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

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Aug. 12th, 2011 | 08:50 pm

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



8.1.

         Dean dropped out of high school the year I started grade nine. Not right away, mind you, but a couple months before he was all set to graduate, he up and quit without any warning, and no explanation except to say he had no intentions of ever going back.

     His GED arrived in the mail not long afterwards, something else he did without telling me or our dad, and after that Dean kind of changed. Maybe not in so fundamental a way that I no longer recognized him after—he was still as cocky and carefree as ever—but little things were different.

     He was more protective in some ways, more guarded in others, and it was around this time the womanizing and the drinking started in earnest. Dean had always been a little wild, but our dad was a cop and ran a strict household; anything major would have gotten Dean kicked out, and he once said that if that happened, there’d be no one left to look after me the way I needed. So he always watched himself, never did anything so crazy it would land him in serious hot water. Even I was old enough to recognize that everything he started doing after that point wasn’t a danger to anyone but himself. Though he didn’t know it then, it’s absolutely what led to Lisa getting pregnant. Maybe everything would have gone differently if he’d never left school—it might have been a miracle that things eventually worked out, but it sure as hell wasn’t chance that made things fall apart. To this day, I never understood why the hell he left when he was so close to the finish line.

     When I say “to this day”, I literally mean until today. Because I think I get it now. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

     About a month after Dean turned eighteen, I witnessed something that made so little sense at the time, that the only logical explanation was I’d confused it for something else. Now, I know I wasn’t mistaken, but also that I was never meant to see what I did. I never spoke a word of it to anyone, not even Dean, which in retrospect was the smartest thing I could have done. Kids are easily confused at that age, or so I always thought, though as it turns out they’re a lot more perceptive than they’re given credit for—not by others, and certainly not by themselves.

     There was this teacher at the school, Jay Garrett, who started teaching English at Lawrence High the same year I started there. I never had him, because he taught mostly the upper-year students, but I know Dean was in a couple of his classes and complained about them far less than he did some others. Mr. Garrett was young: barely twenty-five, just out of teacher’s college, with shaggy, dark hair and exotic eyes Dean said came from Japanese blood on his mother’s side. In retrospect, his inexperience and good looks probably should have gotten him eaten alive, but he was so easygoing and cool he hardly got any trouble, not even from the kids like my brother, who prided themselves on causing it on a regular basis. Word was, Garrett was funny and smart and had a knack for making his classes fun. Apart from the requisite number of crushes that developed almost immediately, he was well-liked by everyone, faculty and student body alike. More importantly, he was well-liked by Dean.

     That day, I was waiting around after school for Dean to show up and drive us home. Over thirty minutes had passed without any sign of my brother. Usually he was pretty good about being punctual, or would let me know ahead of time if he had to stay behind in class for detention or to speak with a teacher. But he hadn’t said anything to me that morning other than, “Meet you after school.” All my other friends had already gone home, picked up by their own parents or the bus, and suffice to say I was getting a little impatient and cranky with hunger, the way only a fourteen-year-old can be.

     Dean’s last class of the day was English, so I got it into my head that maybe he’d stayed behind to talk to Mr. Garrett about something. He’d once introduced us on a similar occasion, calling me his “brat kid brother”, and the teacher seemed to like me enough; it didn’t seem like a big deal to stop by the classroom to see whether Dean was there. The only other thing I could think of was maybe he was off smoking behind the auditorium or something, but in the event I was wrong, I didn’t want to risk getting harassed by the older kids who also frequented the spot. Garrett’s class it was.

     By then all the hallways were deserted, and all the classrooms I passed on the way were dark and had their doors closed, teachers having packed up for the day. As I rounded the corner to Mr. Garrett’s room, the first thing I saw was that the light inside was on, even though the door was closed. I barely made it up onto my tiptoes—I hadn’t hit puberty yet—to peer through the door’s single porthole before I stopped dead, my throat closing up so abruptly I made a choked noise.

     There inside the class was Dean and someone who looked a great deal like Mr. Garrett, judging by the familiar suede patches on his tweed jacket. Except that, instead of finding them deep in conversation like I expected, they were pressed up against the chalkboard, my brother’s familiar, leather-clad shoulders bent towards Mr. Garrett, who was a few inches shorter than Dean’s six-foot-one frame. The teacher’s hands were in Dean’s hair, clutching tight at those dark blonde strands, and even though their faces were mostly turned away from me, they were either having some kind of quiet argument or making out, or else Dean had turned into a vampire. I could see the pale strip of skin on Mr. Garrett’s side where Dean’s hands had bunched up his jacket and shirt, the shiny flash of tongue between their mouths, an image I later did a pretty damn good job of forgetting.

