“You’re on in five, Winchester,” Benny said, making Dean jump a little. He looked up from his notebook in time to see Benny handing him a generous shot of whiskey.
Dean didn’t even have to ask anymore. He’d been playing here for a year or so now, and Benny knew that as much as he loved it, he needed a little liquid courage before taking the stage when the bar was over half full. It was one thing to sing for twenty drunk regulars who understood he was just some guy with a guitar. But the bar could easily pack in eighty on a busy night, and they watched Dean like he was hired entertainment. It was a lot more pressure to perform.
Plus, the whiskey gave his voice that nice, raspy quality that went well with his songs.
“Thanks, Benny,” Dean said. He tossed the shot back and slid the empty glass back. Benny placed it behind the bar to be washed later. He never gave Dean more than one shot before he sang. Said if Dean was ever going to make it big he had to get over his stage fright.
Dean had tried to ply him once or twice, reassuring Benny that he had no plans to make it big. He liked his day job, he didn’t want to try and make it as a singer. He just always had lyrics floating around in his head until he turned them into songs. The bar was how he could share them, but he didn’t care about making a recording or playing a proper stage.
Still, Benny cut him off at one shot before his performances. After, he would let Dean get as sloshed as he wanted, but he said the bar had a reputation and he wouldn’t let a drunk singer ruin it. That was always said with a grin and a wink, never too serious.
“Anything new tonight?” Benny asked. “I know a few regulars were asking to hear that one you did last Friday.”
“The slow one, the one about time?”
Dean grunted. “Sure, I can throw that one in. I wasn’t planning on anything new, so if you got any other requests...”
Benny nodded. “Yeah, I got one. I see you in here every week with that notebook,” he gestured to the worn book on the bar between them, “Scribbling down lyrics and chords. What I wanna hear is that song you got tucked in the back.”
Dean’s hand twitched over the book as if Benny would snatch it away from him.
“I don’t know what-”
“Don’t even try it, brother. I see you reading over the same sheet every day you’re here, then hiding it away. I know you haven’t played that one, and I reckon it’s a good one.”
Dean ducked his head. He didn’t know how to take compliments on his songs, even went out of his way sometimes to avoid bar patrons after his set. But that song, he’d never shown it to anyone. He didn’t know if he could.
“Sorry, man. That one’s just for me.”
Benny just shrugged, seeming to know better than to push it. He didn’t have time to anyway, he had other customers to serve, and Dean had to set up.
A few people watched as he hopped onto the stage and began moving a stool and microphone into place. Dean avoided their gaze as much as possible, trying to look busy to avoid anyone asking questions and delaying him. While he ducked behind the thick curtain at the back of the stage where he’d stashed his guitar, he heard the mic turning on. A second later Benny’s thick Louisiana accent called for the attention of the bar.
“How we doin’ tonight?” he asked.
While people cheered and whistled, Dean hopped off the stage to wait at the bottom of the three steps, out of the spotlight. It felt less awkward than waiting next to Benny and less douchy than emerging from behind the curtain when his name was announced.
“Folks, some of you already know who I’m about to introduce, but for the rest of you, I promise y’all are in for a treat.”
Dean felt his face heat and his palms sweat. He really wished Benny wouldn’t hype him up so much. It raised expectations.
“Here tonight, all the way from Hadley Avenue-”
Several people laughed. Hadley Avenue was only seven blocks east of the bar.
“-We have Dean Winchester!”
There were a few scattered cheers, either from regulars who knew him or from a few people drunk enough to just be excited by loud noises.
“And he is gonna be sharing some original songs with us, so won’t y’all welcome him to the stage?”
The cheers and applause grew as Dean hopped up the steps, guitar in one hand, the other raised in a shy wave. Benny patted him on the shoulder as he passed by. “Good luck, brother,” he whispered.
Dean nodded and settled himself on the rickety stool placed in front of the microphone.
“Hey, everyone,” he said, only a little shaky, but he played it off with a smile. “Uh, so like Benny said, I’m a bit of a regular here. Some of you already know my songs, but for those of you who don’t, I promise we asked Walt not to sing along this time, and he agreed.”
