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The Graveyard Shift

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Wednesday – September 23 rd , 2015

It’s three in the fucking morning and all Dean wants to do right now is sleep. He’s pretty sure that if he let his eyes stay closed for longer than a blink, he’d drop off and not wake up for a solid eight hours. As good as that sounds, sitting behind his baby’s wheel going he’s going thirty down Main Street is probably not the best place to do that. And he has the feeling that Jo and Charlie wouldn’t appreciate it a whole lot. Being the designated drive sucks sometimes.

This is literally all their fault. He wouldn’t be this tired if it wasn’t for them and their insatiable need to party. His bedtime would have been a good two hours ago if it wasn’t for them. But apparently the songs were too good and there was no way they could just stop dancing. Especially since they both had their own hotties dancing up on them. So not only did Dean not get to drink, but he was also alone and standing on the edge of the dance room watching his two best friends get their game on.

Tonight has maybe sucked a little bit. He struck out with every girl he hit on, and he’s still too new to the whole being bisexual thing to have a functioning gaydar. It’s not like he didn’t have fun, though. Charlie and Jo dragged him out onto the floor earlier in the evening and he danced with them. He had his fun, but that ended a good two hours ago when he got tired enough to want to go home. If he’d had alcohol in his system, he probably wouldn’t be as tired as he is right now.

The worst part about all of this is that they’re supposed to be on shift in five hours. Bobby is going to chew Charlie and Jo to pieces for showing up with a hangover. Actually, Charlie’s biological make up kinda burns that shit up quick. So she might be safe from it. Jo, on the other hand, is fully human and she’s going to be a cranky bitch in the morning.

That said, despite being tired, Dean is also hyper aware of everything going on around him. He’s fully aware of how Charlie and Jo are giggling to each other in the back seat and swapping stories about their respective conquests of the night. And he doesn’t miss a damn thing on the road. Every speed limit sign and stop light are right there and he’s super careful about it. Any pedestrian that happens to be out on the street is accounted for.

They’ve just driven past the fire hall when he catches sight of a blue neon light where he doesn’t remember seeing one before. Where the old Bagitos Bagel and Burrito Café used to be, there’s a new place he’s never seen before. C O F F E E is written above the door in fresh white paint that reflects the Impala’s headlamps. In the window to the left of the door, The Graveyard Shift is written out in blue neon. The inside is lit up and Dean can make out tables, shelves, and a counter while he drives by.   

“Hey, that’s new.” He tilts his head to gesture to his right while they pass it. “That’s a pretty sweet name. It’s like they made it just for us.” Dean glances in the rear-view mirror to make sure they’re paying attention to him. “With a name like that, it looks like we’ve got a new night time café for our two AM coffee runs.”

Jo leans forward to cross her arms on the back of his seat. She laughs and flicks him in the back of the head. “You know that firefighters aren’t the only people who work overnight, right?”

A giggle bubbles up from where Charlie is slowly sliding down further and further in her seat. “Let’s not forget that there are plenty of nocturnal folks in this town.”

Dean rolls his eyes and throws a glare at them through the mirror. “Don’t sass me. I’m just saying that it’s basically made for us since it’s right beside the fire hall.” Well, it’s closer to town hall, but who cares. It’s barely a sixty second walk away.

Charlie very pointedly makes eye contact with him in the mirror and then exaggerates as she rolls her eyes. “It’s not that close.”

Bull-fucking-shit. It’s the closest pace to the hall and that means no more disgusting instant shit from the kitchen. They can have their mocha-chinos or whatever the hell fancy drinks they always order and it’ll probably be perfect. He won’t have to sit through anybody complaining about the coffee ever again and it’s going to be so sweet.

Apparently it’s not sweet enough to keep the two of them from teasing him all the way home. Or when he has to practically carry Charlie into the house, Jo stumbling along behind him. She pushes her way past to head on up to bed, leaving Dean to make sure the garage door gets closed and that the door gets locked behind them.

“Remind me again why I thought it was a good idea to room with the two of you?” Dean sighs as he helps Charlie up the stairs.

“Because we’re the only people who could tolerate you.” Charlie laughs and reaches up to pat him on the cheek. “You’d be lost without out, freckles.”

He pushes her hand away and rolls his eyes. “Yeah, no. It’s more like I’m the only one who could tolerate the two of you.”

“Touché.” She shoves herself away from him with another laugh and starts up the stairs on her own, although she has to do it with her hands on the steps ahead of her.

Dean watches her head up and shakes his head. This is the thanks he gets for buying a house and thinking his best buddy would want to live with him. Jo was an afterthought when she joined the fire team a few years after him and Charlie. The extra rent was just too sweet. If he didn’t love their money, he’d kick them out. No, that’s a lie. He loves living with them. Living alone would just be too lonely.

Despite that, he still very purposefully doesn’t bring any attention to The Graveyard Shift when they drive by it before eight AM the next morning. He’s already had his daily dose of teasing and he doesn’t want it now that they’re both a little cranky from lack of sleep and, in Jo’s case, a hangover.

Of course he should have known better than to think that would have worked.

Charlie leans over and elbows him in the arm shortly after they’ve driven past it. “So, are you going to get us coffee tonight from that place built just for us?”

He shoots her a glare as they make the turn onto Pitkin Court. “Don’t start with me.”

She flutters her eyelashes at him and tries to look innocent. “Don’t start what?”

They pull around into the parking lot behind the fire hall and directly into his parking spot. As soon as the car is in park, Dean points at the door. “Get out of my car.”

“Oh no.” Jo places a hand to her forehead as she unbuckles her seat belt. “How cruel of you to make us walk from the parking lot.”

“Ha ha, fuck you.” Dean throws his door open and gets out of the car with a huff. “Guess who’s not getting any coffee when I go for the run tonight?”

Charlie gets out too and grins at him from over the top of the Impala. “How mean! You’re going to make us walk a whole three hundred feet to the new café? Oh woe is us, whatever will we do?” She leans dramatically into Jo and fake-sobs into her shoulder.

Holy shit it is too early for this shit. How in the hell do they have so much attitude for how little they slept last night? Going to that party was a bad idea all around and he should have known better than to go with them – and he should never have let them go either.

Dean points at them both with a dramatic sweep of his arm. “You will rue this moment!”

Without waiting for an answer, he turns on his heel and stomps into the fire hall to check in. This morning he’s got engine maintenance to do with his dad, and equipment checks to do with everyone. It’s going to be a busy morning for the whole hall, even if no calls come in for them. The only thing he can look forward to today is getting to see his mom and dad, and the nap he’s going to take after supper before he has to get up and stay up for the night shift.

Because that is going to be so much fun.

*

Thursday –September 24th, 2015

“It’s two o’clock.” Benny announces as he walks by the couch where Dean is sprawled out and watching TV. “If you want your coffee, go get it now.”

Dean groans and rubs a hand over his face. He’s been zoning out while watching TV, balancing on the verge of falling back to sleep. They have four people in the hall overnight, two of them staying awake to man the place while the other two sleep. Benny is usually awake at night, so he always takes the night shift when he’s working. Dean, on the other hand, drew the short straw when the shifts were laid out for this month. What he wouldn’t give to be in the bunk room with Charlie and Jo and snoring away right now. His nap did fuck all for him earlier.

Benny walks by again, this time with a blood pack in his hand. With a groan, Dean rolls off the couch and gets to his feet. He drags his heels as he makes his way to his locker to get his wallet, being as quiet as he can because those are kept in the bunk room. Charlie and Jo are on the other side of the room, snoring into their pillows. Lucky bastards.

“You want me to grab you a donut or something?” Dean asks as he walks by Benny at the kitchen table. He knows that Vampires don’t necessarily need to eat real food, but they can still kinda enjoy it.

“Nah, I’m good.”

He throws a salute in Benny’s direction as he hops the pole to head down into the garage. It’s faster than the stairs, that’s for sure. The walk to the café is just as quick as Dean expected it to be and he’s pleased to find that there’s still an OPEN sign hanging in the door. The lights are still on inside and everything, so Dean definitely counts that as a win.

The first thing he notices when he walks in is the music. There’s soft instrumental being piped through the whole place. It’s at a perfect volume to not be too loud, and not be too soft. Gives the place a nice – what’s that word? – ambiance. Next up on the notice board are all the goddamn plants. The wall to his left is mostly a staircase leading up to some kind of second floor, but the whole wall under the staircase is just completely covered in a lattice with plants hung up all over it. There are even plants on top of the book case in the corner by the lattice.

And that’s a new thing for him too. How many cafés has he been to in his life where they had a bookcase? Not only that, but there are honest to goodness books on the shelves. More than that, he sees some board games stacked between them. Is this one of those game cafés that he’s heard about? If it is, it would be the first one in Montpelier. Which is all kinds of interesting. He’ll have to bring Sammy here another day so the two of them can play Mouse Trap together at one of the half dozen tables laid out around the room.

The next thing that catches Dean’s eye, besides the complete lack of people anywhere, is the shelf behind the counter with a crystal ball nestled in between stacks of mugs and baggies of what have got to be coffee beans. Now the question is, does the crystal ball serve a purpose or is it just some decoration? He’s tempted to ask, but it’s kinda rude to ask the workers if they’ve got anything to do with witchcraft. Dean’s not nothing against Witches, but he’s got an insatiable curiosity when it comes to having Creatures around.

Dean makes his way over to the counter and glances around, looking for a worker. There’s not a soul in sight. But there is a door at the back of the café just before a hallway off to the right behind the stairs. The door is partially open and Dean can hear voices in the back. It must be the kitchen and maybe they just didn’t hear the bell over the door? Time to make his presence known. Dean only gets ten minutes of grace period to leave the fire hall for a coffee run during a night shift.

He clears his throat before calling out; “Hello?”

Not two seconds after he says something, there’s a crash on the other side of the door. It’s immediately followed by some very fancy cursing and loud laughter. Dean raises his eyebrows at it, a little surprised. Now who’s going to be the one to come out and serve him? The curser or the laugher? When the door gets pulled open completely, Dean decides that he’d put his money on the curser.

The guy who walks into the front area is, in Dean’s fine opinion, super cute even though his dark hair is covered in flour and he’s scowling. His glasses are crooked and he fixes them before he actually looks at Dean. Like some kind of chick flick movie moment, Dean feels his heart flutter a little bit. He blames it on the fact that he’s tired as hell and this guy is seriously ridiculously cute. The kind of hot that would have had Dean hitting on him at last night’s party regardless of whether or not he could ping him as being open to that kind of thing.

Flour-Guy blinks a couple times at him before turning back to the kitchen. “Balthazar, we have a customer. Please deal with him while I shake off in the alleyway like some kind of dog.” He does not sound happy about that.

“You’re a big boy. Do it yourself.” The voice that answers him has a British accent and Dean immediately goes through a mental catalogue he has of people he knows who have accents. The list comes up short of anyone named Balthazar. “I’m in the middle of mixing this dough. If I leave it now, all is lost!”

Oh lovely. More people who play up the dramatics. As if Dean didn’t have enough of that with Charlie and Jo today. His heart bleeds in sympathy for Flour-Guy.

“That’s bullshit and you know it.” Flour-Guys sighs and turns back to Dean. “I’m sorry, but I’ll be with you in just a minute. I want to knock off the worst of this before I end up spreading it around more.” He gestures at his hair as if Dean would have assumed he was talking about something else.

In an effort to play up being casual, Dean leans his hip against the counter and puts on his best smile. “Oh yeah, sure. You –” And that’s when his tongue decides to tie itself into knots. “– uh – you do that. No sweat. I’ll be right here.” He even pats the counter. “When you get back, that is.” Oh God, just stop talking. “Thanks – um – dude?” Jesus Christ. Kill him now.

Flour-guy blinks at Dean a few times before turning without a word and walking back into the kitchen. As soon as the door is closed behind him, Dean drops his head back and covers his face with his hands to muffle his groan. Holy shit, what the fuck was that? He can’t even blame that horror on the time of the night and his current state of tiredness because this happens every single time. How long is he going to have to be into guys too before he’ll be able to flirt with them as well as he does with girls? Because right now, he really fucking sucks at it.

In Dean’s defense, he wasn’t expecting to be visually assaulted with a hot guy at this time of the night. And that flour just made him look awkwardly adorable. Speaking of the flour, what the heck was up with that? Was it an accident, an unhappy employee, or a prank gone awry? Dean is tempted to ask when Flour-Guy comes back, but he’s pretty sure that’s not going to help get his foot out of his mouth. In fact, it might put it in even deeper.

When he drops his hands, Dean sees something new that he missed when he walked in. He steps away from the counter a few paces so he can get a better look at what he’s seeing. There are bunch of multicolored pieces of paper hanging from the ceiling and, upon closer inspection, Dean realizes that it’s all origami. Is that a dragon? No, no, that’s a crane. It’s definitely a crane. Dean may not know a whole bunch about origami, but that’s a pretty popular fold and he’s seen it a ton in anime.

While waiting for Flour-Guy to come back, Dean counts all the cranes. There’s exactly thirty of them hanging behind the counter. It’s definitely an interesting choice for decoration and Dean kinda likes it. Now the question is, who made them? Was it the cutie with the glasses, Balthazar the bread maker, or another employee? Either way, whoever did it must have a ton of time on their hands. Good thing that they do, because it really does look super cool.

Flour-Guy comes back shortly after Dean starts investigating the display case with mostly-empty trays of baked goods. His hair and his shoulders are a little white in places from the flour, but at least his glasses and his face are clean now. Clean glasses do nothing to stop Dean from being utterly floored by a gorgeous set of baby blues. He didn’t get a good look at them when he was at the back of the café, but now that Flourless-Guy is standing at the counter just a few feet away, Dean can feel his mouth go dry.

Wow, the lust is real right now.

Dean has to bite back the urge to outright whimper when Flourless-Guy actually smiles. It’s clearly a polite for-the-customers type of smile, but it just makes him look even better. The smile isn’t too big, but it’s also not small enough to hide a set of pointed canines. Dean instantly figures him for a Vampire – which would explain him working the nightshift here. No, wait. He’s a little too tan for a Vampire. Benny is pale as fuck despite having one of those amulets made specifically to let Vampires walk around in the sun without burning. Well, bronzers do exist, so it’s possible Flourless-Guy uses that?

“How can I help you?”

His deliberation comes to a quick stop and Dean straightens his shoulders. He smiles brightly and decides on a joke to break the ice. “It’s caffeine fix time for the night shift and I drew the short straw, so here I am.” He spreads his arms to show off his boots, fire-suit pants, suspenders and his t-shirt with the station’s emblem on it to show off that he’s a firefighter. That usually impresses people, plus Dean loves his job and he’s proud to be one.

Flourless-Guy nods and puts his hand on the keyboard of the till. “I’ll be happy to get something for you. What would you like?”

Dean glances at the menu board on the wall above the shelves. Good, it looks like they serve the kind of stuff he wants. “A black drip coffee with two shots of espresso, please.”

Halfway through punching the order in, Flourless-Guy raises an eyebrow and looks up at him. “I thought you said that this was for the night shift?”

“Yup, that’s me.” He grins, pleased with his joke. “It’s just me and a Vampire doing the overnight, so he’s got his blood pack and I have –” Just before he finishes what would have been an awkward ‘you’, Dean’s phone starts to ring in his pocket. “Hold that thought. If this is a call for me to get back to the station, then I’m going to have to cancel that order.”

He fishes his phone out and swipes to answer the call. “Dean here.”

“I want coffee.”

The anticipation of a call seeps out of Dean quickly and he slumps in place. “What are you doing awake, Charlie?” He turns away from the counter so he doesn’t do anything stupid like be overly friendly with the barista by making expressions at him. “You’re supposed to be sleeping.”

“We want coffee.”

“We? As in, Jo is awake too?”

Charlie yawns loudly. “Yes. Bring us coffee.” And then she hangs up.

Dean frowns at his phone before putting it away. “Looks like the girls are awake. I guess I’ve got a couple other orders to make now too.”

Flourless-Guy just smiles and nods. “What would they like?”

“Something with caffeine.” He sighs and glances at the menu again. “It’s the season for Starbucks’s Pumpkin Spice Latte. Do you have anything like that? Jo loves that stupid shit.”

“We have something similar.”

“Cover it in whipped cream and I’ll take that and a Caramel Candy Corn, whatever the hell that is.” From the board it looks like something Charlie would normally drink, but the name of it kinda throws Dean a bit. Whoever named the drinks here gave them all ridiculous candy based names. It’s making Dean’s sweet tooth ache and he eyes the display case again.

He drums his fingers on the counter as Flourless-Guy finishes up with entering the order. “I never noticed this place before. How long have you guys been here?”

“We opened on Monday.”

Well, that sure explains some things. “It looks pretty nice. Have you been doing well here?”

Flourless-Guy nods and looks up from the cash register. “More so during the day than at night, but we’ve had our fair share of Creature and college students coming in. I suspect we’ll build a bigger client base once we’ve become more established in the neighbourhood.”

He taps the customer display on the front of the register to show the price and then turns away. “I’ll just be a moment getting all the coffee done since –” He turns his head towards the kitchen and calls out the last of his sentence; “– someone doesn’t want to help.

The Balthazar guy calls back; “Busy, Cassie! Busy!”

Cassie? Wow, that brings back memories. Dean totally dated a Cassie back in high school. She was his first girlfriend when he was a freshmen. Now the question here is whether or not Flourless-Guy is actually named Cassie, or if it’s a kind of nickname. He’s willing to bet on the nickname, but it’s hard to tell in this day and age and especially where Creatures are concerned.

With a roll of his eyes, Cassie throws Dean an exasperated look before he shrugs and starts making the coffees. Dean snorts a laugh and looks down to start counting out his change. Hopefully he’s got enough on him, or he’s going to have to resort to paying on card. Either way, the girls are going to owe him no matter what. After the party last night, they should be paying for his drink too. Actually, he just might give them the whole bill for this coffee run for that reason alone.

Thankfully, he’s got enough cash for this. The Graveyard Shift definitely has better prices than Starbucks and Dean foresees himself spending many a night shift here to get his caffeine fix. He has all of his change and bills counted out to the cent by the time Cassie has all the drinks finished.

“Could I get a tray, please?”

“Of course.” Cassie exchanges a tray for the money and Dean puts the drinks into it while his order gets cashed out.

Okay, this is it. If Dean doesn’t ask about it right now, then he’s going to be leaving the store without learning what happened and there is no way his curiosity is going to be able to stand that. If he doesn’t find out what was up with the flour, then he’s going to end up back here in thirty minutes to demand an answer. If he ever wanted to hit on the hot barista again, painting himself as the crazy fireman is totally the way to do it.

“I’m sorry, but I gotta ask.” He plants his hands on the counter and looks up to meet Cassie’s eye. “What the heck was up with the flour?”

Cassie looks up from sorting the money into the cash register. He pauses before frowning and looking back down again. “My brother thinks he’s funny.”

“Mr. British Lazy Dough?” If they’re brothers, then why does Cassie not have an accent too? Holy shit, if he had an accent and looked like he does, Dean wouldn’t stand a freaking chance.

“No, Balthazar is my employee.” Cassie shakes his head and points a finger upward. “My brother, Gabriel, is sleeping in our apartment. He runs the café during the day while I sleep.”

Alright then. That’s another point in the Vampire column. Dean doesn’t really know that many Creatures who don’t go out during the day. He really should brush up on his Bestiary knowledge. It would make guessing what kind of Creatures people are a whole lot more fun. That’s half the fun in knowing Creatures, even if he’s totally wrong the majority of the time. Take Ash for instance. Dean literally has no clue what he is. Actually, nobody does. He’s a complete and utter mystery.

No, no. Dean shouldn’t be thinking about Ash right now. He should be subtly hitting on the hot barista to get a feeling for whether or not he’s into guys too. That’s what Charlie said he should do when he encounters an attractive guy and he’s not sure if he’s gay or not. Alright, okay. Joke time. Dean is good at those and they’re all he’s got to break the ice.

“So, you could say that you’re up all night to get lucky?”

Oh God, why did he say that? That was literally the worst joke he could have made. He’s kicking himself for it before Cassie even looks at him, eyebrows drawn together in what is clearly complete and utter confusion. Oh great. Of course he had to use a song based joke on someone who’s apparently ignorant to all things pop culture.

“Never mind, sorry. That was – it’s a shitty joke.” He ducks his head and picks up the tray. “It’s a song that I just – Sorry.”

“Oh, I see.” Cassie nods and his expression clears up. “Is there anything else that I can do for you?”

His phone number would be a good place to start, but Dean at least knows enough about flirting to not ask that right off the bat. Not if he ever wants to come here again, that is. Instead, he tilts his head towards the display case. “Maybe you could start stocking pies?”

“Pies?”

Dean nods and actually gestures at it this time. “You have none.”

Cassie leans to the side to glance at the display case. “I guess we don’t. I’ll let my brother know. He’s the baker in the family and I’m sure he’ll consider it if we have customers who are interested in it.”

“Sweet. That’s – yeah – that’s great.” Dean picks up his tray and ducks his head in a kind of goodbye nod. “I’ll – uh – I’ll see you later then.” He gets one step away before he turns back and puts the tray down only to hold his hand out. “I’m Dean, by the way. Dean Winchester; Firefighter extraordinaire. I’ll be in – um – often, I guess. For Coffee. Can’t do a graveyard shift without it. But I guess you already knew that, huh?”

A smile creeps across Cassie’s face. “I do.” He actually accepts the handshake. “I’m Castiel Novak. It’s nice to meet you, Dean.”

So it was a nickname. No wonder, too. Castiel is a heck of a mouthful, but Dean likes it. That kinda name definitely fits a guy who wears a buttoned up waist coat for a café shift. Not that Dean’s complaining of course. Castiel definitely has the form for it, because he looks good. Flour dust and all.

Oh God, Dean needs to think about something else. He can feel a blush come on and he’s going to start eyeing up the barista like some kind of pervert or something. This is Cas’s place of work for fuck’s sake.

“Y-yeah, you too. Definitely.” Dean yanks his hand back and picks up the coffee again. He backs away and bumps right into a table. “Shit!” It actually scares him a bit and Dean whips around to make sure it wasn’t a person. “Sorry!” Oh God, he must look like such an idiot. “I’m just – yeah – Bye!”

Before he can say or do anything else that will make him look like a complete dumbass, Dean gets the hell out of dodge. Well, he just made a truly stellar first impression. This is the first time he’s ever met Cas and he just went and probably made a fool of himself. If he wants to get his flirt on, Dean is going to have to build a better game plan. Maybe then he won’t be so flustered and throw everything out there right away. He can do something like come by often and get to know Cas over a period of time. Throw out some flirting every now and then to test the waters and if Cas shows a positive reception, then Dean can ask him out like a normal human being.

Of course, that plan hinges entirely on whether or not Cas is even into guys. And if he’s single. Oh, and if he’s not some kind of secret douche. Dean knows plenty of people who are all polite smiles when they’re at work, then when they’re off shift they’re some of the biggest assholes you’ve ever met.

God, Dean is making this out to be way more complicated than it actually is. And he has got to put this behind him before he reaches the fire hall. If Charlie and Jo get wind of what just happened, they’re going to lock their jaws and never let go of it until they get every single detail out of him. It’s going to be a nightmare for him if he doesn’t do something to act like he didn’t make a complete and utter fool of himself in front of a really hot guy.

Dean stops outside the door to the common room to take a deep breath and find his inner calm. When he walks into the room, he throws an arm out and singsongs; “The fuuuuun has arriiiiiived!”

Immediately, Charlie pops her head up from the couch. Her eyes are almost closed and her hair is mussed up from sleep. She pulls some earbuds out of her ears as she tilts her head to take a couple sniffs at the air. “I smell coffee.”

Jo is face down on the table, looking like she’s ready to pass out again. Dean sighs and puts her coffee down by her head. “How come the sleeping beauties have woken up?”

The only answer he gets from Charlie is a pathetic grab for her cup. “Give me coffee.”

“She woke up because she has an addiction.” Jo groans and lifts her head, purely so she can start drinking her coffee. “And she woke me up when she walked into my bed.”

“And of course you couldn’t possibly have gone to sleep again.” He teases and pats her on the back after passing Charlie her drink. “Now what addiction does Little Miss Riding Hood have this time?”

Game of Thrones.” She yawns widely and throws a dirty look in Charlie’s direction. “I tried to pry the laptop outta her so she’d get some sleep, but she threatened to set me on fire.”

Dean sighs again takes a seat at the table across from her. “I warned you guys that this would happen when we got Wi-Fi in here.”

“She has it on a flash drive.” Jo kicks back in her chair and muffles a yawn. “There’s no stopping her when it comes to her addictions. I think we need to hold an intervention.”

Charlie makes a hissing noise as she puts her headphones back in. Dean rolls his eyes and takes a sip of his coffee, biting back a moan as pure sweet caffeine bliss hits his tongue. He sits back in his chair too with a contented sigh. Cas makes some damn good coffee. If the looks alone weren’t enough to keep Dean coming back for more, than the coffee most definitely is.

“Okay, sunshine.” Jo leans forward suddenly to rest her elbows on the table. “Out with it.”

“Out with what?” He raises an eyebrow at her. What’s got her panties in a twist now?

The smile that spreads quick and wicked across her face actually sends a shiver of fear down Dean’s spine. “Out with it, Dean-o. Who are they?”

Oh God. What did he do to give himself away? Dean is practically positive that he was the perfect image of calm and collected. And he’s going to keep maintaining that or else she’s going to know exactly what’s up. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

“Yes, you do.” Jo wiggles her eyebrows at him and props her chin up in her hands. “You’ve got the absolute dopiest grin on your face. I’m going to hazard a guess that the barista was hot stuff. So, dish the dirt, Winchester. This coffee isn’t going to keep us awake on its own.”

“Speak for yourself.” He huffs and looks away. His coffee is perfection and her nosiness isn’t going to dull it in the slightest. “You didn’t have to wake up.”

Jo shakes her head and clicks her tongue at him a few times. “Oh, but I did and now you must face my sleep deprived wrath. Tell me about the damn barista girl before you make me pull out the big guns.”

Dean has no idea what Jo’s supposed ‘big guns’ are supposed to be, but he’s not all that interested in finding out. Plus, he’s kinda itching to tell his best friends about Cas anyways. They just don’t need to know that he was a complete and utter idiot in front of him. Okay, yeah, that sounds good. He’ll just keep that under wraps and all should be good.

“Is barista considered gender neutral?”

That wicked smile is back into play, this time coupled with a laugh of delight. Jo loves it when she wins. “A guy! Alright, I can get behind that.” She pauses mid giggle. “Or, wait. Was he a Creature? He could’ve been one of those ones that don’t have a gender.”

“You want me to jump to conclusions when I just met the guy?” Dean gives her a disapproving look and clicks his tongue at her. Oh, how the tables of turned. “He didn’t say anything about being whatever, so I dunno.” He shrugs and takes another sip of his nirvana in a couple. “My money is on Vampire, though. He’s got the teeth for it and he said he sleeps during the day.”

Jo rolls her eyes because she knows damn well that’s not a good enough reason. “Yeah, so do we after a graveyard shift, and we’re Humans.”

Charlie clears her throat rather loudly at them. “Excuse you. I am a Phoenix.”

“Yes, Charlie, we know.” She sighs and makes a shooing gesture.

A quiet cough from one of the other chairs by the TV has Jo shaking her head and rolling her eyes. “Yes, Benny, we know you’re the Vampiric exception in our ranks.” She pauses for a moment to make sure there’s no other interruptions before slapping a hand on the table. “But we’re deviating from what’s really important here! Dean, tell us all about the hot barista and how he’s the love of your life!”

Dean fixes her with a flat look. Hot barista or not, there is literally no way for him to tell if Cas is the love of his life or not. While he might love himself a good Disney movie or romantic anime every once in a while, Dean Winchester does not believe in love at first sight. Cas seems kinda cool and he’s interested in getting to know him better, but so far that’s it.

“I’m not gossiping about shit that didn’t happen, Jo.”

“Fine, fine.” She sighs and reaches for the deck of cards always left out in the middle of the table. “I’ll drop this and kick your ass at a game of cards if you can answer me one question.”

Here they go. This is probably going to be a doozy of a question and Dean is going to hate it. He can already feel his balls trying to crawl back up into him for safety. “Great. What is it?”

Jo fixes him with that slow, wicked grin again. “What’s the colour of his eyes?”

Shit. She knows damn well that if Dean paid enough attention to pick up on the colour of someone’s eyes, then he definitely has the hots for them. In this case, Dean really wouldn’t mind playing a good ol’ game of tonsil hockey with Cas. If they bumped into each other at the club that he and Charlie go to from time to time, Dean would absolutely be grinding up on that. Especially since he confirmed that he is one hundred percent into guys too.

But, yeah. That’s not a question he’s going to answer. “For your information, I didn’t notice.” He turns up his nose at her and takes a long draw from his coffee.

And of course it’s right then that Charlie has to give her two cents. “Blue.” Apparently she wasn’t watching the show at all and she’s been watching them over the edge of her coffee cup the whole time. Isn’t that just peachy?

Dean sticks his tongue out at her. “Fuck off.”

A pleased grin lights up her otherwise like-the-dead look. “Yup, most definitely blue.”

Jo straightens up in surprise and glances back over her shoulder. “How do you know?”

Charlie tips her head in Dean’s direction without moving the coffee from her lips. “He only goes that particular shade of red when the eyes are blue.”

Jesus Christ, was Dean just betrayed by his rosy red cheeks? He brings his hands to his face to cover them, and sure enough they’re warm as hell. When the fuck did he start blushing? Who gave his body permission to do that? It sure as hell wasn’t him. He feels betrayed on all accounts. Betrayed by his body and by his so called best friends.

“I’m the hottest one here. How the hell am I the one who gets picked on the most?” Dean slumps back in his chair and crosses his arms like a petulant child. If they’re going to mock him, then he’s going to milk this pity party for all it’s worth.

“Because I’m a geek and a nerd and I take no shame in being both.” Charlie shrugs and takes another sip of her coffee. “It makes me too easy a target. Jo is too scary to pick on because she collects knives. Benny can and will literally suck your blood. Bobby’s the boss, so no one messes with him. Your parents are too awesome to tease, plus they’re parents and it’s the unspoken rule that you never pick on someone who has kids.”

Okay, but that still leaves half the force for them to be assholes to. “What about Nick?” Not to mention Meg, or Ruby, or any of the half dozen other folks they’ve got in the wings.

Charlie shakes her head and fixes Dean with a very serious stare. “We call him Lucifer for a reason.”

Is there anything this girl doesn’t know? “Charlie, we joined the crew at the same time. How in the hell do you know all of this?”

She flashes him a grin full of pearly whites. “I collect information like it’s going out of style.” Clearly she’s getting a kick out of flaunting her big brain. “You haven’t even asked me about the rest of the squad. Go ahead. Don’t you want to hear why we don’t tease the others?”

“I’m scared to ask.” He shakes his head and hunkers down even more in his seat, trying to make himself look like less of a target. “You scare me.”

“The fear is why you keep me close.” She nods solemnly and pulls her laptop back into her lap. “That’s why you thought it was a good idea to move in with me.”

There is something inherently wrong with that logic. “Excuse you, but you are the one who moved in with me!” He has the dates on their rental agreements to prove it. His was signed at least a month before hers, because it took him that long to come to term with the fact that he didn’t like to live alone and it was way nicer to only have to pay half the rent. Only paying a third sounded really nice too, and that’s how they ended up with Jo.

Charlie shakes her head slowly and doesn’t look up from her computer. “That’s what you think.”

“I’m the one with the master bedroom!” Dean refused to give it up to either of the girls when they moved in. It would be way better if he had his own private bathroom instead of having to share it with the girls, but it’s got the biggest closet and that means storage space. Besides, if it wasn’t for him, their bathroom would be a complete and utter disaster.

Last Christmas Dean had gone away for a week with the rest of the Winchester clan for some vacation time. When he got back he almost broke down and cried at the disaster zone he returned to – and it wasn’t even contained to the bathroom. The whole house was just one huge pig sty. They’re girls! Isn’t it against their genetic makeup or something to be so fucking messy?

Jo starts giggling and she and Charlie share a look. It immediately puts Dean on edge. “What was that about? What aren’t you telling me?”

“We let you have the master bedroom and everything because it means that you have to pay a bigger cut of the rent.” She shrugs and tries her best to look innocent while she shuffles the cards. “Why else do you think that neither one of us fought you for the right of having that massive closet?”

“You cheap bastards.”

“Don’t sulk, freckles.” Jo taps her foot against his knee in favour of a comforting pat on the arm. “You love your bedroom too much to hate us for the reasons we let you have it.”

This is true, but he still doesn’t like feeling like he’s been played. He crosses his arms tightly over his chest and starts glowering at them. The teasing has been in full swing since last night and he’s getting a little sick of it. How long before their out of this mood where he’s the butt end of every other joke? He knows they mean well, but they get like this sometimes and he doesn’t like feeling like he’s being ganged up on.

After a stretch of silence, Benny clears his throats. “Keep up the jabs, won’t’cha? There’s nothing good on TV and this is about the only entertainment I’m getting tonight.”

Dean throws his hands in the air and tosses a glare in Benny’s direction. When Charlie laughs, Dean turns his glare on her. “Don’t you have a Game of Thrones episode you should be watching?”

Charlie nods and then holds up a little device that looks like the letter ‘y’. “I do.” She wiggles the thing at him and adopts a singsong tone to her voice. “And I happen to have this headphone splitter that might just conveniently allow someone else to watch it with me.”

And this is why he keeps her around, even when she’s teasing him. Dean downs half his coffee before fetching his headphones from his locker and making his way to the couch to join her. “Move your tiny feathered ass over.”

“How many times do I have to tell you that I don’t literally have feathers?” She rolls her eyes and shuffles over slightly.

“Let a man dream.”

One of the biggest disappointments in Dean’s life was when he discovered that a Phoenix wasn’t literally a giant fiery bird like they’re depicted in mythos. They were once upon a time, but they’ve evolved and bred with Humans too much and now they look like every-day people, kinda. Charlie’s red hair is so vibrant that anyone would think it’s fake, but it’s one hundred percent real. So are the bright red flecks of red scattered across her skin in places – mostly around the hinge of her jaw and at her shoulders, elbows, and knees. She’s got a bit around her eyes too. They start to glow when she gets mad and Dean swears he once saw fire start to flicker out from them.

On the plus side, while a Phoenix doesn’t have a feathers, Charlie does have the ability to create and control fire. She’s one hundred percent fireproof too, which makes her really useful to have as a firefighter. Aside from that, Charlie is basically immortal too. If something happens like she gets hit by a car or has a building fall on her, her body bursts into flames and she gets reborn from the ashes. At least that part of the mythos was right. Unfortunately it also means that she has to go through childhood and the teenage years all over again. And that shit isn’t sped up for them at all now that they’ve got a healthy dose of Human in their DNA.

Charlie is a pretty new Phoenix, by their standards. She’s still shiny and new from being born. No rebirths for her. Not yet, at least. Dean hopes that she doesn’t think she’s indestructible, though. He would hate to lose his best friend, even if she won’t really be gone. She’s never told him how the Phoenix thing works with memories. If she had to be reborn from her ashes, would she remember him right away? Or would the memories be lost for good? That’s a question he’s been too scared to ask. It’s a bridge he’ll cross if they ever end up getting to it.

Dean drops onto the couch next to her and wiggles to get some more room. “Shove over and share the Dothraki porn already.”

She laughs and takes the cord of his headphones to add it to the splitter. “I’m so happy that I converted you. It’s always more fun to watch with friends.”

“Oh, like it was that hard to convert me.” He grins at her and pops the earbuds into his ears. It’s no big secret that Dean is a total sucker for this kind of stuff. And it’s definitely not the only thing that Charlie has ‘converted’ him into trying (and liking) over the years.

Jo groans loudly and hangs her head over the back of her chair. “But we were going to play a card game, Dean! You can’t just abandon me like this.”

He makes a shooing gesture at her without taking his eyes off the screen, the show already starting. “Benny is better at poker than me and he’s bored. Play with him.”

She turns in her seat to set the puppy eyes on the other comfy chair in the TV area. “Benny?”

The TV flicks off immediately and he stretches as he stands. “Always happy to school a rookie. Deal the cards while I get m’self another drink.”

His crazy co-workers aside, Dean actually really loves his job and his life. He couldn’t ask for things to be better than this, but it would be nice if the romantic side of his life was a little better. And, hey, maybe that new café (and the new barista) will spice up his work and his personal life that little bit more?

“I am going to kill Gabriel.” Castiel managed to keep his temper in check while he had a customer, but he is absolutely furious with his big brother right now.

“Could you not?” Balthazar drawls as he rolls out stretches of dough to make baguettes. “He signs my paycheck and I’d rather like him to stay alive.”

Huffing, Castiel gives a vicious sweep of the broom to try and collect all the flour on the floor. “For the record, I also sign your paychecks.”

“Seeing as how he is the one who does the payroll while you sleep all day, I think I’d rather keep him, if you don’t mind.” He pauses and turns to throw an amused smirk in Castiel’s face. “And for the record, Cassie, you forgot your name tag again. No wonder the poor fireman had to introduce himself first to get yours.”

Oh the cheek to this one! Balthazar has always had an attitude since the first day they met, and sometimes it rubs Castiel’s nerves the wrong way. Perhaps that’s why he gets along so well with Gabriel. He’s lucky that he gives Castiel the respect owed him for being his boss (and an excellent one at that, he might add). Otherwise, he wouldn’t get off so easy for how absolutely witty he apparently has to be all the time.

Castiel growls low in his throat and elects to ignore Balthazar for the time being while he cleans up the results of Gabriel’s little prank. However, he does take a quick break to fetch his name tag from the little filing hutch by the stairs where all employee related items are. He does have to admit that setting a bowl of flour to drop on his head is a rather good way to stop him from sneaking some frozen treats from the walk-in freezer, but it is still an exceptionally rude way of doing it. Not to mention that it is exactly zero fun to have to dry and clean frozen flour off the freezer floor.

All Castiel wanted was just one – one – little ice cream sandwich. Was that too much to ask? Was it really such a big deal to Gabriel that he couldn’t even let his baby brother – his only brother – have just one? Regardless, the situation did not call for the need for booby traps. Oh, Gabriel is going to get quite the earful in the morning. Not only for all this extra work he’s making Castiel do, and not just for hiding the sandwiches on him so he doesn’t even get to have a frozen delight. Oh no. Gabriel is going to get a stern lecture for making Castiel look ridiculous in front of a customer.

It wouldn’t have been quite so bad if he hadn’t found said customer to be rather attractive. And that is where that line of thinking is going to end. Because that thing, right there, is never going to happen. Not ever. Nope. Castiel has had thirteen years of suppressing his physical and emotional attractions to people and one good looking firefighter is not going to undo all that hard work. This is going to be difficult at all. Especially since he barely knows a thing about the firefight, aside from his name.

Just to be sure, Castiel brings his hand to the front of his shirt and presses down on the crystal hanging around his neck. He holds on to it and takes deep, meditation-like breaths until the urge to dwell further on attractive firefighters subsides completely. After a few moments, Castiel gets back to cleaning. By the time he’s done, he’s put all thoughts of one Dean Winchester out of his mind. It would be much better for him to focus instead on how he’s going to get Gabriel back for his little prank.

“Balthazar, I need your mad genius.”

“Ah, I love it when you acknowledge my greatness.” He laughs and covers each tray of dough with plastic wrap. He slides the trays onto a rolling rack and leaves them in a corner of the kitchen to rise. “Now, what is it you need of me?”

Castiel slams the freezer door, finally finished with the cleaning. “Revenge.”

A manic grin spreads across Balthazar’s face, looking all the more devious because of his Fae characteristics. The pointed ears, other-worldly eyes, and ethereal features only lend power to it. His set of gossamer wings even flutter slightly with his delight.

“Now you’re speaking my language, Cassie.” He rubs his hands together, not just to knock flecks of dough from his fingers. “Did you have anything in mind? Do you want a traditional prank or something a little more unique?”

“Traditional for now. If Gabriel turns this into a war, we’ll have to up the ante.” Castiel tucks the broom away behind the spiral staircase in the corner of the kitchen. “Do I have your loyalty?”

Balthazar puts a hand on Castiel’s shoulder and gives him a sympathetic look. “You know me, Cassie. Fae never take sides. If Gabriel asks for my assistance, I’ll help him just as much as I’ll help you.”

This could potentially lead to disaster, but he has no other choice. “Well, it’s better than nothing.”

“Great!” With a laugh, Balthazar slaps him on the shoulder and steps away. “Now get me a bucket full of water. I’ll fetch the step stool and we’ll put together something over the door to your apartment.”

Oh, that’s a rather good idea. It’s no flour incident, but it will definitely be an excellent wake-up call for Gabriel when he comes downstairs in the morning. In a way, Castiel is just being a helpful little brother. Gabriel is always a little groggy before he’s had his coffee. It’s one of the benefits of having to be down in the bakery by five o’clock.

Balthazar is up on the stepping stool and fixing the bucket of water into place when he starts having his doubts. He drops his voice into a whisper and twists to look down at Castiel. “Are you sure you want to do this? I’m fairly certain Gabriel has magic.”

“Yes, he does. As evidenced by our licenses in the café.” Castiel shrugs and waves a hand in a go on motion. “But so do I and if he retaliates with magic, I’ll deal with it then.”

“I’m never one to walk out on a prank, Cassie, but I was under the impression that Gabriel had more magic than you.” He still sounds unsure and shifts his weight back and forth on the stool.

Castiel frowns up at him and narrows his eyes slightly. “As true as that might be, I believe I’m fully capable of holding my own against him when it comes to revenge. And if this evolves into a pranking war, then I’m going to have to play dirty because he is better at this than me by far.”

“What happens if I refuse to help any further than this for fear of getting caught in the backlash?”

He shrugs and glances at the door into the apartment. “I suppose you’ll get the cold shoulder from me.”

Balthazar nods and looks up at where he’s holding the bucket in place. “I could live with that.” He hums and shifts his weight again. “Give me a moment to weigh my options.”

Oh. Castiel thinks he might see what the cause of his cold feet might be. “I’m not going to tell Gabriel that you had anything to do with this, Balthazar.”

“You won’t?” His wings perk up and flutter slightly. “Well then, by all means, I’m in.” He finishes up what he was doing and steps down from the stool. “If he does decide to get you back for this, then I’ve got a few things in mind that we could do.”

Excellent. Castiel has nothing and Balthazar is going to prove to be quite the resourceful accomplice. He does have one question though; “Will any of your future pranks involve magic?”

Because while it may be true that Castiel has some, he isn’t even remotely as talented at is at his brother is. His magic is mostly used to help everyday tasks. He can make water boil in an instant, or perk up a plant that looks like it’s dying. Castiel can even make small objects float for a short period of time. And that’s more or less the limit of his magic. Gabriel can do so much more.

Maybe he really is getting over his head with this.

Balthazar flaps his hand at him before he folds up the stepping stool. “Don’t worry about it. I’ll take care of it if we ever need to use any magic.”

Ah, yes. Fae magic. It was practically designed to play pranks on people. Balthazar is definitely going to be a powerful ally during this prank war even though he’s promised that he’s not taking sides. Castiel can only hope that Gabriel won’t see the benefit of asking him to join along. There is also an added bonus to Balthazar using his Fae magic that neither he nor Gabriel might see, but Castiel sees it and he is very pleased with it.

“Gabriel isn’t experience with your brand of magic.” He explains as they descend back into the kitchen. “He’s going to have a harder time countering it.”

Balthazar’s wings rise up behind him, spreading to flutter excitedly. “Well, isn’t that just wonderful! Oh, this is getting exciting.” He claps his hands and turns to Castiel. “Will I be getting a bonus for all this extra work I’ll be putting in?”

“We just opened a few days ago. Do you really think that our finances has a margin for bonuses yet?” The have a skeleton crew for staff and Castiel and Gabriel aren’t even taken their own wages from the income yet. They’ve got some savings left over from before they decided to open a café together, so they can afford to not pay themselves for a little bit. Everything they make in these first few weeks needs to go towards paying their employees first, then paying off their bills and making sure the mortgage gets paid. Only after that will the two of them take their dues. Even then, the money is just going to go straight back into the business. Or, at least, into savings.

With a shrug, Balthazar brushes past on his way to check the dough. “Couldn’t hurt to ask.”

Castiel rolls his eyes and head back into the café portion of the building. He should be watching the counter anyways, in case anyone comes in. And now that he’s dealt with the flour debacle, he can sit back with a nice book or a stack of origami paper and relax for the rest of his shift. All of his cleaning usually gets done in the first few hours of his shift, so there really is nothing left but tend to the customers for the rest of the night.

*

The clock on the cash register reads ten minutes before five o’clock when Castiel hears a splash and a very womanly like screech. It’s followed with Balthazar uproariously loud laughter and a string of creative curses all centered on Castiel’s name. What a wonderfully gleeful feeling it is to live up to his requirements as a younger sibling. With a pleased sigh, Castiel turns to the next page of his book and calmly waits for Gabriel to make his appearance.

He maintains his calm and cool demeanor when Gabriel walks through the door ten minutes later. His clothing is dry, but his hair is still damp and sticking to his head in places. “I see you went after my pudding pops last night. Just like I knew you would.”

Pudding pops? Well, that’s disappointing. It’s a good thing he didn’t find them then. “I thought they were ice cream sandwiches.”

“I finished those off yesterday afternoon.” Gabriel huffs and heads to the cappuccino machine. “You need to leave my sweets alone, Cassie. Go buy your own.”

Castiel hums and glances up from his book to flash a smile at him. “But I like the thrill of stolen goods.”

Gabriel gives him a wounded look. “When did my sweet baby bro grow up to be so warped?”

There are a number of things that could have done it, but Castiel prides himself on not turning out as bad as he could have, considering their pasts. That doesn’t mean he shouldn’t continue playing with Gabriel like this. “Would you like a play by play explanation?”

“I’m good, thanks.” His nose crinkles and he points a dramatic finger at him. “This isn’t over, Cassie. Mark my words, I will get my revenge for this.”

“I would expect nothing less from you, Gabriel.” Castiel nods and looks back down at his book. “But keep in mind the age old saying, dear brother mine; an eye for an eye.”

Gabriel points two fingers at his eyes and turns this quickly on Castiel. “I’ve got my eye on you.”

“How is that any different from usual?”

With a huff, Gabriel turns on his heel, takes his cappuccino, and stomps off to the kitchen. Castiel waits a whole five minutes before he marks his page and closes the book. At a much more sedate and far too smug pace, he heads to the kitchen. Unlike Gabriel, Castiel stays in the doorway and leans against the frame, watching as his brother takes out the premade pastry dough from the day before.

“Are you not even going to ask how my shift went?” There’s one very important bit of news that he can’t wait to share with his brother.

There is no small measure of suspicion in Gabriel’s eyes as he regards Castiel from across his work top. “What should I be asking about, exactly?”

It’s impossible to contain his grin and Castiel fixes him with a bright, happy smile. “How about, for starters, I tell you about how I’ve won our bet.”

Gabriel very nearly drops the bowl in his hands, shock clear on his face. “You what?”

Ah yes, the bet. One of many, to be exact, but there is one penultimate wager made and Castiel barely managed to maintain his glee when the firefighter won it for him. “I said; I win. Someone made a joke about the restaurant name on a Thursday.”

“I call bullshit.” He shakes his head and crosses his arms, being about as stubborn as he can be. “I refuse to believe that it happened on the one day of the week that you actually picked. You didn’t even want any other day! I bet it’s because you set the customer up for it, didn’t you? Where’d you meet them to start your dastardly plans, Cassie? Where?”

“I can assure you that I did no such thing.” Castiel puts a hand to his chest and raises his eyebrows to portray the perfection of innocence. “I’m wounded that you would even suggest that I would do such a thing.” He truly is, actually. Castiel is plenty conniving in his own way, but he would never think to cheat to win any of their bets – no matter how sweet the winnings would be.

A loud laugh interrupts their argument and Balthazar turns from bagging the bread. “I’ll swear on my mother’s wings, Cassie honestly didn’t. The hot firefighter was as awkward as a Centaur on roller-skates. He stumbled into that joke as hard as he fell for Cassie’s big baby blues.”

“He wasn’t that bad.” Castiel frowns at him for mocking one of their customers. “And he most certainly did no falling.” Please, Balthazar, do not destroy the hard work he did earlier to put the attractive fireman out of his mind.

Balthazar shakes his head and smiles. “I’m sorry, Cassie, but he most definitely was and he most definitely did. He called you dude. Unironically!”

At that, Gabriel turns a curious look to Castiel, his eyebrows raised. No words are necessary to get across that he is now very interested in learning all about Castiel’s interaction with the so named hot firefighter. Granted, Dean was very attractive, but that’s beside the point. Nothing happened, nothing ever will happen, and there is absolutely nothing else for him to talk about on that subject matter.

Instead, Castiel shrugs and turns away. “The point of the matter is that I win the bet and I’ll be taking my prize when you least expect it.”

“Rest assured, Cassie, I’ll know if you’re lying to me and you’ve got Balthazar in on it.” Gabriel slaps his hands down on the worktop and leans over it. “I’m going to check the cameras and I’ll get the real truth about what happened last night.”

“You do whatever makes it easiest for you to sleep at night, big brother.” Castiel waves over his shoulder as he heads back to the front. He even whistles a jaunty tune, pleased to have won.

Now he gets to do one thing to their home that Gabriel absolutely can’t veto. If Castiel has lost the bet, he’s positive that Gabriel would have done something like get a fully functioning gumball machine for their apartment. Or maybe he would have bought himself an arcade game. No, no. He would have purchased a video game console. Yes, that’s more like. No matter what, it would have been something loud or in the way and Castiel would have thought it completely unnecessary.

Happily, that isn’t the case and it will never happen. Castiel can take comfort in spending the last few hours of his shift thinking about what he could get. He’s got a few things that he would like. Gabriel is already complaining about the number of plants that Castiel has filled the café, the patio, their apartment, and his rooftop garden with. There are still some blank spots in the arrangement that could use a few more plants.

Oh, but what about an apiary? A nice little beehive for the corner of his roof? The bees would pollinate his flowers and they would be so cute. Just a whole hive of little buzzing bumble bees. Ah, Castiel gets happy shivers just thinking about it. He would love to learn how to become a beekeeper. It would be so much fun!

Thankfully, there’s no deadline for their bet. No matter how long he takes to make up his mind, Castiel can and will get whatever he wants. To be honest, he’s rather looking forward to holding this over Gabriel’s head for the unforeseen future.

Chapter Text

        

Monday – September 28 th , 2015

Who knew that the unforeseen future would only be a handful of days? Castiel had expected to lord his winnings over Gabriel for at least a couple more months. It’s doubtful that even Gabriel would have expected that he would find something so quickly, or that he would find it in a dark alleyway at the corner of Elm and School Street.

*

One of the first things Castiel is informed of when he wakes up in the early evening hours is that the day has been extremely cloudy – even raining on and off at some points. So cloudy, in fact, that even though the sun hadn’t set, he was still able to go for a walk much earlier than usual. Castiel’s normal walk would be to leave an hour before his shift starts at eleven o’clock and take twenty to thirty minutes to walk around downtown. As soon as he had learned that it was cloudy, he put on his shoes, threw on his coat and headed out a good hour or so earlier than he usually would.

The town is so different at this time of night and Castiel can never find the words for how much he enjoys having these early walks – which is why he can hardly wait for winter to come. There are just so many more people walking around. Children laughing and swinging from their parents hands, or streaking by on their bicycles as they head home for the night. Even most of the shops and restaurants are still open and he takes full advantage of that by stopping in to explore them before they close. It’s a little unfair that the sun keeps him from being able to explore some of the shops in the area. But not everyone can afford to stay open overnight for the decided small portion of the population that can’t be out during the day.

By the time Castiel reaches The Three Penny Taproom at the corner of Hazen Place and Main Street, not even a whole five minutes up the road from his home, he can already tell that tomorrow morning he’s going to need the sleep. He’s far too tired right now for someone who just woke up an hour ago, and he can feel himself getting weaker. Food will help offset that feeling for the night, but if he puts off the sleep for another day, he’ll have trouble getting up and moving around tomorrow night no matter how much he eats.

With that in mind, he ducks into the restaurant to get himself a container of fish and chips to go. He could just sit in the restaurant and eat there, but he’d much rather get the fresh air that he craves all that time. It’s in his blood to love the outdoors. He simply can’t deny that being stuck surrounded by four walls is an itch under his skin. It’s why he converted the top most roof of their building into a garden. There’s nothing better than being surrounded by open air and plants.

Once he has his container of food, Castiel hits Main Street again and follows it up to School Street. He turns left there and follows it across the bridge, pausing on the bridge itself so he can look out at the water. There’s a whole flock of a dozen or more geese sitting on the banks of the river. Some of them are floating back and forth in the water by the rest of their friends. Castiel watches them until he’s halfway done with his fries before he continues on his walk.

At Elm Street, he takes another left. Just as he’s passing the small alleyway between two buildings, he hears a quiet sound that makes him hesitate. Castiel’s first thought is that it’s someone on the fire escape and he glances over just to be sure. To his surprise, there doesn’t appear to be a soul in the alley way. The street lights don’t really pierce the darkness between the buildings, but Castiel has excellent eyes that see better in than dark than most people – Creature or Human. Even his eyes don’t spot anyone standing on the stairs or under them, or even in the brush behind the buildings.

Just as he’s ready to continue walking, Castiel hears the sound again, and this time it is very distinct. To him, it sounds like a meow. He chews thoughtfully on a fry and approaches the alley, this time looking at the ground instead of the average height of a person. If Gabriel was here, Castiel would be getting subjected to a hell of a lecture about safety. Even if the noise sounds like a cat, it could be any manner of Creature trying to lure him in for a grim demise. Of course, that’s extremely doubtful. Montpelier is one of the safest towns they had been considering when trying to find somewhere to choose as home. Gabriel wouldn’t have settled for anything less.

Castiel feels vindicated when the meow happens again and this time it’s accompanied by a dirty ball of fur that waddles out from behind the trash cans. The poor thing looks to be mostly made of fur and almost all of it is matted and clumped together by mud and God knows what else. Two dark triangles poke out the top of the mess of fur. The cat’s face is dark too and Castiel can’t tell if it’s dirt or the colour of the fur, but there’s no mistaking the big blue eyes shining up at him.

The cat walks up within a few feet of him and sits down. It meows again and sits back on its hind legs, both front legs coming up to paw at the air – at him. Castiel’s chest goes tight and he finds himself crouching before he realizes what he’s doing. He balances his container of food on his knees and pulls out one of the strips of fried fish. This might not be the healthiest thing to feed a cat, but it’s better than nothing and he can’t just leave this poor thing here without giving it something.

He blows on the fish softly while he pulls it apart and make sure there’s no breading on any of the white strips. As he works on the fish, the cat continues meowing loudly at him. It’s stopped pawing at the air and has started packing back and forth in front of him. The first piece of fish Castiel throws on the ground at the cat’s feet and it falls in it with a happy meow. It even starts to purr while it’s eating the fish, and as soon as it’s done it looks up at him expectantly.

The next piece of fish gets thrown a little closer. Castiel smiles and pops a fry in his mouth as the cat shuffles forward and eats it too. Every piece of fish that follows is just that little bit closer until he can finally just hold out the little sliver of fish. The cat doesn’t hesitate to eat it straight from his fingers. It even licks them clean afterwards, focusing particularly on the salt left over from the fries.

Castiel is a little taken aback by the roughness of its tongue. He’s never had a cat lick him before. They never had any pets when he was a child. There were too many things to worry about given the affliction that he and his father suffer with. Well, in the case of his father – suffered with. And then when it was just him and Gabriel, they were either too scared or busy with just trying to survive on their own to be able to have any pets. There was a time back when they lived in Miami, before their road trip across the country and before they settled in Montpelier, when Gabriel owned a couple fish. Those poor things only lasted a few months, but they were Gabriel’s fish.

Oh, dear. He really shouldn’t be thinking about having pets (or the lack thereof) when confronted with this situation. There’s really only one track his train of thought can follow when he does that and Castiel already knows that’s going to lead to an impossible situation. There’s no way he can just take this cat home. It must belong to someone, right? Look how friendly and docile its being! No feral cat would end up eating an entire fish stick out of someone’s fingers, would it?

He honestly doesn’t know. What he does know is that his heart is dangerously close to melting when the cat eats the last of the fish, cleans his fingers again, and then rubs up against them. It does that once before flopping onto its side with the same kind of subdued groan that Gabriel makes when he’s stretching. Then the purring gets really loud again, and that makes up his mind about the history of the cat. This sweet creature is just too damn friendly to be wild.

Even though Castiel hardly knows anything about domestic versus feral animals, he knows that he probably shouldn’t be having such an easy time of petting this cat. The mats clumps of mud, and what could very well be burrs in the fur don’t make it a very pleasant process, but the cat doesn’t seem to mind. In fact, it pushes its head into Castiel’s fingers, seeking a decent scratch around the ears. It seems so desperate for some affection that he can’t bring himself to stop, and so he finishes the rest of his fries with his free hand while watching the cat.

Once his food is completely finished, Castiel stands up. The cat does too and it follows him into the alley where he deposits the container into one of the trash cans there. As soon as he’s standing still, the cat starts rubbing up against his ankles and twisting around his feet. Its purr is so loud that Castiel can feel it vibrating through the cuffs of his jeans. The only thing he can do now is stand there and stare down at the cat, watching it grow all the more attached to him.

Gabriel has joked for ages that he has animal magnetism and Castiel has none. Considering their own private personal lives, that would seem to be the case. However, it could be that Castiel’s animal magnetism actually lies with animals – as opposed to the overtly sexual implications to Gabriel’s magnetism. This is a kind of attraction that he can get behind. Any other kind is one that he attempts to avoid at all cost for the sake and safety of everyone involved.

After a few more minutes of watching the cat acquaint itself with his shoes, Castiel gives in. He does have that one ‘request’ that can never be vetoed. All he has to do is take the cat home and finds its owners over the next few days. Someone has to be missing this sweet little thing. In fact, he might even find this sweetheart on a poster around town tomorrow – though there should already be some up, judging by the state of the cat’s fur. There’s no way that could happen all in one day – right?

With a sigh, he removes his coat and crouches to drape it over the cat. It’s all a precaution, just in case it doesn’t like to be picked up. Surprisingly enough, the cat hardly even reacts. In fact, it even seems to like being turned over in his arms and swaddled like a baby against his chest. It tucks up with a happy purr and looks as content as can be, for what little of it can be seen poking out through the top of the coat. That just cements Castiel’s decision even more. This is absolutely happening and he better get moving before something makes him change his mind.

As per his usual route, Castiel follows Elm Street until it ends at State Street but instead of turning right and away from Main Street, he takes a left to head back home early. The cat doesn’t make a peep the entire walk – aside from its endless purring. It is more than happy to let Castiel do all the work to get them both back to the café.

The cuteness of the cat isn’t much of a distraction, unfortunately. Castiel still spends the short remainder of his walk rehearsing in his head exactly what he’s going to say to Gabriel about his little discovery. It’s not like he plans to keep it – yet. That’s only a contingency plan in case no one ever comes to claim the sweet little thing. And there is no way that Castiel is going to turn it over to a shelter where it might be put to sleep – and not in the good way. No, absolutely not. Even if he didn’t have the win from the bet, he would keep the cat until he found it a good home himself.

In all honesty, Castiel is just hoping that Gabriel will be asleep when he gets back. Since it’s after nine o’clock, he should at least already be in bed. His shift starts at five in the morning. Ever since they opened he’s been going to bed around this time, if not earlier. It’s entirely possible that Castiel will have the chance to slip into the apartment unnoticed and hide the cat in his room. Then he can spend the rest of the night crafting how he’s going to explain its presence to his brother.

While Castiel would like to keep the cat, and this desire only grows the longer he holds it in his arms, he knows it’s unlikely. The winnings of their bet gives him a free pass to purchase anything to their apartment, but would he want to use it to let a cat temporarily stay with them? He has no way of confirming whether or not someone might come to claim it. If they don’t, the cat can be his. If they do, well, then he’s out of a cat and with no free pass for the future. Of course he wouldn’t consider it a waste, per se, but there are so many other things that he would like if he’s not able to keep the cat. If he can have it, then he’s more than happy to use his free pass on it.

Castiel is still mulling the situation over in his head when he walks into the café. Anna is at the counter setting out plates of sandwiches and bowls of soup on a few trays for some waiting customers. When The Graveyard Shift sign goes on at night – just before Castiel’s shift, actually – they stop serving the majority of the food items. Soup is the only hot meal they keep overnight. If a sandwich is requested, all the fixings are in the kitchen and Castiel is more than capable of putting together something simple.

All in all, The Graveyard Shift focuses mainly on selling coffee and the baking left from the day. There are always a few various loaves of bread left, along with at least a quarter of the treats in the display case. Usually by morning Castiel has managed to sell the majority of it. They already have a nice client base of night time visitors that come in and clean them out. He had thought that maybe, in a town this small, they wouldn’t have too many Creatures in the area. Castiel was right, of course, but he’s discovered that there are plenty of university students who need a caffeine and sugar fix.

The moment Anna spots him after the customers take their trays to a table, her wings start to flutter excitedly. After a moment, he realizes it’s not because of him but because of the cat watching with wide eyes from over the edge of his coat. The purring has stopped now and its ears are perked and twitching, catching all the sounds in the café.

“Why do you –” Anna starts, but Castiel waves her off and heads into the kitchen. He’ll explain after he gets the cat hidden away in his bedroom.

She huffs loudly but doesn’t follow after him. Castiel counts that as a win and takes the spiral stairs up to the landing at the apartment door. The cat meows unhappily as it gets jostled slightly while he tries to open the door. While he might know a handful of helpful spells, none of those include something to open doors for him when his hands are full. Actually, that sounds particularly useful. He should look into learning such a spell, if one exists.

To his surprise, and his great disappointment, the lights in the apartment are on. Which means that Gabriel is very much awake – as evidenced by how he calls out to him. “Cassie, is that you?”

With a sigh, he kicks the door closed behind him. “Yes, it’s me.”

“Oh, good.” There’s a shuffling sound down the hall in the living room. “I take it that you had a safe walk? Nothing tried to take a swipe at you?”

“Of course I did.” Castiel rolls his eyes and tries to make it to his bedroom door down said hall, hoping that Gabriel won’t be coming down it in time to see what he has in his arms. “My walk was exactly the same as normal.”

He has the door open and he’s half hidden by it when Gabriel comes around the corner. “Really? Then why are you back so early? What happened?” Gabriel stops and crosses his arms to stare Castiel down. “You know I can’t sleep when you’re out there.”

Castiel sighs again and leans back to look at him from around the edge of the door, still effectively hiding the cat. “I’m twenty-six years old, Gabriel. I think I can take a walk on my own without incident.”

“That still doesn’t explain why you came back earlier.” He narrows his eyes and takes a few steps forward. “Did you remember to take one of those charm bags I made up for you?”

“Of course I did.” It’s not like he’s new at being safe or anything. Castiel is very familiar with the various things that Gabriel has prepared to keep him safe. Any other brother might find it a bit overbearing, but Castiel doesn’t. He fully appreciates everything Gabriel does to make sure he stays alive.

Immediately Gabriel relaxes and he breaks into a wide smile. “Then I have no complaints.”

He might not, but Castiel does. Just a little one though. “You’re being overprotective again.” Which, in most cases, isn’t exactly a bad thing. But there are often times where Castiel feels a little smothered by it. This is one such case. It’s a simple walk and he’s fairly sure that he can take care of himself during it. Especially when their crystal balls or necklaces haven’t done given any manner of warning that dangerous magic is nearby.

Gabriel scoffs and waves his hand between them. “I am not being over protective. It’s called being sensible. If you walk out there without anything, you might be –” He stops at the flat look Castiel gives him. “Okay, okay. I know you’ve heard that lecture before. Change of subject then. Are you going to be having the sleep tomorrow?”

Ah, yes. That is a thing they should talk about. “Yes, I’ll be ready before the sunrise.”

“Okay, meet me here and I’ll –”

That is exactly when the cat decides it done with not being the center of Castiel’s attention. It meows loudly and starts to struggle in the coat. Castiel winces and looks at it, trying to keep it still in the coat at least until he’s in his bedroom with the door closed.

“Cassie.” Gabriel says slowly, eyes narrowing. “Cassie, what the hell is that?”

Well, that cat is out of the bag – so to speak. With a defeated sigh, Castiel steps back into the hall and adjust his arms so he can hold the cat with one and pet it with his other hand. “This is a cat.”

“I can see that, Cassie.” Gabriel advances slowly, his frown deepening. “Why do you have a cat?”

He shrugs and tickles the cat under the chin, which seems to be very effective in making it stop squirm and start purring again. “I found it.”

“No, really?” The sarcasm is practically dripping off his words. “I assumed you stole it.”

Now it’s Castiel’s turn to frown and he narrows his eyes at Gabriel in return. “Don’t be snarky with me.”

Gabriel ignores him entirely to point at the cat. “Cassie, I’m putting my foot down.” He accentuates his statement by actually stomping his foot. “We are not keeping that thing.”

While Castiel had entertained the idea of keeping the cat, he had the more likely thought that it would be picked up by its original owners. Now that Gabriel is outright opposing the idea of keeping the cat, he wants to keep it even more than before. He doesn’t even need words to get this across to him. All Castiel has to do is raise his eyebrows and stare Gabriel down.

It only takes a moment for the other foot to drop and suddenly Gabriel goes white. “You’re seriously going to waste your one wish on this?”

Ah-hah. That’s where his brother is completely wrong. “It wasn’t a wish, but I absolutely will use it for this if I need to.” Castiel smiles brightly and tilts his head towards Gabriel. “Tomorrow, when you finish your shift, you’re going to take the cat to the vet on State Street. I want it checked over for any health issues. You should also see if you can get it groomed too.”

Gabriel’s shoulders slump and he holds up his hands in defeat in the spirit of the free pass. “Fine, okay. I just want to point out one flaw in your plan. They’re a vet, Cassie. The most they might do is cut the mats out of its fur.”

Castiel tries very hard not to look too victorious. “Well, then I guess you’ll be taking it to a groomer later this week as well.” Granted, that’s only if no one has picked up the cat by then.

With a groan, Gabriel brushes past Castiel to get to his own bedroom door just opposite from his bedroom. “You’re doing that annoying thing again. And I don’t think there’s even a groomer in Montpelier, is there?”

“Use the internet and find out.” He shrugs and steps into his own bedroom to give Gabriel the room to open his door. “And I’m not being annoying. You’re just upset that I won our bet and you didn’t.”

“No, no, no. That’s not it at all.” Gabriel turns on his heel, but his expression and tone lead Castiel to believe otherwise. “And it doesn’t matter anyways because we’re not keeping the cat! Bet or no bet, we can’t have a cat.”

There are a number of holes in his argument, but Castiel doesn’t quite feel like pointing them out right now. That’s a conversation for a later date and only if no one ever claims the cat as their own. Of course, he’s not going to use that ace up his sleeve right now. He’ll save that for when Gabriel starts this argument up again if no one steps forward.

Castiel sighs and fixes Gabriel with a glare that should, by all respects, leave no room for complaint. “What we most definitely are going to do is get the cat washed, cleaned up, and vetted to ensure that it isn’t sick. During and after we have done that, we will make up posters advertising that we have found a cat.” He holds the cat up a little more, just in case Gabriel forgot what they’re talking about. “It’s far too tame to be a feral cat. Though it could just be my natural charm for animals.” Since he apparently has that now, or something similar.

Gabriel rolls his eyes and sticks out his tongue. “Takes one to know one.” At Castiel’s answering growl, he throws his hands in the air in defeat. “Fine, whatever. Put that thing in your room but remember that we are not keeping it.”

“That, dear brother, is where you are wrong.” Castiel turns away and crosses the room to his bed. “If no one answers the posters and we can’t find its original owner, then we are absolutely keeping the cat.” There goes the ace up his sleeve. Apparently he wasn’t going to hold on to it for as long as he was hoping to. Oh well.

Again, Gabriel stomps his foot. This time he crosses his arms over his chest like a petulant child. “I refuse. We are not keeping a cat.”

Castiel puts the bundle of his coat and cat down on the bed and turns with another bright smile. “You seem to forget the nature of my wish.”

“You said it wasn’t a wish!” Gabriel steps forward, eyes wide and blood draining from his face slightly. He really doesn’t like it when he loses.

“And you said it was.” Castiel shrugs and returns to the door to grab the handle to start to pull it closed now that the cat is going to be loose in his room. “In either case, if no one picks up this cat then my free pass is going to get me a pet cat and there is nothing you can do about it. Goodnight, Gabriel!”

Before this can be argued further, Castiel pulls the door shut but doesn’t move from his spot. He stands and listens to Gabriel grumble all the way into his own bedroom. It’s a bit of poor form for him to slam the door, but at least he’s not going to pop out to debate this further. If he didn’t want Castiel to have a free pass, then he shouldn’t have offered it as an option for their bets in the first place.

Now that all of that has been taken care of, Castiel can pay much more attention to the cat. He turns around to find that it has extracted itself from his coat and is now padding around his bed to sniff at the pillows and peer over the edges at the floor. Too late does Castiel realize that the cat might very well have fleas or some other parasite that could be getting all over his blankets – and would already be all over his coat.

Well, he’s just going to have to deal with that when and if that turns out to be true. So far, it seems to be just fine. He hasn’t seen the cat scratch itself even once since he met it, so it must be fine, right? Either way. There are some preparations he should be doing right now.

The cat acquaints itself with his bedroom while he finds a cardboard box in his closet that he can use. Most of them still have some things from when they moved in, but it’s just heavier clothing that takes up too much space in his dresser or closet. He empties two of those boxes into a corner of the room to deal with when he’s done. In one box he places two towels; one folded at the bottom and the other bunched around the sides to make a little nest-like bed.

Once that box is finished, Castiel puts it in a corner or the room and fetches the cat. It’s on its way to slinking into his closet when he finds it. The cat meows in surprise as he scoops it up again, this time without the safety of the coat. Given how fine it was with being picked up before, Castiel suspects that it won’t mind if he does it again. Unsurprisingly, it doesn’t seem to care – especially since he puts it down again right into the box.

Almost instantly, the purring starts again. The cat turns around a couple times while it kneads at the towel, pushing or pulling it away from the walls of the box to make itself comfortable. Even if it doesn’t stay in the box right now, at least it’s something to distract it with. The distracting gives Castiel the time to sneak out of the room and out of the apartment to the kitchen downstairs. The recycling bins should have been put out in the back lane earlier in the evening and from there he fetches one of the old newspapers from last week that they had in the café.

Castiel takes that back to his bedroom, ignoring the curious looks Anna throws him from the door to the front of the café. He sits on the floor of his bedroom in front of the second box, which he puts right next to the first, and spends the next several minutes slowly and meticulously shredding the newspaper. It’s a poor substitute for actual kitty litter, but it will do for now until he can get something proper. Any stores he knows of in the area that might have them closed about an hour ago.

When that box is prepared, Castiel picks up the cat again and puts it in there. “If you have to go to the bathroom, please use this.” He doubts the cat will understand him, but one never knows in this world. “I would rather not have to clean up your messes from my carpet, thank you.”

The cat shuffles around in the box, pawing at the newspaper bits and sniffing at them. Castiel lets it explore that, and whatever else it wants, while he makes another journey out of his bedroom. This time it’s to the kitchen in their apartment. He figures Gabriel won’t mind (though he probably will) if he uses a couple of their dishes to keep the cat watered and fed. While water is easy enough to come by, there isn’t much in their fridge that Castiel would be comfortable feeding to a cat.

After much deliberation, Castiel takes a few slices of sandwich meat and dices them up in a little bowl. It’s not much, but he doubts the cat will be very hungry after it ate that fish stick. If it is hungry, then he can always get it some more meat. They have plenty of that both in their apartment and downstairs in the kitchen. Though Gabriel might not like it if he takes any of the fixings for the sandwiches they serve through the café. It would be best if he stuck to the stuff they have up here.

Castiel doesn’t have more than half an hour before his shift by the time he’s finished with setting out the things for the cat. He did manage to waste a few extra minutes by putting away his winter clothes in other boxes – or just right up on a hanger in his closet because it’s already Autumn and the next season is just around the corner. His memory is a bit fuzzy about how early winter starts in Montpelier, seeing as he’s only had one winter here so far, but he knows that it’s just going to get colder and colder no matter what. This definitely isn’t anything like Florida.

Before he heads downstairs, though a little earlier than he normally would, Castiel makes sure to leave a note on Gabriel’s door. It’ll probably be like salt in the wound, but he still sees it as necessary. If he doesn’t remind Gabriel about the cat in his room and that he needs to take it to the vet during the day, then he’ll probably forget all about it. Unlikely, but possible. Gabriel can be forgetful sometimes, and especially during the morning when he hasn’t had his three cups of coffee with fifteen sugar cubes a piece in them. He’s almost useless before that point most mornings.

With that done, Castiel makes sure his closet is closed before he takes his personal laptop with him downstairs. His origami papers and book are already in a special ‘For Castiel’s Hands Only’ box under the till, so he doesn’t need to worry about bringing those down with him. His shift doesn’t technically start for another twenty minutes, but Castiel likes getting all of the changeover things out of the way before he actually takes over.

Usually his first step is to check what they have left over from the day. By the time Anna’s shift is done at eleven o’clock, and before she hands the reigns over to Castiel, she normally has the loaves of bread transferred over onto the discounted shelf. If they weren’t sold during the day when they’re nice and fresh, they spend the night and the next day on there.

When he gets downstairs, Anna is actually in the process of doing just that. He nods at her and heads behind the counter to check on the pastries in the display case. There are still plenty left for the night shift, but once they’re gone that’s it for the night. Employees are allowed exactly one free choice from the display case during their shift and after that they have to pay for it. The coffee, however, is free no matter how many cups they have. If anyone abuses that, Castiel and Gabriel agree that five is a decent number to allow per shift.

Before Castiel can start counting the money in the cash register for the changeover of the shits, Anna intervenes. She actually steps in front of him to keep him from reaching the till. “So, that was a cat. You have a cat now, huh?”

He shakes his head and steps around her to put his laptop down on the counter. “No, I simply found it in an alley and am taking care of it until its rightful owner can be found.”

Anna, ever helpful as she is, pops the drawer on the register to start counting the money herself. “Oh, really? So you’re positive that it’s not a Cat Sidhe?”

The term sounds vaguely familiar, but Castiel can’t put his finger on it. He might have some broader knowledge on the spectrum of Creatures in this world than most people do, but even he doesn’t know everything. His knowledge stems mostly from what kind of Creatures tend to pick up witchcraft and are more likely to hurt him than anything else. There are certainly the more popular species of Creatures that everyone knows about – like Vampires, the Fae, Witches, and the like – but there are plenty of obscure ones that don’t exactly stand out in folk lore like these do. And some, like the Fae, are well known but still rather mysterious.

In the case of Anna and Balthazar, they’re both Fae and yet Castiel has been informed that despite their shared trait of wings, they are both entirely different members of their species. For example, there are Fae that are born under certain elements and will have personalities or appearances based on such. And unless a Fae chooses to tell you what that is, one might never know because it is entirely too rude to ask any Creature those kinds of things. It’s akin to asking a Human what race they are, or their gender, or any other such thing that might not be overly obvious from a glance.

Whether it’s Creature or Human, they’re all difficult to deal with and sometimes Castiel wonders why he agreed to go into a business where he would be dealing with customers on the daily. If he’s lucky, the café will become popular enough that they can afford to hire someone else to work his shift and he can spend his days tending to his plants and reading any book that catches his fancy.

At his obvious silence, Anna sighs loudly and looks up from the calculator. “A Cat Sidhe is a fairy creature. C’mon, even you should know that.”

No, he really shouldn’t. There are hundreds of fairy creatures out there that aren’t considered the more humanoid and sentient Creatures that walk and work among Humans every day. And a Cat Sidhe is really so very out there. How is he supposed to remember something like that when there are so many regular cats out there too? And one can’t forget Skinwalkers either. Oh! That’s something he hadn’t considered when he picked up the cat. What if it’s one of those? It is rather friendly and was so tame as to even allow Castiel to pick it up.

Oh, lovely. That’s going to sit at the back of his head for the rest of his shift. When Balthazar gets in, he’s going to have to go upstairs and check on his room to make sure that nothing is out of place. If it looks like anything has been moved, he might very well have a Skinwalker on his hands. He won’t know for sure until a vet has looked over the cat. There are definitive tests (all involving silver) to confirm that.

His long silence, mostly spent staring at his laptop in thought, makes Anna snort a laugh. Her wings flutter when she does that. “Don’t worry, Castiel. I’m only teasing.” She even reaches over and gives him a little shove before returning to counting the till down to an even one hundred dollars. “A Sidhe is black with a white patch on its chest. I didn’t see much of the cat that you had, but I’m pretty sure it wasn’t that colour.”

Castiel shrugs and turns to fetch a stool that he keeps tucked away in the back corner behind the counter. “It’s fairly dirty, so it’s hard to tell, but I’m certain the cat isn’t fully black like you mentioned. It also has long hair, so it might be a breed of Himalayan or Persian?” Those are the only two breeds of cats that he knows of that might have long hair, and that’s pretty much the limit of his knowledge on cats. He only knows of the more popular breeds and anything past that is a mystery to him.

Anna shrugs and puts the extra money in a baggy. “I wouldn’t know, I’m not a cat person.” She flashes him a bright smile when he stares at her, unsure if she’s joking or not. If she doesn’t know, why would she have brought it up in the first place? Is it to mess with him?

They stare each other down for a minute before she shoves the bag of money against his chest and uses her hip to close the cash drawer. “Time’s up, boss!” Anna throws her hands in the air and does a little spin, her wings fanning out slightly. “I’m free to go!”

“It’s moments like this where I can tell that Balthazar is your brother.” He shakes his head and slips the bag of money into his pocket. He’ll deal with putting that away once he’s finished with his change over.

Anna stops her spin to frown at him. “Don’t insult me.”

A second later, she’s smiling again – clearly joking. Balthazar is technically her brother, but there appears to be a few degrees of separation between them. It’s possible that he might be a step-brother instead, though neither of them has been clear about that in all the time that Castiel has known them. It’s a part of the need for their species to be mysterious no matter what and all he can do is roll his eyes at it.

“Yes, yes. Go on, be free.” Castiel makes a shooing motion with one hand while he moves his laptop to a shelf under the counter. Out of sight until he uses it later. “Don’t think I don’t notice that the clock doesn’t say eleven yet.”

“You’re here; the till is counted; the bread is changed over; the tables have been wiped down and the floor swept; and the dishwasher is going with the day’s dishes.” She turns to put her hands on her hips and flare her wings at him defiantly. “Are you still gonna tell me I need to wait five minutes?”

He shrugs and types his employee code into the cash register, changing it over to him for the night. “I suppose you could. Have you taken your pastry for your shift?”

“Of course not.” She heads around to the display case and crouches to see what’s left. “I was waiting to satisfy my sweet tooth on the walk home – ah-hah!” With a whoop, she slides the back of the case open and pulls out a macaron the size of her palm. “One left!”

Anna hums happily to herself as she heads into the back to hang up her apron and take off her name tag. Castiel follows her back to make the deposit and get his own name tag, which he forgot again. As one of the bosses, he doesn’t wear the same shirt as the rest of the employees and he doesn’t wear an apron either. Instead, he’s adopted the habit of wearing one of his vests over a different colour shirt than the others. Gabriel wears the same colour too under his baking apron.

On the employee hutch there’s an almost ancient looking time card punch sitting on the desk next to a filing stand. Above it are the time cards in little envelopes with the employee’s name on it. Anna punches her card with her time out and puts it back in the envelope. She unclips her name tag and hangs it off her envelope too. Her apron goes on one of many pegs hanging on the side of the hutch. Next to the time card punch is a little filing standing with files for every employee to put in their requests for time off, or to get a copy of the schedule for the next two weeks.

Even though it’s not necessary, Castiel and Gabriel have files of their own there too. They even have time cards, though they both often forget to do it. Since they don’t really get paid yet, they don’t much bother with it – which is why Castiel keeps forgetting his name tag. With Anna standing there watching him, he makes sure to punch his card and put his name tag on. He also opens the cabinet door of the hutch to access the safe there and deposit the bag of money.

“How are we on coins?” Castiel glances up at Anna, his fingers resting on the buttons of the safe just in case he needs to punch in his employee code and the command codes for the rolls of coins that he might want to withdraw.

“We’re fine.” Anna shrugs and takes a bite out of her macaron. “I cracked open a couple rolls earlier. The pennies are low, but there’s a roll in the drawer waiting for them – and before you ask; yes, I included the roll in my till count.”

Castiel nods and stands up. “I wasn’t going to ask. I know how thorough you are.” Anna came highly recommended by Balthazar (despite their sibling squabbles) and she has been nothing but an exceptional employee since they started training her a few weeks before they opened.

The compliment earns him a bright smile and a flutter of her wings. She even has a bounce in her step as they head to the front together again. Castiel walks her to the door, not out of chivalry but out of the need to do his shift change check. While the signs should have been changed when the sun went down, he still always checks to make sure that The Graveyard Shift is lit up and the blinds over the top half of the window on the other side of the door are down and covering Gabriel’s sign.

“It’s all ducky up here, Cas.” Anna pats him on the shoulder as he checks the signs. “I think you worry too much sometimes. You can trust us employees to take care of things, y’know.”

“I do trust you, very much in fact.” Castiel shoos her out the door and wrinkles his nose at her for the insulation that he’s a worrier. Which, okay, he is a worrier but not about the things that she thinks he worries about. “Have a safe walk home and I’ll see you tomorrow night.”

She waves over her shoulder as she heads off down the sidewalk. Castiel doesn’t bother watching her go. As a Fae, Anna is one of the safest Creatures to walk around at night without any protection. She can easily slip between this world and the Fae world as if she were walking through a door. If anyone tries to attack her, they’ll very soon find themselves alone – if she doesn’t decide to use her Fae magic to retaliate in some way, shape, or form.

Castiel heads back inside, ready to do the rest of the cleaning that Anna isn’t required to do. It should take up the first hour of his shift if customers don’t interrupt and then he’s free to do whatever he wants for the rest of the night. Ah, the joys of working the graveyard shift at The Graveyard Shift. It’s hard not to smile when he thinks about the joke, especially since he’s the one who won the bet about it.

The next customer who comes in has a backpack on her back and a binder tucked under her arm. She looks haggard and finds a table in the corner by the stairs to dump her things before coming to the counter to place her order. Since it’s an inside order, Castiel pours the coffee into a large mug instead of the paper cups used for the ‘to go’ orders. He’s actually pleased that his first customer of the night is staying here, because it means that he gets to test out his new idea.

Over the weekend, Castiel had received a stroke of genius in the form of his origami. While he does love folding the cranes and stringing them up on the ceiling, Castiel has given himself a limit of only doing ten a night. He has a plan for those cranes and if he does as many as he can in a shift, he’ll be done with them far too soon and he would rather let these take up his time at least a little bit. But he still has an origami itch when he’s done with his ten cranes. As such, a new plan came to him during the weekend.

Yesterday, he had spent a decent chunk of time folding a dozen dragons. They’re small and he outfitted them with a thread much like he does his ceiling cranes. Unlike the cranes, however, the dragon’s thread is attached to its stomach in a loop so that it can hook over its head. It took him forever to figure out how he could attach it to the handle of the mugs they use in the café and he’s delighted to see it in action tonight before he pours the customer’s coffee.

The dragon is perched at the top of the handle; overlooking the contents of the mug. The shiny paper reflects nicely in the light and Castiel is very careful as he places it on a tray next to a plated brownie. Surprise fills the customer's face when she looks up from her phone and Castiel has to fight not to smile too widely at it.

He taps the head of the dragon before sliding the tray carefully across to her. “It’s yours to keep if you want it. Otherwise, please leave it on the table with your mug when you’re done and I’ll take care of it after you leave.”

His plan is to reuse it in the case of someone leaving it behind. If there’s no damage to the dragon, he hopes to put it on one of the many shelves they have in the café or, if he’s lucky, he might be able to get it to stay perched on a leaf on any of the plants. Wouldn’t that be nice? Of course, Castiel would never think of reusing it to attach to someone else’s mug, but he also doesn’t want to put it in the recycling if it’s still in good condition.

It’s going to be interesting to see how many of them he’ll get back or not.

*

Tuesday – September 29th , 2015

When the customer leaves around half past twelve, the dragon is not on her cup. Castiel counts that as a rousing success and fully plans on folding a box full of dragons by the end of the night. He doesn’t expect the day staff to use them, but it’s a nice little added flare to The Graveyard Shift that might bring more customers in at night if word gets around. One can only hope, right?

Another few customers come in just before one o’clock to order a couple drinks to go. Castiel is almost disappointed that they’re not staying. He wants to keep giving out the dragons. He puts those thoughts out of his head while he takes care of their orders, using it as a nice break from cleaning in and around all the machines behind the counter. By the time he’s done dealing with them, Balthazar has arrived and started to putter around in the kitchen.

Castiel isn’t too keen on continuing to clean, so he takes the offered chance to put it off for a little longer by greeting his employee. He’s barely taken two steps into the kitchen before Balthazar is turning to him with a wide grin. “Cassie! Anna said you found a Sidhe!”

“She also said it’s not a Sidhe.” He rolls his eyes, suddenly regretting this decision. Cleaning seems like a much better option to getting teased by Balthazar. “Not in as many words, but the descriptions of a Sidhe don’t match the cat that I found.”

A pout makes Balthazar’s bottom lip jut out. “Well that’s no fun.”

“It’s plenty of fun.” Castiel smiles and leans against the door frame. “If no one claims the cat and the vet confirms that it’s not a Skinwalker, then I get to have myself a new pet.” And he won’t admit to anyone that he’s really hoping that no one claims the cat.

Balthazar surprises him by holding up a hand for what is, undoubtedly, a high-five. Rather than return it, Castiel merely stares at it for a moment, wondering what on Earth he just said could warrant such a gesture. The moment drags on and Balthazar apparently refuses to put his hand down until Castiel holds his up too. As soon as he does, Balthazar leans forward to slap it.

Just as soon as he’s done, he turns around and heads off to get the ingredients he needs for his bread making. “Your brother is more fun than you are, Cassie.”

Alright, that is quite enough with the nickname. He has never enjoyed it and he’s let it slide one too many times. “My name is Castiel. The only person who can call me Cassie is Gabriel.”

Balthazar flashes a wicked grin at him. “And he gave me express big brother privileges when he’s not around because someone has to make sure you’re not getting too big for your little brother britches.”

That does sound like something Gabriel would say but Castiel still has his doubts. “I’ll need to see that in writing, please.”

“Talk to Gabriel in the morning.” He shrugs and turns back to his work with a laugh. “I’m confident that he’ll corroborate all claims.”

Of course he would say something like that. Sometimes he understands all too well why Gabriel’s first friend in this town was Balthazar. Castiel rolls his eyes and heads to the front to finish his cleaning. It doesn’t take him too long, really. He’s been at it for a while now and he only really has to run wipe down the back of the machines and clean the walls behind them before putting them back in place. It’s not like anything has really had the chance to get dirty. Castiel has a very thorough cleaning schedule that breaks all the tedious things down throughout the week. If they get cleaned every week, they don’t get dirty and that’s just the way he likes it. Part of his pride as a business owner is having a clean café.

Once the cleaning is done, Castiel pours himself a coffee and sits on the stool behind the counter. It’s more of a lean than a sit, but it’s better than nothing. Now that he’s done that, he can start working on his main project for the night. He’ll have plenty of time to do his origami later. What he really wants to get done right now is a poster for the cat. No one will know that he’s found it if he doesn’t put up notice around the neighbourhood.

That’s why he brought his laptop downstairs, actually. Castiel opens it and launches Microsoft Word. There isn’t much that he can put on the poster right now, but he can at least get the template done and out of the way before he even thinks about doing any origami. First things first, he types in a large bold font at the top of the page; FOUND CAT. Underneath that, he uses the shapes option to draw a space where a picture can go. He’s only going to take one after they’ve gotten the cat vetted and all those tangles and mats shaved away.

Beneath the picture space, Castiel types a quick place holder for any information about the cat that the vet will be able to give him. He’s hoping that the vet will be able to tell them the cat’s breed, age and – well, weight might not be all that important but who knows what might be considered helpful. The whole poster won’t be necessary at all if the cat has a tattoo in its ear, a microchip under its skin, or a spell of possession on it. He’s not as familiar with magic as Gabriel is, but Castiel figures a spell like that probably exists. Magic has its limitations, but its possibilities are almost endless.

Regardless, Castiel still fills out the rest of the poster with where and when he found the cat along with the condition it was in. As a side note, he adds that he had the cat vetted and groomed free of charge for whoever it belongs to. At the bottom of the page, Castiel puts the contact information for the café. As much as he would rather put his personal cell phone number and email address, he can’t bring himself to do it. Besides, the Graveyard Shift e-mail address forwards to his personal one anyways. If they call, well, he’ll just have to make sure all the employees are aware of what to do.

Once he’s typed up everything, it leaves Castiel very little else to do with the poster. He’s not exactly ready to shut down the laptop just yet, so he wastes a lot of time fiddling with the fonts. Castiel even adds a border to the poster, for a lack of anything else that he could do to it. While he’s cycling through the different options of boarders, the bell over the door jingles. A customer is a wonderful excuse for him to stop working on this when it’s quite obviously done.

He hits save as he looks up, taking a moment to push his glasses back up his nose. While he doesn’t need them in the slightest, it is annoying when they tend to slide down his nose when he looks downwards for too long. As soon as Castiel realizes who it is at the door, he inwardly winces. It may have been a few days since he last saw him, but he has no problem recognizing Dean Winchester, the firefighter. He is really just too attractive for his own good, especially when dressed in casual clothes.

Even though Castiel has no real sexual desire for him, he can fully admit that Dean is attractive. Gabriel says that what he does is called window shopping. He doesn’t really get how that’s possible, given that he is refusing to let himself shop in the first place. Even then, Castiel hasn’t really ever been romantically or sexually attracted to anyone. That’s likely because he hasn’t let himself get close enough to anyone to be able to feel that for them. In Miami, he was home schooled to minimize how many people he would meet with. It’s only in the last three years that he’s really been out and about with actual people.

Castiel has to smother a smile as Dean stumbles directly into the first table by the door. A dark blush is already staining his cheeks and it is completely too adorable for him. Oh, that’s a first. When was the last time Castiel ever thought that someone was adorable? If Dean continues to be so flustered and awkward around him, he might very well become Castiel’s favourite customer. He was very friendly last time and that’s just the kind of customer that Castiel enjoys serving.

The fun for tonight will be to see if Dean will stumble over his words as badly as he did on Thursday.

Monday – September 28 th , 2015

Is that what he thinks it is? Dean pumps the brakes slightly just to get a better look at what’s happening on the sidewalk on Elm Street just south of School Street. “Dude, is that guy feeding a cat?”

In all his years living in Montpelier, Dean is ninety nine percent certain that he’s never seen someone stop to feed a stray cat like that before. He’s definitely seen – or at least heard of people leaving out food on their porches or in their backyards for some stray animals in their neighbourhoods, but he’s never seen this. It feels like he’s just passed some kind of rite of life or something.

“What do you care?” Sam doesn’t even bother to look up from his phone, probably texting with all his high school buddies about how their summers went or what it’s like to be in University now. “You’re allergic to cats so it’s not like you can intervene or anything, and it’s not illegal to feed stray animals. Besides, it’s not up a tree and you’re not on shift so you don’t have to worry about it."

Jesus. Sam has gotten so sassy ever since Dean moved out of the house a few years ago. Or that could be that he’s gone through high school and he’s now all grown up and a quasi-adult. Still can’t drink, but he’s done with school until he decides to head to University – whenever that will be. So far he seems to be in the mindset that it’s best for him to take at least one year off to get a job and start saving up for school in the future.

