.. could only be tamed but for a while.
There had been a time, not terribly long ago, where Dean was more than confident in his ability to impress the opposite sex. The first seven or eight years he'd been in the service he went through girls left and right; while his buddies were getting married and knocking up girls from their hometowns, sometimes hitting it off with the women in the corps, Dean was chatting up women in bars and clubs. Women liked that dark, mysterious thing he pulled off simply by saying as few words as possible. When he did speak, he was cordial and charming, southern drawl to boot, and he had no problem finding someone to keep him company for a night or two. After his second tour, though, he came home a different person than the one he'd been when he left and relationships, even casual ones, were the last on his mind.

Well into his thirties, he avoided anything that too closely resembled settling down. Nightmares woke him regularly; his anger seemed to boil up at the most inopportune of moments and there was one night when he snapped out of it only to realize he'd taken a bowie knife to the extra goosefeather pillow on his bed. Even setting aside the worry he was a danger to anyone he slept beside was the gut wrenching, nauseating fear of having to explain all this baggage to someone. No. It was best kept to himself, and the next several years were spent celibate. Once his PTSD was under control, though, he still held on to that discomfort, unable to picture himself close enough to let anyone in. When he did date, it was always short lived, with women of varying degrees of substance who inevitably dumped him when he couldn't commit: Erin 1 (the pharmaceutical rep), Erin 2 (the yoga instructor), Lauren, the realtor who helped him find his office, Kelly who ended up with his order at Dean and Deluca.

The past few years it had grown tiring. He found himself rather intrigued by the idea of settling down. He'd never not wanted kids, but these days it was like his goddamn biological clock had begun to tick or something. Of course, this was right around the time he started feeling his age, finding grays popping up in his beard and at his hairline, his bones starting sound like rice krisapies when he ran. So while Is coming out with her feelings for him had knocked him off kilter, somehow stroking his ego while at the same time making him feel like his shoes were on the wrong feet - it wasn't entirely unwelcome.

He hadn't been on this kind of date in years; Dean wanted to do something a little nicer than he normally would, so he'd done some research (which included asking his receptionist Penelope and consulting Yelp) before deciding where to take her. Cleaning himself up after work, he changed into a good, dark jeans and a button down shirt, no tie, hoping to hell he was neither over or under dressed for the occasion. Dean decided not to wrestle with parking for his suburban and instead hailed a cab to her place, slipping the guy a $5 so he'd wait while he headed up to Isabella's apartment. Dean tugged at his collar, uncharacteristically nervous before he knocked.
Isabella wouldn't say she was a person that was scared of many things, but vulnerability and feelings had never really been her forte. Growing up with nothing but men in her life -- her mother being the only real female figure, she learned how to hide her feelings real quick. There was absolutely no crying, and even less I love you's; if she could count the few times she'd heard them in one hand she'd be lucky. It wasn't really something that bothered her growing up; the cards she was given in life, and the decisions she made wouldn't have gone over very well if she was an emotional person. That was not to say she didn't have those moments where she "felt" something, or when she hoped for something different, but those were far and few in between, and she truthfully didn't know how to deal with them in the first place.

Her feelings for Dean had been there for a long time, but they had not been something she had allowed herself to vocalize or even think about. For starters, she was a corpsman and he was a Marine; she was there for the sole purpose of making sure they stayed alive if the worst were to happen. The last thing Isabella wanted was to cloud her judgment by letting herself explore the possibilities. He might have been someone she'd known from her childhood, but just like everyone out there, he was off limits. She was a female in a mans world; war didn't scare her, but she knew she was being watched every second of the day because of the single fact that she was female. She had to work just as hard, if not harder than every man out there if she wanted to belong and be accepted as one of them -- relationships, or flings were just not something that she needed or that would help her case.

Those feelings had been something that she'd been able to completely ignore for years, and had even convinced herself that they were no longer there. There was the occasional moment when she wondered about it, but it was never something that she dwelled on. That was until recently, anyway. She wasn't sure if it was because of the stress of the last year or the fact that she was getting older and everyone around her was settling down and having children, but those feelings that she had so well hidden managed to resurface once again. And that was how she found herself where she currently did. Not that she thought it was a bad thing, but she'd had years of on and off wondering, and if nothing else came out of it, she would at least have her answer and be able to move past that. That of course didn't mean that the optimist in her couldn't hope for a nicer outcome.

