Dean Winchester can already see that the day isn't going to be easy. The kids are restless before the bell even rings, snapping bubblegum and prodding each other with pencils like they're still in junior high. Maybe it's because of the rain streaking down the window; Dean himself was nearly soaked walking in today, and his suit is still damp in patches. To make matter worse, he doesn't have the lesson plan, and the professor is late. He glances nervously at the clock. Two minutes left. Some kid makes an attempt at the rubbish bin; the wad of paper falls short, and his friends hoot and clobber at his arm.

Dean shuts his eyes and tries to massage the beginning of a headache away from his temples. Some first day on the job. He thought that at such a prestigious academy things would be a little different, but really it's just the same as with any public school (aside from the crisp uniforms and fancy projector system, that is). At least the name looks good on a transcript; that's all that really matters, of course. In the last thirty seconds before the bell rings, Dean quietly hopes that Sam has better luck with his first day, even though he knows it's silly – everyone loves his little brother.

The bell screams; the kids stumble back to their seats, and not a moment later the door bursts open. Professor Novak – if Dean remembers the name correctly – makes a wet entrance to say the least: his trousers are soaked up to the knee, and his long trench coat flares out to form little puddles on the floor in his wake. His tie is askew, and his hair is beyond help, a sopping, tangled mess. The kids start laughing, but it's affectionate, and Novak grins in return. He reaches into his coat and brandishes a stack of papers wrapped in a plastic bag.

"More reason to celebrate," he says with a wink. "I saved the lesson plans!"

The kids groan in unison, and Novak chuckles, setting the notes on the desk. Dean's pretty resentful – he was honestly scared he would have to lead the lesson alone, halfway through the year, and on his first day – but he musters a smile and steps forwards, extending his hand.

"Dean Winchester. Good to meet you, sir."

Novak looks up from stripping away his coat and frowns.

"Where's Jamie?"

Dean blinks. "Pardon?"

Novak narrows his eyes before he snaps his fingers and gives a contrite half-smile. It shows just a flash of teeth, a shimmer of embarrassment.

"Oh yes, she's on maternity leave now, isn't she? Silly thing. I did tell her to be careful with that boyfriend of hers. Right. You must be her replacement." He takes his hand. "Such a pleasure. Welcome. We're thrilled to have you, I'm sure."

"Thrilled to be here," manages Dean. "And the pleasure's all mine, professor."

Novak smiles all the way and presses Dean's hand once more before letting it fall back to his side.

"Please, no such formality. I'm not even a professor, when you think about it. In fact, I absolutely insist that you call me Castiel."

And with that, he turns, straightens his tie, and claps his hands together.

"Alright, class. Sorry for the delay. Parati estisne?"

"Parati sumus," roar the kids. It's obvious that they love him, filthy wet trench coat and all. Dean leans back against the edge of the desk, relieved. Late or not, Novak – Castiel , he reminds himself, but what sort of name is that, anyways? – already has things under control. It's amazing, really; when he uncaps a marker to start on the whiteboard, scribbling a set of conjugations in frenetic handwriting, the class goes miraculously quiet. Paper rustles and pencils scratch. There's a faint murmur of chatter, and Castiel allows that much, but the moment it starts to escalate a cool glance over his shoulder commands silence.

Dean watches intently. He's lived with classrooms full of rowdy kids who don't care, and learned that enough shouting and punishment can control just about anything, but he's never really seen this sort of unconditional respect for a teacher, and he can't deny that it's impressive. The man moves with a practiced ease, spreading his notes on his desk, tapping a pen against his lower lip, fluid but disorganized at once. It's a strange but commanding presence.

Castiel has to nudge Dean on the arm with a stack of paper to get his attention; he needs twenty copies for second period. Dean apologizes for not hearing the first time and heads out, following the scent of instant coffee to the teacher's lounge. A redhead is leaning against the window dangling a still-burning cigarette just over the ledge. She's pretty, but she doesn't look up when he comes in and starts fiddling with the buttons on the copy machine.

