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Tattoos and College Blues

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Castiel woke up with a gasp, blue eyes panicked and scanning the room until he found his phone. After his eyes adjusted to the blinding light of his lock screen, he groaned when he read the time. 3:30am.
"Fuck", Castiel cursed under his breath as he threw his phone onto a pile of clothes on the floor of his dorm room and turned over in his bed, willing his brain to shut off for a few more hours sleep. Apparently, his brain had other ideas.
Castiel rolled his eyes at nothing in particular as he felt his right hand twitch, yearning for the feeling of his sketching pencil. Castiel knew that when his artistic motivation decided to be persistent, it would not quieten until it was satisfied. So, with a deep sigh of frustration Castiel rolled out of bed, pulling on his favorite pair of black skinny jeans and a plain black T-shirt, because fuck the effort that color-coordination demanded. Grabbing his black trench coat - it was mid-summer and he knew he wouldn't need it but Castiel didn't fancy sitting on a ground that was frequented by college students and their lack of concern for the environment - and picking up his sketch book and pencils, Castiel made his way out of the block of student flats and took a walk, searching for a place to sit and draw.
After a few minutes of aimless walking, the distant sound of scuffling from the basketball court attracted his attention, and he followed his curiosity. Entering the court quietly from behind a tree, Castiel could just make out the figure of a man, probably around the same age as himself, shooting shot after shot with inhuman accuracy. From this distance, Castiel couldn't make out the persons' features, but he was close enough to be entranced by the players movements, how each stride flowed effortlessly into the next, how his arms stretched perfectly as they delivered the ball into the net time and time again.
Castiel laid his trench coat out on the ground under the tree, and opened his sketchpad to a fresh page. Castiel began to sketch the perfect form of the basket-ball player on the court until the first light of day spilled out across the world, and Castiel stood up and stretched, packing away his belongings and making his way back to his dorm, lest he draw the attention of his unknowing model.
***************
When Castiel had returned from his midnight art excursion, he hadn't managed to get much more sleep. Which I guess, he thought grumpily as he headed towards the college campus, that did make the extortionately priced coffee in his hand taste all the more sweet. Castiel tugged one of his headphones out with his free hand as he saw the over-excited form of Charlie running over to him.
"S'up, Cas. Jeez, you look like shit!" The red-head churped as she shot him a sarcastic grin outlined in black lipstick. Charlie and Castiel went way back, and had been best friends since the day some little shit in their second grade art class had ruined one of Charlie's paintings and Castiel had cut the kid's finger open for her in revenge. Obviously that had led to his immediate exclusion, but damn had it been worth it.
"Good morning to you too", Castiel replied dryly as he took another sip of coffee and let the buzz run through his veins as Charlie grabbed his wrist and dragged him to the art room that had become more like a second home to Castiel since he'd moved to college.
Upon entering the art room Castiel began setting up his station, Charlie plonking herself next to him, as the other students began filing in one by one. Castiel had always loved the art room. It was a place where he could just shut out the rest of the world and be consumed by his own creativity. But recently, with the pressure of their finals looming, Castiel had been unable to find the peace to which he had become accustomed. Why? Because he had no freaking clue what he was going to do for his final exam piece. Castiel's sketch book was full of different ideas, ranging from sketches of imaginary avenging angels to the mystery basket-ball player he'd lost sleep over last night. But nothing seemed to fit. Sighing, Castiel flipped through his sketch book, searching in vain for something that felt worthy of his final creation.

