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

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Aug. 12th, 2011 | 09:02 pm

TITLE: “Carry On Up This Broken Tide: Chapter Ten, Pt. 2”
AUTHOR: [livejournal.com profile] nanoochka
ARTIST: [livejournal.com profile] daggomus_prime
RATING: NC-17
PAIRINGS: Dean/Castiel, mentions of Dean/Lisa and Sam/Jess
SPOILERS: None
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 [livejournal.com profile] nanoochka



10.2


     Pausing, I sighed and met Tessa’s gaze, surprised to find myself dry-eyed at a memory I hadn’t been able to think about for months, not without feeling my stomach flip or the unpleasant churn of anxiety, ears ringing with the force of an impending panic attack. In a way I almost missed it, since at least those things were concrete, definite, better than the weird void in which I now existed. “You know all the rest. Does that satisfy your curiosity?”

     Seeming to understand my exhaustion, Tessa reached out and took my hand. “I’m sorry, Cas. Thank you for telling me. You should be proud for facing this chapter of your history so bravely; I don’t think you thought you could do it.”

     “I didn’t,” I admitted, “but it’s behind me now.” The answer sounded lame and unsatisfactory, but I had none better to give.

     Though she nodded, Tessa cocked her head. “If I can say so, Cas, you seem far less… hostile than you did a couple days ago. About Dean, or any of this.”

     I grimaced, thinking of the way I’d stormed out of our last session with all the grace and entitlement of a four-year-old drama queen. Not one of my finer moments, to be sure, and I felt the blush that heated my cheeks. “I apologize for what I said to you. That was unnecessary, and unfair. I didn’t want to admit you were right, though in retrospect I wouldn’t have been so angry if what you said wasn’t true.”

     “I’ve heard worse,” answered Tessa, shrugging, but then she flashed a smile. “Thank you for saying it, though.” I didn’t always understand her, and it still made me uncomfortable to think she knew so much about me without the favour being returned in kind, but all things considered, I rather liked this woman. Hesitating, she added, “Am I to take it that your feelings towards your relationship with Dean have changed?”

     It was the question I’d been dreading, as much from Tessa as myself, or anyone. “I don’t know,” I admitted. “I’m just so damn tired, Tessa. Too tired to be angry with anyone, including Dean, but that doesn’t mean I know how I feel about any of it. I just…” I growled to myself. “It doesn’t matter now. He’s gone.”

     Unwilling to let me leave it at that, Tessa straightened and set her mouth into a determined line. “Keep going, Cas,” she urged, perfectly reading my tendency to shy away from difficult admissions.

     Frustrated, I sighed. “I feel like I laid down this giant minefield between Dean and myself,” I began, still uncertain as to where I was going with this. “It seemed like the only way to keep myself safe was to keep him at a distance—by any means necessary. I don’t know half of what was going through my head. But somehow Dean still managed to find his way through all that without acknowledging the personal danger to himself.” I wondered, then, if Dean really felt as uncertain as he acted around me, tiptoeing across eggshells like I was the very mine he might trip at any moment. I knew how full of uncertainty he was at times. “He just kept getting closer and closer and, finally, when he decided to come out to Sam, I thought, ‘This is it. He’s going to destroy everything for sure this time, starting with himself.’ I couldn’t let that happen, when it came down to it; I couldn’t handle the idea of Dean coming out unsupported, or worse, me trying to force him to stay closeted. So I tried to push him out of harm’s way and wound up hurting myself more. But that’s…” I paused, starting to lose the tail end of the analogy even though it felt right in my head. “That’s why Dean was always so dangerous,” I concluded. “He made me forget how to protect myself.”

     Although Tessa acknowledged this with a nod, I knew she wasn’t going to come out and agree with me. Not because I was automatically wrong, but because agreement was too easy and didn’t do much by way of forcing me to grow. “Did it ever occur to you you’re protecting yourself from the wrong things?” she asked.

     In spite of myself, I laughed, the irony making it a hard, joyless sound. “I think it’s pretty clear by now the only thing I need saving from is myself,” I told her.

