Title: The Neighbor's Friend
Characters: OFC, Castiel
Summary: Margret meets a friend of Dean. Set in early S11, no spoilers. Part three in the Neighbor series.
The Neighbor's Friend
I didn't see Dean junior again but two weeks later his father was back.
Dean had been busy with work, or so he said, he still didn't care to elaborate what he was doing for a living, but now he was back and his son was with his mother again and everything went back to normal.
Like before Dean came in once or twice a week when work wasn't calling him out of town for a while.
Dean dropped by the garage often to have a chat with Karl or to buy parts for his car, for someone who loved his car this much he had a lot of fender benders, and by now he and his car were a common sight in town and the rumors had died down.
Sam was a rarer sight but he had made friends with Anne the librarian and Walter who ran the town's archive. Both wouldn't stop gushing over him, how polite and interested he was, and that was enough to even shut up the skeptical ones like Francine who was still convinced that Dean would rob me one day.
However, Dean's car was the most distinctive one in town and everybody knew it at least by sight so when that monstrosity of a car parked right outside my store I knew that the owner wasn't from Lebanon. He must have made a really wrong turn to end up in our little town.
The man emerging from the driver's side didn't look like the pimp, pardon my words, the car suggested him to be but he looked clearly out of place.
He headed directly for my store and while he approached the glass front door I noticed the unruly hair, wrinkled coat and askew tie. He must have had a long drive already today and I doubted that Lebanon was his final destination.
We got those on occasion, people who got lost and were looking for the way back to the interstate, and it was usually my or Karl's job to point them in the right direction.
To my surprise the man grabbed a cart with the clear intention to buy more than a candy bar for the road.
This was about to get interesting.
Especially when he didn't turn towards the aisles and headed directly towards me instead.
"Hello." He greeted me. "You must be Margret." His voice was a deep gravel but his face reminded me more of a lost puppy than anything else.
"Well, I am." I gave him a cheerful smile while my mind was racing where he possibly could have gotten my name from. "I don't see a new face that often around here." I prompted in hope that he would give me something to work with. His car alone would make him the town's talk for days and since my store was the center of that kind of talk I had a reputation to maintain.
For a long moment he looked like he was pondering what to tell me.
"Dean told me to ask for your help." He finally said which was not what I had expected him to say. "He said you would know what he usually buys."
He gave me a hopeful look.
"Dean?" There was only one Dean I knew, two if you count his son, but so far he'd done all his grocery shopping by himself or he had let his brother take care of it. I narrowed my eyes on this stranger, trying to figure out what was going on here.
"Yes." The man said, unimpressed by my staring. "He said you know him."
"Of course, Dean's a regular." I made up my mind. This was a paying customer and apparently a friend of Dean and at the moment we were the only ones in the store anyway so I had time to help him. "What do you need?"
"Bread." He said. "Coffee. Meat. Fruits and vegetables. Fresh things."
I nodded to that, mentally making a list.
"What about canned and frozen goods?" I asked because Dean liked to stock up on those as well. The first time he'd bought those, it had been like he was preparing for World War III. Now he was only restocking what he and Sam used up, I guessed, but with this stranger in the mix I wasn't so sure anymore how many people were living off the food Dean was buying.
"The bunker's pantry is well stocked." The man said, unintentionally revealing a piece of information Dean had failed to mention so far.
"Bunker?" I repeated with a curious look over my shoulder while we were heading to the aisle with the bread.
The man made a face before he glossed over my question by saying: "Sam and Dean have been out of town for a while, I want to restock on perishable food before they come home."
"That's very nice of you." I said and put two packages of bread in his cart, multi grain for Sam and white bread for Dean. "Are you looking after their place while they're out of town?"
That question seemed to throw him off for a moment.
"I live with them." He said, pushing the cart forward. "For a while."
Glancing at him I tried to figure out what he meant with that. Did he lose his job? His wife? His footage in life? He did look a bit disheveled, as if he didn't care much about his appearance. If I was honest, his suit looked like he had slept in it. For more than one night.
"How come?" I asked innocently. While we made our way over to the milk, I discretely took a little sniff at him. I kind of expected to smell old sweat or alcohol but he didn't really smell like anything.
