How did one go about getting gum off of a trench coat? Castiel Novak hadn’t the faintest idea. He wrinkled his nose, digging a short ruler out of his briefcase and using it to poke at the sticky, stretchy, slimy glob that decorated the shoulder seam of Castiel’s favorite—okay, only, he wasn’t a fashionista—coat.
Castiel was fairly sure he knew how it had gotten there. The image of Nick DeAngelis, an entitled asshole of a student if Castiel had ever had one, smirking at him from the front row of his final class of the day was clear enough. That guy was definitely both petty and revolting enough to be throwing gum at people and their innocent belongings. How had Castiel ended up teaching him for the third year in a row? Too stupid to graduate but too stubborn to drop out, Nick was riding his parents’ money as long as he could and challenging the patience of the whole Humanities department while he was at it. Why he wanted a Humanities major, Castiel couldn’t work out. Nick had no humanity.
“Gross,” Meg hissed as she click-clacked her way across the classroom floor toward Castiel. Meg—Professor Masters—had warned Castiel that she’d stop by after she’d finished teaching History of Human Sexuality next door, and it seemed she’d come to make good on her threat. “Is that gum? Are the undergrads picking on you already? It’s the first week of the semester, Cas, you’ve got to intimidate them out of the gate or they’re going to ignore you all year!”
Castiel sighed, shrugging as he scowled down at his coat, spread on the desk before him. “I don’t need to intimidate them. I’ll just fail them.”
“Not really,” Castiel said, straightening up. “I’m here to teach history, not babysit. Got any gum tricks?”
“I can do this one with my tongue where I—”
“For coats, Meg.”
“Oh. Well, yeah, actually. Or at least, I have a bunch of tricks for hair and they’ll probably work on coats.”
Castiel couldn’t help but raise an eyebrow at that.
“Believe it or not,” Meg said snarkily as she moved over to the desk and grabbed Castiel’s coat with two hands, “I wasn’t always the popular, sparkling star of the Humanities department that I am now.”
Castiel could only answer that with a flat look; anything he could have said would have been a risk—she held his coat hostage, after all. Walking ahead of him, Meg held the garment up before her, gum front and center, and frowned at it as she led them both to the staff break room on the next floor.
The pair of them were technically friends, Castiel supposed, though really it was more like outcasts-in-arms. Castiel was awkward and boring, or so his colleagues thought, and Meg was way too far in the opposite direction, scattering people like bowling pins with her personality alone. They made an odd, but fitting, pair.
Ice, it turned out, hardened the gum fairly quickly. Once it could be snapped off, Meg procured a knife from the staff kitchen—it was an HR-approved level of blunt, but served their purpose—and managed to restore Castiel’s coat to its former beige, sensible glory.
“Thank you, Meg,” Castiel said fondly.
“Ugh, don’t thank me like that. I might start thinking that you like me.”
“Couldn’t have that,” Castiel agreed solemnly. “I should be getting home. I need to red-pen all over the work Nick submitted today, prior to the attitude and gum.”
“Surprised he turned anything in at all,” Meg observed. “Wasn’t he the same guy who wrote a paper on the back of a Waffle House menu last year?”
“One and the same, and that’s still one of his best papers to date, sadly.”
“And you’re teaching him again because…?” Meg asked as they headed back down the stairs to Humanities Room 11.
“He’s the Chancellor’s nephew.”
“Mmm, I do love the smell of nepotism in the morning,” Meg complained dryly. She stood at the door and waited for Castiel while he gathered his papers and briefcase, and they walked together across the humid campus to their cars.
“Don’t forget your honey chicken things!” Meg said as she turned toward her giant, loud, obscenely jacked-up Dodge Ram truck. “Everyone loves those—I’m still convinced that when Dr. Shurley thanked you for bringing them to the Christmas mixer that year, it was the first time I’d heard him say your name right in eight years.”
Castiel blinked slowly, the keys to his battered Lincoln Continental frozen in his hand. “It was, but—why?”
“The potluck, Clarence, for fuck’s sake.”
