A Window is a Mirror
A/N: Last Chapter. I appreciate all the feedback and love I've gotten. Thanks everyone. This has always been a "coming out/coming of age" type story. I have used lots of resources to make this story feel as real as possible. Many of the things that have happened have also happened to people I know or who have given interviews. My next story is about Cas and Dean and all those side story tangents I kept out because it would havetaken away from the story I wanted to tell. I have gotten such good response from this, I think the continuation will be warranted.
KUDOS: Thank you for reviews, skiing Pelican, tara2217, and ThatHunterChick. Also, welcome to the pool to Psychen-tied, rileygar25, PixiePlays, precious1075, and HPloveisreallove.
Thank you, PixiePlays, for being my sounding board through this and for cleaning the kitchen! I'm so glad I tuned you in to the depravity that is Destiel! Welcome to FFN! I love you, Baby! Mwah!
Chapter 24 It's Yours
Over the next few days, Cas, Sam, Adam, Dean and John met regularly with an investigator from the local PD and an attorney that Kat and Oh, Henry recommended to John. Dean told Cas one night, after a particularly long and exhaustive day, how different his dad was. Cas told him that, regardless of what else happened, John still saw his son when he looked at Dean and that had always meant something more than labels would.
Dean was sleeping in his own room, in his own bed. Gabriel and Kali were out. Gabe had told his brother that Kali lasted three days managing the bakery in his absence and quit. Truth be told, he was surprised she lasted three days. She really didn't have the personality to work around ordinary humans, let alone in a customer-driven business like the bakery. Gabe was trying to make sure he could still claim her as his girlfriend for a while, so he took her out to dinner.
Cas sat on Dean's sofa, staring at a reality show without actually watching it. So many things were swimming in his brain. He worried at his bottom lip, concerned despite repeated assurances to the contrary, that he was to blame for the course of events. "If only" scenarios ended, time and time again with Castiel sitting next to Dean in a hospital bed, looking down on the broken and battered body of his boyfriend. But he soon discovered that "If only" was a variant of "what if" and he was driving himself nuts with them.
He heard noise coming from the room and the door swung open as Dean zombie-walked over to sit next to Cas.
"Cake Boss?" Dean asked as he looked at the television screen.
"It was what was on."
Dean shook his head. "Frickin' Gabriel." He looked around and didn't see his roommate. "Where is the little troll?"
Castiel frowned at Dean. "Don't call him that."
Dean took a double-take at Cas' face. "Sorry. I didn't mean…"
Cas waved away any apology. "No… I'm just… Gabriel took Kali out."
Dean leaned back, resting his head on the couch back and closed his eyes.
"Are you okay?" Cas asked him.
Dean didn't move or open his eyes. "Yeah, but…"
"But, what?" Cas prompted when Dean didn't elaborate.
Dean took a deep breath. "I've found out who my friends really are over the last few months, Cas. I really had no idea how much I could depend on them…" He remained quiet again for a long while. Cas took his hand in his own and held it until Dean spoke again. "I thought I had the lines all figured out. I was starting to… fit… all the pieces where they should go and…"
"And then, something unexpected happened." Cas finished for him.
Cas looked down and away from Dean. When he felt Dean move and could feel the eyes scrutinizing him, Cas turned to look at him. "Yeah… but, it's a good thing. I never thought Dad would do all the stuff he's doing for me now. I thought it would be me… all out here by myself, and then you came home. I thought I would have to depend on Bobby for work and shelter… then, Gabe came along. I thought I would lose my family… and Sam backed me up. I lost a lot of friends… after Lis and I… well… I lost a lot of friends. But, you know… I realized how strong the friendships I had left really were. I realized that I could make those friends into my new family…"
Dean's face was deeply black and purple. He still was unable to see out one of his eye for how swollen it was. He was a mess. But, Cas saw all that strength that always made him feel so safe when they were growing up. The self-assurance Dean always seemed to project… It was all still there… but, somehow, the events of the last few months had distilled those things about Dean Winchester and aged them to produce this amazing creature next to him. Cas' breath caught at the bruised… but not broken… sight of him. The piss and vinegar childishness that managed to charm people upon meeting him became something more now. He was still oh, so charming… but, a maturity and adult sexiness had grown from it. He wasn't just cocky any more. He was confident. He was responsible. He was arrogant, sure… but his arrogance was more a façade than self-absorption.
