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17 July 2011 @ 11:50 am
the apartment - part two  
By nine AM, Dean is still sleeping and Castiel has decided that he needs to call Adler. There’s no way he can pretend this didn’t happen, and he needs to know about the money.

Clearly Adler’s number is not on available on the phone book, so he has to call Meg (it’s the first time he’s thankful that she had put her number in his cellphone and that he had never learned to delete numbers from the index) and bribe her to give him the number. It’s nine-thirty AM when he has it. It won’t be too early, right?

He dials the number and waits.

A woman answers and he blurts out that he’s very sorry to be calling now, but he’s an associate of Mr. Adler’s and he really needs to have a word with him. Just a small one.

When Adler picks up the line, he’s not amused.

“Milton,” he hisses, sounding everything but cheerful, “how do you have my number and why are you calling on Christmas morning?”

“I’m… extremely sorry to disturb you, but… something has happened. And I thought you should know. It’s about your niece’s boyfriend,” he says.

“What about him?” Adler answers, and it’s obvious that he doesn’t want to have this conversation.

“When I got back, I found him in my bed passed out. He had finished a bottle of sleeping pills.”

“Is he dead?” Adler asks, and now at least he sounds a bit worried. Castiel is sure that it isn’t about Dean at all, though.

“No. My neighbor is a doctor and we brought the situation under control. But I was told to keep him here for two days, and well – I thought you should know.”

“Yes, I can see why. Well then, you’re excused from work tomorrow and the day after. One can’t be too sure. You haven’t called his family, have you?”

“No. I was thinking of tracking them –”

“Don’t. No one has to know. And I’m sure that when he wakes up, you’ll reason with him and make sure he doesn’t get any idea to press charges.”

“I –”

“Don’t mind it, you’ll be rewarded for your loss of time.”

“It isn’t –”

“Merry Christmas, Milton. Remember what I said,” Adler said, and then he closes the call.

Castiel remains standing with the phone in his hand, trying to stop himself from the urge of flinging it across the wall. He feels sick – how can you worry about someone not pressing charges when they almost died?

Castiel isn’t even sure he wants that raise anymore. And why not call the family? Then again, maybe he should ask Dean about that first. If Dean doesn’t want them to know, it’s another story entirely.

He sighs and moves back to the kitchen. He makes some fresh coffee for himself and drinks it black.

Then he hears a noise from the bedroom.

He rushes inside and sees Dean turning on the bed; his eyes flutter open next, and he tries to sit up but he obviously can’t.

“What – I don’t – Cas?”

“Easy,” Castiel replies, helping him sit up. “You shouldn’t – don’t tire yourself.”

“But why are you here?” Dean asks. “And why am I even – I don’t –”

“… this is my house,” Castiel admits, sitting down on the edge of the bed.

Dean stares at him, bringing a hand to his head. It obviously hurts, from the way he’s grimacing.

Castiel is about to ask him if he wants an aspirin, but adding more pills to the mix doesn’t seem a good idea.

“How?” Dean asks, and he looks lucid enough.

“I, uh, I lent it from time to time to my cousin. For… well. He isn’t exactly the faithful kind,” he says, feeling suddenly so ashamed that he could crawl under the ground. “And then other people from the company started to ask. When Adler called me up yesterday, first he spoke about my great stats, and then he told me he’d give me that raise… if I lent his niece the apartment for yesterday night. I said yes, figuring that if I got that raise I could stop lending it in the first place. And then I came back home, I found you on the bed and – my neighbor is a nurse. I called him in.”

Dean nods, and thankfully he doesn’t look like he’d punch Castiel. Even if he were able.

“Sorry for the inconvenience. I wouldn’t have tried to kill myself in your place if I had known,” he says, his voice barely audible. Castiel feels as if someone took his heart in their fist and crushed it.

“I wouldn’t have said yes if I had known that you were the boyfriend she was supposed to break up with,” he says then, not even knowing where it came from, and Dean’s eyes widen just slightly when they meet Castiel’s again. “I… I already thought it was a horrible thing to do. But… I’m not that great at saying no.”

Dean snorts, noticing the folded sheet on the nightstand. His expression turns to somber again.

“Did you… did you read it?”

“No. I didn’t think I had the right.”

Dean lets out a breath of relief and Castiel notices that his frame is shaking. Just a bit, but it is.

“Dean, do you… do you want me to call anyone from your family? I spoke to Adler before –”

“How did you do that?”

“Well. Do you know Meg from the call center?”

“That idiot who keeps on hitting on you even if it’s clear she has no chance?”

Castiel can’t help smiling at that. He doesn’t know how Dean noticed it, but it’s kind of pleasing.

“She put her number in my index and I never figured out how to delete it. I called her. And she did give me Adler’s number. He – I figured he’d feel bad about it.”

“Wait, you mean she dumped me because he asked her?”

“He said – I’m not sure I should…”

“Cas, spill it out. Can’t get worse than it is right now.”

“He said she can do better than you. He also told me not to call your family, but… if you want me to, I can. I’m –”

“Don’t call them. Not like they’d answer anyway.”

Castiel swallows, noticing that Dean is shaking harder. This is not right. He can’t just – he has to do something. He wants to reach out, put an arm around Dean’s shoulder, but maybe it’s too much. He sets on touching Dean’s shoulder, squeezing gently.

“Dean, can I ask – why did you do it? If you don’t want to tell me it’s fine, you don’t have to, but –”

“That’s okay,” Dean says, his voice shaking. “You got a right to ask since I guess I scared the living shit out of you last evening. It’s just – when I met Anna, it was a pretty fucked time. My brother had left for college some three years before and my dad didn’t want him to – he hasn’t called since. The second he left, my dad just – he started drinking too much and it ended up with him crashing with his car into a tree, and I can only be happy he hasn’t killed anyone else in the process. When I met her, it was two months after the funeral. I needed a better job than fixing cars part time and she said that at her uncle’s company they needed someone for the elevators. And it’s not like you need more than a GED to do that, right? She was – she’s a nice girl. We hit off. During this last year she was the only decent thing I had going on. Hey, just – can I have a glass of water?”

