Dean gripped the cassette tightly in his hand, glancing back and forth between the tacky human version of a love confession and the waste bin in the hall. How stupid was it to think of giving Cas a mixed tape?
Epically stupid? Or just monumentally stupid? Dean exhaled deeply. What was he thinking, making this for Cas, for a wizard? Giving mixed tapes as gifts was a no-maj tradition. Not for the first time, Dean cursed himself for having such unimaginable interests. If he spent half as much time learning about magical society as he did dabbling in human pop culture he wouldn't have this problem. Hell, he'd been the Defense against the Dark Arts teacher for nearly two years. As the token muggle on staff, he'd had plenty of time to get to know the habits of the wizards and witches he worked with and taught everyday.
It wasn't like he didn't think the magical world was amazing. Before this gig, he'd been a hunter. A lonely one. His brother had packed up and left for good—headed off to Stanford. He's dad was in the ground, victim of a demon attack the year before. Dean had been out of luck and out of friends and at the end of his rope. Truth be told, three years ago, he was a barely functioning alcoholic. Dean Winchester was just another run-of-the mill, washed-up, human. Only thing that made him special was that he was clued in to all the evil shit that haunted the shadows—or at least he thought he was… Until Bobby opened the door for him to a whole new universe.
Bobby, a man who'd helped raise him, had a secret, one he’d kept from Dean and John for decades. Bobby was a wizard—and an important one. He was Defense against the Dark Arts teacher at the most prestigious school of magic in North America, some place called Ilvermorny. After laying that on Dean, Bobby casually mentioned that he’d put Dean's name in as his replacement since he wanted to retire.
Lucky for Dean, the pencil pushers in the US Department of Magical Education determined that each school wanting to receive federal funding had to meet quotas by hiring at least one no-maj, elf, and goblin. According to Bobby, Affirmative Action meant that Dean could get ‘a real damn job and stop being an idjit and a goddamn drunk.’ It also meant, according to Bobby, that Ilvermorny’s students would get the expertise of one of the best hunters in the US—mag or no-maj.
For the first months at Ilvermorny, hell, for nearly his first full year being part of this new world, he'd walked around with his mouth open. Although Dean had spent his life fighting monsters, slack-jawed amazement was his new default setting.
After a small adjustment period, it turned out that Bobby had been right about Dean and the job. Dean was well-versed in the monsters, in spell-work, and he had a desire to know more. A couple of times the last year, he’d even been able to surprise the students (and their pain in the ass parents) by correcting their textbooks and teaching the kids some practical skills. Bobby and Sammy loved books, and Dean loved doing, and it seemed most of his students preferred to be up and casting spells rather than reading books and writing essays. Despite Dean’s success with most of the kids, a lot of the parents still had sticks up their asses, and his coworkers hated him. Since day one, his colleagues’ whispers of mud monkey, muggle, and no-maj followed him everywhere. His peers and supervisors barely tolerated him—all of his coworkers save one.
Herbology Professor Castiel Novak had been the only warm smile he’d seen at faculty meetings and the lone staffer willing to share a lunch table with him. Without Cas, working at a magical boarding school would have been purgatory. But instead of being a pathetic loner, Dean now had a home and a best friend, for the first time in his life. And he’d never been happier.
He stared at the tape and shook his head. Making a mixed tape for Cas was an epically bad idea. Apocalyptically bad. Tacky and juvenile and likely to risk the best relationship—friendship—he’d ever had. Dean sighed again and tossed the tape in the trash.
"Good evening Dean" Cas said quietly, leaning against Dean's open office door.
"Hey, Cas." Dean said, taking another sip of coffee. This was probably his tenth cup, but he still felt like shit. He'd been tossing and turning all night. The tape was gone. Trashed. Valentine's day was basically over. And he still didn't feel ok. If he was on the road with Baby, he'd be headed to the nearest bar. Now, he just wanted to drink coffee, grade papers, and pretend this was just another day.
"Would you like to have dinner this evening, Dean? You don't look well, but--"
"Naw, Cas. Thanks for asking. I'm ok. I was thinking of catching up on my grading, but..." Dean shrugged. To be honest, he didn't give a damn about how this night went. As long as he could go back to normal on the fifteenth.
"All right, Dean. I just wanted to return this." Cas said, shuffling in the door and setting Dean's mixed tape on the desk with a final little tap.
How did he find this? Hadn't Dean thrown it away last night? Had Cas listened to the songs? Did he know--
"Dude, where did you find this? I thought I trashed it."
