Oh you guys, I love you all. :) Thanks to my sweet reviewers: cherishiskisa, Loubee1977, No pen names left, dylaila, darkphoenix2345, justine82, and My Dead Love.


Cas didn't go back in for the rest of the dance show. He couldn't face it. The music, the people, the light... he just sat on the floor in the corridor, holding his phone like a precious jewel. He spent a good ten minutes looking at Dean's telephone number on the screen. Yesterday, if he'd somehow come into possession of Dean's telephone number, he would have saved it to his contacts in the blink of an eye. Now, he didn't know if he could. In any case, it was a moot point; after staring at it for so long, he now saw it in his mind whenever he closed his eyes, and he knew he wouldn't be able to forget it even if he wanted.

Even as most of him went into shock, like a wounded animal, part of his mind was already rushing around doing damage control. Okay, so he's not gay. He's not interested. He doesn't want... anything with me. The next step is for me to get over him. I need to forget about him and move on.These words caused an almost physical stab of pain in his belly, and Cas dropped his phone, tucking up his knees and wrapping his arms around them in a defensive position, hiding his face from the world.

Who am I fooling? he asked himself wretchedly. This'll never work. I love him.

Even in their silence, the words seemed to echo, and Cas lifted his head in shock. "I love him," he whispered to the dark, testing the sound of it. But that makes no sense! his brain brayed back. I barely know him! I can't love him! I can practically count the number of times I've talked to him on one hand!

"Why?" Cas asked the silent hallway aloud. He realized with academic interest that he wasn't crying. That fact alone was enough to distract him for a few seconds. Suddenly, he had a powerful longing to speak to his Father. Father's advice, when he would consent to give it (which was rarely), could always be counted on. But Cas was here, alone with the silence.

He was barely aware of the time passing, but eventually the show must have finished, because the doors to the performance hall opened and bright loud people spilled out. The corridor was flooded with light, and Gabe's toe was poking him. "Hey sadface. Why were you sitting out here in the dark? Who was that calling earlier?"

Cas lifted his head wearily. "Can we go home please, Gabriel?"

Cas didn't often use his siblings' full names, and Gabe paused in surprise. "Yeah, of course we're going home. The show's over. C'mon, on your feet." He reached down and grasped Castiel's hands, pulling him up to a standing position. "What's wrong, buddy? You look shell-shocked." Gabe narrowed his eyes up at his younger brother. "Was that somebody from home? Is everything all right?"

"It's not important," Cas blatantly lied, ducking to grab his phone from the floor and turning towards the door.

In the car, he slouched against the door, staring out the window at the night. Gabe prodded gently for details, even though Cas was as clammed up as he'd ever been. When they pulled into their driveway, Gabe hopped out and zipped around to the passenger's side before Cas could even open his door. "All right, you don't have to tell me what it was all about, but I'm not letting you out of the car until you at least tell me who it was."

Cas knew how stubborn his brother could be. There was no point in holding back, especially when all he wanted was to get inside and climb into bed and wrap himself up in his blankets and sleep forever. "It was Dean," he said quietly. "Will you please let me out now?"

Gabe took a measured step backward to make some space without saying anything, but his piercing eyes watched his little brother closely as Cas got out of the car and hurried into the house.

The next morning, Cas was awoken by tickling. "No," he gasped weakly. "That's not fair, stop! I'm asleep!"

"More like mourning," came Gabe's far-too-cheerful voice in response. "Mourning something that never even got a chance to live. Speaking of which, good mourning!"

These cryptic words slowly sank into Castiel's consciousness, and he pushed himself into a sitting position and blinked owlishly at his brother. Then, in one heavy blow, the events of the previous night came back to him, and he collapsed into his pillow again, face-first.

"No you don't," was Gabe's answer, and Cas felt himself being lifted bodily out of bed. His older brother might be small in stature, but when he was set on something there was no stopping him. Cas soon found himself sitting upright on the edge of the bed with Gabe cross-legged next to him. "It's eleven a.m. You've slept for twelve hours. I think it's time for you to at least rise, if not shine, grumpyface."

Cas's brain slowly cranked into action. "What did you say a minute ago? About... morning? Mourning?"

