Contrary to the question Dean intended to ask upon the sudden appearance of a certain angel (which was "Where the hell have you been?"), a different question emerged at the very sight of him.
"… uh, what are you smiling at?"
Castiel didn't realize he was smiling. Now conscious of it, it vanished as quickly as it had been noticed. He had literally just popped into the Winchesters' motel room, and found the brothers having what they would call "down time". Sam was sprawled out on the sofa with his laptop balanced atop his middle, whilst Dean sat on the bed, hunching over to remove his shoes.
"Where the hell have you been?" Dean asked the originally intended question as he offered the room, and its inhabitants, the smell of his bare feet. Sam's nose wrinkled in habitual disgust. Castiel seemed unaffected; he had a tolerance level that reached, well, the heavens.
He tilted his head in the mystified manner that was truly his. "Was I needed?"
"Well," Dean gave a futile shrug, "not really, I dunno. I just assumed you were tagging along with us now, twenty-four seven. Solving cases and shit."
Castiel continued to calmly stare as though Dean was still talking.
"Ahh, forget it," he dismissed with a flourish of his hand. "So where were you, anyway? Heaven? Of course you were. It's heaven."
"I was in New York City," he answered, coolly pulling a chair to sit at the foot of Dean's bed.
Castiel's gaze flew up at the sound of Dean's disgust and found him grimacing. He frowned, affronted; he had never received that reaction before.
"What were you doing in New York, Cas?" asked Sam, offering him a small, long-suffering smile.
"You know," began Dean, stretching out on his bed until comfortable, "if you wanted to know what hell was like, you could have just asked me."
Sam's brow furrowed in annoyance but his smile remained; clearly, he was used to this kind of remark.
"What's wrong with New York City?" Castiel asked.
"Oh, he's one of them," Dean scoffed past the angel to Sam, who didn't appear to be acknowledging his brother anytime soon. Castiel was beginning to feel like the piggy in the middle. "I bet Jimmy was a Yankee."
"There's nothing wrong with New York, Cas," Sam reassured patiently, not even pausing to dignify Dean's response of "HA!" with a mere blink. "What were you doing there anyway?"
There were a number of reasons, but there was one main motivation. "I've… never been," he answered with a small shrug.
"Sooo," Dean began obnoxiously, assuring Castiel that some mockery was soon to follow, "you were going on a little vacation to The City So Nice, They Named It Twice, while Sammy and I smoke the baddies ourselves?"
"You've never had trouble before," Castiel countered, shooting him a pointed look. Another thing occurred to him, his brow knitted. "And weren't you just implying that New York City was akin to hell?"
"I —" Dean froze; he swept through their entire conversation in his head before clinching with a meagre: "Bitch."
Castiel blinked. "Interesting."
"What?" The older Winchester glanced back up to see that Castiel's eyes had, once again, glossed over with that maddening naivety of his. He was like martian … though that analogy wasn't too far from the truth.
The angel regarded him with those disturbingly invasive eyes. "You seem to abominate New York City, yet you speak like a local."
A snort emerged from Sam's direction, which he tried to obscure by taking a swig of beer that had been untouched up until that point, all the while peering over at his brother to gauge his reaction.
Flabbergasted by the angel's snark, albeit unintentional, Dean then shook his head with a jolt and held up his palms in defeat. "Alright, I don't need this. Since our crappy ass TV ain't working, you might as well enlighten us with some stories."
Another blink. "Stories?"
"Yeah." Dean stretched out, even more so, on the bed, his hands clasped together atop his middle. "Y'know, Castiel's Tales of New York City!" He emphasized with an encouraging wave of his hand. "Breakfast at Castiel's, Citizen Castiel, Desperately Seeking Castiel, Friday the 13th Part VIII: Castiel Takes Manhattan, When Castiel Met Sally, Castiel Alone 2: Lost in New York – stop me, anytime —"
Sam did. "Were you there for a case, or a, a meeting or —?"
"An 'angel press conference', ha ha ha…"
"No. I was there because I was…" Bored? Restless? Impulsive? "… curious."
"Curious?" Dean echoed flatly, as though this was the stupidest thing he'd ever heard.. Castiel suddenly felt sheepish, but did not convey it physically.
"Uh … I saw images of New York City on your television set one night —"
"Were you watching Law and Order?" snorted Dean.
"– and I observed many visuals of the city at night —"
"Probably Gossip Girl," Dean whispered to Sam, with a decisive nod.
"– and there was one image of a huge tree…" His gaze softened with an emotion he didn't yet know he could feel, but the brothers could clearly read upon his face: wistfulness. "– a Christmas tree, which was, if I recall correctly, at Rockefeller Center."
"And you went there… to see a tree?" Castiel was growing tired of Dean's condescending tone.
"Is that strange, Dean?" Castiel asked, with more of an edge than usual. "I thought it was at first, but then I saw that there were many other humans in attendance too, just looking at the tree, taking photographs…"
"Did… you take a photo?" asked Sam, pulling a face to himself and wondering why on earth he would ask an angel that. Had he glanced up, he'd have perceived his brother pondering the same.
