Notes: This is a College!AU featuring human!Cas and spins on many of my favorite characters. Although my dreams tell me differently, I do not own any Supernatural characters. Please do not sue!
TW: eventually there will bemental illness and references to past abuse. I will make sure to mention that when the chapter rolls around.
The first thing Dean notices is his stare. It's fixed, immovable.
Their first encounter, his eyes don't leave Dean. He watches him. Studies him. The way he stares makes you nervous, restless, like you're a butterfly whose wings are about to be plucked off, or a helpless ant stuck under the glaring heat of a magnifying glass. Dean feels like a science experiment the first time he meets Castiel.
He's sprinting across campus one day, trying to get to class on time for once, when he manages to trip over this peculiar man. Dean goes flying forward, feeling the earth come to meet him face first. He hits the ground hard and hears a pained grunting beneath him. Dean manages to extricate himself from a tangle of long limbs and messenger bags, and pulls himself to his feet. The other man is still sitting there, rubbing his cheek where Dean's knee crashed into it and sent them both to the ground.
"Oh my God, I am so sorry." Dean cried. "Are you okay?"
This is when he first notices the steely, almost otherworldly gaze.
"I will recover." The man said, his voice all gravelly and coarse. He locks eyes with Dean. His eyes are a stormy blue, deep and intense, almost too blue.
The man stands up and dusts himself off, his eyes not once leaving Dean. He's about three inches shorter than Dean, with a gaunt figure lost in a baggy trench coat. He brushes some invisible grass off himself and self consciously cards a hand through unkempt brown hair.
"Where's the fire?" He said, still looking annoyed.
"Sorry, I was running late. But fuck it. I'm already 15 minutes late. Can I at least buy you a cup of coffee to replace the one I spilled? I'm so sorry." He said.
"You said that already."
Dean bites his lip. This guy doesn't look like much, but he's certainly intimidating for someone so small. He doesn't blame him for being gruff. Dean was sprinting as fast as he could and didn't even see the guy. He must have literally knocked the wind out of him. He looks down at the ground, where the guy's coffee mug has tipped over and a notebook is splattered with the beverage.
"Your notebook..." He said apologetically.
The man shakes his head. "No worries, I was just doodling." He said, looking down for the first time during the entire exchange.
He reaches his hand over, trying to be amicable. "Come on, let me at least buy you a cup of coffee."
"That would be agreeable." The man said, his voice leveling out a little. "I'm Castiel. And who are you?"
"Dean. Dean Winchester." He said, shaking the other man's hand.
They head to a little coffee shop on campus, not too far from where Dean's class is currently in session. It's the third time this semester he's missed it. Dean curses to himself as they pass the building. At this rate, graduating seems like a distant dream.
"So, where were you headed in such a rush?" Castiel asked while they're waiting in line.
"Just this awful class I keep missing. Can't say I'm too broken up about missing it, but hell, I need it to graduate." He muttered thinking to himself that his fifth year of college isn't going as smoothly as it should be.
"Oh." Cas muttered.
"So, what's your poison?" Dean said, changing the subject.
Castiel looks up at him, looking alarmed. "What?"
"I'm talking about coffee." Dean said, raising an eyebrow.
"Oh. I'll just have a large black coffee."
The two of them sat down at a table in the coffee shop, Dean already slurping on his cup of piping hot black coffee, Castiel looking down at his, once again looking uncomfortable.
"So, what class are you missing right now?" He said finally.
"Social theory." Dean said, wincing at the thought of the class.
Castiel actually brightens at the mention of this class, which was giving Dean so many nightmares and preventing him from acquiring his degree.
"Are you majoring in sociology? Grad program?" He asked, leaning forward a little bit, excited by the prospect of Dean actually being an academic.
"Hell no. Social sciences are actually my worst subject. It's the political science version of the course, 'Social Theory of Political Thought' is actually the course title, and it's ridiculous as it sounds. Also, not a grad student."
