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Silly Bands

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            Dean thought the night was going to be a wash. Visiting Sam over in sunny California, he resigned himself to a fate of hanging around Stanford’s campus like some creep. His brother had always been more of the ‘stay-home-and-study’ kid than the ‘out-until-4-am’ kind. So the first night there Dean readied the couch for the Netflix marathon he knew Sam prepared. Cut to Sam coming out of his room in a light blue button-down and dark wash jeans, glaring at Dean in his hoodie and sweats. “What?” he barked.

            “I thought I told you to get ready?”

            He scoffed, “Yeah, I am.”

            “Ready for what? A Netflix marathon?”

            “…Exactly that. What did you think I was getting ready for?”

            Sam threw his hands to the sky. “The bar!” Dean’s response was a simple blink. “You know,” he continued, “The bar I told you we were going to, tonight with my friends? Weren’t you listening?”

            “Uh…” Dean used to give Sam his undivided attention. However, in the lead up to college and after the big move, most of his conversations revolved around school and the law. “Sorry if I assumed you meant that bar test thing-y you’re always complaining about!” His misplaced foot tasted better than the intense look of disappointment Sam served him. “Fine, fine! Give me a few minutes – I won’t be long!”

            They were on the road in seven minutes.

            On the way, Sam chattered on about whom they were meeting and what bar they were going to. Again, Dean didn’t pay attention. Normally he would be an active participant, at times even lead their car conversations. Except after a serious run-in with a police officer on his way into Palo Alto, Dean focused on the road more than any class he sat through in high school. He breathed out in relief when he noticed they made it with no flashing red-and-blue lights in his rearview.

            Letting Sam out, Dean circled the block for a parking spot. He slid in between a yellow bug and a pale, beige truck. Then walking the blocks back, he snuck into the line right behind Sam as he was flashing his ID to the bouncers.

            One of the men stopped him, “Hey, where do you think –“

            “Sorry, sorry, he’s with me,” Sam said, “he was parking.”

            They conferred silently with drawn brows and snarled lips. Dean flashed a cheeky grin their way, winking with his patented Winchester charm. The bouncer who held him back dropped the hand from his chest. “Do you need me to explain the rules –“?

            Sam shook his head, “Nah, I already did that on the way in.”

            Dean doesn’t remember anything Sam said, but nodded along. ‘Besides,’ he thought, ‘What kind of bar has rules? The one that Sammy frequents, obviously…’ So he showed his ID and followed Sam inside.

            The pounding bass line reverberated in the dark hallway. Dean stared at the black vinyl walls, where neon paintings hung one after the other. The actual bar was hidden behind another door, each swing freeing the full blasting song of some club remix Dean never heard before. He glanced down at his outfit, unsure if it would fit in. Acid washed jeans, his favorite purple plaid shirt and a brown leather jacket.

            He didn’t stew long on it, the girl behind him pushing him forward. Right before the door, a woman with a high ponytail sat behind a desk littered with wristbands. When Dean stepped up, he was unsure of what to do. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Sam grab a pink one and roll it onto his wrist. Dean rolled his eyes. ‘Of course he’d choose pink, probably to show how sensitive he is.

            Sam tried handing him a wristband of the same color, only for Dean to wave him off. Instead he plucked a purple one from between a row of blues and greys and put it on. Sam stared, stone-faced, blocking his path like a statue. “Dude,” Dean asked, “what is it?”

            “You… are you sure?”

            “Uh, yeah, Sam? Purple’s my color.” He then shimmied his wrist between them for emphasis.

            Then, in a turn of events that set Dean’s nerves on edge, Sam swallowed back a sob. “Wow, Dean I… I never knew. Have you always known or did you just find out recently?”

            “Uh I mean, I don’t…” More people started shoving past them, yelling at them to move. “Listen, we’re kind of a fire hazard so could we…?”

            “Oh, right, right… I was just – never mind.” They entered, Dean putting the strange encounter behind him as a screech tore through his ears. He glanced around, taking in the bar’s atmosphere while he waited for the ringing to end.

            There was a large space in the center where most of the people were congregated. Dancing on top of a lit floor, different colors lighting up in time to the beat the DJ yards away controlled from his laptop. To his right there was a bar painted in navy, with a lit vanity behind it displaying the different types of alcohol they had to serve. Two bartenders wove around each other, dressed like Williamsburg transplants that had been air lifted out of the East Coast and parachuted into the West. Finally to his left, a series of tables and a row of booths that ended at a staircase that led to a second level.

            Sam raised his long arm, sweeping it up towards one of booths on the second floor. “C’mon,” he said, guiding them through the crowds to find his friends.

            After a detour through a spilled drink and past a very handsy woman, they made it. “Finally!” a small red head in a yellow jacket, black jeans, and a pink wristband said, “We thought you got lost!”

            “Nah, just got sidetracked,” Sam said, clapping Dean on the back, “Anyway, this is my brother Dean. Everybody be nice.

            Dean offered them a salute and a “Howdy!”

            “Dean,” the redhead reached across the table, grabbing his hand in a firm shake, “my name is Charlie. It’s so nice to finally meet you!”