Mom and Dad have some school funds saved up, but it’s not enough to take away from the sting of student loans. Lucky for them that Dean didn’t want to go to University. He went straight from high school to the training and courses to become a firefighter as soon as possible. Those particular classes weren’t nearly as expensive as full on years at a University, so a bunch of Dean’s college fund went into Sam’s after he passed all of his certifications.

And because that money was for Dean’s education and he didn’t need it, Sam should be grateful that he gets it. Which means he shouldn’t be this sassy little ball of little brother sitting in Dean’s front seat. “Hey now, I just took you to dinner, Sammy. Don’t start getting sassy with me.”

Sam glances up from his phone only to stick his tongue out. “I didn’t ask you to take me out tonight.”

Dean puts a hand over his chest to adopt the wounded act, the guy feeding the cat now completely out of his head. “My baby brother got the call today that he’s been hired at his first actual job, and it’s not mowing the neighbour’s lawn!” He reaches over to pat Sam on the knee. “It would be downright insulting for me to not take you to dinner as celebration.”

“Dude, stop it.” Sam slaps his hand away but ducks his head all modestly. He loves the attention, even if his teenage sensibilities are demanding that he pretends like he doesn’t. “I’m eighteen now, Dean. You don’t need to do this for me.”

“I absolutely do.” Dean laughs and gives his shoulder a shove. “Put up the act all you want, but I know you miss me living at home and being around all the time.”

Any sense of amusement falls right off Sam’s face. He leans over and drops his voice into a serious tone. “I have your room and it’s twice as big as mine used to be. If you ever move home, I will – without hesitation – smother you in your sleep.”

It’s all Dean can do to resist laughing. He takes his eyes off the road long enough to throw another wounded look at Sam. “You’d let something like a bedroom come between us?”

“I absolutely would.”

Dean huffs and slouches over the steering wheel. “The sibling rivalry is strong with this one.” He throws another glance at Sam, this time with his eyes narrowed. “Maybe I should just drop your ass here and let you walk the rest of the way home.”

It’s only a twenty minute walk from here and it’s not that dark. Sam should totally be fine. He might be a walking beanpole, but those baggy clothes hide a lot of muscle. If anyone tried to mess with him, he’d either kick their ass from here to Timbuktu, or he’d be able to outrun them by miles. Actually, this isn’t sounding half bad. At the least, he could put the fear of God back in his baby brother.

The moment Dean pulls the car over, Sam looks around and frowns at him. “What are you doing?”

“Making you walk home.” Dean unlocks the doors and flaps his hand. “Go on. Get out.”

Sam crosses his arms over his chest and wiggles down lower in his seat. “Can’t make me.”

Oh, it’s this game now, is it? Two can play at this game. “Yes, I can.”

Dean laces his fingers together and turns his palms outward, loosening up his hands as if he’s preparing himself for the wrestling match of the century. If Sam isn’t afraid already, then he should be seeing as how Dean was top of the wrestling team in every year of high school. If anyone has doubts about it, then Dean has the trophies and medals to prove it.

After rolling his shoulders, Dean turns in his seat ready to fake wrestle Sam out of the car. It’s not like he actually intends to make him walk home the rest of the way, but it’s still fun as hell to see his little brother look scared of him. Too bad his plan backfires hard. As soon as Dean turns to him, Sam pulls out the puppy eyes – and of course he has to be really fucking good at it too. His eyes go all big and sad looking, and he even throws a pout in to boot.

Dean can’t do shit in the face of that and he slumps back in his seat with a sigh. “Christ, just put those eyes away. You win, you win.”

Sam doesn’t say a word, but he does straighten up with a triumphant grin. Dean just rolls his eyes and puts the car back into drive to pull back out onto the road. It’d be nice to have a subject change right around now so he doesn’t have to deal with Sam being all puffed up with his success.

“So, Sammy, what are your plans for University?” That’s a sure fire way to take the wind out of his sails.

Sure enough, Sam deflates and leans against the door. “I dunno, Dean. There’s a bunch of stuff I want to do, but I don’t know where to start or what to go after. The longer I take to figure it out while I’m going to classes, the more expensive it’s going to be.” He shrugs and rests his head against the window. “What if I end up not liking anything and it’s all just one big waste of money?”

Yeah, that’s a good reason to want to take time off from schooling. “You know that Mom and Dad aren’t going to push you for anything. You just take your time to figure out what you wanna do. Who knows, maybe your new job will be your calling and you’ll want to enroll in classes that have to do with that.”

“Maybe?” He shrugs again and gives Dean a forlorn look. “You always knew you wanted to be a firefighter, right?”

“Absolutely.” Ever since he was a kid that was all that was in the cards for Dean. He even used to play fireman around the house with his little costume and toy fire truck. It just felt right – and not just because it’s in his blood on his mother’s side of the family.

Every Campbell for the last four generations has been a firefighter at the Montpelier fire hall. Even mom was one, once. She retired from the force when Dean was born, but even she didn’t go far. Bobby hired her right back to work the office for them – mostly because Mom was still able to work and she could have Dean (and eventually Sam) in a play pen next to her desk. The alarms probably weren’t the best for nap time, but they got by. And now Mom’s a volunteer firefighter, just like Dad – though his main job is maintenance on the building and the vehicles.

Hell, if it wasn’t for that fire hall, Dean and Sam might not even exist right now. The station is where their parents met and fell in love – even despite Dad’s bigoted views. He might, kinda, in a way not be so fond of Creatures. And since you need to have implicit trust in the other firefighters on staff, and be able to put aside all differences to rescue anyone and everyone no matter their race or species – well, Dad might have had a little trouble with those kind of tests. Thus why he’s only allowed to be a volunteer firefighter and not one on staff like he wanted to be.

The conversation about University and future plans carries them all the way back to Casa de Winchester. They’ve barely pulled into the driveway before Mom comes out the front door in her slippers and house coat, her night gown swirling around her ankles.

Dean rolls the window down and hangs an arm out it. “Waiting for us, were you?”

“Of course I was.” She just smiles and holds out a paper bag. “I know you’re on shift for tomorrow, so I made you a couple sandwiches to take for lunch and supper.”

“Aww, mom!” Dean groans but still happily accepts the bag because his mom makes the best sandwiches in the world. “You didn’t have to. Now Charlie and Jo are going to tease more than they usually do.” Her sandwiches are worth it, but he’s still her kid so he’s contractually obligated to whine like a baby when she does shit like this.

Mom laughs and leans down to kiss him on the forehead. “I know, baby, but that’s what mothers are for. Oh, I also left you half a pie in the fridge at the station. It’s marked Bobby’s so no one will touch it tonight.” She reaches through the window and taps him on the nose. “Promise me that you’ll save it for dinner and not eat it for breakfast?”

Seriously, best mom ever. “I can’t make any promises.” He shakes his head and grins up at her. “But you’ll be there to stop me if you see me going for it.”

“I thought you might say that.” She sighs but winks at him because, as previously mentioned, she’s the best mom in the world.

When Sam comes around the car to head inside, Mom loops an arm over his shoulders and pulls him against her side in a hug that even he won’t avoid. Mom kisses him on the cheek because the top of his head is well out of reach. Sam makes a muffled sound of protest, but he does nothing to push away.

Mom smiles at him before looking to Dean again. “Have a good night, sweetie, and drive save. We’ll see you for dinner on Sunday, right?”

Sam huffs. “Mom, that was yesterday.”

Next Sunday, Sammy dear. Don’t be a smartass with me.”

He grins and ducks out from under her arm, dancing back out of reach. “Bye, Dean! See you in a couple days!” As in, after Dean’s shift tomorrow and after his day of rest.

Dean raises a hand in a wave. “See ya, Sammy. Text ya later.”

“Go on, sweetie.” Mom shoos him off before hugging herself, a breeze kicking up. “We’ll see you tomorrow and try not to bring the girls in with hangovers. You know how Bobby hates that.”

“Not parties tonight, mom. Promise.” Dean blows her a kiss as he starts backing out of the drive way. He waves as he drives off down the road, going slow enough to make sure that she gets back into the house safely. The neighbourhood is nice and quiet, but that’s his mom and he’s going to be as protective of her as he wants to be.

The drive to his house isn’t a very long one, but Dean spends it practically vibrating in his seat. He’s really excited to go to work tomorrow morning. Mostly because he loves his job and he loves his coworkers (for the most part). And maybe, in some way, part of his excitement might be because he can go to The Graveyard Shift again tomorrow night. He went on his Saturday overnight shift, but the hot barista guy – Cas – wasn’t working. Apparently he only works Monday to Friday, which means he’ll be working tomorrow night and Dean can attempt to flirt again. He just – he really needs to find out if Cas is open to guys or not. Then he can move on and stop building up a crush on the cute barista.

When Dean gets home, he detours to the kitchen to put his sandwiches in the fridge. Charlie is standing in front of a pot of boiling water, utterly engrossed with the book in her hands. Dean sighs and shuffles her out of the way so he can add her instant noodles to the pot and turn the heat down a bit.

“What have I said about cooking and reading?”

She hums and flips a page, not even looking up. So, it looks like Dean is going to have to be the one to make the noodles for her. Either that or they’re going to boil dry and burn to the pot and – God, no. Dean is not going to let that happen again. They had to throw out the pot the last time she did that and the place reeked of burnt noodles for days. It was not a fun experience and – Hold up.

Dean ducks and tilts his head to read the cover of the book in Charlie’s hand. “That’s book two. You’re finally done with book one?”

“Yeah.” She nods and flips to the next page. “Left it on your bed.”

Fuck yes. The Elenium Trilogy isn’t even remotely a recently released series, but Charlie raved about the first book, The Diamond Throne, while she was reading it. The main character is a guy named Sparhawk – Sparhawk, for fuck’s sake! If that wasn’t already cool enough, apparently he’s badass and awesome and hilarious. The fantasy setting of the story is right up Dean’s alley too. He’s been waiting for days for her to finish the first book so he could start it. Looks like he’s got a bedtime story for tonight!

Once the noodles are cooked to Charlie’s favourite consistency, Dean pulls them from the stove and mixes in the seasoning. He dumps it all into a bowl and sets out a placemat on the table with the food and a fork. Charlie still stays standing where she was and he sighs, guiding her to sit down. Once the fork is in her hand, she props the book open on the far side of the bowl and starts eating automatically. It’s all Dean can do to roll his eyes and leave quietly, he’s got a book to start reading.

*

Tuesday – September 29 th , 2015

There might be a small problem with starting to read a new book in the late evening. The problem lies mostly with Dean and his inability to put down something good once he’s started it. And The Diamond Throne is definitely good. If Charlie doesn’t hurry up, he’s going to be done book one before she’s done book two. He’s already a decent chunk into the book before his bladder reminds him that it does exist and sometimes needs to be emptied.

As much as he hates to do it, Dean bookmarks his page and rolls out of bed to shamble into the bathroom. On his way back, while wiping his hands dry on his t-shirt, he catches sight of the alarm clock and groans. Shit. It’s well after one o’clock and that makes Dean a great big idiot for not having gone to bed hours ago. Now the problem is that he doesn’t feel even the least bit tired. The adventures of Sparhawk is still in the forefront of his head and if he turned off the light now, it’s doubtful that he’d be able to stop thinking about the story.

No, what he needs to do now is get the book out of his head and tire himself out. The best way to do that is just for a quick walk around the neighbourhood. Ten minutes out there should be more than enough to knock him out. Dean hates running and he’d even consider a quick jog if it’ll sap whatever reading energy he’s got pumping through his veins right now. Once the idea is in his head, he can’t think of anything else to do. So, why the hell not? It’s not like it’s going to hurt anything. And he needs to get away from the book or he’ll just pick it up again and keep reading.

Dean tucks the book away in the drawer of his bedside table and changes clothes. He swaps his plaid cotton pants for a decent pair of sweats and pulls a hoodie on over his t-shirt. It’s probably around sixty degrees out there right now and even though that’s not exactly cold, he’s not going to take any chances. If he gets sick, that could put him down for a week and he doesn’t want to risk anything stupid like that. A cold while on shift is a pain in the ass – and it might be enough for Bobby to send him home.

After he’s dressed, Dean grabs his phone, his wallet, and some headphones. His keys he grabs at the front door before he heads out for the walk, locking the door behind him. The music he decides to listen to is soft and gentle, something to calm his brain down. Even his stride is laidback. A jog would just get his heartrate up and then there’d be no sleeping after that – at least not for a little while.

He lets his feet do the guiding on the walk. They turn where they want and cross the street when they want. All he tries to do is focus on keeping the book out of his head and listening to the music. It’s his sleep playlist, basically, full of instrumental music from movies. There are some crescendos and shit, like during big battles from the Lord of the Rings soundtrack, but those don’t really hype him up too much unless he’s watching the movie.

Maybe he should have been paying attention to where his feet were taking him, because before Dean knows it, he finds himself standing in front of the The Graveyard Shift a good twenty-four hours before he’s supposed to be here. He can even see Cas through the windows on the door, sitting at the counter by the cash register, focused on his laptop. Fuck it. Since he’s already here, he might as well go in and say hello. Maybe get a little snack to reward himself for this nice long walk that did indeed do its job of clearing his head of The Diamond Throne.

With a deep breath, Dean pushes open the door and steps inside. His heart does a funny little jig in his chest because Cas is kinda really cute when he’s concentrating on things. There’s a small frown drawing his eyebrows together and his glasses have slid down his nose a ways. His hair is all kinds of fucked up, like he tried styling it but didn’t know what he was doing, or he ran his hands through it a little too much. Either way, it looks good and Dean is going to get into so much trouble for staring as hard as he is.

When Cas looks up, one hand going to the screen of his laptop to close it, Dean’s feet choose right then as the perfect time for him to walk into a chair and bump it into the table it’s sitting at. Dean immediately swears under his breath and looks down to put the chair back in its rightful place. Hopefully Cas didn’t notice how much he was staring at him – or that his vision is so bad that when he’s looking over his glasses at him like that, he won’t be able to see that Dean is blushing like a beacon over here.

Oh God, but there Cas goes, pushing his glasses up his nose. Fuck. Dean swallows his pride and tries really hard to get his blush under control. He pulls one of his headphones out and gives a small wave. “Uh –” Not the time to be tongue tied, Winchester! “Hello again.”

Cas closes his laptop and a small smile spreads across his face. “Welcome back, Dean.” Oh God, he even remembered his name. “What can I get for you today? I’m afraid I haven’t memorized your order yet, but I’m sure I will if you keep coming back.”

No, no, don’t do that. That would make Dean feel special and make him feel like he totally has a chance, and right now he’s not even sure if guys turn Cas’s crank at all. Is he into girls only? Guys only? His specific kind of Creature only? Maybe he’s not into anyone or anything at all, which is entirely possible. Either way, Dean is at loss because he’s never wanted to hit on a guy before and this is still pretty fucking new to him.

He shakes his head and offers an apologetic smile. “Actually, I’m not here for coffee tonight.” Shit, that makes it sound like he’s here for Cas. Why did he come in here? He should’ve turned around outside and gone back home. This is a bad idea that’s just going to make him look all the more foolish. Cas is going to think he’s a weird creepy loser and ban him from ever coming back to the café.

“No coffee?” Cas tilts his head and raises one of his eyebrows. He glances him over and Dean shuffles awkwardly in place. “You don’t look like you’re on shift tonight.”

“I’m not.” Dean shrugs and shoves his hands into the front pocket of his hoodie. “I’m technically supposed to be sleeping right now. I gotta work in…” He glances at the clock on the wall. “Shit. I gotta be at work by eight.”

Cas’s eyebrows furrow together in another confused frown. “Then why are you here? I may not be the foremost expert in proper sleep cycles, but I do believe you should be sleeping right now.”

There is no way to explain why he’s here without blatantly outing himself for crushing on the cute barista who just so happens to be the picture of Dean’s perfect guy. And that’s saying something, considering it’s only been in the last year that he’s formed what that perfect guy would be. Sure, he apparently had massive man crushes on Harrison Ford and Dr. Sexy while he was growing that he never realized until after he figured out that he was bisexual, but – yeah, okay. He’s got a thing for dark hair and a rebel-like attitude, which Cas sorta has going for him with the hair and the stubble and the – seriously, another waist coat? What the hell! No barista wears a waistcoat.

Dean clears his throat and shrugs slightly, glancing away to eye up the display case because that’s way better than staring at Cas. “I couldn’t sleep, so I went for a walk.”

“So, you came to a café?” Cas stands up and goes around the counter so he’s standing behind the display case. Is he trying to make Dean look at him? Jesus, that’s not fair. “Are you feeling alright? That doesn’t seem like a very sound plan for inducing sleep.”

He shrugs again and glances up, then viciously wishes he hadn’t. Cas has a teasing smile pulling up the corners of his mouth and it makes Dean go weak in the knees. Yup, it’s time to get the hell out of dodge before he says or does something stupid. This is so not the time or the place for him to be right now. Dean needs to be home and in bed and sleeping.

“I’ll – um – sorry. I should probably go.” His throat feels like it’s closing up and Dean steps away from the counter. “This was dumb of me, sorry.”

“Not at all.” Cas shakes his head and his smile grows even more, showing off those pearly whites and really pointed canines. Those are most definitely not Human teeth and they give Dean a bit of a chill just looking at them. “If you’re here, then you must want something, right?”

It’s all Dean can do not to laugh because that’s truer than Cas could ever know. The longer they talk, the more his crush is growing. Which means the answer to Cas’s question is that Dean did, indeed, come here for something. Unfortunately, he doubts he could get away with saying something along the lines of ‘yeah, you’. That probably wouldn’t turn out so great, and he really would rather keep that smile on Cas’s face for as long as he can.

Too bad that the longer Dean doesn’t answer, the more Cas’s smile slips. Finally, Cas just turns slightly to gesture at the menu behind him. “We do have other drinks besides coffee. Would you like some chocolate milk? Water, perhaps? I do make a very good decaf, if you still want the flavour of coffee without the caffeine.” He pauses and turns back to tap the top of the display case. “Or perhaps you might be inclined for something a little more sugar based?”

In all honesty, Dean really shouldn’t buy anything right now, but he can’t help grinning at the curious little lift of Cas’s eyebrow. “You’re just saying all that because you want my money.”

Cas doesn’t even hesitate to nod. “That would be because I run a business.” He taps the display case again. “And I do enjoy peddling my brother’s baking. It’s quite good, if I do say so myself.”

“Oh, well in that case.” Dean can’t help a grin of his own and he shuffles closer to get a look at what they have to offer.

Sadly, there doesn’t appear to be any pie yet. That’s a bit disappointing, but Dean didn’t really expect them to start making it just because he asked them to last week. He’ll have to keep on them once he’s on better terms with the owners – in this case, Cas and his brother. And he hasn’t even met that guy yet – what was his name again? Something weirdly religious sounding too. It’s – oh yeah, Gabriel. Since he’s the big baker of the place, he’s probably the one that Dean is going to have to work on to start getting pie stocked.

It’s not that big a deal right now because Dean’s truly awesome mom left him pie at the station, so he’s not going to bother asking about it right now. Instead, he should focus on picking something that he actually recognizes. There are some weird pink sandwiches with something in the middle. These are pretty small and he could probably put a couple of them in the palm of his hand. There are a bunch of tarts covered in fruit, and some rectangular slices of something that might be cake, but he can’t really tell aside from that it’s drizzled with icing.

Nothing looks really familiar to him until he reaches the bottom of the display case where there are thick square slabs of what is undoubtedly chocolate. Dean points at those and looks up at Cas. “Brownies?”

“Yes, they are.” He nods and grabs an envelope-bag that looks like it’s made of wax paper. “Would you like one? I can attest that they are very good, if you don’t mind rich chocolate.”

Luckily, Dean loves rich chocolate. “Sure, why not. Grab me one of those, please.”

Cas ducks down to slide open the door on the back of the case. When he pops up again, the brownie is in the wax baggie. “Do you want this in a proper bag, or is this fine for you?”

“S’fine, thanks.” He holds his hand out for it and does his best not to accidentally brush their fingers together. If that happened, he might just melt through the floor because it’s dumb and sappy and weird.

Cas hands off the brownie and punches a few buttons on the cash register. It’s only a couple dollars and Dean is pretty impressed, given the size of the brownie. It’s like three inches by three inches across and he might not be able to finish it before he gets home. He’s definitely going to have to brush his teeth again before he goes to bed, that’s for sure. Twenty-two years he’s gone without a cavity and he is not breaking that streak now.

Once the bill is settled up, Dean holds up the brownie in a kind of salute. “Thanks for the midnight snack, Cas. Give your compliments to your brother.”

“You haven’t even tried it yet.” Cas adjusts his glasses again and smiles. “And it’s after two o’clock. It’s not exactly a midnight snack, now is it?”

Holy crap, he has got to be joking. “It’s – uh – it’s just a saying.” A really common one too. Maybe Cas is just one of those really literal people? Dean isn’t sure if that’s adorable or not. He’s never really met someone literal like that. Everyone usually more or less understands everything that he says, and sometimes Dean can say some really weird things.

“Oh.” Colour dusts Cas’s cheeks and he looks down to start sorting the change into the drawer. “Well, you’re welcome. I hope you enjoy it.”

Dean has to fight the urge to smile like a doofus because wow. If he thought Cas was cute before, he’s not sure what at all to call it when he blushes. Like, he’s really fucking cute right now as he keeps his head ducked and pushes his glasses up his nose again. Poor guy needs to get them refitted so they sit better. They shouldn’t be sliding like that – and he only knows that because Grandpa Campbell had to get glasses and he was a real bitch about it for a while.

“Right, well –” Dean steps back, trying to kick himself into motion. “I should head back and try to get some sleep. I guess I’ll be seeing you again in twenty-four hours.”

Cas looks up at him again, eyebrow raised. “Will you be getting coffee then?”

“Absolutely. I lost the draw for this month so I’m staying up for every night shift.” He grins and nods, throwing every bit of confidence he has into his next words. “Try to remember what I like this time, okay? Black drip coffee with two shots of espresso.”

“Duly noted.” Cas taps his temple, like he’s really filing it away in there. “Have a safe walk home, Dean.”

Goddammit. He used his name again. That’s not fucking fair. Dean ducks his head, hoping this doesn’t cause another blush. He waves over his shoulder and manages to make it out of the café without tripping over his feet or bumping into a single table, which is really a feat all on its own.

This was not how he was expecting his night to go, but he can’t say that he regrets it. He’ll be tired as hell in the morning, but he’s got a brownie right now and Cas’s smile fresh in his mind. In less than a day he’ll get to see it again and maybe get to know Cas better. That’s step one and – well – who knows where step two is going to take him? Either way, he’s kinda looking forward to that.

Chapter Text

 

Tuesday - September 29th, 2015

It takes every ounce of Dean’s balance and brain power not to fall flat on his face when he rolls out of bed. God, he’s fucking exhausted. When he got back from his walk last night, he brushed his teeth and went straight to sleep. Despite that, and despite how awesome the brownie was when he was eating it, his mouth tastes like week old chocolate and he’s so tired he feels like he’s hungover. It’s a shit combination and he kinda hates it.

He drags his heels while getting ready, skipping his shower because there’s just no time at all. If he has the time, he can shower at the station later during some downtime. For now, it’s just his station uniform - a polo and some dark pants. Dean wears them during the day then jumps into his bunkers when a call comes in. The only time he wears his turnout pants, boots, and his suspenders constantly is at night when he doesn’t run the risk of doing anything that might get them ripped. That’s just to save time.

Oh, but his bed is looking so very comfortable right now. Dean wants nothing more than to curl up and sleep in it again. Good thing he put the book away or he’d be really tempted to bring it with him - or just give up on leaving the house altogether and go back to reading it. But he’s really too tired for that and he’d never miss a day of work. If he’s going to miss work, then he better be fucking dying because nothing is going to keep him from the best job in the world. That and he can’t even imagine how disappointed his parents would be if he skipped for anything less than death.

“Dean, my dear!” The knock at the door makes Dean jump in surprise and he realizes that he’s just been standing there staring at the bed. Shit, how long do they have before shift start?

Charlie’s next knock is a hard bang. “Oi, Dean! Get the lead out and let’s go.”

“Oh my God, just go in and hose him down!” Jo’s shout is far more muffled through her bedroom door and Dean’s. Of course she's getting frustrated with them. Unlike some people, she doesn't have to work today. “He’s obviously not up yet!”

Dean rubs his hands over his face and opens his door. "Wrong on all accounts." Time to get the ball rolling on this day. The sooner he starts, the sooner it's done. “Let’s go.”

“What about breakfast?” Charlie’s bottom lip sticks out in a pout as she follows him down the stairs. “You promised me a full spread this morning!”

That’s a fucking lie and she should be ashamed for even trying to use his sleep deprived brain fuzz to swindle a meal out of him. Granted, that’s not really anything new. Charlie tries to get a home cooked meal out of him practically every day. It probably has to do with how she’s a connoisseur of microwave meals while Jo gets her fill of cooking whenever she’s at her mom's restaurant; the Roadhouse. And that means the only one who actually uses their kitchen like it was intended to be is Dean. Luckily for them, he doesn’t mind in the slightest - mostly because some of his fondest memories from growing up are helping his mama cook.

Dean ignores just flat out ignores her whining. The only reason he goes to the kitchen is to grab the bag of sandwiches his mom made for him last night. He grabs a banana from the fruit bowl that Jo keeps and tosses that to Charlie. If she wants anything else, she can make it herself in the few seconds she has between now and when Dean plans to be pulling out of the garage.

Charlie sulks for as long as the drive as it takes for her to finish her banana. While he would have liked to save the sandwiches for lunch and supper like his mom wanted, Dean ends up eating one of them for his breakfast while he's driving.

After the first half of his sandwich, Dean waves the second at Charlie to get her attention. "So, who's on shift with us today?"

She waves her banana peel at him, mocking his gesture. "Bobby's in the office with your mom, and we've got Meg and Ruby on standby for the day." Of course she would know all the details, but that doesn't really answer his question. After a yawn, she gives the rest. "We're on shift with Benny and Nick. Keep your fingers crossed that he's not in a Lucifer-type mood today."

"It's tonight I'm more worried about." Dean yawns and shakes his head to get the cobwebs out.

Nick is usually pretty good during the day when he's got distractions with equipment maintenance, the training refreshers, and the calls that they get. Oh God, the calls. With Dean's luck today, they're probably going to have a bunch of emergencies. And after emergencies, that means paperwork and he fucking hates paperwork. Sure, he loves being organized, but paperwork just takes forever and everything needs to be tracked and remembered and he just really doesn't like it.

"I hope Benny got his spell renewed yesterday like he was supposed to." Charlie muses out loud as she takes the Ziploc bag that Dean's sandwich had been in and seals the banana peel in it. "He said on the weekend that the sun was starting to feel too bright to him, and that only happens when the spell is starting to wear off."

There aren't many magic users who live in Montpelier so Benny has to make a day trip out to Boston in Massachusetts to get the protective spell for sun resistance renewed. Without that spell, Vampires and other Creatures that can't go out in the daylight are pretty much screwed and forced to stay in the dark. To Dean's understanding, that particular spell isn't exactly cheap to get and they need to be renewed every month or so, depending on the strength of the spell in the first place. It's gotta be a pain in the ass to get, but without it Benny wouldn't be able to stay on the force.

While Dean might love to pry, he does his best not to ask too many questions most of the time. From what he understands, it takes a pretty strong Witch to cast that kind of spell. As far as he knows, there isn't a single Witch in town, so that's gotta suck for Benny. Some Creatures are born with some inherent magical abilities, like how Charlie can manipulate and create fire, but no one who's an actual Witch.

Magic is so fucking fascinating and it's on Dean's list of things to learn more about. If he wanted, he could learn some magic and maybe that's something he'll do down the line. It sucks that because he's Human, he'll never be a really strong magic user and he definitely won't ever be considered a Witch. The only way to be one of those is to be born as one. Witches and Creatures are the only beings alive who can be really strong users. In fact, Witches and all forms of magic users need to be registered and licensed with the government.

Dean's bones always start to tingle with excitement when he thinks about all the possibilities that exist with magic. He always gets psyched when he hears about black magic and the dark arts. As if Harry Potter didn't already make that sound cool enough, to know that it actually exists is so badass. The only thing about Harry Potter that he couldn't wrap his head around is how the wizarding world managed to hide everything from the rest of the world. It's just so weird to think about a world where Creatures and magic aren't a part of daily life.

When he pulls into the parking lot, Dean gestures at Benny's beaten up old truck. "Looks like he's in." Which means the spell had to have been done. Bobby wouldn't let him in the station if he couldn't be out in the sun. The visors on their hoods don't filter out sunlight, so even their gear isn't enough to protect a Vampire.

"So are your parents." Charlie points out the truck next to Benny's. She flashes a grin at him as he pulls in next to it. "When was the last time they beat you to work? How much trouble are you going to be in?"

Good question. Dean glances at his watch while they're getting out of the Impala. They've still got a few minutes to clock in, so he's not technically late. "None, hopefully."

He locks the car and books it inside, keeping his fingers crossed that he won't get in any shit for this. That's all he needs to be the cherry on top of this already exhausting morning. Maybe he will eat the leftover pie for breakfast. The sugar in that might be able to kick start his brain a little bit. Too bad Cas isn't working. His first morning break could be a coffee run, but he'll spend that cat napping and sucking back the sludge they call coffee in the break room.

Fuck, he can't wait for his break.

*

True to form, the day does its best to fuck him in the ass. His day involved helping his dad on the trucks and then driving back and forth across town for false alarm calls. One was someone having put chicken on the stove to boil and then thinking it was a good idea to take a fucking nap. That had boiled dry and the chicken started to burn, which set off the smoke alarm in their apartment. Of course when that was investigated, whoever opened the apartment left the door open and the smoke set off the building alarm – which is what summons the fire department.

The second call in the early afternoon was someone calling worried that their freshly graduated son had locked themselves in the bathroom for a suicide attempt. If the lady had bothered to knock on the door first, she would've learned that the really long shower he was taking was for – well, the poor kid is probably never going to want to masturbate again. Granted, if he wanted to explore using his first dildo, he probably should've picked a better time than the middle of the day when his parents were home. Kudos to him for wanted to try that, though. Dean discovered his bisexual side in the summer following his twenty-first birthday and he definitely hasn't had to the courage to try anything like that yet.

The paperwork for all those calls is still fresh in his head and his supper sandwich is heavy in his belly when Dean heads into the bunk room to take his evening nap. Benny is already snoozing in the corner, wrapped up like a burrito in his blanket. While he expects to see that, Dean isn't expecting to see Nick pulling back the blankets on one of the other beds.

"Hold the phone." Dean keeps his voice in a whisper, just so he doesn't bother Benny. "What are you doing in here? You're supposed to be staying up with Charlie for the evening."

Nick shrugs and flashes him a grin as he gets under the covers. "I changed my mind and now I'm going to take a nap. We've had a busy day, in case you forgot."

Oh God. Dean has to fight the urge to groan. "Please tell me that doesn't mean that you're going to be up with Benny and me all night."

"Keep up that attitude and I absolutely will be." Nick hums and wiggles to get comfortable. "I already checked with Charlie if she's comfortable being on her own for a few hours, so don't you worry your pretty little head about what I do."

Not only is that against protocol, but Dean really doesn't want Nick to stay up all night with them. He's not a bad guy, per se, but Nick has rubbed him the wrong way ever since Dean joined the force. It probably didn't help matters none that one of the first thing Nick did was hit on him. That was before Dean figured out that he was bisexual, but Nick is just – well, he's an ass. Bisexual or not, he's not Dean's type and he can get downright creepy with how he treats everyone.

Grumbling, Dean picks the bed farthest from where Nick is. "Yeah, sure, why don't we all just take a nap then, huh? Charlie should get her ass in here and leave the whole station unmanned."

The sharp slap on his ass makes Dean jump and he whips around to find Charlie grinning at him. "You make a great little spoon, Dean, but I'm not tired." She wiggles The Ruby Knight from the Elenium Trilogy at him, clearly having just got it from her locker on the other side of the room. "Unlike some people, I actually went to bed at a decent hour last night."

Nick sits upright in bed and his grin is downright shark-ish. "Did I hear that right?" He waggles his eyebrows and it sends a chill down Dean's spine. "You're a little spoon, Winchester?"

"Shut up and take your damn nap, Satan." He flips Nick the bird and drops into his own bed, ignoring Charlie too. All he wants to do is take his long nap before the night shift and now he's not looking forward to it like he was.

"They call me Lucifer. If you're going to call me names, at least get it right."

Dean just huffs and turns his back to him. Charlie sighs and grabs the edge of the blanket so she can tuck Dean in with it. "Sleep well, little prince."

"Fuck off, the both of you." He grumbles into his pillow and slaps at her hand as she ruffles his hair. "And finish up that book, already. I wanna read it too."

"You're not even done book one." She laughs quietly and ducks out of the room before he can pitch his pillow at her head.

By some miracle, Nick doesn't feel the need to add a final comment to the situation. His blankets rustle a little bit as he makes himself comfortable again, and then it's silence in the dark room – blessed silence. No matter how annoyed he is right now, Dean still manages to drop off within minutes and he has never been happier for it.

*

Wednesday – September 30 th , 2015

Benny wakes Dean up well after he should be. Charlie is fast asleep in one of the other beds and Nick is nowhere to be seen when he sits up and looks around. The alarm that's always set on his phone – the one that he knows was on when he went down for his nap – is turned off. Did he do that? He's not usually one to turn off his alarm in his sleep, as far as he knows.

"Charlie did it." Benny whispers as he helps Dean to his feet. "She said you didn't get a good night and we should let you sleep another couple hours." He pats Dean on the shoulder once he's standing. "It's coffee time and I figured that's when you'd wanna be up."

Coffee time? Oh! Cas time! Dean grins brightly and claps both hands down on Benny's shoulders. "Bless you and your Vampiric heart." He'll have to get Charlie a treat from the café as thanks. If there was ever a reason for her being his best friend, it's this.

There's totally a bounce in his step as he follows Benny out into the common area. Looks like he was in the middle of a poker game with Nick when he stopped to wake him. Dean immediately regrets letting his excitement show, because this funny kind of light fills Nick's face when he looks up from his cards.

"My, my!" He practically crows. "Don't you look perky tonight, my freckled friend!"

Dean sticks his tongue out at him and goes to pull on his pants and boots. "No comment."

If a call comes in while he's out, it'll save them time if he's already half-dressed when he runs back into the station. Once he's dressed, he pulls the change jar out of the cupboard above the sink to fish out enough for his coffee. After a pause, he gets enough for Nick's too. "You want coffee?"

Nick nods, but he's still grinning at Dean in the way that always ticks him off. "You know, the mere act of saying that you have no comment means that you do have a comment to make." He tilts his head and looks Dean from head to toe. "If I had to guess, I'd say that you think Castiel is cute."

Dean freezes while he's counting out the change. How in the fuck did Nick figure that out with just a glance? Better yet, how the hell does he know Cas's full name? Do they know each other or is there something more sinister going on? Everything that involves Nick is automatically sinister and Dean is none too pleased to think that Cas might have something to do with him. Oh dear God, please don't tell him that he's too late and Nick already got his hooks into Cas. That bastard always moves in quick on anyone he finds cute.

He clears his throat while he pockets the change. "I don't know what you're talking about."

"See, I bet that you do." Nick leans back in his chair. "Or don't you know who Castiel is? He's the one who works overnight at the Graveyard Shift – the new favourite coffee bar for every night owl in Montpelier. And he's really cute, don't you agree? I love his glasses."

No. Hell no. Double fucking triple nope-ity no. Dean sets his glare to lethal. "Dibs."

Nick sits up slightly, his eyebrow quirking. "Dibs, you say? I believe I'll challenge you on that." He leans forward to rest his elbows on the table. "When did you meet him?"

"I don't want to tell you." Dean turns his nose up at him and starts towards the door.

"Well I was at the Graveyard Shift on opening night." The smug satisfaction in Nick's voice makes Dean stop and turn to face him again. "I do believe that means I get dibs since I discovered him first."

Fuck. While that might be an age old unspoken rule among guys, Dean absolutely does not want to give Cas up to Nick of all people. "You don't even know if he likes guys." And there's one of Dean's biggest fears already out in the open. Hopefully Nick doesn't pick up on that.

Benny sighs when Nick throws down his cards and stands up. Obviously their game isn't going to get a move on any time soon. "You really think anyone is going to be able to resist this?" He waves his arm in a motion at himself.

Does he really want to go there? It's like he's declaring war or some bullshit like that. Nick might be fit, and he might even be considered attractive in the right light, but he does not hold a candle to Dean fucking Winchester.

"Excuse me?" Dean puts his hands on his hips and does his best to look like he's not about to start strutting his stuff around the common room. "Do you really think that Cas would pick you over me?"

The sad thing is that Dean is totally blowing smoke out his ass right now. He has no fucking clue what Cas's preferences might be. This could all be for naught as it is if Cas isn't into guys. For all Dean knows, he could be circling the base of the wrong tree, and he hasn't even started barking up it yet. He needs to keep testing the waters before he even considers doing something like that.

"You underestimate the size of my ego, Winchester." Nick shakes his head and fixes Dean with a look that borders on pity – and it makes his blood boil. He starts flexing, even going so far as to kiss his bicep.

Before Dean can even start weighing the consequences of slugging Nick, he turns on his heel and heads for the door again. "I'm leaving." He rolls his eyes, refusing to continue this stupid conversation any further.

Dean doesn’t even get more than a few steps before Nick clears his throat loudly. “You know, we’re technically not supposed to be leaving the fire hall while we’re on duty.”

“Bobby okayed midnight coffee runs as long as we’re staying in contact with the station and not gone for more than ten minutes.” The ‘so HAH’ is left unspoken.

He flips Nick off and gets another few steps before Nick does that stupid throat thing again. Now he’s starting to remind Dean of Dolores Umbridge and that might actually be worse than naming him Lucifer. “He also said that we need to be prepared. You’re not looking very prepared to me. If we get a call in the next five minutes, your perky patootie is going to be slowing us down while you finish getting into the rest of your bunkers.”

With a groan, Dean turns around again. Nick is just doing this to piss him off. No one ever wears their jacket out of the hall unless there’s a call or they’re doing some kind of presentation somewhere that requires it. This is just vengeance for calling dibs on Cas first. Is it his fault that Nick wasn’t fast enough? Of course not. Fucker. Dean stalks across the common area to grab his under-jacket off the hook. It’s not the main coat with half his gear hanging off of it, but that fucker is big and bulky and he’s not going to wear it out of the station for anything short of a fire and an assembly room full of wide-eyed eight year olds on career day. He pulls that on and spreads his arms for approval, his glare still on lethal settings.

“Yes, that’s much better.” Nick sits down again and picks up his cards. “Now do be sure to keep your phone on you. One never knows when something might come up.”

Dean loves his coworkers and his job, except for Nick. Right now, he could throttle the bastard. He has and will continue trusting Nick with his life on a daily basis, and he’ll even be civil with him because Dean is an adult. But fuck if he ever got the chance to, he would punch the asshole without hesitation. Actually, that could probably be said about him too from a number of other people but Dean is going to just ignore that little hypocritical thought for now.

"Don’t forget, freckles! I take my coffee with three shots of espresso and a splash of chocolate milk!" Nick calls after him, voice singsong and irritating.

Before he has to listen to anything else, Dean hops the pole down to the garage to get away faster. Of course he already knows everyone's favourite drinks and it's almost insulting that Nick might think that he doesn't know it. Poor Benny is actually playing poker with the guy, and it looks like they might be stuck with him all night. Nick's coffee is on par with Dean's and neither one of them is going to be getting sleep once they start drinking.

It was just a few minutes ago that Dean was super excited to get to go see Cas. Now he's almost dreading it a little bit. Seriously, what are the chances that Cas would be into guys too? The only place Dean knows to meet guys who are interested is at a gay club that Charlie started dragging him to the moment they were old enough to legally go. As far as he knows, he's never run into anyone who swings that way here in Montpelier (not including Charlie), let alone been hit on here. And it's not like Cas flirted back with him the other night – if you can even count what Dean did as flirting.

In Dean's very limited experience, guys always flirt back with him – even though he's not all that good at flirting with them in the first place. Granted, his experience is limited strictly to the gay club and that's a whole fucking forty minutes away in Burlington. It's at that club where Dean got his first real dose of being hit on by guys. Like, seriously, tons. Dean was a little overwhelmed by how many guys started flirting with him and buying him drinks.

And then there was Aaron. That was a onetime make out session that Charlie managed to talk him into on their third trip to the club. He can still hear her asking; "What could it hurt to at least try?" Well, nothing was hurt, that's for sure. Aaron was a bit short for Dean's liking, but he was cute and the making out was good. The over-the-clothes heavy petting only happened because Dean was more than a little buzzed. He needed that alcohol to get over the whole 'holy shit I'm kissing a guy' feeling.

When that went over splendidly, Dean turned to porn. Ever since then, he's added all manner of gay porn to his repertoire when he needs that little extra oomph considering how lackluster his love life currently is. But, if he's very lucky, Cas could change all of that. Maybe. It’s entirely possible that Cas is actually an asshole and Dean doesn’t know that because all he ever sees of him is his polite smile and customer pleasing attitude.

Either way, it makes Dean’s knees go all wibbly when he walks into the café and finds Cas at his laptop again, that concentration frown right back in place. It’s just so fucking cute and God fucking dammit. If Cas was hot wearing a waistcoat before, Dean has literally no words for how downright adorable he looks in a rumpled sweater. He is so totally regressing to high school on this and getting a crush on the cute barista. Shit.

Nothing feels better than a solid day of the sleep. Castiel never feels better or more alive than after one. He only needs it every four days, but sometimes he thinks he wouldn’t mind doing it every day. It just feels so good and he always feels so refreshed, but the sleep is just so damn inconvenient. Castiel is never more vulnerable than when he’s sleeping and he hates that feeling, no matter how much safe Gabriel’s spells make their home.

When the bell chimes, Castiel looks up and feels a smile building. Dean walks in and colour almost immediately fills his cheeks. It’s only been a few weeks since they opened, but Dean is definitely in the top three of Castiel’s favourite customers. He just finds his presence to be rather enjoyable and he likes seeing how Dean gets awkward and fumbly with his words. It’s quite adorable and rather endearing.

Castiel closes his laptop and stands up from his stool, the smile already fully in place whether he wants it to be or not. “Hello, Dean.”

The moment he says that, Dean stumbles slightly and surprise flickers across his face. It’s replaced with a bright smile and a nervous laugh. “It keeps throwing me off that you remember my name.”

“Well, you did introduce yourself.” Castiel shrugs and moves his laptop to put it out of sight. “None of my other customers have done that yet, and that includes the other firefighters.”

To his surprise, Dean puffs up and his grin gets even bigger. “Not even Nick?”

Castiel takes a moment to think about it before he shrugs and shakes his head. He’s fairly certain that he doesn’t know anyone with that name. He’s only seen a few of the firefighters and he’s absolutely positive that none of them shared their name like Dean did. Of course, Dean did also make quite the impression during his first visit. With that, he more or less secured a spot in Castiel’s memories.

Dean digs around in some of his pockets until he finds his phone. With a few taps on the screen, he pulls up a picture and holds it out for Castiel to see. “This is Nick.”

Oh. Him. Castiel’s smile falls into a frown now that he can put a name to the face. “He comes in usually when you’re not working.” This Nick is not even remotely one of his favourite customers. “He berates my music choices, sings over it so I can’t hear the lyrics, and he is very picky about how I make his coffee.” The first time Castiel had to make it for him, he had to make it twice before Nick was satisfied.

Laughing, Dean puts his phone away. “His nickname at the hall is Lucifer.”

Castiel snorts a laugh and starts punching in the same drink that Dean always orders to get a head start on the order. “That’s rather fitting.” He reaches over to flip the switch on the coffee machine and get a fresh drip going. “I’m actually named after an angel too.”

That seems to get Dean’s attention. He rests his hands on the counter and leans forward, interest bright in his eyes. “Really? That’s super neat.” And then realization hits him and confusion draws his eyebrows together. “Wait a second. I’m pretty sure that you said your brother’s name was Gabriel, right? Isn’t that – I’m pretty damn sure that’s an angel name too.”

“You would be correct, yes.” He keeps his eyes focused on the cash register, taking his time to add the espresso shots. “It’s the name of an archangel, actually.”

“Oh, wow.” Dean’s huffs a small laugh and leans back again. “Did your parents do that on purpose?”

No. “Absolutely.”

Gabriel and Castiel were the names of their parents’ favourite angels, and that was the inspiration behind why they bear the names now. But these are most certainly not the names their parents gave them. While Castiel really does like his current name, it leaves a bitter tang on the back of his tongue. It’s been a very long time since he used his birth name, but he kind of misses it sometimes.

Dean’s laugh draws him from his melancholy thoughts. “Well, at least they’re good names. You could’ve been stuck with something weird.”

Castiel mentally shakes himself out and looks up with a raised eyebrow. “Such as?” The blank look that falls across Dean’s face almost makes him laugh. “Or would you prefer a change of subject? Might I suggest starting with your order?”

Colour fills Dean’s cheeks and he glances down at the counter, mumbling out the order. With no small measure of amusement, Castiel types the rest of it into the cash register. Now he has a name to put towards the chocolate milk splash. It’s an affront to coffee, as far as he’s concerned, but he won’t make any comment on it. People are allowed to have their preferences, even if they’re wrong. Castiel likes his coffee black with maybe a dash of sugar if he’s feeling particularly adventurous that day. Anything else ruins the flavour of the roast.

Aside from the ambient music being piped through the speakers, the café is silent while Castiel makes the drinks. It doesn’t unnerve him in the slightest, but Gabriel has more or less beaten it into his head that normal people are bothered by it. Since they made the decision to open a café together, Castiel has been well schooled in small talk – even if he’s doesn’t see any particular need for it. Right now, however, he thinks that might help Dean feel less awkward for not knowing the names of other angels.

He glances up from adding the shots of espresso to Dean’s drink. “How was your weekend?”

Small talk works wonders with him and Dean brightens up again in a heartbeat. He starts drumming his fingers on the counter to the beat of the music. “Busy, I guess. Been working and shit. What about you?”

“It was fine.” Castiel shrugs and puts a lid on Dean’s drink. He puts it in the tray so he can start on Nick’s. “Do you mind if I ask what you do when you’re not working? From my understanding, firefighters work twenty-four hours and have forty-eight off. Is that correct?” He had looked into it as part of his research when he and Gabriel were selecting the location for their café. They considered it a bonus that firefighters could be coming in often, not to mention everyone who works in city hall practically right across the street from them.

“Yeah, that’s right.” Dean bobs his head in a nod and shuffles over to the side to look at the pastry case. “I usually spend my forty-eight free hours sleeping, working on the car – she’s my baby, visiting with my little brother, and doing shit around the house.” He sighs loudly and bends over to look at tonight’s selection. “Sometimes it feels like I’m the only one who wants to keep it clean. And I am totally taking whatever the hell that long donut looking thing is with the chocolate on top.”

“That’s an éclair and it’s filled with a chocolate cream.” Castiel adds Nick’s coffee to the tray. “Are you sure you want it?”

Dean nods again and flashing a smile at him. “Since you don’t have any pie, that’s going to have to do.”

An odd reason, but it’s acceptable. Castiel taps a few keys on the cash register to add a pastry to the order. His laptop catches his eye again and a thought occurs to him. “Do you have any pets?”

“My little brother has a dog, but that’s at the childhood home so Bones isn’t really mine.” He shrugs and watches intently as Castiel picks the fattest éclair for him, just as a perk for being one of his favourite customers. “I live on my own, sorta. No pets, but I’ve got two roommates who can be assholes sometimes, I guess.”

Castiel bags the éclair expertly and rests it on top of the coffee cups. “Are you always this free with information about yourself?”

Dean starts counting change out of his pocket but pauses and glances up at him. “Sorry?”

“In the span of thirty seconds I’ve learned that you have a house with two roommates, a younger brother who still lives at home with your parents, and that he has a dog.” Castiel accepts the change as Dean hands it over slowly. “Oh, and you have a car that you seem to care about a lot.” On top of what little he’s already learned about Dean from his previous visits.

“Okay, I’m just gonna point out right now that my baby is a classic.” He huffs and dumps the rest of his change into the tip jar. “She needs constant tender loving care to stay in prime condition.”

While that is all well and good, there is still one glaring problem with that response. “That doesn’t answer my question.” It doesn’t affect Castiel in the slightest whether or not Dean is always this liberal with his personal information, but he is rather curious.

Dean rolls his eyes, but there’s a smile on his lips that’s throwing Castiel off. “I like to think that I can read people pretty well.” He takes a deep breath and leans forward on the counter again. “If I didn’t think you were trustworthy, Cas, I wouldn’t be sharing shit with you.”

Oh. Something like surprise, but a lot warmer, floods Castiel’s chest in a sharp geyser of feeling. It leaves him stunned. “You – you think I’m trustworthy?” But they’re practically strangers to each other! Castiel would hardly even consider Dean to be an acquaintance. What could he have possibly done that would make Dean think that he’s like that?

“Sure do.” Dean nods and graces Castiel with a bright smile. “You’ve got the face for it, Cas. I can just tell – or am I wrong?”

He arches an eyebrow at him in challenge and Castiel fights the urge to frown. Of course he isn’t wrong, but Castiel liked it better when Dean was awkwardly fumbling on his words and having trouble looking him in the eye. The confidence is nice, but he rather misses how adorable Dean was before.

With a sigh, Castiel closes the cash drawer. “I keep better secrets than graves do.” He has to. It’s a necessity for him to survive.

“That’s a pretty serious claim there, Cas.” Both of Dean’s eyebrows are up now, either out of surprise or something else entirely.

“I’m a very serious person.” He shrugs and pushes the tray of drinks and the éclair across the counter. “Will that be all for you tonight, Dean?” It’s not that he wants to kick him out or anything, but he wants to move the topic of conversation off of him before it becomes evident that there are some thing he just can’t say about himself.

Disappointment flickers over Dean’s features and his smile fades slightly, gaze dropping to the coffee cups. Castiel realizes with a jolt that he might very well have said something to hurt his feelings. Maybe it did sound like he was hinting that Dean should leave now. That’s not entirely the case, but now there’s a heavy weight settling in his chest. What if he loses Dean as a customer? That would be terrible. Not only would he lose a customer, but he’d lose one of his favourites.

When Dean picks up the tray, he moves the éclair to one hand. A memory sparks and Castiel reaches out to put a hand over the coffees. “I forgot something.”

“You – huh?” Dean looks up sharply, eyebrows raised again.

“Since the last time you came here, I forgot to tell Gabriel about your interest in pies.” Castiel pulls open a drawer next to the cash register and gets a pen and a pad of sticky notes. Right there where Dean can see, he writes ‘Make Pies to Sell’. “Do you have a preference?”

Dean is leaning forward now, eyes wide. “Seriously?”

“I’m a very serious person, Dean.” He looks up, a half smile tilting his lips. “Please tell me what your preference of pie is.”

“Apple is the best, hands down.” After a pause, Dean shrugs. “But pecan is a close runner up too.”

Castiel nods and writes ‘apple’ and ’pecan’, circling the both of them. “When do you work next?”

“I’m off at eight.” Dean leans back again and scratches at the back of his head. “I don’t work again until eight o’clock on Friday.”

It takes no time at all to do the quick mental math to figure out how many days he has until Dean will be back. “Is it alright of me to assume that you’ll be back at two o’clock on Saturday for your coffee?”

That brings Dean’s smile back to full brightness. “Yes, of course!”

Excellent. He writes that on the note too. “Then I’ll make sure we have an apple or pecan pie for you when you return.” Castiel pulls the sticky note from the pad and puts it on the register so he won’t forget. When he cashes out in the morning, he can give it straight to Gabriel.

Really?”

Castiel is not even remotely prepared for the delighted grin that practically erupts across Dean’s face. He’s fairly certain that it’s the happiest he’s ever seen anyone be. Ever. The delight in his eyes is almost embarrassing and Castiel has to avert his eyes. “Yes, really.”

“Welp!” Dean picks up his coffee and éclair with a happy laugh. “It’s official! This is my favourite coffee joint in the whole world. You’ve got yourself a customer for life.”

That’s wonderful to hear and Castiel has to resist the urge to puff up with pride. He’s very happy to hear that he managed to not only save Dean as a customer, but also caused him such joy. “You sure you want to make that decision before you try my brother’s pies?”

“Good point.” He laughs again and shrugs. “Let’s put a pin in that for now.”

Dean’s laughter sounds, in short, wonderful. It’s surprisingly addictive and brings an honest smile to Castiel’s lips whether he wants it to or not. Even the smallest things that Dean does are just so amusing to him. In the week and a half that the café has been open, there hasn’t been a single customer yet who has managed to make want to or, rather, actually smile as much as Dean does. In fact, his smile is more honest with Dean than it is with anyone else.

Warning bells go off in the back of Castiel’s mind the moment he realizes just how dangerous that line of thought is. He discards it immediately, shaking his head to get it out of his mind. It should mean – it does means nothing that he enjoys having Dean as a customer. Castiel can’t even think about befriending him. There’s every chance that his past will catch up to him and even friends will be hurt. That’s not a risk he’s willing to take. He won’t allow anyone to be hurt because of him.

His eyes catch the edge of the laptop and Castiel brings it back on top of the counter. He’s got more work to do – and that reminds him of something. “May I ask you a question?”

“I’m all ears, Cas.” Dean tilts his head, eyebrows raised invitingly.

“Do you know of any groomers in the Montpelier area?” From Castiel’s searches, there aren’t any turning up within the city itself. Hopefully Dean might know of any unofficial groomers in the area that won’t require driving out of town to get the cat cleaned up.

His question appears to catch Dean by surprise. “A what?”

“You mentioned your family has a dog. Do you get it groomed?” Castiel refrains from looking up, instead focusing on opening his laptop to access the document he was working on previously.

After a moment’s hesitation, Dean hums. “Um, I guess so? Mom has mentioned a few times about having to take the dog to get groomed. Why, you have something that needs grooming?”

Castiel nods but gives no further information. Unlike Dean, he isn’t in the habit of oversharing. He also doesn’t base how trustworthy a person is because of their face. While Dean does seem to be very nice, Castiel has years of experience with silence. His safety – and Gabriel’s – is too important for him to just go about spewing information everywhere.

Dean hums and shifts the coffee tray to his other hand, swapping it with the éclair. “Honestly, I dunno but I can ask? I’ll come back in the morning after my shift and let you know.”

At the end of his shift? That’s six hours now and that’s a whole hour after Castiel finishes his shift. Either Dean would have to leave work early, or Castiel would need to stay up later than he has any right being awake. And there’s the sun to worry about too. No, it would be much better of Dean to simply send him the information when he has it.

“You’ll be tired after your shift and you should go home and sleep.” Castiel quickly jots down the e-mail address for the café on the sticky note and hands it to Dean. “If you know of a groomer, you can email me here. Gabriel might get it before I do, but he’ll know what to do.”

This address forwards to his personal e-mail address and he can check it on his phone whenever he wants. But it also goes to the work laptop that he and Gabriel keep in the living room. He’ll have to make sure to tell him to keep an eye out for the e-mail. Otherwise, he might be rather confused by it.

“Oh, okay.” When Dean looks at the sticky note, disappointment flickers over his face again. He tucks the note away in his pocket. “I should head back now, but I’ll definitely let you know in the morning.”

Castiel nods and lifts his hand in a wave. “Thank you for your business. It was nice to see you again.”

In an instant, Dean is smiling brightly again. “Yeah, you too.” He starts backing away with his coffee and almost immediately bumps into a table. “Shit, sorry.”

“That’s the second time you’ve done that.” Castiel tilts his head and frowns at the table. “Is it in a bad place? Should I move it?”

“No!” Dean shakes his head and coughs. “I mean, no, it’s fine. I’m just – I’m a klutz around cu –” He closes his mouth with an audible snap and a blush fills his cheeks. “I’m just a klutz. I should be – I’m – yeah. Um, bye!”

Dean turns on his heel and all but runs out of cafe, leaving Castiel torn between confusion and amusement. There’s the awkward Dean he knew from before, but the awkward Dean was always rather confusing. He was normal for the majority of their conversation and then suddenly he became weird. And isn’t it a rather bad thing for a firefighter to be klutzy?

In any case, that was quite the interesting reaction. Dean is interesting. He’s exactly the kind of customer that Castiel imagined he would have coming in to The Graveyard Shift. He was counting on it, rather, to keep things interesting for him during his shifts because sometimes he can’t exactly find the things to keep himself entertained. Now being the exception, of course.

Before he gets back to what he was doing before Dean walked in, Castiel gets himself a lemon meringue tart from the display case. He marks it down as the one freebie that he gets for his shift. While he eats it, he continues typing information into the poster he had started the other day. It’s much easier to do now that he has the information for it.

Gabriel took the cat to the vet on Tuesday to get it – to get her checked out and they did what they could. For a stray, the cat is apparently in remarkable health. She has no parasites to speak of and she’s of a rather healthy weight. They were even able to cut out most of the mats in the cat’s fur, although they still recommend that the cat should still go to a groomer to be properly cleaned up.

On the bright side, the vet also wasn’t able to find any microchip, spell of ownership, or tattoo. At the moment, the running bet is that the cat either escaped and got lost, or she was abandoned. It’s sad, considering that the poor thing is less than a year old. Who would dare to abandon something so young and small? If that’s what happened, then Castiel both loves and hates the previous owners. If they really did abandon her, then no one is likely to claim her and that means Castiel can keep her as his own.

In fact, he’s already started making such arrangements. As far as Gabriel knows, the litter box and litter is meant entirely to keep the cat comfortable while they wait for her proper owner to come get her. Gabriel has even spelled the litter box to make sure that any smell won’t leave it to stink up their apartment. Not that it should really matter to him. After all, the box is kept in Castiel’s bedroom – though he can’t deny that it is very helpful to have a brother who knows magic, despite having first learned it to protect them from Witches

With the information from the vet, Castiel finishes up the poster with her breed, Siamese Himalayan, and adds a picture that he took today. He would rather wait for when the cat is fully and properly shaved, but he needs to get these posters out now. She’ll be groomed as soon as possible, but that’s not absolutely required of them right now.  What if her family really is looking for her? It would be unfair to keep her from them any longer for the sake of vanity.

Once the picture is in place, Castiel saves the document and prints a good thirty sheets. Since he’s not sure if the printer has that much paper in it, that means he has the perfect excuse to go upstairs and see if the cat is still awake. The printer is kept up at their desk in the living room. It sits on top of the filing cabinet next to the desk, where they store all the work for the café. Gabriel is mostly in charge of making sure that all the paperwork is done, but Castiel takes care of keeping everything organized.

“Balthazar, watch the front.” He makes a flippant gesture towards the door as he starts up the stairs. “I need to go get something upstairs.”

Castiel doesn’t wait for an answer. He’s already upstairs by the time Balthazar likely registers what he’s said. By that point, Castiel’s focus is already on the muffled meowing he can hear from the other side of his bedroom door. She seems just as happy to see him as he is to see her. When he opens his bedroom door, she comes bounding out to greet him. Immediately, the cat starts curling around his feet, mewling and purring loudly at him.

After a few steps, Castiel can’t resist the temptation anymore. He puts his laptop on the next available surface and leans down to scoop her up into his arms. She doesn’t seem to mind being cradled on her back. In fact, she quite seems to like it. Her purr only gets louder and she slaps at his hand when he tickles her belly. She really is quite sweet and has clearly taken a liking to him. Likewise, Castiel is growing very fond of her as well.

He doesn’t feel much like leaving her alone for the rest of the night, since she doesn’t seem to be able to sleep. Castiel makes up his mind and keeps her in the crook of his arm while he gathers the papers. Turns out the printer did have enough in it. He’ll have to make a mental note to refill it before he goes to bed in the morning. At the moment, his hands are a bit too full to pull that off.

The cat is still purring happily in his arm when he goes down the stairs into the café’s kitchen again. He’s barely stepped off the staircase when Balthazar stops what he’s doing and stares at him from across the worktop. “You know, that’s a health code violation, right?”

Oh, that is a rather good point. “Don’t worry about it. We’ll get Gabriel to do something about the fur.” He shrugs and adds that to his mental notes. If at all possible, he really would like to have the cat down in the café with him at night. Whether she sleeps or not is not concern of his. He could easily get her a bed for down in the café.

“So, that’s your Sidhe that Anna told me about?”

Not that again! Castiel rolls his eyes and ignores the comment. The cat meows and he hushes her. “Don’t listen to the crazy Fae. You’re just a normal cat and now you’re part of the family.” For however long that will be. These posters might shorten that time considerably.

Balthazar scoffs loudly. “Gabriel said that you’re not keeping the cat.”

“That remains to be seen.” He huffs and holds his head high as he goes back to the front.

Somehow, the damn Fae still manages to get the last word in. “Would now be a good time to remind you that you forgot your nametag again?”

Castiel groans. He keeps forgetting it because he doesn’t bother punching himself in since he’s the boss. But it’s too late for him to do it now, and he’s definitely not going back into that kitchen where Balthazar can tease him some more. He’ll have to make a mental - and physical - note to remember it tomorrow night.

The cat meows when he puts her down around his feet. She slinks after him, keeping low to the ground and sniffing at her new environment. Castiel lets her explore while he tapes one of his posters about a found cat to the front door. For good measure, he tapes another two to both windows on either side of the door. She’s back around his feet again when he gets a few more to bring upstairs to the patio.

Without hesitation, she follows him up the stairs and starts winding around his ankles when he stops. Castiel lets her do as she pleases while he tapes two more posters to the inside of the doors. He’ll put some on the outside when she’s back up in the apartment. If she is an escapee, he doesn’t want to risk having her near an open door.

Once the posters are in place, Castiel sits on the top step and surveys the café. As soon as he’s sitting, the cat jumps right into his lap and starts purring again. She’s clearly after some good scratches and he is more than happy to oblige. He gets his fingers under her chin she starts kneading his thigh, her purr rumbling against his fingers.

“I’ll be going for a walk tomorrow night before I start work.” Castiel dips his head as he talks to her, not even sure why he’s doing it. “I want to put up those posters around town. Well, I don’t want to, but I need to. Your family could be looking for you.”

She meows softly and pulls away to butt her head against his fingers. Castiel transfers the scratch to behind her ears. “Can I tell you a secret?” He leans over her a little more, curling an arm around her. Castiel drops his voice into a whisper so not even Balthazar will be able to hear him. “I hope that no one will come and take you from me.”

While Castiel may not let himself get close to any people, he might not let himself fall for anyone, he’s fairly sure that it should be safe to let himself fall for this cat. The cat stands up to rub her head against his chin and Castiel touches the crystal around his neck. He takes a deep breath and closes his eyes. A lover or a friend might not be safe around him, but Castiel is certain that nothing wrong would ever happen to a cat.

Chapter Text

Wednesday – September 30th, 2015

The moment Dean walks back into the fire station, Nick is giving him the most ridiculous look. His face is doing this funny kind of dance. It kinda looks like he’s trying to hold in a fart of explosive proportions. Like he’s constipated or something. One look at Benny confirms that Nick hasn’t been farting up a storm, so that means nothing good is going to happen now. That stupid face is waiting for him and Dean fucking knows it.

“Here.” He puts the coffee down next to Nick and goes right past the table to the communal computer.

It’s an ancient old PC that still runs an outdated version of Windows. Hell, the monitor is a goddamn CRT and Dean hasn’t seen one of those since the early 2000s. There’s a running bet going through the station on how long it’s going to lasts. Charlie claims that’s it’s going to die in the next six months, and Dean is inclined to believe her. The only reason they have Wi-Fi now is because of her. She bitched and complained so much about the shitty computer that Bobby changed the rules and now everyone can bring their personal laptops in – as long as they sign all sorts of waivers and bullshittery not to abuse the Wi-Fi on their private machines.

Dean doesn’t bother with any of that. He’s plenty happy with cable, books, cards, and the computer they’ve got now. It’s not like he’s going to be streaming anything here. That’s for the safety and security of his own home. The only thing he ever really needs the internet for while he’s on shift is to Google the odd bit of information – which he could easily do on his phone. What with Wi-Fi and all saving him from having to waste data on it.

But there’s just something special about clicking away on a keyboard to do some research that his phone just can’t give him. And that’s why Dean settles down at the computer and boots the old thing up. It takes a solid five minutes to get the thing running and get an internet browser loaded. Not just any internet browser either. It’s goddamn Internet Explorer and he can still remember Charlie holding back her tears when she found out that’s the only browser that would run on this thing.

His coffee is damn near perfect as he sips at it. Cas makes a great cup’a Joe and Dean sighs happily. So, Castiel is supposed to be the name of an angel, huh? It’s not one that he’s ever heard of, so that’s the first thing he searches once the browser is fully loaded. This is a risky thing to do with Nick in the room, but the curiosity is hitting him hard and he just has to know.

The first thing the search brings back is something about a character from a book series. Dean barely glances at that. He knows some of Carver Edlund’s work and he doesn’t enjoy the style too much. Funny enough, though, Google gives him just enough information about the Castiel from the books is that he’s an angel. There’s no chance that Cas was named for that particular angel, considering the series is only a few years old.

As soon as Dean spots the first Wikipedia page for the name Castiel, he clicks it and muffles a laugh into his drink. The name could refer to the book character, a municipality in Switzerland, or – Ah hah. There it is. Biblical Lore of the angel variety. That’s what he’s been looking for and he swoops in with the mouse to click the link, pleased that he managed to find it.

Dean skims through it, learning what he can about it. Castiel is derived from Cassiel, yadda yadda yadda. There’s a bunch of religious and Biblical mumbo jumbo that he skips over entirely. The one thing that catches his eye is that this particular angel is, in some various branches of religion, considered to be an archangel. Impressive! So that makes two archangels in the family then. Castiel is also apparently the angel of Thursday, if the internet is to believed. Well, isn’t that a funny coinkydink? The first time he met Cas was on a Thursday.

By some miracle of God, Dean manages to get through that search without Nick noticing. His search for Montpelier groomers is not so lucky. He’s still waiting for the page to load when an arm looks around his shoulder and Nick leans against his side.

“So, how was our dear Castiel tonight?”

“Fine.” Dean huffs and tries to shrug him off.

Nick leans forward to squint at the screen in an overly exaggerated manner. “Groomers? Are you finally taking your brother to get a haircut?”

“You really wanna pick on my little brother with me right here and his entire family on crew?” He turns his head just enough to give Nick a narrow-eyed glare. “Because you better watch your mouth.”

“It’s just a joke, freckles.” Nick ruffles Dean’s hair before he turns and walks away. “Don’t let it get your feathers ruffled.”

Sighing, Dean turns back to his search. He grabs the pad of paper they always keep out on the deck and he starts making a list of all the groomers in the area. None of them are actually in the town itself, but that’s good enough for him. He’ll ask his mom in the morning where they take Bones. He can be a dumbass Golden Retriever every so often, but he’s been Sam’s dog for a good seven years now and he’s a Winchester through and through.

Once he’s got his list, Dean shuts down the computer again. Before he goes to join Benny and Nick at their card game, he stops to stare at the sticky note Cas gave him. He’s hidden that from Nick so far and he plans to keep hide it forever, just like he’s going to keep hiding his disappointment that it’s a business email address and not a personal phone number. Honestly, what could he expect? This was only time number three that he’s met Cas – and as his customer no less.

Honestly, Dean’s not even sure if he wants to devote any energy towards trying to get Cas’s number in the first place. For starters, Cas doesn’t give off any kinds of signals. Dean doesn’t have the first fucking clue if he’s interested or not. Is he gay? Bi? Pan? Is he even into people at all? What if he’s just into Creatures? That’s a possibility. There are totally Creatures who prefer to only get with other Creatures. Just like how there are Humans who only like to get with other Humans.

Dean’s dad is one such example of that. His views on Creatures aren’t much different from certain Church sects have on the gays. For the head of the Winchester clan, it’s bad enough that Dean’s best friend (and roommate) is a Creature. At least by this point it’s gotten down to just being uncomfortable and not outright hating on Charlie for existing. It was never really at that point, but Dad totally wasn’t happy when Dean came home from Kindergarten talking excitedly about how he met a Phoenix.

God, Dean can’t even imagine what his dad’s reaction would be if he ended up dating a Creature. Hell, how would he react if it turned out to be a dude? It’s not like Dean’s come out to his family yet. He doesn’t even know if he’s ever going to tell them. Dean might watch all the gay porn he can get his hands on when he’s in the mood for it, but it’s not like he’s actively gone out with a guy before. One make-out session does not count.

He sighs and shoves the pieces of paper into his pocket. That’s enough thinking about that for now. Time to focus on other things – like a good game of cards with his co-workers. Even if one of those coworkers is Nick and he’s decided that tonight he’s going to be a pain in Dean’s ass.

The calm doesn’t last for too long, though. It’s not long past three o’clock when an emergency call comes in. Even though she was sleeping, Charlie still manages to be down the pole and in the truck before Dean or Nick. Only three of them are going to respond. Benny is staying behind in case another call comes in. By the time the others are in the truck, Benny should already have notified the people who are on call. If another emergency comes in, they’ll suit up at home and meet Benny at the location. He’ll have their heavy gear on the truck, if needed.

Dean takes a few deep breaths as the engine starts up and the fire truck rumbles to live under him. He needs to focus on his job now, no matter what the call is about. Thankfully, this isn’t about a fire. Unfortunately, it’s a medical emergency in the suburbs. That’s why all four of them aren’t rolling out. Dean, Charlie, and Nick are all that’s needed for this. They’ll assess the situation, deliver immediate medical attention since they’re all basically EMT certified.

Ambulance services have already been notified, but the hospital is actually out of town in Berlin. They’ll be ready to roll out, since it’s actually a super short drive, but Dean’s team are first responders. It’s their job to contact the ambulance and let them know if they’re needed or not. Considering the call, Dean is pretty sure they’re going to be showing up anyways.

When he pulls the truck out of the fire hall, Dean takes an immediate left onto Main Street. It takes them past the Graveyard Shift and, to his surprise, Cas is standing out on the sidewalk in all his rumpled glory. He’s a little down the street from the café, standing by a light post with a paper in hand. The headlights from the fire truck reflect in his glasses as they drive past. Dean resists the urge to wave, since they’re on duty and this really isn’t the time for it. Apparently Nick doesn’t agree, because he practically throws himself out the window to wave at Cas.

Asshole. Dean throws a glare at him but Charlie digs her elbow into his ribs for it. That takes skill, considering the thickness of their clothes. She’s sitting between him and Nick with the GPS in one hand and her other hand on the siren switch. Charlie is ready and waiting to give a quick bloop if anyone happens to be in the way. That’s unlikely to happen at this time of night, but with nocturnal Creatures like Benny in the area, one can never be too safe. They do try to use the siren as little as possible at night. It would suck to be woken up by an unnecessary siren.

His grip on the steering wheel tightens as they roll over the bridge. For Dean, medical emergencies are some of the worst calls they can get. He never forgets the ones that don’t make it – either while he’s there or before he gets there. Hopefully tonight they’ll be able to save this one.

*

It’s well after four o’clock when they finally drag their asses back to the fire station. Even the adrenaline of a call and the awesome coffee he had before that isn’t enough to keep Dean from feeling fucking exhausted. All he wants right now is to fall into bed and sleep for the next decade. He doesn’t even care about his gear. If it means he could sleep, he’ll fucking just sleep in his bunkers like a heathen.

Dean’s still wearing his pants and heavy coat when he drops onto the couch in the common area, face down in the pillows. The medical emergency was an old guy that had fallen down the stairs and was experiencing chest pains. His family thought he might’ve broken a rib or two along with the arm he broke when he fell, but it turns out that he was actually having a freaking heart attack. It was up to Dean and Charlie to keep the guy alive while Nick set his arm before the ambulance got there.

That didn’t take too long, but Dean’s team still hung back after the old guy was taken away. The family that didn’t go in the ambulance was freaking the fuck out about grandpa. It was up to Dean and the crew to calm the family down and comfort them. They did eventually all pile into the family car and go after grandpa, but it took them a while to calm down. Dean has high hopes that the old guy is going to be okay. He was still conscious when the ambulance showed up, and that’s a good sign. Even the actual EMTs who came with the ambulance said it looked like a very mild heart attack and he should be fine.

Despite that, Dean is still worried. He always worries about everyone, no matter the call. He doesn’t know the guy personally, but this is a small town and chances are that the six degrees of separation bullshit definitely applies. Hell, Dean wouldn’t be surprised if his parents know the old guy. After all, he does live in the same neighbourhood as they do.

“Hey, freckles.” Nick taps the back of his head and Dean groans. They need to get another couch because he does not feel like sharing right now. “Freckles, get up and do your paperwork.”

Oh God. He’d rather share the couch than do some fucking paperwork. Dean groans again and pulls the pillow over his head. “Five minutes. Just gimme five minutes.” He needs to get his shit together and chill for a bit before he even thinks of doing anything else.

A nice little cat nap is sounding pretty awesome right around now. After his nap, he’ll strip out of his bunkers and get back to work. All the after-call paper work is going to be the end of him, but it needs to get done or Bobby will quite literally show up at Dean’s door, drag him out of bed, and make him fill out the paperwork on his bedroom floor while he’s in his pajamas. It hasn’t happened to him yet, but he’s heard the horror stories of what Bobby does to those who don’t follow regulations.

Late night emergencies are horrible in their own right and Dean kinda hates them a lot. They’re just so fucking draining. Anyone who wasn’t tired beforehand is definitely tired now. It’s only been a few hours since his coffee and now it’s like he needs a second one – or at least some kind of sugary treat. After what he just did, he damn well deserves one. But where, oh where, would he be able to get both coffee and a treat?

There’s only one answer to that and Dean pushes himself up from the couch. Screw having a nap, it’s time for some paperwork! It might take him a while to finish it and make sure everything is kosher with the reports from everyone else, but he’s definitely going to be going back to the Graveyard Shift before he’s finished work.

“Good morning, baby brother!” Gabriel ruffles Castiel’s hair and almost makes him crinkle a fold in the last crane of his shift. “Anything exciting happen tonight?”

Castiel swats his hand away and shoots him a dirty look. “Nothing exciting ever happens on the night shift. You know that.” And that’s exactly why he picked this shift. He’s had enough excitement to last him a lifetime and he’s not interested in anymore.

“Yeah, yeah.” With a loud sigh, Gabriel makes a shooing motion at the cat where she’s draped herself over Castiel’s feet. “What is that thing doing down here? A cat isn’t supposed to be in the cafe. She’s supposed to be up in your room.”

“She was lonely.” He flips his hand in a mockery of Gabriel’s gesture and abandons his crane to pick her up. The cat mewls softly, but otherwise stays limp in his hands. “And now she’s very tired. If you’re so opposed to her being down here, I don’t suppose she’ll mind being taken back upstairs now.”

Gabriel stares at him as Castiel flips the cat onto her back and cradles her like a baby again. She gives a little groan and her tail twitches a bit, but she hardly moves. It’s entirely too cute and Castiel can’t help smiling at it. He’s falling for this cat rather quickly. Hopefully, once he puts the signs up, her owner will get her before he gets too attached.

After another minute of silence, Gabriel shoves at Castiel’s shoulder. “Oh my God, stop looking at it like that. Just go put the damn thing in your bedroom and let it sleep.” His hand comes up to ruffle Castiel’s hair again. “Tomorrow night you can bring ‘er down again.”

“Really?” Castiel swivels on his stool to face Gabriel. That’s an unusually nice offer – which means there’s likely another reason for it. He must be up to no good. That’s basically one of Gabriel’s default settings. “I thought you just said she’s not supposed to be down here?”

“She’s getting hair all over the place.” Gabriel gestures down at Castiel’s pants, all of which are absolutely covered in fur. “Of course she’s not supposed to be down here.” A superior and altogether smug smile spreads over his lips and he puffs his chest out slightly. “But I can make sure that it doesn’t happen again.”

Oh! Does he really know a spell that might be able to do that? He does have a much larger repertoire than Castiel does, and he’s very smart when it comes to figuring out how to put together different spells to get a job done. If he can create a new one that would keep the cat from shedding all over the café, then Castiel would be very happy.

“Is there anything that I can do to help?”

Even though he’s the actual Creature between the two of them, Castiel just doesn’t have the same amount of magic that Gabriel does. His species isn’t exactly magical to begin with, so he’s no better than some Humans in that regard. Given how adept Gabriel is with magic, his father must have had some Witch in his lineage. They certainly know for a fact that their mother – the only actual blood link between them – didn’t have an ounce of magic in her veins.

“I might need you to help boost a bit since I’ll be covering the whole café.” Gabriel shrugs and glances around, probably mentally measuring the space to figure out the necessary strength of the spell. “If I can make up a focus sigil, you could draw it for me. You’ve got the better hand for it.”

Castiel nods and gets to his feet, rocking the cat gently in his arms. “You craft it, I’ll draw it. I can even do research if you need it.”

“I’ll let you know. Now shoo and get the cat out of here.” He huffs and gives Castiel a shove towards the door. “Go on and put her to bed. I’ll watch the front for you.”

“Have I mentioned that you’re the best big brother ever?” Castiel throws a smile back over his shoulder. He’s very pleased that Gabriel is getting more and more used to the cat with each passing day.

Balthazar scoffs loudly and slams the door to the oven where he bakes the bread. “Excuse me! If you bothered to get anyone else’s opinion, you would learn that I am the best big brother ever. Ask Anna. She’ll tell you the same.”

“Really?” Castiel pauses at the foot of the stairs to arch an eyebrow at him. “I’ve spoken with Anna before and I’ve heard a very different story.”

That earns him a dark scowl, but it’s offset by Gabriel’s laughter from the front of the café. Castiel is pleased with himself for that and he heads up to the apartment. As carefully as he can, he tries to put the cat down in the box he had prepared for here the other day. He’s not even out of the door before she’s meowing and moving.

When he glances back, the cat is stretching, her back curving up in a rounded arc as she yawns. She blinks at him a few times before hopping over the edge of the box and padding across the room. One would think that she owned the place judging by how she settles herself on the bed, kneading at the blankets around her and purring again. After turning in a few circles, she flops over on her side and rolls onto her back. She wiggles and twists, splaying her dark legs out before she flips onto her stomach again. With a quiet chirring sound, she curls back up into a ball and tucks her face under her paws.

Castiel can’t resist giving her one more good scratch. “I’ll be back in a few hours and I’ll permit you to cuddle with me during the day.”

Of course she doesn’t respond, but it does make him feel unusually warm inside to know that she’ll be here and waiting for him when he’s done his shift. She curls into a tight ball and Castiel gives her one more scratch before he forces himself to leave. He can hardly wait until he can see what she’ll look like once she’s been groomed.

Actually, that reminds him. When he’s back down in the café, Castiel pushes Gabriel off his stool and takes a seat. “If you see an email from Dean Winchester on The Graveyard Shift’s account. It will be a recommendation about where you can take the cat to get groomed.”

Gabriel groans loudly and stops in the doorway to bonk his head against the frame. “I hate that you’re making me do all the running around for this thing.”

“You know I would do it if I could.” Unfortunately there isn’t a spell strong enough to protect him from the sun. Otherwise he would load up on every single spell the world has to offer. Just once, Castiel would like to see a proper sunrise. Or even a sunset would be nice too.

“I know, I know.” With a soft sigh, Gabriel turns back to him. “So, Dean Winchester. Who’s that?”

Oh no. Why did he use a name? Castiel should never have used a name. The lid on the proverbial can of worms has been popped and they’re quickly squirming out everywhere. He can tell just by the look in Gabriel’s eyes. His big brother senses must be tingling because he obviously knows that this is a prime opportunity for teasing. If he was a normal person, Gabriel would also know that there is nothing Castiel can be teased about regarding Dean.

“He’s a customer, Gabriel.” Castiel shrugs and turns back to his origami. “Who else would he be?”

“Well, personally, I think that he’s your bumbling beau of a fireman.” Gabriel negates the act of turning around by actually coming back out into the café and standing on the other side of counter from Castiel. “Am I right or am I right?”

Dammit. “You’re wrong in calling him a bumbling beau.” He sighs and picks up his crane, turning it over in his hands to remind himself of where he left off. “But you’re not wrong about him being a fireman.”

To his horror, Balthazar joins them in the café too. He even comes around the counter to stand next to Gabriel. To make matters worse, he leans over and whispers something in his ear. Gabriel breaks into a wide grin almost immediately and it’s identical to the one that Balthazar has, although he doesn’t have wings to flutter ominously like Balthazar does. What did he say? Why are they looking at him like that? Why are they walking away without saying anything?

Castiel’s paranoia sky rockets as Balthazar and Gabriel head back into the kitchen. He turns to watch them with narrowed eyes. They’re up to something. When they put their heads together and start giggling, Castiel knows without a shadow of a doubt that they’re up to no good. He’s going to wind up being the butt end of jokes for the next two hours and he is not looking forward to it.

In an effort to prevent that from happening, he shuts the door between the kitchen and the café. If they want to be mean and teasing big brothers, they can do it to each other. Castiel has no interest in it. He just wants to fold his crane and spend the next hour folding as many dragons as he can. Ideally, he would like to do that in peace.

By some miracle of God, by the time six o’clock rolls around, he hasn’t heard a peep from the kitchen. It’s merely a promise from something worse to come, but there’s nothing Castiel can do about it. He might be teased or pranked or any number of things. It’s not like Gabriel has retaliated yet for the bucket of water Castiel had left for him last week. That’s still hanging above his head like the guillotine blade waiting to drop. In this case, it’ll likely explode into confetti after nearly giving Castiel a heart attack. That seems to be Gabriel’s modus operandi and it doesn’t help that Balthazar apparently shares the same preferences as him.

At six o’clock, Castiel draws the blinds over the windows and the doors. Just to be careful, he also closes the curtains over them. Gabriel prefers the café to be bright and open after the changeover, so it’s only for that one hour when Castiel is down here that they need to keep the blinds drawn. When Balthazar takes over the front at seven o’clock, he’ll open everything up again once Castiel is safely upstairs. He covers the front until nine o’clock when Tessa comes in.

While he waits for the end of his shift, Castiel tidies up a bit. He already keeps an exceptionally clean café when he’s working, so it’s just a matter of cleaning out the display case. By seven o’clock, Gabriel will have the first wave of croissants, cinnamon buns, and scones ready to be put in the case. Everything from yesterday gets packaged up for Balthazar to take when he’s finished his shift. As he does that, Castiel marks down how much he’s boxing up.

They need to track everything they throw out, even if they won’t really be tossing all of this into the trash. Gabriel hates waste, so he struck up a deal with the local food kitchen. Now some homeless people and hard-on-their-luck families can have something sweet to eat with their breakfast – or lunch, or whenever it is that the kitchen will be handing it out.

With the treats out of the way, Castiel takes out the trays and the shelves from the display case and gives everything inside a good scrub down with a sponge and soapy water. He despises having a dirty café. If this is where their food is going to be displayed, then it damn well better be pristine. There is no excuse for a place of business to be messy.

The first batch of croissants comes out of the kitchen not more than a few minutes after Castiel puts the shelves back into the case. Balthazar smiles at him and it sets his teeth on edge. Any attempt Balthazar makes at being serene is just coming across as evil. He has to pass through the kitchen to get to the apartment and now he fears what will be waiting for him back there. But, there’s also a chance that they’re not planning anything. This could all be psychological. That would certainly be a new tactic.

When Balthazar comes to the front to relieve him, Castiel takes his time with cashing out his till. He doesn’t want to go in the back any sooner than he has to, but he absolutely has to do it as soon as possible because the sun is coming and he needs to go before he gets hit by a stray ray when someone opens the door. If that happens, there’ll be chaos and his life here would be at an end. They would have to sell the café immediately and move. Their names would have to change again and he’s rather attached to this one.

Whatever Balthazar and Gabriel are planning, it’s not worth that.

“I’ve got this covered, Cassie.” Balthazar gives him a bright smile as he ties a fresh apron on. “Go on and get yourself to bed. You’re probably tired.”

Castiel squints at him, trying to gauge whether or not he’s being sarcastic. Are there any hints in his words as to what’s waiting for him in the back? He can’t tell, but he’s still expecting anything from a trip wire to make him fall flat, or a banana cream pie to the face as soon as he walks through the door.

“Fine, I’m going.” He points at the stack of papers he left next to the till and the one tapped to the front of the register under the customer display. “Please point these out to customers and encourage them to take one with their order.”

“Will do, boss.” Balthazar even raises his hand in a mock salute. “Now go on and get before Gabriel gets on you for encroaching on his café time.”

“Yes, yes. I’m going.” Even though his shift isn’t over for another twenty minutes, at least. He hasn’t actually been keeping an eye on the clock since he did the cleaning.

With a deep breath, he carefully pushes open the door and peeks into the kitchen first. Balthazar snickers behind him, but nothing immediately bad happens. Gabriel is very carefully piping chocolate cream into a freshly cooled batch of éclairs, his head down and his hair pinned back like how he only ever wears it in the kitchen. The tip of his tongue is poking out between his lips in concentration.

If Castiel is going to make it through the kitchen safely, now is that time. He ducks through the door as silently as he can and skips the safe entirely. He’ll just put the deposit in the lock box that they have upstairs in the desk. It’s where all the money ends up anyways. Gabriel will just take what’s in the safe up with him when he’s done his shift later this afternoon anyways, so it’ll still all be together.

He makes it halfway up the stairs before he physically can’t go up any more, stopping so suddenly that he pinwheels and has to catch the handrail. For a split second he thinks it’s magic, but then he realizes it’s his feet that he can’t pick up. More specifically, his shoes. “Glue, Gabriel? Really?”

Laughter erupts both in the kitchen and at the door. Apparently Balthazar was peeking just to see it happen. Castiel glares at both of them before he slips his shoes off. “If that’s how you want to play it, alright then. And just to let you know, I’ll be going out tonight after sun down to cat posters up around town about the cat. There are some already on the street outside.”

Gabriel pauses with filling the éclairs. “I thought you wanted to keep the damn thing? What did you go and make posters for?”

“I do want to keep her, but I also want ot make sure that I’m not keeping her from a family that might be missing her.” Castiel checks the next few stairs to make sure that they’re glue free. They look good and he goes up them.

“What family wouldn’t already have posters up looking for her?”

That’s a very good point. “Are you advocating that she doesn’t have a family?” He glances over his shoulder and raises an eyebrow at Gabriel. “In that case, I would get to keep her without having to go to all this extra work.”

Realization spreads across his face and he shakes his head. “Never mind. Just go to bed, Cassie.”

Despite having gotten caught in the glue prank, Castiel still feels victorious. And on top of that, he’s going to leave his shoes for Gabriel and Balthazar to pry from the stairs on their own. Feeling smug in his triumph, he continues up the stairs in his socks. That feeling quickly disappears when he reaches the second stair from the top and winds up losing both his socks. The laughter starts all over again and he rolls his eyes. Castiel is definitely going to have to get him back for this.

He heads into the apartment in his bare feet and the cat is waiting for him at his bedroom door. She’s meowing loudly and immediately starts rubbing against his ankles the moment he’s in the room. Now this is the kind of greeting he always wants to come upstairs to.

“Good morning, little one.” Castiel scoops her into his arms again and gives her a good cuddle. “Did you have a good nap?”

She meows and butts her head against his cheek, pausing to sniff at his lips and nose. Ah, she must be hungry. Well, Castiel can handle that for her well enough. He keeps her in his arms as he putters around the kitchen, and she seems plenty happy with that. She watches from the crook of one arm while he prepares a meal for them both with his other hand. For him, Castiel makes a light snack of crackers and cheese. For her, he empties the rest of the tin of cat food they have in the fridge into a small bowl.

Thankfully, Gabriel left all the blinds down over the windows and he pulled thick curtains over them to keep out any sunlight that might shine through the slats. It’s nice that Castiel doesn’t have to worry about the sunlight in his own home while he gets ready to bed down for the day. He won’t be sleeping for another few hours or so, considering that he’s only been up since nine o’clock in the evening. Even though it would be easier to sleep, Castiel likes to stay awake for at least twelve hours before he curls up to sleep. Sometimes he wakes up earlier and that’s enough for him, but on a sleep day, he has no choice but to wait for the sun to go down before he can wake up.

The cat is practically squirming to get out of his arms when she realizes that her food is ready. Castiel carries her and both their meals to his bedroom and she springs to the bed, meowing loudly. She starts pacing back and forth along the length of the bed as Castiel puts his own food on the bedside table. She’s on the floor before her food is, shoving her face into the bowl the first chance she gets. Castiel watches her eat while he sits on the bed and eats his own snack.

After he’s done, and before he can change into his pajamas, there’s a knock at his door. Gabriel doesn’t wait for permission before he opens it. “Cassie, you have a visitor downstairs.”

Castiel pauses in the process of undoing his belt. “I have a what?” He’s never had a visitor before. No one has ever come to see him specifically.

“A visitor.” Gabriel leans his hip against the door frame and his smile is beyond delighted. “There is a beau calling for you downstairs.”

He has a feeling he knows who Gabriel means, but he doesn’t want to act like he does. “I can’t go downstairs. The sun –”

“The sun isn’t a problem.” By now, Gabriel is all but dancing in delight. He’s practically wiggling in place while watching him. “Balthazar drew the blinds for you again. Now go down there and visit with bumbling beau of a visitor.”

Damn. So, it really is Dean. What is he doing back so soon? Castiel is happy to have a returning customer, but he couldn’t have picked a worse time for it. With a sigh, he gets up and follows Gabriel back downstairs. They both skip over the steps with the glue, and Gabriel throws an amused smile back at Castiel as he does it. He’s still entirely too pleased with himself for a prank gone well. Castiel can’t let him get a big head about it. He’ll have to do retaliate soon.

When Castiel turns through the door, he finds Balthazar is in the process of serving Dean two cups of coffee and a chocolate milk. He’s also boxing up half the croissants they have in stock at the moment. The moment he sees Castiel, Dean lights up with a bright smile.

He leans forward over the counter and holds out a slip of paper. “I’m off shift in an hour, but I thought I’d bring you these before you’re done. It’s a list of the groomers in the area.”

Is it really only around seven o’clock? Castiel had thought it was later than that. It looks like Balthazar hasn’t even changed the signs over yet.

Castiel takes the paper and glances at the list. “You didn’t have to go out of your way to do this, Dean. I gave you the email address.”

A blush spreads quickly through Dean’s cheeks and he glances down at the coffees on the tray in front of him. His smile dims again. “I know, but my shift was boring at times so I figured I do a little research and got that done for you.”

Gabriel kicks Castiel in the back of the leg. Not hard enough to hurt, but it’s definitely a reprimand. He even clears his throat and gives Castiel an unhappy frown. The same expression is mirrored on Balthazar and it takes Castiel a moment to realize why. He didn’t intend to be rude, but it’s very possible that he might have come across as such. Again. Shoot.

“Thank you, Dean.” Castiel steps forward to tap the counter until Dean looks up at him again. “I appreciate the effort that you’ve gone to for me.” Even though he could have done an internet search himself – and he did. Regardless, Dean shouldn’t be made to feel like he wasted his time or that Castiel doesn’t care that he did this for him. Now he feels rather bad for making him feel that way.

Immediately, Dean brightens again and he straightens his shoulder. It’s so easy to make him smile and Castiel is fascinated by it. Surprisingly, he actually feels better himself with seeing Dean be happy again. He works hard and – oh, that’s right!

“I saw you drive out earlier. Was it a big emergency?” He tucks the paper away and takes the box of croissants from Balthazar. “Was it a false alarm?”

“Nah, not at all.” Dean shrugs and accepts the box as Castiel hands it to him. “That and my coffee run were the only interesting things that happened tonight. The old guy is gonna make it, so there’s no worries there.” He puts the box on top of the two coffees and the small carton of chocolate milk tucked between. “I still haven’t talked to my folks about which groomer is the best, but I’ll send that in an email. They start at the fire hall when my shift is done, so I’ll ask them then.”

Hold on, did he just hear that right? “I’m sorry, but did you just say that your whole family work at the fire hall?” It’s not that weird, considering how Castiel’s entire family owns a business with him. But is being a firefighter one of those professions where an entire family would be a part of it? How many different generations of Dean’s family have worked at that fire hall – or at any fire station?

