If asked, Dean would readily admit that he would rather set himself on fire then work another day at the coffee shop. Actually, it’s shouldn’t even be called that. A coffee shop wouldn’t be so bad. Coffee is something Dean can handle. What he works at is a café – Café du Crowley. He should’ve turned tail and ran at the name alone the moment he found out it was named after the owner. Crowley is a clean cut Scotsman (Seriously? Why is a Scottish guy running a French café?) and he has this hideous little pug (named Growl-ey, of all things) that he carries like it’s his frikken baby.
It’s bad enough that his boss is an asshole, but Dean can barely pronounce most of the items on the menu, and he’s been banned from making any of the frappe-shitty-chino bullshit things. They require a million different ingredients and everyone has this tendency to order it soy whipped with a double hot shot espresso or some noise that he can barely wrap his head around. Give him a deconstructed engine any day.
Thank God that his primary job is just to man the counter, get single ingredient drinks, fetch desserts from the display case, and run orders back and forth from the kitchen. That’s simple. That he can do. He does it from eight in the morning to four in the afternoon from Monday to Friday and he hates it with a passion. He hates it more than he’s hated anything in his nearly twenty-two (just a few weeks away) years of existence. It’s just lucky for him that there happen to be a few silver linings to working this job.
Being eye candy is one of them.
Sure, it rankles his fur a little that Crowley hired him mostly for his attractive face so he’ll draw a bigger crowd from the high school down the street. But all he has to do is wear a tight shirt on a school day and the tips come rolling in like they’re Mardi Gras beads and he’s a topless lady. On the plus side, his standard wages are pretty good for just standing at a register for eight hours a day and cleaning shit up.
Another bonus? It’s two blocks from his little brother’s high school. Which means that they get to save on bus fare and Sam has a guaranteed way to get to and from school on the weekdays. Dean can’t even stress how important it is for Sam to go to school. He dropped out when their parents died and he’s been working his ass off ever since to keep Sammy fed, clothed and well educated.
Their uncle Bobby helps out where he can. The best thing he’s ever done is give Dean a part time job at his garage. Even working seven days a week he’s making just enough to cover their bills, put decent food on their table, and pay the rent on their one bedroom apartment. Any spending money left over goes straight into the saving account for emergencies or if they ever want to be able to furnish a new place when they’re finally able to move into a better one.
Dean’s been sleeping on a futon in the living room since they had to move out of the house and he’s fine with that as long as it means Sam has some place quiet where he can do his homework. But it’s just for another year. With his grades, Sam’s practically guaranteed a full ride to Stanford. When that happens, they’re going to get a proper two bedroom apartment closer to the university and Dean’s going to quit the café to find an auto shop that’ll hire him full time if Bobby isn’t able to do it himself.
There’s only one thing Dean’s going to miss about this place when he’s gone and that’s Collins. He’s a regular customer and Dean may or may not be nursing one hell of a crush on him. Collins comes in every lunch hour just before the influx of students. Every time Dean sees him, rain, snow or shine, he’s always wearing the same tan trench coat and carrying the same ragged looking satchel bag.
Collins always orders the same thing daily – the BLT sandwich, side salad with a bottle of water and whatever ‘delight’ is on special that day. Dean hasn’t said a word, but he always gives Collins a slice of pie even if it’s some frou-frou cake he’s supposed to be promoting. Pie is better than cake any day of the week and he’ll gladly duke it out with Crowley to make his point.
Thing is, Collins never says a word unless it’s directly associated to his order – and it’s always given in flawless pronunciation. It drives Dean crazy. The only reason he knows Collins’s name in the first place is because he has to give it for them to call when the order is ready. Dean doesn’t know if Collins is his first name or his last, and he never gets a chance to clarify.
From a quarter to twelve to one o’clock, the café is choked with teenagers and young adults. There’s literally no time for Dean to say more than; “The usual? Here’s your change. Have a good day.” And it doesn’t help that Collins always has his nose buried in some book or another. He takes his order to the corner table and reads through the whole lunch hour. The guy doesn’t even move until all the other students have cleared out.
Dean kind of has a thing for the strong and silent type. It doesn’t hurt none that Collins is Good Looking (capital letters completely necessary). He usually prefers girls, but Dean’s been known to take a pendulum action toward the same gender. And for Collins, he’s pretty sure that he’d do just about anything he would ask of him.
Collins has a voice like silk over gravel and it never fails to send a shiver down Dean’s spine. His face is a little on the younger side, and it’s got just the right amount of stubble – not too much that it could leave beard-burn in uncomfortable places, but just enough that you can feel the rough drag against your skin. He rarely makes eye contact, but Dean only needed to see those stunning baby blues once to have them all but imprinted into his memory – just like his fucking lips. They’re always chapped, and pale, and pink and if he would just talk Dean could watch them shape words for basically the rest of his life.
If it wasn’t for the lunch rush and how it absolutely demands his full attention, unless he wants to fuck up and hand out the wrong orders and get his ass canned, Dean would probably spend the rest of the day daydreaming about Collins’s lips after he places an order. There’s a whole sordid library of fantasy worlds locked up in his head where Collins is the star. Dean feels only slightly ashamed about it, considering how he knows almost nothing about him and he’s basically just lusting after a handsome face.
He tries to limit his fantasy time to when he’s in alone in bed or in the shower where he won’t get in trouble for wrapping a hand around his dick and pretending it’s someone else touching him. But it’s too easy for his brain to imagine what those lips would look like slicked wet and swollen from kisses, or how they would feel wrapped around his cock. At least he’s not, like, obsessed or anything. Collins may be a star of his fantasies, but so is Scarlett, Felicia and Angelina, or that busty waitress with the button problems at his favourite diner – and who could ever forget Doctor Sexy?
