My mistress' eyes are nothing like the sun;
Coral is far more red than her lips' red;
If snow be white, why then her breasts are dun;
If hairs be wires, black wires grow on her head.
I have seen roses damask'd, red and white,
But no such roses see I in her cheeks;
And in some perfumes is there more delight
Than in the breath that from my mistress reeks.
I love to hear her speak, yet well I know
That music hath a far more pleasing sound;
I grant I never saw a goddess go;
My mistress, when she walks, treads on the ground:
And yet, by heaven, I think my love as rare
As any she belied with false compare.
Sonnet 130, William Shakespeare
Everybody knows that true mates are bullshit. They belong to the realm of romantic comedies and the wistful anecdotes about a friend-of-a-friend who met their true mate while shopping for groceries and was mated the next day and lived happily ever after. It’s a Hallmark ploy that prevents people from realizing that what they have is good, that just because there wasn’t an instantaneous connection and a feeling of utter completion, just because they don’t have the bond that true mates are rumored to have, their relationship isn’t enough.
Castiel has seen couples divorce because one or the other became convinced their true mate was out there, and they couldn’t stand being mated to the wrong person—no matter that they had been married for over a decade, had children. He’s interviewed the people left behind, alphas and betas and omegas who were stunned into a silent, despairing shock.
Even if a true mate really exists for each and every person, which remains questionable considering that fewer than 10% of mated couples are biologically-verified true mates, he’d written in his most recent article, the first featured spread he’s written, there is no excuse for leaving your mate merely because you believe there is someone out there who is made for you. You cannot ignore what and who you have in your life because you are convinced they are not enough. Alphas in particular have been socialized since birth to believe that their desires should always take priority over all others, so it is no surprise that it is primarily omegas and betas who are left behind by an alpha pursuing the ephemeral possibility of their perfect, submissive mate. Love should not be contingent upon biology.
Voice is one of the west coast’s most popular leftist magazines, and the article was received, for the most part, positively. He’s been forwarded dozens of emails, primarily from omegas, who have been taught since birth that their desires and opinions just don't matter, thanking him for running the article. Telling him, “My partner, a beta, left me because she said she didn’t feel right settling down with me when she knew there was someone better for her out there.” Or, “My alpha left me because while walking down the street one day he swore he smelled someone incredible, and he knew he’d found his ‘true mate’—even though he’d never seen who he’d scented, and we’d just had twins.”
Then the conservatives found the article. Many of the letters read, How dare you tell others to give up hope of finding their true mate, or The LORD made each of us a half of one whole and it is the LORD’s wish that we find the partner He made for us, or, his favorite:
Who hurt you this way?
“Listen to this,” Anna says. She clears her throat and reads, “‘The alpha who left your bitchy omega ass had the right idea. Nobody wants an omega who thinks he has the right to tell an alpha what to do.’”
“It’s strange, isn’t it, that they all assume I could only be so passionate about the subject if a partner had left me,” Castiel says, propping his chin up on his hand. He taps his fingers against his cheek. “It couldn’t possibly be that I empathize with the people who are left behind by partners who claimed they loved them, and abhor that the existence of ‘true mates’ is used as an excuse for why alphas leave their partners so often.”
“Omegas and betas do it, too,” Anna says, eyebrows rising. Castiel tries not to flinch. He should’ve known better to say that, when just a few months ago Anna’s long-term girlfriend, a beta, left her because she 'didn't feel right' knowing they weren't true mates.
“I know. But historically and statistically it’s far more common for an alpha to leave their mate than an omega to. It’s nothing to do with biology—alphas aren’t biologically more prone to wanderlust, or adultery, or whatever else people say. It’s everything to do with how our society places no restrictions on alpha entitlement.”
“Male alpha entitlement,” Anna points out. “My alpha status hasn’t exactly prevented me from being told I’d never make it as a lawyer because it’s a man’s job.”
Castiel sighs. “I know,” he says again. “Men and women experience alpha entitlement differently. But, Anna, you know that you’d be treated differently if you were a beta. Or an omega.” He tries not to let bitterness seep into his tone.
“Oh, Cas,” Anna says, and she gets up from her armchair just to sit at his side on his uncomfortable couch, wrapping him up in her arms. Castiel relaxes into her embrace and inhales deeply, smelling sister and comfort and home. “I know. Your first big piece, and you have to deal with all … this.”
