He’d been coming in every single day for going on two years. He always ordered the same thing for himself and something different for his friend who always came in with him. And Castiel was fascinated with him.
It was kind of ridiculous. He didn’t even know his name. But he was… very attractive, and Castiel was very gay. It was hard to ignore the way his traitorous body always reacted when he walked in.
He hated having crushes. He hated having crushes on people he didn’t know. And he really hated having crushes on straight guys.
But here he was, patiently waiting from the beginning of his shift until 6:28 every morning, when he and his friend (Castiel was clueless as to the nature of their relationship. Colleague? Brother? Boyfriend? [The last seemed unlikely, and if you’re wondering why, see above]) would always walk into his shop.
“He’s here,” Meg called from the back room. “Tall, Dork, and Handsome isn’t with him, though.”
Castiel started. “He’s not?”
“Nope.” She popped the ‘p’ as she stuck her head out. “Just Nameless Mr. Gorgeous and his car today.”
And then the door opened and ‘Nameless Mr. Gorgeous’ walked through it and straight up to the counter where Castiel was standing. “Mornin’ Cas,” he called cheerfully, smiling. “Medium coffee, black, two sugars. No disgustingly sweet drink-and-cake combo for Sammy today because, as you can see, he ain’t here.”
“Why is that?” Castiel asked politely as he started to fix the man’s drink. He shrugged.
“Didn’t feel great. He’s stayin’ home from his classes and everything. I think he’s gettin’ sick, it is flu season after all.”
“He didn’t get a shot?”
“Nah, the kid has a crippling fear a’ needles and I’m not about to fight him on that.”
“Name for your order, sir?” Cas asked politely. The other man smirked, looking as if he was enjoying this far too much for Castiel’s liking.
“You can just hand it to me.”
Cas sighed but did as he was told, and as his customer walked away, pouted like a petulant child, feeling extremely put out.
“Come on, Clarence,” Meg called. “He’s not that pretty.”
Cas rolled his eyes. “You are incorrect, Meg. He is ‘that pretty’.”
Meg smiled, slipping an arm around his shoulders. “Then you’ll just have to get over him, won’t you?”
“Of course,” Cas murmured absently, but that wasn’t what he was thinking. He swore to himself that he would get a name out of the gorgeous coffee shop customer if it was the last thing he did.
Dean whistled as he strolled down the street, holding his coffee. It was really fun to fuck with the sexy blue-eyed cashier at his favorite coffee shop, but he was starting to find himself getting stuck. He could never ask the guy out on a date until he gave him his name, the problem with which was that it meant Dean had to give him his name.
He took a sip of his drink. Hot, dark, and sweet, just the way he liked his coffee – and his men, for that matter. Ooh, that would make a good pick-up line, if he could ever work up the courage to actually use it on Mr. Sex Voice.
He took a deep breath. Could he do this? Was he even ready, after the whole Benny fiasco, to be in a relationship with another guy? How could he know that Cas wouldn’t do the same exact shit to him?
He wrenched open the driver’s door to the Impala. He couldn’t torture himself like this. He needed to just let it go and deal with it later. Right now he had a little brother to take care of.
Cas didn’t see the stranger for five days, which was his longest coffee-less streak to date. Cas was starting to become afraid that he had found a different coffee place to go to where the cashier wasn’t silently pining over him.
(Although, Cas found it hard to believe that no one else would be desperately, hopelessly in love with the nameless hunk that walked into their coffee shop every morning. He was a fine piece of ass.)
On day 6, when he finally came back in, he announced to Cas that ‘Sammy’ had fully recovered from his flu. Cas smiled as he started to make his drink before he even ordered it. “So is Sammy…”
“My brother,” he offered. “And his name’s Sam. I’m apparently the only one who’s allowed to call him Sammy.” He shrugged. “What ya gonna do?”
Cas laughed. “I have an older brother as well. He’s quite the pain in the ass, but he’s the only member of my family I can tolerate. And vice versa.”