Castiel's eye twitched a little bit, those eyes, those impossibly stormy eyes, fixated on him. "You look a little old to be an undergrad." He said.
"I waited a few years to go to school." Dean said.
Dean cringed. This was a question he often got. He was in a weird space. Most "non-traditional" students are older, in their 40s and 50s, while "traditional" students are 18-22. Dean is 26, occupying that weird gap in the middle. He wasn't sure why this fascinated people like Castiel so much. He supposed Castiel was the type of person who followed a path: graduate from high school with honors, go to college immediately, graduate in 4 years, get a job, or go for more schooling. Dean wasn't like that. He never had the luxury.
"I just had to take some time off to take care of my brother." He said honestly.
"Oh." Castiel shifted in his seat, his eyes darting back and forth, as if he were suddenly nervous.
"So, what about you? Why were you sitting in the middle of the quad at 8am?"
"I'm a professor here. I like to go through my notes before my first class... drink my coffee... take some time to myself... the quad is actually peaceful in the morning." He said, relaxing a little bit.
"You're a professor? Well, if I'm too old to be an undergrad, then you're too young to be a professor."
It was true. The dude didn't look old enough to rent a car or possibly even drink a beer, let alone teach the malleable minds of American youth.
"I'm an adjunct."
"So you're the school's bitch, basically?"
Castiel scowled, but then he looked amused. "Yes. I suppose you could say that. The benefits for adjunct professors are fairly limited."
"What do you teach?"
"Sociology." Castiel admitted, and Dean knew why had assumed he was in that class.
"So, do you know about 'the Social Theory of Political Thought''?" Dean asked, suddenly more interested in this strange, perpetually staring man.
Castiel snorted. "Not particularly. I believe that if a class has that much rhetoric in the title, then it's probably a pile of crap class, scrabbled together by old men who have never left the classroom."
Dean grins when he says that. He thought the same thing about the class when he signed up for it. Dean is more of a numbers and science kind of guy. There was a reason he had put his social science requirement off until his senior year.
"I do teach a section of the sociology version though- at least I am next semester. This one is simply called 'Social Theory' and I rather enjoy it." Castiel added.
Dean's eyes lit up. "Is it similar?"
"Dude, Cas, I am seriously failing this class. I am four classes short of graduating. This, a couple of biology classes, and my capstone next semester. That's it. If I fail this class, I will be here this summer and I really don't want to be. Could you help me, maybe?" He said, almost begging.
Unlike Castiel, Dean HATED social theory.
"Cas?" His voice was confused.
"Sorry, I do that. Assign nicknames to people I meet." He said off handedly, "But back to social theory. Seriously. If you help me, I can pay you like $12 an hour and buy you more coffee, since you seem to like it so much." He glanced at Castiel's mug of coffee, which was already drained.
"You don't need to pay me." Castiel said, looking nervous again.
Dude was a bundle of nerves if Dean ever saw one. At first, the guy had intimidated him with his gruff voice and odd way of staring, but now Dean realized that in Castiel's mind, he was the intimidating one.
"I do though. Because I am failing this class and I keep missing it because it's at 8am and god, I fucking hate social science classes."
"Well, okay." Castiel said. "I could probably help you. But you can't keep skipping it or running late for it. To understand social theory, you must be there to witness it. Unfortunately, that is truly the only way to understand classes made up by boring academics." He said dryly.
"Yes! I am psyched I ran you over this morning, dude! You might save my grade!" He said. "When are you free? I can get today's notes from my friend, Charlie and the book and we could go to town!"
Castiel rummaged through his worn messenger bag and produced a business card. He scrawled a number on it and handed it over to Dean.
"That's my cell phone number. I'm never in my office. You can email me too. I'll check my calendar and we can set something up." Castiel said, running a hand through his hair again, his eyes darting back and forth, like he was doing something illicit.
Dude was twitchy.
"Great! I'm just warning you though—this might take some time—I am awful at this class." Dean said, chuckling, reading the business card and then tucking it into his wallet.