     Myself, maybe, and a few other people that needed saving from me as well. Dean never came out and said I was the reason he left, not really, but he and I both knew I’m what pushed him to it, me with my anger and my spite and the need to wound so strong I was half-mad with it. In that, too, Tessa was right—I would have never felt so angry if I didn’t still have feelings for him. If I didn’t still love him. It’s a shame that while I could have been trying to fix our relationship, I was set on punishing us both. And it hurt, more than I thought it could, since we’d been through this once already and I should have known what to expect. But just like the first time, the reality of not having Dean was a shock. Despite everything, I don’t think I ever truly expected to be without him, even now. Like someone who has lost a limb, it was waking up from a dream of being whole, only to find a space where there was once an arm. Whatever my fervent longings, I knew I would never get it back again, and a replacement would never quite do.

     A solid rap on the door of my cabin jerks me out of my daydreaming, and when I turn I see Sam standing there at the bedroom door, having let himself in. In his arms are a few empty cardboard boxes and a roll of packing tape.

     “Hey,” he says, and the wide-eyed look on my face must speak volumes since he adds, “I thought you could use some company, maybe some help packing up your stuff. Today’s moving day, right?”

     I nod. “Yes.” I want to add I’m not sure where I’m moving to, but that Sam is here at all makes my knees weak with surprise and relief. The last thing I want to do is spoil it with my complaining. I’m a grown man, after all, and presumably if I’ve survived this long, I should be able to accomplish finding myself a place to live without help. “There isn’t much to do,” I tell him, “but thank you for coming.

     Sam smiles and sets the boxes down on the bed, and comes to stand beside me to survey my closet. “I would have thought there’d be more,” he says. After a pause, he chuckles. “No offense, but I always kind of got the sense you were a bit of a…”

     “What?”

     “A label queen.” Sam shrugged. “I thought I’d find a closet full of designer jeans and custom suits. Instead your wardrobe looks about the same as Dean’s.” He sucks in a sharp breath at that, realizing his mistake, but I just smirk and shake my head to let him know it’s alright, but hold back on mentioning half the clothes in here could very well have belonged to Dean at some point, considering the amount of wardrobe migration that seemed to occur while we were together. Not a lot, but some; in any event I was spared having to go hunting around for many T-shirts and casual clothes when I arrived in Cardiff. Not for the first time, I wonder if Dean suddenly found himself digging up pocket squares and cufflinks amongst his things after we broke up. The first time.

     Putting that out of my mind, instead I resist the urge to put my hands on my hips in a way that would only give Sam more ammunition. “I am a label queen,” I assure him. “Or was. I had considerably more to pack up when I left the Midwest than I brought with me.”

     “What’d you do with it all?” he asks curiously. Sam doesn’t have what I’d call impeccable style. I don’t always appreciate the volume of the patterns he chooses in his shirts, but I must respect his taste in designers, if nothing else, an eye for quality Dean could never quite bring himself to give a shit about. It isn’t as though Sam could ever make use of my old clothing, given the considerable difference in size between us, but I know he’d be appalled to learn I’d thrown anything out.

     “I no longer had use for any of it,” I explain. “Much as I appreciated a well-cut suit or a fine silk shirt, it would have been rather superfluous to drag all the trappings of my old life with me out here. I sold most of it or gave it away.”

     Hoping to get on with it, I resume emptying my closet into the few suitcases I brought with me, and a moment later Sam starts to pitch in, using the boxes for the odds and ends scattered about that don’t really belong in a suitcase next to my jeans. We work in silence for a little while, and then he asks, still perplexed-sounding, “What if you need it again?”

     I stop to look at him, holding a pair of Dean’s old sweatpants I never had the heart to get rid of, since they were softer and more comfortable than my most expensive cashmere sweater, and never lost their scent of him even after dozens of washes. “I think that if I end up needing those things again,” I say, “I’m doing something wrong. I don’t want to go back to that life.”

     Saying no more, Sam and I finish packing up the rest of my belongings in silence, and in less than an hour’s time the closets are empty and the dressers bare. The last thing to disappear into my suitcase is the leather journal I’ve kept for a long time, since before meeting Dean, though the entries became rather few and far between when our affair took up again. I suppose I couldn’t afford the level of self-reflection that required, knowing what I’d find, but I think I’d like to start writing in it again.

