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Following You in the Dark

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The retinitis pigmentosa that Dean had been born with hadn’t been too much of a problem growing up. He’d needed to wear prescription sunglasses all the time for the photophobia and his peripheral vision had been nonexistent, but he could still see. And then the disease suddenly sped up its degenerative rate. He’d been sixteen when he’d gone completely blind. Now, he was nearing his thirties and didn’t know what to do with his summer since his brother, Sam, had convinced him not to teach summer school this year. Sam had insisted it was so Dean could enjoy his break, but Dean was 90% sure his brother just wanted him to help plan his and Jess’ wedding.

“C’mon, get up,” Sam said somewhere near Dean’s left. By the volume and reverberance of his voice, he was standing in the living room doorway.

Dean’s hand paused over his book. “Why?”

“Jess and I have a ballroom dancing lesson tonight, and we’re not leaving you here alone.”

Dean grimaced. “I am perfectly capable of taking care of myself for an evening.”

“Yeah, but I’d be more comfortable if you came with.” Sam sounded apologetic, but maintained an authoritative tone that irked Dean.

“And why should I care what makes you comfortable? You have to give me more incentive than that.”

Sam let out a sigh, and judging by its volume, he was exasperated. “The dance instructor is hot.”

Dean’s brows rose. “That’s nice, but if you’ve forgotten, I’m blind.”

His voice, according to Jess, sounds like sex and honey wrapped in smoke.”

“His voice?” Dean tapped his finger against his leg thoughtfully. “A male dance instructor, huh?”

The sound of footsteps nearing took Dean’s attention. Their odd rhythm indicated the person was wearing high heels. Dean smiled and said, “The chances of this hot dance instructor being gay are high if he teaches ballroom dance, right, Jess?”

She chuckled. “Well, I don’t like stereotyping, but he was checking out Sam’s ass the last time we went.”

“He was?” Sam sounded honestly surprised.

“Yes, dear. Why? Were you planning to run off with him?”

There was shuffling followed by the shift of fabric, then the soft sound of a kiss. “Not a chance.”

Dean groaned and set his book aside. His hand unerringly found his cane, which he’d propped against the couch’s armrest, as he stood. “Save it for after class, you two.”

The bell-like sound of Jess giggling rang through Dean’s ears. “All right, all right.” There was a pause, then she added, “But let’s find you shoes first.”

#

Castiel ran a hand through his hair tiredly. His next two clients wanted to learn waltz for their wedding dance, and neither of them had had any ballroom dance experience before. Castiel would have been happier to teach them if he hadn’t had a whole day of ballet rehearsal. A Midsummer Night’s Dream was going to kill him.

He massaged his feet in their black dress socks before pulling on his shoes and giving his black slacks a ceremonial dusting. When he stood, his feet protested with a familiar ache, which he ignored. He stared at his reflection in the mirror on the adjacent wall. The top two buttons of his cream colored shirt were undone, and the back end wasn’t tucked in all the way. He fixed the back of his shirt, but left the buttons alone.

While stretching his tired legs, Sam and his fiancee, Jess, walked in through the studio’s front hall. “Good evening, you two,” he greeted amiably and released his leg from the quadricep stretch he’d been doing.

“Hey, Cas,” Sam replied with a smile. “I brought my brother with me today. Do you mind?”

Castiel shook his head. “Not at all. He’s welcome to sit and watch.”

“Who’s going to be watching?” a deep voice said just before a tall man walked in from the hall. Freckles dotted his tan skin. The red button down he wore was left open to show off a black undershirt that fit snuggly to hard muscle. He had on sunglasses, even though it was almost seven at night. Castiel quickly figured out why when he saw the long, red-tipped cane in his hand.

“Oh, I didn’t...I mean, uh...” Castiel stuttered until the man waved a hand dismissively.

“It’s all right. I just can’t resist making blind jokes.” The man flashed a charming smile. “I’m Dean, Sam’s blind older brother.”

Castiel smiled politely, even if Dean couldn’t see it. “I’m Castiel.”

Dean arched a brow. “Haven’t heard that one before.”

“My parents were very religious. Castiel is an archangel.”

“That right? So...did it hurt when you fell from heaven?”

In spite of himself, Castiel blushed. Sam groaned, making Dean laugh. “I’m teasing, Sammy,” the older brother said. “I’ll be on my best behavior. I promise.” With practiced ease, he folded his cane in four. “Jess, you mind helping me to a chair?”

Jess smiled and took Dean’s arm. She guided him across the room to the line of chairs along one wall and sat him down. “Thank you,” Dean said and pat her hand on his arm. She squeezed his bicep before returning to Sam’s side.

Castiel went to the corner of the studio where a stereo sat. He pressed play, and moderately paced classical music filled the room. “Let’s pick up where we left off on Monday,” he said and motioned for Sam and Jess to take their form.

