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Shiny Beautiful Mechanical Wind

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It took long enough for people to realize that baby carriages are clunky, heavy and an overall waste of time. The year is 2075 and Castiel works for Balthazar: the most successful capsule-making CEO. His job as a collector, a low-ranking one at that, is to find capsules that parents have misplaced all over the city using his tracker. Balthazar doesn’t trust new employees enough to send them out on expeditions to other countries or continents. Besides, Castiel is only twenty, and this is his first job; he doesn’t really want to be sent out too far.

 

Each capsule can hold up to three babies, not toddlers or children. They must be under the age of three; otherwise, their needs become too complicated to predict, and the capsule can’t respond accordingly. These capsules, hooked on a belt that Castiel’s company has provided him with, fit snugly in the palm of a hand – if one should ever feel the need to do that instead of stuffing it into a bag like Castiel has seen countless times in his four months of employment. That’s how they get lost so easily, the children.

 

One day, a mother is late for work; she wants to bring her baby along with her so she can take him out at lunchtime and play with him, but there’s so much running through her mind between the traffic that’s not moving, and work deadlines, not to mention the list a mile long of supplies she needs for her child. Once she gets to work, she completely forgets about the capsule, digging through her purse for a keycard – like most companies use nowadays – and out comes the baby, falling to the floor in its tiny ball, barely making a sound as it lands. Of course later she’s frantic and crying, and phones the capsule company to say she doesn’t know where her child is. And that’s when Castiel comes in, wearing his trusty magnetic belt to keep from losing her infant for a second time.

 

But it’s still a fairly new technology; sometimes there are glitches in the system. Sometimes the child can’t be found because it’s rained since it was lost, and the wires have been shorted out. Or sometimes someone else finds the baby, and throws the capsule away, keeping the child for themselves. That doesn’t happen often though. Mostly, it takes less than a week for the capsule to be retrieved, and the system inside makes sure during that time that the baby is pampered and taken care of. Balthazar wouldn’t want screaming mothers suing him for all his profit.

 

---

 

 

Then, one day, Castiel finds a capsule without any tag to track it back to. To see if there’s a way to resolve the problem, he goes to see his boss, Chuck, who works closely with Balthazar.

 

“I - I’ve never heard of that before. And I’ve been working here five years.” He rubs his head nervously. “Man, Cas, you’re like a walking exceptions collector.”

 

“Thank you,” he deadpans.

 

“It wasn’t a compliment,” groans Chuck, rubbing a crease at his forehead.

 

They end up going to see Balthazar, because Chuck is starting to panic and also because Castiel might get a raise if he’s found some glitch with the technology that they hadn’t known of.

 

---

 

With an earpiece stuck into his head, Balthazar waves them in because Chuck is standing and fidgeting in the doorway in front of Castiel. “Sorry to disturb you, Balthazar, but this collector, Castiel, found a capsule without a tracking number and I’m not sure how to proceed since this hasn’t happened before.”

 

Balthazar is tall, blond and absolutely terrifying. He barely smiles, if at all, and he doesn’t seem to like anyone except Chuck – because everyone likes Chuck – and Crowley, who he’s been trying to date for a while.

 

With a frown marring his tight face, he groans out profanity in a posh accent, “I can’t be arsed right now.” He points a finger at Chuck. “Did you know Crowley stood me up again? He was supposed to take me to golf in the mountains this weekend.” He laughs, probably at himself. “That man’s testicles must be the size of footballs.”

 

Castiel frowns, his brows creasing. Chuck starts to stick his tongue out with distaste but Balthazar walks over to him and pokes him. “Not literally, you twit. Honestly, do you need to use your imagination so fiercely? I know that’s why I hired you, but this isn’t the time.”

 

Chuck nods, and stutters out, “So… what about the capsule?”

 

 Balthazar gives Castiel a once-over. “Let him decide. I’m sure he’s already come up with a decision and just went to you because he needed confirmation. Affirmation. We all need approval once in a while, right Cas?” He grins.

 

Castiel doesn’t return it because that would be unprofessional.

 

Chuck splutters. “Let him decide? Really?”

 

“Do we even know if there’s a child inside? Perhaps the reason there’s no tracking is because it hasn’t made it to shipping yet and someone thought they’d be smart and steal one and stick a kid in it.” He straightens the collar of his white V-neck. “Are you certain there’s a child in it?”

 

“Yes!” Chuck whispers to Castiel, “Did you check if there was a baby inside?”

 

“It would be a breach of privacy—” Chuck squeaks but Castiel continues, “but I believe there is one, yes.”

 

“How are you sure?”

 

Castiel frowns. “Have I ever been wrong?”

 

“You’ve only been working here for two months, Cas!”

 

Balthazar claps his hands to interrupt their bickering. “Well?”

 

Chuck gives Castiel a dirty look, but turns beaming at his boss. “Yes, there is.”

