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Cheesecakes And Whiskey

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Chapter 4

 

August 2008

''Happy birthday!'' screamed Charlie the minute she put her foot in the staff room, rushing to hug Castiel. ''Sorry, I don't have a gift for you, bro, everyone had to pitch in to buy the candles, there were too many to put on your cake!''

''Don't you think you're overreacting a bit? You're like six months younger than me" answered Cas with a smile, as Charlie turned around to open her locker.

It was an absolutely gorgeous day outside. The sun was burning hot, high in the sky, not a single cloud floating around, and a soft wind was blowing just strong enough to prevent you from feeling the heat. There was no way this wasn't going to be a great day, even if Cas had to work until 9PM.

"Exactly, that's why there's no gift. They had to pitch in to buy mine too. Did Dean wish you a happy birthday yet?" she asked, adjusting her tie. She kept giving side glances at Castiel to see his reaction and Cas cringed, anticipating the rebuke.

"No he did not, and for a good reason. He doesn't know it's today."

Charlie turned to stare at him, eyes growing huge.

"Why in Hell isn't he aware that today's your birthday? Why didn't you tell him?"

"I don't know, it just never happened to be part of the conversation. I don't know his birthday either!" Cas added, seeing Charlie's expression. She looked like she was about to strangle him to death.

"You, my friend, should be ashamed of yourself" she said, annoyance in her emerald eyes. "Ugh, whatever. I'll be up front. Don't be late!"

"I still have fifteen minutes before I start, but no, I won't be."

"Ok good. I just wanted to help you remember. You know, at your age, it's normal to forget some little things."

"Screw you" Castiel laughed.

"I love you too" answered Charlie before leaving the staff room.

Castiel smiled to himself as he slowly switched his tight black tee for a white one before slipping his white shirt on, his jeans also being traded for his work pants. Life was good these days. Real good. He only had one nightmare, just after his date with Dean six weeks ago, but that's the last time he saw the dark figure creeping up on him.

His sister also gave him one of her sparse phone calls, a few weeks back, just to give him news. She was doing well in Germany, having (as usual) exceptional grades and being first of her class. She took the time to wish him a happy birthday, though weeks in advance. The call didn't last long, being excessively expensive, but it lasted long enough for Cas to feel amazingly happy and light-hearted for a few days straight.

Things were going exceptionally well with Dean, too; Cas had thought that after he refused a second date (rather awkwardly, he might add), Dean would stop talking to him, but apparently the guy was ready to keep whatever Castiel was ready to offer, which was a great relief. They still went out a couple more times, but only as friends. Two guys enjoying a beer every Friday night after their shifts. Dean never made it awkward for Cas, and Castiel was eternally grateful for it. Obviously, Dean being Dean, continued to flirt with Cas, buying him a few drinks and letting out compliments here and there. They kept learning about each other and through conversations, they both realized they had way much more in common than they first thought.

His Friday nights were now a thing he was really waiting for, enthusiastic to spend the evening with the best friend he had (except for Charlie, of course).  He'd wake up earlier than usual, unable to sleep, and spend the day feeling the faint buzz of excitement rumbling low in his belly. Maybe that's why he felt like this was a particularly good day: it was Friday.

Of course, the enthrallment was still there. Castiel was still madly attracted to the man, but his guts could literally not take it. As much as Cas knew he was missing on something, his body couldn't handle the intimacy of a new relationship. Not yet. His heart and mind were still shattered in a billion pieces.

Castiel spent his last fifteen minutes daydreaming about green eyes, freckles and broad shoulders. He lost track of time, staring blankly at the wall without really seeing it, a faint, stupid smile plastered on his lips.

"Dude, seriously. You're not helping your case here. You're late, and on top of that I find you looking at nothing like you've forgotten your brain in your car. Really, you're not aging well, dear."

Castiel jumped and turned around, finding Charlie leaning against the door frame, arms folded on her chest, smirking at him.

"Sorry, I got... Distracted."

"Pfft. By green eyes and gold brown hair, probably.” She winked. “Come on, old man."

She was gone before he could come up with an answer. He rose to his feet and slowly walked up front. Really, the day was going to be excruciatingly long. He smoothed out his apron as he walked to the sink to wash his hands, not looking a second to the customer sitting a few stools away. He let the cool water run down on his fingers, eyes closed, breathing slowly, trying to sooth himself, when he heard a man clearing his throat just behind him. His eyes snapped open and he turned around.

"I'm sorry I didn't see y-... Dean? What are you doing here?"

"First of all, how rude of you to ask like that. Second, I'm here because I took a day off. I took three days off, actually, today being the first of the three."

"Sorry, I didn't mean it like that." Castiel turned off the faucets and took a towel lying beside the sink, drying his hands as he closed the space between him and the bar. "I'm just surprised to see you. You’re taking a long weekend?"