“Everyone except for my little brother, Sammy.” Dean rocks on his feet but he’s still smiling. “He starts Monday at some café I’ve never heard of before, but it’s got a kooky kinda name. Totally fits him, though. He’s eighteen and still growing like a weed. I expect he’ll be a big ol’ Sasquatch any day now.”

Castiel almost laughs, because there it is again. Is this going to be a regular thing with Dean? “You’re doing that oversharing thing again.” The moment he points it out, Dean’s blush darkens and Castiel’s smile grows. “Don’t be embarrassed. It’s rather endearing. You don’t often find people as open as you are in this day and age.”

Maybe, if he had a different life, Castiel might be as free about himself as Dean is. It’s hard to imagine having a life like that, but he’s fine with this one. Of course there are several things about it that he would love to change. Having his parents back would be nice. And it would be ideal to not have to live with security spells and crystals and charms all over the place to warn him if Witches are nearby.

As much as he likes Montpelier, Castiel would probably change that he could be living in the town where he was born. He had friends there, before – well, before everything happened. Okay, so, in hindsight he would likely end up changing literally everything about his life right now as long as it meant getting to have his parents back. Out of everything, he misses them the most.

Oh, now he’s gone and made himself sad.

Dean ducks his head as he picks up his purchase, the blush still staining his cheeks. “That’s – uh – that’s a damn shame, yeah. I should – I should probably get going now. I’ll – um – I’ll see you in a few days?”

Castiel nods and gestures over his shoulder at Gabriel. “I’ll make sure that he has a pie ready for you.”

That only makes Dean’s smile grow even brighter. “Thanks, Cas!” He gives a small wave at Balthazar and Gabriel before he heads out. Surprisingly enough, he manages to do it without bumping into one of the tables. Is it because the others are here?

When the door opens, the morning sun pours through. The light cuts across the floor and Castiel quickly ducks back into the kitchen before he can risk getting caught in it. Even if the sun doesn’t fully reach the back of the café during the day, it’s better to be safe than sorry.

Gabriel blocks Castiel’s route to the stairs with his body, his hands on his hips and a curious light in his eyes. “Excuse me, dear baby bro, but what is this about a pie that I hear?”

As if that’s not bad enough, Balthazar pushes his way into the conversation too. His wings are high and practically vibrating behind him. Oh, damn. Castiel not only forgot to tell Gabriel about trying out pie as one of their sale items, but he had been hoping not to tell either of them that it’s because Dean wanted it. They have both already come to some very odd conclusions about Dean’s patronage and this is just going to make them think even weirder thoughts now.

With a sigh, Castiel tilts his head back and stares up at the ceiling. He has the feeling that he’s not going to be allowed back up to the comfort of his bed any time soon.

Chapter Text

Friday – October 2 nd , 2015

Castiel swivels from side to side on his stool, watching as Gabriel rolls out the dough that will become the crust of the pie. He does it with such ease that Castiel is almost jealous of it. If he had any interest in trying his hand at baking, he might be. Luckily, while Gabriel’s strength is with his baking, Castiel’s is with the more savoury aspect of cooking. He’s got several recipes filed away that taste exceptionally good. Sadly, the only ones who have ever tasted his cooking are in the room right now.

“I don’t remember telling you that you could stop cutting apples.” Gabriel doesn’t even look up while he carefully drapes the rolled out dough into a pie tin.

“Really? Because I clearly remember telling you that I finished cutting the apples.” Castiel reaches over and pushes the bowl towards Gabriel. “I even mixed everything for you. It’s all ready for you pie and all you have to do is put it all together.” While he can’t bake, Castiel is more than capable of mixing together the ingredients that go into it. His problems lie mostly with dough and giving pastries the perfect time in the oven.

Gabriel lifts his head and gives Castiel a flat, unimpressed look. It’s followed by a roll of the eyes as he shapes the crust into the pie tin and cuts off the excess. “Fine, fine. You did good. Are you happy now?”

“Very.” Castiel grins at him and starts wiggling on his stool again. It’s rather fun. “Remind me again just how long I should have it in the oven for?”

“Until it’s gone golden brown.”

“How long, Gabriel? I need to put it on a timer.” There is no conceivable way that he can leave it to something like that. Castiel needs to have it timed to the second or he’ll end up burning it, or under cooking it, and that’s not acceptable. The pie needs to be perfect for Dean to taste test tonight. Anything less than that and Dean might not like it, and if he doesn’t like it, then it’s not something that Castiel will be confident in serving to their customers.

With a loud sigh, Gabriel shakes his head. “Just leave it to Balthazar.” He drags a bag of oats over and starts sprinkling them over the pie crust. “He’ll know what to do.”

“Excellent. That’s a weight off my shoulders.” Castiel hadn’t been looking forward to trying to time it right so the pie would be done by the time Dean usually comes in – which is two o’clock in the morning. And he would have been mortified if he had messed it up and wound up having to tell Dean that there was no pie for him after he promised him there would be.

After another sigh, Gabriel starts spooning the contents of the bowl into the pie tin. “About this pie, Cassie. I’ve got a question I wanted to ask you about it.”

If this has anything to do with Dean, Castiel is going to throw the nearest object at him. He’s had to deal with far too much teasing after the last few days for his own good. Is it so wrong for him to want to keep their customers happy? It’s the only form of social interaction that he gets and, believe it or not, he wants this business to do well. They may have had a decent amount of money to themselves before they started this venture, but a lot of their money has gone into it. The majority of their money came from the insurance payouts from both the death of their parents, so Castiel considers the café to be their legacy in some way.

He rubs a hand over his face and utters a silent prayer that this isn’t going to be another teasing session. “Okay, fine. What do you want to know?”

“I want to know if you know what they say about guys.”

Castiel has to take a moment to try and process what he’s asking. “I – what? No, I don’t know what they say about guys.”

“Are you sure?” Gabriel waggles his eyebrows at him and he gets a very bad feeling from it.

“Yes, my dear crazy brother, I am sure. As a guy myself, I have absolutely no idea what they say about us.” He narrows his eyes slightly, preparing himself for the worst. “Am I supposed to know?”

After a few moments of silence, where they both stare at each other, Gabriel puts his spoon down with a sigh. “They say, Cassie, that the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach.”

What does that even have to do with anything? “That’s incorrect. The best way to a man’s heart is directly through his rib cage.” Or there are plenty of magical options that one could take. It’s a black magic that would require more preparation, but it’s not even remotely as messy.

Cassie.” Gabriel groans and leans his head back. “They say that to ladies who learned how to bake and cook so they could catch themselves a man.”

He can see where this is going and Castiel is not happy about it. “That’s a very sexist and outdated saying, then.”

This time Gabriel slaps his hand on the table. “For the love of God, Cassie, would you just –”

“Just what?” Castiel crosses his arms tightly and looks away. “I don’t know what you’re trying to get at.”

“I’ve raised you for the last thirteen years, Castiel.” Gabriel takes a deep breath and leans forward to rest both his hands on the worktop. “I know for a fact that you are not this dumb. Now answer the freaking question before I lose my shit on you in this room full of various sharp implements.”

No, that’s not going to happen. Castiel is very much done with this conversation. He looks back to Gabriel, ready for a staring contest. No matter how hard Gabriel tries, he has never beaten Castiel in one. He is the supreme champion, even if it is contributed to the fact that he’s a Creature. It’s not that he doesn’t need to blink, it’s that he can go a little longer than most without having to do so. Or, at least, he can go longer than Gabriel, and that’s all that really matters.

They haven’t even been staring at each other for a whole thirty seconds before Gabriel throws both his hands in the air and turns away sharply. “I swear to God, you’re doing this on purpose!”

“Annoying my big brother is always on purpose.” Castiel shrugs and leans back on his stool. “But I assure you, I don’t get what point you’re trying to make about the stomach and heart thing.” Or, rather, he just wants nothing to do with it. Forcing ignorance where ignorance can be forced.

“Do I have to spell it out for you?” He sighs and rubs both his hands over face. “Fine. Okay. So, you promised this Dean guy a pie, right? And pie is apparently his favourite food?”

Damn. “You think I’m trying to hit on him using your baking skills.” There’s no question in there. It’s a fact that Castiel was trying so very hard to avoid entirely.

“So you do have a brain!” Gabriel puts a hand over his heart and has the gall to look like he’s actually relieved about this. “I was getting worried there, Cassie.”

He shakes his head and rotates the stool so he’s facing away from Gabriel. “You’re wrong.”

“Oh, you don’t have a brain, then?”

Castiel swallows back the urge to groan. “I was thinking of the customers. Dean brought the problem to light, but there are plenty of people who like pie. If we get one of those pie tiers, we could sell slices of pie or whole pies, just like diners do.”

Gabriel sighs and hangs his head. He covers his face with his hands again and makes fake sobbing noises into them. Castiel glances at him with a frown. “Don’t do that. You’re going to get flour everywhere, and now you need to wash your hands before you can touch the food again.”

“Yes, I know how to be clean in a kitchen, thank you.” He huffs and lifts his head again to give Castiel a glare. “But that’s not what we’re talking about, Cassie. We’re talking about you and how you’re apparently so out of touch with people that–”

Fine, fine. If this is what Gabriel wants, then he’ll get his damn answer. “Yes, Dean is attractive.”

That seems to catch him by surprise. Gabriel’s mouth drops open and he stares at Castiel long enough that he must break some kind of record for being as quiet as he has. It takes a little while before he blinks and shuts his mouth, only to open it again to speak. “What?”

“He’s hot.” Castiel shrugs and glances away again. “That’s what you wanted to hear, was it not?”

“Well, yeah.” Gabriel slowly starts to walk around the worktop, making his way towards Castiel. “But what I really want to hear is that you’re not going to stay hiding behind the counter or up in the apartment. I want to hear that you’re going to do something about the hot fireman.”

Oh God no. He shakes his head sharply, but still refuses to look Gabriel in the eye. “No, I’m not going to do that.” Castiel brings a hand to the crystal around his neck again, squeezing it for comfort.

Gabriel stops his slow advance. His gaze drops to Castiel’s hand and his expression goes serious. “It’s because of what happened to mom, isn’t it?” When Castiel doesn’t answer, Gabriel knows the truth. “It’s been thirteen years, Cassie.”

He gets to his feet and dusts flecks of apple peel from his pants.  “Time doesn’t change what happened, Gabriel.” And it certainly doesn’t make it hurt any less. “I’m not going to let history repeat itself. No one is going to get hurt because of me. Not like mom was because of dad.”

This conversation has reached the point where Castiel really doesn’t want to be a part of it anymore. Which means that it’s a perfect time for him to withdraw upstairs. His shift starts in an hour and he wants to spend some time with the cat before then.

“I’m not asking you to date the guy, Cassie!” Gabriel reaches out and catches Castiel by the wrist, keeping him from reaching the bottom step of the stairs. “But the least you could do is make a damn friend for once in your life!” The upset in Gabriel’s voice catches Castiel off guard. It’s not nearly as frustrated as Castiel would have expected.

With a sigh, Gabriel drops his voice into a softer tone. “Cassie, we’ve been living in Montpelier for a year and you haven’t made a single friend. I just – I don’t want you to feel lonely.”

Castiel doesn’t look back and he squeezes the crystal a little harder, it’s edges digging into his palm. “Remind me again how long it was before you made friends with Balthazar?” He was Gabriel’s first friend after they moved here in the fall of last year, and Balthazar didn’t join their team until the spring of this year. “It’s just taking me a little longer to adjust, okay?”

“How much longer do you need?” Gabriel lets his wrist drop, but he still has the topic firmly in his grasp. “You’re still living out of a suitcase, aren’t you?”

He shakes his head and turns to face Gabriel slightly, still not really looking at him. Castiel doesn’t want to see what kind of hopeful or hopeless expressions he might be wearing. “No, I’m not. I hang my clothes up after I wash them.”

“But you’re ready to run at a moment’s notice.” There’s a thread of accusation in his tone, and it piques Castiel’s irritation at the conversation. “You’re ready to drop all of this and run.”

“So are you.” He almost spits the words, because how dare Gabriel blame him for being ready to run to save his life? His preparedness is what Gabriel taught him to do, just in case Witches or any other danger should present itself to them. And, most of all, he knows for a fact that Gabriel has a matching duffle bag in his bedroom closet with the same emergency supplies that Castiel has in his own.

“We have a home here, Cassie.” Desperation is starting to creep into Gabriel’s voice. He wants to win this argument so badly, but it’s not going to happen. Nothing is going to be able to change Castiel’s mind on this. Nothing.

“We have a business here, Gabriel, and I am not having this conversation again.”

Before Gabriel can respond, Castiel turns away and heads up the stairs quickly. He doesn’t want to run from this fight, but it’s exactly what he’s doing, whether he wants to or not. For now, he’s going to retire to his room and just – just breathe for a while. He’s never going to forget what happened to their parents. His life is a daily reminder of that, no matter what he does.

The cat is waiting in his bedroom for him, sprawled out on the blanket like the enter bed was always meant for her. Gabriel took her to the groomer in the late afternoon and she has been much more energetic ever since. She looks a little ridiculous, but Gabriel assured him that no domestic feline ever looks good with what the groomer called a ‘lion’s cut’. But now she’s completely mat and tangle free and happy as can be.

As soon as Castiel walks into the bedroom, the cat gets to her feet and starts meowing loudly. She stops as soon as he sits down on the edge of the bed, replacing her meowing with purring. The cat crawls into his lap and butts her head against his stomach. Castiel gives her a few pets, from head to tail to before he flops back with a loud sigh. The cat mewls softly and walks up to sit on his chest. She rubs her face on his chin while he stares at the ceiling and reviews the argument he just had.

While they both have their valid points, Gabriel is definitely right about one thing. Castiel’s bedroom is exceptionally bare. Before they settled in Montpelier, they had bought a small camper truck and drove around the country for a few years. They went to Disney World, Disneyland, both Universal Studios; they went to Mount Rushmore, the Grand Canyon, and saw both oceans; they even visited the infamous Route 66 and every landmark possible within the country. They slept on the sides of the road and in campgrounds and did everything they wanted to do in the ten years prior – went everywhere that their parents wanted to take them before they died

With two years worth of road tripping, Castiel only bought a few trinkets along the way. There’s barely enough of them to fill up one of the shelves of the bookcase he has next to his bedroom door. The bookcase itself is rather short. It only has three shelves too it, the top one consists of his trinkets. The second is full of all the books he hasn’t read yet. The third has only a handful of books – his favourites – and a photo album.

Anything that Castiel reads, if it’s not an instant favourite, gets put downstairs in the café when he’s finished with it. He’s perfectly capable of leaving behind all the books that he hasn’t read, and he could part with the trinkets if he needed to. But there’s so few of them that he could easily swipe them from the shelf on his way out. Any of his so called favourite books are ones that he can buy again elsewhere if he doesn’t have the time to grab them should they ever need to run. If there’s anything he absolutely won’t forget, it’s the photo album. It’s the only thing that he asked for from their old home before he and Gabriel went into hiding.

Castiel’s closet is mostly empty too. He keeps a minimal amount of clothing, and he’s not attached to any of it. His emergency bag has a handful of underwear and socks, a couple t-shirts, one hoodie, one pair of jeans and one pair of sweatpants. There’s a small toiletries bag in there too with a travel toothbrush, toothpaste, and deodorant.  Toiletries aside, that’s half his closet right there. Aside from the few clothes that he wears on his days off, everything else are considered to be his work clothes – not including the few sweaters that he has. Those are interchangeable and just as easy to abandon.

And that is literally everything that Castiel owns. Except for the cat, but he doesn’t exactly own her. Last night he went and put up the posters over as much of the town as he could reach between sun down and the beginning of his shift. They haven’t received a single response about them all day. To his knowledge, none of the customers have said anything either, but the posters he had printed were all taken within the first few days. So the word has gotten out about the cat. And yet – what if he has to run in the next few days? In the next week or month? Is he going to leave the cat here for Balthazar or Anna or Tessa to deal with?

No, absolutely not. Castiel was the one to find that cat and he will be the one responsible for her. Even if it means stealing her away with him, then he’ll do just that. Which means that his emergency bag needs to be revised.

The cat doesn’t like it too much when he moves her from his chest, and she follows after him with an annoyed meow. She purrs and curls around his ankles while he finds a Tupperware container in the kitchen and fills it with a few scoops of dry food. He uses a label to put the expiry date on it, and he makes a mental note of the date on the couple of cans of wet food that he takes too. Castiel finds room for it in his emergency bag, wedging everything in among the clothes. Now, if he has to run, the cat will have some food when he takes her with him.

If there’s one thing about Castiel that he prides himself on, it’s that he likes to be organized.  Before he can forget the expiry dates, he writes them on a sticky note and puts it on his calendar he has hanging above his bookcase. There are little notes and dates written every which way, and most of it has to do with the café. Of course, there are a few things about the cat on there now too. Like when she needs to go back to the vet for a check up. Luckily, she’s already been spayed – which makes it all the more likely that she does have a family around here somewhere.

Once his preparations are completely, Castiel lies back down on the bed to cuddle with the cat a little more. “I’m sorry, little one, but we haven’t heard anything about your family yet.”

She honestly doesn’t seem to care. The cat hasn’t been restless or visibly distressed about being in a strange home. In fact, she’s adapted to life here rather quickly. She seems so comfortable with people that she must have a family, as much as Castiel is loath to admit it. Despite how he wants to keep her for himself, he’s still going to go out Saturday night and put up more posters in the subdivisions. He doesn’t work tomorrow, so he can stay out as late as necessary to get it all done.

In the midst of being petted, the cat rolls onto her back and starts kicking at Castiel’s fingers. He smiles and starts tickling her belly – which is a tad weird to feel, now that it’s shaved. She makes that chirring sound again and slaps at his hand with her paws. Thankfully, she doesn’t use any claws and even the nips she gives his fingers are soft. Now that she’s been shaved, she is far more playful and Castiel is rather enjoying this.

Even if he doesn’t have friends, and even though he won’t let himself take a lover, at least he has the cat for now. Because Gabriel was right about another thing – Castiel is lonely.

Saturday – October 3 rd , 2015

It might be considered wildly unprofessional, but Dean doesn’t give a shit. If he wants to sit on the chair upside down, then he’s damn well going to sit on a chair upside down. No one is going to stop him from putting his feet over the back of the chair and letting his head hang off the seat. It makes watching TV a bit difficult, but he doesn’t care about that either. It’s not like he’s actually watching whatever show is on. That’s all of Jo’s convenience right now. In fact, his eyes aren’t even open.

Dean’s nap did nothing for him and he still feels fucking exhausted. Of course, that’s because it’s reached the time of night when he should go and get himself some coffee. But the desire to do that is almost nil right now. He’s just too – what’s the word? Oh yeah. He’s just too disheartened to get up and go The Graveyard Shift right now.

When he went to the café on Wednesday morning, just before he figured Cas’s shift was supposed to be finished, Cas didn’t really look all that happy to see him. Since then, Dean has basically spent the last few days convincing himself to stop with his stupid little crush. It’s obvious that Cas just isn’t into guys, and if he is, then he’s obviously not into Dean. At this point, he’s just making a fool of himself by flirting with him so much – for what shitty flirting that he’s been doing.

If Cas was into guys, he’d probably be way more receptive to Dean than this. Every time Charlie takes him to the gay bar in Burlington, every guy that hits on Dean keeps claiming that he’s just so hot and irresistible. It’s like he’s like candy to gay guys, or something. It does wonders for Dean’s ego, but – well, Cas just isn’t reacting to Dean like he’s used to people reacting when he gets his flirt on. Granted, his flirting with guys is still fucking terrible. He can charm the pants off a lady, but put him in front of a hot guy and Dean is all thumbs with two left feet and a thick tongue.

All that just means that Dean has been spending the last hour convincing himself that flirting with Cas is absolutely pointless. His little crush is nothing more than lust because he thinks Cas is hot, and that’s that. There’s nothing more to it, no matter how much he tries to convince himself otherwise. And that’s all true, actually. Dean doesn’t know a damn thing about Cas, besides his name and that he has a brother. Oh, and that they own the café together.

That’s literally all that Dean knows about him. He doesn’t know Cas’s age, or where he came from, or even how long he’s lived in Montpelier. What are his favourite movies? His favourite TV shows? His favourite books? What’s his favourite fucking colour? Dean knows literally nothing about Cas, so it’s not like he’s actually invested in the guy or anything. There’s no reason to be super disappointed if it turns out that Cas really isn’t gay, or bi, or whatever. If he’s not into Dean, then so what? He knows that’s what he supposed to be thinking, but it’s a little hard considering that he’s been spending the last week mooning over a hot barista.

Any further introspection on his lack of a love life is cut short by what feels like a bunch of paper hitting him in the face. When he opens his eyes, it’s to Jo kneeling in front of him and giving him the meanest upside down glare he’s ever seen.

They stare at each other for a long time before Jo sighs loudly. “Stop sitting around and go get me my damn coffee.”

“Why don’t you go get it?” Dean closes his eyes again. He has no intention of going to the café tonight, because Cas probably doesn’t want anything to do with him.

“Because I don’t have the hots for the coffee guy like you do.” She huffs and pokes Dean on the nose.

He snorts and shakes his head. “You would if you met him.” It’s hard to believe that Jo – an appreciator of attractive guys pretty much all the time, wouldn’t find Cas hot too.

“I have.” Jo sighs and puts her hands under his head, lifting it in an attempt to get him to sit up. “And he’s cute, I’ll give you that. But you got first dibs, remember?” She sounds utterly sarcastic and Dean wants to put her in a headlock for it.

Someone clears their throat on the other side of the room, reminding Dean that Nick is – once again – not sleeping when he’s supposed to be. When Dean opens his eyes, it’s to find Jo rolling hers and throwing a glare off to the side. “Shut up, Nick.”

“Excuse me, but my feelings are perfectly valid too.” He huffs and Dean can just imagine how he’s throwing wounded looks at Jo that are completely and utterly fake.

It annoys the hell out of him. “If your feelings are so valid, then why don’t you go ask Cas out, huh?”

Nick shows up in Dean’s field of vision with a smile verging on being downright demonic. “Are you revoking your dibs, Dean?” He shoos Jo out of the way and kneels to picks up all the money on the floor, because apparently she really did throw a handful of bills in his face. “Well, then. Please allow me to make the first move.”

Dean groans and flaps a hands at Nick when he kisses him on the forehead. “You’re going to regret it when he says yes.”

As if. “Yeah, right.” Dean shakes his head and starts to sit up, swinging his legs off to the side so he can get upright quicker. “He’s not going to go for you.”

“Just you wait and see, freckles.” Nick straightens up and snaps his suspenders. “There’s not a man or woman alive who can resist this.”

Jo shares a look with Dean before they both break down laughing. Nick leaves in a huff and it takes them both a few minutes to calm down. Oh, that was good. That was a laugh that Dean needed. It doesn’t really stop him from feeling like shit about this whole Cas thing though. In fact, he’s kinda really hating himself for saying that Nick could go make a move on Cas first. That was dumb. He should’ve known better. Now he’s totally lost all chances, hasn’t he?

While they wait for Nick to come back, Dean and Jo relocate themselves to the table where they can sit comfortably while waiting for their coffee. It also makes for a safe place to play Words With Friends on their phones. With a table between them, Dean stands a better chance of escaping the game without bruising. Jo really doesn’t like it when he kicks her ass at it every single time they play a game together.

After Dean scores a whopping forty-three points with one word, Jo puts her phone down with a groan. “Y’know, for someone who’s beating the hell out of me at this game, you’re not smiling as much as you should be.”

Dean hums and puts his phone down too. “Who can smile when Nick is getting his claws into Cas first?”

“Excuse me?” She raises an eyebrow just before picking up her phone again. She must have figured out a word to play, because she looks away from him to start putting tiles on the board.

Does she want to play or does she want an answer? Dean isn’t sure until she looks back up at him again. He sighs and props his chin up on his hand. “Nick’s the problem. He’s going to ask Cas out first. What part of that are you not understanding?”

Jo’s frown gets deeper. “The part where you think that matters.”

Why did he think it would be a good idea to talk to her about this? Jo’s love life is just as empty as his own. He makes a face at her. “I called dibs.”

“Big whoop. You also just told him that you should go ask Cas out.” She puts her phone down again and Dean’s beeps with the notice of a new word played.

“And I was a fucking idiot for revoking it.” He grumbles and looks down to see what word she played. “But it’s not like Cas is picking up on what I’m putting down. Maybe Nick is more his type after all.”

After a beat of silence, Jo takes a deep breath and lets it out in a long sigh. She does that a few times before crossing both her arms on the table. “Dean, sweetie, you’re being a dumbass.”

Hey now, that’s just flat uncalled for. “Don’t kick a man when he’s down, Jo.”

With a sigh, she gets to her feet and comes around to his side of the table. Jo sits down next to him and puts a hand over his. “Listen, Dean. I’m going to give you some of the most important advice you’re ever going to get.”

He raises an eyebrow and she smiles at him. “You listening? Good, because you need to understand this. Cas is not a piece of popcorn for you and Nick to squabble over like a couple of hungry seagulls. He’s a person and he can make his own choices. If he likes Nick, then you’ve dodged a bullet because he’s obviously got terrible taste. If he doesn’t like Nick, then awesome, because you still have a shot if you’ll get off your ass and actually ask him out. If he doesn’t like you, then he’s got really bad tastes because you’re amazing and we all know it.”

Jo pats him on the hand and gives Dean a bright smile. “So, you need to stop acting like it’s the end of the world just because Nick is going to ask him out first, okay?”

“I know that.” Dean makes a face at her, but it falls into a smile. “Thanks, Jo.”

She puffs up with pride. “You’re welcome. Now, just remember to always listen to me and everything will turn out okay.” With a laugh, she winks at him before moving back to her seat.

Welp, Dean was a bigger idiot than he thought he was. He knows how to treat a lady right with the respect and dignity that she deserves because his parents taught him well. But, how in the hell did he forget that all of that still applies to guys. Maybe his brains got a little scrambled because this is the first time he’s crushed on a guy? Or – yeah, Dean’s going to go with that. He got a little confused but Jo sorted him all out.

Of course Cas can make his own choices. It’s not like he’s going to go out with Nick just because he got to ask him out first. Actually, if Dean stops to think about this, it’s a good thing that Nick is asking him first. This way, Dean can gauge his own chances with Cas from the results of this attempt. It’s an equally awesome and terrifying thought. Because what if Cas shoots Nick down because he already has someone? If that happens, then Dean really doesn’t lose anything here. In fact, there’s nothing stopping him from just befriending Cas, right?

If Dean can just get over himself, he can still go back to The Graveyard Shift for coffee every night. He goes for the coffee and the service, not for the chance to flirt with Cas. Otherwise, he wouldn’t consider going there on the shifts when Cas isn’t working. Even if he’s not going to flirt, they can still be friendly with each other, right? And, who knows, maybe that means they’ll actually end up being friends who hang out together outside of their jobs?

That’s always a possibility. It’s actually a pretty good possibility. On that first day when he met Cas, it might have been lust at first sight for him. Things are a little different now. Over the course of a week, Dean now actually wants to know things about Cas. He’s like an enigma wrapped inside of a mystery wrapped inside of an adorable sweater – or sometimes a slimming and pretty sexy waist coat. Either way, Dean is going to need to stop thinking along those lines where Cas is concerned. For now, at least.

It’s a good fifteen minutes later when Nick returns, after Jo has given up on the game because she’s hundreds of points behind. He walks back in with a sour look and one cup of coffee in his hand.

Dean feels supremely victorious and he leans back in his chair with a smile. “Let me guess.”

Nick scowls at him. “Get off your high horse, Winchester. He said he’s not interested in going out with anyone right now. He’s focusing on his business.”

He snorts a laugh and rolls his eyes, because this is exactly what Nick deserves. “Well duh. They opened, like, two weeks ago. As if he has time for people.”

“Guys, you’re ignoring what important here.” Jo slaps her hands down on the table and stands up.

They both look at her, and Dean raises an eyebrow. “What?”

She turns a truly murderous look on Nick. “Where the hell is my damn coffee?”

With a sniff, he throws down the rest of the money on the table. “I never said I was getting yours.” He stalks past her, sipping at his coffee. “Relax, pintsize. I left it for Dean to get.”

Hold on, what? Dean sits up straight and narrows his eyes at him. “Why do I have to go?”

“Because our dear barista was very worried that you weren’t the one going out to get the coffee.” Nick shrugs and slumps into the chair Dean was occupying a while ago. “Especially since he went and prepared a fresh baked pie for you.”

Mother of God. How in the hell did Dean forget about the pie? He’s a fucking idiot.

He jumps up and grabs the money from the table. Dean turns on his heel and sprints for the pole, only to skid to a stop and return for his cell phone. He’ll skip putting on his coat for tonight. Cas has a pie and they’re both waiting for him. There’s no time for him to stop and put anything else on right now. In fact, he runs the whole way to the café and only stops to catch his breath one building over. It won’t do to walk in breathing like he’s been smoking a pack a day since he was ten years old.

Once he’s composed himself, Dean walks up to the café only to come to a stop again. How long has there been this sign in the window? A poster about a Found Cat. Oh, this must be what Cas needed the groomer information for. He glances over the information, mentally checking it against everything and everyone that he knows. As far as he can remember, he doesn’t know anyone who might be missing a cat. In fact, he doesn’t really know anyone with a pet cat to start with. Especially since he’s allergic to cats and all.

Oh well, he’ll ask mom about it and if she doesn’t know then no one does. She knows everyone and everything that’s going on in this town, more or less. If Cas has a copy of the poster inside, he’ll take one for his mom. If not, he’ll get a picture of the poster on his way back to the station.

When he opens the door, Dean has to stop and take a deep breath. Holy shit the place smells good. The smell of fresh baked apple pie fills the air and his mouth starts watering instantly. It’s a testament to how much he was torn up by Cas’s reaction to him Wednesday morning that he actually forgot about pie. Because this – oh God, this is heaven right here. But then Dean sees the cat on the counter and heaven drops a few levels in perfection.

Okay, maybe the cat isn’t so bad, because Cas is sitting at the counter right next to it. He’s hunched over a pile of colour square papers and there are five folded cranes resting at his elbow. Dean’s heart does a funny little jig at the frown of concentration Cas has going. The tip of his tongue is poking out between his lips while he focuses on folding one of the bright squares of paper. It’s almost ridiculous how cute he looks – and the cat isn’t half bad itself.

This is the first time Dean’s ever seen a cat in person sporting that kind of shave. It’s hilarious, but it’s cute as hell that it’s knocking a crumpled receipt paper back and forth. Cas must be using that to distract the cat from his cranes. Even if he’s allergic to cats, Dean can still appreciate their cuteness. The combination of Cas – this one totally suited for fall – and a cat being cute makes Dean stagger slightly. There’s a little pain in his chest because this is unfair.

He shakes himself out and slaps a smile on his face just as Cas looks up at him. Oh no, oh God. Cas smiles the moment he looks up and it makes Dean go a little weak in the knees. Totally unfair. He literally just made up his mind to stop flirting with Cas, and now this had to happen? Jesus Christ, it’s completely unfair. How is he supposed to handle that?

Dean centers himself again and crosses over to the counter. “So – uh – I heard you have a pie for me?”

“I do.” Cas tilts his head in a nod. He slides the origami he was working on and all his other papers off to one side of the counter, away from the cat. “I’m surprised that you weren’t the first one over tonight, given how excited you were about it the other night.”

Shit. With a cough, Dean rubs at the back of his head and shrugs. “I – well, Nick beat me to the punch because he just had to see you.”

Right away, Cas’s nose crinkles slightly. “Ah, yes. I really wasn’t expecting that, to be honest.” He sighs and shakes his head. “Gabriel warned me that people might come onto me eventually, but I wasn’t at all prepared for it to happen this soon after we opened.”

Cas’s reaction is making Dean feel really good about himself right now. He laughs and waves a hand like he’s trying to make Cas forget about it. “If it’s any consolation, Nick asked the same of me on the first day that I started at the station. I have the feeling that he’s got a type.”

With a tilt of his head, Cas also raises an eyebrow at him. “A type?” He reaches over and starts petting the cat when she starts showing more interest in his origami than in her paper ball.

“Yeah, I’m pretty sure Nick’s type is younger than him and hot.” Dean laughs and then almost chokes on it because oh shit. He just called Cas hot. Maybe Cas won’t notice. No, no, he definitely noticed.

Colour creeps into Cas’s cheeks and he looks down at the cat. “Oh.”

“Sorry.” He blurts the apology before realizing what he’s doing. “I mean – well – you are – I –” Goddammit! Could he just keep his foot out of his mouth for one conversation with Cas? And what did he literally just tell himself about how he would interact with Cas from now on? This is the exact opposite of that!

“No, no. It’s fine.” Cas clears his throat and glances up a Dean. “I’ll take that as a compliment, thank you.” He looks away almost immediately towards the closed door to the kitchen.

Dean clears his throat again and shuffles his feet slightly. “D-do you mind if I ask – like – um, why you turned him down? I mean, guys aren’t your type, I’m guessing, right?”

Slowly, Cas turns to look at him again. He stares Dean down in the kind of way that sends a chill down Dean’s spine. Can he tell just by looking at him why Dean is asking that? Because it’s really just out of curiosity that he’s doing it. Totally. IT’s not because he might want to ask Cas out for himself one day in the future, maybe.

After a moment, Cas tilts his head to the side. “I wouldn’t say that. Gender is not an issue for me.” He shrugs and starts keeping his hands busy with organizing his origami paper. “I turned Nick down because I’m not looking for a relationship right now and – I don’t have any particular interest in going out with someone I don’t know anything about. For instance, I don’t even know what kind of Creature he is.”

Yeah, Dean can understand that. If Bobby hadn’t told him, it would’ve taken him a while to figure out what Nick was. Granted, there are only so many creatures out there that have forked tongues, red scales, and happen to be fireproof. It probably wouldn’t have taken him that long to get it. At first Dean almost thought he was another Phoenix, like Charlie, but her spots aren’t actual scales. And, as far as Dean knows, Nick isn’t able to control fire like she can.

“He’s a Salamander.” It might not be appropriate to outright ask someone to their face what kind of Creature they are, but there’s nothing against telling someone else about it. Not unless you’ve been specifically told not to. If you break a promise like that, then you’re just an asshole and deserve all the negative karma life has to throw at you.

Understanding fills Cas’s face and he nods, as if Dean helped him solve some kind of great mystery. “That makes quite a bit of sense, actually.” He smiles and Dean smiles back on reflex. “Thank you. That would have ended up being one of those questions that I couldn’t answer and it would have bothered me for quite a while.”

Dean feels all warm and fuzzy inside just because he’s on the end of that smile. “Y-yeah, no problem. Glad I could help.”

“Would you like to try the pie now?”

Thank God for a topic change. If Dean had to try and stumble his way through this conversation any longer, he might end up swallowing his own tongue and dying just to escape the nightmare he was digging himself into. He starts digging in his pockets for his wallet, set on buying the whole damn pie. “Oh, yeah, sure! How much do I owe you for it?”

Cas shakes his head and smiles. “Consider yourself a beta tester. This one will be on us tonight and, if you like it, I’ll get Gabriel to add it to the menu permanently. I like the idea that it might draw more customers to eating here.”

Any thought Dean had of not falling harder for Cas goes right out the window because this is just impossible. Cas is giving him free pie. That’s – like – that’s basically asking like Cas is asking for his hand in marriage, as far as Dean’s concerned. There’s just no getting around this right now. He’ll have to start his campaign to stop his crushing after tonight.

With another pat to the cat’s head, Cas leans down to talk to it. “Stay here.”

The cat pushes into his hand and looks up at him with big baby blues that give Cas’s eyes a run for their money. Dean’s nose starts to tingle just looking at the cat, but it’s the first time in his life that he hasn’t sneezed almost immediately upon entering the same room as a cat. Maybe it’s one of those hypoallergenic kinds? There are cats like that, aren’t there? Maybe? He’s honestly not sure.

Cas takes a step away from the counter and the cat automatically takes a step after him. He gives Dean a helpless look, rolls his eyes, and reaches over to flick the paper ball off the counter. The cat’s head whips around and its tail sticks straight up, the tip of it twitching. In a heartbeat, it throws itself from the counter to start swatting the ball through the legs of the tables and chairs. Cas watches her for a moment and he gets this soft little smile on his face that makes Dean feel lightheaded. It’s the first genuine and actually happy smile that Dean’s ever seen him have.

He’s left floored while Cas heads off to the kitchen. By the time he comes back with the pie, two plates, two forks, and a serving spade, Dean more or less has some control over himself. The cat is kinda hypnotic as it runs back and forth through the tables, so it’s easier than expected to get his stupid heart to calm the heck down.

“Would you like to sit down?” Cas tilts his head to gesture toward the handful of tables scattered around the floor.

“Yeah, sure.” Dean drops into a chair at the closest table – which just so happens to be the one that he keeps walking into.

As soon as he’s seated, Cas cuts out and serves two slices of pie. One to Dean, and one to himself. It’s like Cas has been reading his dream journal or something, because this is pretty much Dean’s ideal first date. Nothing is better than pie with someone you like. Granted, he hasn’t actually fantasized about dating Cas. He hasn’t really imagined anything with Cas. Dean just thinks he’s cute, and he’s been a lot of fun to talk to. Totally a highlight of every night shift with the station.

“I hope you like it.” Cas hands Dean a fork and gives him an encouraging look.

“Well, it definitely smells awesome.” Dean gives an exaggerated sniff, because it really does. It smells just as good as when mom makes it.

When he takes the first bite, he can’t help groaning quietly. The pie ups his opinion of this place right back up to heaven. It’s wonderful. Delicious. Flaky perfection. One bite and he is fucking sold. He leans over the plate and starts eating with gusto. “This is awesome.”

Cas is a lot more refined with his first bite, but he smiles and nods in agreement. “It does taste rather good. Gabriel will be happy to hear that.”

“You should definitely start selling it.” Dean swallows a bite and has to resist the urge to lick the fork clean. “I would buy a whole pie, like, every time I’m on shift.”

“I’ll have to use that in my argument with Gabriel.” He gives a smile that crinkles his nose a little and Dean almost chokes on his next bite.

In fact, he actually does, but covers it well by pretending he’s surprised by the cat as it rubs up against his ankles. It really does make him jump in his seat a bit, and he leans over to look down as the cat makes its way to rub up against Cas’s legs. ‘Is it sanitary to have a cat out and about in the store?”

“Not usually, but Gabriel and I cast a spell to keep her fur and dander secluded to the apartment.” Cas shrugs and pushes his chair back just enough to give the cat space to jump up into his lap. “She makes less of a mess in here than most of our patrons do.”

Oh, well. Okay then. “That would explain why I’m not sneezing.” He gestures at the cat with his fork before taking the last bite of his pie piece.

Cas looks up from the cat in surprise, mouth open. “O-oh. You’re allergic?”

Dean shrugs and gives him a half smile. “Yeah, but it’s nothing big for me. It’s not like I need an epipen or go into some kind of shock when I’m around cats. I just sneeze a lot.”

“I – I didn’t even consider the allergens of our patrons when I decided to start bringing her downstairs.” Cas shoulders slump and he puts a hand on the cat’s back. “I suppose I should actually keep her upstairs, spell or not. We don’t want anyone to be uncomfortable because she’s down here.”

Holy shit, that just is not fair. Cas looks so disappointed with that idea that Dean scrambles to think of something to make him smile again. Clearly the cat makes him happy, so – “Hey, don’t worry about it. If anyone ever complains about her, just tell them about the spell. Allergies aren’t that big a deal if there’s no dander in the air and as long as they don’t touch her. You don’t let her up on the tables, do you?”

“Of course not.” Cas shakes his head, but he’s looking more relaxed again. That sad look is gone and he pets the cat with a smile.

“So, hey.” Dean clears his throat, hoping to change the subject to make sure that sadness is completely gone. “I didn’t know you could do magic. Have you been – uh – practicing it for long?”

This is actually some pretty exciting news. Dean doesn’t really know anyone who can do actual spells. Charlie doesn’t count because all she can do is control fire. Nick only has his fireproof-ness, and Benny’s magic is limited to a Vampire’s ability to kinda charm their victims if they need to. As far as Dean knows, he’s never actually used it. Benny’s a gentleman like that.

“Since I was thirteen.” Cas shrugs and starts picking at his pie again. He does glance up at Dean with an amused little quirk to his lips. “I’m surprised you didn’t know. Gabriel and I are legally required to hang copies of our licenses in our place of business, same as our licenses for owning and operating a café. We’re also legally required to carry a copy on our person, like a driver’s license.”

Dean twists around to look at the wall behind the counter. There are a bunch of important looking documents in frames off to one side of the shelving and menu board. Two of them look way fancier than the others, and they’re written in a kind of mystical-like font. That’s probably the magic license. Magic organizations always love playing up the whole magical thing.

“Huh, learn something new every day.” He sits back and eyes the rest of the pin still sitting in the tin.

“You didn’t know about the licenses?” Cas raises an eyebrow at him.

“Uh, no.” Dean ducks his head in embarrassment. “I mean, there were a couple of kids that I used to go to school with who knew some spells, or they had parents who did. But this isn’t a very magical area. We’ve got a healthy population of Creatures, but that’s about it.”

With the way Cas nods, Dean kinda believes that Cas already knew that. He just smiles and nods and eats another bite of the pie. After another bite, Cas gestures down at the cat. “You wouldn’t happen to know if anyone lost a cat, would you?”

“Oh, right, the posters! I was going to ask for a copy to give to my mom. She might know.” He shrugs. It’s a long shot, but it can’t hurt any.

“If it’s of any help to you, I found her on Monday evening at the corner of Elm and School Street.”

Hold the fuck up. What? If he had been eating right now, Dean absolutely would have choked on the pie. “Dude, did you stop and feed her there? I mean, were you, like, wearing a trench coat or something like that?”

Confusion fills Cas’s face. “I – Yes?”

Hah! No way! Dean leans back in his chair with a laugh. “I totally drove by while you were doing that. I had no idea that was you! Nice choice of coat, by the way.”

Cas just sighs and rolls his eyes. “Gabriel hate sit. He says I look like a flasher.”

Yeah, Dean can definitely see why Cas’s big bro would think that. If he was in Gabe’s shoes and it was Sam wearing that coat, he’d have the same opinion. “Well, not many people wear them around here. I didn’t even know you could buy one in town.”

“I bought it well before we moved here.” He shrugs and carefully finishes off the last bite of his pie. “I like it because it has pockets for everything and it keeps me warm during the cooler months. I rather miss it when it’s too hot to wear, or when it’s too cold and I need to start using my winter coat.”

That is way too amusing, and that pie was way too good. His laugh gets cut short as Cas reaches over to put another slice of pie on his plate. “By all means, Dean, eat up. I’ll also box up the leftovers for you to take with you when you go.”

Dear God, it’s like Cas is trying to make him fall in love. How dare he try and fill Dean up on pie? This is an atrocity. This is – this is cruelty against man; against Dean. There’s no way he can combat something like this. Cas must know that he’s physically incapable of refusing another slice of pie. It’s just not in Dean’s genes. Which means that he’s going to be sticking around for a little while longer – and that means that Cas is more than okay with Dean being here. He’s not in any rush to kick Dean out the door like most people are with customers that they don’t like.

When Cas sits back again, the cat meows loudly. He smiles down at her and drags his fingers through the syrup left on his plate. Her ears flick forward in interest and she starts licking at his fingers the moment they’re close enough for her to do so. Jesus, Dean can hear the goddamn purr from here. For someone who just found a cat earlier in the week – a cat he’s apparently not trying to keep – Cas sure is close with the little thing.

He eats his pie in silence and watches as Cas repeats the process a few times over. Cas must notice, because he ends up making a comment about it without even looking up. “I’m just waiting for no one to claim her so she can officially be mine.”

“Aw, what a lucky cat.”

That gets Cas to raise his head and look at him. It’s not much of a head lift, but he’s definitely watching Dean over the edge of his glasses. It takes all of two seconds of that look for Dean to realize how what he just said could be taken. As soon as it clicks, he can start to feel the blush burning in his cheeks. The best way to cover that up is with some more pie, and he starts shoveling that into his mouth. But Cas is still looking at him when Dean is done and he swallows the last bite around a lump in his throat.

“I just – I mean, y’know, she’s lucky because she was found by someone as nice as you?” He makes a flippant gesture with his fork and tries to keep eye contact to a minimum. “Someone like you, who’s willing to keep her and all that shit.”

Cas doesn’t actually say anything response. All he does is hum and go back to petting the cat. Fuck. Did he realize that Dean might be just a little bit – the tiniest, mildest bit of jealous over the cat? It’s not even really something he’s noticing either. It’s just, sorta? C’mon, who wouldn’t be? That cat looks comfortable as shit sitting on Cas’s lap and it’s getting all sorts of love and affection right now. Who wouldn’t want that?

Welp, time for another strategic topic change before he says or does anything else that’s stupidly foolish. Maybe he can get away with sticking around for a little longer before he actually really has to get his ass back to the station. Luckily, the perfect topic change is just behind him.

“So, what are you making?” Dean jerks a thumb over his shoulder to gesture at the origami.

It takes Cas a second to figure out what he means. “Oh, I was making more cranes for the ceiling.”

Oh, so Cas made all those cranes? That’s pretty impressive! Dean twists in his seat to take a look at them again. Surprisingly – or maybe not at all – there are definitely even more cranes hanging from the ceiling than there were before. Yeah, that makes sense given the number of cranes on the counter right now. Not to mention the spool of thread with a needle sticking out of it and the box of tacks also sitting on the counter next to all the papers.

“Damn, Cas. That’s freaking sweet.” Dean flashes him with a bright smile. It really is pretty cool. He’s not sure he’s ever met anyone who’s done origami before. Not outside of those little boxes or folded notes that kids used to make back in school.

His little compliment must please Cas in some way, because another little blush fills his face. He pushes away from the table even further so he can put the cat on the ground. Dean turns in his seat to watch as Cas gets the papers and his incomplete crane from earlier. He sits back down at the table and finishes folding it right here in front of Dean.

When he’s done, Cas sits back with a triumphant grin and pushes his glasses back up his nose. He holds the crane out to Dean with a look that’s practically pride. “There’s a legend that says if you fold a thousand paper cranes, you can make a wish. So, I started making these during my first shift on the night that we opened. I make ten a night and then put them on the ceiling as decoration.”

“That’s really cool, Cas.” Dean takes the crane very carefully, treating it like it’s made of glass. “I think I remember reading a book about that in school.”

“Likely Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes. That’s the book that inspired me to do it myself.” He takes it back and puts it aside to start folding another origami paper. “I looked it up online to get a better idea of it. Traditionally, you’re supposed to put forty cranes on one string, but I wanted to hang them like this so they wouldn’t be in the way. It’s said that having them hang in your home brings powerful luck to your residence.”

Holy shit, Dean is so fucking curious now. What’s Cas’s wish going to be? “This is pretty sweet. How long do you think it’s going to take you to fold a thousand of them?”

“One hundred business days.” Cas rattles the number off as if he’s done all the calculations already. “Since I only do them at work, and I do ten per shift. That’s fifty cranes a week.” He gestures at the one he’s working on right now. “This one is number ninety-seven.”

“This is seriously awesome, Cas.” Dean is practically wiggling in his seat now. He leans forward, completely forgetting about the pie for now. “What’s your wish going to be?”

Cas smiles at him and shakes his head. “That’s a secret.”

Oh, c’mon. It’s not a freaking birthday wish. Or, maybe it is? He doesn’t know the nature of wishes from all the other traditions in the world. “Fine, fine.” Dean sighs but he still smiles at him. “I hope your wish comes true, Cas.”

“Me too.” He ducks his head and goes back to folding.

It’s actually really cool to watch someone turn a square of paper into something recognizable. “Is there anything else that you fold, or just this?”

“I designed my own version of a dragon, actually.” Cas puffs up with pride and looks up at Dean with a smile. “I do origami as a stress relief, or to help pass the time. When I started folding dragons on shift, I decided to save them for the shop.” For the first time that Dean’s ever heard, excitement actually starts to slip into Cas’s voice. “I’ve taken to tying them onto the mugs of people who dine in. They can keep it for themselves, or they leave it with me.”

Cas turns and points at the bookshelf beside the stairs. “You can see some of the dragons they’ve left for me. I reuse them as decoration once the customer has left.”

“Aw, geez. Those customers are so lucky.” Dean can’t help it, but he totally starts pouting. “I want a dragon of my own. I would keep it.”

“You’re getting a pie for free and you’re complaining that you’re not getting a paper dragon?” He sounds way too amused for his own good and that just makes Dean’s pout double in intensity. Cas huffs a little laugh. “As soon as I’m done this crane, I’ll pack your pie for you and get your coffees.”

And that’s a great big get the heck out if Dean ever heard one. Was he getting to comfortable with the conversation? In his experience, that’s how friends are made. Maybe Cas sees that as something really weird? Dean is his customer, after all. For all he knows, Cas could have some kind of personal policy where he won’t let himself fraternize with customers. In which case, that makes this whole thing pretty damn confusing.

“There we go.” Cas puts the finished crane next to the other one. “Now, black drip with three shots of espresso, is it?”

“It’s – uh – two shots, actually. But you were close.” Which absolutely fucking floors him because it’s been what, four times? Five? How many times has Dean come in and ordered this one coffee? It’s sure as hell not enough time for Cas to remember his goddamn order.

“Oh, darn.” Cas frowns slightly as he gets to his feet, sending the cat scattering from where she was apparently sitting over his feet. “Are you getting anyone else a coffee tonight?”

Is he? Shit! “Oh God, Jo is going to kill me!” Dean jumps to his feet and the cat takes off skittering to hide behind the counter. “She wanted her coffee so bad and Nick didn’t get it for her. And now I’ve just been sitting here eating pie and – oh shit, I’m a dead man.”

“We can’t have that, can we?” Cas shakes his head and follows the cat behind the counter, immediately getting started on the coffees. “What does she like?”

Dean lists Jo’s order from memory while he gathers up all the plates and utensils on the table. He brings all of them and the pie over to the counter, going back only to retrieve Cas’s origami stuff. By the time he’s done, the table looks like they never ate there. Cas has the coffees and the pie boxed by the then because he’s quick and efficient and basically the perfect barista ever. The only thing Dean doesn’t expect is that there’s a green dragon tied to one of the to-go cups.

Cas gestures at it with a smug little smile. “There. Satisfied?”

It is not fair how easy it is for Cas to make Dean light up like he’s a goddamn Christmas tree. “This is officially the best damn café I’ve ever been to!”

That makes Cas’s smile grow even bigger. “If you really believe so, then please say that on in a Yelp review. We would greatly appreciate that.”

“Of course!” Dean makes a cross over his heart before he hands over the cash for the coffee. “I’ll leave the best damn review you’ve ever seen.”

There’s a scuffle off to the side and suddenly the cat is up on the counter too, meowing loudly. Dean gets the feeling that she doesn’t want to be ignored. He can’t remember the last time he touched a cat, but there’s a first time for everything. The cat shrinks back slightly when he reaches over to pet her on the head, but after a few sniffs of his fingers, she’s pushing into his hand just like she was doing for Cas. Okay, so, it turns out that cats aren’t so bad when they’re not making him sneeze.

“I gotta get going before Jo calls me and promises to chop off vital parts of me.” Dean laughs and tilts his head towards the door. “I’ll catch ya next time?”

“Most likely.” He nods, but shrugs in the same motion. “I don’t work again until Monday.”

And there’s the confirmation that Dean needs to know that Cas doesn’t work weekends. Now he feels like a massive stalker just for having that little bit of information. Time to get the hell out before he loses it and starts tripping over his feet or his words again.

“Sounds great. See ya later!”

For the first time in over a week, Dean manages to make it out of the café without bumping into anything. And no stuttering! Fuck yes, that’s some goddamn progress right there.

Jo is on him the moment he walks through the doors. She practically tries to climb him to get at the coffee, and she doesn’t even question why he has a dragon and she doesn’t. Her entire focus is on the coffee, and then it’s on the pie. As loathe as he is to do it, Dean gives up the last of the pie to her and Nick to keep them off his back long enough for him to use the computer without any incident.

The first thing Dean does after ol’ reliable boots up is leave the Yelp review that he promised he’d give Cas. Even though he said he wasn’t going to flirt with Cas anymore – that he was going to give up and focus on nothing but friendship, he feels fucking awesome right now. They had an awesome conversation tonight and it’s left Dean feeling all warm and tingly inside. His spirits have definitely picked up from twenty minutes ago.

Once the review is made, Dean fiddle with his new little dragon. The more he plays with it, the more a plan starts to unfold in his head. So, Cas isn’t flirting back right now, but he’s definitely not turning Dean away. If Cas didn’t like him being around, he wouldn’t have sat down and had pie with him, or showed him his origami, or told him his work schedule. There’s just enough there for Dean to have hope, but he still thinks that he should be taking this slow.

Dean needs to learn Cas first before he can make any real move on him. Test the waters, and all that shit. So, why doesn’t he just go straight up grade school on this? He can start ‘flirting’ with him, sorta. And how should he do that? With origami of course! Dean totally wants to take his time to learn it and use it to impress Cas. He never really did that anonymous secret admirer thing back in school, so this is going to be all sorts of fun and new to him.

One of the first things Dean finds is a step-by-step guide to folding a crane. He puts his dragon aside and cuts down a piece of loose leaf paper to start. The first few folds go well, but the rest gets interrupted when his chair suddenly starts to lean backwards where it’s not supposed to.

“What are you up to, freckles?”

Aw, shit. “Nothing, Nick.”

His chair leans back even more, and it’s one of the few things Dean hates the most that anyone could do to him while he’s on the computer. “Are you folding a gift for your boyfriend?”

“I don’t have a boyfriend.” Dean rolls his eyes and leans forward to study the folding guide again. “And I’m just doing something to kill a little time.”

Nick hums and Dean can practically feel his breath on the back of his neck. “Then perhaps you’d like to know that loose leaf is too thick for a complicated origami like a crane, hm? It would be much easier if you used real origami paper.”

Well, duh. That’s what every single website says. “I’m just practicing. I’ll get some real paper later.” Even though he doesn’t really know where to buy it in the first place.

After a beat of silence, Nick taps Dean on the head and his chair rights itself again. “Jo, my sweet, would you like to play a game of cards with me?”

“Call me that again and you’ll be playing with broken fingers.” Ah, good ol’ Jo. She doesn’t take shit from anyone, not even Nick.

“Shh, dear. Shh.” Nick hushes her and Dean knows a beating is going to happen soon if he keeps that up. “We don’t want to be so loud as to wake the others, would we?” It can’t really be counted as others, can it? There’s only one other person here.

Jo laughs louder than she should, probably because she might be trying to wake up the ‘others’. “Oh, so you want Meg to break your fingers for you, then? Because that’s exactly what she’s going to do when she learns that you’re hitting on the rookie.”

Nick’s voice goes flat and Dean is almost tempted to look to see how pissed he is. “The rumours of there being something between Meg and I are completely unprecedented.”

“Well, duh.” She laughs again. “That’s why you’re out here and not sleeping in the bunk area with her.”

Okay, now they’re entering the realm of conversation where Dean has zero desire to listen. He rolls his eyes and puts up the mental filter needed not to block them both out. He wants to keep practicing the crane for tonight. Except the shitty thing is that Dean is quickly figuring out that his fingers are big and dumb. He is going to need so much practice before he can even think about giving Cas one of these.

And he can’t wait for that day.

Chapter Text

Sunday – October 4th, 2015

It’s an unusually warm Sunday afternoon for October and Dean is loving it. Seventy degrees and no wind? Fuck yes, thank you Mother Nature. He’ll take this warmth over the chill they’ve started getting in the morning. The leaves on the trees are turning orange and red all over the place because they are well into Fall now. The outdoors is absolutely beautiful, and that is the entire reason why Dean is at the park today. More specifically, he’s here for a picnic, and there is literally nothing better than that. Especially when he didn’t have to make any food and yet he’s still here with some of his favourite people in life.

There aren’t too many spots to park in front of Hubbard Park, but he and Sam managed to luck out and snag one of the few that are right by the gate on Parkway Street. From the looks of it, there’s another spot at the off bend of the road just inside, so Mom and Dad might luck out too if they get here before someone else takes that. Dean doesn’t know where in the park they’re going to go and eat, but he figures they’ll probably walk for a bit to find one. Maybe they’ll walk the Tower Loop trail and sit to eat at the old tower! He wouldn’t mind that too much.

When Sam stops to read the postings on the community board at the gates, right next to the map of the park, Dean joins him. It’s always nice to see if there are any events that are going to be hosted in the park. Might be something interesting to attend. The first thing that catches Dean’s eye is a familiar poster that he totally saw last night. In fact, he has it folded up in his coat pocket right now to give to his mom when she gets here.

“Hey, Sammy, check this out.” Dean points to Cas’s Found Cat poster with maybe a little too much enthusiasm. “See this? The coffee guy I told you about made it.”

He hasn’t told Sam a whole lot about Cas, but it’s enough for Sam to know that The Graveyard Shift makes the best damn coffee in town. While Charlie and Jo are fully aware that Dean is crushing on him, his family doesn’t exactly know that guys also fall within Dean’s scope of attraction. It’s not like he’s actively trying to hide it from them, but he’s also not flaunting it in their faces. Given Dad’s complex towards Creatures, Dean doesn’t really want to test the waters to see if his prejudices carry over to homosexual relationships too. Not yet, at least. He’ll cross that bridge when he gets to it.

Sam leans over to glance at the poster, but he doesn’t give it much more than that. “Coffee guy is the same one who does origami, right?”

Okay, so Dean also mentioned the origami thing this morning when he picked Sam up, but it was only to show him the shitty crane he’d made yesterday and that he’d learned how to do it from the coffee guy. Thought that wasn’t the whole truth, of course. “Yeah. Remember how last week we saw a guy feeding a cat on Elm Street? This is that cat and he was that guy!”

This time Sam’s glance is thrown at him. It’s followed with a roll of the eyes and a shake of the head. “You’re such a dork.”

Now that was uncalled for. Dean throws an arm around Sam’s shoulders and pulls him into a headlock. “You’re the dork. Would’ja actually just read the frikken sign?” Cas put a lot of work into that poster and it deserves to be looked at. And, who knows? Maybe Sam might know if anyone is missing a cat.

With some effort and a bunch of shoving, Sam eventually manages to extract himself from Dean’s hold. His hair is all fucked up now and Dean is a little tempted to reach out and ruffle it up even more. It doesn’t stick up all funny anymore now that’s it’s gotten longer. The only time it does that is if Sam’s been sleeping on it funny. But dean doesn’t get to see that anymore. Not since he moved out of the house, at least. He should invite Sam to come stay at his place for a sleepover soon.

If they do that, it should be on a night where neither of them will have to work the next morning. That way, they can stay up late and braid each other’s hair and shit. Can’t do that if the both of them work, considering how Sam will be starting his first shift tomorrow morning and he’s going to be working a proper nine to five shift at least four days a week. That’s just for starters. Depending on how busy the place gets, they might up him to five days a week and shuffle up his shift schedule a little bit. Sam said he’s flexible with his hours, so Dean’s keeping his fingers crossed that he’ll get the extra hours. That means more into Sam’s savings and who would ever say no to something like that?

Sam sounds loudly and flaps his hand at the poster. “Dean, I don’t know why you want me to read this.”

“Because I’m thinking of adopting the cat.” At the flat look that gets him, Dean punches Sam in the shoulder. “Why the hell else do you think? What if you know the people who own this cat!” He grins at the sour frown Sam gives him for the punch. “Besides, how often do you actually know someone who puts one of these things up, huh?”

The pinched glare turns into something along the lines of disbelief. “Are you – are you seriously proud of knowing – Holy shit, my brother’s a nutcase.” He pulls his phone out and starts poking at the screen. “Siri, get me the number for the men in the white coats.”

Dean pulls back to punch him again, but a loud whistle distracts them both. They turn at the same time to see their mom hanging out the window of Dad’s pickup truck as they drive up Parkway Street. She has her fingers in her mouth and she blows around them again, making an ear-splitting piercing whistle. Before she’s done, barking answers from directly behind her and Sam lights up.

“They brought Bones!”

“Of course they brought Bones.” Dean rolls his eyes. As if they would ever go to the park and not bring him. He would snub the whole family for a week if they came back from smelling like the park.

He waves his dad through the gates and points at the free parking space. Dad gives him a thumbs up and drives ahead. Bones is already bouncing around in the bed of the truck, barking excitedly now that he sees Dean and Sam. As soon as the car is stopped, his pacing back and forth in front of the tail gate, waiting to be let down.

Sam runs over to meet with him, giving the old dog a good scratch behind the ears. “Hey, boy! Gimme a sec to get your leash and we’ll let you down right away, okay?”

While Hubbard Park might say that it’s okay to let your dog off his leash, the Winchesters are a little more careful. Bones has a habit of not always listening to commands, so he has to settle for staying on his leash while they walk the trails. His leash is one of those extendable ones, so when they come here to play a little ball in one of the clearings, he’s still able to run back and forth between everyone.

Dean greets his mom as she’s getting out of the truck. She hands him the leash and he tosses it to Sam. As soon as his hands are free, he wraps his arms around her and lifts her off her feet in a big hug. Even if he sees her every other day at work, and every Sunday because of their standing dinner date, it’s still a real treat to get to see his mom.

She laughs and hugs him back just as tightly. “Nice to see you too, baby.”

He gives her a little spin before putting her back on her feet. “What did you bring for supper? I’m so hungry I could eat a horse.”

“I know you could, sweetheart.” She pats him on the head and steps away with a laugh. “Who do you think raised and fed you for all those years, hm? Of course I packed something great for dinner. And since you’re the one who asked about it, now you get to be the one who carries the cooler.”

Damn, he should have known better. Not like he minds, though. A cooler with some food is going to feel like he’s carrying a damn feather compared to how heavy his bunkers are at the station. Besides, it means that his mom and dad can walk holding hands. Someone has to bring the blanket with them, anyways – though Dad will probably be the one to carry the backpack with all of that in it. At least it’ll be less work than clearing the table and washing dishes after their usual Sunday dinners. Which is why Dean is infinitely happy that his mom decided to skip the formal dinner and go for a picnic today.

Once they’ve unloaded everything from the truck, Bones included, Sam starts for the trail. “C’mon! Let’s get this last hurrah started!”

With a laugh, Dean follows after him. It’s just like Sam to think that having a picnic at the park today is all to celebrate his new job starting tomorrow morning. It’s going to be fun to see Sammy working now, but it’s pretty disappointing that he won’t be able to see that for a week. Sam’s new job is apparently right by the station, but Dean won’t be there during his shift. It’s career day at half the schools in town and, as the most handsome and charismatic firefighter on duty tomorrow, he’s gotta be the one to go to all of them.

Since gender equality is a very important thing, Ruby is going to be his co-pilot for the day. While Dean isn’t all that thrilled to be spending the day with her, he definitely agrees that they need a lady there to talk about what it’s like to be a female firefighter. If they’re up to the job, Dean would love to see more ladies on staff. Given what his mom is like, it’s no surprise that he really admires strong women. They’re pretty much the best. But while Ruby is cool, Dean is maybe not too fond of her. That’s kinda what happens when you hit on a guys’ under-aged little brother right in front of him. It was all in jokes, but Dean has a very strict no jokes policy when it comes to people flirting with Sam.

With tomorrow being a no go, that only leaves a few days this week that he could go in and see him. The Sam has Tuesday and Thursday off, so there’s no point in going to Sam’s new work when he’s not there. Wednesday isn’t any good for him either. Even though that’s a day off, Jo already has her hooks in him. This year she started a vegetable garden in the backyard and now she needs help reaping the harvest. That and she wants to expand on it, so Dean got recruited into helping her do it.

And it’s not just the harvest that Dean is helping with, or building on to the garden itself. Oh no. Somehow he actually allowed himself to volunteer to help Jo with canning, pickling, and bagging the harvest. More than half of what she’s grown is going to be given away to friends, family, and co-workers. Sure, he could totally let her do it all on her own, but where’s the fun in that? Dean likes having something to do. Besides, they’re roommates. It’s Dean’s belief – as it was taught to him by his parents – is to have a happy household, you need to do things together. This is him doing things with Jo.

It’s a lot harder to find things to do with Jo than it is Charlie. With Charlie, well, Dean already knows everything there is to know about her. They’ve been best friends since they were little and they share a ton of hobbies together. If it’s not their love of movies, shows, and games, then it’s LARPing or clubbing together. Jo isn’t old enough to do that yet. She has another year to go before she can legally drink – which doesn’t stop her from stealing Dean’s beers out of the fridge.

The sad thing is, she isn’t really into the same genres as Dean and Charlie are. Jo puts up with them, and she’ll listen to them being massive nerds together, but it’s not like she’ll participate. She’s more into the outdoorsy kind of stuff. Hiking, gardening, camping, and the like. Plus, if Jo has free time that isn’t specifically designated for something she needs to do around the house, then she’s usually over at her mom’s place helping get the restaurant and bar back open for business. When they’re open again, every scrap of her free time is going to be spend over there.

Jo basically grew up at the Roadhouse. Her house was just down the road from it, and that’s about forty minutes away from the fire station by bus. It’s not a bad drive at all if you have a car, but the only vehicle that Jo owns is a bicycle. She still gets around by that if Dean isn’t able to drive her anywhere. The only reason Jo moved in with him and Charlie is because they were looking for a third roommate to help with the bills and shit, and she wanted someplace closer to work. Turns out, Jo likes sleeping in. Dean has seen her roll out of bed less than ten minutes before they have to leave the house for their shift. Hell, there are times when Jo has gotten ready in the car, or there was that one time she had to finish getting ready at the station itself because she was so late getting out of bed.

Maybe that whole sleeping in thing is something she hasn’t grown out of yet from high school? Jo is actually a few years younger than Dean and Charlie, and they both met her when she got her certification and joined the station. Like Dean, she had the process started before she had even graduated high school. Unlike Charlie, Jo’s always wanted to be a firefighter too – just like Dean. Where they knew what they wanted to be since they were kids, Charlie still has no idea. She only went out for being a firefighter because that’s what Dean was doing and she figured the whole fireproof thing would work in her favour for once.

So, thanks to Jo, Dean's Wednesday is out of the question for going to see Sammy at his new job. Since he's back to work on Thursday, that means Dean will be done at eight o'clock in the morning on Friday. Even though Sam will be at his job that day, Dean is basically a walking zombie by the time he's off shift. Unless a call has him hyped up on endorphins, he's barely capable of getting himself safely home to bed.

At this rate, it’s going to be Saturday by the time he gets the chance to check out Sam’s new job. And that fucking sucks. Mom and Dad are both at the station tomorrow morning. In fact, Sam’s hitching a ride to work with them, even though his shift doesn’t start until nine o’clock. They’ll be the first to see the baby of the family go to his first job ever and Dean may or may not be mildly jealous. If his mom doesn’t get pictures of Sam leaving the station to head to work, he’s going to have to have some serious words with her.

Well, either way, Dean is really looking forward to seeing Sam at his first job. “Hey, Sammy! What’s the name of your new job, again?”

“I’m going to be a barista, Dean.” Sam turns to shoot a dirty look over his shoulder. “And the café’s name is Trick or Treat.” He rolls his eyes and turns back around. “And no, I’m not going to quit before I even start so I can apply at The Graveyard Shift just so I can give you a discount there.”

“Jokes on you, Sammy. I wasn’t gonna ask that.” Dean sticks his tongue out at the back of Sam’s head. “I’m pretty sure Cas already gives me a discount.” He runs a hand through his hair as he turns around to walk backwards, winking at his parents. “Totally because of my good looks, of course.”

Dad, just like Sammy, rolls his eyes. “Or because you’re a firefighter? Most businesses give law enforcement, EMTs, and firefighters a discount on services and foods.”

Of course Dean already knows that, and he’s pretty sure that’s exactly why Cas is doing it. He has noticed that the prices that show up on the back of the register when Cas is entering is orders are always a little cheaper than the ones listed on the board. It would be nice if that was just favouritism in play, but it’s likely not. And besides, Dean doesn’t really want to take any profits away from the café like that. In fact, he’d rather pay in full and give Cas and his brother all the business that they deserve.

It’s his loyalty to The Graveyard Shift that’s making him not like the idea of Trick or Treat as much as he should. Actually, Dean feels weird as fuck to not even really know where it is. He’d never even heard of it before until Sammy got hired there. It must be really new. According to Sam, it just opened a little while ago and they’re really close to the fire station. How close is close, though? Especially if Dean’s never seen or heard of it before? Granted, he doesn’t really get out a whole lot.

Oh well. He’ll see it on Saturday, if not sooner. And that’s when it’s going to be put to the test. Is it going to have coffee as good as The Graveyard Shift? Will it look as nice? Cas’s place has a really comfortable place. Plants, and books, and games, and good music. It’s the perfect place and if the station wasn’t already his home away from home, then Dean would totally consider the café to be it instead.

Plus, there’s one thing that The Graveyard Shift has that Trick or Treat will absolutely not be able to replicate. It’s got Cas. They might have someone on par with him in attractiveness, but Dean doubts that person will be as mysterious, kind, and so damn appealing. There’s just – there’s something about Cas that Dean can’t quite put his finger on, and it keeps drawing him back. Apparently it doesn’t matter what Dean decides, he just can’t stop from going weak kneed and tongue tied around Cas.

Any need to think further on the matter becomes a moot point when they reach the clearing with the tower. Dean loves the old tower. It’s made of rocks from stone walls and cement, and it took fifteen years to be built. In fact, he’s pretty sure it’s been a hundred years since construction on it was started. And the best thing is, it’s still a functioning observatory. The clearing here isn’t huge, but it’s nice. There are a few other families here already, all of them with the same idea of one last picnic before the colder weather finally sets in.

“Hey, mom!” Dean turns back again to look at his parents. “Where do you want to set up?” All the picnic tables are in use, but the Winchesters never use those. If they have a picnic, it’s going to damn well be on a  blanket on the ground. Unless the ground is wet. Then they’re screwed.

Mom walks off the path and starts dragging Dad to look for a nice flat area that’ll be rock and anthill free. Sam and Bones take off to jog around the edge of the clearing, though it’s not much of a jog. Bones insists on stopping to sniff every tree they pass. Nine times outta ten, he raises his leg to pee on it. Dean follows after his parents, but he’s watching Sam and Bones make their slow way around until they’re back to the path again.

“Here.” Mom comes to a stop not too far from the base of the tower and still near the path. “We’ll be in the sun, the ground is mostly level, and I’m too hungry to look any further. Let’s set up, boys!” She turns to Dad and holds out a hand. “Blanket me, John.”

Dad snorts and glances at Dean, eyebrows raised. What’s that look for? Is he expecting Dean to get the blanket out of the backpack? He’s not the one carrying it.

John.” Mom huffs, opening and closing her fingers a few time. “Blanket.”

He shrugs and swings the backpack around to get it open. “I was waiting to see if Dean laughs at ‘blanket me’ because it’s some secret euphemism I don’t know about.”

That makes Dean laugh and he puts laughs as he puts the cooler down. “It sounds dirty, but it’s nothing special that I know about.” It’s not like he keeps on top of the ridiculous vernacular kids use these days. He left all that shit behind when he graduated.

Mom rolls her eyes at the both of them, but she’s smiling at them. She helps Dad spread the blanket out on the ground and Dean goes around moving things over the corners to keep it pinned. The cooler goes on one corner, the backpack on the opposite. Dad pins one  of the other corners with his ass as he sits down, and Bones settles on the other one. He’s already panting and his tail is thumping hard. Sam sits close enough that Bones can rest his head on his leg, the puppy eyes out in full force.

“I haven’t even unpacked the food yet, Bones.” Mom tutts at him and shakes her head. “At least wait until there’s something to beg for.”

Dean sits between Sam and the cooler and reaches over to give Bones a good scratch behind the ear. “He knows he’s gotta get a head start or he’s not going to get anything because the sasquatch will inhale his food as soon as he gets it in his hands.”

“Make fun of me again, jerk. We’ll see if you like it when I steal your juice box.”

He raises an eyebrow at Sam. “Oh really?” Dean puffs up and flexes, like he used to do when he was wrestling. “You sure you wanna take on the champ, Sammy?”

Sam opens his mouth to respond, but all he gets out is a squeak. A Kool-Aid pack catches him in the lap and it was probably just shy of nutting him. Dean draws his knees up and avoids the one that Mom throws at him. He throws her a dirty look, but she just smiles serenely and tosses one to Dad. She has a water bottle that she empties part of it into a bowl and that goes down on the grass next to Bones. He’s not entirely interested in, but he does give it a few sniff.

Next up comes the plastic forks and containers of potato salad. Dean lights up at it and he has to resist ripping it open and digging in right away. He’ll wait for all the food to be brought out before he starts eating. Everyone needs to be served before they can eat. He’s a little disappointed when the next thing she pulls from the cooler is a plastic container full of kibble mixed with dog food.

“Aw, c’mon, Mom.” He whines, but still puts the food down for Bones when she passes it to him. “You’re killing me here. Bring out the food.”

She gives him a pointed look, but Dean only pouts harder. He’s hungry. They’re all hungry, and she’s purposefully dragging this out. If she was his mom, Dean would be thinking some very mean things about her right now. Luckily, she doesn’t make them wait too much longer. With exaggerated motions, Mom pulls out four hearty triple decker sandwiches and Dean starts salivating. They’re jam packed with shredded chicken breast, bacon, cheese, tomato, and something green that Dean doesn’t really know what it is but he knows that it’s going to be fucking delicious.

“I hope you like wasabi mayonnaise.” Mom grins and gives everyone their sandwich. “And if you don’t, then you better suck it up and eat it anyways.”

Why the heck is she warning them about that? This is a sandwich she’s been making since they were kids. Mom knows without a shadow of a doubt that Dean and Sam fucking love these. Especially when she puts extra bacon on them. They’re probably better than the triple deckers that Mom makes with Thanksgiving leftovers. She totally stole The Moist Maker from Friends, and it really does make the sandwich incredible.

Oh God, Dean’s just making himself hungry thinking about it. He unwraps one half of his sandwich and waits for everyone else to do the same. Mom pops open her potato salad first and then looks up expectantly at everyone else.

In unison, all three of them answer; “Thank you, Mom.” Of course Dad uses her name instead, but it’s still said at the same time.

She nods, looking so damn pleased with herself. “Alright, boys. Dig in!”

And Dean does just that. He doesn’t have the mouth room to manage any sort of speaking for at least five minutes while he devours the first half of his sandwich. Sam is a lot more sedate and he alternates between the sandwich and his potato salad. Because of the salt and pepper seasoning on the chicken inside the sandwich, and the wasabi mayonnaise, he knows better than pulling any of it out to give to Bones – no matter how much the dog whines and begs. Some families might give their dog that kind of stuff, but the Winchesters do not. Bones only gets straight, unseasoned meat or cheese. Otherwise it’s only canned dog food and kibble for him.

Conversation starts up after everyone has satisfied their hunger and slow down. Of course the topic of the day is Sam’s new job tomorrow. He’s so excited for it his first real job. It’s no surprise that Mom and Dad have plenty of advice for him. Shit like wear clean clothes, keep good posture, smile and be polite. Dean’s only advice is to get a haircut. That earns him some airborne potato salad, but the laughter from everyone else is so worth it.

The potato salad comes as a mid-dinner appetizer for Dean. It’s a break between the halves of his sandwich and it’s so good. He savours every little bite of boiled potato and the smooth mush of a hard-boiled egg piece. Mom always adds diced bacon to it too, just for some little extra flavour and Dean takes his time to pick those all out first just because they’re the best. One of these days, he’s really going to need to get his mom to write down all of her recipes so he can share the deliciousness with his roommates – and impress future dates if he ever brings them home.

Dean very quickly turns his train of thought away from those rails. It would suck so hard if he let them take that route and maybe let himself think about the potential future where he could ask Cas over for dinner. Of course it would have to be after sundown, because Dean’s basically ninety-nine percent sure that Cas can’t go out in the sun at all. And that’s just what he’s gathered from their short conversations together. He’s still halfway convinced that Cas is a Vampire, given those teeth. So maybe he can’t eat this kinda stuff?

Well, that’s not true. Benny eats and drinks real food all the time. But it doesn’t do anything good for him. Blood is the only thing he can actually get sustenance from. It’s the only thing that’ll actually digest properly and give him the nutrients he needs to survive. Regular food just tastes good on his tongue and then it passes through as fast and as unpleasant as Taco Bell burritos. That’s not something Dean would want to inflict on Cas just to show off his cooking prowess, and he doesn’t have the first goddamn clue how to serve blood for dinner.

Motherfucker. His brain still took the tracks even though he didn’t want it too. Goddammit. Dean shakes his head out and polishes off his potato salad. He just has the last half of his sandwich to get through and then he can get up and start moving around and burning up some energy. Action will clear his head. That and it’ll be a ton of fun to play around with his family. They haven’t had the chance to do something like that all summer.

“Hey, Dad?” Dean swallows around a mouthful of Kool-Aid and eyes up the backpack on the other side of the blanket from him. “Did you bring the mitts?”

Dad gives him a flat look that, to anyone else, wouldn’t look nearly as incredulous as it does to Dean. “Are you even my son? Of course I brought the damn mitts. I even brought a ball too.”

Sam coughs a laugh into his hand and Dean doesn’t even look to reach over and smack him on the leg. He shares a grin with Dad and starts in on the second half of his sandwich. If he gets finished with his food first, then he can get up and throw the ball around himself. It’s not nearly as much fun on his own, but it’s better than sitting around waiting for the slowpokes. Or maybe he’ll take Bones for another walk around the clearing to give the old boy some exercise.

When Dean finishes, Dad is on his last sandwich and Sam and Mom are taking their sweet time. Dean stays seated long enough to put away all his garbage in the cooler. Hubbard Park has a strict rule that if you bring any trash in, then you gotta take it out with you. Carry-in, Carry-out. Them’s the rules.

Once he’s got everything out of the way, Dean is on his feet. Bones gets up too, done with his food. “Here, Sammy. Give me his leash and finish eating already. I wanna play catch.”

Mom hums around a mouthful of potato salad. “First one to drop the ball has to do the dishes when we get home. And I left a sink full of them.”

“Good thing I don’t live with you guys anymore.”

Dad throws his empty Kool-Aid pack at him. “If you don’t catch the ball, then you’re damn well coming to the house and you’re going to do the dishes whether you live with us or not.”

Damn. Dean knew he wasn’t going to get out of her that easy. He makes an exaggerated sigh and slouches off with Bones trotting at his side. They make it more than two laps around the clearing and another three around the tower itself before everyone else is done eating and ready to throw the ball around. Bones isn’t going to have much to do while they’re at it, but someone will keep his leash pinned under their foot or something and he’ll run between everyone to chase that ball.

This is going to be a fun as hell afternoon with his family and Dean is excited beyond reason for it. He loves that he’s twenty-two years old and his family still does things together – like Sunday dinner and playing ball. Unless he’s got a shift at the station, absolutely nothing keeps Dean from his Sunday dinners. If he’s working, they have it the day before or after his shift. But every goddamn week, he will absolutely have a big, delicious sit down dinner with his family.

There are a lot of things that Dean considers important. His family is and always will be top of that list.

Monday – October 5th, 2015

A long yawn makes Castiel’s jaw crack and ache. He groans and slumps against the banister. Has there ever been a moment in his life when he’s been this tired? After a brief contemplation, he honestly can’t think of one right now. Today he is absolutely going to have to have the sleep. He simply cannot put it off for another day. It’s been almost two hours since the end of his shift and he’s still struggling to stay as awake as he can. No matter what, he can’t let himself go to sleep yet.

There’s only one reason that Castiel would stay awake this long, and that’s a new employee. Of course, it’s so late now that he’s not going to be able to take the sleep where he usually does. He’s going to have to do it in his bedroom, and he’s not looking forward to it.

Either way, the mess is worth it. When he and Gabriel decided to open a café together, Castiel insisted that he meet every employee on their first day. It’s almost impossible for him to meet them at their interviews, but Gabriel tapes them and they review them together later on. Despite the affliction his species brings him, Castiel will always find a way to be a part of this business one way or another. Besides, as the co-boss for these employees, it’s important that he meet everyone – including the day staff, even if it’s unlikely that he’ll ever work with them.

Another yawn actually makes his whole body tremble and Castiel shakes himself out. His eyes have been heavy since before his shift ended. He’s doing all that he can to fight against it. If he falls asleep here, where he’s hiding away from he is hiding away from the sun, then it’s entirely possible that he might not wake up again. Or, if he does, he won’t be able to get up and actually move. Gabriel will never let Castiel live it down if he has to carry him upstairs to his room.

He’s getting weaker by the second, but it’s almost nine o’clock and the new employee should be here any moment. All he has to do is to wait just a little longer. Then he can introduce himself, wish the new employee good luck on his first shift, and get the heck to sleep.

It’s the third yawn that makes Gabriel snap. He points a mixing spoon dripping with icing at him. “Cassie, I am putting my foot down. It’s time for you to go upstairs and sleep.”

“I will once I meet the new employee.” Castiel shakes his head slowly and looks towards the door, hoping against hope that Tessa will bring the new worker in soon.

Jess walks out of the freezer, dragging a cart of pastries behind her. She looks at her watch, then back to Castiel. “Well, he should be here soon. It’s only a quarter to nine right now.”

“Exactly.” He nods in agreement with her and shoots Gabriel a weak glare. “Just do your baking and let me sit here in silence.”

With a loud sigh, Gabriel returns to mixing, but he continues to throw worried looks in Castiel’s direction. Jess, however, is smiling from ear to ear. “You two have such a great relationship. I love it.”

“You need your eyes checked.” Gabriel huffs and shakes his head. There’s no actual bite to his words. In fact, he almost looks like he might be on the verge of being modest. Clearly he thinks that they really do have a great sibling relationship, and Castiel is inclined to agree. He couldn’t ask for a better big brother.

Jess shrugs and starts moving the chilled baking from the cooling trays to their display trays. “I’m an only child, so any sibling relationship looks great to me.”

“Even the abusive ones?” Gabriel gives her a look of horror, even going so far as to bring a hand to his chest. “You are way more twisted than I thought you were when I hired you!”

Her answer is to throw an unused icing bag at him and rolls her eyes with a laugh. Even Castiel has to laugh, though his is just a quiet snicker that he tries to hide behind his hand. Halfway through, it turns into a yawn. It earns them both a glare from Gabriel, but it only serves to make Jess laugh harder. Castiel only stares back at him until Gabriel has to look away to watch what he’s doing. He’s never won a staring contest yet and Castiel plans to keep it that way.

With a happy sigh, Jess pats Gabriel on the back as she passes him. “No one is as twisted as you are, boss man. Wear that badge with pride.”

And there’s one of the reasons why Castiel likes Jess. She’s a hardworking employee who knows what she’s doing, and she can put up with Gabriel. That’s what really matters. She was actually one of the first employees that they hired for the café. Balthazar was the first, and Jess came second, hired not more than a few months after the plans for the creation of the café were underway.

Jess was a part of this year’s graduating class from the New England Culinary Institute here in Montpelier. And while Gabriel never actually attended the school for his own degree, he did go there earlier in the year to headhunt for someone to help him in the kitchen. While Jess does do a lot of the daily baking and decorating with him, she also helps Tessa cover the front of the shop during the busy mornings. It’s also her job to do all the baking on the weekends when Gabriel isn’t working.

The new employee has no baking experience, but he’s going to be covering the front on weekends and on Tuesdays and Thursdays when Jess isn’t here. On those days, Gabriel’s kitchen helper during the day is a university student named Kevin. He has baking experience, but nothing formal and he’s not attending the Culinary Institute. It seems he knows how to do a little bit of everything and he’s a very smart young man.

In Castiel’s opinion, the schedule feels convoluted and complicated. Gabriel is the one who made it and he doesn’t seem to have any issue with it. None of their employees have complained either, so it must be alright. But everyone knows that the café doesn’t have enough staff right now. If someone calls in sick, there really isn’t anyone to cover their shift unless Gabriel or Castiel do it. But this is all they can afford right now. Business has been going well since they opened and in another few months, they should be able to afford another employee or two. For now, this will have to do.

Gabriel huffs loudly and waves his stirring spoon at both Jess and Castiel. “I see what’s happening here. You’re starting to gang up on me. Rule number one of the kitchen is no teaming up on the boss.”

“Even if one of the other members is also my boss?” Jess turns and flutters his eyelashes at him, attempting to portray innocence. It’s completely ruined by her smile.

He turns his spoon on her and a glob of icing drops to the worktop. “Keep it up, little missy, and I’ll send you out to the front all day.”

“You wouldn’t dare because Tessa doesn’t have a degree in baking like I do.” Jess puts her hands on her hips and tosses her head in triumph. “Unless you want her to mess up your precious tarts, you’re going to keep me back here where I belong.”

As if summoned, Tessa pushes the door to the front open completely. She fixes Jess with a stern frown and crosses her arms. “You guys know that I can hear you up here, right?”

For one moment, Jess gets the same look Gabriel does when Castiel catches him drinking straight from the milk carton. And then in the next moment, she breaks down laughing and shakes her head. “I love you, Tessie, but you couldn’t tell icing from frosting even if your job depended on it.”

Tessa’s frown starts to crack around the edges, slowly becoming a smile. “I love you too, Jessie, but yes, I can.” She sniffs and turns on her heel. “I don’t like frosting.”

She glances back over her shoulder and both Jess and Tessa start laughing. Castiel watches them in awe, amazed by how they could become such fast friends. Tessa only started a week before the café opened and already the two of them seem to be close. And, of course, they both get along so well with Gabriel. He’s lost count of how many jokes they have between each other that he doesn’t get. But it’s not like he has the opportunity to get to know them very well.

The only people that Castiel ever gets to work with is Balthazar because he starts working at one o’clock in the morning. He sees Anna and Tessa at shift change sometimes, but that’s only for a handful of minutes at a time. Of course, there’s nothing stopping him from spending time in the evenings on the weekends to get to know Kevin or Tessa better. Maybe he should make the effort. It wouldn’t be very difficult for him to spend a little bit in the café, maybe having a late night snack.

Tessa clears her throat and Castiel focuses on her again. “Hey boss and co-boss. The new meat is here, bright and early for your teaching pleasures.”

Gabriel puts his bowl and spoon down, and wipes his hands clean on his apron. “Great! Send him in. Jess, we’ve got everything under control back here for now. Why don’t you go help Tessa in the front before we sent the new guy to her to learn the ropes?”

Jess salutes and starts to remove the apron she wears while baking. “Sure thing, bossman.”

“Tessa, you’re going to be in charge of him.” Gabriel turns to her and narrows his eyes slightly. “Do you think you can handle that?”

“I’d handle it better if you hired more staff.” She sighs loudly, clearly forced, and puts a hand on Jess’s shoulder. “That way, poor Jess here wouldn’t have to work on both sides of the door.”

Castiel groans quietly as he gets to his feet. “We’ll hire more staff when and if we start making enough to afford to pay them. We’re still –” He breaks off with a yawn. “Excuse me. We’re still new.”

Tessa gives him a sympathetic look, as if she understands just how tired he is, and nods. “I know, I know. I’m just joking.” She shrugs and breaks into a smile. “I’ll only get serious about it when this place becomes a bit hit and gets too busy for the single staffers you’ve got right now.”

With that, she curtsies to the both of them and ducks back out into the front. Jess sighs and throws an apologetic look over her shoulder. “Ignore her. She’s just being silly. We’re doing just fine.”

Of course they are, but it’s nice to know that their employees are confident in the future of the business. It makes Castiel feel oddly warm inside. Even if he’s not as close to their employees as Gabriel, he’s still very happy with all of them. Everyone has been a great addition to the team thus far. He hopes that the new employee will work out just as well.

A few moments after Jess goes through the door, the new worker walks through. Castiel wasn’t sure what he expected physically, so he’s a little surprised by how tall he is, or the length of his hair – which he has pulled into a tiny ponytail. The new hire is dressed nicely, wearing nothing more than jeans, a plain white t-shirt, and a comfortable pair of shoes. He’s carrying a backpack over his shoulder.

While Castiel has never seen his face before, he knows essentially everything that the new employee’s folder has to offer – though his name is a blank spot in his memories at the moment. It’s likely because he’s just so tired right now, because Castiel knows he read the name in the file. He remembers being extremely impressed by the transcripts that were provided with his resume, and the new employee’s name would definitely have been on his resume, at least.

The new hire is a recent high school graduate looking for a long term job so he can save up for university. He was a straight A student with high reviews from his references – half of whom were his teachers. The closest thing to a previous job that the new hire had was a paper route when he was younger. That requires a good level of responsibility, and his affinity for being on sports teams throughout high school show that the new hire is not only a team player, but that he has good time management skills. It’s can’t be easy to play various sports and still manage to maintain a truly stellar grade point average.

As soon as the new hire sees Castiel, he turns and walks towards him. He holds out his hand with a nice smile. “You must be the other boss that Mr. Novak mentioned. My name is Sam Winchester. It’s nice to finally meet you.”

That’s peculiar. Castiel is certain he’s heard that name somewhere before and he just can’t place it. Oh, perhaps it’s from the resume? Of course he would have learned it from there. He really should get to bed soon, the need for the sleep is really messing with his head.

Castiel descends to the base of the stairs so he can shake his hand. “It’s a pleasure. My name is Castiel, but I’ll accept going by Cas if that’s easier for you. I wanted to wish you good luck on your first shift.”

“Thank you.” Sam smiles brightly and he looks excitedly between Castiel and Gabriel. “I’m so happy to be here. I’ve really been looking forward to today.” He pauses and looks down at his t-shirt, touching it gently. “I wasn’t sure what to wear. Is this alright?”

“It’s acceptable, but we have shift for you to wear with the café name on it.” Castiel gets it from the employee hutch, where it’s all nicely folded and packaged. “You can change in the bathroom and then Gabriel will take you through the rest of your day.”

Gabriel clears his throat loudly and gives Sam a pointed look. “Yeah, what he said. Gabriel. No Mr. Novaks here, okay?”

“Yes, sir.” He nods and takes the shirt that Castiel hands him. “I’ll be right back, then. After I change.”

Castiel nods his head in agreement and takes the first step up the stairs again. “I can’t be in the sun, so I work the overnight shifts during the week. I’ll be heading to sleep now, but if you have any questions you can direct them to Gabriel, Jess, or Tessa.

“Thank you, sir.” Sam holds his head once more to shake hands again. “It was nice to meet you, Cas.”

“And you as well.” He shakes his hand once more. “I hope you have fun today.”

The moment Sam has left the room, Gabriel turns to Castiel and makes a sweeping gesture at him. “Do you want me to –?”

Castiel knows exactly what he means. He shakes his head and sighs. “It’s too late for the garden, no matter your spells. I’ll sleep in my room today.”

“But your –”

It’s too dangerous to mention those down here and Castiel quickly speaks over him. “They’ll ache a bit when I wake up this evening, but they’ll be fine. We can release them tomorrow morning.”

Gabriel gives him a flat, unhappy look and shakes his head. He walks to the door and speaks through it. “Jess, you can come back in here. I’m going upstairs for a minute, so I want you to show Sam where he can put his things when he’s done changing. I need to help Cassie with something first.”

Before Castiel can complain, Gabriel starts attempting to urge him up the stairs. Castiel drops his voice into a hushed whisper. “This isn’t necessary. I can just go straight to bed on my own.”

“You’re wrong, Cassie. This is absolutely necessary.” He gives Castiel an actual shove and starts climbing the stairs after him. “You only need to do this stupid thing once every four days and you’re damn well going to do it right the one day you actually need to do it.

Oh God, Castiel is too tired to argue with him right now. He sighs and continues up the stairs. On the bright side, he won’t have to deal with an aching back all night. He hasn’t even reached the top of the stairs before he starts unbuttoning his shirt. It’s open and fluttering when he enters the apartment, and apparently he left his bedroom open because the cat is almost immediately at his feet and meowing loudly. Her schedule has been thrown off by the new employee and she doesn’t seem happy about it.

