Bar. Hick town. All the pieces of the puzzle the same. Everything expected. Except for Castiel. He's standing in the back of the bar and he's watching, because he can't not watch. Because this is what his life has boiled down to. In the end, this is where he belongs now. Watching, from the back of the bar, trying to catch his breath.
Dean's a whirlwind. He's a force of nature. He blows into the bar and the door comes off his hinges. He sits at the bar and every drink rattles in its bottle. He takes a swig of his beer and the world turns the colors reflected in that crystalline tumbler. He taps his glass and a bell rings inside Castiel's head.
The girl sitting at the bar next to him is wearing a black leather jacket. She's got dark straight hair to her waist, and her lips are painted fuschia and plump. Dean chats her up and tilts his head, growling something in a guttural voice he reserves for fighting and flirting. His mouth quirks with a thousand smiles that don't quite make it onto his face. They're hints, teases. She'll have to kiss them off. And she will, eventually. Before the end of the night.
He plays the game like an expert, so good he's already won before he comes in the door. Castiel's watched it night after night, week after week. Even when Dean doesn't know he's watching, he's there. Dean is an addiction. It's impossible not to watch him.
But the expert is phoning it in. Dean's so good at this he's no longer thinking about it. He's flirting, but his mind is elsewhere. He doesn't need to be there in order to get laid. And that's something he's only just recently realized. It weighs on him. And it turns his half-teasing smiles into cold, cynical and beautiful things.
There's a distraction tonight, in the form of a man with a bunch of tattoos and hairy knuckles. He says the girl with the leather jacket and the long hair is his. Dean sizes him up with a single glance. He already knows thirty ways to incapacitate the man. But instead, he slumps against the bar and pretends that he's sloshed. He suggests that they play a friendly game of pool. Winner gets to go home with her. Oh, and just to make it worth the guy's while, he'll throw in $50. Castiel snickers. He's seen this play before, too, but it's just as entertaining each and every time.
Click-clack of the billiard balls against the frame as Dean resins up his pool cue looking like he can barely stand without the long slab of wood there to steel himself against. The music's loud, and the beat of the bass pounds against Castiel's skull. Dean's foot is tapping perfectly in time to the music, the only sign so far that he's sober. The girl sees it and she winks at Dean. Dean raises his eyebrows. Another half-smile. Now he's in. She's sold on him.
Dean never turns down an opportunity to make a scene. He's good and fumbling and stupid and sloppy until his third turn, and then he turns to the girl and says to her watch this, and Castiel watches carefully as the drunk facade falls off him like a cloak and click, thunk, slam, evenly as a metronome he sinks ball after ball after ball, grabs the $50 off the side of the table and offers his arm to the girl.
The man's got the face of a lobster, and he's ready to throw a punch. Dean will have him down in three seconds, Castiel figures. Or, if he wants to draw it out, he'll let the guy land one blow, stagger backward, then come at him low and wiry. A sweep of the foot and a wrench of the arm and the guy will be seeing the whole bar upside-down for a dizzy instant before he hits the floor. At which point Dean will put the broad end of the pool cue on his beer belly and say thanks for playing, hold out his hand to the girl and head out the door. That'll be the way it pans out.
But in the swing of a barroom light pushed aside by someone too tall, Dean's face is lit up in white and black. The stark harshness of the glare does something to his eyes. His pupils dilate. Castiel sees him in monochrome, delirious with some rage that doesn't belong to this man or this game or this place, and he knows this isn't going to end well. He rushes forward.
Even an angel isn't fast enough to stop the sudden stab of cruelty that flashes through Dean's expression as he grabs the man and throws him down. "Stupid," he shouts, "stupid, self-righteous idiot. If you had any idea what I was going through to save your sorry ass."
He has the pool cue at the guy's throat, not his belly, and it's the thin end he's pointing. If Dean wanted, he could drive it right through the guy's windpipe easy as an oar through water. Guy's realizing now that he's picked a fight with someone who could kill him, and he starts to babble, even cry a little bit. It's a miracle that Castiel's there in time. He grabs Dean by the shoulders and pulls him back before he does something that can't be undone.
"Cas." The name is an acknowledgment, an admittance of guilt. Dean sinks from victorious to defeated in a second. He loses the will to struggle, lets Cas lead him backward. The girl goes to the man on the floor, freaked out. There's no way she's going home with Dean now. No way in hell.
"What the hell are you doing here?" Dean slinks to the corner of the room.
"Keeping you from killing an innocent man." Castiel's severe, but he's not what he seems either, and the feelings brewing in him are anything but anger.
"Yeah, well, I wasn't gonna kill him," Dean says, shaking off Cas' grip. "Geez. I'm not that stupid."
That's what he says now, but his triumph, his vindictive leer earlier said he knew exactly what he was capable of. That vanity is doubly infuriating because it's true -- he knows how strong he is -- and Castiel wants to slap it out of him, keep him from drowning in his own inflated ego. But in the end it's all bluster, and Castiel hears it every time Dean talks to a girl or laughs with sardonic amusement. He hears the poison voice of the disease that's eating Dean up beneath his invincible veneer.
Castiel sees it. And he needs it. He needs to touch it, be close to it. All the sickness and the sadness and the tragedy and comedy that is Dean Winchester, he needs it more than he has ever needed anything in his life.
You're cynical and beautiful
You always make a scene
You're monochrome delirious
You're nothing that you seem
I'm drowning in your vanity
Your laugh is a disease
You know you're everything I need
He guides Dean out of the bar. The stars open up, a thousand pinpricks above them, and Castiel looks up at them and sees into infinity. Humans call this the heavens. This isn't heaven. Heaven is a broken-down battlefield, a place of strange loyalties and stranger moralities. Its lost its sparkle to Castiel. He thinks now that heaven, that the firmament lies in the presence next to him, the body that's curled up on the back step of the bar and is looking at his own shoes. Everything he is, it's heaven.
