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Of all the things we want

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Dean goes to psychotherapy on a Friday in the middle of September, an hour after work; he feels like he barely has enough time to go home, shower, and get there. But he arrives with something less than fifteen minutes to spare and waits in baby listening to Metallica, until it gets to five minutes before the appointment. He goes up the third floor of the building, and knocks on the door that reads “B. T. Clinical psychologist – psychotherapist” and comes face to face with a smiling, too happy, redhead.   

Her name is Jessica, she is really pretty and as Dean learns on the next ten minutes he has to wait, really friendly and chatty, and completely unphased by Deans anxiety infused, almost rude, short answers. She apologizes for the five extra minutes Dean has to wait and tells him that sometimes it happens, but he reassures her he doesn't mind. And he really doesn't, even if it raises his anxiety to the point he can’t feel anything. He gets it, people come here to resolve their problems sometimes it takes a little bit more time than fifty minutes once a week or however often they come here.

When a woman comes out of the closed door on his left, her blonde hair half falling from her ponytail, she is red faced and looks exhausted but relieved and sated all the same, Dean sighs deeply. She smiles at Dean, the wrinkles around her eyes more prominent. He smiles back at her tightly, and watches her leave, before exchanging a few words with Jessica.

When Billie Thani*, comes out of the office, Dean swallows and gets up. He has seen her before, her photograph is on her website, then he thought that there was something about her that he couldn't place, something eerie – he doesn't think it’s the right word exactly but it’s what first came to his mind -, still he chose her against all the others, even if she was on the more expensive side. Now, he thinks, she is intimidating, but there is something about her that has him relax, even if marginally.

When he gets inside and sits on the chair opposite of her, the first thought is that the chair is really comfortable and that her office is not what he expected. There is desk on the other side, dark brown, a bookcase taking all of a wall behind them, filled with books. It’s spacy and tidy. He feels weird, he looks out the window on his right, and watches the tree as it is being moved by the wind. He feels light and heavy at the same time.

He doesn't talk much, in fact, it’s Billie that does most of the talking. Which baffles Dean, because he is certain he is the one who is supposed to do the talking, but she doesn't seem to mind.

She asks him why he is here and he responds that he felt like it and that he has been thinking about it since March. Next she asks him what he wants to achieve with this. It takes him an eternity to answer, his mind blank and feels far away. In the end all he gets out is “I don't know”. She again doesn't seem to mind.

In the end he leaves with a heavy emotion in his chest, an appointment for next Friday same time, and an instruction to write what he wants to accomplish here. He feels strangely similar to being satisfied.

He doesn't know if he likes therapy or not. But he does like Billie, or likes that she gives him a certainty, for what he doesn't know.

 

 

 

University is better than he thought it would be. Dean never in a million years thought that he would say that, not that he knew what to expect from it. However, now that he is on his second week there, he finds himself not completely at ease but getting there. He supposes the reason he likes it so much, is because of how different it is from high school, even if the last time he was there was six years ago. There, everyone had something to say about everyone and you constantly lived with the weight of being a certain way. University, is completely different. No one gives a shit about you. You can walk across campus or go to class wearing your pyjamas or be a replica of a Kiss member and no one would bat an eye at you. Ok, maybe for the last one they would, but it would only last for ten seconds. Dean thinks, that's why he likes it, admittedly university makes him more restless than any high school he’s ever been to. Perhaps Dean just grew.

The night before his first day he contemplated getting drunk to ease his nerves and forget for a few hours, but Sams’ excited face when Dean enrolled coming to mind had him stop and go back inside their apartment and try fruitlessly to sleep.

In his first week, the induction week or whatever, which basically consisted of professors and other members of the university talking to them about how great they were for getting here, and how the university valued hard work and all the opportunities and activities the university had to offer, which Dean has to admit, had him a little impressed. He received a few curious glances and a bit of small talk, but nothing more than that, he was glad about it, he didn't feel like making friends (especially with nineteen-year olds) or something. What calmed his nerves a lot more than he would like to admit, was that he blurred out, not completely, but enough for him to breath as comfortably as he could. Plus, he wasn't the older person in there which made him let out a sigh in relief. Although he was still on edge and had a headache at the end of each day that won’t leave him alone.

He knows the reason behind it, he is standing inside the heart of it. He is sitting in the waiting room outside of the program administrator office, uncomfortable plastic chair and all, for his turn. He plays with the corner of the papers he is holding and sighs for the hundredth time since he sat down, he thinks of rereading all the information he is holding but it’s pointless, he already read it at least ten times. As a student who graduated high school six years ago, with not impressive grades, he has to take some extra credit classes, to help him expand his knowledge and morph a better grasp of academia or whatever other crap they wrote along those lines. Still, Dean doesn't understand, he hasn't understood all through summer when he got their letter, which made him drop his favourite mug, not that it mattered that much at the time.

After the initial shock passed, he hollered at Sam, who came into the kitchen looking all kinds of apologetic but with a determined look all the same. Because the thing is, Dean send an application for the community college, and never ever did he remember sending one at the university of Chicago. His stomach still turns at that and he still can’t, for the life of him say he is a student there. They had requested an interview with him, because they valued diversity (it meant he wasn't up to their standards but they would give him a shot) and accepted people of all backgrounds and were really impressed with his devotion, hard work and ethic and how they could see he had a lot of potential, which were all bullshit if you asked him. He wasn't anything special, hell he hadn’t done anything special, the most impressive thing he’d done was take custody of Sam, really that's all he did (even if it was just the shitty attorney that did all the job and really Dean was impressed – he cried for like five minutes in the courts’ toilets – when they won that one) and if he has to work double shifts and sometimes hold two jobs, so what? Sam was the one that did the hard work, kid studied so much sometimes he forgot to eat or sleep properly. Dean was just there to cook, remind him to sleep and provide the money. It wasn't that impressive; he had done that for almost two decades. And he wasn't particularly pleased when Talbot, had said during the interview that “in all his efforts to provide for Sam he had let himself fall behind” and that “now it was the time to do something for himself” with a tone that made him realise that she didn't exactly believed what she was saying, in fact she seemed to look down at him. Probably wondering herself what he was doing here.

The only reason he had even agreed to go to the interview was because of the constant nudging and begging from Sam, and when later he went to work, one look at Bobby, told him that not only he knew about the letter, he was also part of the whole scheme. The worst part was that he couldn't counter their arguments, they both had the same, how if the university saw something maybe he should try, that they both believed in him (Sams’ words) and he really could do it and other stuff like that. Truth is he couldn't outright refuse for two reasons; one Bobby was paying the largest part of the tuition fees and two he wanted Dean to take over the garage slash salvage yard when he retires and thought a business degree would be a good idea. And Dean agreed, of course he agreed, he knew the man all his life and for the last five and a half years, since he and Sam moved here and Dean started working for him, Bobby has become a father to Dean. A father that he never dreamed he would have and he couldn't possibly lose, so business degree it is. Problem is Dean believed they, he, Bobby and Sam, had agreed on community college, but apparently his idiotic brother had decided otherwise after reading his application and had send it to university of Chicago as well.

He rolls his shoulders trying to ease the tension in his back and rests his elbows on his knees, bowing his head. God, when is he going to go in? He already knows what extra classes he is going to enrol in. Introducing to social sciences, French, because he needs a stupid foreign language as well and he is not taking Spanish or German, and lastly from Egyptian to Byzantine art, because the other options are an absolute no. Finally, after what seem like hours, the door on his left opens and a girl comes out flashing him a smile and he returns it.

“Mr. Winchester” He turns his head and looks up at Talbots’ face, who just glances at him, before going back inside her office and calling “Well, come in”.

He gets up taking his backpack with him, and closes the door with a soft click. She is sitting in her chair, going through some papers and Dean takes a seat in front of her desk.

The office is exactly as he remembers it, with two bookshelves behind the desk filled with files, all the same pale blue colour, which he finds a little unsettling, divided by the painting, that after googling it because it is impressive, of the fall of the damned by Rubens. And like the last time he was here, his leg is tapping on the carpet and he cannot make it stop. The only difference is the smell of ginger and something else he can’t quite place, in the air.

“So”, she starts placing the papers on a stuck on the side of the desk and turning to Dean expectantly, “do you have the forms?”

“Yep” he takes the three first papers that he has been holding and hands them to her. She gives him a tight smile, that is gone in an instant and skims through the first form, she nods at the end and places it on the desk and goes through the second one. Dean feels exposed all of the sudden, as if his choices are somehow wrong and he wants to take the papers back and bolt, instead he swallows and runs his tongue across his lips nervously, folding his hands in front of his chest loosely.

Talbot raises her eyebrow, looking surprised “French”. It’s not exactly a question but Dean feels the need to justify himself.

“Yeah, it’s a beautiful language. At least it sounds beautiful” he grins ironically at her and adds a shrug when she turns her eyes on him.

She makes a sound and says “It is”

Dean fights not to roll his eyes and just continues to smile at her, fake and big and she just nods indifferent and moves on to the other form. She presses her lips together and turns to her computer screen typing something and then reading through.

“I am sorry to inform you” and she doesn't sound sorry at all “but the Egyptian to Byzantine art class is full, so you have to take either biology, mythology or twentieth century literature”

Great, just great. He clenches his teeth and exhales slowly. “Right, and you are sure I can’t go to-”

“I’m absolutely sure” she interrupts tersely and opens a drawer on her left, taking a paper out. “You can fill the form now, please, as these classes start from Monday and I have to enrol you somewhere”

She gives him another form, with a neutral smile, that edges to sardonic, and Dean places it on the desk, opening his bag.

“You need a pen?” she asks and Dean does roll his eyes now, taking a pen out of his bag.

“I’m good”

He skims through the papers he is holding, and immediately turns down biology, suppressing a shudder, he remembers how it was on high school and Deans knows his chances for failing altogether are pretty high and he doesn't want to raise them higher. Mythology sounds good, but boring, especially since those courses run for both semesters and he already knows enough about mythology, which leaves him with literature. He was never that good at it, well it could be that he didn't have the money to buy the books or the time to read them but still, he struggled with all the terms and meanings. After contemplating it for a minute more and feeling Talbots’ stare, he signs up for the literature course and gives the form back to her.

She raises her eyebrows, “Well, you are full of surprises, Winchester. I would swear you’d go for mythology.”

“Sorry to disappoint” he bites, not bothering to keep his tone polite anymore.

“Well, then. The courses should appear on your timetable and student page by eight o’clock this evening, if they haven’t either email me or Deveraux”

“Ok” he says picking up his bag. “Is there anything else?”

“No, goodbye” she flashes him a smile and goes back to typing in her computer.

“Goodbye” he gets up and really, he can’t leave fast enough.

He exits the building, raising his backpack higher in his shoulder and frown as the sun hits his eyes. It’s the middle of September and even though Dean knows that the weather is going to turn colder and rainy by the end of the month, and he should enjoy the sun and warm (for Chicago) weather, he can’t help but scowl and resent it, wanting the colder days.

He goes straight to the parking lot, finding Baby easily among the other cars. He throws his bag in the seat next to him and sighs, covering his face with his hands and breathing for minute. “You can do this, come on” he mutters to himself and starts the car.

He arrives at the apartment almost twenty minutes later, leaving his shoes and bag at the small hall, next to Sams’ jacket on the floor and really he should have learnt to put it on the hangers by know. He goes to the kitchen and drinks a glass of water and he notes to himself to take a bottle with him when he goes to university from now on. He moves to the bathroom to take a piss, stripping of his clothes, and washes his hands, before going to his room to put on sweatpants and an almost completely faded Motorhead t-shirt. He goes back to the kitchen and makes a sandwich, eating it to the way to the living room. He takes his laptop and settles on the couch, opening it up and after some debate he finally brings himself to google psychotherapists near me.