Castiel leans down to pet her. “I’m sorry, little one. I won’t be able to cuddle with you today. It’s a sleep day for me.”

She doesn’t appear to be placated by that. The cat continue to meow obnoxiously loud as she follows them back to the bedroom. Castiel allows it and he hopes that she’ll forgive him for this later – after he wakes up. The way the cat treats him is the one anomaly he has with today. Everything else in his life always seems better after a solid day of the sleep. Hopefully she’ll still be as attached to him then too.

Chapter Text

Tuesday – October 6th, 2015

“What I miss?” Bobby drops back down next to Dean on the couch and props his boots up on the crates they use as a coffee table. “Did Sofía find out that Javier is her long lost twin brother yet?”

Dean shakes his head, eyes glued to the ridiculous Spanish soap opera they’re watching. “Nah, but you missed Alejandro and Maria breaking up for the third time this episode.”

“Damn.” Bobby huffs and slouches further down on the couch. “I always miss the good stuff every time I go for a bathroom break.”

Ah, there’s nothing better than soap night with Bobby. “It’s okay. They got back together pretty much immediately and I’m pretty sure they’re gearing up for break up number four soon.”

Since he’s the station chief, Bobby usually sticks to doing the day shifts where there are more people to manage. Once a month, he takes an overnight shift just to make sure that everyone is following procedures like they’re supposed to. By some strange coincidence, Bobby always seems to take his night shift whenever Dean is working. And that means Spanish soap operas. The best thing? Bobby doesn’t know a lick of Spanish and only knows the absolute basics from that one year in high school when he took it to get a language credit.

It’s pretty much the best night of the month and Dean loves it. There’s something awesome to be said when the boss man plays favourites and you are the favourite. That’s really only because Bobby has known Dean since he was in diapers. He’s been a part of the family for years, and Sam and Dean grew up calling him uncle. In fact, that’s what Sam still calls him. Dean, on the other hand, favours ‘Boss’ more than anything, nowadays.

When the episode ends, Bobby gets to his feet and stretches. “You know what time it is, boy?”

Dean glances at his watch. “Time for another episode?” He’s just teasing, of course. His watch is reading two o’clock and that can only mean one thing; it’s coffee time.

Bobby sighs and pulls a handful of paper from his pocket. Some of that paper happens to have a monetary value and he drops it all into Dean’s lap. “What I want is on the list. Get it and get yourself whatever you want. My treat.”

And that’s another reason why Dean loves working with Bobby. Part of the reason this is the best job ever is because he works with family. “Yes, sir!”

He bounces to his feet and does a quick pat down to make sure he has everything – phone and wallet? Check. Dean already has his bunker pants on, and his boots, and that should about do it. Bobby never requires him to leave wearing anything else, no matter what Nick says. When the weather gets too cold for him to muscle through it, Dean will probably start wearing his jacket every night. For now, it’s fine. He usually waits for it to drop a lot lower before It becomes intolerable.

“Alright, I’ll be back in a minute!”

There’s a bounce in Dean’s step has he heads out. He takes the stairs down to the main level, practically skipping down the stairs. If he wasn’t already in the best of moods because Bobby’s here, then he’s definitely getting happier because now he’s going to get to see Cas. It feels like it’s been forever since they’ve seen each other. When was the last time, even? Oh wait, wasn’t it on his Friday shift? Okay, so it wasn’t that long ago, but it absolutely feels like it.

For a moment, Dean feels a flash of disappointment as he walks into the café to find no one at the counter. The café isn’t completely empty, though. There are two hipster-type characters sitting by the bookcase next to the stairs and they’re playing a rousing game of Boggle, from the looks of it. They both look up when he walks in and Dean tilts his head to nod at them. He even gives them a bit of a smile, just because he’s nice like that.

Cas is probably in the back or in the bathroom or something, and Dean is more than happy to wait for him at the counter. What he finds there is almost enough to make him forget about Cas entirely because holy shit is he in love with this place. Right next to the display case, sitting between it and the cash register, is a cake stand. Under the glass cover is none other than a goddamn pie. Better than that, it’s an apple pie and it only has one slice out of it. The beautiful piece of down home American culture still looks fresh and Dean almost starts drooling just looking at it.

He leans in and takes a deep breath, as if he can somehow still breathe it in through the glass. “Hey, baby. You are lookin’ fine.” If he could marry pie, he absolutely fucking would.

“Am I right in assuming that you’re speaking to the pie and not me?”

Dean jumps back from the counter with the un-manliest noise he’s ever made. Standing there at the counter, looking for all the world like he’d been standing there the whole time, is Cas. He raises his eyebrows at Dean and wipes his hands on his pants.

“Where the hell did you come from?!” Dean puts a hand over his chest and does his best to catch his breath. It is not  good for his heart to be caught by surprise like that.

Confusion fills Cas’s eyes and he tilts his head to the side. “The bathroom?”

Oh God, of course he was in the bathroom. Where the hell else would he be? Dean can feel his face going bright red and he’s getting the distinct urge to crawl into a hole and never see daylight again. That feeling only compounds itself when he notices that both hipsters have stopped playing Boggle and they’re both staring at him.

“I’m sorry, Dean.” Cas’s confusion slips into a soft smile, the kind meant to calm Dean down. “I didn’t mean to startle you.”

“You didn’t!” He shakes his head sharply, but he knows that it’s a goddamn lie. Dean’s just trying to save some face here, though that’s pretty much fucking useless at this point.

Cas’s smile grows to the point that it crinkles his eyes a little. “I didn’t?”

Dude, no way. Is – is Cas trying to tease him? That’s kinda awesome, actually. Well, sorta. He’s not really sure if that’s a good thing or a bad thing, but it’s definitely something. Actually, Dean’s not quite sure what he should make of that. It definitely means that they’re getting to know each other better. Well enough that they’re comfortable making jokes with one another. So, that’s a plus.

With a sigh, Dean shakes his head and forces himself to calm the hell down. “Okay, okay. It’s redo this.”

“Redo what?” That amusement is still totally clear on Cas’s face.

They’re gonna redo things like this. Dean clears his throat and raises his hand in a wave. “Hi, Cas. How’s it going tonight, huh?”

Cas tilts his head at him, eyebrow raising again. His smile doesn’t waver at all. “Things are going well. And how is your night, Dean?”

“S’fine.” Dean nods and shuffles his feet, feeling awkward for how the night started. “How’s the cat?”

“She’s doing well, and she seems to be adjusting to my sleep schedule.” He shrugs and runs a hand over the keys of the cash register. “We haven’t had anyone call or contact us about her yet.”

That’s good to hear. Dean nods again and hates himself for it because now it feels like he’s nodding too much. “That’s good, I guess. Do you leave her alone upstairs for the whole night?”

Cas shakes his head and gestures up at the ceiling. “I try to leave her upstairs until I’m done all my work. Then I bring her down to keep me company for the rest of the night.”

Dean is actually happy to hear that. It’s super cute that Cas is so attached to the cat, and that way Cas isn’t alone during his shift. Well, that Balthazar character is in the kitchen all the time, but it’s not like he’s keeping Cas company though, is he? Yeah, either way, Dean likes that Cas has the cat and he’s got his fingers crossed that no one claims her.

“So, have you given the cat a name yet?”

“Naming her would officially make her a part of the family.” Cas shakes his head, but he won’t look Dean in the eye. “Until I know for sure that no one is going to claim her, I refuse to give her a name.”

Hah! It doesn’t take a genius to read between the lines. Dean knows exactly what that’s supposed to me. “But you still have a name picked out already, don’t you?” He’d bet a month’s pay on that.

Cas doesn’t answer. He looks away and gestures at the cake stand. “Did you see that we serve pie now?”

Dean laughs out loud and he doesn’t care that he disturbs the Boggle players. “Distracting me with pie, Cas? Have my friends been telling you the secrets to dealing with me?”

“I can honestly say that they haven’t.”

The deadpan to Cas’s voice makes Dean laugh again. He’s still chuckling while he gets Bobby’s list of coffee and snacks out. “It’s just two coffees tonight, but the boss man wants something sweet to eat.” Normally Bobby writes down his first choice, and at least four other options to work through if they happen to be out of the first things. He’s so particular about his munchies that it’s a little hilarious.

Cas reads through the list and punches it into the cash register, glancing occasionally from it to the display case to make sure of what they’ve got. He hands the paper back when he’s done, and then pointedly looks at the pie. When he looks back at Dean, he raises an eyebrow. The question is plain on his face and Dean tries really hard not to laugh at it.

Instead, he fakes a really loud sigh. “And I guess I’ll take three slices of the pie.”

“Three?” Cas actually looks surprised, but he still keys it in anyways. “Two for me, and one for Bobby. He’d fire my ass on the spot if I brought back pie without a slice for him.” Even if he has his delicious looking tart things or whatever.

“Bobby is the boss man you mentioned previously?” Cas asks as he leaves the cash register to start boxing and bagging the delights.

“Yeah, he’s one of them.” Dean nods and leans his hip against the counter, watching Cas at work. He rather enjoys doing this, because Cas has really nice fingers and they move with a sure precision. It’s pretty distracting, actually. “The – uh – yeah, the other unofficial boss is my mom. She’s the office manager and if I’m being a bad son, she’ll stick me on shifts with my least favourite people.”

Cas’s lips quirk again in a smile. “Are you often a bad son for her?”

Hell no.” Dean huffs and frowns at him for even implying that. “I’m a model son.”

“Are you the only model son, or is your brother one as well?”

He’s fucking lucky that he’s still got that teasing smile in place, otherwise Dean would be on the verge of getting really pissed off right now. “Dude, careful. Don’t you dare speak bad about my little bro.” He narrows his eyes and gives Cas a glare. “You might lose me as a customer if you do that.”

Cas’s smile grows and he shakes his head. “Ah, you have a brother complex too, I see.”

“It’s not a complex.”

“It’s alright, I understand.” He waves a hand at Dean and turns to get the coffees started. “Gabriel is also very protective of me. I believe his complex is even worse than yours.”

Hey now. That’s not true! Dean laughs and shakes his head. “Sammy doesn’t really need any protecting. If you’d ever seen him, he’s huge. But he’s still my little brother, y’know? I try and look out for him as best I can.”

Cas nods and stirs the espresso into Dean’s black drip. He doesn’t say anything and Dean takes it as his cue to keep talking. Otherwise they’ll be stuck in the middle of some awkward type silence and Dean hates that kinda shit. He’d rather fill the void with his voice than have nothing there at all. Then again, Cas totally thinks that Dean shares too much about himself pretty much all the time. And that’s probably because he can’t shut the fuck up when he’s around Cas. It’s like he’s got diarrhea of the mouth and this is the worst because he’s definitely not going to stop.

“Actually, Sammy started a new job yesterday. It’s killing me that I haven’t had the chance to go in and check on him to see how he’s doing with his first job.” Dean sighs and stuffs his hands in his pockets. He just has to tough it out until Saturday. That’s when he’ll be able to see him at work.

“Monday?” Cas stops what he’s doing and turns around to look at him, eyebrows drawn together like he’s confused by something.

Hold on now. What’s that look for? Dean raises an eyebrow at him. “Yeah. It’s at some café I’ve never even heard of before but it’s apparently around here somewhere. I told him he should’ve come here instead of going with your competition.”

That confusion doesn’t let up and Cas tilts his head slowly, squinting at Dean like he’s a puzzle. “What did you say your last name was again?”

“Winchester?”

Understanding fills Cas’s face and his smile is right back in place. “Ah, yes.” He nods and turns back to the coffee. “I’m sure your brother is fine at his new job.”

Okay, now that’s more than just a bit confusing. “How would you know?”

Cas shrugs and fits the coffee cups into a tray, fiddling with them and keeping his back to Dean. “You can call it a hunch, I suppose. And the fact that I’m assuming he texted you the moment he finished his first shift to let you know how it went.”

Dean damn near face palms like they do in his anime. “I really do talk about myself too much if you already figured that out about my family.”

All Cas does is smile at him in an ‘I told you so’ kind of way. He puts the coffee tray next to the bagged treats and the boxed pie. One of them has another dragon attached to it, this time a red one. Dean knows exactly which coffee is his now and he’s trying really hard not to grin like a goddamn idiot. It might give away the fact that his heart is absolutely pounding. He wasn’t expecting to get a dragon tonight. In fact, he’d almost completely forgotten about them.

The one Cas gave him last time is sitting at home in Dean’s bedroom. It’s got a special little spot on the shelf over his desk. He even cleared out the space next to it because he fully planned on getting more dragons and displaying them with it. Does that make him creepy for wanting to hoard the dragons that Cas gives him? How far away from being a stalker does that make him? It feels weird, but it also totally feels right. Because why shouldn’t he keep them all nice and displayed when Cas works so hard to make them for his customers?

And Dean knows that origami isn’t easy. He’s been practicing on that crane, though he’s getting better and better at it. In fact, he’s almost ready to start using proper origami. Maybe later this week, even. The only problem with that is he doesn’t know where the hell to buy the paper in the first place. Are they at craft stores? That would probably be the best place to start.

Cas taps the display on the cash register to bring Dean’s attention to the bill he still hasn’t settled up. Right, right. He digs the money Bobby gave him out of his pocket and hands it all over. There’s more than enough, and Cas counts out the change for him. Dean pockets that to return to Bobby, but drops some of the change into the tip jar sitting next to the register.

“Thanks, Cas.” Dean grins at him as he picks up the orders. “You’re the best.”

“I try.” He nods in thanks for the tip and pulls up the stool he keeps behind the counter. “And I would like to thank you for the review you gave us. It was very nice.”

Whoa, what? Dean is mid step backwards when he stops. “Seriously, you already saw it?”

“Of course. Gabriel and I check our reviews on the daily.” Cas shrugs and sits back on his stool, resting his heels on the first rung under it. “If we get a bad review, I want to address it immediately to the best of our ability.”

“Wow, Cas. I didn’t know you were such a keener.” He can’t help a small laugh of that, but it does make total sense – especially for a guy who owns the place.

Sure enough, Cas nods again. “As a business owner, it’s in my best interest to ensure that my customers are as happy as I can keep them.” He pushes his glasses back up his nose and gives Dean another smile that causes those wobbly knees again. “I’m sure the one who asked me out won’t likely give us a good review, but if you could ask your coworkers and friends to rate us as well, that would be appreciated.”

Shit, man. Dean hadn’t even thought of that before. He nods excitedly, all too happy to do just that. “Yeah, definitely.” He knows basically everyone from the station has been here already, and any friends that haven’t have absolutely been told about this place. So, it’s just a matter of getting everyone off their asses and coming in or making the review.

That’s it. He’s going to make it his life’s mission to make sure that The Graveyard Shift stays rated as five stars on every review site the internet has to offer. As long as it keeps Cas smiling at him like he is right now, then he really doesn’t have too much of a choice now, does he?

*

Friday – October 9th, 2015

“Here you go, sunshine.” Charlie announces her return home by chucking a thick pack of square papers across the living room. It lands in Dean’s lap and a corner manages to catch him in a very sensitive area. He has just enough time to pause the video game before he curls in on himself with a whimper.

Charlie immediately makes the hissing sound of a wince. “Oops. Sorry, Dean. I swear I wasn’t aiming for your chicken nuggets. But – um – those are what you wanted, right?”

“Next time –” Dean does his best to breathe away the pain. “Next time just hand me the damn things.” It takes him a minute before he can uncurl and actually look at the paper. “Aw, c’mon, Charlie. I needed plain origami paper. These ones are covered in fairy herpes.”

Whoever invented glitter obviously hated the world. That shit is going to get absolutely everywhere the moment Dean starts using it to fold some origami. He’s going to be stained for life because of it and Cas is going to know that his glittery hands were behind the making of the mystery crane. Because Dean wants to do this whole flirting thing anonymously. The origami is supposed to be a kind of secret admirer type thing and he can’t do that when he’s going to be Edward fucking Cullen.

“Hey now.” Charlie drops onto the couch next to him and takes the paper pack back. “Don’t get your panties in a twist.”

“I told you; that only happened once.” And it’s also going to be the last time he confides in her ever again. Because Jo is right there on the easy chair and now she knows too.

Charlie sighs and pats him on the knee. “Yes, yes, and you liked it. I know.” She holds the pack of paper out and wiggles it under his nose. “But if you looked, these are assorted. It’s a pack of one hundred and only some of them are glittery. The rest are flat colours or patterned and you have your pick of the pack. Is that acceptable, sir?”

Oh, okay. Well, that’s alright then. Dean puts an arm around her shoulders and presses a kiss to the top of her head. “Thanks, Charlie. You’re the best.”

It wasn’t all that surprising that Charlie knew where to get origami paper. She basically knows everything ever, like she has the internet hardwired into her brain or something. The only downside of asking her to get some for him was that he basically outed himself for having an interest in origami. It’s just a matter of time before she starts asking about why he’s started, and it doesn’t take a genius to figure it out. All she would have to do is walk into The Graveyard Shift and see for herself.

Think of the devil and she shall speak, though the lines must’ve gotten crossed because Jo is the one who speaks up next. “So, why are you picking up the ancient art of paper folding, huh?”

Dean very pointedly doesn’t answer. Instead, he un-pauses the game and goes back to completely kicking her ass at Mario Kart. She makes an unhappy noise, but picks up the game like they’d never stopped it. Her skills have improved since she moved in, but Jo is a long way off before she could hope to beat Dean. The only one who actually gives him a run for his money is Charlie, and that’s because she currently holds the crown between them.

“Don’t bother, Jo.” Charlie sighs and kicks her feet up on the coffee table. “I asked the same but he wouldn’t tell me.”

Jo loses the race and drops her controller in her lap. She has her legs over the armrest of the easy chair and glares at them both from across the room. “I say we tickle it out of him – and not just because I want revenge for this game.”

Oh no, oh no. Dean shuffles a little further down the couch from Charlie. “Yeah, no. That’s not necessary, thanks. I just heard that it’s good stress relief, so I thought I’d give it a try, okay?”

He’s not even looking and he can feel Charlie’s hardcore side eye. “Heard from who?”

Dean shrugs and hits the rematch button to start a new round against Jo. “Yeah, I don’t know them. I heard it in passing while I was out and about last week.”

When Jo’s character doesn’t move on the screen, Dean pauses the game again. He looks over to find himself on the receiving end of two suspicious glares. Like hell is Dean going to tell either of them that he’s doing this because of Cas. Though, who would blame him? By now both Jo and Charlie have met Cas and even Charlie agrees that he’s dreamy. Of course, the Fae girl who works evening is more up her alley, but she can appreciate art and Cas is definitely a work of art. Seriously, like, Dean has to actively try not to drool every time he goes in.

On the bright side, at least Dean is getting more comfortable with talking to Cas. At this point, he hardly flubs his words anymore – so that’s a plus. Despite that, Dean is pretty sure that he’s going to fuck things up entirely if he tries to give Cas the crane in person. So, that’s why he has a plan to get around that and he’s going to put it into action after he picks Sam up from work tomorrow. If he has the courage for it.

*

Saturday – October 10th, 2015

Dean puts the Impala into park and grabs his phone from the seat next to him. He opens his messages and checks the last message that Sam sent him. It says that Trick or Treat, Sam’s new job, is on Main Street. In fact, it’s just down the road from the fire hall if Dean heads in the direction of the bridge. Funny enough, that’s the same as The Graveyard Shift. Which is exactly why Dean was delighted to get this text this afternoon.

See, also sitting on the seat next to him is a perfectly folded crane made with real origami paper. Dean even picked a nice shade of blue that he thought would appeal to Cas. It totally has absolutely nothing to do with the colour of his eyes. Not even remotely. Nope. Blue is just a nice colour and Dean happens to like it and – yeah. That’s it. That’s all. Nothing special about that. Either way, now he can take the crane and drop it off at The Graveyard Shift before or after he picks up Sam. It all depends on whether or not he finds the Trick or Treat before he reaches Cas’s café.

With the crane carefully cradled in his hand, Dean gets out of the car and makes his way to main street. He’s doing his best to hide the crane from any passersby so he’s not that weird guy walking around holding origami. It’s not actually that weird, but he’s paranoid enough to want to hide it. Especially because what if someone sees him with it, recognizes him, and manages to tell Cas about it? That’s a super crazy long shot, but it’s a risk he can’t take.

Of course, since he’s passing the café, Dean can’t resist stealing a glance at The Graveyard Shift. He’s never been there during the day, so he kinda wonders who might be working the day shift. What are the chances that it would be someone he knows? It could totally be someone that he went to high school with, or someone Sam went to school with. Or the most important thing of all, do they have pie right now? Fuck, he absolutely has to check on that when he takes Sam there later – hold the fucking phone.

Dean stops dead in his tracks and now he’s the weird guy who just stares at things on the street. The usual blue neon of The Graveyard Shift that hangs at the top of the window to the left of the door is gone. Well, not gone. It’s kinda looks like there’s a shade drawn over it. Instead, there’s an orange neon Trick or Treat sign hanging at the top of the window to the right of the door. Has that always been there? No, it couldn’t – He would have noticed. That kinda shit just can’t be overlooked.

No. Wait. Holy shit. Now it makes sense why Cas asked to confirm his last name during Tuesday night. Sam fucking started there on Monday. They would’ve fucking met and of course Cas would know his own employees goddamn name. Which means that Sam would have known ages ago that his new job was the same as Dean’s favourite café. Goddammit. Dean is going to have to noogie the fuck out of him for this. How dare he not say that he was going to be working here of all places.

After a quick check on both directions, Dean jaywalks his way right through the front door of Trick or Treat. Oh God, even thinking it feels wrong. It is and always will be The Graveyard Shift to him.

Sam is behind the counter when Dean walks in. There’s a pretty brunette girl next to him and they both smile at him. Sam’s is a lot more ridiculous than hers is. He puffs up like he’s just so proud of himself – looking just like mom. “So, you figured it out, did you?”

Since Cas isn’t anywhere in sight, and he doesn’t recognize anyone here besides Sam, Dean takes the risk of being a complete dork. He points dramatically across the room. “I am going to kick your ass for this later, you little brat.”

“I thought it would be a nice surprise. Do you know how hard it was to keep mom and dad from talking about this?” Sam practically throws his head back with a laugh. “Now you know the coffee at my job is going to be just as good as the stuff that you get at The Graveyard Shift.”

The smile on the girl standing next to Sam doesn’t dim at all. In fact, it only gets bigger as she looks between the two of them. She finally settles on Dean as she leans her hands on the counter. “Come here often, do you?”

Dean shrugs and puts on his most winning-est of smiles. “Only when I’m working overnights.”

“Aw, what a pity.” Her smile immediately falls and Dean can’t tell if this is because he’s not in during her shifts, or if she’s faking.

Either way, Dean winks at her and sneaks a look at the kitchen door. Good, it’s closed. If he remembers right, Cas’s brother works in the back during the day. He doesn’t have the first idea if – what was his name again? Something angel like… Oh! Gabriel, right. Does Gabriel work weekends? If he does, would he still be on shift right now? As long as he’s not out here in the café, Dean’s happy.

Sam rolls his eyes and turns to face the girl. “Tessa, is there anything else I should do before I go?”

“Nope!” Tessa turns her smile on him and jerks a thumb over her shoulder. “You can go ahead and change and punch out. I’ve got everything else covered.”

“Awesome. Thanks!” Sam heads around her to go for the kitchen door. “I’ll be right back, Dean.”

The moment Sam is out of the room and the kitchen door is close, Dean leans over the counter and drops his voice into a whisper. “Tessa, right?”

She leans in too, eyebrow raised. “Yes?”

“Can I leave something here for Cas?” It takes a lot of Dean’s will power not to close one of his hands into a nervous fist that’ll crush the crane. “And I want to leave it without my name. Please?”

“Oh!” Tessa’s eyes light up with something that Dean can’t even identify. “Is it a surprise gift?”

Dean nods slowly and suddenly finds it very hard to look her in the eye. “You could say that.”

With a deep breath, steeled courage, and shaking hands, Dean puts the crane on the counter. Tessa looks at it for a long moment before she looks upwards at the ceiling and all the cranes hanging from it. When she looks back down at Dean, she breaks into a truly huge grin. Oh God, she’s going to blab. He can feel it happening. If she doesn’t blab, then she’s going to squeal. Abort, abort, abort!

But there is no aborting now. The crane is in play and he can’t take the move back. All Dean can do is put a finger to his lips and pray to every God in the sky, on the mountain, or in the sea that she will keep her mouth shut about the fact that Sam’s big brother is the one who left the crane for Cas. With a wink, Tessa picks up the crane as gingerly as one could, and turns to place it on the shelf where all the mugs are kept. She even tucks it a ways back between two stacks so it won’t get blown off.

“There we go, safe and sound.” Tessa turns back to him and puts her finger to her lips too. “And I promise that your secret is safe with me, mystery admirer.”

Shit, Dean can feel a blush coming on. Diversion time! “And since we’re never going to speak of that again, I’ll take a straight black drip and –” He looks over and thanks his lucky stars because there is definitely a pie for the day and it looks like it’s mana from heaven. “And I’ll take a slice of pecan pie.”

After a moment of deliberation, and a glance at the display case, he taps the glass. “Oh, and an assorted box of macarons too, please.” Those weird little sandwich things are going to be for mom. For whatever reason, she loves them.

Dean has his whole order in his hands by the time Sam emerges again with his backpack. He stops and looks at the bag hanging on Dean’s wrist. Immediately he looks at the pie display and follows it up with an eye roll. “Really?”

“Don’t give me that look.” He turns on his heel to head for the door. It’s time to make his escape before he gets caught. “I bet you haven’t even tried it.”

“Of course I have.” Sam follows after him with a goodbye over his shoulder to Tessa. “I get one free dessert per shift and my goal is to try everything we offer.”

That lucky bastard. Dean huffs and turns his nose up in the air. “Well, I’m the reason they serve pie now, so suck on that, sir. Guess who got to taste test the first product?”

“Do you want me to answer with your name or with what the kitchen staff call you?”

Dean turns back around sharply before he can actually go out the door and Sam damn near walks into him. “What do the kitchen staff call me?” Far as he knows, kitchen staff is Cas’s brother and that bread-azar guy. Both people that are close to Cas. Please, oh please, let there be a God and let that God say that they aren’t the same people.

Sam gets that manic look in his eye that he gets when he’s got something he can hold over Dean’s head. “Oh, you know. The bread guy, Balthazar, and my boss, Gabriel.”

Oh God. “Cas’s brother.”

“Yup, that’s him.” Sam pats Dean on the shoulder at the kind of angle that makes it seem like he’s trying to casually guide Dean out of the way of the door.

No, oh no. No. This is not ending here. Absolutely not. Dean’s psyche is already fragile enough with leaving the crane for Cas with Tessa. This kind of teasing might break him and he could end up rocking back and forth in some corner somewhere. Dean honestly can’t think of a single time where he’s done this. When he asked Cassie out in sophomore year, it was by a note passed in math class. That was just a few months long. And Lisa was the one who asked him out in senior year, and that lasted more than half the year. But both were girls and those relationships were way more acceptable than asking a guy out.

Okay, but he didn’t ask Cas out. All Dean did was leave a paper crane for a guy he maybe kinda has a bit of a crush on. What if Cas thinks it’s crazy? What if Balthazar and Gabriel find out about it? Holy fuck do they have security cameras? He didn’t account for those! Is it too late to get Tessa to give the crane back? Because he would really like to take that back right about now.

Tessa gasps loudly, drawing both Sam and Dean to look at her. She covers her mouth with both hands, hiding a ridiculous smile. “Oh my God. Are you the hot fireman from the nightshift?”

“Oh no.” Dean turns to Sam. “Is that what the kitchen staff call me?” Please, for the love of rock and roll, let the powers that be strike him down where he stands.

Sam puffs up with pride and slaps Dean on the back, nearly startling him enough to drop his coffee. “Why yes, Tessa. He absolutely is!”

That’s the straw that breaks the camel’s back. It’s time for Dean to run and never look back. “I don’t want to know what they say about me or anything else. I’m leaving now. Goodbye.”

It takes everything in Dean’s willpower not to run out as he beats his retreat. Is it too much for him to ask that no one says anything about him being the one who made the crane? Here he was hoping that the most Tessa would know about him is that he’s Sam’s brother – which wasn’t something he planned for at all. Wearing plain clothes was supposed to be enough to hide his identity, like Clark Kent or any other goddamn superhero out there.

Fuck. At this rate, Dean might never be able to return to The Graveyard Shift again.

Why do the days have to pass so quickly? It feels like just yesterday that Castiel had the sleep, and yet, it’s actually been three days and tomorrow morning he needs to take it again. To make all matters worse, his back is hurting worse than usual. Maybe he should just stay in and – No. He had plans for tonight and he’s not going to let this damn curse of his hold him back. 

It’s the perfect time for him to go for his walk now, actually. At ten o’clock at night, the sun has fully set and the cat just finished a meal. She’s settled down for a nap on Castiel’s bed, and there’s no better time for him to head out. His satchel is full of more posters about the cat and he wants to spend the night replacing any missing or damaged posters that he put up previously. If he can go farther today than before, he could put up even more in areas where he hasn’t already.

Twinging pain spreads across Castiel’s back as he pulls his coat on. The discomfort spreads even more as he shoulders his satchel. It brings him to hesitate. Why should he let himself suffer for the whole night when he could just get Gabriel to – No! He made a decision and he is going to keep it. And Castiel sticks to for as long as it takes him to get downstairs.

Tessa is in the midst of her end of the night cleaning when Castiel enters the café from the kitchen. He always likes to stop in and check in on the weekend staff, just to make sure that things are going well. If he leaves before Tessa’s shift is over, Castiel can see how hers went and then check in on the night staff on his way back from the walk. Although he trusts his employees, he still likes checking in on them just in case they have any questions or need help with anything – especially when they’re the only ones on staff during the evenings and nights on the weekend.

On weekends, the café doesn’t have fresh baked bread. They can’t afford a second baker like Balthazar at the moment. When they can hire a second baker like him who can work weekends, they will. In the meantime, they only have one overnight staff person and that’s Kevin. As a university student, he likes to use his nighttime shift to study for his classes. Castiel and Gabriel doesn’t mind as long as his work gets done and the customers are satisfied.

“Good evening, boss!” Tessa looks up from putting out clean dishes on the shelves. She breaks into a wide grin – the kind of grin that makes Castiel worry.

He hesitates at the edge of the counter. “What’s that look for?”

She tilts her head and continues smiling at him. “What look?”

“That look. The one on your face.” He gestures at her, narrowing his eyes slightly.

Tessa shrugs. “It’s just my face.”

“That innocent act won’t work with me, Tessa.” Castiel turns to her fully and crosses his arms. “I control your wages. Tell me what you’re up to. Now.”

With a sigh, she steps over to the coffee station and reaches up to take something off the cup shelf. Tessa cradles that something between her hands and walks over to him like she’s carrying precious cargo. Castiel is expecting anything from a live animal of some sort to something made of crystal. The last thing he expects is for her to reveal an origami crane folded out of sky blue paper.

There’s only one thing Castiel can think to say right now. “That’s not one of mine.”

“Of course not, silly!” Tessa takes his hand and puts the crane in the palm of it. “It’s a gift from a secret admirer.” She sing songs the last words before dropping her voice into a whisper and leaning in. “They left it for you!”

Castiel’s stomach sinks to rest in the vicinity of his shoes. “That can’t be right.”

“Oh no, dear boss man, it absolutely is right.” Tessa claps her hands together excitedly. “They specifically asked that I give it to you.”

He shakes his head slowly, doing his best to refuse to believe this. “Why would they – Why?”

Tessa’s smile fades slightly and she stops clapping. “I’m assuming it’s because they like you and they wanted to leave you a gift.”

Okay, but – but why? “Who left it?”

“That defeats the purpose of having a secret admirer.” Her smiles falls completely into something verging on confusion. “Telling you who it was would defeat the purpose of leaving it anonymously.”

Castiel furrows his brows and stares at the crane. Is this something he should be worried about? “You don’t find that creepy?”

She shakes her head quickly and her smile is back in an instant. “Of course not! It’s romantic.”

Really? He just doesn’t see it. “But, it’s a little creepy. I don’t understand how leaving me gifts is supposed to make me like them if I don’t know who they are?”

Tessa sighs and puts her hands on her hips. “You’re spoiling it, Cas. Just take the stupid crane or throw it in the trash, okay?”

While that might certainly be an option for dealing with this, it doesn’t really sit well with him. Castiel turns the crane over in his hands, examining it from all angles. From what he can tell, there’s nothing altogether sinister about it. And since none of the crystals in the apartment or the shop registered any large sources of magic in the area, the chances of a Witch being the one to have left this are significantly low. Could this really be a matter of someone actually admiring him?

If that truly is the case, then who is it? Castiel wracks his brain trying to think of who it could be. His need for the sleep hasn’t started affecting his ability to think yet, but no names or faces jump out at him right away. A few swim to the surface as potential possibilities, but it’s not like he would feel comfortable making solid guesses about it.

For starters, Castiel hardly knows anyone in town. He’s kept very much to himself for the last year that they’ve been living here. The only people he’s gotten to know are his employees, and even that might be in the loosest of terms. Castiel is fairly certain that none of them would leave him something like this. He would have noticed if any of his employees were infatuated enough to give him a secret gift, right? At the very least Gabriel would have noticed.

So, if it’s not an employee, does that mean it’s a customer? That sounds like a more likely option. But who? Since the modus operandi is origami, it’s likely someone who knows that Castiel is the one folding the cranes as decoration for the café. Unfortunately, that doesn’t exactly narrow the list any. There are quite a few customers who have seen him in the process of folding, or have pointedly asked about the cranes. He’s explained it to more people than he can remember, so trying to figure it out by that list is more than useless.

Tessa sighs and goes back to the dish shelves. “If you’re so worried about who left it for you, I can confirm that it’s someone I would trust with my life. And if you won’t take my word for it, why don’t you just check the security cameras?”

Yet another viable option for solving this puzzle. Castiel is exceptionally tempted to check the security cameras, but what good is that going to do him? There’s the possibility that he won’t recognize them, but what if he does recognize who it is? Won’t that make things awkward between them whenever that customer comes in while he’s working? Would he be honour bound to confront them once he knows who they are? And if he doesn’t confront them about it, would it still be awkward for him knowing that it was them who left him a gift?

Castiel is so torn on this matter that there’s only one thing that he knows for sure right now; there’s no way he can go for a walk right now. First, he needs to consult Gabriel about this and make sure that it’s nothing dangerous. Next, he needs to just – just sit and think.

“Boss man, I need you to listen to me again.” Tessa is suddenly in front of Castiel and covering the crane in his hands with her own. “Don’t. Be. Dumb.”

Now she’s just being insulting. “Excuse me?”

She takes a deep breath and moves to pat him on the shoulders. “The person who left this for you is using what we like to call high school tactics.”

“I never went to high school.” Castiel was home schooled since he was thirteen years old. Since he had nothing better to do, he actually ‘graduated’ much earlier than most would.

Tessa steps back with a sigh and shakes her head. “That actually explains a lot.”

Castiel tilts his head and looks from her to the crane. “So, you’re saying if I went to high school I might see this as sweet and romantic?”

That makes her pause and she tilts her head too. She  looks him up and down, tapping at her chin. “Actually, knowing what I know about you, you’d probably still think the same.”

Now that really piques Castiel’s concern. He narrows his eyes and takes a step back. “What exactly do you know about me?”

“Next to nothing, and I still think you’d probably be reacting the same way.” She sighs and gets back to putting away the dishes. “Your poor admirer is going to get their heart broken when they find out you put that lovely crane in the trash.”

“I never said I was going to do that.”

Tessa tosses him a doubtful look over her shoulder. “That said, if you’re going to throw it out, you could just leave it for me. I’ll take it.”

He holds the crane closer to his chest and turns away slightly. “But it wasn’t intended for you.”

A smile starts growing on her lips again. “No, but I’ll be able to give it back to the admirer and give them a proper rejection for them from you.”

No, no. That doesn’t sit right with Castiel either. This is going to be something that he needs to think about. He is somewhat touched that someone went to the effort to make him a gift, but he’s still rather weirded out because it’s just – this has never happened to him before. It’s leaving him with a rather unsettled feeling resting in his chest.

“Thank you for accepting this for me. I’m – I’m going to go think about this upstairs.” Castiel ducks out with a quick goodnight, escaping before Tessa tries to talk him into anything else.

As soon as he shuts the door to the apartment behind him, he finds himself confronted by Gabriel. “You’re back exceptionally early. What’s wrong?”

“You really need to stop staying up when I go on walks.” Castiel sighs, but keeps the crane hidden in the curl of his hand as he pulls the strap of his bag over his head. “Go to bed, Gabriel. You need to wake up early and –” A particularly painful twinge across his back makes him wince.

“Whoa, hold on.” Gabriel grabs him by the arm, concern painted clear across his face. “What’s wrong? Are you hurt?”

While Castiel would really like to talk about the secret admirer and the crane, it’s already much too late for Gabriel to still be awake. They can talk about all of this in the morning before the sleep and after he’s spent the whole night with an aching back and a head full of thoughts about everything. But, since he’s not going to be leaving the house for the rest of the night, he might as well kill two birds with one stone. He can make sure that Gabriel gets an appropriate amount of sleep and he can get rid of his pain.

“Yes, I’m hurt.” Castiel uses the motion of taking off his trench coat to carefully flatten the crane and make it much easier to hide. He’ll show it to Gabriel in the morning. “My back is hurting more than usual. I think it’s time that I spend a night with them out.”

“Oh.” Gabriel steps back in surprise. “Alright. I can help you with that.” He rolls up the sleeves of his pajama shirt and steps out of the way. “You wanna do it in your bedroom?”

Castiel nods and brushes past him. He continues to hide the crane, this time by putting it underneath his bag when he puts it on the bed. The cat makes a chirrup of displeasure as the bed moves and she lifts her head to give them a sleepy glare. Castiel reaches over to give her a full body pet in apology for disturbing her.

“Alright, Cassie. Shirt off.” Gabriel appears in the doorway with a small knife in hand. “Let’s get this over with so I can hit the hay.”

“You should already be in bed.” He sighs and starts peeling off his layers of clothing, slowly but surely revealing one of his greatest secrets; a tattoo of wings that spread across his pack and partially down his arms. “But thank you for being awake right now. This is going to be very helpful.”

“I’m awake because I’m awesome and know when I’m needed.” Gabriel laughs and puts the tip of the knife to the pad of his thumb, cutting a shallow line. “Now turn around and show me those wings.”

This part is always rather uncomfortable. Castiel has never liked the feeling of having blood painted between his shoulder blades, right between the tattooed bases of his wings. He’s been on the receiving end of this so many times that he can even mentally draw a picture of the focusing circle while Gabriel moves his thumb over his skin. The hair on the back of his neck stands as Gabriel starts mumbling a spell. Power starts gathering in the room and even the cat can sense it. She jumps up and starts pacing, meowing loudly.

If he could, Castiel would try to calm her, but this process isn’t comfortable for a variety of reasons beyond the blood. He braces himself the moment the verbal spell ends. Gabriel presses his palm fully in the center of the circle. The jolt of magic coursing through Castiel’s body sends him to his knees. He doubles over to press his forehead against the floor, breathing hard through his nose to get himself through the feeling of having each feather tattooed along his back and arms pull free of his skin. His wings spread out and upwards as they take their physical form again.

It’s all thanks to Gabriel’s magic and his cleverly crafted spells that they’re able to hide Castiel’s wings during the day. They are, by far, his most obvious physical aspect. Without them, most normally assume that he’s nothing more than a Vampire. That’s why it became necessary to hide them. It was a stroke of genius when they decided to transforming them into tattoos during the day hours, even if this method isn’t entirely favourable. It was a much better option than removing the cursed appendages in what would have undoubtedly been a more painful process.

Castiel is left panting once his wings are finally free, but dear God does it feel good to have them out. He takes a deep breath and gets to his feet, wings folded against his back. “Thank you.”

Gabriel looks pleased as punch with himself and he backs out of the way to stand in the door. “No problem, Cassie. Just try not to knock anything over with those tonight, hm?”

“Don’t mock me.” He hasn’t knocked anything over with his wings in ages. “Now, please. Go get some sleep, and you don’t even need to get up early to help me in the morning. You can actually sleep in.”

“That’s the best news I’ve heard all damn day!” Gabriel throws his head back with a laugh. “I’m going to go wash my hand now. Goodnight!”

Castiel shuts the door after him and turns to find the cat sitting on the edge of bed and staring at him with the widest of eyes. This isn’t the first that she’s seen his wings, but she does seem to have a particular affinity for them. Perhaps it’s her feline instincts and she thinks they resemble bird wings? Either way, Castiel is rather looking forward to seeing how she’ll react when he sheds a feather in front of her. His hope is that she’ll pounce and find a new toy in it.

He sits on the edge of the bed next to her, his longer feathers curling against the blankets. Immediately the cat starts sniffing at his nearest feathers, even reaching out a cautionary paw to touch one. She’s seen them before, but she’s never had the chance to touch one like this. As long as she doesn’t try to rip one out, he’s happy to let her touch.

“It looks like you’re stuck with me for the rest of the evening.” Castiel touches the top of her head with a sigh. “Would you like to chase a paper ball on a string?”

While he won’t be getting his walk in tonight, but at least he gets to spend the night with the cat. It’s some quality time with her and he’d like to have as much of that as he can. Because, really, who knows how long he has before someone comes to claim her?

It’s all Castiel can do to hope that day never comes.

Chapter Text

Sunday – October 11th, 2015

The need for the sleep is weighing heavier on Castiel’s mind with every passing minute. He can’t even say how long the TV has been playing without him actually watching it. What show is even playing right now? Castiel doesn’t have the foggiest. He hasn’t even been looking at it for who-knows-how-long.

For the last however long, his eyes have been vaguely focused on the paper crane sitting on his knee. The colour is absolutely lovely, to be sure, but that doesn’t really matter for anything. What Castiel cares about is who made it. For the life of him, he can’t figure out who it might be. And this really is the worst time to be trying to think of it. His brain is not awake enough for this.

It would be nice if he could blame his headache on eye strain. At least then all he would need to do is take a painkiller and be done with it. He can’t even say it’s because he hasn’t worn his glasses since his aborted attempt at a walk earlier. They’re not corrective lenses and he never wears them when he’s just sitting around the house. They’re only good for hiding his face and distracting from his eyes. No, the only thing he can blame his headache on is this stupid curse of his.

With a sigh, Castiel moves his hand to the purring ball of fur resting against his leg. The cat lifts her head at the touch, but she puts it down almost immediately. She spent more than half the night playing and chasing all manner of toys around the apartment. The poor thing must be exhausted and it’s a good thing that bedtime will be shortly. Hopefully she’ll have a good long sleep throughout the day and won’t cause much trouble for Gabriel.

Judging by the clock and how the sky is starting to grow slowly lighter through the window, the sun is probably only fifteen or so minutes away from rising. If Castiel wants to take his sleep out in the garden, then he should start getting ready for it now. But that requires moving and thinking and doing things. It would be so much easier just to sleep right here with his wings spread out over the couch. Gabriel might not like it, but he’s not the one who has to deal with this bone deep exhaustion like Castiel does.

“Good morning, little brother!”

Speak of the devil and he doth appear. Castiel lifts his head to give Gabriel a tired, though surprised, look. It gets across everything he doesn’t feel like verbalizing. Things such as why his big brother would be awake this early when he doesn’t have to be, and why Gabriel’s boxers have little Spider-Man faces on them. He was sure that Gabriel was more a fan of Loki from the Thor series instead. They have so much in common, after all.

In his surprise, Castiel accidentally knocks the crane from his knee. His wings arch up to stay spread as he leans over to pick it up again. They droop the moment he leans back against the couch. Unfortunately, the action draws Gabriel’s attention to the crane and Castiel realizes too late to hide it.

“Hey, that’s not one of yours.”

Oh God. He is far too tired for this kind of conversation. “How can you tell?”

Gabriel shrugs. “It would be hanging downstairs if it was one of yours, wouldn’t it?”

Good point. Castiel’s answer is a shrug too and he stands up with a yawn. The cat gets to her feet and stretches too, her back curving. Since he’s already told the cat about the crane, he might as well tell Gabriel about it too, right? He’s going to find out eventually and Castiel did want to talk to him about it at some point. But does he have the energy to talk about it now? Does he even have the time?

While he might not have the time or the energy, Castiel might as well just get it over with. He’ll be quick and to the point. That way, they can full discuss this later after he’s had the sleep. With a sigh, Castiel folds his wings against his back and starts across the living room. “A secret admirer left it for me yesterday afternoon. Tessa gave it to me last night.”

“A what did what?!” Gabriel grabs Castiel by the arm and pulls him around to face him.

This was exactly what he feared. He really didn’t want to be interrogated about this. Castiel sighs and shakes his head. “Do I actually have to repeat myself or can I just go change? I’m tired and the sun is going to come up soon. If this is a problem, you can figure it out while I sleep.”

Contrary to how Castiel thought he would react, Gabriel is actually smiling brightly like a fool. “You have a secret admirer, Cassie? This is great!”

“How so?” That brings him to pause and Castiel tilts his head in confusion. “You don’t think that this is something we should be worried about?”

Gabriel shakes his head quickly, almost starting to bounce in place. “This is great because they left it for you here where we have security cameras. We can find out who it was! If we know who they are and can trust them, then you could totally go out on a date and –”

Dear God no! Is he insane? “Gabriel.”

With one sharp word, Gabriel deflates and his shoulder sag. “Oh, that’s right. You’re the biggest spoilsport ever. A secret admirer is wasted on you.”

“Please don’t start right now.” Castiel rubs a hand over his face, and he can feel his wings starts to fluff with annoyance. “Just let me get changed so I can sleep, please.”

“Fine, fine.” With a loud sigh, Gabriel steps out of the way and gestures for Castiel to go down the hall. “You’re a great big wet blanket, y’know that? It’s not every day that you get a secret admirer.”

Castiel rolls his eyes and brushes past him, making sure to cuff him with a wing on his way past. “I know. I’m the worst.” He stops at his bedroom door and turns back to a pout, ignoring it. “The weather report said it’s supposed to rain this afternoon. Can you bring Harold down from the garden upstairs before then? Give him what sun there is in the morning, but don’t let him drown in the rain.”

Now it’s Gabriel’s turn to roll his eyes and he does it with much more flair and dramatics. “For the love of God, Cassie, it’s a cactus. And, for the record, Harold is a dumb name for it.”

“Say that again and I’ll put tiny cacti in your bed.” He narrows his eyes in warning. “And you know that over watering a cactus can kill it. Harold is the first plant I bought when we moved here and if you kill him, I’ll hurt you worse than tiny cacti ever could.”

With a loud scoff, Gabriel crosses his arms and fixes Castiel with the kind of teasing smirk that does nothing more than irk him further. “Hurt me? Is that really the best threat you can do, Cassie?”

He recoils when Castiel bares his fangs in a growl and fans his wings in a threatening display. Gabriel holds his hands up in defeat and takes a step back. “Alright, fine. I promise I’ll bring Harold the cactus in before the rain starts.”

“Thank you.” Castiel nods, satisfied.

The cat rubs against his ankle and Castiel scoops her up in his arms. “I’ll see you this evening, Gabriel. I need to change now.”

Before he has to deal with anymore sass this morning, he ducks into his bedroom and pulls the door shut behind him. He places the cat on the bed and gives her a few gentle scratches behind the ears. “You should stay in here for the day and sleep. I’ll be back later.”

She meows at him and starts pacing back and forth across the bed. Her pacing continues as Castiel changes. As soon as he’s done, she sits and paws the air in his direction, meowing loudly again. It seems to him that she wants to be cuddled again, or is waiting for him to join her on the bed. Unfortunately, that won’t be happening today.

With a sigh, he picks her up again and kisses the top of her head. By now, Castiel has stopped caring that he’s starting to get really attached to her. The cat is sweet and deserves all sorts of affection after her life on the streets – no matter how long or short that might have been. He gives her another kiss to her short snout and lifts her to nuzzle his face against the downy softness of her shaved side. The cat doesn’t like that at all. She starts squirming and baps him on the face a few times with her paws, though thankfully she doesn’t use her claws.

A knock at the door interrupts his cuddles and Gabriel pushes the door open again. “Hey, the sun is going to be up any second. You better get your butt upstairs if you want to sleep out there today. Are you ready yet?”

“As ready as I’ll ever be.” Castiel sighs and puts the cat down on the bed. “Have a good day, little one. I’ll see you later.”

At least when he’s well rested, Castiel will have the energy to play with her properly. It’s something to look forward to, at least.

*

The moment Castiel wakes up from the sleep, he always has Gabriel seal his wings again. It’s much the same process as releasing them, and he’s very thankful that the blood focusing symbol burns itself off while it draws in the gathered magical power. Immediately following the sealing of his wings, Castiel takes a long hot shower. Nothing feels better than standing with his head under a high pressure stream of nearly scalding water. It’s not a proper shower unless he walks out looking as red as a lobster.

Showers wash him clean of the day’s grit and grossness. He takes extra care to scrub every inch of skin and washing out his hair. Castiel takes great pleasure with washing his hair. Very little feels as good as massaging his scalp with his fingertips. It’s his favourite thing about getting his hair cut – and Gabriel has been the one to do it for him since they moved here. As far as Castiel knows, there aren’t any hairdressers in the area who work late enough hours. Granted, he hasn’t really looked that hard either.

Gabriel is in the kitchen, busy with cleaning up after their late supper when Castiel comes out of the bathroom. He looks up from drying the dishes and sighs loudly. “Would it kill you to put on some damn clothes before you come outta there?”

Castiel has a towel draped over his head to help dry his hair and one wrapped around his waist. He rolls his eyes and continues through the kitchen towards his bedroom. “At least I actually wear a towel after my shower, unlike some people. I’ve seen you naked one too many times for my own liking.”

“Pervert.”

“Nudist.”

The cat decides to give her two cents as well with a loud meow from Castiel’s bedroom. She’s been waiting patiently for him and it would be rude to make her wait any longer. Castiel fully plans to spend the rest of the night with her in his bedroom. Or, at least he wants to spend most of the night with her. Now that he’s chock full of energy after a full day of the sleep, Castiel might very well go out for a walk tonight – which is part of the reason why he had Gabriel put his wings away after he woke up.

“Good evening, little one.” Castiel scoops her up the moment he walks into his bedroom. “I’m sorry I left you in here for so long. Are you hungry?”

She meows again and butts her head against the underside of his jaw. He enjoys it when she does that and lets her continue doing it while he moves around the room to put out some fresh food for her. While the kitchen might be where they keep the majority of her food, Castiel does keep a couple cans in his bedroom if he ever wants to feed her in the middle of the night without clunking about in the kitchen where he might end up disturbing Gabriel.

Once he has the food in her bowls, the cat starts squirming almost violently to get out of his arms. At risk of having his chest or arm shredded by her claws, Castiel puts her down to let her eat. He leaves her be and finishes drying his hair. When he’s done, he hands the towel up on the back of his bedroom door. Now what should he do?

Castiel browses his bookshelf while contemplating what he should do for the rest of the night. He definitely wants to go for a walk later, but right now he could just lie on the bed and read for a while. It’s easier to play with the cat while he’s reading than anything else. Actually, there’s a book he’s looking forward to finishing, so that’s something for him to do!

First thing’s first, he needs to put his crystal back on. Castiel always takes the necklace off while he has the sleep, and he definitely doesn’t wear it while he’s showering. Everything feels a lot better for him once he’s wearing the necklace again. He’s gotten so used to wearing it over the last several years that it just feels wrong not to have it on. Unlike his glasses, which he needs a note on the stairwell door to remind him to put on before going downstairs. Right now, those are sitting out on his bedside table. Gabriel practically put Harold down right on top of them when he brought the cactus in from outside.

Satisfied and with a hum, Castiel grabs the cat’s toy and stretches out on his stomach across the bed. He puts his feet on the pillow and his head at the end of the bed. It’ll be easier to play with the cat this way when she’s done eating. Her favourite toy at this point in time is simply just a crumpled ball of paper tied to the end of a piece of string. It’s all he really has for her. Castiel hasn’t spent anything on actually toys. It’s the one thing he’s stopping himself from going out to buy for her, if only because toys aren’t necessary for a temporary home – unlike the litter box.

With the cat toy dangling over the edge of the bed, Castiel props himself up on his elbows and starts reading. Out of habit, he starts bouncing the string with the paper ball while he reads. The cat will start to play with it when she’s done eating – if she’ll play with it at all. She might go straight to sleep after she eats. Sometimes she does that, but he’ll just have to wait to find out.

Tonight she seems to be taking her time. Castiel gets several pages into the book before he feels the first tug at the string. Well, there’s his answer. Despite the food in her belly, she’s clearly in a playful mood. Now the only question is, how long will that last? Food normally puts her down for a nap at least for a little while. He doesn’t mind it, though. The cat is very adorable when she’s being playful.

Castiel ends up alternating between watching the cat and reading his book. She has a game all her own where she stalks and pounces the bouncing paper ball. Every tackle and swat is accompanied with a chirruping meow that is equally distracting as it is cute. Truthfully, he’s enjoying her antics more than he is the book. It’s definitely going to be placed downstairs once he’s finished.

It’s just some crime thriller based in France that Gabriel picked up for him at a second hand shop. Unless Castiel orders a book online and has it directly delivered, the only way to get new books is for Gabriel to buy a bunch for him at garage sales or otherwise. The only thing he really enjoys about this particular is the scene he’s currently on, which is a detailed walkthrough of the Louvre.

Actually, the Louvre is one of the top places that he wants to visit some day in the future. Castiel has a whole list of places around the world he would like to travel to one day. He keeps it in a notebook he carries in his emergency escape bag. The same notebook once had the list of all the places he wanted to see here in the United States. It was truly a delight to travel around across the country for two years to complete that list.

Maybe, if they have to run again, Castiel can try and convince Gabriel to go into hiding overseas. What are the chances that the Witches would follow them over there? That would only be if they knew that Castiel left the country in the first place, and he doubts a black magic coven would have feelings that far away from their home base. It’s possible that he might actually be safe on the other side of the ocean.

Sadly, Castiel knows that isn’t true. Black magic might be illegal the world over, but it’s not exclusive to the United States. There are covens that practice that can be found in every country. He’s not safe around any Witch, no matter their magical background. It’s unlikely that any Witch, good or bad, doesn’t at least know about forbidden spells and potions. If anyone finds out what he is or that his very being is necessary for those spells, the temptation might be too great to resist.

There’s nowhere in this world that Castiel would be safe, but he still wants to see it before age or Witches take him.

Castiel shakes his head to free it of those kinds of thoughts. He forces himself to focus on the passage where the detective is examining the statue; Nike of Samothrace, going on at length about how Winged Victory must have some connection to the case. From what Castiel can tell, it doesn’t have any connection, but so far the crime has been rather transparent. He already knows the killer was the detective’s boss and it’s just a matter of time before the detective figures it out too.

That aside, there’s something about the statue’s description that tickles the back of his mind. Winged Victory. Nike. Knee-kay. There’s just something about that name that appeals to him. It takes Castiel a few pages to realize why. He lowers the book and tilts his head to look at the cat, giving the string an extra big bounce to make her go scrambling for it.

Okay, this is terrible of him, but he has to try. “Nike?”

The cat meows, but she doesn’t stop attacking the ball. He tries again. “Nike.”

Again, she meows, but this time she takes a swipe at the ball and pauses to look at him. Castiel feels victorious and he smiles at her. “Don’t tell Gabriel, alright?”

He can’t say exactly why this name feels right to him, but it does. As someone with wings of his own, he’s always been partial to anything else with wings too. And a winged victory? Well, Castiel would consider that the cat has been rather successful in her life given that she’s ended up here. Is there anywhere else that would have taken care of her like Castiel does.

Before he can call her by her new name again, there’s a knock at the door. It puts Castiel’s heart in his throat and he almost drops his book in surprise. He takes a deep breath and forces himself to try and act like he didn’t just pick a name for the cat that he’s not supposed to be keeping. “Y-yes? Come in.”

Gabriel opens the door and takes a few steps into the bedroom. “Oh, for the love of –” He rolls his eyes when he notices that Castiel is still in his towel, even though he finished his shower nearly an hour ago. “I’m just letting you know that I’m heading to be now. Is there anything you need before I go?”

Oh, right. Gabriel has to get up to work at five o’clock in the morning. Of course that means he’s going to be going to bed earlier tonight than he did yesterday. Castiel shakes his head and lifts the book up in front of his face. “I’ll be fine, thank you. I might go for a walk later tonight.” Most likely when the cat – when Nike – will go down for a nap. She’ll miss him less if she’s sleeping.

With a disgruntled huff, Gabriel crosses his arms. “I hate it when you go for walks this late.”

“I have no choice and I refuse to stay cooped up in this apartment all the time.” He looks over the edge of his book, narrowing his eyes in a dare. “I promise I’ll stay safe. I’ll have my phone and a charm bag with me. We both know that nothing is going to happen to me.”

A frown pulls down the corners of Gabriel’s mouth. “I’m just trying to keep you alive, Cassie.”

“I know.” And he is eternally grateful for it.

“Yeah, well, I know you know.” He grumbles and tilts his nose up. “I know other things too, y’know.”

What is he going on about now? Castiel sighs and marks his page in the book before he closes it. “Please enlighten me with what you know.”

“You sure?” The frown turns upside quickly, spreading into a wicked grin. “Because what I know happens to be things that I learned from watching our security tapes.” He even wiggles his eyebrows to emphasise his dastardly doings. As if his point wasn’t made, Gabriel also tilts his head to eye up the admirer’s crane currently resting on top of Castiel’s bookcase.

With a groan, Castiel opens his book again. He should never have closed it in the first place. “I don’t know what to know, Gabriel.”

Granted, it should have be obvious that he would have looked at the tapes during the day. While Castiel was sleeping would have been the opportune moment for that. If it had been at any other time, he would have stopped Gabriel from doing it. As if it wasn’t bad enough that Tessa knows who it is, Castiel doesn’t want anyone else to know too. Now that Gabriel knows, it’s only a matter of time before Balthazar does, and then Anna, and then every single one of their employees. In other words, every person Castiel knows.

“Aw, c’mon!” Gabriel whines and drops his arms, his whole frame going droopy. “Don’t be like that!”

Castiel shakes his head. “Don’t you dare tell me who that was.”

He groans and hangs his head back. “Why not?”

“You know why not.” Without looking, Castiel can tell that Gabriel has a pout going. He ignores it in favour of pretending like he’s still reading the book.

“You’re seriously not going to do anything about this?” Gabriel throws a hand out to gesture at the crane. “It’s not every day that you get a gift from a secret admirer, Cassie!”

Apparently the world is against him finishing this damn book tonight. Castiel growls and lowers it again. “What can I do, Gabriel? It’s an anonymous gift, as explained by the whole secret admirer thing.”

“But we have the means of knowing who it is!” He’s being stubborn again and it’s only a matter of moments before he starts stomping his foot. “I mean, I know who it is! I could just –”

Castiel shakes his head. “Congratulations on knowing, but this is my secret admirer. They want to the pains of delivering it while I wasn’t on shift. This means that they don’t want me to know who they are now, or maybe ever. If they want to tell me eventually, then I am happy to wait until then.”

Frustration makes Gabriel’s face turn a lovely shade of puce. It takes him several deep breaths to return to a normal skin tone for him. “What if this becomes a stalker situation, Cassie?”

“Well then you’ll know who suspect number one will be, won’t you?”

The pout returns in full force and this time Castiel is actually witness to it. “Are you sure you don’t have any idea of who it might be?”

“Not a clue.” He shakes his head again and pointedly re-opens his book.  “And stop trying to give me any kind of hint. I thought you were going to bed, hm?”

Castiel is lying through his teeth, of course, but he hopes that Gabriel won’t notice. Now that he’s had the sleep, his mind is much clearer than it was last night. From the moment he woke up to the moment he finished his shower, all he’s been able to think about is who might have left the crane for him. The number of people that come to mind is a very short list, but at least he has a list nonetheless.

As it stands, there is only one customer so far that has made an obvious pass at him. That would be Nick, from the fire station. He’s the only person to have asked Castiel out since the café opened. Although he hasn’t tried asking him out again since then, Castiel still gets the distinct feeling that Nick has continued to flirt with him whenever he comes in. But, can it really be considered flirting if all Nick does is critique his clothing, his music, his hair, his glasses, and – well – basically everything about him? He even has the gall to suggest what Castiel should wear to make himself look ‘sexier’.

It’s an odd form of flirting, but bullying one’s object of affections is a form of flirtation, is it not? Either way, Castiel doesn’t care for it and he hopes that Nick isn’t the one who left him the crane. While it might be a little creepy that it’s been done anonymously, the gesture is oddly sweet. The only reason Castiel is unsettled of it is because of his past and how wary he is of strangers and Witches. If it were any other time, and if he were someone else, he might be as touched by it as Tessa was.

After Nick, the only other suspect he has is a reach. Castiel has the sneaking suspicion that Dean might have left the crane for him. Of course, that could just be his own hopes that it’s not Nick. Of the two, Dean is absolutely the more preferable option. And, to be honest, it’s not like Castiel is completely blind to how Dean tends to react around him. Besides, Balthazar has been witness to it on several occasions and he insists that Dean finds him attractive in one way or another.

Either way, Castiel rather hopes that it’s not Dean either. After living in Montpelier for a year, the closest he’s come to making friends with anyone is Dean. If it came down to it, Castiel would much rather make friends with him than have any romantic or sexual attractions going on between them. The closest he can allow anyone to get to him is as a friend. He’s certain that a friend, just like a cat, wouldn’t be at risk around him. Friends of his parents weren’t harmed when the Witches came for his father.

The most at risk person in Castiel’s life right now, or any given time, is Gabriel. But even if Castiel wanted to try and put some distance between them, he wouldn’t be able to. Gabriel would never allow it and Castiel wouldn’t want it in the first place. They’re the only family that the two of them have left and, while cliché it might be, his brother is his best friend. To leave him would mean he would be left all alone. Having Harold, or the rest of his plants, or even having Nike wouldn’t be enough.

With a loud sigh, Gabriel shakes his head. “Well, fine. Be a stick in the mud.” It seems he hasn’t seen through Castiel’s lie, and that’s a weight off his mind. “But if you ever want to know who it is so you can let them down easy, just let me know and I’ll tell you in a heartbeat.”

Castiel rolls his eyes, but he doesn’t look up from his book. “Alright, but don’t you dare try to give me any hints. I don’t want to know who it is.”

That doesn’t seem to be the answer Gabriel wants. His frown grows deep again, though only for a moment. He sighs and waves his hand as he steps back out of the room. “Fine, whatever. Goodnight, baby bro. I’ll see you in the morning.”

“Goodnight, Gabriel.”

Nike meows and abandons the paper ball to take a few steps after Gabriel. She meows again, louder this time, when he shuts the door before she can escape. In typical cat fashion, she only wanted to leave the room when the option was no longer available. It’s not like she had every chance to run while they were talking. Oh well, Castiel would rather have her in here anyway. He bounces the paper ball against the side of the bed to get her attention, but she ignores it to stand at the door and meow.

“Not right now, little one.” Castiel sighs and continues to jiggle the toy at her. “Come play or sit. I’ll let you out later.”

He makes a soft pss-pss noise at her and that gets her attention, but she doesn’t budge from her spot by the door. After a few more attempts, he pushes himself up onto his knees. “Okay, then. What do you say to going out and reading in the garden? I’ll bring a blanket and we can sit on the bench.”

Of course, the cat doesn’t understand what he’s saying. Nike meows and this time she stands up on her hind legs and starts pawing at the door. If he’s not quick, she’ll start scratching and Gabriel will have an aneurism over the damage. He’s already upset enough about all the cat fur around the apartment. If she starts scratching things, he might demand that Castiel get rid of her. If she’s going to be staying for much longer, he might have to invest in a scratching post.

After getting changed, Castiel lets the cat out of the room long enough for him to make a cup of coffee. With a blanket draped around his shoulders and his coffee and book in hand, he heads out to the stairwell and out onto the roof. Nike follows at his heels, never far from him when he’s awake. Castiel isn’t worried that she might try jumping off the roof. She’s been up here with him before when he’s watered his many potted plants and garden beds, and there’s no means for her to escape from here. There’s no fire escape up this high as is.

Nike has been up here many times since Castiel brought her home, and he enjoys sharing his space with her. She’s explored every corner of his rooftop garden, and even used a few of his flower boxes as a litter box. After the swift reprimand she got for that, he hopes she won’t do it again. Mostly, however, Nike just sits with Castiel on the bench that he has at the back of the garden.

Once or twice he’s seen her sit on the edge of the roof where she can watch the street, but he’s never seen her tense as if she were about to jump. Castiel trusts that she won’t do anything silly like that. She doesn’t seem to be fond of jumping down from anything higher than a counter. The one time that she managed to get on top of the fridge, she meowed until he lifted her down because she wouldn’t make the jump herself and there were too many things on the counter for her to have a space to jump down. It was a rather cute moment.

To a normal Human’s eyes, the rooftop might be too dark to read on, and they would be right. In fact, without some light source it’s even too dark for Castiel’s excellent night vision. Luckily, he does have lights up here. When he was designing his garden, he bought a truly ridiculous amount of Christmas string lights on sale. He weaved them through every lattice and along the inside edge of the roof. Some twinkle and some are steady, but they make for a multi-coloured ambiance that he just loves. It’s still not quite enough light for a Human to read in, but it’s just enough for him.

Castiel wraps himself in the blanket before he sits in a corner of his bench, his legs drawn up and curled underneath him. This is a wonderful night to be reading outdoors. Everything is mostly dry from the rain earlier today, but the smell of it is still in the air. The night is quiet, calm, and fresh. The sky is clear and the moon is hanging low in the sky. He can’t see as many stars as he would like, given all the light pollution, but it’s better than nothing.

It’s a rare perfect night, and Castiel doesn’t believe it could get any better than this. He stands corrected when Nike jumps up next to him. She makes a little nest for herself in the ‘V’ behind his knees, though there isn’t much space between Castiel’s feet and his backside. But she seems to be happy with herself, and that’s all that matters.

Nike only makes this night better and Castiel couldn’t be happier.

Monday – October 12th, 2015

Dean’s hand has been cramping for the last thirty minutes and he grits his teeth against it. He hates paperwork and the last twenty-four hours had not one, not two, but three emergency calls. Those were adrenaline fueled, sweat filled moments of insanity. Everyone go through those just fine, so that’s a plus in his books. It’s always a great day when there’s no casualties on the civilian side either. Now, if only he didn’t have goddamn paperwork to fill out afterwards.

With a groan, he throws down the pen and starts opening and closing his fist. It feels so good not to be holding that damn thing anymore. The ink is drying and he’s finally fucking done – with just over fifteen minutes left to spare on his shift. That’s pretty good timing, if he does say so himself. And, just because he can, he looks up to see who else is still doing their paperwork. Charlie and Uriel both have their heads down at the table, a stack of papers beside them. If he managed to beat Ruby, that means he's the champ – a champ with intense writer's cramp.

"Don't you look pleased with yourself, Winchester." Ruby walks by with a cup of the sludge they call coffee from the kitchen. She has a self satisfied smirk plastered all over her face. "Something good happen to you today?"

"Just happy to be done with the paperwork." He forces a smile, his stomach sinking slightly. Damn! One of these days he will finish before her. It's not fair that she comes from a generation where writing by hand was really the only option they had. If they were allowed to fill the paperwork out online, Dean would out type her by miles.

Ruby hums and nods, heading over to the couch. She's just going to bide her time until the end of the shift. God she must be so pleased with herself for being the first one done. Dean wants to feel that. One of these days! He will abso-fucking-lutely he will win against her one day, even if it's not a competition. Being the first one done is the only thing that makes doing the paperwork worthwhile. Sure, it's part of the job and everything, but Dean hates it.

Oh well, it's an excuse to go and see his mom. All paperwork goes to her and she's the one who digitizes it before filing it away. She's boss like that and Dean's pretty sure the whole department would fall apart if it wasn't for her. Bobby might be the fire chief, but everyone knows who's really in charge. It makes Dean so happy that she's got such an important position in the station. He knows she misses the action of being a firefighter, and she had to give all that up when she had him and Sam. But she's happy. Dean knows this for fact and as long as his mom is happy, then so is he.

Dean picks up his stacks of paper and flips through them to make sure that they're all in order and separated by paper clips. It looks good to him and he taps them against the desktop a couple times to line them up. He makes sure to push his chair in again before heading off to his mom's office. Her door is wide open, but he still knocks because manners are a thing and she insists he use them.

"Hey, Missus Winchester." He grins when she looks away from her computer screen, eyebrow raised. "I've got my paperwork for you."

His mom looks away to glance at the clock on the wall. "I haven't even started my shift yet, you goof."

With a laugh, he drops the papers in the Intake box sitting on the low filing cabinets against the side of the wall. "Then what are you doing at your desk already? Sure as heck looks like you're working to me."

She sticks her tongue out at him and shakes her head. "If you think the computer out there is bad, this one isn't any better. It takes forever to start and load all my programs." Sighing, she leans back in her chair. "I'm going to rework the budget and see if we can't get us some fancy new iMac or something."

"Charlie will stage a revolution if you get us Apple computers." Dean snorts a laugh and heads around the side of her desk to give her a kiss on the top of her head. "She's one of those people who demand a PC or demand death."

Mom leans her head back and frowns at him from upside down. "What about that tablet thingy of hers? Isn't that an iPad?"

He puts a finger to his lips, but it doesn't do shit to hide his smile. To be honest, he actually doesn't know. Charlie doesn't let anyone touch it and Dean can't remember the last time he's seen the screen on it. She hardly lets it out of her bedroom to start with. How many pieces of tech does she have anyways? A tablet, a laptop, a desktop computer, and some cell phone that's bigger than her hand.

"I love that girl like my own daughter, but she is so weird." Mom sighs and shakes her head. "God love her, though."

She pauses for a couple heartbeats before she rotates her chair a little to face Dean better. "Sweetheart, since you came all this way to visit me, can I get you to do me a favour? Since I'm sure that you love me so much, right?"

He knew from the moment she used sweetheart that she was heading in that direction. Dean sighs and puts a hand on the back of her chair to turn her back towards the computer. "Yeah, yeah. Don't try and sweet talk me. What do you want?"

Mom actually giggles and reaches back to pat his hand. "Would you be a dear and go get me some coffee when you're done your shift?"

Of course she would ask that. And of course just the mention of coffee would make his heart start dancing a little samba in his chest. That word is starting to become really associated to a certain blue eyed barista he knows.

Dean swallows slightly, just a little tick in this throat, and smiles. "You mean from Trick or Treat, don't you?" Seriously, where else would she mean? It's not like mom actually drinks the kitchen sludge.

Mom pats his hand and looks back at him with a smile again. "Yes, please!"

"Fine, fine." He gives her shoulders a squeeze before heading to the door. "You want the usual or do you want to go fancy today?"

"Actually, let me give you a list. I know the day shift is going to want something and I know all their favourites." She sits forward and drags a notepad over in front of her. "I'll give you my credit card and just put it all on that."

Goddamn. Day shift is so lucky. He doesn't get his coffee covered by his mom. Dean huffs in amusement at his own thoughts because that's bullshit. He can't even keep track of how often his parents buy him shit and leave it for him for his shifts, or make him care packages that they drop off at his house. He's walking the fine line of being spoiled and not. His dad has some military background and he made sure that his boys were raised knowing that nothing gets done for them in this world.

"Hey, is Sam working today?" Dean leans his hip against the front of her desk, waiting for the list. He still hasn’t seen Sam actually working yet and it's killing him that he hasn't had the chance to tease the shit out of his baby brother the barista.

Mom doesn't even look up from her notepad. "Not today, no. Last week was nothing but training and this week they have him started on his steady shift." She pauses to tap her pen on the paper. "I think he works – hm, what was it? Tuesdays, Thursdays, and the weekend. He gets three days off a week for now, more or less."

Lucky bastard. "Well, that's cool, I guess." Dean shrugs and drums his fingers on his arm. Looks like he's going to have to make time tomorrow to go during the day and give Sam both barrels of what it's like to have a family member as a customer.

With a laugh, Mom tears the paper off her notepad and hands it over along with her credit card. "Here you go, baby. Go bring us our caffeine fix, please."

"I'm on it!" He salutes her, adds a wink at the end, and ducks out of the office before she asks him to do anything else.

Dean glances at the list and he's not ashamed to say that his jaw drops a little bit. There's gotta be like seven different coffees on there, and some of them are way more complicated than they need to be. That aside, there's also a request for a box of whatever treat is the freshest – be it croissants, cinnamon buns, biscuits, or whatever. Jesus, she's going all out. Well, damn. Dean's going to order himself a treat too as his payment for doing this. No point in getting himself a coffee since he’s just going to be going home to sleep soon.

After changing out of his bunkers, Dean heads on over to the café. He makes it halfway there before he remembers the crane. Shit. Is that brunette from the other day in? God, he hopes not. The last thing he wants is to be recognized right now. What if Cas is still awake and he’s downstairs or something? Did he even accept the crane? Did – Shit, what was her name – Did Tessa even give it to him? Fuck, what if she said something? Is it too late to get someone else to go get the stuff?

No, no. He can do this. Dean is a big brave firefighter. He can fucking do this. It’s just a café and that’s all. If he acts like he’s got something to hide, everyone there is going to know that he did something secretive. And if everyone working there already knows that Cas was left a gift from a secret admirer, then they might jump to conclusions and be right about it. He won’t confirm shit, but he’s a crappy actor and God knows what’ll show on his face when they accuse him of leaving the crane.

It takes a few deep breaths before he can make himself push open the café door. He ducks inside, doing his best not to look suspicious or bring too much attention to himself. That’s easy enough, considering how many people are actually inside right now. It’s just after eight in the morning and the only person working the counter is the bread maker, Balthazar. He’s pouring coffee after coffee and hurrying back and forth from the display case to the cash register, working diligently.

This is actually the first time Dean has ever seen him look so serious. He’s got the charming smile and wicked wit that keeps the customers happy, but he’s not goofing off and that’s actually surprising. Dean steps into place behind the two people already waiting in line at the counter. Three of the tables in the place already have a handful of people sitting at them and Dean checks them out to see if he knows anyone, just because he can. A couple faces are familiar, but he can’t put names to them.

He makes a show of looking around the place, checking it out like he’s never been there before. Mostly, he’s checking the cranes to see if he can spot his own. It’s a fucking slim chance that Cas would have hung up his crane along with the rest, but it can’t hurt to check any. Dean’s not even disappointed when he doesn’t see it. The only disappointing thing would be if he found out that the crane went into the trash. It would be a goddamn miracle if Cas actually kept it.

Dean has to fight himself not to turn around and run when Gabriel walks in the from the kitchen carrying a fresh tray of cinnamon bun over his shoulders. Those fresh baked buns smell amazing. Everyone in the place takes a deep breath at it because damn those smell good. Gabriel downright beams when everyone basically start salivating over his baking. He looks around the room and smiles at each person in line while he puts the tray in the display case.

When their eyes meet, Dean feels his blood run cold. Oh God. Oh no. Okay, he can do this. He can do this. Cas’s big brother only ever met him once. What are the chances that good ol’ Gabe would remember who he is? They’re probably really slim, right? Well, all he can do is keep his fingers crossed and hope really hard that he doesn’t –

“Hey you.”

Shit. Well, there go those hopes. “Uh, yeah?”

The grin that spreads across Gabriel’s face is downright terrifying. “You’re the internet boy, aren’t you? The guy from last week.”

Dean ducks his head. “Yeah, but I usually go by Dean.”

“I told you, he’s a firefighter.” Balthazar elbows Gabriel out of the way as he shuffles by to get to the cinnamon buns. Looks like the person at the head of the line just bought one.

While that might be true, Dean is totally more than that. Cas might’ve figured out the connection between him and Sam, but does Gabriel know too? “For your information, I’m also Sam’s big brother.” He tilts his head to give Gabriel a nod. “Thanks for hiring him, by the way.”

Gabriel waves his hand to acknowledge that, but he doesn’t talk about it. Instead, he gives Dean the evil eye, staring him down. “Since you’re a firefighter, you know all about safety codes and shit, right?”

Now that’s just downright suspicious. Dean is getting a sinking feeling in his stomach and if he wasn’t here because his mom asked him to be, he’d be out that door in a heartbeat. “Um – yeah?”

“Do I need some kind of permit to hold a party in my own building?”

Hold on. What? All of Dean’s suspicion turns straight to curiosity. “A party?”

“Yes, a party.” Gabriel sighs and rolls his eyes. Clearly he thinks Dean is an incompetent now. “I want to hold a party on Halloween night.”

Oh sweet! Dean perks up slightly, rocking on his feet. “Are you going to charge cover for it?”

Gabriel shrugs and taps his chin, like he’s thinking oh so hard about this. “I don’t know. Probably not. I was thinking more like good music, ordering in a bunch of pizzas, putting out some Halloween prices, and slashing the prices on our drinks.”

This is sound more and more interesting by the moment. Dean raises his eyebrows. “Do you have a license to sell booze?”

With a laugh, he shakes his head. “Nah. We just sell coffee and coffee alternatives. If anyone wants alcohol, they can bring their own.”

Well that doesn’t sound like much of a party. Actually, no, never mind. That sounds exactly like the same kind of party that Dean would throw himself. Minus the baking of course. Everyone always brings their own booze to any of the parties that he hosts. Okay, but that wasn’t the point of this. Gabe was asking about safety codes for hosting a party in a business place.

“I can’t say for sure if there’s anything illegal about having a party here, but I think it’ll be fine if you don’t go over the max occupancy for the place.” Dean shrugs and glances around. It’s not that big, but he knows there’s a terrace upstairs they could use. “Anything more than that would be a safety hazard.”

Balthazar shoos Gabriel out of the way again as he helps the next person in line right before Dean. “What do you want to hold a party for? It’s just going to make a mess.”

Exposure, buddy, keep up!” He laughs and slaps Balthazar on the back, nearly making him drop the cinnamon bun he just boxed up. “If I host a party, it won’t just be customers coming. It’ll be friends of friends, and family too.

“You’re already on Main Street.” Balthazar shoots Gabriel a dark look and shakes his head. “How much more exposure can you get?”

That gets him a glare right back. “Shut up, or I’m not going to invite you.”

The look does nothing to Balthazar. He doesn’t give a shit and just rolls his eyes, returning to the customer. His Pixie-like wings are lifting and twitching like crazy though, and Dean really wishes he knew what Fae body language meant. Either Balthazar is annoyed, or he’s excited, or – or it could be just about anything. Dean really honestly doesn’t know.

Hey, wait a goddamn second. A party on Halloween night would probably go well past eleven o’clock. That’s when Gabriel’s Trick or Treat becomes Cas’s The Graveyard Shift. Dean knows this now because he got Sam to fucking explain it all after that stupid bullshit he pulled with all his secrets. But the party would be going into Cas’s time, and that’s a bit of a problem.

Dean flaps a hand at Gabriel to get his attention. “Oi, hey. Have you asked Cas yet about this?”

Because if this is a spur of the moment kind of thing and he hasn’t gotten permission yet, then that’s just not going to be fair to Cas at all. But it’s not like Cas has mentioned anything about the party to him – not that it would come up in normal conversation or anything. Though, really, Dean would hope that Cas would mention a party. Because that would mean that he would want Dean to be there, right?

Gabriel gives Dean a look that’s full of raised eyebrows and some kind of intrigue. He looks Dean over from head to toe and quirks a little smile that makes Dean’s ribs close tight around his lungs. The worst thing is that Balthazar gives him the same kind of look. It’s all Dean can do not to shift uncomfortably under those looks.

He holds his hands up in surrender. “Hey, I was just asking.”

“Hmmm.” With a hum, Gabriel leans his elbows on the counter. “No, Cas doesn’t know. I just thought it up right now.” He brings a hand up and rest his chin on it. “I’ll ask him about it later this evening when he wakes up.”

It’s Dean’s turn at the counter and he hands over the paper with his mom’s order. Before he can say anything, Balthazar leans forward too. “You’re awfully familiar with our night time boss there, Mr. Fireman.” His wings are up and shivering again, and it’s giving Dean a really bad feeling. Nothing good can come from being a source of amusement for a Fae.

A cold sweat breaks out along his back and Dean shrugs. “Cas is a cool guy and we always talk a bit whenever I come in.”

Why that earns him a double squinty look from the both of them, he’ll never know. But Dean would really like to get the heat off of him now. He clears his throat and gestures at the paper Balthazar has pinned under his hand. That seems to remind him that not only are there people waiting behind Dean, but there’s an order to fill out too. With a sigh, Balthazar look at the paper and then actually groans.

He drops his head back and holds the paper out to Gabriel. “Get the sweets. I’ll take care of the coffees. God knows you can’t make a decent one to save your hide.”

“Watch it. I’m your friend, but I’m still your boss.” Gabriel snatches the paper from him with a huff and starts boxing up what looks like half the stuff in the display case.

“If you were really my boss, you’d hire us some more staff so I never have to work the front again.” Balthazar sticks his tongue out at him while he starts pouring the coffee.

Gabriel shakes his head. “No, we don’t. We’re doing just fine.”

Dean bites his tongue and stuffs his hands in his pockets, because this is a pretty interesting show to watch. These two squabble like they’re an old married couple. This is definitely better than sitting around being the butt of their jokes or pinned under some mean looking stares.

Balthazar sighs and starts putting the drinks in trays. “Get more morning staff, at least.”

“Nope, sorry. Can’t do that.” Gabe shakes his head and puts the box of treats down on the counter. “We can’t afford it, remember? I’m here if it gets busy.”

“You’re useless to me.”

There’s a lull where they glare at each other. It doesn’t last for long before Gabriel shakes his head and turns away. “So, if I throw this party, are you going to be coming to it?”

Hold on. Is that question being asked to Dean? He hesitates to answer, but Balthazar doesn’t. “I might. If it fits my schedule.”

“I was asking the firefighter, not you.”

Oh shit. Dean shrugs and looks away. “I dunno, maybe. If it fits my schedule, y’know.” He’s not even sure if he’s going to be working or not.

That leering look creeps over Gabriel’s face again. It gives Dean chills. “Well, if I get Cassie’s permission. He’s gonna be there, y’know.” He even wiggles his eyebrows, and that can’t mean good things.

“I’ll think about it.” Dean keeps his eyes on the card machine’s keypad while he makes the payment for the order. He refuses to look up and he definitely won’t say anything else because holy shit something is not kosher right now.

Behind his ribs, Dean’s heart is doing all manner of back flips. It’s going to give him some wicked heartburn if it continues. The big question is, why in the hell would Gabriel think that Cas being at the party would be something to lure Dean into attendance? Better yet, why the hell are the two of them looking at Dean so expectantly? Holy shit. Do they – do they know something? Do they know about the crane? Do they know that he left it?

Welp. That about seals the deal. Fuck getting himself a treat or anything else. It’s time to get the fuck out of here now that he’s got his mom’s order. Dean’s paranoia is climbing through the goddamn roof and he can’t make excuses quick enough to get the hell out of dodge. Sure, he’s basically running away with his tail between his legs, but it’s better than standing here and speculating about what’s going through both their minds.

There’s an uneasy feeling sitting heavy in Dean’s belly. This is seriously bad for his heart and maybe, just maybe, Dean should take a break from this place for now.

Chapter Text

Saturday – October 17th, 2015

In the month since they opened, Castiel has become very skilled in the art of balancing several dishes in his arms. He can make it all the way from the dishwasher in the kitchen to the front of the café with two trays of mugs and barely rattle a single one of them. It’s quite the feat, he’d like to believe. Especially since he never had to do it before they opened the café. Technically speaking, he doesn’t need to do it now either. He could just as easily make multiple trips, but where’s the fun in that?

Another thing Castiel has become absolutely spectacular at doing is organizing mug shelves. They sit so nicely together and he likes the way they look when he hangs a dozen of them from the hooks under the shelf too. Everything just looks so perfect, and the simple designs of the mugs themselves are divine. Castiel likes the things in his life to be as simple as they can be, considering how complicated his past is. As of late, things haven’t been as simple as he would like them to be.

By evening tonight, it will have been exactly one week since he was given the crane. Will he be getting another one or was that a onetime gift? He’s going to have to check with Tessa or Kevin after he wakes up. It’s not like he’s anticipating getting another one, but he honestly can’t decide if he’s hoping for one or not. This is a very complicated subject for him and it’s been dwelling at the back of his mind all week. For one, he never considered the possibility that it might have been left by an employee. Or that the secret admirer could be a woman. It’s such a romantic gesture, according to Tessa, that it very well could be. He doesn’t want to gender stereotype, but – well, Castiel doesn’t exactly know Montpelier’s take on gender roles.

This is really not what he wanted to spend his night thinking about, but not even the soothing background music he has playing tonight is enough to distract him. It’s a playlist that he found online while searching to put on the iPod they use to pipe music into the café. Gabriel likes to use the radio during the day so he keeps up to date on news as well, but Castiel would rather use soundtracks and playlists. He spent weeks compiling an extensive playlist for his shifts and in a month he hasn’t even made it all the way through it. 

While music might not be much to distract him, the chime over the door does wonders. Castiel looks over, ready to put down his dray of mugs to help a customer. Unfortunately, that ends up not being necessary. Balthazar gives him a jaunty wave as he strolls into the café, his wings folded down and flat against his back. Good, that means he’s not up to any sort of mischief at the moment.

“Good morning, Cassie!”

He rolls his eyes and turns back to the mugs. “Hello, Balthazar.” It’s one o’clock and Castiel would hardly consider it to be part of the morning yet.

“What’s new in the world of the Novaks?” Balthazar heads around the counter and immediately goes to pour himself a coffee right into his truly massive travel mug. “What did I miss yesterday?”

Oh, that’s a good marketing idea! Instead of answering Balthazar, Castiel makes stops putting away the coffee mugs long enough to scribble himself a note to look into selling travel mugs with the logo for both The Graveyard Shift and Trick or Treat on it. They’ll have to wait until they can afford to have those manufactured, but that would be a good idea.

A presence at his shoulder notifies him that Balthazar is invading his personal space to read over his shoulder. He steps back with a grin and his wings lift to start fluttering slightly. “Aw, am I your muse, Cassie? I’m flattered.”

Castiel gives him a flat look as he sticks the note to the cash register to take upstairs later. “Don’t be, and there is nothing new with Gabriel or myself. How was the –” Oh no. Why did Balthazar need yesterday off again?

“You wound me. How could you forget that I was gone for my cousin’s wedding.” Balthazar puts a hand to his chest and his whole body starts to droop. “And how come no one ever wants me to be their muse? I’m very muse-genic.”

“That’s not a word, and I’m sorry for forgetting.” He makes a shooing motion to try and get Balthazar to head off to the kitchen where he belongs. “Don’t you have dough to start making?”

That only compounds Balthazar’s pout, pushing it to truly ridiculous proportions. He sniffs and stands up properly again, straightening his shoulders. “Careful, Cassie. If you push my buttons the wrong way, I might just accidentally blurt out certain things.”

And there’s the confirmation Castiel never needed to know that Gabriel absolutely told Balthazar all about who it was that left the crane last Saturday. With a sigh, he turns back to his mugs. “If you push my buttons the wrong way, I might just accidentally fire you.”

“I love it when you get bossy with me.”

Castiel shakes his head and picks up his tray of mugs. If he doesn’t reply, Balthazar will get bored and leave. Or he’ll head to the back when a customer comes in, as proven when the door chime goes off again. Balthazar retreats rather quickly the moment the door opens, ducking away into the kitchen before he might be punished by being forced to deal with the bane of any employee – the dreaded customer. Balthazar’s words, not Castiel’s.

He puts down the mugs yet again and turns find a customer struggling to make it through the door with his arms full of binders and an overstuffed satchel bag bouncing against his hip. On top of that, he also has a backpack that looks like it’s on the verge of ripping at the seams. His hair is wild, his cheeks full of days’ old stubble, and he looks like he hasn’t slept in days. He looks over at Castiel briefly, long enough for him to nod in greeting, but the customer barely gives him more than a glance before he turns away.

The customer stands in the doorway for a moment, looking the café over. Eventually, he nods his satisfaction and makes his way over to the corner by the bookcase next to the stairs. He dumps his binders on top of that table and sets to dragging a second table over as well. Castiel stands at the cash register and watches as the customer proceeds to rest his backpack on one chair and hang his coat over another. He proceeds to unpack his laptop and set it up in the middle of the table. There’s even a mouse to go with it. Clearly he’s settling down to spend a decent amount of time here.

Once he has everything set out satisfactorily, he stretches his hands above his head and turns around. It looks like he’s finally going to make his way to the counter and Castiel puts a hand on the cash register in preparation. He’s never seen this customer before, which means he needs to be extra nice. If Castiel’s customer service is excellent, maybe he can convince this one to come back more often and spend his hours here, buying their coffee.

With a loud yawn, the customer comes to a stop and squints at the menu boards. “How late are you guys open until/”

“We never close.” Castiel tilts his head and fixes a smile. “I run The Graveyard Shift at night and my brother runs Trick or Treat in the morning. It’s the same café, same coffee, but different names.”

The customer turns to give him the look of a man who hasn’t slept in over twenty-four hours. “Couldn’t agree on a name, huh?”

“Exactly.” He nods in agreement, pleased that he didn’t have to explain that. It’s amazing how many people don’t get that right from the first bit of the explanation.

“Perfect.” The customer yawns again and scratches at the back of his head. “If your coffee is good, I might be one of your most loyal customers.”

Castiel isn’t exactly sure why that makes Dean come to mind, but he discards that thought. Along with every other firefighter who comes in throughout the week. “We would be happy to have you. What can I help you with tonight?”

“Load me up with coffee and keep it coming.” He sighs and starts rummaging through his pockets for his wallet. “All I need is straight black. The stronger, the better. I’ve got a deadline to meet.”

Instead of typing it in, Castiel continues to rest his hand on the keypad. “Do you have classes to study for?” He’s been told that university classes can be very difficult and require hours of studying and hard work on assignments.

The customer shakes his head with a laugh. “I wish. No, this is for a manuscript.”

Oh, how interesting! Castiel leans forward slightly, excitement starting to stir in his chest. “Are you a writer?” Maybe he’s read some of his writing. If he has one of his books, what are the chances that he could get it signed?

With a loud sigh, the customer nods. “God knows why, but yes, I am.”

Castiel is now doubly interested in having this man as a repeat customer. “Would you like to start running a tab for your coffee?” He’s never done that before, but it would likely be better for someone who is going to be drinking a lot of it. And if he gives that kind of excellent service, perhaps the customer might decide to keep coming back.

“Really?” The customer lifts his head in surprise and pulls his hands out of his pockets, wallet free. “You don’t want me to pay up front?”

“If you would like to run a tab, you can.” He nods and pushes the button on the register to eject the cash drawer. While he hasn’t ever done this before, he knows enough not to just leave an opening for the customer to leave when no one is looking with all his free coffee in his belly. “All I require is that you leave something of import with me. A license or piece of ID is acceptable.”

Nodding, the customer pulls his wallet out and hands over a driver’s license. Castiel glances at it to get his name. “Thank you, Chuck.” Darn, Chuck Shurley is not a name that he immediately recognizes. “If you need anything, I’ll be right here and my name is Castiel.”

He puts the driver’s license in the drawer and moves over to get a mug and pour some coffee. The last thing he expects is for Chuck to start laughing. Castiel pauses and turns. “Is something funny?” There have been plenty of people who have found his name unique enough to be amusing, but no one has ever outright laughed at it before.

Chuck shakes his head and fixes Castiel with a wry smile. “Let me guess. You recognized me from the back of my books, hm?”

Okay, now Castiel is just confused. Is the laughter completely unrelated to his name then? Either that or this is one of those situations he’s read about where someone famous gets uppity when someone doesn’t recognize them or treat them as the celebrity they perceive themselves to be. He really hopes that isn’t the case, because he is not prepared for a situation like that.

Bracing himself for the worst, Castiel shakes his head. “No, I’m afraid I didn’t. I’m sorry, but I also don’t recall ever reading anything written by the name of Chuck Shurley.”

