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On the Line

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You don’t really plan for these things.

Dean had just been eating cereal at the cracked linoleum kitchen table his grandmother had had since before his mother was born. He was only at his grandmother’s house in the first place because he was out of milk at his own. That was an advantage to staying in the town you grew up in.

Gramma Deanna’s phone started ringing on the table next to him. She’d left it there while she’d gone out to the garden or went to take a shit or whatever she was doing. Dean hadn’t been paying attention. He flipped the phone over, curiously looking at the caller ID.

It looked local. Probably a spam call.

Dean answered it just in case.

“‘Lo?” he asked, his mouth still half full of Cap’n Crunch.

There was a pause before a deep male voice said “Hello. How are you today?”

The pause and the deep sexy voice immediately made Dean sure this was, in fact, a spam call.

“You a robot?”

There was another pause. This time Dean could pick up the note of surprise in it. “No.”

“Oh, cool.” Dean took another bite of his cereal and talked through it. “What’s up?”

There was another pause. Dean was beginning to suspect the spam caller guy had never actually expected Dean to pick up. “Oh, well...” he cleared his throat and jumped into what sounded like a script. “I’m calling because your IP address has been compromised. I’ll just need you to get in front of your computer so we can get your account fixed up.”

Dean snorted. ‘IP address has been compromised?’ “Yeah, sure. Just one question, though.”


“You really couldn’t think of a better lie?”

The other end was nothing but silence.

Dean smirked. “I’m just wondering. Because, like, my IP address being compromised is kind of the stupidest thing I can think of. How would that even happen? What does that even mean?”

Dean took another bite of his cereal, revelling in how the obnoxious crunching must sound over the phone line.

“It’s just kind of weak is all,” he finished, milk dribbling out of his mouth.

There were a couple more beats of silence where Dean was sure the other guy must have hung up. He pulled the phone away from his ear to see if the call had been disconnected.

But, no. He and spam guy had been on the call for two minutes, eleven seconds.

He put it back to his ear in time to hear the guy ask, “Why did you answer?”

Now it was Dean’s turn for a surprised pause. “What?”

“If you knew this wasn’t a legitimate call, then why did you answer?”

Dean shrugged, knowing the guy couldn’t see him.

The truth was, he wasn’t really thinking about it. Dean was there, eating cereal at 10am on a Tuesday in his grandmother’s kitchen, and the phone had started to ring. He hadn’t had anything else going on. There was no harm in it.

He was bored.

But that sounded kind of pathetic.

“Thought maybe I’d have some fun at your expense,” he answered.

“What expense?” the guy said. “Talking is no expense to me.”

Dean frowned. “Well, you’re not accomplishing your goal.”

“My goal?”

“Your goal of scamming my elderly grandmother,” Dean said, getting himself a little fired up. “Yeah, my sweet old Gramma D. I’m keeping her from getting scammed. It’s why you called and you’re not accomplishing that. I’d call that an expense.”

The guy hummed, as if granting Dean the point. Dean let himself feel smug for a second before the guy spoke again.

“Well, can I scam you?”

Dean’s spoon was frozen, forgotten, halfway between his bowl and his mouth.

Did he just ask if he could scam me?

“Did you just ask if you could scam me?”

“Yes,” the guy said, cool as anything. “Can I scam you?”

“Um,” Dean started, feeling truly baffled. “I mean you can try?”

“Great,” the guy said, a certain amount of satisfaction in his voice. “You need to get in front of your computer.”

Dean sucked in air through his teeth. “Ooh, yeah, that’s still a problem. I’m not at my place right now. I’m at my grandma’s.” He took a large, obnoxious bite. “Eating cereal,” he continued with his mouth full. “So it’s not like I could get up and leave.”

“Okay. I will call you tomorrow morning, then.”

“You don’t have my number,” Dean reminded him.

“I’ll call your grandma, then.”

Dean snorted. “I don’t live with my grandma. I probably won’t be here to pick up.”

“Why are you there today?”

“I was out of milk.”

Now the guy snorted. Dean was a little surprised; it was the most unprofessional thing he’d done on the call so far.

“I’ll call tomorrow morning.”

“I might not answer.” Dean reminded him. “My grandma definitely won’t.”

“I’ll take my chances. Have a good day, Mr. Campbell.”

Not knowing what else to do, Dean hung up. He hung up before he could say anything else. Like how it was Winchester, actually: Campbell was his mother’s maiden name. Or that Dean actually had to be at the shop earlier tomorrow, so he definitely wouldn’t be at his grandma’s eating breakfast at 10am. Or to ask him, ‘Hey, what the fuck?’

Not that any of those things actually mattered. This had just been a weird spam call. It would turn into one of Dean’s weird and hilarious stories he could tell at the garage or at family events. He could tell everyone how he’d saved Gramma Deanna from one of the freakiest spam callers he’d ever spoken to.

It’s not like Dean would ever talk to him again.

Sundays were family dinner nights.

Enough of the family still lived in or around Lawrence that bringing everyone together one night a week felt not only natural but almost mandatory. Not everyone was so fortunate to have the family they did. 

In addition to Dean’s parents and his Gramma Deanna (Grandpa Samuel, may he rest in peace), Dean also had his Uncle Bobby, who would drive in for dinner on Thursdays with his new wife, Ellen, and Ellen’s daughter Jo. Add in Dean’s best friend, Charlie, who had no family of her own, and you were looking at a pretty full table. They weren’t all blood but they were family.

And this was Dean’s week to host.

He actually quite enjoyed hosting most weeks. His caretaker-gene really thrived when he had a full house and the opportunity to cook.

This week, however, he’d forgotten a couple key ingredients for the recipe he’d planned and he got out of work a little later than he wanted, so he was really scrambling to get everything together.

He was scrambling so much, he was still on full frantic cooking mode by the time his guests arrived. Dinner was not ready yet.

“Everyone – just – wait in the living room a minute? Please!”

There was some grumbling and a few concerned looks, but whatever expression was on Dean’s face discouraged them from offering to help.

Which was really for the better since Dean didn’t need any help, God .

He zipped around, checking ovens and stirring saucepans, when his phone started to ring on the counter.

He swiped to answer without looking at it. “What?”

There was a familiar pause before: “Hello. How are you today?”

“Today?” Dean asked, offhanded. “It’s almost night, dude. Where the fuck are you calling from.”

“Oh,” The voice said, startled. “That’s just part of my script. It is still today, though, even if it is evening.”

There was something in the tone of voice and the weird break from professionalism that tickled Dean’s memory. “Sure. But normal humans don’t talk like that. I know you’re not a robot, though, because you had a comeback for what I said. Robots can’t do that.”

A sigh. “I am not a robot, no.”

“Cool,” Dean grinned. “Well I’m making dinner so can–”

“Dinner for your grandmother?”

Dean paused, his eyebrow quirking, before continuing to pour his pasta in boiling water, the phone pressed between his cheek and shoulder. “Maybe. How’d you guess?”

“You answered her phone again, Mr. Campbell. And you told me you don’t live with her so…”

“Oh shit!” Dean said, actually grinning. “You’re the same scam call guy? Well fuck, dude! You did it! You caught me!”

There was a low chuckle on the other end that brought out the veins in the back of Dean’s hand. “A happy accident. These dialling lists are automated.”

“So how were you gonna try and call me back Wednesday morning?”

There was a very telling pause on the other end. “I may have made a note. And I actually did call this number back Wednesday morning.”

“Told you I wouldn’t answer,” Dean smirked, wiping his hands on a towel. “And Gramma D doesn’t suffer no fools.”

“Well you answered now,” the guy said, fairly.

“Wasn’t paying attention. Didn’t realize this wasn’t my phone.” He switched shoulders, needing more movement from his right hand to grate cheese. “Thought you might be my brother.”

“Your brother wasn’t invited to dinner with your grandmother?”

Dean rolled his eyes. “I’m not explaining anything to you. I don’t owe you shit. Don’t you have a job to do?”

“Ah, yes. Now if you can get in front of your computer–”

“I literally just told you I was making dinner,” Dean interrupted. “My hands are full of parmesan. What makes you think I can get to my computer right now?”

“Ah,” the guy said, sounding none too disappointed. “Foiled again.”

Dean laughed. “Looks like.”

“I can always try again.”

“You do that,” Dean said, through a grin.

“Until next time, Mr. Campbell.”


There was the slightest pause, as if the guy was taken aback again, before he corrected. “Dean.”

“Bye, scam guy.”


Dean’s hands were still very cheesy so he couldn’t hit the end call button. Instead, he waited for the other guy to hang up.

The guy did not.

“Uh, bye, dude.”

“I’m not allowed to hang up, Dean. I can’t end the call. You have to.”

“What part of cheese hands don’t you get, man? Hands are just FULL of cheese.”

“Dean, I literally don’t even have an end call button on this automated system.”

Dean barked a laugh before turning his face away from the phone. Not enough for him to drop it, but enough that the scam call guy wouldn’t go deaf when Dean yelled.

“Jo! Come and hang up the phone!”

He could hear her swearing as she came into the kitchen, so he said one last ‘bye’ before he gestured with his face to Jo to take the call and hang it up.

She rolled her eyes but reached for it, pulling it out and hitting end call.

“This isn’t your phone,” she told him, looking at it suspiciously.

He snorted. “No, it’s Gramma D’s. I wasn’t looking when I answered it.”

She nodded as if that was reasonable and he turned back to his cheese. He almost had enough, by now.

“Whose number is this?” Jo asked, shoving the phone under Dean’s face.

He didn’t recognize the number but he assumed it was the one he was just talking to. “Spam call.”

“Ugh,” Jo said, pulling herself up to sit on the counter next to Dean. “I hate those.”

“Joanna Beth, get your ass off the counter where I’m making food. Damn, who raised you?”

“Watch your mouth, Dean Winchester!” called a voice from the other room.

Dean winced. “Sorry, Ellen!”

Jo laughed, not hopping off the counter but instead reaching into Dean’s bowl for a pinch of grated cheese. Dean growled at her.

She scrunched her face at him and dropped the cheese into her mouth. Dean scowled and turned away.

Big mistake, because when she wasn’t antagonizing Dean, Jo just turned back to the phone.

“Why does it say you were on the phone with the robot for three minutes?” Jo asked. “Don’t you just hang up when you realize it’s not a real person?”

“It was a real person,” Dean told her, separating egg yolks and putting them in a bowl. He deliberately put the empty shells on Jo’s lap since she was between him and the garbage disposal.

“Ew!” She flicked a piece of shell at him. “You said it was a spam call.”

“It was. A scam call about IP addresses or something. I talked to the same guy earlier this week. Remember I told you about that weird scam call I got on Tuesday?”

Joe nodded, her lips turned to the side. “That’s fucking weird. Same guy?”

“Same guy.”

Jo hummed. “Yeah, okay, That can be a three minute conversation.” She hopped off the counter. “You’re excused.”

“I don’t need your fucking excusal, Joanna Beth!”

She stuck her tongue out at him before leaving the kitchen, letting him finish his dinner prep, and Dean assumed, going to complain about him to everyone in the living room.

Dean rolled his eyes, getting back to the dinner.

Carbonara was always tricky. You cooked the egg sauce by stirring it into the hot pasta, making sure it stayed liquidy instead of just scrambling. It required timing and focus Dean wasn’t super great at. But other than that, it was simple and delicious, so he would suffer through.

He finally allowed himself to breathe once the sauce and pasta were successfully incorporated

All that was left was to dump everything in a serving bowl, take his roasted zucchini out of the oven, and bring everyone into the kitchen to eat.

And only fifteen minutes over. Dean could live with that.

He grabbed his own phone and pulled up Sam’s number, requesting a video chat. Sam was always bitchy that they couldn’t FaceTime because Dean didn’t have an iPhone, ( “I’ll just keep saying it, Sammy: FUCK Steve Jobs.” ) but he answered Dean’s Facebook video messenger call every time, so Dean didn’t see what the problem was.

“Jerk,” Sam said as soon as the call connected.

Dean grinned. “Bitch,” he replied. “We’re getting ready to eat, you busy?”

Sam looked away from the screen, giving Dean a view of his overlong hair curling around his neck. His face came back before Dean could comment on it. “I’ve got like ten minutes.”

“Perfect!” Dean said, before calling to everyone in the living room. “Soup’s on! And be quick, Princess Samantha can only be with us for ten minutes.”

Everyone shuffled into the kitchen, hurling abuse at Sam as they entered.

“First he moves away, then he’s too busy for family dinner,” Jo sniffed dramatically.

Mary followed her, shaking her head in solemn agreement.

“Honestly, and on the Lord’s day! ” Charlie added.

Sam made a noise of disagreement. “Charlie, you’re an atheist.”


Everyone rolled their eyes, making their own greetings and snide comments toward Sam as they gathered around the table.

“Okay, everyone get a good look at the kid?” Dean asked, Sam’s voice from the phone calling out in outrage ‘I’m 27!’

Everyone nodded, so Dean put his phone in the designated video call spot so Sam could get a good look at the whole table. It was behind their father’s seat at the head, so he only saw John’s back but he got to see everyone else’s face.

Everyone served themselves and ate and chatted, making sure to include Sam in conversation as if he too was there and eating and chatting. Dean made sure to be extra obnoxious about how good the food was since Sam wasn’t there to eat it. Sam rolled his eyes, a fork intermittently coming into frame as Sam had his own salad for a late lunch. Time zones.

“Who’s got the weirdest story from the week?” asked Mary, a tradition of family dinner. They all loved competition.

Ellen made a noise through her full mouth, hurrying to swallow. “That drag queen came back to the Roadhouse on Friday,” she told them. “She – He? Charlie–” she looked at Charlie questioningly.

“Either is fine,” she told Ellen, being the authority on all things gay in their household. “Drag queens for the most part have boy identities and then their girl drag identities, so either is fine. But when referring to the drag queen, ‘she’ is probably easier.”

“She,” Ellen nodded, “asked me if I was interested in hosting a drag night. She said we could try one once and if it goes well we can maybe turn it into a regular thing.”

“Why the Roadhouse?” Sam asked, his voice sounding more far away as he sat back. “No offense, Ellen!”

“No, I know what you mean. And hell if I know! The drag queen just said she liked the energy of the place.”

“Could it be because Jo threatened those homophobes with a shotgun that one time?” Dean asked, innocently.

“Probably,” Jo said, not even looking up from her plate.

Dean snorted.

