Castiel felt as if his body was made out of lead. Part of him wanted to escape it, to go into his true form and soar away from all the pain. But no, of course he couldn’t. The broken husks of his wings twitched painfully and his grace rushed to correct the pain, erase it. At least that pain it was able to soothe.
The ache within his heart was another matter. Though it coiled around his insides, twisting them cruelly, there was nothing his desperate grace could do to amend that. Dean was dead and just thinking about it felt too immense. Felt unreal.
The ride back to the bunker had been quiet, to break it seemed a horrendous crime. Even now, words seemed hard to come by and in the end it was the heavy bunker door that interrupted their mourning with its loud creaking.
Castiel drew a deep breath as he and Sam started descending the stairs into the war room. It looked exactly as they had left it, Dean’s presence so strong in the room that Castiel just wanted to turn around and leave again. But he couldn’t, and wouldn’t. He had promised Dean to take care of Sam and he would, even if it would kill him.
“Sam, I’m so sorry,” the words felt like glass. “If you want to talk…” what could he say? What could he do? Nothing seemed sufficient, his ineffectiveness made worse by his own grief and the fact that his grace wouldn’t accept that Dean was truly gone. It kept searching for him, waiting for his soul’s answering call and it hurt. “I’m here if you need anything.”
Sam stopped, head bowed and hands in his jacket pockets. “Yeah,” he sighed deeply. “Yeah, I know, I just…”
Castiel rounded him, fingers twitching, a hug seeming prudent but somehow also as if it would make everything worse. Sam peeked at him and Castiel saw a young man, younger by far than Sam’s actual age. A little boy, lost and alone, robbed of his big brother and the constant support he had been.
Actions and words seemed inadequate but Castiel stepped in and pulled Sam closer anyway. The big man melted against him, shoulders shaking, and it was through gritted teeth and with the aid of his grace that Castiel remained standing there and not crumbling himself.
They only stood for a moment, though, before Sam’s phone rang and he pulled out of Castiel’s stiff embrace, snuffling and pushing his hair out of his face as he gathered himself enough to answer. He didn’t look at the caller-ID first, instead just swiping to answer and putting it to his ear, looking away from Castiel but not stepping back.
Castiel remained where he was as well, comforted by Sam’s closeness, but he was pulled to awareness immediately at Sam’s next words.
“Dean? Wait, I’ll put you on speaker!”
Castiel stared wide-eyed at Sam, dumbfounded even as his grace swelled with hope and delight. It had known, he could feel it now, but he had been too caught up in what he had thought was the truth that he had forgotten to listen to his innermost self.
“Dean?” he asked, voice raspy and shaky as he stared down at Sam’s phone, the screen clearly displaying a connected call. “Are you…?”
“I ain’t dead,” Dean sounded very annoyed for some reason. “Don’t worry though, the bomb is gone, I’m fine. Everything’s fine.”
But how? How could it be?
“What happened?” Sam was also shaking, both his voice and his hand.
“Amara and me had a talk and then she and Chuck had a heart-to-heart, and they left. Like, Earth. Listen, I’ll tell you all about it later,” he swore and a loud rustling was heard in the background. “For now you gotta come get me, I don’t know where the fuck I am.”
A smile spread over Castiel’s face. “Pray to me and I will know.”
“Fan-fucking-tastic, why didn’t I think about that?” Dean groused. “Fucking Chuck sending me to some nonsense park, jeez.”
“Dean?” oh Sam’s voice was so small now, Castiel wanted to hug him again. “Are you really okay?”
“I’m starving and lost in a forest, other than that I’m fucking peachy.”
“Hang up and pray to me,” Castiel said, still smiling, his grace soaring, filling him with a sense of belonging like nothing he had ever experienced, not even with the Heavenly Host.
“Fine, pick up dinner on the way,” Dean demanded, clearly still annoyed, and hung up.
Sam just stared at his phone for a moment and then his knees gave out. Castiel caught him enough to spare his knees from the unforgiving bunker floor and Sam clung to him more than necessary. And it was okay, was wonderful to sit there for a moment while Sam gathered his wits. Was even greater when Castiel heard Dean’s pray resounding within him. He closed his eyes and tilted his head up to the heavens, basking in the feeling of Dean’s soul latching onto his grace once more.
The months that followed the departure of Chuck and Amara were turbulent but not in the way Cas and the Winchesters were used to. No new world-ending threats emerged but the amount of creepy crawlies under the beds didn’t diminish and Dean for one relished some good old hunting.
Sam had even gotten in contact with other hunters, spread out over the US and though he was loathe to admit it, Dean knew Sam was itching to start up a hunter central, similar to what they had had with Bobby.
Dean, for his part, was fine with just the three of them hunting like normal and eagerly signed up on any and all bad omens they found. Having such a near death experience certainly changed your perspective on things and though he still had nightmares he at least drank less. Sam said it was because Cas was sticking around but Sam was so full of shit.
