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11 June 2011 @ 12:50 am
fic, SPN: lovingly crafted and tenderly packaged (Dean/Castiel, others), NC17  
Title: lovingly crafted and tenderly packaged
Pairing/Characters: Dean/Castiel, Balthazar, Sam
Word count: ∼17400
Rating: NC17
Spoilers: none as it's as AU as it's ever going to get.
Warnings: mentions of an attempted suicide.
Disclaimer: nothing in this belongs to me. End of story. Heck, I made the title from e-mails that an online shirts shop sent me, I own just the plot.
Summary: wherein Castiel owns a self-run t-shirts printing business for which he also makes custom orders, Dean orders Castiel's shirts online after Sam gets him a customized one and their romance is based on nonexistent boundaries. And where Balthazar owns the sex shop in front of Castiel's store and won't mind his own business.
A/N: uhm. Er. So. This happened. Making it short: I ordered a shirt from that awesome place which is Redbubble.com, and in their first e-mail they said they were going to lovingly craft my shirt. Then they shipped it and I got another e-mail saying that they had tenderly packaged it. I clearly and reasonably went and thought 'oh, that's such a Castiel thing to do! What if he owned a business like that?' Then I was forced strongly encouraged to go with it and there it is. Don't ask me how it ended up being this long - I have no idea either. Also, this is a total rom-com. More or less. And it's also for e0wyn since she was the main enabler ♥ I hope it satisfies the long days of wait. ;) ;) ETA: now with a very pretty banner for it which e0wyn made and which is so very lovely and I want to squish it forever.



Castiel is working on a new design when he hears a beeping sound coming from his computer, notifying him that he just received a new e-mail. He smiles to himself, hoping that it’s a new custom order; he leaves his sketchpad for the moment and moves to the computer he keeps on the other side of the room. He checks the folder in which the e-mail was automatically stored and yes, it’s a new custom order; good, because he needed one right now. This month has been slow and he has to pay a rent for the small shop and the studio apartment over it in which he lives, and while he’s covered, actually earning something is always nice.

He doesn’t complain about it though – Castiel loves his job. It isn’t exactly the kind of self-run business that gives you high profits, but he still wouldn’t change it for anything else. Even if it’s one of the reasons for which he doesn’t talk to most of his family anymore, but then again designing and printing t-shirts for a living wasn’t what his parents had in mind for him.

Actually, what his father had in mind was for Castiel to follow in his own shoes – meaning, becoming a preacher and inheriting the parsonage of the small town he comes from. And while Castiel does believe in God and goes to church regularly (though not on Sundays or during masses – he likes to be on his own, when he attends it), becoming a preacher hadn’t been his lifelong dream. He had wanted to be an artist, before the fall-out. Said fall-out had been a long, messy and not particularly pleasing affair, and Castiel tries not to think about it most of the time; it hadn’t been just because of Castiel wanting to study art instead of going into a seminary, it had also been because of a number of other things. Like his mother finding flyers for his high school’s LGBT group while cleaning his room, and Castiel having to confess that he had been attending their meetings for a while.

It had ended up with him taking a bus to San Francisco and knocking at the door of his older brother Gabriel, who had received the same treatment for different reasons ages ago and whom Castiel hadn’t seen for years, but who had thankfully been understanding. Then again there hadn’t been money for any kind of school, art or not. Castiel had found a job in a graphics studio where he spent ten hours each day photoshopping ads. He had the t-shirts idea some five years later; after all, he had thought, drawing was in his blood and having spent that time at that agency, he had learned how to use a computer to put a picture together. He could use his savings to rent a small shop and buy a printer, so that he could produce the shirts on his own and maybe print locally from other people’s designs if they so wished.

So he had done that and, five years later, he couldn’t be happier with it, even if he barely makes enough to pay his rent, buy groceries, save a bit and maybe buy himself some books or go to the cinema once in a while. He doesn’t only sell his designs – he does print shirts for people, and everyone in the neighborhood goes to him. Mostly because they trust him to do a good job and because he uses direct to garment printing – it costs a bit more but it gives a more lasting result. And he has discounts for regulars, so it ends up being convenient. At the same time he runs a small online shop where he sells his own designs. And then there are the custom orders – or, what earns him most. He doesn’t get too many, especially because the price is considerably higher than for the rest of the apparel, but it’s because of how it works, not because he uses a pricey printing method.

Castiel puts extreme care in every order he gets – he ships all of his shirts personally, packages each by hand and always triple-checks that the shirt isn’t damaged. And puts a post-it with something nice (of the have a great day kind) inside each package. But the custom orders are different. Custom orders mean that he tailors one shirt especially for someone and for them only – it stays a unique item. People send him a picture and their measures and a list of things they’re interested in, or a message they want the shirt to convey, and then Castiel first comes up with a design that matches them (colors included). Then he proceeds to order a shirt made for the measures of whoever ordered it exactly, prints it on his own and sends it over in a handmade package with a note that is different for each person. No one has ever complained about the service – on the contrary, he always has received enthusiastic reactions. He loves doing custom orders; he never was the kind of person to socialize much, and he never had many friends (even less since he moved – the only real one he has right now is Balthazar, the owner of the sex shop in front of his store), but he has always liked to observe people and to guess what they liked from their mannerism. He likes custom orders because it makes him feel closer to the people he’s doing them for, and he likes making them happy. It makes him feel as if he’s doing a bit of good for someone else, and considering that he doesn’t have time for volunteering anymore, it’s a nice sensation.

But doing it takes time and effort, which is why he has to go for a higher price, and why he doesn’t get as many orders as he’d like. He sighs, opening the e-mail; if this goes through, it means he can finally put something extra in his savings account after months of earning barely the necessary for the rent, the groceries and small expenses. At least next month is December – with Christmas presents happening, it’s usually the time in the year during which he earns most.

The name on the e-mail reads Samuel Winchester and it’s clearly a work-related e-mail, since the domain has the same name of a legal studio somewhere near Palo Alto if he remembers right; Castiel clicks on it twice and reads the message.

