My eyes shot open and met only the darkness of my room. It took a moment for me to register what had jolted me from my slumber. I paused, making an effort to still my breath so as to hear better, a queer prickling sensation being to run down the back of my neck. And then I remembered: a loud thump echoed down the hall, reminiscent of the one that had first awakened me. I felt the blood surging in my ears as adrenaline began to sing in my veins, but I lay frozen in my bed, analyzing what was happening and considering what plausible actions to take. The thumps seemed to be coming from the front of the apartment I shared with my brother, Leigh, meaning that whoever-or whatever- was making the sound would be in the kitchen. This made sense, for our fire escape led to the large window we had there, overlooking the street. I sat up slowly, begging my mattress not to squeak and alert whatever was out there of my presence. If someone was breaking into my home, I needed to have surprise on my side.
I had crossed my bare hardwood floor and was nearing my bedroom door when I heard another sound; a human voice. I couldn't make sense of what they were saying, but I could recognize the hostile edge to it. I swallowed thickly, my saliva turning gluey and stale in my mouth as panic blossomed and settled in my middle. A thought passed through my mind. Leigh is at Rosa's. I'm alone.
As quietly as I could, I made my way out into the small hallway that lead from our sleeping quarters to the main floor space of our apartment. The satiny material of my night shirt rustled as I moved, and I was thankful I had elected to trade in the matching pants for the quieter boxer briefs I had on. As I poked my head through the door way, I heard again the angry mutterings of the intruder, and what sounded momentarily like the rip of old fabric. I sunk down, bending my knees slightly and leaning forward with my upper body, placing my body weight on my toes. As I advanced upon the entry way, I noticed my umbrella nestled within our ornate stand. Feeling momentarily sheepish, I pulled it silently from the decorated pottery and held it at my side like a sword. I couldn't afford to be picky however, no matter how silly I might appear; I'd rather look foolish than have no weapon on me at all.
The clinking of glass drew my attention back to the matter at hand, and I began my advance once again. I was drawing nearer now, and my pulse was beginning to pick out an even faster staccato rhythm in my ears. I had reached the kitchen, for once grateful for the island and the natural barricade it presented me against the trespasser.
I could make out a dark shape silhouetted against our large window, which stood open behind it. I mentally cursed myself, for I knew that I was to blame for this intrusion. I had forgotten to lock the window when I had gone out to our small fire escape herb garden earlier.
I looked back to the figure, and was struck momentarily by the familiar shape as it swayed slightly. I small glinting hope took hold of me and, feeling braver than of late, I stood up. I saw the figure freeze, as if sensing my presence. With a quick reach of my hand, I flicked the light switch on, and was met with-
"Oooow, goddamnit, turn th'fuckin' light out!" It was Castiel, shielding his face with hands that seemed unusually ill fitting for his body, as if they had recently been attached and he was still learning which nerve controlled what. His hair was disheveled; tufts of it were sticking up in the back, and the tresses near his flushed and slightly sweaty face were plastered haphazardly. I noted that he was also slurring his words, which puzzled me until he shuffled a half step closer to where I was standing, and I caught the smell of alcohol on his breath.
"Castiel," I began. It took a moment for me to sort through what I wanted to say, my heart still racing slightly. He blinked owlishly at me, his eyes now more accustomed to the bright lights of my kitchen. I noticed his pupils were hugely dilated, making his already dark grey eyes seem almost black. A thrill ran through me that had nothing to do with my recent adrenaline rush, and I had to swallow before continuing.
"Castiel, it's almost three o'clock in the morning," I began again, not letting my dissipating fear colour my voice with irritation.
I knew Castiel well, and I could guess why he was drunk this late on a school night. The recent return and simultaneous shit show that was Deborah had up heaved his life, opening old wounds and creating new ones. I frowned, remembering his face when he had heard Deborah and Lynn's exchange over the intercom. The pain of a heart rebroken, the shame in knowing how he had treated Lynn. The anger that had then built up behind his eyes, an impassive mask of fury that almost made me pity Deborah when he finally confronted her. Almost.
