It was rather warm, being late April and all. Though it wasn't so warm that Dean forewent the plaid button up—left unbuttoned and sleeves rolled up—and jeans and thick boots. Midterms were done and Dean was busy enjoying the afternoon on the quad with Charlie, reveling in the fact that he was going to make it through his first year of college. They were as far from the stinky tree on the north side of the quad that they could get. It was pretty and all, with its white blossoms, but it smelled like rotting fish. Lots of other people were lazing around the quad as well, but they were all content in the sunshine or in their hammocks. Dean and Charlie were happy right where they were under the tree inviting ants and other creepy-crawlies into their pants and up their shirts, thank you very much. They didn't much care to burn, please and thank you.
He ran his hand through her long, thick red hair, since her head was resting on his stomach and all. They had met last semester in their Calc I class when she'd plopped herself right next to him and started talking about Star Wars. Dean supposed he was lucky he'd been wearing his Star Wars shirt, otherwise it probably would have been a bit weirder. They'd only known each other for two semesters, but they were thick as thieves, now, and they tried to spend as much free time together as possible. Usually, that meant doing movie marathons on Saturdays and studying together despite being in two completely separate majors.
He listened to her clack away on her laptop. The screen was bright, but he couldn't see what she was doing. Probably something for her computer science class. Or writing Spock/Kirk fanfiction again. He kind of hoped it was the latter.
"I'll proofread for you."
"I wanna proofread for you. You know—to practice for my English classes."
"Nice try, Winchester. You just wanna read some smut."
"Well, that too."
She laughed at him, her fingers still flying over the keyboard. Dean was alright with her not answering—she'd let him read it once she was done anyway. He closed his eyes, one hand behind his head, grass prickling his skin, as the other combed through her hair. The air had lost that crisp, frosty smell that had hung around for far too long, finally. He was so glad it was Friday afternoon and he didn't have anywhere to be or any more exams to study for. His brain was tired from writing three separate papers and his physics midterm. He could only bullshit so much. Maybe he could convince Charlie that they needed a Lord of the Rings marathon tomorrow—director's cut, of course.
"Excuse me," a deep, groin-tingling voice said above him.
Standing above him was a guy holding a fancy, probably very expensive camera up to his chest, as if preparing to snap a quick picture. The clacking stopped.
"Hi," said Charlie, when it was obvious Dean was too mesmerized by bright blue eyes to respond. "Can we help you?"
The guy held up his camera. "You two look like a cute couple. I wanted to take a picture of you, if that's alright. It's for class. I promise it's not anything creepy."
Cheeks warm, surely aflame, Dean stammered out, "I—We're not—She's my—"
"We aren't together," Charlie said smoothly, reaching over awkwardly to pat Dean's face. "I'm a lesbian, so that kind of makes it hard for me to be interested romantically in this doofus."
A low, smooth chuckle distracted him. Dean couldn't take his eyes off those long, smooth fingers that worried over the smooth edges of the camera and fiddled with the strap hanging around his neck. They would probably feel great on his—
Whoa, now. Charlie's face was way too close to his crotch to be thinking those things. Dean gulped, trying to calm himself. Think of Sam. Think of Bobby. Think of Jabba the Hutt.
"Would you mind if I took your picture, anyway?" the guy asked. "Everyone else seems rather busy."
Dean glanced around. Most other people were being lazy like them, but maybe the dude had asked them already. "Sure," he said, feeling a bit more confident now. "Go for it. Unless—Charlie?"
"I'm fine with it."
"What do you want us to do?" Charlie asked, moving to shut her laptop.
"What you were before," the guy replied, shifting on his feet and adjusting the settings on his camera. "Relaxed. Happy. Calm. Much less posing and more like candid photographs."
Charlie settled back against Dean's stomach, prompting a groan from him. "We can do that!" she said cheerfully.
Dean rolled his eyes at her, but did as bid. He closed his eyes, settling his hand back in her hair and twirling the long red strands around his fingers. It was kinda weird, knowing that the shutter-click! sound was from the random dude. The grass shifted beneath the guy's feet as he walked around them. Dean worried that maybe he wasn't doing it right, maybe he looked too awkward or something and the pictures would turn out horrible and the dude would have wasted his time.
