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Listen to the Music

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Castiel looked up from his gardening, squinting at the sun. He wiped his gloved hand across his head, only succeeding in plastering mud on his forehead like some sort of Lion King reference. He scowled and pulled his glove off, fishing around his pocket for his phone. “Hello?” he finally said, smushing it between his cheek and shoulder.

“Cassie!”

A fond smile graced his lips. “Hello, Charlie.”

“It’s good to hear your voice. Or any voice, for that matter.”

He set back to digging a hole with a trowel. “Let me guess: you started coding something and couldn’t look up for three weeks.”

Charlie laughed on the line. “You got me, feathers.”

“Oh, give that nickname a rest. Crows are just friendly creatures.”

“You’re one of them. Anyway, you’re the only other loner I could think of. Have you seen anybody in two weeks?”

“Ah.” Castiel sat back on his heels. “I see. No, I’ve been at home for a month or so now, working on filling orders.”

“That’s GREAT, because I haven’t been outside either! Would you like to come over and quarantine with me?”

Cas laughed softly. “As it were, I have a garden to tend to here. But you’re welcome to come and stay with me. It would be nice to have some company that isn’t virtual.”

“Do you have internet?”

“Alas, I only take orders via carrier pigeon. Internet was never a requirement.”

“Alright Mr. Smartass, I’ll be over tonight. Gonna pack all my stuff up.”

“Perhaps we can keep each other from becoming too absorbed in our work.”

“Hope so. See you in a few hours?”

“Of course. Drive safe.”

“No one’s on the roads, Cas.”

“The sentiment still stands. See you, Charles.”

Cas hung up and immediately groaned at the muddy thumbprint left on his screen.

When Charlie showed up at his house, he was immediately caught in a bone-crushing hug.

“FEATHERS!” she squealed, squeezing him tightly.

“Charles,” he responded, laughing and attempting to hug her back. “How are you?”

“Good I think, all things considered.” She released him, looking around. “Wow, you weren’t kidding about the orders. I’ve never seen that many shipping boxes.”

He shrugged. “Business has been good lately. I suppose people really want honey right now.”

“Weird, but awesome.” She kicked her bag against the wall, out of the walkway. “I brought some booze, if you wanna sit on your back porch and talk like the old days.”

“You mean like last winter?” Cas grinned, shaking his head. “I’d love to. Fair warning, though, it might be loud out there.”

Charlie gave him a weird look. “What, did you adopt some geese or something?”

He simply motioned for her to follow him, sliding open the door to the fenced-in backyard, with its old garden and newly-planted additions.

She raised her eyebrows, staring at the house to the left. “Dude.”

“I know. It’s kind of nice, honestly. Usually for about ten minutes or so, then he’ll go back inside.”

There was classic rock music playing loudly from the house beside his, with a guy in swim trunks and sunglasses holding up the boombox for the whole neighborhood.

Charlie listened to “Sweet Child O’ Mine” for a minute before nodding. “People bond in weird ways when shit goes down, I guess. What’s his name?”

“Dean. I’ve told you about him.”

She snorted, recognizing the name. “Ah, Mr. Tall Dark and Thinks-He’s-Handsome.”

Castiel rolled his eyes. “Yes.”

Charlie regarded Castiel carefully. “And… do we think he’s handsome?”

He grinned. “You get the alcohol, I’ll set up the chairs, and I’ll uh, ‘spill the tea’, as you say.”

She pointed finger-guns at him. “Now you’re speaking my language, baby!”

By the time Charlie got the whiskey and the glasses, Dean had finished up for the night with a rousing “You Give Love A Bad Name”.

She poured them both generous glasses, sitting in the lawn chair. “Okay. Spill.”

Cas motioned between the two of them. “We do not think he’s handsome. However…” he pointed to his other neighbor’s house, the one on the right, “he is enthralled.”

Charlie gasped. “No.”

“Oh, yes.” Cas sipped his whiskey, smile tugging at his lips. “And you know, what Gabriel wants, Gabriel gets.”

“You think Gabriel is gonna break in during quarantine so they have to stay together?”

Cas snorted. “I wouldn’t put it past him, honestly. He’s been um, charming since we were little. It’s only a matter of time.”

“And you’re stuck right in the middle of it, huh?” She squinted towards Dean’s house, like she could peer into the windows. “Is Dean even into guys?”

“He has a wild reputation as a lady’s man.”

“So, yes.”

“Oh, absolutely.”

Charlie downed her whiskey in one go, pouring another. “And is Dean into Gabriel?”

He shrugged. “I think he’s considered it, if the looks they give each other across my garden when the other isn’t looking are anything to go by.”

