at their usual time. Dean’s new ringtone “Road to Nowhere” started playing while he was halfway through a bowl of chicken alfredo and an episode of Star Trek: The Original Series. He set down his dinner and plucked his phone off the coffee table, accepting the call and bringing it to his ear.

“Hello?”

A hot familiar grumble came over the phone. “Hello, Dean.”

“Hey, Cas,” Dean greeted, glancing around the room to see if Sam was around. “What’s up?”

“I am exhausted.”

“Gabriel wear you out? Wasn’t that your job?” Dean laughed.

“No,” Castiel said. “But we didn’t get to many of the landmarks I planned out for today.”

Dean smirked, holding the phone between his shoulder and his ear while picking up his bowl again. “Hm? Why’s that?”

“He had a map with every independent candymaker in Boston marked on it.”

“What? Why? He finish his stash already and needed more?”

“No, he still has bags of his own candy left. I believe he phrased it... ‘checking out the competition.’”

“The competition all the way in Boston?”

“I made a similar point. I doubt he is really in competition with candymakers from a city two hundred miles away... but he still insisted on going to as many as we could. He bought a handful of candy from each store.”

“Hah,” Dean huffed, eating another spoonful before continuing. “Market research, I guess. Did he at least share with you?”

“I don’t like sweets, or at least, not as much as Gabriel. I spent most of the day refusing candy offers and finding candy wrappers everywhere.” Castiel sighed into the phone. “I’m tired of walking, and I am tired of my brother.”

“Ouch. Yeah, siblings suck sometimes.” Dean definitely knew from personal experience. He loved Sam, but sometimes his brother just drove him up wall, especially with midterms approaching.

“Thankfully, he leaves late tonight… We’re driving to the airport at eleven because he booked the latest flight of the day.”

Dean could nearly hear his eye roll through the phone. Castiel was one of the most patient people he knew, but one of the best parts of his personality is not putting up with anyone’s shit, not even his own brother’s.

“But enough about my escapade from today. How are you?” Castiel asked, seeming eager to change the subject to something other than himself.

Dean shrugged, even though he knew Castiel couldn’t see him. “Today was good. Kinda normal. Woke up, drove to the garage, repaired shit. The usual stuff.”

“Sounds nice,” Castiel nearly yawned the words. Dean chuckled.

“Dude, you really are exhausted. Go to bed.”

Castiel paused. “It’s not that I don’t like talking to y-”

“I know, man. Go get catch a nap before you have drive Gabriel to the airport or whatever. Don’t worry about it, I’ll be here tomorrow.” Dean winced at how girly that sounded.

Castiel took a moment of deliberation, like he was internally debating between staying up and talking to Dean and going to bed to get at least a decent power nap before leaving with Gabriel for the airport. He sighed heavily, making up his mind.

“Goodnight, Dean.”

“Night, Cas.”

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The first thing Dean did, and always does, after he woke up was check his phone. Nothing. Not unusual, but Castiel woke up much earlier than Dean because of school and the time difference from the East Coast, and usually he sent a text.

Over a bowl of cereal and a leftover donut, Dean typed out a text to Cas.

[Dean: Finally get rid of Gabriel?]

There was no intimidate answer, but he knew Castiel didn't have a free period until 10:00AM his time, and sometimes he didn't even have time to text between classes. Dean glanced at his watch; that was two hours away.

Dean's lunch came and went without a word from Cas, some of the guys at the garage started making fun of him for checking his phone every couple of minutes. Even Bobby gave him the occasional sideways stare.

Phantom vibrates began to plague him. Dean checked his phone often—pulling it out of his pocket and flipping it open to glance at the screen—every time he thought he felt a vibration alert, even though Bobby eventually yelled at him for being distracted on the job.

At a red light on his way home, Dean tried texting again.

[Dean: Man, there's a few people at the garage who would benefit from taking your Ethics class.]

There was no reply, and Dean ate dinner with Sam, who at least had good news that he was accepted to the internship. They broke out the good whiskey from the cabinet and poured themselves a few fingers worth each before retreating to their own corners: Sam back to his desk in his room and Dean out to their single car garage.

The evening dragged on and Dean changed the air filters on the Impala while waiting for Castiel's usual call.

He paused, hands in the middle of ripping open the box of a new A/C filter. He was waiting for Cas to call? When did that happen?

He was Dean motherfucking Winchester, he could be the one to call if he wanted to.

Dean whipped out his phone after completely installing the filter, determined to dial. Despite the cold air, Dean stayed in the privacy of the garage. Sam knew about Cas, more or less, and he didn't need to be eavesdropping any more than he should. He scrolled through his list of contacts to find Novak, Cas.

He hesitated on the call screen before abandoning his plans and opening an empty text. Calling was Cas' department, anyway.

[Dean: Busy today?]

No answer.

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Dean texted Castiel the next morning after arriving at the garage for his shift, casually trying to start a conversation about how stupid people who don’t know how to drive. He checked his phone constantly during his lunch break, thinking he might have just not felt its vibration. By the end of the day, the only texts Dean received were from Sam ([Stop and get milk. You used it all.]) and the subsequent ([Jerk.]) and Ellen ([Can u work Fri, 9-3am?]).

Dean tried to shrug it off, telling himself that Cas was just busy with teaching. They both had lives, and sometimes lives threw curveballs and schedules got busy. He’d text back when he found the time, Dean knew it.

But Cas didn’t call or answer any texts the next day or the day after that. Dean was starting to worry that Cas might be in some sort of trouble.

‘No,’ Dean thought. The guy was smart and had a black belt, for pete’s sake.

Still...

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[Dean: Dude, people out here in Cali do not know how to drive.]

[Dean: Motherfucker just cut me off. Stupid Prius.]

[Dean: Scratch that, motherfucking teenagers.]

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[Dean: Some lady just pulled in with a nearly wrecked Mercedes. Accidents may happen, but LOOK WHERE YOU’RE DRIVING WHEN YOU’RE DRIVING A *MERCEDES.*]

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[Dean: Earth to Cas, hello?]

[Dean: Lose your phone?]

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[Dean: You okay?]

[Dean: Gabriel didn’t kidnap you or anything, right?]

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[Dean: You’re not ignoring me, are you?]

[Dean: Wait, of course not. No one could ever ignore me.]

[Dean: jk ha ha]

[Dean: But seriously, where are you?]

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Dean flopped into bed after a particularly busy night shift at Ellen’s Roadhouse. It was nearing Valentine's Day, and every goddamned bachelor was crawling out of the woodwork to come to the bar and drown themselves in liquor. He felt like he poured beer after beer, shot after shot, for six hours straight.

In fact, that’s essentially what he did.

He didn’t feel like changing out of his work clothes just yet, so he was laying face-down on the bed wearing his shirt, jeans, and socks. He glanced over to his phone laying a few feet away from him on the mattress where he tossed it before crawling onto his bed, eying it with disdain.

Every night, he looked at the clock and unconsciously waited for the call that never came.

He reached out and grabbed his phone off the nightstand, flipping it open with a flick of his wrist. No new text messages showed on the display. Dean sighed and dropped his phone off the edge of the bed, landing on a pile of clothes with a soft thud. He laid there in the darkness of his room, half thinking and half trying to fall asleep.

Every day that passed with no contact from Castiel was becoming increasingly worrying, and Dean didn’t know why. Cas didn’t seem like the type to stop talking to someone and just drop a friendship with no explanation. They weren’t on bad terms, so Castiel shouldn’t be upset with him for any particular reason.

It all made Dean’s stomach twist into knots. It was clear to Dean that he really missed Castiel, and that not knowing if he was okay and not being able to talk to him was quickly becoming nearly unbearable. With the loss of contact with one of his only close friends, his heart ached a little.

Or more than a little. A lot more than a little.

‘Shit.’

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The next morning marked ten days since he last heard from Cas, not that he was keeping count or anything. Dean sent his usual futile morning check-in text to Castiel before his ritualistic blinding-hot shower and quick breakfast.

[Dean: It’s been more than a week. I hope you're okay.]

Sam strolled into the kitchen while Dean was halfway through his bowl of soggy frosted flakes and grabbed the other half of the bagel from the toaster. He took one look at his brother before grunting a ‘good morning.’ Slathering a generous amount of onion and chive cream cheese on his toasted bagel, Sam took a second, much longer look at Dean.

“Dude,” Sam said, taking a bite and speaking with his mouth full. “What crawled up your ass and died?”

Dean didn’t even look up from his bowl, determined not to meet Sam’s eyes. “Nothing.”

“Whatever, Dean. I know you. Something’s up.” Sam took his seat opposite of Dean at their small two-person kitchen table by the window.

Dean sighed, seeing no escape from this discussion. Sam had his concerned-problem-solving face on, and there was no stopping him at this point. “Remember that internet friend I have?”

Sam’s eyebrows raised slightly, a slight smirk coming to his lips quickly before smothering it with a more serious expression for his brother’s sake. “The dating site one? Yeah.”

Dean rolled his eyes, glancing around the room uncomfortably before returning to Sam, who was still waiting expectantly for him to continue. “I haven’t heard from him in like, ten days.”

“Oh,” Sam frowned, carefully examining Dean’s face as if he could discern more information from it. “Is he on vacation?”

“That’s the thing. I don’t know. He usually lets me know about that kind of stuff, but he just-” Dean made a vague falling motion with his hand, “-dropped off the face of the earth.”

Sam shrugged, eating more of his bagel. “Maybe he lost his phone?”

“But he hasn’t answered his email either. Calling, emailing, texting, it all doesn’t work.”

Sam’s gaze was fixed on Dean, silently urging for more.

“And I’m sorta worried about him.”

'Sorta'?” Sam raised his brows again before sighing and taking a moment to think things through. “I don’t know, Dean. What’s left to do except hope he’s okay?”

Dean didn’t know either. He was stuck in a game of waiting: waiting for a call, waiting for a text, waiting to see if anything was going to happen at all.

They finished their breakfast with minimal talking—Sam talked a little about the things he needs to do to prepare for his internship in the summer and Dean spent most of the time wondering how to go about checking in on Castiel without seeming like a stalker.

Sam left for class at his usual time, giving Dean one last reassured “I’m sure he’s okay” before heading out the door. Dean had about twenty minutes before leaving for the garage, and he flicked through the news channels in the living room, not quite paying attention to the newscasters as they reported about the ice and snowstorms ravaging the East Coast.

If he didn’t get a text by the end of the day, Dean decided he would make more of a search effort.

The day dragged on, and Dean could hear his phone vibrate on the workbench a few feet away. He glanced towards Bobby, who was currently underneath the hood of a Ford and absorbed in a busted radiator. He wasn’t technically allowed to check his phone anymore while working on a vehicle, especially with Bobby right there, but he was quick to check them as soon as his lunch break started.

[Jo H: Please please please take my shift.]

[Ellen: If she asks, don’t take Jo’s shift. I’m trying to make a point.]

[Jo H: Don’t listen to my mom, whatever she’s saying.]

[Ellen: If you take her shift, you lose your bartending job.]

[Ellen: I don’t mean that, but don’t take her shift. That girl needs to learn a thing or two.]

Dean cracked a smile, cheeks tight and sore like it was the first time he smiled in ages. Jo was always trying to get Dean to take her shifts, and really he understood. Working at the Roadhouse wasn’t exactly Jo’s lifelong dream, but he trusted Ellen’s judgement and typed out a reply to Jo before he ate his sandwich.

[Dean: Sorry, Jo. No can do.]

Bobby put him on the Oil Change register for the afternoon, and Dean spent most of the time up to his elbows in grease. Luckily, changing engine oil was a mindless task that Dean could do with his eyes closed and one arm behind his back, so it left a lot of room for thought.

How does someone find a person who lives in a different city, three thousand miles away with only a name, email, and number?

Dean wasn’t going to do anything as drastic as call the Boston-area cops and file a missing-persons report. If Castiel was fine and just busy, involving the cops would be annoying and massively embarrassing, not to mention crossing too many lines for Dean's liking.

On that thought, how does he even know that Castiel was missing? Dean decided that was the first thing he’d have to figure out.

The minute Dean got home after his shift, right after yelling out a 'hey!' to Sam down the hall, he retrieved his laptop from his desk in his room and brought it into the living room. He cracked open a Miller Light while it booted up, and he opened the White Pages website.

As it turned out, there were a hundred and eighteen entries for Novak in the Boston area, but only one with the name “Castiel” attached. He pulled out his cell phone and punched in the number. It rang four times until Cas’ voice crackled through the receiver.

“Hello, you’ve reached the home of Castiel Novak. If you—” Dean flipped his phone shut without leaving a message, frustrated with getting his answering machine. Cas should be home by now. He placed his cell back on the coffee table next to his laptop before massaging his forehead. 'Damn it, Cas…'

Dean pulled up the New York City White Pages, and searched Novak again. There’s pages upon pages upon pages of Novaks in New York, but Dean wasn’t surprised. You could find one of everything there, probably several hundred Winchesters too. But there was only one “Gabriel Novak,” and Dean was thankful for that. He waited a few minutes, glancing from the screen to his phone, debating whether he should call or not.

In the end, Dean had his phone pressed to his ear and Gabriel’s voice coming out the receiver. “Hey! It’s Gabe, lover and candy-maker extraordinaire! Leave your deets-” Dean clicked the end call button, muttering 'weirdo.' Dean had never talked to Cas’ brother before, but he sounded theatrical and loud, just like he pictured when Cas first described him.

He threw down his phone onto the couch cushions next to him before blowing out another frustrated sigh. Nearly on cue, Sam ambled into the room with a massive textbook in the crook of his arm and an empty glass in his hand.

“Can’t get a hold of your boyfriend?” He half-joked as he walked into the kitchen, setting his book on the table and filling his glass at the sink.

Dean leered at him as he came back into the den. “Dude, he’s not my boyfriend,” Dean barked. “And I don’t know, man. I even tried his brother’s number.”

“Isn’t that kind of...” Sam shrugged, “I don't know... stalkery?”

“I’m trying not to cross that line.”

Sam raised his eyebrows. “I think you already did.”

“Dude, shut up.”

“Hey, don’t look at me. I’m just glad you made a friend. Boyfriend or not, you’ve been happier recently. Or at least until this-” Sam made a vague motion with his free arm, somehow accurately describing the situation with it.

“Yeah, well,” Dean paused, rubbing his hands across his face, not knowing what to say. “I don’t know, man. I don't know.”

Maybe he’d never hear from Cas again.

Dean’s heart sank a little at the thought. That’s the last thing he wanted.

Chapter Text

The first thing Castiel felt upon waking up was pain.

A lot of it. In his head, in his arms, in his legs, his shoulder, his back...

Though upon further inspection, the pain was muted and distant, but when he moved his arms and flexed his toes, it hit him like a bolt of lightning. He didn’t remember falling asleep, and the sheets he was covered in didn’t feel like his. There was a tiny rustle of clothing when he moved and a distinct smell of over-sanitization. Castiel cracked his eyes open before immediately shutting them quickly to shield against the bright light, groaning in a mix of discomfort and confusion.

“Cas? Cassie? Are you awake?” a familiar voice boomed, hurting his ears a little.

“Gabriel?” Castiel cracked his eyes open again, trying to keep them open to adjust to the light. Slowly, the room came into focus and he realized he was laying in a bed in what looked like a hospital room. The sheets, walls, and heavy-duty plastic furniture were all white, and he wore a scratchy periwinkle robe. Gabriel jumped up from his seat in the chair in the corner, the celebrity gossip magazine in his lap falling to the floor.

“Phone...” Castiel grumbled, not quite able to focus his mind on one thing.

“What, Cassie?”

“Gabri-... give me my phone...” Castiel insisted, suddenly feeling incredibly drowsy again. “Where is my phone?”

“Take it easy, bro. You just woke up from a coma. You’re not even gonna ask what happened?”

“Where is my phone?” Castiel sat forwards, ignoring the pain in his right shoulder, trying to look on the side table and on the shelves underneath. His eyes shot around the room quickly before settling back on his older brother. “Gabriel, where did they put it?”

Gabriel itched at the edges of his bright pink cast, avoiding Castiel’s gaze. “Well, we were in a pretty bad accident. And you were the worst off. And...” Gabriel trailed off.

The hand of his unbroken arm reached into his sweatpants' pocket, which Castiel identified as something stolen from his own closet, and pulled something out. His phone—or at least the pieces of his phone, now—laid in shambles across Gabriel’s palms. Castiel reached out with a shaking hand and gingerly took it from his brother. The screen was detached from the body, hanging only by a red wire, and pieces of plastic and broken circuitry fell from Gabriel’s hands and clattered to the floor.

Gabriel spoke softly, a stark comparison to what he normally sounded like. “You were texting when it happened.”

“And what did happen?” Castiel murmured, flipping the pieces of his phone over and over in his palm.

“More than a week and a half ago... we were on the way to the airport, to drop me off.”

The memory of that night flashed through his head, only pieces of it coming to him briefly and out of order. The pies and the bar and Gabriel and Anna’s birthday...

“Is Anna...?” Castiel’s mouth went dry as he tried to form the question. Gabriel shook his head.

“Anna wasn’t with us, just you and me.” Castiel sighed in relief, his family was broken enough already. “You let me drive, like I insisted... and we were t-boned by a speeding truck at an intersection. He ran a red light and couldn’t stop in time because of the ice. He’s alright, and his truck is alright, but you and your car...”

Castiel sat back in his bed, thin sheets pooling in his lap, as he took in this information. More pieces of it were coming back to him now. He remembered writing a text to Dean, and a bright flash of headlights and the screech of tires and the loudest noise he’s ever heard in his life, and then nothing. Blackness and silence until now.

“Give me yours.”

“What?”

“Your phone.”

“Hey, mine’s broke too. Though not as bad as yours.” Gabriel shrugged before wincing and reaching up to rub his shoulder. “Tryin’ to call that boyfriend of yours?”

Castiel’s eyes narrowed on his brother. “I am not dating Dean. But, yes, I’d like to call him.”

“Well, I’ll be running out pretty soon, now that you’ve woken up. I’ll get you and me some new phones and visit Anna to tell her you're awake. Anything you want me to grab from your apartment? The docs said they wanted to keep an eye on you for a bit when you woke up.”

Castiel thought for a moment. “My laptop and my bag. Does the school know about the accident?”

“Yeah, they’ve gotten you an in-house substitute for now. One of the other religion teachers... a guy by the name of Crowley?”

Castiel’s lip twitched into a snarl upon hearing the name. “Ugh,” he groaned with distaste.

“You in pain?” Gabriel asked, looking over his brother with concern.

“No. But my students will be, at the hands of Crowley.”

“I think I remember that guy. Ouch. Better them than you, huh? Perhaps they’ll appreciate you more when you come back!” Gabriel flashed a smile at his younger brother, trying to cheer him up.

“I can only hope.”

[]-[]-[]-[]-[]-[]-[]-[]-[]-[]-[]-[]-[]-[]

Gabriel left soon after, and he must have let the doctors know that Castiel was awake, because a nurse and a doctor immediately rushed into his room afterwards. The nurse attended to various tubes, wires, and IVs attached to Castiel’s arm, chest, and stomach while the doctor, a kind-looking middle-aged blonde man, retrieved a clipboard from the end of his bed.

“Good afternoon, Mr...” the doctor checked the chart, “Novak. I am your doctor, Doctor Briggs. It seems you were in quite the accident.” Castiel nodded. “Do you have any immediate pain? Confusion?”

“Mn… Dizzy. And my arms and legs.” Castiel said, trying to stretch his limbs.

“Well, that’s to be expected. You broke them. You’ve got quite the collection of injuries,” Doctor Briggs flipped through the clipboard, reading through the report. “A broken right leg, broken right arm, broken right clavicle, multiple abrasions and lacerations, trauma to the head, a concussion...” He closes the report, looking back to Castiel. “Well, Mr. Novak, you’re lucky to be alive.”

Castiel looked down at his body, or what he could see of it. He could make out a large cast underneath the sheets on his leg, no doubt white in color to match his arm cast. He barely rolled his shoulders, before the pain of his broken collarbone set in. The straps of the shoulder sling rubbed into his skin.

“What about my brother?”

Doctor Briggs smiled again, returning the clipboard to the hook on the end of the bed and grabbing another one. “Mr. Gabriel Novak? He was in much better shape than you. He was able to leave the hospital after two and a half days. Though he never really left, he just camped out in your room mostly.”

Castiel let out a breath of relief. He never got to ask Gabriel how he was, but he visually seemed fine, other than cuts, bruises, and the arm cast Castiel saw his older brother sporting.

Doctor Briggs proceeded to ask him a series of questions to gauge his mental capacity, mostly standard issue ones varying from 'do you know where you are' to 'what is 9 plus 11.' Castiel answered each one as honestly and accurately as he could, but stumbled a little when it came to questions surrounding the accident, as it was still a little foggy.

When Doctor Briggs seemed satisfied with his answers, he hooked the second clipboard back on the bed after signing it.

“We’d like to keep you for a few days for observation. All of your injuries are treated, but as you woke up from a coma, you may start to exhibit symptoms of a possible brain injury you may have sustained during the accident.”

“I understand,” Castiel said. “Thank you, Doctor Briggs.”

The doctor nodded and gave his patient another reassuring smile before leaving the room. The nurse was still tinkering with the machines hooked up to Castiel. She recorded his vitals on a separate clipboard and hung it on the end of his bed before leering at him.

“If you need anything or experience pain above a reasonable level, please use the nurse call button-” she pointed to a button on the side of his bed, “-there.”

She glanced him over once again before promptly leaving the room and shutting his door, leaving him alone in the white and empty room.

[]-[]-[]-[]-[]-[]-[]-[]-[]-[]-[]-[]-[]-[]

Gabriel returned to the hospital a few hours later, with a few reusable canvas bags in one hand and Castiel’s old college green messenger bag in the other.

“Man, your city bus system sucks ass,” he said, pulling the white plastic chair up to the edge of Castiel’s bed. He set the bags on the floor next to him before pulling some small colorful boxes from them. “Here, I got you the next model up from your old one.”

“You didn’t have to,” Castiel started. Phones were expensive if they weren’t up for contract renewal, and neither Gabriel or he were particularly wealthy enough to pay for new phones.

“Nah, don’t worry about it. They were having a family deal,” Gabriel assured, but Castiel had a nagging suspicion he was lying. “Plus, your old phone was ancient.”

“I only had it for two years.”

