Genre/Pairing: Total AU, Romantic Comedy, Dean/Cas
Wordcount: 31k total
Warnings: Sex, movie cliches
Summary: The good ones are sometimes assholes and always taken.
Author's Note: Written for the deancastiel AU/Fusion Fic Challenge that ended like a month ago. The prompt was 'Dean is a waiter in a strip club to put his kid brother through school. Castiel is dragged to the club as a part of his sister Anna's bachelorette party. Dean and Cas hit it off, but Dean thinks Cas is the one marrying Anna.'
So, the story ended up being about twice as long as I thought it would be, which partially explains its lateness. It's nearly ten times longer than anything else I've written and wow, this shit is hard. You people out there who write fics this long on a regular basis? I am deeply impressed with you.
Thank you so much to prettify for being my beta. Every time I couldn't figure out what was wrong in some section, she'd put her finger right on it and give me good advice for fixing it. She was my first beta reader ever, and I think I got damn lucky. Also, thanks to bellajayd for helping me with Cas' auto troubles, because I know jack squat about cars.
He's maybe ten feet from his car when Tessa yells for him, with the fast click of her heels catching up behind. God dammit, it's been such a long fucking day already.
“Dean, wait up!”
“Yeah.” He sighs and rubs a hand over his face. Shit.“Yeah, I hear you.” She's right there when he finally turns around, looking sorry enough but not, you know, going away or anything.
“I know, I know, I'm sorry. I just really need your help! Can you cover the rest of my shift?” It's a little chilly out tonight, yeah, but she could've tossed her coat on instead of standing there shivering and looking pathetic. She totally did it on purpose.
“Seriously? Jesus, Tess, you know how early I had to get up this morning?”
“I know, but no one else can stay! Look, it's... my stupid brother got arrested; not for anything big, but Mom's freaking out. I have to go get her.” And now he can see that it's not just the chilly air getting to her; Tessa is twitchy with nervousness. Damn.
He's already walking back towards the club when he answers her. “Yeah, alright. I've got you covered.” At least it's only a few more hours until closing, and fuck if he's sticking around for any clean-up afterward.
“You're the best!” Tessa's flying hug makes him stumble a few steps, grabbing her waist to keep them both up and holding a little tighter than is strictly necessary. Yeah, he's a saint alright. “I owe you big time,” she says. “Oh! Hey, you might even thank me; I've got a group that called ahead. It's a bachelorette party, your favorite!”
Just because he's good at something doesn't make it his favorite. He is good at them, though; those single girls always go a little wild when their friends are getting married. Wild and loose with the tips. “Oh yeah?”
“Uh huh, her name's Anna Milton and one of the bridesmaids set it up. Meg something. Oh! And it's a combo bachelor 'slash' bachelorette deal.” Wow, people still do the air quote thing? Huh. “She said that the guy is kind of a loner... well, friendless pathetic geek is what she really said but that sounded kinda mean. She sounded like she really wanted to embarrass the guy, Charles or something, asking about lap dances and stuff.”
Well, that's a little different. They get plenty of mixed parties at the club - the co-ed strippers thing is still unique enough to draw people in - but this is the first he's ever heard of an engaged couple coming in together. 'Charles' must be one open minded geek.
They go in the side door, so it's not too noisy when they get back in the club, but Tessa still has to raise her voice to be heard. “You should keep an eye on him! You don't want some stupid fight to cut into your tips or anything.” Dean just nods and tosses her coat out while he hangs his own up. Sounds like a fun night, looking after the interpersonal relationships of drunk people.
“Thanks again!” And there's hug number two; he could get used to that. “I owe you!”
“You do. You should take me to dinner, I swear I'll order cheap.” He gives her a wink and gets an eye roll in return. Not a good sign. Oh shit, wait. “Hey!” She's nearly out the door when he catches her, hand at her elbow. “You need anything, call, alright? I know you've got my number, I put it in your phone myself.” He gets a kiss on the cheek along with the thank you for that one before she's gone. Tessa's got a thing for mixed signals.
“Okay then.” The changing room mirror shows him some terminally limp hair, and he runs his fingers through it quickly before heading out front. Bad hair is no waiter's friend. “I'm getting puked on tonight, I can feel it.”
The Heads or Tails Exotic Dance Club isn't a bad place to work, really. The people are good, the customers aren't always disgusting, and nobody's fucked with Dean's car yet when he's had to leave it overnight. Smart people.
Ellen is a pretty great boss, keeping the good dancers happy and turfing the ones who try to sell a little ass on the side. She tries to keep the place as clean as a strip joint can be. Dance club, dance club, right. Last time he called it a strip joint, she'd smacked him on the back of the head like a little kid. That shit had hurt and Dean wasn't so surprised about her being a bouncer at her own bar after that.
She's really good about Dean's situation, too. Working two jobs means sometimes he just doesn't have it in him to play nice with the customers, so she finds him other stuff to do. Like helping the dancers get ready, which is fun, or cleaning the bathrooms, which is disgusting, but thankfully mindless. Some nights she even lets him split a shift and take off early. Kinda like how tonight was supposed to be.
He's behind the bar when the party arrives, fixing up some girly drinks for the college chicks at table five and keeping one eye on Billy up on stage who is currently holding his cowboy hat hands-free. Billy's got skills.
There's maybe eight people in the group, a few looking a little drunk already, and they're all crowding around one girl in the middle. That must be the lucky lady. Or her husband to be is the lucky one because wow, she's pretty fucking gorgeous. She's got that otherworldly waif deal going on, with really pale skin and bright red hair and even as he's walking over, Dean can tell that her eyes are huge and sad. God, he's such a sucker for eyes like that.
“Hey there! Ladies, guys, welcome to Heads or Tails. I'm Dean, I'll be getting you drunk and poor tonight.” The red-head is smiling at him, warm and soft, but one of the other women cuts in front of her. This one's blond, pretty in a punk pixie sort of way.
