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How Can I Remember?

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Once upon a time, on the North Shore of Long Island, not far from New York, there was a very, very large mansion – almost a castle, where there lived a family by the name of Winchester.

 

There were housekeepers and maids and cooks. Crews of gardeners for the grounds, which included tennis courts, two solariums, a large greenhouse and an Olympic sized pool. There was even a tree surgeon on retainer. And over the garage, there lived a chauffeur by the name of Charles Novak, who had come along with the family when they had transplanted from their native Kansas, years ago, bringing his young son Castiel with him. John Winchester's car collection had started humbly enough, with a classic black 1967 Chevy Impala and had grown to encompass two dozen more classic American muscle cars, with a few foreign imports.

 

Castiel Novak sometimes thought he must have spent half his life up in a tree, watching the comings and goings of the Winchesters. Tonight was such an occasion, and Cas sighed a little bit as he shifted, trying to find a more comfortable spot up in the old peach tree that he was growing a bit too big to hide in anymore. Using his forefinger to push his glasses up the bridge of his nose for a better view, Cas leaned his cheek against the rough bark of the tree, feeling as ever, like an outsider, always looking in. Though he had grown up with the Winchesters, he still felt far-removed, as though they inhabited different galaxies. But mostly, he didn't mind observing from a distance, for he liked each member of the family equally, and found all of them fascinating.

 

The Winchester family was smaller now than it once had been, John having died from a heart attack a few years earlier. A tall, handsome, but imposing man, John had worked hard to elevate his family from their once poor lifestyle. He had succeeded quite well, too, but with his passing, the running of Winchester Enterprises was left to his wife Mary and their eldest son, Dean. Mary had thrown herself into driving the corporation forward, renaming it the Winchester Corporation, doing her husband proud and working hard to keep her little family afloat. It had paid off too, and now their business, which had started out in a little rented office building years ago, had ballooned until it was now in the top 100 of the richest companies in America. Mary, with her blue-green eyes, flowing blonde hair and willowy frame, had been on the cover of Fortune and Vanity Fair, renowned for her brains and beauty.

 

The eldest Winchester scion, Dean, who had graduated from Yale at nineteen, had helped his mother take the reins of the company after his father's untimely passing. Together, they had taken the Winchester Corporation on a wild ride along the fiber-optic highway, turning a small family business into a thriving, five-hundred-billion-dollar blockbuster. (Or what older, wealthier families might refer to as some "serious money.") Companies left and right were clamoring to make a serious business deal with the Winchesters and Mary and Dean were a force to be reckoned with. Dean, who could have easily doubled as an underwear model, with striking green eyes and chiseled good looks paired with the same clever brains as his mother, had been on the cover of Time and GQ.

 

But most of all...there was Sam. The younger, but no less accomplished son, (in Castiel's opinion anyways) Sam had been in and out of colleges, unable to pick a major, but brilliant and rich enough that nobody would dare turn him down. The same applied to his relationships; Sam was handsome and charming, funny and romantic and a total playboy, girls and guys alike found him irresistible. With the same uncanny good looks as his father, mother and brother, but with hazel eyes and chestnut brown hair, Sam had done several ads for Calvin Klein and The Gap.

 

Currently home for the summer from Stanford, where this time he was tentatively pursuing a career in law, Sam had begun his usual routine of parties, flings and drinking.

 

And as ever, Castiel was still madly in love with the youngest Winchester.

 

Tonight, in fact, was Sam's 'Welcome Home' party and it was currently in full-swing. There was a live band, endless champagne and a never-ending parade of rich, beautiful people.

 

Among other things, the Winchesters were noted for the lavish parties they gave. Few people anymore threw parties like they did and they were certainly a sight to behold. To be sure, it never rained on the night of a Winchester party. God himself wouldn't risk the wrath of Mary Winchester, indeed, it was always perfectly clement, with cloudless, black velvet skies, drenched in stars.

 

Castiel gazed longingly at Sam, who was presently dancing with a lovely redhead who was the heir to some massive fortune or other, the details weren't important, for the redhead would be gone before the next day to make way for the next lucky person, and besides, Cas had eyes only for Sam.

 

Somewhere below him, he heard nervous throat clearing and then the soft voice of Charles Novak, more readily known as Chuck, floated up to him.

 

“Castiel? I know you're up there. Cas, come down, please, you can't stay up in that tree all night.”

 

Cas sighed grumpily, his dark mood growing as he watched the redhead coyly whisper something into Sam's ear that made him throw his head back in laughter.

 

What could she have possibly said that made him laugh that hard?

 

Scowling, Cas turned and peered down through the foliage of the peach tree to where his father stood. “Am I witty?”

 

“What? Cas, c'mon, you need to come down and finish packing. You're leaving for Paris tomorrow night and you'll never be ready at this rate.”

 

Ignoring Chuck's pleading, Cas persisted. “No, really, do you think I'm funny?”

 

Casting his eyes towards the heavens, Chuck grumbled something into his close-trimmed little beard that sounded a lot like, “I wonder if Paris is far away enough,” but Castiel couldn't be sure and wasn't to be bothered in finding out anyways.

 

“Dad?” Castiel was still waiting on an answer in regards to his humor.

 

Rolling his eyes only a little, Chuck finally replied with a smile. “Yes, you're funny, accidentally usually, but hilarious. You should host a talk show.”

 

Castiel heaved another deep sigh, feeling put upon and misunderstood, as only teenagers can.

 

“Cas, the full-time observation of Sam Winchester is not a recognized profession. Please get out of the tree!”

 

But Cas was already caught back up in staring intently after Sam, who was gradually dancing the redhead in lazy circles to a more private spot, and only called down absently, “I'll be there in a minute.”

 

Expelling a loud and deep enough sigh to rival his son's, Chuck shook his head and made his way over to the garage.

 

Watching despondently and having seen it so many times before, Castiel could list in detail what was about to happen next, as Sam strode cockily through the crowd.

 

Wearing a crisp white shirt and matching dinner jacket, paired with black tuxedo pants and a red bow-tie, Sam cut an imposing figure, hands thrust carelessly into his pockets as he stopped at the open bar to procure a bottle of top shelf champagne. Snagging two slim crystal flutes off a passing tray, he tucked one each into the back pockets of his pants, tugging his jacket over them to conceal the lumps.

 

The next stop would be the band, to tell them to play 'How Can I Remember,' and then he and the redhead (who was currently waiting at the table while staring a hole through Sam with what Cas supposed she thought were “bedroom eyes,” but in point of fact, made her look a bit crazy) would head off into the second solarium, the one by the Olympic-sized swimming pool, to dance some more, drink some more and engage in dirty deeds in dark corners.

 

However, this time, Cas was determined to throw a wrench in this routine.

 

Gathering up what little courage he could muster, Cas waited until Sam passed beneath the arch next to the tree, on his way to the band, before jumping down out of the peach tree.

 

Slightly startled, Sam whipped around, but relaxed when he saw who it was. “Oh, it's just you, Cas!”

 

Embarrassed, Cas dusted bits of leaves off himself, surreptitiously trying to straighten his glasses which had been flung a tad askew when he leapt out of the tree.

 

“Hello, Sam.” Still feeling shy but determined to have a conversation, Cas opened his mouth to say, something, anything, but was interrupted as Sam kept talking.

 

“I thought I heard somebody up there! How are you gonna enjoy the party when you're hiding up in that tree always?” Sam teased with a chuckle.

 

Opening his mouth once more, Cas was cut off yet again, as the redhead swept up with a prissy little huff, latching onto Sam possessively, while eyeing Castiel imperiously.

 

“Come on, Sam, we need to get to our own little party,” she trilled, tugging Sam away. Grinning wickedly down at her, Sam allowed himself to be led off, tossing a “later, Cas!” over his shoulder heedlessly.

 

Castiel gazed after Sam in anguish, wishing that just once, it was him who was arm-in-arm with Sam, with that glorious smile and those gorgeous eyes directed at him and only him. They had been good friends once upon a time when they were younger, back when Sam was more interested in books than girls, before life and circumstances made them drift apart until they were barely acquaintances.

 

All around him, the dulcet tones of 'How Can I Remember' drifted out into the mellow evening, echoing Castiel's own melancholy state.

 

“How can I remember things that never happened?


Arms that never held me, lips I've never kissed.
How can I remember?

Long before I met you, don't ask me how I know. 

Ever since I can remember, I remember you.”

 

It felt like he had loved Sam forever, in fact, Cas couldn't really recall a time in which he hadn't been enamored of Sam, drawn to his beauty, his cleverness, his laughter and his eyes and all the other millions of wonderful things that made Sam the amazing person he was.

 

Tears burned behind Castiel's eyes, as he imagined Sam and the redhead dancing closely together, no space between them, kissing and touching, and again, he longed to be the one held by Sam, just once.

 

Turning away, he ran for the garage, pounding up the stairs to the large, converted carriage house that had been his home for years. Creeping inside, he tried to sneak past his father who was calmly reading a thick tome.

 

“Castiel,” Chuck called out reprovingly, knowing he was being avoided.

 

Cas slunk into his father's library and stood sullenly glaring at the floor, dodging his father's gaze.

 

“Oh, Cas,” Chuck's stern look evaporated at the misery he saw in his son's eyes. “You've spent more of your life up in that tree than you have on solid ground,” he gently berated, eyeing Cas sadly over his reading glasses.

 

Castiel made no effort to reply, choosing to keep staring stubbornly at the floor. Chuck decided to change the subject.

“Aren't you excited to be going to Paris? We're so lucky that Mary has friends there who are willing to give you a job so you can have the European experience you always dreamed of!”

 

Feeling a little guilty, Cas pasted on a small smile, trying to appease his father. “Yeah, Dad, it's great.” In reality though, Castiel was starting to dread this trip more and more, frantic at the thought of being away from Sam for so long.

 

Chuck stood and put an arm around Cas' shoulders, hugging him close. “The time away in Paris will be so good for you. You'll get to see more of the world, experience new people, places and things!”

 

But Cas drew back, wringing his hands anxiously. “What if he forgets all about me?”

 

“Who, Sam? Oh, Cas, how can he forget someone he barely knows exists?” Chuck regretted his words as soon as they left his mouth, seeing the crestfallen look on Castiel's face. “I'm sorry, I didn't mean that, Cas. I just meant...there's so much more to you than this...obsession with Sam. I hope you know that.”

