“I’m gonna have to let you go.”
Dean blinks, staring across the desk as Bobby remains straight-faced and serious. His mustache doesn’t even twitch with a smile, and Dean’s mouth drops open, but he can’t think of anything to say.
He snaps his jaw shut with a click before opening his mouth again. “You can’t be serious,” he says, but damn does Bobby look it.
“As a heart attack, boy.” Bobby pulls his trucker cap off of his head and scratches behind his ear. He sighs, unable to meet Dean’s eyes for the first time this whole meeting. “You do good work, that’s for damn sure, but we ain’t got the business we used to.”
“But, Bobby, Cas and I, we’re trying to pay off a mortgage, and, and I was gonna propose—I need this job.” He can feel the panic trickle through him like a stream of ice-water chilling his blood.
“I know that, and I’ll make sure to give you all when we get extra work, but I just can’t swing it anymore.” And he does sound sorry, which makes it so hard for Dean to be angry. There’s not much either of them can do about the economy.
Dean falls back in the old office chair, it’s scratchy threads poking through his oil-and-grease-stained jumpsuit. He runs his palm over his forehead. “Damnit,” he snaps, his voice catching in his throat as he realizes how truly fucked he is. “Fuck.” Bobby doesn’t speak, watching Dean as he waits for his inevitable departure. Dean doesn’t draw it out. “Well, I’ll just,” he pushes himself up and swipes a hand through his sweaty hair.
God, it’s hot in here—the ancient heater rattles in the top corner of Bobby’s office, filling the whole shop with a dry, suffocating heat. “I’ll put in a good word with any job you go looking for. Just let me know.”
“Yeah, will do,” Dean says, but he’s already halfway out the door with his jumpsuit unzipped and one arm out of the sleeve. No one speaks to him as he gathers his things, shoving his feet into his bright green rubber boots—boots Castiel bought him their first Christmas together after Dean was forced to miss their nightly walk because it was raining.
As Dean passes through the kitchen, his boots squeaking on the cracked linoleum floor. He doesn’t stop to think about all the laughs he’s had with his coworkers at the table in the corner—people he considers good friends. All six of them would shove around to make sure they fit, and they’d sit elbow to elbow, bumping each other by accident and on purpose as they eat whatever was packed for them that morning by loving spouses—or, in Kevin’s case, loving parents.
Dean swings the fridge door open, snatching out his brown paper bag. He tries not to look at the little heart encircling his name, before shutting the door and turning his back on the room.
With his lunch crinkling his fist and his leather jacket slung over his arm, he heads for the back door, deciding he can’t talk to his coworkers right not—not yet, at least.
Dean shoulders through the back door, and a sharp lash of wind whips at his clothes as icy rain stings his cheeks. He ducks his head and jogs through the soggy gravel back lot to his car, avoiding puddles despite the rain boots—he doesn’t want to get Baby’s interior dirtier than he needs to.
Dean slides into the driver's seat, shoving his green and purple striped umbrella across the bench, and turns the key in the ignition. The engine clicks a few times until Dean interns the key. “Come on, Baby. Don’t leave me hanging.” He tries again, closing his eyes and patting Baby’s dash, and, finally, she rumbles to life.
Dean breathes a sigh of relief and turns the wipers on high. He watches as water sluices off the windshield, pouring on the ground in little waterfalls. The clean sweeps give Dean a small twinge of satisfaction as he pulls out of the parking lot—slowly as Baby bumps and jostles over the puddles and potholes. A bitter smirk curves Dean’s lips—no point bringing that up to Bobby, now.
Dean turns right onto Fairdale Drive, ignoring the flashing lights of premature Christmas decorations and cheery cafés. For a second, he considers stopping to grab one of those honey-glazed doughnuts that Castiel loves so much, but he decides against it. Castiel has told him time and again that he’s on a diet, and Dean really doesn’t want to get into that argument again.
Dean thinks Castiel is utterly perfect; Castiel doesn’t see what Dean sees.
So, Dean passes Gabriel’s Glaze without slowing down, flicking on his blinker to make a left turn. He heads out towards the highway that leads to the small, single-story, one-bedroom home he and Castiel can’t afford but bought anyway.
