Sighing heavily, Castiel Novak pulled at the askew blue tie around his neck and looked at the time on his watch. It was already well after midnight. Yet another night where his duties in the emergency room and Lawrence Regional Hospital had kept him from being able to talk to or see his boyfriend of six years, Dean Winchester.
Wandering to the staff lounge to get a cup of hot water to make some tea - he’d long since learned the “coffee” there was undrinkable sludge - he pinched the bridge of his nose in frustration. Between his schedule at the hospital, the winter holidays, and the flu that had torn through both the hospital staff and Dean’s own crew at his auto repair shop, the couple hadn’t been able to spend much alone time together. While Castiel desperately missed spending time with his boyfriend, he could see the forced separation was having a more profound effect on the slightly younger man.
When they spoke, Castiel could hear the strain in the other man’s voice, the forced jovialness that masked darker thoughts. The doctor also knew his lover was in a slightly depressed state because of the angry phone call he received from Sam Winchester, Dean’s younger giant of a brother. Sam was concerned because Dean wasn’t leaving the house at night, and he thought Dean wasn’t take proper care of himself and wanted to know what Castiel thought. The problem was Castiel hadn’t been home much recently, practically living at the hospital; and even when he was home, he got home after Dean was already asleep and woke after the other man left for his job.
This weekend, however, Castiel had a surprise for his boyfriend, he was off for forty-eight straight hours, something that hadn’t happened in months. He planned on spending all that time showing the other man how loved he was and giving a little more permanence to their relationship.
The thoughts of his plans made a slight smile come to his face, and also caused him to think about how he and Dean had met.
Castiel moved to Lawrence, Kansas six years ago after his residency had been completed. He applied to jobs all over the country to see where he would be able to make the most impact. When he was offered the position at Lawrence Regional, he accepted almost immediately because his brother, Gabriel, lived nearby. Also, the doctor liked the idea of making a name for himself at a smaller venue before thinking about moving on.
The trip from Chicago to Lawrence was not an easy one, and his old Lincoln Towncar was barely hanging on by the time he crossed the town limits. When he hit a pothole that seemed to be the size of a small country, his car had enough of him and decided to stop. Agitated and unfamiliar with whom to trust, the doctor had just pulled the car to the side of the road when his salvation appeared on the horizon. In a complete moment of serendipity, a tow truck was coming down the road and slowed when Castiel stepped out of his car, suit wrinkled and beige trenchcoat akimbo.
“Do you need some help, sir?” a deep voice like whiskey and honey rumbled from the driver seat of the truck.
Fighting the urge to shiver at the tone, Castiel looked up and was arrested by the most gorgeous man he had ever seen in his life, brilliant green-gold eyes, lightly tanned skin dusted with freckles, and plump pink lips. The doctor found himself swallowing repeatedly before he was able to find his voice to answer. “I’m new here and my car has decided this is as far as she takes me.”
A rich, warm laugh floated from the truck as the man opened the door and hopped from the cabin with lithe grace. Out of the truck, Castiel noticed the man had the most enchantingly bowed legs, slender waist, and was at least two inches taller that Castiel himself, who was almost six-feet tall.
“Surprised this pimp car actually made it as long as she has,” the other man said with a grin on his face.
“My car is not a pimp car,” Castiel defended, blood warming his pale cheeks. “I’ve had it since I graduated high school.”
The other man held up his hands in mock defense. “I understand protecting your car’s honor. I have a ‘67 Impala myself, but my Baby is in much better shape than your girl. I’m Dean. Dean Winchester, by the way. I happen to own a repair shop in Lawrence, if you would like me to hook her up and see what’s wrong?”
Castiel shook the hand in front of him, relishing the warm and strength contained in those calloused and slightly chapped hands. “Castiel Novak. I just accepted a job at the hospital.”
“Awesome,” Dean said brightly, moving back toward his truck so he could get Castiel’s car hooked up. “Go ahead and get in the truck and stay warm. I’ll have your girl hooked up in no time.”