"You're mourning the death of your relationship with Dean," Gabe said succinctly. "A relationship which, pardon my honesty, never even existed. That is just pathetic. If you give it the good old college try and THEN it goes down like the Titanic, all right, you would deserve some respect and sympathy in that case. But this? This is silly! You've given up before even officially entering the race! Wake UP, dingbat, I'm talking to you!"

During Gabe's tirade, Cas had been sinking toward his beckoning pillow once again, but it looked like that wasn't going to work. His long night was clearly over, and the cruel reality of day lay before him. "Gabe, I... I can't," he mumbled. "He told me, in so many words, that he wasn't interested."

"Well, then he's wrong," Gabe decided, in a tone of voice that left no room for argument. "I know you, Cas baby, and you are a prize. Any guy ought to be groveling with thanks to have you. Even an idiot who thinks he's straight."

"Gabe," Cas groaned, very much not wanting to be having this conversation right now, or, in fact, ever. "I think he actually IS straight."

"I don't think so!" Gabe shot back. "Not completely, at least. My Spidey sense is tingling."

"You know your gaydar is dysfunctional," Cas argued.

"I didn't say gaydar, I said Spidey sense. Dude wears lime green boxers. That's just not heterosexual."

Cas's eyes bulged. "You––how do you know that?"

"I have my ways," Gabe cackled, before suddenly turning serious. "Now listen: I have one very simple assignment for you. It's the simplest assignment that's ever been given. You need to listen very closely. This is it: be yourself. Your real self. Show him the goods. Show him what he's missing. Charm the pants off him––and you can interpret that any way you want, you unsullied maiden." Cas glared, but Gabe blithely ignored it. "Just, you know, be true blue you, and don't give up. I have a good feeling. I think you'll hook this fish yet. Just gotta cast your line with energy, 'cause you know, Denial is a deep river!"

And with that, he vanished, leaving a confused and very awake Castiel to mull over his brother's metaphor-filled advice. He mulled it over while getting dressed, showering, eating breakfast, and drinking tea (a post-breakfast tradition in his household). Gabe had seemed very determined. And he'd somehow known what color Dean's boxers were... Cas didn't want to know how that had happened. He was bewildered, but Gabe's forceful words kept ricocheting around his mind. His brother had seemed very sure of himself this morning.

Slowly, Cas felt a sureness of his own growing in his mind. There was still an ache within him every time he remembered Dean's words from last night, and he didn't understand why a friendly conversation had sudden taken such a painful turn. Why had Dean sounded so defensive and almost scared? Was Gabe right––was Dean simply so far in the closet that he felt the need to attack anything that sounded too gay? More and more, that was beginning to look like the only logical conclusion, and Cas's hurt began morphing into resentment.

Finally, late that evening, Cas knew what he had to do. He borrowed some of Father's best letter-paper and, after a bit of thinking, began to write.

An Invitation
To: Dean Winchester
From: Castiel
Mr. Winchester is cordially invited to tea at four o'clock on Sunday afternoon at the residence of your humble servant, to be accompanied by classical music in the parlor, followed by a discussion of the merits of various Romantic-era piano works. If this all doesn't sound too gay, that is.
RSVP

Satisfied, Cas reread it, and then remembered something. Dean had said he wasn't a big tea-drinker. Too bad. Cas's new determination knew no obstacles. He added a postscript.

P.S. I know you said you don't drink tea, but have you heard of Lapsang Souchong? It is unique among teas. I believe the expression is 'Don't knock it till you've tried it.'

With a smile, Cas folded the letter and tucked it into the envelope, on which he'd already scrawled Dean's name, in his best attempt at an elegant cursive hand. (His training in handwriting had been rather patchy, mostly made up of imitating the way Father and Michael wrote.) He then licked the tip of the flap, pressed it lightly shut, and tiptoed out of his room and down the stairs. Yes, his determination knew no obstacles, but he'd still prefer not to meet anyone until he'd completed this mission.

