Chapter Track: Biting Down – Lorde
How Fast They Fall Apart
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Fire. So much fire. Flames bigger than he’d ever seen before, towering high and belching black smoke into the desert air, and the screams, oh God, the screams. He could hear the screams of the soldiers the flames consumed, echoing in his ears as he ran, ran so fast, so scared, lungs burning.
Castiel felt the ground shift like a rug ripped out from under his feet and tumbled down, down, down.
And then the pain, the white hot pain, so fierce he went numb, started to choke, and –
Castiel shoots into a sitting position and sees Gabe hovering over him. He’s on the couch. He must have dozed off and then – nightmares. Of course. Just nightmares. Nothing more than that.
“You okay, bro?” Gabriel asks.
Cas shifts his leg over the side of the couch and shakes his head, smearing his hands over his face and through his hair. He fumbles for his prosthetic as Gabe looks on, concerned, and pulls his prosthetic paraphernalia to press his twisted-up, ugly stump of a right leg into the fake. God, he’s a wreck.
He’s been home nearly four months already, and he’s still so fucked up. After that night, Cas doesn’t remember much. He remembers the hospital, a little bit, but he was on such an intricate cocktail of drugs that it’s difficult to discern which memories are real and which are figments of his imagination. He remembers every painstaking moment of physical therapy, though he wishes that he didn't. He knows that after a while, Gabe came to bring him home. He didn’t say anything, and still hasn’t, and that’s nice. That’s good.
Gabriel brought Castiel back to his apartment in Lawrence, Kansas, and beyond the occasional visit from Gabe’s “girlfriend-not-girlfriend” Kali, it’s been the kind of peace that Castiel needs. It’s not a huge city, but nothing to sniff at, either. Castiel has his own room in Gabe’s apartment, which thus far he’s kept mostly blank, except for the small collection of books that’s started to gather in the corner, stacked together on their sides because Cas doesn’t have a bookshelf, and doesn’t have a job to procure the money required to purchase one. He doesn’t want any Ikea monstrosity, he wants something real. Something loved.
He could apply for disability benefits, but he's too proud.
Gabe gives him the money to purchase the books, probably because they’re the only things that Castiel has asked for since arriving here.
“I think I need to get out,” Cas says tersely.
“All right,” Gabriel says, but his brows are still pinched in concern.
“Stop fucking looking at me like that, Gabriel,” Castiel snaps. He hates that. He hates that look. Gabriel looks at him like that all the time now, when all Gabe does is smile otherwise.
“Cas,” Gabriel says softly, but Castiel ignores him. He laces his shoes over each foot, thick boots that hide any evidence of one of those feet not being real.
And he leaves. He doesn’t say goodbye to Gabriel, because Gabriel is on his nerves right now and he doesn’t feel like speaking to him. He doesn’t feel like speaking to anybody. He feels like losing his mind, so he doesn’t have to think about anything. Not the leg, or the burns, or the pained look on his brother’s face.
None of it.
Castiel has figured out the most efficient way to make it all go away. He ends up in the seedier part of Lawrence, where neon lights make the street glow a million different colors. He has his pick of strip clubs, which he likes, because he can look at good-looking people without having to speak to them, and he can drink and drink and just walk back to Gabe’s apartment when he can’t drink anymore. He could go to a bar or a dance club, but people want to talk to you there, and the thought of being spoken to spurs an itch under his skin that he hates, like spiders in his veins.
So he settles on his favorite place of business on this street, Elysium. It’s an ominous name for a strip club, he knows, but that’s why he went inside in the first place.
Inside, the club smells like sweat and tension, spilled beer and latex. A variety of people work the poles on stage, men and women alike, as well as the floor, serving food until midnight and alcohol until three in the morning. A blond waitress asks Castiel what he’d like when he takes a shadowed table in the far back of the club, and he orders vodka, straight. Some nights beer will do, others something mixed and silly-looking, but tonight, he needs to get to it.
“Coming right up, sweetheart,” she says, and smiles at him.
Castiel does not know if her smile is genuine, or if it is an intentional and disingenuous flirtation to acquire more tips. When he has his clothing on, he can pass as handsome. No one sees his scars or his leg. It’s just blue eyes and fine-tuned body to them, though his body is much less fine-tuned than it used to be.