“I don’t regret writing it,” Castiel says, and it’s the truth. He’d interviewed almost two dozen individuals—mostly omegas, but also a handful of betas and even a few alphas—and he’s proud that he’s amplified their voices through his writing, glad that he had been given the chance to raise awareness of the harmful idea that your true mate is the only person you could truly be happy with.
“I guess they weren’t too far off, though,” Anna muses. When Castiel makes a questioning sound in the back of his throat, she clarifies, “The people who thought you were left. They weren’t entirely wrong. We were left behind.”
Castiel’s hands tighten where they’re lying on his thighs. He shouldn’t still be so upset, he knows that. Their father left when he was five and Anna eight, claiming that he couldn’t pretend to be happy in a family when he knew his true mate was waiting for him. That was twenty-three years ago.
They sit in silence for a little while longer, Anna’s head on Castiel’s shoulder. Her hair tickles at Castiel’s nose. Sitting like this, he realizes she’s wearing perfume—something light and flowery, so subtle he hadn’t been able to pick it out with her sitting across from him.
Castiel pulls away, dislodging Anna from her shoulder. She makes a startled sound, almost tipping forward onto him before catching herself and sitting up straight. “What was that for?” she asks, brows furrowing into a glare.
“You didn’t tell me you were going on a date tonight,” he says, and he tries very hard not to sound accusing, but Anna’s eyes narrow and she frowns at him.
“It’s been three months since Ruby and I broke up,” Anna says. “I’m a grown woman. I can go out and have dinner and invite them over for sex afterwards.”
Castiel winced. “I didn’t need to hear that,” he tells her. Then, a little awkwardly, “You were together for a long time. I just—be careful.”
Anna rolls her eyes. “Sometimes I think you’re my older brother, not my younger,” she says. She stands in one fluid movement, then bends at the waist to press a kiss to Castiel’s forehead. “Speaking of dates, I should head home and get changed. Don’t want my date to think I go around in ratty jeans and my brother’s old shirts all the time when I’m not at work.”
“You do go around in ratty jeans and my old shirts all the time when you’re not at work,” Castiel says dryly, and Anna smacks him upside the head.
“Brat,” she says fondly. “Look. Text me if you need emotional support for all this.” She makes a sweeping gesture with her arm, presenting the coffee table, cluttered with dozens of letters. “A hot date isn’t as important as my baby brother.” She makes cooing sounds.
“Get out of my apartment,” Castiel says.
He walks her to the front door and kisses her cheek goodbye. He leans against his doorframe as he watches her disappear down the stairs, going inside only when he can no longer see her head of brilliant red hair.
He walks to the low-slung coffee table, an ancient piece he picked up from a thrift store and refinished over a long, rainy weekend. Its scratched surface is entirely covered with letters. He stoops down to pick up one of the unopened letters and reads it standing up. This article is a bunch of jealous & spiteful BS, the letter opens. Don’t take your shitty romantic experiences as an excuse to look down on everyone who still has hope for finding their true mate. You’re just a sad, lonely omega who feels worthless that he can’t find a mate.
He puts the letter back down. Stares at the table, at the piles of letters. And goes to find his shredder.
He feeds the letters to the shredder one at a time, opening each and scanning the first line to determine if it’s positive or negative. The positive ones, the ones from people thanking him for the article, telling him their stories, he keeps. The negative ones, he shreds.
He’s not worthless.
He’s not worthless, and he’s not ashamed that he’s never had a romantic partner. He’s not ashamed his sexual experience is limited to his hand and the small collection of sex toys that keep him company during his heats. He’s never met anyone who made him feel that spark, an opportunity for something other than friendship. And sex—the thought doesn’t repulse him, but he finds himself uncomfortable whenever he entertains the possibility of touching another person that way, of someone else touching him. He doesn’t care what people think of his preferences—or, lack of preferences. He’s comfortable as he is, twenty-eight, never been kissed, never been on a date.
You’re just a sad, lonely omega who feels worthless because he can’t find a mate.
The shredder jams.
He’s not sad. He’s not lonely. He has friends. Uriel and Hannah, Balthazar, Missouri. Even Meg, he supposes, counts as a friend, although most of the time he doesn’t particularly like her. Most of them are his coworkers, but he sees Missouri a few times a month for tea and cake, and Uriel was the first friend he made at the company, and Meg has the annoying tendency of barging into his apartment and bullying him into going to a bar with him. He has Anna. He has his cat, Grace. He has the job he’s been working toward since he was an undergrad, a journalist for the most prominent social justice magazine on the west coast. He has himself. That should be enough. It is enough.
