"So that's it," he tells the sky, holding his eighth - or was it ninth? - beer up in a solitary toast to the slow, silent snow. The might be something beautiful about the way the world goes quiet with a layer of white powder on it; it was the reason he'd set up in the park this evening, after all, but after a few hours the quiet got oppressive and he'd felt the need to fill it. "Holiday's weeks away, and I got close to nothing. I swear it gets sadder every year, and whose fault is that?"
Mine, is what Dean hesitates to say, and wow, there he goes again! He can't even own up to his feelings when it's just between him and the streetlamp-tinted clouds, no wonder he can't solve any of his damned 'problems'.
The Christmas season had never been particularly important to him, but the past four years it had become an increasingly more pathetic pity party, fuelled almost entirely by his inability to suck it up and just call Sam, and beg for forgiveness or an apology or whatever the hell it was he felt he was owed. He knew where Sam was, after all - he'd be pretty shit as his job if he couldn't even keep track of his last living family member - but it was a standoff he couldn't bear to be the first to call off. Call it pride. Or maybe just straight-up fear.
As long as he didn't speak to Sam, he could at least pretend they were just two dudes living different lives who just didn't have enough time to chat.
Dean swallows the thoughts with the last big gulp of beer in the bottle, dropping it back in the carrier bag and grabbing another. Eventually, when the warm buzz wears off and he remembers the hypothermia danger, he'll stumble over to the recycle bins and dispose of them all environmentally friendly-like, stumble home, and regret giving in to the urge to wallow in five hours time when he wakes up with the mother of all hangovers.
As he pops the cap, he hears a crunch in the snow, and before him, a vision.
"Hello," says the man.
"Hi," says Dean.
* * *
"Now hold on a second," interrupts Zachariah. "You were asked to begin from the beginning. What's with the meet-cute?"
Castiel frowns. "This is the beginning."
"Don't get smart, kid. There are about a hundred regulations you should've abided by before you ended up in some podunk park. What-"
Naomi doesn't say anything, or particularly change the expression on what is passing for her face, but the whole room knows to fall silent. "We can dig into the technicalities later," she says, a relaxed hum about her that nonetheless bodes no argument. "Let Castiel tell us what he thinks is important."
"Thank you," Castiel says. Good manners cost naught, after all.
* * *
'Hi' instantly feels like a ridiculous thing to say, but the damage is done. The man smiles, though, and Dean, drunk as he is, can't resist turning on the Winchester charm.
"Come here often?" he asks, and instantly regrets it. The hell kind of 'charm' is that?
"No," says the man, but he's smiling, and something not related to the nine or ten or however many beers it is now warms Dean on the inside. "Do you?"
"Only when I'm hoping to bump into handsome guys. Never fails," he says, brushing the light layer of snow off the rest of the bench and stretching his arm across the back, as good an invitation as he can offer. The man takes it, adjusting his pale overcoat, and sitting a little closer to Dean than social convention usually dictates. Well, okay, a lot closer, but the guy radiates heat like the world's coziest log fire, and Dean is trying to flirt with him, so he chalks it up as a win. Dean offers the guy his last beer - and, okay, that must mean he's on number eleven, which means it's totally legit to try and pick up guys in his local park - which the guy holds lightly, like he's not sure what to do with it.
Dean takes a sip, and the guy studies him, before trying to take his own. When he moves the bottle away from his lips, Dean notices he hasn't even popped the cap, and laughs. "Here, let me help you with that," he offers, taking his arm off the back of the bench and twisting it off. "Works better like that, I find."
The guy nods his head in thanks, and takes a long draft of the bottle. "I see what you mean," he says eventually, but doesn't move to take a sip again, even as Dean all but chugs his own. The dude is making him kinda nervous, somehow, but the good kind of nervous, the kind filled with anticipation about where this could go next. Maybe they could hit a bar together or something. Who knew wallowing was a good strategy for meeting people?
