1. Paradise Lost
His name was Cas. He had a PhD. Or would do soon. The information is second hand and the source not entirely reliable.
Still Dean listens to what Ash has to say and nods appreciatively.
"Oh and he's out of your league dude," Ash finishes after describing Cas's schedule for the next week in exquisite detail. The guy has a talent, mostly for fiddly computer things, but a little recon every now and then was almost a hobby.
Ash would have made a great spy, except for his penchant for 80's hairstyles and recreational drugs. In Dean's mind that was actually a bonus. Who would suspect the pot head with the mullet and denim jacket with torn of sleeves as a secret agent?
Still whether this was golden information or Ash's drugged up dream was still to be debated.
"I've never seen him before," Dean says eyeing the man across the park. He's sitting on a bench, curled in on himself reading a book. Dean can't work out exactly what it is at this distance but Cas is enraptured.
"Just moved here for the final year of his doctorate to work with Doctor Uriel."
"Why'd he move?"
Ash blows his cheeks out. "Hard to say. There's nothing official in the schools records. The correspondence they've got online isn't complete. Bet there's a paper trail as well but seen as you gave me 15 minutes to do the job I didn't have time for a physical break in."
Dean looks at his watch. "11 minutes, 25 seconds," he says with an impressed raise of his brows. "Oh and don't break in to the Dean's office, just don't ok."
"Means he's had to pick up 2 undergrad classes make up the universities criteria."
"KU requires an English credit at undergrad level. Most degrees include one but he studied in England."
"What's the other?"
"Teaching credit. Advanced biomedical neurophysiology or something."
"Or something," Dean repeats finding even the long words intimidating. It's not something Dean has ever even tried to be interested in. It's too big, too alien a concept to him that people are made up of chemicals and electrical impulses. It doesn't fit right with how he views the world.
"Like I said, way out of your league my man."
Ash gets up and grabs the Twinkie that Dean holds up unimpressed. He'd thought he'd get to keep it. Breaking in to the universities computers and delving for information on a man he had never even seen before all in 15 minutes.
"You misuse our friendship," Ash said with all seriousness before walking off.
When Dean turned to look for Cas again he was gone.
The first week of university is lazy. Dean's already set into his major so most of his classes are mandatory. He's got a free block for lit lab and so for the first few hours after he's met with his supervisor and the rest of the class he flips through the reading lists.
There are classes on ancient literature, modern classics, contemporary fiction, anything and everything really. KU has an exceptional line up, the classes small and choices wide.
By lunch he's torn between four. Shakespeare's diversity, dystopian futurism, British classics and religion in fiction.
He's read just about everything William Shakespeare has ever written, but he's studied it little. Reading books for something other than study helps him when he finally does sit down and pull them apart. He needs to see the overall work first, not the little details he needs to critique.
British classics is other the most mainstream of the courses, will have the best surrounding essays and literature. It'll be an easy credit.
Dystopian futurism though would allow him to read Vonnegut and Philip k Dick, Orwell and Bradbury. That's not a task at all.
The last course is a wild card. He likes the idea of the epic struggles between good and evil, morality and ethics. He'd read Paradise Lost a long time ago and been entranced by the idea that the devil was portrayed as having a voice, motivations and beliefs other than just pure evilness.
The course offered C.S. Lewis, Pullman, Keats, Blake and Dante.
He'd have to show his choices to his brother when he got home. Sam would have an opinion of them all. Not necessarily the one Dean had, but it was easier for him to funnel through his own thoughts by how he reacted to things Sam said than by sitting here questioning everything he came up with.
Firs though he has to head to Dr Singer's for his other free class.
He'd known he'd sign up for it since the moment he heard auto shop was a creditable class. When he reaches Singer's workshop he sees his name is already on the signup sheet.
"Thought I'd save you the trouble," Singer huffs as he wipes off his tools next to a classic black mustang.
"And what if I hadn't shown?"
"I would have called your course supervisor and raised hell that you hadn't when your name was on the list."
Dean laughs. He likes Singer. He's a rotund, bearded man who always wears a peaked cap, even when he's lecturing, which he does in his garage. There's a space that's cleared once a week so chairs can be dragged in and Singer can lecture the class with the sounds of auto shop in the background.
"Ok ok, you win. I'll be here."
Singer grunts in appreciation. "Though I might as well give you an A right now and get your smug smile outta my face."
"I'll bear that in mind when I need some time off."
Singer tosses him a wrench. "The mustang's making a winded noise. Engine's not turning over properly. Fix her and I'll wave your midterm."
It's a big job. She's a beautiful car but she's an old lady now. Not all the repairs are expert.
"You chose your other classes yet?"
Dean shrugs as he bends over the engine. "I only had two spaces this year besides my core modules. You nabbed one. I have the other narrowed down but I dunno yet."
"English crap I'm guessing? You read too much Dean."
Dean laughs as he straightens. Singer's not the first person who's told him that. Probably the first teacher though.
"You're a bad influence on me Bobby," he grins. He knows he's not supposed to call Singer by his first name but he's been around since before Dean could walk, his dad's best friend.