But… He can’t deny that those big blue eyes and sex-wild dark hair have definitely played a frequent recurring role more often than most.
It sometimes feels a little wrong thinking debauched things about a guy who could very well be one of Sammy’s teachers. But then those wrong feelings go up in smoke when the downright sinful fantasies kick in just from thinking the word ‘teacher’. Those are always pretty darn amazing and Dean has a very vivid imagination.
When he’s alone, Dean can clearly picture bending Collins over his desk and taking him right where he teaches. Or getting pressed up against the black board, his legs around Collins’s waist and his back smudging any undoubtedly neat script he’d written there during the day. Or he’d dream about fucking him on the couch in the teachers’ lounge after everyone else has gone home. In his head, Dean sometimes role-plays seducing Collins in attempts for better marks and think up increasingly interesting ways of making the teacher break – sometimes even going to his knees under the desk, sucking Collins off in the middle of cla–
There are certain things in this world that are not cool no matter the circumstances. Your little brother’s voice interrupting fond memories about past fantasies is one of them. Also on that list is thinking sexy thoughts in the middle of your shitty café job where the chances of going and taking care of the problem that usually arises with said thoughts are slim to none. And they had only turned to thinking about that because Collins is due soon and Dean is kind oflooking forward to their brief little interaction.
He only manages to hit his head once when he extracts himself from under the counter where he’d been cleaning the backs of the cupboard. His knees pop when he stands and Dean reaches his arms above his head to stretch out his back. Sam is leaning against the display case full of frou-frou tarts, cakes – both cup and non, and pie. He’s looking at them with the same enthusiasm of a starving mouse in a cheese factory.
Dean clears his throat and taps the glass where he’s looking. “What is it, Sammy?”
“I packed you a lunch.” He glances at the clock. Sam has a spare before lunch and Collins should be here any minute. “What happened to it?”
Sam looks down at the cakes again. “I ate it for breakfast.”
“You had breakfast at home!”
“I was still hungry.”
“Jesus shit, Sammy, where the hell are you putting all that food?” If he’s not careful, Sam is going to eat them both into the poor house. Despite all that, Dean’s already punching in what Sam usually gets and giving him the employee discount. It’s not technically something he’s supposed to do, but the allowance Dean gives him isn’t as great as it could be and he doesn’t want him to waste it all here.
He shrugs and digs out his wallet. “I’m a growing boy.”
“Yeah, well, feel free to stop any day now.” Dean taps the front of the cash register and the little screen showing the price. “Pay up, bitch.”
Sam’s nose scrunches up and he blows his bangs out of his face. “Jerk.”
He has to put the book in his hand down to leaf through his wallet and Dean eyes the cover while he hands over the cash. “What’cha reading?” It looks beat up and Sam didn’t have it last night.
“Life of Pi. It’s for English class.” Sam pockets the change and pushes the book across the counter for Dean to read the back. “I got it from the library when you dropped me off this morning. Been reading it during study hall since I need it for the class after lunch. It’s a little slow, but intriguing. Oh, hey, I’ll take the food to go – Jess is gonna be out of class soon.”
“Tell her I said ‘hi’.” The bell chimes over the door and Dean shoves the paper-back into Sam’s hands. “Move it Sasquatch, I’ve got customers.” Specifically, he has a customer, but he can see a few groups of students already making their way across the street at the crosswalk.
Collins approaches the counter without looking. There’s an open book in his hands and he’s more focused on that then paying attention to where he’s going. If Sam hadn’t stepped out of the way, Collins would’ve walked right into him. Dean ignores the little fantasy that threatens to pop into his head at the sight of Collins’s bowed head.
He fixes his customers-come-first smile in place, but it’s never forced for Collins. “Hey. The usual?”
Today that doesn’t even warrant a ‘yes’. Collins doesn’t even look up from his book, which Dean notes is the same that Sam is currently flipping through. He just nods and drops a wadded up twenty on the counter. Dean exchanges it in the cash drawer for change and struggles not to brush Collins’s fingers ‘accidentally’ when he gives it back.
“Thank you.” Collins murmurs, head still down. “Inside. For Collins, please.”
Out of the corner of his eye, Dean sees Sam’s head whip around. He ignores it and nods toward the pick-up counter. “Same as always. I’ll call your name when it’s ready.”
“Hey, lover boy!”
Collins looks up in surprise and Dean winces at the terrible nickname. He glances back over his shoulder to the pastry chef-slash-short order cook (also a sugar-addict and a douche bag) standing at the kitchen window with a plastic bag in hand.
“The moose’s sandwich is ready.”
Dean snatches the offered bag with as much vehemence as he can fit into such a small gesture. “Thank you, Gabrielle.” He ignores the two fingered salute, but gets downright confused when Gabriel leans around him to wave at – well the only other person here besides Sam is Collins and Gabriel wouldn’t be waving at Sam, would he?
The question is answered when he turns around and has to stomp down hard on a little flare of jealousy when Collins waves back. He fights equally hard to keep from frowning when he hands the food over to Sam. “Here. I’ll see you later.”
“Thanks, Dean!” Sam takes the bag with a near ravenous gleam in his eyes. Instead of turning to leave, he leans in closer to Collins and gestures at the book he’s reading. “Enjoy the teeth.”
He blinks up at Sam with the same confused expression Dean feels is mirrored on his own face. Collins is about the same height as Dean, which means Sam is at least an inch taller than him and it looks like his giant frame is practically looming over him. Sam grins, waves at Dean, and ducks out the door before anyone can say another word. In Dean’s opinion, that is not how a student should act with a teacher and he makes a mental note to chew Sam out for being so disrespectful later.
“Sorry about him.” Dean blurts and tries not to blush when wide, blue eyes turn to him. “He might be borderline genius, but Sam’s kind of a dumbass.”