“I talked to some girl named Tessy on the phone, she's supposed to be our waitress.” Huh, Ms. Pixie Cut seems a little brittle tonight.
“You're Meg, right? Tessa had a... thing, so she's gone for the night. Told me all about you, though, no worries. We've got some tables together up near the stage for you guys. I'll be right over.” He motions them towards their seats and takes a second to deliver the college girls' drinks while they get settled.
The party is actually seven total: five girls and two guys mostly chatting happily when he gets back to them. “So! This is a little unique, actually. I've never seen a his and hers bachelor party in here before. Who's the happy couple?” He gets a few eye rolls for that, mostly from Meg and an older black guy who seems to take 'unimpressed' to an art form. So he hasn't got the group quite figured out yet. Some people like the chatty waiter thing, some don't.
“It's just the happy girl tonight, Bubbles. Romeo pussied out.” This is from a dark haired woman at his elbow, all pouty mouth and sarcastic eyebrows.
“Ruby!” The read-head smacks her arm in that 'you're crazy but I love you' way and smiles up at Dean. Oh yeah, those are drowning eyes alright. “Sorry. Um... I'm Anna, the 'happy girl'. My fiancé couldn't make it.”
He shakes the hand she's holding out, surprised at her callused skin. “Nice to meet you Anna. Was he scared of the man ass or what? We get that sometimes.”
“Oh no. I mean I don't think so. He's a writer.” The unimpressed guy snorts at this and Anna gives him a quieting look before she goes on. “He writes science fiction stuff.” She's looking at Dean again and he shrugs. He reads, but not that kind of stuff, mostly biographies and some true crime as a guilty pleasure. Anna continues. “He had some big idea and said he had to work on it right now. It's a writer thing, I guess. He might show up later, though.”
Dean thinks she doesn't look so sure of that, which is too bad. If it were him, this 'idea' would have to be pretty spectacular to make him skip out on his own bachelor party. Not to mention his own potentially drunk and horny girlfriend. “I'll make sure he finds you guys if he does, I promise. What can I get for everybody in the mean time?”
He's back behind the bar getting their second round when the fiancé finally does show up. The night's been slowish and he's been talking with Anna's party when he has a spare minute. He toned down the Friendly Waiter thing and they all seem open enough now.
So far he's learned that Anna is a university student and an artist working with metals, which explains the rough skin. She likes David Bowie. Jessica, the girl-next-door blond, is Anna's high-school friend and one of her bridesmaids. Sarah, the Maid-of-Honor, has the prettiest smile and can chug a beer like a friggin' trucker. Meg and Ruby like to order Screaming Orgasms and dance with each other, which would be hot if it weren't so damn obvious. Uriel the Unimpressed is a dick with a really weird name, and apparently he's some kind of artist too. So is Al, the creepy older dude with a funny accent and nails like fucking knives, and Dean will have to get Ellen to intervene if that bastard grabs his ass again. He's not allowed to intervene for himself anymore since that one guy threatened to sue. Christ, you break one nose and people throw a fit.
He also learns that the wedding is sort of a rush job (as in, within the month, and Dean didn't know that was even possible) since Anna's grandmother is in 'poor health' and they don't want her to miss it. That one was kind of a conversational backfire.
So he's at the bar restocking the limes when he sees the guy come in. He's not bad, looking a little rumpled in a suit and trench coat, but still hot in a librarian sort of way. He's peering through the crowd like he's looking for someone and Dean figures oh hey, maybe he's looking for someone.
“Evenin'!” The guy turns to Dean as he makes his way over, a little startled. As Dean gets closer, he sees that 'not bad' may have been an understatement. The bead-head and lush looking mouth are sexy enough, but man, the eyes. There's no way this guy is Anna's boyfriend; the world isn't cruel enough to hold two people with eyes that pretty and then have them be with each other. “Are you... Charles? With Anna's group?” Please say no. He's not wearing a ring, but men generally don't before the big day, and Dean is tired but not that tired.
The guy tilts his head. It's a weird movement, kind of deliberate, like he had to think about it. His voice is low enough that Dean has to lean in to hear it. “Castiel. Ingalls. But yes, I'm with Anna. It's from the Bible. An angel.” Dean hadn't actually asked, but he guesses that 'Castiel' probably gets a lot of funny looks over his name. No wonder Tessa hadn't remembered it right. Shit, the world is cruel after all.
“Cool. I'm Dean, from the James.” Oh, funny. Christ. “They're over near the front there. What can I bring you?”
Castiel just shrugs and looks to where Dean's thumb is pointing, eyes flicking quickly past the half-naked dancer on stage (Nancy, shaking her fine rear end to Foxy Lady). “A beer will be fine. Please.” He's looking at Dean again, and his eyes are stupidly blue. God, so not fair. “Thank you. Whatever you have on tap.”
Maybe he's foreign or something, with the way he seems to be hand-picking his words but still not getting the order quite right. No real accent to speak of, though. Maybe he's high. That's a writer thing, right?
Dean makes it back to the bar before Castiel manages to thread his way to the table, so he's got a great view of the loving reunion. Anna is on her feet and has her arms wrapped around Castiel's chest, squeezing tight enough that the guy looks a little winded from it. His arms are much gentler around her, careful but familiar. Dean shakes off the little ache that gives him; he hasn't been able to hold someone like that in a long time.
When Anna pulls back, Dean can see her mouth form the words 'you made it'. Her grin is painfully bright, but Castiel's answering smile is like a transformation. People talk about a smile reaching the eyes a lot, sure, but this guy's smile is like a face full of joy. It's all mouth and eyes and crinkled skin, cheeks and even a little gum, and Dean's never liked gummy smiles before. There is a kiss, of course, but it lands on Castiel's cheek instead of his lips and Dean figures Anna must be one of those Good Girls he keeps hearing about.
