Pairing(s): Dean/Cas, Sam/Jess
Word Count: 10,345
Art link: Art Masterlist
Summary: AU wherein Sam's getting married, Dean is helping out as best he can, and Sam and Jess are worried about Dean, who keeps meeting Castiel and doesn’t quite mind.
Dean glares at the machine. He's pretty sure the damn thing is laughing at him. He's certain the only thing keeping him from kicking it is the thought of explaining to Sam that he couldn't figure out how to work the registry. That and he knows these types of machines; they're built to withstand the wrath of disgruntled customers and stub toes even if said toe is encased in concrete.
With a long suffering sigh, Dean starts the process again, tapping the touch screen buttons harder than he needs to. Sam owes him so much for this, even if he traded picking up tablecloths and napkins to fix the registry in the first place.
"Can I help you?"
Dean jerks away from the voice and the man now standing next to him. It takes a second for him to realize that the guy is an employee, although the dark pants and light shirt are a dead giveaway. The nametag pinned to the guy's shirt that reads 'Hi, my name is CASTIEL, how may I help you today?' doesn't hurt either.
A happy face is drawn next to the name and it beams at Dean as he says, "Uh, yeah. My brother needs me to take something off his gift registry, but the thing keeps kicking me out."
Castiel nods. "What's the registry name?" Dean tells him and watches as Castiel tames the electronic beast, looking almost like every other employee earning hourly wages. His shoulders are too straight though, not slumped under the weight of screaming children and demanding customers. Dean would wonder why, but he forgets because he's staring at Castiel and knows the second he sees what Dean wants to take off the registry. There isn't exactly a smile on Castiel's face, but it makes Dean flush and grin a little anyway.
"What do you want removed?"
Dean shakes his head; Castiel is going to make him say it. "The uh-" Dean clears his throat, trying not to laugh. "-The doll stuff."
It only takes a second for the items to be tossed. Castiel turns to him with a questioning head tilt that could mean "Is that all?" or, maybe, "What's the joke?"
What the hell, Dean thinks and starts to explain. "My brother's been very concerned with the eventual clash of colors at his wedding lately so I thought he could practice on the Mix n' Match doll." He snickers. "My punishment was to fix this."
That's the crux of the joke and Dean didn't march into this ridiculous supercenter to do anything besides rid Sammy's wedding registry of all five year old girl toys; he says, "Thanks for the help" and strolls out to the Impala.
The rest of his day goes as planned and Dean gets to go home and catch up on the sleep he missed while fighting fires all night. Stretched out on his bed, he thinks of Castiel and what a weird name it is before falling asleep and dreaming of playing with an action figure sized wedding.
Something is buzzing. Dean jolts awake, fumbling for his beeper, but it's mercifully blank. No burning homes or cats up trees he has to save then. Groaning, he answers his phone. "What?"
"Wow, Dean, I don't know if you could be more happy to hear from me."
"Fuck off, Sam, I'm sleeping. I took the thing off your gift list," Dean mumbles into his pillow, closing his eyes tightly.
"Good," Sam says and instead of hanging up and leaving Dean alone, he keeps talking. "Jess wants you to come over for dinner."
"And what else?"
"What do you mean?" Sam sounds innocent and if that’s not a giant neon sign screaming SOMETHING IS HAPPENING, Dean doesn’t know what is. Dean gives up on getting any more rest and rubs at his face with his free hand.
"I mean," he starts, "the last time I came over for dinner, you made me try the potential dinners for the wedding because I represent the normal dude at a wedding and you wanted to see how the cauliflower would go over. So what am I being bribed into doing this time?"
Dean lets his words hang in the air and glances at the clock. Two PM and he's still tired. Scrubbing a hand over his face, he sits up. May as well get on with the day now, he's only got two days of break left and then it's back to business.
"There may be napkins to look at, but that'll only take a minute and then we'll eat. Promise."
"Yeah, you promise, Sammy. We'll see if it makes any difference. What time do you want me over there?"
Sams hmms and hawws before saying around seven and asks Dean if he could stop by the store and get some flowers for the table. "Jess really wants them, Dean, and I've got a case to go over and two reports due tomorrow," Sam says in explanation.
Really, Sam's lucky he's got such an amazing, mature, secure brother because there's no way Bobby would pick up daisies on command. Dean snickers at the image of Bobby brandishing the plants the same way he does with the giant wooden spoon he uses to make chili. "I'll get them, don't worry your pansy ass about it."
They bitch at each other good naturedly for a few minutes before hanging up. Dean hauls himself out of bed and prepares for the rest of the day, then drives through town running errands he just hasn't had the time to do recently. Time passes quickly and it's six thirty
before he remembers he promised to get flowers.
Grumbling, Dean pulls into the Novak Supercenter and trudges to the floral department, wondering when the store became so familiar to him. He's so distracted by the stream of complaints in his head and the overwhelming number of arrangements of all colors, sizes, and shapes, that he doesn't notice the guy next to him. He only does because he grabs the nearest vase, thinking that Sam and Jess won't care what he gets and will tease him about it anyway, and turns right into the man.
"Geez, sorry," Dean says, backing up to see who he ran into. It's Castiel from the day before and from the way Castiel's eyebrows lift, Dean knows he's been recognized as well. They don't say anything, but Castiel looks from Dean to the flowers and back again and Dean feels stupidly flustered. Fucking younger siblings putting him in these situations.
"They're for my brother's fiancé," Dean says, then plows on ahead because that is not how he wants to leave the conversation. "I'm going over for dinner and they wanted me to bring some for the table or whatever."
Castiel takes the bouquet out of his hands and returns it to its place on the table. He reaches for a different vase and hands it to Dean. There are a lot of red flowers and a few purple ones, but, now that Dean's paying attention, he knows it's way better than the pink and blue combination he held before.
"Thanks," Dean says, accepting the arrangement. He feels a little ridiculous (Who needs help choosing flowers?) but he's not ungrateful.
Castiel nods. "Of course," he says simply. They make their way to the check-outs, walking together in some unspoken agreement.
"So," Dean starts, wanting to fill the quiet, "Do you help everyone this much or is it just me?"
