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Dean had never keyed anyone’s car before. He cared too much about cars.

But this? This was a whole different kind of circumstance. Keying a car was about as close as Dean was ever going to get to retaliation without endangering himself or his job.

By the time he’d left the staff meeting, he had nothing but a head full of angry questions and half-formed insults echoing in his skull. He trotted down the staircase, hand skimming down the banister – which was cut and carved with middle schoolers’ names. The carving started as pure vandalism but had been promoted to tradition when nobody fixed it, and five hundred other people joined in. By the time Dean left the school building and stepped into the watery autumn sunshine, he let out a clouded breath, and with his mind made up, he marched towards the staff parking lot.

He looked around to find the guy’s car.

That had to be it, right? Golden Lincoln Continental? That dickwad bragged about having a nice car, and besides Dean’s own ‘67 Chevy Impala, this was the only other nice one here.

Gritting his teeth, Dean made his way over, fighting with his pocket to drag out his keys. He went up to the car’s left doors, where there was more room to move and his ass wouldn’t hit the pickup truck on the other side.

Dean look a quick scan of the area. Defrosted soccer field on the left, empty. Stone school building ahead, washed with golden afternoon light, reflecting pale on the windows. The faint smell of Tater Tots and boiled carrots wafted over from the steamy kitchens, lingering from lunch.

Dean took a breath and crouched, then emptied his lungs. “Sorry, girl,” he whispered to the car, and began to scrape.

He had to press harder than a touch, and it wounded him, made him squirm as the gold paint came off.

He started with one vertical line under the wing mirror, and wondered if that was enough.

No! He had to get the point across. So he kept going.

Twelve seconds later, a shadow moved into his sunbeam. “What are you doing to my car!” the silhouette demanded.

Dean gasped, standing straight, hands up. “Nothing! Wasn’t!” He glanced at his hand, then tossed his keys away, and they jangled onto the tarmac near the next car along.

The shadow came forward, and his dark hair split the sunlight, stern blue eyes and furiously flat mouth. “I saw you.”

Dean started to pant. “Wait. You’re not— Is this your car? This is— Ahhh, shit.” He let his hands down, one covering his mouth as he gazed at the scratches in the paint. “I got the wrong car.”

The man hugged an empty cardboard box to his side, looking disgruntled. “Aren’t you the student counsellor? Winchester?”

“Dean, yeah.” Dean breathed out, trying to grin, but grimacing. “You’re the, uh, science gay? Guy! Science lab guy. Right?”

“Castiel,” Castiel said, eyes narrowed. “And yes, I am gay, but that’s hardly any of your business.”

Dean shook his head, growling, “Aw, no-no-no!” He muttered to himself, pacing away, then coming back. “Shit. This couldn’t be more ironic if I’d wanted it to be.”

Castiel came closer, looking down at the car.

B   I     G      O

Castiel squinted. “Is this a flirtation?”

“What?”

Dean looked at the car, then blushed. “No! Oh, God.” He paced away again, hands screwed into his hair, leather jacket flared out at his sides. “No,” he confirmed, facing the other man. “Wasn’t flirting. What the hell, Dean. This is the stupidest thing I’ve ever done.”

“I beg to differ,” Castiel said coolly, reaching to unlock his car, then bending into the front seat to take out some weird-looking contraption, putting bits into his box one-by-one. “I heard you once took half a week of sick days to go to a Taylor Swift concert in Albuquerque. And you drove cross-country from Rhode Island to New Mexico because you’re afraid of planes.”

Dean blew a raspberry. “What! No, that’s crazy,” he grumbled. He folded his arms and explained, “The concert was in Vegas.”

Castiel slammed his car door and looked at Dean in distaste. “Perhaps this is a bad time to ask, as you’re currently in the middle of committing a crime, but what crime exactly were you attempting to commit?

Dean opened his arms, shrugging. “Tryin’ to— Tryna key Director Robbins’ car. Guy’s an asshole.”

“Director Robbins?” Castiel squinted. “That’s his Buick over there.”

Dean’s eyes shot to a butt-ugly white sedan parked over by the prefab block. Dean’s stomach churned. “That’s his idea of ‘nice’?”