“4.36. Cash or credit?” Cas asked as he dropped the sugar into the coffee. The nameless stranger reached into his back pocket for his wallet, pulled it out and started counting out the change.
He came up a dollar and a half short.
He sighed loudly, then pulled out a bright red MasterCard and handed it over, probably knowing full well that Cas was going to look at the name on the card.
And sure enough, he did, just before he swiped it. 4 dollars and 36 cents were transferred from the card and Cas smirked hugely as he handed it back to his customer – Dean Winchester.
It was a fascinating name for a fascinating man, and Castiel loved it. He handed Dean his coffee and curtly said, “goodbye, Dean,” but he couldn’t hide his smile, and neither could the brunet. He lingered a moment, leaning forward over the counter.
Before he could lose his courage, Cas murmured, “was there something else you needed?”
Dean quirked an eyebrow at him. “How about… dinner?”
Cas couldn’t do anything besides nod.
“Great. Let’s meet at Rainfield at 7? Does tomorrow night work for you?”
Cas nodded again, and Dean leaned forward and – Cas did everything in his power not to lean away – carefully, and so, so gently, brushed a stray lock of hair out of Castiel’s eyes. Cas stood motionless, stunned.
“I’m annoyed that you ruined my fun,” Dean added, just before he walked out the door.
Once he was gone, Cas finally found his voice. “Did that really just happen?”
Balthazar walked out in his apron, looking cross, bitter, and slightly confused. (And very English) (but when did he not?) “Did you just score a date with the really hot guy?” he demanded. Meg smirked.
“Yes, he di-id!” she sing-songed, and Cas threw a frosted lemon pastry at her. “You’ll have to pay for that, Clarence,” she added gravely, and it was so ridiculous that Cas started to laugh.
“Oh my god!” Dean almost shouted the second he was in the door. “Oh my sweet motherfucking god above did I seriously do that?”
“What?” Sam asked, emerging from his bedroom. He put his hands on his hips and it looked so bizarre on him that Dean stared for a minute before shaking himself to answer his question.
“I asked out that guy from the coffee shop! You know, the really hot one who works at the counter? Blue-eyes-messy-black-hair-our-kids-would-look-like-Harry-Potter kinda deal? That guy!”
“Setting aside the fact that it’s not biologically possible for you to have kids with him… you asked out the guy you’ve been madly in love with for almost a year? Good on you, man!”
Dean sat down. “Yeah. We’re going to Rainfield tomorrow night for dinner. And somewhere along the line maybe we could do double dates – you know, me and Cas and you and that short blond guy you’ve been dating. Fuck, what was his name…” Dean made a show of snapping his fingers. “Gaston!”
Sam gave him a less than impressed look. “Dean, you know full well that his name is Gabriel.”
Dean rolled his eyes dramatically. “Dude, when will you stop being such a bitch?”
“Not until the day you cease to be the world’s biggest jerk.” Sam paused, then grinned, so Dean knew he hadn’t annoyed him that much. “Okay, but why don’t we just do a double-date tomorrow? Gabe and I have been dying to get out, and we haven’t really had a chance.”
Dean considered it for a minute, then shrugged. “What the hell. I’ll ask Cas, but sure.”
“Great. Let me know,” Sam told him as he retreated back into his bedroom.
Dean had planned on going back to the coffee shop to clear this with Cas, but then he picked up his drink and stopped cold. There were thirteen characters written in Sharpie on the side of his cup – ten letters, a hyphen, and a set of parentheses. He smirked. “Cas you sneaky bastard,” he muttered as he punched them into his phone.
This is Sexy Coffee Shop Guy. Would you be down for a double date with my brother and his boyfriend?
A few minutes later, the reply came through. That sounds perfect.
Dean grinned. Great.
“Hey babe,” Gabriel murmured when he picked up the phone. Sam relaxed, the same way he always did when he heard his boyfriend’s voice. “What’s up?”