Bobby grunted, bringing the attention to himself. “Fella came into the shop wondering if we did custom body work,” he said, offhand. “Wanted to know if we could give his ‘72 Camaro a shark fin.”

Dean dropped his fork. “He did not . He wanted to ruin that car??? Where was I?”

“You weren’t in yet, boy.” Bobby rolled his eyes. “It was Tuesday morning.”

“Oh yeah!” Dean grinned. “My weird scam call! I think I win.”

Protests went up around the rest of the table. Only John asked, “What weird scam call?”

Everyone else groaned as Dean’s grin widened. “I’m glad you asked, Dad!”

“Why does everyone else know?” John frowned around the rest of the table. “Is it bad?”

“No,” Sam sighed, the sound an explosion of air against the mic. “Dean probably just didn’t tell you so he’d have an excuse to tell the story again at family dinner.”

“How dare you,” Dean said, but didn’t deny it.

He told the story, being as dramatic as the story entailed, and everyone rolled their eyes.

Until he brought up that he’d spoken to the guy again.

“You have my phone?” Gramma Deanna asked before reaching her hand out. “Give it back, boy.”

Dean winced apologetically, reaching for the counter to give her the phone back.

“It’s just funny that I got the same guy twice on a phone that’s not even mine.”

“Or fate,” Charlie said, batting her eyes. “Did he sound dreamy?”

Dean snorted, his ears heating up just a little. He was bisexual, and out to everyone at the table. Charlie, very proud of him, never missed a chance to bring it up.

“You know he did, actually,” Dean said, deciding to roll with it. “His voice was super deep. And gravelly sounding.”

“Probably from all the phone calls,” Mary said, fairly.

Dean just shrugged.

“Well, I don’t think I’ll have the chance to answer Gramma’s phone again so I guess we’ll never know.”

“Maybe,” Charlie said, lightly, nudging him with her elbow. “Maybe not. Not if its fate.”

Dean rolled his eyes and the conversation moved on and Sam hung up, Dean winning most interesting story of the week.


Life continued.

Dean went to work. His parents hosted dinner the next week. Dean went over the garage’s books. Sam refused to get a haircut. Dean got groceries.

Charlie was standing in his apartment when he got home with the groceries.

“Hey,” Dean grunted, shouldering his way into the apartment. “Get the door?”

Charlie did not get the door.

“Dean, talk to this person for me.”


The phone was shoved into Dean’s face, Dean’s shoulder coming up on instinct to hold it there while his hands were full of groceries. Charlie pulled her hand back, leaving the phone there, effectively trapping him.

He hadn’t been suspicious seeing her in his apartment. Charlie was always randomly showing up and mooching dinner, hopeless at cooking herself.

But that didn’t mean she wasn’t up to something.

“Uh, hello?”

Charlie grinned, turning and disappearing down the hall.

He sighed, disappointed with himself, and followed her.

A voice came through the line, the dialogue familiar. “Hello. How are you today?”

Dean rolled his eyes.

“Hey, what’s up. Whatever you’re selling I’m not buying.”

“We’re not selling anything. We found a problem with your car insurance and–”

“No you didn’t. Thanks anyway.” He made it to the kitchen, dropping the bags on the counter, and hanging up the phone. “Charlie!”

Charlie smiled over at him, hopefully, leaning against the counter. “Well?”

Dean just looked at her, letting his exhaustion and disappointment peer out through his face.

She frowned, slumping into a chair at the table. “It wasn’t him?”

“Him who?” Dean asked, turning to start putting the groceries away. It was smart of Charlie to ambush him in the doorway but fuck, dude, he had ice cream in here.

“Scam call guy!” Charlie said. “Was that the right one?”

“Wha– Charlie no!” He told her, turning to point in her face, “You are not looking for him. We’re not doing that.”

“I wasn’t looking ,” Charlie said, her eyes skirting around the room. “I just got a call and I answered it…”

“Uh huh.” Dean rolled his eyes. “I can barely get you to answer my calls. You’re telling me you’re just answering random unknown callers now?”

Her finger trailed over the table, innocently. “Maybe…”

Dean sighed, making sure to get the refrigerated groceries into a properly cool place before turning to her. “How many calls have you answered.”

She winced. “A lot. Some of them were women. Some of them had accents. I figured you’d have mentioned if your guy had an accent, so I dismissed them.” She froze. “Wait: he didn’t have an accent, right? Am I being racist? Should I have–”

“No, Charlie.” Dean snorted. “He doesn’t have an accent but also we’re not doing this .”

She put her hands up, her eyes comically wide. “I’m not doing anything!”

“Yes you are!” Dean groaned. “Charlie you’re fucking brilliant. We all know that. But I’d appreciate it if you didn’t treat me like I was an idiot.”

Charlie grimaced, making noises in her throat. “Sorry,” she said. “I know you’re not dumb.”

Dean raised an eyebrow as if to say ‘So?’

She sighed. “I just think it’s cool, you know? That you had that weird conversation and then you actually got to talk to him again?! And it wasn’t even your phone!” She gave him a meaningful look. “That’s not nothing.”

Dean shook his head, exasperated. Charlie believed in signs from the universe more than any multiple PhD holder probably should. She was right that it was weird, but Dean didn’t think it had any greater meaning. Except, maybe, his grandma should start blocking unknown numbers.

He tried to appeal to Charlie in this way. “Isn’t the expression ‘twice is a coincidence, three times is a pattern?’ It’s not nothing but it’s not something yet either.”

Charlie hummed, considering this. “Does this mean if it happens a third time, you’ll let me investigate?”

Dean rolled his eyes but agreed, knowing in his heart there was virtually no danger that he’d have to hold up his end of the agreement.

Charlie was being stupid. But Dean did entertain himself thinking of scenarios where he might chat with scam call guy again.

Maybe he’d call the shop phone while Dean was working.

Maybe Gramma Deanna would leave her phone somewhere and Dean would have to bring it back to her and he’d call while Dean had it.

Maybe he’d just call Dean’s phone.

None of that happened, however.


“Hello. Thank you fo–”

“Speak to a representative,” Dean said for what felt like the millionth time. 

He was so tired of speaking to robots. He had enough robots calling him on those automated things. He didn’t need to speak to one when he actually needed help.

“Speak to a representative. Got it. We will transfer you to a representative.” And the phone started ringing again. Dean sighed.

It wasn’t that complicated. He was just looking for a part that had been shipped out over a week ago. He had a tracking number. He had an invoice ID. What he didn’t have was the fucking package.

And patience. He’d run out of patience for this customer service hotline a long fucking time ago.

The phone picked up. “Hello. Thank you for call–”

“SPEAK. TO. A. REPRESENTATIVE,” Dean said, clearly and maybe just a little harshly.

There was a pause before a voice said, “You are speaking to a representative, sir. Hello. My name is Castiel.”

“Oh, thank fuck!” Dean said, tilting his head back and breathing out a sigh of relief. “Sorry, man, I’ve been talking to robots for an hour. You know you kind of sound like a robot?”

“So I’ve been told,” the man, Castiel, said wryly. “How can I help you?”

“I got a lost fucking package,” Dean said. “I have a tracking number. I have an invoice ID. I just want to know where my brake pads are.”

There was another long pause before, “Mr. Campbell?”

“What?” Dean asked, completely taken aback. “Wait, are you–”

“Yes, I’m the one who keeps calling your grandmother.” If Dean wasn’t mistaken, Castiel was smiling on the other end. “Well this is a coincidence.”

Three is a pattern , Dean thought to himself, flabbergasted.

“I told you to call me Dean, man,” Dean said, just to say something. Castiel laughed on the other end. “What are you doing on a customer service hotline? I thought you worked scams.”

Castiel snorted. “One could say customer service hotlines are their own scam.”

Dean laughed, shaking his head. “Yeah, they could. But that doesn’t make me feel better. I did call for something you know.”

“Oh, yes,” Castiel said, sounding for the world like someone getting himself back on track. “Can you read me your tracking number?”

Dean did so and Castiel worked whatever kind of magic happened on the other side of customer service hotlines before he told Dean that his package was in Lawrence but wouldn’t be delivered until the next day.

“Well, fuck! Why not?”

“It says it was missing an apartment number.”


Castiel was quiet on the other line. Dean was abruptly reminded how often Castiel must get yelled at.

“I’m sorry, man, I know this isn’t your fault. I’m not mad at you. I’m frustrated.” He sighed. “You know anywhere I could go pick it up?”

Castiel paused again but said, “Yes. Your distribution center is open to customers between five and seven pm.”

Dean glanced at the clock. 4:45.

He groaned. “Well that means I’ve got nothing for another fifteen minutes. Can’t do anything else until I get those brake pads.” 

He sighed again, leaning heavily on the Shelby GT350 he was fixing for some baby boomer who got it in his head to buy a racing car. As a car aficionado, he kind of hated these old guys who bought such beautiful machines for the status, afraid of what lay under the hood. As a businessman, however, he thoroughly appreciated that none of those old bastards knew how to drive them.

“But really, Cas,” Dean started, figuring he may as well shoot the shit for the next fifteen minutes. “If you’ve got this job that’s at least somewhat legit, why scam calls?”

Castiel hummed. “Easy money? I do a lot of phone work, but only working one job wouldn’t pay my bills. I figure if one place will pay me for my voice, others might too.”

“I’ll bet,” Dean said, a grin wrapping around the words. “That deep gravel. You could be a phone sex operator.” 

Dean laughed.

“Who says I’m not?”

Dean choked.

Castiel laughed.

“Are you really?” Dean asked, warily. “Or are you just messing with me. Trying to get me back for trying to waste your time or something.”

“Do you want the service number?” Castiel asked, in a tone that may or may not have been flirty but was definitely teasing.

Dean was glad Castiel couldn’t see how red his face was. “I’m good. I just don’t like being lied to.”

“Mhmm,” Castiel said, the wordless confirmation dripping in smugness. 

“Whatever, man. At least you can’t surprise me anymore. I know where you work.”

“I work everywhere, Dean,” Cas said, his voice definitely smiling. “You can’t catch me. I’m like the wind.”

“I’ve got your name,” Dean said, beginning to smile himself, embarrassment fading. “How many Castiels can there possibly be?”

“How many, indeed?” Castiel said.

Dean grinned.

“If you leave now, you’ll probably make it to the distribution center when they open,” Castiel told him. “Then you can get back to… whatever it is you do.”

“No hints,” Dean said. “I’m not gonna make it easy for you to find me either.”

Castiel hummed. “Well…” he started, his voice curling into a smirk. “I know you’re in Lawrence.”

Dean had nothing to say to that.

“Goodbye, Dean,” Cas continued. “Please stay on the line for a customer survey about how good your service was.”

“Oh, fuck you,” Dean said, without heat. But the line was already being transferred to another robot.

Charlie didn’t quite slam her laptop down next to Dean but it wasn't all that gentle.

“Jesus,” Dean swore, dropping his pen in his startle. “Fuck, Charlie, what?”

She opened the lid of the computer primly before folding her hands and turning to Dean. “You need to tell me everything you can about scam call guy.”

Dean groaned, pulling his paperwork closer to him over the table. “Charlie, not now.”

“You promised me!” Charle reminded him. “You said if you had another encounter, I could try and find him.”

“Yeah, but I didn’t tell you I would help .” He scoffed. “It’s creepy, Charlie. I’m not gonna stalk this poor guy who’s just doing his job.”

“I’m sure flirting with you is not part of his job,” Charlie insisted.

But this just reminded Dean what Cas had said about working for a phone sex hotline and his face turned red in a blush.

“Whoa, what the hell was that?” Charlie asked, swooping in to examine the color of his face. “You just went straight vermillion.”


Is it his job to flirt with you? What did he say?”

“I’m not doing this, Charlie.”

“Is there something you’re not telling me?”

Dean groaned, crossing his arms and dropping his head on top of them.

Charlie patted him.

He groaned again, lifting his head so his chin was resting on his forearms. “If I tell you everything will you leave me out of it?”

Charlie leaned her face on her hand as if she were the one exhausted by Dean. “I literally don’t know how you expect me to do that. This is your epic love story.”

“It’s not a love story. I just said you could investigate. This is just you flexing your PI skills, living out your nerdy Jessica Jones fantasy. I do not have to be involved.”

Charlie’s face twisted and she muttered something about Jessica Jones but sighed.

“Fine,” she said. “I can beef up my resume for the FBI.”

“Why would you ever apply to work for the FBI?” Dean asked, perplexed, but cutting Charlie off before she even opens her mouth. “Never mind. Don’t wanna know.”

Charlie shrugged again before turning to her computer and opening a Google doc. She inclined her head to Dean expectantly.

He sighed, one last time, before starting with. “His name’s Castiel.”

Charlie frowned, typed the name into the doc, before immediately switching over to Google and typing in the name again.

She frowned harder.

“I was sure it was too unique a name not to be able to find him immediately,” she told Dean when he made a noise of intrigue. “But that’s the name of an angel. Even if it’s not a super common name, you’re not likely to find a ton of information about a guy with that name among the literal thousands of search results about the angel.”

She sighed, clicking back over to the doc and waiting for Dean to continue.

Dean’s eyebrow puckered. He almost asked Charlie why she didn’t just set up a search algorithm to only show her search results that weren’t about the angel but he held his tongue. A) because Charlie was very smart and so she would have already thought of that, and if she hadn’t brought it up, it meant that she’d already dismissed it as a possibility for one reason or another. And B) He wasn’t actually trying to help here. Dean and Castiel had joked about one of them finding the other but it’s not actually something Dean was seeking out. For many reasons, not least of which, how creepy would that be??? Charlie could mostly get away with it because she was small and harmless and a girl. A big guy like Dean could go to prison for that kind of stalking if paired with an unforgiving enough jury.

He was going to let Charlie have her fun – he had promised – but he wanted to be as hands off as possible.

Right after he spilled all he could about the guy.

“His accent is north sounding,” Dean continued. “I don’t know a lot about the different accents but it didn’t sound like New York or Minnesota or anything. Nothing super… specific.”

Charlie grunted, rapidly typing a list of possible cities and a note that looked like ‘find call centers in American midwest’.

“I didn’t say midwest,” Dean couldn’t help but correct.

Charlie sighed, exasperated. “Yeah, I know, I’m going on a hunch. Don’t worry about it.”

Dean scowled at her. She scowled back.

He continued on, telling her all the details about the last conversation he could remember. He watched her type out “Shipping customer service – outsourcing??” and “search indeed: phone operator ads.”

It was when he got to the phone sex operator thing that she smirked.