 

“Then tell him to either send it to an orphanage or raise it himself. I couldn’t bloody care less. Now—” He waves a hand at them, “get out of my office. I need to leave Crowley a very threatening message.”

 

 

*

 

 

Castiel could spend every dime and moment he has to spare trying to figure out whose capsule this is, but there’s a baby inside in need of attention and reassurance. Besides, what if the child was abandoned? Will Castiel just let this child continue to think no one wants them? Put them up for adoption despite the strange opportunity that’s fallen into his lap?

 

He’s barely an adult; he can’t even drink for another decade. (The drinking age has advanced with the longevity of human lives; the average lifespan for a human is 115 years.) Castiel’s never considered having children young, and having them at his current age is like the children in medieval era hardly formed, still prepubescent, having children of their own. Save for the fact that Castiel is a man – a young one – not a woman who birthed this baby. He could take this child and pretend it’s a sibling; that they’re both orphans and he’s of legal age to take care of them. It isn’t that far from the truth, really. He’s without parents as well.

 

---

 

As soon as Castiel has filled his daily collection quota, ahead by an hour as usual, he goes back to his apartment building with a sense of purpose. In the grey hall, the paint chipping and cobwebs spreading like bacteria, the neighbour boy - beautiful Lisa from apartment 304’s son – bounces a ball off the ceiling and wall. He stops when he sees Castiel, with his navy backpack and magnetic belt, shuffling closer.  Castiel touches his hair self-consciously; Ben always makes fun of how wind-swept it is.

 

“Hey, Cas!” He rushes to meet him. “Want to play with me? My mom told me to go find friends my age, but I don’t like them.”

 

Castiel bends down on one knee to be at eye level. “I see no flaw in your mother’s logic, Ben. Why do you rather someone twice your age?”

 

Ben looks down at his red and white ball. “Because…” He scuffs the edge of his green running shoe. “You don’t make fun of my clothes ‘cause you don’t have a lot of money either.”

 

“So it’s a class issue?” Ben nods. Castiel tilts his head. “Is there no one in our apartment complex for you to entertain yourself with?” asks Castiel, leaning on his knee.

 

The mirroring tilt of Ben’s head tells Castiel it never occurred to him to find out. Castiel smiles and pats him on the head stiffly. “I wish you luck, my friend.”

 

---

 

Castiel leaves a pondering boy behind as he slides his keycard through his front door. It beeps at him, flashing an angry red. It just never lets Castiel in on the first attempt. He sighs, sliding it through again. Then a third and a fourth time. It takes longer to react the fifth time, but turns red like a traffic light in the end. Castiel slams a hand against the door, peering down the hall to see if he’s startled Ben. He hasn’t; in fact, Ben is gone. Castiel leans his head on the gold painted numbers of his 315 apartment.

 

“Please,” he tells the door, “please allow me entrance just this once. I have a child with me.”

 

Sliding his card through again, the beep never comes. Instead, a green light ignites and the door clicks open automatically – as it was programmed to do. He pushes forward, cupping the capsule in his hand instead of leaving it dangling like part of his job, and kicks the door shut purposely hard behind him. That may explain why it’s been getting worse lately, this back and forth. He should speak to the superintendent and blame it on humidity…

 

Castiel drops his bag on the ground, tossing his shoes after loosening the laces. He meanders over to his beat up grey sofa with a cigarette stain that isn’t his; he doesn’t smoke. With the capsule still cradled safely in his palm, pressed to his chest, he sits down nice and slowly.

 

It’s only now beginning to get dark outside, since he works so efficiently. He presses a button on the remote for his apartment’s “perks” with a socked foot. The curtains slide open behind him, letting in some of the evening light; he doesn’t want the first thing this child sees to be a vampire-esque lair/bachelor apartment with a sloppy, mediocre man in the centre of it. Castiel likes sunlight just fine, but the glare from the sun is distracting with the curtains open. Especially when he’s trying to relax after work and watch the Looney Toons. (Unlike what most people believe, the moral behind that carton is complex and meaningful.)

 

Sitting up straight, Castiel presses the opening of the capsule, and finds that it doesn’t even have a security code set up yet. If it did, he might’ve spent hours trying to unlock it. But as it is, the outer layers start to fold away, one at a time, the transparency giving way to a bed inside that expands in a way that would have been impossible a few decades ago.

 

Castiel puts down the capsule next to his coffee table, in front of the television and across from the sofa. The capsule folds back in on itself when the bed and the child are released, and he picks it up, placing it on the table. It leaves a crib-like structure behind with a young child’s head barely showing over the top. He approaches the child, his heart beating an unsteady rhythm.

 

He knew he was right to believe. It’s not often he chooses sentiment over logic, so when it happens, it’s important for him to stick to it. The baby, roughly two years of age, with a point of blonde hair sticking up, smiles when Castiel bends over him.

