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Fade To Black

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Life, it seems, will fade away
Drifting further, every day
Getting lost within myself
Nothing matters, no one else
I have lost the will to live
Simply nothing more to give
There is nothing more for me
Need the end to set me free

Things not what they used to be
Missing one inside of me
Deathly loss, this can't be real
I cannot stand this hell I feel
Emptiness is filling me
To the point of agony
Growing darkness, taking dawn
I was me, but now he's gone

No one but me
Can save myself
But it's too late
Now I can't think
Think why I should even try

Yesterday seems as though
It never existed
Death greets me warm
Now I will just say goodbye
Bye…

 

– Fade To Black, Metallica

 

 

 


 

 

Dean stretches his arms high over his head as the credits roll on the TV Screen. He yawns and turns to see Castiel with his gaze on him.

“So?” he asks. He doesn’t mind so much to almost have fallen asleep while watching Raiders, it’s not like he hasn’t seen it before. Hell, everything they watch, it’s because he’s seen it before.

“It lacked accuracy,” Castiel answers, which makes Dean chuckle.

“Yeah, well, it’s not meant to be a history lesson… it’s entertainment.”

Castiel smiles and nods. “I know,” he says, snaking a tentative hand over Dean’s thigh. “Thank you, Dean. I’d been looking forward to this for a long time now,” he adds as he starts leaning forward.

Although the movements are slow and overly prudent, Dean still finds himself surprised when Castiel’s lips land on his. It’s like a short circuit in his brain and he can’t do anything but stay there, frozen on the spot. Until he can move again.

“What the hell?” he blurts, pushing himself backward. He knows he’s overreacting, but it’s a gut reaction, one he has no control over. He’s struggling to breathe, his eyes are wide, and his lips are tingling. Yet none of those feelings come even close to the erratic beatings of his heart.

“I—”

Words can’t seem to pass the barrier of Castiel’s lips as his brows knit together and his cheeks flush red. Dean swallows hard, hating to see what looks like shame on Castiel’s face. He’s unable to decide if it makes the situation less shocking or more.

“I’m sorry…” Castiel soon says, his gaze dropping to the hands he now has clasped over his lap. “I thought—you invited me and then—and then you said ‘that’s a date’, so you know, I thought…”

Dean needs to swallow again before he can even attempt speaking. He thinks back to the previous week, when they made plans for pizza and a movie. Like they always do. His heart drops at the faint memory of maybe having said that it ‘was a date’, not thinking Cas wouldn’t get how it’s just a saying. That Dean hadn’t meant it like that.

Shouldn’t he know this stuff? They’ve known each other forever, there’s no reason this should be happening now. He swallows hard, scrambling to find the right thing to say.

“Cas, buddy… look, I’m—I’m sorry if I—I didn’t—”

“I’m the one who’s sorry, Dean. I was mistaken.” Castiel gets up, looking around as if unsure what to do. “It won’t happen again,” he adds as his gaze locks on the front door and he starts making his way to it.

Doesn’t matter how assertive Castiel sounds, Dean knows better; his best friend is deeply hurt. Dean may be oblivious at times, he still knows Cas wouldn’t have tried to kiss him if he didn’t have actual feelings for him.

Anger starts bubbling low in Dean’s gut; that’s not what he asked for.

Without a word, he gets to his feet to walk into the kitchen. With a trembling hand, he pulls the biggest and sharpest knife from its wooden base. Dean’s breath hitches as he tightens his grip over the handle, dreading what’s to come. It doesn’t matter that there’s no other way to do this, it still feels wrong.

He raises the blade to rest the point against his chest and closes his eyes, ready to strike.

“Dean!”

Castiel’s voice startles Dean, almost enough to make him drop the knife. He looks up to see a frightened Castiel standing there with both his hands up, placating.

“I’m so sorry, Dean… I swear I’ll never try kissing you again. Please, put the knife down. We can talk about this.” Castiel takes a tentative step forward, the shaky smile on his lips all but sincere. “I’d say it’s a bit of an overly dramatic reaction, don’t you think?”

Of course, it is. Or it would be if any of this was real. Dean gives Castiel a reassuring smile even though he knows it’s useless.

“It’s all good, Cas. Don’t worry about it, okay? I promise, I’ll be back in no time,” he says before driving the knife through his own heart.

 

~ SEVENTEEN MONTHS (24 DAYS) EARLIER ~

 

Dean scratched the too long scruff on his face before taking another swig from the flask. The porch light of the little blue house was on, meaning his mark hadn’t come back home yet. He may have known where she worked, what he needed was to get the monster in her own home. If he were to confront her at the hospital she worked at, his plan would never work out.

Because inside that house resided the very thing she would do anything to protect, the only reason Dean could ever get what he wanted.

He drank the last of his flask, trying to catch every single drop of the liquor. When nothing came out anymore, Dean harrumphed and threw the tin vessel on the backseat of the Impala. At the same moment, the awaited car came to a stop in the driveway.

“S’about time…”

It didn’t matter that his skin tingled at the mere thought of jumping her, Dean stayed put. He’d been planning this for far too long to just go and be hasty about it. Plus, he had to wait for the babysitter to leave and he couldn’t try getting inside the house before the djinn had gone to bed. If all went as it usually did, an hour should be enough of a delay.

To be on the safe side, Dean waited an hour and a half, grabbing the silver blade he had dipped in lamb’s blood before exiting the car. He’d been staking the place for a long time and he knew how to get in unnoticed; he’d done it many times already. Even with all the preparation in the world, Dean knew he could still end up killing that damn monster, which meant he’d have to keep hunting to find another suitable candidate.

The house was dark and quiet. Dean got in through the side door, the one that led into the small mudroom leading to the kitchen. He made a quick job of picking the lock and walked in, not bothering to turn on the lights. He’d done this enough times to be able to move inside the house with his eyes closed.

He made his way silently through the kitchen, then down the hall, ready to grab anyone – anything – that would come at him. Except nobody did. He entered the room he’d been aiming for and walked up to the bed. The sleeping girl looked normal enough; dark blonde hair, about four years old, cute as a button. None of that mattered. Even if her kind’s markings had yet to appear on her skin, Dean couldn’t forget the child was a monster.

Her looking human was what elicited a pang in Dean’s heart when he grabbed the kid with one arm and sat on the bed, holding her on his lap with the weapon aimed at her neck. He tightened his hold when she let out a shrill – and deceptively human – scream.

“Baby, what’s—”

The mother stopped in her tracks, her eyes widening in fear at the spectacle in her child’s room. Her tattooed-like skin started emitting ethereal blue wisps of her kind’s magic as she prepared to jump Dean. He made sure she could see the knife resting against the daughter’s neck.

“Leave her alone,” the mother hissed, her whole body trembling with rage. “She’s just a kid.”

“She’s a monster. Just like you.”

The djinn’s otherworldly lights dimmed as she worked on calming herself down. She kept her eyes on the blade, her voice shaky when she spoke again. “What do you want from us?”

“Glad you asked,” Dean said as he relaxed his grip on the child, just not enough to set her free. “I’m here to offer you a deal. Sit!” he ordered, pointing his chin at the rocking chair in the corner of the room.

“Let my kid go, all right?”

“Not until I’ve said what I gotta say. Don’t try anything and she won’t get hurt. Capiche?”

The djinn nodded as she sat, giving her daughter a feeble smile she probably hoped was reassuring.

“My name’s Dean Winchester. Heard of me?”

The djinn nodded again, her lips pursed. “You’ve been killing our kind.”

“Oh, sweetheart. Not just your kind,” Dean said, a bitter smile on his lips. “But yeah, lately I’ve mostly been after you guys.”

The child started wiggling to try and get off of Dean. He tightened his hold over her, making sure she couldn’t go anywhere. It was enough for her to start wailing again.

“Tell your kid to shut up,” Dean snarled, his blade catching onto the moonlight as he moved it closer to her throat.

“Carly, honey,” the mother said in a trembling, yet soft voice. “Please calm down, all right? Everything’s gonna be okay.”

As a sole response, Carly extended her arms in the hopes her mom would come to grab here.

“I won’t hurt you, Carly,” Dean said, falsely soothing. Didn’t matter that he would if he had to. He made sure to send a pointed look at the mother, knowing she’d understand what he wasn’t saying.

She obviously did, swallowing hard before speaking again. “You know mommy won’t let anyone hurt you, right? Dean is a friend of mommy’s, he just wants to get to know you.”

Sniffling, Carly turned to Dean. The smile he gave her wasn’t sincere in the slightest, yet it seemed to satisfy her as she turned to her mother again and nodded.

“Good girl,” the djinn said before looking back at Dean. “Now what?”

“Now, we make a deal.”

 

To be continued…

Chapter Text

It takes a moment for Dean to remember where he is, or even why he’s where he is. As memory bubbles start popping in his mind, he groans and moans. His inability to move freely shouldn’t be a surprise, yet it is.

“What the hell?” he hears a woman say. His eyes snap open, only to close again when confronted to the harsh light fixture overhead.

“What did you do?” the woman now says.

The Djinn… Stephanie! Dean’s mind provides. He takes a deep breath before opening his eyes, more carefully this time.

“You said you would—”

“You promised,” Dean says before she can finish. His voice is low and breathy thanks to the disuse of his vocal cords. “How long?”

“Almost a month,” Stephanie says, her nostrils flaring. “I thought we had a deal.”

“Thought so too… you fucked me over. Told you what I wanted and you messed it up.” As he speaks, Dean tries to pull himself free from the soft restraints on his arms and legs. When nothing happens, he has to look down his body to make sure he still has all his limbs because he can’t feel them.

“Le’ me go! I’ll find another djinn to help me. You suck!”

Stephanie’s mouth twists in a smirk. “Come on, now. You have to know I’d be stupid to do that. If I let you go, Carly and I are as good as dead.” She chuckles. “Once you’re able to walk again, that is.”

Dread fills Dean’s whole body. He lifts his head again… his feet are still there. He sighs in relief, looking back at Stephanie.

“Why did you go off script?” he asks, making the djinn tilt her head. Her confusion looks genuine enough.

“What do you mean? I did as you asked me, made sure you’d be dreaming of a ‘monster-less’ world where everyone you ever loved is alive and well. Isn’t that what you got?”

“Don’t play dumb. You know what you did.”

The squinting intensifies. “I swear I have no idea what you’re talking about. I take that things aren’t going as well as you thought they would? Is your perfect world not perfect enough for you?”

“It was… until you went and messed it all up.”

“You seem to think that I sit here playing puppeteer twenty-four seven. I have a job, you know. I have a kid to raise, and then I have to tend to your sorry ass. I gotta massage and move you around so the blood keeps on flowing. And I gotta make sure you get all the nutrients you need.” She points to the IV dropping fluids in his left arm. “That, and making sure you don’t get bed sores. Whatever you’ve got going on in there is the least of my worries, pal.”

“Then why did my best friend just kiss me, huh? That’s not what I asked for!”

Understanding dawns on Stephanie and she starts laughing.

“The angel? The angel kissed you?”

While Stephanie keeps laughing, Dean can only scowl at her. It’s almost enough to make her stop. Almost.

“I’m sorry… this is…” She’s trying to compose herself, but it doesn’t look all that easy. “Are you telling me you killed yourself over some kind of gay panic? I mean, I knew you were screwed up, but—”

“That’s not what this is about. It’s about you not delivering what you promised.”

Stephanie has finally stopped laughing when she rolls the desk chair closer to sit beside him. He jumps in his skin when she puts her hands on his arm and starts massaging it. Dean would love to just throw a bitch fit about being touched like this, except it’s actually nice, feelings coming back to his limb. Just not enough to go and free himself.

“Maybe I should have explained how this works,” Stephanie says as she kneads his upper arm back to life. “Honestly, I thought you knew, seeing you’re a hunter and all.”

A gentle sigh escapes Dean’s lips and he can feel himself blush; he’s not supposed to be enjoying this. He evades the djinn’s gaze as she keeps massaging him.

“I’ll explain it to you, then I’ll send you back.” She stops and moves to catch his eyes. “Unless you don’t want me to?”

Dean huffs. “You’d let me go if I asked?”

Without answering, Stephanie resumes her massage on Dean’s arm. She only speaks again when she moves lower to start working on his thigh.

“The way this goes… usually, we don’t really tell the vic what to dream about, you know? The venom just keeps them in a sort of coma and their mind does whatever it wants to do. Our kind, it’s the perfect world type of dreams. Others feed on fears, others on—”

“I know how djinns work.”

“Apparently not,” she counters, giving him a pointed look. “Anyway… so yes, we can guide the initial thoughts a certain way, not that we usually do.” Dean could swear he notices a hint of sadness in Stephanie’s voice. “Who cares what they’re thinking about, am I right? They’re just food…”

The djinn moves lower, her hands firm on his calf. “I did what you asked of me. I made sure to steer your thoughts in the right direction. Did you not find yourself back in your hometown with everyone you’ve ever loved alive and well?”

“I did… woke up in Lawrence and everything was perfect until… until Cas tried to kiss me.” He lets out a frustrated sigh. “That’s a low blow, man. Why the hell would you think that was a good idea? The last year and a half, I’ve been hooking up with nice chicks, no strings, and it was awesome. Even that first girl I woke up next to was nice, even though I didn’t really feel it and had to let her go. I mean… domestic bliss isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.”

“That’s what I’m trying to tell you, Dean. I haven’t tempered with your dream at all. Not since I put you under last month.” She starts massaging Dean’s foot, flexing his toes, pulling on them. “Anything that happened since then, it’s all on you.”

Dean harrumphs. “You can’t be saying I want Cas to kiss me, are you?”

“That, or some part of you believes your friend loved you and that’s how it manifested itself.”

Stephanie rolls her chair to the other side of the bed, coming to a stop next to his arm. She starts massaging it like she did the other.

“I gotta admit, it’s unusual for a vic to stay alive this long. We usually don’t take care of them and they die in a matter of days, a couple of weeks if we’re lucky. But…” She stops her ministrations and locks eyes with Dean once more. “I don’t think I’m wrong when I say that the longer you stay alive, the deeper in your psyche the dream will go.”

“What do you mean?”

“I mean that whatever you might have buried in there, would you realize it or not, it’s bound to come out at some point.”

“So… my dream life’s gonna become shit?”

Stephanie’s working on his arm again. “Not necessarily. It could be stuff you’ve always wanted but never thought you’d ever get. Things you wouldn’t let yourself have.” She looks at him again. “Like oh, I don’t know… having a certain angel as a boyfriend, perhaps?”

Dean pretty much chokes at that. “I’m not gay!” he hisses.

“Not saying you are… it’s just an example.”

Except Dean is no dummy. He may be feeling a bit woozy, he’s still no dummy. “Maybe you’re right. Maybe I always knew Cas might like me. He said it himself… said we had a profound bond or something.”

“There’s your explanation, then. If you truly don’t want this, then it won’t happen. You pushed him away anyway, didn’t you?” Stephanie gives Dean a smile, one that almost looks genuine.

Still a bit shameful of his reaction, Dean nods. He can’t help wondering if he’s gonna have to salvage his friendship with the angel when he goes back under. He wants to ask, but that’s not the question that comes out.

“How’s Carly doing?”

“She’s great, thanks to you.” The motifs on Stephanie’s skin start coming alive. “It’ll soon be time for dinner, actually… ready to go back in?”

Pushing down his disgust over agreeing to serve as a djinn’s buffet, Dean nods.

As the now familiar prickling warmth starts coursing through his veins, he closes his eyes, eager to go back to his family. And if he’s lucky, the next time he gets to come back to the real world, he’ll finally be dead for real.

 

To be continued…

Chapter Text

The first time Dean found himself in his ideal dream world, he had woken up in bed with a cute brunette in his arms. She’d been everything Dean had always thought he wanted in a girl, not unlike the Carmen from his first stint. Except he had gotten tired of her rather quickly, having to come to terms with the fact that he might not be the forever-together kind of guy.

It still took a whole six months for Dean to break up with her and when he did, she just… went away. She moved someplace far, far away and he never saw her again. No doubt this had been the works of his inner desires. Girl had gone bye-bye without any sort of drama, and Dean was content.

So when Dean wakes up in the djinn dream again, he experiences some sort of déjà vu : he’s back in his bed with a warm body cuddled in his back. He looks over his shoulder to see a heap of dark hair peeking out from under the comforter. He closes his eyes and takes a deep breath, hoping he won’t have to relive all those same months again. Not that it really matters, seeing how it’s all fake anyway. If anything, it just means breaking up with Val will happen much sooner than it did before.

Not Val , he surmises when the person next to him lets out a sleepy hum; the voice is far too low. Chills creep up Dean’s spine. Could it be that…

Dean moves around to face whoever is sharing his bed. They’re still sleeping, hidden under the beddings. Praying he’s not about to find Castiel, he delicately pulls on the comforter. He swallows when the dark brown hair he uncovers is short and unruly.

Shit!

He pulls some more to find a naked back, then a naked butt.

Fuck!

He’s about to jump out of bed when he really takes notice of the naked body in front of him; the waist is narrow and the hips are round. He can breathe again.

“Oh, thank god! It’s a chick,” he says, loud enough for the girl to start stirring awake. She turns around to face Dean, her eyes still closed.

A quick glance low between her legs convinces Dean it really is a girl next to him. His eyes climb back up to her face to find that she’s very pretty with her hair all messed up and her plush pink lips, somewhat reminiscent of—

“Son of a bitch!” Dean says a bit louder this time, his eyes bugging out. It’s enough for the stranger to open an eye – a deep blue eye – and glare at him.

“Are you always this noisy in the morning?”

And yeah, her voice is deep for a chick. As a single plausible – scary – explanation rises to Dean’s mind, panic starts settling in. Once more.

“C—Cas?”

Both eyes – still very blue – are open now. The girl sits up and throws the comforter away from her naked body. “Are you fucking kidding me? Can’t believe I was this stupid.”

Dean can only gape at her while she keeps ranting as she puts her clothes back on. Once clothed, she comes to stand next to Dean’s side of the bed to slap him square in the face. He doesn’t bother trying to evade her.

“It’s Jennifer, you jackass!” she barks before leaving the room.

It’s not until he hears the front door slam shut that Dean’s brain starts up again. He grabs his phone to see it’s the same one he had before ‘killing himself’. And according to his locked screen, it’s the very next day. He looks down at his chest where he finds no trace of a blade ever going through. It’s as if nothing ever happened.

“Dean! You up?” he hears Sam say after the front door opens and closes again. Of course, it’s Sunday morning; they usually have breakfast with Cas at the Biggerson’s downtown.

“Comin’!” he answers, throwing his legs off the bed before giving his armpit an experimental sniff, scrunching his nose at the ripeness. “Just gonna take a shower real quick,” he yells again as he walks into the en suite. Dean hears Sam respond something, but he’s already turned the shower on and can’t make out what he’s saying.

He does a quick job of washing himself, glad to be able to move freely when literal minutes ago, he was tied up to a bed. Technically he still is, but he doesn’t care so much. He prefers believing he’s here with his family and friends, alive and happy in a world that’s never seen a single monster. He’ll at least get to live a little before kicking the proverbial bucket.

When Dean joins Sam in the living room, his brother gets up from the sofa. The sofa Cas tried kissing me on . Dean bristles at the memory before shaking the thought away.

“So… is Cas joining us there or—”

“Who?”

Not that Sam’s joke is hilarious, but Dean still laughs. “Real funny, man. Cas will be joining us there, then?”

“Not trying to be funny, Dean. I have no idea who you’re talking about.”

Doubt starts creeping in the back of Dean’s mind. “Cas? Castiel! Yay high, brown hair, blue eyes… our best friend since, oh I don’t know, forever?”

Sam gives his brother a doubtful look, shaking his head. “Did you fall off the wagon again?”

“What?”

“You’re hungover? Thought you were to slack on the booze.”

First, Sam doesn’t know Cas, then he’s saying Dean stopped drinking? There’s no way he’s landed back in the same dream. Especially since living this new life of his, his relationship with alcohol had become more of a recreational function than a sedative one.

“So what? Next, you’re gonna tell me I’m celibate?”

That seems enough to make Sam laugh. “Like that would happen. Saw last night’s girl, she’s pretty… looked kinda pissed, though. What did you do?”

Dean batted a hand at him, choosing not to answer. He couldn’t go and tell Sam he had called the girl Cas, would he know who that was or not.

“Fine… ready to go?” Sam asked, getting to his feet. “I gotta prepare for a case, I’d rather not get back home too late.”

Holding a finger up, Dean goes through the contacts on his phone. No entry for Cas, nor Castiel, no Clarence, and no Jimmy either. Dread settles low in his gut as he considers going to the kitchen to jab a knife in his heart again. Except he knows he won’t be able to do this with his little brother watching him. Not again. He’ll have to do this after breakfast.

“If you gotta work, we could just not go,” he says, glancing at his brother for half a second before averting his eyes again.

“Nope, no way! I’m here now, so we go get breakfast and then you can come back and nurse your hangover all you want, I don’t care. I ran all the way here and now I’m hungry as hell, so we’re going.”

His lips pursed, Sam walks out the door without waiting for him. With a sigh, Dean goes to put on his shoes and follows him. At least, Baby is still there, gleaming in the morning sun. He slides a hand over her chassis as he goes to open the door, his heart heavy when he sits behind the wheel.

Even though he knows Cas won’t be in the backseat, he still keeps his gaze on the rearview mirror, as if it would make him magically appear. Of course, it doesn’t, and the idea of never seeing Cas again leaves a bitter taste in his mouth. That won’t do, and he’ll have to give the djinn a stern talking this time.

“Anytime now.”

Sam’s voice startles Dean. He gives him a sheepish look before starting up the car, the engine’s purr weirdly not enough to soothe his nerves. They make their way to Biggerson’s in silence, Dean bent on ignoring the searching looks he knows Sam is sending him.