He'd lost touch after John's death but Dean didn't blame him. He'd only been someone who came round to watch baseball with John, very occasionally watch the young kids for his best friend when he had to work late. When Dean and Sam went into foster care there'd been no reason or way to keep in touch. Dean had barely recognised Singer the first time he'd walked into auto shop but Singer had picked up on the John in Dean and they had begun an uneasy and gruff friendship, mostly because Dean was just as good a mechanic as his father had been.
"Sam'll know what to pick," Dean smiles at the thought of his little brother.
"How's Sammy doing?"
"You know Sam," Dean says. It's enough. Sam's exceptional in everything he does, a gentle child with more belief and happiness than Dean had thought possible.
"He'll be part owner of that firm before they even know it."
"Hmm I thought that kid's honesty would get in his way. Appears not."
"Sam's too good for that."
Singer agrees. It's hard not to love the kid.
"Anyway. He promised he'd be home by five so I should get going. It'll take me a few hours to get her running smoothly again. Shop's tomorrow at midday right? I can see to her then."
Singer sighs. "Yes then Dean. She can be your project for the first few weeks."
"Who does she belong to anyway?"
"Some guy who just moved here. Didn't look much but he can afford a fully restored '67 and care enough to bring her in then he can be my new best friend."
"The car speaks for itself."
Dean's eyes open wide. He's spotted about two grand of upgrades the mustang needs, but she's so close already. If the owner is willing he'd love to fix her up completely.
There's not time today to get into it as he checks his watch, needing to meet Sammy for dinner but he's back tomorrow.
Sam gets home at half six and Dean puts on a hurt face as he dumps his bags and apologises.
"Dean I am so sorry. I wanted to leave, but we just got this new case and it's massive and I can't tell you but I want to. I do. It's going to be life changing. We could be the ones who lead to the change in national law. This is going to go nationwide."
Dean continues to stare, face blank.
"Dean I'm sorry. I'll make it up to you. I'm paying tonight. Let's go that restaurant you love so much, the texmex."
Dean can't hold his silence through that. "You hate texmex."
"Yes but I love my big brother and I want to apologise."
He ruffles Dean's hair as he passes and Dean swipes him off, annoyed Sam's using his big brother moves.
"I kinda fancied a burger."
"We could head to the Roadhouse? Sometimes I think you love Ash's burgers more than you love me."
It's time for Dean to take back his big brother mantle. He stands and grabs Sammy in a headlock. "Always."
Letting him go he grabs his keys. "But I'm driving."
"Always," Sam replies with a huff.
Nobody drives Dean's baby. If he's been impressed with some Joe's mustang then he was in love with his own baby. She'd belonged to his father, pieced together from trades and mates rates when his dad was a mechanic. A car like this would put him back more money than Dean could think of nowadays but over the years his father had cobbled her together as a poor mechanic.
He parks his '67 impala in the staff lot behind the roadhouse. Ellen wouldn't mind and his baby was safer there.
Sam unfolds himself from the seat and pushes him away.
"I sometimes think you love burgers more than me, but I know you love your car more."
He receives a shove that sends him into a table where a cute white bread family are eating together.
"Sorry," he apologises hands up. "He's my dumb kid brother. Can't take him anywhere."
Sam's found a table and it's not long before Jo spots them and bounces over to the table.
"So it'll be a lager shandy for Sam and ginger ale for Dean?"
"Hilarious Jo," Dean mock smiles up at her. "Sam will have an alcopop."
Sam gives him the bitchface to end all bitchfaces. It makes Jo crack up even more. She's impervious to it now.
"You'd be such a cutie if you smiled once in a while," she says chucking his chin.
Of course a wide grin cracks Sam's face. He grins more than most people smile. The kids a miracle Dean decides. After everything he's not sure how Sam's so well adjusted.
"Two burgers Jo," Dean adds to their order as she snakes an arm around his shoulder.
"Sure thing babe." She gives him a tight squeeze before bouncing back to the kitchen.
They talk like brothers do, arguing about their favourite TV shows, Sam's job (though he can't tell Dean anything about his latest case), Dean's university work.
It's late when Dean remembers he wanted Sam to help him choose a course. He pulls the list out his back pocket and taps his finger for his baby brother to look.
Of course Sam's set on Classic American Literature but Dean's so bored of all those old stories about plantations and the Mayflower.
"This one's written specially for you," Sam jokes looking at the dystopian futurism syllabus. "Maybe you want to branch out a bit? British classics will bore you to death.
It's true Dean understands. He doesn't do anything for the sake of it. Dean can't do anything half assed. If he's not completely dedicated then he knows he'll fail however easy it is.
"Yup." Sam knows. He always knows him. "You're right."
"Of course I am."
"Cocky little git."
"Dean I know my big brother. You read Shakespeare for fun. You took me to see Hamlet when I was twelve years old and talked me through why you were laughing. You'd enjoy that. You've read Slaughterhouse 5 more times than I care to count. That's you as a uni module."
He takes his time studying Dean's last choice. Religion in fiction. For a while Sam's silent. Which is weird because Sam never shuts up. Sam's open and obvious about everything he's feeling. It's something Dean secretly envies about his little brother.