     After that, I didn’t stick around; I ran home, pausing for a while in the park to talk myself out of whatever I thought I saw. Due to my tarrying, I turned up late for dinner, to the furious reprimands from both my father and Dean, who had arrived not long before me. Apologizing for a quickly invented homework study session at a friend’s house, I begged off from the rest of dinner with the excuse that I had a project to finish. Smartly, or so I thought, I tried to put that afternoon as far from my mind as possible. Even though I desperately wanted to figure out why the hell someone like my brother would be kissing another dude—Dean, who was popular with the senior girls and never without a Saturday-night date—it seemed easier and ultimately wiser to forget I was ever there.

     For a while, I managed okay, even when Dean started having to stay behind after his English class most afternoons, during which time I just did my homework in the empty cafeteria until he was done. I successfully ignored the few whispered phone conversations I heard late at night, convinced Dean was talking to one of his girlfriends, even in the absence of his typical endearments of “baby” and “sweetheart” to whomever was on the other end of the line. I pretended the grey sedan that sometimes dropped him off after midnight—always when our dad was on duty, of course—belonged to a buddy from school. Much as I was able, I forgot anything out of the ordinary had ever happened, so well-convinced that I even started to believe I’d truly misunderstood what I saw that day.

     That is, until a few weeks later, when a special news story came on while I was eating dinner with Dean and my father. We always left the TV tuned to the news during meals, which my dad said was the one time of the day he actually had a chance to catch up with the outside world. In a small town like Lawrence, most of the news was comprised of human-interest stories or reports from Kansas City, but that night they interrupted the regular broadcast to update us on a scandal that had just broken out right here in Lawrence.

     Two men had been arrested for sodomy and acts of public indecency in Constant Park, one of them a local high school teacher. The news anchor called Constant Park a “hotbed of homosexual activity” in Lawrence, and explained that, while men were regularly arrested for engaging in sex or soliciting undercover cops, the involvement of a local teacher made this breaking news. The accused was none other than Mr. Garrett, who was described as “young, well-liked and popular with many of the local students, and assistant coach of the boys’ basketball team”, as though these things had any bearing upon what he was currently being held for at the local jail.

     “Oh my God, Dean, that’s Mr. Garret!” I said stupidly, but neither my father nor my brother responded. Back then, I was still a bit too young to fully understand what the big deal was, but I’d heard about Proust and knew what sodomy was; even though the law’s interpretation of the crime was fairly broad in those days, I also knew that, in God-fearing Kansas, it meant nothing good. For the first time in weeks, my stomach sank as I realized what I’d seen that day between Dean and Mr. Garrett implied Dean had a pretty clear understanding of the word, as well. Thankfully, he’d been home last night.

     Casting a glance at Dean from the corner of my eye, I saw he’d gone white as a sheet, knife and fork gripped so tightly in his hands his knuckles were completely bloodless. All three of us watched the broadcast in silence until the anchor moved on to the next story, and for a few minutes no one said anything until my dad got up and turned off the TV altogether. It was obvious he hadn’t heard the news until now, the arrest most likely having taken place while he was off-duty. Our dad was a big man, gruff and stern-looking on a good day, but as he glanced over and his hazel eyes met mine, it was the first time the look in his eyes actually made me nervous.

     Returning to the table, he didn’t pick up his utensils right away, staring hard at Dean while my brother refused to look at him. Then Dad asked, “He’s one of your teachers, isn’t he? Garrett? I recognize him from Parent-Teacher interviews.”

     “He teaches English,” I supplied, only realizing my mistake when Dean bolted up from the table with his plate in his hands, going to dump it in the sink.

     “I’d like to be excused,” he said gruffly. “I got homework.”

     “Dean.” The sharp bark of his name from Dad’s mouth made both of us go still as statues, Dean already on his way out of the kitchen, me with my fork halfway to my mouth. “Sit your ass back down.”

     Because our dad wasn’t the kind of person you disobeyed when he spoke in a tone like that, not without a death wish, Dean’s expression darkened, but he did as he was told. I noticed he was sitting on the edge of his chair like he needed to be ready to bolt again at any second. It was weird, seeing Dean so discomfited and nervous, but a part of me was obscenely curious to find out how things were going to unfold. To be honest, I had no idea.

     Watching Dean’s face the way I always imagined he looked at criminals from across the interrogation room, our dad the cop leaned forward and his voice got really soft. “Son, I hate to ask this, but you gotta tell me the truth. That teacher ever try anything with you, or any of the other boys in your class?”

     Dean’s palms slammed the tabletop so sharply that I jumped. Dad didn’t bat an eye as Dean shouted, “For fuck’s sake, Dad!”

     “You watch your language,” he warned. “I asked you a question and I’d appreciate an answer. This is important.”

     “How the fuck is it important?!” raged Dean. To my eternal surprise, I saw my brother’s face was red, fresh tears making his eyes glossy and wild. I knew that if he let them fall, it would just open up a whole other round of questions from our father, but Dean composed himself after a second. Though he trembled, the tears didn’t budge. “He’s a good teacher—a good guy—and it’s bullshit that he got arrested for something like this. Who the fuck cares who he screws, as long as he ain’t hurting anyone? Hell, it’s not like he’s the only fag in Lawrence.”