He looks around his empty apartment and aches.
He unplugs the shredder and spends the next half hour trying to pick out the wad of paper that’s gotten stuck in its teeth.
Castiel gets called to Naomi’s office the next day. He drags his feet as he takes the stairs, shaking his head at the woman holding the elevator door for him. Naomi Enoch, the editor in chief of Voice, is a stern beta who is made of severe lines and detached professionalism. Castiel has never seen her with a single hair out of place or with her pantsuits less than perfectly pressed.
He gets to her office too soon, and he dips his chin in an awkward greeting to Samandriel, Naomi’s secretary, who immediately picks up the phone, presses a button, and says, “Mr. Milton is here, ma’am. Yes, ma’am. Of course.” He puts the phone back in its cradle with a decisive click. “Ms. Enoch says to go right in,” he says. Castiel tries to give him a smile.
Castiel raps his knuckles on the door lightly, just to be polite, before opening it wide enough to sidle in.
“Castiel,” Naomi says, and something must be wrong because she sounds pleased. There is a warm smile on her face, little wrinkles around her eyes. “Please, sit.”
Castiel lowers himself into one of the straight-backed chairs across Naomi’s desk, all sleek lines and metal. Her office is modern, sparse, sharply angled. The chair is extremely uncomfortable. He resists the urge to shift his weight, just barely. “Good morning,” he says.
She’s still smiling. It’s unnerving. “And to you, as well. Now. Right to business.” She stands up.
Castiel swallows and takes a shuddering breath.
“I cannot begin to tell you how impressed I was with your article,” she says. She taps her finger twice on her desk, and Castiel notices for the first time that she has a copy of Voice open to his spread. “Decisive, inspired, and passionate. I’m very glad you persuaded me to give you a full eight pages for this. I can’t imagine cutting a single word.”
Castiel opens his mouth. Closes it. His tongue is too big. “Ms. Enoch,” he says, then falters. His cheeks are hot. “I—thank you.”
Naomi smiles at him, perhaps a little amused. “We’ve received a tremendous amount of mail over this, as you well know,” she says, and Castiel thinks, You are a sad and lonely omega who feels worthless—“And I would like to take this opportunity for you to write a follow-up.”
“Uh,” Castiel says intelligently.
“By writing to us, our readers agree to have their letters published under a degree of anonymity,” Naomi is saying. “I’d like for you to go through the emails you’ve received, and pick, say, ten—split evenly between positive and negative, I’d say. We will email them back and set up an interview by phone. You’ll present the original emails and the results of those interviews in your next article.” She braces her palms against her desk and leans forward. “Do you accept?”
Castiel stands slowly, feeling oddly calm. “Yes,” he says. “Of course, Ms. Enoch. I’ll do everything in my power to make this an article worthy of being in your magazine.”
She beams at him. They shake on it.
On his way back to his desk, Castiel has to dart into a bathroom and sit on a toilet with his head between his knees, trying to get his breathing under control. The world is spinning and the edges of his vision are dark.
He digs his phone out of his pants’ pocket and calls Anna. His hands are shaking.
Anna picks up after four rings, yawning into the phone. “Cas?” she asks. “What’s up?”
“Naomi wants me to do a follow-up article,” he blurts.
There’s the rustling of fabric, a faint groan. “Castiel, that’s wonderful,” Anna says, sounding wide awake. “That’s—that’s fantastic. Cas, this is what you’ve wanted forever, isn’t it?”
“It was enough to get just one featured article,” Cas says. His voice sounds like it’s coming from far away. “I wasn’t expecting to get another.”
“We need to celebrate,” Anna says firmly. Fabric rustles again and Cas hears a woman saying groggily, “Who are you talking to?” Anna takes the phone away from her mouth, but Cas can still hear her whispering, “It’s my brother, I didn’t mean to wake you up.”
“Are you in bed with someone?” Cas asks, incredulous. “Wasn’t this—wasn’t last night your first date?” And then, more suspiciously, “You’re supposed to be at work.”