“Dude, that’s ancient this day in age. That and this one is so much cooler!” Gabriel said, taking Castiel’s phone out of the box and peeling the plastic protective sheet off the front. It was black with steel trim, and felt heavier in Castiel’s palm than his previous one. Weren't new phones supposed to be lighter?

“Thank you, Gabriel,” Castiel said, eying the new chunk of metal in his hand.

“No problem, bro. No one should go without a cell phone. Ever.” Gabriel jammed Castiel’s house key into the tough plastic packaging of his new phone charger, ripping and tearing at it until the device was free. “You’ve got a different number now—so do I, actually—but all your texts and emails and whatever should reroute to your new number sooner or later.”

Gabriel busied himself opening his new phone, and they sat together setting up them up in comfortable silence. There were so many more options and applications on Castiel’s new phone in comparison to his old one. He still had a basic internet browser and a music player, but from what he could read in the instruction manual, it had so much more. He wasn’t sure he’d be able to use this phone as easily, but he supposed he was stuck with it.

“So...” Gabriel broke the silence, sliding his phone shut and slipping it into his jacket pocket, which again was ‘borrowed’ from Castiel’s closet.

“Hm?” Castiel hummed, saving the school’s main office number he has memorized as his second contact, the first being his brother.

“So, you gonna call that boyfriend of yours?” Gabriel wiggled his eyebrows, smirking at Castiel with eager eyes and a bright white smile.

“I told you already, Dean and I are not dating.”

Gabriel shot him a knowing look.

“I don’t remember his number,” Castiel admitted with a sigh.

“Aw, Cassie. That’s a problem easily fixed.” Gabriel smiled, reaching into Castiel’s messenger bag and pulling out his bulky black laptop, setting it on the edge of the bed by his brother’s knees. “Dude, you gotta update this thing as well.”

“It’s from the school. Without it, I don’t have a laptop.”

“Hah! Doing personal business on a school computer! You sly dog, you. It’s probably against the rules, huh?” Gabriel laughed to himself. “Man, I’m such a great influence on you.”

“Something like that,” Castiel mumbled. The administration never said he couldn’t use it for personal reasons. He just figured as long as he wasn’t using it for things such as hacking or pornography, it would be okay.

Gabriel flipped open the laptop and plugged it into the wall before waiting for it to boot up. A week and a half of sitting in sleep mode, the poor machine must have been dead.

“Anyway, we’ll just look this guys num—” Gabriel glanced back at the screen, “—Ohoho, not password protected!—we’ll look this guy’s number up and you’ll have it again.”

“Isn’t that a little like stalking? And I sincerely doubt you’ll find his personal cell phone number on the internet.”

“We don’t need his cell number right away, just his house number if he's got one,” Gabriel explained. “I hope he’s listed.” Gabriel tapped the keys, working faster than Castiel ever could, even with a cast on his arm. “So what’s his name? Dean what?”

“Winchester.”

“Oh, fancy,” he teased, typing the name into the search box. “Uh. There’s more than three hundred pages of results.”

“He lives in Palo Alto, California.”

“Well, then, just one result then.”

“Really?”

“Yup,” Gabriel nodded, turning the laptop on the bed so Castiel could see the screen. The number had the same area code as Dean’s cell phone number, so he slowly typed it into a new contact sheet before saving it under ‘Dean (home).’ He placed his phone on the starchy sheets next to his side and settled his gaze on Gabriel, who is sitting and looking at him expectantly.

“Well? Aren’t you gonna call him?” Gabriel asked, gesturing to the new cell phone. Castiel’s lips pressed together into a thin line and narrowed his eyes at his brother.

“Oh, right. You probably want privacy so you can talk to your boyfriend.” Gabriel emphasized the last word by saying it in a sing-song voice. Castiel rolled his eyes and Gabriel stood up. “Well, I’ll get outta your hair then.” Gabriel stood and picked up the canvas bags with his good arm. “You want some take-out? Hospital food is shit. I’ve been eating take-out and microwave stuff all week, I don’t really trust myself to actually cook in your apartment and not set it on fire.”

“Thank you, and no thank you. I think I’ll survive for a few days.”

“Your funeral,” Gabriel scoffed. “Well, I’m stayin’ in town until you get out. Whether you like it or not, I’m helping you settle back into your place when you finally get released.” Gabriel threw up a mock salute. “Adios, mi broski.”

“Gabriel!” Castiel called after his brother, who stopped at the door and looked back at him. “Don’t destroy my apartment.”

Gabriel smirked. “I’ll try.”

And with a wink and his cheesiest grin, Gabriel was gone.

[]-[]-[]-[]-[]-[]-[]-[]-[]-[]-[]-[]-[]-[]

After the course of the afternoon, Castiel still felt a little dizzy and disoriented, but it was still miles better than when he first woke up. He considered taking a nap, but the presence of his phone grew heavy and magnetic next to him.

From what he could remember, the first thing he wanted to have when he woke up was his phone. He didn’t know what drove him to need to call Dean, but now he figured he could at least call him to explain. Castiel picked up his phone and fumbled through the menu to find his incredibly short contact list.

Did Dean miss him? At all? Was he worried? Did he even notice he was gone?

Castiel pressed the ‘send’ button before he could let these questions deter him from calling. He held it up to his ear with his left hand, since holding anything up with his right arm and shoulder proved to be more pain than it was worth.

It was only until the phone was already dialing and ringing that Castiel had to quickly check the time and date, doing the mental math to figure out the time zone. It was a Saturday, and Dean shouldn’t be working until his bar shift later in the night.

The phone rang a few times before someone picked up.

“Hello?” a strange voice answered. He didn’t sound like Dean, but another man. Wrong number, perhaps?

Castiel cleared his throat. “Is this the Winchester residence?”

“Yeah, it is. Who is this?”

“Castiel Novak.”

The voice laughed a little, growing quieter as it distanced from the phone. “Dean, it’s your bo—”

Dean’s voice quickly rushed over the line. “Shut up! Cas? Dude, is that you?”

Castiel smiled as unknown tension drained from his body. Hearing Dean’s voice again was strangely comforting. “Yes.”

A quiet moment passed as neither spoke.

“So, uh, where have you been?” Dean said casually. “Why’d you call my house?”

“I’ve been in the hospital. Well, I’m still in the hospital, actually.”

“What? Why? You okay?” Dean sounded worried.

“I am now. I was in a car accident when I was dropping my brother off at the airport.”

“Woah, man. I’m glad you’re okay. You are okay, right?”

“More or less,” Castiel admitted, looking down at his injured body covered with the thin hospital sheet. “Some cuts and bruises and broken bones. I was in a coma until this morning. But they will release me after a few days of observation.”

“Sounds pretty bad.”

“It was a ‘pretty bad’ accident.”

Dean's laugh chuckled lightly over the phone and the pleasant sound eased Castiel’s mind. “Yeah, dude. I guess so. I called you... a few times.”

“My phone broke during the crash,” Castiel apologized, wondering how many times Dean called and how soon after he went missing that he started calling. “Gabriel brought me a new one this afternoon.”

“Ah. New number or same one?”

“Different.” Castiel read off the number written in Gabriel’s swirly scrawl on the back of the receipt. “I didn’t know your number, so...” He really didn’t want to say ‘so I had my brother look you up on the internet.’

“Yeah, no. No problem. Here, I’ll text you so you have my number.”

There was a short pause and the sound of clicking buttons in his ear as Dean typed out a text. Castiel’s phone buzzed in his grip, and the message was displayed over the call screen.

[650-242-8613: Heya, Cas.]

Without saying anything, Castiel tapped out a text and sent it back.

[617-556-9255: Hello, Dean.]

“Awesome.”

“So, how have you been? Since I’ve been... well, essentially unconscious for two weeks.”

“Me? Ah, uh,” Dean paused. “It’s been pretty boring around here. Just working at the garage, working at the bar, working on my car...”

“You work too much,” Castiel commented.

“I know,” Dean replied automatically. Work was a frequent topic of theirs, usually revolving around a good amount of complaining and circling remarks. “And I guess you’ll be off work for a while?”

“I haven’t discussed it with the school yet. I’d like some time off, but Crowley has taken over my classes, apparently.”

Dean grimaced at the name, making a disgruntled noise into the phone. Castiel never told Dean too much about Crowley, but he was able to glean a general sense of his personality. “That dick is teaching your classes? Ugh.”

“Exactly,” Castiel continued, smiling that Dean remembered his co-worker. “But there’s nothing I can do for at least a week or more. I’ll sort things out with the school tonight or tomorrow.” Castiel yawned, eyes fluttering shut and refusing to stay open afterwards. “For sleeping for two weeks, I’m surprised how tired I am.”

“Yeah, well, it’s probably been a pretty crazy day for you.”

“Overwhelming,” Castiel agreed before politely excusing himself.

“You sleep tight and we’ll talk tomorrow, okay?” Dean said, and Castiel couldn’t tell if he meant to emphasize the second part of the sentence or if it just came out that way.

“Good night, Dean.”

“Night, Cas.”

[]-[]-[]-[]-[]-[]-[]-[]-[]-[]-[]-[]-[]-[]

Cas woke up in the middle of the night to a strange intermittent buzzing. His new phone was vibrating endlessly on the bedside table, next to the small digital clock supplied by the hospital. The light coming from the screen lit up the ceiling with a glowing blue light.

It vibrated and vibrated for an entire minute before Castiel reached over carefully and picked it up. The screen showed “Text Message Received: 12

… 13,
… 14,
… 15…”

The phone buzzed in the palm of his hand. Castiel cursed the device and he pondered if it was a system or service glitch and if it would ever end. He just got this phone and he hoped it wasn’t broken already.

Finally, minutes later, the vibrating stopped. “Text Message Received: 38.” Castiel stared at the outrageously large number before clicking through to his inbox. Two were from Anna, and the rest were from Dean.

[Anna: Thanks for an awesome birthday, Cas.]

[Anna: I’m pretty sure one of my friends likes you~]

Castiel sighed. Anna had a good heart, really, but he had no interest in dating one of her friends from work. She knew about his aversion to dating and strangers—not to mention dating strangers—so he didn’t know why she even tried in the first place. He deleted them before scrolling through Dean’s texts.

[Dean: You okay?]

[Dean: Gabriel didn’t kidnap you or anything, right?]

The edge of Castiel’s lips quirked up; Dean at least can jump to the usually correct conclusions. But then the texts got less and less light-hearted.

[Dean: You’re not ignoring me, are you?]

[Dean: Whatever I did, I’m sorry.]

[Dean: I hope you’re okay.]

[Dean: Sam hopes you’re okay, too.]

[Dean: It’s been awhile since I’ve heard from you. :(]

[Dean: I miss yuo and your voicee. I worry fr u]

[Dean: Sam has takn the whisky and hid i t]

[Dean: Ignore those texts from last night. I was pretty far past the point of drunk.]

[Dean: I’m just checking in. Shoot me a text if you’ve got the time.]

[Dean: Just one text? Even if you’re busy. Just one?]

Feeling his heart both sink and flutter at the same time, Castiel scrolled through the texts again, reading through them once more. According to the timestamps, Dean sent at least one text every day, usually more, around the time that Castiel normally called him. He clicked through the menus to compose a new text.

[Cas: Your texts from the past two weeks came through. All 36 of them.]

He set it down on his lap, thinking about trying to get back to sleep. The phone’s clock read 3:54 A.M. and he wasn’t expecting a reply back from Dean until late morning. But a minute later, his phone buzzed against his thigh, lighting up the ceiling blue again.

[Dean: Yeah, sorry about that.]

[Dean: I got a little worried, ya know.]

[Cas: More than a little, it seems.]

[Dean: Damn it. Sam said the same thing.]

[Cas: What are you doing awake?]

[Dean: Can’t sleep. You?]

[Cas: The same. I have a feeling that sleeping and waking up at odd hours will become a regular routine for a while.]

[Dean: Sucks to be us, huh?]

[Cas: At least there’s someone at least somewhat interesting to talk to.]

[Dean: Somewhat? I’m a little more than ‘somewhat’ interesting.]

[Cas: I was joking.]

[Dean: Totally nailed it then, Cas. Four for you.]

[Cas: Four what?]

[Dean: Nothing...]

[Dean: Ya know, one day you’re gonna have to marathon all the classics. And I mean everything from the original Star Trek to Mean Girls.]

[Cas: I look forward to it.]

[Dean: I have no idea if that was your weird sarcasm or not.]

[Cas: It wasn’t.]

[Dean: Good. Well, I’m gonna try to sleep again. Sam’s on the other side of my wall sawin’ logs and I’ve got both the garage and the bar to work tomorrow.]

[Dean: Night, Cas.]

[Cas: Goodnight, Dean.]

After rolling uncomfortably from side to side in his narrow hospital bed, Castiel decided he was just not going to be able to sleep that night. Being careful of his IV and monitor wires, he leaned over the metal railing to reach his messenger bag, sitting on the seat of the plastic chair just as Gabriel left it. He pulled out his laptop and set it on his lap, nearly being blinded by the screen’s brightness until he reduced it.

He was almost hesitant to check his email; his inbox was going to be a disaster. He opened Outlook anyway, and checked Google’s top news while it loaded on the hospital's free but unbelievably slow wireless. He had one-hundred and sixty-eight emails, which was a much lower number than he expected. Several of them were from the school—newsletters and a note from the principal to the school faculty explaining his accident and his absence—and some were various notifications for miscellaneous things, like he needed to update his library card and pay his rent online, and the rest were junk mail.

Castiel hoped Gabriel was taking in his mail at his apartment. He better call and ask about that tomorrow morning.

He shuddered at the thought. Castiel didn’t want to think of the state of his apartment now that Gabriel had been squatting in it for nearly two weeks.

[]-[]-[]-[]-[]-[]-[]-[]-[]-[]-[]-[]-[]-[]

Anna visited Castiel during his breakfast of rubbery eggs and soupy oatmeal the next morning. Her bright red hair and warm smile brightened the bright white room considerably, and she spoke of how worried she was for him. Anna and Castiel were not especially close siblings, but they were kind to each other. Anna had a pure heart under her fiery personality.

“When I heard, I couldn’t believe it. I’m so sorry this happened to you, Castiel.” She placed her hand on his forearm, looking at him with sad but kind eyes.

“It was an accident, as far as I know.”

“That’s what Gabriel told me. He ran a red light.” Her fingers tensed around his arm, digging into the muscle of his forearm. “That fucking driver, he nearly killed you! And Gabriel!”

“I’m alright, Anna. I’ll be released in a few days. Gabriel is also here in town.”

“I know,” she said, lightening her grip on his arm and he could feel the blood start circulating in it again. “He’s been living in your apartment and visited your room often.” Castiel nodded. “I’ve visited a few times too, when I could. My dumb boss wouldn’t let me have any extra time to visit you.”

Castiel smiled warmly at her, placing his hand over hers. “Thank you.”

[]-[]-[]-[]-[]-[]-[]-[]-[]-[]-[]-[]-[]-[]

Anna left before lunchtime, saying she shouldn’t stay any longer because she didn’t “technically get permission” to take the time off. She skipped out of her job for the morning because she heard that he had woken. Castiel thanked her for her effort, but urged her to not get fired for his sake. She worked hard to get into that marketing firm.

Castiel called the school’s main office, and after some haggling with Principal Martella, he was luckily allowed two weeks medical leave without using any of his meager personal days. Theology teachers were few and far between these days, and the school administration must have realized they didn't want to struggle to find another on such short notice.

Unfortunate for him, Crowley dropped by for a ‘friendly’ visit in the afternoon, and it was apparent that he must have left right after the bell rang to arrive at the hospital before visiting hours ended.

He strode into the room like he owned it, wearing his usual black on black suit, and set his briefcase on the little table in the corner of the room. He spun on his heel and raked his eyes over Castiel and his injuries before speaking.

“Well, looks like you got yourself into quite a mess there,” Crowley drawled in his ever apparent english accent, smirking slightly as his eyes met Castiel’s.

“It was an accident,” Castiel replied, meeting him with a steely glare.

“Of course, how could I forget?” Crowley said a little sarcastically. “Anyway, I’ve taken over your classes. I’ve got a large course-load now, thanks to you.”

Castiel shook his head. Of course he was going to bring this up. “I didn’t make them choose you to substitute. They could have gotten someone else.”

“Ah, yes,” Crowley nods before continuing without consideration for what Castiel was trying to tell him. “No doubt someone else much less qualified and less able to teach your students World Religions, Ethics, and Morality.”

‘What would you know about ethics and morality?’ Castiel thought snidely. “I’m sure-”

“Oh, but I forgot to mention, I volunteered,” Crowley sneered, emphasizing on the word like it had some strange mystical power over Castiel. “I couldn’t let my poor dear fellow theology teacher get a rubbish substitute and have all his students fail, now could I?”

Castiel lowered his eyes, staring at his sheet-covered feet, knowing that he couldn’t win the battle against this thick-skulled devil of a man. Crowley was a master manipulator, skilled in making himself sound both like a victim and a martyr.

“Thank you for volunteering,” he mumbled.

“Perhaps,” Crowley started, like an idea had just come to him out of the blue, “you might make it up to me. A deal of sorts.”

‘Not this again.’ Castiel subtly rolled his eyes at his feet before looking back up at him. “Mr. Sinclaire-”

“Crowley, please,” the suited teacher insisted, with a charming smile of a sinister snake gracing his lips.

Crowley,” Castiel amended, staring hard at the man before him. “As I recall, I never asked you to take over my classes. In fact, as you've said, you volunteered. I don’t owe you anything.”

“Hey, bro-” Gabriel's voice sounded as he pushed the door open and rushed into the room but came to a dead stop at the sight of Crowley. “Should I come back later?” he asked, jerking a thumb towards the door and turning a little in the doorway as if to leave.

Crowley glared bloody daggers between Gabriel and Castiel for a few moments, examining his brother quickly before picking up his briefcase. “No, I believe I was just leaving.”

He strode to the door, just brushing past Gabriel before he turned back to address them. “Goodbye, gentlemen.”

Two sets of eyes silently followed him out of the room as he left.

“Fucking saved your life, didn’t I?” Gabriel chided, pulling the chair up to the edge of the bed. “How long are you gonna let that guy harass you? You should sue!”

Castiel shrugged. Suing Crowley would really be more trouble than it would be worth. Expensive, time consuming, and he’d probably lose knowing the other teacher’s backhanded tactics. “Really, he’s only an annoyance.”

“Yeah right, and I'm the Drag Queen of Spain.” Gabriel rolled his eyes at Castiel as he saw through his brother’s lies. He sat in the white plastic chair backwards, leaning two elbows on the back, shrugging in indifference. He thought Castiel should report the bastard, but he trusted his little brother would make the right choice when the time came, if it ever got to be too much. “Anna tells me she visited earlier?”

“She came by for a few hours.”

“Great. It’s been awhile since we’ve all been in the same city for this long,” Gabriel said, emptying out his bag onto the edge of Castiel’s bed. There was a thick stack of magazines, about a dozen and a half of them. Gabriel sifted through them, pulling the February editions of Time, Forbes, and National Geographic out of the pile and placing them into their own pile on the edge of the bed.

“Thought you might be bored as fuck in here—hell, I’m nearly climbing the walls of your apartment, I’m so stir-crazy—so I got you some reading materials. I don’t remember exactly what you like, but I thought these would be a great place to start.”

Castiel gladly accepted the magazines, placing them on his bedside table next to his phone. Gabriel eyed his phone while he opened one of his lollipops—Cinnamon Roll flavor, one of his favorite creations to date—before flicking the wrapper into the small trash bin in the corner of the room.

“Call that boyfriend of yours yet?” Gabriel said, voice muffled and distorted around the lollipop.

Castiel ignored the repetitive tease but nodded. “I talked to Dean.”

“Good, because you basically harassed me a bunch the minute you woke up, tryin’ to call him.”

“I did not,” Castiel refuted. The moments right when he woke up were still a little hazy, but he could somewhat recall searching for his phone...

‘Oh...’ he thought, knitting his eyebrows together and frowning. “I’m sorry about that.”

“No worries, broseph,” Gabriel assured, taking out his lollipop and waving it around. “If I had someone to call like that, I woulda done the same. Though Kali called two days after I was supposed to meet up with her and read me the riot act before I could explain. That chick is terrifying... and hot.”

It was Castiel’s turn to roll his eyes. He remembered Kali Khalsa from his Christmas visit, and she was indeed a scary woman. Tall, slender, and powerful, and good at the one thing that Castiel couldn’t do: reigning in his brother. She managed his shop’s finances, and as Castiel foretold, they were “casually seeing each other” just after a few months of working together.

Gabriel smiled and cracked open a People magazine. “So,” he began, eyes skimming the full-color pages full of celebrity gossip. “When are you gettin’ out of this place?”

“I expect tomorrow or the day after,” Castiel replied.

Doctor Briggs said ‘a couple of days,’ which was annoyingly unspecific. It could mean anything from the literal meaning of two days to four or even five, and after only a day and a half of being conscious and awake in the hospital, Castiel was already itching to leave.

Gabriel flipped the page in his magazine before pausing and peering over the edge. “I bet you’re already tired of the food here, right?”

Castiel stared at his brother for a moment, considering his miserable breakfast and meager lunch that day. “... Yes,” he admitted bitterly.

“Hah, told you. I’m thinking about ordering take out for dinner, since my grilled cheese for lunch didn’t exactly go as planned...”

Castiel frowned at him.

“Your apartment is fine, though! Just fine, not on fire, not burnt. Just fine,” Gabriel assured him quickly, looking a little too guilty for Castiel’s taste. “Can I order us some take-out? Thai sounds great right now, I’ve been craving it all day. My treat.”

Normally Castiel would decline such an offer, but since Gabriel had been making himself at home at his apartment, he felt almost entitled to it. “Sure. Could you get me pineapple chicken curry?”

“Yep, I’ll go order that and get us drinks from the vending machine from down the hall. You stay here, don’t go wandering around anywhere.” Gabriel winked as he got up to leave. “Not that you really could anyway,” he joked.

Gabriel returned with a Pepsi and a Dr. Pepper, and a little later, their food arrived. Castiel’s phone buzzed against the surface of the bedside table while Gabriel ran outside to meet the delivery guy in the hospital's front entrance. He grabbed it before it was finished and flicked it open, expecting it to be from Dean.

[650-242-4667: Hello, Castiel. It’s Sam Winchester. I stole your number off Dean’s phone when he wasn’t looking.]

