Cas laughed lightly. “Calm down, Gabriel. We’ll go out in a minute,” he soothed, unhooking the Golden Retriever’s leash from the wall. It was a struggle attempting to attach it to the matching collar, what with the beast constantly bouncing with excitement.
Eventually, they were out the door, heading toward the conveniently placed dog park, just two streets away from Cas’s house. Cas sighed as Gabriel circled around his legs, making it exceedingly difficult to walk. Distracted enough for him not to notice the freckled man walking towards him, wildly gesticulating as he spoke to someone on his phone.
“Dude! Watch where you’re going, will you?” the freckled man exclaimed, glaring at him as he stooped to retrieve his expensive phone. The man briefly glanced across its scratched surface and cracked screen before fixing his accusing gaze stare upon Cas.
“I-I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to-” he stuttered, never having liked being shouted at, or even just spoken to in a harsh tone. “I was just-”
The man ignored him, eyes flickering over the cracked screen and scratched case. He fixed Cas with an accusing glare, but didn't allow him to apologise, pressing his cell to his ear once again and walking away. The sound of his frustrated apologies to whomever he was speaking with on the phone floated through the air. Cas grimaced guiltily, continuing his pace with considerably less enthusiasm.
Oblivious to his owner’s sour mood, Gabriel began to bore of the pace, tugging on the leash and whining loudly. “Do you want to run around?” Cas asked him, cocking his head as he crouched next to the animal. The dog yipped, tail wagging. “Okay, then. Off you go!” he encouraged, unclipping the leash. Instantly, Gabriel sprinted off, trying to entice other dogs into a game of chase, and failing repeatedly, until he found a sleek, black Belgian Shepherd. He thoroughly sniffed the foreign dog, proceeding to sprint off as fast as his short legs would carry him. Gabriel’s top speed was pathetic in comparison to how fast the Belgian Shepherd managed to sprint, but the black dog showed mercy, slowing down when she caught up with the lumbering Retriever.
As Castiel sat and watched, the two dogs continued on with their games, until the time on his cell told him it was thirty minutes before his work started. That would be just enough time to catch Gabriel, drop him off back at home, and drive to the hospital.
Heaving a sigh, the man stood, half-jogging his way towards his dog. “Gabe!” he whistled, to no effect, other than a few surrounding dogs pricking their ears up. “Here, boy!”
When the dog still didn’t respond, he continued his path towards him. As he struggled to reattach his dog’s leash, he muttered under his breath, “Please, Gabriel, stay still. We must return home now.” Someone huffed behind him, and seemed to be about to start talking until Cas twisted his torso around to observe him.
The freckled man from earlier stood behind him, one hand resting on the back of the panting Belgian Shepherd. “Oh,” the freckled man scowled. “It’s you.”
Cas reached one hand up to the back of his neck, giving him a distorted smile as the embarrassment and guilt from before returned. “Yes, it is me,” he confirmed, nodding slightly as the hand not holding onto Gabriel’s leash rubbed at the nape of his neck. “I am very regretful that I caused damage to your phone, and would be willing to pay for a new one, or any amount of money required to repair your current device.” Whilst this was not a lie, Castiel really did hope that he would not be required to supply funds for a new phone, on the basis that he had very little money.
Luckily, Freckles (Cas resolved to begin mentally referring to him as ‘Freckles’, as it was far easier to say than ‘the freckled man’) sneered at him, and said, “I think I can manage, thank you very much.”
Despite his reassuring words, Cas got the feeling that Freckles was not in the least bit thankful. Rather than pointing this out, the blue-eyed man gave him another apologetic smile. “In that case, I must leave.” As Cas fled the scene, he was certain he heard Freckles mutter, “Yeah, you’d better run.”
As it was a Saturday, Cas was not required to go to work. He still woke up just as early- Cas was a man who heavily relied on routine, and would only allow himself to sleep in past nine if he was ill or overworked- but it meant he could bring Gabriel out for longer. For this, Cas was thankful. The dog would get wound-up when he didn’t get enough exercise, which had resulted in ripped furniture and chewed up shoes. Hopefully, bringing him outside for longer than usual would allow him to tire himself out, and he’d go to sleep.
Cas let out a piercing whistle, calling Gabriel to his side almost instantly. He tended to only listen when listening would in someway benefit him, which was either annoying or endearing- Cas struggled to figure out which.
As he did every day, Cas clipped Gabriel’s leash to his collar, for once without being disrupted by his incessant need to move.