Castiel makes an aborted movement like a shrug. "Most people look like they know what they're here for."
Dean groans and the sound draws Castiel's blue eyes. "God Cas, tell it like it is."
"I thought I did," Castiel says, then falls a half step behind Dean. "Cas?"
"Do you mind?" Dean raises his eyebrows, surprised at the confusion. With a name like Castiel he expected a shorter form would be more popular. Wouldn't stop him from being wrong, though, it's happened before. Dean remembers calling Victor "Vick" the first time they met and he shudders.
Cas stops at the first open check-out lane. "No."
"Alright then," Dean says. "Thanks again for the help, Cas."
Cas gives him a "just doing my job" look and heads back into the belly of the store. A cough from the cashier, a younger woman with a smirk, gets Dean moving again. He's out of the store and driving to Sam's apartment in a couple minutes, and arrives a little later after circling the block for a parking spot.
Sam opens the door, beaming and laughing. Dean has a feeling that the laughs are all for him and the flowers under his arm.
“Dean, those flowers are too nice for you to have picked them yourself. Who helped?”
Dean pushes past him and stomps into the apartment. “I hate you, Sam. So much,” he growls.
“Aw, come on, Dean. This isn’t anywhere near as embarrassing as some of the stuff you had me do as a kid. Who helped?” Sam wheedles.
It’s really no use fighting because a second after that Sam brings out the puppy eyes that have always worked on Dean. “It was the same guy who helped me fix your registry, Cas- Well, his name is Castiel, but…”
“Yeah, Cas,” Sam agrees.
Sam is about to swoop in and question Dean further, but, thankfully, Jess appears. She kisses his cheek and takes the flowers from him, putting them on the table between the burgers and the salad. "Thank you, Dean, they're lovely. But what's this I hear about you accepting help? Did I miss the sky tearing open and the world ending?"
"Ha ha," Dean says dryly. Sam hands him a beer and they sit down. Jess takes a huge bite of a hamburger and motions for him to keep going. "But, no. He just pops up and offers to help." Shrugging, he chews a fry. "It's kinda weird, but, I don't know. I'm not going to stop him from doing his job."
Sam stops putting salad on his plate to gape. "We went to a suit fitting a week ago and you could hardly stand to have them 'do their job.'" A suspicious look passes between Sam and Jess. "Dean, do you like him?"
"This isn't high school." Dean picks up another fry.
"Is that a ‘yes’?" Sam's eyes widen comically and Jess follows his lead, proving once and for all that they are meant to be together to mock Dean. "It's not a ‘no’."
"You wonder why I don't come over for dinner more often," Dean mutters and Sam and Jess laugh.
Bobby Singer, Dean's Lieutenant, calls him two days after the dinner at Sam's house as Dean's getting ready for the overnight shift.
"It's your turn to cook. I know you forgot so just bring in some food and I'll handle it."
"Only, Bobby," Dean says, shaking his head and laughing as he's being hung up on. He gathers his shit and heads to the grocery store closest to the station, which happens to be the Novak Supercenter. Dean grimaces, but parks anyway, aware that he's becoming a regular customer to a large, chain "family owned" corporation.
The only good thing about it is that it's busy. No one gives Dean a second glance as he walks through the aisles filling a basket with ingredients for chili. He skirts around a grabby handed kid and tosses a pepper in with the rest of the food.
Dean doesn't jump this time and he rolls his eyes at himself because he's proud of it. "Hey, Cas." Cas is giving his basket an inscrutable look when Dean turns, so Dean explains, "It's my turn to cook."
"You can cook?"
Dean snorts. "For me, cooking is buying ingredients and then getting out of the way until dinner is served. It's probably a good thing; Bobby's food is less offensive to the probies than mine is. I can eat though."
The air around Castiel seems politely confused and it's not something Dean notices about air, except, he realizes, Cas doesn't know where he works. Or even his name. Never telling Sammy about this ever.
"I'm Dean Winchester." Dean sticks out the hand not holding his basket. "I'm a firefighter at the station on Cherry."
"Castiel," Cas says, shaking Dean's hand.
Dean is about to say No last name? and smile, can feel the beginnings of it lifting his lips. Instead, his charming grin dies as his pager beep and buzzes. "Shit," Dean hisses, dropping Cas' hand and fumbling for the device. He mutters it again when he reads the message: Hurry up.
He fixes an apologetic smile on his face and looks back at Cas, who hasn't gone to help anyone or even stopped watching Dean. "Sorry, Cas, I have to go. They get mean when they're hungry."
"It was nice meeting you," Cas says and he seems to understand Dean's urgency.
"Yeah, you to. See you later."
Dean hurries to the station but is still assaulted the minute he arrives anyways.
"What took you so long?" Bobby grumbles, taking the grocery bags from Dean's hands, like his presence alone can spoil the meal's taste. "Did your brother make you buy that organic shit again?"
"No, Bobby. I think he gave that up when you talked to him at the parade last year," Dean says, trailing Bobby into the kitchen. Dean keeps his hands to himself, though he eyes the pots and pans someone set on the counter. He also doesn't say that the vegetables came fresh from a local farm because Sam convinced him that supporting locals is "important in this economy, Dean." Alright, so Dean didn't want to hear Sam's speech again, but he'll take the good brother credit for it anyway.
"There was some traffic on the way in, is all."
"There's always traffic this time of the day. You should know that, you've lived here long enough."
"I know, Bobby," Dean says and pulls out a chair. "I'll move faster next time. How did Jo do today?"
Bobby starts narrating Jo's first day of drills in his gruff Lieutenant voice, stopping only for a brief interruption by Ellen Harvelle, Jo's mother, who threatens to let Dean cook if she hears anyone badmouthing her daughter. Everyone else trickles into the kitchen after that. Rufus and Victor are deep in a discussion about infrared or heat sensor goggles when they sit at the table. Tamara is allowed to help with the food and soon enough the chili is distributed. It's hot enough to burn the roof of Dean's mouth, but he enjoys it and teases Ellen about Jo passing her up.
Sam wants to get coffee the next time Dean has days off of work, so they go to one of the smaller coffee shops that calls itself a café like it belongs in France. It's run by locals because Sam is still all about stimulating the economy, which makes Dean roll his eyes as he parks on the side of the street.