Chapter Text

Castiel began to pack his sketchbook into his bag and took one step towards the door when Charlie's hand was suddenly gripping his arm.
"And where do you think you're going?"
Castiel looked at her stubborn face like she'd gone crazy and tilted his head slightly to the right in confusion.
"Where the fuck do you think I'm going? Home."
Castiel tried with little success to remove his arm from Charlie's grip. Damn, he thought as her black-tipped fingers tightened around his arm, this girl is stronger than she looks.
"Caaaaaaaas", Charlie whined giving him a little slap on the shoulder, "You didn't forget that you're meant to be coming to a party with me tonight?"
Well fuck, Castiel thought. There goes the evening of sorting out his art exam piece. Looking down at Charlie's big brown eyes, Castiel huffed.
"Fine. Lead the way."
Charlie squealed in triumph dragging him out of the art room by his wrist and leading them up the path to her nearby flat. Who'd he been kidding anyway, Castiel thought as he glared up at the sky that had begun to darken slightly, it wasn't like he was going to have some moment of sudden enlightenment anytime soon. May as well drink his frustrations away. After all, free alcohol was always good.
**********
Free alcohol was definitely not fucking good, Castiel screamed at himself silently as he stumbled through the crowded house of some guy he didn't know nor fucking cared about, willing himself not to throw up on someone's shoes and get into a fight. He'd arrived at the house party a couple of hours ago with Charlie, but he'd quickly lost her among the sea of unfamiliar faces and the all too familiar smell of alcohol and teenage hormones. And now here he was, pushing through the kaleidascope of bodies, head spinning and the lights dancing before his eyes meaning he could barely walk three steps without having to stop and gather himself. Eventually, Castiel made it out to the back garden, which was a lot less crowded than the dance floor inside, and fished his phone out of his pocket. After a few minutes of peering at the blurry screen and trying to dial a ride Castiel gave up, shoving the phone back in his pocket and collapsing into a wicker chair that someone had plonked near the door. Castiel leaned his head back and focused on breathing slow and steady, setting an even rhythm as he closed his blue, charcoal-lined eyes in exhaustion. Just as he was drifting off to somewhere between sleeping and awake Castiel felt someone sit next to him and tap him hesitantly on the shoulder.
"Leave me to die please Charlie. I'm fine," Castiel mumbled without opening his eyes. Someone huffed a laugh next to him and pressed a drink into his shaking hand.
"Charlie your boyfriend or something?"
Castiel's eyes flew open at the very non-female voice next to him, and he doubled over as a wave of nausea hit him in the stomach.
"Whoa there, take it easy man", the guy next to Castiel put a hand on his back to steady him and took the water from his hand, bringing it to his lips.
Castiel took a sip of the offered water and swallowed before leaning back into the chair and groaning.
"Heavy night?" The guy next to him asked with a chuckle.
"Yeah, you could say that," Castiel replied without humor before he could get his eyes to focus enough to see which poor guy was trying to make him feel better.
When he looked up, he was met with a pair of impossibly green eyes watching him with a mix of concern and amusement. He had dark blonde hair neatly gelled into spikes and a neat dusting of freckles across his nose that Castiel could just about make out from the light given off by the house behind them. But his eyes. Holy fuck those eyes.
"Your eyes are beautiful," Castiel blurted out before his drink-addled brain could sensor him. Castiel didn't have the will to blush or feel embarassed about it, but the green-eyed guy seemed to be doing enough of that for him when he heard what Castiel had said. Green Eyes coughed awkwardly and looked away before speaking.
"You got a house I could help you get to. I'm not convinced you could make it there on your own in this state."
Castiel remembered the trouble he'd had getting to the back garden, and for some reason this was the funniest fucking thing in the world, and Castiel doubled over laughing almost falling out of the chair if Green Eyes hadn't caught him. Green Eyes hauled him up to stand, and Castiel leaned heavily into him still chuckling into the guys' neck as they began to walk slowly away from the house.
After a few minutes of walking with Green Eyes, Castiel slurring out directions when they reached the end of streets, Castiel looked up at the guy that was basically carrying him home.
"No."
Green Eyes looked down at him, confusion evident on his features.
"No what?"
"No, Charlie isn't my boyfriend. I don't have one," Castiel replied, meeting those apple-green eyes as they both came to a halt, Castiel too drunk to register that they had arrived already.
"Well", Green Eyes huffed, sliding Castiels' keys out of his back pocket and opening the door to his flat, "Good".
Castiel wasn't really sure what Green Eyes meant by that, so just chose to chuckle quietly at nothing again instead.
After much concentration and struggle on Castiels' part, they both eventually made it to the fourth floor, Green Eyes letting them in to Castiels' room and closing the door quietly behind them as Castiel collapsed on his bed, head still spinning slightly. Castiel felt warm hands stripping him of his shirt and wrapping a blanket around him. The hands rested on Castiels' chest, not sure what to do next. Castiel opened his eyes to see his saviours' face hovering inches above his, hesitation in those emerald eyes obvious even in the darkness of Castiels' bedroom.
"Are you an angel?" Castiel whispered, brain still not fully functioning, causing the beautiful face above him to break into a grin.
"I was going to ask you the same thing," Green Eyes whispered back, and suddenly Castiel was lost in soft lips on his, indulging in the taste of coffee and with an edge of mint. And then it was over.
"Get some sleep. Angels are watching over you."
Castiel slept soundly that night, surrounded by warm covers and the lingering taste of coffee and mint. His dreams were filled with green eyes and freckles.

