Dean was watching Sam order a kale juice. Why you would ruin a good green apple juice with celery and broccoli leaf was beyond Dean. But it was Sam’s turn to buy so Dean let him pick the place. Dean picked out the banana chocolate frozen yoghurt concoction with protein powder from the menu for himself. They stood around the little round table at the juice bar, slurping the thick slushy smoothies when Dean casually looks into the nearest shop window and starts clutching his chest. Sam looks over and sees the guy laying out a display in the Lush window. He’s wearing an apron, his face bent low over a stack of purple soaps which he was stacking with geometrical precision.
“You having a heart attack?”
Dean shook his head, his eyes watering as he coughed.
“You were perving at his butt and the smoothie went down the wrong way? Instant objectification karma?”
Dean digs in his backpack for his water bottle, takes a deep breathless drink and hammers his torso till he could oxygenate again.
“Thirsty,” Sam smirks.
Dean ignores Sam and keeps looking. Since moving to California so he can house share with Sam, Dean was used to seeing good looking men and women around town. The Lush guy though was hot on a whole other level. Even just from the back. The man was standing up now, putting his hands (nice, thick but tapered, fingers) in the small of his back and arches his body in a slight stretch. Dean swallowed thickly.
“Hey, do we need toiletries?”
“We could always do with more toilet paper. Is it the amount of food you eat? We seem to be going through that real quick.”
“Not that, we can grab that at the supermarket later. I mean do we need like soaps and lotions and crap like that?”
“You want to go into the Lush? So you can ask the hot guy about the edible massage bars?”
Before Dean could gasp ‘they have those?’ Sam was already on his feet, swooping his extra tall juice into a gigantic hand and swaggering through the door. Dean grinned, much as Sam liked to tease, he always comes through for his big bro. Just as Dean was about to get into the shop, a wall of scent hits him. It was like every delicious smell imaginable came together to assault his now. Dean started sneezing violently mid-entry and stumbles into a market stall display of daisies and seaweed, knocking several bunches of herbs to the floor.
“If you are here to ogle Cas, you have to buy something. Store rule, otherwise he just gets time wasters all day.”
Dean looked up to see a young woman wearing latex gloves up to the elbow, with her hair in a net and a basket full of tubs. She grinned at him and opened one, it looked like congealed green vomit but smelled sweetly of mint. Dean recoiled at the sight of the tub of mystery mud.
“I’m with him,” Dean pointed at Sam.
Sam turned around and signed ‘Hey, Eileen, how are you? Yeah, he’s my brother and yep he’s here for Cas’.
“Sam’s a long time loyal customer, just look at the condition of those locks,” Eileen smiled sweetly at Sam and pointed at his hair before whirling back on Dean. “What’s your excuse?”
“I need,” Dean’s eyes flickered over to the counter where the only other employee was standing, innocently counting out loose change. “Um product information.”
“I make all the products here, so shoot.”
“About my specific skin type.” Dean glowed with pride at his own quick thinking. “Which is um male. I need uh advice from a man.”
Eileen glared at Dean for a long moment. “Skin’s not gendered, you know.”
“Just let him embarrass himself with Cas for a few minutes and I’ll drag him out when he’s had enough humiliation,” Sam signed rapidly with a wink.
Eileen winked back at him. “Okay, Daddy-O.”
Dean raised an eyebrow and Sam blushed fiercely, holding up a bottle of purple shampoo.
“Store rule, we call our favourite customers by their most purchased products.”
“This store has weird rules,” Dean said skeptically. “Are you just making them up on the spot?”
Eileen waggled her eyebrows and steered Sam towards the shampoo bars. “Have you tried our solid shampoos? I know you have your favourites but this one is super spicy and refreshing...”
With Eileen preoccupied with Sam, Dean looked around for something non-pink. All the shapes and sizes and colours confused him and the smell was making him dizzy. He went to the least colourful part of the store and grabbed a hold of a small nub of something called T’eo. It had little purple and yellow flower petals stuck in it.
Dean queued for five minutes while Cas rang up the registers for the young family standing in front of Dean. The children were clutching robot shaped bars and what looked like rainbow playdough. Cas was very patiently listening to one child’s story of the mermaid he was going to make while stopping the baby from grabbing onto the products displayed at the counter. Dean could barely glimpse his face over the cacophony of stroller, grabbing hands and sweating mother. What he could see was Cas running a flustered hand through unruly dark hair and that alone made Dean stay resolutely in line. When the other customers left the store, Dean stepped up only to hear a deep sigh. The name stitched on the apron front read ‘Castiel’ in tidy white thread. Dean had never seen a name so unique and gorgeous.
