Summary: When, after encouragement of Dean, Castiel visits a barbershop for the first time, he strikes up an unlikely friendship with the barber. Eventually Destiel.
Disclaimer: Don't own anything.
A/N: Contains spoilers for season 4-6.
The Barber and the Angel
For forty-five years, Mike Nolan had worked in the barbershop on the main road of the small town in Minnesota. He was almost sixty-seven now. His father had owned the shop before him and he'd trained Mike - his only son - in the same profession. After his death, several decades ago, Mike had taken over in managing it. Lately, however, business had been slow. Mike reckoned he was too old-fashioned for the kids of the twenty-first century and apart from a few regulars well into their sixties, barely any customers came in. That's why Mike looked up from his paper in surprise as the bell above the front door tingled cheerfully, signalling the arrival of a new person. It was a rainy Thursday afternoon, twelve minutes to two, when a man who was soon to become one of Mike's oddest, yet also his favourite client, entered.
The newcomer was dressed in a worn trench coat, which, despite the steady downpour of drizzle, appeared to be completely dry. Underneath it, he was wearing a suit with a tie that was slightly askew. His eyes were a piercing shade of blue, his hair a black mess that didn't seem to have met a comb in several months.
Mike watched as the stranger carefully closed the door behind him and then looked around the barbershop with a curiosity more befitting a small child than a fully grown adult. The man took a few tentative steps towards the counter. Mike put his newspaper down.
"I would like for you to cut my hair."
His voice was low and gravelly, his choice of words formal and serious. Mike had never quite heard the request for a haircut phrased like this. He suppressed an amused smile. "That's what I'm here for. You can hang your coat up in the corner." He nodded towards the hat stand.
The man removed the trench coat with some difficulty, as if, somehow, it wasn't something he did very often. All his movements were deliberate, but when he'd finished, he remained standing, unsure what to do next. Mike, in the meantime, had moved to one of the chairs, which he spun around for his customer to sit on. He got his tools and saw that the man still hadn't moved. "You can sit down." Mike nodded towards the seat.
He quickly complied. Mike grabbed a sheet and attempted to cover his customer's clothes with it. The man, however, in a reflex movement held up his hands and prevented it from going around his neck. He turned around to look at Mike, anxiety and surprise evident in his gaze.
"Relax," Mike told him, a bit thrown off track himself. He wasn't used to being interrupted in such a routine movement. "It's just to prevent the hair from getting on your clothing, okay?"
"Okay." The man turned back towards the mirror, embarrassed by his own ignorance.
"You have had a haircut before, haven't you?" Mike said jokingly in an attempt to make him feel more at ease.
"No, I haven't had a haircut before."
Mike raised his eyebrows at that, then decided to humour him. "Alright then, so what made you decide to get one now?"
"Dean said I should."
"Dean is my friend," his customer explained, while twisting his fingers in the sheet that was fastened securely around his neck. "And he told me my hair was homosexual."
Mike started laughing, then discovered the man in front of him was completely serious, and turned his laugh into a cough halfway through. "So he told you to have your hair cut?"
"Do you want to have your hair cut?" Mike wondered, making eye contact through the mirror.
The man frowned and thought hard about that for a moment. He freed one of his hands from underneath the sheet and reached up to twist several strands of hair around his fingers. "Yes. Yes, I do. It's too long. I have no control over it. It has become irritating to me."
Mike smiled. "Understandable. Just don't let anyone force you into anything you don't want, okay?. By the way, I don't believe I've introduced myself properly. Mike Nolan."
"Castiel," Mike repeated curiously. "Castiel. I've heard that before. Is it a religious name?"
"Yes, it is." He didn't elaborate.
Mike searched his memory for any recollection of the role of Castiel in the Bible, but he came up empty, so he moved on. "Okay then, Castiel, how would you like me to cut your hair for you?"
Castiel seemed confused by the question. "With scissors?" He replied hesitantly.
Mike was torn between sighing and laughing. For a brief moment, he wondered if he was being made fun of. "That's not what I meant." He started to think that Castiel's claim that he'd never had his hair cut, wasn't, in fact, too far from the truth. "What style do you want me to cut it into? How much do you want me to take off?"
Castiel lapsed into thoughtful silence again. It took longer this time. "Could you just make it shorter, so that it will not irritate me anymore, yet allow it to still quite look like it does now?"