The shuffling grass sound came from right next to his head. He scrunched up his nose, confused. What was the guy doing? Dean opened his eyes and the camera was practically right in his face. Startled, Dean almost upset Charlie. But the camera shutter-clicked! before he could control his breathing to a more manageable pace.
"Dude, what are you doing?"
The camera moved away from the guy's face. He was standing at Dean's head, so he was upside down to him. "Taking your picture," he replied, as if questioning Dean's intelligence. Dean noticed that his eyes were very, very blue, more blue that he originally thought, and kind of seemed to stare unwaveringly into his soul.
Dean couldn't help the small smile that he could feel crinkling the corner of his eyes. The dude was just too adorable. Another shutter-click! "Well, yeah, I know," Dean said, rolling his eyes. "I was wondering why you were so close."
"Because you have beautiful eyes."
Now Dean knew he was blushing. His face was practically on fire. A little breathy laugh escaped him as the camera clicked several times in a row. What was he even supposed to say to that? Thanks? You have nice eyes, too? Wanna go grab a coffee? Can I have your number? Girls were so much easier. Guys? Not so much. Plus, he didn't even know if the dude was gay or whatever.
"He does have fanfiction green eyes, doesn't he?" Charlie piped up.
"Yeah, 'cause they're unreal," Charlie replied, going back to clacking on her keyboard. "Greenest eyes to ever green, anyway."
"True," the dude replied, snapping a few more pictures. He let the camera settle against his chest, one hand still cradling it. "I think I have enough to choose from. Thank you for your time."
That was not disappointment sinking into Dean's chest. It just wasn't, okay? It was—indigestion, or something. Heart burn. "Yeah, no problem," Dean managed to squeeze out between the ribs crushing his lungs. "Not like we really had to do anything."
"Could I get your number?"
"So I can call you when the photographs are done," the guy added, fiddling with the settings on the camera but staring right at Dean with those wide, bright blue eyes of his. Yeah, so that was stinging disappointment settling in his chest. "I'll try to get them done this weekend. If you want to see them, of course. You don't have to."
"O-oh." Dean squirmed around, trying to dislodge Charlie so he could find a piece of paper and pen. "Charlie—"
She thrust the items into his face. "I got them already for you, dork."
He ignored her. Instead, he wrote his name and number on the paper and held it up to the guy. "Yanno, I never got your name?"
"Castiel. Novak," the guy said, staring at the paper in his hands for a long moment before carefully folding it and tucking it in his pocket. "Thank you for your time, Dean. I will call you Sunday afternoon when they are done."
With that, he turned and walked away, camera clutched close to his chest. Dean watched him go, propped up on one elbow and twisting so he could watch him disappear between the math and art buildings. Once he was no longer in sight, Dean sighed and flopped back down.
Charlie, however, did not rest her head back on him. Instead, she was sitting to his left and staring down at him. Slowly, he saw, she closed her laptop and set it on her bag behind her.
"So... He was pretty hot."
"You're a lesbian."
"Hey, I still have eyes."
"Don't 'whatever' me, Dean Winchester."
"He was flirting with you."
"No he wasn't!"
Charlie poked a hard finger into his ribs. Damn, that hurt! "Yes, he was. He said your eyes were beautiful and he asked for your number."
"Shut up," Charlie said, poking his ribs again. He was gonna have a bruise soon if she kept that up. "You basically have a date Sunday. Don't worry—I'll make myself scarce."
Dean still doubted that it was going to be a date, but... that didn't keep him from the swell of hope that bloomed in his chest.
"Hello?" Dean didn't recognize the number, but his heart fluttered in his chest all the same. It was Sunday, just after one o'clock. Castiel had said he was going to call in the afternoon, and Dean had hoped it would be sooner rather than later.
"Hello, Dean." Goddamn, that voice was just as low and affecting him just as much as it had Friday. "The photographs are done."
"Cool." Play it smooth, stupid.
"Would you like to see them?"
"Sure!" Stupid Winchester, don't sound so eager. He coughed into his fist. "Yeah, sure. That'd be cool. When's good for you?"
"I'm free all afternoon."
"Same here." Dean grimaced and looked around his dorm. He had thought about cleaning up a bit, but... Whatever. He wanted to see Castiel again. "I could come to yours now?"
"That is fine with me. I live off-campus, about a five minute walk. I can text you the address."
