Fanfic: Supernatural- We Became Fans of Collisions (1/4)
Characters/Pairings: Dean/Castiel, appearances by Sam, minor characters
Word Count: 6622 this part, 25K+ overall
Summary: Dean is the owner of a bookstore and one day, he gets a new customer.
Prompt: Written for the deancastiel AU/Fusion Challenge AU Prompt #18: Dean is the owner of a bookstore that stores all kinds of rare/weird lit. Cas is his best customer, because he comes in practically every week and buys almost as much as he browses. He is secretly lonely as well as very quiet and socially awkward and Dean notices this. Dean is kind of a lonely guy himself, although his lawyer brother likes to visit frequently, and slowly Dean falls in love with Cas.
Author's Note: This is by far the longest thing I've ever written. Hell, this chapter alone is longer than the longest thing I had written previously. But this prompt just inspired me and I worked really hard and I'm proud of what I came up with, so thank you to whoever came up with the prompt. Also, the title is from a line in Breakfast of Champions by Kurt Vonnegut.
It’s not the kind of bookstore into which people just casually walk. There are no Twilight displays in the front window, no shelves of romance novels with half-naked men saving scantily clad women on the covers. Instead the shop, Unturned Pages, stocks rarities, the kind of books one can’t find anywhere else. Sure, there’re some popular novels on the shelves, but much of the stock is obscure and unique. The walls are coated with a faint layer of dust, though the books are clean and crisp. Most of the customers who do enter are regulars, coming every day or week or month to pick up the latest in a series of cult novels or a classic first edition that the owner manages to procure for them. On many occasions, there’s not even one customer in the store.
That’s the way Dean Winchester likes it. When he opens the store each morning, he drinks a cup of coffee and enjoys the stillness of the empty store. It’s never quiet—he always has a stereo on, playing Led Zeppelin or AC/DC or some other classic rock music that sounds totally out of place in the bookshop—but it’s always peaceful. Around noon, the first of his regular customers usually comes in. Ed and Harry work at a video rental store down the street, and every few days they visit the bookstore on their lunch break to sort through the boxes of cult science fiction books and obscure technology magazines that Dean bought from a local comic book store when it went out of business.
This is how it always goes. The customers come in and their faces become as familiar to Dean as his own face does to them. Dean doesn’t have many friends, but he likes his customers and they like him too; they often have conversations about books and other things while standing in the bookshop, soft light filtering in through the curtained windows and the stereo playing in the background. And Dean always knows exactly what they’re looking for. Sure, Dean has the occasional one-time customer, like the girl who once called the store at nearly ten o’clock at night, just as he was locking up, looking for a particular book about the Occult. Dean ordered it for her and she came in a few days later, all blonde curls and cynical eye-rolls, to pick it up. She hadn’t come back again, and Dean is okay with that.
But mostly, it is the regulars. Every Tuesday at three in the afternoon, after the elementary school gets out for the day, Andrea Barr stops by with her son Lucas. Dean doesn’t usually stock comic books, but he always makes sure to get the latest Spiderman, because they’re Lucas’s favorites. On Saturdays, the Reverend Le Grange visits, sometimes to pick up a specific book on faith-healing or some other obscure religious mumbo jumbo that he’s ordered, sometimes just to browse the section of the store Dean has marked “inspirational literature” (occasionally, when Dean is drunk, he’ll move all the back issues of Penthouse he has in the storage room into this section, which has led to an occasional embarrassing moment on some hung-over Saturdays).
Sometimes Bobby Singer, an old friend of Dean’s father, comes in and buys a few books, but Dean knows it’s mostly because Bobby thinks Dean needs the money. This isn’t true, of course; with the rare books Dean deals in occasionally, and the shipments for regulars, he makes enough to live comfortably. And anyway, Sam would always help him if he needed it—not that Dean would ever ask, but Sam had a way of figuring things out.
Sam Winchester. Dean’s younger brother and his best friend. He’s only twenty-seven, but he’s already a moderately successful lawyer at a firm that hired him directly out of law school. They don’t see each other much, Dean being in New York and Sam in California, but Dean talks to Sam and Sam’s fiancée Jessica at least twice a week.