 

“W-would you like me to pick you up?” asks Castiel, stretching out his arms in a way he hopes is inviting. It feels rather awkward though, as far as embraces go. He wouldn’t let himself be picked up by someone like him.

 

The child nods, standing on his toes to reach Castiel over the wood of the crib. Castiel lifts him, holding one arm underneath his diaper – recently changed – and the other tugging his shirt back down where it rode up his stomach.

 

“I’m Castiel,” he tells the boy. At least, he hopes it’s a boy. His lashes are long, framing large green eyes, brighter than emeralds. His little cheeks puff up and he buries his head in Castiel’s neck for a hug.

 

“Dada!” he says when he pulls back.

 

Castiel’s brows furrow. “I suppose you can call me that way if it’s easier.”

 

The boy smacks Castiel’s cheek with a flailing arm. He laughs instead of apologizing for his excitement; Castiel frowns. His son – uh, his younger brother - has no manners to speak of. He’ll have to rectify that in the future.

 

“And what’s your name?” says Castiel, trying to flatten the boy’s hair down.

 

The boy pushes the hands away, groaning. “No, no. Dada, it’s good.” His smile gets brighter when Castiel bounces him up and down. He doesn’t even know when he started doing it, but they both seem to like the sensation.

 

“What’s your name? Do you have one?” asks Castiel, sitting the boy down on the sofa.

 

The boy ignores Castiel completely, enraptured by whatever’s flashing on the television. He claps when the Tasmanian devil appears, swinging his legs on the cushions.

 

“Are you enjoying the Looney Toons?”

 

“Me! Deanom!” he says, flailing and kicking his feet out like he’s swimming. “Like me!”

 

Castiel nods having no idea what that means. Agreement seems safe. “Your name is demon?”

 

The boy nods, a dimple popping in his cheek when he smiles. “Deanom!”

 

“Demon,” Castiel repeats in a deadpan. He sits down next to the boy.

 

“Yes, Deanom,” cheers the child. “S’my name.”

 

Castiel shakes his head. “No, that’s a terrible name.”

 

The boy’s lip begins to tremble, his arms crossed over his chest.

 

“What did your mother call you?” tries Castiel, rubbing the boy’s back to keep him from sobbing already on his first day.

 

“Deanom!” he shouts, kicking the side of the table with frustration. Castiel doesn’t worry about it tipping over because he’s done the same thing every day for two years and broke his toe before the vile table even cracked.

 

Castiel rubs his hands down his slacks trying to understand what the boy is so insistent on. “Deanom…Dean- Dean? Is Dean suitable? I think it would fit you better.”

 

Dean cheers and stubs his toe on the table when he tries to leap towards Castiel.

 

 

*

 

 

Dean is a demon, just like he said he was, and steals cookies and juice when Castiel leaves the room for more than a second. It’s a non-issue that his eyes aren’t counter level yet; he’s ingenious with his fiendish activity. He stacks up toys and benches – his clothes if he has to – all to open cupboards above the stove and pass out from a belly full of sugar.

 

Since befriending Lisa and her son Ben though, Castiel learns that he must offer his child ultimatums.

 

Dean’s hand is nearly in the bag that’s been knotted at least three times.

 

“If you take even a single crumb of those, I will not purchase pie for a month,” says Castiel, his fists curled against his hips.

 

Dean turns slowly, both feet balancing precariously on top of a mountain of belongings that’s even less stable. It never occurred to Castiel, until this very moment – faced with this stack of possessions Dean has – that he’s spoiled his little hatchling. Dean is very well taken care of.

 

Castiel crosses his arms over his chest, waiting for Dean’s next move.

 

Sighing, Dean leaps off his tower and lands on the kitchen tiles with a dull sound. He tugs a teddy bear from the makeshift ladder, and it all crumbles behind him. He tells Castiel, with a small smile, “yes, dada.” He leaves behind the opened bag from the cupboard and the evidence of Castiel’s overindulgence for his son-brother Dean.

 

 

*

 

Castiel’s thumb is either covered in excrement or chocolate pudding. Dean manages to get his hands full of either, no matter how hidden it is. Castiel doesn’t want to smell his fingers; he just washes them in the sink while he mumbles to himself. “How does he have some in his hair, between his toes...” Castiel gags when the thought of it being feces creeps up on him again. He absolutely refuses to ask Dean.

 

The answer comes in the form of Dean running up behind him, both sludgy hands leaving dark trails against the stark white of Castiel’s dress shirt.

 

“Pudding!” exclaims Dean, deciding that moment is best to trace ‘Cas’ on the clean shirt with grubby fingertips.

 

Castiel sighs with relief, rinsing the rest of it from underneath his nails. “You want more pudding?” he asks.

 

Dean chuckles, rubbing his cheeks against Castiel’s backside. “Eww, no. It comes from here!” He jabs Castiel in the butt with a finger.