"Yeah, I got somewhere to go tonight, and it’s not close. I gotta leave soon, so this leaves me about an hour and a half to talk to you” he said, scratching the back of his head.

That was a sign Cas learned Dean would do only when he gets nervous. He usually had it whenever Cas would ask questions about Dean’s father. 

“So… I guess I’m not buying you a beer tonight, huh?” Castiel said, feeling a pang in his chest.

“Don’t be too excited about having a free night, buddy. I’ll need you today.”

Castiel could see a smile slowly growing on Dean’s lips. He felt a presence just beside him and spun around, just to see Charlie with the same smile. Something was off.

“How so?” Cas asked uncertainly.

Dean slowly shifted his weight to the right, fetching two pieces of paper from the back pocket of his worn-out jeans. He put them down on the counter, sliding them with two fingers towards Castiel, his gorgeous smile getting wider by the second.

Castiel looked down and noticed those were actually two tickets for a baseball game at the Globe Life Park at 7:30PM. Texas Rangers VS San Francisco Giants, the latter being Castiel’s favourite team.

This had been part of the conversation one night, when they couldn’t find a bar that was not crawling with people. There was a baseball game playing, a hell of a good one apparently, because every man in town decided it was a good idea to watch it with plenty of cold beer at less than 5 feet away. Cas had told Dean he wasn’t really the sport type, but he had played baseball a lot with his brothers when he was younger and he’d always root for his home team, San Francisco Giants.

“Happy birthday, Cas” Dean said, bringing Castiel back to reality.

“Dean, I... How did you… I can’t accept this, Dean, I would love to go with you, really, but I work until nine, I can’t go, and it’s a four hour drive, I would never get there in time anyway” Castiel blurted out, feeling a pang in his chest at the idea that he couldn't enjoy his gift.

“It’s a birthday gift, you can’t refuse it. Charlie here was a sweetheart and told me when your birthday was.”

Cas turned again to look at Charlie, who was radiating joy.

“But-“

“And” Dean cut, “she also made sure you would not work today. And tomorrow.”

“I got everything sort out with the boss” she said, her smile almost reaching her ears. “I’m making a double today, but you’ll have to take an extra shift for me next week. I hope that’s okay for you.”

Castiel looked at her in shock.

“If it’s o-“ He couldn’t repress his smile. “Of course it is okay! Charlie, it’s awesome! How are you guys even real!” he said in disbelief. He turned to Dean, excitement glowing in his eyes. “I just need to change and get a few things at home and I’ll be ready to leave.”

“Don’t stress it out, Cas, even if we leave in an hour and a half, we’ll still be on time" Dean laughed. “But, as a matter of fact, Charlie brought clothes for you. It’s already in my car. Go get changed, big boy. We’re leaving in fifteen.”

“How about my old baseball mitt?”

“Packed with your clothes” Charlie answered.

The next few minutes passed in a blur. Castiel hurried to the staff room and changed in a record time, not bothering putting back his black tee. He just put his white shirt in his locker with his work pants and jumped into his shoes. He almost ran to the door, but he had just enough dignity to control himself so he did not look like a 6 year-old learning he was going to Disneyland. He hugged Charlie, hard, and then followed Dean outside. Castiel’s car would spend a night in the mall’s parking lot, but he wasn’t really anxious about it. He’d done it countless times. His smile wouldn't leave his face, and he could feel the excitement bubbling in his stomach.

Dean, forever the gentleman, opened the passenger door of his Impala for Castiel and smoothly closed it once he was comfortably seated inside the car. Dean sat beside him seconds later.

"Ready for a little road trip, gorgeous?" He said with a radiant smile.

"Hell yes" Castiel answered, as an honest to God giggle escaped his lips.

The Impala roared under them, and they slowly exited the mall. Castiel opened his window and Dean did the same, letting the hot air of August wipe their hair in every direction as they reached the closest highway.

"Since it's your birthday" Dean said, "you can choose the music. Radio, tapes, whatever. Your choice."

"What happened to 'Driver picks the music'?" Castiel smiled.

"I'll make an infringement to the rule." He looked at Cas and winked. "It's your day; you can do whatever you want."

Castiel thought about it for a second. He didn't really have a preference regarding music, listening pretty much everything. He was a bit less familiar with classic rock, but being friends with Dean enlarged his repertoire.

"I want something we can both enjoy" Castiel replied after a few seconds.

He reached for the cassette tape collection under his seat and started fumbling through it, looking for a tape in particular that he saw the first time he looked at it. Castiel found what he was looking for in less than a minute, the case having a five-pointed star drawn in deep blue ink in the top left corner. He pulled it out of the box with a triumphant exclamation and showed it to Dean.

