This is one of my favourite movies of all time. I love the way the sub/dom relationship is shown in it, and the tension in both characters. For that reason I hope I've done it justice – some parts are different thanks to my strange little mind.
Dean left the institution on the day of his brother's wedding.
He'd only been there for six months, but he'd offered no resistance to the regime or the therapy sessions, so they'd decided he wasn't a serious threat to himself. Dean could have told them that – he hadn't meant to cut himself, not that deeply anyway. It was just a slip, even the most practiced person could make a mistake. And, as the ladder of tiny scars up and down his thighs showed, Dean was an expert.
As Sam and Jessica pose for photos down by the pool, pastel pink crepe paper and shrieking bridesmaids everywhere, his supposedly sober father is on his third beer. Dean's had enough.
He opens the door to his old room. They haven't moved anything in the time he's been away. His rock posters and albums are still in place, his shelves of paperbacks, porno's and records are as scruffy and unorganised. His few ornaments, if they can be called that, are coated in a thin layer of dust – the pool balls, beer bottle with glued on wheels and framed pictures of him and Sam at camp and concerts.
It still looks like a teenager's room.
Dean is 23.
Under the bed he finds what he's looking for, a plastic case that contains his bottle of iodine, tiny adhesive bandages, and the straight razor. Of course he's used a lot of things, kitchen knives, tools from Dad's workshop, broken glass, hell, even a belt buckle once. But the razor is an old favourite, the only one he's hung on to. He runs the blade over the sharpening block, then undoes his belt and slides his good formal pants down to his knees. He levels the thin blade against his thigh, between two of the fine white scars that already litter his flesh.
He hates this, hates the guilty burn of anticipation that fills him as he holds the blade. But he needs it too. He can't separate the two feelings and it makes him feel detached and sick at the same time.
The cut is glorious. A smart of pain followed by a welling, buzzing quiet that seduces all his frantic anxiety. He closes his eyes, swallowing nervously. It's been months, so long. He smoothes the blood from the wound, applies the stinging iodine and a Band-Aid. He puts his kit away and goes outside to rejoin the family, feeling steadier and yet fragile.
He hates being home. He loves his Mom, and Sam, and his Dad...but it's the kind of love that cringes in your chest. His parents fight, or Sam does something that reminds Dean that even though he's the eldest he's still going nowhere while Sam takes the world by storm. They make him feel too young, and useless and impotent.
He lies in his childhood bedroom, thumbing his old magazines and listening to LP's over and over. He has no direction, no wants, no needs besides a cutting edge – and even that is only because of where he finds himself, trapped in this house.
His mother tentatively suggests over dinner that he might like to get a job. She also reminds him that 'nice Lisa Braeden" from down the block is still single. His father watches him over his steak and mashed potatoes. Sam and Jessica are still on their honeymoon, the pool house has been redecorated for their return. The house is oddly silent without Sam around, like they're waiting for him before life resumes. Sam the golden boy – apple of Dean's eye.
He looks through the want ads half heartedly. He's never had a job before. Dean scans over management positions and skilled labouring because he isn't qualified. The only skills he has are the ones he acquired in high school. He never went further. Though at the institute they got him to take a course in typing, using the old fashioned typewriters. He has no idea why, something about it improving him later on, giving him better concentration. He puts it on his resume anyway.
One ad catches his eye. Secretary at a legal firm. It's a small firm, just across town and Dean figures he can type and answer the phones. At the moment it's an excuse to leave the house, a way to get his Mom to stop watching him like she's waiting for him to snap. The knives are still locked in a drawer. Nobody trusts him.
His Dad drives him across town in his old car, the impala's rusting away but he doesn't seem to notice. Outside of the building is a sign that reads – 'C. E. Novak Esq.' Underneath is an illuminated plaque 'Secretary wanted'.
While his Dad pulls away, leaving Dean on the sidewalk, he wonders how many secretaries this guy must go through, to need a sign like that. The door is already open a little, so Dean goes in.
The waiting room is large, with a desk at one side that holds a typewriter and a phone. Everything else is a mess of papers and broken glass. A dark haired woman is packing a cardboard box with her things, mascara running from her eyes, there's a severance cheque clamped in her lipsticked mouth. As Dean enters she picks up the box and cringes past him, eyes wide on his for a second, misery evident.
The door bangs behind her.
