Dean couldn’t remember the last time he’d bought weed. As he recollected he’d bought a dime bag in a hotel bar parking lot; it was stale and gave him a headache, but the woman he’d picked up for the evening had insisted.
It felt weird to be pulling up to an actual weed store, with a big green marijuana leaf on the door, and God’s Green Gift painted in old-fashioned lettering on the hanging sign, above the phone number.
Dean felt unease as he walked in under a small, tinkling bell; he’d expected other people in the store, people he could hide behind as he oriented himself.
Instead he found he had the full attention of the man behind the counter. He was tall, in his late thirties, on the whiter shade of pale, and thin, as if he’d been recently ill. A musical rainbow tattoo peeked out from the bottom of a sleeve of store merch, a tie-dye t-shirt in all the colors of bud, mostly sage green with a little bit of purple.
The voice was level. “Can I help you this morning?”
Dean looked up from the man’s forearms and made the mistake of looking directly into his eyes.
“I’m - I don’t know what to - to even ask!” Dean stumbled. He moved closer to the counter, drawn in by the man’s steady gaze and faint, professional smile, and halted where he could still see the boards full of the names of different varieties. The man’s name tag read CAS. His eyes were abnormally blue; Dean assumed they were coloured contact lenses.
“What is the ailment you wish to treat?” Cas asked patiently.
Dean took a breath. “Nerve pain. Pain in general, really. Insomnia. He’s having a really rough time. As in, not leaving the house, even though he’s got a new chair,” Dean said, realizing that he wasn’t making a lot of sense.
Bobby had gotten diabetes, and then he’d gotten nerve damage, and then he’d had part of his foot amputated, and now he was morose and lonely and watching life amble away and leave him in the weeds.
Watching his surrogate father give up on life was traumatizing Dean, but he didn’t say anything about that.
“This is for someone else — nothing for yourself,” Cas said. He tilted his head slowly, as if trying to intuit what Dean would need cannabis for.
Dean barked a laugh. “Not yet,” he said, looking around appreciatively. The store was immaculate, although the pungent smell of weed was impossible to ignore. “What would be the perfect variety for ’just got home from work and don’t want to lose my motivation for cooking and dishes and laundry before I collapse in front of the TV?”
“Ah,” Cas said. “For that, you need a sativa, a lively one that’ll keep you on your feet.” He made some recommendations. He made recommendations for Bobby.
As he was taking Dean’s credit card, four customers walked in. He raised his hand briefly in farewell, as Dean said, “I’ll be back,” and departed.
Bobby declared himself pleased with the results of Dean’s purchase, and the next thing Dean knew, he was buying weed for half the people he knew (fronting for some of them, which made him wonder about his friends), and making a weekly run for God’s Green Gifts.
He rapidly learned that if he wanted Cas to serve him, there was only one day a week he worked the front counter; Wednesday afternoons were his time to experience the store from the employee perspective; to ‘keep his hand in’ as he said.
Dean liked Cas because the parade of college student counter-people made him feel old; Cas didn’t make him feel like a dinosaur. He’d tried to flirt with him, but gave up when it appeared that Cas was smoothly impervious to Dean’s charm.
For the longest time he assumed that he was off his game and/or Cas was straight.
One sunny Wednesday, he went to pick up insomnia gummies for Sam (‘could you pick it up for me?’), beer-substitute weed for himself (fuck it, if I’m picking it up for everyone else, I’m getting high on Friday night), endometriosis pain-relief edibles for his ex-girlfriend Lisa (and why after five years was he still fucking running errands for that woman, unless it was to keep in touch with Ben, her awesome kid, he had no clue), nerve pain weed for Bobby (almost forgotten in the pile of orders), and, of course, a vape pen full of shatter for Charlie, who intended to punish her girlfriend’s mattress that weekend and hoped to turn the bow-chicka-wow-wow up to eleven.
There was a man who looked like he’d been brought to life from a Punch and Judy puppet show, yelling at Cas in the store.
“I won’t! Maybe you think he was your perfect man, but he was a cheatin’-ass lyin’ sack of shit and you pretending he wasn’t is pure crap.” The man’s eyes, a remarkable golden brown, were narrowed in anger.
Cas said something inaudible and looked beseechingly at Dean. “Is this man bothering you?” Dean said calmly.
“No!” the man yelled. “I’m trying to talk some sense into him. Maybe you’ll have better luck,” and the man stormed out, making the bell over the door sound unhappy, somehow.
“Sorry that had to happen to you,” Dean said, watching him go.
“I’m sorry you had to hear that,” Cas said. His cheeks were pink and his expression was miserable.