            “Nice to meet all of you as well…”

            As Sam left to get them beers, the group kept introducing themselves to Dean. He leaned in close, trying to hear over the music. And while he learned everyone’s names, he also found himself taking note of their wristband colors. After Charlie, Kevin Tran waved hello with his pink wristband. Then Mick Davies, a transfer student from England, shook his hand as well, showing off his blue wristband. Rounding out the group were twins Alicia and Max, in grey and blue wristbands respectively.

            “Y’know, Dean, Sam told us a lot, but not… this,” Max said, fingering his purple wristband, “Not that we’re unhappy – we’ve finally collected all the colors in this four-striped rainbow.”

            “Yeah, well you’re a lot calmer than my brother,” Dean snorted, “Nearly had a stroke when he saw me pick it up.”

            “Wait, so Sam didn’t know…”

            “Uh… don’t know why he didn’t.”

            Charlie chuckled. “Well you know how he is… sometimes he doesn’t notice the most obvious things.”

            “Yeah,” Mick chimed in, “Remember how he didn’t realize why we were in San Francisco until the day of the parade?”

            “Oh I know!” Charlie said, “Like we were dressed for it and everything – and he said that he wanted to ask but didn’t want to assume anything!”

            “Well remember Alex?” Mick asked, “We could’ve been making out in front of Sam and he still would have tried setting me up with that girl in his Ethics class!” They clinked their glasses together, the entire table roaring alongside them.

            Dean, unsure how that had anything to do with a purple wristband, was glad when Sam returned with two glasses from the tap to change the conversation. He sat on the fringe as the college kids discussed classes, tests, and clubs. It was interesting, having not gone to college himself. Dean doesn’t regret the choice, even now drinking with all of them. Hearing their horror stories reminded him how much he hated school, preferring to learn what he wanted on his own time.

            Although he wished he visited sooner. Sam was in the middle of his final fall semester now, and the last time he saw him when it wasn’t a holiday or through a filmy laptop camera was freshman move-in day four years ago. He was playing catch-up with the added disadvantage of loud, crappy music. “It’s not like I could leave, really,” Dean explained when someone asked, “Bills to pay… and our Uncle barely hired anyone else to pick up the slack. He only caved this summer when his disk slipped and he couldn’t get onto a creeper anymore.”

            Sam chuckled. “That sounds like Bobby. How did it happen again?”

            “Some rich douche got annoyed that his BMW wasn’t ready when he wanted, so he kicked over a can of oil that he slipped on after chasing him out.”

            “Jesus,” Charlie muttered, “He’s suing right?”

            Dean nodded. “Insurance even sent over some big-shot lawyer from their company, once they heard how deep the pockets of the douche were.”

            “I think I remember Bobby talking about him when I called,” Sam said, “Fergus… something. Whatever it was, he sounded real sour. Must not be getting along.”

            “Actually you’d be surprised,” Dean told him, “They look like opposites: Bobby in his dirty flannel and Crowley – Fergus Crowley, that’s his name – in all black suits. But they’ve gotten real chummy the longer the case has gone on.” He didn’t get into details of how close they were. Dean wasn’t supposed to work overtime that one night in October, and they forgot to lock the door. ‘He’ll tell Sam in his own time.’

            “So, besides your Uncle,” Mick said, “Do you have any other family in Kansas?”

            Dean drew his lips into that classic white person look. It was a loaded question, and he wasn’t sure how much Sam told them. He shrugged, “Just a dad. Mom passed away young.”

            “Yeah, Sam told us about that.”

            “First time we’re hearing about a dad though,” Alicia said.

            He looked to Sam, his brother leaning against the table with a rigid back. “There’s nothing to say, really. Retired, and spends a lot of his time at home.” Dean kept other details to himself, sure that tales of an emotionally distant, easy-to-anger, alcoholic would kill the mood.

            The DJ called out for everyone to get on the dance floor, shifting into an upbeat number as sugary as a pink drink he saw a guy carry. Charlie squealed, “Get out! I love this song!” She dragged Kevin and Mick away, hopping down and towards the brightly lit center.

            That was the beginning of the group’s break-up. Alicia joined the others on the first floor after Charlie waved to her from the writhing mass. And then a blonde in a skin-tight green leather dress, complimented by the blue wristband, pulled Sam away. Max stayed for a while, he and Dean chatting over their drinks. He enjoyed it, both sharing the same taste of music and books. But for some reason, Max left him. It was strange. He had moved in, fully facing Dean and laughing at a joke. Then Dean made a comment about a girl’s ass that passed them, and like a switch he lost interest.

            He wasn’t lonely for long. Now that he wasn’t surrounded by buzzed undergrads, different patrons descended to chat. It was as if Dean set up near a revolving door, a variety of men and woman checking in on him. Dean hardly had time to breath between all his new ‘friends’.

            ‘Definitely not my kind of scene…’ When it came to striking up conversations in a bar, Dean usually led the charge. Granted, the places he frequented back in Kansas were much different. The women never made the first move, and if he did mosey over to flirt they either pushed out the stool next to them or placed their purses down instead. And the men only ever talked when he was scamming them out of money, and as the night wore on their comments was less and less positive and life affirming.