 

Cas ducked his head, biting back angry words and battling back the sad tears that threatened to overflow.

 

“Thanks, Dad.” He mumbled, nudging his glasses back up the bridge of his nose. “Goodnight.”

 

Chuck sighed helplessly as he watched Cas slink away to his room.

 

 

*~*X*~*

 

 

A couple hours later found the party winding down and Cas in his room, only having haphazardly packed half of what he planned to bring with him to Paris. He felt restless and antsy, as though electricity was buzzing underneath his skin. Climbing out his window, he shinnied down the tree right outside, hitting the ground with a muted thud. A plan was slowly forming, but he was going to need some liquid courage to help carry it out.

 

Sure that no one would notice him, he stole into the kitchen, where the staff was still busily rushing about, pushing out the last of the hor d'oeuvres and cleaning up and putting away leftovers. Going into the huge pantry, Cas eyeballed the liquor shelf, trying to find something he was familiar with, before finally giving up and just grabbing a mostly full bottle of fancy Bols Cherry Brandy. As expected, no one noticed him in all the hustle and bustle.

 

Tucking the bottle under his baggy sweater, he made his way outside and back up the peach tree. Cas was not at all a drinker, having only tried alcohol a couple of other times and not found it to his liking. But desperate times called for desperate measures. Unscrewing the cap, he took a healthy swig of the brandy.

 

Hmm...it wasn't too bad. It sorta tasted like cherry cough syrup, except a lot stronger. Gulping down a few more generous mouthfuls, he gazed around from his vantage point, hoping Sam had concluded his dalliance with the redhead, but he was nowhere to be seen. Maybe he'd taken her back to his room?

 

Cas saw Mary gracefully fluttering about like a genteel, colorful butterfly, stopping to chat with each guest and thank them for coming. In another corner, he spotted Dean, right in the center of a group of rich businessmen, beaming his megawatt grin and tossing his head back in the same full-bodied laugh as Sam had earlier, a family trait they both shared.

 

Cas sighed forlornly. Dean was good looking of course, Cas couldn't deny that, but Dean just couldn't hold a candle to Sam, plus, he was so old! Ten years Cas' senior, Dean was twenty-eight, which to Cas, seemed to be a huge age gap, as compared to the five and a half years that separated Cas and Sam.

 

Shifting his gaze, he distantly took in the crowds of people, which were slowly dispersing as he worked on his bottle of brandy, trying to come up with a plan to get Sam to notice him, to think of him in that way.

 

He could just polish off the bottle then go tell Sam how he felt about him. Yes, yes! That was a good idea! Why hadn't he thought of it before?

 

Swaying, he carefully made his way down from the tree, stumbling as he hit the ground. Everything had gone all swimmy and the golden firefly lights that were draped over every surface, shimmered and danced around crazily as though they were alive.

 

Cas glanced up at the mansion and at that moment, the light in Sam's room flicked on, lighting up like a beacon, beckoning Castiel. It had to be a sign!

 

He was going to do it. He was going to finally tell Sam how he felt about him. He was going to do it right now!

 

Still clutching the brandy, he managed to shuffle inside the mansion, up two flights of stairs and head down the hallway to the gable room at the end, which was Sam's. The light was still on and there was someone rummaging around inside. Cas paused for a moment, trying to order his thoughts. He knew if he could just say the right words, Sam would see him in a new light, a desirable light. He'd finally realize that Cas was the one for him, he could stop playing the field and they could be happy together.

 

Upending the bottle, Cas chugged down a fair bit of the brandy and took a deep, cleansing breath. He brushed his messy dark hair out of his face and straightened his glasses before surging forward to Sam's door, which was ajar.

 

Cas knocked uncertainly before he could lose his nerve and Sam's low, sexy voice called out, “Come in!”

 

Encouraged, Cas edged inside the room, finding it empty. Good, that meant the redhead was long gone. The french doors to the cavernous walk-in closet were flung open and he could hear Sam moving around within.

 

This was it. Clasping his hands together to steel himself, Cas cleared his throat and spoke. “I came to say goodbye.”

 

“What?” Sam's voice was muffled, but his confusion was clear.

 

Cas heard him nearing the doors and knew if he had to make his confession to Sam face-to-face that he'd chicken out and never get through it without dying from embarrassment, so he panicked and yelled, “No, don't come out here!”

 

He heard Sam halt inside and feeling emboldened that he wouldn't have to look at Sam while he confessed his love, moved to sit upon Sam's huge four-poster bed.

 

Running his hand reverently over the brocade burgundy and chocolate brown comforter, he shyly admitted, “If I look at you I might not be able to get through this.”

 

Sam started to say okay, puzzlement in his tone, but Cas cut him off. “Please don't say anything, just let me say what I came to say.”

 

Silence was his only answer. Relieved, Cas gathered himself together, taking another deep break and an even deeper drink of the brandy. Clearing his throat once more against the afterburn of the brandy, he began slowly.

 

“I'm leaving tomorrow for Paris...and I'll be away a long time. I—um...I know how busy you are with college, so I guess I don't expect you to think about me while I'm gone...you haven't really thought about me while I was here...”

Cas chuckled darkly at that, pausing to take another sip of brandy. He needed to get to the point here. He tried again to line his thoughts up, but the brandy was making it quite difficult.

 

Tiredly, he leaned back against Sam's pillow, breathing in the spicy scent of his favorite cologne. It gave him the strength to continue on. “I just wanted to say, I-I think I know you better than anybody else. I mean, whatever they think or say, I know the truth...that you're a wonderful person, kind and generous and smart and funny...”

 

Cas paused again. This was it. He was going to say it. He barely noticed the brandy as it burned down his throat as he barreled on before he lost his resolve.

 

“For what it's worth, I want you to know that no matter how far away I am, I'll be thinking of you, and—and loving you, no matter what. So, if there's ever anything I can do--”

 

Hearing movement from the closet, Cas froze, the words sticking in his throat. Or maybe that was the brandy. Whatever the case, he was totally unprepared for it when instead of Sam, it was Dean who stepped out from the closet, smiling hesitantly, but looking uncomfortable as all get out, sadness and pity shining bright in his eyes. In his hands were a brown briefcase and a blue and gold patterned tie.

 

“Could you get me one of those cool little Eiffel Tower paper weights?” Dean tried to ease the heavy moment with a joke, but it was too late. Silence reigned and Dean held the items in his hands up helplessly, as though wishing to explain his presence. “Sam borrowed these for his internship interview...”

 

Cas gasped so hard he nearly choked on his tongue, eyes practically bugging out of his head in shock. Letting out a strangled “Oh my god!” he turned tail and ran, not stopping til he was in front of the garage. He thought he might have heard Dean calling after him but didn't care. He couldn't bear to see or speak to anyone right now. Overhead the last of the fireworks were blooming against the night sky in vibrant tones of magenta, emerald and gold. Their loud crackling and popping hid the sound of Cas' sobs.

 

God, what had he done? Dean would probably tell Sam and Mary about his pitiful little love confession and they'd all laugh over what a stupid, love-struck little child he was.

 

The alcohol skewed his thoughts, taking the already negative bent they were on and turning it even darker. There was nothing left for him here, nothing in Paris. He couldn't seem to think past this moment, drowning in his humiliation. He was just too damn awkward and weird, he stuck out like a sore thumb, he'd never fit into the Winchester's world. And Sam, he was too good of a man for someone like Castiel to ever deserve. Sam would never love him. No one would.

 

Wanting only to hide away, or better yet, to never have existed, Cas crept into the garage, locking the door firmly behind him. Finishing off the brandy, he discarded the bottle in the trash. He switched off all the lights and locked the side entrance. There. Now no one could get in.

 

Light shone in distortedly from the windows, the party was being dismantled, with only a few stragglers still hanging out.

 

There was a dark thought rising to the surface, as it had many times before, swimming through the shallows, tempting him. He'd never followed through. Too afraid. Yet, it was always there. Waiting for a low point. Watching for a weak moment to pounce, overpowering him. Sometimes, on his bad days, he thought it was what he wanted...but sometimes, it was easier to want something, to do something, if you didn't let yourself know about. If you cut your conscious thoughts out of the process.

 

Drunkenly, he swayed past the gleaming rows of gorgeous cars, letting his hand skim over them gently, their metal bodies glinting in the darkness like the watchful eyes of predators.

 

He came to the end of one of the rows and there she was. The Impala. Once John's pride and joy, she was now Dean's baby and she glimmered in welcome at Castiel.

 

Back when they were younger and Sam and Dean had still had to time to hang out with him, they had taught Cas to drive in the Impala. He had some wonderful memories in this car. Sam sitting next to him, showing him the gearshift and the pedals, while Dean taught him how to adjust his mirrors and where to put his hands on the steering wheel and of course, the importance of playing good music while driving.

 

Cas ran his hand over the Impala lovingly, admiring her shining black curves. Circling her, he came around to the backside, where the exhaust pipe stuck out underneath. Humming tunelessly, Cas dragged his sweater over his head, leaving him in only a faded Led Zeppelin t-shirt that used to be Sam's, and then Dean's before that. Balling up the sweater and trying not to think too hard about anything, he wadded it into the tailpipe, blocking it effectively.

 

Walking around to the driver's side door, he found the Impala unlocked, and she let him in easily. The windows were already all rolled up and he shut the door tightly behind him and locked it. Castiel breathed deep the scent of leather, motor oil and long days spent on the road. Settling into the driver's seat, he flipped the sun visor down, knowing that's where Dean usually kept the keys, and sure enough, they dropped into his lap with a clink.

 

Gingerly, he slid the keys into the ignition and started her up, the familiar, low growl of her engine making him smile faintly in recognition. He left her in park and made sure the emergency brake was on, just letting her idle away, the comforting purr of her engine lulling him into a serene state.

 

God, he was so tired, he just wanted to sleep. The Impala seemed like the perfect place to just slip away.

 

Feeling disjointed and sluggish, he leaned forward, making sure all the vents were wide open and pointed at him, before leaning back and relaxing into the supple leather of the bench seat, letting himself go boneless.

 

The silence niggled at him though. Ah! He'd forgotten one of the most important things Sam and Dean had taught him. Music.