     “It’s important, Dean, because I care whether or not that pervert’s been pulling shit with my kids!” With a screech of the chair, Dad pushed himself up from the table and pointed furiously at the now-silent television, the voices from which still echoed through our small kitchen like a ghostly whisper. “I care, since it turns my goddamned stomach to think that faggot was allowed within twenty feet of my son!” Breathing hard, Dad let that same pointer finger jab at the surface of the table with a hard thud to punctuate each word.

     Arms folded, I watched Dean visibly try to get himself back under control, to not respond to our father’s words. They didn’t make much sense to me, either, because it’s not like unmarried women teachers routinely went throwing themselves at teenaged boys, but this was obviously something our dad cared about a great deal, and it’s possible there was something I was missing. What it was, I didn’t know, because despite what I’d seen that day, Dean was technically an adult, and far from helpless. I’d seen him kick the shit out of someone twice his size.

     “He’s a good guy,” Dean said again. “I like him a lot, and he isn’t a pervert. Not like you’re saying, and not just because he got caught fucking—”

     “Dean.” I saw Dad’s eyes flicker over to me, unspoken caution to watch what he said in my presence, and Dean capitulated with a huff. Gentling his voice, Dad said, “What he does in private is his own business, you’re right, but if that’s the kind of lifestyle he wants to lead, then he should be out in California with all the other queers. Those faggots got no right showing their face in a school. Teaching basketball, for Chrissakes, where they’re around young boys in a locker room. Where boys go lookin’ to him for advice and guidance.” His expression went tragic, and Dean swallowed in response. “Would you be sticking up for the man if he’d been coaching your little brother, huh? If he was watching Sammy here change into his uniform each day after school?”

     “Jesus, Dad,” Dean cried, eyes rolling, at the same time I protested, “But I’m too short for basketball!” Dean shot me a look that meant, Sam, shut the fuck up and stay out of this. “They didn’t say he got caught with a little kid!” he pointed out.

     Dad shrugged. “In my experience, there ain’t much separating a man who’ll lay down with another man, and one who’ll lay down with a young boy. Mark my words, it’d only be a matter of time before this teacher was coming on to his students, or better yet confusing someone young and impressionable about what’s right and what’s decent in these parts.” Reaching across the table to cover Dean’s hand, which was naturally snatched away, Dad sighed. “I’m just trying to look out for you boys,” he said unhappily, seeming genuinely saddened that Dean couldn’t see it. “You don’t know half of what’s out there, the stuff I’ve seen.”

     Dean laughed. “Last time I checked, I’m an adult,” he retorted. “Don’t need you looking out for me anymore. But it’s good to know what kind of a household you’ve got going here. Real inclusive. Real open-minded.”

     Eyebrows lifted, my dad rocked back like Dean had just hit him, expression going from surprised to inscrutable. “What in the hell is that supposed to mean, son?” At Dean’s silence, he said, “Are you sayin’ that—”

     “No.” The conversation had become a mystery to me; I no longer had any idea what either of them was talking about, except that Dean looked miserable and my dad looked afraid. “All I’m sayin’ is it’s a good thing, because I’d seriously hate to see what kind of response I’d get if I ever came out with something like that. Or even Sammy.”

     “What the hell are you guys talking about?” I asked, voice shrill with confusion.

     Typically, Dean ignored me, lost in the staring contest currently going down between him and our dad. Amazingly, it was Dean who lost, his gaze skittering away to somewhere in the middle distance when Dad sat back down in his chair. What followed was a pregnant pause if there ever was one, though I couldn’t for the life of me figure out what would result.

     Then, from my father: “I’ll tell you one thing, if I ever catch wind of either one of you boys carryin’ on like that queer, you best not come home. Do I make that much clear?”

     I wanted to say, What? but decided it was better stay quiet, some hidden meaning playing out between Dean and Dad I wasn’t yet equipped to interpret. Dean clearly understood, however, since he got up from the table again without waiting for permission to do so.

     “Sure thing, Dad,” he spat, and gave the kind of mock-salute which our father, as a Nam veteran, couldn’t help but find offensive. “You don’t ever have to worry about finding one of your boys eating dick.”

     Considering it was a promise made out of spite, it’s ironic, in a way, that Dean never broke it; I don’t think our dad was ever too impressed by his womanizing ways, and Dean certainly got an earful when the news broke that he had a son, but Dad loved Ben like crazy and, true to Dean’s word, there was never another discussion about sexual orientation in the Winchester household. Although Mr. Garrett went to jail and was eventually released, he was mostly forgotten about in the excitement of Dean dropping out of school. Despite my suspicions about why he did it, I mostly put it out of my mind in favour of concentrating on my own future and, to be honest, forgetting something about Dean’s past I never really understood.