“I’m sorry, I’ll be with you in one moment.”
Cas rushed past Dean to open the door for a delivery of boxes of vegetables.
“Our delivery door is blocked by some dick who parked their Impala in our loading dock.”
Dean went bright red but he wasn’t sure if it was because his hasty parking (he was running late for meeting Sam) or because of the way Cas said the word ‘dick’ in that husky voice. It was a voice like a cracking fire, warm and sincere, mellow like a sweet red wine, with a bite.
“Anyway, don’t let Eileen scare you away, I’m going to go yell at her for poor customer service now.”
Dean craned his neck till his back twinged but he could not see Cas’ face past the cardboard boxes.
There was the sound of dumped boxes and silence and then Dean saw Cas come out, walking backwards, still signing with exaggerated emphasis.
“Cas has a hot temper,” Sam whispered in Dean’s ear then danced away to look at some other presumably hair related products.
“You know him? Why didn’t you introduce me?” Dean hissed back but Sam was already lost to the world of conditioners, in solid, cream and liquid finishes.
“Thanks for your patience, how can I help you.”
Dean just stood, mouth agape. This was the first time he had ever laid on heaven made flesh. The whole composition of Cas’ face was just ridiculously beautiful. The trigonometry of cheekbones, mouth and jaw sucker punched Dean in his chest cavity and all the lust he’d felt before looking at Cas ass suddenly translated to hopeless wordlessness.
Cas squinted at Dean, whose hand was trembling around a block of solid deodorant, melting a clammy palm shape into the product.
Dean tried to say something again but he was lost in Cas’ narrowing eyes. “I uh you um ...”
With a gentle smile, Castiel pried the block out of Dean’s hands and carefully weighed it on a digital scale. Neatly, he wrapped it with logo printed wax paper and put the purchase through.
Dean couldn’t remember paying for the bar, or walking out of the shop with Sam, or saying ‘thanks’ or ‘see you later’ to Cas. He did have a receipt in his little paper bag and the bank transaction to prove to himself that Cas, in all his perfection, was in fact not a figment of his imagination. Not that Dean could have ever imagined someone so beyond description.
All Dean remember is finding himself sitting in front of the couch that night, gaming with their housemates Charlie and Kevin and blurting out, between a build and a zombie slaughter fest, “If you were to take a large blob of blue paint and take a blob of yellow paint and mix them together, and then take the yellow paint out - that’s the color of Castiel’s eyes”.[*see footnote]
“You have the soul of a poet Dean Winchester,” Charlie praised, taking out her favourite sword.
“Deep,” Kevin echoed, mid-crafting.
“I mean his eyes are really really blue, bluest of blue, the truest blue,” Dean hacked away savagely. “More blue than words can say.”
“You’ve said quite enough words on this subject Dean,” Sam commented on his way to the bathroom, holding his own private roll of toilet paper under his arm. Triple weave, embossed, lavender scented.
Dean gave Sam the finger and threw his arms around their friends, jumbling up the controllers real good. “So guys, who needs to buy soap tomorrow?”
* * *
“I know, you want a refund?”
Dean closed his eyes for a split second, when he opened them, Cas was still there looking at him with calm empathy.
“The all natural deodorant not working out for you?” Cas clarified gesturing to Dean’s t-shirt, sticking to his body in the humidity. “You seem to be perspiring copiously.”
“It’s fine,” Dean took a quick whiff of an armpit then realised he just scent-checked himself in front of Cas. “I don’t smell do I? I mean how can you tell in here anyway. Not that I’m saying this place stinks just it’s very smelly.”
Cas inclined his head and wondered out aloud. “What are you doing here?”
“I’m interested,” Dean has definitely upgraded from not being able to speak at all to speaking all the thought he wanted unspoken. “In all this glorious stuff.”
“All right, so you want to try something out?”
Dean breathed out loudly, boy did he.
Cas guided Dean towards the in-store vanity. Dean felt the heat of Cas’ hand on his shoulder as if it was burning and branding his raw soul.
“Hold still for me,” Cas dampened a piece of sea sponge and gently dabbed it over Dean’s jaw, up his cheeks and down his nose. “Close your eyes please.”