The truth was that Cas was hanging out with them though. He’d taken up permanent (or so Dean hoped) residence in room number 15, though he spent most of his evenings reading in the library.
“No more sacrificing yourself for the Angel cause,” Dean had said shortly after his own “revival”, so to speak. “If you’re here, you’re here.”
And Cas had nodded mutely and fuck Sam for saying that Dean’s eyes had been wet. The point was, Sammy, that Cas had been so relieved to find Dean alive that he had said he wanted to remain with the Winchesters, hunting things and saving people, and Dean had been so relieved to hear that, that he’d made Cas promise not to run off again. And it had worked, seemingly.
To be honest, Dean wasn’t about to look a gift horse in the mouth. Instead he was just enjoying this semi-downtime and the presence of his two favorite people, seasoned with the occasional visit to or from other hunters and friends. And of course the hunts, which were almost fun nowadays. Even Crowley was keeping quiet on his end, the amount of hunts involving demons less frequent overall. Guess surviving a showdown between fucking God and his sister was enough to make everyone tranquil for a while.
This evening marked the fifth in a row without any supernatural signs and Sam had declared that they were celebrating with beer and pizza in front of a good movie. Dean was so fucking down with that and had just jumped into the shower for a scrub while they waited for Sam to come back with the pizza. Living in the bunker had a lot of perks (no rent, for one) but take-out wasn’t one of them.
He took too long in the shower, apparently, because when he got to the TV room Sam was already there and Cas was sitting on one end of the couch, munching on a piece of pizza as if the hot cheese didn’t bother him and knowing him, it probably didn’t.
“Thought you didn’t eat?” he said with a grin and walked over Cas’ legs to get to the middle of the second-hand couch they’d put in the man-cave last month. It seated three but was roomier than it looked and Dean loved it even though it was a little sunken in.
“It’s one of the few things I miss about being human. I’m trying to ease back into it.”
Dean snorted and snagged himself a beer and a piece too. Sam was busy putting out plates for everyone like a grandma and Dean ignored him as he turned his attention to the TV (though he did bump his knee against Sam’s because thank you for getting the food. Sam just smiled to himself).
“So what are we watching?”
When he leaned back his seat slumped to the side and he slid closer to Cas which, like, no homo but Cas’ thigh was fucking warm. The angel was always so hot to the touch. Dean left his leg where it was.
“Eyewitness,” Sam stated and leaned back too. “It’s a crime show.”
“Oh yeah, you told me about it,” Dean only half listened because when Cas leaned forward to dispense of his napkin it made his leg press more against Dean’s.
“Yeah I started it last week but it’s fine, you’ll catch up in no time.”
“As long as there’s a murder or two I’m good here with my pizza,” Dean grinned, making Cas chuckle.
“You’d think that with everything you do, this wouldn’t feel as appealing to watch.”
“You’d think so yeah,” Sam grinned too.
“And you’d be wrong,” Dean concluded cheekily and couldn’t help but notice that Cas’ shoulder bumped his when the angel leaned back again. Again, this was a roomy three-seat couch. Not that Dean was complaining, just saying. “Wait, there’s no douches with sunglasses, is there?”
Sam laughed out loud and Dean would never not love the sound of his little brother all happy like this. “Don’t worry, no Horatios in this one.”
“Then I’m good.”
And it was good, for a pretty long while. The pizza was awesome, the beer was quenching, and Dean felt snug and safe between his brother and his ang—Cas, between Sam and Cas. Happy, at peace, almost a little drowsy.
And then it all went to shit because why the fuck not, right? Apparently, apparently, this was one of those kinds of shows. Where there was gay… stuff. And not like, flamboyant funny gay, the kind you could laugh away. But gay, two dudes in love and kissing and—and Cas was sitting right there and why was Dean even thinking about him?
Look, Dean wasn’t a homophobe. To each their own and all that crap but why the fuck did he have to watch two guys suck face while he was sitting right next to the guy he wanted to suck faces with and no, just fucking no, Dean didn’t want to kiss Cas shut the fuck up.
Truth be told, Dean didn’t even know when he’d first thought about Cas’ lips. Or his hands. Or the way it felt when Cas’ grace healed him. For instance, did Sam get a little lowkey aroused every time Cas healed him too? Dean thought not but he wasn’t going to ask. So yes, maybe he wanted… something with Cas? Wanted to, perhaps, hold his hand without a life threatening situation demanding it.
But at the same time it wasn’t like Dean wanted it, right? He was just curious, and he’d had a dry spell for too long, and he almost died a few months ago. Wasn’t like he’d been thinking about Cas before that.
He felt his whole body stiffen with uncomfortableness when the scene dragged on and fucking hell, it felt like watching a sex scene with your parents. Yeah, that was totally how he felt. He nearly jumped when Cas moved his arm to take a sip of his own beer and Dean’s mind irrationally latched on to the fact that Cas rarely ate because he “tasted the molecules” but he sure could drink like no one’s business.