Castiel’s eyebrows had inched closer to his coiffed hairline when Dean looked back at him. “My car was your idea of ‘nice’?”

Dean looked at the Lincoln. “Well, yeah?” He glanced up at Castiel, patting his car’s roof. “This girl’s a total babe. And you’re takin’ good care of her too, look at that shine. Jeez.” Dean pressed a fist to his lips, overcome by regret. “God, I’m so sorry, baby.”

“Are you talking to me or my car?”

“Does it matter?” Dean reached for his wallet in his back pocket. “Seriously, man, how much to make this go away?”

Castiel huffed. “Tell me why you wanted to graffitti Director Robbins’ car and maybe we’ll call it even.”

“What? Are you serious?”

“I live for the delicious drama of people and their small, pathetic lives, what can I say,” Castiel deadpanned.

Dean sighed, wetting his lips, then sucking his lower lip under his teeth. “Look, you probably don’t wanna know.”

“I do.” Castiel dumped his now-heavy cardboard box on the hood of his car, turning to Dean and putting his hands on his hips, making his tan trenchcoat spread like a bird’s tail behind his thighs.

Dean gulped. “Okay. Well. We just had a staff meeting and he was talkin’ about cutting the Diversity Group. And he was like ‘it’s nothing personal, Dean’, but I could see, in his eyes,” Dean pointed to Castiel’s eyes, then his own, “that it was fucking personal. It wasn’t even about funding, ‘cause I pay for the thing outta my own pocket. Bought the kids a record player and everything. Robbins just pinned this on not having the space, and when I said I ran the thing in my own office, he got all uppity about ‘concerned parents’. Which is bull, and we both knew it. And so did everyone else in the meeting.”

“Diversity Group,” Castiel repeated.

“Yeah, you know, my after school club?” Dean bounced, made happy by the thought of it. “Got a fun bunch’a weirdos hanging out on Fridays, making each other feel less weird. We share stories and movies and music from different cultures and religions and talk about our feelings. It’s awesome.”

“Oh... yes...” Castiel tilted his head. “I was under the impression it was some form of Gay-Straight Alliance club.”

“Oh,” Dean scoffed. “Yeah, that too. Like, I said, diversity.” He hung his head. “I, uh. I kind of got warned not to talk about the fact I’m bi. Gotta focus on the multi-cultural aspect of it. Since they’re middle-schoolers, and apparently being openly not-straight around youngsters is inappropriate.”

Castiel bristled, Dean saw him tense up. “Who told you that,” he demanded.

Dean met his eyes. “Wanna take a guess?”

“Director Robbins?”

Dean gave a flat, angry smile. “Bingo.”

Castiel’s nostrils flared. “Where are your keys?”

Dean’s heart leapt – but then he realised Cas was probably just trying to get him to leave. He flashed a grin and bent down, scrambling at a half-crawl until he found his keys and popped up with an “Ah-hah!” – only for Castiel to snatch them and stride off in a blast of faded cologne and coffee, beelining for Robbins’ car.

“Castiel— Cas!” Dean charged after him. “Whoa, whoa, slow down! Easy, dude, at least—” Dean snatched his keys back. “At least let me do it, man, then only one of us gets arrested.”

“You won’t get arrested if you don’t get caught,” Castiel replied. He looked around quickly, then leaned close and muttered out of the corner of his mouth, “I’ll keep watch.”

Dean began to smile. “Partners in crime, huh?”

“Just write, Dean,” Castiel demanded, hands in his coat pockets, scowling. “Write ‘you insufferably xenophobic toad’.”

“Too long. And an insult to toads.”

“Then write ‘xenophobe’.”

Dean carved out a Z.

Castiel glanced down, then sighed, gently prying the keys from Dean and skilfully turning the Z into an X, and writing for him.

“See,” Dean said, leaning on the car and casting his eyes around to make sure nobody saw, “This is why I was writing ‘bigot’. I know how to spell that.”

“Oh, is that what you were writing,” Castiel said, mid-H. “I thought it was orgasm-, anus- or mouth-related. I hadn’t figured it out yet.”

Dean blushed.

Castiel stood up, looking down at his handiwork, passing Dean back his keys. “There.”