The worksheet Castiel needs is printed in Hebrew; Dean remarks aloud that it's really some course selection for such a devoutly Catholic school, and the redhead takes a disinterested drag on her cigarette. Dean chuckles to himself and taps his finger on the edge of the copy machine as the green bar zips to and fro and paper spills into the bin. He drinks a cup of lukewarm coffee and winks at the redhead for luck. She glances at him and taps a miniature rainfall of ash over the windowsill.

When he gets back to class, the kids have divided the desks into groups of about three or four, and Castiel is making slow circles around the room, arms crossed behind his back. His shirt is almost dry, but his hair is still damp and twisted, and his tie has come loose again, so that Dean gets the feeling that at least some part of him must be perpetually caught in disarray. He puts the copies on the desk and waits for Castiel to swing back around; to his surprise, he cuts straight across the classroom, grabbing an extra chair as he goes, and gestures for Dean to sit.

"What are they up to, anyways?" asks Dean as he obliges, gesturing to the kids, all bent over their notebooks with pencils flying. Castiel settles at the desk with a smile that's somewhat private, almost exhilarating in and of itself, like a fresh-divulged secret.

"They've just started their final project. I like to give them extra time at the beginning so that they can ask me questions and work out any kinks."

"Final project?" Dean raises an eyebrow; it's scarcely February, so the semester has just begun.

"Early, I know." Castiel lifts a finger in the pause. "But it's no easy task. I've given each group a book of the New Testament – the original, of course – and it's up to them to translate. They need all the time they can get."

Dean lets out a low whistle. "Not too shabby, professor."

"Again – just Castiel, please." But his eyes are bright. "Regardless, while I did call you over to talk about the class, I would prefer that we not start there." He rests his elbows on the desk and weaves his fingers together so that he can rest his chin. "Dean Winchester, you said? I ought to have given you a proper welcome, really. Please excuse my tardiness this morning. It's atypical, I swear."

"Don't worry about it." Dean is honestly a bit discomfited; Castiel has this penetrating stare even when he's looking away, and he speaks deliberately, earnestly, so that the echo of his words is striking and real. And he's too earnest, for that matter – for instance, when his eyes fall on the stack of fresh copies, he actually apologizes, of all things, and says with absolute contriteness that he would have done it himself had it not been for the unexpected delay.

"Geez." Dean shifts in his seat. "It's no trouble. Just what I signed up for, isn't it?"

Castiel chuckles. It's a very specific little sound, genuine but reserved, like he's saving a true laugh for something really special.

"I suppose. Speaking of, what does bring you here, after all?"

Dean tries to be vague, because it's a miracle he's there in the first place, and his real reasons don't need exposure. He says that he knows a few things about language, is halfway through college, needed some experience, the works – all true, he might add – and Castiel gazes at him for a long moment during which it occurs to Dean that his eyes are absurdly blue. It's surreal, honestly, that color. It looks like it's been cut from some bolt of ethereal cloth that can't be spun on Earth. At long last Castiel looks away to fiddle with the end of a pen near his elbow.

"What do you speak, then?"

Spanish, Italian, rudimentary Latin, but he's gotten a bit rusty since freshman year, to be honest. Dean's always taken a certain measure of pride in that, but when out of courtesy he offers Castiel the same question, and the answer is Hebrew, Ancient Greek, Latin, Arabic, three dialects of Chinese, and French, he swallows sort of thickly and has to make a forced effort to smile.

"It's not impressive," says Castiel, and the worst part is that he's being wholly serious. "My family used to travel a great deal."

Dean snorts. "To Ancient Greece and Rome?"

Castiel gives another soft laugh. "Touché. That much is a passion of mine."

"Mine, too," replies Dean unthinkingly. It's somewhat true, in regards to the world of academia, at least. It's what he's always told people when they asked about his major, anyways. He knows he looks out of place sometimes, in a blazer, with a stack of books, but he does what he has to. It doesn't matter what you call it, but passion sounds better than duty.