Within a few minutes, they had arrived at the park, and Gabriel was running around as though it was the most enjoyable activity he had ever participated in. Snorting quietly in amusement, Cas scouted for a unoccupied bench, immediately trotting towards the closest one.
Approximately ten minutes of observing Gabriel dancing around the field with that same black dog from yesterday later, Cas was alerted to a new presence on the bench by a muted creak of wood. A subtle turn of his head revealed them to be Freckles.
Cas squinted in discombobulation. He had been under the impression that Freckles regarded him with a rather potent distaste, and thus struggled to comprehend why he would voluntarily get within ten feet of Cas. Nonetheless, he accepted it without comment, though he began discretely studying him, in the hopes of finding out his reasoning.
No such thing happened.
Rather, Cas only found himself overly informed about the way Freckles looked, and his habits. He had very long eyelashes, which cast soft shadows over his cheeks. His lips were also quite feminine- that is to say that they were plump, soft, and a perfect rose colour. The angle of his jaw, however, was very much masculine, as were the muscles Cas was unable to avoid noticing after momentarily glancing at his chest. His hands were calloused, Cas assumed from working with them often, though his fingers seemed deft in their movement, so perhaps he also played the guitar.
Altogether, Cas could not deny that he was a very attractive man. But not the type of allurement that encouraged vulgar thoughts of the person who possessed it, more just pretty, the sort of person that you wanted to stare at, absorbing the beauty of what could only be defined as a piece of art, or to gently press kisses into all of the dips and contours.
And, despite how disagreeable Cas had, as of yet, found Freckles as a person, he still couldn't help but mentally file away all of his little habits. When he's thinking hard, he chews on the inside of his lip; he drums his fingers against his leg if he isn't occupied for over thirty seconds; when he looks at the sky, he puts one hand on his neck. If it weren't so illogical, Cas might even get annoyed at himself for it.
It was about at this moment that he realised that he had, in fact, been staring, very openly, at Freckles for a sizeable amount of time. And that Freckles was staring right back, expression not half as pleasant as Castiel's own.
“Dude,” he protested, eyes sharp, “do you regularly do that? 'Cause, let me tell you, most girls don't like that shit. And, I gotta say, you're not gonna get me in bed that way, either.”
Blood rushed to Cas's cheeks, making it look like they had been stained by beetroot juice. “I wasn't-,” he coughed, discomposed, and glanced around, checking there had been no young children around to hear the comment. He had always felt awkward mentioning sex in public. “That was not my intention. And it is not my intention now, either.” He managed to get the words out, overly formal, as he always was when uncomfortable.
Freckles smirked, satisfied that he obviously had the upper hand, now. “I'm sure it wasn't,” he placated, once again administering sarcasm. “Well, you did manage to waste away a whole load o' time starin' at my pretty face. Me 'n Impala better be getting' back,” he told Castiel, whistling to call Impala to his heel, and walking with a confident sway in his hips.
Impala, as it turned out, was the name of the dog Gabriel seemed to love so much. Gabriel, who had followed Impala when Freckles called her back to him, whined, lying down at Cas's feet and watching her leave. “You do seem to try and cause me as much difficulty as possible, don't you, boy?” he muttered, petting the dog's twitching flank. He seemed just about ready to run after her, only just halting himself.
“C'mon, we must return home now,” Cas said, standing up and trusting Gabe to follow his lead, which he did.
The rest of the month carried on in much the same way; almost everyday, they would see each other in the dog park, and they would sit next to one another, though very few words were exchanged (and when they did speak, it was often to under-handedly insult or annoy the other).
When Castiel had mentioned Freckles to Balthazar, his friend and co-worker, he had laughed into his coffee cup, saying it just sounded like they were circling pointlessly around one another. “It's obvious you really fancy him. Ask him out. And play nice,” he had told Cas, leaving promptly afterwards, meaning he had been unable to protest.
So, Cas had been thinking about it. Yes, he did find Freckles aesthetically pleasing, and, due to his mysteriousity, interesting. Did he want to date him? Cas honestly had no idea. He wasn't the sort to childishly deny any possibility for the sake of pride, but that didn't stop the fact that he didn't even know his name. Perhaps he could start there.
And that was why he shifted on his feet when Freckles next approached him, picking at his thumbs and fiddling uncharacteristically. Freckles raised an eyebrow at him- not judging, merely curious as to why he was acting so unlike himself.
Cas sighed, figured that it was now or at some later date, but putting it off really solved nothing. “My name is Castiel,” he introduced, “I live a few streets away from here, and work at Saint Bartholomew's Hospital as a nurse.” Freckles blinked, and, briefly, Cas wondered whether he had crossed some unspoken line, that they had made some agreement, unbeknownst to him, which clearly stated that they mustn't know each others names.