“No, I didn’t!” came a shout from near the bar, too far into the crowd for Dean to see Walt. It prompted a laugh from the audience, though, which helped settle Dean’s nerves.
He decided to go with the song Benny told him had been requested first. As he began to strum, the audience faded from his attention and he focused on his song.
The crowd was great, cheering after each song, remaining mostly quiet while he played, and asking to hear another when each song ended.
Dean wound up on stage for seven songs instead of his usual three. His fingers hurt and his voice would be strained tomorrow, but it was worth it.
Just as he was finishing up his last song, he caught a familiar face in the crowd. Gabriel.
Dean hadn’t seen Castiel’s brother since before they broke up, nearly five years ago now. They didn’t run in the same circles, and the city was big enough that it was pretty difficult to accidentally see someone you knew.
Plus, after Cas left it was too painful to go back to their old, regular spots. Places where everyone knew them as Dean-and-Cas and would have asked about the breakup, and likely scolded Dean for being stupid when they found out it was his fear of commitment that drove them apart.
So Dean moved to the other side of town, found new regular spots, and breathed a quiet sigh of relief and regret when he learned Cas moved several states away.
It wasn’t until a few months later he learned Castiel moved because he met someone else and was engaged. That news had Dean calling into work sick for a week. Well, depressed and drunk was as bad as being sick, wasn’t it?
But now, seeing Gabriel was almost nice. They’d always gotten along, though maybe they wouldn’t now that Dean had broken his little brother’s heart. Still, he hoped they could at least be civil.
As Dean let the song fade out and the crowd cheered, he saw Gabriel wave to someone, and a second later Dean’s heart leapt into his throat and he nearly dropped his guitar. Making his way through the crowd to Gabriel’s table near the stage was Castiel.
Dean could barely hear the applause from the crowd over the blood rushing through his ears. He still had a few pictures of him and Cas, but that wasn’t the same as seeing him in person, less than thirty feet away.
Cas hadn’t looked at the stage yet, and Dean guessed he’d just arrived at the bar and hadn’t noticed who was on stage yet. Not that Gabriel allowed that to last for long. As Castiel sat down, his brother pointed at the stage and Dean watched Cas’s head whip up to look at him, blue eyes going wide as the rest of him froze.
The crowd hadn’t noticed the silent exchange, still busy cheering for more, some throwing out requests for songs he’d already done. Dean didn’t know what to do. He didn’t think he could make his legs carry him off the stage. Even if he could, he wasn’t sure if he wanted to run or to stop and say hi. He didn’t even know if Cas would want to see him. Clearly, neither he nor Gabriel had known Dean would be here. If Dean tried to approach, they might leave.
Dean’s heart clenched at the idea of watching Castiel walk out. There was so much he wanted to say, but he knew he didn’t have the right to ask Cas to listen. Not after he was the one who freaked out and left because he found a ring hidden in Cas’s pocket.
But there was one way he could tell Cas how he felt, even if it meant telling the entire bar too. His jaw clenched for a moment, and he nodded to himself. This was the only chance he’d ever get to say what he’d wanted to say ever since their breakup. Maybe if he got it out, laid all his cards on the table, it would stop hurting so much.
“Uh, folks, I would like to do one last song before I go. Um... this one is really special to me. I’ve never played this for anyone before...” Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Benny’s head turn so fast it must have made him dizzy. His dark, intrigued eyes watched Dean, and he ignored the customers at the bar asking for refills. “... because I wrote this song for someone, and it didn’t seem right to play it if he couldn’t hear it.”
Cas was still frozen, watching him. Dean shot him a quick glance, but had to tear his gaze away before he lost his nerve. As his fingers settled into their very familiar place on the guitar, he relaxed marginally. He could play this song blindfolded after all the nights he’d spent crooning it to himself.