"Kansas? Last time I listened to that was when my father taught me to drive."

"Hey. My birthday, my choice."

Dean laughed before taking the tape from Castiel's hand, shoving it inside his radio and hitting Play. Castiel knew every Kansas lyrics, his brother Gabriel being a huge fan. Surprisingly enough, Dean remembered the lyrics too, and started singing as the first notes of Point of No Return blared out from the speakers. They sang along and kept at it for a while, going through The Wall and Dust in the Wind but eventually, halfway through Carry on my Wayward Son, Castiel had to stop to look at Dean. Maybe he was a little off key, maybe he wasn't singing exactly the right words, but damn he was a good sight. Dean was resting his left arm on the edge of the car, tapping his fingers to the beat on the gleaming metal, his right arm lazily resting on top of the steering wheel, muscles playing softly under his flannel shirt. His short hair was slightly moving in the wind, changing colors depending on the way the sun hit it, his eyes sparkling a wide range of greens and golds. The sun was brushing against his skin, revealing every single freckle perfectly spread across his nose and cheeks. Knees apart, his left leg was jutting up and down, his foot tapping to the music, his right one steady on the gas. He was literally glowing and Cas couldn't look away, the sight of Dean making him feel a turmoil of emotions inside his chest.

Best. Birthday. Ever.

***

They arrived in Arlington a little past five, leaving them around two hours before the game. Dean parked his car in front of the Sheraton Arlington Hotel, opened the trunk to get both duffle bags out, and Castiel followed him inside so they could check in. They went through the automatic doors and welcomed the cool air from inside as they made their way to the front desk, where a middle-aged woman with dirty blonde hair was typing at her computer. When she saw them walking her way, she plastered a smile on her face.

“Welcome to Sheraton, how can I help you?”

“Hi, I have a reservation for Dean Winchester” Dean said, smiling politely.

The lady typed some more on her keyboard asking a few standard questions to Dean, before landing them two cards.

“Here you go boys. Room 8015. You have full access to the Club Lounge on your floor, where you can enjoy evening snacks and drinks. Breakfast is served between 7:00AM and 9:30AM. Please enjoy your stay, and if you have any questions or requests, don’t be shy.”

“Thank you very much” Dean answered, giving one key to Cas.

They took the elevator up to the eighth floor, and Dean slid his key into the door mechanism, unlocking their room, revealing a spacious space with a table completed with two chairs, two chests of drawers under a 42” plasma television and two king size beds covered by crisp white sheets. There were so many pillows, Castiel was sure it would feel like sleeping on a fluffy cloud.

“I figured sleeping in the same room for one night wouldn’t bother you” Dean said as they walked in.

“It’s perfect, Dean” Castiel said, the grin returning to his face.

Dean dumped a duffle bag on each bed. “Come on, let’s go downstairs, there’s a Bar & Grill. I need to eat something before the game or I’ll faint. Dinner’s on me!”

“Dean come on, you’re already paying for everything, let me buy you dinner at least.”

“Nah, not gonna happen. Not today.” Dean winked.

Castiel rolled his eyes in exasperation, but his smile never left his lips, pink coloring his cheeks. He didn’t care if Dean was particularly on fire today. He didn’t care that maybe, he was sending the wrong signals. They made their way back downstairs, teasing each other, hands lingering noticeably longer on one’s shoulder or back, elbows lightly brushing. Castiel couldn’t find the energy to care. He was having the best time of his life, and it was all thanks to Dean. So screw this; screw those damn ‘signals’, screw those fears churning inside him. Castiel was determined to enjoy every single minute of his day.

Dinner went fast, both getting more and more excited for the game coming up. Dean paid for everything, claiming it was still part of the birthday gift. By the time they finished eating, it was almost seven. They went back to their room to get their mitts and when Castiel opened his duffle bag, he found that Charlie had also packed in his Giants jersey. He put it on, his smile so persistent his teeth were beginning to dry. They decided to walk, the ballpark being only ten minutes away. The sun was slowly setting, casting light orange rays on the road in front of them.

“Where are we sitting? I didn’t even look.” Castiel asked after a while of comfortable silence.

“You’ll see” Dean answered. “I’m sure you’ll love it.”

Turned out, Dean took tickets just beside the third base, offering a perfect view on the whole field. Once they found their seats, Dean left for a few minutes and came back soon after, a beer in each hand. He sat beside Cas as the pre-game festivities started, the excitement getting almost palpable in the stadium.

Beer was flowing, baseballs were flying, players were running. There were a few foul balls in their general direction and Castiel spilled half his beer when he lost balance trying to catch one. Every now and then, Dean would disappear, just to reappear minutes later with more beer. Really, this was the best day of his life.

