SUMMARY: Then the stranger placed a kiss on his cheek, whispering, "My name is Dean. Go with it, yeah? Whoever didn't show up is an ass." Castiel is stood up, but that's okay, because the date ended up being much better than planned.
Around him, the restaurant thrummed with life, merry and vibrant and full of laughter and chatter and the clanks of silverware tapping against ceramic and soft instrumental music in the background. Castiel ran a finger around the rim of his glass of water, a frown etched into his brow. He checked his watch again for the time. 7:13. April wasn't usually this late—not almost forty-five minutes late, anyway—for their dates. Okay, so, maybe she was. Maybe she got busy at work, or traffic was bad. It was Saturday evening, after all. The waitress had already been by several times, asking if he was ready to order, glancing at the empty place setting across from him. He'd declined every time, asking, "Just a few more minutes, please?" And she smiled, put the pad away, replying "of course" every time. He wouldn't call April, though, because last time he had she'd gotten irate and blamed him for her tardiness. Glancing around, he noticed others giving him those awkwardly pathetic looks of apologies, as if knowing, precisely, that he was being stood up.
However, Castiel had to remind himself that this wasn't the first time she had shown up late. He had to remind himself that she had been cold and stand-offish the last few weeks. There was probably another man, he rationalized, vaguely noting that he wasn't all that upset about it anyway. Or, she just wanted to break up with him but didn't want to be the one to do it, just wanted him to get fed up with her and break up with her so her hands wouldn't get dirty.
Either way, he just wished she could have at least had the courage to say something to his face instead of being passively aggressive about it.
He knew he wasn't the best boyfriend. He was awkward as all else and wore suits with improperly tied ties everywhere he went. Pop culture references went right over his head and he believed technology was the root of all evil. He could just barely keep up with social niceties enough to just teeter on the line of being either too blunt or rude.
With a sigh, Castiel made to stand. He hadn't ordered anything besides water—he'd been waiting for April, after all—but he pulled his wallet out all the same to leave a tip to apologize for taking up a table for so long. Before he could, though, a body nearly slammed into him.
"Sorry I'm late, babe," a very deep voice said probably a bit too loudly than necessary. Castiel looked up—because the guy was tall, and Castiel's height was nothing to sniff at—into bright green eyes that sparkled with mirth and apologies. "Traffic was just a friggen nightmare. There was an accident or something and I left my phone at home on accident so I couldn't call to tell you I'd be late." Then the stranger placed a kiss on his cheek, whispering, "My name is Dean. Go with it, yeah? Whoever didn't show up is an ass."
The stranger—Dean—slid into the chair across from him with grace. Castiel settled back into his seat, stunned. "My girlfriend," Castiel muttered. "I have a feeling she's either found another man or she would like to end our relationship."
"Yikes. Sorry, man."
"It's fine. I'm not surprised."
Dean's eyebrows shot up, leaning forward on his elbows. "Why? You seem like a nice guy." He suddenly sat back and shot out, "Unless you're secretly a serial killer or child molester or something?"
"What? No." Castiel furrowed his eyebrows. How could this guy come up with something so ridiculous like that? "I am a language professor at the university."
"I bet you have a wicked tongue, then." Dean sent him a wink and a smirk Castiel assumed was supposed to make him feel a little hot and bothered. Well, it did, but he wasn't going to admit that out loud.
What? What the hell was going on? Was this guy... flirting with him? It had been a while since anyone had flirted with him. April had for the first few weeks until they'd become more complacent about their relationship. It had been easy, at least, and something predictable that he could look forward to. Flirting made him uneasy because he wasn't as sociable as Jimmy, wasn't as welcoming and open as his twin. He didn't know quite how to respond, or if people were doing it just to make fun (which had happened in the tenth grade, he remembered bitterly, back when Jimmy had finally gotten that date with Amelia and people could finally tell them apart). It made him uncomfortable simply because he was too... literal, someone had told him once. Apparently that took all the fun out of it. He'd had yet to find anything fun about being uncomfortable and flushed, though.