They went through the beginning of their routine easily enough, but it rapidly turned into a fumbling mess. Castiel had them go through it a second time after reminding them of the steps, and they still fumbled. “You’re taking an extra step on the third beat of the underarm turn, Sammy,” Dean said suddenly.

Castiel turned to look at the blind man. “How did you know that?”

“I can hear him. The beat is one, two, three. Not one, two, three, four—like my little brother’s doing. That’s why he keeps ending up a beat behind Jess when they go to the progressive step.”

Castiel nodded with a smile. “You’re right.”

Dean grinned wryly. “You hear that, Sammy? A blind man can tell what you’re doing wrong.”

Sam rolled his eyes. “Yes, you’re so smart, Dean.”

Castiel had Sam and Jess go through the underarm step again and corrected them accordingly. Their third run-through of the routine section went smoothly. “Remember to lead with your hips, Sam, not your arms,” Castiel said. “Jess, you’re perfect.”

She gave her fiance a smug look. Castiel had them work on three more steps of their routine and was pleasantly surprised every time Dean chimed in. He certainly had an ear for beats and could differentiate Sam’s steps from Jess’ from Castiel’s.

“Would you like to try dancing?” Castiel asked Dean at the end of the session.

Dean looked like he was holding back a laugh. “I don’t think it’s a good idea to let a blind man on the dance floor.”

“Plenty of blind people dance, Dean,” said Sam. “Why don’t you try it?”

Jess went over to Dean and pulled on his arm until he stood. “C’mon,” she insisted. “It’ll be fun.” She led him into the middle of the floor and handed his cane to Sam.

“This is a horrible idea,” Dean said, but he was smiling.

Castiel had to admire Dean’s openness to the idea of ballroom dancing. Most men regarded it as feminine and refused to have anything to do with it. “Jess, why don’t you let me show him the basic box step,” Castiel said. “I don’t think it’s smart to let him lead.”

Dean’s brows rose, which seemed strange since he was turned slightly away from Castiel. “Well, I agree that the blind shouldn’t lead anyone anywhere, but you’re going to be my partner?”

“Is that a problem?” Castiel asked, understanding it would be uncomfortable for a straight man to not only dance with another man but be a follower, too.

A slow smile spread Dean’s lips. “Not at all. What should I do?”

Castiel got the impression that he was being hit on, which hadn’t happened in a long time, but he chose to ignore it, given that Dean was the brother of a client. “Let’s try a basic box step,” Castiel said. “Step forward with your left foot, then step to the right with your right foot. And stop with your feet together.”

Dean did as told in a surprisingly graceful motion.

“Good. Now, step back with your right foot, side left, and together.”

Dean again gracefully performed the move.

“Okay. Do you think you can do that all in one go?”

Instead of answering, Dean did the box step easily, keeping in time with the music.

Castiel smiled. “Okay. And if you do the follower’s part, you’re going to step back with your right foot first. So right foot back, left side, together.”

Dean did the entire box step correctly, starting from his right foot.

“You’re a natural at this. You want to try it with me?”

Dean nodded. “Lead the way.” Castiel took Dean’s right hand and stepped closer. Dean immediately shifted to face Castiel squarely, guided by their joined hands. Castiel lifted Dean’s left hand to his shoulder before he rested his hand on the blind man’s shoulder blade. Dean was slightly taller and more muscular, but his hold on Castiel was unsure.

“All right,” Castiel said. “Now, there’s a slight rise and fall to the step. You seem to feel it naturally, so just keep doing what you’re doing.” He tapped Dean’s right foot lightly with his own. “And step back.”

Dean did as instructed, and he and Castiel went through the box step without issue. “Very good,” Castiel said with a wide smile. “You want to try a couple more steps?”

Dean turned his head slightly in Sam’s and Jess’ direction before saying, “Sam, Jess, you guys mind?”

Jess leaned against the bar embedded on one wall with Sam at her side. “Please take all the time you need,” she said with a knowing smile.

Castiel led Dean through the progressive step and balance step with ease. He’d never had a student who was such a fast learner, nor had he met a man who was so comfortable being a follower.

“I have a beginner’s class Friday afternoons,” Castiel said after their short lesson. “I’d like you to come. It’s just $15.”

Dean unfolded his cane as soon as Sam handed it to him. “I don’t think anyone wants to partner with a blind man who can only follow.” He kept his tone light, but there was a slight hunch of disappointment in his shoulders.

“You can partner with me.” Even knowing Dean couldn’t see his expression, Castiel had a hopeful expression. “You’re really a natural at this. I’d hate to see nothing ever come of it.”

A wide smile broke across Dean’s face. “All right, Cas. It’s a date.”