Ahh. The Humanities department had far too many faculty social events for Castiel’s comfort. They weren’t mandatory, exactly, but Dr. Shurley, the university chancellor, loved them and heavily encouraged them in a way that certainly made them feel required. Damn it. All Castiel wanted to do was go home, finish his grading, and relax, not prepare dishes for work tomorrow.
“Honestly, I really wasn’t planning on going,” he hedged carefully. “It’ll be the same people as always, and—”
“Not true, actually!” Meg chirped conspiratorially, pausing with her hand on the door of her truck. “Rumor has it that ol’ Chuck invited the new archaeology professor, even though he isn’t starting until Monday.”
Castiel managed a thin smile. Typical. The only archaeologist he was in the mood for seeing was at home, on his laptop screen, while he was curled up on the couch with his tie off. But he was curious to meet his new co-worker.
Anybody had to be better than that fuddy-duddy of a homophobe, Zachariah Adler. Castiel really hadn’t liked him. Of course, he’d made all of the appropriate, respectful noises when news of Zachariah’s ill health and sudden early retirement had reached him in the middle of summer break, but if pushed, he’d have to admit that he certainly didn’t miss the odious man. One of Castiel’s colleagues had been covering Zachariah’s classes for the first week of the semester, and he knew they’d be relieved to be replaced.
“He’s young, apparently,” Meg continued, “and Lisa from over in HR said she’d be willing to get written up for that violation, if you know what I mean.”
“There’s no rule against dating coworkers in the first place, as long as it’s kept professional on campus,” Castiel pointed out with an eye roll.
“Hardly the point. Hot archaeologist—we both know how you feel about those. Bring your chicken things.”
With that, Meg hopped into her truck and slammed the door, and Castiel quickly plastered himself to the side of his scruffy gold car so that she wouldn’t run over the toes of his somber work shoes.
“I suppose I’ll make the chicken things, then,” Castiel muttered to himself as he slid behind the wheel.
Castiel’s drive home was about forty minutes, even with good traffic. It was far more of a commute than he’d like. Unfortunately, a single guy on an adjunct professor’s salary was only going to be able to live closer to the city if he had roommates or a partner. Castiel wasn’t good at having either of those things.
Nearly an hour’s driving and another hour’s grading later, Castiel was moments from relaxing when he realized he’d forgotten about the damned chicken things. Hastily stirring together some honey hot sauce and digging through his kitchen cabinets for cocktail sticks, Castiel was tempted to put too much Tabasco in the sauce so that no one would ever ask for the dish again. He caught himself before he devolved to Nick-levels of petty, but even so, the temptation was there.
By the time he’d breaded the chicken chunks then skewered and baked them, Castiel was dead on his feet.
It was time to crawl into bed with Hunter.
Snuggling down under the covers, Castiel flicked off his light and decided to watch just a couple of videos before he slept. Only Meg knew about his secret obsession: the vlogs of Dean “Hunter” Winchester, The Hunter Journals, which had been appearing frequently in Castiel’s YouTube subscriptions since his first year of grad school.
Hunter, as he fashioned himself online, was an experimental archaeologist who spent his days researching and re-enacting past processes to test his theories about ancient manufacturing, engineering, and the effects of time and environment on objects and remains.
Meg called it nerd porn.
But then, Meg had never seen The Hunter Journals. With Hunter’s olive eyes, gorgeous freckles, and mouthwatering biceps, it might as well be actual porn. The man gave off a very “Indiana Jones” sort of vibe, except he wore plaid shirts with his hat and kept a gun close to hand rather than a whip.
Not that Castiel would have minded seeing him with a whip in close proximity, if his career went in a different direction.
Mostly, though, Hunter’s daily vlogs showed him hiking through inhospitable terrain, going to great lengths to prove theories about ancient Maya culture and the amazing engineering habits of the Aztecs. He uploaded all of his trips and experiments, making a good living from the ad revenue on his surprisingly popular videos.
Castiel wished, desperately, that he could have adventures like those. His life was drab and monotonous, and it felt far too late to fix. His work was all theory. He was good at it—he’d authored some very popular papers on ancient civilizations in the last few years—but he rarely got to leave the college, never mind the country.