Dean looked down.

X   E   N  O  P    H O  E

Dean grinned. “Okay, not for nothin’, Cas, but—” He craned down, and added a squashed B.

Castiel looked ruffled. “Oops.”

“You were just tryin’ to make me feel better, weren’t you.”

Castiel opened his mouth, then closed it, eyes down.

Grinning, Dean held up his hand for a high-five. “Gimme some.”

Castiel stared for a moment, then slowly lifted his hand, and hugged his palm to Dean’s.

Dean was dumbfounded for a number of seconds as they held hands in mid-air. Then he drew a cold breath and let go, looking around, biting back a smile as he pocketed his keys.

“Alright. So. That’s done. We should probably get the hell outta Dodge, huh.”

“I have A.V. club to run,” Castiel said, turning back for his car. Dean followed, listening as Castiel went on, “And I highly suggest you accompany me, Mr. Winchester, as no doubt you will need an alibi when someone asks where you were on Tuesday afternoon, a few minutes prior to four o’clock.”

Dean watched Castiel heft that heavy box under his arm again. Castiel paused, then looked back at Dean. “Are you coming?”

Dean leaned awkwardly on the Lincoln, trying to grin. “I, uh. I’m not really an A.V. club sort of guy. I’m more of a Little League and Wrestling Club guy.” He shot Castiel a pair of finger guns.

“Are you a jail sort of guy?” Castiel raised his eyebrows. “You have just committed a crime, and as the key-owning staff member whose extracurricular club has just been explicitly jeopardised by Mr. Robbins, to your face, I do believe you would become the prime suspect in the investigation. And, notably, as my students know I came down here to get this theremin from my car, it would be unsurprising to anyone if I said I happened upon you mid-crime.”

Dean swallowed.

“It’s my word against yours, Mr. Winchester,” Castiel said with the easy confidence of someone who didn’t struggle to lie. “But I’m the less likely suspect, and nobody can prove it was me who scratched Robbins’ car, as I have six waiting children and an accurate clock as my alibi, and it was your keys that did the deed. And I know how to spell.”

“Are you makin’ an enemy of me?” Dean asked, in a slow growl, a flicker of anger at the side of his lips.

“You made an enemy of me first,” Castiel side, eyes pointedly turned to the four letters scraped into his car. “But regardless,” he turned away to leave, calling back, “the faster you come with me the more of an alibi you’ll have.”

Dean didn’t take a second to weigh his options before running after the science teacher. He walked beside him, sulking, hands deep in his pockets.

Castiel smiled.

“You’re an asshole,” Dean told him.

“Oh, yes, a big one,” Castiel agreed. “Some call me ‘Big O’.”

Dean puffed with laughter so hard he thought he burst something. He was still snuffling and snickering as he stumbled up the stone steps after Castiel, following after him as they entered the building. It was cool and shady inside, and Dean calmed down, but went trailing after Castiel as they headed for the science lab.

Castiel backed into the wooden door, opening it with his elbow with practised ease. “Hullo, everybody,” he said, as cheers went up from a bunch of glasses-wearing children gathered around a projector. “Look, I’ve brought a friend with me. Who knows Mr. Winchester?”

Dean brightened and took his hands out of his pockets, because even though there were only six kids here, he knew three of them. Little Miriam in her tiny pink hijab, twelve-year-old Trevor with his mottled port-wine-stained skin, and eight-year-old mouth-breather Karl, with his giant blue-framed glasses and missing front teeth.

“Heyyy, buds,” Dean said as they rushed to hug him. “You guys are secretly nerds, huh. I never knew.”

“You’re a nerd,” Miriam said playfully, returning to her wooden stool and hopping up. “Mr. Castiel, how come Mr. Winchester’s here?”

“Ah,” Castiel said, taking his coat and suit jacket off, then setting his weird doohickey on the front table, his face and arms coloured zig-zag blue by the changing images projecting onto the screen behind him. “Now that’s a story.”

“Yeah, tell ‘em the story, Cas,” Dean said. He came to lean on the front table, his head level with the children’s. “I dare you.” There were three curious kids looking at him, and he gave them a wink, making them grin.

