Fic: "Carry On Up This Broken Tide: Chapter Ten, Pt. 1" [NC-17, Dean/Cas]

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Aug. 12th, 2011 | 09:01 pm

TITLE: “Carry On Up This Broken Tide: Chapter Ten, Pt. 1”
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


     The previous owner of Sam’s house had a thing for ostentatious doorbells, I think; it’s not so much a chime as a chorus of barely-musical noise that approximates Handel’s Messiah and goes on and on and on, far longer than any doorbell should. Hearing it for the first time nearly changed my opinion of Sam as a person, so offensive is the sound, and for weeks after he swore up and down it came with the house. Unsurprisingly, Dean is all too eager to mock Sam about it at every available opportunity, and has been known to hammer on the buzzer whenever Sam is particularly buried in work, or if Dean happens to be cross with him. Childish, yes, but I admit to having been amused by such antics from time to time, since I’ve often thought about sabotaging the damn thing myself.

     As I lift my hand to press the button, it occurs to me I’ve rung Sam’s doorbell more in the past couple of weeks than I have in months. Once upon a time—and it really does feel that way now—I could walk in the front door and help myself to a beer from the fridge. As far as Sam was concerned, it was less trouble for me to look after myself and treat his home like my own than potentially interrupt him in the middle of writing or, better yet, be ignored outright. While there has been no formal revocation of my no-doorbell privileges, I think it’s fair to assume I no longer occupy such haughty status as to walk into Sam’s house unannounced. More than that, I’m scared to try, since I don’t know what waits for me on the other side.

     It’s been almost a day since I spoke to the Winchesters, except for an ominous text I received from Dean this morning: Meet me @ Sam’s 2nite. Need 2 talk 2 U guys. That’s it. When I responded asking for clarification, all I got was, Plz just come. I took it as a measure of his seriousness that the expected innuendo was never made. Not knowing whether or not Dean has already spoken to Sam about the series of unfortunate and stupid events that have led us to this point, I can’t be sure whether this meeting is to discuss the matter at hand, or something else. Whatever the case, anticipation sent my stomach plummeting to my knees as soon as I received the message, and there it’s remained all day. I’m early, I know, but I couldn’t bear another minute of sitting around my house doing nothing.

     Sam opens the door still scowling at the doorbell chime, and his expression darkens that little bit more when he sees me standing there. The only one unequivocal in her greeting is Callie, who shoves past him to come sniff around my hands, tail wagging joyously. For a moment Sam looks at her in betrayal, then says to me, “Dean’s not home yet.”

     I try not to scowl. Even if that’s the case, does he expect me to go home and come back again, or maybe wait on the front stoop like a dog? Surely Sam can’t be that disgusted with me. Besides which, there’s a reason I came a bit earlier than Dean specified in his text. “I wanted to speak to you before Dean lets us in on whatever surprise he’s hiding,” I tell him. “If that’s acceptable.”

     Hesitating, Sam continues to block the doorway with his body until I give up and start to turn away, sighing heavily. His hand shoots out and grabs my arm unexpectedly. “Wait.” I glance back at him and he shuffles his feet like he’s the one who should be embarrassed and uncertain. “I’m sorry. I think it’s probably a good idea if we have a minute to speak alone, too. Come in.”

     I follow him into the kitchen with Callie in tow, and see he’s in the middle of fixing himself a modest dinner of spaghetti and tomato sauce. It’s inadequate and boring, since Dean is the unabashed cook in the family, but it tells me there’s still some distance left between them. The thought floods me with shame. Despite everything, I’m worried what will become of Sam’s relationship with Dean. Cut off from my own family, that’s not what I want for them. Dean has made bad choices, yes, and hurt people, but knowing as I do how much he loves his family, especially Sam and Ben, it’s not a fate I’d wish on him, not even at my most bitter.

     As if he senses my assessment of the scene, Sam courteously asks, “Have you eaten?”

     I shake my head. “I haven’t, but I doubt I could keep anything down right now anyway.” He shrugs in sympathy. “Thanks, though.”


     Forever ago, I used to excel in taking control of situations in which I felt like a fish out of water, using my suits and matching ties and expensive haircuts as a shield between myself and my fear of not owning a room enough to meet my father’s standards. Sam shouldn’t instill me with this same worry, but right now, he does. Right now, I know I’m not owning anything. As if he understands, Sam goes to the fridge and grabs a beer, popping the top off against the counter before he hands it over. Whether it’s meant to be for liquid courage or a sign that all is not lost, I can’t be sure. Sam grabs one for himself, too, and downs it considerably faster than I could even attempt to do mine. Soon enough, the silence begins to stretch out as long and thick as syrup.

