So, I'm 25 minutes into 'The Duchess' and I've had an idea for an AU. That might actually be a record. This might as well be titled – 'I love words – words are sexy'.)
Castiel walks down the deserted corridor, the candles in their candelabras, balanced on marble topped tables, reflect a golden light on the silken wall paper. His shoes are silent on the soft floor coverings, the expensive leather, whisper light on the luxuriant pile.
Behind him, in the dining room, chatter has once again risen, following his swift departure. He has little patience for these awful political meetings, the speeches, smarmy rhetoric and backstabbing are very tiring, especially over a large meal for which he has no appetite. These men talk of freedom and a commonality between all men, but they still wear expensive tailoring, and drink floods of his fine wine, convinced of their superiority to the common men that serve them.
And why shouldn't they be? Castiel knows himself to be well above the men who trim his lawns and care for his horses. But he does not profess to think otherwise.
Hypocrisy, above all else, is what he cannot stand.
"Your grace." A voice follows him, and Castiel turns to find himself face to face with one of these 'lesser men' a gardener if his clothing is to be the measure of his character. Large, almost indecorously so in the beautiful hallway, the man has the course frame of a labourer. But, he removes his plain cap in the presence of Castiel, and nods a sort of bow – which ingratiates him.
"What is it?" Castiel asks.
"A moment, if you please...there is...a small matter of some importance..." The man seems nervous, and Castiel does not know why.
"A gardening emergency?" Castiel is perplexed, and he is most tired from wine and dull talk, he really does want the comfort of his bed chamber above all else. "Can it not wait until morning?"
"I..." The man begins, his eyes going to the door just to Castiel's left. The door that opens under their combined gaze. The door to the bedchamber of his wife.
And now Castiel realises, with a great swell of horror and dismay, what is about to happen.
He had married a lady, of a good family. Lilith Tamberly. Now his duchess, and a welcome presence in his life, which had been so dull and dry without the possibility of children. And dryness, as he had become aware through mutterings at court, was likely to incite fire, which would spread, and devour quickly.
Oh yes. He knew what they thought of him, or what they had thought. But no longer, he had a wife, a beautiful thing of life and energy. And no more would he tolerate rumours that he was anything less than the perfect husband, and a fine figure of contemporary manhood.
But, Lilith had so far proven...far less than what he had been promised.
And now, as the door opened, and light spilled out onto his expensive carpet, the sounds of whispers and rustling fabric with it, the scent of wine chasing like a cheap perfume...he knew, that once more, his wife had made a fool of him.
A man appeared in the hallway, sliding through the door, clutching a bundle of his clothes. Footmen's uniform. He froze on seeing Castiel, and Castiel stared at him, feeling his insides turn to stone.
"Get out." He murmured, and the man ran, bare as a newborn, fleeing his masters wrath.
Castiel pushed open the door to the bedchamber, and found his bride, his wife, on the bed, in only her scant shift.
"What is the meaning of this?"
She looks at him with nothing but scorn, and a kind of bitterness that wounds him.
"Were you planning on coming to me tonight?" She challenges.
Castiel had not been with her since the night of their wedding, and he feels helpless, angry under her accusing eyes. He cannot answer.
"What difference does it make, for him to have me...when you do not want me?" She tells him.
"Madam, you mistake yourself..."
"No, I mistook you – for a man, and a husband...when you are neither."
Castiel knows that other men would strike her, send her away, have her locked in an upper room and denied food until she learnt her place, breaking a woman as a trainer breaks horses. But he is not a savage, and he is not a man like that.
He turns, feeling his heart pound in fear, fear that he has been discovered, when he thought all was well, and leaves the bedchamber. Despite himself, he is still angry, but angry at the world, at cruel circumstance that placed him here, on this green earth, incomplete.
The sight of the gardener makes him jump, he had forgotten him in the discovery of another of his wife's infidelities.
"She set you here to spy?"
The man shakes his head.
"I was returning tools, outside, your grace. I...I saw the duchess bring the footman through from the kitchen." His eyes leave their rightful place, on the ground, and reach Castiel's face. A look of familiarity. "I thought that perhaps you would like to be spared the sight of...this indiscretion."
"I was aware." Castiel says stonily. "Your pitiful attempt at subterfuge did nothing but embarrass us both."
"You are not my equal." Castiel snaps, raising his voice and striking the other man dumb. "It is not for you to...spare me, whether from the truth or from anything else. Remember your place."
The man swallows, and, Castiel feels a dart of consternation when he sees, not only humiliation, but also anger on the other man's face.
"I was trying to help you." The man utters, his face a darkness that robs light and beauty from the very walls around it. "I should have expected your lack of gratitude."