Adventures like Hunter’s…Castiel wasn’t courageous enough for those. He couldn’t imagine abandoning his duties here, his students and his family, for long enough to gallivant across South America, as much as he might want to.
Perhaps, as the tiny voice in the back of his head said, he was just a coward. After all, the bravest thing he’d ever done was tell his mother that he was going to major in history rather than accounting.
She’d been so disappointed that she’d made him stand up in front of their church congregation and admit to his “shame.”
So, Castiel lived alone and diligently did his job. Maybe his escape from home to college, and from Illinois to Kansas, wasn’t exciting or adventurous …but that was okay. He had Hunter for that.
Castiel’s tiny bedroom was bland, like much of his apartment, but it felt like a wonderland once he slipped beneath his sheets and pulled his laptop onto his knees. He always got everything else out of the way first: checked his Twitter, stopped by Facebook to coo over pictures of his nieces and nephews, deleted his marketing emails. YouTube was his treat at the end of it all.
Pulling up the familiar red and white page was like sinking into a warm bath. Castiel’s shoulders dropped, his frown smoothed out, and he let out a soft ahhh of pleasure as relaxation washed over him, bubbling around him amidst the pillows.
Right there at the top of his subscriptions was a new video, rewarding him for his hard day. Hunter was in Campeche, Mexico, hiking through the jungle paths toward Calakmul, one of the lesser-known ancient cities in the country. Castiel’s worries fell away as he clicked on the thumbnail of Hunter in a thin, open, plaid shirt, standing at the base of an impressive, stepped temple.
“Welcome,” Hunter began dramatically, throwing his toned arms up in greeting, “to the City of the Two Adjacent Pyramids! Or, much cooler, the seat of the Kingdom of the Snake.”
Castiel knew the region—he’d done a lot of studies on the area himself, written a few papers—and there was something extra special about seeing his long-term, minor-celebrity crush standing in a place he was familiar with himself.
“Got a fun video for you today, folks,” Hunter was saying as he began to walk across the temple stones, his cameraman following him. “I was in this area anyway, checking on some tools found during a dig headed up by an old friend from my master’s program. So, I reached out on a whim just to see if I’d be allowed to bring my cameraman along, because I figured my viewers would like to see the highest pyramid in the Maya world.”
Castiel found himself sitting up, fascinated by Hunter’s words and the way his strong hands moved as he spoke confidently to the camera.
“Not only did I get lucky on filming, but the people in charge of the Calakmul Biosphere Reserve gave me a special license to film inside four of the royal tombs discovered in temple two!”
The temples were fascinating, and Castiel got wrapped up in Hunter’s deep voice and green eyes as he unashamedly nerded out over their impressive engineering and told gory stories about their history and use. By the time the video was done, Castiel was already daydreaming about the feel of Hunter’s expressive hands against his skin, and what that voice would sound like pressed into the crook of his neck.
Castiel was far from being Hunter’s only thirsty fan, luckily for him. When the sexy, rough-around-the-edges archaeologist signed off his new video with his signature wink, Castiel merely had to click on the sidebar to find convenient compilations of “Hot archaeologist Hunter shirtless for 10 minutes straight!” and “Sexy Hunter W moments!”
There was something a bit pervy about occasionally dwelling on Hunter while he jerked off, Castiel knew, but it wasn’t like he would ever meet the man. Despite being extremely friendly and flirty with fans that he met, Hunter never advertised his whereabouts until he’d left a filming area (the result, Castiel suspected, of more than one run-in with fans who—unlike Cas—could not separate their fantasy from reality).
It was a perfectly safe, perfectly innocent way to get off, Castiel thought. No one ever needed to know.
Well, maybe “perfectly innocent” wasn’t quite true. Castiel reached down to palm at his hardening length through his pajama pants, shuffling the elastic waistband down beneath his ass with his other hand. There was nothing innocent about that.
But it was harmless. And very, very hot.
Given Castiel’s dearth of real-life romantic and sexual attachments, nothing got his motor going quite like Hunter did. The rumble of his voice, his cocky, confident smile, his pretty lips and seductive smile. Hunter knew what he was doing to his audience with those winks and grins, that was for sure. It was part of what had made him so popular, after all.