"Lemme get my shoes on and I'll head on over."
"Okay. Goodbye, Dean."
The screen went black as Castiel hung up. Dean shot out of his bed where he'd been pretending to read a few chapters for class and threw on the outfit he'd already spent three hours agonizing over that morning in preparation for this. Benny had teased him about it, but helped him out in the end before he left for lunch with his girlfriend. His phone chimed and he was pulling his shirt over his head. It was Castiel with the address.
Quickly, Dean finished dressing and rushed out the door, shoving his wallet into his back pocket and his keys into his front pocket. He pulled up the address on his GPS and nearly fell down the stairs. He was too impatient to wait for the elevator.
Three minutes later, he stood in front of the apartment building. No one even gave him a second glance as he stared at the tall, tan building. Third floor, apartment 310. He took a deep breath and held it in. He could do this.
Nodding resolutely to himself, he stole inside and made his way to the stairs. Rail tight in hand, he pulled himself up the stairs to his doom.
Okay. So he was being a little dramatic. Whatever. This was a maybe-sorta-kinda date and Castiel was cute and god the things his voice did to him were pure sin. But Dean just... plain didn't know what to do. He'd dated plenty of girls before, but had only ever looked at guys. His dad wasn't too happy about him being bi, so he had tried to keep it on the down low. Charlie had been the one to convince him that he needed to be happy no matter what his dad said. That he needed to go for it. That he'd been putting everyone else's needs and happiness above his own, especially Sammy's, and he deserved to live his own life.
He could do this.
310 in brass stared back at him. He knocked four times on the door, then took a half step back. Didn't want to crowd the door, after all. That might be weird.
The door opened to reveal Castiel with messy hair and loose fitting clothes. Dean felt slightly over dressed. So maybe this wasn't going to be like a date, then. Those blue eyes stared at him for some moments, making him uncomfortable but he didn't move.
Suddenly, Castiel smiled. It crinkled the corners of his eyes and made him look a little squinty, but there seemed to be some kind of light that shone through and made his eyes even prettier.
Not prettier. He wasn't some girl.
"Hello, Dean." Castiel opened the door wider and gestured for him to come in. "You can take your shoes off. Do you want anything to drink?"
"Nah, I'm good, man." Dean crouched down to untie his boots. The door shut behind him and Castiel moved further into the apartment. Smelled like he'd eaten pizza not too long ago, too. Pepperoni, probably. "Thanks, though."
He saw Castiel nod. "Of course."
Dean followed him to the living room. Or. Well. It was obviously a studio apartment. There was a futon laid out as a bed in one corner, coffee table in front of it covered with books. In what looked to be what was supposed to be a dining room there was instead a large desk that took up most of the space. It was well organized and very tidy, at least. There was a computer monitor that took up a good portion of the desk and part of it was tilted.
Artwork lined the walls. Almost every inch was covered. There were paintings next to drawings next to photographs. Dean went to the nearest painting to study it. It was a figure facing away from the viewer, head raised and tilted to the right, black wings bursting from his back. There were splatters of color around the figure. The wings were textured, he realized when he looked closer at the odd way the light bounced on the wings. There was incredible detail, despite the fact they were pitch black.
"I did that painting last semester," Castiel said in his ear, voice low.
Dean startled, spinning and stepping away. "Don't do that, Cas!"
Oh, crap. "Y-Yeah. Sorry. Sometimes I give people nicknames. I won't call you that if you don't—"
"I like it." Cas looked like he was contemplating the universe as he stared at him. "No one has ever called me Cas, before. Cassie, from my family. But never Cas."
"Oh." Dean could feel his ears heating up. Hopefully that would be as far as the blush went. "Good, I guess?" He turned back to the painting, then glanced at the rest of the artwork. There had to be dozens of them. "You did all these?"
Cas nodded, finally moving away towards the desk. "Yes. I'm an art major. I'm a junior."
"They're really good."
"Thank you." Cas picked up a stack of paper from the desk. "Here are the photos I took of you and your friend. Ah..." He seemed to notice the lack of seating. "Let me do up the futon and we can sit there."