     Not, like I said, until now.

     I’d known something was up the second Dean asked to talk to me in the kitchen, bright and early on a Saturday morning. Because he’s still twelve, apparently, for Dean this time is normally reserved for cereal and cartoons in the living room, but he was sitting at the table fully dressed in jeans and a T-shirt when I wandered downstairs in my pyjamas. A cup of coffee sat between his hands, which after a second I noticed was no longer steaming, a sign it had probably not been touched in a while.

     “Morning,” I said, pausing in the doorway to cast a wary eye over what looked suspiciously like a set-up. Maybe that’s a paranoid conclusion to jump to, except that the scene exactly resembled the circumstances under which Dean had staged his intervention to pack me off to rehab. “What are you doing dressed? You got somewhere to be?”

     Dean smiled, a grim sight if there ever was one, and nudged a chair away from the table with his foot. I saw he was also wearing his boots. “Maybe. Have a seat, Sammy, there’s something I gotta talk to you about.”

     I did, and that’s when my brother told me, in surprisingly few words, that he’s gay. For the first time in over a decade, I thought about Mr. Garrett and what I’d been so determined to deny I’d seen between them in that classroom. How I’d let it fade from memory believing that they’d had an argument that day, or that for twenty-four hours my brother had really been a vampire with a taste for the blood of high school English teachers.

     Very little time has passed since Dean opened his mouth to say, “Sammy, I’m gay,” and, when I failed to respond, followed swiftly by, “I left Lisa because I’m in love with a dude.” I still haven’t said anything since then, caught between not knowing where the fuck to begin, and thinking I haven’t seen a look this beatific and calm on Dean’s face since the day he met Ben and said, “I’m a dad.”

     Suddenly I wish I had a coffee or a beer or—hell—a bottle of Jack in my hands so I don’t feel like I’m just sitting here like a big, useless lump. Dean is still looking at me expectantly, expression growing a little worried now as the seconds tick by and I try and try and try to come up with something better than, “Um.”

     “Sammy?” Dean’s eyebrows shoot up and he leans back in his chair, nervousness bleeding into a quirked smile that, to a brother’s eye, is as powerful as a look of complete terror. That’s the smile Dean gives when he’s so worried about something he can’t even let himself see it, let alone anyone else. “C’mon, man, you’re killin’ me here. Say something.”

      There is a note of such pleading in Dean’s voice that it actually makes me afraid. Of what, I don’t know, but the knot that springs up in my stomach makes me bypass every last outpost of rationale and spring right into fight-or-flight territory, sweat breaking out on my palms and lower back like he just told me I’ve got five minutes left to live. “You’re gay,” I repeat. And then, because I can’t quite shake the feeling someone is going to pop out from behind the kitchen island any second and yell, “PUNK’D!” I smirk, adding, “Yeah, okay. Is this a joke, Dean? ‘Cause… it’s not that funny.”

     “‘Is this a joke?’” Dean splutters and his mouth goes kind of funny and sour. “Jesus, Sam, what kind of a twisted-ass question is that? Moreover, what the fuck makes you think my sense of humour is in such fucking poor taste as that?”

     “Uh… everything?” I fold my arms and lean back in the chair to match his posture. “Seriously, Dean, you’re like… the straightest, horniest guy I know. You’ve been a womanizer for as long as I can remember, and the only reason you stopped is because you thought Ben’s parents ought to be married. You’re not…” I trail off, letting my arms flop out to my sides again so I can gesture emphatically. “You’re not gay, Dean, you’re like… you’re like the freaking Dos Equis guy, but better-looking and less rich.” He just stares at me, and the frankness of his expression starts to make me unravel. “You’ve been getting laid almost the entire time you’ve been here! Women go crazy over you!”

     “What do either of those things have to do with what I’m telling you?” Before I open my mouth to retort, because from where I’m sitting they kind of do, Dean waves off whatever I’m about to say with a frustrated noise. “Look. I know this is pretty much the craziest thing I could spring on you, aside from announcing I’m gonna give birth to an alien baby in two weeks, but I brought you in here so I could get this off my fucking chest, all right? It’d be nice if you just listened.”

     My throat feels like it’s closed up. Instead of feeling knotted, my stomach has suddenly transformed into what feels like a bird cage, wherein some wild thing is beating itself against the bars and fighting to get out with everything it’s got. There’s no surprise television crew, no twinkle in Dean’s eye or the cocky smile to let me know he’s had me going, gullible Sammy to the very end. All I’ve got is my brother sitting in front of me with a look that’s somewhere between terrified and utterly fucking serene.

     “Okay,” I choke out. “I’m here. I’m listening.”

