Cas stared at the steam looping and whirling off of his coffee into the chill of January that somehow had managed to penetrate his apartment.
He needed to talk to the Superintendent about fixing the heating.
Dean was speaking, pacing around the tiny kitchen, spots of colour in his cheeks, hands waving wildly as he spoke, stopping occasionally to grab his bagel from the table and take a bite.
Castiel was listening, as he sat at the table, staring at the dancing steam wisps.
He just wasn't sure he was hearing him correctly.
Eventually, Dean stopped speaking and turned to look at him, expectant.
Castiel cleared his throat, not managing to tear his eyes away from the coffee.
"So, you threatened Crowley."
"And then you went to his club with him?"
"That's your take away from that story?" Dean span a chair around and slumped into it, leaning his elbows on the back and straddling the seat. "I mean… I came out, Cas, properly out. I went to a gay bar. And if I can be gay at a gay bar, with strangers, then I can be gay in front of anyone! I'm ready, Cas, I can speak at your hearing."
"No, I heard that." Castiel still couldn't look away from his coffee, in fact, he was getting more drawn into it by the second. His fingers, though they felt glued to the tabletop, began to twitch slightly, mirroring the erratic movements of the coffee vapour.
He liked coffee. He drank a lot of it. Probably bled coffee, if you cut him. Dean had made him this coffee, and he had to say that Dean made very good coffee. Rich, strong, sharp, but not bitter, with a little sugar to sweeten the tang. Castiel took his coffee black, as he felt the creamer diluted it, but Dean always put a little milk in it because that was how he took his, and Cas always thought it made it better, just caught between black and white.
It was in his favourite mug, too, a white one with a string of blue dots that led up the handle and around the rim. It had once been part of a set, but one by one the mugs had fallen, dropped, cracked… disappeared to the unknown lands that mugs sometimes do. Now it was all alone, but it was still Castiel's favourite.
Dean was staring at him. He could feel it.
"So, Dean, what you're telling me is you, while I was stuck here fretting over the situation I had put you in, had I asked too much, was I being insensitive, should I even have asked… You went to a gay bar with your ex boyfriend. Danced, drank, partied with other men. That's what you're telling me."
Dean stared at him, the spots of colour rising in his cheeks again, not that Castiel saw. He was starting to see shapes, faces, divining themselves in the steam.
"I didn't… come on, Cas, you're being unreasonable."
"Am I? I'm just repeating what you said."
"Cas, I wasn't… all I did was get a couple of drinks, man I hated it!"
"And yet you went."
Castiel's eyes slipped down the line of dots.
"Cas, would you look at me?"
One, two, three, four…
Nineteen, twenty, twenty one dots from the top of the handle to the bottom.
That was annoying.
The chair scraped against the floor as Dean stood up. He walked quickly around the table, his hand slamming on the table in front of Cas as he tried to put himself in Castiel's line of vision. Cas closed his eyes.
"Oh come on! You know there's nothing going on between me and Crowley, Cas. It's you. It's probably only ever gonna be you."
Castiel opened his eyes, taking a deep breath as he levelled Dean with a stare.
"What are you expecting? Are you expecting me to say 'well done, Dean, you passed the Gay Test'? Do you think that's how it works? A system of proof? Initiation, perhaps, into the secret brotherhood of homosexuals?"
"Cas," Dean seemed to crumple a little bit, dropping from his stooped crouch to a position kneeling by Castiel's chair. He rested his hand over Castiel's, and looked up at him. There were bags under his eyes. "I'm trying, OK? I don't know any other way to do it. Just, listen."
So he told the story again. How he'd gone home and seen Sam and Gabriel being all gushy and twee, and he'd thought, how lucky Sam was to have got all this sorted when he was a teenager. Then he'd thought about how Bobby and Ellen had handled Sam's coming out. So he figured, if it had worked then, it would work now.
A quick google had brought up a list of local gay bars, most of which were closed for refurbishing or private functions when he turned up to them. There was one that was open, and looked pretty promising to Dean (it reminded him of a Sports Bar he used to frequent, back before it closed), but the bouncer had told him it was lesbians only for the night. Which left him with the sleek, black-walled-red-neon pit that was The Devil's Doorway. The line had been huge, and he'd been given a few odd looks when he started queueing on his own, but soon enough Crowley marched past, never missing the chance to take advantage.
