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Hocus Pocus

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Halloween season is always a hassle. It has its charms, of course, and no one can deny that it’s great for Hocus Pocus’ sales, but that doesn’t mean that Castiel has to like it overall. Not everything is about his shop.

And currently, he very much does not like it.

The steady stream of people coming through Hocus Pocus’ front door hasn’t stopped once since he unlocked it at eight this morning, and there are no signs of that changing any time soon. Patrons come in seeking everything from crystals to non-Hasbro Ouija boards to artifacts that seem creepy just for the sake of being creepy.

(Castiel’s selection of grimoires always goes through a remarkable turnover for Halloween, despite the fact that the only ones he keeps out in the main shop are filled with spells so simplistic that they’re practically useless. No real witch worth their salt would ever bother with one, which means that the audience who buys them is rather easy to define. And that audience is insatiable, come Halloween.)

Of course, Castiel’s standard customers still manage to slip into the shop between all the rest. They’re seasoned when it comes to hiding their craft, and Halloween most often acts as an excuse for them to flex those skills. Given that Halloween is also when average people are least likely to take real magic seriously, it ends up being a surprisingly easy game to play.

Or so Castiel usually assumes. The one time he had needed to keep his witchy nature a secret, it had blown up spectacularly in his face, as is his lot in life. So he chooses not to play such games anymore.

The balancing act between lying and bluffing about what he is turned exhausting long ago.

A year ago, he corrects himself automatically. It became so exhausting a year ago. That’s when the love of his life left him.

That’s when Dean had found out he was dating a witch.

Luckily, operating a magic shop full time means that more often than not, Castiel doesn’t have to hide at all. He can tell his human customers outright that he’s a witch and all of his wares are real, and they simply laugh him off. He doesn’t do anything to gain himself negative attention, so even to hunters, he comes across as more of a hippy than a threat.

And what a double-edged curse that turned out to be.

Even just thinking about it now puts a damper on the witch’s mood, just as it always does. The melancholy which sweeps over him is reflected in the slight dimming of the shop’s candles, perched on high sconces and gathered in clumps behind the front counter. The candles are mostly decorative, rich with aromatic and witch-friendly scents yet certainly not needed for the light they put off, so the change isn’t something any human customers would notice.

The employee currently working at the cash register beside him, however, is as eagle-eyed as she always is. She knows better than to start a conversation while either of them are actively helping customers, though, so she waits a few minutes for the line to lull before turning toward him. She pushes the brim of her hat up higher, then folds her arms and pops her hip out against the counter.

(The witch hats, it should be said, were entirely Charlie’s idea. Castiel had attempted to insist that Hocus Pocus doesn’t need Halloween gimmicks to boost their sales, but she had countered by saying it was fun, and that had just about settled it.)

(Unfortunately, their customers do love it.)

“Alright, what’s going on in that head of yours?”

Castiel fails to hide his wince. “It’s nothing, Charlie. I’m fine.”

It takes a moment of focused effort, but he manages to brighten the candles back to their normal levels. Charlie eyes the flames nearest to them warily.

“I hope you know it’s not just your magic I can read,” she says. She sounds distinctly unimpressed—not that Castiel can say he blames her for that. She pauses for a beat, then continues a touch more softly, “Halloween spirit got you down?”

The Halloween spirit itself—no. But Charlie knows that as well as Castiel, so her underlying meaning is clear. She was there, in the aftermath of that breakup. She’s one of his best friends; she knows how torn up it had made him.

He admits, shoulders slumping in defeat, “Something like that.”

“Tis the season, huh?” Charlie gives him a kind, sympathetic smile, and lays a gentle hand on his shoulder. Comfort radiates out from her touch, calming and warm and encouraging him to relax. “How about you go into the back and take a break? Get something to eat, recharge? I can handle things out here for a bit.”

Castiel hesitates, and casts a pointed glance toward the crowded shop. There’s a group of young girls currently making their way toward the counter, meaning that he and Charlie only have seconds to spare before the surge overwhelms them yet again.

Charlie catches his meaning without it needing to be spoken aloud. She reaches up to adjust his hat, straightening the brim and fluffing up his hair where it sticks out from beneath it—he pouts, but doesn’t object—then returns her hands to his shoulders to push him away. “Go, Cas. I can handle this for half an hour. Worse case, I’ll call Alicia off the floor to come help me out.”

Finally, Castiel relents. “Yes, alright, I’ll go. Let me know if it gets to be too much, though, and I’ll come right back out. We need to keep Alicia out there fielding questions and helping people find things, or else this entire store goes to hell.”