     “So it’s like I said,” he tells me. “I’m gay. I won’t pretend that isn’t outta left field for you, because as much as I’d love to be glib about it, I know what you’re saying is true. The whole ladies’ man thing is something I worked pretty hard to establish for a long time, right up until I met Lisa. And it’s not like I mind women, ‘cause I don’t. I like ‘em okay. But that’s not…” He sighed, glancing away briefly. “That’s not who I am. I’ve pretty much known it forever, so it’s about time I started owning up to the fact and not hiding it from everyone. Especially you.”

     Considering my brain has started doing this thing where it only picks up maybe one word out of every three to come out of Dean’s mouth, I’m pretty proud to have followed along with at least half of that. “So you’re bi,” I clarify, for some reason picking up on that single statement that Dean still likes women. Call it petty, but it’s like I need to start there, start with something familiar. The rest of that speech could have been delivered entirely in Swahili for all it resonated.

     Dean shakes his head. “No, man, that’s not what I’m saying.”

     “But—”

     “I’m gay.” Dean leans on this extra hard, like he’s figured out that my brain is only running at half speed right now. “I know it’d be a helluva lot easier if I agreed with you, said something about how I’ll never get tired of tits, but—that’s not what I’m saying. Women don’t turn me off, but to me they’re like forcing myself to eat salad when what I really want is a burger.” There’s a flash of something in Dean’s face, a twitch of his lips. “Or a hot dog.”

     “Christ, Dean,” I groan, equal parts appalled at the untimely humour and the inappropriateness of the image, in about a million ways.

     “Too soon? Sorry.”

     I shake my head. Starting to feel a bit trapped, even in the airy, white brightness of my kitchen, I push away from the table and stand up, needing to pace. “Dean, this is…” I trail off helplessly. “I don’t even know what to make of this, man. This is like…”

     From the corner of my eye, I catch an oddly bittersweet smile from his lips. “I know, Sam. It’s like I just told you Santa Claus isn’t real. Ben more or less responded the same way when I told him, except I used a lot more baseball analogies there. But… I get it. You won’t catch me pretending like this is easy for anyone.”

     At the mention of Ben’s name, I turn to face my brother completely, wondering if he’s even conscious that he’s just opened up a whole other layer to this conversation. “Wait, you told Ben?

     Dean lifts one shoulder. “Yeah. A couple weeks ago. I knew he’d be having a hard time with me bein’ out here and all, and I figured I owed the kid a full explanation since his mom didn’t exactly give him the whole story.” Chewing the inside of his cheek, Dean stares down at his hands for a couple minutes and then wipes at his eyes before looking back up to me. “I don’t know what he makes of the whole thing. He said he understands, but… I could tell he was confused, and I haven’t been able to talk to him about it since then, neither. I think he’s scared.”

     No shit, I want to say, but for one thing, that wouldn’t be helpful, and for another, the tears beading at the corner of Dean’s eyes tell me he knows perfectly well this isn’t a picnic for anyone. “So Lisa knows too, then?”

     “Of course she knows, Sam,” says Dean. I see his throat constrict and the rough swallow that immediately follows, know from Dean’s voice gone thick that this won’t be good. “She’s the one who found me out. Caught me in the middle of the fucking act. Obviously it was pretty clear where my interests lay after that, but I came out and told her point-blank before I left Indiana, too. When I told her we needed a divorce once and for all, I said there was no changing the fact that I had no business being married to a woman, ever. That it was my own fault for not accepting it sooner.”

     “Holy fuck, Dean.” Heavily, I sit back down, rocking both the chair and the table with the force of my weight collapsing into the seat. “So this whole time you’ve been saying you had an affair with a woman, when—”

     “There was no woman.” Somehow, I manage to lift my eyes to find Dean staring back at me. “I’m sorry, Sammy,” he says. “Lying to you hurt most of all, but I just… I didn’t know how to say it. ”

     “Mr. Garrett,” I say dumbly, then smooth my hair back from my forehead. I can feel my damn forehead sweating now, too. “You’ve known since Mr. Garret, back in high school.”

     Dean huffs. “There’s a name I ain’t heard in a while.” A brief silence descends as we both ponder that. “How the hell did you know about Mr. Garrett? I never—”

     “I saw you.” He obviously needs more from me than that, and I add, “One day when you were late picking me up after school, I went to his classroom to find you since I knew you sometimes stayed late for homework help or for—” Here, my voice breaks. “I saw you. I think you were kissing but ever since then I just… I just told myself I never saw what I saw. That it couldn’t possibly have been right.” Dean is still staring at me with his eyes focused and hard with this revelation. “You knew since then,” I say again.

     “I probably knew since a while before then,” Dean admits. “Not much happened before he—you know. But he was the first person who really made it stop being easy to pretend like I didn’t want what I did. He was—he was a good man. Didn’t push me into anything, since I’m kinda the one who pushed him. No way he deserved to go to jail for some fucking blow-job in the park.”