Dean coughs then, and Castiel curses himself for not having one ready. Of course he’d want some water. He runs to fetch a glass and hands it over to Dean, who finishes it in one go.

“Thanks. So, uh, I have been trying to talk to Sam – my brother, I mean – for a couple months, but he’s not answering. He didn’t even come down for the funeral. It’s not been that nice of a time. So when she says she had a nice place to spend Christmas Eve I was – well, we hadn’t managed to go out in a while. I even bought her roses, shit. That LP was my Christmas present – we clicked because she told me she liked Led Zeppelin. And – she said we couldn’t see each other anymore since she’s about to start working at the company and it isn’t convenient, and gave me that envelope. Hoping it’d make me feel better. Then she left and – it just all crashed down on me, you know? I hate my job but I don’t have qualifications for a better one, I live in a room without windows, my brother isn’t talking to me for some stupid reason, I don’t have other family, and it was fucking Christmas. I had gone to the bathroom just to wash my face and then I saw those pills. I don’t even know – I wrote that letter and then – guess I gotta be thankful that it was almost empty, right?”

Dean’s voice breaks on that last point, and Castiel – Castiel is horrified.

There’s nothing of what Dean said that you could imagine just by looking at him. He’s always nice to everyone, he’s always so charming and easy to be around, and this – this is making Castiel want to punch Adler in the face. And maybe ask Anna how could she ever agree to give someone money to make them feel better about being dumped.

“I’m just – sorry for having done it here. Guess I should’ve found myself a bridge to jump from,” Dean says, and his voice sounds so hollow that Castiel can’t just stand there anymore. He moves on the bed, puts an arm around Dean’s shoulders and tries not to gasp when Dean hides his head against Castiel’s shoulder. He’s still shaking like a leaf and Castiel wraps an arm around his waist, letting out a breath of relief when Dean doesn’t shrink away.

“Don’t – don’t say that,” he manages. “I won’t say you didn’t give me a scare, but – believe me, I wouldn’t have wanted you to find that bridge.”

Dean doesn’t answer but doesn’t move from his position either. Castiel doesn’t dare doing something else (he wants to bury his hand in Dean’s hair, but he doesn’t know whether it’d be appropriate or not) and doesn’t move until Dean slowly backs off a bit. His eyes are red and Castiel’s wrinkled shirt is damp, but he doesn’t remark on that.

“Shit. Sorry, that wasn’t – guess I’m not thinking right.”

“You needed it. It’s fine. Do you – do you want something to eat? Nothing too heavy, but you know – I’m not sure you’re up for it.”

“Oh. Yeah, I guess I could eat. Thanks, I –”

“Don’t trouble yourself.”

When he gets to the kitchen, Castiel decides on fixing Dean a bowl of oatmeal. He doesn’t have anything else and it’s Christmas today – he can’t exactly go shopping for groceries. He finds a jar of honey and adds a bit into the mix, though not too much. He just can’t begin to process everything Dean has said. He wishes he had something to say about it, but he has no idea. Surely he can’t tell Dean that he has had feelings for him for at least eight months.

He brings the oatmeal over to the bedroom with some more water.

“I figured you’d be sick of coffee,” he said handing Dean the bowl.

“Why?”

“Last night… you drank quite a lot of that,” Castiel answers, and Dean shakes his head as he takes the bowl.

“I don’t remember shit. Guess I was too out of it.” He takes a spoonful of oatmeal and then another, and Castiel is relieved when he finishes the entire bowl.

“Can I – can I call in my neighbor?” Castiel asks when Dean is done. “I think you’re out of danger but… I would like to be sure.”

“Oh. Yes. Sure, call him in.” Dean’s voice is low, and Castiel doesn’t want to leave the room but he needs reassurance that Dean isn’t going to die on him just now.

Chuck looks like someone who hasn’t slept in ages, but it’s not that different from the usual. Dean looks perplexed enough when he sees that the person who basically saved his life last night hasn’t shaved in four days and is wearing torn jeans and a faded Misfits t-shirt, but he doesn’t complain when Chuck gives him a quick check-up. Castiel waits outside the room and when Chuck comes out and tells him that there’s no danger anymore, he lets out a breath of relief.

“I think he could eat normal things, too – don’t give him or anything heavy though. And still, keep him here until tomorrow. You can’t be too sure. Also – uh, I think that what he needs most is some cheering up, but I guess I’ll leave that to you.”

Chuck steals another beer bottle and runs back to his own place; Castiel walks back inside the room and sits on the chair next to the bed.

“Your neighbor is a riot,” Dean comments, but he looks half-relieved, too. “Also – well, guess I’ll have to thank him properly.”

“You could read his book for him – he’d be ecstatic,” Castiel comments.

“What, he’s a writer?”

“When he isn’t at his main job. He’s been writing that novel for years though – by now he should have finished. Or well, considering the subject, two years is enough, time-wise. Listen, are you sure that you don’t want me to track your brother down?”

“That’s – that’s okay. You don’t need to. Better that he doesn’t know, anyway. It’d just confirm him how fucked up I am. Listen, could we open the window?”

Castiel stands up, and then he stops. He knows it’s irrational, but he can’t help it.

“What?”

“If I do open it – well, it’s a low second floor, and you’d break a leg at most, but –”

Dean shakes his head, still looking miserable. “Don’t – I’m not going to jump off it, man. Don’t worry. And even if I broke one leg – fine. They shoot horses like that, don’t they?”

Castiel almost recoils at that. “Don’t – don’t say it. Promise me you won’t.”

“Who would give a damn anyway? My brother doesn’t talk to me, my mom died when I was four, my dad – you know, Anna just dumped me because I wasn’t good enough for anything, so?”

“I would. You’re the nicest person I know in that building.”

Dean snorts, looking at the ceiling.