Dean must have seen something on his face akin to panic because he leaned forward again to murmur, "Sorry, I can tone down the flirting if you'd like. It's just who I am, yanno? You're probably straight, anyway, and I'm making you uncomfortable."
"No... No." Castiel cleared his throat. "It's just—I'm not very good with flirting. You—I don't mind. Your flirtations, I mean." And he really didn't, he realized. It was kind of nice, coming from this easy-going man across from him. For some reason it felt right to have Dean smile like that at him and use suggestive phrasing. Castiel got them, for the most part—understood that they were references for sex if only because of Gabriel—but he wasn't confident in returning with jaunty one liners of his own.
The waitress popped back up, sending a glare Dean's way. "I see your company has finally decided to join you."
"There was an accident," Dean replied easily, a charming grin firmly in place. "And I left my phone at home."
"Well, do you know what you want or do you want me to give you a few minutes?"
Once she left with their order, they fell back into a silence. Castiel couldn't help just... looking at the man across from him. Finally, his curiosity won out.
"Why'd you do it?"
Dean shrugged and leaned back in his chair. "Couldn't leave you to do the walk of shame. I've been stood up a few times, and I can't say I've ever enjoyed it."
"Weren't you here with someone?" Castiel couldn't imagine someone as gorgeous as Dean would be by himself.
Dean twisted around, looking at the other tables. "Yeah, I was gonna eat with my brother and his wife and my niece. I told them that they could eat without me, though, and that I saw a friend I hadn't seen in a while. Wanted to eat with him instead. Sammy didn't mind. I see him all the time, anyway. What's one night, yanno? Ah." He pointed to a table nearly on the other side of the restaurant. "See the moose? With the long hair? Blonde chick and two year old? That's them."
They made for a cute family, Castiel had to admit. Smiles were present on everyone's faces and they didn't look to be too upset that Dean had ditched them. The man was a giant, though—easily at least a head taller than his wife just sitting down, even.
"So what's your name?" Dean's question pulled Castiel back to the table. He turned back to him to see Dean giving him that same smirk from earlier. "Since we're on a date an' all."
"Castiel. Novak." He cleared his throat and tried again. "Castiel Novak."
"It's a pleasure to meet you, Cas," Dean purred.
Castiel couldn't help fidgeting in his seat. Okay, so, perhaps, maybe, he wasn't as attracted to April and women as he thought, if this man could get under his skin so quickly. And wasn't that a shock to figure out after thirty years of living. "Likewise, Dean," he managed to stammer out. "Uhm. So. Ahem. What is it that you do, Dean? Since we're on a date and all."
Dean waved a hand, but Castiel could see he was trying to suppress a smile. Why, he didn't know. "Here and there, this and that. Mostly a mechanic for my uncle. I'm good with my hands, yanno?" Another suggestive wink, then he paused, morphed his smirk to a frown, and said, "Sorry, man. I'm making you uncomfortable.
"No, no. Uhm." Castiel played with the napkin on his lap. "No. Just—"
"You're not used to it."
Dean gave him a small, genuine smile, one that made his eyes sparkle. "I'll try to keep it toned down, then. I don't see why, though. You're a good lookin' guy. I'm sure you've had plenty of people try to chat ya up."
Castiel didn't have anything to say to that. The din around them flared back up for a moment, and Castiel wasn't sure what he should say. April had always filled the silence on their dates. He'd done a lot of listening. He was good at that, at least. Listening was a key skill in learning new languages, after all. Besides, he enjoyed listening to other people talk, even if they didn't have much to say anyway.
"So." Dean thanked their waitress when she brought him his beer. Once she left, he asked, "You're a language professor? What do you do, exactly?"
That launched Castiel into a spiel about his work, and how he mostly taught about dead languages and researched vowel shifts and consonant changes and translated old manuscripts. Most of the time, he knew, he bored his audience near to tears and they would end up regretting that they asked, even if they had done so just to be polite. Usually, by the time he reached the part about translating a tablet found in Bulgaria dating back seven hundred years his audience was squirming and checking their watches and glancing around for an escape. Dean, however, smiled and nodded and asked appropriate questions when he could edge them in. Castiel stopped mid-sentence, cocking his head to one side as he studied the other man.