     “You got scared after that,” I supply. The pieces, in a weird way, are starting to come together now so quickly, it’s like I’d already put half the puzzle together years ago and just buried it in the attic and forgot about it when the jigsaw got too difficult or confusing. When I realized that the picture was a lot more frightening than the one I’d anticipated. “That’s why you dropped out, isn’t it? Why you started up with that stupid Casanova shit?”

     “Pretty much.” Although I didn’t realize my vision had gone out of focus with the force of my remembering—discovering—the image of Dean crying at the other end of the table makes the present come back to me with a clarity that’s pretty dizzying. “I didn’t want to end up like him, Sammy. I thought about what you or Dad would do if I ever got caught like Jay did, went to jail because of something I couldn’t change about myself. It seemed easier to try and change it, or at least make it so that no one would ever question otherwise.”

     “You’ve been lying to me for twelve fucking years,” I whisper. “Longer, even. I’m your goddamned brother, and this whole time—” Dean cuts me off with something that sounds like, Don’t start that, but I ignore him and force the rest out like a bitter pill coming up instead of going down, and each word emerges progressively louder until I’m all but shouting. “This whole damn time I haven’t had the first clue who you even are. Like I don’t fucking know you at all.”

     Whatever Dean could possibly say in response is cut off by Callie rushing up from under the table—somehow I managed not to notice her under there this whole freaking time—and running to the front door with her tail going a mile a minute. Sitting with his back to the door, Dean turns to look in that direction, too, since apparently neither one of us it heard it close, but then a second later Cas is standing in the kitchen doorway with sleepless rings beneath his eyes as dark as bruises. Aside from that, Cas looks nice today, like he took extra care in dressing himself, a neat waistcoat buttoned overtop a crisp, striped shirt and dark jeans. Planning went into that outfit, and I think about how Dean was already fully dressed when I came down this morning, too, none of it accidental.

     Cas looks at Dean for a long second before his gaze flicks over to me. Whatever tension is floating around in this room must be strong enough that he feels it, since he doesn’t even say hello.

     “Cas,” I say instead, voice like gravel. “This isn’t a good time, man, sorry. Dean and I are kind of in the—”

     “I already told him,” Dean interrupts, the startling iciness in his voice directed not at me, but at Cas. He has to tilt his head back a little bit to look up at Castiel’s face, but it doesn’t diminish the authority in his bearing. I realize, with a jolt, that Cas is getting told. “If that’s why you showed up here, then Sam’s right—you might as well just go back home, because it’s already done. Nothing you can say to change that now.” That he registers the words as much as the tone with hardly more than a blink makes my eyebrows climb my forehead all over again, and a part of me worries that if there are any more surprises this morning, I’ll have a hard time coaxing them back down to their normal place.

     Nodding, Cas lets that—whatever that even is—sink in before he casts a ponderous look down at his feet, which are scuffing at the kitchen tile like an embarrassed teenager. “That’s not why I came,” he says eventually, to Dean.

     Dean’s jaw clenches. “Then what?”

     “I thought you could use a little moral support.” Castiel hesitates, which is a lot reminiscent of how he was when I first met him, but startling all the same because I feel like it’s been weeks since I’ve seen that guy. He looks like he’s winding up to something really big, though after the bombshells that have been dropped so far in this kitchen, I haven’t a clue what the hell that could be. “I realized something important last night,” he begins, “that, a year ago, I never would have condoned the idea of forcing someone to hide who they are because of what someone else might think. As someone who did that for most of his life, I know firsthand how awful that feeling is.” As I look between him and Dean, I can see their gazes are locked and holding steady. “I’m should have never tried to stop you from speaking up, Dean, on account of how Sam might react. That was wrong of me, and I apologize. You’re not the coward I thought you to be.” Awkwardly, he reaches out to pat Dean on the shoulder. “I suppose that dubious honour belongs to me.”

     Weirdly, Dean’s hand comes up to cover the one Castiel has resting on his shoulder, and though he doesn’t say anything the expression that flits over Dean’s features is one of relief, then gratitude. They both withdraw their hands after a moment, still silent, but I don’t miss the way Dean catches Cas’s wrist when it falls to his side, fingers encircling that slender joint and just resting there, a little more manly than holding hands but to a similar effect. Cas glances down at it, too, as a slow blush spreads across his cheeks. There are probably a million different explanations for this little display, and I can’t figure out a single one of them.

     “Thanks,” Dean says eventually, voice leagues softer than it was when Cas first wandered into the kitchen, but also rough like he’s about to start crying again. Dean is an emotional man, a fact I know in theory but right now still manages to catch me off-guard, but the one person it doesn’t seem to affect is Cas, who is looking at Dean like he knew exactly what his presence here would do to my brother. I file that away under, ‘More Shit I Don’t Understand’. Offering a faint smile, Dean murmurs, “Coming from you, that means pretty much the most ever.”

     “It shouldn’t.”

     “Yeah, well.” Dean gives an offhand shrug. “I ain’t too bright. But I do know the fact you’re here proves you aren’t a coward, either.”