Mr. Milton,

A friend of mine (her name is Sarah Blake, if you remember her) once ordered a custom shirt from you, months ago, and I was very impressed with your work. I wanted to ask you if you could do one for my brother. It would be my Christmas present for him. I have no problems with the price, for a number of reason I’ll say eventually if you decide to take the order. I understood that you require at least two weeks, so I figured that I should contact you now, before the Christmas rush. Let me know any terms and what you’d need to know, and I’ll be happy to provide any details needed, if it goes through. Also please inform me about the methods of payment.

Sincerely,

Sam Winchester


Castiel doesn’t think about it twice. He has never refused an order, and he won’t start now. He likes that this Sam knows what he wants and his timings already, and of course he remembers Sarah Blake. He had done a shirt for her about six months ago and she had been lovely to work with.

He clicks on the reply button and answers at once – he closes in an hour, so if Sam provides details now he can start thinking about this order after dinner.

Mr. Winchester,

Thank you for your kind words regarding my work. Also, you may use my first name only – I’m not into extreme formalities. This stated, I’ll be happy to take the job, and thank you for contacting me now, as it means that I can give it my full attention before December. I need to know your brother’s exact measures, his name and possibly a list of his interests, if you want the shirt to be related to any of them. You can pick what you want as long as it’s something that can be turned into a design. Music, movies or books he likes, for instance. That’s all I usually need, but since I understand that it’s a personal gift, if you want a particular message then I could work with that. If you think that the list of interests wouldn’t play a role in that, feel free to ignore that part. Of course, the information you decide to share is entirely at your own discretion and I won’t share it with anyone else. I work alone, so no one else could access to it. Regarding the methods of payment, I have a Paypal account linked in the shop’s website – it would probably be the easier way, but if you prefer another we can agree on that. I also need to know where to ship the finished product. The rest of the price depends on the amount of time and on how complicated the final design should be, so I’ll let you know as soon as I have decided. I will also explain you what it will consist of in detail and send you a picture before shipping – you won’t have to pay until you agreed on the final product. If the conditions are satisfactory, I’ll wait for your reply.

Regards,

Castiel Milton


Castiel sends the e-mail and then gets back to his sketchpad. It’ll take some time to answer, considering that Sam Winchester will probably provide the details in his next e-mail; he might as well finish working on this, or at least put himself ahead. It’s not coming along the way Castiel wants – in order to be printed it can’t be too complicated, but what had started as a number of simple geometric shapes creating a bigger single picture has gone out of hand. When Castiel realizes that he has been drawing patterns of different leaves inside each shape, he turns the page. He’ll see to use it for some other purpose. He’s thinking about a shirt with angel wings on the back and so he sets to find a way to draw simple but realistic shapes of wings – he’s done with the first half when he hears the computer beeping again.

He leaves the drawing be and checks his e-mail; Sam has indeed answered. It took him half an hour – Castiel figures that he can just answer this and call it quits for the day. If he doesn’t want Balthazar to lecture him about working too much and being late for dinner, which they’ve been having together every working day since a little time after Castiel moved here.

Castiel,

That sounds great. I’m not one for formalities either. I’ll be waiting for a price then, and take as much time as you need. After all I need it delivered just before Christmas, right? Anyway, we live in Lawrence, Kansas. I’ll send you the complete address when it’s time for shipping, if you don’t need it right now. Also thanks for clarifying that you could try to work according to what I want to convey. It’s… well, it’s a complicated situation, but I trust you to keep the details between us, if only because Sarah guarantees.

I guess I can start you by giving you the basic details. My brother’s name is Dean, I attached a picture of him to the e-mail. I’m not sure about the exact measures yet – I’ll send you another mail as soon as I have them. About what he likes, well, his favorite movie is The Shining, he likes classic rock, metal and blues music (his favorites are Led Zeppelin, Robert Johnson, AC/DC, Motorhead, Black Sabbath and Bad Company), and well, he likes Kurt Vonnegut a lot. His favorite book is
Slaughterhouse Five, but I think he read all of them. And he has a probably unhealthy fixation with his car, it’s a ’67 Chevy. That’s the extent of what I can give you – it’s only that, as I told you, I haven’t talked to him in ages and we have only started to reconnect six months ago after not talking for years. As I said, it’s complicated. Our mother died when he was four and I was six months old, and our dad was a traveling salesman (not counting that it was a hard blow for him), so he wasn’t home a lot and Dean ended up being the one looking after me most of the time. At one point he dropped out of school because there wasn’t enough to pay the bills, and you know – he just, he has never put himself first, if you understand what I mean

To make things short, I was accepted at Stanford and Dean told me I should go, and then I argued with my dad over it and well, it was seven years ago and I left slamming the door. We didn’t talk for a while after that – I went back to Lawrence once, for my dad’s funeral a year before I graduated. He died in an accident. Me and Dean did patch things up, he came to California when I graduated, and he called once in a while. That was four years ago – we talked regularly but I didn’t go back there and he never came to visit. Then six months ago a family friend called and said that Dean had tried to OD on sleeping pills and they had barely managed to save his ass. He said that he had been having problems for a while and he had tried to hide it – then his current girlfriend had dumped him from what I understood, and I hadn’t answered the phone when he called because I was in court, and I guess it was the last straw.

So I packed my things and I moved back to Kansas temporarily – I wasn’t going to disappear, especially when I could have done something to prevent it. Now he’s – well, he’s doing decently. He’s been talking to someone and he decided that he’s going to at least get a GED, and I’ve been keeping an eye on him, but things are still pretty frail. I just – he’s had it rough and he’s not having it much better right now. I’d like him to look at that shirt and know that I’m trying to do right by him, if you get what I mean. Do you think it’s doable?

Sincerely,

Sam Winchester


Castiel breathes deeply, taking the whole story in, and then opens the attached file, checking the date in which the picture was taken – three months ago.

It takes him two seconds to decide that yes, it’s doable. Or he’ll make it doable.