God, they're fucking gorgeous together, and clearly happy despite Castiel's late arrival. Dean wants to be happy for them, these perfect strangers, but it's only natural to be wondering where his angel-eyed other half is, God dammit. As he's walking the next round of drinks over, he concedes that he might possibly be a little jealous.
“Two Sex on the Beaches for the ladies.” The glasses clink down in front of Meg and Ruby, who are doing something with cherries that he's not going to ask about no matter how curious he might be. “A Tequila Paralyzer for Al.” This one is put down on Dean's side of the table and pushed over, keeping his ass a safe distance away. “And a Whatever Beer for the new guy.” Dean tosses out a new coaster and sets the last drink down, and if he's waiting for a little acknowledgment he's not going to get it. Castiel and Anna are deep in conversation, something about a studio, and neither of them look up.
Dean tries to keep his distance after that. The enduring love at their table is putting him in a down mood that would make his brother proud and he doesn't want it to cut into his tips. That plan is working pretty well, he's telling himself, when half the group shows up at the bar. Ha.
“Bubbles!” It's Ruby, of course, with Sarah and Anna on either side and Castiel standing, looking at a bar stool like he isn't quite sure what it's for. Yeah, so he's probably high since he sure can't be that drunk on, what, three beers? Unless he's been stealing sips from his girlfriend. “Bubbles, we need shots!” She's got two arms slung around the other girls and a grin like a proud parent. “Lots of shots.”
Castiel finally sits down beside Anna, looking more relaxed now that he's left his trench and suit coat back at the table. His sleeves are rolled up to the elbow and Dean lets his gaze linger on narrow wrists and long fingers. Castiel is watching him when he looks up, a slight frown drawing his eyebrows together. Shit, caught.
“Shots! We can do that.” Dean tries to turn his nervous wince into false excitement, smiling broadly at the girls. Anna, thankfully, is looking warm and toasted under Ruby's arm and hasn't noticed a thing. “We have the technology!”
Sarah giggles, she must be a fan of 70s TV. Or shitty jokes. “We want tequila!” Of course they do.
Dean is setting four shot glasses in a row when Castiel speaks. “Three. I'm fine, thank you.” Yeah, Dean can see where this is gonna go.
Ruby takes her cue perfectly, leaning past Anna to point a finger at Castiel. “Hey! I'm buying, we're celebrating, and Anna already let you out of the lap dance! You owe me and you want shots.” One red fingernail pokes the middle of his forehead, but Castiel just rocks back with the little push and then straight again. Like a weeble-wobble or something. “Cas, man, if you say no again, I will be forced to make you stuff dollar bills down the crack of some girl's ass. With your teeth.”
Wow, that's a little crass with his future wife sitting right there between them. Anna apparently agrees because she's blushing to match her hair and not really looking at anyone.
“If you insist. I'll do one shot.”
“There's no such thing as one shot! You'll do four.”
“Two.” Castiel has one hell of a poker face. Or Cas, and Dean's glad the poor guy has a decent nickname. It could've been something unfortunate like... Casty.
“Fine! Two, and one dollar bill in an ass.”
There's hesitation in those eyes now, poker face or not. “Agreed.” Smart man, he must know where to pick his battles.
“That's our boy, four tequilas!” Ruby slaps Cas on the shoulder before wrapping her arm around Anna again and giving her a squeeze. “Aren't you proud, Annie? Maybe we can get his tie off next!”
Dean has a distracting moment with that idea and nearly misses the look that passes between Anna and Cas. It's one of those non-verbal things that really close couples do (or him and Sam, but let's not think about that right now or right ever). She says 'you don't have to' with a raise of her eyebrows and he says 'I want to make you happy' with a smile and 'you're happy when your friends are happy' with a small shrug.
Dean fills the shot glasses with a level of concentration usually reserved for important tests. Possibly jealous, a little.
Shockingly, Ruby doesn't push for body shots. She just salts up her own wrist, tosses the shot back, and sucks on her lime slice with an air of satisfaction. The other three follow, although Dean misses the two girls in favor of watching Castiel's pink tongue slide thick over his own wrist.
People usually try to be sexy with it, that's sort of the point, but his lick is fast and precise. Efficient. It's strangely hotter than it should be, and Dean is still staring when he's done and pulling the lime away from his wet mouth. The feel of his own tongue wetting his lips registers before Dean can stop himself and when he looks up from Castiel's mouth, blue eyes are watching him. More than watching, focusing on Dean like they had on the bar stool, like Cas doesn't know quite what to do with Dean but is very close to figuring it out.
Jesus. Dean pulls away and glances at Anna again. She's just finishing and shaking her head from the sour citrus taste, eyes squeezed shut. He looks back at Cas and does the guy have no sense of self preservation? He's still staring. His almost-wife is sitting right next to him and he's indulging in eye sex with the bartender.
Dean gets it, he does. He's seen enough ring-shaped tan lines to know how easy it is for people to stray. He's even been fooled now and then, ended up with a husband-inflicted black eye that one time, so he gets it. But God dammit, he's not a cheater and he's not going to play along when someone else wants to be.
That train of thought is enough to dampen the tight pull of arousal in his belly and Dean fills up the shot glasses with their next round before turning away. Thankfully, another customer is in dire need of a beer and he doesn't have to watch the next round of wrist licking. Less thankfully, there is no more group when he gets back to them, just Castiel sitting with his hands crossed flat on the bar. He would look prim if not for the slight lean to the left he's developed.
“You lose the ladies or did they lose you?”
Castiel is very still, watching him with that precise head tilt again. “Sarah found some more dollar bills.”
Dean can see them now, Sarah and Ruby waving money at the latest dancer (Ash now, who uses decent music but had to be mugged with a haircut before Ellen let him on stage) with Anna laughing behind them. “Yeah, those don't last long around here. Want another?” Dean gestures with a shot glass.