“That’s why the vermillion,” she said, almost to herself.

“Shut up,” Dean told her. “Am I done? Can I finish my work now?”

“Yeah yeah,” she told him, waving him off. “I’ll ask if I need something. Oh! But–” she turned to him, eyes sharp. “If you talk to him again – which you will because this is fate and destiny – you have to tell me everything.” She jabbed a pointed finger in his direction. “Non-negotiable.” She waited for him to nod and then turned regally back to her laptop. “Good. Now let the queen work.”

Dean rolled his eyes, shaking out the few creases his documents had gotten in his dramatic headdesking and trying to focus on them.

He wouldn’t talk to Castiel again. It was a non-issue. Either Charlie would find him by the information she already had or she wouldn’t.

There was nothing for Dean to add.


Dean was back at his grandma’s, eating cereal at her kitchen table.

He hadn’t run out of milk this time but he had wanted to eat breakfast with her. It was partly out of guilt – using her and her connection to Castiel and then playing it like a joke – and partly out of him genuinely liking his grandmother. He never really saw her a lot growing up, Grandpa Samuel being an outright asshole, not approving of Dean’s dad, and refusing to come around while he was there. Dad was kind of an asshole, too, but he didn’t start yelling when Dean came out so Dean couldn’t be too mad at his dad.

Gramma Deanna, however, did yell. She started going off with questions and happiness, because, it turned out, she was bisexual, too. She had just never had a word for it growing up. And she did genuinely love Samuel, but that didn’t mean Jackie Kennedy hadn’t made her heart flutter back in the day.

So it was fun to hang out with Gramma D. He kept her updated on news in the LGBT community – nothing so socially political as the shit Charlie kept up with, but things like different terms and flags and historically relevant bisexuals.

“Well, we always knew about Freddie Mercury, didn’t we?” Gramma said over her coffee, both hands hugged around it like a proper old lady. “They tried to tell us he was gay, but oh no. I listened to “Love of My Life.” I knew what he was about, even if I didn’t know the proper term.”

Dean bit his lip, trying not to laugh. She’d yell at him for making fun of her, but really he just wanted to laugh because he was happy. “You know about Eleanor Roosevelt?”

Deanna put her mug down on the table, eyes wide. “Really?”

Dean nodded. “With a reporter or something. I don’t remember the details; Charlie could tell you more–”

“No, Dean. Sweetheart you’re doing great. You’re making one old lady very happy.”

Dean grinned, bringing his hands up to cup them around his grandmother's. She squeezed his hand back.

Gramma’s phone started ringing.

Dean’s shoulders automatically tensed. He watched the phone as it rang, the screen reading ‘Unknown Number’.

Deanna hummed, knowingly. “Do you want to get that, dear?”

Dean winced but reached for the phone, swiping it to answer. “Hello?”

There was a pause. And then a beep. And then, “Please do not hang up, we’re giving you very important information about your–”

Dean sighed. A robot.

“No you don’t,” he told it, giving it a real chance to prove it was human.

It did nothing, just talked over him.

He hung up, putting the phone on the table and sliding it back to his grandma.

Her eyes twinkled. “Not your boy then?”

“He’s not my boy,” Dean grumbled before realizing that was exactly the wrong thing to say if he was trying to deny something. “I don’t have a boy,” he tried instead.

Nothing was stopping the twinkle.

She patted his hands, lovingly. “I think it’s sweet. In my day, it was door-to-door salesmen.” She frowned. “There was more of a chance of being brutally murdered in those cases but I can think of at least one person who actually married her Vacuum Expert.”

Dean laughed, ducking his head.

“I’m not gonna marry him,” Dean insisted, dropping all pretense. “It’s just funny to think that there’s a guy out there who makes thousands of calls a day that remembers me out of all of them.”

“Well, you’re very memorable, sweetheart. My special sugarbear.”

Dean rolled his eyes. “Yeah, Gramma, I know.”

“Don’t you sass me,” she said, swatting him. “You come in here and drink all my milk and think you can roll your eyes at me?” She swatted him again.

He flinched back, dramatically. “Sorry, I’m sorry! Jeeze.” He laughed. “I should get going anyway. Work soon.”

She swatted him one more time for luck but she was grinning too.

Dean stood up, leaning down so she could kiss his forehead, before he walked out of her house, crossing the street to his own.

His reaction to Gramma Deanna’s phone ringing had surprised him. The depth of his want for it to be Castiel calling.

It was just curiosity, like he’d told her, but that didn’t change the little hiccup Dean’s heart had made between picking up the phone and the robot answering.

He wasn’t going to tell Charlie about this.



Dean didn’t even wait to swallow before reaching his hand out for Charlie’s phone. He brought it to his face and made a sound that was sort of ‘Hello’ and sort of ‘What’ to encourage the person to keep talking

“Hello, how are you? I’m calling about the car accident you were recently involved in. You are eligible for compensation.”

“Uh huh.” He turned to Charlie, shaking his head. ‘Not him .’ He swallowed. “Thanks so much. You guys keep up the good work.”

He swiped the phone to hang up before handing it back to Charlie, taking another bite of his burger.

Charlie had engineered a search system so thorough, Dean was impressed to the point of slight terror. She’d signed up for hundreds of online programs – ones that ask you for your phone number – knowing it would put her on thousands of call lists. She had a call recording program on her phone, so for every call Dean wasn’t with her to personally verify, she could save as an audio clip to send him. He had dozens of audio clips on his phone that he would listen to on his breaks, trying to indulge Charlie as much as possible without her figuring out he was just as curious as she was.

There was a lot more going on behind the scenes Dean didn’t know about (both because he didn’t care and wouldn’t understand if Charlie told him anyway) that helped Charlie keep track of who Dean had discounted and which callers could be counted on to call at which time. It was all very involved and complicated and Dean was happy Charlie had all of this work to occupy her so she would leave him alone about how he felt about it or whatever.

Which was very good because he did NOT know how he felt about it.

Since talking to Gramma D, he’d let himself think about it some more. It was a weird kind of modern day romantic situation. Maybe. If it worked out it would be. If none of them got in trouble for stalking and probably plenty of hacking on Charlie’s part and Castiel – the guy they were lowkey harassing at work – didn’t hate them for being so invasive, it could be a fun story.

But Dean didn’t know anything about the guy! He knew he had a nice voice and a good sense of humor. He knew he felt accomplished when he made Castiel laugh and that it was hard to keep himself from laughing when they spoke.

He knew Castiel was at least a little bit interested, if him calling Gramma Deanna the day after they first spoke was anything to go by.

But he didn’t have to think about that! Not now or as long as Charlie was distracted by this project of hers.

For now, he could focus on watching his older family experience their first drag night at the Roadhouse.

“If the little blond girl could stop pulling focus, that would be great,” said one of the queens on stage. “Sweetheart, you’re beautiful but you’re stealing our tips!”

Everyone laughed and Jo put on a big show of pouting as she sat back in her booth, having climbed down from the table.

It was potentially the funniest thing he’d ever seen. Ellen and the drag queens got on like a house on fire, happy to be sharing space and making money. Uncle Bobby hovered near the bar, seemingly content to be entertained by the performers but not comfortable enough to put their tips into their hands directly for fear of becoming part of the show.

Like Mary had. Dean’s mom went to tip one of the queens after a particularly spirited performance of “You Keep Me Hanging On” and the queen brought her right on stage, giving her immediate unsolicited fashion advice, like how she should cut her hair and show off her body more in her clothes.

It was hugely embarrassing for Dean, hearing drag queens talk about making his mother more fuckable, but not as embarrassing as it had been for Mary. Especially when she had her husband wolf-whistling from the audience, flirting with the drag queen, and generally handling everything with more grace than any of them could ever have dreamed.


Dean sighed, reaching for the phone again.

“Yeah,” he said.

“Hi! I’m Christine and I’m calling with Planned Parenthood. As you may know, Planned Parenthoods are being defunded across the country and it’s becoming harder and harder for women and others with uteruses to receive treatment. Planned Parenthood is fighting to increase access to safe and legal abortions for everyone in the United States.”

“Oh shit, yeah!” Dean had begun grinning halfway through the prepared speech. He hadn’t been raised to believe in all that, and his parents still weren’t totally on board, but having Charlie and Jo around was a very thorough crash course in being a good ally on reproductive rights. “I am 100% in support.”

A surprised pause before, “Great! Okay, um, do you know about the special election coming up? Are you registered to vote at your current address?”

“You bet your bonnet,” Dean said, smiling and leaning forward. “I didn’t know about the special election, though, thanks for telling me.”

“That’s why we do it!” Christine said in a way that made Dean think she was punching the air. “And, hey, you can do it, too. You want to volunteer to make calls with Planned Parenthood?”

Dean actually laughed. A full belly laugh, his head thrown back and the phone pulled away from his ear. Charlie looked alarmed and excited, only deflating when Dean shook his head at her.

“That would be great, Christine. I don’t know when I’ll be able to commit…”

“I know, hon, commitment is hard. Why don’t I tell you about some events we have coming up and you can tell me what sounds interesting. Then when we get closer to the event, I call and remind you to come out!”

Dean grinned. “Fuck yeah, I love phone calls.” Charlie and Christine laughed on different sides of the phone line. “Lay it on me.”

Christine had different phone banking events at least once every week. There were taco Tuesdays, and wine Wednesdays, and IPA Fridays. There were also little competition days to keep the volunteers invested in the calls: whoever could work the word ‘penis’ into a call the most in one night or the first to get a caller to sing with them would win a sex toy.

It all sounded pretty rad, even if Dean was sure he’d be fucking useless at it. He didn’t have the voice like Castiel.

“Sign me up for all of them except the singing one,” Dean snorted. “You don’t want to hear me sing.”

“Of course I do! But as you wish,” Christine continued, humming to herself as she marked it down. “First one’s on Tuesday. I hope you’re ready, Charlie.”

“Dean,” Dean corrected. “This is my friend Charlie’s phone. I’ll bring her with me, though.”

Christine hmm’ed, delighted. “Well okay! See you both then.”

Dean chuckled, hanging up the phone.

Charlie raised an eyebrow at him. “What are we doing now?”

Dean grinned, a smile like a pit viper. “We’re doing phone calls with Planned Parenthood.”

Charlie sat up straighter her eyes wide. “So in my quest to find the caller, I have made you the caller?”

Dean nodded, taking another bite of his burger.

Charlie sat back, nodding solemnly. “Oh how the turn tables.”

Bobby didn’t think he was too old to get down on that creeper, but Dean would be damned if he wasn’t going to keep an eye on him, just in case.

“Get your fool head back to work.” Bobby told him for the millionth time from underneath the Plymouth. “I’m not paying you to be a pageant judge.”

“You’re not paying me at all, old man,” Dean rolled his eyes. “I’m paying you. And I’m not paying for you to throw your back out crawling around on the ground because you refuse to ask for help.

Muffled grumbling made its way up to Dean and he caught phrases like “damn fool,” and “no respect.”

“You’re the one who sold me the place, Bobby!” Dean grinned, kicking at Bobby’s boot where it was sticking out. “You have no one to blame but yourself.”

Bobby kept grumbling and Dean looked over the shop, making sure everyone else was doing okay. He wasn’t trying to micromanage, he just knew what proud bastards he had working for him. He wanted to give help if it was needed.

Bobby’s phone started to ring from the workbench.

Bobby swore and started rolling out.

Dean planted his foot against the creeper to stop him. “Nope. No distractions. And if you get up from this creeper I’m not sure if you’ll be able to get back down.”

He swiped Bobby’s phone from the workbench, ignoring Bobby’s continued swearing as he resentfully stayed on the creeper, and answered it. “Bobby’s phone!”

There was a pause and then, “Hello, how are you? I’m calling concerning a record we have that shows you owe $5,821 from taxes between 2008 and 2014.”

Dean was ready to hang up but… he recognized that voice. “Castiel?”

Another pause and then, “Dean?”

Dean barked a laugh. “Hey, man! The IRS now? Was the IP address thing not working out? I told you it was a stupid lie.”

“And I told you I work many jobs, Dean,” Castiel sternly, but Dean could tell he was smiling. “You’ve got to stop answering other people’s phones.”

“And you’ve got to stop trying to scam my relatives.”

Castiel hummed. “Cousin?”

“Uncle.” Dean smirked. “Very old uncle.” Bobby kicked at him and Dean laughed again. “This is elder abuse, Cas.”

Castiel snorted. “Okay, Dean.” Dean just grinned. “Why are you answering your uncle’s phone?”

“He’s under a Roadrunner.” Dean shrugged. “I’m helping.”

There was a confused pause and then, “A roadrunner?

Dean rolled his eyes. “The car , Cas. 1970 Plymouth Roadrunner. Beautiful . Well, for a two door.” He frowned at it. “The milage is shit but it’s probably the easiest classic to maintain. Fuck knows how this guy screwed his up.”

There was another pause before, “Right.” A moment of silence then, “I drive a Continental.”

Dean groaned. “Come on, Cas, a fucking Lincoln?” He sighed. “What year?”

Castiel made an ‘I don’t know’ sound. “Late ‘70s?” he said. “You’d probably know better than I would.”

“Pathetic, Cas. That’s pathetic.”

“Why would I need to know the year my car was made?” Castiel answered. “It runs. That’s all I need to know.” He paused again before adding, “It’s gold?” as if that would help Dean identify the year.

“That’s even worse!” Dean exclaimed, smiling again. “Gold? So tacky, Castiel, for shame .”

“How is gold tacky?” Castiel said, sounding really offended for the first time.

“Gold is just bedazzled tan. Come on, man, you can do better than that.”

“How do you know?” Castiel said, before backtracking. “Tan is a perfectly fine color. My favorite coat is tan.”

Dean groaned, loudly and dramatically enough to get the attention of everyone in the shop. “You’re killing me, man.”

Castiel sounded very put out. “Well what do you drive?”

Dean’s grin widened. “Thank you so much for asking! I am the proud driver of a black four-door hard-top 1967 Chevy Impala. A queen among the other, lesser cars of that generation.”

Castiel snorted. “If I’m tacky for driving a gold car, you’re basic for driving a black one.”

“Black isn’t basic, ” Dean argued. “It’s classic!”

“It’s boring.”

Dean gasped, again, so dramatically it got everyone’s attention again. “How dare you?”

“Alright, ya idjit.” Dean startled, not having noticed Bobby had stood up. “Give me my phone. Play time’s over.”

Dean pouted but relented. “You got me in trouble, Cas. I gotta go now.”