"I apologize, Dean. Perhaps I overstepped. Last night, I was on my way to your office to see you. I--," Cas glanced away, nervous, before he met Dean's eyes again with his earnest expression.
That expression grabbed at Dean's heart. Every damn time.
Dean tried to laugh this all off, hoping to diffuse the thousand levels of awkwardness. "Were you digging through my trash, man? Looking for plant compost in an office bin, huh?" Dean winked at Cas with a grin, "Magic plants must have some weird tastes."
"Dean, I came to visit with you, but you seemed--sad, or worried--I'm not sure. Then I saw you throw this away. Why would you throw away something that clearly means so much to you?"
Dean coughed, "It's meant to be--it's a gift, Cas. I just decided not to give it. So, you know..." Dean cleared his throat, hoping something non-stupid would come out. "Anyway, it's not important. It's just trash."
"But it has your name on it, Dean. It says 'Dean's Top 13 Traxx'"
"Who was the gift for?"
"Cas," Dean licked his lips and his eyes flew up and to the right. Shit. His hunter instincts were reminding him that his body was broadcasting that he was trying to come up with a lie. Damn, he was glad Cas spent more time with plants than humans. He took a deep breath and then tried to smile around the lump in his throat. "Well, it was the day before Valentine's right?"
"I was thinking about asking somebody out."
"February 13? Thirteen songs?"
"You got it, Cas." Dean grinned. It was good to know that Cas would have caught the reference. Dean knew Cas liked little details like that.
Cas smiled in return, but then his grin fell away. "You wanted to go on a date? With--"
"Hmmm?" Dean mumbled, standing up and beginning to sort through the pile of papers on his desk.
"But you decided not to?"
"You got it." Dean agreed, shoving things in his bag to take home. "Anyway, wanna forget all this Valentine's drama and grab a pizza and watch some TV?"
"Dean, I hope I didn't do any great wrong, but I listened to your Top Traxx,"
Dean smiled, he could hear Castiel's air quotes. There was so much that Dean appreciated about Cas, but the guys love of all things no-maj was adorable, especially when he got all serious and air-quotey about shit.
"It's ok, man. You like 'em?"
"They were very nice, Dean. But..." Castiel's breaths were shallow and his eyes shifted around.
Cas was nervous. Almost scared. Shit, his hands were tightly fisted.
"What's up, Cas?"
"They were love songs, Dean."
"Yeah? So? It was for Valentine's Day. You're supposed to be sentimental and shit on that day, right. Anyway," Dean shook his head and slung his bag onto his shoulder, wanting to head up to his quarters and put this tension behind them. "So, you want that pizza or what?"
"Are you in love with someone, Dean?"
"What?" Dean yelled, too shocked to keep his voice calm. "What?" he repeated as lightly as he could manage. "No way, man. It was a stupid idea. And I made a stupid tape. But--"
"But these songs are all wonderful. They're--" Castiel looked at the cassette, "They're lovely."
"Sure they are, man. I know all the good songs," Dean said with a wink and a smile, praying Cas would drop this. He'd do anything if they could pretend this conversation never happened. Dean had gotten comfortable and cocky, and he should have learned to settle for what he had. Shit, he'd sell his soul if he could have a little friends-only fake date. That would be good enough. Pizza and TV with Cas was basically his happy place now, and who really needed kisses and snuggles and chick-flick moments, huh?
"I did some research after finding your tape, Dean." Castiel's nervous ticks grew impossibly more pronounced. He shifted on his feet. He broke eye contact and then returned and then broke it again. "Dean, in A Beginner's Guide to No-Maj Mating Rituals, Wilhelm Wigworthy explains that mixed tapes are a gesture of deep affection, of--of love."
"Dude," Dean said with a faked chuckle. "I've had a long day. Any chance we can just go eat some pizza and put our feet up? I'm--"
"Wigworthy wrote that No-maj men and women find songs that describe their feelings and they--they record them on a tape to create and share those feelings with their intended. Is that--is that correct, Dean?"
"Yeah, Cas. Yeah, it is." Dean said, leaning over to turn off his desk lamp. He cursed that tape silently. He could not lose his only friend. Without Cas, Ilvermorny would be a giant pain in the ass. He wouldn't be able to stay here. He'd be back to being bloodied and beat up by the monster of the week. To driving down the road alone in Baby. To ... "I'm a romantic at heart," Dean said, trying to tease. "You know me, I'm a bit of a flirt. It's nothing Cas," he finished with a whisper, unable to make that lie sound believable.
