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.
Thank God, Castiel had remembered to grab the chicken things from his refrigerator that morning. They were probably the only reason that anyone in the department knew who he was or spoke to him at all. It wasn’t that Castiel didn’t like his colleagues—some of them were alright, like Dr. Rowena MacLeod who taught Art History and Donatello, the odd fellow who taught philosophy. Some of them even liked Castiel a bit, like Meg. But mostly, Castiel was invisible.
He did his job, fulfilled his duties, and…that was it.
Taking a deep breath, Castiel approached the door of the empty classroom that had been selected for the potluck. Classes had mostly finished early; very little actual teaching was happening so early in the semester. Even in Castiel’s own classes, which were known to be a tough pass, he was mostly still reviewing what they should already know. Or, at least, what most students should already know. He’d already given up on Nick entirely. Despite the early finish, Castiel had procrastinated, dragging his feet, and was probably one of the last professors to arrive. It was awkward but better than being too early, he figured.
Laden down with the tray of chicken that he’d just pulled from the refrigerator in the break room and microwaved, Castiel didn’t have a hand free to open the door. He was about to do a dangerous one-handed shuffle to try and reach the handle, but the door swung open and saved him.
“Get in here, Cas,” Meg said as she stepped to the side, holding the door. “What are you doing hovering in the hallway?”
“Hands,” Castiel said quietly, realizing how silly he sounded as he lifted the tray in explanation.
“And I suppose just shouting for one of us to open the door would have been too much for you, huh?”
Castiel bristled but didn’t bother answering.
Meg was extra made-up, with bright red lips and her bleached, voluminous hair piled to one side. She must be on the prowl for a new victim, Castiel decided—probably the new archaeology guy. Speaking of…
“Is he here yet?” Castiel asked quietly, stepping past Meg into the room. His nose wrinkled involuntarily; Meg smelled of something sickly and flowery, like the bloom of a carnivorous plant.
She shook her head, pressing a hand into the base of Castiel’s back somewhat unnecessarily as she guided him toward the buffet table that had been set up along the back wall. Music played quietly—Castiel didn’t have a clue what it was, but it was alright, he supposed—and the room was already full, packed with professors, assistants, admin staff, and even the janitorial team. Everyone wanted an eyeful of the new guy, Castiel realized. He couldn’t judge them, though…that was entirely why he was here, too. Nothing else exciting ever happened at Lebanon College.
“I asked HR if he’d confirmed, and they said he was definitely coming. Might be running a bit late though, apparently his plane only got in early this morning.”
“His plane?” Castiel questioned curiously as he set down the chicken things.
“Yes,” Meg purred, in a voice that denoted gossip . “Apparently, he’s quite the well-travelled man. ‘Bout time we had some culture in this redneck hole.”
“Meg!” Castiel chastised. “Kansans aren’t automatically rednecks, you know.”
“Tell that to Cole,” Meg threw back with a cruel smirk.
“Don’t be mean,” Castiel hissed quietly, spotting the bigoted, Civil War-obsessed member of the History department just across the room.
Meg snorted as they moved down the trestle table to where the solo cups and paper plates lurked. “He has a confederate flag on his car. You should switch it out for a pride flag, see if he notices.”
Honestly, Castiel would have loved to do something like that, but he was rather fond of keeping his job.
As if she could tell what he was thinking, Meg grinned. “You know they’d probably assume it was me, anyway.”
“True,” Castiel had to admit, smiling despite himself. He was about to ask Meg how her day had gone, but by the time he’d managed to separate a stubborn paper plate from the stack and raised his gaze, she was staring over his shoulder predatorily. “Target spotted?” he asked dryly.
“Art department has some really hot TAs this year,” she said without an ounce of shame. “I’m going in. Don’t run away, and try to think before you speak, Clarence.”
“Coming from you?” Castiel muttered. By the time he’d extracted a solo cup she was gone, taking her cloying scent with her.
Once Castiel had filled his plate, he loitered awkwardly near the table, chewing his way through the exact same offerings they always had at these things: lukewarm green bean casserole, pineapple and cheese on sticks, burnt weenies, and pasta salad from a box. Around him, conversation buzzed—most of the Humanities folk were social butterflies, or at least better at all this than Castiel was.
He was aware that growing up with his overprotective, religious mother had really done a number on his social skills, but it seemed like the more he tried, the worse it got. So, often, he just didn’t bother.
He’d just given up on choking down any more of the casserole when a burst of laughter bloomed to his right. A group of his colleagues and a few of their assistants were bustling around, suddenly louder and livelier than they had been. Dr. Shurley, Chuck to his friends (Castiel was never quite sure if he was included), was speaking, and the group all tittered and nodded appreciatively in unison.
Castiel turned back to the table and refilled his cup with fruit punch—well, with a ladle full of crappy, canned fruit and something resembling grape juice, anyway—and smoothed out his tie. He could do this. He’d only taken a few steps toward the group when Dr. Shurley spotted him, singling him out before Castiel even had time to finish his internal pep talk.
“Ah-ha, Novak! Now, here’s someone you should meet, Dean. This is Castiel Novak, Professor of Ancient History. You’ll find that your syllabus will intersect with Novak’s quite a—”
Dr. Shurley was still talking, somewhere in the background, but Castiel’s brain shut down everything else around him the moment the crowd parted.
He felt his own fingers clench and became vaguely aware of a wet splash near his boots, but Castiel didn’t bother to look. His gaze was fixed on six feet of bowed legs, freckles, and biceps, all topped off with a charming grin that was directed wholly at Castiel.
“Dean Winchester,” the newcomer said, extending a hand towards Castiel with a little chuckle, as if Castiel had done something amusing. He was staring at Castiel very intently, his expression excited in a way that was utterly confusing.
Next to Dr. Shurley was… Castiel shook his head. Was this real? Sure, he’d fantasized about this a bunch of times, but usually his dreams didn’t feature Chuck goddamn Shurley .
No, this was definitely real life. The fruit punch seeping into his sock through the hole in the bottom of his shoe confirmed that.
Castiel was standing in the same room as Dean “Hunter” Winchester. He was…he was talking to him. Damn it.
“Hello, Dean,” Castiel managed to say.
I’ve thought about you with my dick in my hand, he managed not to say…even Castiel’s social skills were better than that. Most times, anyway.
Castiel was never going to be able to jerk off to Hunter’s videos again—how mortifying.
Registering too late that Dean had his hand out for Castiel to shake, Castiel raised his hand only when Dean was already withdrawing his. Embarrassed, Castiel brought his fingers to wrap around his crushed punch cup instead, along with his other hand.
“Let me help you with that,” Dean said, still grinning. He pushed past Castiel to the buffet table and grabbed a handful of mismatched party napkins, returning in two confident strides. “It’s nice to finally meet you, I gotta say.”
Castiel’s brain didn’t quite process the words that were being directed at him, because Hunter— Dean— bent down, helpfully scooping a stray canned cherry off the top of Castiel’s shoe.
Looking down at him, Castiel’s brain short-circuited.
Hunter is on his knees in front of me, and I just dropped my cherry.
Castiel waited, hoping that a sudden earthquake would split the ground and swallow him up. They didn’t get a ton of those in Kansas, but surely he was due some good luck?
It was definitely Hunter, no two ways about it. Dean might be dressed slightly differently from how Castiel was used to seeing him—a royal blue suit with a paler blue shirt beneath and a matching, textured tie rather than an unbuttoned plaid shirt, khakis, and a hat—but there was no way that the deliberately roughed-up, sandy hair and those captivating green eyes could belong to anyone else. And those lips…well, Castiel had descriptions for those lips that he was trying not to think about, now that Hunter—Dean—was actually on his knees before him.
Dr. Shurley and his colleagues had all started talking amongst themselves again—after all, Castiel’s awkward, embarrassing behavior was nothing new to them, so they let him get on with it. Castiel wasn’t sure if that was humiliating in its own right, or if he was just glad not to have an audience.
Straightening up, Dean touched Castiel’s elbow lightly as he gestured toward the table. “Why don’t we fill that up again for you while I get some food,” he suggested amiably, totally unbothered by Castiel’s clumsy introduction. “Last thing I ate was airplane food—took a nap and barely had time to make the pie I promised to bring before I had to hurry here. The traffic was a bitch, too.”
Castiel clutched his slightly crushed plastic cup desperately as Dean refilled it. He should say something, he decided, before realizing he was entirely tongue-tied.
Dean smiled at him patiently while he shoveled food onto his paper plate.
Words. Right. Castiel remembered those.
“You’re Hunter,” Castiel blurted out. Fuck, not those words! He could feel his own cheeks burning—great.
Castiel rarely cussed, but at that moment his inner monologue was giving Meg a run for her money.
Dean ducked his head, looking about as uncomfortable as Castiel felt. He let go of the casserole serving spoon and raised his hand to rub self-consciously at his mouth. “It’s, uh, it’s Dean, actually. Here. I mean, everywhere, but I mean I don’t—”
“Right,” Castiel said. His face seemed to have taken it upon itself to heat Castiel’s entire body. “I—I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to—”
“Nah, man, it’s cool,” Dean said quickly, waving his hand and returning to the casserole. “I’m just nervous enough without anyone thinking that the only reason I got this job is because I stood in front of a camera, y’know?”
Castiel frowned a little at that. “I’m sure no one thinks that. Honestly, I’m sure most people have never heard of you.”
“Thanks?” Dean said slowly, sounding unsure.
“I mean—” Castiel squeezed his eyes shut for a moment before looking down at his solo cup for help. A lone, traitorous cherry bobbed in the juice, mocking him.
“It’s okay,” Dean said, that warm chuckle in his voice again.
Absolutely none of the fantasies Castiel had indulged in late at night had gone like this. Hell, there wasn’t much talking in those at all—they were usually naked by now.
Okay—more words, less thinking about his new coworker naked.
“Airplane food?” Castiel asked. He wasn’t quite sure if that was really a question, but thankfully Dean seemed to take it as one.
“Yeah, I just flew back from South America with Sam—that’s my brother, he does all the camera work and tech stuff. We’d been filming a couple of new videos.”
“So, you’re still planning to do them?” Castiel asked, chancing a look back up as his vocal cords seemed to be back under control. It was a mistake; Dean was looking right at him with his stunning, vividly green eyes that the camera had certainly not done justice.
They stared for a lingering moment before Dean yanked his gaze back to the shitty potluck table. “Uh, yeah—yeah. For sure. Just less often, only during vacations and stuff.”
“I’m glad,” Castiel said. “I mean—I like them. Your videos, I mean.”
“Gathered that,” Dean said with a shit-eating grin that had Castiel thinking about earthquakes again. “I’m glad, though. It’s always nice to meet someone that’s seen them. Bit nerve-wracking that you have, though.”
“Me? Why?” Castiel spluttered.
“Well, you’re a professor of ancient history and all that,” Dean said with a shrug that just might have appeared self-conscious on just about anyone else. “There’s a chance you were actually paying attention to what I was doing and saying, rather than just waiting for me to take my shirt off.”
Castiel gulped, willing his cheeks to stop getting hotter and hotter. Stop it, stop it.
“Ahh,” Dean said knowingly, his grin only growing more wicked. “Both, then,” he added with a smooth wink.
“I—I should—” Hideously embarrassed, Castiel ducked his head and took a step back. He didn’t finish the sentence, but inside his mind it definitely went, “I should run away and die now. ”
Dean reached forward immediately, reaching for Castiel’s arm, all trace of amusement gone from his face, replaced instead with something like…worry? Or regret? His hand only brushed the sleeve of Castiel’s jacket, but Castiel would have sworn the touch burned through to his skin, anyway.
“Don’t go,” Dean said, quieter. “I’m sorry. That’s just…habit. I guess. How about you tell me about your syllabus? Shurley said your classes would probably mesh really well with what I’m going to be teaching.”
That, at least, was something Castiel could speak on with confidence. They moved to the side, finding a spot against the wall where Castiel could sip his revolting punch while Dean worked his way through his plate.
“Mmmm,” Dean moaned happily. “This chicken is great.”
“I’m glad you like them,” Castiel managed. “I’d be careful of the casserole though, it sticks to your teeth.”
Dean laughed—though Castiel had only been telling the truth—and things were easier.
Castiel spoke at length about his carefully crafted plan for the year, eagerly sharing his most amusing anecdotes about the civilizations his students would be studying, easily slipping into the same headspace that he did when he taught.
“Their writing and mathematics systems were so advanced for the time—did you know that the Maya were the only culture on the American continent to create the number zero?”
Dean smiled crookedly. “Yeah, I did,” he said.
With a swoop of humiliation in his belly, Castiel realized that it was the first thing that Dean had said for long minutes. He’d merely been staring at Castiel—probably overwhelmed and bored by the dork in front of him, but too polite to say so. And now, here Castiel was telling him things that of course he knew; the Maya and Aztecs were Hunter’s favorite ancient civilizations, he often said so in his videos.
“God, I’m sorry—” Castiel began apologizing, stuttering awkwardly.
Dean didn’t get to say whatever his lips were parting to say, and Castiel didn’t get to apologize any further. To their left, a gaggle of Castiel’s colleagues swooped in, vying for Dean’s attention.
“I hope you don’t plan to keep Dean to yourself all night,” Lisa from HR purred, giving Castiel a friendly little wink. Her hand, though, went straight to Dean’s forearm as she let out a breathy little laugh.
“That wouldn’t be fair to any of us,” Lydia from the arts building joined in, gesturing across the room. “Why don’t you come with us and meet the rest of the ladies, Dean?”
Dean greeted them with an easy grin, but his eyes flicked back over his shoulder to Castiel as he was abruptly hustled away. “Nice to meet you, Cas,” Dean said, leaving him with a smaller smile.
“Yes, of course,” Castiel said quietly, mostly to himself. Hearing Dean shorten his name familiarly was unreasonably pleasant, but Castiel’s stomach was still in embarrassed knots.
He wished he could scrap the whole evening and start again.
Drifting back toward the food table to dispose of his cup, Castiel decided to try and slip out before anyone else attempted conversation with him, for everyone’s sake. He stepped aside to let Garth, one of the TAs, squeeze past him next to the dessert table. As he waited, Castiel looked down and saw that there was a lone slice of golden, sugary apple pie sitting in a big, round Tupperware container.
Dean said he brought pie, Castel’s brain unhelpfully provided.
Tempted, and seeing no one else reaching for it, Castiel decided to help himself to the last slice of the delicious-looking, clearly homemade pastry. It was a traditional apple pie with a touch of cinnamon, and the smell of it made Castiel’s mouth water in comparison to the rubbery chicken and green bean casserole he’d begrudgingly chewed through earlier.
Biting into the pie, Castiel couldn’t help but let out a pleased moan. The pie was fantastic. He’d humiliated himself multiple times in front of his crush and coworker, but a pie like this made the day seem like less of a disaster.
Opening his eyes once he’d finished slowly savoring the mouthful of pastry, Castiel blushed again as he realized that Dean was looking straight at him from across the room. He was sandwiched between Lisa and Lydia, who were both chatting animatedly, but his gaze cut through the crowd to land on Castiel.
Bad enough that Dean probably thought that Castiel was a fannish, obsessive weirdo, now he was drooling all over the man’s baked goods. Poor Dean probably thought he had finally escaped him, but here he was, loitering in his eyeline. Feeling his flush grow more intense, Castiel dropped his eyes down to the table.
He should go. What he wanted, of course, was to talk to Dean again—have some kind of excuse to approach him and apologize for his awkwardness, see if maybe they could start afresh. But he had no good reason to interrupt Dean when he was having a good time with the adoring ladies of the staff.
Sighing, Castiel glumly swallowed down the last of the delicious pie and began to move the Tupperware off to the side, out of the way.
He looked down at the container in his hands.
He could… no.
No, he couldn’t. “Accidentally” taking Dean’s Tupperware home so that he’d have an opportunity to stop by his room on Monday to return it was utterly insane.
Another few seconds passed while Castiel endured a staredown with an inanimate object.
Oh, what the hell.
“Dean!” Sam called loudly through the front door, drawing Dean’s head up from the depths of the cardboard box he was buried in. “We’re here!”
“Coming!” Dean yelled. Then he sighed, pushing the flaps of the box shut once more. It was labeled “Bedding,” but so far he’d found old DVDs, a dead potted plant, and a ladle.
“Oh, you brought food!” Dean cooed in delight, his mood doing an immediate 180 as he walked out of the bedroom to greet Sam, Eileen, and the bags of Chinese food they were carrying into his new apartment.
“Of course we did!” Sam said as he lifted the bag he’d been cradling in his elbow up to the countertop. “It’s a bribe, so you’ll stop anxiety-unpacking and tell us all about the college and your first meeting with your new co-workers.”
Eileen, walking demurely behind her overexcited puppy of a fiance, raised her hand in a wave once she’d placed the second bag next to Sam.
“Hey, you,” Dean signed, stepping past Sam to give her a massive hug before he pulled back to add, “Long time, no see.”
“It’s been too long,” she agreed. “But hey, your signing is getting better!”
Dean preened, looking proudly over at Sam, who had his head bent over one of the Chinese food bags, digging around for chopsticks. He hit his head on the low-hanging light over the island as he straightened back up, letting out a string of curses.
Okay, not a puppy. Or not unless he was a Malamute.
A few minutes of scurrying back and forth around the kitchen, locating the things Dean had already put away amongst the piles of things he hadn’t, and then they were contentedly rifling through the containers and scooping noodles onto plates.
“How do you have three ladles but no bowls?” Sam asked, lifting up his container of wonton soup and slurping from the edge.
“I dunno,” Dean said, shrugging. “Some of this stuff has been in storage since I finished college. I never got around to unpacking fully before we’d be heading off somewhere again. I didn’t have an incredibly patient college sweetheart with a working kitchen to come home to, unlike some people.”
Eileen wrinkled her nose and put down her chopsticks to sign along as she said, “You’re assuming that I cook. Ever. That’s Sam’s job.”
“That’s my girl,” Dean said with a wink, picking up an egg roll and pointing at her with it. “Make him work for it.”
Sam made an exasperated noise before he abandoned them to step into the living room and sprawl over half of Dean’s faded, floral couch. Resting his plate on his knees, he called back, “Dean, you need a coffee table.”
“Yeah, I know,” Dean grumbled. “Hopefully IKEA will deliver soon, so I won’t have to serve people on box furniture or sit on flowery cast-offs from Bobby and Karen anymore.”
“I thought this couch was a bit ‘nineties Pottery Barn’ for your tastes. Who are you planning on having over, though? You know we don’t care.”
Dean shrugged as he made his way toward Sam, kicking a box of books into a spot opposite the couch and lowering himself down onto it, leaving the space next to Sam for Eileen. Apparently, shrugging was a poor move, because Sam’s eyebrows rose, wandering their way up his large forehead thoughtfully.
Eileen smacked Dean on the shoulder on her way past. “So, there’s a particular someone you want to invite over?”
Dean blinked, spreading his hands in amazement. “What the hell? How’d you get that from a shrug?”
“If there wasn’t anyone, you’d have made a crude, overcompensating comment about women with huge boobs,” Sam pointed out smugly, pointing with both his chopsticks. “You know it.”
Dean rolled his eyes and laughed a little as Sam put down his food to translate for Eileen. Her eyes lit up and she nodded in agreement.
“Great, now you get to double-team me. Should’ve stayed in the jungle.”
“This non-existent, theoretical person—or persons, of course—that you want to hang out with,” Sam said, dripping with faux-sincerity, “wouldn’t happen to be a particular professor and historian by the name of something-or-other Novak, would it?”
