"My name is Dean Winchester...and I'm an alcoholic."
The other people sitting in the church basement nodded their greetings. A chorus of 'Hello Dean' went round the circle of battered chairs. He hated these meetings, only still came because he'd promised Sam he would. After watching their Dad drink himself to death Sam was determined to make sure Dean stayed dry this time. He hadn't had a drink in over a year, but he still came to the meetings. Rule one – You are never cured. You will always be an alcoholic, just one who doesn't drink.
The others had been introducing themselves, two men and a woman on his left side, the rest still waiting for their turn. He hadn't heard their names. He tuned back in long enough to catch the next one. A slight guy in a suit who stuck out like, well a guy in a suit, given their present surroundings.
"My name is Castiel Novak, and I am an alcoholic."
And probably a whisky regular if that voice was anything to go by.
Inwardly Dean laid a bet that at the root of this guy he'd find some really religious parents. Even if he wasn't named after an angel (and yes Dean knew all about those, thank you Mom for four years of Sunday school) the squeaky clean vibe was all over him. Too much time spent in church or with adults when he was growing up. He looked like he'd never been a kid.
He knew that feeling.
Though Castiel had probable never hauled his Dad's drunk ass back to the motel room they'd been living in since the house got repossessed. He'd probably never known what it was like to be the soul carer of a kid only four years younger than himself.
On the strength of that thought Dean spends his spot of 'group' talking about Sam. He spends a lot of time talking about Sam, or Dad. Not much of it talking about himself. He knows why he drinks (Dad), knows why he stopped (Sam), neither reason has anything to do with him.
"The look on Sammy's face, it was like he was seeing Dad all over again." The group nods as one, all except Bobby, who never looks at anyone, and the new guy, who's just staring through him, or into him. Either way Dean is glad when it's someone else's turn to speak.
They listen to Ash talking about his time on the street, after he dropped out of MIT. Dean's heard the story before but he listens, Ash is someone he can identify with, all those expectations and disappointments run parallel to his own. To how much he wanted to not turn into a clone of John Winchester, crappy decisions and all.
Next up is Ruby, society girl gone rogue, pretty much entirely self inflicted, but then it's all self inflicted to a point. He can't judge her really, not from his place, fifth time in the program and all. She's kind of hot, which helps, but he's had enough sloppy drunken hook-ups that he doesn't want to risk it. Not when it could ruin them both, ruin their last collective chance.
Castiel seems surprised when he's invited to speak. He blinks, a slight frown creasing his forehead.
"I don't know what to say."
The rest of the group just waits.
"Just...uh..." Dean shifts in his seat, why is this down to him all of a sudden? "What made you come here?"
"My sister, Anna." He states blankly, not getting the point, apparently. Or avoiding it so hard he'd frozen up.
"Because..." he draws out the word.
"Because I'm an alcoholic." He casts his bright blue eyes downwards, shame evident in every muscle. "I..." he seizes up, voice choked off. For an awful, long moment, Dean thinks he's going to cry, but he pulls himself roughly together. "I'm sorry." He gets up and walks briskly to the door, darting out and up the steps into the main church building.
Dean watches him go, the thing is, he's been there.
The meeting kind of peters out after that, everyone drifts out and through the empty church. Dean stands for a moment, undecided, then heads for the confessional. Fuck it, worth a shot, right? Despite the fact that he came to the goddamn meeting he still feels like shit.
Closing the tiny wooden door he settles on the narrow seat and directs his gaze to the grille. Behind it a shape moves in the close darkness. And even though he's so lapsed it's criminal, Dean still remembers when his Mom took him through this, when this used to be second nature.
"Forgive me father, for I have sinned. It's been...uh...years, since my last confession. Fifteen, rough guess." He frowns. "Seventeen, tops."
There's a long silence.
"I think I'm on the wrong side." A voice says quietly.
Dean can only snort, softly, with laughter.
"Probably a good thing you stopped me there. That could have gone bad, for everyone."
Silence. Poor bastard.
"You want to tell me anything...I mean, I've got no one to pass it on too, 'cept my brother and he doesn't judge, not anymore."
Silence. The thick working of a nervous throat. Just as he's about to brush it off, the voice comes again, low and desperate.