“You got your self in trouble, dramatic ass.”

Dean snorted, not bothering to say goodbye before hanging up and giving the phone back to Bobby.

Bobby frowned at him. “Who was that.”

“No one,” Dean said, affecting a casual shrug.

Bobby hummed a disbelieving sound. “That means it was that phone guy Charlie’s been obsessed with.”

Dean made an offended noise in the back of his throat. Bobby rolled his eyes.

“Oh please,” Bobby said, gruffly. “I may be elderly but my senses still work. I still pay attention.”

Dean grimaced and patted the hood of the Roadrunner. “Serpentine belt okay?”

Bobby snorted but allowed the subject change, “Yeah, ya idjit. Get back to your office and call the owner.”

“Sir yes sir!” Dean said with a sarcastic salute.

Bobby just rolled his eyes as Dean turned away, ignoring the curious eyes of his employees as he walked through the shop.

Making phone calls with Planned Parenthood was actually very fun.

Dean barely ever got to talk to anyone (you made one hundred calls and only four people picked up. It was exhausting.) but he preferred to leave voicemails anyway. He was better as a voicemail. No curveballs.

Not like the guy who asked if he should bring his girlfriend into a clinic because her nipples were more tender than usual.

“Uh, sir, I’m not a medical professional,” Dean stuttered, ears bright red. “But I think that’s normal?”

“How’s that normal?” the guy asked. “Your body can just change for no reason?”

Dean’s blush extended to his face. Christine was watching him now, eyes bright and amused. “There is a reason. Hormone fluctuation.”

Dean cursed the public school sex education system that the guy still didn’t know what he was talking about.

“Look, dude, she’s probably starting her period. Nothing is wrong with her but you should still probably visit a clinic. You need to get educated.” He took a deep, mortified breath, before he continued, “The Special Election is May 2nd, please vote for Sharice Davids,” and he hung up.

As soon as he put the phone down, Christine started cackling. “Dean, that was beautiful.”

Dean just put his head down. “I hate this. This is so hard. How does Cas do it?”

“Hmm?” Christine asked, mildly. 

Dean kept his head down, berating himself. He was just lucky Charlie was on her own call and hadn’t heard him.

Cas had called Bobby’s phone the day after that first time. Dean had taken the call, they’d chatted for a bit, and then hung up. It was nice. Easy. A little flirty but zero commitment, because it’s not like they knew each other. Cas had called back the next day and they’d done it all over again. A few times.

Dean didn’t think he’d told Charlie about any of them.

And he wasn’t going to now. And he especially wasn’t going to tell Christine.

“Can I have a beer break?” he said instead. “I feel like I deserve a beer.”

“Only if you bring back a six-pack for the rest of us, sweet-cheeks,” Christine told him, winking. “I like Budweiser.”

Dean snorted his distaste.

Christine pointed at him, chastising. “It’s union made.”

“Yeah, but so is Miller, which is just objectively better.”

Christine looked at him consideringly.

“Fine,” she decided. “Get your Miller.” She smiled, a little evilly. “Charlie and I will get to know each other while you’re gone.”

Dean hesitated. He wasn’t sure if she was trying to imply she was going to seduce Charlie (an easy task – Charlie had definitely been eyeing Christine from the moment they walked in) or that the two of them were going to gossip about him behind his back.

He sighed and left anyway, deciding that if it was the first he might as well leave them to it and if it was the second there was nothing he could do to stop them anyway.

Sure enough, when he got back with the beer (a case of Miller and Budweiser because he was a generous dude), Christine was leaning very heavily toward Charlie, a hand on her knee.

And they were talking about Dean.

“Good news, Dean, I’m invited to the next drag night,” Christine told him, brightly.

“Everyone’s invited,” he grumbled, ripping a Bud off the ring and tossing it to her. “That’s the whole point. For people to go and spend money.”

Charlie snorted. “You know what she meant, bitch.”

Dean rolled his eyes, tossing Charlie a Miller and collapsing back in his chair with a sigh. “Yeah I know.”

Christine knocked her beer into his. “Just a couple more calls, Deany-bear. Then you can try and pull or get off to that random phone dude’s voice or whatever.”

Dean groaned. “ Charlie.

“What?” Charlie said, feigning innocence as best she could, as she was leaning bodily into Christine. “Was it a secret?”

Dean just sighed, exasperated.

Christine’s eyes twinkled, her mouth turned into patronizing tilted smile. “No, Dean, it’s good. Now I know what you meant when you said, ‘How does Cas do it?’”

Charlie’s head snapped to Dean, her hair whipping over her shoulder. “You called him Cas? You nicknamed him?”

Dean snorted, crossing his arms in a forced-casual, defensive kind of way. “Have you said Castiel. Shit’s a mouthful.”

Christine cocked her head, humming into a smirk. “There’s definitely a joke in there somewhere...”

Dean scowled, very close to sticking his tongue out at her. Charlie laughed.

Christine leaned forward and patted his knee. Not in the sensual way she was still touching Charlie but in that same patronizing way she’d smiled at him. 

“I won’t make it, relax. I know we’re not there yet.”

Dean harrumphed, rolling his eyes. He pulled his phone out demonstratively, raising an eyebrow. “I’ve got calls to make.”

Christine took her hand off his knee, raising it palms up in surrender, before grabbing for her beer, taking a swig and going back to her call list.

Dean took several pulls of his own beer, calming down his embarrassment so he could make calls about women’s reproductive health.

Fuck, how was this his life?


“It just doesn’t make sense to do it like that,” Cas insisted, his voice gruffer than usual. “With the pattern they’ve established, and with how they’ve set up Rey as the Jedi, it should be Finn and Poe that end up together.”

If Dean thought hard enough he could probably figure out how they’d even gotten to this subject. It probably went from cars to racing to street racing to pod racing to Star Wars. It could also have gone from Dean’s attitude to childhood influences to Han Solo to Star Wars. Or maybe Dean had just started excitedly talking about the Rise of Skywalker trailer he’d seen.

It didn’t really matter. They were talking about it now.

“Fuck a pattern, dude.” Dean snorted. “One time does not make a pattern.”

“What do you mean ‘one time’?” Cas responded, indignantly. “We have the original trilogy with Luke as the Jedi, Leia as the rebel, and Han as the outside-the-law pilot, with Leia and Han winding up together–”

“That’s one time,” Dean interrupted.

“And then in the prequels ,” Cas continued, speaking over him. “We have Obi Wan as the Jedi, Padme as the rebel – or political leader or whatever you want to call it – and Anakin as the outside-the-law pilot, with Padme and Anakin ending up together.” He paused. “Or they would have if Anakin hadn’t…”

“Gone to the dark side, yeah.” Dean snorted. “So with that formula you have Rey as the Jedi – which is crazy because the Jedi are over so she’s not technically a Jedi but whatever – , Finn as the rebel, and Poe as the outside-the-law pilot? But that doesn’t make as much sense because Poe is the rebel, technically.”

Now Castiel snorted. “Yeah, so you’re just going to ignore that Finn used to be a Stormtrooper and fully turned tail to fight for the rebel alliance? You’re going to disrespect him like that?”

“What ever ,” Dean shot back. “They’ve been setting up Rey to be with Finn from when they first had him lie to her in The Force Awakens .”

“Yeah, and they set up Luke to be with Leia in A New Hope ,” Cas responded smugly. “Things change.”

Dean grumbled, crossing his arms pissily, which meant he had to keep the phone trapped between his shoulder and cheek. It was uncomfortable for his neck, but he didn’t think he was dramatically grumpy enough without the crossed arms.

Not that there was anyone around to see him. This was just for himself. But still.

“I’m not saying I wouldn’t be fucking thrilled if Star Wars ended with Finn and Poe being together,” Dean admitted. “But they’re not going to. They’re owned by Disney , for crissakes. They’re not that brave.”

Castiel hummed, neither agreeing nor disagreeing. “Imagine what it would have been like if they’d pulled the trigger on Luke/Han back in the day. Imagine what that would have done for your childhood.”

Dean hummed back, thinking about it. Growing up, Dean had always loved Han and Leia’s relationship. He liked that they weren’t overly sweet to each other. He liked that they weren’t overly soft and adoring – that their feelings were so strong that they sometimes came out wrong. And that even though they hadn’t been perfect to each other, they still ended up together. They were perfect for each other.

But, well, Harrison Ford had been Dean’s bisexual awakening. Just because he didn’t see any romantic subtext between Han and Luke when he was a kid didn't mean it wouldn’t have been life changing if they’d kissed. Or even said ‘I love you.’ And, hell, he saw the romantic subtext now , as an adult. It’s not like it would have been out of nowhere.

But still. “Rey and Finn have more going for them being together than Han and Luke.”

Castiel snorted again. “Yeah, okay.”

Dean laughed.

“I wouldn’t be mad if Rey and Finn got together,” Cas continued. “I’d be disappointed, sure, but I don’t hate the two of them as a couple. Just as long as Rey doesn’t end up with fucking Kylo, I’ll be happy.”

Dean barked a laugh, always taken by surprise when Castiel swore. “Yeah, no, he’s the worst.”

Castiel laughed back.


Dean flinched, almost hiding the phone behind his back as if he were doing something indecent.

Not that it would have affected Bobby in any way: it was his phone. He knew Dean had it.

He frowned at Dean. “Sorry to cut in” – and weirdly enough, he did look a little sorry – “but Garth needs you, boss. And I need my phone.”

Dean grimaced but brought the phone back to his ear, sighing. “Gotta go, Cas.”

“Watch that video I told you about!” Cas said, before Dean could hang up. “I want to talk about it the next time I try and scam your uncle out of his retirement.”

Dean snorted. “You can’t give me homework for a scam call!”

“Just did, bitch,” Castiel said, almost tripping on the unfamiliar phrase, but saying it anyway because he knew it would make Dean laugh. Which it did. “Hang up now.”

Dean laughed quietly to himself, hanging up because Cas still couldn’t from his end.

His smile drooped a little when he looked up to see Bobby still giving him that weird, sorry look. “I don’t understand you, boy.”

Dean pulled himself together, clearing his throat. “It’s nothing Bobby,” he told him, putting Bobby’s phone back in his hand.

“I may have been born at night but it wasn’t last night.” Bobby scoffed. “Why don’t you just give him your phone number?”

Dean squirmed, moving past Bobby in the office doorway to go out onto the floor.

“It’s not like that, Bobby,” he called behind him.

Bobby swore as he followed after him. “What’s it like, then?”

Dean didn’t answer. Both because he didn’t want to and he didn’t know how.

Because it really wasn’t like that. Yeah, Dean was still attracted to Castiel’s gravelly baritone and he made him laugh and there was still a little voice in the back of his head that sounded a lot like Charlie that kept whispering ‘fate’ and ‘destiny’.

But it was more than that. It was being as much of an asshole as he wanted without fear, because Cas would just be an asshole back. It was talking to someone who he knew was smarter than him but never made him feel like he was dumb. It was not being afraid to say whatever he felt, because, with Cas on the other side of a phone line, it felt like there were no consequences.

It was friendship of the purest kind. Just sharing space over a phone connection. No demands of time or explanations. Simple. Easy.

Most importantly: no one else’s goddamn business.

“What do you need, Garth?”

Dean did his best to ignore Bobby’s sigh from behind him, even though he could feel him crossing his arms and looking over Dean’s shoulder as Garth went over the problem he was having.

It was an easy fix, but not something a lot of these guys would have seen before. Dean went over it, calling over some of his other young mechanics so he could show them what was wrong and how to fix it.

He still wasn’t used to being looked at like a leader, even by some guys who were practically his age, or even older. It was a welcome distraction from Cas and whatever love life Bobby and Charlie were trying to set up for him but it didn’t mean he was any more comfortable with the reverence on Kevin’s face.

When he was done, he asked everyone if they had any questions and was embarrassed when all they did was applaud.

“Shut up,” he said to them, looking away and blushing. “Just don’t bother me when you need to do this next time. You should know what to do now.”

He turned to go back to his office, Bobby standing there and smiling smugly.

“You’re good at that,” he told him: the same thing Bobby’d been saying since he sold Dean the shop in the first place.

Dean scowled at him, ears still red. “You shut up, too.”

He heard Bobby chuckle behind him as he walked back to his office.

“Dean,” Charlie said.

“Speakerphone,” Dean answered, unwilling to pause his kneading.

Charlie put the phone on speaker, holding it close to Dean’s face, but not touching it.

“Yeah,” Dean said, voice a little breathy from the exertion he was putting into his bread dough.

“Hello! You’ve just won an all expenses paid cruise to Alaska! To claim your prize, please–”

“Are you a robot?”

The voice stopped, pausing only briefly before coming back just as friendly.

“Nope! Not a robot. I’m with Arctic Paradise Cruises, and you’ve been randomly selected–”

“How?” Dean asked, smirking a little. “How was I selected? What bowl did you pull my name from?”

Another pause. “We pull from records of those that use your credit card.”

“Which credit card?”

The voice didn’t answer right away.

Dean snorted. “The cruise lie? Man, come on. You couldn’t come at me with something better than the free cruise scam?”

“Sir, I assure you–”

“Yeah, kid, sure. I just hope for a little more originality, is all.”

Another pause before the voice came back, just as bright, but also a little strained. “With this cruise, you’ll be seeing–”

Dean rolled his eyes. “Charlie, hang up.”

Charlie did, frowning. “That wasn’t very nice, Dean.”

Dean made a sound of outrage. “I wasn’t being mean . That’s exactly what I said to Cas the first time we talked.”

Charlie shot him a look at the nickname but didn’t comment on it. “And how did ‘Cas’ react?”

“He was a bitch,” Dean said, grinning down at his dough. “He didn’t take any of my shit.”

Charlie sighed. “God, you’re gross. Okay! So that wasn’t him!” She makes a dramatic show of checking something off on her phone. “Onto the next one!”

“Is this really necessary?” Dean asked, shaping his dough into a braided loaf.

“I’m sorry, do you know of any other way to ever talk to your man again?”

Dean bit his lip. He still hadn’t told Charlie about the conversations he’d been having with Cas on Bobby’s phone almost every day.

Charlie took his expression as acquiescence. “That’s what I thought,” she said. “Excelsior.”

Dean said nothing. Charlie could continue on if she wanted.

Dean was just thinking about how he was going to brag about this bread to Cas on the phone tomorrow.