One Wednesday evening, Dean is just finishing up with a customer—Diana Ballard, who comes in every once in a while to pick up the latest in a series of crime novels written by a local author—when his cell phone rings, the tone playing “Fire of Unknown Origin.” Dean grabs the phone, flipping it open. Smiling, Diana takes her change and waves as she leaves, not saying goodbye because she’s been in the bookstore enough times to know that it must be Sam on the line and that Dean probably can’t wait to talk to him.
“Hey, Sammy!” Dean says.
“Dean!” a voice that is definitely not Sam’s squeals.
“Oh, hi Jess,” Dean says, grinning.
“Dean,” Jess says with mock seriousness. “Tell your brother that we definitely need flowers at the wedding.” There is a shuffling noise as she hands over the phone.
“I hear you don’t want flowers,” Dean says, chuckling.
“It’s in the spring!” Sam says. “Won’t there be enough flowers?”
“What can I say, Sammy? The girl wants her dream wedding,” Dean responds. Sam laughs loudly. Dean can picture him, his head thrown back, broad shoulders shaking as he guffaws.
“I already placed an order for pink roses and white hyacinths,” Sam says conspiratorially. Dean hears a happy giggle from Jess somewhere in the background and then a kissing noise.
“Oh, get a room,” Dean jokes. His brother laughs again.
“So how are you, Dean?” Sam asks.
“Good,” Dean says, “I’m good. I’m—hang on.” The door to the bookstore opens. It isn’t a door like many bookshop doors; there’s no stupid bell that rings and generally annoys the hell out of all customers and the owner himself, but Dean is used to the faint squeak the hinges make and he always knows when someone’s coming in.
The man who walks in isn’t one of Dean’s regulars. In fact, Dean has never seen him before, which is a little odd in a town of less than a thousand people, even for someone who isn’t particularly social. He looks to be about Dean’s age, maybe a year or two older or younger. He’s a little shorter than Dean, and a little thinner, and there’s an almost fragile look to him, though he doesn’t look weak. He’s slightly disheveled; his dark hair is tousled and the knot in his tie is loose. He looks at the ground as he walks in, then looks up quickly and Dean catches a flash of blue, blue eyes. Then the man heads toward the corner of the store to browse through the history books.
“Dean?” Sam says. “Hey, Dean?”
“Yeah, Sammy,” Dean says, looking away from the man.
“Did you hear anything I just said?”
“Nope,” Dean admits.
“I was just saying,” Sam says, and Dean knows he’s making what Dean calls Sam’s ‘bitchface’ “A friend of mine has been looking for a certain book, and he can’t find it anywhere. Do you think you might be able to—?”
“Yeah, sure,” Dean says. “Give me the info and I’ll hunt it down. Wait, I need to get a pen.” He looks at the counter, feeling around the darkness of the shelf under the cash register. “There’s probably one in the back room.” He opens a door behind the counter, heading into the storage room, where he finds a piece of paper and a pen. He takes down the title and author of the volume and promises to look it up.
Afterwards, they talk for a while, discussing Sam and Jessica’s wedding plans and Jess’s teaching job at a local elementary school until about fifteen minutes later Dean remembers his customer. “Shit,” he mutters in the middle of Sam’s story about one of Jess’s students. He hurries back to the front room, but the man is nowhere to be seen.
Then Dean notices something on the counter. He walks over to look and sees a small pile of bills and coins, with a piece of paper resting on top. In small, neat handwriting on the piece of paper is written “ISBN 0300111401.” Dean types the number into his computer and discovers that is the ISBN of a book published by the Metropolitan Museum of Art about the Renaissance painter Fra Angelico. It’s not one of the more rare books Unturned Pages had in stock, except in that Dean doesn’t carry many art history books; there’s never been much interest in them from his customers. Until now, apparently. He counts the cash left with the number and finds that it exactly matches the price of the book plus sales tax.
Dean feels a little bad that he wasn’t there to help his customer, but he can’t help but smile at the idea of the man painstakingly counting out the payment to the exact penny.
“Dude?” Sam’s voice comes from somewhere by his hip and Dean realizes he has let his hand—holding the phone—drop from his ear.
“Hey, sorry man,” Dean says.
“Listen, Jess and I are going out to dinner, so I’ll talk to you later,” Sam tells him.
“Ok,” Dean replies distractedly, hanging up the phone. He’s still thinking about the man who came into his bookstore. There isn’t a bell on the door, but the store does have that other ubiquitous bell, the one on the counter with a small sign reading ‘Please Ring for Assistance.’ It’s generally unused in Unturned Pages, as Dean is rarely out of sight when a customer is around, but it is there in case it’s needed. Dean wonders why the man didn’t bother to ring it.