"What?" Dean finally asked, squirming under his intense stare. "Do I have something on my face?"
"No." Castiel narrowed his eyes at him. "Am I not boring you?"
"No?" And Dean did look genuinely confused, Castiel thought as he watched Dean fidget with his beer. "It's honestly fascinating work. I mean, I certainly wouldn't be able to do that. You must be pretty smart."
"I have a few doctorates," Castiel agreed. He then cringed—he'd been told that he always sounded so conceited when he said things like that, told people his accomplishments as blunt facts. Oh God, Dean was going to think—
"How many is a few?"
"Uh. Well. Uhm. Three. It's—I mean—I don't—"
Dean just smiled and reached across the table to take his hands. He took the napkin away to smooth out the creases Castiel was trying to make. "No need to be nervous, man."
And then he launched into a story about how Sammy almost passed out when his wife Jess was in labor with their daughter, Madeline. It took the edge off the nerves firing off in his fingers, Castiel noticed. Dean went on to wax poetic about his brother, how he was a bigshot lawyer who never lost a case (Castiel doubted that, but wasn't about to contradict Dean without proof), but a total girl who liked chick flick moments way too much.
"You must be close with your brother," Castiel commented when Dean paused in his storytelling to take a drink.
Dean shrugged. "I mean, I guess. He's my best friend."
Castiel wondered if he was suddenly shy, if the light dusting of pink over his cheeks and the way he played with the label on his beer was any indication. Dean was certainly a vibrant, complicated person. Flirtatious, shy, attentive, and cocky all wrapped into one. It was an odd combination, but not an unpleasant one. It certainly made for an interesting dinner.
"Do you have any siblings?"
"Many," Castiel replied, sticking out a hand to count them all so he wouldn't forget. "Michael, Gabriel, Anna, Jimmy, and myself."
"Good lord," Dean laughed. "How'd your parents manage all of you?"
Castiel shrugged back. "We were all fairly good children. Except Gabriel. He's a nightmare." He took a sip of his water, trying to avoid the ice from hitting him in the face and spilling all over his clothes. That would just complete his embarrassment bingo for the evening. "I suppose it also helped that we were spread out, perhaps. Besides me and Jimmy, I mean. We're twins."
"So how'd they all end up with..." Dean squirmed again, as if trying to find the right word. He flapped his hand about. "Normal, ish, names, I guess? And you got Castiel?"
"We were named after angels, actually," Castiel replied. He sat back as their waitress set their plates down. They thanked her and Castiel picked up his utensils to cut into his steak. "Anna was Anael, but everyone called her Anna. And let's just say that I was planned and Jimmy was not. Although, I suppose, James is in the Bible. So, I suppose, technically Jimmy is the 'odd man out.'" He added the last part with air quotes because that seemed to be an appropriate time to use them. He'd seen it done on one of Jimmy's TV shows, anyway.
This gave Dean pause, Castiel noticed. He lowered his utensils and leveled Castiel with a sharp look. "Your family is religious?"
"My father is a pastor at the local Methodist church," Castiel replied, curious as to why that would unsettle Dean. "Is that a problem?"
"It's just..." Dean waved his knife between them. "You said earlier you didn't mind me flirting with you. Are you bi or something? I can't imagine that he would be thrilled with that..."
"Oh, no." Castiel swirled a piece of meat around his plate, refusing to make eye contact with Dean. He didn't know why he was so nervous all of the sudden. "My parents don't care. Gabriel brought boys and girls home all the time when we were younger." Castiel nearly dropped his fork, so he set it down. "I'm not... I've only ever been with women, before."
"But you don't mind me flirting with you."
"Not at all."
"Well, then." Castiel looked up to see Dean grinning at him.
His pocket started vibrating. Castiel rubbed his face as he looked at the name on the screen. April. Of course it was. He muttered a quick "excuse me" and left the table to take the phone call outside where he would be able to hear her better and the chatter of the restaurant wouldn't overpower him and distract him from whatever April had to say about her tardiness this time.