Dean was back at his grandma’s kitchen table, his phone propped up against the salt and pepper shakers as he watched one of the many videos Cas had told him to watch, eating yet another bowl of cereal with the milk he filched from his dear old grandmother

This video featured a dialect coach breaking down accents in a bunch of different movies. Dean couldn’t really remember what had brought it up. Maybe Dean talking about that new kid in the Spider-Man movies and “hey, did you know he’s really English?” Or it could have been Cas being incredibly rude about Michael Kane in that one movie where he was supposed to be from Texas.

In any case, their conversation about Star Wars had branched out. Cas now knew about Dean’s interest (Sam would say fetish) in cowboys and Dean knew that Cas was really into superheroes – even the shitty CW shows that were more melodrama than action.

The YouTube accent guy was really specific about a lot of things, talking about regional mouth posture and glottal strokes and whatever. He knew his shit.

Dean had seen more videos by this same guy in the recommended feed. If you watched all the videos, would you be able to tell where someone was from based on their accent? Had Cas seen all the videos? Could he tell Dean was from Kansas?

Well, Cas could probably tell he was from Kansas anyway, what with the area codes on the various phones Dean kept answering. And he already knew Dean worked in Lawrence from that shipping fiasco. Cas would definitely have an easier time trying to find Dean than Dean had trying to find Cas.

Not that Dean was looking. That was Charlie’s thing. Dean didn’t care.

A screech of chair legs against linoleum told Dean his grandmother had decided to join him. Dean’s head snapped up, his hand thrusting forward to pause the video. Not that it mattered – it wasn’t like he was watching porn – but Dean still felt vaguely guilty, like he was doing something wrong.

His grandma smiled over at him. “Well, this is a surprise,” she said warmly. “And why didn’t you say hello to your grandmother when you decided to visit?”

“Hey, Gramma!” he said brightly, showing all his teeth. “You caught me.” He raised his bowl in an overly demonstrative show of guilt. “I ran out of milk again.”

“Oh, you.” She chuckled. “Do I need to call you every now and then to tell you to get groceries? I hear you can set reminders on your phone for that kind of thing.”

“Well look at you, Gramma D!” Dean said, his smile becoming more genuine. “Keeping up with technology like it’s nothing.”

“Oh, pshaw.” Deanna rolled her eyes. “It’s not that hard. It’s actually very intuitive! Any old people who can’t keep up with technology are just being stubborn at this point, honestly.”

Dean laughed. He loved when Gramma D got catty.

“What are you watching over there?” she asked him, gesturing at where his phone was now face down on the table.

“Nothing,” Dean said, too quickly. He slid his phone further away from her, almost underneath his elbows. “Just a video about accents and stuff in movies.”

“Oh, that sounds interesting,” Gramma D said, eyes twinkling. “What kind of accents?”

“Well, it’s like when an actor has to play someone from somewhere else.”

She rolled her eyes. “Yes, dear, I know what an accent is. I meant, does the man talk about American accents or British accents…?”

Dean shrugged. “Just people from all over. They talked about how good Meryl Streep speaks like a Polish lady.”

“Well, what can’t that woman do,” Deanna said, ducking her head a bit, almost embarrassed.

Dean grinned, this smile more shark-like. “You got a crush on the Streep, Gramma?”

“Oh,” she reached forward to swat at Dean. “None of that teasing. I just admire her work.”

Dean shrugged his mouth, humming an ‘Mhmm’ and making sure to let her know he didn’t believe her.

She swatted at him again. “Hush, you. What about your crush? Have you found your mystery telephone man, yet?”

Now Dean blushed and looked down. “I don’t have a crush on the spam call guy, Gramma.”

When Dean glanced back up, Gramma Deanna was looking over at him with a stern twist to her mouth that reminded Dean of broken vases and no pie after dinner.

“Do I have to put a drop of tabasco sauce on your tongue for lying to me, boy?”

Dean half-considered telling her, ‘Please do, I love tabasco sauce,’ but that was likely to make her swat at him again.

And he didn’t really want to lie to his grandma. He was named after her. They had a connection.

It’s just that he hadn’t really thought about his feelings for Cas – whether or not they could be defined as a crush. He’d only just admitted he was kind of friends with the guy. A crush ???

He sighed. “No, ma’am.”

He slumped down in his chair and she folded her hands on the table, waiting.

He sighed again. “I haven’t found him, but Charlie’s still trying. I haven’t told her that I talk to him almost every day on Bobby’s phone.”

“What, was scam calling me not good enough?” Deanna asked, and Dean couldn’t tell whether or not she was actually offended.

He laughed, softly. “No, Gramma. I’m just around Bobby a lot more. It’s more convenient.”

“Well whose fault is that? Maybe if you visited me more–”

“I’m here now, ain’t I?” Dean spread his arms, presenting himself. “And I’m talking to you about this Cas thing. I haven’t talked to anyone else.”

Gramma D scowled, but settled back into her chair, seemingly satisfied with being Dean’s favorite for now.

Dean rolled his eyes (but very subtly) and started talking immediately so his grandma couldn’t call him on it.

“I don’t know if I have a crush on him,” he told her, honestly. “I know I like him. I know I look forward to talking to him. I know I wouldn’t mind meeting him one day. But.” He sighed for a third time. “I don’t know. Am I being crazy? Is wanting to find him crazy?”

“If it is, Charlie’s crazy.”

Dean chuckled. “Yeah, but we knew that already.”

Deanna chuckled back. “Yes, well.” She shrugged. “Then I’m crazy too. Because, Dean sweetheart.” She reached forward to cover his hand with hers. “ I want you to find him. Even if it’s just so you can say you did and quit wondering. You are too young to have that big of a regret.”

Dean answered Sam’s Facebook video call with the customary greeting: “Bitch.”

Sam rolled his eyes but he was smiling. “Jerk.”

Dean smiled back. “What’s up, Sammy?”

“Nothing, I just had a minute and saw it was around your break time. Wanna have lunch?”

Dean looked over at the clock, seeing it was, in fact, lunch time. “Trying to check up on me, Sammy? Seeing if I’m eating?”

“Oh, I know you’re eating, fat ass.” Dean made a dramatic face of offense. Sam laughed. “No, man, I just missed you. Humor me.”

Dean grumbled, making a show of being put out, but really, he was grateful. When Sam had moved away, losing touch with his baby brother and best friend was the worst thing he could imagine. Sam had gone to great lengths to let Dean know he was still there and he still cared.

Even if that meant having lunch over video chat like some kind of millenial long-distance couple.

“Gimme a sec, I gotta pop my leftovers in the toaster oven.”

Sam snorted. “That’s gonna take longer for no reason.”

Not for no reason. How do you expect the breading on my chicken to stay crispy in the microwave? I slaved over a frying pan for that crispy skin and you want me to just microwave it?” Dean shook his head. “For shame, Sammy. Have I taught you nothing?”

“Whatever,” he said, rolling his eyes and lifting his fork so Dean could see the pile of lettuce and tomatoes on the prongs. “My food’s ready-to-eat out of the fridge. Fuck with me.”

Dean snorted, bringing his phone with him so Sam looked at his chin as he prepared his own lunch.

He listened as Sam told him about work and some of the classes he was taking to get certified for something Dean didn’t understand, and this girl he’d been seeing.

She has an iPhone,” Sam said, primly. “So she can FaceTime with me.”

“Well hooray for her,” Dean said, doing weak jazz hands with one hand. “This is the same fucking thing.”

Sam grunted unhappily and Dean teased him about this girl.

“Her name’s Eilleen,” Sam started, only too happy to be teased because it meant he got to talk about her. “She’s really cool. She’s Deaf but is crazy good at reading lips, so we can talk. I’m still learning sign language, though, because how unfair is it that we expect her to be able to communicate with hearing people without giving her the same respect to learn her language? Also, how cool will it be to be able to talk across a room or underwater or whatever? I’ve been watching a lot of YouTube videos and–”

Dean just smiled and listened, happily eating his lunch while Sam seemed to forget his salad entirely, too wrapped up in waxing poetic about his lady love.

“That’s really fucking tender, Samantha,” Dean said when Sam paused to take a breath. “Are you this embarrassing in front of her or is it something you save just for me?”

Sam scowled, even while his face heated up. It seemed to just now catch up to him that he’d gotten carried away.

“Well, what about you?” he asked, clearing his throat. “Anything going on on your end? Any ladies or dudes you’ve been looking at?”

And Dean said, “Nah.”

You know, like a liar.

Dean was lightly bonking his head against the wall in an expression of complete frustration, just for the drama of it all. He wasn’t sure if Cas could hear the thudding noise on the other side of the phone but he liked to think he could.

“Dean, you’re being dramatic, it’s not that big of a deal.” And see? Dean could totally hear Castiel roll his eyes. He was sure Cas could hear him dramatically thunk his head.

“Cas, you’re killing me. This is my profession. My livelihood. And you’re going to try and tell me that driving on the same tires you’ve had for five years isn’t a big deal?”

“They’re perfectly fine tires!”

“Cas, I would bet my car that those tires are practically bald . You’re only supposed to drive 50,000 miles on a pair of tires, max .”

“Well, I don’t know how many miles it’s been. It can’t have been 50,000, though, that sounds like a lot.”

“The average person drives at least 1,000 miles a month, Cas. It wracks up.” Dean sighed, putting his hand to his forehead, massaging his temple with his thumb. “I’ll prove to you you need new tires. You got a quarter?”

Castiel paused and then Dean heard him rummaging in his pockets. He smiled a little bit as he tried to imagine it. He had no idea what Cas looked like but in his head it was kind of like that State Farm commercial. Cas was like Jake from State Farm: just a nerd in some khakis.

A nerd in some khakis who had a deep, sexy voice and a sharp wit and who let Dean needle him endlessly about his car, even though he clearly couldn’t give less of a shit.

“I have a penny?” Cas, said, unsure. 

Dean huffed. “Cheap bastard… but that’s good. Better, actually. I need you to go out to your car.”

Cas made a noise of complaint in his throat. “This is a landline phone, it won’t reach.”

“Then I’ll tell you what to do and you can put me on hold,” Dean rolled his eyes. “Take your penny, put it head down in the tread of one of your tires, and tell me how much of Lincoln’s head the tire covers.”

“What, and you’re just going to wait here? Don’t you have work to do?”

Dean snorted. “I’m doing my job by making sure your car’s taken care of. Go.”

Castiel grumbled but Dean heard the phone receiver be gently placed on a desk. Cas didn’t put him on hold with waiting music or anything. Dean wasn’t sure if he could with the specific company he’d called from. Dean didn’t even know what the scam was supposed to be today – they’d skipped over that entirely in the past few weeks, moving straight into wherever they’d left off last call or with Dean telling Cas about something that had happened or if he’d watched the latest video Cas had assigned him.

They were moving farther and farther away from Cas actually trying to scam Dean and more toward something else.

Cas picked up the receiver. “The tires don’t cover Lincoln’s head at all.”

Dean grinned in a self-satisfied kind of way. “That means your treads are below 2/32nds of an inch, which is illegal , Castiel. Also super unsafe.”

“I’m a good driver,” Cas grumbled.

“Don’t matter how good of a driver you are if you hydroplane from shitty tires.”

Cas sighed. “How much is replacing them going to cost me?”

Dean smiled again, this time in victory. “Depends! A lot of mechanics might try and overcharge, because they’ll be able to tell you’re totally clueless about this shit. But, luckily, I can give you the number of my supplier.”

Dean rattled off the name and phone number of the tires place he used. They were regional, but they could usually deliver pretty far and wouldn’t charge too much for shipping.

“You tell them you’re a friend of Singer’s Garage and they won’t try and charge you more than they’re worth,” Dean finished. “That’s the best deal you’re gonna get.”

Castiel hummed. “Singer’s, huh?” Dean’s heart sped up. Shit . “That’s quite a clue there, Dean. Aren’t you worried anymore I’ll try and find you?”

Something in Castiel’s voice made Dean nervous in a different way. Not nervous like he felt like Cas was threatening him or uncomfortable like an unwanted advance. More nervous in a way that Dean kind of wanted to see where this was going.

“I wouldn’t say ‘worried’ is the word…” Dean answered, the closest to overtly flirty he’d dare go. “More like… expecting.”

Cas’s breath caught. 

“Let me know when you get them and I’ll tell you what to do next.” Dean said, hammers pounding in his heart and smile creasing his face. “Have a good day now.”

And Dean hung up, feeling for the first time like he’d done something intentional. And he was excited to see what happened next.


Dean sighed, long and exhausted, before he grabbed Charlie’s phone from her hand. “Yeah?”

“Hello, how are you? I’m calling about the car accident you were recently involved in. You are eligible for compensation.”

“No thanks,” he said, hanging up.

He turned to Charlie. “I already talked to that one.”

Charlie frowned. “No, that one? Are you sure it wasn’t just–”

“Yes Charlie, I’m sure.” He sighed. “What are we doing?”

Charlie rolled her eyes, tired herself. “We are trying to find your soulmate. Didn’t you say–”

“Yeah, I said you could look for him. But why is that all we do? Charlie, look at yourself.”

Charlie gave him a look as if to say ‘what do you mean?’ but her eyes bugged out a little as she did it. Her red hair was puffed up and scraggly from running her hands through it and she was wearing her glasses, which meant she’d been too tired for contacts.

This was the third day in a row Dean had seen her in this hoodie, and her socks actually matched. Which meant she hadn’t gone through and tried to mix them up by mood like she was fond of doing.

“You’re losing it, man,” he told her, gently. “When’s the last time you watched Monster Factory?”

Charlie’s eyebrows furrowed. Dean gestured as if to say, ‘See?’

“Let’s take a break,” he said, out loud. Charlie opened her mouth like she was going to protest, her hand coming up to point at him. “No, stop, I’m not saying you have to be done with all your fun sleuthing and math or whatever. I’m saying right now, in my living room, we’re taking a break from you answering the phone so I can talk to a scam caller. We are turning our phones off – yes, Charlie, off – and we are going to watch the original Star Wars trilogy.”

Charlie’s eyes looked desperate. “All of them?”

“Duh!” Dean said, turning off Charlie’s phone where he still held it in his hand. “Phones off for the whole thing. I have a landline; if anyone really needs us they can call that.”

Charlie whined but Dean just wrapped her in his arms and frog marched her to the couch.

He plopped her down, pinning her with a glare before going to get the DVDs. “I will wrap you like a burrito until you can’t move if I have to. Don’t make me do that.”

She pouted, crossing her arms, but settled into the couch, wiggling her butt into the most comfortable position.