Dean moves his arm to the back of the bench again, cautiously. Even in his drunken state, he doesn't wanna come on too strong, or get up in the guy's space without permission. "So," he says, "What brings you here?"
The guy gives Dean a considering look, and smiles again. "You," he says simply. "I want to make you happy, I think."
"Yeah?" says Dean, brow raised. "What kind of 'happy'?"
The guy pulls Dean's arm around his shoulders. "Whatever suits," is all he says.
Nine-tenths of the fault for what he says next falls with the eleven beers. Maybe seven-tenths. Or less. The other half of the fault, Dean tries not to ascribe to a desperate loneliness that tells him even random sex with a random hot guy he met in a community park will be better than another night sat in front of the TV watch reruns of bad hospital soaps and feeling sorry for himself.
"Wanna come home with me?"
* * *
It takes everything in his power to not just push the guy up against any wall on the way home and start making out, because as soon as he'd said 'Yes' with an extraordinarily pleased smile, Dean's libido had leapt out of whatever closet he'd been storing it in, and gone around his whole body like a town crier announcing a free beer and bacon party, everyone invited! It had been a cold few months since his last hook-up, and a man has needs. The minute there door is closed behind him, though, his jacket and overshirt are off quicker than he thought strictly possible while inebriated.
The guy is stood stock-still, looking around in interest, and Dean has really got to stop thinking of him like that if this is gonna work. "Hey, what can I call you?"
"Cas," says Cas.
"I'm Dean," says Dean, moving in closer and tugging at the lapels of Cas' overcoat. "Now that introductions are outta the way, shall we get a little better acquainted?"
* * *
"Castiel," says Naomi abruptly.
"I believe we could do without further detail in this part of your account," she says, severely.
There's a low hum of disapproval in the courtroom, and, worryingly, even Zachariah looks put out. "Is this a 'technical detail' we'll get into later?" he asks.
"Absolutely not," says Naomi, and Castiel gives an internal sigh of relief, even as the audience gives one of discontent. As exciting as the experience had been, he wasn't particularly keen on sharing it with an audience. "As you were, then," Naomi says finally, once the gathered crowd has calmed down.
* * *
When Dean wakes up, his body feels as though it is firmly on the fence between the complete satisfaction of a good night and the devastation of a bad hangover. He forgets every time that he and cheap beer do not good bedfellows make.
When he finally pries his eyes open without the sun completely blinding him as it cheerfully streams through the blinds he was sure he'd shut last night, glancing around, he sees that he did make good bedfellows with someone last night.
Strike one for Winchester. Even drunk and pitiable, he can score.
He ambles over to the en suite to freshen up a little, pulling on a pair of boxers and a tee so he looks at least a mite presentable should his fling still be around; given how he woke up alone, Dean thinks he might just be out of luck on that front. Which, well, sucks, but it's to be expected. Generally speaking, long-lasting relationships don't come out of picking dudes up practically off the street.
He allows himself a moment of disappointment as he brushes his teeth, until he caught the unmistakeable scent of bacon.
This is, officially, now the best one-night stand ever, or one of his colleagues has broken into his apartment to stage an intervention, and he's really hoping it's the former.
As he walks into the kitchen, he sees the guy - Cas - stood ramrod straight in front of the stove, thick hair standing on end in places where Dean couldn't quite resist digging his hands, shirt-tails just about covering where he clearly hasn't worried about being presentable.
"Are you cooking me breakfast?" Dean asks, unsure if it's bad etiquette to lean in close and try for a kiss. Did they kiss last night? He settles for closing a hand on the guy's shoulder. That's casual, right?
"Good morning, Dean," Cas says in response, giving him a little sideway smile and scooping the overcoloured bacon onto a waiting plate of toast. He turns the dial on the gas off cautiously, and offers the plate to him.
Naturally, he takes it - how could he say no?! - and sits at the unusually uncluttered table the landlord had tried to sell as breakfast bar. Looking around, he sees that all the junk he'd left piled on top the night before is where he'd been meaning to put it each time he'd looked at the mess and decided it could wait another day. Which, beneath the fog of hangover, actually seemed a little creepy. "None for yourself?" he asks, as Cas looks at him expectantly.
