4:30 PM, DR. WINCHESTER’S STUDY. SESSION WITH: C. NOVAK
“So, when I kill myself, it will be your fault, right? Because you failed to save me or whatever? How would that make you feel, doc?”
“Seeing you’ve yet again failed to make vertical cuts on your arms to effectively kill yourself, I assume you crave my attention more than you like to admit. I actually feel very satisfied with that result. You’re making progress, Mr. Novak.”
“Fuck you and your fucking expensive suit you fucking fuck!”
Dean doesn’t say anything. He just looks at his client, knowing that the progress he mentioned is real. Castiel did not even want to speak with him at first, and this harsh provocative taunting is a step further. Castiel is glaring at him, his bare arms exposed, showing off the scars. Dean is not happy about the cuts, because self-harm is never a thing he enjoys seeing at his clients, but with Castiel, he isn't expecting to see much else. The fact that Castiel has come to this session means something. The fact that he yells at Dean and calls him names is progress. Of course, that pisses Castiel off.
“Mr. Novak,” Dean says with a deep sigh, “why are you here if you just want to cut to the quick?”
“Maybe I just think you need to hear that you’re not as dynamite as you think you are.”
“Perhaps.” Dean leans forward, elbows resting on his knees. “Or perhaps you are looking for a place where you feel you can have some kind of impact, which you cannot find at home. You go here because if you yell at me hard enough, I might care about what you say.”
Castiel rolls his eyes, but there is a shift in the way he sits. He is nervous.
“But you don’t give a shit, do you?” Castiel asks. “You just pretend because it pays you good money.”
“Oh, I’m disappointed,” Dean says, totally unfazed. “I hear that accusation at least once a week. I was hoping you’d be… more creative than that. You and I both know that I care, more than others, which is why your brothers sent you to me. They know that I’m honest and real, and you know it, too.” He pauses. “I know you can come up with better insults than that, Mr. Novak. So I’m curious—were you too scared to use them, afraid I’d kick you out and you’d lose your place here? Or do you actually not feel the need to insult me, but do just not know what else to say?”
Castiel just glares at him. Dean sits back, not really expecting an answer. His intuition tells him the answer would lie closer to the second option, but what matters most is that Castiel realizes, and that he now knows Dean can’t simply be offended.
As Castiel’s brothers told Dean, Castiel has walked away at every single therapist former to Dean. This often happened within a few weeks—sometimes Castiel wouldn’t even return after the first meeting. So it wasn’t surprising that Castiel’s family was amazed when Dean, after their list of therapists Castiel had left, showed no hesitation scheduling an appointment for the very next day. Dean barely ever hesitates to take on clients. Besides, he’d had the entire Friday afternoons free and suggested Castiel to come by.
On the first appointment, Castiel had been incredibly late. He barely showed interest in Dean, but walked around the room, observing the different flavors of teas and sniffing at a few. He was indeed a special client, Dean soon realized. Eventually, Castiel sat down and actually acknowledged Dean, in such a way it was almost uncomfortable. He eyed Dean with full interest and no shame, observing every bit of him as if he was a sculpture.
Castiel’s eyes are… distracting; bright blue and surrounded by dark lashes, giving him a very intense stare, enhanced when he squints. During the first session, Dean was more taken back by those eyes than he’d been by anything Castiel said or did. Haunted eyes, filled with pain and stories, but strong as well, able to hold their storms inside.
Dean is not sure yet what exactly Castiel has all been through, or why he is the way he is, but he heard some from his brothers. Bad mom, showing signs of depression since high school. Self-harm visible since last year, possibly been going on for longer. No suicide attempts or talk of suicide (one of the brothers felt like Castiel has always been afraid of death). Currently living at one of his brother’s. Dropped out of college on his depression’s full peak and collapsed without anything to do. Doesn’t have friends, seems to try and escape the real world. Didn’t say a word for about two months in which all he did was make art. That has always been what Castiel seems drawn to in both good and bad times. Art is his escape, and it has always been.
All Dean could think about hearing Castiel’s description was how close his problem areas hit to home. Castiel was definitely different from most clients, which also made him more… intriguing. Dean was interested—more than usual, wanting to see if and how he could get through Castiel.
Castiel has no shame in showing the scars on his arms or mention his mental illness—the problem sits with how little he seems to want to do anything about it. He goes to therapy because, in his own words, his brothers are so fucking tired of him lying around and doing shit, not being useful, and he wants to do them a favor for still caring about him. That was definitely a reason Dean never heard before, but he’d tried to hide that as he noted it down.
And that is where his journey with C. Novak began. Seemingly endless back-and-forth discussions trying to outwit each other for weeks. Unfortunately for Castiel, Dean is good at breaking through masks, and though Castiel’s is stronger than most, Dean is able to crack it, make little indentations. Castiel doesn’t go unfaced by what Dean asks him or speaks of. He does care, and he seems to care more every day, though some might not notice the progress. The thing that surprises Dean most is that Castiel keeps coming back. Every week he wonders if Castiel will show up. Maybe he left this time, maybe he finally gave up on Dean like all previous therapists.
But weeks pass, and Castiel stays. He is late sometimes, or he leaves early, but he comes. He’s coming and going for over two months now, and when Dean checks the files, that is a record for Castiel. Does that say something about Dean? Or is Castiel just tired of going to yet another random dude and does he really just want to do his brothers a favor?