Dean followed him to the futon, sitting down once it was set back up. Cas handed him the stack of photos once they were seated. Eight by tens, Dean figured, since they weren't the smaller ones he was used to. The top picture was of him and Charlie from where Cas had asked if he could take their picture. It wasn't too creative or anything—nothing special, at least. He set it on the table carefully—he didn't wanna mess it up or anything.
The next picture was a little more inspired. It was taken at an odd angle from near Charlie's feet, as if Cas was laying on the grass. A few blades were out of focus at the bottom, neatly framing them.
That's how it went, too. Cas had focused on little things, or had done interesting angles. He had played with the shadows and the small shafts of light that had slithered through the leaves and branches. Dean didn't think they were heavily photoshopped, anyway. As he looked through them, he asked Cas about what he wanted to do after he graduated. Cas went on and on about being a wildlife photographer, wanting to travel the world and shoot for Time or National Geographic. As he listened, trying to hide a smile at how cute Cas was when he fiddled with things as they talked, Dean kind of decided then that he wanted to write for those magazines so he could go on adventures with him.
And then there were wide, green eyes. The camera was slightly off-centered, centering more on his right eye, and he could just see that his lips were parted at the top of the picture. So Cas hadn't flipped it back around. And his damn freckles stuck out. Dean grumbled about it, slouching back.
"I think they're adorable," Cas whispered, reaching out to trace a hand along the cheek on the photograph. "It tells a little bit about you. You were in the sun a lot as a child, probably. Either working or playing."
"Yeah." Dean didn't correct him, didn't hint as to which part was true.
The next photograph was of his smile. It was small—hardly there. There were crinkles around his eyes and his lips were barely tilted up. The picture had been flipped the right way, even though Dean remembered that Cas hadn't moved.
Then there were several of him laughing—his eyes were wide, as if in shock, but he still looked happy. There might have been a bit of pink on his cheeks. It hadn't escaped Dean's notice that most of the pictures were more focused on him than Charlie. That warm feeling rose in his chest again, but he squashed it down. He didn't want to presume anything.
The last one was from quite a distance. There were other people, milling about or just hanging out in the background. The focus was on Dean and Charlie, though. The large tree they had sat under framed the right side of the picture, tree branches caressing the top of the frame. Dean's arm was up, pointing towards something in the distance. He couldn't remember what he was pointing at, though. Maybe a bird or something. Charlie's head was on his stomach, red hair fanning out and spilling over his side like a bloodied waterfall.
"I came up to you for a reason," Cas muttered, leaning forward towards Dean.
"Yeah?" breathed Dean, setting the picture down. He turned to Cas, glancing down at his lips.
They breathed the same air for several moments, just... staring at each other. That had sounded pretty much like what he wanted to hear, but... he'd been wrong before.
"Dean," Cas intoned, almost sounding like a question.
"Would you like to go to dinner with me?"
"Dinner?" Dean gulped. "Like—Like a date?"
"Well, I was hoping so, yes." Those blue eyes sparkled with life, crinkling and narrowing. Dean absolutely loved it. "More as a date than like a date, though."
Dean laughed, pushing him away. "Jerk."
Cas laughed right back, raising a hand to place on Dean's cheek as he moved back into Dean's space. "I'm going to kiss you, now."
His breath caught in his throat. "Yeah. Okay."
It wasn't anything heavy or sexually driven or anything. Cas just pressed his lips to Dean's, chaste and innocent and incredibly sweet. His thumb smoothed across Dean's cheek bone. And it was short, too, but that was okay. Dean liked it. And, yeah, maybe he did like getting taken care of for once. He'd been taking care of Sammy and his dad his whole life—he was ready to let someone else care for him this time.
Cas pulled away, a soft smile playing along his lips. Dean was sure he was grinning like a fool, but whatever. Charlie was right—it was time he sought out something for himself. Sure, the English degree made him happy even though it upset his dad, but Dean wanted to be happy. A job was only going to get him so far. He wanted companionship. His own family. And, yeah, he'd only met Cas two days ago, but there was something incredibly... right about being in his presence. And, even if nothing romantic happened, he was sure Cas was going to make a great friend.
"What do you want to do until dinner?" Cas asked, pulling him from his thoughts.
"You mean you wanted to go to dinner tonight?"
"Yes," Cas replied, his tone implying of course. "Did you not?"
Dean grinned and leaned forward to kiss him again. "Sounds good with me."