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Flirting with Disaster

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It’s the kind of spring day you dream about in winter. The scent of new grass and buds just beginning to bloom drifts through the air. A gentle breeze passes through the trees and the sun’s warmth begs pedestrians to shed their jackets and outer layers. The peace of the morning is broken by the squeal of brakes and an uncomfortable thud as a VW Beetle bumps into a cyclist. The bike tips unceremoniously on its side in front of the car as its rider drops hard on the cracked pavement of the street.

The car hadn’t been going fast at the time. Maybe the driver released the break in a moment of distraction, screeching to a halt just in time to tap a passing cyclist. Shifting on the ground, the cyclist pushes himself to his feet. He frowns down angrily at his gashed elbow and bent bike frame. He unclips his helmet in irritation and glares at the car, now pulled over to the curb a few feet from him. The driver’s side door swings open and a woman steps out, dressed very primly in a sweater vest, Lacoste polo, and knee length skirt and dripping with what looks like coffee from the neck down. She shakes the excess liquid from her hands and smooths down her clothes as best she can.

“What the hell is your problem?” The cyclist snaps, jerking his helmet off, thick, curly brown hair sticking out in every direction. “Are you blind? I was…” The words die on his tongue as soon as their eyes meet. The woman’s expression shifts from contrite embarrassment to surprise. Her jaw drops open, ready to speak, before snapping shut.

The man’s eyes go wide and he swallows hard as a smile spreads across his face. He takes a step closer, offering his hand in introduction.

Realization ripples through the bystanders who are witnessing the proceedings. One by one, they nod and continue on their way, like what happened was an everyday occurrence for them. The man and the woman don’t move from where they stand, blood still dripping down his arm and coffee still spreading down her front. The woman twists a strand of hair around her finger and a blush rises to the man’s cheeks. The attraction between them is almost tangible.

It’s exactly how everyone hopes to meet their soulmate: a perfect disaster.

Dean watches all of this unfold from the outdoor patio of the restaurant across the street. He shakes his head at how unremarkable it all is. How many hundreds of times a day does this happen? Yet, these two are acting like they are the first people on Earth to find their soulmates. Dean snorts derisively and lifts his coffee cup to take a sip. He stops when he chances a glance at his brother sitting across the table.

“Sam, what the hell are you doing?” He groans. Sam has his phone pointed in the direction of the couple, recording them while grinning excitedly.

“I’ve never seen a auto-accident soulmate occurrence before,” Sam replies, using the politically correct term for the incident they just witnesses. Why he doesn’t just say “disaster” like a normal person, Dean has no idea.

“But why are you recording it?” Dean asks, leveling a stare at his brother. Sam turns his head and looks at Dean. “That’s just creepy, man,” he adds.

“I’m going to upload it,” Sam says plainly. “Lovehurts.com pays fifty bucks a video if they like them.”

Dean blinks absently at his brother before mumbling “Un-fucking-believable” under his breath and taking another sip of his coffee. Sam puts his phone down and smirks at him.

"You know, Dean, this aversion you have toward soulmates is going to be really ironic when you find yours," Sam teases.

"That's not what this is about," Dean argues. "I just find it a bit disturbing that there is an entire entertainment industry built on recording people's misfortune."

"Misfortune? They're meeting their soulmates!" Sam gestures across the street where the cyclist and the prim-looking woman are now locked in a tight embrace.

"Yeah, but at what cost?” Dean exclaims. “Car accidents, hospital bills, public embarrassment.” Dean points to Sam’s phone. “Seems like a raw deal to me.” Sam shoots Dean a piteous look.

“Are you saying that you never want to meet your soulmate?”

“Absolutely not,” Dean states firmly.

“Do you not believe in love or something?” Dean rolls his eyes dramatically at his brother’s accusation. Just because Sam met his soulmate right out of college, that doesn’t make him a goddamn love guru or something.

“I believe in love just fine,” he replies. “I just don’t believe I need to bust my ass, literally, to get it.”

Sam thinks for a moment, trying to gather a response.

“I think you’re blowing this all out proportion,” Sam mutters good-naturedly. “Not all soul mate occurrences are so bad.”

“Not all of us get off easy like you, Sam,” Dean counters sarcastically. Sam looks affronted.

“Hey, Jess is allergic to bees,” Sam argues. “That one in her hair could’ve stung her. Ours could’ve been really dangerous.”

“What about you? Does stepping in dog shit count as a disaster?” Dean asks. Sam glares at him and Dean can’t hold back a snort of laughter.  

“What about Ellen and Bobby, then?” Sam asks, changing the subject. “Don’t tell me you don’t want a relationship like that?” Dean gapes at him.

“Bobby got his pinky bitten off… by a raccoon!”

“Only to the first knuckle,” Sam says dismissively. “You can hardly tell.” There is a lull in the conversation. Dean takes another long sip of his coffee, pointedly trying to avoid Sam’s scrutinizing gaze. Sam loves to bring up Bobby and Ellen when the subject of soulmates comes up. He thinks it’s romantic; Dean finds it horrifying.

“Look, it’s not that I’m opposed to a soulmate, it’s just…” Dean sighs heavily, dragging a hand through his hair. “Look, I like my life, ok? I like my apartment. I like my job. I love my car. I have an amazing family. I don’t want anything screwing around with that.”

Sam frowns and it pisses Dean off. He hates when Sam tries to pull this touchy-feely crap out of him and he especially hates his younger brother’s pity.

“I know that if my soulmate comes along, one or more of those things is going to suffer,” Dean continues. He holds up his hands in front of him in a finalizing gesture. “Thanks, but no thanks.” Sam is quiet for a minute. Their waitress stops by the table, refilling their coffee cups and discreetly leaving the check facing down between them.

“What about online dating?” Sam suggests. “E-harmony offers risk assessments on compatibility. You might be able to mitigate a little bit of the damage.” Dean laughs loudly at this.

“Yeah, no thanks on the online dating.” he replies. “Not my thing.” He glances across the street where a frustrated-looking beat cop is trying to pull apart the couple apart, now pressed up against the side of the Beetle. Dean snorts amiably and pulls his wallet from his back pocket.

He drops a ten onto the table and passes the bill over to his brother. Sam does the same.

“Are you still coming this weekend?” Sam asks.

“What are we doing again?”

“We’re going to a beer tasting,” Sam reminds him. “Jess’ brother runs a brewery and he’s going to act as a sommelier for us.” Dean blinks a couple times, not sure if her heard him correctly.

“What the hell is a sommelier? And I’m sorry… Beer tasting?” Dean asks flatly. “Like a wine tasting... but with beer? Why would we taste beer when we could just drink it?”

“Because there are more beers out there than El Sol and El Sol light,”

“Hey! I drink Kingdom too!”

Sam sighs. “C’mon, it’s going to be fun.” Dean looks to the sky, shaking his head in exasperation and wondering what the hell happened to his brother.

“If I see one handlebar mustache or deep v-neck, I am gone!” Dean says seriously. Sam laughs as rises to his feet.

“Sure, Dean,” he says. “I’ll see you on Saturday.” Dean waves goodbye and heads toward the office building.

Dean checks his watch. He still has a little time before he is due back from his lunch hour, so he decides to linger on his walk back, enjoy the day. His and Sam’s conversation filter into his mind. Sam probably thought he was cynical about soulmates and soulmate occurrences, but really that wasn’t the case.

For most of his life, Dean had looked forward to finding his soulmate. Ellen likes relating the story of how she and Bobby met every Thanksgiving: She thought the raccoon she hit with her car was dead (it wasn’t) and when it attacked her, Bobby was the one to pull it off. Ellen always grows misty when she talks about how, even screaming and bleeding from the raccoon bite, she knew that Bobby Singer was her soulmate.

“We fell in love over rabies shots,” she likes to say.

In spite of the tough persona he tries to put out, at heart, Dean was always a romantic and looked forward to having that missing part of himself. Maybe not something as traumatic at Bobby and Ellen, though.

He doesn’t know when his feelings about it changed. Really, he has no reason to feel any differently. Maybe the longer that he went on without a soulmate or an occurrence, that more settled he became in his current situation and the more resistant he was to losing what he had to something he didn't know.

His life as it stands is pretty close to perfect, like he’d told Sam. He has Sam and Jess close by, They see Jodi a couple times a month, Bobby and Ellen are just a phone call away, and even his relationship with his dad has reached a kind of mutual respect. He has a fantastic apartment, he has his Baby (nestled securely in the underground parking garage at Sandover Inc), and of course he has his job.

Dean smiles to himself and picks up the pace. He could practically taste the promotion. Sinclair had hinted very strongly that Dean’s chances to be the next VP of Marketing were very good; now he’s just waiting on the confirmation of that fact. There are a few others in line for the position (like that sniveling kiss-ass Gordon Walker), but no one has nearly the qualifications that Dean does. He has this in the bag.

As Dean turns the corner, something catches his eye down one of the alleys. There’s a man in the ground. Not on the ground, in the ground. A man in a wrinkled suit is wedged into an open manhole, struggling uselessly with one leg and both arms stuck out of the hole.

Dean’s pace slows as he watches the man, wriggling and grunting in exertion. He glances around, seeing if anyone is going to help this man who is clearly in need of some assistance. He checks the time on his watch.

12:45 pm. He is due back in 15 minutes and he has at least 8 more blocks to walk. Dean debates walking on and pretending he didn’t see anything, but a part of him just can’t do it. Especially when the guy looks so ridiculously pathetic.

“Sir?” Dean calls out, taking a step forward. “Uh, hey. Hi.” The man looks up at the disturbance, his blue eyes frantic.

“Need some help?” Dean asks. Visible relief flows through the man and he nods gratefully.

“Yes, please,” he sighs breathlessly. “I can’t seem to…” He waves a hand, indicating his predicament. Dean laughs lightly and approaches him.

“I can see that,” he says. “How… um, how exactly did you get stuck like that?” The man’s right leg and ass are sunk below street level, while his left leg is extended at a 45 degree angle and bent at the knee. His arms are bent at his sides, trying to push himself out of the hole.

“Texting and walking,” the man admits. “Dumb thing to do.”

“I’d say,” Dean offers. He takes hold of the man under one of his arms, trying to pull him out, but the man responds, pushing Dean away with a series of pained grunts.

“Whoa, what’s going on?” Dean’s face creases in concern.

“There’s a pipe or something here,” the man answers, “and it’s kind of catching on my… um, well… y’know.” Dean bites back an amused grin as the man flushes in embarrassment.

“Well then, I guess we need to be careful then.” Dean slips off his blazer and rolls up the sleeves on his dress shirt. He kneels on the ground in front of the man, thankful that he wore a black suit today.

 

 

 

“Alright, let’s see if I can figure this out,” he says. “I’m going to slip my hand down there and try to push your… uh, self out of the way while we both try to lift you from the hole. Got it?” The man nods seriously, blue eyes never straying from his. “I’m Dean, by the way,” he says. “Probably better for you to know who’s touching your junk.”

“Castiel,” the man replies, managing to muster a smile. Dean nods and squeezes his hand into the space between Castiel’s torso and the metal ring of the hole. Dean feels where the pipe is and gingerly feels out around Castiel’s groin.

“Probably should’ve bought you a drink first, huh?” Dean jokes. Castiel, to his credit, does manage a strained laugh. Dean is close enough that he can smell Castiel’s cologne and deodorant; it’s pleasant and clean and even manages to push away some of the stink of the alley and sewer.

“Alright, get ready to push,” Dean says, propping his opposite arm beneath Castiel. “On three. One… Two… Three.” Castiel and Dean push up at the same time and Dean presses his hand against Castiel’s groin trying to shift him away from the pipe. Unfortunately...

“I’m stuck,” Dean mutters in surprise. Castiel stares at him dumfounded, arms shaking as he tries to hold himself up from the hole.

“You’re what?” he gapes.

“Stuck. I think my watch is stuck on the pole.” Dean says, not quite believing what he is saying. Castiel’s arms give out beneath him and he drops back into the hole.

“Okay,” he says quietly. “So what do we do now?” Dean looks at him, aghast. Does this guy think he has a plan when his arm is stuck down a manhole?

“I don’t know,” Dean mutters, trying to tug his arm from the hole. His watch strains and dig into the skin of his wrist painfully. Dean mutters under his breath as he pulls.

“Maybe if… Maybe if I pull hard enough…” Dean trails off. He likes this watch and doesn’t really want to lose it, but he’s already late for work as it is.

“What if I try to use my knee to unhook your hand?” Castiel offers. Dean glares at him in confusion.

“What if I kind of, like, lift my knee and use that to try and-”

“That’s not going to work,” Dean mutters, shaking his head. He tries to twist his wrist; maybe he can unhook the band, the watch will fall off.

“Let me just try,” Castiel says. He groans in effort as he tries to lift his hanging knee.

“Cas, don’t!” Dean exclaims.

“Just let me get some leverage…”

“Don’t!” Dean yells. A body part come in contact hard with Dean’s wrist and he yelps out.

“Oh, Sorry,” Castiel hisses apologetically.

“Fuck! Why the fuck did you do that?” Dean groans. His wrist aches painfully. “Ok, ok, ok… what if I twist my hand in the band and try to bust it.” Castiel looks at him warily.

“Or we can try calling for help,” he offers. Dean looks at him pointedly.

“What? And get a third body part stuck down here?” he argues. He tries to shimmy his arm further into the hole. “Maybe if I move lower I can slip off of this…” As he moves, his watch is pushed up his forearm.

“Hey, uh, Cas? Do you think you can use your foot to push my watch back down my wrist?” Castiel looks at him doubtfully, but gives Dean an aborted shrug and a nod. He grunts as he tries to shift his position, angling himself so that he can get his foot to the same level of Dean’s hand.

“I… don’t … know… if…” Castiel’s shoe scrapes against Dean’s wrist, moving his watch down minutely.

“Good, good, that’s it,” Dean encourages. “Keep going.” Little by little, Castiel inches Dean’s watch down his wrist, until he feels the press of the pipe giveaway as it is released from the band.

“Yeah!” Dean cheers softly. “Now let’s take care of you. I’m going to be a little bit forward, just to warn you.” Dean’s arm scoops between Castiel’s legs unexpectedly, causing the other man to squeak in surprise.

“Push up, push up, push up,” Dean instructs quickly. Castiel obeys, pushing up on shaky arms. He gives a low grunt, but his backside clears the edge of the manhole, Dean supporting him as he rises. As soon as he is out of the hole, he rolls to the side.

“Oh, thank god,” he sighs. Dean huffs a laugh and shakes out his strained arm. He examines his wrist, noting that he may have a few deep bruises, but nothing appears to be broken.

“Thank you,” Castiel says genuinely. Dean grins and shrugs.

“Of course,” Dean replies. “How are you doing? How’s the leg?” Castiel stands with a grimace, rubbing at the outer edge of his groin.

“I think I may have pulled something,” he mutters. Dean looks at him expectantly, rising to his feet as well.

“Do you need to go to the hospital or anything?” he asks. Castiel shakes his head.

“No, I don’t think so,” he says, stretching his arms out. Dean nods absently and picks up his jacket.

“Well, I have to get going or I’m going to be late,” Dean says. “You take care of yourself. Eyes on the sidewalk and no texting.” He gives Castiel a playful grin, earning a small, shy one in return.

“Yes of course,” he answers. Dean bids him goodbye as he speed walks toward his building, now most definitely late for work.


 

The office is eerily silent as the elevator doors open. Normally, everyone is pretty subdued after lunch, but this is a different sort of quiet. Eerie almost. Dean makes his way through the row of cubicles, glancing in to see that they are all empty. He frowns deeply and checks his watch again.

Dean heads toward the large conference room, expecting to see people gathered in there, but it is darkened and empty as well.

Dean shrugs to himself. Maybe someone is having having a birthday on one of the other floors and everyone migrated towards the mention of cake. Dean finds his cubicle and drops his bag on the floor before settling into his chair and logging back on to his computer. He has quite a few reports to catch up on for Sinclair.

Dean works himself into a rhythm, so much so, that he doesn’t even notice the rise in noise level as people slowly filter back into the room. It’s only when there is a soft knock on his cubicle wall that his concentration is broken. He looks up to dark-haired secretary whom he doesn’t recognize.

“Dean, you’re needed on the 5th floor,” she says. Dean’s eyes go wide; the fifth floor with where the executives’ offices are. No doubt, this is the meeting he’s been waiting for. He’s being called to a meeting with Sinclair to let him know about his new position as Head of Marketing.

When he arrives on the fifth floor, though, it’s clear that’s not the case. Rather than Sinclair, a gaunt, sallow-eyed man sits at his desk carefully studying a few spreadsheet. Dean approaches the open office door slowly.

“Uh, hi, is Mr. Sinclair here?” Dean asks, glancing around. The man lifts his head and stares at Dean blankly.

“And you are?” he asks.

“I’m Dean Winchester,” he responds, not liking the look of this man at all. “Sinclair called me down to see him.” The barest hint of a smile twists at the corner of the man’s mouth.

“Actually I’m the one who called you here,” he says, extending his hand and half-rising from his desk. “Alastair Gorley.” Dean shakes his hand warily.

“Nice to meet you,” Dean says disingenuously. “Where’s Sinclair?”

“As of an hour ago, Cuthbert Sinclair is no longer employed with this company,” Alistair offers clinically. Dean’s face must show complete shock because Alistair explains himself without being asked.

“I am here to determine each department’s efficiency in correlation with their staffing,” he says. “The marketing department here at Sandover is a little fat,” he hits the T hard in “fat”, “I am looking for ways to make it leaner, better, stronger.” Realization hits Dean like a truck.

“You’re firing people?” he breathes.

“I prefer to think of it as carving this department into a whole new animal,” Alistair answers with an off-putting smile. Dean blinks in shock. This is completely unexpected. His team has the best numbers in the company. They’d cut $30,000 from their budget, morale was way up, and their focus groups had just come up with some really useful information on how to better serve their customers.

“Mr… uh, Mr. Gorely..”

“Alistair, please,”

“Alistair, I can assure you that my team is an efficient machine.” Dean says seriously. “Please, don’t make any rash decisions at this time-”

“The decisions have already been made,” Alistair’s voice is even. “Gordon Walker will be taking on the role of team manager for all teams in the department.” Dean gapes at him, trying to comprehend what is happening.

“Wait? What?”

“You're redundant, Mr. Winchester.” he says. Dean’s mouth opens and closes.

“You’re choosing… Gordon Walker over me?” he squawks. “Gordon wouldn’t know his ass from a hole in the ground! My numbers are twice as good as his-”

“Yes, but Mr. Walker had the initiative to step up and volunteer his services at the meeting today which, may I remind you, you neglected to attend.” Dean is speechless; he can’t believe this is happening.

“I… I  was helping… there was a guy on the street,” Dean tries to explain himself. “I have never missed a meeting in all my time here.”

“And yet you missed this one, which, as you know, had required attendance.” Alistair tents his fingers into a V. “”Frankly, it shows a lack of work ethic we discourage here at Sandover.” Dean’s brow furrows deeply as he tries to recall the meeting reminder that was sent out yesterday.

“There was nothing in the email about it being required,” he hisses. Surely, had he known, he wouldn’t have even hesitated on returning early to lunch.

“It was implied,” Alistair says stiffly. “Now, I have many other matters to attend to. Please collect your personal items and return your access badge to HR.”

“This is fucking ridiculous!” Dean finally snaps. “You’re choosing that ass-kissing douchenozzle over someone who actually gets results?!” Alistair doesn’t move, but his eyes narrow dangerously.

“Mr. Winchester, please lower your voice and exit the building before I am forced to call security on you.” he warns. Dean stands in stunned silence for a moment, glaring at the man, before turning and stomping out of his office.

As soon as he reaches his desk, it’s clear that word has already spread. His co-workers seem to avoid him, as if any support or condolences would put their heads on the chopping block as well. Who knows? That very well might be the case.

Dean quickly gathers his knick-knacks and photos from his desk and forwards a few emails to his personal account. He silently stalks to the elevator, stopping briefly at Human Resources to return his key card and pick up some information on severance pay, before heading to the parking garage.

He slumps down into the front seat of the Impala with a sigh. He’s still  in shock over everything. He’s almost sure someone’s going to run down into the parking garage any minute screaming “April Fool’s” (despite the fact that it is not April).

Dean lifts the keys up the ignition to start the car, but stops. His mind is racing and he just… he just needs to rant and rave and vent a little. He reaches into his coat pocket and grabs out his cell phone, swiping it open and tapping one of the contacts. It rings a few times before the phone picks up.

“Hey, Dean,” Sam says cheerily on the other end of the line. “What’s going on?”

“I got fucking fired,” Dean states without preamble.

“Are you serious?” Sam asks in disbelief. “”I thought you loved that job. What happened?”

“I do, I did,” Dean replies. “I don’t know. They brought in this sort of… corporate executioner or something. He said I was redundant.”

“Oh man, that sucks,” Sam says. “Are you getting severance or anything?”

“Yeah, I think so, but... “ Dean growls and swipes a hand over his face. “This is such bullshit! They are replacing me with this brown-nose Gordon and the excuse they give me is that I was late for a meeting. Never been late coming back from lunch once, and today it makes a fucking difference!”

“Wait, why were you late?” Sam asks. Dean sighs in exasperation.

“I was helping this guy get out of a sewer hole,” Dean admits.

“You were what?” Sam snorts.

“There was a guy who’d fallen halfway into a manhole and he couldn’t get out.” Dean rushes out. “I tried to help him out, I got stuck, we finally managed to free ourselves and then I booked it.” There is silence on the other end of the line for a long moment.

“And then you got fired right after?” Sam asks.

“Yeah, pretty much.” Dean rubs at his aching temples.

“This guy? What did you think of him?” Sam asks, his voice weirdly eager.

“I don’t know, he was just kind of... stuck in a hole.” Dean replies.

“I mean, did you think he was cute? Did you think he was funny? Did he smell nice?”

“Dude, c’mon,” Dean groans.

“Dean, it’s not like it’s any secret you’re into dudes too,” Dean can practically hear the eye-roll in Sam’s voice. “Now, c’mon, was there anything about this guy that struck you?”

“He was in a hole, Sam!” Dean exclaims. “I was bit preoccupied with that. What in the sam hill are you getting at?”

“Dean, it sounds like you met your soulmate.” Sam offers quietly. As soon as Sam says the word, Dean’s mind goes completely blank and his shoulders slump.

“Son. Of. A. Bitch.” he mutters.

 

 

Chapter Text

 

Dean thinks the only thing worse than finding out he just met his soulmate is his brother’s completely unfettered glee at the prospect.

“Oh my God, Dean! That is amazing!” Dean can practically hear Sam jumping for joy.

“Sam.” Dean gives a low warning.

“Oh, this is so hilarious. I can’t wait until Bobby and Ellen find out,” Sam continues. “It’s like I always say-“

“Sam,” Dean repeats, louder this time.

“You should bring him this weekend to the tasting,” Sam exclaims, loud enough that Dean has to pull his phone away from his ear. “Jess will want to meet him-”

“Sam, I don’t even know who the fuck this guy is,” Dean tries to interject, letting his head fall back over the edge of the seat.

“Well, yeah, I know, but you’ll get to know him,”

“No, I mean I really don’t know who he is,” Dean clarifies. He opens the door and steps out into the parking garage, this conversation making him physically uncomfortable. “I pulled him out of a hole and… and that was it.”

“You don’t even have a name?” Sam asks, not hiding the disappointment in his voice.

“He told me his name,” Dean replies, pacing beside the car. “It’s something strange, like Castle or something.”

“Castle?”

“And look, Sam, even if I did have all of this guy’s information, I highly doubt this was a soulmate disaster.”

“Are you kidding?” Sam scoffs. “Dean, it sounds like something out of a fairy tale, for Christ’s sake. You rescued him-”

“It wasn’t life and death,” Dean interrupts. “It was just a sewer.”

“People have ended up with their soulmates through much less,” Sam counters. Dean shakes his head, falling back against the body of the Impala.

“Look, let me help you find this guy,” Sam continues talking. “There are missed connection sites you can post on.”

“No, Sam,” Dean says flatly. There is no way he is showing his ass on the internet by posting some soulmate searching ad.

“Dean, you’ve go to at least try,” Sam insists. “It’s unfair of you to hold out like this.”

“Unfair?”

“The guy has no idea that you’re his soulmate. He’s going to spend years waiting for an occurrence that has already happened.” Dean rubs at the bridge of his. Arguing with Sam was pointless, especially when he can kind of see his point.

“I’ll think about it,” Dean mumbles, fishing his car keys from his jacket and slipping back into the driver’s seat. “Alright?”

“I can start the searches for you if you-”

“Sam!” Dean shouts, “Seriously, you have to chill. I got fired and found out I might have met my soulmate in the span of 20 minutes. This is a lot to process. Like I said, I’ll think about it.” The is a heavy sigh on the other.

“Ok,” Sam replies, “But keep me up-to-date if anything happens.”

“Believe me, you will be the absolute first person I tell,” Dean replies. They say their goodbyes and Dean hangs up the phone, dropping it onto the passenger side of the bench seat.

As he turns the engine, his thoughts drift back to the frazzled-looking man in an uncomfortable situation. He smiles at the memory of messy, dark hair clinging to his forehead and the way his blue eyes lit up when he was actually free from the hole.

Dean is willing to admit, if only to himself, that he could do a whole lot worse in terms of soulmates.

 

 


 

 

Dean tries not to let Sam’s words get to him, but it’s no use. In between finalizing his severance paperwork and applying for unemployment, he takes a few minutes here and there to browse through some of the soulmate missed connection sites he mentioned.

It only takes reading the words “deep, meaningful connection” for the twentieth time for Dean to conclude that Sam is out of his mind if he thinks Dean is going to find Cas on here, much less post his own ad.

Dean knows that Sam is much too tenacious to be satisfied with some vague assurances on his part and when they grab coffee a few days later, it only takes a total of twenty seconds for Sam to bring it up.

“So,” Sam starts carefully as they wait in line. “Any luck on the search yet?”

“Nope,” Dean answers. There is a long pause and Dean can feel his brother’s eyes boring into him.

“Are you even looking?” Sam narrows his eyes.

“I am not,” Dean lies, giving a quick shake of his head. Sam groans and pinches the bridge of his nose.

“Jesus, Dean.” He shakes his head rapidly.

“I’m busy, Sam,” Dean argues. “Believe it or not, when you lose your job, there is a bunch of shit you have to do.”

“And finding your soulmate isn’t one of them?” Sam counters. “You need to put yourself out there. He’s not going to just fall in your lap!”

“I’ll get to it,” Dean replies. “Oh hey look, they make apple pie frappes!”

“Don’t change the subject!” Sam snaps, “Why are you so against this?”

“Why are you so invested?” Dean sighs, glaring at Sam; he should’ve know that an invitation to coffee was going to be a set-up for an interrogation. Sam’s expression falls.

“Look, I’m your brother. I care about you and I want to see you happy,” Sam replies.

“Soulmates don’t guarantee happiness,” Dean points out bitterly. “Mom and Dad were

soulmates. Look how well that turned out for them.” Sam frowns and looks away.

“I don’t know how many times we can have this same conversation,” Dean continues.

“But you’ve already found him!” Sam replies, a little too loudly for the crowded cafe, causing a few heads to turn in their direction.

“Yes, Sam, I have and now everyone and their mother knows,” Dean says sarcastically. “Thanks for that.”

“Look, I understood before. I got it,” Sam huffs, shoulders slumping. “You didn’t want a soulmate occurrence fucking with the symbiosis of your life. I can see the appeal.” The line moves and Sam and Dean both take a step forward.

“But now… I don’t get your logic,” he continues. “Your life is already screwed up. The symbiosis is shot, you lost your job-”

“Thank you for the painful reminder,” Dean mutters.

“It’s not like an occurrence can happen twice!” Sam points out. “You might as well find the person who you were meant to be with. You literally have nothing to lose.” As they move up to the register, Dean’s nostrils flare in irritation.

“What can I get for you today?” The barista asks cheerily. They both order their drinks and step to the side.

“Look,” Dean sighs, turning around and leaning against the counter, facing Sam. “I don’t actually think it was an ‘occurrence,’ as you say. I mean, there was literally about 2 hours between me finding the guy and getting fired. Aren’t mutual disasters supposed to happen at the same time? Like you and Jess.”

“Maybe it was your wrist?” Sam offers, pointing to Dean’s hand. Dean gives a sarcastic chuckle and looks down at his arm.

“A bruise is not disaster material, Sam,”

“I’ve heard that in some cases, one disaster will set another off. They’re not concurrent.” Sam explains, making no effort to hide a smug grin. “Like with Bobby and Ellen.” Dean shakes his head; he was sure he’d had Sam with that detail.

“Can we please drop it, Sam? It’s just not that big a big deal.” Sam drags a hand over his face.

“You’re not even going to try, are you?” he mutters. “Not even to put this guy out of his misery?”

“I have better things to do than spend hours on connection sites, browsing lists of painfully desperate people. I think I’m above that.”

Another lie, of course. Several sites were now bookmarked on his laptop and he had google alerts set up for “soulmate + sewer” and “soulmate + stuck + hole”

Dean didn’t really know if he actually wanted to meet the guy or if it was just some kind of morbid curiosity that was driving him to stay up half the night staring at a computer screen.

“This guy might go his entire life, never knowing his soulmate is out there?”

“Jesus, Sam, you’re acting like I’m torturing someone.”

“You kind of are,” Sam says as he grabs his drink off the counter.

“I’m still trying to process everything.” Dean takes his own drink, plucking up a straw and tapping it against the counter to remove the wrapper. “It’s a lot to-”

“Excuse me.” A dark-haired man presses past Sam and Dean, clutching his cup in his hand and heads out. It takes a few seconds for recognition to settle onto Dean. He jerks his head to the side to the side.

“Holy shit,” he mumbles under his breath. It’s him. It’s that Cas guy. He sets down his cup and straw on the counter and moves through the crowded shop, following that man’s path.

“Dean?” Sam calls after him.

“Hold on, Sam,” Dean mumbles, “I’ve gotta…” He trails off. He steps out onto the sidewalk, catching sight of a dark head of hair walking away from him.

“Sir?” Dean calls out, quickly weaving through the crowd. Cas doesn’t turn around. “Sir!” Dean manages to gain a little ground on him, calling out for him again. He bobs between the pedestrians with mumbled “sorry’s” and “excuse me’s”. As he turns the corner, Dean thinks he might have him, but his heart drops as he sees the construction scaffolding blocking off parts of the sidewalk and mashing the already tightly-packed crowd into an even smaller space.

“Sir!” Dean calls out again and, after a thought adds. “Cas!”  The man stops abruptly and Dean smiles in relief as he catches up, breathing a little short. Cas turns toward him, face twisted in confusion, familiarity flickering over his expression momentarily, before going blank.

“Yes? Can I help you?” he asks. Dean takes in the sight of him. He’s dressed in a shirt similar to the one he was wearing a few days ago and his hair is once again skewed in several different directions.

“Cas, hey it’s me!” Dean says brightly. “Dean. I, uh… I pulled you out of the sewer?” Cas gives Dean a small nod and a polite smile.

“Yes, Dean. I remember,” Cas says. “Thank you again.” He turns to go but Dean grabs hold of his arm. Castiel looks from Dean’s hand to face and back again, raising a perturbed eyebrow.

“Uh, sorry,” Dean quickly, “I didn’t mean to get into your face but, um… There’s something we need to talk about.” Cas stares at him expectantly.

“Okay,” he says, tugging his arm out of Dean’s grasp. Dean takes a deep breath. Here goes nothing.

“I uh… I guess we’re soulmates,” Dean admits, scratching at the back of his neck nervously. He glances up at Cas, who blinks back at him oddly.

“What?” he asks, brows squeezing together.

“Uh, after I pulled you out of the manhole, I um… I was fired,” Dean explains, a little reluctantly. “It seems pretty much what soulmate occurrence should be, right?” Cas stares at him for a long moment before his expression goes blank.

“I’m sorry, but you’re mistaken,” he says dismissively. He immediately turns on his heel and walks forward. Dean is gobsmacked. He rushes after the guy down the sidewalk.

“Wait, What do you mean mistaken?” He huffs. “Dude, you were stuck in a hole.”

“I’m aware. I was there,” Cas deadpans. Dean tries to keep up with Cas as they maneuver through the crowd. He angrily moves forward and tugs Cas back by the arm.

“I lost my fucking job,” he hisses, reaching for Cas’ shoulder and spinning him around to face him. “The last thing I wanted was a soulmate-”

“And I promise you you haven’t found yours yet,” Cas sighs in exasperation. “Look, I’m sorry that you were fired, I am, but it was just an accident.” Dean stares at him incredulously.

“Accidents don’t just happen accidentally,” he says. Cas gives him a long-suffering look and shakes his head.

“I don’t know what else to say,” he says, “but I can assure I am not your soulmate. Now if you’ll excuse me...” Cas takes a step back, shifting his jacket to the other arm. Dean watches despondently as he walks down the sidewalk, carefully sidestepping parts of the scaffolding.

He’s about to turn and walk away, when his eyes flick down to the pavement and a brown leather wallet sitting at his feet. Dean reaches down and picks it up, opening it to see a familiar face staring back from the driver’s license and the name “Castiel Novak” staring back at him (Castiel! Yes, that was the name!).

Dean takes off down the sidewalk in Castiel’s direction.

“Cas!” Dean calls out when he catches sight of him again. “Hey, Cas!”

“Oh for the love of God!” Cas growls, stopping and turning around just as Dean reaches him. “Can’t you just take a-” Dean holds the wallet up at eye level, cutting Cas off mid sentence.

“You dropped this,” he offers tersely.

“Oh,” Cas blinks a couple times and takes the wallet from him. “Um, thank you.” Deans smirks and gives him a dismal salute. He turns to leave, when there is an abrupt crash. A metal can tumbles off the scaffolding, hitting the ground ten feet from where they stand and sending yellow paint splattering into the street.

Both men jump in surprise and Cas tumbles back into Dean’s shoulder.

“Whoa, that was close,” Dean mumbles. Cas doesn’t saying anything, his head flicking from the now-empty paint can to Dean and back again. Dean shoots him a polite smile and backs away.

“I’ll leave you alone now,” he says, trying to avoid further embarrassment. He rushes back to the coffee shop where Sam is, thankfully, still waiting for him.

“What happened to you dude?” he asks, handing Dean his mostly-melted frappe.

“Nothing,” Dean says, waving his hand dismissively, “I just thought I knew the guy from somewhere.” He can feel Sam’s eyes on him as he takes a long sip of his drink.

“Was that the guy? The one who fell in the hole?” Sam asks carefully. Dean clenches his jaw tightly, trying to school his expression. He’s already beyond mortified, and he just wishes Sam would drop the matter..

“No,” Dean says quietly, swallowing back his disappointment, “I thought it was him but it wasn’t.” He moves past Sam toward the exit.

“Dean, I’m-”

“Let’s just go, Sam,” he says, ending the conversation and pushing through the door.

 

 


 

 

Castiel reaches the west entrance of the museum, flashing his card across the magnetic reader to open the door. He slips on his jacket, retrieving his wallet from the inner pocket and replacing the card. He smiles in relief that it hadn’t been lost. It must’ve fallen out while he was shifting his things around. He notes, with a small smile, that it was actually very amiable of Dean to return it to him, considering Castiel’s behavior.

Castiel navigates the lower level, making a beeline to the security office. When he first started working at the museum, he used to take the time to appreciate the exhibits around him. Too many injuries mid-transit had put a stop to that. He reaches the door, opening it to find Meg sitting behind the monitors, tapping on her phone absently.

“Good evening, Clarence,” she says, eyes locked on her phone screen. “You’re early today. No major incidents?” She gives him a wry grin.

“None yet,” Castiel sighs, aggravated at his reputation.

“Well, the night is still young,” she replies, rising to her feet. “Give it time.” Castiel rolls his eyes and takes Meg’s vacated seat behind the desk. He’s known Meg since he started working here and, if not for her, he would’ve been fired long ago. It wasn’t that Castiel was a bad employee, but most of his fellow staff steered clear of him, as if his issues were contagious.

“Looks like the commute wasn’t completely incident-free,” Meg snorts, pointing to his leg. Castiel glances down to see a smear of bright yellow paint staining his pant leg.

“Oh yeah, that,” he mumbles. “A paint can nearly fell on me, splattered everywhere.” Meg looks up at him, her face pinched in confusion.

“Nearly?” she asks.

“Yeah.”

“A paint can… nearly fell on you?” Meg leans forward, resting her elbows on the top of the desk.

“Yeah. That’s just what I said,” Castiel frowns, unsure at what Meg is getting at.

“Huh,” she snorts. “Well, that’s different.”

“What do you mean?” Castiel asks. Meg stands to her full height, still well below Castiel’s, and shrugs.

“I mean… ‘Nearly’ doesn’t really exist in your vocabulary.” She explains. “Shit either happens to you or it doesn’t. There’s no close calls in Castiel-world.” Castiel opens his mouth to argue, but Meg is right; his circumstances don’t allow for a lot of “almost.”

“Must be a fluke,” he mumbles miserably.

“Or maybe you’re finally getting some long-overdue good luck,” She offers. Castiel looks up at her from behind the desk in surprise. “If you did anything different today, I recommend doing more of it.” Castiel considers this as Meg grabs one of the massive flashlights from over the counter.

“In the meantime, though, you know the drill: don’t leave the office. I’m going to do one last round before I leave and make sure everyone is cleared out.” Meg wiggles her fingers and walks in the direction of Underground Adventure. The soft thud of her shoes echo down the hall.

Castiel settles into the seat, switching on all of the monitors. Through the hazy, greenish screens, he can see artifacts from various points in history displayed. Castiel sighs affectionately. He spent most of his youth studying these exact pieces and yet now he only feels safe viewing them through a monitor.

He remembers when the… incidents first started. He would trip or fall or maybe drop something. Often, someone would call him clumsy or reckless and he would move on. When the incidents began sending him or others to the hospital though, it evolved from a quirk into a full-blown problem.

Meg’s words linger in his mind. Maybe you’re finally getting some long-overdue good luck.

He thinks of the man today, Dean, and his insistence that Cas was his soulmate. If only that were true, and all this crap could be put to rest. Dean wasn’t the first person to claim Castiel was their soulmate, and he sure as hell wasn’t going to be the last. Oddly, Dean was the first person he’s met who seemed begrudging of having a soulmate rather than delighted.

Castiel can’t ignore the fact that Dean was the one who stopped Cas from getting hit with the paint can, in addition to returning his lost wallet. If anything felt like good luck after nearly a decade of the opposite, it was that.

The office door opens and Meg reenters the room. “Alright, Castiel. Everything looks good,” she drops the flashlight back behind the desk. “There’s a couple new items in the pass-down log. You have a good evening.” Castiel nods and pulls the log book out of the desk drawer beneath him. He bids Meg a goodnight and begins his shift. He’s glad he has at least one friend on the staff here, even if it is mostly out of pity.

The night watch really isn’t that bad. He likes the structure of everything and it gives him some opportunity to study his favorite pieces, read new books, and occasionally update his old provenance binder. It also gives Castiel a chance to be alone with his thoughts, which is both a blessing and a curse.

If Meg is right and Castiel found the key to his good luck in Dean, then he really blew it by sending the man packing. Castiel groans and lets his head fall into his hands.

Just like that, the bad luck starts all over again.

 

 

Chapter Text

 

Dean shakes his head dismally as he follows Sam and Jess out of the brewery.

“Well that was a waste of time,” he mutters. Sam shoots a frustrated glance back at him.

“C’mon Dean! It wasn’t bad. You didn’t like any of the ones we tried?” he asks.

“I liked them all fine. It was good beer,” Dean says, “But for Christ’s sake, It’s just beer. Don’t go asking me about ‘overtones’ or ‘nuances.’ What the hell is an overtone anyway?” Jess snorts and hides a laugh behind her hand.

“I think it’s the general flavor of the beer,” Sam supplies, “Y’know, citrus, spicy, nutty…”

“What’s wrong with beer-flavored?” Dean grouses. “And what was with the little glasses? I wanted a real glass and the guy keeps handing me these doll-sized cups.”

Jess cackles in response and falls against Sam.“You’re drunk,” Sam points out with a chuckle.

“Could be,” she titters, attempting to stand up straight while still wobbling precariously in her heels.

“Jess, you know you weren’t actually supposed to drink the beer, right?” Sam asks. “That’s why they had spit buckets everywhere.”

“Oops,” Jess snorts, dissolving into a fit of giggles.

“That’s fucking sacrilege, right there,” Dean says, pointing a finger at his brother. “Spitting out perfectly good beer… Are you kidding me?” Dean sidles up next to Jessica, ready to bolster her up and keep her on her feet.

“You’re a light-weight, you know that?” he says, giving her a good-natured nudge.

“I can’t help it.” Jess mutters, trying to put on a serious face. “Keeping up with you two is impossible.”

“Especially when you weigh about 100 pounds soaking wet,” Sam chides. Jess gives him a dirty look and sticks her tongue out at him. Dean looks away, ignoring the pang of jealousy as Sam takes the opportunity to pull her into a deep kiss.