“Bad break-up?” Dean said after a second.
He got the full effect of those eyes. “No,” Cas said after a second. “He died.”
“That’s terrible!” Dean said sympathetically.
“His boyfriend came to the funeral,” Cas said conversationally.
“Holy shit,” Dean said. His curiosity got the better of him. “When did he pass away?”
“Five months ago,” Cas said. “Some kids threw a bowling ball from an overpass and a truck driver swerved into his lane. He lost control of his car.”
“I heard about that,” Dean said. “That all must have been horrible… and … still horrible, I guess.”
“Work helps,” Cas said. He sounded like he had no fight left in him at all.
“Why would that guy come in and yell at you about it though?”
“Gabe’s upset about the gravestone,” Cas said.
“It’s kind of none of his business, isn’t it?” Dean asked, looking perplexed.
“He doesn’t want me putting my name next to his,” Cas said. His voice veered off into a staccato inflection. “I don’t know what the problem is. It’s paid for and I won’t care after I’m dead.”
“Which hopefully will be many years from now,” Dean said. He tried to sound calm without veering off into condescending.
That snapped him out of it. “What can I help you with this morning,” Cas said. He sounded robotic.
After Dean pulled out his sticky note, Cas said, “Are you buying marijuana for all of your friends now?”
“I don’t mind, it’s my day off,” Dean said. Still distracted, he lightly touched the back of Cas’s forearm and said, “Are you okay? You look a little – ”
“I don’t like fighting with my family,” Cas said. Dean was happy he hadn’t taken it the wrong way. Another customer came in and Dean waved her through since she wanted no more than a celebratory joint upon learning that her company had decided to stop pee-testing employees, ‘as a cost reduction measure’. Cas barely smiled, but Dean chuckled at that.
After she left, Dean continued his order without venturing back into the conversation, and Cas said, suddenly, “What do you think I should do?”
“I - uh, Cas I don’t think you should be asking customers for advice.”
“I wouldn’t,” Cas said. “But you’re either the world’s best liar or you genuinely care about the outcome.”
Dean was relieved Cas hadn’t said anything flirtier, because that would have been damned embarrassing. He allowed himself to agree.
“Yeah,” he said. “I guess I do. So now I get to be nosy. Who’s this Gabe guy to you?”
“Cousin, raised as a sibling,” Cas said.
“He in the habit of coming to your place of business and goin’ off like a rooster on a fencepost?”
Cas sighed. It was an abruptly released breath, almost a laugh, or something else.
“No,” he said.
“So you’re genuinely doing something a family member might take issue with.”
“It’s none of his business.” Saying this shifted him out of his robotic manner, and he moved in a way perilously close to a flounce. He was steamed.
It was so cute that Dean made a little gurgling noise in his throat and looked down for a second.
He got inspiration from the pipe display and said, “Well, tell him you’re going to see a therapist about it, maybe that’ll cool his jets.”
“What makes you think I’m not already?”
Dean lowered his voice. “Are you in grief counselling, or a self-help group?”
Cas sighed. “I’m not a fan of crowd scenes, and I don’t have time for therapists who keep bankers’ hours.”
“Oh,” Dean said. “I know a therapist who only works evenings and weekends.”
“You’re kidding,” Cas said. He sought Dean’s gaze and Dean looked back to see the relief and gratitude.
“Yeah. Get through this transaction and I’ll give you the contact info, or we’ll be tying up the register half the day,” Dean said, and Cas complied.
“Pam Barnes,” Dean said, handing over the business card. Cas set it down and took a photo with his phone.
“You were a client?” Cas asked.
“No, my brother was having a rough time the year between college and grad school and Pam used a combination of embodied CBT and programmed meditation on him. Don’t ask me what any of that means, and she’s sort of like a witch, she never does the same thing for any patient twice.”
Cas made a little noise which might have meant anything. Dean hurried on, “Also, and this is full disclosure, her professional association has investigated her twice because she’s taken juvenile clients on in the teeth of their parents’ objections, but the outcome of one investigation was the arrest of the stepfather and the outcome of the other investigation was the emancipation of the minor, so —“ Dean spread his hands. “Also very LGBTQI and Ace friendly, okay with neurodiverse people, and her office has an ensuite accessible washroom, which also has amazing acoustics for recording and don’t ask me how I know that. She’s done all the latest research on trans people, polyamory friendly, up to date on her vaccinations, blah blah blah,” and Castiel bit his lip and then he gave up and laughed.
“I pressed a button and got the world’s nicest Yelp review.”
