Castiel first snapped his phone shut, then his laptop, stowing both into his carryon. The plane was boarding, and he still had no idea where that damn PR agent had gone.
As the gate emptied, Cas was left more or less alone as the crisp, automated voice of the flight attendant announced that this was the final boarding call for flight 3326 to San Francisco. Castiel rolled his eyes and stood. She could stay behind here in Austin for all he cared. Sure, that meant he wouldn't be able to do this article- even though it was promised to be the biggest story of his career- but he'd get a pressure-free vacation in California. He retrieved his boarding pass from his back pocket and strode decisively towards the scanner, when someone small and blonde barreled into his path.
"Sorry," Jo Harvelle panted, dashing over to get her purse from the waiting area and returning a second later, trying desperately to fix her incredibly messy hair. "Got held up at a book store, reading the latest issue of People. There was a really horrible article about that awards show last week, when D-"
"It's fine," Cas almost snapped and turned away from the blonde agent and towards the flight attendant manning the scanner. She was a pretty redhead who beamed at Castiel and sent him through the doors after taking annoyingly long to scan his boarding pass- although he was sure her leaning over the machine had more to do with her desire for him to admire her formidable cleavage than with fixing the scanner.
Their seats were good- business class, of course- and the second the aircraft doors closed, it became apparent that Ms. Harvelle wasn't planning to sit this flight out in silence. Every few seconds, it was "did you see that video where-" or "did you read that article where-" or "did you hear about that interview where-"
Clearly, Ms. Harvelle was very enthusiastic about her client. Had probably been a fan of him before he hired her as PR. And although Castiel admired dedication in the workplace, he much preferred silence to what was currently spewing forth from Jo's pretty mouth. So, he nodded along and stared out of the window, occasionally making quiet noises of assent at moments when Jo stopped talking for a second to breathe.
This story had come out of the blue. Yeah, sure, Cas worked for the largest newspaper in Texas and was the leading music correspondent, but a story this big was completely out of his league.
Dean Winchester, new darling of the music world. Going on a nation-wide tour. Every single show out of the 42 he was playing was completely sold out.
And who got to go along with him, watch from backstage, observe his daily life, analyze every detail? Castiel Novak. Just your average reporter. Won some prize once, he barely even remembered which one, for a story about a music festival back in '09. It was easy to say that he was a big deal in the journalism world, but nowhere near big enough to cover Dean Winchester's Magical Mystery Tour.
Cas was mercifully saved from having to endure four or so hours of Jo yammering on about Dean this, Dean that by a flight attendant coming by and offering them drinks. Cas politely declined, but Jo ordered some fruity soda-type beverage. The second the drink touched her lips, she was unable to talk, and Castiel seized the golden opportunity to whip out his laptop and do a little writing. Upon seeing that he was busy doing what he was being paid to do, Jo managed to shut up and remained mostly silent for the rest of the flight.
Cas typed dutifully away, writing about his past experiences with famous musicians, annoying PR agents, and assorted other tidbits relevant to this incident. He'd probably end up deleting half of them and keep maybe a third of those left for the article. The others would rot in his computer, never to be opened again.
The plane flight seemed much shorter than its four hours and soon Cas was pushing past the redheaded flight attendant, picking up trash on the floor in front of him- really, just attempting to get him to stare at her ass (it worked)- and out into the crisp air of northern California in April.
Wishing he'd brought a slightly warmer jacket with him onto the plane, Cas zipped up the one he was currently wearing and tried to conceal his shivers as Jo bounced up next to him.
"Car should be here soon," she chirped. "Your bags should already be at the hotel, right?"
Cas nodded, not trusting his teeth not to chatter if he opened his mouth.
"I've been meaning to ask," Jo went on, "are you a fan of Dean's music?" Cas couldn't help but smirk slightly at the reverent way in which she said his name, but then proceeded to think quite seriously about the question.
Winchester's music was hard to describe, although Castiel had secretly always found it very appealing. His husky voice, devil-may-care attitude, and almost superhuman good looks were probably what had drawn Jo into his world, but Cas liked it for very different reasons. He felt the soulfulness behind the words and the slightly twangy guitar riffs. Somehow, when he heard Dean sing, he felt like the songs were deeply personal- like Dean was talking to him specifically, telling him his story alone. And his story was a tortured one, Cas could tell, even though Dean disguised it by singing more about his various encounters with women and alcohol than about his tortured past and struggles with identity and happiness. But Cas had managed to piece together a very vague tale from the things Dean slipped in between the lines, and intended to fill in the missing spots whilst writing this story.
He blinked and looked at Jo. "Uh, not really, no." The lie came naturally and he never intended to reveal the truth. It'd be much easier that way.