***

They stumbled into the hotel lobby well past midnight, clutching to each other’s shoulders to steady themselves. 

The match was good. Hell, it was great. The beer was great. Cas was great. Dean couldn’t be more happy about how the day went. The joy illuminating Castiel’s face when he realized everything was planned out, the way he sang in the car, his big baby blues watching the road. The way he kept smiling. That smile was everything Dean was looking for. No matter how many times he could see it, it never felt like it was enough. He needed more of Castiel’s smile, so after the game ended, they walked to a nearby bar and played pool a couple of hours.

They were both obviously drunk. They finally reached their room after bumping in about every possible furniture that was on their way, laughing every time. Dean had to slide the key three times before the door open. Castiel leaned on the door the same moment Dean turned the doorknob, maybe thinking he still didn’t unlock it, making it swing open. Castiel lost his balance once again and grabbed Dean’s arm for dear life, dragging him inside unceremoniously.

Dean chuckled before taking Cas by the arm, helping him to his bed without opening the lights. He took a look at the alarm clock: it was almost five in the morning.

“There you go, buddy. Now, try not to get lost in those pillows and you should be alright” Dean said, removing Castiel’s shoes.

“I had the best night” Castiel answered, ignoring Dean, his voice even deeper than usual.

“Me too, man. I really had a great time.”

“No no no no, I’m serious. You really are the best. Come here.” Castiel clutched Dean’s hand in his own, pulling him on the bed with him. “Sleep with me tonight.”

“Huh, what?” Dean asked, unsure, shifting uncomfortably on the sheets. 

“I’m having nightmares, please stay with me” Castiel said in a slur.

“Nightmares about what?”

“That’s irrelevant.”

“Cas, I have a perfectly fine bed right beside you.”

“Don’t care” Castiel replied sleepily. He wrapped a possessive arm around Dean’s waist.

Dean wanted to move, but Cas had him in a tight grip and, well, he wasn’t about to complain. Dean knocked his shoes off awkwardly. Even though he wasn’t the cuddling type, being close to Castiel was something he had wanted for a very long time. He could feel his soft breath brushing against his neck, Castiel’s heat flushed against his body. He wasn’t even appreciating it in a sexual way; it was more like an overwhelming feeling of emotional and physical comfort, tenderness and serenity. He could feel the warmth spreading through his chest and pulled Castiel closer, feeling the need to protect him from whatever was causing him nightmares.

He had never felt like that for anyone in his whole life. Dean was whipped, and he knew it.

“I’m so fucked” he winced.

“Mmh..?” Castiel mumbled, getting even closer to Dean, snuggling in his neck.

“Nothing, buddy. I’m here. Just go to sleep.”

“Mrrmneed youmn..”

Dean felt butterflies in his stomach at those muttered words. Cas probably won’t remember he said them tomorrow morning, but Dean would. And that was all he needed.

“Me too, baby” he whispered. “Me too.”

Minutes later, they were sound asleep in each other's arms, softly snoring, as birds started chirping outside their window.

***

“Morning, sleepy head” Dean murmured, gently caressing Castiel’s hair.

Cas opened an eye, and just by the look on his face, Dean knew he was feeling like shit.

“What time is it?” Cas asked, his voice like gravel.

“Almost three.”

“In the afternoon?!”

“Yep.”

Castiel flipped on his side, rubbing his eyes. Dean sat on the edge of the bed, giving Cas a huge glass of water and three aspirins.

“Thanks. I feel like I drank an entire liquor store” Castiel grunted.

“You were close enough” Dean laughed. “I woke you because we have to check out before five. Take the pills, go take a cold shower. I’ll go fetch you something to eat. It’ll help.”

Dean left, leaving Cas alone in the room. He took the three aspirins with half of his glass of water.  Last night was a blur. He remembered the game, he remembered playing pool with Dean afterwards, but anything else was weirdly faint. He closed his eyes and searched his memories, scavenging for any hint about last night.

I need you.

Me too, baby.

His eyes snapped open, sending a rush of pain through his head. Did he dream that? He can’t have said it out loud. Could he? And Dean’s answer…

“Fuck me” Castiel muttered angrily.

He had to tell Dean he was sorry, that it was just a big misunderstanding. But what if it was just a dream? The memory (if it was one) was too frail to be certain.

He got out of bed and headed for the bathroom, realizing halfway that everything he needed was in his bag, on the ground next to the bed. Turning around, he saw that Dean’s bed was untouched.

He closed his eyes, nausea churning his stomach.

Dean slept in my bed. He slept beside me.

Castiel was feeling mixed emotions about that revelation. Of course, there was a part of him that was excited, happy. But a bigger part of him wasn’t appreciating the thought he was vulnerable. He let himself be vulnerable in someone’s arms. He opened the door and let Dean in, without even noticing. And that freaked him out.