“I should bug Sammy to do that,” Dean said, taking the comment seriously.
“Do you always put your friends first?” Cas asked. It was almost flirtatious, but Dean didn’t take it as a compliment.
Before he could dial back his reaction, he laughed bitterly and said, “Easier than putting me first.” More customers came in and Dean smiled, nodded, and left without saying goodbye.
/// /// ///
There was plenty of weed at home. He had no reason to go back immediately. Bobby was stocked up for now and everyone else was on their own. Dean got out of the ‘picking up other people’s weed like a courier’ non-business, advising his network that if they were that into torching their bongs like vengeful gods of smoke and flame, they could get to the weed store on their lonesome. Or words to that effect, he was kinder than that.
Perhaps he was trying to avoid Cas for being too fucking cute and not currently dateable, or maybe he was pruning his task list –– or maybe he was questioning how his entire existence was now in a tipsy orbit around his weekly trip to the weed store. The upshot of it was that Cas had more customers in raw numbers, but Wednesday Dean was no more.
These new customers told him that Dean called him ‘Doc’ behind his back because he was so knowledgeable about cannabis.
Customers told him that, through Dean, he’d given them relief from pain and anxiety and writer’s block and other personal and private matters they’d rather not mention.
Customers assumed he was friends with Dean because of how much Dean talked about him, which made him fidgety; it was true that Dean had been the high point of his week, the last little while.
They were all friendly, down-to-earth people. Dean was an attractor for quality, it seemed. His brother Sam was a delight, seeming to spring to life in front of Cas from Dean’s many lightning sketches of him. Charlie made him laugh out loud the first time they met.
He met Dean’s mother. Dean had neglected to mention his mother was on the list, and he had a brief moment of panic, as if he was ‘meeting the parents’ and then he was angry with himself; Dean was nothing to him and his husband was hardly cold in the ground. He had no business thinking that way.
Mary was a delight too; she was pleasantly respectful of his knowledge, and she made a single observation about the store layout which stunned him like a mule kick at first, and then spurred him into the first major re-design of the planogram since he and his husband had stopped bickering about it and come to a compromise.
At home, much later, Cas looked up from the draftsman’s table he’d inherited from his father, an architect, and thought about Dean.
He’d reminded Dean that he spent a lot of time looking after other people’s needs, or appeared to, and he’d agreed — and left. If he was taking Cas’s advice, Cas had no right to complain about it.
When Dean came in the following Wednesday, he was only ordering for himself, and he made very little small talk. Cas hoped he’d hang around for a chat, but he left.
The late shift staffer came in and he fled to the office, where he called Pam and made an appointment. If he was feeling this bad about a customer not coming through the door with his husband not six months dead, maybe he was closer to snapping than he thought.
After he got home that night, he thought about how his husband would have teased him, and, just as if it the funeral had been yesterday, he took to his bed to cry.
/// /// ///
The next time Dean came into the store, Cas wasn’t wearing store merchandise. He was wearing a blue button down about two shades darker than his eyes, a striking black-and-blue silk tie and tight-fitting black chinos. His name tag was not in evidence.
He looked, in fact, like how Cas looked in an alternate universe where he wasn’t a recently bereaved husband, but was getting ready for a date.
“So what’s the occasion?” Dean inquired, fighting the temptation to vault the counter (yeah, not in these pants) and plant a kiss on Cas, like the world’s nimblest masher.
Cas frowned. At Dean’s hand-wave toward his clothes his expression cleared. “Interview with the local paper this morning. They only just left, actually.”
“Business casual, very nice,” Dean said, nodding.
“Is that your final judgement?” Cas asked, amused.
Dean shrugged, made a social smile and changed the subject.
“What weed have you got for a hot date?” he asked, winking badly. The smile turned into a leer.
It was not Dean’s best expression, especially since it wasn’t directed at him. Cas swallowed, and said, “Um. Are you talking something that will make you, er, more relaxed and sociable or… amorous?”
Dean laughed and popped an eyebrow. “Well, I’m the only one who’ll be getting handsy, so let’s go with the latter.”
“So,” Cas said, trying to stay deadpan, “Something to spice up a self-love session.”
Dean let him have it with the finger gun. “Exactamundo.”
Cas answered the question about which weed was best for sex often enough. “Strawberry Cough, Granddaddy Purple, or Ultimate Trainwreck.”
“Oh yeah,” Dean said. “Let’s get an eighth of that Trainwreck stuff, I think I read something about that.”
Cas fetched it, weighed it, and packed it up. “Have fun,” Cas said. “That’ll be thirty dollars.”