“How do you feel about a double date with my brother and the guy he just asked out tomorrow night?” Sam proposed. Gabriel was silent for a minute, and then he started cackling. “What?” Sam asked. There was a sound like Gabe putting him on speaker, and then he explained.
“I just got a text from Cassie three minutes ago. Here’s what it says. Cute coffee shop guy asked me out, wanted to know if I wanted to do a double date. Guess I’m meeting Sam (his brother) and his boyfriend tomorrow!”
Sam snorted. “So Dean’s new boyfriend is your brother?”
“Looks like it. This’ll be interesting, won’t it?”
“It really will,” Sam murmured.
The next day, Sam went to the little coffee shop on his own. Just because he was the little brother didn’t mean he had any less right to vet the guy his sibling was into, right? He didn’t think so. (Also, he wanted to get to know the guy) So he walked in around 4pm, asked for a water (it was too late for caffeine), and sat down at a table right by the register. “So, I’m Sam, you’ve probably seen me in here before…” He trailed off, suddenly feeling uncertain.
Castiel smiled at him. “I presume you’re here to give me the, ah… ‘shovel talk’?” He did air quotes around the phrase, and Sam had to admit it was kind of adorable.
“Oh, no. No, I don’t have to tell you that I will destroy you if you break his heart, because a) I’m not the overprotective one; Dean is, and b) Dean is perfectly capable of destroying you himself. In a variety of highly creative ways. He could probably crush your head with his bicep if I’m being perfectly honest. No, I’m here to tell you about a guy named Benny.”
Cas looked at him, intrigued. Sam smiled and continued. “A few years ago, Dean was in a really bad place, and Benny helped him out of it. I… wasn’t around, which I feel ridiculously guilty about, believe me, and he didn’t really have anyone to lean on. So Benny was there for him when nobody else was, and Dean, being extremely emotionally vulnerable for what probably amounts to the only time in his life, kinda fell for him. And long story short, once he wasn’t really valuable anymore, Benny just dropped Dean. Like he meant nothing, and you know, I think he probably did. He hasn’t dated anybody since. So when I say that it’s a big deal that Dean asked you out, that it means he likes you a crap friggen ton, I mean it is a big ass deal. Got it?”
Cas nodded gravely. “Holy shit,” he murmured. “I didn’t know any of that.”
“Why would you?” Sam asked. “He barely talks to you beyond giving you his coffee order, it’s not like you were best friends or anything. But Dean really likes you, okay? So please just make sure you aren’t taking advantage of him.”
“Of course,” Cas replied quietly. “Wouldn’t dream of it. Here’s your water.”
“Thanks.” Sam smiled at him brightly, so he knew that Sam wasn’t here to be a downer. “So… do you have any siblings?”
“I do, actually,” Castiel replied. “I have several, but the only one of any consequence is my older brother Gabriel.”
“Oh yeah?” Sam asked innocently around his straw, feeling exceptionally proud of the poker face Dean had trained him to have. He was 100% sure Cas wasn’t going to catch on to the fact that Sam already knew all of that. He sent his brother a silent thank you for all of the six-hour games of Texas Hold ‘Em when they were teenagers. “Why don’tcha tell me about him?”
“He’s one year older than I am. He’s oddly passionate about social justice and very, very passionate about beautiful men. He was a drama student in college and now he mostly does workshops and lives off our extremely rich father.”
“Oh yeah? Why’s your father rich?”
Cas shrugged as he rolled up his sleeves (holy sweet toned forearms – Dean would have a field day) to wipe down the counter. “He wrote a very long series of books, I think they must have been sci-fi or something to that effect, about two men who drove around in an old car committing credit card fraud and killing supernatural creatures in every state in the US.”
“Popular books, then?” Sam asked. Cas laughed.
“No, not at all. They just had a very small number of very, very dedicated fans. I watched the entire development of the series – it was quite hilarious.”
Sam laughed and, in return, shared a story about his dad and one of his hunting trips gone wrong – the one about the bear, the shotgun, and the golden toilet paper. It didn’t take long before they were swapping stories back and forth, laughing together like old friends. Sam thought he could get used to this. It had been a while since he’d had a really good friend. Probably since Jess.