Dean ducked into his bedroom, pulling the special collection of DVDs off his shelf to bring them back to his TV. Charlie had gone the ‘silent brooding’ route for all of two minutes before resorting to needling Dean with questions and complaints.

“How are you so calm about this? I know you like him! Why am I the only one willing to put in the work? Do you know something I don’t? I don’t know why I’m being punished. You can’t keep me here, you know.”

“You’re not being punished, you dick,” Dean rolled his eyes, settling on the floor with his back against the couch so he could reach the coffee table. “You’re spending time with your best friend, watching movies you love. If you’re saying that’s a punishment, there are easier ways to hurt my feelings.”

Charlie sighed, uncurling a bit so she could drape herself over Dean. “It’s not. I’m sooooorry. I just–” she sighed, her breath tickling Dean’s ear. “I just want to do this for you, you know?”

Dean smiled, small and private. He reached up to pat the closest thing he could reach, which was her shin. “I know. And thanks. But you can also do this for me. Ready?”

Charlie nodded, pulling herself back to her spot on the couch with a grunt. “Ready. Let’s boldly go!”

Dean snorted. “Wrong franchise.” And he pressed play.

“Eileen is probably the smartest person I’ve ever met,” Sam said, moonily. “She took down this guy from the city department so fast and she didn’t even look up from her phone the whole time. She was just tapping away while he yelled at her – which she couldn’t hear – and then held the phone to his ear so his supervisor could tell him to leave her alone. It was incredible.”

Dean smiled and laughed, glancing at the clock above his desk.

“She’s helping me out with my signing! Well, kind of. She refuses to actuall y teach me because she says that’s not her job. And she’s right! It is not the responsibility of the disabled to teach us how best to respond to their needs. Oh nooo, don’t tell her I said disabled. That won’t go well with her. I can’t remember what she said they preferred… disenfranchised? No, that one’s about voting. Shit…”

There was no way Dean could help him with this. He glanced at the clock again.

“Marginalized!” Sam snapped his fingers. “Or handicapped, if you’re talking about someone specifically with some kind of disability. And she said disability was fine since most people in that situation don’t like the jargon or whatever, like ‘physically challenged.’ Language is really limited in the scope of how best to represent anyone but straight, white, able-bodied individuals.”

“You forgot ‘cis’,” Dean said, offhand. “Opposite of trans. Charlie likes that one.”

“Right, right.” Sam nodded. “English sucks.”

Dean smiled and laughed, glancing at the clock above his desk, again.

“Okay, dude, what’s up?”

“What?” Dean said, forcing his eyes to focus on his brother over their video connection. “Nothing.”

“You’re distracted. If you need to go and work on something you can say so.”

“No, I don’t need to work, it’s my lunch break.” He glanced at the clock again.

“You just did it again!” Sam pointed at him. “Am I keeping you from something?”

“No, man, no.” Dean sighed, rubbing his hand over the back of his hair. He took half a second to think about what he wanted to say. “He just usually calls around now.”

Sam raised an eyebrow. “He, who?”

“Cas, Sammy. I told you about him, remember?”

“Uh, no. Who’s Cas?”

Here’s how Dean saw it: he could keep being all edgy and tell Sam nothing, making Sam think it was a bigger deal than it was, or he could tell him the truth. 

Not the whole truth, obviously. Sam didn’t need to know that he had a crush on the guy, that they’d stepped into flirting territory. But he could spin it casual.

“It’s that spam call guy that called Gramma D,” Dean said, looking at Sam as if this weren’t a weird thing to talk about. “He called back. We talk now.”

Sam was not buying Dean’s look. “Dean, that’s insane. And isn’t Charlie looking for that guy?”

Dean fought not to wince. For some reason, he didn’t think Sam knew about Charlie’s manhunt. He couldn’t remember talking about it at any family dinners. Did Charlie talk to Sam outside of Dean? That was weird to think about.

“Yeah, she is.” Dean snorted, brushing it off. “She likes the hunt, you know? I don’t want to ruin this for her.”

Sam shook his head, his mouth suggesting amusement and exasperation. “I think you’re drastically misreading Charlie’s motives. But whatever.” Sam lifted his arm to lean on his elbow on the desk in front of him. “Tell me why you’re talking to ‘Cas’. And why you’re so anxious to talk to him.”

“I’m not anxious to talk to him,” Dean deflected.

“Try saying that to my face this time and not the clock.”

Dean scowled.

“Hey, man, no shame,” Sam continued, lifting his hands in a gesture of good will. “You’re just usually not so cagey when you like someone.”

“I’m not cagey,” Dean tried to deflect again.

Sam just snorted, propping his head up on his fist and waiting.

Dean caved. Of course he did.

“So I like him!” Dean exploded, throwing his hands up. “It’s not that weird! We talk on the phone a lot, okay? And he’s kind of an asshole but I like it because I can be an asshole back and I don’t have to worry about hurting his feelings or whatever. And he cares about movies like Charlie does and he can talk about them like he’s talking about something important. And I can keep up with him, you know? I don’t feel stupid when I give him my opinion and he fucking listens to it. I told him to listen to the live ‘76 version of ‘Shelter from the Storm’ – that it was better than the original – and he listened to it and agreed with me. And he’s a huge Bob Dylan fan! I told him he needed new tires for his car and he doesn’t give a shit about his car but he’s buying them anyway! He’s never even met me but he listens to me like I’m saying something worth something.” Dean breathed out, a little surprised by his tirade. “He listens to me.”

Sam’s smile was doing something complicated. Dean kind of wanted to yell at him because Sam looked like he was two seconds away from cooing at him and trying to pinch his cheeks. But there was also something in Sam’s eyes that looked like recognition. Like Sam knew what he was talking about.

“So you think he feels the same way?” Sam asked, rather than unpacking any of the complicated things his face was giving away.

Dean shrugged but smiled at the table as he traced patterns on it. “I mean he keeps calling, so…”

Sam laughed. “So then what’s the problem?”

Dean sighed, the sound exploding out like a punch. “What if he lives somewhere super far? What if he doesn’t but he was really just doing his job? What if I’m making it all up in my head?”

“Yeah but” – Sam shrugged – “what if you’re not? What do you have to lose?”

I could lose talking to him , Dean thought. I could lose one of the only people in my life who I feel like I can talk to.

But Dean would survive that. They weren’t at a point yet where Dean thought he couldn’t find someone else.

Not yet, anyway.

“You can’t always be afraid to get what you want, Dean,” Sam told him, looking too earnest for someone speaking over a shitty cell phone connection. “When Bobby sold you the shop, it’s because you deserved it. You finding this guy is because you deserve it.”

Dean said nothing, looking down at his desk.

“Just… think about it,” Sam continued. “Next time you talk to him. Think about asking for his personal number or something. Just so that way at least you’ll know.”


“Hi, is this Bela?”


“Hi, Bela. This is Dean with Planned Parenthood. I’m calling to see if–”

Click .

Dean sighed, hanging up and marking ‘Bela Talbot’ as ‘not home’ on his list.

She was absolutely home. And he could mark her as ‘rejected call’ and then they wouldn’t have to call her anymore.

But fuck her, if she was going to be rude she was going to get a call back.

“How many more calls, Christine?” Dean asked, scrubbing a hand down his face.

“Just twenty, champ, you’re doing great.”

Dean sighed again, dropping his chin to his chest and plugging yet another number into his phone.

They didn’t have the fancy equipment of a call center. Dean was using his real phone with his real phone number. Any one of these people he was calling could be some kind of weirdo. And then they’d have Dean’s phone number.

The things he did for women’s healthcare.

The phone rang and Dean pressed it to his ear.


Dean’s brow furrowed. For one, two answered calls in a row was some kind of record. But also, the name he had for this caller was female but the voice on the phone was very male.

Whatever. Not his place to judge. “Hi, is this Cassie?”

The man sighed. “I suppose. Who’s this?”

“Yeah, hi, this is Dean with Planned Parenthood. We’re telling everyone about a special election coming up and spreading the word about the gag rule that bans doctors in the Title X program across the country from telling women how they can safely and legally access abortion. The Title X program provides affordable birth control and reproductive health care to people with low incomes, including those who couldn’t otherwise afford health care services on their own. The current administration wants to take that away, but we can vote to change that. Can we count on you to show up for reproductive rights?”

Dean was pretty sure this was the first time he’d been able to get through the whole speech without the other person hanging up.

And it turned out there was a reason for that.


Dean forced a laugh. “Uh, yeah?”

The guy on the other side laughed and Dean realized who it was a second before he told him.

“It’s me. It’s Castiel.”


Dean clapped a hand over his mouth, knowing he had just been way louder than he’d meant to be. Christine was giving him an unimpressed look and Castiel was rumbling a deeply amused laugh in his ear.

Dean was just happy Charlie wasn’t here. No way would she have let him off the phone without talking to Cas first.

Except, there was no way Christine wasn’t going to tell her about this. Fucking shit.

“Shit,” he said again. “How the fuck did we pull this one off?”

“I don’t know,” Castiel said, his rumbling laugh now more of a giggle. “I’ve never been on this side before.”

“Fucking creepy, ain’t it?” Dean smiled despite himself. “Makes you want to put tape over your webcam or some shit.”

“Bold of you to assume I don’t already have tape over my webcam.”

Dean snorted into his fist, trying to hold back what would normally be a head-thrown-back belly laugh. What Charlie called his unicorn laugh.

It was not safe to unicorn laugh here.

“Well shit, man,” Dean said, again, for emphasis. “I don’t know what to do on my end. Should I keep going or…?”

“I suppose I could play along,” Castiel said, a smile in his voice. “What was your question?”

“Fuck if I remember. Lemme check my speech.”

Castiel was definitely giggling now. “You have a speech. I’m usually the one with the speech. This is weird .”

“Shut up, let me talk,” Dean said, but he was close to giggling too. “Uh…” Dean mumbled to himself, trying to find where he’d left off in his speech. He’d been reading off of a print-out, but he’d edited some. “Ah! Can we count on you to show up for reproductive rights?”

Castiel hummed. “And where am I showing up? Lawrence?”

“Cheating, Cas!” Dean said, grinning out of the right side of his mouth. “I can’t just tell you where I am. Ya gotta earn it.”

“Your package was at the Lawrence distribution center, remember?” Cas said lightly. “And I have your phone number now. You’ve got the 785 area code.”

“If this is even my phone,” Dean shot back. “And if I haven’t moved since I got it and not changed my number. And if I wasn’t just visiting a branch garage?”

Castiel snorted but didn’t argue the point further. Dean grinned more.

“It’s a nationwide issue anyway,” Dean continued. “Planned Parenthoods across the country are losing their funding. You know this fucking administration.”

Castiel snorted in an ugly way. “Oh, trust me, I know.”

Dean grimaced in acknowledgement. They’d talked about it a lot.

“Well the answer to your question, by the way, is yes. I will be showing up for reproductive rights. I go to the women’s march every year.”

“Yeah?” Dean grinned again. “You got one of those pink hats?”

“A pussy hat?” Castiel said, casually, as if he didn’t just make Dean choke on his spit. “Why yes I do. I knitted it myself.”

Dean mock gasped. “And deny the women’s rights organizations your money? Why do you hate charity, Cas?”

“Alright,” Cas said, an eye roll in his tone. “How is it that you’re the one with an agenda on this call and you still manage to derail it?”

“I’m not derailing it. I’m trying to get you to give money to women’s resource organizations. That’s basically entirely what Planned Parenthood is about.”

“I give plenty of money, Dean. Not to worry.”

Dean’s grin softened when he said his name. He liked when Cas said his name.

“This is my real phone number, by the way,” he told him, bringing it back around. “Planned Parenthood doesn’t have the money for your fancy scam call machines.” He paused. “Not that this is a scam.”

“No, no of course not,” Castiel said. “This is about human rights. Not a compromised IP address.”

Dean cooed. “Aw, Cas, you remembered.”

Castiel chuckled. “How could I possibly forget the most annoying call I’ve ever had? And, Dean, I’ve had millions of calls.”

Dean smiled, chuckling himself.

“So this is your real phone number,” Castiel repeated back.

“Yup,” Dean answered, popping the ‘p’ at the end.

“Am I supposed to do anything with that information?” Castiel said, his tone deliberately wicked.

“Do what you want, I’m not your mom,” Dean said, not even faking nonchalance. “But I have your number now. And I will be doing something with that information.”

A pause and then, “How do you know this is my phone? What if it’s my grandmother’s?”

Dean sat there, stunned silent.

“Now, if you don’t mind, I will be taking great pleasure in being able to hang up on you for once.” If Dean closed his eyes, he could see the relish in Cas’s smile. He didn’t have a face – he’d never seen him – but he could see that smile as clear as if he’d seen it every day. “Goodbye, Dean.”

“Bye, Cas.”

Castiel hung up.

His name was Castiel Novak.

His number had come up in the Planned Parenthood call server as Cassie but Dean knew what it really was. Castiel. And now he had his last name and phone number.

After Cas had hung up, Christine had appeared over Dean’s shoulder, startling the fuck out of him, to ask him what his outburst had been about.

He had denied everything.

He was too excited – too captured by this series of coincidences that had him calling Castiel’s number of all numbers. He had to think about the implications of this, without Christine, and without her bringing Charlie into all this.

Charlie would absolutely kill him if he kept this from her.

He absolutely couldn’t tell her.

Was it fate? What did it mean that Castiel’s number was one that could be picked up in this local Planned Parenthood database? Was Cas local? What did this mean for their relationship?

All of these questions deserved 100% of Dean’s attention and Dean’s attention alone.

But Cas kept texting him.

“Who do I have to kill to get some decent Indian food around here?”

Dean bit back a smile. “I’m not sure Indian food is worth murder. Maybe try Chinese?”

Dean turned back to family dinner: tonight hosted by Gramma Deanna.

He was playing with fire doing this here. He’d had to start by volunteering someone else to video-call Sammy, freeing up his own phone for texting. That itself raised suspicion – who did Dean have to talk to that wasn’t already at the table?

“No one,” he’d told them. “I’m waiting on an email about a commission. Don’t worry about it, Dad’s phone can call Sammy.”

Yeah, Dean had lied, but it wasn’t like it was anyone’s business.

“Chinese food? You’ve got to be kidding me. If the Indian food is bad, Chinese around here is WORSE.

Dean laughed into his fist. Having Cas condensed into a conversation a day was great. But getting little slice of life updates was opening up so many more windows into Cas’s life. He’d never gotten a look into Cas’s food preferences before. Was Cas Indian? Is that why he was so particular about their cuisine? He sent back a tragic emoji with a single tear rather than asking and turned his attention back to dinner.