“Oh, shut up, Castiel,” Anna sighs. “I took the morning off—I don’t have any active cases right now, anyway, and paperwork is what interns are for. Look. I’ll call you back later, okay? I’ll come over tonight and we’ll have dinner and drink champagne. And calm down, Castiel. I can hear you freaking out over the phone. You deserve this.”
“Right,” Castiel says. He takes a deep breath. “Right. Thank you. I’ll see you tonight.”
“I’ll bring dessert,” Anna promises.
Castiel spends the rest of the day feeling like he’s far too large for his skin. It takes him an hour to realize that he needs to start looking through emails now if he possibly wants to get the article finished by the time next issue is sent out. His article came out a little over a week ago; he has two and a half weeks, at the most, to wrangle good interviews out of ten participants—half of whom, he reminds himself, are likely to be belligerent.
Castiel opens his laptop and clicks through to the email folder where all the messages related to his article have been sent. There are almost three thousand.
He gets up and brews a very strong cup of coffee. As he waits, he checks the time. Ten-thirty. If he gets through one email every other minute, that’s thirty emails an hour. If he leaves by five, and takes a half-hour break for lunch, he can read 180 emails.
Castiel stares bleakly at the coffee machine until he hears it beep. Then he takes a deep breath, pours his coffee, and gets to work.
As it turns out, he underestimated how quickly he could get through the emails. Most of them are short, only a few sentences long. Castiel reasons to himself that if someone didn’t bother to write more than that, they must not have very much to say on the topic and wouldn’t make a good interview candidate. He can’t help but take in the first lines of each short email as he clicks his way through them. I just wanted to thank you for … As someone who’s been left … I’m offended that you seem to think the only reason I left my partner is because I wanted to find my true mate … I cried while reading this … A bitchy omega like you needs to be taught a lesson—all you need is a good, hard—
Castiel startles backwards and almost tips out of his chair. A desk away, Uriel looks over at him and narrows his eyes. “What’s the matter?” he asks.
“The interns didn’t do a very good job of screening the emails they forward to me,” Castiel says, a little dull. Uriel motions for him to turn the monitor so he can see, but Castiel shakes his head. Uriel mutters a curse under his breath and walks over to Castiel so he can read over his shoulder.
“Alphas,” Uriel mutters. Castiel looks up at him and isn’t surprised to see the hard lines of rage tightening Uriel’s face. “They think with their knots and expect everyone to bend over for them whenever they please.” He claps a heavy hand on Castiel’s shoulder. He’s a beta and doesn’t have a particularly strong scent, but even so Castiel can smell the anger, sharp and bitter, rolling off him. “Forward this to me,” he says, eyes glinting.
“Cas. Let me teach him a lesson.”
Castiel narrows his eyes at Uriel. “I don’t suppose I should ask what you’re planning on doing,” he says.
Uriel smiles. “You don’t need to worry about that,” he says. “Just send me the email.”
“Is this your way of saying thank you for your birthday?” Castiel asks. Uriel turned thirty-seven last month, and invited Castiel and a few others to drinks after work. An overbearing alpha had gotten in his space, saying he loved black cock, couldn’t wait to get Uriel on his back. Uriel was broad and strong, but he’d drunk his weight in tequila shots that night. It was Castiel who’d hauled the alpha away and smashed his fist into the alpha’s leering face.
Uriel raises his eyebrows. “This is my way of saying you’re my friend and I care about you,” he says icily. “Now. Send me the email. Please.”
Only a few other inappropriate or threatening emails got through the screening system in place. Castiel sends them along to Uriel as well, and has to hide a smile when he sees Uriel crack his knuckles and roll his neck as if preparing for a physical altercation.
Reading through the emails continues to go quickly. Castiel carefully flags the ones that catch his attention, setting them aside as possible interviewees. By five o’clock, he’s made his way through nearly 700 messages and marked thirteen of them for further thought. Seven of them are from people who passionately disagree with him; four of them are from people who have sent long personal accounts; and the last two are from individuals who can’t seem to make up their mind, but have intelligent things to say about the expectation of a true mate for everyone.
He enlists Anna’s help that evening, and over chocolate lava cake and glasses of champagne they make their way through another 600 emails, and set aside five. Anna laughs uproariously at some of the emails Castiel has been sent, but she refrains from reading snippets out loud after the first time, when Castiel threw a pillow at her and she spilled champagne all over her lap. It’s a good night, despite the snatches of vulgar and vaguely threatening language he catches as he flips through the emails. Anna doesn’t leave until after midnight, and he goes to bed warm with alcohol and good company.