"Hello, April," he intoned once the doors shut behind him with a sharp thud. It was much quieter outside. The sun had set a while ago and the sky was painted with swaths of deep navy with a spattering of brighter stars that fought their way through the light pollution. Castiel could just see the blinking red lights of an airplane flying overhead.
"Castiel!" The voice on the other end sounded too cheery to him. "Listen, I won't be able to make it tonight. Something came up."
"I figured that out about an hour ago." Glancing through the window, he saw Dean giving him a concerned look. He had even stopped eating, just watching him through the glass. "Listen, April." He couldn't take his eyes off Dean. It made it easier to talk to April with those green eyes watching him. "I don't think we should see each other anymore."
"Because I couldn't make it tonight?"
"No. Well, yes, that too." Castiel took a deep breath, holding it for several seconds before slowly letting it back out. Dean looked about ready to get out of his chair and join him outside. Castiel shook his head. He didn't want the waitress to think they were dining and dashing, of course. That would just be rude, especially since he'd been taking up her table for over an hour now. "I am... unhappy with our arrangement." That was a safe thing to say, right? "I get the feeling you are, too. I believe we should see other people."
"You're breaking up with me over the phone?"
"Uhm, yes?" Wasn't that obvious? Maybe she was becoming addled in a midlife crisis or something. He didn't know much on how women worked—they'd always confused him (though Jimmy had tried to tell him that that's what women were there to do, though Castiel highly doubted that).
"You don't even have the balls to do it to my face?"
Oh. So that was the problem. He'd forgotten that it was rude not to do these things face-to-face. Honestly, though, he didn't want to see April again. Didn't want to see her kind eyes that weren't so much so anymore, didn't want to see that disapproving down-turn of her lips. Didn't want to hear her scream obscenities at him, if it came to that. He was tired of her manipulations and secrets and hypocrisy, now that he could see them for what they were. It was a little troubling that it had taken him seven months to realize that. Maybe it was because he had been lonely. He and Jimmy were thirty years old, now, but his brother had a wife and a little girl. Castiel had had... nothing. Desperation, that little voice that sat in the corner of his skull whispered.
"Now felt like the right time," he said instead. "Listen, I'm... in the middle of dinner, and they are waiting on me."
"Were you cheating on me?"
"No." What could he tell her? She was already angry and had made up her mind with whatever accusations she wanted to throw at him. "You didn't show up, a... friend saw me, and he decided to eat with me in your stead. We are having a nice time. Goodbye, April."
He hung up before she could say anything else. He was just glad that he hadn't asked her to move in, yet, and that she didn't have anything of hers at his apartment. Instead of heading directly back in, Castiel stood under the awning for a few moments longer, turning the vibration off in case April tried to call him back. Rubbing his tired eyes, he decided he was just going to forget about her and enjoy the rest of his date with Dean.
Was it an actual date, though? The man had only tried to be nice to save Castiel from further embarrassment, surely. But what would it hurt to continue the dinner? There was no way they would ever see each other again, anyway.
Steeling his resolve, Castiel headed back in side. Once he sat down, he apologized. "That was April."
"The ex-girlfriend." Dean gave him a confused look, so he added, "I just broke up with her."
"Over the phone?"
"Yes?" Why did people have such a hard time understanding that? "She didn't show up. She called, I didn't want to be with her anymore, so I broke up with her."
Dean chuckled and finally picked up his silverware again. "You're something else, you know that, Cas?"
"So I've been told."
They ate in silence for a few minutes, letting the clatter of silverware fill the silence for them. Conversations around them swelled and lulled and someone a few tables over laughed over the din.
"So you have a twin?" Dean finally asked. He took a drink of his new beer the waitress had brought him. "Which one is the evil one?"
That was not the question Castiel was expecting. People usually asked what it was like, to have a twin, to which he answered that he'd had a twin his whole life so it was just normal. No one had ever asked who was the evil one, though. Was that some sort of reference he was supposed to know? He frowned, looking up at the teasing grin adorning Dean's face. "Neither? I don't know. Jimmy and I have never done anything particularly bad, per se. That was Gabriel's department, though he did try to sway us."
"But you have done something you probably shouldn't have?"