“Actually, I write under the name Carver Edlund.” Chuck puffs up slightly, full of pride.

Well, that changes everything. Except for a one thing. “The name sounds familiar, but I’m fairly certain that I haven’t read any of your books yet. What genre do you write?”

Rather than answer his question, Chuck’s expression falls into confusion. He glances around the café, eyes narrowing slightly. “Is this some kind of prank? You just said your name was –”

“Castiel Novak.” He nods, sure in his name, and gestures over his shoulder at the certificates mounted on the wall behind him. If there’s any doubt, the certificates will prove his truth. They all have his name and Gabriel’s written on them. “Owner and operator of The Graveyard Shift and Trick or Treat.”

Chuck leans over to one side to start squinting at the certificates. He even rises up on his tiptoes to get a better look at them. “Seriously?”

“Yes?” And yet, Chuck continues staring at him. “Is – is something wrong?”

“I – well, um –” The skepticism is clear enough that even Castiel can see it. “Okay, so, I write a series called Supernatural, right? In it there’s this angel and he’s – uh – he’s named Castiel and he took on the body of a guy named Jimmy Novak. This is just – seriously? Castiel and Novak?” He makes a gesture with both hands, bringing them together slightly.

Any vague amusement Castiel might have had at this situation dries up in a flash. A light feeling fills his limbs, like his blood is starting to race too fast for his heart to keep up. He licks his lips and forces his body to move in a shrug. “That’s – that’s quite an eerie coincidence, but my parents got the name Castiel from biblical scriptures.”

“This is just – I mean, it’s a hell of a coincidence.” Chuck licks his lips and looks around again. “Like, okay. You have dark hair, blue eyes, and stubble? That’s the perfect picture of Jimmy Novak – and the Castiel from my Supernatural books.”

It is very hard for him to maintain a calm and cool exterior right now, but Castiel does his absolute best. “Yes, that is quite the coincidence.” He forces a smile, but it doesn’t feel right on his face – like it’s too stiff. “But I am not the only man in the world with that combination of characteristics. I’m also not an Angel.” As if that needed to be said. That species has been extinct for centuries.

Chuck looks him up and down, and an excited light fills his eyes. It’s the same look that everyone gets when they realize that he isn’t Human. “What are you, exactly?”

Not a Human.” And he refuses to expand upon that any further. Even he knows that it’s not proper to simply ask something like that.

Colour fills Chuck’s face and he ducks his head. “Shit. I – Sorry. I didn’t mean to be rude.”

“It’s fine.” Castiel shrugs and turns back to pour the coffee. It’s a miracle that he doesn’t splash it everywhere, given how much his hands are shaking. He turns back and places it on the counter, foregoing the dragon this one time. “Here you go. When you’re ready for your second cup, just let me know and I’ll bring the pot over to you.”

That’s the kindest way he can bring about an end to the conversation. Thankfully, Chuck seems to get the picture. He mumbles his thanks and picks up the coffee. For a moment, he opens his mouth as if he were going to say anything else, but then he shuts it again. Without another word, Chuck slinks back to his joined tables to sit at his laptop.

Castiel takes a few long, deep breaths to try and calm himself. It’s difficult when it feels like he was just picked up, turned upside down, and shaken violently. His mind is reeling and it’s taking everything in his power not to sit down where he stands.

This coincidence is unreal. It’s too – too impossible. There must be a reason for why Chuck’s characters have the same names as he does. Castiel could be a coincidence, given that it really is the name of an angel and can be found on most lists about them. But Jimmy Novak? As in James Novak? That is just entirely too unsettling. There are very few people alive right now who know that Castiel’s name at birth was James. And of those that do know, two are in this building and the rest work for the Government.

When they were picking their new names all those years ago, Gabriel was the one who brought forth Castiel, Novak, and Gabriel. Not once has Castiel ever asked where he got them from. He was thirteen at the time and had just lost his parents, his home, and his entire life. It didn’t help that he was also taken from everything he knows and flown all the way across the country to Florida, where he was supposed to spend the next ten years of his life in hiding. At that point, Castiel was liable to agree to pretty much anything, and he’s lucky that he ended up with a name that he actually likes.

Since Gabriel was the one who picked the names, Castiel is absolutely going to have to talk to him. Maybe – just maybe he reads Supernatural? If he knows the works of Carver Edlund, it’s possible that he got Castiel and their new last name from it too. Maybe he just thought they were interesting and that they should go with it because the character’s name was James?

While that might be the most logical progression of thought, Castiel can’t shake the feeling that something isn’t right. What if there’s more to Chuck Shurley than meets the eye? What if – and this could be entirely wrong – but what if he isn’t who he says he is? There’s every possibility that this is no coincidence. Because in all honesty, what are the actual chances that the names of Carver Edlund’s characters are all names that Castiel has carried himself?

The only saving grace that his has right now – the only thing keeping him from running out the door, is that the crystal ball on the shelf behind him isn’t reacting. The crystal hanging around his neck is equally unresponsive. If Chuck Shurley was a Witch and out to get him, the crystals would have started reacting long before he got through the front door. They would have gone off the moment Chuck set foot in town and, considering how he mentioned that he might be a future loyal customer, Castiel has reason to believe that he’s been in this town for longer than one night.

But there’s so much wrong with this. So much. There are too many unknowns and – and everything. Castiel’s mind won’t stop turning over every aspect. He keeps coming back to the names and the coincidence and just how absolutely impossible this is. The chances of it all are just – the chances are so slim that they should be downright non-existent. He just can’t believe it and it’s. And the worst part is just how much this is starting to get to him.

Castiel’s hands are shaking as he ducks into the kitchen and he hugs himself tightly to hide them under his arms. “Balthazar, I need you to take a break from the bread and cover the front.”

Balthazar looks up in confusion. “What?”

He shakes his head and starts for the stairs. “Customer at a table. Running tab. Black coffee. License in cash drawer. I’ll be back.” Everything is quick and to the point so he can go upstairs as quickly as he can, going up them to at a time without waiting for Balthazar’s answer.

The first thing Castiel does is go to his bedroom and get the cat. He lifts Nike from the bed and cradles her tightly in his arms. She starts squirming almost immediately and protesting loudly, but Castiel keeps her pinned to his chest and goes straight for Gabriel’s bedroom. The moment he’s inside, he slams the door and leans back against it, sliding down to sit on the floor. Nike squirms, but she doesn’t exactly try to escape as he presses his face into her soft side. It makes his glasses press painfully into his face, but he really doesn’t care about that right now.

It’s only a matter of seconds before the light flicks on. “Cassie? What are you doing?”

What he is doing is trying to stave off the onset of hyperventilation. Nike meows unhappily after every shuddering breath and Castiel has the distinct impression that she is not enjoying how she is being held. If he could make his body listen to him properly, he would lower his knees and let her sit in his lap properly. But he needs this. He needs her soft fur in his arms and the comfort of having her close.

Castiel.” Gabriel is out of his bed in an instant. He crouches in front of him and puts both hands on his shoulders. “Castiel, I need you to tell me what’s wrong. Answer me.”

How can he answer him when he can barely breathe? Castiel’s whole body trembles with every breath and all he can do is shake his head slowly. Eventually, Gabriel is the one who has to guide his head up until he can see his face. He even pulls Castiel’s glasses off and sets them aside. With gentle hands, Gabriel pets his hair and makes soft hushing noises until a calm finally starts to set in. Of course, Castiel doesn’t miss how he pauses to grip the crystal he wears too.

“That’s it.” Gabriel fixes him with a bright, cheerful smile. “That’s the way to do it. Keeping breathing and when you’re ready, tell me what happened.”

Castiel takes a while to do it, but he eventually manages to relate in bits and pieces exactly why he feels like he’s shaking on Gabriel’s bedroom floor. Even though he’s ready to grab a bag and leave at any moment, he really doesn’t want to. He likes the café and the town and everything about being here. If he absolutely had to – if the crystals were reacting and he was positive that Chuck was a Witch, then nothing would stop him from grabbing Nike and Gabriel and running without looking back. But if this is just a false alarm, then all this fear building up in his bones is utterly pointless.

Once his broken story comes to the end, Gabriel doesn’t look nearly as freaked out as Castiel would have expected. At least he does have a narrow eyed suspicious look to him. With a sigh, he gets to his feet and heads to his closet. Castiel can feel his stomach sink when he pulls out his emergency bag. That sensation stops the moment Gabriel drops it on his bed and takes a single book from it. He’s not even remotely as voracious a reader as Castiel is, so it’s a little surprising to see that he keeps a book in that bag in particular.

“You might not remember this because you were only ten years old when the first books started coming out, but Mom was really into these.” He crouches in front of Castiel again and holds out the book, revealing a copy of Supernatural. “She bought every book as it came out and used to tell me all about it. Hell, these were practically my bedtime stories.”

Slowly, Castiel lowers his legs and crosses them. Nike settles more comfortably in his lap and complains far less once he starts stress-petting her instead of stress-cuddling her. This is actually a huge relief. Did one of his attempts at rationalizing the situation come true? This is looking more and more like it really was just a ridiculous coincidence. The chances of the author of those books walking into their café were infinitesimal, but they still existed. No matter how small, the possibility was still there.

Gabriel holds the book open in his hands and flips through it. “When we went into the witness protection program, one of the first things I did was go out and pick up a bunch of books to help you calm down after the – uh – accident?” He turns the book around to show Castiel one of the pages. “I found this one at the junk store and bought it to remember Mom by. It’s the only book from the series that I actually read.”

Right there on the page, Castiel can see the words describing how Castiel the Angel convinced Jimmy Novak to let him take over his body. His hands aren’t shaking nearly as badly when he takes the book to read the passages. “So you – you really did get our names from this book?”

“Yeah, but I didn’t think you’d actually go for them.” He laughs and drops his hand to give Nike a few pats. “You’re just lucky they didn’t suck. Otherwise I would’ve named us Wade and Sam Wilson.”

Something isn’t sitting right with him about this. Castiel closes the book with a snap and turns a frown on his brother. “But you said that our names were because of our parents. You said our mother liked the name Castiel because she was born on a Thursday and that was the name of her Guardian Angel.” Castiel narrows his eyes further in an unhappy squint. “And you said that if our father had been your biological father, he would have named you Gabriel because of what an important part he played telling Mary about being pregnant with the baby Jesus.”

“Dad did say that.” Gabriel sits back on his heels with a wide smile. “And Mom liked the name Castiel because of these books. I’m pretty sure you made up that bit about her Guardian Angel bit on your own because I’ve never heard of it before.”

It feels like someone just replaced Castiel’s brain with clouds. He’s reeling and struggling to re-evaluate everything he knew about his life. How much has fabricated in his own head and how much has been truth? What else about their lives hasn’t Gabriel told him? Why has he never mentioned these books before? He should know how important that would be, given how paranoid they both are about being discovered by Witches – good or bad.

“Hey now, don’t give me that look.” Gabriel pats him on the leg a few time. He even stops to ruffle his hair. “I know this is a lot to take in, but I promise that I got our names from these characters. There is nothing else shifty going on with where they came from.”

Okay. That’s good. Castiel takes a deep breath and nods slowly. He needs to trust Gabriel on this. If he isn’t worried, than Castiel has no reason to be either. This is just a crazy random happenstance that, of all the cafés in the world, the author of these particular books had to walk into theirs.

Just to be on the safe side, Castiel makes a short gesture at the floor. “If what you say is true, then I shouldn’t be worried about the guy downstairs?”

“I doubt it, but let me go talk to him.” Gabriel takes the book back and stands up. “C’mon. Put the cat to bed and let’s settle this thing with Mister Writer-man.”

“You’re not going to go downstairs in your underwear, are you?” Chuck Shurley may have Castiel paranoid out of his mind right now, but he’s still a customer.

He pauses and looks down at himself. “Hm, good point. Go put the cat away and I’ll change.”

Castiel doesn’t have much say in this plan and he gets up to do just that. Nike makes an unhappy noise as Castiel puts her back down on the bed in his room. She follows him to the door and meows when he shuts it behind him. He hates locking her in his room like this, but he’ll come back and get her later on in the night when he’s done his checklist – if he can even manage it. If Castiel can’t calm down properly, he’s going to have to tell Balthazar to forget the bread for tonight and just cover the front for the rest of his shift. It’s not like they usually sell bread on the weekends anyways.

“C’mon, little brother.” Gabriel gives his shoulders a playful shove to get him going towards the stairs. “Let’s get a move on. You’re keeping me from my beauty sleep.”

Castiel brushes his hand away and takes a deep breath. He can do this. This isn’t something to be worried about. It was only a coincidence and nothing more than. He holds his head high as he heads back downstairs, Gabriel following close behind. It helps to have his big brother right there with him as he faces what could potentially – though very unlikely – be a situation from one of his worst nightmares.

When they reach the bottom of the stairs, Gabriel touches Castiel’s shoulder again. This time it’s to pull him to a stop. “You stay here in the kitchen. Let me go out there first.”

He doesn’t wait for an answer – not that he has one to give. Castiel is more than happy to stay half hidden behind the door and watch as Gabriel heads out into the front of the café in his slippers and pajamas. Balthazar gives him a baffled look, but that goes completely ignored. Gabriel crosses the whole café without a word, only to drop into one of the chairs opposite where Chuck is sitting.

“So.” Gabriel crosses his arms on the table, the book he had been carrying mysteriously gone. “I hear that you’re trying to make my little brother freak out.”

Chuck, already startled by Gabriel’s arrival, glances around the room. “Um – excuse me?”

“Castiel.” He shrugs, but his expression hasn’t changed a bit. “You’re freaking him out with your whole thing about your books and our names. Oh, I’m Gabriel, by the way.”

Even from behind, Castiel can tell the exact moment when understanding fills Chuck’s face. His whole body straightens at it. “Oh! I’m – I didn’t know. I mean, it just – it’s a coincidence?”

“Uh huh.” Gabriel nods slowly, one eyebrow cocking upward. He’s acting like he doesn’t believe it – or he’s pretending he doesn’t, at least.

Chuck ducks his head, making himself look smaller in his chair. “I really – I didn’t mean to. This –” He sighs loud enough to be heard all the way in the kitchen and his shoulders slump even more. “This actually happens more often than I would like.”

“Enlighten me on the plight of an author.” Gabriel makes a sweeping gesture and sits back in his seat to cross his arms. “I’m all ears.”

“Well – uh –” Chuck shrugs and scratches at the back of his neck. “I usually take the names of my characters from dreams, y’know? Sometimes I use them like that and – um – Well, sometimes I mix them up. All my characters in Supernatural, those names were from –” He shrugs again and makes a vague gesture. “From my dreams. I even base the character designs off who I see in my dreams. I’ve always done that and I’m – I really didn’t mean to upset your brother.”

Gabriel continues staring him down for a few moments before glancing back towards the kitchen. He meets Castiel’s eyes, as if he’s asking for his approval. Castiel honestly doesn’t know what to think. To be quite honest, he doesn’t have a clue. This just sounds so entirely unbelievable to him. Are they supposed to believe that this stranger got names for his characters from a dream and it just so happens that they took those names and he eventually came to their café?

No one expects Balthazar to clear this throat and step into their line of sight. He waves a hand back and forth to get their attention. “If I may interject for a moment?”

Chuck turns in his chair and looks him up and down. “Who are you?”

“Balthazar; employee extraordinaire.” He does a little curtsy and flares his wings. “I’d just like to add my two cents to this as someone who isn’t exceptionally paranoid like my employers here.”

They all notice when the colour drains from Chuck’s face and he ducks his head. “I – uh – I have another character named Balthazar. He’s an Angel too in – um – in my books.”

Now that is just uncanny. All three of them plus Castiel’s last name?

Balthazar, however, doesn’t seem to be fazed by this. Instead his wings flutter as if he were excited. “As touched as I am to be included in your book, I have one thing to ask. What’s the history of your family like? Any Creatures or magic in your bloodline?”

Confusion fills Chuck’s face and he shakes his head slowly. “N-not that I know of.”

“You might want to look into that.” With a shrug, Balthazar turns away from the counter to start towards the kitchen. “I bet you’ll find something interesting in there.”

When he pushes the door open fully, Castiel grabs him by the arm. “What do you know that we don’t?” Is it possible that Fae can see more than they can?

“Nothing much.” Balthazar pats him on the shoulder and gives him a slight shove towards the door. “I just know that when people have dreams strong enough that they can remember names and faces from it, then they’ve likely got something a little special in their blood.”

“Like what?” Castiel glances over his shoulder where Gabriel now has the book on the table and he’s apparently in the process of getting Chuck to sign it. “Are you saying he might have Witch blood in him?”

With a snort, Balthazar shakes his head. “No, Witches need to perform extravagant rituals to get those kinds of visions. Unless he looks into his history a bit, our dear customer is never going to really know if he does or doesn’t have something special about him.”

Visions? There’s only one kind of people that Castiel knows of who routinely have visions outside of their control. But Seers went into hiding ages ago. Their ability to see the past or the future whether by will or not was extremely desirable by governments and bodies of power around the world – including many unsavoury types of people. For their own protection, Seers disappeared from the world. Prophets; oracles; soothsayers; fortune tellers; everyone who claimed to have the ability to See. They vanished and no one has seen or heard of them since.

If it is possible that some of that bloodline is in Chuck Shurley? If that were the case, wouldn’t he know? To Castiel, that feels like something very important that one would share with their children. Of course, he might think differently because he had no choice with being told about his bloodline. Visions are easy to hide. His wings and aversion to sunlight are a little more difficult than something that takes place entirely inside one’s own head.

Balthazar grins and gives Castiel’s shoulder a squeeze. “Let’s not bring any more attention to him than we already have, hm? If he looks into it or not, I’d still bet the house that in his dreams he saw you and took his characters from that.” He laughs and his wings flutter along with it. “Isn’t that a hoot?”

Unless Chuck confesses to being a Seer, it’s possible that they’ll never know the answer for sure. What Castiel does know is that he’s going to keep a very close eye on Chuck Shurley. If he gets wind of anything Witch related about him, then and only then will he consider it to be a matter of concern. For now – if Gabriel isn’t worried and if Balthazar has suspicions that Chuck is a Seer, than that more or less changes everything. For now.

“Thank you, Balthazar. That eases my mind.” Castiel offers a small smile in thanks, and immediately realizes his mistake. He holds up a hand just in time to catch Balthazar in the chest and keep him from getting any closer. “One thank you does not lift the ban on hugs.”

“Now you’re just being a spoil sport.”

With a quick step away, Castiel puts the whole of the doorway between them. “Go bake your bread.”

“One of these days, Cassie! If your brother doesn’t pull that stick out of your ass, then I will!” Balthazar even has the gall to shake a fist at him.

Castiel doesn’t hesitate to pull the door closed. He turns away with a huff. “There is nothing in my ass.” And how dare anyone insinuate that he is anything but a joy to be around. For what he’s been through, they’re lucky that Castiel isn’t living in some remote lighthouse where he never has to speak to anyone for the rest of his lifetime.

“What’s in your where now?” And of course it’s the moment when he’s muttering something regarding his ass that Gabriel would choose to walk up. He always has had such a perfect sense of timing.

With a sigh, Castiel shakes his head and steps out of the way so Gabriel has full access to the door. “It’s nothing. If you feel that everything is settle with Mr. Shurley, then you’re welcome to head to bed now.”

“Yeah, yeah. I’m going to go. Don’t rush me.” He waves the hand with the book in it, but doesn’t move an inch. “Our dear customer the author would like you to know that he is very sorry to have freaked you out and he understands if you want him to get the hell out before you get your panties in an every bigger twist than they are now.”

Of all people that Castiel would have expected to understand this supposed freak out, Gabriel is the one and only person that list. The fact that he’s teasing him about this is not helping matters in the slightest. With a customer present, the only thing Castiel is capable of doing right now is giving a thoroughly menacing look and pointing at the kitchen door.

“Thank you for your input, but you can go now.”

The wide grin painted across Gabriel’s face suddenly goes serious. He steps in to pull Castiel into a hug. Specifically it’s one that puts his mouth close to his ear. “I told him you thought he might be a stalker or something and he apologized a lot. Turns out he doesn’t leave his house a whole lot because shit like this happens kinda often.”

If that’s meant to be comforting, it falls short of that achievement. “Are you sure we can trust him?”

“What I trust are my wards to go off if this guy had Witch level magic. And I trust Balthazar’s Fae instincts as much as I trust those. ” Gabriel steps back and even pats Castiel on the cheek. “I didn’t hire him just for his baking skills, y’know?”

“In some version of this world, that might be considered a relief.” He rolls his eyes and gives Gabriel a shove to put some space between them. “That said, thank you for coming downstairs to help. I really do appreciate it.” He’ll have to make a big breakfast in the morning as a proper show of his sincerity.

Gabriel claps him on the shoulder again, using the book to do it. He drops his voice into a whisper again, even leaning in as he does it. “Don’t worry about it. Authors who are willing to pay out the ass for multiple cups of coffee throughout the night are like catching a whale to the café business.”

And that is Gabriel speak for meaning that half of his motivation for this was motivated purely for monetary reasons. As part business owner in this venture, Castiel appreciates that at least someone is thinking about their bank balances at a moment like this. If he had been in charge, Castiel would have likely taken the cat, his bag, and his brother and ran from this place for good. They would have left behind their dreams and every investment they’ve put into this place – leaving behind nothing more than regrets.

“You can’t fault me being worried.” Castiel hisses and starts trying to herd Gabriel towards back into the kitchen. “If I recall correctly, you’re the one who taught me to be wary of everyone.”

“Not everyone.” Gabriel gives him a shove back, verging on playful. “Just Witches. And that’s what these are for.” He glances around for the chance of anyone paying attention to them before he pulls his necklace out of his shirt, even wiggling the crystal at him. “These puppies didn’t react to him, so he’s obviously not a Witch.”

Clearly Gabriel hasn’t thought this through to the extent that Castiel has. “Finding out our names could have been part of a coven’s spell and then they send someone with no magic to confirm that we’re the ones they’re really looking for.”

“Sure, it could have, but I doubt they would have gone to the trouble of finding the real Carver Edlund to do their dirty work.” With a snort, he turns the book over and shoves it against Castiel’s chest. Sure enough, there’s a picture of Chuck Shurley on the back cover. “See? I promise you, Cassie, if I got even so much as a bad vibe about him, he’d be toast and we’d be long gone.”

While these might still all be perfectly valid points, Castiel just can’t shake the jitters that are lying in wait in his bones. “Okay, okay.” He takes a deep breath and shakes his head, trying to force himself to calm down. “I was just –”

“You were being cautions. Which is good.” Gabriel gives him a bright smile and reaches up to pat him on the top of his head. “If you had known the real situation behind our names, you probably wouldn’t have freaked out so badly. But now you do and we’re not going to have another incident like today, are we?”

Actually, now that he’s brought that up again. “You know, you could have told me about all of this sooner. We would have avoided this whole mess if you –”

“Let me stop you there, Cassie.” He holds up his hand and shakes his head. “The whole reason I didn’t tell you – and you have no idea how much it disappoints me to learn that things didn’t happen this way – is that I was waiting for you to start reading the books yourself.” A wide grin has taking over his lips while speaking. “That freak out would have been so good.”

“You, dear brother, are an asshole.” That’s it. Castiel is going to have to kill him. It’s official.

Gabriel throws his head back with a laugh and choosing that exact moment to push the door open and step out of reach. “Love you too, baby brother! Try to keep it together for the rest of the night, okay?” He makes a quick gesture with his hand, like he’s flicking something down. Almost immediately, Castiel’s glasses drop from resting on top of his head to sitting off center on his nose. It’s a common occurrence for Gabriel to use unnecessary magic, and it irks Castiel every time he does.

“Get back to work, little bro. I’m going to bed.” With one last wink, Gabriel shuts the door between them and cuts off any chance Castiel has of making a witty parting remark.

Huffing to himself, Castiel fixes his glasses and glares at the door. He runs over every possible comment he could have made and the way the conversation could have played out if Gabriel hadn’t effectively ran away. His mental battle of wits doesn’t last too long before Balthazar opens the door again and this time it’s with Nike in his hands.

“Here, take your feline.” He hands her over with a sigh before quickly wiping his hands on his apron. “Gabriel says she wouldn’t go back down for her beauty sleep, so she can spend the rest of the night down here now.”

“She would have gone back to sleep after a while.” Not that Castiel is complaining, of course. He’s happy to have her down here and he gives her a quick hug before putting her on the floor. “Thank you.”

Though that should be the end of it, Balthazar doesn’t return to work. Instead, he stares Castiel down with the single minded intensity that is very disturbing when one is on the receiving end of it from a Fae. Castiel tries to return to putting away his mugs, but after a solid thirty seconds of staring, he knows there’s a storm of question hiding behind that pale, pointed façade.

“Out with it.”

“Is anyone going to fill me in on why all this –” Balthazar waves his hand towards Chuck and then at Castiel himself. “– happened tonight? A full explanation would be wonderful.”

Despite being Gabriel’s best friend, there are some things even Balthazar is not allowed to know. Castiel shakes his head and reaches up to hang a mug from the bottom of the shelf. “No.”

“This is Fae discrimination!” He throws his hands up in the air with a huff. “I never get let in on any fun.”

“Don’t lie.” Castiel shoots him a dirty look over his shoulder. “I am fully aware that Gabriel showed you the video about my secret admirer, and that means you likely know exactly who it is too.”

The way Balthazar’s wings start vibrating nearly lifts him from the ground. It certainly gets Nike’s attention and she stares as if transfixed, completely forgetting the odd piece of dust she had previously been stalking. Balthazar clasps his hands in front of his hearts and fixes Castiel with the kind of grin that sends a chill through his already thoroughly chilled bones. “And I take a truly perverted amount of pleasure in knowing something you don’t.”

Castiel knows what happens now. If he gives any sort of attention to this beyond what he already has, then Balthazar is going to tease him mercilessly until he eventually ‘accidentally’ slips up and spills the secret. The only way to get through this is to show that anyone else knowing doesn’t affect him in the slightest. As long as he shows no interest, he should be safe from the horrid storm of teasing that is sure to be brought down on him tonight.

With that in mind, Castiel sighs and rolls his eyes. “Get back to the kitchen, Balthazar. The bread is calling your name.”

“You are absolutely no fun, Cassie.” His wings wilt and he turns away with a loud huff.

The boom of the door shutting behind him is loud enough to make even Chuck jump in his seat. He turns around just as Nike skitters to hide behind Castiel’s legs, her tail nearly triple in size. She hisses and he apologizes to both her and Chuck before returning to work. There’s still plenty to clean and the last of the inventory to do before he can relax and do his origami again.

Once Chuck returns to his writing and the shock of the loud door has worn off, Nike rubs against Castiel’s ankles. She meows a few times before trotting off to once again examine the entire café from top to bottom. Hopefully she won’t cause Chuck any problems. Well, there has been a sign up on the door warning about a café cat since the day Castiel decided that she would be coming down to join him every night. If Chuck didn’t stop to read it before coming in, then he’s the one to blame.

Thankfully, he doesn’t hear a peep from anyone – whether cat or customer – by the time he finishes his work. In fact, Castiel doesn’t see Nike again until he goes to refill Chuck’s coffee mug for the first time – though it takes a little breathing exercises and mental self-encouragement to get himself to do it without a tremor in his hand.

They both look up at the sound of a soft meow and there’s a shared moment of confusion when neither sees her immediately. Chuck is the first to spot her in the foliage on top of the bookshelf. She’s half hidden by the pot and peering at them through the hanging leaves of the fern.

For a long moment, the both of them stare at her and she stares back. Since the bookcase is about even with the floor of the landing at the top of the stairs, Castiel is more than confident that he won’t have to save her from on top of this particular monolith. He does, however, hope that she won’t get any bright ideas about attacking the paper dragons tied to some of the plants. Or, God forbid, she won’t consider knocking any plants down. So far, she’s been fairly well behaved, but it’s only a matter of time before she exhibits the same feline behaviour as the cats Castiel sees on the internet.

He watches her for longer than Chuck does, and she doesn’t move once. When he steps away from the table, set on marking down the second cup of coffee on his tracking sheet, Nike’s ears perk slightly. After a few more steps, her attention turns from him to the plant she’s using as her cover. She gives it a good few sniffs before losing all interest in it. Nike flops onto her side with a yawn and surveys her café kingdom with half closed eyes.

Well, as long as she’s not causing any trouble, Castiel is happy. He makes another tally mark on his note beside the cash register and returns to the last of his little chores. There aren’t many left and then he’ll be able to get the stool and enjoy some origami. Maybe they’ll get another few customers, maybe not. It’s hard to tell sometimes. Although, it is a Friday night, after all. Soon the bars in the area will be closing and it’s only a matter of time before those on their way home swing in for something sweet to sink their teeth into.

Until then, Castiel will bide his time and be ready for them. Hopefully by then his heart will have fully calmed down and he won’t be glancing over at Chuck every few minutes.

*

It’s pushing six o’clock in the morning when Chuck finally packs up everything. Castiel counts no less than four yawns (two of which cause him to yawn too) in the time he spends putting his things away. He comes to the counter carrying everything, including his empty and well used mug. With some effort, he manages to balance everything in his arms long enough to hand the mug over and get the binders properly stacked on the counter.

“So – um – I’d like to settle up my tab, I guess.” Chuck won’t meet Castiel’s eyes while he gets his wallet out. Which is fine, because even he is having trouble looking Chuck in the face.

The café doesn’t exactly have a bulk discount, but as Castiel enters the final tally of coffee into the register, he puts the employee discount into effect on a few of those coffees. He puts it through to the card machine and lets Chuck pay while he gets his license from the register drawer. Castiel hands that back with the receipt.

“Thank you for spending the night here.” His smile is more confident than he feels. “We hope to see you again sometime soon.”

Chuck looks a little surprised by that. “I – I’m sorry for before. But, yeah, if you don’t mind, sure. I’d like to come back.” He ducks his head as he puts his wallet away. “I got a lot of work done.”

“That’s good to hear.” Castiel picks the mug up and moves it to a bin next to the kitchen door where he puts the dirty dishes. “I hope none of the other customers disturbed you when they came in.”

“To be honest, I didn’t hear a thing. When I get really into writing, the rest of the world kinda fades away.” He shrugs with a laugh and shakes his head. “If you didn’t keep on top of filling the coffee for me, I probably would’ve just kept drinking from an empty cup.”

The bell above the door chimes, saving Castiel from having to continue the conversation. Chuck picks up his binders quickly and backs away from the counter. He nods his goodbye and heads out without another word. The next customer holds the door open for him. Castiel raises an eyebrow at the familiar face, even as a smile starts to spread. This is an unusual time for Dean to be in, but he’s happy to see him. It’s been a few days since the last time he was here, but it always feel so long between visits.

Unless he’s been awake all night, there is no good reason why Dean should be awake this morning. And yet, here he is. Not only is he awake, but he is wide awake. There’s not a trace of sleepiness in his system and it’s been that way since he rolled out of bed half an hour ago. Hell, there’s even a goddamn bounce in his step as he heads over to the counter.

Okay, maybe the bounce has to do entirely with the fact that Cas is at the counter and smiling at him. Dean raises a hand in a wave as he approaches. “G’morning, Cas!”

“Good morning, Dean.” Cas nods at him and that awesome smile of his grows, making Dean’s knees go a little weak. “This is an unusual time for you to come in.”

See? Even he knows that this is just fucking ridiculous. “Yeah, well, I crashes super early last night.” Dean shrugs and absently scratches at the back of his neck. “Fell asleep reading and woke up early. Since I couldn’t get back to sleep, I figured I’d come see what kind of breakfast you guys serve.”

Cas tilts his head to the side slightly and his eyes get an unfocused look to them. “Breakfast starts at six o’clock and we usually serve breakfast sandwiches since most get them to go. But we can also make plated meals for anyone who wants to eat in.”

Oh man, Dean could totally go for a breakfast sandwich right now. His jaw twinges as he salivates at the idea of a thick cut bagel piled full with a fried egg, melting cheese, and a whole layer of fresh cooked bacon. Do they put any special sauce on it? He would kill for some chipotle ketchup right now. Shit, is he drooling? He better not be drooling. That would be so uncool and beyond unattractive. And he even put actual effort into looking good for Cas this morning.

“Sign me up for a plain black drip right now, and a breakfast sandwich – if it’s not too early.” Dean is pretty sure that it’s after six o’clock, or at least it’s gotta be pretty close to it. He eyes up the pie display, but it sits sad and empty. The display case isn’t looking much better.

“Don’t order any of that.” Cas waves a hand to get Dean’s attention. “It’s all from yesterday. The first batch of today’s baking should be out soon.” He gestures back over his shoulder at the door. “Our weekend baker started an hour ago and she has croissants, scones, and cinnamon buns in the ovens.”

Well, he’s got two hours to fill and Dean is more than happy to make the sacrifice and spend it eating delicious foods. “Hit me up with a bun and a croissant. Please.” It takes him a moment to realize that he should probably point out one important thing. “For inside.” Because he is absolutely going to be staying here until work starts in a few hours.

The great thing is that Charlie and Jo don’t work today. That means Dean can spend as long as he wants here this morning and he doesn’t have to worry about going back home to pick them up. Of course, it’s going to suck not having either of them on shift today, but he’ll make do. Everyone but Dean is on a staggered shift. He gets them steady because his mom makes the schedule and everyone knows that she plays favourites with him.

And that could be a leading reason for why he’s the butt end of every other joke and gets teased the most. Luckily, he doesn’t mind too much because he gets to spend every day with friends and family doing a job that he’s wanted to do since he was in diapers. His life is practically perfect in every way and he wouldn’t change a damn thing.

Cas’s smile grows a little bit and it takes Dean’s breath away. “As you wish.” He punches everything into the cash register. “Would you like your coffee at the same time as the rest of your food?”

“Sounds good to me.” Dean holds up holds up the book he brought with him and gives it a wiggle. Finally he can start reading book two from the Elenium series. Charlie took her sweet time with it because she’s a big ol’ tease, but now it’s Dean’s turn and he is excited.

Has he ever seen Cas smile this much? It feels like this is some kind of blue moon event thing and it’s making him feel special. That’s the kind of feeling that’s going to make trouble for him and Dean ducks his head to try and forget about it.

“One moment, please.” Cas turns away to poke his head through into the kitchen. “One breakfast sandwich, please!” He turns back to Dean and puts a tray on the counter. “It will just be a minute for everything. Would you like me to bring it to you at a table?”

“Nah, I’ll wait.” He gives Cas his brightest smile and glances around. “How’s the night been so far?”

It’s only from the corner of his eye, but Dean is pretty sure he sees Cas hesitate before starting to pour the coffee. “Nothing much. Aside from the after bar rush, it’s been fairly quiet.” He shrugs and there’s the clink of a mug being put on a plate. “I see that you’re reading. Which one is that?”

Now that’s a topic Dean could talk about for hours and hours. Cas doesn’t have that long, so Dean does his best to condense it down. He gives Cas the basic plot of the story, minus all the spoilery bits because that’s just not cool at all, and how he feels about the book. The online equivalent of how Dean would describe his feelings on this book series boils down to a few lines of nothing but key smashes. Story wise, he might even go far enough to say that he enjoys it as much as he does Lord of the Rings. It would be fucking sweet if the Elenium was picked up for a movie franchise one day.

Dean spills all of this to Cas, taking very few breaths between his sentences. This is the closest he’s ever going to get to showing his truly geeky side, but dear God he can’t shut up about how much he likes this series. On the bright side, Cas doesn’t seem to mind. On the contrary, he smiles the whole time and actually looks like he’s paying full attention to him. Cas keeps his eyes on Dean for as long as he can the whole time he talks.

The only time Cas actually looks away, and the only thing that gets Dean to stop talking, is when the bread guy walks in from the kitchen carrying two trays of baked goods. Balthazar flashes Dean a grin that’s all teeth, a kick back to the last time they saw each other. It totally empties his brain of everything he’d just been talking about because this Fairy bastard always looks like he’s up to something and that something can’t possibly good.

Cas takes the trays and kicks Balthazar in the shin. “Stop creeping out my customers and go get Dean’s sandwich like you’re supposed to.”

Balthazar pouts, but does as he’s told. The kick is probably the only thing keeping his mouth shut. As soon as he’s gone, Dean’s heart decides to start beating properly again.

With a sigh, Cas slides the tray into the display case. “Please don’t mind him. I would like to hear the rest of what you have to say about the books. They sound interesting and I might give them a chance when I finish with what I have on my shelf upstairs.”

“You should definitely do it!” Dean taps the book against the counter for emphasis. “I give this series my full endorsement. I promise you won’t be disappointed. I’d say go read it right now, but you probably have all sorts of plans for the weekend already, don’t you?”

“Not really.” Cas shrugs and takes a few plates from a shelf behind the counter. “I’m only awake during the night and since Gabriel is most often sleeping, I usually either go for a walk or spend the read. Sometimes I watch TV or a movie – quietly.”

Hold the phone. Is that really all that Cas does? That’s not bad, per se, but Dean was hoping they might share more interests than just the books they read. “Do you have any other hobbies?”

He hums in thought while putting a croissant and a cinnamon bun on two plates. “I suppose. When the weather is good, I like to garden. Which reminds me, many of my plants can’t take the cold and I’m going to have to move them indoors soon.” Cas sighs and gives Dean a defeated look. “Gabriel is going to hate that. I didn’t have most of my plants last winter when we moved here. HE already thinks I have too many as it is while they’re outside.”

Yeah, okay. Dean could see that being a problem. But it’s not like they don’t have a whole building to fill with them. “Why don’t you move some of them down here?” He turns around and gestures at the rest of the café. “Unless you’ve got yourself a jungle in your garden, I think you could probably fit at least a few down here.”

That suggestion brings another bright smile to Cas’s face. “That’s a wonderful idea. Thank you, Dean.”

Oh geeze. That’s not fair. If he was a dog, Dean would be wagging his tail hard enough to sprain it. This crush on Cas is getting downright ridiculous. He ducks his head to try and hide his blush. It wasn’t that wonderful, but he’ll take praise from Cas where he can get it. Waking up this early, on purpose or not, is was totally worth it.

A meow from by his feet comes as a perfect distraction. Dean looks down to find Cas’s found cat rubbing sniffing at his shoe. “Hey, fluffy.” He crouches to give her a few good scratches behind the ear now that he doesn’t get the sniffles here. “Looks like no one’s come by for you yet, huh?”

The cat purrs and leans into his hand for a moment. She doesn’t stay long. Instead, trotting off to go do cat things while Cas puts Dean’s order on a tray. He ducks out only to return with the most delicious looking breakfast sandwich Dean has ever seen. His fingers start itching to pick it up, but that would be rude. At the very least, he should wait until he’s sitting down. And probably shouldn’t leave conversation hanging like he just did.

Cas looks mighty pleased that Dean just talked to the cat. “Is touching her alright for your allergies?”

“We’ll find out.” He wipes his hand clean on his shirt, just in case. “So, are you marking off the days on your calendar until you can officially keep her to yourself?”

With a cough, Cas looks away and pretends like he’s busy with putting away the receipt from the transaction. “Only mentally. Gabriel would complain if he saw a physical copy of it.”

He sighs and bends down to pick up the cat, because obviously she would go to him if she was looking for attention. She ends up almost hanging off of Cas’s shoulder, his hand still under her butt while he holds her up high on his chest. It looks like he’s holding a baby or something and it’s kinda hilarious. Cas doesn’t seem to notice or care because he goes about doing everything one handed. Thankfully, all that’s left is to put the coffee on the tray.

It’s silly, but Dean’s heart does some fun little cartwheels at the sight of the mug. The mug is pretty simple on its own, but it’s the shiny green dragon tied to the handle that’s making Dean’s insides act like he’s twelve again. This isn’t even, like, the first dragon he’s received. It’s not even the second. There’s a small collection of them growing on his desk at home and it makes him feel like a total creeper because Dean totally writes the day he got it on them.

Yup, that’s a secret he’s going to carry to his grave.

Dean picks up his tray, ready to go sit down and get started on his book so Cas can get back to work. Those plans get the kibosh almost immediately when the door to the kitchen swings open and Balthazar saunters in like a man on a mission.

“Dean-o!” He slaps his hands on the counter and leans forward, wings a fluttering blur. “What are you going to wear to the party?”

Party? What party? Oh! That Halloween party Gabriel mentioned earlier in the week? Fuck, he hadn’t even considered it. “I dunno. I haven’t even checked if I have the day off yet. Actually – has a day even been decided for it?” He looks at Cas, eyebrow raised.

Cas shrugs too, jostling the cat slightly, and rolls his eyes. “I gave my consent, but I have no say in any of this planning. But, knowing my brother, he’s likely planning to hold it on Halloween night.”

Balthazar nods like a sage with all the wisdom of the universe in his head. “Sounds about right. And what about you, Cassie?” He turns to him, wings still fluttering like crazy. “What are you going to dress as?”

“I’m still thinking about whether or not I’m going to go.” Cas shoots him a flat look with a dangerous edge to it. Dean reads it loud and clear for the warning it is. Balthazar needs to stop asking questions and get back to the kitchen before Cas losing it on him.

“As the close personal friend of yours that I am, I absolutely must insist that you go to the party.” Balthazar puts his hand on Cas’s free shoulder and gives them a squeeze. “And do you really think that Gabriel will let you not attend?”

Cas shakes his head and shoves his hands away. “I’ll think about it.”

“You’re such a party pooper.”

“I’m letting you guys have the party in the first place. How is that pooping on it?”

Dean can’t hold back a snort of laughter. Balthazar sighs and his wings droop. “Well, you better figure out what costume you’re going to wear. Otherwise Gabriel and I will be picking it for you.”

It’s high time that Dean includes himself in the conversation. “You’ve got two weeks until Halloween. That’s plenty of time to get a decent costume, I’d say.”

“You’re not helping.” That dangerous look gets thrown his way, but it’s not nearly as sharp as the one Balthazar got. “Besides, I don’t believe there’s a twenty-four hour costume shop in the area, is there?”

“That’s what the internet and overnight shipping is for, Cassie.” Balthazar shakes his head and sighs again, this time even louder. “You’re a big boy. Why do I have to spell this out for you?”

Is it wrong that Dean really loves this? He’s having a ball watching Cas interact with his employee. It’s obvious that he and Balthazar have known each other a lot longer than the month since the café has been open. He would like it even better if he could see Cas talking with his brother. Dean would be dollars to donuts that Cas is way less of a perfect business owner when he’s dealing with people he’s extremely familiar with.

When he’s dealing with someone he’s comfortable with – like Balthazar – Cas looks a lot more natural. That’s exactly what Dean likes to see. It makes him feel less unattainable, if that’s the word for it. This natural Cas is the one that Dean wants to get to know better, and he is to some extent. He’s learning new things every time he comes in to the café and he is very please with that.

Cas gives Balthazar a glare like ice. “I think you should return to the kitchen now, Balthazar. You’re keeping Dean from his sandwich and it is quickly growing cold, might I add.”

“That’s my cue to find myself a seat.” Dean nods to the both of them and turns away. It’s best to beat a hasty retreat before he gets drawn into anything that might make Cas hate him.

Whatever is left of Cas’s conversation with Balthazar is wrapped up in hushed whispers that Dean can’t pick up from where he ends up sitting. Eventually, bread boy does head back into the kitchen and Cas starts busying himself with counting money out of the drawer. The cat has disappeared again, but she’s not really what distracts Dean from being as focused on his reading as he should be. He can’t help glancing over the top of his book every so often and watching Cas while he works.

The cat makes her appearance again, this time on the chair next to him at his table. She watches him with eyes as big and blue as her owner, head tilted slightly. When Dean reaches for his sandwich, she meow and lifts a paw. It touches his arm gently before she lowers her paw to rest it on the edge of the table. Dean glances down at her and takes a bite of his sandwich. He’s getting the distinct impression that this is a cat’s version of begging.

“Gotta say, Cat, dogs have better puppy dog eyes than you do.” Dean shakes his head and turns back to his book. “Sorry, sweetie. But I’m pretty sure that Cas doesn’t want me feeding you any human food.”

That said, it definitely doesn’t stop her from reaching for him every time he takes a bite of anything. Hell, she even touches his arm gently every time he takes a sip of his coffee. It’s cute, but it reminds him why he’s not a pet owner of his own. Pets can be kinda annoying. Granted, he’s also allergic to cats. Dogs are fine, but they’re a bigger time commitment than a single firefighter can give it. And Dean really isn’t much into rodents or reptiles.

Even though he doesn’t give her anything, the cat keeps Dean company until Cas comes and picks her up at seven o’clock. She curls up in his arms and honest to goodness actually yawns. It’s the first time Dean gets to see a cat’s whole mouth up close and it’s absolutely terrifying. So, cats are apparently only cute when their mouths are shut, apparently.

“My shift is over now and Balthazar is taking over the counter.” Cas tilts his head towards the cash register. “If you need anything else, he’ll help you. I’m going to head upstairs now. But it was nice having you stay here for a change, Dean.

“Yeah, it was nice.” Dean puts his book down and looks up at Cas with a bright beaming smile. “I’ll have to do it more often.” But on days off and only in the evening. It’s rare that wakes up this early, but if it happens on a day Cas works, he’ll probably come in.

Cas returns his smile. It’s not nearly as bright, but it’s pretty damn nice in its own way. “I’d like that.”

He seems pretty sincere about it and Dean’s hopes freaking skyrocket. Cas probably only means it from some kind of business standpoint, but it’s making his heart pound like no tomorrow. It’s a twenty-four hour dance marathon going on his chest and it’s probably going to kill him.

“Have a good weekend, Dean.” Cas dips his head in goodbye and turns away. “I’ll see you next time.”

“See ya, Cas!” Dean makes sure to keep his eyes on his book while Cas walks away. The last thing he wants is for Balthazar to see him stealing a glance at Cas’s ass or something.

Either way, this is definitely a good way to start his day. He’s going to be walking on cloud nine for the rest of it, that’s for sure. Hopefully this feeling is going to stick around, because he’s going to need that feeling to bolster his courage later on. Little does Cas know that there’s an origami cat sitting in Dean’s car right now, ready and waiting to be delivered later today when he definitely won’t be on shift.

Dean has been practicing like crazy since last Saturday to get the cat just right, and after a week of work, he’s pretty sure the final product is as close to perfect as it’s going to get. Until he gets told off for it, he figures he can get away with leaving one origami piece every Saturday. The moment he gets wind of Cas thinking that it’s creepy or he’s trashing them, then he’ll stop. Thank God he’s got his inside source – Sam. He’ll never forgive him for hiding it from him, but at least he’s got a man on the inside now.

It kinda feels like things are looking up and it’s a feeling that Dean could get used to.

Chapter Text

Saturday – October 17th, 2015

It’s pushing ten o’clock when Castiel decides that it’s time to take his evening walk. The temperature is steadily declining and the low expected tonight twenty-seven degrees. Which means, in the terms of clothing, that it’s time for him to break out the scarf. He would rather be prepared than caught unawares in the cold.

To be honest, he actually prefers colder weather. It’s murder to Castiel’s plants, but he can move all of those indoors to where they’re safe. With the onset of colder weather, he can start wearing warm sweaters. Though he doesn’t have many clothes, at least half of his closet is composed of large and extremely comfortable sweaters. He enjoys wrapping himself in one of those and sitting with a hot tea or coffee, and reading a good book.

Castiel is almost too disappointed that their small apartment doesn’t come with a fireplace. They had one in their childhood home, and he has some truly wonderful memories that were made around it. Some of his most treasured memories are the ones where he and Gabriel would spend winter nights sitting with their parents in front of their fire. Everyone was wrapped in their own blankets, and everyone had a mug of hot cocoa. In the quiet, their mother would read to them the same stories she read every year.

But that’s a time long gone and Castiel can only recreate some aspects of it in his current life. In this case, it’s keeping warm. As he passes through the café’s kitchen, he buttons his coat. He pauses behind the counter to tuck the tails of his scarf inside it. From the corner of his eye, he’s aware that Tessa is watching him. It’s not until he looks at her that he takes note of the absolutely ridiculous grin plastered all across her face.

With some measure of trepidation, Castiel sighs and turns to her. “Good evening, Tessa.” Her smile grows and he immediately knows what this about. “They left another, didn’t they?”

Some small part of him is at least a little bit curious, but the rest of him is still very torn on the matter, if not somewhat annoyed. What exactly does this anonymous admirer want from him by these gifts? This marks the second one. How many more is he going to get before the admirer reveals themselves and their intentions?

“Yes!” Tessa practically explodes with delight. At least someone is enjoying this. “Do you want to see it?”

“No, not right now.” He shakes his head and turns away, starting for the door. This is not going to spoil his walk like it did last week. There are only so many good walking nights left before the snow hits the ground and walking becomes slightly less enjoyable. “I’ll get it when I get back.”

Her pout follows him out of the café, but Castiel doesn’t let it bother him. With some effort, he puts the origami gifts out of his mind and does his best to focus on enjoying his walk.

*

Castiel has barely made it into the apartment when Gabriel is right there. He should be in bed, but of course he’s not. That would be too easy and he never does anything easy. Sometimes it feels like Gabriel’s only lot in life is to make things difficult for Castiel. It’s a rare feeling, but it’s increased a lot over the last year. Especially in recent days – and this secret admirer isn’t helping things at all.

Gabriel has the same look that Tessa did earlier and he rocks forward on his feet. “So, Cassie!” He breaks for a truly annoying giggle. “What is it this time?”

“Go away.”

“Tessa said you got another one.” He holds out both his hands to open and close his fingers in a child-like grabbing motion. “Show me!”

The kitchen in the apartment is small and Castiel’s route from the door to his bedroom is blocked both by Gabriel and by their tiny kitchen table. While he does hold the upper hand in sheer brute strength, Castiel has never used that against Gabriel and he doesn’t plan to start now. At this point, his only options are to go back downstairs, or to give in and show him the origami.

With a sigh, he holds out his hand to reveal the little folded cat sitting in his palm. It’s well done, but still a bit rough in its execution, unlike the crane. Perhaps the admirer didn’t spend as much time working at it as they did the crane? Or maybe the fold is more difficult? Castiel will have to try it himself to be certain. It’s been a long time since he folded anything except for cranes and dragons.

Gabriel stares at the cat for a few moments before he reacts. He claps both of his hands to his cheeks and lets out a high pitched squeal that makes Castiel wince. It’s an overly dramatic reaction and he hates it. Everyone is making such a big deal out of this and it’s almost unfair to be the only person who isn’t exceptionally excited about having a secret admirer.

“Stop it.” Castiel rolls his eyes and takes a step forward, pleased when Gabriel gets out of the way.

“Oh, come on.” He whines at follows at Castiel’s heels as he heads deeper into the apartment. “Are you sure you don’t want to learn who it’s from?” When he gets no response, Gabriel sighs loudly. “Well, I’m going to check the tapes again to make sure that it’s the same person and there’s nothing you can do to stop me.”

Short of erasing all the recordings before he can get to it, there really isn’t anything that Castiel can do in this matter. All he can do is give Gabriel one last withering look before retreating into his bedroom. “I wish that you wouldn’t.”

His answer is a smug smile because no matter what Castiel wishes, Gabriel is going to do it regardless. He’s just too curious about it to not do it. Fine. He can do what he wants. But if Gabriel makes any kind of hint about who it might be, Castiel is going to plot some very unfriendly retribution. He’s still plotting his return prank for the time that Gabriel put glue on the stairs, but he hasn’t come up with anything good yet. Maybe he should see if Balthazar has some ideas?

Those are thoughts for another time. In his bedroom, Castiel puts the origami cat down next to the crane. He hangs his coat and his scarf on the hook on the back of his door and sits on the edge of the bed. It’s yet another Saturday night where he doesn’t know what to do with himself. Castiel will likely spend the night reading, but he doesn’t feel particularly interested in any of the books he has to read. Part of him is tempted to go online and order some new books – like the ones that Dean was reading the other day, but he knows that he shouldn’t.

While he tries to make up his mind, Castiel ends up staring at the origami cat until his thoughts eventually come back to it. By that point, he has himself a lap full of a real cat. Nike is already purring, but she only gets louder as he starts to pet her.

“I don’t know what to make of this.” He sighs and gestures at the two little origami figures sitting on his shelf. “What do you think?”

Of course Nike doesn’t answer. She doesn’t even lift her head, too wrapped up in the good feelings of getting a scratch under the chin. If she could talk, Nike would likely tell him the same as everyone else. These are innocent gifts and there’s nothing to be worried about with them. Gabriel and Balthazar, and likely Tessa too, already know who the admirer is. If they thought it was someone worrisome, they wouldn’t be so darn delighted by these.

On the other hand, Castiel isn’t entirely happy to be on the receiving end of these. In fact, he almost wishes that his secret admirer wouldn’t go about doing this in the first place. While he is a bit curious to know what kind of origami he might receive next week, he’s still wary about the admirer’s intentions. And who could it even be?

Castiel has decided that he’s going to tentatively rule Dean out for now. He’s been in a few times over this last week and not once did he give off any kind of suspicious vibe. At least, not one that Castiel could pick up on. Dean was a bit awkward, but that’s likely a base aspect of his personality considering how he’s been like that since they first met.

Either way, he’s going to have to keep his eye on Dean. And on Nick, if he comes by the café again. Castiel hasn’t seen him since he asked him out. Has there been anyone else over this last week that he should take note of? There’s none as far as he knows.

With a sigh, Castiel lays back on the bed to turn his stare on the ceiling. This is going to be on his mind all night and he is not happy about it.

*

Wednesday – October 21st, 2015

“Hey, Cas!” Dean walks into the café at his usual time of two o’clock in the morning. He seems unusually chipper for someone working twenty-four hours straight. “How’s it going?”

That’s a loaded question and Castiel honestly isn’t sure how to answer it. There are various things in his life that are going at different speeds. Overall, there’s more good than bad. Well, that decides his answer then, doesn’t it?

“It’s going well.” He shrugs and tilts his head in greeting.

Dean detours to the display case to look at the treats available for tonight, though it’s no surprise that he starts gravitating towards the pie stand almost immediately. “Anyone call about your cat yet?”

Castiel shakes his head and puts aside his origami sheets. He had been in the process of restocking his box of dragons. “Not as of yet, thankfully.”

“That’s good.” Dean flashes Castiel a bright smile before he leans forward to look at the pie stand. “Have you picked a day for when you’re going to take the posters down and officially keep her for yourself?”

If the question had been asked to Gabriel, the answer would have been a resounding ‘no’. As far as Gabriel is concerned, he still believes that Nike will be given over to an animal shelter eventually. Castiel has very different plans and he can’t tell Dean about any of those before he makes sure that no one is listening. Gabriel has spies everywhere – and one of them is currently working in the kitchen.

He glances over his shoulder before leaning over the counter and dropping his voice into a whisper. “The day before Halloween. It will have been one month since I brought her home by then. I’m going to assume that it’s safe to keep her since we haven’t heard anything and I haven’t seen anyone posting about a missing cat that looks like her.”

“Only nine days left, huh?” Dean drops his voice into a whisper and leans closer too. “I’ll keep my fingers crossed for you two.”

While Castiel might have a few of his employees on his side when it comes to whether or not he should keep the cat, there’s something entirely too validating to know that Dean is rooting for him too. Castiel couldn’t keep the smile off his face if he wanted to, and he certainly doesn’t. “Thank you.”

Shrugging, Dean leans away again. This time, however, there is a blush dusting his cheeks. “Hey, have you thought about taking her to get a reading done? Y’know, like, just to find out about her past through some kind of seeing crystal or something?”

No, absolutely not. The number of Creatures who know the magic to do a reading like that are few and far between. A reading like that requires a powerful spell and, more often than not, the ones who sell their talents to perform it are Witches. Castiel would rather never know where Nike came from than to take her anywhere near a Witch. That aside, a Fae might have the power to do it, but he’s fairly sure that neither Balthazar nor Anna would know how to perform the spell.

Castiel’s smile slips slightly and he shakes his head. “No, I hadn’t thought to do that. To my knowledge, the nearest Witch who could do that actually lives in the next town over, no?”

“Ah, yeah, I guess that’s true.” The blush increases and Dean ducks his head to scratch nervously at the back of it. “Sorry. I guess your brother is out of the question too, huh?”

He’s starting to get the feeling that, between the two of them, Dean wants to know Nike’s past the most. “I’m afraid so. Gabriel isn’t skill in that method of magic. There are others I could try asking if I really wanted to know.”

Dean’s smile falls too, but his slips straight into a pout. “And I’m guessing that you don’t really want to know that badly.”

Castiel shakes his head again, but his smile is back in place. “Not really, sorry. You’ll be the first to know if I find out anything about her past.” Well, maybe he won’t be the first, but he’ll definitely be the first customer to know.

That seems to satisfy Dean’s curiosity for now. He nods in acceptance and holds out a sticky note. “I guess small talk is over now and it’s time to get down to business, huh?”

“If you insist.” Honestly, Castiel would have liked to continue with this so-called small talk. There’s something about talking with Dean that feels more natural than when he talks with his employees. It’s nice, but Castiel also understands that Dean is technically on break and he shouldn’t be away from the fire hall for too long.

While Dean counts out exact change, Castiel quickly prepares the orders with an ease he never thought he’d actually have with this job. Maybe it’s just from having to prepare these same drinks every other night, or from running the café for over a month. Either way, he’s happy that he actually feels comfortable in this job now. It would be so difficult to continue to work here if he never got accustomed to doing anything.

Gabriel’s hopes are that one day they make enough money from the café to have employees do all the work and they don’t need to staff it themselves anymore. If that happens, Castiel will likely still continue to do the overnight shifts. He happens to like it. This is one of the very few ways that he actually gets to interact with people and not feel out of place or uncomfortable with it. What would he even do with himself and all that free time if he had it?

Castiel ponders on that while he selects a freshly made dragon to tie to Dean’s cup of coffee. Tonight, he picks one in a soft red colour. He rather enjoys giving him these. Dean never leaves one behind and he always has the happiest of smiles when he gets one. It’s rather nice to know that at least someone likes them. Though he is rather curious as to what Dean might do with them later. Does he keep them? Re-gift them? Or does he throw them out? Knowing what little he does of Dean, Castiel honestly wouldn’t be surprised if he kept them all.

Dean drums his fingers on the counter after he’s finished paying, and glances around the café. “Hey, if Halloween is in ten days, how come you guys haven’t broken out the decorations yet? You guys are going to decorate for the party, right?”

“Oh, I suppose so?” Castiel shrugs and carefully places all the drinks into a tray. “Gabriel and Balthazar are more in charge of the party than I am. I’m just going to do whatever they tell me to do.” He gets a flat look for his response and Castiel can only shrug in response. “This kind of thing really isn’t my forte. I can’t remember the last time I went to a party, or even hosted one.”

Though he nods in understanding, Dean still looks rather skeptical. “I guess I kinda figured you guys would have some signage up about the party by now. How else are people supposed to know that you’re going to be holding one?”

Well, he does raise a valid point. “I’ll make sure to let Gabriel know in the morning.” And, if he knows his brother, then that means the café windows will be filled with signs and there will be decorations everywhere by the time he wakes up tomorrow evening.

He slides the coffee tray across the counter. “Is that going to be everything?”

Dean glances at the pie stand and he bites his lip. There is a moment of intense deliberation before he sighs loudly. “Oh man, fine. Gimme a slice of pie and the rest of the brownies in the case. I’m gonna treat the staff for not being as annoying as they could be.”

“I know that feeling.” Castiel huffs a laugh and enters everything into the register so Dean can pay again while he boxes them. He’s in the middle of preparing those boxes when another thought occurs to him. “Dean, do carved pumpkins count as decorations?”

“Sure do!” He looks up from the card machine. “Why?”

Lovely. That means Castiel is in charge of some decoration. “Gabriel asked me to do that this weekend. According to him, having an affinity for gardening means that I know how to carve a pumpkin.”

“It’s not rocket science, Cas.” Dean laughs and tucks his wallet away. “Actually, it’s super easy. Haven’t you ever carved a pumpkin before?”

Castiel has distinct memories of having carved pumpkins with his parents as a child, but those are so far in his past that he doubts that it’s anything like riding a bicycle. “The last pumpkin I carved was well over a decade ago, at least.”

Dean’s lips press into a thin line and he starts shifting on his feet. After a moment of silence, he coughs and shoves his hands into his pockets. “I could – I mean, um, when are you planning to do them?”

“He wants me to do them this weekend. It’s the only time I’d really have to do it before the party next weekend.” He shrugs and tilts his head slightly, narrowing his eyes. “Why?”

Again, Dean coughs, and this time he seems to be having a very difficult time with meeting Castiel’s eyes. He actually seems very interested in the countertop. This is very suspicious behaviour and now he really wants to learn what might be going through his head.

“Is there something on your mind, Dean?”

“I – Yeah?” Dean nods as colour starts to creep up his neck. He does, however, manage to actually glance at Castiel even if only for a moment. “I mean – well – I, uh, I don’t work on Saturday.”

Castiel raises an eyebrow, curious. Where is Dean going to go with this? Saturdays now have a very different meaning for him, given that he’s received an anonymous origami gift on the last two. Does that have anything to do with what Dean is about to say? It’s unlikely, but it’s possible. He waves his hand, gesturing for Dean to continue.

With another cough, Dean clears his throat and brings up a hand to rub at the back of his neck. “I just – I have my own pumpkins to carve and I’m – um – I’m a bit of a pro at it, if I do say so myself.” He shrugs and looks back at Castiel again, hope clear in his eyes. “So – if, um, you want, we could – um – maybe, if you want, we could totally do them –” He swallows thickly and looks away. “Together?”

It takes a moment for Castiel to piece together that broken sentence into something coherent. Well, it doesn’t sound like an entirely unpleasant idea, actually. If they carved pumpkins together, it might get Gabriel off his back in more way than one. He has been saying that Castiel needs to make friends, right? Why doesn’t he start with Dean, then? Actually, technically, he started with Nike and Balthazar, in some odd way. But Castiel doesn’t have a real friend of his own.

If he was going to make a friend in this town, then Dean would be his top choice out of all the people that he’s met. So far, Castiel enjoys talking with him. They even seem to share the same interests to an extent. Being friends with Dean would be stepping well outside of his comfort zone, but he honestly can’t see anything bad coming from it. Far as he knows, a friend wouldn’t be in even remotely the same sort of danger as a lover might be. And if being friends with Dean doesn’t work, it’s not like Castiel will really be losing anything, would it?

“Alright.”

Dean looks as surprised by the answer as Castiel feels. “Really?”

He nods and takes a paper from his notepad next to the cash register. Castiel writes Saturday’s date on it and the time when he thinks Dean should come by. When he hands it over, Dean has the same expression as he did when he ate that first apple pie.

“Is nine o’clock too late in the evening for you?”

“No, no, that’s fine.” Dean carefully tucks the paper away in one of his pockets. “I know you’re a night guy, so it’s totally cool with me.”

Is nice that Dean is so accepting of that. “Excellent. We can use the café’s kitchen to do the carving. It has plenty of space for the both of us. Is there anything I should get to help with the carving?”

“Nah, I’ve got carving knives for days.” He is downright beaming as he stacks the coffee tray on top of his pastry boxes. “I’ll bring everything that we’ll need, but it would really save you some time if you have your designs already drawn on your pumpkins. Hell, you could even pre-scoop them if you want. A spoon with teeth on it would probably be best.”

That would be a spork, wouldn’t it? Unless Dean is referring to a pasta scoop. In which case, Castiel is sure that they have at least one of those in the building somewhere. To be sure, he’ll have to ask Gabriel. If anyone knows where to find utensils in that kitchen, it’s him.

“I’ll be sure to be ready for you on Saturday, then.” Castiel nods and quickly jots down a note to remind him to look up ideas.

“Great!” Dean’s enthusiasm is incredibly endearing. “I’ll – I’ll see you on Saturday, then?”

He nods and looks up from his note with a smile. “I look forward to it.” And, to be honest, he actually is.

“Yeah – um –” His blush returns in full force and Dean ducks his head. “Yeah, me too. I’ll – See yah!” With that, he turns on his heel and very nearly runs out. It’s one of his fastest exits he’s had since Castiel has known him as a customer.

The door is closed behind Dean not more than two seconds before Castiel can feel the presence of someone standing close behind him. He winces, knowing that he won’t be returning to his origami any time soon. “Can I help you, Balthazar?”

“Do mine pointed ears deceive me?” That giddy delight in Balthazar’s voice does not bode well. “Did I just hear you make a date with that bonny boy of a firefighter?”

Oh God. Not this again. “Go back to the kitchen, Balthazar.”

“Oh, Cassie!” Arms wrap around him before he expects it and Balthazar lifts him from his feet in a hug. “You’re growing up! I’m so proud of you!”

“Put me down.”

Balthazar’s laughter rings in his ears and echoes through the café. “Wait until Gabriel hears about this!”

Dear God, no. It’s suddenly starting to feel like he just made the biggest mistake ever.

The world is beautiful and amazing and nothing can ever go wrong. Dean feels like he’s walking on clouds and seeing everything through rose coloured glasses. Now he knows why the school kids in his anime always have flowers and rainbows and sparkles surrounding them at moments like this. He’s going to get to hang out with his crush on Saturday and this is the best day of his life – even if it is just past two o’clock in the goddamn morning.

Meg is kicking back in the easy chair and watching some TV when he finally manages to make it through the haze and back into the station. He hands her the tray of coffees and puts the box of baked goods in her lap. His own coffee can wait. There is something he absolutely has to say right now to a certain someone, and the time of night can be damned.

“Where are you going?” Meg sits up slightly, turning to watch him cross the room.

“Gotta talk with Charlie.” Dean waves her off and keeps going. If he doesn’t wake her up to tell her about this, she’ll kill him when she does find out. “She’s gonna wake up for this.”

As quietly as he can, he sneaks into the bunk room and finds where Charlie is sleeping. She’s got the bed closest to the door while Nick is sleeping in the very back of the room. They’re going to have to do this entirely in whispers not to wake up, but they’ve had plenty of conversations while he’s sleeping so this is old hat to them. No matter what, though, Dean really doesn’t want Nick to know that he’s got plans with Cas for this weekend.

He basically crawls on top of Charlie to get her to wake up. She barely moves, but her face totally crunches up in an unhappy wince. “If you were anyone else, I’d be reporting you for sexual harassment.”

Dean grabs her by the shoulders and shakes her a bit because this is big news and he needs to make sure that she’s actually awake for it. He leans down and drops his voice into the quietest of whispers. “I’m carving pumpkins on Saturday.”

Charlie opens one eye to glare at him. “And why does that require waking me up?”

“Because I’m carving them at The Graveyard Shift.” If his smile didn’t give him away, then that’s definitely gotta get the point across.

Sure enough, Charlie yanks the blanket away from her face and starts to sit up. Her eyes are huge in the dark and Dean isn’t sure if it’s the light from the door putting a gleam in her eye or if it’s something to do with her being a Phoenix. “Does that mean what I think it means?”

He shrugs and sits back over her legs, shrugging like he’s not freaking the fuck out over this. “IF you think it means that I’m carving pumpkins with Cas, then you would be one hundred percent right.”

Dean.” She sits up the rest of the way and grabs him b y the face, squishing his cheeks together. “Do you have an actual date with a boy?”

“Maybe?” They made plans to meet at the café, but it’s not really a date is it? Dean was avoiding thinking that word the whole way back to the station. “Not in those specific words. But kinda?”

Charlie lets go of his face to wave her hands between them in the quietest of squealing sessions ever. She’s been aware from day one that Dean has a crush on Cas and she’s been the most supportive of everyone he knows that he should get off his ass and actually pursue him. Everyone’s still waiting to find out whether or not guys even floats Cas’s boat, but at least this is a step in the right direction. Even if they’re just friends at first, at least Dean would be able to feel out whether or not he actually has some kind of chance with him.

That said, there are things about Dean’s crush that Charlie also doesn’t know about. Despite how she’s been there for every tiny step he’s taken out of his bisexual shell, he hasn’t exactly told her about the whole origami thing he’s been doing. He’ll tell her about that someday, depending on how that turns out with Cas anyways. She’ll probably be mad at him for not letting her in on it sooner, but at least she knows about this. If Dean hadn’t woke her up for this, he would’ve been a dead man in the morning.

It’s only a matter of time before she gets Jo in on it. They’re going to make sure that he is prepared for this Saturday. Either it’s going to be dressing him up, doing his hair, or coaching him on what not to say because he’s cursed. If he can’t think of anything to say, Dean’s foot usually ends up in his mouth. He definitely doesn’t want that happening this weekend. If that means spending the rest of the week practicing topics with his roommates, then so be it.

Regardless of how the rest of the week goes, Dean is fucking psyched for this weekend!

*

Saturday – October 24th, 2015

The week passed way too quickly for Dean’s liking. In the blink of an eye it’s suddenly Saturday night and he’s sweating bullets. He already changed his shirt before leaving the house earlier and now he’s kinda wishing he’d brought a spare again. Does he have one in the station? He’s using his parking spot there, so it’s not like it’s out of his way.

Actually, this is kinda out of his way. If it wasn’t a Saturday night on Main Street, he totally would’ve parked right in front of the café. Now he’s going to have to walk up the block with a bag full of carving equipment and not one, not two, but three fair sized pumpkins. All in all, that’s not so bad. His job requires him to be fit as hell and he can carry a hell of a lot more than that. It’s just going to be awkward to carry all of them at once.

Being that weird guy carrying pumpkins down the street would normally have Dean on edge, but he’s got bigger things to worry about. The biggest weight on his mind right now is the fact that he’s about to spend an undetermined amount of time hanging out with Cas. He did practice good topics of conversation with Charlie and Jo over the last few days, but what if he forgets it all? What if he doesn’t know what to say and they end up with an awkward silence between the two of them the whole time? Oh God, what if he fucks up and makes a mess of the kitchen or sets something on fire by accident? What if he’s just downright disgusting and burps, farts, or has bad breath? Does he stink? He should definitely do a pit check before getting out of the car.

Fuck. Fuck. He was never this nervous whenever he hung out with Lisa or Cassie in high school. Why is hanging out with Cas any different? It shouldn’t be. It’s just going to be two dudes hanging out in a café kitchen carving some pumpkins. No big deal. There’s nothing special about that, even if Dean does kinda have a bit of a crush on Cas.

Dean has to lean his head on the steering wheel and breathe. It takes him a few minutes to think he’s calmed down enough to make the trek down the road to the café. Once he’s got the three pumpkins balanced properly in his arms, he heads out. There’s a pumpkin under each arm, and the third is being held by its stem. He makes sure to keep up his breathing exercise for the walk; deep breath in through the nose and long breath out through the mouth. If he can keep his cool between point A and point B, then maybe he might be able to survive this evening without some horrendous fuck ups.

He damn near trips over his feet and eats concrete when Cas opens the door to the café for him. The attractive son-of-a-bitch was waiting for him. Dean’s brain is back to processing thoughts like a teenager pounding at a keyboard. He’s typer-ventilating mentally and it is not good. How is he supposed to actually say words when there’s a string of incomprehensible letters and characters filling his brain?

Cas immediately takes the pumpkin Dean has by the stem. “You should have told me you were going to bring so much. I could have helped you carry it in.”

“Nah, man, it’s cool.” Dean shakes his head to hide the fact that his smile is just as shaky. “If I can carry a full grown man on my shoulders out of a burning building, I think I can handle a couple pumpkins.”

“Have you ever had to do that before?”

Shit. It’s not like Dean was trying to brag or anything, but now he feels stupid for saying that. “Actually, no. But we’ve practiced it a lot with weighted dummies in training scenarios.”

“That’s good.” Cas nods and gestures for Dean to follow him into the café. “It’s better to have done it in practice than to have been in a situation where you needed to use it.”

Oh. Okay, good. Cas apparently doesn’t think Dean is an idiot. That’s a step in the right direction, at least. Though Dean still feels stupid as fuck. He does have a point though. It’s like knowing CPR – good to know how to do it, but you always hope that you never have to use it.

Dean glances around the café to see how business is going. He can’t remember ever being in at this time of night, but business seems to be good. Tessa is moving around the café to wipe down the counter and tables while some people pack up to leave. Half the tables have people sitting at them, either to read on their own or in groups of two or three and playing some board games.

As soon as Tessa sees him, she lights up with a smug grin. Thank God that Cas’s back is turned when she does that. The last thing Dean wants is to have to explain why she looks so pleased to see him. He could probably pass it off as seeing her whenever he picks Sam up from his shift on Saturdays, but would that give him away as the origami guy? As far as Cas should know right now, Dean rarely comes in any earlier than his usual late night coffee runs.

Cas definitely doesn’t know (or at least he shouldn’t know) that Dean was also in briefly earlier today. It was just to pick up Sam and buy a box of macarons for his mom. And, well, he also happened to leave an origami fish to go with the origami cat from last week. Seeing as how Tessa puts her finger to her lips and winks, Dean gets the impression that his secret is still safe. He really hopes that he’s reading her right on that front. It would suck if he was wrong.

Dean follows Cas right past the counter and straight into the kitchen. It’s hard not to feel at least a little bit giddy about that. Even when he’s on the job, there’s always a little thrill to be had for going into places that usually you’re not allowed to go unless you work or live there. He gets the same feeling when he goes into a stranger’s house, or going past the lobby of an office building. It’s just – it’s fun. And this is special because this is Cas’s workplace.

Running down the middle of the kitchen are two long worktops with storage underneath. On the one closest to the front, Cas already has five pumpkins set up. He puts the one he took from Dean on the other side of the worktop, so they’ll be facing each other while they’re working. Well, that’s to be expected. It’s not like he was going to be knocking elbows with Cas the whole night or anything. That would be hoping for too much, probably.

He dumps his last two pumpkins and his bag of crap next to Cas. “So, you’re going to be doing five pumpkins, huh? That’s a lot of work.”

“Yes, it is.” Cas sighs and gives him a look that’s verging on ashamed. “And I must confess. I didn’t do any of the preparation that you suggested I should.” He goes around the table and turns one of his pumpkins for Dean to see. “I haven’t done any designs yet.

Dean can’t help but laugh. He was anticipating a way worse response than that. Designs are no big deal. “Don’t worry about that. It’s easy enough to fix. Just tell me that you at least have an idea of what kind of designs you want to do?”

Cas presses his lips together in a thin line and continues to stare down at his pumpkins. “I honestly don’t have a clue. Gabriel only told me to be creative.”

Oh, man. This is too good. Dean shouldn’t be as amused about this as he is. He always kinda figured that Cas would be the good boy scout type; the guy who’s prepared for everything. With the glasses, and the vest, and the notepad by the cash register – it just really gives off the vibe that Cas is put together and on top of things. He does run a business, after all. But it’s nice to see that he’s not exactly perfect.

“Well, lucky for you I came prepared.” Dean dumps his bag of knives out on the counter and sorts through it until he finds a marker. He tosses that over to Cas. “Use that to draw on your pumpkins. It rubs off easy enough with a little alcohol swab if you end up carving outside the guidelines.”

“How is this supposed to help me come up with ideas?” Cas holds the marker up in front of his face and frowns at it. “Is it a magical idea inducing marker?”

Do those exist? If they do, then Dean wants one. He snorts a laugh and shakes his head. “Nah, you’re going to have to figure that out on your own. My suggestion is to use the internet and think of a theme that you might want to represent the café with.”

Understanding clears up the frown, and Cas turns his attention on Dean and his pumpkins. “What kind of theme do you have?”

“Extreme nerd.” And he’s not even ashamed to admit it. There are some aspects to his nerdy life that he won’t reveal just yet – like the LARPing or the weekend video game marathons in his underwear. But this? This is okay.

He turns the pumpkins around to show Cas the designs. “Charlie drew them for me earlier. Between you and me, she’s got way more artistic talent than I do. I’m better at abstract.”

Cas actually starts to smile as he leans forward to look at the pumpkins. He glances over the first two before pointing at the third. “Is that a Snitch from Harry Potter?”

“Don’t judge me.” Dean crinkles his nose with a laugh and turns it around. Thank God this talking thing is going so much better than he thought it would. Maybe it’s easier because they’ve known each other for a month and a half now? Granted, they really only see each other a couple times a week. Either way, this is good. This is very good.

“What about the other two?” Cas rolls his eyes and gestures at them.

Dean taps the one in the middle. “The emblem of House Stark from Game of Thrones.” And then he taps the last one. “This is the crest of the Queen of Moondoor.”

And that’s all the information he’s is going to give on that because if Cas learns that Dean is tits deep in the world of live action role playing, he’s probably going to lose any and all chance of being – well – being anything. Dean loves being a LARPer and he’s made some fun friends, but there’s no denying that not everyone outside of the community really gets what it’s all about. He been doing it since his late teens and he’s encountered a lot of cynicism from a whole variety of people over the years.

Now it’s just Dean’s personal preference to have the reveal of his penchant to go LARPing fun to be on the same level of when he would tell someone about the kind of things he likes in the bedroom. If he feels comfortable enough to tell someone that he might like the idea of wearing silky panties for his partner again, then he’ll be comfortable enough with telling them that he likes to dress up as a medieval warrior and kick some ass with a properly balanced fake sword.

Cas hums and tilts his head to the side. “I don’t recognize the name Moondoor. What series is that from?”

There’s the expected question, and Dean has an answer ready for it. “It’s an inside joke with Charlie from when we were kids.” He shrugs and turns that pumpkin around too. “Now, you don’t technically need a theme if you don’t want one. You could just do a bunch of generic faces, or carve in the name of your café, or whatever. You just need to make sure that your design has enough negative space that parts will still be connected to the pumpkin.”

“I believe I understand.” He frowns again, but this time it looks like it’s in thought. Cas steps over to one side and opens up a laptop that Dean didn’t notice before since it blends in with the silver worktop. “I’ll do a bit of research first. Please don’t let me keep you from getting started on your pumpkins.”

Dean shrugs and sorts out his handful of knives. “I’m not in any kinda rush. Why don’t you take a look at that and I’ll go grab myself a coffee before I get started.”

While Cas does nod, like he’s listening, he seems more focused on the laptop now. He pulls a stool out from under the counter and sits on that while he starts typing at the keys. Dean checks under his side of the counter and, sure enough, there’s a space for a high stool there too. Thank God, actually. It would’ve sucked to have to do all the carving on his feet. Even though he can spend hours fighting a fire and running high on adrenaline, Dean still hates just standing around. It’s find if he’s moving, but being stationary makes being on his feet a hundred times worse.

Tessa is bright eyes and grinning like a fool when Dean heads out front to get his coffee. She even waggles her eyebrows at him. “Pumpkin carving with the boss, hm?”

“Yup.” He nods and tries to avoid eye contact. “Black drip, please.”

The sound of a Youtube video starts playing from the kitchen and Tessa immediately leans forward to drop her voice into a whisper. “I gave him the fish when he came down earlier.”

Okay, so he’ll give her points for trying to be discreet, but is she insane for bringing this up while Cas is still within earshot? “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

She huffs and rolls her eyes. “Right. Hush hush wink wink and of that.” Her attempt to look annoyed is ruined by a giggle as she enters his order into the register. “Do you want to know what I think about how he feels about them?”

Yes, a thousand times yes, but this is not the time for it. “Nope.” He doesn’t need to be thinking about that the whole time he’s in a big ol’ kitchen to hang out with Cas. Especially if she says that Cas doesn’t like them and that it’s weirding him out or something.

Tessa sighs, but she ends it with a wink. “Next week, then.”

Now that’s a decision he can accept. Dean nods and accepts his coffee before dropping all his change into the tip jar. Tessa winks at him again and he schools his face into blissful ignorance as he heads back into the kitchen with a mug that is sorely lacking in awesome origami dragons. Cas is probably the only one of the people who works here who does that.

Speaking of Cas, he’s now hunched over his laptop with a pumpkin in his lap and the marker in his hand. The tip of his tongue is poking out between his lips as he glances back and forth between the screen and the pumpkin while he draws. It’s fucking adorable and Dean is going to have to fight the urge to watch him while he drinks his coffee. He’s supposed to be working on his own pumpkins, not ogling his carving partner because he’s got a dumb little crush.

After half his coffee is down his gullet, Dean puts it aside and gets a couple Tupperware containers from his bag. They were too big to fall out of the bag when he dumped the knives out. Seriously, these are massive. They’re basically casserole containers and Dean usually uses them to store the lids of other containers. It’s not like anyone in his house cooks enough to need this – except for Thanksgiving. Yeah, he’s going to need these suckers for the holidays.

For now, it’s time to fill them up with some pumpkin guts. He puts one container next to his first pumpkin and picks up a knife. First up for carving is the top. Dean stabs the knife in at an angle so the top will fit back in nicely without just falling straight through. It takes little to no effort to saw his way around the top of the pumpkin, and he even hums while he’s at it. Focusing on the pumpkin is the only way he’s going to keep himself from continuously glancing up at Cas.

Dean uses the knife to saw off a thin layer from the top of the pumpkin once he pulls it free. There’s all sorts of stringy guts dangling from it and he makes sure all of that ends up in the container. It may be easier to use the meat of the pumpkin for baking, but Dean can still make some good shit from the pieces he carves out and the stringy insides. And especially those seeds. Holy shit, his mouth is already watering at all the awesome things he’s going to be able to make.  

Cas is still drawing on his pumpkins when Dean gets elbow deep inside his first one. The scoop he brought will be good to use to get all the shit off the insides, but everything else will be easier to get out by hand. He’s methodical with his gutting, taking his time and making sure that he’s getting everything. The more he scrapes, the more guts he’ll have to cook with later.

By the time Dean’s ready to pick up the knife again and start carving, Cas is drawing on his third pumpkin. He still has that determined look of concentration, but he stops and looks up when Dean turns the pumpkin on its side and stabs it again, this time with a lot more precision. “Would you like me to play some music? The soundtrack for the café doesn’t quite reach back here, but I have the same playlist on my computer.”

“If you want to.” He shrugs and flashes him a smile. So far, he’s been plenty happy with just humming and spending some time with Cas – just like last week when he was here to read.

With a few quick taps at the keys, Cas gets some music going. It’s some sorta soft instrumental, but it’s nice and not at all distracting. Dean could listen to pretty much anything right now and not mind. He’s feeling so good right now that if the music had lyrics, he’d be singing along to it. As it is, his hips get a little sway to them and he’s definitely got a foot tapping. The tune is easy enough to pick up on and Dean starts humming along to that as he gets back to carving out the shape of the Snitch’s wings.

He’s still working hard at the fine detailing of the Snitch when Cas clears his throat. “I’m done.”

Dean glances up for what feels like the first time in a while. All five pumpkins are facing him now. Two of them have generic faces; one scary, and one with the classic Jack-o’-lantern smile. The third has TRICK OR TREAT on it in a funky font that may or may not be too difficult for Cas to carve as a first timer. If he has some trouble, Dean will happily lend a hand. The fourth pumpkin has GRAVEYARD SHIFT in another cool font, and the fifth is a stylized cup of coffee. All of them look really good and Cas clearly has some artistic talent when it comes to drawer on a pumpkin with a marker.

“Those look great, Cas!” Dean gives him a double thumbs up and another bright smile. “Did you see how I started mine?”

“Was I supposed to be watching?”

Good point. He snorts a laugh and grabs one of the spare knives. Dean’s heart rate picks up a bit as he heads around the worktop, putting himself a lot closer to Cas than he’s been all evening. He tries really hard not to let any of that show as he pulls one of the face pumpkins over.

“We’ll start with this one because it’s pretty easy and you should be able to get the hang of carving with this.” Dean holds his knife at an angle and carefully slides it into the top of the pumpkin. “We don’t want the lid to fall back in when you put it on, so you need to make sure you cut into it at a wedge angle. Otherwise, you’re going to need toothpicks to keep it up and that’s just no fun.”

Cas nods along and leans in to watch. Too bad for him that Dean is more of a hands off teacher. He’s a firm believer that the only way you’re going to learn something is to do it yourself. The only thing he does for Cas is show him that the knife is basically a miniature saw as he does about an inch or two of the cutting for him. After that, he passes it over to him with another bright smile and a wave of his hand.

Thankfully, he doesn’t get any complaints about it. Cas seems more than happy to take over, and he’s even pretty good with handling the knife. Dean gets another knife and starts on another of Cas’s pumpkins. There’s five of them to go and the least Dean can do to help out is start cleaning out the gunk for him. Then all he’ll need to do is the actual carving – which Dean will be able to help with once he’s got his own pumpkins finished.

They stay side by side while they work, listening to the music. Cas rolls the sleeve up on his sweater and has zero squicky issues with fisting the pumpkin to pull out its guts. Thank God he can’t seem to hear that Dean’s heartbeat is pounding in his ears. It’s almost enough to drown out the sound of the music, actually. They’re just so close and if it wasn’t for the smell of the pumpkins, Dean would probably be able to smell him – which seems weird but it would be a good idea to make sure that Cas doesn’t stink before Dean gets too far into his crush.

And that right there is some Grade-A bullshittery because just from looking at Cas you can tell that he’s gotta smell like something heavenly. Cas lives above a café that has sells baking on par with his Mom’s. If he didn’t smell like fresh baked apple pie twenty-four-seven, then Dean will eat a handful of freshly gutted pumpkin strings.

Of course it has to be that exact moment when the pumpkin decides to get revenge for his thoughts. It must’ve heard him, because the fucker decides right then and there that it’s a good idea to slip in his hands. And that causes the scoop in his hand to come flicking out of it. To Dean’s horror, the goddamn seeds and strings splatter everywhere. He could have handled it if the only thing they ended up on was him and the worktop, but of course that’s not it. But no. Of course some of it has to land on Cas.

Both of them freeze the moment it happens. The only move Dean makes is to turn and look at Cas, eyes wide and mouth open. He can actually feel his face heat up – going from his oh-god-no pale to why-God-WHY tomato red. Cas turns to him slowly, blinking in surprise. There’s a couple seeds stuck to his cheek, and some strings hanging from his glasses and a bit in his hair.

“Oh. My. God. Cas, I am so sorry.” Dean drops the spoon and resists the urge to reach out and start picking all of that off him. “That was totally an accident.”

Cas takes a deep breath through his nose, but otherwise doesn’t look angry. All he does is calmly reach over and take the scoop for himself. He scrapes it through the insides of his pumpkin before turning to face him again. Everything in Dean’s brain grinds to a complete and utter halt as Cas pulls the top of the spoon back with the composure of someone who’s done this a million times, and lets it flick forward. While Cas keeps the best goddamn poker face the whole time, Dean can only gape as he gets a face full of pumpkin guts.

“Now we’re even.” Cas hums to himself and puts the scoop down. He takes his glasses off to clean them of everything.

The only thing that follows that is silence as the two of them stare at each other. Eventually, a seed falls from the tip of Dean’s nose and it breaks whatever spell had settled over them. Dean snorts a laugh so hard that another few seeds fall. He has zero control over his laughter and he’s so lucky he doesn’t descend into pig-snorting hell. And, on the brightest of bright sides, Cas actually cracks a big smile and has a little chuckle to himself. Dean gets the feeling that he’s not a belly-laugh kinda guy, but this feels like a major victory.

He’s riding so high on his laughter that Dean doesn’t think twice about grabbing the spoon again. It doesn’t even get loaded up with pumpkin guts again before Cas’s smile drops into a squinty glare. “Don’t you dare.”

Dean freezes again and tries to look as innocent as he possible can. “Dare what?” If Cas is serious, then of course he’s not going to do it, but if they’re still being playful then he’s going to keep up this little food war just to see how many laughs he can get out of him.

“If you incite a food fight with me, Dean, you will lose.” The tilted smirk offsets the warning tone in Cas’s voice. He is playing and it’s making Dean feel like a giddy teenager again.

“Says who?” Slowly, and obviously, he puts the spoon back into the pumpkin and scrapes it against the sides to reload it. Dean’s feeling daring and maybe just a little bit flirtatious. Things are going miles better than he thought it would and it’s definitely going to his head.

Cas raises one of his eyebrows and the look sends a tingle down Dean’s spine. It’s equal parts terrifying and arousing. “Says the one who knows magic.”

Oh, shit. That’s right! Wait, wait. Is he going to – His whole brain stops working the moment Cas holds his hand out. Dean watches closely as he waves his hands over the table and mutters something under his breath. It’s too quiet and definitely not in a language that Dean recognizes, but it does the trick. Any seeds scattered on the worktop that didn’t manage to make it into the Tupperware container glow briefly before slowly vibrating into the air.

Holy fuck. Dean isn’t even ashamed of how he gasps out loud. This is awesome. He can count on one hand how many times magic has been done in front of him and he is super psyched to see it happening. It doesn’t last for long before Cas waves his hand again and the seeds drop. It was just a little display of his magic.

“Colour me impressed, Cas.” He looks at him and just knows that he’s got awe written all across his face. “That was so cool.”

A little bit of colour fills the edges of Cas’s ears and he turns back to his pumpkin with a shrug. “That was nothing more than a weak hover spell. More a bluff than anything else.”

“The damage is already done.” Dean shakes his head and grins. “You’re officially one of the coolest people I know.”

Cas glances at him again as he puts his glasses back on, eyebrow cocked again but this time in confusion. “Because I can do magic?”

“Uh – yeah?” What’s not to understand about how awesome that is? “Magic is pretty much the neatest thing ever.” And now he’s just making it obvious that he’s totally a magiphile.

“If you say so.” There’s a little smile on Cas’s lips that looks like it’s permanently engraved there, but he still shakes his head. “Now, I believe you were going to show me how to carve these?”

Shit, that’s right. That is what Dean came here to do. “Did you gut it good?”

“I believe so?” Cas tilts his pumpkin so they can look inside.

It looks good to him and Dean gets the knife they were using to cut the tops off. He tosses it from one hand to the other, not exactly trying to look impressive or anything, but it’ll be a nice bonus if that happens. “Okay, this is the fun part!”

Dean is just – he’s really enjoying himself right now. And it’s a plus in his books that Cas looks like he’s having a good time too. All that anxiety and the nerves he had earlier just feels so silly to him now. He’s making big strides in the right direction with Cas and it’s just – it feels really good. Things are turning out way better than he thought they would tonight, and he’s pretty sure he hasn’t made an ass out of himself! There’s still time for that, but hey, no sweat.

All in all, the night so far is definitely an A+.

*

Tuesday – October 27th, 2015

It’s two in the morning and Dean is actually whistling as he walks to the café. He still feels like he’s got his head in the clouds after Saturday night. They were carving pumpkins almost until midnight, but all eight were finished and test lit before he packed up to go home. Cas kept a few pumpkins worth of the seeds and guts while Dean took the rest because he had plans for it.

Said plans are currently in his hands in a gift bag labeled with Cas’s name. He swings the bag from his finger as he walks, just too happy with how things are going. Cas gives him the raised eyebrows when he walks in, and Dean definitely notices him glance at the bag.

“This is for you.” Dean puts t the bag on the counter and pushes it towards him with a smile.

“For me?” Cas honestly looks surprised. He looks up at Dean and then glances around slightly, as if checking to make sure that there’s no possibility that it could be for someone else. There’s no one else in the café right now, so who else could it be for, huh?

Tentatively, he pulls the bag closer and peeks inside. Cas almost looks a little relieved when he sees what it is. A smile spreads slowly as he pulls out a baggy of sunflower seeds. “You made these?”

“Sure did!” He puffs up with pride and holds his head a little higher. “Those are from our pumpkins! You’ve got a couple different flavours of roasted seeds, and a loaf of pumpkin bread in there.” And he hopes to high heaven that Cas actually likes them. “What did your brother make with what you kept?”

Cas shrugs and pulls out the other items in the bag to look them over. “Look to your left.”

His left? The only thing on his left is the display case and – “Oh, hell yes.” Dean was so focused on giving Cas his present that he didn’t even noticed the tangy smell of fresh baked pumpkin pie in the air. It’s cooling on the pie stand with a mesh cover over it and it looks amazing. “Please tell me you have whipped cream to go on to of that.”

“We don’t normally put that on to go orders.” He puts everything back in the bag and moves it below the counter. “But as thanks for the gift, and because I know you’ll be eating it shortly, I’ll make an exception.” Cas smiles and adds a slice of pie on the cash register. “I specifically asked Gabriel to wait to make the pie until you would come in next, and to have it fresh baked for your tonight.”