They still haven’t said a word when they get inside the restaurant and wait to be seated. The hostess leads them to a booth toward the back, leaving them with a smile and two menus.

“So… what’s with you today?” Sam asks from behind his menu. Dean shrugs, deciding to go with the most believable explanation.

“Guess I drank too much last night. Like you said, I fell off the wagon.” He looks up when he hears Sam snort a laugh. “What?”

“As long as you refuse to get legit help, you’ll just keep on doing that, Dean. I really think you should go to AAs or something.”

“I’m not one for kumbayas, you know that. I’ll be fine.”

Dean isn’t lying, mostly because he knows that within the next couple of hours, he’ll be driving that damn knife through his heart again. It doesn’t matter that Stephanie said she wasn’t steering his dreams, she had to have messed things up somehow. At the very least, she’ll be able to put it back the way it was.

All he has to do is die – again – and tell her to make things right. Bring back Castiel into his life and erase that stupid alcohol-related plotline. What’s the use of fake living if he can’t even enjoy the things he likes most? All he wants is his family, his friends, the occasional romp in the sheets, nice booze, and greasy foods. Is that too much to ask?

“Are you ready to order?”

Dean’s head whips at the familiar voice, his heart stammering in his chest. With his mouth agape, he considers the waiter already pouring coffee for him and Sam. And when the name falls from his lips, it’s low and breathy.

“Castiel?”

 

To be continued…

Chapter Text

The smile on Castiel’s face is sincere but polite. Nothing to do with the warm grins Dean had grown accustomed to.

“I know, weird name, religious parents and such,” he says, tapping a finger on his name tag. “Ready to order? Or would you gentlemen like some more time?”

Sam doesn’t hesitate, handing back his menu as he speaks. “I’ll have the eggs benedict with bacon.”

“Nice choice. How about you?” Castiel says, now pointing Sam’s menu at Dean who can’t do anything but look back in shock. “Sir?” he says again before turning to Sam. “Is he okay? You think he needs a minute, or…”

“He’ll have the steak and eggs, medium rare. And a short stack,” Sam says around a thin-lipped smile.

Looking at him through squinted eyes, Castiel takes Dean’s menu then shrugs before doubling back to go place the order.

“Dean! Who’s that guy?” Sam says when Castiel is far enough. “Was that who you were talking about this morning? Cas? Is he a client at the garage or something?”

“No, I—I don’t—you don’t know him? At all?” Dean’s heart sinks further down in his stomach when Sam shakes his head. “Forget about it then… t’was a fluke, I guess.”

“Some fluke, if you ask me. I mean, Cas—Castiel—that’s kind of a weird name. Said so himself.”

Dean still isn’t looking at his brother, his gaze drawn to Castiel as he tends to a nearby table. Sam follows his gaze and huffs.

“So what? Got a crush on the guy or something?”

“What? No! Shut up!” Dean blurts, his face getting dangerously warm. The djinn better not have made him fucking gay this time. Not that she could do that, could she? “I just… I thought I knew the guy, is all. Like some kind of Groundhog Day sorta thing.” He grabs the mug to hide as he sips on the dark brew, having to force himself in looking at anything but Cas.

It takes a couple of tensed minutes for Sam to speak again. “You know I wouldn’t care, right?” he says as he drinks from his own cup. “If you liked guys, I mean,” he adds when he sees Dean’s confused frown. “Pretty sure Mom and Dad wouldn’t care either.”

At least, Dean can laugh about that. “Yeah right, Sammy! You and Mom, I get, but Dad? No way he’d be okay with this.” His face grows warm again and he clears his throat. “Not that there’s anything to be okay with—I just mean—pretty sure he’d tear either of us a new one if we turned out to be—”

When he interrupts himself, it’s not due to Sam scowling at him, but because he just now remembers the man his father is in this reality. He swallows, hating the fact that twenty minutes in the real world had been enough to erase everything he had learned about his parents over the last fabricated months.

Sam is right to say their parents – the ones from this world – would be okay with either one of their sons being anything else than hetero. They did love Charlie a whole lot, with Mary even trying to set her up whenever she has the chance. And she would keep doing the same with Dean, just with guys instead of girls. Not that she’ll ever have to. And if that were to happen, Mary trying to find her son a boyfriend, it would be for Sam and certainly not Dean.

“Same here, Sammy,” he feels the need to say, just in case. A more relaxed smile settles on his lips. “I wouldn’t mind one bit if you were a fudge packer, you know that, right?” His smile dwindles at Sam’s bitter pout. “What now?”

“Could you just cool it with the slurs, Dean? You don’t have to play homophobic macho all the time, it’s really annoying. If anything, it just looks like you’re overcompensating. And like I said, I don’t care if you like guys.”

“I don’t, so shut your mouth!”

“Fine. Whatever.”

Just like they did in the car, the brothers sit in a heavy silence as they wait for their food. With Sam’s attention on his phone, Dean lets himself glance at Castiel once in a while, for seconds at a time. Not to check him out, of course not, but rather to see if there’s anything left of his friend. Because he was his friend. His best friend. The one for whom Dean once tore Purgatory apart. The one he mourned not once, but four times – not that it ever got any easier. The one who once forgot Dean and himself after disappearing – in the reservoir.

Dean shakes the memories off, his gaze back on Castiel. He doesn’t move all that differently if Dean has to be honest. He still walks around the way he always did, his stride resolute even though he serves food and beverages instead of saving the world. Dean’s heart skips a beat at the realization that he’s probably the one to blame for putting him in this position. As if he considers the angel’s purpose to be one of servitude.

Before the whole kissing debacle, Castiel had been his partner at the garage. Dean was the grease monkey while Cas handled the business aspect of it all. They worked together swimmingly and now… how is it that his dumb brain has put an angel of the Lord in such a role? A firefighter, a jet pilot, or even some kind of doctor would have made much more sense.

Dean’s internal musing are halted by plates being placed on the table. He looks up to see Castiel looking at him with a smirk.

“Do I have something on my face?” he says, brushing the pads of his fingers over his mouth and chin.

Eyes bulging out of his skull, Dean shakes his head and mutters nonsensical words while Sam guffaws.

“Please, excuse my brother. I think last night’s drinking binge finally broke something in his brain.” He pats Dean’s hand, who moves it out of reach, scowling. “He’ll be better after a good breakfast, and please keep the coffee coming. He really needs it.”

“I’ll say,” Castiel provides. “I’ll be back with more coffee. Anything else you guys need?”

They both shake their heads, Dean with his gaze now fixed on the table. He rubs a hand over his face, the sight of his breakfast enough to give him nausea. He pushes it to the side in favor of downing the coffee.

“You’ll feel better after you eat something, Dean.”

“Not hungry.”

Less than a minute later, Castiel is back and filling both their cups. “Something wrong with your food?” he asks when he notices how Dean’s plate has been tossed aside. He sounds genuinely concerned and Dean has to look up at him again.

“No, it’s fine. I just—’m not that hungry. Actually, if you could take the plate away…”

There’s no humor anymore in Castiel’s gaze. “Would you like something else? Like oatmeal, maybe? We have a nice—”

“Nah… coffee’s all I can stomach for now. Thanks, Cas.”

Castiel seems to startle at the nickname but says nothing, offering him a smile and a nod before leaving with the untouched breakfast plates.

“You almost done?” Dean asks as Sam forks a bite of his own meal in his mouth. As a sole response, Sam points at the plate still mostly full and rolls his eyes. It’s enough to know Sam won’t be making this any easier on him by eating quickly.

He’s about three quarters done when he looks up at Dean who’s downing his third cup of coffee. “Maybe you should ask him on a date or something.”

“Huh?”

“That guy, Castiel. Don’t think I haven’t seen you looking at him. You’re not that discreet, just in case you thought you were.”

“I wasn’t looking at him. Would you eat your damn food so I can go back home?” And so I can get out of this nightmare , his mind finishes for him. He winces at the idea, but he really doesn’t see any other options at this point. He may not think anything romantic should happen between him and his best friend, he’s not ready to lose him either. Otherwise, being here serves no purpose.

“Going to the restroom,” Sam says, dropping his balled up paper towel over the unfinished plate. “And you’re paying for breakfast since you’ve been so pleasant.”

Dean harrumphs, but doesn’t say a thing against it. Paying means they’re ready to leave, so he’s glad to signify to Castiel that he can bring the check over.

“Don’t do it, Dean,” he hears. Now sitting where Sam had been is Stephanie, wearing a nurse uniform with her hair in a bun.

“What the hell are you doing here?” he asks in a loud whisper. “How are you here? Can they see you?” he adds, glancing around to see nobody is paying them any mind.

She doesn’t answer. “After you came out, I thought I’d check up on you before going to work. Imagine my surprise when I realized you were planning on offing yourself again.”

He’s tempted to tell her to keep out of his mind, but he knows she can pretty much do anything she pleases while he’s tied up in her guest bedroom. “No… yeah, okay. But… you made things worse, man. Cas doesn’t even know me—know us anymore. Sam doesn’t know him. He’s my best friend and—”

Stephanie rolls her eyes. “Then just be his friend again. I told you, Dean, you’re the one at the wheel, not me.” She waves a hand around them, then sends a pointed look toward Castiel. “This here is what your mind came up with. I mean… that’s what you wanted, right? Your angel isn’t in love with you anymore. Now, if you wanna be his friend, you just go ahead and do that.”

 

To be continued…

Chapter Text

Back in his apartment, Dean is pacing around the living room. His mind is full of the last couple of hours as he tries to think of clever ways to bring Castiel back in his life. Since Stephanie won’t help, he needs to come up with something on his own but he’s at a loss. Mostly because whatever he comes up with could easily be taken as if he’s coming on to him. And he can’t have Castiel fall in love with him again.

Not that he can imagine why he would. In the real world, Dean can kind of understands how it might have happened. Not only had Castiel been rather naive when it came to human interactions, but they also had fought side by side for years. Dean saved Castiel’s life, and Castiel saved his. He can only guess the proximity and trauma were mostly to blame for the romantic feelings he may have harbored for him.

So becoming friends the way regular people do should help a great deal, it’s just that Dean can’t think of a normal way to do this. The first version of the dream had made it easy; they had met in high school and been friends for most of their lives. Which clearly wasn’t the case anymore. Going back to Biggerson’s to ask Cas to hang out could very well give him the wrong impression, and Dean can’t have that. All he wants is his best friend back. With friendly, brotherly, platonic feelings. None of that romantic crap.

So he spends the day mulling this over, the Led Zeppelin playlist on shuffle in the background. Still, no matter how many scenarios he cooks up, none of them appears to be a logical way to make their friendship happen the way he wants it to. He’s so caught up in his own mind that the sudden knocks on his door are enough to make him jump in his own skin.

He only then notices that night has fallen, wincing at the realization that maybe his music is too loud for the neighbors. Without checking the peephole, he swings the door open, already with an apology on his tongue. He almost chokes on it when he finds Castiel on the other side holding a small stack of plastic containers.

“Oh! It’s you,” Castiel says, looking just as surprised as Dean himself feels. “Didn’t know we were neighbors.”

“What?”

Castiel juts his chin toward the sound system. Understanding, Dean goes to turn the volume down. “Sorry,” he manages to say when he comes back to the door. “Didn’t realize it was getting late.”

“I’m not here for the music, I was actually coming here to give you this,” Castiel says, handing out one of the containers. “I know it’s usually the other way around, but I thought I’d introduce myself to everyone in the building. Moved in apartment 3B about a week ago,” he adds, pointing his chin upward.

Dean swallows loudly as his gaze locks on the cheap plastic container. “Thanks?” he says, struggling to find something else, anything else, to say. Doesn’t matter that he’s been trying to think of ways to get to know Castiel again, him now standing at his door is enough to suck out all rational thoughts.

“Most people like chocolate chip cookies. I trust that you do as well?”

Taking the box, Dean pops the lid to take a sniff. “You made these?”

“I did. Not that I’m a great baker or anything. They came in a tube,” he says in an exaggerated whisper.

Neither speaks again for a full minute, their eyes locked together. It’s Castiel who takes the lead and extends a hand. “Castiel Novak. And you are?”

“Dea—Dean Winchester. So… huh…”

“I’m sorry, you weren’t feeling too good this morning. I’ll leave you be.” Castiel gives him a more sincere smile this time, different from the one he sported while he worked. “Guess I’ll be seeing you around, Dean. Take care.”

Without waiting for him to answer, Castiel turns and leaves. When he disappears into the stairwell, Dean lets out the breath he’d been holding and closes the door. He turns the stereo’s volume up again before letting himself fall back on the sofa.

“Good job, brain,” he says under his breath as he considers how Castiel being his neighbor could only be a step in the right direction. He doesn’t need to find some clever excuse anymore. He looks at the box he’s still holding, taking off the lid to toss it on the coffee table. There are about a dozen cookies in there. He grabs one and takes a bite. It tastes fine, just like any generic chocolate chip cookie would.

He gobbles up three before putting the lid back on. It doesn’t matter that it’s the cheap kind of container, bringing it back to Cas when it’s empty is the best excuse he has to see him again without coming off as some kind of creep.

And to make sure he’ll be able to do this sooner rather than later, he brings the box to the garage the next morning. He’s the first one to get there, like every Monday morning. With the open container on the small table, Dean waits for the coffee to finish brewing, pumped at the idea of going to see Castiel after work to bring him his dish back.

“Mornin’, boss.”

Dean turns to see Garth walking in, his coveralls a bit too loose over his thin frame. Exactly the way it was before. He sighs with ease and smiles. “Hey, Garth. Had a nice weekend?”

“I did… drove out to Plainview for my mom’s birthday.”

“You drove to Texas for the weekend? It’s kinda far, isn’t it?”

Garth shrugs, his smile not faltering. “A bit over nine hours out, but I don’t mind much. I like to drive.” He comes closer when Dean puts a mug on the table for him. “You brought those?” he asks when he spots the cookies. “Did you bake ’em?”

“Nah, it was Ca—my neighbor, Castiel. He just moved in the building and gave out treats as a way to introduce himself.”

His mouth already full, Garth only nods back at him, Benny walking in at the same moment.

“Hey, brothers,” he hollers before clapping Garth’s on the back, making him cough when the cookie goes down the wrong hatch. “Sorry,” he says, now rubbing a soothing hand on him. “What are those?” he asks, not waiting for an answer before taking a cookie to shove half in his mouth.

The smile on Dean’s face is a stiff one. Not that he’s not glad to see Benny still working with them, but he’s wondering who will be the last member of their quartet now that Castiel isn’t part of the equation. He doesn’t need to think about it much longer, the door opening again to let Mrs. Tran in.

“Linda?”

The question falls from Dean’s mouth before he can stop himself. In the first version of the dream, she held a more subdued role, living next to Dean’s parents since long enough that Dean had often babysat little Kevin – or so he had been told.

“I don’t know why you sound so surprised… it’s not like you found anyone else, did you? I’m only doing this because Kevin asked that I help,” she says as she too comes to grab herself a cup of coffee. Unlike the others, she ignores the cookies.

Dean nods dumbly. One thing that hasn’t changed is how Linda doesn’t seem too thrilled at the idea that her freakishly intelligent offspring would choose to work at the garage. He had decided to go into mechanical engineering so of course, Dean offered to help him out. He hopes it means that Krissy also still works with them part-time.

“Speaking of which… Kevin is leaving for college in less than a month and I’d rather see him take a load off from work before going away. He doesn’t need the money so he won’t be taking on more hours, Dean. As for myself, I won’t be doing this for much longer.” She comes to squeeze his arm in a soothing attempt. “I know you’ve been hoping she’d come back, but she won’t. It’s been long enough, you need to hire someone else already.”

The only reason Linda doesn’t notice the shock on Dean’s face is because she’s already leaving the kitchenette. Both Garth and Benny see it, but only Garth dares to say something about it.

“You okay, boss?” he says. “I know she can sound rough sometimes, but Linda means well, you know that. I mean… she’s right, don’t you think? Lisa’s never coming back. You really gotta find someone to replace her.”

Understanding dawns on Dean, finally. In Dreamland 2.0, Cas didn’t work here but Lisa apparently did. Lisa who seems to have had a more important role this time around, rather than being the girl he once dated in high school.

“I know,” he says, deciding against asking too many questions. Questions like were he and Lisa together? Did she leave because things ended? Are they still on speaking terms? And what about Ben?

Promising himself to look around his apartment later to see if he could find any clues, Dean grabs his coffee and waves a hand at the cookies. “I want those cleaned out before the end of the day, guys. I’m counting on you.”

 

To be continued…

Chapter Text

That evening, Dean goes back home alone, something that’s all but new. His heart is in his heels and he’s not stupid enough not to know why that is. He misses Castiel a great deal, there’s no point in denying it. And he can’t even bitch to anyone about it, because nobody would understand. It’s not as if he can go and tell Sam or the others that they’re only products of a djinn’s dream. A djinn’s dream Dean voluntarily signed up for, too. He would be sent to the nut house in a matter of minutes.

Sprawled on the sofa with his eyes closed, Dean doesn’t stop the dark memories from the real world to come flowing in; Sam’s unavoidable death when he closed Hell, and Castiel helping Metatron locking the angels up in Heaven and throwing away the key. It only had taken a couple of hours for Dean’s world to topple over and no matter how much he tried, he could never find a way to bring either of them back. Demon deals weren’t a possibility, angels were tucked away, and Death couldn’t have cared less about Dean’s desperate pleadings. All he had left were monsters and even those were mostly keeping a low profile.

He tried going back on the road to do what he had always been doing, but being alone never sat well with Dean. It didn’t take long for him to realize how a world without Sam, Castiel, Bobby, or even Dad wasn’t a world worth living in. With no major threats looming over the Earth, Dean soon felt like he had no purpose. Had he not suspected that killing himself meant a one-way ticket to Hell, Dean would have done it without a second thought.

There’s still a crippling doubt that voluntarily offering himself to the djinn will grant the same result, though. It’s not like he didn’t know this little endeavor of his would result in death. Still, getting to live some kind of perfect life before dying (for good) has to be worth it. If it means he’ll have to go back to Hell, then he’ll go back and that will be it. At least he will get to be somewhat happy before he does.

When Dean opens his eyes, his gaze catches on the small plastic container on the coffee table, empty and clean. He glances at the glowing numbers on the DVD player: 7:36; Still early enough for knocking on Castiel’s door without coming off as rude. About a minute later, he’s standing in front of apartment 3B with the container in hand, trying to find the will to knock.

If it hadn’t been Cas on the other side of that door, he knows he wouldn’t have bothered bringing the dish back. Not unless they had asked him to, or if it had been a cute girl he wanted to know better. And that simple realization is enough to make him hesitate. What if Castiel goes on to think Dean has ulterior motives?

“Fuck this shit,” Dean mutters, turning around to go back downstairs. He has yet to reach the stairwell when he hears a door open behind him.

“Dean?”

Crap!

Dean stops and pivots to see a frowning Castiel with his hair wet, standing in the door frame wearing a short and satiny bathrobe. It’s more like a robe actually, light gray with a pink cherry blossom print. Dean has to work hard not to appear bothered by the garment. Not that he is…

Castiel’s gaze shifts to Dean’s hands and understanding dawns on him. “Sorry if I didn’t hear you knocking, I was in the shower. You didn’t need to bring back the container, you know. It’s the cheap dollar store kind, I wouldn’t be missing it.”

“Yeah… I wasn’t sure, didn’t wanna assume. Sorry to have disturbed you,” Dean says, coming to hand out the container. Castiel takes it, his gaze never leaving Dean’s.

“You’re not disturbing me. Like I said, I was just in the shower. Actually, when I heard noises in the hall, I thought it was the pizza I called for.” Castiel looks around the hall and huffs. “I hope I didn’t miss it. You didn’t see a pizza man lurking around these parts, did you?”

Right as he says that, the elevator dings and the doors slide open. A young man appears, holding a pizza box. He makes a beeline for Castiel and Dean when he sees them standing in the hall.

“That’ll be seventeen bucks,” he says after taking a quick look at the door number. He holds out the box for Dean to take.

He grabs it while Castiel hands out a twenty. “Keep the change,” Castiel says before taking the box back from Dean. “Wanna come in?” he then says, taking a step back inside his apartment and holding the door open for him. “I was so hungry that I ordered the extra large… there’s no way I’m eating it all. You like pizza, do you?”

Dean almost scoffs at that; who in their right mind doesn’t like pizza? He’s tempted to accept, he really is, but he can’t help be worried about the reasons behind Castiel’s invitation. Just to make sure there can be no wrong interpretation, Dean opts to refuse.

“I like pizza just fine, but I already had dinner.” Liar. “Plus, I gotta be at the garage early in the morning. Some other time, maybe?”

“The garage? You’re a mechanic? Where do you work?”

Dean squints at him.

W&S Auto Parts , on Main? I’m the owner.”

“Oh, I’ll certainly look it up, then. My car’s been giving me trouble for some time now. I don’t think it appreciated the drive here from Pontiac. It’s quite old, maybe it’s due for a well-deserved rest.”

“Old means nothing when you take good care of ’em. I drive a ‘67 Impala.”

“Oh, I think I’ve seen it in the parking lot. Beautiful car… mine’s an El Camino. 1975, I believe. It’s seen better days.”

Dean has to bite his tongue to stop himself from correcting Castiel about talking about his Baby as an ‘it’. Then from commenting about his weird choice of car. Until he remembers that he most certainly is the one to blame for sticking him with that peculiar model. Something he decides he’d rather not try and understand as he grabs his wallet to take one of his business cards and hand it to Castiel.

“Gimme a call and let me know when you can bring her over to the garage, okay? We’ll take a look at her.”

There’s a curious glint in Castiel’s eye, probably having noticed the pronoun thing. “That’s very nice of you. I certainly will do that, thank you.” He smiles and nods, giving him a small wiggle of his fingers. “Good evening, Dean.”