“Seriously. Why can’t I ever fall for nice people like you?”

Castiel almost chokes at that. If only you knew, he thinks.

“Why’s that?”

“Oh, Anna’s just the latest. My first serious girlfriend dumped me just after I dropped out of high school because I worked too much – it was for paying the bills, but she said we never went out. The second was someone I got with a week before my dad died and she cut it off because after the funeral I wasn’t that nice to deal with. I know that Anna likes me, but she agreed to that farce. What can I say?”

“Can I tell you something?” Castiel asks, opening the window after all. Having some fresh air feels good, after this.

“Well, sure.”

“You don’t look that… fucked up, to me. Don’t get yourself this down. It isn’t… maybe Adler doesn’t think that you’re good enough for his niece, but as far as I’m concerned, there’s nothing wrong with you. Decency-wise. And… otherwise-wise, I would say.”

Dean’s lips curl up in half a smile and Castiel has to stop himself from saying that he really looks better when he smiles.

“Noted, then. I’m – well. Sorry I crashed your Christmas plans.”

“Dean, I live alone. I didn’t have plans. I don’t mind.”

Dean nods and suddenly Castiel realizes that he just can’t stand silence right now. He needs to be doing something, and he can’t take Dean looking this miserable.

“Do you – maybe we could play cards?”

“Cards?” Dean asks. “Well – guess it’s okay. What are you good at?”

“I can only play gin rummy,” Castiel replies, realizing that it is sort of lame, but it’s the truth.

Dean sits up straighter and looks straight at him, still half-smiling. “That’s okay. I’m good enough at that, you know.”

--

One hour later, Castiel hasn’t won one single game.

“You’re good at this,” he says as he folds and gives up for the umpteenth time.

“There’s gotta be something I’m good at, right? But you ain’t half bad at it.”

“Honored to receive your praise,” Castiel replies, but there’s no haste in it. “I think I should fix something for lunch. I didn’t have time to get groceries this week, though. Would some pasta be all right? I don’t think I can come up with anything else.”

“That would be good. You don’t need help?”

“Dean, it’s fine. Don’t tire yourself.”

Clearly, when Castiel gets inside the kitchen, he realizes that he had thrown away his colander last week because it was too old, and he hasn’t replaced it since.

He’ll have to resort to the only other alternative he has, then.

--

When Dean walks inside the kitchen some thirty minutes later, Castiel is straining pasta with his old tennis racket.

“What are you doing with that?” Dean asks, looking like he isn’t quite taking in the sight.

“What does it look like to you?”

“You’re straining the spaghetti with that.”

“I am apparently missing a proper colander. Don’t worry, it’s clean. And it makes no difference. Cooking-wise.”

Dean full-on laughs at that, and the sound makes Castiel feel warm all over. “Well then. Nothin’ to complain about. You have a nice place, you know.”

“Do I?” Castiel asks, dropping the now drained spaghetti into a pot full of sauce.

“Yes. I hadn’t noticed yesterday. But you know. I took a walk around. It’s… cozy, maybe? I don’t know. But it’s lived in. And it has windows.”

Castiel remembers Dean saying that his own place doesn’t have any. He doesn’t comment on that, though.

“Also, uh, you think you could lend me this, for the moment?” Dean asks, showing Castiel a copy of The Sirens of Titan. “I’m reading it just now and I was missing the last chapter.”

“Sure. That’s no problem. It’s… quite good. Not my favorite of his, but good.”

During lunch, which came out quite nicely (then again, living alone for ten years teaches you how to cook), they spend time talking about Vonnegut. Castiel finds out that Dean’s favorite is Slaughterhouse Five, while his own is probably Breakfast of Champions, but they both agree on Jailbird being underrated. After lunch, Dean finishes Sirens of Titan and Castiel cleans up the kitchen and the living room; he coaxes Dean into playing some more gin rummy when he’s done, and on staying out of bed as much as possible. He doesn’t say anything when Dean throws his note to Sam into the trash. For dinner, he gets Chuck to give him some pre-heated pizza that Chuck buys in pounds the one time of the month where he goes to the supermarket. They eat it on Castiel’s sofa while watching the news, and Castiel is about to change channels when he realizes that It’s a Wonderful Life is next, but Dean insists that it’s okay.

They end up watching it all, and Castiel can’t help thinking that it was the nicest Christmas he’s had in ages even if he sleeps on the sofa after he forces Dean to take his bed.

--

He wakes up at six AM on the twenty-sixth, and Dean is still sleeping.

Castiel knows that he shouldn’t, but he can’t help thinking that it isn’t right that his brother doesn’t know.

He turns on his laptop and tries to track down a Sam Winchester that can fit the description; he finds one studying in Stanford, at his fourth year – he should graduate shortly.

There isn’t a phone number, though, so he calls the administration hoping that not everyone is on holiday. Someone answers, and Castiel tells them that he needs to contact Sam because of a family-related urgency, and thankfully he doesn’t need to lie about anything before he’s given a dorm number.

He dials it.

“Yes?” a young man answers when the call is picked up.

“Sam Winchester?”

“Yes. Who is this?”

Castiel takes a breath. “My name is Castiel Milton. You don’t know me, but… I know your brother.”

“Is this about Dean? I thought I made clear –”

“I don’t know what it is that you made clear whenever you talked to him last. But… this is something I think you need to know. He tried to kill himself.”

There’s silence at the other end of the line, and when Sam speaks again his voice is strained. “Is this a joke?”

“No. I’m – we work in the same place, though not in the same department. It would be too long to explain the situation right now, and I’m not sure if it’s my place. But – it happened.”

“Is he in a hospital?”

“No. He’s at my place. As I said, it’s… complicated. I can give you the address, if you wish to drop by. He didn’t want me to call you but from what I gathered you’re his only family and – I thought you should know.”

“He didn’t want you to call?” Sam asks, sounding half-outraged. “Sorry. I just – I guess I can get why. Listen, I can take a flight and be there this evening. This is – shit. Thanks for calling. You’re in Lawrence, right?”