 

 

 

He is just starting the third episode of the Alienist, - after booking an appointment with Billie Thani - when he hears the door of the apartment open and after a few seconds he sees Sam walk past him saying a muttered “Hi”, before going to his room.

“Hey” he shouts back, still focused on the screen.

Five minutes later, of Sam moving around, he watches him sit on the armchair, with his own laptop and place his legs on the coffee table and Dean has a remark on the tip of his tongue, but instead he asks, “All good?”

“Yes,” he responds sighing deeply, making Dean pause the episode and look at him. His slumped on the armchair, and has a frown on his face, eyes tired.

“Want to talk about it?”

“No, I mean, it’s nothing, just homework and school”

“And?” Teenagers, it’s like pulling teeth getting them to say two words to you.

“Rawlings ‘s an ass” Dean snorts at that, closing his laptop.

“Anything newer?”

“Nah, I’m working on the group project with Kevin, which went well. His mum helped in few sections” he says grimacing slightly.

Dean nods, sympathising, he met Ms Tran, Kevins’ mum, five years ago on November, a month after they moved, and is that woman an opinionated fusspot, but she grew on him. Kevin was the first friend Sam made in the new school and his mum has helped them a lot, since learning that’s just the two of them.

“Good thing is going to be over soon” Sam smiles at that. “Just one more week and we are done. Hopefully it will be good”

“You’ll do great” Dean says with confidence. “You are both like super smart”

Sam rolls his eyes, muttering something that Dean doesn't catch but ignores it. If there is one thing he learned since Sam turned twelve is that, with teenagers there are a few things you need to let them slide. Like muttering and eye rolls.

“How was your day?” he gives him that hopeful excited look, like all the times when he asks him about his day at university and Dean can’t help but feel that pressure in his chest and dread, that he might disappoint him.

“Good,” Dean shrugs swallowing “Had the microeconomics class, then signed up for the extra classes. Had to change art for literature”

“Oh. Why?”

“Was full. Anyways everything was good. Don't need to worry your little head about it,” he continues with a shrug.

“I’m not worried” he says trying for nonchalant, but Dean picks up on the defensiveness slipping through.

“Dude, I’m fine”

Sam raises his hand in mock surrender “Ok, whatever you say”, he clicks something on his laptop and after a beat asks “What we eating?”

Dean rolls his eyes and sits up, placing the laptop on the coffee table. “What d’ you want?”

“Your pasta?” Sam responds a little hesitant, like he is embarrassed or something, turning his puppy eyes on, as if Dean would say no.

Dean gets up, sighing and Sam grins at him. “Bitch”

He is past the kitchen threshold when he hears “Jerk”.

 

 

Fucking microeconomics and fucking Bevell with her stupid accent. Dean is muttering curses all the way to the literature building, which thankfully is not that far. He gets in and goes to the board with the layout of the building trying to locate the lecture hall he needs to be in. He finds it and climbs up the stairs to the second floor. He walks hastily, not that he is late and even if he was, he can still get in before the ten-minute mark, not that he is ever going to, but he is more comfortable being early, besides he has to think about the project Bevell has them work on. He got the email this morning explaining the topic they were going to work on, along with the other members names and emails.

He opens the door to the lecture hall and sees some students already seated, a few are around the professors’ desk talking with her. He moves farther into the room and choses a seat on the third row towards the middle, he sits down with a huff and takes a minute to breath.

 He takes his laptop out of his bag, which he takes care of almost like Baby. Bobby and Sam bought for him when he got accepted into university. When they gave it to him, he just stood there looking at the box trying to breath and fit into his head that yes they did this for him. After a long conversation, that half way through turned to a fight between Sam and Dean, and Sam trying to convince the other to do things for himself, Dean agreed to accept the laptop. Not that he could say no, one look at Bobby told him he was going to take it whether he liked it or not. Dean knows they did it because they wanted him to have something nice now that he is here and all, but it left him with a weird unsettling feeling. It took him a week to open the box.

He hadn’t really appreciated the laptop in the beginning, he preferred the old one, even if it took ages to open and it was really slow and it needed to stay plugged in as the battery didn't work. Dean was familiar with it. Now though, that he is sitting on the auditorium and everyone around him has their laptops in front of them, their slick, modern, light looking laptops, similar to the one he has, he is really glad he has this thing. Because otherwise he would stick out and if not visually, then certainly for the sound of the fan working on the old laptop. He never really thought how loud the old one was until he opened the other one and it was just quiet.

He opens up a new word document, writes todays date and waits, for the lecture to start. The email he received on Tuesday, containing the course schedule for semester A, and the emails and offices of the module leader plus lecturer, Dr Anna Milton, and English Literature BA programme lead Dr C. J. Novak, like he would ever contact her?, him? If there is one thing that Dean learned in his induction week is that if you have a problem you contact the lecturer if it’s academic (otherwise the administration office) and only if it’s not in the handbook or website, the programme leads are to be contacted as a last resort or if you are in real trouble. And if they can’t solve your problem then you move up, or better yet they refer you up.

After a minute or so, when all the students are seated, he hears Milton clear her throat and move to the front of the lecture hall, smiling at them.

“Hello, my name, as you probably know, is Anna Milton, you may call me Anna and I will be teaching you twenty century literature. Some of you are here as a part of your English literature degree and others, you are here because you need the credits. Either way, I expect equal effort and work from all of you.” She moves across the front of the hall as she talks, her eyes surveying them. Her red hair swaying slightly as she walks.

“Now, the thing that interests all of you and the question I am always being asked is work load. For every piece of literature that we do, you will have to answer typically one or two questions, in a form of essay, small essay with a word limit of a six hundred words each, and at the end of each work you will have to write one essay that has a word limit of two thousand words, you can find all these in the course notes.”

Dean glances around as some people groan or shift and sigh. He tries to keep his face neutral and figure out in his head how he is going to keep up with everything. Milton moves to the desk and opens the projector and starts the power point slides. She is introducing literary devices and elements and Dean can already tell this is going to be a hell of a class.

 

 

After, he goes to work and feels like a walking stress moving around and fixing cars, for what is to come later. He goes to their apartment takes a quick shower, checks that Sam is alright, tells him that he is going out to the library, feels so guilty for lying to him, but he can’t bring himself to tell him the truth and drives to his first session.

Chapter Text

Things are steady for a while or rather Dean falls on a routine. He goes to work and university – good thing is he only has lectures on Tuesdays, Wednesday and Fridays - he studies and goes to his Friday sessions with Billie.

He is closing five weeks now and he only has one thing to say, it is fucking hard, harder than uni even. He is so exhausted afterwards he just goes home and eats, sometimes not always, and sleeps. Sam is a little concerned because it is nine when he usually goes to bed those days, but Dean just tells him he had a lot to do, which is true, they’re just not talking about the same thing. He has yet to tell him. It’s not the judgement he is scared of or that Sam will get all emotional and pleased that Dean is dealing with things, himself. It’s just something that is his, entirely, he does by and for himself. He feels a little selfish, having that thought, but it doesn't bother him much. Besides he is going to tell Sam eventually.

He doesn't talk much during the sessions, sometimes he wants to but, he can’t get it out or find the words, so Billie is the one doing most of the talking. She asks him questions, difficult questions with even more difficult and complicated answer that lead to a lot of emotions, some of which Dean can’t name. Sometimes Dean feels like it’s pointless and that perhaps he can’t tackle it all. He tells her, which surprises him and she chuckles softly, tells him it is how it will be for a while, but he will get there, as long as he wants to. There being the reasons for going to her all together, Dean guesses. They weren’t very clear, because well they are long complicated and basically Dean, and as he thought about that answer, he realised he is complicated.

In the end he ended up telling her, that he doesn't feel comfortable with himself, he sometimes feels hollow and that he is scared he will end up like his dad (he doesn't elaborate, doesn't say a disappointment, a drunk, a quitter), which was too much. It was the second session after all. They have started to delve in deeper now, voicing things that Dean can’t bear thinking about, but he does there, in that office on the third floor with Billie. There still things he hasn't touched (he doesn't know if he will ever be able to), like everything with dad and is that a can of worms, he believes that Billie knows, or at least suspects and that makes him feel strangely at ease, like he doesn't have to hide. He thinks about telling her, about the anger, the beatings, the times he left him on the side walk alone, the fact that Dean could never please him. And he feels heavy - with what he said, what he needs to do - and light, because he is getting them off his chest, when he leaves, and he has a lot to think about, and a lot to change, but he is taking it a step at a time. Despite all that, he finds he can’t think of not going to the sessions, even if sometimes he wants to call in sick.

 

 

 

It is Sunday and he no longer goes to the garage on these days – Bobby has forbidden him to come in, something about time to himself -, it is how he finds himself seating in a cafe slash bookstore, studying intro to economics and management and hating his life. He came here a week ago with the members of the project he had to do for Bevell’s class for their last meet up before submitting it, and he really liked it. So, he decided to take advantage of that and use it for studying one of the worst subjects. It relaxes him being here, especially the murmur of the other people getting coffee, it helps him focus strangely enough. Today though he can’t seem to be able to concentrate. He gets up and buys a second americano, goes back to his table, looks at the screen of his laptop and sighs deeply.

The guy, seating on the table in front of him on the opposite chair, looks up from his book and straight at him, but Dean, upon meeting dark blue, hastily turns his eyes back on the laptops’ screen. He thinks about the literature class and shifts in his seat, perhaps he should work on that. He doesn't know. He looks ahead at the wall that has “Harmony in red”.

He is not fond of Matisse’s style but that painting always makes him feel something in the centre of his chest, that is both familiar and not, and something wells in his eyes and for a moment he is oddly reminded of his mum. A distant, frayed memory of a morning in a kitchen he hasn't seen since he was four.

He looks back down on his screen. He thinks that he should at least find one class interesting, just one. The project he did with the other students didn't help at all, the other members were stressed but happy, excited even, about the degree, the university and Dean was just sitting there trying to think of a good thing to say about any subject. He came up empty. He likes marketing a bit, especially the psychology aspect of it, but in an ok-that's-good kind of why, not the light up face Sam gets when he talks about some of his subjects at school or law. Literature is ok, he guesses, he likes Steppenwolf that they finished last week, but it all feels… empty. Milton is nice, better than some of the other professors he has, but there something about her way of teaching that makes it a little dull or maybe it is just him.

He thinks that this is just for three years; he keeps the end goal at the front of his mind, it’s so he can get the garage. He thinks of Bobby and Sam, and realises, that interesting or not he is doing this.

He glances at the guy again, he is back to reading his book. It is well worn and reads E. M. Cioran, A short history of decay. Dean doesn't know who Cioran is, no surprise there, it is probably a philosophy book. He sighs again, softer this time, looks back down at the word document and starts his essay on “Discuss Taylor and McGregor’s Management Theories”.

 

 

 

 

On Tuesdays he has finance fundamentals with Zachariah Adler, which is as boring as the man teaching it and Dean feels like bashing his head against the desk and it hasn't been two months yet. Then he has intro to economics and management. He finished the essay on Monday night, a week early and he will go over it again tonight, before submitting it.   

When he is done with these classes, he moves to the IT building to find Charlie as he promised her. She is a PhD candidate who is working as a teaching assistant to Dorothy Baum, who she totally has a crush on, but doesn't admit. They met three years ago, when she brought her car to the garage because it made a strange sound – sparkplugs problem - and they became friends or more accurately, she bossed her way into his life. Not that he minds, he loves her, she one of the most amazing people in his life.

He knocks on her door and hears her make a sound that's probably positive and he walks in. He takes a look at her slumped shoulders and her wild hair, that he knows it’s because she has run her hands through them in frustration. Grading day.

“Hey” he says leaving his bag on the floor and taking a seat in front of her desk.