His answer is little more than a few blinks and the nod of a head before Collins turns away to go wait by the pick-up counter. Dean mentally curses up a storm in the minute he has before he has to tack the fake smile back into place for the steady stream of students coming in the door. He barely has time to notice when Meg calls out Collins’s name and he takes his plate to his table in the corner.
The lunch rush passes in a blur of leering grins, pancake makeup, pimpled faces and shitty tips. It’s a small blessing that Gabriel keeps his ass in the kitchen the whole time and that Dean doesn’t get any snarky comments out of the posturing jocks. There’s a surprising amount of them considering the dainty nature of a French café. Sometimes Dean hits up a bar after driving Sam home to play some pool, drink some beer, and hit on attractive people just so he can gain back whatever manly credits he loses while wearing a pastel pink apron around his waist.
He’s ninety-nine percent certain that Crowley picked that colour just to spite him for the engine grease nearly permanently imbedded under his nails.
The students stream out after one o’clock and Dean takes a moment to count out the excess bills from the register for a cash drop. In half an hour he’s going to get his lunch break and he’s about ten minutes away from eating the display case, glass and all. While shoving the money into a plastic baggie, Dean glances up at the dining room to see how many tables need to be cleaned – and he damn near almost chokes on his next breath.
Collins is still sitting in the corner.
Dean goes the long way around the counter, pausing at Crowley’s office and stepping over the doggy gate to drop the money in the safe. It’s a quick run or else he risks getting rabies from the ankle biter. In crossing the dining room, Dean stops at every other table to pick up dishes and trays in his arms so it doesn’t look like he’s actually bee-lining for Collins. When he reaches the back table, he has a stack of trays covered in a teetering pile of dishes.
“Hey, you finished eating? Want me to take those for you?”
Collins’s head pops up, eyes wide and slightly glazed over. He blinks a few times, as if Dean spooked the shit out of him or something. Guess he must’ve really been in the zone. “I - yes. I’m done. Thank you.”
“Don’t mention it.” Dean grins, putting down his armful to add the dishes to it. He glances at his watch this time and looks pointedly at Collins. “Don’t you usually have a class by now?”
A frown pinches Collins’s brow and he rolls back his sleeve to look at his own watch. A small panicked noises gets smothered in the back of his throat and he nearly knocks his chair over in his scramble to get to his feet and grab his bag from the floor. He mutters a quick ‘thank you’ and takes off, almost tripping over his feet as his tan overcoat flaps behind him in his all-out sprint down the street.
It feels strangely good and pretty damn amusing to see a teacher running late like that. Dean puts it out of his head and gathers up the rest of the dishes to take to the kitchen. Meg is in the back again and she exchanges his piled trays for a spray-bottle and a rag.
“Clean the tables before your lunch, won’t’cha, Dean-o?”
He pouts at her but glances at the clock again. There’s still plenty of time before his break and he really has no excuse not to do it. But just for that, he’s going to take his vengeance out on those tables and give them the scrubbing of a lifetime. He’s completely focused on that right up until his foot catches on something and sends it skittering away under a few tables.
Dean rescues it and dusts it off, frowning down at the almost pristine cover and crinkled pages. He winces slightly because his kick probably did that. It’s that Life of Pi book that Sam and Collins were both reading. One of the students must’ve left it behind. Do libraries still do that thing where they write the student’s name on a card stapled to the inside pocket?
His brain and heart do a double take when he flips it open. There’s no card or any stamp that says Property Of Such-and-Such School on the inside. But there is a name written in a neat, cramped little script that just screams ‘teacher’. It reads C. Collins and Dean is about to jump for joy because now he knows for sure that Collins is a last name and the first starts with a ‘C’. He doesn’t look like a Christopher, or a Cody, or – God forbid – a Colin.
“Lunch time, lover boy!”
“Yeah, yeah, okay.” Dean runs back across the dining room to lean over the counter and grab a pen. He presses a button on the register to run the receipt spool and rips off the excess. While hiding the paper from Gabriel’s curious eyes, Dean scribbles his cell phone number down on the paper and tucks it under one of those fancy bookmarks that clips to the page. “I just gotta run to the school for a sec.”
“What’cha doing?” Gabriel asks, drawing out the ‘oooo’. His curiosity is rewarded with an apron to the face and Dean beats it out of there before the resulting swear storm can swing into full effect.
He practically bounces across the street and tries really hard not to skip up the steps into the high school. Sam’s English class is on the second floor and if Sam has the same book as Collins, then it’s pretty logical that Collins will be there. Collins must be a teacher’s assistant or something, because he looks too young to be a straight up teacher and Dean is almost certain that the class schedule stuck on the fridge back home says that Mr. Adler is Sam’s English teacher.
Mr. Adler’s sour face is like the needle to the balloon that is Dean’s good mood. He’s standing behind the desk when Dean reaches the door. Sam is sitting halfway to the back of the class, so Dean knows that he has the right room. Collins might be out doing T.A. things. Who knows? Too bad that Dean can’t hang around to wait for him. This is already eating away at the precious thirty minutes that he gets for lunch.
He knocks on the door frame and Mr. Adler turns a distinctly unhappy frown on him. “Dean Winchester. What a surprise.” His sneer is exactly the same as Dean remembers it from five years ago. “To what do we owe the pleasure?”
Sam glances up from his binder. “Dean?”
He’s halfway out of his seat by the time Dean steps into the room. “Hi Mr. A.” That stands for asshole. “Hey, Sammy. I, uh, just came to drop this off.” He holds up the book. “Collins dropped it at the café.”
“How fortuitous. Mr. Collins, are you missing something, perhaps?” Mr. Adler squints toward the back of the class and Dean’s stomach drops as he follows his gaze. No fucking way can his luck be this bad.
