daymarket: (Default)
daymarket ([personal profile] daymarket) wrote2010-09-08 11:24 pm
Entry tags:

Firsts: PG-13, SPN, 1/?

Title: Firsts

Author: daymarket

Pairing: Dean/Cas

Rating: PG-13 (eventual R, I think)

Notes: AU robot!fic. Sequel to "I, Castiel," which is a fic where angels and demons are robots. Cas is Dean's robot and trying to figure out what the hell it means to be human. This is a little less philosophical and more fluff, I think. 

Summary: Life after the “operation” was measured in a series of firsts.

x

The First Time Cas Really Wanted Something

Cas had been mostly quiet after he’d first woken up (or reactivated, whatever). Ash had run a few diagnostic tests during Dean’s shift and had reported the results: full cognitive function, no mechanical impediments. “As to whether he actually works as he should, I’ve no idea,” Ash had said with a shrug. “But at least he’s maxing everything out? There’s something to be said for that.”

“Full tilt in the wrong direction?” Dean asked, wincing a little as Bobby tromped into the staff room after him. Bobby didn’t know exactly what Ash and Dean were doing, and he proclaimed loudly that he really didn’t want to know. Still, best to keep it on the down low. “So, uh, is he ready to go home?”

“He better be,” Bobby grumbled. “I’m sick of hosting his sorry ass.”

“There’s no further purpose to me remaining here,” Cas pointed out. “Either I can act like a—”

“Bot-with-his-mojo-on,” Dean said in one breath before Cas could say ‘human.’ “Okay, we get it. Either the, uh, upgrades work or they don’t.”

“Upgrades?” Ash said. “That’s one way to call it.”

Cas glanced at Dean and followed his meaningful glance at Bobby. “Yes,” he said a little stiffly. “That’s correct.”

“So get your ass on the road, then,” Bobby decreed.

Cas straightened himself and stood up from the seat, and Dean’s heart leapt with an absurd giddiness when he saw that Cas was up and about for the first time in a week. “Seeya, Bobby,” Dean said as they headed out.

“You’d better come in on time tomorrow, boy!” Bobby yelled after him.

Dean threw him a lazy salute as they got into the car. Cas perched himself on the seat like he was ready to flee out the door any minute, glancing at Dean almost anxiously as they hit the road. “So,” Dean said once he turned down the rock music to somewhat bearable levels. “How do you feel?”

Cas gave a small half-shrug. “Fine.”

“Fine how? How’s your memory?”

“Commendable,” Cas said. “I believe that I am functioning perfectly.”

“Really. What did we…uh…have for dinner the day before all this started?”

“We didn’t have dinner. You ran out and got drunk.”

“Did I?” Dean mused. “Oh, yeah. Okay, not the best question. Uh. How about…oh.” He grinned. “What were you wearing when you went to Ash’s?”

Cas looked puzzled for a moment, looking down at himself. Then, in a sharper voice: “Where’s my apron?”

Dean cracked up. “I knew it! That apron’s your security blanket, isn’t it? Look, man, we have got to get you some new clothes.” He thought for a moment. “Actually, why don’t we do it now? I’ve got time to kill.”

Cas frowned, and Dean bumped him lightly on his shoulder. “You know, I missed that frown,” he commented. “Dude, your apron’s fine. It’s in a pile at home, somewhere.” Dean waved a hand vaguely. “C’mon, let’s see if your clothing tastes have changed. Ash did say he stuck a bit of Sam in you.” Dean laughed, shaking his head. “Hopefully not his godawful taste in clothes, though.”

“The apron was purchased when I printed solely on you,” Cas pointed out with a small frown.

“Oh, so you’re saying that I’ve got a subliminal taste for pink now?” Dean wondered. “Ouch, dude.”

“What’s wrong with pink?”

“Yeah, and of bubblegum. Anyway, let’s just say: new clothes, new life, right? Or the other way around. Whatever, man, you need a new set. The staff room isn’t exactly clean and you’ve been wearing that all week.”

“I don’t emit bodily fluids,” Cas pointed out.