“I left out in a cloud... of taillights and dust,” he sang softly, eyes shut for now as the familiar lyrics found their way through him. “Swore I wasn’t coming back, said I’d had enough... Saw you in the rearview standing... fading from my life... But I wasn’t turnin’ ‘rooound... Nooo, not this time.”
Castiel hadn’t left yet, which Dean counted as a win. He let his voice build for the chorus.
“But don’t think I don’t think about it... Don’t think I don’t have regrets... Don’t think it don’t get to meee... Between the work and the hurt and the whiskey... Don’t think I don’t wonder ‘booout... Coulda been, shoulda been all worked ooout... I knooow what I felt, and I knooow what I saaaid... But don’t think I don’t think abooout iiit.”
Dean saw Cas’s jaw drop just a little. Not in shock, more like... wonder, or maybe surprise. Dean kept going, dropping his voice back to something more soothing for the next verse.
“When we make choices... we gotta live with them... Heard you found a real good man and you married him... I wonder if sometimes... I cross your mind... Where would we be today... If I never drove that car awaaay?”
Dean allowed his voice to swell again for the chorus, feeling like he was laying his soul bare for Castiel. Gabriel and Benny and the rest of the bar didn’t exist at that moment. It was just Dean singing his heart out with more passion than any of his other songs ever inspired, and Castiel listening.
“Don’t think I don’t think about it... Don’t think I don’t haaave regrets... Don’t think it don’t get to meee... Between the work and the hurt and the whiskey... Don’t think I don’t wonder ‘booout... Coulda been, shoulda been all worked ooout... Yeah, I know what I felt, and I know what I saaaaaid... But don’t think I don’t think abooout iiiit.”
Dean felt tears building in his eyes and a catch in his throat, but he pushed through it. The next verse was coming up, and suddenly he knew why it had never felt quite right. This was a song for Castiel about how Dean felt. It only felt right to sing it in front of him because he was the only one ever meant to hear it. At that moment, Dean needed Castiel to understand, beyond any doubt, that this was his song.
“Don’t think I don’t think abooout iiit...”
Dean’s tone rose to something truly desperate, and he finally allowed himself to look at Castiel, really look at him, while he sang.
“Don’t think I don’t think abooout iiit... Don’t think I don’t haaave regrets... Don’t think you don’t get to meee... Between the work and the hurt and the whiskey... Don’t think I don’t wonder ‘booout... Coulda been, shoulda been all worked oooout... I know what I felt, and I know what I saaaaaaid... But don’t think I don’t think abooout iiit...”
The song came to a close with a few more chords, and Dean took a deep, shuddering breath, still unable to look away from Cas as he panted. He felt like crying or throwing up, he wasn’t sure which. All the nights spent playing this song to himself, imagining sharing it with Cas, and now he had. He’d given his song to the person it was meant for.
“Give it up again for Dean Winchester everybody!” Benny’s smooth voice made Dean jump for the second time that evening. He hadn’t even noticed the bartender join him on stage, too busing trying to decipher the unreadable expression on Castiel’s face.
“That was amazing, brother,” Benny whispered in his ear.
“Thanks,” Dean said numbly, finally able to move. His legs shook beneath him, but he couldn’t be under the hot spotlight or the gaze of others for too much longer. He waved to the crowd, but his eyes swept back to the table Gabriel and Cas had been sitting at. When he saw it was empty, his heart dropped into his stomach. A quick scan of the bar didn’t reveal them anywhere.
So that was it then. He’d finally said his piece, but Cas had nothing to say to him. He didn’t know what else he’d expected. Castiel had moved on, found someone who didn’t run at the idea of marriage. Dean wanted to be happy for him, but right now all he really wanted was a drink or three. Which he would be allowed now that he was done playing.
A few people asked to buy him a drink, which he gladly accepted when he didn’t see Castiel anywhere. After four more shots, he felt the searing pain in his chest fading to a familiar ache. But with so many people asking about his last song, it was making it harder to push everything back down into the vault where he could ignore it. At least, where he could ignore it from 9 to 5, Monday through Friday. It liked to claw its way back up at night and on lonely weekends.
