Fic: "Carry On Up This Broken Tide: Chapter Seven, Pt. 2" [NC-17, Dean/Cas]

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Aug. 12th, 2011 | 08:44 pm

TITLE: “Carry On Up This Broken Tide: Chapter Seven, Pt. 2”
AUTHOR: [ profile] nanoochka
ARTIST: [ profile] daggomus_prime
PAIRINGS: Dean/Castiel, mentions of Dean/Lisa and Sam/Jess
WARNINGS: AU, depictions of psychological illness (ie. nervous breakdowns, anxiety), dubcon, mild D/s themes, infidelity, mentions of drug use and past drug abuse.

Carry On Up This Broken Tide by [ profile] nanoochka


         Less than two hours later, we’re back sitting in the living room of Sam’s house, Dean holding a bundle of ice wrapped in a towel against the bruises on my back and shoulders that are probably a lost cause by now. The television plays in the background, a football game to which neither of us is paying much attention. Having yelled at us upon our return to shut the fuck up and leave him alone, Sam is still hard at work in his study, leaving Dean and I to our own devices for dinner, as well as our entertainment for the evening. Well-fed and comfortable, and free from his brother’s curious gaze, Dean sits much closer than he would otherwise. His body accommodates mine like second nature, but he looks nervous for reasons I can only assume have to do with his wariness of Sam walking in on us, and my own tendency to snap if Dean gets too familiar.

     I must admit I brace for it, too, expecting my stomach to lurch unpleasantly at Dean’s proximity under non-sexual circumstances—circumstances that resemble our old intimacy entirely too much to be good. My body aches all over, though, and I find myself too exhausted to put up a fight, even when Dean’s legs shift to bracket my hips on either side, encouraging me to lie back against him and into the ice wedged between our bodies. Part of me admires him for putting up with my snippishness with such saintly patience—astounding enough for a quick temper like Dean’s—and recognizing that I’m on edge with discomfort that extends to the mental as well as physical. At one point I’d opened my mouth to tell him to fuck off and play nursemaid to someone else, but Dean cut me off at the pass with a gentle, “Please.”

     Apparently there are some things even I can’t fight against, but for the first time in a couple weeks, I find myself wishing for a Xanax to wash the rest of my uncertainties away, numb me the hell out.

     “What was all that back at the beach, at Bobby’s shop?” Dean finally asks. I’m impressed by his restraint for having not asked about it until now. “You thinkin’ of buyin’ into the business or something?”

     Or something; my own thoughts on the matter are still far from clear, just a jumble of ideas and inspiration I haven’t felt for a while. But there’s definitely a spark of interest I can’t deny, smacks of the same drive that had me off investing in property and obscure stock options from a young age—the very things that have more or less kept me afloat since being cut off from my family. It might not be much compared to what I was once promised, the decimal point having moved some, but selling off my real estate in Indiana and Chicago, not to mention my shares, has padded my bank account nicely enough. I’ll never have to work again if I play my cards right. Deep down, I know one of those cards is Sam’s offer to move in, the sheer generosity of the suggestion appealing to my good sense as well as my affection for my friend. Without quite meaning to, I’ve started looking at his home a bit differently, weighing the ways in which it’s already felt like my own for months. Where Dean fits into the picture, I don’t know. I remind myself he’s probably headed back to Indiana all in good time.

     I’m silent for a little while, considering Dean’s question and how much I want to answer. To my surprise, it comes much easier than I expect. “Something about that shop just appealed to me,” I tell him quietly. “It just felt so home-grown and authentic in there, you know? And I was really impressed by how highly regarded they are around here; I’m sure if I asked around some more, most of the locals would say the same thing. Obviously Ash and Bobby do quality work.” I feel Dean nod. I also feel what could be fingertips skimming my bare shoulder, and I shrug it off as imagination, knowing Dean is too smart to start getting overly familiar when I’m in a mood. “The whole thing is probably crazy, but I saw that place and thought, ‘Hey, maybe this is something I could invest in.’”

