Bored. For the first time this week, Dean could honestly say that he was completely and utterly bored out of his mind. It was an ordinary Wednesday afternoon and business was dragging by as slow as it always did during this time of the week. No wonder Wednesday was referred to as the “hump day.” On Tuesdays and Thursdays, the diner was usually packed with loud teenagers who were let out early and Friday was always busy. Those days were easy to work as Dean wasn't standing aimlessly and he could focus all of his attention on filling orders and ensuring the college kids don't rip the red leather of the booth. Again. The same college kids were currently in a booth with their cell phones glued to their foreheads and untouched notepads pushed aside to make room for their stacks of fries and thick milkshakes. It was almost scary how engrossed they seemed to be on the small screens.
In a booth a couple of spots away from the technology zombies were two police officers that were talking to each other in hushed tones over, now several, cups of coffee and just as many beignets. Caffeine always needs to be followed by pastry and sugar. The pair had slowly become regulars, especially around lunch, repeatedly asking for a box of freshly made pastries or a slice each of the pie of the day. A genius idea on his own part.
Finally, there was a sweet elderly couple perched on two stools towards the end of the counter, reminiscing about their "courting" days over matching bowls of gumbo. They were, also, becoming regulars here to the point that Dean could guarantee seeing them at the same time on every Wednesday and Thursday now. He did ask once and apparently it was their "date days." Something about seeing their love for each other, after obviously being together for so long, made Dean's heart ache. Maybe he'll find a love like that, one day.
The main reason why Dean ever wanted to open an old-fashioned diner in the first place was for the people that wanted to recall the greatness and the fun of a place like this or to show people who were too young about the magic that could be found in a diner. It might be a little greasy but it was still magic. It took him several years of working too hard at a local garage to save enough money to put a payment on a rundown florists. Less than a year later, Dean's Diner was officially open for business. The name. funnily enough, took much longer to come up with than the actual menu for the diner. There were hundreds of other potential names: Wallflower Diner, The Sticky Hideout, Chevy Eats. But, luckily, Dean’s brother Sam came up with the simple name before Dean could rip out all of his hair due to stress.
Dean took a lazy look around the customers and it seemed they were content, absorbed in their own conversations or devouring their plates of hot food. The slowest day ever and Dean had no one who could hold a decent conversation for more than 5 minutes. Dean tried to busy himself by washing and scrubbing coffee mugs and sweeping imaginary dirt from underneath one of the tables. You can never be too clean. Usually, Jo, the daughter of a family friend, would be sweeping around empty tables or clearing away plates but today was her day off.
He craned his neck to look over his head at the hanging blackboard that held the set menu as well as the speciality items for the day. Cherry pie and Homemade biscuits with sausage gravy. The menu took little to no time to figure out in the beginning. All the classics are on it; burger with fries, milkshakes and pies. All of the staples of great "American cooking" were permanently on offer here although the specialities were rotated depending on how the food orders were that week and, more importantly, what Benny wanted to cook.
Benny was one of Dean's best friends, having worked with each other in the garage and they agreed to dive straight into this venture together. Ben originally was from deep within Louisiana and he was the nicest guy that you could ever wish to meet. His southern drawl brought a warmth to every conversation and people seemed to like him instantly. Although he could seem a little intimidating at times, Benny was a true teddy bear underneath the rough exterior.
Dean's ears perked up when he heard the opening bars of "Carry on my Wayward Son" from the radio that Benny had playing 24/7 in the kitchen. He chuckles and hums along with the tune as he wipes a few crumbs off the counter before his attention was caught by one of the police officers waving at him. Back to work. He picked up a small writing pad and a pen from under the counter. The officers were still talking in a hushed whisper when Dean stood next to their table but, soon, their conversation ceased as they turned their attention to him.
"How can I help?"
“We’re wondering if you do takeout orders. Me and my partner love your Beignets and wanna take some back to the station with us.”
The male officer appeared to be slightly older than his partner and had a serious, no-BS kind of stare that made Dean stand with his back a little straighter. He had read their name badges as “Hendrikson” and “Mills.” Officer Mills was more easy going and tended to act almost motherly towards Dean whenever her and her partner sat up at the counter. Although he had seen her lose her temper too. Hendrikson didn’t seem to like Dean all that much but he certainly loves Benny’s Beignet more than anything else on the menu. Every time that they come into the diner, apart from coffee, it is the only thing that Hendrikson orders.
“We could box up a couple for you guys. Just give me a moment to talk to the man behind the grill.”
Dean flashed his award winning smile once again before retreating to the safety of the kitchen. Fuck man. He faked an overdramatic shudder as he walked over to find Benny already making a plate of Beignets.
“Hendrikson gives me the fucking creeps”
“Only ‘cause he’s a cop”
“No Ben, it’s that damn stare of his. It freaks me out. Anyway, they want a box instead of a single order."