"I can do that," Mike promised him. He picked up the scissors and his comb. "Bend your head forward a little." He guided Castiel's chin almost to his chest. Mike saw that Castiel was gripping the armrests tightly, almost as if he was bracing himself for something painful.
Though Mike's first impression had been that Castiel's hair hadn't been taken very good care of, he now had to revise that opinion as the comb ran remarkably smoothly through the black strands. He combed it into a more manageable style first, wet it slightly to make it straight. Then he started cutting, taking a fair amount off, but making sure it wouldn't drastically alter his client's appearance. The first black cuttings fell onto the white sheet, rolled down to Castiel's knees, before falling on the ground. Castiel followed their progress and jerked his head slightly to the side in order to check where and how much of his hair had hit the ground. Mike had to quickly retract the scissors to prevent himself from making a mistake.
"Hey!" Mike reprimanded him sharply, tapping sternly with his comb on Castiel's crown. "You have to sit still! I'm going to mess up otherwise and cut it a lot shorter than you like, understood?"
"Yes," Castiel replied softly, sounding chastised and Mike almost felt guilty. "I'm sorry."
When the barber brought Castiel's head back in position, it struck him how ambivalent the other man's age was. The way he held himself, the way he talked, the way he dressed, all made him seems older and wiser than his face suggested, yet the genuine confusion in his eyes and the small insecurities he displayed in front of Mike, made him appear younger, almost child-like.
Mike continued cutting in silence. Castiel stayed unnaturally still. "You're allowed to breathe, you know."
Castiel took a big, rather comical, gulp of air. "Sorry. I am not used to this."
"That's okay. You're doing fine."
He relaxed a little after that, responding to Mike's questions with more than just a monosyllable. Mike had always prided himself on his ability to get people out of their shells. In a way, a barber functioned much like a psychologist did. Customers blurted out their thoughts, ideas and secrets to him without Mike ever needing to really pry, apart from a few well-placed questions. Admittedly, Castiel was a bit more difficult than the average customer. Mike didn't get a clear idea of what his job was or what he was doing in this town. He did find out that Castiel was travelling with two brothers, Sam and Dean, the latter of which had inspired this haircut. Castiel spoke of Dean the most, with an admiration and awe that Mike found slightly peculiar, especially because Castiel seemed to disagree with him rather often.
At one point, Castiel mentioned trouble with his family and his brothers, but when Mike questioned him on the matter, he indicated he didn't want to talk about. After that, his answers became shorter once more and Mike regretfully concluded Castiel wasn't in the mood to talk anymore.
Mike finished cutting and grabbed the clippers with the intentions of tidying up the back of Castiel's neck. Castiel apparently hadn't expected that and when the low buzzing sounded through the shop, he almost jumped up from the chair.
Mike immediately felt bad for not explaining it beforehand. He turned the clippers off and showed them to Castiel, who carefully sat back in the chair again. "I'm almost finished. I was just going to use to clean up the hairs at the back of your neck. I'm not going to cut off much." As an afterthought, he added: "It doesn't hurt."
Castiel studied the clippers. "Dean has his haircut with those." That seemed to be a deciding factor for him, because he bent his head and sat still once more.
Mike finished quickly. "There. That wasn't too bad, right?"
"The sensation was not unpleasant," Castiel agreed contemplatively.
"I could cut your hair like Dean's next time," Mike offered as he untied the white sheet and shook the remaining black hairs on the ground.
Castiel reached up and ran a hand through his hair, making it stand up at odd angles. "Next time?"
Mike scowled and went for the comb again, attempting to create some order once more. Castiel let him. "Well, your hair will grow back. You'll need another haircut in a few months. If you'd like, you could come back here. But you could always choose another barbershop, of course."
"No, I'd like to come back," Castiel told him. "How long should I wait?"
Mike considered telling him to use his own judgement, but thought Castiel would find that difficult. "Why don't you come back in two months."
Castiel nodded, got up and handed Mike the money. "I will. Thank you." He put on his trench coat with the same awkward movements he'd taken it off, gave Mike a hesitant smile and disappeared out of the door, leaving the old barber with an empty shop and a sense of wonderment.
And Castiel did come back. Exactly two months later, at the precise hour he'd turned up the first time. Mike glanced at the clock, wondered briefly whether it was a coincidence that it was pointing at twelve to two, then decided that wasn't very likely. When Castiel was seated, Mike repeated the offer he'd made during their last visit, to cut his hair like Dean's.