Charlie huffs, but is stopped from agreeing or disagreeing by the arrival of the young woman Castiel had spotted a few moments ago. She turns to ring them up with a bright grin, and Castiel slips into the back room.

Even as he takes the offered escape, though, Castiel can’t stop himself from feeling guilty for needing to leave in the first place. No matter how understanding Charlie may be about it, it’s still absurd, because why can’t Castiel simply grow up and get over himself? How long is he going to mourn a relationship that was ended without a chance of being salvaged?

Although in his own defense, he did date Dean for longer than a year. They had known each other for nearly two years, in fact, and were together for at least a year and a half of that; maybe it will take just as long for Castiel to get his act together?

Gods, he hopes not. He’s awfully tired of these emotional relapses.

His break isn’t only for moping, though, so he’s quick to busy himself with preparing a lunch. There’s a portion of leftover curry in the fridge (brought in the day prior, but definitely still edible), which he reheats with a practiced burst of magic. He flicks his wrist to set a kettle of water heating on the stove, too, then seats himself at the wooden table in the corner to begin eating while he waits for it to boil. He can feel the food revitalizing him as soon as it reaches his stomach, clearing his head and easing his growing stress of the day.

So maybe it’s good to eat regular, full meals. Who knew?

The curry is finished just as the kettle begins to whistle, so Castiel takes his dishes to the sink, and gets himself a mug and a tea bag. He puts it all together on autopilot, only stalling once the teabag is steeping and the kettle is halfway back to the stove.

He pulled out the first mug his fingers had touched in the cabinet, but now that he sees it, he wonders if his subconscious was working against him.

The mug had once been his favorite, always used and coveted as something precious. He had even magically repaired it after his cat had knocked it off the kitchen counter; it was too precious to be lost. The mug’s handle is shiny and golden, and the white body is decorated only with an image of a heart-shaped honeycomb.

This is what happens when he thinks about Dean, apparently. His current headspace has brought his ex back to the forefront, so he reverted back to using the mug that ex gave him.

And that’s fine. Completely fine.

Castiel takes a deep breath to steel himself, then lifts the mug to his lips.

“Hey, um—Castiel?”

He sighs heavily, lowering the mug back away without ever having gotten a taste of the tea within. “Yes, Alicia?”

The young witch stands propped in the doorway to the shop, her hand on the handle and her lower lip caught nervously between her teeth; she’s very nearly hiding behind the low-hanging brim of her hat. The store owner in Castiel immediately fears everything about that look, but he holds himself steady. The shop is intrinsically tied to him, magically bound to the unique signature of his magic. He would know if it caught fire in his absence, or something equally terrible.

Right?

Alicia hesitates for a moment before finally saying, “There’s someone here to see you.”

Castiel blinks. “It’s not Rowena, is it?”

Although her nervousness doesn’t disappear, Alicia laughs at that, a quick, lightning-bright smile lighting up her features. “No, not Rowena. She knows better than to show her face here again. Not, it’s—” Her smile fades back away, and she glances briefly over her shoulder. “It’s urgent. And Charlie is absolutely swamped at the register, or else she would…”

“Yes, alright.” Castiel considers leaving his tea on the counter—it might be unprofessional to walk back into the shop with it in his hand, and leaving it behind would certainly give him an excuse to return to the sanctuary of the back room later on, even if only for a few minutes—but ultimately decides that, frankly, he doesn’t care. It’s his shop, and he so very rarely takes breaks, so why not let this person know that they came in during the most inconvenient ten minutes of his day?

His grip on his mug tightens as he forms his resolve. “Alicia, would you mind helping Charlie manage the registers until the line dies back down? I can relieve you after I talk to this person.”

Alicia answers him with a tight smile. “No worries, boss. And good luck, alright?”

Good luck? Castiel frowns, but before he can question it, Alicia has ducked back into the shop. Of course. He follows after her, ready to get this encounter over with so he can return to his day. He already has food in his stomach, so once he gets the caffeine from his tea, he’ll be ready to power through the remaining hours until the shop closes.

As he crosses the threshold back into the shop, Castiel takes his first, much-needed sip of tea, and takes a quick look at his watch. Only five more hours until they close. The Halloween-fueled rush will hopefully end in about four hours, which will leave plenty of time for them to clean up before—

“Really leaning into the witch thing these days, huh?”

Castiel chokes on his tea.