“You are, officially, my favourite person ever.” Hands down. Like, right now Cas is basically tied with Dean’s mom and that is high praise coming from a momma’s boy like him.

With a pleased hum, Cas continues adding from memory, Dean’s usual order to the register. “How coveted a title is that?”

Good question. Dean pauses so he can think about it. How many people has he said that to before? It can’t be that big of a list, can it? Aside from his mom, he doesn’t really have a lot of favourite people. Best friends, a little brother, awesome parents. They’re his favourite family, to be sure. But – yeah. There’s only one answer to that question.

“I honestly don’t know.”

“I’ll accept it with honour nonetheless.” Cas huffs a little laugh and shakes his head. “And I look forward to trying your gift. I’ll have some as a snack later.”

Damn, Dean was hoping to get an answer about them right now. “Well, I hope you like it. I experimented with the pumpkin loaf, but the other ones I made turned out okay. At least my roomies thought they were pretty tasty. I dunno if it’s up your alley or if you even like pumpkin flavoured –”

Thank the ever loving gods of rock that Cas cuts off his verbal diarrhea by a small gesture. “I’m sure it’ll taste wonderful, Dean. I’ll let you know how much they’re enjoyed the next time I see you.”

And that would be… Dean doesn’t the quick mental calculations. “I’ll be back Friday morning.”

Cas looks up from the register and his eyebrows come together slightly, a little wrinkle appearing between them. “Does that mean that you’re not working on Halloween?”

“Nope!” And he is so happy about that. “I’m free to hand out candy and hit your party afterwards.”

“At least I’ll know one person who isn’t an employee.” He sighs and steps over to start pouring Dean’s coffee. “I’m still rather undecided about this party.”

Aw, that sucks. “It won’t be all bad, Cas.” Because he’ll be there and he’ll make sure that Cas has a good time. If Saturday night was any example, then Dean knows that get along well and aren’t lacking for conversation topics.

Unfortunately, Cas doesn’t seem as convinced as he does. He just shrugs and continues with preparing the rest of the order. Dean is in the process of paying, and Cas is half done with the other coffees, when Balthazar pulls open the kitchen door.

His wings are up and vibrating, and he’s got his hands on his hips. “Cassie, that cat of yours is shrieking her head off upstairs. It’s only a matter of time before Gabriel tosses her out the window.”

Cas throws a glare over his shoulder and finishing putting the coffee in a tray. “Excuse me, Dean. I’ll be right back.” He turns to Balthazar and pokes him in the chest. “Don’t touch anything. I’ll finish Dean’s order when I get back.”

Balthazar holds his hands up in surrender and steps out of the way. “You’re telling me not to do work? That’s the best thing I’ve heard all week!”

Dean doesn’t particularly like being left alone with Balthazar, but he doesn’t really have any choice as Cas disappears into the kitchen. There’s an uncomfortable silence only broken by the sound of a door closing upstairs. As soon as that happens, Balthazar shuts the door to the kitchen.

He leans over the counter and drops his voice into a hushed whisper. “I have it on very good authority that you should go to the party on Saturday dressed as a flower.”

What?” No way. Dean already has a fucking fantastic costume.

“Dress. As. A. Flower.” Balthazar stresses each word, his wings vibrating even harder than before. “If you’re dressed as anything else, we won’t let you into the party.”

We? That makes it sound like someone else is in on this too. Dean has a hard time believe that it would be Cas. Which means that it’s probably Gabriel. In that case, he might just skip the party altogether. Nothing good can come of this and he’s got the distinct feeling that he’s going to be the butt end of some elaborate joke that they’re planning.

“I already know what I’m coming as.”

“It had better be a flower.” Balthazar points a finger at him and steps back. “I promise that you will regret it if you don’t.”

Dean stares him down, skeptical as fuck about this. A cold sweat spreads down his back when Balthazar’s finger goes from pointing at him to pointing at the security camera in the corner. Balthazar raises his eyebrows and his levels of smug rise with them. In his case, it’s Dean’s levels of horror that are growing steadily – and his blush.

He looks away and clears his throat. “Reading you loud and clear.” If he had any doubts whether or not anyone besides Tessa knew that he was the one leaving the origami, this has just cleared that up.

“Good.”

It’s some kind of blessing that Cas comes back before this can get any more awkward. He’s got the cat in his arms and he does not look happy. “Both she and Gabriel were asleep.”

If he’s trying to look innocent, Balthazar is not pulling it off well. “Oh, my mistake. It must have been a cat outside then.” He shrugs and sweeps past Cas without looking back, even going so far as to shut the door between them.

Cas squints after him, the epitome of suspicious. The last thing Dena expects is for that look to be turned on him. “What did he say while I was gone?”

“Nothing much.” Dean shrugs and does his best to look innocent too. He’s not stupid and he knows, without a doubt, that whatever punishment he was threatened with for not wearing a flower on Saturday will probably hit him hard if he mentions what happened. “He just asked some stuff about the Halloween party.”

“Such as?”

Well, shit. Yeah, okay, he probably should have expected that. “Costumes? He wanted to know what I was going as to make sure our costumes don’t clash. Sounds like I’m going to be the only true ruler of Gondor at this party.”

The frown eases slightly into a bit of a smile. “You’re going to be dressing up as Aragorn? I should have known that you would be a Lord of the Rings fan.”

Dean sniffs and looks away, trying to act all aloof about it. “I might be.” He shrugs and rubs a hand over the back of his neck. “I’m just recycling costumes from previous years, y’know?”

“That’s understandable.” Cas nods and kneels to put the cat on the ground. “If you have a costume you like, then there’s no problem with wearing it every year.”

“Damn right.” He drops his hand and flashes Cas a smile. “So, what are you dressing up as?”

Now it’s Cas’s turn to look away and shrug, going back to preparing Dean’s order. “You’ll have to wait until Saturday and see. I just ordered our costumes the other day with Gabriel’s Amazon Prime account and I should be getting it hopefully tomorrow or Thursday.”

Aw, c’mon. That’s not fair! Dean wants to know what Cas is. Although, his curiosity has definitely been piqued by one specific word it what was just said. He leans forward to rest his hands on the counter. “Ours, huh? That mean you ordered a costume for Gabriel too?”

“Of course. Who else would I order it for?” Even though he says that, Cas still doesn’t look at him. He’s totally focused on boxing up Dean’s slice of pie.”

The bullshit meter Dean has permanently lodged in his brain starts pinging like crazy. There’s something more Cas isn’t tell him, but he won’t push about it. He sighs, maybe just a little too dramatically, and picks up his order. “Alright, alright. I’ll stop bothering you now. I’ll see you on Friday, then.”

“The party is on Sat – Oh. You work Friday night?” When Dean nods, Cas’s smile grows a little bit more. “I’ll give you my review of your gifts that night.”

Butterflies hatch in Dean’s stomach and start fluttering up a storm at that smile. “I’m looking forward to it.” He tilts his head instead of waving good bye. “See ya, Cas.”

That went about as well as Dean expected and he can honestly say that he has never looked forward to Halloween night more than he does this year.

Chapter Text

Friday – October 30th, 2016

When Castiel rolls out of bed just after six in the evening, he’s already decided that today is the best Friday in all of history. The sun set not too long ago and he has a whole five hours to himself before his shift starts. That gives him plenty of time to do what needs to be done. But, first and foremost, he needs to get ready for the nice long walk he’s about to take.

There’s a hum in his throat and a bounce in his steps as he scoops Nike up from her spot on his pillow. She meows in annoyance, but allows Castiel to kiss the top of her head before she starts to struggle. He’s noticed that she isn’t exactly a ‘morning’ cat. Sure, she’ll become more active later, but that will only be after Castiel has been awake for a while. Even though she’s lived with him for a month, he has yet to determine how active she is during the day while he’s sleeping.

In light of today, none of that matters.

“Do you know what today is, Nike?” Castiel gives her a good scratch under the chin before he goes to his closet. “It’s been exactly one month since I found you and no one has contacted us about you! Do you know what that means?”

Of course she doesn’t, but he enjoys getting to talk to her nonetheless. After he’s dressed, Castiel goes to give Nike another kiss. He never knew he was this affectionate until after she came into his life. Unfortunately, Nike is not as accepting of his displays of love so soon after waking up. She rolls onto her back and smacks at his face with her paws as he leans down. It only makes Castiel laugh. Oh, how long has it been since he woke up to such a good mood?

“This means that you’re officially family now!” Instead of a kiss, he tickles Nike’s tummy at the risk of his fingers, withdrawing before she can bring out the claws.

She seems thoroughly unimpressed with the announcement. Rather than celebrating with him, Nike turns onto her other side and curls into a ball. It’s adorable and Castiel loves it. He loves her, and he can’t wait to debut the newest addition to the Novak family at tomorrow’s Halloween party. They’re going to look absolutely fantastic in their matching costumes – no matter what Gabriel says.

Technically speaking, Nike won’t really belong to him until he takes her to get chipped and registered. With the sunsets getting earlier and earlier, he’ll be able to go do that on his own soon enough. There are plenty of offices that have later hours to cater to the Creatures who can only come out at night. Castiel could easily go to any of them at any time, but he likes to send Gabriel anyways if only because he prefers avoiding those kind of situations.

Regardless of who takes her for it, Castiel is determined to get Nike registered as an official Novak next week. She’ll get a tattoo in her ear and a lovely collar with tags. He’ll put her name and their address on those, and Gabriel can put a tracking spell on it too. Just in case. Because Castiel is going to make damn sure that he will never lose her – not like her previous owners ever did, if she had them. And that’s something he wants to look into as well some day. Despite what he told Dean, Nike’s past is a curious thing to him and he’ll find a way to learn about it somehow.

Despite his good mood, there is a bone deep fatigue weighing on him as he prepares himself for the rest of the night. He’s going to have to take the sleep tomorrow and he is not looking forward to it. Although, if he thought about it logically, this is actually a good thing. Tomorrow is the Halloween party and Castiel is going to need every ounce of energy that he can get. He can deal with a trickle of customers throughout the night, but he’s never had to deal with how many are going to be at the party tomorrow – regardless of the fact that it’s not his overnight shift.

Tired or not, he still hums to himself as he prepares his breakfast and put something out for the cat. The dishes still go in his bedroom, but it doesn’t cause her to stir on the bed. She’ll come get it when she wants to wake up. Castiel even prepares a little snack for Gabriel – using the leftover cheese from his omelette to make him a small plate of nachos.

“Here.” Castiel puts the plate in his lap as he sits down next to him, ready to eat and watch whatever movie Gabriel is watching right now. “I’m going to go for a walk as soon as I’m done.”

“Thanks.” He nods and starts snacking. “Make sure you take your stuff.”

And by stuff, Gabriel means that he should take the protective charm bag and his cell phone. “I know. I will.” As if he ever forgets. The charm bag lives permanently in the inside pocket of his coat, and he’ll be taking his bag with him, and he always puts his phone in that when he picks it up.

The bag is necessary for his walk, though for different reasons than the last time he took it with him. Rather than taking posters out of it, this time he’s going to be putting them in. There are posters all over town and he is absolutely going to use as much of his time between now and his shift to take down as many as he can. It’s going to be a long walk, and he’s going to be half dead for his shift after it, but it’ll be worth it. No one will be able to claim Nike if there are no posters telling them where to find her.

After eating, Castiel puts on his scarf and coat and heads downstairs. Anna is busy with customers, but she waves and flutters her wings as he passes by. The first posters that he takes down are from the windows of the café itself. He doubts that he’s going to be able to get everything in one night, but he can go for another long walk after the party tomorrow. And even if he forgets any, it won’t matter. Nike is his now and that’s the only thing that matters.

*

It’s half past ten when Castiel finally drags himself back home. He is absolutely exhausted and seriously considering just closing the café for the night. At this point, it’s going to take him an entire pot of coffee pumped directly into his veins to keep him awake. Castiel doubts that he’s going to be do anything but the bare minimum for his shift, and he hopes to high heaven that Gabriel won’t want him to do any kind of decorating tonight. He just doesn’t have the energy for it.

“Oh thank God.” Castiel sighs happily when he walks through the door to find Gabriel up on a ladder. He’s in the process of added streamers to the cranes pinned to the ceiling.

“What’s that supposed to mean?” Anna leans around the ladder to look at him. Apparently her task now is to start handing items up to Gabriel.

He shrugs and gestures at the rest of the decorations scattered around. “I don’t have to do it.”

“Well, you would have had to help if you were home on time.” Gabriel throws a glare over his shoulder. “Where the hell were you?”

“On my walk.” Castiel shrugs again and heads behind the counter. There are three pumpkins spaced out along the length of it. The other two are up on top of the bookcases, in place of a few of his plants. It’s smart placing, actually. Now they’re out of the way where they can’t be kicked or knocked over.

Under the counter of the cash register, there’s a plastic box they use as their recycling bin for unwanted receipts and notes. He starts unloading the many papers from his bag straight into that box, hoping Gabriel won’t comment on it. Of course, that’s a pointless hope. If his brother is good at anything, it’s making unnecessary comments.

“I know that tone.” Gabriel goes down a step on the ladder and squints at him. “What did you do? What are all those papers for?” Castiel shrugs for yet a third time and avoids looking up, but of course that’s not going to work. Gabriel can read him like a book. “Why do you look guilty? Anna, do you know why he looks guilty?”

“Not a clue, boss.” She hums in thought and her wings twitch up, showing her curiosity.

They both stare at him for an uncomfortably long time before Gabriel groans loudly. “Oh God. This is about the cat, isn’t it?”

Damn. He was hoping it would take longer than 2 minutes in the door for that to be figured out. Castiel lifts his head stubbornly to stare him down. “It’s been a month and no one has come to claim here. That means she’s mine now.”

“Cassie!” Gabriel drops of the ladder with another loud groan. “What did I say about the damn cat?”

“I’ll feed her and clean her litter box.” He crosses his arms over his chest and narrows his eyes in a glare of his own. “And it doesn’t matter what you say, because I won the bet and that means she’s mine.”

Anna claps her hands in delight, but Gabriel obviously doesn’t share the same sentiment. He rubs his hands over his face and huffs. “And you’re going to leave me to take care of her during the day because certain people in this room sleep the whole time.”

Well, isn’t that too bad. “You agreed that I could make any decision I wanted. The cat is staying no matter what you say.” Castiel turns and starts towards the kitchen. He pauses in the doorway to glance back. “And, for the record, her name is Nike.”

“Knee-kay?” Gabriel’s face crunches in confusion and he glances back at Anna. “What the hell kind of name is Knee-kay?”

“It’s the name of a statue!” She smiles happily, obviously pleased that she knows this.

Sadly, it only earns her a frown. “Don’t encourage him, Anna.”

His reprimand rolls off her like rain on a leaf. “I think it’s sweet that he wants to keep the cat.”

Gabriel makes a loud gurgling sound full of frustration. It’s the last thing Castiel hears before he quickly makes his exit. He feels overly pleased with himself for standing up to Gabriel like this. No matter what Gabriel says, Castiel is going to keep Nike. She’s a part of the family now and that’s just fact. Confirmed all the more by how Nike is waiting for him when he walks into his bedroom.

There’s not long before his shift starts, but he still takes the time to play with her while he changes into something a little nicer than a t-shirt and jeans. Nike voices her displeasure when he leaves to go back downstairs, and follows him all the way to the door in the kitchen. Now that she’s going to be living here permanently, he’s happy to leave his bedroom open to allow her to explore the whole apartment. If Gabriel wants to keep her out of his room, he’d better start keeping his door shut.

Nike is family now and she’s going to be treated as such. Otherwise, Castiel is going to have some words for his brother.

*

Saturday – October 31st, 2016

The sun sets in the late afternoon, before six o’clock. It gives Castiel plenty of time to show away the feel of the sleep and mentally prepare himself for the party this evening. He fully plans to take advantage of his status of business owner to stay hidden behind the counter the whole night. Tessa, and Kevin later, will no doubt appreciate his help. Everyone is fully expecting it to be busy and Castiel isn’t really looking forward to that. He’s never liked crowds and he likely never will.

Gabriel and Anna finished taking care of all the decorations last night, thankfully. That means he can stay up in his apartment until the party starts and his presence is demanded. At least his costume won’t take too long to get on. It’s just a one piece jumper that zips from the waist to his chin, more or less. The only costume that will require effort is Nike’s. Castiel hasn’t tried putting her in it yet, which he probably should have. But she’s going to be cute either way and he needs her downstairs as emotional support while he’s serving literally everything.

On top of their usual fare, and the variety of pop they’re going to provide for anyone to mix in with the alcohol they bring, the café is also ordering in pizza for the party. So that’s just one more thing that Castiel is going to be serving. He’ll have to make sure that Nike stays away from that. She’s developed the habit of begging from Castiel and Gabriel while they eat, and she’s started doing it with some of the more regular customers. Particularly the ones that pet her every time they come in. If she doesn’t try to steal some of the pizza straight from the box, then someone is going to get a paw on their arm if they’re close enough to a surface she can sit on.

Castiel doesn’t care in the slightest if Gabriel or any of their employees think it would be a better idea to leave Nike upstairs. She has no interest in the front door and she’ll likely stick with him or stay on top of the bookcases. If she ends up looking agitated because of so many strangers, then he’ll put her back upstairs and hopefully she won’t howl like she does when no one is up there with her.

Until then, he’s going to spend as much time with her alone in his bedroom where he can focus on getting himself into a mind space where he can deal with a large crowd.

*

The clock reads almost ten o’clock when Gabriel all but kicks open his bedroom door. He’s carrying Loki’s horned helmet under his arm. “Are you ready, Cassie? The music’s going downstairs and Tessa says the place is starting to fill up!”

With a groan, Castiel rolls off the bed to step into his costume. “I suppose.” At least he had the foresight of wrestling Nike into her costume an hour ago, and she’s been adjusting to it well.

Gabriel tilts his head slightly and looks Castiel up and down as he zip up. “You nervous about this?”

Castiel shrugs and tugs at his waist to adjust the elastic there a bit. There’s a heavier weight in the back where his stinger is and it feels a bit odd, but at least everything fits. He puts the headband on with the antennae and turns his back to Gabriel. “Are my wings straight?”

“They’re fine.” Gabriel snorts and gives the mesh wings of Castiel’s bee costume a little tug. “Now c’mon and get your striped butt downstairs. I’ve got a surprise for you and it should be arriving soon.”

Now that catches Castiel’s interest, and his suspicions. “A surprise?” What could Gabriel be planning? Better yet, is he planning it on his own or does he have conspirators with him?

Gabriel simply shrugs and puts his helmet on. “You’ll have to wait and see.”

With every syllable, Castiel’s suspicions grow. He has never, not once in his life, actually trusted any surprise that Gabriel has claimed to have for them. It’s a fifty-fifty chance that it’ll be something meant to ridicule or tease him.

Castiel adjusts Nike’s costume slightly before he lifts her to his shoulder. She’s gotten a little bigger since he first found her, but she has no trouble sitting on his shoulder nicely. It’s likely the first time anyone will see a little ladybug riding on the back of a bee. If anyone judges him for dressing his cat up, then they can take their stupid opinions elsewhere. How was he supposed to resist buying her a costume when he saw it online?

“Oh Jesus.” Gabriel rubs a hand over his face and gives Castiel a disappointing frown. “You could just leave her up here for a least a little while.”

“If you want me to be at this party, then she’s coming too.”

“You’re impossible.” He sighs and shoves Castiel out the door ahead of him, making sure that he doesn’t try to find anything to distract him in the apartment.

As soon as they’re downstairs, Castiel immediately takes refuge behind the counter. There are around ten people here now, but there are more coming in and he can see how it’s going to fill up so quickly. He’s fairly certain that he’s had nightmares about something like this. At least he can escape upstairs if he feels too uncomfortable. No one said that he had to stay for the whole party.

Tessa lets Castiel take over making the coffees, but not before she leans in with a smile. “Guess what!”

Oh no. “What?”

“It’s a penguin this time!”

Damn. Well, it is a Saturday, so he should have been expected it . “Where is it?”

She points at the cash register and there's a little origami figure standing next to it. 

“Thank you.” He sighs and quickly tucks it away in the cash drawer for him to deal with later.

Castiel takes Nike from his shoulder to put her on the ground. She meanders away to sit at the end of the counter and watch the gathering crowd from around it. This will be more people than she’s had to deal with, so there’s every chance that she’s going to stay back where she’s safe.Isn’t this just great? Now he’s going to have that sitting in the back of his mind all night, and he’s going to see it every time he goes into the cash box now. And that also means that Castiel is going to be wondering if every person who walks in is actually his secret admirer. He really would rather not think about that right now when it’s bad enough that he has to deal with all these people. Hopefully the orders he’ll be handling will be enough to distract him from it.

After serving a few coffees, Castiel steps back into the kitchen to call up the pizza place. He’s been tasked with making sure that the order is underway and will be delivered on time around eleven o’clock. Everything seems to be going well on their end, so that’s one weight off his shoulders. Though, to be honest, he isn’t expecting to turn around and find Gabriel standing in the doorway to the café with his hands on his hips and the most ridiculous of smiles on his lips.

“Your surprise has arrived!” He grabs Castiel’s arm and drags him back into the front. There’s nothing immediately obvious as a surprise, until Gabriel points towards the front door. “And it’s right there!”

The only thing Castiel sees at the door is a person and that person is Dean. He glances around a bit before making his way towards the stairs and a small group of people standing there. Castiel recognizes their employee, Sam, and assumes that the older couple must be his parents. While that is all well and good, Castiel is very confused. Is Dean supposed to be his surprise? Because he already knew that Dean was coming. The only surprising thing is that he’s dressed as a flower instead of as – Oh.

“Now go and pollinate that flower, bee boy!” Gabriel throws his head back with a laugh and quite forcefully slaps Castiel on the ass.

Rarely has he ever felt the urge to murder someone has he does right now. If Gabriel wasn’t his brother, and if they weren’t in their work place right now, Castiel would hit him. Hard. If Balthazar comes within reach tonight, he might very well find his wings plucked within moments. Obviously this is what he was talking to Dean about the other night.

He turns to Gabriel slowly and leans in to drop his voice into a whisper. “When this night is over, I’m going to kill you and Balthazar.”

If he wanted to maintain an air of innocence, Gabriel never should have dressed as the Norse God of Mischief. “We do it because we love you, Cassie.”

“Clearly you don’t.” He hisses and leans in closer, a growl started to rumble in his throat. “If you did, you would respect my wishes that I don’t want a–”

“Whoa, whoa.” Gabriel holds his hands up in defence. “I’m not saying that you have to go ask him out. I’m just saying that you should go and at least make a damn friend. Everything else is just us joking around. Promise.”

That is not an acceptable promise. Castiel doesn’t want jokes about how he should go out with anyone. He just wants the whole topic dropped. It’s bad enough that he has a secret admirer that he can’t do anything about. Now he’s got his own family and employees going behind his back to do stupid things like this. That’s just – He’s just – Oh, but he is so mad right now.

“I carved pumpkins with him last weekend. How is that not friendly enough for you?” Castiel crosses his arms and kicks Gabriel in the shin. It’s the only form of pay back he can get right now where none of their guests will see it. “I’m moving at my own pace and I all I want is for you to respect that and stop pushing for things I’m not ready for or don’t want.”

Gabriel presses his lips together in a thin line and frowns at Castiel for a few moments. Eventually, he sighs and throws his hands in the air. “I give up.”

Finally.”

With a huff, he shoves Castiel in the shoulder. “For the record, friends can have matching costumes too. Look at Anna, Tessa, and Jess! They’re the freaking Teletubbies for God’s sake.”

That doesn’t excuse what he did and Castiel makes another kick at him. “Just go.”

He doesn’t like that he’s irritated when he returns to making the coffee. Castiel wanted to be in a good mood while dealing with the customers and their orders and – well, just in general. A good mood would have helped him quite a bit with surviving this night. Now he’s more than tempted to just abandon his post to and head back upstairs. It will mean that he has to pay Tessa, Jess, or Anna overtime so they’ll stay behind and help Kevin when he arrives, but that sounds better the longer he stews on Gabriel and Balthazar’s stupid scheme.

Despite that, a smile still finds its way to his lips when Dean finally makes it through the throng of people to get to the counter. He looks a little embarrassed for his costume, but Castiel has already forgiven him. It’s not like he knew that they were going to end up with some kind of matching costume. And he does feel comfortable talking with Dean.

To be honest, though, out of all of his customers Dean is the one that Castiel would be most likely to call a friend. And that’s not even including all the pushing that Gabriel is doing.

Saturday – October 31st, 2016

Halloween is one of Dean’s favourite days of the year. The only thing that makes it even better is when he ends up having the day off. Today is that day and so far, it’s been perfect. He might be calling that a little early, given that it’s only noon and there’s a lot left to the rest of his day, but he’s comfortable saying that it’s been pretty good so far.

Dean started his day with a breakfast of champions that didn’t involve Jo or Charlie trying to snipe his bacon and sausages. He was able to enjoy his whole breakfast all on his own and it was awesome. Charlie got off work at eight o’clock and didn’t even wake up at the delicious smells. Jo didn’t even get the chance because she’s at work and she is pissed that she’s missing Halloween. That and she’s missing The Graveyard Shift’s party, because literally everyone else who isn’t on shift is going to be going.

The rest of the morning was spent touching up all the weather damage to the decorations out front of the house. They’ve got cobwebs on the porch full of giant fake spiders, caution tape everywhere, and the pumpkins. The lawn has fake tombstones and skeletons and creepy lighting and it’s honestly the best decorating Dean has ever done in his life. He’s already put pictures of it all over Facebook just to boast because it deserves to be seen.

Since they always get a ton of kids, Dean has three back up bags that he hasn’t eaten yet. And that’s not including the bag already emptied into a bowl. It’s taking massive amounts of willpower not to snack on those. Which is why he should totally have lunch to occupy his mouth and take up the time between now and when he’s going to go pick up his costume from his mom.

As if thinking about his parents summoned her, Dean’s phone rings and it’s totally his mom. Hopefully this is a call with some good news. He answers the call while checking in the fridge for lunch fixings. Charlie will probably be up soon, so he should make something for the two of them.

“Hey, mom. What’s shaking?”

She sighs, but Dean can hear the love in it. “Your costume is ready.”

“You’re the best, mom!” It was so much easier to ask her to make it than try and rush something from an online order. If it didn’t arrive in time, he doesn’t even want to think about what type of punishment he’d receive from Balthazar and Gabriel.

Mom pauses for a few seconds before sighing. “Are you sure you want to go as this? It’s very… simple.”

“Someone hinted very strongly that I should go as a flower.” He shrugs and pulls out a couple slices of cheese. Looks like it’s gonna be grilled cheese for lunch. “One of Sam’s co-workers. No clue why, but I figured since these guys make my coffee, I shouldn’t ignore them.”

His mom clears her throat and signs again. “Sweetie, can I say something?”

Oh God. Dean stands up sharply and glances around the kitchen out of habit, looking for a place to hide because shit, is he in trouble now? No, no. He didn’t do anything wrong that he knows of. Instead, Dean clears his throat and goes for the glib option to test the waters. “I know you’re gonna say something no matter what. Hit me, mama.”

“First, don’t say that. It’s just weird.” Mom sighs, but there’s a laugh on the edge of it. “But secondly, you don’t have to listen to them. Peer pressure is all in your head.”

This is worse than he thought. “Oh my God, mom. Please don’t go there.”

“I’m just saying, sweetie. You’re going to look kinda lame.”

That’s a given, but she didn’t need to say it. “I’m hanging up on you now.”

Mom actually has the gall to laugh. “And how are you going to get your costume, hm?”

“I’ll swing by and get it in an hour.” After he’s had his lunch and made sure Charlie doesn’t stay in a coma until the end of the night.

“You’d look much more handsome as Aragorn at this party.” She sighs loudly, honestly sounding disappointed. “We worked so hard on making that one. Why wouldn’t you show it off?”

Damn. She’s going the guilt route. How rude. “It’s a heavy costume in a crowd full of people. I’ll be too hot. This flower get up is simple as hell. Green shirt, pants, and a head band. It doesn’t have a cloak that gets in the way and everything.”

Mom snorts in a totally unladylike way that sounds exactly like when Dean does it. “You’re funny. I know for a fact that you don’t have any green – Oh God. You’re not going to wear pajamas, are you?”

“Oh ye of little faith.” He sighs and shakes his head. “I bought a green shirt and I’m going to wear some brown pants. Y’know, like I’m a potted flower or some dumb shit like that.”

“But this costume is just so sad.” She huffs, and there’s that tone of stubbornness to it that leads Dean to believe that nothing good is going to come from it. “Give me two hours and I’ll spruce it up a bit.”

Son of a bitch. “Mom. Don’t.”

“You can’t stop me.” Her laugh is borderline cackle and it chills Dean to his core. “Two hours.” And with that she hangs up.

Goddammit. Dean rolls his eyes and tosses his phone on the counter. He’d be more pissed if he didn’t have some other fun things that he could for the next two hours. First things first; lunch. After that, he has an origami penguin to fold for Cas. Originally, he was planning on slipping it to Tessa at the party tonight, but now he’s got a whole new plan. Now that he doesn’t have to be at his mom’s place for two hours, he can go pick up Sam and drop off the origami at the same time without anyone potentially catching him in the act.

*

Dean waits until after he hasn’t seen a kid for more than twenty minutes and half the neighbours have already turned off their porch lights. He may or may not be the creepy guy sitting at the window and peeking through the curtains. Normally Mrs. Monahan up the street is the neighbourhood watch lady. She even has binoculars and a notepad, and he only knows this because she had him check all the smoke alarms in her house once. Halloween is the only time of year when Dean embodies Mrs. Monahan, but it looks like it’s time for him to call it quits.

There’s always something sad about going outside to blow out the candles in the pumpkins. And it’s only a matter of time before they start rotting and he’s going to have to throw them in Jo’s compost bin. He’ll hold out for a few more days before doing that. The Halloween decorations don’t come down for at least a week after the actual date. Then it’s time to dig out the Christmas decorations and have those on standby for the first of December.

Once he’s got the leftover candy stashed away in the kitchen, Dean heads upstairs to change out of his costume. Charlie already left for the party to scope it out for him. So far, she hasn’t texted him any details like she was supposed to. She probably got caught up with looking at all the sexy cats and nurses that come out to play once a year. Either that or she ended up going to a different party. Their LARPing group was putting on something tonight too, but Dean didn’t make any commitments to go – even though he is the only one who carries the honour of being the Queen’s handmaiden.

He fires a text off to Charlie to find out how things are going and spends the next few minutes changing out of his costume. The flower one that his mom made turned out way better than he thought it would. It’s still lame as all hell, but at least it looks halfway decent. Those extra two hours that mom asked of earlier was so she could sew him a collar with some felt leaves that hang around his shoulders. Despite her hard work, Dean still feels absolutely ridiculous once he puts the headband with the petals on.

Balthazar better not be taking the piss with him about this costume, or Dean is going to punch that smug Fae right on his stupid nose. He is going to be so fucking mad if he walks into the party and Sam’s coworkers (and one of his bosses) start to laugh at him. It’s already hard enough to cope with the fact that a bunch of different people are going to be taking pictures at this party and only God knows how many of them are going to have evidence of him in this costume.

Thank God that the headband is too big for him to wear in the car. He would probably die if he pulled past someone on the road and all they saw was an incredibly attractive flower looking at them through the window. Also, he can hide it under his shirt when he walks from the station to the café. Dean totally abuses his parking spot whenever he has to come to anywhere on Main Street. It’s just so much easier to park there and walk instead of trying to find a space, let alone having to actually pay for parking.

And, because Nick is working the shift today, Dean makes sure to hide his headband under his coat before he gets out of the car. The coat also hides his leafy collar. If Nick knew he was going to be a flower tonight, Dean would never hear the end of it. Ever. For the rest of his life. He would have to move countries to escape the epic levels of teasing he would receive. It would be literally a nightmare.

It’s at the door of the café that Dean decides he should be safe enough to put the headband on. He even takes off his coat before going inside, hoping to hell that he doesn’t walk in to uproariously loud amount of laughter that only starts when he walks in. Thank God that doesn’t happen, though. Dean gets two steps in the door and no one even looks at him. He, however, does plenty of looking and it doesn’t take too long to realize the exact reason why Balthazar wanted him to be a flower.

Standing in the doorway to the kitchen and standing right next to Gabriel, Dean can see it plain as day. And now he’s not sure if he wants to punch Balthazar in the face or not. On one hand, Dean now has a matching costume with his crush. On that same hand, his crush is dressed in the most goddamn adorable bee costume Dean has ever seen. On the other hand, he’s wearing a matching costume with his crush in front of everyone. If he wanted a great big neon sign about his feelings for Cas, this is it.

Shit, Dean needs to get out of in front of the door before someone notices he’s starting to blush. Fuck. Distraction time. Where can he found one? Ah-hah! Family! Sam is standing by the base of the stairs with their parents and there’s nothing like greeting family to hide himself and not stick out like a sore thumb. There are so many people wearing things on their head that his flower headband doesn’t stand out that much, thank God.

Okay, Dean takes all that back just because of the look Sam gives him. “Nice petals, bro.”

“You’re one to talk with your stupid antlers.” He punches Sam in the shoulder and leans in to kiss his mom on the cheek. “Nice head buns, mom. You’re looking great again this year.”

This is, like, the fifth year in a row that his parents have dressed as Princess Leia and Han Solo. Though it’s just a whole bunch of weird that they’re dressed as two characters that Dean has had massive crushes on while growing up. That more or less transferred over to Carrie Fisher and Harrison Ford over the years, but still. It’s just awkward.

Dad sighs loudly and puts his arm around Mom’s shoulders. “I tried so hard to convince her to wear the metal bikini.”

Nope. No thank you. That is not a mental image Dean needs. “Dad, that’s my mom you’re talking about!” Dean shudders and shakes his head. Leia and Han have officially been ruined for him forever.

That gets a good laugh out of everyone. As nice as that is, Dean still has the hibbity jibbities from the conversation, so he doesn’t stick around talking with them for too long. He migrates away after a short bit, looking for a safe place to put his coat. There’s nothing important in the pockets, since his phone and wallet are in his pants, but he doesn’t really want to just leave it lying around.

While he’s looking, his migration eventually leads him towards the station group where they’re just hanging out towards one corner by the counter and windows. All the tables that usually fill the floor are pushed up against the wall and out of the way. It opens up the whole café and even though it’s not that big of a space, there are definitely people dancing to the tunes. The lights have been lowered a bit, and it’s made just the perfect kind of party atmosphere. Gabriel and Balthazar clearly knew what they were doing when they were setting everything up.

Even talking with his friends is just to bide his time. Cas is busy with a whole bunch of customers and Dean doesn’t want to just walk over and start talking to him. It looks like he might not even get the chance to have a proper conversation with Cas tonight, if only because of all the customers. That’s kinda shitty, but Dean should have expected it. Didn’t Cas say that he was going to stick behind the counter all night? He’s not one for big parties like this.

Honestly, Dean might dragging his feet on going over there for other reasons. His friends and coworkers are already teasing him a whole hell of a lot for his flower costume, which isn’t ideal but it’s alright. He can handle that shit. What he can’t handle is if he goes over to the counter to find out that Cas might be annoyed at him for wearing a matching costume. The chances of that are pretty high, given how unhappy Cas looks right now.

Whenever Cas is talking with a customer, he’s got a smile on his face. But as soon as they step away, his smile falls into a frown and he keeps glaring down at his cash register. Cas is flat out not in a good mood, and Dean doesn’t want to know whether it’s because of him and his costume or not. Yeah, that’s not something he’s itchy to find out. He’s pretty good with just standing here and making small talk with his friends.

Or, at least until Charlie elbows him in the side and holds out her cup. “Go top me up with a rub and coke, and get yourself a damn drink already.”

Dean takes her cup and glances around. There are bottles of booze scattered across the counter, along with several bottles of pop. From what he can tell, it’s a free for all there. Some people are even adding the mix-ins to whatever they order from Cas. There’s a cleared space on the counter where he assumes the pizza is going to go, and that means that this little group is going to have to move eventually whenever that gets here.

Well, he might as well get himself something to drink. Since he drove here, it’s going to have to be non-alcoholic. First, he tops off Charlie’s drink and brings it back to her. Since she’s dressed as the Queen of Moondoor, he can’t really refuse her. Her LARP gear is her back up costume whenever she doesn’t have the time or the money to get something awesome prepared. Dean takes his time with doing that before he finally drags himself over to say hello to Cas.

When Cas looks up from the register, his frown morphs into the first honest smile Dean’s seen him give since he got here. It’s an instant catharsis for every worry he had for coming over and talking to him. Because this is the kind of smile that Dean is used to seeing whenever he walks in on a normal night. It’s genuine and he can’t imagine anything but Cas being happy to see him.

Even though he’s not worried anymore, he still feels a bit too awkward about their costume choices for the evening. Dean clears his throat and coughs, his smile a little shaky. “So, a bee, huh?”

“And you’re a flower.” Cas nods, but his smile falls a little. Thank God that it’s not directed at Dean though. Instead, Cas turns a squinty frown at somewhere over his shoulder. “I’ve come to the understanding that Balthazar put you up to this. I’m sorry that he dragged you into it.”

Fuck. So Cas’s frowns really were all about this. “I swear that I didn’t know the reason why when he threatened me into it.” Dean’s heart sinks a little and he rubs a hand over the back of his neck. “Sorry if this is, like, weird or something.”

Cas sighs and shakes his head. “It’s fine. Let them play their jokes.” He shrugs and tilts his head with a what’cha-gonna-do kind of smile. “Is there anything you would like to order?”

Good question. Dean looks up to eye the menu. There’s nothing really tickling his fancy right now. “Uhhhhh – I guess I’ll take a black drip, no espresso this time. I’ve gotta actually sleep tonight.”

“Do you want to make it an Irish coffee?” He gestures at the alcohol on the counter. “You just need to add that, but I’ll make it with the sugar and whipped topping.”

Tempting, but he really shouldn’t. “Nah, normal is fine for me. I’ve had enough sugar tonight.”

Cas pauses with typing in the order and looks at Dean from over the top of his glasses. “Did you eat half the candy you were supposed to be handing out?”

Dean can feel his ears start to grow hot. “Not half.” But it was definitely at least a quarter.

On the bright side, that gets a small huff of laughter out of Cas. He takes Dean’s handful of change and takes the order Tessa hands him. “Will you be adding anything to this at all?”

“Nope.” It’s not a night for booze for him. “I got work in the morning and it’s a lot easier without a hangover.” Not to mention there’s that whole driving thing.

He has to shuffle his coat to his non-dominant arm so he can take the coffee Cas holds out. That just reminds him that he’s still trying to find a good place for the damn thing. “Hey, do you guys have a place where you’re putting coats or something?”

“Not that I’m aware of.” Cas shakes his head and glances around. “If you want, you can leave it behind the counter with me. I promise we won’t spill anything on it.”

“You’re the best.” Dean hands over his coat without another thought and steps out of the way so other customers can get to the counter. He watches Cas put his coat on a stool in the corner and gives him a thumbs up as thanks.

Instead of heading back to his group, Dean stays at the counter and waits. He enjoys talking with Cas and he wants to catch up with him about the party. That’s not really possible while Cas is dealing with customers, but it’s not like they’re a steady stream of them. Dean just needs to wait for a break in the flow before he can lean his hip against the counter and strike up another conversation.

Thankfully, the gaps are longer than anything else and Dean doesn’t have to wait for long. “So, how’s the party been so far? Lots of business?”

“More so earlier on before the alcohol counter grew in number.” Cas shrugs and crouches under the counter. He stands up with the cat in his arms and puts her down next to the register. “I have some good news, though!”

His initial reaction to the cat dressed up as a ladybug is to laugh. It’s a hard snort that nearly makes him spill his coffee, but holy shit. Dean did not expect Cas to dress the cat up too. He shouldn’t be so surprised though. From what he knows of Cas, it feels like a very him thing to do.

Cas huffs and puts Dean on the end of his squinty frown. Apparently he didn’t appreciate the laugh very much. But that fades back into a smile when Dean reaches over to scratch her under the chin as a hello. It’s pretty nice to be in the company of a cat and not sneeze every five seconds.

“Hey, kitty. I didn’t know you were going to be at this party.”

“Of course she would be.” Cas runs his hands over her tail and graces Dean with an honest-to-goodness dazzling smile. “She’s family now and I would like to introduce you to Nike Novak.”

Knee-kay? Well, that’s a new name he’s never heard of before. It must be foreign, or maybe it’s related to whatever it is that Cas is? Oh, wow. Dean hasn’t thought about that in a while. There isn’t much about Cas that shows that he’s a Creature to the point that Dean almost forgot entirely about it. He’s about mostly leaning towards Cas being a Vampire, but there’s still a part of him that has its doubts.

Never mind that, though. There are other things to think about and Dean leans down to take the cat’s paw in his hand and give it a little shake. “It’s very nice to meet you, Nike. You’ve got yourself a great owner here. Try not to make things too hard on him, okay?”

Nike pulls her paw free and tucks her paws underneath herself. It’s kinda cute and Dean stands back up with a laugh. “How’s she handling the party?”

“Better than I thought.” Cas continues to pet her tail where it twitches back and forth on the counter. “She hasn’t ventured out from behind the counters. I think she knows that she’s safe from all the feet back here.”

“Smart cat.” He pats her on the head and turns to look at the crowd. “You got a decent amount here. Though the kids I saw tonight had better costumes than half these guys.”

“Oh?”

Cas steps back over to the cash register to help a customer and Dean waits until he’s done before he launches into talking about the kids in detail. There were so many different costumes – some good, and some really bad, and Dean had a bunch of fun talking to them like the King of Gondor would. There was laughter and grandeur and all sorts of fun. This was a good Halloween and Dean is kinda sad that it’s going to be over in the morning.

During the conversation, he digs out his phone to show Cas pictures of what his decorations looked like. It’s mostly to show off how great the pumpkins turned out, and that he got some compliments on them from the parents of the kids. Everything came out perfect and Dean is more than a little bit proud of how well things went.

“It sounds like you had a lot of fun.”

“I did!” He tucks his phone away and steps out of the way of someone trying to get at some of the napkins. “Since you live in an apartment, I guess you don’t really get to hand out candy, huh?”

His answer is delayed as Cas has to deal with another few customers. As soon as they’re out of the way, Cas turns back to Dean with a shrug. “I’ve actually never handed out candy before. I moved from a house to an apartment when I got too old to go Trick or Treating.”

There’s a sad look to his eyes as Cas turns back around to help Tessa with making some more coffee and clearing up the cups on the counter. It gives Dean a chance to think on this new information he just received. So, Cas has lived in an apartment since he was probably around twelve or thirteen years old. Whatever happened at that point isn’t a happy memory from him, as far as Dean can tell. Probably something to do with his parents – either they got a divorce, or went bankrupt. That’s the only reason Dean can think of for why Cas’s family would downgrade a living space like that. In fact, he’s kinda hoping it’s one of those two reasons. Otherwise, it means death was involved and that is just no bueno for everyone involved.

Once he has Cas’s attention again, Dean gives him a shrug and a hopeful smile. “Well, maybe you could hand out candies next year?”

Cas shakes his head and opens the cash drawer to start counting out the big bills. “I doubt I could. I have no plans to move out of my apartment in the next year.”

It sounds like someone is trying to be a bit of a Debbie Downer. Time for Dean to put on his optimism pants and bring Cas back to a smile. “I dunno, man. Maybe you’ll move out of your own place by then. It’s not like you’re gonna live with your brother forever, right?”

“Possibly.”

That’s not the answer Dean was expecting. And he also doesn’t like the way that Cas’s shoulders tense up a little more. These are apparently a line of questions that he doesn’t like too much. Alright then, time to change the subject. But it shouldn’t be too far off from what they’re talking about, otherwise it’s going to be obvious that he’s trying to change the subject and that isn’t going to help anything.

He sidesteps another customer to let them get around to the counter again, using that time to think of something new to talk about. Oh! Why not use this as an option to satisfy his insatiable curiosity when it comes to learning things about Cas?

“Hey, Cas?” Dean starts, but almost loses the rest of his questions as someone bumps into him from behind. “How old are you?”

Cas looks up from putting a bunch of money into a little ziplock baggy. “Does that matter?”

“Not really. Just personal curiosity.” And Dean is praying hard, hoping that it doesn’t give him away as being interested in Cas or anything.

For a long moment, Cas stares him down. After a while, he sighs and hip-checks the cash drawer closed. “I turned twenty-six in September.”

Shit, seriously? “Dude, you’re four years older than me.” Dean would not have pegged him as being on the other side of twenty-five. But, actually, that makes a lot of sense. There can’t be a whole lot of café owners younger than that.

That seems to catch Cas by surprise too. His eyes get a little wider and he looks Dean over from head to toe – or what he can see of him with the counter in the way. “You’re rather young for a firefighter, aren’t you?”

Yeah, that’s not the first time Dean’s heard that before. “Not if I aced all my tests and everything right out of high school.” Which he did, because he is awesome. And he completed those exams with top marks too, just like he did with school.

Cas cracks a smile again just before he disappears into the kitchen, probably to make a cash drop. Dean worked his way through high school at a gas station and he knows the deal. The café probably has a safe somewhere in the kitchen where they can request change or put their excess cash from the till. While Cas is gone, Dean tries to find a place near the register that he can stand without having to constantly be jostled by other party goers. It’s a little hard because the place is the very definition of crowded, even with people standing on the stairs and going outside to the patio.

When Cas comes back, he takes one look at Dean and pulls the stool out from the wall. He puts it next to the door to the kitchen and gestures at it. “Sit here.”

Dean can’t do much more than blink at him because what? “That’s the other side of the counter.” And customers aren’t allowed back there.

“You were in the kitchen last week. How is this any different?” Cas shrugs and moves Dean’s coat to hang on the corner of a shelving unit. “If you plan to stay and talk to me for longer, this will be a safer spot for you.”

Okay. So, even though he said if Dean plans to stay, Dean is pretty sure that Cas is doing this because he wants him to stay. Or, at least, he hopes that’s the case. And since Cas is being so insistent, it would be rude of him not to sit and stay. Dean totally gets a little thrill with getting to go around the counter when no one else does. He sits with his back against the wall and Cas stays half turned to keep talking with him while still dealing with customers wanting something sweet or needing a coffee to help themselves sober up.

Their conversation picks up again, but with an entirely new topic now. This time they’re focused on books again. Cas is particularly interested in whether or not Dean’s still enjoying the Elenium trilogy still, and if he’s started book three. Sadly, he hasn’t and that’s entirely Charlie’s fault. On the bright side, Dean also learns through Cas that there’s apparently a sequel trilogy called the Tamuli. That’s awesome news to hear, but Dean can’t believe that Charlie didn’t tell him about that sooner – if she even knows.

Of the people at the party, Dean has counted three Teletubbies. The fourth shows up well before eleven o’clock and relieves Cas from the cash register earlier than expected, apparently. Dean knows him as Kevin, the student who works overnight weekends. Tessa is also a Teletubbie, and Dean’s making an educated guess that the other two also work for Cas. It’s kinda cute that they coordinated their costumes together like that. It kinda makes it less awkward that he and Cas as kinda coordinated too.

On the bright side, now that Kevin is here, it frees Cas up to lean against the wall next to Dean and give him his full attention. Nike leaves the counter to meow at Cas’s feet, clearly not liking that she’s been excluded from their little pow wow. She even does that thing where she stands on her back legs and puts her paws up on Cas’s leg. When Bones does that, it’s because he’s excited to see you. Dean’s guessing that it has a different meaning with cats.

Cas picks her up and holds her for a few minutes until she starts squirming in his arms. His response to that is to put her right in Dean’s lap, for what little of it there is. It means Dean can’t sit with his legs spread too much. That’s fine, though. Nike seems used to it. She settles on one thigh and puts most of her weight against his stomach. He can actually feel her purring through his shirt. It’s actually kinda nice. If it weren’t for his allergies, Dean might consider getting a cat. There’s significantly less drool than a dog, that’s for sure.

It’s around that time when his phone vibrates in his pocket. Without disturbing Nike, Dean manages to fish it out. There’s a text from his mom including a picture attachment. He damn near swallows his tongue when he opens it to find a picture of him and Cas from what has to be a few minutes ago. They’re sitting and standing close together so they can hear each other over the music and the general hubbub of a crowd. In the picture, Dean is looking up at Cas while they’re talking. It’s actually a really nice picture, but it’s the message that makes him blush.

You two look cute!

Son of a bitch. Does she know? She can’t know. Maybe she’s just commenting on the fact that their costumes go together? That’s gotta be it because Dean has decidedly and most definitely not come out to his parents yet about the fact that he likes guys too. Oh Jesus. He hasn’t come out to them and he’s been totally one hundred percent flirting with Cas since he walked up to the counter. His flirting is subtle as hell and might be mistaken for regular friendliness, but everything Dean does is to try and get Cas to like him so – yeah. Shit.

Well, he might as well show Cas the picture. But he needs to hide that message first, and he does that by full screening the picture and holding his phone out for Cas to see. “Look what my Mom just sent me.”

Cas leans in closer and his eyebrows rise slowly. “Oh. That looks nice.”

“Do you want a copy of it?” Dean tries really hard not to fidget or lick his lips or do anything that shows that he’s feeling super fucking awkward for asking that question.

His eyes flick up from the picture and Dean slaps on a hopeful smile. Cas doesn’t have to take him up on the option, but if he does then that would be a good thing, right? Maybe? Oh God, who the fuck knows. If Cas doesn’t want it, then there’s no shame in that.

“Are you going to e-mail it to me?” Cas tilts his head slightly and stands straight again.

Oh, yeah, well obviously that’s what he could do. He does have the café’s e-mail. But that means Gabriel will get it too and if he sees it, only God knows how much teasing would come out of that. He and Balthazar have already heavily hinted that they know he’s the one who’s leaving the origami. Y’know, fuck it. He’s going to take the goddamn plunge right now.

“I could, or, y’know –” Dean takes a deep breath and throws the idea out there. “Maybe I could text it to you instead?”

This time it’s only one of Cas’s eyebrows that goes up. Dean doesn’t miss how he also takes a quick side glance out at the crowd as if he’s looking for someone. It’s all the more obvious that he doesn’t want someone to overhear, because the next thing he says is in a low whisper. “Dean, are you asking for my phone number?”

Fuck. Why did he have to say it outright like that? Now Dean is pretty sure that he can literally taste his heart and there’s a massive fucking lump sitting in his throat. He has to swallow around it to get out any actual words. “I – Maybe? I mean, if you wanna exchange ‘em, that is.” Dean shrugs and rubs a hand over the back of his neck. “We could talk more about books and stuff. Or, I dunno, I think it would be cool to hang out with you outside of being your customer and – yeah.”

Goddammit, now he’s rambling. Please, God, someone shut him the fuck up. “Last weekend was fun, so I thought – just –” Retreat. “I dunno. Never mind. I’ll just send it by e-mail.”

Instead of suffering under the squinty look of doom, he chooses to focuses on his phone and starts the process of saving the image to his phone before he can add it as an attachment to an e-mail. Dean gets to the point where he can type in the e-mail address when Cas plucks the phone from his hands. He looks up and watches, mouth open, as Cas fiddles with it for a short bit before handing it back. Is it too much to hope that he put his number in instead of just typing the e-mail for him?

Dean honest to God holds his breath as he peeks at the screen to see what Cas did. His heart damn near stops when he sees that the phonebook is open and right there under the ‘C’ section is a new entry: Castiel Novak. There’s a phone number, and a personal e-mail address, and oh sweet pie Dean just got Cas’s phone number. Hope is alive and thriving and the world is rosy and bright. This is the best thing ever and he needs someone to tell him right now if he’s smiling like a fucking lunatic or not.

It takes three separate tries to get his thumb to hit the right buttons and send Cas an emoji of a flower. Just for shits and giggles, and to make sure that he’s not being fucked with here and it’s a fake number or something. A few seconds later, Cas’s phone bings from under the counter and Kevin hands it back to him. Cas glances at the screen and a smile makes his nose crinkle. After a few taps and another handful of seconds, Dean gets a ladybug in response.

Holy shit, this is real. This is actually happening. This is Cas’s phone number and in giving it he’s agreed that he would like to see more of Dean too. They could feasibly go out together and have pizza, or see a movie, or find a dark place to pull Dean’s car over in and make out like teenagers. Okay, that last one is less likely and wasn’t really on the board to begin with, but it’s still a damn good idea and Dean would be totally down for it.

This is a step in the right direction and Dean is happy as all hell to have it. He has to physically hold himself back from whistling as he sends Cas the promised picture. Dean waits for the perfect opportunity before he holds up his phone and takes a picture of Cas in his bee costume. It’s only from the shoulders up, but he’s got the antennae, and the wings in the picture and it’s pretty perfect. Cas, on the other hand, doesn’t seem to think so. He frowns at Dean while he takes his time with setting it as his display picture.

In retaliation, Cas takes a picture of Dean with his stupid flower collar and headband, and puts that as his display picture too. They’ll both probably change them someday, but it’s fucking great right now. For as serious as he tries to look at the moment, Cas still has a smile at the edge of his mouth. It looks like he’s actually enjoying himself and Dean couldn’t stop himself from grinning if he wanted to.

There is literally nothing that could ruin this night for him now because he’s got Cas’s phone number and that’s the greatest fucking thing ever.

Chapter Text

  Friday – November 6 th , 2015

Castiel knew that this was something that could happen after starting a job where he's surrounded by baked goods and coffee. He knew it might happen, and he should have had precautions in place so it wouldn't, but it has. When he woke up this evening, he weighed himself after his morning ritual and found that he's gained more pounds than he's comfortable with. There's a pudge around his belly now and he isn't happy with it.

While he believes all bodies are beautiful in their own ways, Castiel just much prefers his own to be rather fit. Though he's not really a stickler for exercise, he does like to keep in shape for various reasons. In particular, he wants to be in ready in case he bumps into anyone on the street that he needs to run from – especially Witches . He won't be able to get away as quickly if he lets himself get lazy and continues to eat more treats than he burns off. 

His sporadic walks are worse in the winter and now it's become obvious that they're apparently not enough to keep him fit like he was before they opened the café. Even though Gabriel has been baking sweets for ages, Castiel didn't eat as many back then. In fact, Gabriel was the one who ate the majority of everything he made. It's just an entirely different situation when Castiel is working next to a display case full of them for a whole eight hours and doesn't often have all that much to do besides eat.

As such, Castiel decided that before he eats breakfast, he would do a little bit of exercise to try and deal with that pudge. Which is why he's on the floor between the TV and the coffee table and he's doing sit ups. Gabriel has the TV playing and he's sitting on the couch with his feet up on the table and a bowl of popcorn in his lap. Even Nike has joined them, however she is in a much more antagonistic position. She has elected to sit by where Castiel's head is whenever he's lying down and attempts to smack him in the forehead if he doesn't sit up again quick enough. It's rather fun and Castiel makes the effort to blow air at her or bop her right back.

"Do you have to do that while I'm watching my shows?" Gabriel throws a piece of popcorn at him and it bounces off Castiel's knee. Nike immediately chases after it and Castiel rolls onto his side to grab it from under the coffee table before she can eat it.

He throws it back at Gabriel and returns to his sit ups. "I'm only doing ten minutes of exercises. You can tolerate it for that long."

Gabriel huffs and slouches deeper onto the couch. "You're making my abs hurt."

"I'm surprised you even have any with the amount of sugar that you eat." Castiel throws him a smug grin the next time he sits ups and touches his elbows to his knees.

That causes Gabriel to sit up sharply, nearly knocking his bowl of popcorn to the floor. "Are you insinuating what I think you're insinuating?"

"I would never." Primarily because Castiel doesn't like calling people things that they're not. Although he does enjoy teasing his brother to no end. Besides, it doesn't matter how heavy you are, you still have abs. They're just more hidden than they could be for others.

By some miracle, Gabriel is one of those lucky few who can eat whatever they want and never seem to gain an ounce. He's stockier than Castiel is, but by no stretch of the imagination would he ever be considered on the heavy side of the weight spectrum for someone of his height. Honestly, Castiel is a little envious of him. If he could be as lazy as he sometimes wants to be and still eat whatever he wants without suffering the consequences of such a lifestyle, he would likely do it in a heartbeat.

Apparently Gabriel feels that Castiel's teasing is unacceptable and deems it necessary to deliver some punishment. In this case, it involves a pillow to the face the next time he sits up. That's enough of a disruption for Castiel to forget the rest of his exercises. He gets to his knees and throws the pillow back with deadly accuracy, prepared for further retaliation because of course Gabriel is going to do something in return.

To be quite honest, he wasn't really expecting him to vault the coffee table and bodily tackle Castiel to the floor. Gabriel attacks now with two pillows in his hands and takes up position on top of him, attempting a windmill motion to continuously smack him with the pillows. In Castiel's struggles to deflect the fluffy weapons, the coffee table gets kicked into the couch. Nike meows in surprise and bolts across their small living room to hide underneath the desk.

A wrestling match of epic proportions follows Gabriel's attack. It lasts for an unknown amount of time and a few bruises are incurred during the period of pillow warfare. Unfortunately, casualties do occur, although it doesn’t stop them from rolling around and wrestling with one another. This time, the casualties are a few plants that happen to get knocked over. Thankfully, it will only take a few of Gabriel's spells to clean them up as good as new. Magic makes cleaning up messes like that exceptionally easy and Castiel is eternally grateful that one of them knows the spells to do it.

The only thing that brings their wrestling to an official end is the text tone on Castiel's phone. He could have ended things with his superior strength at any time, but he likes to let Gabriel think he has a chance and humour him for a while. If he had put more effort in, then perhaps he might have been the first to reach his phone. In this particular case, Gabriel is confident enough to attempt to smother Castiel with a pillow so he can successfully get his grubby hands on the phone first.

"It's your new best friend!" He cackles with delight and rolls away to give himself the time to actually open the message and read it.

"Give me that!" Castiel gets up after him, vowing to put a pass code on his phone now that he actually has someone messaging him who isn't related to him.

Previously, Gabriel was the only one who would message him regularly. On the rare occasion, one of their employees might text him. But they've only been open for a few months and the only time he got a message from an employee was one weekend when Kevin thought he might be late because of an issue with his ride. He ended up not being late, but it was still nice that he felt the need to notify his employers along with Tessa.

"He says that he's started reading The Sapphire Rose – whatever that is." Gabriel dances up on the couch and holds the phone above his head. "And apparently he's just loving it so far."

Castiel pulls the coffee table out of the way and tries reaching for his phone. "Gabriel, give it back ."

Of course that doesn't work. There is no tone in the world that would make Gabriel actually listen. "Oh look, another message! He says he hopes that you have a good shift tonight and that you won't be too bored without him ."

The glee in his voice is the last straw. Castiel hates to do it, but he uses his creature strength to pull Gabriel down from his perch on the couch. With no effort at all, he wrestles him to the ground and pins him on his stomach. He sits across Gabriel's back and plucks the phone from his hands. After a quick review of his messages, Castiel reaches down to pinch Gabriel in the sides. Dean didn't write anything of the sort about being bored tonight without him. Apparently Gabriel just felt the need to be an utter jackass and tease him for giving Dean his phone number in the first place.

It's been a week since the Halloween party and he's likely never going to hear the end of the teasing. Gabriel spent the night after the party passed out drunk on his bed, and that's quite the feat given that the party went for an obscenely long time. They didn't really have an end decided for it and, since the café never closes, the party just continued until it was apparent that everyone had left and they had run out of food to give. Castiel made the choice to stay behind and help Kevin clean up, and he's glad he did. It meant he didn't have to listen to Gabriel throwing up his poor decisions in the bathroom.

"Get off. Get off!" Gabriel kicks and flails under him, but Castiel doesn't budge as he takes the time to type out a response to Dean's message.

Now that the thrashing about has ended, Nike emerges from her hiding place and starts to pounce and nip at Gabriel's fingers. He starts flailing and complaining even more, but Castiel ignores it while he send his message. "Good girl, Nike."

I'm glad to hear you're enjoying the books. I hope to start reading The Elenium soon so we can talk about it more. Sleep well and enjoy your shift tomorrow.

Castiel has to admit that he's surprised himself with how easy he's fallen into these short conversations with Dean. It had been a little daunting to find that, in the week since they exchanged numbers, he’s received a message almost every day. Sunday morning it was a message hoping the cleanup after the party wasn’t too bad and wishing him a good sleep. Castiel has responded appropriately and didn’t hear from Dean again until shortly after midnight when Dean asked if there was any pie available.

The messages he sends are short and to the point. Mostly observations than actual conversations.  They’re the kind that Castiel doesn’t have any social requirement to actually answer. Or, at least, he thinks he doesn’t. Dean hasn’t complained yet, so things must be going well, right? Hopefully. Even though it was a spur of the moment decision to share his cell phone number, he really does want to at least try this friendship thing.

As for what Balthazar and Gabriel repeatedly tease him for or outright claim regarding Dean’s true intentions… Well, he’s just going to ignore them for now. If Dean ever outright says that he’s interested in him in a different capacity, then and only then will Castiel decide on how to handle the situation. He already knows that no matter what his personal feelings might become in the future, he absolutely cannot reciprocate anyone’s feelings. It’s just not safe for them and he would hate himself if anything was to happen to someone because he was selfish enough to act on his feelings.  

For now, he’s just going to continue to treat his relationship with Dean as nothing more than what he sees on the surface. At best, they’re tenuous friends at the moment. He’s just not equipped to deal with anything else beyond that. Friendship itself is still a rocky and somewhat foreign area to him.

Gabriel slaps his hands on the floor. “Uncle, Cassie, uncle! I give!”

Oh. It appears he’s victorious. Castiel tucks his phone away and gets to his feet. He’s even a generous enough winner to help Gabriel up too. “As punishment for your misdoings, you get to clean up the living room while I shower.”

His work out is incomplete, but he doesn’t really feel like getting back to it now. In the future, he might just do it in his bedroom to avoid any further incidents like this. Gabriel sticks his tongue out at him and Castiel rolls his eyes. It’s not below him to stick his tongue out in return before turning away, effectively giving him the last word. Nike meows and follows at his heels right into the washroom.

It’s only in the last week, since he’s allowed her to roam freely in the apartment, that he’s discovered her penchant to join him with his showers. She doesn’t get into the tub with him, but she does like to sit on the edge of the tub between the curtain and the liner. If she’s not simply observing him, then she’s slapping at stray water droplets or playing with the edge of the curtain. Once or twice now she’s managed to get on top of the cabinet above the toilet, but not while Castiel has actually been showering. He’s not sure he’d much like the idea of her sitting above his head and watching him bathe.

Nike settles herself in the bowl of the bathroom sink while Castiel gets his towels laid out and the water heated to an acceptable degree. She lays on her back with all four paws in the air and looks as pleased with herself as a cat can be.

“You are so weird.” He makes the comment offhandedly while changing out of his clothes. It comes as no surprise that she doesn’t seem to care. “But I love you anyways.”

A purr starts to rumble from the sink and Castiel can’t resist reaching and giving her belly a quick scratch. Nike’s fur is coming in thick and soft after her shave and it’s sometimes difficult to stop himself from touching her almost constantly. She’s such a gorgeous cat and far too friendly to have ever been a stray. He’s convinced that she must have belonged to someone, but she’s his now and that’s what matters the most.

Since he can’t allow himself to develop feelings for anyone, he’s just going to have to funnel all his love and desires to take care of someone into the cat.

*

The hands on the clock show that it’s barely past midnight when Chuck shuffles his way into the café. He already looks haggard and Castiel wonders just how many deadlines he has to meet to look like that. Well, there’s only one thing he can do to help. The notepad is already sitting next to the cash register and he quickly writes down Chuck’s name and makes a mark underneath it. While Chuck is busy with setting up his laptop and binders, Castiel finds one of their biggest mugs and pours him a coffee.

He makes his way over and places the mug next to the laptop. “Here you go. I’ve already started your tab for the night. Would you like any baked goods right now?”

Chuck hasn’t even sat down yet, but he sinks into the chair with a happy sigh and drags the coffee over. “This – This is why I love this place.”

Castiel tilts his head, finding a shred of amusement in that statement. “And not because every employee seems to be named after the characters in your books?” He hums a laugh at his own little joke.

Almost immediately, Chuck’s shoulders stiffen and he lowers the mug from his lips. “Oh, right.” He glances up again, looking for all the world like a kicked puppy. “About that. You – um – you remember how that Fae employee suggested that I look into the history for my family?”

“Of course.” There isn’t much about that night that Castiel doesn’t remember. Rarely has anyone left such a memorable first impression as he did.

“Well –” Chuck twists his mug between his hands and shrugs a shoulder. “I’ve decided to actually look into it. I’ve got my GramGram on the case since she’s got family records going back, like, forever .”

Oh. That wasn’t exactly what Castiel was expecting to hear. With how Chuck had started, he assumed that his was going to hear the results. It’s a tad disappointing, but he’s still happy to hear that Chuck is trying to get to the bottom of this particular puzzle. “I hope you find out something interesting.”

“Me too.” He sags back in his chair with another loud sigh. “It would explain a hell of a lot if I did end up having some kind of Creature blood in me somewhere. I just hope it’s nothing dangerous .”

Chuck looks up at him with a shaky smile, and the only thing Castiel can do is put a comforting hand on his shoulder and smile back. “If it’s any help, Balthazar believes that you have some Seer in you. Have you tried inducing a vision of any kind? Aside from the ones that you seem to have while you’re dreaming, of course.”

“I wouldn’t even know where to start with that.” He takes another sip of his coffee and stares at the loading screen on his laptop. “I haven’t exactly researched into Seers for anything I’ve written before.”

That’s completely understandable. Not everyone has such an invested interest in Creatures as Castiel does. The only reason he knows as much about Seers as he does is because of the research that he and Gabriel did into them. They were hoping to find a Seer or something about them that they could replicate with magic. If they could use such a spell or power to find the Coven that killed their parents, they could give that information over to the FBI and they would feel just that little bit safer. But such a spell would have to be extremely powerful to break through the wards around the Coven.

“From my understanding of what I’ve read up on it, most induced visions are had by using a focus. That’s why fortune tellers and readers need to use crystal balls to help when they scry. They don’t have the natural ability to see like a Seer does.” Castiel tilts his head back and closes his eyes, searching through his memory storage for all the information he knows is there. “I believe they used to have the one they were doing the reading for touch the focus or concentrate on it to help their vision be more concise.”

When he looks down again, it’s to find Chuck staring up at him with a mystified look on his face. “Where did you learn all that?”

“Books.” He shrugs and looks away, heat starting to warm his ears. “The internet. Everywhere. I like learning about the different kinds of Creatures that have disappeared over the years. Things like Seers, Gorgons, Dragon-kin, Unicorns, etcetera.” And it’s best that he sum up the rest of that list in a shrug. His own species is a part of that list and he really shouldn’t bring them up in the case that Chuck might be able to do a little mental math and see through this disguise.

“Hm.” Chuck rubs at his chin and takes another sip of his coffee. “After I’m done with this book, I think I’m going to start some personal research into visions.”

Castiel nods along in agreement until an idea strikes him. “Would you like to try now?”

“What?”

He shrugs again and gestures over his shoulder. “Would you like to try to induce a vision? I want to know the history of the cat I adopted. If I bring her down and you focus on her, you might be able to see what her past was like.”

Chuck stares at him and open and closes his mouth a few times. After a drawn out moment of silence, he shakes his head and looks down at his hands again. “Maybe another time. I want to find out first if it’s even possible for me before I try to mentally molest your cat or something.”

That’s an odd way to put it, but alright then. Castiel shrugs and shakes his head with a smile. “I understand. But if you every want to give it a try, Nike and I are available.” Otherwise it’s likely that he’ll never get a reading done for her. He only half wants to, but he’s too lazy and his curiosity can be easily ignored. It’s just that he absolutely can’t pass up the opportunity to have it done for free by a customer.

“Well at least I don’t have anyone named after your cat in my stories.” He gives a nervous laugh and puts his coffee aside. “Thanks for the info, and the coffee.”

“You’re welcome.” With that and a final pat on the shoulder, Castiel returns to the counter and his unfinished cleaning list.

There’s still more than half his cleaning list to get through for the night. It’s only little things, but he wants to finish them as soon as possible. Castiel has a night of origami to look forward to and he’s excited to get to it. His cranes are coming along well, but he’s still far from the needed one thousand to make his wish. After he’s done his ten for the night, his goal is to re-fill the box of dragons. It’s gotten dangerously low lately. If he’s lucky and he works hard, he should be able to fill it up again before the end of his shift. Of course, that depends entirely on whether or not he gets a lot of customers tonight. Normally he doesn’t, but it’s also a Friday night and the bar crowd hasn’t let out yet.

For one brief moment, a stray thought crosses Castiel’s mind, wondering when Dean will be in tonight. He squashes it immediately because it’s such a silly thought to have. Castiel knows for a fact that Dean isn’t working tonight. In fact, he’s probably asleep in bed right now. He’ll attribute such a thought to wishful thinking. If it’s not already obvious to others, Dean is Castiel’s favourite customer. He always looks forward to the days when he stops in. What’s not to like about an amusing customer who makes good conversation whenever he’s here?

Actually, that brings up a question. When will Castiel see him next? He takes a quick moment to do some mental math while he pulls the coffee machine away from the wall to clean behind it. If Dean’s work schedule doesn’t change, then the next time they’ll see each other will likely be two o’clock on Wednesday morning. That feels like forever away and a pant of disappointment slips through his chest. Oh, but that isn’t so bad in the grand scheme of things. Castiel now has Dean’s phone number and he can text or call him whenever he feels like it. Granted, he’s never particularly had the urge to seek out Dean for conversation, but that could very well change now that the opportunity is available to him.

In all fairness, Castiel has actually been enjoying their short conversations had through text message over the last week. Dean is funny and he has quick wit. Of course, Castiel knew all that just from the short periods of time when he’s here. Halloween aside, their interactions have mostly been for periods lasting ten minutes or less. And despite that, Dean’s visits have been a highlight of the overnight shits for a while now.

If asked, Castiel would never admit to it, but he does sometimes wish that Dean would come in more often. That would mean he’d have to come in outside of his usual work schedule, but that selfish desire is still there. Aside from that one time when he woke up too early and had breakfast here, Dean can’t really come in on nights when he doesn’t work but Castiel does. To do so would likely mess with his sleep schedule and it’s imperative that a firefighter been properly rested.

Besides that, Castiel could never actually ask for Dean to come by more often. What if that makes him look clingy and annoying? This tentative friendship between them is too new and unknown for something like that. Although, Castiel does have to admit one thing – privately and never out loud – but Gabriel was right . Having a friend is rather nice.

While there are no regrets to be had over giving Dean his phone number, he does still wonder if it was the right thing to do. And yet, strangely enough, there is also a small part of him that wonders why he didn’t do it sooner. Of course, he knows the reason why he didn’t, but he’s perfectly capable of conveniently ignoring that particular fact. Hopefully Dean will never notice just how many insecurities Castiel has regarding their budding friendship.

He doesn’t regret his actions, but he’s just so torn on the matter of a friendship in the first place. What if he has to move suddenly? There will be so many unanswered questions for Dean, and that’s not fair to him. And how much is Castiel going to miss having a friend if he has to move? It’s been more than thirteen years since that Witches Coven killed his parents and there’s been no hide nor hair of them since. He and Gabriel are trying to make a home here now, but there’s always that one chance that they’ll show up now that witness protection is no longer in effect. Dean might not be in direct danger, but he still stands to be hurt by Castiel’s disappearance if they become close friends.

And that’s not even touching on the matter of species. What is he going to do when – if they reach the point in their friendship when it’s acceptable for Dean to question what kind of Creature he is? That’s something friends are allowed to ask about, isn’t it? Regardless, Castiel won’t be able to give Dean an answer to that question – and that’s for the sake of everyone involved. It’s only a matter of time before that question comes. Maybe Castiel should lie about what he is? Or should he construct a false story about why he can’t tell him?

Honestly, though, Castiel’s species isn’t really anyone’s business but his own. No matter how much he might end up trusting or liking Dean, he has too many years of hiding that information to accidentally let slip what he is. At this rate, he might as well just sit back and hope that Dean is too polite to ever ask about it. That is proper courtesy, after all. Actually, Dean’s been rather good with that. Which is just another reason why he’s Castiel’s favourite customer by far.

And that is something that he can never tell anyone. Ever . He would never hear the end of it if he did.

Wednesday - November 11, 2015

When was the last time Dean went to the café on a weeknight without a bounce in his step? He’s pretty sure he’s been whistling every time too. It’s just so goddamn exciting for him, even though he never hears how his Saturday origami is received. Last weekend it was a koi fish and that turned out fantastic . He was lucky enough to have a paper that kinda looked like fish scales, so he’s pretty damn proud of that one. This week he’s been practicing making a mouse and he’s pretty confident that the final one he makes on Saturday is going to be cute as hell.

There had been maybe a tiny bit of hope that Cas would have said something about it over text, but so far the only one initiating any text conversations is Dean. And that is maybe more than a little be nerve wracking because what if Cas just sees him as being a big annoying bug and he’d rather that Dean just - y’know - stopped ?

No. Nope. Nuh-uh. He told himself he wasn’t going to think about that. Dean is going to enjoy being friends with Cas. It’s obvious just from talking with him in person that Cas is pretty reserved. Maybe he’s just not all that used to texting someone on the regular? This is just Dean’s personal observations, but he’s pretty sure that Cas doesn’t really hang out with anyone. In the many somewhat short conversations they’ve had over the few months since the café opened, Dean hasn’t once heard anything about Cas going out with other people.

It’s almost like he’s sailing into uncharted territory here. At least, that’s the kind of feeling Dean gets. Either way, this is fun as hell. He hasn’t had this much fun just talking to someone for ages . When was the last time he had to physically struggle with himself from checking his phone every five minutes during the evening? When was the last time he had to purposefully hide his phone so he wouldn’t send a million messages and accidentally make Cas regret giving him his number? It’s just so hard not to because Dean wants to learn everything about him and so far asking questions has been the only way.

Speaking of cell phones, his bings before he even makes it to the café. It’s just a message from Charlie begging him to buy one of a list of pastries if the café has them. Yeah, okay. He can do that. This is just one of the things he has to do now that he’s the one who always goes to the café on a weeknight. Weekends are the only time they actually do the draw to see who’s going to go get the coffee for the night shift. It’s no secret that Dean likes to go on weeknights because of Cas.

There’s still a hum in his throat as he heads into the café. Cas isn’t at the counter and he totally has a brief moment of panic because what if he’s not in tonight? But that clears up almost immediately because Cas is right there on the other side of the café, standing next to a customer with a pot of coffee in his hand. The customer looks like he’s been settled in for a while, given the spread of binders across two tables and the extension cord hanging off the edge so his laptop can stay charged too.

Cas looks up mid-pour and that genuine smile, no matter how small, sets butterflies loose in his stomach. Dean has to take a deep breath to keep himself from keeling over sideways because god damn does Cas look good when he smiles. Quick, he needs a distraction! Nike makes for a good one as she goes streaking by, chasing a paper ball. While cheap and effective, she totally needs some actual toys of her own. Maybe a cat tree in the corner. Dean might not be a cat person, what with his allergies and everything, but he totally believes in the art of spoiling a pet.

That should be a sufficient enough distraction and Dean pulls a hand from his pocket to wave hello. “Hey, Cas. Nice night out, huh?”

“Hello, Dean.” Cas nods in greeting and glances down at the coffee he’s pouring. “It’s been a quiet night so far. I’ll be with you in a moment.”

The customer’s shoulders go rigid and he turns in his seat to look at Dean, eyes narrowed slightly. He frowns and shakes his head as he turns the other way to look up at Cas. “Okay, now you’ve gotta be pulling my leg.”

Okay, what? Dean raises an eyebrow and stops in the middle of the café. Did he just walk in on some kind of beef? The guy seemed pretty focused on the work he was doing on his laptop, so why’s he suddenly so upset that Dean is here? It’s been a long time since someone sounded that unhappy to see him, and it’s definitely never happened with a stranger before.

“Castiel and Dean? Now you’re just being cruel.” The guy grumbles and slumps back in his chair, shaking his head the whole time. “It’s weird enough that everyone working here has the same names as my characters, but now you went and got someone to come in just so you could call him Dean in front of me? HOw hard was it to find someone who looks just like I’ve described him too, huh?”

Okay, who the fuck is this guy and why is he talking so familiarly to Cas? How often does this guy come in for Cas to not only pour him his coffee at his table , but to have this guy talk to him like this? Oh God. Oh no. Dean needs to reign himself the fuck in because that’s his jealousy talking and that is not okay. He hates feeling jealous when he’s in a relationship and it’s definitely not okay for him to do it for someone he’s still in the process of befriending.

That still doesn’t stop him from puffing up and walking over to defend both himself and Cas. This attitude the customer is giving is uncool, no matter the situation. “I dunno what you’re talking about, buddy, but my name really is Dean.” He opens his coat and gestures at his t-shirt with the emblem of the firehall on it. “I’m Dean Winchester, Montpelier firefighter. Do you want to see my driver’s license with my name on it as proof? Because I’ve got that too.”

The other customer guy actually pales a little as he twists in his seat again to look at him. “Did you - did you say Dean Winchester ?”

“Yeah, I definitely did.”

“That - that’s impossible .” The guy gives a little laugh that’s basically a nervous giggle.

Cas puts his coffee pot down and puts a hand on the guy’s shoulder. “I assure you, Chuck, there are no lies right now. Dean really is who he says he is.” He glances up at Dean too, looking at him from over the top of his glasses. “Though I’m rather surprised to hear that you used his name too.”

This Chuck guy keeps shaking his head, eyes darting back and forth between Dean and Cas. It looks like he’s on the verge of throwing up and it’s getting a little concerning. Actually, scratch that. This whole conversation is concerning because who the fuck is this guy and what is Dean’s name being used in without his permission? He’s not sure if it’s a good idea or not, but he digs out his wallet and holds it out for Chuck to read, along with his badge that shows he’s a firefighter.

That doesn’t seem to help matters. Chuck just licks his lips and swallows loudly. “Next you’re going to tell me that you’ve got a younger brother named -”

“Sam Winchester?” This is very confusing and not at all what Dean expected to walk in on today. Should he be calling the cops on a stalker or something?

If possible, Chuck actually pales even more and he starts swaying in his seat. “I need to sit down.”

“You are sitting.” And there’s Cas, ever helpful as always.

Alright, that’s enough. This is getting too weird for even Dean. “Someone care to explain to me what in the heck is going on here?” To make his point out how serious he is with some exposition here, he puts his hands on his hips and squares his shoulders like he’s a goddamn superhero.

Cas sighs and he stands up straight again. While Chuck continues to quiver in his seat, Cas gets right into the thick of the situation. He explains in quick, short words about how Chuck is apparently the writer of a book series called Supernatural . After hearing the whole story, Dean is still torn about whether or not he should believe all this. Like, seriously, what are the chances? And if Chuck does have Creature blood in him that gives him these kind of visions, why in the hell would they all be focused on everyone who comes in and out of The Graveyard Shift ?

He steps in a little closer to Cas and drops his voice into a whisper. “So, this isn’t something that I should be worried about?” Because if this guy knows Sam’s name too, then that’s definitely a cause for concern.

Apparently his whisper wasn’t soft enough, because Chuck definitely heard it. He shakes his head and picks up his coffee mug to hold between both hands. “Far as we know, it’s just a massive coincidence until I find out whether or not I have Creature blood.”

Well, either way, Dean is going to worry about this. Sam actually works here and if they have some kind of stalker writing stories with everyone’s names in it, than that’s fucked up. Even more so because Dean doesn’t work here and his name is apparently in those books too. He’s going to have to look them up and see just how meta this shit goes. The name of the series sounds familiar too, actually. Maybe he’s heard of it before? But from where?

“Well, alright then.” Dean shrugs, but he’s still completely and utterly suspicious of this whole situation. Charlie is going to hear all about it as soon as he gets back to the station, just so he can get her opinion on it. “Hey, Cas, can I get some coffee and stuff before Charlie crawls up my ass for taking too long?” He jerks a thumb over his shoulder at the counter, because he really is starting to push the limit of how long he should stay away from the station.

“Oh!” Cas grabs the coffee pot and starts towards the counter. “Yes, of course. I’m sorry, Dean.”

“It’s fine, don’t worry about it.” He flashes Cas a bright grin and checks the display case. “I’ll take my usual, Charlie’s usual, and three slices of that cherry pie.” Because screw the dainties. Pie is where it’s at and Charlie will damn well eat it.

It’s while listening to Cas pour the first of the coffees that Dean gets hit with the very real realization that his mouth is dry as hell . He’s thirsty and a nice cold cup of water actually sounds really great right now. His coffee is on the way, but will that really quench the thirst? How awkward would it be to ask for a cup of water while he waits for Charlie’s foam macchiato with caramel or whatever it is that she gets? Couldn’t hurt to ask. The worst thing Cas could do is tell him he’d have to buy a bottle of water.

“Hey, Cas? Is it - could I get a cup of water while you’re working on the rest of that?”

“Of course.” He steps to the side, pours a paper cup of water from the machine, and hands that over.

“Thanks!” Dean downs it before Cas can even get back to making Charlie’s drink. “I’m, like, crazy thirsty right now.” And he hates it when he feels like this.

Cas looks back over his shoulder at him with a frown. “Did you eat something salty before coming here?”

“Oh yeah, I definitely had something salty.” Before coming over here, Dean totally polished off a whole bowl of pretzels while Charlie was teaching him how to play Magic the Gathering. Apparently he’s just not nerdy enough for her liking. She’s just lucky that everything she introduces him to is fun as fuck.

He’s halfway through his second cup of water after call refilled it when he realizes that he’s on the receiving end of a very weird look. Cas has his head tilted to the side and both eyebrows are raised. If that isn’t a dead give away, he hasn’t turned back to finish with Charlie’s drink.

Shit, now Dean’s feeling self-conscious. Did he dribble? God, don’t let him have dribbled in front of Cas. “What? What’s wrong?”

Cas’s eyebrows drop and he narrows his eyes into a suspicious and kinda chilling squint. The kind of squint that Dewan does not want to be on the receiving end of. “Was that a sexual joke?”

That would have been a spit-take moment if Dean was dumb enough to try for a sip right then. “What? No!” He shakes his head hard enough to cause some whiplash. “It was because of pretzels . I hate a ton of them earlier and just - No. Jesus, no.”

“Oh.” Right away, Cas ducks his head with a blush and turns back to the coffee. “I see. Never mind, then.”

Dean downs the second cup of water like it’s a shot of whiskey to try and fix his nerves up some. He takes a deep breath and shakes his head. “It’s alright. I should’ve specified before I said anything. I mean - I wouldn’t just make a joke like that. We just - I don’t even know if we’re friends enough to start cracking sex jokes yet. And, for the record, I tend to make a lot of them.” Once he’s sure that the person he’s with is cool with those kinda things.

WIth a sigh, Cas just shakes his head and trays the two coffees. There’s a slight smile on his lips as he ties another dragon to Dean’s cup. “Let’s just hold off on that, shall we?”

That sounds perfectly reasonable to him and Dean nods in agreement. “Alright, but just for the record, so I know what’s kosher and what’s not, are you - um - I mean, are you kinda - well -” Shit. How should he word this so he’s not somehow inadvertently insulting Cas?

“Please, just ask, Dean.”

Fuck. He just feels so dumb for saying this, but he’s gotta know before they get any further. “I just -are you a prude? Like, do you not want me to reference or talk about anything that’d give a lady from the eighteen hundreds the vapours or whatever?”

The way Cas stares at him afterward makes Dean want to drop everything and throw himself in traffic. It’s blank and empty and utterly terrifying because what if Cas is about to come out and tell him to delete his phone number because he just realized that a friendship with him is so not worth it? And then Cas laughs. Right there in the middle of Dean’s mental breakdown of a crisis, Cas fucking laughs and it is utterly glorious.

“I’m sorry, Dean, but have you even met my brother?” Cas shakes his head and continues laughing to himself, as if Dean just gave him the funniest joke in the world. “Or Balthazar, for that matter? The two of them practically thrive on sexual innuendos.”

“Oh thank God.” If Dean relaxed any faster, he might just collapse.

“I would say that our friendship had quite reached the point where I won’t find it at least a little odd for you to make those kind of jokes, but it doesn’t particularly bother me.” Cas shrugs and carefully boxes up three slices of pie. “I should warn you, however, that some of it might go over my head. But that’s purely from lack of experi-”

It’s at that point when Cas snaps his mouth shut with an audible snap. His eyes go wide and his whole face starts going red. Dean can feel his own face start to heat up too because holy fucking shit what the hell did he just learn? Cas is lacking in experience? How much is he lacking? Like – is he – Is he a virgin ? There’s nothing wrong with that if he is, but holy crap. Holy crap . He honestly doesn’t know how he feels about that. All the power to Cas if he chose not to have sex or anything, but does that mean he’s not wired that way? Is he – shit, what’s the word for it – is he Asexual? How is that going to play in with this whole flirting thing that Dean’s doing?

“I – uh – duly noted, Cas.” All of this is shit he’s gonna need to be thinks about later. Now that he’s all paid up, it’s best that he gets the fuck out of here before he says or does something stupid, like pressing for more information. It’s all he can do to grab up the coffee and pie and not look like he’s beating a hasty retreat. “I’ll see ya later!”

Cas manages a quiet goodbye, but he’s not looking up from the cash register either as he finally enters in the payment. Dean doesn’t look back and he basically speed walks out of the café. He keeps up that pace the whole way back to the station before he lets himself stop long enough to fucking breathe . There’s a broken track of swear words spinning through his head right now. Of all the things he would have liked to learn tonight, Cas’s so called lack of experience was not on the list.

Dear Gods of all things Rock and Roll, please don’t let this awaken any kind of sexual things in him. By some miracle of God, he’s managed to make it this far without using Cas as fapping material of any kind. It just feels kinda wrong to think like that about someone he’s trying to be friends with first. Dean wants to do this thing right , if that’s what Cas wants too. Though, he’s gotta admit that it’s kinda an awesome idea about teaching Cas all the fun kinds of experiences he could have. Granted, Dean isn’t exactly experienced with doing it with guys in the first place, but learning together could be ridiculously fun too.

If there was ever a time when Dean needed to distract himself, this would be it. And to keep away the bad thoughts, it’s gotta be something pure. In this case, nothing is more pure than Christmas. Dean drops off the pie and the coffee with Charlie and takes her laptop from where she left it on the couch.

“Hey!” She looks up from opening the pie box. “What are you doing with that?”

“Shopping.” He shrugs and parks his butt at the dining table. His shopping list is all saved in his head right now, and he’s got a draft e-mail saved with links to some interesting things he’s found over the months. If he’s lucky, they’ll still be available.

His distractions start with the dog. Dean uses his saved links to find the site where he can order Bones a bone shaped box chock full of the best dog toys around and a fair amount of treats. There’s only one pet in his life and Dean spoils him just as much as he spoils the rest of his family. So when he moves on to them, he starts with his favourite; his mom. Since at least half of Dean’s nerdiness is inherited from her, he goes with a nerdy theme this year. And for that, he hits Think Geek .

This year, Mom’s gonna get a bunch of R2D2 items. He’s her favourite little robot from the Star War franchise, so he might as well get her everything he can find with that rolling trash can on it - said with all the love in the world, of course. In this case, Mom is getting a measuring spoon set, a kitchen timer, an apron, and he adds the droid salt and pepper shakers for the hell of it. There’s just so much stuff that he could get with R2D2 on it, and it takes every ounce of willpower to check out without browsing through the rest of it.

Dad is a little harder to shop for, and that’s why Dean started thinking about it months ago. He snooped harder than he’s ever snooped before to find something that he might need. The thing about his dad is that he doesn’t want anything. He’s a minimalist when it comes to possessions. The only thing he ever really splurges on are tools for his workshop in the garage. But after much deliberation Dean has determined that it’s time for Dad to get a new tool belt. His current one is ragged as hell and had to be sewn back together in places by Mom. And since Dad is so against change, Dean’s even going to get him the exact same one, plus a gift card or two for the hardware and liquor stores.

Out of all his family, Sam is actually the easiest to shop for. And that’s because he gave Dean a link to an online list that he updates throughout the year with things that he wants. If he gets them for himself, he takes them off the list. And if he doesn’t, then Dean is fucking overflowing with ideas for birthday and Christmas gifts. It’s just one of the many reasons that Dean loves his little brother. He’s such a helpful little genius and everyone should take a page out of his book and do this.

So, for Sam, Dean orders him a new laptop skin. Thanks to that handy-dandy list, he knows exactly which skin to get and what picture Sam wants on it – Bones looking super cute in the sunshine. But that’s not all Dean’s going to get for him either. There’s a couple books and video games on here too that catch his eye, and he picks out one of each. After Christmas, Sam will remove them from the list and Dean just needs to let his parents know what he picked from it, because Mom uses the list too.

Now that his immediate family is taken care of, it’s time for his closest friends. Man, this whole Christmas shopping thing is doing wonders at keeping Dean’s mind off of things that he really shouldn’t be thinking about. That little tidbit about Cas is still sitting at the back of his head, but he pushes it away with focusing on what to get Charlie because she’s just as impossible as his dad is. What can you do for the girl who already has everything? Hah! Red-head kick back to Princess Ariel. Charlie would so punch him for that joke.

Well, when it comes to the impossible to shop for Queen of Moondoor, Dean has one tried and true present to go with. It’s actually the only thing she ever tells him that she wants for Christmas, and it’s a renewed subscription to a monthly LARP magazine. He’s taken to the habit of wrapping her a magazine organizer with the receipt so she’ll know what it’s for. Charlie has this thing about organizing all the magazines by year and they’re just big enough that all twelve fit in one of the bigger organizers. That’s all he’ll get her for now unless he can find something that just screams Charlie at him.

Jo is a lot easier in that she’s also a minimalist like Dad is. She prefers getting something that won’t end up sitting in a corner for the next year. He hasn’t known her for long, but for her birthday Dean made her breakfast in bed and gave her a gift card for the movies. That was plenty enough for her to be happy. And that gave him idea for Christmas too. In this case, it’s a twelve pack of Big John’s Beef Jerky. No relation to his dad, of course. It’s a variety pack with the big bags and that should last her forever, if not longer. Actually, this is the kind of gift that he’s a little envious about and he orders himself a few bags of jerky too. Just because.

And now he’s almost reached the end of his shopping. He doesn’t know Jo’s mom enough to actually shop for her, but she’ll get a nice card and maybe some flowers from him if he sees her over the holidays. Unlikely, but possible. The only other person Dean considers close enough to deserve presents is Bobby, and he’s stupidly easy to shop for. It’s a one stop shop on Amazon to get him a box set of the latest season from that Spanish soap opera they love so much. If he’s nice, maybe he’ll throw in one of his bags of jerky too. After all, Bobby is the one who introduced him to Big John’s to start with.

By the time he hits the last order button, Dean’s still in the mood to shop. He doesn’t really have anyone else to get gifts for, but it can’t hurt to look and maybe get ideas for birthdays or next year. It’s never too early to start Christmas shopping. Although browser browsing is a lot more dangerous than it used to be, because Dean ends up looking at packs of fancy origami paper for himself if he needs any in the future and that just brings him back to thinking about Cas.

It’s only the beginning of November, but it seems like their friendship is coming along nicely. Would it be too weird to assume that by Christmas time they’ll be close enough to exchange gifts? How far ahead of himself would he be getting if he bought something for Cas right now? No, no. That sounds like a terrible idea. He really absolutely shouldn’t. They’re still teetering on the edge of friendship right now and getting something like a gift for Cas would totally be overstepping their boundaries.

Oh, but what if he gets something for Nike? Cas can’t complain if Dean gets something for his cat , right? It doesn’t look like she has any and that’s a damn shame. There shouldn’t be any problems with him spoiling her – probably. But what kind of toys do cats even like? Something small and squeaky like a mouse? This is going to require some kind of research.