The doctor would never have guessed that such a chance meeting would have led to him meeting the love of his life that was the fodder of romantic comedies; but, it actually had been Castiel’s life.
On the remaining drive to Dean’s shop the pair exchanged the basic getting to know you information. Dean was twenty-eight and successfully running Winchester Auto Repairs, which he had taken over when his father unexpectedly passed three years ago of a heart attack. The shop was so successful, he was thinking of expanding operations. He adored his father and took his death hard, especially since the oldest Winchester raised Dean and his younger brother, Sam, on his own after the death of his wife when the boys were little.
Castiel in turn told Dean how his parents were very conservative and loved being able to brag that their youngest son was a doctor, but their relationship was strained when he told them he was gay, and that hadn’t changed as they expected when he got older. Now, at 32, the blue-eyed, dark-haired Novak was looking to gain some distance from his parents and work to help people. Plus, it helped his brother lived nearby so he wasn’t completely alone.
The talk between the two men was effortless, as though they had known each other for years. By the time Castiel picked up his car the next day, not only was he back on the road, he had the handsome Winchester’s telephone number and a date. The first of many.
Their relationship had its ups and downs. For as handsome, smart, and funny as Dean was, Castiel quickly learned the younger man harbored deep insecurities about himself, many of those came from being one of the few homosexuals in a small mid-western town. Others were because Dean had problems seeing himself the same as others. The young man had tried to help his father in raising Sam and shouldered too much responsibility too early in life. Because of that, Dean often would praise Sammy and speak of how intelligent he was, but would never see his own worth reflected. This often led to confidence issues, especially because Dean often saw his gorgeous boyfriend as so much more than him.
Dean’s insecurities led to a near breakup between the duo about two years after they got together.
“Why are you with me, Dude?” Dean asked Castiel during a particularly low point. “I mean you’re hot, smart, and successful as hell. What are you doing strapping yourself to a lead weight like me? Why don’t you take a chance with that new doctor you’ve been talking about?”
“Who? Balthazar?” Castiel asked, squinting his eyes in thought, wondering if he had been talking about the new man more than was acceptable. The doctor had spent so many years perfecting his educational goals he wasn’t always the best socially. “Believe me there is no interest on my part. He is fine to talk to, but he’s not you.”
“Yeah, right, ‘cause I’m such a catch,” Dean scoffed, turning away from his boyfriend to make himself less vulnerable.
The shorter man reached out and laid a gentle hand on Dean’s shoulder, arresting his movement and turning him gently until they could be face to face.
“You deserve so much, you deserve to be loved,” Castiel said, voice slightly higher pitched than normal as his emotions overwhelmed him. He hated when Dean doubted himself, and when the younger man doubted Castiel. “You are a good man, the best I know, and I am honored that you chose me to love and allow me to love you in return.”
“Sap,” Dean choked out, trying (and failing) to keep his boyfriend from seeing the tears spiking his obscenely long lashes.
“Hmmm,” Castiel hummed in agreement, pulling his boyfriend flush against him, relishing the difference in their height and how Dean’s body molded just perfectly with his own. “But your sap.”
“Yours, too,” Dean murmured.
After this episode, the doctor suspected his boyfriend might be prone to depression - and that was another fight where Dean accused the older man of saying he was crazy and storming out of their house for a drive in the Impala. Once Dean calmed down, he acknowledged Castiel might not be wrong and agreed to see someone. The couple worked together to find a therapist Dean liked well enough and she was able to work with him to help even out his depression.
Even though Dean still regularly saw Dr. Barnes, Castiel knew there were times that the dark moods overwhelmed his boyfriend, especially in times of extreme stress...like now. The older man knew his boyfriend was hurting, he just hoped his surprise was going to be enough to help ground the other man.
Finishing up with his last stack of charts, Castiel cleaned up his office and prepared to go home. He hadn’t told Dean he would be home early; all part of his master plan to woo the love of his life.