Somehow, the time flew, and suddenly it was 6:15 and time for Cas to get off his shift. Sam stood up as Cas told him that, discarded his third ice water (hey, they were free), and said, “you wanna drive to Rainfield together?”
“Sure,” Castiel replied. “I just need to go home and change first.”
Sam shouldn’t have let him. Sam should have said, “Dean won’t care what you’re wearing, he thinks you’re hot all the time” and dragged him to the car. In hindsight, Sam supposed there were a lot of things he could have done that would have been better, but Sam didn’t know, so he just said, “okay.”
Dean arrived at the restaurant a solid 15 minutes early. He checked in, smiled at the blonde chick at the front that he would have absolutely flirted with two days earlier, and found their table, then pulled out his phone and waited.
By 7:05, Gabriel was there, but Sam and Cas were notably absent. By 7:15, he was confused, wondering if he’d gotten stood up. By 7:30, he and Gabe had abandoned any attempt to make idle conversation, and Dean was seriously worried.
Then he and Gabe both got phone calls at almost the same exact second. They glanced at each other, then answered their phones.
“Hello, are you Dean Winchester?” asked a pleasant female voice on the other end.
“This is he,” Dean replied.
“This is MedExpress Urgent Care. You are listed as Sam Winchester’s emergency contact. He’s been in a-”
“I’m on my way,” Dean cut her off, then hung up. He glanced at Gabe, who was staring into the middle distance with horror on his face, his phone still pressed to his ear.
“Okay, I’ll be there as soon as I can,” he was saying. “Thank you. Goodbye.” He hung up and turned to Dean.
“What was that?” Dean asked, praying he’d gotten it wrong. Gabriel looked disappointed and kind of angry.
“MedExpress Urgent Care.” His voice was incredulous. “Cas was in a traffic collision.”
“Sam is also at MedExpress Urgent Care,” Dean told him. “I’m assuming from the same accident.”
“‘Official vocab guidelines state that we’re supposed to call them “traffic collisions” instead of “auto accidents” because “accident” implies there’s no one to blame’,” Gabriel muttered. When Dean gave him a look, he said, “I’m sorry, I quote pop culture when I’m anxious.”
“Did you drive here?” Dean inquired. Gabe shook his head.
“I walked from work.”
“Great. Get in my car, we’re going to Urgent Care.”
He remembered Sam screaming his name. He remembered pain.
Everything else was black, and cold, and silent.
“I’m Dean Winchester and this is Gabriel Novak, we were called about our brothers?” Dean announced the second he was in earshot of a nurse. She looked at him for a moment and nodded.
“ID please?” Dean handed her his driver’s license and Gabe did the same. She examined them then handed them back. “They’re in room 107.” Dean nodded at her absently – he would have thanked her but he wasn’t focused enough on anything besides Sammy, Sammy, Sammy and Cas, holy shit, Cas, this is my fault, Cas, goddammit he’s here because of me.
He raced down the hall with Gabe hot on his heels and barreled into room one hundred and seven. There was Sam, somehow managing to sit up in his bed, eyes open and his whole body bandaged, and Cas in another bed across the room, unconscious – dead to the world.
Dean and Gabriel each fell into a chair on one side of Sam’s bed. They were in perfect sync. “Baby…” Gabriel breathed, staring at him with profound sadness in his eyes. The look Sam shot back was pure love.
“I’m sorry,” he coughed, still looking at Gabriel.
“Don’t apologize, Sammy,” Dean told him. “You didn’t do anything wrong. Right, you weren’t texting from the driver’s seat?”
Sam laughed, but it came out a little forced and a little choked. “Dean, I was-” His words broke off into a coughing fit, but when he recovered, he finished his sentence. “I was riding shotgun.”
Dean grinned at him. “Atta boy. Don’t go doin’ anything dangerous, ya hear? You’re my only little brother, and Dad’s ghost’ll tan my hide if anything happens to ya.”