 

And this time Castiel does gag, which projects his body forward into the sink where the repulsive sound is gargled up by running water.

 

*

 

After a week of Dean thumping Castiel in the face with his Bugs Bunny slipper, he understands that his son wants to sleep in his room with him. There are apparently Molemen – based on Dean’s description - with green noses that want to chew on his toes in the other bedroom.

 

“Are there?” asks Castiel, “What are they called?”

 

Dean burrows underneath Castiel’s blanket with him, sliding a sweaty palm to rest on Castiel’s heart. His fingers thump to the beat of it. “Mermaids,” he whispers into the side of Castiel’s face. His breath mostly hits the pillow, though.

 

“Mermaids are something else, I’m afraid,” Castiel tells him.

 

Dean groans out, “No,” and scrapes an angry red line down the centre of Castiel’s chest.

 

“All right,” snaps Castiel, catching Dean’s wrist. “I understand.”

 

Dean beams at him. “Goodnight, dada,” he says in a sing-song voice.

 

 

*

 

While Dean is moving Dean’s crib (from inside the capsule) to his bedroom – Dean wants to be independent, but not completely – he finds a photo of a dark haired man with broad shoulders and a woman with blond hair and clear, blue eyes.  Between them is cradled a small child, slightly younger than Dean is now, but the green of his eyes is still apparent.

 

Castiel lifts Dean onto his bed to ask, “Are these your parents?”

 

Dean rips the photo from Castiel’s grasp and rushes to the other end of the apartment with it. Castiel hurries on his heels afraid he might tear it or flush it (which would cost way too much in plumbing). Instead, he finds Dean sitting on the balcony with it pressed to his chest.

 

His eyes are wet when he looks up at Castiel. “You’re my dada.”

 

“Yes, I am. Now.” Castiel sits down next to him, legs tucked under each other.

 

Dean leans his head on Castiel’s arm, bending the corners of the photo with how tight he clutches at it. “But this is dada, too.”

 

“If that is the case—” Castiel combs his fingers through dirty blond hair. “—I can be your older brother.”

 

Dean shakes his head, whispering softly, “You look like dada.”

 

Castiel feels his eyes prickle with the sadness Dean is feeling. If he were older, Castiel could know what happened; why he’s alone now. But seeing as he’s this young, barely able to build sentences into complicated ideas, fragile and clutching on to the memory of a family that’s now gone, Castiel can’t prod for more. He wraps an arm around Dean. “Okay,” he tells him, “I’ll be dada.”

 

 

*

 

Castiel often wakes to Dean sitting on his chest. He must wait for the exact moment when his breathing trails down into subconscious levels, and settles on Castiel’s ribs like a throne (or a toilet seat). He waits quietly for a little while, then pinches Castiel’s cheek if he doesn’t wake up.

 

This morning, Castiel has some stubble he forgot to shave, and Dean starts bawling when he goes to mistreat the scruffy cheek.

 

“Ow, papa!” he whines, “your cactus hurt me!”

 

“We live in California, Dean,” groans Castiel, trying to dislodge the lump of weight with shiny, green eyes and sticky-looking chubby fingers. “There are no cacti here.” He grabs Dean’s hand; it’s sticky all right. “Did you take something from the cupboard?”

 

Dean perks up as if preparing to leap off a building if it comes to that. “No,” he says, scooting his butt down Castiel’s body, and waiting at the end of the bed. He keeps shaking his head as Castiel stares, frown lines already sprouting after only a year with Dean.

 

“Dean,” says Castiel in warning. “We discussed the repercussions of your thieving.”

 

“Nu uh!” exclaims Dean. He rushes to the bedroom, pulling the door closed behind him to slow Castiel’s chase. “You can’t take my pie away again!”

 

Castiel has to wait several minutes before he can follow after Dean; it’s all so melodramatic (and hilarious), that he’s crying from the absurdity of his life with this little gremlin. Dean’s positively obsessed with sweets, and Castiel in no way deprives him, but he won’t let him overindulge either. Dean is starting to get rounder in odd places for a little boy, and it frightens Castiel because it means mortality…aging…death. And it’s too soon, Castiel knows, but he wants to hold on to Dean forever – if possible.

 

After he’s wiped his eyes from laughter, and from tears for the future separation they’ll have to face one day, Castiel finds his little boy crying underneath a stack of pillows in his room. He says, “I hurt myself on the door,” when Castiel wraps him in his arms and rocks him side to side. But Castiel has a feeling he simply feels bad for disobeying his pseudo-father again. As rebellious as he is, he already has a clear sense of right and wrong.

 

*

 

Ben’s search for friends in the building begins and ends with Castiel’s apartment. As soon as he steps in, sees Dean breaking plastic spoons (for the third time that week, despite the warnings Castiel gave him), he knows he’s found a kindred spirit. Well, that’s how Castiel saw it anyhow; Ben was standing there red in the face from laughter as Dean made a show of breaking the recyclable cutlery.