Dean had spent hours picking out the songs, making sure that each side was filled to avoid dead space. And he'd wanted to give it to Cas and have the tape do all the talking since he fucking sucked at using his words. Shit. What a mess. He couldn't look up from his desk. And his desk calendar seemed to rubbing the date in his face. Cas had enchanted the calendar and a little cartoon bee always flew around and around the date. And, because Cas was a freaking adorable nerd, he'd even figured out how to make the bee extra special on holidays. When New Years came, the bee left fireworks behind it. Today, tiny hearts trailed after the cute little guy. Dean sighed, still not sure how to handle this. Tell the truth and risk ruining everything? Tell a lie and risk making things an even bigger mess? God, when he hunted he made it a policy to only lie to people he'd never see again. Lies were hard to fucking keep track of.
"Look, Cas..." Dean stopped talking as Cas's hand moved to set something else down on the desk. A new tape, sitting right next to Dean's. This one said 'Castiel's Top 14 Traxx.'
"It's a gift, Dean. You keep those. It's from me to you. Don't throw that away."
"What?" Dean asked, lifting his head and hoping that looking at Cas would answer some of the thousands of questions that were rattling around in his head.
"I am handling this poorly, Dean. I apologize. I didn't get much sleep last night."
"You..." Dean says in a hoarse whisper.
"Of course, it did take quite some time to make a tape like this," Cas admitted, blushing. "But I spent a great portion of the evening listening to your traxx and wondering who you planned the gift for."
"And who did you decide I was gonna give it to?" Dean asked with a hoarse whisper.
"I didn't decide, Dean. But I hoped," Cas lifted his gaze and then dropped it again, "I hoped you planned to give the tape to me, Dean, especially after I knew what it meant."
"Cas," Dean whispers, but he can't get more words out around the lump in his throat.
When Cas's blue eyes meet his though, the hope he sees helps him to say, "Cas, I was gonna give it to you, but," Dean rubs his neck, "I didn't want-- you're my best friend, Cas. Not just at the school. Besides Sammy, you mean the most to me."
"And you didn't want to risk damaging our friendship?"
Cas grins wide and walks over to take both of Dean's hands in his. "Do you want to hear my answer?"
"Yeah, Cas. I would love that."
Cas squeezes Dean's hands before letting go. Then he pulls at the tan trench coat he's always wearing and searches through its pockets. He enchanted that pocket long ago and it carries absolutely everything, and that's what he tells all the wizards who give him a hard time for abandoning traditional robes. The truth is, Castiel loves no-maj things. Dean feels grateful that he's one of the few people who know that about Cas. "Here it is," Cas says with a smile, pulling out a cassette player.
Cas sets it down on Dean's desk and with a flick of his wand, it powers up.
"Do you want to dance, Dean? It is Valentine's."
Dean nods and puts the tape in the cassette player. Thank You starts to play. Holy Shit. It's a love song. Dean smiles, "Zeppelin, huh?"
Cas shrugs, but moves closer to Dean. Much closer. Their bodies are nearly touching. "You love them, Dean. And I love--" Cas shrugs again.
Was Cas going to say he loved him?
"I'm very thankful you joined the Ilvermorny staff, Dean."
"You wanna lead?" Dean asks with a whisper, not sure how much he could hope for.
Cas shrugs again, but he puts one hand on Dean's hip and raises the other one, waiting for Dean to reach out.
Dean puts his arm around Cas's shoulder and pulls Cas closer. He can hear Cas's breath speed up.
"You nervous, Cas?"
"And happy. This makes me very happy, Dean."
Dean places his palm in Cas's hand, and they start to dance. They're really just shuffling their feet, but their bodies are pressed close and music is playing. Dean's gonna call this dancing. He's also gonna call it pretty damn perfect.
Long minutes pass, and the music goes on, and they're still shuffling around in Dean's office. And this feels like more than friendship. Definitely more. But can you just assume that a mixed tape means--
Cas presses a kiss to the underside of Dean's neck, near the bolt of his jaw, and Dean's breath hitches.
Cas starts to pull away murmuring apologies, but Dean stops him.
"No, Cas. I'm not upset. Not all, man. Just surprised. Happy and surprised. Come here."
Dean pulls Cas back against him and returns the gesture, placing a kiss on Cas's neck.
"Thank you, Dean. I believe it's my turn again."
"Hmmm?" Dean mumbles before Cas leans up to give Dean another kiss. On the lips. Jesus. Dean's getting his Christmas and birthday all wrapped in one.