How they had gotten there she wasn't quite sure, though; one minute she was joking around with Dean about how he looked, and next thing she knew she was telling him how she felt. Now there she was, going through her closet trying to figure out what she was going to wear. It had been too long since she'd been on an actual date, and she couldn't pretend that she wasn't nervous. What exactly was she supposed to wear? She wasn't the type of person to spend hours making herself up trying to impress someone, but at that particular moment in time, part of her wanted to. Instead, she settled for the dressy casual look. It was still cold out, and a skirt was just not going to cut it -- a form fitting pair of black pants, a white blouse, and her leather jacket to follow finally won. Her red lips and hair down to frame her face the only actual thing that screamed "date" to her.

Once Isabella heard the knock at the door, she could feel her nerves coming back. She had managed to calm herself down for the most part, but now that he was there, her mind got to wandering once again. Making her way out of the bedroom, she took in a deep breath, finally opening the door to see him standing there. This was Dean; she knew him, they'd been through war together -- she should not be that nervous. "Hey.." She said, a smile on her face as she moved out of the way to let him in. "How are you...?" Small talk, right? Formalities? Couldn't go wrong with that.
Dean noticed her lips straight away; she was pretty enough on her own that she didn't need it but he'd always liked red lipstick. Not so much the way it ended up all over his face, but certainly the way it looked untouched and done up. It looked good on her, enticing, making her mouth look inviting and it felt strange to think something like that of one of his oldest friends; he was not the kind of guy who wanted deep down to fuck every woman he was friends with - it was disrespectful and cheap and he was old enough and wise enough now to know looks didn't last and sexual attraction was fleeting at best. He smiled at her, running a hand over the back of his head. "Hey," he replied. "I like your..." He waved his hand near his mouth, clearing his throat. It was plain to see he was a bit nervous, too, and he stepped into her apartment, surreptitiously wiping his hands on his pants. His palms were damp.

"M'good. Are you, uh. Hungry? Ready to go?" He'd made reservations at a restaurant he thought she would like, then planned to take her to a bar and arcade conveniently called Barcade for games and drinks. He wanted it to feel like a date, but not so much so that it was being laid on too thick.
When Dean motioned to his lips, Isabella couldn't help but smile; red had always been her go to color, it had just not been one he'd ever seen her with. Whenever they spent time with the other it had always been casual, two buddies hanging out after work, usually meeting up to vent over drinks -- jeans, t-shirt, and a clean face were usually her staple those days. If there was color it was very light and rarely noticeable. That night she wasn't going for the 'hey, I'm your friend Is..' instead, she was going for 'hi.. I'm Isabella.' If something as simple as lipstick was what made that change, then she'd certainly made a good choice. Change was good after all, they say, right? She still wasn't sure what that night would bring, but whatever it was, Isabella planned on enjoying herself. Regardless of anything, he was her friend, and she knew they could have fun together.

Closing the distance between them, she gave him a quick hug, placing a small kiss to his cheek. It was their normal hello, but it felt a little different that night. Maybe it was the hopeful thinking, maybe it was just the nerves, but it wasn't the same as every other time -- not to her, anyway. Running her finger along his cheek, she wiped the small red mark she'd left there. "Sorry.." She smiled, a shrug following as she made her way more into the room, grabbing her purse from the dining room table. "..forgot about the smudging."

Dean was always very calm and collected, but she sensed a little bit of nervousness there as well that night-- it actually made her feel better knowing it wasn't just her. It would take her a minute, but she'd known him long enough where she was sure those nerves would be forgotten soon enough, or at least, she hoped.

"Definitely hungry.. I've been so stupid busy today I literally forgot to even eat." She wasn't exaggerating either, and she was certainly glad they were getting food before hitting up the bar. The last thing she wanted was to get drunk before they even had the chance to start the night. "I'm ready to go when you are.."
Dean touched his cheek gently, feeling the remnants of her makeup there. It made him smile and he shook her head. "No worries," he assured her. He opened the door for her, locking everything that could locked from the inside while leaving the deadbolts for her to deal with once he'd guided her through the door, one hand on the small of her back - the kind of touch you gave maybe not to a platonic friend, but certainly to a woman you were taking out. Once they were outside, he opened the door to the cab, letting her slide in first before climbing in behind her and giving the address to Carmine to the driver. "I didn't want to be driving in circles half the night looking for parking," he told her. "Plus this way we can both drink."