Dean Winchester is sitting at a table in a small kitchen, a pencil in his hand, scowling at the camera. He was obviously studying and didn’t appreciate being interrupted. He’s wearing a worn-out Led Zeppelin t-shirt and ripped jeans, and to say it straight, he’s the most handsome man Castiel has ever seen in his life. He’s a bit thin, his skin maybe too pale, but apart from that, he’s nothing short of stunning. He has perfectly regular features, a pair of full lips that seem made for kissing, long eyelashes, freckles scattered next to his nose and on his cheeks, and short light-brown hair. He looks maybe a bit younger than thirty. But what draws Castiel’s attention, are his eyes. They’re of a clear, pure green, not too wide and not too narrow, and if the eyes are the windows of the soul, then this man hasn’t definitely had an easy life. They’re beautiful, but tired and somewhat sad, as if Dean is impossibly tired even if he’s not even thirty-five. Castiel can understand the feeling; he hasn’t had it easy either, especially in those five years between leaving home and opening his business.

And it’s a pity, because Dean sounds like a great person; and Castiel thinks that he’d like it, very much, if one of his shirts made him feel good even for a handful of minutes.

Castiel closes the picture and clicks on the reply button, again.

Sam,

I’ll make sure to tailor the design to your needs. None of the information you just shared with me will be seen or read by anyone other than me, I can guarantee that. I don’t need the address right now – knowing that I have to ship to Kansas is enough for me to give you a price when I’m set. And I have to design the shirt before ordering it, so I don’t need the measures right now. I’ll contact you as soon as I decide what to do – it shouldn’t take more than three or four days. Thanks again for contacting me. I’ll try my best to make sure that you’re satisfied with the result.

Sincerely,

Castiel Milton


He sends off the e-mail, re-reads the list again and then shuts off the computer. He gathers his sketches while it disconnects, then places everything carefully in his bag. He leaves it in his bedroom upstairs before locking his apartment. Then he goes back to the store to check on the printer, and then when he’s satisfied that everything is in place, he closes the light and locks the door. Clearly Balthazar isn’t outside already, which means that Castiel has to lure him out of his own shop.

It’s his dubious luck that his best friend likes his own job so much that he’d never close, if he could just avoid sleeping altogether.

Still, Castiel wishes that Balthazar had named his store something other than The Holy Grail, because that name for that kind of shop is seriously ill-fitted. He sighs, crossing the street and moving inside. Thankfully there aren’t any clients in. Not-so-thankfully, Balthazar is re-organizing a shelf full of dildos, and Castiel shivers when he looks at the size of some of them.

“You’re late for dinner,” Castiel says, without preambles; Balthazar rolls his eyes and gets down from the ladder.

“Oh, excuse me, I’ll be allowed to be late once when you’re always closing shop later than me. Ah, well, considering that this is a quiet night, I can finish tomorrow. Though seriously, I had some new arrivals today which I think you should check out. Hey, maybe you aren’t getting laid, but they’d still help you releasing –”

“Balthazar, I’m perfectly fine.”

“Sure, except that I’ve known you for years and last time you got laid was when, two years ago? Cassie, dear, it’s unhealthy. Do you realize that?”

Castiel doesn’t even answer – it’s how it usually goes.

--

“So, any news in your little world?” Balthazar asks as they sit at their usual table at the diner across the corner. It’s named Roadhouse and Castiel is sure that Balthazar will get them thrown out for flirting with both Ellen and Jo, the owner and her daughter, at some point.

“Any news in yours?” Castiel replies, drinking some water.

“Well, there was this guy who wanted to buy a good cock ring today, which I’m sure you’d be thrilled to hear about –”

“I had a custom order,” Castiel interrupts, not wanting to hear any further.

“Well, about time,” Balthazar asks. “I can ask you to print my work shirts only up until a certain point.”

Which, well, it’s kind of true, so Castiel doesn’t try to contradict him. “It’s… interesting, I guess. It’ll take a while. But I have time.”

“Which I guess is good for you. But you should go bigger.”

“I can barely pay the rent now.”

“Yes, but you’ll never earn more if you stick to people in the neighborhood and your few internet regulars, you know that?”

Castiel knows that Balthazar is right, but he likes being on his own. He doesn’t feel any need to go big. It’d mean hiring personnel, and not having the whole process under his control. And it would still mean more expenses. He sighs and then he gasps loudly when Balthazar claps his shoulder.

“Don’t be so gloomy. If you end up bankrupt, you can always work with me.” And then he winks at him and Castiel groans. Like the idea of someone who has had sex maybe five times in his life and every time with the wrong people working in a sex shop is anywhere near good.

--

Anyway, as inappropriate as Balthazar can get, dinner with him is a good way to lift spirits, so when Castiel gets home that night, he isn’t thinking about his financial woes anymore. He thinks about Dean’s shirt, instead. He opens his laptop, prints out picture and list, then shuts it off for good; after putting on his pjs and brushing his teeth, he climbs into his small bed and takes a better look at Dean. He needs to decide the colors first. He decides not to go with a black shirt, he doesn’t want it to feel gloomy. But he doesn’t want a clear color either. He decides that a deep gray would work, for a template. And since Dean has green eyes, he could print on it in different shades of green. It would match. Also, gray looks good with everything. Decision taken, he goes through the list again. He isn’t too familiar with any of the bands, and he disregards the movie as he is familiar with it and nothing in there would work for what Sam is trying to imply.

But Castiel is familiar with Vonnegut – not having many friends makes you appreciate reading. He climbs out of the bed, goes to the bookshelf on the opposite side of the room (it covers the entire wall and books fall down from it – he should find the space for another one of these days), takes out all the Vonnegut books he owns and climbs back into bed. He wouldn’t consider quoting directly in any other case, but for custom orders he does it – after all, it’s one item and he never sells custom designs – he won’t get a copyright related lawsuit for it. And it’d be the same as someone walking into his shop and asking him to print them a shirt with a line from a song on it.

He doesn’t want the whole thing to be focused on words. He wants it to be visual. He picks Breakfast of Champions out of his pile, remembering that it featured pictures between paragraphs. It shouldn’t be too hard to find one – and then he can start working from there. He’s near the end when he finds a couple that could work. The symbols for nothing and infinite. He takes his sketchpad, writes Dean Winchester on the top of the first blank sheet, and copies the nothing shape (it looks like an egg, quite) and the horizontal eight that stands for infinite. He closes both book and sketchpad, feeling like it’s a good start, and then turns off the light.