Cas leans back with a smile and raises his brow, waiting.
Dean almost laughs. Castiel is demanding reciprocity. Dean made a tape. Cas made one. Now they're trading kisses. The quiet, nerdy herbology professor is in charge now. He's setting the pace, and Dean has never been happier in his life.
When Dean kisses Cas's lips, he leaves it as chaste as the one Cas gave him.
The kiss Cas begins next is hot, with nipping teeth and tongue. Good God, Dean can barely think. When Cas pulls away, Dean struggles to catch his breath.
"It's your turn, Dean."
Dean is muddled enough that he's not sure what Cas means until Cas leans closer and opens his mouth. For a second, Dean thinks Cas is about to speak, but when Cas raises his brow again, Dean laughs.
Apparently, Cas is done with chaste kisses. Dean leans in for his kiss. It's long and slow and... sweet. Dean doesn't think he's ever had a sweet kiss. He's definitely never had a kiss that was sweet and also sexy.
Castiel pulls away dropping soft kisses on Dean's cheeks. "Let's go to your quarters, Dean." Cas kisses Dean's temple. "I wouldn't want a student or another teacher to disturb our first date. So," Castiel grabs the tape deck off the desk and puts it into his pocket where it disappears. "Let's take our music up to your quarters. Make that pizza. And have our first date. What do you think about that, Dean?"
What does he think? Well, he's pretty sure Cas likes him, but this could just be one very polite--and sweet--booty call, right? It could be. But maybe...
"Sounds good, Cas." Dean says softly, not ready to disturb the quiet in the room. If this is a dream, he doesn't want to wake up. "That sounds real good, Cas."
Castiel takes Dean's hand and slots their fingers together. He guides Dean out of his office and closes the door behind them. Even though they are in the hall now and students are milling about, Cas doesn't let go of his hand. They walk slowly through the school, passing people who've hated Dean the entire time he's been here. There are some sneers, but nothing seems to bother Cas. Dean's palm is sweaty, but Cas's grip stays sure.
Dean wants to say something romantic, but he's not good at chick-flick moments, the best he can come up with is mumbling, "Happy Valentine's day, Cas."
Cas smiles and tightens his grip on Dean's hand. "Happy Valentine's day, Dean."
"So..." Dean rubs his neck with his free hand, trying to get his nerves under control, "So are we boyfriends now? Or..."
"I'd like that, Dean. Boyfriends sounds nice."
Dean smiles and nods his head.
"But we were already friends." Cas's voice raises at the end. "And we certainly aren't boys."
"You got a better suggestion Cas?"
Cas shrugs, "Language is quite limited, Dean." With a sigh Castiel adds, "I am certainly in love with you, but the term lover, it--"
"You what?" Dean asks, his voice almost a yell.
They are in the stairway up to the faculty dorm, so thankfully there's no audience for Dean's freakout. He thinks he's hyperventilating. There are spots in his vision and he's not sure why. Maybe light sprites got into the building? They should call the Dark Arts teacher--wait, that's his job. Shit. He needs to sit down.
"Dean are you, ok?"
"You? You love me?"
"Yes, I thought it obvious. Is that-- is that not all right?" Castiel asks, "You love me as well. Your songs..."
"I do love you, but I didn't..."
Castiel takes out his wand and a cup of water appears.
When Cas tries to lift it up to Dean's lips, Dean pushes him away, "Don't baby me, Cas. I'm fine."
"Dean, dear, you're sitting in a stair well. You stopped breathing. You are not fine."
"Yes, it's an endearment for you, my love."
Dean starts laughing. "You read a book about no-maj dating, too. Didn't you, Cas?"
"Yes, Dean, I did."
"And you don't like any of the names they had for boyfriends, but you liked all the pet names, huh?"
"I'm trying to find the endearment you prefer, babe."
"Okay," Dean mumbles. "Good. Let's stick with babe."
"Ok, babe, but only if you drink this," Castiel adds, holding out the cup of water.
Dean grabs the water and takes a few sips. He does feel better. His breathing calms down. He's got a boyfriend-almost-lover-bestfriend that magicks water out of thin air to help him, holds his hand, and tries out pet names. His day has turned upside down. He likes it. He thinks.
"You'll feel better when we get you home. We'll make that pizza. We can watch Dr. Sexy. Then we can 'make-out'."
"Why you using air quotes, dude? Don't wizards say make-out, too?"
"We do. Did you know that the phrase make-out originated in the 1930s as a way of saying succeed with? You could even say something like I made-out with the job."