"What is it?" Dean asks trying to catch Sam's eyes.
"Do you remember when I was eight...?"
"How could I forget Sammy," Dean cuts in, voice perhaps a little harsher than he meant.
"Dad had just... died... They were talking about where we were gonna live... And I couldn't sleep. So you'd read to me. For hours. Every night. Anything the shelter had. Bleak House, Lord of the Rings, Dune. And Paradise Lost."
Dean remembers vaguely. He knows he'd read the epic poem before, but he'd read so many books that context wasn't something he could pinpoint anymore.
"What? I was 11."
"I'm not sure how much you understood, but it was more about the rhythm, the sound and an end to the silence. I remember the pictures best of all."
Dean rubs a hand across his face. He can't take the feelings that build behind his eyes in that special place that has a way of thoroughly unmanning him.
"So that one then?"
Sam is looking down at the table top in silence once more. "Whatever you want to do."
Dean doesn't push him. He knows Sam's feeling the same mix of heartbreak and hope that he is. Heartbreak for their broken family, the memories of being split up. Hope because they had each other. Then they'd stayed up all night and read to chase away the darkness. Now they were older and Sam had made something of himself. Dean was trying, really he was.
"I love The Space Trilogy," Dean rationalizes it away from the burn of paradise lost.
Luckily then their burgers are brought out by a grinning Jo. Her smile disappears as she notices the atmosphere at the table. Dean breaks into an easy smile, the mask more a part of him than his own honest expressions now.
Jo drops off their plates and puts his arms around Sam from behind. He notices her finally and places a hand over hers, smiling back over his shoulder when she pulls away.
"I cannot deal with the puppy dog eyes tonight," she sighs. "Smile Sam."
Once more a big grin grows on Sam's face and things are back to normal again.
Dean watches the campus for Cas. He hasn't seen the guy since that first day when he'd got Ash to look him up.
It's no big deal, Dean tells himself. Up close the guy might not even be that hot.
Sam often refers to Dean as a Rottweiler. He never gives up on anything once he's got his teeth into it. But he hasn't even got within a football field of Cas yet.
He lets it distract him through the introduction to the Early Medieval Literature module. The talk is so general he finds nothing to sink his teeth into yet. The reading list is passed around and finally he finds he has something else to concentrate on.
Modern World Literature gets right into the base of the course. The lecturer assumes everyone has read The Waste Land and they start discussing it straight away.
Dean's feeling better by lunch, getting into the swing of university life again. His next class isn't until 4pm so he takes the chance to head out for a run.
He loses track of time as he runs and it's only when he passes the campus Starbucks with its old clock out front that he realises it's almost time for his last class.
Dean doesn't even have time to head back to the changing rooms and get showered. He pulls his sticky t-shirt as he jogs up the steps of the English building, entering the class at the bell.
He probably smells of sweat and he doesn't have his books. He's out of breath and the muscles in his legs are shaking slightly as he sits.
The teacher casts an exasperated glance at him already. Great. Dean's exceptional at making first impressions.
The class gets underway with a summary of the semesters work. They'll be reading paradise lost and four contemporaries. Dean's already read half of them so he's pretty confident.
Then they break into a general discussion on the themes and conclusions from reading Milton's great.
"Sympathy for the devil?" a low, gravelly voice breaks through during one girls rant on the depiction of Lucifer.
Dean feels the voice run through his veins like liquid iron. His joints go stiff, his muscles tense at the sound of too little sleep and not enough use.
Hesitantly he turns to find bright blue eyes.
It's Cas. Sitting at the back of the class, hands folded neatly on his desk. His eyes are on the blackboard, speaking not to a specific person, but to the universe in general.
Dean had questioned how hot he really was earlier, but not now. Cas is like nothing Dean has ever seen before. He's got dark hair, a little overlong, basically straight but with some torturous curls and waves at his temples. He wouldn't be surprised if he found Cas had got out the shower, grabbed a bit of product and shoved his hand through roughly to keep his hair from his eyes, leaving without even looking in the mirror. Messy works for him. There is the beginning of a five o'clock shadow on his jaw. The stubble frames wide, light pink lips. Dean's never seen lips like that on a man before, the bow is criminal.
It's his eyes though, like two holes have been cut in the universe and the ocean held up as a backdrop. Cas's eyes are so fucking blue.
Dean's looked into many peoples blue eyes before. Usually they're actually gray, or are pale and watery. Sometimes they bleed with green at the centre or darken to indigo. Cas's eyes though are just blue. Dean's lost control of his language, all he can think is 'blue'.
"Is Milton trying to tell us that the devil is sympathetic?"
"Lucifer was an angel," Dean answers before he realises his lips are moving.
Cas turns his eyes on Dean and he has no choice but to carry on.
"God created the angels to be perfect. Angels have no free will. Lucifer fell?" he shrugs, "How, when he has no free will, was he able to make that choice?"
"You blame god?"
"Well yeah. He created Lucifer to fall. He created Lucifer's pride."
"And angels can't have personalities?"
"Obviously yes. Lucifer shows that. But then he's cast out for having one. And why? Because god created humans, with their free will. They were allowed to choose. Lucifer wasn't."