 

How many times had he heard Dean say, “Driver picks the music, shotgun shuts his cakehole!” Sam usually rode shotgun and Dean drove, leaving Cas the whole backseat to himself, which had always worked to Dean's advantage, allowing him to choose all the tunes.

 

Well, Castiel was the driver now.

 

And look at that, there was already a tape in the deck! Feeling a little loopy and maybe on the verge of giggling hysterically, he stretched his arm out and used the tip of his finger to pop the tape into the deck.

 

It was at the tail end of a song he didn't recognize, jangly guitars and lots of “yeah, yeah, yeahs,” but it soon faded out into something he did know. The electric piano intro started out slowly and Cas closed his eyes as the lyrics washed over him, breathing in as deeply as he could, drawing in air until he could feel it in the bottom of his stomach.

 

I really have enjoyed my stay, but I must be moving on...

 

....I'll never look behind me
My troubles will be few
Goodbye stranger it's been nice
Hope you find your paradise
Tried to see your point of view
Hope your dreams will all come true
Goodbye Mary, Goodbye Jane
Will we ever meet again
Feel no sorrow, feel no shame
Come tomorrow, feel no pain...”

 

He liked the part where the melody was whistled and Cas found himself humming along under his breath, that sounded so nice, no sorrow, no shame, no pain. This was unexpectedly easy. He'd heard that it was so, that succumbing to carbon monoxide poisoning was just like falling asleep, painless and effortless.

 

Will we ever meet again?

 

God, he'd miss his dad though, and Ellen and Bobby who worked at the mansion...Dean, who had taught him to ride a bike and drive a car...and Mary, who was always so sweet to him...and oh Sam...oh god, how he would miss Sam. What would they all think of him?

 

Maybe...maybe he should have left a note, explaining...everything...was it too late? Was it already happening? He'd only been sitting here for a few minutes, right? Or had it been longer? How long did it take?

 

Cas tried to pry his eyelids open, but each lid felt like it weighed a thousand pounds each and his limbs felt lined with lead as he tried to sit up. His head ached fiercely and felt so heavy he thought his neck might snap under the weight of it. His stomach churned unhappily and all Cas could think of was how pissed off Dean would be if he threw up all over the interior of the Impala. She didn't deserve that. It wasn't her fault Cas was a fuck-up.

 

Suddenly, he was afraid, terrified even. He hadn't really thought this through.

 

Castiel finally opened his eyes, blinking dazedly, feeling as though he were underwater, yet everything was spinning wildly at the same time, which was horribly disorienting. Music rippled through the air, another song, but he couldn't grasp the tune.

 

Oh, he'd miss music, too.

 

Lifting his arms up with great effort, he clutched the steering wheel with both hands, trying to pull himself into a sitting position, but the abrupt lightheadedness that smacked into him as soon as he was vertical almost seemed to physically knock him back against the seat and he stayed there, feeling too sick to move.

 

Tears started to trickle down his cheeks and Cas gasped like a fish out of water. It was getting harder to breathe, the air in his lungs felt as though it was slowly turning to liquid and he'd never been so fucking scared in his life. He couldn't seem to focus on a single thought, they all darted around out of order, flitting away before he could catch them.

 

He wanted his father, or maybe the mother he barely remembered, he wanted somebody, anybody. He just didn't want to be alone anymore.

 

Maybe the universe heard him.

 

Cas could feel himself drifting away, like a ship released from its moorings. Strangely though, in the distance, he faintly heard the shattering of glass and...shouting? There was some sort of scuffling noise nearby...Was it possible someone was coming?

 

He wanted to open his eyes, but they felt glued shut, the best he could do was to let his head loll along the back of the leather seat in the direction he thought the noise had emanated from. It was quiet though. Maybe he'd been mistaken?

 

Wishful thinking.

 

Or maybe not.

 

The driver's side window next to him exploded inwards in a shower of glass. It should have been exceedingly loud, but Cas perceived it as if from very far away, not even registering the sharp bits of glass biting into his bare arms. Light and fresh air leaked in and Cas did his best to breathe in, but it was difficult, and he could only manage shallow gasps.

 

Finally he managed to open his eyes once more and was met with big, loud blurry shapes. Everything was still spinning as though the entire world was tilted on its axis. Had he stumbled into an amusement park? If so, he wanted to get off the ride now.

 

Castiel's eyes slid shut once more as the driver's side door was wrenched open and then there were hands on him, grabbing tight and trying to pull him out of the Impala. He winced at the pressure on his arms, not understanding why it hurt so much.

 

The loud shouting swiftly became crystal clear. It was someone screaming his name.

 

“Castiel!! Oh my god, Cas, c'mon, wake up goddammit!!! Shit! Fuck, call an ambulance right now!!”

 

All the motion was too much for Castiel's poor stomach though and with a low moan, he slid weakly out of the Impala and vomited all over the side of her, before crumpling into a heap on the cement floor. Strong arms scooped him up and then he was being cradled in someone's lap, the hair gently being brushed away from his sweaty forehead and something soft wiping the sick from his mouth.

 

Another voice, different from the first was yelling now, “Holy shit, why is it red?! Is that blood?!”

 

The first voice answered, suddenly very familiar. “Ughh, no, I don't think so, it smells like booze. I think he's been drinking.”

 

A wave of tiredness swept over Castiel suddenly and as much as he wanted to open his eyes and explain everything, he didn't have the wherewithal to do so. Darkness reached for him, clenching tight with a suffocating grasp and as he slid under, the last thing he felt was fingers gently combing through his hair and he desperately hoped this was not the end for him.

 

 

~*~X~*~

 

 

The low murmur of voices and the beeping of machines greeted him when he awoke an indeterminate amount of time later and for a few moments, all he could do was blink dazedly up at the eggshell colored ceiling tiles, noting a sepia toned water stain in one corner that vaguely resembled Elvis. Belatedly, Castiel realized there was an oxygen mask over his nose and mouth, as well as an IV in his arm.

 

Turning his head slightly on the pillow, which only served to ratchet up the splitting headache that had slowly been making itself known, he caught sight of his father, looking more disheveled than usual, his forehead crinkling up in worried lines and his shirt haphazardly tucked in, talking seriously with an unfamiliar man whom Castiel assumed must be a doctor, as his brain helpfully told him he was most likely in the hospital after the stunt he had pulled.

 

The motion caught the eyes of his father and the doctor, who both strode over quickly, his father leaning down to hug him awkwardly in the hospital bed, pressing a relieved kiss to Castiel's forehead.

 

“You're awake!” Chuck croaked.

 

Castiel smiled wanly even as the doctor leaned in to speak to him, carefully lifting the oxygen mask off his face.

 

“Welcome back to the land of the living, Mr. Novak. How do you feel?”

 

“Tired...and thirsty,” Castiel whispered hoarsely.

 

Chuck scurried off for some water and the doctor continued to address him.

 

“You gave us all quite a scare there.”

 

Castiel lowered his head bashfully, the feeling of relief that he hadn't been successful vying with the flood of embarrassed chagrin over his actions, making him feel somewhat nauseated. Or maybe that was still the carbon monoxide poisoning working its way out of his system.

 

The doctor, if he noticed Castiel's discomfort, kindly didn't draw attention to it, moving on briskly. “We administered pure oxygen and kept you in a hyperbaric oxygen unit for two hours when you were first brought in. Your blood tests came back clean an hour ago. You've been breathing fine on your own now for a few hours, but I'd like to keep you overnight for observation and counseling.”

 

“C-counseling?” Cas stammered. “What for?”

 

The doctor eyed him knowingly as Chuck came back with a glass of water that Cas gratefully accepted and greedily drank down.

 

Chuck and the doctor shared a look for a moment, before the doctor stood. “I'll leave you two be for a little bit to talk things over.”

 

The doctor exited the room and Chuck resumed his seat in the chair next to Cas' bed.

 

“I told the doctor what happened was an accident. It was an accident, wasn't it, Castiel?” Chuck stared at him pleadingly.

 

“I—I-don't know, it was a mistake to be sure. I'm so sorry I scared you, Dad.”

 

Chuck nodded wordlessly, tears filling his eyes as he clasped Cas' hand between both of his, squeezing tightly. “I don't know what I would do if anything ever happened to you. You're all I have, Cas.”

 

Cas gripped his father's hand back just as tightly. “I know. I'm sorry...How long have I been here?”

 

Chuck glanced at his watch. “It's nearly 3:00pm now, they brought you in last night around 11:30.”

 

“Does everyone...do they know...what I did?”

 

Chuck shook his head. “Only Mary and Dean know anything, oh and Jo, she and Dean are the ones that found you and called the ambulance.”

 

Cas nodded, lost in thought. He'd thought that voice had sounded familiar. God, he'd never be able to look Dean in the eye again. What would they think of him now, after all this? What if Sam found out?

 

Another thought occurred to him then.

 

“What about Paris? Am I still going?”

 

Chuck pinned him with a serious gaze. “Do you even still want to go?”

 

Cas sank back into his pillow and pondered for a few moments. He knew he wasn't ready to face everyone and try to resume his life here, he needed some time away, to think things over, to find out what he really wanted. Perhaps his father was right, there was more to him than his all-consuming love for Sam. And Paris could be the perfect place to discover himself, to see more of the world, experience new people, places and things as Chuck had told him last night. He didn't think he could ever truly fall out of love with Sam or forget about him, but maybe getting away and not having to see Sam regularly might ease the pain.

 

Mind made up, he gave Chuck an answer. “Yes, I would, I think it would be good for me to get away, to have a change of scenery, meet new people, experience new things, like you said, Dad.”

 

His father stared at him searchingly, as if trying to discern the truth in his son, and finally nodded, clasping Cas' hand and squeezing gently.

 

“Alright, Cas, I'll get things sorted out.”

 

 

 

~*~X~*~

 

 

Less than twenty-four hours later, his ticket had been changed, since he'd missed his original flight, his luggage had been assembled (thanks to Chuck) and he was tearfully hugging his father goodbye. He promised to write and call every week. Then he was on the plane, the city below nothing but a mass of blazing lights as he was transported away on the red eye to Paris, gone for the forseeable future, leaving everything (and everyone) he had ever known behind, at least for the time being.

 

Chapter Text

Paris was, to put it lightly, a total culture shock, but in the most pleasant way. It was exactly what Cas had needed, a chance to start over, an escape, from who he had been and how he was perceived by others. It was an opportunity he wasn't about to waste, even though initially, it was a bit of a rocky start.

