Okay. Take a deep breath. You can do this.
It was two days after the 'Burger Catastrophe', as Dean called it in his head. Like Benny said, he had never lost control of himself like that in front of anyone. He couldn't let that happen again. It wasn't only a question of pride : if his head couldn't focus on the goal, he couldn't win this thing and he would lose Baby too.
He pulled his shoulders back, checked his breath and walked into the Cheesecake Factory, just to be welcomed, as usual, by Tessa. A huge smile came to her face when she spotted him.
“Dean, what a surprise! I only expected you for supper today. Don't you start at 1PM on Thursdays?”
“I do, I do. I just wanted to see someone before I start my shift in Hell” Dean answered.
“That’s so sweet of you to come see me” Tessa replied, stars in her eyes.
“It’s always a pleasure to see you, but I’m here for someone else.”
“Oh” Tessa said, slightly disappointed. “Who is it?”
“That’s the thing. I don’t know his name.”
“Well, I know pretty much everyone around here… What does he look like?”
“Blue eyes, dark hair, about six feet… He was wearing a blue and red tie two days ago. A girl named Lisa took our orders and the guy just came and gave us our plates and that’s it, he disappeared after that.”
Tessa took a moment to think about the description Dean gave her.
“I think I know who it is” she said slowly. “It must be Cas. He works at the bar. Would you like me to go fetch him for you?”
“No, no, it’s fine, I'll go myself. Thank you, darling.”
Dean made his way through the restaurant to the bar, which was in the far back of The Cheesecake Factory. He sat on a stool, hands sweaty. He's never been that anxious about talking to someone. Luckily for him, it wasn’t noon yet, so he was all alone. And swiftly, as Dean was macerating in his own self pity, there he was : white shirt, same tie, black pants hanging in his hips just the right way. Dean got lost, yet again, into this perfect being.
“Hello, sir” the barman said.
His voice was low and sexy, and Dean felt a familiar pang way down there, but it was the first time he’d ever felt it that strong without anyone touching him. His facial expression must have changed because the man suddenly seemed concerned.
“Sir, are you alright?”
“Yeah, yeah, sorry. I’ll take a whiskey please. Make it double.”
I’ll need it, he thought.
“Here you go” the blue-eyed man said.
The barman started drying some glasses right beside Dean, not caring a second about him.
Okay, this is awkward. Say something. Quick.
“The first time I went to a bar, I ordered the exact same thing. I tried to take a sip and thought it tasted like gasoline. I spat the whole thing everywhere” Dean said, a weak laugh coming out of his mouth.
What the fuck was that? Great job, asshat!
The barman looked at him, smiling a fake smile, the one everyone who works with the public knows, the smile you reserve for weird, annoying customers.
“So, what’s your name?” Dean asked, trying to defuse the tension. He couldn’t remember how Tessa called him.
“My name’s Castiel” the man answered, returning to his glasses.
“That’s a weird name” Dean said, without thinking.
“Yeah. I get that a lot.”
“You’re here often, Castiel?”
Dean regretted his words the moment they got out of his mouth. Castiel stopped his chores to look at him, mockery in his blue eyes.
Now you did it, fucktard. Of course he’s here often, he works here, you stupid, useless piece of shit.
“Okay, stupid question, sorry. I don’t know what’s happening to me, I’m usually not like that. Never mind. Forget it.”
Dean downed his whiskey in one long gulp, put a ten dollar bill under his empty glass and almost ran outside the restaurant, without looking back.
What the actual hell is wrong with me?!
Castiel was on his knees behind the bar, trying to place every empty bottle so they could fit on one shelf so they weren't taking too much space. He didn't really check if anyone was there, since there was rarely anyone before 2PM and it wasn't even noon yet. His legs were sore from being in the same uncomfortable position for too long. He finally ended his bottle Tetris game and took the tub lying beside him to fill it with ice.
Geez, I need to stretch my legs before I do that.
He got up painfully, using the counter to support himself, and he had the wind knocked out of his lungs when he saw someone sitting a few stools away.
Oh my god, it's Him!
Castiel had noticed him the other day, when he helped out Lisa. The poor girl had to help Jody with her two groups and asked him to bring a few plates for her own customers. Castiel did so happily, having nothing else to do. But when he got to the last table, everything in his head just imploded. That guy was all he'd ever wished for.