The next day is Saturday, and Castiel ends up spending most of the weekend stretched out on his bed in an old t-shirt and sweatpants, Grace keeping him company namely by stretching out on his laptop while he attempts to read through the rest of the emails. By Sunday night, he has forty-three candidates. He narrows them down to twenty the next morning and sends them along to Naomi to get her final approval on which interviews he should pursue. He shouldn’t be surprised, but he is, when he gets an email from Samandriel only a few hours later saying Naomi would like to see him in her office.
He takes the elevator up this time, realizing only as the elevator doors slide open to let him out onto Naomi’s floor that he never brushed his hair this morning and forgot to shave. He presses his palm on top of his head in an attempt to flatten his perpetual bedhead and then tries to finger-comb it into some semblance of order.
As soon as Samandriel sees him, he waves him into Naomi’s office. She’s reading something on her computer screen intently, brow furrowed, when Castiel steps into the room. She only looks up when the door clicks shut behind him. “Castiel,” she says, and although she doesn’t smile at him, her voice is warm. “Please. Sit.”
The chair is just as uncomfortable as it was on Friday. Castiel still doesn’t allow himself to fidget.
“I’ve read through the emails you sent me,” Naomi begins. “I was very interested by a few of your choices.”
Castiel takes a deep breath. “I made a few unorthodox choices,” he says slowly. “But I felt they would provide the best opportunity for unique and comprehensive interviews.”
“I understand some of them perfectly. The letter from the alpha who left his partner for his true mate—an excellent choice. Controversial and promising. But this one …” She frowns at the computer screen. “From D. Winchester. He’s not writing about his own relationships.”
It takes Castiel only a moment to remember which letter belongs to Winchester. Winchester had spoken at length about his parents, a couple that were supposedly true mates but who had fought incessantly for years. Guess that raises the question about whether it’s even worth it to look for your true mate, Winchester had written. They loved each other, yeah, but they could hardly stand each other half the time. If that’s what being true mates is, then what’s the fucking point?
“His was my favorite email, actually,” Castiel says. When Naomi raises her eyebrows at him, he stumbles over his words. “He—this is clearly something he’s spent a lot of time thinking about. He grew up with parents that were supposed to represent the idyllic marriage, but instead had a turbulent relationship. He represents an opinion that’s incredibly controversial—that true mates are, basically, meaningless. They’ve no more special a bond than any other happily mated pair. Focusing on that would be the perfect companion to the previous article.”
Naomi hums and steeples her fingers. “You’re going to get quite a bit of backlash if you publish an article that presents that theory in a positive light,” she says. She’s watching him with sharp eyes, so intense that Castiel can hardly breathe. “I know you’ve received some troubling emails,” she continues. “You’re going to receive many more if you decide to make this your focus.”
Castiel straightens, spine going rigid. Ice lodges in his throat. “Are you trying to frighten me?” he asks softly.
Naomi stares at him. Castiel refuses to break eye contact. “No,” she says finally. “I’m just warning you. If you decide to write an article dismantling the myth of true mates, you have to be prepared to deal with angry readers.”
“I’m not afraid,” Castiel says. His stomach tightens just for a moment.
Naomi holds his gaze for several more seconds, face impassive. When she finally breaks their eye contact to look at her computer screen, Castiel lets out a breath he didn’t know he was holding. Naomi types rapidly for a minute, nails a staccato rhythm against the keyboard, before clicking her mouse decisively and looking back at him. “There,” she says. “I’ve sent my list of interviewees to you. It’s your job to reach out. I want regular updates and a transcript of your interviews as soon as you’ve conducted them.”
Castiel nods stiffly, one short jerk of his chin. “Yes, ma’am,” he says. She dismisses him with a flick of her hand.
The first thing Castiel does when he gets back to his desk is open his email, back held ramrod straight as he waits impatiently for it to load. He opens the newest email from Naomi and bites down on his lower lip.
The first name—the only name—on the list is D. Winchester. Castiel scrolls down, confused, wondering where the rest of the list is. Instead, he finds a short paragraph:
Your article will be pushed back to the November issue so you have the time to find a new pool of interviewees. You need to find at least five true mate couples, a few sources like our Mr. Winchester here, and a few mated couples who are not true mates. You may want to pay particular attention to family dynamics and compatibility between the couple, as well as expectations they have coming into their relationship. I’m expecting good work from you. Keep me updated on your progress. –NE
Castiel reads over the paragraph again. And then one more time.