Sam was arguing on his end how his weirdest thing beat out Dad being proposed to for a scavenger hunt. He was gesturing so broadly with his spinach wrap, Dean was sure a pile of feta was going to come tumbling out any moment.

“A protestor threw up on me! How is that not weirder than a streetside proposal? Mine inconvenienced me way more.”

“It’s not about the inconvenience, it’s about the unlikelihood of the event,” Mary told him, fairly. “You work with protestors all the time. A lot of them are on some kind of drug. You getting puked on was inevitable. Your father however,” She turned a fond smile on John, patting his shoulder. “has a very unfriendly face. The fact that anyone would approach him on the street for any reason is a miracle.”

Everyone laughed, John included, while Sam grumbled another complaint. Dean’s phone vibrated in his hand.

It was a picture message of a bunch of recipe ingredients strewn across a counter, several spices at the forefront.

The caption read, “Fuck it, I’ll do it myself .”

Dean rolled his eyes, smiling at his phone, before tapping out a ‘Good luck’ and tucking it away.

He glanced at Charlie, careful to check she hadn’t spotted him, but she was firmly engrossed with Jo, talking about the sexist implications of the term ‘Resting Bitch Face’. He sighed in relief, turning his eyes back forward before seeing his grandma eyeing him appraisingly.

“Anything to share, Dean?” she asked him, just loud enough that only he could hear.

“No,” he answered, sliding his phone further under his thigh.

“No?” she asked, giving him that Gramma Look that could make even the meanest fold.

Dean gave her a small, stressed smile.

“Not yet,” he told her.

She seemed to accept this, turning back toward her meal.

Dean smiled more firmly, pulling his phone back out and typing to Castiel.

“Send me more updates. I have to see how this plays out .”

It was different talking to Castiel on his own phone. In his house. In his pajamas, before he’d gotten up for the day.

It was different talking to Castiel when he was off the clock. Dean got to hear Cas talk with his mouth full, like Dean also did. He heard Castiel when he was stuck in traffic: not quite yelling at other drivers but making snide comments to himself on their behalf, calling them ‘skippy’ and ‘chief’. 

It was different putting Castiel on speaker while they were both, separately, preparing their dinners. It was almost like they were cooking together.

Dean wished they could video chat, like Sam coming in on family dinners. He wanted to see his face but he didn’t want to look Castiel up on Facebook. He wasn’t ready for everything to be spelled out – wasn’t ready to confront that Castiel probably wasn’t as close to Dean as he hoped. He didn’t want to see Facebook tell him he lived in Montana or was in a relationship. He was happy keeping it to the phone for now.

Of course this meant Sammy was right about the value of having an iPhone for reasons like FaceTime, but Dean would rather die than tell Sam that.

This was fine for now.

“Have you always wanted to be a mechanic?” Cas asked, the rustle of sheets across the line echoing Dean’s own position in his bed.

“How do you know I’m a mechanic,” Dean said, smiling half into his pillow.

Dean could hear his eye roll. “Dean, please.”

“I could do something else with cars,” Dean insisted. “I could be a trader or driver or racer. Just because I know shit doesn’t mean I fix them.”

“But you work at Singer’s Garage?”

Dammit . Dean had forgotten he’d told Cas that. “Maybe I just have connections.”

Cas sighed. Not like he was conceding the point, but like he was too tired to argue further. “Are you not a mechanic?”

“No, I am,” Dean replied, grinning shittily. “I just don’t want you to think you know me too well.”

Cas scoffed. Dean’s smile softened.

“I’ve wanted to be a mechanic as long as I can remember,” Dean answered, sinking a little further into his bed, phone tucked tight to his ear. “Either a mechanic or a rockstar.”

“A rockstar?” Castiel chuckled. Dean hummed in agreement. “Kurt Cobain or Bono?”

Fuck Bono,” Dean said, automatically and with fervor. Castiel laughed. “But not Kurt Cobain, either, I guess.” Dean’s mouth twisted, already feeling like he was committing some great sin. “I don’t go for living so big you die young. Not anymore.”

Castiel hummed back. It wasn’t a sound of dismissal. Not one of curiosity. He didn’t sound like he would push or like he was ignoring it altogether. He sounded like he heard what Dean had said. Like he understood it, accepted it, and he was leaving it up to Dean to continue on that thread or move on.

Dean pressed his smile further into his pillow.

This was another new thing about Cas having his number. More than the texting, more than the calling out of hours: Dean loved that they could talk like this. Real shit. Not just movies or cars or bitchy comments. Real stuff. Like real friends talked about. Like real… somethings talked about.

“If I was going to be any rock star I was going full David Bowie,” Dean admitted, hitching his blanket further around himself. “Someone in your face, you know? Didn’t take any shit. Didn’t let anybody tell him anything. Good music.” Bisexual . Dean shrugged. “Whatever.”

“Okay,” Castiel said, sounding very much like he was going to piss Dean off and he knew it. “I guess if you ignore all the statuatory rape–”

“Yeah, yeah, I know,” Dean groaned, flipping over onto his back, arm thrown recklessly out. “Different times. I know it’s still bad, but,” he groaned again, flinging his arm back over his eyes. “You’re right: I like to ignore that part.”

Castiel laughed. “It’s fine, Dean. You’re never going to find any hero of music without finding something problematic.”

“Except Prince,” Dean muttered.

“Yes, well, that goes without saying.”

Dean grinned again.

“Good thing I never became a rockstar,” he said. “Just gonna keep my head down, mind my business, and fix some cars.”

“How do you get from rockstar to mechanic?”

Dean sighed, curling his knees up before straightening his legs back out again. “Thinking about it now: I don’t think I could have ever been a rockstar. I like fixing things too much.” He blew a breath out through his lips, making them make the pbbt sound. “When you’re a mechanic, there’s a pattern, ya know? Someone brings in a problem. You figure out what the problem is, you fix it, then you’re onto the next one. You always know what you’re getting into: there’s always just the thing in front of you. Other things – rock and roll, life – they’re not that simple.”

“No they’re not.” Cas’s voice rumbled. “Things rarely are.”

Dean hummed, closing his eyes and just listening to Cas breathe for a moment.

“What about you?” he asked, opening his eyes, hoping he hadn’t waited too long for things to get weird. “I know you didn’t always want to be the guy on the phone.”

Cas laughed, the sound resigned. “We’ve been over this. I’ve got bills.”

“But what if you didn't?” Dean pushed. “If money wasn’t a factor. What would you spend your time doing?”

Sheets rustled on the other end of the line and Castiel made a noise in his throat like he was taking a big stretch. “Leisuring, I’d think,” he answered, his voice tight like it was stuck on a yawn. “Sitting in a lawn chair. Watching the bees. That kind of thing.”

Dean huffed out air through his nose, shaking his head. “I’m being serious! I know you wouldn’t–”

“Yeah, I know: the idea that if we didn’t need to work to live, society would collapse into hedonism and sloth is the rhetoric old white men use to defend capitalism.” He snorted. “I’d want to work. But I’m… reluctant to tell you what I’d do.”

“Cas,” Dean whined, kicking his legs so the blankets pulled out from the end of the bed. “Come on. I told you my embarrassing rockstar thing!”

“That wasn’t embarrassing, that was cute.” Dean threw a hand up to cover his blushing face. “But, fine.” Cas heaved a deep sigh. Dean curled on his side, bringing his knees up in anticipation. “I want to read audiobooks.”

Dean’s laugh punched out of him. “What?”

Cas groaned. “See? This is why I didn’t want to tell you.”

“No! No no no.” Dean sat up in bed, so urgent was his need to console Cas. “Sorry, I’m not laughing at you. I was just surprised.”

Cas said something that was clearly muffled into a pillow. Dean grinned.

“I shouldn’t be surprised, though,” Dean continued. “With your voice? Totally obvious.”

Cas let out another muffled groan. Dean laughed in earnest.

“No, Cas, really. That’s cool. So, what, you’d read Harry Potter or something?”

“Or something,” Cas said, sounding less muffled. “Will Patton has already done all of the Harry Potter books. So has Jim Dale. So has David Tennant.”

Dean blinked. “Doctor Who guy?”

“As well as other things.” Cas laughed, gently. “But my point is Harry Potter has been done to death. Plus, I’m not British.”

Dean shrugged. “Okay, so that’s out. You could do new books.” Dean grinned. “Or older ones. How many Vonnegut books have been done, do you think?”

“All of them,” Castiel said, automatically. Then, suspiciously, “Why?”

Dean shrugged, rubbing his bed sheet between two fingers. “Nothing, just–” He took a deep breath. “He’s my favorite author. Wouldn’t mind hearing your voice read one of his books.”

There was a pause. Dean barely breathed. He barely heard Cas breathe on the other side.

Then, from Cas’s end, a shuddery breath. “Well, that would be a long way off. I’m not even auditioning anymore.”

Dean shut his eyes at the rejection.

“But,” Cas continued. Dean’s eyes shot open. “Maybe I could read to you a little bit anyway. You know,” he rushed in. “Just so you can tell me how much I suck.”

Dean was grinning and giggling almost too much for his “Oh, of course” to come out, let alone with any kind of sarcasm.

“Not right now,” Castiel said, his voice getting softer. “It’s pretty late. But… maybe sometime.”

“Yeah,” Dean answered, his own voice so soft it was almost a whisper. “Maybe sometime.”

“For now, though,” Cas said, his voice more rumble than voice. “Goodnight, Dean.”

Dean’s eyes were pinched shut by the broadness of his smile, “G’night Cas.”

Cas hung up.

Dean didn’t think he’d be falling asleep any time soon.

“Charlie, this is getting ridiculous.”

Charlie’s head jerked up, her expression positively feral. Her hair was grubbier than he’d ever seen it, strands fraying out from a hastily done braid. Her skin was dry on the right side of her face, bumpy with irritation from constantly putting a phone to her ear.

“Excuse me?” she asked, dangerously.

They were standing in his kitchen, Charlie up to this point had been hunched over her phone and barely listening to him.

She was paying attention to him now.

Dean refrained from rolling his eyes but only because he liked this shirt. He didn’t want Charlie to clutch at it dramatically and stretch out the collar.

“I think it might be time to give this up,” he said instead, as gently as he could. “It’s not worth you killing yourself over.”

Charlie narrowed her eyes at him, eyes searching his face steadily.

She surged forward and grabbed his shirt. Dean sighed in disappointment.

“What are you keeping from me, Winchester?” she asked, her eyes searching his face with an intensity that singed the hair of his eyebrows. “What don’t you want me to find?”

Dean reached up to grab her wrists, trying to fend off the worst of the stretching her pulling would do to his collar. “Charlie, when’s the last time you slept?”

Charlie snorted. It sounded a lot like ‘Irrelevant.’

Dean did roll his eyes now. “It’s not some big conspiracy. I’m not keeping anything from you.” Lie . “I really do just think you need to ease up a bit. For your own sake.”

That part was not a lie. Since their impromptu Star Wars marathon, Dean had been actively making sure Charlie was taking care of herself. He met up with her after work so they could go on walks, he sent her on errands to make sure she left the house. He even called her at lunch time to make sure she ate something (making his lunch break a very busy time for phone calls, as one might imagine...)

Charlie worked from home. She could fully submerge herself in a project, which meant sometimes she wouldn’t see sunlight for days.

It was Dean’s objective to pull her out.

And also to maybe distract her from actually finding Cas, but that was his own personal shit.

He heaved a deep sigh. “I know you’re trying to do this for me and I love you for that.” He gave her wrists a little extra squeeze. “But there’s no point to anything if my best friend is hurting.”

Charlie’s mouth tightened. Her eyes tightened. Her hands tightened in their grip on Dean’s shirt.

And then she sighed a release and slumped out of her grip, falling into Dean’s chest in a hug.

“I knooooow,” she whined. “I just hate losing .”

Dean chuckled, wrapping his arms around her waist and putting his cheek to her hair. “You’re not losing. There’s no competition.”

“I am losing,” she insisted, her voice muffled in his armpit. “Against myself. I gave myself a challenge and I failed.”

Dean hummed in sympathy.

His phone blipped behind him and he tensed against his will.

Maybe she won’t look at it , he thought, desperately. Maybe I remembered to put the screen face down. Maybe she forgot to put her contacts in and she can’t read the screen from here.

Unfortunately, none of those were true.

And Dean was sure his tensing didn’t help matters. Charlie pulled away with an expression of utter betrayal, before, in less than a second, she was over at the table and scooping up Dean’s phone.

“Charlie...” he tried.

She rounded on him, his phone clutched in her hand, face furious.

“Charlie–” he tried again, a little more desperately this time.

“Are you fucking kidding me, Dean Winchester?”

Dean winced. She didn’t yell. It was barely more than a whisper.

Dean was in danger.

“Soooo…” he started. She raised an eyebrow, challengingly. He huffed out a quick breath, starting over. “So I maybe haven’t told you everything.”

The eyebrow came back down in a furrow. Dean had no idea Charlie could look so menacing.

“So tell me,” she directed, brooking no room for argument. “Everything.”

Dean did.

He started at the beginning, even though she already knew most of it. He told her how they had jokes and smiles and how that carried over on each phone call they had. He told her about the daily calls at the shop on Bobby’s phone and how Bobby would tease him about it but how it really wasn’t anything. He told her about Sam calling him out on it and Gramma Deanna’s advice. He told her about the Planned Parenthood call and the texting and the confiding in each other from the comfort of their beds.

All laid out like that, Dean was ashamed of how much he’d kept from Charlie. His best friend.

At first, as Dean had kept talking and talking and talking, she’d looked hurt. Then, as she listened, her face hardened into a resolve.

“Castiel Novak,” she said when Dean had finished: less a question and more a clarification. Dean nodded.

Charlie started tapping at his phone.

Dean scrambled behind her to look over her shoulder, not daring to try and snatch his phone back from her. “What are you doing?” he asked, nervously.

Charlie brought up Facebook and started typing ‘Castiel Novak’ into the search.

“Charlie, no,” Dean tried, his voice weak, already resigned to what was happening.

There was only one Castiel Novak.

He was beautiful. He had a square jaw and tan skin, a shock of dark hair and soft-looking lips. His eyes were squinted at the camera – not like he was trying to smolder but like he was confused by the entire process of photography. His eyes were blue.