"Could you take me to the moon?" Dean asks suddenly. "If I wanted to go. Could you fly me there?"
Castiel gives him a long look. "There's no air on the moon," he says.
"You know what I mean."
"No, I don't. I never do."
"No." Another fallen star of a smile. So sad, so glittering, and already dying. "No, you sure don't."
Sadness wraps its cold arms around Castiel's shoulders. Dean doesn't look at him.
"I would," Castiel says impulsively.
"Take you to the moon. If you could survive there, I'd take you there."
Dean's eyes open wide.
"Wherever you want to go," Castiel says. "Whatever you want. I would take you."
Everything you are
Falls from the sky like a star
Everything you are
Whatever ever you want
"Why?" Dean's on his feet and his eyes are quizzical dots, the color of pearls. His brow wrinkles and he gets into Castiel's space, stares at him hard enough that Castiel can feel the heat of his glare. "Why'd you say that?"
Castiel looks at him and feels helpless, like he's being blown away by a hurricane's winds. "Because," he says. "Because you need to get something you want."
Dean's expression is blank. "I get whatever I want," he says after a long pause.
"Because you're so well-fed." The expression lies flat on his tongue. Castiel squints and scowls at him . "You see what you want and you take it."
He doesn't have to point out how well that worked tonight. Dean recognizes it. The point goes between them without the words needing to be spoken. Dean heaves a long sigh, sitting back on his haunches and looking up at the stars. For once what he wants doesn't exist on this earth. It's up there somewhere, and he doesn't know how to get it. That's why Castiel wants to give it to him.
That's why he rebelled. If Heaven's machine could stomp on Dean's sense of self this much, if it could turn him from a man who used to enjoy life and go after his dreams to a man who sabotages his own chances at pleasure and happiness through rage, Castiel wants to kick it down. That isn't right, it can't be right. Anything that would destroy Dean is as evil as could possibly exist.
Dean chuffs out a bitter laugh. "I can't even get laid right anymore," he says. "When the hell did this happen to me? I should blame you for this, you know." Empty words. He's just blustering again. "It's 'cause I know you're watching me. I can't get my game on."
"You're blaming me." Castiel has to fight not to sound to pleased at this. He can think of no better compliment than Dean being unable to go about his usual business because he's so aware of Castiel. In his wildest, most selfish dreams, Castiel imagines a Dean whose whole sky is eclipsed by Castiel's presence. Who can see nothing but him. Such a Dean will never exist. If he did, he wouldn't be Dean. He wouldn't be the man Castiel loves so desperately.
I wanna kick at the machine
That made you piss away your dreams
And tear at your defenses
Till there's nothing left but me
Dean is long lost in thought. One of those flirty half-smiles appears at the corner of his mouth, and he tilts his head toward Castiel. "What else would you do?" he says. "To make sure I get what I want."
Castiel is rendered breathless by the tone of his voice. It's one he never thought he'd hear. Not directed at him. Not this close up. Not like this. It's foolhardy to answer, worse to answer honestly, but he does because he can't do anything else. "Anything."
"Really." Dean's beautiful right now, his face twisted in bitterness and anger, and Castiel can hear a loud buzzing in his ears. The sound of his blood racing through his body. The sound of horror and fascination all mixed up in his head. "Would you let me fuck you, Cas? Would you spread your legs for me like a girl?"
He's so angry, so bitter it's tear-inspiring. Castiel breathes in slowly, lets the air and the anger fill his lungs. "Yes," he breathes, because it's the truth. More than the truth. It's what he's always wanted.
Dean gives another harsh laugh. Castiel's head is swimming. He means it. Dean thinks he's joking. "I would," he repeats. He doesn't know why he keeps pressing the issue, except that Dean needs to know. Needs to know someone exists who'd do anything for him. Needs to know its Castiel. and Castiel needs to tell him.
It's not romance. It's desperation and bitterness. But it's also love, and love is what you give even when it isn't pretty, even when it hurts and it scrapes against your skin and breaks you down. Castiel loves Dean enough that he'd let Dean take him with no feeling at all. He'd allow that harsh, violent sort of sex because it would be a gift.
They're just sitting there looking at each other, a worried furrow of brow on Dean's face, placid patience on Castiel's. And the whole scenario is playing out in both their heads, parallel, and in complete synch.
They both shudder when they imagine the point when Dean shouts, no, screams, and collapses on top of Castiel, anger and frustration and lust poured out in a sticky mess inside him. The stars would be falling from the sky, and Dean would know then, know the depths of Castiel's feeling for him, and it would scare the hell out of him.
That's why it'll never happen. Dean's too broken to accept that kind of love. He knows it now, knows how much Castiel adores him, but as long as they don't touch, as long as these promises stay as hypotheticals and words and images they silently share, he doesn't have to feel it firsthand.
You're angry when you're beautiful
Your love is such a tease
I'm drowning in your dizzy noise
I wanna feel you scream
"You'd give me whatever I want," Dean says. And the smile that doesn't come out until it's kissed into view... comes out.
Castiel didn't think he'd ever see it emerge on its own. It occurs to Castiel that he also thought Dean would go home with that girl tonight. He now thinks he might be very, very bad at predicting outcomes.
Perhaps, instead of assuming the answer, he should just ask the question.
"What do you want, Dean?"
Everything you are
Falls from the sky like a star
Everything you are
Whatever ever you want
The answer Castiel gets isn't what he expected.