Okay, deep breath. I got this.
"Hello, Sir" he managed to say, surprised he could even talk.
He walked toward the man, legs weak, not knowing if it was because of his last position or because of those forest green eyes staring at him. Castiel noticed the man was just gawking at him with a vacant expression, like he couldn't get his eyes off him.
It can't be...
"Sir, are you alright?"
The man closed his eyes for a second, and seemed to come back to his senses. Castiel realised he wanted him to open them again because, for the love of God, those eyes were more beautiful than anything he had ever seen.
"Yeah, yeah, sorry. I'll take a whiskey, please. Make it double."
Castiel took the bottle of Bourbon beside him and poured the man a glass, his hands shaking.
"Here you go" he said, trying his hardest not to stare at his customer.
Stop. Staring. At. His. Eyes.
Castiel decided to move his attention to something else and his eyes started travelling south, stopping at the man's lips.
Never mind. I don't got this.
He turned around and took a rag and a glass and started wiping it, even if it clearly didn't need it.
"The first time I went to a bar, I ordered the exact same thing. I tried to take a sip and thought it tasted like gasoline. I spat the whole thing everywhere" the man said, something like a laugh coming out of his throat.
Castiel didn't know what to say, so he just looked at him and smiled.
Why am I so awkward, geez, if I want him to come back, I need to step up my game, and fast.
"So, what's your name?"
"My name's Castiel" he said, snatching his eyes away again.
"That's a weird name."
Here we go again.
"Yeah, I get that a lot."
"You come here often, Castiel?"
Is he fucking kidding me?, Castiel thought, looking at him.
His thoughts must have shown on his face, because the man in front of him immediately continued.
"Okay, stupid question, sorry. I don't know what's happening to me, I'm usually not like that. Never mind. Forget it."
He finally took his glass, drank the whole thing, slid a ten dollar bill on the counter and left the bar, like he was late for something.
Shit. I totally blew it, Castiel thought.
He looked down at the glass he kept polishing before throwing the rag on the counter and placing the glass on the shelf behind him. He let out a groan and walked to the back store. Charlie was concentrating on her bow tie in the mirror, making last adjustments to her uniform before starting her shift. She turned around and looked at Castiel.
"Nothing" he said after a short pause.
"Don't mess with me. I've know you for years and I know that face. You screwed something up."
"It's nothing, Charlie."
Charlie folded her arms over her chest and looked at Castiel with determination. He rolled his eyes and sighed.
"Remember the other day when I helped Lisa?"
"Well, I served a man. And that man was... my type, to keep it simple."
"He was there a few seconds ago, and I tried to talk to him but I couldn't and he was really awkward and I don't think he'll ever come back. See? I told you it was nothing. I don't even know the guy's name."
Castiel let out a small laugh.
"He asked me if I come here often."
"Wow" Charlie guffawed. "That's a new kind of lame."
"I know but..." Castiel hesitated. "It was kind of cute."
"If you say so! I think it's lame but, hey, whatever floats your boat. Why do you think he won't come back?"
"Because he seemed pretty uncomfortable after pulling that one and almost ran away."
Charlie passed beside Castiel, heading out for the beginning of her shift.
"Well, he's the one missing out on one fine piece of ass" she said, poking him in the ribs.
Castiel rolled his eyes again. "Whatever" he said, following her.
They worked all day and ended their shifts at 9PM. They walked together, talking all the way to the locker room until Charlie took her phone from her locker and looked at it with concern.
"Seems like you're spending the night at my place" she said, tossing the phone to Castiel.
It was open on today's weather and it showed a big, dark cloud with lightning and rain coming out of it. Castiel's fingers went numb. He'd always been afraid of thunderstorms. When he was young, lightning hit his house, and half of it burned down, killing one of his sister in the process. Every time he could, when there was a storm, he'd spent the time with someone, mostly Charlie.
"Seems like it" he said, tossing back the phone.
"Do you want to stop at your place to get you clothes?"
"Nah, I still have a few at yours."
"Okay! I was planning on watching Harry Potter tonight. Is that okay with you?"
"Depends which one you wanted to watch" Castiel said.
They both looked at each other, a smile slowly forming on their faces.
"The Prisoner Of Azkaban!" they exclaimed together, laughing.