A woman wearing an apron with child-sized handprints on it takes their orders and hands them their cups a minute later. Sam heads to a table near the window and Dean follows, taking the seat with his back to the door.
Sam sips at his mocha something or other and scowls at it when it burns him. The scowl reminds Dean of Sam as a kid, pissed off because his teacher gave him an A- on a paper instead of the A he deserved. Dean hasn't seen Sam react to a drink since he and Jess started planning their wedding. As much fun as annoying Sam while he's in lawyer mode is, it gets old after seeing it used on church officials and bakers.
Sam sighs after another moment of silence and slouches in his seat. He avoids Dean's eyes when he starts to talk, "Jess thinks you're lonely."
Dean wonders if straightening seems defensive and he quickly rolls his neck to hide it. "I'm fine, Sam."
There's no humor in Sam's grin, only a sense of tired knowledge. It feels too old an action for Dean's younger brother. "I told her that. She still wants to set you up with one of her friends. I've met Andrea, Dean, she's nice enough."
"I don't need to be set up, Sam." So what if he stares at his coffee, black as night with none of the sweet shit Sam likes in it, and not at his brother when he says it?
Thing is, Dean really doesn't need to be set up. Sam knows it as well as anyone, having witnessed more than a few of Dean's bar conquests in action. Being a firefighter doesn't leave too much leisure time, so conquests are the standard at the moment. Ability is not the problem here.
It's just- and Dean will deny it to Sam's face, and Jess' too, if she ever asked- he's reaching (reached, corrects the part of his brain that complains about crawling through buildings and made it a miserable three weeks of recovery after he busted up his knee) the point in his life where he's willing to try a relationship. Sam proposing made the point better than anyone who's brought it up in recent conversation.
Like he said, he'll never admit it to Sam, and the calm atmosphere in the place is the one thing that keeps him from snapping a denial.
When Dean doesn't say anything, Sam shifts in his chair, a pained expression coming over his face. "Jess said that if you didn't agree to meet Andrea, I should ask if you'd rather see a guy. She says she knows people you'd like."
Dean can't help it; he laughs. Sam is probably the coolest little brother on the planet and easily accepted Dean's bisexuality when Dean had trouble with it, but he hasn't tried to get Dean to date anyone in years.
Sam blushes bright red. "Fine, Dean, if you're not going to take it seriously, I'm letting Jess nag you. She's been waiting for months to see if anything would happen with you and-"
The familiar rough voice is a nice interruption. "Cas?"
Dean twists and sees Castiel by the counter. He looks, well, not surprised exactly, maybe startled, behind his calm expression. Dean frowns. He had assumed that the look was Cas' working face. Sam coughs and leans forward and Dean takes the hint.
"Cas this is Sam, my brother. Sam, this is Cas. He helped me sort out your registry problem a few days ago."
Cas approaches and shakes Sam's hand. "It's good to meet you."
Sam responds positively to the politeness and starts up a conversation about the weather, which gives Dean a chance to look Cas over. He's wearing a trench coat over a suit with a dark blue tie that tries to bring out Castiel's eyes, but Cas' shoulders are a little slumped. It's how Dean looks when he's recovering from a tough day and he feels a twinge of sympathy.
Before Dean can get Cas out of Sam's ramble on air currents, the barista calls, "Cas, you're coffee's ready."
"Thank you, Helen." He takes a drink and looks more solid for it. "I have to go. It was nice meeting you, Sam." Cas shoots Dean quick, still tired, smile. "Dean."
"See you, Cas." Dean watches him leave, then shakes his head and rolls his eyes at Sam, who's started squinting at Dean. "What?"
There's a pause, and then Sam ventures, "You like him."
"Back to high school, Sam? Are you going to call Jess and post this phenomenon on your Facebook?"
The annoyed huff is expected and Dean greets it with a smirk. "No, I'm going to tell Jess not to bother setting you up if you like him. And you do."
Dean's surprised and more than a little suspicious. Sam's a lawyer, the ability to give up is not written into his genetic code. "That's it?"
"I'm not going to get in the way of your weird attempt to woo him, "Sam says, like it's unfair to expect some meddling.
Sam shrugs, going back to his drink. "But maybe you could take him out instead of leering at him in public."
The next time Dean goes shopping, he walks to the chain Star store three blocks from his apartment. It's impractical to drive all the way across town when he can get the same stuff without using up the gas, and Dean may be trying to prove something to himself.
But, as he meanders through the store, he can't help notice the differences. Novak's has neater, wider aisles than Star, and the lighting is brighter. In fact, Novak's seems just friendlier in general and Dean would roll his eyes at himself for noticing, but he's busy avoiding the leers of the employees.
By the time he stomps through the check-out and is nearly molested by the cashier, a smirking, dark haired man with a British accent, Dean has almost decided to quit society. Driving may be more wasteful, but if it means he can shop in peace, it's worth it, he decides.
Dean ignores that he's shopped at Star since he moved into his apartment and hasn't had any problems until today.
Dean doesn't know what makes him do it. It's probably what makes him keep going back to the supercenter across town. And, if he's being truthful with himself, the it is a him. The him who is now standing by the exit doors in a trench coat, staring at the rain like it's personally insulted him.
Dean's leaving the store, ready to sprint to the Impala and hope that the water doesn't ruin the paperback he picked up, tucking his bags under his arms just in case. Cas is just standing there and it’s tempting, not that Dean thinks that’s exactly the word to use.
"Do you want a ride?”
The reason Dean became a firefighter is so that he could help people. Everyone knows that. It’s not so well known that he also did it because he had a habit of offering help to old ladies with their bags, guys looking confused and staring at their cars, and anyone who looked like they really needed it. He thought saving lives and coming home physically and mentally exhausted had broken the habit.
Cas looks startled, too. From the way he's watching Dean he heard the question and it's uncomfortable waiting for an answer.
"I mean," Dean says, talking over the lack of an answer, "I could take you home, if you want. I don't have anywhere to be."
They hurry through the rain and slide into the Impala. Cas' trench coat wraps awkwardly around his ankles and he folds his hands in his lap.