"My sister made me come, I've been sober for...for a long time, but I..."
He assumes the guy is nodding.
"I felt like I'd wasted my time, that staying away from it wasn't making my life any better. My job is...well I make a lot of hard choices and work with some rather terrible people."
"Banking?" It's worth a shot, just to lighten the mood.
"Social work" Which makes sense.
"Fuck, that's gotta be...shit, man." It's the least eloquent thing he's ever said.
The guy sighs in agreement.
"There was a girl, a Pregnant. Eleven year old. Girl...her father, THE father, beat her until she miscarried." He laughs bitterly "and for some reason that meant I had to throw in all that work. I had a drink." A Beat. "I couldn't...I didn't, stop myself at one."
There's a long silence as both parties digest this.
"You know...it's ok to slip. I've done this five times, and my Dad, well he was drunk pretty much the whole time from when my Mom died. Maybe before in all honesty. So I should know better."
"Knowing isn't enough." Castiel says, to him, for him. It's the first time Dean's heard the words and agreed. Known that maybe his strength, his experience, isn't enough.
"Yeah" is what he says.
"You want to get out of here?" he asks, suddenly.
"I should really get back to Anna's..."
"Come on, sounds like you need some time away from caring-and-sharing, promise I won't bullshit you." He seems to waver. "I'll buy you a beer." When no laugh is forthcoming he adds. "Sorry, AA humour. I do that."
In answer the other man pushes open the door of the confessional, Dean follows suit and comes face to face with the slightly red eyed, untidy haired man. He extends a hand.
It's pointless, because they know already, but they still shake. Dean leads him out of the church and down the street to a diner. Feeling better already, despite his lack of absolution.
He ends up buying Castiel dinner, such as it is. The guy doesn't have any money on him, and it's only a cheese burger after all, not a full three course meal, so Dean springs for it. They eat in a comfortable silence, punctuated with short, rather intense revelations from the obligatory 'worst things I ever did' conversation.
Castiel had screwed up a case, didn't notice a three month old was endangered until it was too late. The kid had died in hospital with multiple injuries. There'd been an inquiry, which he'd passed, but he still felt he was to blame.
Dean had missed Sam's graduation. He'd lost his job, fucked Sam's girlfriend Jess, before she became Sam's fiancé Jess. He'd stolen from Sam, from Missouri, a family friend, from anyone who let him in. He'd lost every ounce of respect he had for himself. He'd taken drugs too, not just the booze, but he'd kicked that in the first round of rehab, hopefully for good.
"I did stuff, for money." He confesses, brokenly, sitting in his car after dinner, next to Castiel's rigid profile. The other man just listens, comfortably takes in everything Dean is saying without pity or disgust. "I...well I guess it was hooking, just a couple of times, with guys who...they picked me up from bars and stuff. The first time I just woke up with the money." He lets his voice go lower, almost hiding the words in the silence. "I don't even...I'm not even like that." He amends "I didn't think I was like that."
"Does that make it worse?" he watches him, even blue eyes and level, gentle voice. "That you enjoyed it? Would it be better if you hadn't"
"Maybe" His eyes wander over Castiel's smooth face, now less creased with tension. His dark hair and soft, chapped mouth. Something inside stirs at the sight, something he thought was dead, starved of intoxicants and left to rot.
"If I hadn't it would be easier, then I wouldn't have to..." he breaks off, ashamed of his own emotion, too sudden, too much. "I don't want to go back there." He manages, honestly. Because the feel of another man, on him, inside of him. It's too caught up in all the other things he did, the things he should be, and is, ashamed of.
All the sex which felt like everything else he did, pain and need and relief at the same time. High or drunk or low and desperate. The things he'd done were too twisted into that hell to make them anything more than part of it. Part of addiction and disappointment and pain.
When Castiel kisses him, it's like forgiveness. He feels stupid for thinking it, but it makes his chest feel tight and warm, just like it is whenever Sam picks him up, takes him in. Gives him a second chance. A fifth chance. Never a last chance.
He kisses back.
They murmur 'thank you' at the same time, smiling almost, against each other's lips.
Dean Winchester is an alcoholic. Will always be an alcoholic.
Castiel Novak is an alcoholic. Will always be an alcoholic.
And somehow, they have fallen in love.