Castiel contemplated this for a moment. "No, thank you. I'm not Dean. I'd like you to cut it like last time."
Mike smiled and did just that. In the following months, he was able – almost to the second – to predict when Castiel would arrive. He was never late and always came dressed in his trench coat and suit. Though he was a hard man to read, Mike was pretty sure he could tell when Castiel was happy or at least content, and also when he was upset. He didn't get much information out of him about his family or his past, but Castiel seemed quite pleased to chat about Dean and his younger brother Sam.
In turn, he had started asking Mike about the barbershop and about his life. Sometimes, they discussed politics or popular culture and Mike found himself explaining the elections to Castiel, who turned out to be a good listener and eager student. It sometimes surprised Mike what he did and didn't know or how hard Castiel found it to form is own opinion and voice his likes or dislikes. Occasionally, Mike put on the old radio and they listened to sports, with Mike explaining the rules, because Castiel seemed to be completely ignorant when it came to athletics.
As the months passed, Castiel became better at sitting still and Mike barely had to correct the position of his head. On one occasion, however, a car backfired in the street outside. It was a loud bang, almost like an explosion, and Castiel flinched so violently and suddenly that Mike accidentally cut off too much of his hair and ended up giving him a shorter haircut than usual. The difference wasn't dramatic, but Mike had sensed that Castiel, in his own silent way, had been upset by it and he vowed not to let it happen again.
There was one other time when he'd ended up with a shorter cut than he'd intended. When he'd first entered the shop that day, Mike had sensed there was something wrong. Castiel expression had been hard and angry. To Mike's inquiry whether everything was okay, he replied with a gruff: "Don't ask stupid questions."
Mike wasn't one to demand respect from his customers. He didn't insist on being called 'sir' or on there being a distance between him and his clients. This kind of tone, however, was not what he expected from them and he made Castiel pay for it. Mike felt the younger man stiffen as he realized his hair was being cut shorter than usual, but he held his tongue and sat up a little straighter, determined to bear it stoically and with his dignity intact. When he felt Mike use the clippers higher on the back of his head and on the sides, he squirmed slightly, but Mike's heavy, restraining hand kept him still.
After Mike finished, Castiel remained seated longer than usual. He reached up and winced as he touched his hair, quickly withdrawing his hand. Mike knew he had to handle this delicately to avoid pushing him away entirely. He put a hand on Castiel's shoulder and said gently, without a spark of hostility: "I'm not used to my customers speaking to me like that, young man."
For a second, Mike feared it was still too much and Castiel would shrug him off and depart in anger. But then his shoulders sagged and his voice was soft: "I'm sorry. I shouldn't have said that."
Mike covered up a sigh of relief. "It's okay. Consider it forgotten." He squeezed Castiel's shoulder and was on the verge of moving away, when Castiel spoke suddenly:
"Dean was hurt today. I couldn't get to him in time and he was injured. He's in the hospital."
Mike kept his hand on Castiel's shoulder, surprised by the unexpected confession. "Is he going to be alright?"
"Sam says he is. But I should have prevented it." He balled his fists. "I should have put him in that situation."
"I'm sure you tried your best. You're human, Castiel. You can't always prevent your friends from getting hurt."
Castiel snorted humourlessly, but didn't reply, his eyes darkened with anger that wasn't directed at Mike.
"Have you visited him in hospital?"
"He won't want to see me. He'll think it was my fault. And he's right."
"Visit him. Perhaps he doesn't see it the way you do."
"Perhaps he does."
"Then you give him time. He is your friend, right, and you are his?" He waited for Castiel's nod. "Trust him." He patted Castiel's shoulder once, before walking to the counter and signalling the end of the conversation.
After that, everything went back to normal. Castiel showed up at his regular time and told Mike that he and Dean had reconciled. Mike was glad. Castiel seemed happier and talked again. Sometimes Mike got the impression that he normally didn't get to develop and share his opinions on trivial matters with other people. He liked challenging Castiel, he liked making him think about things, even about silly matters, such as his favourite colour or weather type.
One afternoon, Mike asked: "Did you go to University?"
"No?" Mike repeated curiously. "You sound like you did. Why not?"
"I never had the opportunity," Castiel replied.
"Pity. I think you'd have done well in that kind of environment."
"What would I study?" Castiel asked back, more to humour Mike than to actually explore the train of thought.
