The first two times his cousin’s ringtone had gone off, Castiel ignored it. After all, it was rare for him to have his dorm room to himself, and he had been looking forward to using the peace and quiet to finally get some writing done. But then, less than a minute later, “The Candy Man can ‘cause he mixes it with love and makes the world taste good…” filled the room, causing him to punch the “accept” button so hard, he felt it in his elbow.
“What do you want, Gabriel?” Castiel growled.
His cousin clucked his tongue, “Is that any way to talk to your family?”
“Yes,” he responded vehemently—even if Gabriel was, by far, his favorite relative.
“Touché. Is that any way to talk to the person who just discovered the love of your life?”
Castiel looked back at his laptop screen—at the judgmental blinking of the cursor only one sentence into his fifth chapter. “I don’t have time for this.”
Gabriel’s sigh was long-suffering. “Look, this isn’t a joke, Cassie,” he said, dropping his voice. “I’m pretty sure I found your soulmate.”
Castiel’s stomach flipped like an undercooked pancake.
“I sent you a link,” Gabriel told him, still sounding far too serious.
Castiel switched his phone to his other hand since his right had suddenly become sweaty, but he made no move to check his email.
“How would you even know what my soulmark looks like?” he demanded, already suspecting it was a feeble argument at best. The only person he was sure had seen the tattoo over his heart was his mother—who spent the first two weeks after his sixteenth birthday demanding to know what it was before eventually barging in on him while he was in the shower, explaining it was her “parental right.” But this was Gabriel. Of course, he would have found out somehow.
“So, you really did blackout that night, huh?” Gabriel laughed, causing Castiel to grimace. One time…. He’d tried alcohol one time. And while it turned out he had a high tolerance, everything after Gabe brought out the second bottle of vodka had gone blurry.
Biting his lip, he opened the correct tab in his computer, but couldn’t make himself go any further. A soulmate….
It wasn’t that he didn’t want one, per se. He just didn’t think they were everything people said they were. The divorce rate among marked couples was only 12%, yes, but if those pairings were cosmically meant to be, shouldn’t it be zero? Shouldn’t things like abuse be impossible if you really, truly loved the other person?
And then there were Castiel’s…personal issues.
As socially isolated as he had been most of his life, he still knew it was strange to have never experienced physical attraction before. He might find curves on a woman—or the play of muscle on a man—gratifying to look at—but in the same way that he thought a painting or a sunset beautiful. A rough hand to his morning erection was occasionally necessary—the resulting orgasm pleasant and relaxing, but not the all-consuming rush of sensations that society proclaimed it to be.
And while that didn’t bother him so much on a personal level—just like he didn’t care if he forgot to take a shower or brush his hair so long as he was home alone—it was hard not to feel self-conscious once someone else was involved.
Dimly, he heard Gabriel start humming the song from Jeopardy.
“Assbutt,” he grumbled. Knowing he couldn’t put off the inevitable forever, Castiel closed his eyes and clicked on the only unread email.
When he opened them again, his first thought was that Gabriel was pulling a prank after all.
He may not know many celebrities—but you would be hard-pressed to find anyone who didn’t recognize Dean Winchester. Castiel had never seen any of his movies, but he had seen trailers—had spotted the actor’s face on magazines when he went to check out groceries. Beyond that, the man was handsome in a way that demanded he had to be something—if not an actor than a singer or a model.
The photo at the top of the article looked like it had been taken in the midst of a family vacation to the beach—and it was clear by Dean’s completely un-staged smile that the man didn’t know it was being taken. Castiel immediately felt bad for spying on such a private moment—however unintentionally—when his gaze finally drifted to the star’s bare chest.
Though the camera wasn’t at a perfect angle to see Dean’s soulmark, it did look remarkably like…
“I’ll call you back,” Castiel shouted to Gabriel as he unbuttoned his shirt.
Holding his phone out as far as he could, he tried to take a picture of his own chest. However, he’d never used the camera setting before and winded up with one of his door instead. Switching it to “selfie” mode helped immensely. He zoomed in on the photo to get a closer look.