     I want to comment on how utterly unnecessary it was for Sam to offer me assistance in this task, since I completed it the first time around on my own, but all I say is, “I appreciate your help, Sam.” There are two suitcases and three boxes, which Sam hefts on his own without looking remotely inconvenienced by it.

     “No problem,” he answers, then jerks his chin at the door. “How about we get this stuff loaded up into my truck and then hit the waves for a bit?” I hesitate, and he catches my reluctance. “Come on. It’s a nice day out. I’ll even let you buy me lunch.”

     I snort at that, but can’t argue. Surfing sounds like the perfect way to put everything else out of my mind and give me the bit of zen I’ve been craving for days. Then I remember my surfboard is still currently sitting in pieces in Sam’s garage. “I don’t have a board,” I remind him.

     “There’s an extra one at the house,” he says. “Don’t worry about it, let’s just go.”

     As if he knows how much I’m dying to question the vagueness of his plans every step of the way, Sam doesn’t give me much opportunity to argue as we go, first herding me into his Range Rover, then shoving a surfboard—Dean’s, I recognize it immediately—into my hands and telling me to change for the beach. This little reprieve from thinking has me grateful, in a way, not just because I begin to feel more secure that things might actually stand a chance of working out between me and Sam, but because for once it feels wonderful not to know what’s going to happen next, and be denied the opportunity to fret. Ironically, I recognize this as yet another missing element in my oh-so-flawed recent affair with Dean; rather than embracing the sacrifice of control or, alternately, the complete trust that was placed in me, I spent the whole time worrying about how it might be turned on its head. I don’t know how Dean ever let himself go enough to trust I wouldn’t hurt him, when I so badly wanted to. In the end, I couldn’t give either of us what we wanted, because it wasn’t a true give-and-take; it was simply losing, and losing, and losing.

     But. The objective here is not to think, and already I’m spectacularly missing the point. We go to the beach, bare feet padding across the warm asphalt as we make our way through the streets of Cardiff, and true to Sam’s word the waves look nothing but succulent from the shore, rolling out in a wash of white-tipped blue and green dotted with wetsuit-clad bodies and brighter splashes of colour off their surfboards. We struggle into our wetsuits, the wind bordering on chill, and clip the leads on our boards to our ankles before heading into the water.

     Eagerness has me dashing straight into the waves, paddling out with furious strokes of my arms that Sam seems to match without the slightest quickening of his breath, long limbs sluicing easily through the water. Sam might be the more natural athlete amongst us, but not the most daring surfer. His big body is unfailingly graceful as he drops in and out of waves, turning easily for long cuts up and down the face but, perhaps also because of his size, he is more likely to dither before rushing out into a swell that could pose an unexpected challenge.

     I don’t share his hesitation. I go for the first one I see, trusting the subtle lift of the hairs on the back of my neck as though it’s possible to sense which wave will follow through on its faint promise of greatness. Unlike when I started, the swells, not even the big ones, no longer intimidate me. I crave the moment of free-falling like being launched off the face of a cliff, the sudden lurch of my stomach that follows, same as whenever Dean’s lips met mine, when he held my body still and showed me how it could sing.

     The tide shifts faster, outward flow slapping up against the wind-pushed waves. I catch another ride and am forced to drop out before it could double up and dump me back into the surf. Sam finds a few more waves, but as the time between rideable swells gets longer, the few other surfers out here in the line-up with us take off, heading for home or a more reliable section of the reef, like the Suckouts. That leaves Sam and me sitting out in the middle of the water alone, perched upon our boards with not much choice other than to catch our breath and maybe talk. I don’t mind. It doesn’t feel like we’ve been avoiding it, exactly, but when Sam looks at me I’m momentarily stricken with the notion I don’t know what to say. He saves me the trouble, as usual.

     “Dean called this morning to say he arrived safely in Indiana,” he says quietly, staring off in the direction of the horizon. His hands come up to slick his hair back away from his face. “Thought you might want to know.”