He dreams of haunted green eyes, but when he wakes up, he feels melancholic. It wasn’t a nightmare. Not at all.

--

He understands that it’s not a usual order soon. The next two days are busy because he ends up having to print shirts for two amateur soccer teams (and well, he has to thank Balthazar for that – he does know people around the neighborhood and always sends him clients), and then when he sits down and starts thinking about Dean’s order again, he realizes that it won’t be as easy as it seemed. He’s set on the colors and the two images, but then he finds out that he’s stuck. Mostly because he doesn’t want to crowd the shirt too much – he had thought about a line on the front and one in the back, each under either nothingness or infinity, but he can’t think about what. Every quote he finds seems fake. Too much like a quote. He doesn’t want it to feel like that.

He quits looking up quotes or lyrics online and starts thinking about options during the day. While he prints other people’s shirts, while he packs regular shirts ordered online, while he checks his Paypal account. He doesn’t even know Dean personally, but he wants him to have a nice item, one that he will look at fondly. One that will make him think, someone cares about me rather than oh, someone bought me this online. It’s a question of Castiel wanting to do his job right, and also – well, maybe when he read that story it had struck a chord. He never went as far as thinking to kill himself, true, but Castiel has had his bad moments too, and he knows how it feels when you think that your family doesn’t care. And it looks like Dean hasn’t had this great number of happy moments in his life – Castiel wants his shirt to make the man feel happy about it if it’s the last thing he does.

Five days after Sam contacted him, he sits down on his bed again. He has the laptop at one side and the stack of Vonnegut books on the other. He will decide, also because he needs to have the shirt tailored and he can’t lose another week just deciding the design. He disregards Slaughterhouse Five for now – it might be Dean’s favorite, but there’s nothing in there that convinces Castiel. Also it’s not what you want for a sort of positive message. He discards it, and then he remembers reading another one of these ages ago and –

He opens God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater, trying to remember where it was and yes, there it is. He puts a bookmark inside the book and then goes through the rest of the pile. Not searching. Just seeing if anything catches his eye.

He thinks about what he would have liked to hear the day he took that Greyhound to San Francisco, and it suddenly comes easier. He thinks about Dean’s huge, sad eyes and keeps them in mind, and then he keeps on searching. He writes sentences on the notepad, whatever looks suited, and then when he’s done he puts Led Zeppelin in his laptop’s search engine and clicks on the titles that speak to him.

When he’s done with that, too, he crosses out everything that doesn’t sound completely and utterly honest. And when he’s done with that, he sees how he could try to fit everything seamlessly into the template.

When he’s set, he takes a new blank sheet and draws the infinity symbol on it, then writes a line over it and one under it. On the back, he draws the egg shape standing for nothingness. He writes another line inside it, and then one under. Then he opens his e-mail, and answers the last one he received from Sam. He doesn’t even care that it’s four AM – he has to do this now.

--

The next morning, when he turns on the computer after opening the shop, there are two e-mails from Sam in his folder. One has only Dean’s measures and it’s Sam saying that he forgot to attach them to the previous one. Which is the answer to the one he sent last night. He opens it.

Castiel,

I think it’s brilliant. And I’m sure he’d love it – I can’t wait to see the finished product. I think you nailed what I wanted. Thank you, really. Let me know when you want me to proceed with the payment, I’m sure about everything.

Regards,

Sam Winchester


Castiel lets out a breath of relief and since no one is coming in, he decides to call the retailer place where he usually buys stocks of plain shirts so that they can tailor Dean’s for him, and then the phone rings.

“Milton’s shirts, how can I help you?”

“My, Cassie, you’re looking awfully happy.”

“Balthazar. If you want to talk to me you just need to cross the road.”

“Watching you grinning like an idiot from here is much more entertaining, darling.”

“It’s nothing. The order got through.”

“Yes, because you’re always this happy when an order gets through. Cassie, Cassie, if only I didn’t have to clean out the back of the store I’d get this story out of you.”

“You still have dinner, if you wish.”

“By then I’ll have to work you all over again. Oh well, it happens. By the way, are you absolutely sure you don’t want any of those dildos I never sold –”

“No, thank you,” Castiel interrupts before closing the call. He sighs, then calls his retailer and smiles in satisfaction when they tell him they’ll bring it over along with the next batch that he’s supposed to get three days from now.

He can’t wait to see this printed.

--

The shirt arrives on time; after Castiel is done handling the six boxes he received with all the other blank ones he received, he spends half an hour checking the measures. They all fit to the last inch – good. It’s Saturday, which means that he doesn’t have his usual dinner with Balthazar (then again, Balthazar does go out during the week-end, while Castiel doesn’t) and so, after closing time, he sets on printing the whole thing. He has spent the previous three days working on the vectorial files and he has everything ready. He gets inside the room with the printer and starts with the back. It takes a while, but Castiel nods in satisfaction when the shirt comes out; the background came out perfectly. He turns the shirt over and proceeds on working on the front.

It takes him one hour, but when it’s done, Castiel can’t help feeling proud of his work. On the back, he has printed words from Stairway to Heaven, in a relatively big font but in a light gray color, so that they would just seem a background and wouldn’t distract from the rest. The verse he chose was there’s still time to change the road you’re on. Over that, there’s the nothingness symbol. Inside it, in a very small font – small enough that you have to be near it in order to read it and so that it doesn’t crowd the design, there’s a quote reading no damn cat, and no damn cradle. Under the egg-shaped symbol, he put, in a clear green, another quote from Cat’s Cradle - of all the words of mice and men, the saddest are, it might have been. The front has the same background with another Stairway to Heaven quote – the tune will come to you at last. The symbol for infinity is high on the chest, the color a lighter green so that it stands out. Under it, he has put another two quotes – one from Mother Night and one from God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater. The first is in the same small font, and it reads make love when you can. It’s good for you. The second is split in two lines and is put at the center of the shirt. It reads, there’s only one rule that I know of – god damn it, you’ve got to be kind. It’s the only one that you can read without getting close, and the whole effect is pleasing. It looks sparse and simple, but not meaningless. And he has avoided getting the design too crowded. Also, he has used a different shade of green for each quote and each drawing, but all the shades were close enough to each other that it doesn’t seem like a punch in the eyes.