"I love you." Cas whispered.
Dean smiled and leaned his head back again. His eye closed and chuckled. "Can't figure why…"
Cas and Dean modified their New Year's Eve plans. Dean still hadn't been back to work on his doctor's orders. He had bruised his ribs pretty badly and his body was going to need a few more days of recovery. Cas stayed at Gabriel's overnight. He told his parents it was more to monitor Dean's medication than it was any of the thoughts that were clear on their faces. But, really Cas knew he would be leaving soon and he wanted every waking moment left to be with Dean. He shook his head to deny all he wanted… but he couldn't deny the countdown of days being crossed off on the calendar.
"Happy New Year!" Joey's voice was slurred and happy.
"Hey! Happy New Year. You're a tad early, though aren't you?"
"Just a few hours, Cas. But, you know… I have to live it up. Two more days and we'll be back to the grind."
Cas sighed and cast his eyes to the closed bedroom door. "Don't remind me."
"Awww… don't want to leave your loverbird yet?"
Castiel closed his eyes and wiped a nervous hand down his face. "We were jumped…"
There was no response for at least a minute. "Joey?"
"Hold on, C." Cas heard the panted breaths and the tell-tale sounds of doors closing and the music was dampened to almost non-existent. "What happened? Are you okay?"
"Well, I am… more or less. Just bruised, I guess."
Castiel drew in another breath. He still had trouble talking about the incident, despite having to recite the tale so many times to officials and lawyers. "He was pretty beaten up. Hasn't been able to work for a few days."
"Jesus!" Joey said. "Why didn't you call?"
"I've been kinda busy."
"Right! Right. Sorry." Joey sounded contrite. "When did this happen?"
"The night I talked to you."
"Did you get a lawyer?"
Cas sighed. It was always the practical and pragmatic side of himself with which he was most comfortable. But, in this case, he was tired of being practical and pragmatic. His emotions were wildly out of control. He managed to tamp them down to a dull roar around Dean and his family. He hid them behind a mask of the stoic. On the phone, Joey was able to hear the mask slip.
"Castiel… take a breath…"
Cas did. He closed his eyes and visualized a place of calm. Then, he saw Dean in a hospital bed covered in bruises and hooked up to IV pain medications and his calm shattered like breaking glass. A ragged breathy sob emerged. "Joey…" His voice wasn't his. It was cracked and strained and practically a whimper.
"Cas, you're okay… Take a breath, baby."
Cas did, but felt the panic come at him. "In, Cas…. Breath in." Joey modeled what he wanted over the phone and Cas did his best to mimic it. Eventually, Joey had Cas breathing in a steady, calming rhythm.
"It's okay, Cas." Joey said after he heard the panic diminish. "You're allowed to feel this way. It… it's scary and it hurts… and it's okay to feel it. Just don't let it rule you… don't let it change what you want to do with your life…. Or who you love. You're out, now, Cas. You have to watch your environment a little more critically. You have to be careful with whom you share this part of who you are… It sucks… but, until the world has an enema of all the hate that they've shoved up their asses… we just have to… I don't know… be careful."
Cas nodded, not trusting himself to speak yet.
"Where is he?" Joey asked. "Is he home or in the hospital?"
"Here." Cas squeaked.
Cas could hear the calm sobriety in Joey's voice. "Climb into bed and care for him for a couple of days. I'll see ya on Wednesday and you get to take advantage of me treating you with kid gloves for a while…"
Cas could just visualize how carefully and solicitously Joey meant to care for him. He sucked in a stuttered shaky breath and smiled. "Thanks, Joey."
"No problem, sweetheart. I'll see you soon. Take care of your man. Get some sleep."
"See you soon."
Castiel climbed in with Dean and felt the immediate response of warm arms encircling him. He wept with quiet tears into the pillow until he fell asleep.
Sometime, in the middle of the night, Dean woke and decided it wasn't stalkerish or creepy to watch Cas sleep despite his own protestations that Cas doing it to him was. Cas woke to see Dean looking into his face, a small glint of the low light in the room shining to reveal his open eye.
