The bell rings. It's time.
Dean's had his preparatory cup of coffee in the teacher's lounge. The kids know what to do. The props are in place. It's a rainy day. Thursday. Impeccable timing. Perfect parallelism. Dean can't even hear himself think over the rush of his pulse. One more favor from Gabriel, correctly timed, and everything will be perfect. Dean drums his fingers on the desk. The kids are talking loudly, excitedly, filling the classroom fit to burst with nervous energy, but the moment the door opens they fall eerily silent in unison, and if Dean didn't want the whole thing to be suspicious, everything would be ruined. Fortunately, in this case, suspicious is good. When Professor Castiel Novak at last walks in to face his class, the stage is set.
Dean steps to the back of the room for the moment and watches intently. Castiel starts to unpack his briefcase, but after a minute of rustling papers and rearranging pens he's distracted by the absolute silence cloaking the room. He looks up for a long moment. The kids don't say a thing. Each and every single one sits with eyes glued to the desks. Dean is thrilled. Castiel's mouth twists in confusion, but he's obviously not going to complain. As always, he goes to the board to start writing up the lesson. The second bell rings and by the time he turns around the kids have silently risen and lined up in front of his desk. His brow crinkles.
"What's the meaning of this?" He almost looks at Dean. The strain in his jaw is visible. His eyes flicker over the kids and slowly widen as he sees that they all have little slips of paper clutched in their hands. "What on Earth is going on here?"
Wordlessly, flawlessly, the first kid in line steps up and hands Castiel her slip of paper. Confusion blurs Castiel's expression as he carefully unfolds and reads. Before he can say anything, however, another slip is thrust into his hands. One by one, the kids file past, smiles scarcely disguised behind their hands as they glance at Dean en route to their seats. Castiel grows more and more bewildered. Dean's head is swimming. Over Castiel's crisply starched white collar, he can see a flush rising. That's a little bit reassuring. But only a little bit; he's still fighting a powerful urge to flee the room.
At last, the final student flutters to her seat, and when she accidentally lets loose a tiny giggle, the whole classroom dissolves into helpless laughter. Castiel's jaw is slack and his eyes are wide and lost. Honestly, it's not a very convincing façade. Dean can't believe he hasn't put it together yet. Choice romantic verses from his own translation of Vita Nuova? He should really know. But of course he's trying to feign ignorance. It's an adorably poor effort. He's never been very good at disguising strong emotions, and the slightest shift of his gaze betrays him. He's almost looking at Dean, and for his part, Dean feels like he's submerged in a dream, like none of this could be really happening.
"Class," says Castiel at long last, in a measured tone that for all its rigidity is nonetheless permeated by an airy amazed sort of breathlessness that brings Dean's heart pounding into his mouth. "What is the meaning of this?"
And, on perfect queue, the whole class points to Dean. Castiel turns very slowly. His eyes are wide. Dean can read no other expression than surprise on his face. In his intense concentration, he realizes that the nape of Castiel's neck is still damp from the rain, and he feels an oppressive urge to touch the soft slope of skin. Castiel blinks at him. Still no expression but blatant shock. Dean's disappointed and relieved at the same time. Abruptly bashful, he takes a tentative step forwards, one hand unconsciously rising to scratch uncomfortably at the back of his neck.
"You did this?" says Castiel. His voice is blank.
Dean tries to smile, but he doubts it really works out. "Who else could it have been?"
Castiel is moving his head very slowly back and forth.
"I don't know. I don't know. Dean." He puts a hand to his forehead and Dean's stomach flips. He looks so worried, so miserable. There's a glimmer of terror, even, in the hard line of his mouth. "Dean, you're going to get fired if you're not careful. I thought we had this figured out. You made yourself…" He pauses, voice constricting, and dips his chin. "You made yourself very clear."
Dean, even though his heart is breaking all over again, even though he wants nothing more than to grab Castiel right then and there and kiss him desperately and tell him that he was wrong, wrong, so wrong about everything, has to stick to the plan. His eyes flicker to the clock. Ten seconds. Too long. An eternity. He tries to draw out his words.
"Hey, Cas. Hey." Castiel doesn't look at him. So be it. Six seconds. "Cas, I need you to listen to me. Just listen to me, okay?" Two seconds. Dean shuts his eyes and for the first time in his life honestly prays for something. "Please."
Right on the dot, the door bursts open. Dean wants to cry with relief. He's not sure exactly how, but by some act of supernatural willpower, he maintains his composure. Gabriel's curled little grin flickers in the hallway for a moment, and then he's gone, leaving in his wake the tall terrifying inky silhouette of none other than Assistant Principal Raphael Novak. Castiel looks horrified. Dean is thrilled.