"Let's just stop for pop corn, I'm out" Charlie continued. "Here, take my keys. You won't have to wait in your car for me to get home."
"If you're not there in less than fifteen minutes after me, I'll start without you."
"And I have the Elder Wand hidden under my bed, so don't you dare! I can cast a spell on you and make you barf slugs."
"You are such a nerd" Castiel laughed.
"And proud of it!" Charlie exclaimed as she slapped Castiel's ass, taking him by surprise. "See you in twenty!"
"So how's the plan going, Lover Boy?" Benny asked as Dean walked into the store.
"Good." Dean lied, hoping his friend wouldn't notice the faint red tint reaching his cheeks.
"That's all you're gonna give me? Good?" Benny said, following Dean to the back store.
It'd been two days since Dean failed miserably to talk to Castiel. He had tried going back the next day, but the barman wasn't working. So here he was, with absolutely no idea what to tell Benny about Castiel, because well, he had learned nothing about the guy. And he certainly wouldn't tell about his attempt.
"Yeah, that is all you're gonna get for now" he said, tensed.
"Did you at least get his name?"
"Of course I did, I'm not that stupid" he said, facing his locker.
"And his phone number?"
Dammit, Dean thought. Of course Benny knew his modus operandi. He always had to get a name and a number. Always. Dean kept his mouth shut.
"You didn't?!" Benny exclaimed, noticing Dean's silence. "Damn, brother, it went that bad? You never, ever, don't get a number when you want one. I should lock up your Baby right now."
"You shut your face!" Dean said, turning to face his friend. "We agreed on six months, you don't touch her until then. Maybe it went bad, but I still have six months to make it work, and I swear to God, I'll make it work."
"Are you going to try again today?"
"If he works, yeah."
"Can I come? I wanna see you melt into a puddle of shame."
Benny laughed as he walked back to the front of the store.
"That's too bad" he said. "I'll just have to spy on you, then."
Benny just had enough time to close the door behind him before Dean's shoe hit hard, just where his head was seconds before. Dean heard him laugh again on the other side and couldn't help but smile as he picked up the shoe he threw.
Dean's shift ended at 6PM, but he wished it ended as soon as it started at eleven in the morning. Today was a day where he only had assholes who wouldn't let him finish his sentences and kept screaming at his head because obviously, it's totally his fault if their warranty is over. At least three customers asked to see the manager, and since Zachariah was never working with Dean, It was Benny's job to deal with them.
"Sometimes I hate being an assistant manager" Benny said, after another customer left, angrier than before. "I hate people."
"I know how you feel, man. That's why I like working at Bobby's. Cars, I get. People are crazy" Dean said, opening the door to the back store, Benny on his heels.
They both changed in silence. Dean was hoping with all the fibers in his body that Benny had forgotten about where he was heading in less than five minutes, or at least, that his friend had the decency to not talk about it, unless it was to wish him luck.
"So, are you sure you don't want me to come with you? I could maybe prevent another humongous humiliation."
Dean rolled his eyes. "You are determined to make my life a living hell, aren't you?"
Benny guffawed. "On the contrary, my friend. I want to get you out of it."
"Well, thanks for your consideration, but I can get out myself. I told you. I got this."
Benny finished putting his shoes on with a little smirk on his lips. He got up and reached for the door before turning around to face Dean.
"Good luck, Lover Boy. Just... don't hurt your gorgeous little head trying to figure this out. I know it can be hard for you to think with something else than your dick."
"Get out of here, you asshat" Dean laughed. "You're ruining my mood."
"See you tomorrow" Benny replied, walking away.
Dean finished dressing up and packed his things. He slid his keys and wallet in his jean's pockets and dropped his phone in his backpack, on top of his uniform. He walked out of the store and slowly made his way to the restaurant, gathering his courage. Tessa wasn't working tonight so he just passed in front of the hostess with a weak smile directed at her.
As he approached the bar, his heart started beating faster, and he felt a shortness of breath. He stopped in the middle of the restaurant and took a minute to calm down. He took a few deep breaths, his eyes closed, and he counted to ten in his head before he opened them again and continued on his way. As the other day, the stools were empty, most people ordering drinks at their table instead of sitting at the bar. Dean took the same seat and put his backpack on the floor between him and the counter, as he waited for Castiel to show up. After a few seconds though, a tiny woman in the restaurant's uniform appeared in front of him. Her hair was tied in a ponytail and her bangs were just reaching under her eyebrows, highlighting her eyes. She looked at him with a charming smile.