Dean groaned. “You don’t sweat, Cas. You don’t piss, shit, sweat or bleed. Or ooze, come to that. Seriously, you can loosen up every once in a while. Hey, if you printed just on me, why are you so stiff? Do I have a Freudian urge to become a dictionary?”

“Perhaps it was a matter of opposites attracting,” Cas said after a moment.

“Really?”

Cas shrugged. “Or perhaps you secretly want to wear pink aprons.”

“I’ll go with the opposite theory, thanks,” Dean said after a moment. He glanced at Cas. “Well, either theory doesn’t matter. I suppose you’ll be wearing, I don’t know, baseball caps and pink polo shirts from now on.”

“Do you like to wear those?”

“Me?” Dean looked down at himself. “Not really. I mean, they’re okay, I guess. But life’s weird and fashion’s even weirder, so who knows what you’ll like?” He laughed. “But hey, no worries. If you want to wear pink, go for it, man. I mean, freedom of expression, right? Viva la vie boheme and everything.”

“I’m not sure what a central Europe country has to do with anything,” Cas said bemusedly, but he did brighten up a bit as they pulled into the parking lot.

Cas had been to the shopping mall before, but last time, he had followed Dean obediently through Target. This time, he took the lead, peering into the windows of different boutiques with a slightly perplexed expression. “Dean,” he said finally, “I see no difference in the styles of clothing.”

Dean grinned. “That’s because there isn’t actually much of a difference, at least in guy’s clothing.”

Cas looked a little lost. “So how do humans choose which store to frequent?”

Dean gave a small shrug. “Whim? I don’t know. I don’t shop much, either.” He glanced at the shop closest to them. “How about this? The ‘Apple Republic’ sounds good.”

Cas looked dubious. “I didn’t know that apples were moving towards democracy.”

Dean laughed. “I didn’t either. They’re following the example of the bananas, I think. Never mind,” he added as Cas opened his mouth to no doubt comment about the anarchistic tendencies of fruit. “It’s got a thirty percent sale, that’s something, right?”

Cas still looked a bit skeptical, but he nodded and followed Dean into the store. The saleswoman moved to intercept them with a bright cheery grin on her face. “Hello!” she said. “How may I help you—”

It was an almost comical moment: her eyes fell on the bracelet on Cas’ wrist, and her smile wilted away just like that. Dean pretended not to notice. “Yeah, I’m looking for some clothes,” he said, rather inanely he thought as he clapped Cas around the shoulder. “Something pink, maybe?”

“Sir, is this your bot?” the saleswoman asked, gesturing at the metal bracelet on Cas’ wrist. “I’m afraid we only serve humans here. No bots or pets allowed in the store.”

“Okay, then,” Dean said easily, even as he felt Cas tense slightly under his arm. “So serve me. Any good discounts lately?”

“I’m sorry, sir. You might want to try Target? They serve bots there.” Looking uneasy, the woman moved to block their way into the store.

Cas studied her with the cool, dispassionate glare that Dean had come to know and love. “Is there a particular reason for this rule?” he asked.

The woman’s lips tightened. “Sir, please control your bot.”

“He’s not doing anything,” Dean said. “Except asking a perfectly reasonable question, maybe. What’s wrong with bringing bots into the store?”

She gave them a hard look, clearly not trying to be polite any longer. “We have an anti-mech policy,” she said. “It serves to provide the best possible environment for all our customers.”

Cas tilted his head slightly, his gaze steady; the woman flinched, but stood her ground. “This seems like an illogical rule to me. Are bots often disruptive?” he asked.

“Sir, I’m going to have to ask you to leave,” the woman said to Dean.

Dean shook his head, wanting to stand his ground and argue. Yeah, theoretically, he knew all about anti-bot crap and the prejudice surrounding bots. Unfortunately, as he didn’t go out much with Cas, this was the first time he’d really faced something like this. “Come on, that’s ridiculous,” he snapped. “He’s not going to bite.”

“Yes, sir, but it’s company policy,” the woman said. “I’m sorry, but bots are not allowed in our stores.”

“Yeah? And why not? I’d say that they’re better behaved than certain humans. Less prejudiced, too.” He raised an eyebrow. “Or maybe you’re one of those bible-thumpers who think that bots are the sign of the coming Apocalypse and are going to destroy the world?”