     Hesitating more now, I add, “It’s pretty stupid. I haven’t even gotten myself back on my feet yet, and I’m already starting to think about what it’d be like to set up shop here for good and just… rebuild. Start over. I do like California, and surfing is just… me.”

     “That doesn’t sound stupid,” Dean answers, voice low. “You’ve got a good head for business, better than almost anyone. I’ve seen that brain of yours in action, man; almost puts Sam’s massive grey matter to shame.”

     “Well, that’s a relief,” I answer sarcastically. “Good thing I’ve got some good business sense, since I obviously don’t have much for anything else.”

     Dean shoves at me lightly. “Don’t be retarded, Cas. You make good choices.”

     Christ, when was the last time he said that to me? I wish I could say I didn’t remember, but that’d be a lie. It was at a baseball game we went to with Ben last spring, the Royals against the White Sox. Such a big deal, on multiple counts—not the first time I’d met Dean’s son, not by then, but certainly the first trip the three of us took together, a special treat courtesy of my company’s box seats in Chicago.

     I’d never seen a little kid so happy in my whole life, his face split in half by a grin that didn’t budge from the second I greeted them at the airport, and his father was practically over the moon, too. I wasn’t doing so bad myself that weekend, either, considering the rare treat of having Dean in Chicago, and the son who was gradually becoming a part of my life. Although I had never been one for kids, I had to admit I was crazy about Ben, who was, like Dean, as smart and cocky and funny and generous as anyone I’d ever met. Weirder still, he seemed to like me, even if it sometimes meant I had to withstand being teased about the stick up my ass by father and son at the same time. I didn’t mind in the least, and I… I started to dream big.

     As far as I can tell, the miscommunications started when Dean took my hand during the game, right there with Ben between us, snacking on popcorn and having the time of his life as he cheered on his team. Granted, our entwined fingers stayed hidden behind Ben’s back where he couldn’t see us, but I think I somehow assumed it meant everything was okay, that his being here and his father’s openness with me was a sign that he knew. Obviously that wasn’t the case, as I quickly learned when Ben went to call the score in to his mother between innings, and I leaned over to give Dean a kiss.

     He jerked away like I’d spat in his face. “What the hell are you doing?” he hissed, putting so much space between us so quickly I was surprised he didn’t jump out of our private box altogether. “Ben’s right there!”

     Something lodged in my throat, painfully. It took a few moments for me to answer. “I’m sorry,” I stammered, and backed away with my hands up. “I thought… I thought you’d told him. About us.”

     Dean was watching his son with alarm written clear as day across his features, staring at Ben so hard he could have been willing the kid to turn around and start hurling accusations our way. With his back to us, on the phone, Ben was completely oblivious to our exchange and to the fact that I’d tried to kiss Dean, but Dean seemed equally oblivious to Ben's ignorance. “Jesus Christ, Cas,” he said, voice like gravel. “Of course he doesn’t know. He’s eight fucking years old. Don’t be retarded.”

     I think Dean knew the gravity of what he said the moment the words left his mouth; he started backpedalling immediately, apologizing so many times I eventually had to ask him to stop. “I think I’m done with this conversation,” I told him quietly. “Let’s just finish watching the game.”

     “We can talk about this after Ben’s gone to sleep,” Dean suggested raggedly. “I’m sorry, baby, you know I didn’t mean that. You just—I freaked out, okay.”

     “Shut up about it,” I snapped, and sat back down in my seat to indicate my refusal to listen to any more. “And don’t call me ‘baby’ like it changes anything. You made your point.”

     The fight that ensued didn’t actually happen until several days later—Ben’s presence prevented it, and when the weekend was over and we flew back to Indiana, Dean took him home after a hug and a promise to call me that I didn’t return. He made a special trip back out to Indy to see me the next day, though, and that I knew he was sorry didn’t make me feel much better about anything. Nor did it change the few harsh realizations I’d made since seeing Dean and Ben off at the airport.

