Last chapter! As ever, my reviewers are wonderful: cherishiskisa, My Dead Love, darkphoenix2345, and dylaila. Special thanks and smooches to cherishiskisa, who gave me some fabulous inspiration for the sequel. It's coming soon, folks. I'm thinking of doing alternating chapters from each POV, because I really had fun writing them both. Good idea? Not a good idea? Any other requests for stuff you want to see in the sequel? (I can't guarantee it'll end up in there if you give me ideas, but I thought it could be fun to 'open the suggestion box' on this one.)
Cas wasn't sure how long they stood there, coming back to themselves as the night air sobered them up. Or it sobered him up a bit, at least; Dean still seemed pretty wobbly, and Cas felt a brief flash of shame, knowing that he wouldn't have dared make his move if they hadn't been drinking. Dean didn't seem to regret it, though. In fact, when Cas stepped away, the other boy followed, unconsciously mirroring his movements and catching at Cas's sleeve.
"Do you––" Castiel's voice was rough, and he cleared his throat before trying again. "Do you want to go back inside?"
"Nah." Dean swayed there, giving Cas a thoughtful look.
"Okay, then." Cas took a deep breath, and managed a shaky smile. "I think we ought to get you home and into bed." He took hold of Dean's elbow and began guiding him in the direction of the car.
"What?" Cas asked. His own head was still buzzing, and he distantly hoped he'd be able to drive okay.
"Whose bed?" Dean was smirking, and Cas blushed when he finally caught the meaning.
"Your own, silly. You're drunk, I wouldn't... let's just go home."
The silence in the car was dangerously lulling as they pulled out of the parking lot, but Cas felt more focused than he'd ever been. He supposed part of it was probably the deceitful influence of the alcohol, so he'd have to be extra careful on the road. But he knew that a good part of it had nothing to do with the drinks he'd imbibed. He was as aware of Dean's warm sleepy presence in the seat next to him as if it were an extension of himself, and the dark night felt doubly alive as they drove through it, windows a crack open for the fresh cold air. Cas turned on the radio, not too loud, and found a piece he didn't recognize on the classical station. It was fierce and glorious, filling his mind with images of mountains and woods.
The drive home took forever and no time at all, but Cas was too happy to worry about this paradox. With tender care he helped an unwieldy Dean out of the car and through his front door, luckily left unlocked because his parents were expecting him home. Cas was relieved not to encounter any of the members of Dean's family as the two of them stumbled up the stairs. Cas paused at the top, adjusting his arm around Dean's waist and sorting through his mind to deduce where Dean's room must be. To the right, he determined, and pushed open the first door he found there with a recklessness that his sober mind would have been shocked by––what if he'd guessed wrong and it had been the parents' bedroom?
But no, he'd guessed correctly, because after finding and flipping the light switch he saw walls covered with posters of classic rock bands and muscle cars, and couldn't hold back a smile. Dean made a soft noise that sounded suspiciously like a snore, and Cas lugged him over to the bed and carefully deposited him on it. For a moment he paused, hovering nervously over the semi-conscious boy, unsure what to do next. Dean's vulnerability at this moment struck a chord in Cas, stimulating protective instincts he'd never known he had. He began untying Dean's shoelaces.
"Hey, you found my room," Dean mumbled into his pillow.
So he wasn't entirely passed-out after all. "It was hardly difficult, Dean," Cas muttered back. "After all, I'd already seen it from outside, I only needed to figure out how the inside of the house was set up. Move your leg." He managed to lift Dean's slumbrous form just enough to get his jacket and overshirt off. After hanging the former on the bedpost and carefully folding the latter, he arranged Dean's shoes next to the bed, and then finally admitted to himself that he was just looking for excuses to stay a bit longer. Made daring by the alcohol still buzzing in his system, he perched on the edge of the bed and gently traced the line of Dean's jaw with one finger. He so fervently wished he could just crawl under the covers and spend the night here, tucked up and basking in the warmth of the boy he loved. But even in his tipsy state, Cas knew that would be a bad idea. So, with painful reluctance, he made himself get up and slip out of the room, down the stairs, and out of the house, heading home to his own empty bed.
The next morning, Cas drifted very slowly towards consciousness. The first thing he was aware of was footsteps on his bedroom floor. They seemed to be very heavy footsteps. His family knew not to wake him if they valued their lives, so who could that be? And more importantly, why did his head feel like a sack of sawdust? To be more precise, a sack of sawdust into which someone had pounded a few nails? He groaned and nested down harder into his ocean of blankets. The footsteps paused, and unwelcome sunlight flooded the room. Even with his eyes pressed shut, Cas could sense it.
"Rise and shine, sonny. How you feelin'?" That was Dean's voice.
As much as Cas wanted to see the world in flames right now if it didn't allow him to keep sleeping, that voice stirred something in him, and he couldn't ignore it. He let out a heavy sigh and turned over, opening one eye to locate the speaker. "WrrrrrggghhDean?"
"Yup. I brought you breakfast. Come on, it's already almost eleven. Don't want to let the morning pass you by!"
Cas tugged the blankets up over his head. "I want to let life pass me by."