"Winchester?" Raphael's eyebrows rise. "I was just led to your classroom on the suspicion of inappropriate conduct. Is there something I should know about?"
Castiel opens his mouth, panic flowering strong in his eyes, but Dean, loving him so much it aches, steps forwards before he can say a word. He saunters over to Raphael, rocking a bit on his heels, in that moment far too happy for his own good, all things considered.
"There sure is," he says gleefully.
Raphael's eyebrow arches higher still.
"I'm a buffoon," says Dean matter-of-factly, bending a bit at the waist, a delicate bow. "And not only that, you know. I'm an idiot and a fool and a coward. I'm an asshole, too. Hell, I'm a downright dick. Pretty much me in a nutshell. Oh boy." He smiles charmingly. "And you know what's the worst thing about all this? A month ago I made the biggest mistake I've ever made in my whole life, and I've regretted it ever since. So forgive me, Raphael, for my crude attempts at amending such an error. I'm afraid I'm not very good at anything, so I wouldn't expect to be very good at fixing things, either. But if you would be so kind to stay until the end, I assure you a show."
Raphael is staring. It's working. Dean straightens up, still beaming, and takes a theatrical little step back.
"I'm in love," he says clearly, fearlessly, for the first time in his life. "I, Dean Winchester, am helplessly madly irrevocably in love with Professor Castiel Novak, and I have been since the day he asked me to come take a look at his car. I'm sorry if this comes as a disappointment to you. I've tried not to. I really have. But nothing works. I'm simply in love with him. I can't stop it. And by some miracle, at some point in time, he loved me, too."
He stops for a minute. Raphael's jaw has gone slack. Dean clears his throat.
"But as you all know well, I'm stupid. I'm so stupid. I gave him up. I traded him away. I tried to stop loving him and I thought I succeeded." He laughs more softly than he had intended. "I hadn't. I hadn't succeeded at all. I love him. I can't stop. I understand if he doesn't feel anything for me anymore because, to be perfectly honest with all of you, I really suck. I suck a whole lot. I was a selfish dick and I've never regretted anything more in my life. If I could take it all back, I would in a heartbeat. But I can't do that. I'm not sure what I can do, actually, except be honest for once. So that's it. I'm telling the truth. I love Castiel Novak and there's nothing in the world that can stop me. That's it. That's all I wanted to say." Dean shrugs. "I just thought you should know."
Raphael is silent for a long moment before he smiles a thin serpentine smile that makes the hair on the back of Dean's neck bristle.
"That's very sweet," he says smoothly. "I hope you understand that you can't keep your job and love Castiel at the same time."
"I know," chirps Dean sweetly. He reaches into his coat pocket and hands Raphael a neatly stamped envelope. "I quit. See you later." He turns and waves to the class. "Thanks for helping me out, guys. You're swell. Good luck with the rest of the semester."
And with that, he saunters out. As he heads down the hall, he can hear the class screaming at Castiel to follow, and his heart rises in his mouth. In a single breathtaking instant his cool swaggering composure melts away and suddenly he's bolting towards the parking lot, his breathing tearing at his throat and lungs, head swimming, the world suddenly detached as though he were the sole solid object in an entirely liquid reality. After what seems an eternity of running through thick water, he's panting against the cool black flank of the Impala, and the universe solidifies again. He's vaguely relieved. Overhead, the sky spins, a blur of grey. The quiet drizzle wets his eyelashes. He doesn't think about anything but breathing. Just breathing.
He opens his eyes. The drizzle has matured into a heavy rain. He hadn't noticed. Castiel is soaked. He left his coat in the classroom and his shirt sticks to his skin. Water clings to his hair and eyelashes. He wears an indecipherable expression. Cautiously, Dean peels himself away from the Impala. He takes a step forwards. Thunder rumbles overhead; the first of the spring storms. The rain thickens, almost torrential now as Dean reaches out and conforms his hand to the shape of Castiel's cheek. In a fleeting instant, Castiel's expression flickers. His eyes dart to the hand at his jaw, his lips part, a raindrop falls onto the curve of his chin and drips onto his collar.