“How about some food?” he offers, attempting to change the subject. “I’m starving.”

“Ooh, yes!” Jess replies, pulling back from the kiss. “Pizza!”

“I think there’s a Lou Malnati’s around here,” Sam says, pulling his phone from his pocket and opening the internet.

“Let’s grab a cab,” Dean says, already heading toward the curb and lifting his arm to flag down a taxi. “I’m sick of walking.”

 


 

 

“Cassy, why not come by the hospital? Gabriel and I are both on shift tonight.We could all have dinner together in the cafeteria,” Castiel cringes at Balthazar’s offer. He shifts his cell phone from his right ear to his left as he searches through his drawer for a clean pair of sweatpants.

“You don’t think I eat enough hospital food as it is?” he mutters. Cas appreciates his friends’ attempts to include him, but the hospital is not where he wants to spend one of his rare, injury-free, nights off.

“If I have to suffer through bland baked ziti, so do you,” Balthazar counters. “Really, though, what else are you going to do tonight?”

Castiel frowns and glances out the small window of his apartment to the city below. It’s Saturday night, definitely the worst night for him and his… condition. The last place he wants is to be outside the quiet safety of his apartment.

“Tonight feels like Netflix and pizza,” Castiel finally says. Balthazar scoffs on the other end of the line.

“Oh, what a thrilling life you lead, Castiel,” he snarks.

“Can you really blame me?” he replies. Balthazar hums in agreement. As many times as Castiel has been admitted to the ER with the most random injuries and ailments, he can’t.

“Of course,” he sighs, “but if you do change your mind, I know Gabriel and I would love to see you.”

“Is that Cas?” Castiel can hear Gabriel’s voice faintly drifting through the receiver.

“Yes, and I’m afraid he’s playing hermit crab tonight,” Balthazar responds. There is a shuffling sound on the other end of the line, Gabriel no doubt grabbing the phone from Balthazar.

“More bad cheesecake for me, then,” Gabriel teases, making Castiel smile.

“It’s all yours,” Castiel replies. He bids them both a goodbye and hangs up his phone, deliberately setting it down on the dresser before grabbing the pizza coupons tacked to the fridge. He dials the phone number at the bottom of the flier.

“Lou Malnati’s, how can I help you?” the cashier greets when the phone picks up. Castiel scans the coupons listed, quickly deciding.

“Hi, I like to place an order for delivery-”

“No delivery tonight,” the cashier says. “Delivery truck is busted.” Castiel blinks in disbelief.

“Um… Can’t you use another truck?” he asks.

“Only authorized to use delivery truck,” the cashier answers on rote. “Carry out and dine-in only tonight.” A ball of anxiety calcifies in Castiel’s stomach and he worries the coupon sheet between his fingers. He takes another glance outside where the sidewalk is filling with people out to enjoy their Saturday evening. Considering his options, he pulls open his freezer. Nothing is there except for an ice cube tray and a bag of frozen peas he’s pretty sure is leftover from the previous tenant.

“Hello?” The cashier calls out.

“Uh, yes, one moment please,” Castiel mumbles. He looks down at the flier, noting the pizzeria's address. It’s only about five blocks away. As long as he stay alert, he can handle five blocks, right?

“Can I, uh…” Castiel clears his throat, “Can I place an order for carry-out?” He places his order, receiving a rather terse total from the cashier and instructions that it will be ready in 20 minutes. Castiel lets out a breath as he hangs up the phone. He returns to his bedroom to grab his wallet and keys. He pulls on his trench coat and slips on his shoes.

Before he leaves, he checks three times that he has his wallet and four times that he has his house keys. Castiel has locked himself out of his apartment so often, he now has his locksmith, Ash, on speed dial.

“This pizza better be fucking worth it,” he mutters.

 


 

 

The restaurant is packed by the time they get there, a line already forming outside the door.

“Son of a bitch,” Dean groans, his stomach already growling in anticipation of food. “Come on, I bet we can find somewhere less crowded.”

“Every place is going to be like this on a Saturday night,” Sam argues. “Let’s just find a spot at the bar for now.” Dean grumbles, but follows Sam and Jess over to the bar just the same.

They find a small hi-top table off to the side and shed their jackets over the back of their chairs. Sam spots a harried-looking bartender and raises his hand to get her attention, receiving a short nod in return.

“I think I’m going to get some appetizers,” Dean mumbles as he glances over the menu. “Mozzarella sticks and garlic bread, maybe?”

“Yes!” Jess cheers, “And extra sauce for both.”

“That seems like a lot of carbs,” Sam says, furrowing his brow in concentration. “I wonder how their caesar salads are?’ Dean gives his brother an exasperated look.

“We’ve been swilling beer for the last two hours and now you’re worried about carbs,” Sam opens his mouth to argue just as a waitress approaches the table, and distributes some coasters.

“Hi, my name is Erica, and I’ll be serving you folks tonight. What can I get you to drink?”

 


 

 

Castiel’s heartbeat hammers in his chest the entire journey to the pizzeria. He rarely goes out on a weekend evening like this; there are too many variables for trouble. He spots the red awning of the restaurant in the distance and picks up his pace, his eyes scanning ahead of him. He manages to sidestep a rowdy group of frat guys, a couple of tourists with their eyes glued to a map, and a drunk, crying woman on her cell phone, not paying any attention to where they are going.

As soon as he reaches the front door, he breathes a sigh of relief and pushes inside. The restaurant is already crowded. Even the bar is full. Castiel moves through the sea of people and slides up to the the nearest register at the bar. It’s a minute before a bartender approaches him.

“What can I help you with, sir?” she asks.

“I have an order for carry-out,” Castiel answers, raising his voice above the din of the bar. “It’s under the last name ‘Novak.’” The bartender nods and taps on the computer screen in front of her, but her expression pinches in confusion.

“When did you order it, sir?” she asks.

“About a half hour ago,” he answers, the familiar sinking feeling settling over him. “Large with sausage, onions, olives and peppers.” The bartender quirks her mouth to the side as she continues to tap on the screen.

“Are you sure you ordered it from this Lou Malnati’s?” She asks. Castiel clenches his jaw and nods.

“Yes,”  he answers. “I am sure.”

“I’m not seeing any order for Novak here.” She offers Castiel a sympathetic smile. “Maybe I can check in the back to see if something happened.” Castiel knows that his pizza is nowhere in the building; it probably never was. He shakes his head and waves his hand in a dismissive gesture. The bartender gives him a shrug and continues working as she pulls out three beers for a group crowded around the bar.

Castiel turns to leave. Maybe he’ll give Balthazar a call and tell him he’s on his way over. As he moves toward the exit, his foot catches on the edge of one of a barstool. He loses his balance and falls forward. Someone unexpectedly runs into him from the side, sending Castiel flailing backward off his feet. He expects to impact with the tile floor, but instead he lands with an “oomph” in something soft.

It takes him a minute to realize it’s someone’s lap. Of course it is, Castiel thinks, his heart sinking as a blush rises to his cheeks.

“I am so sorry,” he mumbles, pushing himself up against the table and being careful of where he places his hands. “If I injured you-” He looks up to see a pair of green eyes staring back at him in surprise. For the third time in a week, Castiel is at the mercy of the mysterious Dean.

 


 

 

“So how do you know he wasn’t your soulmate?” Jess asks between bites of mozzarella stick. “Those incidents have to be related, right?” Dean shakes his head and tears off a piece of garlic bread.

“No, it wasn’t.” he replies firmly, “I mean, there’s more to a soulmate disaster-”

“Occurrence,” Sam corrects.

“Occurrence, right. There’s more to a soulmate occurrence than just that. There’s like… a feeling too, yeah?” He looks at Sam and Jess who look at each other and nod.

“This guy would’ve felt something too,” Dean continues. “I mean, you guys did, right?” Dean asks, giving them a pointed look. Sam nods enthusiastically, Jess however takes an unsubtle sip of her drink. Sam gapes, jaw hanging open.  

“What?” he laughs in disbelief. “You mean you didn’t feel that connection between us?”

Jess offers an absent shrug.

“Well, I thought you were cute, but I was kind of preoccupied with not getting stung,” she replies. “And don’t you think ‘deep, instantaneous connection’ is a little bit intense?”

“Not for soulmates,” he says  

Dean awkwardly busies himself with a mozzarella stick. Even though he loves Jess, he often gets confused by how her and Sam matched. They were both smart as whips, but where Sam’s a romantic with a lot of big idea, Jess is pragmatic and ambitious.

“Sam, c’mon, it’s not that big a deal.” Jess nudges him, trying to lighten the mood.

“It is to me,” Sam counters. “Our occurrence was earthshaking for me.” Jess responds with a long-suffering look.

“Baby, I’m your soulmate. Of course I felt something.” She leans forward and rubs her hand along Sam’s arm. “It just wasn’t like… BOOM for me, y’know.” Sam nods in understanding, but still looks unconvinced.

“I’m just different from you, ok?” she continues. “I read an article recently that said up to three percent of soulmates don’t have that instant deep connection. It’s something to do with brain chemicals or something.”

“So there’s even still hope for Dean” Sam chuckles. Dean smiles at his enthusiasm but shakes his head.

“This guy seemed pretty sure about it,” Dean says. “Didn’t even want to give it a chance…. His loss, I guess.” Dean raises his glass and takes a sip of his pint.

“You’ll find someone soon,” Jess says, patting Dean’s hand.

“No thank you!” Dean replies with a caustic laugh. “Definitely don’t want that. I already lost my job for no reason whatsoever. I’d like to keep everything else in my life safe and sound.”

“Do you know what you’re going to do about that?” Sam asks, popping a forkful of lettuce and dressing into his mouth. Dean gives an absent shrug.

“I’ve asked Bobby if I could pick up a few shifts at his shop. I know he can’t give me full time, but at least it’s something until I can find a more permanent job,” he answers.

“You know, if you need cash, I can lend you some,” Sam looks at Dean with wide, eager eyes. Dean sighs and shakes his head again. He appreciates his brother offer, God knows Sam makes enough with that high-priced lawyer job, but he doesn’t need a bail out.

“Thanks Sam, but I should be good.” he replies. “I have a pretty good severance package and a little money in the bank. I should be ok until I can find a new-umph!” A body lands in Dean’s lap inelegantly, bumping the table and sending the empty plate flying to the floor.

“I am so sorry,” the person mumbles, trying to right himself. Dean is about to answer with a pithy remark about forgetting how to walk when he notices messy, dark hair and familiar cologne.

“Hey, Cas,” Dean says, smirking down at the guy. Castiel blinks back at him a few times before responding. “Um… Hello Dean,” he mumbles. “I apologize for this, I didn’t mean to, uh… get into your personal space like this.”

“No problem, man,” Dean says, helping Cas to his feet. “Nothing broken, nothing spilled.”

Castiel opens his mouth to say something, but stops when he looks down to the ground at the overturned plate.“You’re right,” he says, brows pulling together. “Nothing is broken and your drinks…” he looks at the table and trails off, staring at the three glasses sitting upright.

“Yup, exactly!” Dean says, absently dusting off Cas’ shoulder, “Everything’s ok.”

Dean smiles at him, but Castiel just stares back with wide-haunted eyes.

“Is this him?” Sam asks. Dean turns to his brother and nods reluctantly.

“Yeah, actually,” he says, “It is. Sam, Jessica, this is Castiel. I uh, met him earlier this week.”

“Oh my God!” Jess gushes. “We have heard so much about you.”

Castiel gives her a perturbed look before glancing back at Dean. “I, uh, may have mentioned the sewer thing,” Dean explains. Castiel nods in understanding.

“Plus, I was at the coffee shop when Dean scampered off after you,” Sam interjects.

He glares at his brother then gives Castiel an apologetic look.“I did… not… scamper,” Dean splutters. “He’s exaggerating. I did not scamper.”

“Like a bunny,” Sam hold his hands up under his chin. Jess covers her mouth and laughs.

Dean rolls his eyes and gives Castiel a half-shrug.“I apologize for my idiot brother and his drunk girlfriend,” Dean tells him.

“It’s quite nice meeting you,” Castiel says with a short nod, “but I should be going.”

“Oh, you already finished dinner?” Dean asks.

“Actually I ordered out and they… well, they forgot to make my food.” Castiel replies. He begins to retreat from the table, moving to the exit. Dean frowns, wondering if it would be weird to ask Cas to join them. He looks like he could use some company.

“Why not join us then?” Sam asks first.

“Oh yes, please,” Jess adds. Castiel glances between the three of them, his eyes locking on Dean.

“Why not?” Dean asks. Despite the fact that he shot him down, he can’t deny that Castiel seems like an alright guy. After a moment, Castiel nods and pulls out the chair next to Dean.

“Thank you,” he mumbles. He picks up one of the menus and looks it over. “Have… um, you ordered yet?”

“We’ve only had appetizers so far,” Jess supplies. Dean’s eyes keep darting to Castiel, taking in the little details of the other man- the laugh lines around his eyes, the little curl of dark hair over his ear, the subtle dimple at the corner of his mouth. As if sensing he was being watched, Cas turns and catches Dean’s eye, raising a questioning eyebrow.

“Is something the matter, Dean?” he asks.

“Uh… um, I was just wondering if you’d like to split a-”

“No!” Castiel blurts out, a little too loud. “I’m sorry… I just… It’s probably best if i get my own pizza.” A waitress passes by their table and sets a glass of water in front of Castiel. He mumbles a soft thank you, methodically unwrapping the straw. He nervously twisted the paper around his fingers.

“Do you have food allergies?” Jess asks.

“Something like that,” Castiel answers vaguely. They look over their menus for a few minutes more, discussing what goes best in a deep dish pizza. The waitress breezes by once more with a pad and pen in hand.

“We all ready to order?” she asks.

“I think we are,” Dean says, looking at Sam and Jess. “Cas?” Dean’s eyes flick over to the Castiel.

“I’m ready as well,” Castiel says with a polite smile. Dean claps his hand and rubs them together.

“Great,” he enthuses, “because I am starving.”

 


 

 

Castiel isn’t sure what’s more alien to him: the fact that he’s eating in a restaurant with strangers or that he’s eating in a restaurant at all. He can’t remember the last time he went out to eat without ending up with hot soup spilled on his lap or a brown recluse crawling out of his steamed vegetables. He thinks the last time he actually dined out, his date set fire to his tie before going home with the waiter.

Castiel supposes he can’t call all of his dinner companions strangers, per se. Sam and Jessica of course are, but Dean is not. Castiel actually surprises himself by how much he knows about Dean. He’s the kind of man who helps people in need, he lost his job within the last week, and, for a short while, he thought Castiel was his soulmate.

Castiel lets his eyes drift to Dean, who’s guffaws with a mouthful of food over something Sam said. It is a shame they aren’t soulmates. Castiel can see the appeal in Dean’s physical appearance, to be sure, but it’s clear there is a lot of kindness and loyalty there as well.

“How’s your food, Cas?” Dean asks, cutting himself another cheesy forkful of deep dish pizza.

“It’s very good,” he answers, at a loss to say anything else. “Uh… filling.”

“So, Castiel,” Sam begins, and his tone shifted from friendly to interrogative. “What makes you believe that Dean here isn’t your soulmate?”

Castiel’s eyes widen at the question.

“Sammy,” Dean warns.

“What?” Sam asks. He swings a finger between him and Jess. “We’re both curious.”

“You can’t just ask that,” Dean reprimands. “It’s a personal thing, like talking about your sex life--”

“No, no, it’s alright Dean,” Castiel says, putting a tentative hand on his arm. “I don’t mind.” Dean frowns back at him, confused. Castiel dabs at the corner of his mouth with a napkin.

“My, uh, life… It doesn’t really allow for soulmates,” Castiel tries to explain, being vague as possible. He hates getting into the real nitty-gritty about his day to day life. “I have this… I guess you could call it a condition.”

“Ahh,” Sam and Jess say in unison as understanding dawns on them. It’s not a lie, but he’s found that if he implies that there is something medically wrong with him, and usually everyone is too embarrassed to ask further questions.

“See. It’s personal,” Dean pipes up. “None of y’all’s business.” Sam shakes his head and grabs the pizza server off of the metal pan.

“I wasn’t trying to embarrass anyone, Dean, I--” As Sam goes to serve himself another slice, his elbow bumps into a waitress, sending her stumbling to the side and knocking the bottle of hot sauce on her tray to the floor.

Castiel watches in accepted disappointment, waiting for the familiar crash of glass… but there isn’t one.

“That was close,” Dean chuckles, offering the hot sauce back up to the waitress. “That would’ve been a mess.” The waitress thanks him, accepting the proffered bottle before moving onto her next table.

“Nice catch, Dean,” Jess says.

“It’s because I have tiger-like reflexes,” Dean, mimicking his hands like a karate master.

“Sure you do, Daniel-san,” Sam jokes. Dean snarks back and soon the two of them are going back and forth, flipping from playful teasing to childish fighting. Castiel watches them, enjoying the banter, but his mind still stuck on the unbroken hot sauce bottle.

Since his problems began, Castiel has never once been witness to “lucky” catches or happy accidents. His thoughts flit back to the wallet and the paint can. Could all of this be Dean’s effect?

He needs to test this out.

Castiel reaches into the pocket of his slacks and pulls out a quarter. Trying to avoid the others’ notice, he flips it into the air. It lands on the table, spinning rapidly before coming to a stop… on it’s edge.

“You’ve got to be fucking kidding me,” Castiel mutters.

“What is it, Cas- Holy shit!” Dean hoots with laughter. “Sam! Jess! Check that shit out!” He points down at the quarter sitting on it’s side in front of Castiel.

“Oh my God, Dude!” Sam laughs. “How’d you do that? That’s awesome!”

“I… I don’t know,” Castiel mumbles, shaking his head in amazement. He glances up at Dean, who is still staring at the quarter, fascinated.

“That’s got to go against the laws of physics,” he mumbles, face split into an amused grin.

“Or at least a very rare occurrence,” Sam offers. Castiel opens his mouth to say something when the waitress comes by, grabbing empty plates from them.

“Did anyone save room for dessert?” Sam chuckles and Jess shakes her head.

“I think we’re good,” Dean replies. “Can we just get the check?”

“Is that all together or separate?” she asks.

“Together,” Dean says.

“Separate,” Castiel blurts out at the same time. Dean levels a stare at him. “Thank you for the offer, Dean, but I can’t let you do that.”

“Well, I say I can,” Dean counters, reaching for his wallet.

“I do not believe that’s a wise decision,” Castiel argues. “I mean you just lost your job…” He trails off as he notices a flicker of pain across Dean’s expression.

“Well, then let me,” Sam says, breaking the tension and handing the waitress his card. She nods and walks away to takes care of the bill.

“It was very nice meeting you, Castiel,” Jess touches his shoulder.

“Same,” Cas offers with a sincere smile. The waitress stops back by the table, handing Sam a black folder and bidding them a goodnight.

They leave the restaurant together, bundling up against the cool damp air of the early spring. Jess rubs at her arms, trying keep warm in her thin sweater.

“I think we’ll grab a cab,” Sam says. “Cas? Dean? Do you want to split one?”

“I just live a few blocks away,” Castiel replies with a shake of his head. “I think I’m just going to walk. Uh.. Dean? Would you want to walk with me?” Dean opens his mouth to answer, glancing from Sam to Castiel and back again.

“Uh, sure… yeah, I guess,” he says. He gives Sam and Jess quick hugs goodbye and Castiel leads him down the street in the direction of his apartment.

“Is there a particular reason you wanted to get me alone?” Dean asks, wiggling his brows in an exaggerated manner.

“No, not really,” Castiel answers, shoving his hands into the pockets of his trench coat for warmth. “I just enjoyed our conversation and felt like keeping it going.”

Dean hums in response and nods. The truth was, though, that Castiel just wanted one trip back home without having to keep his guard up. Dinner had been one the best experiences he’d had in years. There’d been no choking or spilled bowls or any other situation he usually encountered. It was refreshing, to be honest.

Dean is pleasant and easy to talk to, for which Castiel is grateful. Dean has every right to be pissed off at him for shutting him down over the soulmate thing; instead, Dean just takes it in stride.

“I’d like to apologize,” Castiel blurts out. “About how I treated you the other day… on the street.”

Dean snorts, waving his hand in a dismissive gesture.“Don’t even worry about it,” he says. “It’s not a big deal. To be honest, I never even really wanted a soulmate.” Castiel furrows his brow and glances at Dean. “I mean, don’t get me wrong,” Dean continues, “When I thought I had one, I was like ‘might as well accept this,’ but the truth is I wasn’t hoping for my soulmate disaster anytime soon.” Castiel gives a bitter laugh.

“I understand that.” He stops in front of a flat-top, two-story brick building. “Uh… this is me.” He waves his hand, indicating the building. Dean gives it a once-over and an approving nod.

“Cool,” he mumbles. “So, I guess this is goodnight then?” Castiel nods.

They stand there for a long moment in awkward silence. Dean’s eyes narrow at Castiel, a small smile creeping across his face, as if he is a puzzle to be figured out. He shifts on his feet and for a split second Castiel is afraid Dean might try to kiss him. Castiel feels a twinge deep within himself, begging him to continue. He knows nothing good can come of it if he does, though. It never has before. Instead, he takes a step back and Dean’s movements don’t follow.

Dean clears his throat and pulls his wallet from his back pocket, producing a small white card.

“I, uh, had a lot of fun tonight,” Dean says. “If you ever want to, y’know, hang out or whatever, you can give me a call.” He hands the card to Castiel, who reads it over.

“It’s my old business card,” Dean explains. “You can ignore most of the information, but the cell number is still good.” Castiel smiles and sticks the card in his pocket.

“Thank you, Dean,” he says.

“I better get going before they close the brown line for the night.” Dean mutters. They shake hands and Dean retreats in the direction they came. Castiel climbs the stairs to his apartment, almost floating on air until he trips up the third landing. Reality settles over him like a cold fog as his bad luck returns.

Castiel can’t be bothered to care though. He’s still smiling as he unlocks his apartment and steps inside, double checking to make sure it’s locked behind him. He reaches into his coat pocket and pulls out the business card. He’s found a walking good-luck charm in Dean Winchester and he’s not about to give it up.

 



Chapter Text

 

Dean is in the middle of his break in the employee lounge of Bobby’s shop, Singer Auto and Salvage Yard, when his phone chimes with a text. He pulls it out and nearly drops it in surprise when he sees that it’s a message from an unknown number.

Hello Dean. This is Castiel. If possible, could you meet me at the Field Museum tonight? the text reads.  

Sure, Dean types back. What time? Almost as soon as he sends it, a response appears.

10:30 pm

Dean’s brow furrows in confusion. That seems awfully late to be at a museum; Dean’s not sure museums are even open that late, but he chalks it up to a special event perhaps. He grins to himself as he sends back an affirmative reply.

In truth, the idea of spending more time with Castiel appeals to Dean. Their dinner a few nights ago had left Dean curious about the man. Even if they weren’t soulmates, he felt there was something between them. Cas wasn’t cold or unfriendly as Dean had initially assumed.

Castiel asks Dean to meet him near the west entrance of the building on the ground floor. With his curiosity peaked, Dean’s not sure he can focus much for the rest of the day. He checks his watch; it reads 2:19 pm.

 


 

Dean pulls into the parking garage across the street from the museum. He checks his watch and sighs, turning off the engine; he’s ten minutes early. The lot is empty, save for a handful of cars.

Dean opens the door and steps out of the Impala. He can see the massive structure of the museum ahead him, wide stone steps leading up to the row of columns that frame the building’s facade. Dean treks out of the parking garage and across the street, heading toward the west entrance.

He finds the meet spot and frowns when he sees no sign of Castiel.

“Psst!” a voice behind him calls out.  Dean startles. In the shadow of the building, he can make out the form of a woman. “Sorry about that. Um, are you Dean?” Dean takes a step closer to the source of the voice.

The short woman is well dressed, in a dark knee-length skirt, blazer, and tie. Her dark, curly hair is pulled away from her heart-shaped face.

“Who’s asking?” Dean says suspiciously. The woman gives him a tight smile, unfolding her arms from across her chest and extending her hand.

“I’m Meg,” she offers. “I work with Castiel. He sent me out here to fetch you.” Dean cautiously shakes her hand.

“Why can’t Cas do that himself?” Meg looks away and laughs to herself.

“That’s not my story to tell,” she offers enigmatically. She tips her head to the side, indicating for Dean to follow. Against his better judgment, he does. Meg opens a unseen side door, holding it open for Dean.

He follows her through a hallway that spills out into the lower level of the museum. The space is dimly lit by emergency lighting, giving everything a faintly yellowish hue. Meg walks ahead without looking back to see if Dean is following. She turns down another hallway, walking a short distance before stopping in front of a plain door with the word “security” printed across the front. in big, block letters

“Look what I found outside, Clarence,” Meg says as she steps inside the room. “He followed me home. Can I keep him?” Dean enters the room just in time to see Castiel’s head pop up from behind the desk. He’s dressed in a similar fashion to Meg in what Dean assumes is a uniform.

“Hello, Dean,” he greets. “You made it!”

“Can I leave now?” Meg asks. Cas eyes shift to her and he nods.

“Yes, and thank you very much for your help.”

“Oh, you’ll get the bill,” Meg says as she turns and leaves the office. An awkward silence falls between them and Dean shifts his weight.

“So… I’m guessing this is where you work?” Dean pipes up, waving his hand around the room. There is a desk and a few monitors which intermittently flip to shots of different rooms in the Museum.

“Yes, It is,” Castiel says, rising to his feet and smoothing down his slacks. “I hope you don’t mind.”

“Oh no, not at all,” Dean mumbles shaking his head. Castiel looks at the clock on the wall and picks a flashlight up off of the desk.

“Is… Is there a reason that you wanted to meet me at your job...  in the middle of the night?” Dean finally asks. Castiel gives a wan smile and nods.

“There is, actually,” he says. He holds up his flashlight, “but I have to do rounds first. Do you think you could join me?” Dean eyes Castiel. There is something going on with this very strange man, but he just can’t seem to put his finger on it.

“Sure,” he says warily. “But doesn’t this break like a million rules?” Castiel shrugs, and grabs up a pair of keys and the flashlight, leading Dean back out into the hallway.

“What can I say? I’m feeling lucky tonight.” Cas locks the door behind him and they set out on foot around the museum.

They don’t talk at first, Castiel focusing on his responsibilities while Dean enjoys the experience of being inside a museum in the middle of the night.

Dean chuckles, pointing up at Sue, the massive T-Rex skeleton in the far end of the main hall. “Has she ever come to life in the middle of the night and chased after you?”  Castiel looks at Dean strangely.

“Of course not,” he mumbles. “It hasn’t been alive for over 65 million years.”

“It’s a joke, Cas, like that movie?...” Dean trails off at Castiel’s perturbed expression. “Y’know what? Nevermind.” Silence falls between them again as they continue through the exhibits.” So, you’re a security guard,” Dean says as Cas glances around Magnified Earth. “I actually wouldn’t have expected that from you.” Castiel swings his head around, brow drawn tight together.

“How come?” he asks.

“Well, I mean you seem pretty smart.”

Castiel’s eyes narrow.“So you’re saying because I work security, I’m dumb?” he asks, expression stiff.

Dean’s mouth hangs open dumbly.” Ah…” Dean stammers as he tries to formulate an answer. “Well, no, I mean… um, just from talking to you a few times, you seem… very educated.”

“Yes, doing security requires nothing more than a GED,” Castiel replies sarcastically.

“Hey, I’m not knocking GEDs; I have a GED!” Dean blurts out. “But you seem overqualified-”

“So what kind of qualifications would you recommend?” Castiel asks in mock seriousness. “You do realize that this position holds an immense amount of responsibility.”

Dean groans and drags a hand over his face.

“You know what? My foot it already far enough in my mouth,” he mutters, “I’m just going to stop.”

Castiel’s face softens and he gives Dean a small smile. “You are not wrong,” he says sadly. “I am overqualified for this job, but I wanted to work in the museum and this is the only position I can get.” Castiel sits glumly on a nearby bench, letting his elbows rest on his knees.

Dean watches him for a moment before taking a seat beside him.“Well, it’s not a bad job,” Dean offers.

Cas snorts and shakes his head.“It’s not what I planned to do with my life,” he replies.

“Well, I’m sure you’ll be able to get something better eventually, right?” Cas looks at him, offering a grateful smile and shaking his head.

“That’s a nice thought, Dean… but no, it’s probably not going to happen.” Castiel turns the heavy flashlight over in his hands as another awkward silence falls between them.

“How do you know?”

“That’s actually part of the reason I asked you here tonight,” Castiel purses his lips for a moment before taking a deep breath and beginning. “I told you at the restaurant that I had a condition, right?”

“Yeah.”

“It’s not so much medical,” Cas says carefully, “It’s more…” He gestures absently toward himself. “It has to do with me. My doctor friend say it’s a genetic abnormality but I-” Dean shakes his head in exasperation.

“Just spit it out, Cas,”

“Bad stuff happens!” Cas blurts out, his voice providing a soft echo through the room. “Bad stuff happens to me, around me, to those around me…”

“What do you mean ‘bad stuff?’” Dean asks, confused. He’s getting really sick of all the vague language.

“Well, like… falling in the sewer for example.” Castiel offers. “That wasn’t the first time that happened.”

“You’ve fallen into a sewer before?” Dean is very curious how that happens twice. Wouldn’t someone just avoid open sewers after the first time? he thinks.

“At least that time I didn’t hit the bottom,” Cas grumbles. “That was disgusting… and required a round of booster shots I did not enjoy.”

Dean snorts a laugh in spite of himself, earning a dirty look from Cas. “Sorry, sorry,” Dean mumbles. “So you fall in sewers a lot then.”

“Well, not just sewers,” Cas explains, “Generally, bad stuff happens to me- I get injured, I find out I have random allergies after I have a reaction, I lose shit constantly-”

“Well, that’s life, Cas,” Dean offers. “Things just happen.” Cas turns and looks Dean straight in the eye.

“Yeah, but not to the degree to the frequency that they’re happening to me!” Cas emphasises. “Dean, It’s like... I’m constantly, constantly having soulmate occurrences. All the time.”

It finally dawns on Dean and everything clicks into place.“That’s how you knew I wasn’t your soulmate,” Dean supplies. He gets a sad smile and a nod from Cas.

“Yes, exactly,” Cas says. “And it’s been everyday of my life for almost ten years now.” Dean takes this in, letting the weight of Castiel’s words settle over him.

“So… So, it’s like you’re curs-”

“Don’t say it!” Cas snaps. “Don’t say that word. It’s not a curse… It’s… It’s bad luck, that’s all. Bad luck can be fixed. That’s what I keep telling myself.”

Cas frowns, rubbing his hands over the engraved pattern on the side of the flashlight. Dean feels for the guy; clearly all this is causing him a lot of misery. It still doesn’t  explain what Dean is doing here, though.

“So, what does this have to do with me?” he finally asks. Cas looks up at him, offering the first genuine smile Dean has seen all night.

“I think that you might be the solution to my problem.”

Dean shakes his head. “I am not following.”

“I think you’re good luck.” It takes a moment for Dean to process what he’s saying.

“I’m sorry… what?” Dean asks, rising to his feet and shaking his head in disbelief. Dean is able to suspend disbelief in certain situations, but this takes the cake. Castiel holds up his hands carefully.

“I know it sounds… far-fetched-”

“It sounds like bullshit, Cas,” Dean laughs.

“Just please let me explain, ok?” Dean exhales through his nose and takes his place on the bench once more. “Since, I’ve met you, whenever you are in close proximity to me, things are suddenly…”

“Good?”

“Well, not bad, which is a huge step up!”  Castiel’s eyes widen with emphasis. “I mean, you pulled me out of the sewer.”

“C’mon, anyone would’ve done that!” Dean shrugs.

“But no one did,” Cas points out. “You did! Then I dropped my wallet and you returned it.”

“That’s pretty basic human decency, right there,” Dean explains.

“But by just being there with me, I dodged that can of paint that fell from the scaffold!” Cas offers brightly. Dean’s mouth is a hard line; yeah, he has no explanation for that.

“Then at the restaurant you caught me when I fell, there was the hot sauce bottle, none of our drinks spilled when I hit the table,” Cas continues. “Dean, I can assure you none of this stuff happens normally to me… and it only happens around you.” Cas looks at him with big, sincere eyes. Dean runs a hand through his hair as he tries to process all of this.

“Ok, so I’m good luck,” he says flatly. “What are you going to do? Skin me alive and hang my foot off of your keychain?” Castiel makes a disgusted noise.

“No. Ew,” he mutters. “My idea is actually a little more simple than that. I want to hire you.” Dean’s eyebrows fly to his hairline.

“Hire me?”

“Yes, hire you,” he says.

“To be what? Like a professional good luck charm?” Dean asks sarcastically.

“Well, to put it colloquially, yes.” Cas replies. Dean belts out an abrupt laugh.

“Wow, Cas, um… I’m really flattered, but…” he laughs again. “You can’t just hire a fucking lucky charm!” Cas straighten up.

“Why not?” he asks, petulantly. “People are hired to do any number of things.”

“Yeah, but...”  Dean rises to his feet, still laughing over the ridiculous of the situation. “Look, I have a job, ok? I can’t spend 24 hours a day tagging along with you making sure you don’t hurt yourself.”

“I’m not asking for 24 hours!” Castiel jumps to his feet, “I just need you at work, that’s all. Six hours a night, six days a week.” Dean leans back, eyeing Cas suspiciously.

“I thought you said your bad luck is constant?”

“It is,” Cas sighs. “But I can mitigate my home life, and my commute… well, most of the time I can make it here without much issue, but work?” He scrubs his hands over his face and groans. “I have no control here and you are my first silver lining.” Dean thinks for a moment. Castiel’s blue eyes stare back at him pitifully. It’s hard not to feel bad for the guy; his situation sucks, that’s for sure.

“And what’s the catch?” Dean asks wearily.

“No catch,” Castiel gives an emphatic head shake. “You just need to be here with me when I’m at work. You can read, you can sleep… Hell, you can play Gameboy for all I care.” Dean grimaces, looking at him doubtfully

“Cas, I hate to be a buzzkill here, but how are you going to pay me? I’m not some baby-sitter that you can pawn off for $5 and hour.” Castiel looks at Dean seriously, offering up a small smirk.

“I can pay you decently,” he assures.

“No offense, Cas, but how much can security work really make?” Dean counters. “I appreciate the thought, but I don’t want to be taking all of your paycheck.”

“I make enough,” Cas states. “Plus, what I’ll be saving in doctor’s bills alone should cover your salary.” He takes a step forward, pleading eyes locked on Dean’s.

“Please, this would mean the world to me,” Cas rubs his hands together anxiously in front of him. “If you want we can do a trial run, just… please just give this a chance.” Dean bites at his lip, brows still drawn tight in concern. Castiel looks so hopeful and Dean’s always been a sucker for puppy dog eyes.

“Fuck,” he mutters under his breath. “Let me think it over, ok?” Castiel’s face falls and Dean feels a sudden need to erase that look right away.

“I’m not saying no,” he assures. “I just… Just give me a day, ok? To think about it?” Cas’ expression softens somewhat and he nods.

“Understood,” he says. Dean glances down at his watch, cursing under his breath again.

“I need to get home,” he mumbles. “I have work in the morning.” Castiel looks up at him in surprise.

“Oh, I… I, uh, thought you were unemployed at the moment.”

“An old friend of the family took me on,” Dean gives a small shrug. “Working on cars a few days a week.” Cas nods in understanding.

“Right then,” he says. “Let me get back to the office then.” As they walk through the vacant rooms, something occurs to Dean.

“Y’know, with your little, uh, problem and all, I’m surprised you’re allowed anywhere near all of this,” he gestures to the exhibit around them, “priceless… stuff.” Cas snorts softly and give a half-smile.

“I’m not actually,” He glances at Dean, “Tonight was the first time in the three years I’ve worked here that I’ve done physical rounds of the building. I’m normally not allowed five feet outside of my office.” Dean looks at him in shock.

“You’re not allowed away from your office?” He repeats in disbelief. Cas gives an absent shrug.

“My first night here, I almost destroyed a 12th century Italian vase.”

“Jesus,” Dean says under his breath. “And you didn’t get fired?”

“Almost did,” Cas replies. “Meg vouching for me and one well-placed security camera were the only things that saved me and showed that I wasn't at fault.” Dean still looks perplexed.

“How?” Dean asks. How can someone almost destroy a priceless artifact and not be to blame?

“Because it fell on me,” Cas says. “I kept it from hitting the ground, but it was so heavy…” He trails off with a shrug. They reach the office door and Castiel takes the time to give Dean detailed instructions on how to exit the building.

He hoofs it back to the parking garage and the Impala. When he reaches the car, he takes one more opportunity to look at the great imposing structure of the museum, Castiel locked deep-down in the lower levels.

Dean sighs to himself, slips into the driver’s seat and pulls out of the parking garage.

 


 

The next morning, Dean finds himself laying in bed at 10:30 in the morning, staring at the white plaster of his ceiling. Bobby had called him over two hours ago letting him know that things were slow today and he didn’t have to come in.

Bobby tried to hide the pity in his voice, but Dean could hear it anyway. He tried to counteract it, sounding as chipper as possible, mumbling something about all the things he needs to do today. If a lie makes Bobby happy and less anxious for Dean, what’s the problem?

He manages to peel himself out of bed and shamble into the kitchen. He washes out the carafe and starts a new pot of coffee, making sure to add a couple extra scoops of coffee grounds. If he can’t actually be productive, the least he can do is try to feel productive.

Dean flops down on the couch and turns on the TV. He flips through channels for awhile, giving up and pressing mute on whatever talk show he lands on. He grabs his phone and scours through the contacts. He thinks about calling Sam, but he figures that his brother is probably up to his eyeballs in that legal paperwork he is always complaining about.

He stops scrolling when he sees the name “Cas” staring back at him. He thinks about what Cas said the night before. The guy really has been handed a raw deal; Dean can’t imagine living life like a walking insurance assessment.

He taps Castiel’s name and open a new message. He knows maybe he can do better than being a hired good luck charm. If he updated his resume and pounded the pavement a little, maybe he could put that marketing and communications degree to good use.

Still, though, Dean can’t deny that spending time with Castiel is tempting. The “work” Cas is asking for is easy. Dean just has to exist, he has no responsibilities outside of that. It doesn’t hurt that Castiel is pretty attractive to boot.

Dean types a quick message and hits send. He waits for a moment in hesitation until the little thought bubble appears at the bottom of the screen.

Fantastic, Cas’ text reads. Are you available tonight? Dean texts back in the affirmative. He finds that he’s looking forward to returning to the museum.

He hopes he can trust that instinct.

 


 

Castiel crosses the hospital cafeteria toward the table where Balthazar and Gabriel are already waiting. He pulls out a chair and sits down, noting with glum acceptance that, of course, it wobbles. Across from him, Gabriel and Balthazar pick items off of each other’s trays.

“Honestly, Gabriel, if you wanted the pudding you should have gotten your own,” Balthazar gripes, snatching a pudding cup out of Gabriel’s hand.

“I did, but I ate it already,” Gabriel whines, reaching for the the pilfered cup. “And Marie won’t give me more than one.”

“That might have something to do with the time you tried to buy fifteen at once,” Balthazar reminds him, thrusting the pudding cup in Castiel’s direction and out of Gabriel’s reach. Gabriel scowls at him.

“You are so mean to me sometimes,” he glares at Balthazar.

“Only because I love you, darling.” Balthazar leans down and presses a kiss to the tip of Gabriel’s nose. He turns his attention back to Castiel as he pushes up the sleeves of his white coat.

“So, Castiel, you’ve been absent from the hospital this week.”

“Yeah, that’s right,” Gabriel adds. “What’s going on? Are you cheating on us with another ER?” Castiel laughs as he takes apart his BLT.

“No, no, nothing like that,” he says. “I’ve had a pretty good week, to be honest.” Gabriel and Balthazar glance at each other.

“A good week? Pray tell, Castiel, what constitutes a good week?” Balthazar inquires as he stabs a fork into his salad. “Aside from a lack of hospital visits?”

“Oh, I know!” Gabriel pipes up, tearing open a ketchup packet for his fries. “A bird only crapped on his head once.” Castiel shakes his head, unable to keep from smiling.

“That’s actually supposed to be good luck, you know.”

“Oh, Castiel,” Balthazar pipes up. “I was speaking to one of the fellows in the genetics research lab a few days ago. I brought up your situation. He had some very interesting ideas about what may be causing it.”

Castiel groans. “Not this again, Balthazar,” he pleads. “I’ve told you numerous times- I don’t want to be part of a research study.”

“Honestly, Castiel, I don’t understand your reluctance.” Balthazar shakes his head. “There might be a very simple solution for all of this.”

“Yeah, but the last thing I need is to be put on some mystery drug with side effects that are worse than the cure.” Castiel mutters. “Besides, you’d think it was genetic, something like this would’ve shown up in my family years ago.”

“Maybe it’s just very, very, very, very, very recessive,” Gabriel offers with a shrug. “It’s not entirely unheard of. I think I read somewhere of a man in Tasmania having something similar.”

