It all started on a completely unassuming September afternoon. Dean was in a good mood - it was a warm and sunny Friday and he had just gotten off work at the garage. Sam and Jess were bringing dinner over to the apartment, and tomorrow was Dean's day off. He was almost whistling a tune as he trudged up the stairs to the third floor. He really liked his building - it was in a good neighborhood, it was clean, the people were friendly. All it lacked was an elevator. Usually this didn't bother Dean but today he was lugging two big boxes full of old books up to his apartment. Victor from the garage had found them in his attic and had no need for them - Dean had offered to take the books off his hands, knowing Sammy would totally nerd-out upon seeing them.
The only problem with the boxes was that Dean couldn't really see in front of him, so it came as little surprise when he crashed into someone in the stairwell. And consequently spilled the books all over the second floor landing.
"Shit - sorry, are you okay?"
"I am fine. Let me help you pick these up." Dean looked up from the mess on the floor and into the bluest pair of eyes he had ever seen. They belonged to a man about his age, with dark, ruffled hair and a tan trench coat. Somehow, it suited him. Dean was momentarily unable to speak under the gaze the man had fixed him with.
"Y-y-ou don't have to."
"Please. I bumped into you." Mr. Blue Eyes was already on the floor, gathering up the books and stacking them neatly in the boxes. Dean didn't try and stop him and instead started picking up the rest.
"So I haven't seen you around here before," prompted Dean after a few moments of only slightly awkward book-gathering silence.
"I just moved in here today. 217."
"I was wondering who was going to move in there - I'm in 317. Welcome to the building."
"Thank you. These are some nice books."
"Aw, well I'm not much of a book worm, I got them for my brother."
"That's very kind of you."
"Well, he's one to geek out over this sort of thing, you know?" Dean smiled.
By now the books had been all packed up and Dean had picked up the boxes. He looked to head up the stairs, then turned back, saying, "Sorry, I don't think I got your name."
"Well, Dean, I guess I'll see you around."
"Yeah, see you around." Dean turned and headed up the stairs to his floor. Once inside his apartment he set the books down with a sign, kicking off his shoes and flopping down on the couch. He felt a little dazed, to be quite honest. He'd only met the guy for a total of five minutes and he already felt himself falling for those blue eyes. Since when did I become such a girl? Dean thought to himself. This concern was quickly swept aside - meeting Castiel had been a wonderful addition to his already good day.
An hour or so later, a knock at the door signaled Sam and Jess's arrival.
"Come on inside, guys."
"What have you two master chefs cooked up tonight?"
"I made lasagna. And got him to stay out of my way." Jess winked at Sam.
"I made salad!"
"You took a bag of salad and put it in a Tupperware container. That doesn't count."
Sam and Jess's playful bantering put Dean at ease, and the soon settled down for dinner at Dean's kitchen table. Between bites of Jess's lasagna (which was actually very tasty) they shared their news from the past week. Dean didn't have much to say (meeting Castiel seemed like an odd thing to mention, unless he was going to tell the two of them he was pretty sure he was developing a crush on the guy). Sam talked about the current case he was working. Dean always got really proud whenever Sam talked about his career as a lawyer - it was nice to think about the little squirt having grown up to be a big-shot attorney. Jess talked about her job working at publishing house - turns out she was in line for a promotion. After dinner was over, Dean took them into the living area to show Sam the books.
"These look amazing! Thanks Dean."
"It was no problem." Sam and Jess started going through the boxes, and Jess's eyes went wide.
"I think this is an original copy of To Kill a Mockingbird! It's one of my favorite books ever!"
"I'm glad I brought them home then." Dean sat down on the couch with a contented sigh. The books seemed to be a mixture of anything and everything - from a huge, dusty dictionary to fiction to military history. The two nerds looked like they could be content just smelling them for the rest of the evening. Sam had unearthed an ancient-looking copy of The Last of the Mohicans and had begun leafing through it.
"And it has paintings by N.C. Wyeth!" Jess exclaimed, peeking over his shoulder.
They're really made for each other, aren't they? thought Dean. Sam then turned his attention from the book, sharing a look with Jess.
"Let's tell him."
"Tell me what?" asked Dean, more curious than concerned.
"We're engaged!" Jess blurted out, and Dean broke out into a grin.
"That's great, guys!" he went over and wrapped Sam in his typical "brother hug" before embracing Jess.