He ran to the bathroom and threw up, emptying whatever was left in his stomach. He sat on the cold tiles for a while, breathing hard, forcing his mind to focus on something else. Minutes passed, hands clutched to the counter on his left and to the bath on his right. That’s how Dean found him when he got back.

“You okay there, buddy?”

Buddy. Not baby.

“It’ll pass” Castiel answered.

Dean dropped the small white paper bag he was holding on the bathroom counter, bending down to place a hand on Castiel’s shoulder. The touch sent a new wave of nausea through him, and Cas pushed Dean aside abruptly as he threw up again.

“Okay, okay take it easy. Breathe.”

“Just… Leave me alone for a few minutes. I’ll be fine, I just need some space.”

“Okay. I’ll bring you a fresh glass of water and I’ll leave you alone. I’ll close the door but don’t lock it, good? Just in case.”

Dean brought him his water and closed the door behind him, leaving Castiel alone on the floor. He took a few more minutes to breathe deeply, before removing his clothes and turning the shower on. He stood in the cool stream God knows how long, waiting for his urge to throw up to vanish. Feeling slightly better, he closed the water and wrapped himself in a towel before realizing he never got to his bag. No way in hell would he get out of the bathroom with nothing but a towel in front of Dean.

He opened the door a couple inches, about to ask Dean to bring him his bag when he noticed he already had. New clothes, toothbrush, toothpaste and hairbrush were placed in a neat pile, just in front of the door. He felt like he was on the verge of puking again.

He quickly grabbed everything before shutting the door again and dropping against it.

Castiel finally got out of the bathroom around 4:45PM. Dean had gathered their personal effects and was ready to go. Hearing the door open, he looked at Cas, apprehension in his gorgeous green eyes.

“Feeling better?”

“A bit” lied Cas. “I know we have to check out but are we obliged to go back home just yet? I don’t think my stomach’s ready for a four hour drive.”

“No problem, Cas. There’s, huh, a mall, I think just south of here. It’s open till nine. Would that be okay for you?”

“Yes, walking might help.”

“I brought you a bagel from the Lounge. Eat it. You’ll feel better. Here, take my car keys, make yourself comfortable. I’ll check us out.”

Castiel grabbed the paper bag still on the bathroom counter and took the keys before giving his card to Dean. He made his way to Baby and waited for Dean, lazily leaning on the hood. The fresh evening air was helping him feel better, and he bit shyly in his chocolate chips bagel. His favourite. Of course. 

Dean arrived five minutes later, carrying both their bags. Castiel opened the trunk before giving the keys back to Dean, and he dropped the bags inside. They drove to the shopping center, just five minutes away. Dean was wise enough not to mention what happened earlier. He made small talk, talking about Sam and Benny, commenting on things he saw in stores as they walked by.

Cas bought himself a humongous cup of coffee first occasion he had. He started laughing at Dean’s jokes again, and his eyes happened to be able to open wider than a few millimetres. By 8:30PM, light wasn’t hurting so much anymore and he was mostly back to his usual self.

They left Arlington at 9:15PM, after the mall closed.

The drive back home went smoothly, but this time they kept the music to a low volume, for Castiel’s sake.

They arrived at Castiel’s house at 1:30AM. Dean parked the car in front of the lawn, cutting the ignition. He got out of behind the wheel and opened the trunk to get Cas’s bag, as Cas walked to his front door to unlock it. When Dean climbed the steps to meet him under the porch, Cas was still fumbling frantically through his jean pockets.

“You have got to be kidding” he said, exasperated.

“What’s wrong?”

Castiel rested his head on the door.

“My keys. I left them in my work pants.”

“And where are your work pants?” Dean asked, starting to open Cas’s bag.

“In my locker. It’s the only damn thing I put in my pockets at work because there’s a few keys on my keychain I need. I was too excited yesterday and forgot about them.”

“It’s okay, Cas, shit happens.” Dean chuckled. “If it’s all the same to you, you can crash at my place for the night and I’ll drive you to work tomorrow to get your keys. How’s that sound?”

Castiel hesitated. Spending the night at Dean’s wasn’t something he was comfortable with. It wasn’t a place he knew, and after what he’d said before passing out, he was even more unsure. He needed time alone to sort through his thoughts. But what other choice did he have?

“Yeah, okay. I’m sorry for the trouble I cause you.”

“Meh, don’t sweat it. That’s what I’m here for.”

They got back into the car, and twenty minutes later, Dean expertly parked the Impala behind a small apartment building. Castiel followed Dean to the second floor, halting abruptly when Dean stopped in front of his door.

“Welcome to the Batcave” he said as he turned the doorknob, smirking.