Castiel confirms it and gives Sam his address, then closes the call and prays that he did the right thing.

--

“You know,” Dean says as he grabs a box of cereal and puts some in a bowl – Castiel had hit the grocery store the moment it opened –, “I don’t even – I guess that if it just took her uncle to tell her that I wasn’t nice enough for the likes of her then it wasn’t serious in the first place.”

Castiel can’t help but agreeing.

“It’s just – that’s the kind of people I always seem to end up with. You know, takers.”

“Takers?”

“Yeah. You know, I think that there are two kinds of people. One that takes, and one that… gets taken, I guess. You realize that you’re the kind that gets taken… and you can’t do shit about it. I guess I should get over it.”

Exactly how many people did take from you? Castiel wonders. “I guess you aren't alone in that.”

“Why?”

“I haven’t been able to say no to anyone who wanted to use my place in years, if you forgot it. Maybe it’s just. Well. I guess, that’s the way it crumbles, cookie-wise.”

Dean gives him a half-smile and finishes his coffee. “We’re two of a kind then. Cas, listen, I just wanted to say – thanks.”

“Thanks?”

“Come on. You saved my life as much as your writer friend over there did. And you’ve been keeping me around for two days even if everything I did was try to overdose in your bedroom. You didn’t have to.”

Castiel swallows, wondering if he should just say it.

But… it’s not the right time. Dean has been through a lot and considering how the break-up went, Castiel isn’t sure he needs more to deal with. He could also think that Castiel isn’t being serious.

“Dean, I… you have realized by now that I don’t talk to many people. And that I don’t have friends here. I don’t mind having you here. At least I didn’t spend Christmas alone, did I?”

“Still –”

“Have you read Robinson Crusoe?” Castiel asks, suddenly, figuring that maybe a hint could work. If hidden in a good enough metaphor.

“Yes, but how –”

“That’s how I feel most days. Life-wise. He’s shipwrecked on the island and thinks he’s alone, and I feel shipwrecked among thousands of people I don’t know. Then one day he sees a footprint in the sand and he finds someone else on the island. That’s what you were for me, these last two days,” he says, quietly, not daring to add that Dean has been that for the entire last year.

He also hopes that he hasn’t said too much, but Dean’s eyes widen in surprise rather than haste, and then his lips curl up and he gives Castiel such a sweet smile that makes him think that time has just stopped.

“That was – that was the nicest thing anyone has ever told me,” Dean answers.

Castiel thinks that even if this ends badly when Sam arrives, at least he had this.

--

“Cas?” Dean asks him after another two hours of gin rummy, during which Castiel hasn’t won a single hand.

“Yes?”

“You said that Adler wanted you to convince me not to press charges.”

“Yes, but –”

“I wasn’t gonna. It’s not like I can press charges or tell anyone when it was my own stupid fault. But if you want to tell him that you convinced me… just do it.”

“Why would I?”

“You – well. I guess he might give you another raise. And apartment or not, you deserve that. I don’t mind. ‘S not like he’s gonna think less of me.”

Castiel can’t stop himself; his hand reaches out and covers Dean’s wrist, stopping him from shaking.

“I couldn’t. You aren’t – don’t think that I like the feeling of everyone walking all over me. You deserve better than that.”

“Nice to say, but the offer still stands. I’m not gonna be offended if you do.”

Castiel nods, but he already knows that he’s not going to do it.

“It won’t – it won’t last forever,” he says then, dealing the other hand. “I mean, I know it’s bad right now, but – you get over it.”

“How do you know?”

“I stopped talking to my family when they found out that the person I was seeing back then was a man. They’re… the bad kind of religious. And then we broke up three months later.”

“Was it you?”

“It was him. It wasn’t any particular reason. He just decided that we didn’t… work together anymore after I asked him why he seemed to be distancing himself. At times I thought I should have just not spoken. It… we could say it happened from one day to the next though, I had no idea that he felt like that. It isn’t the same thing, but – I felt miserable for a long time after. And then I decided to get over it and sent him a card for Christmas.”

“And him?”

“He was with somebody else but he said he was glad that we worked it out. He sends me a fruit cake every year. There’s one in my fridge.”

Dean looks at him for a second, obviously trying not to laugh, but he can’t help it.

“You’re just trying to make me feel better.”

“I’m merely telling the truth,” Castiel says before taking the half-eaten fruit cake out of the fridge.

They finish it in the next thirty minutes and Castiel can’t help thinking that the only thing that he regrets, about the last two days, is that Dean is here because he almost died.

--

There’s a knock on the door at ten PM, and Cas tells Dean that it’s okay if he gets it; it’s probably Chuck.

It’s not.

Sam Winchester is taller than Castiel would have imagined, nearly six and a half feet; he obviously dressed in haste, his flannel buttoned wrong, and before Dean can say anything, Sam moves forward and hugs his brother, hard enough that Dean flinches for a second. But then he hugs him back, his hands digging into Sam’s shoulders, and Castiel can’t help thinking that he did the right thing. He turns his back on them, not wanting to intrude on a private moment, but then –

“You called him, didn’t you?”

Castiel turns towards Dean, trying not to look too sheepish.

“I – yes. I’m sorry, but I just couldn’t do otherwise.”

“I should punch you, but then again maybe you weren’t wrong,” Dean whispers.

“Seriously, how could you – listen, I’m sorry that I just told you I was done with anything… us-related, I guess. We should talk. A while.” Sam’s voice is somber, his hand on Dean’s elbow, and Dean gives him a nod.

“Yeah. Guess we should.”

“I have a hotel room near here. And I got you some clothes to change in – I figured you wouldn’t have any,” Sam says, and Dean gives him another nod.

“Cas, uh –”

“That’s fine – go change in my room. I’ll bring yours back after they’re washed.”

Dean grabs the plastic bag Sam hands him and goes into the bedroom again; Castiel is left with Sam.