Later that day, Dean met his best friends Jo and Charlie for lunch, as he did almost every day. Jo was Dean's world, his best friend, his closest confidante. He had even followed her to college, which was strange because he was three years older than her. Charlie was her closest female friend on campus and over the last four and a half years, the three of them had become an unlikely trio who did nearly everything together.
"Dean. You missed it again." Charlie said, shoving a potato chip into her mouth. "I know it sucks, but you can't keep missing this class. I chose this bullshit over the international relations class for you and you don't even show up half the time."
"I can't help it, Char, I'm just not good at waking up before 10am." He said.
"Charlie, Dean, my name is Charlie." She said.
"Your name is actually Charlotte." Jo pointed out.
"Shut up, bitch." Charlie said. "Your name is Josephine, so look who's talking."
"Little Joey Potter." Dean drawled, grinning at Jo. Growing up Jo had always gotten exceedingly angry about her television namesake.
"Shut up, asshole." Jo said, tossing a fry at him. "Joey was straight, Joey was boring, Joey was in love with a bro with a greasy blonde mullet. I am not straight or boring, nor would I love anyone with a mullet."
Dean caught the fry in his mouth and gave Jo his trademark smirk. Years ago, he secretly thought he would end up marrying Jo. The dream had ended when Jo had joined the cheerleading squad to woo the head cheerleader, Lydia, and so she could understand why all the football players thought "spankies" were the greatest thing since sliced bread. Now, the only things he was sure about was that he'd be the 'man of honor' at Jo's wedding and that his two very best friends were lesbians.
Some guys are just too cool. That's what Dean told himself about his limited circle of friends, anyway.
"So what's your excuse this time, Dean-o? You didn't even bother showing up late." Charlie said.
"I literally ran over this guy in the quad. I was running and I like, barreled into him. Made him spill coffee all over the grass and his notes, injured his cheek with my knee, and I don't know, I felt really bad, so I bought him a cup of coffee." Dean said.
"Wow, you missed social theory to hang out with another man?" Jo said, raising an eyebrow. "Either there's something you're not telling me or that class is just unbearably awful, like worse than I can even imagine."
Dean threw a straw at her. They were always throwing things.
"Get this though: the guy is a professor of sociology. He teaches the soc version of the class. Like, how serendipitous is that? He's going to tutor me and maybe I won't even need to come to class anymore." Dean said, a smile tugging at his face.
Suddenly, Charlie's eyes lit up.
"Mmm, mm, mm." Her eyes were following someone across the cafeteria.
"Where?" Jo cried, her head nearly spinning off into space. Jo needed to get laid.
"Not your type, Jo, he has a penis." Charlie said, staring.
"If he has a penis, then he's not your type either." Dean pointed out.
"Just because I don't like the equipment doesn't mean I can't appreciate beauty. I can appreciate art. This boy is a piece of art." Charlie said, licking her lips and winking suggestively at Jo, who in turn just stuck her tongue out at Charlie.
"Hey! That's the guy!" Dean said suddenly, pointing across the room. "That's the dude who's going to help me pass social theory."
Charlie clucked her tongue and let out a low whistle. "Damn, Dean-o. I can see why you missed class now."
"You're looking at him?" Dean said.
"Well, yeah, I mean. LOOK AT HIM. I mean, I'm done now, since I can only appreciate that kind art for a few seconds, but you feel free to keep staring." Charlie said, leaning back in her chair.
Dean watched as Castiel ordered a large slice of pizza from the girl working at the pizza joint in the student center. He handed her some cash and then grabbed a soda. Castiel looked around the full cafeteria, a worried expression on his face. He watched Castiel balance the tray on one hand so he could nervously run a hand through his hair, which was now so unkempt he looked like a wild jungle animal. The cafeteria was full because it was 1:00pm and it was lunch. Castiel began to walk over to the couches, which was a messy and uncomfortable place to eat lunch.
