A/N: Thank you so much for all the support I've had with this. It's now come to an end and I've had so much fun writing it, I just hope you guys have had as much fun reading it! (I still haven't done a full read through!) I love you all, and I hope this last chapter is what you're looking for.
On the train up to Anna's place, Castiel is in his comfort zone. The carriage is almost empty and he's reading his new poetry book, the pages still crisp and new and beautiful. So far he's earmarked fourteen of his favourite poems, with five that he plans to show Dean and two that he wants to get printed. There's little green post-it notes on five of the pages, and each note has 'Show Dean Samuel Winchester' scribbled across the bottom. He already has the five poems memorised, and there is really no need to fold the corners and use a post-it note, but Castiel really likes writing Dean's name a stupid amount, so yeah, he writes it five times.
The carriage is so very empty that Castiel dares to put his feet up on the seat opposite. He instantly feels rebellious and excited even though he knows full well that his shoes are clean. With the book propped up against his thighs, Castiel flips through the pages and decides that he's going to keep his feet on the seat for the rest of the journey. Robert Frost and Philip Larkin reward him with beautiful words, and on page 96 Castiel finds another poem that he wants to show Dean.
The rest of the journey is relatively uneventful. No one passes by him or asks for the seat, so he doesn't have to put his feet down, and when he's finished flipping through the poetry book he resigns to staring out the window at the passing wind farms. They still scare him, just like they did when he was a kid, but the sight of them is so overwhelming that he can't bring himself to look away. It's after they've passed the wind farms that his thoughts drift back to Crowley and Anna, and whether or not they managed to see each other before Christmas. He thinks that Crowley would have spent a lot of money on Anna as a gesture to show how much he loves his beautiful, fiery dragon. In return, Anna probably would have gotten him something practical, like a watch or a new pair of shoes, and Crowley would love it regardless. A strong relationship, Castiel thinks, to say that they started out hating each other. At least, according to Anna they did, but according to Anna Kanye West is a musical genius and John Keats is 'kinda overrated if you ask me.'
The moment Castiel steps of the train with his backpack he barely has a second to compose himself before Anna hits him hard in the chest with her entire body and throws her arms around his neck. The smell of her Gwen Stefani perfume is a almost like a home comfort, and he drops his pack to hug her back.
"I've missed you!" She exclaims, and her hands are all over him, brushing his shoulders and messing with his hair. Castiel tries to dodge her motherly touching, but she's a relentless as ever and she's already lecturing him on the importance of brushing your hair, Castiel! Apparently, just because he has a boyfriend now that doesn't mean he can let himself go.
"I've missed you too." He laughs, letting her prod his stomach while she insists he's definitely lost weight. "Are we finished with the full-body examination or would you like to check if I wiped my ass properly, too?" Anna looks both shocked and impressed at his comment.
"Castiel!" She slaps his shoulder, over-dramatic. "Where did you learn such foul language?"
"Probably from you. I've been with you for barely two minutes and you've already corrupted me. You're a bad friend."
"You're a bad friend, I can't believe you left it so long to tell me that Dean asked you out." Castiel pushes his ticket into the machine that lets him through the barrier. Instead of waiting her turn, Anna pushes through with Castiel, and a security guard shoots them a warning look from behind his desk. Castiel is starting to feel like he's already done enough rebellions acts for one day, but the simple gesture makes him smile, because he remembers when Dean did the same thing at the library.
"I told you the day after he left. I could hardly call you at time and put you on a loudspeaker, could I?"
"Yes!" Anna grins, bouncing around in her bright yellow waterproof. Castiel laughs, and Anna hails them a cab because of the rain. As they crawl into the car Anna pulls out her cell and calls Crowley, letting him know her exact address. They both laugh about something, but Castiel assumes it must an inside joke because he doesn't understand why Crowley cutting his fingernails is so funny, and when Anna starts blushing down the phone and telling him to stop being so rude, Castiel decides never to ask.
Anna's estate is much nicer than Castiel's, with every other house donning an impressive swimming pool the size of Castiel's garden. Anna points out that most of them are self-cleaning, and that it still annoys her that her parents won't upgrade their own pool to such.
"They insist they don't use it enough." She says, sighing. The rain belts against the car window as she stares out of it at the passing self-cleaning pools. Castiel wonders if anyone has ever used their pools in this kind of weather.