I will definitely have fun if I’m thinking about you. Aloud, he said, “Here ya go,” giving exact change.
“See ya later, Cas,” and he gave a cheery wave as he left.
Thirty minutes later there was a text on his phone.
Castiel: Why would you talk about masturbating in front of me that was extremely rude and inconsiderate.
Dean: Speaking of rude and incnsderte tell me how you got my phone number.
Castiel: I got it from your membership form.
Dean: Gonna park outside my house tonight too? Cas. No bueno!
Castiel: I admit it’s over the line but that really pissed me off.
Dean: How exactly? I was trying to be funny.
Castiel: What is funny about somebody like you being single?
Dean: WTF ok friendo ya lost me
Castiel: It’s normal for me to be lonely my husband just died but why the hell are you alone?
Dean: I’m too weird once people get to know me.
Castiel: I’ve seen weird, I am weird, you are not weird.
Dean: Once you get to know me, trust me, I’m weird.
Dean: So basically you mad cause me gettin high, coating myself in lube and going to town reminded you how lonely you are so you thought you’d bust into your 1/2
supposedly confidential files and get my # and text me to piss in my ear? 2/2
Castiel: I’m terribly sorry. When you put it like that I sound deranged.
Dean: Naw, you’re still putting sentences together okay.
Castiel: Are you trying to cheer me up?
Dean: I’m trying to reassure you that you aren’t nuts, not even a little, and just to prove I’m awesome, you can text me any time to vent.
Dean: Since you obviously need it.
Dean: Being deranged and all.
Castiel: You are a bastard.
Dean: Okay princess put the phone down before I send you a dick pic.
Castiel: I feel like I’m at the top of this conversation again. Why would you threaten to send me a dick pic? In my experience men just do it.
Dean: Sometimes the only way you can measure a wall is to lean a ladder up against it.
Castiel: I have no idea what you’re talking about.
Dean: I’m a jackass. I poke the bear. I never let well enough alone. And I’m weird.
Castiel: In all of our interactions besides this one I suppose you’ve never done or said anything that could be construed as weird.
Dean: I hand you money for weed, it’s not like there’s a lot of opportunity for me to be letting my freak flag fly.
Dean: I don’t often wear clothes in the house.
Castiel: Your sofa must be covered in ass prints.
Dean: Jesus God no it is not, I wash the couch covers 2xmo.
Castiel: Tell me you’re a clean freak.
Dean: Dirty floors make me anxious.
Castiel: That’s the sexiest thing you’ve said so far.
Dean: Ok we are flirting I was giving up on being able to tell.
Castiel: I’m sorry I should not have said that.
Dean: It’s flirting Castiel I’m not going to run into the town square and yell that you’re being unfaithful to your dead husband.
Castiel: Who cheated on me with a 25yo man, who then came to the funeral and made a sad situation histrionic and farcical.
Dean: Dang you use the fanciest words.
Dean: So did you love him?
Cas: A lot, actually. I thought being with him made me a better person, but now I think him being with me made him a worse one.
Dean: That’s on him. Partners stay partners when they can grow without hurting each other. I never figured that out until after Lisa and I broke up.
Castiel: You date men and women.
Dean: Why yes Cas I do. These days, as previously and pointedly noted, I don’t date.
Dean: Why do I get the feeling you’re going to ask me why?
Dean: Called it.
Castiel: Are you going to answer. Dean?
Castiel: I’m sorry to be so predictable. Since you don’t seem to be answering now I’ll assume something came up and I’ll talk to you later.
/// /// ///
Dean: Yeah sorry Cas someone came to the door and then I had to hit the head.
/// /// ///
Castiel: You said I could vent.
Dean: This should be interesting.
Castiel: I didn’t spend the money on the joint tombstone.
Dean: Gabe must be doing handsprings of joy.
Castiel: He does like being right.
Dean: I don’t think he understands how hard you’re grieving.
Dean: Cas you still there that was out of line.
Castiel: Sorry lost it there for a second can’t text if you can’t see.
Castiel: I do, I am. I miss his voice, his presence, his contribution to the store, his business smarts, his cooking.
Castiel: Before you ask he was great in bed.
Dean: You don’t mention sex.
Castiel: Called it.
Dean: It wasn’t nearly as much fun to be on the receiving end of that.
Castiel: I hope you’ve learned a valuable lesson.
Castiel: About receiving ends.
Dean: I had big plans to not get raunchy & they were nice while they lasted. So…. top bottom non-pen or vers?
Castiel: You’ll have to date me to find out.
Dean: I have really godawful work hours plus did I mention I’m weird.