The lecturer has stepped back, she's listening intently to the battle between the two students. The rest of the class is silent too, all enthralled by the argument masquerading as a debate.
"And that absolved him of his crimes?"
"No! But what Milton was trying to show was that even the devil has a story. Lucifer wasn't always evil."
"But he was created to fall?"
"He had the potential. Then again don't we all? He was pushed."
The bell goes, shocking Dean from how he'd been sitting leaning toward Cas.
Cas remains upright, hands still folded on the table. He opens his mouth to argue when the lecturer steps forward and break the class up.
"Very good. We'll be studying the first book next session."
The students file out quicker than Dean had ever seen a class leave before. There's an electricity in the room that they obviously sensed too, wanted to run away from. Even Dr Mills is out the door with her briefcase barely closed.
Dean sits for a moment to cool off. The conversation really had seemed like an argument in debate form.
He's still concentrating on breathing when Cas stands and moves to the front of the class. He's about to leave when he glances back over his shoulder and Dean has to ask.
"You religious then?"
Cas turns completely. He moves strangely, with the grace of a dancer but stiff like he's trying not to show how fluid he is. His eyes flicker over Dean's sweat dried white tee and still damp hair, the goofy red shorts and sweat socks.
Dean stands, drawn to the intense blue of Cas's eyes. He's standing very still, only moving his head to track Dean's process.
He's close now, standing just far enough from Cas to be acceptable but not so far he can't see every minute change of expression around Cas's eyes.
"I will continue to challenge you Dean." He slides his eyes to the side, head following moments later, showing off the graceful curve of his neck.
"Wouldn't have it any other way," Dean smiles.
Cas frowns at the wall he's studying as intently as he had Dean's face not long before. Dean gets the feeling Cas treats everything with the same severity and complete focus.
In a sudden flourish of courage, or lack of brains (Dean's not entirely sure,) he grabs Cas's pen from his hand and scribbles his number on the other man's palm.
"Just in case."
Cas looks at his defaced hand like it's grown an extra finger in the past 5 seconds.
"In case of what?"
Dean's not sure if Cas is being purposefully obtuse or whether he really is this weird. He's not even sure he likes the guy. Yes he's hot, ridiculously hot, the stuff wet dreams are made of to be perfectly honest but he's looking at Dean as if he wants to squish him beneath his perfectly maintained leather shoes.
Leather shoes. Dean takes a second to look Cas up and down. He's wearing black chinos and a black shirt. Holy shit. Dean is having trouble forming coherent thoughts once more.
He may be a complete asshole. The jury's still out on that one, but damn can he wear a shirt. He's slimmer than Dean, leaner, but he's still defined, with heavy muscles where he needs them, his thighs and calves especially.
"I dunno," Dean answers defensive now. "Maybe you'll feel the need to debate Dante at 3am one night. It's just a lifeline."
"I doubt it," Cas replies all arrogance and intriguing withdrawal.
As he turns to go Dean's fears are confirmed, Cas has an ass roman gladiators would be proud of.
Dean returns home to find Sam on the phone having a heated conversation with a colleague. They don't seem to be arguing but they're both intense and passionate.
"No!" Sam cries. "Just no! I don't care. It's evidence and it's going in. The client? I'm sure he'd think it was worth it. Look we have to run it past him Monday anyway so we should at least bring it up."
He listened for a moment, rolling his eyes.
"No. He's come this far why would he want to hide something that could help his case now? I think he's stronger than that."
Dean sneaks by into the kitchen. Sam enters as he's pouring himself a drink.
"Bad day at the office?"
Sam shakes his head. "This case. I know I can't say anything, but it's going to be massive and it's going to be tight. Nobody's going to like what we're telling them, but they need to hear it. Henriksen's scared we'll go too far. But it needs to be told and I'm sure our client will agree."
Dean nods. He knows how passionate his brother can get and how he wouldn't care this much if it wasn't important. Sam would never push for anything that wasn't in his client's best interests.
"Dean this could change the social system of this country forever."
"I'm proud of you Sammy."
Sam takes a moment to bask in his big brothers comment before breathing out long and slow.
"It's horrible. I didn't want to believe people could be like this. I just want... I want to stop it from happening again. Even if just one person doesn't have to go through this because of what we say in court then it's good right?"
"Yeah it is."
Dean orders them pizza and sits with Sam until he's calm enough to enjoy the movie they're supposed to be watching. Then he opens his copy of paradise lost.
Cas is staring at him with open antagonism. Three days later it's the next class and Dean's taken a seat in the back row just across from Cas. There's nobody inbetween them. Clever class mates he thinks.
"It's not sacrilegious," Dean sighs half way through yet another heated argument. Cas is starting to really bug him. It's the gorgeous blue eyes and the expensive jeans. It's the way he constructs his argument so that even Dean can see his point.
"That isn't what we were discussing," Cas says his voice as gravel low and fiery as before. Dean's pretty sure that voice is burning out his ear, weeding its way into his very soul. He wants to hear that voice as he stands naked in the shower. "We were discussing the description of god and what it means."