Jo's face fell. "Oh. That- aw. Shame. Maybe spending time with him will make you one! He's a really, um, great guy, no matter what the papers say, and-"
She was off again. Cas felt it would be safe to tune out and instead thought about what he would tell his friends back in Austin- most of whom adored Dean's music very openly and had almost died of jealousy when Castiel had told them about his assignment- about this whole experience once it was over.
An enormous black limo pulled up to the curb right in front of Jo and Cas, and the young woman grinned. "Okay, let's go!" she said, opening the door and sliding into the car as though she lived in it.
Cas raised his eyebrows. "A limo? Seems a bit excessive... Does Mr. Winchester treat all of his reporters this way?"
Jo smiled widely as Cas slid in across from her. "Actually, you're his first."
"What?" Castiel said, somewhat incredulous. "But all those articles in People-"
"He never gives interviews, almost. You'll be his first authorized reporter. So you better make it count!" Jo chuckled and pulled out a shiny smartphone. "I'll just call him and tell him we're on our way." A slight note of giddiness entered her voice with the anticipation of talking to Dean again. God, she really was quite the fangirl. Cas heard a slight click on the other end of the line and Jo sat straight up, eyes gleaming. "D- Mr. Winchester?" she said, voice breathy. A pause as he answered. "Yes, this is your PR- no, no, my name is Jo. Jo Harvelle." She tried to keep her face from falling, but she couldn't hide her disappointment. Cas couldn't help but smile- this was probably something that happened a couple times a day. "Yes, that's me. Um, anyway, I was just calling to let you know that we're on our way. Yes, me and the reporter." She glanced at Castiel. "I- what? Really? Er, okay." She pulled the phone away from her ear. "He says he wants to talk to you," she said, looking slightly troubled, and extending the phone towards Cas.
Cas raised his eyebrows. "Okay?..." He took the phone. "Ah- hello?"
There was a slight crackle on the other end of the line and Cas felt something inside him flutter.
"Hello?" he repeated, bemused.
"I heard you the first time, dammit," Dean Winchester, biggest name in music today, said.
"Don't swear at me, dammit," Cas shot back, stiffening, somehow already irritated with the fact that one of his favourite musicians is, in fact, as much of a dick as the tabloids make him out to be.
There was a pause, and a low chuckle from the other end of the line. "Snark, huh? Groovy. I like your guts."
"Oh, goodie," Cas said, rolling his eyes, and trying to ignore Jo, who was gesturing desperately at him to be less disrespectful to her god.
"I'm Dean Winchester."
"You don't say," Castiel said dryly. "I'm Cas Novak."
"That short for something?"
A snort from the other end. "That's, uh, nice."
"I'm glad you think so," Cas said, rubbing his eyes. It was going to be a long tour.
He was met with more quiet laughter from Dean and he had to admit that the man had quite a nice laugh. Even if he was a bit of an egotistical jerk. "Anyway, Cas- it's okay if I call you that, right?- I just wanted to talk to you before we met in person. To get a sense of who I was dealing with. And now I know. Well, I'll see you soon, man. Yep."
The line was cut off. Cas stared at the phone in his hand and returned it back to a stunned Jo.
"I've never seen anyone mouth off to him like that and live," Jo said, a mixture of awe and resentment in her voice. "You're lucky."
Cas grinned. "Yes, 'lucky' is the word I was looking for." The limo stopped abruptly and the doors were thrown open by a pimply teenager in bellboy uniform, who stood back respectfully as Castiel and Jo exited the car in front of the hotel.
"The Vitale?" Cas said, raising an eyebrow. "Fancy."
Jo shrugged. "Only the best for our Dean," she replied with a dash of pride.
They checked in and went their separate ways after Jo informed him that he would be staying in the room immediately adjacent to that of Dean's- jealousy all over her face- for tonight only and that the rest of the tour, he would sleep on the tour bus with Dean. The backup band got their own bus, because Dean Winchester liked his privacy and could definitely afford extravagance. But today, Cas could go in and out of Dean's room as he liked in order to "get a friendship started, or whatever," Jo said somewhat bitterly and slunk off to her room two floors below them.
Cas grinned. She was adorable.
He entered his room- deluxe suite, to be precise- to find his bags already there. Kicking his shoes off and loosening his tie, Cas pulled out his laptop and plugged it in to the nearest charger. He decided to go talk to Winchester now and type up some things before bed, get a start on the article. After confirming that his laptop was, in fact, charging- you never knew with his elderly machine- he strode over to the door connecting rooms 802 and 803 and knocked.
He knocked again.
"Yeah," someone said distantly from the other side.
Cas turned the unlocked doorknob and entered. Dean's suite was much more elaborate than his own- larger rooms, fancier furniture- but miraculously neat; there were no leopard-print coats strewn over chairs, no leather pants lining the floors. Instead, there were papers covering every flat surface, including the small table in the corner by the balcony, where a figure with short hair with its back to Cas sat writing.
Castiel took a deep breath, steeled himself, and approached.