A familiar mess of dark hair comes into view. Collins puts his bag back on the floor, obviously having been rummaging through it, and stares over the heads of the other students slumped in their seats. Dean forces a smile over the flood of disappointment. Not only is Collins a student but he’s underage. He’s been thinking all sorts of downright perverted thoughts about a minor. Oh, Jesus Christ, he is so going to Hell.
Collins blushes at least three different shades of red when Dean holds up the book and wiggles it. His eyebrows waggle with it of their own volition and Dean is going to have a serious talk with them later. Stumbling to his feet, Collins nearly trips over his bag when his foot catches on the strap and almost sends him tumbling into the person one desk over. A few people chuckle, but Dean just keeps the same smile in place and meets Collins halfway.
“Thank you.” He murmurs, not meeting Dean’s eyes as he takes the book.
This is the first time that Dean’s seen him without the coat and he looks smaller without it. He’s not a waif of a boy or anything, but now Dean’s seeing him through eyes that know he’s seventeen (possibly even sixteen if he’s got a late birthday) and he sees a kid. It makes something behind his ribs pinch tight and it’s starting to be a struggle to keep his smile in place.
“No problem. Sorry if it’s a little scuffed.” Dean starts backing up towards the door. “Sorry for interrupting, Mr. A. Have fun guys.” He waves at the class, particularly at Sammy, and ducks back out into the hall.
Now it’s time to return to his dreary job and start the arduous process of erasing his spank memory bank of anything that involves blue-eyed minors with lips that practically beg for Dean to mess them up. It’ll take a while, but he’s pretty sure he can dump any fantasy he has of Collins. Jesus Christ, that kid’s face should be illegal.
Dean’s a better person than this. He’s always made sure not to think about or touch anyone underage. As much of a man-whore as he is sometimes, he refuses to cross that line because those are all kids that’re Sam’s age. Dean doesn’t like the idea of people his age (or older) thinking about Sam like that, so why should he do what he doesn’t like other people doing? It’s just another stellar example of his flawless logic and, right now, Dean kind of hates it.
After a night spent idly humping his mattress in his sleep because he refused to jerk off before bed, Dean is not having a good morning. He was in a bad enough mood after work last night that he didn’t feel like going to the bar and he sure as hell couldn’t trust himself enough to perk up with some manual stimulation. Especially when he’s not even certain he can keep from falling to the old habit of picturing Collins and the stupid blush he had yesterday or the background curiosity of just how far down that blush went.
He’s so beyond irritable while banging around in the kitchen making their lunches for the day that Sam takes one look at him and says he’s going to walk to school today because it’s such a nice day out. Bull-fucking-shit. Dean opens the curtains over the window to the near torrential downpour and Sam spends the drive to school being as quiet and unobtrusive as possible.
This shouldn’t be upsetting Dean as much as it does, but it is and that’s a problem. He doesn’t know a damn thing about Collins and now that he knows he’s off limits, it’s upsetting. It’s not even about the possibility of eventually having sex with him. Dean had honestly liked the kid and wanted to get to know him better and now he’s angry at himself for being angry.
It’s a never ending cycle that gets him put on dish duty for the day ten minutes into his shift. Ash, the usual dish boy, gets sent up front to take Dean’s place at the counter. At least it gives Dean a chance to take his sexual frustration out on every grease streaked pot and pan that doesn’t fit in the dishwasher. They’re fucking spotless by the time he’s done with them and Dean is actually quite proud of himself for doing such a good job.
That brings his mood up a couple notches. It plateaus somewhere around neutral during his morning piss break just before the lunch rush. Which is why he doesn’t care much about the beep of his cell phone in his back pocket. It’s the brief little two-tone drop that lets him know it’s just a text message. It waits until he’s finished up, zipped up, washed up and his hands are dried with a wipe-down on his shirt.
The number on the screen when he flips the phone open isn’t one that he recognizes, but Dean opens the message anyways. It’s just three little words and they don’t make sense to him coming from a stranger. Where are you?
Maybe one of his friends got a new number and forgot to tell him about it? Dean shrugs and taps out a quick answer before he gets back to the kitchen. Work.
The response comes again while he’s tying the full frontal washer’s apron back on. Why aren’t you working the counter?
Dean glances at the clock above the sink and frowns. He’s got over an hour until his lunch and if Crowley catches him texting on the job, he’s going to get stuck with dish duty for the rest of the week. With his back to the doors, Dean hunches over the sinks to look like he’s washing dishes and fumbles to type out an answer as quick as he can before anyone catches him.
Dish duty can’t talk lunch @ 130 ok to text then?
If it wasn’t for the autocorrect, Dean’s pretty sure that most of that would be illegible and need some kind of decoder ring for a translation. He lowers the volume until the phone is on silent and tucks it away again. He’ll check whatever they answer with later and find out who the heck it is then. Right now, he’s got a dishwasher to empty, dishes to sort, and pans to scrub.
The texts are all but forgotten by the time Dean settles down in the tiny break room with his paper bag lunch. He pulls out his phone to see if Sam texted him at all and only remembers when he sees that he’s got three new messages from that unfamiliar number. He raises an eyebrow and takes a bite of his sandwich while he opens and reads them.
In case you were wondering… This is Castiel.
Why did you give me your phone number?
Dean frowns around a mouthful of shaved turkey and mustard. He doesn’t know anyone by the name of Castiel and he can’t remember the last time he gave his phone number away. It’s not like he’s in the practice of giving his number to perfect strangers without knowing their name first. And Castiel feels like a name he would remember. Hell, he doesn’t even know how to pronounce it.
It clicks about two seconds later.
Life of Pi. Neat little writing. C. Collins.
The phone drops to the table next to his plate and Dean shoves his chair back. Holy shit. Collins’s first name is Castiel and he’s texting him because Dean went and put his fucking number in that goddamn book and forgot to take it out. Not that he could’ve done that in front of the whole damn class with Mr. Adler watching him like a hawk.