“I assure you that I have no desire to obliterate the planet,” Cas added earnestly. Dean had to struggle not to crack a grin.

“Sir, I’m going to call security if you don’t go,” the woman said tightly, not looking at Cas. “You’re causing a disturbance.”

“Me?” Dean said, taken aback. “Seriously, lady?” He was about to step forward and loom menacingly over the woman when he felt Cas’ hand on his arm, holding him back. “What?”

“It’s not worth it, Dean,” Cas said into his ear. “Perhaps we should go elsewhere.”

Dean turned to look at Cas with a frown. “What, and give in to this twit?”

“There are worthier battles to fight,” Cas said quietly, and Dean had to crack a smile at the archaic wording. “Besides,” he said, “their clothes are ugly. And their salespeople clearly inadequate.”

Dean did laugh at that. He straightened up and gave the saleswoman a big, insincere grin. “Right,” he said. “Well, then, I guess I’ll have to take my big wads of cash elsewhere.” It wasn’t the wittiest repartee, but it was better than just walking out like an idiot. The saleswoman watched them go with a small frown.

Once outside, Dean did notice a little sign that was tucked into the lower right hand corner of the display window: No pets or bots allowed on the premises. “Nice to know that we live in a free world,” he muttered.

They ended up at Target, the chain superstore for all beings, mechanical or otherwise. The clothes selection still kind of sucked, but the workers there didn’t seem to care that a bot (quelle horror!) was walking around in their store so long as he was accompanied by a human who had money to spend. Cas took a long time in the men’s section—first shirts, then jeans, then coats.

“What’re you looking for?” Dean asked, leaning against a coat rack.

Cas shrugged. “The right choice,” he said cryptically.

“To express your extreme creativity?” Dean said dryly.

Cas glanced briefly at the metal bracelet on his wrist. “For something that fits me,” he said, moving onto another rack.

Dean trailed behind him, watching with amusement as Cas studied every coat like he was searching for miniature flaws. “You know,” Dean said as Cas neatly hung another reject back on its hanger and placed it back on the rack. “You can look at things other than coats, you know.”

“I know,” Cas said as he pulled out a mustard yellow trenchcoat. “But I already have many of those.” He looked up at Dean. “And I would like something new.”

Despite the fact that it was a statement, the end of the sentence curled up like a question. Cas’ lips parted slightly as if he wanted to say something else, but he shook his head and looked back down at the trenchcoat. “Sure,” Dean said to fill the silence. “Whatever rocks your socks, man.”

The tension slid from Cas’ face, and he nodded. He slid the trenchcoat on over his t-shirt, smoothing out the cuffs. The sleeves were long enough to cover the metal bracelet on his wrist, effectively hiding it from view.

“Looks good on you,” Dean said softly. “You want to get it?”

Cas hesitated. “I chose this,” he said slowly, as if every word had to be thoroughly chewed before it left his mouth.

“Yeah, you did,” Dean said. To be honest, it was a pretty ugly trenchcoat, but he wasn’t going to screw this up. Instead, he gave Cas a friendly nudge on the shoulder. “You want it?”

Cas looked up to meet Dean’s eyes, the habitual frown smoothing out slightly. “Yes. Please.”

“Okay then,” Dean said, pulling out his wallet. “One trenchcoat, coming right up.”

x

The First Time Cas Smiled

Despite some initial uneasiness, Dean and Cas managed to slide back into their old routine pretty easily. The New Cas (the words were capitalized in Dean’s head) was…well…a lot like the old Cas, really. Old Cas had liked to ask questions, and so did New Cas. Old Cas cooked and cleaned like a fiend, and New Cas was no slouch either. There were subtle differences, though, if you knew how to look for them—Old Cas had been remote, a distant observer of humanity. Behind the impassive façade, New Cas was constantly fumbling, trying to make out what exactly he was.