Mike considered for a moment. "English literature. I think you'd be good at analysing language and characters."
"I don't understand people," Castiel argued. "I wouldn't get it right."
"No-one understands people," Mike threw back. "Some just pretend that they do. I, for example, don't understand you at all."
Castiel smiled slightly at that. "I have never even read a book just for the pleasure of it."
"You haven't? Well, we'll have to change that, won't we?"
That day, Castiel left with a very weathered copy of The Complete Works of Shakespeare. Mike had told him which plays to read first and advised him to talk to Sam about it. Castiel had been hesitant to accept the book, but in the end, when he'd done so, he seemed pleased and held it as if it was some kind of treasure.
The next time they met, Mike was the one who was quiet and withdrawn and Castiel picked up on it.
"You seem sad."
Mike smiled wryly. "I am sad."
Mike sighed. "Went to the hospital last week. I'd been feeling ill for a few months now. Should've gone earlier, of course, but you know what it's like. You tell yourself your busy, that it'll go away, but somewhere, in the back of your mind, you realize it could be something serious. And it is." He lowered the scissors. "Bowel cancer. It's already spread to my liver and pancreas. There's nothing they can do. Perhaps if I'd gone in a little sooner…"
"Thanks, but it's okay." Mike was lying. It wasn't. Of course it wasn't. "I'm an old man. My wife died a few years ago, I don't have any children. I just wish I'd found someone to take over the shop. I suppose I'll have to close it now." Castiel didn't know what to say to that. Mike snorted as he watched him struggle for words. "Let's not talk about it anymore. I'm not gone yet. Might still have a few months in me. Better make the most of it, right?"
When he was about to leave that day, Castiel turned to Mike a last time and put his hand on the old barber's shoulder. That surprised Mike. Castiel wasn't someone who easily sought physical contact. He barely tolerated having his hair cut. "I wish you the best of health."
"Too late for that," Mike whispered as the door closed. Yet oddly enough, he felt better than he'd done in weeks.
"The doctors said it was a miracle!" Mike beamed and Castiel smiled back at him, as he always did when people he liked were laughing. "The cancer was just gone! They kept me in hospital for two days, ran me through every scan and every test they could think of, but they couldn't find a trace of it."
"Good things happen to good people."
"I guess you're right," Mike replied cheerfully, ruffling Castiel's hair and messing it up on purpose, taking pleasure in his indignant look. "I'm planning on becoming at least a hundred now."
Everything was fine in the next months. Mike's cancer stayed gone and slowly, he started to believe that indeed, like Castiel said, good things did happen to good people. Sadly, this didn't seem to count for the man himself. Castiel seemed troubled lately. One time, he came in smelling of alcohol and Mike feared they were going to have a fight. Instead, Castiel shared more than ever before. He talked about his father, who'd let him down in the argument with his brothers. His eldest brother, Michael, was apparently at war with a younger brother, whom Castiel did not name. The exact reason of their disagreement remained unclear to Mike, but he did find out that Castiel, Sam and Dean were caught in the crossfire.
Two months after these revelations, Castiel missed his usual time and Mike found himself oddly worried. He waited in the shop all day, and the next day, and the next. He even checked the news and papers to see whether a man fitting Castiel's description had been hurt or killed. Ten days after the expected date, Castiel came stumbling in and Mike immediately sensed something was wrong. It was the first time he'd actually seen him stepping out of a bus in front of the shop. All the other times, it was almost as if he'd appeared out of nowhere.
Before he even had a chance to speak, Castiel said hurriedly: "I'm sorry. My brothers, they – they hurt me and I was in the hospital. That is why I could not be here. Dean told me to go now. I wanted to wait two months, but he said you wouldn't mind." His blue eyes pleaded with Mike to confirm that.
"Of course I don't mind!" Mike rushed to his side and helped him take his trench coat off, something that lead to a gasp of pain from Castiel. "Are you okay? What did they do to you?"
"They hurt me," Castiel repeated, but he didn't elaborate. "And no, I'm not okay. I've – I've lost something. I am merely human now."
Mike frowned at that last statement. "What do you mean with that?"
"Nothing. I meant nothing. Can I sit down?"
"Yes, yes, please do." Mike quickly guided him to the chair. Then he took a moment to study Castiel. There was a cut above his left eye and he looked pale and tired. His eyes didn't seem as alert as usual and he slumped in his seat. He was also jumpy and on edge.