“Had too much of the crazy juice this morning, Dean-o?” Meg asks from the other side of the break room. She’s the only other one in here.
Dean ignores her. He can’t focus much past anything other than Collins and the sheer fact that he’s texting him. No, but seriously. That name. Who the hell names their kid Castiel? That’s like stamping a great big TEASE ME on their forehead. How the hell do you even pronounce it? Cas-steel? Cast-el? Cas-tea-elle? Dean has no idea and - wait. Wait a fucking second.
He grabs his phone and scrolls to the top of the conversation, as short as it is. The first thing Collins had asked was directly concerning Dean. The last question should have been the first, not the other way around. What, in the ever loving nine realms, is that supposed to mean? How did him not working the counter come before questioning his motives for giving a minor his phone number?
Unless… Did Collins – no, Castiel – notice Dean more than he let on? Did Cas like him? Holy shit, what if Cas likes him?
His head hits the table in roughly the same spot the phone had been before. Dean narrowly misses squishing his sandwich with his forehead but it doesn’t change that he groans and lifts his head only to drop it again. How is this fair? How is it possibly fair that the hottest guy to come along in pretty much forever just might have the hots for Dean in return, but oops – he’s a minor! Even if there’s the impossibly slim chance that he turns eighteen this year, he’s still going to be off limits for who-knows-how-many-months.
His phone vibrates in his hand and Dean nearly flips his chair when he sits back sharply.
Are you on lunch yet?
Dean looks around the room, suddenly worried that someone is going to know that he’s texting Cas. He stares at the message and bites his lip. What is he supposed to do now? Should he start up a conversation? Should he apologize and say that he didn’t mean what leaving his number in the book quite obviously meant?
No, he can’t do that. That would be – that would just be rude. And what if it lost him his favourite customer? No, he’s definitely not doing that. Besides, what’s the harm in just talking to him? He did want to get to know him better, and it’s not like Dean isn’t all buddy-buddy with some of Sam’s friends already. Not that Cas is one of Sam’s friends. But he could be. And as long as Dean keeps Cas out of his dirty little fantasies, then there’s no problem, is there?
Swallowing thickly, Dean taps out a message with one hand while he tries to get back to eating his almost-forgotten sandwich. Yeah sorry was eating
The response comes back almost immediately. Jesus Christ, what is he doing? Just sitting there staring at his phone waiting for Dean’s messages?
Did you get my other messages?
Dean types out an affirmative and takes a hearty gulp of coke to wash down his sandwich. Cas’s answer is practically instantaneous again. Well?
I asked a question. Why did you give me your phone number? You specifically tucked it under the bookmark so it clearly wasn’t unintentional.
He winces and rubs the back of his neck with his free hand. Figure its pretty obvious cas
You didn’t know I was in your brother’s class, did you?
Groaning, Dean rubs a hand over his face. Cas seems to be ignoring the fact that Dean basically gave him his phone number to try and ask him out with less than decent thoughts in mind. Well, he’s dug this grave. He might as well bite the bullet too.
I kinda thought u were his teacher
The next message takes a solid five minutes to come and by then Dean’s finished his sandwich. It’s just one word. A simple little; Oh.
This is the first time he’s had an actual conversation with Cas and Dean knows that he’s fucked it up already. Yeah… sorry
Don’t be. I’m just surprised. Gabriel never mentioned that you thought I was older.
Hold the fuck up. What? Gabriel???
Gabriel Collins. You are aware that he is my older half-brother, aren’t you?
I am NOW
Gabriel never mentioned it?
This rabbit hole is getting deeper than Dean thought it would. Now not only is Cas a minor, but he’s also Gabriel’s little brother? That makes him doubly off limits. Gabriel is the shift supervisor whenever Crowley isn’t here and that little shrimp is all kinds of evil.
Sorry to break it to u but we don’t get along so great but ok that does explain the whole waving thing yesterday
And this all explains his nickname for you.
God, please strike him down now. Cas did not just bright up that stupid ‘lover boy’ bullshit. His head hits the table with another muffled groan. Dean hates that nickname. Gabriel gave it to him when he learned about Dean’s mating habits and his affinity for wooing ladies (and the odd guy) for a night of fun. It seems that Cas did the math and now he’s going to look down his nose at Dean for his one-night-stand ways just like pretty much everyone else does.
It usually doesn’t rub his nerves the wrong way when people do that. Dean likes his life and the way he lives it. If he ever finds someone he likes enough to want a steady relationship with, then he’ll settle down and give commitment a chance. But he’s not ashamed of the way he lives his life. He’s not exactly proud of it either. The fact that it’s Cas who might think that about him is getting Dean’s shoulders hunching on the defensive.
It was nice talking with you, Dean. My next class is starting soon and I have to go.
Yeah, this has been fantastic. Dean stares at the message for a few minutes too long before he types out a quick ‘Have fun’ and puts the phone on silent again. He does his best not to put everything out of his head and he pointedly does not save the number to his phone. He’s not going to cross that line.
“Are you in a better mood than this morning?” Sam asks through the Impala’s passenger window.
“Marginally.” Dean shrugs and waves at Jess through the windshield. “You hanging out with her tonight or you coming home with me?”
Sam adopts his ever popular puppy eyes. “I was kind of hoping that she could come over? We can watch movies on my laptop in my bedroom. And she’s willing to chip in if we order pizza or something.”
“Yeah, sure. Ladies get shotgun.”
Jess gives Sam the smuggest grin known to mankind as she hip-checks him out of the way so she can open the passenger door. “Told you. Hey Dean. Heard your panties were in a twist this morning. Since I’m sure Sam didn’t ask, do you need a hug?”