For the most part, Dean tried to give him space to figure it all out. When Cas had sampled the vegetarian lifestyle, Dean went along with good-natured grumbling and the occasional fast food takeout. Cas seemed to be unnaturally fond of geeky classics (although Vonnegut was still his favorite, which pleased Dean to no end) and as a result, Dean’s bookshelf filled up with doorstops like Moby Dick and War and Peace. Classical music replaced the blaring rock music that Dean favored. Cas also seemed to be rather fond of the trenchcoat, even wearing it indoors.

Still, one thing stayed the same: New Cas didn’t go out much, either. He preferred to stay home and work through however many books Dean had bought, try out a new recipe, or watch TV with Dean. When Dean finally asked him about it, Cas said as if it were obvious, “There’s nothing for me to do outdoors.”

“That’s dumb. There’s plenty to do.”

Cas shrugged. “No, there isn’t. I don’t have a job or any acquaintances out of doors.”

Dean paused. “Uh…you could go visit Sam?”

Cas frowned. “Why would I do that?”

“I don’t know,” Dean said, waving a hand. “You could go and chat with Ruby, maybe. As far as I know, Sam hasn’t sold her yet. Or, you know, Sam likes to read weird-ass books too. You guys could form a book club.”

“Does he know about what happened to me?” Cas inquired.

“Well, he doesn’t know that you, you know, were tinkered with,” Dean said, considering the question. “He just knows that you went to Ash’s for a few days for a routine check.”

“Does Ash often do routine checks?” Cas said dryly.

“He does for you, apparently,” Dean said. “High-maintenance wuss that you are.”

“I’m flattered,” Cas said gravely. “But I’m afraid that there’s still no point in going out.”

“That’s ridiculous. It’s not like people will bite you,” Dean said. He hesitated, remembering the saleswoman. “Well, most of them won’t.”

Cas stared down at his hands. “I’m not sure what I would do outdoors,” he said after a moment. “In this house, I’m...whatever I am, and you understand that. But I’m not a bot, not really. I’m not human, either. I don’t know which persona to take on around other people.”

Dean frowned, leaning forward. “What do you mean, Cas?” He tried on a smile. “There’s nothing to puzzle about, man. You’re a nerdbot who reads way too much and hasn’t smiled in the history of forever. The rest people can figure out by themselves.”

“Who would waste time trying to figure out a bot?”

The quiet words hit Dean like a punch to the gut, and he sagged down onto the couch. “Hey, Cas,” he said after a moment, wetting his lips. “You, uh…you okay? I mean, with—you know. What you are. Who you are. What happened—”

“I am adequate,” Cas said, which was so completely Cas. Dean rolled his eyes. “There is nothing wrong with me,” Cas said. “I just see no point in venturing outdoors.”

“Not even for fresh air? Exercise? Hot chicks?” Dean tried. Cas shook his head after each one. “I don’t know—me? You could drop by at work every once in a while, you know.”

“I don’t have a car,” Cas pointed out.

“Oh, yeah,” Dean said. “Huh. Well—you could use the bus? Conscientious public transportation and all.”

“I don’t think that’s necessary,” Cas said stiffly.

Dean sighed, running his hands through his hair. “Okay,” he said finally. “Let’s do this baby-steps style. Um. How about we have dinner outside tonight, huh? I’ll go with you. We can go to Ellen’s. Make a night out of it. You like Ellen’s, right?”

“Ellen is…interesting,” Cas allowed, and Dean brightened up.

“Okay,” he said. “Let’s go, then.” He grinned. “Ash did say he created an imprint for you off Ellen. I want to see what part of you that is.” He paused. “Then again, Ellen likes anyone who can drink her under the table, and you’ve got that covered in spades. So maybe nothing will change. Got your trenchcoat?”

The last sentence was unnecessary, as Cas was already wearing it. Dean grinned at the sideways glance Cas threw him, though, shaking his head. Forget about pink aprons; Cas clung to the ugly trenchcoat like there was no tomorrow. And since bots didn’t ‘emit bodily fluids,’ he had every excuse to keep on wearing it until the end of the world.

Cas seemed to shake off his depressive stupor as he got into the car. Dean refused to give up his archaic CD player for the world, but as it turned out, Cas liked Dean’s music. (Surprise, surprise.) Dean had wondered if that was a remnant of Cas’ personal-bot days, but Cas also played a lot of the aforementioned classical crap in the house. That bit was new, at least, and so Dean could let Cas enjoy his Metallica records without fussing about it too much.