“Yeah. Good evening to you too,” Dean says in a stutter, taking a step back. He’s kind of tempted to change his mind about the pizza, but says nothing about it and looks on as Castiel closes the door. It’s the sound of the chain lock being secured that reminds him he should be going back to his own apartment.

Walking back downstairs, he tries to think of a way to modify the course of his dream. Because right now, it kind of sucks. He just wants what he had before; Castiel being his and Sam’s best friend and working at the garage with him, hanging out together every other day after work and most weekends. It doesn’t matter that this might be why things turned weirdly intimate, he just needs Cas back.

Once in his home, he has a thought for that very sharp knife in the kitchen. The one he used because he couldn’t deal with a stupid misunderstanding like any well-adjusted adult would. He snorts. Well adjusted… as if that’s something Dean Winchester ever was.

He’s staring into the void of his refrigerator when his cell phone starts buzzing in his pocket. He hesitates when he doesn’t recognize the number, but it’s not enough not to answer. He’s given his number to enough girls to know this could be a booty call. And those, he always answers.

“Dean here,” he says in that sexy crooning tone of his.

“Hello, Dean.”

He sucks in a sharp breath. Castiel?

“Is this Dean Winchester?”

“Yeah?”

“Okay, wasn’t sure for a minute… this is Castiel? Your neighbor in 3B?”

“Yeah… hmm… hi, Cas. Where did you get this number?” He swallows. “Is everything okay?”

“What? Yes, everything is fine. I looked up my schedule and since you had your home number on the back of the card, I thought… was I mistaken?”

Shit!

“That’s—must have given you one of the cards I keep for when I meet girls.” He can feel himself blush. If he learns Castiel thinks Dean is coming on to him, he won’t be able to even act surprised. “Should have checked. My bad.”

“You do this often? Hand out your phone number to random girls?” Castiel sounds amused.

“Not to every girl I meet, if that’s what you’re asking.”

Castiel laughs and there’s a sharp pang in Dean’s heart. “I’m just messing with you, it’s none of my business. In any case, I’m sorry for calling you at home. I saw I had some free time tomorrow afternoon, but you probably don’t know your schedule by heart. I’ll call the garage for an appointment in the morning.”

“No need… my friend Charlie hooked me up so I can access the schedule from home.”

He goes to his computer and wakes it up, pressing the mute button a full second too late. The music (and moans) from his favorite hentai website resonate loud in the otherwise silent apartment and he can feel his cheeks growing even hotter now. As he accesses his work schedule, he ignores Castiel’s low chuckles. There’s no way Cas didn’t hear that or that he doesn’t know what it was. Dean clears his throat, deciding he better not say a thing about it.

“Looks like we have room at three tomorrow. Would that work for you?”

“That would be perfect. Thank you, Dean. And sorry again for calling your home, I shouldn’t have assumed—”

“It’s fine, don’t worry about it. Should have checked the card before giving it to you. No harm done.”

There’s too long of a pause before any of them says anything again. It’s Castiel who eventually breaks the spell.

“Well… I’ll see you tomorrow at three, then. Goodnight, Dean,” he says, before hanging up, leaving Dean to kind of choke on his own answer as he turns his own phone off.

 

To be continued…

Chapter Text

Dean is busy working under a new Volkswagen Beetle when Benny comes to see him.

“Hey, chief! Someone’s asking for you in the front. Novak? He’s got an appointment.”

He looks up at the clock on the wall to see that it’s almost three. He steps out from under the car, wiping his hands clean with the rag hanging from his pocket. “Thanks, Benny. Mind to take over this one?”

Benny nods, grabbing the worksheet while Dean walks out into the front of the garage. Castiel is there, wearing his usual – usual in the real world, anyway – trench coat and looking at the shiny engine they have as a display in the waiting room. Dean comes around the counter to greet him.

“Hello, Dean.”

“Hey, Cas! So… wanna show me your girl?” Dean says, even though he doesn’t need Castiel to know the blue atrocity spotted with rust parked right outside is his. They exit the shop to go stand near the driver’s door.

“Yes, it’s—she’s right there. It’s a good thing I’m doing this now, too. She’s been behaving badly all morning,” Castiel says as he hands Dean the keys. “I think it may be worse than I originally thought.”

Dean can’t help the sympathetic hand he clasps over Castiel’s shoulder. “We’ll take real good care of her, you’ll see. She’ll be as good as new before you know it.”

Castiel gives the hand on his shoulder a swift glance, still with a smile on his face. Dean self-consciously swallows before taking his hand back. Castiel doesn’t seem to notice as he keeps talking.

“I think you should know… I don’t have that much money to spare. If whatever the problem is costs a lot to repair, I might have to abdicate and get rid of her.”

“What then? You’ll take the bus?”

The gummy smile Castiel gives him back is enough to make his insides quiver. God, he misses his friend. He misses the real Castiel, the powerful and kinda dorky angel, but he also misses the first dream version because underneath it all, it was still the Cas he knew.

“There’s nothing wrong with taking the bus, Dean. Of course, I’d prefer to keep my car, but I’ll be fine if I have to part with it. Or maybe I’ll put it in storage until I can pay for whatever’s wrong.”

“All right, don’t go and make any plans yet. Lemme take a look at her, maybe it won’t be so bad. You don’t mind if I take her for a drive? Get to know her a little bit?” Dean smiles when Castiel shakes his head. “You can wait in there. We’ve got those coffee pod things free of charge for our clients. I’ll come to see you the second I know what’s up, okay?”

“Thank you, Dean. Really.” He gives him another heartfelt smile before going back inside.

It doesn’t take all that long for Dean to find out Castiel’s car has major issues. He feels a bit bad, mostly because he knows Cas probably won’t be able to pay for everything that needs to be fixed. Although, if he were to be honest, he doesn’t think it’s all that worth it anyway. If Cas insists on keeping the El Camino, he’ll have to at least have the whole brake system replaced. That alone should amount to a nice bit of dough.

After his inspection – almost two hours later – he goes to find Castiel in the waiting room. He’s nursing a coffee and seems perplexed by something he’s reading from one of the old magazines lying around. He doesn’t look up when Dean comes in, but he definitely heard him. His gaze never leaves the magazine when he speaks.

“How important is lipstick for you, Dean?”

The question is enough to give Dean whiplash because Cas asked him that very same question once. Back when his mind was a little wonky after coming back from taking on Sam’s hallucinations. Which might be why he stops in his tracks as a dim-witted “Wha’?” passes his lips.

“Did you know most beauty products are still tested on animals to this day? And according to this article, they don’t make those poor creatures pretty in order to test out the products. They inject them with chemicals and make them go through all sorts of unthinkable tortures.” He closes the magazine to meet Dean’s gaze. “I can somewhat get behind testing when it has to do with life-saving research, like cancer and what not. But this? This is just stupid. And useless. And unnecessarily cruel.”

He puts the magazine down on the table, not looking to actually be waiting for an answer. Dean opts on saying nothing and instead beckons Castiel to join him at the counter as he goes to stand behind the computer. “Look, there’s quite a bit of work to be done, I won’t lie,” he starts, his fingers flying on the keyboard as he types in all of the car’s issues. “Making her one hundred percent safe to drive again is gonna cost you a bundle. I think you’d be better off selling her for parts and buying a new one. But if you insist on keeping her, you’ll at least have to do the brakes, man. It’s a miracle you haven’t crashed already.”

“How much are we talking about?”

“I don’t see you getting away with much less than a couple of thousand bucks.”

Castiel’s expression turns somber as he nods in understanding. “I was afraid of that. And that’s only for the brakes, you say?”

“Yup. But there’s much more work to be done. If you decide not to do anything else, you’ll be lucky if she’s still running when spring comes around.”

“So… if I do nothing but the brakes, she’s got about six months left in her?”

“If you’re lucky. I’m sorry, Cas.”

Watching him chew at his lower lip, Dean waits, giving him time to think things over. It takes a whole minute for Castiel to speak again.

“I could ask for more shifts at the restaurant, but I doubt it would do any good.” He looks up at Dean again. “I’ve been trying to find something better, but there’s nothing much out there. Not for what I can do, anyway.”

“And what is it you can do?”

Castiel shrugs. “I can’t say I excel in any particular fields, but I’ve had many jobs. Just nothing that means I’d get paid a whole lot, that’s for sure. The better paying job I had was a manager at  Gas-N-Sip. Did that for four years, until I moved here.

“Why did you leave?”

“Bad breakup and our friends chose the side that wasn’t mine. Thought I’d take this as an opportunity to spread my wings, so to speak. Finding a job first before leaving would have been ideal, I guess, but I felt adventurous.”

Son of a bitch! Dean can’t help but think. Of course, the guy would have experience managing a business. And he’s pretty sure that managing a Gas-N-Sip can’t be all that different from managing a garage. Hadn’t he been the one at the wheel – to some extent – he would have started to believe luck was on his side.

He needs to clear his throat before speaking again, working hard to keep the excitement at bay. “That’s quite the coincidence if you ask me,” he says, drumming his fingers on the countertop. “I gotta find a new manager for this place. You know, someone to work the books, handle the inventory and all that crap I really don’t wanna be doing.”

His head tilted to the side, Castiel squints at Dean. “Are you saying I should apply for the job?”

“Actually, I’m kind of offering you the job,” Dean says with a shrug.

“You don’t know me. Or my credentials. I could be lying to you.”

“I don’t think so, you look like a good enough guy. I usually can tell about that stuff. But we can do this in a more legit way if you prefer. Bring me your resume and I’ll look it over.”

“What does that job entail? And how much does it pay?”

The smile Dean gives Castiel is a wide one. “Look, it’s almost closing time. I was to suggest you leave the car here and I’d give you a lift home. Do you have somewhere to be in the morning?”

“I actually have somewhere to be tonight, and I can’t cancel. Are you saying I shouldn’t be driving my car at all?”

“I really don’t recommend it, but of course, it’s ultimately your choice. If you insist, I’ll just have you sign a little something so I’m not liable if something happens to you. Or we could have it towed to another garage if—”

“No! I mean, here is fine. Just didn’t think I’d have the bus tonight, but it’s okay.” Castiel smiles at Dean, just not as brightly as before.

“Look, I was to offer to drive you back home anyway. Where is it you need to be? I can drive you there instead.”

“I can’t ask this of you. Plus, I don’t need to be at the hospital before eight tonight. I’ll take the ride home, but then I’ll just take the bus.”

“The hospital?”

“I volunteer a couple of times a week.” This time, the smile on Castiel’s face is a fond one. “Tonight, I get to cuddle preemies… premature babies?”

Something inside Dean snaps. “Okay, that’s it! You and I are going to dinner and you’re going to be telling me everything there is to know about you. Then, I’ll tell you about the job, and then you’ll take it. After that, I’ll drop you off at the hospital. You okay with that?”

Castiel is squinting again. “Is everyone so eager to help around here or is it just you? You don’t even know me, Dean. I could be the most incompetent person in the world. You don’t know.”

“Seen you working, you’re not incompetent. And I desperately need a new manager.” He looks up at the clock. “We close in fifteen minutes and I’m hungry as all hell. Let’s go grab ourselves a couple of cheeseburgers and talk about it all.”

 

To be continued…

Chapter Text

Turns out Castiel didn’t need all that much more convincing. Half an hour later, they are sitting in a booth at Harvelle’s Roadhouse with Jo already taking their order.

Because of course, in Dean’s ideal world, Ellen and Jo are alive and kicking. Bill Harvelle, who Dean had never even met, is nowhere to be seen. Which means it’s the perfect occasion to see Bobby and Ellen be together the way they were in that Titanic -less reality. Bobby Singer, who once owned Dean’s garage alongside John Winchester, right up until they sold it to Dean.

If John and Mary like to drive cross-country in their RV now that they are both retired, Bobby spends most of his days at his wife’s Roadhouse , nursing cheap whiskey and chatting up the many regulars the establishment brings. Regulars like Rufus, Annie, and Pamela, to only name a few. Even Ash is there on a regular basis, almost as much as he was back in the real world.

“So, that’ll be two cheeseburgers, one heavy on the onions, with fries and a couple of drafts… anything else?”

Dean looks up at Jo and smiles. “I think that’s it. Cas?”

“Nothing to add, thank you.”

She winks at Castiel before going to put their order in.

“I think she likes you,” Dean says when he notices how Castiel keeps his gaze on her. Not that he’d like to see the both of them hooking up. It’d be like seeing his sister and brother getting it on and the thought is enough to leave some kind of bitter taste on the back of his tongue.

“She’s very cute, but a bit young… also, not really my type.”

Castiel stops there, leaving Dean to wonder what would be his type. He’s curious, but also a bit worried Cas could have been about to tell him he’s gay or something. Not that he would mind, not really, but it could mean that they might run into the same issues again. Castiel can’t go and fall in love with him again, Dean won’t allow it.

“So… tell me about that job of yours,” Castiel says after Jo has brought them their beers.

“I don’t think it’d be that much different from whatever you did at the Gas-N-Sip , honestly. You know… balancing the books, managing the inventory, organizing the schedules, a bit of customer service, and whatever else it is that managers do.”

“I know nothing about cars, Dean. I don’t think I could help your customers all that much.”

“No, I know… that’s what me and the guys are for. It would be more like directing the flow, I’d say. And a bunch of other stuff I could do myself if it didn’t bore me to death. I’d rather get my hands dirty, you know?”

Castiel chuckles, nodding his understanding. “I get it. I can’t imagine having to work on cars and having fun doing it. Numbers, though? I understand them. And I do like spreadsheets, and getting things organized.”

“And that’s exactly what we need. It would be your domain, you’d handle it in every which way you choose.” He takes a sip of his beer, thinking about how it’s been at the garage in that new version of his dream. “I’ve been putting this off for far too long and, well… Linda’s great and all but I won’t lie, she kinda scares me. And I can’t be scared of my own employees.”

“No, you certainly can’t,” Castiel agrees in a chuckle. “Now, the big question. How much does this job of yours pay? Although I’m hoping it’d be more than what I make at Biggerson’s . Also, how many hours a week would you expect me to work?”

“We’re open from seven to five every day of the week. On Saturdays, it’s from eight to three. On Sundays, I have someone on call for emergencies. As far as the manager job goes, it’s forty hours a week, Monday to Friday from eight to five. Or seven to four, if that suits you better. We’re adaptable. You get a one hour lunch, unpaid.”

“Your mechanics work seven to five every day? And you as well? Plus Saturdays and the occasional Sunday?”

“Nah, I’ll show you the schedule. I split the hours between my guys. My own schedule is a lot like the manager’s, on most days. There are at least two mechanics at the shop full time, including myself, more if we’re having a big week. They usually won’t say no to overtime when it’s necessary.”

“And how many mechanics work with you?”

“Full time? Only Garth and Benny, but I also got a couple of students that work part-time; Kevin and Krissy. Kinda hoping I’ll get to hire at least one of them once they’re done with school. I’m thinking that Krissy will wanna stay.”

“What about the salary?”

“Oh, yeah… hmm… I’d say twenty-four bucks an hour to start. How does that sound?”

He almost laughs when he sees Castiel’s eyes bug out. “Are you serious? That’s seven dollars more than what the Gas-N-Sip gave me, and I was there for four years! Are you messing with me?”

“Of course not. Why would I do that?”

“Nobody ever offers nice jobs with decent salaries to strangers, Dean. What’s the deal here?”

“There’s no deal, man. I need a manager, you’ve got experience… I mean, you know garages usually make more money than convenience stores, right? And it’s less than what my last manager made, too.” Dean leans forward, making sure to look Castiel in the eye as he speaks. “Don’t give me an answer now and just look it all up on the net, all right? See how much people usually get for that kind of job. Experienced managers can get up to forty bucks an hour, I’m sure. We’re just not a big place, and you don’t have that kind of experience yet. But I’m confident that you’ll pick it up real quick and then we can adjust. I’m not cheap, I pay my employees what they deserve.”

“What about my extracurricular activities?”

“What? Like the hospital thing? Whatever you do in your free time is your own business, Cas. As long as it doesn’t tamper with your work, I shouldn’t have a thing to say about it.”

Castiel nods as he takes out his phone. “If what you say is true, I might be able to find the information quickly, shouldn’t I?”

Dean looks on with a smirk while Castiel fiddles with his phone. When Jo brings their food, Castiel doesn’t look up but still thanks her, his eyes locked on the screen.

“So?” Dean asks around his first bite of cheeseburger. “Am I right, or am I right?”

“You’re right,” he admits in a sigh before shutting down the device and placing it on the table. “Still doesn’t explain why you’d give me that job. Looks like an important one, too.” As he waits for Dean to answer, he takes a huge bite of his own burger.

“As I said, I should have been trying to find someone for a while now. Linda keeps pestering me to find someone else so she can stop filling in. And, well, I’m lazy and keep putting it off. Now you’re here, you tell me you have managing experience, and you’re looking for a job. I’ve seen you work at Biggerson’s and you didn’t look like a slacker or anything. And I told you before, I’m rarely wrong about people.”

Especially when I’ve known them for years.

Dean’s little spiel seems to make its way home because Castiel’s demeanor relaxes minutely. “All right, there’s no harm in trying, I guess. When would you expect me to start if I accept your job offer?”

“Whenever’s good for you, but the sooner the better, I guess. Linda can’t wait to be done with us.”

“I could give my notice to Biggerson’s tomorrow, but they’ll probably expect two more weekends out of me. Would starting next Monday be too far for you?”

Dean takes a minute to think, counting on his fingers as he does. “That means you’d be signing up to work fourteen days in a row, not counting those visits at the hospital. That’s a whole lot, man. I have no trouble waiting another week if it helps any.”

“I’m not afraid of working hard. If you can trust that I won’t let you down, which I don’t intend to do, then I’ll gladly start this Monday. And, well… my car’s in dire need of repairs and I’m told it’ll cost a bundle.”

Dean lets out a chuckle. “See, that’s another reason why taking the job’s a good thing for you. There’s a substantial employee discount,” he says, cheeky. “I could even have the kids work on it as some kind of training exercise when there’s nothing else to do. If you’d be okay with that, I mean.”

“Now, if you had told me that up front, I would have accepted immediately,” Castiel says in a similar manner. “But seriously, thank you. I said it before and I’ll say it again, I won’t let you down. I mean, it doesn’t cost anything to at least try, does it?”

“No, it doesn’t… and I’m not worried,” Dean says, then stuffs a bunch of fries in his mouth.

For the first time since he’s been back under, Dean is hopeful that things might go back the way they once were. In the last fictitious year and a half, Castiel had been a part of Dean’s daily life, even more so than he’d been when they hunted monsters. Him and Sam, out there and in here, are Dean’s everything and he needs that to be true again. So if he has to promise Castiel the moon and stars for him to be in his life the way he needs him to be, then he’ll do it without even thinking twice about it.

 

To be continued…

Chapter Text

Of everyone at the shop, Linda has to be the most ecstatic to see Castiel be hired. She offers to stay with them for as long as it takes to show him the ropes, something Dean couldn’t be more grateful for. This may be his own dream, he doesn’t know what this particular position really entails. And he doesn’t want to bother with it either.

The week isn’t even over that Linda walks in Dean’s office without knocking, shutting the door to come and sit in front of him. As usual, there’s this commanding aura about her and he doesn’t dare to tell her she should have knocked. He instead shuts the lid of his laptop to give her his full attention.

“Linda… what can I do you for?” he says, amicable.

“Where did you find that guy?”

Dean’s heart sinks at Linda’s sharp tone. “What’s wrong? Is he—”

“Are you sure he’s never done this before? He’s like… I have close to nothing to show him, he’s been working on his own, without my help, all morning. It’s as if he’s been working here for years.”

“Well, he was a Gas-N-Sip manager. Maybe it’s not all that different.”

Linda nods, a concentrated frown on her face. She seems to be hesitating to speak her mind now, not something she usually bothers to do.

“What’s wrong, then? You look worried.”

“I noticed you boys get here and leave together on most days.”

“You helped him fill out his employment sheet, so you must know that he lives in my building, right? And we’re working on his car.”

She nods again, still frowning. “No, I know. I’m just… I wouldn’t want you to go through what you did with Lisa.” She looks up, locking their eyes together. “You can’t go and seduce another manager, Dean. Because it certainly didn’t do any good last time, did it?” She shakes her head. “I won’t be coming back here when this one decides to quit because you—”

It’s like a bowling ball dropping in Dean’s stomach. “Whoa… why would I… Cas is a guy and I don’t date guys. You know that, right?”

“I do have working eyes, Dean Winchester. Not only have I noticed that he’s a man, but I’ve also noticed the way you look at him.”

Not this shit again .

“I don’t think I look at him any differently than I look at any of you guys. You don’t all think I wanna bone you, do you?”

She purses her lips but doesn’t comment on that last part. “That’s just it, Dean. You look at him as if… as if you’ve known him your whole life. But he told me, you’ve only met him two weeks ago.” Linda isn’t frowning anymore, her features more relaxed as she considers him with what looks a whole lot like pity. “And I think he too has noticed, which could be a problem if you don’t actually feel that way about him. I mean… I don’t think he hates it, Dean. Please, don’t make him fall in love with you. He’s a nice guy, he doesn’t deserve to get his heart broken. Nor do you.”

“Come on, Linda. Why would he fall in love with me? Who says he even likes guys?”

“He does. We got to talking a bit.”

Dean needs to swallow before speaking again. “He told you he was gay?”

“Not in so many words, no. But I don’t think gender’s a bother for him. As in, he doesn’t care much about what’s in one’s pants.” She bats the air with her hand as if telling him to forget about what she just said. “Just be careful, is all I’m saying. You know you’re pretty, and it’s easy to think you might have an interest when you look at people with those bedroom eyes of yours.”

