They settle into an uneasy, unspoken routine.
Dean continues to work for Castiel, filing, running errands and typing up his letters. Castiel goes about his work as usual, taking his calls and making anxious little notes on reams of paper. The only change is that sometimes, when Dean makes a typing error, or loses a file – he is reprimanded. He gets used to Castiel bending him over the desk and slapping him, comes to expect it, almost excited at the prospect.
Mr Novak makes other demands of him besides. After the second round of spanking, Dean goes back to his desk, but still feels painfully hard. He ends up in the employee bathroom, arm braced against the wall as he jerks himself fitfully. When he gets back to his station, Castiel is waiting, raising one eyebrow at Dean's flushed face.
"I don't want you to do that anymore." He says quietly, though there's no disgust in his voice.
"What...here?" Castiel's cocked head straightens, his gaze intensifies, his tone light but strong.
"Ever. Not with anyone else either." He drops a folder onto Dean's desk and returns to his office.
Things only escalate as the weeks go by. At breakfast and dinner Dean calls Castiel and receives directions on what to eat, and how much. Strange whims that make no sense to anyone but the two of them. Where dinner consists of one scoop of potatoes, no steak, four peas and as much apple pie as he wants (a la mode – of course). Lunch is decided in person, while Castiel is in the office.
After these calls Dean measures out his food and consumes it slowly, whatever it may be. Castiel replaces the receiver and continues with what he was doing before, but he always thinks of Dean, carefully counting out peas.
He has him kneel on his desk, hands cuffed behind him, for hours, ignoring him the whole time. The strangest thing that they do together barely involves Castiel at all. He places leather cuffs around Dean's wrists, attached to a rod that rests along his shoulders, so his arms remain extended. He goes about his whole day like that, dipping to his knees elegantly to reach papers, carrying correspondence in his mouth. Castiel doesn't acknowledge that anything is different, though there was a moment as he fastened the thing on, when Dean felt his breath, rough and excited against his neck. He likes that, knowing that every movement he makes excites Castiel.
Castiel is the only part of his life in which he knows his place. He follows his instructions and he is rewarded with a brief smile, the warmth of Mr Novak's approval. If he makes a mistake he knows he will be punished correctly, that Castiel will never go too far.
Castiel for his part dwells on a knife edge. Every time he sees Dean he feels the compulsion, the need, to exercise his authority. Dean is tempting, flirting with his retribution whenever he deliberately misspells a word or mishandles an assignment. He knows that what he feels is a sickness, the urge to control and dominate someone whom he has begun to feel...protective of. What more proof does he need that it needs to stop.
He tries, dear god he tries to stop himself. He ignores typos and lost documentation. Dean misremembers three appointments and spills coffee over some important files. Castiel bites the inside of his cheek and practices his sit-ups, push-ups and jogs instead of ordering Dean's lunch.
He senses the larger man's frustration, his want to be controlled that would make it so easy. But he denies himself because he knows it to be the mirror image of his own dysfunction. Dean is sick, his habit of wounding himself proves it. But Castiel cannot believe that, Dean is almost perfect in his eyes, he needs only instruction. And, a traitorous voice whispers, it was you who saved him from his sickness. You prevented him from harming himself. There is no evil in that.
He knows it's a lie, the worst kind, because it's almost true.
He discovers the worm a week after he calls a halt to their bizarre game.
It's dead, dry and folded carefully into a sheet of paper, placed in an envelope and left on his desk. Dean's handwriting is on the envelope. "Castiel" in smooth cursive. He unfolds the letter, spots the worm and freezes.
Dean has upped his game.
Falteringly he opens the top drawer of his desk. One red pen has been left, though he knows he threw them all away. He uncaps it, drawing a ring around the flattened corpse of the worm. Again and again the plush tip of the pen streaks red around the foul creature, circling and circling until the pen dries.
He drops it and presses the button for his intercom.
"Mr. Winchester...can I see you in my office." He grates out.
"Of course." Dean's guileless voice comes back through the speaker.
He enters through the door, coming to a halt in front of Castiel's desk, an infuriating flicker of triumph in his eyes. He has done his best to provoke Castiel into a response.
Castiel considers himself provoked.
He gets up from his chair, circling Dean, who remains impassive, still looking at the seat he's just vacated. He comes to a stop behind the other man.
"Put both your hands on the desk, palms down." He murmurs.
"Yes sir." His voice holds no smugness, no innuendo. Only obedience and acknowledgment. It abates Castiel's anger, but not his excitement. His next request causes a quiver of shock to run down Dean's spine.
"Lower your pants"
"Why?" his uncertainty is genuine, in all this time he's never asked him to strip before.
"I'm not going to fuck you." Castiel enunciates slowly.