     I can tell Dean and Cas could go on staring at each other for a while longer, playing out one of those interminable, silent conversations of theirs that is starting to make a hell of a lot more sense right now, so before that can happen, I catch myself spluttering something along the lines of, “Whoa, whoa, whoa,” and spreading my hands out like the presses need to come to a stop right the fuck now. Not unlike before Cas walked in, stuff is beginning to click into place so fast it agitates me, subtitles moving too quickly for me to read during the most important scene in a movie. “You seriously mean to tell me that everyone knew about this before me? I’m the last schmuck on your list of people to tell?”

     Looking away from Cas, Dean gives me a complicated look and swallows, which is pretty much a ‘yes’. “I came out to California to tell you,” he says. “You were supposed to be the first after Lisa. But some overwhelming stuff was going on. I… lost my nerve.” Even though it’s partially hidden by the table, I know Dean’s grip just tightened on Cas’s wrist. “I’m telling you now, Sammy.”

     “I’m your fucking brother,” I remind him, needlessly. My voice is too loud, which I know, but I can’t get it under control even when I see Callie’s little face take on that wide-eyed look common to dogs and children who aren’t sure whether they’ve done something wrong. Her tail goes between her legs and she glances nervously at Dean and Cas from over her shoulder, starts dancing on her front paws like I either need to put her outside or shut the fuck up. I don’t do either one. “Cas is—you’ve been telling me this whole time how you guys can’t even stand each other, but somehow you managed to spill your guts to him instead of me?”

     Naturally, Dean’s mouth opens to refute this statement, but to both our surprise it’s Cas who speaks. “Sam,” he says quietly, but with unbreakable calm, “I know about Dean’s sexuality crisis because it’s something we have in common, if nothing else. I advocated against telling you because I feared you would take it badly, and that was a grievous mistake on my part; personal feelings aside, I should have put myself in his shoes and considered how difficult this step would be without added drama. But this isn’t the issue here, and nor is who Dean did or did not tell before you. That he trusts you enough to tell you at all should be enough, so don’t make this out to be about you.”

     A strange kind of choking noise comes from Dean, as though Cas’s words have startled him and he’s only just remembered that’s his brother Cas is talking about. “Cas—” he starts, but Castiel just shakes his head.

     “No. He either supports you or he does not.” Cas meets my gaze, gesturing apologetically, and the look in his eyes is both conflicted and vehement, but I know his stubborn streak well enough by now not to expect that to sway him away from his beliefs. “I’m sorry, Sam, but this isn’t some deal your brother’s failed to follow through on, and it’s not a collaborative effort. Since it’s something that does not affect or involve your life, not truly, it shouldn’t really even be up for discussion.”

     “Cas,” Dean says again, gently chastising. “This isn’t like your parents, okay?” He tugs on Cas’s wrist, pulls him closer so that his shoulder nudges up against Castiel’s side.

     Seeing that, my stomach drops a little bit, and I can’t quite begin to understand why it does that, or why it clenches when Dean’s hand slides up Castiel’s arm to the elbow, and then back down, lower, so that they’re now actually grasping hands, albeit loosely. Dean is a tactile person: he touches and clutches at people he trusts during emotional periods, I guess to remind himself there’s someone else there, and maybe now that he’s gay it’s perfectly normal for him to grab another dude’s hand, to let his fingers catch against another’s in a way that looks stark and intimate. But it’s Castiel letting him that throws me off most of all.

     My eyes rest on their touching hands as Dean speaks. “No one’s threatening to kick me out of the house or send me off to bible camp, okay? I don’t question that Sam will accept who I am, warts and all—it just needs time to sink in before I start marchin’ in any parades in a sparkly thong. Right, Sammy?”

     Still staring at their hands, my mind turning over and over and over like an engine about to catch, Dean reaches out across the table to grab my attention, nudging my shoulder once. “Hey,” he says. I drag my focus back up to his face. “You accept this, don’t you? My bein’ gay isn’t actually the issue here, right? You went to Stanford, for Chrissakes.”

     “Dean—” I begin, and trail off. One more turn, and I can feel the spark is going to catch. Sorting through months of information and vagaries ever since Cas showed up in California with a bad case of a broken heart and a duplicitous ex-boyfriend; Dean turning up not much later with all his secret skeletons in tow. Turning and turning, almost there.

     From his end, all Dean can see is my silence, and none of my thoughts. He doesn’t know where I’ve drifted off. “Listen, Sam,” he begins. “The order in which I told people has absolutely nothing to do with anything, except maybe it got more difficult as I went.” He shakes his head, trying to meet my eyes as I stare off into space. “In one way or another, I’ve been wanting to tell you since I was eighteen years old, and it’s my hang-up that I didn’t, not a reflection of how much I love you, or how you’ve been as a brother. Because you’re the best there ever was, and I mean that.”