Dean snorts a laugh and accepts one anyways. “Thanks, Jess.” Sam has a gem with this one and if he’s ever stupid enough to let her go, Dean might just try his luck when she’s a little older.
Barely even two minutes into the drive, Jess twists in her seat to grin at him. “So, spill the beans, Winchester. How did you know Castiel’s last name?”
He damn near swerves into the other lane. So that’s how you pronounce his name. But Cas is easier to say. Sounds better too. Dean shrugs and drums his fingers on the steering wheel. “He’s a regular at the café. I bet he gives his last name because he figures I wouldn’t know how to write his real one. Oh, hey, so it turns out that he’s also Gabriel’s half-brother or something.”
Sam leans forward and crosses his arms over the back of the seat. “You mean the sugar-freak from the kitchen, lover boy?”
Dean gives him the middle finger over his shoulder and Sam laughs until Jess cuts him off. “Wait, how did you find out about his brother?”
Well, shit. Now this is going to get embarrassing if he says anything. Sam will tease him for the rest of his life if he admits that he thought Cas was a teacher and gave him his phone number because of it. He bites his tongue and shrugs, but he can feel their stares boring into the side of his head like they’re drilling for the gold information that they want.
Dean resolutely says nothing until his phone beeps. It’s loud enough to hear over the quiet music and maybe if he hadn’t flinched at the sound they wouldn’t have thought any different.
“Something got you jumpy, Dean?” Sam pokes him in the shoulder.
Jess leans across the seat with a grin wide enough that Dean can see it out of the corner of his eye. “Someone texting you?”
“Oh my God.” She whispers and slaps Sam on the arm excitedly. “He gave Castiel his phone number! You put it in his book, didn’t you? Look! He’s blushing! He did!”
If they weren’t most of the way home, Dean would stop the car and kick them out for being snoopy bastards. Fuck Jess and her woman's intuition. It’s not fair. He didn’t even say anything.
Jess starts giggling and she punches him in the shoulder. “I knew it! Did you ask him out?”
“He doesn’t do minors.” Sam snorts a laugh and flops back into his seat properly.
“How come you gave him your number then?” She jabs him in the side and Dean is on the verge of lecturing her about bothering the driver, but he’s already pulling onto their street and his eyes are peeled for a parking spot.
“It was a mistake, alright?” Dean huffs and puts on his turning signal as someone else starts pulling out of a spot just down the block from their building. “I thought he was older. I was wrong. End of story.”
She pouts and crosses her arms as she sits back. “You’re no fun. He goes to the shop every day, right? Maybe he likes you and he’s been waiting for you to ask him out.”
“Not happening.” He sticks his tongue out at the side of her head when he turns around while parallel parking. “I shouldn’t even have texted him back. I made a mistake and we’re moving on, okay? I’ll tell him it’s not right to keep texting with me because he’s underage and I gave him my number under, I dunno, misinformation or whatever you want to call it.”
“That’s sad.” Sam sighs and shoves open his door the moment the car is in park. “I don’t think he really has any friends. There’s nothing wrong with just being friendly, Dean. You’re plenty nice to Jess.”
Dean rolls his eyes and locks the car before he gets out too, but there’s a twinge behind his ribs at Sam’s words. He stamps down on it and shoves it into his mental locker where he keeps all the things he’s going to firmly ignore. “Yeah, but Jess is special.” And he hasn’t spent this school year thinking about jumping her bones.
On their way up to the apartment, Dean checks his phone. There’s one message from Cas sitting in his inbox and against his better judgment, he checks it.
Gabriel says you were in a bad mood all day. I hope your evening goes better than your day has.
Well isn’t that just the way the pie crust crumbles? Of course Cas ends up being a nice guy. Now Dean’s going to look like a colossal asshat if he tells Cas to lose his number. And that’s just going to make things awkward for them at the café whenever Cas comes in. Dean doesn’t want to be the reason that they lose a customer and he still likes having Cas there. He’s a breath of fresh air compared to everyone else.
He’s going to have to figure out what the hell he’s going to do about this.
“Hey babe.” Lisa kisses the back of his head as she leans over the back of the couch and wraps her arms around his shoulders. “What are you doing?”
“Cas was just bitching about Kali and Gabriel making out in the living room while he’s home.” He hits send and leans his head back to look at her upside down. “What do you want to do tonight?”
She shrugs and shakes the hair out of her eyes. “I don’t know. How come I’ve never met this Cas?”
“You’re never at the café at the same time he is.” Dean grins up at her and kisses her chin. “C’mon, let’s figure out what we’re going to do tonight.”
Lisa smiles down at him and Dean reaches up to run a hand through her dark hair. She’s pretty, smart, funny, and all around really great for him. He has fun with her and she gets along great with Sammy. It kind of sucks that she’s sort of a rebound from his unrequited crush on Cas. They met only a few weeks after Dean gave up on entertaining any fantasies about Cas, but Lisa doesn’t know about that and it’s been going just fine so far for the few months that they’ve been dating.
He hadn’t meant to make a commitment. At first, Lisa had been one hell of a weekend. Then there was a second, then a third, and then they started seeing each other without having sex afterward and before he knew it, Dean had a girlfriend. And he likes it. It’s nice going to bed most nights with a warm body beside him. Lisa has all but put Cas out of his head – even though they still text each other.
It’s only a random message here or there every other day, and they’ve started talking more whenever Cas shows up at the counter. He makes it a point now to ask Dean how his day is going and they make small talk with whatever time they have. All in all, Dean’s learned a lot more about Cas in the last few months than he has in his time working at the café. For one, Cas is wicked smart. Maybe even smarter than Sam – which is almost painful for Dean to admit.
Sam was right, too. Cas doesn’t have a whole lot of friends. He’s not unpopular, or bullied, or anything like that. He’s just too busy for social activities. At least, that’s what Sam said. Ever since Dean started talking to Cas, Sam has too. Turns out, they have a lot in common. They like the same music and a lot of the same shows, and they’ve started hanging out together at school. Sam has even gone over to Gabriel’s condo a few times to study.