            California turned everything on its head. People with blue and purple wristbands sliding forward, dunking Dean back in before he could break for air. He loved a forward woman, but the ones who slunk around him put Dean off with their requests. A brunet whose eye shadow was smoky like a coal locomotive leaned in close and asked if Dean wanted to drop ecstasy with her in the bathroom. Or a red head that nearly bit the head off of another woman who tried approaching, bloody red lipstick snarling like an annoyed Doberman. The worst woman who approached was a strawberry blonde named Lydia. She wobbled over, clearly intoxicated, and declared Dean would be the father of her daughter.

            Two hours in, and Dean could easily say he preferred the men who stopped by his table. He’d never felt so popular, especially with guys. Whenever he stepped into a room, all the men would usually scowl at him. Dean blamed it on their insecurity. ‘Not my fault I was a ten in a town of fives…’ But here he was one gorgeous boy surrounded by other gorgeous boys. And they loved complimenting Dean, without the usual barbed insult hidden underneath aimed at hobbling his confidence.

            A skittish man named Aaron swung by for a couple of minutes. Dean tried his best to make him feel comfortable, but no matter what he tried Aaron wouldn’t meet his eyes or stop playing with his blue wristband. He disappeared after Charlie bounced back to finish off her drink, Dean too distracted to say goodbye to him. But then there was a big bear of a guy who liked to touch. Greeted him with a one-armed bro hug and always made sure he and Dean were connected in some way, either brushing their hands together or knocking knees and even some accidental footsie. Their conversations devolved into rating the looks of people in their line of sight. Except Dean kind of ruined with an off-hand comment about beards, and suddenly the man said his friend was calling him back. His favorites though were these two friends, Jesse and Cesar, who were looking for a three-way. They giggled the entire time, telling him how “they never do this kind of thing” and “it’s their first time”. Dean laughed alongside them, and when they paused their ramblings he cheered them on. “I wish you the best of luck, dudes!” It must have been the encouragement they needed, them trailing away immediately with a quiet sort of confidence.

            He caught an opportunity to sneak away when Sam passed by. Dean grabbed at his wrist, tugging him back. “Hey, I’m gonna go get a drink – can you watch the table?”

            “Dean, I have to use the bathroom –“

            “I’ll be quick!”

            Sam whined, but shackled himself to the table so Dean could be free. He thanked him before dipping down to the bar, squeezing through the cluttered space. ‘Christ, what’s the maximum occupancy in this place?

            Stumbling into the bar, Dean cursed at his now bruised knee. After putting in an order for another glass of whatever was on tap, he rubbed at it. Too distracted by his injury, he didn’t hear the man coming up behind until he was pressed against his back.

            “Dude,” Dean spun around, “personal space.” It wasn’t a better situation, now chest to chest, with Dean and his nose practically touching.

            “Sorry,” the man said, smirking, “But that’s pretty hard to find in a club.”

            He huffed, pushing back against whoever was behind him to put some distance between him and the newcomer. The guy didn’t think much of it, leaning against the bar to order his own complicated order. Dean used that time to quickly study him.

            The guy was fit. His black t-shirt clung to him, making Dean doubt there wasn’t a part of him that wasn’t one hundred percent grade-A beef. ‘I don’t know if those rips in his jeans were because he bought them like that or because the denim couldn’t contain thighs like that…’ Dean thought, trailing his gaze down. When he brought it back up, the man was facing him again. A devilish grin shone on his scruffy face, and Dean didn’t care for the gleam bouncing in his blue eyes. Dean blushed, pouting.

            “So,” the guy started, “I take it you’re not used to the bump and grind of a club?”

            “What gave it away?”

            “Maybe the stank face you wore the entire trek over here.”

            Dean raised a brow. “You make a habit of watching people in the club?”

            He shrugged. “You gotta make your own fun sometimes. Between you and me, this place isn’t my kind of scene either.”

            “Really? Then where would you be on a Friday night?”

            “If not at home with my Netflix account, then a nice dive with good music and not this… garbage,” the guy said, “I feel like I’m at some Sweet Sixteen or prom listening to remix after remix.”

            Dean laughed at that. The bartender slid his drink over to him, which Dean lifted up towards the guy. “I’ll drink to that.” After a sip, he held his hand out to him. “Dean.”

            “Castiel.”

            “Castiel?” Dean parroted, “Cool name. It’s got to mean something though, right?”

            “Yes. It’s actually the name of an angel.”

            “Wow, so religious… and you spend your nights in a club?”

            Castiel snorted, taking a swig of his own cocktail. “Religious? Me, not so much… my family on the other hand.”

            “What would they think knowing you were being so sinful?”

            “Trust me, their opinion of me is already low enough I doubt I could fall farther in their eyes…” His expression darkened, and Dean feared he struck a badly healed scar.

            “Hey,” he said, “I didn’t mean… I know what it’s like, coming from a rough family of my own.”