She doesn’t mind his gaping mouth and changes gears. “Anyway. I really came here to say that I don’t think you need me anymore. He’s more than ready to do the job without a chaperone. He has my number in case there’s anything I overlooked, but I don’t think I need to be back here tomorrow or Friday. Would you be okay with that?”

His brains still stuck on the previous subject, it takes a minute for Dean to get with the new program. “Huh… hmm… yeah, if you think he’s ready, then by all means…” He gets up to go hug her. “I’m so grateful you were there to help, Linda. And I’m sorry to have taken so long to find someone else.”

As he lets her go, she gently pats him on the shoulder. “Of course, Dean… I know it can’t have been easy to have Lisa leave the way she did. Without notice, too,” she adds, clucking her tongue. “Must be why they say one shouldn’t dip their pen in the company ink.”

She gives him a pointed look, which is enough to understand she’s not talking about Lisa anymore.

“Not to worry, Linda. Cas is cool and all, but he’ll never be anything other than a friend.” He winks at her. “Guess I’ll just have to dial down this natural charm of mine…”

She slaps his arm this time, even though she can’t hold some giggles. “You’re too cocky for your own good, Dean Winchester. Too damn cocky…”

She’s still giggling as she leaves Dean’s office, but he’s not paying attention to her anymore. His thoughts are back to what she said about Castiel, how Dean might be a bit too friendly and how that could equate to Cas eventually falling in love with him. Which, if he’s the one steering the wheel of his own damn dream, shouldn’t end up happening.

Because that’s not what Dean wants, to have Castiel be in love with him. Is it? 

Of course, it isn’t.

The fact that Castiel kissed him and made Dean feel the need to leave the sanctity of his dream should be reason enough to not want that to happen again. Whatever Stephanie said about it, Cas loving him isn’t something he wants. All Dean wants is his best friend back. With their lips keeping far, far, far apart.

Except he knows Linda is right to say Dean might be acting a little too affectionate with Cas. Because in this new reality, they indeed have known each other for a mere two weeks and Dean is already too comfortable around him. Once more, he wishes he could speak of it all with someone. Actually, he wishes he could speak about that crap to Charlie because, with Sam, those types of conversation always turn too sappy for his own taste. Just not as much as it would be if he tried talking with Mom.

He’s itching to call Charlie even though he knows he could never tell her the truth. Like everyone else, she doesn’t know that she’s not really there, that everything she knows is in Dean’s own mind. Unless…

He opens up his laptop to start up their preferred chat app. Charlie is already online and available, so he hits the video call button. It doesn’t take long for her to answer, her bright smile falling over him like a warm blanket.

“Hey, Dean! You’re lucky to catch me, I was on my way out.”

“I can call another time.”

“Nah, it’s fine. I can go for a beer and Cheetos supply run after we’ve talked.” She winks at him and laughs, which only serves to make his heart ache a little more.

The real Charlie is still out there in the real world, and Dean can only hope she’s staying far from anything monster-related. He knows he should have reached out to at least convince her to leave this life alone, but she would have seen right through him. She would have known he was up to no good and he couldn’t have risked it. Because she was the only one left in that world that could have changed his mind.

At least, he knows this Charlie is safe. And if he wishes it hard enough, maybe she will be open to listen and believe whatever he needs to say about the ‘outside’.

“What’s wrong? You look all gloomy.”

It takes Dean a minute to think of the right thing to ask. And as he speaks, he wonders if maybe he should have thought about it some more.

“What do you think about alternate realities? You believe they’re a thing?”

“Alternate realities? You mean like in that Fringe show?”

“Kinda… that, or… what about dream worlds?”

It doesn’t matter how hard Dean tries to mentally convey how Charlie should understand what he’s saying, she still squints at him and crosses her arms over her chest. She has no clue what he’s talking about, and she’s starting to look suspicious.

“Forget I asked, I was just curious.”

“No, hey, wait a minute! You call me during your work hours to ask about alternate realities and dream worlds, and you expect me to leave it at that? Do you even know me, Winchester?”

“It’s stupid. Forget about it, okay?”

“If you won’t talk to me now, then I’m showing my face at your place for dinner and we’re having Chinese.” She smiles, not even looking at him anymore. “You know what? Chinese sounds really good. I’ll be at your place at five thirty.”

“Don’t you work tonight?”

Charlie rolls her eyes, putting a fist in front of her mouth as she gives out a couple of weak coughs. “See? I’m sick. Can’t go to work. See you later,” she says, ending the call before he can object.

He knows he could call Charlie right back and beg her not to show up, but Dean really feels the need to see her. And he has a couple of hours to come up with a satisfying explanation for his weirdness. He soon finds out he might have been widely overestimating his mental capacities.

 

To be continued… 

Chapter Text

“Dean, I love you like a brother. That’s why I feel it’s my job to tell you that I think you’ve been working a little too much. Or that you stayed out in the sun for far too long. Dealer’s choice.”

Instead of answering, Dean takes a long sip of his beer. Charlie has her gaze on him, doing the same from her end of the sofa.

“It’s just a thought,” he says when he has nothing to drink anymore. He takes one of the boxes of Chinese takeout to pluck through it, not that he’s hungry.

“It’s a pretty intricate thought, don’t you think? A world where monsters are real, with one kind able to put people in some sort of coma that makes them dream while they’re being fed on. And by the way… eww!”

Dean shrugs and nods, knowing how crazy it sounds for someone who doesn’t know monsters are real. Real in the real world, that is.

“Look, I don’t mean to say you’re dumb, because you’re not, but it’s not like you to start wondering about alternate realities and all that stuff. Sam, okay, maybe I’d buy it… but you?” Charlie leans forward to grab one of the remaining egg rolls to nibble on it with a concentrated frown. “You know I’m all for that, but as entertainment. Like movies, tv shows, books, games; Whatever I can get my hands on. But I know it’s not real.”

Dean sighs, deflated. “No, I know. As I said, it’s just something I had in mind.” Clearly, he hadn’t wished hard enough, or whatever it was he could do to make people do what he wanted them to do. Or be what he wanted them to be. “It’s stupid.”

“Actually, it’s pretty far from stupid, Dean. If I didn’t know you any better, I’d think you were about to write us a book or something. I mean, if that’s what—”

“That’s not happening,” he says, chuckling. “Just forget I said anything, all right?”

She shook her head. “Can’t do that. All that alternate stuff aside, there’s still some real life parts to what you were telling me, isn’t there? That Castiel guy… I mean, the way you talk about him, it really does feel like you like him a whole lot. Like a whole, whole lot. Is that what’s going on?” She raises a single eyebrow at him. “Are you going through some sort of gay panic? You know I’m here for you, right? You don’t need to go and create yourself a fantasy world to try and explain those funny feelings in your undies.” As she says that, she twirls a finger toward his crotch.

Dean rolls his eyes. “Everyone seems to think I want to bump uglies with the guy. Can’t I just… like him and wanna be his friend? You and I are friends, Charlie. I like you a whole lot and we don’t have to wanna bone each other for that.”

Now, Charlie is squinting at him. “Seems like you forgot how we met, Winchester. Pretty sure when you asked for my number, it wasn’t because you thought we could be the best of pals.”

He shrugs because it totally makes sense that he would have done that. “What can I say? I see a pretty girl and I just can’t help myself.”

She raises her chin and flips her hair over her shoulder, smiling. “I know. I’m irresistible.” She chuckles, shoving the last of the eggroll in her mouth. “But I’m serious about that Castiel fellow. Are you sure there can’t be a little bit of… hmm… carnal interest in there?”

“I swear, Charlie, it has nothing to do with that. Call it a hunch, then. Instant kinship. Whatever else you wanna call it.”

“Maybe you knew him in a past life.”

Yeah, I did. “You believe in reincarnation?” he says, prudent.

“Without believing in it, I’m not saying it’s impossible. I mean, we don’t know what’s out there. Not really. Maybe you and Castiel were best buds in a past life. Or lovers. Or parent and child.”

It’s Dean’s turn to squint at her, wondering where that train of thoughts is coming from. As far as he knows, his Charlie isn’t into that kind of crap. Maybe this is how his wish to see her be open to other ‘realities’ is manifesting itself.

“What about you and me? You think we knew each other in a past life?” he asks, curious to know where this could be leading.

“I’ve read somewhere that theory about people having to find each other through their many lives. Just not always in the same manner. You could have been my mom in a past life. Or I could have been your dad. Real siblings, maybe. Souls gravitating towards each other, unable to let go.” Then, it’s like she’s realizing something. “Maybe Castiel is your soulmate.”

“Charlie, I told you, it’s not—”

“I don’t think soulmates always have to be romantic, Dean. You know, some people just need to be in each other’s life. That’s pretty much what you said before, didn’t you? That you knew Castiel ‘belonged’ in your life?”

Dean hardly notices Charlie’s use of finger quotes because she’s right, he can’t deny it. Dean said exactly that as he tried to explain himself without sounding too much like a lunatic. Apparently, that had been a fail, seeing as Charlie is now pretty much saying Castiel could be Dean’s soulmate and that they found their reincarnated selves… or something.

“I wonder if Castiel feels the same way you do. You should ask him.”

He lets out an amused snort. “That’s not happening.”

Charlie is now kneeling on the sofa, looking a little bit too excited for Dean’s comfort. “You really should, though. What if he also feels like he’s known you forever? I mean, this could be the proof that reincarnation is real. Can you imagine that?”

“Reincarnation is not real, Charlie.”

“How do you know, huh? You don’t know. Nobody knows.” Charlie sits back on her heels and huffs. “Because if it’s not reincarnation, then how do you explain it? That connection, or whatever it is you call it? It can’t be hormonal since you say you don’t want to date him.”

It’s exactly what I told you. I’ve known the guy for years, he’s just as good as dead, I’m in a djinn dream, and now I have to work to get him back in my life because I was a damn child before.

“It’s nothing, but if you wanna think it’s reincarnation or whatever, be my guest, I don’t care. Just… if—when—you meet him, just don’t go and be all weird and ask questions about me, or about soulmates and crap. Now that I found a manager for the garage, I’d rather you didn’t go and spook him away, all right?”

“Don’t you worry about me. If I ever decide to ask questions, he won’t even know that I’m doing it.”

“Charlie!”

Clearly, his warning tone doesn’t phase her one bit because she just shrugs and smiles. “I’ll be good, don’t get your panties in a bunch. So… when am I meeting this new friend of yours?”

“I don’t know. It’s not like we hang out or anything.”

“Didn’t you go to dinner with him?”

“To talk about the job. And his car.”

“Who paid?”

Dean lets out a triumphant “Aha!”, pointing a finger at Charlie’s face. “We each paid for our own stuff! Because it wasn’t a date!”

“So, you invite the guy to dinner to offer him a job, and you don’t pay for his meal? That’s an asshole move, Winchester. I mean, he just told you he had no money and—”

“He insisted, all right? I wanted to pay, but he wouldn’t have it.” He rolls his eyes when Charlie starts laughing. “But me paying wouldn’t have meant I fancied him. It’s just… like you said, I was there to offer him a job. Should’a been paying.”

Now sitting with her legs crisscrossed, Charlie keeps her gaze on Dean while she sips on her beer. There’s still a bit of mirth in there, but there’s even more warmth. “Maybe Linda’s not wrong,” she says, her voice gentle. “Maybe he insisted to pay for his own meal because he thought you might have an interest.”

“I don’t.”

“You keep saying that. But you clearly do.” She raises a hand to stop him from arguing. “Not saying your interest is romantic, Dean, but it’s there. Which is why you should talk to him before it’s too late, clear the air. He needs to know that your interest in him is platonic. Especially if he’s not against dating guys.”

Dean doesn’t answer immediately, getting up to go grab a couple of beers from the fridge. He pops them open before coming back to the living room, handing one to Charlie as he sits back down.

“Girls don’t have that problem, do they?” he asks. When Charlie doesn’t answer, he looks up to see her with a confused expression on her face. “I mean, girls can just meet anywhere, start chatting and decide to go out, meet for coffee, and just… be friends, right? Why can’t guys do that?”

“First of all, most of the time, girls I’ll be chatting up, I have an interest in. But I kinda get what you mean… I’ve become friends with girls that had no interest in me or my gender. A lot like you and I did.”

“See? It’s easy for you. Guys, if we don’t meet at school, or at work, or through friends, we don’t just… decide to hang out and be best buds. It’s weird.”

“I don’t think it’s weird at all. You may be the one who finds it weird.”

“Because it is.” He huffs, annoyed. “You don’t get it, you’re a girl. Guys have sex on the brain pretty much twenty-four seven so of course, they’ll think another guy trying to know them only wants to get in their pants.”

“If that’s true, then you really should talk to Castiel. And thanks for giving me yet another reason to be gay. Not that I needed one.”

Dean shrugs again because there’s nothing he can say. Guys are pigs, himself included. Well, he does respect women, he doesn’t harm or abuse them. He still won’t bother with calling them back the next day. Most of the time. And of course, some guys are the exception, like Sam. Probably because Sam’s a big girl which is why he’ll be all romantic and shit.

“Yeah… okay, fine. I’ll talk to Cas. Tomorrow.”

 

To be continued…

Chapter Text

Dean never talks to Castiel.

When he told Charlie he would, he had meant it, even though he might have been a bit drunk at the time. The next morning, he couldn’t find the will to call Castiel to his office and make things clear with him, promising himself to do it the next day instead.

He didn’t do it then either. Now, it’s two months later, and it’s been long enough for Dean to kind of forget he once thought of doing so. Because everything is running smoothly. They’re not as close as they once were, and Dean knows it might never happen again, but Castiel is there. He gets to see him every day of the week, they chat, shoot the shit, getting to know one another. It’s easy and simple, and there’s nothing weird hovering over their heads.

It’s as close to perfect as it’s ever going to get. Which is why Dean believes the time has come to step it up a notch.

“So? Watcha doing this weekend?” he asks as he drives them both back to their apartment building. Castiel’s car is still in the shop, now serving as Krissy’s and Andy’s own personal school projects.

“Don’t really have plans. I did sign up to go to the hospital on Saturday evening.”

“Really? On a Saturday night?”

“Patients don’t get days off, Dean. Comfort is needed around the clock.”

Castiel’s tone is firm but carries not heat. He’s right, and Dean can only admire him for his dedication to helping others. Something he knows was an intricate part of the real Castiel. Even though sometimes he could be damn clumsy about it.

“And you? What are you doing this weekend?”

“I’m having people over Saturday and thought you might have liked to come over.” He glances to see Castiel looking at him with interest. “It’s nothing big. We just like to hang out and play games. My brother’s gonna be there, his girlfriend Sarah, my friends Charlie and Jo. Benny and Garth will be coming, too.”

“What kind of games do you play?”

“Depends… it can be anything from charades to poker, to Super Mario Kart . But mostly, we eat a whole lot of food, shoot the shit, and get kinda drunk.” Even though in this version of the dream, Sam tries a whole lot to make Dean pace himself when it comes to alcohol. Something Dean won’t do because he’s a fucking grown-up and doesn’t drink all that much anyway.

“That sounds like fun. Maybe I could drop by before going to the hospital. I just won’t be drinking much of anything, of course.”

Dean nods, a smile on his face. “Yeah, you definitely should stop by… people start getting to my place around five. We decide on what to have for dinner, and then we hang out until pretty late in the night.” He chuckles. “There’s always someone that’s gonna pass out on the couch. We usually have a bet going around as to who it’ll be.”

“And you do this often?”

“About once a month, I’d say. So, you know… if you feel like joining in, you’re invited.”

Castiel doesn’t give Dean a definite answer then, but he does show up. He’s the last guest to knock on his door the next day, Dean opening to find him standing there with a gummy grin and holding a dish filled to the brim with loaded nachos.

“Hello, Dean,” he says. “Where can I put this? It’s pretty hot,” he adds, showing off the casserole he’s holding with oven mitts.

Dean points at the coffee table. “I’ll go get a trivet, gimme a sec,” he says before running off to the kitchen. He’s back the next second, making room on the table to put a wicker pad down. “Right there. You know you didn’t need to bring anything, right?”

“I know, but what can I say? My mom would be spinning in her grave if I dared to go anywhere empty-handed,” he says, putting the dish down while Dean shuts the door.

“See? This guy was raised right,” Dean says to the people sitting around his living room.

“I beg your pardon!” Charlie says, falsely miffed. “I brought chips. And dip.”

He rolls his eyes. “Because that’s what you like to eat. You bring that for yourself.”

“I let you guys have some.”

Castiel has just put the dish on the table that he finds himself wrapped in Charlie’s arms. “So glad to finally meet you, Cas,” she says brightly. “I’ve been telling Dean to invite you for a while now. And don’t listen to him, I fully intend on honoring your dish,” she adds, plucking a chip from the casserole to blow on it before putting it in her mouth.

“So? Who here doesn’t know Castiel?” Garth asks, coming to stand next to him. “He’s the new Li—the new manager. At the garage,” he says, prompting everyone to say hello. “So, Cas, the spunky redhead hanging onto your arm, that’s Charlie.”

“Hey,” she says with the biggest smile on her face. “You’re even prettier than I thought you’d be.”

“As if you didn’t look him up on the Internet already,” Dean says as he comes back from the kitchen again, this time to hand Castiel an open beer. “Pretty sure she knows all there is to know about you.”

“And then some,” she adds with a wink. “I totally knew you were pretty.”

“Okay, enough.” Dean unhooks Charlie from Castiel and gently guides her back to where she sat before. “You know everybody else, right?”

Castiel looks around the room, his gaze stopping on Sarah. “Maybe not everybody.”

Dean clasps a hand over Garth’s shoulder. “Mind if I take over?”

Su casa, hombre.

Garth sits back down while Dean leads Castiel toward his brother. “You’ve seen Sam before, right? My brother?” Castiel nods. “This is his girlfriend, Sarah.”

They both shake Castiel’s hand, smiling.

“You met Charlie, and you’ve seen Jo before.”

“Hello, Jo. Nice to see you again.”

“Same here,” she says, taking the offered hand to shake it. “Feels kinda nice to have someone bring me some food for a change,” she adds, grabbing a handful of the nachos to put them on a paper napkin.

Dean looks around the room. “That’s pretty much it,” he says. “You already know everyone else. Welcome to game night, Cas.”

“Hear! Hear!” Benny says, raising his beer. Everyone answers in kind, all raising their bottles or glasses to salute the newest addition to their group.

It’s only a couple of hours later that Castiel has to excuse himself to leave. There’s a bit of heat in his cheeks when he gets another salute made of raised drinks as a goodbye. Dean chuckles as he leads him to the door.

“So? Think you’ll join us next time?” he asks.

“You just try and keep me away,” Castiel answers, beaming. “I had a lot of fun, Dean. Thank you for inviting me.”

“Not a problem. Means you’re part of the family now, Cas. You’re stuck with us.”

When he sees the small flicker of light in Castiel’s eye, Dean’s mouth goes dry, and his heart starts racing in his chest. Is Castiel developing some sort of crush? The souvenir of the kiss makes his lips tingle, and he can feel his hands getting clammy. He swallows, trying to will away the memories.

“We’re all great friends, you’ll fit right it,” he chooses to say, hoping Castiel will understand. He can’t know for sure romantic infatuation is in the works, but he can’t be taking any chances.

The smile on Castiel’s face doesn’t falter. He nods, then opens the door. “Thank you. I had a really nice time.” He turns to the others to wave at them. “Have a nice evening, guys. See you all again soon, I hope.”

As everyone answers back to him, Castiel gets out, leaving Dean to close the door on him. He’s rattled enough to feel the need to go hide in the kitchen, his heart beating a little too fast. He’s holding onto the counter, bent on ignoring the call of the knife when he hears someone coming in behind him.

“Are you okay?”

Charlie.

“Yeah, I’m good.” He turns to give her the biggest smile he can muster. “If I made coffee, would you want any?”

“Coffee? What’s wrong with you, Dean? There’s plenty of beer left, and Benny just broke out the bourbon.”

He shrugs as he starts preparing the percolator. “Dunno… I feel like having some coffee for some reason.”

She comes to stand next to him if only to be able to look him in the eyes. “I know you, Winchester… what’s wrong?”

Dean’s bravado deflates, and he sighs. “I think he’s falling in love with me.” Again.

He doesn’t need to say any more than that.

“What makes you say that? He looked pretty normal to me. Friendly.”

“It’s the way he looked at me when he left. Like… a little too fondly, I’d say.”

Charlie chuckles as she jumps to sit on the counter, right next to the coffee machine. She closes the lid and presses the button for him. “I don’t wanna burst your bubble, but I’d say you were the one looking at him ‘a little too fondly’.”

“No, I wasn’t.”

“Yeah, you were. Are you sure you’re not the one with the crush, Dean? Because I swear, I haven’t noticed him be all that different with you. I mean, he stares a lot, but he does that to everybody, not just you.” She tilts her head. “You never talked to him, did you? Because if you had, you—”

“I didn’t, okay? Didn’t know how to do it, and then I kinda forgot about it. Didn’t think I’d have to. And no, I don’t have a crush, Charlie. I like the guy, but only as a friend.”

She jumps off the counter. “Fine, I’ll stop bugging you. But if you ever wanna talk…”

“Yeah, yeah, I know, thanks. But I’ll be okay… maybe I’ll talk to him this week, make sure we’re on the same page.”

 

To be continued…

Chapter Text

The next time everyone gets together for game night, it’s a little over a month later, and Dean still hasn’t spoken to Cas about the very nature of their relationship. Or what he feels said-relationship should consist of. Mostly because, like before, he doesn’t know how to start up that conversation. And since he finds Castiel isn’t acting any differently than he was before, he comes to believe he had been mistaken.

Having been told in advance there would be a game night that Saturday, Castiel didn’t take a shift at the hospital. What he did instead was come down early to help set things up, bringing all he needed to prepare his nacho casserole; It had been a huge hit. When Dean got home from work, they ended up making the dish together.