Gusts of wind have Baby swaying in the lane as Dean speeds up, pulling onto the empty highway a few miles from his turn off. He doesn’t bother turning on the radio, not in the mood for anyone else crowing in his ears. Instead, he cranks the wipers up a notch and listens to them swoop across the glass as the wind whistles around the car and through the trees bracketing either side of the highway.
How is he supposed to tell Castiel? He’ll panic for sure, and Dean doesn’t know if he can handle Castiel’s panic on top of his own. He can already feel it swelling in his throat, fighting to break free in a mess of shaking and shouting. Dean doesn’t want to fight with Castiel over money—he hates the snapping arguments and bitter glares. He hates how he feels afterward—like he’s disappointed both of them, somehow, by not being enough, and he knows Castiel doesn’t actually feel that way, but still.
Dean shifts in his seat, the seatbelt cutting into his shoulder when he leans forward too fast. He doesn’t know what to do, but he knows he needs to go home—tell Castiel and get the fight over with.
He’s only about a mile from exiting the highway, then four more from their home, when Baby starts groaning something wretched. The red needle indicating his speed leans to the left, and it keeps falling. A whole new panic thrums inside Dean as his car rattles and shakes and he steers his Baby onto the shoulder, where she shudders to a stop.
Dean’s hands hover over the steering wheel as he stares, wide-eyed, at the dark gauges in the dash. Dean reaches for the key, though he knows enough about his Baby to realize that no amount of key-turning is going to get her going again. Sure enough, all she does is click when he turns the key.
He sighs, sagging back against the worn leather seats and dropping his head back. “Fuck me,” Dean groans as he digs into his back pocket for his cell. He pulls his out and taps the screen—nothing. He holds the power button down and the screen flashes with the little battery, it’s power bar close to the end and bright red. “Fucking perfect,” Dean mutters and tosses his phone to the other end of the bench. “Just fucking perfect.”
With his head in his hands—his elbows propped on the steering wheel has the world rages on outside his windows—Dean contemplates his options.
He’s not about to sit here until someone decides to drive by and maybe pull over to see if he needs help, but he sure as shit doesn’t want to go outside and walk. He doesn’t really have another option, though, what with a dead cell phone and an even more dead battery. He needs to get someplace with a phone to call a tow, and then he needs to have a long conversation with his boyfriend about leaving the music on without the engine running.
Dean opens his eyes as a sinking feeling settles in his stomach. At least I wore my boots, he thinks, tapping his toes together before sitting up and gathering his jacket. And my umbrella.
With one final sigh, he gathers his dead cellphone, wallet, keys, umbrella, and pulls on his jacket before opening the door.
Icy rain slices over his cheeks and he flinches, huddling deeper into his leather jacket as he fights to open his umbrella. The wind whips hard and fast. It's so strong that Dean stumbles back with a heavy gust, but manages to lock up his Baby and get the umbrella open to block most of the wind. His clothes soak through in minutes, and he shivers like mad, blinking through the rain as his skin turns to ice. His fingers are stiff around the umbrella handle as he trudges along the shoulder.
Dean can see the exit ramp up ahead, and he ducks his chin, trying to shield his ears from the biting air. Trees dip and sway on either side of the highway, and all Dean can think of is how damn badly he wants to be home.
Home with Cas, and their little aquarium of fish, with a hot chocolate cupped between his freezing hands. He wants a bath and a cuddle with his boyfriend, but he knows he probably won’t get that. He’ll get an argument, then a fight with slamming doors and hurt feelings. He knows he will and the thought alone turns his stomach. Dean hates fighting with Castiel—hates the way his words seem to wound his lover, but he just can’t help is. Or the way Castiel’s stone-cold expression does something to his heart—makes it shrivel and quiver and hurt. Dean hates fighting with Castiel, period.
It’s right before he starts to incline up the exit ramp when a gush of frigid water hits his toes. “What the fuck!” Dean squeals, hopping on his right foot as he shakes out his left. Confused, he looks down sees the puddle, then understanding sinks in, as does his dismay. There’s a hole in his boot, and his foot is soaked.