"You think it's wrong," Dean accuses. "You think god is infinite and infallible."
"I told you before Dean that I am not a Christian and I would thank you to remember that."
"Pullman shows a world on the verge of collapse, a world without the touch of a deity. It was created by god but now god is an old and feeble man, powerless in his creation."
"And when you compare that to the Christian religion isn't that what they would call blasphemy?"
"That's not the point either! This is fantasy."
"Yes, but it tells a moral tale. What is this apart from a way to examine faith, Christian faith?"
"It's a goddamn book about children saving the world," Dean cries.
Once more the class is silent, watching their exchange in rapt fascination. Nobody has offered a comment for a good ten minutes now, not even Dr Mills.
"That's petty," Cas argues still. "Why are we studying it if the themes were so simple?"
Dean realises his mistake. He doesn't really believe that, but he'd been pushed by Cas's steady arguments. He can't argue with the guy, he's quick and agile and so very very wrong.
"The themes aren't simple, but they're not an extension of the bible either."
Dr Mills tries to stop them there but Cas is away and talking once more. "It's a parody then?"
It's not a joke and Dean grinds his teeth that Cas could even suggest that. "It's a work of fiction, just like the bible. God is the creator, but he gets old. They free him and he blows away like dust and ashes. Is that not a metaphor enough for this world?"
Dr Mills forces her way in this time. She's been quiet since the start of Cas and Dean's debate but time is wearing on and the teacher looks exhausted herself.
"Right, enough. If you want to continue do it on your own time. It's a good debate but we have other things to attend to."
Dean all but chucks himself round in the chair, looking straight forward, not at Cas, definitely not at Cas.
Dr Mills tries to pick up the thread of her lecture but the class is lost now and she gives up ten minutes before the bell goes.
"Let's pick this up next week," she says exasperated.
Dean's up and out his seat before she's finished talking. He can't even stand to look at Cas. The guy is infuriating, stubborn and gorgeous. Dean decides he hates him.
Thing's don't get better the next week. The debates become if anything more heated. Dr Mills bans them from talking in the fourth lecture, glaring at them both whenever they start to say a word. Dean's surprised to discover that he hates the classes he can't debate with Cas. Stuck up, arrogant, weird Cas who sits so straight in his chair and barely moves.
Two weeks after classes start Dean wakes to the memory of Cas's lips on his own. Shit he's dreaming about the guy now.
He stumbles out into his kitchen to grab a drink.
The sound must wake Sam who appears at his bedroom door.
"Go back to sleep Sammy, everything's fine."
"It's 4.30 in the morning. Dean are you sleeping?"
"Not right now, no," Dean says swallowing a pint in one drag.
"I mean really? You haven't got insomnia again?"
Dean shakes his head. He'd got to sleep at 2am. Pretty good for him. And he'd been sleeping, deeply. Until the dream had woken him.
"I was sleeping," he confirms. "Just a bad dream."
Sam's face falls. It's the wrong thing to say. But at 4.30 with a sleep addled mind Dean's not sharp enough to catch himself.
"Not like that." He sits, shaking his head. "Not about dad. I've been sleeping, really Sam I have."
Sam doesn't believe him and Dean doesn't blame him. Dean's a chronic insomniac, getting by on about twenty five hours sleep a week. He sleeps fitfully when he does, and the image of Cas before him really doesn't help. He adjusts his boxers self-consciously.
"You gonna sleep now?"
"I was thinking of finishing the book I've got to read for religion next week."
Sam comes to sit at the counter beside him. He yawns wide and deep. "You've already read them all," he grumbles.
"Dr Mills set some extra reading for those who were interested. The depiction of non-Christian deities in fiction."
The book is in his hand already along with a glass of water.
"You're reading God Emperor of Dune."
Sam scratches his head. "This is why I went into law," he laments.
Dean ruffles his hair from across the bar. It makes things feel right, being the big brother, earning a scowl and a swipe of Sam's hand.
Things don't get better and in fact in the sixth lecture, the third week of class, things only get worse. Cas and Dean start arguing before Dr Mills has even arrived.
If Dean has been turning up early just to provoke Cas he hasn't admitted it to himself yet. He still hates the guy, the way he can argue with everything Dean says. The way he will never admit he's wrong. The way his lashes curl over his low brows.
Dean's simultaneous ready to start a fight and stare at the guy's perfect profile half the time.
So Cas is damn attractive, it doesn't mean Dean likes him. He can stare but it doesn't mean he wants to get to know the guy any better.
Dr Mills sighs as she sees them, before dropping her books hard on the desk.
Other students enter as they stop their debate and look her way. Dean's not sure but sometimes he thinks the others hang about in the corridor or purposefully turn up with seconds to spare just to avoid them. Dr Mills is easier on late comers than she was to start with, which only reinforces the idea.
"Right I thought we'd get started on midterms a little early this year. Hopefully it will give you all something to come together on. Now I haven't set the title of the essay yet, but it's going to be a comparison and critique of two contemporaries. One of the four set texts and one of your choice. It'll be general enough to include them all so don't worry. I just don't want to lead your thinking too much yet. It'll also be a joint project."