Plumping his cock up to full hardness with only a few slow strokes, Castiel leaned back into his pillows and let the low, sexy tones of Hunter’s voice from his laptop wash over him. He closed his eyes, tightening his fist, and let his imagination play out.
How would it go, if they met? Would Hunter like to kiss while his dick stiffened and pressed into Castiel’s hip? Would he let out shaky, wanton gasps against Castiel’s lips and cling to his shoulders as Castiel caressed and teased him? Would he groan, loud and helpless, as their bodies joined, pinning Castiel to the bed or beneath him on the carpet?
Castiel pictured different hands as he began to stroke himself in earnest, biting down on his lip and wishing that the teeth tugging at his mouth were someone else’s. He ran his other hand up over his stomach, thumbing at his nipples beneath his shirt as he picked up pace, slicking his way with drops of pre-come teased from his slit with the tip of his thumb. Letting his mind run with the fantasy, Castiel could almost imagine the coolness of the metal ring that Hunter wore on his right hand sliding up the underside of his cock, pressing into the vein beneath his shaft, catching lightly on the sensitive spot right beneath his head.
“Oh, yes,” Castiel gasped out quietly, pressing the pad of his thumb to the same place, massaging firmly. His other hand came down to continue stroking, continue working him up, continue building the tight ball of tension low in his belly, bigger and bigger…
Hunter would make gorgeous noises as he swallowed down Castiel’s cock, rubbing his tongue around the head before pulling him back into his throat. Twitching in the wet heat, Castiel would get his fingers into the crown of Hunter’s sandy brown hair and roll his hips, fucking slowly into his mouth with those amazing, pink lips stretching around his cock—
Oh, yes. Castiel’s hips stuttered, the muscle-clenching pressure of his cresting climax making him gasp aloud as he spilled across his hand. He shuddered, letting out a low groan, as soft spurts of leaking come dribbled down over his fingers as he coaxed the last of his orgasm out, making his trembling, softening cock sticky and wet.
From the laptop speakers, Hunter’s voice continued for a moment as Castiel sat up, reaching for the Kleenex on his nightstand. As he cleaned himself up, Castiel shook his head and huffed out a small laugh. It was a nice fantasy, for sure. One he’d enjoyed plenty of times in the last few years. The reality, though, was that if Castiel ever met Dean “Hunter” Winchester, he’d probably smile politely and move on, starstruck and too scared to open his mouth.
But still, it was nice to dream.
“Just think, no more mosquitos,” Sam said temptingly as he closed the blind on the airplane window, keeping out the glare of the sun setting above the clouds.
Tightening his grip on the uncomfortably square armrest of his seat, Dean gave Sam a flat look. “They have mosquitos in Kansas.”
“Well, you’ll get to see Dad more often.” Sam tried again, turning to look more fully at Dean. Crammed into his economy seat, Sam looked almost comical—he had to duck down to avoid the dials set into the overhead bins when he stood, leading to accidentally clicking the light on half the time when he got up or down. As a moose-sized human, Sam hit his head a lot.
Dean had been flying back and forth across Central America and the States for over a decade, and watching his brother battle cheap, cramped airplane seating was still one of the highlights of Dean’s job. Though, the meds he took every time he flew probably had a little something to do with how amusing he found it. Dean got real loopy right before he fell asleep, sometimes.
“I thought we both agreed, years ago, that half of the attraction of doing this for a living was not seeing Dad,” Dean mumbled back at Sam before closing his eyes.
Ever since their mom had died when Dean and Sam were young, their relationship with their dad had been...strained. Dean had tried for years to impress his old man, be the son he wanted, live up to his expectations. The big problem came when Dean wanted to go to college to study archaeology and his dad had labeled it a waste of time. In the end, both Winchester boys had left home and gone to school on their own terms, but it had taken years for their relationship with their dad to even begin to recover.
“Dean,” Sam said testily, “you’re the one who took this position. It’s not my job to talk you into doing it, okay? Why are you being so grumpy about it?”