"Who wants to come in out of the cold with me, hmm?" He had on a big black coat and a shit-eating grin as he prowled the length of the line, looking for some poor sap to take advantage of. When his eyes had met Dean's, however, an entirely different expression came over him. It was somewhere between surprise and grudging respect, and he'd motioned for Dean to step out of the line. When Dean got near enough to hear him over the buzzing bassline that came pounding through the club's walls, Crowley clapped him on the shoulder.
"Welcome to the world," He had said, with his shark-like grin back in place, and he'd pointed to a guy dressed entirely in leather and beckoned him over. "You, too. The rest of you, I hope you brought thermals. Come on, boys."
And with that, he'd swept on into the club, Dean and Leathers following in his wake.
Inside of the club, everything was dark, with the only light coming from red sconces on the walls, and red spotlights on the ceiling. Everything seemed to be bathed in the bloody light, and anything that wasn't was deemed not worth seeing. The music was loud and incessant, and seemed to grab Dean's heart and constrict, like a coiled, pulsating snake. His brain was catapulted three blocks over, wondering what Castiel was doing. Probably something quiet, grading papers or watching TV, or reading, with classic rock playing quietly in the background.
He had followed Crowley to the bar, when he'd been presented with something blue in a cocktail glass (again, his brain fled from his body, wrapping itself in the comforting image of Castiel's eyes.
There had been little or no conversation (the volume of the music made it impossible), but a few guys had approached, trying to entice him to dance.
Dean had replied no, and when asked why, he'd told them he was taken.
Plus, he was really not dressed for the scene, in jeans and a tee, and nothing leather, pleather or plastic.
Crowley had, after a couple of hours, given up on trying to ply him with drinks, and leant in close to his ear.
"You look bloody miserable. Go home before you start depressing my customers."
And Dean had. He'd wondered, as he walked home, the cold air wringing the alcohol out of his brain, how a psychology lecturer had managed to buy a club, but that was none of his business. He'd gone home, gone up to the roof, and stared out at the city. The lights stretching out below him and the stars stretching out above. Without knowing why, he'd whispered into the wind.
The men at the club had been attractive. The men they'd been dancing with, the open-ness of it all. It felt like he'd been looking at all the things he'd hidden away from himself for years.
"I'm gay," he'd repeated, louder, to himself.
Was he going to scream it out to the heavens? No. That wasn't his style. But he knew. And that thought was enough to get him back inside and asleep.
He'd woken up, washed and dressed, gone to the bagel shop, winked at the cashier (who looked tired but happy in his uniform, which must have been comfortable after the head-to-toe leather he'd been wearing last night) and marched over to Castiel's.
He had learned something. He was Gay, but he was still Dean. And that was that.
This time, when he came to the end of his story, on his knees beside Castiel, he was the one who couldn't look away from Castiel's mug of coffee.
"You know," he said, at length, "hearing it back, I can see how you'd be mad. But, but I know, now. I was miserable without you around. So we need to win you this case, so you can be you and I can be me… and we can be together. I want to make you happy, Cas."
Eventually, he dragged his eyes away from the coffee, and looked up to Castiel's face.
Cas was smiling a big, goofy grin, and that made Dean's face break apart into a smile of its own. Cas lifted his hands from the table, cupped Dean's face, leant down and kissed him, slow and long, and Dean could feel him smiling between kisses.
Castiel sat back, after a while, picking up his coffee.
"I'm glad. And, you're right, I am proud of you. I'm sorry I didn't understand."
Dean stood, and ruffled Castiel's still unruly hair.
"It's my fault. I shouldn't have tried talking to you before your first coffee."
Castiel laughed, and raised his mug to his lips, before grimacing as he swallowed a mouthful of the stuff.
"Which is now cold."
Dean took the mug from him, kissed the aftertaste of cold coffee from his lips, and started on making another pot.
This, Castiel thought, could make him like mornings.