 

The first few months were hard, fraught with bouts of homesickness and struggling to find his footing, attempting to navigate Paris with his far less than perfect French and trying not to spend every waking minute wondering what Sam was up to and what was going on at home. Cas desperately missed his father, his home and most of all, Sam. But his pining was tempered heavily by shame over his reckless actions and part of him was very glad to be far away, so he didn't have to face everyone just yet. It was odd, when he had lived at home, it wasn't like he saw Sam all the time; the youngest Winchester was away at college or globetrotting around the world for months at a time. Perhaps it was true, absence really did make the heart grow fonder. That was the only explanation he could give for why Sam seemed to dominate his thoughts. Of course, being in an unfamiliar place had caused Cas to clam up even further; already an introvert, it was all too easy to isolate himself in Paris, having no friends or family around to distract him.

 

He and Chuck had never really properly discussed the events of that last night; Cas had reassured his father that he was fine, and Chuck had seemed to take him at his word, though the worried creases in his forehead never smoothed out. They also hadn't spoken of how long Cas would be gone. Originally, he was only meant to stay in Paris for a year, but after everything that had happened, it had been inferred that Cas would stay away as long as he needed to.

 

He spent hours moodily walking along the Bois de Boulogne, writing in his journal at little streetside cafes, drinking Earl Grey French Blue tea and wondering when he might start to feel like himself again.

 

He wrote his father weekly to begin with, detailing his job as an assistant to the photographer that Mary had arranged for him. He had also signed up for an extensive cooking course at the prestigious Le Cordon Bleu Cooking School, reasoning that if he kept himself busy, he'd have less time to think of other things. The year long course included food and wine pairings, traditional bread and pastry baking, French regional cuisine, visits to the Sancerre vineyard, six weeks of classic and modern soups, sauces and souffles and as much exposure as possible to the working environment of a professional kitchen.

 

Cas was not necessarily interested in pursuing a career as a chef, but it seemed foolish to be living in a place like Paris and not take advantage of the many once-in-a-lifetime activities that were readily available to him.

 

Cooking was not a talent that came to Cas naturally, but he worked hard to master it at every turn, though for the first few months, his efforts were thwarted.

 

The instructor for the course, a flamboyant and charmingly arrogant chef named Balthazar, soon figured out why.

 

It was near the end of the six week long soups, sauces and souffles course. He hadn't fared too badly during the soups unit, but the sauces had nearly killed him. The week before, Cas had almost flunked his final sauce test, the Hollandaise sauce he had prepared kept separating on him. And now, his first souffle had failed to rise.

 

“It's much too low, darling,” Balthazar proclaimed when he got to Cas' cooking station to inspect his offering.

 

Cas nudged his glasses up and stared mournfully down at his pitiful souffle. “I don't know what happened.”

 

Balthazar chuckled, but not in an unkind way. “I will tell you what happened. You forgot to turn on the oven!”

 

Cas blushed crimson, embarrassed beyond belief at such a simple, but vital, mistake.

 

Balthazar continued on. “I've been watching you for awhile now, and even though you try hard to follow my instructions, your mind has not been on the cooking. It has been elsewhere...because you're in love! And I will venture to go a step further—you are unhappily in love.”

 

Bowing his head over his ruined souffle, Cas mumbled, “Is it really that obvious?”

 

Balthazar patted his shoulder. “Only to someone that is paying attention or that has seen it before. My dear, this is Paris! I have seen many men and women pass through my kitchens, in love, looking for love again or just experiencing it for the first time. Someone happily in love, they burn the souffle. But someone unhappily in love, they forget to turn on the oven.”

 

He winked conspiratorially at Cas, who smiled timidly back. “You are correct,” Cas admitted freely, “but I'm trying to get over it.”

 

“Why try to get over it? The best way to do so, is not to get over someone, but to get under someone else! If you like, I can take you out, we will find someone else to catch your eye!” Balthazar grinned cheekily, elbowing Cas lightly in the side.

 

“The person I love, he doesn't even know I exist, he lives back home in New York and I doubt he even spares a thought for me. I might as well be reaching for the moon,” Cas confessed, feeling forlorn.

 

“The moon?” Balthazar laughed heartily. “My darling, you young people are so old-fashioned, have you not heard? We've already built rockets and landed men on the moon, nothing is out of reach anymore! You say your young man spares not a thought for you? Then you must find other things to spend your thoughts on. Come, tonight, after class, we will go out and I will show you that there are many more fish in the sea!”

 

Cas giggled a little, nodding in acceptance and smiling shyly back at Balthazar who now eyed him appreciatively, but with a slightly critical slant.

 

“Now then, to begin with, you must stop looking so sad and frumpy, this is Paris, we are fashionable!”

 

Cas glanced down in confusion as Balthazar plucked at the baggy sweater and faded jeans he wore underneath his cooking whites with distaste. The baggy sweater had been one of Sam's old hand-me-downs.

 

“We will stop first at my place and I will transform you, no one will be able to take their eyes off you tonight!” Balthazar promised.

 

 

~*~x~*~

 

 

The chef was as good as his word, driving Cas back to his own well-appointed loft apartment, with a beautiful view of the Seine from his balcony, with large planter boxers dripping purple bougainvillea over the side. Cas sat at the little table on the balcony, enjoying the scenery and sipping some rich French roast that Balthazar had brewed for him until the chef beckoned him inside.

 

An hour later, Cas barely recognized himself in the mirror. Mousse had been added to his unruly hair to give it that artfully tousled look he so admired on other men and charcoal “guyliner” (as Balthazar called it) had been used to outline his blue eyes and really make them “sparkle!” Upon learning that Cas only needed his glasses for seeing close-up, Balthazar whisked them off his face, declaring that now Cas' fabulous bone structure was visible for all to see.

 

The two of them being of a similar height and build, Balthazar had chosen a midnight blue button up that he insisted Cas leave the first three buttons undone on and over that went a black, exquisitely tailored waistcoat, with matching black trousers that were so tight Cas was afraid he might split the seams if he moved too much. Balthazar spritzed him with some expensive cologne that smelt of pine forests and something spicy and pronounced him ready.

 

They met up with one of Balthazar's friends, a stoic, dark-skinned man by the name of Uriel who took them to a swanky underground jazz club that only black Parisians knew about, in a renovated cellar on La Rive Gauche.

 

Cas couldn't dance to save his life, but in the darkness of the club, hypnotized by the infinite loops of jazz guitar and saxophone, surrounded by the scent of filterless Gitanes and sweat, it didn't seem to matter. Balthazar pointed out beautiful women and men here and there whom he knew that might be up for a good time, but no one seemed to catch Cas' eye.

 

But that night was only one of many that he spent out with Balthazar, drinking Beau Joie champagne and dancing til dawn, finding himself in the beat of the music and the slide of sweaty bodies. He never felt quite brave enough to go home with someone or to even share a kiss, but for the time being, it was enough that he was out in the world, living in it and experiencing all it had to offer.

 

 

~*~x~*~

 

 

The photographer that Cas assisted worked mainly for French Vogue and went by the name of Michael Milton, a handsome, but stern-faced, dark-haired man who always seemed to be surrounded by a thick smelling cloud of smoke from the unfiltered black Gauloises he chain-smoked. His other assistants were a pair of lovely brunettes: Meg Masters, who made it quite clear from the get-go that she was in charge and Ruby Cortez, who barely answered to the indomitable Miss Masters and treated everyone around her (but especially Cas) as though they were something nasty she'd just scraped off the bottom of her Jonak ankle boots.

 

At their first meeting, after hearing that Cas spoke only rudimentary French, Miss Masters handed Cas off to Ruby who grudgingly took him for a tour through Mr. Milton's studio, all the while speaking French faster than the speed of light and gesturing wildly with her hands. Cas trailed after her like a lost puppy, only catching perhaps every other fifth word and wondering how he was going to fare here.

 

The next morning when he reported for duty at his first shoot, it couldn't have gone worse. His nerves were frayed from being yelled at constantly in French and Ruby seemed to take great pleasure in ordering him around and watching him flounder like a chicken with its head cut off as he anxiously tried to follow their instructions though he barely understood them. He accidentally turned the wind machine on at just the wrong moment and blew the contacts that one of the models was attempting to insert into her eye, right out of her hands. Meg couldn't hide her Cheshire Cat grin, even as they all got down on their hands and knees to find the missing contact; Cas quickly located it, with the tread of his sneaker, rendering the contact useless. Ruby threw her hands up in the air and sighed dramatically, muttering loudly in French, while the model whose contact Cas had smushed, glared at him as though he had run over her cat instead. Meg at least tried to hide her red-lipsticked smile behind a handful of papers, but it was no use, Cas was sure everyone was laughing at him.

 

Michael was the only one who didn't seem too perturbed by Cas and his awkward flailing, in fact, he didn't really seem to notice Cas at all, too busy talking on his cell phone.

 

Meg pulled him aside after a little while, petting her hand through his hair good-naturedly.

 

“Ahh Castiel, do not worry about Ruby, I tortured her, now she tortures you. Succeed in this business, and you'll get someone of your own to torture!” Meg consoled him in accented, but perfect, English. She and Ruby had only been speaking French the whole time to play a trick on him.

 

Cas huffed irritably but forced a smile, trying to accept her advice graciously.

 

 

~*~x~*~

 

 

When he made his weekly phone call to his father, Cas bemoaned the fact that everyone in Paris must think he was an idiot by now. His father kindly assured him that it couldn't possibly be true, to which Cas replied, “Only because I haven't met them all yet!”

 

While Chuck tried to bolster up his self-esteem, Cas stared longingly at the cork-board up on his mostly bare wall. The cork-board itself was mostly bare too, in fact, the only thing that graced its surface was a copy of the picture of the Gap ad that Sam had done a couple years back, his lightly tanned skin and bright smile seeming to shine out from the black and white ad like Cas' own personal ray of sunshine.

 

He tuned back in to hear his father saying, “Cas, you shouldn't be so hard on yourself, it takes time to adjust to a new place, a new way of life and culture, just give it a chance. What matters is that you're away from here, experiencing new things, getting another view of the world, making new friends and not constantly thinking about...you-know-who...you're not, are you? Thinking about...him?”

 

Cas tore his gaze away from Sam's picture guiltily and stammered out what he hoped was a believable answer before quickly changing the subject.

