Haven't heard from you in too long, what the hell's going on with you?! I need at least the first three chapters from you asap, sugarcakes. The bossman has his panties in a twist, especially since you poo-pooed that book tour.
Don't leave me hanging!
I'm so sorry for my silence of late. I've been hesitant to admit that I've been having trouble with my writing. I believe I'm tired of writing this series. I have no desire to continue it at the moment, and no inspiration for where to go with it.
Until I begin to feel inspired again, I'm afraid to say I can't force myself to go on with it.
WHAT??!! Cas, don't you do this to me. We've been friends too long for you to pull that stick-up-your-ass routine.
What the hell do you mean, you "can't force yourself to go on with it"? Buck up, soldier, you signed a five book contract deal and you've got two more to write. So stop whining, sit down on that cute little tush of yours and start writing something.
But Pam, I'm freaking out! I've wanted to come to you with this but I knew how upset you'd be. I sit down at my computer and nothing inspires me. I don't care about these characters anymore. Why should I care about the angels? They're cold and calculating, and have no empathy for humans or Earth at all. And if I can't make myself care, how can I expect the readers to care?
How big of a deal is it to get out of a contract? They'll sue me, I know. But I just don't know what else to do.
You just need to think about something else for a while. Freshen your mind up a bit. What about going out somewhere? I know, I know, you don't like leaving your apartment – but honey, I really think it'd do you some good. Just a walk through the park or something.
Or better yet, find yourself a cute hard bod to dive into for a long weekend. That'll give you some perspective. ;D
No. That wouldn't help.
I'll attempt to do more research tomorrow. But I can make no promises, at this point.
Again, I'm so sorry if this gets you in trouble with…dickhead. Sorry, I can't recall the name of your new supervisor at the moment.
His name is Zachariah, and yeah, he'll be pissed, but I can hold him off for a while longer. I think.
Just do your best. And Cas, stay in touch with me, okay? I worry about you.
And I miss gossiping with my friend.
You need to stop schmoozing your clients and jet-setting the world long enough to check up on your brother, because he is about to go off the deep end.
If you care, that is.
Okay, I'll bite. I got 3 questions:
—Who are you?
—How did you get this email address?
Wait, 4 questions—what do you look like? Because you sound hot.
Wow, Cas wasn't kidding about you…
This is Pamela, Castiel's editor. The brother in question is, obviously, Castiel. I got your email from a message he sent out to a bunch of people a few months ago with some youtube link of kittens reenacting Star Wars. I saw your ridiculous email addy and asked him who you were.
Your brother has writer's block and he's having a meltdown. I think he needs to get out of that apartment and let loose for a night, but I'm sure you know how that argument went. I'd get on a plane to Wichita myself but I've got meetings out the wazoo for the next two weeks. I figured since you're a fancy international ad man, you could take some time off to go check up on him.
Dammit, I knew something was up when the kid didn't call to bitch at me about that porn link I sent him last week.
It just so happens I'm in Chicago this week anyway, so I can hop on a plane tomorrow to check up on him. Thanks for the head's up.
PS—send me a picture of you so I can confirm you are who you say you are. Preferably in a schoolgirl uniform.
Writer's block has to be one of the most favored tortures in Hell, Castiel believes.
It's even worse than magic-erasering the grout between the floor tiles in the kitchen, which is what he's doing right now even though it's already spotless. And Castiel isn't really cleaning the grout at all, he's procrastinating. He knows this because he has spent the last three days procrastinating his way through the entire condo, not that it needs the attention. His bi-weekly Merry Maid and his procrastinating have seen to that.
He sits back on his haunches, studies the floor with a critical eye. It's done, he thinks regretfully, and there really is nothing left to clean. And that means he'll have to do what he should be doing, and his eyes drift up to focus on his computer, staring blackly at him through the half-open office door.
Time for another fruitless attempt at getting some deathless prose hammered out then, and Castiel pushes up, dumps the ravaged corpse of the magic eraser in the sink before padding into the office. The cursor he abandoned mid-sentence after running out of steam three paragraphs in to chapter two is blinking at him in a calculated, mocking way. A calculated, mocking way that reminds him he could use a shower after all that procrastinating and that after he showers, the bathroom will need a clean.
As he's standing under the hot spray of water, Castiel hears a knocking sound. Air in the pipes. Or, even better, a major plumbing repair that will play merry hell with his writing schedule for the next week. He grimaces up into the spray, because where there are major plumbing repairs, there are strangers walking around his home, invading his space and threatening the comfort of his routine.
He debates the pros and cons of dealing with plumbing repairs, the distraction from writing being a definite plus, for the two minutes it takes to realize the knocking sound is someone pounding on his front door. And not anyone he's expecting to visit, because today isn't groceries day.
Not anyone he wants to visit either, he discovers after he wraps a towel around his waist and drips his way to the front door.
"Hey, little bro! What's hangin'? Other than your junk under that towel."
Castiel knows he's slack-jawed as he stares at his brother standing in the doorway, and his response is flat. "What do you want?"
Gabriel presses a palm to his chest, all wide eyes and mock hurt.
"Pardon my rudeness," Castiel adds, just as baleful as he was before. "But what are you doing here?"
His brother slides adroitly past him and into the apartment, eyes darting everywhere at once. "Yeah, I know we're supposed to notify you in triplicate before dropping by, on pain of death, but I had some business in Chicago this week…" He spins around, eyes lively. "And you're in luck, I have a long weekend and no plans, so I hopped a shuttle to come see my little brother. You're taking me out for my birthday."