And that’s how Dean ends up on a marathon of Youtube videos of cats playing with toys. Somehow, and he’s not entirely sure how , but he ends up on videos about how to actually make the cat toys yourselves. In this case, they’re knitted or crocheted little mice and fish that get stuffed with cat nip. Well, hey. Cas can’t turn down cat toys that Dean actually made himself, can he? He’s got a big ol’ tote bin in the basement with all his yarn supplies, and he could probably find the time to learn how to make a couple between now and Christmas.

Grandma Campbell taught him how to work knitting needles and crochet hooks back when he was young, and with a video walkthrough it should be easy enough to get the hang of things again. Dean won’t make any commitments for this right now, but he definitely saves some of those videos to his Youtube bookmarks. Just in case, y’know? They might come in handy some day.

With that out of his system, Dean gets back to his browser browsing. He clicks through what feels like hundreds of pages of gift recommendations and endless Pinterest walls before something else catches his eye. It’s a simple white mug, but the handles are black wings. Kinda like an angel. That tickles something at the back of Dean’s mind and he’s got the order page open before he even realizes what he’s doing. Oh, hey! It’s customizable !

Did he read or hear something a while ago about Cas being named after an angel? How awesome would it be if Cas had an angel themed mug with that and his name on it? The mug would be just for him and absolutely no one else would get to drink out of it. Man, this idea is getting better by the second – even though Dean knows that it’s the worst and he absolutely shouldn’t do it. But his hands aren’t listening to him and with just a few quick clicks and a couple seconds of typing, he’s got Castiel on the much with a fancy font. Directly below that he adds Angel of Thursday because why the hell not?

His fingers fly faster than his brain can keep up and in the blink of an eye his phone pings with the confirmation e-mail for his purchase. The regret is instant and Dean groans loudly. He drops his head to the table and bangs it a few times, narrowly missing the laptop’s keyboard.

Why did he do that? Why did he buy a thing for Cas not even a whole ten minutes after deciding that it would be pushing their friendship too far too fast? He doesn’t even know if Cas will still want to be friends with him in a month. This is the stupidest thing ever and Dean absolutely needs to lift his head to do the right thing and cancel that order . But of course he doesn’t move beyond banging his forehead against the table a couple more times.

“Whatever you’re doing, could you stop it?” Charlie calls over from the couch. “You’re being an idiot and it’s getting annoying.”

That’s it. This is Dean’s life now. He’s an idiot and nothing is going to change that. Even Charlie can see it. Okay, okay. There’s always a bright side to things, right? Dean just needs to look for the silver lining. It’s gotta be here somewhere . Like, for example, there’s always the possibility that he could just leave the gift anonymously like he does with the origami. Or would that be too much? The origami is just a small, playful kind of gesture where a gift like this is just – No. Never mind. That idea is as stupid as ordering the damn thing in the first place.

Alright then. What about if he just held onto the mug? There’s nothing in the terms and agreements that he just clicked through saying that he has to give Cas the present this Christmas. It’s well within reason for Dean to hold on to it until they reach a friendship level where gifts are totally acceptable and even encouraged. That’s not such a bad idea, but it doesn’t change that he still feels like a fucking idiot for the rest of the week – if not longer.

Hold on now. Wait just a minute. Hasn’t Cas technically been giving him a gift every time he gets a coffee? Dean turns his head to look at the little origami dragon sitting next to his empty coffee cup. This is a to go cup. Cas only gives the dragon to inside customers. As far as Dean knows, he’s the only one who gets the special treatment with the dragons.

Okay, this is good. This is the silver lining Dean was looking for. Maybe this whole gift isn’t as bad as he’s making it out to be. Now he’s just got nearly two months of waiting to muscle his way through before he knows for sure if he can give the gift or not.

Shit. No matter how he looks at it, this is still torture.

Chapter Text

Sunday – November 15th, 2015

Dean stretches out under the blankets with a pleased groan. It’s been a good day and he’s pretty damn ready for bed. It’s pretty late and he should definitely just go to sleep, but he’s practically ninety percent done with The Sapphire Rose. The temptation is real to just pick it up and finish reading it right now. He knows he shouldn’t, but oh God does he want to. It’s time for some extreme measures to make sure that he doesn’t read it.

His extreme measures are pretty pathetic, to be honest. All Dean does is roll over and put the book in one of his bedside drawers. It’s in that drawer that he finds his cell phone and he goes a little red in the face. That’s right. He hid that in there today too.

As much as he really enjoys this whole texting thing with Cas, sometimes Dean needs to physically stop himself from texting every day. It’s just – he’s really into practically everything Cas has to say. He’s just so damn interesting. There’s so much unknown to him. An attractive package of layers that Dean wants to peel apart. Not like an onion, though. Because onions make Dean’s eyes and mouth water (they’re just so good) and being around Cas makes his mouth go dry and his heart feel like it belongs better in a hummingbird’s chest.

On the bright side, at least he isn’t the only one doing all the texting. There have actually been moments over the last week where Cas sent him a message first. Dean doesn’t want to think about how giddy he was when he got those because it just makes him feel like he’s back in high school. By no means does he have any bad high school memories, but he’s not interested in regressing to those years. He’s plenty happy with the point he’s at in his life now and there’s nothing he really wants to change with it.

With a sigh, Dean exchanges the book for his phone and rolls onto his back again. There aren’t any missed messages from the day, but he scrolls through messages from the past few days. Yesterday Jo texted him asking if they had any peanuts. Her reasons are still unknown, but Dean let her take the ones from his private cupboard in the kitchen. There weren’t that many left in the bag anyways, so it’s not a big deal to let her have the rest.

Then there was a message from Mom earlier in the morning telling him that he forgot to take a box of things she had brought for him from the house. He’ll have to put it with his stuff when he gets to work tomorrow so he’ll remember to take it with him when he leaves the next day.

After her, the most recent message was in the early morning of his last shift and it was from Cas: You failed to mention the large amount of politics for both the Kingdom and the Church involved in the first book. Do they feature prominently in the future books?

That one had brought a smile to Dean’s face. He had purposefully not mentioned a lot of things about the series when he was discussing it with Cas. It was hard not to mention all the politics, given that half the plot is fueled by shady political dealings, but all that shit is easily worth it for everything else.

Dean had some fun with his answer to that message: I figured the whole mention of CHURCH KNIGHTS might have tipped you off when I was talking about them.

Because that’s what Sparhawk and the majority of his troupe are. And when a Church is involved in a story enough to have Knights of her own, that usually involves a fair bit of politics. Or, at least that’s how it is in Dean’s experiences. And thankfully Cas doesn’t seem to mind the background politics going on in the first book. Going by the rest of his text messages from that day, he’s enjoying the same things about the series that really drew Dean into it.

Seriously, there must be some kind of miracle at work here for the both of them to like the same things. Cas is getting a kick out of the way the characters interact. There’s so much sass and humour with them, that Dean finds himself laughing at every other conversation they have. Not to mention that the overall story is captivating, and there have been some interesting plot twists that Dean has carefully made sure not to mention to Cas either. They could spoil a whole lot and he absolutely doesn’t want to be that guy.

There must have been some kind of divine intervention that had Cas actually pick up the series just from him mentioning it. Though, maybe not. Cas is such a voracious reader that he’d welcome just about anyone giving him some recommendations. After they’re done with the Tamuli, Dean’s going to have to try and sell him on some of his other favourites. Maybe Cas might like all the word play that takes place in The Phantom Tollbooth, if he hasn’t read that already.

Speaking of books, Dean is almost done with the Sapphire Rose and he stopped reading tonight just before the final battle with Azash, the evil God that they’ve been fighting against for the whole series in some way or another. He’s really looking forward to reading that bit, but he’ll save it for his down time tomorrow because he definitely needs to get some sleep. Those eight o’clock start times are brutal sometimes, but at least he loves the work he does.

And since sleep is something he needs to get, Dean sets the alarm on his phone and rolls over to plug it into the dock he has on his bedside table for it to charge. With that done, he turns off the light and buries himself under his blankets with a happy sigh. After a jaw-cracking yawn and a bit of wiggling to make himself comfortable, Dean closes his eyes and lets himself relax. Hopefully sleep will come soon and this won’t be one of the nights where his brain just won’t shut off.

After a few minutes, Dean opens his eyes and stares at the outline of his phone in the bare light coming under his bedroom door. Did he set all of his alarms? There should be at least three so that he’ll definitely get up on time. Maybe he should check. No, no. He definitely did at least one and that’s good enough. Probably. Unless he somehow manages to sleep through it. That’s happened before, and that’s why he sets three on most occasions.

Yeah, he should totally check. If he slept through one and was late for work, Bobby would never let him live it down. And he doesn’t even want to think of what kind of flak he’d catch from his parents for it.

With a groan, Dean reaches out for his phone again. He takes a few seconds to check his alarm and feel vaguely victorious for checking. There really only was one that turned on. He taps the icons to turn on the other two and then lets his thumb hover over the button for his texting app. There really isn’t any point to him opening it right now, but there’s a worming thought wiggling in the back of his mind and he’s gotta deal with it if he wants to get any rest tonight.

Dean mentally curses himself out for being weak as he opens the app and selects Cas’s name. I’m almost done with the Sapphire Rose and things are heating up! Heading to bed now, so I’ll have to wait for it in the morning. Have a good shift and I’ll see you tomorrow night!

Okay, there. He texted Cas today and now he won’t feel so bad for not having said anything to him in the last twenty-four hours. This whole addiction to talking with Cas could get to be a big problem, and that’s why he has measures in place to keep him from doing it too often. If he comes off as too strong, Cas might withdraw back into being even more closed off than he is now. They’ve only been texting for a few weeks and Dean has made some massive progress. No one else might be able to see it, considering that all their conversations are mostly about books and what they’ve done during the day, but Dean counts every syllable as a win.

He’s not expecting his phone to ding again before he even gets it back in the doc. Cas always answers rather quickly: I’ll be finishing the Diamond Throne tonight. The Elenium has been very good thus far and I’m excited to read the other two books. I look forward to seeing you Monday night. I’ll make sure to have a pecan pie for you.

His hand is surprisingly steady as he puts the phone back in the dock. And then he’s very much not steady as he pulls a pillow over his head and wiggles violently under the covers. There’s a whole lot of kicking involved because holy shit he can’t believe just how good Cas is. He could be hiding a whole asshole side to him, and Dean could really care less at this point because pie. It really is the best way to win Dean’s heart and Cas is pretty much already there if he keeps this shit up.

Not only he is already so far ahead in the books, but he’s got pie and Dean is just – he can’t contain himself. He really doesn’t want to jinx anything right now, but he’s pretty sure things with Cas are going really fucking well. It’s just a matter of time now before Dean gets up the guts enough to make an obvious move on him. Maybe. Unless he’s a totally pussy about this, given that this will be his first time asking a guy out and he’s trying his hardest not to be fucking nervous about it.

Like, this whole origami thing is going pretty good, far as Dean knows. Tessa tells him that Cas always takes the new one he leaves, but she doesn’t know what he does with them. According to her, she hasn’t seen a single one end up in the trash yet. So, that’s gotta be a plus, right? Did Cas take the origami mouse that Dean left yesterday? God, he’s so tempted to just ask him about it tomorrow night. But, of course, he won’t. That would totally give him away.

For now, Dean just needs to bide his time. He needs to get to know Cas better. Hopefully there will come a time in the future when he knows it’s his best chance to ask Cas out. If that time ever comes, Dean needs to be more than ninety percent sure that he won’t be turn down. And if that time never comes, well… At least he got himself a new friend out of the deal!

It’s a win-win situation either way and Dean is more than happy with it.

Thursday – November 19th, 2015

Crashing back into the world of consciousness is never a fun thing. It’s worse when there’s a cold sweat soaking your skin and you’re already out of breath. Dean sits up with a gasp, eyes wild in the dark. He flails out to turn on the light, but misses enough times that he almost knocks over his empty glass. After a few more attempts, he finally manages to get it. By then he realizes that he’s most definitely awake now and whatever nightmare that scared the shit out of him is over now.

Even his legs feel a little weak as he slides out of bed and wobbles his way into the attached bathroom. There’s a tremor to his hands that he doesn’t like as he cups them under the tap to splash some cold water on his face. Dean’s a firefighter for God’s sake. He’s supposed to be made from harder stuff than this. It’s his job to face what most people consider a living nightmare. Something like a nightmare isn’t supposed to shake him so badly, and especially not when he’s pretty sure that it was a fire in his nightmares to start with.

Once he’s dried his face with a hand towel, Dean lifts his head to stare at himself in the mirror. Even after the splashing, he still looks pretty pale. Fucking nightmare. Why did it have to come tonight of all nights? Couldn’t it have happened yesterday night when he didn’t have work in the morning? Most of the time, he’s normally nightmare free. The chances of having one always grow the nights following a stressful shift where he’s had to deal with actually getting someone out of a blaze. It’s not a fun thing to do, but it’s part of the job and it’s exactly what he had to do on his last shift.

There was an fire in a townhouse on the edge of a suburb out of town. Dean spent the majority of his shift dealing with it, considering that it was just spreading down the row of attached housing thanks to the wind. They even had to call in extra crew and the volunteer fighters to deal with it, bringing in the spare trucks and everything. It was a piece of work, that’s for sure.

The only bright side about the whole thing is that he still managed to get a chance to go in and visit Cas. It was four hours later than usual, but there were still a few slices of that pecan pie left. Cas even warmed it up for him a bit while they talked. Too bad Dean wasn’t able to stay there a little longer. He would’ve liked to talk with Cas more to help him wind down from the shift. But there was paperwork to do and if he wanted to go home on time, then he had to get it done. Especially considering that it was only a few hours from the end of his shift at that point.

But that was early-as-balls on Tuesday morning. Now it’s – he pokes his phone to turn on the screen enough to check the time as he sits on the edge of his bed again. Jesus, it’s like two o’clock in the morning on a Thursday. He’s got less than five hours before he needs to be at work again and he is so not feeling it right now. Though that could be because he’s only got a couple hours of sleep under his belt. It would be better if he could manage to go back to sleep, But that feels more than a little bit impossible at the moment and he groans, dropping his head into his hands.

For the life of him, he can’t actually remember the details of his dream. It’s a strong suspicion that there was fire involved, but for all he can tell there could have been a Xenomorph involved. Given his history with nightmares, it was probably a fire, but he’d honestly prefer the alien at that point. At least he doesn’t have deal with those on a frequent basis because of his job. Though that would be kind of cool if his job really was dealing with Xenomorphs.

The Alien movies always give him the heebie-jeebies, but they’re lots of fun. Dean has even enjoyed the terrifying thrill from playing Alien Isolation, even though he has to stagger his playing of that particular game. It just scares him a little too much when a Xenomorph drops through the floor and prowls around the rooms while he’s trying to sneak through them with Ripley’s daughter. And, since he was playing that earlier this evening, it could totally have been a Xenomorph that fucked up his dreams enough to scare him awake.

With another groan, Dean rubs his hands over his face. Would Charlie and Jo be mad at him if he woke one of them up to talk through this? He just needs a little bit of a distraction before he can get back to sleep. The option is sorely tempting, but Dean gives up on it the moment he remembers that neither of them are home right now. They’re both working and he’s very alone. Which kinda sucks. God, he needs a partner so they can sleep here and cuddle him when he has a nightmare. Or so he can call them up and they won’t be mad at him for waking them up in the middle of the night.

Unless his partner is a nighthawk, like Benny. Or, better yet, like Cas! He wouldn’t mind because he wouldn’t be sleeping. Would he be annoyed with Dean for texting him in the middle of his shift? If he’s busy with customers, then he probably would be. Otherwise, he might actually be okay with it. Clearly his body thinks this is a good idea, because it’s already reaching for his phone before he’s fully decided on what he’s going to do.

It’s too bad that he’s finished The Sapphire Rose. He could totally have used that as a distraction right now, instead of bothering Cas. Maybe he’ll go break into Charlie’s room and get the first book of The Tamuli, if she didn’t take it to work. No, he can’t do that. He can’t bring himself to violate her personal space like that. Besides, he has work in the morning and if he started that book, he’d probably get sucked in and unable to go back to sleep. And he definitely needs to at least try again.

With a sigh, Dean flops back on the bed and tries to make himself comfortable. The phone is still in his hands, though he hasn’t really opened the screen yet. There’s still a slight shake in his limbs and he tries his best to will it away – until he realizes that the little light on his phone is flashing. That means he’s got a missed message, and when the hell did that come in? Probably while he was sleeping, and he just didn’t see the notification when he checked the time. He would have noticed if it had dingled while he’s been awake.

The notification is for a message from Cas. It’s just a short message saying that he’s going to be finishing The Ruby Knight tonight and that he can hardly wait to start the third book. That’s actually really impressive. He’s just powering through the books and Dean is maybe a little bit jealous of how much reading time Cas has. It took him a lot longer to get through the books, but that’s because he had to wait for Charlie to finish them before he could get his hands on them. And if anyone knows Charlie, then they know that she’s super slow when it comes to reading anything.

For Charlie, the problem is that she doesn’t really have the time to read. She spends most of her free time online in discussion groups about her favourite series, or video games. Not to mention that she’s got half a dozen personal projects going at a time. That includes all the planning that goes into her D&D sessions, and of course one can’t forget all the work that goes into hosting a LARP event. Charlie is basically the embodiment of a busy bee, and reading is not very high on her priority list. Which is why Dean should just get himself a second copy of the books so he doesn’t have to wait around on her.

Dean curls on his side and types out a quick answer to Cas’s message: You’re going to love book three.

The response is just a few moments later: Shouldn’t you be sleeping?

Yes, yes he definitely should. But that doesn’t stop Dean from apparently being possessed by some mad spirit and actually clicking the little information button at the top of the texting app. That button opens a screen with Cas’s information in it, including a little button shaped like a phone. When Dean hits that, it opens the calling app and he can feel the phone actually shiver in his hand as it rings. He turns the volume down a little and puts the phone to his ear.

After a few rings, Cas picks up. “Dean?”

“Hey, Cas.” He rolls onto his back to stare at the ceiling. “How’s your night going?”

“Shouldn’t you be sleeping?” The confusion is plain in his voice. “If my math is right, you’re supposed to work in the morning.”

That’s God’s honest truth, that is. “Yeah, I know.”

There’s a few beats of silence before Cas quietly asks another question. “Is everything alright?” There’s actual concern in his voice and it sends a weird little shiver down Dean’s spine.

He doesn’t really know how to answer that in a positive way, so he might as well go for the harsh truth. “Not really. I just had a shitty nightmare.”

“Oh!” Surprise tempers Cas’s worried tone for a moment before it’s back in full force. “Would you like to talk about it?”

Even though Cas can’t see him, Dean still shrugs. “I dunno. It just freaked me out a bit.”

Cas hums softly and there’s a quiet rustle on the other side of the line. “What was it about?”

“Good question.” He rubs a hand over his face again and sighs. “I don’t know, man. I don’t really want to remember it too much. It freaked me out. But, usually my nightmares are about fires. Sometimes aliens. When I was younger I used to have dinosaur nightmares after watching all the Jurassic Park movies. I really don’t want to be eaten by a T-Rex at any point in my life.”

There’s another soft hum and more rustling. Knowing the time of night, Cas is probably doing his origami right now. “You should make yourself some calming tea.”

What the fuck is that supposed to be? Well, that doesn’t matter anyways. “I don’t drink tea.”

“You should do it nonetheless. The act of making the tea will help ease your mind, especially if it’s loose leaves instead of a teabag. And the tea itself will help you to relax while you drink it.” Cas just sounds so sure of himself that Dean kinda doesn’t want to shut him down like that, but he has to.

“Cas, buddy, I don’t drink tea.” He laughs a little and shakes his head. “I don’t have any to make in the first place. Sorry to burst your bubble there.”

The rustling of what’s gotta be paper in the background is covered with a frustrated huff. “You have roommates. Do any of them drink it?”

“Probably.” Dean rubs a hand over his face again and sits up. “But I don’t touch their shit. We have cupboards marked for each of us. We’re not allowed to take food or anything from the cupboards that don’t belong to us. If it’s in the pantry, then it would be okay.”

“Then go look in the pantry.” There’s an edge of command to Cas’s voice and Dean finds it a little hilarious. “What would it hurt?”

Again a good point. And Dean is looking for a distraction after all. He sighs loudly, acting like he’s all sorts of put out by this, and gets to his feet. “Fine, fine. I’ll head downstairs right now, but it’s just to prove you wrong, dammit.”

“At least you’re going to look.” Cas sounds smug as shit with his little victory.

Dean mock grumbles under his breath for the whole shuffle downstairs. He can’t actually be mad at him, because Cas is doing just what he wanted when he called him. By the time he goes back to bed after this foray into the kitchen, he’ll probably be more or less distracted enough to get some goddamn sleep.

This whole private cupboards thing was Dean’s idea. He got it after the first week of living with Charlie, which was a while before Jo moved in. Charlie has the nasty habit of snacking while she’s gaming, but she never buys her own if she has access to someone else’s. Dean had to lay down the law about the private cupboards by the end of the first week if he wanted to ever have any snacks for himself. He even went and bought chalkboard labels that he stuck on the cupboards and had Charlie write their names on them in a funky kind of font.

It was a unanimous decision, which they got Jo to agree to afterwards, that the pantry would be their communal spot. Mostly. There are three smaller sized Rubbermaid bins in there are the lower shelves that have their names on them too. That’s where they can put things that are too big for their cupboards. Everything else, like big bags of flour, cooking spray, the massive bin of rice, and various other things they buy in bulk, are all communal. Everyone pitches in and splits the bill when they buy in bulk, because it’s the kind of shit that everyone eats anyways – especially considering that when Dean cooks, he cooks for everyone.

There’s a lot of shit in the communal pantry, and Dean squints through the shelves after turning on the light. “This is going to take a while to find. How are things at the café tonight?”

“Quiet, as always.” Cas sighs and Dean can distinctly hear something being poured in the background. “I finished my cleaning a while ago and took a break from reading so I could do my origami.”

Hah, he fucking knew it. “That’s cool. Are you having a mid-shift coffee right now?”

“Absolutely.” Cas even takes a loud sip to prove it, lip smack included. “Dean, I have to ask. Does Annias get what’s coming to him? I despise him.”

Dean snorts loudly and checks a small box full of seasoning sachets. “Spoilers, Cas. I’m not saying anything about the books now unless it’s to talk about stuff you already read.”

There’s nothing but disappointment in Cas’s voice. “Fine. How far away is your kitchen? It’s taking you a ridiculous amount of time to get there.”

“I’m already here, dude. I’ve been looking since you poured yourself some coffee.” He rolls his eyes and puts the box back. Nothing but seasonings in there.

Whether he finds tea or not, Dean is still really happy with this situation. Talking with Cas feels so natural right now. He hasn’t tasted his foot at all for this whole conversation, and that’s a bonus in his books. This whole texting thing has made him feel a lot more comfortable with Cas and it’s super awesome. Dean is definitely way less paranoid about not looking like an asshole in front of Cas and it’s just – he can’t wait for things to get even better.

“Alright, Cas. I’ve looked through the whole pantry and I don’t see any tea in here.” He shuts the door and steps back to lean against the island in the kitchen. “Looks like you’re out of luck here, mister.”

Cas huffs again and Dean wonders if he’s got his arms crossed or not. “How opposed would you be to coming to the café? I could make you a tea on the house.”

Oh jeeze, that sounds really tempting. Not the whole tea thing, but the seeing Cas thing. And there’s the possibility of there being pie left too. Shit, that sounds better every minute, but he knows that he shouldn’t do it. This is the same situation with having to hide his phone, or hiding a book on himself. He needs to get some sleep tonight and going to see Cas in person would have the exact opposite effect for him. Plus, a pie would probably make him wired as hell and there would be no sleep for him in the immediate future.

With a loud sigh, Dean shakes his head and steps away from the counter. “I wish, but I trip like that would be counterproductive to that whole sleep thing I’m supposed to be doing.” He turns off the lights on his way back through the living room to the stairs. “Thanks, though.”

“Your loss.” The shrug is literally right there in Cas’s voice. “I make a very good cup of tea.”

Dean snorts and rolls his eyes. “I’ll take your word for it.” He turns into the bathroom instead of his bedroom, and puts a cup under the tap and turns it on. “If it’s any consolation, I’m pouring myself something to drink right now.”

“I can hear that.” Cas huffs again and Dean can totally hear the roll of his eyes in his voice too. “That’s hardly an acceptable alternative to calming tea.”

“Every time you say that, I literally don’t know what you’re talking about. Is there some kind of specific tea that you’re talking about every time?”

There’s the soft sound of Cas taking a deep breath, and then Dean realizes that he basically dug himself a grave with that particular question. The next few minutes are filled with Cas naming every kind of tea that is considered to be calming, including where it came from and the process in which it’s prepared. Dean smiles at his reflection in the mirror before drinking his cup of mostly room temperature water.

When Cas finishes, Dean puts his cup down and heads back into the bedroom. “My bad. I wasn’t aware that you were such a big tea aficionado.”

“I do know more than just coffee, you know.” Cas sniffs as if he’s insulted, but there’s totally the hint of a smile in his voice.

“Oh good. I was beginning to think you were a one trick pony.” Dean gets back in bed and pulls the blankets over in his lap.

Cas actually graces him with a laugh and Dean is way too pleased with himself for it. Every time Cas laughs, it’s a victory of epic proportions. He savours all of them, including this one. And it’s the perfect thing to go back to bed too. It’ll be nice to have that ringing in his ears instead of thinking back to what the nightmare might have been.

Dean lays back in bed with the sappiest smile on his face. “Hey, Cas?”

“Yes, Dean?”

“What are your plans for Thanksgiving?” It’s a bit of a topic change, but he’d like to hear about it nonetheless. If there’s anything he likes hearing about, then it’s about Cas’s day.

There’s a soft hum before Cas answers. “I suppose that’s soon, isn’t it?”

“Yeah, it’s next Thursday.”

“Oh dear.” Cas sighs and Dean isn’t sure if he imagines the rough edge to it. “I wonder if Gabriel knows.”

That doesn’t sound very promising. “I guess it would just be something small with you and Gabe, huh? Do you have any family in town? Or are you guys planning anything special for the café menu?”

Instead of answering, there’s just silence on the other end of the line. It goes on long enough that Dean actually check his screen to make sure that the call is still connected. Maybe Cas got a customer and he had to put it down quickly? Or –

A soft sigh cuts Dean’s thoughts off. “No, it’s just us. We have no other relatives. And I’m not sure about the menu. I’ll need to ask Gabriel about it. I’ll let you know if we’re doing anything special.”

Shit. This feels like it might be one of those topics that they shouldn’t talk about. But it’s also one that just gave Dean a tidbit he hadn’t known before and he can’t leave it alone. “Well, I guess that means it’s going to be an easy holiday for you guys.”

“I suppose.” Cas sure doesn’t sound happy about that. “It’s been quite some time since we’ve celebrated any holiday.”

Damn. That doesn’t sound very fun. There could be any number of reasons, but Dean doesn’t want to pry too much. “Maybe you’ll do something different this year?”

“Most likely.” There’s another shrug in Cas’s voice, accompanied with a sigh. “Gabriel has been trying to make things more normal for the both of us now that we’ve finally settled down.”

Oh man. It’s like Christmas came early. Dean’s learning so much new stuff right now. “Have you been moving around a lot?” Are Cas and Gabe military kids? If they’re alone, something could have happened to their parents because of that – especially since they don’t seem to be around anymore.

“Not, not really.” Cas hums, like he’s carefully picking out his words. “We did do some cross country sightseeing for a few years, but our previous home before that was only temporary. After we were finished with travelling, we settled here and decided to open Gabriel’s dream café.”

This is awesome. Dean grabs one of his pillows and hugs it to his chest as he rolls over, pinning the phone between his ear and the pillow under his head. “What brought you to Montpelier? We’re a pretty quiet town and there’s not a whole lot going on here.”

“That’s exactly the reason.”

Cas’s answer is simple enough that Dean can’t help laughing at it. “That’s a good enough reason, I guess. Not everyone our age wants to be in a big bustling city.”

“Who would even want that? It’s so noisy and there are so many people.” Cas’s voice takes a different tone to it, and Dean recognizes it immediately as one where he’s trying to take the heat off himself. “How long have you and your family been living in Montpelier?”

Y’know, Cas definitely gives off the air of being one of those people who doesn’t like talking about themselves. Dean gets it, and he’s totally cool with that. This is just a challenge to him and he loves himself a good challenge. One way or another, even if it takes a really long time, he fully intends on learning all there is to know about Cas. With his consent, though. He doesn’t want to learn anything unless Cas is the one who tells him about it.

Luckily for Cas, Dean is more than happy to talk about himself and he can do it for hours. “Depends which side of the family you’re talking about. Dad’s family has been living here forever, but Mom’s parents moved up here for Lawrence, Kansas not long before they had my mom. Some relative somewhere left them some property up here, so they came up here to check it out. I guess they liked it so much that they decided to stay.”

“That’s a nice story.” The smile is back in Cas’s voice and Dean is pretty relieved to hear it. “Does your family still own that property?”

“Nah, not anymore.” Dean closes his eyes, but hopes he doesn’t fall asleep in the middle of the conversation. “The house was old and falling apart, so they tore it down and built their own house. My grandparents lived there until the day they died. Mom and Dad sold it because it was too small for us to move into, and they couldn’t afford to manage a second property.”

“That’s very interesting.” To Cas’s credit, he actually does sound sincere.

Dean huffs a little laugh and muffles a yawn under his hand. “It’s not much of a story, but it’s mine and I like it. Though I’m glad we didn’t move in there. I liked visiting as a kid, but the place smelled like old people and I don’t think it’ll ever smell any different.”

That makes Cas laugh too. “Do you have any family left back in Lawrence?”

Another good question. Cas is just full of the them today, isn’t he? “I dunno, maybe. I might have some distant relatives down there, but my grandparents on both sides had siblings die before they had kids of their own and both my parents are single kids. I don’t have any aunts, uncles, or cousins in town.”

“Do you wish that you did?” Is there a note of longing there, or is Dean imagining it because he’s getting pretty drowsy now that he’s horizontal?

“No, not really. I’m pretty happy with my family as it is. It makes get-togethers a lot easier and less of a big shindig, y’know?” Dean shrugs and muffles another yawn. “Set up and clean-up is way easier when it’s just for four people. Five, if you include Bobby because we basically adopted him.”

Cas seems to mull it all over for a little bit before agreeing. “I’ve never had a big family gathering, but I think you make a very good point there regarding the benefits of a small one.”

“I make good points a lot. Most people tend to miss it.”

That makes Cas laugh again and Dean smiles sleepily into the dark. “Hey, Cas?”

“Yes, Dean?”

He wiggles deeper under the blankets and hugs his pillow a little tighter. It’s been a while since he shared his bed with anyone and he misses holding someone. “What are you doing right now?”

Cas is quiet for a moment and Dean hears the crinkle of paper. “Folding a crane.”

“How many do you have now?” Wasn’t he folding something like a thousand of them? It’s been a while since Dean paid attention to how many there were hanging from the ceiling.

“I have a fair number.”

Dean frowns slightly. “You have a count, don’t you?”

Amusement starts to creep into Cas’s voice. “Of course I do.”

Goddammit. “But you’re not going to tell me?”

“I need to keep the mystery alive somehow.” He hums and Dean hears the obvious crinkle of paper again. “There’s no fun in just telling you.”

With a snort, Dean tries to smother his smile just like he does his yawns. “I’m just gonna count them the next time I’m at the café.”

“You’re welcome to try, but there’s quite a few of them.” Cas’s amusement becomes another quiet laugh. “It might take you a while.”

“Oh no.” Dean’s tone is sarcastic, but his heart crawls right up into his throat and he tries his hardest not to let it show. “I guess that means I’d be hanging out there longer than I usually do.”

Again, Cas laughs, and it sends a little shiver right down Dean’s spine. “If that’s how you want to waste your time, I won’t complain.”

Well, fuck. Dean’s heart soars almost violently and he wiggles a bit under the blanket. There’s no way he can keep that happiness out of his voice. “Thanks, Cas?”

Amusement gives way to confusion. “For what?”

“For taking the time to talk to me tonight.” Dean sighs happily and brings a hand up to push it under the phone. “I feel a lot better than I did when I called you earlier. I think I might even be ready to try sleeping again.”

Cas’s voice is full of his smile. “I’m glad I was able to help. From personal experience, I know nightmares aren’t something one can easily ignore.”

That brings a question to mind and Dean asks it before he means to. “Do you get them?”

“More often than I’d care to.” He sighs and there’s a tone of regret to it.

Dean chews on his bottom lip for a moment before asking his next question. It might be pushing for too much, but he feels like he needs to know right now. “Are they bad?”

His question is met with silence and Dean winces. Fuck. Did he find some territory past the line of what Cas is willing to share? He’s been toeing it for weeks and it’s been sliding back slowly, but sometimes they hit a topic where Cas just backpedals like crazy. This could be one of those times.

Before he can change the subject, Cas takes a soft breath. “Yes.” His answer is so quiet that Dean almost loses it to the breath itself.

“That sucks.” Dean’s going to make an executive decision and not press further right now. “If you ever get them, you can call me too, okay?”

Cas snorts, but his voice still sounds off. “There’s a high chance that you would be working.”

“I know, but you’re working right now and you still took my call.”

“Yes, but I’m not a firefighter and I own this café. Those are some very different situations.”

Dean presses his lips together in a frown. Cas is going to fight him on this, but his stubbornness is rearing its ugly head and he is not backing down from this. “The only reason I wouldn’t answer a call from you is if I’m out of the station on a job. Otherwise, I can hide out in the bathroom or go on break. You were here for me tonight, Cas, and I want to be there for you.”

He can actually hear the exasperation in Cas’s silence. This is the first time he’s coming up against a bullheaded Winchester and he’s going to learn it the hard way that nothing wins over that. And, sure enough, it’s just a few moments before Cas sighs loudly.

“Alright, Dean. Thank you.”

If he wasn’t half-way asleep right now, Dean would punch the air. “Any time, Cas.”

“I hope that you’ll be well rested in the morning.” He’s got the smile in his voice and that’s officially Dean’s favourite sound. “I’ll see you tomorrow night, then?”

“Absolutely.” Dean muffles another yawn. “G’night, Cas.”

He hangs up after Cas returns the goodnight and manages to contain himself long enough to roll over and put his phone back in the dock. After that, all hell breaks loose in the form of happy wiggles under the blankets again. Dean even hides his face in the pillow he’s holding, using it to muffle any noise in case he accidentally squeals like a five year old girl.

That phone call went way better than he thought it would. Not only did he learn a little bit more about Cas, some good and some bad, the talk just went so well. Or, it did in his opinion, at least. Talking with Cas is just getting easier and easier with every conversation and Dean is so happy at the progress they’re making. Hopefully by the time things come to a head with Cas, he’ll have stopped acting like a love struck teenager every time something goes well.

See, the thing is that Cas was one hundred percent right about him. Dean does have a problem with oversharing. While he doesn’t really see it as much of a problem, Cas is still the exact opposite. He’s got some big personal secrets hidden away inside that beautiful noggin of his, and Dean is definitely looking forward to learning them. Cas is a puzzle with a dry sense of humour, sharp mind, and just about everything Dean finds attractive in a person.

It was the best damn idea to go the extra mile and befriend Cas first.

Saturday – November 21st , 2015

Castiel doesn’t mean to do it, but the clock on the cash register catches his eye while he’s giving it a cursory wipe down. It’s nearly two o’clock, and that means that Dean will be here soon. Ever since they became friends, Castiel has become much more aware of the days of the week and the time during his shift. Is it weird that he’s essentially memorized Dean’s schedule? He hasn’t tried to hide that fact, since it’s a fairly regular schedule and everything and it only took paying some attention to figure it out. If Dean has a problem with it, he certainly hasn’t said anything.

In any case, Castiel has now most definitely started looking forward to two o’clock on the days when Dean is working. Today is slightly different and it’s all because of the phone call from last night. He wants to make sure that Dean is doing better after his nightmare. They haven’t spoken since the phone call, so everything must have gone well, but he still wants confirmation from Dean himself.

Actually, Castiel has even been contemplating making a cup of tea for him as a joke. He had even considered preparing a container full of calming teas so Dean could take it home, but he had discarded that idea almost immediately. Dean said he doesn’t drink tea, so it would just be a waste to give him that. Besides, wouldn’t that be considered a gift and not a joke at that point? It would still be funny, but it would be a gift nonetheless and Castiel isn’t entirely sure whether or not they’ve reached the level of friendship where impromptu gifts are acceptable.

It still doesn’t feel like it’s been a long time since he started considering Dean a friend. They have good conversations both in person, over the phone, and via text message. Regardless of their means of communication, Dean is a very fun person to interact with. Thus why Castiel is looking forward to seeing him soon. In fact, that should be any minute now and he can hardly wait. Aside from checking up with Dean after last night’s phone call, Castiel also has a rather unkind though amusing reason for seeing him.

As it is, he went out before work the other day to pick up The Tamuli compendium. Instead of reading three separate books, he has one big one with all three books of the trilogy inside it. While it might not be kind, Castiel would rather like to rub that in Dean’s face. All in good humour, of course. He’s going to enjoy teasing Dean about how he’s going to be able to read the whole Tamuli before he even gets to start book one. Although that’s still a ways off for him. He plans to start book three tonight.

Movement outside the window catches Castiel’s attention and he can’t keep the smile off his face as he recognizes Dean. Today it looks like she’s wearing the coat that goes along with his usual fire pants. It’s not surprising. The weather has gotten a little colder and there’s quite the chill breeze out right now. The coat must be good protection against it.

Castiel puts his cleaning cloth away and moves his origami papers off to one side. The bell above the door jingles as he’s checking the coffee pots to make sure they have enough for Dean’s order. Unfortunately the one pot he uses at night is almost empty and just past the expiry time where Castiel is comfortable using it. The firefighters deserve fresh coffee and he dumps the remainder of the pot, leaving it in the sink to put a clean one on the machine and run it.

Dean is leaning over and eyeing the display case when Castiel turns back around. “Hello, Dean. How is your shift going today?”

“Pretty good.” He looks up with a smile that is far too charming for its own good. “I mean, it’s going good despite how I’m working with a couple people who were being especially annoying today.” His smile falls into something a little more devious. “Maybe I shouldn’t get their orders.”

That won’t do. Castiel frowns and holds his hand out for the little paper he can see Dean holding. “The Graveyard Shift has a reputation to uphold and firefighters need their coffee. Give me the order.”

That smile falls into a full frown and Dean crosses his arms. He narrows his eyes, as if he truly plans to defy Castiel on this, but then he breaks into a laugh a moment later. Without any further trouble, he hands the note over and turns back to the display case.

Pleased that he won, Castiel quickly punches in the few coffees on the note. “Is there anything in the display case that you would like to add to your order?” He glances up with an apologetic smile. “Unfortunately we ran out of pie earlier. I tried to save you a slice, but I can’t exactly tell someone they’re not allowed to order it when it’s right there.” Although, now that he thinks about it, he could have just moved the pie stand out of sight. Damn. He’ll have to do that next time.

Dean laughs again and looks back at Castiel with a small, warm smile. “It’s cool. Thanks though. The next best thing to your pie is the brownies.” He taps the glass of the case. “And that batch you’ve got right there are looking good.”

“You’re lucky that we have a few left. They’re usually a big seller.”

“I’ll take the rest of them, then.” He nods, satisfied with himself, and steps back. “I might eat them all myself, though. The others don’t deserve them. Except for Bobby. And maybe Uriel. But Nick and Meg are being assholes today so no brownies for them.”

Castiel tries his best not to smile, but it’s hard. He glances at the note in his hand to where the orders are marked with a letter. B must be for Bobby, but there is no U or M for Uriel or Meg. The N, however, has five macarons scribbled underneath the coffee order. “If they’ve been misbehaving, you can let them have the macarons Nick has apparently ordered.”

“Ugh.” Dean wrinkles his nose and shakes his head. “That’s fine by me. I don’t like those things. They feel different than they look and it always throws me off when I eat one.”

Castiel shrugs, but he nods in agreement. Personally, he likes everything they sell. Gabriel refuses to make anything for sale if it doesn’t pass Castiel’s taste test. But macarons, just like any of the tarts and baked good they make, aren’t always for everyone.

“I’ll process your payment after I box those up.” The coffee machine is still running, so he might as well get the desserts first. And once they’re packaged, he’ll know how much to ring up on the register.

Neither one of them expects Dean’s phone to start beeping while Castiel is in the process of carefully arranging the box so the brownies won’t melt into the macarons. Dean takes one look at the screen and swears. “Sorry, Cas, but I gotta cancel that order!” He gives no further information as he turns on his heel and dashes out the door.

For all the bulky clothing that he’s wearing, Dean is surprisingly fast on his feet. He’s already out of sight by the time Castiel manages to figure out what’s going on. He leaves the box on the counter and dusts his hands off on his jeans as he heads to the door. Despite the cold wind, he heads out onto the sidewalk. Dean is a much faster runner than anticipated, as he’s not even on the street anymore. It’s only a few moments later when the fire truck pulls out of the station, its lights already flashing.

Castiel watches the truck head up Main Street and take the left on School Street. He still waits a few moments to see if they put on their sirens at any point. In the months since they moved to this location, he can’t once recall hearing the sirens at night. During the day, perhaps, as they tend to wake him if he’s not taking the sleep, but never at night. That’s very polite of them, actually. The majority of citizens are sleeping right now, Creature or not.

For the first time in a long time, one of Castiel’s terrible habits surfaces again. He brings a hand to his mouth and chews absently at the edge of his thumb nail. A nervous ball has settled in his stomach, broiling with a not entirely undue amount of worry. It was just last night that Dean had a nightmare involving fire, wasn’t it? He never officially confirmed that it was fire, but it could have been. And what if that was some kind of ill omen?

When the chill wind finally manages to break through his hooded sweatshirt, Castiel heads back inside. His thoughts are entirely too distracted as he returns to behind the counter. The box with the remainder of the brownies and a few macarons is sitting abandoned where he left it. He stares at it for a few moments before filling it with all the macarons they have left. That’s three more than Nick ordered, but Castiel doesn’t care.

He puts the box on the back counter by the coffee machine and places a drink tray on top of it. Those thoughts about the ill omen still weigh heavily at the back of his mind as he prepares five cups. Each one he marks with the first initial of one of the firefighters. Dean mentioned them all before he left and Castiel prepares one for each of them. The tray only fits four cups, but the fifth can easily be placed in the center of all of them.

Uriel and Meg may not have ordered anything, but Castiel can still prepare straight black coffee for them. Dean has told him before that the instant coffee they have at the station is disgusting. They likely have sugar and creamer or milk there, so Uriel and Meg can put that together themselves. While Castiel recognizes the orders sometimes, Dean’s is really the only one that he’s absolutely memorized. Nick’s is familiar because it’s always so complicated, but no effort has been made to remember it every time. As such, Castiel puts the sticky note on top of the cups for reference later.

With that done, there’s nothing left to distract him from the worry circulating through his mind. That won’t do and Castiel glances around to find something that he can do. The brightly coloured paper for his origami catches his eye and he picks all that up to move to the far end of the counter by the window. Castiel drags his stool there too, and brings the box of dragons. It’s by no means empty, but he can only fold so many cranes per shift before he’ll need something else to keep him occupied when they’re done.

From this vantage point right against the window, he can more or less see right up the street. Castiel would have to press his face to the glass to be able to see the station itself, but he’s hoping that he’ll notice the lights of the truck when it returns – if it comes back during his shift, that is. Until then, he’s just going to fold his origami and try his hardest to not focus too much on what Dean and the other firefighters may or may not be doing right now.

Unfortunately, his plan doesn’t work too well. It takes him ten minutes to finish one crane because he can’t stop glancing up and leaning closer to the window to check for the fire engine. Things only get worse when he gets up and heads into the kitchen to where the controls for the radio are kept. Since it’s technically Saturday now, Balthazar isn’t booked and Jess won’t be in until five o’clock. There’s no one else but Castiel here that can complain when he changes from a commercial free music channel to one focused entirely on local news.

This channel is usually rather quiet at night. They tend to only mention anything big that occurred during the day. After that, they touch on state news, then country news, and eventually worldwide. Of course, they’ll always stop whatever segment they’re working on if something big happens locally. It’s Castiel’s hope that the firefighters rolling out might be big enough for that and he’ll get some kind of mention regarding what’s going on right now.

At the moment the radio host is talking about a shooting that occurred on the west coast. He tries not to be disheartened by that. Another shooting is nothing new, though it’s always saddening, but right now he wants to hear about a fire – or anything else the firefighters would be called out for. Whatever it might be, Castiel craves an update on the situation. He’s never been friends with a firefighter before and he never thought he would be this nervous about said friend being out on a call.

Castiel returns to his spot at the end of the counter and listens to the news with half an ear. His origami is waiting and he makes a concerted effort to try and do some more. There are only a few more cranes left to do before he’s done with them for the night. At this rate, he might not even manage to get to the dragons. He’s just so damn distracted by the lingering idea that perhaps Dean’s dream might have something to do with the call he’s on right now.

The logical side of Castiel’s mind doesn’t want to believe that Dean’s dream could have been an ill omen. But with how his life has been thus far, Castiel can’t really discount the possibility. Even without Creature blood in their family history, Humans are still capable of having prophetic dreams. It’s sometimes caused by being around any amount of magic on a normal basis. And that’s entirely possible, given how often Dean comes here. The very air here is filled with the magic of Gabriel’s spells, and many Creatures have commented on it when they come in for coffee. The vast majority of Humans don’t notice it, or realize how it can affect them.

That’s part of the reason why Castiel is always paranoid for days whenever he has a nightmare about his parent’s death. It’s difficult not to be whenever he’s forced to relive the memories of being shoved in to the backseat of a car and covered in a  tarp. How is he not supposed to believe that his dreams are warning him when he wakes up with his mother’s scream in his ears, telling Gabriel to drive and not look back? It was one of the last things he ever heard her say, and his nightmares are always filled with it and the sound of Gabriel’s muffled crying in the front seat of the car.

Sometimes his nightmares even come with the sound of spells crashing and breaking against the warded body of the car. The sound of Gabriel’s tears often overshadows it, but he can still clearly remember hearing them when he was younger. While their parents didn’t practice magic themselves, there was a family friend who did. Even though he was thirteen when his parents were murdered by Witches, Castiel still can’t remember their name or their face, but he knows they were the one who set his family up with a warning system much like what Gabriel has done here. They were the one who made sure their car was as guarded like a tank.

Though he can’t remember them, Castiel will always be forever thankful to that family friend. If it wasn’t for them, he and Gabriel might not be here right now. That’s not a situation he enjoys imagining, and he hates thinking about the source of his nightmares even more. Castiel shakes himself out and forces those thoughts out of his head. With some effort, he tries to remind himself that just because he has nightmares about the most traumatic moment in his life, doesn’t mean that Witches are going to show up shortly after.

It hasn’t happened in the last dozen or so years since that day, so why would it happen now? And since that’s never happened to him, he shouldn’t put any stock in the fact that Dean dreaming about fire would cause something to happen tonight. Besides, Dean never confirmed that his nightmare was about fire in the first place. Castiel just needs to remember that Dean and the rest of his co-workers are firefighters. Calls like tonight happen all the time for them, with or without a dream preceding them.

And if that isn’t enough to calm his ruffled nerves, then Castiel should just focus on the fact that Dean didn’t mention anyone dying in his nightmare. No one died, so no one is going to die tonight. Hopefully. Has the news said anything yet? He pauses in the final folds of another crane to listen. Right now it’s on commercials, and he frowns. Hopefully he didn’t miss the announcement.

It’s at that point when he realizes that his crane is all sorts of wrong. Clearly he wasn’t paying attention to some of the folds and he unfolds it with a sigh. His mind is too distracted and that’s a problem when he’s doing the cranes. Castiel needs to focus on his wish while folding these, otherwise it might not come true when he reaches the one thousandth crane. Of course, he doesn’t actually believe that a wish would come true at the end, but it can’t hurt. This is just shy of being nothing more than a fanciful thing to do to pass the time.

With some effort, Castiel forces himself to focus on nothing more than his wish to live peacefully here in Montpelier with Gabriel. He doesn’t want to have to worry about another Witch messing up his life every again. That’s his wish and he keeps that in the forefront of his mind while he refolds the crane until it’s perfect. It’s hard, but he does his best not to think about the firefighters again while he finishes the last of the cranes and carefully strings them up for hanging.

The news doesn’t mention anything about the call Dean is on until Castiel is debating whether or not he wants to take the time to hang the cranes now or if he should wait until later. He stops everything he’s doing to rest his hands on the counter and listen to the DJ talk briefly regarding a fire in some warehouses outside of town. According to her, the firefighters are dealing with it well and everything should be taken care of sooner rather than later. The follow-up crew is already on scene, ready to take over when the firefighters give the all clear.

Castiel breathes a loud sigh of relief as the radio host confirms that there were no casualties. The area was deserted as far as authorities can tell and it’s a cut and paste job for the firefighters. That’s the best news Castiel has heard all night and he can feel his whole body relax with his next exhale. Hopefully this won’t be his usual reaction whenever he learns that Dean is out on a call. If it is, then being friends with a firefighter might make him go gray a lot sooner than he’s expecting to.

On the bright side, now that he knows things are going well, he is far less distracted as he hangs his cranes and moves on to fold a small batch of dragons. He still leaves the news on, just in case, but his nerves are steadier as he spends the next while dealing with a few customers, keeping the café clean, and finishing off his origami for the night.

It’s just over an hour until the end of his shift when he notices a bright set of headlights. There are been false alarms by cars that end up driving past, but these particular headlights turn off outside of Castiel’s field of vision from the counter. He drops everything to run to the door and quickly step outside. Castiel makes it just in time to see the tail end of the fire engine pull into the garage. If it wasn’t for his Creature blood, his eyes likely wouldn’t be strong enough to see that from here.

Now that they’re back, Castiel can enact his plan. It’s not much of a plan, actually, but it’s a gesture of good will. He ducks back inside and takes a few minutes to brew a new pot of coffee. Once Jess came in at five o’clock, the radio was turned back to a music station and she’s been humming away in the kitchen ever since. Hopefully she isn’t working on anything time sensitive right now, or she’s going to have some trouble covering the front when he asks her to in a few minutes.

But first, Castiel has some coffee to make. He references the note Dean left behind to put together the coffee for Bobby and Nick. There are no issues with remembering Dean’s order at least, and he only feels a twinge of regret for not memorizing anyone else’s preferred drink as he pours the two black coffees. If the opportunity arises, he’ll make more of an effort in the future. Right now it seems like he’s playing favourites and his other customers might not appreciate that too much, even though it’s quite close to the truth. He did befriend Dean, after all.

With the coffees prepared, and the treats long since boxed, Castiel is ready to go. He’ll weather the wind with just his hoodie, and hopefully it doesn’t get any colder. His Creature constitution takes the cold better than a regular Human, but he still better be careful or he might catch cold and being sick sucks regardless of being a Creature or not.

“Jess?” Castiel pokes his head through the door into the kitchen and raises his voice over the music. “Can you cover the front for me? I need to step out for a few minutes.”

She dusts her hands on her apron as she turns to him with a smile. “Sure. Everything is chilling or baking right now, so I can spare a few.”

Excellent. “Thank you.”

Since the café is empty right now, Castiel doesn’t feel the need to wait for her. The coffee is hot right now and the walk to the fire station will cool it down quickly. He’s going to need to move quickly, and that’s not much of a problem. With the coffee tray balancing on top of the box, and a hand keeping it steady, Castiel shoulders the door open and heads out. That chill wind immediately starts creaking down the neck of his sweater and he hunches his shoulders against it.

Thankfully it’s a quick walk to the station, but he’s surprised to find that the only door he sees is locked. There are the large garage doors, but they’re closed too. He doesn’t see a door bell or any posted office hours, and that just brings several question to mind. Is this normal for a fire station? Aren’t they supposed to be always open for emergencies? Or do they actually have normal office hours? He’s going to have to ask Dean about it one day, but for now, he’d rather like to get out of the cold.

With some difficulty, Castiel shifts his items to one hand and fishes his phone from his pocket. Rather than take the effort to text Dean, he elects to call him instead. The line rings out twice before it gets picked up on the third attempt.

“Hey, Cas.” Dean sighs and there’s a hard, weary edge to his voice. “Sorry about running out earlier. I –”

“It’s fine, Dean.” Castiel is quick to cut him off as he suppresses a shiver and shuffles his feet. “But could you please open the door to the station for me? I didn’t wear a jacket and it’s a little cold out.”

A string of swears precedes Dean hanging up on him. Castiel hangs up too and puts his phone away. He amuses himself with counting the seconds it takes for Dean to come to the door. It’s only a few moments before he hears the stomp of heavy boots and the sound of the lock turning. When the door open and Castiel almost feels bad for coming over unannounced. Dean looks a little worse haggard, and he’s still rather sweaty with his hair sticking up at all angles.

“What in the hell are you doing here?” Despite the harsh words, Dean breaks into a wide smile. Clearly he’s happy to see him, even if it is a bit of a surprise.

Castiel shrugs and holds out the coffee tray and box. “Delivery.”

Dean takes the coffee tray, but makes no move to take the box too. He tilts his head to gesture back inside. “Come on in. My arms feel like jelly after wrestling with that hose and I don’t trust myself to be able to carry all this on my own.”

Well, that’s completely understandable. And, to be honest, Castiel is more than a little be curious about seeing what the inside of the station looks like. There is a hearty pulse of nervousness that starts to pool in his belly about going into a place that isn’t exactly considered open to the public, and it’s going to be full of people he hardly knows. He’s okay being in different stores sometimes, but there’s always that little bit of paranoia when he’s the only one in the store and isn’t sure whether or not they might be able to recognize what he is.

Of course, that doesn’t really apply to this. Aside from Bobby, Castiel is fairly certain that he’s met each and every firefighter at one point or another. He might have even met Bobby at some point without realizing it. Was he at the Halloween party? Possibly, but Dean never pointed him out, so Castiel doesn’t honestly know. What he does know is that he more or less knows these people and he mostly trusts Dean. If worse comes to worst, Castiel knows a light spell that will blind everyone in the room and give him the chance to escape.

He takes a deep breath and follows Dean into the building. Immediately through the door is a lobby like area. There’s an administrative desk to one side and a seating area to the other. At the back of the room is an open door to a bathroom, and next to that is another door with a sign stating Employees Only. Behind that door is a set of stairs and Dean heads up them without a word, Castiel following at his heels.

The top of the stairs opens out into what looks to be a communal area. There’s a pole in one corner that obviously leads down to the garage where the trucks are. Along one wall by the pole are cubbies where all the jackets and pants are hung. The other gear, like the air tanks and masks, must be stored at the bottom of the pole. Castiel can’t imagine that they would slide down it wearing all that gear. There would be less sliding involved and more falling at that point, considering the weight of all of it.

Aside from the cubbies, the rest of the room is rather simple. There’s a desk off against one wall with an ancient looking computer on it and several binders standing on a shelf above it. Next to that is a TV and a seating area consisting of a couch, a love seat, and an easy chair. A table stands between that and a tiny kitchenette, though Castiel isn’t sure it can even be called that. There’s a hot plate, a toaster oven, a coffee machine, a sink, a dishwasher, and a mini-fridge under the counter. There are cupboards above it all, but it’s really the smallest kitchenette he’s ever seen.

On the far side of the room are a few more doors. One, again, is obviously a bathroom since the door is wide open. The other room is dark, but Castiel can see the edge of a bed. Castiel assumes that no one is sleeping right now, considering the number of people in the room. Most of them he recognizes. There’s Nick, who made quite the impression when he asked Castiel out. And then there’s a brunette woman laid out on the couch. He’s met her a few times, but she must be the Meg that Dean mentioned earlier. The gruff looking one in the ball cap is most likely Bobby, and that means the last man must be Uriel.

“Hey, guys!” Dean sounds amazingly chipper for someone who just spent the better part of the night dealing with a fire. “Cas brought us coffee!”

Uriel and Bobby look far more refreshed than the others, but they both give their thanks as they come over to the table. Bobby, however, is directing a frown in Dean’s direction and it’s going largely ignored as Dean focuses on passing out the labeled cups. Castiel nods his greeting to everyone as he puts the box of dainties on the table and opens it.

Dean takes the cup with the B on it and holds it out. “Look, Bobby. You got your coffee after all!” Castiel is pleased to find that his guess was correct, but he hides it well as Dean takes the M cup to the woman on the couch. “This one’s yours, Meg.”

“If I was a Church woman, I’d bless you.” She gives Cas a tired smile.

“There wasn’t an order for your earlier, so I’m afraid to say that yours and Uriel’s are merely black coffees.” Castiel gestures at the cup that Dean is handing to Uriel. “I’ll make more of an effort to learn your preferred orders in the future so I’ll know in case this ever happens again.”

Uriel shrugs and takes his coffee to the kitchenette. “This is better than nothing. Thank you.” He glances over his shoulder. “Cream and sugar, Meg?”

“Not this time. I need the bitter kick to keep me awake for the paperwork.”

Castiel looks around at the group, just a little more pleased than he should be by their satisfied smiles as they sip their coffee. “The service you do for this community is much appreciated. This is the least I could do for you tonight.”

Dean pats Castiel on the shoulder as he takes a long sip from his drink. “You’re the best, Cas.”

“Yes, he most certainly is.” Nick gives him a sly smile that Castiel immediately ignores. He turns away before he has to see the up-and-down look he knows he’s going to get. Nick does it every time they see each other and it’s just downright annoying.

“Consider all of this free of charge.” Castiel gestures at the coffee and the box that Nick has now started to pick a few macarons out of. “This is my thanks for dealing with that warehouse fire.”

“Oh jeeze, Cas.” Dean’s nose crinkles with his smile. “Don’t tell me you were listening to the news.”

He shrugs and tucks his hands into the pocket of his hoodie. “There wasn’t any other way of making sure that you were okay.”

“Aw, Dean-o!” Meg crows a laugh as she sinks deeper into the couch and kicks off her boots. “He was worried about you!”

A blush rises in Dean’s checks and he ducks his head. “S’fine, Cas. Thanks.” He takes another long sip of his coffee and pointedly ignores the glare Nick throws at the both of them.

After a few beats of silence, Castiel clears his throat and takes a step back towards the stairs. “I left Jess in charge of the café and she should really be dealing with baking instead. I need to go back now.”

“Oh fuck, right, of course.” Dean starts suddenly and turns after him. “I’ll lock up behind you.”

Castiel nods his goodbyes to everyone else and leaves before he has to suffer through any more of Nick’s glances – though right now they’re more glares than anything else. It’s quite obvious that he doesn’t like how Castiel has chosen to spurn his affections while making friends with Dean. But those are two entirely different situations, so it’s nothing to be jealous about. Besides, Castiel hasn’t shown any interest in Nick in the months since the café opened. Shouldn’t he have lost interest now?

Before they reach the door in the lobby, Dean stops Castiel with a hand on his shoulder. “Hey, don’t let what Meg was saying get to you, okay? They just like to tease me a lot because of my connections with Bobby and the fact that both my parents work here too.”

“But she was right.” He tilts his head, a frown starting to crease his forehead. “I was worried. I’ve never been friends with a firefighter before and this is the first time where I’ve actually known that you went out on a call. Is it hard to adjust to the worry that something might happen to you on a job?”

Another flush fills Dean’s face and he looks away with a shrug. “I dunno. Sam would be the best to ask about that, since he’s the only one of us who isn’t a firefighter. I mean, I’ve got most of my family and the majority of my friends in here, so it’s pretty much second nature to me to accept that maybe they won’t come back from a job. It’s something I’ve been used to my whole life.”

That’s a good point, though Castiel is going to have to look up how to deal with this kind of thing. He doesn’t particularly look forward to worrying about Dean’s safety every time he sees the truck go by. “I suppose I’ll just have to adjust to it as we continue our friendship.”

Dean’s smile returns, brighter than ever. “If you ever wanna talk about it, I’ve gotten really good at easing Sammy’s nerves about it. Been doing it ever since we were kids.”

“I’ll keep that in mind.” Castiel nods and turns to go out the door. “I hope you enjoy the coffee and brownies. I’ll talk to you again soon, I’m sure.”

“Thanks, Cas.” Dean gives his shoulder another squeeze before his hand drops to his side. “Seriously. We really appreciate this.”

Castiel shrugs and ducks his head as he steps out the door. “I’m just happy you’re safe.” He waves over his shoulder as he walks away. Really, he’s not talking about just Dean there either. Castiel is happy that they’re all safe, including Nick – even though he’s been a pain in his side ever since the incident when Nick asked him out.

When he crosses the street, Castiel pauses to glance back over his shoulder. Dean is still in the doorway, leaning against the frame. He raises a hand in a small wave, but makes no motion as though he were to move away from the door. Is he waiting for Castiel to get back to the café safely? If he is, that’s very nice of him and he waves back before continuing. That small gesture is enough to keep him warm the rest of the way to the café.

Jess is waiting at the counter right where Castiel left her. She has, however, processed a few customers, judging by the couple sitting at one of the tables. As soon as she sees him, Jess leans over the counter. “What was that all about? Where did you go?”

“The firefighters had a call this morning.” Castiel shrugs and shoos her out of the way so he can start counting his till. “I took them what would have been their order if Dean hadn’t been called away in the middle of it.”

“Aw, Castiel!” She puts an arm around his shoulders and gives him a tight squeeze. “That was so nice of you! I wish you’d have told me, though. We could have sent some fresh bagels along too.”

“If it happens again, I’ll be sure to let you know.” He shrugs her arm away and gestures back towards the kitchen. “I hope nothing burned while you were covering for me.”

Jess huffs, but there’s a smile on her lips. “Of course not. I’m a better baker than that, I’ll have you know.” She flicks her pony-tail over her shoulder before heading back into the kitchen.

It’s good that she went back to work, because Castiel’s phone beeps right then. He unlocks it to find a message from Dean. Seriously, Cas, thanks for the java. Needed that boost to get me through all the paperwork. You’re the best!

The message is finished with a heart emoji that takes Castiel a little by surprise, but he shakes the feeling off immediately. To his knowledge, many people use the heart emoji to denote just about anything – including gratitude. Which is likely why Dean is using it. In any case, the message keeps that warm pulsing feeling alive in his chest.

He types out a quick response with a thumbs up emoji and a smiling face. You’re welcome. Good luck with the paperwork.

When he puts his phone away, Castiel feels all the more confident that making friends with Dean was absolutely the right decision – even with the worry about his safety while he’s out on a call.

Chapter Text

Saturday – November 21st, 2015

Dean tries really, really hard not to look Bobby in the face when he returns to the common room. In fact, he zeroes in on the brownies in the box Cas left and tries his best to look like he’s super into it. Which isn’t too hard because, for as annoying as Gabe seems to be, he’s a damn good baker and holy shit that’s a good brownie. Sadly, it’s not enough to distract from the glare he can feel like a drill to the side of his head. He did wrong and he knows he did wrong, but dear God he’s going to act play the fool and look as innocent as fucking possible.

Nick and Meg are making it just a little hard to pull that off. As if their manic grins weren’t enough, one of them is actually snickering. Who even does that? They’re seriously way too pleased to be present for Dean being in trouble. It’s not a real surprise though. Even Charlie and Jo would probably get a kick out of watching him get lectured by the big boss. Probably because Dean’s usually the golden boy of the station and everyone loves watching when the golden boy’s shine gets just a little bit tarnished.

On the plus side, at least Uriel doesn’t seem to give a shit about the lecture Bobby’s going to lay on him any moment now. He’s too busy with getting the binders down from the shelf above the desk because even good food and coffee isn’t enough to distract him from the fact that there’s paperwork to be done. Between everyone in this room, Uriel is the most professional and probably the best firefighter the station has. He can be overbearing and maybe a little too stoic for his own good, but he’s a good guy. Nick seems to think he’s fucking hilarious, but Dean hasn’t seen that side of him yet.

Between paperwork and Bobby’s lecture, Dean honestly isn’t sure which he’d prefer. The paperwork, probably, because he doesn’t have to do that alone. Uriel and Meg were out on the job with him tonight, so he’ll be filling it out with them. The lecture, however, is just for him and Bobby is going to do it in front of everyone just to make sure that they all know the rules and stick to them.

Damn. If Dean had been thirty seconds later with his run to the station earlier, he wouldn’t be in this mess. He would’ve been too late to go out on the call and Nick would have gone in his place. Nick had been totally ready to go too, and he was honestly surprised that Dean got there in time. But everyone thinks that just because Dean was captain of the wrestling team in high school that he can’t kick ass at track. Well, they’re very wrong. Dean is aces at sprinting, he just hates running is all.

Bobby clears his throat and Dean knows his time has come. He takes a bite of a brownie and looks up from his seat at the table with his best innocent look. “What?”

“You know what.” The hat and beard do nothing to hide Bobby’s frown. “You’re not allowed to bring civilians up here, Dean. You know the rules.”

Yes, of course he does, but does that really apply to delivery like this? “Sammy and I used to come up here all the time when we were younger.” There have been exceptions to this rule for ages, and he figured free coffee and food would be included in that.

“Family of the team doesn’t count. You know that.” Bobby crosses his arms and his glare just gets angrier, even though it’s half hidden by the brim of his hat.

“But we were still civilians!” Dean gestures with his brownie before taking another bite. “We were kids, even. And we let school groups do tours of the place all the time.” Heck, sometimes they even let the kids go down the poll for a hoot.

Bobby takes a step forward and puts a hand on the back of Dean’s chair. “Don’t sass me, boy. You know the rules and you broke it. Don’t make me write you up for this.”

Fuck. That means this’ll get back to Mom and he definitely doesn’t want a lecture from her too. Dean slouches in his seat and takes another bite of his brownie, choosing not to answer. Yes, he shouldn’t have let Cas up here. Yes, he was wrong with thinking that it would be okay because he was the bearer of delicious treats and liquid caffeine. No, he’s not going to admit that out loud because he does have his pride and he’ll never hear the end of it from Nick and Meg if he does admit it.

With a sigh, Bobby takes one of the binders from Uriel and drops it on the table in front of him. He takes the pen out of the little pocket on the inside and flips it open. Dean feels like a child as Bobby takes his hand and puts the pen in it. “No friends up here. Do you understand me, Dean?”

He grunts a noncommittal sound, but apparently that’s not good enough because Bobby leans in. “Do we need to take this to my office?”

“No.” Well, any chance of maintaining face in front of Meg and Nick is out the door now. He probably should have said something earlier. “I promise I won’t bring up any free coffee or food from the café ever again.”

Bobby sighs and rubs a hand over his face. “You can make friends all you want, Dean, but unless you’re married to ‘em, I don’t want ‘em up here. Got it?”

He slumps further down in the chair and absently scribbles his name in the proper field on the form he has to fill out. “Yes, Bobby.”

For some Godforsaken reason, Nick seems to think that’s a good point for him to make his presence known to the rest of the room – as if anyone could forget that he’s here. He hums loudly and Dean throws a glare at him, hoping that’ll be enough to keep him from actually saying any words. Of course it doesn’t stop him. Nothing ever would.

“But Bobby!” Nick steps over to drop both hands on Dean’s shoulders. “Didn’t you know that our dear Dean here is just head over heels for that adorable barista who was just in? This time next year, they’ll probably be married and everything.”

Oh sweet mother of God. Did Nick really just go there? That’s it. He’s officially on Dean’s hit list. Least favourite co-worker ever. How could he just – Dean hasn’t come out as bisexual to his family yet! That includes Bobby. Now Nick just went and outed him and – and – Hooboy. The repercussions for this are not going to be pleasant for anyone involved. And now Dean’s torn between wanting the earth to swallow him whole, or getting up and strangling Nick right here.

Bobby, bless his gruff soul, answers that question for him. He takes Nick by the wrists and forces him back a few steps. “That ain’t no business of mine or yours. Keep the gossip to yourself, Nick, unless you wanna be stuck washing the trucks with a toothbrush for the rest of the year.”

That seems to cool Nick off pretty quick. He goes a little red in the face and slinks off to sit on the couch. Meg pats him on the shoulder, but she’s grinning like an idiot. It doesn’t matter who’s getting in trouble, she’s going to enjoy it just as long as it isn’t her. She gets up to join Dean at the table and takes one of the macarons while she gets started on her own paperwork. Uriel is already silently starting on his after making the logical decision to stay the hell out of everything.

“We done with all the sass and stupid now?” Bobby looks around the room. No one lifts their head to say anything, so he nods and takes a couple of the macarons and one of the brownies. He heads off to his office with one last parting shot; “Good job tonight, everyone.”

Aside from Uriel, Meg might be the second smartest person in the room. Unlike Nick and Dean, she actually waits until Bobby’s door is shut before she breaks down into giggles. She actually doubles over to press her face against the paper work to muffle her laughter. Well, at least someone is getting a kick out of all this. At least Dean has awesome brownies to keep his mood up. But he can only enjoy those once he’s dealt with Nick.

He’s spared the need to build the willpower needed to acknowledge him by Nick opening his mouth first. “It’s not fair that you’re his favourite.”

“First off; I never asked to be, but I’ve definitely put in the work for it. Years’ worth of work, actually.” Dean sits up straighter and fixes Nick with a glare. Ever since he was a kid, he has always been pretty close with Bobby. He’s the uncle that Dean always wanted but never had.

Dean flips Nick off over Meg’s back before pointing his pen at him. “For the record, if you ever mention anything about me and Cas, or me and any kind of attraction to guys, in front of Bobby or my family again, I’ll make sure that you piss your pants every single time you fall asleep while I’m around and spike your food with laxatives whenever you least expect it.”

There’s a pause where Meg and Uriel both look up from their binders to look between him and Nick. Dean stares him down before Nick rolls his eyes and sticks his forked tongue out at him. Well, that’s just ridiculously childish – and Dean sticks his tongue out at him right back because why the fuck not.

At least that’s dealt with, so now he can actually get started on his paperwork. Joy.

*

Thursday – November 26th, 2015

Dean jerks awake with a snort, suddenly very confused and a little bit concerned about what the hell just woke him. He flails a bit to free a hand so he can slap at the side table. Nine times out of ten, if he’s woken up unexpectedly, then it’s because his phone either rang or beeped and his subconscious heard it. Now he’s awake and where the hell is his phone? It should be on the dock but he can’t find the dock and that’s a problem. It means coming out from under his blanket shell even more to find it and he doesn’t want to do that.

By some glorious miracle, the last slap before he gives up actually manages to catch the edge of the charging dock. Dean groans happily and pulls the phone under the blanket so he can actually see it. Oh dear God why did he leave the brightness so high? He groans again, this time in pain, and fumbles to turn it down so he can actually see without his eyeballs feeling like they’re on fire. After a few attempts, he’s finally able to look at his screen with only minimal squinting. Sure enough, there’s a half dozen texts from his mom and one missed call.

Shit. This must be important. Dean sighs and taps the call button before sliding it between his ear and the pillow. It only takes two rings before Mom picks up. “There you are!”

“I was sleeping.” Which isn’t surprising, considering he finished work at eight o’clock this morning and wasn’t in bed until sometime after nine. At least it was definitely before ten.

“Sweetie, it’s already four o’clock.” Mom sighs over his sleepy grunt of acknowledgment. “Dean, light of my life, dinner is in a few hours and you need to get your butt over here to help me with the rest of it.”

Oh God. That’s right. It’s Thanksgiving. Fuck. Dean groans loudly again and kicks the blankets off so he can sit up. “I thought the only thing I had to do for tonight was the meatballs.”

“Don’t think I don’t know that you just put that in a slow cooker this morning.” Mom’s tone turns a little harder and Dean immediately knows he’s lost the battle. “That hardly counts as helping. I need your big muscles to mash potatoes, and the yams, and I need you to make sure the pie is up to your standards.”

Shit. She pulled the pie card. Dean sighs loudly and stands up so he can stretch. “Fine, fine. I’ll shower and make my way over within the hour.”

“You had better!” Her tone perks up noticeably. “Dinner is at six thirty and your dad is already starting to get hangry.”

Well feels like a slap in the face and Dean shakes himself out from his stretch. “How in the hell do you know what hangry is?”

“I’m hip.” She almost sounds insulted. “I use the Google.”

Please, God. No. “Mom. Don’t do this.”

“Oh, give me some credit.” Mom laughs and Dean immediately relaxes. It’s always so bad when she tries to keep up with all the lingo. “Sam taught that to me. Just like he does everything else after you moved out because you never spend time with me anymore.”

“Now you’re just flat out lying.” Everyone knows that Dean is the biggest mama’s boy in town. Not only does he see her at work every other day, but he spends more than half his free time over at their house every other evening.

Mom laughs loudly. “Within the hour, Dean! I’m holding you to it!”

With that, she hangs up. It’s so final that he knows he’s going to get hell if he’s any later than five o’clock. And that’s not really leaving a whole lot of time. So he better get his ass in the shower, and that’s straight where he goes. Thank the gods of rock and roll that he had the foresight to prepare everything he needs to bring with him this morning. All he has to do is get shower, get dressed, and get everything in the car. God bless leftovers.

Dean had a small Thanksgiving dinner on Tuesday night with Charlie and Jo. It was more elaborate than anything he’d usually make, given the holiday, but it was still pretty small. There was a full chicken mashed potatoes, gravy, a homemade pumpkin pie, meatballs, and a couple vegetable dishes made from Jo’s garden. The meatballs were definitely the easiest part to make because those definitely came from a box with a bottle of sauce and went right into the slow cooker – just like what he’s making for tonight’s dinner. Those would have been way too much effort to make from scratch.

The dinner didn’t need to be elaborate considering it was just for the three of them. Well, them and Sam. He somehow managed to weasel his way into the dinner as an excuse for more food since he’s a goddamn bottomless pit. If Sam wasn’t his little brother, he would have refused. But Dean loves him and couldn’t exactly say no. Well, kinda. He did deny Sam any leftovers. Those are for Charlie and Jo, since they’re both working today and neither one is going to get a Thanksgiving dinner with their families.

Charlie could have gone out of town on her days off, but it’s a few hours to where her parents moved to. Because of that, she spends most of the smaller holidays here in town. Big ones, like Christmas, call for the actual drive out. And Jo, on the other hand, does have a mom that’s rather close to town. Unfortunately, Ellen is really wrapped up with Roadhouse renovations and hasn’t had the time to prepare a full dinner like she did when Jo was growing up. They saw each other on Jo’s day off, but Ellen was totally okay with letting Dean take care of the food.

For all the work that he put into the dinner, and it really wasn’t that much, everyone seemed to like it. Better than that, Charlie and Jo were actually happy to take leftovers to work tonight. They’re probably going to be eating by the time he’s finished with this shower and that’ll be the last of the leftovers from Tuesday. Everything else was eaten Wednesday night. With Sam having dinner with them, there really wasn’t that many leftovers to start with. Dean had to beat him away from the pots and pans with a wooden spoon so he could put together the dinners for Charlie and Jo to take tonight.

And now he gets to do it all over again. He dug his own grave on this one, but he really wanted to do it for Charlie and Jo. Besides, he probably should have gotten up anyways. It’s getting lane and he needs to help with the food. Otherwise Mom is going to be doing all the work because Dad and Sam can’t cook worth shit. Dad is a TV dinners kind of guy, and Sam tends to favour natural foods. He eats a stupid amount of salads, or rather basically anything he can just throw into a bowl and eat with minimal amounts of actual cooking.

Clearly, Dean is his mother’s son.

Speaking of Thanksgiving, Dean has a mission once he finishes his shower. He takes enough time to dry his hair and pat down before wrapping the towel around his waist and heading back to the bedroom to get his phone.

Happy Thanksgiving, Cas! Hope you and your bro have a good time together today.

There. Now that’s taken care of, Dean can get back to getting dressed. That only takes him a few minutes, since he already had his outfit picked out. He knows what his parents consider acceptable family dinner attire, and he’s got those clothes put to one side of his closet so they’re easy to find when he needs to. Plus, they’re all clothes that go on hangers, so there’s no rooting through drawers.

Dean honestly isn’t expecting there to be a response from Cas waiting for him when he steps out of the closet fully dressed. Thank you. Happy Thanksgiving to you too, Dean. In the time it takes him to read that, another message pops in just beneath it. Gabriel is very tired after his shift earlier today. Apparently the entire population of Montpelier came into the café to buy their dessert for their dinners tonight. We’re going to be having a bastardized version of those dinners tonight.

While he’s contemplating what that means, a third message pops in. Dinner tonight consists of open faced hot turkey sandwiches for supper. That’s really all Gabriel has the energy to make and neither of us sees a reason to make a huge meal for just the two of us.

That is just so Cas to think about things like that. It’s adorable and Dean chuckles his way through typing out another letter. You’re up early! Hope I didn’t wake you. Honestly, that sounds like a totally acceptable alternative to a big dinner!

Dean is in the middle of brushing his teeth and putting the finishes touches to his hair when Cas responds again. It is, though I must admit I’m a little disappointed. I was hoping to have something a little like what we used to have when our parents were alive. Especially now that we’re trying to create a new home here.

Whoa, hold on. His parents are dead? Dean has his suspicions from previous conversations, but this is actual confirmation and wow, that fucking sucks. He can’t imagine losing both parents. And now the stench of depressing is all over these messages and Dean needs to turn things around ASAP before Cas manages to sink into the kind of sadness that’s almost impossible to get someone out of.

There’s always next year! He ends that with a smiley face because Cas seems to like them. His messages always have at least one included at some point in the conversation.

Sure enough, Cas responds with the same emoticon. That’s true. Hopefully we’ll still be here for that.

Holy shit. Dean’s frown gets a little deeper and he squints at his phone. Why is Cas hinting that he might leave? Where are they going to go? Back to wherever they were before their parents died? I’d be pretty sad if you weren’t.

About two seconds after sending the message, Dean gets hit with insta-regret. Why did he send that? It just sounds – it sounds like he wants Cas here. He does, but it sounds kinda clingy and Dean doesn’t want to look like that. They’re working at being friends here. If he freaks out about this, he’s totally going to give away his end game here.

He relaxes the moment he gets another smiley face emoticon from Cas. I would be too. I’m starting to really like it here.

Well, goddamn! After sending another smiley face, Dean practically skips his way down into the kitchen because that just blew away any worries that he had. It sounds so ridiculously promising that his chest actually hurts from how happy this makes him. Okay, this day is off to a good start – even though he slept most of the day away anyways.

Cas texts again while Dean is throwing some Tupperware containers into a reusable shopping bag. Gabriel and I are about to start dinner now – which is why I’m up so early. I hope you have a good time with your family today.

He takes a quick break so he can respond. You too, Cas. And I hope your shift tonight is a good one!

It kinda sucks that Cas is going to be working on Thanksgiving though, but at least he doesn’t start until eleven o’clock. That’s well after dinner time, so he’s probably not going to be that busy. Would the café even get busy tonight? It’s a café, not a full restaurant, so how many people would go there for a meal instead of making one for themselves? Dean’s always had a home cooked meal for this holiday, so he honestly doesn’t know what other people do.

Either way, Dean is practically walking on air as he takes the crockpot out to the car and very carefully puts it on the floor of the passenger seat. He wedges it in place with his shopping bag of Tupperware containers and even covers it with a towel because if he gets just one drop of meatball sauce on the Impala’s interior anywhere – well, he’d probably give up on life and drive off the first bridge he sees. Not actually, but he’d be really upset if he messed up the car in anyway because of something as stupid (although delicious) as meatballs.

*

Dean stifles a burp with his hand and leans back in his chair. With a loud and very happy sigh, he rubs his belly with both hands. “After that, I’m not going to need to eat again until next year.”

“I’m not surprised.” Dad rests his cheek on his fist and gives Dean the same kind of look he gives the engine of the fire truck when it’s making a weird noise he can’t figure out. “You ate three full plates.”

“You’re just jealous, old man.” He turns a grin on his dad and stretches out more in his chair. “You’re just losing your touch.”

That earns him a flat, disapproving look. At least it doesn’t have the edge to it that normally has Dean diving for cover. Dad narrows his eyes before he stands up with his plate in hand. “I’ll be right back.”

“Oh no you won’t.” Mom reaches up and puts a hand on his shoulder to force him to sit back down. She takes the plate from him as she gets to her feet, adding it to her plate. “I’m not going to let you eat yourself sick right now. If you’re still hungry, you can have leftovers later.”

Dad points at Dean. “You let him have three plates.”

“He’s a growing boy.” She shrugs and leans down to kiss the top of Dean’s head as she walks back to the kitchen. “And he needs to keep up his strength after everything he eats.”

“But he’s in his twenties!” His complaints go completely ignored as Mom starts taking what few dishes they have on the table back to the kitchen.

Sam stands up to, taking Dean’s dish with his. “Is no one going to comment on the fact next year is only a month away and he probably could go that long without eating?”

No one answers, but Dean does elbow Sam in the hip as he walks by. That’s what he gets for trying to be a smart ass. And failing, actually. Sam’s much better at silent quips. He makes the most adorable pissed off face and Dean sometimes says or does things just so he’ll make one. It’s part of the joys of being the big brother and he relishes the perks that come with the position. Not immediately helping to clean up is a part of that perk – mostly because Dean did eat three full plates of Thanksgiving dinner and he needs to get this food baby under control first.

Once he feels like he can move without belching and throwing up, he gets up to go help clean. Thankfully, the mess isn’t too big. Big dinners like this are held without anything being fit on the table. Mom lines everything up on the island portion of their U-shaped kitchen and the family through it buffet style. It definitely works, and then in the end they only have pots and pans to wash. Half of it just needs a good soak before they throw it in the dishwasher, and Mom always makes sure the dishwasher is empty before dinner so they have the space for it.

Mom is in the process of taking all the Tupperware containers out of the cupboards when Dean makes it to the kitchen. He puts his hands on her shoulders and guides her out to the living room. “C’mon, Mom. You know the rules. All the cooking is over and now your job is done.”

She sighs, but doesn’t actually debate. These are the rules, after all. It’s been that way since Dean and Sam were little. Whether it’s Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter, or any other massive meal, the ones who do the cooking aren’t allowed to help with the cleaning. That’s done by everyone who did the eating and none of the help with cooking.

“Dad. Sammy. Get your butts in here and help with cleaning.” Dean gestures at the mess, which isn’t even that bad. Mom is a very clean cook. Mostly because she hates mess and she’s not actually much of a cook. The only time she goes all out is for the holidays and Sunday’s. Every other night isn’t that great, but she tries. Actually, most of Dean’s cooking skills come from his grandma.

With some grumbling, Dad gets up to help clean. Sam is already there and filling the sink with water because he knows the rules and he’s not going to fight them. That and he’s been on the receiving end of one of Dean’s headlocks and he knows what’ll happen if he complains. There might be some dissention in the troops, and that’s because Dad can be a big ol’ grump sometimes. That’s just a base aspect of his personality, so there’s nothing they can do about that.

Dean makes sure that they’re both starting on dish duty and table clean up before he gets to work preparing his own Tupperware containers. As the token child who doesn’t live at home anymore, he gets first dibs on leftovers – which is why Mom made so much. He’s only going to fill up a couple containers, and he’s going to do it in such a way that each container is a full meal in and of itself. Meals like this are literally the only reason he went out of his way to buy segmented Tupperware.

With all the leftovers available, Dean manages to make three containers for himself. Depending on how sick he is of Thanksgiving leftovers by tomorrow, the other two might before Charlie and Jo. Or he might get creative and make himself an awesome sandwich. Either way, he’s got food for the next few days and he can definitely put off going grocery shopping until his next day off.

Once his containers are full, Dean moves on to emptying the pots and pans directly into the bigger containers that Mom pulled out. This is the extent of what he has to do to help clean up. Since he helped with the cooking, he’s only semi-exempt from dish duty. Sam and Dad, however, are the ones rinsing and loading the dishwasher with all the plates and whatever else they can fit. By the time it’s full, they’re only left with a few pots to hand wash. While Dad takes up the drying cloth, Sam gets elbow deep in the sink because he lost the rock-paper-scissors battle. He was foolish for even trying that. Dean almost always loses to Sam, but no one has ever beaten Dad. Not even Mom.

“Alright, have fun you two.” Dean salutes to the two at the sink. “I’ll be watching TV with Mom until you guys are done.”

“And when we are, expect to get your ass handed to you at Monopoly.” Dad flaps the dish towel at Dean. Not only has he won at every game of rock-paper-scissors since forever, but he’s won the vast majority of Monopoly games.

Mom pipes up from the living room. “What about that new card game you bought, Sammy?”

“Oh God. Mom, no. We are not playing Cards Against Humanity.”

“Oh my God. Yes.” Dean throws his head back with a laugh as he drops onto the couch next to his mom. “We definitely have to play that! We’ll get to find out what kind of depraved and terrible people we really are and it’s going to be awesome.”

There’s some murmuring for the kitchen before Dad laughs loudly. “Sorry, Sam. You just convinced me that it’s definitely going to be fun.”

Damn.”

Dean leans over to whisper to his mom. “He just doesn’t want to play because he keeps losing at it hard. Poor guy is just too innocent for the game.”

They played it together on Tuesday with Charlie and Jo, and both got their asses kicked one hundred percent. Charlie is apparently magical at this game, because she had a sweeping victory with every single game they played. Even Jo got more black cards than Sam did, and he’s apparently not taking that crushing defeat all too well. Poor guy is likely worried that he’s going to get beaten by Mom and Dad because they know each other’s humours better than anybody. Not to mention that Sam is probably going to be too nervous to play anything really raunchy with both his parents playing too.

And that is why Dean is looking forward to it so much.

Once the kitchen is cleaned, Sam and Dad join them in the living room. It takes them a little while and by then, Dean and Mom are really into a movie they stumbled upon. Dean doesn’t even bother with the name of it. Mom seems to like it and it’s actually kinda interesting, so he’s happy with it. Dad and Sam know better than to object too, even if it is some kind of romance movie. Normally Dad is all sorts of against these because he’s a manly man and men don’t watch this kind of thing, but he doesn’t really get the chance to complain when Mom cuddles up to him with the happy sigh. If Dad was Superman, Mom would be his Kryptonite – but in the good way.

When the movie comes to an end, Sam is suddenly really focused on giving Bones a hearty rub down – especially since he was closed up in Dad’s study for the whole dinner. He pointedly ignores that everyone has been looking at him since the credits started rolling. Sam actually flinches when Mom clears her throat and he looks at everyone on the couch with those wide innocent eyes that he must have learned from Bones. Mom clears her throat again and raises her eyebrows at him. It’s a wordless command, and it works like a charm.

Dean tries really hard to stop himself from smiling, but it’s incredibly difficult. There’s just a certain joy to be had when your sibling is the one under scrutiny. Honestly, Dean doesn’t get to feel like this very often. Especially now that he’s left the house. Sam is pretty much a model child the majority of the time, so even growing up he wasn’t one for getting in trouble. Though Dad does ride his case a lot for not having an interest in being a firefighter or working at the station. It’s the family business, as Dad puts it.

Sam leaves the room for a few minutes and returns with a sulky pout and the long black box for Cards Against Humanity. “Where do you want to play? On the couch or at the table?”

“We’ve been at the table enough tonight.” Mom moves the decorative bowl from the top of the coffee table to underneath it. “Deal them right here, Sammy.”

He sighs loudly and drops to his knees, since he’s going to sit on the floor with Bones. “Okay. But this isn’t your normal card game. Dean, explain the rules.”

“Buckle up, family.” Dean leans forward and cracks his knuckles. “Because this is gonna be a fun ride.”

*

“I can’t believe you won with ‘If you detect it early, you can stop _________’ with ‘an all-ages furry convention’.” Sam flops backwards on the floor and is immediately assaulted with slobbery dog kisses.

Mom looks as smug as a pig in shit as she separates the black and white cards from each other before putting them in the box. “And the fun part is that I don’t even know what a furry convention is!”

Don’t tell her!” Sam points dramatically at Dean without lifting his head.

“Oh please, Sam. I have access to the internet and nothing can stop me from finding out if I want to.” She rolls her eyes and slides the lid into place.

“This was more frustrating than I originally thought it would be.” Dad slumps back on the couch with a sigh. He’s probably just disappointed he actually lost at a game for a change. “And longer than I imagined. How late is it?”

Dean checks his watch and winces. “It’s after eleven o’clock. I should probably head back. Don’t wanna keep you guys up too late.”

“Sweetie, it’s Thanksgiving.” Mom pats him on the knee as she pushes herself up to stand. “We’re not firefighters. We get tomorrow off and Sam doesn’t work.”

“Good point.” He muffles a yawn and looks up at her. “How about because I’m tired and still recovering from getting off work this morning? Is that a viable excuse to go home?”

Dad rolls his head to one side to give Dean a flat look. “If you wanna go home, no one’s stopping you.”

“I feel the love, Dad.” Regardless, Dean still gets to his feet. “But you’ve been half asleep for the last hour. That’s why you didn’t win any rounds.”

“Come, sweetie, don’t antagonize your father.” Mom shoos him out of the living room with a smile. “I made you a separate pie to take home because I’m the best mom in the world.”

Of fucking course she is. Dean hugs her hard enough to lift her of the ground a bit. He can’t imagine what life would be like without her, or where he’d be if she hadn’t been such a big part of his life when he was growing up. Would he even still be a firefighter? If it wasn’t for her, he wouldn’t have practically grown up in the station until he hit school age. His life without his mom is literally impossible for him to imagine and, to be honest, he doesn’t want to think about it.

He gives her a big kiss on the cheek before putting her down to get his leftovers and extra pie out of the fridge. It’s time to pack them up with his clean crockpot and head on home. Dad doesn’t get up from the couch to see him out, but Dean gets a goodbye wave and yawn-muffled ‘see ya’. After a big Thanksgiving dinner and a half dozen beers, that’s actually pretty good for him. Sam and Mom, however, follow him to the door to say their goodbyes.

Even after he’s on the road, Dean has that warm feeling spreading through his chest that he always gets from spending time with his family. They’re some of his favourite people in the world and he wouldn’t give them up for anything. There are very few people he gets this kind of feeling from being around them. In fact, the list is more or less is comprised entirely of family. Too bad Bobby wasn’t able to make it tonight. He had other things to do, apparently. Probably it was so he could have dinner with that nice neighbour of his that keeps flirting with him. That ol’ dog.

There’s next to no one on the road right now, and Dean feels comfortable to do a jaw-cracking yawn that almost squeezes out a few tears. He eases the brake as he approaches the yield onto Barre Street. Either he merges onto that street and continues straight down to Main to take the long way home, or he makes a sharp left that might not be entirely legal so he can take the much shorter route to go over a much closer bridge.

The only reason he’d take the long way would be to drive past the Graveyard Shift and that would just be crazy, wouldn’t it? Oh, but now that the thought is in his head, he’s finding it really hard to make his hands start turning the wheel. What he needs to do right now is go home and get a good night’s rest so he can spend tomorrow doing all the shit around the house that he needs to do. There’s laundry, cleaning the bathroom, and making supper for the girls when they wake up because his today is their tomorrow, more or less.

Dean pumps the brake a little more and glances at the seat next to him. More specifically, he eyes up the bag of leftovers. He’s got three full meals in there and that’s more than enough for him. Cas, on the other hand, hardly had a Thanksgiving dinner today. What he had was probably plenty satisfying and Dean would’ve been totally happy if that’s all he had today. But – well, there’s a part of him that really wants to share his leftovers with Cas because then he could show off his mom’s cooking and his own to a lesser extent.

No, no. That would just be creepy, wouldn’t it?

He’s not going to do it. Dammit. Dean is not going to do it.

Thursday – November 26th, 2015

Although he’s only been working the café for a few months, this has got to be the most boring shift Castiel has ever had. According to Anna, she hadn’t seen anyone in hours before he came down to relieve her. And Castiel even came in early – partially because they have to pay her overtime for being here and he’d rather do the work himself in that case. Besides, Anna should be with her family for the holidays. Though… Do the Fae even celebrate Thanksgiving? Darn. He should have asked her that before he sent her home.