            “You do?”

            “Yeah… mom died young. And if it wasn’t for my brother or my Uncle I doubt I would have made it this far in life.”

            “Then I should thank them, for giving us this chance to meet.”

            “Well my brother’s actually here… I tagged along with him and his friends.”

            “Funny, I’m here with friends as well,” Castiel said, “It was my friend’s birthday a few nights ago and all she wanted was to get laid. And this is the perfect place to hook up.”

            “Alcohol? Darkness? Sweaty bodies?”

            “All that and… other things.” Castiel fingered his wristband at that, the blue a shade or two brighter than his own eye color. He looked at Dean’s wrist, trying to get a glance at his.

            He pulled his sleeve back. “Sweet, right? I’ve never been to a place that gave out free wristbands.”

            “Yeah, they actually got interviewed by a few magazines because of it. Really makes things easier…”

            “Um, okay?” Dean was curious – ‘What are they making easier?’ – but decided to continue their conversation, switching subjects. He wasn’t sure how long they were talking by the bar. Both he and Castiel finished their first drinks, and were halfway through their second. It was a funny moment, when the bartender came by. Dean ordered for them, “More of the same for me and my buddy Cas, here.”

            “Cas?”

            “Yeah – you never had a nickname before?”

            “I have, just nothing as simple as that.”

            “…Is it okay?”

            “Coming from you?” Castiel smirked, “I like it.”

            Dean and Castiel clicked, in his opinion. They jumped from topic to topic, discussing favorite music, embarrassing memories, and things they hated. Dean nearly collapsed as Castiel ranted about men who wear boat shoes and tie sweaters around their necks. He propped his arm on his shoulder, dipping his head to lean on Castiel’s chest, laughing.

            Regaining composure, he resituated himself albeit still close to Castiel. Dean thought the lights were playing tricks on him, with how Castiel’s gaze had changed. His pupils seemed larger than before, and there was a strange kind of fire behind them. In the back of his mind, Dean recalled his old chemistry professor making an off-handed comment about blue fire being the hottest color. Castiel’s stare left burns in his soul that shook him to his core. He swallowed roughly while Castiel licked his lips.

            “You know,” Castiel said, “my friend wanted to get laid… but I wouldn’t be opposed to it, either.”

            Dean shrugged. “I mean, yeah… who would turn down a good fuck?”

            “So you agree?”

            “Sure.”

            “Good,” Castiel grinned, “Then follow me.” He dropped a few bills on the counter before guiding Dean away from the bar. They were pressed against the wall, with Castiel leading him, a firm grip on his elbow.

            Dean, confused, spoke up. “Wait – where are we going?”    

            Pausing, Castiel turned back to him. “To fuck, of course.”

            His world spun. Dean stepped back, wrenching free of Castiel’s hold. “W-what?” Castiel watched him, head skewed to the right, looking almost scared. He said something, but Dean couldn’t hear him over the terrible beat and the ringing in his ears. ‘There’s… too much. Too much.’ And as he’s used to doing when overwhelmed, Dean ran and hid himself away.

            The bathroom was empty when he entered. Only the sounds of his heavy breathing echoed in the sterile white tiled room. Dean shuffled over to a sink, clinging to the sink as he tried to even out his heartbeat. He glanced at his own reflection, barely recognizing the pale, sweaty mess staring back at him.

            “Dean,” Castiel said, walking in right behind him, “Dean, are you okay? What’s wrong?”

            “Stop,” Dean said, not meeting Castiel’s curios look in the reflection. “Just… stay there, I… I need some space.”

            “Was I… was I too forward?” he asked, “Did I move too fast?”

            “Too fast?” Dean cried, spinning around, “Christ, I didn’t even know that was the kind of move you were making!”

            “You… what?”

            “Is that why you came back here?” he continued, wide-eyed, “To see if I was still good for a little romp in the sack? Was that it?”

            Castiel bristled at his accusation, striding closer. “No, I wanted to make sure you wouldn’t hurt yourself. I didn’t know if you were having a panic attack or reacting to some bad… designer drug. Good to know it was the former.”

            “Well forgive me, I wasn’t expecting you to wanna fuck!”

            “I thought I was very clear,” Castiel said, “I mean you saw my wristband.”

            “What’s that got to do with anything?”

            He was taken aback. “You… are you kidding?” When Dean didn’t respond, Castiel’s face dropped. “Seriously? You don’t know?”

            “No,” Dean answered, “I have no idea what they’re for!” Tired from the mix of booze and shock, he poured out his longstanding confusion from the club’s accessory. “All night people have been making comments about these wristbands and it’s been weird! I mean, what kind of place only has four colors. What if no one likes any of them – do they go in without them? It makes no sense to me!”

            “Dean you – why did you pick that color?”

            “Because purple’s a good look for me,” he told him, “Makes my eyes pop… and it matched my shirt.”

            Castiel sighed, dragging a hand across his chin. “Of course,” he sighed, “Just my luck…”

            “What? What is it?”

            “Dean, this club has rules,” Castiel explained, “There’s the usual ones like in any other club or bar or whatever. But what makes this place special is that anyone who enters must wear a wristband to communicate their interests.”