"We'll get along, then," says Castiel, and reaches for a stack of papers to his left. "Anyways, I just wanted to get to know you a little more before I gave you the hard facts. I'm sure you've read the job description, but I do have some specifications…"

The bell rings just as Castiel finishes outlining the last lesson format. He teaches Latin and Hebrew this year, a few beginning and one or two advanced classes. Fortunately, the Hebrew is all rudimentary, so Dean doesn't need to know much to help out – he can even learn along. The Latin is a few degrees more advanced, Vergil and Ovid and the like, but nothing he can't handle. And besides, he's not worried.

He's starting to understand why the kids stop to wave goodbye to Castiel on the way out, smiling and chattering brightly even after a solid hour of grueling work. It's already clear that he's too intense and a little offbeat to boot, but he's also unabashedly honest, enthusiastic, like he's never felt the shame of being too interested. Everything he says is true and deliberate, even if he tilts his head at funny angles and stares too long. He's intimidating, sure, but not frightening. It's reassuring, in the end, no matter how difficult. It's no wonder he draws such respect and admiration from his students.

Really, he's like nobody Dean's ever met before.

By the time the last bell rings, Dean's exhausted. No matter how unique and interesting Castiel may be, wealthy kids are a whole new breed of tiring. He's long been used to spitballs and slang carved into desks, to sleeping and cursing and outright fighting, but there's something special about whispers and designer knapsacks and nasty gossip scrawled on fine stationary that really saps his energy. The worst part is that he can sense their ingratitude, their scorn – those kids don't know how good they've got it. Dean reckons that it's only going to get worse from this point, and he's wondering if he can really hold his tongue when he catches sight of Sam from across the courtyard and remembers why he's there in the first place.

It's gratifying to see his little brother already surrounded by a gaggle of boys as awkwardly lanky and sixteen as he, and when Sam breaks away to sprint across the courtyard and clobber Dean on the shoulder, it's outright rewarding, a burst of adrenalin in his veins. Dean laughs and takes a swipe at his little brother, but only halfheartedly, because he's suddenly a little bit sad.

He's thinking about how it's going to be weird not having him around anymore. Dean took classes at the online university just so that they could sleep in the same crummy studio apartment, on the same squeaky, stained mattress. It seems impossible that Sam won't be there in the morning, asking for breakfast or hogging the sink, or crawling between Dean's sheets when the nightmares about the fire get bad. Honestly, Dean's going to miss that, but he knows it'll be good for Sam to get away, have his own room, his own friends, the chance to build a life outside of his brother. That's something that Dean's never had, though he's not resentful. He loves Sam more than anything, and this – the chance for a future better than his own – is everything he's been working towards.

Dean will do anything for Sam. He worked two jobs, dealt with the strain of applications, the pressure of advanced material coupled with work, the pain of organizing online classes. Then he gave up work at the garage – his real passion – to be an assistant teacher at a prestigious boarding school where he sticks out like never before, just to move Sam up a view spaces on the waiting list and get him in before next year, just in time to make good on that scholarship. It's all been for this, for Sam smiling and hiking his beaten corduroy knapsack up on his shoulder and trying to tell Dean all at once about advanced biology and calculus in between bits and pieces about his classmates, fragments of his hopes to make the baseball team and the debate club until he's tripping and stumbling over too many words.

Dean grins, and throws an arm around his shoulder. They've only got a moment; Sam has homework, and Dean has to get home to finish some schoolwork and start on the impressive stack of worksheets that Castiel left him to grade. It's not enough time, and it's just another sign that their worlds are starting to part at the seam, but Dean isn't too worried. They'll talk more later, and besides, one glance at Sam's face and he already knows that he can endure a thousand quirky professors and disenchanted, spoiled students, a thousand nights alone in a tiny studio apartment that somehow seems too big, a thousand tests to grades.

Right now, his brother is happy, and that's worth anything.