Dean undoes his belt and lowers his slacks.
"and your underwear."
He falters again.
"I already told you, I'm. Not. Going. To. Fuck. You." His voice rasps low. Dean lowers his boxers, then lays his hands back on the desk, leaning forwards.
The ghosts of Castiel's fingers skate lightly over the flesh of his bare buttocks. Dean closes his eyes, jaw clenched, waiting.
The expected blow doesn't fall.
For a few long seconds there is only silence, and Castiel's breathing. Then he hears a belt buckle clink, the shuffle of fabric. After that his breaths become quicker, stuttering intakes of air. The dry sound his palm on himself the only other sound.
Dean listens, half disturbed, half elated that he has made Novak lose control.
It's quick and dirty, Castiel comes with a suppressed moan, warm wetness spotting the back of Dean's untucked shirt and the bare skin of his ass. Castiel tidies himself and goes back to his seat. Dean is dazed, hard without knowing why, unsure, afraid almost, now that their pattern is broken.
Castiel's eyes avoid his, searching across the desktop. Finally blue meets green, his gaze is strong but curious, as if he's waiting for Dean to call him out.
"I need you to copy my files on the Towner case and order my lunch..." his voice gains it's comforting commanding note. "you'll have the usual...no lettuce this time."
Dean nods, draws his underwear and pants back up, leaving the office. As he goes about his instructions Castiel watches the closed door, then lets his head sink into his hands.
He has failed.
He is repugnant.
He has to stop.
The next day Dean arrives to find the office changed. The red ringed sheets of typos, which Castiel had directed him to frame and place on the walls of the hallway, are gone, smashed on the floor. His things are gone from the secretaries desk, packed neatly into a cardboard box.
The intercom buzzes.
"Mr Winchester, come in to my office, and bring your typing scores." His voice is placid and deep. Telling him nothing.
With a sinking heart and growing agitation, he goes into Castiel's office.
Dean sits opposite him at the desk.
"Are you married?"
"...No" he answers slowly, something is very wrong here.
"You live in an apartment?" Castiel continues doggedly.
"With my parents"
"What is this?" Dean interrupts. Castiel doesn't even blink.
"Are those your scores?" Dean hands over the paper. Castiel looks at it briefly, then returns it.
"Mr Winchester, I don't think you're right for this position."
Dean freezes under the clear blue stare.
"Go home Dean...you're fired." His eyes drop to the desk, his hands busy themselves with a pen and his chequebook. "I'll give you a generous severance cheque, on top of the wages I still owe you." He rips off the slip of paper and slides it over the desk. "Please leave, now."
Dean stands, speechless, torn, lost. He takes the slip of paper, looks into Castiel's measured, controlled face and see's nothing there at all.
As he leaves the building the sign, 'Secretary Wanted', blinks on.
Castiel stays in his office, eyes fixed on the spot Dean used to occupy. It was for the best he tells himself. Only ever for the best.
Dean can't explain his unemployment to his parents, or to Sam. He regresses, spending all his time in his room listening to records or else, floating in the pool with his face under the water. He cashes Castiel's cheque because he can't think of anything else to do with it.
He starts dating Lisa Braeden.
They make out on his bed, blocking out the sounds of his father slurring at his mom downstairs. Lisa is soft and undemanding, laying her hands on him with need but no strength. Dean can't articulate what it is he needs, the firm flash of a slap against his thigh, the control and protective dominion Castiel had over him. He can't ask Lisa to do those things for him, although he knows it would be acceptable if she required them of him. But Dean is a broad shouldered, corn fed, Kansas boy – he isn't supposed to want something like Castiel.
But that's all he does.
He dreams about him, stiff and proper in his black work suits. About his desk, his cuffs and deep, sonorous voice. He doesn't masturbate, even though Castiel probably doesn't care about his order now. He doesn't sleep with Lisa either, though that's mostly because he can't physically bring himself to do it.
Three months pass without Dean hearing or seeing Castiel, though he sits across from his office enough. Borrowing his Dad's car so that he can watch for him. There is a new secretary though, a frail looking blond woman with large nervous eyes.
He buys a book about Sadomasochism, in the hopes that it will explain to him what is happening to his mind and body in Castiel's absence. It's informative, it teaches him why he wants the things he does, that he is a submissive, that Castiel is a dominant.
Nothing tells him he's in love with him. He works that out the hard way.
Dean cracks, knowing that he hasn't thought about Castiel any less while they've been separated. He goes to Castiel's office, but doesn't wait outside. He goes in, ignoring the new secretary and walks straight into Castiel's office, closing the door behind him.
Castiel is on the floor doing crunches. He stops when he notices Dean, freezing and then slowly getting to his feet.