"Castiel," says Dean. He can barely hear his own voice above the sudden roar of the rain. "Listen, I need to tell you–"
Castiel's mouth meets his with a bruising aftershock that sends Dean hurtling back against the car. His hands fist in his collar, then his hair; the wet of his shirt presses into Dean, and he tastes like ink and rain, and Dean holds him as though he might dissolve into the warm force of the spring shower. The kiss is a thousand things at once. With his hands cupped at Castiel's face, Dean tastes his anger and pain; pressed close to his body, he senses the ragged wounded quality of his breathing and heartbeat, and the shadow of tears in the salt of his chapped lips. His heart quails at the idea that he did this, that he was the one who turned Castiel's kiss rough and sad. But it's the strangest juxtaposition; at the same time, the kiss might be the mostly joyful thing in which he's ever shared, and his heart feels swollen because he loves Castiel so much.
He doesn't know how much time passes. The world melts away. Castiel becomes the only tangible thing to exist in the entire universe, and Dean feels as though he could spend his entire life right there in his arms. When Castiel pulls away, arms wound close around Dean's neck, hands forced up into his hair, they're both flushed and panting and soaked to the bone. For a long time they stare at each other, eyes blurred by the rain, possibly speechless, possibly at a loss of what to say. Dean doesn't even know for himself, let alone Castiel.
At long last, Castiel dips his chin and punches Dean gently.
"Don't think you've gotten away with this," he whispers. Somehow Dean's heart blooms and shatters at the sound of his voice, so stripped of pretenses, so openly broken and desperate.
"Castiel," he groans. "Oh, Cas. I'm so sorry. I was an idiot. I can't even tell you."
"Shut up," murmurs Castiel. "You already tried. What you did back there, Dean. I don't know what to say. You're insane."
Dean smiles tentatively. "In a good way. Insane in a good way."
Castiel groans and shakes his head. "I don't know anymore. Jesus Christ." And then he's kissing Dean again with a new desperate flavor on his lips. "I love you, Dean Winchester. God help me."
At that, Dean is overcome. The casual humorous façade slips away and suddenly he's clutching Castiel as close to his chest as he can and shaking, actually trembling, fingers slipping and sliding in the soaked material of his shirt, searching for texture and purchase in the warm slick slops of muscles in his back. He buries his face in Castiel's shoulder. He's not really crying but he might as well be. Castiel is tangibly stunned and tense in his arms; Dean can sense his raw amazement in the form of his body.
"I love you, Castiel," he groans. "I love you. I love you. I was so scared, you know. I'm sorry. I know it's not enough, but I'm really sorry. I'll do whatever it takes to make you happy. To make it up to you. Anything. You name it. I love you."
Endearingly, Castiel tries to pat his back with the same uncertain awkwardness that anyone else would use with a hysterical stranger.
"Alright," he murmurs in Dean's ear. "I'll make a deal with you."
Dean pulls back and wipes the rain from his face. "Anything."
Castiel reaches up and curves both his hands to the shape of Dean's jaw. His lips part a bit and Dean realizes with a rush of euphoria that his eyes are truly, profoundly blue.
"Let me pay for Sam's education," he says softly. "Then you leave academia. Start a garage. Read classics in your spare time. Learn Italian and French. Travel all of Europe. Go live for yourself." He pauses and places a tremulous kiss on the bow of Dean's upper lip. Pulls away with an unsteady exhale. Opens his eyes. Slits of pure blue. "But most of all, Dean, come live with me. Be with me all the way, without keeping a single part of yourself hidden because you're ashamed. Don't be afraid in front of me. Trust me. Don't feel indebted to me. Be a part of my life for better or for worse. I can't live without you, but I don't want to live with just a part of you. I want everything, Dean. Let me have you. Please."
The thing that's most ridiculous is that he actually looks anxious. He leans back and sort of shifts forwards and back with a nervous little twitch in his hand and an uncertain look in his eyes. It's bad because for a long moment all Dean can do is stare because he can't believe it. He can't believe he could possibly have anything this pure and good in his life. For a delirious moment he expects it to be a dream. When Castiel doesn't disappear, however, Dean's left with no choice. He presses his palm to his forehead and sinks down onto the front of the car, gasping for breath.
"Yes," he manages when Castiel bends over him concernedly. "Yes, Cas. It's a deal."
And then, soaked through, before the eyes of God and the entire academy to boot, Dean grabs Castiel by the arms and pulls him onto his chest and kisses him until they're dizzy and helpless and sort of melting into each other (maybe the consistency of their skin has been changed by the rain and they can actually meld together, because that's how it feels to Dean) and at long last thinks that maybe he's finally found a new life, a vita nuova if you will, that's really worth keeping after all.
AN: And that's a wrap! Thanks so much for all your kindness throughout this fic. I hope it's been as much fun for you as it has for me! Kisses :)