 

“Wanna learn about video games?” asks ben one day, and Castiel pretends not to have heard that while chopping apples for Dean’s birthday pie (which is still a secret).

 

After that, Ben is never lonely again. And because Dean wants to spend so much time there learning about combos, Lisa suggests Castiel leave his care to her while he’s working.

 

“But I’m meant to provide for us both. It is as much a test as a gift,” explains Castiel, rubbing putty from between his fingers. “If I’m not able to take care of him on my own, then I shouldn’t be his parent.”

 

Lisa shakes her head, a concentrated look in her eyes where a frown line is starting to show. She closes the door behind her, shoving Castiel out of her place so the children inside can’t hear. “Only an idiot would think raising a kid alone is easy. It’s really hard, Cas. I would know.” She smiles crookedly. “And I’ve been where you are now. I know how it feels to be utterly lost.” She touches his hand. “I don’t want you to struggle as much as I did. It’s not a competition.”

 

Castiel looks up at the ceiling, sighing in frustration. He fists his hands in his pockets, squeezing his eyes shut as if in pain. “I can pay a care-service--”

 

“You don’t make enough for that,” interjects Lisa. She pats his shoulder. “Ben likes him, and I’m free most of the time.” She crosses her arms over her chest. “Just make sure you have time to see him after work and on weekends. Make sure he knows how much you care about him. That’s all he needs.”

 

Something about her soothing, maternal tone makes Castiel pull her in for a hug. “I appreciate your help, Lisa.” He moves back a bit to say, “You are the most generous woman I know.”

 

 

*

 

 

Dean is four, two years since Castiel adopted him, when Castiel returns home with another capsule without a tracking number. This time, he doesn’t mention it to Chuck because it’s obvious his supervisor would rather have less to deal with. Also, Castiel senses something may be going on between Chuck and Balthazar.

 

But aside from that, there’s been a lot of problems lately. Castiel has had overtime every evening this week from the sheer amount of lost capsules. Everyone is so consumed with their phones, occupations or errands that they end up leaving capsules in every corner of the globe. Families bring their children on vacation with them, leave them inside the capsules when things become a bit ‘personal’, but then they forget them in the hotel room afterward.

 

Anna, Castiel’s favourite co-worker, the one who trained him his first day, said she found one in a public washroom by the sink in New Zealand. The parents are from Washington, DC. Maybe he’ll have to be sent abroad as well if this persists.

 

Castiel puts that out of his mind when he knocks on Lisa’s door.

 

“Hey,” she greets, “I’ll go get Dean.”

 

“Sorry I’m late,” he tells her from the doorway. He still doesn’t feel quite comfortable with stepping inside despite her constant babysitting. He offered to pay, but she told him it was nice for ben to have a friend to play with.

 

He peeks inside and Ben is playing Mortal Kombat with Dean in the living room.  “They gave me overtime again,” says Castiel. What he means is he would never purposely leave his child alone this much; he refuses to even use the capsules his company supply to population.

 

Lisa waves a hand at Castiel, turning to Dean. She pokes him n the back of the head when he doesn’t hear her over “FINISH HIM” being screamed by an announcer voice. He ends up kicking ben’s character instead of doing the super cool head-ripping off he had planned. He glares up at her, and she points to the doorway where Castiel is waving.

 

“Dada!” he says, dropping the game pad in Ben’s lap and hopping over the back of the couch to greet him.

 

 

---

 

Back in their apartment, Castiel goes down on his knees in front of Dean. He hands him the capsule he’d been hiding in his pocket while he waited for them to be alone. Another lost child waits inside; Castiel can feel it.

 

“Do you want to open this?” he asks Dean, wrapping his tiny fingers around it, making him cradle it the way he was held in Castiel’s palm. He presses his hands around Dean’s, trying to get the warmth through. Trying to make Dean feel that there’s a living being inside waiting to meet them. “It’s up to you,” he tells him. If Dean isn’t interested in having more family; he’s fine with just the two of them forever (or until Dean has a family of his own), then that’s fine. Castiel will post about this abandoned child to find him a family, and they will remain a duo.

 

Dean watches Castiel with widening eyes. He chews on his bottom lip, staring into the blue of Castiel’s eyes, seeking answers to questions he doesn’t know to ask. All the while, he never moves his warm hands away from the capsule. He nods once, sharply. “Yes.”

 

---

 

The first thing the young boy, roughly two years of age like Dean was, says is: “dada!”

 

And Dean’s face lights up with shared happiness. “Yes,” he agrees, “he’s our dada!” Dean tugs on the lapels of Castiel’s shirt. “Sammee.”

 

“What?” asks Castiel, looking over at the other boy.