“It wouldn’t hurt to get some information on the study,” Balthazar says.

“Enough, guys,” Castiel stresses. “No studies, no drugs. I don’t want it. Besides, I think I may have found a solution,” he says, glancing up at his friends. Gabriel and Balthazar both stop eating, their expressions quickly growing serious.

“A solution? For your cur-”

“Don’t say the C-word,” Gabriel points a finger at Balthazar in warning. Castiel bites at his lip and nods.

“How though?” Balthazar presses. Castiel hems and haws on revealing much, knowing the kind of reaction he’ll get from his friends.

“There’s this guy...” he begins.

“Ha!” Gabriel cuts him off abruptly. “I told you a soulmate disaster would do it!” Gabriel throws an open palm in Balthazar’s direction.

“C’mon, pay up!” he orders. Balthazar gives him a long-suffering look as he chews a bite of his salad. “C’mon, you can afford it. You’re a doctor!”

“And you’re a nurse!” Balthazar argues. “You wouldn’t pay out if it was you!” Gabriel snorts indignantly.

“Please, I don’t make any money,” he says. “That’s why I’m dating a doctor.” He wiggles his eyebrows and throws a bawdy wink at Balthazar.

“Ignore him,” Balthazar says, returning his attention to Castiel. “Please continue.”

“There’s a guy. I ran into him a few times this week,” Castiel explains. “When I’m around him it’s like my luck changes. I asked him to… be at work with me.”

“And he agreed?’ Gabriel asks. Castiel makes a hesitant noise.

“Not yet.” Balthazar and Gabriel groan in unison. “But he said he would get back to me!” Balthazar shakes his head.

“Oh, Castiel,” he says pitifully, “no, he won’t.” Castiel’s expression drops as his anxiety begins to spike.

“You… you don’t think so?”

“You have to learn to lock that shit down, Castiel!” Gabriel exclaims. “Lock. It. Down!” Castiel swallows hard. What if Dean doesn’t agree? What if all of his dreams are dashed apart again?

Everything he wanted had seemed within reach and now it was about to be snatched away once more.He feels the beginnings of an anxiety attack setting in when his phone pings with a message. He glances down at the screen, relief washing over him.

I’m in, the message reads. An easy smile spreads across his face. He thrusts the phone triumphantly in Gabriel’s face.

“Locked. Down!” he shouts, loud enough so that most of the cafeteria glances in their direction.

“Yes, that’s wonderful,” Balthazar says, gently lowering Castiel’s arm and shushing him. Castiel can’t keep from grinning as he responds to Dean’s text.

“So he’s actually going to help you?” Gabriel asks. Castiel gives an enthusiastic nod as he tears a piece of lettuce from his deconstructed BLT and pops it in his mouth.

“Does this mean you are going to start eating your sandwiches like a person again?” Balthazar asks, raising a curious eyebrow.

“Not a chance,” Castiel replies assuredly, plucking up a single piece of bacon and taking a bite.

 

Chapter Text

Dean arrives at the museum’s west entrance at 10:15 to find Meg leaning against the wall with a cat-like smile.

“Awfully kind of you to be helping Clarence out like this,” she says.

“Why do you call him that?” Cas’ name may be uncommon, but it’s not unpronounceable. Meg shrugs and leads him to the security room door. Castiel is there, pulling up a second rolling office chair next to his.

“Hello, Dean,” he greets. Dean nods in response as he steps into the room.

“Have fun, you two,” Meg offers. She gives Dean a once over, smirking. “Don’t do anything I wouldn’t do.” She closes the door behind her and walks away.

An awkward silence settles between them.  

“So… how do you want to do this?” he glances at Castiel.

“I’m not really sure, to be honest,” Castiel answers. “The trial and error method would probably be best, I suppose.”

Dean nods and takes a seat in a desk chair. Castiel moves back behind the desk. He glances across the numerous monitors in front of him.“So this is what you do all night?” Dean mutters, looking around the room. “Just watch video monitors all over the museum?”

“Pretty much,” Castiel responds, not turning his attention away from the screens.

“And it’s just you?” Castiel glances at Dean.

“For the overnight, yes.” He turns his chair to face Dean. “Meg leaves around 11 pm and Hester arrives at 4:30 am. Otherwise, they don’t need much more than me.” He gives Dean a small smile and twists his chair back to face the screen. Dean nods, calculating the time in his head and working out what hours he’ll be able to fill in at Bobby’s. “This is alright, isn’t it?” Castiel looks at Dean with a worried expression. “I mean, you can always sleep if you need to. I can dig up a cot perhaps--”

“Don’t worry about it, man,” Dean waves him off. “I need four, five hours a night tops. I’m good.” Castiel looks doubtful but doesn’t say anything. The silence falls between them once more. Dean watches as the screens flicker between the different rooms in the museum.

 

 

“So what exactly am I going to do?” Dean pipes up. “Besides sit here with my thumb up my ass, I mean?” Castiel snorts and shakes his head.

“Rounds every hour,” he replies. “We’ll take a different zone every hour or so unless something out of the ordinary pops up on the screen.”

“Why do rounds, though?” He gestures to the screens. “I mean, if they have all these monitors and stuff.”

“There is no substitute for human vigilance.” Castiel answers.

“Or human error,” Dean adds. “So… you’re basically paying me to go on walks with you?” He raises an eyebrow. Castiel looks up at him with a tight smile.

“There’s more to it than that,” Castiel explains. “As we continue this, we’ll find ways to… expand our responsibilities, as it were.”

Dean gives a half shrug. He pulls his phone from his pocket, opening a game.

The time drags. Dean glances over to where Castiel is checking monitors. “It’s only been an hour? Are you kidding me?” He holds his phone above his head, frowning at the lack of bars. “No signal down here, huh?”

“I’m afraid not,” Castiel says with an apologetic look. He pulls open a desk drawer, shuffling around the contents. “I think I have a wifi password around here somewhere…”

“You don’t know it?’ Dean replies incredulously.

“I… I try stay focused,” Cas gives a half shrug. His eyes flick to the clock at the corner of the monitor. He rises from his chair and stretches.

“I suppose we could do a patrol,” he says.  

Cas grabs the flashlight off the table and the office keys from the desk. Dean follows him out of the door.

“So, tomorrow night, should I just wait for Meg again?” Dean asks

“I hate to keep monopolizing Meg’s time.” Cas glances at Dean out the side of his eye. “I didn’t want to risk the safety of myself or any of the items in the museum, but I guess we can meet outside the entrance instead. I normally arrive at 9:15, if that’s alright with you?”

Dean shrugs. “Hey, you’re the one paying for my time,” he says. “So… security work? I’ll be honest, man, doesn’t it get a little uh…” Dean trails off, trying to find the right word.

“Mundane?” Castiel supplies.

“I was going to say ‘Ass-numbingly boring’,” Dean replies, “but sure, mundane works.”

“Either way,” Castiel says, with a rueful smile, “you’re right. Doing security work wouldn’t be my first choice, but... I wanted to work here. This was my only option, boring though it might be.”

He looks away sadly and walks on before Dean can press further. They are silent for another few minutes until Dean pipes up again. “So what do you think my radius is?” he asks.

“Your what?”

“My radius, y’know? Of effectiveness?”

Cas furrows his brow. “I’m not sure,” he says, rubbing a couple of fingers over his jaw. Dean’s eyes brighten as he gets an idea. He fishes a quarter out of his pocket.

“Want to give it a try?” He holds the coin in front of Castiel. Cas glances at it, curiously taking it from Dean.

He holds the coin on his thumb while Dean steps three feet away from him. Castiel flips the coin up into the air, letting it fall onto the floor. It proceeds to rolls away from them and they chase it across the tile.

When the coin finally does stop, it is on it’s edge, just as it was a a few nights prior.

“That is so unreal,”  Dean mutters in awe. Castiel picks it up off the ground.

“This time, stay put,” he instructs. “Don’t go running after it.” Cas takes another couple steps back from Dean until they are about 8 feet from each other. He tosses the coin in the air, trying to corral its journey with his feet.

Once again, it’s on its edge.

“Ok, let’s try fifteen feet,” Dean says, taking a another few strides back. Castiel does something different this time, letting the coin fall flat from his palm. Logic says that it should end up either facing heads of tails, but once again it rests, innocuous, on it’s edge.

Dean guffaws loudly at the sight.

He retreats again, until they are twenty feet apart. Just as Cas tosses the coin to ceiling, Dean’s phone goes off with the song “Bitch”. He grabs it from his pocket

“Hey Sam,” he answers. Castiel is too distracted by Dean answering the phone to notice the coin is in trajectory with his head. He looks up just in time for the quarter to drop into his mouth and down his windpipe.

Panic seizes Cas and he clutches for his throat, gasping helplessly. Dean is turned away from him, talking on the phone to his brother. Cas lurches across the floor, scanning the room helplessly, searching for some sort of object to throw himself on. Maybe he can implement some sort of self-heimlich; it’s not like he hasn’t had to do this before.

“Sam… No man, I can’t tomorrow… I’m working. Yes… no, it’s different. I’ll tell you all about it this week- Jesus Christ, Cas!” Dean drops the phone and rushes across the room to where Cas is turning purple.

“Holy shit, man!” Dean exclaims. “What do I do?”

In spite of being on the brink of suffocation, Castiel still has enough capability to look exasperated with Dean. He grabs Dean’s hands and tugs them around his waist. Dean picks up on what Cas is trying to do and balls his hands together in a fist, pounding up into Cas’ diaphragm. It only takes a few rough blows for the coin to go flying out of Cas’ mouth, hitting the wall on the other side of the room. Cas gasps, going limp in Dean’s hold.

“Fuckin’ A,” Dean mutters.

Castiel swallows hard and nods.“Twenty feet then, I guess. Fifteen might be safer,” he says hoarsely, pulling himself to his feet. He rubs at his throat and look to Dean, whose panicked expression hasn’t changed.

“Oh my God, dude,” Dean says. “You really are cur-”

“Don’t say it,” Castiel croaks.

Dean reaches out and rubs a hand on Castiel’s back. “You really are in trouble, aren’t you?” he asks, trying to sound upbeat about it. Castiel offers up a half smile and nods.

“Yeah, yeah,” he says. “That’s why I need you.”

He smooths a hand down his clothes and goes to grab the flashlight from where he dropped it.

“Dean?... Dean?...” A tinny voice calls out from Dean’s abandoned cell phone. He grabs it off the floor, keeping a careful eye on his proximity to Cas.

“Sorry ‘bout that, Sam,” Dean says, pulling the phone to his ear. “Had a little bit of an emergency.”

“Did I hear you say ‘Cas?’” Sam asks. “Isn’t that the same guy from a couple nights ago? I thought you said that you were working? What are you doing hanging out with him?”

“It’s…” Dean glances over to where Castiel is straightening his tie, trying to compose his appearance. “It’s kind of a complicated situation. I’ll tell you about it this weekend, ok?”

“Dean, tell me what’s going on--” Sam’s voice cuts off as he hangs up.

“That was your brother?” Cas asks when Dean joins him.

“Yeah,” Dean mumbles. “I think he might be suspicious of this.”

He waves a finger between himself and Cas. “Are you going to disclose the situation to him?” Cas asks.

“I wasn’t planning on it, but I guess I have to now,” Dean says. He spares a curious glance at Cas. “Does that happen to you a lot?” Cas raises an eyebrow. “The choking thing, I mean,” Dean clarifies.

“Not... regularly,” he says.

“But enough where you know how to give yourself the heimlich?” Dean supplies. Cas huffs a laugh and nods. “Christ, you’re a mess.” Cas looks away, despondently. Dean chuckles and slaps a hand on his back. “Good thing you’ve got me around now, huh?” Dean offers.

 


 

It doesn’t take long for Dean to discover the extent of Castiel’s issues when he’s not around. On their fourth night  together, Castiel arrives Twenty minutes late, looking worse for wear. Grease and soot stains decorate his dress shirt and slacks and a gash across his forehead is bleeding profusely down the side of his face.

“Jesus Christ, Cas!” Dean shouts. “What the hell happened to you?”

“I fell off the train platform,” Cas says, waving him off. He attempts to smooth down the front of his clothes “It’s ok, really, I’m fine.”

Dean just gapes at him. Castiel shoulders his bag and presses buttons on a keycode next to the door. There is a low buzz and a click as it unlocks.

“You fell off the train platform?” Dean asks, following him inside the door. “Like onto a live track?” Cas nods without turning around, making a beeline to the security office. “How are you not unphased by this?” Dean balks. Castiel stops at the door and pulls out his keys.

“Oh, plenty has happened to me on the train,” he supplies bitterly. “I’ve fallen down stairs, fell on the track, I’ve had my bag run over, been mugged a few times, been vomited on even more. I’ve dealt with delays and HVAC problems and even a derailment once.” Dean’s eyes widen comically.

“And you still take the train?” he asks, incredulously.

“I need to get to work somehow.” Cas offers another shrug. “I don’t drive. I refuse to get in cabs, and I live too far away to walk.”

He opens the office door and shuffles in, grabbing his blazer off the back of his chair. Dean narrows his gaze at Cas.

“I’m picking you up tomorrow night,” He states flatly.

Cas gives him a long-suffering look. “Dean, I can’t pay you any more--” Dean holds up a hand to stop him.

“This isn’t about money,” he says. “It’s about you being safe.” Cas narrows his gaze at Dean, ready to protest. Dean throws his hands in the air. “Call it ‘job security’ if you like,” he huffs. “I don’t care. I’m driving you in from now on.” He moves past Cas and falls into his normal chair.

“Thank you, Dean,” Cas says quietly, settling into his own chair.


 

Dean paws through a stack of books sitting on the table. The biggest hindrance of this job is the boredom. Cas has his responsibilities and, despite Dean’s best efforts, he doesn’t seem too interested in a lot of conversation while working. Dean tries to sleep, as Cas recommended, but with roving patrols every ninety minutes, he has a hard time getting any rest. He tries bringing crossword puzzles in, but they leave him even more bored and restless.

“An Oral history of the Pawnee Tribes of Midwest… Pass.” Dean mumbles, pushing one of the books aside. “The Social Dynamics of Bees?” He looks back at Cas. ““Really? That’s all you have?” Cas gives a small shrug as he scribbles something on the clipboard.

“I may have ‘The Origin of Species’ in there somewhere,” he replies. Dean shakes his head.

“You’re kind of a weird, dorky little dude, you know that Cas?” Dean says, a trace of affection in his voice.

“So I’ve been told,” Cas answers, turning his attention to the monitors. Dean digs through the stack of books once more until he unearths a thick, well-worn binder with multiple post-it notes sticking out every which way.

“What’s this?” he mumbles, pulling it from the stack. Castiel glances over, his expression shifting as Dean removes the binder.

“Oh, that’s, uh… mine,” Castiel mumbles.

“I figured that,” Dean laughs, opening the cover. The first page held a table listing dates and locations as well a  photograph clipped to the page. “What is it?”

Cas rises to his feet, crossing to Dean and shutting the binder finally. “It’s nothing,” he mutters. “Just something from when I was in college.” He returns to his chair. Dean gives him questioning look.

“Why is it here, then?” He asks, crossing his arms and leaning against Cas’ desk. “Do you just randomly bring old school books with you to work?”

Castiel glares up at him, sighing heavily through his nose. “It was my provenance study guide,” he admits. Dean blinks absently.

“I’m sorry, what?” he asks. Castiel pulls the heavy binder into his lap, opening the front cover and flipping to a page at random.

“Do you know what provenance is?” Castiel asks. Dean shakes his head. “Ok, well, everything you see in museums, antiquities, art, what have you, it all comes from somewhere. The more you know about a piece's origin and the better documentation you have of that, the more valuable it is.” Dean scrunches his brow as Castiel trails his fingers down the open page over a list of dates.

“Alright,” Dean says carefully.

“It’s like… Ok, you have an old car, right?” Cas asks. Dean laughs lightly.

“The Impala? Yeah, she’s getting up there.” He answers.

“How old?”

“1967.”

“And how long have you owned it?” Castiel asks, unconsciously making notes on a post-it.

“Let’s see… Since I was 18, so… 12 years about.” Castiel nods and writes something down.

“And who owned it before you?” he asks.

“My Dad.”

“And when did he buy it?” Dean grimaces and scrubs a hand over his face.

“I don’t know, man. 1973, 1974 maybe?” Dean groans. “Look, all this information is on the title.”

“Well, that’s it! You have the title detailing who’s owned the car and when they bought it.” Castiel grins excitedly, flipping further in the binder. “With art and antiquities, it goes a little deeper. Provenance is any loans to other museums, any damage that was incurred, proof that it is unaltered, that it’s not a forgery… Sorry, it’s kind of boring, I know.” He looks away apologetically.

“No, dude, it’s interesting. I get it,” Dean encourages. He turns the binder toward himself, glancing at a photo of an Aztec statue. “So why do you have it here?”

Cas shrugs. “I like to go through it sometimes, take note of any changes, and that kind of thing.” Dean nods silently and browses through the binder, although not fully understanding.

“You really know your shit, don’t you, Cas?” Dean mumbles.

“Well, some kids want to grow up want to be astronauts or doctors… I wanted to be a museum curator.” Dean can’t help the disbelieving little snort that escapes.

“Dream big, Cas,” he mumbles as he leans against a nearby post.

“Believe it or not, museum curators are prestigious positions,” Cas states, crossing his arms in front of him. “I was planning on getting my doctorate for it, but…” He trails of, rubbing a hand over his neck.

“All this began?” Dean supplies. Cas nods.

“Final year of my undergrad,” Cas sighs. “I wanted to keep going but no one wants a grad student who’s also a harbinger of destruction.” Cas laughs humorlessly at his own joke. Dean considers him. He understands the pain of a lost dream; his family is evidence enough of that. Cas gets to his feet, brushing off any pain and putting on a brave face. “Come on, we should continue.” They finish the patrol of the main floor and retreat back into the lower level, the silence hanging between them.

“So, how long has this bad luck been following you?” Dean asks once they are back in the office, idly flipping through a copy of Red Eye. Cas slowly turns his head to the ceiling as he thinks.

“Almost ten years,” he admits with a heavy sigh.

“And not once…” Dean pauses, trying to consider the most delicate way to bring up the question. “I mean, have you ever wondered about your soulmate?” Castiel snorts huffs an indignant laugh.

“Wouldn’t even know if I did or not,” he replies.

“Really? Not once?” Most people are hyper-vigilant of possible soulmate disasters. He finds it hard to believe that Castiel would’ve never thought about it a single time. Cas gives a small shrug.

“Early on there were a few times, but it became pretty clear that what was happening was bigger than that,” Cas says sadly. “Relationships aren’t really my thing anyway. My social skills were rusty before this all started happening and now… I’m mean, really, who’d want any part of this? I’m a disaster.” He waves a hand, indicating himself.

“Well, at least you have an excuse,” Dean snorts. Cas turns his head, staring at Dean with open confusion.

“What are you talking about?” He asks, “You were so excited when you thought I was your soulmate.”

“I wasn’t excited. I was accepting,” Dean clarifies, putting down the paper and turning all of his attention to Cas. “I figured if I had a soulmate there was no reason to turn them away, but I never wanted a soulmate.” Castiel tilts his head curiously and blinks at Dean a couple times.

“How come?” he asks sincerely.

“I like my life,” Dean states. “I like things exactly as they are. I don’t… I don’t want to change anything about it. It’s fine as it is.” Cas looks at Dean for a long moment, considering his words.

“You like the stasis,” he finally says in response.

“I like the stasis,” Dean repeats, smiling at the words. “Yeah, that sounds about right.”

“I wish I had the luxury of stasis,” Cas replies, idly fiddling with his clipboard.

“You’re luck might change,” Dean says, offering a shrug. Cas gives a soft hum in response, but doesn’t say anything more, turning his attention back to the monitors instead.


 

“So how’s work going?” Sam asks as a waitress places two water glasses and a basket of rolls in front of them. Dean nods his head, picking out a sesame roll and a pat of butter. They sit in their normal booth of their favorite diner. Sam was out of sorts about spending the evening alone while Jess had a work event. Dean decided that it was his responsibility as a courteous big brother and distract him for a couple hours.

“Same old, same old,” he replies. “Bobby’s still having trouble finding hours for me.” Sam eyes Dean suspiciously.

“That’s not what I was talking about and you know it,” Sam says with a smirk. Dean gives his brother a caustic glare.

“It’s going good,” he mumbles.

“Just good?”

“Yeah Sam, good.” Dean repeats. Sam looks at him dubiously. “What do you want me to say?  It’s just work.”

“I still don’t understand what you’re doing.” Sam says, shaking his head. Dean shrugs and tears a piece off the roll.

“This and that,” he replies. “Bodyguard work, that kind of thing.”

“Bodyguard work,” Sam repeats flatly. “Really.”

“Yeah,” Dean gives a quick nod. Sam narrows his eyes and glares at his brother.

“Dean are you a kept man?” he asks, so serious that Dean bursts out laughing.

“Oh, man, no,” he replies. “Look, Cas felt bad about me losing my job and offered me one working for him. That’s it. It’s symbiotic, alright?” Sam still looks doubtful, shooting Dean an expression that he could only describe as “bitchface.”

“Doing… bodyguard work?” Sam raises an eyebrow.

“Yeah.” There is another pregnant pause as Sam considers this.

“You’re fucking hiding something, I can tell,” Sam accuses. Dean gives him a wide, smug grin.

“Even if I was, Sam, you wouldn’t know.” Sam stares daggers at his brother, who turns his attention instead to the menu. Their waitress approaches the table, notebook in hand.

“Are you fellas ready?” She asks, clicking her pen. Dean grins up at her.

“Yes, I think we are, darlin’,” he says. They both place their orders and Dean gets an entire twelve seconds of peace before Sam starts in on him once more.

“So you and Cas will be working pretty close, huh?” he asks slyly, sitting back in the booth and crossing his arms.

“It’s not like that,” Dean reiterates. “It’s… a working relationship. That’s it.”

“Uh-huh,” Sam says, completely unconvinced. “And that’s why you’re playing Kevin Costner to his Whitney Houston.” Dean looks up to the ceiling in exasperation.

“Honestly, Sam,” he growls.

“I’m just saying, what’s your angle in all of this, huh?” Sam asks. “Either you’re trying to get laid or this guy has something on you.”

Dean gives him a long-suffering look.“Dude, you need to give it a rest!” he says. “There are bigger things at work here, but really, it’s all Cas’ personal business and I don’t want to discuss it with you right now.”

Sam stares at him blankly, fully admonished.“Does this have something to do with his, um… condition?” Sam asks quietly. Dean purses his lips and nods.

“Yeah, sort of,” he replies. “Now, please, just drop it.”

Sam nods, tearing open a packet of breadsticks. Dean is reaching for another roll when his phone chimes. He removes it from his pocket and looks down at the screen.

Cas: Are you available to come in earlier this evening? Meg informed me that she has dinner plans and that I “owe her.” Dean smiles, and types his reply.

How early are we talking?  a thought bubble appears after a moment followed by another text.

Cas: I need to be at the Museum at 5, so 4:30 pm at my apartment? I’ll compensate you appropriately. Dean shakes his head good-naturedly but stops when he notices Sam watching him.

Don’t worry about it. See you then. There is a long pause before Cas replies again.

Cas: Thank you Dean. Dean face splits into a shy grin unconsciously.

“Strictly professional, my ass,” Sam mutters under his breath. Dean glowers at him.

“Oh, just can it, Sasquatch!” he snaps.

 


 

“I don’t think I’ve ever been here during open hours,” Dean mumbles as they maneuver through the late afternoon crowds, exiting the closing museum.

“Never?” Cas asks incredulously. “Not even on school trips?”

“Well, first thing, I didn’t grow up here,” Dean answers, “and secondly, do I really seem like the kind of guy who goes to museums?”

Cas frowns deeply. They ascend the stairs to the next level. “I don’t understand,” Cas says. Dean chuckles to himself.

“I’m not into smart stuff like this,” Dean says, gesturing around him. “Ancient history and all of that.”

Cas looks at him critically. “Well, there are other institutions that might interest you,” Cas offers. “Perhaps the Museum of Science and Industry. I could see you enjoying that.”

Dean gives an absent shrug as he follows Castiel toward the security office. Meg is waiting at the door by the time they arrive.

“‘Bout time you got here, Clarence.” She glances at Dean and smiles. “And guest.” She grabs her purse off the desk and moves past Cas and Dean.

“I’d love to stay and chat, boys, but I have a date. Have fun tonight.” As soon as she steps out the door, she turns on her heel to face Cas. “Oh, also, you need to get up to Holleb Gallery at around six. The Macedonia exhibit is moving out and they want someone on watch. I know how you love that kind of thing.” Meg’s tone makes impossible to tell if she is being sarcastic or coy. Castiel nods and she offers up a lazy salute as she walks away.

The next hour passes quickly and soon Cas and Dean are headed back up the stairs. Unlike their overnight shifts, museum staff is still milling about the building. Dean finds he’s unexpectedly unnerved by the number of people still here.

“Dude,” he whispers harshly, “People are staring at me.”

“No one is staring at you, Dean,” Castiel assures.

“Yes, they are,” he insists. “What if they start to ask questions?” Cas stops and turns to him.

“There is nothing illegal about you being here,” he states. “At least not as far as I’ve seen.”

“What if someone gets pissed off?”

Castiel rolls his eyes. “Just… say that you are an intern,"he says. “That usually works.” They stop in front of an open gallery. Gloved workers are carefully removing pieces, packing them into crates or slipping them into foam indents in pelican cases. Wordlessly, Castiel takes his position at the side of the entrance. Dean awkwardly stands at his side, attempting to appear unobtrusive.

“So, they’re sending this somewhere else?” Dean asks.

“It’s a visiting exhibit,” Cas explains quietly. “This gallery is used almost exclusively for temporary installations.” Dean nods in understanding. A heavy-set man with graying hair stomps across the room, barking orders to a few of the workers.

“This has already taken four days!” The man shouts out. “Are you guys union or something?” He sails past Cas and Dean as if they were invisible.

“Who’s that douchebag?” Dean asks, his gaze following the heavy-set man.

“One of the Registrars most likely,” Castiel explains. “He’s in charge of getting everything shipped out.” Dean glares at the guy.

“That’s not an excuse to be an ass,” he mutters. They stand in silence, watching as a scrawny packer gingerly removes a rough-hewn shield from the wall. Castiel startles abruptly before his brow draws tightly together.

“Oh no,” he mumbles under his breath, face suddenly panicked.

“What?” Dean asks.

“He’s… He destroying it…” before Dean can say anything, Cas rushes across the room. Dean hurries after him, trying to stay within twenty feet.

“Sir, Sir,” Castiel calls out, approaching the man. “Sir, you’re wearing latex gloves.” The guy gives Cas a very confused look.

“Yeah, I was told to wear gloves” he asks. Castiel gives him a tight, pained smile.

“And that’s correct,” Castiel replies, giving the guy a tight, pained smile, “but latex and vinyl gloves gloves can transfer contaminants and oils and with antiquities of this age, preservation is key.” The man looks contrite.

“I’m sorry, man. I’m just doing as I was told,” the guy says, adjusting the brim of his ballcap.

“It’s understandable,” Castiel replies gently. “See if you can find some nitrile gloves-”

“What are you doing?” A voice booms across the room. The Registrar tromp toward them, eyes locked on the packer. “What the Hell is going on?” Cas freezes, staring back at the man.

“I’m sorry… I was just…” Cas mumbles.

“This guy says I need new gloves or something,” the packer says, hooking a thumb toward Castiel.

“What?” The graying man squawks.

“He says I have the wrong type of glove or something,” he continues, pulling off a glove. The registrar shuts his eyes in exasperation and shakes his head.

“Garth, get back to work,” he orders stiffly. The packer stands there for a moment before shrugging and returning the his work. The Registrar narrows his gaze at Castiel.

“Tell me, who are you?” He takes a step forward, entering the bubble of Castiel’s space. His eyes flick down to the name tag tacked to Cas’s jacket lapel. “Ah, I see it right here: Castiel… Security.” His gives Cas a falsely-pleasant smile and fiddles with his own badge.

“You see this? See what mine says?” The badge reads Zachariah Adler. “It says ‘registrar’, got it? I don’t tell you how to... watch everything.” He indicates to the room around him and gives Cas a tight smile. “I’m just asking for that same courtesy, alright?”

“I was… I was just letting him know about-” Cas stammers.

“Where do you get off talking to him like that?” Dean snarls, taking a step forward between Zachariah and Castiel.

“I’m sorry, who the Hell are you?” Zechariah asks, glowering at Dean.

“This is Dean,” Castiel replies weekly, “He’s … uh…”

“I’m an intern.” Dean states flatly. an annoyed smile stretches across Zachariah’s face.

“Ah, ok, so even more irrelevant.” He glares at both of them. “Why don’t the both of you stay in your lane and let me do my job.” He turns and walks off. Dean jaw hangs open in shock, his blood quickly beginning to boil.

“What the fuck!” Dean mutters. “What the fuck is his… uh Cas?”  His face falls when he catches sight of Cas’s defeated expression. His mouth set in a hard line and brow pinched together. “Hey, you ok man?” Cas gives a short nod and walks away from Dean, stepping back to his post at the doorway.

“I’m fine.” His words come out stiff and affected. Dean gives Cas a doubtful look.

“Are you sure?” Dean asks, “‘Cause I can go and key that jackass’ car, if you like.” Cas shakes his head, offering a wan smile.

“No, it’s… It’s alright, Dean,” he mumbles. Dean knows it’s not alright and he wants to press Cas further, but he looks in no mood to talk.

 

 

Chapter Text

Cas is quiet and sullen for a few days following the incident. He and Dean still go about their normal routine, but it feels off, mechanical. Dean tries to find ways to shake Cas out of his mood, but it does little good.

He also notices that Castiel’s bad luck seems to increase when he’s like this. His tie gets caught in the door of the Impala, he spills numerous cups of coffee and he nearly gets electrocuted trying to fix a flickering security monitor.

“Dude, you’ve got to pull your shit together,” Dean finally snaps after four days of Cas’ sulking.  

He’d thought Cas would be safe in the security office while he ran to the bathroom. When he returned five minutes later, though, it was to find a shattered wall clock on the ground and Cas’ bleeding palms from when he had tried to catch it. He carefully applies band-aids over the series of cuts on Cas’ hands.

“Do you think your bad luck might have something to do with your stress levels?” Dean asks, positioning the final bandage. Cas shakes his head and gives an absent shrug.

“I don’t think it’s stress, maybe high emotion.” He glances up at Dean with a smirk. “It gets bad when I’m happy too.”

“Is that why you’re always so,” Dean trails off,  dragging a flat hand in front of him in a straight-line, “steady?”

Cas snorts and nods. “Yeah, pretty much. I try to be anyway,” he replies.

He returns to his chair and picks up his clipboard. Dean watches him for a moment, debating whether or not to ask the question that has been weighing on his mind for the last few days.

“Why did that guy throw you off your game like that anyway?” he asks. Cas gives Dean a scornful look. “I mean, the guy was an asshole, sure, but you’re not some wilting flower. You had a valid point, it seemed to me. You just backed down, though. What gives?” Cas looks away with a bitter smile.

“I don’t know,” he mutters. “I guess it was just a awful reminder of what I’m not doing.”

“Are you talking about that register guy?” Dean asks, pulling his chair closer to Castiel’s. Cas’ runs his hands through down his face.

Registrar. Yeah, I thought.. You know what? It doesn't even matter anymore.” Cas gives a sad chuckle. “It’s stupid to think I could ever have a job I actually want, huh?” Castiel shrugs and a prickly feeling of guilt settles in Dean’s stomach. He’s barely considered that Cas might have bigger reasons for needing his presence.

“Is that why I’m here?” Dean asks after a moment. Cas lifts his head  and gives Dean a sheepish, barely-perceptible nod.

“I just need management to see that I can be trusted,” he replies. “Every time a position opens, I want to apply but it’s like... I freeze up and start panicking that I’m going to destroy something priceless. I’d be blacklisted for life. I… I can’t even bring myself to write my resume.”

He looks away and scratches at the back of his neck. The feeling of guilt in Dean’s gut intensifies. All of this should have been obvious from the beginning. “You think my good luck can help?” he asks. Cas looks up at Dean, not a trace of doubt in his expression, and nods again.

“I do,” he assures. “Dean, this has been working. I haven’t been to the hospital once in 3 months. That hasn’t happened since I was 20. I don’t see why we couldn’t continue this…  arrangement if I get a better job.” Cas’ eyes are large and sincere and Dean doesn’t even have to think about his answer.

“Of course I’ll help, Cas,” he replies, reaching over and giving Cas’ shoulder a warm squeeze. “Just tell me what you need me to do and where you need me to be.” Cas beams, a full, toothy smile splitting his face. It’s the first real smile Dean he has seen from him in the last few days and he has to tamp down the warm swell of affection beginning to bloom in his chest at the sight.

“I’ll, uh, let you get back to work,” he mumbles, scooting his chair back against the wall, as Cas returns his attention to the monitors. For the rest of the night though, Dean’s gaze lingers on Castiel’s smiling face, never drifting away for too long.

 


 

Castiel opens his apartment door, stubbing his toes in the process. He curses under his breath as he grabs the take-out bags from the delivery guy standing in the hall.

“Balthazar, the food is here,” he calls out over his shoulder. Balthazar comes around the corner, counting out a small stack of bills.

“How much is it, Cassy?” he asks, glancing between him and the delivery guy.

“$35,” the delivery guy answers. Balthazar hands the entire stack to the man.

“That’s $50. Keep the change.” The guy beams, quietly thanking them and retreating back down the hallway. Castiel grimaces at Balthazar.

“That was a lot, wasn’t it?” he asks.

“Is It? I will never understand Americans and their obsession with tipping. Why can’t you just add it to the price of the food? It’s really not that difficult a concept.” Balthazar offers a pithy reply. Gabriel slides across the floor in socked feet, stopping abruptly in front of them.

“The food’s here?” he asks.

“Yes it is, you overgrown puppy,” Balthazar sighs. “Why don’t you help Castiel with the bags.”

“Here let me get that for you,” Gabriel says, steps forward, reaching in Castiel’s direction.

“I can do it myself!” he argues. Balthazar and Gabriel both shoot him withering looks and he relents, handing them over. Gabriel flashes a satisfied grin and scoops up the bags, bringing them into the dining room. His eyes flick briefly to the open laptop sitting at the table.

“Hey, Castiel,”  he asks, glancing over the screen, “What’s this?” Castiel rushes through the apartment, shutting the computer with a snap.

“Nothing,” he mumbles.

“Was that your resume?” Gabriel asks, looking up at Castiel in disbelief.

“Are you finally applying for a position at the museum?” Balthazar adds. Castiel hesitates; he wasn’t going to bring Balthazar and Gabriel in on this, but there’s no point in denying it now.

“Yes,” Castiel finally answers, looking away to avoid Gabriel and Balthazar’s beaming smiles.

“Well, that is wonderful Castiel. Truly a cause to celebrate!” Balthazar enthuses as he pulls various containers from the bag. “I don’t understand why you would want to hide it from us.”

“Because I didn’t want you guys making a big deal out of it,” Castiel says, falling into his chair. “My chances are painfully slim. I’ve basically been stagnant for a decade. I’m not fresh out of school anymore.”

“Rubbish, Castiel!” Balthazar scolds, placing an opened container of pasta in front of him. “You are brilliant, you know you are brilliant, and the museum would be lucky to hire you.”

Castiel offers him a grateful look as he opens the aluminum container. “This doesn’t have anything to do with your little good-luck charm, does it?” Gabriel asks, scooting his chair closer to Castiel as he digs into his alfredo with gusto.

“Oh yes,” Balthazar drawls with a sly smile. “What’s his name? Dana? Daniel?”

“Dean, and yes, that’s a lot of the reason,” Castiel admits. “I’m not quite as big a threat to museum property when he’s around.” Balthazar hums in agreement, tearing a piece of garlic bread in half.

“So when are we going to meet this mystery man?” he asks, raising a curious eyebrow. Castiel stops, his fork mid-twirl in his linguine.

“Not going to happen,” he answers. He loves Gabriel and Balthazar, but he can’t imagine exposing Dean to them; certain personalities just don’t mix. Balthazar gives him a petulant frown.

“Oh, why not?” he asks. “Are you ashamed of us? We wouldn’t do anything to embarrass you.”

“Actually, we probably would,” Gabriel interjects, attempting to lick a stray bit of alfredo sauce from the side of his mouth. Balthazar nods after a moment.

“Yes, most likely,” he agrees, wiping at Gabriel’s chin with a napkin. He turns his attention back to Castiel. “But only wee bit. Promise.” Castiel chuckles as he scoops up a single noodle and drops it in his mouth. He considers his words as he chews, trying to find the the best way to let them down.

“Please don’t take this personally,” he begins, setting aside his dish and looking Balthazar and Gabriel head on, “but Dean is, technically, my employee and I don’t want to… mix business and personal relationships.” Balthazar and Gabriel aren’t convinced, casting each other matching suspicious looks.

“What’s the real reason, Castiel?” Balthazar asks, narrowing his eyes. “Because that bullshit you just tried to feed us is, well… it’s bullshit.”

“He wants to keep Dean all to himself,” Gabriel says with a sly grin, twisting his fork around a strand of fettucine, “because he has a crush.” Castiel’s eyes go wide in surprise, nearly choking on his bite of food.

“I.. uh, I don’t…” Castiel stammers. He can feel warmth rising to his cheeks.

“Oh my God! He does!” Balthazar chortles, clapping his hands, “Look at him! He’s all glowy!”

“You definitely are kind of… beatific there,” Gabriel agrees. Castiel set down his fork, rolling his eyes in exasperation.

“Guys, please-”

“Oh Castiel, this is wonderful!” Balthazar looks like a proud parent. “Do you know how long Gabriel and I have hoped you’d find someone.”

“He’s not my soulmate,” Castiel states firmly.

“Oh no, we’re not saying that,” Gabriel waves his hand in a dismissive gesture.

“No, we’re not saying that at all,” Balthazar echoes in agreement. “But I don’t think I ever remember you having a crush on another person in all the time we’ve known you.”

Castiel considers this and he realizes that Balthazar is not wrong. Castiel is ever-alert when it comes to forming relationships, romantic or otherwise. Too many bad experiences--and one near-stabbing--scared him away. The only reason he’s friends with Balthazar and Gabriel at all is because he kept showing up in their ER.

Dean is something altogether different, though. He doesn’t seem put off by Castiel (even if Balthazar and Gabriel sometimes complain that he’s stiff). He’s understanding of Castiel’s issues but never treats him with condescension or like he’s made of glass.

“You may be correct,” Castiel admits reluctantly, a small smile spreading across his face. “My feelings for Dean are perhaps… less than professional.” Balthazar flashes a smug smile while Gabriel throws his hands in the air.

“But this is even more reason for me to not move on those feelings,” Castiel states. Their expressions fall in unison.

“Oh for heaven’s sake, Castiel!” Balthazar grumbles.

“Why not?” Gabriel whines.

“One, as I said, he’s my employee and I need him,” Castiel explains, ticking off on his fingers. “The last thing I want to do is drive him away with a failed flirtation.”

“Well, yeah,” Gabriel agrees reluctantly, “but if he feels the same way it won’t-”

“And two,” Castiel cuts him off with a heavy sigh. “Why would anyone want to tie themselves to me?” He points at himself. Balthazar and Gabriel are solemn, looking at each other and then at Castiel.

“Castiel, you are a prize.” Balthazar assures. “This Dean should be so fortunate as to have your affection.”

“Also, as long as you’re with him, your condition is a non-issue, right?” Gabriel pipes up.

“Wouldn’t he think I’m… I don’t know, using him or something?” Castiel asks. He dips his fork into the container once more, grabbing another single noodle.

“Well, that’s Dean’s call to make, isn’t it,” Balthazar mumbles, carefully forking a couple penne and popping them into his mouth. Castiel nods in understanding, slurping up another noodle. As he does, it flails up into his face, slapping him across the brows and sending stray bits of tomato sauce into his eye.

“Goddamnit!” Castiel yells, dropping his fork and grabbing at his eye. “I said no pepper flakes!” Balthazar sighs in exasperation, calmly putting down his own fork, and rising from the table.

“I’ll go grab the eye wash,” he says, leaving the room.


 

Dean flips through a copy of Rolling Stone. The evening is drawing to a close and the sounds of the day staff milling about can be heard outside the door. It’s been a quiet night, both in the museum and in the office. Castiel makes a note in the passdown log. His tongue darts out over his lips intermittently. It’s a nervous habit, Dean can tell, but even without the tic, the anxiety pouring off Castiel is palpable.

He’d turned in his resume to the HR office last week. A museum tech position opened up and Castiel was quick to jump on the opportunity.

“It’s not a registrar position,” Castiel explained with a hopeful smile. “but at least it’s a start and it pays, unlike an internship.” Dean’s just glad to see Castiel happy. Although he denies it to Sam, spending time with Cas doesn’t feel like a job; it feels like hanging out all evening with a friend.