Dean was lost in a sea of sensation, of fingertips and minty breath, of the deep blue sea of Cas’ solemn eyes. With reluctance he closed eyes and then shuddered. Now that he couldn’t see, he could feel the warmth rolling off Cas’ body as he leaned in, taking his time in wiping Dean’s face clean. Cas stood a respectful arm’s length away but it was close enough for Dean to tremble when Cas grabbed his hand.
“This is called Angels On Bare Skin,” Cas placed a dollop of something cold and grainy onto Dean’s fingers.
Dean rubbed the mixture onto his face clumsily. It smelled like vanilla and roses and rice grains. The concoction was applied thickly, in blotchy stripes.
“May I rub it in for you?”
Dean nodded hopelessly and Cas began to stroke his cheeks in slow circular motions. “The facial massage is a very important aspect of masking. Do you mask often?”
“All the time,” Dean lied brazenly, figuring whatever it is Sam was probably into it. “Ugh my brother and I are mad for it.”
“Perhaps that is why your skin is in such good condition,” Cas said kindly. “I like your freckles.”
Dean was thankful for the clay and dirt or whatever covering his cheeks, because he was blushing like crazy.
Despite the hoard of people who have just entered the store, Cas washed Dean’s face thoroughly clean with a damp cloth.
“It’s given you a good flush of colour,” Cas looked at Dean assessingly. “Gave you a bit of a circulation boost.”
Dean nodded, agreeing weakly. “Yeah, circulating real well now.”
“But I think you need a bit of Full Of Grace just to cap things off,” Cas rubbed a small pink bar across Dean’s face.
It smelt like camomile and left a chalky glow on Dean’s face, it was also the most gently cooling lovely thing Dean had ever had on his face.
“That was the nicest thing I’ve ever had on my face.”
Cas let out a choked chuckle before turning away to serve the other customers so that Eileen couldn’t scare them away from the store. He was so busy that Eileen ended up having to emerge from the store kitchen in the back and ring up Dean’s purchases on the till.
“Been seeing so much of you lately Dean, almost thought you worked here,” she packed his bag with clever hands, too fast hands, and sent him on his way.
* * *
“Not that I’m complaining honey, but that really was a very thoughtful gift,” Mary said on the phone. “I don’t know why you posted it all the way from California to Florida thought, I do have a local Lush store.”
“I had some help picking out the bits and pieces. We had to talk about your skin concerns and favourite botanicals for half an hour before we worked out what would be best.”
Mary let out a giggle. “And what are my skin concerns Dean?”
“Being crepe-y? Freckles?” Dean was flashing back to his stumbling explanation to Cas. “Um, old lady skin?”
“Skin is non-gender specific and I hardly consider myself overly mature,” Mary said cheerfully. “Well if you had help from that handsome Lush retailer that Sam has told me about you mooning over, tell him I said thanks, and please date my precious son so he stops obsessing over essential oil infused soap.”
“Hey Dean, I’m glad you’re enjoying your time in California and letting yourself take the time to appreciate the little things.”
They talked about how Dean was settling into his engineering course, his part time work at the nearby garage and John’s vintage car business. Bobby was about to go on holidays and John was short handed and wishing that Dean was still part of the old family business but he was glad that Dean was getting on well in his own studies and work. They chatted about Sam and Mary hung up with her usual encouragement for Dean to not work too hard.
* * *
Dean found himself arranging to eat lunch with his coworkers in the mall. He had started limiting himself to one Lush visit a week because as Eileen said he really didn’t work there. Although Cas was always welcoming and looked happy to see him, Dean could see how busy the man was and didn’t want to take up too much of his time. So instead Dean found himself going to the mall to grab a sandwich or a coffee during his breaks, because just seeing Cas waving at him through the shop window was enough to make his day. Then Dean would grab his food to go and get back to the garage or lecture hall with a stupid smile on his face.
Every morning Dean washed his face with Angels On Bare Skin face scrub then applied Full Of Grace solid serum and moisturised with Celestial face cream. At this rate, he was starting to be mistaken for Sam’s younger brother and his pores were minuscule (even Eileen said so).
It was a Tuesday when Benny decided to come out to lunch with Dean. They got jalapeño chicken subs and ate them with gusto. Then Benny mentioned he wanted to get a little gift for Andrea so naturally Dean suggested the Lush across from the cafe and they found themselves alone in the shop with Cas.