It takes Castiel longer than it really should to rustle up the date from his memory. "Your birthday isn't for another two months."
"Eh, that's just a technicality. Who's to say when I might be up this way again?" Gabriel's face sobers for a moment as he watches Castiel fidget. "Cas, I tried calling you last night but you let it go to voicemail. And I emailed you this morning, but zip. So, I did try to give you some notice."
Castiel bites his lip as he contemplates Gabriel's words, finally sighing. "Alright. But I'll have to get dressed."
Gabriel smirks. "Well, duh. Not that the towel doesn't suit you." He saunters through the foyer ahead of Castiel, nods as he takes it all in. "I like what you've done with the place. Architect was worth the money then."
"Yes, like I said he would be," Castiel retorts, and as he makes his way back into the bedroom to pull on his jeans and a clean t-shirt, a sense of smug satisfaction swells up inside him on the memory of his brother's unimpressed eye-roll the first time they'd come up here and surveyed the poorly laid out shambles the place was.
He thinks on it now, smaller rooms knocked into one large, airy living space, with bedrooms and bathrooms off the main living room, light flooding in and shining gold on wooden floors. Peace, a sanctuary, even if his brothers and cousins all lectured that he'd be better off buying in the suburbs, away from the bustle of the city, a place where he'd be happy and more comfortable hiding away. But no: the high ground for him, although most of his family questioned his sanity. High enough to see everything for miles around: his hilltop fort.
Gabriel is in the den leafing through a book when Castiel finds him again.
"Photography?" he inquires as he lifts it up. "Thinking of taking up a new hobby?"
Castiel narrows his eyes and juts his chin out in defiance. "Maybe. Someday. Why didn't you use your key to get in? There's a reason I gave it to you, you know."
Gabriel snorts. "Riiiight. For all I know, you could have taken your creeper recluse status to the next level and started hoarding guns or knives or something. It'd be just my luck barging in on you while you're cleaning your rifles."
Sighing, Castiel takes a seat on his couch. "I'm not a creeper recluse, and I don't hoard, especially not weapons."
Gabriel plops down on a chair, stacking his feet on the coffee table in front of him. He fixes Castiel with a needle-sharp, analytical look. "So when's the last time you went outside?"
Castiel clenches his jaw and stares at the floor. "Six months ago."
There is a stifled expletive at that, but his brother recovers well enough "You still wearing that ugly trench coat whenever you do leave the house?"
"Then you're a creeper recluse, Cas."
Castiel can feel his brother's eyes boring into him, but when he glances up at Gabriel what he finds in his face is fondness, not anger or disappointment. Castiel relaxes a tiny bit, and even as he does it he knows it's a mistake, because Gabriel can scent weakness like a great white can sense a drop of blood in the Atlantic.
And sure enough, he goes in for the kill.
"So, I was thinking maybe a night on the town. A bar, a club. Fetch your creeper coat."
Castiel tenses a great deal at that, but he has been on this merry-go-round with his brother often enough to know that the woobie act is a useless defense. "I have work to do," he says firmly. "Right now. I'm working, in fact. And you disturbed me."
Gabriel's eyes go beady and take a long, slow sweep around the room. "Place looks awfully clean, kiddo."
Keeping his eyes as steady as he can even if his gut is starting to churn, Castiel adds, "Working to a deadline."
Gabriel leans forward, propping his elbows on his knees. "Cas, chill out. I'm not going to force you to do anything, and I'm not even going to try to guilt you into anything. Much."
I don't want to.
Castiel rubs his palm across his forehead, glancing quickly around the room. "What did you have in mind? Gabriel, you know how I feel about going out without a planned—"
"You're right, Cas, I do know. Which is why I've got it all planned out." Gabriel reaches into his coat, pulls folded papers from a pocket. "See here? This is an itinerary of where I'd like to go. I've got a reservation at Pauli's Steakhouse on North 5th Street at 7:30. Here's a layout of the restaurant…" He unfolds a sketched diagram. "…That I bribed the hostess to make."
Gabriel pauses his speech for a moment to stare happily into space. "Hmmm, the things I had to promise her to get her to draw this for me…"
He continues to contemplate for several more seconds, until Castiel clears his throat.
"Right, so anywho, I got Tammi-with-an-i to reserve us a table in the corner with a clear view of the entire main floor of the restaurant and the exit. Also, here's a menu so you can go ahead and decide what you want to eat."
Gabriel stops, smiles brightly because he's a man with a plan, and it's a bad plan, a plan that has Castiel's heart beating faster and his mouth going dry. "How will we be getting there?" he manages, and he knows he sounds a little desperate. "I do have my car but I haven't mapped it out or checked on traffic congestion around that area, or even looked at the weather forecast today, and—"
"Got that one covered too, Cas," his brother jumps in smartly, but then his voice goes gentle. "I've got a Mercedes picking us up twenty minutes before the reservation. And before you ask, yes, I checked their safety record and it is the safest limo service in the city. I also got them to draw me a map of the route the driver will take."
Gabriel pulls a city map out of his coat pocket, and Castiel whips out his hand purely by reflex, grabs the map and unfolds it. He pores over the route his brother has plotted out with a Sharpie. The restaurant is less than five miles from his condo, which is a relief.