The dancers undulate to a sticky beat that hurts Cas’ ears as the waitress retrieves his alcohol. He downs the shot in a second, relishing the burn, and orders a second.
Three vodka shots in, and he knows he can’t do this tonight. Sometimes he pays for private dances with a favored dancer, but not tonight, no. That won’t provide relief. It would only aggravate him.
So Castiel pays his tab and rushes out of the building, buzzed. He pats down his coat and extracts a half-smoked package of cigarettes. He used to think the habit nasty, but now they’re something good, something that settles his mind, if only for the space of a single lungful of smoke. His hands shake as he flicks a light to life and cups his hands against the sharp night breeze to light up.
Cas’ breath shakes on the way out.
Castiel jumps, and from the alleyway adjacent to Elysium, a boyish grin emerges.
“Sorry, didn’t mean to scare you,” the grin says, and it steps into the streetlight. A handsome young man stands around the grin, no older than his early twenties. He has green eyes and freckles, and looks like he hasn’t slept in days. Castiel assumes he means to request a cigarette.
But that isn’t what the boy says.
“You lookin’ for a good time tonight?” he asks.
Cas glances behind himself, for a moment convinced that this kid could not mean him. And then he looks back and, God help him, asks, “How much?”
“Depends on what you want,” answers the kid, “Don’t do bareback, but you could fuck me for a couple hundred.”
Castiel has several hundred dollars tucked in his wallet. It’s the last of his money.
So he lies, “Don’t have that much money.”
Castiel pretends he doesn’t see the flash of disappointment in those green eyes.
“How about – how about I suck you off, then?” the kid offers, “That’s fifty.”
Castiel gnaws on his lower lip. He shouldn’t do this. He knows better than this. Before he went overseas, he never would have done something like this. It’s insane. He has no idea what diseases this kid could have, or where he’s come from, or what his name is.
But Christ, the kid is so skinny. He looks bad enough that guilt bubbles up and aggravates the pool of bad, bad, bad feelings settled in his belly. So Castiel licks his lips and says, “How about this. I’ll give you seventy-five for the oral…if you tell me your name.”
This clearly is not what the boy is expecting, because he exclaims, “What? Why?”
Castiel gruffly responds, “Because I like to know where my dick has been. You can decide. I don’t want you to feel obligated.”
The kid doesn’t say anything.
“All right,” Cas shrugs, and flicks his cigarette butt to the sidewalk, where he crushes it underneath his boot, “You have a nice night, then.” Castiel turns and starts heading toward Gabriel’s apartment.
Cas turns, “What?”
“Dean,” the kid says, and jogs the few paces between them, “My name’s Dean, okay. My rules are you pay up front, you wear a condom, and you don’t leave any marks. Got it?”
“Yes,” Cas nods.
But when Dean closes his fingers around Cas’ wrist to tug him into the narrow alley, Cas says, “No.”
“No?” Dean echoes.
“Not here,” Castiel amends. The alleyway reeks of urine.
“Then where, hotshot?” Dean asks, and folds his arms.
“I – I’ll book a motel room,” Castiel decides, because he’s also decided that he wants this, “I value my privacy. I will abide by your rules.”
Dean eyes him, and for a moment, Castiel thinks he’s going to back out. He wouldn’t blame the boy. Cas is a strange man, a strange, older man, and if the look of Dean is any indication, he doesn’t lack street smarts. Dean rubs the back of his neck and blows all the air out of his lungs, “Okay. I can do that.”
They walk together to the motel across the street, a place called the Lucky Lady, whose neon sign depicts a happy woman in a red dress. Cas pays for the room in cash, and the desk attendant doesn’t even blink at them as he hands over a set of keys, and blows a bubble of mint-scented gum.
The room isn’t as ugly as it could be. Cas has been in worse places – the alleyway beside Elysium, for one. The floral bedspread on the double bed in the center of the room looks as though it’s seen better days, and he thinks the television must be from the early nineties, at the most.
As soon as Castiel closes the door behind him, Dean is on him like an animal. He kisses Cas like he’s hungry for it, and wraps his arms around his neck. His lips press burning kisses from Castiel’s lips to jaw to the sensitive skin behind his ear, where Dean whispers, “Bet you got a nice cock, handsome.” He smooths his hands over Cas’ chest through the fabric of his t-shirt, and Castiel watches those hands drift down, down, down.