"Do you need something?" Cas asked, immediately going into caretaker mode.
Dean kept staring at Cas but didn't say anything. His hand began to trace the contours of Cas' body.
"I wish you didn't have to go."
Tears started to rise up and escape from Cas. "I promise it won't be like last time, okay."
Dean nodded. He stared at Cas some more. Cas could see the movement of Dean's chin and then he pulled in a gasp. Cas could hear it in the sound. He heard the pain, loneliness, anxiety that Dean must feel at the prospect of Cas going away again. Cas pulled him closer. He held him in a hug that was an attempt to convey all the same things that Cas felt- How he didn't want to leave.
He pulled back and kissed Dean's face. "Not yet." Cas whimpered. "I don't have to go yet…"
They fell asleep again, but it was fitful sleep. Whenever they awoke, they reassured each other over again. They cried into each other's chest and whispered promises. When the true morning came, they decided they couldn't move from their bed. They stared at each other in the pale morning light but said nothing more. It wasn't until Cas began to fidget in Dean's arms that the silence was broken.
"Are you uncomfortable?" Dean asked.
Cas didn't respond but Dean felt his body full of tension and he couldn't remain still.
Cas looked apologetic before extracting himself from their covers and Dean's tangle of legs and arms. "I'm sorry…" Cas tripped and fell on the floor. He reached for a towel in the hamper"…I have to…." Cas struggled to rise and moved quickly to the door. "I gotta pee!"
Cas could hear the laughter as he raced to the bathroom. Dean still had a smile on his face when Cas returned. "It's not funny, Dean."
Dean seemed to have returned to normal. His grin was broad and there was a twinkle in his open green eye. "Oh, it was totally funny!"
They stayed together all day, though Dean was strictly forbidden to drive anywhere. They went to Cas' home and started to pack his belongings. Ana fretted over and pampered Dean. Dean had been propped up at the head of the bed with what had to be every extra pillow in the house. He was admonished to rest while Cas packed. She offered him anything to make him comfortable. He smiled, though Cas could tell it was a smile he reserved for people at the garage he needed to be nice to but who really got on his nerves.
"Mom… we could really use some privacy." Cas finally told her.
Ana stilled and examined her son. "I'll give you your privacy, Castiel James Collins… but, neither of you will abuse my trust. Understand?"
"Yes, ma'am." They said together.
She gave one last look at the pair of them before retreating out the door, leaving it opened a crack. They held in their laughter until they heard her descend the stairs and turn on the tap in the kitchen. Then, Cas fell onto the bed and chuckled into Dean's shirt. Dean placed his hand with a light stroke over Cas' head, on his shoulder. He leaned his head back and closed his eyes.
Cas breathed in the scent of Dean, though it was not the smell to which he had become accustomed. There was antiseptic and the chemical medicine odor of his pills that replaced engine oil and gasoline but mixed with the soap and laundry detergent smell of him. He didn't smell of his usual cologne since his face was still too tender to shave. But, there was a natural muskiness about Dean that Cas had noticed many times over the years of knowing him. The fragrance that made his mind flash to late night cook-outs by the lake, of sitting on the hood of the Impala at the Bluff, of sitting in the car after school and listening to music while they waited for Sam to get out of Key Club, Chess Club or any number of activities in which he engaged… All those things that reminded Castiel of his happy childhood could be brought to mind by simply inhaling Dean.
The comfort was too good to want to disrupt. And yet…
Gabriel slammed the door open and walked in as though it was truly his room instead of Castiel's.
"I brought pie!" He declared and flourished his hand to demonstrate a pink cardboard box. He sat on the bed next to Dan who lifted his hand off of Cas and took the box from his roommate. He lifted the lid and peered inside.
"What the heck is this?" Dean demanded.
Gabriel looked in and Castiel, too, took a look.
"OH!" Cas exclaimed and sat up to take the box. "Key Lime is my favorite!"
Gabriel turned a smug grin to Dean who made a face at Cas' choice. "Friendship over." Dean declared.
Cas smirked at Dean and took the pie to his desk. "More for me."
"You can have it."