Cas barely looked up at Dean when they went in, he didn’t even do his usual smiley wave. So Dean figured he was busy adding up the till or something. He took Benny around the store and quickly realised that he knew pretty much every product. So Dean started recommending different types of bath bombs to Benny.
“I love this Dragon’s Egg, it goes all different colours,” Dean said. “Or this Twilight one, the vanilla and lavender is really nice.”
Benny took a sniff and nodded enthusiastically, then he waggled his eyebrows. “I hear they have edible massage bars.”
“They sure do,” Dean brought Benny over to the massage section of the shelves, there were butter bars of all shapes and sizes. “That one’s white chocolate with an edible liquid cocoa centre.”
“You tried that one Dean?” Benny asked, picking up a bar in his bear sized hand and sniffing curiously. “Is it sexy though? Does it turn you on? I kind of just want to eat it, it looks like a candy.”
“Please only touch the testers,” Cas said. Dean looked up in surprise, was he imagining the testy tone in Cas’ voice? It was only last week that Cas was rubbing one gently into Dean’s forearm and telling him about the antioxidant qualities of cocoa in his irrisistable voice.
“Hey Cas,” Dean gave Cas his sweetest smile which seemed to melt Cas’ unusually icy demeanour a little.
“Hello Dean,” Cas’ mouth softened. “Would you like to try some Helping Hands?”
Benny stood awkwardly, picking out gift wrap scarves for Andrea as he waited for Dean. Cas held Dean’s hand steadily for the duration of the protracted hand massage that went all the way past the wrist and up to the elbows.
Dean was boneless and blissed out by the time they left the shop, Benny having to steer him through the foot traffic to find the exit to the carpark.
“No wonder you’ve smelt like an orchard for the last month,” Benny said knowingly as they worked on a tricky convertible together that afternoon. “That Castiel guy seemed keen on you brother.”
“Cas? I wish,” Dean gave the part he was pull on a forceful tug. “Mostly it’s just me interrupting his work day. I’m the one who’s got it bad. I’ve got half a dozen bath bombs in my draws but our house only has a shower and I share that with two guys and a girl.”
“That so? Well, your t-shirts smell like lemons and your jeans are tonka bean,” Benny said appreciatively. “If Andrea likes what I got her tonight I’ll have to go back to that Lush place again. But maybe not with you, don’t want the shopkeep to spit in my oat mask out of jealousy.”
“Cas would never,” Dean protested. “Really you think he was jealous? About what?”
“The muscular grease bear you had accompanying you,” Benny laughed softly, arms flexing in his tank top as he worked.
Dean rolled his eyes.
“Is it the apron that does it for you?” Benny teased.
Dean shut his mouth and kept working despite his blush. He had come to the realisation after being yelled at by his housemates that waxing lyrical about Cas’ eyes, going through a painful number of metaphors to attempt to describe Cas’ voice, trying to capture his sunlight/waffles/honey/warm apple pie smile was not a popular form of social interaction.
The truth was, apart from the stunning physicality of the man, Dean’s attraction was based on the way Cas tried to help the people who walked through his shop door. It was built on by the way Cas lavished attention on Dean in particular. And worsened by the bossy, super specific, way in which Cas bent Dean over the vanity sink, made him hold still for the application and rubbed/buffed/massaged Dean until Cas was completely satisfied, then gently cleaned Dean and stared at his afterglow. To say Cas’ interaction with Dean was just about essential oils and monetary exchange cheapened the ritualistic, sanctifying experience.
“Try going to the shop with someone else, you’ll see what I mean,” Benny had the last word.
* * *
Kevin cowered behind a shelf while Cas sprayed the tenth bottle of Gorilla perfume on him.
“This one is called ‘All Good Things’,” Cas said loudly. “It’s about a bitter sweet breakup!”
“I really can’t smell anything anymore, please,” Kevin ducked the coffee beans in a tin being shoved under this nose. “I’ll just take that one for my mom!”
“Good choice. Now let’s try the solid and spray versions shall we?”
“Cas, I’ve brought my black tubs back for recycling,” Dean rescued Kevin with a distraction.
“Dean, thank you so very much for recycling,” Cas looked at Dean, his expression suddenly adoring. “I will personally ensure those tubs are kept away from the waste cycle. Now it is of course store policy that you are gifted with a free fresh face mask. I think you’ll like Cupcake. It is basically chocolate batter for your face, it’s so nutritious for you skin and delicious that I could lick it from your jawline.”