Castiel: So I’m good enough to sext but not good enough to date.
Dean: What the hell dude I have every intention of dating you but your hub ded less than a yr ago & I’m not intrested in a rebound.
Castiel: You want some assurance I’m serious.
Dean: No, fuck I’m a klutz
Dean: I’d like to date you but grief is hard and kinda all-consuming and it’s a tough thing to share a person with.
Castiel: But you’d try.
Dean: Try the hell out of it. You’ll figure out I’m weird. I shouldn’t worry. Nothing lasts anyway, right? you’re the perfect person to agree with me.
Castiel: Some things last. What people build lasts.
Dean: Your optimism is depressing me.
Castiel: Who hurt you?
Dean: I don’t think anybody wanted to hurt me. I don’t measure up and I live with the consequences.
Castiel: You have an amazing circle of friends and family. They are all people who love you. You should see their faces when they talk about you.
Dean: That’s good to know.
Dean: I gotta run, catch you later.
/// /// ///
After that, they were texting every couple of days.
Within a week, they were texting daily, usually once first thing in the morning and once sometime in the evening, usually around nine o’clock.
By unspoken mutual agreement, they quit talking about dating and quit prodding each other with sex talk. Castiel hated that Dean was right. He wasn’t supposed to be dating. He wasn’t ready, although he longed for physical contact in a way that shook him and saddened him and woke him up stiff as a tree.
He was addicted.
He felt off, if he and Dean couldn’t talk every day.
He started therapy and things seemed to be a little more under control; sales were so busy at the store he was being pressured to franchise by a legal cannabis consortium, which felt very strange and wrong to him, but doing it himself seemed wrong, too. Dean was there every step of the way. Teasing him, advising him, texting the most meltingly sweet things, whenever he was having a shitty day.
Three months went by. Cas wanted to wait at least a year, but it was harder to wait with each conversation.
The daily texts relieved the worst of the feelings of loneliness, and provided some expectation for both of them that somebody cared about their trivia; their triumphs, asininities and fuckups were being attended to by another sensible adult, with wonderful ideas and great listening skills.
Another month went by.
/// /// ///
Their usual evening text orgy started like this —
Castiel: I think we’ve reached a conversational impasse.
Dean: Are you ready to take it to the next level?
Castiel: I’m almost scared to ask.
Dean: Phone calls.
Castiel: You mean hit that little phone icon and talk to you without a record of the conversation? I don’t know if I can handle the raciness of that.
Dean: This all started with you going into my confidential records, I always figured having a record of the conversation fluffed your feathers.
Castiel: It was a lapse in judgement, which was spawned in the ocean of your charm.
Dean: Knock it off, I turn on easy. Spawning. MMM.
Castiel: So how high school are we going to get.
Dean: Are you calling me or am I calling you.
Dean: Because if we call at the exact same time we’ll both get a busy signal.
Castiel: Be decisive, Dean.
Cas’s phone rang.
“It’s good to hear your voice, Dean.”
“My brother wants to know when we’re going to start dating.”
“I’m assuming that you explained to him that I’m in grief counselling… and you’re weird.”
“Sammy knows I’m weird and loves me anyway, that’s what family does.”
“Couldn’t I be family?”
Dean’s breath caught for a second. “I’m gonna be frank with you, Cas, I had kinda hoped that the cheap physical stuff would happen eventually. You know, between us. Which is not very family friendly.”
“You can’t even make a family without the cheap physical stuff, unless you’re paying for in vitro fertilization,” Cas said patiently.
“Trouble is,” Dean said with a rueful chuckle, and as if he hadn’t heard Cas, “It’s something I’ve stopped looking forward to.”
Cas gasped. “Dean!”
“I’m terrified. Usually I’ve banged ‘em - or vice versa - and gone home by now and we’ve been doing whatever this is for months and I’m afraid that you’re just not going to …”
“You want to get it over with.”
Dean said, “But if it doesn’t work out I still want to be friends afterward.”
Cas sighed in relief. “As long as you don’t bang me and ghost me, I’ll be fine. Probably.”
“So,” Dean said in a shaky voice. “How do you want to do this.”
“Dean, are you worried?”
He sounded annoyed. “I already said I was terrified. The stakes are already so high, I just can’t believe how nervous I am.”
“Send me a dick pic and we’ll talk about it some more,” Cas said soothingly.
“What?” Dean asked, truly startled.
“If you send me a dick pic, I’ll send you a dick pic and then we’ll be even,” Cas said.
“Uh. Okay. Hanging up now,” Dean said.