     I tried not to be too hard on myself about it, or so I kept telling myself—my space, after all, had become shared space with Dean, as he’d been staying with me in Indianapolis for so long, his presence was visible everywhere in the apartment. His clothes were in my dressers, his beer in my fridge, his life my life. Little things that made me happy every time I was reminded of Dean’s place in my world, his place in my heart. Corny, I know, but I was at the point I’d started considering making a space for Ben, an adjustment I’d never anticipated, but was willing to make for Dean.

     When Dean came to visit after the Chicago trip, I told him as much. Not because I wanted to make him feel guiltier, but because I thought it necessary for him to know. “I put my place up for sale in Chicago,” I told him, once the silence across the dinner table that night became too much to bear. “I’m never there anymore and I have three bedrooms here: I was going to start living here permanently. Maybe even buy a house.”

     “But you fucking love Chicago,” Dean said, puzzled. “Why move?”

     “Because I fucking love you more,” I snapped. “I wanted—want—you to move in with me. And Ben. I was going to ask you to move in.” The expression that crumbled over Dean’s face almost shattered my own resolve not to cry. Aside from a slight quiver of my lip, I think I managed.

     “You were going to ask me,” he repeated.

     Without meaning to, I barked a laugh that sounded twisted even to my ears. “Obviously the answer’s no, isn’t it?”

     Dean made a face. “The answer isn’t no, Cas,” he forced out. “Jesus Christ—it’s ‘I can’t’.” Apparently feeling useless without touching me, Dean pushed back his chair with a loud screech across the tile and came around to my side of the table, dropping into a crouch in front of me, taking my hands. Pleading with me with his whole body and the scared set of his eyes. “Ben doesn’t know about all this—and even if he did, I wouldn’t be able to disrupt his whole life and move him somewhere else, move him away from his mom. No way is he ready for that, and neither am I. But it doesn’t mean I wouldn’t, in a heartbeat, if things were different. You know that, right?”

     I wrenched my hands away. “Yeah, Dean, I know.” Unable to look at his face any longer, I pushed myself up from my own chair and grabbed my plate, still bearing the dinner I’d hardly touched. “But let me ask you something, Dean,” I began, going over to the kitchen island to clatter my dishes down into the sink. “We’ve been together for over a year. I would marry you tomorrow if I could, and yet you won’t even tell your son what I am to you. You won’t come out to your family, and you won’t move in with me. So when the fuck are things ever going to be different? If not now, when?? You gonna tell Ben the truth and sign a joint lease with me from your goddamn deathbed in sixty years?”

     Dean’s arms folded across his chest, a sure sign that all hopes of a civil discussion on the matter had just flown out the window. But I didn’t care. I didn’t think civil was a word I even knew right then. “Don’t give me the guilt trip bullshit, Cas,” he growls. “I’m here, and I’m with you. I’m sorry things aren’t moving along according to your personal schedule, but I got a son I have to think about, too.”

     “Oh, are things actually going somewhere?” I asked with incredulity. I hated to voice that fear out loud, but the thought had stuck in my head sometime over the weekend, and I hadn’t been able to un-stick it. “From where I’m standing, it doesn’t look like this fucking relationship is moving anywhere at the moment. We’re in almost the exact same spot we were that first night we came back here to fuck, except then I still thought I’d have my common sense left in the morning—not some terrified asshole who’s afraid to be seen with his faggot boyfriend within fifty yards of his ‘real’ family.” I gave another sharp laugh, watching Dean’s face darken with each word that left my mouth. Fuck him. “What’s the problem, Dean? Are you still in love with that ex-wife of yours? Scared I might ruin your chances if she sees us together?”

     I think I expected Dean to pick up the nearest plate and smash it, or maybe throw a punch at my head; that’s not what happened. Instead he left the room and came back carrying his jacket, car keys in hand. I stared at them mutely and then up at his face, unsure what to say because I knew it would just sound like a challenge for him to leave. But I also couldn’t say I didn’t want him to, the words catching on my tongue like leads.