Dean's heart stammers in his chest. He knows what's coming next.
"Now I've divided you up into pairs already. I wanted to put together those with different views so that the essay included all viewpoints. Those of you who are neutrals are paired together because I don't want your viewpoint getting overridden either."
She reads the list of partners and Dean's unsurprised when his name comes up with Cas's. He grits his teeth as he glances over to his archenemy. Cas is staring straight ahead, fists clenched in the same way Dean's are.
"I suggest you use the rest of the session to start your discussion of the core text."
Dean gets to his feet as the class breaks apart. "Um Dr Mills. I need to talk to you."
"I know what you're going to say Dean. You're partnered with Cas. Get to it."
"No buts. I believe university is not just about learning facts but also about learning to deal with people. Your opinion will differ from others in the real world out there. But you will sometimes have to work with them. You won't have a choice, but this will help you practice."
"But I'm bordering an A at the moment. If I flunk this class it could stop me from getting a good degree."
Dr Mills shrugs and gives him a winning smile. "Work it out Mr Winchester."
He leaves her feeling dejected to see Cas watching him. He's stunning in a white t-shirt and tan cargos. They have to be designer, cargoes should not look that good on anyone.
Dean flops into the seat beside him. "I'm not scared," he mutters. "I just want to pass this class."
Cas slides his eyes over to him, ever so slowly so that they fall on Dean like a caress. "You will Dean."
"We're gonna stop arguing for long enough to write any of it down. Na Cas we're gonna be arguing about what to write, how to write it."
Cas nods. He's not under any illusions that they'll suddenly start getting along.
The rest of the class moves slowly. Dean is on edge sitting next to Cas. They haven't even decided on a core text yet.
Cas favours The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. Dean The Amber Spyglass.
He doesn't realise they're arguing so loudly until Dr Mills comes over with a sigh.
"I'm not sure if you two are a blessing or a curse. It's nice to see passion but come on I've started popping Tylenol before classes because of you guys."
"Well you put us together," Dean exclaims with a shake of his head.
Cas glares at him some more. It's beginning to become a ritual.
They finish early again because Dr Mills has a headache and they won't stop arguing.
"Mature class," she says as she heads out before anyone's had a chance to pack up.
Dean spares a glance at the rest of the glass. He's probably the youngest, apart from Cas maybe. The others are all at least thirty-five, people returning to education after years of work. Dean had just been waiting for Sam first and Cas is only here because of his PhD.
He can't work out how old he thinks Cas is. Sometimes the guy looks as ancient as the world, like he's seen more than Dean will ever see, like he's remembering the histories of empires behind the blue. Sometimes though he's so petulant Dean thinks he's actually twelve. Ash will know.
"We should just toss for it," Dean says as he stuffs his books in his bag ready to get out of there to the haven of his apartment.
Cas sets him with narrowed blue. Dean raises an eyebrow.
Simple as that. His one try at being rational had been refused.
"You want to duke this out until Dr Mills is failing us both because we couldn't even decide on a goddamned book to read?"
Cas shrugs as he stands, his long, narrow body unfolding gracefully from under the desk.
"I've made my choice."
"Yeah and I've made mine. I'm not just going to give in. I'm offering you a fair way to settle this."
It's almost as if Cas has never had to give in to anything in his life, has never had to compromise. He just doesn't understand that he can't get his own way every single time.
It's the driving force of their enmity. Dean likes a good argument but he won't just roll over and give in because someone else wants him to. He'll fight. He'll compromise when he has to, but not unless there are concessions from both sides.
Cas tilts his head, confused, intrigued but unmoved.
"I have to get to the lab," he shrugs once more before walking out the door without a second look at Dean.
Dean follows, jogging every other step to catch up until they're out the English building with its carved stone and heading to the grey hulk of the biosciences tower.
"We need to decide, now," he snaps getting in Cas's way. Cas takes an almost feline step to the side and rounds Dean without missing a beat. His card opens the side door to the labs and Dean slips in after him.
It's almost silent inside the biosciences back entrance. There's the faint hum of machines but there's nobody about, no sound, no voices, no music.
Cas's boots tap on the plastic floor as he climbs the stairs, Dean right after him hoping there's a way out without a card.
"Cas," he calls jumping stairs to reach him. "Cas!"
Cas rounds into a lab. It's not what Dean expected. He always thought labs contained Bunsen burners and test tubes. This one is mostly computers. On one wall there's a coffee machines and a loaf of bread sitting above a fridge.
Cas dumps his bag and logs on to one of the computers booting up a complex looking program.
"Dean I told you I have work to do."
"Then just agree on a book already."
Cas huffs looking back at the computer. In a moment he's up again and Dean follows him into the next room. This looks more like a lab, rows of fume hoods and tall refrigerators. Still no Bunsen burners though. Cas gloves up and reaches into what looks a bit like an oven. He pulls out some petri dishes before taking them into another room off the back.
Dean pulls the door to so they're shut in the small, poorly lit room.
"What is this?"
Cas sounds pissed now. "This is a fluorescent microscope."
"Can I see?"