“Jesus fuck, you shoulda warned me, Sammy,” the words were out of his mouth before he could think about it. “I mean fun for them but I’d rather not watch, right?”
Beside him, Sam rolled his eyes. “Welcome to the 21st century, Dean.”
“Look, all I’m saying is that it doesn’t add anything to their characters to make them gay, if anything it’s more sexist that you gotta shove it down our throats.”
Cas turned to look at him with a hard frown. “You don’t really think that, do you?”
Well, no. Dean actually thought it was pretty neat that gays could be represented as something other than the token funny best friend in movies. Not like he was going to say that to Cas’ stupid face, though.
“Whatever,” he crossed his arms, a chill going through him when Cas pulled away from his arm. “All I’m saying is I would rather watch two chicks make out over two dudes any day of the week, amirite Sammy?”
Dean desperately needed his little brother to back him up because he knew he was screwing this up (couldn’t explain himself well enough) but if Sam agreed then it could be turned into a joke. Haha, what a funny homophobic, sexist joke, right? But Sam looked away, shaking his head, and Dean could feel Cas’ displeasure like a living creature breathing down his neck.
“So, basically what you are saying is that you would never be okay with two men kissing?” Cas demanded, voice all Angel of the Lord, tired of your bullshit, Dean, and Dean’s heart shriveled up. “With two men being in love?”
“Who the fuck mentioned anything about love?” Dean pressed his thighs together, hunching down, trying to protect himself. “I mean fine, they can make out or whatever, but two dudes can’t really fall in love with each other, right? That’s just… weird.”
Cas stared at Dean, shock evident on his face and what was the fucking deal anyway? Dean just wanted to joke around a bit and it was Sammy’s fault for not giving him a heads up in the first place. Plus Cas had to push on buttons Dean had tried so hard to protect all these years and it was his fault too. Dean was just…
“Cas,” Sam sighed when the angel stood up abruptly, leaving Dean colder than he’d ever felt before.
“No,” Cas stated, making his way to the door, back to them but his presence still huge. “I’m going out.”
“Oh come on,” Dean snorted, leg jittering in the wake of Cas’ absence, the chill taking up residence in his lower abdomen. “Where are you going at nine on a Friday evening?”
“Out,” Cas’ voice boomed from the hallway and Dean shrunk down against the couch.
The silence that followed Cas’ departure was extremely loaded but Dean stubbornly kept his head down and refused to meet Sam’s imploring eyes. It took a while but he eventually gave up and turned to clean up the table instead, shutting off the affronting TV-series.
Dean opened his mouth when Sam was halfway through the room but closed it again when his brother turned to him, sighing agitatedly.
“Well fucking done, Dean,” he said then, the words cutting deeper than Dean had thought they would. “I hope you’re happy with yourself.”
He left before Dean could come up with a clever response and somehow that made him feel even worse. And honestly, what had he even said that had been so bad that it made Cas leave? Wasn’t like he called him useless or the root to all of their problems or something shitty like that. And Dean sure as fuck hadn’t known Cas was such a trooper for the Pride community, that was for fucking sure.
He sat for a long while in the dark TV room, listening for the sounds of Cas coming back, stewing in self-inflicted misery.
Hearing Dean say something so cruel so carelessly had felt like getting a bucket of ice water thrown in his face and even so Castiel found his face flushed hot with anger as he stalked out of the bunker.
These last months since Dean basically came back from the dead had been wonderful, so filled with happy memories and excitement (and some dangerous hunts that made Castiel want to wrap the brothers in bubble wrap to protect them) and Castiel couldn’t honestly say he’d ever been happier.
Sam seemed very pleased that Castiel had decided to stay by their side and though Castiel sometimes listened in to angel radio he didn’t feel a need to involve himself anymore. They had rejected him, and in his opinion rightfully so, and he accepted that. When the time came and Sam and Dean were no longer walking the Earth, maybe then Castiel would seek reconciliation so that he would be able to spend time with the brothers in Heaven but at the moment he was at peace.
Other hunters in the community still seemed apprehensive of him but also accepted him simply because he was with the Winchesters and that felt good too. Not everyone knew he was an angel, of course, some just saw him as a kind of awkward hunter who for some reason was part of the elite circle. Castiel didn’t care what people thought of him as long as there was no trouble and for the moment life was simple. Filled with minor league hunts (as Dean called them) interspersed with calm evenings in the bunker. Castiel entertained himself with translating old lore books, much to Sam’s gratefulness and Dean’s amusement because apparently that wasn’t entertaining enough. They also watched a lot of TV, something that Castiel previously had enjoyed very much.
And then there was Dean. Dean, who was all around Castiel suddenly. Now that they spent so much more time together, Castiel had slowly come to realize that what he had thought was strong admiration was in fact something else. Because he felt admiration for Sam’s intellect and resilience just as he did for Dean’s, but he never envisioned himself kissing Sam. Never wanted to take his hand and lace their fingers together. Never felt his grace trill and sparkle with electricity when Sam touched him.