She stops typing on her laptop and sighs dramatically, “I hate grading. I just ugh”

He laughs and she glares at him, “It’s not funny Winchester”

“Ok, ok”

“You still on for Saturday?” she asks excitedly, sitting up straighter. Something passes in her eyes, fast, Dean pays it no mind, he is too busy trying to think what they are doing tomorrow.

“Yeah, I mean it has been a while since we went to the roadhouse and I promised that I would”, he shrugs, finally recalling their plans.

“You mean it’s been a while since you did something other than study and work and Sam” Dean glares at her, she is not wrong but still. She waves him off adding, “I know they are important but I hardly see you these days. Benny said you didn't want to go out last Friday or any other Friday”

Dean freezes momentarily, stomach tightening with guilt and nerves, “Sorry, I know, it’s just a lot you know? I’m trying to settle”

Her eyes soften and she smiles at him, “I know, you don't need to apologize. We understand, we just, we miss you.” Dean nods shifting in his seat a little uncomfortable, “Stop” she says sternly, then continues “Just promise that you will come on Saturday”

He sighs, “I told you I would, why are y- Wait, what’s going on?”

It’s her turn to shift in her seat, her cheeks turning red. Dean raises his eyebrows and she huffs crossing her arms, “Fine, I- you remember Gilda?”

Dean rakes his brain trying to find a face, he remembers her name just not –

“Jo’s friend?”

Right. The baker. Long brown hair.

“Yeah” he says nodding, smirking at her knowingly.

“Well we have been going out for the past weeks and I thought it’s time for you to meet her” she continues in a rush, voice going a little high.

Dean grins at her and wiggles his brows.

“Shut up” she says getting redder, “I like her ok? Like really really like her”

“I’ll be there” he reassures her again, then “So the crush on Baum is” he trails off, gesturing with his hands.

“It wasn't a crush” she exclaims, “Just... I admire her work”

“Of course, you do” Dean says smirking, crossing his arms.

“Shush”

 

The Roadhouse has been a place of sanctuary for Dean, since he was little. Whenever they past with dad to see Bobby or dad would leave them to Bobby, he and Sam – and Bobby - would go to the Roadhouse. It’s the place he met Ellen and Jo, who became part of they’re family, the place he celebrated getting custody of Sam, the place he met Benny, the place he met Aron and inadvertently came out to his family, in a way only Dean good. It’s a place with a lot of tears, some sad, some happy and a lot of laughter. All in all, it’s a place of home for Dean and a place of reference for all the people he knows. 

When he gets there on Saturday, it’s busy, but not as busy as it will get in about an hour though. He finds Jo and Benny sitting in a table talking and he walks up at them.

“Hey” he says and takes a seat next to Benny.

“Hey” Jo smirks at him, “Long time no see. Did you finally find the way, Winchester?”

“Haha, very funny” he responds rolling his eyes. “I’ve been busy”

“We know” they both say at the same time.

“No joke though” Benny starts, “how have you been?”

“Busy” Dean tells them shrugging and Jo rolls her eyes.

“Jesus” Jo says, “You are talkative”

“What?” Dean asks defensively.

“Dean college is a great experience you know?” Jo says, “So how is it?”

Dean turns to look at Benny, who just shrugs, “Don't look at me, I just went to a culinary school”

“I don't know” he starts and it feels harder than it should, “Lessons are ok, literature is somewhat more interesting”, he shrugs again, looking at Jo who is giving him a concerned look. “What?” he asks her again.

“It’s just you make it sound so… indifferent” the last word she says in a question and Dean wants to tell her I know, instead he tells her

“I guess is still the beginning, and I’m trying to find a rhythm”

She nods at that, “Just don't work yourself to the ground, cause by the last year you’d be dead. Trust me”

Yeah, if he ever manages to make it that far. But he knows what she means. He remembers her last year after Christmas, she was practically a zombie, she just went to her classes, came back, studied until she could no longer keep her eyes open, slept and back again.

He nods at her and that's as far as she goes because Charlie and Gilda show up, but Benny does shoot him a concerned look, that Dean doesn't dismiss, he just motion for him later and the other nods.

They stay until closing time and Ellen has to shoo them away. Jo whines at her, but when Ellen suggest she helps her with closing, at which she tells her no and shuts up, but does stay to help her. By the time he gets to the apartment he can barely keep his eyes open and he just plops down to his bed, knowing he will have a headache tomorrow.

 

 

 

 

 

 

On Friday Dean walks into the literature hall, with five minutes to spare, he sits in his usual seat on the third row and gets his things out. They finished Steppenwolf and they are starting the Stranger by Camus this week. He is kind of dreading it. He was able to find a second hand copy of the book and read a bit yesterday. He isn’t sure he likes Camus way of writing.

He gets the book out and leaves it next to his laptop, it takes a moment to realise that Milton is not in the lecture hall, which is strange, she is usually there already, Dean thinks she has another class before them. He frowns and looks at the clock. It is a minute past eleven. Perhaps something happened, she is allowed to be late once, Dean muses. When the clock shows past five, someone asks aloud if the class is cancelled but no one knows. Then the side door opens and a man with messy dark hair, holding a trench coat walks in and sets his laptop bag on the desk.

He looks up at them for a moment, and Deans’ breath hitches; he is handsome. The kind of handsome that is rough at some places and soft at others. The more he looks, the more he feels like there is something electrifying about him, it makes Deans’ skin erupt in goosebumps and he shifts in his seat self-consciously. There is murmur around him, but Dean doesn't pay attention to anyone, he feels as if in a trance. An awkward trance.

He watches him as he sets up the power point. He is wearing a dark suit and his blue tie is a little askew. When he is done and the first slide open on the screen, showing Albert Camus and underneath in smaller writing Dr C. J. Novak. Right the BA lead, perhaps he is sharing the course with Anna. He finally looks up, and Dean watches his eyes and thinks that the blue is familiar, but he can’t place it. Novaks’ expression is neutrally serious as he watches them, his eyes fall on Dean for a moment, just a second before looking at someone else. Then he starts to talk in a modulated deep rumble, that has Deans’ stomach flutter and he has to swallow.

“Good afternoon, I am sorry for being late, I had another class upstairs that took longer than I expected” the murmur stops and everyone’s attention is on him “I’m Castiel Novak and I will be teaching this course in place of Anna, you were supposed to get the email regarding this change, as well as the lecture hall change, but we had a problem in the literature department, that well doesn't interest you. I- yes” he stops and looks at a point in the rows behind Dean.

“What happened to Dr Milton?” a girl asks concerned.

“Nothing happened to Dr Milton, she is on sabbatical and that's why I will be teaching this course for this academic year” he answers, “The same principles apply. The only thing you need to keep in mind is that my office hours are on Fridays, not Mondays like Annas’, one to four. If you have a class on these hours or any other obligation and can’t make it, but want to see me just email me and we will work something out. Also, the lectures from now on, will happen in my lecture hall, which is on the sixth floor, number L367”

He moves in front of the desk and continues “She told me you finished Steppenwolf last week and so you have submitted your essays, they will be graded, but with a small delay. As you can see, we are starting Camus. Is anyone familiar with his work?” he looks around a bit and chuckles softly, its deep and ignites something in Dean “Alright, no surprise there. He is not very attractive to younger people. We will be reading Stranger. It is a very dense and rich work, don't be fooled by Camus simple way of writing. It is a prime example of his philosophy, the absurdism, but also existentialism” he changes the slide, “I putted up four papers on those that you should read, and I also cited a few at the last slides, for those of you who want to read further, though I will encourage you all to read as much as you can for better understanding. Does anyone know about absurdism?"

He is way more interactive than Milton and he is not too bad on the eyes, his brain supplies. He shakes his head and focusing back on Novak, who is looking at them expectantly.

“Alright” he starts after a few seconds of waiting, and changes the slide where the definition of Absurdism is shown and starts explaining.

 

By the time class is over, Dean is dizzy and bombarded with information. He has to give it to Novak though, he does have a way of making it interesting or it might just be his voice. Dean shivers a bit remembering the way the professor spoke, and the way his lips shaped around the words. Ok, so maybe he wasn't just paying attention on the content of the lecture, but also the person delivering it. Sue him.

 

 

 

When he gets home from work, Sam is already there on the living room floor, with his laptop in the coffee table and a notebook full of notes next to it. His hair is messy and he is staring at the laptop screen, scrutinizing whatever it is there.

“Hey” Dean says with a gruff.

Sam jumps and turn to look at him, saying a tired, “Hi”

“What’s wrong?” Dean asks and moves to his room leaving the door open. He removes his shirt and jeans, throwing them in the laundry bin.

He hears Sam sigh, and say with some excitement, “I’m looking at colleges”

Right, that. Dean swallows and pushes down the dread that wants to fill his chest and asks in a careful voice. “So, what’s wrong?”

He hears Sam mumbling and frowns going back out with just his boxers, “What?”

“I-” Sam starts and turns to look at him and scowls at him, “Really Dean? How many times do I have to tell you not to walk around in your boxers?”

Dean rolls his eyes, “Am I offending your delicate eyes?”

“No, but I don't need to see you like this” Sam says sourly, “Anyways,” he stops hesitating.

“What?”

“Do you think I shouldn't apply to like, the places I was thinking with Kevin?” he asks looking so insecure, making Dean sober up and forget about his own worries.

“Sam, apply to fucking Harvard and leave me alone” he says, because they have been having this conversation since August and he is starting to realise that Sam just needs someone to cheer him on, and not because he is entirely doubting himself.

“Yes but-”

“Dude, if Chicago uni was willing to take me, what makes you think places like that won’t want you”

Sam sighs and looks back at his screen.

“I’m not saying they all will say yes. But some will” Dean adds and looks at him expectantly.

Sam turns back to him, “Yes but they are expensive”

Dean takes a breath to calm his raising nerves, “You are going to get the scholarships and we will work something out” worst comes to worst I will drop out, if I am still there by May, he doesn't say.

“Dean”

Now it is Deans’ turn to sigh, “Just worry about choosing five that you like” he emphases the last bit, “And I’ll worry about the rest, ok?”

Sam presses his lips together and mumbles an “ok”

Dean goes to the bathroom and just before he closes the door, he hears Sam shout “You going out again?”

Dean pauses, hand on the handle and shuts his eyes tightly, “Yeah”

“Ok,” Sam says, then “Oh, before I forget, I’m going to see a movie with Kevin and Ruby after work tomorrow”

“Ok.” Dean says and closes the door, getting completely naked and starting a shower.

 

  

Next Friday, Dean remembers the change of classroom when he is just outside the previous one, he rolls his eyes to himself and walks to the elevator. He gets in the, frankly crowded elevator and makes it to the classroom, just two minutes before the class is supposed to start.

The first thing he notices is that the lecture hall is bigger than Milton’s, and everyone is scattered around, also that Novak keeps the curtains open in comparison to her. Dean likes it better this way. He gets his stuff ready, as Novak rises from his seat at his desk where he is talking with a student and walks around it, to stand at the front while still listening to what the student is saying. He nods at something he says and tells him something before the student leaves the lecture hall and Novak turns to them.

“Good morning” he greets them, “Upon grading your essays, which should be up by this afternoon, I noticed that most of you have troubles with literature devices, so at the end I will go over them again and next week in the first half hour you will write a test on them, ok?” there are groans at his words and he huffs a laugh, “It’s for your own good” he tells them and Dean kind of dreads it, cause he is almost certain he is one of those that got them wrong. He thinks about his schedule and how he can squeeze a few more hours of studying. He sighs, resigned and focuses back on Novak who is analysing Meursault.

They had to read the Stranger over the week and Dean has to admit he likes it more than he originally expected, to a point where he searched more of Camus work.

“So, how many themes do you think they are in the book?” Novak asks and looks through them, his eyes land on Dean who tries to keep his face neutral, even if his heart is thumbing. From nerves, he tells himself. His eyes move though after a few seconds, to someone on Deans’ far right, “Yes?”