Sam nodded. “Yes, sir.”
Gabriel tentatively took Sam’s hand. Sam didn’t flinch and his fingers curled slightly around his boyfriend’s, so that must’ve been okay. “Do they know what you need fixed?” he asked in a hushed tone.
“They haven’t… told me yet.” Sam’s sentence was punctuated by a lengthy yawn, probably influenced by the IV in his arm. “If y’all don’t mind, I’m just gonna…” he yawned again, and Dean smiled a little at the way he was slipping into a far more Southern drawl than his usual dialect. “Just gonna go to sleep now.” He slid a little lower in his bed and within seconds he was snoring.
Dean wanted to scream, he wanted to throw something, and part of him wanted to cry – but that was the part of him he never let show, because he was Dean Motherfucking Winchester, goddammit, and he was a man, and his father would never have let him cry. And he couldn’t scream because Sam and Cas were sleeping, and he couldn’t break anything because he was in a hospital, so instead he just took a deep breath, stood up, paced the length of the room eight times, and sat down next to Cas’ bed, watching his peaceful face regretfully.
He didn’t know how long the four still forms sat in silence before the nurse came in. His nametag labeled him ‘Alfie’, and he was pleasant but he had pretty bad news.
“You are the family?” he asked as he entered. Dean and Gabriel turned to face him, nodding as one. “They were in the car together, on their way through an intersection. An irresponsible woman ran a red because she was on her phone, and slammed directly into the driver’s side of the car. The door dented and broke so badly that a piece of metal is lodged in Castiel’s side. It will need to be surgically removed. He also has severe head trauma and internal bleeding. Sam got off easier – his right collarbone is fractured and the right side of his ribcage is shattered from the force of the blow that knocked him into the door, but with plenty of bed rest, medication, and a brace, that should heal nicely in a few months.”
Dean took a deep breath, and Gabriel asked the question he wasn’t sure he’d be able to get out. “Is Cassie going to be okay?”
Alfie looked sad. “We have no idea if he will ever wake up,” he answered. “I’ll leave you two alone.”
He stepped back out of the room, and Dean collapsed. “Fuck,” he whispered. Then, “fuck fucking FUCK!”
Of all the times this could have happened, of all the places, of all the people it could have happened to – it had to be Castiel Novak, did it? Was this really what God, or Fate, or Destiny had planned? Was that the cosmic joke, that Dean never got love? And worse, anyone he came close to loving got hurt just from proximity to him?
He didn’t know if he could live with himself, carrying that on his shoulders. But it might not even be true. Dean didn’t believe in God or Fate or Destiny. Honestly, God could go fuck himself, if he really was watching from Up There. He’d never done anything for Dean.
This could have all been a coincidence. But then, accidents don’t just happen accidentally.
Dean would just have to wait.
Five days passed. Sam was recovering very well, for which Dean was exceptionally grateful. Whenever Dean wasn’t in the room with him, it seemed, Gabriel was, which was good. If Sam was left alone he’d probably go mad, and Gabe liked to talk to him. Dean usually just sat there with him while he slept and tried to calm him, to protect him from having night terrors.
(He used to have the worst night terrors as a kid, and Dean would always wake up at 1am to a tiny little body slipping into his bed next to him, curling up into his side, and he’d always wrap his arms around his little brother and whisper soothing words into his hair until he fell back asleep. And he was always gone by the time Dean’s alarm went off in the morning.)
Ten days passed. Dean brought Cas flowers, because he was a dork and feeling understandably guilty. He changed the flowers every couple of days. He’d sit by his bed and tell him about Sam, give him updates, tell him stories… anything to take his mind off of it. Cas didn’t wake up.
Two weeks went by, and they were saying Sam would be out of the hospital pretty soon. Dean was glad – Sam hated that place, he could tell, and he was growing to hate it too, although admittedly for different reasons.