Castiel had been teased about his bond with Dean before, most notoriously by angels and Crowley, but he had never paid it much heed. He and Dean were best friends and that was a strong bond indeed. But the long nights alone in the library had not only been spent translating old texts and when Castiel first realized how much he enjoyed thinking about Dean naked he knew he was in trouble.
And yet, it felt as if there was something there between them, didn’t it? Because it wasn’t only Castiel who got teased for enjoying Dean’s company, Dean got plenty of jabs himself and responded with much fluster every time, something Castiel had enjoyed because he had interpreted it as the man trying to hide what he believed to be unrequited emotions.
Now, though, it stood clear to Castiel that Dean got flustered when people and monsters alike called Castiel his boyfriend because Dean thought that love between two men was disgusting and it hurt.
He stopped walking, only then realizing that he hadn’t stopped just outside the bunker like he had intended. Instead he had continued down the road to the nearby town of Lebanon and he stopped to groan up at the skies. At least the slate gray clouds kept their rain to themselves.
What Castiel wouldn't give to be able to fly right now. He ruffled his wings, felt the familiar ache in the burnt joints and the accompanying rush of his grace to amend it. He should head back, if he thought about it he believed he was being stupid anyway.
He started back but only managed a few steps before anger took over again and this time his grace reared up as well, as if to attack a target. He fisted his hands, suddenly so fed up with the whole situation. After everything they had been through, why was this so hard? Of course, he realized with fierce rage, of course Dean didn’t actually think like that. He didn’t think gay love was disgusting or unfathomable. He was just afraid.
Afraid of his own emotions, afraid of Castiel’s affection, afraid to be different and to be seen.
Some of that most definitely stemmed from the fact that he hadn’t exactly had a normal upbringing but a lot of it was also internalized and Castiel understood that it was hard, that it wouldn’t take just a couple of tranquil months to get over such a big hurdle. When he thought about it like that, Dean’s rejection didn’t hurt as much. What did hurt was the way the man had handled the whole situation.
How he pushed Castiel away so harshly when Castiel hadn’t even asked for anything. Actually, Castiel would have been fine with nothing developing between them (if it turned out that Dean didn’t actually love him like that) but what wasn’t fine was how carelessly Dean had treated the whole thing. As if it didn’t mean anything to condemn a whole society (and Cas) just to protect your own heart.
“Fuck,” he swore lowly, voice gravelly in his anger. “Fuck this.”
Castiel was tired. He was old and battle-weary and he was done.
Without hesitation, he turned his back to the bunker and continued walking on the road to Lebanon. He didn’t have a plan in mind, just knew that for now he needed to be anywhere but near Dean.
Stan Andersen looked around the bar (Tina’s Grill), feeling morose. As was appropriate on a Friday evening, the place was as packed as a bar in such a small town could be and though Stan was usually a sociable guy, he had never felt less inclined to talk to anyone.
Some of these people he knew, had even worked with them, and some were new, perhaps passersby, but none seemed to catch his interest. He drew some looks himself, a well-built and relative handsome man sitting alone as he was. Stan was used to it, he was tall and broad-shouldered, liked to hit the gym enough that his biceps told of his efforts, and his blonde hair accompanied with his blue eyes gave him an overall Scandinavian look even though he was a red-blooded American. Stares he was used to and though he was a little shy to the nature he still usually enjoyed the company and attention he got.
Not tonight, though.
Some men, and more women, had approached him but he’d turned them down explaining he was waiting for someone and he was not lying. That she was almost thirty minutes late was another thing.
“Come on, Val,” he sighed to himself, sipping his Cosmopolitan slowly as he waited by the bar, back to the rest of the rowdy room.
Valerie Williams was his best friend, had been since they were in middle school and she confessed her undying love for him and he’d broken down crying because he’d known already then that he was gay but he hadn’t wanted to lose her friendship. She hadn’t abandoned him, though, and they’d been thick as thieves ever since. Val was a spunky woman, and the one with enough courage to make Stan come out of his shell. She was his rock.
She had been there for him when he had come out to his parents and gotten kicked out of the house, she’d moved to Lebanon with him when he got a job at the local preschool, and she’d been there for him when his boyfriend James left him a couple of months back.
Stan felt worse just thinking about that. About James’ snort, the “I haven’t been in love with you for the last two years”, the eye-roll when Stan cried because Stan apparently cried too much. Stan couldn’t help it, though, he’d thought they were in love, had even planned on asking James to move in together. What a far-fetched dream that seemed now.
He sighed heavily and thought about just giving up for tonight when Val of course called, as if she’d heard him.
“Tell me you’re outside?”
That was a rude greeting… So maybe he’d had more than one Cosmopolitan, he wasn’t that drunk.