"I'm going to ask him to sit with us." Dean said suddenly, sitting up.
"You do that." Jo said, watching Dean go.
Charlie stared at Jo and mouthed "What the fuck."
Since when was Dean Winchester willing to let another member into their trio?
Dean came over a minute later with Castiel, who was still staring at, well, everything intensely, the trench coat still swallowing him up.
"Guys, this is Cas. The dude who's going to get me out of this school before my five years are up." Dean said, waving at him as if he were displaying a prize animal at a show.
"Castiel." He mumbled.
"What's that?" Jo said.
Castiel cleared his throat, "My name is, uh, Castiel."
Charlie smirked at Dean, "Don't worry, Castiel. Dean nicknames everyone within minutes of meeting them. He calls me Char, even though I hate it. My name's Charlie." She stood up and shook his hand heartily. Charlie was always jovial and social, enough so that she could make someone as awkward as Castiel feel comfortable.
"You're a professor?" Jo said pointedly.
Castiel looked terrified, as if Jo had just said that she knew he was actually a cross-dressing homosexual with a fetish for serial murder. "How did you know that? Were you in one of my classes? If so, I probably shouldn't be fraternizing with you…"
"Dude, chill." Dean said, chuckling a little bit. "I told them about you, it's cool."
Dean watched him as he set down his tray gingerly. Castiel's eyes met a fixed point on the table and he was hunched over slightly, which made him look even smaller. Dean had never met someone so tense. It was as if Castiel expected everyone to immediately judge him or possibly kill him. Dean couldn't believe he had been intimidated by the guy when he ran him down this morning. Castiel seemed more like the kind person who would apologize for bleeding on your shirt after you stabbed him repeatedly in the chest.
Castiel slipped off his trench coat and sat down. When Dean saw how skinny he was, he felt a sudden need to shove several cheeseburgers into his mouth and then feed him intravenously until he looked less birdlike. Charlie was right about one thing though, the guy was attractive, and even Dean couldn't deny that. His eyes, despite their constant saucer-like appearance and the uncomfortable way they always followed you, were a shade of blue that couldn't be found in nature. The unkempt, almost-black hair added a sort of untamed feel to the graceless air he possessed. Dean thought he was cute, like a terrified puppy with beautiful eyes.
Dean shook himself off. Although he was ambiguous in his tastes, thanks to years of involvement in the Portland LGBT community and some experimentation in his younger days, he'd never admit to Charlie or Jo that he was thinking about a dude's appearance this much.
"So Castiel. What's your last name? I can't imagine you can top Castiel, but ya know." Dean asked, reaching over and grabbing a handful of fries off Charlie's plate. Castiel's gaunt appearance made him want to eat more.
"Novak. I am Castiel Novak." He stated, as if it were a test.
"Where are you from?" Jo asked. "Oh, by the way, I'm Jo."
"I'm from Boston." He said, shuddering a little bit.
"Not a fan of Boston?" Dean asked.
"No, it's fine. I just, I don't know, didn't have a lot of good experiences there." Castiel said. Then he stopped, as if he had just admitted something terrible about himself.
"You teach?" Jo pressed on.
"Yes. I teach sociology. Mostly lower level classes, but next semester I will be teaching Advanced Research Methods." He said, beaming a little bit.
"That's great, Cas." Dean said. "So, what's the deal? What's a dude from Boston doing in bumfuck Oregon?"
"It's not that bumfuck." Charlie said, looking a little offended. She was the only one at the table who was actually from Oregon.
"I attended school here and decided to stay. Personally, I prefer the country, the west coast, to the bustle of the city and the… well, stiff upper-lippiness of the east coast." Castiel said.
"Stiff upper-lippiness." Charlie repeated. She smiled. "I like that."
Castiel looked embarrassed, but slightly pleased.
"So, Cas, do you have a girlfriend?" Jo asked, shooting a conspiratorial look at Charlie.