“No, please.” Emphasis on the 'please', and Dean can't stop his short laugh at that. “I would very much appreciate a glass of water, though.”
“Easy enough.” He does look a little flushed. Dean passes the glass along, icy cold, and not even thinking 'engaged engaged engaged' can keep him from watching the harsh bob of Castiel's throat on each long swallow. The man is panting lightly when he's done, savoring it with his eyes shut, half the glass empty and a few stray drops trailing down his chin. That wide tongue sneaks out to chase them and Dean's going to need a safe topic of conversation right fucking now.
“So... uh... not much time left, huh?” Swing and a miss. “I mean the wedding's pretty soon. You guys all... prepared and stuff?” He barely even knows what he's asking, wedding prep being something he's had to worry about never. As far as he knows, the guy's duty is to show up, dress nice, and not act like a dick at any point.
“Not really, no.” There's a small half-smile added to the head tilt now, and Cas is running his fingers up and down the condensation on the water glass. Dean honestly can't tell if he's flirting or not. “The amount of preparations to be made yet is... daunting.”
Daunting. Who says daunting any more? Other than Sam, who says daunting any more? “I guess I wouldn't know. It's all pretty terrifying from this side.”
The grunt and nod of agreement for that is surprising. For one thing, Cas doesn't seem like a grunter. The 'terrifying' agreement should probably be less shocking, though, considering the smoky looks he's been giving Dean. “We shouldn't be here much longer, really. We'll all be useless tomorrow. It's 'envelope licking day', I believe. And something about... seating arrangements.”
Dean shudders. “Fun. Don't forget to take more water. I was the designated licker for my brother's Valentine's cards once and believe me, tongue hydration is important.” Fuck, stop saying tongue. “Uh... for school, you know. Where everyone was supposed to get cards so no one felt left out?” Fuck, stop saying anything.
“Yes, I remember.” Dean's pretty sure Cas is laughing at him now on the inside. He can see it in his eyebrows. But it's hard to feel insulted when all he wants to do is grin back.
“Look, when you're ready to go, if you guys need a cab or anything, let me know. I can call one of the good companies.” He can see Anna at their table with her head on her arms, possibly sleeping. That was fast. Three of the other girls are dancing with, holy God, Al. “Pretty sure no one over there is in a driving state, and I know you aren't.”
He looks surprised, Dean's got the feeling that he gets a lot easier to read once he's had a few drinks. “That's probably right. I very much appreciate the offer, if you would.”
Dean is leaning with one arm on the bar and he's pretty sure the tilt of his body is saying 'You should come home with me'. He would stop, but Cas will be gone soon enough and he's tired of trying and failing to control himself. “Course! All part of the job.”
There's a moment where Cas seems to look inward, forehead in a puzzled bunch again. It's quick, but when he comes back he seems distant. “I suppose it is. You're very good at your job.” Why does that feel like an insult? “Please send someone over to let us know when the taxi arrives.”
Then he's gone, and Dean is left with a puzzled frown of his own. Did the guy just realize they'd been flirting, or what? Way to take it out on the innocent bartender, if so.
When they leave the club a half hour later, Dean isn't sure he's sad to see them go. And if Dean has a quick jerk-off in the shower later while thinking about narrow wrists and a strange, hot gaze? Well, there's no point in having a dick if you can't fantasize about people you'll never meet again.
Sunday dawns bright and crisp in Lawrence, birds chirping, breeze carrying the scent of spring flowers, probably even the aroma of freshly baked bread. Dean crawls out of bed around noon and misses all this entirely. Sam's already gone by then, probably not hitting on whichever pretty girl he's studying with now, the idiot. But he left Dean some coffee and two apple cinnamon muffins, so he can't be entirely pathetic.
It's just past one when he pulls up outside the club, ready to put a few extra hours in before they open. Ellen lets him do some of the bookkeeping on the weekends when he's free. Just the basic adding and subtracting and 'we're low on glitter and olives' inventory work.
His key is already jiggling in the lock when he realizes that one of the empty cars in the parking lot isn't so empty. Looks like a responsible bus-taking drinker, back to pick up their car from the night before. Their sad and rusty car. Oh God, it's a hatchback too. There should be laws against that kind of thing. The driver must be having troubles, though; the hood is open and Dean can see a figure staring down into the engine, shoulders slumped.
Dean goes back to key jiggling, hoping he can get inside before they spot him. It's rude, but he's busy and he's helped enough people with their rides in his off-time. His 'helpful car guy' quota is filled, thanks.
“Fucking open, you sticky bastard.” There's just no give and Dean sighs, smacking his hand on the door in frustration. “Fine. Fine.” Looks like the universe doesn't agree with him about the quota thing.
The person by the car spots him as Dean is heading over, giving him a friendly wave and... oh. Oh come on, seriously?
“You're Dean, the bartender.” Castiel's not smiling, exactly, but still friendly. He looks good, more relaxed in jeans and a few layers of shirts instead of a rumpled suit.
“Uh huh!” Dean tries not to look like he jerked off to the guy last night. “Cas... right? With the bachelor party?” Seriously though, he'd painted the shower door, it was great. “Uh... unless you prefer Castiel.”
“Cas. Please.” He looks down again, like he's searching for a Push To Fix button. “My car seems to be out of gas. I know I had half of a tank last night. I don't know what's wrong with it.”
“Oh, man, there are a lot of things wrong with it.” Dean is laughing as he leans with one arm above the window. Cas just looks bemused. “Could've been siphoned. It sucks, but we've had that before.”
“I suppose that's a possibility.” Cas comes around to the driver's side and Dean has to step back to let him get in. Keeping the door open, he leans over to rifle through his glove box, looking for something. Huh, he actually keeps his manual in there. “Do you know cars?”
Does he know cars, ha. “Oh shit yeah, I'm a mechanic. That's my baby down the street there.” Dean leans down and points so Cas' eyes can follow the length of his arm towards the Impala. Cas is leaning out a little to look and Dean finds himself close enough to ruffle his hair with a breath. He stands up again quickly. “Let me take a look.”