     Just as quickly, it becomes too much. “How was I supposed to tell you it was your brother who ruined my life?” I blurt out, and I don’t miss the way Sam’s fists clench in response. He doesn’t answer, though I can tell he wants to, and I’m so desperate to have out with it all that I can’t help but goad him a little. “Well?”

     “You should have just… told me!” he finally explodes. Such an overly simplistic declaration would normally be enough for an eye roll from me, but I know Sam knows this isn’t the most eloquent response he could have given either. Likewise, it's usually the most simple of statements that require the most complex answers.

     I try to consider what it might even sound like to come out and tell Sam the whole thing. Of course, it would all be different now than if I’d explained it weeks ago, more different still if I’d done so before I knew he and Dean were related, but before I can think too hard I find the words falling from my lips, speaking slowly as though my brain is half-unsure of the story. Unable to watch Sam as I speak, I focus on my hands instead, pulling and twisting the hem of my plaid shirt—one of Dean’s? I no longer know what I own anymore—between my fingers.

     “I met Dean in Indianapolis over a year ago. He was the most beautiful man I’d ever come across and just… the way he looked at me was so unlike how anyone had ever looked at me before. We fucked. That was supposed to be the end of it.” I pause and look up at Sam to find him watching me in a fixed way, though his expression was uneasy. “I had no idea he was married, no idea about Ben or anything else, I swear.”

     Sam says, “I know. Dean told me.”

     I resist the urge to grab Sam’s arm and shake him, fighting hard to remain where I am. “I’d never… been with someone before like I was with Dean. Never had a boyfriend, never was a part of something longer than one night or maybe a weekend. I didn’t think I was cut out to love someone the way I wanted to love Dean; it scared the shit out of me. But every time he came to me, it was like he felt confident my mind was just waiting for him to change it, like it was impossible he was the only one who wanted what he thought we could have.” I swallow at the memory the same as I always do, feeling the weight of that love pressing down on me until I couldn’t tell myself apart from it. The constant anticipation of suffocating to death with it but finding each breath easier than the last. “You don’t know what that’s like, Sam, because you’re the type of man who’s always known you could have a family—you probably knew the second you met Jessica you would marry her. I grew up thinking I’d never have any of that until I met Dean, and then I started to want it more than I wanted everything else. I was ready to throw everything else away for him because of how badly I wanted that dream.”

     “And you had it taken away from you,” Sam finishes, voice tight. “I know how that feels, Cas. You don’t have to tell me what it’s like to have the rug swept out from under you, and all your dreams with it.”

     “But do you know how it feels to have to look at the person who caused it?” I shoot back. “What it would have felt like if you came face to face with the person who accidentally started that fire?”

     Sam jerks like I’d slapped him in the face, but recovers quickly. “But you went back to Dean, Cas. You’ve been saying for months about how your life was totally wrecked, and yet I bet almost as soon as he showed up, you went crawling back.”

     “He was the one who begged me to come back,” I counter, peevish, but I don’t even need to see Sam’s look of exasperation to know how stupid it sounds to make this distinction, the minute the words are out. “I was just foolish enough to fall for it a second time.”

     “Fall for what?” Sam asks. “You already knew everything, didn’t you? Did Dean surprise you with something new?”

     I shift my weight from foot to foot and look back down at my hands. “No. There was nothing new.”

     “Then you went back in with your eyes open, man,” Sam answers. “Whatever decisions you made were all up to you. I’m not saying Dean gets a free pass for what he did, but you coulda walked away this time and didn’t; same as you coulda chosen to tell me the truth, and didn’t.” I knew that was going to come back around in short order.

     Trying hard to say exactly what I feel, however difficult, I grimace. “Admitting I’d gone back to him was no less difficult than breaking the news to you about our history,” I say quietly. “Because I knew you’d say exactly this. And I knew you’d be right.”

     “Then why the hell did you?”

     Still hesitant, I shrug, since the inadequacy of the gesture is no different than the inadequacy of the English language to try and describe everything I’ve been feeling these last few weeks, or months, or year. The word “madness” doesn’t quite cut it. “I wanted to re-write history, I think.”

     “That’s not possible,” says Sam with rigid certainty. “What happened, happened, and trying to do it over with the kind of baggage you’ve been hauling around is hardly going to help. Even I know you aren’t that stupid.”

     I flinch. “Well, I was. Or just very good at convincing myself while I was at it.” We both let that hang there a while, neither of us willing to touch it, and when I break the silence it’s not to apologize or try and offer more excuses as to why I’ve been such a fucking idiot, in all respects. “We’re not so different, Sam,” I tell him. “What I said to you on the phone yesterday wasn’t a complete lie—I do value this friendship, and I want to salvage whatever bit of trust might be left. Or better yet, rebuild it. I don’t know how, but that’s what I want.” I can’t bear to say out loud that I probably won’t be around much longer to do it, since I know Dean isn’t going to be the one forced out of Cardiff in this equation, but Sam probably knows that already, too. “I was afraid the truth might do more damage. I didn’t want to lose you, either. Not in addition to everything else.”