No. No, it can’t be. He didn’t actually just hear—

He looks around, frantic, and spots the man with surprising ease. Right in front of him. In the flesh.

“Dean.” Castiel breaks into a coughing fit, tea in all the wrong places thanks to his inopportune choking. He turns his face into his elbow while he recovers, which has the added benefit of giving him a momentary reprieve from the brilliance of Dean’s green eyes. How did Castiel forget how gorgeous he is? Did he always look this good in just a flannel and jeans? “Dean, what—what are you doing here?”

Dean raises an eyebrow, looking far too amused for his own good. He makes a vague gesture upwards. “So you don’t have anything to say about the hat, then? Is this how you look when you’re not hiding the witch thing? Or have you just gone through some personal redirections since I saw you last?”

If Castiel’s cheeks hadn’t already been red from his coughing, Dean’s questions certainly would have done it. As it is, his stomach twists, and he barely resists the urge to tug his hat down to hide himself away entirely. “It’s… It’s a seasonal thing. People like it. Halloween?”

Gods, he’s barely coherent. Is this all it takes to break him? One look from Dean, and he falls apart at the seams?

Dean, for his part, just grins. “Right, sure. Halloween. I’m gonna guess there’s no point in asking why the last two Halloweens didn’t go this far.”

Castiel scowls down into his tea. “Probably best to save the breath,” he grumbles. He lets out another sigh, this time in resignation before he squares his shoulders and lifts his eyes to Dean’s. Dean—the best love he has ever had, and the worst heartbreak. Dean, who found out he was a witch and left him, nothing but scornful words on his tongue and fear in his eyes.

You’re no better than the things I hunt.

I’ve killed a lot of witches, and I’ll kill a lot more.

You’re a monster, Cas.

Dean, who is now back. A year after he left.

“Why are you here?”

Dean’s good humor finally begins to fade, at that. He glances around the shop like he’s only just remembering where he is, then clears his throat and rubs awkwardly at his neck. “I, um. I wanted to talk to you, actually. Do you think we can…?”

Castiel shifts his weight from one foot to the other. “We’re incredibly busy right now, I probably shouldn’t…” He turns toward the registers to assess the line, and finds that Charlie is already giving him a hard stare. He goes completely still, hardly even breathing as he waits to determine what kind of reaction she is going to have to all of this.

Is she for or against a talk with Dean? Will she fulfill her job as best friend by supporting him in potentially reconciling with his ex, or by wanting that ex to hit the road for breaking his heart? It could go either way, really.

Except it doesn’t. Charlie breaks from her current transaction long enough to point at Castiel, then at Dean, then at the door to the back room. It’s easy to pick up on her meaning, but just to make her point extra clear, she flicks her fingers and knocks him off-balance, sending him bumping into Dean.

Castiel hisses as he rushes to steady himself, cheeks burning yet again while hot tea sloshes over his fingers. “Sorry,” he says to Dean. “We should—yeah. We can talk. But not right here.”

He’s going to murder Charlie, later.

Dean seems flustered—not that Castiel can blame him for that—but he nods along regardless. He follows along without a word as Castiel leads them into the back room. The small kitchen space had felt like an oasis when he first entered it earlier, but now that is definitely not the case. He’s far too anxious to feel relaxed, now.

“Can I get you anything to drink?” he asks Dean, fidgeting now that the two of them are together in a confined space. Without the buffer of the shop around them, the reality of this situation is impossible to avoid. “Tea, maybe?”

“No, uh—I’m okay. But thanks, Cas.” Dean looks awkward as he drops into one of the two chairs situated next to the table. Coincidentally, he chooses the one that Castiel ate his lunch in. It puts a weird warmth in Castiel’s stomach. “But, um. I like your mug. For the record.”

Castiel’s cheeks dust pink once more, and he brushes his thumb across the honeycomb heart without thinking. Of course this happened today, of all days. It’s not worth trying to explain away the coincidence, though, so Castiel joins Dean at the table without acknowledging the comment.

Dean’s shoulders slump, just slightly enough that Castiel isn’t sure whether it actually happened or not. If it did, he doesn’t quite know what to do about it, so he clears his throat and pushes them forward. “You wanted to talk?”

Dean is quick to nod. “Yeah. Yeah, I… I wanted to apologize, actually. First and foremost.”

Castiel’s eyebrows rise. “Apologize? For what?”

“You know what for,” Dean answers with a deliberate scowl. He seems to grow uncomfortable for a moment, shifting in his chair before continuing, “I was a dick. Worse than a dick, probably. It was my own fault that I didn’t notice that you were a witch while we were dating, and I had no right to hold it against you like I did. And the shit I said when I left? It was inexcusable.”