“Three” it is more of a question and Novak nods continuing.

“Three. First is the irrationality of universe, second the meaninglessness of human life and third the importance of the physical world. Can someone tell me about the first?” no one moves, Novak smiles softly at them, “Don't be shy. It doesn't matter about being right, I just want to hear your thoughts”

Dean shifts in his seat sighing, playing with his pen nervously, looking at his lap.

“You” Novak says and Dean looks up and straight at him.

Right. He swallows. The irrationality of universe. He finally answers in a gruff voice, after seconds of them staring at each other, “Is it that both Meursaults’ thoughts and the world he lives have no rational order” he doesn't voice it as a question though, and Novak keeps looking at him, in expectation, he doesn't know, he does feel charge though and he adds in a rush, “Society does though. Try to rationalise his actions, like killing the Arab”

Novak nods at him, “Yes, Camus wants to show that society is threatened when things happen for no reason at all and there is no meanings in events.” He finally looks away from Dean and continues going over the themes, and Dean releases a breath he didn't know he had been holding.

 

 

 

 

 

 

On Tuesday after the last class he goes to the library, because he needs to find a book for finance class, he spends approximately three hours reading before he finishes what he has to do and he stretches in his seat. Staring at the glass ceiling, it is cloudy, like all the other days for the past week. He needs to get home, Sam has yesterdays leftovers to eat, so he will be fine.

He feels his muscles slowly relax, until he senses eyes on him and he seats up ungracefully and looks around, he can’t figure out who it is, everyone in front of him is either staring at a book or talking to their friends. Maybe it was just him being paranoid, he doesn't like the feeling though. Then he turns his head towards the left, and sees Novak seating at a table with a brown-haired woman he doesn't recognise, and his heartbeat picks up a notch, to his dismay. This is getting ridiculous. He is ridiculous.

He glances at his hands and up again and finds blue studying him, because he can’t fathom the other thing he sees there. He swallows, but doesn't look away, his lips part softly and watches as Novak watches him. He has lost his suit jacket and is just with his white shirt, tie askew as always, and Dean for some reason imagines him with his sleeves rolled to his elbows and licks his lips at the image.  Novaks’ eyes fall to the motion and Dean can see his jaw clench. Then his gaze falls to his lips and he takes a deep breath. He sees as Novaks’ lips raise in a slight smirk. The bastard.

The woman must say something to him, because his eyes, albeit reluctantly, leave Deans’ and he feels the loss too much for what it is. Deans’ eyes never leave him though and after he answers to the woman, he turns his eyes back to Dean, who wants to lick his lips again but resists the motion. Novak doesn't though and Dean has the irrational need to nip at them. The thought causes something like a current to go through him and he grabs his bag from the floor, gets up and walks briskly to the elevator on the other side of the room and away from Novak.

He still breaths heavily when he reaches Baby. He needs to get a grip. He tightens his hands on the wheel, ignores the tightens in his lower stomach, and the one that is bordering to uncomfortable in his jeans, and drives home, coming to the conclusion that blue is a horrible cool colour.

 

 

 

 

 

They are busy at work from Wednesday, which means that Dean has to stay at the garage more, which means less time to study for the literature test. He barely has the time to finish the essay -turns out he didn't completely fuck up the last one- for the class on Thursday, he submits it ten minutes before the deadline, hopes it’s not complete shit and ignores the part of his brain that worries for how Novak will think of him after reading it.

 

 

 

 

He walks to class on Friday, and gets his pen out and his laptop, but doesn't turn it on, and doodles on his notebook, so his eyes don't stray to Novak. he doesn't succeed entirely.  But it’s fine because he only catches his gaze once and for barely a second. Still he feels hot all over and he wants all this to be over or for Novak to continue to look at him without that guard in his eyes. Perhaps Dean is self-destructive after all.

Novak hands the tests over to a person in the front row and they are passed to all of them. It has four question, definitions for five devices and Dean sighs in relief, the first one coming to him. He listens as Novak tells them they have half an hour and he starts writing.

 

In the end as he walks out, his eyes catch Novaks’ for the hundredth time in the last two hours and he holds it for a few seconds. There is something he wants to say but he doesn't know what and Novak seems to be in the same fate. So, he just swallows thickly and makes the decision for both of them and takes a step back before turning around and leaving, ignoring the slight tremble in his hands that has been going since Novak started teaching today.

Chapter Text

Next Friday finds Dean idly doodling on the margins of his book next or over his notes and half listen to the argument happening at the front of the class. He rolls his eyes at them and sighs. He is far too stressed with everything and far too done with everything. His first psychosomatic in the last year (his most common one) is making its’ appearance; his pinky finger on his left hand is dry and no matter how many times Dean moisturizes it, it stays the same. Billie made a comment and Sam is eyeing it – and Dean - worriedly and Dean wants to tell them is just dry skin, it’s not like it will fall off. He gets it though, they are worried about him; still he doesn't have the time to deal with that now.

The door opens and Novak comes in, muttering something under his breath while walking at the desk and getting his laptop out, removing his trench coat and Dean tries not to stare too much. Especially when he runs his hand through his hair, that are a bit wet form the rain, sighing. He watches though as the man glances at the students in the front every few seconds, before going back to his laptop and frowning the power point. When they don't stop, he looks at them concerned and walks near the first row, control in his hand.

“Are you all right?” he asks, eyeing the students in the first row with a frown, titling his head.

A girl, who Dean has come to recognize since she participates a lot, and because her voice is quite high, thankfully not too unpleasant “Professor, do you think that a PhD is a good thing to have?”

Novak raises his eyebrows then huffs a laugh, there is amusement in his eyes. It’s strange Dean thinks, not in a bad way, just an unfamiliar one; his expressions are limited, going from frowning, to neutral, to squinting, to titling his head in confusion, something Dean will never admit in finding endearing or that his stomach flutters slightly at the sound now. And the one in the library, not that Dean thinks about that.

“Absolutely not” he responds decisively, drawing Dean to the present “I advise against getting a PhD, unless of course you want to be a university professor or your career asks for it and in this case really consider it.  But if it is becoming a university professor, then don't become a professor do something else”

“But-”

“Listen there are two- three categories of people who get a PhD. People who want to be professors and mainly do funded research, people who want to please their egos, parents, or they can’t do anything useful in their lives and they know it so, they need that Doctor before their names to feel important, and three those who want to delve deeper into a particular domain. Some of the last ones end up becoming professors. Ok?”

Dean can’t see their faces, but he guesses they can’t be too different to the ones he can see. Everyone is looking at Novak dumbfound.

“Yes, but” a guy starts next to the girl “being a professor is not just about research, right? What if you want to teach?”

“No, but it’s not about getting inside a lecture hall and teaching either, that's part of it, a big one. One you should like. However, in order to be a professor and keep being a professor, you need to be published, write papers and reviews that are published in journals that only a small part of the population reads, using far too complicated words and interact civilly with people you’d rather see keel over and die” he continues, then adds. “Don't ever tell anyone that I just said that”

A few people chuckle, others are just too stunt to do anything else other than stare, Dean is one of those, but for entirely different reasons.

“People though” the first girl starts again “believe that having a PhD, gives you great job prospects or you are respected more”

Novak presses his lips together, seems to mull it over, “Yes, but it has to do with other skills as well. People don't excel in their jobs just because they have a degree or several. In fact, there are people that are great in their professions, without going to university”

There is more silence. Novak chuckles, “I am not saying that you shouldn't go to university, but it should be something you want. And that people change their mind and professions a lot more often than you think. Just because you have set out to do something now, doesn’t mean you are going to keep doing it in ten or twenty years.” He watches as people nod and then adds “I mean, my brother has a PhD in religious studies and then he started working, and is still working, as a pornstar”

Deans’ eyes widen and holds back a choke. What?

“Oh, don't be prudist now” he says smiling. “It’s a profession and what I am trying to say is, get a PhD if you are either in the first or third category. Now, let’s start”

 

 

 

When he gets to Billie that late afternoon, his nerves are on edge and he can’t get his right leg to stop tapping. Billie notices, but just raises her eyebrow at him and he just shrugs.

“So” she starts after he finished talking about his week, leaving the Novak part out, like always; he finds himself wanting to talk about him, although he doesn't know what he wants to say exactly; it’s not like there is anything to say, he keeps telling himself every time he thinks about it. “I think it’s time we talked about the elephant in the room”

“The elephant?” his voice absolutely doesn't go high. Because he knows what she is talking about.

She levels him with a look and then patiently waits for him. He adverts his eyes and looks out the window, he feels the heaviness in his chest growing and it almost crushes him, it was already hard to breathe through it. His eyes don't water and he doesn't take a shuddering breath. He just balls his fist and swallows around everything that has been happening for the last twenty two years and after a minute he turns back at her and her patient eyes, and sighs, “What do you want me to say?”

“You can start at the beginning” she tells him softly.

“You know the beginning” he says and shrugs. It’s true he did tell her about mum and how dad put them in the impala the next day and after they were all over the place. She knows about the guns and knives and that he took care of Sam. The important things. The landmarks or just the ones Dean can voice.  

“Ok. Then tell me about the first time your dad left you alone with Sam”

Dean’s mind goes blank for just a second and tries to think about that day. And then suddenly it comes back to him all at once, like a bucket of ice in his face and he shifts in his seat. He feels the cold, heaviness of a gun in his hands, that just last week he learnt how to use, without the help of dad. He thinks of Sam, who was eight months old and was so small and oblivious, and all seven years old him could think was that when mum picked him up he seemed so light, but actually was quite heavy. That after a while that heaviness became grounding, comforting. It meant that at least one of them ate well.

“It was two months after mum died” he starts and his throat feels dry, “we were in a motel somewhere in Utah, I- it was a particularly bad one, smelled worse than the others and” he stops and swallows, he doesn't remember the smell anymore they have all blended together now, but he remembers that he thought that then “He had been teaching me how to use a gun for the last two months and I could finally use it on my own without help. He said he had some work with someone and he’d be back in two to three days” then he huffs a laugh that turns into an ugly grimace, “he was never could at keeping time or just didn't care. He was gone for six days, I was worried and I couldn't reach him and-” and I hadn’t learnt yet how to live without him, how to lie through situations

“He gave me barely enough money to get by and a 45 and he had only paid the motel for the next three days. So, on the fourth the manager knocked on the door and-”

She had taken one look at Dean with something that he couldn't word then and has been erased through the years. But it was something that had made his stomach curl with shame and wanted to apologize for what he didn't know, so he hadn’t told her anything. And when she asked for his dad, he just told her he would be back in a while, and when she asked for money, - Dean wasn't good at saving then but he became better later on -, he handed her wordlessly a twenty-dollar bill and kept the six dollars for himself and Sam. She again gave him a look and shook her head muttering under her breath and left with a muttered “alright”. He was lucky, he realized not too long after.

He shakes his head, “I just gave her a twenty-dollar bill and she left. I was lucky. I wasn't that lucky some other times.” And they had called dad, who made the situation worse far worse, and Dean learnt to pay for the motel with money they didn't have and steal food and later when he was sixteen, he learnt to pay them with money from things he only things about in moments of late silence or when he wants to make himself feel really bad.

He shrugs at Billie and suddenly feels the anger in his chest at his dad, that is always there and like always he drowns it. He waits for her to say something. To tell him what they accomplish just now with all these.

“What happened the other times?” Billie asks and Dean breaths heavily. “Dean?”

He looks up at her and she smiles softly, encouraging; she is there and in a weird way it calms Dean, she feels solid and real. She hands him the tissues from her desk and Dean takes the box in his hands gratefully, but doesn't take one out. He is far too aware of himself, of his body, it’s an unnerving feeling.