     “Lying to my face isn’t the horse I’d have chosen to bet on,” Sam deadpans.

     “I know,” I answer raggedly. “And you have to know how much I regret it.”

     Whatever Sam might have said is cut off by the front door slamming, a warning, however insufficient, that Dean is home; whatever surprise is still in store is about to make itself known. My stomach tries to launch itself from my knees up to my throat, and I have to turn away from Sam to hide the nauseated expression that flickers over my face. From his look of worry, I know he catches it anyway, but instead of commenting goes to meet Dean.

     “So what’s with all the secrecy, dude?” he asks, not bothering with pleasantries as I hear Dean’s footsteps approach the kitchen. I don’t blame the man, who must be thoroughly sick of surprises by now. His tone suggests there’s already been some kind of a discussion between him and Dean, but I’m still surprised to find he knows as little about the topic of today’s surprise discussion as me.

     “No secrecy here,” says Dean, and by the lengthy pause that follows I know he’s waiting for me to turn around and look at him. Like he needs my permission to continue. I do, very hesitantly, because his gaze itches and burns between my shoulder blades; for several long moments our eyes meet and he doesn’t smile. “I have to talk to both of you,” he explains, more to me than Sam, it seems. “Together.”

     “So, talk,” snaps Sam, obviously antsy.

     Dean nods. “Let’s go into the other room,” he suggests and, off the blank look shared between Sam and I, adds, “It’s just more freaking comfortable, okay?” He then turns and walks away with the clear expectation for us to follow. Exchanging another glance, Sam and I do just that, and I inhale sharply when I feel his hand brush reassuringly across my shoulder.

     In the living room, Dean gestures for us to take the sofa, while he himself paces for a while before settling lightly on the edge of the coffee table. His fingers drum an anxious tattoo against the wood. It makes me uncomfortable that Dean sits closer to me than he does Sam, slotting our legs together in a way that’s loose and perhaps even unintentional, for his thigh barely brushes my knee unless I jostle it around. A little voice suggests he’s just trying to be close to me, and I know then this conversation isn’t going to be good if he’s steeling himself like this, reaching for whatever support he can get. Why he thinks I’m the one to give it unsettles me even more. Still, when I catch his knee bouncing nervously, I want to reach out and still it with my hand.

     Dean clears his throat a little. “I know it’s kind of weird to call a meeting like this, considering we all practically live here,” Or did, I think, “but I’ve been thinking through some stuff in the last twenty-four hours, and made a few decisions I couldn’t really sit on any longer. I’m sorry if this seems out of the blue,” he adds, and I know not only will this not be good, it’s big, because Dean doesn’t give these types of wind-up speeches for just anything; he’s working himself up to it as much as trying to ease us in.

     Surely Sam must know this, but he groans and says, “Jesus, Dean, just spit it out,” like the anticipation is killing him too much to care for the warm-up. He wants it ripped off like a Band-Aid, no preliminaries and no courtesy. I’d understand, except I know whatever comes out of Dean’s mouth next isn’t going to affect Sam half so much as it affects me. This is it. He’s going to ask me to leave, I realize, and without thinking my hands tighten on the sofa cushions as my stomach flips violently.

     Sure enough, Dean’s eyes flicker over to mine, confirming that Sam is here to receive the information but otherwise this conversation is between Dean and me. “This isn’t working,” Dean says, voice catching, and he gives a little shake of his head. “Guess that ain’t no surprise to anyone, but one of us has to get the fuck on out of here before someone gets hurt even worse. I can’t do it anymore.” The addition of the silent Cas that’s tacked on to the end of that statement is terribly clear to me; clear to Sam, too, since he glances over once. I swallow, and open my mouth to speak, but Dean shakes his head again with more firmness and says, “Don’t. Just… no more arguing.”

     “What are you trying to tell us?” asks Sam, more unsettled now. I don’t know what he and Dean talked about last night, or in any of the conversations they’ve had since Dean came to California, but from the way Sam’s jaw tenses I get the feeling his thoughts are a lot closer to my own, pieces starting to click into place about why Dean has called us both here. “You can’t just ask Cas to leave, if this is what this is about,” he says. My breath catches, because that—that I didn’t expect. “Obviously you guys have got problems between you I don’t even want to touch with a ten-foot pole, but you can’t just expect him to pack up and go because you can’t deal with it anymore.”