The next week floods past, a blur of half-forgotten vocabulary and grammar, late nights grading exams, snatched moments with Sam, long phone conversations, bad coffee from the teacher's lounge. Castiel doesn't seem to care that midterms just ended and the kids are still reeling; he gives ruthless loads of homework and countless tests and quizzes, which in the end means more work for Dean. But he doesn't really mind, because a teetering stack of papers on the kitchen table distracts from the savage emptiness of life spent largely without Sam, and it's a little frightening to think that in less than two years, when his brother leaves for college, this will be his whole existence.

At least he and Castiel get along, swapping college horror stories during lulls in the lessons and exchanging polite nods across the cafeteria. Although Dean's never migrated away from the other assistants and student teachers to attempt a conversation, he's noticed that Castiel is distinctly the youngest of his colleagues, and spends a lot of time with the pretty redhead from the teacher's lounge. However, when Dean surreptitiously checks his right hand, he finds no ring, and Castiel once mentions that he lives alone. Dean's tempted to reply that he's got a housemate waiting out back in the parking lot, but he doesn't think Castiel will get the joke.

On Thursday, Castiel is late again, and Dean already has the class at work on a set of passive conjugations when the professor explodes into the classroom, breathless and beyond disheveled. When the class hoots, he only gives a distracted glance over his shoulder and tells them to get to work; he seems more terse than usual and gets instant obedience. Dean can't help but observe that his usually fluid movements are jerky and offbeat, that his mouth is slack, his eyes distant, that it looks like he hardly shaved this morning, let alone combed his hair. He puts the whiteboard marker down and taps Castiel on the shoulder.

"You said tardiness was atypical." He can't help himself. A corner of Castiel's mouth quirks to the side in what could have been a smile. He's bent over his desk, frenetically rifling through a chaos of papers. Dean steps over and sort of asserts his hands, not really touching Castiel but urging him away nonetheless.

"That's my job. Teach your class. I've already got them started on a few conjugations; take it from there."

Castiel looks at him head on, stunned for a long moment, and Dean isn't quite sure what to make of it. His face is absurdly expressive, an open window to all the rich fluctuation of emotion possible, shading between surprise and gratitude and a fleeting indefinite look that disappears when he looks down and seems to regain his fluidity, nodding and running a hand through his hair, like that can smooth it down. Dean realizes that his heart is thudding.

"Thank you," says Castiel. He's composed now, unlike Dean, who's definitely unnerved. "Please forgive me. Thursday is supposed to be my lucky day, ironically enough."

"Don't mention it," mumbles Dean, and gets to work right away so that he doesn't have to think about the prickling on his skin. He wants to explain it as anxiety or nerves, because for all his earnest charm, Castiel can be really strange sometimes, and that makes sense. But he doesn't really believe it, so he tugs at the collar of his shirt and shakes his head and organizes the next lesson so that he doesn't have to think. Fortunately, there's a lot to be done before Friday and the weekend, so first and second period fly by. However, it doesn't end up so easy – when the bell for lunch rings Castiel stops Dean at the door with a hand on his shoulder.

"If you have a minute?" He looks sheepish, and Dean's mouth feels a little dry. He asks if there's something the matter, and Castiel says no, of course not, he only wanted to explain his tardiness that morning. At that, he looks so overtly guilty that Dean almost laughs, caught up in an unexpected rush of affection.

"You don't have to worry about it, you know." He can't help smiling, at least. "It's my job, seriously."

"But I don't want to make it any more difficult for you," says Castiel, and puts a hand on Dean's arm. It was meant to be a friendly touch, but Dean wishes it had never happened. His heart stutters and electricity splinters up to his shoulder. It's all he can do not to recoil.

"It's my car." Castiel is completely oblivious to Dean's discomfort. "It's been acting up for a while now, having trouble starting. It hardly ever happens, but when it does, I'm stuck. I've been meaning to take it in for a checkup, and I promise that I'll do it this weekend so that this doesn't happen again."

Dean can't help himself; he's interested. "Not starting? What sort of sound does it make when you try?"

Castiel blinks, taken aback. "It – well, it sort of wheezes, you might say. Why?"

"I know a thing or two about cars." Dean can't stop himself. "I could take a look at it for you, if you like. Save you some bucks."