“I’m sorry, boo,” Val sounded devastated. “Frannie had an emergency at work, I had to help with Dougie.”
Fran worked at a hospital and for her to have to go into work at this late hour it had to be important, Stan thought. Fran was Val’s sister and Doug was Fran’s son, the best little man Stan had ever met. He was pretty sure he would never have kids but if he did, he hoped he would have one as awesome as the little 4-year-old. He was just lucky Fran lived in the next town over so that Dougie wasn’t in his classes or the tyke would be running the whole show because it wasn’t as if Stan was ever able to say no to him. Just thinking about Doug’s happy face as he literally climbed on Stan’s body, swinging from his arm, made Stan grin.
“Well, I suppose it can’t be helped.”
“No seriously, Stannie, I’m so sorry.”
He knew she was, she would never stand him up intentionally. “It’s fine. I think I’ll finish my drink and head home anyway.”
“You should stay,” she said, her tone lower now, serious. “Grab a win for yourself to distract from everything bad. I worry, Stan.”
“I know,” he glanced around the room again. “But I don’t think this is the place, when has it ever been?” he shook his head, smiling as if the memory of getting gay bashed in high school by men very similar to the ones in this very room was a fond one. At least that had stopped when he grew bigger and stronger. Nowadays people mostly settled for sour glances and the occasional slur and that Stan could take.
“I’m just saying, you need to get your mind off James.”
He bit the inside of his cheek when unexpected emotions rose at the mention of his ex’ name. He didn’t want to feel like this anymore, James had hurt him but it was done and over. Except…
“He called me today.”
Val made a scandalized sound. “And that’s why you wanted to meet up, I’m so fucking sorry. Why don’t you come here?”
To be honest it sounded kind of nice. He wanted to see Val and hanging out with Dougie always made him feel better. But at the same time he feared he would get emotional and he didn’t want the boy to see him like that, even though he was pretty sure Doug would be sleeping anyway.
“No, I think I’ll call it a night.”
“Did he say something?”
Of course he had, James had said a lot of words, but had they meant anything? Not really. Tired platitudes that just made Stan feel empty inside were hardly worth mentioning anyway.
“It’s fine, Val, we’ll talk tomorrow.”
“I’ll cook you lunch?”
“Thank you but I’d rather not die of food poisoning. Maybe we could have dinner here at Tina’s?”
Val made a sound as if she was deeply hurt but Stan knew she was only faking it; her cooking skills were notoriously bad.
“Well okay then, if you’re sure?”
“I am,” he smiled and only then noticed that his drink was already empty. “Give Dougie a kiss from me.”
“Love you, honey bear.”
After their call ended, Stan thought he really ought to take himself up on his own suggestion and go home but he’d flagged down Tina to get another Cosmo before he even knew what he was doing. She just winked at him and slid it over, keeping his tab open for a little while longer.
He twirled the glass in his giant hand, well aware that it looked out of place for him to be drinking something like this but he liked it and Val always told him that as long as what he liked didn’t hurt anyone then he shouldn’t be afraid of doing it. He smiled to himself when he remembered her using those exact words many times when his insecurities got the better of him.
The thought instantly drew his attention to the tattoo he’d had made on his back when he came out to his family; an image of a broken garden with withering plants and a half-open gate leading into a new, vivid and bright world, made to represent the freedom he had felt when he finally found the courage to live a life without lies. A constant reminder that no matter what, he had stepped through that gate and away from a life that slowly killed him inside, into a world where he could truly live and where he would never have to hide his true self again.
He smiled unexpectedly, already feeling better, as predicted from talking to Val. In the background he heard the front door open but he didn’t turn to look, too occupied with taking a sip of his drink.
The crowd behind him were loud, laughing happily and singing as they played rounds of darts and pool. Tina’s grill offered pub related amusement on one side of the bar and a seated diner on the other side, though that side was mostly empty now, people having moved over to drink and play games.
Stan remained by the bar, though, accompanied only by Tina, the owner and only bartender.
“What’ll you have, handsome?”
Stan looked up, surprised because he’d just gotten his drink and wasn’t at all ready to have another one. That was when he noticed that she was in fact addressing a man who had come to sit on the stool next to Stan’s. He almost jerked, so surprised by the closeness (there were other available stools) and the fact that he hadn’t noticed the man arriving. He managed to hold himself back, though, and snuck a hopefully furtive glance instead.
“Whisky,” the man answered and holy hell, his voice was deep. “Neat.”
“What kind?” Tina asked, showing with a wave of her arm the assortment behind her. “Any special brand?”
“Smokey,” the man rumbled, stoic, face unreadable. “Make it a double.”
Tina nodded and turned to fix his order but Stan couldn’t tear his eyes away and though he was aware that he wasn’t so much glancing as he was staring now, he didn’t care. The man was gorgeous. High cheekbones, angular face, inviting lips, straight nose, his hair thick and messy, and he smelled like summer rain, like a promise of something enticing to come.