"Hello, there! What can I do for you?" she asked, taking a glass from under the counter.
"I have a question, actually. Is Castiel working today?"
The redhead put down the glass and looked at him with sharp eyes, and Dean could automatically feel the girl putting her defences up.
"There's no Castiel here" she answered. The smile was still on her face, but Dean could sense it wasn't as sincere as it was a few seconds ago.
"What? No, there's someone here called Castiel, he told me his name himself."
"Well he must've given you a fake name, because there's no one here with -"
"It's okay, Charlie" a low voice said. "I'll take it from here. Thank you."
They both turned around to see Castiel coming out the door behind the bar. Charlie and him looked at each other, communicating in a silent language only both of them knew, before Charlie turned to face Dean again.
"Okay well, have fun, you two!" she said before letting her colleague take her place in front of Dean.
"Sorry about that" the bartender said. "She's really... protective sometimes. Same thing than last time?" he asked, taking the glass Charlie had left on the counter.
He remembers? That's promising.
"Yes, please" Dean answered, still confused by what happened. He waited for his drink in silence, trying to make sense of all this, before deciding it wasn't really important : he was here to talk to Cas, and he had a chance. Might as well take it.
"So" said the man, handing him his drink, "why were you asking for me? We only met once and it's not like we spent five hours together."
"As a matter of fact, that's exactly what I wanted to talk about. You deserve an apology."
Castiel looked puzzled. "For what?"
"My behaviour. I never act like that. I had a really bad day and the conversation wasn't going as I wanted it to go and it pissed me off. I was rude to you for no reason, so I'm sorry. Let's start this all over, shall we?"
Castiel looked at him for a moment before extending his hand.
"No hard feelings" he said with a smile.
"Great" Dean said, shaking his hand. "My name is Dean, by the way."
"Before you ask, yes, Castiel is my real name. Like I said, Charlie can be very protective in some situations."
"I guess it's too soon to ask why?"
"You guessed right" Cas answered.
"Fair enough" Dean said. "How long have you been working here?"
"I'll start my fifth year in November. And you? I've never seen you around until... two days ago."
"Yeah, I rarely come to this part of the restaurant. Usually I sit in Jody's section."
"So you're a regular."
"Yes I am" Dean answered with a smile. "I come every day on my break. I work at MicroCell."
"What's your favourite thing on our menu?" Castiel asked with a smile.
"I have to say, your cheeseburgers are phenomenal. Really. I always take the same thing."
"How about the dessert?"
"Well, I'm more of a pie guy, but" he added quickly, seeing Castiel's look, "the Black-Out cake is pretty amazing. What's yours? And please don't tell me your bestseller, I want to know your personal favourite."
"The white chocolate raspberry truffle" Castiel answered without hesitation. "No matter how much I want to try something else, I always end up with this one."
The conversation went on. Dean felt more and more comfortable and words were flowing easily between the two of them. Dean thought that maybe, when other customers would come, Castiel would stop talking to him but he realised soon enough that Charlie had it covered. Even when she had her hands full, Castiel would go help her and every time, he would come back to continue where they've left off. Dean even had one or two free drinks, followed by a wink from the bartender. The whiskey giving him the courage he needed, Dean tried a few times during the evening to send subtle messages to Castiel, to see if he could be interested in going out, but Cas ignored them.
"I don't go on dates with my customers" he'd simply replied when Dean decided to ask him out, loud and clear.
Dean kept drinking and obviously, kept pushing. The more whiskey he drank, the less subtle he became, until he voiced out loud his thoughts.
"It's okay if you say no today. I'll just come back tomorrow and ask again" Dean smiled. "And you can say no tomorrow too, but I'll be back the day after. And I will come back every day of the week, every day of the month, until you give me a chance."
"That sounds a lot like harassment to me" Castiel answered, trying hard to hide his own smile.
"Maybe" he said, brushing Castiel's words aside, "but I know you won't complain. I can't tell if you're into me as much as I am into you. Hell, I can't tell if you're into men in general. But I can tell you enjoy my company. You wouldn't come back after every other customer to continue talking if you were not having fun. Am I wrong?"