Even though Castiel was filled with apprehension at the idea of sleeping at Dean’s place, he was still eager to see what it would look like. Stepping inside, he found himself directly in the living room. The couch was right beside Castiel, all in black leather, an acoustic guitar laying on the far end, facing a 56” plasma TV resting on a black glass television stand. Under the TV, placed in the tv stand, were all Dean’s gaming consoles, most of them looking so much alike Castiel couldn’t make the difference. Between the couch and the TV was a small black coffee table, with a diverse set of control stands, all flashing green. On both sides of the desk were standing two curios, containing majestic collection figures of what seemed like Dean’s favourite heroes and villains from various games or comic books. He turned to his right to see that the kitchen and the dining room were almost part of the living room, the whole apartment being a wide open space, except for what Castiel presumed were the bedroom and the bathroom. The kitchen walls were painted a Tea Green, cupboards an Eggshell White. Everything that could be in stainless steel was, giving the kitchen a modern look. On the refrigerator, Castiel could see a magnetic calendar with Dean’s schedules for both his jobs. Dean’s apartment was very… Dean, Castiel thought. No decorations, only whatever was useful and video games to entertain himself.

“It’s not much” Dean said, “But it’s home. First door near the TV is the bedroom, the other is the bathroom. You can go set your things while I get some blankets out.”

Dean yanked his duffle bag on his shoulder and walked to his room. Castiel made his way to the bathroom with the usual shyness people have when they first visit a friend’s place. The bathroom was painted in beige, the sink shaped like a giant glass bowl standing on a rustic walnut countertop.

Castiel opened his bag to get his toothbrush and placed it beside the sink before returning to the living room. He found Dean dropping a blanket and a pillow on the couch, whistling to himself. He took the guitar and turned around to lean it against the television stand.

“I didn’t know you played” Castiel said, leaning on the bathroom door frame.

“Yeah… It helps me feel better sometimes. You know, expressing things I usually am shit to express. Sometimes I played for Sam when he was younger. It helped him fall asleep.”

“Would you play something for me?”

The words came out fast, leaving Castiel’s mouth before he could even think about them. He blushed furiously, astonished by his own boldness.

Dean blushed too, scratching the back of his head. He seemed pretty uncomfortable, and Castiel felt guilty for putting him in such a state.

“Huh, yeah okay, sure.”

He picked up the guitar he just laid down and sat on the couch, motioning for Cas to come sit beside him. Cas followed, still feeling his cheeks burning. Dean plucked at the strings randomly, thinking about what he could play.

“I’ve been learning one, recently. It’s not my type, but it keeps playing everywhere these days and chicks dig it so…”

Dean couldn’t look him in the eye, and Castiel found it to be the cutest thing in the world. The guy who was oh so sure of himself was too shy to even look at him. He played the first strings and Castiel automatically recognized the song. He didn’t think it was possible to blush even more, but his body proved him wrong. Dean started singing, too, surprising Cas.

Well, you done done me and you bet I felt it, I tried to be chill, but you’re so hot that I melted, I fell right through the cracks. Now I’m trying to get back.

Dean’s voice was absolutely sublime. It didn’t sound like it sounded in the car. This time, Dean was spot on, singing the lyrics with so much more passion than before. The roughness of his voice mixed with the softness of the guitar was giving a little something more to the song; It felt like pouring honey over thunder. Dean finally looked up at Cas, the pink of his cheeks making his bottle green eyes pop out. A mix of emotions swirled in them, and Castiel felt goosebumps on his arms.

But I won’t hesitate no more, no more. It cannot wait, I’m yours.

It was Castiel’s turn to look away. His heart was suddenly beating frantically, and it felt like it was about to burst through his ribcage. He found himself fighting the urge to throw up again, but he did everything in his power to calm down. He wasn’t the one being vulnerable right now, Dean was. He could do this, for Dean. For himself. He forced himself to look back up, locking his eyes to Dean’s.

Do you want to come on, scooch on over closer, Dear, and I will nibble your ear.

Dean’s color changed from pink to a furious red, making Castiel laugh under his breath. It was reassuring to know he wasn’t the only one feeling uncomfortable and shy. He felt the urge to listen to the lyrics, sending a new wave of panic through him. He tried to focus on his breathing, but it seemed that now that they were looking at each other, they couldn’t do anything else.

Well, open up your mind and see like me, open up your plans and damn you’re free. Look into your heart and you’ll find that the sky is yours so please don’t, please don’t, please don’t, there’s no need to complicate, ‘cause our time is short. This oh, this oh, this is our fate. I’m yours.