Castiel stared down at the screen. Dean’s brother. The one who answered the phone. What could he possibly want? Castiel added the number to his contacts under ‘Sam Winchester’ before sending a reply.

[Castiel: Hello, Sam. How are you?]

[Sam: I’m doing pretty well. Busy with law school and all. I hear you’re in the hospital?]

[Castiel: Yes. I was in a car accident two weeks ago and have been in a coma.]

[Sam: That’s terrible. I’m glad you’re okay. Dean was pretty worried about you.]

[Castiel: Really?]

[Sam: He had a hard time admitting it, but he was definitely really worried. We were both worried.]

[Castiel: I’m sorry for making you worry.]

[Sam: Nah, it’s all good now. I’m glad you’re ok.]

[Sam: And please, don’t tell Dean I have your number or texted you, okay?]

[Cas: You have my word.]

[Sam: Great. Our little secret.]

Gabriel returned with a large paper bag in his hands and a copy of the receipt hanging out of his mouth. After settling back into his chair—facing forwards this time—he doled out the contents of the bag between them. There were two square styrofoam containers with two small salad boxes and a small variety of sauces. Castiel's pineapple chicken curry smelled amazing even with the lid closed, and his stomach growled in appreciation.

"I hope this is good because I'm starving without lunch," Gabriel said, popping the lid to his Sweet and Sour curry and taking a big wafting inhale. His eyes fluttered shut and he nearly moaned at the aroma. Gabriel always had a thing for good food.

Castiel ate slowly and savored his curry while he listened to Gabriel talk endlessly about his business. Apparently, since the accident, he had to call in a small handful of favors—from employees and Kali, especially—to make sure it was still up and running by the time he got back. Kali was annoyed at all the extra work outside of her job description, but Gabriel said he’ll give her a bonus for the month because of the emergency.

“She still won’t forgive me for missing our dinner date. I was in the hospital, that cold hearted bitch!” Gabriel complained, but Castiel knew the statement was still full of love. The relationship between Kali and Gabriel had always mystified Castiel. They were so different, but fit so well.

Kind of like him and Dean—

Castiel stopped that thought short, stuffing it down and putting it away in the back corner of his mind. He didn’t really know where it was going anyway.

"That was delicious. I mean, I live in New York, but I haven't even found a place with curry as sweet as this." Gabriel rubbed at his stomach gratefully, seemingly satisfied with his dinner from King & Thai. He stretched back against the chair, rolling his shoulders before sitting up straight. "I'm probably gonna head out. The bus ride takes a long-ass time and there's a Golden Girls marathon tonight."

"Are you joking," Castiel asked, not really expecting an answer.

Gabriel grinned as he stood, collecting their trash and putting it back into the paper bag. "Not even remotely. Can I have some of your sherbet in the freezer?"

"It's sorbet," Castiel was quick to correct. "Help yourself."

When Gabriel left, Castiel turned on the small television set that was hanging in the corner of his hospital room. He never really watched television much except for during the morning news when he was dressing for school. Even then, he didn’t actively watch it, he only listened to it.

He flipped absently through the channels. There were some basketball games that he wasn't interested in, and some dramatic soap operas—even a few in spanish—that looked like they were filmed on an incredibly low budget. All too quickly, he was back to channel number one and he almost began clicking through the channels again before his phone vibrated.

[Dean: Ellen isn’t opening the bar because of a late liquor shipment, so I’ve got the night off. What’s up?]

[Cas: Today felt incredibly long and almost unbearable.]

[Dean: Why?]

[Cas: I’ve had a lot of visitors.]

[Dean: Like who?]

[Cas: Anna, Gabriel, Crowley, and not to mention all the doctors and nurses.]

[Cas: I’m not used to visitors; so many were tiring.]

[Dean: Jeez, you’re such a popular dude, Cas.]

[Cas: I wish I wasn’t.]

[Dean: Could I visit then?]

Upon reading the text, Castiel raised a solitary eyebrow. Was Dean in town? No, he had work today. Besides, Dean would have mentioned it earlier. What was he talking about? Frowning, Castiel typed out a text.

[Cas: What do you mean?]

[Dean: Do you have skype?]

[Cas: I think so. I never use it, though.]

[Dean: Great. Open that up and I’ll add you.]

With no further questions, Castiel rummaged through his messenger bag for his laptop and plugged it into it’s charger sitting on the bedside table. He selected ‘Skype’ on his list of programs and the program slowly opened up. For a split second, Castiel couldn’t remember his login information, but luckily when the window opened, it immediately logged him in. When it loaded, a pop up burst open in the center.

‘Accept Dean Winchester’s contact request?’

He accepted the request, and Dean’s name was added to the sidebar. Now, he had three people on his contact list: Dean, Anna, and Crowley. He frowned. Now he remembered why he never used Skype. Another pop up prompted him with a small synthesized ringtone.

‘Incoming call from Dean Winchester’

Castiel stared at the pop up for a quick moment before clicking ‘answer.’ Immediately, a window opened, displaying a picture of Dean’s face.

Castiel’s heart jumped. It wasn’t a picture, but a video.

Dean was video-calling Castiel.

“Heya, Cas.” Dean’s voice, in all it’s rough glory, spilled out of his computer’s speakers. It felt good to hear Dean’s voice again, even though they talked the night before.

“Hello,” Castiel replied, staring at the little moving Dean on his screen. He looked a little different from the picture he sent awhile ago. His stubble was more apparent like he hadn’t shaven in a few days, and his eyes were a much brighter and more brilliant green than Castiel could have ever imagined.

“I thought maybe you’d like to see another friendly face today.” Dean smiled crookedly as he glanced suspiciously over his shoulder. “You not gonna get on camera?”

“I don’t think I know how.”

“It’s that little button in the corner that has a video camera on it.”

“Oh.” The little green light at the top of his screen lit up, signaling success. A little box with Castiel’s face opened in the corner of his Skype window and he was suddenly stricken with worry about his appearance.

“There we go. Woah, do those hurt?” Dean motioned to the side of his face. Castiel mirrored the motion, brushing his fingertips along his taped and sutured cuts.

“They sting a little.”

Dean frowned a little. “What else happened?”

“My injuries?”

“Yeah.”

“I broke my forearm.” Castiel gently waved his white cast in front of the screen, trying not to hurt his shoulder in the process. “And my collarbone, and my right leg.”

“Ouch. That’s rough, dude,” Dean said, sounding genuine with his concern. “I hear collarbone breaks hurt for months.”

“It’s definitely uncomfortable,” Castiel grimaced, adjusting his sitting position on his bed, feeling the figure-eight sling hold firm across his shoulders. There was a quiet opening and shutting of a door, and Dean’s head whipped around, looking off to the right.

“Hey,” Dean said, still looking away. Castiel could make out another quiet “hey,” like it was across the room. Sam must be home.

Dean stayed silent as the footsteps got closer until he could make out an impossibly tall figure in the background, moving into another room through the doorway in the back. Definitely Sam, then.

Dean looked back at the screen, rubbing at the back of his neck a little sheepishly. "That was Sam."

Castiel nodded, not wanting to mention they’ve spoken already. "I figured."

"Anyways, how's the hospital treatin' you?"

"It's fine. I'm just tired of it already."

"Yeah, I bet. No one likes the hospital, not to mention being stuck in it. When are you getting out again?"

"Should be soon," Castiel shrugged slightly with his good shoulder. "A day or two, perhaps. I feel fine—"

"—except for the pain and the fact that you can’t really move around?" Dean finished, raising his eyebrows at him.

"Right, but those aren't going away anytime soon. If everything goes well, I should be back to teaching in two weeks."

"That's not very long. You couldn’t get more time off?"

"I'll be able to move around with the aid of crutches by then, and that's all I need to do in order to teach my class." He sighed, slumping against the mattress he was propped up against. "Gabriel is in town until I am released and settled back into my apartment. He wants to help since his injuries are a lot less extensive."

"Well, that's good I guess," Dean said. "I guess you drew the short stick in the crash?"

"I suppose. The truck hit the passenger side, and that was me."

"That sucks—"

"Hey, Cas!" a familiar voice came over the stream, surprising both Dean and Castiel. Sam's head poked in the side of Castiel's screen, and Dean instinctively inched off to the side to make room.

"Sam-" Dean started, trying to swat his brother away from his laptop.

Castiel cleared his throat. "Hello, Sam. It’s nice to see you.”

Sam smiled, and Castiel could tell they were brothers. “It’s nice to see you, too.”

Dean’s eyes shot back to the screen, wide with uncomfortable surprise. Sam gives a little wave of his hand before his head disappeared. Dean turned to look at Sam offscreen. "Don't you have something to do? Studying?"

"Nope, not really. I'm ahead on readings and I just turned in a paper. Besides, I want to meet your internet friend."

Dean was about to say something sarcastic before Castiel chimed in. "Sam,” he greeted again. “Dean has told me so much about you."

Sam's face appeared beside Dean's once again, this time leaning over his shoulder so they could both fit on the screen properly. "Really?" he said suspiciously, eying his brother from the corner of his eye. "'Cause Dean has barely told me anything about you."

"Shh, shut up, Sam." Dean said, finally successfully swatting his brother away. Sam left the room, laughing to himself over his bowl of cereal. "So," Dean awkwardly began, turning back to his laptop.

"Don't worry, Gabriel doesn't know much about you either. We don't normally share many things about our personal lives..."

"Ah, me too." Dean said, a little relieved. "I'm not exactly the sharing-and-caring kinda guy—" He shrugged, scratching the back of his head. “So... Yeah.”

Castiel silently disagreed with the statement; he's gotten to know Dean quite well over the past several months and Dean had always shared willingly. Being from so far away, he couldn’t rely on other people telling him or by observation, so he had to depend on what Dean has shared with him.

“What about you?” Castiel prompted, earnestly changing the topic.

Dean knit his brows together. “What do you mean?”

“We’ve talked enough about me, but how are you?”

“Eh,” Dean shrugged, scratching the back of his head. “Fine. Not much has happened in the past two weeks. Work at the bar and garage have been busy.”

“That’s good,” Castiel commented, urging him to continue with a nod of his head.

“I guess. I’m glad to have a night off, though.” Dean glanced over his shoulder as Sam wandered through the back of the room again, disappearing off the side of the screen.

“What are your plans?”

“For tonight?” Dean asked, looking at Castiel who was nodded for more. “Uh, not much. Maybe watch some TV, work on my car...”

[]-[]-[]-[]-[]-[]-[]-[]-[]-[]-[]-[]-[]-[]

Waking up in the hospital was always a jarring experience. Every single morning for the past seven years, Castiel woke up in his shoddy apartment bedroom, and went to bed in it every night. The blinding white walls and furniture make him miss his cream and gray colored apartment, even though he longed to move out of it when money permitted.

Castiel laid sleeping in his hospital bed, propped up against the pillow and the adjustable mattress. The sun was shining through the window and he could feel the warmth of it on his face. It felt nice against his skin. He felt warm and peaceful, maybe even comfortable among the scratchy sheets and the hard mattress of the bed. As he slowly awoke, he could hear the beeps of his heart monitor but no sounds of the hospital from the hallway.

“Hey, Cas.”

He cracked an eye open immediately, scanning the room for the source of Dean’s voice.

Sure enough, the man in question was sitting at his bedside, in the white plastic chair that Gabriel normally took residence in. It should have been strange, but Castiel didn’t feel shocked or surprised at the sight of him, right here and in the flesh, but rather he simply smiled at him.

Dean returned the smile warmly, bright pearly teeth grinning back at him softly. Castiel’s eyes drift from Dean’s green eyes and dazzling smile to down between them, and it was then that Castiel realized that they were holding hands, fingers woven together on the bed next to his thigh.

He didn’t say anything as Castiel admired the hand enveloping his. Dean’s hands were only slightly larger than his, feeling warm against his palm. They were splattered with freckles, just like Dean’s face and Castiel wondered briefly where else Dean had freckles.

“What are you doing here?” Castiel finally spoke, looking back up to Dean’s face. He really was a beautiful man, with long eyelashes and mossy green eyes. Skype video chats had nothing on the real Dean.

The other man only shook his head, giving Castiel’s hand a gentle squeeze. For some reason or another, Castiel didn’t feel like pursuing the issue. He was content lying there on the bed, holding hands with Dean as his heart monitor beeped as the only sound in the room.

They sat together for what felt like hours, silently looking at each other and savoring the company. Dean smiled at him every so often, and Castiel couldn’t help but smile back. Dean opened his mouth to say something, and he leaned forward in his bed to listen.

Suddenly his heart monitor flatlined. Dean looked over at the monitor but didn’t show any sort of worried expression. Castiel was so confused. He was still alive, living and breathing right here.

The white room began to swirl in his vision, Dean moving along with it. Castiel watched as everything in his sight washed away. “Wait! I’m alive!” he tried to call. “Dean!”

Castiel woke with a start, breathing quickly. His hands shot up to his chest, feeling around for the heart monitor wires. Beside his bed, a nurse dressed in baby pink scrubs was staring at him, eyebrows high as he watched him catch his breath.

“I was only removing your wires,” she said, holding up a hand with a few monitor wires attached at the end.

Castiel could only gape at her before realizing what had happened. He was sleeping. It was a dream. He dreamed that Dean was visiting and holding hands with him. Castiel slouched back against the bed with a little disappointment, watching the nurse store up the wires in the shelving underneath the machinery.

“Someone had a nice dream,” the nurse told him as she leaned against the monitor, smiling at him with the first truly friendly face he’s seen since waking up from his short coma. “Sorry, I didn’t mean to pry. You were smiling in your sleep until you woke up.”

Castiel nodded at her, watching her check the monitors and the checklist on the clipboard on the end of his bed. It was a nice dream; he wished he could have slept a little longer. He wanted to see more of Dean, feel his hand wrapped around his own and bask in his silent presence.

“I’m going to call for Doctor Briggs,” she informed him. “You should be able to be released today. Good news, huh?”

“Yes.”

After she left, Castiel considered trying to catch a quick nap before she was able to summon the doctor. He wanted desperately to continue the dream he was so horribly woken up from. He wanted to spend more time with dream-Dean, even though Castiel knew he wasn’t actually real, only a figment of his imagination put together from pictures and video.

He sighed, slumping against the mattress again, wondering if he’d ever meet the real Dean. Or better yet, wondering why they were holding hands in his dream.

He tried not to over-think it.

[]-[]-[]-[]-[]-[]-[]-[]-[]-[]-[]-[]-[]-[]

[Cas: I think Gabriel is trying to burn my apartment down on purpose. I received a call from the fire department at 3:00AM. Everything is fine, but I don’t understand how he has lived by himself all this time and hasn’t burned down his own house yet.]

[Dean: I dunno, he still has the time to finish the job.]

[Dean: The last thing you need right now is to be homeless when you finally get out of the hospital.]

[Cas: Actually, I was released late this morning.]

[Dean: That’s great news.]

[Cas: Yes, it is.]

[Cas: Bad news: casts are terribly itchy.]

[Dean: You’ve never had one before?]

[Cas: No. I’ve never broken a bone before. And now I have three.]

[Dean: Lucky. I broke bones left and right as a kid. It was like an annual thing.]

[Cas: How?]

[Dean: Doing stupid kid shit, like climbing trees and falling out of them and playing soccer and fighting my brother.]

[Cas: You’ve broken a bone fighting Sam?]

[Dean: Not broken, but I fractured some knuckles. But yeah, we got pretty rough.]

[Cas: You two seem so friendly.]

[Dean: Well, we are now. We view some stuff differently, but we’re still brothers. Used to duke it out over our problems when we were little, but now our methods include the silent treatment and giving each other bitchfaces in the hall.]

[Cas: How mature.]

[Dean: Yeah, well...]

[Dean: What about you? You ever fight with your siblings?]

[Cas: Like I’ve said before, we all don’t generally get along, but some of us get along better than others. I am close to Anna and Gabriel, and every once in awhile I’ll talk with my cousin Hester, but everyone else refuses to speak with us.]

[Dean: Sorry, man.]

[Cas: Don’t be.]

[Dean: Gotta go! Bobby’s yellin at me for being on my phone.]

[Cas: Don’t get in trouble because of me.]

[Dean: Nah, I won’t. He’s rough and tough old guy, but he’s like a father to me and Sam. I don’t think he could actually yell at me if he tried.]

[]-[]-[]-[]-[]-[]-[]-[]-[]-[]-[]-[]-[]-[]

Luckily for Castiel, his brother did not destroy his apartment while he was hospitalized. However, the kitchen was a mess, there were towels missing, and he’s pretty sure he could smell burned fabric in the air.

“Broski, you’ve gotta fix this place up,” Gabriel commented from his seat on the armchair while Castiel was filling up a glass of water at the kitchen sink. “Or find a new place.”

“I can’t afford that on a teacher’s salary,” Castiel sighed, taking a gulp of the drink before setting it down on the counter. “Even so, not with my medical bills.”

To be honest, he didn’t even want to think about those staggering numbers he was handed at the hospital. Sure, Castiel had insurance, but it could only cover so much. He still was billed thousands.

Taking a drink from his glass, he wondered if he could talk Gabriel into lending him Kali’s services for a bit, to see if he could make ends meet while paying off his debt.

“Oh,” Gabriel said, expression dropping and turning sour. “Yeah. That could be a problem.”

“A problem,” Castiel mused a little sarcastically as he took several pills of his pain medication with another gulp of lukewarm water.

“Well, why not come live with me?” Gabriel jumped up and walked into the kitchen. “I bet we could find you a nice little job teaching some snobby rich kids in the city. I hear home tutoring jobs pay well, too.”

“Teaching theology?” Castiel asked, skeptical. Finding a teaching job at a high school was hard enough, but finding a tutoring job as a theology teacher sounded downright impossible.

“Ugh, I forgot.” Gabriel frowned. “I guess I dunno what you should do, then.”

Humming in agreement, Castiel gathered his crutches and hobbled out of the kitchen. He brushed past his brother in the doorway and slowly headed towards his room at the end of the short hall. Between leaving the hospital with a colossal bill and being with his brother all day in his cramped apartment, it had been a long day and he was tired.

“Goin’ to bed?” Gabriel called out after him, still standing in the kitchen doorway.

“Maybe,” Castiel gruffly replied while closing his door behind him. He leaned his crutches against the nightstand before easing himself onto his bed. Taking a deep breath, he rubbed a hand over his face before reaching for his phone hidden away in the pocket of his sweatpants.

[Cas: I just woke up from a coma, but I want to sleep for another week.]

[Dean: Pain?]

[Cas: Just everything.]

[Dean: Then go to bed. You’ve got the time, sleep as long as you want.]

[Cas: I’m afraid if I sleep, Gabriel will try to burn down the apartment again.]

[Dean: He’s still there? Go tell him to go home and get outta your hair.]

[Cas: I’ll be sure to mention that tomorrow.]

[Dean: Right. How’s the first day back home?]

[Cas: Honestly? Boring. I don’t go back to work for another two weeks. I don’t know what I plan to do.]

[Dean: Dude, you were in a car accident. Go relax for a bit, you deserve it.]

[Dean: Scratch that, you NEED it.]

[Cas: I know. I just don’t know how to fill my time.]

[Dean: What do you normally do in your free time?]

[Dean: And don’t you dare say “grading” because that’s bullshit and you know it.]

[Cas: Fine. Other than grading, my time is filled up with other school activities. Being at the school takes up most of my time, and so does going to sporting events, leading book club, and volunteering with the Interact club.]

[Dean: Woah.]

[Cas: I don’t normally have so much time to myself, so that’s why I do not know what to do with it.]

[Dean: What do you do all summer? You have tons of time then.]

[Cas: I teach summer school for kids who failed and some classes to advanced eighth graders.]

[Dean: So basically what I’m hearing is that you are a workaholic?]

[Cas: Perhaps.]

[Dean: I’d say “go on walks” but that’s not really gonna happen with you on crutches.]

[Cas: No, it’s not.]

[Dean: I got it.]

[Cas: ?]

[Dean: You can start your classic movie marathon like you promised you would on New Years.]

[Cas: I suppose I could. What should I watch?]

[Dean: I’ll think about it for a bit and send you a list later. I’ll make a movie buff out of you yet!]

[Cas: Thank you, Dean.]

Castiel woke up the next morning to a long list aptly named “Dean’s Favorite Movies” waiting in his phone’s inbox. He scrolled through the lengthy list spanning three different text messages, eyes skimming through the titles. Some sounded familiar, while others he had never heard of. Dean included films such as ‘all of the Bond movies-in order of release,’ ‘Mean Girls,’ ‘Star Wars-in order of release’ as well as something called ‘Ghostbusters 1&2.’

Over a late breakfast of almost burnt scrambled eggs and two strips of crispy bacon, courtesy of his brother, Castiel texted back.

[Cas: That’s quite a long list.]

[Dean: Like you said, you’ve got two weeks.]

[Cas: Any recommendations of what to start with?]

[Dean: STAR TREK]

[]-[]-[]-[]-[]-[]-[]-[]-[]-[]-[]-[]-[]-[]

[Cas: Gabriel keeps telling me what is going to happen in the next episode.]

[Dean: Wtf. When is he leaving?]

[Cas: He has a Greyhound ticket for this evening. Thankfully.]

[Dean: Great.]

[Cas: Although I do enjoy my brother's company, plot spoilers are something I can live without.]

[Dean: Tell me about it. Sam told me that Dumbledore died and I held a grudge for a month.]

[Cas: You’ve read the Harry Potter series? You are always so surprising.]

[Dean: I had to. I always read the book before the movie. Or in this case, all seven of them.]

[Cas: That’s a good policy to have.]

[Dean: Took forever, though.]

Half a season of Star Trek and a dinner of leftovers later, Gabriel left for the bus station with no more with a quick hug, a wink, and a “see you on your birthday.”

Overall, the days went by slower than ever for Castiel. With his leg and arm in casts, he didn’t move off the couch for much more than food, medication, the bathroom, and his bed. He had never felt more lazy in his life, but he knew there wasn’t too much he could do at this point, other than text Dean, Anna, and Gabriel and watch television all day.

Star Trek was certainly interesting, and the science-fiction was refreshing in comparison to what he had previously watched and read. Castiel was a little drawn to the interesting relationship developing between the characters named Captain Kirk and Spock.

After a few more episodes, his mind began to wander away from the tacky special effects and the strangely interesting ship crew in red who seemed to die off frequently.