            “Interests? Like hobbies or some shit like that?”

            “No, sexual interests,” he said, “Blue if you like boys, pink if you like girls, purple for both and grey if you aren’t interested in hooking up.”

            Dean glanced at his own wristband, self-consciously tugging at it. Then, he’s hit with a highlight reel of his time in the club. “This… this is making a lot of sense,” he said, “When Sam saw me pick… and his friends! All the –“ he gasped, “All the guys who came up to me. I thought… I thought they were just being friendly. But they were… they were hitting on me, weren’t they?”

            “Probably,” Castiel said, “I mean you look like the American boy next door but with pillow lips. Who wouldn’t see your face and want to hit that?”

            Dean rolled his eyes. “So sweet. Glad to know it wasn’t my sunny disposition that won you over.”

            “It helped then… not so much now.”

            He squinted at Castiel. The other man, who had regarded Dean so softly in the dark glow of the club, held a different emotion under the harsh fluorescents. Castiel stood stiffly, face hardened in a bored glower. ‘Man, is it weird he looks even better like this?’ “What? Upset I’m not dee-tee-eff or whatever?”

            “No, just pissed at myself for misjudging you.”

            “Misjudging me?”

            “Yeah,” Castiel chuckled darkly, “See, I thought you were this really nice guy who I could sleep with and, maybe, share some late night burritos after we’ve fucked. But really you’re showing me that you’re an inconsiderate jackass who doesn’t know what he wants.”

            “Again,” Dean said, “I was shocked! I didn’t know about the wristbands!” The second part of the sentence sunk in then, and Dean dialed up his own glare. “And what do you mean ‘I don’t know what I want’? Buddy, I think I have a pretty good handle on what I like.”

            “Do you?”

            “Says the guy who probably spent an entire half-hour of his life with me.”

            “I may not know your entire history, Dean, but I’m amazing at reading people,” Castiel told him, “Getting a sense of them, watching for clues. And you might not have known I was hitting on you then, but you were clearly into it.”

            Dean huffed, face heating up. “We were bonding! I’m a social creature –“

            “You were flirting back with me!”

            “Nine times out of ten I’m flirting, it’s not like I can turn it off or anything!”

            Castiel crossed his arms. “This is because I’m a guy, isn’t it?”

            “Oh fuck you,” Dean said, “I might be from the Midwest but I’m not like that. Even if I was into guys, I wouldn’t want to fuck you because you’re being a total dick.”

            “Well you are what you eat.”

            “Is sarcasm really necessary now?”

            “Sorry, it’s not like I can turn it off or anything!” Castiel mocked him.

            Dean stomped his foot, storming up to Castiel until there was barely an inch of space between them. “Listen, I didn’t come here looking for sex. I thought tonight would be going down differently –“

            “So did I.”

            “And I was having an okay time – not the greatest, but manageable. Wanna know the high points? Meeting Sam’s friends and you at the bar. Because you seemed cool, and we liked a lot of the same things, and the stuff we didn’t have in common weren’t deal breakers. So I’m sorry I came across homophobic or whatever – I genuinely was thrown off when you said we were going to fuck. And that crowded dance floor and obnoxious music wasn’t helping, so I ran. Which, in my experience never works out; but I still do it. Now if you don’t want to believe any of that, then go. I’m fine. You don’t have to babysit me anymore.”

            Castiel pouted, not backing away. Dean’s chest heaved, gasping after his long speech. He felt out of breath, and the electricity that crackled and sparkled between them wasn’t helping him regain it. Neither was the thick, underlying tension hanging in the air.

            But then Castiel slumped over, sighing. The hard surface of his eyes broke apart, revealing a deep pool of sadness. “I guess I’m sorry, too. I… overreacted. You wouldn’t have been the first guy that I hit on and reacted poorly. And I fell back on old habits – some bad defense mechanisms. Didn’t save me from the punches then but I guess not learning from my mistakes is another thing we have in common.”

            Dean mirrored him, all the tension leaking out from them like the water dripping out of the runny faucet in the second sink from the right. “Okay?” he said, “Okay.” Realizing how close they were again, he slunk backwards, scratching at his neck. “Well… I guess we can put this all behind us, right? Go back out to our respective groups.”

            “We could… or…”

            “Or what?”

            “We could still fuck.”

            He spluttered, launching himself into the sink in shock. Dean cursed, back screaming in agony at the contact, crumpling to the floor. Castiel flew to him; a string of expletives muttered under his own breath, hands on Dean’s knee and lower back. Their fingers brushed up against each other, and if he weren’t in pain he would have pulled them back. Instead he left them there, simmering at their contact.

            “That was an intense reaction.”

            “You think?” Dean said, “Christ, a broken back is not what I need right now.”

            Castiel huffed. “It’ll probably bruise but it won’t break.”

            “Keep asking me if I want to fuck, maybe that’ll help?” Dean sarcastically replied. With Castiel’s help, he picked himself up. “Seriously, after all that you still want to have sex? With me?”