Then Freckles smiled, relief visible in his expression, like he been hoping Cas would do that for a long time. “Dean. I live up near Speedy's Cafe. I'm a mechanic, work at Singer's Auto-shop. Pleased to meet you,” he returned, voice entirely friendly for the first time since they'd met. He proffered a hand to Cas.
Cas gripped it tightly, shaking it with a timid quirk of his lips. “Likewise,” he replied, and soon realised that he didn't actually have a clue what to say after introducing himself. Dean seemed to know what he was thinking, though, and took matters into his own hands.
“So, do you do anything besides walking your dog and working?” he asked.
'Rarely' would probably be a bad answer, so instead, Cas told him, “I go out with friends, I run, and watch Star Trek.” In all honesty, it wasn't much better. But Dean perked up instantly at the last one.
“Did you say Star Trek?” he asked, looking excited, that look that seemed to say 'this is something I can work with'. It was adorable. And thus the day was whiled away by them discussing whether Star Trek: The Original Series or Star Trek: Next Generation was better, and if the reboot was a disgrace to Gene Roddenberry's memory. They got absolutely nowhere, what with them both being stubborn as a mule.
When they parted ways, Cas found himself walking so bouncily that he may as well be skipping. He didn't stop, though, even when he got a strange look from the lady who lives a few houses down from him.
The next day, Cas had to force himself to not get dressed and immediately leave the house. But, God, he was just so eager to see Dean again. In the end, he only left a few minutes earlier than he would usually.
During his walk to the dog park, Cas caught himself running his fingers through his hair, unconsciously trying to fix it. Though no one was there to see him, he felt his cheeks flush pink with a small rush of blood.
He didn't remember much of the walk down apart from that, too busy alternately wondering whether Dean would even be there, and swapping Gabriel's leash between hands as the beast repeatedly changed his mind about which side he wanted to walk on. However, when he nears the park, he can see Dean, who smiles upon seeing him, despite the fact that it was highly likely that he looked like a dazed, flustered bird by the time he trotted over to stand a couple of feet away from Dean.
Rubbing his neck with his hand before lifting it in a half-wave, he greeted Cas with, “Hi,” and a gust of air let out of his nose. Cas didn't reply, since he seemed to have something else to say.
Sure enough, a couple seconds later, he looked down and 'casually' told Cas, “So, I heard there's this paintball place 'bout forty-five minutes away from here.” Cas smiled, knowing Dean wouldn't see it. “And my little brother is too much of a sissy for that kinda thing, so d'you think you'd wanna check it out with me?” he asked, shrugging one shoulder.
Cas smirks, because he knew he wouldn't be able to get Dean to come straight out and ask him on a date. Hell, he's sure he won't be able to get anything straight from Dean. Sighing heavily with faux reluctance, he said, “I guess I could...,” like it'd be a chore.
Dean bit his lip and looked up, seemed to be about to say something dismissive, act like it was no big deal, but stopped when he saw the teasing quirk in Cas's lips. “Bitch,” he muttered, playfully punching his arm.
Holding a (surprisingly weighty) metal paintball gun, with the stock digging smartingly into his side, Cas was already beginning to regret his decision. Dean gave one look at him and snorted loudly. “No, here- look,” he chuckled, showing how he was holding his gun, and gently repositioned his grip on it, so the butt rested comfortably against his shoulder. Cas huffed, embarrassed that he was quite so clueless.
“Now you'll actually be able to shoot things, and use the sight.” Dean demonstrated with his own gun, hitting the target (a human-shaped cardboard cut-out) in the centre of its head twice.
Cas pointed his own gun at the practice target, which was already dappled with multi-coloured paint which the other people had fired at it, and were continuing to fire at it. Following the instructions of one of the leaders they'd been assigned, he used the cross-hair to aim slightly above the heart, factoring in the way the paintball would arc downwards.
The blow-back made the gun push back into his shoulder, which hurt a bit (though not as much as with a real gun, he could imagine), but it hit almost exactly where he'd wanted to hit it. He grinned gleefully at Dean, an expression of 'look what I did, Dean!' on his face. Dean beamed praisingly at him, slapping his shoulder and telling him, “Nice shot, Cas.”
One of the leaders (Tim? Tom?) whistled loudly and clapped his hands, calling their attention. “I'm going to give each of you a number,” he told them, “And that's gonna be your team. Team One, you go with Rose; Team Two, you're with me.”