The lights were on in the Winchesters' house, but Cas didn't knock. Instead, he listened briefly at the front door to make sure no one was around, and then pushed the letter underneath it. Then he slipped off the creaky porch, back across the lawn and driveway and up his own steps, and shut his front door behind him before letting out a long sigh of relief.

His room looked out on the backyard, so he couldn't see if Dean came over with an RSVP. Cas was able to make himself wait until midnight, after the rest of his siblings had gone to sleep, but then his curiosity got the better of him and he snuck downstairs. His breath caught in his throat when he saw a folded piece of notepaper sticking under the front door. On the outside was his name, and inside it said simply 'Sounds great, see you Sunday'. Castiel smiled, just a little.

He slept well that night, but the next day, the nerves started. It got worse and worse all week, and when Sunday morning came, Cas was almost considering pretending to be sick and hiding in his room all day. Somehow, the rest of the family had found out about Cas's last-ditch attempt to win Dean's heart, and to his grateful relief, they all seemed to be 100% behind him. Anna popped into his room around two p.m. and said, in a casual tone that wouldn't have fooled anyone, "Mike and Luc are holed up working, and Gabe and I are going to go check out the fair in the next town over. We're making an afternoon of it, probably won't be back till dinnertime. See ya!"

"Bye, have fun," Cas responded weakly. At least he'd have his privacy with Dean. He wasn't sure, at the moment, if that was a good thing or not.

At four p.m. the house was empty and quiet, and since no one was there to tease him for doing it, Cas went downstairs and flitted around peering out of the windows to see when Dean came.

He was right on time. The doorbell rang, and Cas thought for the briefest of moments that he might faint. Then he remembered to breathe, and went to answer the door.

Having not seen him in days, Cas was even more bowled over by the intensity of Dean's presence than he had expected to be. It was all he could do to stiffly say "Hello, Dean. Please come in. I'm glad you could make it."

Dean ducked his head almost shyly and stepped into the house. "Yeah, um, me too." Cas had begun leading the way towards the kitchen when Dean spoke again from behind him. "Listen, I want to say sorry about the other day, on the phone... if I came across as rude or something. I didn't mean to hurt your feelings. I just––I guess I can be kind of blunt sometimes."

Cas stopped and slowly turned to look at him. Dean's face was a mix of emotions, but mostly hopeful and scared. "And, um, tea and classical music definitely doesn't sound too gay," he added quickly, before looking horrified at his own words. "I mean, unless it's supposed to be! I mean, obviously it's not supposed to be––it's not supposed, I mean it doesn't have––it's not anything, it's––you––are you gay?"

The words had all tumbled out in a confused mess, and Cas realized with growing relief that the other boy was just as nervous as he was. The naïveté of his question was almost charming. "Yes," Cas answered simply. "I take it you're not?" Even asking this caused a twinge of painful memory, but Dean's flustered response was distracting and amusing enough to be worth it.

"No! No, I'm not. I've never––no."

Castiel tipped his head slowly to one side, unable to resist the opening. "You've never...?"

To his surprise and gratification, a definite blush arose in the other boy's face, and Dean seemed to be utterly at a loss for words. "I––I––can we just have tea already?"

Cas gave a tiny nod, trying to restrain a smirk, and turned to continue heading towards the kitchen, unable to keep Gabe's words from slipping back into his mind: Not completely, at least...Maybe there was hope for him yet.

When they entered the huge dark Colonial-era kitchen, Cas couldn't help noticing how obviously impressed Dean was. The Winchesters' house was much newer, and even other old houses rarely had such a well-preserved interior. That was much of the reason that Father had been so drawn to this place. Cas lit the candles in the chandelier. "We won't be in here for long," he told Dean. "But it's quite a dark room, and they improve the ambience."

He set about heating the water while Dean continued to surreptitiously stare around him, only returning his gaze to Cas upon being asked what sort of tea he'd like. "You mentioned some sort of tea in your invitation," Dean started awkwardly. "...I don't remember the name."

So he'd taken note of the postscript. Cas was glad to hear this. "Oh yes, Lapsang Souchong. It's quite remarkable. You've never had it, have you?"

"I don't think so. Like I said, I don't drink tea much."

Cas put the tea bags into mugs and poured the water. "Milk? Sugar?" he asked.