Mike cut his hair slowly, hoping to calm Castiel through his deliberate movements. They didn't talk much, seeing as Castiel was clearly not in a mood to share more information. Mike saw his eyes flicker shut on occasion, as if he was having trouble keeping them open. Then the phone rang and after Mike had spent several minutes talking to a customer, he returned to find that Castiel's head had dropped forward onto his chest and he was sound asleep.
Mike didn't wake him. He'd almost finished when the phone rang and was still able to manoeuvre Castiel's head in the necessary positions to complete his haircut. But even after Mike was done, he was reluctant to wake the young man, who seemed absolutely exhausted. Instead, he got a pillow from the back room, wedged it between Castiel's neck and the top of the back of his chair, and then allowed his head to rest on it. At least he looked more comfortable now.
Mike even went as far as to temporarily disable the little bell above the door and when other customers came, he used the extra chair and made them whisper. One man, just before he left, studied Castiel, then addressed Mike and asked: "Is that your son?"
Mike turned to look at the sleeping figure in the rumpled suit. He and his wife never had children. They'd tried, but it just wasn't given to them. Mike had never consciously regretted it, - at least, that's what he thought - but was surprised to find himself replying: "Yes. Yes, he is."
The customer smiled and said, just before closing the door behind him: "I can see the resemblance."
Mike was again surprised, this time how much that comment hurt.
He spent a quiet hour reading the paper behind the counter. Castiel was so quiet that Mike occasionally checked whether he was still breathing. Luckily, he was and apparently just slept dreamlessly and soundlessly. At one point late in the afternoon, the generic ringtone of a mobile phone rang through the shop. Mike quickly tracked the sound and fished the device out of the pocket of Castiel's trench coat.
"Cas? Where the hell are you?"
"This is Mike Nolan, speaking on behalf of Castiel."
"Who are you and what have you done to him?"
"Nothing, he's fine," Mike rapidly reassured the anxious voice on the other side of the line. "I'm his barber. He fell asleep today, and because he mentioned he'd been hurt and looked tired, I didn't wake him. He's still here."
A relieved sigh. "I'm sorry. Thank you. The name's Dean Winchester, by the way. Look, not that I don't trust you or anything, but could you wake him up for me? I'd like to make sure he's okay."
"Of course. Give me a moment."
Mike put the phone done and shook Castiel's shoulder. "Castiel?"
His eyes opened slowly, but as soon as he realized where he was, he bolted upright in his chair and Mike had to put a restraining hand on his chest to prevent him from hurting himself by moving too quickly.
"It's okay. You're still here in the shop, you just fell asleep." While Castiel anxiously checked his surroundings, Mike picked up the phone and handed it to him. "Dean Winchester for you."
Castiel took it. "Dean? I'm fine. No, you don't have to come get me, I can take the bus back. No, really. Dean." A sigh. "Okay. See you in thirty minutes." He snapped the phone shut, a bit harder than was necessary. "Why didn't you wake me?" He sounded annoyed.
Mike stayed calm. "You looked like you needed to get some rest."
"Dean doesn't think I can get back on my own," Castiel said angrily, deciding to direct his frustration at something else.
"Of course he does," Mike soothed. "He's just worried about you. You were worried about him when he was in the hospital, right?"
"And you wanted him to be okay?"
"Then you should let him do the same for you, Castiel."
Half an hour later, a 1967 Chevy Impala pulled up in front of the barbershop. Castiel went to sit in the passenger seat and the car drove off much more gently and carefully than it had arrived.
The next time Castiel came, Mike didn't have to ask whether he was feeling better. It was clear from the way he held himself and the way he moved that there was nothing wrong physically wrong with him. Mentally, however, was another business.
"Do you want to talk about it?"
And Mike didn't push. They spent half an hour in silence. When Castiel left, he hesitated at the door just as another customer entered the shop. He looked back at Mike and suddenly blurted out: "Sam is dead."
Mike didn't respond, but turned to the new customer instead. "I'm sorry, we're closed."
"No, you're not!" The man said in confusion. "Your sign says you're open. Besides, you're always open till five! It isn't even three yet."
"We're closed," Mike reiterated firmly and he almost physically pushed the man out, before grabbing Castiel's arm and taking him back inside the shop, locking the door behind him.