Pulling up to the three-bedroom ranch style house they shared, Castiel smiled when he saw Dean’s gleaming black Impala already in the driveway. Just in time.
He walked in the door to their house and stripped out of his ubiquitous trench coat, his favorite since his older brother gave it to him while in medical school.
“Dean? You home, babe?” he called out, knowing the other man should be.
“Cas?” came Dean’s warm, surprised voice. “What are you doing here?”
The other man chuckled and wrapped his arms around his boyfriend’s lean waist, pressing a soft kiss to chapped lips. ‘Last I checked I lived here.”
Dean laughed softly in response, a contented noise. “Yeah, you do,” he hummed happily. “Just we haven’t been on the same schedule much lately. I’ve missed you.”
Not responding at first, the doctor pulled the mechanic in for another warm embrace, knowing touch often did more to reassure his lover than words. “I’ve got plans for you Winchester.”
Nuzzling his nose into the day-old scruff on his boyfriend’s cheek, Dean pressed soft kisses along Castiel’s jaw line. “Plans, huh? And what might those be, Doctor Novak?”
Enjoying the intimacy that had been too long absent for both of them, Castiel almost let his sexy boyfriend distract him from his master plan. Almost. There would be more than enough time for naked cuddles later, especially if everything went as Castiel planned.
“Go get dressed, make yourself even more gorgeous,” the blue-eyed man chuckled, reluctantly pushing away from his lover.
“What are we doing?” Dean asked, brow furrowed in confusion.
“We are going out for dinner,” Castiel said, grin appearing on his face. “It’s Valentine’s Day.”
“Aww, c’mon Cas,” Dean pretended to sulk. “Y’know I’m not a girl. We don’t have to celebrate Unattached Drifter Christmas.”
“Yes I know what you say ,” Castiel chided softly, seeing how his boyfriend’s eyes had lit up at the mention of his plans. “However, I speak fluent Dean Winchester and I know by now that ‘I don’t want to’ usually means ‘I want but don’t want to ask for something for myself.’”
Dean blushed scarlet, causing his freckles to stand out even more. Castiel swore someday he was going to count every spot.
“Go,” Castiel said, swatting the green-eyed man lightly on the ass. “We have reservations at that steak house you like for eight.”
Still pretending to grumble, Dean went to their bedroom to get ready, giving Castiel a few minutes of privacy to make sure everything was in place. He was going to propose to Dean tonight at dinner. He knew it was the most cliched of things he could do, but the idea had been with him for a long time. Before their schedules had become so hectic, the original plan had been for Castiel to propose on Christmas, but family descended on them and Dean seemed so happy just to see everyone that Castiel didn’t want to take away from that. He wanted the proposal to be special, something that Dean would never forget.
“Good evening, Talbot’s, how may I assist you,” a woman with a clipped British accent answered.
“Yes my name is Castiel Novak, I have reservations for this evening,” the doctor said, keeping his voice pitched low in case Dean came out before he was expecting. “My brother, Gabriel, said he called to tell you about the special arrangements for this evening, and to drop off a certain item.”
“Doctor Novak,” the woman’s voice was much warmer when she placed the name. “My name is Bela Talbot, I own this restaurant. I have spoken with your brother and everything will be ready for you. Your table will be sprinkled with rose petals and I have instructed my staff to place the ring in your soon-to-be fiance’s pie. I am glad you have chosen us to be part of your special day.”
“Thank you so much, Ms. Talbot, I appreciate all your help with this,” Castiel said, trying to fight back his sudden bout of nerves. He was getting more anxious than he was when he went out on his first date in high school. Then again, this was a big step for him and Dean. The doctor knew he wanted the permanence that marriage provided, and he thought Dean would want the same, but in their six years together, they never really talked about doing this...not when Sam married his college sweetheart, Jessica; not when their friends and other family started inviting them to weddings, and then to baby showers. Not even when the Supreme Court voted that same-sex marriages were legal in all states. A frown marred Castiel’s forehead, perhaps he was making a mistake. Perhaps Dean was happy with what they had and didn’t want more.