     To my surprise, Dean doesn’t respond angrily to this decree, doesn’t even seem taken aback. He just nods. “I know,” he answers, and meets Sam’s eyes for a brief instant before turning back to me. “I’m not asking anyone to leave or give up their home. I came here to tell you that I am.”

     “What? I assume the cry comes from Sam, because my stomach is too busy twisting itself into such knots it’s a miracle I don’t vomit all over myself, but Dean and Sam’s heads both swivelling in my direction suggests that I, in fact, am the one responsible.

     Dean smiles at me in the least happy way imaginable, and sighs so that his eyes fall shut for a moment. “I called Lisa yesterday,” he tells us gruffly. “At the time I didn’t exactly know why I did it, but I managed to get her on the phone for once since this all started and… we talked. I realized things are sort of at a dead end here, and I for one can’t just keep chasing after things that are never gonna happen, not when there’s a whole stack of problems back home I need to stop running away from, too.” We lock eyes again, Dean and I, and I notice his are starting to go glossy and wet with tears. He reaches out and slides a hand against my cheek, calloused fingers catching against the stubble on my chin.

     “I love you, Cas,” he murmurs, and my heart wants to clench around the words so hard I think I actually flinch. I don’t know how I can want to hear him say that so badly, and not hear him say it at the same time. Meanwhile, this is so painfully private that even Sam shifts away slightly, letting Dean continue. “I love you, and you know deep down I’d give anything to make things right between us. Anything.” Dean swallows, forehead deeply furrowed, and my throat contracts in sympathy as I lean forwards, into him. “There’s no longer anything to prevent us from being together, Cas—no secrets, no marriages, no reason to be afraid someone will find out and try to come between us. For the first time ever we actually have a shot at being together the way we wanted from the beginning.” A gentle stroke against my jaw, and Dean’s hand withdraws.

     “But you’re still so angry, man. I can’t say or do anything right, and I don’t know what will make you let go of that. Hell, you don’t ever have to, if you don’t want; you deserve to feel how you want after what I did. But this is how I feel, and we’re just gonna go on floggin’ the dead horse until we’re both even more miserable, and Sam can no longer stand the sight of us. So maybe it’s time we just call it quits for good before things get any worse. You got a life here in California you should go about building; I want that for you. And I got a son back in Indiana who needs a father. It’s time we both do what’s best for us. The last few weeks haven’t been good for anyone.”

     Hesitantly, and for a moment I’d forgotten entirely he’s still here, Sam speaks up. “So… you and Lisa are just gonna forget all this ever happened?” His tone suggests just what he thinks of that plan, and I silently thank him for buying my spinning mind some time to continue its useless whirring.

     With a grunt, Dean rubs his palms against his thighs, and I see the faint dampness left behind as if further proof of his apprehension is required. “No, we’re still getting divorced,” he answers. “Nothing else for it. But after two hours with Lise on the phone yesterday, she eventually admitted she doesn’t want Ben to grow up in a broken home any more than I do. We don’t need to be married or in a relationship to raise our son together, and the rest… we’ll just figure out when I get there. She told me I could take the guest room while we decide if we should stay in the house, or if I should get my own place. It’s not perfect, but it’s a start. I know Ben will be happy.” To Sam alone, he says, “You know I’ll always be around when you need me, Sammy. Right? Whatever it is, I’ll be there, and you got Cas to make sure you don’t do anything too stupid out here when I’m gone.”

     It shouldn’t escape Sam’s attention that we haven’t quite decided—or he hasn’t—whether this is a possibility. Whether it’s what we both want. Do I wish to stay in California, build a new life that is finally my own and not the structured, false security of a rehabilitation program? Persuade a couple rough craftsmen to let me buy out their surfboard business on the beach? Make a name for myself? Yes, that’s what I’ve wanted for months now, to be past this whole debacle. But it isn’t so simple, and both Sam and the hard knot of fear in my stomach know it.

     “Well, aren’t you going to say something?” he asks. Though the words are harsh, his voice isn’t, and before I can speak up with an I don’t know Dean is the one who spares me the effort.

     “No, Sam, it’s okay,” he says, looking right at me. Like last time, there’s not going to be a goodbye, and even though I’m no longer the one who’s running, I know I’m still the one who could stop this all right now, by taking Dean’s hand in my own and saying, No, stay. It’s all he’s ever wanted to hear from me, those two little words; proof there’s someone who will fight for him. But I can’t get them out, can’t pull them into the light through all the mess of anger and heartbreak and pain still swirling inside me. Dean knows. “It’s better if you don’t say anything.”