Castiel takes a picture of it, front and back, and then sits down at his computer. Between printing, checking the designs and everything else, it’s almost midnight. But it was worth it.

He downloads the pictures into the laptop, and then creates a new e-mail, addressing it to Sam.

Sam,

This is the finished product. I will proceed to mail it in the next couple of days. If you wish for a particular package I will provide it – or I can use the standard kind I have for custom orders. Also, I usually send a personal note to the receiver along with the shirt, but I understand that since this is supposed to be your present, you might not want that. Let me know if you don’t want me to do it.

Best wishes,

Castiel Milton


When that night he finally goes to sleep, his last fleeting thought before losing consciousness, is that he hopes, maybe a bit too strongly, that Sam will let him write that note. Not only because it’s what he usually does. But this hasn’t been just an order for him, and for some reason Castiel wants Dean to know.

--

Sam answers on the next day and tells Castiel that the shirt is perfect and he had loved the packaging he had used for Sarah, and he isn’t much of an expert, so anything that Castiel chooses will be fine. And he had liked the personal note thing so that’s okay, too – two notes never hurt anyone, right? He also sends the address along.

Castiel turns on his cellphone to see if this is the kind of Sunday during which Balthazar might want to spend some time together, but when he gets a text saying that he really doesn’t know what he’s missing by not clubbing, he knows that it isn’t. Usually, whenever he gets that kind of text, it means that Balthazar is currently in a bed that isn’t his own, and that he won’t get to see him before Monday. Well, he can pack the shirt then – it’s not like it’s as easy as it might sound.

Because one thing Castiel doesn’t like is anonymous packages. He likes the idea of people getting a special package, at least a bit different from the usual. Especially for custom orders. He goes through all the boxes he has stored for sending online orders and chooses a dark green one. He folds the shirt carefully, before placing it inside a small, transparent plastic bag. After closing that one and having ensured that the shirt won’t get ruined, he finds some green wrapping paper, and he uses it to make a proper gift wrap. It still looks a bit too spare and impersonal, though. He finds a black curling ribbon and attaches it to the package. It does look better now.

Satisfied with it, he goes on with the process. He writes a return address on the box first. Then he sits down at his desk and goes through all the writing paper he uses to send notes for custom orders. He chooses a set that includes a light green sheet of paper and a slightly darker envelope, then he grabs a pen and thinks about it for a bit. He likes to be careful with what he writes – he doesn’t want to cross boundaries or such. But for some reason, this time he doesn’t have to think much about it. He puts the pen on the paper and it all flows.

Dean,

I have the impression that you’re not someone who likes useless words, but does like meaningful ones. I tried to choose the ones I used keeping that in mind. I sincerely hope that I succeeded. I found out in my own experience that meaningful words can make the difference in certain situations, and I can only hope that they can make the same kind of difference to you. Best wishes for the new year – may it be as wonderful as you deserve.


He signs it with both name and surname, checks it over. He wonders if he shouldn’t tone it down, but it’s a rare thing that he just knows what to write to someone, and to be entirely truthful, he doesn’t want to change it. It might sound a bit awkward, but it sounds honest, and that’s enough. He closes the envelope and puts it under the ribbon, making sure that it doesn’t fall off. He places everything into the green box, closes it carefully and uses transparent tape to seal it. Then he decides that he doesn’t want Sam’s address on it if he decides to use the entire box as a gift-holder, and so he finds a second, plain brown package. He writes Sam’s address on the side, and his return one on the other, places the green box inside it and seals everything again after a last look at the content.

He smiles when he’s done. He feels like he has done his job and done it well.

--

He mails the package on the next day, and opens one hour later because of it.

At dinner, Balthazar asks him if he met someone.

“Why should I have met someone?” Castiel replies, eating his salad.

“Because, my darling, you look smitten.”

“I’m not smitten with anyone.”

“That’s what you tell yourself, but then again, it’s not like you don’t do denial half of the time.”

It should sting – but it’s kind of the truth, so Castiel gets back to his dinner. After all, he does like Balthazar also because he always says what he thinks, and Castiel appreciates that quality in someone.

--

The next month, he gets fifteen custom orders at once – which is a good thing for his bank account, but not for his sleep. He doesn’t think about Sam or Dean Winchester all that often, but whenever he’s sitting with his sketchpad, trying to come up with custom designs, he can only think that the shirt he made for Dean felt different.

--

On Christmas morning, his brother calls him and Balthazar does too. That’s the end of it. Since Gabriel has to be out of town until New Year’s and since Balthazar does have a family, good for him, they had all decided to have lunch together on the 31st. And that’ll be the extent of celebration for this year, but Castiel is fine with it. He has his gifts ready and he can wait. If spending Christmas working on an order that he has to finish before mid-January and watching his It’s a Wonderful Life DVD while eating leftovers from what he ordered yesterday evening from the Indian place around the corner sounds pathetic… well, he can overlook it.

He isn’t expecting his computer to beep sometime during Christmas day afternoon – he never gets e-mails during actual festive days. He stops the movie and goes to his laptop. The e-mail is in the orders folder, so someone sent it at that address. He opens the folder and his entire body goes still for a second. There isn’t an object, but the sender’s name is Dean Winchester.

He clicks on the e-mail before he can freak out.

Castiel,

You were probably expecting a reply from my brother but I figured I should do it myself. It kinda feels strange but whatever, I’ll get over that. I only wanted to say thank you. It probably sounds freaking weird since it’s your job and that’s what you do, but I don’t think it was just that. That shirt didn’t feel like someone put it together just because they were paid to do it. I – when I saw it I kinda felt like someone had looked inside me and put it on a piece of clothing. And no one has made anything like that for me, so well, just thanks. Also, I’ve looked at the other stuff you sell. It’s pretty cool. I guess I might order something else from you at some point. Anyway, that was it. Thanks again. I mean it.

Dean.