Dean finished the song, but the air felt so full of electricity they couldn’t look away from each other. Dean’s eyes kept shifting between Castiel’s eyes and mouth, and he unconsciously licked his lips, slowly leaning closer to Cas. Time seemed to have stopped, and yet Castiel felt like everything was moving too fast. The air was still around them, but a storm was raging inside his mind and heart, part of him wanting to lean in and close the ever-shortening distance between Dean’s mouth and his, the other praying every living thing in this world for an escape. He wasn’t ready for this, he wasn’t ready at all. Castiel wasn’t ready for a new relationship, for intimacy, for vulnerability, for touching, for kissing. He wasn’t ready for Dean.

Despite all his insecurities, Castiel sat there, standing still as Dean continued approaching.

“Dean, wait.”

The words were out before he could think better of it. Dean blinked like he was waking from a trance, and sat back on the couch.

“I’m sorry Cas, I… I shouldn’t... I couldn’t…” He brought a hand to his hair, pain written all over his face. “Whatever. I’m sorry. Good night.”

He stood up, taking his guitar by the heel. Castiel felt a pang in his chest and reached for Dean’s other hand.

“No Dean, wait. It’s not what you think. Please, sit down. I want to talk to you.”

Dean sighed, sitting back down, leaning the guitar against the couch. He was looking everywhere but at Castiel.

“Look at me. Please.”

Their eyes met again, and Castiel could see for the first time how broken Dean really was. It gave him the courage to keep talking.

“Listen, there’s a reason why I keep pushing you away, but the problem’s not you, it’s me.”

“Like I’ve never heard that one before” Dean muttered, looking down at his hands joined on his knees.

"That’s not what I meant” Castiel grunted, both hands massaging his temples. “Stop being so defensive and listen to me.”

“Hey, you’re not the one being rejected for the second fucking time, here.”

“Dean, Jesus Christ, it’s not like I want to push you away.”

“Why the fuck do you keep doing it, then?”

Dean was up again, pacing in front of Castiel.

“Because I’m poisoned, Dean! I’m broken! I’m a mess and it’s ugly inside and I fear that if I let you in, you’ll leave for good.”

Dean stopped and looked at Cas incredulously.

“How can you even think I could ever walk away from you?”

“Don’t you get it? Someone fucked me up so bad, I can’t even handle the idea of you or anyone else getting close to me. Going out with me is like walking into a minefield, every move you make, every step you take, I could go off and hurt you in the process.”

Castiel’s voice was breaking up. This wasn’t happening. He was bursting, about to go up in flames. He could not possibly be talking about this, not here, not now. Things have been so perfect a minute ago and now… Now he was about to show Dean his true colors.

He felt ill so fast he had no time to think. He rose to his feet and pushed Dean aside, rushing to the bathroom without taking the time to turn the lights on. He gave back the little he had eaten, tears rolling uncontrollably on his cheeks. He gripped the toilet seat with both hands, like he was about to die and this was his only chance of survival. A sob escaped his mouth, Castiel being incapable of suppressing it. It was the first time in months he was completely losing control over himself, and it had to be in front of Dean. He stayed there for what seemed like hours before Dean finally sat down beside him on the cold tiles of the bathroom floor.

“Cas?” His voice was just a whisper. “I’m sorry okay? If I had known… My goal wasn’t to push you over the edge. But listen to me. Stay with me on this one, okay? I suck with words and feelings so just… let me talk.”

Castiel took a deep breath before nodding, giving Dean the cue he needed.

“I don’t care how broken you are. I’m broken too. Maybe not in the same way as you, but believe me when I say I’ve had my share of traumatic experiences. I’m scared too, for the same reasons you are. But I don’t know, Cas, I can’t get you off of my damn mind. I don’t know what you did to me, but I’m ready to fight for what we may have here. I wasn’t ready to admit it to myself but yesterday, when you asked me to stay in bed with you, I realized how extremely important you were to me and how good it felt to hold you close. I’m pretty sure you’re worth every shitstorm we can get in. Even if it takes months, years, we’ll get there. Just talk to me, okay? We can go through this together. Just tell me what sets you off, tell me what happened to you so I don’t fuck this up.  Please, Cas.”

Castiel was gripping the toilet seat so hard his knuckles were white. There was no way out of this. If he didn’t talk to Dean, he’d leave, simple as that. And Cas was afraid of that more than anything else. He took a few deep breaths and shifted in a more comfortable position, loosening his grasp.