Twenty days, and Sam was released. Cas’ room seemed empty without him in there, but he started coming with Dean to visit him. Gabriel would come too, every once in a while, but mostly he stayed at home. He was too scared, Sam said, and Dean could understand that.
(Dean also knew that with Cas out of commission, Sam was the person who knew Gabe the best. He pretty much deferred to his superior knowledge on the subject.)
Then one day, about four and a half weeks after the crash, Dean was sitting by Cas’ bedside, alone. “Hey, Cas,” he murmured. “I, uh… I miss you, man. That’s probably stupid, considering you’re just the… the guy who works at the coffee shop I like. Can I tell you a secret? First time I went in there was because Sammy wanted to, and the reason I came back wasn’t even because I thought the coffee was superior – it was ‘cause o’ you. Cause you were there, and you were hot, and you were really nice, and I guess I just thought maybe… maybe. Maybe I could have that thing everyone else always talks about. I ain’t never felt it before, but I was hoping I could with you. And now, I understand. That prolly isn’t gonna happen.” He sighed sadly, staring at the withered and dying daisies next to Cas’ bed. “I’m sorry, Cas,” he choked out. “I’m so fuckin’ sorry.”
He sat there, staring at the daisies, watching one single decayed gray-and-white petal fall onto the table. It drifted downward slowly, like a dream, and Dean thought absently that that was what this whole thing felt like. A dream. Some mock-up of reality, Bizarro World. Like none of it was real, and any minute Dean was going to wake up and laugh at his own brain for being so outrageously stupid. Maybe he’d wake up on the morning of that day he was supposed to go out with Cas (oh, that day seemed like a lifetime ago) and discover it was all just an anxiety dream.
Oh, he wished.
He could almost imagine it – he’d wake up, he’d see the date, he’d sigh with relief, and he’d get up. He would put on his working clothes, stop by the shop to say hi to Cas, and head off to the garage. And then at 6, he’d head back home, change into something nice, and head to Rainfield. Cas would already be there, waiting for him, and they’d laugh and talk all night like they’d known each other for ages, and then they’d head back to Dean’s place and fuck like rabbits. He would wake up the next morning, one arm trapped under Castiel’s shoulder, naked as the day he was born, and he’d watch the sun illuminate the dust motes above his head. Cas would wake up too, and they’d kiss for a long time until they got a call from Sam about something stupid.
And Dean would know right then that he was already falling. He would look at the way Cas’ eyes crinkled at the corners when he smiled and he’d think, maybe this is the person I want to spend the rest of my life with. And they would fight, and scream, and fall apart, but they’d always fall back together, the way they were meant to be. And Dean would just know. It would just be there, with a certainty like death and taxes and his love for his brother. They would get married, they’d have a kid or three, they’d grow old together, and Dean would die holding him, instead of the other way around.
Maybe there was another version somewhere, another draft, where that was the ending that they got. Maybe it was sitting on the floor of the writer’s room, discarded as useless junk. It’s not compelling enough, they’d argue. It doesn’t have enough conflict.
Maybe they were right.
But it didn’t matter because Dean wanted that ending, he wanted it more than anything.
But right now, the soft and steady beep, beep, beep of Castiel’s heart monitor was slowing down. Beep… beep… beep… And Dean stared at it, begging it to pick up again, but it didn’t. Beep. Beep. Beep.
And as he flatlined, Dean fell forward, his elbows falling onto the bed, his face falling into his hands. His eyes were dry, at least for now, but he knew they wouldn’t be later. He just had to hope no one was around for that.
Someone must have called Gabriel, because he and Sam showed up about fifteen minutes later, gently prying Dean away, dragging him out to the Impala, Sam driving him home. And once they were safely on the road, just the two of them and his Baby, Dean finally allowed himself to cry.
He cried for Cas. He cried for Gabriel, who’d just lost a brother. He cried for Sam, because he’d seen how he looked at Cas – like he was another shot at Jess, a best friend, a we-might-have-made-quite-the-power-couple-in-a-different-lifetime. But mostly, he just cried for the version of that life that he didn’t get.