     In the end, my silence probably pushed him halfway out the door as much as another cruel taunt would have. Dean walked to the door and wouldn’t look at me at first; he was fiddling with his keys, twisting them over and over in his hands. “Tell you what, Cas,” he said, and I knew from the tears in his voice this was going to hurt. “I’ll come out to my kid when you come out to your father, okay? You criticize my priorities, but from where I’m standing? The only reason you haven’t done it already is you’re more attached to your trust fund than you are this relationship. Whatever you say, you’d rather he give you a pat on the head for a lie than be true to yourself, when that’s something I wish for every day.”

     From his key ring came the key to my home, which he flung at me across the floor. His eyes had flickered up to meet mine for a second, then he was gone. When I roused myself enough to lock the door behind him, picking up Dean’s key from the tile, I thought it was the last time I’d ever see him. I maybe even prayed for it a little.

     But here we are, nearly two years after we first met. Dean telling me I make good choices, when his very presence is irrefutable proof I absolutely don’t. He makes me, to use his word, retarded, a fact over which I always end up hating myself, no matter my best intentions. Right now, I can’t seem to decide whether I feel more wretched for being able to look at him at all, or that I for a moment chose to share something of my private hopes with him for my future. Stupid Castiel. That future doesn’t exist, not with Dean in it. Can’t stay with him here, can’t ask him to go—Sam will never give him up for you.

     This conversation is over, and he doesn’t even know it yet. It shocks me, really, how easily the words come to me to push him away.

     “I’ve been wondering about something lately,” I begin, and I lean back a little into Dean’s loose embrace, the one he’s trying to pretend isn’t happening on purpose.

     Predictably, he rests a hand against my forearm to indicate he’s listening, gives a gentle squeeze. “Yeah?” I can actually hear the hope in his voice, the tightening of his groin against my lower back as he responds to the tenor of my voice like an invitation.

     “Is this what it was like for you the first time around?” I ask. “It’s kind of like we’re carrying on an illicit affair all over again, doesn’t it? There’s risk, excitement… We could get caught out at any time. Did cheating on Lisa and sneaking around fill you with the same sense of exhilaration as throwing yourself at me now?”

     Dean stiffens against me in an entirely different way, muscles rigid, and on my lips there’s a smile that won’t come no matter how hard I try. Silence crawls over us in what feels like an endless haze, cloying, but then Dean shifts backwards into the cushions, trying to put space between us without shoving me out of his lap altogether.


     He clears his throat. When he speaks, I can barely hear him even from a few inches away. “Lemme make something clear,” he murmurs, but we both know I’m listening. I asked, after all. “Every time I cheated on Lisa was the saddest I’d ever been in my life. Much as I wanted to lose myself in how happy it made me to be around you, I never forgot what I was doing to my family without them knowing. Not a day went by that I didn’t dream about coming clean to Lisa and ending the whole charade, but I was fucking weak.”

     To my horror, I try to speak but nothing comes out; something grips my throat so hard I have to stop and wonder if it’s a panic attack, here out of the blue, but I know it’s not. No, this is something else, and I fight against it until I find my voice again and ruthlessly suppress Tessa’s words surfacing again in my head. Still, it penetrates that I do not, in this moment, feel proud. “We agree on that much, at least,” I force out.

     “Cas.” However reluctant, I turn to look at Dean, and then immediately away when I see tracks of moisture on his cheeks, wiped hastily away. “I wasn’t sure whether or not I should say anything to you about it, but I’m thinking of coming clean to Sam.”

     The non sequitur makes my body go cold, and I pull myself up off the couch to face him. “That’s kind of petty, given the circumstances, isn’t it? You might think you’re upset at me, but telling your brother we’ve been fucking on his good leather sofa isn’t the right way to express your anger.”