Dean shrugged. "However it's best. I'll trust you on this." For some reason, Cas found himself smiling as he added milk and sugar to both mugs. He noticed belatedly that he'd chosen Luc's Heaven and Hell mugs. His older brother always claimed they were a good way to test people. Cas wasn't sure how the test worked, but all the same he felt a brief pang of sadness when Dean picked the Hell mug.

After blowing out the candles, Cas again took up the lead. "The parlor's this way. I've dug out my father's Schubert and Schumann records. We'll see if we can find any promising piano pieces." Seeing that Dean was about to take a sip, he cautioned "Don't drink yet. Give it a few minutes to steep or you won't get the full flavor."

In the parlor, Dean immediately sat down on the loveseat. Cas tried not to think about the significance of that. He certainly wouldn't be joining his guest there––it was short enough that if two people both sat on it, they would be rather intimate. Cas distracted himself from this train of thought by shuffling purposefully through the stack of records, although they were already arranged chronologically. (What? He'd had to do somethingthat afternoon while waiting for Dean to arrive.)

Eventually Dean took a sip of his tea, and the reaction was quite rewarding. "Dude, this tastes like smoked meat!"

Cas bit back a smile and nodded. "It is smoked. That's what gives it its special taste. Good, though, isn't it?"

He risked a glance at Dean, who looked quite at home, relaxed on the loveseat with his mug held in both hands, shaking his head in disbelief. "It's crazy!"

Those green eyes met his, and Cas experienced the sensation that was now becoming quite familiar, as if something was flipping over inside him and leaving him vaguely dizzy. Except this time, he knew what it was, and while maintaining a calm outer appearance, he permitted one tiny corner of his mind to whisper treasuringly to itself: love.

Dean took another sip and reluctantly modified his opinion. "Yeah, it's good."

Cas forced himself to say something, spouting out trivia while withdrawing a record from its sleeve. "Lapsang Souchong was the first black tea ever made. It's a piece of history. Here, let's start with Schumann's Kinderszenen. I've heard about this one."

As the afternoon continued, Dean seemed to feel more and more at home, laughing and arguing and getting caught up in the music and even accepting another cup of tea. And somewhere between Schumann and Schubert, Cas found himself face to face with the fact that he was irretrievably and undeniably head-over-heels in love with Dean Winchester. As day turned toward evening, the light grew long and warm, slanting in the windows and illuminating both boys in golden silhouette. They finally managed to agree on three pieces they both liked enough for Cas to learn to play, and he made a mental note to himself to order the sheet music.

Eventually, Dean's mother was heard calling her boys to dinner, and he let out a sigh. "I should go."

No, don't go, don't ever go again, Cas's traitor of a mouth wanted to say. He swallowed the words and instead agreed, tucking a record back into its case. "Yes, I suppose so." He gave Dean a shy smile. "This has been very enjoyable."

"Yeah, I had fun." Dean stretched both arms over his head, and his shirt rode up a bit, revealing a half-inch of tanned skin. Cas's eyes zeroed in on it, against his will, and when the shirt had fallen back into place he felt like he could still see it. Vaguely he realized that Dean was saying something about his mug and holding it out towards him.

Cas took a measured breath and clambered unsteadily to his feet. "I'll take it. Don't worry about it." He approached and took it out of Dean's hands. If their fingers brushed in that moment, maybe it wasn't entirely accident. The heat of the sunset light seemed to fill the room and amplify their breathing. A very clear plan of action struck Castiel so hard he was surprised his head didn't ring like a bell.

"Okay. Well, um, thanks––"

"Dean, I think you should know that I'm courting you."

The warmth and silence seemed to swell still further as Dean's eyes grew larger and his mouth hung open. "Um––you––but Cas, I told you I'm not––"

"Yes. I don't care." Cas felt ultimate clarity. It was a good feeling.

"But––I mean, you can't––I'm just not––" Dean stuttered.

"Dean," Cas said patiently. "Don't knock it till you've tried it. You liked the Lapsang Souchong."

And the look on Dean's face at that moment was definitely one of the more pleasing things Castiel had seen in his life.