"You did not have to do that," Castiel told him, but his voice was soft and it was clear he didn't mean it. "I should go."
"You shouldn't. Come on, let's go into the back. I'm going to make you some tea."
Castiel allowed himself to be taken inside by Mike. He didn't tell him the entire story, he never did, but Mike got the gist of it and of how much it hurt him. Sam was gone, probably dead. The fight between his brothers was over, but perhaps the price they'd paid for it had been too high. Mike suggested getting the police involved, but Castiel just looked at him and Mike didn't mention it again. Castiel hadn't seen Dean in weeks. He'd been broken by the loss of his brother and Castiel refused to visit him, no matter how much Mike insisted. Before he left, late that evening, Mike made him promise to at least come back in two months. That, Castiel could do.
Castiel kept his promise. Two months later, he returned and the first words out of his mouth were: "Sam is back!"
In a movement that was an odd cross between a reflex and a dormant paternal instinct, Mike stepped forward and hugged him. Castiel first stiffened in his arms, then relaxed and awkwardly patted Mike on the back a couple of times.
Castiel explained Sam's escape in vague terms. Mike didn't quite understand it, but he was happy that this guy he didn't even know, was apparently safe.
"But Sam is different," Castiel suddenly said. "He's changed. I can't put my finger on what it is."
"He's gone through a great deal," Mike reasoned. "Everyone would be changed by that. You have to give him time. What does Dean say about it?"
"He doesn't know Sam is back yet."
"What? Why not?"
Castiel sighed. "Dean is happy. He doesn't have to worry about his little brother. Sam wants it this way."
"And you? What do you want?"
Castiel hesitated. It had been such a recurring theme in their conversations over the last two years: Castiel's free will. "I want to see Dean again." He suddenly turned around in the chair and Mike quickly had to lift the scissors to avoid poking one of his eyes out. "But I can't, Mike. I can't mess this up for him."
"Have you thought about what he wants?"
Castiel snorted, a sound Mike had seldom heard from him. "He does not want me."
"You're his friend. From what I gather, you're his best friend. He does not only want you in his life, he also needs you. Go talk to him, Castiel."
They had the same discussion six times that year, to the point that Mike almost wanted to slap some sense into his client. The time after that, Castiel began their appointment with the words: "I talked to him."
"Finally! About time. Was he happy to see you?"
"I think so."
"Did you tell him that you were happy to see him?"
"I told him that we share a profound bond."
Mike laughed. "Well, coming from you, that's practically a declaration of love."
Castiel glared at him through the mirror, then said with displeasure evident in his voice: "He took me to a bar."
"And I'm guessing you're not a bar-person?"
"I am not," Castiel conceded. Mike waited, because it was clear he wasn't finished and this wasn't the whole story. "Dean kissed a girl."
Mike snorted. "He never does that?"
"He does that quite often. But never in my presence."
"And it bothered you?"
"So what did you do?"
Castiel shifted awkwardly in the chair and Mike tapped him on the head to remind him to keep still. "I kissed a girl."
Mike started laughing again. "And I'm guessing you didn't like that either?"
"That is not of import."
Mike tried to supress another smile at the indignant tone, but was not very successful. "You wanted to make him jealous, didn't you?"
Castiel didn't say anything, but his silence was confirmation enough.
"You want Dean to kiss you," Mike concluded softly. Castiel lowered his eyes, whether in shame or fear at Mike's reaction, Mike didn't know. He put a hand on Castiel's shoulder and felt him tense. "There's nothing wrong with that. You should tell him."
Castiel's eyes grew wide and for once, he was less than eloquent. "I – He – No, I can't tell him!"
"Dean does not want to kiss me."
"How do you know?"
"Dean kisses girls."
"You kissed a girl. Doesn't mean you want to kiss girls. Doesn't mean you don't want to kiss Dean. It's not as black-and-white as you make it out to be and you know that."
"He won't want to see me again if I tell him."
"Okay," Mike nodded, understanding his concern. "Let's try something else. A thought experiment, if you will. What if Sam told you he wanted to kiss you?"
"Sam doesn't want to kiss me." Castiel said in confusion.
"It's hypothetical. What if he wanted to kiss you? Would you not want to see him again if he told you that? Or would you turn him down, gently, but still be his friend?"
Castiel remained silent, but it clear that he was beaten by the argument.
"Tell me, Castiel," Mike continued. "Have you ever wanted to kiss anyone else? Anyone besides Dean?"
