Dean hauled another basket of apples out of the bed of his pickup to place on the table situated under a banner that read ‘Winchester Farm’. It was just after six AM; less than an hour until the market was due to open. The sun was just peeking over the horizon, but Dean had already worked up a good sweat unloading his truck. He normally had Sam or Eileen helping him, but the baby had colic and had kept them up most of the night. He pulled out a handkerchief to wipe his brow and noticed Castiel pulling up to his space.
He walked up to the other man just as he got out of his own truck with ‘Novak Honey’ and some cartoon bees painted on the sides. “Hey Cas.”
His friend turned his way and smiled at him. Dean loved the little crinkles that formed next to his eyes. “Good morning Dean. How are you?”
“I’m good. Here by myself today. The baby kept Sam and Eileen up again last night.”
“I can relate.” Castiel punctuated his statement with a huge yawn. Dean heard his jaw pop.
He took a closer look at his friend and noticed how haggard he appeared. “Geez Cas. I know you’re not a morning person, but haven’t you gotten used to this schedule by now?”
“Doesn’t help when you’ve got insomnia.” Castiel grumbled and ran his fingers through his hair making it even messier than it was before he pulled up. He yawned again as he walked to the back of his truck.
“You want some coffee? Started bringing my coffee pot with me. Customers love a free cup.”
“That would be most welcome Dean, thank you.”
“Want some of your honey in there?”
Castiel hummed. “You still have some? Then, yes please.” Dean nodded and returned to his booth.
By the time he returned, Cas had set up his tables and was unpacking jars of honey. Dean set down the coffee and started to help. Castiel tried to wave him off. “I’ve got it Dean. Go finish at your station.”
“Already did. Got here early since I was by myself and knocked it out pretty quick. Oh! Before I forget, here’s your spoils for the week. We had a bunch of tourists come through. They loved the creamed honey.” Dean handed Castiel an envelope with some cash. He sold some of Cas’s honey along with his produce at his farm.
Cas slipped the envelope into his lockbox. “Thank you, Dean. I need some more apples and blueberries as well for the flavored honeys.”
“Ok, I’ll put some aside for ya.” They finished setting out all the jars and some blocks of beeswax. Castiel then pulled out another box and started setting up a new display.
“You got new stuff? What is all this?”
“I decided to try my hand at soap and candle making. The raw beeswax doesn’t sell all that well, so it’s been piling up. Sam actually suggested this. He said people ‘eat up’ artisanal products.” He pulled out a few different types of candles and a several varieties of soap. He then set out some bee-shaped pieces that were too small to be soaps.
“He’s not wrong. Whenever Eileen gets crafty, we sell out of her stuff quick. What are these Cas?” Dean held up one of the bees.
Castiel looked a bit embarrassed. He picked up his coffee and spoke into the cup. “I decided to try carving the wax into little ornaments. There wasn’t much else I could think of to make. They’re probably stupid.” He scowled at his drink.
“Oh come on. Don’t be like that. I think they’re cute. I never would have thought of doin something like that.”
Castiel blushed a bit at the compliment. “Thank you, Dean.”
“Is this why you’ve been so tired lately? You been stayin up makin all this stuff?”
“Partially. I really do have insomnia though. I can’t seem to shut my brain off at night. Hey, while you’re here, could you give me a hand?” Dean followed him back to his truck and Cas reached in to pull the biggest box to the edge. “We have to be very careful with this one.” Dean nodded his understanding.
Together they carried the heavy box to a place on one of the tables. Castiel opened the side and revealed a big glass case. Dean gasped. Inside was a miniature beehive. A few hundred bees moved over their honeycomb from behind the safety of the glass. “Cas,” Dean breathed, “This is amazing. Where’d you get it?”
Castiel beamed. “Cain helped me make it.”
Dean stiffened a bit. Cain was a fellow beekeeper. He was more of a hobbyist these days and didn’t sell at the farmer’s market anymore. He helped Cas get started when he first got into apiculture. The man was always pleasant, but Dean didn’t like the way he looked at Cas. Castiel had never expressed any interest in the other man in that way but Dean couldn’t help the small flare of jealousy that happened whenever Cain’s name came up.
It was ridiculous. Dean had known Cas for over five years. It was a mostly business friendship and they’d never even hung out socially, but it didn’t stop Dean from being smitten with the awkward, blue-eyed beekeeper. He didn’t even know Castiel’s preferences when it came to partners. Dean was hoping to have figured it out eventually, but Cas had never given any hints one way or the other. At this point, Dean felt like he’d known him too long to just straight up ask without risking the friendship they’d formed.
“Are you ok? Do you not like it?”
Dean realized he’d been gripping his fists and glaring at the bees. Making himself relax, he gave Cas a smile that he knew didn’t come off as genuine. “I think it’s great Cas.”
Castiel wrung his hands. “Are you sure?”
Dean hated that he made Cas doubt himself. Giving him an actual smile, he replied, “Yea Cas. It’s freakin awesome. People are gonna love it.”
Castiel didn’t look totally convinced, but he smiled back anyway. He and Dean discussed business a bit more. Dean getting a list of produce Cas needed and Cas marking down what honeys Dean was running low on. He also requested some of Castiel’s new products to see how they sold and bought a few little bees to decorate his booth. That last request had Cas practically glowing and seemed to dispel any lasting tension from Dean’s earlier behavior. By the time they finished, the market had opened and shoppers had started to trickle in. They parted ways and Dean went back to his own booth to greet his first customer.