“Hey, why so serious?” Dean asked, coming in from the bedroom while the older man was lost in thought.
Castiel startled and then wrapped his arms around his love, breathing in the scent of the other’s rich cologne and the smell that was just him. “Just thinking,” he muttered non-committal.
“You sure you wanna go out tonight?” Dean asked, eyes showing his concern. “You’ve been working so hard, we don’t hafta go out to celebrate anything.”
Shaking himself from darker thoughts, Castiel straightened. “No, I’m sure. I want to do something nice for you. It’s been far too long since we’ve been able to go out and have a proper date. What better time than Valentine’s Day to do so, right?”
Holding his arm out in an exaggerated gesture, Castiel waited for Dean to roll his eyes in protest and then loop his arm through as they headed out. It was going to be fine, what could go wrong?
An hour and a half later, Castiel realized how wrong he was because a lot could go wrong.
Despite checking in with the restaurant while Dean got ready, there had been a mix up when they got there that the hostess didn’t have their table ready, so the pair had to sit in the bar and have a few drinks before they were seated.
As each moment ticked by, the doctor found himself getting more nervous. He should have proposed first, before they left the house, then they could have enjoyed the meal more. Of course, if he would have proposed at home they probably never would have left the bedroom to make it to dinner; but that really didn’t sound like the worst possible outcome.
More than that, Castiel was starting to wonder if he read the situation wrong. Maybe Dean didn’t want anything more from their relationship. Maybe Dean was just happy with them having a more loose structured relationship. Damn it, why hadn’t he thought to talk to Dean about marriage before springing it on the younger man. Maybe he should have consulted Sam; but he hadn’t wanted to do that because it was well-known the youngest Winchester had an inability to keep anything secret from his older brother.
So caught up in his plans for the evening, Castiel didn’t realize he had zoned out and had missed all of what Dean had been saying for the past several minutes.
“Cas? Hey, man, what’s up with you?” Dean asked, slight anger and hurt lacing his tone.
“I’m sorry Dean,” Castiel said, shaking his head to bring himself out of his own rambling thoughts. “I must be more tired than I thought.”
Dean nodded and looked down and picked at the table cloth (not covered with the promised rose petals), his expression was neutral and Castiel couldn’t really tell what he was thinking. Conversation completely stalled after that as the two waited in an awkwardly charged silence for their meals to come.
The food, when it came, looked delicious, but Castiel couldn’t taste anything. He cut his steak and put it in his mouth and chewed, but he couldn’t taste the flavors; he could have eaten cardboard and it would have been both cheaper and have tasted no different than the fifty dollar steak he was currently digesting. This was not going as he had planned. The blue-eyed man was so caught up in his own doubts that he didn’t see the hurt and anger growing on his boyfriend’s face.
“Dessert?” the waiter said, startling the two men out of their silence, and in Dean’s case aggressive chewing.
“No,” Dean said at the same time Castiel responded “God, yes please.”
The younger man looked up at his boyfriend in surprise. He couldn’t believe that Castiel really wanted to prolong the torture that had been their Valentine’s Day “date.”
“They have excellent pie,” Castiel said, hoping to convince the green-eyed man to stay by using his Achilles’ heel. Pie was definitely the way to Dean’s heart.
“I’m really not…” Dean started to say.
“Please,” Castiel pleaded, trying to flash Dean puppy dog eyes that Sam Winchester so successfully mastered.
Sighing, Dean sat back and rubbed his eyes. “Whatever dude.”
“We’ll take two slices of cherry pie,” Castiel said, relieved they would get to this part of his plan. He could propose and have Dean either accept or tell him he wasn’t ready for that level of commitment, and then they could put this disaster of a night behind them.