"Well. No. Nothing like that." Castiel shrugged and finished the last bite of his steak. "We would pretend to be each other when we were younger. I did ask his wife out for him, though. This was in high school and he was too nervous to do it himself."
Dean laughed at that. "So you're identical, then? Do you still wear matching clothes?" he teased, swirling his beer bottle.
"For the holidays, yes," Castiel replied. "We enjoy confusing the relatives. It's been thirty years and they still can't always tell us apart."
"I'm gonna have to meet Jimmy," Dean said with a chuckle. "I wanna see if I can tell you two apart."
So this wasn't going to just be a one-night thing, then, Castiel concluded with a soft smile. He was glad for that—he actually did enjoy Dean's company, if he was going to be honest with himself. He was funny, and charismatic, and just the right amount of shy. April had been every sort of brash and sweet and too-kind smiles, but also just... too soft. Dean was all lines and grins and shiny teeth and I-do-what-I-want attitude that wasn't quite rude.
"Is this going to be together or separate?" their waitress asked, popping up out of nowhere and startling Castiel.
Dean quickly pulled out his wallet before Castiel could even move to answer. "Together. You can go ahead and take my card now."
"I was late," Dean said simply as she walked off.
"I don't need your pity," Castiel grumbled.
A hand gently touched his, pulling his attention back towards a soft smile. "Consider this our first date, then? I—" Dean took back his hand, face flushed. "I mean, if you want. I don't wanna assume—"
"That'd be nice," Castiel said, taking Dean's hand back. "I had a nice time tonight. Better than I ever had with April."
"That's good, then!" Dean's grin brightened the whole room. "I'm glad. Could I..." And he was shy again, looking away and cheeks pink. "Do you mind if we exchange numbers?"
"Of course." Castiel dug out his phone. He had no less than three missed calls and twelve texts from April already. Ignoring those, he unlocked his phone and tried to find his contacts so he could add Dean's number. His phone had just gone through an update last week and moved everything around. He frowned at the screen, thumb tapping the edge of his case. The phone icon, right? He tapped it, then tapped the little 'contacts' icon at the bottom. "Ah, here."
Dean took the phone and put in his information. "I wasn't kidding, earlier," he said as he typed. "I did leave my phone at home. Mind messaging me so I can get your name and number?"
"Sure." Castiel took the phone back. Dean Winchester read the new contact. "Like the rifle?"
"Yeah!" There was that beaming smile again. Castiel had to duck his head so he could text Dean his name.
"There you are, gentlemen!" Their waitress popped back up and gave Dean the slim black folder with the check. "I hope you enjoyed your evening."
"We did," Dean replied, smiling up at her. When she left, he signed the receipt and took back his card.
"Let me at least leave the tip," Castiel said before Dean could write it in.
Dean gave him a long look, as if scrutinizing him. "I suppose. If you really want to, I guess."
Castiel took out his wallet with a nod. "I do. I feel bad that you paid for this."
"I'm the one who barged in," Dean replied, waving his hand as if to brush it off. "It's the least I could do for forcing myself on your company."
"Either way." Castiel pulled out a twenty and placed it in the folder. When Dean tried to interject, he said, "I took up her table for forty-five minutes before you showed up and I hadn't ordered anything. She was patient and kind to me."
They stood and made their way out of the restaurant. Dean waved to his brother as they passed, giving him a thumbs up and a wink. Castiel wasn't sure what to make of that, so he remained quiet as they excited the noisy establishment. Outside was much quieter, and the night had turned crisp. Castiel hadn't noticed it earlier, apparently, but now the slight wind nipped at his cheeks. The sky was still clear, though, even if they couldn't see the stars so much. Dean even offered to walk him to his car, which Castiel found kind of sweet.
"I really did have a good time," Dean muttered as Castiel opened the door to the driver's seat. "I mean... Are you interested? In another date?"
"Of course." Castiel smiled up at him and, trying to appear relaxed, crossed his arms on the edge of the door and leaned on them. "But I'll have you know I'm apparently not very good at it."
Dean's returning smile made his stomach flip again. "I think you'll do just fine."