He’s not expecting any more of his regular customers, and he’s pretty sure he’s not going to get two chance visitors in one day, so Dean balances the register and shuts off the light. Then he turns the light back on, walks to the storage room and grabs two books, and then turns the light off again.
Dean leaves the bookshop and locks it, then looks out across the parking lot the store shares with a dentist’s office and a pizza parlor. “Hi, baby,” he mutters. He walks to the black Chevy Impala parked in front of his bookstore and runs a hand along the door. He unlocks it and gets inside. Then he drives a few blocks and parks outside the town’s only bar.
“Hi, Ellen,” Dean says, walking in. The bar isn’t crowded, and the bartender looks up from the counter she’s scrubbing with a rag when Dean speaks.
“Hello, Dean,” Ellen replies. “What can I get ya?”
“Whisky?” Dean asks. “Oh, but first,” Dean holds up the books he brought into the building, “Jo around?”
“Studying,” Ellen says, pointing toward a table in the back corner of the bar. Dean walks over to where the girl is hunched over a pile of textbooks.
“Economics,” Dean says, swinging a chair around to the table and sitting down.
“Economics suck,” Jo responds, “I have an exam tomorrow. I think I’m just going to write ‘Milton Friedman can bite me and leave it at that.”
“I brought you something,” Dean says. He hands her a book. She takes it, looks at the cover, and throws it back at him. The half-naked man saving a scantily clad woman hits Dean squarely in the chest.
“Very funny,” Jo says, rolling her eyes.
“I thought so,” Dean says, grinning. Jo smiles back and he hands her the other book.
“No way,” Jo says, eyes wide. “No freaking way.” Dean shrugs. “Dean, this doesn’t even come out for three more weeks.”
Dean shrugs again. “This is a review copy. That means it’s not supposed to be in anyone’s hands but the reviewer. Not mine, definitely not yours. I had to call in a favor with a guy who knows a guy. So keep it quiet, okay?” Jo nods. “Anyway, I don’t see what’s so thrilling about these books. Brothers hunting ghosts? Seriously?”
“They’re great, Dean, shut up,” Jo says, already thumbing through the novel. “And it’s not just ghosts. They drive around the country and hunt all sorts of things.”
“They drive?” Dean asks. “I mean, I’m not a big fan of flying myself, but I think if I had to go on a never-ending road trip with Sammy, we’d probably kill each other.”
“Whatever,” Jo says, smiling, “Thanks, Dean.”
“No problem,” Dean responds. “I’ll let you get back to your work.” He walks back to the bar where Ellen has a small glass of whisky waiting for him.
“You couldn’t have waited until after her exam, Dean?” Ellen asks.
“She’s a smart girl,” Dean responds, grinning. “She’ll keep studying.” They both look over to the table where Jo is poring over her textbook. Then she opens the novel, casts a furtive glance up at her mother, and shuts it again. Dean chuckles. He drinks a sip of the whisky and lets it burn smoothly down his throat. He talks to Ellen for a long time, but eventually he looks up at the clock and sees that it is past midnight. “I should get going,” he says, waving to Jo as she looks up again, the book not so hidden in her lap. “I didn’t mean to spend three hours here; I’ve got a shipment coming in early tomorrow.”
He heads back to his car and drives back to the bookstore. Going up a back stairway, he enters the apartment above it. It’s sparse and undecorated, but Dean doesn’t mind. Usually by the time he returns to the upstairs rooms, he’s too tired to care. Sometimes he considers making it look a bit nicer, in case he ever has visitors, but it’s been so long since anyone has been in the apartment other than Sam, and even Sam’s been too busy to come out from California lately. Dean’s not really one for relationships, and his occasional one night stand is usually quite happy to let him come back to her (or his) house or apartment.
Dean strips off his shirt and pants, falling into bed in just his boxers, and is asleep almost immediately.
The next morning, Dean is up at the crack of dawn, sorting through his latest shipment of books, grumbling and bleary-eyed until one of his regulars brings him a travel mug full of coffee on her way to work at the dentist’s office. For the rest of the day, Dean is so busy organizing the boxes of novels and texts and delivering orders made by customers that the stranger who came into Unturned Pages the evening before doesn’t even cross his mind.