The slight domesticity of it all never hits Dean, not until Garth starts asking questions.

“The nachos are even better this time around, Cas. Did you do something different?”

Dean’s brain comes to a screeching halt at Castiel’s answer.

“Dean helped me prepare them. They’re fresh out of the oven, so they didn’t have time to get too soggy.”

“Dean helped you? When did you even get here?”

While Castiel doesn’t look bothered by the turn the conversation is taking, Dean can feel the tip of his ears warming up.

“About an hour before Dean came home. I offered to help in making the place ready since he had to work today…”

“It’s not like any of you ever offers,” Dean interjects, hoping to shift the topic toward something that isn’t whatever is about to go down.

Still, it’s a blatant lie, and he knows it. Everybody always helps clean up before leaving, so the scowls he gets in response are well-deserved. Ignoring them is easier than not.

“So what? You’ve got a key now?”

Dean’s head whips around, his gaze throwing daggers at Sam. “No!” he says over Castiel’s “Just for today.”

Everyone turns to Dean when he gets to his feet, pointing at no one in particular as he speaks. “Okay, that’s it! If you’re gonna be all judgemental about me and Cas being friends and him helping me out, then we can just do game night at one of your places for once. I really don’t need this third-degree crap!”

Silence falls over the room, everyone looking a bit shocked by Dean’s outburst. It’s Charlie who dares speaking first.

“Dean, nobody’s judging here.” Her tone is soft, placating. “Nobody cares that you gave him—lent him—your key? We all know you were working today.” She looks around the room and shrugs. “I wouldn’t mind hosting game night once in a while. It’s just… you’ve always been the one to do it. Can’t speak for everyone here, but I didn’t want to step on your toes or anything.”

There are a couple of hums around the room, some nodding their heads while giving each other perplexed glances.

Dean’s own eyes are scrunched close when he wipes a hand over his face, deflated. “Shit… I know, I’m sorry—I just—guess I’m tired, is all. Big day at the office… you know how it is.”

If most seem to be accepting of his reasoning, he still can see the hint of suspicion in both Charlie’s and Sam’s eyes. He – again – decides to ignore it in favor of initiating the dinner discussion.

It doesn’t take long for everyone to agree on fried chicken. To Dean’s relief, the previous subject seems to be forgotten about as they start arguing about the first game they should be playing. It takes longer this time, the room eventually dividing itself into two groups of four: One that’s all about poker while the other wants to play Uno.

This is how Dean spends most of the evening not talking to Castiel all that much. Even when most people stopped playing games in favor of just chilling out and drinking, they’re at opposite ends of the room. Dean sits between Jo and Charlie while Cas hangs out with Sam and Sarah. Two of three bouts of conversation that never meet up, up until people start cleaning up and leaving.

Soon, there’s only Dean and Castiel left, the space between them filled by Charlie’s soft snores as she naps on the sofa. For the first time since the evening started, they are basically alone together. Without a word, Dean moves to the kitchen to load up the dishwasher while Castiel follows to wash up the pyrex dish he had brought over.

“I really had a nice time,” Castiel eventually says, cutting through the thick silence between them. Dean gives him a quick glance, a small smile on his lips, but keeps quiet. There’s a long pause before Castiel clears his throat and speaks again.

“I’m sorry if you were embarrassed that your friends knew I was here earlier. I shouldn’t have assumed it would be okay to tell them.”

This time, Dean stops what he’s doing to face Cas. “I wasn’t embarrassed.”

“You could have fooled me, Dean.”

He knows that this is the perfect overture Dean needs to have that overdue talk. Still, he can’t will the words to pass his lips.

“Am I wrong to assume that you know about me? About the fact that I have no gender preferences when it comes to dating?”

Dean can only shrug as he dips his head, hoping to hide the heat blossoming in his cheeks.

“I know you’re heterosexual, Dean. Everybody with eyes and a brain knows that. There’s no way anyone could ever think you’re interested in dating a guy.” He grins as he moves to catch Dean’s eyes with his. “Even if said guy is as pretty as me. Just quoting Charlie, here.”

It’s enough for Dean to throw his head back and laugh. Before long, Castiel is laughing just as much, holding onto the counter with a hand splayed over his belly. As tears start rolling down his cheeks, Dean tries to reason himself on how what Cas said wasn’t that funny, but he’s stuck, and he can’t stop.

“What’s so funny? Is everybody gone already?”

Charlie’s sudden appearance in the kitchen is what helps them start calming down.

“Yup, they’re gone,” Dean says once he’s able to speak again. “You don’t have to go. The couch is yours if you want it.”

She yawns as she comes to give Dean a hug, then does the same to Castiel. “Nah, thanks… I’ll go home.” She waves a hand between the both of them, yawning again. “Don’t wanna get in the middle of whatever’s going on here.”

“Nothing’s going on,” Dean says, making sure not to sound too bothered. “But are you sure you can drive back home? If you wanna go, I’d rather you take a cab or something. I’ll pay.”

“I agree with Dean, Charlie. You shouldn’t be driving if you’re tired.”

“I’m fine, guys,” she says before yawning again. “I live ten minutes away. I’ll be tucked in bed before you know it.” As she speaks, she goes back to the main room to grab her jacket and messenger bag from the entry closet. Only Dean follows her, Castiel staying in the kitchen to finish cleaning up.

“You better send me a text when you get home, all right?” he says. “Or maybe I should just drive you.”

“Dean, I took a nap and everything. I swear, I’ll be okay.”

He huffs and rolls his eyes. “Fine. Still, text me!”

“I’ll text you, mom! Promise.”

Charlie gets on her tiptoes to kiss Dean’s cheek and hug him again. “Plus, if we’re in a dream world or whatever, I shouldn’t die in a horrific car accident unless you want me to, right?” she says low next to his ear.

Startled, he grabs her by the shoulders and gently pushes her away to look her in the eye “What?”

“You know… that dream world theory you told me about? Let’s say it’s real…” It is. “Then nothing should ever happen to anyone you love, right?”

“But it’s not real,” Dean says. It’s more of a question than an affirmation, even though it doesn’t sound like it.

“Sadly… can you imagine all the things you could do if it were? You could do anything you want, and there would be little to no consequences. You could decide to make yourself a billionaire and never work another day in your life. You could decide to make me a billionaire. You could—”

“Is that what you want?”

She doesn’t let him interrupt her. “You could decide to hang out with your idols. Imagine being best buds with Robert Plant, or Harrison Ford?” The more she speaks, the more excited she gets. “Star Wars could be real! You could be riding shotgun in the Millenium Falcon . Dude!”

She starts punctuating her speech by jamming a finger in his chest. After the fourth poke, it’s starting to hurt. He’s about to tell her to stop when she becomes serious again, locking their eyes together.

“You could even try stuff you’ve never tried before and see if you like it. And if you don’t, then no harm, no foul. Nobody ‘in the real world’ would ever know that you dipped your toes in the bisexual pool or something.”

Dean almost chokes on his tongue. “Charlie! What the hell?”

Her smile is soft, understanding. “What do you have to lose, Dean? If none of this is real?”

He doesn’t know what’s more shocking: That Charlie seems to believe him now, or that she thinks Dean should be trying something with Cas. Because of course, this is about Cas. Everything is always about Cas.

Dean would love to object more than he has so far, which is basically not at all, but nothing comes.

Probably because he is forced to admit she might be on to something.

 

To be continued…

Chapter Text

When the sun comes up on Sunday morning, Dean is still wide awake. He went to bed shortly after Charlie and Castiel left, but he never fell asleep. He couldn’t, not after what Charlie said.

He hates it, but he knows she’s right: Dean could do anything he wants in here. Nobody is really there to see what’s going on. He’s not sure how he could go and make his world a science-fiction haven, but he indeed could decide to do things he never let himself consider doing in the outside world.

Since going to bed, images of his and Castiel’s relationship have been playing out inside his eyelids. How so quickly, years ago, it evolved into one of trust and friendship. Or love, rather. Because Dean is no dummy, he knows he loves Castiel. Just like he knows he loves his brother, and Charlie, and his parents, and anyone else that’s sharing his dream life, all to different degrees.

And at the same time, he knows not everyone is the same. Loving his brother, his parents, or even Charlie, is different. It doesn’t matter that he loves them all fiercely, there’s no way there could ever be a sexual inkling. That line is anything from blurry: they’re family, and he doesn’t have an incestuous bone in his body.

That’s where Castiel is different. If Dean considers him family, there’s still this little je-ne-sais-quoi that prevents him from seeing the angel as a true to form brother. The relief he felt when he got Castiel back from Purgatory after losing him (again) should have been far too intense to be dismissed. Yet, he found a way to do it. He convinced himself that he was just glad to see him again, to know that he was alive. Like he was when he found out Sam was alive after having jumped into the cage.

The more he thinks about it, the more Dean has to realize that this is only half the truth. He closes his eyes again, going back to that moment he found Castiel in Purgatory after searching for a whole year. All Dean wanted to do at that moment was hold him and never let go. When he allowed himself to touch his stubble, what he actually wanted to do was cradle his face and… kiss him.

“Shit!” he lets out when the idea of kissing Castiel sends an electric choc downward. “This can’t be happening,” he adds under his breath, pressing the heel of his hand over his crotch hard enough to make his eyes sting.

Remembering Castiel coming out of the bathroom in that motel, looking like his old self with his face bare and his clothes clean sends another spark to his cock. He moans, equally aroused and devastated.

The memory that breaks him into giving in to his urges is that ill-fated kiss, the one Castiel planted on him after they watched Raiders. He presses his fingers to his mouth, calling back the feeling of those plush lips on his. As he dips his other hand below the hem of his boxers, he regrets not having more than a second of him and Cas touching to think about as he makes himself hard.

It’s easy to imagine he’s getting a blow-job – he’s gotten more than a few – and it’s just as easy to imagine the mouth giving it is Castiel’s. He’s too far gone to feel ashamed about this or the fact that he comes in his underwear in two minutes flat.

His sticky hand now resting low on his belly, Dean is panting, his gaze fixed on the shadows of trees dancing on the ceiling. There are tears in his eyes and a lump in his throat. He doesn’t want to swallow it down, as if it would make everything a little too real.

Still, he feels the need to pinpoint the exact moment his feelings for Cas might have started shifting this way. Was it back in the real world? Or was it when their lips met in that stupid dream of his?

It was neither. There’s no need to try and ignore that it happened way before that.

Of all things, it was how hurt he was by Castiel’s betrayal right before the whole Leviathan clusterfuck that should have been his most significant clue. When Castiel slipped up about Superman and kryptonite, Dean distinctly remembers his heart breaking into a million pieces. Had it been anybody else – safe for Sam or Bobby, of course – he would probably have killed them without a second thought.

But not Castiel. Never Castiel. Not even with all the shit he has pulled over the years did Dean ever really consider killing him. He may have said it, but it was never true.

Dean doesn’t even try to stop the tears from spilling. He loves Castiel more than he believes he should. Otherwise, why the hell would the bastard be so crucial to his well being? Every time they lost him, Dean went into a downward spiral. It wouldn’t be too far fetched to believe that he just can’t live without Castiel.

Now, does he really want to go and hook up with him? Physically? Could he even do that? Or would he humiliate himself when he has to admit that getting dirty with a guy isn’t something he can do?

He groans when the idea makes his insides tingle again; Okay, maybe it wouldn’t be so bad. And then he huffs, remembering the mess in his underwear.

He needs a shower, and he needs coffee.

Five minutes later, he’s standing under the warm spray, wondering if he should call his brother to cancel their breakfast date. He soon dismisses the idea, knowing doing so would no doubt make Sam start asking questions, and when he does that, he’s damn impossible to stop. Dean doesn’t want to deal with that. Not today, and possibly not ever.

But of course, Dean’s never as lucky as he’d like, not even in his dream life. Unwanted concern is the first thing that passes Sam’s lips when he joins him at his place.

“Damn, Dean. What’s wrong with you? You look like you’ve been to Hell and back.”

Deflecting is easier. “Yeah, well, most days you look like crap on toast and I ain’t sayin’ a thing about it.”

Sam huffs back at him, his hands up in a placating motion. “Sorry, just meant that you look—”

“Awful? Yeah, got it the first time. Let’s go get breakfast. I’m starving.”

There’s a knock on the door at the same moment, halting Dean’s motion to open it. He sends a confused frown Sam’s way who just shrugs, just as clueless. Finding Castiel standing on the other side is almost enough for Dean’s heart to jump out of his chest.

“Cas?” he says, dumbly.

Castiel has a soft smile on his face as he wiggles his fingers at both him and Sam. “Good morning, Dean. Sam.”

“Good morning, Cas,” Sam says while Dean clears his throat.

“Did you want something?” Dean says, then blushes. “I mean… morning, Cas. It’s just—we’re on our way to go get breakfast, and—”

Castiel glances at Sam before looking back at Dean. “I just wanted to talk to you about something, but it can wait.” He smiles, and Dean could swear Castiel’s eyes shifted to his mouth, if only for a microsecond. “Have a nice day,” he adds as he goes to leave.

“Hey, Cas! Why don’t you come with us?”

With Castiel watching him intently, Dean can’t turn to scowl at his brother. Having Castiel around right now would probably not help make sense of the mess in his brain. At the same time, he kind of hopes Cas will accept.

“That’s nice of you, Sam, but I’m on my way to the hospital. I’m also having breakfast with a friend.” He pauses for a full second, a second during which Dean has to stop himself from asking a thousand questions about said friend. Castiel speaking again saves Dean from himself. “If you want, you could join us. I don’t think it would be a problem.”

This time, Sam asks Dean for his opinion on the matter at hand. “I wouldn’t mind going to a new place. Dean? What do you think?”

The hope in Castiel’s and Sam’s eyes is enough for Dean to agree. It has nothing to do with wondering who the ‘friend’ might be. Because as far as he knows, the real Castiel, the one out there in the real world, he had nobody beside Dean and Sam. And anytime Castiel thought he had other friends, they would fuck him over.

Because as a general rule, or so Dean believes, angels make the shittiest of friends.

Soon, the three of them are sitting in the Impala with Castiel in the backseat, guiding Dean to that new restaurant. It doesn’t matter that it ends up being some health-focused joint – it’s adjacent to the hospital – Dean is still over the moon to be getting a semblance of his old dream life back.

Even seeing the stars in Sam’s eyes as he peruses the menu doesn’t make him want to bitch and mock him: All he can think about is how good it feels to have his knee resting against Castiel’s as they sit at the small bistro table. It’s not on purpose, of course not, but he still doesn’t want to move away. He relishes in it, his heart stammering in his chest.

“So? Where’s your friend?” he hears Sam ask.

Oh, right! Castiel has a friend. Dean keeps his gaze on his menu, trying to find the greasiest option while listening intently.

“She should be here soon,” Castiel says. Dean hopes it would be reassuring that said friend is a girl, but it’s common knowledge by now that Castiel doesn’t care about someone’s gender.

“She cute?”

The question fell from Dean’s lips before he could stop it. Castiel doesn’t have time to answer that an all-too-familiar voice answers.

“You damn better say I am, Clarence.”

It doesn’t matter that Dean perfectly knows who spoke, he still prays he won’t be finding Meg Masters in her latest meat suit standing there when he decides to look up.

When he does, chills – and not the fun kind – trickle down his spine.

“Son of a bitch!”

 

To be continued…

Chapter Text

“So, you’re the infamous Dean Winchester,” Meg says after sitting down, not looking as shocked by Dean’s reaction as Castiel or Sam do.

“Infamous?”

“Or famous, whatever. Just to say I’ve heard a whole lot about you.”

“You did?”

Dean knows he sounds like a dim-witted fool right now, but the fact that this particular demon would make an appearance in his ‘perfect life’ is almost enough to suspect he’s not controlling shit anymore. Or if he is, he’s been down under long enough to start going crazy. Stephanie said it; they don’t really know what can happen when someone gets tapped on for a long time.

“This little angel here doesn’t have that many topics of conversation he excels at, but Dean Winchester certainly is one of them.”

“Angel?” It’s like his brain is slowly dying.

Meg rolls her eyes as she goes to kiss Castiel’s cheek, then wipes off the traces of lipstick from his skin. “This guy has the magic touch, I tell you. Whenever you put babies in his arms, they calm down almost immediately. And all the patients love him. He’s a godsend, really.”

Meg sends Castiel the most admirative gaze. Dean’s fingernails dig into his palms.

“You’re a volunteer, too?” Sam asks. Dean opts to go back to his menu, hating the sight of Castiel and Meg being all cozy together.

“No, I’m a nurse, I work here,” she says. “And Clarence here is by far my favorite boy.”

Dean can feel the tick in his jaw, and if Sam kicking him under the table is anything to go by, he’s noticed it. Dean looks up to find his brother with that signature bitchy look on his face. He rolls his eyes and goes back to the menu. “There’s nothing to eat here,” he says, both because it’s true, and because it’s plausible that the poor choice of food would be making him pissy.

“You’re crazy,” Sam says, seemingly convinced. “There are too many good things; I have no idea what to order.”

“I don’t know if you like fish, but their smoked salmon avocado toast is divine,” Castiel provides, smiling. “That’s what I’m having, anyway.”

“That does sound really good,” Sam says in a hum. “What about you, Meg?”

“I’m having the sweet potato scramble, it’s—”

“Where’s the bacon?” Dean says, genuinely at a loss now. He’d like to bitch about how this place sucks ass, but Castiel getting into his personal space to point at a dish in his menu is enough to make most rational thoughts evaporate.

“They have turkey bacon… I know it’s not the same, but it’s still nice. I think this dish here could be a good match for you.”

Dean licks his lips, his eyes on Castiel’s finger rather than what he’s pointing. “Yeah, okay,” he says, his gaze following the finger when it moves away. The next fifteen minutes, he spends them in some kind of fog, which might explain why he gets to be surprised by the bowl that is placed in front of him later.

“What the hell…” he mutters as he considers the mess he’s just been served.

“It’s the turkey bacon breakfast bowl you let me order for you. One of the fattest dish they have. Only, it’s good fats instead of the nasty kid.”

“It’s a fucking salad, Cas. Where’s the so-called fat?”

Castiel dips his fork into Dean’s dish to stab around, soon presenting him with a mix of avocado, turkey bacon, and some kind of nut. “All of these, Dean. Those are good fats, much better for you.”

“Still looks like a salad…”

Castiel starts stabbing around in Dean’s bowl again, getting a much bigger bite. “I swear, it’s delicious. Try it,” he says, aiming the fork at Dean’s mouth. As he gets closer, Dean moves back.

“Quit being a damn baby, Dean,” Sam says, right over Meg’s “Your boyfriend’s a drama queen, Castiel.”

“Not his boyf—”

Dean doesn’t have time to finish that Castiel shoves the forkful in his mouth. He has no other choice than to bite down and start chewing. The quicker he does this, the faster it’ll be swallowed and forgotten about.

“So?” Castiel says, looking a bit smug.

“Leafy,” Dean replies around his mouthful, which is a total lie seeing as there’s nothing even resembling lettuce in the bowl. He certainly can’t admit that the thing tastes good, can he?

“Hey… at least, you tried.”

He shrugs, taking his own fork to start digging in the bowl. “It’s not so bad, Cas. Not my kind of stuff, but I’m too hungry to care right now,” he says as he forks another bite in his mouth. There’s a little flutter in his belly when Castiel gives him a pleased smile back.

“So… I know all about Dean-O, but what about you, Sam? What does a tall glass of fresh water like yourself do for a living? Are you single? Gay? Hetero? Bi? Are you into sex at all?” Meg says, giving him an appreciative once over.

Sam laughs and wipes his mouth before answering. “I’m a lawyer, and I do have a girlfriend. Her name is Sarah.”

“And how come Sarah’s not here with you? I would have loved to meet her… she must be stunning. I mean, just look at you.”

Sam’s face may be crimson red at this point, Dean knows he’s still pleased.

“She’s gorgeous, yeah… she likes to sleep in on Sundays. Since I always wake up early, I go for a run and have breakfast with my brother. It’s become some sort of tradition.”

“What about your folks? Sunday brunch at mom and pop’s aren’t a thing for you?”

With Meg clearly under Sam’s spell, Dean starts zoning out. And in doing so, his gaze locks on Castiel whose attention is on Meg and Sam. It’s as if he’s seeing him for the first time, which is all sorts of ridiculous, but he can’t take his eyes from his profile as he analyzes – appreciates – it. There’s nothing out of place; everything is sharp, and straight, and nice, and—

Sam snapping his fingers in his face is what breaks the spell. He turns to scowl at him.

“What?”

“You looked lost there, Dean. Are you sure you’re okay? Did you drink yourself silly after we all left?”

Dean harrumphs then goes to eat more of his breakfast, but the bowl is empty. “Huh…” He drops the fork noisily as he leans back in his chair. “I didn’t drink myself silly, no. How do you not know I don’t drink all that much? When’s the last time you saw me drunk, man?”

“You weren’t sober last night.”

“Nobody was sober last night. That’s what we do. But nobody was drunk either. Not even me, little brother.”

“Charlie and I stayed a bit longer than you did. I can assure you Dean didn’t drink.”

Sam squints at Dean. “So what’s with you, then?”

Dean shrugs, crossing his arms over his chest. “I didn’t sleep, all right?”

It’s Castiel’s turn to squint at Dean. “You didn’t? How come? Is everything all right?”

“Can’t a guy be an insomniac in peace in these parts? Jeez!” Dean’s movements are sharp as he takes out his wallet to drop a couple of twenty dollar bills on the table. “This should be enough, my treat… I’m really tired. I think I’ll go back home and try to get some zzz’s. Early day tomorrow.”