 

 

~*~x~*~

 

 

Still, Cas tried to take his father's advice, throwing himself into his work and his cooking classes, going out with Balthazar and his vast array of colorful friends, and just trying to adjust to life in Paris.

 

Eventually, Meg, but especially Ruby, eased up on him a bit as Cas learned the ins and outs of life on a photoshoot. He got much better at anticipating what might be asked of him, and even got around to picking up his own camera once in awhile and seeing the world through its viewfinder. Meg even praised him on occasion for his keen eye and good suggestions, once he got the gumption up to say them out loud, that is.

 

It would be an understatement to say that he was mildly surprised when one evening after a shoot, Meg invited him out for drinks. Cas shyly accepted, under the impression that she had invited some others as well. But when he arrived at the little hole-in-the-wall bar she had specified, named 'Candelaria' by the lovely yellow script in the large, lit up glass front of the establishment, once he entered through the little front door and pushed past the thick curtain that divided the cocktail den from the taco joint at the front of the building, he found only Meg, . The cocktail room itself was large, the lighting soft, making the room seem golden and cozy. Meg was planted at the bar like some kind of exotic, thorny rose, looking as wickedly pretty as ever, with her red lipstick, fashionable dark clothing, and sparkling come-hither-gaze.

 

He joined her at the bar, feeling like a fish out of water, but she drew him easily into conversation, talking about their day and what was on the schedule for tomorrow. It was also fun to watch the bartenders in their colorful aprons, who seemed adept at multi-tasking, taking orders, mixing drinks, making jokes and occasionally busting out some dance moves. Cas watched wide-eyed as one lithe female bartender executed a pirouette as she shook a metal canister holding a martini. Meg ordered him a drink called 'Guepe Verte,' a Green Wasp, which she assured him tasted just like “Mexico in a glass.” Cas was leery of alcohol after the disastrous cherry brandy incident, so it was with trepidation that he took his first sip of the concoction, which contained tequila, cucumber, coriander, agave, lime and pepper, but to his delight, it was quite good. Meg smiled slyly at him when he thanked her for the recommendation and assured him that she had a great many more things to recommend to him if he were interested.

 

Cas had never been very good at picking up on the sexual interest of others, since it so rarely seemed to happen to him anyways, that he just had to ask, “Is that a flirtation?”

 

Meg's answering grin was truly that of the cat who'd caught the canary as she invited him back to her place so they could, in her words, “move some furniture around,” which Cas was mostly sure she meant as another flirtation, but he went along with her willingly, pleasantly buzzed from the tequila, feeling loose and relaxed and ready for...whatever. As his father had hoped, he was making new friends and when he was with Meg, he certainly wasn't thinking of...you-know-who. Meg was as different from Sam as was possible to be, in fact, perhaps the only thing they shared was the same easy sense of self-confidence, that Cas much admired and greatly desired to have for himself.

 

Indeed, Cas wasn't really thinking of anything at all while Meg soundly kissed him on her couch, her mouth tasting sweet and salty from the drinks they'd had, the scent of her perfume reminding him of spotted green orchids and the banks of the Bois de Boulogne after a long rainfall, fresh and clean. He kissed her back, a bit clumsily but with enthusiasm, it being only his third kiss ever, the two previous kisses happening when he was much younger, a child really. But now he chased her tongue when it invaded his mouth and delved back into hers, tasting her as much as she was getting her fill of him. She seemed to know without him telling her, that he was a virgin, but she didn't make much of it, instead just silently directing him where she wanted. He was happy to let her lead, as it was his first time with anyone, and though he obviously felt attraction to both men and women, Cas found himself to be an eager student, ravenous to learn whatever Meg might have a mind to teach him.

 

And when she straddled him, pushing his sweater up over his head and unbuttoning his jeans to pull his straining cock out of his boxers, already welling clear drops of precome at the tip, he moaned loudly before grasping her by the back of the neck to pull her down into a hungry, filthy kiss. She broke away and slithered down his body only to treat him to a couple of minutes of what was his first blow job, peeling off his jeans and laving her tongue thoroughly over his cockhead while stroking and petting his balls. Only when Cas was hard enough to hammer nails did she stop, rising back up to straddle him once more, sliding aside her lacy black panties before grasping his cock tight and guiding it inside her wet, silky heat. Cas gasped at the way she practically sucked him in and was amazed he didn't come right then and there, but somehow he held out, biting his lip til it nearly bled as she slid down to take him in up to the root.

 

She held still for a few moments, letting him adjust, languidly kissing him while Cas tried not to blow his load and remember to breathe, all at the same time. Rather belatedly, she stripped off her top, revealing a matching black lace bra, which she deftly unhooked, tossing it over the side of the couch before grabbing Cas' hands, placing one firmly on her breast, with its dusky pink nipple that Cas suddenly had the urge to suck on, while his other hand found its way high up on her thigh, right where her impossibly soft stockings ended. They were the garter kind, which he found fascinatingly sexy, running his fingers up and down her satiny legs.

 

With an air of exploration, he gently squeezed her breast, enjoying the fleshy give of it and the sound it coaxed from her as well. Feeling brave, he leaned forward to suck her nipple into his mouth, just as she began to move, rhythmically lifting up a bit then dropping back down on his cock with soft little 'ahh ahh' noises, which only increased as he worked her nipple over with his tongue, teasing it into a hard nub before switching to the other one. She plunged her hands into his hair, holding his head to her breast encouragingly, while moving her hips in unhurried figure-eights, seeming to greatly enjoy the feel of him in her.

 

Eventually she used his hair to tug his mouth back up to hers, using her tongue to fuck in and out of his mouth much like he was doing to her, whispering huskily in French at intervals before moving her kisses from his mouth to his throat and beyond, sucking a bruise just below his ear that made heat coil in the pit of his belly. Growling a little, Cas pulled out and flipped them over so that Meg's back rested against the couch and lifting her legs up, he wordlessly urged her to wrap them around his hips, she obliged, drawing him back in for another kiss as he pushed his aching cock back into her dripping cunt. He kind of liked the feel of the sharp edges of her high heels digging into the cheeks of his ass, yet another added sensation that made the whole experience short out his senses.

 

He didn't hold out much longer then, pounding away into her steadily, the sound of his balls slapping against her ass seemed inordinately loud and obscene and he was transfixed by the sight of her furiously fingering herself, the brush of her fingers against his cock adding extra friction that ended up pushing him over the edge, causing him to come hard with a low groan. Still thrusting as he orgasmed, he could also feel Meg's fingers working away, and to help her along, he kneaded at her breast and fucked his tongue in and out of her mouth as she had done to him until he felt her clench tight around him, inner muscles squeezing him until she pulled another, smaller orgasm out of him, leaving him gasping and oversensitive. Burying his face in the crook of her neck, he tried to catch his breath; he could feel her heartbeat hammering away underneath his shoulder as she hummed happily.

 

She shifted a bit underneath him and he took that as his cue to move, wincing a little as he pulled out of her. He glanced up, catching her lazy, sated smile and returned it tenfold. Looking back down, he watched dazedly as his come seeped out of her cunt, dribbles of white and caught up in a moment of curiosity, he bent down and swiped it up with his tongue. His spend was slightly bitter and salty and mixed in interestingly with the taste of Meg, also slightly bittersweet and tangy; he dipped his tongue in for more and encouraged by her desultory moan and her hands in his hair drawing him closer, delved his tongue deeper inside, licking along her walls with abandon. It was yet another of his firsts taken and it made him feel powerful, as though he was discovering something special for the first time.

 

By the time her thighs started to tremble, warning of her impending orgasm, he had two fingers in alongside of his tongue, switching between hard thrusts and crooks of his fingers, interspersed with forceful sucks at her clit. With his other hand he kept kneading at her breast, teasing the nipple again til it was a rosy peak. Finally, with a strangled cry, she came hard, and Castiel could feel the seize and clench of it around his tongue, waves of her juices filling his mouth; he kept working his tongue in her until it happened again and weakly she tugged him away by his hair, drawing him up, so she could lick the taste of herself right out of his mouth with a pleased moan.

 

Both of them panting for air, they laid out lengthwise on the couch, Meg's leg flung across his thighs, her breasts pressing against his chest. He was half hard again, eating her out had excited him more than he thought possible, but he didn't feel like doing anything about it just yet. They laid there quietly and Cas felt himself zoning out a bit, thinking on what he had just done and wondering what it might have been like if his first time had been with Sam. He'd always heard that sex was always better with someone that you had feelings for, that you truly loved. In his opinion, sex was already rather wonderful with just someone you were attracted to and considered a friend, which was how he felt about Meg, he could only imagine how much more intense it would be with someone like Sam, whom he loved wholeheartedly.

 

Meg traced designs absently over his chest before finally softly saying, “I am in Paris...but you are somewhere else.

 

“I'm sorry, Meg...” Cas apologized, surfacing from his reverie and realizing that he was being a bit rude, ignoring his bed-mate and fantasizing about sex with someone else.

 

Meg straddled him once more, leaning in to kiss him. “I would like to help...but what you have to fix, you won't fix it in bed, you have to fix it, here.” She whispered against his lips as she gently tapped at his temple before stroking his cheekbone with the back of her fingers.

 

Cas nodded ruefully in agreement before wrapping his arms around her and pulling her down into another kiss, feeling himself hardening back up against her thigh. She shifted a bit and rolled her hips back and forth approvingly over his stiffening cock, moaning into their kiss as he thrust his tongue into her mouth. He could feel the wetness of her slicking his dick up and he placed his hands on the globes of her ass to hold her down so he could grind against her dripping cunt.

 

Sighing in pleasure, she pulled back a little, saying with a wink, “But there's no reason why we can't try to fix it this way at least once more, hmm?”

 

 

~*~x~*~

 

 

Later, after Cas had returned home, Balthazar dropped in on him unexpectedly and Cas ended up spilling his guts about his evening with Meg.

 

“I like Meg, she's smart, sweet once you get to know her, and funny. And she has such a good eye for photography, she sets up most of Michael's shoots,” Cas gushed.

 

“Mmm, she sounds like quite the woman, but someone is in the way, hmm? Is it this Sam, that you've mentioned, casually, 40 or 50 times a day since I've met you?”

 

Cas rubbed the back of his neck in embarrassment. “I don't talk about him that much,” he grumbled churlishly.