Cas is a little odd, but he’s so enthusiastic about what he loves. A few weeks ago, when they’d been filling in a day shift for Meg, Cas gave Dean an impromptu history lesson on Sue the T-Rex in the main hall. He’d actually drawn a small crowd of curious children as Castiel spoke about unearthing the artifact.

Even at times like this, where there’s only silence between them, it still feels like bonding.

Dean licks his finger and turns the page of the magazine as Castiel cracks another knuckle.

“You’re going to hurt yourself if you keep doing that,” Dean says, not looking up from the Rolling Stone.

Castiel rolls his eyes at Dean’s admonishment. “Cracking your knuckles is simply air bubbles popping between the bones. You aren’t actually damaging your joints.” Dean looks up, giving him a long-suffering stare.

Cas’ cellphone unexpectedly goes off, causing both men to jump. He picks it up off the desk, frowning at the unknown number before answering it.

“Hello?” he asks. “Yes, this is he… Yes, yes, how are you.” Dean looks up from his magazine, watching as Castiel’s expression tenses and relaxes.

“Uh-huh. Yes, I can do that… Yes, that sounds good. I’ll see you Thursday. Thank you so much. Goodbye.” Dean watches Castiel set the phone back down on the desk, awaiting some sort of explanation.

“Well?” he prods after a moment. Cas glances at him, a hesitant smile crossing his face.

“I… have an interview,” he admits. “For the tech position.” Dean beams at him.

“Alright, Cas!” he cheers, slapping him on the back, causing Cas to lurch forward.

“Thank you, Dean,” he mumbles.

“Dude, after this we need to go and celebrate.” Dean says, setting the magazine aside. Castiel shakes his head ruefully.

“There’s no reason to celebrate until after we know whether I got the job or not,” he says. Dean looks at him, a wry smirk winding up his mouth.

“You will, Cas,” he assures. “I mean, you’re a friggin’ genius, right? There’s no way they could turn you down.” Cas opens his mouth, looking like he’s ready to argue Dean’s point. Instead, he simply mumbles a ‘thank you” and turns his attention back to the monitors.

Dean picks up his magazine once more, mumbling a prayer to any deity listening to help Cas out and give him a leg up.


 

The morning of Castiel’s interview, Dean pulls the Impala up outside the curb of his apartment to see Cas already sitting on there, waiting for him. He reaches over and rolls down the passenger side window.

“Ready, Cas?” he calls out. Cas gives a small nod, and rises to his feet. His expression is passive but the tension and anxiety are pouring off of him. “You doing ok?”  He nods again and opens the car door, slipping inside.

“I’ve already puked twice,” Cas mutters as Dean shifts into gear. Dean grimaces, glancing at him out of the corner of his eye.

“Well, no puking in the car, got it?” he orders, “You need me to stop and pull over, I’ll pull over.” Cas bobs his head again and leans against the window.

The drive to the museum is quiet, with only the soft hum of the radio breaking the silence. Dean attempts to make conversation, but Cas is distracted, replying in mumbled one word answers. Dean parks the car in the employee lot of the museum and he and Cas step out of the car.

“Hey wait,” he says, stopping Cas before he can walk more than a couple feet. He brushes a few askew strands from Cas’ forehead. “Got to get you straightened up a bit. You look like you’ve been through the ringer.” Dean pushes Cas’ hair into some semblance of a style and readjusts his backwards tie.

“That’s a bit better,” he says, trying to sound reassuring. He smooths his hands down the sleeves of Cas’ suit coat when his eyes catch sight of his feet.

“Uh, what happened to your shoes?” Castiel looks down at the bright red pair of Converse all-stars on his feet.

“Oh.” Cas says flatly, as is just noticing. “I vomited on my dress shoes.” Dean raises a curious eyebrow.

“And you had no other dark shoes?”

“I vomited on those, too.” Cas answers. Dean gives him a pained look and sighs.

“Of course” He mutters ruefully. “I probably should’ve spent the night with you.” Dean and Cas both look up in surprise as soon as the words leave his mouth.

“I’m sorry, that came out wrong,” Dean laughs nervously.

“No, no, I understood what you meant,” Cas assures.

“You know what?” Dean asks, “This isn’t a big deal. I bet they won’t even look at your feet.” Castiel offers a sad smile and nods.

Dean follows him across the parking lot and up the stairs to the academic offices. As he approaches the automatic doors, Castiel stops abruptly.

“I don’t know if I can do this,” he mumbles. Dean frowns and comes up from behind Cas, wrapping a hand around his shoulder.

“Yes, you can,” Dean assures, rubbing a brisk hand over his arm. “This is what you want to do, right?”

“Yes, but-”

“No ‘buts’, ok?” Dean grabs Cas by the shoulders. “Look, I know you’re nervous, but I am going to be right there, right outside the door. You just focus on selling yourself and I’ll keep the good luck flowing.” Cas exhales in relief and offers Dean a grateful smile.

“Alright,” he says, “Thank you, Dean.” He pushes through the front door.

The academic offices don’t have the same ancient, antiquated feel as the rest of the museum. The walls are a modern, slate blue, and comfortable furnishings sit in a waiting area. A countertop sits before rows of cubicles and a young woman with dark blonde hair stands behind it, clicking on a computer. Castiel approaches the desk, as Dean hangs back a couple steps.

“Uh, miss?” Castiel pipes up. The woman lifts her eyes from the computer screen and smiles up at Cas.

“Can I help you?” She asks.

“I’m, uh… Castiel Novak. I’m supposed to have an interview with um, Mr. Shurley this morning.” The secretary's face brightens in recognition.

“Oh, of course, Mr. Novak,” she says. “Yes, we’ve been expecting you. If you would please wait one moment, I’ll go and let Mr. Shurley know that you are here.” Castiel nods as she swipes a magnetic card through a reader next to the door. There is a buzz and a click and she disappears down the hallway. He turns back to the waiting area where Dean is sitting, tapping at his phone. He slumps down into the chair next to Dean.  

The air is tense around them and made even more so as Cas’ begins cracking his knuckles. Dean glances over at him, brow furrowed in annoyance, but doesn’t say anything

“Mr. Novak,” the secretary's voice cuts through the silence. Castiel’s head jerks as she beckons him with a finger. “You may come with me.” Cas stands, straightening his clothes, and walks around the counter. Dean follows behind him until a well-manicured hand presses against his chest.

“I’m sorry, who are you?” The secretary asks, not bothering to hide the derision in her voice.

“I’m with him,” Dean replies, pointing a finger toward Castiel. She flashes him a tight smile and gives a small headshake.

“Unfortunately, you’ll have to wait here,” hhe says. “Rules are rules.” Cas’ jaw hangs open slightly he gives Dean a panicked look. Dean’s expression is irritated, but he quickly schools his features.

“You’ll do great,” he mumbles, squeezing Cas’ bicep. He flashes the secretary a tight smile before returning to his seat in the waiting area. The secretary turns on her heel, swiping her card and opening the door, signaling Castiel to follow.

 


 

She leads Castiel through a twisting set of corridors. The farther they retreat from Dean, the more hyper aware he becomes of his surroundings. He feels naked and vulnerable, like he’s had a suit of armor ripped from his body. His eyes flick rapidly over everything as he calculates each step down the hall.

“Sorry, this is taking so long,” the secretary pipes up, causing Castil to get distracted and trip over his own feet. She pauses in her stride, letting him right himself before they continue walking.

“I’m sorry, what did you say?” Castiel asks.

“I said I’m sorry this is taking so long,” she repeats herself. “Dr. Shurley likes doing interviews in the labs, but the only current operational lab at the moment is on the far side of the department.” Castiel hums in understanding.

“How come you only have one lab?” He asks.

“We’re getting some new items retrofitted on our second lab and installing a third.” she answers. She stops in front of sliding door.

“Dr. Shurley should be here soon,” she says. Castiel nods and watches her walk back the way they came. He leans against the wall and sigh. Sweat pools down his back and under his arms. He opens his jacket, fanning himself with the cool, recirculated air. He glances both directions down the hall, noticing a bathroom a few yards away.

Suddenly, the pressure on his bladder is overwhelming. Cas glances at his watch, noting that he technically has 5 minutes before the stated time of his interview. He walks toward the bathroom and pushes through the door.

He moves to the urinal to relieve himself. As soon as he finishes, he tucks himself back into his underwear and zips up his slacks.

… or, at least, he tries to. Castiel huffs in irritation as the zipper refuses to budge. It looks to be stuck on a seam of the slacks. Castiel examines the zipper, trying to determine the best solution. His watch says he has another three minutes until his interview.

Castiel takes hold of the zipper, attempting to tug out the fabric from the teeth. He thinks he might have it when he hears the heart-stopping sound of fabric ripping. His eyes go wide and he looks down in horror at the crotch of his pants, split apart down the seam.

“Oh come on!” Castiel groans. He awkwardly shuffles away from the urinal, trying to get a look at the damage in the mirror. He attempts to close the top clasp, but the rip down the center is too extreme. Even if he turns them around, not only would he look foolish, but there would be a huge tear down his ass.

Castiel makes an impatient whine, racking his brain for what to do, when it hits him: Dean! He pulls out his cellphone and taps Dean’s name in his “recent calls”


 

Dean is browsing the Wikipedia article on Theon Greyjoy when his phone comes to life and Castiel’s confused mug flashes across his screen. He frowns and swipes his thumb across the screen.

“Cas?”

“Dean, I need help!” Cas’ voice is frantic on the other end. Dean tenses immediately, sitting up straight in the chair.

“What’s going on? Is the interview already over?” Dean can feel his blood beginning to boil; did they just kick Cas out before even giving him a chance?

“No, I’m in the bathroom,” Castiel answers. “I need your pants.” Dean’s jaw hangs open in surprise.

“You need my…?” He shakes his head in confusion. “Cas, please don’t tell me that you shit yourself.”

“I did not!” Cas exclaims, “I tore my pants open.”

“How bad?” Dean asks, “Can you, like, hide it or something?”

“No!” Cas emphasizes. “It’s right down the center. I need help!” Dean looks past the desk, to the key-card access door.

“Cas, man, I don’t know what to tell you,” he says. “I can’t really pick a key-card lock.”

“Well then, fucking figure out then!” Cas snaps.

“Hey, calm down, man!” Dean argues. “I know you’re stressed, but just take a breath, alright?” He can hear Castiel forcibly inhaling on the other end.

“Ok, now, first off where are you?” Dean asks, rising to his feet.

“The bathroom next to the labs,” Cas replies.

“Which floor?”

“Still the ground floor.”

“Ok, that’s good, that’s good,” Dean reassures as he moves out of the office, toward the exit doors. “Is there a window anywhere?” He hears some soft shuffling noises and the unmistakable creek of a door opening.

“There’s some in the hallway,” Cas answers.

“Do any of them open?” Dean asks. He pushes through the doors to the outside. He just needs to get somewhere close to Cas. there is a brief pause and a soft groan.

“No, they’re all sealed- Wait… wait, there’s an office. I think they have a window that opens.” He hears Castiel’s footfalls as he steps inside the room.

“Ok, that’s great Cas,” Dean says with a grin. “Now tell me what is outside the window?”

“Uh, trees?” he responds. Dean rolls his eyes.

“You’re going to be a little more specific, Cas.” Dean glances arounds the area surrounding the museum, hoping there is some landmark Cas may recognize.

“The Aquarium!” he blurts out. “I can see the front entrance of the Aquarium.” Dean turns in circles, looking every which way.

“Ok, what does the Aquarium look like exactly?”

“It has columns out front and a dome,” Cas says. Dean searches the horizon as he follows around the massive building.

“Cas, I’m not seeing anything- hold on. Columns and a dome?” he asks.

“Yes.”

“Ok, I think I see it,” He jogs along the wall, still pressing the phone to his ear. “Cas, I’m going to need you to signal somehow.” Castiel mumbles a curse under his breath and there’s the sound of movement on the other end. Dean huffs as he runs along the rows of windows, hoping to God Cas has some way to flag him down, when he sees a pair of black slacks waving out one of the windows.

“I see you, Cas.” He breathes a relieved sigh into the phone. Picking up the pace, he hurries toward the waving pants.

“That’s great Dean,” Cas calls out the window. As Dean reaches the window, he can see the top of his head and his hand poking up from the bottom. “Can we, um, hurry this up, please? I’m kind of in a precarious position. I can barely reach.”  

“Ok, so I’m here,” Dean says, coming to a stop. “What now?”

“I need your pants,” Cas shouts out the window without preamble. There is silence on the other end of the line. “Please, Dean, I don’t want to have to ask this-”

“No, it’s alright, Cas,” Dean says. “Really.” He means it, too. If stripping down is going to get Cas this job, he’s willing to do it. He squeezes the phone between his shoulder and ear beginning to unbutton his jeans.

“How’s the best way to get these to you?” Dean asks.

“I don’t know,” Cas answers. “Can you throw them through the window?”  Dean looks up doubtfully, the window is directly above him by four feet; there’s no guarantees he’ll be able to get the in there.

“I don’t think so,” Dean says. “What if I tie the legs together and you pull mine through?”

“I’ll drop them,” Cas yells . “If you pull on these at all-”

“Cas!” Dean interupts, trying to make his voice as comforting as possible. “I’m good luck, remember? You will not drop these. I just need you to loosen your grip a little so I can get one leg.”  He can see the top of Castiel’s head moving as he nods. The pants drop down a small amount as Cas loosens his grip.

“Ok, good.” Dean encourages. He shimmies out of his jeans, leaving him in a pair of black boxer briefs. The wind off the lake is cool on his skin and it causes a ripple of goosebumps across his thighs. He grabs his wallet and keys out of the back pocket and sets them on the ground before picking up a leg of his jeans and knotting it to the leg of Cas’ slacks.

“Got it, Cas! Pull them up!” Dean watches as both pairs of pants are slowly tugged through the window. He hears Cas make a happy noise the moment Dean’s jean are finally tugged through.

“Oh my god,” Cas lets out a relieved laugh. “Thank you Dean, thank you.”

“Not a problem, Cas,” Dean says, looking to see if anyone notices him standing by a window in only a t-shirt, flannel shirt and underwear. “Now just throw your old pants out the window so I have something to wear.” There is a pause on the other end of the line.

“Dean, they’re ripped,” Cas says. “Are you just going to walk around flashing everybody?”

“I have on underwear. I’m not going comando.” Dean argues. “It doesn’t matter if they’re torn, Just throw them out here.” There is some muffled grunting through the phone. Dean holds his breath in anticipation until Cas’ hand reappears at the edge of the window, followed by the leg of his slacks. Dean strains to reach them, hopping up a few times before grasping the edge of the cuff.

“Got ‘em,” Dean says, grabbing at the pants and tugging them out of the window.

“I need to get going, Dean,” Cas says. “I’ll see you back in the lobby.”

“Hey Cas, wait!” Dean calls into the phone. He reaches into his shirt and tugs a pendent off over his head. “Tossing something your way.” Dean throws the necklace towards the window, fist-pumping when it makes it through, landing on the inside with a tiny “clink.”


 

Castiel sees the object on the cord fly through the window and lands on the tile floor next to the sink.

“What is it?” he asks, leaning down and picking it up off the ground. He holds the object in his hand: it’s just a heavy, metal pendent, possibly brass, in the shape of a face.

“It’s a good luck charm,” Dean answers. Cas smiles, and holds it up, giving the pendent a scrutinizing glare.

“This won’t  do anything,” he says. “I need you with me, not your stuff.”

“You don’t know that,”  Dean says. “Now just say thank you  and go kick that interview’s ass.” Castiel rolls his eyes, but slips it over his neck with a smile all the same..

“Thank you, Dean,” he says, dropping the pendent beneath his collar.

“My pleasure,” Dean replies into the phone. Castiel mumbles a goodbye and the other line clicks off. He glances at himself in the mirror one last time, frowning at his rumpled appearance as he washes his hands. At least there isn’t a big hole in his jeans.

Castiel pushes out of the bathroom door, just as a slight, bearded man turns the corner.

“Are you Castiel?” the man asks, approaching him. He nods and the man grins broadly and extends a hand in his direction. “I’m Dr. Chuck Shurley, I’m one of the assistant curators. I’ll be interviewing you today.”

Castiel swallows hard, his mouth dry.“Pleasure to meet you,” he forces the words out, shaking his hand. Dr. Shurley indicates for him to follow as they walk into one of the labs


 

Castiel was right about the pants: they don’t fit. At least the tear up the front makes it easier to get them up over his ass. Dean tugs off his flannel, wrapping it around his waist like he’s wearing a plaid apron. He grabs his wallet and keys off the ground, returning the way he came to wait for Castiel.


 

The interview takes a long time; way too long in Dean’s opinion. He can’t tell if that’s a good sign or not. He taps his foot anxiously, earning dirty looks from the secretary.

After almost 90 minutes, he hears the soft shuffle of feet and sees Cas emerge from behind the door. He looks tense and exhausted, but at least he doesn’t have the same defeated look that he wore earlier. He sees Dean and offers a tired smile.  

“How’d it go?” Dean asks as Cas steps out from behind the counter, nervous for the answer himself. Cas gives a stilted nod, leading Dean out of the building.

“Good,” he says when they are finally outside, “Really, really well.” Dean exhales in relief.

“Good,” Dean echoes. “Good is… good. When are they supposed to call you back and let you know?” Castiel bites at the inside of his lip.

“They’re not,” he says. Dean feels like he’s been punched in the gut. He’s ready to run back in there and give the curator a piece of his mind, but he sees Cas’ face light up with a smile.

“They taking me on a probationary period,” Cas admits.

“You got the job?” Dean asks in disbelief.

“Well, sort of,” Cas says, bobbing his head side-to-side, “It’s not fully official but they are giving me-Oomph!” Dean cuts him off as he swallows Cas up in a tight hug, swinging him through the air.

“You got the job!” he whoops.

“Dean!” Cas tries to sound petulant, but there’s unmistakable laughter in his voice. Dean sets him back down on his feet, his face split with a jubilant smile.

Cas looks so happy, happier than Dean has ever seen him, and he doesn’t think as he reaches out a hand, cupping the back of Cas’ head and drawing him in for a kiss. It’s brief and frantic; just a smash of lips really. Cas inhales inhales sharply at the contact, his whole body stiffening in shock. Dean pulls away, worried he may have overstepped a boundary of some sort.

“Uh, I…  um, sorry,” he mumbles out. He can taste a hint of Cas’ honey chapstick .

“Don’t be,” Cas mumbles. He wraps his arms around Dean’s neck and draws him in for a deeper kiss.



Chapter Text

Following the interview, Dean drives Cas back to his place. Usually their rides to and from work  filled with conversation and easy laughter, but today’s journey is quiet. Not that Dean is surprised.

The kiss set something off within him. There’s an itch under his skin, a need to reach for Cas’ hand and lace their fingers together. His eyes keep darting across the bench seat to where Cas sits, his eyes glued to the road.

Dean wants to say something, to address the situation, but each time he opens his mouth, words fail. He likes Cas, it’s not difficult for him to admit that, but a feeling of dread keeps bubbling up within him whenever he’s faced with the thought of Cas’ rejection. He had said in not so many words that relationships weren’t his thing. Dean’s had a few casual ones where the main objective was making each other laugh before getting the other person off. He wants more than that from Castiel, though. Casual is fine if you don’t have to see the person every day, but their relationship already feels like a commitment with what’s at stake for Castiel. The kiss proved that they could easily take their relationship further. The biggest roadblock would be Cas’ own cautious nature.

Still, though, Cas had kissed him back. Twice. That had to count for something.

The Impala pulls up to the curb outside Cas’ apartment, coming to a stop with a jerk.

“I’ll pick you up tomorrow night?” Dean says, his words coming out as an unintended question. Castiel gives a small nod, glimpsing at Dean out of the corner of his eye. “When do you start your new job?”

“I have to put in my notice with the security supervisor,” Cas replies. “Two weeks, maybe less.”

“Cool, cool, sounds good,” Dean mumbles and an awkward silence settles between them. Dean turns his head and catches Cas’ eyes. “Cas--” his words are cut off as Cas moves across the seat in one fluid motion and captures Dean’s mouth in a brief kiss. It’s chaste and over almost as soon as it begins, but Dean is shell-shocked by the action. When Cas pulls back, a soft smile curls involuntarily at the corner of his mouth.

“I’ll see you tomorrow, Dean,” he mumbles as he slips from the car and slams the door shut. Dean sits there in the idling car, jaw hanging open as he watches Cas unlock the front door to his building  and go inside.

As soon as he disappears inside, Dean shakes his head in an effort to clear it and shifts the car into drive, pulling away from the curb.

 




Castiel is weak. He knows this. He knew it the second he dragged Dean into the unlit stairwell.

Dean has him pressed against the wall in a darkened corner of the museum. His leg slots between Castiel’s, pressing against the hardening outline of his erection. Castiel moans into Dean’s mouth, causing Dean’s fingers to dig into his hip, pulling their bodies closer together. Dean’s mouth moves off his, traveling down his throat. Castiel cranes his neck, letting his head fall back against the wall. He cracks an eye open, hoping to God that they’re in the security camera’s blind spot.

This isn’t the first time this has happened, not even the second or third. They don’t discuss the fact that it keeps happening. It’s not like Castiel intended to keep kissing Dean, but he can’t seem to control himself. Dean just sits there, watching him with this affectionate expression like Castiel hung the moon.

Dean’s hand comes up, cupping Cas’ jaw and brushing a thumb over his cheekbone. Castiel leans into it, hungry for touch with an enthusiasm he never expected.

If he were stronger, he would’ve pushed Dean away the moment their lips first met and calmly explained why this couldn’t happen. If he were stronger, he wouldn’t have eagerly kissed him a second time. If he were strong at all he would have explained to Dean that he is still figuring out how to manage his life around his bad luck. The last thing he needs is to have a relationship thrown into the mix.

Dean pulls back for a moment, eyes searching Castiel’s face. A small smile curls at his mouth, eyes crinkling at the corners. Castiel doesn’t think as he moves forward and presses their lips together one more.

It’s like a dam has broken inside of him. Anytime they are together, Castiel seems to find excuses to be close to Dean or invade his space. Their arms brush as they walk side by side, doing patrols. His fingers purposefully find Dean’s as he hands off a book or he’ll sit too close on the drives to and from work.

Castiel is weak, but after so many years of denying himself any sort of human connection, who’d blame him for a little weakness? Especially, when that weakness comes in the form of Dean Winchester.


 

Rachel leads Castiel through the hallways of the academic offices on his first day, his newly-made staff ID card clipped to his shirt.

“Dr. Shurley said for you to wait for him in Lab C,” she says, glancing back at Castiel. He gives a stiff nod, carefully watching where he steps. He had to leave Dean in the Impala until he can find someway to get him inside the building. His nerves are already fried at the prospect of starting a new job, and not having Dean here is only amping up his anxiety.

“Everything requires mag card access,” Rachel explains, flashing her card in front of another reader and leading into one of the the museum laboratories. Castiel is struck by the sight of carefully categorized artifacts lining the tables in front of them. As he passes through the doorway, his foot catches on the frame and he stumbles forward. His hands fly out to catch him before slamming into table and causing the contents to rattle precariously.

Rachel stares at him in stunned horror.

“Sorry,” Castiel mumbles, pushing himself up carefully. “I… uh, tripped.” Rachel gives a slow nod.

“Well, please try to be more careful. You’re surrounded by priceless antiquities.” she says. “Dr. Shurley should be here soon.”

“Excuse me,” Castiel pipes up. “I actually forgot something in my car. Is there a quicker way back to the parking lot.” Rachel taps a finger against her lips as she thinks.

“I believe there’s a loading dock where some of the techs and curators take smoke breaks.” She says. “It’s just out the door and to the left down the hallway.” She indicates the direction. Castiel thanks her and watches as Rachel disappears out the door.

As soon as she leaves, Castiel steps out of the lab. He follows the directions Rachel gave to the loading dock and nudges the door open. The surroundings seem vaguely familiar. He pulls his cell phone out and taps Dean’s name.

“What’s up, Cas?” Dean answers.

“Ok, I think I’m on the northwest side of the building on a loading dock. Can you come around?” he asks. Dean hums in thought on the other end of the line.

“Yeah, give me a minute.” Cas stays on the line, the sound of Dean’s heavy breathing as he jogs around the building traveling through the phone. Dean appears at the edge of the loading dock after a couple minutes, sweaty and breathless.

“I’m… here,” he pants into the phone. Castiel sighs, giving Dean a long-suffering look.

“I didn’t say you had to run,” he scolds, ending the call and approaching Dean, who is bent over his legs, trying to catch his breath.

“When it comes to you, Cas, my policy is to avoid delays.” He rights himself and, without, warning, leans forward, pecking Castiel on the lips. Cas steps back awkwardly, turning and mumbling for Dean to follow him.

“You sure this is going to be ok with your boss?” Dean asks as they climb the short flight of steps into the building. As soon as they are inside, Dean’s eye dart around, taking in his surroundings.

“No idea,” Castiel replies, “but I don’t have much of a choice.” They round the corner and stop in front of Lab C.

“So what? You’re just going to hide me in a closet of something?” Dean asks. Castiel frowns and pushes open the door. Truthfully, that was on his short list of ideas. He doesn’t know exactly what he is going to do with Dean. Maybe the curator will think Dean was a new intern or a volunteer or something.

Dean takes a few slow steps into the lab, eyes growing large at the sight and volume of artifacts set on each table.

“What is all of this?” Dean asks. Castiel glances over a table, scrutinizing a piece carefully with narrowed eyes. .

“Looks like these 9th century Viking home tools.” Castiel replies, “Maybe some weaponry.” Dean makes an interested face and steps closer.

“Weaponry? Seriously?” He reaches a hand out, but Castiel grabs him at the wrist.

“Don’t touch,” he scolds, scowling at Dean. The door behind them opens and Chuck, the curator, walks in wearing a rumbled dress shirt and a pair of jeans. A tablet is clutched in his hand and he taps at it, eyes locked on the screen.

“Sorry I’m late,” he mumbles, “It’s nice to see you again Castiel- Oh, who’s this?” Chuck’s eyes lock on Dean, squinting in confusion.

“Um, this is… Dean,” Castiel offers. “He’s, um… my personal assistant.”

“Life Coach,” Dean blurts out at the same time. Castiel glares at Dean, while Chuck raises a confused eyebrow

“Life coach?” He asks.

“He’s my personal assistant-slash-life coach,” Castiel clarifies on the spot. Chuck’s expression doesn’t change.

“I have a very hectic life.” he adds after a moment. Chuck looks between the two men, clearly doubtful.

“And I have a very hands-on approach,” Dean takes a step forward, taking serious expression. “I believe in learning the ins and outs of my clients lives, really getting into the nitty-gritty and figuring out how to… coach them.”

“And you’re also a personal assistant,” Chuck says flatly.

“Part of the process,” Dean says, giving an exaggerated nod. “Very in-depth.” Chuck glances between  at the two of them, looking exasperated at Dean’s explanation, before sighing and nodding.

“Well, it sounds… out of the ordinary,” Chuck responds, “but we love to have our staff at peak performance, just please don’t… touch anything.”

“You got it,” Dean flashes a toothy smile and gives a thumbs up. Castiel gapes in Dean’s direction, mouthing, “What the hell?” as Chuck gives him a tour of the lab. Castiel tries to pay attention as Chuck details each task and assignment he’s expected to take on. He keeps a careful eye on Dean, who subtly moves around the room, careful to stay within the 20-foot radius of Castiel.

It isn’t until Chuck has him logged into the computer and doing data input that they are alone again.

“Personal assistant? Really?” Dean asks, sliding a chair up next to Castiel. “That’s the best you could do?” Castiel looks at him dumbfounded.

“And life coach is better?” Castiel asks with a smirk. “Do you even have any clue what a life coach does?”

“Of course I don’t,” Dean laughs, causing Castiel to dissolve into laughter as well. Dean stops and looks at Castiel for a moment before leaning in and pressing a small kiss to his lips.

“Dean,” Castiel's voice comes out hesitant, pulling back from Dean.

“Are we ever going to talk about this?” he asks.

“It’s not like that, Dean,” Castiel tries to reassure.

“Then what is it?” he asks, his words gentle, like he's approaching a spooked animal. “Literally every time I try to bring this up, you change the subject.” Castiel doesn’t want to talk about it. If they talk about it then this spell might be broken and Castiel will have to admit he feels things he doesn’t want to feel.

Somehow, though, he can’t seem to help himself. Dean is magnetic. He is friendly and warm; he has this fierce loyalty that Castiel finds exceptionally attractive. Maybe it’s a type of Florence Nightingale Syndrome; Castiel falling fast and getting overly attached to his good luck charm.

“Dean,” he begins, turning in the chair to face him. “Please don’t misinterpret my actions.” Dean’s face seems to break and Castiel hurries to correct his assumption.

“I like you a lot,” Castiel rushes out."I do, but… but there are a lot of things in my life-”

“Yes, I am well aware of that, Cas,” Dean interrupts.

“Relationships are not my forte,” Castiel continues. “I… I’m damaged goods.” Dean expression falls at those words.

“Cas-”

“No, let’s be honest here,” Castiel continues. “I am not an ideal partner. You are chained to my side everyday. That is not a healthy basis for a partnership. And truthfully, you are young enough that your soulmate could be out there waiting for you. Why would waste your time with me?” Dean is quiet for a moment.

“You believe that,” Dean says, looking down at his hands. Castiel hesitates before answering.

“Yes, I do,” he mumbles. He turns back to the computer, hoping that Dean will leave it be. He can see him out of the corner of his vision, still staring at at Castiel.

“Cas, you know how I feel about finding my soulmate,” Dean begins after a moment. Castiel bites the inside of his lip and gives a small nod. “That’s not what I want.”

“So you just want a walking disaster, then?” Cas asks bitterly.

“No, I want you,” Dean answers immediately. “I like you a lot. You’re funny and kind and… Well, let’s face it, you’re pretty easy on the eyes, ok?” Castiel gives a half-smile.

“I know that your life is strange. Believe me, I get that,” Dean continues. “That doesn’t change how I feel about you though.” Castiel turns to look at Dean. Dean stares back at him and Castiel wants so badly to reach out for Dean.

“You don’t deserve to spend your life alone like… like some kind of punishment,” Dean spits out. Castiel gives an annoyed huff.

“Dean, if you’re doing this out of pity-”

“It’s not pity! I care about you Cas!” Dean groans in exasperation. “Is it so hard to believe that you’re… wonderful?” Dean reaches out and takes Cas’ hands in his, brushing his thumbs over Castiel’s knuckles. Silence fills the room around them as they sit there, lost in each other’s touch.

“What if you start to hate me?” Castiel mumbles, breaking the quiet. Dean snorts derisively.

“What if?” he says, throwing his hands in the air. “What if I get hit by a car or the ceiling caves in on us-”

“Please don’t say things like that.” Castiel gives Dean a pained look. Dean levels a stare at him.

“Look, anything can happen any day of the week. There’s always going to be risks. I think you’d know that better than anyone,” Dean replies. “But if you don’t take those risks, you’ll never see a reward.”

There is a long pause before Castiel speaks again.“I could say the same for you and your soulmate.” Dean groans and swipes a hand down his face. He shakes his head and looks down.

“Cas, can I tell you something?” he mutters. “My mom and Dad were soulmates. Met at 23, had me a year later. It wasn’t good.” Castiel eyebrows rise to his hairline and he tilts his head.

“What do you mean?”

“They loved each other, y’know? Like soulmates are supposed to. They had a lot of passion for each other, that crazy kind of love. Sometimes, though, all of that passion came out in fights and screaming matches.” Dean lifts his head, a faraway gaze still in his eyes.

“What happened?”

“They blew up,” Dean sighs. “My Dad ran off for awhile, had another kid, I don’t know. Sam and I stayed with our Mom. She met someone else, though. A nice lady named Jodi. They weren’t soulmates but… but they were really happy.” Castiel’s brow furrows.

“Were?”

“My mom passed away when I was in high school,” Dean admits reluctantly. “Ovarian cancer. Jodi took care of Sam and me though... Well, her along with my Uncle Bobby and Aunt Ellen. One big happy family, y’know?” Castiel frowns, unsure of what to say. He grasps Dean’s hand in his own, earning a squeeze.

“What I’m trying to say is… soulmates don’t guarantee happiness and being with someone who isn’t your soulmate isn’t necessarily a bad thing.” Dean speaks with such conviction that Castiel can’t help but believe him. Would it be so bad to choose someone even if the Universe doesn’t endorse it? Throw out the script and be in a relationship just because he wants it? An ache that Castiel had long ago buried resurfaces and, for the first time in years, he doesn’t tamp it back down. Castiel wants this. He wants what Gabriel and Balthazar have in their playful banter and constant support of one another, despite the odds being against them.

Dean scoots closer, taking both of Castiel’s hands once more. Castiel moves in, his hair brushing against Dean’s forehead. The logical part of himself screams out in protest but it is quickly silenced as Castiel’s lips meet Dean’s.

It’s a soft, tender kiss; innocent but very intimate. Dean cups the side of Cas’ face and pulls him closer, deepening it. Castiel opens his mouth and moans as Dean’s tongue slides past his lips. Their tongues tangle together as Dean’s other hand comes to rest on Castiel’s hip. He pulls Castiel to his feet, wrapping his arm around Cas’ waist and drawing him in closer.

Castiel places his hand on Dean’s chest, pushing him back. “We shouldn’t be doing this here,” he mumbles, glancing around the ceiling and spotting a security camera mounted in the corner.

“What? You don’t want your old co-workers to see you sucking face?” Dean teases.

“I don’t want to get fired on my first day,” Castiel counters, settling into his seat and turning back to the computer. They don't speak as Castiel tries to focus on work. Dean leans back in his chair, balancing precariously as he browses through his phone.

“That was a yes, by the way,” Castiel says, breaking the silence. Dean looks up and catches Castiel’s eye. “I’m willing to try this… thing between us.” Dean’s face splits into a beaming smile before settling into a smirk.

“I figured,” he replies, throwing a wink at him. Castiel feels a blush rise to his face as he refocuses on the computer. Dean returns his attention to his phone, too distracted by some game to notice his chair tipping backwards until it’s too late. Dean’s arms flail out as he falls backward and crashes to the floor.

“Dean!” Castiel exclaims, jumping from his seat and helping Dean up. Dean chuckles in embarrassment, dusting off his clothes and flexing his limbs.

“Your kiss knocked me off my feet,” he jokes, rubbing at the spot where his shoulder hit the ground.

“Are you ok?” Concern fills Castiel’s expression, his hands run over Dean’s head and back, searching for injury.

“I’m fine,” Dean assures, grasping one of his hands to stop him, “but if you need an excuse to get handsy, please, be my guest.” Castiel pulls back, giving him a skeptical look. Dean flashes a smile and pulls the chair from the ground, setting it upright and retaking his seat.

“Better get to work, Cas,” he says. “Time is money. Chop, chop.”

 


 

By the end of the day Castiel’s brain is so fried that he asks Dean to take him right back to his apartment rather than have dinner like they’d planned. Dean walks him right to his front door, mentioning his protective services as the reason why. Castiel places a shy kiss on his lips before mumbling a goodnight and slipping inside his door.

Dean feels like he is walking on air all the way back to the Impala. He almost can’t believe that he’s gotten so lucky.

As he reaches the car, his phone chimes with a message.

Jodi: Can either of you boys spare an hour for dinner with your mom or are you too grown up for that now?

Dean snorts and texts back an affirmative. Sam’s response soon follows in the conversation. It’ll be nice seeing Jodi. His conversation with Cas earlier had dredged up some feelings better left buried and he could use some happy memories.

They make plans to meet soon for dinner at an Italian place Jodi likes. Dean smiles to himself, placing his phone on the seat next to him. He turns the key and drives off.


 

Jodi is already waiting at the table when Sam and Dean arrive. Her face lights up as soon as she sees them, waving in excitement.

“Hey, you two!” Jodi jumps to her feet, scooping both Sam and Dean up in a crushing hug. “It’s been too long.”

“Sure has, Jodi,” Sam agrees. She pulls back, frowning at him..

“Where’s Jessica?”

“She had a late meeting,” Sam explains. “Conference call with the Tokyo office.” Jodi nods and turn her attention to Dean.

“How’s the job hunt going?” Dean catches Sam’s amused expression out of the corner of his eye. He was the only one Dean had told about his arrangement with Castiel, and that was only out of necessity.

“It’s good,” Dean says with a tight smile, “Bobby gives me a few hours here and there.” Jodi nods in sympathy; Dean knows that Ellen and her talk regularly and she is well aware of the situation.

They take their seats and fall into easy conversation as they tear into breadsticks. A twinge of sadness flares within Dean. The scene is so familiar of the dinners they had growing up, only one very special person is missing.

“So Sam, any wedding bells, yet?” Jodi asks. Sam flushes and fiddles with the straw wrapper from his drink.

“No, no, none of that,” he answers. “I’m not sure Jess and I want to get married. We feel like soul mates are enough, y’know?” Dean listens and nods, but Sam’s explanation strikes him as odd. Sam had always been a big fan of marriage; his reasoning smacks of something Jess would say.

“Don’t you want to make an honest woman of the girl?” Jodi presses, eyeing him seriously.

“Yeah Sam, do you enjoy living in sin?” Dean encourages.

“Why are you bugging me? What about Dean’s lovelife?” Sam deflects. It’s a cheap move, but it works. Jodi turns her attention to Dean.

“That’s a good point,” Jodi grins at him, “Are you seeing anyone?” Dean glances up at Sam and then to Jodi.

“Actually, I am.” Dean begins. Jodi’s mouth hangs open and Sam’s eyes grow wide, caught off-guard by this new information.

“What?! Really?” Jodi claps her hands together. “Dean have you found your soulmate?” Dean shakes his head and waves his hand dismissively.

“No, no… You know how I feel about that.”

“Yeah, yeah, I know,” Jodi agrees, “Doesn’t mean it can’t happen.” She punctuates her sentence by pointing a straw in his direction.

“I can promise you it’s not.” Dean assures. Jodi and Sam lean in closer. “His name is Castiel-”

“I friggin’ knew it!” Sam announces, slamming his hand against the table. “I knew it! The way you were looking at him at dinner-”

“You know this person?” Jodi asks Sam.

“He went to out dinner with Dean and Jess and I a couple months ago,” Sam explains.

“More like we asked him to join,” Dean adds.

“Who is he?” Jodi asks.

“He’s Dean’s bos-” Sam tries to answer, but is cut off by Dean.

“He’s a friend,” Dean says. “And yes, we are dating.” Jodi beams at him while Sam just glares at him.

“Oh Dean, I am so happy for you,” Jodi murmurs, reaching across the table and squeezing his hand.

“When did this all happen?’ Sam asks.

“A couple weeks ago, actually,” Dean says. “That’s when we kind of, sort of made it official, I guess.” Sam opens his mouth to say more, but the waiter approaches the table.

“Are we ready?” he asks.


 

When Jodi gets up to use the restroom at the end of the meal, Sam leans in toward Dean.

“Dude, Castiel? Really?” Dean nods, slurping up the last bit of his iced tea.

“Sure am, Sam,” he says. Sam considers him for a moment, eyes narrowing curiously.

“You really like this guy don’t you?” Dean rolls his eyes, but he can feel the blush rising to his cheeks.

“Jesus, Sam, do you have to turn everything into a friggin’ Nicholas Sparks novel?” Dean replies, taking a pull of his beer. Sam doesn’t look convinced, huffing an incredulous laugh.

“Whatever, Jerk. You like this guy. Might as well  admit it,” Sam shakes his head. “This is kind of unbelievable actually. Are you sure Cas isn’t your soulmate?” Dean levels a stare at Sam, giving him a wry smile.

“I’m sure,” Dean offers. “I actually like it better that way.” He thinks Sam is going to press him further for more information, but he lets it go.

The waiter steps up them with the dessert menu just as Jodi returns.

“Would anyone care for something sweet?” he asks. Dean takes the menu, browsing over the selections.

“Limoncello tart,” he reads. “That’s like a pie, right?”

“Nothing for me, tonight,” Sam says, patting at his stomach. He scoots across the bench and out of the booth. “I should get going. Jess is no doubt home by now.” He reaches toward his back pocket for his wallet, but Jodi just waves him away.

“None of that, Sam. This is my treat.” She rises from the booth, stepping up to Sam and wrapping her arms around him. “Don’t be a stranger. You better call me, alright?” Sam leans down awkwardly as Jodi hugs him. Even towering a good foot above her, Sam seems so small when he’s hugging Jodi. He could be 13 years old all over again and Dean wouldn’t be able to tell the difference.

Sam departs and he and Jodi settle into their desserts and coffee.

“So what aren’t you telling me about this Cas guy?” she asks, stirring a packet of sugar into her espresso. Dean glances up at her and shrugs.

“Nothing,” he says. “You’ve got the full story.”

“Uh-huh.” Jodi looks doubtful. “Spill it, Dean.”