Going around the table to shake hands with Meg might be one of the hardest things he’s had to do in a long time. His old hunter instincts might be tingling, he still has to shove them down. This version of Meg Masters is not a demon, and he has no real reason to hate her. Even in the real world, she kind of redeemed herself when she kept an eye on Cas after he took on Sam’s crazies.

“Nice to meet you,” he says, and if the light in her eye is anything to go by, she knows he’s not entirely sincere. Still, she smiles and shakes his hand back.

“Same here, Dean-O. You go on and take that nap now… nurse’s orders,” she adds with a wink.

He gives her a small smile and bow, turning to Castiel to shake his hand. Cas ignores it to come and take him in his arms instead. As he leans back, Castiel brushes a hand over Dean’s forehead and sighs.

“You’re a bit warm… maybe you should stay home tomorrow.”

Dean knows he’s warm, but he’s pretty sure it has more to do with Castiel’s proximity than any virus.

“I’ll be fine. I just need to sleep. No need to worry about me,” he says, softly tapping Castiel’s shoulder. “Ready to go, Sam?”

“I am… Meg, Cas,” he says, hugging them both briefly before following Dean to the car.

“Want me to drive?” he asks as he aims for the driver side.

“Gotta drop you off, Sam. I’ll have to drive myself home anyway.”

Sam nods, changing course to reach the passenger side instead. Dean knows Sam has questions, but at least he waits until they’re about halfway to start asking them. It’s just not the questions he thought would be asked.

“When’s the last time you went to the doctor, Dean?”

“What? I don’t know… why?”

“I just think you’ve been kind of weird for some time now. I’m not saying you’re lying, but you say you don’t really drink anymore, except you’re kinda loopy at times and—”

“How in the hell am I being weird? Or loopy?”

“You’re different, is what I mean. Maybe you got brain cancer or something. I read it can change someone’s personality and stuff. Do you get migraines, or headaches, or—”

It’s such a leap that Dean starts laughing.

“It’s not funny, Dean.”

“I don’t have brain cancer, Sammy,” he manages to say through his laughter. He extends a hand to pat Sam’s thigh. “I swear, I’m just tired. I’ll go to bed and be my old self again tomorrow.”

Sam bats Dean’s hand away and sighs. “It’s not only today, Dean. You’ve been weird for months now. Actually, you’ve been weird since we saw Cas for the first time. You know, the guy you thought we were going to have breakfast with?”

Once more, Dean can feel his face growing warm. “You remember that?”

“How could I not? I probably would have forgotten about it if you hadn’t ended up giving the guy a job.”

“I told you how that happened.”

“No, I know. I’m just saying you’ve been weird since around that day.”

“Whatever, bitch! You’re weird!”

Sam chuckles. “Never as much as you, jerk.” They’re about two minutes from Sam’s place when he speaks again. “If you don’t have brain issues, then… then I don’t think I’m wrong when I say you might be into Castiel, even if just a little bit. And it’s okay if that’s the case. You know that, right?”

He may know Sam is right, it still doesn’t mean he wants to confirm any of it. Dean presses on the gas pedal, making the Impala rumble loudly all the way to Sam’s apartment building.

“If you ever wanna talk…” Sam says before getting out. Dean doesn’t answer, speeding away the second the door slams shut.

 

To be continued…

Chapter Text

It’s a little after three in the afternoon that same day when knocks can be heard at Dean’s door. Wearing pajama pants and a t-shirt, he’s watching Dr. Sexy and nursing a beer, and he’d rather not answer. He holds his breath, ignoring the fact that the TV is loud enough that they wouldn’t hear him breathe anyway. Which must be why they knock again.

“Dean?”

Castiel’s voice, even muffled through the wood of the door, is enough to make Dean’s insides warm up. He sighs, letting out the breath he had been holding as he gets up.

“Hey, Cas,” he says as he opens the door.

“I didn’t wake you, did I?”

“Nah… watching TV. Can I help you with something?”

It doesn’t matter that Dean is happy to see Cas, he still can’t help the harshness of his tone. As if it’s Castiel’s fault that Dean has all those confusing feelings roaming around under his skin. When he sees Cas’s cheeks redden, Dean has the decency to feel bad about it.

“I’m sorry, I shouldn’t—”

“No, Cas… I’m the one that’s sorry. I couldn’t sleep at all so I’m super grumpy, but it’s not your fault.” He forces himself to smile. “How can I help you? Wanna come in?”

“I only wanted to see if you were doing better.” Castiel tilts his head. “You still haven’t slept? Are you sure everything’s okay?” Castiel takes a step inside the apartment, his gaze never leaving Dean’s. “Dealt a lot with insomnia as a teen,” he adds as he moves to close the door, making Dean take a step back. “Had a lot of anxiety and stress. Had a whole bunch of stuff to deal with. It eased up after I started talking to someone.”

Dean swallows. “Like a shrink?”

“More like a therapist, but yes. A professional.”

Without waiting for Dean to offer, Castiel takes off his shoes and goes to sit on the couch. Still smiling, he beckons Dean to join him by patting the cushion. “I know it’s not everyone’s cup of tea, though. Sometimes, just talking to a friend about what’s going on can help. I can be that friend if you wish.”

“You really don’t need to bother with me, Cas,” Dean says as he buries his hands deep in his jean pockets. “I’ll get over it.”

“Get over what?”

Crap!

Dean bats a hand in the air and comes to sit on the sofa, making sure to leave as much space as possible between them. “Nothing… it’s just a saying. I’ll get over whatever and sleep it off.”

He almost chokes on his tongue when Castiel’s hand lands over his. He swallows, hating how such a simple contact is enough to make his heart start racing. He’s tempted to take his hand back but doesn’t. What he does is keep his gaze averted. Neither of them speaks for what feels like a long time.

“All right… I do have something I’d like to say to you, if you don’t mind,” Castiel says, his voice soft. “When I came here this morning, there was something I wanted to talk to you about.” Another long pause. “I love my job.”

It’s enough to startle Dean into looking back at Castiel. “Hum… that’s good? I guess?”

“It’s just… what I’m about to tell you… I wouldn’t want you to think that I don’t appreciate what you’ve done for me, or how much I value our friendship. Still, I feel the need to say this, and I suspect it might have something to do with your current… issues.”

Dread settles low in Dean’s gut. Nothing ever good has ever come from somebody saying stuff like that. His jaw clicks as he waits for whatever is on Castiel’s mind. He doubts it’s anything positive, already convinced that he’s right about to lose him again. Which means he’ll have to go back into the real world and tell the djinn to start things over once more. And to do it right this time.

“Mostly, I wouldn’t want you to think I’m not flattered, because I really am.” He huffs a laugh, which sounds sadder than not. “In any other circumstances, I’d be very much interested. I just don’t think…”

There’s a hint of mist in Castiel’s eyes as he lets the sentence hang there, incomplete. Dean’s heart has started racing again, beating loud in his ears. And since he can’t bring himself to understand what is being said, he asks.

“What are you saying, Cas?”

Castiel sighs, taking his hand off of Dean’s. “I don’t think you and me—I don’t think we’d be good together. Not in a romantic fashion, anyway.”

Dean’s jaw falls slack, shocked by the turn this is taking. “Why—”

“Don’t worry, I won’t tell anyone,” he says, cutting him off. “I can’t be your entryway into bisexuality, Dean. Not when I know I could so easily fall in love with you.”

Speaking when one’s mouth is like the Sahara desert is hard. “Woah, Cas… ease up, would you?”

Dean wipes a stray tear from Castiel’s cheek with his thumb without even realizing it. They both take a sharp intake of breath when he does.

“I know you like me, Dean. And I like you, but—”

Pressing his lips against Castiel’s is also something Dean does without thinking, surprising even himself as he does. The kiss doesn’t last, Castiel sharply leaning back. It’s like what happened after Raiders , only the roles are reversed now.

“Were you even listening to what I just said?” he asks. His tone is soft, but Dean still can hear the hurt in there. “What makes you think it was a good idea to kiss me just now?”

Dean shrugs and looks away. He keeps his gaze averted, even when Castiel grabs his hand this time.

“The last thing I want to do is hurt you, Dean. But I also have to protect myself. My heart has been bruised too many times, you know?” He chuckles, and Dean has to wonder what in the hell could be making him laugh right now. “Wish I could say you’re the first straight guy who thinks he can be with me, but you’re not. And it never ends well.”

Dean’s voice is small and hesitant when he speaks. “Who says I’m straight?”

Castiel chuckles again, then gently lifts Dean’s chin with two fingers to look him in the eye. “Well… aren’t you? You know there’s nothing wrong with being straight, right? You like what you like, and I like what I like, and we don’t have to want each other in that way.”

Of all things… Dean shakes his head, having trouble believing he’s getting the brush off from Cas. That Cas is rejecting him. Not that he’s ‘non-rejectable’, but—

“Dean, say something. Please.”

“What do you want me to say? Guess I made a mistake. Let’s just forget about it, okay?”

Castiel’s gaze drops to the hand Dean has taken back to his own lap. “You’re mad.”

“I’m not mad.” Dean gets up to go into the kitchen. “You want a beer?” he asks, not waiting for an answer to disappear in the kitchen.

“No. Dean… can you at least let me finish what I came here to say?”

“You’re not done?” Dean says a full minute later when he comes back. “You think I’m awesome, but you don’t wanna have anything to do with me. Didn’t think there was anything more to say.”

Castiel rolls his eyes, exaggeratedly so. “That’s not what I said, Dean. Don’t put words into my mouth.”

No words, and no tongue either, gotcha! Dean almost answers, but he chooses not to. Instead, he motions for Castiel to continue as he sips on his beer.

“All I wanted to say was that… I can feel your interest, and I’m flattered. Wouldn’t you have been a life-long hetero, I could have been tempted to see where things would take us. Because I really do like you, Dean. You’re kind, and generous, and intelligent, and funny, and really gorgeous…” Castiel’s cheeks are red now, and Dean hates that he finds it adorable. “But you’re also a huge flirt.” There’s a gloomy edge to Castiel’s smile. “As I said, I’m flattered that you’d want to flirt with me, I really am. I just know it’s not real.”

“What do you mean, not real?”

“You’re a serial flirt, Dean. You love the chase, the conquest. I just don’t think you care much for the prize once you’ve got it.” Castiel looks away again, shaking his head. “I don’t think I could handle falling in love only to be tossed aside, Dean. Not again.”

“Maybe you don’t know me as well as you think you do.”

“We haven’t known each other long, I’ll give you that. Still, can you really say I’m wrong?”

“I would never want to hurt you, Cas.” And damn, if this isn’t one of the hardest things he’s ever had to say. Not because it’s untrue, but because it feels almost as compromising as saying that he’s in love or something.

Castiel looks up again, then slides a soft hand on Dean’s jaw. For a fraction of a second, he looks as if he’s going to lean in for a kiss. But of course, he doesn’t. “Believe me, if I wasn’t already halfway in love with you, I’d let you use me as an experiment and I wouldn’t care one bit.” He presses their foreheads together. Dean closes his eyes if only to hide the arousal the proximity is prompting.

“I already care too damn much for my own good. Which is why I’m not going to be your springboard into gaydom, Dean. You’ll need to find someone else for that.”

Dean keeps his eyes closed, even when Castiel’s warm lips brush against his cheek, so lightly that it’s easy to think he might have imagined it . Still, all he wants to do now is wrap himself around Castiel and devour him, but he stays put. Far too soon, Castiel isn’t touching him anymore.

“Would you prefer that I find another job?”

Dean’s eyes to spring open. “What? No, of course not. Why would you say that?”

“I don’t want things to be awkward between us. Now that I’ve… you know…”

“Don’t worry about it, okay? Plus, you’re probably right. Maybe I’m just… horny or something.” He forces himself to chuckle, hoping Cas will buy it. “Didn’t have sex for some time. Plus, I haven’t slept so I probably just can’t think str—can’t think much.”

Dean knows Castiel is only humoring him when he smiles and nods, but he’s still thankful for it. What he needs is for Castiel to stay around, and he’ll do anything to make things better.

“Whattaya say we order a pizza, drink ourselves silly, and watch Star Wars or something?”

“Dean… I wouldn’t want to—”

He turns to face Castiel, catching his gaze. “Cas, if we don’t want things to be weird between us, then we need to move past what just happened. It’s just a little glitch, okay? Nothing good food, good booze, and an awesome space adventure can’t fix. You with me?”

The smile that stretches Castiel’s mouth feels sincere this time. “All right. I really value our friendship, Dean, and losing you would be—”

“Yeah, yeah, yeah… gotcha the first time,” Dean says, winking at him even though what he really wants to do is curl himself up in a ball and hide. “So? Meat Lover’s good for ya?”

 

To be continued…

Chapter Text

The rest of the evening may have gone swiftly enough, the next morning isn’t as comfortable as Dean would have hoped.

But since Castiel doesn’t seem to be acting all that different, it’s possible the unease is solely on Dean’s side. They don’t say much as they drive together to work, which is pretty much always the case since Castiel doesn’t ever seem to wake up until he’s had his first coffee at the garage.

The real test will be when they come back home at the end of the day. Or it would have been if Castiel had not requested a meeting at lunchtime. Which is why they’re having lunch in the privacy of Dean’s office rather than in the kitchenette with the others as they usually do.

Knowing Dean barely ever eats anything for lunch, Castiel brought enough for the both of them: Chicken salad sandwiches, a big bag of barbecue chips, and two small blueberry pies.

“So? What’s on your mind?” Dean says around his first bite of sandwich. He’s not really hungry, but Dean has never been one to refuse food, especially when it’s free. He tries not to think about the night before, hoping Castiel isn’t about to open that can of worms again.

“I wanted to talk about my car. I was wondering if you thought I’d be able to get it back soon.” He must have noticed Dean’s perplexed expression because he shakes his head, his brows knitted. “Don’t get me wrong, I really appreciate riding with you every morning and evening… it’s just—”

“You’d like to have your car back.”

“I would, but mostly because Meg and I will be driving down to Andover early March. And that’s another thing I need to talk to you about. How does it work if I’d like to take a week off? I know I haven’t been here long, but—”

“You wanna drive all the way to Massachusetts? What for?”

Dean knows that what his employees do in their private lives is none of his business, but they’re also friends and, well, he’s curious.

“Well… not just to Andover. We’re kind of planning to go up to Canada afterward. See Montreal, Toronto, Niagara Falls, then come back through Chicago. You think my car will be up for that?”

Castiel’s plans spark a bit of envy in Dean. He used to love being on the road. Hell, he still does, but he doesn’t have a reason to drive around anymore. Mostly, and he can’t lie to himself about that, he’s jealous that he’s not the one Cas is planning to make this trip with. Not that he can imagine why he would.

“That’s a lot of mileage to be done in a single week. Sure you’re gonna have time to see everything?”

Castiel takes a minute to answer, his hand deep in the bag of chips to grab a handful. “Well… of course, two weeks would be best but as I said, I haven’t been here for long so I wouldn’t assume that anything more than a week is a possibility.”

“Tell me when you’d like to do this, and we’ll see what can be done. Can I ask you a question, though?”

“Of course,” Castiel says.

“Why now? I mean, it can still be a bit cold, especially if you’re going up to Canada. Wouldn’t summer be better?”

The chip Castiel had been aiming at his mouth never reaches its destination, getting tossed back on the pile instead. “Meg—Meg’s not doing so good and she’d like to go see her family.” He gives Dean a thin-lipped smile. “Her family’s from Andover. And, well… her sister will be home for Spring break. She goes to a university in Montreal and we’ll be driving her back there.”

The envy Dean had been feeling starts to give way to guilt and shame. Because he kind of knows what might be going on. There’s no denying things are happening this way because he wants them to, consciously or not. “What do you mean, she’s not doing so good?”

“She’s dying, Dean,” Castiel says, his eyes stuck on the pile of chips. “And before you ask, no, I didn’t know a thing about it yesterday. Which is why I didn’t mention it.” He sighs, now poking at his uneaten sandwich with barbecue-dusted fingers. “When I got home last night, I had an email from her.” He snorts. “An email, can you believe it?” He looks up at Dean. “She told me that she’s dying in a fucking email.”

Seeing Castiel be so devastated is both heartbreaking and perplexing for Dean. As far as he knows, Cas hasn’t known Meg for that long, has he?

“Are you sure? I mean… she didn’t look sick when we saw her yesterday morning. And isn’t she working? In a hospital, no less?” It doesn’t matter that Dean isn’t trying to be an ass, Castiel doesn’t seem to like his line of questioning one bit.

“What do you think, Dean?” he says in a huff, rolling his eyes. “She’s not dying today, but she won’t be going back to work either. Yesterday was her last day, but she didn’t tell any of us.” He sighs, pinching the bridge of his nose. “She had breast cancer some years ago. They treated it and she’s been in remission since, been doing amazing. Or so everyone thought. Her doctor… she said Meg doesn’t have more than three months left. That’s if she’s lucky.”

Castiel’s annoyance disappears as quickly as it came. Now he’s visibly choked up and he has to clear his throat before speaking again.

“The cancer came back, just… everywhere.” There are tears in his eyes now. “There’s nothing to be done, it’s eating her up from the inside. She wants to go see her parents, spend some time with them and her sister, see the Falls. I told her I’d go with her. At first, I thought she’d want to stay over there until—until… but she says Lawrence is her home. That’s where she wants to be when it’s time to go.”

No matter how he tries, Dean can’t find anything to say that could be comforting in the slightest. Not because he’s not fond of Meg – even though he’s not – but because he’s the one doing all of this. He’s the one whose internalized jealousy is most certainly behind Meg’s impending death. Because he wants Cas for himself, would Cas want him or not.

“I guess the sooner the better, then?” he manages to say around the lump of guilt in his throat.

Castiel shrugs. “I know March may not be the best month to leave, with tax season coming up, and—”

“Don’t worry about that. We’ve got a guy who handles the taxes.”

“I know, but I still need to prepare everything for him. And I will… like I said, I just need a week in March, that’s all.”

Dean grabs his desk calendar, flipping the pages to find the right one. “So, you said early March, yeah?”

Castiel nods, coming around the desk to look at the calendar. He points at the first week. “Meg’s sister will be home on the first week of March. I was thinking that we could leave on the first Saturday, March 2, to drive up to Meg’s parents and spend a bit of time there.”

Dean nods, keeping his eyes on the page and working hard to ignore Castiel’s proximity. “I really think that if you guys wanna spend time with her folks, drive the sister back to Canada, and then go see Niagara Falls, you’re gonna need at least two weeks.”

“You’d be okay with that?”

Dean shrugs, putting the calendar back on the desk. “Of course, Cas. I mean… I get why you wanna do all of this. She’s your friend and—” That damn lump in his throat just won’t dissolve, making it harder and harder to speak. He has to force himself not to think about all he himself lost in the real world, Castiel included. “You go and spend time with her. Make memories.” He takes back the calendar to write out ‘Castiel’s Vacation’ across the two first weeks of March. “I don’t wanna see you in here from March 2nd to March 17th, all right?”

The next second, he’s engulfed in Castiel’s arms. He indulges in the embrace, taking a deep breath before clapping his back and moving away quicker than he would have liked.

“Thank you so much, Dean,” Castiel says, his eyes misty. “Oh… and what about the car?”

“I’ll talk to the kids, see what’s left to be done. Don’t worry, she’ll be fit for the road in time for your trip.”

Castiel takes him in his arms again, hugging the life out of him. This time, Dean lets it happen. It’s Cas who ends it, wiping his cheek as he takes a step back.

“Thank you again. I’ll forever be in your debt, Dean.”

“Don’t be ridiculous, Cas. Told you before, you’re part of the family, and that’s how family works. We help one another, all right?”

Castiel looks about to come and hug him again, but he doesn’t. When he moves, it’s to pick up the remnants of their lunch. “I’ll go back to work now. Thanks again, Dean.”

“No worries… and…” He takes a minute to choose his words carefully, not wanting to aggravate Castiel more than he already is. “Tell Meg I’m sorry, and that I’m hoping for the best for her, okay?”

Castiel nods before leaving, a tired smile on his face. Once alone, Dean takes a deep breath, feeling as if he hasn’t been breathing right for the last hour. He closes his eyes and puts his hands together, as if about to pray to a God that, all things considered, is probably his own self in this very situation.

If Meg dies, Cas will be sad. I don’t want Cas to be sad, so I don’t want Meg to die. If Meg dies, Cas will be sad, so I don’t want Meg to die. If Meg dies, Cas will be sad. I don’t want Cas to be sad, so I don’t want Meg to die.

 

To be continued…

Chapter Text

No matter how long or how hard Dean prayed, Meg’s fate was sealed, dying even sooner than anticipated. She didn’t have time to see Niagara Falls, but she at least got to spend her last days with her family, passing away a mere three days after reaching Andover.

It doesn’t matter that it’s all fabricated, it still makes Dean feel a bit better to think about that.

Well, it does once he has learned about it, which is not immediate – not that he expected that Cas would keep him in the loop. He only learns about it when Castiel knocks on his door at nine PM on the last Thursday of his vacation. He looks miserable, his hair wet and the usual bright light in his eyes dimmed out and the skin around them both red and sallow.

“Cas?”

“She’s gone,” he says, his voice low and raw. He comes inside, letting his drenched trench coat fall to the floor as he toes his shoes off. “She never got to see Niagara Falls, Dean,” he adds before cradling Dean’s face and joining their mouths together.

Dean’s heart skips a beat. The hands are cold on his face, but the mouth is warm. He’s too shocked to move, would it be away or to kiss Castiel back. The next second, Castiel himself is leaning back to look at him with questions in his eyes.

And okay, his hands are cold as shit. Dean grabs them, both to give his face some relief and to try and warm them. “What happened?” he asks, gently pulling on Castiel and leading him toward the couch.

“Don’t wanna talk about it,” Castiel answers, leaning forward to catch his mouth again. “I just wanna…”

Kiss.