 

Dean runs over to his now brother and drags him closer to Castiel. The boy lets himself be dragged, his face radiating with the same happiness Dean is. “Sammee,” repeats Dean, gesturing between the two of them.

 

Same as me, Dean means to say. But Castiel likes the idea of calling him Sammy. It’s easy enough for a four year old to pronounce, so that influences his choice somewhat. Plus, Dean seems to enjoy naming people. Toddler or not, he has a talent for it.

 

“Sammy,” murmurs Castiel, “that is agreeable.” He lifts Sammy – Sam when he’ll be a teenager; Samuel when he’ll be walking down the aisle – up into his arms, and gets a good look at his soft, brown hair and narrow, hazel eyes. Sam leans in to wrap his arms around Castiel’s neck, burying his face in his throat. Dean claps like it’s the best show he’s ever seen.

 

*

 

Sam prefers Castiel’s attention to Ben’s. It only takes a couple of days for that to become evident. Dean sneaks off down the hall to Ben’s on weekends, and Sam goes to get him for meals - at Castiel’s request.

 

As soon as Sam feels happy with his new family – which takes all of five minutes – he wants to sleep in Castiel’s room with them. On one side, Castiel has a lump of weight that refuses to wake up after Castiel’s begged him twice to get ready for preschool. On the other side, where Sam bundles himself in Castiel’s clothing rather than the blankets, lies the quietest wakeful baby. Sam gets up on his own when the sun is bright enough, and just fiddles with his fingers or stays curled around Castiel as if still sleeping. The contrast is nice; Castiel just wishes he wouldn’t wake with a crick in his neck each morning.

 

---

 

Sam chews on Cheerios, scooping them with a blue plastic spoon. “Where’s mama?” he asks, his eyes wide and hopeful.

 

“Well, I don’t know who your mother was—” He clears his throat, flapping his newspaper. “—but it’s just me now.”

 

“You’re mama?” asks Sam, fisting a couple of Cheerios that fell on the table.

 

Castiel looks down at black and white paper, feeling inadequate not for the first time. “No—”

 

“You’re mama and dada?” amends Sam, dipping a fingertip in milk.

 

“Sure,” agrees Castiel, folding his newspaper. He points to the bowl about to tip onto Sam’s lap. “Do you need me to feed you?”

 

Sam shakes his head. “I feed dada!”

 

And he hops down from his chair, scurrying over to Castiel’s side of the table. “Say ahh, dada.”

 

“Okay.” Before Castiel can get his mouth open, the spoon is prodding against his face, and when he tries to take a breath, milk goes directly up his nose.

 

Sam giggles for so long that he has an accident on the way to the potty. Dean is nice enough to help Castiel clean it up.

 

*

 

“So what’d you do with those 2 faulty capsules?” asks Chuck, leaning on the corner of Castiel’s desk. He recently got a tiny promotion that allows him some time doing paperwork at his very own cubicle. “Balthazar wants to analyze them and see if he can find the source of the errors.”

 

Castiel shuts the email he’d been typing to Lisa. (Don’t forget Sam dislikes clowns.) “I’ve kept the children. But I’ll return the devices tomorrow morning.”

 

Children?” asks Chuck, his chin nearly hitting the cubicle divider when his elbow gives way. “You were right? And you kept them?”

 

Castiel blinks, his mind split into more than one direction, considering Sam’s birthday is mere days away. “Yes,” he tells Chuck. “I was told I could.”

 

“Yeah, but…”

 

Frowning, Castiel sits up straighter. “Will I be penalized for this?”

 

“No, no. I just – you haven’t even missed a single day, Cas. With children! Plural!” He scrubs at his neck. “How many?”

 

“Two boys: Sam and Dean.” Castiel smiles fondly. “Dean is two years older than Sam”

 

“Two boys, too?” Chuck exclaims, digging his fingers in the cubicle material. “You’re not even 25 yet. And you have more responsibility than me.”

 

“I doubt it’s a competition,” says Castiel, Chuckling.

 

“Do you want a few days off?” Chuck puts a hand up for Castiel to stay quiet. “I’ll give you a week off to spend with them. Starting Monday.” Chuck rushes away to the elevator, mumbling under his breath as he goes.

 

Castiel emails Lisa. Change of plans. I’ll be able to help with preparations after all.

 

 

*

 

Sam always wants to sleep in Castiel’s sweaters; they fit him like peasant dresses or full-body kilts (the designs don’t help). Luckily, Sam has also acquired a cutting look from Castiel that makes laughter dry up in Dean’s throat when he gets too rowdy.

 

“Okay, sorry Sammy,” he says. “But pink…”

 

“It wasn’t pink originally,” interrupts Castiel, scooping up Sam like a bag of potatoes. “There was a mishap with white socks in the machine.”

 

Dean giggles. “You’re just chicken to admit you like pink,” taunts Dean. “Only girls wear pink, dada.”