"You're left-handed," Cas's mouth said, and its owner cursed inwardly. That was a terrible way to greet someone, but his surprise at seeing Dean writing with not the hand he used to sign autographs had made him unable to say anything else.
"Ambidextrous," Dean said, crumpled up the paper he was writing on, and threw it with immaculate aim into a wastepaper basket in the opposite corner. He swiveled around in his chair and grinned crookedly at Cas.
Cas had to admit, his heart stopped a little bit.
He had always suspected that pictures and videos could never do Dean justice, and he was correct. The wide eyes were even more ridiculously green, the hair even more perplexingly multi-coloured, the mouth even more- um-
Cas blinked and looked away, feeling that he was getting distracted.
"I'm Cas," he said, making eye contact with Dean again. To his surprise, Dean was looking at him with an odd expression, perfect eyebrows knitted, a slight frown creasing his features. "Something wrong?"
"N-no, I just- your eyes are really fuckin' blue, man," Dean said and grinned again. "I'm Dean. How ya doin'?" He rose from his chair and Castiel's eyes couldn't help but slide down Dean's body, admiring the way his muscles worked together.
"Well," Cas said, not really sure he could say anything else.
"Well what?" Dean said, eyes twinkling, as he approached Cas.
Cas raised an eyebrow. "Nothing. That's the end of that sentence. You asked how I was doing. I am doing well. I answered as such."
There was a bit of a pause, and Dean smiled so warmly at Cas that the room seemed to heat up for a second. "Nice to meet you," he said and extended a hand.
Castiel grasped it and shook firmly, trying to steady his pulse. "Likewise."
"I'm a big fan of your work," Dean said, releasing Cas's hand after holding it a second too long- or was that just Castiel's imagination?- and turning away again.
"My work?" Cas said, confused.
Dean looked back at him. "Yeah, you wrote some article a while back about a peace-and-love-and-music movement festival thing in Aurora. Good stuff."
Cas racked his mind and found nothing. "Thanks?"
"Nah, don't mention it, man, talent is talent." Dean swaggered over to the section of the suite that was supposed to be the kitchen and swung open the mini-fridge. "Drink?"
"I don't drink," Cas said somewhat awkwardly.
Dean whipped around and stared. "What? Ever? What about, like, water and stuff?"
Cas rolled his eyes. "Funny."
A corner of Dean's mouth twitched and he bent down again to look at the mini-fridge. Cas found his eyes drifting towards- but he looked away, reminding himself that yes, although everyone had a mandatory same-gender crush even if they were straight, there was a line he couldn't cross, and he was toeing it.
"I've got some Coke. That okay?" Not waiting for a response, Dean tossed Cas a can and gestured for him to sit down. Castiel did, somewhat gingerly. Dean grabbed a bottle of whiskey, pulled the top off, and put it to his lips, drinking deeply before setting it down on a counter and wiping his mouth.
Cas looked away in an attempt to gather his thoughts. His eyes landed on the pile of papers Dean had been interacting with when he came in. Popping the top of the Coke, he nodded at them and said, "So what are those?"
Dean took another swig. "Stage designs for shows and stuff. Mostly the later ones. I suck, though, so they're just rough ideas."
Castiel, slightly impressed, sipped from his Coke.
"Why don't you drink?"
Cas looked up sharply. Even though it was an extremely personal question and one he was almost never comfortable with answering, there was something to be said for Dean's way of not beating around the bush. "I... Hmmm. Personal reasons."
Dean groaned. "Cop-out. Seriously. Why not?" His eyes were wide and appeared to be genuinely innocent. It was quite possible that he legitimately did not know that he was prying.
Cas shrugged. "I've been sober five and a half years, now. Once upon a time, things got kinda out of hand and..." He sighed. "I've become a lot better since then. I'm glad things are the way they are."
Dean was looking at him with a half-amused, half-admiring expression. "Why not just party life away like the way you want to, man?"
Cas tried and failed not to glare. "Because we can't all be rock stars, Dean. Some of us have to be the responsible ones."
"Ouch," Dean laughed and drank from the bottle again. But Cas couldn't help but see a tiny glimmer of pain in his green eyes. "Sometimes I think life would be a lot more fun for everyone if the responsible ones took the sticks out of their asses and let loose every once in a while." He raised the bottle towards Cas in a mock toast and drank.
Castiel rolled his eyes again and stood. "Okay, well, I'm gonna go. It's almost midnight in Texas, and I still need to adjust to this time zo-"
"Hey, man, I'm sorry, I didn't mean to hit a nerve," Dean said, no longer laughing. "I wasn't trying to say-"
"No, you're fine, I just actually need to-" Cas gestured back towards the door.
Some unrecognizable emotion flickered in Dean's eyes and he turned away. "It was nice meeting you," he said, but the warmth in his voice was gone.
Castiel closed the door behind him and tried not to hear the sound of breaking glass in the other room.
He got no writing done that night.