     Solemnly, I nod, and fight off the sudden thickness in my throat. “Thanks. I’m… glad. I’m glad he’s safe. I was wondering about that.”

     My response makes Sam sigh angrily, and I recoil slightly. Before I can ask, though, he says, “You still don’t have anything else to say about it? After everything?”

     “I don’t know what else there is to say,” I admit. “Dean was right in that much; sometimes it’s better to just not say anything.”

     Sam grunts, and I can’t tell whether it’s a noise of agreement or denial. “Well, I figure that since I was going to ask you to come live with me, we should probably talk about it at some point.”

     I jerk in surprise. “You were going to—what?”

     He meets my eyes steadily. “You heard me, Cas. I know you’ve probably been thinking about where the hell you’re going to go after this, and, well… Dean was also right about what he said: you should stick around California. It’s good for you to be out here, and more importantly… it’s good for me for you to be out here, too.” He pauses, and I have a hard time deciphering the look that flicks across his face. “Assuming, of course, you want to be.”

     There is so much wrapped up in these few sentences, I scarcely know where to start. Of course, I’ve been hoping against hope for Sam to accept my apology and plea for forgiveness; I’m not so stupid as to think I don’t have work left to do in earning his trust back, but this is both a significant step forward and a point of such confusion that for a moment I’m utterly speechless. I don’t understand how Sam still wants to be my friend after I betrayed his confidence and, ultimately, broke his brother’s heart. There’s no question that’s just what I’ve done, inflicted upon Dean as bad a turn as I felt had been done to me. What stalls me is the suggestion I could want anything other than to stay here.

     Enough time passes that Sam seems to be able to read my silence, for he gives a heavy sigh and splashes idly at the water near his knee. “Look,” he begins, “I’m not gonna deny I’m hurt by how you and Dean carried on behind my back, but this whole situation has been a fucking kaleidoscope of messed up, and I don’t know if I’d have acted much differently if the roles had been reversed.”

     I’m unable to resist the urge to fidget, even though the movement sends me listing a little to either side on my board. “That’s nice of you to say,” I answer. “But I don’t think you’re the kind of person who’d get yourself into that kind of mess to begin with.

     There’s a low laugh that’s full of irony, and Sam is back to pinning me with his stare. “That’s where you’re wrong, Cas. Maybe I don’t have many gay love affairs in my past, but I’m not exactly what you’d call squeaky-clean. I’ve had my share of fuck-ups no one else knows about besides Dean and the counsellors at Palermo.”

     “The counsellors at—” I stop dead, hesitating for a moment to even let go of my breath, while Sam on the other hand seems to have trouble finding enough air for a breath of his own.

     “Listen Cas,” he says, and starts pulling at the neoprene on his thigh, “there’s obviously a lot of stuff you didn’t tell me when we became friends, and—well. As it so happens, there’s a lot of stuff I didn’t tell you, either.” Catching the stricken expression on my face—what now?—he quickly holds a hand up. “It’s nothing, like… personal,” he explains in a rush. “Personal to me, okay, but not personal to you. I didn’t tell you because it was a while ago, and you didn’t have any real reason to know. But I think I should come clean now, since we’re in a sharing mode.”

     His face is so serious and pained that my mind immediately leaps to the worst possible scenario. “Did you kill someone?” I ask, half-joking but mostly not, and to my great relief Sam blanches and barks out a laugh so relieved it almost comes right back around to sounding nervous.

     “Jesus, no,” he exclaims. “Is that what you seriously think?”

     Feeling awkward, I try to shrug. “No, but when you give me an introduction like that…”

     “Okay, okay.”

     He still looks so nervous. I can’t not try to help him out in some way, though I still have no idea what he’s about to say. “You can tell me, Sam,” I encourage. “By now there’s probably not a whole lot you can say that will shock or otherwise scandalize me.”

     “I know.” He sighs again. “It’s not that, I just… don’t talk to people about this. Ever.” Our eyes meet again before his gaze flickers away like a skittish bird’s. “After Jess died, I sort of went crazy.” Off my expression, he butts in, “Not crazy like that, but… I definitely got messed up in some stuff as I was trying to shut it all out.”