When he doesn't get an answer, Dean shrugs and digs in. The bacon is exactly the way he likes it, but can never quite manage to get himself - overcooked to the point where the fat has started to gone all crunchy and dark, and before it gets so tough it's more suited to bootmaking. "Thanks," he eventually offers, and Cas nods, one hand pulling at the undershirt he's wearing like he just clocked it's not polite to have one's junk out at the breakfast table. Not that Dean's complaining, particularly.
"So," he says, polishing off the crumbs and starting to feel a little unsure if he should be creeped out by the way Cas has been watching him the past few minutes, "you need a ride to work or anything?"
"Guess not? I forget not everyone has to go in on Saturday's." Checking his watch, Dean thinks maybe he'll have to skip today himself. Maybe Henrickson won't be pissed? (No, he'll definitely be pissed.) "Maybe a ride home? Unless you were hoping to stick around?"
Cas stops tugging at his shirt tails, looking at Dean straight on with the smallest downturn of a lip. "This is home."
"Uh, yeah buddy, my home."
Dean was pretty sure Cas had been sober when they'd met, and was sober right now, but it was increasingly likely he was wrong. "So do you want me to drop you at your home?"
The lip is joined by a downturn of eyebrows. "I don't understand."
"You and me both," says Dean, sighing.
"You said we were going home, last night. Are we not here?"
"No, dude, we're in my - look, I'm not going round in circles with this again! What exactly do you think is happening here?"
"You're unhappy," says Cas, with a tone like he's observing the weather, or a particularly interesting bug, and Den's happy good-times buzz is indeed rapidly plummeting with the increasing strangeness of this whole conversation. It would be just his luck to pick up the one dude who turned out to be a sexy axe murderer. Before Christmas, no less! "I offered to make you happy again, and you brought me home. This is home now," he says, with a sure nod.
"Okay," Dean says, carefully. "I think we've got some wires crossed here. I invited you into my home. It's not yours now!"
"But you said-"
"No, stop right there! I ain't finished playing twenty questions just yet! Were you in the park looking for somewhere to stay? Is that it?"
Cas frowns properly then, and Dean hopes it's because what he's saying is starting to sink in. "No," he says, eventually, but there's an edge of question to it that starts to dig at all of Dean's career-honed skills, and he forces himself to relax. The guy has clearly got his wires on this muddled up at a fundamental level, and Dean owes it to him to set things straight without behaving like a raging douche.
"Okay," Dean says again, and tries to figure out exactly how to tactfully pose this question. "So last night," he begins, trying to think in the entirely flat terms Cas seems to be doing, "you didn't have a home? Is that right?"
"I didn't need one," says Cas, and he looks at Dean as though this is something he should already know, like Dean just asked 'hey, the sky is blue, right?'. There is a huge, politely missed-off 'duh' at the end of the sentence.
"Sure, Cas, you didn't need one. Where did you stay the night before last, then?"
Cas looks away from him momentarily, eyelids narrowed, eyes moving left-to-right-to-left beneath them without really looking at anything surrounding him. Eventually, he looks back to Dean, and stiffly raises his shoulders, like he's only seen shrugging done before and hasn't had a chance to try it out himself. Thinking back over last night's... activities without the sheen of booze and horniness colouring them, he realises Cas was like this then, too. Sure, he'd been a fairly eager participant, but his movements had been stilted, directed; he'd rarely made a move first. Dean'd chalked it up to nerves, but now he was entirely unsure.
"You don't know the address?" Dean ventures.
"There wasn't a night before."
"The night before that..?"
Cas gives a little huff, the kind Sam used to give when he was trying to explain some allegedly simple tort issue that flew right over his head. "There aren't any previous nights. Just last night. In the park. There's nothing before that."
Well, shit. Guess Dean's work is coming to him now.