Chapter Text

Castiel woke up the next morning with a pounding in his head and an uneasy feeling in the pit of his stomach.
“Fuck”, Castiel cursed, squinting his eyes around the room for some painkillers. He made a grab for the small box on his bedside table next to the glass of water that he didn’t remember putting there last night. Distracted by his hangover, Castiel decided not to question it for the moment as he downed a couple of painkillers and chugged the glass of water. After a few minutes of resting on his bed and trying not to throw up, Castiel began to feel a little better and decided to risk standing up to go to the toilet. As Castiel washed his hands and splashed some cold water on his face, he turned his thoughts to the blurry memory of what was last night. He remembered Charlie dragging him back to her house, and then quickly losing her. Not brilliant with unfamiliar people, Castiel had resorted to drinking himself into a dizzying stupor. Everything was blurry after that, and it hurt Castiels’ head trying to remember, so he sighed at his tired-looking reflection with its dark bed-hair and decided to go back to sleep.
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A frantic knocking at his door was what woke Castiel up a few hours later, and Castiel did not appreciate his rude awakening. Groaning, Castiel pulled himself out of bed and opened the door to a very annoyed looking Charlie.
"And where have you been? I was so worried when I couldn't find you at the party, I thought some creep like Alastair had managed to get in and fucking kidnapped you!"
Castiel shut the door as Charlie brushed past him, patiently waiting for her rambling to stop. Charlie put her hands on her slim hips and raised her eyebrows expectantly. Castiel avoided her gaze and stared at the floor instead, and a folded piece of paper with handwriting that was distinctly not his caught his eye. Not wanting Charlie to get to it first, Castiel surreptitiously slid it under the bed with his foot and looked up at Charlie.
"I don't know what you want me to say, Charlie. I just got bored and walked home, no big deal", Castiel held up his hands in what he hoped looked innocent and believable enough, and after being squinted at by the short red-head, Charlie nodded.
"Fine. But that's no excuse for missing Art class. I had to sit next to Gordon Walker and endure an hour of homophobic questions."
Castiel sighed and genuinely felt bad for lying to Charlie and missing class now. Ever since Charlie had come out as lesbian a few years ago, she'd had persistent taunting from a few select individuals. Most people had just accepted it and moved on, but for some reason Charlie's sexuality was really fucking interesting to a bunch of jock douchebags that couldn't work out two plus two even if they had the answer highlighted in front of them. Charlie handled it pretty well, but that didn't mean Castiel wanted to punch them up any less. Castiel ran a hand through his messy bed-hair and sighed as the guilt settled in his stomach.
"Shit Charlie, I'm so sorry. I got pretty smashed last night and I've literally been unconscious all day".
Something about this made Charlie stare at him suspiciously, and Castiel's stomach flipped nervously.
"Whatever", Charlie waved a hand, her dismissal making Castiel breathe a small sigh of relief, "So, you gonna buy me that shirt from Target to make up for it?"
Castiel rolled his eyes at her cheeky grin and nodded, chuckling.
"I suppose I do already owe you like $20 anyway. Just give me ten minutes to get myself together", Castiel made a shooing motion with his hands and Charlie giggled in triumph as she left his room, the door swinging shut behind her.