“Some had thrown us out, but it was before I was- before I knew how to save money or anything else” he says softly, drained.

“Do you want to talk about it?” she asks in a modulated voice and he shrugs, “We can continue next week.”

“I stole food” he tells her, shamefully but determined all the same, and because he doesn't need coddling.

She nods, “You did it to survive.”

“Doesn't mean it wasn't stealing.” He counters thickly and he takes more shuddering breaths. He doesn't know if it’s the memories or her seeming so unfazed, so understanding.

“You shouldn't feel shameful about that. It’s not on you” when he opens his mouth “You were a child”, she adds insistent.

“But-”

“If you saw a child, a nine, an eleven-year-old, steal food for the same reasons, would you think he was any less of a person or a bad person”

That’s a low blow and all Dean utters is a “No”

“Then why are you hurting yourself for that?” she reasons.

He knows she is right in her way of thinking, still she doesn't know everything, so he says, “That's not all I did”

After a beat she says “Alright”

“I can’t”

“It’s ok” she says and Dean takes a tissue.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Next week he walks in Novak’s’ class just before the lecture starts. He keeps his head down, in his notes and laptop screen. It’s their last week on Camus and they have to write the essay on Stranger and Dean dreads it, although he feels more confident than the other two times he had to write an essay in literature class. They received their tests at the beginning of the class and Novak told them if they had any questions to see him during his office hours.

Dean did better than he thought he would, but he does have questions, because he was fairly certain what he wrote on the third question was correct but apparently not.  But he isn’t sure he can go to see Novak. Something curling in his stomach, causing something else to erupt in his chest at the thought. They finish the lecture with a note on next week’s work, the sound and the fury and Dean tries to think of a way to be able to afford buying the book, since he hasn't been able to find it in any second hand bookstore and online the postage costs the whole book from a bookstore.

 

When the class ends and he is in the safety of the hallway, he thinks about taking the elevator to the eleventh floor, where Novaks’ office is, but instead he heads out and to the parking lot. He gets into the impala, waiting for Charlie, since he promised to drive her home, since her car is at the garage – she really needs to replace that monstrosity - and sits with his hand in the ignition. He doesn't know what does it – perhaps is the thought of Sam at home studying through it all -, but he sighs taking his bag, getting back out. He shoots Charlie a text, that he will be late and she will have to wait for him and gets out.

 

The elevator is crowded as per usual and Dean is suffocating by the time he reaches his floor. It’s quitter than the other floors, since it is just the literature staff offices and Dean doesn't know if he is too nervous and he can’t tell how he feels anymore or he is just calm all of a sudden. Has no idea where to go either, but he sees a man walking  across the hall and after a thought stops him to asks where to find Novak’s office. He is British and speaks in a plummy voice, that Dean hates and points him towards where he needs to go.

His walk towards the office becomes slower and slower the more he nears it, until he turns right and finds a desk on the right side of a dark brown door, that has a gold plate writing C. J. Novak and underneath BA Literature Program Lead.

Dean swallows thickly. This is a bad idea. He shakes his head and turns around, seeing a woman turn the corner and walk towards him. She looks at him in surprise but sobers up quickly and smiles at him faintly.

“Did he not answer?” she asks him going behind her desk and puts the paper in a drawer. “He does that sometimes, he probably didn't hear the knock, just knock again”

Her blue eyes stare at him and it takes Dean a second to register her words. He takes a step towards her desk and away from the door, “No it’s fine I don't need…”

“You sure?” she asks, “It’s office hours you are not bothering him. He just sometimes gets too absorbed in his work to-” she stops as the door opens and Novak comes out looking down at the papers in his hands.

“Hannah, could you find me Balthazar and tell him-” he stops abruptly when he lifts his eyes and looks straight at Dean, who stares back at him frozen. “Hello” he tells Dean, his expression carefully neutral.

“Hi” Dean nods and doesn't know if a sound left his throat or he just formed the word with his lips.

“Um” they both turn to Hannah who is studying them curiously, “What do you need?”

“Right. Just tell Balthazar to answer his emails for once and that I need the program structure for next semester. Also, there is an emergency and I will leave as soon as I am able to, alright?” he says and she nods at him. He then turns to Dean, “Is it about the lecture?”

Dean blinks, willing his brain to work, “The test” then clearer “It’s about the test”

Novak nods and walks back in his office and Dean stares at the half-closed door, unsure.

“You are supposed to follow him” Hannah tells his and nods towards the door.

Dean rolls his eyes and walks in the office, ignoring Hannah’s soft laugh as he closes the door.

He turns around and his breath catches. Novak is at his desk writing something on a paper, with the sun coming from the window behind him, giving him a strange glow. Like a halo and Dean can feel every nerve in his body come to life.

Jesus Dean needs to get grip or perhaps have sex. Yes, that’s what this is. That's why he is thinking and acting like this, it’s the whole lack of sex.

He likes the man’s office though, it suits him, he thinks, as he moves to take a seat in front of the man’s desk. The entirety of the left wall is taken by a bookcase, while the opposite wall has a smaller bookcase which has folders, and next to it is a painting. The seven works of mercy, Dean recognizes. He smiles faintly, before turning at Novak who is studying him.

“Caravaggio” Dean says with a slight defensive tone, as a way of explaining himself. The other man nods and Dean reaches for his bag taking the test out, because he can’t keep looking at Novak’s eyes, if he wants to maintain what little is left from his composure.

He hands the test to the older man, who skims through it, recognition flashes in his eyes and tells him, “What you wrote about objective correlation was correct, I just wanted you to elaborate more, here” he tells him and looks to the side of his desk and Dean hears a drawer open. Novak takes a paper out passes it to Dean. “You could talk a bit more about Eliot, Keeley and Seferis. Explain more how the term came to be, other than that, your understanding of it is correct.”

Dean nods and folds the paper, “As in the whole mythic method versus objective correlation?”

“Yes,” Novak says and seems pleased, “You could say that Keeley thought it was two different things, but Vagenas argued that mythic method is a form of objective correlation, and why that is. Of course, I understand, as this was something all of you had trouble with, that you need to have studied Seferis and Eliot” and then as an afterthought he adds, “Auden too, but I wanted a bit more information on that.”

Dean nods and takes his test back as well and puts the papers back in his bag, and then looks back up at Novak. They look at each other expectantly and Dean tries in vain to think of something to say. He gnaws on his lower lip self-consciously, a nervous gesture and Novak’s eyes fall in the movement for a second before raising his eyes back to Dean’s.

“You could read some of their poems if you wanted” he says, almost tentatively, “To better understand it” And then licks his lips and now Dean is the one to look.

He doesn't think he will. Poetry isn’t something Dean understands, or better yet it always seemed as something that it was for other people not him. He nevertheless says, “Ok”

“Is there anything else?” Novak asks, voice deeper if that’s even possible and Dean swallows thickly, something trembling in his chest and to his utter embarrassment he feels heat rising to his cheeks.

“No” he breaths and raises from his seat abruptly. “Thank you” he tells him and walks out the office, without waiting for a reply. He closes his eyes once the door closes behind him and sighs. He opens them and finds Hannah looking at him with a raised brow.

He just shakes his head, bids her goodbye and ignores her and the look that passes her face. Not that she knows anything. He doesn't know anything. He doesn't know what he is doing. Or what they are both doing, because it’s not like anything will happen, not that Dean wants anything to happen. Despite how his stomach flatters at the thought of the man. He ignores everything and heads to the impala.

He finds Charlie leaning against the side of the car, typing in her phone.

“Hey” he greets her gruffly, flashing her a smile despite himself.

“Hey, how was it?” she asks grinning, raising her head to look at him.

“Ok, just needed to clarify more”

“Ah, the eternal struggle of all students” she says with a shrug. “It gets better. You will get better the more you do it” she adds encouragingly.

“Yeah” Dean says distractively, opening the back door and throwing his bag inside, he looks up at her ready to tell her he will never get used to it or just get better, but the words die in his throat as his eyes catch on something or someone.

“What?” Charlie asks, but he ignores her. He watches as a few cars away Novak goes over to a car. He walks hastily and he can see him talking, more like arguing, with someone over the phone.

Charlie follows his eyes and whistles softly, making Dean sober up.

“What?” he asks glancing at her.

“That's a fine specimen” she says openly staring at Novak, who is now getting inside his car, and Dean splutters. “I’ve seen him a few times before on campus”

“That’s my literature professor” Dean says as if that contradicts what she said.

“Wait that's your professor?” she says turning her eyes at him, raising her eyebrows.

“Yeah” Dean says trying to sound nonchalant and failing miserably.

“Dude he is so dreamy”

“Aren’t you a lesbian?”

“Yes, but look at him. I would totally change teams for him, if I looked at him long enough” she says with a smirk and glancing back to Novak.

“Let’s go” Dean asks, chest tightening. He watches as the other man gets in his car, an Audi SUV, and Dean thinks he ought to like him less for his choice of a car. He gets inside Baby and Charlie follows him, and Dean completely ignores her and her smug looks she sends him. What does she know anyways? What does anyone know?

 

 

 

 

 

 

He does search for Eliot, Seferis and Auden when he goes to the bookstore on that Sunday noon. It takes him all two seconds after he went through the door of the shop, to decide to do so. He finds two collections, one of Auden and one of Eliot, but not Seferis, in fact when he asks a sales person about him, he just shoots Dean a confused look and Dean tells him not to worry about it; he guesses two out of three is as good as it’ll get.

He leaves his stuff in a table, takes his coffee and continues his essays on Camus. When he is done with the first draft after two cups of coffee and some four hours later. He takes the book with Eliot’s poems and reads.

When he puts Auden down an hour later, he comes to the conclusion that he prefers him to Eliot, who he finds a bit dry. Not that Dean is an expert, in fact this is the only time he has read poetry outside the few times he had to for school. He does agree though, that they are both hard to understand and Dean feels like all that he understands are wrong anyways. Doesn't matter, is just for him, he reasons.

That is, until he lifts his eyes and finds Novak a few tables over reading a book. He swallows, his traitorous heart missing a beat. He doesn't mean to stare, there is just something magnetizing about looking at the man as he is absorbed in whatever he is reading his expressions changing subtly – you have to pay attention to notice -, as he reads along, sometimes mouthing words or his tongue darts out to wet at his lips. At one point he scowls on a page and Dean stifles a laugh. When he closes the book around his finger, not to lose the page and reaches for his mug, Dean averts his eyes to his keyboard and wills to whomever is listening not for Novak to notice him. It must fall to deaf ears – not surprise there – because he does feel eyes on him and after a second or two, he does raise his head and looks back at the man.

There is something about their stares, or maybe it is just Novak’s eyes, but they are not unnerving, at least not when you get used to them – not that he is used to them per se – but Dean finds a strange comfort in them. Despite the flattering in his stomach that spreads to his chest in seconds, the current that seems to go through under his skin, Dean finds a certain peace in it. He, in a strange way, seeks them, as much as he wants to avoid them, not that he can achieve that. It’s like his body ignores him when it comes to the other man.

And the problem is Dean doesn't mind. He knows what he wants, he can taste it at the tip of his tongue, he can feel it in the way his heart is beating, but he knows it is a fruitless want. One that only serves as an unattainable temptation. Still his stares don't waver, which is mirrored by the other man, making Dean think that all these would be easier if Novak didn't reciprocate. He doesn't all the time, which makes things worse, all these mixed signals and for what? Nothing is going to happen even if they were clear.

Dean stomps down at the disappointment that fills him at the thought and thinks that this lust between them, will go away like all lusts do. He knows the best way is to just fuck it out of him, and since he can’t do just that with the man in question, he perhaps should find someone else to do just that and get it over with. Maybe he should go out with Benny and find someone.

Something doesn't seat well with him at the thought, he ignores that too.