Castiel caught Dean’s eyes, and then said, eyes darting low, “It’s actually a... date?”

Utters of surprise and disbelief ran through the front of the classroom, and Karl seemed the most astonished of all of them, looking at Dean with his mouth open in what could only be described as absolute delight.

Of course, the children’s surprise was nothing compared to Dean’s. He’d barely heard of the guy ten minutes ago and now they were dating?!

Dean’s cheeks felt hot. “Yeah, well,” he said as casually as possible, “we would’ve gone to laser tag but then Cas went and reminded me he had important nerd stuff to do. So. Here we are.”

Laser tag,” Castiel muttered. “I think you mean a visit to the observatory.”

“Nerd,” Dean whispered.

“Yes.” Castiel gave him a cool stare, clicking part of his contraption into place. “Proud of it.”

“What is that?” Trevor asked, leaning flat on the tabletop, crouching on his stool.

“What do you think it is?” Castiel asked. “Anyone? Oh, Cindy, could you turn the projector video off please— Thank you.”

The projector returned to a blank white slate, giving Castiel a square spotlight and a harsh shadow. The rest of the room was dim, nearly dark, and Dean looked over to see a captive audience with their hands raised and waving.

“Trevor?”

“Is it a radio?”

“It does look like one, doesn’t it,” Castiel said. “Plastic box with knobs. But no, it’s not a radio.”

“It has an antenna,” Miriam said, pointing.

“So it does. And it has a loop of wire at the side, too, see?”

Dean raised his hand.

Castiel noticed, and glanced his way. “Dean?”

“Why do the kids and staff call you by your first name?”

“I like it better,” Castiel said, turning his attention to Karl, who was giggling about Dean’s off-topic question. “Yes?”

“Does it emit or recieve?” Karl asked.

“Emits,” Castiel said. “Specifically, soundwaves, which are transmitted... here.” He showed off a pair of loudspeakers he’d brought in the box, and now Dean understood why the box was heavy when the doohickey looked so flimsy.

Castiel tried to plug the speakers in, but after he took a second too long to figure it out, Dean got up to help.

Dean felt the heat of Castiel’s hands when he took the speaker’s connecting jack off him, inserting it into the right hole in the machine’s rear. “There,” Dean said. “Clips right in.” He winked at Cas, clicking cheek to teeth.

Castiel gazed at him. “Thank you, Dean. Go back to your seat, please.”

Dean was about to, but then tilted his head at the machine. “Is it some kind of instrument? I think I saw this on a video of a Pink Floyd stage once.”

“Very good, Dean,” Castiel said, as the kids wondered what a Pink Floyd was. Castiel smiled to the kids. “Shall I tell you about this machine?” Castiel asked sneakily. “Do you want to know what it is?”

“Yes,” chimed the audience, as Dean tiptoed back to his place with a stool, perching on it with his legs spread and knees bumping the desk, looking at the machine with intrigue. Dean nodded when Castiel checked his way.

“It’s called a theremin,” Castiel said – and Dean smacked his own head.

“Ugh! You told me earlier!”

“Yes, I did,” Castiel said, “but I didn’t expect you to remember, given you were distracted by my Big O.”

Dean flushed hot while the kids talked in clamors, yelling and shrieking and trying to guess what the theremin did.

Eventually Cindy got the final word, as Castiel gave it to her. She was a chubby Chinese girl with her straight dyed-blonde hair tied in a bun, her voice quiet, but her words knowing: “It’s for music.”

“Ooh,” Dean said, leaning forward, arms folded on the table. “Ooh, ooh, it’s one of those spooky ghost noise-makers, right? Like the sound effects in Scooby Doo?”

Castiel smiled, and held a hand over the theremin. With his left hand, he turned on the power, and lowered his right hand over it.

Whoeeeeeeeeeeeeee,” said the theremin.

Dean laughed, and the children made sounds of amusement.

OOOOEEEEEEEeeeeeeee—”

“As you can see,” Castiel said, “Its output is adjusted by proximity. The closer I am to this antenna, the louder it is; as in, I can adjust the volume by—” (OOOEOOOOEEEEEEEE) “—getting close, and—” (oooeeeeee) “—adjust the pitch with this antenna, by moving forward and back. My hand disrupts the magnetic field between the antennas, which creates a signal which the machine amplifies... and all the sound comes out of the speakers.”