He didn’t so much as throw Stan a look, even though he would have had to notice that he was being stared at, and that made Stan want to strut his stuff for some reason. The feeling was unfamiliar to him and he felt a little embarrassed but mostly he just wanted the man to see him.
Tina returned with the whisky and the man threw it back before she’d had time to even move away. His slender fingers wrapped around the tumbler and oh God, the way his throat looked as he worked down the liquid was…
Stan knew he was making big eyes and he met Tina’s astonished eyes as well, though he suspected that she was more surprised about the man so easily taking so much whisky in one gulp than how delicious the man looked while doing it.
“Again,” he stated when he put the glass back down.
Tina looked dubiously at him. “Take it easy.”
The man squinted then and shit, Stan unconsciously closed his legs when the first tendrils of arousal licked through him. See, the thing about Stan was that he was very much a bottom, but due to his big body many men tended to judge him the wrong way so it was seldom that he got to truly experience being topped. That squint, though…
Tina just nodded and filled the glass once more but this time the man seemed content to sip slowly, slumping in his seat as he fingered the glass. Tina remained in front of them for a moment longer, gave Stan a confused look, and then left them alone. Stan felt as if he was on pins and needles, the need to talk to the man so overwhelming that he said the first thing that came to mind.
“You look like you either lost a lot of money or your heart.”
The man looked at him then, but didn’t seem surprised to be addressed, as if he had known he was being observed. Stan didn’t know if he was supposed to be embarrassed about being caught or not and to be honest he was just too thrilled to have the man’s attention on him to even care.
The man’s eyes were a deep blue, not as light as Stan’s own, and though the man looked to be only about five to ten years older than Stan himself his eyes looked wise beyond his years and Stan felt instantly drawn.
“I supposed love, since I’ve never been very rich,” he stated then, and looked back at his whisky, corners of his mouth turned downward. “But to have lost something you must have acquired it in the first place, yes?” he shook his head and took a sip. “So then no, to both of your suggestions.”
Stan’s heart tugged for some reason. “Unrequited love?”
What the hell kind of question was that?! Stan felt brazen and bold, bolstered by this stranger’s whole presence, but that question has still been too inappropriate.
“Yes,” the man surprised him by answering. “I didn’t realize my own feelings until they had grown too vast and when I did, I also realized I’m in love with an idiot,” the man sighed harshly, holding his hands out as if to choke someone. “He’s just so…”
Stan underwent a rollercoaster of emotions during that one admission. He got very disappointed that the man was already in love with someone, he got happy to hear the man was single, he got sad for the same reason (because he couldn’t help but want good things for the man), and he got ecstatic that the man apparently was into men (and also startled by how easily the man admitted his sexuality to a stranger, startled and impressed).
By the end of it Stan’s heart was pumping wildly, working on that excess adrenaline like no one’s business.
“I get it,” he chuckled softly. “I’ve had some pretty nasty men in my life too, who said dating the same sex would be easier, huh?”
The man turned to regard him and Stan almost held his breath, his words having been deliberate to see how the man would react to hearing Stan too was into men.
“I’m sure you deserve better.”
Stan almost got a lump in his throat. “I… thank you,” he all but melted when the man quirked his lips in a barely there smile. Feeling bold once again, he held out his hand. “I’m Stan, by the way.”
A spark of electricity went through Stan when they touched hands and he reveled in it because damn, it had to be a sign of physical compatibility that he already felt this good, right? Just shaking hands with the man—Castiel—felt amazing. And hell, Stan had always been a hold-hands-on-a-date kind of guy so this was shaping up nicely. Castiel’s hand was smaller than Stan’s, physically, but somehow Stan felt dwarfed in the man’s grasp, small and dainty, and he felt yet another lick of arousal at the thought of Castiel putting those hands on other parts of his body.
“That’s a cool name,” he said with a smile, although he was a little uncertain if the man had just made it up.
Castiel shrugged. The motion looked a little aborted, as if he was carrying a heavy weight on his shoulders.
“I’m aware that it’s unusual. You can call me Cas, if you like. My friends usually do.”
Stan hungered to be called this man’s friend so he nodded with a smile.
“Sure, if you’re comfortable with it?”
Cas nodded and took a bigger sip of his drink, silent, and Stan got the impression that Cas was maybe a little introverted or perhaps just bad at small talk. It made him smile anew, the trait adorable to him. Cas looked like a man who worked at some kind of office, and though his suit was rumpled and he had bags under his eyes he still struck Stan as someone important.
They sat in silence for a moment, Cas sipping his whisky and Stan positively bursting with the urge to start up a conversation again.
“So, are you from around here?”
He sounded too eager, God…
Cas looked at him for a moment, head tilted to the side and regarding. Stan averted his eyes, feeling his face heat.
“Not originally, no,” Cas was quirking his lips again when Stan looked back up. “But I suppose you could say I live here now, I share a place with my two best friends.”