Dean hangs back for a few minutes as Cas works, moving something at the side of the microscope and changing the dishes occasionally.
"Can I see now?"
"You can leave."
"Not until you agree to choose a book."
"I told you. I chose one already."
"Flip for it, play pool for it, I don't care but I'm not just gonna let you have it."
Cas finally looks away from the microscope.
"I chose Lewis because of the parallels to Lucifer's sacrifice. God's martyrdom and Lucifer's. It's your argument Dean."
Dean's dumbstruck for a moment. It's an interesting take on the essay, one he's sure nobody else in class would have thought of. Originality was their friend.
"Flip for it," he says still refusing to back down.
Cas moves aside and gestures towards the microscope. Already slightly off kilter from his last comment Dean lumbers forward. Down the sight is a small starfish-like blob of green body and long, thin extensions.
"It started as the cell body in the dorsal root ganglion. See the dendrites, the branches?"
Dean breaths an affirmative as he stares at the tiny green cell.
"They've grown in the past three days. When you destroy a peripheral nerve, it grows back."
Dean has no clue what half those words mean but he loves the colour of the - dendrites? And he's overwhelmed how Cas can do this, understand it and make it grow.
"Why's it green?"
"Dye," Cas answers. "So I can see the cell."
Dean moves away and turns to Cas.
"Why?" he asks again.
"Why grow cells?"
Cas huffs. "Don't you ever wonder what you're made of Dean?"
Dean sits on the table in the computer lab until Cas is finished whatever it is he's doing with the green dyed cells. He's irritated, hungry, but refuses to leave until Cas has given him an answer.
He hates the guy more and more with each moment. The perfection of his high, straight cheekbones. The way he brushed Dean aside so easily to go back to the microscope. How he refuses to give in. At all.
It's almost six when Cas comes back into the computer room. He sees Dean sitting on the table, a copy of God Emperor on his knee and stops.
"Why are you here?"
"We need to choose that book."
Cas blinks for a few moments, long dark lashes descending on tanned cheeks making his eyes look even more impossibly blue.
The way his mouth forms the sound makes Dean frown. It's not endearing, it's annoying.
"Come on buddy, I don't have all day." Though he has been waiting for most of it.
Cas is confused, lost even. Perhaps he never expected Dean to be so insistent. It takes only a moment for his expression to change, back to harsh and aloof.
"I have chosen."
"No," Dean argues standing in Cas's way as he tries to leave. "You're kidding right? People let you get away with shit like this?"
Blue narrows to a sliver between dark lashes, dark brows low. Cas is angry. Well Dean is too.
"No, people do not 'let' me get away with this shit."
"Nobody ever challenges you? They agree with everything you say?" Dean scoffs.
Cas bares his teeth. It's such an animalistic reaction Dean falls back, eyebrows raised.
"You know nothing about me."
Cas had left in a storm of blue eyes, the smell of fresh wind and the loud bang of a uncushioned swinging door.
Dean had been in no less of a mood as he found the release button for the door and left the campus.
He was late home to meet Sam, saying little of his reasons. Sam could see he was angry and didn't push it. His little brother ordered pizza and left Dean to sulk with his copy of American Gods.
It was around 11 o'clock when Dean decided he wasn't going to give in on the midterm. He drew up a game plan in his head and knowing it was stupid forged ahead anyway.
The sun is up but it's barely past 6am. Dean's used to early morning and late nights. His insomnia would strike at the weirdest times. Occasionally he'd fall asleep easily at 11 and wake at 1 done for the night. Books helped, as did beer. Morning runs became the norm. So normal in fact he'd purposefully rouse himself from sleep if needed to go out before the campus woke.
As he finished his circuit he headed to the early opening Starbucks that may have even been 24 hours. It seemed to always be open.
He takes a coffee to go, falling onto one of the park benches as the sun rises higher and dries the sweat from his body. 7am he open his eyes to see Cas wandering towards the Starbucks.
He didn't need another coffee but he pushes himself up anyway, binning the evidence of his previous fix.
"I know more about you than you think," he says as Cas studies the menu. "Two regulars," he tells the barrister to Cas's eternal annoyance. "Your name is Cas Novak. You're 26. Moved here to finish your PhD under Dr Uriel. You're taking English credits because you studied in England and you can argue like the devil in disguise."
Cas scowls but takes his coffee when Dean offers it. Outside in the sun he sits down on the bench Dean had previously been laid out on and pulls a book from his bag.
"The picture of Dorian Gray," Dean reads impressed. The book is stunning. Without preamble he picks it out of Cas's lax fingers and scans the page. "I knew that I had come face to face with someone whose mere personality was so fascinating that, if I allowed it to do so, it would absorb my whole nature, my whole soul, my very art itself."
Cas had originally been angry as Dean plucks the book away but then his face had turns soft, confused, mesmerised even.
"Why did you choose that quote?" he asks after a while, holding out a hand for the book. His voice is deeper than ever, the scratch more pronounced.
Dean shrugs. The page was open there and it had been a line that spoke to him the first time he'd read the passage.
"I chose The Amber Spyglass because it shows gods fragility, his fallibility. He's an old, demented man. His great plan, to throw Lucifer into the pit, it wasn't perfect, it backfires, god is flawed."