 

“Oh, Cas, my darling, he's only an illusion, and illusions are dangerous people, they have no flaws. It is hard to truly know and love someone that you have placed on so high a pedestal. Quit waiting on someone who is not waiting on you. If you like Meg, see how things go with her for awhile, then if you meet someone else you like, pursue that, do not tie yourself to one person. You are so young, you have so much to learn in many ways, so much growing and living to do, wait until you know yourself a little better before you fall in love for good.”

 

Cas nodded, thinking Balthazar's words over. He liked Meg, but was unsure if he wanted a relationship with her, and he didn't think she was interested in that either. Balthazar was right, he was too young to settle down, his few months in Paris so far had taught him that he had much to learn and see, in many different ways. If there was anywhere in the world to go to forget someone and remember or learn yourself anew, it was Paris.

 

 

~*~x~*~

 

 

The next day at work, Meg acted as though nothing had happened, except for the sly, cat-like smiles she threw at him every so often. Cas was almost surprised she acknowledged him at all in such a way, he had half-expected her to ignore him completely, assuming that their night together had been of the one-night-stand variety. But as time progressed, they still met up on a semi-regular basis outside of work, often for sex, but just as often only for drinks and dancing, or going to art shows, museums, concerts, wine tastings and book readings.

 

One night, after a rather erotic poetry reading, which was followed by an extremely athletic bout of sex, they lay tangled together in Meg's bed and she told him a little about herself.

 

“I came here from Provence, just sixteen years old, alone, uneducated. For nearly a year, I worked a dull job, sat in a cafe, I drank coffee, and I wrote nonsense in a journal. And then, somehow, it was not nonsense. I went for long walks, and I met myself in Paris. And then, I was not alone, I had myself, and I made myself into someone I could know and like, for the most part,” she laughed self-deprecatingly.

 

Meg turned in Cas' arms to face him and gazed at him knowingly, jaded but kind. “You seem...embarrassed by loneliness, by being alone. But every person, at one point in their life, must learn to be happy alone.” She leaned in to kiss him briefly before getting up.

 

He squinted up at her in mild confusion as she slipped on her robe and shrugged. “It's only a place to start.”

 

And so, Meg took him under her wing, just as Balthazar had also done, and with two such exceptional teachers instructing him in tandem, Cas thought his chances at becoming a sophisticated Parisian were quite good, far better than they had been before, at any rate.

 

 

~*~x~*~

 

 

It was a few months later that Cas had his second important sexual experience. Oh, he'd slept with several more women since Meg, mostly friends of hers that she'd introduced him to, and with a wink and a pat on his ass, she'd push him towards them as though giving her stamp of approval.

 

He'd enjoyed himself thoroughly with each of the women, and felt that he had pleased them in return, but he felt his curiosity growing towards trying out his new sexual skills with a man. He went out with Balthazar regularly, but still hadn't mustered up the courage to go home with any of the handsome men that propositioned him; his memories of Sam were always too close in the back of his mind.

 

A small, quiet part of him wanted to hold out for Sam, to save that part of his virginity for the one person he loved. But another, louder part kept asking if it wouldn't be better to get some experience now, that way if he and Sam ever did get together, Cas would already be well-versed in the art of lovemaking and be able to blow Sam's mind, making him completely forget any of his previous lovers and see that it was Cas he should have been with all along.

 

Cas knew it was a childish hope and kept these thoughts to himself though, already knowing what his friends would say. Balthazar assured him there was no rush and to do things at his own pace, so Cas didn't worry overmuch, but a few nights previous, he'd been fooling around with Meg. And after an amazing blow job which ended when Meg stuck her finger in his ass, causing him to come explosively all over himself, not to mention giving Meg an unexpected facial; after they had both recovered a bit, she had then pulled out a very large, sparkly, purple dildo with a strap-on attachment, a devilish twinkle in her eye.

 

Cas had eyed it a mite dubiously. Sure, a finger felt good, but that monster? Cas hadn't had any complaints in the dick department, in fact, he was rather proud of what he did have, but this thing put him to shame. However, Meg assured him that she knew what she was doing, so Cas gamely agreed. If he didn't like it, he never had to do it again, and he might as well find out now if he liked anal sex at all.

 

Twenty minutes later, Meg had opened him up with four fingers, relentlessly massaging his prostate til' Cas was begging on his hands and knees for her to just fuck him already. Fortunately, Meg might have been a tease, but she wasn't downright cruel and soon obliged him, nudging the purple cockhead of the dildo against his lubed up entrance. The silicone pushed against his tender ring of muscle, before slowly sinking in, finally bottoming out until Meg's soft thighs pressed against the back of his. He felt her turn up the vibration on her end, sending electric tingles up his ass. Cas moaned unreservedly at the intrusion, it burned somewhat, but Meg had prepped him well enough that it was more on the pleasurable edge of the knife, rather than the painful side. She pulled halfway out with a squelch, thrusting back in gently, building up a gratifying rhythm, managing to tag Cas' prostate with every second or third thrust. The contact against the powerful bundle of nerves sent shocks of lightning up his spine and down to his dick, until Cas was slumped into the pillows, hands clenched in the blankets, ass in the hair, his cock leaking copiously on the silk sheets and so hard and aching he thought he might scream if he didn't get to come soon.

 

The vibrations from the clit massager on the other end that was pushing Meg towards her own climax, transferred to Cas as well, adding yet another layer of sensation until it was almost too much, and quivering all over, Cas begged to come.

 

“Touch yourself, mon cher, come for me,” Meg whispered huskily, the tell-tale trembling of her thighs against his ass assuring him that she was just as close as he was.

 

Cas barely had the strength to lift his hand to his cock, his limbs all felt like jelly at this point, but he did as she told him and after only stroking himself half a dozen times, he came with a guttural cry, his cock spilling over his hand hotly and dripping down to the sheets. His orgasm seemed to last forever, like the waves of a tide that Cas let himself float on, his ass clenching down hard on the dildo until he felt wrung out and over-sensitized. He distantly registered Meg's moans as she too came, still thrusting into him at intervals, driven by the aftershocks of her own orgasm, until Cas had to pull away, his whole body feeling like one giant, hypersensitive nerve ending.

 

He winced as she pulled out of him, his ass feeling strange and empty now and Cas knew he'd found a new favorite sexual activity. Scooting out of the wet spot, Cas sprawled out laxly on his back, and Meg curled up against him after taking off the harness and dildo, tossing it to the floor for clean-up later. She kissed his cheek and stroked her fingers over his chest.

 

“Well, what did you think?” She asked slyly.

 

Cas chuckled dazedly, but two things were clear. “We are definitely doing that again sometime...And, I've gotta try that with a man.”

 

They fell asleep giggling and Cas had never felt lighter.

 

 

~*~x~*~

 

 

It turned out that Meg and Balthazar already knew each other, and had even on a few occasions, engaged in hot hate sex. Having met when the Le Cordon Bleu cooking school, and Balthazar's course in particular, had been featured some time back in French Vogue, they had sparked against each other immediately. They got along well enough now, especially with Cas acting as their buffer zone. Leave them alone for too long, however, and they ended up screaming at each other unintelligibly in French, which usually devolved predictably into more hot hate sex. That didn't keep either of them from joining the other two for drinks and other activities, with both of them suggesting a threeway to Cas more than once. It hadn't yet come to fruition yet, but Cas was open to the idea if the circumstances were right.

 

Apparently though, the universe was all for Cas' sexual awakening, because the stars aligned a few months later, following a long shoot at a lavender farm that Cas was especially pleased with, and to celebrate, he and Meg met up later with Balthazar for drinks. It was also a bit of an early celebration of Cas' upcoming graduation from his cooking course, which, while he hadn't passed with flying colors, he had certainly improved from his earlier attempts. He had already signed up for another of Balthazar's cooking classes and in addition to that, wanting to expand his interests, he'd also registered himself for the beginner's drawing and oil painting lessons at La Villa Bastille.

 

They went to Chez Moune, which wasn't Cas' favorite place, but unlike the majority of Parisian night clubs, this one was free, which meant there was always a crush of young 20-somethings waiting outside, looking to drink, dance, fornicate and stay up til' dawn. Inside, the club featured a low, mirrored ceiling along with mirrored and tiled walls, which always made it seem even more crowded than it was and was downright disorienting if you were drunk, and could even be terrifying if you were having a bad trip. The club had a distinctly 1930's style décor, even though it catered mostly to the fashion-conscious hipster crowd and the DJ's mostly spun electro-rock.

 

After a few brightly colored drinks, they hit the dance floor and soon were swaying along to the infectious beats. Meg and Balthazar had been whispering to each other off and on all evening, shooting sly looks at Cas as the night progressed and he got the distinct feeling that they were up to something. Knowing neither of them could keep a secret for long, he ignored them, confident that his supposed disinterest would lure them in to reveal whatever furtive scheme they'd hatched. His plan was a success, and soon Cas found himself a part of a sandwich, Meg caught between him and Balthazar, all of them grinding against each other sensually. The darkness of the club gave them some sense of concealment, but it didn't matter too much, because those around them were participating in similar dirty deeds in whatever shadows they could find.

 

Cas could feel himself getting worked up and had a premonition that tonight might be the night they finally had their threesome. And a quick glance at his two companions confirmed that they were in much the same state of mind. Balthazar had his hands up Meg's skirt, his hands spread around her waist, fingers slipping into her lacy panties, revealing her stockings and garters and the two were engaged in a heated kiss, Meg's neck craned so she could kiss Bal over her shoulder. Cas leaned in to cup one of Meg's breasts over the filmy, low-cut blouse she wore and massaged it gently, tweaking her nipple through her thin, lacy bra, causing her to moan into Balthazar's mouth and roll her hips forward into Cas. The two broke away from each after a few moments and they both stared hotly at Cas, before Meg tugged him forward a bit more to suck a bruise just below his ear, as Balthazar placed his palm against Cas' cheek, drawing him over Meg's shoulder into a slow kiss.

 

It was his first kiss with a man and it wasn't too much different than kissing Meg or any other woman; Bal's lips were soft, if a bit chapped and Cas liked the catch of Balthazar's stubble brushing his own and soon found that his friend was quite the skilled kisser and had Cas growing tight in his jeans after only a few moments. Meg, of course, felt this new development pressing into her hip and gladly helped it along, rubbing Cas' hardening cock through the thick denim. Balthazar licked into Cas' mouth with abandon, one hand moving up to cradle Cas' jaw as their tongues slid slickly together.