“Listen, I don’t know the specific of this, but – thanks, I guess. And for calling.”

“I told you, I felt like I had to.”

“Yeah, but – I told him a very stupid thing last time we saw each other. Now maybe I can make some amends. But I’d never have if you hadn’t called, so… thank you.”

Castiel shakes Sam’s hand, thankful that it went right, and then Dean is out of the bedroom, wearing his coat and a pair of jeans.

“Cas, thanks again. Really. I can’t even start to –”

“Dean. Don’t. Footprints in the sand, do you remember?”

Dean gives him another half-smile before leaving with Sam, and the apartment suddenly feels a lot colder.

--

The next day, Dean isn’t at work, but Adler is; Castiel goes to the thirtieth floor as soon as Rachel comes for him.

“I assume that everything went smoothly,” Adler says as soon as Castiel is inside the room.

“Mr. Winchester is fine, yes,” Castiel replies, sitting down.

“Good, good. I assume he won’t say anything about all of this.”

“He won’t,” Castiel says, hating himself for not phrasing it making it clear that he had no influence in that decision.

“Lovely. I can see that you’re someone we can trust. Well then, you can move to your new office. Twentieth floor, you’re head of the accounting department. I trust you’ll do great.”

“Thank you,” Castiel replies, trying to feign gratefulness.

--

The new office is large, even if smaller than Adler’s. Or Gabriel’s. It’s empty except for his stack of files on the desk. The window has a lovely view of Lawrence.

It doesn’t feel nearly as nice as he thought it would.

--

“You know,” Chuck tells him that evening as he steals beer from his fridge again, “you should quit this.”

“What?”

“Moping around and thinking that the world is against you. And letting everyone walk over you. You’re smart, you’re a decent guy, you don’t like it, why do you have to always be so passive?”

“Chuck, the second to last time I went with my gut, my parents told me to never show my face to them again for the rest of my life, and the last time I did the same thing, it was the end of the only stupid relationship I’ve ever been in.”

“See? Feeling sorry for yourself! Believe me, I know, but… I would have told him. Before he left.”

“He didn’t need more burdens,” Castiel answers. He’s drinking water – he can’t take alcohol.

“There you are at it again. One day you will realize no one thinks you’re a burden, but really, Castiel, you should, uh, really quit it.”

Castiel doesn’t find an answer for Chuck; he doesn’t tell him that he wishes he could find it in himself to say no.

--

The next day, he brings a bundle of clothes with him, making sure to hide it in his briefcase. He calls the left elevator when he’s sure that no one is watching.

When Dean sees him, his features soften a bit.

“I wanted to give you these,” Castiel says, handing Dean a plastic bag in which the clothes he had on Christmas Eve are neatly folded.

“Oh. Thanks. So, you’re one floor higher, huh?”

“It isn’t that different.”

“Well, you still don’t iron your shirts. And your tie is still crooked.”

“I’m afraid I’ll never learn.”

“That’s okay. Suits you.”

What does it mean? Castiel thinks, and then Dean speaks again and Castiel feels as if the floor has opened under his feet.

“Anna wants to talk.”

“What?”

“She called and said that – well, someone told her. Adler, I guess. She says she feels like we have to meet and… talk about it. I told her fine, but… I’m not even sure that I want to know.”

“Maybe she feels guilty.”

“She should,” Dean mutters. “I threw the check away.”

Castiel wishes he could say I’d have done the same. “Anyway, we’ll see, I guess. Cas, really… thanks again. Maybe we should hang out sometime. Not during work-time.”

Castiel knows that it means it’s never going to happen.

“We should. Not work-wise,” he answers, and then Dean disappears in the elevator and Castiel curses himself for not having the courage to say it straight. Apparently, being burned once was enough for him, but mostly – Dean had a girlfriend. It’s hopeless anyway.

--

On the thirty-first, Rachel comes to fetch him again.

As Castiel walks towards Adler’s office, he can feel his skin crawling. His tie is straight – for the first time in years, he managed the knot right. And since he doesn’t have people coming in and out of his place anymore, he had the time to iron his shirt and suit.

He feels as if he can burst any second.

“Milton, please, walk in.”

Castiel takes a seat and Adler looks at him in the eyes, the same smile that he had the first time they met on his face.

“Is your new position suiting you?”

“Very much, sir.”

“I was wondering if you’re interested in further improving it. Let’s say, to the twenty-fifth floor.”

Castiel swallows – that means triple the salary that he gets right now.

“I can’t possibly have proven myself enough to deserve that,” he replies, honestly.

“Well, yes, but I know how to reward friends. I just need that key one more time.”

“Why?”

“Anna has decided that she owes her guy a better explanation. I’m not sure that she owes him anything, and it’s not as if she’s getting back with him, but I figured that it can’t hurt. And maybe she’ll convince him to accept her help, since last time he didn’t even look at the check she left him twice, from what I gather. If she manages that I could finally have him out of my way. It wouldn’t be a good thing if they saw each other every day. I do realize that maybe you might feel bad for him, but well, you know how life is. It takes years to get to the twenty-fifth floor, and thirty seconds to be out of the door. I’m sure that you understand what I’m saying.”

Castiel stays still, wishing he could just stand up and punch Adler. He wishes he could tell him that Dean is a better person that Adler can ever hope to be, and if he isn’t enough for Anna then he’s good enough for him, but he can’t.

“I understand.”

He reaches down into his pocket and takes a key out, putting it on the table.

“I knew you were going to be reasonable,” Adler says as he picks the key up and Castiel grabs his coat.

Castiel stands up and puts it on, wondering when Adler is going to realize –

“I think it’s the wrong one.”

“It’s the right one.”

“It’s the key to the private washroom on your floor, it’s not –”

“It’s exactly the one I wanted to give you. One could say I’m… washed up, work-wise.”