     Today is my last day at Palermo. Dean left a couple days ago, heading north along the I-5 on a route that will take him through Eastern California, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Oklahoma, Missouri, and Illinois, and then up into Indiana. As I’ve been largely unable to sleep at night, or any other time for that matter, I’ve followed his route in my head out of a sense of pique aimed at no one but myself. Not long before that, he was still a warm weight in my arms. Now he’s so far out of my reach, so far beyond what I can see, there’s not much else for me to do besides stand here and take stock of what’s left.

     The bedroom closet yawns open before me in sharp throwback to a time, not so very long ago, where I stood before my wardrobe in Indianapolis and took stock of all I’d be leaving behind, the majority of my worldly possessions no longer necessary to my life. I once had two apartments’ worth of belongings and more suits than a Seville Row tailor, and now everything I own fits into a mere suitcase; there’s not a waistcoat or pinstripe in sight, while the softness of Italian leather shoes or silken ties are completely unsuited to the sand and surf of California.

     Certainly it’s a rude awakening to realize how little I owned in my old life outside of what was needed for work or making myself presentable to my parents. I had no hobbies, no personal memorabilia outside my relationship with Dean, no family heirlooms I cared about enough to take with me except a single picture of myself and Anna as children. Even my collection of movies and music felt secondary and reminded me far too much of Dean to bear keeping. My sister, in addition to helping me unload what I could and arrange for my property to be put up for sale, promised to safeguard the rest until I had my life back in order. But I now know I’ll never be that Castiel again. More importantly, I don’t want to be. If the past few days have taught me anything, it’s that man is dead. Pity I wasted so many months trying to revive him, with zero success. It’s in packing up the bare minimum of what I need to survive that I realize how hard I was hanging on to a ghost.

     Contrary to what Dean probably thinks, I didn’t run the other day just to spite him; I went to meet Tessa for our final session before the completion of my program. We hadn’t spoken in a couple days either, not since our last meeting and our debate about the power dynamic in my relationship with Dean. So much has happened since then; it feels like it’s been several years rather than just a few days. Because I was still sore about that last conversation, and after that too caught up in everything else, I wasn’t much in the mood for a sit-down chat. But after Dean announced he was leaving, I found I just… didn’t care. It was a conclusion, after all, to my time with Tessa and my stay at Palermo, and in the midst of everything, I realized I was compelled to apologize.

     Of course I was wrong about everything, and I’m not such an asshole I couldn’t admit it. I felt guilty about what was said the last time I saw Tessa, and not just because she was on the money. Even going into that conversation with Dean and Sam, I had a sinking feeling I would find out just how much the power balance had shifted in Dean’s favour, though the whys and wherefores were still largely unknown to me. He didn’t know it, either, still thought I was the one in control. But I’d never been that person. By the end of that day, there were no illusions about who held the reins, not for either of us. I just wish it hadn’t happened so late.

     Once again, however, I’m getting far ahead of myself. I went to meet with Tessa, and in about thirty seconds flat we were moving away from pleasantries and small talk about my upcoming emancipation from treatment, and onto the subject of Dean, Sam and the unceremonious revelation of the whole affair. Much to my surprise, Tessa didn’t ask me how I felt about it. It was as if she knew starting with the most obvious subject would only result in further tension and confusion between us.

     Instead she folded her legs beneath her on the soft, comfortable chair she liked to sit in during our formal sessions, held in her office, and tucked her hair back behind her ears in that habitual way of hers. “Earlier today I was going through all of our session notes from the past few months,” she began. “I realized there’s one thing we’ve never talked about this whole time.”

     There was something we hadn’t talked about? Could have surprised me. I probably said that much in the glance I shot her alone, but for her benefit, I asked, “And what’s that?”

     Tessa smiled at the dryness of my tone. “Your interaction with Dean’s wife, Lisa,” she explained. “You once mentioned she was how your family found out about your affair with Dean, but never elaborated. I thought, since this is our last session, you might be willing to talk about it now. You have to admit it bears some thematic consistencies with your current predicament.”

     Snorting, I cocked my head. “Is that a polite way of saying I fucked up both times, in the exact same way?”

     With a soft chuckle, Tessa shook her head. “You’re giving yourself too much credit, Cas. You don’t deserve all of the blame, though I do think history was bound to repeat itself in light of some of the choices you’ve made. Most people don’t realize how much their lives will follow a certain pattern until they make one small change, a simple adjustment to their reactions or way of thinking that can put everything onto a different track entirely.”

     I fought the urge to get my back up at that. “Tessa, you’ve made it abundantly clear you don’t approve of the decisions I’ve made with Dean.” Swallowing, I add, “And you were right. He’s gone—left me behind. Is that what you need to hear?”

