"This is the very core of underground culture."
"It's a coffee shop."
"It's a lifestyle."
Castiel gave his cousin a steady look. He wondered if Balthazar's love for coffee and unknown record labels were an inevitable trait formed by a rebellious rejection of a restricting lifestyle. He shifted in his chair uncomfortably, ignoring his cousin's questioning gaze that had been following him for the past two hours as he tried to relax in the wooden seat. The back of his nape suddenly felt hot and sticky. Nerves, mostly.
Balthazar shrugged, "You'll understand soon, once you've settled in. You're staying here, right?"
"I've bought a flat. I don't know. We'll see how it goes," Castiel answered, and his mouth was dry. He looked down to his untouched beverage: a small long black, no milk or sugar. It was an acquired taste, and one of the few exceptions to drink that his family allowed. He was aware that he no longer had to abide by his family or their rules, but it had been ingrained into him. Old habits die hard, he supposed.
Balthazar sipped from his own cup, and as he angled it towards his lips Castiel noticed the environmentally safe sticker scribbled onto the bottom. Of course. Castiel was new to the whole freedom deal outside his family, but already he could tell that being vegan, being a social activist, wearing v-necks and listening to bands that only release their music on Bandcamp were the height of cool, a contrived term that Castiel already despised. He liked his cousin, and admired his defiance against their family's doctrines, but he hoped he wouldn't become like him. Life was far too short to be finicky about the type of milk used in one's coffee.
The whole place ebbed with cool. The henna red walls were decorated with unframed canvases of The Ramones and Polaroids of girls in plaid and boys in leather. Customers were the embodiment of cultural diversity: Hispanic hipsters; fluro-haired pot smokers; skinny airheads; and flamboyant transsexuals. The only people that didn't look they spent their nights at underground bars were the people were the actual workers. Currently, there were two girls and a guy behind the counter. Contrasting to the store, they looked entirely average.
"It's good to see you've finally gotten away, I gotta say." Balthazar interrupted his train of thought, and Castiel snapped his attention back to his cousin. He nodded quickly.
"I realised that there was so much more to life than what I was leading," he replied vaguely.
"And what made you come to that realisation?"
Castiel hesitated. He hadn't exactly come to terms with it himself. It was something he had never considered in his entire life time, and entering the later part of his twenties he feared he had joined the bandwagon of life-wasting youths a little too late. "We were passing Detroit. While Zachariah and Michael and the rest of them were doing a service in one of the local churches, I caught up with Anna. She showed me around, and I got curious."
"And then I saw, that our family are a bunch of ignorant, narrow-minded bigots, trying to convert everyone to God. And I still believe in God, but I've reached this point where... I don't care about him, anymore. I just want to live my own life, like everyone else."
Balthazar cracked a smile, "So you want sex?"
Typical. Castiel shifted, suddenly made uncomfortable once again. "No, I don't mean –."
"Piss off, you want sex." his cousin smirked, "Is that what happened with Anna? She introduced to some sexy friend of hers and suddenly your pants are two sizes too small?"
"No," Castiel groaned. "It wasn't like that. It was a film. We saw a film together."
Balthazar frowned, "And?"
"And after watching it, I saw that I was missing out on something so much better than what our family had enforced upon us as children. I understood why you ran away, why Anna ran away. And then I did so, too."
Balthazar sipped his coffee – non-fat, non-soy latte – then glanced around, "If you're going to commit to full-scale rebellion, then you have to get over morality. Unlike our family, I'm not going to make you do anything you don't want. But there are certain rites of passage that need to be fulfilled. You need to drink, get smashed, hate the following morning. You have to do something stupid. You have to have casual, adulterated sex. Because in this world, it's okay to screw anyone without a marriage certificate – heck, you don't even need to know their names."
Castiel's eyebrows furrowed in confusion. Concern. Curiosity. "I don't... I don't want to have it casually, though. I want it to mean something."
"So you're telling me you can't see one person here you'd like to bang?" he asked incredulously, putting down his coffee. "Bullshit. Turn around. Look at the counter. Would you fuck Jo? She's the little blonde one."
Castiel attempted subtlety, craning his neck to the side in order to see the coffee counter. He spotted Jo, with her round face and soft features, mostly hidden away by boxy black work clothes. She was pretty, Castiel guessed, but realised he was basing his judgement by contrived notions of beauty that he only knew from second-hand accounts of perfume advertisements and actors on the big screen.
It was easy to make a decision. "No." She was pretty, but that was it.
"And the guy?"
Castiel quickly faced Balthazar, his cheeks flushed, "Balthazar!"
"What? You haven't done anything. You need to experiment, work out what you want. And why not screw a guy? There's nothing bad about it in this world."
Castiel glimpsed at the male again. He was broad and muscular, with trimmed ash-blonde hair. The first thing Castiel could think of was typical dominant male. He even wore plaid. The tuft in his haircut, the stubble on his chin, the too-tight sleeves hugging his biceps – he looked out of place in Culture World. He definitely ate meat.
He wanted to get a better look at him, though. What colour eyes did he have? Did he have nice teeth? Were his hands calloused?
Then Castiel realised that he shouldn't care. He was just another person. He doubted they would ever talk. He didn't consider himself much of a talker in the first place. "Balthazar, I appreciate your concern, but I doubt I'll be doing anything with anybody. I don't want to. Can we just leave?"
"You haven't had any of your coffee."
Castiel looked at his untouched cup, then brought it to his lips and gulped down the lukewarm beverage. It was bitter, but he didn't mind. He wondered if it was the male that had made his coffee.
"What's his name?"
"The guy? That's Sam's brother. He's not here often. I think his name's Derek or something. Something starting with D."
Castiel nodded, and drained the rest of his drink. Something starting with D. That was unhelpful. Like it even mattered. He didn't expect to come back here anytime soon, even if Balthazar insisted that investing yourself into culture was an absolute must after recently rebelling from an insanely religious family that enforced backwards and outdated beliefs onto everyone while trying to replicate the divine by giving every newborn a name of an angel. It was only now that he truly realised how disturbing his family was. Whatever the case, he didn't want to become a skinny pot smoker who dressed like a hobo.
Balthazar stood up, and Castiel followed him outside. "Hey, Cas, can I give you one piece of advice?"
"Don't dress like a prude." He sniggered, tugging at Castiel's tie. "You look like a typical tax consultant. Real turn off."
Castiel held his head high, "It's my choice to dress how I choose."
"Yeah, whatever. Stay safe. If you need anything, call me." Balthazar rolled his eyes, and shook his cousin's hand before heading down the street. His car was parked down there. Castiel waved him off and turned, walking in the opposite direction towards the tram line.
While walking, he began to compile a list of To-Dos that were imperative to his new lifestyle in a world free of rules. It was a simple list:
- Buy car.
- Get job.
- Find love.
- Be happy.
Easier said than done.
AN: I have a guilty pleasure for coffee shop AUs and this one has been in my head for a while now. We'll see how it plays out. M for future predictions of plot and lots of super blunt language about sex and drugs.
Hope you guys like it. Not ditching other SPN story, don't worry.