4:30 PM, DR. WINCHESTER’S STUDY. SESSION WITH: C. NOVAK.
“Why haven’t you left yet, Castiel?”
“What?” Castiel frowns at him.
“I asked why you haven’t left, like you have with every other therapist in the past. Why you didn’t walk away after a few weeks of testing me out. It has been ten weeks. The longest you’ve stayed with a therapist before is eight. Call me arrogant, but that pleases me.”
Castiel watches him for a while, head slightly tilted. He shrugs slowly, his frown deepening. Maybe he didn’t even notice it had been so long.
“Dunno. Perhaps it’s because you’re hot and I just like fantasizing while looking at you.”
Dean tries to show no signs of that comment affecting him.
“Kind of overly complex and expensive, wouldn’t you say? You could watch porn for free.”
It is the first time he hears Castiel chuckle.
“I guess this is why I’m staying,” Castiel leaned into his chair, pointing at Dean. “None of the other therapists would’ve talked about porn without blushing.”
Dean scoffs, scribbling on his pad. He has an idea for Castiel that he wants to suggest today, but he needs to lead up to it in the right way for Castiel to even consider it in the first place.
“Or maybe you actually think that I can help you?”
Dean looks up and sees that Castiel’s eyes are sparkling like they always do when he is out to provoke Dean. Those eyes are the most revealing about Castiel, though it is always hard for Dean to look into them without getting too distracted.
“That would just be ridiculous indeed.” Dean shakes his head. “Seen the fact that you have actually told me things about yourself you’ve never told others before, and that for the last three weeks you have been on time and stayed late—you evidently already know that I can help you. Foolish of me to assume you weren’t already aware.”
For a moment, Castiel seems perplexed. Then he quickly pulls himself together and cocks his eyebrow.
“Oh so you’re sassy now, doc? I like it.” He smirks. “I’ll give it to you that you might… know what you’re doing. A little. More so than my former therapists. So yes, maybe I am interested in seeing what happens. Maybe I think that what you’re letting me do isn't all bullshit. I might actually think about what you say every once in a while. Besides, your tea is fucking delicious. Hope you don’t mind I take a few bags home at times. Stores don’t carry the brand.”
Dean hides his smile by taking notes. Castiel just said something important, something that for him is deep and dangerous territory. His comment on the tea was an attempt to cover it up, hoping it all seemed as unimportant to him. But Dean absolutely noticed.
“You can take the tea. I get refills every day I’m here anyway, no one would notice but me.” He shrugs, then gets up. He can feel Castiel’s eyes follow him across the room. Dean rummages through his bag at his desk and fishes out a black book, A5-size. He walks back and holds it out to Castiel.
“What—” Castiel takes it and scrolls through the book. All pages are empty. He flips to a random page, lets his fingers glide over one of the pages. Dean watches his face change. “That’s… that’s drawing paper. It’s thick, heavy. Mixed media?”
“It’s for you.” Dean sits down again. “I want you to do one thing and one thing only. Whenever you feel like it, make something in there. There’s no rules. Make it as ugly or as beautiful as you wish. Use whatever you want, write, stick in things, I don’t care. As long as it’s something that you want to make, or something that represents how you’re feeling—whatever feels right. Just go wild in it. Take it with you so we can look at it during sessions. I will not judge, whatever you make is right. It’s just a thing for you to keep track of your week and your emotions throughout it.”
For once, Castiel doesn’t look bored or isn’t chewing on a witty comeback.
“And you? What do you wanna do with it?” His fingers are still gracing the paper.
“It’ll be what we can talk about. Felt that’d be easier for both of us, as you don’t really have to talk about yourself directly. We can just talk about your art.”
Castiel hums as a sign he understands. He keeps touching the paper. Dean didn’t expect him to react very positively; it is Castiel after all, and he seems to not enjoy any kind of exercise Dean gives him. But this… It is art, Castiel’s thing. He is forced, or more so allowed, to make art in any way he wishes, without any commands or assignments attached to it, just what he feels like.
With this homework, Dean has given him a certain freedom he’s been missing in his sea of spare time. Dean has just given him the sense of direction he’s been craving.
“I uh… I’ll try.”
Castiel reaches for his bag, putting in the sketchbook with tender, careful fingers. He gets up and heaves the bag over his shoulder, suddenly seeming nervous. “Thanks for the sketchbook, doc. You could’ve just… asked me to buy one.”
“It’s all covered, Mr. Novak.”
“Please just call me Castiel.”
Dean always calls his clients by their last name to them, and by their first name in his head, until his clients tell him differently. This method gives him a sense of connection when thinking about them, without breaking any boundaries. Castiel has just strengthened their connection even more by finally allowing Dean to call him Castiel.
“Alright. You should call me Dean, then.”
Castiel doesn’t reply, busy putting on his jacket.
“I’ll work on the book. Thanks, doc.”
Dean doesn’t comment on that, but tells Castiel goodbye and watches the door close behind him. He stares at nothing for a while, then sighs deeply and goes to his notes. One thing is clear: to keep Castiel from getting too overwhelmed, Dean will never tell him how expensive that sketchbook was.