Dean takes another sip of water and smiles. "You're such a nerd. You're thinking about kissing me, but you're still talking about word entomology."
"Etymology," Dean repeats, willing to agree. "But who talks about that stuff if they're, you know, interested. You sure you wanna step things up with us? You sound pretty calm with all this new... new stuff."
"You've just told me you love me. We're going upstairs for our first date. We're going to 'make out.' Dean," Cas explains, leaning up to whisper in Dean's ear. "I'm trying desperately not to have an erection in public, Dean Winchester. They are children around. And co-workers." Cas steps back and smiles. "I always want to respect the fact that my babe is having a 'freak out.' It would be very rude of me to feel so excited in the face of your anxiety."
Dean huffs a laugh and takes another drink of water. He's just put the breaks on his melt down. Sure, the perfect guy he's been building a happy life around likes him back. He can handle that, right? While he takes deep breaths, Castiel lifts his wand and refills the water cup.
"Shit, Cas. You're making it hard to breathe."
"I'm sorry, Dean. I don't mean to be so shocking. Drink some more water, babe."
"So, Cas, when we get back to my room." Dean starts, because he has to check. He has to be sure. "No more just being friends. We're gonna kiss and... and stuff."
"I'm hoping for a lot of 'stuff,' Dean."
"And we're, like, dating or whatever."
"Not whatever, babe. We'll be a couple. If that's all right with you, Dean."
"Damn, this is a great Valentine's day."
"It's on its way to perfect, babe." Castiel says with a smile. "Are you ready to try going upstairs again?" He asks with concern in every word.
"Sure, babe." Dean says, trying to stand.
"No, Dean. No." Cas shakes his head while giving Dean a hand up. "You cannot call me 'babe' as well. The book was quite clear. We have to have distinct names. There was an extensive list. We can try them out later if you like. 'Baby' was there as well. It seems different enough." Cas shrugs. "But I am no expert, Dean."
Dean grins about Cas's serious tone. "You're great, Cas. Don't ever change."
"I will change, Dean." Cas says with a serious face. "I've already gone from being your friend to being your 'boyfriend.' But... But I hope we can continue to change together, Dean." Cas looks down, "I hope we change together for a long time, maybe forever," he finishes with a whisper.
"I hope so too, Baby."
Cas looks up and grins wide, wrinkles at the corner of his eyes. He looks happier than Dean's ever seen him. And Dean's determined to keep that expression on his face as long as he can. "All right, Baby. Let's have pizza and a little Netflix and Chill."
There's a hitch in Cas's step.
"I see you've been studying no-maj slang, too." Dean says turning his head and watching as Cas blushes in the limited light of the stair well.
"No pressure though, Baby, we can be as chill as we want. Or as un-chill as we want. Ok?"
"Ok, Dean--babe" Cas corrects. "Whatever we're both comfortable with. Though I must say I am very comfortable right now. I'm feeling very 'chill.'"
"It'll be a little weird going from friends to more than friends, but I think we can handle it don't you?"
"I do, babe. We've been more than friends for a while, Dean. Now we will be more than friends with more physical intimacy."
Dean nearly laughs. He serious boyfriend-slash-lover is probably the cutest things he's ever seen. "But now we get to kiss. And..." Dean chances a look at Cas as they walk hand-in-hand and side-by-side. He's hoping he can get Cas to blush again. "And now maybe I can touch..." Dean looks around, making sure no one is around before he finishes with "your dick."
Cas blushes. "Yes, Dean. And I yours." He says without a stutter.
"Damn, Cas. I wasn't serious about... about... that. I was just trying to get you to blush."
"Well, it worked Dean. But, if you wanted, you could touch any part of me you wish."
"You don't think that's going too fast."
"I trust us, Dean. We'll find what feels right. Tonight's going to be wonderful, babe. And we have a wonderful soundtrack, too." Cas adds with a tap on his coat pocket.
Dean's not sure what he did to deserve being one of the few no-maj's that know about magic or how he got lucky enough to be the only one to ever work at Ilvermorny.
The miracle Dean can't believe is that he somehow killed enough monsters and saved enough people to deserve the love of a wizard like Castiel. Even if he can't believe it... hell, even if he doesn't really deserve it, he's gonna hold on tight with both hands.
"Our first Valentine's day, Cas." Dean uses their classed hands to pull Cas closer and leave a kiss on his lips. "That's pretty big, huh?"
Cas nods and mets Dean's stare. "The first of many, babe. The first of many."