“That sounds great,” Dean held out his hand shyly. “But would you mind showing me how to use it again?”
“Of course,” Cas bustled over to the vanity and started filling a glass bowl with lukewarm water.
Kevin left some cash on the counter and slipped out of the store with a random bottle of perfume.
* * *
“Hi I’m Charlie and I’m Dean’s house mate who only dates women and is definitely not interested in Dean like that,” Charlie bounced from one bubble bar to the next, settling on playing with a tub of Fun tester.
“I like you, let’s be friends,” Cas said as he watched her make some lewd shaped rainbow sculpture. “What gave me away?”
“Kevin told me about his visit, he still can’t go near perfume counters and it’s been weeks,” Charlie waved a sparkly glitter covered wand of hair serum. “I worked out that you’re just some poor repressed soul who doesn’t know how to express your attraction to Dean except through possessive hand massages or something.”
Cas lowered his face with embarrassment.
“I expect a staff discount to be applied on this transaction, as payment for the message I’m about to give you, the message I have personally come to your little store to deliver,” Charlie arched her eyebrows. “Dean hasn’t dated in months, not since he started smelling like a deluxe flower shop. And since he always has my back in the Nether, I’m gonna give you this information for the price of 7% off anything I wanna buy today, will you please get your act together and ask him out?”
Cas applied the discount dutifully. He even threw in a couple of sample pots of glittery wobbly shower jellies.
* * *
Dean was getting coffee when he saw the long line stretch out of the Lush store. He elbowed his way in there and found Cas and Eileen absolutely inundated at the counter. A sign on the central display table read ‘free holiday wrapping’. Dean set his coffee down and rolled up his sleeves. If he skipped his lunch break, he could stay an hour and help out, then still make his afternoon tutorial.
His elbow rubbed against Cas’ as they wrapped and knotted furiously. Eileen gave him approving looks in between slapping the draw in on the cash register. By the time Dean had to leave the queue was gone and Cas gave him smile.
“So uh Dean do you get coffee here in the mall often?”
“Almost everyday Cas, I mean you see me, we wave everyday.”
“So you wouldn’t object to me getting coffee at the place you like.”
“Sure Cas, they have great coffee.”
Cas ran a hand through his hair and Dean rubbed the back of his neck.
“Maybe at the same time as you?”
“No law against it,” Dean shrugged as casually as he could manage, peering up at Cas through his eyelashes appealingly.
* * *
Dean was on his second cup of coffee when Eileen rushed out of the store, leaving a ‘back in 5’ post it on the window.
“Cas can’t make it today Dean, he passes on his apologies, something came up at the last minute.”
Dean tasted the sour and bitterness of the coffee beans all of the sudden, it made his stomach roil. “Okay Eileen, thanks.”
“No don’t be like that,” Eileen clicked her fingers in front of Dean’s eyes, Dean blinked and realised with shock that his face a little damp. “He’s really got his hands full. Cas went to a cruelty free protest at an animal testing lab this morning before work and I don’t know how he did it but he convinced the lab assistant to let the animals go. So now he has about twenty rabbits on his hands and two dozen mice. He’s a veterinary science major but he’ll still need to take the whole day off to set up a safe space for the animals and assess them for fostering. So he didn’t ditch on your coffee date, he’s just really busy. I don’t know how I’m going to get through the day without Cas. And I have to start advertising for the Christmas casual position today, I really don’t want to spend time on interviews today.”
Dean reassured Eileen that he understood Cas’ priorities. She went back to the shop in a hurry and after about ten minutes stuck up a little printed sign that read ‘Xmas Staff Wanted’. Dean flicked through his phone calendar for a few minutes, then he made up his mind and went into the shop, taking the sign down with him.
* * *
“Hiya Cas,” Dean greeted cheerfully. His apron was so new Eileen hadn’t had a chance to get it embroidered, so a small piece of masking tape with ‘Dean’ in permanent marker graced his chest.
Cas paused, his face startled as he took in the sight of Dean in his Lush apron.
Then in the most professional and friendly manner, Cas smiled at Dean politely and said “welcome to the team.”