Finally, they avert their eyes and go back to their respective books and only glance at each other from time to time. And Dean doesn't ignore that giddy feeling going through him at that, no matter how silly it is.

Chapter Text

He doesn't go out with Benny, but alone. He feels weird all week, as if there is something on top of his skin that he cannot wash off. Other times he feels like everything slows down and he is waiting for something to happen, but he doesn't know what. He notes down his feelings on the notebook he has for Billie – yes, he has one of those now, on her insistence – but he is not sure he is going to talk about it with her this week. Some other time.

He almost tells Sam on Sunday night, when they are sitting in the living about to re-watch Iron man 3, but the movie starts and he doesn't say anything. The words have died in his mouth anyways and Sam has to worry about college applications, he doesn't need this.

 

 

On Monday night, he takes a shower, gets dressed and leaves the apartment, after making sure that Sam is ok, and finds himself nursing a second beer at the bar, even slower than the first. He glances around him, it’s pretty slow even for a Tuesday. He takes a sip from his beer and grimaces. It has reached room temperature and tastes like piss. He hears a chuckle on his left and turns his body on the stool to look.

The guy just shrugs at him and Dean shakes his head with a small smile that feels far too fake. Still, he makes an effort he reasons, “What? It’s horrible”

“No, I believe you” the guy says and Dean looks at him better this time. He is tall, probably just a little shorter than Dean, with blonde hair and pale blue eyes, that Dean glances at for a moment before returning his gaze to the beer bottle, because something jabs at his chest painfully. He is handsome though. And interested. For some reason though that makes the pressure in Dean’s chest contract.

“Beers are meant to be drank quite fast you know?” the guy continues, “Straight up”

Dean is the one that huffs a laugh now, honest this time “It’s not a shot”. Plus, certain beers are good in room temp, just not this one.

“It’s not whiskey either” the guy tells him and Dean looks back at him again, retort at the tip of the tongue but he swallows it. “Name’s Andy”

“Dean” he says and the guy, Andy, smiles at him, teeth showing now and he mirrors it, before taking a sip of his beer for lack of anything else and holds back the grimace this time. Maybe he should order another one.

He does and then he orders another two, because Andy finishes his as well. After Dean’s third and Andy’s second they walk out the bar and Andy tells him his apartment is two streets over and after a moments’ hesitation, he follows him.

 

 

It feels good. And by the time they are laying side by side on the bed, with a mattress that’s much to soft for Dean’s liking, he feels satisfied and with a certain clarity in his head that last for all of ten minutes, because Dean closes his eyes and sees deep blue, and hears a deep rumble talking about Camus, making his heart start racing again. He sighs softly and suddenly feels heavier than before. Andy tells him he can stay till morning but Dean refuses. He needs to leave and the other seems to understand. He gets dressed and at Andy’s concerned look, Dean tells him he is fine and not to worry about it.

Once he is on the street walking towards the bar, to Baby, and the cold air hits him, he feels better, lighter, and has this overwhelming sense that if he walks enough in the cold, he will reach freedom. He doesn't. He just gets in Baby, starts the ignition and turns off the music that starts with it and drives to his apartment, with just the engine rumble and his thoughts.

 

 

 

 

 

When he goes to work the next morning, the weird feeling hasn't left him and it shows to the point that Bobby asks him about it. Not that Bobby doesn't care or ask generally, but usually he doesn't go around it using the words “What is it Dean? Is college or something else?”

Dean stares at him dumbly, sandwich halfway to his mouth. “What?” he asks, lowering his hand. They are at Bobby’s office, where he called to talk to him about a client.

Boddy scowls at him, “What’s wrong, ya idjit?”  

“Nothing” Dean tells him and cringes at the way he says it. Fast and defensively. Bobby continues to look at him unimpressed, expectantly.

Dean sighs, placing the sandwich on the plate in front of him. “It’s nothing serious, I-” he looks down at his plate and says hastily, “I’m seeing someone.” Then he looks back at Bobby, alarmed, “No, wait that came out wrong. I meant I’m seeing someone, as in someone professional”

Bobby rises his eyebrows and Dean doesn't know if he wants to roll his eyes or laugh at him. Dean takes a breath and tries again, “I’m seeing a therapist”.

There are a few seconds of silence in which Dean’s nerves raise and Bobby’s calm.

“Ok” Bobby tells him simply in a tone filled with too many meanings that Dean can’t decipher half of, but it makes him feel good, accepted. And he thinks there is an undercurrent of pride under Bobby’s tone but Dean doesn't search too much, he doesn't think he can handle what he will find there.

Still, he can’t help but ask stupid, feeling like a kid, “Yeah?”

“Yeah, what did you think Dean?”

“I don't know, I-” he stops, “I don't know” that you will think different of me, that you will say he finally understood there is something seriously wrong with him

“There is nothing wrong with that Dean” Bobby continues, and then huffs at his stunt expression “I’ve done it too, for three years”

Dean stares at him, “What?”

“After Karen died, well not after after, Jodi pushed” he tells him “But yeah”

Dean nods at him, getting out of his stupor. Then he remembers “Sam doesn't know”

Bobby nods, “Ok. But I don't need to tell you that he needs to at some point” before Dean can open his mouth, “Yes, yes at your own time, idjit. Now eat your sandwich, breaks are half an hour not one”

Dean grins at him and Bobby rolls his eyes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

On Friday, he walks into literature class and immediately finds Novak’s eyes. For a moment he thinks the other man knows what he did on Tuesday and shame curls in his stomach along with panic. Then he realizes how ridiculous he is being and walks towards his seat with far more confidence than he actually feels; they only break eye contact when Dean finally sits down and starts getting his things out of his back, and thinks his heart will either burst or give out, and Novak turns his eyes to his laptop screen, typing something.

“Good morning, everyone” he tells them finally after a minute, opening the power point, “I hope you had a good week. I know you got your essays back yesterday, and I just wanted to say one thing, it doesn't apply to all of you, but is the general theme. You need to use citations and references in the correct way, I know it is annoying, but it is a shame to lose points just for that. There is a pdf for how to write those on the course home page, make use of it. If you have any other question concerning the essay, you can ask me at the end or better during office hours; I do apologize for last week, something happened and I had to leave.”

Dean sighs, grimacing, yeah that essay didn't go well. He did better than the others he’d written, but not as good as he had thought and not as good as he had wanted, and he doesn't understand why; the notes on it were helpful only partially. The thought of going to see Novak about it, makes something in him come alive half in excitement, half in nerves, but he doesn't want to go see him. He doesn't think he can handle being in the same room as him alone without doing, or saying something stupid. He needs to though, if he wants to pass the exam in January; he curses himself for that, and Novak with his long, complicated papers he puts up, that took Dean twice the amount of time than usual to understand. He prefers Milton on that regard, her papers were easier to read, far fewer unknown words.  

Novak takes a breath, “Now, for The Sound and The Fury, it is a story that is difficult to analyse and grasp, is why I told you not to read it before today’s class, I do expect you to read it until next Friday though.” There are some groans and sighs, that Novak raise his brows at them unimpressed, saying “It’s not even three hundred pages.” Then he continues “At first glance it is about three brothers that are obsessed with their sister; however, it goes deeper than that. On a structural level, it has four chapters all told from different points of view and not in chronological order. Faulkner uses different narrative styles, which upon reading the book, I want you to note down for next week.”

He moves to the front of the class and changes the slide, “We will start with the title” he says and his eyes, after moving across the rows, find Dean’s making the younger man swallow thickly. His eyes are sharp, but his tone neutral when he speaks again “It refers to a line from Macbeth, Act V, scene V. Can anyone tell me what Macbeth is about?”

Dean opens his mouth slightly and after a moment of thought, he gives him a subtle nod and Novak raises his chin at him, a bit of surprise in his eyes, but otherwise his expression shows he is pleased, “Yes?”

“It’s about a Scottish who’s told he’ll become the king of Scotland, so he kills the king with his wife’s encouragement, becomes king and then goes mad from paranoia and guilt, killing even more people” Dean tells him in a rush and is suddenly glad for helping Sam with it last year for his project in  English. Which really all Dean did was listen to Sam complain and present the power point to him approximately a hundred times.

Novak nods at him, “That verse is said by Macbeth after learning his wife committed suicide,” He finally breaks eye contact with Dean, and the younger man released a breath. Novak points to the slide, that shows that verse and then changes it, “Faulkner entertains the idea that life is nothing but a shadow, which is a word repeated in the second part of the novel, the one told by Quentin’s point of view. I talked about the sections of the novel in the last lecture, so slides for that are there for those of you, who weren’t here or simply weren’t paying attention. The author views the modern man as someone who is imperfectly formed and cannot deal with the problems of the modern life. Basically, a shadow of what he really is.”

Novak draws on and Dean half listens, half loses himself to the sound of his voice, drawing shapes at the margins of his book, he wasn't able to find a second hand copy, so he had to buy a new one, which means Sam’s new jacket will have to wait a bit. He almost didn't buy it, but then realized that Sam would be pissed at him if he bought the jacket for him and not the book for the class, besides as he told Dean two weeks ago, the one he has now, he can make it last for one more month. Problem is Dean doesn't want him to have to, especially with autumns-winters like the ones in Chicago. He sighs deeply and notes down what Novak is saying about Benjy.

 

 

 

When the lecture ends, he picks up his stuff, and leaves the room hastily without looking up and heads to the library; he needs to return the book he borrowed for statistics, and what was supposed to be a one hour study session turns into three of studying microeconomics, before he mans up enough to admit that he needs to confront the thing that is nudging the back of his mind.

 

 

He crosses the street, which separates the library from the literature building and gets inside heading to the elevator. He has to wait for about half a second for it to reach the ground floor, something that makes him want to turn around and leave, but he stays put. He gets in, along with the other two people waiting with him and presses the button for the eleventh floor and waits.

He gets off along with another girl that walks towards the other direction and Dean finds himself feeling relived for whatever reason. He reaches Novak’s office and sees Hannah looking intently at her computer screen while typing, who stops and looks up as she hears him approach, recognition flashing across her face. She smiles at him and he stops in front of her desk, body half turned towards the closed door, but still looking at her.

“There is someone else in, you’ll have to wait” she says and nods towards one of the two chairs in front of her desk.

Dean swallows and it takes him almost an entire minute before he sits down awkwardly and wanting the earth to open and swallow him. He leaves the bag in front of his feet, but fists the strap in his hands tightly. Hannah doesn't comment just goes back to typing, the sound of the keyboard making Dean’s nerves raise and he tries to ignore it as much as he can. After a minute or two, realizing tapping his foot nervously is not the best way to pass the time, and that he is probably annoying Hannah, he gets his phone out and starts a crossword game.

He is almost finished when the door opens and a guy walks out, his cheeks are slightly flashed and he seems disheveled and something akin to anger ignites in Dean. Before he has time to muse on that reaction the guy smiles at him and Hannah crookedly, and she bids him goodbye, then presses a button on her office phone and after several seconds a light flashes from it.

“You can go” she tells him “Thank you for waiting”

Dean gets up far more hastily than he would like and knocks on the door, opening it without waiting for a reply and closing it with a thump that makes him visibly cringe.

Novak is seating on his desk typing on his laptop while scowling at it and doesn't look up, even when Dean shuffles closer to the desk. He only looks up when Dean drops in the seat in front of his desk.

The man straightens up abruptly and stares at Dean, surprise taking over his features, before his expression shifts but Dean doesn't know into what, because he reaches into his bag and takes his laptop out and turns it on. When he looks back at Novak the mans’ expression is expectant.

“It’s about the essay” he tells him, staring back at him and feeling his hands shake slightly.

“Hello, Dean”

Dean blinks dumpily because what? Since when does Novak know his name and why the hell is he saying it like that?

“Hello” he stammers back, stupidly, exactly how he feels. How he is.

