((Cas has doubts about his dreams. Dean tries to cheer him up.
It started with a talk with Neko about how Endlessly from The Cab is the best Mirror-Verse destiel song and ended up this! Love you, Neko!))
((Neko has outdone herself and made a comic for a beautiful scene in this fic! Spoilery, so link is here! <3))
Cas admits his room is pretty cramped with his easel and art supplies occupying about 3/4th of the space. The dropcloth he spread down in the corner as to not ruin the carpet was rather irritating the times it bunched up and he tripped over it in the middle of the night on his way to the bathroom. Paint splatters always on his jeans; charcoal dust on his hands—when he thought about it, his hobby was rather messy, time consuming, expensive (he wasn’t going to buy second rate paints); but he wouldn’t have it any other way.
Though if he was being honest with himself, it stopped being a “hobby” the time he decided to leave home to get an art degree. Listening to music was a hobby. Talking walks in the park was a hobby. But art—that was his life now. Not a day went by when he wasn’t working on some project or another. Even little doodles on napkins during his break at the café were all part of it—his life as an artist.
It was always a hard thing to explain to people. “Hello, my name is Castiel, and I want to paint for a living.” Most people (including his parents and a couple of his older brothers) scoffed at him when he told them he wanted to get by on his drawing alone. High school counselors had told him he would have to “get a real job”. Even the undergrad advisor at the university had said, “You should have a backup career, just in case.”
Then his favorite art teacher freshman year had said, “Go for it. Making your way freelancing is definitely possible. It will be a lot of hard work; you’ll do some jobs you love and others you hate and your work will get more rejections than you ever thought possible before someone finally takes you on, but as long as you never give up, you can do it.”
He had kept those words with him all those years, keeping them in his heart on the late nights when he fought the sleepiness in his eyes to put the finishing touches on a painting, or the times when his fingers ached but he kept on drawing just for the sake of drawing.
“Don’t ever give up, Castiel,” she had said. “No matter how hard it gets, you’ll get there if you keep trying. But if you give up, its guaranteed that you’ll never get to live your dream.”
So when he tested the waters, sending out an email and his portfolio in response to a posting on a freelance website he kept tabs on, he knew, logically, he probably wouldn’t get it. He had never had an official freelance job before and most wanted people with experience. He was barely out of school and while he knew he was a good artist, the poster had asked for quite a tall order.
Yeah, he knew it was a long shot.
But it still crushed him that night when he came home from work and got an email that said, “Sorry, but I don’t think you are right for this project. Thanks.”
The air slowly deflated from his lungs as the previous flip-flop in his stomach upon opening the email turned sour—there were pinpricks of tears in his eyes as he clenched his teeth and closed the email.
He had known he probably wouldn’t get it.
But it didn’t do a damn thing to make him feel better.
Castiel clenched his fingers into a fist and fought the urge to open the email back up and demand why. Why? What was wrong? What hadn’t he done right? He had attached some his best work, as requested—that charcoal piece he did of the old man who sat in the park every day feeding the ducks had won a school award; that painting of the time he saw a tornado collide with a rainbow two summers ago had got him a $50 gift card at the school bookstore—
And yet, they had all been thrown to the wayside. “Not right for the project”. Not right for anyone? Worthless?
Cas bit his lip as his stomach clenched—
How could he have been so cocky about it? Seeing his paint-stained easel in the corner of his room made him sick. How could he have assumed he would ever get a job with his not-even-finished-with-art-school projects? He was so stupid…why did he even apply for that job anyway? He knew it wasn’t gonna happen, so why did he do it?
Why did he keep doing it? Getting that job was a longshot…so was getting any of them…
What if he never got any?
What if it was all worthless?
Carry on my waywaaaarrd sooooon~
The noise broke through the self-pitying fog in Castiel’s mind. He turned to the phone on his desktop, pausing as it continued to play Dean’s special ringtone. He snatched it up just before it went to voicemail—despite the way his heart clamped up, he needed to talk to Dean right now. “Hello, Dean.”
“Hey, Cas,” Dean didn’t seem to notice the utterly defeated way he had said it. “Got home from work early, huh?”
“Yeah,” Cas leaned back in his chair, rubbing the fingers of his free hand over his eyes—he was suddenly tired of everything. “Lucky me.”
“Well, your night is about to get better,” he could almost hear Dean smirking on the other end. “Sammy went over to his girlfriend’s to ‘study’. Man, if it was anybody else, I would’ve teased them about it, but since its Sammy, I bet he really is over there just studying.”
“Hn,” Castiel didn’t know how exactly to respond to that. Sometimes Dean was just too preoccupied upon whether or not his little brother had sex on a regular basis.
“Anyway, since we’ve got the house to ourselves, you can come over. We could pop a few beers; watch the latest Game of Thrones on my computer—”
“You watch that show?” It seemed a bit nerdy for Dean’s tastes.
“Dude. Tits and dragons.”
“Anyway, you wanna? If we can’t get the TV working, there’s other stuff we can—”
“I don’t know, Dean,” Cas sighed, looking out of the corner of his eye at his computer. “I’m just tired.”
A pause. “Cas, it’s like six pm. On a Saturday.”
“I know…I know Dean, but I just…” he sighed again, turning his chair away from the desk; away from the view of his easel and dropcloth and box of paints. “I had a rough day.”
“Then you should definitely come over,” said Dean, forceful, but at the same time, anxious. “We can order pizza, have a few beers; it’ll be fun. You sound like you need a little fun.”