“Well, well, Dean Winchester,” Ellen declared as Dean headed into the Roadhouse, Cas trailing along in his wake. “Haven’t seen you here in a while.”

“I’ve been busy,” Dean said easily, sliding onto a stool. Cas followed suit, looking around the Roadhouse as if it were new to him. “You’ve met Cas, right?”

“Sure I have,” Ellen said. “And I’m keeping an eye on you this time, Winchester,” she warned. “Get too drunk and I’m tossing you out.”

“God bless you, Ellen,” Dean said, rapping the counter. “I’ll take some of your finest moonshine whiskey, then. What about you, Cas?”

Cas stared at the list of drinks above the counter, a furrow appearing between his eyebrows. Dean waited patiently for Cas to choose, a skill that apparently needed constant practice. “Shots?” Cas said finally, looking at Dean for confirmation. Dean gave him an encouraging nod, and Ellen cracked a grin as she slapped her fist against the counter.

“Good boy,” she said approvingly. “I like the way you think.”

Dean gave a mock groan. “Try not to empty my wallet,” he advised Cas. “Bobby pays me peanuts for the work I do.”

“Which is none at all,” Ellen said sternly. “Don’t get me started on your case.” She looked at Cas. “I like anyone who can hold their liquor,” she said after a moment. “And especially those who don’t miss work.” Pointed glare at Dean.

“I didn’t miss anything,” Dean grumbled, but his heart wasn’t in it as he watched Cas lick the salt off his wrist with careful, almost dainty movements. Cas obviously wasn’t trying to be sexy in any sense of the word, but he still somehow managed with it. Yeah. Um…

Dean shook himself and focused on the nice, bland beer that Ellen had given him instead. He didn’t look at Cas again until Cas had picked up the glass itself. “Go on, then.”

Shots were to be downed in a, well, shot, and that was the way Cas had played the game last time. This time, though, Cas took it down in small mouthfuls, drawing Dean’s attention to the way his Adam’s apple moved when he swallowed. “That was nice,” Cas said when the glass was finally empty.

“One outta god knows how many,” Ellen said, pouring him another shot. “I’ll give you a discount when he’s done, Dean.”

“Sure,” Dean managed. “Whatever it takes.”

“Like I said, he holds liquor well,” Ellen said. “Glad to know that Dean’s educating in the vices of the world.”

“Ellen, you run a bar,” Dean pointed out, amused. “I don’t think that badmouthing the products is a good idea.”

“True,” Ellen said, looking up at the menu over the counter. “But I also sell other things, so I get by. You want a sandwich? Try a burger for your bot?”

“Is Jo manning the grill today?” Dean said with a grin. Jo was a student at the local college, but she still worked at the Roadhouse when she didn’t have classes. She was also a terrible cook and very good at burning the meat patties. “I’m not in the mood for BCB’s today.”

“Mind your manners,” Ellen said, but her heart wasn’t in it. “Nope. I’m doing it myself until I find someone to take on the grill full-time.”

“BCB’s?” Cas wondered as he picked up the shot glass. He polished it off in two businesslike gulps before turning to look at Dean. Two shots weren’t enough to faze him, but his expression was somewhat confused.

“Burnt crunchy bits,” Dean translated. “Jo’s signature trademark. You want a burger? Ellen’s pretty damn good at them for an old lady.” He grinned at her, and she flicked him with a bar rag.

“Watch who you’re calling old,” Ellen warned. “We aren’t fancy, mind you,” she said, addressing Cas directly. “Hamburgers, cheeseburgers, fries, that’s it. That’s all I can handle until I find someone new.”

Cas stared at her for a moment; Ellen gave him a toothy smile as she filled the shot glass for the third time. Dean waited patiently for Cas to decide; choice was a skill, and Cas worked hard at improving it. “Hamburger?” Cas said after a moment or two had gone by.

“Hamburger?” Ellen said, looking to Dean for confirmation. He toasted her with his beer, and she nodded, moving away down the counter.