PS: I figured you’d want to know how it looks on me, so I attached a picture.

PPS: uhm, also, thanks for that note.


Castiel notices that yes, there’s a picture along with the mail. He opens it and –

Well.

He did good indeed, because Dean looks gorgeous in it. The greens he chose match Dean’s eyes perfectly, and it does fit to him in all the right places. And he looks… pretty comfortable. Satisfied with what he wears. He’s smiling just slightly, his cheeks barely reddened, like he’s half-embarrassed of being photographed.

Castiel tried to ignore the way his heart races and clicks on the reply button. He starts writing without thinking about what he’s writing – otherwise he’d never manage it.

Dean,

I’m glad to hear that you were satisfied with it. You might be right – it took more time than usual for me to craft it, but don’t think that it’s a negative thing. I liked working on it, and if I can share my opinion, it’s nice to see how it looks on you. I can’t help feeling flattered, but well, it feels good to know it when you did a good job. And thanks for what you said about my work – it means a lot to hear it.

All the best,

Castiel

PS: you’re welcome, but you don’t need to thank me for the note. It was all true.


He sends the message and decides that he needs to get back to his movie and not to think about how nice Dean looked in that shirt – except that he has an answer ten minutes later.

Dude, I wasn’t expecting a reply so soon, but well, hey, at least I’m not feeling ignored. Seriously, well, it was good to read that. And yes, you did a freaking good job, I won’t be the one to deny that. Though well, it’s kinda nice to know that you liked working on it.

Dean


Castiel shouldn’t reply.

But he can’t stop himself.

Case is that I’m in what most people would call a pretty pathetic predicament. I’m currently on my own and trying not to work because it’s still a holiday, so I figured I could reply since I was there. And I loved working on it.

Castiel



Oh, don’t sweat it out. I’m alone too – Sam is out with this Sarah friend of his who visited from California and I wasn’t up for dealing with more than two people at once. Wasn’t that her telling him to check you out? Anyway, I get it. I just hope you aren’t watching It’s a Wonderful Life.

Dean


In fact, I am. Why, do you have any other suggestions?

Castiel



Well, I was into this Terminator marathon. But typical Christmas stuff is too depressing for my tastes right now.

Dean



The conversation goes on for a while, and when Castiel shuts the computer off, he realizes that they exchanged some thirty e-mails.

Two days later, he finds an order for a couple of the shirts he sells online. The shipping address is for Lawrence. The name says Dean Winchester.

--

Castiel prints the shirts without even waiting a day – he had the right color and size anyway. He packs them both in two different plastic bags, and even if he usually doesn’t use fancy boxes for regular orders, he chooses a red one instead of the usual plain packages. He writes Dean’s address on the side, neatly, carefully; and then he remembers something he had seen on today’s newspaper. There’s an article about Metallica playing somewhere in San Francisco next month, and he remembers the list of Dean’s preferences. He tears the page away, folds it neatly, places it in the box, under the shirts, and then grabs a post-it note. From the house, it reads. He attaches it to the article, covers it with the shirts, seals the box and ships it the next day.

--

Hey there,

Thanks for the extra, man. I totally appreciated it. Also the shirts look great.

Dean


--

“You are smitten,” Balthazar proclaims the evening after Castiel gets that mail.

“I’m not,” Castiel tries to reply, but it sounds unconvincing to his own ears.

“You’re not fooling anyone, least of all me, darling.”

“Well, the person I did that shirt for before Christmas, they might have ordered some more. And I might have spent Christmas day e-mailing them.”

Balthazar stares at him for a second, then smirks and gets back to his steak.

“You don’t know how to pick them easy, do you? Oh well, if you ever want advice about phone sex, you know you can always count on me, do you?”

“I’d rather buy your dildos,” Castiel deadpans, and then he almost chokes on his food when Balthazar claps his shoulder.

“Well, you’re learning! Maybe one of these years you’ll finally get out of your bubble. I’ll live for that day, Cassie.”

Castiel groans and solemnly swears to himself that if he ever buys something from Balthazar, it’ll be condoms at most.

--

He answers that mail when he comes back and before he realizes it, they’ve been sending messages back and forth until two AM; and among the information that was shared, now Castiel knows that Dean’s birthday is on January 24th.

He doesn’t get any sleep that night – he loses it over deciding whether it’s appropriate to do what he’s thinking about doing or not. It’s the 17th, so he can’t afford to do anything too complicated, but still, the more he thinks about it the more he wants to go for it. It has to be because some of the things Dean said in those mails, or maybe it’s just that the more he talks to Dean the more he thinks that he gets where he comes from. Or maybe it’s that it’s the first time in years during which he actually connects with another human being.

He decides that it doesn’t matter. Especially not when Dean at some point had said that he was going to spend the day studying stuff on his own because Sam had to get back to California to close on some case and he couldn’t do it from Lawrence.

On the next day, he calls the retailer and asks them if they can please make another dark gray shirt with Dean’s measures in a couple of days at most. Then he spends that couple of days crafting it.

--

The finished product is nowhere as elaborated as the first shirt was. This one has a single quote on the front and one in the back, both in dark red. The font’s dimensions change with each word and sometimes with different letters, making it stand out. It reads, it’s hard to adapt to chaos, but it can be done on the front and I am living proof of that: it can be done on the back. It’s another quote from Breakfast of Champions, which Castiel had found adequate. Especially because Dean has actually shared some personal information that wasn’t in Sam’s e-mail, and Castiel thinks that it could fit the circumstances. He packs the shirt in the usual plastic bag and in a dark red box. He doesn’t put a note inside it, but after writing neatly and carefully the address, as usual, he takes a sharpie and writes for Dean – happy birthday on the top of the box.

He ships it paying a surplus to make sure it doesn’t arrive after the 24th.

--

That particular day, he doesn’t even have time to look at the computer one second. A friend of Balthazar’s who owns another sex shop of the huge kind orders him fifty shirts for the shop assistants (Castiel doesn’t want to know what he’d need fifty shirts for), then he gets orders from three local junior high soccer teams and in between all of this he has to ship five shirts. During dinner he’s so close to comatose that even Balthazar takes pity on him and doesn’t offer him any discounts for possible purchases at The Holy Grail. When he arrives home, he’s exhausted; he checks the e-mail just to see if he has any orders to take care of the next day, completely forgetting about the date. This is why he initially does a double take when he sees a mail from Dean in his custom orders folder.