“Dean…” Castiel’s throat is tight. He swallows hard in an attempt to clear it, but it doesn’t quite help. “Dean, I don’t hold that against you. I lied to you, and I kept my nature a secret even after I figured out that you’re from a line of hunters, and that was selfish of me—”

Dean makes a sound that’s very nearly a growl, and—is Castiel imagining things, or did the lights just flicker? “That’s bullshit, Cas,” the man snaps, keeping Castiel’s attention away from the lights. “You weren’t being selfish, you were keeping yourself safe. And you didn’t lie to me in any other ways, so if you held back the one thing that could get you killed, so what? You should’ve been able to trust me with that shit, and the fact that you couldn’t for so long reflects on me, not you.”

Castiel winces. “That isn’t…”

“Yes it is. Trust me, I’ve had a while to come to terms with it.” Dean shifts in his chair again, the rickety wood creaking beneath his weight. He starts to reach a hand across the table, but he hesitates and aborts the motion halfway through; it leaves his fingers only a few inches from Castiel’s, a gap that is oh-so-tempting to close.

Dean just had to come back when Castiel was already missing him, didn’t he?

Dean continues, “And I’ve come to terms with some other things, too. I don’t hunt witches anymore, for one thing. Not that I ever took down anyone that wasn’t using dark magic and hurting civilians, but.” He twitches one shoulder in a shrug. “Anything with witch and hunt in the same sentence kinda makes my stomach turn, these days.”

“Not all witches are bad,” Castiel replies faintly. He doesn’t think it actually needs to be said, but he has a deep-rooted need to say something, and what else is there that he could possibly say?

Dean rewards him with a tight smile. “I know. Which brings me to my next point.”

“Which is?”

“Well, um.” Dean drums his fingers against the table, an idle action filled with nervous energy. “I’ve sort of been making an effort to… do better this year. To be better. In a couple of ways, actually.”

Castiel’s lips tick up into a smile. “Oh, is that so?”

Dean nods eagerly, clearly enthused by Castiel’s obvious willingness to listen. “Yeah, I have. I’ve been learning some new life skills, actually. Worked my first real job that wasn’t hunting, actually. That was interesting. Been getting better at staying in one place. Read a self-help book or two—” Castiel can’t help but snort at that, which makes Dean grin. “—and I like to tell myself that I’m more emotionally mature than I used to be. I don’t fight with my brother as much as I used to, at least, which has to count for something.”

Warmth curls through Castiel’s stomach, an old, familiar feeling that he remembers being a staple in Dean’s presence, once upon a time. He’s not so reckless as to name that warmth, but he knows what it is anyway. He knows its shape, its curves and its edges. He knows it intimately.

He takes a drink of his tea, taking advantage of the few seconds his face is hidden in the mug to school his features. When he’s more prepared, he tells Dean earnestly, “That’s really great to hear. You should be proud of yourself for going through that much growth in just this last year.”

Dean practically beams at him. Castiel’s heart, traitor that it is, thumps unevenly in his chest.

“Thanks, Cas.” He pauses for a beat, lets the moment sit, then adds, “And I saved the best for last, too.”

Castiel is already entirely invested in this conversation, but if he weren’t, that sentence would have sealed his interest. What else could Dean possibly have to reveal? What would he rank best?

His curiosity must be obvious, because Dean makes a face. “Alright, now… Don’t get your hopes up too high, maybe. And let me explain before you react, okay? Because, I don’t know where we stand after this last year, and I know there’s still a hell of a lot for me to make up for, but this is pretty much something that I did… for you.”

Castiel’s jaw goes slack. “For me?”

Dean nods. “Don’t freak out.”

Castiel frowns, but Dean doesn’t seem to think it necessary to explain why he shouldn’t freak out, or what it is he may freak out about. In fact, Dean is silent after his ominous request, his eyes screwed shut. His brow is wrinkled as if in concentration, although what that concentration is for, it is impossible to determine. It stretches out for far too long, until finally—

“Dean?”

“Wait. Just.”

Castiel’s eyes are drawn to the hand he still has on the table, now opened palm-up. Surely Dean isn’t waiting on him.

He nearly questions Dean again, but before he can, Dean exclaims, “There it is!”

And then his palm bursts with light.