“When I was twenty-two, I met someone. His name was Raphael. He was a few years older than me and I was so madly in love with him, I could have robbed a bank if it meant he would stay with me forever. I wasn’t in a good state of mind, shit was going down with my parents and Raph took advantage of the situation. It happened so slowly I never noticed. He started by saying he wasn’t feeling well every time I wanted to go out with my friends, that he wanted me to stay to take care of him, which I did. Then, he started making comments about how I was dressing, how he preferred my hair. He wanted to know who I was seeing, where I was going. It was all spread on three years so I never realized how unhealthy all those little requests of his were. It took me three damn years to get it. He became violent, and…”

Cas couldn’t continue. It was too hard. He could feel his heart beating in his chest, like if pounding hard enough would help it escape his ribcage. He felt tears rolling down his cheeks, unable to contain them. He screwed his eyes shut, trying to suppress the memories.

“It’s okay, Cas, I’m right here. Breathe.”

“He did things to me, Dean. He hit me, and he made me feel like it was my fault, like I deserved it. He used me, and whenever he felt the need he… He would…”

Realisation dawned on Dean and he shut his eyes, his hand closed so tightly in a fist his nails drew blood from his palm.

I guess I know now what the nightmares are about, he thought.

“I can’t handle anyone touching me. There are a few people I don’t mind, like Charlie, but I always feel sick whenever someone touches me, even if it’s just a brush. The idea of someone touching me makes me feel sick. The idea of letting someone in again makes me feel sick, because I’m scared it’ll break apart the small things I achieved putting back together.”

“Fuck, Cas I’m so sorry. If I knew, I-”

“It’s not your fault, really. You’ve been great. I mean, I’ve never been on a date since that. That’s probably what scared the shit out of me in the first place. You went through my barriers like it was nothing. I don’t know why, I don’t know how, but I let you in without even realizing it.”

They sat there in silence, looking at the floor, lost in their thoughts.

“I’m cursed, Dean. I break everything I touch. I don’t want to break you too.”

“Well, I’m an adult, Cas, I can make my own decisions. I know what I’m getting into, here. And I’d rather have you, cursed or not. I will help you get through this. We’ll go at your speed, one step at a time. I promise you I’ll be patient and I won’t push. I’ll just… Open a door, and if you don’t feel like taking it, just don’t. I’ll open another one later, and we’ll continue like this until you feel comfortable enough. How’s that sound?”

Castiel hesitated for a split second before answering.

“Okay. Okay.”

“Can… Can I hug you?”

Castiel snorted and nodded, touched by the fact Dean actually asked him. They scooched closer, Dean’s back to the wall, and Cas just put his head in the crook of Dean’s neck, his knees folded to his chest, Dean’s arms holding him tight. Castiel could hear Dean’s heart beating steadily. He was in a bubble of warmth, Dean’s strength and softness soothing him slowly.

“Baby steps” Dean murmured.

“Baby steps” Castiel repeated, laughing under his breath.

They stayed there for a while, just enjoying each other’s company. A memory suddenly came back to Dean, and he shifted on the floor.

“Is he the reason why Charlie was so protective of you the first time I asked for you at work?”

“Yes” Castiel answered. “When I finally realized that it was Raphael or me, I found the courage to break up with him. He was… Persistent, to say the least. I had to move. I moved here from San Fransisco, I stopped talking to every friend we had in common. I ran away. I changed my phone number, my car is registered under a friend’s name. Same thing for the house, it’s still under my parents’ name. Charlie was crazy enough to follow me when shit hit the fan. She wouldn’t let me go alone. Now, every time someone she doesn’t know asks for me, she says she doesn’t know anyone named Castiel.”

“Geez. Couldn’t you involve the police, or something?”

“I did. But the bastard was good. He kept calling me from different phones, and whenever he’d show up at my doorstep, the only thing they could do was to escort him back to his place because he actually wasn't doing anything. He would just sit there and wait for me to come out. They had no proof he was violent or aggressive.”

“How long ago was this?”

“I left him two years ago.”

“And you two are still scared?” Dean asked.

“You have no idea what he is- was, capable of.”

Silence fell again. At one point, Dean thought Cas had fallen asleep. He cleared his throat.

“Huh, Cas?”

“Mmmh?”

“I know I said I would never ask you again but after… All this, huh, I’m thinking… Would you go out with me again? We don’t have to hold hands or kiss or whatever, though if you feel like it we can do it, I won’t complain, but if you don’t-”

“Dean?”

“Yeah, okay, I’ll shut up.”

There were a few seconds of silence before Dean blurted out again.

“So is that a yes?”

“Didn’t you say minutes before that you wouldn’t push?”

“Fuck I suck at this, I’m sorry.”

“I’m kidding, Dean” Castiel scoffed. “Yes, we can go on a date. I’d like that a lot. Even if you are horrendously ugly, I like your personality, so I’ll give you a chance.  ”

“Fuck you.”

"I love you too" Castiel joked.

Dean smiled at that, pressing a soft kiss on Castiel’s temple before resting his chin on Castiel’s head.

They went to bed shortly after that, both exhausted by their emotional night.