     Dean shrugs, hands curling around his ankles as he pulls his knees in to his chest. His eyes glitter in the low light of the room, and I realize, too late, that the look on his face isn’t the same need for blood I’ve found in my own reflection of late. He looks tired, which is perhaps most frightening of all. ‘Tired’ often means ‘done’. But the flash disappears quickly, shoved beneath the surface as Dean’s mouth quirks in a sad smile that’s just for me.

     “I wasn’t gonna tell him about us,” he explains. “Just that I’m gay. It’s time, and the way I figure, only fair. Ben knows, and Lisa knows—Sammy should know, too. But I can see how you’d be worried it might give the rest away.” He pauses. Then he suggests, “You could just tell him yourself.”

     “No.” It would break Sam’s heart; I know this. Dean knows it. He loves his brother, but he’s not volunteering to be the bearer of that information, either. But it does, for the briefest of seconds, make me wonder why it would be so bad if Sam knew, before I remember how much I actually care. The thought of Sam ending our friendship makes my stomach twist, but that isn’t what terrifies me so much.

     It shouldn’t surprise me that Dean’s thoughts are running along similar lines. “It’d be over if he knew. All this, what we’ve been doing.” Meeting my eyes, he asks the one thing I could stand here all night wishing he won’t, begging him with my silence, willing it with every fibre I possess: “Do you not want it to be over?”

     Suddenly my blood is pumping fast, a sharp surge past my ears like the knee-jerk response to a hand placed on a hot element, contradictory desires striking through me to flee, to scream and lash out and hurt. I refuse to run, legs sore and lungs exhausted from how far I’ve fled already. This isn’t like that time on the beach, where I was still so petrified and weak. “Fuck you,” I choke out, and launch myself at him, a fist swinging out that nearly catches him in the jaw before he grabs my fist in midair.

     “Cas, what the fuck?”

     As I’ve proven before, I’m not much of a fighter, and this time I don’t have the element of surprise; Dean’s body shifts to simultaneously avoid the blow and curl itself around mine, arms and legs snaking around my limbs and rolling me onto my back. The ice pack rattles between us and then falls to the carpet. I land with all the grace of a sack of potatoes, grunting with all my indignant, impotent anger despite the thrill of excitement that rushes through me. Our bodies press flush, heavy and breathing hard.

     Dean feels it, too, cheeks going scarlet, and his mouth drops open in a near gasp. “Stop it,” he orders, hands tightening painfully around my wrists. “Stop fucking doing this, you’re like a goddamn child—hitting me because you don’t know what to say.”

     I fight the urge to spit at him. “I have nothing to say,” I growl. My voice comes out breathy and choked from his weight on top of me. “I’ve been telling you, Dean, there’s nothing left to this goddamned conversation you insist on trying to drag out. Why can’t we just fuck and have it not mean anything?”

     Dean’s jaw clenches. “Because that’s what you want, not me—even if it’s like trying to put a square fucking peg in a round hole, but who am I to tell you otherwise? You obviously don’t give a shit what I have to say, or if it means anything to someone other than yourself. I’m trying to make things right.”

     “You can’t.”

     “I didn’t just say for you.” Hesitating, Dean lets go of my wrists and sits back a little. “I’m coming out to Sam for me, because it’s the right goddamn thing to do.”

     I reach out to grab him before he can withdraw too far, wrapping my arms around his torso. “Dean, leave it alone,” I beg him, disgusted by the tremor in my own voice and the fact that I’m proving him right the more I try to fight against him, answering his question with a no so resounding, I might as well shout it out loud. “Just leave it alone. Fuck me and stop trying to ruin it.”

     I snake my fingers into his hair and pull him to me, crashing our lips together and kissing silent whatever he might have said in response, licking the denial right out of his mouth. Tumbling us over so he’s once again on his back, I drag my hand down to the crotch of his jeans and squeeze at his half-hard cock, making him moan into me and arch for more. With us it’s always more and more until we’re scraping the bone with nothing left to give. I flick the button open and work my fingers inside, grasping at skin and the first few drops of wetness from the tip of his shaft.