 

When Cas felt a groan escape him, he knew it was time to move this little party someplace more private. As he and Balthazar parted, he caught sight of the three of them in the reflection of the mirrored walls and it only served to turn him on more. All three of them were disheveled and dark-eyed, their pupils blown out in arousal. Cas felt warmth curl in the pit of his belly as he watched Meg and Bal kiss some more and he glanced up to see what the view looked like from above. He wasn't disappointed; the mirrored ceiling showed Bal's hand under Meg's blouse, fondling her breasts, taking up where Cas had left off and also made visible where Meg was still caressing Cas' hard-on over his jeans. Cas closed his eyes, trying to calm down a bit. They needed to get out of here, now.

 

His friends seemed to have the same idea, as Meg was now pulling him towards the door, Balthazar ahead of her, leading the way. They took a taxi back to Meg's place, barely managing to keep their hands off each other for the short ride, but once they were past Meg's front door, it was no holds barred and Cas found himself pressed against said door while Balthazar thoroughly tongue-fucked him. Barely able to breathe under the pleasurable assault, Cas didn't quite register Meg undoing his jeans until her mouth descended hotly on his cock, enveloping it in scorchingly tight, wet suction, causing him to cry out against Bal's lips and jerking his hips into Meg's face, pushing his cock farther down her throat. She hummed around him, sucking harder before she swallowed him down.

 

Balthazar's hands were under his shirt now, expertly tweaking his nipples into tight nubs and if the two of them hadn't been holding Cas up, he was sure he'd have melted into a puddle on the floor already. Cas moaned at the onslaught of sensations and pulled away from Balthazar's intoxicating mouth to gasp, “Bedroom. Now.” Cas' gaze was drawn downwards as Meg pulled off his cock with an obscene pop, thin strands of saliva spanning between her mouth and his engorged member until she licked her lips with a wicked smirk.

 

The three of them broke apart, and made for Meg's bedroom, shedding their clothing as they went. Meg left on her lacy garters and stockings, aware of how much they turned Cas on. At the foot of the bed, Cas kicked off his boxers and socks and Balthazar, already nude, pulled him in by his waist to resume the steamy kiss they had started at the front door. Their bare cocks brushing together for the first time wrenched a whimper out of Cas and he moved his hands from Bal's back to his ass, gripping tight to press them together in a filthy grind, reveling in the feel of another hot cock slotted up next to his, their leaking precome making the glide smooth and perfect. Cas was sure he could come from just this, but held off, determined to feel Bal inside him when he finally did come. Meg, who had slithered up the silk sheets and was propped up against the headboard with her legs spread wide, revealed that her panties were crotchless as she languidly fingered herself while watching Cas and Bal.

 

With a last nip to Cas' bottom lip, Bal drew back and pushed at Cas' chest lightly, tumbling him to the bed before he followed, kneeling between Cas' spread thighs, Meg next to them, watching hungrily.

 

“So, Cas,” she purred, “this is your party tonight, mon cher, what do you want?”

 

His cock was aching with want and he tugged at it absently, glancing back and forth between Meg and Bal, considering. The opportunities were endless here. But finally, he made up his mind.

 

Holding Bal's gaze, he said shyly, “I want you to fuck me.”

 

Sharing a lascivious grin with Meg, Bal murmured, “It would be my pleasure, darling. And you, my dear?” He questioned, glancing at Meg. “What would you like?”

 

Meg only smirked lazily, her gaze shifting from one swollen, throbbing cock to the other. “Oh, don't worry about me, between the two of you, I'm sure I'll get fucked six ways to Sunday.”

 

With matching feral grins, they didn't waste any time, searching out the lube and quickly rearranging themselves so that Meg was spread out back against the headboard, Cas positioned between her thighs, eating her out, while Bal draped himself over Cas' back as he opened him up a finger at a time. Bal scissored his fingers expertly, showing as much care and consideration in the act as Meg had and Cas felt blessed to have been gifted with two such kind, attentive lovers.

 

Intermittently, Bal reached around and stroked at Cas' cock to take the edge off the burn of being prepped, switching between that and fondling at Meg's breasts. Finally, Cas was stretched and open, panting and shivering from all the stimulation and they all changed positions once more, now with Cas on his back with a pillow propped up under his hips, Meg straddling him. Grasping his dick, she rubbed it over her clit a few times before pressing Cas inside her, sinking down as his cock filled her up with a sigh. Bal crowded up behind her, staring over her shoulder, watching as her breasts bounced as she worked herself over on Cas' cock. He glided both hands up her rib cage, capturing handfuls of her breasts and digging his fingers in, using his grip to help Meg rise up and slam herself down harder on Cas, provoking twin moans of pleasure from both of them.

 

“You ready for me, Cas?” Bal asked as he rubbed at Cas' lubed up entrance with his thumb, watching as the tip of it disappeared inside.

 

Cas groaned loudly underneath Meg. “God, yes, Bal. Just fuck me already!”

 

“Oooh, a bossy bottom, I like it!” Bal exclaimed, removing his thumb and grabbing the lube to slick himself up a bit more before nudging the blunt head of his dick against Cas' puffy pink hole. Meg had ceased her movements momentarily and when Cas felt Bal line himself up, he jerked his hips forward impatiently, sheathing the tip of Bal's dick inside himself, letting out a breathy gasp at the intrusion. This was a million times better than a piece of cold, lifeless silicone! The heat alone, was burning Cas from the inside out, a good burn, to be sure. And Bal felt so big already, satin-wrapped iron spearing him in place.

 

Balthazar slid in, inch by inch until he was fully seated, his chest pressed snugly up against Meg's back. She craned her neck to kiss Bal over her shoulder, allowing Cas time to adjust to the feeling of complete fullness. It was taking all of his concentration right now to not come in hot spurts inside of Meg, but finally he got a ahold of himself. Taking a deep breath, he undulated his hips up in a sinuous roll, thrusting up hard inside Meg and pushing Bal further inside of him. The sensation broke the kiss between Meg and Bal, earning low groans from the both of them. Meg stretched out over Cas, propping herself up with her palms pressed flat against the duvet for leverage as she began to ride him once more, leaning down to part his lips with her tongue, in a deep, filthy kiss that tasted of both her and Balthazar.

 

Bal too, started moving, working up a fast rhythm that soon had him pulling out til just the tip of his cock was encased in Cas' heat before slamming all the way back inside, striking against Cas' prostate every third or fourth time. Cas was nearly insensate with pleasure, holding onto his self-control by the skin of his teeth, head thrown back, all of his muscles straining, a thin sheen of sweat on all of them. Meg took turns kissing both of them, before eventually giving up to chase her orgasm in earnest, one hand kneading a breast while the other fingered at her clit, with Bal curling a hand around to tease at her other breast as well. Meg came first, shaking and shivering, hands planted on Cas' pecs as she came repeatedly, aftershocks rolling through her as Cas kept thrusting up, almost driven by the force of Bal fucking him. Meg finally collapsed on his chest, breathing heavily with her face pressed into Cas' throat. She kept clenching down on Cas' still hard cock, and Cas was about ready to burst.

 

“Harder, Bal, harder!” He begged.

 

Balthazar obliged, grasping at Cas' thighs and beginning to pound so hard and fast that he was tagging Cas' prostate on practically every thrust. Cas cried out with the force of the stimulation, fucking up uncontrollably into Meg, who managed to rouse herself from her pleasured haze to kiss Cas as he began to come. Warmth filled him, inside and out as his orgasm triggered Balthazar's as well, producing a shockwave of heat and pleasure that had his vision darkening at the edges, gasping out until his lungs screamed for air as his body arched off the bed. His hands clenching on Meg's ass cheeks, sure to leave fingerprint bruises as he pushed her down relentlessly on his cock, grinding in circles inside of her. He wrung another orgasm out of Meg before she finally slid off of him, rolling onto her back beside him. Bal pulled out of Cas as well, flopping down on Cas' other side with a satisfied sigh. Cas felt a loopy, dopey smile pulling at his lips, endorphins running amok through his system. That had been amazing,and he could say with authority now, that he was indeed a big fan of anal sex.

 

After awhile, he began to come down, and marshaled up the strength to make it into the bathroom to clean himself up, the feeling of lube and come seeping out of him too disgusting and uncomfortable to bear any longer. He brought back wash cloths for Meg and Bal who both dutifully cleaned off as well, Cas dumping the cloths into the bath for later. Climbing back into bed, the three of them fell asleep curled up together, sated smiles on their faces.

 

The morning after had the potential to be awkward, but miraculously wasn't. They showered and went out for brunch before coming again to Meg's flat for another round. It was the second of many to come over the years.

 

And so, Cas was no longer a virgin. And while he regretted that neither of his first times had been with Sam, he also realized it for the boon that it was, he didn't need another reason to be overly attached to Sam, and sex would've definitely accomplished that. It was also good for him that he was having so many new experiences outside the field of gravity that was an occupational hazard of living with the Winchesters most of his life; everything at home had been defined by them, Cas fashioning and shaping himself in their image. But here, he was a blank slate once more, capable of discovering truly for himself, who he was and what he wanted out of his life. He often surprised himself, which was a pleasant revelation; he'd always thought himself dull and boring, too shy and withdrawn with no stories to tell of his own. But Paris brought out the best in him and so did his friends. They helped him exercise his sense of humor til it was a sharp, deadpan wit, pushed him out of his comfort zone until he could honestly consider himself to be outgoing and engaging. He still loved his quiet time on his own, but as he was steadily learning, life in Paris was about pleasures, for the mind, body and soul, and Cas was more than happy to partake.

 

 

~*~x~*~

 

 

Five years seemed to pass in the blink of an eye before Castiel finally succumbed to his father's pleas for a visit. And of course, the fact that it coincided with Chuck's latest letter detailing Sam's engagement and impending marriage to some millionaire doctor had absolutely no sway whatsoever on Cas' decision that it was time to come home. None at all. (Okay, perhaps maybe a little.) It wasn't as though he had meant to stay away for so long, but he had built a life for himself there, carved out a niche where he fit reasonably well. He had a job he enjoyed, a few friends and hobbies that he split his time between.