“Castiel,” Dean corrected, rolling his eyes before turning his attention very firmly down to his sweet and sour chicken.
There was a moment of silence where Dean could feel Sam and Eileen staring at the top of his head. Eventually, two whole bites of delicious crispy, pillowy chicken later, Dean raised his gaze.
“So, you met...Castiel? I take it?” Sam asked, not even attempting to keep a straight face, the little shit.
“Yes, actually, I did.”
Eileen nudged Sam and signed something in his direction that Dean couldn’t quite follow, but could certainly guess at from Sam’s response.
“Oh, yes,” Sam replied, nodding gleefully. “That’s the one. Dean has all his past papers saved on his laptop. Every time there’s a new, relevant journal published, the first thing he does is search down the list of contributors. He googles him.”
Turning to Dean, Eileen asked, “But you didn’t know what he looked like or how old he was, right? How come you didn’t find that from searching?”
Dean looked warily at Sam before giving up and explaining, “He always publishes as C. Novak and that’s it. I wasn’t even sure which pronouns were right for a long time. Then, when I started googling, I realized that it was useless without a first name, because there is a Czech figure skater who goes by C. Novak, too. He’s very prolific. Great spins.”
Eileen covered her mouth with one hand in amusement before removing it to say, “Oh, Dean. That’s so cute.”
“Shuddup,” Dean muttered down to his rice.
“In his defense,” Sam spoke up, “it really was just a hero worship thing. Right, Dean? I mean, you followed him for years but it’s not like you actually had a crush.”
“Right,” Dean agreed, pleased that Sam did get it.
“And now you got to meet him. So, I take it he was one of the under-forties?”
Mouth full of rice, Dean just nodded.
“So now it’s a crush,” Sam surmised smugly.
“Shuddup,” Dean grumbled again, over the top of Eileen’s chuckles.
Teasing done— for now, Dean sensed—they returned to their food and turned to more general chatter about Dean’s first impressions of Lebanon College.
Sam and Eileen could make fun of Dean all they liked, it wasn’t going to do any good. Sure, he was hoping to get to know Castiel better. But, just as they’d teased him about, Dean really had hero-worshipped C. Novak for a long time…long enough to know he was dealing with a deeply intelligent, passionate man. Long enough to know Castiel was totally out of his league.
Dean got passionate, too, about ancient engineering and weaponry and tools, all kinds of stuff. But he was a muddy grunt in comparison to Castiel.
Sure, Dean had a pretty face, and Castiel had seemed to notice...but that didn’t really mean much. There was no way someone like Castiel would ever have any real interest in someone like Dean.
Curious about Castiel's chicken things? It's a recipe that I make quite often. You can check out here if you like: Hot Honey Fried Chicken. (I usually brush mine with a little of the hot honey sauce before I bread them, too, because I like the flavor to be stronger.)
The Tupperware was taunting him, Castiel was certain. He’d put it through the dishwasher and it sat on the kitchen counter near the front door, out of the way, ready to be taken to work on Monday morning, when Dean was due to start teaching. Even though it was out of sight from where he currently lay sprawled out on his lumpy couch, it was still judging him for his actions.
What kind of person steals someone’s Tupperware just to have an excuse to talk to them?
What kind of idiot?
What kind of obsessive, fanboy freak would—
Castiel jumped, pulled sharply out of his self-hatred spiral by a loud notification from his phone, resting on the arm of the couch near his head.
Reaching upward in its vague direction, Castiel fumbled around until his fingers wrapped around the cool screen and lifted it tiredly in front of his face. He had several notifications, it turned out. The first two were new messages in the thread he had with his twin brothers, Gabriel and Balthazar.
Gabriel: Yo, Cas! We are having the best time in Vegas! We met a really nice pair of strippers last night, want pictures?!
Balthazar: When he says ‘met’ he means that we lost all our money gambling and Natalia and Crystal were more than happy to keep our glasses topped up in return for our attention. A wonderful deal for all parties involved.
Castiel let out a low groaning noise, sliding his empty hand down his face. Being the only vaguely responsible sibling was hard, particularly when it came to Gabriel and Balthazar, who were an X-rated version of the Weasley twins.
>> No, no pictures, thank you. Enjoy your business trip.
With a put-upon sigh, Castiel skipped all the subtle not-asking that he knew the pair of them would do and simply Venmoed them each two hundred dollars with “YOU WILL PAY ME BACK” as the description. He could eat Ramen this week. It was hardly the first time.
Castiel loved his family, of course he did, but he hated always feeling responsible for them and feeling like he was the only one who worried about doing his duty, being dependable, about his responsibilities.
The other notification was much, much better: a new video on The Hunter Journals’ YouTube channel.
Maybe he shouldn’t… Castiel’s thumb hesitated over it for a moment, before he shuffled up the couch and shoved one of the pillows behind his head. Who was he kidding, here? Of course he was going to watch it.
The video opened up with the usual Hunter Journals pre-roll, showing clips from some of Hunter’s— nope, Dean’s— most popular videos: Dean clapping in the main temple of Chichen Itza, his lips in motion as he eagerly explained why the sound reverberates oddly and comes back with a strange twang sound. A hilarious clip that his cameraman (brother?) had snapped of Dean being mobbed by wild parrots outside the Copan ruins in Honduras. Dean at the top of the tallest temple at Tikal in Guatemala, looking out over an expanse of lush jungle at sunset. A shot of Dean, muddied and beaming, trowel in hand, as he worked on a dig site in Palenque, Mexico. And then finally, as the Hunter Journals’ title faded in, a shot of Dean, shirtless, cannonballing into a huge cenote pool in the jungle.
Castiel settled in and got comfy, rolling over onto his hip and putting his phone down on the couch cushion in front of him.
Instead of a dramatic ruin or a dusty dig site as a backdrop, this video began with a shot of Dean in a green plaid shirt layered over a white undershirt, sitting on a metal chair in front of a bland, gray wall. It wasn’t that unusual for Dean to vlog in all kinds of places, though, from hotels to helicopters to haciendas.
“Welcome,” Dean began just as dramatically as he always did, spreading his arms with a grin, “to…Campeche International Airport.”
Despite feeling off and less than proud of himself, Castiel couldn’t help a thin smile at the screen.
“I know, I know,” Dean said with a light chuckle. “Not very exciting. Today is going to be a bit of a different video than usual, so I hope that’s okay. Just you and me, sitting in this stupidly hot airport, having a little talk. I’ll see if Sam can edit in some pretty footage or something and have this as a voiceover, just so you don’t have to stare at my sweaty face for ten minutes.”
Dean winked at the camera, and Castiel couldn’t help recalling how it’d felt to be the recipient of one of those flirty expressions in real life. He pushed away the thought, but still his stomach fluttered. Traitor.
“I suppose I should start off by saying that the last video you’ll have seen before this one, all about the tombs at Calakmul, will be the last adventure content you’ll see on the channel for a little while,” Dean began.
True to Dean’s word, footage of him walking up the path to Calakmul began to play, the cameraman following a little way behind. The clip had a contemplative air about it, and Castiel realized as Dean continued with his voiceover that this video must be an update on the changes to his channel now that he’d semi-retired from fieldwork.
“Don’t worry too much, though,” Dean was saying, “just because I won’t be spending as much time hunting for ancient artifacts or defending Sam from jungle wildlife”—there was a protesting noise from behind the camera—“doesn’t mean that I’m just abandoning you all. I’ve got lots of other videos planned, things I can do in a studio once I get my new apartment set up.”
The video switched back to the airport, where Dean was sitting and talking. He leaned forward casually with his forearms on his knees, open and unedited, and addressed his audience directly.
“And it’s not entirely the end of the road for field videos. You can bet, every time I get a few days’ break from my day job, I’ll be back in the jungle. I might have to find a new cameraman, though, as this one" —Dean raised a pointed eyebrow back behind the camera—“is going to be busy with his soon-to-be-wife, who is ten times prettier and smarter than either of us.”
Offscreen, the cameraman—Sam, Dean’s younger brother, Castiel now knew—let out a snort of laughter and shouted, “She sure is!”
Dean grinned across at the side of the screen, then refocused on the camera and let out a solemn sigh, wiping his palms on his jeans before he resumed speaking.
“I know I’m going to get a lot of questions about why I’m doing this. I know that I’m really, really lucky to be able to do what I do, that not a lot of people get to make a living from YouTube while doing what they love. I don’t want you to think that I’m ungrateful for a single view or a single click, because that’s not it, not at all.”
Castiel let out a small hum of agreement as he watched. Dean’s comment section would be full of questions, he was sure.
“Firstly,” Dean continued, “YouTube, or any form of social media, is a pretty shaky career choice, and likely to be short term, except for a few folks who can segue what they do into other things. And that’s...kinda what I’m doing, I guess. At least partly—transferring to something more stable. But that’s not all of it.”
Dean looked seriously at the camera, giving the lens a melancholy smile, then more footage began to roll—this time of Dean camping in the jungle, sitting alone next to a stone-ringed bonfire.
“Truth is, while this life is awesome and filled with adventures that a small-town kid from Kansas never could have imagined, it’s also pretty lonely. I’m super lucky to have had my brother traveling with me all these years, but every time I go back home to visit it gets harder to leave,” Dean admitted through the voiceover.
“All of my friends are getting married or having kids. Hell, even my nerdy little brother found someone who’ll put up with him. Those things aren’t the only way to measure life or satisfaction, and I know so many folks are truly happy without either.”
The camera returned to the airport, and Castiel’s chest tugged sharply at the sight of Dean sitting forward on his chair, looking tense and a little sad as he admitted, “But the thing is, I was never one of those people. I love what I do, but I’ve always been a family man, in my way. This isn’t something I’ve talked about on the channel—” Dean’s eyes flicked off to the side, as if seeking permission to continue, “—but my childhood wasn’t the easiest. I pretty much raised my little brother over there, and I always kind of assumed that when I was older, I’d do it again with someone. Build a family, however that looked for us.”
Letting out a long huff of air, Dean cracked his knuckles and smoothed out his expression as he looked back at the camera, grinning once more. “So, I really hope that you’ll all support me in doing what’s best for me by cutting back on the traveling.”
“Of course we will,” Castiel whispered down at the screen, frowning. He certainly hoped that none of Dean’s fans would give him a hard time over cutting back.
“And hey,” Dean added. “Maybe someday, if I’m lucky, I’ll be able to bring someone with me when I do film adventures for you all.”
Castiel gave a soft, sad chuckle as Dean signed off with his signature wink.
He’d fantasized—daydreamed—about adventures with Hunter so many times. Not just doing exciting things that a boring history nut stuck behind his desk would dream of, or just enjoying Dean’s fantastic body and winning smile. No, other things, softer things that he would never admit even to Meg.
Spending evenings snuggled up in front of a campfire, gazing up at the stars in the skies above the unpolluted wilderness. Explaining a theory that he’d been preparing for peer review and having Hunter nod along, understanding, encouraging. Kissing him before he fell asleep.
It was silly, harmless stuff, the kinds of fluffy imaginings that plenty of folks with celebrity crushes used to pass the time in their own, less-exciting lives. Nothing wrong with that.
But now that “Hunter” was Dean …somehow, those daydreams seemed even less likely than ever, and yet, Castiel longed for them even more.
And damn it, he still had to return the Tupperware that was judging him from the kitchen. It was right to judge him, he decided. Who was he kidding?
Someone like Dean would never, in any world—fantasy or not—have any real interest in someone like Castiel.
Dean lined up his whiteboard markers neatly. That’s what professors did, right?
Deep breath .
Reaching across the desk to retrieve his thermos of coffee, Dean poured himself another steaming cup and pretended he wasn’t panicking. He was fine. Fine, fine. Fine like that meme where the whole room is on fire.
He checked his phone—he still had more than thirty minutes until his first class, according to the clock. Time to calm down. Running his thumb over the screen, Dean tapped to view a new text message from Sam.
Sam — 07:23 am : Good luck with your first class! Are you gonna get to see your handsome ancient history professor today?
Frowning down at his cracked Android, Dean hastily replied.
Dean — 07:25 am : He’s not MY handsome ancient history professor, bitch
Sam — 07:25 am : But you didn’t say he wasn’t handsome, jerk
Dean — 07:25 am : So what if he is. Probably totally straight
Sam — 07:25 am : Sure, he really sounded straight when you described how flustered he was...
Dean — 07:26 am : Shut up
Sam — 07:26 am : No you shut up
Sam — 07:26 am : Seriously Dean, don’t be an idiot about this. Ask him out. What’s there to lose?
Dean — 07:27 am : Apparently, if you’re staying in one place more than a few days and someone turns you down, you actually have to face them
Sam — 07:28 am : You’re messed up. I gotta go pick up Eileen.
Sam — 07:28 am : I hope your students are awful and you have to go running into his arms
Dean — 07:28 am : Good god Sam who raised you
Sam — 07:23 am : You, bitch. Bye!
Damn Sam—when did he get so grown, acting like Dean was the one who needed encouragement in his love life? Dean harrumphed as he pocketed his phone and reached to shuffle his markers again. Dean was perfectly capable of filling his bed, with any gender that appealed on a given day. But…beyond that? Well, maybe Sam had a point.
And yes, Castiel was very handsome. And kind of adorable with his awkwardness. And totally entrancing when he got to talking about a topic in his wheelhouse.
Once Sam and Eileen had finally squeezed the full potluck story out of Dean—after two plates of Chinese food and several beers—all hope was lost for Dean. There would be no retaining his dignity on the topic of his epic, pining history relating to the works of the near-mythical C. Novak, or the startlingly blue eyes and wide shoulders that turned out to be behind them.
It was too soon after meeting him to actually be nursing a crush, right? Right.
If Dean was one step away from doodling hearts with his stupid new markers, that was no one’s business but his.
A knock on the classroom door drew Dean sharply out of his daydreaming.
“Come in,” he called, wondering who would be here so early—he hadn’t even planned to open the door for students for another ten minutes. Surely, even at college level, no one wanted to make that much of a good impression on the first day of class.
Dean certainly didn’t expect Castiel’s mop of dark hair to poke around the door. He was wearing a dress shirt and tie—the very same one that he’d been wearing at the potluck, if Dean wasn’t mistaken. Dean had thought that perhaps he’d dressed up for the social, but nope…it seemed that Castiel just dressed this way all the time. Dean suppressed a smile as he took in the baggy, crumpled overcoat that covered it all. So what if the guy wasn’t into fashion? The look suited him.
“Cas,” he said warmly, trying to ignore the way his stomach flipped over in anticipation. “Come on in. I thought it was a bit early for a student.”
Castiel looked nervous, Dean thought. But, even so, he smiled and came into the room, letting the door click closed behind him. “Getting them to turn up on time is trial enough for the first class of the day, early probably isn’t happening,” he said.
For a moment they both just stood staring awkwardly at one another.
Fuck, Dean thought. When did I get so bad at this?
“Tupperware,” Castiel barked out suddenly, as if he’d been thinking the exact same thing. Well-camouflaged on his beige shoulder, there turned out to be a beige messenger bag strap. He swung the satchel forward and began rooting around in it. “You—uhm, I have your Tupperware. From the potluck.”
“Huh, I wondered where it went. How the hell did you end up with it?”
“I, uh—” Castiel was clinging desperately to the round plastic tub with both hands, holding it in front of him like it was some kind of shield between the two of them. “I…”
“Picked it up instead of your own?” Dean suggested carefully, wondering if the guy’s social skills were always this bad or if he’d done something to make him this nervous. Hopefully not.
“Yes?” Castiel said, his voice lifting hopefully at the end.
Dean stared at him in puzzlement for a moment longer before Castiel’s shoulders slumped.
“No,” he said, quietly.
“No?” Dean asked, totally confused, and wondering if he should just reach out and take the Tupperware—or, hell, tell Castiel he could keep it, if worn plastic from Sam’s fiancee’s kitchen was making him this anxious.
Castiel shoved the Tupperware forward into Dean’s hands, mumbling quickly, “I’m so sorry. It was so stupid of me.”
“What was?” Dean asked, entirely lost.
Bright red, Castiel was already turning toward the door. Dean swiftly passed the container to his other hand so that he could reach out for Castiel’s shoulder as he made to leave.
“Hey, you don’t have to go—”
“I took your Tupperware so that I’d have an excuse to come and talk to you,” Castiel confessed to the toes of his boots.
There was a long, dry moment of crispy, uncomfortable silence.
Then, unable to help himself, Dean started chuckling.
Castiel’s head raised. His unbelievably blue eyes were wide and alarmed. “Dean?”
“Dude,” Dean choked out through laughter, turning to shove the empty apple pie tub onto his desk. “You could have just lied about it, Jesus Christ!”
Castiel looked like he wanted to crawl into a dark hole, but Dean kept his hand on his shoulder, deliberately. “I planned to,” Castiel mumbled. “I was a lot smoother in my head. Turns out I’m a very poor liar.”
Dean tried to bite back another snort of amusement, but it just wasn’t happening. “Wow, Cas. Just…wow.”
“As I said,” Castiel said, deliberately looking to the side of Dean rather than at him, “I am sorry. It was stupid of me. I really don’t know why I convinced myself to do it in the first place.”
“Hey—” Dean started, fully intending to comfort Castiel and tell him that yes, it was idiotic, but also pretty endearing. Unfortunately, the door swung open with a crash.
A short, bleached-blond dynamo than Dean could only describe as “busted pretty” kicked the door shut behind her. It wasn’t even eight a.m., yet somehow her eye makeup was wildly smudged, as if she’d slept in it. She wore a denim jacket and knee-high boots, and a ripped shirt that Dean was pretty sure was against the staff dress code.
“Hey, pretty boy!” she purred, strolling into the room nonchalantly with a potted plant in hand. “This is from the department. They did a little digging under the couch cushions for change. I guess it’s supposed to be a welcome gift, but really we’re just begging you to be less of an a-hole than Zachariah was.”
Dean reached out to take the plant, wracking his brain for her name. “Thank you, uh…”
“Meg.” She grinned devilishly. “Not that you’d know. You didn’t do as much mixing at the mixer as some of us hoped, huh? Your attention was pretty focused, Winchester.”
Dean hoped she didn’t mean what he was pretty sure she did mean, and also hoped that he wasn’t blushing as she said it.
“Pink’s a good color on you,” she added cruelly, before reaching across to sling her arm around Castiel’s shoulders. “Come on, Cas, you can’t hog him all the time. The students will want to drool, too.”
Before Dean could process what was happening, Castiel had been hustled toward the hallway—and by the speed he shuffled out, overtaking Meg by the time the door was open, he was very glad to escape—and the door was swinging closed once more.
Well, shit. That wasn’t how Dean had wanted that to end, at all.
Unfortunately, he didn’t have time to worry about it right then.
A tinny, echoing buzzer sounded overhead, and like they’d been summoned from the pit, the hordes advanced.
The staff parking lot had all but cleared out by the time Castiel dragged himself to his car. He had an armload of files, his messenger bag kept slipping off his shoulder, and the close, sticky air was telling him it was about to rain. Approaching his cranky old car, Castiel just hoped he could get home without any further disasters.
He’d spent the whole day trying to avoid Dean, eating lunch in an empty classroom and at one point even diving into a bathroom stall to avoid being seen. Castiel knew he’d have to get over it—Dean wasn’t going anywhere—but he was just so embarrassed. To have blatantly, and messily, revealed his ridiculous crush on his coworker was unprofessional at best and utterly stupid at worst.