In all honesty, Castiel couldn’t recall the last time he was in the hospital. Maybe when Anna broke her hand playing softball, but that visit wasn’t on his behalf. Either way, he didn’t like it. He couldn’t wash the smell of disinfectant and disease off his skin for days after taking Anna to the Emergency Room, and now he felt the stench will follow him for weeks after this incidence.

It was only a little over one month into the year and already so much had happened. Usually his life was very quiet, calm and predictable just how he preferred it. But now it felt so different. Three broken bones and a huge bill later, he spent more time with Gabriel and Anna in two weeks than he had in the past three years combined. He was sitting in his apartment, not working and watching movies recommended by Dean.

Dean.

Castiel dragged his eyes off his television screen and stared at the ceiling.

‘Dean,’ his mind repeated. Another anomaly in his life that entered in the last half of a year. A friend he never expected to have, especially from a dating site that he never really expected to get any results from. Gabriel set up his account without telling him two years prior, but it was only until last summer that he decided to use it for himself.

He sent messages to a lot of people on that website, writing each out separately with respect to the receiving user—nearly every person on his Match List, but only a small fraction of them replied. Their responses varied greatly, and he didn’t like the sound of any of them or the look of their profiles, even though he knew he couldn’t judge a book by its cover.

But Dean wasn’t even on his Match List. He was only browsing the front page of 'New & Updated Users' and, he was hesitant to admit, Dean’s profile picture caught his eye. He was handsome, and there was something about his green eyes that drew Castiel to his profile. The dating site sidebar informed him that they were a low 14% match, but Castiel was already annoyed with the unsuccessful attempts at getting to know his other higher-rated matches, so he decided to give it a chance.

And he was glad he did.

Castiel admit that he didn’t have many friends. He had coworkers—like Balthazar and Crowley, even though he would never call Crowley a friend even if he was held at gunpoint—but they didn’t feel like friends. He had his job, and he liked to keep his personal life separated from it. Sometimes he felt that Gabriel and Anna were his friends, but really they’re family first.

Castiel closed his eyes, thoughts swirling about in his head about Dean. There was a deep nagging at his mind to sleep, but he’s already slept so much lately. Instinctively, he reached for his phone, still in thought as he typed a rather meaningless text.

[Cas: Spock and Captain Kirk have a very interesting relationship.]

[Dean: Dammit. Sam says that too. Says there’s “chemistry” or whatever between them.]

[Dean: Who’s your favorite so far?]

[Cas: I am fond of Spock. He’s a very collected and practical being.]

[Dean: I figured you’d like him the most.]

[Dean: When do you back to work?]

[Cas: The Monday after next. I’m torn between looking forward to it and dreading it.]

[Dean: Why??]

[Cas: Many reasons. I’m very bored at home—not that Star Trek isn’t interesting. I want to go back to my students because I miss teaching] ‘and I need the job and the money’ he didn’t add. [but I also dread it because Crowley has taken over my job and I don’t trust him with my students or my lesson plans.]

[Dean: Oh yeah, I remember that now. That’s a pretty shitty situation to go back to.]

[Cas: It’s undesirable but inevitable. I just need to be quick to reclaim my class. I have no idea what Crowley has done so far, and I’m not in the mood to ask any of the other faculty for an update.]

[Dean: What’s the worst he could do?]

[Cas: Not teach them at all or teach them false information. Pass my failing students and fail my passing students. Generally, corrupt them in ways I cannot reverse.]

[Dean: Oh. Sounds like someone needs to teach that douchebag a thing or two.]

[Dean: Can’t you get another teacher or a sub to fill in?]

[Cas: Not at this point. I’ve already called my usual substitute but she is on maternity leave. The school cannot afford to hire anyone else, so Crowley is their best option.]

[Cas: And then he has the audacity to come to me and attempt to make me feel guilty that he has decided to take over my classes in my absence.]

[Cas: I’m sorry. I’m complaining too much, but he is such an assbutt.]

[Dean: Dude, don’t worry about it. I'd give him a piece of my mind if I had the chance.]

[Cas: I should, but I've decided it wasn't worth the trouble anymore.]

[Dean: Why not? You could get him kicked out cuz of harassment, or at least in trouble.]

[Cas: I've already tried.]

[Dean: And?]

[Cas: It didn't work. No one believed me. Crowley is crafty and I got a slap on the wrist because I was accusing a fellow teacher. I did not want to endanger my job by pursuing the matter.]

[Dean: What the actual fuck? That SUCKS.]

[Cas: I know.]

[]-[]-[]-[]-[]-[]-[]-[]-[]-[]-[]-[]-[]-[]

Castiel had a lot of time on his hands now, that much was certain, but it was beginning to be too much. Spending his time watching television and movies wasn’t too fulfilling, but in his condition, there wasn’t much else he could do.

Sometimes, he’d lay in bed or on the couch, losing hours dozing in and out of sleep, or getting lost in thought as Star Trek played in the background. Hopefully Dean didn’t quiz him on trivia anytime soon, because he hadn’t been paying much attention to the last few episodes.

He reached for his phone on the small side table next to the couch.

[Cas: I’ve watched more television in one week than I have in the past two years combined.]

Dean’s reply didn’t come within minutes, like they usually did, which unfortunately gave Castiel more time with the thoughts rolling around in his head like a stone in the tide.

He scrolled through his inbox. It was nearly full because he hadn't bothered cleaning it out in the past few days, but it was filled with mostly texts from Dean, and a few from Anna and Gabriel, mainly just to check in with him.

It almost surprised him how many times a day he texted Dean. Gauging from how many texts were in his inbox, Castiel estimated that they must have texted back and forth at least forty or fifty times a day. The number was staggering—considering that before he met Dean, he only texted Gabriel and Anna occasionally, usually only to plan a visit with each other.

A train of worrisome thoughts flashed through his mind. Was he texting too much? Was he annoying Dean? Did he seem needy for attention? What was the societal norms surrounding adults and the number of texts sent between them? He knew that his high school students texted a lot, even during his class sometimes, but it was somewhat rare to see a teacher his age texting in the Teacher's Lounge. His adult coworkers seemed to prefer email, phone calling, and face-to-face conversations instead.

His head began to ache from worry. He didn't have many friends, and it would be horrible to scare away an amazing one like Dean because he texted him too much or seemed needy.

Nearly ten minutes later, Dean’s reply came through.

[Dean: Looks like you get to make up for lost time, then. You've got years to catch up on.]

Castiel looked down at the text. It was seemingly usual for Dean, a text with a lighthearted feeling. However, it didn't seem conversational anymore.

In fact, thinking back on it, most of Dean's more recent texts didn't encourage conversation. And that worried him, even though he knew it shouldn't. Dean was a busy guy with his jobs and his brother, and maybe he didn't have the time to text that much. Dean would tell him if he was annoying him, right? ... Right?

This was going to bother him for a long time. Castiel sighed and unlocked his phone again.

[Cas: I need help.]

[Gabriel: If you fell over in the shower, I can't help you with that. I could call one of those senior citizen day care services, though.]

[Cas: No, I'm fine. I should have said “I need advice.”]

[Gabriel: Advice??? Trouble with the boyfriend? Bro, you've come to the right person.]

[Cas: He's not my boyfriend. But yes, I need advice pertaining to Dean.]

[Gabriel: Hah, I knew it. What do you need? The Love Guru is here to help.]

[Cas: Please don't call yourself that, and I don't know how to explain it.]

[Gabriel: Oh this must be bad. *You*, Mr. Teacherman, don't know how to put something into words!]

[Gabriel: Should I be guessing? Hm... he wants to get in your pants and you don't know how to say 'please take me'?]

[Cas: No, nothing like that.]

[Gabriel: Or is it something like he found someone else and you're left heartbroken and crying in the rain?]

[Cas: Definitely not.]

[Gabriel: Then WHAT?]

[Cas: I don't know if the amount of texts I send Dean every day is bothering him.]

[Gabriel: are you joking]

[Cas: Would I be texting you if I was?]

[Gabriel: Good point.]

[Gabriel: Oh, my dear broski. This is so simple, even *you* should have been able to figure it out by yourself.]

[Cas: I'm not socially inept.]

[Gabriel: Sure, sure. Are you gonna argue or do you want help? Ask me nicely.]

[Cas: Fine. How do I know if I am bothering Dean?]

[Gabriel: You ask. Duh.]

[Cas: what]

[Gabriel: You text or call him and ask him the damn question. You're not gonna get a clear answer from anyone else but him. So just do it.]

[Cas: Isn't that too direct?]

[Gabriel: That's the best kind of approach... at least for you anyway.]

[Gabriel: Pretty sure if you tried beating around the bush, you'd end up on the wrong side of the park.]

[Cas: I'm going to ignore that last bit, but thank you. I'll try it.]

[Gabriel: Good luck, lil bro. You've been blessed by the Love Guru.]

Castiel closed his phone again, taking a minute to think. Is that really the best way to find out? What if he was bothering Dean just by asking him if he was bothering him? It made Castiel's head spin; clearly, socializing wasn't exactly his strength.

But Gabriel was right, the only way he'd get a clear and accurate answer is by asking Dean himself. Hesitantly, Castiel tapped out a text to Dean, only to erase it several times in order to delete and reword it.

[Cas: Are you busy?]

[Dean: I’m at the bar, but I’m not really serving anyone right now.]

[Cas: I don’t want to get you in trouble.]

[Dean: No, it’s okay. It’s a slow night and Ellen isn’t even around.]

[Dean: What’s up?]

[Cas: I don’t know.]

[Dean: What do you mean you don’t know?]

[Cas: Exactly what I said. I don’t know.]

[Cas: We’re friends right?]

[Dean: What? Of course. Why are you asking?]

[Cas: Just making sure.]

[Dean: Did something happen?]

[Cas: No.]

Incoming Call: Dean

“Hello?”

“Cas. What’s up?” He sounded concerned, voice filtering through with a little bit of background noise from what Castiel assumed was the bar.

“I already told yo-”

‘I don’t know’ doesn’t count, dude.”

“Dean-” This was not the way Castiel wanted this conversation to go. He really should have thought things through beforehand.

“Then why did you ask?”

“Am I bothering you?” Castiel forced out. The direct method, he repeated to himself like a mantra. The direct method...

“What?” Dean said, surprised. “Where'd you get that idea?”

Castiel was silent for a moment, considering how he was going to ask. Usually his words were well put together and eloquent in their nature, but when he opened his mouth, words just fell out of it. “I text you a lot... and I was thinking. I wasn't sure if I was bothering you during... your busy schedule so—”

“No, no, no. You don't bother me. If anything, it's the other way around. I like texting and talking to you,” Dean reassured him.

“Oh,” was all Castiel could say. He suddenly felt very childish over the whole issue. How could he have let himself get worked up by something like this? Dean wasn't like that; he would have said something if Castiel was annoying him. He felt stupid because he misjudged Dean's character. “Okay,” he added in relief, letting out a breath he didn't know he was holding. “Promise?”

Dean laughed softly and it was music to his ears. “Promise... So, we good now? Or are you gonna freak out again when I hang up?”

“No, I'm fine,” Castiel replied, still feeling incredibly embarrassed. “Thank you.”

“Anytime, Cas. And stop over-thinking everything. Go stagger around your apartment or watch TV or something. Take a break from Star Trek and watch Mean Girls.”

Castiel could almost hear Dean's grin through the phone, and he felt a little better after that. “Alright, Dean. I will watch your 'chick flick,'” Castiel said, making sure to emphasize the last two words knowing that it annoyed Dean.

“Hey!” Dean huffed through the receiver. “It's a good movie!”

Castiel smiled, finally feeling a little at peace with the situation. “We'll see. Goodbye, Dean.”

“See ya, Cas.”

[]-[]-[]-[]-[]-[]-[]-[]-[]-[]-[]-[]-[]-[]

Dean texted later in the night just as the credits of Mean Girls were rolling quickly up his screen. It was a strange movie, and it almost puzzled Castiel how it was so highly rated on both Rotten Tomatoes and on Netflix as well.

[Dean: So I think that you might be gettin a case of cabin fever.]

[Cas: I'm not a sailor.]

[Dean: Same difference.]

[Cas: That makes no sense.]

[Dean: Yes it does, but whatever. I think you've spent too much time alone in your apartment.]

[Cas: Understatement.]

[Dean: Thought so. So go out and do something fun while you still have time off from work.]

[Cas: You seem to forget that I am more or less crippled for the time being. Being on crutches does not make 'going out' easier.]

[Dean: I know. Is there anyone you could hang out with? Friends? Someone with a car?]

Castiel hesitated to answer this. Personally, it felt like a sore subject to him because—well, the truth was Dean was probably his only friend. Balthazar was merely a co-worker who sat with him during lunch and the rest of his 'friends' were family members.

Thankfully, Dean was still thinking and sent another text.

[Dean: What about your sister? Isn't she in town?]

True, Anna did live in Boston, or at least she lived in the suburbs, which was close enough. Though she was busy, Anna enjoyed spending time with Castiel. Perhaps she would be willing.

[Cas: I will ask.]

[Castiel: Hello, Anna. If you have the time, would you like to spend time together sometime within the week?]

[Anna: Of course I have time for you! I am free on Saturday. I was planning on going clothing shopping, but I can go some other time.]

[Castiel: It's alright if you don't have time. You don't have to reschedule your shopping trip.]

[Anna: You should come with! You could get some more shirts and pants for work, at least. Maybe a different tie, instead of that blue one you always wear. There's a great sale down at Macy's.]

[Anna: I'll pick you up at 10 on Saturday. No excuses!]

He knew not to argue with his sister once she had made up her mind. He didn't enjoy shopping as much as the average person, and his wallet definitely couldn't take it after his hospital bills, but he'd go with her anyway—for the company and the fresh air.

It just went to show how much he needed to get out of the apartment.

[Castiel: Thank you. I will see you then.]

[Cas: Anna is taking me shopping on Saturday.]

[Dean: Shopping? That's rough, but at least it's something. You gonna make it all the way to Saturday?]

[Cas: I'll be fine, Dean.]

[Dean: Great. Have you watched Mean Girls yet?]

[Cas: Yes. It was strange. That certainly was barely similar to my high school experience, and I hope it's nothing like that for any of my students.]

[Dean: Dude, it's a movie, of course it isn't realistic.]

[Cas: I can personally testify that students do form cliques and sit in the lunchroom like they did in the movie.]

[Dean: I remember that. I bounced around from school to school too quick to figure out who was sitting where at lunch.]

[Dean: What about you? What table did you sit at when you were in high school? Nerds? You probably were one of those “greatest people you'll ever meet.”]

[Cas: I'm flattered. If I had to place a label on them, I ate lunch with stoners.]

[Dean: What? Wait, really? Didn't you go to a strict Catholic school or something?]

[Cas: Doesn't mean there weren't stoners. I knew several of them smoked and regularly did hard drugs. They weren't bad people. If anything, they were interesting to listen to.]

[Dean: No way. Did anyone assume you were one too?]

[Dean: Wait, don't tell me you were one.]

[Cas: No, my parents were much too strict and they would have noticed any sort of drug use. However, I did have guilt-by-association. I was constantly pulled into the office for what they liked to call “random drug tests.”]

[Dean: Random, my ass! Is that even legal?]

[Cas: In a private school, it is.]

[Dean: That sucks. I'm heading home for the night, do you wanna Skype?]

A part of Castiel immediately wanted to say no, out of worry that he was bothering Dean. Luckily, another half of him fought it and argued that Dean offered so it was okay. He took a deep breath and exhaled. This was exactly what his problem was before, and that was resolved.

[Cas: If you would like, that would be nice.]

[Dean: Alright. I'll be home in like 25 minutes. I might stop for some food.]

Castiel put his phone on the coffee table next to his elevated leg before reaching under the couch. He pulled out his heavy black laptop from under the couch and booted it up, it whirred and clicked underneath his palms. While Skype was loading, he read the front page of Google News; there was another political sex scandal and a small dive in the NASDAQ index, but those weren't surprising. He read a small article about a fifteen year old genius who made a leap in quantum physics and felt dismayed that she received so little attention for all her work.

A few articles later, Dean's icon turned green and a notification flashed in the corner of his screen: Dean Winchester is online.

Almost immediately after the notification disappeared, the Skype ringtone began to ring as Dean called him. Castiel clicked accept and Dean's face popped up on his screen. He looked a little different since the last time they video called. His jaw had more even more scruff and he looked a little tired.

“Hello, Dean.”

“Hey, Cas,” he greeted back, flashing a quick grin before taking a sip out of a white styrofoam cup. “Nice peach-fuzz.”

Castiel's hand flew up to his face, realizing he also hadn't shaven in several days. There's a crinkling of paper from Dean's side and it distracts Castiel from feeling his face any more.

“Ninty-nine cent apple turnovers,” Dean explained, holding his McDonalds paper bag up to the camera. “I couldn't resist.”

Nearly on cue, Castiel's stomach made an angry growl. “Now you've made me hungry.”

Dean's smile disappeared. “Have you eaten dinner?”

Come to think of it, he hadn't. “Not yet.”

“Then go get something. I'll wait.”

Castiel heaved himself off the couch and hobbled into the kitchen. He poured himself a large bowl of cereal before returning to his spot.

“Nice couch,” Dean said, pointing over Castiel's shoulder to the ugly green and navy plaid print of his second hand couch.

“It's not the most beautiful couch, but it has served me well. Especially this week. I've barely left it.”

“Go on,” Dean said, raising an eyebrow. “Show me where you've spent the last week of your life.”

“What?”

Dean rolled his eyes. “I'm asking what your living room looks like.”

“Oh.” Castiel spun his laptop around on his lap, showing Dean the rest of his living room.

From his vantage point, Dean could spot a small box television on a stand in the corner of the room and the walls were painted a boring cream color. The drapes that hung over the windows were dark blue and the carpet was also cream, just a few shades off from the walls. On the side of the screen, he could make out a short hallway that ended with a closed door, which he assumed to be Cas' room.

“And what about the rest?” Dean asked.

“I'm not giving you a tour of my apartment.”

Dean raised an eyebrow. “I’ll show you mine if you show me yours.”

Castiel considered it for a moment, and then nodded. “Okay. You first.”

“What?” Dean seemed surprised at his request.

“You made the offer,” Castiel said. “It was your idea, so you go first.”

Dean’s eyes narrowed, but he shrugged anyway. “Yeah, ok.” He picked up his laptop and held it so that the camera would point in front of him.

“So this is my living room,” he narrated while holding out his computer for his friend to see. His living room was sparse with furniture, like Cas', but a little larger. There was nothing hung on the walls except one picture of two people—a tall man and a blonde woman—who, of course, Castiel couldn't recognize. Dean's couch was black suede and worn, and there was a half-empty bookshelf against the wall with a few more picture frames on the shelves.

Dean walked through the room through a doorway, which revealed a small white kitchen. “Here's the kitchen,” he said, waving his hand in front of the camera with a flourish. There was a window over the sink with no drapes and a bunch of dishes in a drying rack on the countertop. He navigated between the fridge and the small wooden table and two chairs to go through another doorway.

The hallway was painted white stucco and there was nothing hanging on the walls just like the living room, but Castiel instantly recognized it from the picture Dean sent of himself.

“That's Sam's room,” Dean informed Castiel quietly while gesturing to a half-open door. He could spot a familiar tall figure with longer brown hair sitting at a desk across the room. “He's studying or something.”

Dean continued on across the hallway, pushing another door open with his foot. “And, uh, this is my room.”

Castiel examined the screen carefully. He didn't know what he expected Dean's room to be like, but he could see that it matched his personality well enough. The walls were painted a pale gray and there was a few posters tacked up. It was also a little messy. There was a pile of clothes at the foot of the unmade bed and other smaller piles strewn across the wood floor, and a large black curvy case leaning up against the nightstand.

"Is that a guitar case?" Castiel asked, becoming quite interested in the object on his screen.

"Yeah.” Dean came to a stop in the center of the room. “I play a little from time to time. But usually I'm too busy."

“Will you show me?” Castiel asked earnestly. He’d love to hear Dean play some music. He was probably pretty good, or at least better than Castiel was. He knew how to play the oboe, but that was middle school.

“Eh.” The camera moved up and down from Dean's shrug. “Maybe someday. I'm a little rusty right now. It's been a few months.”

“Please.”

“Another time.” Dean settled on his bed, sitting cross-legged on the sheets. He settled his computer on his lap and leaned against the headboard. “Your turn.”

“Not today.”

“What? No fair. We made a deal.”

“We did,” Castiel said. “But I'm on crutches. It would be impossible for me to carry the computer around with a broken leg and a broken arm.”

“I shoulda guessed.” Dean sighed but ultimately nodded in defeat. “Rain check?”

“Rain check,” Castiel confirmed.

“What a rip-off,” Dean mock-complained, throwing a hand up in the air. “I better get a grand tour when you can walk.”

“I promise.” Castiel yawned and rolled his good shoulder in a pathetic attempt to stretch. Bed sounded really appealing but he still needed to shower. “I'm tired,” he informed Dean.

“Yeah, well,” Dean checked his wristwatch. “It's pretty late over there. Go get some sleep and I'll text ya tomorrow.”

“Okay. Goodnight, Dean.”

“Night, Cas.”

[]-[]-[]-[]-[]-[]-[]-[]-[]-[]-[]-[]-[]-[]

During breakfast the next morning, Sam wandered into the kitchen, book still in hand, with a sleepy look on his face. He was wearing the same clothes he wore yesterday—a blue plaid shirt and worn jeans—and if Dean were to guess, Sam must have fallen asleep in them.

“You were up late last night,” Dean commented with a mouth still full of Cheerios.

Sam scoffed at him, placing his book on the counter before spinning to look at Dean. “So were you, giving house tours to the internet or whatever.”

“It was only Cas,” Dean snapped defensively, setting down his spoon with more force than necessary. It clanked against the surface of the table, echoing in the small kitchen.

“Yeah, sure,” Sam said, smiling and raising an eyebrow as he opened the fridge. “How's he doing, anyway?”

“Pretty good. He's bored as fuck in his apartment, though. Hell, I'd be too.”

“Is he working?” Dean shook his head. “Then, what’s he doing in the meantime?”

“Watching Star Trek, mostly.”

“Let me guess,” Sam said, “courtesy of you?”

“Yup,” Dean replied proudly, swallowing the last bite of his cereal.

“Where you working today?” Sam asked, sitting down at the table with his toast and strawberry jam.