In fact, Dean doesn’t think of him again until the next Wednesday evening. It’s the last day of the month and he’s doing inventory, but the bookstore’s small enough and the customers infrequent enough that he doesn’t bother to close shop for inventory days. Dean is busy checking off items on his inventory list in the midst of the “cultures and ethics” section stock spread out all over the floor when the door opens. He looks up, and there’s the man from the week before.
Determined to prove himself a better salesman than the week before would have indicated, Dean smiles and says, “Hi there. If you need anything, just let me know.” The man is looking at the floor, as he did the first time he entered the store, and when Dean speaks, he looks up. His eyes are big and startlingly blue. He doesn’t respond, but he curls his fingers nervously into the fabric of his trench coat and nods.
Dean goes back to organizing stock as the man heads for the corner of the store, to the history books he must’ve been looking at the week before. Dean looks over at him every once in a while, but the man is just leafing through various books, always putting them back neatly and not seeming to be looking for anything in particular.
Dean carries a box of books into the storage room, and when he returns to the front of the store, the man is standing at the counter. “Can I help you?” Dean asks. The man opens his mouth to speak when suddenly the door bangs open behind him.
“Hold that thought,” Dean tells him as a man barrels in with a large cardboard box. “Hey Andy,” he calls.
“What’s up, dude?” Andrew Gallagher says, raising the lid of the box. Steam wafts out of it along with the scent of baked cheese and pepperoni. “This got sent back,” he tells Dean, holding out the box. “Want it?”
“Hell yes,” Dean says, taking the pizza. “Thanks, man.”
“No problem,” Andy says. He looks over at the other man in the store and nods in greeting, then turns back to Dean and says, “See you later.” He leaves, shutting the door behind him.
“There’s a pizza place next door,” Dean explains as he grabs a slice of the pie. “They give me the orders people send back. Usually it’s for some stupid reason like too much cheese on their extra cheese pizza,” he says, rolling his eyes. “Andy can usually convince the people that they want the pizza anyway, he’s really persuasive, but sometimes they just won’t budge. Want a piece?” He asks, gesturing at the pizza. The man takes one hesitantly, and Dean reaches under the counter and grabs two paper plates, handing one to the guy and putting his own slice on one. “So, what was it you were going to say before we were interrupted by food?”
The man looks slightly flustered. “I was—I was just looking for—do you have any books on historical architecture?” It’s the first time Dean’s heard the guy’s voice, a deep and gravelly tone that seems a little out of place with his slim frame and clear blue eyes. “I can’t make my class believe that there’s a difference between Saint-Sernin and Saint-Étienne.”
Dean doesn’t even know who or what Saint-Sernin and Saint- Étienne are, but he nods as though he knows exactly what the man is talking about. “You’re a teacher?” he asks.
“Yes,” the man answers. “Art history, at the high school.”
“Cool. Well, look, if you can’t find what you’re looking for over there,” Dean says, waving a hand toward the history books in the corner, “you can check the art section on the other side of the shelves, and if it’s not there, I probably don’t have it. The storage room,” he jerks a thumb behind him in the direction of the tiny back room, “isn’t very big, so I don’t stock up on anything I’m not sure will sell. But,” he continues. “If you tell me what you’re looking for, I can definitely order it for you.”
“Thank you,” the man replies.
“I’m Dean, by the way,” Dean says, wiping his pizza-greasy hand on his jeans before offering it to the man, who shakes it.
“Cas,” the man responds.
“Hello, Dean.” Dean grins. The man—Cas, walks over to the section with the art books and looks through them quickly. He looks back at Dean, who raises his eyebrows, and Cas shakes his head.
Dean shrugs his shoulders. “Sorry. Well then, if you know what you want,” he says, “I can get it for you.”
“I’d have to look up titles,” Cas answers.
“Tell you what,” Dean says, grabbing a pen and a piece of paper. “Here’s my number,” he says as he writes it down on the sheet. “Look them up, and give me a call when you know. I’ll order them, and unless they’re a real bitch to find, I can probably have them for you by next week.”
Cas stares at him for a moment too long before he nods slowly and thanks Dean.
“Sure,” Dean says, smiling.
“I should go.” Cas turns to leave the store, and Dean watches him go. Then he looks down at the half-eaten pizza and the stacks of books still scattered around the store and he sighs, returning to his work.