Castiel didn’t even know if Dean had any interest in men. He had noticed that the few times he’d mentioned conquests in his vlogs—because, hell, Castiel had watched them all enough to know—he’d used gender-neutral terms, but you could hardly decide someone’s sexuality from grammar alone.
Dean hadn’t seemed offended, as such, that Castiel had done something as stupid and juvenile as steal his Tupperware, like a kid in the playground shoving his little crush just so he could be close to them. But he had laughed, and who knows what he would have said if Castiel hadn’t escaped with Meg. Maybe he’d have let Castiel down gently, or maybe he wouldn’t have been that kind. Castiel hadn’t felt inclined to stay and find out.
Something about Dean Winchester reduced Castiel to a sloppy mess, and he needed to get a handle on it fast.
Dumping his folders into the back seat of his car, Castiel shoved the door shut with his hip and slithered tiredly around to the front seat. Commute, food, a few drinks to wallow in his own misery, and some sleep. That was all he wanted.
Castiel had only rolled twenty feet before registering the thump-thump-thump sound that his front left tire was making.
Of course. Of course, his misery couldn’t be over yet. Luck was for other people, apparently.
Slumping and pressing his forehead into his steering wheel, Castiel let out a long groan. He stayed there, refusing to deal with it like the adult he was, until someone tapping on his window roused him.
“Are you alright in there?” Dean called through the glass, and God damn it, couldn’t Castiel get one thing to go his way? Just one?
He rolled down the window slowly. “Hello, Dean.”
“Hey, Cas. Do you know your front tire is flat?”
Sighing, Castiel lay his forehead back against the steering wheel and closed his eyes. Maybe if he wished hard enough, some kind of miracle would occur and this would all go away. He’d look back up and everything would be as it had been before this morning, when he’d taken Dean’s Tupperware back—no, actually,everything would be as it was last week, before the potluck, before the world’s hottest archeologist had strolled into Lebanon College and caused Castiel to develop the emotional maturity of a teenager.
“It’s not that bad, man,” Dean’s warm drawl slid in through the gap in the window. “C’mon. Do you have a spare? I can help you switch it out.”
Forcing himself to straighten up and reach for the door handle, Castiel grimaced. “No, no spare. I had to use it over the summer and I haven’t gotten around to dropping the money on a new one yet.”
“Ahh,” Dean murmured understandingly, stepping back so that Castiel could open the door. “Well, I guess you’ll need a tow, then—gimme a couple of minutes, I’ll call my uncle.”
“Your uncle?” Castiel asked, slamming the car door a little harder than necessary when his eyes fell on the completely pancaked front tire. Oh, for goodness sake.
“Yeah, he owns a car place.” Dean was bending down beside Castiel, both squinting at the pathetic tire. “I don’t wanna sound like a drama queen here, dude, but it kinda looks like someone slashed your tire.”
Dean’s hand went out, and two fingers lifted a suspiciously smooth flap of slashed rubber.
Castiel groaned out loud, covering his face with his hand as he straightened back up. “Nick. It just has to be Nick.”
“That an…ex of yours?” Something in Dean’s voice sounded oddly hopeful, but Castiel couldn’t parse that right now.
“No, Nick DeAngelis. A student. He’s the Chancellor’s nephew, and a total assbutt.”
Dean’s face strained with barely contained amusement, and he appeared to bite down on the inside of his lip. “Assbutt?”
“A complete and total one. I gave him back his first assignment of the semester today. As expected, I couldn’t even grade it, so I had to put up with his attitude for two hours.”
Dean blinked slowly, his brow crinkling. “Wait…Nick…skinny, rat-faced dude, dirty blond hair? Got this whole Draco Malfoy ‘My father will be hearing about this’ vibe going on?”
“I see you’ve met our most delightful student already.”
Paling, Dean spun quickly to look further down the parking lot, to where a gorgeous, gleaming, black muscle car was parked. Luckily, all the tires looked full and content, from a distance at least. Dean’s shoulders slumped in relief.
“And you’ve had a run-in with him already,” Castiel added with a sympathetic smile. “I’m sorry. No one should have to deal with Nick on their first day.”
Dean waved a hand vaguely, and for the first time, Castiel registered that he looked tired and worn, entirely disheveled compared to how he’d looked that morning. “I’m sure it’ll be fine. Just a bad day. But hopefully, if Nick slashed your tire on the security camera”—Dean pointed up to the convenient white box pointing straight at Castiel’s car from a nearby light pole—"then even nepotism won’t be able to keep him here.”
“We can only hope,” Castiel said dryly. “Unfortunately, that doesn’t get me home today.”
“Let me call Bobby real quick, and I can give you a ride if you want?” Dean offered, pulling his phone out of the new-looking satchel he had slung over his right shoulder.
Castiel shook his head. “That’s kind of you, but at this time of day it’s nearly an hour’s commute each way. I’ll just have to wait with the car.”
Dean held up one finger to pause their conversation for a moment and stepped off to the side to speak to a loud, gruff-sounding man on the phone. He read out Castiel’s license plate, confirmed Castiel’s address, and told him they’d leave Castiel’s keys under the back rim.
“Thank you,” Castiel said, when Dean was done. He grabbed his wallet and phone from the dashboard and shut the car, situating the keys where Dean had told his uncle they’d be.
Dean shrugged. “No problem. It’ll be hours before someone can get here, with the traffic and all, so why don’t you come over to the Roadhouse, get a bite to eat, have a drink?”
“The Roadhouse?” Castiel questioned. The name was vaguely familiar—he thought he’d heard a few students mention the place.
“Yeah. It’s a bit of a dive, but it belongs to an old family friend of mine.”
“So, your uncle and old friends of yours are all somewhere near Lebanon?” Castiel asked in surprise. Nothing was near Lebanon. Lebanon was a blip with a private college on its outskirts, nothing more.
Dean grinned, waving Castiel over toward his beautiful car as he began to walk. “Yup. I grew up here, or near enough.”
For some reason, the small statement took Castiel entirely by surprise. “You—Dean ‘Hunter’ Winchester, the most popular archaeologist in the English-speaking world, YouTube darling and explorer—grew up here. In Lebanon.”
Belatedly, Castiel realized he’d airquoted Dean’s name. Damn it.
Dean rubbed awkwardly at the back of his neck as he unlocked the perfect vintage Chevy. “No need to put it like that. Everyone comes from somewhere.” He settled into the driver’s seat, waiting for Castiel to get his lap-belt buckled on the passenger side before he pulled out of the lot. “So, where are you from, Cas?”
The drive only took ten minutes, and they filled it with polite “getting to know you” chatter. Dean asked a lot of questions, coaxing Castiel to tell him about his family, his childhood, his time at the college. By the time Dean pulled up behind a rough-looking, two story pool hall off the side of the highway, Castiel was feeling much more relaxed.
He did raise an eyebrow at the building as he got out, though.
The Roadhouse looked a bit rundown, a facade of horizontal wooden planks and neon lights, certainly nothing fancy. It’s main feature, other than the huge yellow “Roadhouse” sign along the front, was a long porch running the length of the dusty building. A line of motorcycles and several trucks parked outside cemented the ambiance. The air smelled faintly of fries.
“Trust me,” Dean said, grinning widely and giving Castiel’s shoulder a familiar slap. “Best burgers in Kansas.”
Carless, Castiel didn’t have much choice, anyway. He got a few significant looks when they went inside—a warm but considering one from a middle-aged woman who greeted Dean like a son, and another from a young blonde barmaid that didn’t seem quite as welcoming.
Dean steamrolled his way through all of the pointed gazes, ordering “usuals” and guiding Castiel to a quiet table at the back like this was normal, like it was a thing they did, or at least a thing Dean hoped they could do.
Was Dean...was this something he was hoping they could do?
Castiel’s stomach was in knots.
By the time he’d ordered and received a drink, he was ready to throw it back and lick the ice, just to calm his nerves.
“Are you okay?” Dean asked, watching as Castiel placed his now-empty glass back on the table. “Look, if you’re really stressed about your car, then—”
Castiel shook his head sharply. “No, not at all. The one good thing about driving that old piece of junk is that she doesn’t cost much to fix. It’ll be fine.”
“Alright.” Dean fiddled with a napkin. “Well, if you really just don’t want to be here, or something, then I can go, y’know.”
Castiel cringed. That was so, so, the opposite of what he wanted. He was just… “I’m just nervous,” he blurted out, somewhat characteristically of himself over the past week or so. “Every time we’ve met so far, I’ve made such an embarrassment of myself. I’m pretty sure my window for a good impression has expired, by this point.”
Dean’s chuckle was low and smoky, like the whiskey he was enjoying at a much more reasonable pace than Castiel had. “I dunno, Cas. I think you made a better impression than you realize.”
At that, Castiel couldn’t help his eyebrows shooting up of their own accord. “Really,” he said flatly. “A good impression? I wouldn’t say ‘good.’ I’d say humiliating . Anxiety-inducing . Shameful , really, some of it.”
“ Endearing ,” Dean said, across the top of his glass. “You forgot endearing.”
Castiel didn’t know what to say to that, his gaze dropping to the table as a warm, fuzzy feeling shot up from his core and hit the back of his sternum. After a long minute, he cleared his throat and looked back up; Dean was waiting, watching Castiel, and looking nervous in turn.
And that was what made it okay.
Castiel signaled to the spying barmaid, tapping his fingers on top of his empty glass, and turned back to Dean with a much braver smile.
“Tell me about your first day, Dean.”
Sitting across from Castiel was nerve-wracking. The fact that he was gorgeous—rumpled and sexy and with those piercing, hyper-blue eyes—wasn’t really it. Dean had dated plenty of attractive people; he wasn’t intimidated by looks (though he was sure as hell enjoying Castiel’s). The problem was that Castiel was passionate and interesting—he was as sharp as the obsidian blades Dean had spent half his life scouring the jungle for. Dean felt dull and clumsy in comparison, like the swampy quicksand that had dogged his recovery of so many of them.
Castiel was also incredibly intelligent. Dean had practically memorized his papers over the years, sitting up straight and paying attention any time he saw “C. Novak” neatly printed on the pages of one of the academic journals that he perused when he hoped Sam wasn’t looking. (Couldn’t have Sam displaced as the biggest nerd in the family, after all.) The fact that he might get to pick the brain of such a noted ancient historian was one of the things that had persuaded Dean to accept the offered position at Lebanon College—and that was before he’d seen what Castiel looked like, Jesus Christ…
Dean worried Castiel would think he was a dumb hack who made stupid, childish videos about recreating Aztec weaponry and swimming in cenotes. Especially in contrast to Castiel’s cerebral achievements, the many students he’d guided, the papers he’d authored. But, for whatever reason—Dean sure as hell wasn’t going to question it—Castiel seemed enchanted, in turn.
The Roadhouse really did sell the best burgers in the state, in Dean’s opinion, though he’d never enjoyed one more than when he got to watch Castiel devour it beside him, moaning gleefully around each meaty mouthful and licking ketchup from his fingers. Dean watched Castiel’s obscene tongue, and he longed. Dean had wanted to kiss that mouth since the moment he saw Castiel, and it was only getting worse.
Conversation was finally easier, Castiel’s nerves pushed aside with a little reassurance and time. Hours had passed, their original reason for being at the bar fading to inconsequential. Now they were simply enjoying each other’s company, a fact that had Dean soaring over to the bar to claim a round of beers.
“Here ya go,” Dean said, placing Castiel’s bottle before him with a clunk as he slid back into his seat. The chair moved a little with Dean’s weight, pressing his leg up to Castiel’s under the table as they shared a corner. He didn’t move.
Castiel raised his bottle with one of the small smiles that Dean had already learned to hone in on, the ones that lit up his eyes but barely registered across his lips. “Thank you, Dean.”
“No need to thank me. Really, it’s been a great evening.”
“Well,” Castiel said dryly, “it can’t be much worse than your day started, I’m sure.”
Dean laughed, nudging his elbow into Castiel’s on the table. “Not every day begins with a handsome Tupperware thief, it’s true.”
Castiel’s face went red from the bottom up, an embarrassed flush racing from his neck up to his endearingly messy hair. It looked like he’d spent half the day trying to pull it out in frustration. After only one day of teaching, Dean could relate.
“I—God, I’m so sorry,” Castiel said to the table, covering his face with his hands. “I’m so annoyed with myself. I’m not usually like this, I swear. I’m sure you’re used to people being ridiculous around you, but that is seriously the most embarrassing thing I’ve ever done in my life.”
Throwing his head back, Dean laughed. “Dude, seriously, it’s fine. And yeah, I’ve had my share of strange fan encounters, but at least you have the honor of being the first to steal from me. Well, steal Tupperware, anyway.”
“A fan stole from you?” Castiel asked, blinking in surprise as he looked back up, his hands dropping back to the table and seeking out his beer bottle once more.
“Yup,” Dean said, popping the ‘p’ and taking a long sip of his beer. He held the bottle to his lower lip, grinning as he looked back at Castiel from the corner of his eye. “Me and an archaeologist buddy of mine spent the night with a set of triplets. One of them jacked my underwear. Found it on Ebay a few days later.”
Castiel coughed, choking, looking down at his beer bottle as if it had jumped down his throat.
“They had the gall to spam the auction link in my video comments, too, my brother said.”
“Oh my God,” Castiel said, shaking with laughter. “Suddenly a little Tupperware theft doesn’t seem so bad.”
“It’s not,” Dean agreed, softening his smile as he looked across at Castiel. “Besides, you just wanted an excuse to talk to me, you didn’t keep it. It’s kinda cute, really—oh, look at that, you’re pink again.”
“You’re an asshole,” Castiel grumbled into his hands once more. “Stop it!”
Dean bit back his chuckles, swallowing them down as he placed his hand on his heart, raising his beer with the other as he pledged, “I won’t mention it again. I swear.”
“Likely story,” Castiel said. “But I don’t blame you. I’d laugh at me, too, given my behavior. I don’t know what came over me.”
“You’re right, I’m gonna bring that up every chance I get. You’re usually smoother than that, I hope?”
“Well…no,” Castiel admitted, laughing a little. “But at least with most people, I haven’t admired their career from afar while they haven’t got a clue who I am.”
“Actually,” Dean said, grinning mischievously, “that’s not entirely true.”
Castiel’s head titled like an owl, his too-blue eyes cutting across the corner of the table so sharply Dean was surprised they didn’t leave a scratch. “Meaning?” he asked.
“You wrote a very interesting paper about how the remains of the Proto-Mayan language can be found in the modern Maya Yucatec language.”
With a tiny thunk, Castiel’s beer bottle hit the table as his jaw dropped. “You—you read my paper? My—”
Dean pulled out his phone, and opened his web browser. On the table, right there in front of Castiel, he navigated to a folder in his bookmarks and began to flick through it. Why the hell not, he figured. He’d come this far, and it might make Castiel feel better.
Castiel’s eyes widened, and Dean could tell that he recognized some of the titles Dean was scrolling past.
“I really liked this one, too, on the Aztec process of fertilizing chinampa fields,” Dean said, peering over at Castiel with a grin. “You’re pink again, by the way.”
Castiel muttered something under his breath that might have been, “Oh, how flattering, Dean! I’m so glad we’re on more equal footing!” or might just have been “Oh, fuck off.”
“Okay, okay,” Dean said, laughing but not wanting to actually piss off the best-looking, most interesting guy he’d met in years. “How about a change of topic?”
“Okay,” Dean agreed. “How about you tell me the deal with this douche that slashed your tires?”
Immediately, Castiel’s expression darkened. He was surprisingly intimidating when he glowered like that; Dean could hear Kill Bill sirens in his imagination. “Nick,” Castiel said menacingly.
“You say his name like he’s notorious.”
“Oh, he is. It seemed like you saw a little of how he can be today, too?”
“Well, yeah,” Dean agreed, shaking his head in disgust. “I was hoping to kinda fly under the radar, for the most part, and not really mention what I did for a living before. But that rat-faced bastard just had to announce to the whole class that I was just a ‘publicity hire,’ and that my course would be an easy pass.”
Castiel’s nose crinkled up adorably in derision and solidarity. “I’d tell you to report him for saying stuff like that, but I know from experience it will be of little use. He’s related to the Chancellor and his family make very sizable donations to keep him at the school.”
“Great, just great,” Dean said, his beer seeming to sour in his mouth. What an awesome way to start the year. “What does he get under your skin about, then?”
“Oh, everything,” Castiel said with an exasperated sigh. “He’ll argue every point I make, and if he can’t, he’ll just make fun of me like a moody high schooler.”
“Make fun of you?”
Castiel spread one hand, gesturing down the long, fit line of his awesome body. Dean had no objection to following with his gaze. “The way I dress,” Castiel answered. “The way I speak. My car, my hair, the fact that I’m single…everything, really. He’s just a tiny little man-child with no substance who has to be a bully to make himself feel better. And unfortunately, I’m stuck in a position where I have to take the high road, so punching him right in the face is off the table.”
Dean snorted over the top of his nearly empty beer. “The high road is bullshit, Cas. Find the recording from that video camera earlier and get him expelled.”
Castiel looked thoughtful, parting his lips to reply, when he was pulled up short by Dean’s phone illuminating and bouncing across the table, the name “Uncle Bobby” lit up on the screen.
“Hey,” Dean said, swiping his thumb across the front as he brought it to his ear.
“Heya, Dean. I’ve got Mister Novak’s car fixed, had a matching tire on the truck waitin’—must’ve been meant to be. Do you want it towed to his place, or should I come and get him?”
“Nah, just tow it,” Dean said, shaking his head as he smiled at Castiel across the table. “I’ll drop him home. I’ve only had one whiskey a couple hours back and a lite beer since then, so it's fine. I don’t mind the distance.”
“Suit yourself, boy,” Bobby said. “This a friend of yours?”
“Hopefully,” Dean said, his gaze fixed on Castiel. “Something like that.”
“No charge for the tow, then,” Bobby rumbled cheerfully. “You know the deal. Just the tire.”
“Thanks, Uncle Bobby. I owe you one.”
“You owe me a million by now. You come round on Sunday for dinner, y’hear?”
“Yes, sir,” Dean agreed, grinning. “Wouldn’t miss it.”
With that, Bobby hung up.
Castiel smiled inquiringly. Dean reached into his pocket, pulling out Baby’s keys and jangling them as he jerked his head toward the door. “Bobby’s got your tire replaced and he’s towing the car back to your place. I can give you a ride home.”
“You don’t have to do that!” Castiel said quickly, his eyes widening. No one’s eyes should look that damn pretty under fluorescent lights. “I can call an Uber; you don’t have to go out of your way.”
“It’s no problem, I like driving,” Dean said, before taking his last sip of beer and pushing the empty bottle into the middle of the table. “Call it a thank you for warning me about Nick, or for your company, or something. Really, no big deal.”
Castiel’s tiny smile made Dean’s breath get stuck somewhere between his throat and his sternum.
“Okay,” he said, sliding his own empty bottle to sit next to Dean’s on the tabletop in a neat little pair. “Thank you, Dean.”
“Pleasure’s all mine,” Dean answered with his signature wink, pretending not to notice how Castiel flushed again as he pulled on his jacket.
As they strolled through the growing evening light to where Baby was parked, Dean couldn’t help but turn Sam’s words from the airplane over in his mind. Maybe, if he played his cards right, meeting someone in Kansas wouldn’t be so hard, after all.
Sitting at the end of the furthest couch in the break room, Castiel scraped away at the bottom of his yogurt pot. He was ostensibly eating lunch, but realistically, he was waiting for Meg to show up. He’d sent her a text a few minutes ago, telling her to come to the break room as soon as she could.