"It's winter. Maybe they'll upgrade in the summer."
"You can still use them in the winter." Anna rolls her eyes, as though this is obvious. "We have a marquee for ours if we want to use it when it's bad weather. It self-heats, too, but it's completely useless because once you get out of the pool you're absolutely freezing." Anna considers this for a few moments, frowning. "I hate living here." She says, "I'd rather live in the countryside, in a cottage like yours, with trees everywhere and fields and Christmas markets."
"It was a good market." Castiel smiles. "You can come and stay whenever you like; you know my mom adores you." They decide that Anna will visit in the summer break, and Castiel will take her to the market and show her the fields and the cows. He warns her though that nobody has self-heating, self-cleaning pools, and she slaps his knee and moves her head to his shoulder.
After a few minutes of silence, Anna sighs and says,"I can't believe Michael is finally in jail." Castiel stares at the streaks of rain on the window. He still can't quite believe it either; that his own brother could hate him that much. But once again, he's waiting to be told how lucky he is, how happy he must be now. "That must be hard for you." Castiel looks at her, waiting for her to continue. "Well, I mean, obviously it's what you wanted, but it must still be hard. Your mom must be devastated, and Gabriel probably doesn't even fully understand..." She pauses, lifting her head to meet Castiel's sad smile. "Am I way off? You can tell me to shut it if I'm being insensitive."
"No." Castiel laughs, shaking his head. "You're actually exactly right." He lets out a sigh of relief. "My mom is upset, naturally. She thinks it's her fault, and I mean, how can I really sit there and tell her she had nothing to do with it? It's such a horrible position to be in; I don't blame her at all, but I can't pretend I don't think she could have done more. It's hard when you grow up believing your parents are perfect, and then slowly you realise they're not." Castiel's voice rises, "They make mistakes, and sometimes those mistakes involve you, and that's terrifying, because who do you go to? Who do you tell?" Anna grabs his hand and tight.
"You tell me."
Crowley's train pulls in at 4pm, and seeing as he's already been up to visit Anna once, he knows where to go in a taxi. Anna paces up and down the hallway staring at the clock, insisting that she won't even be bothered if he's late. Castiel sits in the living room, watching Finding Nemo and quoting it to Dean via text. His legs are folded beneath him and he's already changed into his comfy KU hoodie, partly because he didn't want to be in his shirt all day and party because he knows Dean finds him cute in it.
"Come and sit down." Castiel calls, "He won't be here for another twenty minutes. You're positively freaking out." Anna pokes her head around the doorway and gives him a look.
"I am not." She checks the time again, just to be sure, but in the end she gives up and watches the rest of the movie with Castiel. By the time Crowley actually arrives Anna has changed into her sweatpants and tied her hair into a messy bun, but he still kisses her excessively and winks at Castiel, throwing his bag down in the hallway.
"Cassie!" He calls loudly, throwing Castiel a devilish grin. Castiel waves sheepishly, hugging his knees to his chest. He wonders what time Dean will arrive and decides to text him while Anna takes Crowley's things upstairs. 'Crowley is here and he's asking how long you're going to be x' he puts, and Dean quickly replies 'Stop making out it's Crowley asking when really it's you ;) I'll be about two hours baby x x' Castiel blushes at the nickname and has to turn his cell off for a little while to stop himself getting so flustered. Crowley comes back into the living room and sits on the arm of Castiel's chair, hands folded in his lap and a smug look on his face. There's lipstick on the side of his neck and he leans in a little too close for comfort when he speaks.
"So how was your Christmas? Lots of sex, I expect?" He raises an eyebrow seductively. Castiel just laughs; he feels like he might actually be getting used to Crowley's intrusive remarks. Crowley can wink at him and ask him so blatantly about his sex life, and Castiel can handle that, he can shake it off, but Dean calls him baby just once and Castiel is a quivering mess.
"Lots of sex." Castiel replies, just as enthusiastic.
"I'm impressed." Crowley nods towards the TV, "Finding Nemo?"
"It's my favourite."
"Excellent choice, prefer The Little Mermaid myself." Crowley looks up as Anna walks into the room, fiddling with her hair. "I'm quite fond of red-headed babes in bikinis."