Dean strokes between Cas’ legs.
Cas is already hard. Shamefully so. He shouldn’t be doing this. This is the worst idea that he’s ever had. He’s in a shitty motel room in Lawrence fucking Kansas, with a male prostitute in his midst that looks to be at least ten years younger than him.
But he’s so beautiful. What a strange word to apply, and yet it's the only one that comes to mind.
“Wait,” Cas says, “Can I – can I see you naked?”
Dean deadpans, “For an extra twenty five.”
Cas just nods to that.
Dean strips off his plaid button-up, already undone down the front, and sheds it onto the floor. He teases a little, grinning a Cheshire grin as he pulls up the thin muscle shirt from his chest, leaving him bare. Freckles spread over his shoulders, too, and he has a strange, pagan-looking tattoo over his heart.
He also some interesting scars.
Castiel does not remark upon them.
Instead, he watches Dean languidly unzip the front of his torn-up jeans. His legs are well-muscled, though his boxers are unremarkable. Still, he makes them work when he offers up a little smirk to Castiel, and reaches inside his underwear to give himself a squeeze.
Cas’ throat goes dry.
That should not be as attractive as it is.
Dean rids himself of that last scrap of clothing, and shit, he is beautiful. He’s scrawny, but muscled enough to indicate that he’s strong. And he’s…rather well-endowed, which Castiel can certainly appreciate.
“Like what you see?” Dean asks, and cocks a brow.
Castiel swallows the knot in his throat and quietly answers, “Very much, yes.”
“Glad to hear it,” Dean replies. He steps forward and takes Cas by the wrist again. He guides Cas back to the ugly floral bedspread and pushes him back on it before he crawls over him and pushes another searing kiss to Cas’ mouth.
But when Dean winks and reaches down to the fly of Cas’ jeans, Castiel jerks up.
He can’t allow anyone to see him. The scars are everywhere.
Dean looks confused, and so Castiel digs in the pocket of his trench coat and brings out his wallet. He hurriedly says, “I’m sorry, I’m so sorry, I can’t do this. Here – just. Take this.” And before he can think on it any more than he already has, Cas pulls four hundreds out of the worn leather and throws them at Dean.
“Sorry,” Cas says again, and leaves Dean behind on the motel bed beside several hundred dollar bills.
Dean has no fucking idea what just happened.
And he’s had a hell of a lot of things happen to him before.
He has never, however, had a creepy-hot dude in a trench coat bargain a blow job and his name out of him before changing his mind and throwing hundreds of dollars at Dean’s naked ass.
What the hell?
Dean shakes his head and collects the hundreds. He pulls his jeans off of the motel room’s sketchy carpet and tucks them into the back pocket.
He, meanwhile, will be enjoying a shower. It has been so long since he has showered. Usually he can mask it with a lot of deodorant and a good coat of Axe, but that doesn’t stop him from feeling filthy under all that. And hell, if the guy sprung for a room, it may as well be put to good use, right?
The bathroom smells over-sanitized, sharp and lemony, but it’s better than most places. It even has those little shampoos and soaps. He could only let himself hope for a rinse, but this. This is the goddamn Ritz. Dean turns the knob to get the water running, and waits until it’s hot, real good and hot, before he steps into the shower with the tiny bottle of shampoo in his grip.
Fuck, yeah, that feels amazing. The hot water runs over his skin and with it takes several days’ worth of dirt. He’s had a couple of johns in the past days, but no one that wanted to fuck him, probably because he smelled like he’d crawled out of a garbage dump. It always sucks when he can’t get somebody to pay for that. He can, most of the time. Dean knows he looks good. Maybe a little underfed, but he’s got a nice ass and full lips and long eyelashes and all that shit his clients like to tell him about when they have their way with him. But lately, business has not been booming.
Dean empties the entire bottle of shampoo in his palm and lathers up his hair. It’s uneven from cutting it himself. Maybe that’s why he hasn’t had a decent night for money in weeks.
Thank Christ for weird shits in trench coats.
This means he’ll have a decent amount to send to Sammy this month, even if Sammy won’t know it’s from him in any case. He can take not talking. He can take being kicked out and ignored, but he can’t take not being allowed to help. That’s what he supposed to do. He’s supposed to take care of Sam, whether or not they’re speaking.