Benny sighed as he reached for a white cardboard box they kept on a higher shelf for any special takeaway orders - specifically when Hendrikson drops in.
“A dozen for the ice cop are on their way.”
Dean was just about to continue joking when he heard the bell above the door chime. Duty calls. He patted Benny on the shoulder as he left the man to his pastries. Dean strained another wide smile as he spotted Hendrikson and Mills waiting for their order at the end of the counter.
“They’re on their way, Officers”
As usual, Hendrikson gave a simple nod of the head and Mills smiled warmly back at Dean. I like Mills better. He turned back around, searching under the counter for his small notepad and pen to take the new customers order.
"Hello there, I'm Dean and what can I..."
Dean lifted his head and instantly met ridiculously blue eyes that stared intently back at him. The man's hair was messy but strangely styled at the same time, random strands proudly sticking out in a variety of directions. Dean could feel his mouth want to hang open as his eyes fell down to the man's powerful jawline covered in dark stubble. He blinked several times to tear his mind back to reality but he could already feel a blush creeping up the back of his neck. Fuck, he was in trouble.
"Sorry about that, lost my train of thought for a second. Anyway, my name is Dean and I'm your server for the day so what can I get you?"
“A double cheeseburger and the largest stack of fries that you can fit on the plate, please.”
Holy shit. This man must gargle gravel or something to get his voice that rough and low. Dean’s mouth tried to fall open again but he shook his head as, out of the corner of his eye, he could see an inpatient look from Hendrikson. Right, Box of pastries. He grinned and wrote down the relatively short order.
“Right, I’ll be right back for your drink order.”
Dean tried not to sprint back into the safety of the kitchen and found Benny towards the back entrance, folding up more white takeout boxes for our standing orders. Orders that our phoned ahead for people who don't have enough time to sit in and eat.
“Alright now Dean. A dozen for Hendrikson and anyone brave enough to take one away from him”
Dean groaned in frustration as he hit his head against the side of the standing bread oven. Stupid Hendrikson and hot strangers. Luckily, it wasn't on otherwise he would have burnt his forehead. Benny simply sighed and pushed the large box into Dean's arms, shoved him towards the connecting door back to the diner.
“Go on Dean, we're only halfway through the day. No time for crashing this early.”
Dean flipped Benny the bird over his shoulder as he slid the box in front of Hendrikson with his best smile.
"There you are Officer Hendrikson. A dozen of our best Beignets from our own Southern Comfort"
He could hear Benny chuckling to himself from the kitchen as Dean grinned at his own joke but Hendrikson was too busy admiring Benny's handiwork to take any notice of Dean's joke. The policeman simply looked at his partner and left with another word.
"I guess I'll pay this time! Asshead!"
Officer Mills was so better mannered than Hendrikson. Even on the bad days, she managed to raise a smile and could easily crack a joke with Dean whilst giving her partner a death stare. She counted out the tab they owed and left Dean a generous tip before winking and following after Hendrikson. He chuckled as he reached for a napkin to place in front of the stranger.
“So what will it be to drink?”
“Mmm, I love the sound of a Banana and Peanut butter milkshake”
"Sure thing, Sir."
Right, don't fuck this up. One of the great things about having such a large counter like this one is that everything needed for any drinks are stored underneath the table-top itself, thanks to some clever building. Dean busied himself with making the milkshake, scooping Peanut Butter and mashed Bananas into a blender followed by ice cream and he was definitely not thinking about the way that the man was staring at him while he worked on the drink. Well, more specifically, he was staring at Dean's hands. He grinned a little too proudly as he slid the now filled glass in front of the customer.
“There you go. Your food will be up and done in a few.”
Dean was wiping down the counter and tidying away some of the unused bowls of sugar when Benny chimed to signal that the customer's order was done. Benny was always quick about getting orders filled. He hummed quietly as he immediately smelt the delicious meat and his stomach grumbled loud reminding Dean that he had, once again, forgotten to eat breakfast to open an hour or so early for Benny to start on a new pie flavour. It didn't end well. He smiled as he placed the large plate of food in front of the customer and the man's face instantly lit up with excitement.
"Enjoy your meal and call if you need anything."
"Thank you Dean"
The man didn't even look away from his plate of food to speak to Dean but instead grabbed his burger and took the bite that should belong to a starving man and he groaned from deep within his chest at the taste of the gooey cheese against the smoke-flavoured burger. Dean nearly lost it as the man took another large bite and made a noise that should be classed as pornographic. He started to wonder what other interesting noises the man could make if given the right... stimulus. No, he needed to stay professional here. Dean busied himself before his mind got any further into that dangerous territory. He spent, at least, five minutes listening to the elderly couple compliment him on the Gumbo before leaving and Dean quickly cleaned up the mess of plates that the group of teenagers left. He didn't hear the bell above the door as the kids left.