She studied him, grinning wide. “You’re holding out on me, feathers.”

“Hm?” Cas said innocently. “Oh, the rest of the tea, of course.” He cleared his throat and pointed to Gabriel’s house. “He can’t stand the music, and promised me earlier that he was going to ‘do something about it’.”

Charlie looked between the two houses. “Uh, did he do anything then?”

“I have no idea.” He turned to her, finishing his glass and pouring another. “Tell me about your life.”

She huffed, staring out into the growing twilight. “Oof. Not a lot has happened, if I’m honest. I finally came to the conclusion that I need to get out more, and now I can’t, so it’s like—“ she shrugged. “But I’m working for a software company now, so that’s good. I can make like, legal money.”

Castiel’s eyes sparkled. “Legal money is good.”

“Yeah, but boring, too. So I’ve been working on an AI that scrubs websites for raw data and—“ Her head snapped to the right. “Is… Is that polka?”

Castiel craned his neck to see. “Ah, that would be my brother, ‘doing something’.”

Gabriel waved enthusiastically to the two of them, holding a small bluetooth speaker over his head, yet somehow blasting louder than Dean had. He was wearing what was definitely a shirt handmade for the occasion that read Two Can Play At This Game.

Dean ran out into his own backyard, staring wide-eyed across the swath of land that separated them. “Dude, WHAT THE FUCK?!”

Gabriel turned it up louder, pointing to his t-shirt.

Dean spread his arms wide, frustrated.

Gabriel leaned down to grab a megaphone. “STOP WITH THE FUCKING MUSIC. SOME OF US HAVE ZOOM MEETINGS, ASSHOLE,” he megaphoned across the fence.

Dean’s eyes narrowed.

Charlie leaned over to whisper-yell to Castiel, “That didn’t look like he was gonna stop.”

Cas responded, “Oh, of course not. They’re both ridiculously stubborn.”

Dean beat his chest once, holding his arms out again threateningly. “YOU WANNA GO, PRETTY BOY? LET’S FUCKING GO!”

Charlie took a sip of whiskey. “Oh, definitely into guys.”

Gabriel raised one unimpressed eyebrow, polka swelling across the neighborhood. “I CAN’T HEAR YOU, BUT YOU LOOK LIKE A GORILLA WHO JUST LOST HIS FAVORITE BANANA,” Gabe megaphoned.

Castiel winced. “Oh, going straight for the creative insults. Gabriel must be really attracted to him.”

Dean’s entire demeanor darkened. “Cas!” he yelled, turning to look at them. “Permission to pass through your garden to destroy your brother? And hello, new person.”

Charlie waved once as Cas shook his head. “I have to keep a quarantined environment for my honey business. I do apologize. I would love to see Gabriel chased around.”

Dean glared across the way. “Understandable,” he told Castiel without looking at him. “I’ll find my Nerf gun.”

Cas took a nonchalant sip of his whiskey. “The modded one that shoots hard enough to crack the wall plaster?”

“Yes.” Dean was back inside his house before either of them could say anything else.

Gabriel nodded once to himself and turned off his polka music, heading back into his house. He closed the door just as Dean came running out, bright orange gun aimed.

“Dammit,” Dean grumbled, throwing it down onto the grass. “Next time.” He turned his gaze back to the two of them, drinking whiskey and lounging. “Hey, Cas. Does my music bother you?”

Cas shook his head. “Absolutely not. I actually look forward to it every night.”

Charlie held up her hand. “I liked it, too.”

“Thank you—“ Dean looked at Charlie a moment, panicked, “— uh, citizen!”

She snorted. “It’s Charlie.”

“Charlie. Thank you.” He huffed. “So Gabriel is just being an asshole.”

Cas raised his drink. “Cheers.”

“How did you manage growing up with… that?”

Castiel shook his head, smiling softly. “Oh, he’s not as terrible as he pretends to be. He was an excellent brother, actually. I think he thought he was more my father than our father was.” Cas gave Dean a pointed look.

Dean grumbled. “Don’t give me that look, Cas. I’m not gonna feel companionship with a psychopath.”

Charlie propped her head on her hand. “So what’s your game plan, Dean-o?”

“Game plan?”

“Yeah. You are gonna get back at him, right?”

“Right. …Right! Cas, what kind of music does he hate?”

“Um, Italian pop, I think?”

Dean nodded decisively. “It’s settled then. Thank you, Cas, Charlie!”

They waved at him as he disappeared into his house.

“We’re horrible people, aren’t we, Cas?” Charlie asked, still waving.

“Yes. We are.” He held out his glass, and she clinked hers against it.