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Authors Eat Free

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Castiel Novak lifted his notebook over his head, doing his best to protect his himself from the miserable downpour. He had been on the public bus when the sky opened itself and began to rain, underdressed in only a light button down and slacks. Cold seeped into his bones, forcing his jaw to rattle like crazy, as he practically sprinted through downtown. Water spattered the hems of his pants and his glasses grew obscured with droplets, hindering his sight.

Brilliant, Castiel thought bitterly to himself. If I get sick and delay my deadline again, Anna will gut me for sure.

While part of him wanted to grit his teeth and just get back to his apartment as fast as possible, hiding in a shop until the worst of the storm passed sounded like a good idea too. Frustration simmered in Castiel’s chest. Getting caught in the rain can be wonderful, but not when its frigid, dark, and completely unexpected.

Against his better judgement, he found the nearest café and ducked inside.

Compared to the volatile outdoors, the café was a haven.

The shop was small, but cozy, with couches and tables jammed where ever they may fit. Fairy lights were hung expertly along the ceiling offering a comforting glow amidst the grey weather. Each of the four walls in the shop were covered with shelves upon shelves of books.

Castiel let out a shuddering breath, water dripping from his nose and hair. There was no one behind the counter, but faint singing from the back room let Castiel know the shop was not completely empty.

“I’ll be with you in a minute!” The voice called. The smell of pumpkin and chocolate wafted from the back, and Castiel could practically feel his mouth water.

“Take your time,” he called back, rubbing his goose-bump covered arms through his soaked shirt.

 The café was empty, despite the neon “open” sign that hung in the giant front window. Castiel regarded his sopping notebook. The cover was soaked, but most of the paper with his copious notes were dry. The notes detailed a new chapter in Castiel’s novel, all conceptual and most likely to be scrapped once he sat down at his computer.

His agent, Anna, was pushing him to finish at least six more chapters so that she could pitch his novel to a couple editors, but Castiel’s creative flow had become stagnant. He tried to blame it on the terrible weather and writer’s block, but Anna was not having any of it. She started giving Castiel deadlines to finish chapters in an attempt to pump out more progress, but the result was not what she expected. Every time a deadline neared, Castiel would call her just before the arrived and ask for an extension. So far, Castiel had only written three of the ten chapters planned. The cycle was exhausting for both of them, but it gave Castiel more time to get his shit together.

Castiel wiped his glasses before checking his watch impatiently. 7:01pm. His next deadline was tonight at ten, and Castiel vowed not call Anna for another extension. He did not want to push his luck anymore. His exasperation fluctuated, the steady pounding of the rain reminding him of every source of anxiety in his life.

Running a hand through his wet hair, Castiel let out a defeated groan, squeezing his eyes shut.

“Uh, excuse me?” A voice asked. “Can I help you?”

Opening one eye, Castiel glanced at the owner of the voice.

A young man with close cropped blond hair was looking at him with a raised eyebrow from behind the counter. His green eyes glinted with mischief, as his eyes raked over Castiel’s frazzled form. A small smile twisted at his plump lips. The warm light of the café illuminated every freckle on the man’s cheeks, and sharpened the contours of his face. The stranger’s figure was cut from marble, and Castiel was staring a bit because holy fuck this guy was beautiful.

“I, um…” Castiel babbled. “I was just, uh, waiting for the storm to… pass.” Yeah, real fucking smooth Cassie.

“Yeah, it’s pretty bad out there, isn’t it?” The man said conversationally, and Castiel did his best to gather his wits.

“It is, and I’m not very prepared, as you can see.” He gestured to his soaked through clothing with his notebook.

The man laughed, and Castiel did not miss the way his eyes wandered up and down his body. His gaze lingered on the wet shirt that stuck to Castiel’s chest. “I checked the weather today,” he said. “its not suppose to pass for another couple hours.”

“What?” Castiel’s blood went cold. A few hours? The deadline. The novel. Anna. Oh no, Castiel was a dead man.

“Why? Is everything okay?” Confusion marred the pretty man’s pretty face.

Castiel put his face in his hands. “It’s nothing, I just have some business I have to attend to. This rain is far more problematic than I expected.”

“Alright,” The man smirked, pulling a towel out from under the counter. “How about I whip you up something hot to drink, and you tell me all about your problems?”

Castiel lifted his head and smiled. “That’d be really wonderful. Thank you.”

“No problem.” The man shrugged. “The name’s Dean, by the way. Dean Winchester.” He reached over the counter, offering the towel.

“Castiel Novak,” Castiel answered, taking it gratefully.

Dean hummed back. “Castiel.”

Half an hour later, Castiel found himself sitting at a table across from Dean, semi-dry, clutching a hot coffee and a double chocolate chip pumpkin muffin. He told Dean about everything. The novel plus his deadlines, Anna breathing down his neck, and his heavy writers block.