Castiel stares at him, and there it is again: that unabashed expression, surprise and amazement.

"That's…that would be too much, Dean. I couldn't accept it."

But Dean's palms are already itching; it's been too long since he went under the hood, and he's dying to get some grease under his fingernails.

"Don't be stupid; it'd be my pleasure. I love cars. Always have; I work part-time at a garage. Or I used to, before I got this job. Come on; let me give it a shot."

Castiel opens his mouth and shuts it again, looking torn. It's gratifying, at least, that he hasn't once questioned Dean's ability to fix the car, only his willingness. You don't usually get that sort of trust from people, let alone after only a week.

"Are you sure?"

"As the indicative mood," says Dean with a wink, and at that, Castiel tips back his head and lets out a clear laugh, nothing like the little chuckles that he usually drops so gently, as if each were a sugar cube falling into a brimming mug of coffee. No – the sound is as pure and unabashed as his surprise and regret, his delight, his humor, everything else he ever expresses, and Dean realizes that he's grinning stupidly, because that laugh sort of seems to wash over the entire room and color everything bright, and he can't help himself.

"If you insist," says Castiel at last. "When would you be available?"

"Anytime," says Dean honestly, still smiling. "I could even take a look right now, if you want."

"Really?" Castiel looks so hesitant; it's astounding how the delicacy of the emotion registers on his face, staining his eyes a sort of uncertain blue, shadowy and pale and brittle all in the same instant. "Would that be alright?"

Dean, seized by a sudden impulse, reaches out and claps him on the arm. Maybe it was a test; he's not sure, but Castiel doesn't flinch, only smiles kind of tentatively. Dean's not sure whether he's disappointed. He's not even sure what he meant.

"You bet." He cracks his knuckles so that the descent of his arm is picked up fluidly by a fresh motion. "Where's she at?"

"She?" Castiel looks perplexed for a minute before he gives that half-smile of embarrassment again, that little shimmer of teeth. "Oh, you mean the car, don't you? I'll show you." He pauses, and rolls his lower lip nervously between his teeth. "And – Dean…if it wouldn't be too much trouble, could I stick around and watch you work? It's just that I don't know much about cars."

Dean can't help it; he laughs, and Castiel looks terrified, and that only makes him laugh harder. He reaches out and presses his palm into his shoulder without even thinking. He doesn't think about touching Castiel, it just happens, so that afterwards he's stuck wondering why.

"Of course you can. A warning, though: it's not as exciting as it sounds. I probably won't even be able to fix anything today. You're gonna get pretty bored."

"Oh no," says Castiel seriously. "I don't think so."

Dean looks down, trying not to smile too hard, and Castiel fiddles with his sleeve for a minute before he sort of seems to remember himself. He grabs his coat, and they head out to the teacher lot, darting between chunky minivans and tired models from the nineties, cars reduced to nothing but chipped paint and dented doors, exhausted tires and outdated bumper stickers. Even so, it's not often that Dean lets himself do this, notice all the details on every car he sees, no matter how tacky, and he's enjoying it more than he'd care to admit. A breeze sets the trees to a gentle rustle; it's one of those picturesque winter days, complete with clear milk-yellow sunshine, crisp air, and a high-arching blue ceiling for a sky, sharply edged at the horizon like fresh-shattered porcelain.

Castiel comes to a halt in front of what must be his car. Dean groans.

"What is it?" Castiel looks at him with earnest concern. "Do you feel alright?"

"Of course not!" he cries. "Come on, just look at that thing!"

Castiel obliges.

"It's my car."

"It's a Prius," mutters Dean. "But of course you would have a car like this; I really should have known."

"I don't understand," says Castiel, tipping his head to one side. Typical.

Dean exhales. "I guess there's no helping it. Come on. Let's get under the hood, see what's the matter."

Castiel follows, leaning against the door as Dean pops open the hood and cranes his neck to get a good look. At first glance, everything looks to be in good working order. Dean sighs and pulls back, almost reaching down to wipe his hands on his thighs before he remembers that he's wearing linen slacks with a smart crease down the center, not jeans with holes at the knees. Castiel is looking at him curiously.