"Where to?" Dean asks and twenty minutes later he's dropping Cas off in front of a decent looking house just outside of town. There's a weird moment where Cas looks like he might invite Dean in, but he must decide otherwise because he says, "Thank you" and moves to leave.
"Sure," Dean says, "See you later."
He wonders if this means they're friends now as he puts away the junk he bought back in his tiny apartment. Sam texts, Come help us put these people at tables. Dean sends back I may bring a guest so don’t put Jess’ crazy friend next to me and grabs his keys.
Life can't get any weirder.
He may be acting a little ridiculous, Dean admits a week or so after he drives Cas home. For one thing, he's been into Novak's at least once a day during the week and he's accidently-on-purpose found Cas each time. Every day they've talked about other customers, Dean's job, or the wedding and Dean walks out of the store with two dollars of product he doesn't need and the biggest grins he's worn since he became a firefighter.
"And," a cashier lectures one of the day's Dean's in, "as much as everyone here loves a romance, it's not like you don't have phones. To, you know, talk on. Call each other and argue over who should hang up first. At least then I won't have to be reminded of my own sad love life."
It's hard to argue with conviction like that.
Two days later, Dean finds Cas restocking laundry detergent near the back of the store. "Hey, Cas." Cas returns his usual greeting of "Dean" and keeps stocking.
"So," Dean begins, "we've been talking a lot lately, and I was thinking we should exchange cell numbers."
Cas looks up and Dean doesn't think he imagines the glint in Cas' eyes. "Sure." Cas neatly writes his number on a slip of paper and lets Dean borrow his pen to do the same.
Dean has to leave after that, he's got work to get ready for, but he programs the number in his phone under Cas, sparing a second to wonder what Cas' last name is.
Texting Cas is probably what ruins Dean for other people. He liked Cas before, knows he's hot, which is hard to translate into a text, but Cas is funny, too. It's the kind of dry humor Dean could never get a hang of, preferring biting sarcasm and wit, but loves to hear.
The day after Cas gets his number, he sends Dean a text. One of my brothers took me to Hamlet last night and spent the whole play wondering if he should become an actor.
It takes Dean a second to get the joke, he read Hamlet once in high school after all, but he snorts when he does and draws a quiet, "idjit" from Bobby, who's giving Dean the stink eye.
He still stops in to see Cas at work more than he should, but it's nice to be able to tell Cas when he saves a kitten (literally).
Sam thinks it's absolutely hilarious because he's kind of an asshole.
"Let's face it, Dean," Sam snickers, making Dean scowl harder. "You saved a kitten like you're straight out of an old cartoon, which is already adorable and embarrassing enough, and then you texted your 'it's complicated' to brag."
At this point in his life, Dean figures he should know better than to leave his phone unsupervised with Sam and Jess around. "Fuck you, the goddamn cat was a stray Cas'd been feeding before it disappeared and he got worried about it."
"Nope, it's too late." Sam shakes his head. "You're still a nice person. What would Bobby think?"
Dean narrows his eyes. If Sam wants to play it like that... "This from the man who gave up his wedding date at the church so that a corporal and his longtime girlfriend could get married the day after he gets back from being deployed in Hawaii?"
"Jess!" Sam squeaks in a tone about an octave higher than normal. "You said you wouldn't tell him."
Jess rubs Sam's arm. "Sorry, baby, I told him a couple days ago when this streak of kindness started freaking me out."
"I feel so betrayed." Sam pretends to leave and for a while forgets that Dean ever did something decent for anyone.
Alright, Dean likes texting Cas and seeing him at work, he does. But he'd really like to, oh, take Cas out sometime. Which is unfortunate because their schedules coincide not at all. For every day Dean would take Cas to a minor league baseball game, there's a movie Cas wants to see, and one of them is always busy. It's a miracle they find an hour on a Saturday to get coffee together. It requires that Dean be awake earlier than he's comfortable with, but he agrees.
The Saturday arrives and Dean strolls into the café, yawning. Cas is already there and Dean's glad he told Cas he'd barely be out of bed, because Cas took it as a sign to dress casually in a t-shirt and an old pair of jeans. His dark hair is doing its best of appear as ruffled as possible and he's gorgeous.
Dean swallows and orders his coffee with a rough voice.
Once they get their coffee and sit, though, Dean starts talking. He promised Sam he'd take him to confirm orders of flowers or napkins today and Sam's expecting Dean for that in under an hour.
"So, what's up?"
Cas blinks. "My family is pushing me to find a new job. They think I'm 'overqualified and underpaid.'"
"Yikes, is your family always so encouraging?" Dean wonders, wincing in sympathy.
"Usually, more," Cas replies and Dean laughs. "They're not bad, just concerned and overly involved." Long fingers fiddle with a sugar packet someone left on the table. "It's a tradition for us to go into my parents' business, but I haven't so far. My brother, the one I went to Hamlet with, broke away, but even now he's doing a similar job."
Cas is frowning into his coffee, searching it for the answers to the universe or at least to demanding parents, and looking calm if not for the dejected slump to his shoulders. Dean feels obligated to speak up.
"My dad was a firefighter, like me. He was always proud of me for becoming one, but had a hard time accepting that my brother wanted to be a lawyer. He never got along with them and he and Sam used to fight over it all the time. Dad eventually came around, which was a huge deal for Sam."
Dean can practically feel Cas studying his soul he's staring so hard at Dean. He looks up and catches that gaze. "Family's important, don't get me wrong, but they don't have to do your job, you do. Pick something you like or can at least put up with." Dean shrugs and looks away.
Neither of them speaks for a few minutes; they listen to Helen take orders and the drone of a news anchor on tv in the background. Dean looks at his hands or the table and waits for Cas to respond.
The news goes to a commercial and Cas says, "I don't know that I could help people like you or your brother do, but I like when customers ask me where to find something in the store. I even like when they complain because it helps me know what we could do better. I like to fix the little things that people don't often notice."
There's a pause while Dean drinks his coffee and Cas mirrors his movements. "You're something else, Cas." Dean shakes his head slowly. "I don't know many people who can listen to their family complain, which is nothing like having someone get in your face and scream at you."