            “I mean… yeah?”

            “…Why?”

            “Because even though my better judgment is telling me to walk away,” Castiel said, “I find myself unable to. What we did just now, looking back, it was kinda hot. Imagine if we took that energy into a bedroom or the back of a car – I’m not that picky.”

            “Good for you, except there’s the little problem where I’m not gay!”

            “I never said you were.”

            “But you think I’m into dudes?”

            “Yeah, I’m not one of those gay guys who thinks bisexuality is just a stop on the path to fully coming out,” Castiel said, “And like I said before, I can tell when people are into me. And you were definitely that.”

            “You’ve got it all figured out, don’t you?” Dean scoffed, pouting, “You think that everyone is just a little bit curious, and that your chiseled jaw, gruff voice, baby blues and ‘freshly fucked’ hair are all it’ll take to get some dude into bed with you. Where you can wrap your strong, tan arms around whomever and hold them while you, I don’t know, pound their asshole into a pancake? Does that sound about right?”

            “No, but that is one of the gayest things I’ve ever heard,” Castiel smirked, leering  at him. “You think my hair looks ‘freshly fucked’?”

            Dean blustered. “That wasn’t what you were supposed to take away from that!”

            “I’ve got selective hearing – did I forget to mention that?”

            “You also left out how much of an asshole you were.”

            “Well you are what you –“

            “Finish that and you’ll be eating my fist,” Dean growled, face hotter than an over-pressured boiler. Castiel held his hands up, trying for an innocent smile, but couldn’t muster it without a bit of the devil shining through. He sighed, trying to side step him. “Whatever,” Dean said, “Sam’s probably worried about me –“

            “Hey, wait –“

            “What?”

            Castiel had a loose grip on Dean’s wrist, and he could free himself at any moment if he chose to. But, a glutton for punishment, Dean gave him one more chance. He blamed the sad tint to Castiel’s gaze. ‘Hope I don’t regret this…

            “Look, I’m not trying to make a joke of this or anything,” Castiel said, “Years of being gay has taught me how to pick up on the signs. They’re my survival instincts. Back at the bar, it was like you were holding up two neon orange batons directing me to dock in your runway –“

            “You go with that metaphor?”

            “Anyway, we don’t have to have sex. The offer stands… but if you’re really not feeling it, then I’ll accept your decision. However, I can’t let you leave without giving you a chance to explore something you might not even realize you’re missing.”

            “I really hope that isn’t code for something sexual.”

            “No, just… one dance. That’s all I’m asking for,” Castiel told him, “If after you still feel the same way, then we part ways.”

            “…There’s got to be something else to it,” Dean said, “What if I do ‘go gay’?”

            “If by that you mean realizing an unfulfilled part of yourself that you’ve miscategorized and denied all your life… then the only reward I ask for is a thank you. What do you say?”

            Dean bit his cheek, mulling over his options. His instincts screamed at him to flee once more. That he owed Castiel nothing, and how he didn’t need to experiment with his sexuality because there was nothing there that needed to be questioned. Dean was a lady-killer, and he was secure enough in his straightness he didn’t need to prove it.

            Still, Dean found himself nodding. Castiel smiled, leading him out of the bathroom. They garnered a lot of stares from the long line that formed while they were inside. “I might have locked the door, when I found you,” Castiel confessed on their way onto the dance floor.

            “…Smart move.”

            They wove through the crowd, finding a place on the edge of the dance floor. Castiel spun Dean around, smirking. “Do you think you can dance to this?”

            Dean grimaced, the techno beat grating on his nerves. “No,” he said, “It’ll have to do, though.”

            Castiel hummed, body moving to the music. Dean tried to match him, but his nerves and cluttered mind made it difficult for him to pull off his fluid gracefulness. He shimmied his hips, semi-squatting while his arms flailed about. On the other end of the spectrum, Dean shifted from foot to foot, trying to wrap his head around how he got there. Castiel chuckled, sliding closer, with one arm around Dean’s waist to bring their chests together.

            Now, hyper-aware of his and Castiel’s bodies, Dean wasn’t sure how he missed the other man’s intentions before. How he was oblivious to every man who strut his way towards Dean to strike up a conversation. Dean figured it might have to do with how he grew up.

            He never had too many male friends. Dean didn’t mind, as the only guys he needed in his life were his family. But it’s not like he wrote men off completely. They just saw Dean as weird or competition. By his senior year, the loner identity was like a well-worn badge he carried proudly.

            It wasn’t always like that, though. There was one time where Dean really tried to connect with the other boys in his school. The summer before his sophomore year of high school, his dad sobered up enough to take him and Sam to a wrestling match that rolled into town. Dean fell in love instantly, cheering as men choked and slammed other men until only one was left standing, with his thick muscles shining under the strobe lights. And that was Gunner Lawless. When he winked at Dean, high-fiving him on his way back to his dressing room, Dean felt many things – most importantly seen.

            He decided to try out for the boys’ wrestling team after that, the autographed poster of Gunner giving him the confidence. Reminding him of the fun and camaraderie that existed between guys who fought each other. He wanted something like that, to have friends he could play with and wrestle like the professionals did.