When Dean asked through a text about why Cas was living with his brother, the answer was short and sweet. Gabriel offered to let Cas live with him when he wanted to stop attending private school. It boosted Dean’s opinion of Gabriel up a few points. That’s actually pretty nice of the guy. Good big brothers always get high marks in Dean’s books.
Speaking of good big brothers, Sam’s graduating in a few months and Dean needs to do something awesome for him. Sam’s been working his butt off since junior year when they put his natural height to good use and signed him up from the basketball team. Now Stanford is giving him a full ride for excellent grades and athletics, and Dean couldn’t be prouder. His little bro is the complete package and he’s going to go a lot farther than Dean ever will.
Graduating also means that he can finally quit the café. The only downside to that is that he won’t see Cas every day anymore and that still sort of sucks. It doesn’t suck as much as it once would’ve, but they’re kinda friends now, right? Well, maybe this will get Sam to stop thinking that Dean doesn’t want Cas around their shitty little apartment and he’ll start bringing him around.
So much is going to be changing over the next few months and Dean thinks maybe he going to need the stability that his relationship with Lisa is going to give him. Of those changes, moving is going to be one of them – and that makes up Dean’s mind for what they’re going to do tonight.
He sits forward and grabs a renter’s guide off the edge of his bed. It’s just a mattress on a cheap frame he put together himself out of scraps from Bobby’s junk yard, but it takes up one half of the living room and leaves just enough room for a tiny couch, a coffee table and a TV.
“Someone looks like he’s figured out what he wants to do.” Lisa comes around the couch to drop into the space next to him. “Are we doing some window shopping?”
“Yeah, we’ve got enough saved to afford a nicer apartment closer to the university.” Dean flutters his lashes at her with a playful pout. “Help me pick one out?”
At graduation, Dean points Cas out to Lisa when he crosses the stage for his diploma and they both whistle and applaud as loud as they can for him. It’s the first that Dean hears of Cas graduating with full honours and that he has a scholarship under his belt too. His impressed and just a little annoyed that no one - Cas included - thought to share that good news with him.
While they settle down for the long wait between C and M for Jessica Moore and the even longer wait for the good ol’ Winchester W, Dean hunches down in his seat and sends Cas a quick message.
Congrats on the scholarship why didn’t u tell me? Where u going?
Surprisingly, the answer comes quicker than Dean thought it would. Apparently Cas is one of the kids who snuck their cell phone into the ceremonies. Most parents would’ve taken it away. Good thing Gabriel isn’t that cruel - maybe Cas is his soft spot or something.
Stanford. Sam didn’t tell you?
Of course he didn’t. Sam’s been encouraging Dean to talk to Cas on his own. Which means he’s been giving Dean the bare minimum of information so he’ll be curious enough to ask his own questions. Dean can’t decide if Sam is a genius mastermind or just kind of an asshole. Either way, Dean has convinced himself that he’s firmly over his crush. Cas is just another friend and his life is practically perfect in every way.
Nah he’s a dick hey we’re having a bbq over at Lisa’s tonight to celebrate for Jess and Sam u wanna come too? U could even bring Gabe
Thank you, but my parents are here. We’re going out to dinner this evening.
They end up texting about what a war zone that’s going to be right through Jess’s stage walk. Dean stops to stand and clap with Lisa, and then gets right back to texting until it’s Sam’s turn. Their conversation turns to living arrangements and how Dean and Sam are going to be moving into a new apartment this summer. Cas’s plans are to move into the dorms when school starts again in the fall because Gabriel lives on the other side of the city and he despises public transportation (but still refuses to get a license).
When Sam walks across the stage, Dean forgets everything else. He cheers louder than anyone and Lisa slides him a tissue because maybe he gets a little misty eyed. His little brother is all grown up and graduating high school, and Dean can’t help but feel a little choked up about it.
If only Mom and Dad were here to see him now.
Time has this funny habit of slipping away from Dean. Before he knows it, Sam is almost done his first year of university and he and Lisa have been together for over a year. That should be all sunshine and rainbows, but lately they’ve been having near-weekly squabbles about moving in together.
“I haven’t even been living here a whole year!” Dean gestures around them. The furniture is still the same from his old place, but there’s a few new things and way more space than they used to have. “If you want to live here, you could just move in with me! Sam won’t mind!” He’s barely here half the time anyways.
Lisa crosses her arms and glares across the room at him. “I don’t want to live with your brother, Dean. I love Sam, I do, but I’m not going to be the third wheel to Casa del Winchester.”
“He’s not even twenty yet.” He can play the crossed arms game too. “And there’s no way that Sam could afford a place on his own.” Dean holds out his hand and starts counting on his fingers. “Between basketball practice, games, and studying, he barely has enough time to scrape together the few hours a week he gets at the campus bookstore and that’s because he’s an overnight stock boy. He sacrifices sleep so he can contribute to the bills too.”
The problem with this fight is that Lisa honestly thinks Dean is going to give up Sam. There is nothing in this world that will ever make him leave Sam in the lurch. He worked two jobs, seven days a week, for three years to keep Sam in school. There’s nothing in this world Dean wouldn’t do for his little brother and he’s not letting anyone, not even his girlfriend, take him away from Sam.
Lisa sighs and rubs her forehead. “I know, I know.” It’s like all the fight goes out of her and Dean crosses the room to pull her into a hug. She rests her head on his shoulder and wraps her arms around his waist with another sigh. “I’m sorry. You work hard for him and I’m not trying to split you guys up. I just want to live with you without feeling like I’m going to be the odd one out.”