“Don’t want to…”

Kiss.

“Life is too fucking short…”

The tip of Castiel’s tongue pokes at Dean’s mouth. He lets him in, letting out a satisfied hum when the kiss starts heating up. They somehow made it to the couch because Castiel now is straddling his lap, angling Dean’s face the way he wants it with his hands still cold on his skin. But Dean doesn’t care anymore, busy worrying about his own hands as they travel under Castiel’s shirt, where the skin is soft and warm.

“Fuck… Cas…”

One of Castiel’s hands – still cold – is wrapped over Dean’s nape. He’s mouthing at Dean’s jaw, down his neck, scraping his teeth over his Adam’s apple. Dean can’t help moaning when Castiel licks back up his neck to suck on his earlobe.

Castiel’s other hand has found its way under Dean’s t-shirt, making him squirm as the chilled digits dig into his side, creeping upward until his thumb catches on a nipple. He flicks and presses it, his tongue now back in Dean’s mouth.

They kiss for a long time, or so it appears that way for Dean. Not that he’s complaining, not one bit. He imagines it’s been a while because the hand that wraps around his cock is warmer now. He still hisses, wondering when his dick ever made its way out of his pants.

“You’re thick,” Castiel says against the stubble of his jaw, his voice strained. “I love a thick dick.”

Dean is already wound up pretty tight, Castiel’s hand working fast on him. He lets his head fall back, his jaw slack and his breath shallow. Castiel moves on him, leaving his lap and letting go of his cock. Before Dean can protest, he feels Castiel kneeling between his knees to take him in his mouth.

“Aah…”

Dean cards his fingers into Castiel’s hair, his hands resting softly against his scalp without steering it, letting Castiel do that thing he obviously knows how to do. He does start pulling on his hair a little when his insides are about ready to snap.

“Cas… I’mma… I’m gonna…”

Castiel moves away just in time, helping him through his release with one hand on his dick and the other one stroking the tender skin of his belly. As he does, he keeps his gaze averted. Dean hates it.

“Cas,” he says, his voice low. He’s still holding onto his hair and tries to move his head so he’ll look up at him. “Please?”

When he finally looks up, Dean is surprised to see traces of tears on his face. “Shit…”

Instead of trying to pull Castiel up on the couch again, Dean joins him on the floor. They’re both on their knees facing each other, and Dean’s dick is still out, but he doesn’t care. His hands are cradling Castiel’s face, and he’s wiping the tears with his thumbs.

“I’m so sorry, Cas…”

There’s nothing else he can say. He wouldn’t know what else to say. What can be said to a grieving someone that had your dick in their mouth a minute ago? He’s tempted to return the favor, but he worries the moment might have passed. That trying to get in Castiel’s pants now could be uncalled for.

“Would you like me to—” he still tries to ask, because who knows? Maybe Cas is expecting to get his turn. Perhaps it would help.

He instantly regrets when Castiel shakes his head and gets up. He goes back toward the door to grab his shoes and trench coat without putting them on.

“I’ll see you Monday, Dean…” he only says before leaving the apartment, closing the door behind himself.

It’s the draft from the door that reminds Dean he’s still hanging out of his pants. He huffs, looking down to see the stain drying up on his jeans. He scrunches his nose and gets up to take them off, dropping them in the hamper with the rest of his clothes.

He needs a shower, both to wash up the traces of what just happened and to calm himself down. His skin is still buzzing from Castiel being all over him, and his thoughts are just as frantic. He makes the water as cold as he can handle it and washes quickly, hopping into bed a mere five minutes later

From then on, he can’t do anything but stare at the ceiling, unable to ignore the angry red numbers on the radio-clock. He sees midnight come to pass. He sees one AM, then two, then three. He’s up before the clock hits four, zoning out as the percolator does its thing. Dean is startled when it dings, somehow having forgotten that he was up and waiting for the coffee to be ready.

At five, he’s sitting on the sofa, already downing his second cup and he’s not more awake. He’s not tired either, not really. He’s floating between the two states, unable to go either way. So he stays where he is, the only thing remotely real being the cup of hot coffee in his hand.

He doesn’t see six, seven, eight, or even nine. What he sees is how bright it has gotten when knocks on his door wake him up. He looks around, confused, then notices the half-empty cup he’s still holding on his thigh and how it’s dangerously titling to the side. He looks up at the VCR to see that it’s 9:27.

“Fuck!”

He’s startled again by the knocks on his door. He’s only half surprised to see Castiel on the other side because other than Sam, he’s the person who knocks on it the most.

“Are you okay? Benny called me, asked me if your car was still in the parking lot. Since you’re not answering your phone…” he says, not so subtly trying to see inside the apartment, as if Dean could be hiding something. “How come you’re not at work?”

With a sigh, Dean runs a hand through his hair. “Benny shouldn’t have called you, you’re on vacation,” he says, deliberately ignoring the question. “You can go home. I’ll call Benny back.”

Dean goes to close the door, but Castiel stops it with a hand splayed on the wood. “Are you okay? You’re not sick, are you?” He chews at his lower lip, and it’s enough to send electric shocks up Dean’s spine. “Or maybe… would you like to talk about—”

“There’s nothing to talk about, Cas,” Dean says, as nicely as he can. It’s a lie, but he’s not in the mood to do this now. “We’re good, okay? You were—you weren’t yourself, I get it.” The smile he gives him is weak. “I really gotta go to work, though.”

Castiel is not smiling as he nods, letting go of the door. “I understand. I’ll let you go to work. I still think we need to talk, though. To at least…” He pauses. “To at least talk about us. I know I’m sending mixed signals here, and that’s not right. Could we have dinner tonight?”

“Wanna meet up at Harvelle’s ?” Dean asks, mostly because he thinks a public place might be better suited. Fewer chances of drama getting unleashed.

“Actually, I was thinking you could come to my place and—”

“Cas…”

Castiel sighs, dropping his head to look at his shoes. “I understand…” He looks up again, this time with a smile on his face. One that looks about as genuine as how Dean’s felt just before. “I’ll meet you at Harvelle’s , then. I’ll be there at five. You get there when you can.”

Without waiting for an answer, Castiel leaves, and Dean closes the door, leaning his forehead on it as he tries to find his footing. Things are turning to shit again, and Dean is tempted to leave once more, forcing Stephanie to make his fake world the way he wants it.

Even better, he wants her to make things the way they were the first time around. With Castiel wanting Dean the way he now wants him. Because he does. It took him far too long to realize it, but now that he knows, he can’t imagine living his life – his dream life – without him by his side and in his bed.

He hits the door with his forehead, not too hard but hard enough for it to start stinging when he’s been doing it for five minutes. Or two. Who knows? What makes him stop is the faint ringing of his phone. It takes him a bit too long to find it, buried in the jeans he shoved in the hamper the night before.

It’s not a surprise to see the call he missed came from the garage: This one, many others, and a bunch of texts. He doesn’t look at any of them, tempted to put the phone back where he found it. He may be the boss, he still doesn’t feel like facing Benny and all the questions he might decide to ask. But he knows he has to so he hits the callback button anyway.

Benny answers on the first ring. “ W&S Auto Parts .”

“Hey…”

“Chief! Finally! Are you okay?”

“Yeah, Benny, I’m good… I’ll be there soon.”

“You don’t gotta, Garth came in. Just wanted to make sure you weren’t dead or som’thin’.”

“I’m fine. Tell Garth he can go home; I’ll be there in twenty.”

He hangs up without another word, the sharp taste of the lie on his tongue.

Because of course, he’s anything but fine.

 

To be continued…

Chapter Text

It’s no surprise to see Garth still at the garage when Dean gets there. And even though he’s tempted to ask him to leave, he takes the opportunity to go and lock himself in his office instead.

Usually, spending his day with his head deep in an engine would make everything better. Only right now, what he really feels the need to do is hunt some son of a bitch monster and kill it. But there are no monsters here and he doesn’t know how else to deal with the anguish.

That’s when he remembers the bottle of Jack he keeps in his drawer. He rarely ever drinks on the job but right now, he’s not really working and he needs something to soak up all those stupid feelings bouncing around in his brain.

Castiel rejected him a little over a month ago. Yesterday Castiel gave him a blow job, refusing Dean’s offer to do the same. And now, Castiel ‘wants to talk’.

As he’s sipping on his whiskey, Dean opens another drawer to take out his father’s old letter opener. It’s silver, and it’s sharp. Not as sharp as a kitchen knife, but still sharp enough to do the right amount of damage if used properly. And if there’s something Dean knows how to do, it’s how to inflict damage.

It’s the phone ringing that pulls him from his morbid contemplations. He drops the blade back in the drawer and closes it before answering the phone.

W&S Auto Parts ,” he says.

“Dean, honey?”

Mom…

“Hey, Mom,” he says, his mood a bit brighter now.

Even though his parents are alive and well in this reality, he doesn’t get to see them as much as he once thought he would. Well, during his first fictitious months, he did spend a lot of time with them. Now though, he feels their relationship is more ‘normal’, as it would be if he had indeed lived his whole life with them around. It doesn’t help that they’ve got ants in their pants and can’t stay still for a damn minute.

Still, hearing Mary’s voice is always enough to melt Dean’s heart.

“Where are you, guys? Still in California?”

“We are. I really like it here. I certainly could live with an ocean in my backyard.” She sighs, and Dean knows it’s out of ease. “Your dad is starting to get antsy, though. He’s giving me the next week here and then we’re driving to Vegas.”

“Vegas is nice, you’ll love it. When are you guys coming back home?”

“Not sure… all I know is that we’ll be back in time for your brother’s birthday. Then we can celebrate both of you. Sorry we weren’t there for yours, honey.”

“You know I don’t care about that, Mom. You guys called, that’s good enough for me.”

“Oh, so you don’t want that special birthday dinner? No ‘Winchester Surprise’ this year?”

Dean laughs. All he can think of is how devastated Sam gets whenever Mary prepares that dish. “Pretty sure Sam won’t be happy about that so of course, I’m in.”

Mary chuckles, then sighs again. It sounds different, this time. “I miss you boys so much. Tell me, how are you doing, Dean?”

“Miss you guys, too. And I’m doing good, Mom.”

“That’s not what Sam tells me. Did you go to the doctor? I won’t lie, that was kind of my idea.”

Dean rolls his eyes. What did his dumb little brother do now?

“Why would I go to the doctor, Mom? I’m not sick.”

“He’s worried about you. Your father and I are as well, honey. I’d really love for you to go see Dr. Moseley. Just to make sure everything’s fine.”

“There’s nothing wrong with me, I swear. I’m just having trouble sleeping these days, but it’ll get better. Maybe I’ll go hunt with Bobby or something, spend a weekend in the woods, get some fresh air.”

“I doubt Bobby will bring you, not after the shit you and Sam pulled. I think he’s still mad at you boys for scaring his deer that last time.”

“That was all Sam’s doing,” he says, even though they both know it’s a lie.

“Whatever you say, honey.” There’s a long pause before Mary speaks again. “You know you can tell me anything, right? If there’s anything eating at you? And if it’s not anything you’d like to talk to your mother about, your dad’s just as ready to listen.” She seems to be hesitating before going on again. “We love you so much. You know that, right?”

He’s starting to suspect Sam might have told his parents about Cas, and how he must have exaggerated how friendly they have become. He probably told their parents that Dean liked dudes now or something.

“I know, Mom.”

“Nothing you do will ever make me stop loving you. You’re an extraordinary, kind, and loving man, honey. You deserve all the happiness in the world.”

He may know nothing is real, Mary’s words are still enough to make tears well up in Dean’s eyes. Not only because it’s nice to hear, but also because he knows he’ll never truly be happy. Even in this dream of his, getting the love he (now) wants doesn’t seem to be a possibility. Cas is about to leave again and the only way to ever get him back will be to go and beg a stupid djinn to make things better. What he should ask the djinn is to make sure Dean remembers nothing of his old life, Castiel included. That should make things better.

“I gotta go, Mom,” he says, a little choked up now. “Got this car coming in, and—”

“You should take the day off. Go do that thing you said you wanted to do. Take a walk in the woods, clear your head. Everything will turn out okay.”

“Thanks, Mom… I’ll call you guys this weekend, all right? Say hi to Dad for me.”

“I will… and please, be as kind to yourself as you can be to others. You deserve it. I love you.”

“Love you, too.”

Dean hangs up, wiping a hand over his face to erase all traces of the tears he refuses to shed. He shakes his head, tempted to call Sam and yell at him for telling on him. He sighs, remembering how this also could be some kind of payback for when Dean called Mary to announce Sam’s engagement before he could do it himself.

He chuckles. Which leads to hysterical laughing. Which in turn transforms into gross sobbing. All in under a minute.

“Dean? You okay?” he soon hears. That, and the doorknob rattling. “Open up, would you?”

He clears his throat, wiping his face again. “I’m good, Garth. No worries.”

“Open the door, or else I’m kicking it in.”

Dean wants to laugh again but he doesn’t, getting up to open the door instead. Both Garth and Benny are standing on the other side, frowning. “What’s up, guys?” he asks.

“We should be the ones asking that question, chief,” Benny says, his arms crossed over his chest. “You’re obviously not fine.”

Duh!

“I’ve been having trouble sleeping, it’s nothing serious.”

“Nothing serious?” Garth repeats, doubtful. “I heard you cryin’ in there, boss. Maybe you should go talk to someone. I know this—”

“I really appreciate you guys worrying about me but don’t, all right? Told ya, I’m tired. I haven’t slept much this weekend.”

“Go home and sleep, then,” Benny says, sounding both irritated and concerned. “You don’t need to be here, all’s taken care of.”

Dean huffs, starting to get annoyed. “Who’s the boss, huh? I am! Which means I get to decide! Not you!”

Garth and Benny both roll their eyes and he’s kind of tempted to fire them on the spot. Which he knows he would never do, so he too rolls his eyes and throws in hands up in defeat. “Fine! I’ll go home if that’s what you guys want. Better that than getting attitude from my own damn employees.”

“Your friends, cher , not just your employees,” Benny provides, not unkindly. “You haven’t had a vacation since the day you took over the place. Maybe you should think about that.”

“I don’t need a vacation,” Dean says as he puts on his coat. “I’ll see you tomorrow.”

“No need… Garth and I are coming in and we don’t wanna see you until Monday.”

This time, when Dean objects, it’s in a whiny voice. “But I’m the boss…”

“Not today, you’re not,” Garth says with a wink, then proceeds to guide him out of his office. He’s still gently pushing him when they get to the front of the store. “Now go, and don’t show your face here before next week.”

And although he’s kind of relieved to have a reason to leave, Dean doesn’t show it and chooses to scowl at them instead. “You’re lucky I’m too tired to fight you. Because I totally would.”

“Yeah, okay… we’ll duel on Monday morning if that’s what you want, but right now, off you go!” Garth says, shooing him away. “You can thank us later.”

 

To be continued…

Chapter Text

It doesn’t matter that it’s not even noon yet, Dean still decides to drive to Harvelle’s instead of going back home. He’ll be meeting Cas there anyway, won’t he? So what if he’s there a bit in advance? He certainly could use a hefty dose of liquid courage.

The place is empty, something he knows will change when it’s lunchtime. He makes a beeline for the bar, smiling. No matter how much he loves Ellen, he’s glad to see Pamela working instead. He couldn’t really handle Ellen’s motherly hovering right now, not after getting it from Mom just before.

Pamela is just as sexy as ever but mostly, she’s not blind, and she’s alive. That by itself is enough to brighten any day, no matter how gloomy it started.

“Well, well, well… look at what the cat dragged in,” she drawls as she comes to greet him with a hug, a kiss on the cheek, and a sharp slap on the butt. “What in the world are you doing here this early on a workday? Playin’ hooky?”

He takes a second to admire her as she goes back behind the bar, mostly because she’ll act all offended if he doesn’t at least ogle her a little. She looks at him over her shoulder to wink, then beckons him to join her at the other end of the bar.

“So… what’s up with you? You never take a day off,” she says as she puts a frosty mug filled with his favorite draft in front of him. He thanks her with a slight nod and takes a long sip before responding.

“Haven’t been sleeping too good the last few days, and my own employees kicked me out… got a mutiny on my hands is what’s goin’ on.”

Pamela throws her head back, laughing. Dean smiles because he knows it’s at least a little bit funny. What passes his lips next, he can’t explain.

“Also, kinda got a date with this guy later and I’m pretty sure he’s gonna dump me.”

The most he gets back from Pamela is a barely perceptible rise of her eyebrows. “Didn’t know you were seeing someone,” is all she says, and Dean is grateful for it.

He shrugs, glad she can’t hear the erratic beating of his heart.

He said that.

Out loud.

“Well… I’m not really seeing anyone… it’s more like… I kinda want to but I’ll be getting the brush off. Again.”

“Again?”

And damn, if it isn’t easy to talk to her. Catching Pamela’s gaze is enough for all he’s been mulling over to just spill out, like some kind of word vomit he can’t put an end to.

“This is kinda new for me, you know? Liking a guy like that? I mean… what’s up with that?” He goes to take another sip but stops. Talking seems more urgent somehow. “But it’s Cas, and he’s my best friend, and—and we’ve been through so much together, and I’ve lost him more often than I can count, and I just can’t do it anymore. I can’t keep losing him. I don’t care that nothing else is real, at least I know my feelings are. Gotta be all sorts of messed up to be at the wheel and not even being able to get him to love me back. He says I’m not gay enough or something.” He clears his throat. “I mean he’s right, I’m not gay, not really. A bit bi, maybe. But just for him, I think. He basically said I should experiment with other guys. He thinks I’ll break his heart. But I won’t. I can’t—I might—I love him, dammit! And he wants nothing to do with me.”

He chokes on that last part, dismayed by all he has said. He takes the beer and starts chugging it until there’s nothing left to drink. He slams the glass back on the bar, burping as he does.

“Gimme another.”

There’s a bit of concern on Pamela’s face now but she still obliges, swapping his empty mug for a full one. “When do you see him?” she asks, her voice soft.

“He’s meeting me here at five.”

“Here? Good. Then I can make sure you won’t be dead drunk for your date.”

It’s enough for Dean to stop chugging on his second beer, nodding as he puts it back on the bar. “You’re right. Can’t have that talk when I’m drunk. I’ll get drunk when we’re good and truly done.”

Her smile is gentle as she nods. “That’s my boy.”

The bells over the door chime, people starting to come in for lunch. Pamela leans toward him to speak. “Want me to place an order for you before the rush starts? When did you eat last?”

Dean shrugs. “Dunno, but I’m not really hungry.” It’s as if she knew what his answer would be, already sliding a bowl of pretzels in front of him. She winks again before going to tend to the newcomers sitting at the bar.

The next two hours go by fast: There are a lot of people, a lot of noise, and nobody has time to get too interested in Dean’s unfaltering presence at the bar. Only Pamela comes to see him whenever she has the chance, replenishing the pretzels he’s plowing through – because they’re right there – and refilling his beer.

At about two, the Roadhouse ’s activity is on the down low again and the regulars start coming in, all making a beeline for Dean when they see him sitting there. He’s not in the mood to talk much, but he still makes an effort. He certainly can’t go and be rude to those people he considers like family. Especially not Bobby, Ellen, or Jo.

His saving grace, if it can be called that, is Castiel coming in two hours earlier than he said he would. It’s enough for Dean to realize he’s not ready for this. He’s not ready for things to end and he starts looking around, eager for a way out.

What he finds is Pamela’s comforting gaze on him. She minutely tilts her head toward Cas, as if asking if he’s the one he’s been waiting for. Dean’s nod is just as discreet and she smiles back at him. Everything’s gonna be okay , is what he reads in her eyes and it helps. He takes a deep breath before grabbing his mug and joining Castiel in one of the booths.

“You’re here early,” Dean says as he sits down.

“So are you,” Castiel answers, his expression unreadable.

Dean shrugs. “Yeah, the guys didn’t want me around at the garage, and I didn’t feel like going back home.”

“Benny told me you left early, yes.”

Before they can say anything else, Jo comes to see them. “Hey, Cas!” she says brightly as she dips down for a quick hug. “What can I bring you?”

He points at Dean’s mug. “Same as him.”

“And another one for me, please,” Dean adds, before downing the last of his beer. He gives Jo the mug and smiles. “Could you bring some pretzels, too?”

“Sure thing,” she says, then leaves them alone.

With nothing to drink or munch on, Dean starts feeling uneasy. It doesn’t help that Castiel makes sure to look at anything but him.

“Cas…”

“Not now,” Castiel says, his voice low.

Soon – not soon enough – Jo is back at the table with the beers and pretzels. Only when she has left does Castiel dare to look at Dean.

“I’m sorry, Dean.”

Dean is getting sick of hearing Cas apologize. “What about, Cas? Blowing me?” he says in a low hiss.

The aggravated look Dean gets back doesn’t phase him. “That’s not the only reason I’m sorry.”

“What, then?”

Dean waits, more or less patiently, while Castiel starts drinking his beer in big gulps. He doesn’t drink it all, but at least half of it is gone when he puts the mug back on the table.

“I—I’m not sure.” He sighs, letting his form deflate in the seat. “I told Meg what happened, how I—what I told you. She called me a biphobic prick.” His eyes are now brimming with tears. “She was right, of course. I pride myself to be pansexual, open to anything and anyone, and then I go and reject you because I feel you might not be ‘gay enough’? How messed up is that?”

His mouth slightly agape, Dean scrambles to find something to say. This is not going the way he thought it would. Not that he understands which way it is going.

“Look, I understand if you are to rescind your—your interest… I do…” Castiel leans forward again, clasping his hands together over the table. “But I need you to know that I was wrong, Dean. I was wrong to discard your feelings the way I did. I had no right to assume that you didn’t know what you were doing in considering to pursue me.”