Castiel reacts quicker than he can think, shoving up out of his chair and tripping backwards until his back hits the wall. The chair falls over in his haste, the sound of it much too loud in the confines of the small room. He sees Dean flinch, but he’s far too distracted to care, because that…

Dean holds the light steady, giving Castiel to examine it from across the new space he has put between them. It’s faintly golden, lit through with dashes of green and blue and arranged into a familiar pattern that any witch would be able to interpret.

It’s the sigil of Dean’s personal magic.

Castiel assesses it on instinct, searching out any possible warning signs. He finds nothing worth a panic, however; there are no signs of falsehoods, no evidence of demonic influence. Nothing but clean, pure, well-intended magic.

And that in itself doesn’t explain anything.

Castiel takes a deep breath. “Dean, I. I don’t understand.”

“I told you not to freak out.”

Dean.”

“Yeah, yeah, okay.” Dean huffs, then vanishes away his sigil with a twist of his twist. Now that his hand is empty, he flips it over to press his palm against the table. “I might have… learned some magic.”

“You became a witch.”

“I don’t know if that’s the word I’d use. I’m not super great at it, and I really only know basic hexes and spells…”

“You became a witch,” Castiel repeats. “For me.”

“Well…” Dean puffs himself up like he’s going to keep pushing technicalities, but the fight leaves him almost immediately. He suddenly looks small. Young. “Yeah. I did.”

Castiel’s chest feels too tight. His voice cracks when he asks, “Why?”

Based on the way Dean looks on him, he doesn’t think it was the question he was supposed to ask. “Come on, Cas, I thought that part would be obvious. I mean on one hand, I can’t be expected to hunt witches if I am one. And on the other hand, now I can kind of relate to you more, so I thought maybe—”

Castiel doesn’t give him the chance to finish. He doesn’t need him to; he would have been willing to work through this with Dean no matter what, but after all that Dean has done to make amends, and after seeing the sigil of Dean’s magic, so bright and good

It’s so easy to act, and there is not a single regret in Castiel’s mind as he crosses back over to the table, takes Dean’s face between his hands, and kisses him senseless.

Beneath him, Dean makes a strangled sound, and this time Castiel knows that the lights flicker—mainly because, this time, they don’t turn back on. He starts to lean back, but he only gets out a, “What—?” before Dean mutters, “Sorry, ‘m working on it,” and yanks him right back into place.

Considering he’s kissing the love that he thought he lost, Castiel has no issues whatsoever with letting the power outage slide. Dean kisses him with just as much need as Castiel feels, and it’s wonderful. Castiel drops to straddle his lap, giving into a deep-seated urge to be closer to Dean. As close as he can possibly get. He needs to feel, to touch, to taste and take—

“Cas! Cas, the power went out in the whole store and I can’t get it to come back up! What the hell—oh!”

Dean goes still, and Castiel sighs into his mouth. He turns his face toward Charlie, standing in the doorway to the shop and looking aghast, but he doesn’t move in any other way. She barged in on them, after all, and if she would extinguish the light that’s emanating from her hand, then she wouldn’t have to see them, either. He sees no reason why they should have to separate.

Except, as soon as he comes to this resolution, her opening words actually process in his mind.

The flare of Dean’s magic didn’t just knock out the lights in the back room, it took out the whole shop.

Shit.” He scrambles to get off of Dean’s lap, and hastily straightens the witch hat still perched on his head. “What kind of crowd do we have right now? Should we be panicking?”

Charlie stares between the two of them for a moment, then pointedly shakes her head and moves past it. “Halloween rush doesn’t stop for love, dude. Alicia’s handling things as best she can, but I have to get out there and help her. Can you fix this?”

Castiel nods. “Yes, I can fix this. Sorry, Charlie. This shouldn’t take more than a few minutes.”

Before you go back to your makeout session, please,” Charlie says, and then she turns on her heel and disappears back into the shop. She takes her light with her, so Castiel replaces it with a light of his own, a bright orb that floats over his head.

When he looks at Dean, he finds the man grinning sheepishly. “I really am sorry?”

Castiel chuckles and, despite Charlie’s borderline threat, leans in to press a quick kiss to Dean’s lips. “I’ll teach you some tricks for easy magic management later. After we finish what we started, here.”

Dean lights up at that, and gods, Castiel still loves him.

Which is why he grins and adds, with a playful smack against Dean’s shoulder, “And also after we’ve fixed my lights, you ass.”

Dean’s expression doesn’t dim in the slightest. “Baby, I’ll do whatever you want.”

It’s remarkable how easy it is for Castiel to believe that.