He knows there’s no way he can lie to Jodi, even by omission. It’s those cop instincts at play, sharp as ever even in retirement. Dean sighs and levels a stare at her. “I work for him,” he says.

“Doing what?” Jodi asks, her face scrunching in confusion. Dean has to think about this. Aside from Sam, he’s never had to honestly think about how to explain his role with Castiel.

“I am… his assistant.” It’s close enough to the truth, that Dean thinks he may be able to let it stay there. Jodi raises an eyebrow, expecting more.

“Assistant to what?” she asks. Dean runs a hand through his hair. This shouldn’t be that nerve-wracking, but be doesn’t want to share Cas’ information without his consent.

“I’m a good luck charm,” he finally admits. Jodi’s brow softens and she nods.

“I see.” She takes a hesitant taste of her coffee. “Dean if you don’t want to share with me you don’t have to.” Dean rolls his eyes; Jodi thinks she’s subtle at reverse psychology.

“I’m not lying,” Dean insists. “I actually am getting paid to be a good luck charm.” Jodi still doesn’t look convinced. Dean sighs and scoops up a forkful of his tarte.

“Look, Cas has a lot of bad luck and he noticed that I brought him good luck,” he explains. “That’s all.”

“And you’re dating this fella?” she asks. Dean nods. “Dean, have you ever heard the phrase ‘don’t shit where you eat?’” Dean snorts, amused by Jodi’s potty-mouth.

“I get what you’re trying to say, but it’s fine.”

“Oh really?” she asks, holding the coffee cup in two hands. “And what happens when this guy suddenly meets his soulmate and runs off?” Dean frowns.

“It doesn’t happen all the time.”

“It happens a lot,” she adds.

“Didn’t happen with you and Mom,” Dean counters. “You met your soulmate. That guy plowed his car right into you, broke your arm and everything. You didn’t leave.”

Jodi hums in acknowledgement as she sips her coffee. “You’re right, Dean. I didn’t, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t difficult,” she says seriously. “Your mom and I, though… Our situation was different.”

“Because of her and Dad?” Dean asks.

“Yes, but it was more than that,” Jodi offers. “We liked to say that we were too stubborn for soulmates.” A sad smile crosses Jodi’s face and Dean reaches out to take her hand.

“I’m glad you’re happy and you’re seeing someone,” Jodi continues, “but I just want you to be careful. Life… throws curveballs and not everyone is willing to ignore a ‘what if?’ when it comes to a soulmate.” Dean appreciates Jodi’s concern, but her implication still stings.

“Trust me, when I say that’s not going to happen,” Dean says with a reassuring smile. “You don’t have to worry. I got this.” He gives her hand a reassuring pat. Jodi exhales heavily and takes another sip of her coffee.

“If you say so”, she says as an aside, looking away. Dean rolls his eyes and dives into his tarte once more.

“I do say so,” he mumbles, his mouth stuffed full of food. Jodi just smiles at him and shakes her head.

 


 

Deep down, Sam believes everyone has a soulmate out there, even if their situation doesn’t exactly fall into line with the usual pattern of disaster. He saw the way Dean and Castiel looked at each other at dinner that night; even if they might not have seen it, it was clear there was something deeper building between them. Dean can deny needing a soulmate as much as he wants, but it doesn’t change what Sam saw with his own eyes.

These thoughts occupy Sam’s mind as he hurries down the train platform a couple blocks from the apartment he and Jess share.

He unlocks the door and steps into the entryway, noticing that most of the lights are off. Jess normally has every light in the house switched on when she’s alone; she claims it makes the place feel more lively.

“Jess?” he calls out.

“Here.” her voice drifts from the living room, small and soft. Sam steps into the room and stops when he sees a strange, shaggy-looking guy wearing an arm sling and sitting on the couch next to Jess. She glances up at Sam with huge sad eyes and all at once he knows something is wrong.

“What’s… going on?” Sam says, setting his jacket over the back of the chair.

“Please sit, Sam,” Jess mumbles, averting her eyes.

“Who’s this guy?” he asks, trying to keep his unease out of his voice.

“Brady,” the guy answers, lifting up his unbound hand in a halted wave.

“Sam,” Jess begins. “Um, I have to talk to you about something.” Jess picks at her fingernails as the silence settles between the three of them.

“Yeah,” Sam replies, pressing her to continue. “Ok.”

“Something happened today,” she mumbles, “I, um… I was headed across town for my meeting and I was getting out of the cab and I slammed the door, but the hem of my dress got caught in it.” Sam gives a shuddering exhale and the bottom seems to drop out of his stomach. He shakes his head, denying what he knows Jess is going to say next.

“I was dragged 20 feet, until most of my skirt was torn off.” she tries to lighten the mood with a chuckle, but it falls flat. “Right as the cab drove off, Brady’s bike,” she gestures to the guy, “hit the curb and he flipped over the handlebars and landed on the sidewalk in front of me.” She looks up at Sam, tears brimming in her eyes.

“I’m so sorry, Sam,” she whispers. Sam frowns, all words failing as he tries to come to terms with this information: Jess met her soulmate and it isn’t him.

“No,” he mutters, shaking his head in disbelief.  “No, you’re wrong about this, you’re… That’s… That was just an accident. We’re soulmates. We are!” Jess looks down, the first stray tears sliding down her cheek.

“No, we’re not,” she murmurs.

“I… I’m really sorry about this man,” Brady pipes up. Sam glares at him, furious. Jess touches a gentle hand to the guy’s arm.

“Brady, why don’t you wait outside for a few minutes.” His gaze flicks between Jess and Sam, unease crossing his features.

“Are you sure?” he asks. Jess gives a small nod and a small smile. Brady gets to his feet and moves past them.

As soon they hear the front door click, Sam turns to Jessica.

“What the fuck, Jess?” he hisses.

“Sam-”

“Did you know about this?” he accuses. “Were you lying to me all this time?”

“No!” she insists, her voice breaking in a sob. “I wasn’t. I thought it was you, I swear, but... “ She rubs her hands over her face, wiping away tears. “But when I saw him today, it was like that ‘Boom’ you talked about. It was right there and… and it was the same for him too.” Sam runs his hands through his hair, tugging at the strands. This feels like a horrible joke; someone is about to jump out of the closet with a camera and laugh in his face.

They are quiet for a long while, until Sam finally speaks again. “What if…?” He starts. “What if we’re both your soulmates? I’ve heard of people having two. I mean, it’s not common, but-” He’s cut off by Jess shaking her head.

“No,” she says. “I just have one.” Sam looks at her, tears finally falling.

“You’re just going to throw everything away?” Sam’s voice comes out bitter, “After four years, you’re just… You’re just going to throw this all away!” Jess startles at Sam’s outburst and he steps back in apology.

“You know I love you, Sam-” She tries to reach out for him, but he scoots farther away from her.

“Well, you’re not acting like it.” he mutters. Jess sighs heavily, like a parent trying to explain to a child.

“Sam, I do love you,” she offers, “but there are things that you want that I can’t… that I’m not willing to do.” Sam looks at her as the hard truth of her word sinks in.

“I… don’t care if you don’t want to get married!” Sam lies, “Or have kids! If that’s all there is-”

“You would just grow to resent me,” she says. “I don’t want to put you through that- giving up everything you want just because of me. You deserve someone who will give you all of that.” Sam stands up and paces around the room, searching for words.

“What’s so great about this Brady guy, then?” he asks. “What makes him so fucking amazing that you’re willing to give up everything we’ve built together?” Jess gives a small head shake, her expression blank.

“I don’t know,” she answers. Sam scoffs in response. “Really, I don’t. He’s the last person on Earth I’d ever think I’d want, but… but I want him. Completely.” She rises to her feet and steps toward Sam. She places a small kiss on his cheek, but he doesn’t even have the energy to react.

“I’m going to stay with my sister,” she says. “I’ve already packed a bag. I’ll come back for the rest while you’re at work.” She reaches out and gives his hand a squeeze, before moving out of the room.

As soon as he hears the door close behind her, Sam crumbles into a heap on the couch. Sobs wrack his body until he falls into a fitful sleep.





Chapter Text

Castiel’s apartment door swings open just as Dean raises his hand to knock.

“Hello,” Castiel answers, shy smile crossing his face.

“Hey, Cas,” Dean says. “You, uh, ready?” Cas nods. When Dean mentioned not only taking Cas to dinner, but to one of the hottest restaurants in the city, he’d jumped at the chance.

“I’ll get my coat,” Cas says, unable to wipe the grin from his face. “We’re not going to be late, are we?”

“We have plenty of time,” Dean replies as they step into the hall. Castiel locks the door behind them. “Our reservation is for--” He’s cut off by the chime of a text message and pulls his phone from his pocket.

“Oh shit,” Dean mumbles, his expression falling as he reads it. Cas feels his heart sink to the floor as Dean gives him an apologetic look.

“What’s going on?” he asks. “Is something wrong  with the reservation?”

Dean shakes his head sadly and turns the phone toward Castiel to read. Below the name “Sammy” are seven words: “Jess isn’t my soulmate. She left me.”

“Oh no,” Castiel says. He catches Dean’s eye, giving him a firm look. “You need to be with him.”

“Our reservation--” Dean argues.

“Family emergency,” Castiel counters, cutting him off gently. “Go see your brother. Make sure he’s alright. We can reschedule.” Dean reaches out and squeezes Castiel’s hand, his expression a mixture of guilt and gratitude.

“You could come with me,” he offers. Castiel shakes his head with a sad smile.

“I don’t think it’s the right moment to be flaunting your relationship,” he replies. “Besides, this is a time for family.” Dean opens his mouth to say something, but stops, bringing Castiel’s knuckles to his lips for a kiss instead.

“I’m just going to go check on him,” Dean says. “I’ll be right back.”

He leans forward and plants a soft kiss on him, murmuring a goodbye against Castiel’s lips. He waves goodbye as he hurries down the stairs. Castiel steps back into his apartment, closing the door behind him and walking back into the living room. He sheds his suit coat and drops it over a chair as he flops down on the couch. Castiel sighs sadly, grabbing the remote and switching on the TV as the disappointment washes over him.

 


 

The door opens to reveal a completely dismal-looking Sam, eyes ringed red from crying and his already too-long hair askew. Dean stares at his brother for a moment, before stepping through the doorway and swallowing Sam up in a hug.

“How’re you holding up?” he asks. Sam gives a listless shrug and pulls back.

“How do you think?” He turns and Dean follows him into the living room. “I thought I had a soulmate. Turns out, I didn’t.” He drops down onto the couch, catching his head in his hands and rubbing at his eyes. Dean shoots him a sympathetic look and sits down in the chair opposite.

“Ok… explain to me what happened exactly,” Dean asks. “Jess just... decided she wasn’t your soulmate?”

“No.” Sam shakes his head. “She was coming out of work and… I guess she had a disaster.” he smiles bitterly. “It was a good one, too. The kind you tell your grandkids about. She got her dress torn off in a car door and… this guy flipped over the handlebars of his bike.”

“Bike?” Dean asks. “Like a motorcycle?”

“Like a bicycle. I think he was a bike messenger or something,” Sam sighs. “Guy looked kind of like a surfer.” Dean’s eyes widen and his nostrils flare.

“And she left you, a lawyer, for a bike messenger?!” he asks, completely incredulous. “She traded in a successful guy that she loves and has been with for four years for… a bike messenger?”

“They’re soulmates,” Sam offers a lifeless shrug.

“No,” Dean argues with a vehement head shake. “No, no, you’re her soulmate. You had a disaster! What about the bee and the dog shit?”

“It was just some stupid, random accident.” Sam’s scrubs a hand down his face. Dean stares at him for a second, stunned. There are only a few things that he is certain of in life- his car is the finest piece of machinery to every come out of Detroit, Bert and Ernie are gay, and Sam and Jess are soulmates. Full stop.

“Sam, man, you’re talking crazy here.” Deans chuckles anxiously. “Of course you two were soul mates.”

“No, we weren’t.” Sam rises to his feet, walking toward the kitchen. “We never were. She was right about everything.”

“Wait? What do you mean?” Dean asks. Sam opens the fridge and pulls out two beers, handing one to Dean.

“There were all of these details, all of these things,” Sam says, twisting the cap off the beer and leaning back against the wall. “They should have been signs we weren’t meant to be together and I… I just kept ignoring them.” Sam takes a sip of his bottle while Dean stares him down.

“Like what?” Dean interrogates.

“Like kids,” Sam says, staring down at his hands.

“Yeah, but you want kids.” Sam had wanted a family as far back as Dean could remember. Everytime he had brought a girl home in high school or college, it was always the refrain of “Can you imagine what our kids will look like, Dean?”

“Jess didn’t,” Sam replies flatly. Dean isn’t entirely surprised, but to hear Sam admit it is still painful to hear. “Never did. She was the one who didn’t want to get married, too.”

“Jess didn’t want to get married,” Dean says, more of a confirmation of his suspicions than a question.

“Nope.” Sam shakes his head. “I asked her so many times and… I don’t know, she always had a reason not to.” He takes a long pull off of his bottle. Dean just stares at him, dumbfounded.

“Dude,” Dean starts, unsure of what he can possibly say to comfort his brother. “That is so fucked up.” Sam snorts and offers a sad smile.

“You’re right about that.” he says.

“And this just happened this afternoon?” Dean asks. Sam shakes his head.

“Four days ago,” he admits. Dean almost chokes on his beer.

“Four days!? You were dumped four days ago and you’re just telling me now?”

“Well excuse me, Dean, but I didn’t feel like broadcasting my failure for everyone,” Sam says. He scrubs a hand across his face one more time in exasperation. “If it makes you feel any better, you’re the first person I’m telling. No one else knows: not Jodi, not Bobby and Ellen… just you.” Guilt washes over Dean.

“I’m sorry, Sam,” he mumbles. “You’re right, it’s your business.” Sam nods in thanks, eyes locked on the empty space in front of him. They stand there in silence for a long while. The scene strikes Dean as strangely familiar; he remembers sitting next to his dad as he stared off into the middle distance, no doubt regretting choices he’d made.

“So what are you going to do now?” Dean asks, earning another head shake from Sam.

“I don’t know.” he says with a defeated shrug. “Jess came by a few days ago when I was at work, grabbed all of her stuff. This place seems so empty.” Dean takes the opportunity to look around the apartment for the first time. It does seem bare. Most of the paintings and artsy photo prints are missing, the blanket off the living room couch is gone and the spot on the kitchen counter where the stand-up mixer once stood in now vacant. Sam moves off the wall and drops into the overstuffed chair in the living room.

“Y’know, I was fucking set.” Sam states abruptly. “I had the job, the great place, the beautiful soulmate. Not even thirty, and my life was perfect!” A bitter laugh bubbles up from within him.

“She was it for me, Dean.” Sam continues, letting his head slump forward once more. “I… I still can’t believe this happened.”

“I’m sorry, Sam, I…” Dean trails off. He has no advice to offer him. He has never been in a situation even close to similar. All his previous relationships occurred with the knowledge that they weren’t soulmates and it wouldn’t last. “If you need someone to talk to or rant at, I’m here.” Dean throws his hands out as he settles down into the couch kitty-corner Sam’s chair. Sam raises his head and smiles at Dean gratefully, but his expression narrows after a moment.

“What’s with the clothes, man?” Sam asks, eyeing him up and down. Dean glances down at his suit.

“Ah, yeah, well, Cas and I were on our way to a date when you called.” Dean admits. Sam blinks a few times, his jaw dropping open in shock.

“What the fuck, man?” he exclaims. “You just ditched your boyfriend?”

“Ditched? No, I didn’t ditch him.” Dean explains. “Cas insisted I come. Said I needed to be with you right now.”

“And you left him behind?”

“Hey, Cas gets it. This isn’t something that happens every day.” Dean replies. “Besides, I tried to get him to come along, but he said it was important for family to be together at a time like this.” Sam looks and smirks at the floor.

“Dean, get out of here.” he says. “Go on your date.”

“Did you not hear what I just said?”

“I’ll give Bobby and Ellen a call. Maybe drive up to Winnetka to see Jodi,” Sam offers up the best fake smile he can muster. “I’ll be ok. Just because my love life is in the crapper doesn’t mean yours should suffer.”

Dean wants to protest, but he’s also excited to get back to Castiel. Every time he has to leave him alone, Dean worries about something terrible happening. It doesn’t help matters that something usually does. He makes Sam promise to call him tomorrow, just to check in. Sam rolls his eyes, but it is clear that he appreciates the effort. Dean presses the elevator button several times, willing it to go faster. As soon as he reaches the ground floor, he zips out of the building and toward the parking garage and the Impala.


 

Castiel meets him with a beaming grin as soon as he opens the front door.

“You’re back,” he says in surprise.

“Yeah, Sam found out we had a date tonight and made me leave,” Dean replies, stepping into Cas’ apartment. He immediately notices the darkening bruise to the side of Cas head. “What happened there?” His finger hovers over the spot. Castiel looks away and gingerly touches the spot.

“You know how it is,” he offers a shrug. “Random shit when I least expect it. I, uh… I might’ve hit myself in the face with the freezer door.”

“Jesus Christ, man,” Dean mutters, tenderly touching the spot.

“Yeah, well, you should see the other guy.” Castiel tries to joke, flinching as Dean’s fingers brush over the knot.

“Yeah, I bet the freezer had it coming,” Dean replies. He pulls his hand away and looks at Cas sympathetically.

“You hungry?” he asks.

“Starved,” Castiel replies, shuffling towards the couch to grab his abandoned tie. Dean notices that Cas removed his jacket as well, but is still wearing his button down shirt, with the sleeves rolled up almost to his elbows. It’s a good look for him. “I don’t know if we’ll make our reservation unless we run. Let me just get redressed--”

“Don’t you dare,” Dean orders. He steps forward, wrapping an arm around Cas’ waist and pulling him into a deep, bruising kiss. All the tension drains out of Cas when their lips meet. He pulls back, Castiel’s expression completely blissed out.

“Wow,” he mumbles.

“You look sexy as hell like that,” Dean murmurs against his lips, planting one more small kiss to the corner of his mouth. He takes Cas by the hand and starts to lead him out the door. Cas smiles, lacing their fingers together.




They opt to take a cab rather than driving, assuming that parking will be an absolute nightmare at this hour. As soon as they pull up outside of the restaurant, it’s pretty clear they are out of luck on getting a table. A crowd ten people deep mills around outside the front door and Dean can see through the windows  that it’s even worse inside.

“Dammit,” he mutters, turning to Cas with an apologetic stare. “I’m sorry, Cas. If I hadn’t run off to help Sam,” Castiel waves him off.

“No, no… I said you should go,” he says. “This is on me.” A trace of disappointment lingers in Cas’ voice, but he offers Dean a cheery smile.

“I bet there’s some place else nearby,” Cas offers. Dean glances around, noting that there are a few other restaurants along the block, each in a similar state or overflow. He mentally inventories his kitchen, wondering if he has enough items in stock to cook dinner, when a voice rings out above the noise.

“Castiel!” They both turn to see a shaggy-haired man and a shorter man walking hand in hand in their direction.

"Balthazar?" Castiel takes a step towards the pair. Dead has heard Cas mention Balthazar and Gabriel in passing but he's never met the two men.

"What are you doing here?" The taller of the two, Balthazar Dean suspects, asks in a smooth British accent. Castiel mentioned that Balthazar was a doctor, but standing here, he looks more like an aging punk rocker in his black jeans, vintage New York Dolls shirt and sport coat.

“I’m… on a date,” Castiel answers. Balthazar’s brow furrows in confusion.

“A date? Really? At an actual restaurant of all places?” He turns his attention toward Dean. “Balthazar. This is my partner, Gabriel.” Gabriel gives a small two-fingered salute. “We’re friends of Castiel’s.”

“I’m Dean,” he says, shaking their hands. Both men’s faces light up in response.

“Ah, the infamous Dean,” Balthazar says with a grin. “Couldn’t hide him forever, huh Castiel?”

“Hide me?” Dean asks “You’re embarrassed of me, Cas?” He gives him a playful look.

“No, no,” Cas insists, exasperated by the situation. “I’m not trying to hide you-”

“Castiel thinks we would embarrass him,” Gabriel chuckles.

“And it appears we’ve already done so,” Balthazar points out. “Good call on that one, Cassy.”

“It’s fine,” Castiel shakes his head dismissively. “Really.”

“We’ve heard a lot about you, Dean,” Gabriel assures. “All good things, I swear.” Balthazar nods in agreement.

“So this is a nice choice for a date,” Balthazar says, looking up at the restaurant. “One of the best places in the city.”

“Well, we had reservations,” Dean admits, rubbing at the back of his neck, “but a family emergency kind of came up and we… uh… kind of missed our time slot.

“Oh dear,” Balthazar's frowns for a moment before his entire expression brightens with an idea. “Well, our reservation is in about ten minutes. You’re more than welcome to join us.”

“We couldn’t impose,” Castiel says.

“Shush,” Balthazar orders. “We haven’t seen you in an age.”

“Plus, we can get to know the man that stole your heart,” Gabriel slaps Dean on the back, jerking him forward.

“Hey, why not?” Dean gives Cas a shrug. Castiel gives his friends a withering look, but relents.

“Alright,” he says after a moment. “Are you sure this isn’t going to be a problem? This place is packed, they might not be able to add to your reservation.” Balthazar waves him off.

“The Maître d' owes me a favor,” he replies. “I reattached three of his fingers last year.” Balthazar turns and leads the group through the crowd into the restaurant.


 

It takes two beers before Dean feels reasonably comfortable in front of Cas’ friends. While Gabriel seems bent on pestering Dean with intrusive questions, Balthazar is content to occasionally insert some sort of witty or lewd comment between telling Castiel about a recent trip they took. They are at the same time both highbrow and bawdy, although it’s clear that they dote on Castiel.

“They bullied their friendship onto me,” Castiel says, with a good natured shrug as they work on the appetizers.

“Oh, you love us!” Gabriel teases, tearing into a roll. “Plus, someone has to look out for you.” Dean doesn’t miss the way Cas’ eyes flick to his for a moment. A warm ball of affection forms in Dean’s gut in response.

“You must understand, Dean, Castiel is like a younger brother to us,” Balthazar explains, pausing briefly as he swirls his scotch. “We tend to be protective of him, especially with his condition. You know how it is.”

Dean smiles at this and nods; he does understand. He finds himself subconsciously moving to Cas' outside when they walk down the street or scanning any room they enter for possible threats or peril.

“Well, when you’ve seen all the shit this kid has been put through, it’s hard not to be,” Gabriel adds, throwing a thumb in Cas’ direction.

“I’m right here,” he pipes up, shooting Dean a look that says, “What the hell?”

“So, you all have known each other a long time?” Dean asks. Balthazar and Gabriel share a glance and nod simultaneously.

“Yes, a good amount I’d say,” Balthazar rubs at his chin in thought.

“Castiel used to come into the ER so regularly,” Gabriel reminisces, his voice rising with a chuckle. “We had a patient wall of fame on one side of our nurses’ station,” Gabriel holds up his hands in demonstration, “and a completely separate wall dedicated to Castiel’s exploits.” Dean looks at Cas with a questioning brow.

“I admit, I had a hard time at the beginning,” Cas offers with a shrug. “Bad luck isn’t something you learn to manage overnight.”

“What was that one time?” Balthazar asks. “You came in with that deep gash across your forehead?” Gabriel releases a loud guffaw.

“I remember that! Some chick thought she was your soulmate and tried to stab you with a nail file when you told her that you weren’t."

"You were stabbed in the head?!" Dean squawks in disbelief. Cas nods reluctantly as Balthazar and Gabriel laugh at the memory.

"Poor Cassy runs into the ER, blood pouring from his head and screaming that some woman is trying to kill him." Balthazar chuckles. “Practically fell into Gabriel’s arms.”

"She was trying to kill me," Cas clarifies. He looks at Dean with wide serious eyes. "I barely made it out of her car. I… didn’t date much after that.” Gabriel shakes his head in disappointment.

“One head-stabbing and you’re put off of dating for good?” he clicks his tongue. “Such a waste, Castiel. Such. A. Waste.” Cas snorts and reaches for a dinner roll out of the bread basket.

“Well, I guess we can’t all be so lucky to meet our soul mates at our job.” Dean replies offhandedly. The table goes quiet and Balthazar and Gabriel give each other an amused look.

“Dean, we’re not soulmates.” Balthazar says with a wry grin. Dean’s brow furrows incredulously.

“Get out of here,” he mumbles. He’s never seen a couple who are not soulmates with such a clear underlying connection between them. Even his mom and Jodi, as close as they were, didn’t always mesh. Balthazar and Gabriel act like they are cut from the same cloth.

“We shit you not, Dean-o,” Gabriel adds, raising his wine to his lips. “Balth and I are just your normal, old, boring, non-soulmated couple.”

“We’re sympatico is what Gabriel is trying so eloquently to say,” Balthazar clarifies, receiving a vigorous head nod from Gabriel in agreement.

“Hard to believe, isn’t it?” Castiel asks, looking at Dean, who hums in agreement.

“You two really compliment each other,” Dean says.

“Well, thank you for that,” Balthazar replies, raising his glass in Dean’s direction. “Some people are put off when they find out, to be honest.”

“Traditional types,” Gabriel mutters, face pinching in disgust. “We've both been accused of some awful behavior."

"To be fair, about half of it is true," Balthazar adds, nudging Gabriel.

"Yeah, but it's not their place to judge us." Gabriel expression grows serious. "Look, do I think there's a soulmate out there for me? I don't know. There might be, there might not be. That doesn't mean I should just waste my life or my youth, without trying for a relationship." He punctuates his sentence by taking an enthusiastic a bite of a roll. Dean frowns as something occurs to him.

"So... are you two just dating as a placeholder?" he asks. Gabriel thinks about this as he chews.

"I wouldn't really say placeholder..."

"We do love each other deeply," Balthazar supplies. "But we both know there are risks involved. We've agreed that if anything were to happen, it's better to part as friends than to wonder what would've been."

"Carpe Diem and all that jazz," Gabriel shrugs. Dean pauses, ready to ask further questions when he feels something knocks into his chair. He looks up just as a waiter with wide tray hefted over her shoulder stumbles forward, sending the contents hurtling forward.

Dean hears the sizzle of the cast iron fajita platter before he sees it flip off the tray and come down onto his lap, bouncing painfully off of his thighs. Dean screams out in pain, jumping from the table and doubling over.

“Dean!” Cas cries out, moving to his side. Involuntary tears of pain spring to Dean’s eyes.

“Sonofabitch!” he snarls through gritted teeth, pressing his hands against his stinging legs. There is a flurry of excitement around him and he feels two bodies come up from behind him, hoisting him up under his arms. It takes him a moment to notice that it’s Balthazar and Castiel.

They stumble into the bathroom and set Dean down onto a sofa. Dean is almost too distracted by the pain to notice hands undoing his belt.

“Whoa, whoa, whoa,” he grunts, “Hey there, what do you think you’re doing?”

“We need to see the extent of your injuries, Dean,”  Balthazar says. He glimpses up at him with a knowing eyebrow. “Doctor, remember?” Dean catches Castiel’s pleading look out of the corner of his eye and relents, lifting himself up enough for them to tug his pants down, leaving him in just boxers. Balthazar stands and move to the sink to wash his hands before returning to Dean’s side.

“Hmmm.” A concerned look crosses his face. “Castiel, wet some paper towels, please.” He nods and rises to his feet, rushing to the sink. As soon as he returns, Balthazar directs him to sit beside Dean.

“Clean it carefully,” he emphasizes. “Don’t tear the skin.” His fingers run along the defined reddened edge.

“It’s only a first degree burn,” he concludes after a few moments. “There will be some blistering and stinging for a few days, but you’ll live.” He offers Dean a cheeky, reassuring smile, but Dean only grimaces in pain.

The bathroom door swings open and Gabriel steps inside. “Good news,” he announces, “The restaurant says they’re comping our meals.” Dean lets his head fall back against the sofa, any appetite he had long gone.

“Gabriel, please don’t tell me that you threatened to sue?” Castiel grouses as he continues to dab the cool towel over Dean’s thigh. Gabriel shrugs.

“Threatened, heavily implied.” He mimics a scale with his hands. “Tomato, tomahto. Either way, I might’ve let the word ‘attorneys’ slip out.” Balthazar snorts in amusement as he and Cas help Dean to his feet.

“We’ll make sure your dinners are boxed up,” he offers. “Dean, did you drive?”

“He left his car at my house,” Cas offers. “I’ll go grab us a cab.” He goes to let go of Dean, but instead Dean’s grasp tightens around his arm.

“No you don’t,” Dean grunts. “Late night, busy street, cars flying in your direction… I don’t think so.” Cas pauses as he considers this.

“Good point,” he says, nodding in agreement. He wraps Dean’s arm around his shoulder once more and leads him out of the bathroom. They don’t talk as they cross the restaurant floor. Dean feels exposed, walking past everyone in just his shirt and boxers. They push through the front door and past the waiting customers, moving to the curb. Dean leans into Cas, letting his head fall against the other man’s shoulder.

“Tell me you have some burn cream at your place,” he mutters. A soft chuckle rumbles up from Cas’ chest.

“Who do you think you’re talking to?” he replies.

 


 

As soon as they get back to Cas’ place, Dean flops down onto the couch. He pulls off his jacket and dress shirt, leaving him in only his boxers and undershirt. Cas moves automatically, depositing their food in the fridge and moving to the bathroom. Dean waits in the living room, listening to the sound of cabinets squeaking open and containers being set on the counter.

“I have a few different burn ointments,” Cas calls from the bathroom. “Do you have any preferences?”

“Anything that take away the feeling of the devil sitting in my lap,” Dean answers. The skin of his thighs has already begun to rise and blister and he resists the urge to press on it until it pops. Cas emerges a moment later, dropping a few tubes and bottle onto the coffee table in front of Dean. He hands Dean a cool damp wash cloth, which he immediately places over one of his legs.

“Ok, I think this one says ‘maximum relief,’” Castiel says, grabbing up a random container. “This one has lanolin…  Are you allergic to wool? I think this one if for sun burns, actually.” Dean grabs a tube out of Cas’ hand.

“Whatever, I just need something,” he mutters, unscrewing the top. Castiel plucks it out of Dean’s hands. “What are you doing?”

“Let me do it.” Castiel says, squirting a dollop of the fluorescent green goop onto his fingers. “You’ll break the skin.”

“I will not,” Dean argues. Cas gives him a withering look.

“Dean, I’ve seen you cut yourself on a toy sword out of the gift shop,” Cas reasons. “You’re not as careful as you think you are.”

“You’re one to talk,” Dena snorts.

“I have an excuse,” Cas replies, sitting down next to him, “and besides, who has more practice with this- me or you?”

Dean can’t argue with that. He leans back on the couch, giving Cas room to work. Cas pushes the fabric of Dean’s boxer briefs up farther on his legs, exposing the reddened skin underneath.

At the first touch of the cool ointment against his skin, Dean hisses. Cas mutters an apology and continues, gently dabbing the gel onto the blistered skin. Dean lets his head fall back, enjoying the feeling of Cas’ fingers delicately massaging his tender thighs. There is pain, but the gentle attention and care override it. Castiel moves the washcloth to the other thigh and continues working. Dean finds himself sinking into the overstuffed cushions of the sofa, eyes settling on Cas’ face. His expression is so soft and kind, the only flaw in his features being the furrow of concentration forming between his brow.

Dean doesn’t even realize what’s happening until Cas clears his throat awkwardly. Dean catches his eye, noticing how his gaze keeps flicking down to Dean’s crotch, where his growing erection is barely concealed by the thin fabric of his boxer briefs.

“Is… Is this turning you on?” Cas asks.

“Give me a break,” Dean says, tamping down an embarrassed blush rising to his face, “I have an attractive guy rubbing around my crotch… Can you blame me?” Cas looks down, a wry smile quirking at his mouth as he continues his efforts.

Dean is now much more aware of Cas’ effect on him, and he thinks Cas is enjoying it as well. His hand moves further and further up the under the edge of Dean’s underwear, over areas that are clearly uninjured.

The flat of Cas’ hand slides experimentally up Dean’s leg, his knuckles brushing over the shaft of his cock, earning a low hum in return. Cas pulls back, returning briefly to the burned area of Dean’s legs before his hands begin creeping forward once more.

They continue this way for several minutes, Dean holding his breath in anticipation each time Cas’ hand comes in contact with his cock. He drops the washcloth onto the cushion besides him.

“It might be easier if I take these off,” Dean grasps onto the waistband of his boxer briefs, but Cas’ hand catches his wrist.

“Dean,” His voice is firm, “I don’t--” before he can finish, Dean pulls Cas forward, kissing him with everything he’s got. He tugs Cas toward him until he’s almost on top of Dean. Dean curses the fact that he can't have Cas in his lap; at this moment, the benefits of Cas grinding in his lap far outweigh the searing pain in his thighs.

All night, he’s kept his hands almost entirely to himself, but he’s itching for more of Cas.

“Dean, wait,” Castiel pulls back from the kiss, carefully extracting himself from Dean’s space. “Dean… As much as I want to… move forward in our relationship-” he gives a heavy sigh. “I think… I don’t want you to…” Cas groans and runs a hand through the thick of his hair. Dean’s expression falls.

“You don’t want to do this?” he asks, hoping he’s able to hide the disappointment in his voice.

“No, I… I want to do this, God knows I do,” Dean is flattered as Cas’ eyes rake over his body. “But I feel like I should warn you, I’m not very… experienced.” Dean’s eyes widen shock at the revelation, but Castiel shakes his head emphatically.

“I’m not a virgin,” he blurts out. “Nothing like that, it’s just… Look, I wasn’t kidding when I said, I was put off of dating after the head-stabbing; dating and sex for that matter.” Dean gives him a curious look and Castiel sighs.

“Look, my bedroom skills are ‘rusty.’” Dean holds back a chuckle at Cas’ air-quotes. “I don’t want you to think that I’m… well, that I’ll always… end before you,” It finally hits Dean what Cas is saying.

“Are you worried you’re going to come too fast?” he asks.

“A little, yeah,” Cas replies. “I mean, have you seen yourself? Jesus, you’re like something out of a Michelangelo painting, and believe me, that man knew his men.” Dean snorts and pulls Castiel into a kiss once more, gentler this time.

“How about we take it one step at a time?” Dean suggests. He hooks his thumbs into his waistband once more, lifting up enough to slide the boxer briefs off over his ass and burned thighs.

Cas meets his mouth in another bruising kiss. Dean sighs in relief as Cas’ hand comes up and wraps around his cock. His fingers and palms are still greasy with the burn gel and Dean curses himself for not having real lube on hand. His licks his palm, joining his hand with Cas’.

“That’s it. Just like that… Little faster. That’s it, baby.” A small whimper escapes Castiel’s throat and his forehead drops to Dean’s shoulder. Dean cups Cas’ jaw, lifting his head up and bringing their lips together once more. Cas swipes a thumb over the tip of Dean’s cock, smearing precome down the sides. He reaches across Dean, grabbing the abandoned cloth and wiping it over Dean’s cock.

“Ahh! Cold!” Dean hisses. Cas kisses him again, soft and apologetic.

“Sorry,” Cas mumbles. Dean barely has time to register Cas pulling away from the kiss before his head dips low to swallow Dean down. He gasps in surprise, relaxing into the feeling of Castiel’s warm mouth.

The blowjob is sloppy with too much teeth, but Castiel’s enthusiasm makes up for it. He nearly gags attempting to push Dean down his throat. Dean guides his head back up, petting a hand through the soft strands of dark hair.

“Doing great, Cas,” He sighs. Cas builds up a rhythm, bobbing his head over Dean’s dick as he runs the length of his tongue up the side. Dean lifts his head just long enough to catch Cas gazing back at him, his eyes fevered. One look is all it takes to push Dean over the edge. His head falls back once more as hips thrust up, causing Cas to choke and sputter through Dean’s orgasm.

Castiel lightly rolls Dean’s cock in his mouth, causing shivers to run through him. Come drips down his chin as he pulls away. He swipes the back of his hand across his face, grimacing.

“Do I really taste that bad?” Dean jokes. He supposes that someone not used to the taste of come would need a chance to adjust. Cas chuckles and shakes his head.

“No, you taste fine,” he replies. “The, uh… There was still a little of the afterburn ointment.” Dean’s eyes widen in understanding.

“Oh shit,” he mutters, sitting up straight. “That shit’s not toxic is it? Are you going to be ok? Should we call poison control?” A full body laugh rises up through Cas as he settles onto the couch next to Dean.

“No, no, I’ll be fine. It’s not safe to eat a whole tube, but… a little won’t hurt.” Dean gives him a questioning look, searching for an explanation. “I’ve, um, brushed my teeth with it before.” Dean chuckles quietly before lifting Cas’ chin up and capturing his mouth in a kiss once more. His hands slide down, finding Cas’ belt and undoing it in one deft motion.

Cas moans into Dean’s mouth as soon as his hand wraps around his own thickening cock. His hands clench in the air for a moment before falling on Dean’s legs, fingers digging into the skin.

“Careful, Cas,” Dean warns against his lips. Cas’ grip loosens and he pulls away from the kiss, head resting against Dean’s neck. Little breathless whimpers escape his throat as Dean picks up the pace of his hand. Cas comes as fast as he said he would.  A choked sound rises through him as he spills over both his and Dean’s lap.

Cas leans his weight against Dean’s side, his entire body limp. His chest rises and falls as he tries to catch his breath. Dean loops an arm around his shoulder, drawing him closer.

“You ok there?” he asks after a moment. Cas gives an emphatic nod.

“That was incredible,” he pants. Dean snorts and presses a kiss to his forehead.

“Damn straight,” Dean answers.

The apartment is quiet, the only sounds the traffic rising up from the street below. After a few minutes, Cas rising on wobbly legs and stretches.

“If you want, you can, uh, stay here... if you like,” Cas says, not meeting Dean’s gaze. “To sleep, I mean. I’m not, um.. I mean, if you’d rather go home or something--”

“I’d like that,” Dean says, rising to his feet as well. He leans forward, pressing one more sweet kiss to Cas’ lips. Cas bites his lip in a grin, casting his eyes down once more before taking Dean by the hand and leading him toward his bedroom.

 

Chapter Text

Castiel’s eyes narrow, focusing on the fine filament and needle. He holds his breath, pushing the microscopic needle into the ancient fabric, his hands shaking but only just. He exhales and pulls it back out, carefully slipping the thread beneath itself as he does.

“What’cha doin’?” Dean asks, coming up from behind and hooking his chin over Castiel’s shoulder.

“I’m repairing a sail,” he mumbles, eyes not shifting from his task. The mass of fabric extends out in front of him across the work table. Castiel spots several tears in the fabric and even more threadbare spots in need of reinforcement.

Dean nuzzles the Castiel’s neck, planting a soft kiss at the corner of his jaw.

“Dean,” he whines softly. “You can’t do that here. Someone may see us.”

“Let them,” Dean says with a low growl, causing a shiver to run up Castiel’s spine. Since their first evening together, Castiel is beginning to notice how tactile Dean is.   

Half-emptied crates and pallets litter the room and tables are set with rows of carefully catalogued pieces and artifacts. The new Viking exhibit is on track to open in six weeks and everyone is focused on making sure all the pieces are ready to go. A few other techs mill about while the lead curator and registrar direct them on their assignments.

Castiel is shuffled into a back corner, carefully repairing the ancient, weather-beaten sail. When the curator had heard that Castiel had textile experience, he was practically giddy to put him on the task.

“You don’t find a lot of textiles experts outside of reenactment groups and historical clothing exhibits,” Chuck explained, handing him a stack of files, each detailing textile repairs needed as part of the exhibit.

“Oh, well, I wouldn’t say I’m-oomph!” Castiel was cut off by Dean’s elbow nudging into his side, hinting for him to shut up and take the compliment.

It’s almost fascinating how Dean just kind flies under the radar here. Only a few people had questioned Dean’s methods as a “life coach”, but since he and Castiel were alone in the labs for the most part, he pretty much went unnoticed.

A large warm palm moves over the flat of Castiel’s stomach, pulling him back against Dean’s chest. Castiel makes an annoyed sound, but still rests his shoulders back into Dean’s, enjoying the soft touch of lips along his neck.

“What’s gotten into you?” Castiel mumbles. Dean’s even more active and affectionate than usual today.

“I’m hungry… and horny. Horn-gry.” Dean replies.

“Horn-gry?” Castiel asks, twisting around and giving Dean a dubious look.

“I get horny when I’m hungry,” Dean replies with an absent shrug. Castiel laughs in spite of himself, setting down his needle and removing the magnifier headgear. He turns and loops his arms around Dean’s neck.

“Well, I promise we’ll get lunch in a few minutes.” Castiel glances at the clock out of the corner of his eye. “Just give me a half hour, ok?” Dean’s gives a resigned sigh and nods, sitting in a chair a few feet away.

“As long as it’s that hot dog cart down the block,” he replies, finding a magazine in a nearby table. Castiel pulls a face but reluctantly agrees.

 


 


The hot dog cart has a line of people curving down the sidewalk by the time they get there. Dean makes a petulant whine, but Castiel just squeezes his hand.