 

“Actually, no,” says Castiel, crossing the room to Dean. He picks him up too and drops both boys on the living room sofa where Looney Toons is about to start. “You’ll see that people can be whomever they wish and however they want – when you’re older.”

 

But Dean is already mesmerized by the cartoons playing. Only Sam nods, but he’s still too young to grasp the meaning.

 

 

*

 

Once Dean is settled into the school system – and takes a surprisingly early interest in the opposite sex – its Sam’s turn to slowly take a step out of the nest. While Dean enjoys pulling pigtails and getting into rough wrestling matches (like he does at home with Sam and Castiel), Sam is absolutely taken aback by everything there is to learn.

 

Castiel picks them up after school when he can, but more often than not he waits for the orange bus to drop them off across the street from their building. He meets them there with an afternoon snack.

 

“Bananas?” whines Dean, taking Sam’s hand as they cross the street.

 

“I can’t always bring cupcakes, Dean. You’ll develop cavities.” Castiel takes sam’s other hand, holding the front door open for both boys to shuffle inside the building.

 

“I like bananas,” says Sam, hopping over a step and another.

 

“you would,” grumps Dean. He lets go of Sam’s hand when they arrive in front of Lisa’s apartment on the third floor. “Can I hang out with Ben for a while, dad?”

 

“Only if you help with dishes after supper,” says Castiel, leading Sam by his shoulders down the hall to their apartment. “Right, Sam?”

 

Sam nods, chewing on the banana too big for him to hold with just one hand.

 

“Be here at five thirty, Dean,” Castiel continues, “no later.”

 

 

*

 

Sam always laughs when Castiel washes behind his ears. He says, “Dada, my ears don’t get dirty.”

 

The first time, Castiel replies, “Oh, yeah? Then explain this,” and pulls out a rubber duck. Sam laughs so hard that he nearly chokes on soap spuds.

 

Every time after, as Castiel’s fingers rubbed invisible grime from behind Sam’s ears, he’s found a new surprise to pull out. The tub stopper, plastic keys, a power ranger…

 

Today, Sam is already laughing. He pinches Castiel’s cheeks as he tries to reach the hair at Sam’s nape. “Dada,” he says, “your ears are really dirty.” He brandishes a tie he rolled up into a ball to sneak into the back with him. Its Castiel’s favourite for no reason in particular other than that it’s reliable.

 

“Sam,” says Castiel, “you know I need that for work tomorrow.”

 

“No,” he says confidently. “Tomorrow is my party. You’re not allowed to work.” He wraps it around his neck sloppily, and makes a bow with it.

 

Castiel’s eyes water with Sam’s improvised look. One day, maybe in 15 years, maybe less, Sam will be able to wear his clothes, his ties, and he won’t need a dada-mama anymore.

 

 

*

 

Dean is twelve when his independence reaches a new height. He doesn’t want to hang out with them; spends his spare time either hogging the living room or locking himself in his room to discover pornography (Castiel doesn’t mind so much – but why does it have to be cartoons? Maybe raising him with Looney Toons was a bad idea.); and walks around the neighbourhood whispering about girls with Ben.

 

Sam, meanwhile, asks Castiel for homework help and still leaps into Castiel’s bed when a particularly frightful nightmare occurs.

 

It’s with them huddled in Castiel’s bed that Dean finds them Saturday morning.

 

“Cas,” he whispers (not dad anymore; Dean’s too mature for that), “what do you want for breakfast?”

 

“Nothing yet as I’m still sleeping,” groans Castiel, moving the blanket down enough to glare pitifully with one eye.

 

“You look like a girly pirate,” snarks Dean. “How ‘bout you, Sammy?”

 

“Eggs and orange juice,” says Sam, his voice completely clear of sleep.

 

Castiel eyes the form beside him, yanking off the blanket. Sam is holding a book. Castiel rolls his eyes at him. “How long have you been awake?”

 

“A couple hours,” says Sam, shoving the book underneath his pillow. “It’s Saturday.”

 

“Cartoons,” says Dean in agreement.

 

“I don’t know how I raised such intelligent monsters,” grumbles Castiel, tugging the blanket back up. “I need another hour before I can enjoy them with you.”

 

 

*

 

Lisa had a thin, silver dress with black pumps on when Castiel opened the door. She walked in and pressed a kiss to his cheek, her eyes smoky for their evening. Ben promised to keep Dean and Sam from interrupting.

 

Castiel lit a red candle and put it between them on the round table in the kitchen. He pulled out her chair, touching her bare shoulders as he said, “You look beautiful as usual, Lisa.”

 

She ducked her head in thanks. Sitting across from her, he popped the cork to the champagne he bought. He’d not been on a date in years, but he knew that Lisa deserved all this and more.

 

“The meal will soon be ready,” he told her as she reached for his hand. They smiled at the same time, fingers tangling. Both looked down to hide a blush.