"Most people don't complain that way," Cas says. "You seem to attract them, though. I never had so many screaming children and their mothers confront me when we didn't know each other."
Dean barks a laugh. "No, you probably did, but you didn't have the Peanut Gallery behind you commenting."
Their schedules work to keep them apart after that. Dean's time is spent double and triple checking things with Sam for the wedding. He would wonder what Jess is doing, but she told him one night early on as they watched Sam drive himself crazy over bridal magazines that Sam insisted on taking care of everything.
"At most," she remarked, "he lets me think about the dresses and I can occasionally tell him that a certain flower arrangement won't work." She shrugged and sent Dean a "what can you do?" look. "He wants to make everything perfect for us."
It's the Sam Dean's always known, an unstoppable force that listens to your protests and then does what he wants anyway. The only thing that keeps Dean from worrying about Sam taking on too much is the amount of work he pushes onto Dean.
Sam does look guilty when he overhears Dean telling Cas that he can't go to a baseball game with him. He kicks at the rock parking lot of the winery they've driven to so Sam can place an order and bites his lip, waiting for Dean to hang up to talk.
"You could tell me to fuck off," Sam offers. "I know you'd rather talk to Cas than do most of this stuff."
"I could, yeah," Dean agrees. He stretches, working out some of the kinks in his back from sitting in the car. "But I won't."
"I want you to spend time with him, Dean," Sam frowns. "Don't think that staying away from him and helping me makes me happy."
Dean rolls his eyes. "Don't be such a drama queen. I'm helping you because you'd work yourself stupid otherwise, Sam, not because I care about the fucking wine." Dean charges on when it looks like Sam is going to protest. "Yesterday you blamed yourself when the bakery said they might not have enough time to make your wedding cake. You called them three months ago, Sam, and the only thing that kept you from giving them the extra fifty they wanted is your fiancé, who has told you multiple times that she can help."
Dean takes a deep breath and lets it out slowly. "Just- Don't worry about it, okay? Cas is busy, too, it's not like you're the only thing keeping us apart."
They start walking towards the building. "How long have you had that speech prepared?"
"The 'you do too much' part since you turned eleven," Dean admits. "The rest has been building up."
Sam grunts "huh" and then drills the owner about his '72 Merlot.
The situation isn't as bad as Sam makes it out to be; Dean sees Cas most days of the week for a few minutes at a time and they text a lot. There are even a few times they meet up for coffee in the middle of their hectic schedules.
Besides, what Dean said about Cas being busy is true. It seems like he's always doing something with family. Cas and his siblings are more different than any other family Dean has known, including Dean’s, and they do seem to be more dependant and fucked up for it.
Dean and Cas are talking on their phones one day about the complaints Cas has heard about the fish Novak's sells. Well, Cas is talking, Dean is enjoying the sheer number of words that are coming across the line in Cas' voice. Cas is explaining about the filtration system the tanks have and how it goes to all of them, so if one fish gets sick they all do, when he stops, says, "I have to take this call from my sister," and switches Dean to another line. A minute passes, then Cas picks up and starts talking about the fish again.
"Cas," Dean interrupts. "Was that important?"
"Oh." Cas stops, midsentence. "No, she wanted to confirm that I was going to dinner on Sunday."
Little incidents like that make Dean see that when Cas said "overly involved" he meant "very close, demanding, and time sensitive." That Cas can find time for Dean at all between work and family becomes more shocking the more Dean knows him.
Against Dean's will, the date of the wedding creeps forwards, surprising him when he sees that in two and a half weeks Sam will be married. The worst part of it is that Sam keeps laughing at him for not asking Cas to the wedding already. Dean growls and snaps at Sam when he asks, but he's nervous. He likes Cas, likes that he listens and is bossy in a tricky way. Whatever he and Cas have is new still and Dean doesn't want to ruin it.
Which is why when he goes to ask Cas, his hands shoved into pockets so he won't fiddle with shit, he hovers. Cas is dealing with some linebacker sized dude who wants "a fish" and hasn't prepared anything more than that, and he keeps shooting Dean looks that all say, "I'm busy, I'll be right there."
Not that the stares make Dean leave. He just watches a Betta swim around in slow circles and listens to the football player say, "I don't know, man, she just said 'fish' and sent me here." Listens to Castiel in full employee mode run through every fish available only to have them be rejected because "it was blue" or "this one is too small." Cas' shoulders are stiff and if Dean thought it was possible for him to look annoyed, he's sure that Cas would right now.
"Why don't you buy her more than one fish?" Cas nearly growls after another round of "no"s.
The football player blinks, slow and confused. "Why?"
"You can't replace the fish you killed," Cas says, "But you can apologize and try to make it better. Buy a pair of goldfish."
He hustles the guy through the process and sends him off with a little plastic bag in each hand. It takes a moment to finish entering something in the computer, then Castiel pops up next to Dean where he's still watching the Betta swim. "Dean," Cas says in greeting, already looking at Dean's face when he turns to talk.
"Is a fish an appropriate wedding gift?" Dean asks because, fuck it all, he's nervous and picking at things that make people uncomfortable is what he resorts to when he wants to slow his heart rate.
The stare becomes more of a glare. "If you're here to make jokes you can leave," Cas says and stalks towards the dog stuff.
Dean follows him, frowning. He's seen Cas stare down angry mothers and clean up after out of control kids and nothing has ever made him snap at Dean. Cas starts to straighten boxes of dog treats on the shelf, movements tight and controlled. "How many fish guys did you have to deal with today?"
A look is directed at Dean. "Just the one."
"So?" Dean gets that he's pushing it a little, he does. If Cas tells him to back the fuck off he will because he knows what being angry is like. He doesn't think Cas will though. Reading people is something he got used to at the station; it's always good to know when it's okay to joke about Bobby's cooking and when to shut up and eat. And it's a skill that has helped him with Cas more than he can imagine.
He catches the way Cas' shoulders sag before he says, "My family wants to talk to me about my job."
Shit, Dean thinks. "This the same side of the family that nagged you about jumping into the family business?"