     I look up at Cas. When he sees me watching their hands, he frowns and withdraws. Just like that. Ignition. It’s always in the act of pulling away that we see what’s really there, isn’t it? “You’re sleeping together,” I blurt. It all makes perfect sense. The overlap in their stories is so thick it almost makes me sick to realize how much I’ve missed. “You, and Cas—”

     Dean starts, but Cas is on the ball, frown deepening at me as he takes a step forward. “No, Sam,” he says, grave as ever.

     I think his tone clues Dean in to the sudden shift in conversation, because all of a sudden my brother is up and moving away from the table, too, putting space between himself and my best friend. “Dude, what? Are you kidding me?” He sounds a lot less composed than Cas, which, right now, seems pretty damning to me.

     “Where in the Midwest did you say you’re from again, Cas?” I ask, trying to keep my voice steady. Getting it now, Dean curses, trying to move in before Cas catches his arm and stops him. “You said it was the Midwest, right? Like, Indiana maybe?”

     “Chicago,” he corrects stiffly. I catch an edge of impatience from him, but he holds himself together, even seems to keep Dean from blowing a gasket at me with that hand on his arm. “Sam, you’ve had a big shock today. But just because Dean and I are both gay, doesn’t automatically mean—”

     Unable to help myself, I snort. “No, what means something is the fact that Dean cheated on his wife with a man for a year, while you were recently duped by a married guy. Same timeline, same part of the country—what are the odds? And how come you never told me his name, Cas?”

     “Because it was never your business,” answers Cas, at the same time Dean says, “That’s called a fucking coincidence, man,” like it’s every day that this kind of drama unfolds independently in the lives of people I happen to know. Just like that.

     Both Cas and I ignore him, since for some reason I feel like this conversation is with him, not Dean. Maybe because Dean has already admitted to lying to me once today, I know that if I try to take his word for anything right now, it might not stick. Heeding what Cas said earlier, about how his sexuality doesn’t involve me, I’m doing my best to maintain a sense of goodwill towards him about that. It’s hard, and obviously a large part of why I’m so riled up right now, but I think even if I’d known he was queer all along, the thought of him and Cas going behind my back this whole time would still make me crazy.

     Like he knows it, Cas softens a little, tries to pull back on the irritation he’s obviously experiencing right now, for the sake of… I don’t know. Putting himself in my shoes, maybe, which Cas was always pretty good at. Never quick to anger or judge, always ready to take a breath and think something through before flying off the handle. Not like Dean; hell, not even like me, not really. Ever genteel, that’s our Cas. Do I feel bad, knowing I’m testing him? Of course I do—but I also want to draw it out, see what it’ll take to crumble that restraint and make him mad. I’ve never witnessed it personally, but something tells me an angry Castiel is a pretty fearsome thing to behold, wrathful in the manner of someone not used to giving his emotions free rein. “I told you when Dean came here, Sam, that Dean’s situation was reminiscent of my own,” he reminds me. “That’s why his presence upset me at first, because I saw the similarities of what we’d been through even from opposite ends of the spectrum. It’s not because—”

     I cut him off with a grunt. “What, not because you’re the one he was fucking behind Lisa’s back?” At this, Dean starts forward again but is once again halted by Cas’s hand on his arm. When Cas first showed up here this morning, it’s like he was acting like Dean’s bulldog, but now it starts to look like it’s the other way around: Dean agitated and ready to attack even his own brother, Cas pulling him back with a firm, gentle hand on the collar.

     And yeah, okay, I know I’m talking in pretty crude terms here, but I get this really awful sense that isn’t even the worst of it, the stuff I’m accusing them of. In my mind it all seems to click into place: why I’ve sensed something else going on since Dean got here, why, instead of bringing us closer, Dean’s arrival made me feel shut out of both the relationship with my best friend and my relationship with my brother, something there between them that didn’t and would never include me—like the family I’d wanted to build with the three of us was over before it ever started. It tightens my chest to think that, an indescribable dark feeling that eats away at my insides like a cancer, a tight knot of fear I get over the thought of them leaving me alone again. Now I’ve latched on to it, I can’t seem to let go, not even at the expense of this thin veneer of patience Castiel has scraped together for my benefit; and I can see, from the hard glint in his eye, a veneer is all it is, easily threatened.

     Kind of like a house of cards, I think it’ll only take one hard nudge to shake those flimsy foundations loose, and I’ll have my answer. So I go for it. “Have you been fucking behind my back this whole time, too?”


Chapter Eight, Pt. 2

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Comments {1}

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from: [identity profile] kel-reiley.livejournal.com
date: Aug. 18th, 2011 07:04 pm (UTC)
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I am LOVING this story so much, it's indescribable! Stopping here for now to tell you that, and also to let you know that you're missing a closing italics tag up there in the middle.

But srsly, as much as I love Dean and Cas, the Sam in this story is brilliant!

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