"I'm going to have to be more thorough," Dean explains, "and unfortunately, I can't do that in a blazer. Do you think you could…" Abruptly, he feels inexplicably sheepish, and reaches up to rub the back of his neck with one hand. "I don't know…have me come over some afternoon, get a better look? I have the tools at home; I can bring them easy. This weekend, maybe?"

Castiel nods, tapping his index finger against his chin. "I'll email you my address. Thank you, Dean."

Dean exhales, and feels a relief as inexplicable as his nervousness not a moment before.

"It's really no trouble."

Castiel chuckles, and falls into step alongside Dean as they make their way back towards the main building, cutting across the empty football field. A groundskeeper waves as they stroll past, one of the older staff members who knows almost everyone by name. Despite the cold, the sun is warm on their faces and shoulders, and casts thin splinters of gold into Castiel's hair. Dean tries not to notice.

"Even so," says Castiel unexpectedly, like he's just picked up the end of the last sentence in his head. "Could I make it up to you? I can buy you lunch." He glances at his watch and frowns. "Or just coffee, at this rate. But please. I'd really like to recompense a bit of your trouble."

Dean starts spewing excuses, saying that it's really nothing, that he couldn't possibly, but Castiel fixes him with a firm look, and he exhales, and says alright, but only coffee, and only because Castiel insisted. At that, Castiel smiles brightly, the sun reflecting off his teeth, and Dean can't help but smile back. He's in a good mood, and for once in his life can't really bring himself to worry or pour over the specific issues that could arise while taking coffee with one's boss. He decides that Castiel doesn't feel much like his boss anyways, that it's just fifteen minutes of casual conversation, and leaves it at that.

The cafeteria is chaos, as always, but at least the lines have died down, and it's not long before they're tucked away at a little table near a window with cappuccinos. Dean remarks that most parents probably don't reckon that part of their tuition goes to supporting a troupe of baristas, and Castiel laughs appreciatively, and it feels almost private. For a moment, silence falls, and Dean is suddenly terrified, but then Castiel looks up and almost smirks, a sort of sharp glint in his eye.

"So tell me, Dean. What's so wrong about having a Prius?"

Dean swallows, shrugs, tries not to crack a smile.


"Come on. You won't hurt my feelings."

"It's just…I don't know, I mean…" Dean surrenders, staring into his mug. "It's kind of…a pussy car."

Castiel gives him a long look, and he holds up his hands.

"Hey man, you asked."

Castiel raises an eyebrow. "It is not a pussy car."

"Come on, now. We've all got our own perspectives." Dean takes a nonchalant sip of his coffee. He can't help but grin around the rim of the mug when Castiel gives a heavy sigh.

"Does that by default make me a pussy, or in this case does such a descriptor apply only to the car?"

Dean swallows. "Well, I'm not one to judge, but…" He shrugs. "Well, to be fair, you did just use the word descriptor in casual conversation."

Castiel gives a terrific roll of the eyes. "Come on. What exactly about owning a Prius makes me a pussy? It's a good car; economical, environmentally sound. I don't see the problem. It gets the job done."

"Except when, you know, it doesn't even start."

Castiel fixes Dean with a tired look. "And I suppose you've got something better? Perhaps a – now, how should I put this – non-pussy car, if you will?"

Dean chokes on his coffee a little bit. "Don't go there, man. Baby, she's – well. I'll introduce you to her some time. Then, let me tell you." He lets out a loud whistle. "You'll be singing a different tune, alright."

"You don't know that," says Castiel primly, dragging a spoon through his coffee once, twice. "Maybe it – she, if you must insist on a gender – won't suit my tastes."

Dean shrugs. It's quiet for a minute while Castiel toys with the spoon; his fingers are eerily long and agile, almost dancing along the rim of his mug, delicate rhythms lacking in rhyme or reason, charmingly senseless. Dean's a bit mesmerized, maybe. At long last Castiel sort of scrunches up his nose.