"Are you her Prince Eric?" Castiel says as Anna perches on the arm of the sofa, leaning across the back to wrap her arm around Crowley's shoulders. He gazes up at her, smiling.
"Maybe. Maybe I was haunted by her voice, so much that I searched the entire campus for her. Every day my mission was to sit that little bit closer to her." He stares at her now, and she stares back. Something soft and heartfelt passes between them, and Anna looks like she might cry. "You sang your song and bewitched me, my fiery dragon."
To pass the time before Dean arrives, Crowley insists they play drinking games. "It's New Years Eve, losers!" He exclaims, several times. So they sit in a circle - the three of them - in the middle of Anna's living room and play Ring of Fire with cider and vodka and Crowley's disgusting ale. It actually turns out to be quite a fun game, and after thirty minutes Castiel has Crowley as his 'gimp' and Anna has to make giraffe noises on command, so yeah, he doesn't mind playing Ring of Fire for a full two hours. Except that when Dean finally does knock on the door, Castiel can barely stand to answer it, and he's shouting about Crowley having a ridiculous haircut.
"It's your boyfriend." Anna says, climbing to her feet in a manner that isn't the least bit graceful. Castiel goes to correct her with an over-dramatic sigh.
"He's not my-" He stops, and he realises that yes, Dean Winchester is his boyfriend, and wow, when did that happen? Castiel can't even feel his face anymore, and Crowley's hair really is ridiculous. Michael is in his mind, and yet Castiel isn't sad, or scared, or unhappy. Dean Winchester is his boyfriend and for the first time in a long time he has nothing to worry about. "Yes." He says, and he says it over and over again until Crowley tackles him into the sofa to shut him up. The contact both startles and excites him because Crowley is on top of him, baring his teeth in a way that is making Castiel giggle, and it's taken until now for him to realise that Crowley is his friend. Crowley actually likes him enough to engage with him and laugh with him. It's all fun and games until Castiel realises that Crowley was still holding a glass of ale, and that said ale is now all down is front. He can hear Anna giggling in the hallway, and he knows Dean is with her, and he really, really wants to get up from this sofa to go and see him, his boyfriend, except he thinks he might be glued to the sofa and it's not like Castiel can actually greet him drenched in ale.
"Dare I even ask what's being going on in here?" Dean's voice rattles through into the living room as he moves into the middle of the room, his gaze shifting from Crowley to Castiel. He looks amused, as far as Castiel can tell, and he's wearing the most beautiful khaki jacket. Castiel forces himself up from the sofa and staggers across the room into Dean's arms, grinning. Dean manages to catch him just before he face-plants the floor. Somewhere in-between Castiel trying to get back to his feet and Dean taking off his jacket, Castiel is kissing him. Dean's arms are twisted behind his back from trying to remove his jacket, but he leans into the kiss when Castiel grabs his face with both hands. Somehow he manages to fling his jacket on the floor and when he does he throws his arms around Castiel's waist and slams their hips together, hungrily kissing into Castiel's mouth.
"I missed you," Castiel murmurs, his lips pressed against Dean's neck. Dean feels the vibrations from his voice echo through his throat and down his chest, and he doesn't care that Castiel is drunk, or that Anna and Crowley have run off together upstairs. This is Castiel; the man he loves, and god does he love him. He wants to say it so bad, but he doesn't know if it's the right time. He's sure Castiel feels the same way, and even with Castiel drunk and falling all over him, grabbing his shoulders and his waist and his hips, even with Castiel looking at him with big, fire-blue eyes, even now Dean is too nervous to say it.
"I missed you too." He manages, but Castiel isn't really listening anyway, and his hands are shaking across Dean's face, touching his hair, the nape of his neck.
He can tell Dean wants to say something, even if his drunken state Castiel can see unspoken words on his lover's lips. He wants him to say it, to say the words that Castiel feels. Don't hold back he wants to say, don't you ever hold back. Because you're the the one who held my hand in the cinema and didn't make fun of me for getting the name of my coffee wrong, you're the one who wore a suit to a halloween party and flirted with me all night, you're the one who sang 'I Want to Hold Your Hand' to me in the library, and the one who promised to teach me how to drive. You're the one who rescued me from my abusers, and the one who took the punches when I lost control. You're the one who was there the next morning, who whispered 'I love you' in my ear. You're the one who made me believe that I really can have love. I love you, I love you and all I want is for you to love me too.