     She smiled. “That’s where you’re mistaken, Cas. You respond to these conversations as though I’m someone you have to impress or justify yourself to—I have my opinions, obviously, and objectively speaking I recognize where you have certain patterns that keep repeating themselves. But I’m not here to tell you right from wrong. What the heck do I know? I’ve made plenty of mistakes in my life, too. My only purpose here is to be your friend, and help you understand the choices you make. Maybe to help you make better choices in the future, too. That’s all. No judgement, no preaching, just rigorous honesty like we agreed at our first session. Right? Whatever it takes to get you back on track and happy again.”

     Back on track to what, I wondered? Everything’s gone. And if I was honest with myself, I wasn’t all that happy before either, unless I counted the delirious year I spent with Dean. No, the most I could hope for was a blank slate and some assurances my best friend wasn’t going to take out a hit on my life before the end of the day, and maybe after that I could hit the road and find a new dream. First, however, I had to get through this conversation. “Talking about Lisa Braeden-Winchester makes that possible?”

     With another chuckle, Tessa sighed and tapped her pen against her writing pad. “No,” she said wistfully, “maybe not. But I must admit I’m curious, myself, as to how things unfolded. And also why Lisa is the one person in this whole affair, other than Sam and Ben, you don’t bear any ill will.”

     Shrugging, I hesitated to answer. “I’ve had a time to feel many different things towards Lisa,” I began, “but ill will isn’t one of them. She’s what my father would have called a class act. Despite being in a position to make my life even more of a living hell, she never did. Not like I would have done. She never gave any sign she resented me, either.”

     At this, Tessa frowned. “I thought you said she’s the reason you were outed to your family?”

     “She is,” I answered with a nod. “It wasn’t intentional on her part. I guess Dean must have given her the details after she caught us, told her who I was… which I suppose is only fair, since I’d want to know, too. Even though I did everything in my power to keep Dean from contacting me after we broke up, Lisa practically made it her life’s mission to track me down. It wasn’t hard—just about everyone in the Midwest knows who my family is. And anyone with a passing familiarity with Indianapolis could tell you exactly in which building I worked, since my last name is written on the side.”

     “So she came to confront you,” Tessa concluded. I half expected her to write that down, but she didn’t.

     “Not at first. Lisa didn’t storm into my office like a jealous housewife—she went about trying to contact me the traditional way, with phone calls and messages left with my secretary.” I thought back to those couple weeks and the dozens of messages and missed calls I found waiting for me every time I sat down at my desk. I’d disconnected my home phone and changed my mobile number, even the locks on my apartment, but there was no way to prevent Lisa from calling me at work except to keep avoiding her. Word got around the office pretty fast, and everyone, including Zachariah Adler, a visiting executive from my father’s offices in New York, assumed she was the jilted woman with whom I’d been having an affair. It was almost enough to make me smile, remembering the lecture I received from Zachariah about keeping business and pleasure separate, the potential scandal that could rock my family’s Christian values if it came out I’d been carrying on with a married woman with a family. Despite all that, I was pretty damn nervous when Zachariah threatened to contact my father if I didn’t clean up my mess, lest the news become public.

     Tessa considered this for a moment. “Did she seem agitated that you were avoiding her?”

     I shook my head. “That’s just it… she never did.” I’d listened to some of those voicemails, and Lisa never sounded anything but sad, desperate to talk to me and get some of the answers we’d both been denied. Maybe it was all the yoga. I had no idea how much Dean had told her, but it obviously wasn’t enough. “I felt bad for her. And then one day I guess she decided to put an end to things for good, and came to the office in person.”

     “Yikes.” Tessa inhaled sharply.

     “No,” I corrected, shaking my head again. “It wasn’t like that at all.”

     Lisa had walked into our offices with her head high and asked to see me in a voice so calm and composed my secretary, Becky, didn’t think twice about letting her in to see me. Smartly, Lisa had dressed in a conservative pantsuit and had her hair pulled back in a neat ponytail; she looked every bit the high-powered businesswoman, not at all out of place. When Becky rapped on my door and ushered Lisa inside, even I had to admit she was a beautiful woman, tall and with striking, dark features I immediately recognized from Ben. I suppose she was exactly as I pictured, though in that moment I couldn’t decide whether or not to be threatened. Even then, it occurred to me she wasn’t the one with whom Dean had had the affair, though all the thought accomplished was to send me back into another tailspin of guilt. I couldn’t help but notice, however, the shadows that crowded beneath her eyes, the faint puffiness that came from days of crying and which no makeup could hope to conceal completely. I recognized these things because of what I saw each time I looked in the mirror; no doubt Lisa took one look at me and knew I wasn’t handing the situation much better. It gave me an odd sense of solidarity I didn’t want to feel.

     “Mr. Novak,” she said, voice even. “I hope I’m not interrupting anything… I know you know who I am.”