"No. But…" When he then rose to his feet and began rummaging through the pockets of his trench coat, the brothers shifted with interest. "… someone did take one of me."
He drew out and held a photograph in his hands, not knowing which brother to give it to – a dilemma of which was resolved when Dean plucked it out of his hands with a quick "Yoink!".
He was standing, facing the famous Christmas Tree at Rockefeller Center at nighttime. The photo appeared to have been captured from behind, though he was angled enough for the camera to capture both his front and his back – slightly more the latter. It seemed to have been taken from a kneeling or bent stance, turned slightly upwards, and most likely with the visual advantages of a fish-eye lens.
But the most distinguishable aspect of the photo was also the most disturbingly coincidental. Someone standing in the background, off in the distance, had worn a long white overcoat. It seemed the wind had been blowing just as the photograph was taken, and with the white overcoat being slightly blurred from being captured in motion, it looked as if there were pure white wings sprouting out of Castiel's back. This, together with the kaleidoscope of fairy lights that adorned the Christmas tree Castiel was looking at, created a very stunning photograph.
"Hits a little too close to home, don't you think?" Dean's tone was playful, but Castiel saw that he was genuinely impressed.
"Who took the photo?" Sam asked, who had moved from his spot on the couch and was now peering over the angel's shoulder to see the photo for himself.
"A photographer, of course," his eyes glazed over fondly at a memory, but went unseen by both brothers.
"Yeah, but –" Dean flipped the photo over. "Ah, here we g – ooh, we got a message here!" He keenly waved the photo in the air. "You got a message, Cas!"
"I know." Castiel reclaimed his seat as Dean held the photo up to his face and proceeded to read the message out melodramatically. Sam maneuvered to sit on the edge of Dean's bed to read it also.
"To Castiel! We've only just met but I feel the need to tell you that you are aesthetically pleasing and very photogenic! That's my long and winded way of telling you that you are gorgeous. And interesting too! I don't know about you, but I had a great time chatting to you last night. I hope you weren't freaked out by the groping thing; I swear, I was just checking if you were a creeper. Also, I didn't mean to insult your religious preferences; I'm still really, really sorry about that. But I'm glad to have made your acquaintance and I hope we can be friends. Ex oh, ex oh, Audrey." Dean dropped his arm and grinned wickedly at the angel with an almost accusing finger. "You dog! You aesthetically pleasing dog!"
Castiel suppressed a smile that threatened his lips, allowing only the ghost of one to surface.
"So, she's a photographer?" asked Sam, peering up to Castiel from the photo.
"Yes. A …" He still had the correct phrasing in his mind somewhere. "A… freelance photographer who often submits work to an independently managed photography magazine in New York."
"Audrey, Audrey, Audrey," enthused Dean with a smirk, regarding the photograph as though it was her. "Audrey who?"
"So, is she —"
"She's a twenty-nine year old Athiest who was born on the thirty-first of October in East Village, Manhattan and currently resides in the Upper East Side. She has a cat named Rembrandt and has two friends who run a record store on West 48th, and their names are Jody Dreyfus and Nicholas von Gillern, but everyone calls him Nicky because he's homosexual. She lives in a condominium and also has a neighbor who she calls, behind her back, a "gap-toothed bitch"."
For the most part, Dean and Sam mirrored each other's gobsmacked expressions, but Dean just couldn't let that last part pass. "How is Madonna, anyway?"
"You seem to know a lot about her." There was a suggestive note in Sam's tone that had the angel peering up to him warily. "You guys been hangin' out or something?"
"Yes? She's a lovely girl." He saw no reason to say otherwise, but the stupid grins exchanged between both brothers unsettled him. He felt like a dart board, with these two aiming at him with their implications – whatever they were intending to imply.
"So, you guys made out yet?" Dean probed with a roguish grin.
"I beg your pardon?" Castiel spluttered, despite knowing exactly what he meant. With his eyes as wide as saucers, it was easy for Dean to become aware of that fact, and his grin only broadened.
"You know, first base?" he continued to probe, merely to egg him on. Sam veiled his face with his palm, but Castiel couldn't overlook his swelling grin and the sound of his snorting through his nose.
Although he knew what Dean was asking, he wasn't quite familiar with the term "first base".
"I… I don't – what?" His panic and ingenuousness was evident and undeniably amusing for Dean, who couldn't stop beaming mirthfully at the angel's expense. He scowled at this, but said nothing further.
"Cas, relax," Sam rushed in to save him with a sympathetic tone, though amusement was still written all over his face. "Why don't you just tell us what happened when you were in New York?"
I should clear up some things.
1) This is Post-Apocalypse (or alternate universe), December 2012
2) This story explores matters about life, humanity and religion than that of the supernatural … but mainly nothing
3) This is very Castiel-centric
4) This story has no plot, so don't expect Xenamegistarunafunakilanistar the demon to pop up and wreak havoc - let's not demonstrate my lack of technique in genre writing
5) This is Castiel/OC (though their relationship has little plot either, lol) so if you're not into that kind of thang, don't read it.
For those who are fine with all of the above, I hope you continue reading! And reviewing. :D