During the occasional moments he’d thought about it, Castiel had to admit he liked his phoenix tattoo. While it was mostly black, its wings were tipped blue, green, and purple—the colors of an oil slick—its tail surrounded by licking green flames. However, he’d never taken the time to really study the details of it before—like the way the sharp lines of its open beak contrasted the ribbon-like fluidity of the feathers, giving it the impression of motion.
And yet, in spite of the illusion that the bird changed position from one moment to the next, when comparing his picture to the one on his computer screen, the two images mirrored each other exactly.
Castiel pressed #2 on his speed dial.
“Dean Winchester’s my soulmate,” he informed Gabriel. “Most likely,” he added, willing to concede that there might be some small difference that was not readily apparent in the paparazzi photo.
“That’s what I’ve been trying to tell you.” Castiel could practically hear Gabe’s eye-roll. “Gotta say, Cassie, you suddenly became a hell of a lot more interesting.”
“This article also says that he doesn’t want one,” Castiel pointed out, ignoring his cousin’s last sentence as he continued to skim the text below the image.
“The actor recently began dating Red Hood co-star Lisa Braeden,” it read. “When asked how the public reveal of his soulmark would affect that relationship, Winchester replied, ‘Fate, destiny—it’s all a bunch of bull-crap. I want to be with someone who I choose to be with—who chooses to be with me. It’s that simple.’”
“So what?” Gabriel interrupted Castiel’s train of thought. “That’s what he thinks now. He hasn’t met you yet.”
“And he won’t,” Castiel decided suddenly, heart rate coming down, as he came to the end of the write-up. “He’s never even going to find out I exist.”
Gabe’s protest sounded vaguely like a chicken trying to drink a smoothie. “There is no way that I’m letting you miss your shot with Ken Doll. I don’t care if I have to drug you, kidnap you, and deliver you in a suitcase to his hotel room,” he announced, with the certainty of someone who had already thought about the matter in detail.
“No, you’re not going to meddle.”
“Have you met me?”
Castiel frowned at the phone. “You’re always telling me that I should be the one deciding what I want for my life and that anyone who thinks they know better should go screw themselves.”
“Like I haven’t screwed myself before.”
“Why don’t you want to meet him?”
Castiel’s shoulders relaxed. Getting Gabe to listen was usually more than half the battle. “You know I’m ambivalent about soulmates to begin with and, clearly, Dean is too. Besides that, I wouldn’t even begin to know how to get in touch with him—especially in a way that didn’t involve the press—and not only does bringing the paparazzi down on my head sound unpleasant, from what I can tell from this article, Dean has never come out as bi.”
The write-up had included an overview of both celebrities’ dating history. Lisa was a few years older than Dean. At 20, she had married professional motocross racer, Benjamin Braeden, only for him to tragically die during a race, leaving behind their six-month-old son, also named Ben, who was now approaching four. Dean’s most significant relationship was with a TV reporter named Cassie Robinson—though the article also mentioned rumored flings with family friend Jo Harvelle and actress Bela Talbot.
For all Castiel knew, maybe Dean really was straight. After all, there was such a thing as platonic soulmates, and considering his own lack of sex drive, it made sense.
It also seemed clear to the college student that whatever they might have had in common in another life, it was not this life—where Dean regularly went out to A-list parties and drove around in his collection of classic cars while Castiel spent weekends in his room, interacting with friends he mostly met only over the internet and lying to his mother about how excited he was to become a doctor someday. “It’s better this way. I’m not attached to Dean, so it’s not like his absence from my life will change anything.”
“It shouldn’t be about maintaining the status quo, Cassie. Your life sucks. You should be aiming for better.”
Castiel knew most people would be offended by that—especially since he had made a lot of progress from where he was only last year—but spending time around his cousin required building up a tolerance for insults. “Promise me you’re not going to interfere.”
A minute ticked by. “Gabriel….”
“Fine. But I reserve the right to nag you to change your mind from now through eternity. Think about all of the movie premieres you could have gotten me invites to! And the autographs! Do you know how much this guy’s signed anything sells for on eBay?”
“No,” Castiel replied.
“Way more than that piece of toast that looked like it had Jesus’s face on it, that’s for sure.”
And while Castiel couldn’t even begin to comprehend what that was referring to, he was more than happy to let Gabriel ramble for the rest of the call. A soulmate…