He swallows. "I…suppose I could try going with you. That only gives me about an hour to prepare, though."
He stands up to make his way into his bedroom, but turns when he hears his brother clear his throat.
"Uh, Cas. That's not the only place I want to go tonight."
Castiel stares at him for a moment before sitting back down. "Okay. Where else did you want to go?"
"See, there's this new strip club in town, and—"
His nerves cast out by his annoyance, Castiel snaps, "Strip club?!"
"Oh boy, yeah, and wait till you hear what I had to do to get that place
mapped out for me," Gabriel cackles.
An hour and a half later finds them both at the steakhouse Gabriel chose. It's a very opulent and swanky place on the other side of downtown from Castiel's condo. It's also packed, noisy with groups of people laughing boisterously and busy with waiters and waitresses skipping by with large trays of food. It's a hive of activity, and if Castiel didn't have a map of the layout of the building in his pocket and a full view of the exit, he knows he'd probably be in the beginnings of a panic attack by now. He's damned thankful he had the presence of mind to take a Xanax before he left his place.
There's no doubt the food smells good, so good Castiel thinks he might even be able to eat despite his nerves. Gabriel orders a pint of Guinness and rare steak, scoffing at Castiel's request of a cheeseburger and diet Coke.
"At least drink a pint with me, it'll help loosen you up."
Castiel knows this is one argument he will not win, so he acquiesces and orders a Guinness as well, warning darkly, "If I end up passing out from the combination of my meds and alcohol, you are forbidden from taking any pictures of me in compromising positions."
Gabriel smirks. "Oh, come on, Cas, that was one time! And you have to admit, you did look pretty in that lipstick and bonnet."
Castiel rolls his eyes. "Yes, but the lipstick was the wrong color for my skin tone. It was completely embarrassing."
Gabriel snorts, but remains silent for several minutes, and Castiel spends the time scanning the room, willing his medication to start taking effect.
Several sips later, Gabriel clears his throat. "So. Still popping the pills?"
He broaches it cautiously enough, but Castiel knows he bristles and sounds too defensive. "I'm not pill-popping. I'm not taking them regularly at all, in fact. I work from home, I don't need to go out in public very often. So I don't have to take them very often."
Gabriel nods slowly. "Okay."
"And they're effective," Castiel continues, too fast, because he wonders if his brother will ever get it, the knife-edge feeling of being on the verge of screaming panic, the weariness of it.
"How's work?" Gabriel detours, and Castiel thinks that maybe he does get it.
The brief distraction of their drinks arriving is welcome, and Castiel reaches for his glass as greedily as his brother does, gulps down a mouthful. He glances his way from the corner of his eye, then keeps his gaze steady on the tablecloth, fingers playing nervously with a napkin. "Work is…fine, I suppose."
Castiel's head quickly snaps up, his stare focusing on Gabriel's smirk. "What do you mean? I don't understand—"
"You've been trying to write for over a month and it's been a no-go."
"How do you even know that?" Castiel looks around the room suspiciously, wondering if this is some practical joke, if there are cameras somewhere watching him, waiting to pull a fast one over on him.
Gabriel lowers his voice to a calm and even tone. "Steady now, little brother, it's not magic or some big conspiracy. Your editor emailed me yesterday."
That makes no sense, and Castiel gapes. "Pamela? How? Why? How?"
"Those are three very good questions," Gabriel smiles, voice back to its normal, teasing tone. "First off, there's this amazing little invention called the internet…by the way, stop me if you've heard this one—"
"Gabe, if you don't get serious—"
"Alright, alright, take another chill pill. She got my email address from some mass email you sent out weeks ago about space-age pussies—"
"Um, that sounds like nothing I would do—"
"…Okay, maybe it was about kittens playing at Star Wars, who the fuck clicks on those links people send in emails anyways?"
"I do, Gabriel, that's why I got so pissed at you when you sent me that porn link, it took me weeks to get rid of that virus."
Gabriel gets a dreamy look on his face and sighs. "Yeah, that was some truly filthy porn. I'm not surprised it was so dirty you got a virus, although I am shocked to discover that STDs are strong enough now to pass on through the intertubes. Just goes to show that antibiotics are building a virus army to kill us all—"
"Gabe!" Castiel jumps in. "Focus."
Gabriel fakes a wince and smirks. "Huh? Oh, right. Anyway, your editor sent me an email yesterday saying I should go check in on you. Or actually, she demanded it, in a really hot way. Speaking of, what does she look like? She's hot, isn't she? I bet she's got the librarian vibe going for her…glasses, hair tied back in a bun, tight skirt and button-down shirt, stiletto heels and an attitude. Am I right?"
Sighing, Castiel reaches for his beer and gulps down half of it. That's better. "Pamela is…she's not like that. She's very appealing, really. More into new age things. The healing power of crystals. Pyramids. I've never really understood how she ended up in the business world, even something as creative as this. She practices meditation, yoga, goes on spiritual retreats…she's a very giving soul, but also will not tolerate anyone's bullshit. I've yet to meet anyone who could best her, physically or mentally. Or in the consumption of alcohol."
Gabriel chuckles. "Sounds like my kind of gal."
Castiel scoffs, "She'd eat you alive."
"Oh, I'm counting on it."
That's a mental image Castiel can do without, so he steers the conversation back to the point. "So, what? You came here because Pam said I might be going off the deep end?" He knows he sounds petulant and hurt, but he can't help it. It's humiliating to know that his friends and family are now going behind his back, discussing what's best for him.