Oh well. At least he has cleaning to keep him occupied. He could read or do his origami, but when is the next time that he’s going to have the chance to thoroughly clean the café like this? Business was a little busy earlier in the afternoon as customers were coming in to buy plenty of baked goods to use at their own dinners later on. After that died off, it quite literally died off. There hasn’t been anyone since around four o’clock, according to Anna.

As such, Castiel has moved all the tables and chairs. He’s done his best to stack all the tables and chairs out of the way by making use of the platform at the top of the stairs, the stairs themselves, and the space at the bottom of them. He’s even pulled all the books and games and plants off the bookcases so he can wipe everything down with a damp cloth and pull them away from the walls so he can clean the wall and floor behind them.

Literally everything in the café is getting a very thorough dusting – including the spaces behind and under every machine on the counter. Once he’s done with that, he’ll sweep and mop as well once he’s done all the other cleaning. He’s even going to empty and wipe down the mini-fridge under the counter, all the cupboards, and the shelves with the dishes on them. There isn’t a single surface in this café that’s going to be safe from his cleaning rag tonight.

Since he’s going to devote the majority of his shift to this, Castiel has actually laid down rules for himself. If he’s not done by the last hour of his shift, then he’s going to stop so he can do his origami. There are ten cranes that need to be done during this shift, because he doesn’t want to do twenty tomorrow. He’ll have to put everything back where it belongs and finish the rest of his cleaning on Friday night.

If he doesn’t get a single customer, Castiel should be able to get everything done easily. Given that it’s a holiday and it’s late, he honestly doesn’t expect to anyone to come in tonight. If anyone does come in, it will likely be one person in the middle of the night looking for a caffeine fix because they’re working overnight too. Actually, he fully expects one of the firefighters to come in just as they always do ever since the café opened. Part of him kind of hopes that no one will stop by so he doesn’t have to feel embarrassed to be caught out while the café looks so messy.

That said, he honestly doesn’t expect the bell above the door to jingle before it’s even midnight. Castiel is up on a chair so he can dust the top of the bookcase kept behind the counter. Of anyone who could be walking in right now, the last person he thought he would see is Dean. He’s hanging back in the doorway, shifting awkwardly on his feet as he glances around at the tables.

When Dean notices that Castiel is looking at him, he breaks into a bright smile. “Hey, Cas! Are you actually open right now?”

Castiel drops down from the chair and waves a dismissive hand at everything on the counters. “I’m taking advantage of how dead it’s been because of Thanksgiving. I’m surprised you came in.”

Dean ducks his head and shuffles over to the counter. “Sorry. Didn’t mean to interrupt.”

“You’re not.” He shakes his head and smiles. “I’m happy to see you. Did you come in for some desserts?” With a sigh he glances at the mostly empty display case. “I’m afraid we don’t really have many options for you right now.”

“You say that, but I totally see a pie right there.” With a flourish, Dean gestures at the pie stand that Castiel had moved to the back counter to make room for the items from the bookshelves. “Mom gave me a pie of my own, but I’ll never say no to some of yours.”

Castiel mentally kicks himself for forgetting about the pie entirely. “Gabriel made an apple pie because he thought everyone would be sick of pumpkin. It’s not as fresh as I usually have them for you, but you’re welcome to it if you want it.

“Awesome.” Dean smiles brightly, and then does the last thing Castiel would ever expect him to do. He places a Tupperware container on the counter and slides it over. “Here, this is for you.”

For him? Castiel looks down at it, forehead creasing in confusion. He’s never seen a container with so many segments before. He can clearly see mashed potatoes and gravy, some slices of turkey and ham, meatballs, and a few other things. While he knows what this is, Castiel has some difficulty wrapping his head around why Dean is giving it to him.

Dean shifts on his feet again and spreads his hands. “It’s Thanksgiving dinner in a box!”

“I had Thanksgiving dinner.” He tilts his head slightly and looks up from the container. Did Dean really make a container of leftovers for him? If he did, Castiel honestly doesn’t know how he’s supposed to feel about this.

“You had a lazy man’s Thanksgiving dinner.” Any confidence Dean had about his gift looks to be draining out of him and his shoulders slump slightly. “This is a full one with all the trimmings.”

Castiel picks up the container and turns it around in his hands, trying to figure out what the orange mush in one of the containers might be. “And you’re giving it to me?”

“I thought you might get hungry during your shift, so I brought you this.” Dean shrugs and rubs a hand over the back of his neck. “I mean, if you want it, that is. You can eat it, right?” He has his keys in his other hand and they jingle as he starts to fidget with them. “You said you had the turkey sandwich earlier, but I guess I didn’t check that you don’t have some kind of special diet or something.”

“What kind of special diet do you think I would have?” He raises and eyebrow and looks up from the container. It’s very likely that Dean might think he’s a Vampire, given how most people assume that just from his physical characteristics. Now he’s curious is Dean thinks the same.

A flush fills Dean’s cheeks and he looks away. “I dunno. I just – Sorry. This was dumb. I shouldn’t have done it without asking you first.”

Castiel tries really hard to keep himself from smiling. “Do you think I drink blood, Dean?”

He probably shouldn’t be so amused by how white Dean goes, or how wide his eyes get. That hopeless look is more than a little adorable and Castiel can’t stop himself from grinning now. Normally he hates the topic of his species, but Dean’s reactions are easing his usual discontent with this subject matter. Of course Castiel has zero intention of actually confirming what he is, but it couldn’t hurt to tease Dean a little more, could it?

After a few minutes of opening and closing his mouth without an actual response, Castiel takes pity on him. “It’s alright, Dean. I don’t drink blood.”

Relief has Dean’s shoulder sag slightly before he straightens them up again. “For the record, one of my best friends is a Vampire, so I’m totally cool with them. I’m also all for the Creature Rights movement and everything, if that helps.”

“We already have the same rights as you.” The movement never really made much sense to him. Granted, since he really doesn’t go out all that often, he doesn’t really concern himself too much with things like that.

Dean shakes his head and shoves his hands in his pockets. “Not everywhere, though. The movement is to let you keep those rights. A lot of towns and cities treat Creatures like 2nd class citizens, or they’re trying to take what you have away from you. It’s like those stores that refuse to stay open late enough for the Creatures that can’t come out during the daylight.”

“I see.” Castiel would have known that if he bothered to actually look into the movement himself. Now he feels rather silly for not doing it. “That would be nice, actually. Gabriel gets annoyed with me if I send him out too often during the day to do something that I can’t do at night. Although it is easier during the winter when the sun sets much earlier than the summer.”

“I totally get that.” He bobs his head in a nod and flashes Castiel another smile. “The Creature’s Rights Act and all the laws that are forming around it are still pretty new. Montpelier is great, but we’ve still got a bunch of stick-in-the-mud businesses that close at something like nine o’clock.”

“And the sun doesn’t set until nine or later during the summer, so you can see how that might be inconvenient for someone like myself.” Castiel shrugs and steps away from the counter to move the pie stand back into place so he can start boxing it up. Though he should probably confirm with Dean whether he wants the whole thing or just one slice.

Actually, since Dean brought him leftovers, Castiel is heavily considering just giving give him the whole pie as a gift. It’s also just really nice to know that the one friend that he’s made thus far is so accepting of Creatures. Since he normally blends in so well with Humans, Castiel doesn’t often deal with the racism that some Creatures can get. The only really obvious things that set him aside from a Human are his wings (that no one but his family have ever seen), his teeth (which most people don’t notice), and the fact that he can’t go out in the sun (something he doesn’t actually advertise).

It takes a moment for him to realize that Dean is literally the only person who has officially confirmed that Castiel is not a Vampire. To his understanding, Vampires need to drink blood to survive, but they are still capable of keeping up appearances by eating and drinking other things. That’s what has helped keep their species alive this long. Otherwise they might have been wiped out completely when Creature hunters were more popular way back when.

Dean clears his throat and gestures at the container of leftovers. “Are you – um – do you actually want them? I mean, they’re only leftovers and everything, but I’ve had so many Thanksgiving leftovers during the last few days that I’ll get sick of eating it before I’m done what I’ve got in the car.”

Oh, yes. Castiel hasn’t officially accepted this gift yet, has he? He cracks open the lid to actually look at the contents. Everything smells delicious and his mouth starts to water almost immediately. Although this gift is unexpected, and perhaps just a little weird, Castiel does find it somewhat touching. Dean clearly went out of his way to bring him this, and it’s likely because earlier today he mentioned being disappointed at not having a proper Thanksgiving meal. In an odd way, this is rather sweet of him.

“Thank you, Dean. I look forward to eating this later.” Castiel looks up at him and is almost blinded by Dean’s brightest smile yet. Is he easily pleased by simple things? Because he always has such happy smiles even when they’re talking about something seeming insignificant. But it’s such a nice smile and Castiel can’t deny the strange urge he has to do something to keep that smile going.

He puts a hand on the pie stand to draw Dean’s attention to it. “As thanks, I would like to give you the pie for free.”

“Oh my God, Cas, no.” Dean shakes his head and holds up both his hands. “I can’t do that. That’s part of your business and if you gotta make money off of it. If you’re not going to get any customers tonight, then at least let me pay for that.”

There’s a determined set to his jaw that Castiel outright ignores. He wants to repay Dean’s kindness in some way, but he also doesn’t want to turn this into some kind of fight between them. “What if I only charge you the employee rate? That’s fifty percent off the total.”

Dean bites his bottom lip and looks at the pie. There’s clearly some kind of internal debate going on, and it’s just this side of cute. Does he really love pie that much? Are there any other treats or foods that he likes as much as he does pie? If there are, Castiel wants to learn them. Maybe he could try making it himself next time. How surprised would Dean be if his next pie was handmade by Castiel instead of Gabriel? He’s a terrible baker, but the urge to try just to surprise his friend is growing quickly.

With a loud sigh, Dean holds out his hand. “Okay, fine. You have yourself a deal.”

Castiel laughs and shakes his hand. It’s only been a few weeks since he and Dean exchanged phone numbers and officially became friends. Since then, laughs have slowly but surely been coming to him more easily than before. Honestly, it’s a little amazing. He never thought that having a friend would make such a difference in him personally. For one, Castiel can literally feel his defenses dropping somewhat whenever Dean is around.

Of course, no matter what, he’s never going to reveal what he is or anything about his past that might hint to it. But a part of him really does want to open up to Dean at least a little bit – like how he confirmed that he isn’t a Vampire. As much as Castiel tries to deny that side of him, he really does crave a connection with someone else. He can try lying to himself, but he knows that only having Gabriel in his life won’t be enough. And it wouldn’t be fair to Gabriel if he has to be solely responsible for keeping Castiel company for the rest of his life either.

Honestly speaking, he probably shouldn’t have confirmed that he isn’t a Vampire. That’s just one less thing for Dean to consider whenever he tries to figure out what Castiel is. And yet, strangely enough, he doesn’t mind it too much. He’s not nearly as paranoid about this situation as he thought he would be. Maybe it’s because at this point is mostly fairly certain that he can trust him? Dean is a very nice person. He’s amusing, thoughtful, and he’s much smarter than he appears to be. Thus far he’s been nothing but a good friend and Castiel is very happy to have met him.

Maybe he should listen to what Gabriel has been saying. He’s been suggesting recently that Castiel should ask Dean to go shopping with him, or go to dinner, or even see a movie. While those all sound very nice, Castiel isn’t exactly ready for that just yet. He’s comfortable hanging out with Dean in the safety of the café, or even to visit him briefly at the station. That felt more like stopping in at a shop than anything else, considering it was meant to be just dropping off the coffee. But to spend time with Dean elsewhere? That might take another week or so of friendship. Not to mention that Castiel hasn’t hung out anywhere with anyone for over a dozen years now.

Castiel looks up from boxing up the pie. Dean is now in the midst of explaining what all is in the container of leftovers, including what parts of it he helped to make. He’s very animated in detailing how he helped his mother with everything, and then with describing the highlights of the games they played after dinner. His stories are so thoroughly amusing and Castiel is enjoying listening to him so much that he’s actually purposefully taking his time with putting the pie in a box.

If he takes his time, Dean might stay a little longer. It’s perhaps a little selfish of him to do, but Castiel is sure he’ll be forgiven for it. He hasn’t had a friend in a very long time and he’s really does enjoy spending time with Dean. Besides, he doesn’t exactly look like he’s in much of a hurry to leave either. From what he can tell, Dean is more than happy to lean against the counter and talk the time away. And, to be honest, Castiel is more than happy to let him.

Chapter Text

Friday – November 27th, 2015

Dean keeps a wary eye out for any spider webs and their respective owners as he climbs the ladder up into the rafters of the garage. The cross beams act as support for not just the roof, but the many storage bins he’s got up here. His organization demons made sure that everything up here was properly stored in big ass Rubbermaid bins and were properly labeled with chalk labels where he could easily re-write what’s in them.

“C’mon, Winchester. Let’s get a move on!” Jo punches him in the thigh and Dean’s leg nearly buckles from it. “We don’t have all day.”

“We have the whole damn day and if you don’t want me to land on your head when I fall, don’t do that again.” He throws her a dirty look before climbing to the top of the step ladder and straddling it to brace himself better. “Charlie, is she standing properly before I start passing her these bins?”

Jo groans loudly and he gets a pinch on his thigh this time. “I’m a firefighter. I think I know my way around a goddamn ladder.”

While that might be true, she’s not exactly standing on a ladder. Right now she’s on a step-stool to give herself some height when it comes to taking the bins that Dean’s going to be pulling down and handing off to her. Charlie’s the one on foot and that’s because she’s stronger than the average girl. She’ll be helping brace the bottom of the bin as Jo sorta just supports them en route from Dean’s hands to Charlie’s. Jo could easily hold it all herself, but she wanted the support job so she wouldn’t have to go back and forth to heft the bins into the house.

“Charlie, be my witness when Ellen is mad at me because Jo fell and broke her neck for not standing on the stool properly.”

Dean doesn’t even bother looking down at them while he picks the lightest of the bins to start with and slides it off one of its supporting beams.  He takes a moment to pop the top on it and check inside to make sure that it’s exactly what he wants. Of course it is, because everything has his nice chalk labels on it, but he’s delighted by what he finds. Right there on the top is his favourite Santa hat and Dean pulls it out to put on. The springy red top wobbles and feels a little weird at first, but he likes it.

He pulls out a handful of tinsel to wave at the girls below, just to prove that it’s the right bin. They both roll their eyes at him. Dean sticks his tongue at them before tucking the tinsel away again. With the lid snapped back into place, he works the bin through the gaps between the rafters and runs it over one of his thighs to pass it off.

“Hey, don’t bring me into this.” Charlie pointedly ignores the dirty look Jo throws between the two of them while she guides the bin into Charlie’s hands. “I want this over and done with as soon as possible. I’ve got some equipment and software updates to do for my computer before Rainbow Six Siege comes out on December First.”

That sets off red flags in Dean’s head. “It’s only releasing for PS4 and Xbox on Tuesday. The PC release is going to be on the Seventh.”

She almost drops the bin as she looks back up at him. “Don’t play with me Winchester. I’ve been waiting for this game since they announced it’s release back in May!”

“Since when were you into first person shooter games?” Jo honestly sounds confused, and it’s for a good reason. Charlie is usually into games like World of Warcraft, Dragon Age, Skyrim, and the like. She doesn’t normally go for a tactical shooter game like Rainbow Six Siege.

Charlie shrugs and starts carrying the bin towards the door into the house. “I’ll take any excuse to kick some ass at a video game.”

Dean coughs a laugh so hard that it actually hurts his chest. He knows exactly who’s ass she’s talking about. There are certain kind of gamer attracted to specific kinds of games and Charlie really does love whooping them at it. She’ll probably do single player until she’s got the controls down, and then switch to multiplayer to school some butt hurt gamer kids. He used to be one of those gamer jerks before she logged into his favourite game and taught him a humiliating lesson.

He gets the next bin down and it’s ready and waiting for her when she comes back. There’s not a whole lot of them, but Charlie is definitely going to be making a few trips into the house. It’s unfortunate, given that they’re all the kind of people who try to make as few trips as possible, but they don’t really have much of a choice. They have to get this stuff down today. This isn’t a one person job and aside from Monday, this is the only day they all have off.

It’s pretty rare for all three of them to have a day off together and Dean’s happy to have their help to take this all down. The weather report is claiming that next week they’re going to get their first dusting of snow, so that’s why this stuff is coming down. All of these bins are full of their Christmas decorations and Dean wants to make sure everything up is before the snow hits. It’ll just be so much easier than doing it with snow, no matter how little it is.

After the third bin, Jo groans loudly. “Why do you have so many boxes?”

“Calm down.” Dean flaps a hand at her and starts reaching for the next bin. “There’s only, like, five boxes and a tree. Half of this is indoor stuff anyways.”

Jo sighs loudly and rolls her eyes as she passes the bin off to Charlie again. Dean leans over to flick the top of her head. “Don’t give me that look. There’s two bins for outside, and three for inside. And one of those is just full of boxes for ornaments and shit for the tree.”

The next closest bin is actually the box for the tree before he has to move the ladder to get the final few bins and he drags that closer. “Now stop giving me sass and get ready for the tree.”

His reward is a bitch-face on par with the Sam’s. Dean ignores it with a smile and slides the box down to her. The box for the tree is about as tall as Jo is, and it’s definitely bigger than Charlie. It’s shorter than him, but the tree itself is definitely taller than Dean is. There are two pieces inside the box and the tree is pretty much as high as their ceiling. When Dean Winchester does a Christmas tree, he goes big. The holidays are a fun thing for him and he goes to town on all of them.

By some pre-Christmas miracle, Jo doesn’t complain for the last of the bins. She’s more than happy to carry the last one into the house and leave Dean to get down from the ladder on his own and put it away. He hangs the step ladder and the stool on hooks drilled into the studs of the garage wall. With those out of the way, Dean moves the Impala back into the garage and closes the door. By the time he makes it inside, Jo and Charlie have moved and stacked all the bins in the corner of the living room where the tree is going to go. It’s next to the entertainment center and in front of the main window.

Normally Dean would like to decorate the same day they take the bins down, but Sam insisted that he wanted to help out. On the outside that seems really sweet, but Dean knows that he’s just being selfish. Sam has been living it up like he’s got two families now. Double the thanksgiving, double dinners, double anything he can manage to get away with. It’s not like he wished their parents got divorced and he’d get two of everything, but there are definitely certain things he likes getting two of. Too bad for him that there’s not going to be a second Christmas morning here.

Since Dean, Charlie, and Jo all love Sam, and they have Monday off together too, they agreed to wait for him. Partially because none of them want to spend their whole day off taking boxes out of the garage and then setting them up. So, really, it’s kind of a God send that Sam’s not able to make it today because he’s a whole list of chores Mom has for him that he didn’t spread out during the week like he should have. That’s a rookie mistake and Sam should know better. Dean definitely taught him better than that.

That said, he’s more than happy to kick back and just chill with his roommates for the rest of the night. There’s not really anything else for him to do tonight anyways. His koala origami piece for tomorrow is already finished and done with a nicely patterned paper, and he’s got his shit for tomorrow’s shift laid out and ready in his bedroom for the morning. Dean is prepared like a goddamn boy scout and that’s the way he likes it.

“So, what are the plans now?” Charlie stands with his hands on her hips as Jo and Dean start to get settled on the couch. “We’re not going to do anything else today?”

He shrugs and shares a look with Jo. “Well, I’ve already done my half hour on the treadmill, and a few sets on the weight bench.” They’ve got a little set up in their unfinished basement so they can work out when they’re feeling particularly guilty for eating more than half a pizza to themselves the night before. Which totally wasn’t what Dean did last night. Definitely not.

“And we just brought all that shit in.” Jo gestures at the bins. “What else do we have to do? I’ve earned my lazy day, dammit.”

Charlie rolls her eyes and turns to the entertainment unit. She opens one of the drawers and pulls out two very familiar objects that unfold while she holds them. “How about a little competition, my good roommates? A round robin of competition and the ultimate loser buys the nibbles for Monday.”

Dean snorts and shakes his head at her. “You want to challenge the king of Dance Dance Revolution?” He hasn’t lost a game in forever. He is the king of rhythm and no one has ever managed to take his crown away from him.

“If the king wants to keep his crown, then he damn well better get his ass up here and shake it.” She flaps the mats out and lays them down in front of TV, not waiting for anyone’s confirmation.

Well, fine then. If she wants to be completely schooled at this, then Dean’s more than happy to oblige.

*

There’s sweat in his hair and an ache in his feet as he drops into the easy chair. Dean sighs happily and pulls the lever that makes the footrest pop out. He leans back in the chair, forcing it to stretch out so he gets a little more horizontal and a lot more comfortable. Now that his title has been officially protected yet again, he can relax and let Charlie and Jo dance it out for second place. It’ll be another few months or another release of a new DDR game before Charlie challenges him again.

Now that he’s off his feet, Dean feels that it’s safe to check his phone. He’s not expecting anything, but he’s still a techno-baby and no matter how hard he tries not to, he’s just a little addicted to technology. To his surprise, and his delight, there’s a message from Cas. It’s not really that surprising, because of how often they text now, but it’s always nice to see a text for a conversation that he didn’t start.

I’m done The Elenium and I am VERY happy that there is The Tamuli to look forward to. I always feel at a loss when I finish a good book.

Goddamn. Cas is already done the book? Dean hasn’t even managed to get his hands on the first book of The Tamuli yet! There is no way in hell he’s going to start the sequel series after Cas. That’s just wrong. He was the one who introduced Cas to the whole series in the first place. And he’ll be damned if he’s going to be out read by him.

“Charlie!” Dean lowers his phone and glares at her back while she hops around on the mat. “Are you done with Domes of Fire yet or what? I wanna start reading it already.”

She doesn’t even give him the courtesy of looking over her shoulder to answer him. “It’s been sitting on the kitchen island for, like, two days now. Don’t blame me because you didn’t get the message that it was up for grabs.”

“I thought you just forgot it there!” He drops his head back and groans. He feels so stupid now for not just taking it when it was there for a whole day.

“Not my fault, Winchester.” Charlie jumps in a perfectly timed circle, hitting four pairs in a row. For the brief moment that she’s facing him, she sticks her tongue out and flips him off.

He mumbles a bunch of swears under his breath as he starts typing a response to Cas. Just got my hands on Domes of Fire. Gonna get started on that tonight after whooping my roomies at video games.

He watches the girls start on dance number two of three for about half the song before his phone vibrates in his hand again. Cas is getting faster at answering too, and that’s great. Are we going to have a reading race to see who finishes Domes of Fire first? I feel I should point out that I have the compendium and far more free time than you. A second message buzzes in right after the first. You’ll likely lose if you challenge me at this.

Okay, so that sounds kind of awesome. A reading challenge with Cas would probably be all sorts of fun. But there’s the obvious fact that Dean would probably lose and he would lose hard. He’d rather not lose that much face in front of Cas. After all, he’s trying to make himself look good in his eyes.

No, man. I’m not gonna challenge a champion reader like you. I pace myself and I’ve got too much shit to do. Dean laughs quietly to himself so he doesn’t disrupt the girls and hits send.

His laugh is a little louder when Cas responds with the smuggest looking emojis his phone probably has. And what kind of ‘shit’ do you have to do?

Oh, TONS. Dean is, after all, a very busy boy. That’s why he’s spending his Friday night at home with his roommates, mixing it up with some good ol’ Dance Dance Revolution. When they’re done with DDR, they might dig out the guitars and play some classic Guitar Hero. I work tomorrow, Sunday is a me day with lots of sleep, and Monday we’re going to decorate the house. It’s gonna be fun!

And, like some kind of terrible habit of his, a new idea spawns in the depth of his brain. It’s crawls into the light like the creature from the black lagoon and there’s no ignoring it once he’s thought of it. Dean bites his lip and glances from his phone to the girls and back again a few times. Is this really a good idea? Or is it bad and he’s probably just going to end up regretting it because it’s way too soon to ask something like this of him?

Better check with Charlie and Jo first. “Hey, would you two be cool if I invited Cas to come help us decorate on Monday?”

“More hands means less work.” Jo gives him a thumbs up over her shoulder, feet stomping up a storm on the dance pad. “I’m down for it.”

Charlie actually takes the point hit to look away from the TV and give Dean a smirk to end all smirks. He flips her off for it and she returns the favour, which he assumes means that’s her approval for the idea. Okay, good. If neither of them thinks it’s stupid, then it can’t be that bad, can it? Okay, okay. Dean’s going to do it. He’s going to invite Cas over and see where that gets him.

It takes him five whole attempts at typing out the message before he gets the wording right. Even then he’s not entirely happy with it, but he hits send anyways because that’s as good as it’s going to get. If you’re free before work on Monday, do you wanna come help? It’s going to be a blast with the roomies and Sam. He doesn’t wait for an answer before he quickly types up another message to help convince Cas along in case the first message puts him on the fence. We play Christmas music, sing bad karaoke to it, dance just as badly, and eat some delicious appetizers. It’s a really good time, I promise!

There. They’re sent and now all he can do is sit here and wait. And wait. And wait. He’s still waiting by the time Charlie and Jo reach the end of the third song. They high-five the exact moment they both make the final stomp. The game tabulates their grades and they both have A’s – except Charlie is a few hundred points more than Jo. Dean can’t actually see the results with them in the way, but the telltale ‘woo-hoo!’ and ‘son-of-a-bitch!’ give him his answers.

He nearly drops his phone when it finally buzzes again. Dean can’t get the text message open fast enough. Thank you for the invitation, Dean, but I must decline. His heart sinks and he tilts his head back to pout at the ceiling until another message buzzes in. I enjoy when you visit me at the café, but I’m not sure if I’m comfortable with hanging out in a different setting yet.

Shit. He shouldn’t have sent those message in the first place. This is all Charlie and Jo’s fault. What in the world made them think that this was a good idea? Obviously it was way too early to try and ask Cas over. They’ve only seen each other at the café and five minutes at the fire station. Those are the places that they work. Dean’s an idiot for thinking he could skip straight from their workplaces to his goddamn house. That’s just – that’s a fucking massive jump. And he was just so stupid.

No matter how much progress he thought he was making with Cas, it looks like he was wrong. They’re still only kinda friends, but not really. Cas isn’t comfortable with the idea of hanging out with him outside the café. Doesn’t that mean that Cas doesn’t actually like him, then? Fuck, now Dean is just making himself sad and he doesn’t want to do that. Today was so enjoyable and he was really looking forward to leaving Cas that koala origami tomorrow. Now he’s sorta lost his feel for that.

But he can’t put any of that into a text. The last thing he wants to do is make Cas feel bad for saying that. It probably wasn’t easy on him either. Dean takes a deep breath and lets it out in a slow hiss before he starts typing a reply message – four times. I understand. Maybe next time? And fuck knows when that’ll be. How often do they do something where they decorate? It’s a long way off until the next major holiday decorating, that’s for sure.

The smiley face he gets back right away is not only surprising, but a little calming, actually. Cas sends actual words in a separate message from the emoji. Yes, maybe next time. It’s been a very long time since I had a friend and I need to take this slowly. I’m sorry if this upsets you.

Wait. Wait. Wait. Dean tilts his head and frowns at his phone. That can’t be right. There’s no way someone as cool as Cas hasn’t had a friend in a while. Well, how long have he and Gabe been living in town? It hasn’t been too long, right? But Cas must have had a friend wherever he lived before they moved here. He just can’t wrap his brain around this. Dean really enjoys spending time with Cas. They have good conversations and he’s funny, smart, got some awesome hobbies, and kinda awkward in that nerdy but cute way. He’s just fantastic and Dean can’t think of a single thing not to like about him.

It’s cool, Cas .Everyone has their own pace and their comfort zones. Dean ends the message with a smiley face emoji before getting started on a second one. I’d be down for hanging around outside of the café whenever you’re comfortable with it too.

He gets a string of smiley faces and thumbs up as a response. See? Dorky awkwardness at its finest. Thank you, Dean. I appreciate that. Text number two makes him feel a little less bad, but there’s still a heavy ball of disappointment resting behind his sternum.

“Uh oh.” Charlie slings an arm across the top of Dean’s recliner and leans into its side. She ruffles his hair and Dean makes sure to hit the home button on his phone to hide his conversation with Cas. “It looks like someone’s got a case of the frownies! Why’s our DDR king looking so sad?”

Jo drops onto the couch with a pout for losing, but she’s watching the both of them. “Something happen with your text buddy there?”

“It’s nothing.” Dean shrugs and puts his phone away. “Who’s hungry for pizza?”

They both light up at that, but then Charlie punches him in the shoulder. “Don’t tease. We don’t have any pizzas in the freezer and I know for a fact you don’t have enough money left in your restaurant budget to order in anything.”

“And we’re not covering your half of the bill again.” Jo points out, pointing at Dean with her i-mean-business finger. “You still haven’t paid me back for that McDonald’s run last month.

Dean rolls his eyes and swings his legs down to close the footrest into the chair again. “Put it on my tab. We’ve got the list on the fridge for a reason. I’ll settle my debts on payday.”

“We’re getting off topic here.” Charlie claps her hands to get their attention again. “I was just promised pizza and I want to know how you –” She pokes Dean hard in the chest as he stands up. “– are going to make good on giving me pizza.”

He rubs the spot she poked because she’s got the boniest little fingers ever and they hurt. “For your information, I’m going to make it.”

Jo immediately perks up, so much so that she actually gets up off the couch. She knows what it means when they do homemade pizza. “We’re each going to get our own, right?”

“Absolutely.” Dean heads over to the kitchen and picks up a covered bowl he’s had sitting in the corner of the counter. “Are you saying neither of you actually peeked at this all day? I made the dough this morning while you ladies were getting your beauty sleep.” There’s enough dough to make three full sized pizzas. And he’s talking the rectangular baking pans that they normally use for cookies.

Both of them follow him into the kitchen, but Charlie is the one who checks the fridge. “What kind of stuff do we have to put on them?”

“Everything.” He’s been planning this for a week, at least. They’re really bad at paying attention to things if neither of them noticed the bag of pepperoni slices, the various different meats, the can of pineapple pieces, or even the can of pizza sauce that he bought on the last grocery run. He wasn’t even remotely subtle about it, so this is kind of a little bit hilarious for him.

Charlie impulsively hugs him from behind while he flours the corner of the kitchen counter so he can work the dough there. “You’re the best, Dean.”

“And that is why I’m the king.” He puffs up and flashes them both a grin. “Now, someone get started on grating that cheese. Get out what you want on your pizzas and slice up the meat. I’ll take care of everything else.”

“Do you want me to heat the oven up right now?”

“Nah, I’ll start it when I’m adding the toppings.” Dean hip checks Charlie out of the way so he can get the rolling pin from one of the drawers. And he needs his apron too, because he already has flour on his shirt and that was just dumb on his part. “You two go and pick out a movie. Something good to watch when the pizzas are done.”

They both salute him with a laugh. Charlie heads back into the living room to check out their DVD collection and what might be available on Netflix. Jo starts poking around in the fridge to get the veggies and other toppings that she wants on her pizza. Dean isn’t expecting music to start playing, but he thanks Charlie for it anyway. The classic rock has him swinging his hips while he separates the dough and starts rolling one of the pieces out.

He’s still pretty disappointed that Cas turned down his invitation, but he’s going to do his best to ignore that feeling. Dean has plenty of fun hanging out with his roommates and they’re going to make a great distraction tonight. The worst part is, though, that he can’t be too sad for himself. It really was too early in their friendship to ask Cas over like that. Sure, it sucks that he thought they were moving a lot faster than they really were, but that’s okay. It really is. He’s just going to keep working at it until he gets to where he wants to go with Cas.

And even if he doesn’t, then at least he’ll have a new friend out of this.

Friday – November 27th, 2015

Gabriel isn’t exactly sleeping, but there are certainly some soft snores coming from his side of the couch. Even Nike is sleeping gently in Castiel’s lap, despite how it’s barely past seven in the evening. Nike has an excuse because she’s a cat and it’s still part of her sleeping time. She’ll be more awake later. Gabriel, on the other hand, is just lazy. He didn’t even get up particularly early this morning. Castiel isn’t going to say anything about it because he knows how hard his brother works and he’s certainly entitled to use his day off as he sees fit.

The TV is playing in the background, but Castiel pays it no mind. At the moment he’s doing his best not to freak out and disturb the other people in the room. He’s staring at his phone and the last message that he sent to Dean. There hasn’t been a response since, and he’s happy for it because the topic was less than desirable. But he’s also unhappy that Dean hasn’t responded and Castiel can’t stop himself from wondering if he’s upset because his invitation was rejected. It’s possible, but he honestly can’t tell.

Castiel had taken forever to think of a nice way to let Dean. Even then, his hands had been shaking and it felt like the room was ten sizes too small. The idea of going to someone’s home – to some place where he would be alone with people he barely knows – it scares him. He hasn’t been to anyone’s home since they moved here. Even Balthazar, whom he’s known the longest, has never invited him over. Gabriel has been there, but he doesn’t nearly have the same kinds of hang ups as Castiel does.

A walk through a park or down a sidewalk is fine for him. Even going into a store or restaurant is fine because there are always other people around too. No one can abduct him or attack him out in the open without causing a scene. That was something his parents hadn’t thought about. They lived in a house surrounded by trees that was at least a half hour drive from town. It was secluded and they thought that was a good thing since it gave Castiel and his father the chance to go outside without having to wear their heavy overcoats. Obviously that didn’t turn out too well.

He just – he can’t go to Dean’ house. Not yet, at least. There’s a little voice whispering paranoid propaganda in the back of his mind, telling him that someone in that home would be out to get him. It would likely be one of the roommates. Castiel trusts that Dean wouldn’t do anything to hurt him – more or less, and Sam was thoroughly vetted by Gabriel before he was hired. That leaves the two roommates; Charlie and Jo. Neither of which Castiel really knows. Just because they’re firefighters doesn’t mean that he can trust them.

If he was to ‘hang out’ with Dean, he needs it to be in a location where he feels safe. It needs to be somewhere that he knows. At this point, Castiel doesn’t know anything about Dean’s home. He’s some areas of it from random pictures that Dean has sent him, but he’s never been there. For one, he doesn’t even know what area of the city it’s in. And how big is it? How close are the neighbours? Are there any pets that Dean has that he hasn’t mentioned up to this point? Fences between the properties? Is it on the main road or farther back and out of view?

There are too many variables and Castiel doesn’t like any of them. He needs to learn so much more about what to expect before he would be comfortable going there. And there would either need to be less people, or he would need to get to know Charlie and Jo before he could possibly go there on his own. Maybe he could do this on Monday if Gabriel was coming, but he wouldn’t want to. He sees much more of Sam than Castiel does, and it would most likely be too weird for him. Not to mention that he’s not friends with Dean or his roommates. It would be more awkward for him than it would be for Castiel, since he wasn’t actually invited.

As if thinking about him has summoned him, Gabriel stirs and throws a hand out to slap him in the shoulder. “Could you stop that?”

“I’m not doing anything.” Castiel hasn’t moved in over an hour, and that’s rather impressive considering that he’s had two full cups of coffee without going to the bathroom yet.

Gabriel groans and arches his back a bit to stretch. “Don’t try and talk yourself out of it, Cassie. My eyes are closed and I can literally feel your waves of angst. So, stop it already.”

He huffs quietly to himself and turns the screen off on his phone. His steely silence must say something, because Gabriel open his eyes and rolls his head to the side. “Alright. Spill. What is it?”

“Nothing.” Castiel shakes his head and balances his phone on the armrest. “Nothing is wrong. Why would you assume that something is wrong?”

That was probably the wrong thing to say. Gabriel sits up a little straighter and looks Castiel over with a keen eye. He does it several times before leaning closer. “Out with it. What did Ken do?”

“Ken?” He doesn’t know anyone named Ken.

“Your Ken doll of a boyfriend.”

Now that is uncalled for and Castiel doesn’t hesitate to reach over and punch Gabriel in the thigh. It’s not hard, but it jostles Nike enough that she lifts her head with a displeased murmur. He drops his hand to pet her until she lowers her head again to tuck her nose under her tail. Her coat is coming in nicely and she is, quite possibly, the softest thing that Castiel has ever touched. A purr starts to rumble under his hands and he does his best to focus on that instead of on the bundle of nerves vibrating heavily at the top of his stomach.

“Okay, okay. I deserved that.” Gabriel hisses and rubs his leg. “Seriously, though. What’s wrong?”

Castiel takes a deep breath and lifts his head to stare blankly at the TV. There’s no point in trying to avoid this. Gabriel is just going to dig at it until he gets his answer. Either that or he’s going to have to lock himself in his bedroom. He could always try to hold out until sunrise where he could take the sleep. It’s impossible to bother him during that time period.

He takes another deep breath and releases it through his nose. “Dean invited me to help decorate his house on Monday with his roommates and Sam.”

“Oh, that sounds nice!” Gabriel sits up straighter, a smile starting to spread. “You’ll have fun with –”

“I’m not going.”

Like a balloon, he deflates with a sigh. “Why not?”

“I can’t do it.” He shakes his head and looks down at Nike, wiggling a finger under her head to scratch at the hinge of her jaw. “I just – I’m not – I can’t.”

“Okay, let me try that again.” Gabriel clears his throat and puts a hand on Castiel’s knee. “Why do you feel like you can’t go to Dean’s house?”

Castiel shrugs and brushes his hand away. “I just can’t. Okay? We’ll just leave it at that.”

“Oh my God.” With a groan, Gabriel slumps back into the couch. “You’re bailing on this because you’re scared of his house, aren’t you? I bet that’s it.”

It’s only slightly annoying that he hit the nail on the head with his first guess. Castiel very pointedly doesn’t look at him and keeps petting Nike. At this point she has become a very soft stress toy and he’s all the more thankful that he brought her home when he did. It’s one of the smartest things that he’s ever done. He’s been hoping that making friends with Dean would turn out the same, but now he’s not so sure – not for anything that Dean’s done. But rather, how little Castiel has thought about the progression of their friendship.

He was a fool for never considering the idea that one day Dean would want to go out and do things with him. That’s what happens in any normal friendship and that’s exactly what Castiel wants: a normal friendship. People who enjoy spending time together usually go out to places instead of just hanging out at their places of work. They can’t have a normal friendship if he’s going to be weird about it. And it is weird that he and Dean are friends and yet they’ve only ever spent time together here at the café. Castiel is really going to have to work at this if he wants them to continue being friends.

Dear Lord, what if Dean starts to think that Castiel is his weird friend? Worse yet, what if he doesn’t want to be his friend anymore because of this? It’s possible that Dean might think Castiel doesn’t like him. He does like him, though. The more they talk, the more interested he gets in learning more about Dean. This is just getting all messed up because Castiel is a mess; a nervous and more than just a little bit paranoid mess.

“Come on, Cassie.” Gabriel nudges him with his elbow. “You’re a big boy. You can handle something simple like a get together for Christmas decorating. That can’t even be called a party. And you did just fine with the one we had here for Halloween.”

He huffs and elbows him back. “I was able to handle it here because I was in a comfortable and familiar setting. There was a counter between me and everyone else. I felt safe when the party was held here.”

“Castiel. Dear baby brother. You need to get out of the house.” Gabriel shakes his head and flops back against the armrest. “And I mean past the café downstairs.”

Now that’s just insulting. “I go for walks and sometimes I even go shopping. I get out plenty.”

“Don’t get smart with me.” He turns a frown on Castiel akin to the kind he used to see when they used to live in Florida. Back when Gabriel was raising him in place of their parents. “You know damn well exactly what I meant.”

Regardless, he’s acting like a dog with a bone and Castiel is not enjoying it. “Why are you so insistent about this?” Gabriel has been advocating for him to spend more time out and about with the rest of the populace for an absurdly long time.

“Because I love you and I think thirteen years is more than enough time for you to spend locked inside away from the rest of the world.” He sighs loudly, clearly more frustrated with this than he originally seems to be.

Castiel rolls his eyes, ending the roll with a flat stare directly at him. “Have you forgotten the two years we spent road tripping across the country?”

“That was with me.” Gabriel’s voice is just as flat as his own stare.

“I fail to see the difference.”

With a loud groan, Gabriel runs his hands over his face. “Try living for a change, Cassie.”

“I’m perfectly happy.” Castiel growls, baring his fangs slightly. “And I wish you would stop pushing your ideologies on me just because I don’t agree with them.”

That seems to be Gabriel’s breaking point. He sighs loudly and gets to his feet. “Okay, fine. Whatever.” He knocks Castiel in the knee before moving around the coffee table. “But how about this. If –”

No. He doesn’t want to hear anything. “I don’t know Dean’s roommates.” Castiel shakes his head and returns to petting Nike. “What if I can’t trust them? And I hardly know Sam. Wouldn’t it be considered weird for him to hang out with his boss while decorating for Christmas?”

“Sam is the last one you have to worry about.” Gabriel shakes his head and puts his hands on his hips. “I checked him out myself. He’s an okay kid and I doubt he’d care if you were there. Besides, you rarely see him. I bet to him you’re just the weird guy who works the graveyard shift.”

Castiel’s frown is starting to make his face hurt. “It would be awkward for a stranger to encroach on such an intimate family affair like decorating one’s home.”

“No, it wouldn’t.” He shrugs and starts pacing back and forth on the other side of the table.

“It would.” And nothing is going to change his mind on this. “I would be nervous the whole time, thinking that one of Dean’s roommates might have connections to a Witch, or they might recognize what I am. One of his roommates is a Phoenix, Gabriel. They’re very perceptive. My disposition could ruin the night for everyone.”

Gabriel throws his hands in the hair and stomps his phone. “Oh my God, Cassie. You’re overthinking this way too much. Just go to the damn decorating thing and take a step out of your frikken comfort zone for once in your life. Okay?”

Now Gabriel is just being downright insulting. Castiel has been outside of his comfort zone for quite a while now. He’s got a job that has him dealing with dozens of people he doesn’t know daily. He has a friend now, and a number of employees who work under him. That’s more than he can say for where he was this time last year. In either case, this isn’t changing his point of view on the matter.

“No.” He shakes his head and turns his attention back to Nike. Her head is up now and she’s watching Gabriel pace. “I don’t want to ruin their good time.”

“Dean wouldn’t have invited you if he didn’t want you there.” Gabriel waves a hand when Castiel opens his mouth to speak. “Don’t. Just shut up and let me say this one thing before I leave because you’re starting to irritate me with all this.” Castiel lifts his head with a glare, but it gets shrugged off. “I’m going to say one thing and one thing only. If Dean flirted with you any harder, then I might fall for him. Got it?”

He must be joking. “Dean doesn’t flirt with me.”

“Those glasses of yours are fake as hell, so I know for a fact that you’re not this blind.”

“Dean. Does. Not. Flirt. With. Me.” Castiel might not pick up on all social behaviours, but he’s fairly certain that he would know if someone was flirting with him. He was uncomfortably aware of when Nick was flirting with him. And there are the various men and women who come to the café. Some leave their numbers on the cups when they return them to the counter, some ask him outright. He can tell and he is positive that Dean isn’t flirting with him.

Gabriel snorts a hard laugh that startles Nike slightly. “No, Cassie, no. He absolutely does flirt with you. Like, all the time.”

Castiel shakes his head. “He’s my friend.”

“People who are friends can still flirt together, Cassie.” He sighs and turns on his heel, heading for the hallway. “I’m leaving. But you know I’m right.”

“No. You’re wrong.” His glare follows Gabriel out of the room. Castiel expects to hear his bedroom door, or maybe the bathroom, or possibly even the door to the fridge. What he ends up hearing is the door to their apartment and the subsequent sound of Gabriel going down the metal staircase into the café.

Sighing, he slumps deeper into the couch. Nike takes the opportunity to relocate herself. She stands up and stretches, arching her back before moving to curl up on his chest. Castiel brings his hand up to start scratching underneath her chin. Another purr starts to rumble, and he can feel it offset against the beat of his own heart.

He refuses to believe that Dean has been flirting with him, but there are certain things about Gabriel’s argument that he has to admit were closer to the truth that he would like. Is Castiel really being too neurotic about this? Should he just suck it up and go? Of course he wants to know more about Dean for his own personal curiosity. The things he wants to know are things he could only get from direct questions or observing Dean in his own home.

Things like… Is Dean messy or a neat freak? How many books does he own and how are they organized? Considering his affinity for cooking, how well stocked is Dean’s kitchen? What kind of food does he cook? Would he cook for Castiel if he visited? He’s quite the movie buff and often mentions playing video games with his roommates. How many of each does he have in his living room? How are they displayed? What about his computer? Is it a PC, a Mac, or does he own a laptop instead?

His mind is just full of utterly inane questions that he doesn’t need to know, and yet he wants to. At least he knows enough not to barrage Dean with them. That would be too weird, wouldn’t it? Castiel has no need to know any of these things. Sure, they tell him bits and pieces of Dean’s personality and his life that he doesn’t know yet, but they’re obscure and pointless to anyone else. Wouldn’t it?

Castiel would much rather focus on those kinds of questions than think about his argument with Gabriel. He spends an unknown amount of time staring blankly at the TV while composing a list of them in his head. By the time he reaches the end of it, he’s still at an impasse. He’s no closer to deciding if he’s going to rescind his rejection, or stick to it and wait for another invitation at a later date. But what if no day ever comes where he’ll be comfortable enough to hang out with Dean beyond the safety of the café? That’s a very likely possibility and that fact alone terrifies him.

Maybe what he needs is to spend more time with Dean in situations where he’s comfortable? Castiel could arrange for Dean to come visit here more often. He could just need more time to fully adjust to spending time together with him. If he’s more comfortable with Dean, that might carry over to his house too and Castiel will be able to go over there without issue. Though Dean isn’t the thing that’s keeping him from accepting the invitation. It’s the other people and a strange environment that he’s having difficulty coming to terms with.

Or perhaps Castiel should make the effort to spend some more time with Sam. That way, there will be two people he knows at any event hosted at Dean’s home. Knowing fifty percent of the attendees might be even to offset his anxiety over spending time there. Unfortunately, there just isn’t enough time between now and Monday for him to do that. It’s possible for the future – though it depends entirely upon whether or not Dean does many things with his roommates where he might also invite Castiel.

By some horrible twist of fate, he’s still dwelling on the topic when Gabriel finally returns. It hasn’t been nearly as long as it feels, but Castiel is certain that it’s been at least an hour. With a word, Gabriel flops on the couch in his previous spot and scoops up the TV remote. He turns up the volume and steadfastly stares at the screen. They pointedly ignore each other for an absurdly long time. But, at least, Gabriel’s return is enough to turn Castiel’s thoughts from his pensive contemplation over his situation with Dean.

For a while, he’s able to pay some form of attention to the show playing on the TV. A dragon roars across the screen and Castiel wonders when the episode of Game of Thrones started. If he had been paying attention, he might have been able to enjoy it. He’s not that into the show, but he does enjoy catching it from time to time – although he much prefers the books. Castiel would like to watch the rest of the episode, but nature calls for him soon enough.

Nike objects as Castiel lifts her from his lap and puts her on the cushion next to him. She glares at him as he gets up and heads to the bathroom. Since she doesn’t follow him, she must be unhappy with him for moving her. Normally he can’t go anywhere in the apartment without her shadowing him. When he returns to the couch, Nike is curled up in his spot and Gabriel is gone. His door was closed when Castiel passed it in the hallway, but he hadn’t given it any thought. He doesn’t give it any more thought as he moves to take Gabriel’s former spot and she moves back to his lap.

Another purr starts to rumble against his thigh before he even starts petting her. Castiel smiles as her ears flick against his fingers when they brush over them. “Am I being stupid about this?”

There’s a soft murmur as she stretches and makes herself comfortable on her side but that’s all the answer he gets. He wasn’t expecting anything, to be honest, but it still feels nice to have said that to someone. Castiel gets three scratches to her belly before she starts slapping at his hand and attempting to nip at his fingers. Now this is the perfect distraction and he starts tickling her feet , chin, and belly until her tail starts to flap with irritation.

Eventually, Nike gets annoyed with him and gets up to leave. Castiel gets up to follow her, intent on getting a toy that they can play with together. Maybe the feather ball on a string? Or her jingle bell that he can roll across the floor for her to chase? Anything would work well now that she’s awake and mobile – unless she decides to curl up on his bed. He hasn’t gotten her a cat tree yet to place by the window, and he really should do that soon.

As he reaches his bedroom door, Nike already through it, Gabriel comes out of his bedroom. Castiel pauses to glance at him, and immediately he knows that something isn’t right. There’s an air of guilt around Gabriel that he can practically smell.

Sure enough, Gabriel ducks his head with a smile like he’s trying to offset his shame. “I did a thing and you’re not going to like it.”

Castiel narrows his eyes and his stomach sinks. “What do you mean?”

Gabriel holds out a cell phone – Castiel’s cell phone. The app open on the screen is the one he uses for text messaging. At the top of the app is Dean W. and a growl trembles at the base of Castiel’s throat when he sees that there are several messages in a conversation that he never had. He can feel the tensing around his eyes that always happens when he gets this angry. A blur forms at the edges of his vision as it always does when he reaches these levels of truly angry. Though he can’t see it himself, this tensing and blur manifests externally in other ways – something that Gabriel must see now, as he takes a quick step back.

“What. Did. You. Do?”

Chapter Text

Friday – November 29th, 2015

Gabriel actually flinches as Castiel snatches the phone from his hand. He shakes it out as if that caused him pain. If that is the case, then he doesn’t care in the slightest. Frankly, Gabriel deserved it. How dare he steal Castiel’s phone – and to text Dean no less! This deserves more than a sore hand. It deserves something more like a punch that knocks him off his feet, or worse. At the moment, Castiel is feeling a mighty urge to give his big brother a black eye.

He quickly scrolls up enough to see the beginning of the conversation where Gabriel obviously took over his phone. Hey fire-boy! Come decorate the café with Cassie!

Dear God Almighty, if Dean can’t tell that’s not him, then they’re not nearly as close friends as he thought they were. That text is nothing remotely similar to Castiel’s messaging style. Then again, they’re not really as close as the thinks they would be by now given that he can’t even bring himself to hang out at Dean’s house. As if that wasn’t enough for him to be dealing with at the moment, there’s also this.

Who is this? Oh. Well, there was some unnecessary worrying right there. Dean obviously knew that it wasn’t him right from the beginning.

Take a wild guess, pretty boy. Castiel makes a mental note to tell Gabriel off later for all the ridiculous pet names that he’s giving Dean. He has a name and these nicknames are not it.

Dean responded with a red faced frowning face. Stealing my info from your bro’s phone is a violation of privacy, Gabe. He’s gonna be mad at you when I tell him. A swell of pride rises up under Castiel’s ribs. He chose well with picking his friend. Dean is standing up against Gabriel and it’s very admirable.

Got his whole phone, actually! Not just the info! Gabriel punctuated the message with an emoji sticking its tongue out. And it’s Gab*RIEL*. Never. Call. Me. *GABE*.

To what do I owe the pleasure of this conversation, Gab*RIEL*? Dean’s following message has matching tongue face on it.

As if stealing Castiel’s phone wasn’t bad enough, now Gabriel’s messages take a turning point and go straight to being rude. I literally said it in the first message. I thought you firefighters were supposed to be smart? Pay attention! He better hope that Dean doesn’t want to stop being friends with Castiel because his big brother is being an absolute jerk.

Thankfully, Dean doesn’t rise to the bait. I see that. But is CAS the one who wants me to come over and decorate or are you coming on to me?

Now that irks something deep in Castiel’s gut and he’s not entirely sure why. He disregards it after reading Gabriel’s next message. Him. Promise!

Yeah, I don’t believe you. If Cas wants me to come over, he’d be asking me himself. How do I know you’re not lying, huh? Dean is clearly smarter than Gabriel gives him credit for. He’s not falling for everything and Castiel is all the more proud of him for it.

That’s the last message in the conversation and it was sent just a few moments before Gabriel came out of his bedroom. Nike curls around his ankles as Castiel takes a deep breath in and out through his nose. He turns the screen off and lifts his head to level a tight glare at his brother again. If he needs words to convey how absolutely displeased he is right now, then Gabriel clearly doesn’t know him very well at all.

“In my defense, you needed someone to light a fire under your ass.” He holds his hands up in surrender and steps back into the safety of his own bedroom. “Since you wouldn’t do it, you left me no choice but to steal your phone from the couch when you were in the bathroom.”

Castiel keeps his voice low and edged with a growl. “You’ve crossed a line, Gabriel.”

“I know, and I’ll go to Church and confess my sins if you want me to.” He makes a cross over his chest before putting his palms together and looking skyward. Gabriel holds it for a moment before dropping his hands and fixing Castiel with a flat stare. “But I’m not going to regret it because this is going to help you stop being a goddamn chicken shit.”

The seething anger bubbling beneath his skin burns hotter and his vision blurs even more. “You have no right insulting me after you just stole my phone.”

Gabriel shrugs and flaps his hand between them. “I know for a fact that you want to go.”

“No, you don’t know that.” Castiel hisses and reaches out to grab the front of Gabriel’s shirt, but he dodges backwards, half closing his bedroom door in the same motion. That frustrates Castiel all the more and his upper lip curls with a snarl. “I don’t want to go. If I wanted to go, I would have accepted the invitation.” A little white lie right now feels more than acceptable given the situation.

“Stop lying, Castiel. I know you.” He must start to feel a little brave again, because he steps forward and puffs up like he does when he’s taking on a parental role. “You’re ready to step outta your comfort zone, but you’re finding every excuse not to because you’re scared.”

As if that wasn’t obvious. “Perhaps I’m scared because I don’t want to step out of my comfort zones until I’m ready for it.”

“Lie all you want, but we both know the truth.”

That’s as much as Castiel wants to hear. He growls again, this time loud enough to make Nike hiss in surprise. Without a word, Castiel turns on his heel and storms into his bedroom, slamming the door behind him. Aside from the boom of Gabriel’s bedroom door too, the only other sound is a string of distraught meows. Nike is still out in the hallway and Castiel turns back to let her in. As soon as she’s through, he slams the door again. It sends her skittering across the floor to hide under the bed.

A flash of regret for frightening her rises up, only to be swallowed by just how angry he is. Castiel throws his phone at his bed and picks up a furious pace back and forth across the short length of his bedroom. How dare Gabriel breach his privacy like this and then berate him for not going to a party he’s not comfortable attending? It’s not like Gabriel could ever understand what Castiel is going through. He’s not the one being hunted by Witches and living his life looking over his shoulder all the time. If Gabriel wanted to, he could easily walk away from all of this. All he would have to do is go out that door and not look back. Then he could have a normal life, which he’s probably always wanted anyways.

Or if Gabriel doesn’t have the guts to do it, then Castiel could be the one to leave. He could just pack up his things, put Nike in a carrier, and leave. While he might choose to walk everywhere, he does have his driver’s license. Castiel could easily take the car, or buy a car, and leave on his own. If he wasn’t here, then Gabriel could run the café on his own without ever having to worry about being ready to run at the drop of a hat. The café is his dream and now that he’s finally got it, Castiel doesn’t want to be the sole reason that he might have to give it up.

Regardless of all that, none of it excuses the fact that Gabriel is ignoring all of Castiel’s feelings on this. He took matters into his own hands – quite literally in respect to the phone – and set into motion plans of his own. Whatever his reasons for it, they weren’t right and Castiel is finding it very hard not to start hitting things out of frustration. If only his wings were out right now. He’d be fanning them in irritation and fluffing his feathers. It’s oddly soothing being able to do that.

Eventually, Nike finally pokes her nose out of hiding. She moves up onto the bed and meows at him until Castiel sits down next to her and she can sit in his lap. With a sigh, he flops back on the bed and reaches for his cell phone. He reads over the messages again as Nike starts kneading at his chest. The conversation leaves him with some very mixed feelings. While Castiel is certainly proud that his friend didn’t take any of Gabriel’s shit, he must admit that Gabriel’s alternative to Monday isn’t too bad of an idea. In fact, he kind of likes it.

With a sigh, Castiel taps through the prompts to give Dean a call. The moment it picks up, he speaks. “I would like to apologize for my brother.”

Dean’s laugh rumbles through the line. “Aw, did he give himself up? I was looking forward to ratting him out. It was going to be so fun.”

“He had to.” Castiel rubs a hand over his eyes. “It was really only a matter of time before I noticed my phone was missing.”

“Are you going to need help hiding the body?” There’s no small amount of amusement in his voice. “I’ve seen enough movies and read enough books to have some creative ideas for that.”

Well, isn’t that sweet. “As do I.” He chuckles to himself softly as he rolls his eyes. “I’ll let him live for now. I don’t want to go through the trouble of having to hire a new baker, or start paying a current employee the day manager wages.”

“I didn’t know you were such a scrooge.”

Castiel huffs and shakes his head. “I’m not. I’m just frugal.”

“Alright, Scrooge. Alright.” Dean’s laugh this time sends a slight shiver down his spine. It’s just so nice to listen to. “I believe you.”

With a snort, Castiel tries his very best to keep a smile and his own laughter under control. Dean’s sense of humour is very effective at breaking the tension Gabriel caused. He’s been doing it since day one and it’s absolutely wonderful. It’s enough to give Castiel the courage to bring up the other topic concerning Gabriel’s messages.

“Although he was entirely out of line with stealing my phone, I have to admit that Gabriel did come up with a decent alternative.” He drapes his arm over his eyes, as if blocking out the world might somehow make this easier to do. “I hadn’t considered it an option when you asked earlier and I really should have. My apologies for that.”

There’s a moment of silence before Dean hums. “I think I missed something here. What are you apologizing for and why?”

“I turned down your invitation without providing an alternative.”

“Alternative what?” Dean sounds all too confused and Castiel isn’t entirely sure where he lost him. “You dancing around something, Cas? I’m a simple man. Y’gotta spell it out for me.”

Castiel huffs and moves his arm so he can frown at the ceiling. “I have to disagree with you there. You’re a very smart man. I enjoy the conversations we have where we analyze books and movies. And I’ve seen you add up your bill mentally before I even have it in the register. Please don’t sell yourself short.”

After another few beats of silence, Dean clears his throat. “Careful, Cas. You’re making me blush.”

He knows what that looks like and it brings a smile to his face. Castiel rather likes it when Dean blushes. It’s cute. “My point is that instead of just declining your invitation, I should have offered an alternative – like Gabriel’s suggestion of having you come over to help decorate the café. If you’re interested, that is.” He can only hope Dean is. “I might not be comfortable going over to your home just yet, but I do enjoy your company when you’re here.”

There’s a smile in Dean’s voice when he speaks next. “I like that idea. Are you guys also decorating your apartment? I could help with that too.”

“We haven’t decorated our home in a long time.” Castiel absently starts scratching Nike behind an ear. “I’ll have to ask Gabriel, but if we do I think that we’d like to keep that between brothers this year.”

“Hey, that’s cool. I understand.” That delightful laugh rings again and it brings the smile back to Castiel’s lips. “I’d be happy to help you with the café, Cas.”

That’s better news than he cares to admit. “Thank you. I promise that I’ll pay you in pie.”

Dean sighs, but it’s nearly lost to his continued laughter. “Okay, I’m not going to say no to pie, but you do know that you don’t have to pay me, right? I’ll be helping you out as a friend.”

Castiel can’t even put into words how good that makes him feel. A warm heat spreads through his belly at that. It’s likely a coincidence that Nike chooses to start purring right then as well. “I’ll keep that in mind the next time I ask you for a favour.”

“Oh damn.” He groans, but it’s still wrapped in a laugh. “I’m going to get less pie now, aren’t I?”

“Unlikely, but entirely possible.”

“Don’t even joke about that.”

The horror in Dean’s voice causes Castiel to laugh so sharply that Nike lifts her head with a disgruntled meow. He soothes her with some full body pets that end with scratching at the base of her tail. She puts her head down with a pleased purr. With her head out of the way, Castiel can now see the calendar on the wall. It’s not the best vantage point he’s ever had, but it does remind him that he should probably set a date for the decorating with Dean.

“Would you be free next weekend to help with the café? On Saturday?”

After a minute of dull tapping sounds, Dean returns to the call. “According to my schedule, I’ve got the day off. Saturday works for me. Got a time?”

“I’ll message you when I wake up and then you can come over whenever you’d like.”

“Sounds good to me.”

To his credit, Dean actually does sound very happy with their planning. And Castiel can’t keep himself from sounding much the same. “I look forward to it. I’ll let you get back to hanging out with your roommates now.”

“Okay.” There’s an edge of disappointment to Dean’s voice and Castiel is almost ashamed to admit that it gives him a bit of a thrill to hear it. “Don’t hurt your brother too much, alright?”

“I’ll try not to.”

After they bid their goodbyes and hang up, Castiel drops his phone on the bed next to him and smiles up at the ceiling. This turned out much better than he thought it would. But his good feelings regarding the phone call fade quickly the longer he stares down the flat plaster of the ceiling. Arranging for the two of them to hang out at the café again is no different than everything they’ve done before. If he wants to make progress, shouldn’t he be suggesting something else? Okay, maybe not. The mere thought of that frightens him more than it should.

Fine then. What else can he do after meeting at the café? What’s the next step that he can do? It takes Castiel a little while to figure that out, but once he does, he knows just what needs to be said. More than that, he knows what needs to be done. He takes up his cell phone again, much to Nike’s dismay as his texting position holds the phone in roughly the same space as her head. She murmurs unhappily but doesn’t move as he rests his hands on her head to start his message.

Perhaps the first time we hang out at your home, it could be just us? There. That should do it. If he gets used to Dean’s home when it’s just the both of them, then everything should be alright. Castiel trust Dean. Everyone else? Not so much.

Once he gets a feel for Dean’s house, maybe he could make do with just some of Gabriel’s protective charms. There must be some kind of charm he can make sure the house and the street are safe. How would Dean feel if Castiel wanted to put Witch warding charms in his house? He has the crystal necklace to notify him if any powerful Witches come within a certain range of him, but it’s just a warning system. It doesn’t give him any real protection.

While waiting for Dean’s response, Castiel also considers whether or not he should have Gabriel to a check of the street. He could hide charms all over the place. They’ve certainly done that to the café, the apartment, and every residence they’ve had since Gabriel first took up magic. And that was shortly after their parents died, so it’s been roughly ten years of magical precautions. While they might always be paranoid about the unknown, the charms certainly make life easier.

Nike’s tail thumps his stomach unhappily when his phone vibrates with Dean’s message. You want to hang out alone together at my place?

Castiel raises his eyebrow. An accurate rephrasing.

He rubs a hand over his face and takes a deep breath. This is going to be perhaps more embarrassing than anything, but it’s certainly something that he should tell Dean. Probably. Okay, he can do this. Castiel forces himself to type it out and hit send. In case you haven’t noticed, you’re the first friend I’ve made in Montpelier.

Dean responds with a quizzical emoji. Pretty sure you’ve mentioned that before.

Well, it’s not just here in Montpelier… He sighs again and starts chewing on his bottom lip as he types and sends the next message. I’ve been more or less a recluse for the last decade or so. You’re the first friend I’ve had in a VERY long time.

It takes a few long minutes before he gets an ‘o’ faced emoji in return. Oh.

Was that too much? It might have been, but he can hold out hope that it wasn’t. Now you can see how I’m a bit rusty at being around people outside of a professional setting, yes?

Yes, yes I can. Dean breaks his sentence with a smiley face emoji. It’s totally understandable, Cas. I’ll kick Jo and Charlie out the next time I ask you over. Promise!

Oh, thank God. What in the world did he do to have found such an understanding friend? Thank you.

Dean sends a laughing emoji next. It’s cool, Cas! You’re more than welcome to use me as your stepping stone into being slightly less introverted.

Since he’s using so many emoji’s, Castiel determines that it’s about time he starts sending more of his own. He elects to use a bumble bee and a big eyed smiling emoji. I really appreciate it. Thank you.

In response, he gets three emojis all in one message; a heart sandwiched by two smiley faces. The lack of words denotes that this is likely the end of the conversation. That’s good with him and Castiel responds with a final smiley of his own. He feels much more relaxed about this situation than he did a few minutes ago.

There is just one problem with what’s going to happen next. Castiel needs decorations for Saturday. He’s going to have to find some point over the next week to get his hands on some. Either that or he sends Gabriel out to get them. In fact, he might just do that – if only as punishment for being the one who set his all in motion in the first place. Though Castiel can’t really be mad at him for that. He’s going to get to spend more time with Dean, which is just what he wanted, and it cleared the air between them regarding his rejection of the first invitation.

For one, Dean sounded rather happy with the return invitation for decorating the café. Dean being happy makes him happy and he fights the urge to express his delight in some physical way. Now Castiel has Gabriel to thank for that. Of course he’s still absolutely furious with him for stealing his phone, but the ends do not justify the means at all. Although he does know one thing now: he is not going to refuse another of Dean’s invitations again no matter what. Or at least he’s damn well going to try not to.

Nike makes a soft sound as she stands up and stretches. She leaves Castiel to go nose around in her food dishes and he agrees that it’s about time he got up too. His ire has cooled somewhat, though he’s still very unhappy with what Gabriel did. However, at the least, he should go speak with him just to clear the air between them as well. Castiel doesn’t want to spend the rest of the night working the café with this hanging over his head.

With a sigh, he rolls out of bed and drags his heels all the way to Gabriel’s bedroom door. Even though it’s early in the evening, his exhaustion is already starting to kick in. Tomorrow he needs to take the sleep and tonight’s shift isn’t going to be very easy. Castiel knocks once with one hard rap, and crosses his arms. It doesn’t take Gabriel long to open it, but it only opens a crack and he peeks out, eyes bright and suspicious.

“Are you going to punch me?”

That’s entirely too tempting, but Castiel shakes his head. “I’m here to say that I want to decorate our apartment for Christmas this year.”

Gabriel opens the door a little more, lifting his head in surprise. “Really?”

“Yes. This is our fresh start. This is our home.” Castiel drops his arms and resists the urge to get his wings released so he can stretch them. “It’s not like the temporary apartment we were living in last year. It’s not the two years bouncing around the country in an RV. And it’s definitely not the ten years when we were in witness protection.”

“For the record, we could have decorated during that time too.” He leans his hip against the door frame tilts his head, smile going cocky.

Castiel rolls his eyes. “But we didn’t.” As if that wasn’t obvious enough. “I want to feel like a family again, even without our parents. That means doing everything we used to do when they were here.”

“I get it.” Gabriel nods in agreement and his smile softens. “We’re going to stop living in the past by bring back more of the past, huh? Alright, then. We’ll do it.”

“Good.” He graces Gabriel with a small smile before it falls back into a frown. “And just to be clear, if you ever pull a stunt like that again – with Dean or any future friends I might back – I really will punch you.”

Almost immediately Gabriel steps back and closes the door to a crack again. He’s been punched by Castiel only once in their lives and it was not a pleasant experience for him. It was the year before their parents died and Gabriel had to go to the hospital for a cracked rib. That was an event their parents used to teach Castiel about being careful of his strength and how he uses it.

Feeling smug in his brief sense of Creature superiority, Castiel turns back to return to his room. “Goodnight, Gabriel.”

“G’night, Cassie.”

Monday – November 30th, 2015

“Did you know there’s snow in the forecast?”

“Why do you think we’re doing this now?” The ladder wobbles slightly as Dean swings his leg over the top step to straddle it. He rolls his eyes as he waits for Sam to hold it steady while he gets settled with finding the step on the other side for his foot.

Sam hums and steps around to the side, picking up the slack of the Christmas lights. “Hm, let me think. Because it’s the only day that you three are all available? Oh no, wait! Is it because you absolutely have to have everything up on December 1st, but you three won’t be available for it? How’s that?”

“First of all, those are the same damn thing.” He shoots Sam a dirty glare before going back to fitting the string of lights into the clips that the previous owners left up along the gutter. It’s saving him a hell of a lot of work, to be honest. “Secondly, just wait for that snow, Sammy. I’m gonna bury you in it.”

“Yeah, if you can catch me.” With a laugh, Sam connects the end of two strings of lights so more will keep coming as Dean leans over to get at another clip. They’re going to have to move the ladder again in a moment.

Oh, is that how it’s going to be, hm? Dean stretches as far to the side as he can do safely for one more clip. “You might be a jogger, Sammy, but I’m a sprinter. I’ll catch you before my stamina runs out.”

“You’re not the only sprinter here, big brother.” Sam puts a hand on Dean’s side to hold him up too, just in case he over balances and falls off the top of the ladder. “I’ve got the endurance of a jogger. All I have to do is stay ahead of you and you’re never going to catch me.”

He’s got a point there, but Dean has an ace up his sleeve. “I know where your sleep.”

“Yeah, in your old bedroom. And it’s great.” He laughs again and steps out of the way so Dean can get off the ladder. “You’re never getting it back.”

With some effort, Dean resists the urge to swing his leg out just far enough to catch Sam in the side of the head as he comes down. He does give him a bit of a shove as he moves the ladder over and Sam brings the coil of lights with him. Thank God they’re almost done with this part of the roof. There’s just the second floor to do after that and Dean can do that without the need of a ladder, thank God. He’s never been fond of these things, even though he’s gotta go up one for his job sometimes. Rarely, but often enough that he doesn’t like it.

They’ve done the roof above the porch, and they’re just finishing off the bit above the garage right now. Dean refuses to do anything outside once the sun goes down, so they’re doing making the best use of the light they’ve got right now. Charlie and Jo are currently pushing candy canes into the ground on opposite sides of the driveway. There’s ten of them and they have to line them up properly as long as the cords will let them. While the candy canes look nice, it just means they’re all going to have to be really careful with where they shovel the snow during the winter.

They’ve already wrapped the poles of the porch and the top of the railing with a leafy looking garland that lights up. Jo brought that stuff over from her mom’s place and totally considers it her contribution to the decorations. Meanwhile, Charlie went out and bought some flat light up ornaments that she spent half an hour attaching to the front of the porch railing. With every new thing that goes up, Dean can just feel their electric bill climbing. Thank God they split all the bills right down the middle every month, otherwise he might give himself a hernia worrying about having to pay for it all on his own.

One of the first things they put up when they cracked open the boxes of decorations was the wreath. It’s made out of different coloured bells, but Dean likes it because it doesn’t light up. The big ol’ Merry Christmas and snowflake stickers they’re going to put up on the windows will go up when they head inside after the sun goes down – which is probably going to be in an hour or so. The newspaper said it would be going down shortly after four o’clock and they’re on the clock for it.

When Dean goes up the ladder again, Sam’s fear of repercussions for his sassy mouth seems to go out the window. He’s got no problem stepping up close and picking up on a different topic of conversation. “You go to the café a lot, right? Have you ever seen the blonde girl who works the mornings?”

“Girl?” Dean snorts and shakes his head. “Little bro, Jess is a lady.”

“Okay, so you know her then?”

“Seen her a few times, yeah.” And totally left a few origami with her whenever he’s had to drop it off before heading into one of his work shifts. “What about her?”

“Nothing, just wondering.” There’s an audible shrug in his voice, but one glance tells it all. Sam’s blushing and Dean knows exactly what that means. That’s only confirmed by how Sam launches into talking about Jess and how she’s not just a pretty face because she’s so knowledgeable about the café, baking, and all things apparently amazing.

Sweet baby Jesus, his little brother has a crush. That would be so cute if Dean wasn’t positive that she’s at least got a few years on him. Which means she’s too old for Sam. It wouldn’t be so bad if Sam was in his twenties too, but he’s basically still fresh out of high school. Of course Dean isn’t going to say anything about it. That might just break Sam’s poor little love struck heart. Miracles could happen though, and it doesn’t hurt for Sam to have a crush.

Thing is, Dean still likes Sam’s ex-girlfriend from high school; Sarah Blake. It still sucks the big one that her family moved away right after graduation. At least they still got to have prom together before she left. But neither one of them really wanted to do long distance, so they broke up after prom. Totally mutual, but Dean still misses Sarah. She was a cool kid and complemented Sam’s nerd ways quite nicely.

 “Alright, Sammy.” Dean cuts off the infatuated gushing. “We’ve only got one more section to do. Let’s move the ladder.”

Sam steps out of the way for him to get down. “I saw a Youtube video once of a guy straddling the top of the ladder and he just hopped and walked it into place.”

“Yeah, no thanks.” He shakes his head and shoots Sam a flat look. “I’m not going to break my neck trying something you saw on Youtube.” They move over to the last spot by the edge of the garage and Dean climbs up for the last fucking time, thank God. No, wait. “Oh, by the way, you’re going to have to spot me when I’m on the roof. If I fall, you better fucking catch me.”

“Mom says you shouldn’t go up there without a harness.”

Dean rolls his eyes and just barely stops himself from sighing. Of course Sam would quote their parents rules at him about that. “This will be the only time I have to do it until my brand new string of lights busts a bulb, okay? I’m going to be one of those guys who leaves their lights up all year long.”

The sound of disgust Sam makes is entirely uncalled for and Dean cuffs Sam upside the head as he reaches for the lights. “Don’t judge me.”

“I’m not, but Dad definitely will.”

“Son of a bitch.” He’s got a hell of a point right there. Dean can already hear the scorn directed his way every time Dad comes over. Okay, fine. He’ll take them down when the snow is gone, but fuck if he’s going to worry about it. “This is my house. I’m going up on my roof no matter what Mom says, and if you tattle on me, you’re going to be banned from here for a year.”

Sam pokes him in the thigh. “You can’t do that.”

“Yes, I can. My house; my rules.”

He sniffs loudly and that sure as hell better not mean that he’s about to try using tears to get his way. “I’ll just ask Charlie and Jo to invite me then. If I’m their guest, you can’t stop me.”

Bull-fucking-shit. “I rent the rooms to them. They have no say in what I do.”

“You’re not being fair!”

“Fight me, short stack.”

Their back and forth bickering follows Dean right up onto the roof. By then, Charlie and Jo are in his bedroom by the windows, both of them with a rope tied around their waists. Their ropes are tied around Dean and Sam is the one standing on the ladder, still feeding Dean the lights while he puts them up. The makeshift rope harness was just to shut Sam up so he wouldn’t rat on him to their parents. It didn’t help that Charlie and Jo both ganged up on Dean too about the whole harness thing. Whatever. He did it and now no one can bitch at him about safety anymore.

Honestly, Dean doesn’t get what the big deal is. As a firefighter, he’s been on plenty of roofs before. Hell, he’s been in all sorts of places he shouldn’t be. Dean’s got good footing up here and it’s only a one story drop from the roof to the ground. At worst, he’d land funny and break a bone. At best, some light bruising. Maybe. He’s fallen from higher heights during training. He knows how to land properly, how to roll into a fall and all that. Everyone in his life needs to cool their jets every once in a while.

By the time Dean gets off the roof, by going through his window since apparently that’s the safest option, the sun is on its way down. And that means it’s clean up time. While the others get the empty bins of outdoor stuff together, Dean pulls the Impala out of the garage so they can put those bins back up in the garage. Once the car is back in the garage, everyone gathers at the edge of the driveway. Dean closes the garage door and plugs everything in. The lights on the roof and the candy canes plug into an outlet by the garage door, but everything on the porch uses a different outlet over there. He makes sure not to look at the house until he’s at the bottom of the driveway too.

“It looks good, Dean.” Charlie pats him on the back as he puts an arm around her shoulder. “We did some good work today.”

“Damn right we did.” He pulls Sam into a side hug too and Charlie drags Jo into things on her other side. “Good job, everyone. I think we deserve some hot chocolate and pigs in blankets.”

Sam snorts a laugh and shoves away. “Really? That’s what you’re going to feed us?”

“I’ve got a variety of meats and cheeses for you tonight, Sammy.” Dean flashes him a grin as he gets his phone out. “If you want veggies and dips, then you better ask Jo nicely if you can have some of hers. God knows I don’t buy that shit.”

Before everyone can go get their big heads up in his shot, Dean takes a quick picture of the house. Then another with Sam, Jo, and Charlie standing in front of the garage. There’s just enough sunlight left in the sky that they’re not entirely shadows in his pictures. Pretty close though. He turns and takes a selfie with the lights in the background while the others start heading inside. Satisfied, Dean posts everything to Facebook on his way back up the driveway. His first picture and the selfie get sent to Cas too, because they’re not Facebook friends and he’s pretty sure that Cas doesn’t even have one.

Looks pretty good, huh?

The sun’s hardly set so Cas probably hasn’t woken up yet, but Dean doesn’t care. He hit send anyways. Cas will answer when he’s awake. Either way, the house looks awesome and now it’s time for some good ol’ personal time with some of his favourite people in the world. Sam and Jo are already in the process of taking the tree out of its box and Charlie is supervising with her hands on her hips like she’s queen of the world or something. He’d better put her to work.

Dean opens one of the bins and takes out the skirt that goes over the feet of the tree stand. “Here, you guys. Make sure to use this. Sammy, Jo – I’m putting you two in charge of putting the tree together and spreading those branches.” He slings an arm around Charlie and starts guiding her towards the kitchen. “And you, little miss, are going to help me get the food in the oven.

She groans and makes a half hearted attempt at getting away. “How come I have to help you?”

“Because you’re the shortest.”

Charlie puts more effort into getting away from him this time, but it’s only to turn around and punch him hard in the shoulder. “I’m an inch taller than Jo! We measured that shit at the station.”

Wincing, he rubs his arm and fixes her with his winning-est smile. “Then how about it’s coz’ you’re my  favourite?” Next to Sam, of course. But that doesn’t need to be said.

“Hey!”

“Sorry, Jo.”

“That was Sam, not me.” Her laugh follows Dean into the kitchen. “I know where I stand on the totem pole when compared to your brother and the best friend you grew up with.”

All very valid points, of course. And yet… She’s forgetting the most important thing. “You’d be higher up if you’d stop leaving your damn hair in the shower drain!”

That gets laughter from everyone and Dean rolls his eyes at all of them. They’re all jackasses and he loves each and every one of them to death. He loves them all the more when music starts up in the living room. Either Sam or Jo decided to put the Christmas CD in, and whoever it was deserves a kiss for it. The bumping Christmas carols remixed to rock and roll beats are hands down the best thing to listen to when setting things up.

Regular carols wouldn’t get Dean’s hips moving while he un-boxes the pre-made appetizers while Charlie gets the baking trays out and sets the oven temperature. She’s wiggling along to the music too while they line the baking trays with tinfoil and start putting everything out. They grin and make finger guns at each other while they wait for the oven to heat up. Bumping music and good company is definitely a shared interest between them.

When the oven pings that it’s all heated up, Charlie grabs the trays to put them in. Dean sees that as the perfect opportunity to play photographer again. He grabs a picture of her putting them in the oven, and then makes his way back to the living room for the main event. Jo and Sam are literally bumping booties while they sing along to Rocking Around the Christmas Tree. He definitely grabs a few pictures of that and a video, because there’s really nothing better. The only way any of this could get better is if his parents were here too. But he’ll be helping them put things up at their place in a few days anyways.

Just because he can, Dean sends the video to Cas too. Sucks that you’re missing this! Maybe next year.

Cas must be up, because he answers before Dean can even crack open the bin full of Christmas ornaments. Your house looks amazing and it looks like you’re having a lot of fun. I’m sorry I’m missing it, but a rain check for next year would be appreciated.

Fuck yes, Cas can have all the rainchecks! Dean almost laughs out loud at how happy he is with that one little message. But, since that will draw attention, he decides that singing along to the music the loudest will be less obvious. He can totally carry a tune when he wants to, but right now Dean goes off pitch while he sorts the ornament boxes out into which ones go at the top of the tree, the middle, and the bottom. At least he doesn’t have to worry about the tree lights or garlands being tangled. He always wraps them carefully around cardboard inserts he made himself. Because when Dean Winchester gets organized, he gets organized right, Goddammit.

He sends Cas pictures throughout the evening while they’re decorating the tree with some of the nerdiest ornaments possible. Judging by his reactions, Cas seems to like them. He’s probably one of the few people Dean knows who appreciates the Harry Potter, Star Wars, Star Trek, and various other franchises that they have ornaments from. Dean’s a little disappointed in himself because not a single one of the nerdy ornaments are his own. They’re all Charlie’s that she brought with her when she moved in because her parents didn’t want them.

All the other ornaments are normal ones that Jo brought in, or Dean bought to fill up space, or Mom handed off to him. She’s kept all the family ornaments with sentimental value for herself – including the hand-me-down Santa’s Money-Sack that John gave him when he turned sixteen. Sam is forever bitter than Dean has one and he doesn’t. It’s basically just a felt Santa with a zippered pouch for a belly. That little guy is a tradition passed down from Winchester to Winchester, starting with Dean’s Great-Grandpa, who gave it to his Grandpa, to his Dad, and then to him. Every Christmas, the owner of the bag writes the year on a dollar bill, rolls it up, and adds it to the bunch in the pouch.

Another part of Christmas tradition is Dean sitting next to the tree while it’s going up, counting out each and every bill. There’s an IOU paper inside too, with the latest batch of bills, that says how many should be in there. Dad takes out the old ones when the bag gets too full. The rest of the bills are kept in a little container with the decorations for the tree. Of course that’s at the Winchester house and not here. And, honestly, Dean doesn’t want it here. Not until he’s got a kidlet of his own to hand it down to. It doesn’t matter how many years he lives here, Christmas won’t be Christmas if it’s not at the Winchester house.

With all their goofing and breaks for delicious snacks, it takes their little group a little more than an hour to finish up the vast majority of the tree. The very last thing to go up is the star on the top of the tree and Dean very literally shoves the rest of them out of the way. There’s a ton of pomp and circumstance involved in this and he shakes out his arms before rolling up his sleeves.

“Alright, peasants. Step back and let the King of Christmas do his business.” Dean takes the star out of the box. It’s a ten point star with lights all over it. A little tacky, but it was one of the hand-me-downs from Mom that Dean wasn’t going to turn down. He grew up putting this on the tree every other year as they alternated between the star and an angel their great-great-grandmother made once upon a time. The star comes from ‘the old country’ or so Dad claims, but Dean doesn’t quite believe him.

Sam rolls his eyes with a loud sigh. The poor guy is always just so jealous that Dean is the one who gets to put the star on the tree. But that’s just the joy of being oldest – and totally why he insists that the Winchesters don’t decorate until he’s there to help. It’ll be a cold day in hell before Dean lets anyone else put the star (or the angel) on the top of the tree. He’ll do it until the day he dies or until there’s a next generation to pass the mantle down to.

“Alright, Mr. Ego, I’ve got the phone ready. Do your business and I’ll get a picture of it.” Charlie sighs and holds up Dean’s phone, ready and waiting.

Dean steps up on the stepping stool they got for Charlie and Jo to put the ornaments higher up on the tree. “I expect some applause when this sucker is plugged in.”

“You’ll be lucky if you don’t get a boot in the behind. Put it up, you jerk.” Sam slaps Dean in the ass before he backs out of swatting range.

As soon as the star is on the tree and they’ve taken their selfies with the tree, Dean grabs Sam in a headlock and noogies the hell out of him. It fucks Sam’s hair to hell and back again, but dear God did it feel good. He drops into the arm chair with a laugh and takes his phone back from Charlie. Dean kicks his feet up on the ottoman and wiggles down to get himself comfortable. It’s time to bask in a job well done. Except for putting the bins away. They cleaned up as they went, so it’s just a matter of sticking the bins back up in the garage.

However, he can do that after he sends Cas a picture of him putting the star on the tree. Oh, and he should send the one of the finished tree all lit up with the rest of the room’s lights off. On a scale of 1 to 10, how awesome is this tree??

Cas answers with a thumbs up emoji. Easily an 11!

Damn fucking right it is. Dean is mid-laugh when Jo slaps him in the leg and drops a large box in his lap. “His highness shouldn’t be getting so comfortable. We’ve still got some decorating to do.”

Shit, that’s right. He almost forgot about the rest of the house. They’re not doing that much, but there’s still a box full of garland to put out and a few little odds and ends that they’ve all gathered over the years. They don’t have any of those winter wonderland scenes that people set out over a bed of fake snow on a sofa table, or dining buffet, or whatever poison they prefer. His house doesn’t have anything like that, so Dean doesn’t need any of those kinds of decoration.

It takes them about fifteen minutes to put up the garland around the windows and along the edges of all the shelving cases, storage units, and doorways on the main floor. If anyone wants to decorate their room upstairs, that’s up to them. Personally, Dean doesn’t see the point of it. He’s the only one who’s ever gonna see it anyways. Besides, they’re having their fun with mistletoe. They hang it in the door to the laundry room off the kitchen. It’s all for shits and giggles though, since it’s super rare for anyone to go through that door at the same time. Mostly it’s been done for aesthetic than anything else.

By the time they’re done, the food has been polished off and the music has looped through like five times. They’ve had a good time setting up, and clean up goes quick. Dean doesn’t feel like moving the car again tonight, so fuck that noise with putting the bins away. He’s plenty happy to chill with his friends and a tradition he, Charlie, and Sam have had for more years than any of them know.

Charlie makes three bowls of popcorn before they all settle down in the living room to watch The Nightmare Before Christmas. It might be a Monday night and Sam might work in the morning, but he’s fully planning on spending the night here. He can just get a ride to work in the morning with Dean anyways. Oh the joys of working close to each other – especially given the fact that their town is so fucking small they don’t even have a McDonalds. Like, seriously, that’s just a travesty.

Since Dean and Sam can’t stay up too late, they both plan to enjoy what they can now with this little pseudo-family they’ve basically adopted. That’s perfect in its own way, because Charlie won’t be getting this with her family this year and Jo really doesn’t know if Ellen is going to have the time do much home set up given the renovations at the Roadhouse. It’ll probably be a subdued Christmas for her this year. On the bright side, the Roadhouse is right on track to be opened again in the spring – and everyone is looking forward to going.

Actually, maybe Dean might be able to invite Cas along to that. If things go well between them, that could be a real honest to goodness actual date. Clearly things are going slower between him and Cas than he thought they were, but it’s a good slow and he is definitely looking forward to seeing where it might go.

Tuesday – December 1st, 2015

Castiel wakes with a start as the edge of his bed starts to bounce violently. Claws rake through the blanket against his side as Nike flees from whatever fresh hell is besetting him now, meowing unhappily the whole way. With a groan, he opens his eyes to fix the bleary shape of his older brother with a withering glare. It’s likely not nearly as powerful as it could be, given how un-awake he is right now. Gabriel goes unbothered by the glare and continues to bounce the end of Castiel’s bed with both hands.

“What do you want?” Castiel flails an arm out to make him stop.

“It’s December First, Cassie!” Gabriel crows, dancing just out of reach. “It’s time to get up so we can decorate. Or do you want me to start singing Christmas carols to get you in the mood?”

Dear God, Castiel regrets ever wanting to decorate. He rubs both hands over his face and arches his back in a stretch. “What time is it?”

“Five o’clock! The sun’s been down for, like, half an hour at least. It’s time to decorate, Cassie. Get your butt up and let’s fucking go.”

Gabriel is much too chipper for this time of day – regardless of whether or not he’s been awake for over twelve hours. Castiel mumbles incoherently under his breath and rolls his way out of bed. Nike is already sitting at her food dish. The moment that she sees that he’s awake, she starts meowing indignantly. She always takes it as a personal affront if her dish is empty. He continues to roll his shoulders and stretch his back as he crosses the small room.

“Can we let my wings out before we do anything?” The ache between his shoulder blades twinges painfully as he bends over to shake some kibble into her bowl from the container stored in the closet. He picks up the bowl for her wet food, since he’ll have to get that from the kitchen.

“They won’t get in the way while we’re decorating, will they?” Gabriel sounds skeptical, but he’s already taken his ever present pocket knife out.

Castiel places the bowl on top of his short bookshelf by the door and pulls his t-shirt over his head. “Have they ever been in the way before?” He can’t wait for tomorrow when he’ll be taking the sleep.

“Not really, I guess.” Gabriel winces slightly as he the knife over the pad of his thumb. “But we’ve never really decorated before.”

Now that’s just blatantly untrue. “We used to decorate with our parents all the time. Father and I never sealed our wings for that.”

In fact, Castiel never sealed his wings once before Gabriel learned magic. Prior to that, he and their father would merely hide their wings under long, heavy coats whenever they went out at night. Since they lived out of town, they really didn’t go into town all that often. If they did, it was after hours so they could see movies or go for a long walk. Really, that’s probably why Castiel absolutely had to buy his overcoat when he found it.

After releasing his wings and wiping the remaining blood away, Castiel spends several minutes just standing in his room and stretching his wings. It feels wonderful having them out again and he can’t stop groaning every time something in his back pops or he arches his wings just right. Now comes the hard part. Gabriel has already disappeared into the rest of the apartment and Castiel is left to find something in his closet that he can wear so he won’t be shirtless while they’re decorating. As it stands, he’s fairly certain that he doesn’t own any wing-friendly clothing.

“Cassie, come out here!”

“I haven’t found a –”

Gabriel kicks the wall, startling Nike away from her kibble. “I’ve got it covered. Get out here!”

How could he possibly have it covered? Castiel frowns and folds his wings close to his back as he steps into the hallway. Gabriel is waiting for him, a grin on his face and a full apron in hand. He’s taken the long bit that covers the thighs and pinned it against the inside. It’s now an odd looking attempt at a halter top and Castiel stares at it with no small bit of horror. This must be some kind of joke. Any moment now Gabriel is going to laugh, toss it aside, and pull out a t-shirt with part of the back cut out.

“Here, wear this!”

“I am not decorating our apartment while wearing an apron that says Kiss the Cook on it.” Castiel shakes his head and his wigs puff in defiance.

He shakes out the apron and wiggles his eyebrows suggestively. “Yes, you’re going to wear it and you’re going to like it because we are not decorating with your pecs out.”

With a sniff, Castiel crosses his arms over his chest protectively and tilts his chin up. “You’re just jealous that I look better than you.”

Gabriel rolls his eyes and sighs. “Stop rubbing it in my face and just put the damn apron on.”

They stare each other down for a few moments before Castiel resigns himself to his fate. He really doesn’t have much choice, and he doesn’t really feel like sitting around shirtless. The only time he feels comfortable doing that is when he’s alone in his bedroom. With a sigh, he puts the apron over his head and tries very hard not to feel like he’s wearing a bib. He turns and lifts his wings out of the way so Gabriel can tie it around his waist.

“There. Doesn’t that feel better?”

“It feels weird.”

“Well, you’re the one who wanted your wings out.” He shrugs and pushes past Castiel to head into the living room. “Now let’s get cracking. Some of us still have to work at ass o’clock in the morning.”

Castiel is about to follow when Nike meows disdainfully from around his ankles. She rubs against his leg in her attempt to remind him that he has yet to give her the best part of her evening meal. Clearly the wet food is preferred and she is very upset with him for not finishing her breakfast. There will be no decorating done with her in this mood, so Castiel makes the executive decision to finish feeding her before going to the living room himself.

At some point during the day, Gabriel put up a tree. Castiel discovers this upon coming down the hallway. There’s a small fake tree standing in the corner of the room that definitely wasn’t there when he went to bed this morning. It’s barely tall enough to reach Gabriel’s shoulder, and it’s perfect. He couldn’t have picked a better one for their apartment. Anything bigger would have taken over the room and their apartment is not big enough for that.

There’s a box sitting in the middle of the floor and Gabriel is sitting next to it. He pats the top of the box with a smile. Castiel recognizes it from a storage locker they rent. They pay a year at a time for it, in cash, and keep it under a false name so it can’t be traced back to them. It’s where they hold all the stuff from their hometown when they finally decided to settle down here in Montpelier. Their handlers within the FBI brought it over for them when their witness protection came to an end. Before that, this box and a dozen others came from another storage locker.

Much to Castiel and Gabriel’s disappointment, the FBI had taken all the earthly possessions from their childhood home and had to look through each and every thing for any tracking spells that might have been placed on them. It’s a good thing they did it, because according to their reports, there were some. Anything with a spell they couldn’t break, they destroyed. Luckily, most everything were things that Castiel and Gabriel didn’t want back anyways.

When the FBI finally released their family possession, they actually took very little of what was held for them until the end of their witness protection. They didn’t want very many things weighing them down. Castiel hardly considers it theirs anyways. What they have in their go bags is what’s most important to him. Everything in the storage locker are things that they could come back and get later on when the area is cleared. Because if they ever need to run, then they need to notify the FBI again to have them come check out the situation. After the area is cleared again, they’ll likely never return there again.

It’s a little jarrin