When Dean returned behind the counter, the man had eaten the majority of his burger and started to slowly work his way through his stack of fries. He was, now, the only customer in the whole place so Dean decided that it wouldn't hurt if he took his lunch break, even if it is an hour later than usual. He slipped back into the kitchen to grab a bowl and ladle some of the Gumbo that they kept on the back burner all day before dragging a stool out to the counter, rather close to the man. Just for a conversation, no other reason. Dean got through two mouthfuls of the stew before making his own nearly pornographic noise with his eyes rolling slightly. He glanced up to see the stranger staring straight at him, fries still held half-way to his mouth. Dean shrugged his shoulders and smiled shyly.
"The Gumbo here is really good if I do say so myself. We're mainly known for our burgers but people love our Gumbo. I think Benny puts something into it because you seriously can't just have one bowl of it. Do you know what I mean?"
The man nodded and smiled around his mouthful of fries before taking a large sip of his milkshake then clearing his throat to ensure that he was speaking clearly.
"I was recommended your place by my brother. He swore that you had to best burgers in the state and I think he's right."
Dean smiled the best that he could around his own mouthful of prawns and some peppers, not wanting to seem rude if he spoke with his mouth full.
“Thanks Man, I love hearing that our customers actually like our food instead of just putting a brave face on it to be polite to us.”
There was a slight chuckle to his voice but Dean noticed that he man didn't seem to find the joke. The customer simply tilted his head to side slightly as he stared at Dean for a moment before returning his attention to his plate of fries.
“I have tried a cheeseburger in every state and yours is by far the best one I have had.”
“Every state? Really?”
Dean was more than a little sceptical and raised an inquisitive eyebrow, silently enjoying the small smile that was tugging at the corners of the man's lips.
“Yes. I had a year out of college to experience the world and my older brother convinced me to go on a road-trip with him. At the time, it seemed like a bad idea so I agreed that I would go on one condition that he buys me a burger and shake in every state that we end up in. Anyway, a year later, I was back at college and weighed 20 pounds heavier but it was worth it. He still tells me about places and I try to go to them to see if he's telling the truth."
Dean chuckled as he thought about his own road-trips with Sam and for the next hour or so, they kept their quite conversation going as they both spoke about the antics that occurred with their brothers. He learnt that the man - still lacking a name - had several older brothers and he found out that the road-trip brother was famous for pulling pranks. They swapped stories about the variety of pranks that had been pulled on them and the ones that they pulled on their siblings in revenge. Dean made the man really laugh with the tale of putting Nair in Sam's shampoo bottle.
Sadly, Dean had to take a break from talking to the man as the after school hockey team stopped by and it was all hands on deck for nearly two hours. Every once in a while, whilst Dean was serving the kids sat at the counter, he would remake Mr Blue eyes milkshake before winking at him and sauntering off to refill endless glasses of lemonade. He hated hockey days. There was always a thick layer of mud on the floor afterwards and the high-pitched squeals from the kids made him grind his teeth but Dean's wallet couldn't argue at all. Finally, all of the kids left with full stomachs and their parents followed behind them with empty wallets. Dean swept away most of the mud and wiped down the tables in the booth and the counter before returning back to his stool with a tired huff.
Their conversation started again as the man questioned about the recipe for their Gumbo and Dean explained why Cherry was better than Apple as a pie filling. Apple Pie is only good if served with a wedge of cheese. Dean only realised that it had grown late when Benny from the kitchen with his coat and flat cap on. Damn it.
"Crap. Sorry man but we gotta close up now"
The man looked slightly disappointed but Dean offered him a warm smile in return.
"Oh, never mind. Thank you very much for the burger and the company, Dean."
“It’s okay, it was great to talk to someone who understands the greatness of Cherry Pie.”
The man chuckled low and, oh, that was a sweet sound to Dean’s ears. He reached into the back pocket of his black dress trousers and handed Dean his personal card along with a more than generous tip for the meal.
“I hope to see you again soon Dean. Maybe I will try the Gumbo next time”
Dean grinned as wide as he could – some would say like a Cheshire Cat – but it was a sincere smile. He checked the card for a name that he could finally use for the man. Castiel. Castiel Novak.
“Thanks Castiel. There's always a bowl of Gumbo waiting here for you.”
The man. No. Castiel smiled back at him as he swung his legs around the stool and left the diner, pausing to offer him and Benny a small wave through the window. Dean sat back down on his own stool. He could feel his head was swimming on an unknown high. Cute guys always got him weirdly flustered. It didn’t take long for him and Benny to lock up the Diner and soon Dean headed for the small apartment behind the diner that he called his own. It wasn't much but it was home for now. He was so tired, exhausted from the hectic but boring day, that he landed face first into his bed with a small grunt.
That night, Dean fell asleep to the sound of a rich laugh and too-blue eyes.