Gabriel leans back in his chair. "No, little bro," he starts, but as Castiel rearranges his features into skepticism, Gabriel concedes, "Well, yeah, kind of, but I had been thinking of coming to see you on this trip anyways. I really might not be able to make it back before my birthday, and I've missed you. Pam's email just gave me the kick in the ass I needed to get myself here."
Even if he's suspicious, it warms Castiel's heart to hear his brother say he missed him. Sometimes it's easy to forget how nice it is to interact with people face to face instead of virtually or on the phone, and so he can't help softening. "Thanks, Gabriel. I've missed you, as well."
"Besides, I've always wanted to see how you'd react in a strip club."
The man can never let a sincere moment pass without provocation.
The strip club is only a ten-minute stroll from the restaurant, but Gabriel doesn't force an impromptu late-night walk on Castiel. He whistles shrilly for the car, bundles Castiel into it, and two minutes after lurching out of the restaurant they're on the doorstep of the club. It doesn't look like much from the outside, just a simple sign that says "Angels and Demons" above the door, and a burly bouncer standing guard at the entrance.
The man waves them through once Gabriel tucks a folded bill into his jacket pocket, and Gabriel pushes Castiel ahead of him down a long, darkened hallway covered from floor to ceiling in twinkling lights.
"It's like walking through space, the final frontier," Gabriel slurs. "We shall boldly go."
Castiel can feel his heart rate quicken slightly at being in such a dark, unfamiliar place, and he says a silent thank you to Gabriel for pressuring him into drinking alcohol. The combination of that and the Xanax has dampened his propensity to panic quite considerably but even so, despite the stars twinkling above them, he's grateful when they come to the end of the hallway, which opens up onto a very large room with a stage on the opposite side.
Castiel takes a quick survey of the room, to get his bearings and locate the emergency exits. On the right side of the club is a large bar that runs the length of that wall, making it big enough to have two separate sections, one titled "Heaven" and one titled "Hell." It's decorated in the same theme as the rest of the club seems to be, the Heaven side filled with whites and silvers and blues, soft pillows made to resemble clouds thrown around the booths and sectioned-off areas, and the Hell side filled with dark splashes of color, reds and purples and blacks, paintings of fire and naked bodies writhing and wrapped around each other in various stages of sin.
It's a quite ingenious theme, Castiel muses, one the club has taken even further, to the waiters and waitresses walking around, some dressed as angels complete with halos hanging crookedly over their heads and fluffy strap-on wings, and others dressed as devils with little horns and blood red lips. Glancing around, Castiel notices both men and women in various stages of undress dancing on the small, elevated platforms around the room.
When he looks to Gabriel with his eyebrows raised, his brother winks.
"Do I take care of my little bro or what? This is one of those equal opportunity strip clubs. Boys and girls, whatever floats your boat. I even reserved us a special VIP table, right in front of the stage."
He grabs Castiel's coat sleeve and drags him over to their table. Castiel is horrified at the thought of sitting that close to the stage, where everyone can see them and anything could happen, until Gabriel leans over to shout at him above the music.
"Don't worry, Cas. I told them that we didn't want any of the dancers to come up to us. We'll be fine, nothing's going to happen that you don't know about beforehand, okay?"
Castiel takes a deep breath and nods at his brother, reminding himself that no matter how annoying and infuriating Gabriel can be, he'd never deliberately do anything upsetting. Before he can begin to scan the room to double check on the escape routes, a waitress has approached to take their drink orders.
"Two beers and a bottle of house white," Gabriel raps out smartly before Castiel can refuse, and then he leans in. "This is just insurance to make sure you stay relaxed," he reassures above the noise of the music and the other patrons.
"At this point, if you're not careful relaxed may become comatose," Castiel shouts back. "I'm not supposed to drink alcohol with my meds, and I never have before. I have no idea how much of an effect it'll have on me."
Gabriel waves a hand. "Don't worry. If you pass out, I'll just have one of these handsome scantily-clad men scoop you up and carry you to the car." He grins and waggles his eyebrows, and Castiel rolls his eyes and turns his attention to the stage, as the lights are dimmed and the spotlight is turned on.
The first performer is a woman called Casey, and she takes the stage dressed in motorcycle gear – spiked-heel boots, dark leather pants, and a tight leather jacket. She quickly loses the jacket, revealing a barely-there ruby-red tank top underneath. She moves slowly across the stage, sliding her hands up and down her body, her movements hypnotizing, long brunette hair falling around her bare shoulders in silky waves. She moves like she knows she has the audience so entranced that she needn't do anything flashy to garner their attention.
Castiel spares a glance at Gabriel and huffs in laughter. His brother's gaze on the dancer is so intense Castiel wouldn't be surprised to see laser beams shooting out of his eyes. As it is, Castiel briefly wonders if he should order a bib to protect his clothes from all the drooling.
Once Casey's routine is finished, Castiel excuses himself to go to the bathroom, his bladder not being used to all the alcohol he's drinking, nor to the nerves he's been feeling. He makes his way to the bathroom closest to his table, along a hallway next to the bar. As he approaches the door, he sees a man in green medical scrubs leaning on the wall outside of it, talking on a cell phone. His eyes are closed, and the fingers of one hand are pinching the bridge of his nose as he talks into the phone.