And then he remembers that it’s the 24th. He opens the mail, not knowing what to expect.

Castiel,

I tried to write this down but apparently it’s not the right day for me to write things down. Check the attached file.

Dean


It’s a video, Castiel realizes; he sits back on the chair, his hand shaking over the mouse, before double clicking over it. When it opens, he sees Dean moving back to lean against a chair, in a dark room. Castiel can only make out Dean’s face, and that’s mostly because of the faint light coming from a lamp on the right side of the room. Dean looks embarrassed for a second, runs a hand through his hair, licks his lips. He’s obviously nervous, and suddenly Castiel wishes that he could move through that screen and land inside that room. Which won’t obviously happen.

“Hey there,” Dean starts, sounding embarrassed again, and Castiel decides that he likes Dean’s voice. Rough, deep, but not overtly so. “I just, wanted to say thanks in person. Sorta. As close as it gets. It’s probably stupid, but then again if you don’t count my brother and my boss you’re the only person who remembered it. And I wasn’t expecting you to mention it.”

Castiel realizes then that Dean is wearing the shirt he received for Christmas. “It was great, by the way. I loved it. And I can’t seem to get over the fact that you haven’t even met me but that you apparently can guess what I want better than a lot of people who see me every day. It – it really means something that you did it. Though I hope you didn’t lose any money because of that. But regardless, thanks. I mean it.”

It’s over then, and Castiel has no idea of what he should do. For common decency standards, this has already gone too far; but then again, he doesn’t regret sending Dean that gift and he doesn’t regret anything else. Never mind that he might find Dean too attractive for his own good (and probably for Castiel’s own good as well), but it’s not like it’s an issue for now.

So, why not?

He opens up his webcam, opens a program which should be able to take a video and leans back into his chair. Suddenly he feels very self-conscious as he clears his throat, but Dean was probably feeling the same, so he takes a breath and just speaks.

“Hello, Dean. And thank you for your message. Believe me, sending you the extra shirt was no hardship. Don’t concern yourself – I sent it because I wanted to. And – well, it’s good to know you liked it even if it probably lacks complexity. If it made your day better, then I can only be happy to hear it. You’re very much welcome.”

Then he shuts the camera off because he thinks he’s about to hyperventilate. He attaches the video to an answering e-mail before he can think better of it and goes straight to bed as soon as he disconnects the computer.

In his dream, that night, he and Dean are having coffee at the Roadhouse. They’re sitting at a table, it’s a sunny day, and they don’t talk. The only thing they do is sipping from their respective cups. There’s a comfortable silence between them that Castiel hasn’t experienced lately, and he likes how it feels.

It’s a lovely dream, but Castiel can’t help feeling somewhat melancholic when he wakes up.

--

The next morning, when he checks, he doesn’t see an answer, but considering that it’s seven-thirty AM, maybe he shouldn’t worry. He doesn’t have much workload to get through, and he keeps on checking his e-mail. But the answer doesn’t come.

Maybe he has gone too far.

He closes shop early, still no answer, and walks straight into Balthazar’s store. He waits for Balthazar to be done with a client, and then receives a surprised look.

“You closed early.”

“I did.”

“Well then. That’s news. I can do that too, no problem, and we can –”

“Wait. I need to purchase this,” Castiel says, placing a bottle of lube next to the cash register.

Balthazar looks at him like he has grown two heads.

“Are you planning on actually using this?”

“That would be my business.”

“Well, now that you’re buying things from me, I think it’s a fairly accurate sign that the Mayans were right. We should get ready for the apocalypse next year. And take it without paying, it’s on the house.”

“Balthazar –”

“Cassie, it’s five bucks. It’s not even the fancy kind. You can offer me dinner, if you’re that set on it, but I’ve known you for years. It’d feel just ridiculous to let you pay,” he finishes, shutting off the register for good.

Castiel doesn’t add anything (and wonders why the lube wasn’t fancy - maybe because it’s not flavored?) and pays for Balthazar’s lunch.

That night, he puts half of that bottle on his palm and uses it to jerk off, imagining that the hand belongs to someone else. There’s a reason he used the lube – because he doesn’t use it normally, while jerking himself off.

It doesn’t work as much as he had hoped, but he still comes with Dean’s face in his mind.

He’s screwed. So totally screwed.

--

The next day is Saturday. He drags himself out of bed and checks his e-mail before doing anything else. He has another custom order from someone he doesn’t know and another four regular ones, but no answer from Dean.

He sighs, gets inside his bathroom and forces himself to move down to the ground floor. He answers the mail for the custom order and prints all the regular ones he received (he’ll ship at least these on Monday). He glances at The Holy Grail, wondering if he should close for the moment, go search for Balthazar and just talk about this, but then he remembers Balthazar telling him that today he would be out of town. To research new material to sell at some kind of convention for sex shop owners in Nevada.

He doesn’t even bother ordering lunch, and when he tries to come up with something for the new custom order, the sketch pad remains blank. Realizing that it’s a lost cause, he puts it away and hopes for someone to come in and give him a distraction.

Clearly, it’s the slowest day in the history of slow days and at six PM no one has come in, his inbox is empty and the only company he has is the one of the four neatly wrapped packages piled upon each other on his desk. He figures he can as well seal them instead of staring into nothing. He takes his stack of post-it notes, writes something nice on each of them (thank you kindly for your purchase and have a great day! ) and places them carefully on the plastic bags containing the folded shirts. He prints out the receipts, places them inside and seals everything, and he’s done in thirty minutes. For the first time in years, he wonders if he shouldn’t close early, go out and get properly wasted, but the last time he did it there had been vomiting and the hangover had been disastrous. He isn’t sure that he wants to try that with his brother out of town and the only friend he has checking blow-up dolls somewhere near Reno.

And that’s when he hears the door opening. Tentatively. Like whoever’s coming in doesn’t know whether they should.