Castiel nods and raises his voice as Dean walks around the front of the car. “You're a mechanic and a bartender. At the same time?”
Dean laughs. “No, usually one after the other! I tried both but nobody liked my Screwdrivers.” If that gets a laugh or not, Dean doesn't know. Bending over the engine, he sees the problem right away. Looks like Cas is boned.
“Can you see anything?”
“Jesus!” The bang of Dean's head against the raised hood is sharp and loud. “Ow!” Christ, it's like the guy appeared out of nowhere beside him, he didn't even make a sound! Dean scowls and rubs at the top of his head. “Christ, man, wear a bell.”
Castiel has a hand raised towards Dean's head, but it lowers as soon as they make eye contact. “I'm sorry. Anna says I should walk louder. Are you alright?”
“Yeah, yeah, I'll be fine. Your ride's fucked though, sorry.” Dean points with the hand that isn't currently soothing his head. “See there? It's trouble with your fuel injection system.” Castiel has a polite look of incomprehension, like Dean gets when Sam starts talking about old, dead, smart guys. “Fuel injection? It pumps fuel from the tank to the engine. It... this isn't really your thing, is it?”
Castiel has the grace to look a little ashamed. “No, it's not at all my thing. I changed a tire once.” His eyes meet Dean's again, and for a second they sparkle with humor. “It was invigorating.”
“Uh huh.” Dean quirks a smile and slams the hood shut. “I'm sure it was a highlight. You're gonna have to have this towed somewhere. I can give you Bobby's number if you want.” He grabs a pen out of his jacket pocket. “That's my boss at the repair shop, Bobby Singer, he's a good guy. Y'know, reputable.”
“That's very kind, but no thank you. Raphael has been my family's mechanic for many years now. I'll contact him on Monday. Will it be alright if I stay parked here until then?” The car squeaks a little as Cas settles lightly against the hood, arms loosely crossed.
Dean doesn't join him; you don't put your ass on another man's car unless you're explicitly invited. Even if it's a pile of junk. “Should be fine, I'll let Ellen know what's up. She's the owner of the club,” Dean says when Castiel lifts an eyebrow in question.
“Thank you. And thank you for diagnosing the problem for me, you didn't have to take the time.”
“Sure, no problem. Um.” Dean knows he shouldn't ask, knows it will only end in bad places, but his mouth keeps moving and he's not really sorry for it. “Do you want a ride? In my car. Unless somebody else is picking you up.” Castiel is looking surprised again and Dean wonders if no one ever helps the guy out or something.
“Aren't you occupied here? You seemed like you'd just arrived.”
Oh, right. “Eh. I was just gonna do some extra inventory stuff. It'll keep. How far away are you?”
“Half an hour, or so. If that's alright, I'd be glad to take the ride. Thank you.”
It's a fairly quiet drive, over-all, as they head up to a part of town mostly full of university students and rental houses. Dean's been around the area, picking Sam up from all his Sociable College Boy stuff.
They talk, of course, but it's a little awkward and full of uncomfortable silences. Dean keeps getting the feeling that they're both looking at each other when the other is turned away. He puts a tape in early on to distract them. Zeppelin, of course. Always start with Zeppelin, that way you know where a person stands. Castiel's fingers tap in rhythm and Dean warms up to him a little more.
They start with cars.
“You should really have somebody give that thing a tune up, the engine looked pretty sad in general. Hear my baby purr? That's how a car should sound.”
“It's very nice, yes. I wasn't really looking when I got in, what is it?”
“What... oh that hurts me, right down deep. It's a Chevy, dude. 1967 Impala.” Dean lovingly runs his hand over the dashboard until he hears a strange noise beside him. “What?” He's pretty sure Cas just laughed, the way he's staring fixedly out the window with his lips pressed tight.
“I said nothing.”
“Seriously, what? Don't hide from me, I'm tenacious, like a pit bull.”
“Nothing, truly. It's just...” He trails off.
“Yes, I see. It just reminds me of another word, Impala.”
Cas blushes, looking down at his hands. “Ampallang?”
There is silence in the car for a moment. A long moment.
“Did you just call my car a dick piercing? You- That's- I have no words. None.” He hears Cas give another one of those coughing laughs, obviously trying to hold it in. Dean is smirking as he gently pats the steering wheel. “Don't worry sweetheart, I know you're a nice girl.”
After that, they talk jobs.
“So writing, huh? That any fun?”
Castiel looks puzzled for a second. “Oh, you must have been talking to Anna last night. It has its moments. It's not the most lucrative employment, though. I suppose she told you about the other, she seems fascinated with it.”
“Other? Nope. Are you a- you have two jobs, like me?” Fuck, Dean had almost asked if Cas was a 'two-timer' like him.
“Yes.” He seems embarrassed, fingers twining together in his lap. “I read for audio books.”
“Like books on tape?” Huh, different. “Cool, I've had a few of those. Nothin' wrong with that.”
“No, of course. I tend to be taken less seriously, though, when people find out. It's mostly suspense and horror novels that I work with. I'm told I can sound very frightening.”
Dean can believe it, his voice is already low and a little gravely. The sort of voice you can feel down deep in your belly. All whiskey and sex. He wraps his hands around the wheel and squeezes once, hard.
The next topic, fittingly, is the wedding.
“So how'd the envelope-licking go? Or is that still on the way?”
“Still on the way, yes. I'll remember your advice about the water.”
Dean laughs. “Yeah, well. Don't take any of my advice too seriously. I know shit all about weddings.”
“I find I'm getting a crash course in them.” Castiel is watching the tree line move by outside the window, distracted. “I was honestly not aware of how many decisions would need to be made.”
“Not that I've never been called a sexist dick before, but doesn't the wife usually handle that?”