"I know, I know," the man says. "I just miss you is all."
His voice cracks as he says those last words, and Castiel feels as if he's eavesdropping on a very private moment. He's unsure of what to do because he doesn't want to interrupt, but it seems as if the man is standing in line for the bathroom, and Castiel doesn't want to cut in. He stands there quietly, looking around and trying to be as unobtrusive as possible as the man finishes up his phone call, eyes still closed.
"Okay, yeah, I guess I'll see you next weekend then, hopefully," the man sighs. "Yeah, I love you too, shithead. Bye."
Castiel watches the man smile faintly as he says his goodbye. When he ends the call, he scrubs a hand across his face, and Castiel hears him mumble, "Fuck."
Castiel stands awkwardly for another couple of seconds before clearing his throat. The man's eyes snap open as he notices Castiel for the first time, and Castiel smiles nervously.
"Um, I'm sorry, I didn't mean to interrupt you, but I wasn't sure if you were in line for the bathroom…" He gestures at the door, feeling like the most uncouth human that's ever existed, especially once he gets a glimpse at the man's eyes. They are a perfect shade of green, with flecks of gold near the pupils, and eyelashes that don't seem to end.
The man blushes faintly and smiles, pushing away from the wall. "All yours, dude," he drawls. "Have a good night," he calls over his shoulder as he walks away.
Castiel watches the man's retreating form until he becomes lost in the crowd. "Yes, you, too," he mumbles to no one. Great, Cas, he berates himself. The most beautiful man you've ever seen and all you can do is ask if he's in line for the bathroom. What great progress you've made.
Once Castiel has returned to his seat at their table, Gabriel leans over. "Hey, funny story, turns out Casey is that dancer's real name. Also, her boyfriend is the big guy dressed as a gladiator over there, and he doesn't take too kindly to guys asking his girlfriend out. Go figure!"
Castiel snorts, taking a sip from his dwindling pint. "I would say that I'm shocked, but I doubt anything can shock me anymore about this night."
Which is exactly when the lights dim again and the next dancer is announced.
"Everyone, put your hands together and get those dollar bills at the ready for Doctor Sexy himself, Tyler Paaaaaaaage!" the announcer screams into his microphone, as both the men and the women in the crowd whoop and holler. Castiel looks around at the audience, wondering what the fuss is about, until he glances back at the stage and sees the man from the bathroom hallway strutting out onto the catwalk.
"Oh dear Lord in Heaven," Castiel blurts out, and he hears Gabriel bark out laughter beside him.
"You thanking God for Dr. Sexy up there, or asking God to forgive you for the sins you're wanting to commit right now?"
Castiel ignores his brother, his attention solely on Tyler Page. He's got a white lab coat on over the green scrubs, and cowboy boots on his feet. He's wearing black-rimmed glasses that give him the air of a serious professional. Castiel watches as Tyler begins bouncing to the music, the beat fast and hard. Castiel recognizes the song, but can't place it until the chorus begins. Doctor, doctor, give me the news/I got a bad case of lovin' you…
The lyrics are definitely appropriate, and the rhythm is perfect for a striptease of this nature. Tyler slings the lab coat off, throwing it across the stage. He smirks as he looks out at the crowd, one foot bouncing to the beat as he begins to tease and slowly raise his scrub shirt. The crowd, women and men alike, whistle and cat call at the first glimpse of Tyler's tan abs, hipbone peeking out above the low-riding waistband of his pants. He wags a finger at the audience and lets the hem of his shirt fall back down, laughing in surprise at the "Awww" and "Take it off!" replies he hears from the crowd.
He turns his back on the audience, begins to shimmy and shake his rear to the music, exposing the tightness of the pants to everyone, leaving nothing to the imagination. Castiel hears Gabriel comment, "Damn, you could bounce quarters off that ass!" but he ignores his brother, completely hypnotized by Tyler. He's not the best dancer, not by any stretch of the imagination. He doesn't perform any fancy moves or intricate routines. What's so entrancing about him is how he doesn't seem completely at ease, how he seems almost vulnerable. Yet, he also appears to be having fun, and looks genuinely surprised whenever he gets a positive response from the crowd.
Castiel begins to wonder just how new to stripping Tyler must be, but before his mind can wander Tyler pulls his scrub top over his head, revealing lean, tan skin, and strong, muscled shoulders. He has a tattoo of what looks to be a star or a pentagram over his left pectoral, which Castiel finds intriguing. He smiles out at the audience when he hears the screams of appreciation, the smile being a practiced grin, wide enough to show off his perfect teeth and dimples.
Tyler bounces his way to the side of the stage in front of Castiel's table, taking a moment to glance down at the audience. When his eyes meet Castiel's he pauses for a second, the plastic smile dropping off his face to be replaced briefly by the same warm, shy smile he'd given Castiel in the hallway. But he's turning away and bouncing to the other side of the stage before Castiel has even had a chance to catch his breath, his heart having stopped when their eyes met.
Gabriel shouts, "What the hell was that? Did you just have a moment with Dr. Sexy?!"
Castiel hushes his brother without taking his eyes off of Tyler. The fake grin is plastered across his face again as he gyrates to the music. Once the song begins reaching its crescendo, Tyler's face becomes serious as he looks out at the audience, lips pouting as he narrows his eyes. He reaches down, grabs the legs of his scrub pants, and rips them off, the crowd roaring as he reveals a skimpy thong underneath.