Castiel had endured a long morning, the first half hour of his day spent explaining the tire-slashing incident to campus security, and then having to do it all over again in front of a pinch-faced Dr. Shurley in the chancellor’s office. To start with he’d seemed dismissive, saying that there was no proof, but Castiel dug his heels in and demanded the security tapes be pulled. Castiel knew that nepotism could only get Nick so far, and by the look on Dr. Shurley’s face when he agreed, he knew that too.
If Castiel had his way, future Thanksgiving dinners at the Shurley house would be a lot more awkward. He understood the chancellor not wanting to expel Nick because he was family, but enough was enough.
After repeated explanations and campus paperwork, it was a relief to get back to the rhythm of his day. His schedule was packed with classes and office hours and he’d hoped the day would fly by.
Instead, Castiel had given up and taken lunch a little early. His second class of the morning hadn’t gone well at all, cementing the entire day as just “one of those.” Due to a catastrophic IT failure (that Charlie Bradbury, resident computer genius, promised she’d have fixed by next week) none of Castiel’s students had been able to access the worksheets that he’d painstakingly put together for them, and they wouldn’t print in the library, either. He was going to have to print them all manually at home and try again in the next session…but even that, even an entire “one of those days,” couldn’t put him in a bad mood. Not after last night.
Castiel smiled to himself, stirring his yoghurt as he wondered whether Dean would be the type to take lunch here with the rest of the teachers, or if he’d stay in his office.
On the other side of the low coffee table, Dr. Redfield stood up and gathered his belongings. To his friends, he was Donatello, a respected philosophy professor. Castiel was pretty sure they were polite colleagues rather than friends, so he erred on the side of caution.
“Have a good afternoon, Dr. Redfield,” Castiel said, smiling hopefully as he raised his hand in a small wave.
Dr. Redfield looked around, frowning, before picking up his chunky, terracotta-colored, hand-knit cardigan from the couch back and folding it neatly over his arm. With that, he moved away from the table, muttering, and headed on out the door.
Castiel lowered his hand slowly, hoping no one had seen. He was used to being overlooked and didn’t particularly take it personally. He wasn’t chatty, and he wasn’t very good at keeping up with modern culture—he had his head in ancient times, more often than not. Altogether, he wasn’t the best socially, and he was okay with that. For the most part, while his colleagues didn’t pay him much attention, they weren’t mean. So Castiel considered himself lucky. All but invisible, but lucky enough.
And he had Meg, as odd as she was in her own way.
She stormed through the door of the break room with a series of loud thumps, the rubber soles of the chunky, thigh-high boots she’d worn over her leggings that day smacking obnoxiously against the vinyl flooring.
“Clarence!” she yelled as she swooped through the door, her heavily made-up eyes searching the room.
“Over here!” Castel called, shoving his spoon back into his mouth and raising a hand.
“Didn’t see you down there,” Meg said as she squeaked and clattered her way across to him.
“You’re not the only one,” Castiel grumbled around his spoon before digging it back into his yogurt.
“What’s up? Are people ignoring you?” Meg asked, her brow creased in what passed—on her, at least—for angry concern. “Your text told me to get here as soon as I could. What happened? Did someone sit on you again?”
“No, thank goodness,” Castiel said, his shoulders bunching. That had been an awful, embarrassing day that was best forgotten. “This is actually something good! Or, uh, possibly good? I’m not certain.”
“Eloquent as ever, my little unicorn. Spit it out.” Meg flopped down dramatically next to Castiel, turning to prop her boots on his knee. And people said he had issues with personal space.
Raising his arms so that Meg wouldn’t kick his yogurt, Castiel awkwardly spooned the last of it into his mouth. “I saw Hunter last night. Well, Dean. Dean-Hunter. Hunter-Dean,” he said, struggling.
“Don’t hurt yourself, dear,” Meg said sarcastically, folding her arms across her chest as she leaned one shoulder into the couch. “Dean is your YouTube guy. I know this. You texted me after the potluck. Effusively.”
“Right,’ Castiel said, nodding.
“With bare-chested screenshots,” Meg continued loudly, drawing a curious glance from Rowena over near the microwave.
“Yes, okay, Meg,” Castiel said testily. “Not everyone needs to know. Dean isn’t trying to be known for that, here.”
“Oh-kay,” she said, drawing the word out long and raising one pencilled eyebrow. “So, what are you saying here? You saw him? Where?”
“Well, I didn’t so much see him as have a drink with him, at the Roadhouse.”
“You went to the Roadhouse?” Meg said, looking strangely proud. “You didn’t eat the peanuts, did you? Those biker types never wash their hands. I should know.”
Castiel wrinkled his nose slightly as he looked askance at Meg. “That is a gross stereotype. Also, that is not the point. The point is that I had a drink with Dean.”
Meg grinned, gesturing for him to continue. “I know, I’m just fucking with you, Clarence. What kinda drink are we talking? A colleague drink? A boyfriend drink? An ‘I watch your videos with my hand down my pants’ drink?”
“That is not a drink type, Megara,” Castiel protested grumpily.
“It could be,” Meg said, a dark look that Castiel did not like glinting in her eyes. She raised a hand, gesturing to the door of the break room. “Why don’t we ask him?”
Hovering in the doorframe, wearing a smart navy sport coat over his crisp white shirt, stood Dean. He wasn’t wearing a tie this time, the top two buttons of his shirt open, and Castiel couldn’t help staring at the tiny vee of visible skin. He shoved Meg’s feet off his knee, drawing a startled grumble from her, and raised a hand to greet Dean.
“Not a word, you,” he hissed at Meg as he waved.
Unlike Dr. Redfield, Dean’s eyes snapped straight to Castiel and an easy smile rolled over his face. He strode right over, nodding confidently to all of the staff he passed, meeting all of the blatant stares that he received with nothing more than a polite smile and making a beeline for Castiel, instead.
“Hey, Cas,” Dean said once he’d approached, coming to a pause on the opposite side of the coffee table. He pushed back the sides of his jacket and slid his hands into his pockets, not bothering to take a seat.
“I was hoping you’d be in here,” Dean began, before his eyes flicked over to Meg. “Oh, hello—Meg, wasn’t it?”
“Meg is fine, but you can call me anything you want to, pretty boy,” Meg purred, offering a hand languidly. “We were introduced briefly at the potluck last week, before you got a little distracted by my friend Clarence, here, anyway. And we met again in your classroom, where, once again...”
Dean nodded and shook Meg’s hand very quickly, his posture awkward for only a moment before he looked over to Castiel. “Clarence?” he asked.
“I have no idea why she calls me that,” Castiel admitted, nervously shifting his empty yogurt cup to his other hand. “She says it’s an angel from a movie, and I’ve just taken her word for it.”
“Ahh, It’s a Wonderful Life ,” Dean said, grinning briefly at Meg before he nodded. “I get it.”
“Glad someone does,” Meg replied. “So, you were looking for my angel here, huh?”
Dean looked uncertain, his eyes darting between Castiel and Meg on the couch more than once. “Yeah, I was. I just wanted to catch him and ask if he was happy with his car, is all.”
“It’s fine,” Castiel said, trying to keep his eyes on Dean’s face and not let them wander southward to the tantalizing sliver of skin at his chest. “Thank you. The tire that your uncle found was a perfect match. I’m very glad you showed up, honestly.”
Above Castiel, Dean’s grin was slow and honey sweet, filling up all the spaces in Castiel’s chest with something warm and syrupy. “Yeah, me too,” he replied with a cheeky wink.
Dean’s eyes were so green. They’d been green on camera, but in person they were green …Castiel was often more blunt than he was poetic, so he couldn’t think up any pretty synonyms for the color that would really do justice to—
Meg coughed pointedly.
Feeling himself flush, Castiel jerked his eyes away. There was a plasticky crunch as the yogurt cup he held was compressed in his grip, crushed by his fingers. Dean looked slowly down at it, then back up at Castiel before he cleared his throat.
“I know it wasn’t really planned that you had a drink with me last night,” Dean said, a little quieter than when he’d been talking to Meg, as if his words were only for Castiel. “But I had a good time.”
Dean was looking at him like he was the only person in the room and it was a lot. Castiel felt like he needed his blood pressure checked.
“M-me, too,” Castiel stammered out, internally cringing. He wasn’t the best at conversation, perhaps, but he could be coherent. He had a good vocabulary; he didn’t get words wrong. Why did Dean make him like this?
“Any chance you’d like another one, then? Deliberately this time, with me paying?” Dean asked, perking up visibly, his gaze locked solidly on Castiel and Castiel alone. “This first week is kicking my ass, honestly, and we’re only a couple of days in. Be nice to have something to look forward to.”
A swift jab in the side from Meg alerted Castiel to the fact his mouth was open. Closing it with a click , he managed to nod and say, “Yes—yes, I would like that. Tonight?”
“I promised my brother I’d eat dinner with him and his fiancée tonight, actually,” Dean said, his shoulders dropping a little, but only momentarily. He reached into his coat pocket and pulled out his phone, an old Android with a hefty case and a hairline crack across the front, unlocked it, and offered it to Castiel. “Why don’t you give me your number, and we can work out a day?”
Feeling like he was floating an inch above the couch cushions, Castiel carefully tapped in his number before handing the phone back. Dean made a few taps of his own, and Castiel felt his phone buzz against his thigh.
“There we go,” Dean said, tucking his phone back into his jacket. Smiling briefly at Meg once more, he inclined his head to both of them as he said, “I’ll let you get back to your lunch, then. Nice to see you again, Meg—see you soon, Cas.”
With nothing but that and a small grin, Dean turned on his heel and walked on out of the break room, chased by more than one whispering gaze, with apparently no idea that he’d left Castiel having a minor heart attack on the old brown couch.
“Did…did that just happen?” Castiel whispered, staring at the door as it swung shut behind Dean.
“Sure did,” Meg said. She sounded a little impressed, to Castiel’s secret delight.
Reaching into his pants pocket to pull out his phone, Castiel tapped on the text message notification from a new number to see what Dean had sent him.
+1-756-555-7892: Hey Cas! Let me know what days are good for me to take you out for a drink. Looking forward to it ;)
Castiel stared down at the screen, entranced by the tiny winky face, with Meg peering over his shoulder.
“Now that,” she said, a giggle in her tone, “is definitely a boyfriend drink.”
If anything, Dean’s second date with Castiel seemed to be going even better than the first. Not that the first had been a date…and not that he was sure this one was, either. It was all still very tentative; it wasn’t as if Dean had asked straight-up if Castiel wanted to go out with him. But Castiel’s reactions to “Hunter”—and now to just Dean, thank God, as they got to know each other better—were pretty telling. The dude had a crush, Dean was certain.
And he wasn’t the only one. Castiel had no idea how hot he was, Dean was sure, nor did he seem to have any clue how sexy his brain was, either. It was cute that Castiel was so embarrassed over his obsession with the Hunter Journals when Dean himself was an incoherent fanboy, too.
“Seriously, the paper you wrote on the radiocarbon dates the team at Ceibal gathered, tracing population size and offering your theory of the Maya Collapses happening in waves?” Dean shook his head, lifting his head from where he’d had it propped on his fist so that he could point at Castiel. “The fact that you can take a bunch of readings that some dusty, sweating guy like me took and form them into such a coherent—”
“Dean!” Castiel argued back passionately, his hands turning palms up where they framed his empty beer glass on the table. “All that data wouldn’t even exist without people like you out in the dig sites; the entire field would cease to be if it was left to boring people like me, stuck behind desks analyzing numbers and dates.”
“You’re not boring,” Dean said, raising both eyebrows pointedly before draining his own beer. “And you’re not ‘stuck’, either. All the knowledge you have in that head? You could be out there, one of the guys solving the big questions. I know it.”
Castiel smiled shyly, his eyes dipping at the compliment. “I’m not adventurous like you,” he said.
“Why not?” Dean asked.
“What do you mean?”
“Just…why not, man? Your name has weight in academic circles, at least to anyone with an interest in Mesoamerican history. All you’d need to do to get invited places is ask.”
“Oh, no,” Castiel answered, his finger running uncertainly around the rim of his empty glass. “I couldn’t just leave my duties behind like that.”
“Sure you could,” Dean said firmly. “That’s what vacations are for. Have an adventure, collect your own data points for a change.”
Castiel remained peering down into the bottom of his glass. He’d had a couple of beers already while Dean nursed his; Castiel was getting a taxi home, but Dean had Baby to consider. Considering the strength of the craft brews they were sampling, Dean was amazed at how articulate Castiel still was, entirely coherent with only the tiniest pinking of his cheeks to show for the drinking.
Or perhaps the pinkish color had come from Dean’s hand slinking across the table, his fingers just resting between Castiel’s own. He could feel the sides of Castiel’s knuckles brushing against his as they inched closer, not really entwined so much as filling the gaps in each other’s hands.
Castiel’s tongue darted out, as pink as his cheeks, and ran across his lower lip before he said, “You really think I could do that?”
“I think you could do anything you wanted to,” Dean said, his voice softer. He meant it, it wasn’t the line that it sounded—but did it matter if it was, if it made Castiel smile like that, tiny and shy and perfect?
Dean found Castiel’s eyes locked on his, the quivering magnetism between them growing unbearable in the silence. Castiel swallowed harshly, looking unsure.
“You can do anything,” Dean reiterated. Then he grinned, poking his tongue between his teeth as he added, “Except tell harmless white lies about Tupperware, apparently.”
Groaning, Castiel slid his forehead forward into his palm, the overwhelming tension broken enough to give them a breather. “I thought you weren’t going to mention it again? I’m sorry, really. It was a terrible idea.”
“Yup, it was,” Dean agreed, before taking his chances and reaching under the corner of the table to lay his hand on Castiel’s knee. “I guess next time you want to flirt with a guy, you should stick to the more common techniques.”
Castiel’s cheeks flushed darker, but Dean couldn’t be sure if it was the alcohol or his proximity, by that point. Slowly, Castiel raised his eyes to Deans, trapping him in a stare, and softly asked, “And what would those be?”
Excitement swooped through Dean’s stomach. Green light! Green light!
“Well,” he said dropping his voice a little, “a flirtatious smile is a good start.”
Goofy and warm, the two of them smiled at each other, the table corner between them magically shrinking. Castiel’s fingers tightened noticeably around his glass as he whispered, “And then?”
“If the person seems open to it,” Dean murmured back, shuffling fractionally closer, “maybe a cautious touch…just to see if they want to be touched by you.”
Castiel’s eyes became bigger and rounder as Dean’s hand slid slowly from his knee up to his thigh, his fingers curling over to trail seductively up the inner seam of Castiel’s suit pants. Dean didn’t go any further, waiting hopefully, his lip bitten.
Dropping his voice even further, turning his tone smoother and more seductive, Dean leaned across the corner of the table and moistened his lips. Castiel was so close that Dean could smell his fresh, lemony cologne and study the wrinkles at the corners of his eyes.
“Then a kiss, I suppose,” Dean whispered, holding his breath. “If they seem open to it. Or you can just ask…asking is easy.”
Dean felt Castiel’s nose trail alongside his own, the tiniest of touches as their lips hovered. There was barely any space between them, yet somehow a whole electric storm seemed to fit in the gap.
“Ask me,” Castiel breathed out, and Dean felt it as much as heard it.
Dean waited, stretching out the moment of anticipation for no other reason than that he liked it. It felt like the atomic buzz before a squall, near and yet contained, as if Castiel was lightning in a bottle.
“Can I kiss you?” Dean asked, so close his lips caught Castiel’s even as he formed the words.
Castiel was the one to surge forward the last fraction, sending a charged zing through Dean’s body all the way to his fingertips as their lips met. Tingling, Dean raised his hand to slip under Castiel’s jaw, cradling his cheek to hold him close.
The first kiss was firm and passionate, but short—they both pulled back slowly, hands still clutching the other, as if neither of them wanted to let go, just in case. They laughed, and Dean got to see the most beautiful, gummy grin spread across Castiel’s face before they were kissing again.
Dean’s heart hammered in excitement as they pressed in as close as they could, the corner of the table far more inconvenient than it had been minutes before. Castiel tasted of fresh, cold beer, his lips incredibly soft and pillowy. Dean sank into it, letting out a small groan, shameless.
“Fuck, Cas,” he whispered against Castiel’s bottom lip. “Been wanting to do that all night…hell, all week.”
“Honestly,” Castiel admitted between deeper, hungrier presses of their lips, “I’ve fantasized about kissing you for years.”
“Knew it!” Dean teased breathlessly. “Knew you were just watching for the scenes where I took my shirt off.”
Laughing, and clearly much more confident now he wasn’t on his back foot, Castiel pushed at Dean’s chest with his palm. “Actually, my favorite video was your macuahuitl reconstruction,” he said solemnly, before he leaned back in to murmur against Dean’s ear, “but, if we weren’t in public, I’d be taking your shirt off right now.”
Dean let out a quiet, rumbling groan at the sensation of Castiel’s hand caressing his chest, suppressing the urge to reach down to the hem of his shirt and rip it off over his head, right there, right then. “Fuck, Cas,” he managed to say, doing his best to keep his voice steady. “It’s really sexy how smart you are, you know that?”
Castiel stopped staring at Dean’s chest beneath his fingers long enough to look up and tilt his head like a perplexed woodland creature in a cartoon.
Oh…that was it. Dean couldn’t handle that confused, rumpled owl look, Castiel’s bright blue eyes slowly pushing the air from his lungs with the weight of their intense, heavy stare. He had to move before he couldn’t breathe.
“Come on,” Dean said breathlessly, reaching up to grasp the hand Castiel had resting on his sternum. He slid out of his seat, looping his fingers around Castiel’s wrist and tugging him along.
Dean certainly didn’t want to stop making out with Castiel. He just wanted to do it somewhere that wasn’t in front of the Roadhouse bar, where his old friend Ellen was beginning to develop a disturbing twinkle in her eye. If her daughter Jo saw, Dean’d never hear the end of it. So: relocation.
Castiel complied easily, his gums showing in his grin as he laughed and stumbled up from his chair. “Where are we going?” he asked breathlessly, keeping pace with Dean as he headed for the door.
“We’re gonna make out in my car,” Dean threw back over his shoulder with a wink—the same one that he’d used to sign off his videos, the one that he’d already noticed made Castiel’s eyes go wide. “As long as that’s good for you?”
The way Castiel’s tan skin flushed so beautifully, telling pinkish tales of his thoughts and emotions even when he was silent, was gorgeous. “Yes,” he said. His lips were damp from kissing and a flick of his tongue, and they caught the bar lights from overhead, looking glossy and very bitable . “I’d like—yes. Good. It would be very good,” Castiel finished, nodding as he stumbled up the three steps to the door behind Dean.
Outside, the evening air was fresh and tangy, making Dean’s nose tingle as he let go of Castiel’s hand just long enough to pull Baby’s keys from his pocket. He was parked right at the other end of the lot, in the dimmest corner away from other cars—partly just fortuitous, but partly because Dean always tried to park his Impala out of the way of other cars. Less chance of scratching.
Dean could hear his heartbeat pounding in his ears as he approached her side door. Turning back to Castiel, he hesitated.
“What?” Castiel asked with no held tilt, but the spirit of it very much alive in his eyes.