Dean followed Cas around the shop in a state of utter confusion. Cas wasn’t mad with him, that was certain. He was utterly professional and they worked really well together. Cas even grabbed lunch for Dean from the deli and they ate their food together during their lunch break. Cas ripping his turkey salad in two to exchange for half of Dean’s Rueben. What Dean didn’t get was Cas’ sudden physical shyness. For a guy who was never into personal space, judging by Dean’s experience, Cas was now utterly contained. Gone were the hand and temple massages, the face masks and lip scrub trials. Instead Cas was ever helpful, always pulling more than his weight with the customers and giving Dean more time to get through his consults because he was less experienced. Dean missed the wildly intense Cas, the guy he would stare through a glass window at for hours for.
Within the first week of working with Cas at Lush, Dean learnt that he was in his last year of a Veterinary Science degree. Cas was planning to cut back his hours in the spring so that he can do his vet practice placement. Cas was the youngest child of a large family, he had a sister named Anna who also lived and worked in California and they were close. Cas had three cats in a one bedroom apartment. Cas hadn’t dated anyone as far back as Eileen could remember. Cas was the most popular shop assistant in the local district, his sales were highest in the state. Cas was more than a little left wing. He didn’t socialise much outside of work and study but he is keen on bee keeping and indoor plants. Cas had no idea his eyes could steal souls and his smile probably worsened global warming. Cas liked the idea of travelling but has been working hard to pay for his studies, refusing to access the family trust that his elder brothers readily used. Dean found out so much about Cas but he could not work out why everything had suddenly changed between them.
As the weeks marched towards Christmas, every weekend became more unbearably busy. Even with Sam giving up his own weekends to help out, though Dean suspected there was a little of wanting to spend some time with Eileen and getting the 7% discount on hair products, they were still flat out.
“Not your first rodeo cowboy?” Dean asked Cas while pulling stock from the back one day.
Cas smiled and shook his head. “It’s like this every year. Having you and Sam help us has made a huge difference but it’s also increased our volume, a lot of people really enjoy your explanations of the products.”
Dean smiled sheepishly. “You heard about the ‘this stinky crap is gonna make your b.o. smell like flowers, blue ones’ incident huh.”
“And the ‘lipstick looks good on everyone, guy or girl, just buy it ok!’”
“What about that time I told the guy the massage bars were ‘anti-erectile dysfunction’.” Dean chuckled. “Or when I said the smell of the body wash was ‘fresh as a doggie’”.
“You do have a special way with words, Dean.” Cas dipped his head in imitation of Dean’s scowl. “‘This soap lathers up like a creamy soup!’”
“So I suck at this okay,” Dean leaned against a stack of boxes.
“They love your candour,” Cas was suddenly very close.
“You really think so? Should I quit my day job?” Dean speculated. “So I can be with you everyday? Till you have to start your vet gig? Cause everyday I’m counting down how many days left till Christmas and I’ve never been so sad about Christmas coming, ‘kay, Cas? Cause when it comes, then this ... whatever this is ... is over.”
“Dean,” Cas was practically pinning Dean to the wall with his hands, his mouth inches from Dean. “Dean, I can’t.”
Then he let Dean go abruptly, barging past boxes for the store front, leaving a couple of fallen lemons rolling on the ground.
Eileen was standing at the counter with her mouth open, her face crumpled when she saw Dean.
“Cas,” she said, her words less clear than usual. “He said he quit!”
Dean looked down at the apron on the counter, with the little monogramed name ‘Castiel’ on it.
“What happened?” Sam asked.
Dean shook his head. “I don’t know.”
* * *
Dean couldn’t see another little blackboard with the cheerful thick white cursive letters advertising natural ingredients and safe synthetics again. He really didn’t want to work at Lush anymore. Suddenly the customers were annoying and the Christmas traffic unbearable. The worsening weather made him inclined to stay in bed on the weekend rather than go in-store. He couldn’t just abandon Eileen and Sam to their own devices though, so he dutifully showed up to work though every few minutes he’d hear Cas’ voice and turn to look for him only to remember that no Cas didn’t work at Lush anymore.
He sent his mom such a random package for Christmas that she called up all concerned.
“Much as I like silver eyeliner and navy eyeshadow, I’m wondering whether Cas agreed with your selection.”
That was all it took for Dean to start pouring his heart out to Mary. She listened to the entire story and said to Dean “Well, if you don’t understand why he left, why don’t you go and ask him? You know when you were younger I almost left your father, but we actually started talking about feelings and resolving things for a change and we’re better people for it. And I would hope that we have shown you and your brother how to do that over the years.”