He hasn’t thought about it twice; after hearing Dean’s story of how exactly he came to overdosing on his sleeping pills, he had felt angry on Dean’s behalf. But right now he’d feel just pathetic if he did anything other than what he has just done; after all, Dean has had a difficult life and taken all the blows it had given him, but never to the point of this. Castiel is done feeling like someone that can be bought with a promotion; if Dean refused those stupid two thousand dollars, then he can do the same and not feel like a failure at life after.

“Milton, do you realize –”

Castiel raises his head and meets Adler’s eyes; this is the one chance he has to show exactly how he feels about this.

“I realize that I spent ten years working here and doing my job right. Better than a lot of others. But no one noticed it until they needed my house. You didn’t realize it until you needed it. I’m not a perfect person. I don’t claim to be. But I know I have said yes when I should have said no. Mr. Winchester over at the elevator might not hold up to your standards, but he isn’t someone you’ll buy with two thousand dollars. He doesn’t deserve any of this. If you want to go ahead with your plan anyway, feel free to. But you’re not doing it in my house. Oh, and don’t tell me I’m done. You don’t need to. I quit myself.”

“What has gotten into your head?” Adler asks, looking so flabbergasted that Castiel can’t help smiling just a bit.

“I just decided that my life is mine, not yours. Goodbye, Mr. Adler.”

He takes the stairs when he gets out of the building.

--

On New Year’s Eve, one hour before midnight, Castiel is sitting miserably on his sofa. He can’t even bring himself to watch some television, or read, or do anything else. Quitting his job had felt great, at the moment, but he knows that now there’s no chance he’ll get one anywhere as good as this was, pay-wise. He has enough saved to keep the apartment for half a year, so he won’t worry about that right now.

Still, he’s this close to grab a bottle of tequila and get drunk out of his mind just so that he has an excuse to have a long, cathartic cry. Chuck isn’t even at home – being on shift at New Year’s means a lot of extra money, if you work in a hospital, and Dean is probably with Anna. Maybe they’ll work things out. Maybe not. He sighs, going to the fridge. He was going to have a beer, but clearly Chuck has stolen the last bottle he had, and the only one of tequila he had, too. There’s just a champagne one that he had bought when Gabriel told him he might get promoted. He figures it’ll have to do. His fingers shake as he tries to take the cork off, and when he manages to finally open the bottle, the cork shoots away with a loud banging sound before smashing a mirror Castiel keeps in the kitchen. A quarter of the champagne also spills over the floor because the hand holding the bottle is shaking, too. Before Castiel can even curse, he walks back and knocks into the kitchen table, which never was that stable to begin with, and he sends it crashing to the ground.

And then he hears someone screaming no on the stairs and there’s a frantic knock on the door. And –

Someone is screaming Cas.

Castiel opens the door and Dean is in front of him. There’s snow melting in his hair and on his leather coat and he looks scared out of his mind.

“What – Dean?”

“You didn’t – you weren’t – are you okay? That sounded like a gun shot,” Dean asks, and Castiel suddenly realizes that maybe someone hearing that noise from the outside would jump to wrong assumptions.

“Yes. I, well, I managed to ruin my kitchen, but I’m –”

Then Dean closes the door and walks inside, taking off his coat, and shaking his head as he looks at Cas.

“You stupid – why didn’t you say anything?”

“What do you mean?” Castiel asks, feeling dread creeping through him.

“You – Anna told me. Or well, she didn’t understand the implications, but I did. Adler asked you to let her use the apartment today and you said no. And you actually quit? When you were just –”

“I don’t want promotions because I lend out an apartment.”

“That’s not it. You – it was because of me, wasn’t it? It was because you didn’t want me to get screwed another time.”

“I wouldn’t have said yes the first time if I had known.”

“You lost your job! And then she told me that you actually told Adler I was a better person than him.”

“You are.”

“Yes, and then you say things in code. Did you think I’d miss what you meant with that Robinson Crusoe thing, after this?”

“I –”

“Cas, just tell me the truth. You like me? That way?”

“… yes,” Castiel admits, forcing himself to look Dean in the eyes. He deserves as much. “Since the first day you worked at that elevator. For the last year you were the only reason I looked forward to going to work. When I realized that Anna’s boyfriend and you were the same person, I kept asking myself how I could have been so stupid, and when I realized you could have died in my bed I – I felt like I couldn’t even breathe. So yes, I like you. I… more than like you. But I know that there’s no way it can lead anywhere, so if you were here to be sure of that… you are. If it’s everything, just go.”

And then Dean moves even closer, his hand under Castiel’s chin, forcing it up. And there’s such a sweet look on his face that Castiel has to keep himself from kissing him right now.

“You’re an idiot. You should’ve told me. I guess I get why you didn’t, but – I did a stupid thing. And believe me, not many people I know would have been as nice to me as you were. I hadn’t realized it at the beginning, but then Anna told me that, and I put two and two together and… I just can’t believe that you quit Sandover because of me.”

“You’re worth it,” Castiel replies, his voice barely audible. It’s enough that he can speak at all.

“Well. If you’re out of a job, so am I. I told Anna they could take their money. And their job. I might just have a stupid GED but I can get something better. Someone made me realize that maybe I’m not as fucked up as I think.”

Castiel swallows, starting to shake his head.

“Don’t. If you hadn’t called Sam, I’d have kept on thinking that. And I realized I spent ages feeling guilty for things that weren’t my fault. And – well. If Anna can do better than me, I can do better than her.”

He looks straight at Castiel then, and – oh. One of Dean’s hands moves on Castiel’s back, and Castiel can’t dare to hope that it’s actually happening.

“I’m not better than her,” he whispers. “I can’t even say no when it’s needed.”

“You did it today. And stop beating yourself up. You’re – listen, I can’t say that I’ve been ogling you for months. It’d be – well, you don’t deserve me lying to you. But there’s a reason you’re the only person working in there whose name I knew. Or well, whom I bothered to call by name. Or, you know, there’s a reason why I’ve been spending months trying to find an excuse to fix that stupid tie of yours. Last week – let’s say that I saw a lot that I liked. More than what I liked already. Remember when I told you that I never fall for nice people like you?”