“He’s not going to run out of hot dogs,” he assures.

“No, but he might run out of chili,” Dean argues. “Then what am I supposed to do? Eat a hot dog with vegetables?” Castiel shakes his head and rolls his eyes. Dean’s aversion to Chicago-style hot dogs was something he finds difficult to accept.

“It’s how a hot dog is meant to be eaten,” he insists, for what must be the twelfth time. “Honestly, What kind of Chicagoan are you?” Dean snorts.

“I’m not,” he reminds Castiel. “Born in Kansas, remember?”

“At least you don’t put ketchup on the damn things.” Castiel mutters as they step up to order.

They grab their hot dogs and a couple of cans of pop, finding a spot on a bench beneath some shady trees.

“Oh baby, that is what I’m talking about,” Dean mumbles to himself as he unwraps his chili dog. The chili and cheese are already dripping down his fingers as he takes his first bite, closing his eyes and moaning in pleasure. Castiel is struck by the sight, holding his own hotdog in his hand.  Dean catches him staring when he reopens his eyes.

“What?” he asks cautiously.

“I’m just surprised,” Castiel says with a shrug.

“By what?” Dean wipes at the corner of his mouth with the back of his hand.

“How you are able to eat a chili dog and still look so attractive.” Dean casts his eyes down, smiling shyly.

“Well, I could ask the same thing of you,” he replies with a cocky grin, reaching out and swiping a trace of mustard off of the edge Castiel’s mouth with his thumb. A blush rises to Castiel’s cheeks Castiel feels his face heating up and he reaches to open his can of pop.  As he does, his wrist hits the side of his Dr. Pepper, sending it flying off the bench. It hits the sidewalk and rolls a few yards, bouncing against a low slate wall and coming to a stop.

“Oh shit, Cas.” Dean mutters as he sets his hot dog back down on the wrapper, running after the can.

“Looks like it’s still intact,” he says, picking up the can and examining it. He taps the top of the can a couple times and offers it back to Castiel. A throb of anxiety wells in Castiel’s chest as he takes the can from Dean, holding it gingerly between two fingers, as it if could explode at any moment.

“Dean, I… You know what? I’m going to get another one,” Castiel rushes out, setting the can down on the bench and getting to his feet.

“Hey Cas, wait,” Dean grabs him by the wrist. “C’mon man, I fixed it.”

“I am not going to tempt fate just for a Dr. Pepper,” Castiel blurts out. “If that little tapping thing worked, I could have avoided a lot of drenched clothing a long time ago.” He lets himself be pulled back down to the bench. Dean hands slips into his, winding their fingers together.

“Dude, You’ll be fine. I promise. Just try it, ok?” He picks up the can once more and hands it to Castiel.

“What are you trying here, Dean?” he asks, narrowing his eye in suspicion and head tilted to the side.

“I’m trying to get you comfortable,” Dean says. “Look, I already got you eating food without dismantling it first. This is the next step.”  He looks up at Castiel with big, sincere eyes. “Trust me?”

God help him, Castiel does. He has never trusted anyone on Earth the way he trusts Dean. Sometimes he thinks he may be relying too heavily on him, asking too much, but Dean hasn’t said a word in protest.

It’s like he’s the perfect boyfriend and it scares the shit out of Castiel. He carefully takes the can from Dean, taking hold of the tab, and pulling it open with a ‘crack’. He flinches at the sound, awaiting the explosion…

… But nothing happens. There is only the soft hiss of the bubbles popping. Castiel stares down at it in surprise.

“That’s… that’s impossible,” he mumbles. “‘The laws of physics alone…” Dean throws his head back in a laugh.

“Works every time,” he offers with a sly smirk. “Even for you, Castiel.” Dean leans forward, placing a kiss on his frozen expression.

“Believe it or not,” Castiel counters, “that little tapping trick doesn’t normally work with me. You underestimate my bad luck sometimes.” Dean shakes his head, grabbing up his own can.

“Maybe you underestimate my effectivene-” A sudden gieser of cola explodes over him, blasting him in the face. Castiel stares at him in horror, cola drenching Dean all down his front. The rush of gurgling soda peters out and Dean blinks in stunned surprise, cola dripping from his hair and eyelashes, before busting out in laughter.

“Holy shit!” he laughs, wiping at his brow with his soaked shirt sleeve. “I really got nailed, didn’t I?  I was not expecting that.” Castiel’s eye flick from the exploded soda can to Dean and back. He finally manages to shake himself out of his stupor,  grabbing up a handful of napkins

“Dean, are you ok?” he asks, dabbing the sticky liquid off of Dean’s face and neck.

“Dude, it’s just soda. I’m fine. Nothing a few paper towels and a fresh shirt can’t fix,” Dean laughs, tugging off his drenched flannel. He looks down at his food, now sitting in a puddle of Coke. “‘Course, that’s inedible now. You didn’t get any on you, did you?” Castiel shakes his head slowly as Dean rises to his feet.

“Tell you what: I’m going to grab a few more napkins from the cart,” He hooks a thumb over his shoulder, “I’ll be less than 20 ft away, alright?”

“Dean…” Castiel tries to protest, but Dean jogs away before he can say anything more. His eyes drift to the two cans sitting on the bench once more, Dean’s Coke half-empty.

Being ever-vigilant of his own misfortune made Castiel hyper-aware of those around him as well. When Dean’s chair slipped and fell in the lab, he chalked it up to happenstance. Missing the reservation at the restaurant and the soup burns were a bit harder to explain away. This, though, was next to impossible.

Dean would probably say the can got jostled in the truck or some dumb kid got a hold of it, but Castiel knows better. After ten years, he can recognize bad luck from a mile away. He takes a sip of his pop as he watches Dean walk back from the cart, new hotdog in hand.

“Guy took pity on me and gave me a new hot dog. Score!” he says, sitting back down next to Castiel and. He unwraps it and takes an enthusiastic bite. “I think I have an extra shirt in the Impala. After we finish, do you mind if we run and grab it?” Castiel offers a wan smile and nods.

He picks at his food with disinterest, appetite gone. Dean thankfully is too into his own lunch to notice.

“Hey, I hope you don’t mind,” Dean begins, finishing a mouthful of food, “but I promised Sam I’d help him move his stuff tonight.”

“Of course, Dean,” Castiel replies. “How is your brother doing?” Dean shrugs absently, taking another messy bite.

“As well as can be expected,” he says. “He’s still kind of down about the whole thing. I think he’s more happy to finally be getting out of the apartment. I guess it’s kind of hard avoiding Jess and this Brady guy.”

“And he’s staying with you then?” Castiel asks. Dean nods.

“Yeah, until he can find a place of his own or something,” Dean licks a bit of chili from the corner of his mouth. “I hope it’s not that long. I love Sammy, but living with him once was more than enough. Kid’s kind of a slob, if you can believe it.” Castiel nods but doesn’t say anything; he isn’t familiar enough with Sam to make that kind of judgement call.

Dean pops the last bite of chili dog into his mouth. He wipes at his face with a napkin and brushes his hands off on his Jeans.

“Ready?” he asks, getting to his feet. “I am really sticky right now. You don’t think they’d let me use the shower in the staff locker room, would they?”

“Wouldn’t hurt to ask.” Castiel says with a smile, dropping his half-eaten hot dog in the trash. Dean grins and wraps his sticky fingers around Castiel’s, leading toward the Impala.


It may be paranoia, but Castiel begins to notice the patterns. They are small at first: Dean knocks his funny bone on the door frame or he runs runs into a door. Things begin to snowball a couple weeks later when they are walking through the museum, passing a random class tour, and a second grader vomits on his shoes. That incident coincides with a flock of seagulls that decided the roof of the Impala made an excellent bathroom.

Over the next few weeks, things seem to get worse, at least from where Castiel is standing. It all feels too familiar. The random happenings seemed to become less random by the day and the incidents started to broach onto the safety of others, as happened when the Impala’s brakes decided to fail. Dean said it was probably just an issue with the brake line, but Castiel couldn’t shake this strange feeling in his gut.

“Your bad luck is not contagious, Castiel,” Balthazar groans as he pulls two bottles of beer from his fridge. “It’s not a venereal disease, for God’s sake.”

“Do you have another explanation?” Castiel counters, sitting up on the loveseat. Balthazar shrugs.

“Accidents,” he says. “Those do happen, you know? People experience disappointments in life without being cur- I mean, without chronic bad luck.” Castiel shakes his head and takes a sip of his beer.

“It’s more than accidents,” he mumbles. “It’s like… they are perfectly suited just for Dean. Did you know someone keyed his car yesterday?”

“So?” Balthazar replies, sitting on the arm of the sofa.

“That car is like his child,” Castiel says, “He literally calls it ‘Baby.’ I thought he was going to cry when he saw that.” Balthazar slumps down into the cushion, his bare feet hanging over the arm.

“So you want to blame vehicular damage on some sort of cosmic misfortune rather than a random punk? That’s a stretch even for you, Castiel.” Castiel frowns and sinks back into the loveseat.

“I’ve got a bad feeling, Balthazar,” he says, taking a long pull off of his bottle. The other man glances at him, tilting his head in wry interest.

“Here’s a question for you- Is Dean still working for you?”

“Well, of course he is. I’m paying him-”

“No, I mean is Dean’s… charm still working?” Castiel nods. Dean’s effect hadn’t wavered in the slightest. In fact, Castiel’s star was rising within the museum. His work even caught the attention of the lead curator, Michael Cohen, when they were setting up the new exhibit.

“Yeah, it’s still there,” Castiel answers.

“I see,” Balthazar replies. “And Dean is still doing this of his own will, yes?” Castiel nods again.

“And have you brought up your fears to Dean at all?”

“No, but-”

“Well, if you had, what do you think Dean would say?” Castiel knows what Dean would say.

“He’d say I’m being paranoid,” Castiel replies, averting his eyes and flicking at the corner of the beer label.

“Which you are,” Balthazar says, “but, for the sake of argument, let’s say Dean did believe what you are saying, that you’ve passed the bad luck onto him… Do you think he’d stop helping you? Stop spending time with you?”

Castiel opens his mouth to answer and then shuts it. He doesn’t know. He knows if the tables were turned, and Dean was the cause of his bad luck, he’d seriously consider whether it be worth giving him up. Dean’s amazing and loyal. He’d give the shirt off his back for those he cares about. He’s funny and he is willing to give so much to support Castiel, he knows he doesn’t deserve Dean.

But what does Castiel have to offer Dean? Misfortune? Gloom and Doom?

He sighs heavily and slumps forward, rubbing at his temples.

“Cheer up, Cassy,” Balthazar says, jumping to his feet and moving toward the shelf of DVDs. “Dean’s a big boy, he can handle himself, I’m sure. Now, moving on- It’s movie night.” His fingers run along the spines of the DVD cases, stopping at an arbitrary case and pulling it out.

“What did you pick?” Castiel asks.

“Pride and Prejudice,” Balthazar says, glancing back at Castiel. “Gabriel never lets me watch it, but he’s on shift tonight so he gets no say.” Balthazar pops the DVD in the player and settles back onto the couch.

Castiel smiles at his friend and turns his attention to the TV. As long as he’s here to keep Balthazar company, he might as well let himself be distracted from his own problems for a couple hours.


 

In the time they’ve known each other and the couple months they have been dating, Dean has become very astute to Cas’ moods. The guy wears his heart on his sleeve and it’s easy to tell when he’s angry or happy or excited. It’s endearing, really, the way Cas’ eyes light up when he’s hard at work, taking pride in what he’s doing.

Now, though, it’s evident that something is bothering Castiel. He’s is weirdly quiet over dinner. They sit on his fire escape, eating take-out from paper boxes and watching the early-evening nightlife pass by below them. Castiel picks at his food, offering up one-word answers to all of Dean’s questions.

“Pretty night out,” Dean observes between bites, staring up at the deepening night sky. “Shame we can’t see more stars this far out.” Castiel hums in response, not even bothering to look up. Dean sets his container down and takes Cas by the hand.

“Cas, what’s going on?” He meets Dean’s eyes in surprise, still chewing his last bite of food.

“We’re eating dinner,” he says flatly, indicating the box in his hands.

“I mean with you.” He looks at Cas seriously. “You’ve been weird lately. Is something going on?” Cas shakes his head, but the way that his brow draws together says different.

“It’s nothing, Dean.” he fidgets uncomfortably, stabbing his fork into a piece of chicken. Dean carefully takes the box and fork from Cas’ hands, setting them aside.

“Don’t lie to me, please. Something is bugging you. Did I do something wrong?” Cas shakes his head again. “Then what? C’mon, Cas.” Castiel closes his eyes and let’s his back fall against the rough brick if the building’s exterior.

“Dean, have you noticed that, um, you are kind of experiencing more… incidents lately?” Dean stops chewing.

“What do you mean?” he says.

“Incidents,” Cas repeats. “Have you noticed that your luck isn’t exactly good right now?” Dean gives him an incredulous look.

“Dude, if this is about the Impala getting keyed, I can fix her paint. I’ve done it before.” he assures. “That’s dumbass kids. Not luck.”

“It’s more than that, Dean,” Cas blurts out sitting up straight. “The car, the shoes, that soda in the park-”

“Cas, those are just accidents. No big deal.”

“Well, that’s how they started for me,” Cas argues. A pensive silence falls between them. Dean licks his lips and tries to think of the best words.

“Cas, don’t you think you're overreacting a little bit?” Dean says as gently as possible. Castiel scowls at him and sighs.

“No, Dean, I’m not.” His tone is firm and his gaze doesn’t waver from Dean’s.

“C’mon, man, this is just piddly shit,” Dean shrugs. “A can of soda exploding can happen to anyone. None of these are, like, soulmate-level disasters, right?” Castiel’s gaze drops and he shifts around, scooting back toward the apartment window and stepping inside.

Dean sits dumbfounded for a second before following after Cas.

“Cas, I don’t understand why you’re getting so up in arms about this,” Dean reaches out for Cas’ shoulder and turns the other man around to face him. “I didn’t catch bad luck from you,” Cas blinks at Dean a few times, his expression pained, and Dean knows he’s hit the nail on the head.

“But what if you did?” he replies. Dean offers a concerned smile, brushing a thumb over the back of Castiel’s hand

“You’re paranoid,” he says.

“Of course I’m paranoid!” he exclaims with a bitter laugh. “I have a decade’s worth of paranoia under my belt. I know what bad luck looks like Dean. I’m not insane.”

“I’m not saying you are.”

“Then what do you think this is?” Dean levels a stare at him, moving closer. He winds a hand around Cas’ waist.

“Accidents happen, Cas.” he replies.

‘Weren’t you the one who said accidents don’t just happen accidentally?” he mutters. “What if it is me, Dean? What if I’m the cause of all of this?” The desperate look on his face makes Dean’s heart twist. He draws Castiel close, dropping a gentle kiss on his lips.

“Cas, I know this is hard for you to accept-”

“Don’t patronize me,” he interrupts, stepping back and glaring as Dean.

“I’m not trying to patronize, I’m just-” Dean takes a deep breath, reworking what he had planned to say. “Remember how you told me that stress levels make your… thing worse.”

“Yeah,” Cas says cautiously.

“Do you think that you might be… projecting a little?” Dean leans against the wall, “And your anxiety might be aggravating that?”

“So you’re saying this is my fault, then?” Cas deadpans. Dean sighs in exasperation.

“What I’m saying is relax,” he steps forward and loops his arms around Cas’ neck. “Look at me. I’m fine. I’m not injured, I have all my fingers and toes, a pretty decent apartment, and a very hot boss.” Dean spots a small smile cross Cas’ face at the last item.

“Alright,” Cas sighs. “You’re right, I might be… letting past things influence my thought process. But can you really blame me?” Dean gives Cas an easy smile.

“I don’t,” he says. “but just have a little faith, ok?” Castiel snorts and lets his head fall onto Dean’s shoulder.

“I don’t put a lot of faith in things, Dean.” he admits, looking away.

“Do you have faith in me?” Dean asks after a moment. Castiel looks up at him and nods.

“Yeah, I do.” Dean pulls Cas close and kisses him gently. It’s sweet and comforting the way Castiel melts into his arms makes Dean’s stomach flip.

“How about I grab a couple beers and we’ll clear a few episodes of Doctor Sexy off the DVR.” Castiel rolls his eyes.

“I’ll grab the beers,” he orders, pushing Dean down onto the couch. “I can’t believe you like melodramatic crap like that.” He walks into Dean’s kitchen to grab their drinks.

“It’s a classic, Cas,” Dean calls after him.

“Yeah, it’s right up there with Downton Abbey,” Cas replies sarcastically.

 


 

“So… How would you feel about staying over at my place tonight?” Dean asks. They walk through his neighborhood, hand-in-hand, enjoying the late summer evening. He can’t help noticing how Castiel subtly places himself between Dean and the street. He hasn’t brought up his concerns to Dean again since their conversation a few weeks ago, but Dean still sees the creases of worry in his face. It’s hard to tell, though, if that stress is from Dean or the way his workload has doubled with the quickly-approaching  opening of the Viking exhibition.

“Really? You sure that won’t be weird with Sam there?” Castiel asks.

“He’s actually spending a few days with Jodi,” Dean replies. “I think he’s in need of a little more TLC than I can provide without handing over my man card.” Castiel smirks and rolls his eyes.

“Plus,” he continues hesitantly, “I kind of asked him to so that we could have some time to ourselves.” Castiel gives him a curious look as they stop in front of Dean’s building. He has been careful not to push the physical side of his relationship with Castiel too much, but tonight he’s taking a chance.

“You do know that I live alone, right?” Cas raises an eyebrow.

“I know, but your bed is so small,” Dean explains, “and I’ve got that nice king size. I was hoping that maybe...” He trails off.

“Are you asking what I think you are?” Castiel’s brows draw together. Dean wavers for a moment before giving a resolute nod.

“I mean, if you don’t want to, I’m cool with that, I just thought-”

“I want to!” Castiel blurts out. “I just… um… ” Castiel bites at his lip nervously. Dean smiles and tips his head to the door.

“I’ll take care of you, Cas,” he says. They wordlessly make their way up the stairs and through the apartment door. Dean toes off his shoes and hangs up his keys while Castiel stands stiffly in the middle of his living room.

“Hey,” Dean says, stepping up to Cas and taking his hands. He moves forward, kissing him gently. It’s just a sweet press of their lips, but it’s enough to break the awkward tension around them

The kiss grows deeper with Cas' tongue licking into Dean's mouth. Dean sucks on his tongue leisurely, enjoying the lingering spicy flavor of Cas' cinnamon gum. Dean parts from the kiss with a "pop." He moves down, pressing his teeth against the soft skin of Castiel’s throat. Cas tenses for a moment before relaxing and extending his neck out for Dean's attention. Cas makes a soft noise of approval as Dean catches his lips once more. Castiel rolls his shoulders, slipping off his thin jacket.

Dean smiles into the kiss and winds his arms around his waist. Cas grows more pliant and relaxed beneath his touch and Dean takes the opportunity push him against the wall, slotting his leg between Castiel’s. Castiel spreads his legs a little, sighing as Dean grazes his growing erection. Dean's hands tug at the back of Cas’ shirt, untucking it so that he might be able to slip a hand beneath the waistband and get a firm grasp on his ass.

“Dean,” Cas pulls back unexpectedly, “The bedroom.” Dean nods; the bed is an excellent idea. He lets Castiel lead the way through his apartment.

Of course Dean has spent a great deal of time thinking about sex with Castiel. Making out and handjobs on the sofa are nice, but Dean is eager to have all of Castiel, bared and stretched out before him. Just the mental image alone has Dean’s dick twitching in anticipation.

As they step into the bedroom, Dean tugs Cas into his arms once more, simply holding him. He tips Castiel’s chin up, kissing him slower than before. They walk  backwards until Cas’ legs hit the edge of the bed and he falls down onto it. He looks up at Dean, his eyes strangely blue in ambient light cast across the room from the street below.

“Do you have, um… the necessary items?” Cas asks. Dean raises a questioning eyebrow. “Condoms? Lube?” Dean chuckles and nods.

“Yeah, I do,” Dean moves forward into another kiss, pushing Castiel back against the mattress.

As eager as he is, Dean wants to make this good for Castiel and really show him what he means to him. They take their time, sharing tender kisses and sliding hesitant hands under shirts before pulling them off completely. Castiel’s leg slots between Dean and rubs against his thickening shaft, causing him to groan into a kiss.

“You like that?” Castiel says, his voice low and throaty.

“You touching my dick?” Dean snorts, “Yeah, I think I’m a fan.” Castiel slaps his shoulder playfully and Dean takes the opportunity to grasp him around the waist, rolling them over so Cas is on top. He stares up at Cas, dragging the tips of his fingers over his cheek before pulling their mouths back together.

Dean continues to kiss Cas while awkwardly trying to undo the fly of his jeans. He smiles against Castiel’s mouth as the other man swats his hands away and begins undoing them himself. Dean nudges his jeans down over his ass, grunting in frustration as he tries to remove them.

“Dean, stop,” Castiel says, pulling back and taking a step off of the bed. Dean is disappointed by the sudden space between them. He catches on, though, as Cas takes hold of the bottom hem of his jeans and tugs them down each leg.

As soon as his jeans hit the floor, Dean wiggles his ass out of his boxers, kicking them off somewhere. He pushes himself up on his elbows, watching a visibly-nervous Castiel shed the rest of his own clothes. Dean lets out a low wolf-whistle and has to bite back an affectionate laugh at the blush that rises to Castiel’s cheeks.

“C’mere,” Dean beckons. Cas takes his extended hand and lets himself be pulled back onto the bed. Dean revels in having a naked Castiel so close. He runs his hands over the firm planes of Cas’ back and over his hips, stopping to give the meaty part of his ass a squeeze.

“Hey!” Cas protests.

“Sorry. Couldn’t help myself,” Dean replies. He props himself up on an elbow, twisting around until he can reach his bedside table. He opens the drawer and grabs out a bottle of Astroglide and a new box of condoms. Castiel scoots back on the bed, watching him with tired, hooded eyes. It takes Dean a minute to tear open the box of condoms and break the seal on the lube. He squirts out a glob, rubbing it between his fingers.

Cas settles back onto the bed, legs spread a little wide. “So do you want me like this or on my-”

“Just like that,” Dean murmurs, crawling up over Cas. His finger lightly drag along the inside of his thigh, leading up to his full cock. Dean wraps a hand around Castiel's shaft, giving a couple of lazy tugs before releasing it and moving lower.

Castiel hisses at the first press of Dean’s fingers.

“A little cold,” he mumbles. Dean hums in acknowledgement, placing a tender kiss against Cas’ ribs. He continues to kiss up Cas’ body as he breaches his hole. Cas’ hand tries to wind itself in the short hair at the back of Dean’s head, his fist tightening with every push of the other man's finger.

Dean adds a second finger after a minute and Cas whines softly, His hand tensing against Dean’s scalp before relaxing once more. Dean goes slow as he works Cas open, kissing and nipping at the tender skin of his chest and abdomen as he does. Out of the corner of his eye, he sees Cas’ neglected cock bouncing against his stomach. On a whim, Dean leans over, taking the head into his mouth as he pushes his fingers deeper into Cas.

Cas gasps at the new sensation, fingers moving off of Dean’s head and digging into the flesh of his shoulder. Dean circles his tongue along the head of Cas’ cock, earning an appreciative moan. He takes the opportunity to add a third finger, crooking his fingers in an effort to find Cas’ prostate.

“Dean,” Cas whimpers, body arching up in pleasure. “Oh my God.” Dean smiles around Cas’ cock. He’s sure he could have him coming just like this, but he wants something else tonight.

Dean pulls off of his member with a ‘pop’, removing his hand at the same time. Castiel makes a petulant sound and lifts his head, sending him a questioning look. Dean answers wordless by  grabbing up a condom and the bottle of lube from the nightstand. Castiel surprises him by sitting up and scooting forward. He takes the condom from Dean’s hand, tearing open the package and reaching for Dean.

Dean devours his mouth in a hungry kiss as Cas slips the condom over his cock. Dean uncaps the lube, squirting out another glob, and coating himself. Castiel settles back against the bed, eyes never leaving Dean, giving him a silent go-ahead.

Dean grabs up one of Cas’ haunches as he positions his cock, sliding into Cas, slow and smooth. Castiel inhales sharply, pain flickering across his face for only a millisecond. Dean stops, smoothing a hand over Cas’ shoulder and waiting for him to relax. Cas’ breathing is heavy, but he gives a shaky nod, encouraging Dean to continue.

Dean takes steadying breaths, hands digging into Cas’ thighs. He pushes in deeper and a quiet moan escapes his throat; it feels so good. Castiel is hot and tight around his cock, muscles clenching minutely, sending sparks of pleasure up his spine. As he bottoms out, Dean’s head falls gently against Cas’ sternum, attempting to get his bearings.

“You good?” Dean murmurs. Cas nods and makes an affirmative noise. Dean lifts his head, moving forward just enough to give Cas a fleeting kiss before thrusting into him.

They move together, their bodies both warmed by the late summer heat of the day. Broken groans are punched out of Castiel with each impact, his fingers clenching tighter into Dean’s shoulders. Dean normally is all for the dirty talk, but his mind is too hazy with arousal to do much more than mumble slurred “fucks” into Cas’ skin. He sucks marks onto the long line of Cas’ neck, enjoying the taste of sweat, the day’s humidity still clinging to him.

“Dean.” Cas’ moan echoes throughout the apartment, loud enough that all of his neighbors would hear. Dean’s mouth latches onto his in an attempt to silence him. He pulls back and takes a moment to stare down at Castiel: a trace of sweat glistens over his brow and his blue eyes are wide and wild. Dean brushes an askew piece of hair off of his forehead before kissing him tenderly once more.

Dean’s pace slows to a glacial rhythm, his attention focused on kissing Castiel and memorizing the feel and taste of his mouth. Castiel looks so loose and unencumbered beneath him, all of the stress and worry that plagues him day in and day out all at once gone.

Dean pulls their mouths apart, smirking down at Castiel as an idea occurs to him.

“Want you on top,” he mutters. He holds Cas close, shifting their weight, and rolling them so that Castiel is riding him. Dean falls back against the bed, staring up at with a beatific smile. Cas looks unsure at first, but soon begins to move, goaded on by the encouraging noises being made by Dean.

It doesn’t take long for Cas to get into it, rocking his weight down onto Dean as he cries out in pleasure. As he approaches his orgasm, his movements become stilted and hurried, his cries turning to moans. Dean is so distracted by Cas’ show, that he doesn’t notice how near they are to the edge of the bed until half his ass is hanging off it.

“Cas,” Dean tries to warn, distracted by his own approaching orgasm. “Cas, slow…” Cas doesn’t hear him, his voice drowning out Dean’s as he takes his own cock in hand, shooting a stream of come over Dean’s stomach and chest.

The sight is enough to push Dean over the edge of his orgasm, which ironically also pushes him over the edge of the bed. They both tumble in a heap to the floor with a thud. Dean thanks any deity he can think of that at least there is carpet.

“Cas!” Dean shouts as they untangle themselves from each other. Cas groans in pain, getting to his feet and rubbing at the side of his hip.

“Jesus, that hurt,” he mutters.

“I tried to warn you,” Dean says with a soft laugh, getting to his feet and ignoring the pain of rug burn on his leg and elbow. He reaches for Castiel, looking him over to make sure there are no major injuries.

“I’m fine, Dean,” Cas reassures, rubbing a hand over Dean’s. “Not the first time I sustained injury during sex, I assure you.” Dean gives his a perturbed look, to which just makes Castiel smile. He kisses Dean lightly and moves to the bathroom.

Dean takes the opportunity to get himself cleaned up. He wipes his torso down with a kleenex and slides beneath the covers of Dean’s bed. Cas emerges a moment later, crawling in beside Dean. They twist around until Dean is curled around Castiel, his back pressed to Dean’s chest.

“Hey, um, Dean?” Cas turns his head, catching Dean’s gaze out of the corner of his eyes.

“Yeah,” Dean mumbles, his eyes already growing heavy.

“I was wondering… Are you doing anything three weeks from Saturday?” Dean’s eyes blink open as he considers this.

“Not that I know of,” he answers. “Why? What’s going on?”

“The ‘Vikings’ exhibit is opening,” Cas says, followed a moment later by, “The installation I’ve been working on the last few months?”

“Yeah, yeah, sure,” Dean says.

“They’re, uh, having a gala as part of the opening,” Cas continues. “I’ve been invited to attend and… I can bring a date.” Dean smiles and kisses the back of Cas’ neck.

“Are you asking me to escort you?” he says coyly. He can practically hear Cas rolling his eyes.

“I’m asking you to be my date,” he says, threading his fingers through the hand laying across his abdomen. “C’mon, there’ll be an open bar and free food.” Dean hums in thought.

“Well, I do look good in a tuxedo,” he thinks out loud. “I will get to wear a tuxedo, right?” Cas sighs but nods just the same.

“What do you say?” Cas turns and looks back at Dean, who moves forward with another fierce kiss.

“Sure thing, Cas,” he says. Cas gives Dean a tired smile and settles back against him. He drifts off in a matter of moments, but Dean lays awake for some time, feeling the rise and fall of Castiel’s chest beneath him.

Dean nuzzles into the back of Cas’ hair, unable to stop pressing kisses against his scalp. Dean’s been in a few relationships before, some good, some bad. Never has he had the kind of feeling for someone the way he feels for Castiel. He could meet his soulmate on the street tomorrow, and he wouldn’t give up Castiel for anything. It occurs to Dean all at once that he might be in love with Cas.

He burrows deeper against Cas’ back, placing a soft kiss at the base of his neck. Castiel hums in his sleep and drifts off again. The sight of Castiel asleep against him, all the stress slipped away, confirms Dean’s feelings for the other man.

“Alright,” Dean mumbles, squeezing his arms around Cas’ middle a little tighter before dropping off to sleep himself.

 

 

 

Chapter Text

The Impala pulls into the parking lot across from the museum’s main entrance. Castiel takes in the massive marble columns lit spectacularly with vinyl banners featuring Vikings hanging between them. Castiel spares a glance at Dean, who fiddles with the buttons of his suit jacket,  and smiles.  

“What do you think?” he asks, slipping a hand into his pocket and affecting a model’s pose. “Jacket open or closed?” Castiel smiles and shakes his head affectionately.

“Doesn’t matter,” he says, reaching out and dusting an invisible piece of lint from Dean’s shoulder. “I mean, either way. It’s all… I mean, you look…” His words trail off and he shrugs.

“I clean up good, huh?” Dean teases with a wink, brushing his knuckles over his now clean-shaven chin.

“Understatement,” Castiel agrees with an emphatic nod. He glances down at his own suit and frowns. “I don’t know why I let Balthazar convince me to borrow his tuxedo rather than renting one.” Castiel mutters. “‘You never know who’s worn those suits, Castiel. it could be anyone.’” Castiel imitates Balthazar’s accent. “At least it would’ve fit properly.”

“Well, you can’t tell,” Dean gives Castiel a reassuring look, but he still looks doubtful. "I mean it. You look seriously hot."

"At least you had your own tux on hand," Cas sighs.

“Probably the only benefit of being a corporate schmuck for almost a decade,” Dea replies. “Now, seriously- jacket open or closed?” Castiel snorts and steps toward him, undoing a button.

“Open,” he murmurs warmly.

It's a perfect fall evening. The temperature has dropped just enough to take off the humid edge of summer. Even so, Castiel could feel sweat trickling down his back. He nervously wipes his damp palms against his pant legs, a movement not lost on Dean.   

“I haven’t seen you this nervous since you got the job,” Dean mumbles as they reach the stairs. Castiel gives him an anxious look.

“Can you blame me?” he asks. “This is my first exhibit. This marks the end of my probationary period. If they don’t…” he swallows hard. “If they don’t think I did a good enough job, that’s it! That’s my chance. Gone.” Castiel slumps down onto the bottom step, letting his head fall into his hands. Dean sits down next to him, patting Castiel on the knee.  

“I don’t think you have anything to worry about.”

Cas scoffs in response with a shake of his head. “How do you know?” he says bitterly.

“Well I have been there with you in your lab everyday,” Dean snorts. He squeezes Cas’ hand. “I’ve seen your work. I may not understand everything that you are doing, but I do see how your higher-ups react to it. I promise you, Cas, you’ve done good.” Castiel rests his head against Dean’s shoulder but his expression remains pinched in concern. Dean glances at him, eyes narrowing suspiciously.

“Something else is going on in that head of yours, isn’t it?” Castiel sighs and meets Dean’s gaze. “You’re still focused on those accidents, huh?”

“Well, there’s still no explanation,” Castiel argues. Dean’s misfortune hadn’t slowed down, at least as far as Castiel could tell. In fact, it seemed to get worse, but only when he was around Castiel. Dean never spoke of incidents or any sort of issues after they’d spent time apart, but as soon as they were back together, all the issues seemed to start up again.

“Castiel, you’re blowing this way out of proportion.”

“I’m not, Dean,” he states, mouth forming a hard line. “You’re experiencing almost exactly what I’ve been going through for years.”

“Ok,” Dean says slowly after a long, quiet pause. “Ok, for the sake of argument, let’s say that’s true. Have I gotten hurt yet?”

“A soda can exploded on you.” Castiel mutters.

“But was I hurt?” Dean repeats. “Was anyone around me hurt? Have you or I ended up in the hospital because of any of this?” Castiel looks at Dean and gives a resigned sigh, shaking his head. He has to admit that Dean was right; Castiel’s bad luck seemed to send him to the ER on a weekly basis.

“I can deal with minor discomforts,” Dean says. “Things could be a lot worse.” Castiel sighs and returns his head to Dean’s shoulder.

“Dean-” he begins, but he’s cut off as Dean cups his face in his hand and turns Castiel to face him.

“Listen to me, not that I believe it, but if we have to deal with bad luck, we deal with bad luck.” He offers Cas a half smile. “I think you’re worth it.” Cas can feel a shy blush creeping up his cheeks.

“Thank you, Dean,” he mumbles, pressing a kiss to Dean’s cheek.

“Just telling you the truth,” Dean replies. He gets to his feet, pulling up Castiel with him. “C’mon, let’s get inside before they run out of pigs-in-a-blanket.” Castiel chuckles as Dean tugs him up the stairs two at a time. By the time they reach the top they are both breathless and receiving strange looks from the other, older attendees entering the museum.

Castiel’s eyes widen in awe as they step inside. The main hall of the museum has been transformed into a grand ballroom. Long, gossamer banners hang from the ceiling. Specially selected pieces from the exhibit are on display along with information detailing the history and the procurement of all of the artifacts. Well-dressed guests mingle between burgundy-covered tables, softly lit by the tealight centerpieces on each table.

Dean lets out a low, impressed whistle as he takes in the scene, jaw dropping as he spots the massive Viking ship hanging high above their heads.“Wow,” he mumbles. “That’s um… That’s conspicuous.”

“Yes,” Cas nods in agreement. “The ship was the most difficult acquisition of the exhibit. It’s no surprise they are showcasing it.”

“The ceiling though?” Dean asks, craning his neck. Castiel smiles at him and takes Dean’s hand, leading him past the velvet rope of the entrance.

“First stop, the bar,” Dean says, as soon as they are within the cordon. “Do you want anything?”

“Just a sprite,” Castiel replies. The line for drinks is long and Dean takes another opportunity to glance around the room.

“There must be close to 300 people here,” Dean says. “These are all employees?” Castiel scans the crowd, trying to see if he recognizes anyone.

“I think most of the attendees are benefactors of the museum. The only staff they invited were the curators and those who worked directly on the exhibit.” As soon as the words leave his mouth, Castiel spots Chuck striding toward them.

“Castiel! You made it!” He gives Cas’ hand an enthusiastic shake. His eyes flick to Dean and his expression waivers. “And you brought your… life coach.”

“Never not working, that’s my motto,” Dean interjects. “This is a helluva party you got going on. I’m really digging the, um… thing on the ceiling.” Castiel sighs in relief as Chuck’s attention is drawn to the ship.

“Yes, well, after ten years of trying to obtain it, we wanted it to have a place of honor,” he replies. “Not sure I much care for it on the ceiling, though. Seems a little…”

“Hazardous?” Castiel offers.

“Obnoxious,” Chuck says. “Anyway, I am so glad you are here. I know Michael is going to be very happy as well. There are several members of the museum staff that he’d like to introduce you to. We’ve all been very pleased with your work so far. It’s truly outstanding, Castiel.” Castiel beams brightly as Chuck slaps him on the back and moves on to greet another guest.

“See, didn’t I tell you that you have been worrying for nothing?” Dean wraps an arm around Cas’ shoulder, shaking him in excitement.

“Yes, yes, you did tell me, Dean,” Castiel admits. Dean plants a sloppy kiss on Castiel’s temple as they approach the bar and order their drinks.

Just after dinner, Dean and Castiel are talking with his co-worker Adina when he feels a tap on his shoulder. Castiel looks up to see the head curator Michael looming over him.

“Good evening, Castiel,” he says, his voice low and even.

“Hello, Michael,” Castiel mumbles.

“Would you be able to join me for a minute?” Michael asks. “I have some people I’d like to introduce you to.” He glances past him to where he is indicating and then back at Dean. Castiel slyly reaches over and tugs on his sleeve, Dean’s head turning toward him in a instant.

“Yes, of course,” Castiel says, loud enough so Dean can hear. “Just lead the way.” Castiel rises from his seat and follows Michael, sighing  in relief when a few seconds later Dean stands and, as subtly as he can, follows them.

Michael places a hand on Castiel’s back, directing them to a large group of well-dressed men and women. He doesn’t catch all the names or titles as Michael rattles them off, but he offers a polite smile and greeting at least.

“Castiel is one of our newest techs,” Michael explains, “and we discovered that he has quite a knack for textile restoration and repair.”

“Convenient,” on older man with a clipped British accent comments. “So you don’t have to pinch my staff for once, Michael?”

“Crowley, you know I would never,” Michael replies, pressing a hand to his chest in mock insult and earning a tittering laugh from the group.

“So you were the one who took on the repairs to the sail?” A smarmy voice rises above the crowd as a man Castiel vaguely recognizes emerges. The name “Zachariah” pops into his head.

“Uh, yes, they had me doing some restorations on it,” Castiel responds. “It’s not easy with so much--”

“Tell me, what was the ratio of ammonia you used to treat the mildew damage?” Zachariah asks, “because you know those can actually alter the integrity of the item.” He turns his attention toward the group, chest puffing up as he speaks. “I was actually reading up on it today in a journal that was just published. It said…”

Zachariah prattles on, his tone and body language dismissive. It’s hard to miss the exhaustive sigh and eye rolls of those around him. Castiel frowns in annoyance; he hates rude people and he hates people who put others down to make themselves look better most of all.

“Actually,”Castiel pipes up, cutting off Zachariah mid-sentence. “Wet-side spotting as you suggest can do more harm than good.”

“I’m sorry.” Zachariah blinks at Castiel, not quite believing that he had the nerve to interrupt him.

“I said you shouldn’t wet-side spot,” Castiel repeats himself. “Especially not natural fabrics like wool.” Zachariah snorts and shakes his head.

“Young man, I have been doing this a long time--” he says.

“--Then you should know by now that textile areas affected by mildew are weaker than the rest.” Castiel cuts him off. “I was able to increase air circulation over the areas with localized fans. Once it was dry, I vacuumed up most of the mildew and removed the rest of the residue with a soft brush. If you were able to look at the sail more closely, you wouldn’t even be able to tell there was any damage whatsoever.” Castiel gives Zachariah a small, triumphant smile, but the other man just stares at him dumbfounded. Behind him, Castiel can clearly hear Dean trying to cover a laugh as a cough and his grin only grows wider.

“I told you this one was a Godsend,” Michael chuckles, patting Castiel’s shoulder. “Chuck also told me that you have an interest in provenance as well?” Castiel huffs a laugh and rubs at his neck shyly.

“Well, I can’t say how good my methods are,” he says. “I’m a bit out of practice.”

“We should talk soon. Stop by my office on Monday.” Before Castiel can answer, Michael turns his attention to an middle-aged woman with auburn hair. “Naomi, I am so glad you finally made it.” Michael leans in and kisses the woman lightly on the cheek.

“I wouldn’t miss it for the world, Mike,” she replies. “Although I wish I didn’t have to fly into O’hare to do it.” Naomi’s eyes fall on Castiel.

“Naomi, this is one of our techs, Castiel Novak.” Michael introduces him. It catches Castiel completely off-guard; he had no idea Michael even knew his last name. “Castiel, this is Naomi Tapping. She is an assistant curator at the Smithsonian.” Castiel’s eyes must go wide as saucers, because Naomi gives a surprised laugh.

“You make it sound so upper-class, Mike,” Naomi takes Castiel hand and shakes it. “I’ve heard quite a bit about you.” Castiel opens his mouth to say something, but no words come out.

“Thank you, ma’am,” he finally croaks after a few seconds.

“Your textile work was very impressive.” Naomi looks to where the ship hangs above them. “Both Mike and Chuck sent me photographs. I can’t actually see the detail from here, obviously.” Castiel can only stare.

