Castiel is high up in a ladder, rearranging some of the older books his store carries, when the bell above the front door chimes, signaling someone’s entrance.
“I’ll be with you in just a minute!” he calls, sliding the last of the books onto the shelf before shuffling down the to the floor. He readjusts his sweater vest, tugging at the hem before running his fingers through his meticulously combed hair as he walks to the front of the shop. “What can I do for you?” Castiel asks the back of a man who’s browsing his shelves.
The man spins around, and Castiel is struck by the hue of his eyes—a green so vibrant he could get lost in them. The man smiles, and Castiel thinks it might just be the best smile he’s ever seen. He shakes himself, forcing his face into a passive mask.
“How’s it going?” The man steps up to the counter, tapping his fingers on the polished wood as he glances around at the tall shelves that line the walls. “I’m looking for a book for my brother’s book club,” he says, rolling his eyes a little as he says the words—like a book club is the stupidest thing he’s ever heard of—and Castiel’s back goes up. “It’s called, Pride and…Pride, something.”
“Pride and Prejudice,” Castiel says, narrowing his eyes a bit as the other man shrugs. The book is a classic, and the fact that this guy doesn’t know it, tells Castiel he definitely should not be in a book club. Castiel wonders if it’s his bookclub the man is going to—the one he runs at the local library every Friday night—but he doesn’t think he’s ever seen him there, so probably not. He would have remembered this one.
“That’s it!” The man grins wide, showing off straight white teeth and crows feet at the corners of his eyes. Castiel would be lying if he said this man wasn’t attractive. “So, do you have it?”
Castiel turns away, pulling out the box that used to be filled with copies and finding it empty save for one book. He stares at it longingly, having been hoping to keep this one for himself, but he reasons that a paying customer is a paying customer, and besides, this man needs all the culture he can get.
Castiel sighs as he pulls it out and hands it over, already a feeling a sliver of sadness at seeing it go, but even after the man pays, and there’s nothing else keeping him here, he doesn’t leave.
“I’m Dean, by the way,” he says, holding out his hand for Castiel to take—which he does, though hesitantly.
Dean’s grin widens as he lets go of Castiel’s hand. “Castiel,” he says, trying the name out in his mouth, it would seem, and Castiel has to admit that it sounds nice. “I’m new to town, so maybe I’ll see you around.” He flashes one more smile and Castiel’s heart skips a few beats.
“Yeah, maybe,” he whispers, but Dean’s already gone, and Castiel tries not to feel the disappointment sinking his stomach—he knows he’ll probably never see Dean again.
Castiel clutches the second hand, worn-out copy of Pride and Prejudice he had to pick up at a used-books store after he sold his last copy to Dean, as he walks through the front doors of the library. There’s a small crowd gathered by the couches they use, and he even recognizes a few of them, so he wanders over to say hello.
People mill about, grabbing a coffee and store-bought cookies from the little table set up in the corner as they wait for seven o’clock to come closer. Castiel really isn’t paying too much attention to the others, choosing to sit in the corner of the squishy love seat, lost in his thoughts, as everyone slowly takes their seats and quiets down so they can get started.
He looks up from his book and around the circle, meeting every pair of eyes staring back into his, and that’s when he sees Dean.
Castiel’s heart stutters, then leaps, as his gaze snags on Dean, unable to look away as his stomach swoops and his fingers start to twitch. He’s every bit as beautiful as Castiel remembers, and he’s sitting right there. Words catch in Castiel’s throat, and he has to swallow a few times before he can get the words out.
He looks away from Dean as he speaks, introducing the book before starting the discussion. It’s very rare for Castiel to stay quiet, but today, he hardly says a word as conversation carries on around him. He can’t seem to tear his eyes away from that beautiful book in Dean’s hands—it’s cover is one he hadn’t ever seen before, and he’s not likely to ever see again.
It suits Dean, he decides. A one of a kind book for a one of a kind man—it’s comforting, somehow, to think of it that way.
Castiel misses most of the meeting like this, and before he knows it, they’re wrapping up and moving around the room—chatting in small groups to one another. Castiel stands, deciding he could use some coffee.
He stands in a corner, sipping from a tiny styrofoam cup as he tries to ignore the twisting in his stomach. He so badly wants to talk to Dean, but who is he kidding? Dean’s too good for Castiel and the crowd of giggling ladies vying for his attention is just more proof than Castiel needs. He losers his eyes to the floor as a lonesome kind of sadness hits him.
“Hey, Castiel!” Sam Winchester—one of the big talkers of the group—calls to him, and Castiel glances up, his eyes widening when he sees the two men standing in front of him. “Have you met my brother, Dean? He just moved here a week ago.”
Castiel just stands there, his mouth hanging open, as Dean smiles at him.
“Yeah, I know Cas,” Dean says, his voice smooth like honey. “He sold me this beauty.” Dean holds up his book and Castiel could cry.
Sam looks at the book, before glancing back at Castiel. “Wasn’t that your personal copy?” He stares at Castiel for a moment as a choked sound escapes Castiel’s throat. “I thought you’d told me you were keeping that one?”
Castiel shrugs as his cheeks flame. It’s true, he had told Sam that, but that doesn’t mean he wants Dean to know that. Castiel opens his mouth to say something, but Sam’s pulled into another conversation, leaving him and Dean alone together.
“Hey, man.” Dean nudges his arm, drawing Castiel’s attention back to him. “Take the book. It’s nice and all, but…” He shrugs. “You’ll appreciate it more than I will.”
Castiel’s eyes widen as his fingers twist in the fabric of his knit cardigan. “I couldn’t. No, you paid for it.” He shakes his head, swallowing hard as his eyes stay trained on the book.
“I insist,” Dean says, and before Castiel knows it, Dean’s taking the ratty old paperback from his hand and replacing it with the limited edition copy he’d bought from Castiel. “You can pay me back by buying me a coffee.”
Castiel’s eyes snap up to meet Dean’s, and there’s a glimmer in their depths that Castiel doesn’t quite understand. He tilts his head and narrows his eyes. “Like…as friends?”
Dean chuckles shaking his head as he takes a step closer. “I was hoping like a date?” He raises an eyebrow, his smile turning soft and shy. “Only if you’re interested, though. Otherwise—”
“Okay,” Castiel blurts, his face flushing at Dean’s startled face. He holds his book to his chest but doesn’t break eye contact with Dean.
“Tomorrow, then? Say, three-ish? I can text you a location, or just pick you up?” Dean hands over his phone for Castiel to enter his number, before takes a step back, a smile curving his full lips.
“It’s a date,” Castiel whispers and Dean nods, before turning away. Only then, when Dean’s back is turned and no one is paying him any attention, does Castiel smile. It’s small and soft, and oh so delicate, but it’s there all the same.