“I’m not grumpy, ” Dean protested to the back of his eyelids, clinging onto both armrests and throwing up a prayer to any entity that had the power to make his sleeping pills kick in quicker. “I’m just…just…”
He trailed off, and Sam let him—thank God, because Dean wasn’t about to get into his doubts and fears at thirty-five-thousand feet. He didn’t do chick-flick moments. The fact was, though, that Dean was nervous.
Stomach-clenchingly, heart-thumpingly, thigh-jigglingly nervous.
Dean’d never even had a ‘real job.’ Nothing even close to it, actually. He’d spent years avoiding that kind of structure, dragging his little brother and his fancy camera all over the world to tinker and play with old stuff.
Sure, it was important research; it was…what did Bobby call it? “A noble academic pursuit,” that was it.
But to Dean, it was fun. No one got to bitch at him for waking up late, doing what he wanted, and ending the day in whoever’s bed was closest.
He was a simple man, when it came down to it. A simple, nervous man.
But that didn’t change the fact that Dean was in his thirties, his cameraman-slash-brother was leaving him to get married, and he was…well, tired. He was just tired. He wanted somewhere to put down roots.
So, when a small, private university in his home state reached out and asked if Dean would be interested in interviewing for a teaching position, it had piqued Dean’s interest. When the school turned out to be Lebanon College, only miles from his family and the academic home of C. Novak, a professor and historian with a love for Dean’s favorite Mesoamerican civilizations, he’d jumped at the chance. Dean had been interested—fuck it, obsessed —with Novak for most of his career. Working with such a great mind could only be a boon to his own prospects.
The move, in general, was an awesome idea.
Or it had seemed that way when he wasn’t in a flying death trap, on his way to meet his new colleagues the very next day.
“I’m going to try and edit some of the extra footage from the Calakmul video,” Sam said, smoothly transitioning to a new topic and ignoring Dean’s closed eyes. “I got a ton of film, so we might as well use it to make a backdrop for your announcement video, too.”
“You still think that’s the best way to do it? Announcing that I’m semi-retiring in a video?” Dean asked, ignoring the way his words were starting to slur together. He rolled his head back against the headrest, trying to get comfortable.
“I do,” Sam confirmed. “It won’t take long for your fans to notice that you only take trips during school vacations now. You’ll have to say something sooner or later.”
“You know I hate it when you call them that. It makes it weird. Viewers ,” Dean corrected. “My viewers.”
“You really need to check out your comment section occasionally,” Sam muttered. “Believe me, those are fans .”
Back when Dean had first started his YouTube channel (at Sam’s suggestion), he’d responded to every comment. He’d built up a really loyal base of watchers that soon helped him get views from far outside the academic circles he’d expected. But as his channel grew, Dean hadn’t been able to keep up. He still responded to all the personal mail and DMs he received, and he was pretty active on twitter, but with every video garnering hundreds of comments, he’d had to let his viewers know he just couldn’t answer them all, any more.
Dean had felt bad about it for a long time. But according to Sam, since he’d gotten lucky with the YouTube algorithms a few times and gained a bunch of non-academic subscribers, his comments section was thirsty and wild, these days. It was probably for the best he had no time to deal with them…but it was tempting, when Sam described them like that. Dean wasn’t against hearing how handsome he was as he climbed ruins and sweated his way through jungles.
Of course, his reputation as a dashing adventurer had also certainly helped him bed a few people, now and again. He had no shame about that; everyone always had fun, no one had any unmet expectations. There were no losers there.
Even that had grown stale, though. Sam dared to accuse him of growing up, but Dean felt it was more that he was just bored with the state of flux that his life was always in. He craved something more constant, something that was his. This job at a university close to his childhood home was a good first step, returning him to the sphere of people that he’d only seen sporadically in recent years. He couldn’t help but wonder if anything would be like he remembered, if he’d still fit , if he’d be able to make new friends—and maybe more—at his age.
It was difficult to connect with people. It was easy to meet people, sure. But fans were tricky to navigate. Dean had no issue dating someone who liked his videos; if anything, it was easier—they understood why he travelled so much and related to his passions.