The laugh he lets out is self-deprecating, at best. “Meg told me – she was so smart, much smarter than I’ll ever be – he said that maybe it didn’t work out with those other ‘straight guys’ because we just weren’t meant to be. It didn’t work with anybody I ever dated, regardless of their gender or sexuality, did it? I’m still single, so… yeah.” He scratches his head, averting his eyes again. “That’s what I’m sorry for, Dean. That, and then coming to you and—you know—using you the way I did. That was uncalled for. Selfish, even. I was—I am hurting.”

It takes a good minute for Dean to take it all in. So Castiel is not brushing him off? But it’s unclear if he’s interested at all. Maybe Castiel is only sorry for the way he rejected him. Still, Dean feels like there’s enough of a sliver of a chance to put himself out there again. If he doesn’t try now, that chance might be gone forever.

He takes a deep breath, moving his mug and pretzels aside to lay a hand on the table between them, palm up. “How is you…” Dean quickly glances around, only to see if anyone could be close enough to hear him. Nobody is, but he still lowers his voice. What he’s about to say isn’t for anyone but Castiel.

“How is you going down on me selfish, Cas? ‘Cause…” He wiggles his fingers in an invitation. “’Cause believe me, I wanted to be selfish, too. Kind of been imagining me being selfish with you since last night.” Goosebumps pepper the skin of his arm when Castiel’s hand slowly slides in his. “And right now, I kinda want us to go back to my place and just be a whole lotta selfish together.”

A single corner of Castiel’s mouth quirks up, his cheeks even redder now. “Shouldn’t we talk about this a bit more?”

“What’s there to talk about?”

Castiel’s gaze drops to their linked hands as he tangles their fingers together. “We work together, Dean. You’re my boss.”

Dean nods. “You know I won’t fire you, right? Never! Whatever ends up happening or not happening between us, your job is your job. It has nothing to do with whatever this is.” He emphasizes his sentiment by squeezing Castiel’s hand. “I’ll never not want you around, Cas. Together or not.”

It doesn’t take much more than that, both of them locking eyes only for a second before they get up to leave. Dean barely speaks when he drops some bills on the bar for his tab, then leads Castiel outside. There’s an urgent feeling deep in his gut as if they’re running against the clock.

For once in his life, Dean wishes he could fly. If they were in the real world, Castiel could bring them home in the wink of an eye. He would probably be able to mojo their clothes away, and instead of drumming his fingers on the wheel as they wait for the light to turn green, Dean would already be balls deep inside Castiel. Or maybe the other way around, who knows? He swallows, his dick straining hard against the fabric of his jeans.

He glances at Castiel, his heart skipping a beat when he sees how wide and dark his eyes have gotten. “Damn… You can’t look at me like that, Cas. I’ll crash the damn car.”

“Look ahead and get us home, then.”

Dean huffs and motions at the traffic light just as it changes to green. They have yet to get to the other side of the intersection that everything goes dark, all of Dean’s senses going numb at once.

He sees nothing, hears nothing. And then it’s bright again. Too damn bright.

“There you are. Welcome back, Dean Winchester.”

 

To be continued…

Chapter Text

For some time, Dean feels as if he’s trying to find his way through the fog. A fog so thick it’s making him dizzy.

“Dean? Can you hear me?”

Something moves in the pea soup surrounding him.

“Cas?” he asks, his voice so low he barely can hear himself.

“Wait, let me help.”

Dean is startled when fingers appear just before his nose. The fingers move to rest on his forehead, delicately. The next second, his vision clears as a familiar prickling warmth runs through his body.

He recognizes the room; he’s back in the real world, in the djinn’s home. He tries to move, to no avail.

“What the fuck?”

Someone comes into view, looming over him. It’s a woman, but it’s not Stephanie. This one is tall, with amber eyes, tanned skin, and dark brown hair. She kind of looks like that Pocahontas chick from the cartoons. She seems to know him, but he’s never seen her in his life.

“Who the fuck are you? Where’s the djinn? I need to go back!”

Cas is in the dream and he wants him. They’re on their way home to fuck like rabbits, and he loves him so much , and… “Send me back! Now!”

“It’s okay, Dean. You’re safe now.”

“I need the djinn!”

Instead of complying, the stranger takes a couple of steps back and, with a flip of her wrist, magically unties Dean’s restraints. He violently shivers when everything that had been plugged in his body, catheter and all, slides out.

“I cleared the djinn’s poison from your body. I also restored your health so you’ll be able to move on your own. It is my understanding that you’ve been a prisoner for some time now, yes?”

So she’s an angel. It’s the only thing that halts Dean’s primal instinct of going for the kill. Are the gates of Heaven open again? Is Cas back on Earth? If that’s the case, why isn’t he the one here waking him up? Did they actually kill him after he locked the doors on them?

“I’m afraid the angels are still barricaded in Heaven, Castiel along with them. He hasn’t been killed,” she says. Because of course, she’s reading his mind.

Fucking angels…

“Stay outta my head.” He swings his legs to the side of the bed. “Where’s Stephanie?”

The tilt of her head – so familiar – is enough to enrage Dean just a little bit more.

“Your captor is dead, of course. Her, and her progeny.”

Dean swallows, hanging his head low. Not only had the kid done nothing wrong, now he has to find another djinn and start all over again. On the plus side, there won’t be any delay this time and goddammit, if he and Cas won’t be a thing from the very beginning.

“I can’t let you do that.”

“I told you to stay the fuck outta my head, lady.”

“Not really a lady,” she says. “I’m an angel of the Lord, but you knew that already.”

He hears the familiar rustling of a paper bag right before one comes into view. The bottom is stained with grease. “I am told you like this particular type of sustenance. You should eat before we leave.”

She dangles the bag in front of him. When he doesn’t take it, she drops it on the side table in favor of presenting him her hand. “My name is Paschar. I was tasked to rescue you and bring you back to the bunker.”

The bunker?

Dean lets out a disdained sniff and ignores the hand as he gets off the bed. He’s barefoot and wearing that same stupid hospital gown Stephanie had made him wear. He looks around, hoping she at least kept his clothes. He sighs in relief when he finds everything waiting for him in the closet. He changes into them without bothering to hide his nudity from the angel.

As he does, he prays that Stephanie did good on her promise, the one she made about keeping the Impala in her garage until he’d be good and truly dead. She was to drive and leave the car somewhere and call Charlie so she could come and get it. Telling her she would also find a letter in the glove compartment. Dean’s goodbye letter to the only person he felt he had left.

Making sure his Baby is safe and sound is far more important than anything else, even the – sudden and urgent – need to pee. Relief floods over him again when he finds her, still under the tarp he gently laid over her. Only then does he wonders how long he’s been gone .

“What’s the day today?” he asks. He knows Paschar is right behind him, like a shadow he wouldn’t be able to shrug off unless he killed it.

“Friday.”

“The date, you fucking idiot!”

“February 14, 2014.”

Dean groans. “Are you fucking kidding me? Today’s Valentine’s Day?” After a quick mental calculation, he can surmise that he’s been dreaming for close to three months. Not long enough.

“You curse a lot,” is all Paschar answers. With Dean’s bladder threatening to explode, he says nothing in favor of going to the bathroom.

“I need some me time,” he grouses when he reaches it, shutting the door in the angel’s face.

“I’ll wait for you to be done,” she says through the door, making Dean roll his eyes.

“Yeah, you go and do that,” he says under his breath, already planning to climb out the window. But first, he needs to pee and it’s the most glorious sensation when he finally gets to do it. He’d even go as far as saying that it’s better than sex.

He shakes his head. Dean doesn’t want to think about sex. It will only remind him of what was about to happen in there. He was about to have sex with Cas, and he was so looking forward to it, too. Goosebumps pepper his skin as images and sensations from the dream start flooding back and he winces.

Now isn’t the time to think about that. He turns on the faucet, then starts climbing out the window. It’s on the small side, but still big enough for him to fit through. Especially now that he’s apparently lost a whole lot of weight from not really being alive for the past three months. If he didn’t have a damn belt on, his pants would no doubt be pooling around his ankles.

At least, the angel did a nice job of making sure he could move around, so climbing outside is easy. All seems to be going great until he reaches the side of the house. He stops in his tracks when he finds Paschar standing there and handing him a cell phone.

“It’s for you.”

“Everybody I know is dead,” he says as he tries to go around her. What is she gonna do? Kill him?

“Kevin Tran isn’t dead.” She makes sure to keep in his way and holds the phone in his face. It’s on speaker.

“Dean? Just take the damn phone, would you?”

Deflated, Dean sighs as he grabs the phone. He takes it off of speaker and puts it to his ear. “Hey, Kevin…”

“Peach says you’re trying to ditch her?”

“Peach?”

“Paschar… I sent her to get you. When I saw you’d been caught by a djinn, I—”

Dean’s hand tightens on the phone. “You were supposed to get out, Kevin. You were to go back to school and do something of your life.”

A bitter chuckle answers him. “You think I didn’t want to? I tried, man, but you know how it is. I’m a damn prophet of the Lord, there’s no escaping that.” There’s a pause, during which Dean tries to find something to answer. “So… gonna come back to the bunker with Peach? I have stuff to tell you when you get here.”

The angel – Peach? – is waiting patiently next to Dean with her gaze on the stars above. As he speaks, he makes sure to keep his own gaze on her.

“And if I don’t wanna go?”

“She’s an angel, Dean. You know she can just zap you back here. But I know you’re not a fan of that. And also… I’m not wrong when I say your car’s there with you? Because it’s not here.”

“I’ve got her with me, yeah.”

“Okay, good. We’ll be waiting for you, then. After I’ve told you what’s going on, then you can go do whatever it is you wanna do.” There’s a hint of bitterness in Kevin’s voice when he speaks again. “Even escape in a dream as you wait to die if you still wanna do that.”

Rolling his eyes, Dean shakes his head. Apparently, free will has taken quite the drop in the last months. “Fine! I’ll listen to what you gotta say, but then I’m gone.”

He hangs up without another word and hands the phone back to Paschar. “I’m driving,” he announces as he walks around her to go back to the garage. He pulls on the dusty tarp, his heart constricting at the sight of the Impala. She’s just as beautiful as she was when he left her.

Two minutes later, he’s leaving Stephanie’s house behind with the angel in the passenger seat. After about a half hour of deafening Led Zeppelin tunes, Dean turns the volume down.

“How come you’re here on Earth when all the other angels are upstairs, huh? What makes you so special?” He knows he sounds like an ass, but he feels he has the right to be pissed to have a random angel sitting next to him instead of Sam or Cas.

“I was kept on Earth for a long time. Bound so heavily that even Heaven calling us back didn’t work on me.”

“And how come you’re walkin’ around now?”

“Kevin Tran had a vision. He saw how I was imprisoned in a Men of Letters’ facility; Had been for a long time.” She sighs. “Not that I was a prisoner, mind you. Years ago, I agreed to help the Men of Letters gather information about angels. My brethren shunned me for doing this, so the wards were there to protect me from them. Except they were so powerful that even I couldn’t get through.”

Dean can’t help being suspicious of that last part. If there were sigils, couldn’t she just have erased them? He doesn’t ask, and she keeps going.

“The man I was helping left one day to never return. I fear he may have died.”

“Possible… most of ’em are dead nowadays. So what? You spent the last fifty years alone in a bunker? It wasn’t ours, was it?”

“No. A bigger one. Not really a bunker either, in New York City.”

Dean nodded, wondering if there were other creatures imprisoned or forgotten about in other bunkers all over the country.

“Charlie found some. Charlie Bradbury?” Paschar confirms when Dean’s face turns sharply toward her. “She and other hunters have been going to the different Men of Letters facilities to make sure there were no forgotten creatures, as you put it. The ones that are still standing, that is.”

“So… Charlie’s hunting, then?”

“She does go and save humans, from time to time. Although monsters aren’t as voracious as they once were, which is why she’s mostly touring the bunkers. Sadly, not all the prisoners have survived and if they did, they’re still monsters. Charlie refuses to put them back into the world to roam free to hurt humans. But she believes, as do I, that she still frees them in some way when she kills them.”

Dean is looking ahead again, hating that his friends have been out there facing all kinds of dangers while he chose to take a damn nap. A nap he felt he deserved, but why would Dean Winchester ever deserve anything? Let alone any semblance of happiness.

Before Paschar can say anything else, Dean turns the volume up again, never saying another word until they reach Lebanon five hours later.

 

To be continued…

Chapter Text

If Dean had intended on parking the car in front of the door, he’s instead told by Paschar to turn onto a small dirt road leading behind the bunker. As the dirt path starts to dip, Dean pumps the breaks, refusing to go further.

“Where the hell are you leading me, huh?” he asks, keeping his gaze on the curtain of trees ahead. “Looks like some kind of trap.” He turns a hard gaze on Paschar. “What tells me you really are an angel? Maybe you’re a demon. Maybe it wasn’t really Kevin I talked too before. He could be possessed.”

Paschar’s peaceful features aren’t helping Dean calm down. He leans a bit forward, eyes squinted. “Christo,” he lets slip between his lips, his whole body ready to attack when—

“Not a demon,” she says, smiling now. “You remember I healed you earlier, don’t you? Also, you should very well know there are no demons left on Earth, Dean. Thanks to your brother’s amazing sacrifice.”

Her mouth closes with a pop when Dean’s face takes an alarming shade of red. It doesn’t matter that Dean knows better than to start punching angelic creatures, his fist still flies at her face. The next second, Dean is cradling his broken hand with Paschar giving him a pitiful look.

“I’m sorry, Dean. Your friends did warn me that—that what happened could still be weighing on you. I won’t mention it—him—again.” Paschar slowly lifts a hand and aims to wrap it over Dean’s. “Let me heal you.”

Dean scowls but still lets her, mostly because it will be far easier to drive the car back to where he wants her with two functioning hands.

“There’s a garage in the bunker, Dean. This is where I’m taking you.”

“Since when?” he asks, trying to see what Paschar could be talking about. All he sees are trees and darkness.

“It’s concealed, but you can drive right through there. Leads to a door, which leads to a tunnel, which leads to a garage.”

She shows him the key they had ‘inherited’ from Henry Winchester. How did she—

“This is not the same key. We were able to make copies. There’s a device in the—”

“Told you to stay out of my fucking head,” Dean says, his tone sharp. Paschar has the decency to look at least a little bit sorry while Dean puts the car back in drive and slowly makes his way forward. “I swear if my car gets scratched even just a little bit, I—”

Only once close enough does Dean realize he won’t actually have to drive through the trees, the path swerving behind them. “Huh,” he lets out, mildly impressed when he sees a cement arch framing huge metal doors.

He stops the car and before he can ask Paschar about what’s next, she hands him the key.

“On your left,” she says.

He looks to see a metal plate in the cement. There’s a familiar keyhole in it and Dean lowers his window to stick the key inside and turn it. Immediately, gears can be heard as the doors start opening.

The clicking sound soon echoes in the tunnel ahead.

“Take the key back,” Paschar says. “The doors will close on their own once we’ve gone through.”

Dean complies, turning the key again to pull it out before pressing the gas pedal, ever so softly. He navigates the tunnel at a slow pace, making sure to steer clear of the sides. He doesn’t need to turn on Baby’s headlights, thanks to the sconces embedded in the walls.

Another set of doors appears after a sharp turn. They’re already open and Dean needs to squint from the brightness. He steps on the brakes again once they’re through the doors.

“What the…”

The place, the so-called garage, is enormous. How in the world did they never realize this was here before? He swallows when he notices the classic beauties sitting idle in the many car booths. Baby certainly deserves her place among them. He’s wondering what to do next when a door on the far wall opens to let in Kevin Tran.

Dean’s heart skips a beat. Even from this far, the kid doesn’t look all that good. He looks tired and even skinnier than he was before. Dean steps out of the car and waits, Paschar doing the same to come and stand next to him.

“I’m here, what’s up?” he says when Kevin stops in front of them.

The question seems to surprise Kevin, but only for a second. He schools his features and crosses his arms over his chest. “Peach didn’t tell you?” He glances at her and she comes to stand with him.

“I didn’t think it was my place to say anything,” she says.

“I see… What did you guys talk about on the way here?”

“We didn’t talk much. He did hit me when we got here. He broke his hand but no need to worry. I healed it.”

Dean clears his throat. “I’m right here, you know.”

Kevin looks back at him, frowning now. “Why the hell would you hit her?”

Before Dean can answer, Paschar lands a steadying hand over Kevin’s shoulder. “It was my fault. I spoke of—you know—that person I clearly shouldn’t have spoken of.”

“Well, he’s gonna have to get over it sometime soon because that’s exactly who we need to talk about.” Kevin faces Dean again. “You gonna hit me too if I dare mentionning Sam? Or Cas? Or—”

“What about Sam? What do you need to say about him?” Dean says, purposefully glossing over whatever else Kevin has been saying.

“Look… We should go inside, grab a beer or something and—”

“I swear to God, Kevin. If you don’t tell me what’s going on, I’ll—”

He doesn’t finish his sentence, Paschar stepping to shield Kevin with her body. “I won’t let you hurt a prophet of the Lord, Dean. I don’t care how important your role is supposed to be, I will break every single bone in your body before I let you touch him.”

For the first time, Dean finds Paschar’s demeanor to be truly angelic. And by that, he means that the chick is scary as hell and very douchy. Still, Dean has never been one to back down from a challenge and he’s tempted to punch her pretty face again.

“I won’t let you hit me a second time, Dean Winchester.”

“Kevin, tell your guard bitch to get outta my head, and outta my face!” He quirks an eyebrow at her when she doesn’t move. “I’m not gonna hurt the kid,” he adds.

“He barks a lot, but he doesn’t bite,” Kevin says as he steps out from behind Paschar. “We’ll be fine, Peach.”

“I can’t believe this is the righteous man,” she says, her stern gaze still on Dean. “He’s all but righteous. I don’t see how he’s the only one who can—”

“Peach!” Kevin says. His tone is warm but sharp. It’s enough for her to stop speaking and she nods. “Very well. I’ll let you two discuss,” she says before turning fully to Dean. “If I learn that you ever—”

“I won’t touch a single hair on his head, I swear,” Dean says, eager to see her go already. She answers with a sharp nod and turns away. They wait until she has left the garage before speaking again.

“Spill, Kevin. What’s up?”

“Well, actually, it’s not what’s up, it’s what’s down.”

“Huh?”

“Hell, Dean. I’ve been informed that Hell is on the brink of some kind of revolution.”

A revolution? In Hell? Dean finds the idea ridiculous enough to chuckle. The laughter dies in his throat when he notices Kevin isn’t sharing his amusement.

“It’s all but funny, Dean. If we don’t do something soon, it’s going to break open again, and with the angels stuck upstairs, humanity is doomed. There will never be enough hunters out there to save the world from evil.”

“So you’re saying it’s going to be literal Hell on Earth? So what? God’s been talking to you and it’s the Apocalypse again?”

“Not God, Dean… Castiel. Castiel is the one talking to me.”

Dean’s stomach drops at the name. He takes a couple of steps back, up until he can feel Baby behind him. He leans on her, his knees ready to buckle.

“You’ve been speaking to Cas?” Did he ask about me? How is he doing? Is he coming back?

“Sort of, yeah. Mostly been getting visions and stuff.” Kevin comes closer, looking up at him with concern. “He’s the one who showed me where you were, and what you were doing there.”

He waits, as if waiting for Dean to say something about that. Dean stays quiet, making sure to look Kevin in the eye, challenging him to say a single word about that. Kevin must know better because he just nods and sighs.

“Castiel is the one who showed me where Paschar was. He also made sure I contacted Charlie, and—”

“Doesn’t he have better things to do? I mean, I’m super glad they haven’t killed him, but maybe he should be making sure it stays that way instead of—”

“He’s pretty much running the show now, as far as I can tell.”

“He’s God?” Dean asks, shivers running down his spine. The last time Castiel tried to play God, it didn’t go all that well.

“Of course not. He’s just… one of the main players, I guess? It’s not like we chat. He tells me what to do, and I do it.”

“And you’re sure it’s Cas you’ve been talking to? Wouldn’t communications be that Metatron dude’s schtick?”

Kevin nods, a soft smile on his face. “The fact that Castiel is talking to me probably is thanks to Metatron, but it’s still him. I’m sure of it.”

Dean also nods, at a loss as of what to say. It’s great to know Castiel isn’t dead, but he’s still locked up in Heaven and out of Dean’s life. And Sam is still dead. And all Dean wants is to go back under and sleep until he’s dead, too. Someone else can handle whatever’s about to go down. He’s given all he’s had to give.

“All right, good talk. If you don’t mind, I’ll go back out there. You know, take a nap or something. Good luck with whatever.”

“Dean, you can’t leave. We need you.”

Kevin’s words hit Dean like a sword through the heart. And it pisses him off.

“Why me, huh? Can’t I just have a bit of peace for once? Send another hunter after Hell, I’m fucking done!”

“Nobody else can do this, Dean.” As he speaks, Kevin takes a couple of steps back, his hands up in a placating gesture. “You’re the Righteous Man. It’s your duty just as much as being a prophet is mine.”

Dean shakes his head as he tries to calm himself down. It takes a good minute.

“I may have been, but that was before. You heard the angel, man. I’m not the right guy for whatever job this is.”

He shakes his head again before getting into the car and slamming the door. He winces, sending Baby a silent apology, then starts her up.

“Open the door, I’m leaving,” he says.

“You can’t leave. Not yet.”

“Kevin, I swear to…! Open the fucking door!”

Instead of complying, Kevin leans into the car to turn the engine off. He’s still halfway hanging inside when he turns to catch Dean’s gaze.

“Lucifer is out of the cage. He knows Sam’s in hell, Dean. If he sniffs him out, if he finds his soul, he’ll have all he needs to open the gates again. When that happens, the world will definitely end.”

 

To be continued…