Castiel quietly stooped down and retrieved the paper he'd shoved under the bed out of sight of Charlie. Castiel's crystal blue eyes scanned over the unfamiliar handwriting and gulped down a mixed feeling of anxiety and regret as he read the messy words.
'GOOD MORNING, ANGEL. -DW.'
*********************************
"Do you think this one clashes with my hair?"
Castiel was sat outside the ladies' changing room of Target, hunched over and nervously picking at the sleeves of his trenchcoat. He couldn't believe he'd been so fucking stupid! Ever since Castiel had worked out the most likely author of the note from last night his head had been a mess. How could he have done this to himself!? More importantly, how could he have done this to Charlie!? With Dean fucking Winchester! Out of all the obnoxious asshole jocks that had made his best friends' life hell over the past few years, it had to have been Dean Winchester. Castiel wasn't 100% sure that Dean was one of the ones that was actually bullying Charlie for being gay, but he'd seen him enough times at school to know that he moved in the same circle as the ones Castiel definitely knew had fucked up Charlie's life. Castiel absently crumpled the note in his coat pocket between his fingers, giving himself another wave of regret and guilt. Castiel nearly jumped out of his seat when Charlie punched him in the shoulder, jerking him out of his thoughts.
"Uh yeah," Castiel shrugged, trying to look interested, "That one looks awesome".
Charlie huffed and shook her head, "That wasn't even my question," Castiel looked down sheepishly, "What's wrong Cas? Hangover can't have been that bad."
Castiel searched around for a suitable excuse that didn't involve confessing to kissing someone that had been bullying his best friend.
"Don't worry, I'm just kinda worried about the fact that I have fuck all in the way of ideas for my final art peice."
Charlie studied Castiel's face, as if she was trying to crack open his head and see all the dirty little secrets he was keeping in there. Eventually, she nodded and turned back to her reflection. Pleased to have apparently been let off the hook again, Castiel straightened up and watched Charlie fuss with her appearance.
"Since when do you give a damn about what you wear? Got a hot date or something, Charlie?"
Charlie turned around blushing slightly and Castiel widened his eyes. Charlie stuck up her middle finger and turned away, clearly embarrassed.
"It's not exactly a date. I met this super cute girl at the party last night, and I'm really into her".
Castiel smiled at his best friend, happy that something good was finally coming her way.
"She into you?"
Charlie couldn't hide her grin at his question.
"She seemed to be when she stuck her tongue down my throat".
Castiel threw his head back and laughed, taking a swipe at Charlie which she neatly dodged.
"Damn Charlie! Look at you moving fast".
Charlie stuck her tongue out at him, making him laugh even harder.
"Fuck off! Like you've never kissed someone you've just met!"
Castiel's laugh faltered as memories of green eyes and soft lips reappeared to the front of his mind, and he shook his head slightly to get rid of them.
"Well, in that case, you might want something with a little more cleavage", Castiel teased, trying to distract himself again.
Charlie threw a pile of rejected clothes in his face and glared at him.
"Make yourself useful and put these back. Some of us have a date to prepare for".
Castiel watched his friend retreat back into the cubicle, and collected up the bundle of unwanted clothes, wondering how long he was going to have to keep lying to her.