Castiel averts his eyes, suddenly embarrassed for the man, but he quickly looks back because the dancer is, quite simply, stunning. The only imperfection he may have, if one could call it that, is that he's a bit bow-legged. But Castiel would never call that a fault, at least not on Tyler Page. It only makes him more endearing, if such a thing were even possible.
Tyler completes his routine, escaping behind the curtain to loud applause and whistles. Castiel stares after him, oblivious to Gabriel smirking beside him until his brother clears his throat and waves a hand in front of Castiel's face.
"Hello, Earth to Cas!"
Castiel shakes his head and blinks, clearing his thoughts of what he'd just seen. "Yes?"
Gabriel laughs. "Oh man, have you got it bad."
Castiel can feel his cheeks flush, and he reaches for his glass, quickly gulping down the last dregs of his beer. He feels Gabriel staring at him and tries to ignore him until his pulse slows down. He's aware that if he lets onto his brother just how affected he was by Tyler Page, Gabriel will never let him live it down, but after a few moments of shared silence, Gabriel pushes up.
"I need to go hit the head," he announces, as he weaves away through the other tables.
Castiel heaves a sigh of relief, taking advantage of his brother's absence to get himself under control. The combination of the alcohol and nervousness of being in a public place, along with the mere existence of Tyler Page, has Castiel feeling light-headed and confused, yet he finds he's surprisingly calm and content given the circumstances and surroundings.
Of course, Gabriel is able to disrupt the calm as easily as a foot shuffling through an anthill. Castiel feels a slap on his shoulder as his brother returns to the table.
"Guess what I just got for you, little bro."
Castiel eyes the smug look on Gabriel's face suspiciously. "Gabriel, what did you do?"
"Turns out, some of the dancers here give private dances in the VIP rooms in back. And your loverboy is one of 'em."
Castiel feels all the color drain out of his face as his jaw drops to the floor. He reaches for his pint, but noticing it's empty, he grabs Gabriel's glass instead, chugging the rest of the now-warm liquid down in panicked gulps.
He wipes the foam off his mouth with the back of his hand once he's done, and stares at his brother incredulously. "Gabriel, I can't go into that room," he manages finally. He shakes his head as he's speaking, stops once he realizes it makes the room spin.
"Sure you can, Cas," his brother picks up cheerfully. "I explained to a waiter what your situation is and asked him what the layout was like. It's a normal room, about the size of your den, with a couch and a chair. There's a table and some shelves too, where the dancer hooks up his iPod or whatever for the music. You sit down on the chair or the couch, wherever you're comfortable, the dancer comes in, asks if you have any requests, then he does his dance for you." Gabriel smirks. "The dude said sometimes they'll do lap dances, sometimes not, it depends on what the dancer feels like doing. I'm guessing by the way Dr. Sexy checked you out, he'd be willing to climb in your lap."
Gabriel grins at Castiel, looking very proud of himself. Castiel wants to slap the smile off his face, but decides he'd rather not get arrested for sibling abuse tonight.
"Gabe, I can't."
Gabriel nods his head. "You can, and you will. When's the next time you're gonna be in a situation like this? Knowing you, probably never. Take advantage of the chance to be spontaneous, for once." His face sobers for a moment. "What's the worst that could happen, Cas?"
Castiel groans, biting his lip as he stares at the couples wrapped around each other on the dance floor near the bar. "Okay."
He rolls his eyes as Gabriel whoops and slaps him on the back. "That's my boy!"
Turns out, the worst that could happen is actually pretty damn bad.
Gabriel accompanies Castiel down one of the hallways on the opposite side of the building from the bar, his voice a comforting drone.
"The waiter said the bouncer for the VIP rooms tonight is named Gordon. He said he's a big-time asshole, so just keep your mouth shut and do as he says. I've already paid for you, so I'm gonna let him see me so he knows you've been paid for, and then I'm going back to our table. I'll be waiting for you once you're done."
He slows Castiel to a halt just ahead of a door on the left, near the end of the corridor. A man Castiel assumes to be Gordon is guarding the door, a sour look on his face. He stares at them both stonily, waiting for them to speak.
Gabriel clears his throat. "This is my brother, Cas. He'll be on the receiving end of the private dance I paid you for a few minutes ago, if you'll recall."
Gordon stares at them both for several long seconds before speaking. "Yeah, I remember you. What, you think I'm some freak who can't remember an asshole he spoke to ten minutes ago?"
Gabriel puts on his best kiss-ass smile as he places his hand on the small of Castiel's back to steady him. "Nope, not at all. Just wanted to be clear that the plans hadn't changed." He pats Castiel between the shoulders. "Cas, I'll be waiting for you back at the table. Try to enjoy yourself, okay?"
He turns to walk away, and Castiel calls after him. "Gabe, I think I shouldn't—"
"You'll be fine, Cas," Gabriel calls after him as he makes his way to the end of the hall and back onto the main floor. "It'll all be okay. Just live in the moment!"
Castiel turns and stares up into Gordon's unforgiving face. The man stands over him menacingly, probably just to let Castiel know that even though he's paid and passed muster, he's still under watchful eyes.