Dean closes his eyes. This fucking day…he just wants it to be over. How many bad things can happen to a person in a day?
He just keeps on going, trying to ignore the squish in his socks and the way his toes rub together. He knows he’ll have a few blisters at the end of his five-mile walk, but he doesn’t really have a choice, now, does he?
Dean tries not to think about Castiel. He tries to pretend he’ll step in the door to a warm hug instead of angry eyes and thinned lips. Maybe Cas won’t be home? Maybe Dean will be able to get it all sorted out because Cas finds out? He knows it’s stupid to even think it, but God, does he want it to be true. This day—this month, actually—has just been so bad and Dean doesn’t want to deal with it anymore.
As Dean rounds the top of the exit ramp, the wind shifts, and before he can do anything about it, his umbrella jerks in his hand, forced inside out. It snaps, the tiny arms breaking against the force of the wind, and Dean’s heart sinks as bitter frustration sours his stomach. He stares down at his umbrella, wide-eyed as rain pelts his face, dripping, ice-cold, down the back of his neck. His leather jacket does nothing to keep him warm, and he can’t feel his toes. Dean feels like he could cry—he could break down right in the middle of the lane and cry.
But he doesn’t. Dean folds up the tattered umbrella and sticks it under his arm as he carries on. He tries to be grateful for the fact that he can now tuck his hands in his pockets, but it’s damn hard when every part of him feels like a block of ice.
By the time Dean makes it into their neighborhood, he might, actually, probably have hypothermia and frostbite. He can’t be sure, though, because his fingers are as hold as his cheeks and he can’t move faster than a shuffle.
He’s miserable and exhausted and upset when his shaky finger stabs at the doorbell. He has to try a few times before it makes any noise, not strong enough to it right the first time. As he stands on the stoop, looking up at the homemade wreath he and Castiel made at a craft fair the year before, a lump starts rising in his throat, choking him up and filling his eyes with tears.
The door swings open and there’s Cas, his brows furrowed in the middle as he looks Dean up and down. “Dean, what—” He pushes open the screen door and Dean bursts into tears, his misery spilling over as Castiel’s eyes widen and he pulls Dean inside. “What happened? Why are you soaked?”
“I-I-I got…fired!” Dean sobs, shaking uncontrollably as Castiel peels off his sopping leather jacket. “And, th-then—then Bab-by died, and my phone d-died, and I’ve got a…a hole in my boot, and my umbrella broke!” He slaps his hands over his tear-streaked face, hiding his eyes from Castiel as he steers Dean to a chair and sits him down.
Dean continues to cry, unable to quell his hitching breaths as Castiel peels off his boots and socks before tossing them away. He doesn’t speak as he works, peeling Dean's shirt off with gentle, loving hands. His face is expressionless, and everything Dean was trying so hard to ignore on his walk home floods back in because Castiel is mad. Dean can feel it in his bones. Castiel is mad and once Dean stops crying like a child they’re going to have one hell of a fight.
But, when Castiel pulls him to his feet, he just looks into Dean’s water, blood-shot eyes. Instead of moving away, Castiel cups his cheeks between warm, strong hands and tilts Dean’s face down so he can press a kiss to his forehead. Dean closes his eyes, his heart aching as he clenches his fists in Castiel’s knit sweater, right as his hips.
“Let’s get you in the bath, yeah? Get you warmed up.” Castiel’s voice is the softest whisper and Dean feels it like the sweetest touch. He can’t help the tears the spring to his eyes, then, as emotion swells inside him.
Castiel leads him through the halls to their bathroom, flipping on the light and leaving Dean standing by the door as he runs him a bath. Dean just watches, still shivering like mad. His lips are probably blue and icy water still drips from his hair, chilling his skin.
“We need to get these pants off you,” Castiel says, but Dean doesn’t move, letting Castiel undo his belt and tug them down his legs. He rests his hands on Castiel’s shoulders and lifts his feet when he’s told, but that’s as far as his help goes until Castiel leads him to the bath.