"I had nowhere else to go." He said, lifting two gallons of milk with one hand as if they weighted nothing.
"Dean is a good man. Of course he'd help a friend in need." I didn't know much about Dean but I was sure that he would be there for his friends. He for sure was for his brother. The way he talked about Sam, he cared for the ones he loved. People like Francine only saw the rough shell but I knew the Dean who baked me apple pie.
The man looked at me with a tilt of his head as if he was trying to make sense out of my words. I didn't know if it was because I thought he was a friend of Dean or that he was in need but as long as he didn't ask, I had no intention to voice my thoughts about him going through a rough patch of life right now.
"You should get everything you need for cheeseburgers." I said before this could get awkward. "Dean loves a homemade cheeseburger."
"He does." The man said with a soft smile and followed me over to the meat.
After that we went for the fruits and vegetables where I put tomatoes, cucumber and lettuce in his cart. When I looked up again, I locked eyes with him.
"Make sure that some of this ends up on the cheeseburgers." I said with a stern voice. "Don't let Dean chop all of this into a salad for Sam."
Now he gave me a little laugh that instantly took away some of the haggard lines around his eyes. Maybe he had been sick. It would explain a lot about him. Not that I would have asked that question, I might be nosy but I do know where to draw the line.
"I will make sure of that." He promised solemnly.
I gave him a pat on the shoulder and added a bag of apples to his cart. The sour ones that would be perfect for apple pie.
"Nothing better than apple pie when you come home from a long trip." I explained when he frowned at the bag.
"I can't bake." He admitted. "And I'm not sure if Dean is up for baking at the moment."
"Maybe after a good night's sleep." I shrugged, the apples wouldn't go bad after a day. I understood that after a long drive Dean would rather have a shower and some sleep than stand in the kitchen.
The man didn't answer but he was avoiding my eye.
Dread settled in my stomach. I didn't know what Dean and his brother did for a living but I had seen him coming in after one of their trips with bruises on his face. And there had been this one time when Sam had come into my store with his arm in a sling, looking like death warmed over.
"He's alright, isn't he?" I asked, not sure if I wanted to hear the answer. Or if this man would even give me one.
"Their last … job." The word was clearly not his first choice. He paused. "It has been rough. But they're fine. They will be fine." He added the last part as if he needed to convince himself of that fact.
I didn't know what to say to that. I wanted to ask but I didn't know how to form the question without coming across as the old nosy grocery lady.
"I should have been with them." The man continued in a low voice, more to himself than to me.
"Why haven't you?" I dared to ask.
"I've been …" He started but then stopped himself. "I needed time to recover."
"Taking the time you need for yourself is not a bad thing." I reminded him. So he had been sick.
We passed the freezers and I put a rhubarb pie in his cart. I knew Dean liked it and if he wasn't up for baking it was a good substitute. Something good for the soul. I hoped he would share it with his friend, he looked like he needed something good for his soul, too. "Besides, you're here, doing the groceries for Dean and his brother, you are helping them."
Now he gave me a shy smile.
"This is the first time I've been out in a while." He said and it felt like he was sharing a secret with me. I wondered how sick he had been.
"One step at a time." I said. "Take the time you need, dear."
"I'm not sure I have that luxury." He let out a sigh but forced the lines of worry off his face a second later.
I couldn't help but wonder if he was battling a terminal illness but that was another question I didn't ask.
"That's all I can think of." I said with a gesture over his packed cart.
He gave it a critical look before he nodded and started to move the cart towards the counter.
"Thank you, Margret. You've been a great help." He said while he put his things on the belt.
"Any time. Friends of Dean are always welcome here." I gave him a warm smile and a discount. If he noticed the latter he didn't comment on it.
He was paying with a bundle of small bills and he gave me an apologizing look when he counted out the correct amount.
"Dean doesn't want me to use my card here."
That was an odd statement but money was money so I just gave him his change which he put in the tip jar along with some extra.
"What's your name?" I asked when he was ready to leave.
"Castiel." He said without offering a last name. I still didn't know Dean's last name so I wasn't really surprised. "But Dean calls me Cas." There was an offer in the way he said it.
"So, Cas." I tried out the name. "Am I going to see you around more often?"
"I would like that."