God, Castiel was beautiful. And smart, hella smart; way out of Dean’s league, really. He did the theorizing, the thinking, the high-brow stuff that Dean could only dream of while he sweated away in trenches and in caves, brushing away at sand and chipping away at stone, proving the words of people like Castiel. Castiel didn’t seem to get it, didn’t seem to understand what he was in comparison to Dean…but maybe he would. In time. If Dean showed him.
“Here,” Dean said, jangling Baby’s keys as he held them up to Castiel. “Take these.”
Castiel looked confused. “You want me to drive?”
“Hell no!” Dean was unable to hold in a laugh. “You gotta earn that; not even my brother gets behind her wheel. But…y’know. We don’t know each other that well yet, and I’m dragging you off to make out in my car.”
“So, you’re giving me your keys to hold,” Castiel said, nodding slowly as he caught on.
“Yup,” Dean said, slightly embarrassed though he wasn’t sure why. “Just…old habit from college, honestly. Safety first. Can’t drive away with you somewhere if you’ve got the keys, so you should feel…y’know, safer.”
Castiel stepped up to Dean’s front and slid the keys into his trench coat pocket in one smooth motion, one foot inserting itself into the space between Dean’s boots as his breath hit Dean’s lips once more. “I’m far from college age, but I appreciate the thought, Dean.”
For a guy with dull, flat suits, Castiel’s kisses were bright and lively and full of sparks. They left Dean with a roaring in his ears and cool air filling his mouth where it hung open, wanting more. As Castiel obliged, strong hands cradling the hinge of Dean’s jaw and one thick thigh pressed between his legs, Dean’s left hand shot out across Baby’s side, reaching out and scrabbling around in a desperate search for the door handle.
“Get in,” he growled as he wrenched it open, pulling in air in loud pants between kisses.
Dean didn’t wait for Castiel to answer or to go first; grabbing a handful of his blue striped tie and the wrinkled shirt fabric behind and tugging , pulling Castiel through the door as he slid back on the seat and opened his legs, making space for Castiel above him.
They filled the back of the car, two full grown men not wanting or caring to take the time to position themselves carefully. Where they landed was where they stayed, the leather of the bench seat cool where it found a strip of skin at Dean’s waist under his ridden-up shirt.
Castiel’s lips were hot even against his heated skin, his want for Dean burning out of him beneath the blanket of his trench coat as it fell, open, on either side of them. Dean didn’t even want to take it off, he merely fisted his hands in the lapels and used it to pull Castiel close, closer, too close for there to be space for breath or hands or even a single bead of the sweat that was quickly building along Dean’s spine and across his brow as he panted, desperate in a way he hadn’t been for years.
“God damn, Cas,” Dean murmured into Castiel’s lower lip. “You’re so fucking hot.”
Castiel groaned as Dean gripped his bottom lip between his teeth, his eyes flashing open and widening in the erratic glowing light from a sign near Baby’s trunk, a rickety thing that promised cold beer on tap. He leaned down, the green-blue-green-blue of the blinking sign illuminating the spiky tousles in his hair before his face disappeared beneath Dean’s jaw, kissing and biting his way down Dean’s throat to the crook of his neck.
Dean pulled fresh air into his lungs as he looked down the long line of Castiel’s spine, his back arched down beneath his coat as he pressed into Dean. He reached downward, wanting to get a handful of his firm ass, but it wasn’t enough.
“Shirt, can I? Please—off,” Dean gasped out, shoving a hand between them and pulling at Castiel’s shirt buttons. “Want to feel you.”
“Yes,” Castiel rumbled against him, his deep voice causing a vibration against Dean’s collarbone.
Castiel struggled to sit up in the small space, head bent down to avoid hitting it on the roof. In the moment it took him to quickly run his fingers down the front of his white shirt, popping button after button, Dean looked past him to see the Impala door still hanging open, letting in the cold air from the dim, empty parking lot beyond.
Dean pointed at it, laughing wordlessly.
Looking over his shoulder, Castiel joined his chuckling as he reached awkwardly back, stretching his arm out of the car to grab at the handle and slam the door closed, shutting them privately within.
“Sorry,” Castiel said, his voice anything but. “You’re so tempting, spread out on the seat like this…didn’t even think about the door.”
In the early moonglow and neon lights, Dean raked his eyes down Castiel’s exposed torso as he sat up, one leg in the footwell and his other knee on the bench seat, between Dean’s legs. His open shirt framed the planes of his chest, his tie loose and drooping down over a light dusting of hair. He had dark, tight nipples that Dean wanted to roll between his teeth, and a surprising stack of abs that Dean wanted to lick and stain sticky white.
“Holy shit,” Dean whispered. “Look at you. It’s a crime to hide that under all those layers.”
“You’re one to talk,” Castiel growled, leaning forward once more to catch Dean’s mouth as his hands tugged at Dean’s shirt. “For years it’s been plaid upon plaid…”
Dean had left his work jacket on Baby’s front seat when he’d arrived at the bar, so it only took a moment to shake off his dress shirt and press Castiel’s bare chest to his, all overwhelming heat and skin.
Sliding his hands across Castiel’s stomach, he didn’t even have time to be self-conscious about his own, softer, belly before Castiel’s hands were resting on Dean’s belt. His eyes shone in the dim light as he looked up, seeking Dean’s gaze. They were already blue enough, but the blinking blue neon that hit them gave them an otherworldly gleam. Dean didn’t answer the questioning look; he lifted his hips and flicked his leather belt through the buckle with a metallic jingling that only served to accent their panting breaths. His hands quickly went to Castiel’s belt in turn, wasting no time.
Castiel’s cock was thick and straight, already wet at the tip and straining forward toward Dean as Castiel’s slacks and underwear were kicked down out of sight. The curve of his head sat perfectly in Dean’s palm as Dean wrapped his fingers around him, teasing his thumb over Castiel’s slit.
“Oh, yes, ” Castiel said in a breathy hiss. One arm propping himself up on the seat next to Dean’s shoulder, he busied the other pulling Dean’s dick out of his boxer briefs and pushing them down under his balls, out of the way.
Dean moaned into Castiel’s mouth as he felt the warmth of Castiel’s fingers wrapping around his length. He pulled his own hand back only long enough to spit into his palm before reaching down between their bodies and gathering Castiel back into his grip. He slid his other hand down Castiel’s side beneath his trench coat, gripping the meat of his bare ass cheek under the fabric.
Why was it so hot that Castiel’s cock was in Dean’s hand, hot and throbbing, and yet he still had his trench coat on, and his tie still clung to his collar for dear life? Dean hadn’t got a clue, but he was appreciating every sexy second.
There wasn’t room for fancy maneuvers or erotic positioning in the back of the Impala; Dean just spread his legs as wide as he could, rocking up into Castiel, while their arms knocked together as they jerked each other, swift and firm. The air between them was hot and humid, their lips clinging as they let out shaking, wide-eyed breaths and rolled their overheated bodies in time to the pull of their hands, movements slicked by sweat and spit and droplets of oozing pre-come.
“Fuck, fuck,” Dean chanted into Castiel’s cheek, his forehead pressed into Castiel’s temple. He could hear Castiel gasping near his ear, as close as he was.
“I—” Castiel choked out, arching his neck. “I’m going to come, Dean,” he said, a promise more than a warning.
“Yeah, yeah—me, too. Fuck.” Dean slid his hand up Castiel’s side, bringing it up to finger the stubble of his jaw and direct their mouths back together, as hot and wet and slippery as the rest of them. “I’m real close, so close…”
“Yes,” Castiel agreed, his voice weak and thin as his shoulders tensed, his cock seeming to stiffen an impossible fraction further in Dean’s hand. “I’m coming, Dean— fuck, ” he gasped, the only time Dean had heard him cuss, even a little.
Dean continued stroking Castiel through it as he stuttered above him, screwing his own eyes tight as the building pressure low in his own abdomen began to turn into bright, explosive white noise. “Oh,” Dean gasped out, his hand movements beginning to falter. “Oh… Ah!”
“Yes, that’s it,” Castiel coaxed breathlessly, and when Dean’s eyes flew wide open again as his orgasm crested, Castiel was right above him, watching Dean’s face in the neon light as it shifted from blue to green. “That’s it,” he echoed, leaning down to seal their lips together again.
Dean’s body tingled beneath Castiel, sticky and spent, and as they both dissolved into soft, awkward grins into each other’s shoulders, he suddenly had the strange feeling that his ribcage was far too small, like it was going to crack under everything swelling beneath his sternum.
Nosing into Castiel’s hair behind his ear, Dean moved a trail of tiny kisses down his jaw until their foreheads pressed together.
“I’ve never fooled around in the back of a car before,” Castiel confessed with a shaky grin, still pulling in deep breaths.
Dean chuckled, wrapping his arms around Castiel for just a few more moments before he’d have to clean them up and think about getting home. “What’d I tell you, Cas?” Dean said, swallowing down an odd lump in his own throat. “You can do anything you want to do.”
The next morning dawned rainy, and Castiel was late. He’d woken up on time, but it was just one of those days; his toast got stuck in the toaster, he couldn’t remember where he’d kicked off his shoes when he’d stumbled in (right next to the bed, apparently), and he’d had to run back up five flights of stairs to his apartment after reaching the bottom and suddenly recalling that he’d forgotten to lock the door.
Even so, he reached his shabby, gold Lincoln Continental with a smile on his face, humming the tune of some old classic rock song that had been playing at the Roadhouse the night before.
Castiel had battled with his umbrella for all of three minutes on the way to the car, before giving up and throwing it on the back seat. He’d need his hands for his briefcase, laptop bag, and the two piles of freshly printed worksheets he had to carry into the classroom.
So, when he parked at Lebanon College an hour later, he hunted around on the cluttered floor of the passenger side of the car—no one ever rode in the passenger seat, so why expend energy keeping it tidy?—and dug up two plastic bags from the 7-Eleven where he often stopped in the mornings to grab coffee. He’d been keeping them to recycle, so at least this way they’d get new life. Wrapping the worksheets inside them so they wouldn’t get wet, he ducked out of the car and into the depressing, misty drizzle. Head down, he scurried toward the entrance.
“Clarence!” Meg’s voice cut through the rain like a foghorn, leading him safely to the door.
“Morning, Meg,” he greeted as she wrangled one of the piles of papers out of his arm.
“I suppose an umbrella would have been too much?” Meg snarked, holding the entrance door open with her foot.
“Didn’t have enough hands,” Castiel pointed out as he stepped into the dry corridor beyond. His shoes squeaked on the shiny tile floor.
“Could’ve just called me to come down and help you, idiot,” Meg retorted with an eyeroll to rival one of Castiel’s own. “I was waiting for you, anyway.”
“Oh, yes,” she purred. “As soon as I saw Indiana Jones hanging outside your classroom door like a kid waiting to spring a promposal, I simply had to get to you before he did. What’s the gossip, Cas?”
Castiel frowned, slowly processing Meg’s babble. “What’s the—Wait, Dean? He was waiting outside my office?”
“Sure was, sweet cheeks. Probably still is, even. He had that determined look about him.”
Something in Castiel’s chest flipped over and sent ripples through his body, like he’d just flopped off a high diving board and hit the water on his belly. Dean was waiting. For him. Was that a good thing? Or a bad thing? Did he want to set Castiel to rights before classes started so that he didn’t get the wrong idea? Make sure Castiel knew that, sure, Dean was happy to have a night of fun with a “fan” but—
“Clarence!” Meg snapped, bumping her shoulder into Castiel’s rather harder than necessary. “Are you hearing a word I’m saying? Move, we can’t stop here.”
Apparently, Castiel’s footsteps had come to a grinding halt in the middle of the busy corridor that led to his classroom and his tiny, adjoined office.
“I, uh,” Castiel said dumbly, willing his feet to work once more. “Yes. Sorry. You were saying?”
“Never mind,” Meg said, smirking as she shook her head. “Your head is in the clouds, which really tells me all I need to know.”
A few yards further up the corridor, the door to Humanities Room 11 came into view. As Meg had predicted, Dean was still beside it, coffee in one hand, squinting down at his phone with a somewhat-concerned frown.
His expression cleared as he looked up to see Castiel and Meg’s approach.
“Morning, Cas,” he said, nodding, before flicking his eyes to Meg. “And you, Meg. Again.”
Meg bared her teeth in a grin as she flicked her hair back over her shoulder. “We both know you weren’t waiting for me. Here”—she reached forward and dumped the pile of worksheets that she’d helped carry into Dean’s free arm—“take these; they’re his. I have to get to my own class, but I expect updates on the nerd mating dance later.”
“Meg!” Castiel began to protest, fruitlessly.
She was already stepping away, raising one hand and wiggling her fingers above her head as she called, “Toodles!”
Slowly, Castiel looked back to Dean.
They shared a look, then Dean shook his head and laughed. “She sure is something,” he said.
“Yes…something,” Castiel agreed, hoping he didn’t look as flushed as he felt.
“Here,” Dean said, stepping quickly in front of Castiel to open his door for him with the side of his hand, balancing his coffee carefully. “Let’s get all this inside for you. How do you have so much paper? Don’t your students submit things online?”
“They do, but the system had a tantrum, so I had to print these worksheets to hand out,” Castiel lamented. “I may have underestimated exactly how much paper was involved.”
Dean held the door open with his back, raising his arms as best he could so that Castiel could pass by. Once inside the empty classroom, he let the door swing shut and followed Castiel across to the small office space that was attached on the other side.
“There we go,” Dean said, lowering his paper stack to the desk with a plasticky crinkle. “All present and dry.”
Once he’d lowered his own stack to the desk and shrugged off his coat, Castiel turned to look at Dean. He gave him a small smile, unsure. Why was Dean waiting for him? He seemed…well, now that Castiel was studying the tight set of his shoulders and the way his lower lip kept disappearing beneath his teeth, it almost appeared as if Dean was…nervous?
“Thank you for carrying those,” Castiel said, gesturing, at a loss.
“Yeah, no worries. I’d have come to your car if I knew,” Dean said. He pulled in a sharp breath then, smiling suddenly, and pushed forward the Starbucks cup he held into Castiel’s space. “Sorry—uh, here. This is for you.”
“For me?” Castiel echoed dumbly, blinking. “You bought me coffee?”
“Yeah,” Dean said awkwardly. He reached up to rub the side of his jaw, and it caused the leather satchel he had over one shoulder to swing against his side.
“Thank you,” Castiel said, taking a small sip before lowering it to his desk. It was warm and strong, exactly how he liked it.
“Oh—sorry, I’m bad at this part,” Dean said, pulling the satchel quickly around to his front and pulling it open, rooting around within.
“This part?” Castiel felt a little dizzy. This part? Which ‘part’ was this? Mornings? The part where he let Castiel down gently, with coffee? Or the part where—
“Yeah, I, uh,” Dean stumbled through his words as he drew a Tupperware container from within his bag. “I’ve only ever had time for one night stand kinda things over the past few years, really. Didn’t stay in one place long, wasn’t like I could put down roots or make a commitment to anybody.”
“Of course,” Castiel said, his voice faint to his own ears.
“So, y’know. Sorry if I mess things up a bit, is all. Out of practice. I made you this, though.” Dean held out the Tupperware toward Castiel.
Castiel hated that his hand shook as he reached out for it, but the tiny movement was nothing compared to the speed his head was spinning at. “I’m not sure I understand,” he said quietly.
Dean watched as Castiel cracked open the Tupperware lid, then peeled it on back with some relief—though why he was relieved, he had no idea. It wasn’t like something was going to jump out at him. This was just pie. But…Dean’s pie. That Dean had apparently made just for him.
“This is for me?” Castiel clarified, just in case.
“’Course,” Dean said. “You already tried my apple, but I had to have you try my cherry pie. It’s my favorite, and it also happens to make a great portable lunch food.”
Castiel could feel his cheeks beginning to pinch as a grin slowly spread across his face. He probably looked like an idiot, but he couldn’t find much in him to care. “You baked me pie,” he repeated weakly.
“Sure did.” Dean seemed buoyed by Castiel’s smile, showing his teeth—he had adorable little pointy incisors, Castiel noticed helplessly—as he mirrored Castiel’s expression. With one of those winks which had left Castiel all aflutter when they were on a screen (and pretty much took him out at the knees, in person), Dean gestured to the box. “And hey, I put it in Tupperware. I figured that maybe this time, you could use dropping it off as an excuse to stop by my apartment instead of my office.”
Castiel began flushing again at the memory—he could feel the heat—but Dean reached out immediately and pressed a hand gently to his forearm, smiling warmly.
“If you wanted to, anyway,” Dean said, withdrawing his hand after only a moment. “No, uh, pressure. Obviously.”
“Obviously,” Castiel echoed, moving slowly to put the box down on his desk and turn back to Dean. He didn’t know what to do with his hands now all the worksheets and the pie were gone, so he wrapped them across his ribs somewhat defensively, bracing himself. “So, you…would like me to? To stop by and return your Tupperware?”
“Yeah,” Dean said, his grin soft but charming. “Tonight, if you wanted.”
Now Castiel’s cheeks were heating for a whole other reason, his grin back in full force. “I’d like that.”
“Great,” Dean said, rubbing his hands together gleefully. Overhead, a buzzer rang to signify that the day had begun, and Dean’s eyes flicked upward to it with some annoyance before returning to Castiel. “I better get to my room before my students start arriving and decide they can just leave since I’m not there. But…it’s a date?”
Castiel managed a nod, smiling, afraid to open his mouth because who the hell knows what might fall out of it.
“Awesome,” Dean said. He began to turn toward the office door before hesitating awkwardly and turning back.
He leaned in, pressing his lips to Castiel’s cheek in a fleeting, sweet kiss that was somehow more exciting than even their activities the night before had been—and Castiel recalled those being very exciting.
Letting out a small chuckle, Castiel’s fingers traced the spot where Dean’s lips had touched as he nodded toward the door, and he bit down on his lip to quell the thrill it sent through his body. “You had better go. But I’ll see you later, Dean.”
“See you later,” Dean said cheerfully, ducking out of the door with a little wave.
The moment that the door clicked shut, Castiel flopped down into his desk chair and spun it around childishly, his hands over his face.
What had just happened? Was that—Was Dean—
Castiel grabbed his phone from his pocket and scrambled to shakily unlock it, quickly firing off a text to Meg.
>> I think I might be dating Dean “Hunter” Winchester
By the time he’d completed another circle in his chair, his phone was buzzing in his palm.
Meg: I told you that was a boyfriend drink he took you for, Clarence
>> Well my boyfriend gave me pie
Meg: That’s wonderful. My last bf gave me chlamydia. Aren’t you supposed to be teaching?
“Shit!” Castiel barked out, grabbing his coffee and briefcase and diving for the door to the classroom, leaving a cascade of paper sliding from the desk in a fluttering trail behind him.
He’d clean it up later. So, what if he was late? His boyfriend lent him Tupperware.
The call to Dr. Shurley’s office had been somewhat of a relief to Dean, if he was honest about it. Most of his students were great, fully engaged and in the classroom for the right reasons. Then there were the small group that whispered behind their Chromebooks and iPhones and sent each other YouTube links to his old vlogs during his lectures.
It turned out that it was incredibly jarring to hear your own voice coming from the back row in the midst of a discussion about soil geochemistry.
Dean had tossed the next slide in his presentation up onto the screen, set some discussion work, and bolted out of the classroom to respond to his summons.
“Ahh, thank you for coming, Mister Winchester,” Dr. Shurley said as he arrived. The small, graying Chancellor had conducted Dean’s interview via Zoom. He hadn’t gotten much of an impression of the man then, but even less than a week into his employment with the college, Dean was fairly sure that he didn’t like him much. The guy seemed to do his job well, fair enough, but there was something disingenuous about him that Dean couldn’t quite put his finger on.