He raises his head and his eyes meet Dean’s and all of a sudden he feels his entire body freeze on the spot.

continued here
 
 
feeling: weirdweird
on rotation: the cave - mumford snd sons
 
 
( 19 comments — Leave a comment )
Kevin Jonesmulder200 on June 11th, 2011 12:15 am (UTC)
Castiel doesn’t add anything (and wonders why the lube wasn’t fancy - maybe because it’s not flavored?) and pays for Balthazar’s lunch.

That night, he puts half of that bottle on his palm and uses it to jerk off, imagining that the hand belongs to someone else. There’s a reason he used the lube – because he doesn’t use it normally, while jerking himself off.

It doesn’t work as much as he had hoped, but he still comes with Dean’s face in his mind.

He’s screwed. So totally screwed.


Yes, you are but in a good way!

And Wow! Talk about surprises!
the female ghost of tom joad: supernatural + nick cave = otpjanie_tangerine on June 11th, 2011 11:54 am (UTC)
Oh it's totally in a good way, he just doesn't know it at this point. ;)
joy: balthazar » you traded in your wingsjoyyjpg on June 11th, 2011 02:47 am (UTC)
Oh my goodness, this fic is huge! And I am desperate need of sleep, fuck my life -- but when I get up in the morning? I'm reading the hell out of this.

Also: THE SUMMARY. BALTHAZAR. I AM IN LOVE WITH THIS ALREADY.
the female ghost of tom joad: supernatural balthazarjanie_tangerine on June 11th, 2011 12:01 pm (UTC)
DON'T TELL ME. IT WAS SUPPOSED TO BE 4000 WORDS. See what I mean when I say that I'm crap at keeping things short. ;) And ehe, I hope you like it when you get down to it! And LOL. Apparently Balthazar having that job is the best idea I had in the last ten years considering the response until now ;)
Giuliae0wyn on June 11th, 2011 09:18 am (UTC)
*______________________________________________________________________________________________*

Un commento più coerente sarà a seguire, quando avrò letto la seconda parte... sappi che fino a qui l'adoro e ho passato praticamente tutto il tempo a leggere con un grosso sorriso stampato in faccia <3
the female ghost of tom joad: supernatural + nick cave = otpjanie_tangerine on June 11th, 2011 12:03 pm (UTC)
Mah. MI PIACE LA TUA INCOERENZA. ;) ;)

Lol benissimo, era esattamente l'effetto che speravo avesse ♥
abbylover23: OTP got you sweetnessabbylover23 on June 14th, 2011 06:00 pm (UTC)
OMG this isamazing! i started reading it at work and i am SO GLAD i got home and got my internet back before i realised there was a PART II, i would have been on needle edge all afternoon with the desire to know what happens when they speak.

*RUNS TO READ PART THE SECOND JOYOUSLY*
shabbytigershabbytiger on December 27th, 2011 03:52 pm (UTC)
I adore this fic. And am so grateful its actually got a part two. Am off to read now. Balthazar and a sex shop? Cas having his own tee shirt biz-its just, it makes sense, the whole freaking thing is genius. Runs off to read more. PS It's a testamant to how much I enjoyed this so far that I am writing this when I could be reading after that ending.
the female ghost of tom joad: leveragejanie_tangerine on January 5th, 2012 06:22 pm (UTC)
Aw, thanks! :D glad that this worked for you and that the characterizations/re-casting did as well. ;)
Patent Counsel for Adrian Veidt and Tony Stark: SPN Castiel Nerdy Angel Dudeakemi42 on February 11th, 2012 05:54 am (UTC)
I was a bit dubious about the premise, but this REALLY worked. Thank you!
Lucy Pollardwriterzoid56 on August 12th, 2012 04:00 am (UTC)
PLEASEPLEASEPLEASE TELL ME YOU'VE GOT A PDF FILE I CAN DOWNLOAD?

THIS IS UTTER PERFECTION!
the female ghost of tom joad: supernatural + nick cave = otpjanie_tangerine on August 13th, 2012 07:07 pm (UTC)
Eeeeh I don't have it right now and I have sporadic internet access, but I can try to make one and give you the link in a couple of days if it's fine. ;) and thank you, glad you liked it this much! :D
Mahala A.C.mahala_ac on September 24th, 2013 07:50 am (UTC)
I would also like that link to the PDF Janie! *\^.^/*
speakeasv on December 13th, 2013 09:22 pm (UTC)
I was also wondering if I could get a link to a pdf. I absolutely love all your work and wish they all came with links!!
cottoncory on October 15th, 2012 07:17 am (UTC)
I crave rom-com AU fics on a daily basis, so there was no way I was gonna pass this up. And, well. I love the idea. I could see the shirts Cas designed in my head, and they look absolutely amazing.
Also, Cas and Dean are super precious, I just want to gather Dean in my arms and never let go because he's always my favourite, but especially when he's all honest and insecure and asdfggh. *flails*
On a different note, your Balthazar is perfect. I read all his dialogue in his actual voice, which doesn't happen to me a lot in fics, and all the lightheartedness and sexuality he exudes were spot-on.
arora_kayd: MLP:FiM - Heeearora_kayd on December 26th, 2012 09:46 am (UTC)
The only thing my brain can come up with in response to this fic so far is: *eeeeeeeee*
rubyrose804rubyrose804 on March 30th, 2013 06:47 pm (UTC)
I am in love with sex shop-owner Balthazar. It's perfect. Perfect, I say.

This fic is so cute and perfect. I love it so much.
Sarah Josephsarahjay55 on June 12th, 2013 05:16 pm (UTC)
This is so spectactularly lovely and wonderful... I actually got physical chills (the good kind) when they started emailing, and then with the video and OMG he's come to the shop!!!

I can't wait to carry on with the rest... but I'm teasing myself, making my self wait, like I would with any lovely treat!

Thank you!!
purpleartificepurpleartifice on August 25th, 2013 01:02 am (UTC)
HOLY SHIT! DEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEAN IN THE SHOOOOOOOOOOOOOOP!!!
( 19 comments — Leave a comment )