Finally, Dean decided to go. He wasn’t sloppy drunk, but he was buzzed enough he wouldn’t risk his Baby, not even for the seven blocks back to his apartment. It was a nice summer night. He could easily walk home and get his car tomorrow on the way to work. He said goodbye to the few people he’d been talking to, waved to Benny, and then shuffled out the door.
As he passed the parking lot, something caught his eye. A man standing over by his car. Worried someone might be trying to break in, he broke into a clumsy jog towards the Impala. It wasn’t until he was nearly at the car that his booze bleary eyes recognized the familiar slump of shoulders and messy dark hair.
“Cas?” he asked.
His suspicions were confirmed when Castiel turned around, still with an unreadable expression on his face. He looked lost more than anything.
“Have you been out here this whole time?”
Castiel shook his head, eyes darting down to the pavement nervously before he answered.
“No, I... I left and came back.”
“Oh,” Dean said, not sure what to say to that. “No Gabriel this time?”
Castiel looked back up at him.
“I wanted to come alone. I needed-” he cut himself off with a sigh. “I don’t know. I’m not sure I had a plan.”
Dean fidgeted on his feet, shifting his weight uncertainly.
“Do you... wanna sit down?” he asked, gesturing to his car, rather than suggest they go back into the noisy bar.
To his surprise, Castiel nodded. Dean hurried to unlock the doors, and soon he and Cas were settled in the front seats, awkwardly turned to face each other. But then it seemed neither knew what to say.
“So, um... how have you been?” Dean asked, cringing at his lame attempt to start a conversation.
“I’ve been good, I suppose,” Castiel said.
“You look good,” Dean said before he could stop himself. The back of his neck burned with embarrassment, and he saw a mirrored blush colour Castiel’s cheeks.
“Thank you,” he mumbled. “So do you. How are you, Dean?”
“Yeah, I’m good,” Dean said as if he didn’t spend all his free time writing songs because the alternative was drinking himself into a stupour each night.
They sat in silence for a long moment, staring out the window or at the dashboard, only allowing furtive glances at each other.
“I didn’t know you could sing,” Castiel said after a moment.
“Yeah, I didn’t really start until a few years ago,” Dean said, both of them pretending this wasn’t leading a discussion about that song.
“You’re very good. I wish I’d heard more, but I came too late, I guess.”
Dean wrapped his hands around the steering wheel. He wasn’t going to drive, but the familiar leather under his sweating palms helped ground him.
“Uh, well, I’m here a couple times a week,” he said. “If you’re still in town this Tuesday, I’ll be here again.”
Dean wanted to smack himself for the offer. How the hell could he play a whole set with Castiel watching? Why couldn’t he have just taken the compliment and shut the fuck up? Castiel was just being nice. Of course he didn’t actually want to waste a night listening to his ex-boyfriend playing guitar for a few drunks.
Castiel gave a half-smile.
“I think we’re busy on Tuesday.”
We. He was here with his husband no doubt. Dean felt like puking.
“How’s Sam?” Castiel asked, and Dean was glad for the topic change.
“He’s really good,” Dean said honestly. “Finished college, living in San Fran with a great girl, Eileen. They just got engaged.” Dean hoped he sounded casual, like he hadn’t just mentioned the word that made him end things with the love of his life.
“I’m very glad for him. I always liked Sam.”
“I always liked Gabriel. Remember we used to threaten that we’d switch brothers?”
That earned him one of Castiel’s big smiles. It settled something in Dean to see it now, even though it also made the ache that much stronger.
“You know, Gabriel had a crush on Sam for the longest time.”
Dean smirked, remembering how flustered and blushy Sam would get around Gabriel’s overt flirting. The guy didn’t do subtly.
“Everyone knew that. I’m pretty sure Sam liked him too. Just didn’t know how to make a move.”
Castiel hummed. “Well, I’m sure Gab will be a little heartbroken to learn he missed his chance.”
Dean nodded, voice dropping to something a little too honest as he said, “Well, that’s how it goes sometimes, right?”