Within moments, their waiter reappeared with two perfectly plated portions of cherry pie and cherry ice cream. Castiel waited, wanting Dean to take his first bite to expose the ring so he could ask his question.
Dean took his fork and cut into the pie and quickly devoured the small piece of pastry, just wanting to get home and pretend this night never happened. He knew Castiel could be socially awkward, but this whole thing was the older man’s idea. To be honest, Dean was using every stitch of his self-control to keep tears from spilling down his face and embarrassing himself in public.
Castiel watched in horror as Dean practically inhaled his cherry-flavored dessert, but with each bite he didn’t see a flash of silver. Where was the ring? Had they put it in Castiel’s own dessert?
Not wanting to eat and ruin his surprise, Castiel was undecided as to what to do.
“I thought you said you loved their pie?” Dean questioned as he looked up and saw his boyfriend hadn’t touched his dessert.
“Yes, I do,” the doctor hedged. “But, I find that I actually am more full than I previously thought. Would you mind eating mine as well?”
“Cas…” Dean started, but then shrugged and reached across to snag the other’s dessert. He might as well get another slice of pie out of the evening; it was really good after all.
Within moments, Dean had finished the second piece of pie and there still was no ring in sight. What the actual fuck?
Just as Castiel was trying to figure out what had happened, and was slightly worrying that Dean might have ingested the ring and wondering how many days it would take for him to pass the precious metal, he heard a slight disturbance behind them.
“Oh my God,” a high-pitched female voice shrieked across the room. “Yes, yes, yes. I can’t believe it.”
The dark-haired Novak turned around and saw a quiet curly-haired man looking bewildered at his more highly strung date. “I don’t…” the man was trying to say as he was attack kissed by his companion.
Beside him Dean chuckled humorlessly, “At least someone had a good night.”
Castiel’s eyes narrowed when he caught the flash of silver with just a hint of a diamond cut. That was his Dean’s ring.
Standing up without thought, Castiel stalked over to the table with the bewildered man and his exuberant date.
“I’m sorry ma’am,” Castiel said, fighting for calm as he took in their table, covered with rose petals and a bottle of champagne. “I think you have something that belongs to me, well actually to my fiance.”
The blonde looked up at him angrily. “Look mister, I don’t know you, but I am having a moment with and I don’t need you ruining it.”
“Actually, Becky,” the other man tried to interrupt.
“Hush, Chuck,” the woman, Becky said soothingly, “I won’t let him ruin what you’ve worked so hard for.”
“You have the wrong table,” Castiel said, anger flaring. Usually the doctor never raised his voice and never snapped at anyone, but this evening had gone wrong from the first moment and he had enough.
“No,” the woman countered. “I think you have the wrong table. Why don’t you just slink back to your corner and let my fiance and I enjoy our evening.”
“But, Becky…” the shorter man, Chuck, tried to say again.
“Seriously Chuck, I’ve got this,” Becky said before turning back to Castiel.
“Look at the fucking ring,” Castiel growled, not even caring if he was making a scene. Not noticing that several cell phones had been turned in his direction and were now recording the event.
“Cas, babe, you need to step back,” Dean said, suddenly his hand snaking forward to grasp Castiel’s fingers in a warm squeeze.
“No Dean, I am not stepping back,” Castiel ranted, frustration boiling over. “Nothing has gone right this whole evening. I have been a nervous wreck about what I was going to do, and even though I had everything planned with the champagne and the petals and the ring, I wasn’t sure what you were going to say. You are the best thing that has ever happened to me. I love every minute that I get to spend with you. I love how peaceful you look when you fall asleep at night. I love how fiercely you love everyone around you. I love how you look when you dance while cooking us dinner. I love all the million little facets that make up the man who is the love of my life; but I find that I want more.