            Dean thrived at try-outs. The team’s coach, Sonny, said it was some of the most promise he’d seen in a long while. How he expected a championship win with Dean’s help.

            Except the other boys didn’t care for his enthusiasm. Called him names the entire time he changed back into his clothes, whispering harsh criticisms and judgments under breath. Shoving him into lockers on his way out. It shattered his heart. The boys noticed him, but not in the way he wanted.

            Sonny was disappointed when Dean told him he couldn’t join, and though he tried convincing him it didn’t glue back the pieces of his spirit.

            So all the attention was thrilling. Made Dean’s heart race in ways he couldn’t remember, having guy after guy come his way with no purpose of starting a fight. It was refreshing, like stepping out into a grassy field after an eight-hour road trip crammed in a tightly packed car. ‘And,’ he thought again, ‘it helped that they were all nice to look at.’ Lawrence was a small town, with the average population relying on Social Security as their main source of income. If you were young, it was easy to look old by drinking or smoking too much. Most of the places he skulked around were frequented by rough faced men, with scraggly beards and yellowed teeth. The only attractive people were in television screens. ‘But why would I care if there were any other good looking guys back home? Wouldn’t that hurt my chances with the ladies?

            He realized why when Castiel turned him around, now back to chest, and ground his dick against his ass.

            Dean’s heart rate skyrocketed, blood pressure rose, and cock hardened. He whipped his head down to stare at his crotch, shook by the sudden turn of events. The more Castiel rocked against him, however, the more strained and pronounced his dick felt.

            ‘This… this doesn’t make any sense. I can’t… I don’t like guys… right?’

            It was as if Castiel’s dick was the key needed to unlock all of Dean’s repressed memories, washing over him like a tsunami. Playing Star Wars with Sam, insisting he be Leia because he wanted to be with Han. Watching Scooby-Doo, splitting his time staring at both Daphne and Fred. The extra-special Valentine’s card he made for that one boy in his class because he complimented Dean’s freckles and made him feel special. How crushed he was when the same boy ripped it up and laughed. How his gaze always lingered too long when he was checking for a mark. Rushed thoughts convincing him it was okay to call another man ‘sexy’ or ‘hot’ if he wasn’t going to kiss them or anything. The way his body reacted with pure ecstasy, even as he found himself on the losing side of a fight. Grinning only because the guy over him pressed down, providing much needed contact to a Dean who desperately craved it.

            “Dean?” Castiel whispered, breaking through the static in Dean’s mind, “Dean? Are you all right?” They weren’t moving, Dean unsure who had stopped first. “Dean?”

            The crowd, the music, Dean’s body pressed up against Castiel’s: it was too much. But he didn’t run. Dean turned and grabbed Castiel’s face, dragging him into a heated embrace.

            It wasn't the best kiss. There was a lot of teeth, and Dean missed Castiel’s mouth by a scant couple of inches. And yet, the electricity building between them coursed throughout like the wire was finally completed. As he pulled back, there was no mistaking the look that was on the other man’s face. Not anymore. Because it was the same as what he felt inside, that Dean hoped was painted in neon colors all over his face.

            “What was…” Castiel said, voice strained, “What was that for?”

            Dean shrugged, smiling. “Thank you?”

            Castiel seized with laughter, crumpled in on Dean; letting his forehead rest on his shoulder. Dean joined him, and they shook in time to the music. Once they regained some composure, Castiel leaned back. “I guess the dancing helped?”

            He nodded. “It’s weird,” he admitted, “a lot of it was so obvious I can’t believe I didn’t see it.”

            “Sometimes we only see what we want to see,” Castiel told him, “And all we need is a push in the right direction.”

            “Emphasis on the push, dude.” Dean bumped their crotches together, chuckling.

            Castiel raised a brow. “Sometimes desperate measures are called for.”

            “Are you saying you’re desperate?”

            “No, but I am competitive. And I did want to win.”

            Dean rolled his eyes. “Oh, shut up. The more you talk the less I like you.”

            “There’s an easy solution to that problem, Dean.” They kissed again, Castiel’s hands trailing up and down his sides to finally rest on his hips. He squeezed there, and Dean grinned into his lips.

            He paused, skating the crest of his cheekbone to press his lips against the shell of his ear. “Your offer?” he breathed, “Still on the table?”

            “Yes, but -”

            “Then let’s get out of here.”

            Castiel stepped back, cautious. “Are you sure?” he asked, “I’d be correct in saying this is your first intimate experience with another man, right?”

            “Doesn’t matter,” Dean said, threading his fingers through Castiel’s hair, ruffling it more, “I’ve got twenty-five years of pent-up sexual urges I need to work through before I explode. You did this to me, so you’re going to work me through all of it. Capisce?”

            Castiel’s expression was lit with undisguised lust, nodding along to Dean’ suggestion. He snatched Dean’s hand and dragged him away towards the exit. This time Dean was right on his heels, giggling the entire way out.

            The night hadn’t gone in any way he expected, but that’s what made it fantastic.