About ten minutes later, both of them were hitting send.
Dean called back.
“It’s really quite nice,” he said.
“Yours is admirable.”
Dean said, “How can a dick be ‘admirable’? It’s not like it helps little old ladies cross the street.”
Castiel, who’d had a while to get used to Dean’s sense of humour, laughed aloud.
“It’s admirable in the sense that I’m admiring it.”
“I am kind of attached to it,” Dean admitted.
“So this is it, we’re going to start dating properly.”
“Maybe I won’t smell nice to you.”
“For Pete’s sake, Dean, come into the store, I’ll give you a hug and you can decide if I smell nice. No cologne though, that’s just for special occasions.”
“Are you serious?”
“Well,” Cas said, “It’s either that, or I drop what I’m doing and come find you wherever you are.”
“We can’t do that,” Dean said miserably.
“Why not?” Cas said.
“I’ll be working.”
“I’ll come to your work, won’t take a minute.”
“Cas, you can’t come to my work.”
“You say you work in customer service.”
“I do. It’s just — there’s lots of confidentiality issues. I’ve been warned about guests.”
To Cas’s astonishment, Dean’s voice suddenly got a harder edge to it than he’d ever previously heard. He said, “You know what, Cas, I think I like our friendship right where it is.” His tone became more reasonable. “Would you be okay staying my phone buddy?”
Cas didn’t trust his voice to carry his intentions for a moment. Finally he said, “If that’s what you want, I’m content with things continuing like this.”
They breathed at each other for a while. Cas said, “I thought we were negotiating getting physical — you were the one who brought it up! You don’t want it any more for whatever reason but, Dean, you must understand that I’m having a difficult time —”
“You’re going to think I was lying to you. You’re going to hate me,” Dean said. Cas thought he sounded like he might weep.
“To be candid, Dean, I’m not your biggest fan right this instant. What’s wrong, why can’t we date? Felony conviction? Already married? Already a bigamist? Gambling debts? Bedbug infestation?”
Cas heard the inhalation as a mechanical rasp. “I’m a sex worker.”
“Dean,” Cas whispered after what seemed an eternity.
“What do you think of me now?” Dean asked, his voice crushed gravel. He disconnected the call.
/// /// ///
Cas knew Dean tended to bail on difficult conversations, but would call again, needing reassurance, usually within a day. Now he was blocking Cas’s calls. The address he’d given on his sign-up sheet had been false; no surprise there.
He refused to cry. He wasn’t going to give up. Dean needed him as much as he needed Dean, and he’d come back. He had stupid thoughts, one being that he could probably hire a private detective to find Dean, but that would be a waste of money and Dean was going to call him anyway.
He wasn’t normally in the store on Sunday, so when he heard Dean’s voice at the counter through his open office door, he bolted around the corner, only to halt and gaze at him. After flashing a genuine expression of terror, Dean spun around and made for the door at a run.
“Goddamnit, you are not going to ghost me!” Cas yelled, and chased Dean out of the store while his employees and customer watched open-mouthed. Dean, realizing that Cas was gaining too fast to allow him safe entry to his car, put up his hands and said, “Not the face, please.”
“My God, Dean,” Cas said, breathing hard. “I would never strike you, never intentionally. Can we please go back to when you hung up on me?”
“No,” Dean said.
“I’ll take that as a yes,” Cas said. “No, I’m not letting you get into your car until we talk.”
“We could get out of public fucking view and out of your employee’s earshot,” Dean bit off. One employee had come to the door and it was possible they could be overheard.
Cas waved her off with a very forced smile, and once again had to manhandle Dean away from the door.
“Are you enjoying this?” Cas said, perplexed.
“You’re throwing me around in public without really hurting me, of course I’m enjoying it,” Dean said sarcastically.
“Tell me about your sex work.”
Dean’s mouth firmed up, and then he said, unemotionally, “I’m a cam worker. I have different channels I make content for, and I also do livestreams and then package them. I have very high tech video feeds and I also am doing VR of various sexual acts with toys, since I’m a solo act.”
“You don’t have sex with clients,” Cas said.
“Like that makes it better? I can be jerking off in front of fifteen hundred people at a time, I don’t find that dates consider that an improvement on, you know, taking ‘em on in ones and twos.”
“Fifteen hundred people?” Cas said faintly. He sagged until, like Dean, he was leaning his ass against the Impala.
“I do okay,” Dean said. They both looked off into the distance and said nothing for a while.
“Do you have any sponsors?”
“What?” Dean said, pivoting and gazing at Cas as if he’d snapped his last gasket.
“Do you have any sponsors?”