“Dean is fine, please,” Dean said as he lowered himself into one of two empty chairs in front of the Chancellor’s desk.
Dr. Shurley nodded, dropping his attention back to the papers in front of him and leaving Dean to stew for a moment.
But only a moment.
Clearing his throat, Dean waited until he had his boss’ attention back before asking, “What’s this about, Dr. Shurley? I wasn’t sure how long you’d need me for, so my students are just—”
“Oh,” Dr. Shurley said with a wave of his hand and a forced-looking smile, “not more than a few minutes, don’t worry about it. Novak should be here any moment.”
Dean blinked. Castiel had been called to the Chancellor’s office, too? Was this…was this about them?
Swallowing hard, Dean was suddenly glad that he hadn’t worn a tie, his neck heating under his open collar. Were relationships between colleagues not allowed? They were all adults, and Dean had read that giant employee handbook pdf, front to back and back to front, during his six-hour layover in Mexico City. It had plenty to say about professional behavior on campus and keeping personal lives on the down low around students, but nothing about faculty being prohibited from dating, period.
There’d barely been any time for there to be a them between him and Castiel, anyway. Two not-dates and a quick-n-dirty hand job in the back of Dean’s car hardly constituted a long-term commitment, even if that was what Dean wanted. Dean had kissed Castiel exactly once on campus, on the cheek at that, and that was barely three hours ago! So how would Dr. Shurley even know—
“Dr. Shurley,” Castiel greeted from the doorway, nodding before his attention turned to Dean. A slight frown of surprise creased his brow, but his smile was warm. “Hello, Dean.”
Dean gave him a crooked smile, shifting his chair to the side so that Castiel could pull back the other seat.
“Novak, thank you,” Dr. Shurley said. “I’ll try not to take more than a few minutes of your time.”
“Of course, sir,” Castiel said.
Dean was about to open his mouth and blurt out that it wasn’t fair, that the college had no right to govern his personal life; it had taken him years to meet someone like Castiel and—but then Dr. Shirley turned his laptop around and pointed it toward them both.
Loaded up on the screen was a black and white, but relatively crisp, security tape.
Ahh, right. Castiel’s car had been vandalized and Dean was a witness to the damage. This wasn’t about them , after all.
Dr. Shurley’s laptop showed them the parking lot. There was Castiel’s ugly pimp car, and further back in the distance was Baby. As Dean watched, a very familiar, blond-haired menace appeared on the screen.
“Knew it,” Castiel muttered beneath his breath.
“Nick,” Dean said, nodding in agreement.
They both watched as Nick knelt down beside the car, pulled a long, silver knife from inside his jacket, and proceeded to do a very thorough job of slashing Castiel’s tire. Once he was done, Dr. Shurley reached forward, leaning over the laptop to speed up the tape for a moment. Nick ran away, a few students passed by, a few cars, and then Castiel appeared, his shoulders slumping as he slid behind the wheel of his car. He tried to pull out of the parking space, then stopped, and the Lincoln remained immobile for a few minutes until Dean appeared.
“So, it’s all on tape,” Castiel said, looking up at Dr. Shurley, perfectly polite but with something firm in his voice that Dean was proud of.
Dr. Shurley let out a long sigh. “Unfortunately, yes, it is. I realize that Nick has been a troublesome student, but as you know, he is my nephew, and his parents make many large donations to the school.”
Dean folded his arms and frowned. “Unfortunately? I hope you mean fortunately. Being a ‘difficult student’ is one thing, but that’s destruction of personal property. And what comes next? Who says he won’t do something else with that knife, next time?”
“You see, the donations are really quite—”
“We’re aware,” Castiel interrupted Dr. Shurley forcefully, “of all the financial implications. But I’m sure you’d rather the college deal with this quietly and turn those tapes over to the police station on your own terms than me file a police report and have them come and investigate on their terms.”
“Town paper might be interested too,” Dean offered, smiling serenely. “Small place like Lebanon, not much happens, you know? All those fierce midwestern mamas get pretty wound up about things like campus security, I’d bet.”
Dr. Shurley paled.
“Good idea, Dean. My twin brothers have a lot of contacts in the media, I’m sure they’d give me some advice,” Castiel said.
“Yes,” Dr. Shurley soothed, holding up one hand. “I understand entirely. I wish it hadn’t come to this, but Nick has done this to himself. If I can get you both to email me statements that you saw the damage to the tire and that the car belongs to Castiel, then I can pass them on to the authorities.”
“And then?” Castiel asked, his brows pinched together. Dean wanted to reach across and squeeze his hand, but given his earlier panic, he decided not to. At least, not until he’d checked that employee handbook one more time.
“He’ll be suspended immediately, pending a disciplinary hearing, and the police will be involved. The board of trustees will have a say, so I can’t promise that he’ll be expelled, but I don’t know what choice they could possibly have. Especially if the police decide to pursue charges. At the very least, I can promise that he will be immediately removed from both of your classes and will not be allowed on campus for the rest of the semester.”
“That’s fair.” Castiel nodded, then pushed up from his chair. “If that’s all you need, then I’d better get back to those sophomores. I left them looking at reconstructed Aztec weaponry; if I don’t return soon, there may be a ritual killing.”
“Ooh,” Dean said as he stood, grinning across at Castiel. “That sounds fun.”
Dr. Shurley looked between the two of them, both brows raised.
“The weaponry,” Dean clarified. “Not the killing.”
“Good, good,” said Dr. Shurley, waving them toward the exit. “Glad to hear it. You history types worry me on occasion.”
Stepping out into the quiet corridor, Dean reached for Castiel’s arm as he pulled the Chancellor’s office door shut behind him. The heavy oak fell into place with a loud click . “Wait—just a second,” he said.
Castiel paused, turning to Dean with a tiny smile already on his lips before he started walking again. “Yes?”
“Sorry if this question is a bit forward, or presumptuous, or anything,” Dean said, falling into step beside Castiel as they headed down the stairs to the Humanities wing. “I just thought I should check while it was on my mind.”
Castiel’s head tilted quizzically as he held open the heavy swinging door to the history corridor. “Okay?”
“Is the college okay with relationships between colleagues? I mean, is this—” Dean paused in the doorway to gesture between his chest and Castiel’s, “—going to be okay here?”
The corner of Castiel’s mouth rose slowly, an uneven, sparkling smile spreading over his face as he mimicked Dean’s motion. “This?” he asked.
“Yeah,” Dean said as nonchalantly as he could. “You and me. Having a go at the dating thing…being boyfriends, maybe? If that’s the kind of thing you were looking for, anyway.”
Castiel’s grin only got bigger, and he let out a low chuckle. “It’s a private, liberal arts college, Dean. Dr. Shurley is married to the chair of the Math department, and the Language folks bed hop weekly. As long as it doesn’t affect your work, the board doesn’t care.”
“Oh.” Dean let out a dramatic sigh of relief, relaxing his shoulders. “Phew . Thank god, I was worried this was about to get awkward.”
Castiel laughed and resumed walking down the hallway. “What were you going to do if I’d answered differently?” he asked curiously.
Dean let out a puff of air, pushing it through his lips with a loud noise. “Shit, no idea. I’d have said we could just date on the down low, but knowing what a terrible liar you are…”
“Hey!” Castiel protested, pushing at Dean’s bicep with a laughing grin. “You’re such an ass.”
“That I am,” Dean replied, chuckling as he paused outside his classroom door. He jerked his head toward it. “This is the ass’s stop, though. You still want to come over to my place tonight?”
After darting his eyes up and down the empty corridor, Castiel stepped up to Dean’s chest, still grinning, and pressed a chaste but lingering kiss to his lips. “Of course,” he answered as he pulled back. “I have Tupperware to return to my boyfriend,” he said solemnly. “Wouldn’t miss it.”
Dean huffed out a soft laugh, returning Castiel’s kiss with a quick peck, before he opened the door to his classroom and slipped back inside. He walked across to the desk at the front, well aware of the goofy, idiotic grin plastered across his face.
Not a chance that grin was going anywhere; Castiel’s kiss had tasted of cherry pie.
While he waited for Dean to open his front door, Castiel looked around, taking in the clean marble floors and polished gold numbers that lined the corridor. It was a nice building in a decent neighborhood—nothing too fancy, no gates out front or security checks—but it was neat and luxurious-looking.
He’d driven home to quickly shower and change into some comfy, old jeans and a soft navy shirt, then turned around and headed straight back to Lebanon and the uptown address that Dean had texted while Castiel had been washing his hair.
Raising his hand to run through the still slightly damp mess at his crown, Castiel worried his lips back and forth for a moment before deciding to ring the bell again. He pushed down a flutter of nerves. This was fine. Dean wanted him here. Dating, officially. He didn’t need to be this nervous—
“Fuck, I’m sorry Cas, I kept you waiting,” Dean said as the door suddenly opened, looking guilty. He was dressed similarly to Castiel, worn jeans, bare toes, and a plaid shirt that Castiel was pretty sure he’d seen in a video once. “I started to clean up, to make a good impression, and then on the way to the door I kept seeing things that weren’t right, and I…”
Castiel bit back a smile as Dean trailed off. “I thought I was supposed to be the nervous one, out of the two of us,” he said.
Dean’s smile was crooked, and he let out a tiny huff. “It’s the first time you’re seeing my place. I wanted to make a good impression.”
Castiel laughed as Dean stepped aside to let him in. “This is a really nice building, Dean. Much better than my place...you know how much adjunct professors make, even at well-funded schools like Lebanon College.”
“Yeah, I get that. I’m lucky to still have my YouTube money to help out—this is actually the first place I’ve had that’s just mine. I always crashed with my uncle or at short-term places before.” Dean shut the door and turned around, spreading his arms. “Well, here she is. Make yourself at home.”
Castiel gave a low whistle as he stepped across the threshold, angling his shoulders to the side so that he could slip past Dean. “YouTube money looks nice,” he commented, hoping that he sounded more playful than in any way jealous.
Dean seemed to take it well, chuckling as he slipped the chain back cross the door lock. “Don’t let the interior decorating fool you. I did this myself on the weekend, with some help from my brother and his soon-to-be wife. And, to be honest with you, I barely paid for any of it.”
Stepping further into the apartment, past the neat kitchen to the left and on into the large, open-plan living area, Castiel’s awe only increased.
Dean’s apartment was a historian’s wet dream.
“Maybe don’t tell Customs how much some of this is worth, though,” Dean mumbled as he stepped up behind Castiel, waiting as he took the space in.
The walls were a grayish off-white, a color that one of the stray decorating magazines that always littered the break room table at the college would probably call “greige” or some such trendy word. Here, in Dean’s spacious but cozy home, it was a very relaxing color—and it allowed all the focus to be on the many, many items that covered the walls. The judgy magazines would probably have accused Dean’s place of being cluttered and overdone, almost maximalist, but somehow it was perfect, and Castiel loved it.
“Is that the representation of the Battle of Snake Mountain from—” Castiel began, stepping toward a large, heavy tapestry that hung above the couch.
“—From The Florentine Codex ?” Dean interrupted eagerly, nodding, slipping one arm easily around Castiel’s waist as he stepped up to his side. “Yeah, it is. A woman in Mexico City gave it to me after I stayed with her family for a couple of weeks during a dig; she made it right from the image in the book.”
“And that?” Castiel asked, pointing to a display box hung on the wall with a spoon-shaped artifact inside.
“Ahh, a Tlahuica long-handled incense burner,” Dean explained, sounding childishly excited. “That’s one of the ones you probably shouldn’t mention I have...there’s plenty of them in existence, but I didn’t exactly declare its full value at the border, let me tell you.”
Castiel turned his head, raising an amused eyebrow up at Dean next to him.
“What?” Dean huffed defensively. “I’m sure the Coatetelco Municipality authorities won’t miss one incense burner. Find me a single archaeologist who doesn’t have a souvenir or two.”
“This is all amazing, Dean,” Castiel comforted him, turning on the spot to gaze around at all of the hanging frames and packed bookshelves, containing everything from arrowheads to ceremonial blades to chunky textbooks.
“Yeah,” Dean said, almost dreamily. “I’ve wanted to be able to settle somewhere that I can display this stuff for years. None of it has much value academically—it’s all well documented—but a lot of it is mine, the first of its kind that I found, or stuff with special memories attached.”
Wandering over to one of the tall bookcases that lined the wall opposite the couch, Castiel trailed his fingers along the edge of one of the shelves, before drawing to a halt in front of a row of neatly organized journals. He couldn’t help the wolfish grin that he threw back over his shoulder to Dean as he said, “You know, you have a bunch of issues of Latin American Antiquity here.”
Dean huffed out a self-conscious sound, one hand raising to rub up over his face to the crown of his head. “Yup, sure do,” he said, following Castiel to the bookcase. “All of the issues with your submissions. You got me. I requested print copies. It’s a little embarrassing, really.”
Castiel shook his head in disbelief, feeling warm and bubbly as he turned back to look at Dean. “It’s not, I promise. Or at least, if you think that’s embarrassing, there’s definitely a folder of YouTube bookmarks on my laptop that you can never see.”
The crooked, enchanted smile that pulled at Dean’s cheeks was familiar, and yet somehow not—there was a softness to it that didn’t show on camera, or that Dean kept out of his public persona, at least. This smile was personal, and private, and just for Castiel. Just from Dean...just Dean. No “Hunter” here.
Floating steps took Castiel right up to Dean’s lips. Sliding his arms around Dean’s broad, strong frame was still so new, the feeling of his firm chest against Castiel’s own was a lot. It broke him out in a grin against Dean’s mouth. Both laughing softly, they stood with their foreheads pressed together in the middle of the living room, but they didn’t pull away.
“This still feel kind of surreal to you?” Dean asked, grinning.
“Yes,” Castiel said honestly. “But in a very nice way. It’s...it’s fast. I mean, you said you want this, want to try us, but we haven’t known each other that long.”
Looking thoughtful, Dean tightened his arms around Castiel’s back as he pulled his head back and nodded. “Yeah, you’re right. If it’s too much for you, that’s...well, that sucks, but of course I’ll respect that.”
Castiel shook his head. “No—it’s fast, but it feels right. I was just surprised, really.”
Dean smiled again, his shoulders dropping a telltale fraction at Castiel’s reassurance. “I’ve just done all the playing around before,” Dean explained, sliding his hand down to Castiel’s and pulling him toward the couch. “That was all I could do. I never got to be in one place, never got to be invested in anything. Clicking with you was so instant, and I feel like it’s because…”
When Dean trailed off, Castiel tilted his head and nudged Dean’s knee where he’d flopped onto the couch. The two of them faced each other, arms up across the back of the seat, their legs tangled. “Tell me,” Castiel said.
“I feel like I’ve spent years looking inside your head,” Dean admitted, flushed. “I know that’s dumb. But you can tell a lot about a person by the way they think, sometimes, the methods they use, what they theorize from certain information.”
Castiel nodded slowly. “That makes sense, I suppose.”
“I know there’s a lot more to you than that,” Dean said hurriedly. “And I’m really looking forward to learning all of the stuff I don’t know. It just...it feels like a good start, I guess.”
“I understand. I feel like I know some of you from your videos, but I know that’s just one face you have, just part of you. But the rest of you seems pretty compelling, too,” Castiel responded. “An auspicious start.”
More kissing just seemed necessary, tangled as they were on the couch. They made out until the doorbell buzzed again, and Dean had to extract himself to claim the pizza that he’d ordered for them.
Castiel couldn’t help gazing around while they ate, paying as much attention to all of Dean’s gathered goodies, tiny parts of himself, as he did to the movie that Dean put on for them to watch.
Dean looked over at him with a small grin. “You like all my old souvenirs, huh?”
“I do,” Castiel confessed. “I’ve rarely known anyone who was as passionate about history as I am, and I certainly haven’t dated anyone who just...gets it.”
Dean’s joking smile softened as Castiel continued.
“It’s very inspiring, honestly, being here. I might not be an intrepid, adventuring archaeologist like you,” Castiel teased, “but here...here I can daydream about the world beyond my desk. It’s a lovely environment.”
“All the more lovely because I’m in it, of course.” Dean winked, flippant, and shuffled up on the couch so that he could turn to face Castiel a little more.
“Of course,” Castiel agreed with a smirk.
“The rest of that stuff you keep saying though, about being stuck behind a desk and only being able to daydream...that’s bullshit.”
“I—” Castiel blinked, cutting himself off sharply, unsure what to say.
“Cas,” Dean said much more gently, reaching for his hands, “you can do whatever you want to do. I really believe that.”
Castiel laughed awkwardly, shrugging one shoulder against the leather of Dean’s new-looking couch. “You can do whatever you want. You have the experience and the freedom to pick up and put down wherever you want. Not everyone does.”
“Okay,” Dean said more slowly, still holding on to Castiel’s hands, “you have your job at the university, I get that. So do I, now, but I’m not planning to stop doing things because of that. Vacations are a thing. You could get out there, explore—”
“It’s not just that,” Castiel interrupted gently, smiling at Dean’s attempts to encourage him. “I have siblings who rely on me—I’m really the only half-sensible one in my family; they’d all flounder if I wasn’t around—and I just...well, I’ve never done anything like that before. I’ve always had my books and my writing and my teaching.”
“And these are grown adult siblings?” Dean clarified, one eyebrow raising.
“Well...yes,” Castiel answered uncertainly.
“Well then, it sounds to me like they need to flounder on occasion. And this is coming from someone who raised their little brother pretty much by himself. You have to let people make their own mistakes sometimes.”
Castiel stared down at their joined hands quietly.
“We can drop it for now, Cas,” Dean said, squeezing Castiel’s fingers. “If you’d really be happier never going anywhere...that’s okay. I just get the feeling that part of you wants more, and I don’t ever want you to think you’re not capable of it.”
No, Castiel didn’t think he wasn’t capable of it, not as such. He had responsibilities, that was all, and he...well.
Dean smiled across the space between them and Castiel squeezed his fingers back.
Maybe he was just a coward. Or...no. Maybe it wasn’t that he didn’t think that he could, maybe it was simply that no one had ever told him that he could.
Until now. Until Dean.
“Thank you,” Castiel said.
“What for?” Dean’s brow wrinkled gently in inquiry.
“Encouraging me not to just...settle,” Castiel answered honestly. “No one has ever done that before.”
Pulling Castiel into his side, Dean grinned down into his hair. “I’m no relationship expert, but I’m pretty sure that’s part of what boyfriends do.”
“Only the good ones.” Castiel reached up and pressed his lips to Dean’s jawbone before he reached across to grab another pizza slice, content.
It was getting late. Dean was so comfortable on the couch with Castiel, though; he didn’t want to move for some dumb reason like letting Castiel go home . They’d ended up lying lengthwise along his brand-new, deep, leather sectional. If Dean had daydreamed about doing this exact thing when he’d picked it out, well, that was his own business.
As if he’d (unfortunately) been thinking the same thing, Castiel tore his eyes from the TV and leaned back, shuffling so that his shoulder blades pressed down into the couch pillows as he looked up at Dean. “It’s getting late,” he said, sounding disappointed enough to put a smile on Dean’s face.
“You could stay,” Dean said, his eyes locked on Castiel as the shifting light from the TV screen contoured striking valleys and peaks across his face. The guy needed no help to make Dean’s spine tingle, but fuck, that was some flattering lighting.
“Stay?” Castiel asked, the corner of his mouth curving slowly, offering a flash of white teeth.