Novak stares at him mutely for a moment longer before asking “What about your essay?”

“I understand the whole you need to find more references to back up your claims, but what else do I need to do” he says and Novak waves his hand at Dean’s laptop and the younger man turns it to face the other man who places it closer to him.

His eyes skim through the word document and he scrolls down. He is frowning making Dean sink in his seat, there it comes, he thinks, he is realizing how much of an idiot you are. It hurts something in him, something he didn't realize it could hurt, because he knows how much he is lacking, but having it come from Novak is something else entirely.

Novak makes a noise and Dean raises his eyes to look at him. He is still focused on the essay and Dean wants him to get it over with already.

“Alright” he says after half a minute, raising his eyes to look at Dean, “The issue is that you need to…” he stops, looks back at the screen oblivious to Dean’s panic. After a beat he looks back at him and tells him “I want you to elaborate more; don't be afraid of your thoughts. You are abrupt, you stop your flow. Let your thoughts carry. You can write whatever comes to you, no matter what you think of it and then after a day or two go back to it and revise. Your thoughts are on the right place, you just need to develop, and stop being so stressed about them”

When Dean continues to look at him Novak adds “I don't know what else to tell you.” Dean frowns at him, and Novak looks troubled “Your points are good, and what you are trying to say is insightful, but you need to work on they way you write it.”

“So,” Dean starts, “how do I stop being… abrupt?”

“You write more” Novak says simply and Dean continues to frown at him, “Your main issue as I told you, is that you are so worried about what to say that you come off brusque, so you need to get acquainted, familiar with your thoughts. That way they won’t… scare you, and your writing will be natural and not stale. To the reader you appear detached from what you are trying to convey”

Right. He needs a moment to digest that, so he looks down at his hands. His thoughts are in the right place? Insightful? Dean isn’t fucking insightful.

“And maybe don't bring yourself down”

Dean raises his head at that surprised and… angry. There is no other name for the emotion taking over in his head. It must show because Novak expression changes to worried and he takes a breath.

“It’s not- I’m-” he sighs, closing his eyes, annoyed at himself, Dean realizes. It’s the first time he’s seen the man lose his words. “You have bright thoughts Dean, you don't need to be scared of them or keep them hidden, once you are past that, you’ll do great”

Dean scowls at him and rolls his eyes, when he looks back at Novak, annoyed at all this – something at the back of his mind tells him he is being unreasonable but he ignores it – and tells him, challenging and with half a mind thinking that he is crossing a line “Really? And how would you know? Maybe that's all there is” he gestures towards the laptop, still in front of Novak, who presses his lips together displeasure in his face, but his eyes are sharp and determined when Dean looks into them.

“I’ve read thousands of essays, I think I’d know” his tone doesn't leave room for arguing and Dean finds himself deflating and wanting to explain himself. He half wants to say you are right about the self esteem thing and half wants to say I’m an asshole not insightful, see?

“You can practice. Just find a topic you enjoy and write about it. See how it goes” Novak continues.

“Practice makes perfect” he tells him sardonically.

“Yes, you don't need to deride it” he admonishes.

“Ok” Dean says dragging the word a bit and Novak sighs in response.

“I don't- What do you want me to say?” he asks Dean, maybe a little exasperated and yes Dean has that effect on people.

 “Nothing” he says defensively and when Novak continues to look at him expectantly and annoyed, he asks “What do I write about?”

“Anything”

Dean rolls his eyes again and he knows he ought to act more respectfully, but he can’t bring himself to it. There is a part of him that wants to see how long it takes until the always composed man crumbles.

Novak passes him his laptop and pushes his chair back, getting up. He moves around the desk and stops in front of the big bookcase, muttering something under his breath. Dean watches him search for whatever it is he is looking from, while putting his laptop away. He is firmer than he expected, under the layers of the trench coat and the suit jacket; Dean knows he is staring but he can’t help himself, there is something enticing about the way his muscles in his back flex as he moves across the room under the white shirt. And yes, Dean is that pathetic.

“What?” Dean asks, as the silence stretches on.

Novak turn his head to look at him over his shoulder, saying “Shut up” and then he fucking rolls his eyes. They have definitely crossed a line or several.

Dean stands up and moves closer to him, for lack of something else to do. And watches as Novak makes a sound and takes a book from one of the higher shelves. Dean takes the two more steps he needs to stand closer to him, perhaps too close. Novak turns around and if he is startled by the proximity it doesn't show. Instead he focuses on Dean’s eyes and after he clears his throat he says, “You can read that.”

Dean’s gaze falls to the book Novak is holding and reads On writing well.

“It is a good guide. Although, I still stand that you should write more.” He tells Dean, whose eyes move to the man’s mouth “Maybe expand your vocabulary while you are at it”

Dean raises his brows in surprise and takes in all of the man’s face. He is amused and teasing and so fucking hot, Dean can feel his stomach tighten. He doesn't ignore the comment on his vocabulary though.

“Am I not eloquent enough for you?” he asks sarcastically, crossing his arms.

“There is always room for improvement” he rumbles. “You can borrow it. The book”

Another thing that’s going to be added in his long list of things he needs to do, still if it helps him. “Alright” he breaths, still staring at blue.

Novak pushes the book towards him and Dean takes half a step closer and now it digs a bit in his stomach, but he pays it no mind. He raises his hand and grips it, half of his palm on top of Novak’s, who takes an abrupt breath, almost inaudible. After a few seconds he removes his hand and Dean is the only one holding the book. He lets his hand fall to his side and as if it is his response, Novak takes an almost step towards Dean and now they are too close. Close enough that Dean can smells his cologne, something smoky and woody, heady. It intoxicates him and he gravitates towards him before he can stop himself. Then they are standing there just taking each other in.

He doesn't know who moves first, perhaps it’s him, he does stupid things like that, but then he feels warm and lips touching his and on instinct he kisses back. It’s hesitant and exploring, as if they are mapping each other out first, before it turns into something more needy, more instinctually. Dean pushes forward and opens his mouth when he feels Novak’s tongue on his lower lip, and shudder runs down his spine. There is a heat that moves from his chest to his lower stomach and he relishes in it.

Then as sudden as it started it, it stops. Dean feels dazed and confused and unsatisfied; Novak looks as disheveled as Dean feels. He takes a step back and opens his mouth, but before he can say anything there is knock on the door and he turns to look at it, as if he hasn't seen a door before. He closes his eyes for a moment and calls out “Yes”, his voice is gruff and it does nothing to bring Dean down from his high.

The door opens and Hannah steps in, the door half closed behind her. Dean turns around without raising his eyes to look at her and moves to the desk where his bag is.

“Sorry, but Shurley wants to talk to you.”

“Alright” Novak says and Dean doesn't turn to look at him, he just picks up his bag and slings it over his shoulder, “I’ll call him”

“He is here now” she says apologetically.

Someone pushes the door behind Hannah and a man walks in holding a mug and wearing a smile, that Dean finds a bit unnerving.

“Castiel”

“Chuck” Novak nods and walks to his desk. Dean glances at him and their eyes meet, and he loses a breath and a heartbeat.

“I didn't want to interrupt”

“It’s fine” Novak responds without breaking eye contact with Dean.

“I was just going” Dean says distractedly, getting ready to leave.

“Yes” Novak voices needlessly and nods at Dean who gives him a nod in return. It should be awkward, perhaps it is for everyone else in the room, but Dean just feels thrilled and nervous.

He turns and sees Hannah studying him, but he ignores her, as for the other guy, whatever his name is, he has moved further into the room and is taking a seat in one of the chairs, completely oblivious. When he is at the door Novak calls out at him, making him freeze. He turns around slowly almost steeling himself.

“You’ll need this” he tells him and holds out his hand, holding a paper. There is something in his eyes that passes quickly, before his expression is neutral again, but Dean doesn't think much of it, not that he can think much with the fog in his mind. He walks towards him and takes the paper, marveling at the fact that his hand doesn't shake, he folds it, utters a “thank you”, and leaves.

When he is out of the office, and Hannah has closed the door behind them, he exhales, closing his eyes momentarily.

“All good?” she asks him, concerned.

Dean turns his head to look at her, as she takes her seat behind her desk and lies “Yes”. He gives her a small smile and leaves, still holding the paper in his hands.

 

He takes the elevator and walks to the parking lot, ignoring the chilly afternoon air and gets into Baby. Once he is seated behind the wheel and has taken a few deep breaths, he opens the paper. The header is Nature in Auden’s Poetry, he frowns at it. What on earth?

Then at a gap between the first and the second paragraph he sees it, in a quick handwriting that is still neat and cursive, it reads 144 Romsey Rd.

He swallows, tossing the paper in the passenger seat and rests his head in the steering wheel.

 

 

 

 

 

He exits Billie’s office building and immediately buttons his jacket. Fuck it’s cold. He hastily walks to Baby and once he is inside, he releases a breath and turns the ignition on along with the heat. He is tired and there is a headache forming, that he is fruitlessly trying to fight. He seats there for a couple of seconds before unbuttoning his jacket. He really needs to start wearing gloves.

He reaches and turns the radio on, turning the volume down so it is a low murmur in the background, and his eyes fall to that damn paper that hasn't left his mind since this afternoon.

What the hell is he supposed to do with it? What did Novak think? That he would what? Go see him? And do what? Well he knows what he wants to do, he knows what Novak means he wants to do, or at least he hopes is the same thing, but isn’t it some sort of law breaking? Dean could get expelled. Novak could lose his job. That makes him stop. That guy is willing to risk his fucking career so they-

“Ugh” he groans. This is a bad idea and Novak is an asshole for planting it in his head in the first place. Ok, that’s lie. He is an asshole for making the idea seem so possible, for putting Dean in this position where he needs to make a choice like that.

It doesn't matter, he tells himself and starts driving towards the apartment; he is just one street away when he stops abruptly and takes a left. Before he knows it, he is driving down Romsey road. He stops in front of a white, half hidden by a large sycamore tree - one of the many in the street-, three story townhouse, similar to all the others in this area, with its’ small stairway leading to a dark door and its’ big windows.

Something moves in Dean’s stomach, and he scolds at himself, what did he expect anyways, an apartment like his? Novak is a sensible guy, he would live in sensible house.

He turns the ignition off and just seats there, staring at the imposing house. He doesn't know how much time passes, but he knows it’s a lot. He receives a message from Sam and he replies he doesn't know when he’ll be back, going out and not to worry about it.

He glances back at the house, and want wins over logic and he gets out of the car, crosses the street, climbs the steps leading to the door and stops right there. He glances to the side where the bell is and after a second, he rings once, and waits.

It’s several seconds before he hears movement behind the dark door, and he almost leaves, but then Novak opens the door and his breath is knocked out of him. Something mirrored in the other man. Since this afternoon, he has lost his tie and now he is left with just his slacks and the white shirt with the first three buttons undone.

“Hi” he whispers, staring at blue eyes and a strange, almost eerie calm overtakes him, along with excitement. It’s a weird feeling and he doesn't know if he likes it or not.

“Hello Dean” it is said quietly, almost matching Dean’s tone, with a certainty that doesn’t match the disbelief in his face.

He takes a step back and then another and Dean can’t help but follow him. It is warm inside and bright, the lights are on and Dean finds himself in a long corridor that leads to a stairway. There are doors, in both sides, but light comes only from the last room on the left. There are frames in the walls, and next to him there is a painting; Seaport with something, he can’t remember the full title. He stares at it, it’s the first one he-   He licks his lips and releases a small sigh, he always liked that one for a reason he can’t explain, even though sea paintings aren’t his favorite.

He turns his eyes back to Novak, who is watching him openly. He doesn't know what to say, what is he supposed to say, what do people say in these situations? So, he says the first think that comes to him, “Want to tell me about nature in Auden’s poetry?”