Dean was still surprised, but answered the question. “No, just subscribers. With all the stuff happening to banking for sex workers I’ve had to get really creative about keeping things legal.”
“Are you yanking my chain?” Dean asked. “I should go,” he said, making for the door handle. Cas fended him off easily. “Youngest black belt in goju-ryu karate in Washington State history,” Cas said. “I could go all day, and you’d be a whimpering mass of bruises at the end of it.”
“I have to avoid bruising,” Dean said snootily.
“Fine,” Cas said, imperturbable. “Stand still, and quit trying to bail. You being a sex worker seems harder for you than me.”
“You’re a legit businessman, and I’m just a man ho,” Dean shrugged.
“I bet you have more disposable income than I do,” Cas said.
“I bet I don’t,” Dean scoffed. “I run a very high tech business; the drone set-ups alone are a thousand bucks a pop.”
“I think, as a potential sponsor, I should see this set-up.”
“I don’t have sex there. Well, not with anyone else but me,” Dean amended. “So it’s set up for one person to manage. Sam helped.”
Cas choked, a little.
“That sweet-faced baby bro of yours helped you set up your cam-boy business,” he managed, after a second.
“We’re not a very judgey family,” Dean said. “I mean, Sam’s come back from giving blow jobs in cars to raise cash for his next score and he’s in grad school now. A-a-a-nd I should probably have let him talk to you about that since that’s all really personal and it was a total betrayal of trust…”
“Relax,” Cas said. “I’m practically family. You know, nightly phone calls? Morning check-ins? Selling weed to your brother twice a month - and your mom?”
Dean squirmed at that and looked downcast. “You think I’m a hypocrite.”
“The only thing I know for certain,” Cas said, once again looking off to the horizon, “Is that you are seriously confused about how invested I am; whether or not you’re a hypocrite is a side issue right now.”
“Can I go now?” Dean begged. “I have to go set up for a livestream.”
“Maybe I can help,” Cas said. He wouldn’t meet Dean’s eyes, and Dean stood in front of him with a muttered curse and put his face threateningly close. “You mad bro?” Cas said, not fazed.
For a second, Dean almost laughed. Then his expression changed to one of wonder. “Fuck, Cas, what’s gotten into you?”
“Almost tripping over your dick when I slung you around,” Cas said, snotty as fuck, and Dean’s expression was clear, as he looked gratified. “You like it. I just have to be very, very careful. I understand.”
“I’m gonna be late for work!” Dean pleaded, and something about his tone made Cas relent. “Can you wait long enough to let me sign out and then follow you in my car?”
For maybe twenty seconds, Cas watched with hidden fear and open amusement as Dean considered his options. His expression fixed on mulish, and he said, “Yes,” and then to prove he wasn’t going to drive off, he didn’t get into his car. Trust Dean to get him good and mad and then calm him right down again by signalling his good intentions.
Cas told his two staffers he was now officially gone for the day, and that whatever they had observed, civility had returned to their conversation. They looked dubious and his customer said, “Is this some kind of mob thing?” and after a startled silence Cas said, with awful sarcasm, “I’m so terribly sorry you can’t tell what the body language of a lover’s quarrel looks like.”
“Is that what that was,” the customer said, with an almost blank expression of dismay. “I totally missed that.”
Cas had rarely been so happy to leave work. Dean greeted him with whining.
“I suppose now we both look like assholes to your employees.”
“We can fix that,” Cas said. “Or perhaps dress the wound.” He walked over to where Dean, irresolute, still stood by his car, and kissed him. Not hard, not long, but definitely announcing that Cas had ‘cut Dean out of the herd’.
“Shit,” Dean said, backing away with eyes wide. “I - yeah, follow me,” and he got into his car like an automaton.
Dean’s studio was about ten minutes away by car. The entrance was unmarked. Dean led Cas up a concrete stairwell and opened an equally unmarked door, which opened onto a thousand square foot open-plan studio apartment with ludicrously high ceilings. One twelve by twelve windowless corner was set up as a low tech cam room, with a five-foot-wide rack of backdrops.
Cas walked over to it and started flipping through them. Some were canvas, some were plastic, some looked cut down from bigger backdrops, but it was thousands and thousands of dollars of material, let alone artwork.
There was a science fiction style background; nope, make that two. Nope. Three. Oh Christ, a Star Wars backdrop with Young Han, Ideal Han and Older Han as a triptych of glorious action. And Slave Leia. The question needed asking.
“Where the hell did you get all this stuff?”