Dean’s phone rings around eleven the next day. He doesn’t recognize the number, but when he answers it, he recognizes the rough voice on the other end of the line. “Shouldn’t you be in school?” he asks, grinning.
“I have a preparation period at the moment,” Cas responds.
“Got the book titles?” Dean asks. Cas lists them. When he finishes Dean says “Awesome. I’ll see what I can—“ His call waiting beeps. Quickly checking the screen, Dean says, “Hey, Cas, listen, it’s my brother. I’ll let you know if I find the books.” Before Cas can answer, Dean has switched the call over to Sam. “Hey, Sammy.”
“Do you always have to greet me with ‘Hey Sammy’?” Sam asks.
“Yeah,” Dean answers.
“Were you on the phone just now?” Sam questions.
“Yeah,” Dean says again.
“You finally getting socialized?” Sam asks, and Dean can hear the grin in his voice.
“Shut up, Sammy,” Dean growls.
“Our little boy, all grown up and making friends,” Sam says.
“Did you have a point or were you just calling to interrupt my phone call?” Dean asks.
“Who were you talking to?” Sam asks.
“Just some guy,” Dean responds.
“Oh?” Sam says, sounding interested. “Like some guy? Or like some guy?” he asks, putting emphasis on the last two words.
“A—a customer,” Dean says.
Sam catches the hesitation in his voice. “Yeah? Just a customer?”
“Yes,” Dean answers. “Just a customer. Dude came in here yesterday looking for some books and I didn’t have them but I said I’d order them if he gave me titles, so that’s why he was calling. Why do you care anyway?”
“’Cause you’re my brother, Dean,” Sam says. “’Cause when was the last time you even went out with someone, girl or guy? ‘Cause you used to drag me to bars trying to get me laid by random chicks. Maybe I’d like to return the favor, but we’re a little far apart for me to take you out drinking.”
“Ellen’s is the only bar in town anyway,” Dean grumbles. Then he laughs. “Really, Sam, I’m okay. And this guy, Cas, he’s a customer. I only met the dude yesterday, anyway.” Which isn’t strictly true, but Dean’s not about to tell Sam about Cas coming in the week before, not when Sam is probably already planning their Massachusetts elopement or something equally stupid.
“Okay,” Sam says, sounding only somewhat convinced, but Dean ignores his tone. “Anyway, I was just calling to see if you could fly out sometime soon? I mean, I know you’re busy with work and you’re going to be out again in a couple of months for the wedding, but things are getting sort of crazy here with all the planning and Jess has dress fittings and appointments to look at flower arrangements and place settings and stuff filling up the calendar and... I just could really use some bro-time.”
“Promise me you’ll never use the term ‘bro-time’ again and you’ve got a deal,” Dean says.
“Promise,” Sam laughs. “Let me know when is a good time for you and I’ll book you a flight.”
“I can buy my own plane ticket,” Dean protests.
“Not a chance,” Sam says.
“Sam, you’re paying for a wedding. You realize that, right? You don’t need to make me your charity case,” Dean tells him.
“I’m sure you can find something to do with the extra cash,” Sam says. Then he laughs again. “Buy some books for your new friend Cas,” he says, and hangs up before Dean can come up with a response. Dean rolls his eyes and shuts the phone. Then he opens it again, looking up the number of one of the companies he generally deals with, and sets to work finding Cas’s books.
The books arrive at Unturned Pages on Tuesday of the next week. Dean debates calling Cas, scrolling through the ‘Received Calls’ list on his cell phone until he reaches the man’s number, but in the end he decides just to wait, assuming that Cas will come in on Wednesday as he has the past two weeks, and that he can pick up his books then.
Sure enough, Cas shows up at the store around 6:15 the next evening. Dean’s mouth is full of hamburger, so he holds up a hand and looks away until he can chew and swallow. “Hey, Cas,” he says then.
“I have your, uh, hang on,” Dean says. He grabs the pile of books from behind the counter and starts ringing them up. Cas pays and then Dean asks him, “So, do high school kids actually get into this stuff? I was looking through them last night and to be honest, these churches do all sort of look the same to me.”