“Just the garage.” Dean set his empty bowl in the sink before pouring himself some coffee from the pot he made earlier.

“Pour me some.”

“Get your own, bitch.”

“Jerk.”

[]-[]-[]-[]-[]-[]-[]-[]-[]-[]-[]-[]-[]-[]

[Cas: I'm confused. Leia is Luke Skywalker’s sister?]

[Dean: Yeah! And they kissed too! Twisted, right?!]

[Cas: Not really.]

[Dean: What?]

[Dean: What kind of jacked up world do you live in?]

[Cas: Considering there are numerous documented incestuous relationships in the Bible, it’s not really surprising.]

[Dean: Oh right... That’s still weird, though.]

[Dean: So biblical brothers and sisters knew each other in the biblical sense.]

[Cas: Literally.]

[Dean: Gross!]

[]-[]-[]-[]-[]-[]-[]-[]-[]-[]-[]-[]-[]-[]

Saturday didn't come fast enough for Castiel. He was getting better at walking with crutches, but it still tired him out very quickly and made his arms hurt. Anna insisted parking in his now empty parking space in the lot next to his building and came up to help him down the stairs and out to her car.

“We're going to that big mall a few blocks away from the art museum,” she informed him as she carefully drove through downtown. The streets were crowded and the traffic was slow, but they still made it in a reasonable amount of time for a Saturday.

“It's so weird to see you in sweatpants and a tee shirt.”

Castiel looked down at his clothes and frowned. Usually he just wore these clothes for lounging or exercise, but it was difficult to wear anything else over his casts, and it wasn't like he needed to wear any of his work clothes yet, which made up a considerably large percentage of his wardrobe.

“Not that you look bad or anything,” she finished, glancing at him out of the corner of her eye.

Castiel tried shrugging again, wincing a little in pain before looking out the window. He watched the trees and buildings go by, relishing in the feeling of being outside the four walls of his apartment. Anna rolled down his window to let a little chilly air in. It felt good.

“You obviously needed to get outta there.”

“Hm, Dean said the same thing,” Cas mumbled, keeping his eyes focused on the passing scenery.

Anna's eyes widened and her jaw dropped, staring at him out of the corner of her eye as they slowly wove through the traffic. “What?”

“What?” Cas repeated, realizing his mistake as he turned to stare back at her.

“Castiel... Who's Dean?”

“A friend.”

“A boyfriend?” she asked suspiciously.

“No.”

“Oh.” Her shoulders relaxed a little. “Just a friend, then?”

“Just a friend.”

She made a disgruntled sound, like she wasn’t content with the answer he gave.

They pulled into the closest parking spot they could find in the garage, and by the time Castiel opened the door, Anna was at his side, helping him out.

“I'm fine,” he tried, waving her away with a hand before hauling himself out of the car.

The mall wasn't too crowded, even though it was a Saturday. Castiel supposed it was because the Christmas season was long over and most people were still reeling from the financial damage it probably caused. Anna disappeared for a moment, returning with a black wheelchair from the mall's information kiosk.

“No,” Castiel said, staring at the chair like it was offending him. “Anna, no.”

“Come on, Castiel. You didn't possibly expect to come with me to the mall and hobble around on your crutches all day, did you?”

He tried and failed miserably at taking a step backwards when she wheeled it to him.

“Just sit in it,” she said, using her most commanding tone while strangely still sounding polite. Castiel sighed but sat down, carefully raising his injured leg and arranging it comfortably on the footrest. Anna smiled down at him in victory before beginning to push him along.

“So this Dean guy,” she started, trying to start a casual conversation while still having an obvious ulterior motive. “Where'd you meet?”

“Online,” Castiel answered, not even trying to fight the conversation’s direction. She was at least a lot less obnoxious to talk to than Gabriel, even though his advice helped him once.

“Oh, cool, an online friendship.” She guided his chair through the aisles of men's pants in Macy's, eyes scanning the racks with a skilled eye. “Where does he live?”

“He lives in Palo Alto, in California.”

“That's far away,” she said, gradually gaining interest in the conversation while browsing through some jeans. “How old is he? What does he do?”

“He's twenty-nine, and he works at a garage and a bar.”

“Two jobs? Wow. I wish I had that work ethic,” she commented admiringly, thumbing through a few pairs of pants and glancing at the tags. “I can barely handle my one job.”

“He's helping his brother through law school.”

“Sounds like a good guy.”

“Yes, he is,” Castiel agreed simply, because Anna was completely right. Dean was admirable in many ways. His devotion to his brother was unparalleled and Castiel secretly wished he felt the same way with his own siblings. Dean was hardworking, charming, and a good friend to him.

“What about these?” Anna said, holding up a pair of dark wash jeans with faded patches.

“I already have jeans.”

“But you don't have these jeans. They're nicer. And they're on sale, so you should think about it,” she said, placing them back on the rack. “I'd like to get you a 'welcome-home-I'm-glad-you're-still-alive' present, so please pick something out.”

They surfed through the men's department for a little longer. With Anna's encouragement, he ended up choosing a pale blue button up shirt that was 30% off, and then they were off to the women's shoe department.

“I know you said Dean's just a friend,” Anna started while lacing up a pair of brown ankle boots that Castiel decided were oddly similar looking to the ones she was already wearing, “but are you interested in him anyway?”

Castiel hummed, not quite willing to answer her right away. He was, but he knew Dean wasn't looking for any romantic relationships, so it wasn't worth the trouble. Castiel was content being Dean’s friend, and that’s all he could ever ask for.

“Oh, Castiel,” Anna groaned. “You've got the hots for this guy, don't you?”

“I never said that.”

“But you didn't deny it!” She smiled brightly at him. “Oh, my God!”

Castiel rolled his eyes. It was going to be a long afternoon.

[]-[]-[]-[]-[]-[]-[]-[]-[]-[]-[]-[]-[]-[]

Later in the evening at around eight-thirty, Castiel sat alone at his small kitchen table with his phone on speaker beside him while he ate his dinner of a bowl of pasta and tomato sauce.

“Your day out was today, wasn't it?”

“It was,” he nodded, swirling noodles around his fork carefully.

“How was it?”

Castiel sighed loud enough for Dean to hear. “Anna made me sit in a wheelchair.”

“Ouch.” Dean replied sympathetically. “But wouldn't it have sucked to walk around all day?”

“I suppose. I just wasn't expecting it.”

Castiel could hear some background noises—scraping and scratching—on the other end of the line. Perhaps Sam was around in the same room, but Dean didn’t like to be on the phone with him with his brother in the room.

The noises stopped and Dean spoke again. “Well... other than that, how was the rest of your day?”

“Good,” Castiel admitted after swallowing his bite of pasta. “It was nice to get out, and the weather was decent. Anna bought me a blue shirt for work and about a dozen things for herself. How was yours?”

“Eh,” Dean mumbled, voice a little muffled for a moment before he cleared his throat. “Busy. I worked overtime at the garage. Bobby had me cover a guy who's on paternity leave. Can you believe that? Paternity leave.”

“It's more common than you might think,” Castiel replied, setting his fork down on his plate. “Many teachers have done the same in the past.”

“Yeah, well, whatever.” There was a clinking sound, and Castiel’s brain worked tirelessly in the background to figure out what it was. “I don't know why I've gotta be the guy to always do overtime, even if the money's good and I need it. I shouldn't even have to work on Saturdays, but thank god the garage is closed tomorrow. I'm fucking exhausted. All I wanna do is inhale this pasta and go to bed.”

“Oh?” Castiel couldn’t stop himself, glancing down to his own plate and back to the phone.

“‘Oh’ what?”

“You’re eating dinner too.”

“Yeah. Wait, ‘too?’ It’s kinda late for dinner there.”

“I had a late lunch with Anna,” Castiel replied.

“What’s on the menu at Chateau Cas tonight?”

“Pasta.”

“No kidding? Huh,” Dean started, taking a moment. “It’s almost like we were eating dinner together.” A beat passes. “Uh, I mean, like—”

“Essentially, we were,” Castiel agreed, stopping him short. His heart felt a little giddy as the thought of eating dinner with Dean—like a date—passes through his mind.

“Yeah…” Dean trailed off and there was a moment of silence between them. Castiel struggled to find something to say. He wasn’t the greatest conversationalist—he spoke at people, not with them—so he wasn’t very practiced.

“Oh, man,” a long slinking yawn filtered through the phone’s speaker. “I think I'm gonna hit the sack.”

Castiel felt relieved. Thankfully Dean always came through when it came to conversation.

“Goodnight, Dean.”

“G'night, Cas. You get some sleep too,” Dean said before hanging up.

Castiel went to bed a little dismayed that he didn't get to Skype with Dean, but then scolded himself for being a bit spoiled. Dean was such a good friend, and if he was tired, than he should be able to go to bed.

Still, Castiel thought they might Skype tomorrow, since they both were not working on Sunday. His conversation with Anna replayed in his head as he drifted off to sleep, pain medication helping him there slightly. He thought about his non-committal answer to her question about his interest in Dean, clearly dancing around the truth.

He sighed, and rolled over onto his uninjured side, staring out into the darkness across the bed to his alarm clock, displaying the time in bright red numbers. His eyes slid closed, as if it would ward away all thought.

Unfortunately, with his luck, it'll just be unrequited.

Dean wasn’t interested in him. Not at all.

[]-[]-[]-[]-[]-[]-[]-[]-[]-[]-[]-[]-[]-[]

Castiel's phone buzzed on the countertop in the kitchen while he was putting away dishes the next morning. The text was from Dean, which was unusual since it would have been around seven in the morning in California’s timezone, which was absurdly early for him. He staggered across the floor of the kitchen to reach his phone, forgetting his crutches for the time being.

[Dean: Good morning.]

[Cas: Good morning. You're awake early.]

[Dean: Yeah, forgot to close the shades last night so I got up when the sun came up.]

[Dean: Sorry to bail out on you last night, but I was fucking exhausted.]

[Cas: It's alright. I was tired as well.]

[Dean: Got any plans today?]

[Cas: No. You?]

[Dean: I get one day off a week and I'm taking the opportunity to do absolutely nothing during it.]

[Cas: And when you say nothing, you mean work on your car, correct?]

[Dean: You know me too well.]

[Cas: I was considering watching James Bond this afternoon.]

[Dean: Which one?]

[Cas: I was only able to borrow Casino Royale from the library’s delivery system.]

[Dean: The new one or the old one? Because the new one sucked ass.]

[Cas: The old one, judging by the cover.]

[Dean: Great. You gotta start with the classics.]

Dean only texted him twice during the movie, which was interesting, to say the least. The messages were both about his Impala; the first of which was a comment about how the car was still in good shape, just like he knew it would be, but then the second was a furious caps-lock rant about how he found a small scratch on it, probably from the bar’s parking lot.

The credits rolled and Castiel sat up straight on his couch and stretched what he could of his body before reaching for his phone again.

[Cas: This movie is painfully dramatic.]

[Dean: It’s a Bond film, of course it is.]

[Cas: Are they all like that?]

He wasn’t sure if he wanted to watch them all if they were all this standard of somewhat cliched drama.

[Dean: Some are better than others, imo From Russia With Love is the best one. Best plot, best acting. Tatiana Romanova is always a plus.]

[]-[]-[]-[]-[]-[]-[]-[]-[]-[]-[]-[]-[]-[]

The last week before Castiel returned to teaching went by slow, as expected, but it still felt faster than the first. He filled the first half of the week with movies and reading, but he began lesson planning for his return during the second half.

It was a little stressing, trying to plan lessons and activities for his return because he didn’t know what kind of state the kids would be in after Crowley’s rule with an iron fist. He wanted to tear his hair out at the thought of his classes and returning to a possibly unfixable disaster.

Lucky for him, Anna insisted on taking him out again on Thursday night—this time, to a mexican restaurant named La Fiesta with a few of her co-workers from the office.

The dinner was relaxed and casual, thankfully. He didn’t know any of Anna’s co-workers, but he listened quietly to their venting about other employees and their boss as well. He had no idea that workers from a marketing firm could be so catty.

“You expectin’ something from someone, dear?” asked the blonde across the table from him with a thick southern accent, startling him.

“Hm?” Castiel snapped his attention from his meal to the woman, who he was fairly certain was named Cheryl. “I’m sorry?” He said, a little bewildered.

She laughed. “You kept on lookin’ at your phone every other minute, so I wasn’t sure if you’re expectin’ an important call anytime soon.”

“Ah, no.” Castiel shook his head. “I’m not.” He wasn’t expecting anything from Dean since he was still working at the garage. But maybe... maybe he was being hopeful and glancing at the front screen every once in awhile, just in case.

“He’s just distracted,” Anna said, before staring at Castiel from her seat beside him and continuing, “because of his boyfriend.”

Castiel’s eyes narrowed at his sister. ‘Anna...’ “I’m not dating-”

“Whatever, you should be!” Anna said, smiling and lightly punching him on his good shoulder. Some of the ladies at the table paused, giving Anna their attention and encouraging her. “He’s got this friend he met on the internet that I think he’s crazy for.”

“Anna,” Castiel started, surprised she’d just spill details of his personal life to the entire table. Perhaps she’s had one too many margaritas.

“And my brother is a bit thick-headed but I think he should ask-”

“You realize I’m right here, don’t you...?”

“-his friend out. It would be great!”

The table got quiet and Castiel sighed. He really should have known that, if given the chance, Anna would bring this up again. But what he didn’t expect was for her to bring it up again in public.

“Oh?” the brunette, Amanda, said. “An internet friend? Isn’t that like, hard?”

“Not really,” Castiel answered, a little puzzled over what she was saying. Becoming friends with Dean was pretty easy, and the internet didn’t make it that much more difficult.

“Internet dating is hard, ‘Manda, not internet friendship. Though,” Cheryl’s voice dropped a little lower and quieter, like she was telling a secret. “If you wanted to date him, it’ll take a lot of effort.”

Castiel raised his eyebrows at her. Effort? What does she mean?

Cheryl continued, addressing the table as a whole. “I mean, ladies, don’t you agree? Not being able to see your beau all the time is just terrible, isn’t it?”

“I couldn’t imagine it,” a woman about Castiel’s age named Kaylee agreed.

“My cousin dated a girl over the internet once.” Amanda commented, taking another drink of her margarita. “Turned out she was a stalker!”

“Can we not-” Castiel started, looking over at Anna, almost pleading.

“Fine,” Anna sighed. “Girls, don’t tease the poor guy! He’s got enough to deal with right now, especially with his injuries and since he starts going back to work next Monday.”

“Darn right!” Cheryl cheered, raising her drink to the center of the table for a toast. “To Castiel’s recovery and job!”

“Cheers!”

Everyone raised their glasses and clinked them together. “To drunken venting!” Amanda added at the last second.

“Cheers to that,” Anna said, taking a long drink of her mojito, mouthing a silent ‘sorry’ to Castiel over the rim of her drink and smiling.

[]-[]-[]-[]-[]-[]-[]-[]-[]-[]-[]-[]-[]-[]

[Dean: How was the drunk night of bitching?]

[Cas: Is that what you’re calling it?]

[Dean: What, is that not accurate?]

[Cas: Unfortunately, it is.]

[Cas: It was alright, I suppose. Anna’s friends are...]

[Dean: ?? Are what?]

[Cas: I don’t know how to phrase it without sounding vaguely insulting.]

[Dean: Hah, just say it. I won’t tell anyone.]

[Cas: Rowdy, catty, and obtrusive.]

[Dean: Dude, I was expecting something much worse. You could probably use the same words about the guys I work with at the garage.]

[Dean: Well, you’re starting work again next week so at least you don’t have to spend that much more time with Anna after this.]

[Dean: I mean, unless you want to.]

[Cas: I’ve enjoyed her company, but yes, I’m ready to go back.]

[Dean: Only a few more days.]

[]-[]-[]-[]-[]-[]-[]-[]-[]-[]-[]-[]-[]-[]

His first day back teaching wasn’t anything special, but it definitely felt good to be back at the school and ‘back in the saddle,’ as Dean would say. He was able to park the horrible car his insurance paid for in a spot closer to the building in the faculty parking lot, and a few passing students stopped to help him up the front stairs with his bag and his crutches.

The trek to his classroom was easier than he thought, because the students gave him a wide berth and parted around him like the Red Sea in the hallways. A handful of them seemed overjoyed to see him, which was both a good and a bad sign.

Soon enough, he came to realize it was a mostly bad sign. Only about twenty minutes into his first lesson to his Morality students, he was met with a classroom of completely confused and panicked faces.

“Mr. Sinclair didn’t teach us that,” a girl piped up from the third row with a look of pure bewilderment. “Or that,” she continued, pointing at the the board covered with Castiel’s handwriting. “Or any of this.”

“He was supposed to,” Castiel mumbled, knowing his earlier prediction was true. Crowley took over his class and completely ruined it, whether on purpose or not. Knowing him, probably on purpose.

Disgruntled but keeping his composure, he decided to skip around the chapter to see what was taught and what wasn’t.

Which wasn’t much, to be honest. Crowley seemed to have taken his lesson plans and thrown them in the trash, because according to the students, they didn’t even touch on any of the topics they were supposed to for the past four weeks.

“Are you saying that you were not taught about the Laws of Love? The Beatitudes?”

“Nope,” a boy in the front row said, shaking his head. He looked like he didn’t care about it at all anyway.

Castiel huffed out a sigh, quickly becoming more than just a little frustrated. “Then what exactly did he teach you?”

“Evolution versus creationism, mostly,” someone in the back answered.

Castiel frowned. “We’ve covered that already, in the beginning of the year.”

“That’s what we told him but he wouldn’t listen!” another student chimed in, looking more and more frustrated as time went on. “We just divided up into teams and debated it every day. It was so boring.”

“Well class,” Castiel cleared his throat. “I’m sorry to say that we’ve missed four weeks of material and we need to catch up quickly if we want to be on time for exams.”

A resounding groan rose from the class.

‘I’m sorry,’ he apologised silently as he turned to the whiteboard to continue on with his prepared lesson.

[]-[]-[]-[]-[]-[]-[]-[]-[]-[]-[]-[]-[]-[]

During his lunch break, Castiel arranged a meeting with the principal for after school, hoping to discuss the state of his classroom with her. But when the time finally came at 2:35 PM, the meeting didn’t go according to plan.

“Mr. Novak,” Mrs. Martella addressed him firmly and formally from across the big polished oak desk in her office. “Crowley Sinclair substituted for you for only four weeks. I was assured by him that he covered the needed materials. Your class should not be this far behind and struggling this much.”

“But he—”

She wagged a bony finger in front of his face. “I do not want to hear excuses, Mr. Novak. If you have a problem with the way Mr. Sinclair led your classroom, you will have to speak to him directly. You have only a handful of weeks left of the semester to fix this issue, or we will reassess your position in the fall.”

Castiel’s heart dropped. “Reassess?” he asked shakily, even though he knew exactly what she meant by the word.

“Yes. If this will continue to be an issue, we may have to begin searching for a theology teacher for the upcoming year.”

“Mrs. Martella,” he said determined, standing up from his chair in an attempt to look and feel more confident than he actually was. “I can assure you that my students will pass their finals and there will be no more issues.”

“For your sake, I hope so,” she sniffed.

Castiel drove home quietly to no NPR or music, thoughts whipping around like a windstorm in his mind.

It wasn’t his fault his students didn’t learn the required materials. It wasn’t his fault Crowley had to be the one to be his substitute. And it definitely wasn’t his fault that he got into an accident and fell into a coma for nearly two weeks. His job shouldn’t have been on the line because of events outside of his control.

He was just barely finished closing and locking his apartment door before he whipped out his phone, automatically dialing Dean like a reflex.

“Cas? Hey-”

“I’m so fucking angry right now,” Castiel seethed into the phone, leaning against the wall of the hallway, not even bothering to try to move anywhere.

“What-Wait. Cas, you curse?”

“On occasion, such as this.”

“What happened? Going back to work was supposed to be a good thing,” Dean reminded him.

“Crowley,” Castiel spat out the name like it was another curse. In his mind, it practically was the worst of them all. “He ruined my class and didn’t even pay attention to my lesson plan whatsoever. As it turns out, he has taught none of the required material these past four weeks. We are so fucki-” Castiel ran a hand over his face. “We are so far behind.”

“Slow down there, Cas. Have you reported this? To the principal or someone like that? You could get him fired for this shit and finally get rid of him.”

“I tried. I was told to have a meeting with him about what was covered during my absence and it turned out to be nothing,” Castiel fumed again, his voice shaking. “He taught evolution for two weeks straight, even in World Religions, and then he has the gall to tell me that my class ‘was in good hands.’”

“What a fucking douchebag.”

“The worst,” Castiel agreed, rubbing his brow in an attempt to calm himself down. “Now my students are confused and a month behind schedule. My lesson plans were meticulous, it would have been easy for him to follow them. And now everything is a disaster. We don’t have time to catch up. How do I teach two weeks of material in two days? A month?”

“I don’t know, dude.” Dean blurted, then he sighed. “I’m sorry, I don’t really know what to say. This is a real shitty situation.”

“I know,” Castiel said apologetically. He suddenly felt sorry for calling Dean and immediately venting to him without giving him a choice in the matter. What kind of friend was he to do that? “I’m just frustrated. This year has only begun and it has already been incredibly overwhelming and stressful.”

In fact, Castiel could feel the stress accumulating, driving pressure between his eyes in a soon-to-be blinding headache. His hand flew up to rub his temple, trying to alleviate the pain or at least delay it. A migraine would be the perfect way to end his already terrible day. He could crawl into bed and try to sleep it off for the evening, but the thought of it made his head hurt more. There was too much to do and so many things to handle, it made his mind reel. He didn’t have time to sleep at this point, not with new lessons to plan to save his job.

“Hurts…” Castiel mumbled, not noticing or caring that Dean could still hear him.

“What?”

“Migraine.”

“Try to relax.”

“I can’t!” Castiel snapped. He took a breath—deep, in and out—before continuing. “I’m sorry, I just…”

Through his phone, he could hear Dean rummaging through something before speaking gruffly to him.

“Cas, get out your laptop and get on Skype.”

“Dean?”

“Just do it.”

It was only a few minutes later that Castiel’s laptop is out on the coffee table and loading Skype while he settled onto the couch next to a stack of books, holding a glass of water and some pain medication—for both his head and his leg. A split second after it logged him in, he got a video-call from Dean. His camera popped up on his screen, showing Dean sitting on his bed against the headboard with something dark-stained wood in his lap.