Castiel said nothing to that, just looked at Dean with those piercing blue eyes. Dean had almost forgotten what it felt like to be under that stare. The weight of it pinned him in place just like it had five years ago.
“Did you mean it?” Cas interrupted. “That song. That was about us, right? Did you mean it?”
Dean paused, mouth hung open. All those nights imagining Cas hearing his song, and somehow Dean had never thought about what he would say to him after, never imagined Cas would stick around to talk.
Part of him wanted to shrug it off. What did it matter now? Cas was married, living across the country. Maybe it would be easier if he thought the song was just a song, and not the culmination of five years of mourning. Maybe it would be easier for him to go back to his husband and his life if he could pretend Dean hadn’t just poured his heart out on stage like they were in some cheesy rom-com.
But Dean couldn’t do that to either of them. He couldn’t cheapen it with lies or half-truths. Castiel deserved to know the truth, to know the impact he had on Dean. To know how much Dean still thought about him.
“Yeah. I meant it. I, uh... I wrote it a couple years back.”
“And you really never shared it before?”
“Never,” Dean confirmed. “It didn’t feel... It’s your song, Cas. I couldn’t share it with anyone else.”
Castiel was silent for a long moment and Dean worried he’d crossed a line. That Cas would get out of the car and walk away, and Dean would somehow have his heart broken all over again.
“Look, I’m really sorry,” Dean said, causing Cas to look at him again, this time with a frown and that goddamn head tilt Dean had missed so much.
“Why are you sorry?”
“It was selfish of me to play that song in front of you. You know, I just- I’ve wanted to tell you for so long that I know I fucked up, but that wasn’t the right way to do it. I embarrassed you in front of your brother, and I made you uncomfortable-”
“Dean, stop,” Castiel said gently. He was still an expert at stopping Dean’s nervous rambling. “I’m not embarrassed or uncomfortable. I’m incredibly honoured you wrote a song for me. It was beautiful.”
Dean’s hands clenched around the steering wheel, slicking it with sweat.
“Still, it wasn’t right. I didn’t even stop to think- if your husband had been there with you-”
The word cut like glass across Dean’s tongue, making him wish he’d taken a few more people up on their offer to buy him a drink.
“My- Oh, Dean,” Castiel said. He looked lost for a moment, like he couldn’t find the words. Finally, he shook his head and just held up his left hand, showing the clear lack of a wedding band.
Dean gasped quietly.
“You’re not...? I heard you moved because you got engaged.”
“I was engaged,” Castiel said. “And yes, I moved. But I never got married.”
Dean felt a million emotions in about three seconds, each fighting for his attention. Confusing, relief, happiness, and even more regret.
It was easier to tell himself to get over Castiel when he thought he was married. He could imagine Castiel with some nameless, faceless man, happy. And even though it cut through his chest like an axe, that image kept him going. The idea that, even if it wasn’t with him, Castiel was happy and married and far away.
But now he was dangled in front of Dean. It felt like torture.
“But you said we are busy Tuesday?”
Castiel nodded. “Yes, we being me and Gabriel. I’m staying at his house. Temporarily, at least, until I find a place.”
“Find a- You’re moving back?” Dean asked.
It felt like he was dying. To know Cas would be in the same town, always so close but so out of reach... It might be Dean’s turn to move. Maybe he’d take a page out of Castiel’s book and go stay with Sam, find a place in San Francisco. That would put enough distance between him and Cas he could be reasonably sure he wouldn’t show up on Cas’s stoop one night, drunk and crying.
“Yes,” Castiel said, oblivious to Dean’s internal panic. “I missed my family, and I really did like living here. The only reason I moved was for Balthazar, but now there’s no reason for me to stay there.”
“I’m sorry it didn’t work for you two,” Dean said. He knew it didn’t sound sincere, but that was what people were supposed to say.
“Thank you,” Castiel said, clearly picking up on Dean’s tone. “Do you want to know why we didn’t get married?”