     “Fuck me,” I say again, hopefully this time; I pull away and hold his eyes as I skin out of my shorts and turn my body on the couch, laying myself out on my stomach beneath his gaze. Glancing back over my shoulder where I’ve pushed up onto my elbows, I let my legs fall open in blatant invitation; I close my eyes and moan softly at the audible hitch in Dean’s breath as he looks at me, push my tongue out to lick at lips that have suddenly gone dry. “I want you to. I want it so badly.”

     “Cas,” Dean chastises. I can hear the resistance in his tone, but he’s crawling towards me nevertheless, crouches on his hands and knees over my legs and dips his head to nuzzle into the small of my back. It’s a bit forceful—he knows what I’m trying to do and doesn’t like being manipulated. Nor does he like his own acquiescence to so obvious a play for his silence.

     “Come on.” I arch and shift back onto my knees, pushing my ass back into him so he’s forced to take my hips to avoid being shoved off-balance. The feel of his palms, grabbing hot and rough against my skin, makes me groan in genuine need and drop to my chest against the sofa. Maybe my actions are a bit selfishly motivated, I admit, essentially trying to buy Dean’s obedience and end to this topic of conversation, but the hot flush of desire for him is never forced, never reluctant. If anything it’s like a brushfire, whooshing out of control if I so much as bring a match within sparking distance, devastation just waiting to catch.

     Two fingers slip down the crease between my buttocks, dragging hard over my opening—they’re wet, Dean seemingly having slipped them into his mouth when I glanced away, and one presses inside me so easily we both cry out, me perhaps the more raggedly. A soft, “Oh, oh, oh,” falls from my lips as he works in and out, the second finger joining the first and making me sob when he presses into my prostate, rushes of fireworks licking through my whole body. He withdraws. Dean unfastens his jeans the rest of the way and pushes them to mid-thigh; I feel the brush of his erection like velvet against my exposed hole as he rocks into me, rides my crease for a second and sighs.

     “We don’t have anything,” he reminds me, voice thick. I glance back at him and his expression is utterly ravaged. “Should I—”

     “I don’t care,” I answer in a rush, rubbing back against him. “Use saliva, I’ll be fine—please just fuck me.”

     To Dean’s credit, he pauses again but only briefly, and I hear him spit into his hand and rub it down his length, breath harsh. Then there’s the pressure of his thumbs spreading me open, followed by the tip of his cock pushing against the resistance until the head pops inside. He croons my name, wraps his arms around my chest and falls forward onto my shoulders, which are slick in between with sweat. Unbelievable pleasure crests as he works a hand between my legs, pulling at my cock, making me scrabble and claw at the sofa cushions.

     “Baby,” he says, presses into my body until his hips are flush and I’m groaning nonsense, trying to rock against him. He keens, “Baby,” again, and I’m not even coherent or sane enough anymore to correct him, could listen to that delicious baritone call me any name in the book with Dean’s cock inside me.

     “Isn’t it so much better this way?” I gasp, arching into the first full in-and-out slide. Dean’s teeth bite down on the flesh between my neck and shoulder and I feel him shaking, tremors that match the ones in my arms and legs as he splits me open and nudges that gland inside, angling his thrusts against that spot that makes my vision go blank. I rub my face into the smooth leather beneath my cheek. “So much better this way, Dean, when you fuck me.” Echoing my thought from earlier, almost deliriously at this stage, I tell him, “Don’t spoil it, please don’t spoil it again.”

      The movement stalls, Dean’s whole body going tense and still above me while I try to arch and thrust back into him, a deep whine pulling from my throat. Just when I expect him to stop teasing me and fuck me deep, or that maybe he’s just getting a hold of himself, Dean, impossibly, withdraws, pushing himself up and off me.