Having roommates at his age? Well, Stan wouldn’t judge but he did bookmark that in his brain for later contemplation.
“Here in Lebanon?”
“Just at the outskirts.”
Oh Stan had so many questions because he had been living here for a long time and Lebanon was far from big, and yet he’d never seen the man before. But he sensed that maybe this was as far as he should push this matter tonight, so he just smiled.
“Sounds nice, I have an apartment not far from here.”
Oh. My. God. Stan wanted to smack himself in the face for how insinuating that had sounded.
Sure, the man was very handsome and just mysterious enough to be sexy but Stan wasn’t aiming at being a total flirt right now. He actually wanted to get to know Cas. Especially considering how weary the man had looked earlier. Stan was a kind guy, he hated for anyone to suffer any kind of ailment and that was the reason he stuck with for talking to the man.
Cas, however, didn’t make a remark on how Stan’s words had sounded like a suggestion. He just nodded and took another sip of his whisky.
“What’s it like, living here?”
Stan felt bewildered for a moment because Cas had just said he also lived here but he supposed Cas meant living in the center, as far as Lebanon had a center…
“Nice. I mean, it’s a small town, but,” he glanced over his shoulder at some of the loudmouths behind them. None of them had ever really given him trouble but he knew some of the looks he got weren’t completely friendly. “It’s nice.”
Cas followed his gaze but didn’t say anything about it.
“So, what do you do?”
Stan blinked. “For a living?”
“Yes,” Cas nodded, seemingly satisfied. “I understand that is something you usually ask when you wish to befriend someone.”
Could… could awkwardness be a kink? Because Cas sure was awkward in an adorable way and Stan couldn’t help but feel all mushy inside. He grinned wide, ear-to-ear, which of course caught Cas’ attention but he only tilted his head to the side again. Stan almost wanted to kiss his cheek.
“I’m a preschool teacher.”
“Really?” Cas said, astonished, and Stan waited for it, for the comment about how his physical appearance didn’t fit it and how he should have a job like a firefighter instead. Little did people know that Stan was actually terrified of fire. “That must be so rewarding.”
Stan opened his mouth to defend his choice of occupation but promptly shut it again. He ended up kind of just staring at Cas for a moment, so surprised he didn’t know what to say.
“It… yeah, it really is.”
“Children are amusing,” Cas stated, almost a little smugly and yes, it was official, Stan had to get to know this man for real.
“Yeah, I love them,” he said with a soft smile. “And considering I probably won’t be getting any of my own… I dunno, this seems like a good substitute.”
“Why won’t you have children of your own?” Cas’ brow knitted in confusion. “Oh, is it a physical thing? I’m sorry, that was very rude of me.”
“No, no,” Stan smiled, watching how Cas returned a tentative smile of his own. His left shoulder twitched under his overcoat and now that Stan thought about it, it was only early September and the weather was still hot enough for such a coat to be too warm. “At least I don’t think there’s anything wrong with my swimmers,” what a weird thing to discuss with a total stranger… But if Stan was honest he wasn’t the least uncomfortable. “I just meant, you know, with being gay and all…” he lowered his voice for that last part. Out and proud, but also cautious because old habits die hard. “It’s harder.”
Cas just looked at him the whole time, with an open expression (almost blank) as Stan stumbled through the whole thing.
“I see,” he said, no judgement in his tone. “I suppose it would be more difficult.”
“Yes exactly,” Stan was kind of ready to leave the topic of him right now. He knew himself, he wanted to get to know Cas. “What about you? Kids?”
“No,” Cas smiled and it was a heartbreaking little thing. “No I will never have biological children.”
“Oh, I’m so sorry,” Stan reached out without thinking, putting a hand on Cas’ arm and there was that electrical pulse again. Muted, as if the attraction was hindered by Cas’ clothes and maybe that was true because skin-on-skin contact was always better.
“It’s fine,” Cas tilted his head again and Stan was starting to understand that Cas did that a lot. “But you should know that if I had had children I would have liked them to have a teacher like you.”
“W-what?” Stan stuttered, pulling away with a nervous little laugh, the praise instantly going to his heart. “You don’t even know me.”
“True,” Cas conceded with a little smile. “But I can sense that you are kind and you seem intelligent, both good traits for caring for children. Also, with such an impressive physique you would surely be able to protect them if they needed it.”
Stan’s brain kind of short-circuited on the impressive physique and he just waved his hand, making a shushing sound while Cas tilted his head again. He was regarding Stan intently now, as if trying to understand why Stan was getting flustered and that was almost too much for Stan right now.
“I’m not that… I mean, I hit the gym sometimes, but…”
“In any regard, I am very impressed. You are very aesthetically pleasing.”
Stan thought he would combust. “Do you want another one?” he pressed out, waving at Cas’ nearly empty whisky tumbler.