It wasn’t that hard finding Cas. There were only about 90 students enrolled in his course. Dean stood outside the lecture theatre and saw Cas walking past in his beige trench coat. Cas looked cold and wane, his cheekbones more raised than Dean was used, his sharp jawline covered in stubble. He acknowledged Dean with a nod and Dean sat down next to him. For two hours he listened to the finer points of reptile care. It wasn’t a subject he had any affinity for, but something about sitting next to Cas, their elbows touching in the crowded lecture theatre, made Dean feel warm and safe. Judging by Cas’ more relaxed profile, Dean thought he felt it too. That same connection they’d had from day dot.
“You want to have that cup of coffee I promised?” Cas asked after Dean walked around aimlessly with him for a good half hour.
Dean couldn’t nod quickly enough. He had expected to be taken to a cafe but once they stepped into the building, Dean realised they were heading for Cas’ apartment. Cas lived on the top floor of an ancient brown stone. There were no elevators and they climbed about six flights of stairs without saying anything. Dean would have gladly climbed a hundred. Cas hesitated for a split second at the door, then he turned and smiled helplessly at Dean and turned the key.
A couple of white furballs rushed at them in expedient hops. Cas introduced Dean to the rescued bunnies: Ruby, Meg and Crowley. Cas’ place was homely and comfortable, his bed unmade in the open plan combined living space. Dean fidgeted with the rabbits’ wooden chew toys while he waited for Cas to make the coffee. Drinking deeply once the mug was placed into his hands.
“I’m sorry,” they said to each other in unison.
“What are you sorry for?” Cas asked gently.
“Sorry about whatever I did to make you leave,” Dean said. “Sorry for not asking you why sooner.”
“Well, I’m sorry for leaving on such short notice, I was very frustrated,” Cas said. “And you have nothing to apologise for.”
“Why were you frustrated?”
“I know we make a lot of random store rules, but there is only one rule that I really always have respected. I am professional with my colleagues. So when you started working at Lush that meant I couldn’t flirt with you the way we used to.”
“That what it was?” Dean let out a small huff.
“I went through so many testers Dean, the stock department was asking questions,” Cas said exasperatedly. “I almost over exfoliated you I was so desperate to touch your face every time you came in the door.”
Dean was grinning widely by now.
“I almost mauled you in the storeroom, with all the security cameras there! Don’t you dare laugh.”
Dean was clutching his middle and bending forward in Cas’ vintage armchair. “I started working there so I could be around you. It’s not the soaps that drew me in.”
Cas stared at Dean. “You’re not just a really big Lush fanatic?”
“Not a Lushie, not in the least,” Dean said seriously. “Didn’t even do it for the staff discount.”
“Did it for your eyes, they are so blue, blue like paint that’s blue and been mixed with gold and ...”
Dean never got to finish his tortured metaphor because Cas was kissing him so hard that he stopped seeing blue and saw stars instead.
Cas’ mouth was hot fire like Dean imagined. His hands magical. His fingers unearthly. His touch angelic. Angelic like pure snow and starlight, evening sky and twilight, like lavender fields and lemon orchards. Dean touched Cas back, clumsily, ceaselessly, gracelessly.
* * *
“For your birthday, we’re giving you the day off.” Dean ushered Eileen towards the door, Sam leading her towards the parking lot by the arm.
“We’re going to a fare and then dinner,” Sam told her. “Dean and Cas will take care of the shop.”
“I can’t have an engineer and a vet running my store while I skip out!”
“Yes you can,” Cas told her in his most firm voice. It certainly had Dean paying attention almost reflexively.
As soon as Eileen and Sam were gone, Dean pulled open the top draw of the counter and offered the neatly rolled up article to Cas. He had ironed it with lavender toning water and ensured that the stitched name was facing up. Cas took the apron with a smile.
At midday, they put a post it on the window and went down to the storage room for a stolen half hour.
Dean’s frantically up against Cas, the lemon crates are beginning to be off balanced, the jars of essential oils are tinkling, Cas is getting that slightly cross eyed fervour and his voice was getting really bossy when something went squelch between them. Cas stiffened, his cheeks stained wine red. Dean reached questing fingers into Cas’ pockets and dug around until he pulled free a squashed half melted body bar.
“White chocolate,” Dean said with amazement. “With a liquid cocoa centre. It’s all over you.”
Cas growled and pinned Dean into the boxes and the lemons rained down over their oblivious heads.