“Yeah,” Dean murmured, already leaning in for a kiss.
He swallowed Castiel’s vocal reply, but it was written in the grasp of his fingers as he tangled them in the front of Dean’s shirt, holding him in place as he tugged Dean’s bottom lip into his mouth.
Castiel might be all staid suits and sensible shoes, but he kissed like something wild and stormy, turbulent lips and tempestuous breaths that overpowered Dean’s remaining feeble senses. It was just Cas, all Cas, and Dean was too wind-swept to think much further.
Dean saw no reason to hold back or be coy with his intentions. They’d already defiled Baby’s back seat, and the memory of Castiel’s hard cock in his hand was enough to coax out a small moan against Castiel’s lips.
Pulling back a little at the sound Dean made, Castiel looked pleased. “You were saying,” he said, sounding satisfyingly breathless, “something about me staying?”
Dean’s answer was to push down into the couch, taking his weight through his arms so that he could roll over top of Castiel and stand up without winding him. On his feet, he grinned down at Castiel and held out his hands, offering them. “Up,” he said.
Grinning, Castiel grabbed Dean’s hands and pulled himself up off the couch cushions.
“I realized that we never finished the tour,” Dean said, winking at Castiel as he rose.
“More souvenirs?” Castiel raised an eyebrow, his lips still slick from Dean’s mouth.
“Something like that.”
Dean tangled his fingers between Castiel’s and gave a gentle tug, pulling him away from the couch. He left the pizza box and the empty beer bottles that had accumulated over the evening spread out on the floor. They were tomorrow’s problem.
The apartment was spacious enough, but still just a two-bedroom apartment, so it only took Dean a few steps to lead Castiel to his bedroom door. Pushing it open with the heel of his hand, he held it open and gestured for Castiel to go ahead.
Slipping past him, Castiel’s fingers slowly slid from Dean’s as he looked around.
In most ways, Dean’s bedroom wasn’t that different from the rest of the apartment—Dean wasn’t the kind of guy to go around picking different paint colors for different rooms and worrying overmuch about what his soft furnishings looked like. So, he’d kept the same bone grey, and the simple navy bedding and curtains had come straight off the shelf at Target without much thought beyond, “Can I stick these in the dryer with my darks?”
The bedroom did have a couple of things in it that caught Castiel’s eye though, to Dean’s amusement.
“Go on, you can look at it,” he said, laughing as he spotted Castiel’s gaze surreptitiously darting to the top of the dresser.
Displayed on top, between Dean’s graduation photo and Sam’s, was a large gold plaque with a play button symbol on the front. Beneath a pane of glass was engraved, Presented to The Hunter Journals for passing 1,000,000 subscribers.
Grinning, Castiel bit back what Dean thought might have been a low squeak and darted quickly across the room to stand in front of it, sliding one finger gently down the side of the award. “You must be so proud of this,” he said.
“Honestly, yeah,” Dean said. “I’m sure plenty of people think that I just had it handed to me easy, but there was actually a lot of work that went into that…a lot of risk-taking, effort, and sweat. Literal sweat. In a jungle.”
Castiel laughed, looking back over his shoulder to where Dean rested his bicep on the door frame, observing.
“Archaeology isn’t Minecraft streams or five-minute craft projects, y’know?” Dean went on, enjoying the sight of Castiel so close to his bed even while he was talking about his job. “It took me years to get where I did.”
“Is it strange for me to feel proud of you? Because I do. Really. You deserve this, Dean.”
Rubbing his hand across his mouth, Dean’s eyes dipped momentarily, but he managed to bring them back up and smile. “Thanks. That, uh, that means a lot. Coming from you.”
Moving back toward Dean, Castiel’s eyes alighted on the nightstand, and Dean watched them widen. Grinning more coyly, Dean gave a little shrug against the doorframe.
“I guess you can touch that, too. Y’know, if you want.”
Castiel’s eyes flicked between the nightstand and Dean. “Tease,” he said, smiling back.
“Not at all,” Dean said. “Go ahead.”
Castiel’s tongue darted out to drag slowly across his lower lip, his eyes making the journey once more from Dean to the cheap, touristy statue that Dean had purchased on his first trip to Mexico City. From it, at a jaunty angle, hung his hat.
Dean loved that hat. Who cared if it was cheesy? That hat made him feel like Indiana fucking Jones. He felt like a badass in that hat, like he could unearth treasures and take down Hitler in one fell swoop. Hunter Winchester, lady-killer, man-eater, and Nazi exterminator, here to charm you out of your pants and uncover the secrets of lost civilizations.
There were no archaeological mysteries in Dean’s bedroom, just the mystery of why Castiel was still wearing clothes. But that, he could work on.
Letting the tip of his tongue rest behind his teeth, Dean gave Castiel a wink and tilted his head toward the hat; a subtle suggestion.
Castiel picked up the brown fedora slowly, turning it in his hands. He had only the faintest flush on his cheeks as he stepped up to Dean’s front—close enough to feel his warmth maddeningly near—and slowly lifted the hat with both hands, bringing it up to rest on Dean’s head.
Dean kept his eyes on Castiel and let him enjoy the sight. Why not? Dean looked damn good in this hat.
Castiel trailed his fingers along the rim before his hands drifted down to Dean’s face, just the very tips of his touch ghosting across Dean’s skin from the bolt of his jaw to his chin.
“Just as good in person?” Dean asked, his voice coming out huskier and quieter than he intended, though he wasn’t complaining.
Mute, Castiel nodded.
Then he pressed forward, kissing Dean soft and slow and lush, until Dean’s spine was backed up against the doorframe. Castiel’s tongue dipped into Dean’s mouth, sharing a hint of fresh beer, and one of Castiel’s thick thighs quickly made its way between Dean’s own. The worn blue jeans that Castiel wore, tight as they were, did little to hide the growing bulge behind his zipper, and Dean’s thin shirt couldn’t even begin to hold back the heat emanating from Castiel’s chest against his own.
“Fuck,” Dean gasped against Castiel’s mouth.
“If you want,” Castiel rumbled, so close that Dean felt every consonant and vowel brush over his lips.
“Whatever you want.” With effort, Dean rolled his shoulders and peeled his back off the door, pushing Castiel back toward the bed in a tangle of limbs.
They tumbled onto the bed easily, caught by Dean’s firm, king-sized mattress. They both let out huffs of air that—on other people, of course—could have been breathy, drugged giggles. The hat, perfectly sized, stayed exactly in place. It had been through worse. Dean twisted over, scooting back up the bed and tugging Castiel after him, over him, wanting to feel Castiel’s thighs bracketing his body.
“I want,” Castiel began, low and rasping and wrecked as he reached up, setting one finger on Dean’s lower lip, “these.”
Dean tilted his chin, catching the tip of Castiel’s wandering digit between his lips and sucking it into his mouth for a moment as they locked eyes. Once he released it, letting the wet pad of Castiel’s finger slip out across his lip, he said, “Say it.”
Castiel’s forefingers curved, hooking under Dean’s chin, and his thumb rested at the side of Dean’s mouth. It sent shivers through Dean as it rubbed slowly at his skin, dipping fractionally further into the corner with each movement.
Leaning forward, Castiel’s breath hit Dean’s ear as he growled, “I want to fuck these pretty lips, Dean.”
The contrast between awkward, bumbling, tupperware-thief Castiel and this more confident, sexy version was doing things to Dean.
With a groan, Dean surrendered. Castiel could do whatever the hell he wanted. Dean was wholly, entirely, helplessly on board. In response, Dean widened his legs and slunk down the bed, tilting his head up and catching Castiel’s wrist. He raised Castiel’s hand back to his mouth, sucking in two fingers with a coil of his tongue and the most pleading eyes he could muster.
Castiel’s eyes widened and darkened as he watched. “Dean,” he said, sucking in a breath that seemed to require some effort, “what do you—”
“Anything,” Dean reiterated. “That. Fuck my mouth, choke me with your cock. I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it all day.”
Castiel’s moan was loud , completely unrestrained. “You’re sure, I—”
“Do it,” Dean ordered. “Then after, I’m going to roll you over, pin you down, and come all over those fantastic abs of yours.”
The reassurance that they were both in the same burning place seemed to be enough for Castiel. He leaned back, moistening his lips so that they shone in the overhead light. Swift and efficient, Castiel reached down and peeled his t-shirt off, the navy fabric arcing out of sight somewhere at the end of the bed. The clanking of his belt quickly followed.
Dean took advantage of Castiel momentarily moving away to kick off his jeans to do the same, stripping himself down and freeing his already-aching cock from his boxer briefs, sending them the way of Castiel’s shirt. He pressed down on his dick with the heel of his hand, willing himself to get a grip—but it was pretty hopeless as Castiel clambered back onto the bed, beautifully naked, the curve of every muscle shadowed and highlighted by the angle of the light.
“Fuck, you’re so gorgeous, Cas,” Dean said honestly, soaking in the sight of him as he knee-walked back toward Dean, straddling his hips. Dean’s cock twitched upward the moment he released it, leaving a streak of pre-come, silvery in the light, across the inside of Castiel’s thigh.
“Condom?” Castiel asked, his voice gruff and low and with a shaky, barely controlled quality to it that Dean wanted to hear a hell of a lot more of.
“Drawer,” Dean said as he flapped his arm vaguely to the left.
It was enough of a direction, and within moments, Castiel’s knees moved up Dean’s sides. One hand reached out, trailing around the rim of Dean’s hat once more.
Dean grinned up at him. “Fantasized about this, Cas?”
Above, Castiel’s Adam’s apple bobbed. “Is that strange?”
“Hell no,” Dean comforted, sliding his hands up Castiel’s impressive thighs to his hips. “This hat is an aphrodisiac. It’s irresistible.”
“Really?” Castiel said, a slow, crooked grin overtaking his face as he peered down at Dean.
Dean felt the fedora being tugged from his head, and he knew he was in trouble.
Looking up, Dean could see the strong line of Castiel’s jaw, the beginnings of stubble just starting to shadow his skin. The intensity of the dark, wanting blue in Castiel’s gaze was breathtaking as he looked right back, slowly biting down on the corner of his plump, pink lip as he eased the hat onto his head.
“Uh,” Dean said, swallowing hard.
Castiel’s cock bobbed in the air between them, inches from Dean’s face, but he wasn’t even paying attention to it as he stared up at Castiel.
“Oh, holy fuck, ” Dean whispered, his words catching behind his teeth as Castiel’s hips slid forward.
With one hand on Dean’s jaw, Castiel guided himself to the seam of Dean’s lips. Gripping at the firm muscle just below Castiel’s catastrophic hip bones, Dean felt the shudder that ran through Castiel’s body as he trailed his condom-covered cock across Dean’s closed mouth.
Relaxing back against the headboard, Dean locked eyes with Castiel and opened his mouth.
The sensation of Castiel sliding back on his tongue was like nothing else on Earth. Dean loved sucking dick, he’d always prided himself on being an enthusiastic, participatory lover. But feeling Castiel’s hips tense as he held back the urge to snap forward into Dean’s mouth as Dean angled his head back, opening up his throat, was on a whole other level.
Even through the dull taste of the latex, Dean could still get a sense of warmth and weight. Soon, though—as soon as Cas was on board with the idea—those condoms had to go. Dean wanted to taste skin. Regardless, saliva pooled in Dean’s mouth as he relaxed, breathing through his nose as he watched Castiel tremble above him.
“ Dean, ” Castiel rasped out, low and desperate, as he drew back and slowly slid forward once more.
He was being careful—so careful, so considerate and attentive, everything Dean expected from Cas even having only really known him for a short while—but Dean didn’t need that; Dean wasn’t fragile, wasn’t new at this.
With his fingers curled around Castiel’s hips, his thumbs climbing the peaks of the sharpest pelvis Dean had ever had the pleasure to behold, Dean urged Castiel forward again. He rubbed his tongue along the underside of Castiel’s cock, humming around it, closing his eyes for a moment before fluttering them back open.
With a soft grunt, Castiel was on board. With one hand he held Dean’s hat atop his head, with the other he tugged at Dean’s crown, tangling his fingers in Dean’s hair to angle his face to perfection.
Dean let out a wet, choking noise against his will as Castiel’s hips snapped forward.
Castiel remained gazing down at Dean as he continued thrusting, no doubt enjoying the sight of his thick cock disappearing between Dean’s lips. Dean couldn’t look away, watching heat creep up Castiel’s chest to his neck, watching a bead of sweat form at his temple beneath the fedora’s brim, watching his mouth begin to hang open, gulping air.
Castiel didn’t go too hard—enough for Dean to have to focus on suppressing his gag reflex as Castiel’s smooth head slid across his soft palate, but not enough to bash or bruise, nothing he’d feel for days to come—but Dean played it up, humming and drooling around the heft of him, his neck arching, his lips tingling.
Needing a little relief from the ache, Dean reached down to take himself in hand. He pressed his arm against Castiel’s thigh, making sure that Castiel could feel his movements, feel him touching himself while Castiel fucked his face.
Above, Castiel let out a choking groan, his hips stuttering. He pulled back, wrapping a hand around his cock as it rested on Dean’s lower lip.
“Close?” Dean asked, his voice wrecked and shaky.
Castiel nodded, his jaw loose.
“Come on, then,” Dean coaxed, trailing kisses down the side of his shaft. “Let me feel it.”
“Oh, my God.” Castiel let out a deep, struggling whimper as he sunk back between Dean’s lips. “Your mouth…you feel so good, Dean. So hot, everything that I—that— fuck, I—”
Dean felt Castiel’s cock pulse between his lips, gagging as it jerked hard against the roof of his mouth, warmth filling the condom atop Dean’s tongue.
Faster, Dean jerked his cock between Castiel’s legs, sucking hard as Castiel came. He wished he could taste him; vowed that he would, soon, if Castiel was down with that and all it involved.
Castiel’s thighs were trembling as he pulled the full condom off and tied it, depositing it safely on the nightstand.
Laughing gently despite his sore throat, Dean pulled at Castiel’s hips, tugging Castiel downward into his lap. Castiel settled shakily onto Dean’s thighs. His hand came immediately to Dean’s cheek, his thumb tracing over Dean’s tingling lips. Dean wondered if they were red and swollen, the way they felt.
“Are you okay?” Castiel asked, his voice quivering like his muscles. “Was that alright?”
Dean wrapped both arms around Castiel’s waist, holding him tight and close as he flipped them and deposited Castiel on his back.
“Oof!” Castiel let out through a smile as his back hit the mattress. “I take that as a yes.”
Dean’s hand was already back at his waiting cock, coaxing the building pressure low in his abdomen to a straining peak. “It was great,” Dean reassured him, pushing up on the mattress with one hand so that he could press their lips together. “Better than great, the way you looked, fuck…”
Despite his croaky voice, Dean let out a loud moan as he felt his orgasm building.
Castiel kissed him back, hard, Dean’s lips prickling with warmth between them.
“Gonna come,” Dean panted out against Castiel’s mouth. “Can I—”
Castiel was nodding before Dean was done speaking, his thumbs rubbing soothing circles in the dips of Dean’s spine as his body strained. “Wherever you want, Dean.”
With a low, gasping moan, Dean’s forehead fell to Castiel’s shoulder as he twisted his wrist, pulling at the head of his cock just so as he kneeled on either side of Castiel’s hips.
He took great pleasure in watching spurts of his own thick, white come trickle into the creases of Castiel’s abs, settling his signature into Castiel’s skin.
So what if it was a little caveman? They both knew what they were doing here, and they were both happy to be claimed.
Slumping forward and sliding to Castiel’s side, Dean reached across the pillows to where his hat had fallen when he flipped Castiel over. Holding it in front of them both, he used it to fan cool air across their overheated skin as he pulled Castiel toward him, mess be damned.
Castiel laughed, then grimaced as their stomachs met with a sticky slide.
“Give me just a second,” he said, gesturing to the door.
“Yeah,” Dean nodded as he hung the fedora back on its statue. “Bathroom is the door to the left.”
Castiel was only gone a moment, bringing back a warm, damp washcloth for Dean to freshen up and a clean towel.
“I could get used to this,” Dean joked as Castiel gently swept the cloth between Dean’s legs, catching the stray droplets that had trickled down the sides of his cock, the gesture somehow even more intimate than everything they’d just done.
“Seems only fair,” Castiel said, smiling. “Give and take.”
Dean grinned, retrieving his underwear. “So the one who takes a good skull fucking gets to relax, is what you’re saying?”
“You’re very crude,” Castiel complained without any heat, tugging his boxers up over his beautiful hips. “But yes, effectively.”
Dean kicked the sheets up and clambered back into bed, holding them up expectantly as he looked up at Castiel. “You said you’d stay, right?”
Castiel’s smile softened as he slipped beneath the sheets. “Can I confess to another fantasy?”
Rolling onto his side and nuzzling down into his pillows, Dean looked at Castiel questioningly. “‘Course you can. I want to hear all of them.”
Reaching up and stretching, Castiel clicked off the light, rustling onto his side in the darkness before he admitted quietly, “Waking up with you.”
As his eyes adjusted to the dim room, lit only by the moonlight beyond the window, Dean groped under the sheets until he found Castiel’s waist and tugged him across the mattress.
“My turn,” Dean whispered in the dark. “I always dreamed of meeting you and being able to have long, lazy brunches talking about your latest ideas, listening to your theories.”
Castiel was silent for a moment. “Really?” he asked, a slither of doubt in his tone that Dean vowed to vanquish.
“Yeah,” Dean admitted easily. “My brother used to make fun of me for how obsessed I was with you. Honestly, your YouTube crush was way more logical than my academic thing.”
Castiel gave out a light, huffing laugh, and Dean heard his pillow rustle as he settled himself more comfortably in Dean’s arms, wrapping his own around Dean in turn. “You had no idea who I was, though.”
“I had no idea what you looked like, ” Dean corrected. “But I was well aware of how sexy your brain was.”
“Well, I hope the whole package isn’t disappointing,” Castiel replied, and Dean could feel his smile in the crook of his neck.
“Don’t ever change,” Dean murmured down into Castiel’s hair. “You are the whole package. What about me though, huh? Did the dumb ditch digger let you down yet?”
“Don’t ask stupid questions. You’re just as intelligent as I am, even if you have less faith in your academic prowess than you do in your ability to charm the masses.”
“Not interested in charming the masses,” Dean confessed, shuffling his face around until his nose bumped Castiel’s. “Just you.”
Even if he couldn’t see it well, he could sense Castiel’s tiny, real smile.
“I really like you,” Castiel whispered in the dark. “Dean-you.”
“Yeah,” Dean agreed, his chest creaking with joyous pressure as he nuzzled his nose against Castiel’s in a kiss, “I really like you too. The real you.”
Tangled together in the dark, they slept.
“Dean!” Castiel reached out to touch Dean’s elbow, grabbing a handful of soft, thin plaid. “Instagram is not a good reason to be late for a flight.”
Lowering his phone, Dean shot Castiel a guilty look. “Yeah, right—sorry, Cas,” he said, hurriedly locking the screen and shoving it into his back pocket before grabbing his carry-on duffle and hoisting it to his shoulder. “Let’s get going.”
Castiel smiled fondly. He was used to Dean documenting all kinds of things, from their lunch dates to lectures. It was just a hazard of dating a ‘social media personality,’ he supposed, and it didn’t bother him much. But Dean had been particularly occupied with recording every moment of their day so far.