“Oh,” Cas squinted down at his glass as if it would answer life’s mysteries. “No, thank you. Whisky is Dean’s preferred drink,” he sighed wearily. “It seems that I can never escape him, try as I might.”
So the man Cas was in love with was named Dean? Stan suddenly felt like meeting the man, sizing him up. Clearly he wasn’t good enough for Cas if he didn’t see the man as Stan saw him. Sweet and kind, and absolutely smoking. Stan kind of couldn’t wait for Cas to stand up so he would get a good look at the man’s complete look, and even more than that he wanted to take Cas home and talk all night long.
“Then, something else?” Stan suggested, wanting to get the carefree atmosphere back, regretting having reminded Cas of his love.
“What are you drinking?” Cas asked then, eyes focused on Stan’s almost full glass.
“Um, it’s a Cosmopolitan, but,” he swallowed, looking down at the glass too. “It’s not really a manly drink.”
“Is it good?”
“It’s my favorite,” Stan almost whispered, only now realizing how terrifying it could still be to be so out around strangers.
Sure, Cas seemed nice enough and Stan was definitely into him in a way he hadn’t thought he would be for a while now after James, but he was still a stranger and you never knew, maybe something like a “girly” drink would be what pushed him away.
“Then I’ll have one too, thank you.”
Stan whipped his head up, warmth flooding his whole body. “Yeah?”
Cas quirked his lips as if he found Stan amusing. “Yes, please.”
It didn’t stop at one drink and Stan soon found himself tipsy and enjoying Cas’ company even more than he thought he would. The man had a weird sense of humor, sometimes borderlining dry, and Stan loved it. Every time he managed to put a smile on Cas’ face his heart fluttered and when he made Cas laugh out loud Stan felt such an immense sense of accomplishment that he almost dove in and kissed Cas right then and there.
They sat at the bar for far longer than Stan had intended and yet when it seemed it was time to go he didn’t want it to end. For most of their time together they had talked about Stan, Cas cleverly diverting attention and directing the conversation in such a way that Stan found himself gushing about his job or hobbies or time in college for a long while until he noticed.
“I suppose it’s getting late,” he said reluctantly when Tina had given him a meaningful look for the umpteenth time. He and Cas were far from the last ones left but he supposed she would have to start herding someone at some point.
“Yes,” Cas said and got to his feet, immediately accepting the end and Stan panicked for a moment.
“I really liked talking to you,” he blurted out and wanted to smack himself in the face. He was a 35-year-old man, why did he have to sound like a crushing teenager when he spoke to Cas?
“I enjoyed our time as well,” Cas said then, in his deadpan tone that threw Stan for a loop every time. It was incredible how easily he could state things that made Stan’s palms sweat just thinking about.
“Would you like…? I mean, I would like to continue, if…”
Cas tilted his head. “Me too,” he said after a moment, as if he had spent it debating whether Stan was worth his time. Finding out that he apparently was made Stan feel very smug.
“Would you like to exchange phone numbers?”
This was a little more forward than Stan usually was but he felt as if this was a once in a lifetime meeting and if he didn’t take this chance now, Cas would slip through his fingers. He couldn’t say why, but he knew that finding Cas again would be impossible and he also knew that he didn’t want to let him go just yet.
Cas, for his part, just regarded Stan again and then put his hand in his pocket, producing a coin which he offered up for Stan to take. He did so with great confusion, looking down at the coin with raised eyebrows. It wasn’t an American coin, nor any other country that Stan was aware of. It did have markings in it but he could barely make them out and he couldn’t say if that was because they were in a foreign language or if it was because the coin was so old and worn.
“Thank you?” he said, slowly. “It’s pretty.”
That, at least, was true. It was warm as if Cas had had it in his hand for a long time, and looked to be made out of silver, or at least coated in it.
Cas was smiling widely when Stan looked up at him. “Yes, I would like to exchange phone numbers.”
That made Stan so happy that he forgot about being confused. “Really?” he held up the coin for Cas to take back but the man shook his head, instead pulling out his phone.
“You keep it. It’s pure silver so it might come in handy.”
If… if Stan was ever strapped for cash? He honestly didn’t know when a silver coin that wasn’t even American would ever come in handy because though he didn’t know much he did know that the silver exchange rate was much lower than gold so he severely doubted he would get much for the coin if he tried to pawn it.
Somehow he didn’t want to do that, though. This was a gift, he understood that, and he decided to keep it as a keepsake.
“Thank you,” he repeated and pocketed the coin so that he could pull out his phone too, ready to save Cas’ profile.
They did the exchange quickly and Cas bid farewell almost directly after. It seemed a bit abrupt but Stan decided to not let that hamper his spirits. Instead he watched Cas’ retreating back (cursing the coat for hiding the man’s ass) and went home with a special bounce in his step and his thoughts the furthest they had been from James since their breakup.
He couldn’t wait to tell Val about this, talk about grabbing a win for himself!