#

When Friday rolled around, Sam and Jess took Dean to Castiel’s studio. Jess made comments about there being a decent group of people attending, but Dean only cared about one person. “Hello, Dean,” Castiel greeted near Dean’s right.

“Hey, Cas,” he replied with a smile. “You look nice.”

Castiel chuckled, and the sound filled Dean. Jess had been right about the man’s voice. It was intoxicating. “How would you know?” Castiel asked.

“Because if you look anything like you sound, you must be incredibly handsome.”

There was a long pause, then Castiel mumbled, “Thank you.”

Dean’s brows furrowed as he wondered if he’d overstepped his bounds with the flirting, then he felt a familiar hand take his. “I need you to come up to the front with me,” Castiel said.

Dean turned his head slightly in the direction he thought his brother was in. “Sam, you mind taking my cane?”

His cane was pulled from his hand just before Sam said, “Jess and I will be here if you need anything.”

Dean nodded, and Castiel guided him—assumedly—to the front of the studio. “Wait here a moment,” Castiel said just before releasing Dean’s hand.

Dean listened to Castiel’s footsteps fade into the sound of other footsteps and chatter. Moderately fast jazz music started playing, and seconds later, Dean heard Castiel approach again. “Leaders to the left!” Castiel called over everyone’s voices. “Followers to the right!”

The chatter lowered, then died as Dean heard people shuffle to opposite sides of the room. “We’re going to be going over the basics of swing,” Castiel said. “It’s fast paced, so watch me carefully.”

He directed the class by demonstration, and while they practiced, he helped Dean, who ended up not really needing help. Dean’s spatial abilities, even if he had no visual, were incredible, and he never confused his right and left. His natural grace and confidence made his movements fluid. Of course, he didn’t know any of this. As far as he knew, he was totally botching everything, but he didn’t really care. Dancing was fun.

At the end of the session, Castiel asked Dean, “Is there no dance you can’t do?”

Dean grinned. “I won’t know until I try more, will I?”

“I suppose not.” A hand touched Dean’s forearm. “What are you doing tomorrow?”

“Hopefully, having coffee with you.”

The hand on Dean’s arm tightened slightly. “That can be arranged.”

Dean placed his hand over Castiel’s. “Good.”

#

Sam and Jess danced with practiced ease over the wood dance floor while a small band off to the side played The Beatles’ “And I Love Her.” The dance floor was circular with a white roof and five support beams at the floor’s edges. Decorative lights hung from the roof. The sun was setting on the horizon off the cliffside. Castiel took a moment to appreciate the view before the man sitting beside him leaned against him. “Are they doing okay?” Dean asked.

“They’re doing great,” Castiel assured. He ran a hand through Dean’s soft, brown hair. “We’ll show them how it’s really done later, though.”

Dean grinned and rested his head on Castiel’s shoulder. The other guests crowded around the dance floor as Sam and Jess danced. Castiel looked down at Dean who looked way too good in a tuxedo. It was tailored so well to his figure. “You look really good in that tux,” Castiel said.

Dean chuckled. “I wouldn’t know, but I bet I would look better out of it.”

Castiel brushed his lips over Dean’s hair. “Don’t give me ideas while we’re at your brother’s wedding.”

The last notes of “And I Love Her” played, and the crowd clapped. Castiel stood and pulled Dean to his feet. “C’mon. Let’s show them how the waltz is really done.”

Dean grinned. “Isn’t it bad form to upstage the bride and groom?”

“Only when you’re not the dance instructor who taught them.” Castiel led Dean out onto the floor as other couples joined. The band played The Carpenters’ “Close to You” softly. Some people stared at Castiel and Dean as they started dancing to the music in perfect form, but most of the guests were friends and family who already knew Dean’s sexual proclivities.

Castiel and Dean danced through six songs straight, switching between styles for the fast paced songs, until they ended up pressed together, swaying in rhythm to Death Cab for Cutie’s “I Will Follow You Into the Dark.” Dean had his hands clasped behind Castiel’s waist while Castiel had his hands clasped behind Dean’s neck. “My parents can’t get over the fact that you taught a blind man to dance,” Dean said with a slight smile.

Castiel glanced over at the parents in question who were talking while dancing slowly together a few feet away. “You can hear them clearly?”

“I have good ears,” Dean said with a wry look.

Castiel reached up and took the black wraparound from Dean’s eyes. Hazel irises stared off into nothingness. “Your blind jokes never end, do they?” Castiel took Dean’s face in his hand. He pulled him down until their foreheads touched. “How did I fall for you?”

“It must be these good looks I’ve heard so much about.”

“Maybe.” Castiel swept his thumb over Dean’s cheek. “I love you.”

Dean’s arms tightened around Castiel. Their lips came together softly, the kiss sweet and gentle. “I love you,” Dean whispered against Castiel’s lips.

They continued to dance, locked in each other’s arms, until the song drifted into silence.