He’d snapped their grinning faces when they’d parked Baby at the airport, he’d gotten Castiel to pose with his suitcase, he’d even taken shots of the beers they’d shared at the terminal bar and the stamps in their passports (though only to post as a “latergram,” he’d explained, just so that fans couldn’t pinpoint his exact location.) It was adorable, Castiel thought, how excited Dean was to have Castiel here with him, flying out for a two-week-long trip to Cancún.
Of course, they wouldn’t be spending much time actually in Cancún itself. Instead, they were traveling west, out into the jungle for a hundred miles until they reached Kulubá, where a team headed by a contact of Dean’s had begun excavating a vast, thousand-year-old, Maya palace.
A thrill ran up Castiel’s spine at the mere thought. He was going to be out there, really, actually doing it, being in history, not just analyzing and theorizing and writing. He could do this. Dean had convinced him, over and over, during the entire academic year while they waited, hand in hand, for the summer to roll around, that he could do this. That he was allowed. That he deserved to.
Of course, Gabriel and Balthazar both thought that he was utterly crazy. But once they’d been convinced that this kind of adventure was what he wanted, instead of the wild weekends that they considered to be thrilling, they were really quite supportive.
And they both had all of his contact details and a full itinerary. Just in case. No matter how much he tried to let them handle their own mistakes these days, there was still that one night a couple of months back when Castiel had spent hours negotiating with and sweet talking a furious bar owner into not pressing indecency charges against Gabriel for spontaneously turning his business into an unregulated strip club.
But he was trying to let his brothers clean up their own messes, at least mostly . It was time.
“Now boarding,” the eerily robotic lady overhead announced, “Frontier flight 3927 to Canc ú n. Boarding all remaining passengers…”
“See, just on time,” Dean said as they slipped through the barrier, throwing a wink Castiel’s way.
That wink got Dean out of far too much, not that Castiel particularly minded.
The direct flight to Cancún was just over three and a half hours, and Dean spent the entirety of it asleep on Castiel’s shoulder. Castiel thought that it was pretty funny that Dean was so aerophobic that his doctor prescribed medicine to knock him out every time he flew, given how much of his life he must’ve spent on airplanes. Because he was a good boyfriend, he didn’t tease him, though. He just let Dean drool a wet patch on his shoulder. And maybe took a photo or two. Which possibly, maybe, somehow got sent to Sam, who was already in Cancún with his botanist wife, awaiting Dean and Castiel’s arrival.
Officially, Sam didn’t work with Dean any more; he’d started his own photography business when he returned to Kansas, but he quickly got bored of weddings and senior portraits. Last month, he’d surprised Dean by telling him that he’d got a 176 on his LSAT and had been accepted into Stanford Law for the fall term.
Dean was incredibly proud and more than a little excited that, at least during school vacations, he could have his cameraman back.
By the time they stumbled off the plane and into Sam’s rental Jeep, Castiel was exhausted (and his shoulder was stiff as hell). Dean, though, was bright eyed and bushy tailed, and Castiel wanted to strangle him.
“It was a great flight,” Dean was telling Sam in the front seat, “no problems at all.”
“Maybe for you,” Castiel grumbled, tugging his backpack across the back seat so that he could retrieve his water bottle.
In the driver’s seat, Sam snorted. “I guess that’s true, you did look pretty serene…”
“I wha—” Dean cut off sharply, looking back over his shoulder at Castiel and narrowing his eyes.
Castiel smiled innocently as he uncapped his water.
“Cas,” Dean said, the corner of his lip quirking even as he tried to sound pissy. “Show me.”
“I don’t know what you mean, dear.” Castiel was calm. Innocent. Angelic.
“You little shit, show me,” Dean said, laughing.
One hand on the wheel, Sam quickly held up his phone. The lock screen featured a beautiful zoom-in of Dean’s open mouth, hanging slack above the shoulder seam of Castiel’s t-shirt. “Beautiful photography,” Sam said, “I should’ve recruited Cas for my side of the camera instead.”
“Oh, it is on, ” Dean threatened good-naturedly.
And it was. A barely voiced but fierce contest began, to see who could get the most embarrassing, funny, or perfect shot of the trip.
Sam was in the lead for a good while when he managed to snap a picture of Dean tripping over the guy line of the tent where the finds were being logged, both arms in the air as he flailed toward the muddy floor, mouth open in a comical yell. Sam’s wife Eileen then emerged as a surprising front runner by stealing her own husband’s clothes when he went for a dip in the nearby waterfall. She titled the resulting photograph “Full Moons in the Yucatan Jungle”; it could have been a fancy art piece, if it wasn’t for Sam’s middle finger obscuring one cheek.
Dean, Castiel had a feeling, was just biding his time. Eileen’s little trick was inspiring, though, and Castiel kept it in mind for the perfect moment. Early one evening, a week or so into the trip, Castiel couldn’t help himself.
“Cas, come on!” Dean called, laughing, from where he stood on a rock beneath the waterfall. “You know I’ll walk through camp like this, I don’t care.”
It was tempting; Dean was, quite literally, Castiel’s sexiest dreams come to life as he stood on the slippery stones, water cascading around his freckled shoulders, with nothing but his trusty brown fedora positioned carefully to maintain his dignity.
Castiel grinned, snapping a quick shot on his phone before he balled up a towel and threw it overhand from the bank.
He’d keep that picture for himself.
By the cocky grin on his face, Dean was well aware that he would.
The long, dusty days at the camp were tiring but rewarding, and the antics of the crew were refreshing after spending hours in the same position, squinting at an inscription and stroking at it with a soft brush, only to realize that the symbol you’d been excited about was just a pellet of aguti dung.
When the light became too wan for fresh discovery, as the startlingly bright stars in the sky overhead began to peek around the leaves of the giant Ceiba trees, Dean would take Castiel’s hand and tug him over to one of the small, stone-lined campfires kept going by the handful of folk who stayed at the camp overnight to protect their finds from looters. Dean and Castiel always stayed; Sam and Eileen returned to the more luxurious, off-site campground. As the nights fell, Dean and Castiel would lean into each other and eat the fresh passion fruits that fell around the camp in bushels, and recount stories learned over their years of study.
Dean told Castiel that the Maya believed the trees around them were what held up the heavens, and then Castiel took over, whispering about how they also believed the Ceibal’s deep roots were the means of communication between the world of the living and the Underworld.
Then they’d fall silent and watch the flames, kisses fruit-sweet and sticky, before crawling back to their tiny tent, exhausted but happy.
Castiel loved it, all of it. He loved the camp, the company, the detail work and the digging, all in equal measure. And Dean: he loved him more than anything.
Sam’s rented Jeep rattled into camp early on their final day at the site. Dean was waiting for him, a buzz of anticipation and adventure in his bones.
“Everything set?” Sam asked as he ducked out of the driver’s seat, jumping down to the ground with a muddy squelch.
Eileen waved across the hood of the Jeep, winking at Dean and signing, “Good luck!” before she headed off into the jungle to join her own team, who were cataloging...something. It was something to do with the trees and probably the reason she came back to camp with armloads of strangler fig samples every day. Dean paid attention to plants. Sure.
After waving to Eileen with a grin, Dean turned his attention back to Sam. “Yup, all ready to go. Benny woke up early to help me out, so we’re all set.”
“That’s great,” Sam said, pulling his heavy camera bag from the backseat. He settled it carefully on his shoulder, cautious of the incredibly expensive Nikon camera that was nestled in foam within.
Dean leaned past him, reaching into the Jeep to grab Sam’s tripod. It was tall and surprisingly weighty, a heavy-duty piece that let him adjust all of the legs individually, something that was essential for getting a steady shot on the uneven jungle floor or at the edge of a trench or ruin. Dean hefted it up onto his shoulder and nodded for Sam to follow him.
“Where’s Cas?” Sam asked as he picked his way through the ruins behind Dean.
“Benny’s getting him set up for the day,” Dean said, feeling strangely proud. Benny was an old friend from grad school that he’d worked with a few times over the years. He’d always kept Dean up to date with the sites that he was overseeing, and it was him that had reached out to let Dean know about the palace they were currently working on, long before its discovery became public.
Benny and Castiel had some opposing views on certain things, which certainly made for interestingly passionate conversation around the campfire at night. Regardless, it made Dean’s heart swell in his chest to see Castiel here, proving his points, giving Benny as good as he got.
Dean was ridiculously proud of Castiel, and ridiculously in love with him.
“I’m going to get the tripod set up with the Nikon, then I’ll take my smaller camera and get some handheld shots of the courtyard side of the building,” Sam was saying, his thoughts clearly in a very different place than Dean’s.
“Sounds good to me,” Dean said as they walked away from the Jeep and up into the slowly emerging, ruined floors of the palace.
Dean reached up with the back of his hand to wipe the sweat from his brow. It was always hot and muggy this deep in the jungle, but it was even more so as June pushed on. The team of archaeologists pushed with it, working as fast as they could to reveal the palace’s secrets before the rainy season began.
Luckily, the general heat disguised any other reasons—like nerves or apprehension—that Dean might have for being a bit sweaty.
The scents of warm earth, sweet blooms, and fresh, tangy jungle air filled Dean’s lungs, soothing and familiar. Sites like this were a second home for him, and his confidence was bolstered by the sounds of chink -ing tools and swish -ing brushes harmonizing with the low hubbub of voices from the scattered archaeologists that hustled about.
Castiel was on his knees with a trowel in hand, Benny at his side. Benny was pointing at something several layers down, their discussion too low to be heard above the sounds of digging, but Castiel raised a hand in a cheery wave. Smiling back, Dean threw him a wink before he turned his attention back to Sam.
“Here should be good, I think...hey, stand next to Cas will you, so I can get this framed right?” Sam said as he reached to take the tripod from Dean.
Obediently, Dean moved over to stand next to Castiel, crunching over the sandy ground. “How’s it going?” he asked, peering sideways at their work.
“Benny says well,” Castiel said, reaching to push a dusty hand back through his hair. “About ready to move on to the next grid section.”
“Perfect,” Dean said, smiling to himself.
“Dean!” Sam nagged. “Pay attention. Look to the left…”
Sam took a few minutes to get the camera set up and focused correctly, then disappeared off with a wave. “Good luck,” he called. “I’ll be back in about thirty minutes; the battery should hold out until then.”
Castiel waved back affably with his trowel.
To Dean’s delight and surprise, Castiel didn’t mind being on camera at all. He certainly would never have included Cas in any of his videos if he’d minded, but he had shrugged it off and seemed at peace with it, accepting it as a part of Dean’s life—of their life—without complaint, even if he was a little awkward in front of the lens on occasion.
Dean’s viewers, though, loved him. Probably (as Castiel pointed out regularly) because they loved Dean, but still. It was heartwarming, how he’d been welcomed into Dean’s strange, extended internet family.
They’d seen more than one ‘shippy’ fanart piece, out there in the depths of the internet, though they drew the line at reading the fanfictions for their own sanity.
Benny straightened up and walked over to Dean, slapping his shoulder firmly. “Don’t forget to do some digging in between cheesin’ at the camera, Chief.”
Dean rolled his eyes, but gave Benny’s back a slap in turn. “Got it. Thanks for letting me film.”
“Always have done, always will. Your videos have done more for funding in this region than any carefully written grant application I could make.”
“Damn straight,” Dean agreed with a wink. “Now, don’t you have trowels to organize, or something?”
“Don’t sass me, cher,” Benny retorted with a twinkle. “It’s my turn to cook dinner.”
Down near Dean’s knees, Castiel muttered something that was probably a critique of Benny’s excellent campfire cooking skills, and Benny walked away chuckling.
Crouching beside Castiel, Dean quickly assessed what had been done and where they were at. “Looking good,” he said, leaning across to press his lips to Castiel’s sweaty temple affectionately.
“Me or the palace?” Castiel asked with a smirk, his eyes fixed on the pale, gritty dirt under his trowel.
Dean snorted, shoving Castiel gently. “The answer is both and you know it.”
They worked side by side, gently dragging their tools at right angles over the dirt, sifting off layer after layer of compact jungle substrate. The site was divided up into squares, so that finds could be labeled and the palace mapped out and recorded accurately. They’d worked patiently through grid after grid over the past two weeks, and were now pushing to get the last of this room—a residential room, they believed—cleared before they had to catch their flight that night.
After a few minutes Dean nonchalantly said, “Looks like there’s a break in the wall here. Want to move over to the next grid?”
Castiel looked up, pushing his hair back from his forehead again as he nodded. He left a pale, muddy smudge above his eyebrow, which Dean couldn’t resist leaning across to smooth away.
“I’m glad you’re here,” Dean murmured, feeling sappy, warm, and more than a little melancholy that it was their last day on-site.
“We can come back,” Castiel said, smiling gently. “Or go somewhere else, of course. Next time we take a break from work.”
And they could , and that was awesome. It hadn’t been the driving force behind Dean’s comment, but Castiel didn’t know that. Or at least, Dean hoped he didn’t.
Castiel got up and moved to Dean’s other side, beginning to trowel away the top layer of dirt into a bucket near Dean’s feet. “Something’s disturbed the ground here,” he said mildly, dropping another trowel full of sand and roots down.
“Probably just aguti digging,” Dean said, keeping his eyes trained on his own tools. “Nasty little ratty bastards.”
“I think they’re cute.”
When Castiel had moved into Dean’s apartment after Christmas, there had been a discussion about rodents, and whether Castiel could or could not adopt guinea pigs.
Dean was fully against the idea of willingly inviting rodents to live with them.
So, of course, he was now a guinea pig dad.
And Castiel thought that Dean was the one always getting his way. Hopefully Meg was treating little Jack and Claire well for the summer and remembering to check that their carrots were fresh, not bendy.
“There’s something here,” Castiel said a moment later, putting his trowel aside and pulling a soft-bristled hand brush from his back pocket.
Dean sucked in a deep breath and smiled. “Oh, really?”
“Yes,” Castiel said distractedly, flicking away at the sandy soil with tiny, swift motions. “I think...it looks like…”
Putting down his own trowel, Dean straightened up and stepped toward Castiel.
“I think it’s a ring,” Castiel said, sounding a little puzzled.
Dean bit the inside of his cheek.
“Let me see,” Dean said, holding out his palm calmly.
Castiel stood, turning to Dean and passing him the heavy silver band, clumps of dirt sticking to the metal. Dean turned it over just once in his hand, smiling to himself, before he reached down and picked up Castiel’s water bottle from where it sat near the bucket he’d been filling with dirt. Staying hydrated in the jungle was important.
Flicking open the cap, Dean took only a second to pour water over his hand and rinse off the ring.
It was shining and new beneath the dirt, having been placed in the earth only a couple of hours before. God bless Benny.
Castiel watched carefully, curious crinkles framing his eyes, as Dean turned back to him.
Dean dropped down to one knee silently, the ring perched on his damp palm. He saw the moment when Castiel got it.
The second where his lips parted, a tiny puff of disbelieving air escaping. When his eyebrows rose and his pupils widened a fraction, his hands clutching uselessly in the air at his sides. He moistened his lips, but it didn’t stop his voice from cracking when he finally spoke.
Dean sucked in a deep breath, rearranging the ring so that he held it between his forefinger and thumb, then looking up from it to Castiel. “You finally came out from behind your desk for an adventure,” Dean began.
His voice was shaking, but he pushed on.
“And I am so proud of you for that, Cas. So proud that you stepped forward and did what you wanted to do, and so happy that you chose to do it with me.” Dean paused to suck in another breath. He didn’t hide it; it was fine if Castiel knew that he was nervous, it wasn’t like he could’ve concealed it even if he’d tried. “Because of you, I started to believe that people can see me as more than a face on a screen. Because you do, and you always did, even when that was all I was to you.”
Castiel swallowed harshly, his Adam’s apple bobbing as Dean looked up at him. “Dean,” he croaked again, one hand rising to press to his mouth. “What are you doing?”
“So…” Dean looked around as he trailed off, taking in the vibrant leaves of the jungle canopy that spread overhead and the sprawling ruins of the ancient palace. Then he settled his gaze back on Castiel more firmly, smiling and squaring his shoulders. “This seemed to be the perfect place to ask you if you wanted to go on an even bigger adventure with me.”
Castiel let out a shaky, sobbing noise from behind his hand. “Dean,” he said again, apparently reduced to one-word sentences.
Dean reached out to grab Castiel’s other hand, the one that hung limp and shocked next to his hip. He squeezed his fingers, rubbing his thumb across Castiel’s knuckles.
For a moment everything seemed silent, the white-fronted parrots and the red-eyed frogs in the trees going quiet as the whole Yucatan jungle seemed to pause, leaning in to listen.
“Castiel Novak,” Dean said, trying to sound formal even through the gigantic, beatific smile that he couldn’t stop, “will you marry me?”
Before the question was fully out of his mouth, Dean had an armful of Castiel. Gripping the ring firmly in his hand, he pulled him in close, laughing and grinning as Castiel communicated his agreement via a rough, choking noise and a series of tight, frantic nods.
“Is that a yes?” Dean checked cheekily, pulling back just enough to speak.
“Of course it’s a yes!”
After another bone-crushing hug, Castiel pulled back enough that Dean managed to slip the ring onto his finger. It looked perfect against his dusty, tanned skin, just as Dean had imagined it would. Dean buried the wave of emotion that overtook him in the crook of Castiel’s neck, wrapping his arms tight around Cas as he came forward to melt into Dean once more, trembling gently.
“Are you crying?” Dean whispered into Castiel’s ear, grinning.
“No,” Castiel muttered sulkily, pausing for just a moment before he added, “Maybe a little.”
Dean rubbed small circles over Castiel’s shoulder blade for a minute while he pulled himself together. When he finally pulled back, eyes shining, Castiel was wearing a blinding, gummy smile that Dean was immediately certain he would never forget.
“I love you,” Castiel rumbled happily, pressing his forehead into Deans. “Thank you, for...well, for asking, I guess.”
Dean laughed, pressing a kiss to the tip of Castiel’s nose before he said, “Thanks for saying yes.”
“As if I was going to give any other answer.”
“I hoped, but I figured there was always a chance I was wrong,” Dean confessed, grinning wide. Turning his head, he pointed to the tripod set up a few feet away. “Oh, and don’t worry about the camera. If you don’t want me to post it, I won’t. It can be just for us, if that’s what you prefer, okay?”
Castiel turned to face the camera, blinking slowly as if he’d only just remembered that it was there. He looked thoughtful for a moment before smiling back at Dean. “Given how we met, it seems only fitting that our engagement is on film. I don’t mind.”
“You’re sure?” Dean checked. Of course, he wanted to post it. He’d shared almost a decade of his life with YouTube by now, it would feel odd not to share the most important thing he’d ever done. But it wasn’t just up to him.
Castiel nodded immediately. “I’m sure. If Sam can edit out my blubbering, though, that would be a kindness.”
Dean laughed, then pulled Castiel in for a deep, lingering kiss. He winked as he turned them both to the camera and said, “Well in that case, then...thank you to all of my viewers for being so supportive of the changes in my life this past year, and for accepting Cas and seeing how special he is.”
Castiel gave a dorky little wave at the camera, his ring in full view, making Dean’s heart give an erratic little thump.
“So,” Dean continued, unable to contain his grin as he pulled Castiel into his side, “from me and my handsome, adventurous fiancé...thank you so much for watching, and don’t forget to like, comment, and subscribe for more of our wedding adventure!”
Thank you for reading my 2021 Pinefest! I hope you enjoyed the fluffy fun.
Don't forget to check out my wonderful artist teammate Nioell!
Wherever you are and whatever you're doing, I hope you have awesome times ahead.
- Mal <3