This could very easily not be his Castiel. It shouldn’t be. There was no universe where the man with the voice that made him shiver and the wit that made him laugh and the laugh that made him smile so wide he couldn’t stand it would look the man of Dean’s dreams. Life wasn’t that good.

Charlie hummed, only pausing on Castiel’s profile picture long enough to confirm that he was “dreamy” and then moved on to more technical things.

She whipped out her phone and started cross-referencing. Dean watched her tap at his info and go into settings and look up something about data-mining before he was totally lost. He retreated from her shoulder, going to sit at the table and wait for the verdict.

It took Charlie less than ten minutes.

“It’s him,” she told him, sliding Dean’s phone across the table and plopping down in a chair on the other side.

Dean looked at the phone like it was a bomb, because it sort of was. Blowing up his life.

“You can’t know that,” he told her. It sounded more like a plea.

She rolled her eyes, exhausted but ever so slightly smug. “I can and I do. I could explain it to you, but that’s not what you care about.” She raised her eyebrow at him again.

He looked back at her before sliding his phone those last few inches to himself, picking it up with an unsteady hand.


Castel Novak.

Birthday: September 18.

Gender: Male.

Interested In: Men and Women.


Dean held his breath and clicked over to ‘Family and Relationships’


Relationship: Single


Dean released his breath. Not that it mattered, but still. Dean didn’t know how he would feel if he’d found out Cas was in a relationship.

And then Dean stopped breathing altogether.


Lives in: Pontiac, Illinois.


Illinois. As in: Not In Fucking Kansas.

So… it was like Dean thought. It was impossible.

That was fine. He didn’t have any expectations, so he couldn’t be disappointed.

Something must have shown on his face because Charlie was suddenly taking the phone from Dean’s limp fingers. She looked at it, and put her own hand in Dean’s still open palm.

“Illinois is only one state over,” she told him, squeezing his hand.

“Yeah,” he said, voice hoarse. He squeezed her hand back. “Yeah, I know.”

Dean and Charlie sent him a friend request.

Well, Charlie did. Dean didn’t stop her.

He looked at Cas’s profile for the next couple hours, making connections between the public information and what Dean already knew. 

He’d studied for a semester at KU, not too far from Lawrence. That explained how Planned Parenthood had his number. Cas probably signed up to volunteer for organizations everywhere he went. He was generous.

Cas’s job listing was just ‘telemarketer’. That was probably easier than listing the dozens of companies that he worked for. It didn’t say specifically, but Cas had signed a petition to support sex workers, lending credibility to his phone-sex-operator claim. It also made Dean blush and sign the petition himself.

Cas had a picture of his car. The year was 1978. It wasn’t even gold: it was champagne. Terrible color for a car.

It was all Dean could think about as he worked on the valves of the ‘69 El Camino they’d gotten that morning. He hadn’t looked back at Facebook – turning those notifications all the way off – and Cas hadn’t texted or called since he sent the request. He probably thought nothing of it. Maybe he wondered why it had taken Dean so long.

Maybe he thought Dean was being creepy and didn’t want to waste his time anymore.

In any case: it had been twelve hours. He and Cas didn’t talk on the phone every night but the absence of him the night before felt significant.

Fucking champagne . Who let him buy a car in that color?

Dean wondered if Cas had gotten the tires yet. If Dean was a good friend, he could probably do some research on garages in Pontiac: make some calls to be sure his buddy Cas would get a good deal. Any good mechanic would mount and balance tires you brought in for $15 a tire. Dean had heard of people being charged double. He couldn’t let Cas be scammed like that. He was a good friend.

Did Cas have any other friends? They couldn’t be very good if they let him buy a car in fucking champagne .

Dean heard a car pull into the garage but didn’t bother looking up. He had to take the whole fucking top of the engine off for these valves. Someone else could take the next customer.

The engine cut off and whoever it was got out of the car really quickly, slamming the door closed. Dean rolled his eyes at the cylinder head.

A very familiar voice said, “Excuse me, is Dean Winchester here?”

That got Dean’s attention.

He yanked back, banging his head on the open hood of the car and swore, heavily.

Bobby, who must have fielded the question, laughed and said, “You mean this idjit?”

Dean wheeled around, his hand rubbing absently at his forehead. There was Bobby, gesturing to him with a greasy hand, still laughing, beard contorted into a grin.

And next to him, against all odds, was Cas.

Dean had known it was him as soon as he’d heard him speak. But he still wasn’t prepared to see him there.

From the look on Cas’s face, he didn’t seem prepared to see Dean either. But something about the look on Dean’s face or the bump on his head made him rush over anyway, hands coming up to worry in Dean’s general direction.

“Dean, are you okay?”

“It’s you,” Dean said. He could say nothing else.

Cas looked down from Dean’s injury to his eyes. His hands dropped to his sides.

“It’s me,” his mouth twitched in a smile but dropped almost immediately. “And it’s you.”

Dean nodded. He was an idiot. He should have figured out a way to video chat before now. How could he have waited to long? He’d robbed himself of minutes or hours seeing Cas’s expressions move. Watching his eyes soften and worry, so much bluer than any still frame Facebook photo could show him. His lips, so pink and plush, twitching and curving for every emotion Dean could see behind his eyes. There was a scar on his jaw that the angle of his picture didn’t show. There was a spot of toothpaste in his hours-old beard.

“How are you here?”

Not ‘why are you here’. ‘Why’ would make it sound like Dean thought he shouldn’t be here. And he shouldn’t, he absolutely shouldn’t – there was no universe where Dean could have Cas here right now. But Dean wanted .

And he hoped Cas being here meant that Cas wanted, too.

“I live in Sibleyville,” Cas told him, hands twitching at his sides.

Dean blinked. “That’s fifteen minutes down the road.”

“I know,” Cas laughed, a little wetly. “I came here for KU and just… never left.”

Dean lifted an arm, almost reaching for Cas but not quite. “Why does Facebook say you live in Illinois?”

Cas laughed bigger this time. “Dean, no one cares about updating their Facebook. I can’t remember the last time I even opened it before I got the notification from you.”

Dean’s breath was hitching. He looked away from Cas, just to try and pull himself together a bit after all of this information threatened to overwhelm him.

Several other people in the shop had stopped what they were doing to watch them. Dean glared at them, blindly grabbing for Cas to pull him toward his office.

Cas seemed to barely notice, continuing to talk even while Dean dragged him across the floor.

“I thought this whole time your last name was Campbell,” Cas said, sounding almost mad if it weren’t for the blinding smile on his face. “I called you ‘Mr. Campbell’ those first couple times and you never corrected me!”

“Well, how could I? What if you were some kind of weirdo?” Dean’s mouth quirked up only on one side. He was trying to keep it together in front of his crew, but Cas was here. He was here .

Cas laughed, the sound bouncing back as Dean pulled him into his enclosed office from the cavernous space of the garage. “Well I must be. Because I have been looking for you. Searching every Dean Campbell I could find.”

Dean turned to him, his grin full and broad now. “And how’d that work out?”

“Fucking terribly, as you very well know.”

Dean threw his head back and laughed as he always did when Cas found it in himself to swear. Seeing the resulting smile on Cas’s face just made Dean’s heart that much more buoyant.

“Fuck,” he said, rubbing at his chest, still chuckling. “ Fuck , Cas, can I hug you?”

Cas didn’t answer, just came forward to wrap his arms around Dean’s waist. Dean brought his arms up to gather Cas around the shoulders and they squeezed.

Cas was an inch shorter than him. He fit into Dean’s chest, his chin in the crook of Dean’s neck like he was made for it.

Dean took a deep breath in, the wild hair from Cas’s head tickling at his nose. He smelled like shampoo and sweat. Dean knew he smelt like BO and gasoline but even knowing that wasn’t enough to pull away.

“It said Illinois,” Dean said again, his cheek against Cas’s temple. “It said Illinois and I gave up. I would have still talked to you but I would have been dying inside the whole time. Even though Charlie said it was only a state away.”

“Charlie?” Cas asked. And fuck, his deep voice vibrating from his chest to Dean’s was a better feeling than any audio waves could ever be.

“Yeah, my best friend. I told you about her.” Dean rubbed his cheek against Cas’s stubble, trying to get every sensation. “She made it her mission in life to find you. Said us getting each other on the phone all those times was fate.”

“So you were looking for me?” Cas asked with a low chuckle. And Dean changed his mind: feeling Cas’s laugh was actually the best feeling in the universe.

“Charlie was trying. I was…” Dean closed his eyes, taking another quick inhale before continuing. “I was scared. Scared of wanting this too much. Scared of you living far away. Which your Facebook said you did.”

Cas hummed. Dean felt it all the way through his spine.

“After you said you worked at Singer’s Garage , I immediately thought of Singer’s Auto Body. I used to drive past this place every day. But you didn’t say Singer’s Auto Body, you said Singer’s Garage. Even knowing that , I almost came here and started asking for you.”

“Well I wish you did,” Dean said, rubbing his hand over Cas’s back. “We could have done this sooner.”

“Hey, if you couldn’t even google me, I cannot be blamed for not wanting to make a fool out of myself at some random garage.”

Dean laughed, finally pulling away.

“I’m not reading this wrong, right?” Dean asked, becoming aware all at once that he’d been tenderly touching parts of Cas for longer than any platonic acquaintance would. “We’re…” He swallowed. “Right?”

Even though Dean couldn’t say it, Cas knew. The tenderness in his eyes was unlike anything Dean had ever seen. He studied that tenderness closer and closer until Cas’s eyes shut as he kissed him.

There are some things that come to us as if they’ve been coming to us for a long time. Reaching the end of a really good book. Falling asleep after a day full of laughter and friends. Falling in love.

It’s a moment of emotion. A moment of release. And then when you come to realize it’s happening, it’s already happened. You close the book. You wake up. You love that person for the rest of your life.

This kiss was that. If he’d read the signs, he would have known it would happen. He would have known Cas would come to him, eventually. Would have known they’d fit together, just like this.

But he hadn’t realized it before now. And here they were.

And it’s like Dean should have known it all along.

Dean pulled away. He felt a little bit like he was floating.

And then Cas came back to ground him.

“So do you know any place that would change my tires for me or…”

Dean shoved back from him, laughing. “Fuck off!”

Cas smiled back, reaching for him and bringing him into another kiss.

“Weirdest thing,” Charlie announced from the head of the table. She was hosting, for once. “Who’s got one?”

Jo made a noise in her throat as a way to say she had one but her mouth was full.

“Eh, snooze you lose,” Sam said, making a buzzer noise with his mouth. “I had an entire conversation with this guy named Sam at the airport while we were waiting for our flight and I didn’t even know his name was Sam until we said goodbye.”

Charlie scrunched her nose at him. “I guess that’s weird…”

Sam preened, sitting up a little straighter to cut his steak, finally being able to enjoy the same food as everyone else now he was here.

“What ever ,” said Jo, finally having swallowed her food. “Someone thought I was Kristin Bell yesterday.”

Dean choked. “They did not .”

Jo raised both her hands. “Swear to God! They told me how much they loved me in The Good Place .”

“Is that who that is?” Mary frowned at her, critically. “I guess I could see it.”

“What?!” Jo shrieked. “I’m not that short!”

Sam cackled, his mouth full of potato. “Jo, you’re so short.”

“I’m 5’4”!”

“Ooh, yeah,” Charlie interjected. “Kristin Bell is only 5’1”. Jo is not that short.”

Everyone turned to look at her.

She raised an eyebrow. “Doesn’t anyone else memorize the height of their celebrity crushes…?”

A pause and then, “Chris Evans is 6 feet tall,” Castiel contributed from the end of the table.

Charlie gestured to him as if to say, ‘There ya go!’

Dean turned to Cas, amused. “Chris Evans?”

Cas shrugged, his face expressionless. “He has sweet and soulful eyes.”

Dean tilted back in his chair. laughing uproariously.

“Ooh, Ryan Reynolds is 6’2”,” Jo said, looking at her phone. “That’s good. That’s a good height.”

Sam snorted. “I’m taller than that.”

“Yeah, but you’re a freaking tree,” Charlie said, scowling. “Only person allowed to be that tall is Gwendoline Christie,” she leaned forward, her face serious. “Because I would die for her.”

Castiel nodded sagely back.

“I’m 6’2”,” Dean muttered only half-feigning his pout.”

Cas reached for his hand. “I know you are, dear.”

Dean flipped his hand over, lacing their fingers together with a grin. Sam and Jo started booing from the other side of the table. The parental figures laughed. 

“Why does the height of your celebrity crush even matter?” Sam asked, turning back to Charlie. “Why would you even know that?”

“So I can picture our life together,” Charlie said, rolling her eyes. “Obviously.”

“Wow, Charlie,” Dean smirked over at her, his thumb brushing over Cas’s knuckles. “That sounds so lonely for you.”

Gramma Deanna smiled innocently over her plate. “How tall is Harrison Ford, Dean?”

“6’1”,” Dean answered, automatically. Laughs went up around the table and he blushed. “Whatever.”

Cas squeezed his hand and pulled away.

“As strange as that must have been for you, Jo,” he said, turning to the assembled family. “I may have something stranger.”

 This wasn’t his first family dinner, but Dean was still surprised he was going to play along with their weekly tradition.

He’d brought Cas to Drag Night at the Roadhouse (along with Christine who bonded with him in a very weird way), he’d taken Cas with him to pick up Sam from the airport, even though they’d spoken over video chat before, and since Cas could work from anywhere most days, he spent a lot of time hanging out in Dean’s office while Dean was on the floor, so everyone at the garage knew him.

Not everyone knew Cas was the same weird scam call guy Dean had been minorly obsessed with for months, but they didn’t need to know. His family knew, and roasted him for it constantly.

This was Cas’s first night with the family all together. Dean smiled at him admiringly, nudging his calf with his own under the table.

“Yeah, Cas?” he asked, cheekily. “What’s the weirdest thing to happen to you this week.”

“Well,” he started, humor flashing in his eyes. “Today I met the entire extended family of my boyfriend, who is a guy I played phone tag with for months as a part of my job trying to scam people for their digital identity information, and we’re eating this entire meal using utensils that look like lightsabers, under the watchful eye of a portrait of Carrie Fisher looking down on us like the Santa Maria.”

There was a pause before Charlie said, “She’s Our Lady of Rebellion.” And everyone started laughing.

“I think he wins,” Bobby said, grinning over at the two of them.

Dean leaned over, pulling Cas close to him by the neck and rubbing their temples together.

“Yeah, Bobby, I think he wins.”