     Defeated, I’d slumped back in my chair and gestured for her to close the door of my office behind her, though not before asking Becky to hold my calls and suggesting she go get us both coffees from the bakery a few blocks away; it would keep her away from the office for a good twenty-five minutes. Becky, as much as I was grateful for her talents as an assistant, was an incorrigible gossip. I knew she’d otherwise be listening in to every word.

     Turning back to Lisa, I attempted a smile. “Mrs. Winchester.” I swallowed heavily around the name, which felt like lead on my tongue. “I—I’m sorry I’ve not returned your calls. I just didn’t…” Trailing off, I hitched my shoulder in a shrug. “I had no idea what to say to you. Though it’s obvious you’re far more certain as to what you’d like to say to me.”

     To my surprise, Lisa chuckled. “I’m not Mrs. Winchester,” she said, bitterness heavy in her voice. “My last name is Braeden. And no, I have no idea what to say to you. But I’d like you to call me Lisa anyway.” She paused, watching me, and as the seconds ticked by I could feel her thinking, What the hell is it about this guy that made my marriage worth destroying? I had no answers for her. “Can I call you Castiel?”

     I rather appreciated the use of my formal name, since Dean and Anna were the only ones who ever called me Cas; everyone else, even my immediate family, called me Castiel or Mr. Novak. I nodded and gestured for her to take a seat on one of the chairs in front of my desk. “Can I get you anything to drink?” I asked, compelled to carry on with as many pleasantries as possible before all hell broke loose.

     Not fooled, Lisa crossed her legs and folded her hands in her lap, a gesture I read as quiet determination not to appear defensive. It mostly worked, except I could see her fingers trembling. “Castiel,” she began, “we can just cut to the chase. I know it was rude of me to barge in here, but it became clear after the fourth or fifth missed call you knew exactly who I was, and had no intentions of speaking with me. I get that, but—I deserve more than the brush-off from your secretary. This is my family we’re talking about. My family that’s ruined.”

     “Because of me,” I offered, voice tight.

     She shook her head, firm, surprising me yet again. “No, not because of you.” I caught her blinking rapidly in a sure-fire sign she was fighting off tears, and the pain in her face was almost enough to make me choke up, too. “Dean has been pretty sparing on the details,” she said, “and yet the one thing he made pretty clear is that you had no idea about any of this—that you were just as surprised to find me at the house that day as anyone. He’s defended you from the start, so know that. Whatever the reason we’re here now, it’s not because of you—it’s because of Dean. At least he isn’t trying to deny it.” Her mouth twisted. “Funny time for him to start showing a sense of morality; I might have appreciated it more if I hadn’t just found out he’d been screwing another man for over a year.” I flinched.

     Once we got down to it, the information Lisa wanted to know was pretty basic—I got the impression Dean had already given her most of the answers, but Lisa seemed disinclined to trust them until she heard it from me: where Dean and I met, how long we’d been seeing each other, whether I’d ever had any idea he might still be married. If I thought he was really gay. I told her everything without hesitation, only pausing when I found myself too overcome with emotion to continue talking without breaking down entirely. Truth be told, I was afraid not to, not trusting the lengths to which such an emotionally exhausted woman as Lisa might go to find some peace of mind. As I sat there trying to compose myself, a hand came out and covered mine on top of the desk.

     “Do you love him?” Lisa asked frankly. She was crying, too, albeit in more of a controlled way, and her voice didn’t waver. In fact, it was such a mixture of hard and worn out I almost wanted to ask what was going through her head at that moment. Her face betrayed little, or rather, so much I didn’t know where to begin.

     At that point, at least, I wasn’t yet able to lie, not to myself or anyone else. It had to have been pretty damn clear on my face how I felt about Dean. “Yes,” I answered, and she sighed, not with impatience, but with resignation.

     “That’s what I thought,” she said. I must have looked confused, because she gestured vaguely and settled back against the chair rest with a far-off expression on her face that looked ready to crumple again at any moment. “When I walked in and found you together, that was the first time I really realized, without a doubt, that something in my marriage was irreparably damaged.” She paused to look down at her hands, then back up at me, biting her lip. “I know Dean didn’t marry me because he thought it was true love,” she stated. “We were both too young when Ben was born; Dean wanted to do what was best for everyone. He’s been a good husband and an amazing father, but I know it’s not what he’d have chosen for himself if things had worked out differently.” Grimacing, she added, “Sometimes I wish he had. Sometimes I wish I’d never told him about Ben at all.”