Cas shrugs slightly. “Not all of them do. It’s an advanced placement class, but still... some people treat it as a joke. But other students seem to enjoy it. As for the art itself, well, it’s easier to appreciate, I think, once you learn more about it. Like—“ he reaches to open one of the books. The two men are standing at the edge of the counter and Cas shifts until he and Dean are on the same side, facing the book. Their shoulders brush against each other and Dean thinks vaguely that this guy clearly has no understanding of other people’s personal space. “Alright,” Cas says, turning to a page. His voice is louder and more confident than it was a moment ago.
Teacher-voice, Dean thinks, hiding a grin.
“Look at this,” Cas says, pointing at an image in a book titled Tradition and Emotion: Italy in the 15th Century. “And this,” he continues, pointing at another image. Dean looks. The images are two squares with some sort of bronze sculpture on them. They look pretty much the same to Dean. “Frequently during this time period, people who were building chapels or other buildings would have contests for artists to compete to see whose sculptures or designs would be used.” Dean feigns interest and nods. “These are two of the entries for the doors of a baptistery in Florence. This one,” Cas points, “is by Fillipo Brunelleschi, and this one,” he points again, “is the winner, by Lorenzo Ghiberti.”
Dean examines the two pictures. “Why’s this kid getting stabbed in the neck?” he asks.
“It’s the sacrifice of Isaac,” Cas says quietly. “God commands Abraham to sacrifice his son to prove his loyalty—“
“That’s a dick move,” Dean interrupts. Cas looks at him with wide, clear eyes. “Sorry,” Dean mutters, “I’m not real big on the whole religion thing.”
“But at the last minute, God stops Abraham and sends him a ram to sacrifice instead,” Cas finishes.
Dean looks at the images again. “So wait, this one is the one that won?” Cas nods. Dean examines the two pictures. “The other one is better,” he decides.
The corners of Cas’s mouth twitch as though he’s about to smile. “I think so too,” he admits. “Though I must say that Ghiberti’s work is still beautiful in person.”
“You’ve been there?” Dean asks and Cas nods. “Cool.” Dean’s not sure where to go from there, so he says, “I’ve never left the country.”
“Europe is wonderful,” Cas says. “The art is amazing.”
“I’ve been to a couple of art museums here,” Dean says. “Well, not, here. In Kansas; that’s where I grew up. On field trips and stuff, you know?”
“You grew up in Kansas,” Cas repeats.
“Yeah,” Dean says. “Lived there until about five years ago.”
“Why did you move?” Cas asks.
Dean shrugs. “I used to be in the family business. My dad was a mechanic. Owned an auto shop. I worked there summers and when I graduated high school… I don’t know, part time just became full time and I never got out of it.”
“What happened?” Cas asks. “How did you end up here?”
“He died a couple years back,” Dean says quietly, “And I realized it wasn’t really what I wanted to do.”
“I’m sorry about your father,” Cas says softly. “I haven’t—“ he stops himself and blinks, thinking. “So what you wanted to do was own a bookstore? Why?”
Dean shrugs again. “I dunno,” he admits. “I never read much when I was a kid. But Sam—my kid brother—sent me some books he liked while he was away at college—he went to school out in California, that’s where he is now, working—and... I don’t know, it just sort of went from there. I read all the time now. And then when I was looking for some place to go, Bobby—one of my dad’s old friends, he lives in town—told me about this bookstore for sale and I had some money saved up and…” he trails off, realizing that he’s just about told his entire life story to a near-stranger. An abbreviated version, but still. There is something about Cas that makes Dean feel as though he can trust the man, but he’s not a fan of sharing personal information under any circumstances, so it still freaks him out a little that he volunteered so much with so little prompting.
He looks over at Cas to see the man’s reaction, but Cas is still just looking at him intently, blue eyes focused on Dean’s green ones. “So what about you?” Dean asks. “What’s your story?” Because if they’re going to have some sort of weird sharing time leaning over the art history book, they might as well share equally.
Cas furrows his brows. “I don’t know,” he says. “I moved around a lot when I was a kid. Went to college, became a teacher. Moved here. Not very interesting.”
“How about your family?”
“I don’t speak to them,” Cas says in a way that makes Dean really want to ask further questions but that also makes him sure he won’t receive any answers.
“Hmm?” Cas mumbles distractedly, thumbing through one of the other books.
“Do you have a girlfriend?”
“What? Oh, no. No,” Cas answers. Dean almost asks him if he has a boyfriend, but Cas looks so uncomfortable already he doesn’t want to press the questioning any further.