"Pussy car, really," he says under his breath, and Dean laughs.

"Hey, sorry, man. I know you're my boss and all, so I should be as eloquent as possible, but I couldn't think of a better word."

"A Prius is a perfectly respectable car," persists Castiel, gently tapping his spoon against the side of his mug for emphasis. "And…well."

At that, he falls silent. After a moment, he puffs up his cheeks, exhales, and takes a long sip of coffee. Dean waits, maybe a little impatiently, drumming his fingernails on the edge of his mug. Castiel wipes the edge of his mouth with a napkin without looking up.

"Look, I – I'd really rather that you not think of me as your boss, Dean. We're nearly the same age, and to be honest, I feel like we're very much on the same level." He lifts his gaze, stained earnest navy. "I consider you my colleague, at the very least. Perhaps even a friend."

Dean swallows thickly. "I don't know about colleague, but friend, sure. Friend, sure." He clears his throat. "I don't know why I said that twice."

At that, Castiel tips his head back and lets forth a fantastic peal of laughter, the kind that sort of scampers away and rockets about the room, caught in a perpetual state of chaos, unsure of where to turn in its exuberance, splashing brilliance everywhere it touches. Dean has to put up quite the fight not to grin and laugh right along with him, because it's infectious, and rare, too, he reckons. When it finally subsides, they're both smiling stupidly, until they catch sight of one another (like looking into a mirror) and sober up. For a long moment, Castiel looks at Dean intensely, like he's on the brink of saying something, but then the bell rings, the cafeteria roars, and he drops his gaze.

"Thanks for the coffee, Castiel." Dean stands up, not sure if he should feel disappointed. Castiel gives a token smile and says it was no trouble. They shake hands. It's the first time Dean's noticed this, but Castiel's palms are wide and warm, dry but smooth, manicured, even. He has a respectable handshake, firm but reserved, melting away at the proper moment.

"I'll see you on Saturday," says Castiel. "Swing by anytime; I'll be home all day."

"Sure," says Dean, and sort of makes to turn away before they both realize belatedly that they're heading back to the same place, and laugh uncomfortably. Castiel runs a hand through his hair, smiling, and claps Dean on the shoulder. There it is again – electricity, arching down to the small of his back. It's unnerving, but Dean just smiles and makes conversation about the lesson plan as they file back to the classroom along with the flood of students.

Friends. Dean rolls the idea around in his mind as he watches Castiel dive into the lesson, hands making wide enthusiastic circles as he details the life of the average Roman schoolboy. He's probably given the same lecture a thousand times, but his enthusiasm is unreduced, his genuine interest no less keen. Friends – Dean likes that. He likes Castiel, despite all his oddities, or perhaps because of them. And after he picks up Sam (the kids are allowed home on weekends, if their parents live in the area) and drives back to the apartment, he goes down to storage and brings out his toolkit to make sure everything is oiled and polished in the right places, ready for use.

It's been too long, and he savors the weight of the wrench in his hand. Sam watches, leaning against the hood of the car, hands tucked in his pockets, and remarks that Dean looks pretty happy. Dean shrugs and thinks that they'd best not get ahead of themselves. But even if it's just a moody Prius, it is true that he's really anticipating some proper hard work, with oil and grease rather than graphite and printer ink, and jeans rather than pinstriped slacks.

And, he admits to himself as tosses the wrench from one hand to the other, he might be anticipating the company a little bit, too.

AN: Hey all! I'm not big on notes, but since this is the first chapter of a long fic I do have a few.

1) Fic updates weekly! Twelve chapters in all.

2) Rated for sex and language

3) Cas is mostly a teacher of languages traditionally associated with religion.

4) Most private schools will move a student up on their waiting list if a family member is involved in the faculty.

5) Parati estisne = are you ready? Parati sumus = yes. Any Latin I add will be inconsequential to the story, so I won't translate from now on.

6) La Vita Nuova (Italian: The New Life) is a collection of romantic poems and prose by Dante Alghieri, directed at his long-time love, Beatrice. More on that matter late on.

Thanks so much for reading!