     “Stuff, as in…”

     “Drugs.” The word plunks between us like a dropped anvil; all that’s missing is the splash. “It wasn’t, like, super dramatic or anything, but it definitely could have been a whole lot worse if Dean hadn’t intervened. I was pissing away a lot of money on coke and I guess the effects were pretty obvious to my family. The press never caught wind of it, thank God, but Dean flew out here to try and get me sorted out. That’s how I wound up at Palermo for a few weeks. To get clean.” His hand comes back up to scrub through his hair again in a purely anxious gesture. “Mostly I’m pretty good; I have to pay attention, obviously, which is why I don’t drink all that much beyond a couple beers here and there, but sometimes… it’s hard.” Sam bites his lip. “The last few days have been hard.”

     Unconsciously, I flinch. “Sam—I’m so sorry,” I splutter, unable to come up with anything better or more adequate. “I had no—”

     “I know.” He attempts a smile. “That’s not your fault, and not really the point I’m trying to make. The thing is, Cas, it’s not my place to judge what people will do in a time of grief or when they hit rock bottom, because I know all about it.”

     The next breath I try to take comes out sounding more like a sob. “But you never hurt anyone,” I cry out, even though I don’t know for sure if this is true. In my gut, I feel it is, because Sam’s more the type to hurt himself first before putting someone else in harm’s way. “I let my grief drive me to hurt Dean as well as myself, and there’s no excusing that.” Struggling to explain something I still don’t fully understand myself, I go on, “It’s like I’d lost a part of myself when I came here, the Cas who was confident and proud and alive. And then that Cas was gone, and I just felt fucking afraid all the time like my own shadow could jump out at any second and take away everything I’d left to lose.” Aware my outburst isn’t close to being done, Sam stays silent and continues to watch me, the atmosphere oddly calm with the gentle lapping of the waves around us and the calling of sea birds in the sky. “When Dean arrived, I felt this thing inside me that wanted to break away and be free again. And hurting Dean—subjecting him to every kind of cruelty and humiliation I could think of—was the only thing that made me feel like a shadow of my old self again. I wanted it so bad, Sam, and I just let myself be carried away with it. In trying to get back to the middle I let myself get lost all over again. And hurt Dean in the process even worse than he hurt me, because I did it with my eyes open.”

     “Dean’s an adult, Cas,” Sam reminds me gently. His hand comes out and covers my knee across the water. “If you’d really done anything so bad that he couldn’t take, he would have just walked away.”

     “He did walk away,” I reminded him. “He’s gone.”

     Sam nods his acknowledgement. “And that’s why I’m trying to help you out, man,” he says. “I don’t want to judge you for that stuff you did or might have done—quite frankly, I don’t wanna know—because it won’t solve anything. Obviously it doesn’t sit right with you, so what’d be the point of me telling you what you already know? You fucked up; so did Dean. It happens, man, and no one’s perfect. It’s more important for us to help each other get back up again. I sure as hell would be nothing and nowhere if Dean hadn’t done the same thing, helped me find another chance.”

     “I don’t think there’s any chances left.”

     “Well, I’m sure that’s not true.” Sam sounds so much more certain than I feel, I could almost ask him for his secret. “I’m sorry I couldn’t be a bigger help to you throughout this whole thing, just like I’m sorry you and Dean couldn’t work things out between you. But don’t say there’re no chances left, because if there’s anything I don’t doubt, it’s the fact that Dean loves you, man. I’ve known that much from the start, even before I knew you were the one he was so crazy about; he told me himself.”

     Far beyond the point of tears threatening to spill, I hug my arms around myself and just let them fall, blending with the salt spray on my face, their taste indistinguishable from the sea. “He left,” I say again.

     For a moment Sam looks like he wants to slap me, and I almost welcome it. “Don’t be such a goddamned idiot, Cas,” he snaps. “Dean wanted to find some kind of happiness out here as he tried to figure his life out, no different than you. Do you honestly think he would have just walked away and gone back to Indiana if he wasn’t willing to give anything up for you to be happy instead?” He lets that sink in for a while, though the words seem to have a hard time absorbing into my brain, before giving my knee another gentle squeeze to draw me back.