“The canvas all came from a regional theatre group. I had to cut some of them down, which nearly fucking killed me, ‘cause some of them are, like, sixty years old and it felt like cutting up my grandma, know what I mean? But check that floral backdrop, that’s the one I mostly use for ‘The Feminine Side’ - I get so many compliments on it, when I can get the fucker to hang straight, always a challenge.”
Dean was talking shop as if it was no big thing. Cas heaved his prejudices over a very tall fence and took a breath. Before he could say a word, Dean was off again.
“Anyway, I gotta change. I need new content and today’s theme is Explorations. I won’t have time to change the backdrop, so it’s going to be My Messy Bedroom which is my default look for when I’m lazy or pressed for time.”
There was a dressing table and two racks of costuming and gear. Cas had been so interested in the backdrops he hadn’t registered the racks. Now he watched with an open mouth as Dean flipped on some very bright lights and ditched his clothes onto a butler stand. He stood nude, seeking out a green under-bust corset, green rayon panties and a beautiful fluffy boa, not a costume store junker; it was a long, undulating cloud of silky blackness. He put them all on with thought-provoking speed and precision, and tightened the corset like he was getting paid to.
Cas made a little sound.
“You can’t stay if you make any noise,” Dean said, rounding on him. “In fact, I’m being a fucking idiot letting you do this, but I’m throwing you in the deep end for a reason. If you can’t be good with this, you won’t be good for me. Now, nod like you understand.”
Dean sighed. “Time to light the lights.”
Dean stood there, heaved a sigh, and from his bare toes to the last razor sharp hair of his head, he made Cas’s heart pound with a thrumming combination of joy, terror and lust.
Dean hit a preset switch on a lighting board and entered his set. Then he grabbed a chair and let Cas sit in the door, with a finger to his lips. He put a beauty spot on his upper lip and a beauty spot just above his tailbone, where his panties stopped, and then picked up a remote.
To Cas’s gasping astonishment, this activated two drones, which rose, hovered four feet above the floor, and started to stream video, as he could now see from a monitor.
A short pre-recorded commercial ran:
“Subscribe to them all, or just one.
Bi the way - news, views and thoughts to peruse about bisexuality
The Feminine Side - skin care, makeup, clothes, food and everything glamor, aimed at male-identified people wanting to explore smashing the gender binary in private and in public
The Toy Box - reviews of products sent in by viewers, toy care, self care if you overdo it, finding your toy style
Handle with Care - sounding, clamping, binding and other high risk solo sex
Man vs. Machine - machine penetration and “sex machines like you’ve never seen!”
Freaky Fridays - subscriber requests and private cam sessions!”
Then Dean was live.
“Hello and welcome to the Feminine Side! Cum with me and I’ll share with you ….”
Cas stopped listening to what was happening and merely watched, hardly breathing. Dean was so natural, so flirty, so comfortable; he was watching a perfectionist in his element.
At the end of the session, Dean turned everything off and said, flatly, “So?”
“I think you have a new sponsor,” Cas said.
“You’ll be sorry.”
“Maybe; I doubt it.”
/// /// ///
There was always the chance that, in a world full of uptight dickbags, the sponsorship would tank Cas’s sales, but they didn’t. Every week, Dean came up with yet another way to promote a cannabis strain, to recommend products for beginners, and to integrate cannabis and sexuality in a lively and entertaining way. God’s Green Gifts thrived, the mail-order business exploded, and Dean basked in the industry attention he got from the sponsorship; subscriber numbers kept going up.
Cas learned how loyal Dean was; how loving, how generous, how wildly horny he was, and how comfortable he was with his sexuality. He made Cas feel invincible, and very well-loved. People told him that eventually Dean would step out on him, and Cas would smirk and say, “Sure.” Meanwhile he’d be thinking of Dean howling his name into a pillow, and cuddling afterwards, with words like, “I never thought I’d find anyone to love as much as I love you.”
Cas was not worried.
The family rattled around and chided Cas about dating a sex worker. Gabe was the only one in the family who thought it was a fantastic idea, but Gabe always had been broad-minded.
He was certainly broad-minded enough to stand up with Cas and Dean during their Vegas wedding, which had an honour guard of exotic dancers, one of whom did a pole dancing routine while smoking a joint (even Gabe was pop-eyed, watching that), and the whole thing was captured on video by drones. “And before you ask,” Dean said, “I’m not putting this on the cam site!”
Cas didn’t want to look relieved… but he was.
“It’s for us,” Dean said. “There’s the world, and there’s us.”
“Yeah,” Cas sighed, boneless and sated from the dicking Dean had just given him. “There’s the world, and then there’s us.”