And with that he turns and walks away.
Castiel feels anger tear through him, unwarranted, shameful anger, but anger that has at last found a target. He follows the man and seizes his shoulder, turning him and pushing him back against the wall.
"Gratitude is not yours to demand. You, are in my employ. You have a place in my home and this-" he indicates the walls around them, "Is not it."
The man is silent, and Castiel feels victorious.
Then he speaks again.
"You have a place." The gardener murmurs. "And it is not here, it is in there, with your woman. You have shamed yourself, and now seek to blame me for an error born in pity."
Castiel has struck him before he knows it, and the sheer unexpectedness of the blow throws the other man's head sideways against the silken paper.
"Do not pity me." Castiel hisses, and realises that he is pressing him into the wall, holding him there and looking on him, his jaw clenched in anger.
The man takes a breath, anger in every line of his face, green eyes burning with it, and the scent of smashed and razed woodland creeping from him as fury heats his skin.
"I pity you."
Castiel hits him again, and deals him a third blow swiftly. But then, the other man catches his hand, and does the unthinkable, he turns, and throws Castiel to the floor, sitting over him, and holding him in place.
Castiel, breathing heavily, is almost incandescent with anger. "You...are to leave my house, immediately."
"Then now, you have nothing with which to threaten me, and that is a poor move on your part." The man almost snarls.
Castiel, heart swollen with fury and bitterness, spits, "I am a cuckold in my own house, I am no threat to anyone, whether they labour for me or not. Which of you hasn't already trespassed here? And taken my wife in my place?"
The man glaring down on him looks away, and Castiel's pain is redoubled.
"Do not, pity me." he says for the second time, though now with less anger, it feels more like a plea. "I can't bear it."
"You won't be happy, until I hate you?" The man seems distinctly amused by this, reaching up to touch his own bruised and bloodied face.
"It's not your place to like me." Castiel says, though he can't quite muster the imperiousness needed to accompany such a statement.
Surprisingly, the gardener laughs, a rough little sound. "Fine words to hear from a man on the ground, without a friend in his whole estate." He bends down, pressing Castiel gently into the carpeting. He whispers, "It is not for you to tell me who I may or may not like, nor for you to tell me what I may or may not do...though there are those that would tell me that I cannot do what I would, with those whom I like, but who they say I should not."
Castiel is dizzied by this reasoning.
"That being said..." Castiel begins. "perhaps you ought not to do what they say you shouldn't. And perhaps you had better direct your attachments elsewhere." He finds the words hard to get out, mostly because it seems he cannot catch a breath, and the weight of the man atop him is distracting, like a gulp of potent liquor.
"But the one I like is so...very...pleasing." The man's voice is all but a whisper, soft and slow against Castiel's ear. "And the things I would do with him..."
Castiel swallows, and looks up at him. This is dangerous, so very very dangerous.
"And how do you know, of his pleasingness?" Castiel queries softly, feeling his body shift and stretch on the floor against his will, as if he is a cat, preening.
"In addition to liking who I should not, and doing what I should not...sometimes, my position in the house affords me the opportunity to gaze on what I should not." The man tells him.
Castiel's breath catches.
"The curtains at your bedchamber window...are wonderfully sheer." The man whispers.
Castiel's whole body shivers, and he feels at once, as if he has been killed, and also brought to life, by what the man is insinuating.
"You may not be happy, until I hate you...but I will not be happy, until you know that I could not, in fact, ever hate you...your grace." The man continues. "So the question becomes...which one of us, is the most honest with himself?"
"I fear it is not me." Castiel murmurs, finding the words deep inside of himself, and letting them free. "I fear I am an atrocious liar, even to myself... how might honesty feel? I don't think that I have ever seen it, in anyone of my acquaintance."
The man draws back, helping Castiel to his feet.
"Honesty is more of an acquired skill...I would be happy to tutor you." His hand travels from Castiel's own, along his arm, and down, cupping a waist held in expensive silk, heat floods Castiel's body, and he cannot for the life of him move away from this man, this second. Let the fire come, it would not burn as fiercely as this.
Castiel draws them both to his bedchamber, locking the door behind them. It is as he and the man who has found and dragged out the spark of life in him, are tumbling onto the antique bed on which Castiel was born (and on which he is soon to come to life again) that Castiel asks, in a whisper half lost in flesh.
"What may I call you?"
And because he is so polite, and so honest. The man decides to answer likewise.
"Call me Dean – if it pleases, your grace."
Dean smiles, a smile found in savouring the deepest of pleasures. "Castiel." He repeats.