“Huh. That really is something.” Dean commented, sipping his black coffee.

“I know,” Castiel busied himself by tearing off the paper wrapping of the muffin. It was freshly baked and still warm. “It didn’t hit me like a wave. It was like, everyday I felt myself losing whatever drive or inspiration I had in the first place to start the book. It was like I lost my wings.”

Dean nodded, watching Castiel’s hands intently. “What exactly inspired you to start writing a novel?”

Castiel shrugged, ripping off a chunk of muffin. “You know, the usual, world-shattering heart break and such.” He popped the piece of muffin into his mouth and moaned at the taste. It was orgasmic.

“Is it really that good?” Dean asked, chuckling quietly around the brim of his mug.

“This is possibly the best muffin I’ve ever had,” Castiel said through his full mouth.

Dean grinned. “That’s good to know. It’s a new recipe I’ve been working on, and I’m still figuring out the right measurements. There’s usually never enough nutmeg, or too much vanilla.”

Castiel’s eyes widened. “You created your own recipe?”

“Yup,” Dean said, trying his best to look modest.

“That’s fucking incredible,” Castiel tore off more of the muffin and ate quickly, surprised at his sudden hunger. “So, is this place yours?”

Dean shook his head. “My friend, Charlie, she owns the place with her girlfriend. She had an emergency at home and asked me to cover the place until closing.” He sipped more of his coffee. “I’m actually a teacher at the local high school.”

“Really?” Castiel swallowed. “What do you teach?”

“Art history,” he replied. “So, its basically an hour of me going on and on about why Pablo Picasso was a brilliant artist, but actually a massive douchebag.”

Castiel let out a surprised laugh, shaking his head. He can feel Dean staring at him as he throws his head back, and quickly moves on. “It must be wonderful, though, teaching about what you love.”

“It really is,” Dean sits forward, his eyes alight, “but only when my students aren’t being little shits. When they focus, its golden.”

A warm smile works its way from Castiel’s chest, burning through his anxiety and almost making him forget about his problems.

He looks up and catches Dean’s gaze for a minute. An easy silence settles as Castiel profiles every feature on Dean’s face.

He should stop himself, since falling in love with a stranger at a coffee shop is the most stereotypical thing Castiel could do, but there is something to wonderfully gentle about Dean, and everything he does. Falling isn’t the right word. Falling implies that Castiel was taken by surprise, and if he was being honest, from the moment Castiel laid eyes on Dean, he knew something was different. It was as though they were destined to meet, they just simply never had the chance, until this evening.

They continued talking about art and literature. The topic changed and they spoke about each other’s lives. Castiel lamented about how the current piece he was working on would never reach the same status as his first published novel. Dean told Castiel about his brother, who had just graduated from law school and told hilarious stories about his troublesome students.

The conversation flowed onto trivial topics until Dean broke eye contact and glanced at the front window. “Would you look at that, the end of the monsoon has arrived.”

Castiel turned and saw that the rain had indeed stopped, but it was still dark out, and a cold mist had settled just above the pavement. He quickly glanced at his watch. 9:23pm. thirty minutes until his deadline.

Comfortable dread eased its way into Castiel’s stomach alongside the double chocolate chip muffin. He let out a sigh and slumped back in his chair a little.

Dean coughed a little to get his attention.

“You know,” he began. “The shop’s been dead since six. I was thinking about closing up early.”

Castiel raised an eyebrow.

“So,” Dean continued. “If you need, I can give you a ride to your place. If I drive fast enough, you might have sometime to finish up a chapter and meet the deadline.”

Castiel perked up. “Really?” his back straightened, ready to jump up and go.

Dean nodded, already shrugging on his jacket.

They both jumped up and Castiel pulled his wallet from his back pocket. He reached in and pulled out a crumpled five, ready to hand it to Dean, but was stopped by gentle, calloused hands.

“Its okay,” Dean said softly, glancing down at their hands. “The coffee and muffin are on me. Don’t worry.”

“Dean-” Castiel started, but he cut him off.

“No, Cas, I insist” Dean still held onto Castiel’s hand. “Plus, its an unspoken rule around here that artists and authors eat free.”

Castiel quirked his eyebrows at the nickname, but let Dean lead him out the door. They stopped just outside so that Dean could lock up the café for the night. As they walked towards Dean’s car, cold immediately began to seep through Castiel’s thin shirt, biting at his skin. He shuddered involuntarily.

Dean took notice. “It’s really cold out, are you alright?”

“Huh?” Castiel’s teeth clacked together. “Ye-eah, I’ll be ok-kay once we get to the car.”

Dean huffed, his breath fogging out in front of him. Wordlessly, he slipped off his jacket and rested it on Castiel’s shoulders. The warmth from the leather jacket was surprising, but welcomed. It smelled like pine and fresh soil, mixed with whatever aftershave Dean used.