“What are you panicking about over there?” Uriel grumbles, hunched over his computer and staring, unblinking, at the monitor. He’s been working on a piece on the sexual objectification of black male alphas for several days, and Castiel knows it’s been exhausting for him.
“I’m writing a piece about how true mates are bullshit,” he says, keeping it as simple and concise as he can. Uriel lifts his head to stare at him incredulously. Castiel isn’t sure what kind of face he’s making. He should be smiling, he’s pretty sure.
Uriel tilts his head back and barks out a laugh. “Oh, Castiel,” he says, shaking his head. “You are a piece of work.”
“Thank you,” Castiel says, a little uncertainly, and Uriel laughs again, and doesn’t stop laughing until Raphael pokes her head around the corner and hisses at him to shut up.
In the quiet aftermath, with the comforting, familiar sound of rapid-burst typing followed by frustrated sighs wrapping itself around Castiel, he pens his email to D. Winchester.
Subject: Voice magazine interview
My name is Castiel Milton. You may recognize my name from a Voice article which you recently emailed our magazine about, regarding how the expectation of a true mate for everyone has harmful repercussions for non-true mate couples, mated and unmated. I found your email to be remarkably well-written and eye-opening, and I would like to take it as a starting point for my next article, which will be about dismantling the stereotypical image of true mates as the perfect, idyllic American couple, and will likely be published in the November issue, a little under two months from now.
I would like to set up a time to interview you, at your leisure. You may remain anonymous if you wish. You will of course be compensated, at a rate which we will discuss should you accept. We can do an interview over the phone, via Skype, or in person if you are located within reasonable driving distance of the Voice offices in San Francisco. My article will likely be running in the November issue. I would like to interview you particularly about the relationship your parents had with each other, but any personal anecdotes relating to your own relationships that are significant to the subject are more than welcome.
Please email me back soon with your answer. If you need more information, feel free to ask questions and establish guidelines for the interview.
Castiel Milton | Voice magazine
Castiel doesn’t receive an email in response until after he makes dinner, going through the reluctant motions of boiling pasta and sautéing broccoli and onions to mix into the tomato sauce. He’s not hungry, but he eats his way through a plateful of his meal before he seals the rest in a Tupperware container, labels it with the date in dry-erase marker, and places it in the fridge. Then he seats himself in front of the TV and flicks through the channels until he finds a documentary about the Aztec Empire, which he watches mindlessly while refreshing his email every ten minutes or so. He knows he’s being ridiculous. He doesn’t understand why he’s being so impatient about this. He’s a professional, and professionals do not agonize over whether or not an unimportant, off-the-street potential interviewee deigns to refuse his offer.
Grace settles herself on top of the television and lets her long, fluffy tail droop in front of the screen. She stares straight at him as if daring him to say anything.
Castiel checks his email at seven-thirty, and then seven-forty-three, and then forces himself to wait until eight-fifteen, and then gets up and forces himself to take a long shower. He touches himself, traces his fingers along his cock and reaches back to slip a digit inside himself, but after only a minute or so he decides he’s not particularly interested. He’s distracted.
When he gets out of the shower, he only does a cursory job of drying himself off and slipping into an oversized Save the Bees t-shirt and boxers before he hurries to his laptop, impatiently waiting for it to load.
Right at the top: Dean Winchester, Subj. “Voice magazine interview”.
The email opens,
Hi, Mr. Milton,
Um. Holy shit. Wow.
Castiel puts one hand into his face and laughs, overwhelmed for an instant by a feeling of relief and giddiness and, oddly enough, affection, for this vulgar man he hasn’t even met yet.
Sorry, that was probably a really unprofessional way of saying “Yeah I’d really like to do your interview.” I’ve been a fan of Voice pretty much ever since I moved to California two years ago, and this was my first time ever writing in, so I’m kinda shocked, you know?
Anyway, yeah, I’d really like to do your interview. I’ve got a big project due by the 17th—I restore classic cars, and my customer really wants his Bel Air ready for a show this weekend—so the earliest I could do an interview would be September 18th. I live in Palo Alto, so I can drive into San Fran that afternoon any time after 2 and we can do an interview in person. I don’t like skype, and long phone calls kinda drive me up the wall.