"Okay, so here's how it's gonna go down," Gordon snarls. "You're gonna put your hands against the wall so I can frisk you. Then you'll sit down on the chair or the couch inside this room and wait for Page. When he gets in there, you will have twenty minutes max with him. It may be less..." He leers as he lets his gaze rake down Castiel's body. "But it will most definitely not ever be more than twenty, no matter if you shoot your wad or not. So, if that's your goal, don't be holding back for too long, otherwise you'll be screwed – and not in the good way."
He grabs Castiel by the shoulder and swings him around to face the wall, Castiel yelping at the discomfort as the man squeezes his arm. "Now's the time you put your hands on the wall, Einstein."
Castiel does as he's told, feeling more humiliated by the second. This isn't what he'd imagined it'd be, not that he's ever really imagined anything like this before. But everything is so clinical and businesslike. He's not stupid, he knows this is a business transaction, but still.
"Spread your legs, man. Can't frisk you if you're clenched so tight you could shit a diamond."
Castiel is a split second away from calling the whole thing off and asking for Gabriel's money back, but thankfully Gordon makes the frisking as quick and painless as possible.
"Alright, hotshot, let's get you in here and go over the rest of the rules."
He slaps Castiel on the back as he reaches around him to open the door, and Castiel walks in ahead of him, gulping as he hears the door closing behind him.
"Take a seat."
Castiel takes a moment to glance around the room. It's decorated sparingly, but lush all the same. The walls are painted red, with gold and purple trim, and there are pillows and soft throws tossed around on tables and chairs throughout. The floor is a black lacquered tile. There's a single large chair in the middle of the room, and a leatherette couch along the back wall. As much as Castiel may want to run for the safety of the couch, he gets the feeling Gordon meant for him to sit on the chair, so he sets himself down there.
"Alright now," the man declares importantly. "Despite what you might think, the dancer is the boss in this room. What he says goes. He doesn't take requests unless he tells you so. If you do or say something he doesn't like, he'll tell you once to stop it. If he has to tell you twice, it won't be him telling you, it'll be me."
Gordon leans down, stares into Castiel's face so closely that their noses almost touch. "Trust me when I say you don't want me to be the one telling you to stop." He straightens back up. "And the biggest rule, the most important rule of them all: Absolutely. NO. TOUCHING."
He stands there, staring down at Castiel. "Any questions?"
Castiel looks up at him from under his lashes, refusing to give him the benefit of seeing him squirm anymore than he already has. "Absolutely none," he snaps.
The demeanor on Gordon's face changes so abruptly that Castiel wonders if the man suffers from a multiple personality disorder. He grins and claps his hands loudly. "Fantastic! Now Imma leave you to it, Tyler should be in here in just a few more minutes."
He turns to leave, but changes his mind as if he'd forgotten something. "Oh, one last thing!" He walks over to a cabinet along the right side of the room, opening a door and pulling out a tan-colored towel. "Here's a towel to put in your pants for the jizz. We're all about providing comfort here at Angels and Demons. Enjoy your session!"
Gordon gives him one last parting grin and a wink, before turning to leave the room and slamming the door shut behind him.
Yep Castiel thinks, definitely multiple personalities.
Castiel sits quietly, trying to make his head stop spinning so much as he waits for Tyler to enter. The more he concentrates on making things still, the more they spin, leaving him sweaty and nauseous. Thankfully, there's a air vent in the ceiling above his chair blowing a draught on his face, and he closes his eyes, breathing in the cool air gratefully even if it's rank with the taint of sweat and cigarette smoke.
He hears a door click, and opens his eyes to see Tyler Page enter from a door hidden in the shadows at the front of the room. He's wearing the medical scrubs from his routine minus the white coat, and he doesn't look at Castiel as he walks the few steps to a sound system on the shelves off to the left, stopping to connect his iPod to the stereo. As he's playing with the gadget, he opens his mouth wide to yawn, glancing over in mid-yawn to where Castiel is sitting. He seems surprised to find Castiel there and staring at him, and he blushes, looking down at the floor before quickly returning Castiel's gaze.
"Sorry, man. It's not you, I'm just a bit tired." He smiles that same warm smile that Castiel has been rewarded with twice before, stirring the butterflies in Castiel's stomach to a frenzied pace. "So, uh, is there any kind of music you prefer? I don't have a shit-ton of it, but I think I've got a pretty decent selection."
He fidgets some more with his iPod, and Castiel has to clear his throat a couple of times before he finds his voice. "No, just whatever you'd prefer," he finally manages to croak.
Tyler nods, and settles on a slow song, a classic rock tune that Castiel recognizes. He watches as Tyler begins to casually sway to the music, gliding his hands along his stomach, teasing the hem up ever so languidly. He keeps his eyes closed as he dances, face serious in concentration and lips pursed. The beat of this song is quite different from that in his performance earlier, a slow seduction as the singer croons I'm ready for love, ooooh baby, I'm ready for love…
Castiel's breathing is rapid, but he sits completely still, hypnotized by the man before him. He spares a quick thought to the fact that he must look like a cobra mesmerized by the snake charmer before him as he feels his phantom sways mirroring Tyler's, then chuckles to himself as he realizes that this could be considered another type of snake charmer.
Tyler steps closer to Castiel as the music ends, opening his eyes to smile down at Castiel with that same soft curve of lips from before. He studies Castiel's face for a few moments before murmuring, "So. Would you like a lap dance?"
Castiel feels his eyes go wide as his heart and stomach both seize up. "What?" he croaks, and he jumps as the next song begins to play, another classic rock song, louder, faster, and more suggestive than the one before.