At this point, very little sounded more appealing to Dean than a glass of whiskey to take the edge off. "I know you like Italian, so..." He gestured with one hand. Dean was easy to please when it came to food; he would eat most of the things you put in front of him and if given his choice of cuisine was the meat and potatoes type. He shifted on his seat and turned toward her, head cocked. "What were you doin'," he asked, "that let you forget to eat? Just work stuff, or...?"
Isabella smiled when she felt Dean's hand rest against her back -- it was such a small gesture, but it was also a gesture that made the night feel more like a date and less like two friends hanging out. Granted, the nerves she was feeling were doing a very good job at making her feel that way as well, but there was still something about it. Maybe it was because she'd wondered so many times before what it would be like to be treated differently than a friend? She knew there was nothing certain about that night -- they could go out and realize a close friendship is all the have, but they could just as easily come to find out something might be there. She didn't really want to think about it, though. Not any more, anyway.

Turning on the knobs, Isabella made sure everything was locked, satisfied when nothing opened, she turned back to face Dean. It wasn't that she was paranoid, but she'd seen enough while living in New York that she didn't like the idea of leaving anything to chance. It might have been something she was made fun of on occasion, but it was also one of those things that didn't bother her and that would never change. Once inside the cab, she turned to face him, a little smile touching her lips at the red still on his face. "Not going to lie.. I've wanted a drink all day.." Reaching over, she rubbed her finger over the spot, getting the last of her lipstick off. "Missed a spot.."

Turning to face the front of the cab, she leaned back against her seat. Closing her eyes, a small sigh escaped her lips. "Nah.. it's just been a crappy day.. week, actually.." She knew there were certain things that would take time to move past, and some she would have to try harder than others, but getting ready that evening the scar on her abdomen proved certain things she just wouldn't be able to get away from. "I told myself I was done stressing, though.. so, hopefully I can listen to myself." Glancing over in his direction, she smiled. "Brain turned off.. you're a good distraction, anyway..." After a small pause, she shook her head. "Not that I'm using you as a distraction..." She emphasized. ".. but, you know.." She continued, before turning to look at him, and shaking her head at her rambling. "I'll just shut up now.."
He blushed when she touched his cheek and then swallowed. Isabella was nervous. He smiled at the realization and somehow it made him feel better, too. Like they were in this thing together. Which he realized was stupid because obviously they were. Of course they were. "First thing we do, when we get to the restaurant, we'll order you a double." He smiled slightly, knowing it had been a rough week for, as it was bound to be given the circumstances.

He licked his lips "You don't have to do that. Shut up, I mean. I'm happy to distract you, but you can open up, talk about it if you want to.' Or need to. Dean wasn't the most talkative when it came to things that were bothering him but he did try to listen as best he could for other people. He was actually pretty damn good at it, truthfully. And he cared about her. He was happy to lend an ear if she needed one. To emphasize his point, he lifted a hand and laid it to her shoulder to squeeze it gently, rubbing his thumb along the curve of it.
"That double sounds amazing right now.." She wasn't going to lie, she'd probably done more drinking in the last year alone than she had since she was being a dumb teenager trying to see just how much she could get away with. She wasn't one to talk about her problems -- not usually, and the half empty bottle of Jim Beam in her apartment was a clear indication of just how much the thought had been on her mind lately, and just how much she'd pushed it back "As long as we're both drinking... and you have to cut me off before I get too ridiculous.." She laughed, not a full blown happy laugh, but a laugh no less. It was definitely an improvement over how her day had started.

Damn him for licking his lips. She shook her head at herself, not able to deny the fact that he was certainly a distraction. Biting down on her lip, she gave him a small smile. As much as she wanted to, she couldn't do it. She knew that he was a good listener, and she also knew the only way she'd be able to get past what had happened was to open up, but in the year that had passed, she still found it incredibly hard to do so. Any time she thought about it the tears would come to her eyes and the words were never able to come out. "I know I have to.." Giving his hand her own squeeze as he brought it up to her shoulder, she rested her head against his shoulder, hoping on pushing all thoughts of that day to the back of her mind. They were out that night, and they were supposed to be having fun, not reliving a night of her life that she'd rather forget. "I don't think I can.." She didn't want to make it sound like it was him, because that wasn't by any means the case -- if there was anyone she thought might understand, someone she might be able to talk to, it was him. "It's been a year, and I still haven't been able to.. I know when I do it won't be pretty.."

When she felt the cab stop moving, and pull over on the side of the road, she risked a glance out the window, the bright lights of the restaurant clearly visible. "Let's just have fun tonight.." She added, her hand moving down to tap his knee. "Tomorrow is a different day.. if you still feel like lending an ear tomorrow.. I'll talk." The idea of it scared her, that was for sure, but she knew it needed to be done before it got as bad as she knew it could get.