The market was fairly busy that day but Dean couldn’t help glancing over at Castiel every few minutes. Despite how tired he looked, Dean could tell his friend was having a great day. Thanks to the bee display, he was getting a lot more business than average. As he spoke with his customers, Dean could see him light up in that particular way he did when he was discussing his bees. He always got so animated. His hands got involved in the conversation and the speed of his speech increased. It was adorable.
Every now and then, Cas would look his way and smile at him. Dean loved Castiel’s smiles. They made his stomach flutter like he’d swallowed some of Cas’s bees and he swore his heart would skip a beat.
He once again gave himself an internal pep talk. This had to stop. He had to tell Cas how he felt. No chickening out this time. Cas was a good guy. Even if he didn’t feel the same way, Dean knew he wouldn’t make it weird. They could still be friends… right? Right, ok. For real this time Winchester. After the market closes just ask him for a coffee. Doesn’t have to be a date. Friends could do coffee, right? Just see how it goes. They could always do a real date if it feels right. Right? Yes. His eyes flicked up to look at Castiel again only to have his stomach drop.
Cain had appeared. He stood right behind Cas as he spoke to a female customer. He had a hand on Castiel’s shoulder. He said something and Cas turned and smiled at him. It was a warm, eye-crinkly smile. Cain spoke again and Castiel threw his head back and laughed. Dean felt hot jealousy rip through him. He wanted Cas’s smiles. He wanted to make Cas laugh. Cain knelt down next to the little girl standing with her mother. He started gesturing towards the bees as the girl listened with rapt attention. Castiel watched the exchange fondly.
Dean went numb. He would never have that with Cas. He may not know what Cas wanted in a partner, but he knew that he loved his bees more than anything. Dean tried to listen when he spoke about them. He loved that Cas loved the insects but he just couldn’t muster the same enthusiasm and participation in the conversation that Cain could. He felt his eyes water and blinked away tears just as Castiel looked up at him. He smiled warmly, but Dean ducked his head and busied himself with straightening his produce. He could feel Cas’s stare on him, but he refused to look up.
He managed to ignore Cas for the next two hours. With thirty minutes until the market closed, Dean started to pack up. He wanted to be able to leave the second he could. Cas had been trying harder and harder to get his attention but had been unable to leave his booth unattended to physically come over. He’d even called Dean’s cell a few times which Dean pretended not to notice. With five minutes to go, Dean was about to leave anyway when Cas appeared in front of him.
“Dean.” He stood stone-faced.
Dean gulped before trying to pretend nothing was wrong. “H-hey Cas. Business was good today huh?”
“Shut up Dean.” Cas practically snarled.
Dean shut his mouth immediately. He’d never heard Cas speak to anyone that way. If he wasn’t so shocked, he’d be able to admit he found it hot.
“What is the matter with you? You’ve been ignoring me all day. You even ignored my phone calls. I saw you look at your phone when it rang.” Dean chewed his lip and stared at the ground. “Did I do something? I know I’m bad at social cues—”
Dean cut him off. This was the second time today he’d managed to make Cas think he’d done something wrong. “No, Cas. You didn’t do anything.”
“Then what’s the problem? Are you alright?” His eyes moved over Dean’s body as if he expected to find something physically wrong.
“I’m good.” He lied. From the way Cas squinted at him, he didn’t buy it.
“Talk to me please. We’ve known each other a long time Dean, and I thought we were friends…” his voice trailed off.
“We are friends Cas. I just- I have some stuff I have to work through.” His lip trembled and he bit it before Cas could notice.
Castiel looked at his feet. “Are you sure you don’t want to talk?”
Dean opened his mouth to speak before closing it again and shaking his head. “Yea. Just somethin I have to deal with.” Cas looked up at him with sad eyes. Dean bent down to grab a basket. “How was Cain’s visit? You two looked like you were having a good time.” Crap. He should have just kept his mouth shut. He could hear the bitter tone in his voice.
“Dean. Dean look at me please.” Dean turned and faced Castiel. He had narrowed his eyes again and thrown in a head tilt just to really twist the knife. God, Dean couldn’t do this. “Do you have a problem with Cain? Is that why you’re so upset?”
“No Cas. He’s a great guy. He seems to really make you happy.”
Cas’s eyes narrowed further before they widened in comprehension. “Do you- do you think we’re… involved?”
“Well… I mean you guys have so much in common with your bees and everything and he stares at you all the time and makes you laugh…” Dean swallowed before continuing. “He’d be a lucky guy to get a catch like you, Cas.”
Cas gave him a calculating look. “Are you… jealous?”
Dean gasped. He cleared his throat and crossed his arms. “Psh. Jealous? No. Why would you think that?”
Castiel spoke slowly. “Dean. I’m not interested in Cain.”
“No.” Castiel stepped closer. “There is someone else that I am attracted to though.”
Dean’s shoulders slumped and he held back a frown. “Yea? That’s great,” he said softly.
“Until today though, I wasn’t sure if my feelings would be reciprocated.” He took another step forward.
Dean finally registered how close Cas had gotten. His mouth dried up. “What’s up Cas?”
Castiel’s eyes roamed over his body again and Dean felt himself flush. “Well, I’m still feeling a bit tired. I was going to stop for another coffee on my way home. Would you join me Dean?”
Dean took a shuddering breath. “Y-yea.” His voice cracked and he swallowed before continuing. “Yea Cas. Let’s get a coffee.”
The next summer, Castiel’s old space at the market had been filled by another vendor. Dean’s space had doubled in size and a new banner read “Winchester-Novak Family Farm”.