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Open Mic

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The new Poetry Nights at work drive Castiel to drink, so it’s a very fortunate thing they have catering. He sets up the area in what is typically their silent study space: high stained glass windows and higher wooden walls. The old section of the library is a modest cathedral to books, one vastly underused between their weekend programs. 

The singers and recitals have been exemplary, whether a fledgling professional artist pushing her CDs or a gaggle of middle schoolers clutching their violins and violas. When they don’t have a published poet—and sometimes, even when they do—the library’s entertainment on Poetry Night is always more hit-or-miss. Sometimes, slam poets pop out of the woodwork, ping-ponging words off assumptions and twisting phrases so tightly, their traditional meanings break in half.

And some nights, they have this. 

Pushing down a sigh, Castiel puts his back against the wall next to the drinks table. With an undisguised smirk, their regular bartender Dean steps back to join him, a clear plastic cup of red wine in each hand. 

Castiel accepts it gladly, doing his best to tune out whatever the poet-of-the-moment is spouting about, strangely, both corporate sellouts and his own ex-girlfriend. It’s a very strained metaphor, even if her new boyfriend apparently works in sales. 

Shoulder nudging Castiel’s, Dean leans down to whisper, “Oh freddled gruntbuggly.” 

Immediately, Castiel’s face fights to contort, straining to keep at least the semblance of politeness.

Thy micturations are to me, As plurdled gabbleblotchits, in midsummer morning On a lurgid bee,” Dean continues. 

“You can’t have memorized the whole thing,” Castiel whispers into the plastic rim of his glass. 

“All I’m saying, I’d rather have some Douglas Adams.”

“You know where the science fiction section is.”

Standing together, shoulders still touching despite ample space against the wall, they listen to a depiction of a winter’s dawn and a summer sunset, calm and lovely, if delivered without confidence. Castiel hands Dean his glass to clap, only to glower when Dean downs the rest in one go. 

Winking, Dean gets him a refill. It’s cheap wine, the only kind they can afford for these gatherings, and sometimes, Castiel honestly prefers the grape juice that goes in the more colorful paper cups. Tonight, it’s either unexpectedly decent, or the poetry that disappointingly bad. 

The hour passes in small increments, in two minutes of stanzas, in five minutes of riveting conviction, in an eternity of false cleverness. Standing beside the wide carpet that serves as their stage, Anna calls up their poets one by one from her clipboard, and they rise out of the tiny sea of folding chairs. 

“You ever think about cheese and crackers or something?” Dean whispers while one poet sits and another rises. His breath tickles Castiel’s ear, shifts the hairs on the side of his head. “I could go for some snacks.”

Castiel shakes his head, only to receive an accidental kiss on the ear: a brush of lips, nothing more. “I- Dean, having liquids in here is bad enough.”

Not moving back, Dean sighs. “After we clean up, how about getting some food, though?”

Castiel looks away from the hipster celebrating the ambiance of her grandmother’s bodega. “What?”

“Food?” Dean asks again, his green eyes now unsure. 

“You don’t have to wait for me,” Castiel replies. “You’re always packed up quickly.”

“I’ll help with the chairs,” Dean insists. “C’mon, please?”

Castiel always declines the offer, but he accepts quickly tonight, the better to hear the rest of current poem, of wrappers and door chimes and a proud cat declaring empty shelves. 

Anna continues the way down her list, presumably making the notes Castiel knows she always does. Who to invite back by name. Who to push through early and who to reserve as a grand finale. They’re getting down to it tonight, most of their audience having already gone up to read. Some nights, it seems that their entire audience is merely participants waiting their turns. Tonight, there are a few more, most noticeably the grandmother who presumably owns the bodega, her arm wrapped tightly around her granddaughter’s flannel-clad shoulders. 

“Hey, Cas,” Dean whispers with an abrupt urgency. “Can you take over the table for a minute?” 

Castiel frowns at him, but nevertheless nods. With the event about to wrap up and the drinking and talking portion about to begin, it’s awful timing for Dean to need the restroom. 

“Thanks, man.”

“Dean Winchester,” Anna calls. 

With a nervous tug of a smile at the corner of his mouth, Dean winks at Castiel before heading up. 

Castiel leaves the wall, ostensibly to stand closer to the wine table. 

Nodding to Anna, Dean takes up position behind one of their three reliably working microphones. He pulls a folded piece of lined paper out the inside of his jacket and brings his mouth close to the microphone. 

“I will love you holey,” Dean says. 
“I will not love you divine
Nor will I love you complete.
I will love you 

And just for a second, his eyes rise from the paper, and back to Castiel.

“Gaps and spaces, 
these the pauses between our words
wide enough for glances.
Distances and stretches, 
these to cross between our minds,
long enough for years.

“Because I will love you 
A sponge drinking water.
Pores breathing air. 
Shifting room for soft footsteps
Pressed into warm sand.

“I will love you incomplete
With spaces left to grow.
I will love you incomplete,
The only way I am.”

Eyes lowered once more, Dean leans in and concludes into the microphone with a firm, “Thank you.”

As Dean returns to the wine table, he keeps his eyes down, not yet ready to glance. Anna announces their final poet of the night, but Castiel doesn’t hear the name.

“So, uh,” Dean says, turned toward the table, clearing his throat. 

Castiel reaches. 



Their hands fit very well together. 

Dean looks over his shoulder. 

Castiel nods. 

Dean squeezes fingers, but otherwise holds his hand loosely. Gently. 

Full of spaces to grow.