“I do.”

“Well. Seems like I’m on the right way. Because there’s nothing I see that I don’t like.”

“But – I thought that you would try to work it out with her after all, and –”

“I think that we could send Anna a fruitcake each Christmas. Maybe we could send one to her uncle, too,” Dean says, and then he leans down and oh. Their lips meet, and Castiel parts his own immediately. Dean’s mouth is warm against his, his lips full and soft and warming right under his. His hair is cold and wet when Castiel’s hand reaches up, his fingers stroking it. When Dean’s tongue touches his, Castiel moans and kisses him harder, his other hand on Dean’s cheek. Dean’s arm that was behind his back tugs him closer, the kiss not breaking. It lasts, long, and when Dean’s tongue traces Castiel’s mouth on the inside, Castiel can’t help thinking that it was all worth it.

When they part, they’re breathless and Dean’s cheeks are flushed. He’s smiling, that nice, genuine smile that makes Castiel’s knees melt, and to be entirely honest Castiel doesn’t know how he’s still standing up.

“Wow,” Dean says, “that was the best thing I did this year. So, you mind if I spend the night with you?”

“Not at all,” Castiel replies, not quite wanting to move.

“All right. Then I guess we could play some gin rummy, since you like it that much.”

“Maybe we should talk –”

“We can talk later.”

Castiel can’t refuse – he doesn’t think he can refuse Dean anything, right now, and so he nods as he gets the cards and sits on the sofa. Dean takes off his coat and joins him – he’s wearing a green sweater that matches his eyes completely, and Castiel can’t help thinking that he looks so different from last week.

He tries not to think about Dean lying on his bed on Christmas Eve. He cuts the deck, but doesn’t look at it. He can’t stop staring at Dean and he can’t believe that it’s really happening.

Dean smirks and cuts the deck again, looking at him expectantly.

“Cas, the night is young, but I’d like to start before dawn. I had other plans, other than gin rummy.”

“Dean? I think I love you.”

Dean smiles and looks at his card. “Seven.” Then he looks at Castiel’s. “Queen. All right.” Then he hands back the deck. Castiel takes it, but he just – he can’t.

“Dean? You do realize that –”

Dean’s smile is blinding when his hand covers Castiel’s wrist. Castiel hadn’t realized that it was shaking.

“Cas? Shut up and deal.”

Castiel deals, not looking at the cards once, and he knows that he’s smiling as hard as Dean is. When midnight arrives, they’re still playing and none of them notices, but then Dean looks at the time and says that it’s high time he starts the new year on a high note, and he kisses Castiel again, the game forgotten.

Castiel doesn’t even mind that he was about to win that hand.

End.
 
 
feeling: okayokay
on rotation: Bon Jovi - I Believe | Powered by Last.fm
 
 
 
harper47harper47 on July 21st, 2011 12:44 pm (UTC)
Awwwww, but why does it have to end? What a lovely take on The Apartment. Its' not a movie I know really well but from what I do know, you did a great job meshing the characters of SPN into the plotline I really enjoyed the way Dean and Cas fixed each other. Lovely fic bb. As always.
the female ghost of tom joad: misha = awesomejanie_tangerine on July 22nd, 2011 04:34 pm (UTC)
Mostly because the original ended there and coming up with more than that seemed blasphemous. ;) But thanks so very much! :D I'm so glad that it worked for you. I had a blast recasting everyone (then again I really like that movie) and it's great to know it worked :DD thanks again!
Artmetica: Misha luvartmetica on July 21st, 2011 02:26 pm (UTC)
This was a great read!
I've never seen The Apartment before, so I had to Google it after finished reading this. Boy am I glad you wrote the prompt this way :D
Poor Dean and Cas having people walking all over them, Dean especially for also living in such hardship... And the suicide attempt, that was really worrying T-T
But it's really great that Dean finally realizes that Cas is in love with him. I hope that life will work out well for them. Well at least they've got each other now ^^ ♥

The Extra Scenes are so enjoyable too since we get to see Dean's life, and I especially love the brotherly bit with Sam :) Thank you for writing and sharing this!
the female ghost of tom joad: misha halojanie_tangerine on July 23rd, 2011 08:44 am (UTC)
But thanks so much! :D

It's great to know it worked regardless of knowing the original (it's an awesome movie though. But I wasn't going to keep everything ;) ). And yeah, I went hard on those two, didn't I. They did get together though! And I'm so glad that the extra scenes worked for you too, I figured they'd give more insight into the entire thing. :) Thanks so much again, I'm so glad that you liked it. <3
Nicole Sill: megnicole_sill on July 21st, 2011 04:01 pm (UTC)
Aw. You write the best first kisses! I don't know this movie, but I felt you gave it a well earned gritty quality. This was a good read.
the female ghost of tom joad: supernatural castiel 3.0janie_tangerine on July 23rd, 2011 08:43 am (UTC)
But thanks so much! :D I'm so glad that it worked for you, regardless of being familiar with the original. :)
Annwyn: Ann WIN BRannwyn on July 21st, 2011 05:15 pm (UTC)
This was great, everything you write always makes me smile and happy. I actually had a pretty shitty day so thank you =)

On to read Dean's POV =)
the female ghost of tom joad: tangerinesjanie_tangerine on July 23rd, 2011 08:42 am (UTC)
Aw, sorry that you had a shitty day but glad that this made it better. :) Thanks so much! <3
cassiopeia7: &hearts!cassiopeia7 on July 21st, 2011 05:21 pm (UTC)
So I guess I'll tell you for the twentieth time how much I love this fic. I LOVE this fic!! &hearts&hearts What an awesome adaptation of a wonderful movie! As usual, you've done a fantastic job, writing-wise. ;)
the female ghost of tom joad: !!! <3janie_tangerine on July 23rd, 2011 08:41 am (UTC)
And I'll tell you thanks for the twenty-first time ;) thanks so much all over again! :DDD I'm so so happy that you like it so much. Fic-wise. ;) ;) <3
Aureakalong_chan on July 21st, 2011 05:58 pm (UTC)
Shit, i think I cried abit reading this.;_; This was a great read! Thanks for writing this.<3
the female ghost of tom joad: tangerinesjanie_tangerine on July 23rd, 2011 08:41 am (UTC)
*hands tissue* Don't! It ended well! ;) and thanks so much, I'm really glad that you liked it. :)
jem_018jem_018 on July 21st, 2011 06:17 pm (UTC)
This was lovely. ♥♥♥