     Such a bald statement made me shift uncomfortably. “I don’t think that’s what he thinks about,” I told her. “He’s never regretted being a father to Ben, and I doubt he’s ever resented being there to support you, either.” When I said it out loud, it seemed to fit. Even if Dean truly wasn’t attracted to women, to Lisa, there was a sense of duty about the man that would have overridden everything else, every regret and secret desire he was too scared to acknowledge, let alone pursue. I knew this because I felt the same conflict within myself whenever I thought about disappointing my family. It wasn’t a simple matter of choosing one over the other; nor was it a simple matter of erasing my sense of grief and bitterness just because I didn’t envy Dean his position. At the end of the day, he’d done this with his eyes open. Maybe if I hadn’t been the one to get burned, I’d have been a lot more understanding—being with me in secret was incredibly cowardly, but in some ways also the single biggest act of bravery he’d committed.

     “I know all that,” Lisa assured me, smiling weakly. “But that doesn’t change the fact that when I saw him with you, there was this look on his face I’ve never seen before except when he looks at Ben—real love. You can’t fake that, and you can’t hide it. At first I didn’t quite know what it was, because he’s never looked at me that way, ever; but that’s how he looked at you, Castiel. You know I have absolutely no reason to lie about that.”

     “I’m sorry.”

     “‘I’m sorry’ doesn’t change the fact that I’m not the one my husband’s in love with, does it?” she shot back.

     Her words made me squeeze my eyes shut until she got the message and stopped talking. We were both silent for a while until I opened my eyes again and found her watching me. “It doesn’t matter how he looks at me,” I forced out. “Just like it doesn’t matter what he says or how many times he says he loves me, wants to be with me. What matters is honesty, and trust, and knowing the person you’re with. I don’t know Dean at all.” Inexplicably, this made me angry at Lisa. “How can you just sit there and be so calm, when he ruined those things with you, too?”

     Lisa hesitated, but when she spoke her voice was still steady. “Because deep down I knew there was something going on,” she replied. “I didn’t know what, but obviously you don’t have your husband carry on an affair for a whole year without picking up on something. I just couldn’t get any proof there was another woman. If I’d known Dean had found someone he cares about so much, I wouldn’t have tried so hard to ignore all the signs—”

     Despite knowing how cold I sounded, I cut her off. “I don’t want him,” I snapped. “Whatever Dean and I had is broken, do you understand? You might as well just keep him. Or throw him back, for all the difference it makes.” Broken certainly didn’t mean the same thing as forgotten, but I pushed onward, determined to sever myself from the whole business as cleanly as possible. “It’s over. But you—you’re still married to him, and what Ben needs most is a strong family who loves him. Whatever your ideas about how Dean feels, he obviously values your marriage far more than he valued his relationship with me. You should fight for it. I certainly won’t be the one to stand in your way.”

     Whatever Lisa had to say in response, I never got to hear it. To Tessa, I said, “All hell broke loose after that. Next thing I knew, Dean was storming into our firm—not like he was on the warpath, but like he was scared half to death of me talking to his wife. He must have figured out Lisa came to see me, and I guess he thought if he got there in time, he could stop us from meeting or my coworkers from hearing the truth. But that’s obviously not what happened.”

     Consideringly, Tessa said, “You fought with him?”

     I chuckled. “Quite the opposite—we left my office to see what all the commotion was about, and I stood there dumbly and watched as Lisa came to my defence. She tried to get him to leave, accusing him of trying to keep more secrets, which only upset Dean more. He was aware no one else knew I was gay, but as soon as he started arguing with his wife, it was pretty clear which of them was my lover. No one had any doubts after that as to which team I played for. When I snapped out of it enough to try and get them to leave quietly, Zachariah had already called security. Not long after that, I was on the phone to New York to tell my father everything.”

     How quickly word could spread, and how quickly I found myself summoned to New York to explain myself. In the end, it was a short conversation; my father asked if it was true, if his only son was really a faggot like the society papers claimed, and an adulterer no less. I was too tired and miserable to deny my sexuality any longer, and confessed to everything.

     Funny, but I’d always expected that conversation to be a lot more explosive; in reality, it was such a controlled thing, such a simple dismissal. My family very quietly withdrew their acknowledgement of me at the same time they withdrew their financial support and their love. I was asked to pack up my offices in Chicago and Indy, and others were hired in my stead. I didn’t dare approach my father, but for three weeks I left messages and begged my mother to pick up the phone and talk to me, to no avail. Considering how I’d first refused to acknowledge Lisa, my mother’s response seemed a cruel irony. Eventually even Anna called to say she had to sever contact, citing threats of disownment from my father as well if she continued to associate with me. She cried as she said it, but sever contact she did.

Chapter Ten, Part 2

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Comments {1}

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from: [identity profile]
date: Sep. 5th, 2011 11:37 pm (UTC)

thank you for making Lisa a human being, not a shrieking banshee. Most women would be whether fictional or not but so many Destiel fans make her out to be a monster or just a generally horrible person. I think you did a wonderful thing with her characterization here.