They ended up on different teams- Cas with Rose, and Dean with Tom. Dean squeezed his arm. “Hey, I promise I'll go easy on you,” he joked, winking before he joined his team.
After they put on coloured bibs (red for Team One, blue for Team Two) so people would be able to tell who was or wasn't on your team easily, they made their way to the first area, in which they would play capture the flag in a post-apocalyptic setting. A yellow school bus stood still in the middle of the sparsely wooded area, rusted and covered in paint-speckled climbing ivy. A few trees had been felled, rotting and half-engulfed by moss. Dotted around the area, there were several varyingly short wooden walls with holes you could shoot through.
Their teams were allowed five minutes to choose a place to hide the flag, discuss tactics and hide themselves in the area. The red flag was placed in front of a tree, right in a corner, next to the wooden fence which marked the boundaries between areas. Cas's team decided to all hide separately, each individual trying to get the flag, with one person standing in front of the flag, and another hiding in some shrubbery near by. Cas was one of the six people trying to get the flag from Team Two.
A whistle was blown to signal the start of the game. Cas instantly sprinted as quickly and silently as possible, having decided to try get close as soon as possible, and then sneak up behind them to try shoot the people protecting the flag.
Granted, it wasn't as easy as that, but he stuck with his plan, stopping suddenly and ducking behind a sturdy, thick-trunked tree. After scanning the area for anyone wearing a blue bib, he ran a short distance to more cover. He did this three more times before he found someone, and was forced to crouch behind a too-low wall. The other team didn't seem to have planned as well, as the man stood still, looking around as if everything bewildered him.
Easily, Cas shot him in the chest, rather than being an arsehole and covering the screen of his helmet in paint. The guy jumped (more out of surprise, Cas assumed, than pain) and walked back towards the corner near the exit, one hand in the air to signal he was out.
Smiling, Castiel ran deeper into the woods, hoping to find the flag, which he did, ten minutes later. Two people dressed in blue bibs stood next to it, guns at the ready. Behind them, he saw someone from his team, looking as though they were about to shoot the one on the right, closest to Cas. Aiming his own gun at the woman on the left, he waited for the sound of the paintball splitting open against the back of the other guy on Team Two before he pulled the trigger, allowing his team member to get the flag.
She untied the flag from the pole and high-fived Cas, exchanging compliments on their shooting skills. They decided that Cas would walk in plain sight as a distraction, and shoot anyone he sees, whilst the girl- Leah- remained stealthy, lagging a bit behind.
Cas did end up getting shot, but not before shooting another two people, and Leah managed to get the flag back to their team, meaning they won. The whistle is blown again, and they head towards the exit, going to the next area.
“Hey, Cas,” Dean greeted him, having identified him even under a unisex black helmet. “I hear you were a pretty bad-ass sniper.” Cas laughed and ducked his head.
“Glad to see people have noticed. Fear is the first step to overtaking the world,” he said, not very sure whether Dean would take him seriously.
Luckily, he didn't, and laughed instead of recommending he go see a psychiatrist. That was always a good sign. Relationships built upon the false idea that one person within it is insane are rarely good relationships, or healthy ones, for that matter.
After the first game, there were four more different ones, out of which Team One won another three. The one that Team Two won was, admittedly, probably more down to chance, and the shock factor that running suicidally into the other team's territory, guns ablaze, had.
By the end of it all, they were both tired and sore, but still grinning from ear to ear. Understandably, despite the fact they were both riding in Dean's car (the Impala, his dog's namesake), they didn't talk, instead listening to the radio quietly playing Metallica.
The first time they spoke after entering the car was when Dean asked for directions to Cas's house, so that he could drop him off. And then again, later, when they arrived.
“G'night, Cas,” he murmured. “Make the most of the rest of today, it'll hurt you more tomorrow.” Cas smiled, returning his words with a kiss pressed to Dean's lips, like he was his boyfriend, and it was middle school again, and Dean is going to carry his books for him. Neither of them can quite bring themselves to care.
“We should do something like that again,” Cas suggested, smirking at the look on Dean's face. Dean blinked, and nodded, humming in agreement. He looks happy, kind of dazed, and he lifts a hand goodbye as Cas steps out of the car, shutting the door behind him. He didn't see the car leave, but heard the sound of her engine as she rolled away.
When he was in his bedroom, Cas stripped down to his boxers and sat on his bed so he could plug his phone in to charge. Gabriel sniffed at his hand, licking it as a form of asking for affection. As Cas complied, he could swear Gabe was smiling a him.
He rolled his eyes and went to sleep.