"Do you think you ever will?"
"Then what are you waiting for?"
Two men entered his shop that Thursday afternoon at twelve to two. They were holding hands, which the one in front – wearing his trademark suit and trench coat – was using to pull the other man along. The second man was slightly taller than Castiel. He wore jeans, a leather jacket and Mike had only seen him once, in the driver's seat of the Impala.
"Dean would like for you to cut his hair." Castiel spoke as they halted before the counter.
"Cas would like for you to cut Dean's hair," Dean Winchester corrected, but his smile was not cruel or mocking, but rather fond. Taking in Castiel's scowl, he quickly added: "But Dean is a willing participant."
"Well, that's good to hear," Mike told him. "I insist on a little free will in my customers."
"That's what you get with us," Dean said happily. "Team Free Will! Right, Cas?"
Castiel nodded gravely. Dean and Mike shook hands and Mike directed him to the chair. "Castiel, why don't you wait over there?" He indicated the waiting area and Castiel took his place.
Dean was a pleasant customer. He was talkative, had a great sense of humour and sat perfectly still. Some people – who knew Castiel less well than Mike did – would say Dean was everything Castiel wasn't. Mike, however, concluded that they complemented each other.
He gave Dean a short haircut, keeping in mind the fact that it was nearly summer. When he was finished and Dean started to get up, Castiel pushed him back and experimentally ran his hands through Dean's hair. Dean couldn't help but lean into his touch slightly. "Is it to your liking?" He asked, tilting his head back and smiling up at Castiel.
Dean got up with a reluctant sigh. "Alright, I'm going. We need some more supplies and the Impala is almost out of gas. I'll pick you up when you're done, okay?" He waited for Castiel's acquiescence. Then he looked at Mike. "Mr Nolan? Thank you. I'll be back. That is, if Cas doesn't mind sharing his barber."
"Good." Mike pretended to be busy while Dean breached Castiel's personal space to place a quick kiss on his lips. "I'll be back in thirty minutes."
When the door slammed behind him, Castiel waited nervously for Mike's reaction, almost as if he yearned for parental approval. "So I take it you talked to him?" Mike said. "What did he say?"
"He didn't say anything." Castiel stated, before adding rather shyly: "He kissed me."
"I knew it!" Mike laughed, thumping Castiel on his back. "He's lucky to have you, son. I'm happy for you."
"I'm lucky to have him."
Mike just smiled and spun the chair around. The next half hour was uneventful. Castiel was cheerful and at ease. Occasionally, though, his eyes would still cloud over and it was as if he was in an entirely different place at those times, causing his expression became guarded and serious. Mike tried to distract him, but was only moderately successful.
When Castiel had put on his trench coat and was waiting for Dean to return, Mike decided to raise a subject he'd been pondering for a few weeks now. "Castiel." He waited for the other man to make eye-contact with him. "I've finally figured out to whom that name belongs in the Bible. The angel of Thursday." Castiel's expression became closed off and his whole posture tensed. "You told me one of your brothers was called Michael. Now, this could, of course, mean that your parents were devoted people, who named their sons after angels. But you've only ever mentioned your father. You don't want to tell me the name of your other brother, the one who's at war with Michael, but I think I can guess, if I put it together with the mystery surrounding you." He sighed. "You're not from here, are you, Castiel?"
Castiel broke eye-contact and gazed at the floor in indecision. Mike could tell his hands were shaking. In the end, he raised his head and seemed to grow a little taller and Mike felt a sudden burst of fear at the sight. "You're right. I am not from here." Then he shrank again and reminded Mike, like many times before, of a lost little boy. "I take it I should leave now?"
Mike nodded. "You should. But I expect you back here in two months, with Dean. We have an appointment, remember?"
Castiel frowned. "You should be scared. I should scare you."
"You don't," Mike lied, even though he'd been frightened a mere moment ago. "I want you to come back. " It was the truth.
A careful smile curved Castiel's lips, hesitantly, as if he didn't quite dare to believe that. "Thank you."
"It is my pleasure."
Simultaneously, they heard the roar of the engine that signalled the return of the Impala. Castiel nodded his goodbye that thankfully wasn't really a goodbye. Mike gave a small wave in return, after which he watched the angel and his human drive off together. Then he took the broom from the corner of the shop and swept up the pile of brown and black hair both men had left behind.