Dean doesn’t know how long he spends under the water. It doesn’t feel like much time, but he water gets cold, so he rushes to scrub the suds from his hair and the rest of the filth from his skin.
By the time that he’s back in the room and toweling dry with one of the stiff, bleached motel towels, he feels much better than he has for days. God, with this much money, he could actually afford a decent breakfast – shit, with coffee, and pastries, and anything he wanted. Yeah, he’ll do that.
The glowing numbers of the alarm clock back in the bedroom read that it’s half-past one in the morning, which means that Dean spent an hour and a half in the shower. It didn’t feel like that much time.
Dean feels a little guilty about leaving the Impala by herself, but it’s been so long since he’s slept in a real bed that he can’t resist the temptation, no matter how bad the sheets would look under a blacklight. He shimmies back into his underwear and jeans, and flips on the television. He channel surfs until he settles on some old rerun of the Simpsons, and stretches back out on the pillows.
And damn it all, he falls asleep before the first commercial break even comes to a close, scrubbed clean and tucked under a stiff motel comforter.
Dean wakes up comfy, and that in itself is an unusual way to begin his day. He registers the smell of musty carpet and clean sheets, and hears the sound of the morning news. For a minute, he panics and thinks he’s ended up in a john’s apartment, before the previous night hits him like a thunderstorm.
He sits up and immediately checks the back pocket of his jeans. His fingers curl around smooth paper, but Dean still pulls the bills out just to confirm that they’re still there.
God bless that weird dude.
Dean showers again before pulling his shirts on, and checks the time. The bank will be open by now, which means he should deposit money for Sammy before he does anything else.
At the kiosk outside, checkout consists of Dean returning the room key, and the desk attendant muttering, “Have a nice morning,” over the skin mag in his hairy hands
“Thanks,” Dean says, and heads down the street to the bank. He grins when he sees Missouri working today, and waves at her.
“How are you doing, sweetheart?” she asks.
“Pretty damn good, how ‘bout you?” Dean replies.
“Same old, same old, sugar,” she says. When Dean wheedled his first wad of cash out of a john in Lawrence, he thought about sending money to Sammy via snailmail. After all, a bank account was not flying under the radar like he wanted it to be. He'd even caved and called Ellen, begging Sam's Stanford address out of her, until she pointed out to him that that there was no way he could send money to Sam the good old USPS way without a postmark telling Sam, if not exactly where Dean was, where he might be near to.
So he figured - if he and John could run bank scams one way, why not the other? He now has an ID with his picture on it and Sam's name. Missouri isn't stupid, not even close to it, but she doesn't ask about why Dean's carrying around a fake ID depositing money into bank accounts that aren't his, and so Dean doesn't tell her.
Like always, Dean deposits the cash and slinks out of the bank, feeling better for having done his duty to his family and giving Sam some money to live off of while he has his adventure in higher education, that stupid, smart motherfucker.
"You behave yourself now," Missouri says to him.
“I'll try my best,” he says, and winks, “Have a good day.”
“You too, honey,” she says, and he waves goodbye to her.
And now for breakfast. He has a few options – there are plenty of diners open for business with bacon and pancakes, but Dean finds himself in a more cinnamon roll mood, so he veers off to the left of the bank and to the local bakery, a place called Trickster Coffee. He doesn’t drop in often, but he likes it. It doesn’t have any of that hoity-toity atmosphere that all the Starbucks-wannabe places popping up have to them. The interior feels warm and lived-in, with cushy furniture and local artists’ work on the walls. This week the art pays tribute to Dia de los Muertos, which is around the corner now, he thinks.
“Dean-o,” greets Gabe, the owner of the joint. He bakes all the pastries himself, and damn, does he do a good job of it.
“Hey, man,” Dean says, “Just some black coffee and uh, a cinnamon roll.”
“Ooh, living on the edge this morning,” Gabriel remarks.
“Can it, shortstack, I know where you live,” Dean replies, and they both laugh.
Gabriel heats the cinnamon roll and passes Dean his coffee in a paper cup. It smells amazing, and Dean’s stomach stirs with immediate interest.
Of course, that would be the moment that his eyes settle on some intense baby-blues, halfway hidden behind a worn out book, and belonging to a guy in a trench coat.
The weirdo from last night.