Cas shakes his head, seconds away from rolling his eyes.
"Fine, I will... toss you for it."
The way Cas says the words, so deep and slow makes Dean's neck flush. Toss takes on a whole other meaning and he's trying to mentally scour his brain so he doesn't have that image burnt behind his eyes forevermore as he says, "How about we play pool for it?"
Cas pushes a stray strand of hair from his forehead. "I don't play pool."
Dean remembers then to hate the man.
"What do you mean, you don't? Or you can't?"
"I do not have time Dean. I took a class on Milton because I thought it wouldn't disrupt my life too much, yet here I am."
"Nice to know you too."
"I have a meeting to get to."
"Then tonight. 8 o'clock at the Roadhouse."
"I can't Dean."
He finishes his coffee, dropping it into the bin beside the bench before looking down at Dean.
"I need this literature credit too. I concede."
Dean feels hollow as he walks away. He should be happy he's won the battle but instead he feels like he's lost something.
"Does he even have any friends?" Dean asks Ash as they spy Cas across the park once more.
"Nope," Ash answers, prepared this time. "That's free, but if you want anything more then it'll cost you 2 bags of skittles, a flump and some of those penny cola bottles."
"Fine. What else?"
Ash grins at the prospect of the sugar rush. Dean suspects he prefers sweets to drugs, he always seems happier to get them.
"He lives just off campus. No car so if you're gonna ask him out don't suggest anywhere too far."
"I'm not asking Cas out," Dean grimaces. The thought of a night trying to talk to the man in a civilised man seems impossible. Not that he hadn't suggested pool yesterday.
"Good. Because I've got no record of any hook-ups. And there's been no lack of trying. Every girl on campus wants to get in his pants and half the guys. He's got the emo loaner thing down."
Dean grits his teeth. He knows that alright.
"He blows them off, quite epically sometimes from what I hear."
"What does that mean?"
"Pamela hit on him at the beginning of the semester and he told her he would prefer his own company and that he was not attracted to her."
"Where's the epicness?"
"He said that, exactly that. He didn't even try to soften it." Dean isn't surprised. Cas isn't exactly tact in a bag. "Didn't sound angry or mocking, just said exactly that. She flipped out, called him all the names under the sun. Some of which you'd be pretty pissed at."
The thought of Pam being homophobic was weird. She'd been his good friend since they'd met in fresher's week and she'd never once said or done anything when he'd leered at the same guys she was.
"Cas didn't react to it at all, just waited till she was done and then went back to reading. Anyway same thing happened to Sara. She was picking around and he told her to leave him be and that she was insufferable."
"Yeah he's a real charmer is Cas. He's also co-writing my midterm so I need info."
"Fine. He lives alone. House is sparse, he didn't move much stuff in with him. Maybe he doesn't have anything, maybe he's got a home somewhere else though he doesn't have family. Friend wise you're the closest he's got. He spends most of his time in the lab, doing Uriel's work for him from what the others say. He takes lit and teaches a bioscience lab on Friday afternoons. Works at the hospital on Saturday. Otherwise nothing. The guy's a fucking recluse."
Dean blows out a long breath. He knew that all already. Cas is a loner, he's intriguing but difficult. He's smart, not that Dean understands how difficult those cell things were to do but if he's taking Uriel's load as well then he's got to be some sort of genius.
"Only person I've seen him interacting with out of choice is you."
"Guy's weird." Dean tries to stamp down on the possessiveness that rises in his chest at Ash's casual comment. He might not like Cas, might argue all the time with him, but at least he's the only one.
Ash watches him for a few moments before sighing exaggeratedly and pulling a sheath of papers from his bag. "Look man I'm gonna regret this but I found these."
Dean takes the papers confused and opens the file. After a few lines he almost drops the sheets.
"What the hell Ash?" He drops his voice, aware of just how illegal the folder in his hands is. "Where did you get these?"
"FBI database. Department of justice. Medical records. You name it. Once I found out the guys real name it was easy."
"Do you realise how illegal this is? Hold up real name?"
"Yeah. Novak's a state given name because of the trial."
"The fuck Ash?"
Ash had dug deeper than Dean ever wanted to know.
"I wanted to know how to play the guy, not what his pin number is!"
"4553," Ash grins. "Hey don't give me that! You asked for details, I delivered. Not my fault it's TMI."
"You just said trial Ash! What he's a serial killer?"
"No. He's the Plaintiff."
Dean relaxes, he hasn't been arguing with a violent psychopath, which is good. He slams the folder shut.
"The look on your face," Ash laughs and Dean hits him with the heavy file.
"Just destroy this ok. I don't want it. I don't want any of it."
"No refunds bro." Ash climbs to his feet, hands held up so Dean can't sneak the file back to him. He walks backwards, points at the brief. "Interesting reading. He's an interesting dude."
Then he's gone and Dean has four hundred pages of very illegal, very tempting and very scary Cas in his hands.
Thanks for reading
More to follow shortly :)
(I took a few creative liberties with the uni, especially getting Dean and Cas into the same class, but I think it's worth it)