Cas wanted to say no. Cas wanted to say no and hang up and turn off the light and crawl into bed and not have to think about ever getting up again. He wanted to sleep and turn off life for a little bit and get away from this sense of worthless and failure and—
He swallowed. “Sure.”
“Cas, maybe you should slow down. You are drunk. You are gonna be so hungover in the morning, man.”
Cas could feel the redness in his cheeks—he could feel the warm prickliness all over his skin. Yeah, he was drunk, and yeah, he didn’t care. The first thing he did when they got to Dean’s apartment was ask him if he still had the whisky left over from New Years. After a glass or maybe two or three of that (he wasn’t sure), beers with pizza sounded great.
Maybe he didn’t care about a hangover tomorrow morning. He didn’t have to work until the afternoon shift. Sleeping off the shame and rejection sounded like a great idea right now. He had barely downed his first whisky when it all came spilling out to Dean—his big dreams, the rejection, his fear that this was only a sign of more failures to come—for his part, Dean had just sat back and listened, though he did seem pretty concerned with how much alcohol Cas was spilling down his throat.
“Don’t care,” Cas muttered, taking another swig of beer. the sat on the floor, backs against the couch, with an empty pizza box lying on the floor next to Dean’s long-suffering laptop. “I just don’t know what to do with myself right now.”
Dean took a drink as well—his cheeks always turned a rosy pink that lit up his freckles whenever he drank, making him look kind of cute to Cas’s inebriated eyes. “Cas, you can’t just give up after one stumble. I mean, that’s your dream, right? Just being able to sit at home and paint all day. You can’t give up after one bad day.”
“You don’t understand, Dean,” Cas’s fingers tightened around the neck of the bottle. “It’s my life. I’ve given everything to get to this point and to have it all shot down—If you have a dream like that, you’d understand.”
Dean let out a breath. “I dunno, man. If I could say I had a dream, it would be seeing Sammy graduate, become that bigshot lawyer, marry his girl…yeah, I guess I can’t really relate.”
“So, there’s nothing?” Cas turned to look at Dean. “Nothing at all you want so badly that you can’t stand it? That you can’t bear the thought of what would happen if you never got it?”
Dean met his gaze, and for a moment longer than they should, they just stared at each other. Dean’s mouth opened slightly, but before Cas could read into it, he turned away. “…I guess not.”
Cas sighed, setting his empty beer bottle down. One of his hands came to attempt to brush the drunkeness out of his eyes. “Then it’s hard to explain. Just, right now…” He glanced back at Dean, sad smile on his face. “I feel so worthless.”
Cas didn’t even have a second to process as Dean grabbed him and pulled him into a hug. The beer bottle toppled over and rolled across the floor. He froze—face flushed not entirely from alcohol this time.
“Don’t ever say that,” Dean whispered, voice hard as he gripped Cas tighter.
Slowly, Cas succumbed; he let out that breath he had been holding, resting his forehead against Dean’s shoulder as he gripped him back.
They held each other for a long moment; Dean pulling Cas tighter into the cocoon of his body and Cas holing on as if Dean was the last thing on earth.
Slowly, Dean began to pull away, but he stopped, just as their faces were mere inches from each other. “You are worth so much to me.”
Cas could only stare back at Dean, completely dumbfounded. Why would Dean say something like that? Why was he still looking at him like that—licking his lips in an unconscious motion and eyes sliding toward Cas’s mouth—
Cas thought his heart racing was just an effect of being drunk, but…As Dean’s hands, that had been resting on his shoulders, starting sliding up to the back of his neck, he stopped thinking.
Was it his imagination or was Dean getting closer, no, no it wasn’t and—heart pounding steady in his chest and cheeks flaring up and he couldn’t help but stare back, stare at how wet and full Dean’s lips were—he could be closing his eyes because he was tired, and maybe Dean was too, but—inches, centimeters— electricity where Dean’s fingertips brushed the short hairs at the back of his neck and where his own hands rested on Dean’s back and—he could feel Dean’s breath on his face and it smelled of whisky and alcohol and—
And then Dean froze, eyes that had been sliding shut suddenly blown wide open.
He pulled away like he had been burned, making sure to keep his eyes off his best friend. Cas couldn’t help his mouth falling open in a soft gasp, his own eyes trying so hard not to water. “So…yeah…don’t say that, Cas,” Dean said awkwardly, adding a choked laugh for good measure. Dean patted Cas on the shoulder, like that suddenly made everything all right.
Cas bit his lip, shutting his eyes tight, trying to push the swirling emotions out of his mind, but they just kept building and building and his heart was squeezing and stomach churning worse that it had hours ago. “I’m tired, Dean.”
Dean let go of him and began gathering their discarded bottles off the floor, still not meeting his eyes. “Well, it’s too late to take the bus back, and I am too drunk to drive you back. You mind spending the night on the couch? It’s a comfy couch.”
“No, I don’t. I—I just want to sleep.” And forget.
“Yeah, okay…I’ll go get the blankets.”
“You do that.” When Cas opened his eyes, Dean was gone.
For the few more minutes they were both up, they couldn’t look at each other. Perhaps it was for the best. As Cas buried himself in the blankets that smelled so much like Dean that night, the world still tipsy, he knew Dean had tried his hardest.
And even if Cas wasn’t sure about anything that had happened after that, or about how he would get the courage to submit his work again—
Dean thought he was worth something.
Cas went to sleep with a smile on his face that had nothing to do with being drunk.