Castiel beckoned to the Indian kid on the far end of the bench, and he hopped down and came around beside Castiel, with Castiel’s guiding hands on his shoulders.

“Be very careful now,” Castiel told the kid. “You don’t need to touch it, just move your hands.”

Dean felt his heart swell as the little boy’s eyes lit up, both hands sweeping and swooping over the instrument, making a chaotic, yet weirdly harmonious noise.

“Sounds like aliens,” Miriam said.

“It actually was used to contact aliens,” Castiel said, making Dean sit up straight. “In two-thousand-one. A group of people performed a whole symphony and broadcast the sound into outer space. No cosmic applause yet, alas.”

“Awesome,” Dean breathed. He eyed the theremin eagerly, wishing he didn’t have to wait for six kids to have their go first.

“The theremin,” Castiel went on, reading from a print-out now, “was invented by a Russian man, Léon Theremin, in the year nineteen-twenty,” Castiel said. “He didn’t make much money at the time, because it was produced right as a Russian war started, but! But it was also the first-ever mass-produced electronic musical instrument, and it’s still in use today. And it’s also very fun to play, isn’t it?”

The Indian kid clearly agreed, because he hadn’t heard any of that, and was wearing the biggest grin a child had ever worn.

I want a go,” Trevor complained.

“Me too,” Dean said, fake-grumpy.

Castiel caught his eyes, and Dean saw those eyes twinkle. “Dare I detect,” Castiel said to Dean, whisking a hand towards himself like he was coaxing a smell closer, eyes rising, “a hint of nerd? A whiff of – hm – geekery? A note of hypocrisy, perhaps.”

“Shuddup, asshole,” Dean mumbled, smiling down at his hands on the table.

Language, Dean,” Castiel tutted. “In front of the children, too.”

“I didn’t swear, I just told you to stuff it,” Dean argued, vaguely hearing the kids giggling at him.

You stuff it,” Castiel retorted, feathers ruffled.

“Stuff what where, exactly?” Dean pried, one eyebrow crooked. “Gosh, Cas. In front of the children, too.”

Castiel had colour on his cheeks and his eyelashes fluttered, lips parting as he looked away. Dean was thrilled to have made him falter when he was previously the picture of confidence.

Dean waited his turn like a proper grown-up, whiling away thirteen minutes by checking out Castiel three dozen times. Castiel knew Dean was looking at him and moved to a place where Dean could see his legs, too, perching his ass on a high stool and man-spreading his legs, hands held gently between his thighs. His shirt sleeves were rolled up, the end of his necktie draped lazily over his leg.

Castiel told the kids whenever it was someone else’s turn, and he gave occasional facts and figures about the instrument’s past. Dean was sure the kids absorbed the info better than he did.

Sometimes Dean and Cas locked eyes, and Dean felt hot prickles all over his skin.

He didn’t know whether they were flirting or battling, trying to catch each other out. Kind of felt like both.

Cas had all but implied he wasn’t going to press charges, nor demand payment for what Dean did to his car. Cas had been the one to direct Dean to the correct car, thus helping Dean complete his mission. But Cas had been the one to vandalise Director Robbins’ car in the end, technically absolving Dean of a crime, but then throwing him under the bus in making him an accessory to said crime, as well as the eventual prime suspect. Then – most bizarrely of all – Cas had blackmailed Dean into saving his own ass, and kindly provided him with an alibi.

Dean didn’t know where he stood.

But he knew where he was sitting, and that was on a stool. Maybe on a date with his newest enemy, in the school science lab, having a damn good time.

Castiel nodded to him. “Your turn, Dean.”

Dean grinned and leapt up, hurrying to the theremin. The projector beamed cool white light into his eyes, and his hands glowed silver as he leaned near the instrument.

OoooeeeeOOOOOOO—”

“Sounds like the Doctor Who song,” Miriam said excitedly to Cindy, and Cindy nodded.

“Yeah. I wanna watch— Mr. Castieeelll! Can we watch Doctor Who?” Cindy called.