“I think so, yes. But Anna is quite busy with a project as well. She requested my help with the 'legwork', as she called it. It's difficult to refuse her.”
“Ha, I bet. It's the eyes, isn't it? She pulls out the pretty puppy eyes?” Dean winces inwardly, it's never a good idea to call a girl pretty when you're stuck in an enclosed space with her boyfriend.
Castiel does look a little baffled, but seems to let it pass. “She's always known how to get her way with me. With everyone, really, as there seems to be more than enough work to go around.”
“Yeah? What's on your plate?”
“Mm, many things.” He raises a hand, extending a finger for each item. Damn, his fingers are long. “Cake tasting, clothing rental, some pick-ups and deliveries. Much of the reception planning. It's... difficult, within such a short time frame. I don't think Anna is fond of some of the compromises she's had to make.”
Yeah, Dean's sure that brides and compromises are the definition of oil and water. “I bet. Any big problems so far?” Shit, he just keeps asking these minefield questions. Hey guy I can't stop looking at, any troubles in your marriage-to-be? Fuck.
“Nothing insurmountable. Although, there is something I could ask you about.”
Uh oh. “Oh yeah?”
“There was a message before I left this morning. The people who agreed to serve liquor at the reception have canceled. I thought...” He pauses, unsure. “In your profession, I thought you might be able to give me the name of someone who could help me on short notice.”
Yeah, Dean could give him the name of someone alright. Shit shit shit. He needs the money, they always need the money, but God. He should shut up right now, say 'Sorry, can't help you', drop the guy off and never think about it again. About him again.
Course, there's a lot of things he should do.
“Funny enough, me and my brother Sam do party bar-tending on the side. We've, uh, we've never had complaints. You think two people can handle it?”
Castiel is turned to face him, looking intrigued. “I think so, yes. It's a smaller gathering. Your brother is a waiter, too?”
“Nah, he's at the university. Pre-Law. But he's done it plenty over the summers, and whenever we do a job like this. He's good. I can give you some references.”
“Oh, no, I wasn't... I was only curious. Is he going into the law school here? I've heard it's a well-respected one.”
“Yeah, yeah he is, after this year. He's a fuckin' genius, top in some of his classes.” Dean knows he sounds like someone's mom when he talks about Sam, but c'mon, he's going to be a lawyer. “He's gonna blow 'em out of the water.”
Cas' warm smile mirrors Dean's own. “I believe it. We're close, take a left here. I'm four blocks in. Number 1220.”
“Sure.” The drive seems shorter than he thought and Dean can't deny his disappointment.
He takes the turn, glancing at the houses as they pass by. “So you like it around here?”
“I have no objections. It can get noisy in the evenings but I do most of my work, my writing, in the later hours, so it doesn't bother me.”
“What about Anna?”
Cas frowns, considering the question. “Oh. She doesn't live in this neighborhood. There's an apartment she rents closer to the campus. The university gives space to art students for their work so she prefers to be near by in case of sudden inspiration.”
It's a little weird that she doesn't live here with Cas but Dean's not overly surprised. He's known a few artists in his time, some Biblically, and the only trait common to all of them is an almost unhealthy obsession with their work. “Me and Sam checked some places out when we were apartment hunting. We, uh, live together,” he says, answering the questioning look Cas gives him. “It's cheaper. Plus, who knows what kind of shit he'd get up to if he lived on campus, y'know?” There was a point to this little story, Dean's sure of it. “So, expensive places up there, huh?”
“Yes. Inheritances are a mixed blessing, but she can afford a fairly large space. She seems very happy there.”
Which probably means that Cas is the one who gets to pack up and move after the wedding. Odd that he hasn't yet, but then maybe Anna really is the 'good girl' that Dean pegged her as last night and she decided to wait. Probably a good idea on Cas' side, too, considering his parents named him after a friggin' angel. Dean bets they have opinions on living together before marriage.
“I suppose I should get the references you mentioned, though. To reassure Anna,” Cas says, cutting into Dean's thoughts. His eyes are elusive as they flick away from Dean and back again. “Would you like to give me your phone number so I can call you with the details?”
How about that? It's the easiest time he's ever had with a phone number, giving or receiving, and he can't do a good God damn thing with it. “Sure. Here, pass me your phone and I'll put all the details in.”
“I don't have one.” He's digging in a shirt pocket, pulling out a pencil and what looks like a well used notebook. “I'm ready.”
Castiel glances at him, pencil poised above paper. “I don't have a cellular phone. It's... I find it invasive.” His shrug is practiced, like he's had this conversation before.
“Huh. Alright. This one?” Dean nods at the house he's nearing, dark green trim on butter yellow siding. Castiel nods and Dean pulls up along the sidewalk. “Pass it here.” He pulls the notebook from Cas' fingers, which grab for it half a second too late.
The pen he takes from the dashboard scratches dryly as he scrawls his name and number sideways across the page. Filling the available space. He shrugs as he hands it back. “Faster.”
“So I see.” The door thunks as Cas pushes it open. He stops with one foot on the sidewalk outside and seems to pause in contemplation. From this angle, Dean can just see his bottom lip tuck in under his teeth. “Would you... like to come in? I have coffee. Or whatever else you'd prefer. As my thanks.”
He pulls in a deep, centering breath. He could do it; nothing has to happen. He's perfectly capable of a friendly chat with someone he finds attractive. Hell, he's practically here in a professional capacity. But Anna's pretty face flashes through his mind, along with the squeezing hug she'd given her fiancé at the club. And under that, deep under, it's memories of Cassie, and useless apologies.
“No, I'm heading back. Still got work to do.” He looks away from the quick slump of Castiel's shoulder and rubs his thumbs against the wheel.
“Of course.” Cas' voice has that distant touch again and Dean tries not to feel bad about it. He's not the engaged one here. As he lifts himself out of the Impala, Cas bends down again to address Dean. “I appreciate the ride. I'll call you with the details after I've spoken with Anna.”