A hallway goes from the waiting area to the main office, Dean looks down it, then behind him, wondering if he can still leave.
"Come in" Someone shouts from beyond the office door. A deep voice sharp with impatience and authority, it's that which makes Dean stay. Despite the fact that he really wants to flag his Dad down and go home.
Beyond the door is a spacious office with a large desk. The walls and furnishings are dark, almost Victorian, but luxuriant with splashes of red. Behind the desk is an angular man in a black suit, looking down at a page of type with a frown on his face. When he looks up at Dean his blue eyes are intense, riveting. They're the only colour on him, his skin is alarmingly white, his hair and clothing completely black. His eyes light on Dean, his head tilting slightly with curiosity. Dean swallows nervously, he hates being stared at.
Castiel looks at Dean and sees a strong, broad shouldered man. That's important, that he is a man and that he is strong, stronger than Castiel anyway, with obvious muscle on him. It's perfect. He almost sighs in relief. This time, this time, he won't allow himself to succumb to his own strange will. Even if he does, this man is strong enough not to let him.
"Hi" Dean says, uncertainly.
"Are you the lawyer?"
"Oh...uh...yes." He's naturally skittish, but it seems to make the other man feel more at ease. He moves further into the room, still timid but otherwise assured. Then he falters, takes in the imposing office and stoic man.
"I'm sorry...I'll just...I'll come back." He turns to the door and Castiel finds his voice, the right one.
"No" he insists. "No, stay."
Dean halts at the door and slowly comes to sit opposite him at the desk.
They look at each other in silence. Castiel looks him over, preparing his questions. There are always questions, he likes to know things about people, about what makes them close up or split wide open. He puts it down to his years as a lawyer.
"Are you married?" Castiel asks, voice still level and hushed.
"No" Dean feels ill at ease, but curious, wanting to please. Castiel finds it endearing and irritating at the same time.
"You live in an apartment?"
"With my parents." Blue eyes bore into his, like they can see his soul.
"My brother, Sam." Castiel fiddles with some controls to the side of his desk.
"Have you ever won an award?"
"What was your award for?"
"Typing" Dean's throat is dry. A set of drapes open to his right, revealing an illuminated display of meticulously maintained orchids. Dean looks at them, then back at Castiel who's still watching him intently.
"It...uh, said 'Secretary', out front?"
"It did." Castiel agrees, he glances at the crumpled paper in Dean's hands. "Are those your scores?"
"Oh...yes." Dean hands them over. Castiel looks down at them briefly.
"Dean. Winchester." he murmurs, looking up through half lidded eyes.
"Yes." For some reason his heart is beating too hard against his ribs, under the weight of that gaze. Castiel snatches up the phone and dials with the end of a dart he plucks from the desk, cupping a long fingered hand over the receiver he looks up again.
"Could you get me a cup of coffee...with sugar."
That's how his first day begins, struggling to replace the empty barrel on the water cooler in the kitchenette.
When he returns to Mr. Novak's office he places the mug of coffee on the desk where the other man ignores it completely. Instead he sits on the leather couch across from his work space, beckoning Dean to sit opposite. He does so, still dabbing with a paper towel at the spilled water that soaks his shirt.
"You want to be my secretary?" he asks, gravely.
"You scored higher than anyone I've ever interviewed...you're really over qualified, I think you'd be bored to death."
"I want to be bored." Dean says blankly. Castiel's eyes find his again.
"It's very. Dull. Work." He stresses.
"I like dull work."
Castiel's glare intensifies as he leans forward.
The phone rings. One. Twice. Castiel leans back lazily.
"I'm not here."
It rings again. And again.
Dean realises he's meant to answer it and does so. Castiel walks back to his desk, moving the mug to the opposite side with distaste.
"There is too much sugar in this coffee." He mutters, darkly.
That evening Dean's father collects him from around the corner of the office. He doesn't tell him much about his first day, because nothing's happened, not really. He spoke to Mr. Novak, he got the job, he answered phones all day.
Nothing interesting at all.
The light on the secretary sign flicks off as they drive away.
That evening he practices his new phone manner.
"Hello, you have reached the office of Mr C. E. Novak, please leave a message, and the time you called, and we..." Dean pauses, looking at his reflection. "will get back to you as soon as possible.
A weird thrill goes through him. That day he learnt that the C stands for Castiel.