I felt bad that Cas was such a doormat. *sighs*

And Dean taking all those pills made me really panic. For him to be in that frame of mind and actually attempt to kill himself. So heartbreaking. *clutches self*

Chuck! I loved that he was Cas' neighbor and that he was there to help.

I loved the little exchange with Dean and Cas in the elevator. Also the one in the bathroom with the horrible gift hat and when Dean fixed Cas' tie.

Loved the end. I giggled a bit when Dean thought that the champagne cork popping was a gun shot. Cas admitting that maybe he loved Dean.
I'm so glad they found each other. Maybe things will get better for the both of them. :D

the female ghost of tom joad: supernatural dean/cas angstjanie_tangerine on July 23rd, 2011 08:40 am (UTC)
Aw, thanks so much! ♥ I'm so glad that it worked for you. In spite of me treating them like crap for a good half of this. ;) ;) The cork seeming to be a gun shot was in the original movie so I can't take claim for that, but it's good to know all the rest worked for you too ;) and things will totally get better!
(Deleted comment)
the female ghost of tom joad: supernatural + nick cave = otpjanie_tangerine on July 23rd, 2011 08:38 am (UTC)
I'm so glad that you liked it, thank you! :D and that the casting worked for you. I had a lot of fun with that bit. ;) And heeee, Cas so totally is. <3
Carmexgirlcarmexgirl on July 21st, 2011 07:57 pm (UTC)
Awww that was equal parts sad and sweet! I felt really sorry for Cas being used like that, not appreciated for the work he was doing and forced into doing things that people wanted him to do just so he could have a promotion. And then Dean--oh, my heart broke for him when he was despairing...the poor guy! I'm so pleased he realised he was worth more, that his life could improve, and he managed to reconcile with his brother. The kiss at the end was so sweet...I can see them having many happy years together, just helping each other along and loving each other.

Lovely!
the female ghost of tom joad: misha is my favoritejanie_tangerine on July 23rd, 2011 08:38 am (UTC)
Ee glad you liked it! :D And ha, yeah, poor Cas. I like to put him in complicated positions, don't I. But I'm really glad that they worked for you here, and they totally will have a lot of time snuggling together. ;) ;) Thanks so much!
Kevin Jonesmulder200 on July 22nd, 2011 12:52 am (UTC)
“Who would give a damn anyway? My brother doesn’t talk to me, my mom died when I was four, my dad – you know, Anna just dumped me because I wasn’t good enough for anything, so?”

“I would. You’re the nicest person I know in that building.”


Ah!

When Dean walks inside the kitchen some thirty minutes later, Castiel is straining pasta with his old tennis racket.

LOL!

“I realize that I spent ten years working here and doing my job right. Better than a lot of others. But no one noticed it until they needed my house. You didn’t realize it until you needed it. I’m not a perfect person. I don’t claim to be. But I know I have said yes when I should have said no. Mr. Winchester over at the elevator might not hold up to your standards, but he isn’t someone you’ll buy with two thousand dollars. He doesn’t deserve any of this. If you want to go ahead with your plan anyway, feel free to. But you’re not doing it in my house. Oh, and don’t tell me I’m done. You don’t need to. I quit myself.”

“What has gotten into your head?” Adler asks, looking so flabbergasted that Castiel can’t help smiling just a bit.

“I just decided that my life is mine, not yours. Goodbye, Mr. Adler.”


Al right! You tell him Cas!

“Dean? You do realize that –”

Dean’s smile is blinding when his hand covers Castiel’s wrist. Castiel hadn’t realized that it was shaking.

“Cas? Shut up and deal.”


And yeah, Dean totally gets it! How sweet!
the female ghost of tom joad: supernatural + nick cave = otpjanie_tangerine on July 23rd, 2011 08:35 am (UTC)
Glad you liked it, thanks! ;D and of course Dean got it! Well, he had to, at some point.. ;)
lizzlizzstomania on July 23rd, 2011 12:12 am (UTC)
like, i'm crying.

Because there’s nothing I see that I don’t like.

i just
it's so lovely
this was perfect.
the female ghost of tom joad: tangerinesjanie_tangerine on July 23rd, 2011 08:32 am (UTC)
*hands tissue* thank you so much! :D I'm so glad that it worked for you.
J2loverdeancaslover32 on July 23rd, 2011 06:19 am (UTC)
Aww.. I so loved this story -grins- it was great
the female ghost of tom joad: supernatural dean/cas philosophyjanie_tangerine on July 23rd, 2011 08:32 am (UTC)
Thanks so much, I'm so glad that you did! :D
WHERE DO YOU EVEN BUY A BABY-BLUE KERCHIEF?oywidapoodles on July 23rd, 2011 01:30 pm (UTC)
This was freakin adorable. ♥♥♥

You should write D/C versions of more Billy Wilder movies now, kthx.
the female ghost of tom joad: the apartmentjanie_tangerine on July 24th, 2011 01:05 am (UTC)
Aw, thanks so much! :D

And hahah well. I highly doubt D/C is the right ship to fulfill my long time secret dream of writing a Some Like It Hot AU (none of them has the skills for Sugar, I fear..), but then again there are a couple of viable ones *ponders*. I shall think on it. ;)
lillyglillyg on August 2nd, 2011 07:27 pm (UTC)
That was a really great story! Thanks for sharing...