 

Epilogue

           

            Sam awoke with the worst hangover he’s experienced in recent years. Smacking his lips together, he winced as the sunlight landed directly on his face. He groaned, making a production out of getting up. His arms waved everywhere as he swung his legs over the side of his bed. Rubbing the crust out of his eyes, Sam glanced around his room. In his drunken stumbling he knocked a few of his books over, pushed his desk chair across the room, and left a trail of his clothes from the door to his bed, save the undershirt and boxers he now wore. ‘Although where is my shoe?

            The night was a blur, but he remembered a few key moments. Dean and him arriving at the club, Dean’s purple bracelet, the sexy girl from his Psych class in sophomore year – ‘Jules? No – no, Jess…’ – and then Dean dipping out on him -

            He scowled, recalling how his brother disappeared when he went to go get his beer. If Kevin and Alicia hadn’t had come back, Sam would have pissed himself. And, lucky for him, it was before there was a line for the bathroom. When he was searching for Dean, he passed the aggravated group and asked what was going on. “Who knows,” someone answered, “a gay couple locked us out. But they’re not fucking, just fighting.”

            Dean’s vanishing act messed him up for the rest of the night. He didn’t talk with Jess the rest of the night; too busy looking for his brother. And even with his friends’ help, there was no chance of finding him.

            Giving up, Sam proceeded to get wasted until Charlie dragged him out at three a.m. She drove Sam back to his place in her yellow bug. “You sure you don’t want me to walk you up?”

            He waved her off, bidding goodbye. Sam somehow made it into his apartment.

            Grrrgl grggg grllgl

            Sam pat his stomach, yawning. ‘I could go for some pancakes…

            Hauling himself up, he shuffled his way out of his room and into an already in-use kitchen. Dean whistled, dressed similarly to Sam in his own set of boxers but with a black tank top on. And because of their strange sibling psychic connection, he was already flipping the batter on his griddle.

            Dean twisted around, face lighting up. “Morning Sammy.”

            Sam didn’t respond, stomping his way to the table. Scowling, Sam glared at Dean until the smile dropped into a frown.

            “Crap, who pissed in your corn flakes?”

            “What happened to you last night?”

            Dean’s expression shifted once more back into a smile. “Met someone,” he said, “Had a little fun if you know what I mean?”

            “Seriously? You dropped me for sex?”

            “Fantastic sex. Life-changing sex,” Dean said, flipping another pancake, “Probably the best sex I ever had I think I cried –“

            “Jesus Christ, Dean,” Sam cut him off, “Did someone slip you some drugs? Because I’m pretty sure you’ve had sex before.”

            “Not like this Sammy. Not like this…”

            “What do you mean, not like –“ Another door creaked open from down the hall, and a man with wet hair walked out in nothing else but a towel.

            He moved over to Dean, kissing him on the cheek before taking a seat across from Sam. That’s when he noticed him. “Oh, good morning,” he said, “You must be Sam?”

            Sam stared at the hand that was stretched out in front of him. Then he peeked a look at the face. The longer he went without moving, the more he seemed nervous. Dean, while plating a few pancakes, looked back and sighed. “Sammy, don’t be rude. Shake Cas’s hand.”

            “Cas?”

            “Castiel,” Castiel said, “If you prefer.”

            Sam finally took his hand, giving a perfunctory shake before pulling back. “So,” he said, “this is… life-changing.”

            “Oh yeah,” Dean chuckled, “life-changing.” He carried over the stack of pancakes, setting it in the middle of the table. Then, he ran his fingers through Castiel’s wet locks and kissed his crown. “Get this, Sammy,” he continued, beaming at him, “I’m bisexual.”

            Sam shrugged. “Okay? I mean… I kind of figured last night and processed it…”

            “What? No – no, I wasn’t bi then. I mean, I didn’t know,” he explained, “But I know now.” He bowed towards Castiel. “What’s it been? Eight – nine hours since I came out of the closet?”

            Castiel hummed. “Give or take a few minutes.”

            Sam studied them as they drifted closer, exchanging kisses as sweet as the syrup Dean still has in his hands. He cleared his throat, drawing the attention back to him. “While I’m happy for you, Dean, I do have… many questions.”

            “I can fill you in on whatever you like Sam,” he said, “like if you’re curious about how gay sex works we can sketch out a diagram –“

            “Nope, nuh uh, I am not here for that,” Sam told him, “I already knew too much about your sex life when it was just girls, I don’t have any more room in the part of my brain that stores trauma.”

            Dean rolled his eyes. “Pansy. Fine, I’ll give you the G-rated version, then. But let me get some pancakes in me!” He went to sit, but in the process paused every few seconds. Dean lowered himself down into the chair; one hand braced on the table, the other on the back of the chair, and groaned the further down he went. Sam gawked with wide-eyes as he saw Dean sink into the seat, a string of expletives muttered under breath.

            Sam was out of his chair in a blink of the eye. He scurried back to his room, face pale and sweating.

            Dean called to him, “Where are you going? Don’t you want any pancakes?”

            He shouted back, “Lost my appetite, jerk!”