Novak visibly relaxes, and huffs, rolling his eyes, making Dean grin. “Maybe we should start with someone easier”

“I don't know, I quite liked Autumn Song, professor” Dean shrugs.

“It’s a good one,” he agrees “Nature, in his poetry has a lot of faces. It is never-” Dean takes the couple of steps needed to stand right in front of him, in his personal space, effectively cutting him off. “Ok” he says after a second, and Dean realizes he is as nervous and perhaps as unfamiliar with this as he is. Not that he thinks Novak is the kind of person to proposition his students like that. Dean is certain he isn’t.

Novak takes a breath, taking a step back, away from him, and runs a hand through his hair, “I-” he stops, tongue darting out to wet his upper lip and when he looks back up at Dean, his eyes are desperate, “I don't do this” and then he looks back to the side.

“Yeah you don't seem the kind” Dean says not unkindly, then after a few seconds, because insecurity is eating him “We don't- we don’t have to”. Then Novaks eyes are back at him, looking in that way that makes Dean’s skin erupt in goosebumps, “Auden’s is pretty good anyways” he utters, distracted.

Novak huffs again, and Dean doesn't find it endearing, “You really want to talk about Auden?”

“No” he shakes his head, “Not at all”

Novak releases a small laugh and Dean mirrors him. And now, they are standing in a hallway, grinning at each other like morons. Something swells in Dean’s chest and he has the overwhelming urge to kiss him, so he does just that. The other man, lets a surprised breath between them, but then responds, hesitantly, like Dean in his office. It lasts not more than five seconds, and when Novak pulls back, Dean has to swallow a sound. There is an overwhelming feeling rising in his chest, that threatens to stop his breathing and he tries to suppress it. But he needs to touch and taste and just-

“Alright” Novak says and he sounds breathless, and Dean dares to entertain the idea he is as overtaken by want as him, “we- just let me”

He looks over his shoulder, and moves down the corridor, and after a beat Dean follows him. Novak, walks into the room on the left where the light comes from and Dean steps inside as well, stopping sort after he takes a couple of steps inside.

It’s an office. An earth toned office, that is full with books. There are bookcases, two, one behind the desk, taking the entire wall on Dean’s right and another on the opposite wall. But it doesn't stop there, there are piles of books on the floor and the coach, there is a particularly high pile next to an armchair; there are papers with notes everywhere as well and it’s messy, and but somehow it appears natural, as if this is how it is meant to be, how Novak’s office is meant to be.

“I-” Novak starts and upon meeting Dean’s eyes, he stops yet again, seemingly to collect him thoughts “I need to-, if you-” but Dean stops him again when moves to stand in front of him, “Dean”.

“What?” he breaths, before he says something stupid, like say me name again.

“There is something I need to do before-” Dean moves even closer, and Novak stops again.

“I think it can wait, professor”

“Incorrigible” Novak mutters, and Dean can’t help but chuckle.

“Well, you invited me-” he doesn't finish, his words getting swollen by Novak, who takes Dean’s face in his hand and it’s big and warm and when his tongue finds its way into Dean’s mouth and their tongues touch, it’s familiar in a way it isn’t ought to be and exciting and so good, that Dean forgets what he was about to say. When they pull apart and Novak rests his forehead on Dean’s he repeats himself, “Incorrigible”

“You seem to like it” Dean tells him, causing him to roll his eyes. He pulls back and Dean immediately misses the warmth. He watches as he turns his head towards the desk behind him, and adds, “I can go if you want”

Novak turns his eyes to him, and looks at him as if Dean just said the most ridiculous thing in the world, or perhaps that he can’t believe that he is real. “It can wait” he tells him, mirth in his eyes.

“You sure? Because it’s not a pro-”

“Dean, shut up” he smiles at him, soft and teasing. It’s a good look on him, Dean concludes.

“Well now, that’s not very n-”

He kisses him again and Dean releases a sound in surprise, he pulls back slightly to try and get a word in, but Novak pushes forward and kisses him again. Dean reaches a hand behind Novak’s head and all he can think is, the guy’s hair are really soft; then Novak pulls back, and Dean is about to protest, but then the other man’s lips find his neck and he shudders, closing his eyes. And when his lips reach that spot, just below his left ear and he moans, Novak squeezes his side, and brings him closer to him, so they are flash against each other.

Dean makes a noise, and Novak turns his head to look at him in the eyes, causing him to inhale sharply. God, Novak looks good all disheveled, half-lidded and lips red from kissing. He moves forward and gives him a chaste kiss and then another, until Novak is the one to make a protesting sound and deepens the kiss.

When they break apart, breathing heavily, he says “Castiel”, causing Dean to frown.

“What?”

“Call me, Castiel” Novak, Castiel, says and starts to remove Dean’s jacket. Through the fog in his mind, Dean has half the mind to think, C. J. Novak, C for Castiel. Weird name. He kind of likes it.

Dean offers him a small smile and Castiel takes him face in his hands and kisses him deeply and slowly; it’s different than before, it makes Dean’s stomach flutter in a completely dissimilar way and the warmth in his chest spreads everywhere, making his fingertips tingle. He feels light and grounded at the same time. It awakens a desire in him that almost chokes him, and he grips Castiel’s bicep in his hand, perhaps too tightly, but he needs something to hold onto.

He pulls back slightly and then he rests his forehead in the other man’s shoulder, breathing deeply, breathing him deeply. He feels Castiel’s hand in his back and turns his head to the side and kisses his neck.

“Perhaps we should move” Castiels says, voice impossibly deep, causing the heat on Dean’s lower stomach to intensify.

“Mhm” he agrees, they do need a bed or something. The couch behind him seems fine. But he doesn't move towards it, he just reaches with his hands and undoes one of Castiel’s button causing the other man to inhale sharply. He places his palm on the base of his neck, just above his heart and feels the warm, smooth skin below and kisses him. It starts like the one before, but when Dean feels Castiel’s hand in his lower back, under his shirts, something grumbles in him or maybe it ignites, he doesn't know and he pushes forward and deepens it. Castiel responds with the same fervor and now it feels like they are trying to take things from each other, what he doesn't know, or perhaps as if they are trying to consume each other. It’s overwhelming and intoxicating and Dean needs to feel more of it.

He doesn't know when they moved, but suddenly he feels himself laying on the floor, and he spreads his legs so Castiel can fit better on top of him. He feels the weight of him and he releases a moan between them, that Castiel takes in his mouth and releases it in Dean throat. They remove Dean’s flannel and then his shirt, that he places behind him because the floor is cold, and he stares up at Castiel who is looking down at him in lust, as though Dean is all he ever wanted, causing the younger man to swallow. He feels a pressure behind his eyes and he blinks; everything is heightened and Dean is burning through it all and he is not nearly satisfied enough; he wants more, so much more.

He reaches and starts unbuttoning Castiel’s shirt all the way through, and sees as his hands tremble slightly, and he knows it’s not because of nerves. Next, he reaches for his slacks, unbuttoning, but stops when Castiel kisses his cheek, then his forehead then he moves down, giving a chaste kiss on his lips, then his jaw and then his collarbone, until he reaches his lower stomach and Dean is only able to release small trembling breaths. He is gripping the other man’s shoulder and it is as if that’s the only way Dean won’t lose it. Castiel unbuttons his jeans and starts sliding them down his legs, but stops because he is still wearing his shoes, he removes those first along with his shocks and then ends it with his jeans; Dean lays back staring at the cream ceiling and lets himself just feel big hands trailing his body.

Then blue fills his vision and he releases a deep breath. Castiel takes the side of his face in his palm and Dean presses into it; the older man kisses him again and Dean feels himself unfold. He places his hand on Castiel’s shoulder and then moves it down his chest and his stomach and up his back, feeling him shudder softly and an odd satisfaction rises in Dean at the reaction. He is finally able to remove the other man’s slacks and then his boxers causing Castiel to stutter a breath and stop kissing Dean, pulling back. He is thick and long and Dean really wants to taste him, instead he takes him in his hand and pumps him a few times until Castiel reaches and squeezes his wrist and Dean, understanding, removes his hand.

He removes his own boxers and Castiel rests his hand on his thigh right next to his cock and Dean can feel it throb and that’s unfair. He doesn't touch him, he just stares down at him; they stare at each other and before it gets to the point Dean can’t take it, because he feels naked and exposed in way that has nothing to do with having lost his clothes, and waiting in a way that is almost maddening with all that lust, Castiel gives him a kiss, soothing and comforting, in a you are not alone way.

“Lube” he says against his lips and pulls back, raising to his knees.

“What?” Dean says confused and a little panicking, hearing the word, but taking him seconds to process it.

“I’ll be right back” Castiel tells him and he gets up and out of the room before, Dean can get a word in.

He sighs and lays his head back down, closing his eyes. He reopens them after half a minute when he hears Castiel’s steps. He watches as he stands there looking down at Dean, with an unreadable expression, but he can see a hunger in his eyes.

“What?” Dean repeats, a little snappy, because he can’t take this, it is beyond his strength.

“Nothing” Castiel tells him, joining him. He trails a finger down his face, pressing a thumb in his lips and Dean parts them softly, causing the man to close his eyes for a moment. When he opens them, he looks down at Dean sharply and then kisses him, causing him to lose his breath and he grips the older man’s hair in his hand, and Castiel groans in response.

He presses down at him and their cocks rub against each other, it’s dry but still causes sparks everywhere in Dean and he moans. He needs-

Castiel reaches for the lube and opens it, covering a finger and Dean opens his legs further, raising one knee and he finally touches him. It’s hesitant exploring, almost shy, so Dean presses down, taking it all, as an encouragement or maybe because he is just getting restless. Still, Castiel moves it slowly and for far to long, to the point where Dean knows he is doing it on purpose and he huffs, quip in the tip of his tongue but just then he pushes a second finger in and it dies in his mouth.

When he is on the third finger and moving slowly, while kissing Dean all over, when the younger man finally snaps, huffing. And Castiel, the asshole chuckles, against his collarbone and Dean huffs again, more dramatic now.

“Be patient” he tells him, smirking down at him.

“Fuck you” Dean pants and Castiel just shoots him an unimpressed look, removing his hand. He reaches, somewhere on Dean’s left side and takes something in his hand, and then he hears the familiar tear of a condom wrap and he thinks, fucking finally.

Just before he is about to push in, Castiel raises his eyes and looks into Dean’s, with a question as though there is a chance Dean will refuse him, them. He nods and Castiel finally pushes in and Dean closes his eyes in bliss. It’s a wonderfully stretch and his whole body is on fire from the pleasure and he hears himself moan, when Castiel begins to move in a moderate pace. He feels lips against his, kissing him softly and he tries to respond, but he too far lost and Castiel stops, raising his face, just enough and whispers, “Open your eyes” and Dean responds, drowning in blue.

Something shifts in the other man’s eyes and he starts moving fast, and it feels like he wants to reduce Dean into the basis of his desires, just so he can take him all. And Dean just gives into it, because he wants to take too, have this man in the most instinctual, basic way.

He grips the other man’s arm and it’s the only way he can hold himself together and remember to breath, as he continues to feel Castiel pound into him. When his thumb grazes over his right nipple, he squeezes down in pleasure and Castiel does it again and again and Dean just moans, loudly this time, feeling a little self-conscious about it, but forgetting it once Castiel moves, taking him in his hand. He runs a finger across the slit, and Dean realizes he isn’t going to last long and knows it’s the same for the other man too.

It’s true after a few more thrusts, he is driven into ecstasy, his lips part and his eyes close, through it all he hears Castiel release a groan and he knows the other man is coming too.

Dean feels him resting his head against his shoulder and when he opens his eyes again all he sees is dark hair and he runs a hand across them, feeling a sigh against his skin. He leaves his hand there, as they lay on the floor, breathing and feeling each other’s heartbeats.