Castiel couldn't hide his smile any longer. It spread like a wave on the soft sand of the beach. It started at the right corner of his mouth, before reaching his upper lip, showing his gums and his perfectly aligned teeth. There was something about the way he smiled; the way it seemed to light up the entire room and the way it made you want to see more of it. He had the kind of smile that made you feel happy and privileged to be alive and just that little bit more human. Dean knew, right at that moment, that he would make everything in his power to be the only reason behind that smile.
"I guess you'll have to take the risk" Castiel said.
"Oh, I will. You can count on me" Dean replied with a wink.
He left shortly after, leaving his number on a napkin and a generous tip.
Dean closed the Impala’s door with a squeak and walked to his apartment building with a soft smile on his lips. He really had a great time this evening and he was feeling light headed. Whether it was the alcohol or his blooming relationship that made him feel that way, he didn’t care. He just enjoyed it.
He reached his apartment in a haze and finally snapped back to reality when he realised he was trying to unlock his door with his car key. Cursing silently, he switched to the right key, closed the door behind him and turned on the lights before looking at the clock. It was only 9:30PM and he wasn’t working before noon tomorrow, so he had a few hours to kill before going to bed. Dean slowly took off his shoes, tossed them in a corner and dragged his bare feet to the living room.
Dean loved videogames. He always did. Some people escape reality in books or music; Dean escaped his in videogames. At fourteen, he bought his first console with the money he was accumulating since his tenth birthday. Fifteen years later, he was the proud owner of over twenty different consoles and a little bit more than four hundred games. He switched the TV on and while waiting for his Xbox 360 to open, he took out his phone to call his brother.
"Hello?" a voice said after a few rings
"Hey Sam" Dean answered.
"Hi, Dean, how are you?"
"Great, thanks! You?"
"Fine. As I was last week. You know, I’m not a kid anymore, you don’t have to call me every few days to check up on me. I have a house and a fiancé. I think I can take care of myself."
Dean could hear his smile, and he was sure Sam could hear his too.
"I gotta make sure Jessica treats you well ! This girl can get away with murder, I just wanna make sure you won’t be her next victim."
"Ha, ha, ha. She says hi, by the way."
"Put me on speaker for a sec." There was muffled sounds in the background as Sam put down his phone on a nearby table. "Hello gorgeous ! How are you ?"
"I'm good, thank you !" Said a bubbly voice. "And you ?"
"I'm awesome, thanks! Is Sam a good boy? You know, I tried so hard to train him when he was little but I couldn’t for the love of God make him stop barking. If you have troubles with that, usually a rolled up newspaper did the trick for me."
"You are a total dick, you know that?" said Sam's voice.
"See ? He can't help it !"
"I hate you" Sam continued as Jessica burst out laughing in the background.
"Aww, I love you too, baby brother."
"Come on, you two, be nice to each other" Jessica said. "I have to go and I don't want to find Sam curled in a ball under the bed when I come back."
"Hey! How da-"
Sam was cut off, probably by a kiss from Jessica, and a few seconds later Dean heard a door shut.
"You guys are so sweet I think I'm gonna throw up."
"Oh, shut up. What's gotten into you? You sound so… happy tonight."
"Don't bullshit me. I know you."
"I'm telling you, there's nothing!"
"What's her name?"
"You heard me."
"There's no chick dude. Anyway like you said, you know me. You know I don't do romance."
"Maybe, but I know for sure that you sound like someone beamed you up, even if you don't want to admit it. If there is no She, then maybe a He ?"
"You didn't think in your huge brain of yours that maybe it's a something, and not a someone?"
"So you're not denying it. Where did you guys meet? Is he a customer? Or… Maybe you are the customer. Is he working at that restaurant you go every day?"
Dean rolled his eyes. Really, that kid was too smart for his own good.
"You know, someday you'll get in trouble, insinuating things like that. I gotta go. Marcus and Dom are waiting for me to wipe out a locust nest."
"You're still playing that stupid game?"
"It's not just a game, it's Gears Of War, and it's not stupid. It's awesome. You have no idea how satisfying it is to slice a monster in two with a chainsaw."
"Yeah, whatever. Have fun."
Dean closed his phone and threw it beside him on the couch as a blood red skull surrounded by a cog appeared on screen. For a few hours, he tried his hardest to concentrate on the game, but he kept being distracted by blue eyes floating in the back of his mind.