His guitar.

“Hello, Dean,” Castiel greeted, eyeing the instrument with a sense of great curiosity.

“Hey,” he replied with a small smile. “So, yeah. Uh...” Dean tapped at the top of the guitar with his fingers.

“Are you going to play?”

“I was hoping to distract you... from your headache… and your life in general. I don’t know, this is stupid,” Dean said, moving across the bed to put his guitar away.

“No!” Castiel said quickly. “Please play. If you want.”

Dean settled back against the headboard, pulling the guitar back into his arms. He began to roll up the sleeves of his button-down shirt. “I’m not gonna lie, I don’t really know what song I was gonna play. Any requests?”

Castiel considered it for a moment, trying to think of a good song Dean might know. Coming up short, he shrugged. “Play your favorite song.”

“I have two. ‘Ramble On’ and ‘Traveling Riverside Blues.’”

The corner of Castiel’s lip quirked up. “Just pick one, Dean.”

“Fine, but don’t laugh if I mess up. I haven’t played in awhile.”

“I’m sure you’re wonderful.”

Dean tried to hide another embarrassed smile as he strummed each string separately, listening attentively to each note. Seemingly satisfied with the sound, he played a few chords before beginning the song.

It didn’t take long for Castiel to recognize the melody. It was “Ramble On,” and he was fairly sure he’s heard it numerous times on the radio before. As Dean had said many times before, ‘Led Zeppelin is a classic.’

As Dean played, Castiel felt warm. Not in the literal sense sense—it was February and his windows leaked—but figuratively. From the top of his head to the tips of his toes, he felt relaxation wash over him as he sunk further and further into his couch cushions.

It was strange, that music could do this for him. Usually he relaxed with a good book or a jog around the neighborhood. But then it occurred to him. It was because Dean was playing the guitar for him, and only him, that he felt so relaxed and at peace. It was a private little concert in his honor. He smiled at his friend’s gesture.

Dean wrapped up the song with a flurry of chords, followed by a few quiet singular notes fading into quiet. When he finished, Dean leaned against his guitar and looked up at the camera. “What did you think?”

“That was amazing.”

“Really?” Dean scratched the back of his head. “I mean, you can be honest.”

“No, really. Dean, that was incredible.” Castiel tried sounding as authentic and genuine as he could, even though he really did mean it. “Thank you.”

The smile on Dean’s face was priceless. “Do you feel distracted yet?”

“A little,” Castiel answered, not feeling up to sharing how he really felt about Dean playing. He raised an eyebrow minutely. “What about your other favorite song?”

Dean chuckled but shook his head. “No, no, no. I’m only playing one. At least for now.”

“Ah, alright,” he said, noting the ‘for now’ and filing it away in his head for a later time.

“What are you doing with those?” Dean asked, pointing to the side of the screen to the stack of books at Cas’ elbow. He’d almost forgot it was there.

“Oh.” He patted the cover of the top book, which was Practical Uses of Christian Ethics. “I’m planning to prepare study guides for my students.”

“You’re way too fucking nice to them.”

“After this point, I feel as if I owe them.” Castiel shrugged before remembering his talk with the principal, Mrs. Martella. “Besides, I need them to pass.”

“Damn right. Think they’ll be able to do it?”

“I have faith that they will be able to learn the material quickly, but I might make this chapter’s test a little... easier.”

“You sneaky bastard.”

[]-[]-[]-[]-[]-[]-[]-[]-[]-[]-[]-[]-[]-[]

[Sam: Is your brother’s name Gabriel?]

[Sam: Someone is texting me saying he’s your brother and his name is Gabriel.]

[Castiel: I’m unsure how he got ahold of your number, but yes, Gabriel is my brother.]

[Sam: He’s kind of a texting fiend. Any ideas why he’s texting me?]

[Castiel: I don’t know. I’m sorry, he must have stolen your number from my phone before he left. If he is causing too much trouble for you, you can block him or I can ask him to stop.]

[Sam: Nah, so far it’s ok. I just wanted to make sure that it wasn’t some random dude claiming to know you.]

[Sam: It’s kinda funny, actually. Every day at 7AM, he texts me a knock-knock joke, and they’re usually really dirty and hilarious.]

[Castiel: Yes, that’s definitely Gabriel.]

[]-[]-[]-[]-[]-[]-[]-[]-[]-[]-[]-[]-[]-[]

Teaching classes was slowly improving. Luckily, most of Castiel’s students were avid learners, and also needed good grades to get into private colleges. His students eagerly thanked him for the study guide sheets and treated him very respectfully in the hallways—helping him with his bag and carrying books for him to and from the school’s tiny library. He tended to avoid Crowley’s end of the hall on the first floor because there was no need to even risk things getting worse than they already were.

Besides, Castiel felt he could nearly punch the man if he simply saw him and was given the chance.

It was Tuesday, and Castiel sighed his way through another book club meeting as most of his students admitted to not even reading their new monthly book, The Giver.

“Please,” he said, rubbing a hand through his hair, not having nearly enough patience to last the rest of the day. “If you do not want to read, then please leave and join another club.”

From across the circle, a student scoffed. “Then don't give us such a boring book.”

“I didn't think the book was boring,” a different girl piped in, a little desperate for attention. A boy seated a few feet away mumbled something along the lines of ‘goody two-shoes.’

“Honestly,” Castiel started, rubbing at the bridge of his nose in annoyance. He glanced around the circle before looking at the clock on the wall next to the bell. “It's four o'clock, you can all go home.”

“Thank you, Mr. Novak,” the attention-starved girl said, picking up her backpack and flouncing past him out of the room. His classroom emptied out fairly quickly, leaving only a circle of desks arranged in the middle of the room. He’d ask his first period students to put them back tomorrow, since he couldn’t be bothered to try to wrestle fifteen desks across the carpet with his leg and arm. He walked slowly back to his desk on one crutch and pulled his phone out of the locked drawer.

[Cas: It seems students don’t understand the concept of book club.]

[Dean: What do you mean?]

[Cas: In order to have a discussion about The Giver, one must read the book in the first place.]

[Dean: Stupid kids. If they don’t want to read, they should quit the club!]

[Cas: That is exactly what I said.]

[]-[]-[]-[]-[]-[]-[]-[]-[]-[]-[]-[]-[]-[]

[Gabriel: What the flying fuck, bro]

[Castiel: ?]

[Gabriel: Your boyfriend PLAYS GUITAR FOR YOU?]

[Castiel: Not my boyfriend. Where did you hear that?]

[Gabriel: Whatever! I heard from Sam that your man Dean played you a little song!]

[Gabriel: He serenaded you! Do you feel seduced? Succumed to his manly but sweet charm?]

[Gabriel: Cassie? You there?]

[Gabriel: Hellooooooo]

[Gabriel: I’m taking the silence as a YES]

[Anna: So, should I be expecting some happy news soon?]

[Castiel: About what?]

[Anna: About Dean! Gabriel said he serenaded you! With a guitar!]

[Castiel: He told you?]

[Anna: Then it’s true!? CAS, THAT IS SO ROMANTIC. HE TOTALLY LOVES YOU.]

[Castiel: What?]

[Anna: Guys don’t just play romantic guitar songs for each other. Come on, Castiel. He’s so got a thing for you!]

[Anna: You should ask him out!]

[Castiel: No.]

Abandoning his phone on the table, Castiel carefully limped across the tile floor of the kitchen, bent on getting himself a glass of water and some aspirin. He felt another headache coming on, hopefully one that didn’t develop into a migraine. Why were the only siblings he got along with so annoying and intrusive? They meant well—Anna did, at least—but they really need to focus on their own lives instead.

After taking two little orange pills, he filled another glass of water from the sink and drank it all quickly. The cool water felt good going down his throat, and he hoped the aspirin would relieve the ache soon. He staggered back across the kitchen, holding onto various walls and surfaces to get into the living room and laid down on the couch.

Sinking into the ugly plaid cushions, he considered turning on the television as a welcomed and much needed distraction, but the remote was too far away and not worth the effort to get up and retrieve at this point.

He sighed at how useless and lazy he’d become because of this whole ordeal.

He thought back to his phone on the table and Anna’s and Gabriel’s words to him earlier. They both said nearly the same thing: Dean liked him. Could this be true?

However, Gabriel and Anna hardly knew anything about the friendship growing between Dean and himself. What would they know about Dean’s feelings towards him without even knowing the situation or context, or even speaking to him at all?

On the other hand, they were better at spotting this sort of stuff than he was. Gabriel once called him ‘romantically challenged,’ and Anna had always been more sensitive to romance, whether it was her own or not.

What if Dean really did like him? What was he supposed to do? How could he tell? Would Gabriel’s direct approach method work in this situation?

He didn’t know what to do or what to think before another question flashed through his mind: was he attracted to Dean?

Castiel’s mind slowed, narrowing to the point of just the one question. He thought of the past several months since he’d met Dean. He enjoyed every minute of messaging, texting, calling, and Skyping Dean. He knew Dean wasn’t just humoring him by acting like they were friends, it was genuine. He genuinely cared about Castiel, how he felt, how his day went, what his plans were. Not to mention the house tour and late night calls and of course, the guitar song that will forever be emblazoned in Castiel’s memory. Dean was kind, smart, funny, hardworking, and of course, very good looking.

So was he attracted to Dean? In short, he guessed the answer was yes.

Then the realization hit him. He was attracted to his friend and he didn’t know if Dean felt the same way. He groaned as he felt the deep anxiety flooding into his mind and filling up his chest with an uneasy weight.

His head was beginning to hurt again, painfully throbbing at the temples and threatening to move elsewhere.

He really should have turned on the television instead.

Over the next few days, Castiel found it difficult to text with Dean. Every message, every phone or Skype call, he spent most of his time trying to decode or dissect what Dean had said. He thought there might have been underlying clues to answer his question, but so far, there was nothing. He couldn’t figure it out.

Castiel began to take note and appreciate the small things in their friendship, just the little things that would normally be overlooked or be taken for granted.

For example, Dean always texted him during certain times of the day: when Castiel arrived at the school, during his planning period, during lunch, and when he got home. Even the fact that Dean knew when all of those times were made Castiel smile, if only just to himself.

Dean could tell if Castiel was in a bad mood from only a few texts and always tried his best to fix it, usually with a phone call or Skype. He knew Castiel better than anyone else, even better than his family. He was his best friend.

But, as Anna pointed out, there were things that friends don't normally do for each other. He thought of Dean’s guitar song and how that could—and would—technically qualify as serenading, if that was Dean’s intent. He thought of their nightly phone and Skype calls that lasted for hours. He enjoyed those the most; hearing Dean’s voice and seeing his face on Skype made him very happy, but usually not even normal relatives talked to each other that much.

So, was he missing something obvious? A sign he didn’t see? A sign that would tell him the answer that he’s been looking for?

Maybe… Maybe Dean didn’t actually like him and he was missing the signals because there was no signals to start with. Then again, he usually can’t see subtext unless it’s plainly obvious. Even then, it was a rare occurrence.

This was just so frustrating.

“Earth to Cas!” Dean shouted, waving his hands in front of the camera during one of their Skype calls. “You in there, buddy?”

Castiel snapped out of his musing, focusing on his laptop screen. Apparently, he wasn’t even listening to Dean talk about something, whatever it was. “I’m sorry.”

“You’ve been doing that a lot lately,” Dean commented, almost accusingly.

“Doing what, exactly?”

“Spacing out, not replying. I don’t know, you’re distracted or something.”

Castiel stayed silent, eyes guiltily darting away from Dean.

“You better not drop of the face of the planet again, you hear?”

“I won’t. I promise,” he said resolutely. He had no intention to do that again.

“You better,” Dean mock threatened, smile returning to his face only to slightly diminish as he continued. “The first time you did that was enough.”

It hurt his heart a little, hearing Dean say that like it was his fault even though they both knew it wasn’t like that.

“Dean,” Castiel started, unsure about what he was about to ask.

Green eyes flicked back to the screen. “What?”

“Could you... play another song?”

Dean’s eyes widened, adam’s apple bobbing as he swallowed. “For yo- On my guitar?” he stumbled.

“If you don’t mind.”

“Oh,” Dean blinked, “yeah. Nah, I don’t mind. Let me just go get it.”

Dean got up from his spot on his couch and disappeared from view. Castiel could hear his footsteps fade away as Dean walked quickly through his house. Half a minute later, he returned with the instrument in his grip. Settling back on the bed, he pulled a pick out from the strings and plucks a few strings.

“Got any requests?”

“Your other favorite song. Traveling Blues...”

“‘Traveling Riverside Blues’? Okay,” he said, confidently plucking at a few of the starting notes.

Dean must have played the song more times than he could count, because he didn’t even have to look at the strings or his fingers to play it. Instead, Dean looked up from his guitar to look straight into the web camera before looking away, only to return to look at the camera, at Castiel.

There was a hint of a smile on his lips as he began strumming a new verse, clearly enjoying playing as much as Castiel was enjoying listening. It was like Dean was completely absorbed in the song, eyes darting between the instrument in his hands and his laptop, not roaming about the room or searching for Sam.

Castiel couldn’t help but smile as he watched Dean play for him, once again. He knew that this wasn’t something friends did for each other. He began to wonder; was playing for people a usual occurrence for Dean? Did he always play for friends? Knowing the answers to his questions would make him feel more at ease, but he wasn’t sure if he could ask.

“What’s up? You’re frowning,” Dean said, not playing any more. Castiel must have zoned out again with his thoughts. “You didn’t like it? I told you I was rusty.”

“No, of course not,” he was quick to defend. “You were great.” He hung his head. “I’m sorry, I’m distracted.”

Dean set his guitar beside him on the bed, and Castiel secretly wished he would just pick it back up and start playing again. “Is everything ok? You’ve been distracted a lot lately. Sometimes I’m wondering if I’m talking to an undead version of you or something.”

Castiel shot him a puzzled look. “No. I guess things have just been busy since I’ve started school again. I have a lot of things on my mind-”

“Oh,” Dean exclaimed, reaching an arm towards his keyboard. “I’ll hang up and let you go...”

“No! I mean, it’s fine. I don’t have that much to do anyway. I’m nearly caught up with my lesson planning anyway.”

Dean eyed him suspiciously, and Castiel shivered a little under his relentless glare. He wasn’t usually on the receiving end of a stare like this.

“Do you want me to keep playing?” Dean spoke again, motioning to the guitar with a jerk of his head.

Castiel nodded, feeling relieved over the fact that Dean wasn’t finished playing for the night. “If you would like,” he said, trying to sound nonchalant even though every fiber of his body wanted it.

“Alright,” Dean said, hiding another smile as he gathered his guitar back into his arms. “This one’s called ‘Renegade.’”

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Castiel woke slowly to the distant sound of his alarm clock going off feverishly. When he cracked his eyes open, he jolted wide awake. He was laying on the couch on his back, still wearing clothes from the day before. His laptop lay open on his stomach, whirring away and leaking heat onto his stomach like a burning hot furnace. He glanced nervously at his wristwatch, which informed him that it was 7:22AM and that he was going to be late for school if he didn’t get up now.

‘Dean,’ he remembered while stowing his laptop in his messenger bag. He grabbed his phone off the table before heading to his bathroom.

[Dean: You fell asleep last night in the middle of Dust in the Wind so I just hung up.]

[Dean: You snore.]

He showered as fast as he could, which was still slower than he preferred since he had to be very careful of his casts. Speaking of which, they should be ready to be taken off soon. He was able to walk with one crutch and put a considerable amount of weight on his left leg.

[Cas: I’m sorry. I must have been more tired than I thought.]

[Cas: And you’re lying, I do not snore.]

[Dean: Yeah, you caught me. You don’t snore.]

[Dean: It’s more like a soft whistle.]

A flurry of texts come through his phone during his Morality class, but he only was able to check them during lunch.

[Dean: Sam knows too much. Wtf.]

[Dean: So apparently, your brother and my brother have been texting behind our backs.]

[Dean: Dude, when did that start?]

[Dean: I don’t even have Gabriel’s number, how the hell did he get that?]

[Cas: It started a few weeks ago.]

[Dean: Wait you knew this entire time? Thanks for the warning, man.]

[Dean: Now Sam is gossiping about my private life with your brother.]

[Dean: Sam’s got this shit eating grin on his face. I think they’re plotting something evil.]

[Cas: I think they are friends.]

[Dean: Yeah, sure. Evil gossipy friends.]

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Dean seemed to like to play the guitar for him during their Skype calls, and even admitted to learning a few new ones and practicing. Every so often, he liked to test Castiel on the titles and artists, like a quiz show on the radio.

“What about this one?” Dean asked, looking down at his fingers on the fretboard. His strumming picked up in tempo as his fingers fluttered across the strings.

Castiel tried to pin the tune’s melody, but ultimately failed in recognizing the song before Dean was finished.

“It was ‘Paranoid.’ Maybe it’s time we laid off the movies and worked on your music knowledge,” Dean joked.

“Perhaps,” Castiel mumbled, feeling a little embarrassed and ashamed for not knowing Dean’s songs. He really was trying. Most of the songs Dean was playing for him during this little musical quiz were familiar, he’d definitely heard them on the radio before. Sometimes the titles were on the tip of his tongue, but he just couldn’t name them all.

“Let’s try again.”

Dean played a much slower song this time, one with a catchy melody that rang in Castiel’s head. He could almost feel the lyrics on his lips, mouthing them without really knowing what they were. When he looked at Dean’s lips, they too were moving, soundlessly singing the words with a passion. Castiel focused on his lips, trying to make his own match up while they both listened to the sound of the strings.

“Wanted Dead or Alive,” Castiel told him, feeling confident in his answer.

“Right!” Dean beamed, looking proudly at the camera. Castiel smiled back, finally getting another song title correct after a long streak of failure. “Gotta love some Bon Jovi.”

He was silent for a moment, looking off into the corner of the room. Castiel wondered what he was going to play next. Hopefully he would be able to guess it again.

Dean started to play again, starting out carefully and uncertain, much against his usual nature. Listening intently, Castiel watched his fingers this time, instead of watching Dean’s eyes since he didn’t seem to want to look up at the camera for some reason.

The song was beautiful, like something Castiel would listen to while on a leisurely walk through nature. The short plucking of notes accented the steady strum of chords. He couldn’t pick out the melody or a familiar tune, but was entranced by the song all the same.

“What is that one called?” he asked when the song was done.

“I dunno,” Dean shrugged, tapping absently on the top of the guitar. “I haven’t given it a name yet.”

Castiel cocked his head to the side. “You wrote it?”

“Yeah, last night. For, uh...” Dean’s voice trailed off as he avoided looking at the webcam. Castiel was fixated on the pink burning in Dean’s cheeks, bringing out the green in his eyes and the freckles littering his face

“Dean,” Castiel said, addressing him firmly to get his attention. Dean looked back up at the sound of his name. “Did you write a song for me?”

“Maybe,” Dean said, still avoiding looking at Castiel and his computer. “I guess.”

He was speechless. Dean wrote a song for him. Dean wrote a song for him. “I, I don’t know what to say...”

“You don’t have to say anything. Sorry, it was weird-”

“I loved it,” he blurted, not wanting Dean to get the wrong impression because of his inability to put words together on this occasion. “It was beautiful. Thank you.”

The silence that followed was some of the most awkward moments of his life, but his heart and his brain was still trying to get over the fact that Dean wrote a song for him. He couldn’t believe it.

“Uh,” Dean started nervously, glancing away from the screen. “I think Sam’s callin’ for me. I’m gonna go, see ya.”

And then he was gone, hung up.

And Castiel was still reeling.


~ art by linneart ~

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[Castiel: I need your advice again.]

[Gabriel: Say it, and I’ll help you.]

[Castiel: No.]

[Gabriel: Do it!]

[Castiel: I need your help, Mr. Love Guru.]

[Gabriel: Aw, Cassie, you don’t need to be so formal! Just Love Guru is fine, thanks.]

[Gabriel: Anyway, the Love Guru is at your service. Whatcha need?]

[Castiel: I want to ask Dean if he would like to date.]

[Gabriel: WOAH THERE. You sure? Don’t you get like, freaked out over dating? Or even freaked out over someone hitting on you? Or ANYTHING in that realm???]

[Castiel: I still feel anxiety over the subject, but I feel as though if I were dating Dean, it would be alright.]

[Gabriel: So what’s the problem? Go do it.]

[Castiel: He’s mentioned how he isn’t looking for relationships.]

[Gabriel: Oh bullshit! Sam says that Dean totally likes you. Go get yourself a piece of hot Dean ass.]

[Castiel: Don’t be crude. Sam actually said that?]

[Gabriel: Uhhh, YEAH. It’s super obvious, apparently. Get on it already. We were about to place bets.]

[Castiel: Don’t wager on my personal life. Besides, I don’t want to ruin my friendship with Dean.]

[Gabriel: Huh. So it’s like that, huh?]

[Castiel: Like what?]

[Gabriel: Oh, nothing. ;P]

[Castiel: If you’re going to be like this again, I can just ask Anna instead.]

[Gabriel: No wait! You don’t want her girly advice. Besides, it took her FOR-EV-ER to get a boyfriend. Don’t you wanna ask someone with more experience?]

[Castiel: I’m unsure if I want advice from someone with your kind of experience.]

[Gabriel: Hey! What do you mean by ‘your kind of experience?’]

[Castiel: Nothing. So what should I do?]

[Gabriel: Well, if you wanna ask someone out, you’ve gotta be smooth. Like me.]

[Gabriel: Be sweet, like candy, smooth like chocolate, tangy like taffy.]

[Castiel: If you’re going to give advice, please give practical advice that preferably doesn’t involve candy.]

[Gabriel: Have you tried serenading him?]

[Gabriel: OH WAIT, HE DID THAT TO YOU]

[Gabriel: I crack myself up.]

[Castiel: You’re not being helpful whatsoever.]

[Gabriel: Bro, come on. If you’re don’t like any of the perfectly sound advice I’m giving you, then just ask him! Direct approach, remember?]

[Castiel: Okay.]

[Gabriel: “Okay?” “OKAY?”]

[Gabriel: Is that all the thanks I get? Man, the things I do for you...]

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[Gabriel: Are you guys dating yet?]

[Gabriel: Psst. Are you dating yet?]

[Gabriel: Casssssssssssssssieeeee, have you asked Deano out yet?]