“Uh, I appreciate that, ma’am,” Castiel mumbles, a proud little grin slowly creeping up his face. He can barely believe that his bosses actually acknowledge his presence, much less discuss his work with their peers. Naomi glances at him out the corner of her eye. She turns her head and considers him for a moment.

“I’ll be honest, Castiel, I’m not here to head hunt, truly.” Naomi takes a careful sip of her wine. “But I wouldn’t mind have your talent on staff back in DC.” Castiel does a double take, nearly choking on his pop and sending himself into a coughing fit.

“Ma’am?” he gasps.

“We have a costuming exhibit due to open in less than a year. Obviously, we have some pieces in our own collection that will be added, but there are garments coming in from around the world.” She gives Castiel a careful look. “We need all the textile expertise we can get.” Castiel blinks at her in disbelief. He just met this woman and all of sudden she’s offering Castiel a job at the Smithsonian?

“I’m not offering you a permanent position, of course,” Naomi says, as if reading Castiel’s mind. “We’re taking on staff in six month increments, just to assist in the preparation for the exhibit.”

“Ma’am… um, Ms. Tapping, I don’t think I can just leave the museum for six months.” Castiel answers, finally finding his voice. “My job-”

“Will be right here when you get back,” Naomi assures with a matronly smile. “I have already spoken to Chuck and Mike. They seem very supportive of forwarding your career and, believe me, having the Smithsonian on your resume would most definitely forward your career. It could even lead to a registrar position. God knows, we could all do without Mr. Adler over there.” She indicates with her wine glass in Zachariah’s direction.

Castiel is speechless again. He’s being offered a job at the Smithsonian, something he’s dreamed about since he was a child. He can try it out, determine which he prefers, and he can always return to the Field Museum if DC isn’t a good fit. There are practically no risks involved, except…

Castiel’s gaze flicks to Dean about fifteen feet away, popping a cream puff into his mouth. Their eyes meet and Dean attempts to smile, even with his mouth full of food.

Castiel certainly couldn’t go without Dean, right? Their relationship aside, Dean is necessary for Castiel’s job. Would people start to ask questions about Dean’s presence? Would Dean even want to go to DC? His entire life is here, his family, his friends. Castiel would be asking so much of Dean to just uproot himself, even if it is temporary.

Still, though…

Castiel drags a hand over his mouth and gives Naomi a pained look.

“Ms. Tapping, thank you for the offer,” Castiel says. He sees disappointment flicker across her face. “I’m not declining at this time, but… Can I get a few days to think it over?” Naomi gives him a polite smile.

“Of course, Castiel,” she replies. “Take a week and give me a call, no matter how you decide.” She opens her clutch and pulls out a stark white business card with her name printed across it.

“I look forward to hearing from you,” she says, giving his shoulder a squeeze and moving on to greet someone else. Castiel stands frozen to the spot for a moment, just staring at the card, before Dean approaches him with a small plate of miniature desserts.

“That looked like a pretty intense conversation,” Dean says. Castiel nods and pockets the card as he takes a plate from Dean.

“Apparently I’ve made a good impression,” he replies. Dean leans over and kisses Castiel lightly on the cheek.

“‘Course you did, Cas,” he says. “Now, c’mon, you’ve gotta try these mini tart things. They are awesome!” Dean takes Castiel by the wrist, dragging through the maze of people toward their table.

Just as they reach their seat, a soft swell of music rises from the sound system and the lights dim, leaving the entire hall in a hazy glow. A few tables have been cleared away and several couples begin to make their way onto the open space.

“Looks like there’s going to be dancing,” Dean observes, setting his dessert plate on the table. He glances at Castiel with a coy smile. “What do you say, Cas?”

“What? Dancing?” Castiel asks, his head flicking from the floor to Dean. “I, um… no.”

“C’mon,” Dean pleads, taking the plate from Castiel and tugging him toward the music.

“Really, Dean, I don’t dance,” he insists.

“That’s because you’ve never had me to dance with,” Dean reaches out, smoothing down the lapels of Castiel’s jacket and brushing a thumb across the ridge of his jaw. “Please?” Ernest green eyes stare back at Castiel and he is powerless to resist. He nods with a sigh and lets Dean lead him through the tables toward the dance floor.

The song is something soft and sad that Castiel vaguely recognizes. Adele’s recognizable timbre echoes through the museum; it doesn’t have the same raw emotion as Bob Dylan’s original, but Castiel finds himself lulled by the music, swaying along. Dean’s arms come to rest around Castiel’s waist, closing the space between their bodies. Castiel follows his lead, wrapping his arms over Dean’s neck.

“Dinner and dancing,” Dean says. “Taking me out on a proper date, huh Cas?” Castiel snorts and let’s his head fall forward until his temple comes to rest against Dean’s.

“Yeah… well, I think you’ve earned it,” he mumbles. “Putting up with me and my baggage, y’know.” Dean gives a low, throaty laugh.

“Believe it or not, your junk’s pretty easy to deal with,” Dean pulls back and looks Castiel in the eye. “The cost is worth the reward.” Castiel looks away, smiling to himself.

“Why do you always say that sweet shit?” he asks. Dean tips his chin up with a finger.

“Because I’m in love with you, you doof,” Dean states. He says it so simply that Castiel thinks he didn’t hear him correctly. It takes a few seconds for him to process Dean’s words.

“You’re… I’m sorry?” he mumbles, shaking his head in confusion.

“I love you, Cas,” Dean repeats, their eyes meeting. Castiel’s heart twists in his chest. He’s never been loved before, not like this. He’d long ago given up on ever having that feeling for himself, much less finding someone who’d be able to find the best in him and think he was deserving of being loved as well. Now, Dean stands here before him, admitting that he loves Castiel without any hesitation and he doesn’t know how to respond.

“Dean,” Castiel begins. He opens his mouth to continue, but there are no words. Above them, a sickening groan cuts through the air, followed by the unmistakable twang and snap of cables breaking. There’s a scream as the Viking ship above them lurches and shifts down a few feet, weakening the remaining cables holding up the ship’s bow.

“Everyone, clear the room!” a man yells. Guests scatter to the back of the hall, but Castiel stands frozen watching the boat shudder above him.

Just as he gets the inclination to move, a final “snap” zips through the air, sending the bow of the boat swinging toward the floor.

“Cas!” Dean screams. Castiel turns just as Dean throws his whole body into his, sending them flying across the floor and out of the way of the dropping ship.

The ship collides with the wall, sending wood and drywall in every direction as the aft of the vessel hangs on by the remaining cable. Dean throws himself over Castiel, protecting him from any debris. A cloud of dust fills the space and there is a shocked moment of silence before a cacophony of voices start up again. Dean turns and looks at Castiel, his expression a mix of concern and relief.

“Are you ok?” Dean asks, cupping Castiel’s face in his hands, checking him over.

“I’m fine,” Castiel nods, although his heart threatens to hammer out of his chest. He rises to his feet on wobbly legs, helped up by Dean.

“That was close,” Dean mutters, subtly patting down his arms. “Too close. What do you say we get out of here and catch a movie back at--” Dean’s speech cuts off abruptly as a four-inch square of sheetrock tumbles from the ceiling above, cracking Dean in the head and sending him to the floor.

“Dean?” Castiel gasps, dropping to his knees beside him. “Dean?” He’s sprawled out across the floor, not moving or responding at all. Castiel reaches for his hand, hoping that there will be a squeeze back. He is barely aware of his own short, panicked breathing until someone lays a hand on his shoulder.

Someone call an ambulance!” he screams.

 

 


 

 

Castiel finds it strange to be in the hospital and not be a patient. Everything is the same, but there is none of the pain or discomfort that he would normally be feeling in these surroundings.

That’s not entirely true, though. Castiel’s stomach twists itself into knots with the sickening guilt that he is the one responsible for all of this. He should’ve trusted his gut, he shouldn’t have been so blindsided by sweet kisses and good sex and, well, Dean. Now, because of him, Dean is unconscious and at risk for only more because of Castiel.

He let’s his head hang as he sits at Dean’s bedside, zoning out to the repetitive sounds of the machines hooked up to Dean. He glances to his left, frowning at the bandage taped all around Dean’s head.

Castiel hears footsteps approach the doorway and knows it’s Gabriel by the “shave-and-a-haircut” knock.

“How you doing there, kiddo?” Gabriel asks, stepping into the room. Castiel looks up and offers a sad shrug.

“Dean nearly died,” he mumbles. “On a scale of one to ten, I’m doing pretty shitty.” Gabriel hums as he picks up Dean’s chart from the end of the bed and looks it over.

“Looks like it’s a concussion,” Gabriel says. “He’s lucky it didn’t crack his skull. Although, I hope he wasn’t too attached to his hair. It looks like the doctors had to shave a little bit to do a couple sutures.” Castiel nods, turning back to Dean. He can already see the beginnings of a bruise creeping out underneath the edge of the bandage wrapped around his head.

“Is Balthazar around?” Castiel asks dismally.

“Naw, Balth is off tonight.” Gabriel responds. “You just get my pretty little face. I actually had to trade with Gadreel to make sure I was the one watching over your Knight in Hospital Gown Armor over here.” He comes up beside Castiel and sits on the edge of the bed. Castiel notices his scrubs for the first time and smiles; he wonders how on Earth Gabriel managed to find platypus-covered scrubs. “Does Dean have any family that might want to be here?” Gabriel asks.

“Yeah, um… I texted his brother.” Castiel says. “He’s on his way.” There is a pregnant pause between them and Castiel can practically feel Gabriel’s pitying look.

“I don’t know what to do,” Castiel admits, scrubbing a hand down his face.

“What you do is stay here at your boyfriend’s bedside and be there when he wakes up,” Gabriel gets to his feet and squeezes both of Cas’ shoulders in reassurance. “He’s going to need plenty of TLC after he checks out.” Castiel wants to tell Gabriel that’s not what he was talking about, but the intercom abruptly comes to life.

“Code 803 in the ER,” the intercom buzzes causing both men to jump. “I repeat Code 803 in the ER.” Gabriel makes a face and sticks out his tongue.

“Great, someone puked in the hallway again. I hope the cleaning staff gets to it quick.” he says. “Look, Cassy, I’ve got to check on my other patients. If Pretty Boy over here wakes up, or if either of you need anything, just press the nurse call button.” Gabriel gives him one last pat on the shoulder before replacing Dean’s chart and exiting the room.

Castiel turns back to watch Dean, his chest rising and falling rhythmically. He doesn’t know how long it is before Dean begins to wake, his eyes blinking open. He looks around the room for a moment before his eyes settle on Castiel.

“Hey Cas,” he greets with much effort, a small smile curling at his lips. His head moves minutely and Dean squeezes his eyes shut, groaning in pain.

“Whoa, don’t move,” Castiel instructs gently, placing a tentative hand on Dean’s chest to still him. “You’ve sustained a concussion and you need your rest.” Dean gives a short nod, his eyes still shut tight.

“What happened?” he mumbles. “I remember shoving you out of the way of the ship and then… well, nothing really.”

“A piece of drywall broke off from the ceiling and hit you.” Castiel explains. “It’s surprising you weren’t more injured.” A stilted noise rumbles up from Dean’s chest, which Castiel realizes is supposed to be a laugh.

“The sky is falling, the sky is falling,” Dean chuckles, a real smile crossing his face. He cracks an eye open and peers at Castiel. His smile drops, though, as soon as he sees Castiel’s own dour expression.

“Hey, c’mon, Cas,” Dean reaches out and lightly takes hold of Castiel’s hand. “What’s wrong, man?”

“You really need to ask that?” Castiel replies bitterly, not meeting Dean’s eyes.

“Cas,” Dean sighs and shifts around as much as he is able, to face him. “Is this because I got hurt?”

“It was while you were with me,” Castiel admits, cracking one knuckle and then another. He lifts his head and looks Dean right in the eye. “Do you know how scared I was?”

“Well yeah, Cas. I’ve been around you for months, haven’t I?” Dean laughs at his own joke, but Castiel remains sullen.

“I’m serious, Dean; I’ve never been so scared in my life.” Dean grimaces at Castiel and attempts to sit up. He wobbles a bit, but eventually rights himself.

“Cas, I’ve had much worse injuries than a concussion in my life,”

“Is that supposed to make me feel better?” he hisses.

“What I’m saying is I’ve had worse, and it has nothing to do with you.” Dean threads their fingers together and, for a second, Castiel is reassured by the contact. “Accidents happen--”

“--Accidents don’t just happen accidentally,” Castiel mutters, tugging his hand back. “That’s what you said. You can try and tell me that you have had worse, but have you ever been injured as often and as intensely?”

“No, but-”

“And do any of these incidents happen when you’re not around me?” Castiel grills him. “How many times have you dropped a wrench on your foot at the garage or rear-ended someone in the Impala when I’m not with you?” Dean’s silence is answer enough for him to keep going.“I feel…” Castiel takes a deep breath. “I feel like as long as I’m around you… things are just going to get worse.”

Dean’s green eyes go large. “What are you saying?” he mumbles. Castiel swallows down the lump in his throat and shakes his head.

“I think it’s better if… If I just stay away from you.” he says flatly. “I care about you, Dean, but,”

“You’re breaking up with me?!” Dean’s voice rises in disbelief. “Over some stupid, fucking accident?”

“Dean,” Castiel says gently, his expression empathetic.

“No!” Dean exclaims. “No! You can’t just decide what’s best for me!”

“I’m thinking of your safety!” Castiel argues.

“This isn’t your decision to make!” Dean counters. He tries to sit up, but sways and settles back against the bed. Castiel can’t bring himself to look at the pain in his eyes.

“I’m sorry, Dean,” he mutters. “I really thought… I wanted this to work but… I’m doing this for you. I wish you could see that.” He spares one last look at Dean, who is staring at the ceiling, eyes glassy with tears. Castiel rises to his feet and moves to the door.

“I love you, Cas,” Dean’s voice breaks at his name. Castiel pauses in the doorway, his heart twisting in his chest, desperate to stay at Dean’s side.

Instead, he keeps moving, exiting the room and the ER and leaving Dean alone.

 

 


 

 

Gabriel steps out of his patient’s  room, hoping to God the woman didn’t catch him rolling his eyes.

“Yes, ma’am,” he calls back over his shoulder, “I’ll see if I can ask that man down the hall screaming bloody murder if he can keep it down.” He hopes the woman can’t sense the sarcasm in his voice.

“Sorry he’s ruining your stay here,” Gabriel mutters under his breath, cringing as he passes by the screaming man’s room. “I bet his day is just fan-fucking-tastic.” It has been a hell of a night. Between Castiel and the unconscious boyfriend and the woman who asked him if he could help carry her dead husband’s body out to her car, Gabriel wonders if he’s paying for some karma-related faux pas tonight. He takes long strides down the hall, praying he can make it to the third floor vending machine and scarf down a bag of gummy bears. He’s fiending for sugar, especially since Balthazar got on the weird health food kick.

Gabriel curses the day Balthazar discovered Whole Foods.

He turns the corner, his vision locked on the open elevator doors fifty feet in front of him. He doesn’t notice the slick mess on the floor beneath him until his foot slips out from under him, sending his leg into the air. His whole body flies up before coming down into the puddle with a wet thud. It only takes a quick sniff for Gabriel to surmise one important, and disgusting, detail: the cleaning staff never got to that 803.

“Ew,” Gabriel makes a disgusted face as he carefully picks himself up out of the sick. It’s not like he’s not used to being covered in all types of bodily fluids, but cold vomit has got to be a first.

“Jesus Christ!” someone hisses. Gabriel notices a giant man, doubled over and clutching his face in pain. he tilts his head back, sweeping a thick mass of brown hair away. Bits of blood begin to seep out from underneath his hand. “You kicked me in the face!”

“Uh… Sorry,” Gabriel says. He feels worse than gross and just wants a shower, but his nurturing instinct kicks in instead. “I work here. Let me see if I can find you a-”

“I think you broke my fucking…” The guy trails off as he looks up and meets Gabriel’s gaze. His eyes widen and his expression changes to one of awe, his broken nose all but forgotten. “...uh… Hi.” A small smile quirks at the corner of his mouth as he tries to wipe away a drop of blood with the back of his hand.

Gabriel is confused for a microsecond, but almost immediately it hits him like a force of nature. It’s like the world has stopped and he’s frozen in this moment with this gorgeous, incredible moose of a man. He could spend every second of his life stuck in this very instant, covered in vomit with blood running down this guy's face, and die happy.

This is his soulmate.

"Hey," Gabriel can't control the shy smile crossing his face. "I'm Gabriel... I'm, um, not normally this disgusting."

"Sam," the guy says, his voice slightly nasally from his injury. "I'm not usually this injured." Gabriel chuckles and grins up at Sam.

"Why don't we get you fixed up?" He offers.

 

 

Chapter Text

Two weeks after the gala, the air of anxiety around the museum finally begins to dissipate. There were a few other injuries, mostly from flying debris, and the upper level management went into crisis mode in hopes of avoiding any lawsuits. As much as the museum would love to place blame, the conclusion was that there was damage to the ceiling itself due to humidity and age.

"This was just a freak occurrence," Michael reassured, addressing the entire staff, the following Monday. "No one is at fault," Castiel chose not to correct him. He knew better, of course.

This was because of Dean or, more precisely, because of his effect on Dean. Castiel berated himself internally for days; had he not gotten close to Dean or come up with this stupid “good luck charm” scheme in the first place, all of this could’ve been avoided. Of course, Castiel then reminded himself that without Dean, he wouldn’t have this job to begin with. The thought of returning to the security office made him shudder.

The ship was returned to its home in Norway along with several profuse apologies. It had sustained some damage, but the light-hearted joke drifting around the offices was that modern builders could learn a thing or two from ancient Norse engineers.

With the loss of the ship, Chuck and Michael scrambled to find a replacement. Most of the staff was was on hand, eager for installation experience. Not knowing where his bad-luck stood, Castiel volunteered to man the computers, inputting  data as items arrived. The look of relief on his co-workers' faces was evident.

Castiel, though, enjoys the eerie silence of the lab. He isn’t sure of himself at the moment and the less time around priceless artifacts, the better. Nearly all the other techs and assistants were working on the installation, leaving Castiel to document provenance and stew in his thoughts.

He tries to keep busy, but his mind keeps drifting to Dean and all of the bad occurrences surrounding them. He tries to trace back to where it began. Two months ago, things were fine. They were better than fine actually, they were great. He was so happy just being with Dean and knowing that, in spite of all of his faults, he was still wanted, admired, loved…

Loved. The word rings hollow in his head. His fingers still on the keyboard and he sinks his teeth into his lip in an attempt to stave off another round of tears. The memory of Dean saying he loves him plays in vivid clarity, stuck in a awful loop. Castiel’s mood drops as every missed opportunity and “what if?” situation filters through his mind.

The worst of it is that Castiel hadn’t even had the nerve to say he loved Dean back.

His phone rings, cutting through the silence. An unknown number flashes across the screen. Castiel tries to remember what area code 202 is as he swipes his thumb across it.

“Uh, hello?” he answers.

“Hello, is this Castiel Novak?” a clipped female voice asks. It sounds familiar, but Castiel can’t place it.

“This is he.”

“Hello, Castiel, it’s Naomi Tapping from the Smithsonian.” Castiel nearly drops the phone from his hand. In all the excitement of the evening, he’d forgotten about Naomi and her offer.

“Oh, uh, yes. Yes, Ms. Tapping, how are you?” he stammers, rising to his feet.

“I’m fine, thank you.”

“Um, Ms. Tapping, I’d like to apologize for not calling you back,” Castiel rushes out, pacing around the lab. “We’ve been busy here and--”

“Of course, of course, Castiel,” She says. “I completely understand. It was a madhouse that night.” Castiel opens his mouth to answer, but he’s not sure of what to say.

“Ah… yes it was,” he stutters.

“I hope your friend was ok after the accident,” Naomi adds, her voice taking on a softer tone.

“He’s not my… Um, yes, he’s fine,” Castiel lies. He assumes Dean is fine. He trusts that if there had been any serious health concerns, he would’ve heard something from Gabriel that evening.

Naomi hums in agreement. “That’s good to hear. As you guessed, I am calling to follow up on what we spoke about that evening. The exhibit is proceeding on schedule. We should start the acquisitions fairly soon.”

“Uh, how soon?” Castiel interrupts, cracking a knuckle with his thumb.

“Within the month,” she answers. There is a heavy sigh from the other end of the line. “Castiel, I hate to put pressure on you, but it’s the eleventh hour, so to speak, and I need to confirm staff. Have you had any chance to consider the offer?” Castiel rubs at his eyes.

Has he had time to consider the offer? He has had nothing but time. Anything to keep his mind off of Dean. He lays awake in bed at night, adding items to the mental pros and cons list. To be honest, the pro list seems to stretch on forever, yet Castiel is still reluctant to accept.

Much of it has to do with the bad luck. Some days it’s a non-issue. His incidents are absent save for the occasional stepping on a puddle of biting his lip. It’s like Dean is still sitting in the room with him and, sometimes, Castiel can forget that he’s not.

Other days, it feels like old times: the spills, the bumps, the  bruises. He fell flat while walking up the stairs to the cafe a few days ago and Meg, of all people, was standing guard not fifty feet from him. She gave him a pitying look as she helped him to his feet. Castiel knows she meant well, but he’d rudely brushed her off with barely a word. It was a jerk move, but Castiel was too preoccupied to notice.

Every day was a crap shoot. Castiel has no explanation for why his bad luck comes and goes; maybe it’s just Dean’s residual effect. He’d like to ask Gabriel and Balthazar, but the both of them are still in the middle of the whirlwind that has been Gabriel finding his soulmate.

Castiel frowns deeply at the thought and makes a mental note to call Gabriel and find out exactly what happened.

“Castiel?” Naomi’s voice pipes up on her end of the phone line.

“Uh, yeah, I’m still here,” Castiel answers. His eyes scan the room, the lab that he’s grown so familiar with. “You know for a fact that my job will still be available at the end of the six months?”

“I have a verbal agreement with Mike and Chuck, but if you’d like me to get that in writing for you, I’m sure that can be arranged.”

“And what about housing?””

“We have condos on hand for temporary staff.” Naomi counters. “You may have a roommate, but you would be only a Metro stop away from the museum.” Castiel pulls the phone away from his ear and presses it to his chest. This decision should be easy, right? Everything is all laid out and ready for him and he has nothing to really tying him to Chicago. Except…

“I’ll do it,” Castiel answers, silencing that pained cry of ‘no’ in his head. “I… I accept.”

“That is wonderful!” Naomi responds. “You have no idea how pleased I am to hear that. Do you have an email I could send more information to?” Castiel rattles off his email and bids Naomi a goodbye, pressing the endcall button as he does.

For a good twenty minutes following that, Castiel does laps around lab, berating himself and feeling job remorse.

“This will be good, this will be fine,” he says, trying to build himself up. “This is just what I need- fresh start, new location, new friends, new memories.” Castiel glances around his lab, searching for someone to qualify his assurance, but the room is still empty.

He sighs and returns to his desk to continue his task. He’s much antsier than previously, but soon he allows himself to zone out and sink into his work and away from thoughts of DC and Dean.

 


 

 

Sam seems happy; it’s the first thing Dean notices. He looks comfortable and relaxed. It’s not just a difference from the funk he was in following the break-up with Jessica, but also the way  he was when they were together. Dean had never noticed how tense and hyperaware Sam seemed around her, like he was always trying to protect Jess from something. Now, it’s like every ounce of tension has drained from his body.

Dean watches with some amusement as Sam preps himself a cup of coffee, scooping in more sugar and caramel creamer than Dean has ever seen him drink in his life.

“Sorry,” Sam mutters with some embarrassment when he catches Dean’s curious look. “Gabe’s kind of gotten me addicted to the sweet stuff.”

“I can see that,” Dean chuckles, taking his own black coffee and moving to living room of Sam’s new apartment.

“So... You decorated I see?” Dean waves a finger around the room, noting the new decor: a large canvas painting hangs opposite the TV and an art deco lamp sits on one of the new end tables. Sam smiles and gives a half shrug.

“Gabe’s influence,” he admits. Dean raises an eyebrow.

“Shit, Sammy, it’s been what? Three weeks?” Dean points out. “You and Jess didn’t move in together until almost a year later.”

“Gabe isn’t moving in,” Sam corrects. “Not yet. He just noticed that the place looked pretty drab. Jessica kept all the art and decorative items. Gabe said a little color would improve the room’s feng shui.” Dean gives him a doubtful look.

“And Spiderman dressed as Sid Vicious has a hand in that?” He asks.

“It’s a Banksy, Dean. And c’mon, not even you can deny Spiderman.”

“Doesn’t hold a candle to Batman, Sammy.” Dean takes a long sip of his coffee as he settles onto the couch. “So this is the real deal, huh? This Gabe guy is your soulmate?” A goofy grin spreads across Sam’s face and that is answer enough.

“Yeah,” he mumbles, sitting down next to Dean. “He really is.”

“And you’re sure this time?” Dean chides, nudging Sam with his elbow and earning a derisive snort.

“Yeah, Dean I am,” Sam says, rolling his eyes. “I mean, our occurrence was pretty damn definitive.” Sam touches the bridge his nose tenderly, despite the fact that the break is now healed. Sam had stumbled into Dean’s hospital room, following Cas’ departure, bandage over his face and babbling about soulmates. If Dean hadn’t been in so much pain, physically and emotionally, he might’ve been happier for Sam at the time.

“It was more than the disaster, though,” Sam continues, taking a swig of his coffee. “From the moment our eyes met, it was just different. Completely different from Jess.”

“How so?” Dean asks, leaning forward on his knees. After so many years of Sam crowing that Jess was “the one”, Dean is genuinely interested in what makes Sam so sure about a guy he’s know less than a month.

Sam bites at his thumbnail as he thinks, his brow furrowed. “It’s like…” he begins. “It’s like I saw him and… I don’t know, it felt like I was seeing my future stretched out before me and he was right there. Like, I knew him, even though I didn’t know him.” Dean nods, not quite getting what Sam is saying but still accepting it.

“And… you don’t mind that he’s a guy?” Dean asks, raising an eyebrow. Sam bites at his lip and shakes his head.

“No, not really,” he replies. “I mean… Gabe knows that I’ve never really been attracted to men like that before, much less been with a guy, but… But, I don’t know… I feel it with him, y’know? And honestly, it’s kind of cool explor-”

“Whoa, whoa, whoa,” Dean cuts him off, covering his ears with his hands. “Don’t need all of the details, Sammy. TMI.” Sam laughs and mumbles “jerk” under his breath before taking a sip of his coffee.

There is a lull in the conversation and Dean feels his brother’s pitying gaze on him. He sighs and rubs at his eyes, wishing he could have staved off this talk.

“So,” Sam begins. “Have you spoken to Castiel at all?” Dean groans and shakes his head.

“No,” Dean answers. “He doesn’t want to talk.”

“Have you tried-”

“Yeah, Sam, I’ve tried calling. I’ve tried texting and emailing. Cas has gone radio silent.”

“Dean-”

“He made it pretty fucking clear where we stood, Sam!” Dean huffs out. “I told I loved him and he walked, ok? He wants nothing to do with me.” Sam gives him a pained look and Dean jumps to his feet in an effort to escape his pity. As he stands, his leg knocks Sam’s coffee table, sending both coffee cups spilling onto the floor and shattering one into pieces.

“Shit!” Dean mutters.

“I’ve got it,” Sam says, rushing to grab some paper towels. Dean frowns as he watches Sam mop the coffee up from tile. He stoops down and begins gathering the bits of crockery. Dean would like to say that he doesn’t notice all the accidents, but ever since Castiel pointed them out, they are hard to ignore. Even with Cas not around, Instances of bad luck that seem to pop up out of the blue. Nothing as bad as a Viking ship flying toward his head, but enough that Dean takes notice. He can’t decide if he’s being paranoid, hyper-aware, or maybe both. Dean opens the trash can, dropping the broken cup into it.

“So he won’t speak to you at all, huh?”

“Nope,” Dean says, wiping the stray drops of coffee on his jeans.

“What about your… Bodyguarding job?” Dean shakes his head. The loss of Cas hurt; the loss of the income just added salt to the wound.

“I’ve talked to Bobby.” Dean replies. “There might be a couple shifts I can pick up, while I prep my resume. I keep searching for jobs on Careerbuilder.” Dean picks the unbroken coffee cup off the floor and sets it in Sam’s sink.

“I’m sorry, Dean,” Sam says, expressing his sympathy for the thousandth time.

“It’s ok,” Dean shrugs.

“No, it’s not,” Sam argues. “It’s a shitty situation.” Dean waves his brother off. He’s aware of the situation; he’s spent three weeks holed up in his apartment stewing on it.

“I’m done talking about it,” Dean says with a calm but definitive air. He grabs his coat off the back of one of the kitchen chairs. “Tell you what? The moment your, um… Gabe has a night off, we should go out to eat. I’d like to meet him, make sure he’s good enough for my pain-in-the-ass little brother, ok?” Dean reaches out and tossles Sam’s hair.

“Yeah, sure,” Sam says, trying to sound more upbeat than he is. “That sounds really good. I’ll, um… I’ll let him know.” Dean nods and bids a goodbye and he steps out the door.

 


 

 

Castiel’s living room is an organized mess of clothing and personal items. A pile of folded cardboard boxes sits in the corner, ready to be folded and filled. He sorts through his belongings, trying to determine how much of his clothing he should bring and what should be put into storage for six months. A soft knock at the door startles him out of his stupor. He frowns, trying to remember if he made an appointment with the storage company today. He crosses the room and opens the door to a dour-looking Balthazar, dressed in a wrinkled blazer and a dark jeans.

"I brought liquor," he mutters by way of hello. Castiel steps inside and waves him in. As Balthazar pushes his way into the apartment, Castiel sees the bottle of scotch clutched in his fist.

“It’s 10 am,” Castiel points out.

“And that should matter to me because…?” Balthazar heads right into Castiel’s kitchen, opening the cabinet and grabbing a tumbler off the shelf. Castiel’s eyes follow him as he moves into the living room and flops onto the couch.

“Aren’t you supposed to be working tonight?” Castiel asks, sitting on the arm of the couch.

“I’m taking a sabbatical,” Balthazar unscrews the cap and pours himself a healthy splash of scotch. “It was recommended to me, as my bedside manner is said to be currently ‘lacking’.” He knocks back the alcohol in one swift movement before lifting his eyes and glaring at Castiel.

“I have spent the better part of the week drunk, Castiel, I am aware of my sins,” he mutters. “I don’t need your judgemental eyes… judging me.” Balthazar waves at him dismissively before refilling his glass.

“I’m not judging,” Castiel counters, moving to sit next to him. “It’s just… I’m in shock, too.”

“Join the club,” Balthazar snorts. He rubs at his forehead with the back of his hand, a pained expression crossing his features. Castiel isn’t used to seeing his friend looking so despondent. Balthazar is naturally bubbly and upbeat, always choosing to make light of a miserable situation; it was a lot of the reason they were friends in the first place. Even his cynicism was normally  tongue-in-cheek. Now though, sitting on Castiel’s couch and drinking before noon, Balthazar looks broken.

“Were’t you… I thought you two had talked about this?” Castiel asks. “If you ever met your soulmate-”

“Well, yes we talked,” Balthazar sighs, letting himself fall back and sinking into the couch cushions. “But it always felt so hypothetical, you know? Like ‘what if I were struck by lighting?’ or ‘what if I were to lose a limb?’ or ‘what if I had to bury a body?’” Castiel raises an eyebrow at the last example, but chooses not to say anything. Balthazar’s phone call to him that night had seemed like a prank. It took well over an hour for Balthazar to convince him that it wasn’t in fact a joke and Gabriel had left him for his soulmate. Balthazar dissolving into broken sobs on the on the other end of the line had been what finally convinced Castiel.

“I thought…” Balthazar continues, looking up wistfully. “I know what we always said, Castiel- enjoy our time together and if we find our soulmates, we part as friends. I just… I always assumed…”

“You wouldn’t find your soulmates?” Castiel suggests.

“That Gabriel would choose me!” he huffs bitterly, watery blues eyes staring back at Castiel. “I mean, we were happy! You saw us; Gabriel and I were a good match. We loved each other, we supported each other, we had quite a lot in common.

“After so many years, I… I just assumed that it wouldn’t matter if either of us met our soulmate. We would simply choose each other.” He takes a sip of the scotch and rests his head on the glass.”

“So… If it had been you instead of Gabriel,” Castiel begins slowly, “you’re saying that you would’ve chose him over your soulmate?”

“Absolutely,” Balthazar answers, not a trace of doubt in his voice. “I was devoted to Gabriel, you saw how I was.” Castiel frowns as he considers this; he wishes he could be so sure of Balthazar's insistence, but he wonders if it could have just as easily been Gabriel sitting next to him if the tables were turned.

“Balthazar,” Castiel starts, soothing a hand over the other man’s back. “It will be alright.” Balthazar shakes his head and sighs, draining the rest of his glass.

“I got the flat,” Balthazar pipes up as he to refill the tumbler. “I suppose if we are searching for bright notes in all of this mess, there’s that.”

"He moved out?" Castiel asks, somewhat surprised. Gabriel loved their apartment; it’s a shock he let it go.

“Oh yes, almost immediately.” Balthazar replies. “He felt it was the least he could do for me.” He sorts derisively. “‘Least’ is accurate.” A lull falls between them. Castiel hasn’t had a chance to speak to Gabriel during any of this brouhaha. Between Gabriel’s strange working hours and his own hectic schedule as he prepared to leave, Castiel always forgot to call until it was too late.

“Have you… met this new person?” Castiel asks. It may be in poor taste, but he does want to know.

“The Soulmate?” Balthazar looks up at him. “No, no. Gabriel offered to… introduce us, but I begged off. It would’ve just been too hard. His name is Stan or Steve or something like that.” Balthazar rises to his feet, moving toward the kitchen, but stops mid-stride.

“Castiel, what is all of this?” Balthazar asks, noticing the contents of his cabinets piled onto the counters. “Are you redecorating?”

“Something like that,” he answers, picking up a stack of undershirts off the arm of the sofa and dropping them into one of the large open suitcases. “I, uh… I’m taking temporary a position at the Smithsonian. There’s a historic fashion exhibit and I’ve been asked to-”

“I’m sorry, what?” Balthazar asks, blinking rapidly. “You’re moving to Washington DC? When did this happen?” Castiel shrugs.

“I was offered the position a few weeks ago.” Castiel replies, ignoring Balthazar’s gawping, “I’ll be working as part of the installation for six months. This is a very good move for my career.”

“I don’t believe this,” Balthazar says after a moment. “You’ve known about this for weeks and you haven’t said a word? Were you just going to disappear and expect no one to notice?”

“I just didn’t want to make a big deal about it,” Castiel admits, not able to meet his eye.

“Castiel, what brought this on? Did something happen?” Castiel can feel Balthazar’s eyes boring into him. “How is Dean going to fit into all of this?” Castiel bites at his lip and shakes his head.

“It’s not important,” Castiel says. “Dean and I aren’t seeing each other anymore.” Balthazar straightens up, his jaw hanging open in surprise.

“What do you mean you’re not seeing each other?” Castiel falls onto couch, trying to formulate the best way to explain it.

“He nearly died at the Viking Exhibit Opening Gala.” Castiel says. “My bad luck is getting out of control. Exploding cans of soda are one thing, the ceiling caving in on him because of me… I’m dangerous to him.”

“And he broke up with you over that?” Balthazar asks incredulously. Castiel shakes his head.

“I… I told him it was better we don’t see each other anymore,” he says. “Dean is better off without me.”

“That’s not true, Castiel,” Balthazar admonishes.

“Safer, then,” Castiel argues.

“And I imagine that Dean was all fine and dandy with this?” Balthazar’s voice drips with sarcasm. Castiel glares at his friend.

“He’ll be grateful for it later,” he mumbles, shoving a stack of books into a waiting cardboard box.  

“You can’t just make that decision for him, Castiel.” Balthazar places a hand on his shoulder. “Dean’s an adult and he knew there were risks in being with you to begin with.”

“Not in this way,” Castiel mutters.

“I don’t even understand how you would be able to do this without Dean,” Balthazar turns, throwing his hands in the air. “Wasn’t that the basis of your relationship to begin with?” Castiel shrugs.

“I’ll get by,” he mumbles, not sounding anywhere near convincing. The incidents were picking up again, the early signs were all there. He knew that the reprieve had been too good at last.

“Castiel,” Balthazar says pitifully.

“Look, all I can do is try,” Castiel’s head snaps up angrily. “Things aren’t bad… not yet anyway. I can work until then.” He glances down, hating the sour expression on Balthazar's face.

“And how long will that be?” Balthazar asks. “Two, three months?”

“Four,” Castiel sighs. It might not be enough time to complete the exhibit, but he may be able to do some good work before he gets fired. “I’m going to take advantage of it while I can.” He moves past Balthazar and throws open the closet, grabbing out another large suitcase.

“I’ve got one shot to work at the Smithsonian.” Castiel continues, voice assured. “I’m doing this.”

“Castiel,” Balthazar's voice rings out desperate. “I understand the wanting something more... but DC? It’s so far away. Why? What about Milwaukee? St. Louis? Indianapolis?”

“I need a change,” Castiel sighs, slumping forward and leaning his weight on the suitcase. “There is no museum more prestigious than the Smithsonian, and… and I need to keep Dean safe. I stay here, Hell, I stay in a 5 hour radius, I’ll be tempted to come back and I can’t have that.” Balthazar looks like he wants to argue, but doesn’t say a word.

“Now, I’ve got to get back to work..” Castiel says as he heaves the luggage onto his coffee table. “I’ve got to six months worth of clothes to  pack and I have less than a week to do it.”

“Less than a week?” Balthazar squawks.

“I’ll call you later,” Castiel cuts him off. He gives Balthazar a pleading look. “I’ve got a lot to do, Balthazar.” The other man nods in resignation and moves toward Castiel.

“You better call me before you leave,” he says, giving him a tight squeeze. Castiel nods and mumbles an affirmative, but he knows it’s a lie. He waves good bye to Balthazar as he slips through the door and returns to packing.

Castiel tries to focus on making mental lists rather than dwelling on Balthazar’s words.

You can’t just make that decision for him, Castiel. Castiel angrily throws a balled up park of socks into the open suitcase. Who is Balthazar to tell him what he can and can’t do?

For once, Castiel is going to decide his own fate.

 

Chapter Text

Castiel browses through the aisles of the pharmacy, picking up last-minute amenities for his trip. It’s been well over a decade since he’s done any sort of travel and he’s out of sorts over what he will and won’t need. It doesn’t help that he’s on edge, still waiting for the other shoe to drop and his bad luck will return full-force. Castiel is absolutely sure he’s going to forget something or miss something vital during his journey.

Naomi assured him that the apartment that’s been set up for him is fully-furnished and, except for necessities, most of his belongings are either packed up in a secure storage unit or on their way to DC via Fedex. Castiel absently touches the hotel key card in his front pocket for the hundredth time, assuring himself of the room booked in his name and the one night he has left before he flies out in the morning.

He can’t help but feel a little melancholy; Chicago is his home and he’s about to leave it. The position is only temporary, but part of Castiel wonders if a permanent change might not be bad. His phone calls back and forth with Naomi and the other curators and techs have left him buzzing with anticipation. Castiel hopes, with some far off optimism, that perhaps his bad luck won’t come back and Naomi might offer him a permanent position. He smiles at the thought; Castiel could use the change. All the excitement still hasn’t provided enough of a distraction to keep Dean out of his thoughts. Maybe DC might.

He turns the corner onto the magazine aisle, lost in his own thoughts as he scans the rack, when a familiar voice startles him.

“Castiel?!” Gabriel stands before him with a shocked expression, Entertainment Weekly clasped in his hand.

“Hello, Gabriel,” Castiel says mustering up a smile. Gabriel approaches him, enveloping him in a one-armed hug.

“Dude! What’s going on? We haven’t talked in weeks!” he declares, taking a step back and smiling broadly. “Not since the night at the hospital” Castiel gives a quick nod.

“The gala, yes,” he agrees.

Duuude, that night was insane.” Gabriel nods emphatically. “Everything happened at once, I was there, you were there, I come back, you’re gone, Dean’s a wreck and I meet my, um… I, uh… I suppose you heard about that, huh?”

“Yes, the soulmate. Balthazar called me after you told him. Um… Congratulations, by the way.” Castiel gives him an easy smile, trying to keep things light. Gabriel looks away guiltily, though, biting at his bottom lip.

“Castiel, please don’t hate me.” he says, looking up with sincere eyes. “It was never my intention to hurt him-” Cas cuts him off gently with a wave of his hand.

“You don’t have to defend yourself Gabriel,” he replies. “I’m not choosing sides. Both you and Balthazar are my friends.”

“I meant to call,” Gabriel insists. “I really did, but we’ve been kind of… um…” He trails off as a coy smile begins to curl at his mouth. There is a noticeable difference in Gabriel; a lightness to his being that Castiel has never seen there before. The ever-present sardonic wit has been chipped away, revealing something sincere and warm beneath it. Gabriel normally is all caustic humor to match Balthazar’s droll charm, but now there is something in his body language and expression that just makes him seem… happier.