“Thanks,” Castiel murmured. “But what about you? Aren’t you cold?”

Dean shook his head as they crossed the street and stopped at a big, black muscle car. Castiel let out a low whistle as they climbed into the front seat. The inside was as sleek as the outside.

After giving Dean the directions to his apartment, they sat in companionable silence. Orange light from the streetlamps occasionally flashed in the car, and Castiel allowed himself to steal a few glances at Dean. With each moment that passed, Castiel found himself perpetually learning more about Dean through simple observations. The crow’s feet in the corners of his eyes meant that he laughed and smile frequently. His rough hands that gripped the steering wheel showed years of hard manual work. Dean was the type of story that Castiel wanted to read.

He had been staring too long. Dean glanced over and let a small smile wander over his lips, reading through Castiel’s inquisitive eyes.

Castiel smiled back and looked away, already feeling a soft flush warming his cheeks.

About five minutes later, Castiel’s apartment complex came into view. There was a hollow feeling in his chest. Even though his deadline was ten minutes away, Castiel would have rather stayed with Dean for the rest of the night.

“Thank you, Dean,” Castiel said, gently shrugging off the leather Jacket. “For the coffee, and the ride.”

“No problem,” Dean replied. There was a glint in his eye, as though he wanted to say more, but in the end said nothing.

Castiel got out of the car. He shut the door and leaned over, stooping so that he could look at Dean one last time.

“Goodnight, Dean,” Castiel whispered, drinking in the way Dean’s hair shone in the artificial lamp light.

He swallowed before responding. “Goodnight, Cas.”

Silence. Castiel turned and started up the concrete staircase to his apartment, the hollowness in his chest growing exponentially. Perhaps Dean was a story that Castiel was not going to read after all. The hollow feeling digressed into downright sadness.

“Wait!” Dean called.

Castiel turned quickly, already halfway up the stairs. Dean had gotten out of his car and was now walking up the stairs.

“What is it, Dean?” The pit in Castiel’s stomach seemed on fire with sudden hope.

He stopped a couple steps below, looking up at Castiel with those big green eyes. “I know you have a deadline, Cas, but I don’t want tonight to be over. I want-.” He stuttered for a second. “I want to meet up again.”

It took everything for Castiel not breathe out a sigh of relief. “Of course. You have no idea how much I would love that.”

Where Castiel had opted to be discrete, Dean let out a sharp, breathy laugh and tilted his head back. “Thank God. I didn’t want to completely blow it with you and move so fast, but the idea that tonight is the first and last time I get to see you is devastating.”

Castiel smiled, chuckling. “When do you want to meet? Next week?”

“Next week works out for me. How about Friday?” Dean asked.

“Friday is fine. We can meet at the café around six pm. There’s a great Italian place just around the corner from there.” Castiel supplied.

Dean nodded. “Alright, it’s a date.”

Castiel paused, his breath hitching. Is it?

“Everything okay?” He sounded cautious, as though worried Castiel would back out of their date.

“Yeah, I’m fine,” he quickly recovered. “It’s just that I haven’t been on a date in a while. It’s a nice change to have something to look forward to.”

A grin broke out on Dean’s face. “I mean, technically, you could consider tonight to be our first date. Just pretend we planned meeting up, and that I paid for our meal.”

Castiel snorted. “Well, this has been a fantastic first date, Dean.” With a stroke of spontaneity, he stooped a little to reach Dean on the lower step, and pressed a quick kiss to his lips.

Cheeks flushed with embarrassment, Castiel ducked away, turning and continuing up the stairs. Dean was left there with his eyes almost comically wide, and his mouth hanging slack.

“Goodnight, Dean!” Castiel called out once he reached the front door.

Dean managed to snap out of his stupor. “Goodnight, Cas!”

A giddy smile danced on Castiel’s lips as he shut the building’s front door. He watched Dean return to his car and speed off.

The main lobby’s clock read 9:39pm. Castiel felt a jolt. Twenty minutes.

Wasting no more time, he sprinted across the lobby and opted to take the stairs. Taking each step two at a time, ideas began to flow through Castiel’s head like water bursting forth from a broken dam.

Relieved elation flooded Castiel’s chest, and he let out a laugh. He could practically feel inspiration flowing through his veins.

Every thought that Castiel had some how linked back to Dean. It was strange, that after a single meeting, Castiel had managed to break through his writer’s block. Perhaps that was the effect Dean had on Castiel.

Bursting through into his apartment, Castiel ran to his desk and threw himself into the seat. He opened up an unfinished chapter on his laptop and began to type. About an hour later, he sent Anna the document. It was thirty minutes over the deadline, but was quite possibly one of the best things Castiel had ever written.

And he had Dean Winchester to thank for that.