     “You really need to stop living in such deep denial, Cas, about Dean’s feelings or your own. I know you love him, too, and quite frankly it’s sort of retarded that either of you should go on being miserable on principle alone. At some point you’re just going to have to give up on thinking there’s nothing else out there, because that’s a fucking choice, not a reality.” Unspoken is the reminder that Sam spends a fair time of his own being miserable about Jessica, and that’s certainly not by choice. “I mean… look. You’re a surfer, even if it took you a while to know it, and anyone who looks at you can see how naturally you come to the water. Half the waves you catch look like nothing but unbroken water to me, man, but somehow you always know when it’s gonna be good, and you go for it; any good surfer knows when they’ve found the perfect wave. So why trust your intuition in the water but not out of it? What makes you think you can be right about a wave, and not how you feel about Dean?”

     “Because I’ve been wrong too many times before.” Pathetic, I know, but Sam’s faith in me makes me so stupidly hopeful I don’t know how to trust it.

     Sharing my disbelief, Sam scoffs. “And I was wrong about how awesome the waves were going to be out here today,” he deadpans. “Does that mean I’m not going to come back out surfing again tomorrow?”

     No, of course not. Sam says the words and I can’t imagine not getting back up on my board after a miscalculated drop leads to a spill, or better yet coming back day after day until the tide is just right and the waves, however broken, carry you right on up like you’re a part of the water. That faith is what makes it okay to admit defeat one day and keep on trying the next, anticipating the moment when things are just right and you trust yourself enough to do things properly. The water doesn’t care if you aren’t ready; it’ll wait until you are, like it knows you’re the only one who can feel defeated by giving up for good. Is it the same with Dean and I? Can I admit to still needing Dean in my life, to wanting to try again, without feeling like I’ve betrayed myself or anyone else? Could I be anything but unhappy if I continued to stay angry and alone?

     These questions unanswered, Sam and I remain a while longer in the ocean until it becomes obvious we should call it a day; the other surfers have all but deserted the beach, and it's a long paddle back to the shore in becalmed waters. We walk back to Sam’s house in silence, where he moves my meagre collection of things into the spare bedroom. Like it’s a choice I can accept, or not. There’s no one forcing me to stay or go but myself.

     After dinner, I’m alone in my room doing what amounts to staring into space when Sam knocks on my door and enters the room with an envelope in his hand, Callie trailing close behind like a shadow. He comes over to where I’m sitting cross-legged on the freshly made bed—Callie, forever lacking in propriety, leaps on top of the mattress to settle herself at my feet—and passes it over with a small, crooked smile on his face that’s indecipherable in the dim lighting.

     “I got these the other day, after Dean left,” he tells me, and with a nod indicates I should open the envelope and see what’s inside. “Dunno whether it was out of hopefulness or frustration, but there’s no date on them. So you can just… do whatever you think is best. Whatever your gut tells you.”

     Sam is gone again when I look up. The only company left in the room, aside from my misery, if I’m allowed to be really maudlin, is Callie and the plane tickets she’s curiously trying to sniff in my hands. I stare at them disbelievingly. There’s no departure date specified, as Sam said, and no doubt it cost him a small fortune to arrange it that way, but what’s clear as day is the destination: Indianapolis International Airport. My breath catches audibly in the quiet room, and the tumble in my gut is precisely the same feeling I get when crashing over the edge of a monster wave, the perfect ride sweeping up out of nothing but hope and a prayer.

     It’s there for me to take it, if I’m strong enough. If I have faith, I think. If I could walk up to the man I love with forgiveness in my heart and certainty in our future, and say, Hello, Dean. Remember me? The yearning is so strong I can feel it vibrating through the core of me like a tuning fork struck to the perfect pitch, can feel it the way I felt something click into place as I looked across a crowded bar and saw him standing there, looking back at me like he already knew my name and where’d I’d been. It feels like holding the whole ocean in my hands, all its terrifying danger and fathomlessness and possibility; it feels like looking over the edge of a cliff of water. I can go forwards or I can remain as I am. I know this. So I close my eyes, and let it carry me over.


Epilogue

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