But more than once, he’d had run-ins with fans who just wanted what they saw on the screen and had no interest in him as a person.
“D’you think anyone at the college will have seen my videos?” Dean asked Sam, rolling his head against his chair back and opening his eyes when Sam didn’t immediately respond.
Sam’s tongue was poking out as he bent forward, unzipping the backpack between his knees and trying to wiggle his MacBook out of its cushioned sleeve in the small space. “Students, you mean?” he asked. “Probably. Anyone who’s interested in archaeology has probably seen your videos, at least casually, here and there. Don’t teachers use them sometimes, even?”
“Heh, yeah,” Dean replied, tightening his fingers on his armrest and squeezing his eyes shut again. He did vaguely recall some fans on Twitter saying how cool it was to see his videos being used at school to illustrate various topics. “Guess so. Professors, too, then?”
“Most likely,” Sam agreed. Dean’s eyes were still closed, but he could hear the wide grin in Sam’s voice as he added, “At least the students are less likely to give you shit if they’re already fans of yours.”
Dean wrinkled his nose. “God, that’s awkward. It’s always flattering when people like the channel, but that’s gonna be weird when I’ve got to teach them.”
“Just don’t sleep with any of them,” Sam said pointedly as he straightened back up.
“Fuck’s sake, Sam,” Dean grumbled. “Think a bit better of me than that, will you?”
Sam laughed, and Dean heard his laptop creak as it opened. “I’m kidding. Well, at least mostly. Couple years back, I wouldn’t have put it past you…guess you’re an old man now, huh?”
“Shuddup, bitch…you’re only four years behind me, so watch your mouth,” Dean grumbled, cracking open one eye long enough to give Sam a cautionary glare.
“Guess you’ll have to stick to the faculty and staff,” Sam joked.
“Boomer academics in tweed jackets and perky office workers with commitment issues? Pass.” Dean shuddered, taking a deep breath to steady his fuzzy, medicated tongue. “They already told me I’ll be one of just three professors under forty. The HR lady from my interview was nice, at least. Either way, I’m not sure ‘I have a million subscribers on YouTube’ is actually the pick-up line you think it is. At least not if I want them around for more than one night.”
“Really, Dean,” Sam soothed. “Returning back home to the ‘real world’ is not going to be the big, scary thing you’re making it out to be. You’ll fit in, you’ll make friends, and I’m sure you’ll meet someone sooner or later.”
“I didn’t say it was scary, ” Dean protested.
“Yeah, yeah,” Sam dismissed, attaching his headphones to his laptop with a tiny click. “What about those old Lebanon College academics, though—didn’t you say the guy who writes all those papers you really like is an adjunct there?”
“Yeah, there’s a professor there that I’ve read papers from a few times, I guess.” Dean hedged, nodding, his head rolling against the stiff fabric of the airplane headrest. “Really good stuff. He’s clearly smart, and passionate. Though I haven’t got a clue if ‘C. Novak’ is one of the ‘under forty’ ones, or the ‘ancient, tweed-wearing’ ones. Even his picture on the college website is a blank head icon.”
Read a few papers? Never mind an understatement, that was an outright lie.
Dean had spent over half of his career reading academic papers authored by noted antiquities historian C. Novak. The fact that they were going to be in the same department ? Dean’s viewers weren’t the only people with fannish tendencies, no matter what age bracket C. Novak was in.
“Either way, you might still be able to be friends,” Sam pointed out. “That’d be cool, right?”
Cool? Cool? Sam had no idea. Well, he had some idea, but apparently he was feeling kind enough not to mock Dean for the years’ worth of practically memorized papers on his hard drive.
The airplane shuddered as they climbed higher, and Dean’s anxieties about fitting in at Lebanon College were shoved aside for more current, important, and loud fears: metal death trap. Shaking.
Sam shifted beside him, grumbling about fitting his laptop into the tiny seat, and reached over to idly pat Dean’s arm.
“Don’t worry about the job, Dean. I’ll edit your announcement, you just sit there, relax, and run circles in your own head while you wait to pass out.”
Now, that? Dean could do.