“We’ve both been very busy,” Castiel offers in a lieu of an excuse, shrugging his shoulders . “I mean, between work and-”

“Well, hey, why don’t you meet us for dinner this weekend?” Gabriel says, grinning and slapping Castiel on the back. “You would love Sam! In fact, I think-”

“Hey Gabe, do we want the warming lube or the intensifying- ?” Castiel turns just in time to see Sam Winchester stop abruptly in the middle of the aisle, gaze locked on him. “Cas?” His face fills with a combination of shock and confusion.

“Hello, Sam,” Castiel says stiffly, trying to force a friendly smile. Sam’s eyes narrow on Castiel, his expression turning from surprise to irritation.

“‘Hello, Sam?’ That’s all you have to say?” he snaps sarcastically. “Dean is miserable, you won’t even answer his phone calls, and all you have to say is ‘Hello?’ No, ‘I’m sorry, Sam,’ no ‘Here’s my reason.’”

“Sam, you don’t understand the situation,” Castiel tries to explain.

“Whatever excuse you have for hurting Dean, save it!” Sam snaps.

“Oh yeah, that’s right,” Gabriel grins nervously and points between Sam and Castiel. “Yeah, two know each other, don’t you?”

“Wait, What? You knew?” Sam asks, shifting his focus off of Castiel. “How do you know him?”

“Sam, I’ve told you all about Cassy here.” Gabriel slaps Castiel on the back, lurching him forward.

This is Cassy?” Sam asks, giving Castiel an incredulous look.

“Sam Winchester is your soulmate,” Castiel mumbles, voicing his sudden realization. Balthazar had said that Gabriel’s soulmate’s name was something with an “S” and that Gabriel had met him at the hospital on the night of the gala. Sam had been on his way when Castiel left the hospital. Never in a million years would Castiel have guessed that this would’ve happened.

It’s oddly surreal.

“All this time I’ve been bitching to you about Dean and what he’s been going through.” Sam glares down at Gabriel. “You’ve known exactly how to get in touch with Cas and you’ve never told me?”

“Oh, don’t get your panties in a wad, Sammy,” Gabriel waves a dismissive hand. “It’s an uncomfortable situation, alright? I was planning on easing you into it slowly…” He flashes a wry grin at him. “You know, kind of like we did last night when you-” Sam claps a hand over Gabriel’s mouth.

“Got it, Got it,” he mutters. Gabriel chortles into Sam’s hand, leaning into his side.

“It’s great to see you, Gabriel,” Castiel says, changing the topic. “I wish I could stay and talk longer, but I really need to get checked out.”

“Of course, of course,” Gabriel says, pulling Sam’s hand away from his mouth. “Hey, y’know, we’re doing a little Halloween get-together on the 25th. Nothing too serious, just costumes and beer, maybe going down to Lakeview for a few hours.” Gabriel gives him an encouraging look but Castiel just smiles and shakes his head.

“Thank you for the invite, Gabriel, but-”

“Oh, don’t tell me you have plans!” Gabriel says in a petulant huff. “I have never seen you have plans on Halloween once! C’mon, Just join us for a little bit. We’ll have a night out, it will give us a chance to catch up.” Castiel shakes his head.

“Actually, I won’t even be in the city,” Castiel says, trying in vain to stave Gabriel off.

“We can do it next week then.” Gabriel offers.

“I’m moving to DC,” Castiel blurts out. Gabriel’s words die in his mouth and his shoulders slump.

“DC? Like Washington, DC?” he asks.

“Yes.”

“What’s in DC?” Gabriel’s brow furrows deeply.

“The Smithsonian,” Castiel answers with a shrug. “I’ve been offered a job.”

“You’re moving?” Sam asks numbly. A sense of dread settles over Castiel as he realizes that Sam will surely tell Dean.

“Yes,” Castiel addresses Sam, mustering up any composure he can. “I’ve been offered a position as part of the incoming exhibition.” He neglects to say that it’s only a temporary position. If Dean thinks he’s gone, maybe he can just move forward and just forget about Castiel.

“Why am I just finding out about this?” Gabriel squawks, angrily tossing the magazine back onto the shelf. “You were just planning on running off without a trace?”

“I’m trying not to blow this out of proportion,” Castiel attempts to explain.

“And you didn’t think to call? Text? Tell anyone?” Gabriel asks. Castiel knows it’s a chickenshit move, and another lecture about it is the last thing he want.

“I don’t need a lecture, Gabriel,” he snaps.“I’ve got a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and I’m taking it. I’m thinking of my career and my future. Isn’t that what you and Balthazar have been haranguing me about for years now? Can you just be fucking happy for me?” Castiel’s voice is thin with desperation at the end. Gabriel’s opens his mouth to say something more, but closes it almost immediately.

“I’ve got to go,” Castiel says, attempting to end the conversation. He can feel Sam’s judgemental gaze on him as he pulls Gabriel into an awkward half-hug. “I’ll call you later.” It’s a lie and he hopes Gabriel doesn’t catch it as he draws away and escapes down the aisle. Before he can turn the corner, his foot catches on something, sending him tripping over his own feet before catching himself on the cart handle. He straightens up and heads to the checkout line, ignoring Sam and Gabriel’s scrutinizing looks.

 


 

 

Gabriel watches Castiel escape around the corner, brows drawn tightly together. Nothing about this seems right. Castiel is a careful person, hyper-vigilant even. It’s out of character for him  to run away and that is exactly what he’s doing now. From his reaction to Sam, it’s a safe assumption that this has something to do with Dean.

“No bullshit. You actually knew about Castiel and my brother this whole time?” Gabriel purses his mouth and nods.

“Sure did, Sammy.”

“And you didn’t think to tell me any of this?” he replies petulantly.

“Sam, can please save this argument until I have your dick in my mouth?” Gabriel asks, casting a long-suffering look over his shoulder. “We got bigger issues right now.”

“Like what?”

“Like making sure Castiel doesn’t make the dumbest mistake of his life,” Gabriel sighs. “He’s going to get himself hurt or arrested or worse if he leaves. We’re going to need help.” He pulls his phone out of his pocket and taps into his contacts, selecting a name. The phone rings twice before a familiar voice answers.

“Hey, Balthazar,” Gabriel greets, “We have a problem…”

 

 


 

 

Dean blinks at the laptop screen, his half-complete resume staring back at him. He knows it’s time to find an actual job again. He’s been dragging his feet on doing it ever since Castiel cut ties. Part of him had secretly hoped that maybe Cas would change his mind and they could go back to the way things were, but as the days turned into weeks, Dean realized it was time to take a hint. He put out calls to several of his old contacts and friends at other marketing firms, hoping someone might be able to hook him up, but so far no luck.

Dean slumps back in his desk chair, rubbing at his aching eyes, wondering if Bobby would be pissed at him for moonlighting at another auto body shop. A heavy knock at the door grabs his attention. Dean stands from the chair, confused as to who would be knocking at 9 am.

“Open up, Dean-o. we know that you’re home,” A familiar voice calls from the opposite side. Dean pulls the door open to see Balthazar, Gabriel and his brother standing in the hallway.

“Well… Are you going to let us in?” Gabriel says after a second, pushing past Dean and into the apartment. The other two follow, Balthazar offering a two-finger salute as he steps past. Dean frowns at the three of them, confused as to what they are all doing here and, more to the point, why they are all together.

“Hey… Guys,” Dean says hesitantly as he shuts the door. “What’s going on? How do you all…?” He trails off, motioning between them.

“Oh, yeah,” Sam gestures to Gabriel , “Um…Dean, you remember Gabe? From the hospital? He’s my soulmate.”

“Wait? Gabriel is your soulmate? This is Gabe?” Sam nods with a shrug in response while Gabriel beams at Dean. “But I thought you and…?” Dean trails off, noticing a despondent-looking  Balthazar and making the connection.

“Oh…. Oh man, I’m sorry.” Dean says sincerely. He hadn't spent too much time with Gabriel or Balthazar, but they'd seemed like a solid couple. Then again, so had Jess and Sam.

“Your sympathy is appreciated Dean, but there are more important matters at hand right now: You need to talk to Castiel.” Dean can’t help the caustic chuckle rising up through his throat.

“Well, that would be great and all,” Dean replies bitterly, “except for the fact that Castiel isn’t answering my phone calls.”

“Dean, you don’t understand,” Gabriel interjects. “Castiel is about to make a big mistake. He-”

"Look, guys, I know you're all fans of the Dean and Cas show," he interrupts, walking back into his living room and flopping down onto the couch, "but that’s not really an option anymore. Cas… He made his decision, ok?" The three men stare at him dumbfounded.

“That’s it?” Gabriel blurts out. “That’s all you have to say? ‘That ship’s sailed, kids. Sorry.’” Dean frowns at his mocking tone.

“What do you want me to do, Gabriel?” Dean asks, frowning up at him. “Run over there? Beg on my hands and knees for him to take me back?”

“Well… Yeah!” Gabriel says, receiving an eyeroll from Dean. “Look, is your pride really so precious that you’d give up on someone that you love.”

“It’s not about my pride!” Dean snaps with sudden anger causing the other three to startle. “I can’t face him leaving again. It hurt so much, and… I’m not able to do it again.” Dean’s head falls forward and he pinches at the bridge of his nose. Balthazar moves forward and takes a seat next to him.

“Well, unless you want him leaving for good, I suggest you get off your ass and talk to him,” he offers. Dean looks up, confused.

“What are you talking about?”

“He’s moving to Washington, DC,” Gabriel answers.

“He’s what?!” Dean’s eyes go wide.

“He found a job at the Smithsonian or something.”  Balthazar answers. “When I saw him last week he was in the middle of packing.”

“And you’re only telling me this now?” Dean shakes his head in disbelief.

“I tried to talk to him, Dean,” he holds up his hands in defense. “He’s being unusually stubborn. Wouldn’t listen to reason.” Dean blinks in confusion as he tries to process this. Something occurs to him.

“Wait, wait, wait… How would he be able to work?” Dean asks, brows tightening together. “Is his bad luck just gone?”

“It’s not as bad as it was.” Balthazar gives a lazy shrug.“He might have a few months, but that’s all.” Dean looks at Gabriel and Sam, who both nod in confirmation.

“Shit,” Dean mutters under his breath.

“Now do you understand why you need to talk to him?” Balthazar continues, “Before he flies off and gets arrested for damaging government property.” Dean rises to his feet and begins pacing around the room, rubbing at his forehead.

“Guys, what if you’re overreacting?” Dean argues. “I mean, if he needed me, he’d call me, right?”

“What part of ‘moving across the country’ are you not hearing?” Gabriel snarks.

“Clearly, you underestimate how much of a stubborn git Castiel can be,” Balthazar adds with a snort.

“What if I just make things worse and send him running farther away.”

“You love him, right?” Sam asks after a moment.

“Yeah.”

“And he loves you?” Dean bites at his lip, unable to answer the question. He’d never actually heard Cas say the words, even if he thought he felt it in his kiss or touch.

“Oh please,” Gabriel groans. “Of course he love you! He escaping halfway across the country because he thinks he can protect you.”

“I don’t need protection,” Dean says.

“Well, then tell him that!” Sam says, exasperated by the conversation.

“Quit hemming and hawing, Dean,” Balthazar moves to the door, grabbing Dean’s leather jacket off the hook and tossing it at him. “Just talk to Castiel.” Dean wordlessly slips on his jacket and shoes, following Sam, Gabriel and Balthazar out the door.

“I’m driving,” he states, “and I swear to God, if anyone tries to touch the radio, I am throwing you into the river.”

“That’s the spirit!” Balthazar cheers, giving dean a playful punch Dean in the shoulder.

 


 


Dean sighs as he knocks on Castiel’s door a third time. He had psyched himself up the whole drive over, preparing for the worst case scenarios. What if Cas said he didn’t love him? What if he laughed in Dean’s face? He hadn’t prepared for Castiel not even being home.

“He’s not there?” Sam asks.

“Doesn’t appear to be,” Gabriel says.

“Cas,” Dean tries knocking again. “Hey, Castiel. It’s me… Please open up.”

“Do you think he’s at work?” Gabriel asks.

“He doesn’t work on Saturdays,” Dean replies. Balthazar steps forward, giving the door a brisk knock.

“Cassy, Dear, it’s Balthazar,” he says. “Please come to the door, we just want to talk.”

“He’s obviously not home,” Sam pipes up.

“Should we wait?” Gabriel glances at the other three.

“What are you guys doing?” All four men turn to see a blonde-haired teenage girl standing in the doorway of the neighboring apartment.

“Um, Hello, Sweetheart,” Balthazar flashes the girl a toothy smile, receiving a snide look in return. “You wouldn’t happen to know when the man that lives here stepped out, would you?”

“That place is empty,” The girls says, leaning against the doorjamb. Dean feels a pit open up in his stomach. Cas was already gone?

“He left?” Gabriel asked. The girl shrugged.

“I saw some moving guys hauling out boxes a few days ago.” She answers, All four men shoot worried looks at each other.

Gabriel takes a step toward the girl. “Um… Hey there, uh…”

“Claire.” She answers.

“Claire,” he parrots back with a grin. “Claire, this is very important: Do you know anything about where your neighbor is?” Claire glances between the four of them suspectly.

“Are you guys in the mafia or something?” Despite the tense situation, Sam and Dean can’t help bursting with laughter.

“We’re not mafioso, dear,” Balthazar answers. “Your neighbor is our friend and we’re just a little worried about him.” Claire tilts her head to the side as she considers Balthazar’s response. She seems to accept it with a nod.

“I heard him on the phone a couple days ago,” she says. “He said something about flying out this afternoon.”

Dean exhales in relief. “Thank you,” he says sincerely.

“Do you know what airport?” Sam asks.

“I don’t know,” Claire gives a sarcastic shrug.

“Claire?” A woman’s voice calls out from within her apartment.

“I gotta go,” she says, slipping back inside. “Hope you find your friend.” She shuts the door, leaving Sam, Dean, Gabriel and Balthazar standing in the hallway.

“So what now?” Sam asks as everyone turns their attention to Dean.

“Gotta find that flight,” Dean mutters. “What time is it?”

“1:45,” Gabriel answers, glancing down at his watch. Dean turns on his heel and strides down the hallway. “Sam, Can you to look up every flight to DC out of O’Hare? Gabriel, Balthazar, keep trying Castiel’s phone on the off-chance he’ll answer.  C’mon, let’s hit the road.”

 

 


 

 

They circle the loop around the airport for well over an hour.

“Can’t we just park by the curb?” Dean grumbles as they exit the departure area for the fifteenth time.

“The white zone is for loading and unloading only,” Gabriel mimics in a robotic voice. Dean sighs and follows the road back around. He can’t seem to tamp down the little voice in his head telling him that this is useless and Castiel is gone for good.

“Anything?” Sam calls back to Balthazar, who has his cellphone clamped to his ear.

“No,” he replies, hitting the end call button. “At this point, I’m sure he’s shut his phone off.”

“He probably knows we’d try to stop him,” Gabriel says, laying his head against the window and watching the traffic pass by.

“Well, Castiel isn’t an idiot,” Balthazar supplies. “Of course he knows we’d try and stop him. He thinks he can cut us off at the pass.”

“Yeah, well, jokes on him. He should know by now that we are stubborn and tenacious.”

“I don’t get you two,” Dean pipes up. “You say you’re Cas’ friends, but you’re constantly badgering him and pushing him out of his comfort zone.”

“Is there a question there, Dean?” Balthazar asks.

“My question is why does Castiel put up with you?” Dean flicks the turn signal and changes lanes. “Or, more importantly, why do you invest so much time and effort in him?” There is a pause and Balthazar and Gabriel consider this.

“Well, why do you, Dean?” Gabriel asks, leaning forward and resting his chin on the back of Dean’s seat.

“Because I… I love him,” Dean stammers out.

“Well, so do we,” Balthazar says.

“You should know as well as anyone, Dean, that Castiel is a great guy.” Gabriel explains.

“Well, sure.”

“When we met him he was lonely, friendless, physically broke, actually broke, in a dead-end job.” Balthazar explains, ticking off each item on his fingers. “He came into the ER looking for high-dose painkillers for a ‘migraine’ because he didn’t think he could afford to get his broken wrist looked at.”

“He was miserable,” Gabriel adds.

“And you saw him as something to fix?” Dean raises an eyebrow, looking back in the mirror in Gabriel’s direction.

“We’re in the medical field, Dean. Our job is to fix things,” Balthazar says. “But really, we just wanted to see the poor boy happy, even a meager amount.” Dean thinks about this and nods.

“Dean, if you were anyone else, we wouldn’t have dragged you all this way,” Gabriel squeezes his shoulder. “Hell, we probably wouldn’t have even called to tell you Castiel is leaving. We would do anything to see our friend happy and he has never, ever, been as happy as he was when he was with you.”

“That’s how we know he loves you,” Balthazar adds with a lazy grin. Dean quirks his mouth to the side in a proud, little smile. They come up the ramp, approaching the departure gates once more. As they pass the the first terminal, Dean catches sight of a dark mass of hair and a wrinkled trench coat in the crowd.

“Is that Castiel?” Gabriel asks, narrowing his eyes. The Impala swerves across the lane, nearly hitting a Prius, and awkwardly parking halfway in a spot. Dean throws the running car into park and fights to get his seatbelt undone.

“Dean, what are you doing?” Sam steps out of the back and calls out to Dean as he kicks open the door.

“I need to get, Cas,” he replies, jumping from the car. A sharp whistle cuts through the air

“You can’t park here!” a police officer calls out, stopping Dean with a hand to his chest. Dean shoots a pleading look over his shoulder to his brother, who nods and opens the driver’s door.

“We’ll find some parking,” Sam yells out over the noise of the traffic. “Text me if you need anything.” The engine rumbles as the Impala drives off. Dean doesn’t even bother to turn around to watch it go. He has to find Cas.

He maneuvers through the sea of people, eyes scanning right and left. He exhales in relief when he finally catches sight of Castiel again, talking with an airline employee. As he gets close, he picks up on snippets of their conversation.

“-Was just here,” Cas argues, pointing to the spot beside him. “A suitcase doesn’t just wander off!”

“Well, sir, you are required to keep your bags with you at all times,” the employee deadpans.

“It was with me!” Cas snaps. “It was literally here two minutes ago and the only explanation-”

“Cas!” Dean yells out over the crowd. Castiel turns, his expression changing from confused to shocked to panicked in the span of 20 seconds.

“Dean?” he gasps, taking a step backward. “What are you…? How did you know…?”

“Balthazar and Gabriel,” Dean pants, catching his breath after running through the crowd. “You’re leaving?”

“Yes,” Castiel answers, attempting to regain his composure. “I got an opportunity to work with the Smithsonian in-. ”

“Bullshit!” Dean cuts him off.

“Actually, no, it’s true. I got a job opportunity,” Castiel reasons, tilting his head to the side.

“But that’s not the reason you’re disappearing like dust in the wind,” Dean argues. “You’re running away.” Castiel looks away uncomfortably. Dean takes a single step toward him. Castiel’s body language it still skittish and Dean fears that if he makes a wrong move, Castiel will dart into the terminal.

“Is this you thinking you can protect me?” Dean asks, brows drawing together.

“It’s better this way, Dean,” Castiel mutters. He tries to move around Dean, stepping off the curb onto the pavement. “If I stay here… It’s too much. I’ll always know that there’s this looming thing and… you might get hurt. I can’t take that risk.”

“What about the risk to you?” Dean asks, turning and following him. Castiel glances back at Dean, nostrils flaring in anger.

“I’m fine, De-” He abruptly slams into a parked car with a grunt. Without missing a beat, he straightens up smooths his hands down his clothes. “I’m fine, Dean. ok? Now excuse me but I’ve got a plane to catch.” Dean frowns, feeling helpless as he watches Castiel walk away.

“Well, I’m not fine,” Dean chases after him. Castiel stops, his shoulders dropping in exasperation. “Cas, I love you and I don’t care what happens. I could get a thousand concussions, I’d still want to be with-” A horn blares and Dean jumps back as a mustang speeds past, almost knicking him. Castiel scrubs both hands down his face and growls in frustration.

“Oh for God’s sake, Dean. Don’t you get it?” he points an angry finger toward the disappearing Ford. “As long as you’re near me, that kind of shit is going to keep happening! You’re going to end up hurt or maimed or even killed and it will all be my fault!” Castiel’s voice breaks on the last word.

“Cas,” Dean mumbles. He reaches out to comfort him, but Castiel pulls back.

“And you know what? You’re right. I get myself into some bad situations when you’re not around,” Castiel rubs at his temples, “but it’s either you’re with me and you’re in danger or I’m alone and…  and I’d rather have you safe.” Cas’ eyes are glassy and pained as he looks at Dean.

“You could so much better than me,” he mutters. “I’m cursed. There’s no getting around that.” Dean holds his gaze as he moves toward Castiel.

“Well, I’d rather have you, cursed or not,” he says, cupping Cas’ jaw in his hand. Castiel doesn’t fight as Dean draws him in for a kiss. Dean feels like a drowning man finally taking in a lungful of air as their mouths meet. He wastes no time surging forward, invading Castiel’s mouth with his tongue. Castiel sinks into Dean’s hold, moaning against the kiss and reciprocating with as much passion.Their lips part to catch their breath, ignoring the honking and screams for them to get out of the loading zone. Castiel winds his arms around Dean’s neck, resting their foreheads together.

“I love you, Dean,” he mumbles. “I know I should have said it sooner, but I-” Dean cuts him off with a tender kiss to his forehead and squeezing him tighter.

“I know,” he answers. “I love you too, Cas.” Cas pulls back and gives Dean a serious look.

"So what now," he asks, concern seeping into his voice. "I still have a job in DC. I mean, it's just six months but I... I already signed a right-to-work contract." Dean is caught off guard by this news.

"Six months? It’s temporary?" He asks with a chuckle. "Gabriel and Balthazar made it seem like you were leaving forever."

"Would that have given you second thoughts about finding me?" Dean laughs and plants another enthusiastic kiss on Cas’s lips.

"Not in the least," he whispers.

“Hey man,” they both turn to see the airline employee Cas from earlier calling to them. "Hey, you said your bag was gray with a yellow handle, right?"

"Yeah," Cas answers. "Why?"

"I think they're loading it into that bus right now," the employee says, pointing to a bus across the street. Amidst a group of suitcases sits a dark gray rolling case with a yellow ribbon wrapped around the handle.

"Shit! My bag!" Castiel yells before sprinting down the street toward the bus.

"Cas!" Dean shouts after him. Castiel took off before he even knew what was happening. Dean launches after him, but isn't quick enough before Castiel runs across the busy street.

Dean watches in horror, and then shock and amazement, as Castiel easily maneuvers across the roadway, dodging every oncoming car as if the action was choreographed. He manages to catch up with the bus just as the driver is closing the door, banging on the side. It takes a couple minutes to explain to the bored and pissed-off driver what happened before the storage compartment opens and Castiel is able to retrieve his bag.

Castiel crosses the street once more, mindful to look both ways this time, and jogging towards Dean. Dean’s jaw hangs open in surprise; Cas on the other hand looks oblivious at his near-miss disaster.

"What?" he asks, noticing Dean's gawking expression. Dean can't do anything except huff out a choked laugh and pull Castiel into a tight hug.

"Nothing," Dean murmurs into Cas' ear, "Just... You're awesome, Cas." He smiles and digs his face into Dean's shoulder once more.

"You're one to talk," he replies.

 

 


 

 

Gabriel, Balthazar, and Sam silently wait in the Impala on the upper level of the short term parking garage. Sam sits in the driver’s seat, tapping on his phone, while Gabriel leans his head back over the edge of the front passenger seat.

Balthazar fidgets and squirms, the aged black leather creaking beneath him.

"Balth," Gabriel mumbles sleepily. "Relax. You’re shaking the whole car." Balthazar digs into his inside jacket pocket and pulls out a pack cigarettes and a lighter.

"I'm stepping out," he says, opening the car door. The door swings closed behind him with a bang.

"You need to talk to him," Sam advises, looking up from his phone and glancing at Gabriel.

"I what?" Gabriel cracks open one eye.

"I think you should talk to him," Sam repeats.

"About what?" Gabriel scoffs.

"I don't know," Sam mumbles. "Clear the air?" Gabriel lifts his head and give Sam a long-suffering look.

"Sam, you know our break up wasn't exactly amicable, right?" he reminds Sam. "Today was the first time I've seen him since I moved out."

"Yeah, even more reason to talk," Sam argues. "You two were together for a long time and your meeting... well, me threw a spanner into everything."

"Sam," Gabriel sighs heavily.

"All I’m saying is that you both need closure on the relationship," Sam takes hold of one of his hands, brushing a thumb over his knuckles. “Look, I’ve been in his shoes. It sucks. I can’t imagine how hard it must be hanging out with the ex you’re still in love with and the ex’s new soulmate.”

Gabriel whines pitifully; he hates adult things like “closure”. He catches Sam giving him the puppy eyes and he knows he’s a goner.

“Fine,” he mutters, opening the car door.“I’ll try and talk to him.”

“That’s all I’m asking,” Sam says. Gabriel walks around to the back of the car to where Balthazar is perched on the trunk, puffing away.

“That’s a filthy habit,” he says, hopping up next to him.

“Yes, well, we all have to die someday, I suppose,” Balthazar says, not trying to hid the cynicism in his voice. There is a moment of silence between them, a first Gabriel notes.

“When did you pick that up?” he gestures to the pack resting on Balthazar’s thigh. He shrugs.

“About three weeks ago,” he answers. “I’ve been having trouble focusing. This seems to help.” Gabriel frowns, the familiar tendrils of guilt winding around his stomach.

“Balth, I’m sorry,” he blurts out.

“Yes, you’ve said so before,” Balthazar replies coolly, exhaling a blue-gray puff of smoke into the air.

“No, I mean I really am,” Gabriel insists.

“Yes, yes, Gabriel, I know,” Balthazar gives a dismissive wave. “You said so that night and the following morning, yesterday, today… I understand.” Gabriel can feel his temper beginning to rise from being brushed off this way.

“I never meant to hurt you,” he hisses. “You should know that. I was completely committed to you. I never planned for this to happen.” Instead of getting angry as Gabriel had expected, Balthazar’s expression droops miserably.

“I know,” he mumbles, flicking ash out onto the wind. His tone is sincere and sad, full of resignation. “I really do. And that’s the worst part.”

“Balthazar, I had every intention of spending my life with you.” Gabriel tries to explain. “I wasn’t interested in my soul mate or any of that stuff, same as you. I honestly thought it would never happen, and… when it did…” He trails off, the beginnings of a fond smile playing at his mouth. Balthazar places a hand on his shoulder and gives it a small squeeze.

“Are you happy?” he asks. Gabriel nods immediately, no doubt in his mind that he is. “Well, that’s all I can ask from you, then.”

“Really?” Gabriel asks, unsure if Balthazar means it or if he is just placating Gabriel’s guilt.

“Oh, please don’t make me spout Adele lyrics at you,” Balthazar groans, tipping his head toward the sky. He looks at Gabe and gives him a genuine, though despondent smile. “You are one of the dearest people in my life, Gabriel, and knowing that you are happy, fulfilled… That’s enough for me.” Gabriel pats his hand on top of Balthazar’s.

“You’ll find yours soon, Balth,” he tries to reassure. “And hey, you’re hot, you’re a doctor. Men and women will be clamoring all over you.” Balthazar throws his head back with a guffaw.

“Oh, if only,” he stands, dropping the cigarette butt on the ground and stubbing it out. “I’m 43. Even with being a doctor, anyone young enough to not already have their soulmate doesn’t want an old coot like me.” Another lull falls between them.

“If it makes you feel any better,” Gabriel offers. “I’m getting fat.” Balthazar looks at him, raising an incredulous eyebrow.

“You are not.”

“Ten pounds,” Gabriel nods and pats at his middle. “Sam, um… indulges my sweet tooth a bit.”

“No more organics for you then I suppose,” Balthazar adds with a wry chuckle. “I like your boy, by the way, this Sam. He seems kind, loyal.”

“He is,” Gabriel agrees. “We’re a good fit.” As if on cue, the driver’s side door swings open and Sam exits the car, arguing into his phone.

“Dean, I don’t under… But why? You hate flying!” Gabriel and Balthazar both step down off the car and circle around, curious to see what’s going on. “Look, I get why you want to, but… Dean, that’s not how these things work. What about your stuff or your apartment?... I’m sorry, did you just say ‘mail it’?” Sam looks up, rolling his eyes and pointing at the phone in exasperation.

“What’s going?’ Gabriel asks. Sam makes a vague gesture, turning his attention back to the phone.

“Dean… Dean, please just… Yes… yeah,” Sam sighs and pinches the bridge of his nose. “Fine, I’ll call the airline in a second and book the ticket. You are paying me back though!”

“Booking a ticket?” Balthazar mumbles. “Who’s booking a ticket?” Sam bids Dean good-bye and hangs up the phone, running a hand through his hair in exasperation.

“What’s up, Sam?” Gabriel asks.

“Dean is joining Castiel in DC,” Sam says. “Apparently, I have to buy the plane ticket, though, because he is broke.”

“You’re joking?” Balthazar says, an amused grin spreading across his face. Sam laughs to himself and shakes his head.

“What about his place? His furniture? His stuff?” Gabriel asks.

“He told me to get a storage unit and find a way to break his lease.” Sam says. “It’s going to be a minute, guys. I got to call the airline.”

“You can do it in the car,” Balthazar says, grabbing the Impala’s keys from Sam’s hand and opening the driver’s door.

“Wait? Where are we going?” Sam asks, following Gabriel as he slips into the backseat.

“To get a drink,” Balthazar says, starting the engine. “I don’t know about you, I’ve had a hell of a day.”




Chapter Text

Sam grunts as he repositions the heavy box in his arms, taking a careful step up the narrow stairwell.

“I don’t… understand,” Sam pants. “I moved all of your shit out of your apartment. I… should get a pass...” Sam readjusts his hold once more and continues his ascent, “from ever helping you move again.”

“Shut it, Sammy,” Dean calls out behind him. “You’re getting pizza and beer out of the deal.”

“I’m getting scammed,” Sam whines. He releases a heavy exhale as he drops the box to to the floor just inside the open door to the apartment. “What the hell is in there anyway?”

“Looks to be Cas’ archival journals,” Dean peers at the box before moving past Sam and into the apartment.

Inside, Castiel and Gabriel unpack dishes and glassware, transferring them right into the dishwasher.

“You know you don’t need two households full of stuff, right?” Gabriel asks, holding up two dissimilar drinking glasses: a collectible Star Wars glass from Dean’s collection and a basic tumbler from Castiel’s.

“We’re going to separate everything soon,” Dean says, stepping into the kitchen and planting a warm kiss on Castiel’s lips. “It was just too difficult to do it with two storage units full of stuff.”

“Castiel, these boxes labeled ‘textbooks,’” Balthazar calls out from down the hall. “Any idea where they should go?”

“Library,” Dean and Castiel yell in unison.

“Aww, aren’t you two cute,” Gabriel coos, placing a hand over his heart dramatically. “Pretty soon, you’re going to start dressing alike.”

“I’m pretty sure that you two take the disgusting couple award,” Dean chides, sliding a few boxes against the wall. “Your proposal video made me want to gag.”

“Hey, I thought a flash mob in a hardware store was a pretty cute idea,” Gabriel argues, coming out of the kitchen.

“What about you two?” Sam asks, flopping down onto the arm of the couch and wiping at his brow with the back of his sleeve. “Any wedding bells yet?” Dean and Cas glance at each other a bit awkwardly.

“It hasn’t even been a year, Sam,” Dean gives a nervous chuckles. “No need to rush it.”

“So?” Gabriel asks, moving to stand in between Sam’s legs and resting against his chest. “It’s been less time for us.”

“Yes, but you’re soulmates,” Castiel offers, closing the dishwasher and turning it on. “It’s different rules.”

“But c’mon,” Sam chides. “You guys are soulmates. You have to be. How else do you explain the curse just… vanishing?” Cas and Dean glance between each other and then at Sam with a shrug. It took a few weeks of living in DC to really notice that the bad luck wasn’t as intense as it had been previously. Good thing, too, because the Smithsonian staff wasn’t nearly as accepting of Castiel’s “Life Coach Intern” hanging around. Castiel managed to get through his first month with only one lost acquisition form and a date error on the exhibit programs. Dean had one spill on the ice around Christmas, sending him to the ER with a sprained wrist, but even Castiel was able to laugh about it a few days later.

“You know they can do blood tests for it now,” Gabriel pipes up. “One little needle prick and you could find out for sure in, like, 24 hours. Just for confirmation.” Dean gives him a grateful smile and shakes his head.

“Thanks, but no,” he says. “We’re happy not knowing.” He sidles up to Castiel, lacing their hands together.

“And I’ve had more than enough hospitals for a lifetime,” Castiel adds. Sam and Gabriel  shoot them twin wry looks.

“And they say we’re sappy,” Sam says.

“You’re all sappy,” a sweaty Balthazar announces, stepping out of the hallway. “It’s the curse of the couple. Are there any more boxes in the van?” He moves to the door.

“A couple.” Castiel says. “Here I can help-”

“It’s fine, I’ve got it,” Balthazar interrupts, cutting him off. “I could use a smoke, anyway.” The four watch as he slips out of the apartment.

“I thought he was quitting?” Castiel asks, looking at Gabriel.

“He did for awhile,” Sam sighs, “but I think the online dating is beginning to get to him.”

“EHarmony was a bust, so was Match.” Gabriel adds. “His soulmate risk assessment is all over the place. I don’t think he takes the quizzes seriously.” Castiel frowns, clearly feeling for his friend. His cell phone chimes abruptly.

“Ooh, Meg’s on her way,” he says, reading the text. “She’s asking if we want any food from that Mexican place down the block.”

“We have pizza coming,” Dean reminds him.

“Oh, can she grab some chips and salsa?” Gabe asks excitedly. “Maybe some guac?” Castiel texts the request back.

“Alright, I’m going to move these last couple boxes into our room and then going to take a shower,” Dean announces.

“Mind if I join you?” Castiel asks with a wry smile.

“Really, guys? We’re still here?” Sam says, his face twisting in disgust.

“Hey, you don’t like it, get out of our apartment, Sam,” Dean calls out as he moves toward the master bathroom.

“Shower sex is dangerous, Castiel,” Gabriel yells after him. “Do you want to hear my ER horror stories?”

“I promise to use the handrail,” Cas replies. He shuts the door behind them as they slip into the room. A short wall of boxes sit at the foot of their bed, ready  to be unpacked and organized when they have the time. Dean is already undressed from the waist up and Castiel’s eyes linger for a second, admiring the tanned-and-freckled expanse of skin.

“What?” Dean asks, catching him staring. Cas gives a small headshake and a mumbled “nothing” as he too begins to undress. They are quiet for a moment until Dean breaks the silence between them.

“Hey, um… You don’t mind that we aren’t getting tested, right?… As soulmates, I mean?” Castiel looks at him, blinking in confusion.

“No,” he answers. “Why? Do you?” Dean shakes his head emphatically.

“No, no, I just…” he takes a deep breath and looks at Cas. “I believe you are my soulmate, I do, it’s just… I don’t want to…”

“Risk it?” Castiel supplies.

“Yeah,” Dean exhales, dropping down on the bed. “I mean, you’re it for me. Soulmate or not, you’re what I want. I don’t need some bullshit test telling me what’s right for me when I already have it. I don’t know, Cas… Am I making sense?” Castiel nods in agreement.

“You are, Dean,” he replies. “As far I’m concerned, the Universe had nothing to do with us. We chose our soulmates.” He steps toward Dean, resting a knee on top of the bed, and settles himself in his lap. Dean looks up at him, a tired grin on his face, his hands smoothing up Cas’ bare sides.

“So we’re playing it by ear?” Dean mumbles, tipping Cas’ chin down to capture his mouth in a kiss.

“I prefer to think of it as tearing up the script,” Cas murmurs against his lips. Dean presses forward for another kiss when the peace is broken by a screech of tires and a woman’s scream right outside of the apartment, followed by a dull thud.

Dean and Cas scramble off the bed to see what happened. As soon as Cas looks out the window, his eyes widen in horror.

“Oh no,” he mumbles. They throw their shirts back on and rush out of the room. Sam and Gabriel are right on their heels, asking what’s going on.

The scene outside the building is chaotic. Tortilla chips litter the sidewalk, Meg sprawled across it, covered in salsa and guacamole and  clutching at her arm.

“What happened?” Gabriel asks kneeling down as the four men reach to her side.

“I think I broke my wrist,” Meg says, her voice strained in pain. “I was just trying to cross the street and my heel got caught in the sewer grate and that guy…” Meg points to the street. All eyes land on Balthazar, stretched out and unconscious in front of a Datsun stopped in the middle of the street.

“Oh my God,” Castiel gasps, his heart almost stopping in terror at the thought of his friend being dead. Relief runs through him as he hears a groan from the street and sees movement, indicating Balthazar is alive and conscious.

“The car was coming and he pushed me out of the way,” Meg mumbles. She tries to get to her feet, but slips in the pool of guacamole, landing on her ass.

“I’m alright,” Balthazar calls from the street, listlessly lifting an arm into the air. “I’m alright, I’m fine.” He tries to sit up and but is only able to lift up a few inches before wavering. “No. No, I’m not… going to throw up now.” he twists to the side and wretches.

“He probably has a concussion,” Gabriel stands up and moves in his direction. “Sam, can you call an ambulance? Cas, call the police for the jackass in the Datsun.” Meg manages to get to her feet with Cas’ assistance, following after him.

The driver’s head pops out of the open car door. “Is he ok?” he asks.

“Oh yeah, he’s just laying in the middle of the street for shits and giggles,” Dean snaps sarcastically, rolling his eyes and joining the group surrounding Balthazar.

“How’s he doing?” Dean asks, peeking over Gabriel’s shoulder as he checks him over.

“His eyes are dilating evenly, that’s good, and he hasn’t lost consciousness,” Gabriel says, flashing his cell phone’s flashlight in Balthazar’s eyes. “He’s still going to need to go to the hospital. I’ll call ahead, let them know he’s coming.”

“Would all of you quit it,” Balthazar groans, pushing Gabriel away. “I’ll be fine. I don’t need to go to the hospital.”

“You know how dangerous head injuries can be, you dolt!” Gabriel snaps. “You’re going to the hospital. End of discussion.” Balthazar sneers and attempts to push himself up onto his elbows.

“Gabriel, even concussed I can kick your-” Balthazar’s words trail off abruptly as his eyes lock on Meg, who hovers just beyond the group. His whole body seems to reel back, and one could almost mistake it for an effect of the accident if not for the idiotic grin tugging at his lips. “Um, uh… Hello.” Dean is the first to see it, eyes darting between Meg’s amazed expression and Balthazar's sudden lovesick grin. The air around them shifts as Gabriel begin to pick up on what is happening. Meg blinks several times in shock before moving forward and kneeling next to Balthazar.

“Hi,” she says, a blush rising to her cheeks. “You… um… saved me.” She holds up a tentative hand, clearly wanting to touch him, but scared of hurting him.

“My pleasure, dear,” Balthazar replies, taking her uninjured hand in his and giving it a gentle squeeze. “My apologies. I’m not really at my best right now.” He gives a small chuckle, which turns into a pained noise as he presses his hand to his forehead. Meg places an arm around his shoulder, supporting him.

“Yeah, same,” she says. “Usually I’m wearing less food.” She snorts in amusement, taking note of her salsa-and-gauc-covered clothes. Balthazar looks up at her with an affectionate gaze. Their faces are so close and they look ready to kiss until Castiel clears his throat awkwardly.

“Ambulance is on its way,” he says, moving to Balthazar’s other side. “We should get you out of the street. Think you can move?”

The ambulance arrives a few minutes later, the whine of a siren echoing through the neighborhood and with a police cruiser following shortly behind. The EMTs pack Balthazar and Meg inside, neither one paying attention to anything else besides each other. Castiel can only watch, flabbergasted; in his wildest dreams, he would never have imagined Meg blushing and giggling the way she is now.

“Is there anything else you need from us?” Gabriel asks as one of the EMTs help Meg up into the back of the ambulance.

“Nah, we should be good. We see occurences like this all the time,” the burly EMT with the thick Cajun accent says. “There are protocol for soulmates. If one of you wants to ride along with your friends, though.”

“We’ll go,” Sam says, Gabriel nodding in agreement. They both look at Cas and Dean. “Can you meet us there?”

“Sure thing. Just give us a couple minutes,” Dean replies. Sam nods and waves goodbye as the ambulance doors slam shut, Cas and Dean stand off to the side, watching it disappear down the street, sirens blaring.

“So I guess this means shower sex is off the table,” Dean sighs after a moment, taking Cas’ hand and leading him back into the building. Castiel gives him a side-eyed look, his mouth quirking with a wry smile.

“We can make it quick,” he replies, winking at Dean and pulling him up the stairs.