Dean didn’t know what to say, shocked that Cas would be willing to go there at all. Of course everyone always wants to know the why, but no one wants to ask.
“You shared a lot with me tonight, I think it’s only fair I share a little too.”
“You don’t have to,” Dean said immediately. “I mean, if you don’t want.”
Castiel smiled. That gentle, thankful smile that he used to wear each time Dean did something sweet or considerate.
“Thank you, but I want to. I feel I also have some things I want to say to you.”
Dean gulped. He really didn’t think he could take whatever Cas was about to share. Maybe he would say the marriage didn’t happen because Dean had passed his fear of commitment to Cas when he bailed, or that after Dean left Castiel couldn’t trust anyone not to leave again. That would kill Dean, to know he’d not only destroyed his own chance at happiness when he left, but Castiel’s too.
But he’d shared his own pain earlier, it was only fair Cas have the same chance.
“Okay,” he said cautiously. “I’m listening.”
Castiel settled a little more comfortably into the seat that he had once looked so natural in. He turned to face Dean more head-on, and Dean did the same. Even if it hurt, Cas deserved Dean’s full attention.
“I realized that everything I was doing, getting engaged so fast, moving across the country, cutting all my ties here... it wasn’t because that was what I wanted. It was because I was running from what happened with us.”
There was that stab of guilt Dean had been waiting for. Castiel didn’t give him time to apologize before he continued.
“I was so hurt, I just needed to feel in control again. I jumped into the first relationship I had after you, because I was trying to replace the hole you left. Me and Balthazar didn’t work, because he wasn’t you.”
Dean didn’t know what to say. He didn’t even know how he felt. Some part of him had of course known Cas mourned their relationship as well. He had been thinking about them being together forever when Dean left. But Dean also thought he’d hurt Castiel bad enough that maybe anger would burn away the hurt. Maybe part of him wanted Castiel to hate him. It would be easier that way.
“What are you saying, Cas?”
Castiel licked his lips, Dean’s eyes tracking the movement. Each thing Cas did felt all at once familiar and brand new. Like remembering a dream. Dean wanted to soak it all in while he could.
“For the longest time, I thought you were happy,” Cas said. “I thought you’d moved on, and I should do the same. But after hearing that song tonight, it just made me realize... Dean, are you happy?”
Dean laughed, a harsh, ugly sound. The idea that leaving Cas had made him happy was just too ridiculous not to.
“No,” he said, the one word trembling between them. “No, Cas, I haven’t been happy in years.”
“Neither have I.”
The guilt swelled until Dean felt like he couldn’t breathe. So that was it then. He’d ruined his life and caused Cas enduring pain. If he was being completely honest, which he rarely allowed when it came to admitting this even to himself, part of him had felt relieved when he heard Cas was engaged. In a way, he felt like it let him off the hook a little. If Cas was engaged, that meant he’d moved on. That he’d found someone better and was okay.
“Do you hate me?” Dean said, so quiet he wondered if Castiel would even hear him.
A second later, a warm hand came to rest on Dean’s, sending a shock wave of tingles up his arm, and causing all the air to leave his body. He watched Castiel’s thumb stroked over the back of his hand, mesmerized by the touch he’d resigned himself to never feeling again.
“I was hurt, and I was confused, but I could never hate you.”
Dean nearly passed out with relief, but settled on a bone-deep sigh that felt years in the making. Tension he’d carried so long he didn’t even notice eased slightly, and he slumped into his seat.
“Why...?” Cas started, but something made him hesitate and he went quiet as he stared at where his hand rested on Dean’s. After a moment he pulled his hand away, and Dean could have cried.
“Why what?” Dean asked.
For a moment Dean didn’t think Cas would say anything, but he was desperate to keep the conversation going. He wasn’t ready to watch Cas leave again.
“Why didn’t you call? If you regretted it, why didn’t you try to come back?”
Dean shook his head.
“The way I left... I didn’t think you’d talk to me. And I was pretty sure Gabriel would kill me if I tried.”