Castiel Edward Novak.
He spends the next few days filing, typing and sending letters and answering the phones. He actually sees very little of the lawyer, who stays in his office and occasionally comes out to deliver a new string of orders.
On Thursday he brings Novak his usual coffee and an additional box of pastries. He enters the office in time to see Castiel tending his orchids, a long thin metal tool held between his teeth, tiny scissors in his hands. His face is a mask of concentration, but he looks up as Dean enters.
"I brought you these." Dean gestures with the box. Castiel removes the implement from his mouth carefully, setting it to one side.
"I accidently threw out my notes on the Feldman case." He drawls, turning back to his work, "could you..."
"Go through the garbage?" Dean finishes, evenly. Castiel looks slightly surprised, but nods. Dean leaves, quickly circling the building and finding the dumpster out back.
He kicks a leg up to its lip, hauling himself over and going through the plastic sacks inside. Castiel watches from his window, an unseen and unreadable expression on his face as he observes Dean going about the task he set him. He feels his breath come quicker the longer Dean rummages through the trash. He isn't hard, but he feels...fixated, hungry perhaps.
He drops to the ground and begins to execute sit-ups, mechanically, roughly straining the muscles in his back.
After a while Dean finds the discarded papers, he wipes off the smears of garbage liquid and takes them back inside. Castiel is sitting at his desk, not a hair out of place. He briefly acknowledges his presence.
"I found my spare documents" He thrusts a stack of papers towards Dean "copy these and send them out, today." Mutely Dean takes the papers, as he goes to drop the recovered file into the trash he sees the unopened box of pastries already sitting in the wire basket.
Castiel watches him for any reaction. Dean drops the files on top of the other trash and leaves without a sound.
Dean begins to frustrate Castiel in curious ways. When he types for example, his tongue protrudes, rubbing anxiously at the corner of his mouth. He keeps his walkman in his desk, kicks his shoes off when he thinks Castiel is otherwise occupied. Thousands of infractions that tempt retribution.
Castiel says nothing, until Dean sniffs.
He's tidying papers on Castiel's desk when he sniffs, like he does constantly, a nervous tick that irritates him beyond belief.
"Don't. Do. That." He murmurs, leaning over the desk to glare into Dean's uncomprehending face.
"You're always...snivelling, it's off putting." Castiel shuffles papers like this is the end of it.
"I didn't know...I'm sorry." Dean ducks his head, looking down at Castiel's pale hands as they order files and memos.
"Well...you do." Castiel's voice bites into the curve of his neck, Dean keeps his eyes fixed on his hands. "and...you need to rethink your work clothing, you represent this office, which means you represent me and right now..." Dean feels the pressure of his eyes pass over his body. "you're a disgrace."
"I'll change them." He mutters. Castiel sucks in a barely audible breath, Dean looks up, meeting his eyes.
"That's not all" Castiel's eyes bare a challenge, he's seeing how far he can go, how much Dean will take before he snaps back at him. "That thing you do, when you type."
"With your tongue, that has to stop. Your phone manner is appalling, you've yet to organise the files in the back office, you're consistently late responding to my instructions...and take that walkman home; I don't like the idea of you listening to music while you're on my time – I know it's there." Castiel's voice shakes, brows creased with irritation, eyes still watching him, waiting.
"Yes, sir." Their eyes lock for a second.
Dean picks up the files he's been told to copy and leaves. Castiel sits at his desk, felling the blood throb in his temples, the quivering adrenaline high of his own conflict. Eventually he gets up and walks through to the outer office.
What he sees stops him in his tracks.
Dean is sitting at his desk, a plastic box open on its surface. In one hand he holds a straight razor, the other is undoing his belt. Deftly he opens his pants, exposing the top of one thigh, already covered in thin red wounds. He lowers the blade, face blank save for a kind of despairing focus in his eyes. Castiel can't help but suck air in sharply.
Dean's eyes shoot up.
Both men freeze.
Dean looks down, drops the razor into the kit with a clatter, putting the bandages and bottle of iodine on top. He avoids Castiel's eyes the whole time, re-fastening his pants and laying his hands limply on the desk.
"My office. Now." Castiel's throat is dry.
Dean goes back into his office. Castiel joins him a moment later, setting a cup of coffee down in front of him gently. He takes a seat opposite and looks at the top of Dean's downturned head.