Dean hisses when he sinks down into the hot bathwater, his frozen joints protesting the abrupt temperature change, but Dean revels in the burn, closing his eyes with a sigh as steam wafts up around him.
Dean’s eyes snap open again when soft fingers sift through his wet and knotted hair, smoothing it back from his forehead. Dean looks over at Castiel, who’s staring right back, his face unreadable.
“I need to go get my car,” Dean whispers, shifting in the bath. “I need to call a tow truck and go meet them at my car.”
“I can do it,” Castiel whispers, not looking away for even a second as he shifts where he sits, his fingers still combing through Dean’s hair. “Just relax and warm up, okay? I’ll go get your car.”
For some reason, Dean gets choked up again, a lump rising in his throat as he blinks away tears. God, he’s so emotional right now. “Thank you.” Castiel leans in to kiss his forehead. “It’s, uh…about a mile from the off-ramp on the highway.”
“Okay,” Castiel breathes, before pushing himself to his feet. “I’ll take care of it, my love.” He smiles, soft and reassuring. Dean returns it, but his is hesitant. Where’s the fight he was expecting? Where’s the anger?
He sinks down in the bath and closes his eyes. He knows it’ll come eventually, but for now, he relaxes, drifting off to sleep.
When Dean wakes some time later, the bathwater is getting cold and he’s starting to shiver again, so he gets out, dripping wet and disoriented. He finds a freshly laundered towel waiting for him on the rack and his heart softens as he rubs himself down.
Then he finds the fuzzy pajamas and slippers, and he melts, a wide, aching smile tilting his lips as he pulls them on, feeling the softness beneath his pruned fingers.
When he shuffles down the hall, fully dressed and content—if not a little tired—he finds Castiel in the living room, starting up a movie.
“Come sit,” he says, waving Dean over as he holds up a blanket. Dean doesn’t hesitate, climbing under and curling up beside Castiel, his head on his shoulder and both hands curled in his sweater.
“What are you watching?” Dean asks, before taking the hot chocolate Castiel hands him with a grateful smile.
“I was thinking Die Hard.” He raises an eyebrow and Dean grins, snuggling closer as Castiel wraps an arm around his shoulders. Dean can’t remember the last time they did this and it’s so nice he doesn’t ever want it to end, but as he sips his hot chocolate, his fears creep back in, plaguing his mind with screaming matches and slamming doors.
Obviously, Castiel notices Dean’s lack of attention, as he always does, and pauses the movie before it really gets going.
“What’s wrong?” Castiel turns to him, giving Dean his full attention, and Dean swallows down the lump in his throat, unable to meet Castiel’s eyes when he speaks.
“I thought you’d be madder,” Dean murmurs under his breath, not sure if Castiel hears him—not sure if he wants him to—but he does, and he leans back just enough to see him.
A startled laugh bursts from him. “Baby, I’m not mad,” Castiel says, looking down into Dean’s disbelieving eyes. “I’m not mad, or disappointed, or upset.” Dean gives him a look and Castiel rolls his eyes with a huff, but there’s the tiniest hint of a smile on his face. “Okay, so I’m a little upset, but not with you.”
“With what, then?” Dean rolls his eyes, annoyance prickling inside him. He can’t help it—he’s tired and emotional and he needs to be loved.
“Well, Bobby, for starters. I’m worried about the house, but that’s not your fault; I’m always worried about the house.” He pulls Dean closer, smoothing the crease between his eyebrows with a kiss. “We’ll figure it out somehow. I’m just happy you're okay,” he whispers, and his lips linger a little longer, emotion clogging his words.
Dean sets his hot chocolate aside and pulls Castiel in for a tight hug. “I love you,” he whispers, his breath brushing Castiel’s ear as his arms contract around Dean.
“Love you, too.” They stay like that for a minute and, eventually, Dean feels Castiel’s smile against his skin. “And I’ll get you new boots.”
Dean laughs, feeling light-years better than he did before, and he snuggles back into Castiel’s arms. His heart pulses with so much love, it almost hurts—but not quite. “You’d damn well better.”