“You’re getting better at this, man,” Dean said with a grin, clinking his beer against the side of Cas’ shot glass. “I would’ve gone for the cheeseburgers myself, though.”

“Cheese causes high cholesterol,” Cas said with a sideways glance at Dean. He looked as serious as ever, but there was a slight crinkle around his eyes that made Dean look twice. “And possibly flatulence.”

Dean raised an eyebrow. “And as a bot, you’ll obviously have a crappy digestive system like the rest of us, huh?”

“It’s not outside the realm of possibility,” Cas said gravely, downing his third shot. He set the glass down on the counter and wiped his lips. “Farting is a mannerism, which can be mimicked through printing.”

“Don’t tell me you’re going to start farting,” Dean snorted, leaning against the counter. “Sam’s already gassy like there’s no tomorrow—oh, shit. If you start leaking little ones, man, I’m kicking you out of the car.”

“I’ll take that into consideration,” Cas said.

“You should. Riding in my baby’s a privilege, you know, and you don’t want to lose it.” Dean reached over for the bottle of tequila Ellen had left behind and filled Cas’ glass again. “And there’s your burger,” he added as Cas finished off his fourth glass and Ellen approached with a plate. “Mmm, Ellen. Looking good.”

“Shut up, smartass,” Ellen said, pushing the plate in front of Cas, who studied it like it was the Mona Lisa or something. “Love it, hate it, you can leave comments by the door,” she said to Cas, pointing at a small wooden box. Dean grinned, knowing perfectly well that Ellen tossed everything that people put in there into the trash. “I assure you they’ll get read.”

“By mice?” Dean said dryly.

“Not so loud!” Ellen said, smacking him around the head. “It’s a Roadhouse secret, that.”

“Cross my heart and hope to die,” Dean said agreeably and refilled Cas’ glass. “How’s it going? Burnt? Raw? Don’t hesitate to speak up, man.”

“I’m not sure that tact is my style,” Cas said absentmindedly as he took a careful bite from the burger. He chewed for a few seconds and swallowed carefully, and Dean had to grin at the way Ellen raised her hands in a well? sort of way. “It’s edible,” Cas said, putting it back onto the plate. He looked up at Ellen, his expression perfectly blank.

“That’s all?” Ellen demanded, sounding offended. “Edible?”

Cas continued to stare at her, all wide-eyed innocence. It took a trained eye to look for it, but Dean was well-versed in Cas’ expressions by now. The side of Cas’ mouth quirked ever so slightly, and Dean laughed.

“He’s not as dumb as he seems,” he told Ellen, who looked at him with exasperated inquiry. “He got your feathers up, didn’t he?”

The curve of Cas’ lips twitched. “Your cooking is very fine,” he said, picking up his shot glass. “I salute you, Ellen Harvelle.”

“Uh huh,” Ellen said. “Well. I’m not sure whether to be pleased or insulted. Then again, I haven’t got time to cook for real, not when there’re drinks to mix and customers to serve.”

“You put any ads online? There must be someone in a fifty mile radius who can cook.”

Ellen shrugged. “I’m thinking of phasing the food menu out entirely, actually,” she admitted. “Remember the last cook we had? Bastard was stealing from the register. The one before that, doing coke. The one before that, flighty and late as hell half the time. I don’t know, people can either cook or be responsible, but not both. I’m sick of interviewing, to be honest.”

Dean tapped his fingers against the counter. “Hey, Cas?” he said after a moment. Cas looked up from his analysis of the burger, his forehead wrinkling.

“Yes?” he said, setting it down and carefully wiping his fingers.

“You want to expand your cooking repertoire?” Dean said, tilting his head to indicate the grill.

The wrinkle between Cas’ brows deepened as he looked at Ellen, then at the grill behind her. “I’ve never used one before.”

“Smart bot like you can pick it up,” Dean said. He glanced at Ellen. “I mean, if it’s okay,” he said belatedly.

Ellen looked a little dubious. “A personal bot? I’m not sure about this, Dean. Isn’t he supposed be tailored to one person only?”