“Sure, my pleasure. I'll talk to you later, Cas.”
Dean waits until the other man is safely inside the house before he pulls away.
It's dusk when Dean gets home that day, the front door of the apartment inches from closing when he catches it. He can just see Sam through the kitchen doorway, slumped and snoring on the table with his pen dangerously close to a nostril. Dean has a little debate with his inner jerk before he swings the door wide and slams it with enough force to knock a set of keys off the wall.
“Gnufng!” And there goes the pen, skittering across the floor, followed by about a dozen papers and half a bag of candies. “The fuck!” Sam is wide eyed with shock, both hands planted flat to lift himself off the table.
“Hey, Sammy!” Deans shit-eating grin could light up half the town. “I'm home.”
Sam's eyes slide shut, and his whole body slides forward again to lay splayed on the table. “You're such a dick.”
“Watch your mouth, I brought you food.” The brown paper bag is set by Sam's head, the tantalizing scent of something Italian and pasta-y filling the room. “You should be thanking me!”
Sam salutes him with one raised middle finger. “Thank you.”
Dean smirks as he turns away to pull down dishes for them.
The chair catches on the floor as Sam straightens up, twisting his spine in a long stretch. “Ellen keep you late? I figured you'd be back an hour or two ago.”
“Nah.” Dean dumps half a lasagna onto his plate and a whole baked spaghetti with meat sauce on to Sam's. “I got in late. May have got us a job though!”
He explains while they eat together at the table. Dad always made them eat supper together after Mom died. Even when he couldn't be there, he'd made sure they promised to do at least this together as a family.
The conversation seems pretty innocent to him, but afterwards Sam speaks up over the sound of Dean filling the dishwasher. “So. This Cas guy sounds interesting.”
The clinking of glass on plastic pauses. “I guess.” Dean casts a wary glance at his brother, who is leaning against the fridge, one eyebrow raised.
“That why your late?”
“What? No, I-” Dean is standing straight now, spine full of indignation. Okay, so maybe he should expect the person he's spent the past 20-odd years with to be able to read him. But he should also expect the same person to know him. He sighs. “Nothing happened. Nothing's going to happen. Except for a nice check and maybe we buy a new couch. One that's not full of ass grooves.”
“You like the ass grooves.”
“I wasn't accusing you of anything.” Sam's giving him that Sam-look, all brotherly and understanding. “You're just pretty clearly into the guy. It's a bad idea.” God, he hates that look.
It's always been that look, ever since Dean was nineteen and balls deep in some Starbucks waiter named Mark. Sam had been fifteen and fucking mortified when he walked in on that. The little shit was supposed to be at Astronaut Camp or something that day. Once the eye-gouging and screaming (“Augh! God Dean, you promised to use the sock thing if you had somebody in here!”) had passed, Sam had been full of those looks of supportive understanding. He'd even kept trying to have serious discussions about it until Dean held him down fully clothed in the shower and made him promise to never use the word 'rectal' again.
“You think we shouldn't take the job?” Dean knows Sam can hear everything that's under that, the 'you think I can't handle it?' and 'you think we don't need this?'.
“No, that's not-” Sam huffs in exasperation. If he had his brother's mouth, he'd be cursing right now. “Of course we should, it's fine. Just... be careful.”
“Yeah, I'll wear my safety goggles.” The dishes clatter inside as Dean slams the washer shut. “Grab me a beer if you think the fridge can stay up without your support.”
“Dean...” Sam's voice sounds accusing and apologetic at the same time as Dean walks away.
The couch squeaks when he drops himself on to it. He can hear the fridge slam shut in the kitchen and then Sam is sitting down beside him, holding out a beer like a white flag. Acceptable. The TV clicks on, cheers filling the small room.
“Look, hockey. It's better than talking.”
It's hard to tell without looking, but he's pretty sure Sam just flipped him off again. A long gulp of beer hides his smile.
It's Thursday morning, a little less than a week later, when Cas finally calls them about the job.
Dean's filling the dishwasher again, and why the fuck is this always his chore, when the ringing from the living room is cut short. He stops to listen.
“-ean?... Sure, who's calling?... Oh! The wedding, right?.... Yeah, that's me... uh, no, no classes until noon today... yeah, Pre-Law, English major right now. I take it Dean talked about me?... uh, he did? Genius? Reall-”
“Hey Cas.” A hand shoves against Sam's head, keeping him back from the phone Dean just snatched away. “How's it going?”
Sam smacks at his hand, complaining about something (“What the hell is in my hair? Is this ketchup?”), but Dean's not paying much attention. Sam complains about a lot of shit. One more thing won't hurt, so Dean hands him the dirty coffee mug he'd carried out and nods his head towards the kitchen.
Cas is answering, rough voice sounding amused. “Good, thank you. I'm surprised to find anyone home. It was nice to speak with Sam, however briefly.”
Dean laughs. “That's the best way to talk to him. Briefly.” A pillow bounces off his head, thrown by Sam before he leaves. He sets it on an arm of the couch and settles against it, Sam's distant voice (“Oh come on, you didn't rinse any of this.”) barely registering. “Anyway, Bobby's shop is closed on Thursdays, personal reasons and shit. I'd ask but I'm afraid he'd tell me. I go in sometimes still but... uh.” Where the hell did he learn to babble? “What's up?”
“I'd like to know if you're still interested in working at the wedding. I'm sorry I didn't phone earlier; the short notice must be an inconvenience.”
“Nah, it's a weekend deal, right? We are definitely interested, it shouldn't be a problem.”
“Good, I'm glad. Yes, it's planned for a Saturday, two weeks from now. At a local community hall.”
The phone is cradled awkwardly against his shoulder as Dean writes on the nearest bit of paper. Sam can always recopy his notes later if he he needs them pristine.