Castiel looked over at Dean, who was gleefully spinning spirals around the theremin, making it whistle. “After Dean’s had his turn. And then, only until five.”

“Awwww.”

“Hurry up, Mr. Winchester!” Trevor cried.

Dean pouted. “Dude, I’m having my turn. Y’all got your turn. Butt out, kid, I’m doin’ science.”

Castiel laughed as the kids laughed, all amused by Dean’s three-sixty on the topic of nerdery.

Dean heard a few more mutterings about this Doctor Who thing, and chanced to ask, “What’s Doctor Who? Is it anything like Dr. Sexy?”

Miriam gasped and clutched her pink hijab to her cheeks. “My mommy said Dr. Sexy is a naughty show.”

Dean grinned. “Oh, it is. Only watch it when you’re a grown-up.”

Miriam nodded firmly.

Castiel sidled up to Dean, sharing his heat with Dean’s hip and a warm hand with his lower back. “Doctor Who is a British sci-fi show,” he told Dean softly, almost like it was private information.

“Sci-fi?” Dean raised his eyebrows. “Is it super nerdy?”

“Oh, yes, Dean,” Castiel said airily, chin up, eyes on Dean’s. “The nerdiest. There’s time-travel and aliens, and a deep underlying examination of the human condition. But sometimes it’s just dinosaurs on a spaceship.”

Dean glowed a little bit. “Can I watch too? Or...?”

Castiel tilted his head. “Depends. Will you complain all the way through?” Dean shook his head, and Castiel smiled. “Then, yes.”

The projector was already running, so Castiel went to his laptop, and the kids scuffed their stools and kicked their school bags and pulled out snacks as they prepared to watch. Dean willingly gave up his time with the theremin, assuming Cas would still have it to play with later.

“What do you all think,” Castiel called to his students. “It’s Dean’s first Doctor Who episode. Should we give him the first one, or a good one?”

“Good one! Good one!” came a lot of voices, but Cindy’s quiet mutter came in at the end, complaining, “I wanna go from where we left off.”

Castiel grinned. “I’m happy to report, Cindy, that the one where we left off is a good one.”

Cheers went up as the video file started playing, and the loudspeakers were quickly repurposed for the laptop. Dean sat back, lips parting, enjoying the little surround-sound cinema set-up.

Castiel pulled up a stool to sit beside him, warm right thigh against Dean’s left. “How are you enjoying A.V. club?” Castiel asked in the lowest of voices.

Dean glanced at him. “Oh.” He shrugged. “It’s awesome,” he breathed with a grin. “You really just bring in weird machines and poke at them? And then watch sci-fi?”

“Pretty much,” Castiel said. “Sometimes we record and edit our own music, or build robots.”

Dean’s eyes widened. “No way.”

“Oh, yes!” Castiel smiled. “Mine walked off the edge of the desk and died, but it did a very impressive strut before then.”

Dean cackled, then pressed his finger to his lips when some kid shushed him. He glanced up at the screen, realised he had no idea what was going on, so looked back at Cas. “So... you run this, what, once a week?”

“Tuesdays, four ‘til five, yes.”

Dean bit his lips. “You, uh. Got room for one more member?”

“You’re here, aren’t you?” Castiel said, watching the projector. He kicked Dean’s boot. “Nerd.”

Dean blushed. “Don’t tell anyone.”

Castiel’s eyes sparkled as he looked sidelong at Dean.

“What?” Dean asked.

Castiel smiled a bit. “We’re both openly queer, but you’re worried someone would find out you enjoy Audio-Visual Club?”

“I’m a sports guy, Cas.”

“Who has a brain. And a Ph.D. in child psychology.”

“Mmm, mostly brawn though.”

Castiel frowned. “I expect you here weekly, Dean. No exceptions.”

“What, you got more crimes to commit that you need an alibi for?” Dean looked smug when Castiel looked at him in surprise. “Yeah, two can play that game. You cut up that brand new Buick, Cas, not me.”

“Shh!” Castiel hushed.

Dean glanced to his right, but all the kids were enraptured by some kooky British weirdo on screen with a mop of brown hair and a face shaped like a foot.