The way Cas turns to him is enough of an answer. At the other end of the aisle a woman rolls her cart up to the leashes and picks a couple up, comparing. She fidgets and looks at them, then back to the pink and blue things in her hands. It's enough of a reminder that what he's going to say probably shouldn't be blurted out in public, but fuck it, when has he cared?
"Are you happy here, Cas?" Dean asks, shifting closer so his voice doesn't carry to the woman who's not even pretending to be buying something now.
"Yes." Cas leans into Dean's space, murmuring the word.
Dean swallows and thinks man, his eyes are blue even as he says, "Then fuck 'em. Do what makes you happy."
Cas nods and there's a spark of agreement in it that makes Dean grin.
A crash breaks the bubble he and Cas formed. The woman from before has turned a bright, embarrassed red, and a blue food bowl lies at her feet. She stammers an apology and, after Cas assures her that she didn't interrupt anything (Even though, Dean thinks with surprising frustration, she clearly did.), asks if the bowls are really on sale. They are and so is the water dish Cas convinces her to buy.
Dean watches her scramble away, still flushed and now avoiding eye contact, and laughs when she's gone. He can't do much else unless he wants to admit to feeling - well, feeling too much for a pep talk in a public place. It solidifies the thought that he and Cas need to do something soon, though.
"You wanted to talk to me about something?" Cas asks, bright eyes focused on Dean again.
"Yeah," Dean says, shifting. "You know Sam's wedding is coming up and he's being gracious enough to let me bring a guest. I was wondering if you'd want to go with me."
"Yes." Something tight pushes itself out of Dean's chest and turns into a sigh of relief that Dean stifles.
"I can give you the details now or," Dean clenches his hand. "We could do something in a couple days and I could give them to you then."
His pulse picks up even as Cas smiles and says, "I'm free Thursday evening."
"Me, too. How about we meet at the café and take it from there?"
"I'd like that."
When Dean gets home that night, he straightens his apartment, shoving CDs and books onto his shelves. The rush of anticipation and adrenaline fuels him until everything is a wipe away from shining. It's the cleanest he's seen his apartment since he bought it and it's also strangely tiring. Dean falls asleep and dreams about Cas' rough voice repeating, "I'd like that."
Dean has to tell Sam that he has plans when Sam calls the next morning, looking for someone to watch the game with because Jess will be at her friend's house and Sam is almost incapable of spending time alone without turning to work.
"You're finally going to deflower Cas aren't you?" Sam asks, sounding disgusted.
"That's such a pervy phrase," Dean chuckles. "I'm sure Cas has already been 'deflowered,' though. Have you seen the man? He's hot, yeah, but his if his voice is that rough before sex can you imagine-"
Sam makes a sound like a dying animal. "Never talk about that with me again."
"You are the one who brought it up."
"Don't let me do it again." Sam manages to laugh at himself a little. "So, what, this is your first realish date? I remember when Jess and I went out, I was so nervous."
A memory pops into Dean's head. "Didn't you call me freaking out because you were convinced that Jess would dump you if you took her to that musical and she didn’t like it?"
"The point is," Sam says, sounding strained. "That I knew she was special."
And that's something Dean can agree with. "I hear you, Sammy. I'm not going to fuck this up."
"Good. I think Jess would kill you if you did. She says she's glad that Cas makes you happy because then I stop worrying about you dying alone and become less mopey, or something."
"I didn't think there was something other than mopey for you, Sam. It's good to hear you're making progress on that front."
"Yeah, yeah, jerk, have fun on your date." Sam's smirk can be heard through the phone.
A call comes into the station. Of course it does, Dean has Plans that he considers important enough to call plans with or without the capital letter. Duty is duty, though, not to mention that it's his job, so he throws himself into the engine and lets himself think about Cas. He's probably at the coffee shop waiting and worrying in the subtle and frustrating way he has. The goal is to get the Plans out of his head right away so he can focus on work, but he can't call it a success because Ellen has to bark his name twice to get his attention. Still, as they pull up to the fire he's running through a list of equipment and protocols for house fires.
The blaze is eating up the two story house, flames pouring out of windows with smoke following closely behind. As usual, a spark of fear shoots down his chest, sending sharp panic jittering through him and generally existing over his training, which is considering recent rainfall and building materials. Dean sucks a breath and thinks Dad would've laughed at this piss poor excuse for a bonfire.
The thought settles his pulse, like it has every time Dean's thought it on the job. Never mind that his father died in a house fire like this one. John Winchester was a stubborn son of a bitch that marched into danger to help others.
And well- Dean might not have inherited his dad's need for justice, that's Sam all the way, but helping people is his thing. He'll do it well enough that his dad would be proud if he was around to see it.
Hours later, after the last smoldering pieces of the house have cooled and the appropriate paperwork has been filled out and signed by all involved in containing the fire, Dean stumbles into his apartment. Jo dropped him off, claiming that she didn't want her first job at a crash to be saving his ass with the Jaws of Life and Dean was too tired to argue with her.
Any fire is tiring enough, but Gordon pushed forward too quickly when Bobby claimed the house safe enough to get a look at. Dean had to pull Gordon out after he stepped too heavily on a patch of weakened floorboards and fell. It was a fucking probie move. It had pissed everyone off and made them back out and hose the exterior for another half an hour while Bobby tore Gordon a new one. He finally let them in again to finish stamping out the flames, but time and energy had been expended that they might need in a different situation.
Dean flops onto his couch feeling rundown and disgusting even though Ellen made him shower before tackling the paperwork. Fires like this one always manage to prove to Dean that you can train all you like and run drills three or four times a week, but nothing can compare to the real thing.
He glances at his clock - it's four fucking fifty in the morning - and sees Cas sitting in Dean's armchair, watching him. Damn, Dean thinks. He's more exhausted than he thought if he didn't notice Cas.
"You're lucky you're not a burglar," Dean mumbles, eyes aching from the effort of keeping them open.
"I'm sure," Cas agrees dryly. He walks over to Dean looking tired and rumpled - some part of Dean's brain has the decency to wonder how Cas got in his house and how long Cas sat there in the dark - and tugs Dean to his feet. "Take a shower. I'll be here to call an ambulance if you pass out and hit your head."