And I remembered that night, when I had gone over to his house to make sure he had eaten. I had been expecting perhaps a tirade from him, or at least some other loud outburst. But when he opened the door, his face was stony, and he said very little in the time I was there, often staring into space rather than meet my gaze. That had been two days ago, and I hadn't seen him since. His absences from school were nothing new, so I was giving him his space to work himself out before I ventured over again. But now he was here in my kitchen, in the middle of the night, and from the looks of it, drunk beyond anything I had ever seen from him. In all my time knowing Castiel, I don't recall ever having seen such an aloof grin cross his face. I would be lying to myself if I said it didn't unsettle me. And yet something in his dark, half lidded gaze stirred something in me. He seemed feral; dangerous, and I silently cursed my masochistic side when I felt heat beginning to pool in my belly.
"Why are you here?" I finally asked him, taking a few steps toward him. He gave me a goofy grin, shrugging his shoulders and turning back to what I guessed had been his original goal; our small but relatively untapped liquor cabinet. As I watched him bumbling through our bottles of rum and sake, finally settling on a sizable bottle of vodka, I noticed a rather large hole in his old jeans, spanning from the bottom of his left back pocket and stretching to just above his knee. It was when he moved, or rather stumbled, that I noticed he wasn't wearing underwear. The pale flesh of his lower butt cheek flashed momentarily, and I quickly looked away, more embarrassed for his sure to be wounded pride when he sobered up again than by what I had seen. After all, we had both seen the other in various states of undress before.
I noticed then the small scrap of material hanging from a cupboard knob, and pieced together what had happened. I put the images together with the sounds I had heard, the annoyed grumbling and then the rip of material. I chuckled to myself, imaging how Castiel's face must have looked when he had first gotten snagged.
"You have a hole in your pants," I said, chuckling still as I stepped towards him and took the bottle out of his hands. He gave me a slightly annoyed glance, his lips puckering in frustration at having been denied something he wanted. I sighed, knowing that reasoning with him was going to be a challenge.
"Castiel, it's very late, and you're a mess." He stared at me blankly now, eyes unfocused, but drawn to the movement of my lips. I felt my face heating up again with his stare, and I took a settling breath before I tried again.
"You're going to have a glass of water," I said, moving past him to grab a cup. "And then you're going to lie down on the couch." I moved to the faucet, intending to fill his cup with cool water. But a wandering hand behind me caused me to freeze. It brushed along my side, moving slowly upward until it crossed over my shoulder blades where it paused. And then I felt Castiel's head leaning into my back, felt his hot breath through my thin nightshirt. My heart beat faster at the contact; Castiel was never one to be overly affectionate, and his forward touches both unnerved and excited me.
When Castiel and I had first begun to hang out, shortly after Deborah had broken his heart for the first time, I had invited him out to a small bar where some friends of mine were playing. He accepted the invitation begrudgingly, surely weighing our new formed friendship against the more desirable option of staying shut up in his house alone. In the end, he had agreed to come along with the condition that he could leave if "the music sucked ass". Fortunately, he had found their music agreeable, and by the end of their set he followed me to the back to meet them. It was there that he had discovered my orientation; an ex of mine, Bryce, who I was still chummy with had also shown up, and he had lazily snaked his arm across my shoulders when he asked if Castiel was my new guy. After numerous negations on my part, he had said it was a shame, because the redhead was pretty hot. Castiel had watched the exchange silently, a quirked brow and a perhaps considering look in his eyes as his gaze moved from me to Bryce. A crooked grin had then spread across his face, as he sarcastically told me how much I had injured his feelings with my prompt denial of a romantic relationship. I laughed with him, but silently I had to agree with Bryce.
I had known shortly after meeting Castiel that he was straight, probably as straight as they could come. But this hadn't bothered me; I understood that what we had would always be friendship, and Castiel seemed not to care the least bit anyway that I was gay. He never once after seemed discomforted by my homosexuality as some straight men were, and he never changed the way he treated me, nor the way we interacted. Our relationship was easy because of this, and we had soon after settled into our patterns. My naturally subdued personality meshed with his more energetic one, and as the months passed, the dynamic between us made me feel perhaps that we had always known each other.
So his sudden closeness, the warm hand and hot breath tickling my back confused me.