Dean shrugged. “People use kitchenbots all the time, don’t they? Cas has got a little more personality, that’s all. And he’s not going to steal or do coke, and he’s got the alcohol tolerance of an elephant. He’s a great cook, too. You should try some of the stuff he whips up at home.”

“What does he do when you’re off at work?” Ellen asked, leaning against the counter.

“Nothing,” Dean said, “Except maybe mope. Come on, Ellen. If you got rid of the food menu, fewer people would come in during the dinner hour, you know? Cas could help you keep that on.”

Ellen pursed her lips. “Well…I won’t deny that I can’t really handle dinner hours right now.”

That was as close as Ellen would ever get to a ‘yes.’ Dean looked at Cas. “What do you think, man?”

“I…” Cas looked around him as if searching for inspiration.

“Can we have a moment, Ellen?” Dean asked her. She looked at him oddly, but nodded and moved away.

Cas’ gaze finally settled on Dean, his teeth worrying his lower lip in a gesture that Dean had never seen before. “I don’t go out of the house much, Dean,” he said, lowering his voice. “I’m not sure how I would handle this.”

The look in his eyes was pleading, but not for a respite, Dean thought. It was more like Cas was asking for…reassurance, perhaps. “If you don’t want to,” Dean said, lowering his voice to match Cas’, “it’s fine, man. But you have the skills. And the grill cook doesn’t have to do much interaction with humans if they don’t feel like it.” He wrapped his hand around Cas’ wrist, feeling the metal bracelet that was hidden under the trenchcoat. “But like I said. It’s your choice.”

“I’m not human,” Cas said, but it was uncertain.

“I know,” Dean said, “but that doesn’t mean that you’re all bot, either.”

Cas looked down at Dean’s hand on his wrist for a long moment. His free hand went to wrap around Dean’s hand, fingers curling around Dean’s. “It would be a purpose.”

“And bots are suckers for purpose, aren’t you?” Dean said, squeezing Cas’ fingers.

“I suppose we are,” Cas said. He looked up at Dean. “Very well.”

Dean waited, but Cas didn’t let go of his hand. He decided to just leave it be; it wasn’t entirely unpleasant, after all. “Hey, Ellen,” he called down the counter. “He’ll take it.”

It was a few minutes before Ellen could come over; when she finished mixing the last drinks, she wiped down the counter before heading in their direction. “Well?”

“Cheeseburgers, hamburgers, fries—Cajun, curly, what-have-you. Maybe even an array of sandwiches if he feels like it,” Dean said, grinning at her.

Ellen tapped her fingers against the counter for a moment. “I’ll pay you six bucks an hour,” she said, looking directly at Cas. “A shave off what I’d normally pay, but it’s not like my tax records are all that accurate anyway. I don’t know what the hell you’ll do with money, though, seeing as you’re a bot.”

“I’ll put it in a trust fund,” Dean said, half-jokingly. He eased his fingers out from under Cas’, feeling the warmth of Cas’ hands lingering even as he pulled away. “Save it for his grandkids.”

“Ha!” Ellen said. “I look forward to the day. Invite me to the baby shower.” She nodded at them. “Dinner hour starts at six in the afternoon. I know you’ve got work then, so you can drop him off around noon or so and pick him up at night. I’m sure I can figure out something for him to do—cleaning, inventory, what have you.”

“Great!” Dean said. “You’re an angel, Ellen.”

“Hallelujah,” she said, half-sardonically. “Be on time tomorrow.” She looked up as someone seated themselves at the counter. “I have to go. Actual customers incoming.”

Dean pulled thirty bucks out of his wallet and waved them at her back as she turned away. “Cheers, Cas,” he said, sliding them under his empty beer can. He paused. Cas was finishing off his hamburger, washing down the last bite with his fifth tequila shot. “You okay?” he said as a moment or two trickled by.

Cas wiped his mouth carefully. “Yes,” he said. His eyes darted up and met Dean’s. His mouth curled up into a quiet, almost shy smile. “Although, I must say that life as your bot is not turning as expected.”

Dean grinned back, his fingers curling back over Cas’. “Good,” he said, his voice husky. “After all, I wouldn’t want to be boring.”

Chapter Two

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