Grumbling "ha ha," Dean makes his way to the bathroom, striping off his clothing as he goes, not caring if Cas sees anything. He sets the water temperature to "Freeze His Ass Off" and shudders under the spray. It wakes him up enough to clean up and count the places where blisters and bruises will probably appear in a couple hours. Being clean does help him feel less muddled, though his body protests as if it's been through seven rounds with George Foreman.
When Dean emerges from the bathroom, dressed only in a fluffy towel that's wrapped around his waist, he's almost certain that he fell asleep and hit his head. Cas is in his bed, the sleeves of his dress shirt rolled up, tie loose around his neck, lounging against Dean's headboard and reading what looks like Slaughterhouse-Five if Dean squints. The weirdest part of it all is that Cas has taken off his shoes and Dean can see the shapes of Cas' toes in his sensible black socks.
Cas sends him a quiet, expectant look that gets him moving better than a rumbled "Well?" would at this point. He snaps out of his stare and pulls on some sweatpants without moving the towel. Not that he'd mind if Cas saw his junk, he likes Cas after all and is definitely interested in more than the "slightly more than platonic but not really involved" relationship they have now, but it's late. Or stupidly early or something and Dean is having trouble processing that Cas ins in his bed, so anything more is out of the question.
For a second, Dean considers grabbing a shirt, but a wave of exhaustion hits him. He figures Cas will say something if he cares and slides under his sheets, rolling on his side to look up at Cas, who's holding his place in the book with a fingertip.
"So, how'd you get in my apartment?"
"Go to sleep, Dean," Cas answers. He doesn't turn back to the book, though. Dean fluffs up his pillow and lies back before looking at Cas.
"That little bitch." Dean stifles a yawn against his pillow. "No, but how'd that happen?"
Cas stares at him as if to remind Dean that it's five twenty and they could be sleeping, but answers. "I was waiting for you-"
"Sorry, by the way," Dean interrupts.
"It's not your fault there was a fire, Dean." He continues, oblivious to the pleasant rush of warmth Dean feels when he says it. "I was at the coffee shop waiting when Helen said there was a fire. When you didn't come after that I figured you were fighting it. I found Sam's address in the phone books and asked him for a key."
"And of course he gave it to you."
"Sam wasn't sure how clean your home was and didn't want to, but Jess convinced him."
"Good old Jess," Dean yawns so hard he swears his jaw cracks. "And then you waited here?"
"You should sleep," Cas insists.
"Pot meet kettle," Dean mutters, driving off anyway. Maybe a minute later, Dean thinks to ask, "Why're you dressed up?"
Cas sounds bemused when he responds. "We were going out."
Hazily, Dean thinks It wasn't a real date, we haven't gotten the chance yet and tries instead to say "Overdressed" but he's pretty sure he whispers "look good" before he falls asleep.
When Dean wakes the first time, he's aware of two things: one is that he had his arm wrapped around something warm and solid, and two is that "something" is actually Cas. Through the fog in his mind, Dean sees that they're not spooning (relief) though he must have rolled onto his side and grabbed onto Cas sometime in the night. He also sees that, in addition to the rolled up sleeves, Cas is now missing his tie and belt and his shirt is untucked.
Dean lifts his head and blinks at Cas. He's about to say fuck it and go back to sleep and blame any post-awakening awkwardness on weird sleeping habits, when Cas opens surprisingly clear blue eyes. They stare at each other for a second then Cas murmurs, "You can rest, Dean," and Dean sighs and does just that.
The second time Dean wakes up, he's still not spooning Cas. It's still a relief to whatever shreds of masculinity he's clinging to.
In Cas' hands is Dean's battered copy of Cat's Cradle, which he settles over the arm Dean has wrapped around his waist.
"Time is it?" Dean asks, stretching as much as he can without disturbing the book.
"A little after two," Cas' fingers trace aimless shapes over Dean's skin and the book cover. "I called in sick."
Dean grins so wide it hurts. "Awesome."
A soft hmm comes from Cas' lips. "I have to leave tomorrow."
The grin falls off Dean's face and he pushes himself up, letting Cat's Cradle tumble off his arm and onto the sheets. "Why?"
Cas picks it up and sets it on one of the nightstands. "My family," he pauses, considering his words. "There's a situation they need me to help with. It may take a few days."
"You'll be back for the wedding?" Dean frowns at his hands, aware that he's the lonely wife of an absent husband in this situation. It's not a comparison that Dean likes.
"Yes," Cas says firmly. He sits up and watches Dean until he meets Cas' eyes.
The thing is, a voice hums in Dean's head, Cas stayed. Cas came over in the first place and stayed up for Dean.
Dean leans over and kisses Cas, unable to keep himself from wanting soft blue eyes, reassurance, and rough stubble. Cas' lips are warm and though they don't do more than brush lips, it's amazing.
They laze around exchanging kisses until Dean's stomach growls, which startles a chuckle out of Cas. Dean laughs, too, and makes them sandwiches.
"So," Sam says when Dean stops by later after Cas goes home to pack. "You and Cas?"
"Yeah, Sammy." Dean stuffs his hands into his pockets. "No need for any last minute setups, we're together and he's coming to your wedding with me."
Jess leans against the doorframe and looks Dean over. "I'm glad you’re happy," she grins. "Cas seems very... respectful in a sweet way."
"Sure," Dean agrees, unwilling to tell her how Cas spent the afternoon reorganizing Dean's music because he didn't like Dean's method. "I'm hungry."
"Geez, Dean," Sam groans. "Come on in, you'll just scratch at the door and whine if we refuse you now."
Laughing, Jess pulls Dean inside and pushes a still complaining Sam towards the kitchen.
The next few days Dean spends laughing at how formally Cas texts. He sends things like "I've arrived, Dean" and "Why do you want to know what I'm wearing?" There are a few that he shows Sam that make them both laugh, but Dean misses seeing Cas. The way Cas starts replying less and less does not help Dean relax, though he figures Cas is just tired from dealing with his family's shit and doesn't push the issue.
Dean throws Sam his bachelor party and laughs at all the things Cas would find amusing. He's determined not to mope about Cas like a teenage girl just because he hasn't heard from him in a few days. Instead, he gets shitfaced for Sam, trusting that Cas will show.