Tyler grins. "A lap dance," he repeats. You know, I sit in your lap, take things to the next level…"
His gaze wanders up and down Castiel's body, and Castiel can feel his face and neck flushing hot, his palms clammy from sweat. It's suddenly very hard to breathe in the room, the atmosphere is stifling, and he wonders if they turned the air off, because it's hot and humid, and it's making him feel very sick to his stomach very quickly. "No, I think that wouldn't be a very good idea," he manages to mutter.
He stares at the table opposite, wondering when they managed to get two of everything into the room without him noticing. Come to think of it, there are two Tylers in the room now too, which normally might not be such a bad thing, but Castiel is getting the feeling that tonight it means something very bad indeed. He watches as Tyler shrugs and says, "Your loss," before beginning to dance to the music again.
Castiel does his best to focus on Tyler, but all he can see is the spinning of the room, faster and faster. He finally is able to pinpoint Tyler through all the glaring movement, long enough to watch Tyler's slender fingers pull the drawstring from his pants and begin to push the waistband down.
And then, before he really figures out what the barrel roll in the pit of his stomach is signaling, Castiel vomits all over the floor between himself and the man in front of him.
He heaves several times, bringing up everything he's eaten and drunk for what might be the last six months if the quantity is anything to go by, and he doubles over, arms wrapped around himself as his stomach threatens to turn itself inside out. He can hear someone curse a rough, holy fucking shit! but he's so busy alternately holding onto what's left and willingly hurling up everything ever, that he can't hear anything else or even open his eyes to look around him.
As if he's hearing it from a very long distance away and through a tunnel, Castiel becomes aware of a muffled scraping, the sound of something moving across the floor. A small plastic trashcan is shoved under his face, between his legs, and suddenly he can feel a hand tentatively touching his shoulder, making its way slowly down his back, a gentle, steadying motion.
Castiel keeps retching until there's nothing left in his stomach, dry-heaving a few times for good measure before his gut finally begins to stop its churning. All through it, the hand continues to rub small, soothing circles along his spine as Castiel groans, his head feeling as if it's splitting in two.
"Ssshhhh, it's okay, just relax and let it all out," a voice murmurs beside him. "Concentrate on your breathing, in through your mouth, out through your nose. That way you don't smell the puke."
Tyler Page, Castiel recalls in horror. In the next second, he hears the other man shift away, and almost instantly he misses the warmth and reassurance of having him pressed close, the comfort of his hand against his back. He doesn't dare open his eyes yet, but he can hear Tyler opening a drawer across the room, as well as what sounds like the pop of a plastic bottle or lid. Before he has time to wonder what the man is doing, Castiel feels him settle down beside him once again, and a cool, damp cloth is suddenly pressed to his brow. The hand returns to trace circles along his spine again, and between that and Tyler's other hand, holding the washcloth against his forehead, Castiel finds himself inadvertently cocooned in the man's arms.
"My little brother always told me a cool, wet towel helps clear your head and makes your stomach settle," Tyler mutters against Castiel's shoulder.
Castiel takes several deep, cleansing breaths. "Yes, I do believe it is helping," he whispers. He opens his eyes, spies the mess he made on the floor, and feels his stomach turn over again.
"Whoa, whoa, easy there, dude. Don't look at the floor, just…come over here to the couch, let's get you away from the spewage."
Tyler coaxes Castiel up from his chair and guides him the few paces to the couch. He sinks down alongside Castiel and continues rubbing his back. Castiel can feel Tyler's eyes on him, and waits to hear what he's working up to say.
"Look, uh…didn't I see you here with somebody?"
Castiel slowly turns his head to look Tyler in the eyes, doing his best to keep the world from spinning again. "Yes, my brother," he wheezes. "Gabriel. He's waiting for me at our table."
Tyler shoots him a reassuring smile. "Great! Maybe I should go out and get him, have him come in here to take you home. Does that sound like a good idea to you?"
Castiel tries to return the smile, but he fears the result is watery at best. "Yes, I think that would be wise."
Tyler stands up to leave, but Castiel grabs his wrist before he can walk away. "I'm so, so sorry for this," he says weakly. "I was just so nervous, and I'm not used to drinking that much, and I'd taken medicine earlier that—"
"Hey. Dude, it's okay, trust me." Tyler looks down at him, that half-smile that Castiel has quickly grown so fond of making a reappearance. "I always like it when people surprise me, and it doesn't happen often enough. Plus, I bet Gordon has never cleaned up this kind of bodily fluid before. It's almost worth it just to see the look on his face when he walks in."
He pauses, staring down at Castiel before putting a hand up to card his fingers hesitantly through Castiel's hair, wiping the sweat-soaked locks from Castiel's forehead. And then, without another word, he spins and strides away through the door.
Several minutes pass, Castiel sitting with his face in his hands, soaking in the relative quiet and trying to regain his composure. He jumps when he hears the door swing open, Gabriel bellowing, "Little bro, when I said what's the worst that can happen, it wasn't a challenge for you to prove me wrong."
Castiel groans, slowly raising his head to look at his brother. He notices with disappointment, though no surprise, that Tyler Page is nowhere to be seen. "Gabriel, please just take me home," he groans.
He closes his eyes and covers his face with his hands again as he hears Gabriel chuckle.
"Yeah, yeah, if only you were Casey saying that to me, the night would be ending perfectly."