Chapter Text

Castiel hadn't planned on going to another party this week, but Charlie had wanted him close by if something went wrong between her and the mystery girl that she still refused to tell Cas anything about. So here he was, waiting in a corner with Charlie fidgeting nervously next to her, wishing he was back home with his sketch pad. A sharp tug on his sleeve made Castiel look down.
"Will you find me another drink?" Charlie looked up at Castiel, her eyes already slightly glazed over from the alcohol.
Castiel frowned at her, "Are you sure that's a good idea? Won't this girl be turning up soon? She may actually want to hold a coherent conversation with you."
Charlie rolled her eyes and looked hard at Castiel until, with a sigh, he yielded and took her cup towards the kitchen.
At least he thought he'd been headed to the kitchen, but this big-ass mansion of a house seemed to have about a zillion rooms, and the dark crowded scene wasn't helping Castiel with any sense of direction in this unfamiliar environment. As Castiel headed up his fifth, or was it sixth, flight of stairs and was met with a line of bedrooms he decided to make the most of the lack of people in this part of the building, and sat down on a chair with a huff. Staring at Charlie's red plastic cup, Castiel absently let his mind wander towards the part of his brain that kept a blurry memory of green eyes and the smell of peppermint. Castiel was just entertaining the guilty hope that he might bump into Dean again soon when a loud thud and heavy breathing jerked Castiel out of his reveree. Leaving Charlie's cup forgotten on the chair, Castiel slowly got up and walked towards the half-open door leading to the room which the sound had come from. A girls' soft moan drifted out of the room, making Castiel turn around in disgust as he realised what was probably happening in there. Ready for another attempt at searching for the kitchen, Castiel began to head for the stairs until a familiar voice coming from the same room made him freeze and turn around. Against his better judgement, Castiel moved quietly towards the door once again, this time able to make out a few words in that same familiar voice.
"Lisa....stop babe....I don't....."
The voice was cut off by the sound of sloppy kissing, and before Castiel could remember how fucking weird this was, he looked through the open door. Moonlight fell on two people, one pushed up against the far wall, both of them kissing in what Castiel guessed was probably going to be a very drunk mistake tomorrow. Castiel was about to quietly back away when the taller shadow pushed the other away, breaking the kiss suddenly. Unfortunately, the girl grabbed hold of the guy and they both lost their balance, falling onto the bed with the guy on top.
A guy who's every feature was now clearly visible to Castiel in the moonlight.
Castiel swallowed the lump that had formed in his throat and turned wildly, ready to run out of that party and away from everything. Before he could calm down, Castiel's arm hit a vase perched next to him and it was thrown onto the laminate flooring with a crash. Looking over his shoulder, Castiel's eyes met a pair of green orbs in the darkness of the room which turned from surprised to unreadable as recognition hit.
Castiel turned away and vaulted down the stairs, taking them three at a time and barging past the drunk partygoers until he was safely out into the breathable clean night air. Taking a moment to collect himself, Castiel called a taxi as he hastily crossed the road, leaving the party, Charlie, and the worried voice that he could hear calling his name, all behind him.
**********************************************

Castiel woke up the next day at his desk in his room. Lifting up his head and clicking the stiffness in his neck away, Castiel swept his gaze over the many sheets of paper covering his desk. He'd ran all the way home last night holding back tears. In attempt to distract himself from what he'd seen, Castiel had turned to the only sanctuary that never failed him. Picking up all the sketches from last night, Castiel sifted through them, anger rising in his chest when he realised they were all charcoal smudges of a handsome face with light hair and freckles. Swallowing down tears of frustration, Castiel screwed the drawings into a ball and threw them in the general direction of the waste basket before shrugging out of the shirt he'd been wearing since last night and collapsing onto his unmade bed. Castiel stretched his arms above him in an attempt to loosen the muscles there, when something made him freeze. A sick feeling rose from his stomach to the back of his throat as he shot into a sitting position, staring down at his left forearm.

"No", Castiel whispered to himself as tears blurred his vision, "Not again".

Castiel ran to the bathroom mirror. There was no mistaking it. Both his eyes and his reflection were telling him the same thing. And now it was all coming back to him in a flood of pain and regret. Running home last night, Castiel hadn't immediately turned to drawing like he'd originally thought. Castiel shuddered in pain as he remembered the hurt coursing through him last night. He remembered how seeing Dean with that girl had just reminded him how disposable he was. How worthless. Consumed by pain, he'd turned to what he hadn't had to resort to in a good few months. Castiel let out a broken sob as he sank slowly to the bathroom floor.

"I failed again," Castiel groaned to himself, "I'm completely worthless".

Castiel felt the black void swallow him up as he watched his tears fall onto the red cuts littering his forearm, angry and some still bloody compared to the pale ones that would be a constant reminder of how familiar this feeling had once been to him.