"I love you." Dean says. Castiel's eyes flicker with surprise and something that might be desire.
"I'm sorry...but I don't believe that to be true."
"Dean...you can't be here."
"I. Love. You." He says again, dropping into Castiel's chair, because he isn't leaving.
"You don't know me."
"I want to." Dean isn't backing down, not from this. Because he's doing this for Castiel, and not against him. Castiel favours him with a long, almost desperate look.
"We cannot do this, twenty-four hours a day...seven days a week."
"Why not?" It's a challenge, a gesture of surrender. Dean is challenging Castiel to take back his control.
Castiel stares at him, long and hard, swallowing with nerves.
"Put both your feet on the floor. Palms on the desk."
Dean sits up straighter, doing as instructed.
"I missed you." He says, softly. Castiel doesn't flicker, but his voice is less certain when he replies,
"Stay like that until I return."
He leaves the office.
Dean stays as Castiel has positioned him for hours. The office grows dark and his eyes burn with tiredness.
Sam arrives. It takes Dean a few seconds to realise that Castiel must have called him.
"Dean...are you ok?" He edges into the room, watching his brother carefully. He makes an odd picture. A strong man in work boots and plaid, sitting at an ornate desk with his palms spread on its smooth surface.
Sam doesn't seem to believe him.
"Why don't you come home with me, huh? We can talk about it...whatever this is."
"I can't right now." Dean stays put.
"Are you..." Sam sits down gingerly. "are you doing something...sexual, right now?"
Dean's voice is lazy with a sarcastic drawl. "This look sexual to you?"
"I don't know! Dean." Sam shakes his head in confusion. "I don't understand this, at all."
"It's fine Sam. Everything's fine." Dean assures him.
"Then why don't you move your hands?"
"Because I don't want to." Dean smiles, small but unmistakable.
"I have to get back to Mom and Dad...they're waiting in the car." Sam disappears and Dean is alone again.
He realises he's passed a test.
Other people come by, his parents, who seem confused and mortified by his behaviour. Lisa stops by briefly to cry and wonder aloud what she did to make him do this to her. A catholic priest – his mother's idea, tells him that there is actually a history of this amongst saints and pilgrims. Some people think it's a statement, some people think it's a hunger strike. They report on him after the second day, saying he wants peace, justice, freedom or just attention.
He wants Castiel. More than anything, that's who he wants to see.
Castiel watches the news coverage, wrapped in a blanket on the floor beside his bed. He eats very little, his stomach clenching in sympathy as Dean droops low over the desk. Dean is willing to starve for him, to die for him. All he needs from Castiel is for him to have the strength to return to him.
Two things occur to Dean whilst he's hovering in starved delirium.
The first is that love doesn't have to be soft, or gentle. It sounds like a hallmark card for gothic kids, but it's the truth.
The second is that of all the dominants out there – Castiel is his. Castiel has finally found someone to play with, someone who fits him as exactly as possible. In Dean he has found his perfect submissive.
On the third day, Castiel comes for him.
It's night again, Dean's barely awake, throat dry, stomach raw with hunger. He's already pissed himself twice, the thin stream of liquid rolling off of the leather seat beneath him. Castiel notices these things, but they have no effect on him. He cannot possibly be repulsed by an act which shows such devotion and obedience.
He holds a plastic cup of water to Dean's mouth.
It's only then that Dean notices his presence.
"Cas?" he croaks. The first time he's been called anything that isn't 'Sir' or 'Mr Novak'.
He likes it, this epithet that he cannot control the use of.
He lifts Dean gently, supporting him with one arm around his waist. Slowly they make their way to Castiel's car, once inside he gives Dean more water, allowing him to rest his head against Castiel's shoulder throughout the journey.
At his home he's already made the bed, neat and soft with comforters. He strips Dean out of his clothes, soiled as they are, carefully, without a single sexual touch. Helping Dean into the tub he runs the water, warm and up to his neck. With unusual care and delicacy Castiel soaps Dean's skin, washing his hair with his long, strong, fingers. Dean closes his eyes at the sensation, relief and trust implicit in his movements.
Castiel gets him to rise from the draining water, towels him with the same platonic grace he used in undressing him. Only once Dean is safely wrapped in the bed linen does he strip out of his own suit. Naked, lean and dusted with neat, dark hair, he curls himself around Dean's body, tucking his head, with its damply curling hair, under his chin.
Throughout it all he never says a word.
Dean sleeps beside Castiel knowing that their game has changed. It isn't over, it will never be over because the only way to win is to continue. But they play each other, somehow they've done it. Castiel has allowed Dean to force him into admitting his feelings, Dean has provoked Castiel into giving more than he would have alone.