Dean kisses her forehead, but he doesn’t know what to say. Either Lisa’s going to need to get over her shit, or they’re going to break up. Sam can’t do this on his own and Dean’s been taking care of him for as long as he can remember – even before Mom and Dad died. Not even his feelings for Lisa are going to be enough to make him stop.
But he can’t help feeling like there’s a countdown on their relationship now, no matter how badly he wishes there wasn’t.
It’s a Thursday night in early November when the sound of fire engine sirens draw Dean to the balcony doors. At least two fire trucks whizz by with their sirens blaring and he tracks their direction. There’s thick black smoke rising behind the buildings nearby and Dean’s a little worried until the determines that it’s more than a few streets away. Actually, it looks like it might be on campus and worry starts knotting in his gut.
He finds his cell phone in the kitchen, but before he can hit speed dial, the screen lights up with a call. Dean doesn’t even bother looking at the name, assuming it’s Sam right off the bat and putting it to his ear. “Y’ello?”
Whoa. Blast from the past. Dean hasn’t heard Cas’s voice in well over a year and he’s almost surprised that he recognizes him from that alone. His stomach immediately drops when he realizes that Cas’s voice trembled around his name.
“Hey, Cas. What’s wrong?” Wait. Cas lives in the dorms on campus, doesn’t he? “Cas, are you alright?”
“Considering that my dorm building is currently on fire, no, not really.”
Dean’s already heading for his keys. “Where are you?”
“I’m – well, right now I’m down the road from my building. I don’t think I’ll be getting inside any time soon.” He sighs, but his voice is still shaking. “I know this is an imposition, but would it be alright if I stayed at your place tonight? Gabriel isn’t answering his phone.”
“Gimme the street name. I’ll be there in five.” He’s already out the door before Cas can object. “And yes, dude, my couch is your couch. Don’t worry about it.”
Before he gets to his car, Dean calls Sam to make sure he’s alright. Thankfully, the campus bookstore isn’t anywhere near the dorms and Sam is completely fine with Cas staying the night – or longer if need be. He uses speaker phone to call Lisa and let her know what’s happening too, but he gets her voicemail and has to leave a message. She was supposed to come over after her shift ends at the yoga studio, but she might not want to now with Cas crashing on their couch.
True to his word, Cas is exactly where he said he would be. He’s wrapped up tight in the same damn trench coat he wore every day in high school, but the bag hanging from his shoulder is newer. Dean can’t help comparing the Cas who gets into his car to the Cas he hasn’t seen since his last day of work. He’s filled out a fraction, but his clothing choices haven’t changed much. A blazer with a sweater vest and tie? Really?
“Hey stranger. Long time no see.” Dean grins, enjoying the little bubble of warmth that expands in his stomach at seeing Cas again. He nods toward the bag in Cas’s lap. “That all you got?”
Cas looks woefully up the street to where it’s roped off by the fire crews. “I doubt I’ll be seeing the rest of my things tonight.”
Oh. Right. “Do you know how far it spread?”
“I didn’t bother getting any closer than this.” He slumps in his seat while Dean turns around to head back home. “I saw the fire on my way back from a late class and called Gabriel. When he didn’t answer, you were the only other person I could think to call since you’re in the area.”
That shouldn’t make Dean happy, but it does. “Don’t worry about it. The couch is yours for the night and we can try getting a hold of Gabe in the morning.” He doesn’t even think twice about reaching over to pat Cas on the knee until he’s already done it. His hand snaps back to the wheel like he’s been burned and Dean tries really hard not to look at him. “So – uh – y’think the school will call you? What even happens when a dorm catches fire, anyways? Do they pay to put you up somewhere else or replace all your stuff?”
“I don’t know.” Cas sounds a little sad and a lot lost. Dean immediately hates hearing that tone in his voice. “At least I didn’t have any personal effects in there. Just clothing.”
“What about your school stuff?”
“My text books are in my locker in the main building and I have my laptop with me.”
For a lack of anything better to do, Dean nods. “Well, that’s good. How in the hell do you have no personal things in your dorm room? You've been living there the whole school year!”
“I saw no point in bringing them from Gabriel’s.” He shrugs and turns to look out the window. “He moved in with his girlfriend last month and they’re supposedly in a box in one of their closets. He’s been meaning to drop it off.”
“Good thing he didn’t.”
Cas goes silent after that in the kind of way that Dean’s used to hearing from someone who just thought of something upsetting. When he chances a glance, Cas is all pinched frowny face and sad eyes. “What is it?”
“Gabriel just moved in with Kali.”
“Yeah, you already said that.”
He shrugs and slides down in his seat until his knees hit the glove box. “I don’t know if he’ll have the room to let me live with him until things are sorted out with the university.”
Some little red flag in the back of Dean’s head is telling him that what he’s about to say isn’t a good idea. He ignores it completely while he pulls back into his parking space in the garage under his building and reaches across the seat to pat Cas on the shoulder again. This makes for the third time he’s touched him in the entire time that they’ve known each other since the day Cas first walked into the café. The second being earlier and the first at the high school graduation when he’d thrown his arm around Cas’s shoulder and tugged him into a picture with Sam and Jess.
“Hey, our couch is yours for as long as you need it.”
Cas looks at Dean’s hand first before his eyes travel up his arm to meet his. He looks surprised and maybe a little like he can’t believe that Dean is making this offer. All that slides into something that looks a lot like grateful, but Dean stops noticing everything else because Cas’s small smile is making his stomach do this weird little dance under his ribs.
“Thank you, Dean.”
“Don’t sweat the small stuff, Cas.” Dean forces a smile over his own confusion at whatever the hell his insides are doing. He gets out of the car and keeps that smile in place over the roof of the Impala while Cas gets out too. “We’ve got your back.”
As Cas follows him to the elevator, something nervous twists through Dean’s chest and for the life of him he doesn’t know why.