Gotta admit, I’m really looking forward to this.
Dean Winchester | Winchester Restorations
Manager and Head Mechanic
808 San Antonio Ave, Palo Alto, CA 94306
The eighteenth—that’s Thursday. Castiel opens the calendar on his phone and squints down at the screen. He has an appointment with his obstetrician in the morning, a yearly checkup to renew his prescription for the heat suppressants that make his heats less painful to deal with without a partner. Other than that, his day is free.
He types a quick message back to Dean—he turns the name over in his mouth, pleased at the sound and feel of it—expressing that the timing works. He suggests a four o’clock meeting at a coffee house near the offices, and tells Dean he will be paid the standard interview rate for an hour of his time.
The reply comes almost instantaneously, less than five minutes after he sends the email. Sounds awesome, Dean had written, I’ll see you Thursday.
Castiel can’t help the small smile that tugs at his mouth. Before he forgets himself, he pens an email to Naomi letting her know that he’s secured an interview for Thursday. Then he shuts his laptop and sets it on his bedside table, and falls back onto his bed with a soft oomph. He stares up at his ceiling and rubs absently at his stomach, massaging the tight muscles there. It’s been a long time since he’s been nervous at the prospect of an interview. But this—it isn’t quite nervousness. There’s a sort of budding excitement, low in his belly, that floats upwards into his chest and leaves him warm.
His reaction is unusual, leaves Castiel feeling vaguely off-kilter, but he supposes he shouldn’t be surprised. There’s a reason he had selected Dean’s letter; it had, more than most others he’d seen, revealed a deep reflection and distrust of the true mate mythology that echoes Castiel’s own. It’s no wonder he’s looking forward to meeting the man who’s so eloquently put to words many of Castiel’s own thoughts.
The door to his bedroom creaks slightly, followed by the soft pattering of paws. Grace leaps onto the bed and sniffs her way over to him, rubs her cheek against his stubble before starting to lick his jaw. Castiel absentmindedly reaches a hand up and strokes her head, running his thumb along the soft edges of her ears—first the gray one, then the white. “I have a good feeling about this one,” he says to the ceiling and to Grace. She bumps her forehead against his palm.
It’s far too early to go to bed, but Castiel is reluctant to get up, especially since he’s already dressed for sleep. He convinces himself to get up just long enough to brush his teeth and select a book to curl up with, one he began recently about the role of omegas in the movement against the Vietnam War. But he finds it difficult to concentrate, often coming back to himself to realize he doesn’t remember anything of the last few pages he’s read. He gives up by ten and turns out the lights, settling onto his side with Grace curled up behind the bend of his knees.
It’s too quiet in his room, and Castiel’s breathing and heartbeat are too loud. Unbidden, he thinks, just a sad, lonely omega who feels worthless that he can’t find a mate.
Castiel presses his face into his pillow. He’s not sad, and he’s not lonely, and he doesn’t feel worthless. Why would he feel worthless for not having a mate when he’s never met anybody he’s wanted to be with? Castiel has never wanted a mate, never entertained the idea of having a mate. The idea that, after twenty-eight years of feeling no romantic or sexual interest in anybody, he will meet somebody whom he could imagine having a relationship with is preposterous.
It’s just that sometimes he wishes he could build a home with someone. Sometimes he wishes he could do research for an article while the TV plays at a low volume in the background, a gentle hand carding through his hair before setting a cup of coffee before him. Sometimes he wishes he could press his face into the crook of somebody’s neck and breathe in deep and let himself be held. Sometimes he wishes he knew what it was like to fall asleep to the rhythm of someone else’s heartbeat.
Only sometimes, though. It comes in waves. He’ll go months without thinking about it, and then for a week he’ll wonder, and pine for the shadow of somebody he’s ever met, and then he will wake up the week after and wonder why the hell he’d been so overdramatic the week before. The feeling always visits more frequently in the weeks before his heats, and part of Castiel takes satisfaction in knowing that it’s just his biology, his body urging him to find a mate while he’s still of child-bearing age, rather than a weakness of his emotional state borne out of loneliness. Sometimes, though, he hates his biology for haunting him with fantasies of a connection he doubts he’ll ever find. Just a sad, lonely omega who feels—
Castiel heaves in a shuddering breath. He doesn’t fall asleep for a long while.