Gabriel rose and left the room, only to return with another box which he handed to Dean. Dean looked inside and grinned. "You do love me…"
They sat and talked for a while about the drama with Kali. Gabriel had to work very hard to appease her after leaving her in charge of the shop for those three days. She had complained to Gabriel that the dinner wasn't enough to make her forgive him. Apparently, neither was the fact that Gabriel paid her a week's salary for those three days. Gabriel threatened to not bring any more pie if they continued to tease him for being so whupped and the conversation turned to the giant elephant in the room.
"So, will we see you more often, now, Cassie?"
"Don't call me that." Cas said automatically. "Well, they say the guys who jumped us are going to be arraigned soon and then there will be a trial… so, I guess I'll be back a lot for that."
Cas refused to meet either sets of eyes. He wanted to know that the relationship he was forging with Dean would last and he wanted to make it work. But, he was also afraid that the adage about long-distance relationships became cliché because it was sadly also true. He didn't want for his relationship to become cliché.
"I guess I could come back for the weekends… it's just…"
"Your crap truck won't last long driving out here every weekend, Cas." Dean told him. His expression was empty.
"We'll figure it out, Dean."
Gabriel stayed for dinner and Dean went next door to eat with his family. Things were getting better with them as long as Dean and Cas weren't "obvious" about their relationship. John had caught them making lovey eyes at each other and was in a foul mood for the rest of the day. They decided they would be discrete for the sakes of family harmony…
Gabriel offered to drive Dean home and bring him back in the morning to say good-bye to Cas, but Dean convinced his dad to let him stay the night and drop him to his place on the way to work in the morning. So, when the morning sun began to peek over the horizon, Cas packed his belongings into his rickety truck and waited for Dean on the hood. He had said his good-byes to his mother and father. He received Gabriel's fare thee well last night. He didn't know if he would have the strength to leave if Dean met him inside the house to say it to one another.
So, Adam and John came out of the Winchester/Milligan home to load their truck. Cas waited patiently for Dean to emerge. He saw the two others return to the house after several minutes and Dean came out to lean against Castiel, pressing him into a firm embrace. When he pulled back, he kissed Cas and held his hand. He fingered the Claddagh ring, staring at the slip of metal instead of looking at Cas.
"It belongs to you…" Cas said.
Dean raised his eyes to Cas'. They were watery and sad and Dean saw the same in Cas'. Dean nodded and gripped Cas in his arms.
"I gotta go…" Cas told him as he pulled away.
"I know… You'll come back, right?" Dean asked. It broke Cas' heart to hear uncertainty there.
"Of course. You are my home, Dean." Cas was followed to the driver's door and he slid in. Dean stood next to the door as Cas rolled down the window. "I'll call… as soon as I get there."
"You better. I wanna know this piece of crap got you there safely."
Cas stared with a tight grimace before he patted the steering wheel. "Don't listen to him. He's a classic car bigot."
"I am a P.O.S. bigot." Dean defended. "Seriously, Cas…"
Cas looked at the worried expression and smiled. "I'll call. As soon as I pull into the parking lot of the dorms."
Dean nodded satisfied. "Okay… and I'll get Sam to teach me to Psych…"
Cas smiled and his eyes crinkled in mirth. "Skype… Dean, learn to Skype."
Dean leaned in and granted a quick kiss before pulling back and letting Cas start the engine of the truck.
"Be safe." He called as the truck pulled out of the drive.
"You too!" Cas responded.
Dean watched as the truck chugged away.
"I'm here." Cas panted as he slammed the door to the truck.
"It's about time, Cas!" Dean yelled over the speaker.
"Don't yell at me, Dean… I had…"
Cas sighed. "I had car trouble. It doesn't matter. I'm here. I'm safe. I'll call you again later. I gotta…"
"What?" Dean asked after a long pause.
"I gotta pay the tow guy."
Cas heard the sigh. He didn't want to fight.
"I'll pick you up this weekend." Dean told him.
"I'm not going to win this argument, am I?" Cas asked with a grin.
"I love you."
"Love you, too."
A/N: Okay… That's the end of this story. But, like I've said before… this was the story I wanted to tell. I am already started on the sequel so… I'll get it up when I can. Hope you liked it. Let me know.