"What? No." Castiel said, a blush creeping across his face. He stared down at his pizza like it was the most fascinating object on the planet.
"Neither does Dean." Charlie said, smiling at Jo.
"What? Why would that matter to him?" Dean said.
Castiel cleared his throat loudly, took a huge bite of his pizza, then grabbed his messenger bag and began to rifle through it. He pulled out a thick sketchbook, with a cover that was covered in abstract doodles and stickers advertising a band that Dean didn't recognize. He grabbed a pen out of his bag too and opened the sketchbook. Dean stared at the doodles on the cover, a bunch of abstract lines that formed the shape of a bird. Of course this weirdo was an artist too.
Charlie's conspiratorial look changed to one of surprise when she saw the sketchbook. "Whoa, you like Melt Banana?" She said, her voice rising. She leaned forward, long red hair obscuring Dean's view. Dean cleared his throat, but Charlie ignored him.
"Yes." Castiel said, sounding surprised. "You know them?"
"Oh my fucking God, Cas, I love them! They are one of my favorites, like ever!" Charlie enthused.
Dean knew she was unbelievably psyched too. Charlie listened to the strangest, most obscure, most unlistenable music Dean had ever had the misfortune of hearing. When she found a fellow fan of this crap, she always became far too excitable.
Charlie got up and moved to Castiel's side of the table. Dean snorted. He didn't know why Charlie and Jo had been implying that he and Castiel suddenly hook up. Charlie had been the one to 'recognize his beauty' and now she was acting like he was the second coming of Christ just because he liked some weird-ass electronic noise. Jo scooted over and came to Dean's side of the table.
"So, Jo. You have class, right? Want me to walk you?" He asked, shooting a glare at Charlie, which she missed in her rapture over finding a Melt Banana fan.
"Of course, Dean. I could never find my way without you!" Jo said, her voice dripping sugar and spice.
"Sure… uh… Cas you good here?" He asked, since he'd hardly gotten a chance to talk to the guy before Charlie had latched onto him.
"He's good." Charlie said, answering for him. "So, Cas… have you seen them live? Oh please tell me you have…"
Dean rolled his eyes and grabbed his stuff. He'd talk to the lovebirds later.
When they were out of earshot, Dean stopped to yell at Jo because of the lesbian power duo's awkward comments about him and Castiel.
"Jo, what the hell was that back there? DO YOU HAVE A GIRLFRIEND? DEAN DOESN'T EITHER?" He said, emphasizing the second part.
Jo rolled her eyes. "We were just playing with you, Dean. The guy is awkward and, I don't know, I thought it was funny. Plus you were staring at him like he was a piece of steak."
"I was not."
Jo pushed a strand of blond hair out of her eyes and gave Dean a Cheshire cat grin. "Yes, you were. You were staring at him the way I stare at Dita Von Teese or Charlie after I've had a few too many. There's nothing wrong with it."
"Why'd you have to pick at the guy? I mean, yes, he's socially awkward, but you probably made him feel worse." Dean said, suddenly very annoyed with Jo and Charlie, surprisingly more so because they'd made Castiel feel uncomfortable.
"The guy clearly needs to loosen up a little, Dean. I mean, hell, you saw how much more at ease he was when he found out Charlie liked that crap band named after fruit. I saw how relieved he was when you came over and invited him to sit with us. I have known him 10 minutes, and I can already tell he doesn't have many friends." Jo said
"You can't possibly know that."
"If he has friends, why does he sit alone on the quad? Why doesn't he have someone to eat lunch with? I actually think I've seen him around before, sitting on benches alone, and shit. Messing with people is my way of making friends."
She shrugged. "Plus, Dean, he was looking at you like you're a piece of steak too." She added.
"Jo!" Dean said. His voice was heavy with warning.
Jo swatted at him and took off running to the doors in the student center, laughing at him. Dean rolls his eyes. He didn't know what his teenage self had been thinking. It'd be idiotic to marry Jo.