“If anyone happened to have seen us, we may both lose our jobs,” Castiel said dangerously. “But unless someone did – and I don’t think they did – each of us have the power to end the other’s career. So.” Castiel stared at the desk, jaw set. “Are you making an enemy of me, Dean?” he said with some force, staying quiet.

Dean kicked him gently on the shoe. “Keep your friends close, enemies closer – that’s what they say, right?” He bit his lip, still biting as he grinned widely at Castiel. “How ‘bout I take you to dinner tonight. And... we stay close.” He cocked his head, lips pursed, eyes drifting. “Tonight. Next week. Foreseeable future.”

Castiel was tugging at his necktie and pulling at his shirt collar when Dean looked back.

“Yeah?” Dean asked.

Castiel started to smile, head down. “Okay.”

Dean beamed, looking up at the screen. The show finally hit its intro sequence, a blue box rushing through a colourful void, and Dean laughed as he heard that “Woooo-eeeee-ooooooooo,” and nodded, thinking it did sound like a glorified theremin.

 

 

Among both the staff and students of Woonsocket Middle School, Rhode Island, Castiel’s car was now known as The Big O. The kids thought it was hilarious. The staff thought it was a dirty joke, but didn’t want to say anything, because the kids didn’t get it, and if someone told them it was dirty, they’d ask questions.

Dean begged Cas to get it fixed up, but Castiel had decided he liked it, and there was no arguing with him, then.

Castiel swore up and down to anyone who asked: he’d gone to his car to get the theremin just before four o’clock that day. There hadn’t been anyone in the parking lot, and his car had been unharmed at that point. He’d met Dean in the hall outside the science lab heading back up, and Dean had been with him and the kids until five p.m., after Director Robbins discovered the damage. (Dean stood next to Castiel and nodded. He’d take being an A.V. Club nerd over being incarcerated – or fired, whichever was worse.)

Director Gary F. Robbins quietly lost his job, for reasons which had nothing to do with Dean and Castiel’s parking lot warfare, and everything to do with the fact he had very obvious underlying prejudices, and putting them down in signed paperwork just made it easier to catch him and report him to the appropriate overlords.

Castiel denied to the other staff that he had anything to do with Robbins’ departure, but Dean knew Cas, now. He knew what kind of person he was, and how fluidly he lied and manipulated when he had someone to protect.

Dean was no stranger to liars, growing up the way he and his brother did. He knew liars were dangerous people, and could not be trusted. But whenever he realised he’d been lied to, he could tell the difference between intentionally cruel lies and impulsive lies for personal gain or self-defence – and Castiel’s were neither: his were careful lies designed as safeguards for the vulnerable, if there ever could be such a thing. Dean didn’t think a protective lie was better or worse than any other kind, as a lie was a lie and it eventually hurt someone, somehow; he simply accepted the way Castiel functioned.

Dean knew Cas had had everything to do with getting rid of Robbins. And in doing so, Cas had saved Dean from trouble, then saved Dean’s Diversity Group, and all the lonely at-risk kids who were part of it, and very dear to Dean. And Cas lied so nobody knew Dean had been part of the plot from the start.

Dean only asked him once, wondering if Cas would lie to him, like he had everyone else. “Was it you, Cas? Robbins.”

Castiel took his eye off the end of the giant observatory telescope and looked at Dean calmly. “Yes.”

Then he looked back into the infinite night sky, smiling.

Thank God. There was honesty in him.

It would be terrifying to make an enemy of Castiel, Dean thought. That was why – oh boy – he was so damn glad to have him as a friend.

Dean took Castiel’s hand as they left the telescope, as Castiel had let Dean get the longest look before having his own go, and now they were both satisfied.

They wandered through marvels of machinery and specimens of the stars, milling among light crowds, enjoying it all, and enjoying each other.

Dean let go of Castiel with an excited yelp and rushed to the next exhibit, eyes wide with the sparkle of discovery. “Cas! Come look at this! It’s about the seas on Europa! There could be alien life in there, did you know that?”

Castiel followed, hands in his trenchcoat pockets. “You are a nerd.”

Dean glanced back and winked. “Proud one.” He clung to Castiel’s arm and dragged him on. Castiel went, smiling.

{ the end }