“Saturday... okay. Address?” Dean scribbles down the answer. “Yeah, that'll work. Y'know, I'm still pretty amazed that a wedding can be pulled off that fast.”
“As will I be. The effort needed seems to be growing exponentially.” Cas sounds tired, resigned frustration leaking through on that last word.
“I bet. Hey, how's your car, though? That looked like an easy fix, at least.”
“I wish it was. Raphael tells me it will be several weeks before he can finish the repairs.”
“Weeks?” Confusion morphs quickly into suspicion. “Dude, no. It's a one-day job, if that. How much is he charging you?”
“One day? But... The bill is for eleven hundred. With labor.”
“Shit!” Dean can't help a snort of shocked laughter. “Fuck, I'm sorry. But I saw the problem. It's just one part you need, a little hose, he should have piles of them. Christ, I could've done it in the parking lot in half an hour if I had one.”
“Oh.” It sounds so subdued, like Dean just told him the Easter Bunny was really just Grandma and Wal-Mart chocolate.
“Yeah. I think your family mechanic is a scamming dick. Sorry. I should've explained the problem better back at the club.”
“No. It's not your responsibility.” Cas' exhausted sigh drags through the phone and Dean feels like shit on behalf of all mechanics everywhere. “I suppose I considered him a family friend. I thought that would be good enough.”
“Look, how about I call Bobby, and we get your car towed over to our garage. This Raphael guy won't give you any trouble if he's really been cheating your family for however long now. Hell, if we send Bobby over there in person you might even get some money back.” Dean's boss, other boss, can really put the fear of God into people. It's the mustache.
The sound of an indrawn breath is all Dean hears as Cas pauses for a moment, considering. “Alright. But I can call Mr. Singer on my own if you'll give me the number.”
“It'll take less explaining if I call him myself. Trust me.” That, and Bobby would probably spend half the time calling Cas a dumb-ass. The guy doesn't deserve that.
“Please, then. When do you think I could have my car back?”
“Mm, Saturday maybe? Don't hold me to that, though, we're pretty busy right now.” He could probably get the rest of the crew to push Cas' car up the list, though; it's a small job. “You need it for something important?”
“Well, need is relative, but I have needed it for about a week now.” Sarcasm, now. The time crunch must really be getting to him. “It's doubly hard to get anything done without a vehicle.”
“Nobody helping you out? Your friends at the club seemed uh, friendly. Mostly.”
Dean shifts on the couch arm and catches Sam standing in the doorway, watching him. He mouths 'What?' at him and gets an incredulous look in reply.
“Somewhat, yes. They're busy too, of course. But I'm meeting some very interesting people on the bus.”
“Ha. Interesting defined as deeply dist-” There's a ripped piece of paper waving in his face, attached to Sam's hand, which is attached to Sam's arm, which is attached to Sam's bitch-face. The paper reads 'ENGAGED' in big block letters. “-turbing?”
Dean grabs for the paper but misses, so he doesn't catch the first part of Cas' words. “-ed Ethan who likes prolonged hugging and telling strangers about his flashlight collection. You wouldn't define that as interesting?”
“I'd define that as 'take a cab from now on'. So, uh...” If this were a regular business-buddy conversation, now would be the time when the awkward goodbyes start happening. “So what's next on your list?”
“I have an appointment today to try cake flavors at a place called 'Tart'. I'd assumed it was a question of choosing between chocolate and vanilla, but apparently it's more involved.”
“I know that place! Downtown, right? They do these awesome little cream-filled cinnamon things, they're so fucking good, like if sex was a pastry.” Dean breaks off as he grabs for the paper that's flapping in his face again. It still reads 'ENGAGED' but now 'TO BE MARRIED' has been added underneath. “You gotta try one.” He walks to the kitchen, going the long way around to avoid his brother's silent frame.
“I- I will. Definitely.”
“Cool. Look, I'm heading downtown sometime to get groceries.” Sam, the nosy bastard, followed him and is standing in the door again, face stormy. Dean ignores him. “I could give you a lift, it's not really out of the way.”
“Really? That is, yes. I'd like that. It's at two, will that work for you?”
“Sure, two works.” The fucking paper is back again, crinkling in Sam's grip. Now it reads 'ENGAGED, TO BE MARRIED, AT A WEDDING'. Dean's ready this time, though, and rips most of it away from his brother. It crumples satisfyingly in his fist. “I'll pick you up at half past one.”
“I'll be waiting. Goodbye, Dean”
“Yeah, see you then.”
The phone clicks in his ear and he hands it over to Sam. May as well got this over with.
“Gonna give him a lift to a cake tasting thing. You need anything from the store?”
“Jesus, Dean, are you kidding? You haven't gone grocery shopping since we moved in.” The phone slams down on the counter. Hopefully Sam will remember to hang it up before it runs out of juice.
“Well, we're out of milk! And bacon. And you only buy cookies with raisins in them so maybe I thought I should start.”
Sam stops to take a composing breath.“It's practically a date.”
“It is so not! It's a ride for Christ sake. Afavor.” It's hard to avoid Sam's earnest gaze, but Dean's had a lot of practice.
“You're going to go eat cake with him, Dean. That's like foreplay to you.”
“No it's- shut up. I'm not, anyway. I'm just dropping him off. And maybe picking us up some dessert, you ungrateful bastard.”
Sam's arms are raised in surrender. “Alright, fine.” He opens his mouth to say more, but nothing comes out.
Dean drops his eyes again, watching his own fingers smooth the crumpled paper in his hand. “You know I'm not gonna let anything happen.”
“Yeah.” Sam's voice is quiet. “I know. That's not...” When he doesn't go on, Dean looks up, waiting. They catch eyes and Sam shrugs uncomfortably before reaching past him to grab something off the fridge. “Here.” Oh, grocery list. Right.
“...Thanks.” Dean cocks a thumb over his shoulder while he scans the list. “I'm gonna go get ready. Oh and gross, I am not buying asparagus.”