"I love you too." Dean whispers, and there are tears in his eyes when Castiel takes a deep breath.
Upstairs, Crowley is sprawled across Anna's bed, caressing the silk sheets between his fingers. He folds it over in his hands until Anna gets annoyed at him for pulling the sheet from the mattress. She swats his hand away and sits next to him in the bed. Anna's room is much bigger than Crowley anticipated, and she's a lot more into pink and purple than Crowley anticipated. "It's very girly." He points out.
"What's wrong with being girly?" Anna laughs. "Girls are awesome."
A white closet stands in the corner of the room, facing the double bed, and a matching white chest of draws stand beside it. There's a small ornamental tree made out of silver wire with white gems hanging from the ends of the twisted branches on her bedside table. Crowley can tell it's handmade. Purple curtains hang heavy in front of the window, and a desk sits quietly, un-used on the other side of the room.
"Thank you for the Christmas present." He says, trying to keep reign over his voice because he really didn't realise he was this drunk. Anna falls across his body, resting her head on his chest. He brings a hand up to her hair. "It's my favourite series." He continues, "You sprayed the paper with your perfume didn't you?" Anna smiles against him, and Crowley takes it as a yes. "I'm sorry your gift is late." He sits up, cupping Anna's confused face in his hands and kissing her. "I wanted to... to give you it in person."
"What is it?" She asks, laughing when he drunkenly kisses the side of her mouth.
"It's here." He pulls out an envelope from the inside of his coat pocket and hands it to her. Anna lifts it open quickly, tugging on the paper inside. It's another envelope, and this envelope has a picture of an airplane on the front. Inside is two tickets; Anna almost forgets to breathe when she sees the word Paris.
"Crowley..." Her hands covers her mouth.
"You said you always wanted to go there." Crowley stumbles, touching the corner of the tickets. He leans in to kiss her cheek and bumps his nose against her face. "So I want to take you." He doesn't move back, and when Anna turns into him he kisses her neck, his lips soft and delicate on her pale skin. He kisses her freckles, along her jawline. He smells of ale and beer, and he hasn't shaved in a few days so every time he kisses her his stubble scratches her face. "I love you; my fiery dragon, my sun."
"I love you too, my dark side of the moon."
This is not how Castiel thought his second year would go. He had pictured lonely nights in front of the television with his cat, watching Star Trek or Back to the Future. He had pictured good grades, lots of reading, and the occasional visit from Anna. What he certainly didn't picture was Anna falling in love with Crowley, or his brother going to jail, or his self-esteem to soar. Castiel's life was supposed to be bleak, to be grim, to be full of regrets and self-doubt, just like it had been for the whole of his teenage years.
When they go to the fairground that night, Dean takes Castiel on the big wheel, and when they're at the top and shivering in the snow, Castiel closes his eyes and tries to remember the exact layout of The Coffee Shop. He remembers where every table stood, where the emergency cappuccino milk was kept, and where Dean liked to lean against the counter and peer around at Castiel and his books. He commits every last floor stain to memory. He remembers Dean's laugh, Dean's bright smiles when he walked into the shop and the bell clanged above him. He remembers the sweet taste of caramel cappuccinos, and the sweet, sickly feeling in his stomach at the sight of Dean walking over to him.
"Hey," Dean shakes him a little, keeping a tight grip on the safety bar because he's afraid of heights. "Wake up. Don't leave me on my own." The wheel starts to move again. Anna and Crowley are below them, and it's only a minute away from the New Year countdown. Everyone in the park is shouting and cheering, and the general mood is very happy. Castiel is happy.
"I won't leave you, Dean." Castiel smiles wide, grabbing Dean's hand and pulling it away from the bar. "But if there's one thing you've taught me this year, Dean Winchester, it's that if you want things to change, then you have to let go of the safety bar."
Dean laughs and nods. He holds Castiel's hand and kisses the side of his face when suddenly hundreds of fireworks burst into the skies in front of them. Castiel gasps at the sight, and laughs freely into the cold, night air.
"Happy New Year, Castiel." Dean shouts over the roar of the crowd below. "I love you!"
"I love you too!" Castiel calls back, and the last thing he commits to memory is the scribbling of his name on the coffee cups.