     “What are you doing?” I demand. My stomach churns with unpleasantness as I roll to my side and see Dean rise from the couch on unsteady legs, pulling up his jeans. The flagging erection he tucks away with trembling fingers, wincing in discomfort, but for a moment he doesn’t say anything, doesn’t even look at me from the spot on the carpet he’s studying so intently. “Dean! Come back here.” Green eyes drag up to meet mine, and I know that look, Dean’s soft, broken face that says he might be dying on the inside, but isn’t going to budge an inch.

     Body still thrumming with arousal like an over-warm engine, I shiver and swing my legs underneath me, sitting up but not trusting myself to stand. Sudden pressure against the place Dean so recently vacated makes me squirm, makes me ache and want to pull him back to me, mouth already open to beg him back. How can I beg, though, when he promised to do whatever I ask? How the hell can he get up and leave when I for once am trying to give something to him? With shocking coldness, I shudder at the thought that Tessa’s prediction is coming true, and Dean is starting to realize he’s not so powerless against me after all, not even if he wants to be. He can say no; he is saying no.

     “You’re leaving,” I splutter. Scooting closer, I catch his hand before he can back away. “I don’t—I don’t understand. I’m not the one who—You said you would do—”

     “What, whatever it took? Yeah.” Dean curls his fingers around mine briefly but ultimately withdraws, looking no happier for it. “I’m sorry, Cas. You don’t even know what you’re asking, but turns out I can’t do that.”

     “You can’t fuck me all of a sudden?”

     Brow furrowed, he shakes his head. “No—hide. ‘Cause when it comes down to it, that’s what this is about. Hiding. I’m finally ready to come out of the closet to my brother, tell him the whole reason I left Lisa and Ben in the first place, and here you wanna drag me back in there with you because it’s safe. You’re fucking scared, Cas, but I don’t have that problem. I’m not afraid of who the hell I am, not like you are. Not anymore.”

     “Sam knows who I am,” I answer, pulling back. Miraculously, my voice stays steady despite feeling like my insides are crumbling. “He’s known all along. What you and I do in private has nothing to do with him.”

     “Nah, he doesn’t have the first clue.” Dean skims his knuckles across my cheekbone in a gesture that’s far gentler than his words, even though I can’t find any malice in his voice. “But I don’t think you do, either, baby”

     At this, I snap. “I told you not to call me that.”

     “Yeah, okay, Cas.” A brief touch to my lips and the hand is curling around the back of my neck like Dean wants to pull me up for a kiss. I can’t deal with him when he’s being tender like this, because I know it takes infinitely more certainty on Dean’s part to show affection over anger. “I—I guess I get it. Believe me. It’s not my place to drag you into this when you obviously aren’t ready to admit it, which is why this ain’t about you. I’d like your support but I know I pretty much squandered it the first time I had my chance.”

     With a snort, I bat his hand away. “You don’t think Sam’s going to put two and two together if you come out to him, Dean?” Finding my legs again is easier now, and I stand up so I can look him in the face, press in close and warm so he makes sure he feels me, makes sure he meets my eyes when I turn his head towards me with my hands against his cheeks. “Everything you said about wanting me back? Well, don’t expect there to be much chance of that if everything’s out in the open. Look what happened the last time.”

     He smiles and leans in to kiss me, so soft I almost lean away from it in confusion, the way Dean sometimes doesn’t always know how to respond to my smiles. “There wasn’t much chance even now, man, I knew that going in. But if you were always gonna walk away again, doing things exactly the same way as last time wouldn’t change that.”

     With that, Dean retrieves the bag of half-melted ice from the floor and hands it back to me, pressing it into my hands like I might still sit here babying my bruises. The room feels so much quieter once he leaves, even the sounds from the television going muted as I try and fail to herd my thoughts into something resembling coherence. Tomorrow—or whenever Dean decides to talk to Sam—it’ll be completely changed, and I suppose I ought to feel relief I’ve already begun to think about where I’ll go after I leave Cardiff. Impossible to stay here now, with everything out in the open, we might as well have broken it ourselves.

     The classical music from Sam’s study continues to waft toward my ears as he writes on, for the time oblivious, but not much longer.

Chapter Eight

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