Dean doesn’t really know where he’s going with it either. It’s not as if he cares; it’s not as if he likes the guy. Which is totally a lie and Dean knows it—he just spent twenty minutes being lectured on old religious art, and he doesn’t do that for just anyone. Actually, he doesn’t do that for anyone, period. Except Sam, but that’s… Sam. Dean remembers when Sam took an art history class in college and loved it and every time Dean called him he’d have to listen to endless commentaries on Monet and Manet and a bunch of other names that all sounded exactly the same but apparently were very, very different, Dean… Dean? Are you listening? Regardless, he’s not in the mood to start crushing on some guy he barely knows because, well, he’s not in middle school. Also he’s never going to use the word “crushing” in that context ever, ever again.
“I should get going,” Cas says, interrupting Dean’s train of thought. “I have twenty-two tests to grade by tomorrow.”
“Oh,” Dean says, “Yeah.”
“Thank you very much for ordering these,” Cas says, picking up the small stack of books.
“No problem,” Dean replies. “I’ll uh, I guess I’ll see you around.”
“Goodbye, Dean,” Cas says. He leaves before Dean can say anything in return.
Dean turns to open the door to the back room when he hears the front door open again. He whips back around, half-hoping that it’s Cas coming back, but instead sees a woman walk in with her daughter.
“Hi, Dean,” she says.
“Hi, Susan,” Dean responds. “Hey Tyler.”
“Hi!” the girl says.
“You looking for something?” he asks.
“Just browsing,” Susan answers. “Hey, was that Castiel Milton leaving here as we walked in?”
“You know him?” Dean asks, taking mental note that ‘Cas’ is a nickname for the odd-sounding ‘Castiel.’
“I’m his landlord,” she replies. “Manage a couple of houses and apartments and he lives in one of them. He’s a nice man. Keeps to himself. Doesn’t have loud sex or violent fights with his girlfriend in the middle of the night like some of my tenants,” she says, in a way that tells Dean she’s talking about one in particular, and Dean knows which one.
“Still?” he asks.
She rolls her eyes. “Still. I’m going to evict him soon if he doesn’t stop. I should’ve evicted him already.”
“So, um, Castiel,” Dean says, trying to sound nonchalant, “Cas. What do you know about him?”
“Not much,” Susan shrugs. “Like I said, he keeps to himself. Why?” she asks.
“He’s come in here a couple of times,” Dean replies. “I can’t figure him out. Weird personality, or something.”
“Like he doesn’t belong, but in a different way than all the rest of us don’t belong,” Susan says.
Dean considers this for a moment. “Yeah,” he says, “That’s kinda it.”
“I know what you mean,” she responds. “Still, as long as he’s not acting like some people, he can be as out-there as he wants.” She grins. Tyler returns to her side. “Find anything, sweetie?” she asks.
“Not today,” the girl responds.
“Well, we should be going,” Susan tells Dean. “Tyler just finished her ballet lesson and we were on our way home. It was nice talking to you though,” she says.
“Yeah, you too,” Dean answers. Susan and Tyler leave the store. Dean calls Sam. “Hey, Sammy,” he says when he hears the phone being answered.
“Hi Dean,” says Jess. “Sam’s sleeping.”
“Isn’t it like 4:30 out there? Why’s he even home from work?” Dean asks.
“Because he went in around 5:15 this morning,” Jess groans. “He’s been doing that a lot lately. He’s been so stressed out. His boss gave him a pretty big client, so it’s his big break or whatever.”
“Oh, well,” Dean says, “I can call him back later.”
“Wait,” Jess says. “I haven’t talked to you in ages, Dean. How are you?” She sounds concerned.
“Fine, Jess,” Dean replies. “How’re you?”
“Great!” she says. “Are you sure you’re fine? Sam’s worried about you.”
“What?” Dean asks. “Why?”
“He said something about a gu—“
“Son of a bitch,” Dean mutters. “Look, tell Sammy—“
“Oh, wait, he’s awake; tell him yourself,” Jess laughs.
“Did you tell her to say that?” Dean demands, when he hears the phone change hands.
“No ‘Hey Sammy’?” Sam asks, sounding groggy.
“I already used it on Jess, sorry,” Dean says, laughing. “Now, answer?”