Castiel smirked. A lopsided grin that made staying on his own side of the car hard for Dean.
“He may have made some creative threats, yes,” Castiel said. “But I wouldn’t have let him do anything to you. Or your car.”
“He threatened my car?” Dean asked, equal parts horrified and surprised Gab never followed through.
“He said he was going to fill it with buttered popcorn.”
Dean groaned, imagining trying to scrub butter and salt out of leather seats. The smell never would have left.
“Yeah, that sounds like him. Thanks for stopping that. I would have deserved it, though.”
Cas gave Dean a frown, but didn’t disagree. They both remained silent for a beat, unsure if there was anything else left to say. Then-
“I would have talked to you,” Cas said, so quietly Dean almost didn’t hear him. It took a further five seconds for the words to sink in, and another five before he thought of anything to say.
“I wish I had tried,” he said. “There’s a lot of things I wish I did different.”
Castiel’s intense blue eyes focused on him, and Dean was reminded how easily Cas could undo him with a look. Even after five years, it still had the same power over him.
“Like... shit, Cas, does it even matter now?”
“Yes,” Castiel said immediately. “It does to me.”
To me. Those words had been enough to make Dean do or say just about anything.
“I wish I’d waited for you to show me the ring yourself. I wish I’d said yes and spent the last five years as your husband instead of... this. I just... I wish I’d stayed, Cas. More than anything.”
Castiel said nothing, and his expression said even less. Finally, after a long moment, he nodded and reached for the door handle.
“It’s late, and I’m very tired. I think I’m going to go home.”
Ah, there was that punch to the gut feeling Dean was so familiar with. He swallowed the lump in his throat, saving it for the privacy of his home and the bottle of good whiskey tucked away in his cabinet. When he got back to his apartment he would start packing, and tomorrow he would call Sam. He couldn’t live in this town if Cas was here.
“Yeah, uh... alright,” Dean said, already hearing a rasp in his voice that hadn’t been there thirty seconds ago.
He stepped out of the car when Cas did, but he leaned on the roof heavily when his shaking knees nearly refused to hold him. Cas seemed steady on his own.
“You said you’re performing on Tuesday?”
“Yeah, usually around ten,” Dean said without thinking. He regretted it instantly. He really couldn’t perform with Cas in the audience. Not after tonight.
“Hmm,” Cas hummed. “I could move some things around so I could be here. Maybe after we could get a drink?”
Dean was pretty sure his heart and brain stopped then.
“You want us to get a drink? Like... As friends?”
Cas shrugged. “For now, yes. It’s been five years, we need to get to know each other again before we could be anything more than friends.”
“But you’re- you’re open to the idea of... more than friends?”
Castiel smiled, and Dean felt an answering, albeit cautious, smile pulling his own cheeks back.
“Let’s just start with drinks on Tuesday and see what happens.”
Dean could hardly breathe, but this time it was because his chest felt so full of joy and hope there was just no room for his lungs to expand. He felt like cheering or crying and yet the only sound that escaped was a relieved laugh.
“Yeah. Yeah, I can do that. Tuesday. I’ll see you Tuesday.”
He was grinning so hard it was a wonder he could speak at all. He would have felt stupid if Cas wasn’t smiling his big, gummy smile right back.
“Yes, you will,” Cas said. “I’m looking forward to it.”
Cas turned to leave then, and rather than break, Dean’s heart exploded in joy he hadn’t felt in so long it was unfamiliar now. He watched Castiel walk away until he was out of sight, and then Dean collapsed against the Impala, hands shaking.
Now he was glad he had cut himself off after only a couple of drinks. It meant he’d remember this clearly, and wouldn’t wake up tomorrow wondering if this had all been a dream. That was if he could sleep at all.
He still didn’t feel comfortable driving home, but now he didn’t care that he had to walk seven blocks. He didn’t care that home was a cheap one-bedroom apartment, or that he was working a double tomorrow for Bobby. He was happy. Genuinely happy. And he had to get ready for Tuesday. He was not going to mess this up a second time.