"When's the big date?"
"We're not sure yet. We're thinking April."
"I can't wait." Dean's smile was genuine; he really was happy for those two.
They stayed around a bit longer after the announcement, and when they left Jess headed down to the car with the dinner containers, and Sam went to retrieve the book boxes. As Sam headed out the door, Dean caught his shoulder.
"I'm really happy for you, Sammy."
"I'm happy, too Dean. I really am."
It was only around ten o'clock when the two lovebirds left, and Dean wasn't really tired. He was happy for them, but thoughts of engagements and marriages could help but make Dean think about what he was doing with his life. Dean wasn't really one for long term relationships, but it wasn't like he'd never had any. There'd been Cassie, and Lisa after her. It wasn't that Dean really felt like he needed to get married or anything, but the thought of having someone around who understood him and would even put up with him was a nice prospect. The real question was; did such a person actually exist? Sammy would probably go all psychologist on him and tell him he was suffering from low self esteem. Whatever.
Dean decided to do something he'd done countless times since moving to the neighborhood, and that was to take a visit to the late night ice cream shop a few blocks down from him. He knew it wasn't an especially manly activity (like going to a bar to pick up chicks) but the ice cream was really good and he wasn't in the mood to get drunk.
The walk to the shop took only a few minutes, and the evening air was warm. Dean was greeted warmly upon entering - he had some semblance of a friendship with the girl who worked the late shifts there, Jo.
"Mint chip with fudge?"
"How did you guess?"
"You get the same thing every time you come in here. It wasn't a guess."
"Am I really that predictable?"
"Being predictable isn't necessarily a bad thing." She scooped his order and he went over to sit down. Contrary to popular belief, Dean wasn't completely averse to reading - he was actually in the middle of a novel, which he pulled out and began to read. He only looked up when he heard the bell on the door ring, and saw someone entering the shop. Someone newly familiar with a trench coat and dark hair. Castiel hadn't seen Dean as he entered, and now had his back to him as he ordered at the counter. Dean tried not stare at the back of his head and swallowed thickly. Castiel purchased an ice cream and turned to find a seat, his eyes alighting on Dean. His mouth quirked up into a smile.
"I guess 'see you around' included outside the building," Dean said genially, gesturing for Castiel to come sit across from him, "How was move-in day, Cas?" The nickname just came out. Really.
"Nobody calls me that," he replied, and then added quickly, "But I like it."
"Good. Your name is kind of a mouthful, no offense."
"None taken. And move-in day was fine, thanks." Cas sat down with his ice cream.
"It's kind of a weird time to be getting ice cream."
"I've kind of made a habit of it, actually."
"Well, I was exploring the neighborhood and passed by the shop, and thought - why not?"
"What flavor did you get?"
"Mint chip. With fudge," Cas replied.
"Me too! I like how you think, Cas."
"How did your brother like the books?" Dean smiled at the fact that Cas had remembered who he was giving them to.
"He loved them. He and his girlfriend, sorry - fiancée, are total nerds." Dean used the word 'nerds' like a term of endearment.
"Are they recently engaged?" Castiel seemed completely interested in the conversation, even when Dean thought it was just about his boring life.
"Yeah, they actually just told me this evening."
"You must be happy for them."
"I am. You got any siblings?"
"Yes, I have a brother and a sister, Gabriel and Anna. We get along pretty well, despite the occasional sibling bickering."
"I know how it is, man."
The conversation flowed easily from there. Dean talked about his job at the garage, and Cas told Dean about his new job at a nearby tech company ("enthralling, isn't it?"). They stayed at the table long after they'd finished their ice creams, and it was past midnight when Jo came over to the table and told Dean jokingly that she was going to have to kick the two of them out if they didn't leave soon. As they got up to leave, Jo gave Dean a knowing wink. He'd wondered what she'd say to him next time he came into the store.
They walked back to the building in companionable silence, which was something that seemed to come easily between them. Dean felt like he and Cas knew each other already, even though they'd barely spent any time together. Maybe it was because Cas had listened intently to everything Dean had said that evening, and Dean had sat in rapt attention whenever Cas opened his mouth. Whatever it was, Dean wanted nothing more than to reach over and kiss Cas on the lips, and he had to remind himself that he actually hadn't been on a date with the guy.
The two said goodbye on the second floor landing, where they'd met only hours earlier.
"Good night, Dean."
"Good night, Cas."