“Dude, I just woke up and she shoved the phone in my face. I didn’t tell her to say anything. Say what, anyway?”
“Nothing,” Dean says.
“How’s your boyfriend?” Sam asks.
“I don’t know who you’re talking about,” Dean says, knowing damn well who Sam’s talking about.
“That Cas guy.”
“Yeah, the one you have the hots for,” Sam says. Dean can hear Jessica laugh in the background.
“You’re such a jerk, Sammy,” Dean grumbles.
“And you’re such a bitch,” Sam replies happily. “But seriously, is that going to be a thing?”
“You being a jerk?”
“Funny, Dean,” Sam answers. “Look, I just want you to be happy.”
“Yeah, I know,” Dean says, “and that’s precious and all, but lay off, okay?”
“Fine,” Sam agrees. “Changing the subject. When are you coming out?”
“The hell are you talking about?” Dean asks, genuinely confused. “You just spend five minutes grilling me about some dude I may or may not have a thing for and you—“
“Out to California,” Sam clarifies. “So you may have a thing for him?” he asks.
“I don’t know, a month or so, I guess. It’s usually busy around here this time of year.” Dean ignores Sam’s second question.
“Okay. Just let me know, alright?”
“Unless you’re going to shut up and let me buy my own plane ticket, I’m going to have to, aren’t I?” Dean asks.
“Good point,” Sam answers. “Hey, so Jess wants to say something, and I’m going back to sleep. I’ll talk to you tomorrow or Friday.”
“Sure,” Dean says, and Sam passes the phone. Dean hears a thud, which he assumes is Sam flopping back down on his bed before Jessica is on the line again.
“If you like this guy,” Jess says seriously as Dean groans, “You should do something about it.”
“You two are going to make the world’s most overbearing parents some day,” Dean tells her. “And tell my baby brother to stop laughing,” he says, hearing the noise in the background.
“Bye, Dean,” Jess says.
“See you, Jess,” he replies, and she hangs up.
When Cas comes in to Unturned Pages the next Wednesday, Dean does exactly nothing about it. Nothing like Jess meant, anyway.
“Hi, Cas,” Dean says when the man enters, wearing the tan trench coat he always wears, and a suit that is in a state of slight disarray, as usual.
“Good evening, Dean,” Cas responds in that odd, formal way of his that Dean doesn’t think he’s ever heard another person use. “How are you?”
“Good,” Dean says, “I’m good. You?”
“So, do your students like the books?” Dean asks.
Cas shrugs. “Some of them do.”
“Well, you can’t win them all,” Dean says. “Hey, I was just about to grab a beer from upstairs. Do you want one?”
“Um,” Cas says. “Alright.”
“I’ll be right back.” Dean walks to the back of the bookstore and through the door leading to the staircase that goes up to his apartment. Upstairs, he grabs a six-pack of beer and brings it back down into the shop. “Here,” he says, handing a bottle to Cas.
“Do you live above this store?” Cas asks.
“Yeah. I’ve got an apartment up there. It’s not much but,” Dean spreads his arms, palms up, and shrugs his shoulders, “What can I say? I’m a man of few needs.” He chuckles and Cas smiles nervously. It’s the first time Dean sees him smile, a small, close-mouthed curve of his lips that softens his expression. Dean smiles back, and the other man’s face seems to light up in a way that sends an unexpected jolt of heat through Dean’s body.
Dean walks around to the other side of the counter, where Cas stands and leans against the wood as he flips the cap off his beer bottle. Cas opens his drink as well, standing still a foot or so away from Dean. They drink in silence. Cas mostly looks at the ground, occasionally looking up at Dean. Dean looks around the store, trying not to focus his attention on the man, because it’s actually embarrassing how much that tiny smile of Cas’s affected Dean.
When they’ve both finished their drinks, Dean offers Cas another beer. “No, thank you,” Cas says. “I ought to be leaving. Goodnight, Dean.”
“’night, Cas,” Dean responds. He watches the man walk out before getting himself another beer. It’s only later, when he’s lying in bed staring at the ceiling, that he realizes that Cas didn’t even look at any books, just spent his evening hanging out with Dean. This realization coupled by the sudden memory of the man’s smile sends through Dean another jolt of the same pleasurable warmth he felt earlier.
Dean sighs and rubs his hands over his eyes in a misguided attempt to remove the image from his brain, but it fills his thoughts long into the night.