 

That first year had been a turning point in many ways, it had been the start of his journey to finding himself, which he knew sounded cheesy and cliché, but it rang true for Cas. When the initial twelve months of his stay were up, it was easy to decide to stay another year, and then another; why should he leave when he at last felt comfortable in the world?

 

His time in Paris had shaped and changed him irrevocably. Physically, he'd finally had the growth spurt he'd longed for, shooting up a few more inches and filling out in his chest and shoulders. He'd taken to running along the Seine every morning, enjoying the quiet time to reflect on things and take in the beautiful view. He still wandered along the Bois de Boulogne and wrote in his journal at streetside cafes and drank tea, though now, sometimes, he'd often order a cloudy green Pernod with water, basking in the sun while he people-watched and flipped through the French Vogue which was nearly as thick as a telephone book. His French had greatly improved, until both Balthazar and Meg had proclaimed him proficient.

 

Thanks to Balthazar, his wardrobe had doubled in size as well, with fitted suits and waistcoats, designer jeans, shirts, scarves and blazers, until Cas was indistinguishable from any other sophisticated Parisian socialite. As Balthazar had promised, he caught the eye of many a lovely lady and handsome man, Meg and Balthazar being the firsts of many. His blue eyes and “fabulous” bone structure were always on display now due to contacts, his glasses only making an appearance in the evenings when he was home alone by himself, reading in bed. The same went for his ratty jeans, Led Zeppelin shirts and other Winchester hand-me-downs.

 

In his calls and letters to his father, he may have left out the fact that during his sojourn in Paris, he had acquired several tattoos and piercings. Okay, maybe more than several. Of the piercings, only the the curved, stainless steel barbell through his right eyebrow and the mid-line tongue piercing had survived the many he'd gotten at intervals, thanks to drunken nights out, with Meg and Balthazar egging him on with ridiculous dares that had ended up in double nipple piercings, among other things. He'd let the rest grow over and heal, but kept his eyebrow and his tongue piercings in, they were just enough of a departure from his childhood image without overdoing it. He hadn't had the same view about tattoos though. He had red roses climbing up one side of his neck, with his favorite verse from 'La Vie En Rose written in delicate script, intertwined among the rose petals and leaves.

 

When you press me to your heart
I'm in a world apart
A world where roses bloom
And when you speak
Angels sing from above
Everyday words seems
To turn into love songs

Give your heart and soul to me

And life will always be la vie en rose”

 

 

A pair of exquisitely detailed, black-shadowed wings that took up his entire back and shoulders and had taken months to perfect was his favorite piece. Running along his spine was his own name written in ancient Enochian, which was the supposed fabled language of the angels that Balthazar had turned him onto due to the nature of Castiel's name. Across the line of his shoulders, more French, “Your wings already exist, all you have to do is FLY.” Many might find Cas' tattoos over the top or gaudy, but each one had deep personal meaning to him, even if he had gotten them at two in the morning, stoned on hash. His arms were covered in brilliant sleeves of flowers, butterflies, birds and little excerpts of his favorite poems in French. He had plans for more too. It was easy to cover them up with a sweater and a scarf, but it was like having a wonderful secret, knowing they were there under his clothes.

 

As he wrote to his father one evening to tell him he was coming home for a visit, the little old man in the apartment across from his began to play a scratchy record of Edith Piaf singing 'La Vie En Rose.' One of Cas' favorite pieces of music since he had come to Paris, he had learned early on from Balthazar that it was the French way of saying, “I am looking at the world through rose-colored glasses.” Of course, it was only in Paris, where the light was pink, that the song could make any sense. And now, after five years, listening to the heartfelt warbling and able to understand every word now, he could truthfully admit, that the song said everything he felt, it never failed to move him, and he knew, even when he returned home, he'd keep it in his heart. It was why he'd gotten part of the lyrics as a tattoo, so even in dark times, he would never forget the gift Paris had given him. He was finally at peace with himself. He had learned so much—about everything, not just cooking or photography, but himself as well.

 

Of course, he could now make vichyssoise and had perfected his souffle recipe and could whip up just about anything in the kitchen that a person might fancy. He had gone from being the assistant to a notable photographer, to being a freelance photographer in his own right. He had more friends than he ever thought he might and a full social and working calendar, his life was rich and vibrant and most importantly, his own, no longer orbiting around a sun that didn't shine for him.

 

He was proud of these accomplishments, but much more importantly, he had learned how to live, how to be in the world, and of the world and not just to stand aside and watch. He'd made a quiet oath to himself, to never ever again run away from life, either by taking his own life, or by leaving the country. He tried hard to open himself up to new experiences, to open up to love and see the worth not only in others, but in himself as well.

 

As time went by, the barren cork-board up on the wall had slowly filled up, and as Cas blossomed, so did the board, which he purposely covered up with his mementos of Paris. Notices for art gallery openings, museum and concert tickets stubs, silly notes and pictures of him with his friends, photos he had taken that had turned out particularly well, all of these soon crowded the cork-board until they overflowed it, and only the smallest bit of Sam's face peeked out as a reminder of his old life. One day, as he pinned up an invitation to a new night club's grand opening, he realized he couldn't even see Sam's face anymore, and he finally understood what everyone had been trying to tell him, and he saw that he had accomplished it as well. He finally had become his own person, embraced his own life, there really was more to him, than just loving Sam. He'd always care for Sam, of course, but now he wasn't defined by it.

 

On Cas' second to last night in Paris, he called his father and told him not to worry about picking him up at the airport, that he'd catch the Long Island Railroad from JFK and to just meet him at the Glen Cove train station. Gently trying to warn his father of his much changed appearance, he told him that if Chuck had any difficulty recognizing his son, then just to look for the most stylish, sophisticated man on the platform, to which Chuck laughed happily and replied, “Don't worry, Cas, no matter what, I'd know you anywhere.

 

 

~*~x~*~

 

 

On Cas' very last night in Paris, Meg and Balthazar threw him a splendid going away party, which they hosted at one of Cas' favorite night clubs, Batofar, which they rented out for the evening. Where the club was located was what made it so memorable, as it was actually a large, converted barge, floating on the Seine, with a movable dock. Lit up like the 4th of July, the boat was in a constant sway of motion and not just because of the current. A steady stream of underground hip hop, rock, electro, techno and dubstep kept Cas' blood pumping in a frenzy til dawn; of course, that also could have been due to the little pink pill Meg had popped onto his tongue when they'd first arrived at the boat.

 

Cas took turns dancing with Meg and Balthazar and all of his friends, making his rounds and saying his heartfelt goodbyes to each person who had touched and helped shape his life in the last five years. Cas had been incredibly lucky, more so than he knew he probably deserved but he was grateful nonetheless.

 

The gentle seesaw motion of the barge, combined with whatever was in the pink pill lent the evening a lovely dreamlike quality, the lights glittering more brightly and the music feeling like it was seeping into his soul, making Cas' heart swell with bittersweet happiness at the prospect of going home, but leaving Paris behind. He knew he'd come back though, he'd never be able to stay away long now that he'd had a taste, because Paris was his home now, too. He remembered reading a quote by Gertrude Stein that went, “America is my country, and Paris is my hometown.” Cas would always feel that way too.

 

Much later, the three ended up at Balthazar's place in the wee small hours of the morning, as they had done so many nights before in their long acquaintance. Balthazar had jokingly(or perhaps he was serious, it was hard to tell sometimes) tried to tempt Cas into a ménage à douze earlier, as a last hurrah, but Cas hadn't been in the mood, twelve was a few too many for him anyways and especially on his last night, he just wanted to spend a couple of quiet hours with his best friends. If the three of them got up to something on their own, as they often did, that was their business. Cas was already all packed, his things just needed to be picked up on the way to the airport in the morning.

 

They camped out on the couch, drinking red wine and reminiscing about the last five years, yet a bittersweet air of melancholia reigned supreme. They shared sloppy kisses back and forth for awhile, but nothing really escalated and eventually they relocated to the bedroom to snag a few hours of sleep before it was time to take Cas to the airport. They woke late in the morning, all tangled together, Balthazar's morning wood pressing insistantly into Cas' backside and his own hard cock already being lazily rubbed against by Meg, her cunt ready and wet. Cas glanced at the bedside clock and saw that it was only 11:36am, his flight wasn't til 3:45pm in the afternoon, and with a shrug, thought, ' why not ?'

 

Within minutes, Meg was straddling him, riding his dick in leisurely rolls of her shapely hips and Cas had swallowed down Bal's cock, letting him fuck his face indolently. Overhead, Meg and Balthazar traded messy kisses. And as Meg came apart on top of him and Bal came down his throat and Cas found his own release, he thought it a fitting send-off and wondered how long it would be before he saw his friends again.

 

Quick showers and a late breakfast were had by all before they stopped by Cas' apartment to collect his luggage and then headed off to Roissy Airport. Balthazar was no fan of long, sentimental goodbyes; he hugged Cas tightly, pecked his cheek and told him to call him when his flight landed and then he was gone. However, Meg lingered while Cas got checked in.

 

“So, you are all grown up and going home now, hmm?” She said, her eyes twinkling but still somehow somber.

 

“It isn't forever,” Cas murmured, sadness rising up in him, feeling his throat grow tight, still a bit sore from their earlier activities.

 

“I know, mon cher. In Paris, you make friends you will keep for life. You will not forget me, I am sure of it, just as I know that you'll come back someday. Once you have loved and been loved in Paris, she is always your home, and you are always welcome here.”

 

“I'll call you when I get in,” Cas promised, hugging her with all his might, so grateful for her friendship and all she'd taught him, but unable to get the words out. Fortunately, he was pretty sure she knew how he felt, so he didn't feel too bad about his inability to articulate it.

 

Meg pulled back and patted his cheek, before kissing him goodbye. “Jusqu'à ce que nous nous revoyions. '' 

 

Once more, before he knew it, he was on the plane and in the air, yet another red eye taking him away from his home and everything he'd known in the last five years. Only now, he was returning to the home he'd left behind, one he might have to relearn in some ways. Cas couldn't deny he was nervous, but he found himself strangely unafraid, fear didn't stop time or keep anything at bay and as they often said in Paris, “Qui vivra verra,” or 'He who lives, shall see.' How things would play out once he returned home was uncertain, only time would tell and he was interested to see what his future held.