“At first, I thought I wanted this because I wanted you to know I was committed to you and that I wasn’t going anywhere, but I’ve realized that’s not what I am doing. I am doing something completely selfish; I want to stand in front of all of our friends and put my ring on your finger so that not only will you have a reminder of who you belong to, but everyone will know that you belong to someone - and I’ll be able to look down and see that I belong to you just the same.
“But the more I thought about it, the more I realized I didn’t know if you wanted the same; I didn’t know if you wanted to be mine as much as I am yours. So I got nervous and lost in my own head and made this a disaster from the start, and now your ring is on this stranger’s finger who has been drinking our champagne and enjoying our flowers and I just don’t know what to do.”
Castiel was a wreck at the end of his speech. Tears were streaming from his sapphire-blue eyes, his lips were reddened from where he had been biting all evening, and his voice was hoarse from trying to control the sobs. Panting and exposed he stood before Dean - and the rest of the customers.
For what felt like an eternity, but really was five seconds, Dean and Castiel stood facing one another with neither of them daring to break the fugue between them. Suddenly Dean reached out and grabbed the back of his boyfriend’s neck and pulled him in for a fierce, possessive kiss, a kiss that was not meant for a public place. It was a kiss of love and passion and domination and desire. It also was a kiss that had several people looking away to give the couple privacy, and one that caused others to join in videoing the moment for later viewing.
Breaking the kiss, Castiel stared dazedly at the love of his life. He saw Dean’s green-eyes were more hazel in this light and were dazed. He looked like sex and sin personified. And without further thought, the doctor dropped to one knee in front of him.
“This is not how I expected this night to go,” Castiel said, voice rough with emotion, “but you are the love of my fucking life and I don’t want you to ever doubt that. So, Dean Samuel Winchester, will you marry me?”
“Yes, you idiot,” Dean said, brilliant grin and happy tears belying the hostility in his words. “I’ve wanted to marry you for years.”
Dean yanked Castiel back up to his feet and crashed their lips together in another scorching kiss - this one much shorter, interrupted by raucous cheers and applause from their fellow diners.
The doctor broke the kiss and buried his reddened face in his fiance’s broad shoulder. He should be more embarrassed at his actions, but he was overstuffed with happiness.
“Excuse me,” a timid voice said from behind Castiel. “I’m sorry, I think this belongs to you both.”
The dark-haired Novak spun around and saw the quiet man, Chuck, standing with a silver ring in his hand. Reaching out with shaking fingers, Castiel took the ring without a word and slipped it on to Dean’s finger, locking tear-reddened blue eyes with tear-filled green.
Behind them, Dean heard the blonde woman complaining that her boyfriend just gave away her engagement ring. The mechanic was ready to suggest he and his new fiance get out of there when he felt a brusque tap on his shoulder. What now?
He turned around and found himself face to face with a tall brunette, elegantly dressed and obviously wealthy.
“Misters Novak and Winchester,” she said in an agitated voice. “I am Bela Talbot. I want to apologize for the mix up that occurred this evening. It appears this gentleman was below your name in the reservation book and my hostess misread the names and gave him your table by mistake. For your inconvenience, please accept your meal on our behalf and our heartfelt congratulations on the happy occasion.”
The two men grinned at her, and Dean couldn’t help picking her up into an exuberant hug. This was the best Valentine’s Day ever.
Leaving the restaurant like two kids set free on the last day of school, the newly engaged pair made their way to the car, and after a short drive found themselves at Missouri Mosley’s twenty-four hour diner. Neither man enjoyed much of the extravagant steak dinner they had, so they tucked into juicy, thick burgers and laughed about their misadventures of the evening.
The next morning they woke to scores of texts and missed calls from family members. Their Valentine’s Day fiasco had gone viral. Castiel ducked his head in embarrassment at his display in the restaurant, but he couldn’t entirely regret it because it landed him what he had wanted more than anything - the best fiance in the world.
And when the next February 14 rolled around, Castiel didn’t hesitate to give Dean full control of their plans, which involved a trip to Vegas with their brothers and a visit to the Chapel of Love to say “I do.”