"Aw, c'mon, it can't be that bad," Dean coaxed. "If you tell me where the aspirin is, I'll go get you some."
"I don't want aspirin." If he'd been more awake and in less pain, Cas would have explained that his family didn't believe in taking drugs of any sort, but right now he didn't feel like explaining anything. Finally giving up on sleep, he pushed himself up into a sitting position and squinted at Dean.
The other boy fished something out of a bag he was holding. "Here we go: Cheerios, food of the gods. Try some, seriously. Your opinion of life may rapidly improve." He placed a bowl in the hands of Cas, who held it in obedient bewilderment as Dean dumped in cereal and milk, finally adding a spoon. "Go on, take a bite."
Cas sighed expressively, but then did as requested. The cereal was good, simple and wholesome and gentle on his unhappy stomach. The pain in his temples slowly began to recede, and Castiel felt a bit more human. He gave his visitor a grateful glance. "Thank you, Dean." The other boy nodded and seated himself hesitantly on the end of the bed, watching Cas eat with a conflicted expression in his eyes.
A door in the other end of the house slammed, and Dean started a bit. Cas placed his spoon in his now empty bowl and gathered his thoughts. There was no delaying this moment much longer. "I suppose you want to talk. May I at least shower first?"
"Oh. Uh, yeah, I guess. I don't know. I mean, of course you can shower, I just... don't know... if there's anything to talk about."
Oh Dean, always lying to yourself right up until the last possible moment,thought Cas wryly, stood, and stretched, saying aloud "There usually is. Excuse me for a minute." He chose some clean clothing from his dresser and headed to the bathroom. During his shower he deliberately did not think about the boy sitting on his bed waiting for him. That would have been a recipe for disaster. He managed not to think about much of anything while toweling off and getting dressed. Then, it was time.
He hadn't been sure what to expect, and during the short walk down the hall back towards his room, the butterflies in his stomach had been getting stronger and stronger, worse than they'd ever been before. But when he stepped into his room and met Dean's gaze, they vanished. The look in those green eyes took his breath away. For the first time––finally––Cas felt he was seeing his own emotions reflected back to him from Dean's own soul. It stopped him in his tracks. He tipped his head to one side and looked at Dean for a long moment, trying to preserve this sight in his mind forever. Eventually he was able to speak again. "What would you like to say, Dean?"
The other boy didn't hesitate. Though he looked more nervous than Cas had ever seen him, the words tumbled out of his mouth with unstoppable momentum. "I, uh, I kissed you. I mean, you kissed me. But I let you. And I keep thinking I'm gonna freak out about it, but I haven't yet. It––I actually liked it." He paused for a split second, pressed his lips together, and then continued. "But, I don't know why we're doing this. I mean, we barely even know each other. How––how can that become anything?"
Cas took a breath, and chose his words carefully. "Dean, I am attracted to you. That happens sometimes, even when you don't know another person very well. As for what you are feeling," he added, "I can't advise you there, because I can't see inside your mind. Are you attracted to me as well?"
The moment seemed to stretch into eternity, but at last Dean answered. "I don't know. I guess, maybe? A little bit? But I'm not gay, though! So I can't be!"
Cas sighed, and went to sit on the bed too. "Dean, 'gay' is not an all-or-nothing scenario. If you don't want to be gay, you can be straight and make exceptions. Like, for me, maybe," he added, barely daring to say the words aloud.
"I can't be with you," Dean said, suddenly standing up and beginning to pace the room like a caged tiger. "I––you––you're too nice. You're always doing things for me. Like, you baked me petits fours. And found the hammock frame. And got those tickets to see my favorite band. And introduced me to Schubert and Schumann and Lapsang Souchong. And last night I got totally smashed and you brought me home and took care of me, even though you were pretty drunk too. I've had girlfriends, but none of them ever did all that stuff for me. I can't––I can't go gay just because you're nicer to me than any girl ever was!"
Seeing the very illogical logic of Dean's mind laid out like this, Cas felt a spark of amusement and hope. Was that all it was? That had been the only thing holding Dean back this whole time? Cas pondered for a brief moment before replying, needing to say the next part just right. "Dean. I'm not asking you to 'go gay'. And anyway, you can't, there's no such thing. You are who you are. Sexuality is a moot point, and it doesn't have much to do with this in any case. You only have to decide who you want to spend your time with. What you do during that time is nobody else's business, and you don't have to plan it all out in advance. You can just invent it as you go along, and forget all those silly names like 'friendship' and 'relationship' and 'romance'. In the end, all that matters is this: do you want to spend your time with me?"
Dean abruptly stopped his pacing, standing right in front of Cas. He stared at the ground for a moment before meeting Castiel's eyes. "Well, when you put it like that... yeah, I do."
So there it was. After all that. There it was. Cas felt a smile spreading over his face, like light filling him from within. "Splendid." His heart leapt, and he needed to do something, create something, right now. "Tell me, Dean: have you ever had scrambled eggs with turmeric? It sounds strange, but it's really quite delicious. Come on, let's go downstairs and make some."
An answering smile broke out on Dean's face, and the two of them walked out of the bedroom, together.
~ fin ~