[Gabriel: ArE yOu DaTiNg YeT?]

Ignoring the texts from his brother, Castiel checked his email on the couch while he waited for Dean to get off his garage shift. It felt good to have his casts off. Early that morning, during his appointment, the doctor said he was in good shape for such a nasty accident. It still felt incredibly sore and difficult to walk on, but he was so happy he could ditch the crutches and walk like a normal human being.

As he scrolled through his inbox, deleting junk mail and various newsletters, he thought about how he might ask Dean. It was true, Gabriel’s direct approach was probably best for a man of his... level of social skills, but Dean never seemed to mind his straightforwardness.

Like clockwork, at 10:23PM, Dean’s Skype bubble turned green and the notification flashed in the corner of his screen. The video call came only seconds later.

“Hey, Cas.”

“Hello, Dean.”

“What’s up?”

“Nothing. I just finished grading papers.”

Dean rolled his eyes. “Like always.”

Castiel decided this was the time, now or never. “Dean,” he said resolutely.

“Hold that thought, Cas. I’m gonna go grab a beer out of the fridge,” Dean said, quickly standing up and shuffling towards the kitchen.

“Wait-”

The more Castiel had to put off asking Dean, the more difficult it became to keep the courage he built up beforehand. He could feel it draining out of him, becoming more and more hesitant and unwilling to ask.

“Alright, Miller time,” Dean smiled as he returned, raising his glass to Cas before taking a long drink from the bottle. “So, what were you saying?”

“Uh,” Castiel began, feeling the courage pouring out of him like a river flood by the millisecond. “My casts were removed today.”

“That’s gotta be a relief. I hated casts. I bet your skin feels all tingly, right?”

“It does. But this will uncomplicate my life a little for now,” Castiel admitted, trying to gather up his courage once more during small talk.

Dean pulled a bag of Doritos out from seemingly nowhere and began to eat them. “Man,” he said between bites, “I remember when I had casts. Everyone wanted to sign them but I only let Sam do it becau-”

“Would you consider dating me?” Castiel blurted. The moment the words tumbled out of his mouth, he wanted to hide. Hang up, never to log back on or look at his phone ever again. The weight of embarrassment was crushing him already and it had been only seconds since he asked.

Dean’s eyes went wide and he froze mid-chew. “Wha-?” he said, muffled with his mouth full. He made sure to swallow and wipe his mouth on his sleeve before continuing. “Cas, I don’t-”

“It’s okay if you say no...”

“-think you want to date me.”

“What?” Castiel asked, confused and a little offended. He wasn’t expecting him to say something like that. “Why not?”

Dean sighed and ran a hand over his face and through his hair, exasperated. “Listen... Cas... I just. I don’t date seriously, you know that, right?”

“Why not?” Castiel said, trying to hide the wounded sound of his voice.

“Because I fuck things up, okay?” Dean sighed again and rubbed at his temples. “I’m a terrible person to date. Whenever I try to date people, I fuck up everything. And I don’t want to fuck up what we have.”

“Dean…”

“I like you, okay?” he nearly spat. “I like you more than I should. But I can’t… I can’t let myself fuck up our friendship. You mean too much to me.” Dean shook his head, almost looking angry at himself like he couldn’t believe he was saying these things. “Being friends with you has been the best thing that has happened to me in a long while.”

Castiel listened intently to Dean’s confession, feeling a little guilty that he felt happy Dean’s main concern wasn’t because of himself. Oh, Dean Winchester. A selfless man who is acting even more selfless when he should be acting selfish. Is this what he was choosing to worry about?

“I don’t think you’d be a terrible person to date,” he commented quietly. “In fact, I think you’d be a wonderful person to date.”

“I just don’t want to lose you.”

This struck Castiel’s heart hard. “You won’t,” he said adamantly. There was very little Dean could do to upset him at this point.

“Hey, Dean, have you seen my Kin-” Sam’s voice came over Castiel’s speakers. He could spot Sam on the side of Dean’s screen, just coming through the doorway into Dean’s room.

Dean stared back at his brother with wide green eyes, like a frozen deer in the headlights confronting a moose. Sam glanced from Dean to the computer and back again before slowly and quietly leaving the room. Once he was sure Sam was on the other side of the house, Dean spun back to face his laptop.

“Do you really...” Dean trailed off before clearing his throat and looking back at the camera. “Do you really want to date me?”

Castiel flashed him a small smile. “Yes, Dean. I really would.”

“Cas…” Another sigh. Too many sighs. “I can’t make any promises...”

“You don’t have to,” Castiel said, shaking his head. He wasn’t asking for anything other than Dean himself, nothing more.

“... Okay.”

“Okay?” Castiel asked, not knowing what the word meant exactly in this confusing conversation.

“I’d, uh... ‘consider’ dating you, Cas.” Dean flashed him a lopsided grin while Castiel still sat still and stared at his screen in disbelief.

“‘Consider?’”

“You asked if I’d ‘consider’ dating you,” Dean said, rolling his eyes at his classic obliviousness. “It means yes, Cas.”

“Oh.” Duh.

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Castiel woke up to the chiming of his alarm clock two feet away, feeling more comfortable and relaxed than he’s felt in ages. It was all probably due to the fact that his casts were gone and that he was dating Dean.

Wait.

He was dating Dean.

It was like a weight was lifted off his shoulders. He smiled, rolling over on his bed to reach for his phone on the night stand. The outside screen was blinking blue, which meant he had unread texts. Gabriel’s were the first to pop up on his screen when he flipped his open.

[Gabriel: CONGRATULATIONS]

[Gabriel: I didn’t think you had it in you.]

[Gabriel: You owe me.]

[Castiel: Don’t insult me and then think I owe you.]

[Castiel: Let me guess. Sam told you?]

[Gabriel: Bingo.]

Sighing, Castiel closed the conversation with his brother and open’s Dean’s new texts.

[Dean: How the fuck does Gabriel know already?]

[Dean: SAM]

Castiel laughed to himself and went about his morning routine. He felt so much lighter and looser now that he wasn’t as stressed. Perhaps this will turn out to be a very good thing.

The rest of the day continued as it would on any other normal Thursday, dating or not. Dean still texted him during his planning period and lunch, and vent about apathetic car owners and his co-workers at the garage. Castiel still texted back complaining about his students and the effect Crowley had on them.

Castiel’s phone vibrated while he was grading World Religions midterms during his planning period. He expected it to be Dean, but was pleasantly surprised that it was Sam.

[Sam: Hey, Cas. Did Dean ask you or did you ask him, because I’m getting mixed messages between him and Gabriel.]

[Castiel: I did.]

[Sam: Finally. You’re more of a man than he is.]

[Castiel: Did you place bets with Gabriel?]

[Sam: Maybe.]

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He didn’t know what he was expecting, but dating Dean barely changed anything about their relationship. Perhaps it was because of the distance… Whatever the cause, Castiel felt less anxiety over the whole dating ordeal, but otherwise, he felt the same.

Dean was quick to proclaim Monday nights as date nights, because Dean never worked the bar on Mondays and Castiel’s most free day was then. Using their usual Skype calls as an excuse, they usually watched movies simultaneously or simply had long conversations until one of them fell asleep. At the end of most dates, Dean played the guitar for Castiel.

Sure, their date activities weren’t much different from what they were doing before, but they felt different and the fact that they were called ‘dates’ made them feel different and made Castiel happy.

It was only just past midterms, but Castiel was beyond ready for summer already. Usually he enjoyed teaching and didn’t want the school year to end, but this year, he needed the summer to get his life back together. He only had half of a semester left, and he just had to power through it just like the rest of his students.

He decided he missed attending sporting events. Spending time watching the kids he taught all day compete in sports that were important to them made him proud. It was a nice to sit in the stands or bleachers, surrounded by supportive but still crazy parents and a few of his fellow faculty members. Looking online, he figured out when the next game or meet was and made plans to be there.

When he arrived at the field, Castiel was pleased to see that his spot on the bleachers was not taken. But to his horror, a certain teacher took up residence on the row right behind his.

“Ah,” Crowley cooed, spotting Castiel approaching. “Mr. Novak, what a pleasant surprise. I wasn’t expecting to see you here. You haven’t been to a meet all season, have you?”

Castiel frowned. It was true; he missed nearly the entire basketball season due to being busy, but he at least was able to watch Track and Field. However, he didn’t know how he was expected to enjoy it if Crowley was bent on sitting behind him the entire time.

“Well, come on,” his fellow teacher urged, waving an arm over Castiel’s empty spot. “Take a seat. Join the festivities.”

Hesitantly, Castiel sat down in front of Crowley, and suddenly his back felt cold and tingly, like it fell asleep. He made sure to sit on an angle, facing towards the action of the starting line but also so he was able to see Crowley out of the corner of his eye.

The crowd cheered loudly as Susan Michaels placed first in the 100 meter dash. Castiel glanced across the field at the scoreboard. Their school was winning against the local public school, who was normally much better than they were.

“I think we are going to win,” a husky voice echoed in his ear, making Castiel jump in his seat. “Don’t you agree, Mr. Novak?”

“We will win,” he agreed, having reasonable confidence in their freshman athletes to even the team out. Crowley was breathing over his shoulder, and it took every thread of his being not to turn around and push the other teacher away by the face. If they weren’t on the bleachers surrounded by students and families, he might have just done it.

“I don’t think I’ve seen you at these types of events,” Castiel said, trying to be civil and conversational.

“Maybe not, but I may have developed the appetite for them.” He said it in such a way that made Castiel’s skin crawl. “Perhaps we should go out and celebrate our impending victory, hm?”

“I think I will go congratulate Susan,” Castiel gritted, gathering his light jacket and belongings from the bench.

“It was a pleasure to see you, as always.”

He gripped the strap of his messenger bag tight, standing up and turning to leave. “You too.”

He made a detour to the center field in order to follow through with what he told Crowley. Susan was happy to see him and thankful for the congratulations. She was still huffing and puffing, walking back and forth with her arms over her head.

Halfway home, a text from Dean comes through. He must be on break from bartending.

[Dean: Did they win?]

[Cas: Overall, yes. Which was actually incredible since we haven’t won against Snowden Academy in eleven years.]

[Dean: That calls for a party. Time for beer.]

[Cas: I could really use one.]

[Dean: Aw yeah, beer time.]

[Dean: Why do you need one?]

[Cas: Crowley was, quite frankly, a complete ass.]

[Dean: Him again? How many times is he going to creep on you?]

[Dean: If I have to come over there and kick his ass for you, I will.]

[Cas: You forget that I could do that if I wanted to.]

[Dean: Yeah. But at least I wouldn’t get fired for it.]

[Cas: Except you’d most likely go to jail instead.]

[Dean: True.]

[Dean: Man, I hate Crowley and I’ve never even met the guy.]

[Cas: Someone sounds a little jealous.]

[Dean: No way!]

[Dean: I don’t know! Man, just thinkin about that guy creeping on you makes my blood boil.]

[Dean: Yeah, okay. I might be a little bit jealous...]

[Cas: I thought so.]

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[Dean: So… what should I call you?]

[Cas: What do you mean?]

[Dean: Like are we boyfriends or what?]

[Dean: I’m only asking because Sam brought it up. Sometimes people like calling each other partners and I have no idea what I’m doing with this dating thing.]

[Cas: You can call me whatever you’d like.]

[Dean: I’m going to call you Spock.]

[Cas: Then that makes you Kirk.]

[Dean: Usually, I’d say no but… yes.]

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[Dean: Sam’s approaching finals and once again, he’s freaking out.]

[Dean: You’d think I’d be used to this after all these years, but I’m not.]

[Dean: Also, you’d think he’d be used to finals by now, but he’s not.]

[Cas: It’s difficult to ‘get used to’ finals.]

[Dean: I guess, but he’s been studying for weeks for these. I don’t understand why he’s flipping out about it. He’s going to pass and he’s got a great internship lined up for him in less than a month.]

[Cas: Stressing about finals is part of finals.]

[Dean: If that’s the case, then I’m glad I didn’t have to go through seven years of it. He’s crazy.]

[Cas: I suppose I am in the same position.]

[Dean: What? You’re taking finals too?]

[Cas: No, but I am giving them. More than 120 of them. And I also have my position assessment meeting with the principal tomorrow afternoon.]

[Dean: Oh, that sucks. I’m sure they’ll keep you, though. Your kids ended up doing just fine, right?]

[Cas: Unfortunately, due to some strange force of God, some of the students still failed, even though I made the exam easier. I am quite nervous now.]

[Dean: That’s just them being lazy fucks. It’s not your fault they flunked.]

[Cas: I know, but it’s beyond my power now.]

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[Dean: I woke up at 3 for a glass of water and Sam is chanting something in his room.]

[Dean: Is there some sort of school demon you can summon to get good grades? Because that’s what it looks like.]

[Dean: It turns out he’s just repeating Constitutional Law vocab.]

[Dean: Whatever, it still sounded like a bunch of evil Latin chanting.]

[Cas: Go to sleep.]

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Castiel called Dean almost immediately following his meeting with the principal after school. He felt a strange mix of emotions, but he knew that Dean would be able to help make it right. He sat in the front seat of his car, still parked in the faculty lot, listening to the dialtone. Dean picked up quickly since he was on the tail end of lunch.

“Hey Cas, what’s up?”

“The school is not renewing my contract for next year,” he said, sniffling a little. “Dean, I lost my job.”

“Breathe, Cas,” Dean hushed, his voice a soothing constant against his ear. “Breathe, okay? Keep calm.”

Castiel braces his head against the steering wheel of his car. He lost his job. He was about to achieve tenure and he lost it.

“Do you at least get to finish out this year?”

“Yes, I do. But now I will not be teaching next year, or even classes during the summer.”

“Cas,” Dean said softly, sounding deeply concerned. “I’m so sorry.”

“I don’t know what to do,” he confessed, too wound up in a storm of thoughts and emotions to think straight.

“What were the grounds of firing you? Can you fight it?”

“No, I was graded against the scale used to evaluate a teacher’s success as deemed by the state. Unfortunately, with my absence and Crowley’s meddling with my students, I just barely was under the minimum score.”

“Cas...” Dean said, not knowing what else to say.

“I just...” he started, thumping his head against the wheel. And again, and again.

Dean cleared his throat. “Cas,” he tried again, catching Castiel’s attention. “Go home, take a nap, grade some papers, and we’ll talk later, okay? I’ve gotta go.”

Castiel side glanced at the clock in his car. Dean’s lunch was over in less than a minute. “Okay. Thank you, Dean.”

“No problem, Cas. We’ll talk later, okay?” He waited for Castiel to mumble a reply. “Alrighty. Bye.”

“Goodbye.”

He drove home in complete silence other than the sound of the vents and the hum of the engine, thinking about all the ways he could have been able to change his evaluation score. He could have tried harder as a teacher. He could have held after school study sessions, even though he highly doubted anyone would have come anyway.

He felt another headache building behind his eyes.

He was finally back at his apartment, trying to doze off on the couch instead of continuously thinking of more ways he could have improved. His phone vibrated and he fished it out of his discarded jacket pocket before flicking it open.

[Gabriel: Dean tells me you’re in a bind right now?]

[Castiel: I lost my job.]

[Gabriel: Ouch. I’m sorry, lil bro.]

[Gabriel: Well, let’s look at the brightside. Now you’ve got a lot of time to fawn over Dean.]

[Castiel: Not helping. At all.]

[Gabriel: Okay okay! You didn’t need that shit school anyway. Most of the faculty treated you like shit, the pay was shit, and don’t get me started on that Crowley guy.]

[Gabriel: You’re always welcome to move down here and come work at the shop. I’m sure you’d make a great candy spinner.]

[Castiel: No, thank you. As much as I would enjoy twirling copious amounts of sugar into giant lollipops eight hours a day, I would like to stay here in Boston. I want to keep teaching.]

[Gabriel: It’s way more exciting than that, but whatever you say. That offer’s open to you anytime.]

[Gabriel: Listen, I’ll get Kali to see if there’s any more positions open for theology in Boston. She may be an accountant, but god, does that woman know how to produce miracles.]

[Castiel: Why are you being so generous all of the sudden?]

[Gabriel: Fine, don’t accept my kind offer. Fine with me~]

[Castiel: No, I would really appreciate that, thank you.]

[Gabriel: Like I said before... you owweeee meeee.]

He napped until dinner, when he sat and ate a plate of bland spaghetti while scouring the internet for job positions he could possibly fill in the summer. He quickly came to realize, unfortunately, he was competing with teenagers for the simple minimum wage jobs and he was overqualified for nearly all of those anyway.

There was a position for a full time summer nanny, but it was on the furthest side of town and the wage, the work, and the drive wouldn’t be worth it. Besides, he didn’t have any babysitting experience whatsoever so he wasn’t even sure anyone would hire him.

Sears and McDonalds were hiring temporary positions as well, at a few of the city’s locations. Castiel sighed, but clicked through to their online applications anyway. It had been a while since he’d last applied for a job, so he needed to update his résumé.

[Gabriel: Check your email]

Sure enough, there was one email from Kali Khalsa sitting in his inbox, marked as urgent with a little red flag. The subject line simply read ‘Jobs,’ and when he opened it, there were four links to different classified want ads from several of Boston’s newspapers from within the past year. One was for a Vacation Bible School instructor, so he immediately threw that link out. The other three looked vaguely promising. They were all classified ads searching for various Theology and religion-based private tutors, varying from a casual weekly tutor to practically a private, full-time teacher.

After sending a quick thank you to Kali, Castiel opened three new emails, addressing one to each of the addresses given by the ads. He expressed his interest in the position and asked if it was still available, attaching his résumé to it before hitting send.

He sat back in his chair, staring at the want ads spread across his screen. There was nothing else he could do other than wait for replies and finish out the rest of the school year strongly. He might have been fired, but he’ll be damned if he stopped being the best teacher he could be.

[]-[]-[]-[]-[]-[]-[]-[]-[]-[]-[]-[]-[]-[]

Castiel was busy typing the multiple-choice questions for his World Religions final exam in his classroom when Outlook informed him that he had new three emails since the last time it updated.

Two were junk, but the other one was a newsletter from the school to the seniors and faculty, detailing the requirements and plans for graduation, looming only a few weeks away. He nearly forgot that he represented the Theology department on stage and wondered if he should even be doing that this year if he’s not going to be coming back the following year.

He decided he didn’t want to be on stage or help give out diplomas or awards, but he still wanted to attend and see his beloved senior class graduate. Typing a quick email to the Main Office, Castiel explained his sentiments and requested to be taken off the roster for graduation this year.

The reply from Joan from the front desk was quick, cheerful, and full of good news. ‘Thank you for informing us, Castiel. We will have another person in your department to take your place. I hope the kids aren’t too upset! They seem to like you!’

When Joan mentioned ‘another person in your department,’ Castiel smiled almost maliciously. The only other theology teacher in the school was Crowley, who has expressed his hatred of attending graduation on numerous occasions.

As expected, Crowley cornered him in the Teachers’ Lounge the next morning, looking menacing as usual.

“Any particular reason why I am forced to attend graduation this year?” he asked accusingly, beady eyes boring into him. Castiel just looked at him blankly from his seat at the center table. “Because if this is your idea of a little joke, it’s not funny. I have plans for that weekend, and it’s your responsibility to go,” he said, jabbing a finger at Castiel.

“Just as it is your responsibility to attend if no other teacher from the department can attend,” he deadpanned.

“You little wench-” Crowley spat.

“Mr. Sinclair!” a voice from the doorway scolded. It was Mrs. Martella, who looked nearly scandalized at Crowley’s words. “We do not use that language in this school!”

Crowley rolled his eyes, reigning himself in before turning to the principal. “My apologies, Mrs. Martella. It won’t happen again.”

“I sincerely hope not,” she said, huffing as she trotted back out of the room. Crowley looked back from the doorway to Castiel, who merely raised his eyebrows with a small sneer.

“You think you’re so funny, don’t you?”

“Yes.” Castiel nodded, thinking about what Dean would say in this moment. “I think I’m hilarious.”

[]-[]-[]-[]-[]-[]-[]-[]-[]-[]-[]-[]-[]-[]

[Cas: Today is my last day.]

[Dean: At the school? It’s finals time already?]

[Cas: Yes. All of the religious studies classes take their exams today. After this, I am free to go.]

[Dean: That’s kinda awesome. How does it feel?]

[Cas: I think I’ve accepted the fact that I have been fired. But I admit I will miss this place.]

[Dean: Yeah, but you’ll find another job, probably way better than this one.]

[Cas: I hope so. I have received two replies from families who are interested in a private teacher for theology.]

[Dean: Really? That’s great! I mean, I woulda never pictured that someone would need a private teacher for that but that’s good. See? You already found something.]

[Cas: I am not hired yet. One is still calling my references and the other would like to have a phone interview with me within the week.]

[Dean: I’m sure they’ll love you. Besides, how else are they going to find someone who is gonna be able to tutor their kids in religion?]

[Cas: I’m hoping that’s the case. They both seemed very interested, so hopefully one of them will hire me.]

[]-[]-[]-[]-[]-[]-[]-[]-[]-[]-[]-[]-[]-[]

[Dean: Sorry, I’m gonna have to cancel our date night tonight.]

[Cas: Oh, are you working the bar tonight?]

[Dean: Ellen’s daughter Jo left town last night, so we’re down in staff. Jo did a lot of the work, so I’m filling in for her until she comes back.]

[Dean: I’m tempted to just go out and track her down. Ellen’s worried sick but also furious that she would just up and leave and only leave a note.]

[Cas: She ran away?]

[Dean: She’s like almost 20, so I’m not sure if you can call it running away. She left a note saying how she wanted to get out of town and actually do something with her life.]

[Dean: Now that I’m actually thinking about it, I don’t blame her. But I can’t say that to Ellen. She’d kill me.]

[Dean: Or worse. She’d fire me.]

[Cas: Priorities, Dean. Are you taking over all her shifts?]

[Dean: Nah, me and another guy are splitting her shifts. I had no idea she worked so much, it’s insane.]

[Cas: Should we reschedule date night? Now that school is out for summer, I’m available any night of the week.]

[Dean: I don’t know yet. I’ll have to talk with Paul to see what shifts he wants to take and see what nights I’m free.]

[Cas: Rain check?]

[Dean: Rain check.]