"He said he would," Dean slurs to Sam, who dragged Dean home after it became apparent that Dean was drinking because Sam wouldn't and because he was moping about Cas.
"Then he will," Sam assure him, pushing Dean so he'll flop onto his bed. "Cas doesn't seem like a liar or like the kind of guy who breaks promises."
"S'not," Dean confirms. Then he sighs and struggles to sit up. "Sorry for the shitty party."
"It wasn't a shitty party, Dean," Sam snickers. "I'm pretty sure watching you drink Chuck under the table while rambling about your boyfriend was the best part of the night. Seriously, Dean, don't worry about it. Just show up on time for my wedding, okay?"
"I don't break promises either." After a couple tries, Dean kicks off his shoes and curls into his sheets.
"I know," Sam whispers.
The rehearsal ceremony and dinner are great. Dean hardly has to do anything besides stand next to Sam and then eat, which is a relief. Dean's glad that he's not getting married tomorrow, no matter how joyous an occasion it will be. Everyone keeps giving speeches that make Jo's mother cry and when Sam stands up and starts to thank Dean, he knows none of them are making it out without shedding a tear or two.
But, really, Dean's so happy for Sam he could burst and the only thing that stops him from leaping up and giving everyone a preview of his speech which is filled with embarrassing childhood stories of Sam is that the chair next to him is empty.
Dean's alarm greets the morning with increasingly insistent screeches that make him hiss and leap out of bed, smacking the OFF button on his way to the shower. He pulls on the tux Sam told him he'd have to wear and stops by the mirror. Uncomfortable in a great word for how it makes him feel, but it's for Sam, so Dean puts up with it.
A time check tells him he needs to be on the road, so he shoves his stuff into his pockets and checks his phone where there are no new messages from Cas. He grits his teeth and drives the Impala to the church Jess and Sam frequent. It's a big building with a stone exterior and large stained glass windows. Dean likes it, though he's never been a church going guy.
One of Jess' friends Sheila greets him when he walks inside and points him down a hall to a series of rooms that don't open into the main chapel. A couple of the rooms have signs on them that say "BRIDE" or "GROOM" and Dean pushes into the GROOM one. Sam is inside talking to one of his college friends Brady. Brady says something that makes Sam laugh, then leaves, nodding to Dean on his way out.
Sam snorts and gestures to his jeans and t-shirt. "I didn't want to risk spilling anything on myself."
Dean grins. "If I'm taking that chance, you have to, too. Go and get changed already so you can start pacing and sweating. You're the calmest groom I've ever seen, man. It's weird."
Sam bitches, but listens to Dean, then spends a solid five minutes fiddling with his bowtie and cufflinks. He settles down when one of Jess' bridesmaids, a giggling woman Dean doesn't know, bursts in and says, "Just checking."
People start running in and out sorting out last minute details that Sam handles like a pro. And it would be great, only it gives Dean time to peer out a window at the guests who're arriving way too early and check his phone.
"Yeah, Sam?" Dean turns away from the glass.
Sam looks amused. "Are you worrying about your boyfriend instead of watching me to make sure I don't run away?"
"Jess would hunt you if you tried anything," Dean jokes.
"Dean," Sam repeats, raising an eyebrow.
"He'll be here," Dean growls, spinning back to the window.
"I'll be scared for him if he isn't," Sam teases.
Sam, in all his younger sibling glory, takes up the chore of distracting Dean by making him run errands. It's obvious but appreciated and it works until they're told that it's time to stand at the altar and wait there. Minutes tick away and pews fill. Cas hasn't shown up and with a couple minutes until show time, Dean gives up. He stares at Sam's shoulder, disappointment a bitter taste in his mouth.
Abruptly, Sam whispers, "Dean." Dean looks up and Sam points to Cas, who's being rushed to one of the last pews on Sam's side of the aisle. Cas smiles widely enough that Dean can see just as the first notes of music fill the chapel.
Dean and Sam exchange smiles, and Dean straightens, ready to watch his brother take up the ball and chain.
After the ceremony, Sam and Jess stand together near the doors, beaming at anyone who approaches. The happiness is infectious; almost everyone has recovered from Sam and his vows making them cry.
Dean's leaning against a wall off to the side and out of the spotlight, more than happy to direct well-wishers towards his brother and sister-in-law. He sees Cas shake Sam's hand and kiss the air next to Jess' cheek, unwilling to mess up her make up. Sam points him and Dean and laughs.
Cas strides to Dean, the crowd parting around him, dressed in his suit again. He stops just inside Dean's personal space. "I feel like I only ever see you in that suit."
"Or my Novak uniform, or occasionally more casual clothes," Cas corrects and Dean snorts and agrees. They spend a minute unsubtly looking each other over and shuffling even closer together. "Can we talk?"
"Sure." Dean leads him to the room with the GROOM sign still taped to the door. "Okay?"
Cas nods. "I haven't been entirely truthful about myself."
"Are you really a spy?"
Cas gives Dean a small smile. "No, but my name is Castiel Novak. My family owns the Novak company."
"Why the hell do you work in one of the stores?" Dean asks.
"Everyone in the family has to," Cas explains, then continues. "Recently there have been some internal changes to Novak's. My family asked me to become the head of Resource Management at the corporate headquarters."
Dean manages to nod. "The job would require a lot of travel and I would rarely be home. Nevertheless, it's a worthwhile position in my family and it would be-" Cas hesitates over his words and some strangled lump of fear twists in Dean's belly. "They would approve if I were to agree to it."
"You can’t leave," Dean blurts, scared and angry at himself for getting close, knowing that it's too much to expect Cas to turn down the opportunity, but... But. "I like you."
"I know," Cas says. "I told them I'd rather they promote my cousin Zachariah and let me take his position in San Francisco. Resource Management fits him much better than Customer Service does and this may stop the unease the company has felt lately. I'll have to be in San Francisco for a few weeks, but I should be able to stay in town once things settle."
Dean latches onto "stay." "You're staying." Really, he can't help sounding shell-shocked.
"I like you, too, Dean," Cas rumbles, and Dean moves to kiss the smirk off his face.