"Why do you cut yourself, Dean?" he asks eventually.
"I don't know." He's waiting for the inevitable, the concern, the hospitals, the psychiatrists. Instead Castiel seems to consider him for a moment.
"I think it's because...sometimes you can feel a lot of pain, and perhaps it's easier to cope with that pain when you can watch something heal. That maybe it's a kind of...release, for you."
Dean meets his eyes, surprise evident in their green depths. Castiel's intense eyes stare back, his body upright, his face a mask of calm.
"You aren't going to cut yourself again."
Dean shakes his head, numbly.
"You may leave work early today. You're too old to be driven to and from my office by your father...you should walk home." A small but genuine smile quirks his lips. "You'll enjoy it, I think."
Dean walks home alone through the park, crossing the bridge over the river and then down through the suburban estate until he reaches his parents house. It feels like he has never taken a walk alone before, because he realises, he hasn't.
A few days later Castiel slams a piece of paper onto Dean's desk. On it two spelling errors and a typo are ringed in thick, red, ink.
"This is unacceptable." He grinds out.
"I'm sorry" Dean looks up at him, trying to judge his mood. Since Castiel informed him of his flaws he's been trying to improve, his clothes are neater and he tries not to sniff or let his tongue flick through his lips as he types. Sometimes he gets the feeling it isn't enough.
"There were other's I let go because you were new. This cannot continue." He draws himself up to his full height. "Come in to my office, bring the letter."
Dean walks ahead of him into the back room, uncomfortable to have Castiel looking at him from behind, a view he can't control.
"Put the letter on the desk." He mutters, closing the door with a snick. Dean places the piece of paper on the polished surface.
"Put both your hands on the desk, palms down." His voice is soft, but Dean detects the strength of it, moving slowly to do as instructed, one hand on either side of the letter. He looks down at the page with its red ringed mistakes.
"Read it." Castiel murmurs from behind him.
"Dear Sir, I was fascinated by the literature you sent me regarding..."
Castiel's hand strikes the muscled flesh of his buttock, hard. Dean falters, looking behind him and meeting only steely blue eyes.
"...regarding the environmental laws of the area. Whilst the material..."
He strikes again, Dean shifts forwards from the force of it. A grunt of exertion escaping him.
"...itself was illuminating, I noticed..."
Two blows, harsh and sudden.
"...some discrepancies, and hope you..."
The hand came down again, Dean winces.
"...can correct them in time to submit the information..."
The strikes came evenly now, hard and fast, every few seconds, Dean could barely breathe from the smarting pain.
"...before the case reaches trial...my sec-retary" he falters under a particularly hard slap. "will send you a list of the errors...that I found...sincerely...Mr...C...E...Novak."
The punishment stops abruptly, heaving Dean sagging forwards on sweating palms, backside aching and stinging, finally noticing his own painful arousal. Part of him is confused, shocked...the rest is tight with anticipation.
"Read it again." Castiel's voice is strained.
"Dear Sir" the first blow falls.
They come faster than before, harder, wilder as he reads through the letter not once, but twice more. By the time he finishes he can barely speak, gasping between the words as he rocks back into Castiel's harsh palm. He concludes his reading and the next blow doesn't fall, instead a lean body drops against his back, breathing heavily with exertion. His hand lands on the desk, just touching Dean's own, his breath is hot against his neck.
And then he's gone, rounding the desk to drop into his seat, straightening his tie and plucking up the letter.
"Re-type this, and send it out today." He holds it up to Dean, still bent double over the desk, his blue eyes showing no hint of what has just occurred. He looks as collected as always. Dean takes the letter and goes back to his desk. He's shaken, something inside awake and sharp at this new development.
Castiel sits at his desk, looking at his reddened palm. He clenches it briefly, then goes back to his work.
That night Dean lies in his childhood bed, feeling the bruises blooming across his haunches, clenching the muscles to make them burn. He isn't afraid of Castiel, not really. Though he knows that what happened isn't normal, it doesn't feel illogical.
Castiel returns to his immaculate town house and doesn't sleep. He can still see Dean, bent over his desk, proud back and muscles bunching with the strain of each blow. Such a strong man, head bowed in contrition and acceptance. His mind ticks over, wondering what he could ask of him, how far he could take him.
It's already too late to stop.