[]-[]-[]-[]-[]-[]-[]-[]-[]-[]-[]-[]-[]-[]

Just as Dean got back to him with a definite schedule, Castiel is hired not just by one family, but both families for private teaching. It’s five days a week for each, and he tutors from early afternoon to late, and from late afternoon until just after dinnertime. He quickly scrambled to revise his lesson plans and adapt it for smaller groups, combining his usual three subjects into one cohesive one.

He began immediately with both, and wondered if the two families knew each other.

The children turned out to be highly sheltered and just as unmanageable as his previous students, and Castiel decided that they would benefit from both Morality and World Religions the most. During their sessions, they sit around a table in a high-end dining room as their mother fluttered around the apartment, seemingly busying herself but still staying within earshot of her children.

Castiel ended up missing his classroom setting and his graduating seniors, especially. They were at least decently kind and respectful, or even neutral towards him. These kids seemed to put him on their hit list, wanting to get him fired for ruining their summer vacation. The youngest always somehow slipped out of the room and ran about the house before being brought back by his mother, while the oldest purposely answered all the questions incorrectly and laughed at his own jokes constantly. The day felt long, and he was only able to eat a packed sandwich between one family’s lesson to the next.

[Cas: I miss the school.]

[Dean: One day of tutoring and you’re already missing your old job?]

[Cas: These kids are appalling. At least my old class was able to focus on one thing for more than two minutes.]

[Dean: That bad, huh?]

[Cas: Dreadful.]

[Cas: I think that my prime motivation will be the pay, which I can say is very generous.]

[Dean: Bankroll]

[Cas: ?]

[Dean: Nevermind.]

It only took a few weeks for the children’s behavior to improve, little by little. Surprisingly, they passed their first quizzes with decent scores and were able to focus a little more each day. Castiel tried to do his part by making the lessons more interesting by including printed pictures and telling stories of important religious figures like they were fairy tales.

Dean was still very busy, working countless hours between Ellen’s bar and Bobby’s garage. Castiel felt a small ache in his chest build up, slowly rolling and snowballing until it actually hurt. He missed talking to Dean, and it finally became apparent that the distance between them was felt like it was increasing. They only had time for a relatively quick call or Skype between returning from work and going to sleep, and just the night before, Dean didn’t answer his phone or log on to Skype at all.

[Dean: Sorry I missed your call last night. I stopped a bar fight with my face yesterday and fell asleep on the couch without even realizing it.]

[Cas: It’s alright. I understand that you’re very busy working two jobs.]

[Dean: You are too, remember? I just didn’t think it would be this difficult to balance everything and still have time to talk to you every day.]

[Dean: It would be easier if I could just see you.]

That tugged at Castiel’s heartstrings. He would love to be able to see Dean. More often than not, during their video calls, Castiel found himself staring at Dean, wondering what it would be like to touch him. To run his hands through his hair and feel the stubble on his jaw, even fantasizing what he would smell like and if his hands would be warm or cold against his skin.

[Cas: That would be nice.]

[Dean: I just kinda miss talking to you more. The bar is busy as fuck during Jo’s old shifts and Bobby gets on my ass every time I even think about my phone, the damn psychic. I’m sorry that this kinda ruined. If Jo could get back from Georgia faster, everything would go back to normal, but I’m not even sure if she’s coming back at all.]

[Dean: Ugh, this is all so chick-flicky.]

[Dean: I guess what I’m trying to say is I miss you.]

[Cas: It’s not your fault, we’re both busy with two jobs with very conflicting schedules. And I miss you too.]

[Dean: I was thinking about date night on Sunday. How does that sound? I know you’re off, and I traded Paul next Tuesday for it so he could go to his niece’s 5th birthday.]

Castiel smiled. Thankfully he didn’t teach on the weekends, but usually spent most of his time planning what he was going to teach in the next week. He would definitely take a few hours of his Sunday lesson planning for Dean. He missed date nights on Skype the most.

[Cas: I would really like that.]

[Dean: Alright! I’ll pick the movie.]

[]-[]-[]-[]-[]-[]-[]-[]-[]-[]-[]-[]-[]-[]

[Dean: I’m in a zombie movie mood today.]

[Dean: What sounds better, Shaun of the Dead or Zombieland?]

[Cas: I’ve never heard of either of those. Just pick one.]

[Dean: I haven’t seen Shaun of the Dead in a while. It’s definitely a comedy classic.]

[Cas: Is that a parody movie of Dawn of the Dead?]

[Dean: You looked it up? Don’t ruin the magic!]

[Cas: I was curious.]

[Dean: Save it for tonight.]

After a lengthy but leisurely walk to and from the grocery store, Castiel made movie-theater style popcorn on the stove while Dean was driving home from the garage. He accidentally made a little too much, feeling like he made enough for two, but poured it all into a bowl anyway. Bringing his popcorn and a tall glass of water, he made his way into his bedroom where his laptop was sitting, open with Skype loaded and running.

He checked his wristwatch; Dean should be coming online any minute. He set the popcorn on the other side of his double bed and placed the glass of water on a coaster on the nightstand. Dean logged on while he was in the middle of reading an article from the front page of Google News.

“Hey, Cas,” Dean greeted when their call finally connected.

“Hello, Dean.” Castiel paused, staring at the screen. “What is on your face?”

Dean’s shot him a confused look while a hand shot up to his face. He rubbed at his darkened cheek while muttering. “Lemme go check...” Dean left but quickly returned with a wet washcloth, wiping at his cheek. “Engine oil. You’d think I woulda noticed something like that. None of the guys even pointed it out.”

“It’s gone now.”

“Right, thanks,” he said, throwing the soiled rag onto the floor somewhere in his room. “Anyway, so I found Shaun of the Dead. It’s a little scratched, but I think it should play okay.”

Dean loaded it into his computer and shared his screen with Castiel. The DVD menu was showing, and he watched Dean’s cursor navigate the menu to turn subtitles on, as per Castiel’s usual request. “Alright. You ready?”

“Yes.”

The movie played, and Castiel couldn’t decide if he liked the movie or felt indifferent towards it. He definitely wasn’t a fan of zombies—literary or theatrical—but Dean seemed to love them since every time a zombie showed on screen, he would make a comment on it.

He wasn’t expecting this much blood and gore, nor for the humor to be so British. It had its funny moments, and Castiel found himself laughing at times with Dean, but he found he enjoyed science-fiction television like Star Trek more. In fact, he’s liked Star Trek more than everything they’ve ever watched together.

The movie reached it’s climax and Dean was absolutely silent, refraining to make any comments so Castiel could catch everything. The troop of heroes had lost a lot of people on the way, even a beloved mother, but they were safe in the end and all was well, which was a strange ending for a zombie movie.

Dean closed the movie and unshared his screen, causing his face to pop back onto Castiel’s. “What did you think?” he earnestly asked for Castiel’s opinion.

“It was funny,” he answered, not knowing what else to say. “I enjoyed it, especially the positive ending.”

“Yeah,” Dean mused, sitting up straight on his bed and leaning back against his headboard while Castiel found himself sinking further into his mattress. He could stay there for hours, laying on his bed with Dean on Skype. Even if they weren’t talking, he’d be content.

Dean broke the small silence. “Cas.”

“Hm?” Castiel hummed.

“Can I play you something?” Dean asked, lifting his guitar off the floor a little so the camera could see.

“Of course,” Castiel said, rolling on his side to properly see the screen. This was his favorite part of date night. It was always obscenely late for Castiel because of Dean’s jobs and the time difference of three hours, and Dean liked to play at the end of their date because it was relaxing. For the both of them.

“It’s kinda special,” Dean said, pulling the instrument into his lap. “I haven’t played it in a long, long time.”

Settling back in his bed against the pillows, Castiel watched Dean intently. He wondered what the song is, or why it is so special. Could it be more special than the song Dean wrote for him? He almost wanted to ask, but then Dean cleared his throat and started to pluck at a few of the strings, testing their tune.

The first few chords were familiar, but Castiel still couldn’t name the song right away. Without words, most of the songs Dean played were difficult to place a finger on, especially since they had such different tastes in music.

Then Dean began to sing.

“Hey Jude, don’t make it bad...”

Castiel’s eyes widened and his jaw dropped slightly. Dean was singing. Dean was singing The Beatles. Dean was playing the guitar and singing The Beatles. Castiel sat there, completely stupefied at the sight of Dean strumming a guitar softly and singing in his rough mesmerizing voice.

As Dean sang, his voice floated in and out of Castiel’s ears, and he felt very at peace. He relaxed in his bed, letting Dean’s voice and the practiced notes of the strings wash over him and carry him away. “Hey Jude” was a much longer song than what he normally played, and Castiel was suddenly very grateful to The Beatles for the fact.

Dean finished the song by slowing down and fading out before looking up at Castiel, who must have looked nearly asleep with how good he felt.

“Goodnight, Cas.”

“Goodnight, Dean,” Castiel replied, hiding his yawn unsuccessfully. “Thank you. That was-” another yawn “-beautiful.”

[]-[]-[]-[]-[]-[]-[]-[]-[]-[]-[]-[]-[]-[]

[Dean: So basically, Sam overheard last night and told your brother that I sang to you.]

[Dean: They’re both giving me so much shit over it. Wtf.]

[Cas: That’s interesting, because I haven’t heard anything from either of them in nearly a week.]

[Dean: What!? Just me?]

[Dean: That’s bullshit. Like I said before, evil gossipy sons of bitches.]

[]-[]-[]-[]-[]-[]-[]-[]-[]-[]-[]-[]-[]-[]

[Dean: GFDIHD]

[Cas: I have no idea what that means.]

[Dean: God Fucking Damnit, It’s Hump Day.]

[Cas: I should have guessed. It was so obvious.]

[Dean: Haha no]

[Dean: Is it some sort of statistical thing where people are more likely to bring their old beaten up cars in for service on Wednesdays or something? Because every damned time, there’s like ten people in the waiting room and a line of cars out the back.]

[Cas: That’s good business.]

[Dean: It’s too much business. We should be doing appointments or something because damn, this is ridic.]

[Dean: How were the brats today?]

[Cas: They’re doing better. Apparently, their mother sat them down for a behavior talk a few weeks ago, which would explain the sudden shift in attitude. The second family has offered to hire me as a private tutor during the winter months too, as they are homeschooled.]

[Dean: Homeschooled? Aren’t there fancypants religious schools in Boston? Like all over? Why would they homeschool?]

[Cas: Unfortunately for the children, some parents still do not believe that schools, even private ones, are able to give adequate education. I’m not too sure what good it’s doing for them.]

[Dean: Yeah, I wonder about those kids, man. Sam went to public schools all his life, and he turned out just fine.]

[Cas: So did you.]

[]-[]-[]-[]-[]-[]-[]-[]-[]-[]-[]-[]-[]-[]

Castiel’s phone rang the following Saturday in the late afternoon, when Castiel was researching various saints to teach the children about for the next week. The summer was winding down already, and Castiel had to make the most of his time with the children he was tutoring in order to impress their parents and possibly get a year-round job from them.

“Hello, Dean,” he answered, smiling to himself that Dean would call him between shifts on his busiest day of the week.

“Hey, Cas,” Dean replied quickly. “Hey, uh, I got a question for you.”

Castiel’s curiosity spiked as he sat back in his chair. Dean sounded flustered. “Yes?”

“So, Sam’s been doing really well at his internship and they’ve offered him a full time job once he’s graduated.”

“That’s wonderful news, Dean. You must be so proud.”

“Yeah, I am,” Dean laughed a little to himself. “God, I really am, but now that he’s got a pretty stable job to come back to, he’s taking some time off to go visit his girlfriend Jess’ family in Oregon for like two weeks.”

“This doesn’t seem like a question so far.”

“I’m getting to it,” Dean huffed, sounding a little antsy. “Anyways, he’s kinda convinced me... I mean, I could... I could try to get some time off, like a week or so, and... go on a road trip.”

“That sounds great. I’m sure you’ll have a lot of fun. You deserve some time off, especially since you are essentially working three jobs.”

“No, Cas,” Dean groaned, sounding pained for some reason. Castiel waited patiently for Dean to continue. “I meant... a road trip. Toseeyou.

Castiel gasped inaudibly, realizing what Dean was trying to say, even if in the most roundabout way possible. “Dean,” he tread forth carefully. “Are you... asking to visit?”

“Well, I mean, if you don’t want me to, that’s oka-”

“Yes.”

“What? ‘Yes’ as in yes yes?” Dean seemed surprised at Castiel’s quick and simple answer.

“Yes.”

[]-[]-[]-[]-[]-[]-[]-[]-[]-[]-[]-[]-[]-[]

They set the dates for two weeks from then, nearing the end of the summer but just before Castiel started full-time tutoring theology for one of the families. Over the next week and a half, Dean went into full planning mode, leading a long, sporadic, nearly completely one-sided conversation with Castiel, detailing where he would most likely be stopping for food, gas, and sleep.

[Dean: I know for certain there’s a great diner off the side of I-80 between Nevada and Utah. Sam and I stopped there when we drove out to CA from KS. Best basket of cheese fries in the west.]

[Dean: I’ll probably stop in Wyoming somewhere to sleep for the first night, and maybe Indiana or Ohio for the second. Depends how far I get.]

[Cas: It is a very long drive from California to Massachusetts.]

[Dean: It’s a two day drive, but with stops and stuff, it should be more like three.]

[Dean: Ellen just texted me and gave me a week off. I haven’t even asked her yet, even though I know she wouldn’t say no.]

[Dean: Sam needs to get out of my business.]

[Dean: Bobby just gave me a week too.]

[Dean: I smell demonic possession... or brotherly involvement.]

[Dean: Yep. Sam definitely needs to get the fuck out of my business.]

[Dean: Shit]

[Dean: FUCK]

[Cas: What?]

[Dean: Sam just convinced me to fly to Boston.]

[Cas: You hate flying.]

[Dean: I KNOW. HOW THE FUCK DID THIS HAPPEN?]

[Cas: Then just drive.]

[Dean: Well, that’s the thing. Sam’s reasoning is that I only have a week off, and it would take basically the entire time to drive. It would be six days of driving and one day with you.]

[Dean: And the fucking nerd did all the numbers, it’s cheaper to fly.]

[Cas: Really?]

[Dean: With gas and food and motels, and all the time spent driving, it really is.]

[Dean: That and the sneaky son of a bitch already purchased the tickets like two weeks ago.]

[Cas: Remind me to thank your brother.]

[Dean: Don’t encourage him.]

[]-[]-[]-[]-[]-[]-[]-[]-[]-[]-[]-[]-[]-[]

Castiel was extremely nervous. Dean was flying in later that evening. He must have cleaned his apartment a half of a dozen times and threatened Gabriel not to make any ‘surprise’ visits at least three times as many. Dean was just leaving for the airport and was probably a thousand times more nervous because of his inexplicable fear of flying.

His phone buzzed and he whipped it out of his pocket before it was done vibrating. Scratch that, he definitely wasn’t as nervous as Dean was.

[Dean: Why did I agree to this again?]

[Cas: Sam. Cheaper. Faster. Visiting me.]

[Dean: Oh yeah.]

[Dean: The security guy gave me an extra pat down. Pretty sure that wasn’t standard. I’m not suspicious, it was that kid in line behind me who was sketchy. I trust my gut.]

Castiel rolled his eyes, continuing his vacuuming of the living room.

[Dean: They keep replaying the clips of the Southwest plane that caught fire when it landed a month ago. They’re playing that. In an airport. What the fuck are they thinking?]

[Dean: I’m boarding.]

[Dean: well fuck]

[Dean: The flight is delayed 15 mins due to a mechanical problem. Why don’t they fix these things before they load us all on this hunk of metal? I don’t want to fly in a plane that has a mechanical problem! You don’t drive a car with a busted radiator.]

[Dean: If I don’t make it, tell Sam... he’s a dumbass.]

[Cas: You’re being dramatic. See you in five hours.]

There were no more messages from Dean after that, and his flight’s online status was updated to state it had taken off, only fourteen minutes behind schedule. Five hours...

Castiel set his phone down on the coffee table and turned the television onto the news station and saw the same Southwest plane crash clip that Dean saw in the airport. No wonder he was so terrified. He switched to the History Channel and lowered the volume to a murmur. There was a good documentary on Civil War cannons and general weaponry playing, but Castiel had already seen it a handful of times.

[Gabriel: Today is it, huh?]

[Gabriel: Is he there yet?]

[Gabriel: Has the Eagle landed?]

[Gabriel: Nah, not Eagle. More like Pigeon. Or maybe Magpie.]

[Gabriel: Chicken?]

[Cas: He just took off. Stay in New York.]

[Gabriel: I never made any promises, but yeah I’m busy this week anyway. You two lovebirds have fun. >:D]

He considered cleaning the kitchen again, but decided against it. Did he have everything he needed? He had beer, even though he wasn’t sure if Dean even liked it, and other essentials like cereal and coffee. Castiel wished he had better food in his cupboards, but he was still feebly trying to slowly chip away at his medical debt. It was like being a college student all over again.

Castiel took a step back, viewing his apartment as a whole. It was certainly modest and kind of worn, with its mismatched furniture and color scheme. He felt a little self-conscious about his home, wondering if Dean would like it. Well, he supposed Dean didn’t have to like it as long as he didn’t hate it. If anything, it was cleaner than his house he shares with Sam, from what he observed on Skype.

[Anna: Gabriel just told me! I get to meet Dean, right?]

[Castiel: Maybe. I don’t know.]

[Anna: Don’t hold out on me! I want to meet him. :)]

Out of over-preparedness or nervousness—he couldn’t tell—Castiel drove to the airport a half an hour too early and ended up parked in the back of the cell phone lot. The large black monitors looming over the lot flashed flight details across its screen. Dean’s flight showed as delayed, but that wasn’t news to him. He watched cars come and go, and new flight statuses appear on the monitors.

Finally, after what felt like months of waiting, Dean’s flight turned from ‘Delayed/En Route’ to ‘Landed.’ Castiel kicked his car into gear and exited to the waiting lot to park in the short term parking.

[Dean: I made it. I’m alive.]

Castiel smiled at the text as he walked briskly to the Arrivals section of the airport lobby, only to find it was absolutely packed full of people. There must have been an international flight coming in at around this time, because most of the people who surrounded him were of some sort of asian decent, and there was a family of six standing behind him speaking in hushed russian.

Ten minutes later, a large crowd of people file out of the automatic sliding doors of the Arrivals gate. As predicted, many of them were also asian, and there was a young man and his extremely pregnant wife who ran up to the Russian family and gave them each a brisk hug.

Interspersed with the more international passengers, there were businessmen and women alike, usually talking on their cell phones or chatting with each other casually, obviously returning from business trips.

The crowd thinned out as people left the airport lobby, leaving for their cars and their homes and hotels. Castiel rolled up on the balls of his feet to look over and in between people to stare down the gated Arrivals hall.

No sign of Dean.

[Dean: Dude, where are you? All I can see is asians.]

[Cas: Did you even get off the plane?]

[Dean: Yeah, I’m in sea of humanity in the Arrivals gate.]

Castiel’s head whipped up from his phone, scanning the crowd around him. Somehow Dean slipped past him, hidden among the other arriving passengers and their families. Castiel began making his way through the throng of people, typing out a text as he kept an eye out for Dean.

[Cas: I don’t see you. Are you certain you came to the right exit?]

‘Incoming Call: Dean’

“Hello, Dean. Wher-”

“Dude, this is nuts. Are you tellin’ me that I flew all the freaking way over here just to get lost in the airpor-” He froze.

“Dean?”

“7 o’clock, Cas.”

Castiel didn’t respond, spinning in place on his heels while searching through the crowd. But then he saw him. Just a little bit taller than the rest of the crowd, Dean’s familiar spiked light brown hair stood out. And for a moment, the crowd parted a little and Castiel caught a glimpse of Dean’s face and bright green eyes.

They were both frozen in their tracks, and Castiel could have sworn that time stopped for a moment.

“Cas,” Dean said before shutting his phone and putting it into a pocket of his green cargo jacket. He adjusted the strap of his black duffle bag on his shoulder before making his way over to him, weaving through people slowly and trying not to trip over anyone’s luggage.

“Dean,” was all Castiel could say, dazed at the sight of him. Dean, who was a few inches taller. Dean, who was long and lean with broad shoulders. Dean, who was covered in freckles, not only on his face but on his hands and neck and ears as well, just like he dreamed. Dean… who was here, standing in front of Castiel, in the flesh.

He felt like his heart was going to jump out of his chest. Dean grinned at him, flashing his white teeth at him in a look of delight.

“Hey,” Dean smiled softly, and his voice sounds a million times better because it isn’t coming from a speaker from thousands of miles away. In fact, everything about Dean seemed a million times better because he was here.

“He-” was all he could get out before Dean drew him in with his arms and crashed their lips together. It felt electric, the connection between them, their bodies and their lips finally meeting. Castiel’s eyes fluttered closed, melting into the kiss a little. He’d shamefully admit to dreaming of this moment more than a dozen times.

He imagined what Dean’s lips felt like against his, but nothing ever compared to this. They were soft and warm, but the contact didn’t last near long enough.

“Sorry,” Dean chuckled, looking down at Castiel with a hand wrapped securely around his waist. “I’ve wanted to do that for a long-ass time. Though, it felt more right than I imagined.”

“Really? I couldn’t really tell,” Castiel said, seizing Dean by the collar of his leather jacket and dragging him into another kiss, deeper this time. By the time they parted, Dean was left breathless and all he could say was a soft ‘oh.’

Castiel smirked up at him. “Yeah, I suppose you’re right.”


(art by Prinzik)

Chapter Text

People always told them long-distance was hard. That it took a lot of effort to make it work. But they weren’t afraid. They worked hard at it, staying together even with the distance between them. Until one of them was able to move in with the other—until they could shorten the distance—they’d make it work.

Dean shuffled around his room, making sure that everything was in place and that he had all the essential items he needed for the evening.

As soon as Skype played the ‘Contact Online’ sound and Castiel’s little icon became green, Dean clicked the call button. It only rang twice before it was accepted, Cas’ video image popping up on the screen when the call finally connected. He waved a little and Dean waved back.

“Hey, Cas,” Dean said, tugging his shirt off over his head by the hem and throwing it on the floor. “You ready?” He smiled, looking a little devious.

Castiel already had the buttons of his work shirt undone, which hung open to reveal an expanse of golden skin. He met Dean’s smile with one equally as seductive. “Of course.”

“Alright, you start.” Dean smirked, unbuttoning the top of his jeans.

Oh yeah, they’re making long-distance work... for now.