 

“I can’t wait to taste it. It smells delicious,” she said, squeezing Castiel’s hand.

 

He opened his mouth to tell her the name of the dish, when suddenly a loud thud shook their calm atmosphere.

 

“I’ll just go see what the commotion is,” said Castiel, kissing the back of Lisa’s hand. She laughed, flattered.

 

The door was far enough that Lisa wouldn’t have to worry about who it was – or see how he angrily stomped that way – and for that Castiel was glad. As he opened, Sam tumbled in with Ben trying to tug him back by his plaid shirt.

 

Castiel frowned with every corner of his face. “Sam, you are twelve years old. This time, there’s no excuse for your behaviour.”

 

“Dad,” he whined, “you can’t date her—”

 

“I can, Sam.” He crossed his arms over his chest. “This isn’t cute anymore. You’ve had years to adjust.”

 

“I don’t want another brother!” he screeched, throwing himself towards Castiel. He hid his face in Castiel’s chest, ignoring the forearms getting in his way.

 

Castiel let his arms fall and pushed Sam back slightly, getting down on his knee. “Sam, no one mentioned marriage yet.” He held Sam’s crying face between his palms. “This is only a date.”

 

“But if you really like her, you’ll get married. And then I’ll have to share you with not only Dean, but Lisa and Ben,” cried Sam, his tears streaming down each cheek.

 

Castiel sighed, knowing he was doomed to a life of celibacy, because he never could handle Sam crying. Reaching in his navy blazer pocket, he took out a tissue for Sam. “Let me finish my evening and we’ll discuss this later.”

 

“But—”

 

“No but, Sam,” said Castiel as he stood. “That’s final. I’ve spent quite some time with preparations, and Lisa is waiting for me to return.”

 

---except when he returned, the night was more or less ruined.

 

Castiel’s casserole burned because he was busy consoling Sam; he spilled champagne down Lisa’s cleavage; he tried to dab it, but forgot Sam had used his tissue for his nose and made it worse. She huffed, taking out a tissue of her own; Castiel expected a slap, but she burst into laughter instead. Tears collected at the corner of her eyes.

 

“Sam really doesn’t want us together,” she announced, chuckling.

 

Castiel squinted until Lisa was red in the face, then he couldn’t help but join in.

 

They ate ice cream on the living room couch with their feet up on the coffee table. She wiggled her toes each time she found a pecan; Castiel was too shy to point it out.

 

Instead, he told her, “Maybe its best we remain friends.”

 

Lisa’s eyes widened, the spoon still in her mouth. After swallowing, she nodded slowly. “I guess if that’s what you want.”

 

Castiel wanted to taste the milky texture in the corners of her mouth, but Sam made him feel too terrible to even enjoy the fantasy of it. It was what his boy wanted, not him. He nodded and Lisa took her feet off the table.

 

“I should go then. It’s getting late.” As she fought with the straps of her pumps, one hand braced against Castiel’s chest so as to not fall, Castiel wanted to kiss her again. But he’d already made his decision; he couldn’t toy with Lisa’s emotions like that.

 

“I’m sorry,” he murmured when she stood in the doorway.

 

Lisa kissed his cheek.  “It’s fine. Don’t worry.” She smiled. “I’ll see you around.

 

 

*

 

Sam’s limbs are lanky, able to reach places he needs to without having to ask Castiel or Dean, but he still hasn’t had his growth spurt yet.

 

The first day of high school, Sam drags himself home with a black eye. Castiel then gets a call from the principal to pick up Dean since he is “uncontrollably enraged.” Castiel agrees, but can’t say he isn’t just as furious as Dean.

 

Curling in on himself, Sam looks like a baby again. That tiny infant Castiel picked up and took home. The little boy who instantly identified him as ‘dada’ and still often wakes during the night to cuddle with him. His little boy doesn’t deserve any beating, especially on the first day. He’d like to meet those parents badly raising their son and give them a taste of Novak anger.

 

“Stay here,” he tells Sam. “I have to go get Dean. There’s some ice cream in the freezer if you’d like. But save some space for supper.”

 

Castiel leaves, but not before checking the lock three times. His baby is alone in there.

 

---

 

When he gets to the office, there’s a blond girl sitting next to Dean with her arms crossed defiantly. Castiel approaches Dean. “Is that why Sam was hurt?” he whispers. “He was defending her, correct?”

 

Dean scoffs, his eyes shifting over to her. He shakes his head. “He was sitting in her spot, apparently.” He glares when she looks over. “Honey, if you weren’t younger than me, I’d sock you right now with my daddy watching.”

 

Castiel startles, his cheeks flushing. He pinches Dean’s shoulder. “Is that how I raised you? To hurt women? To continue unnecessary fights?”

 

Dean looks down, then off to the side. “No.”

 

“Let’s go home,” he tells Dean, fighting the swell of pride of being called ‘dad’ again.

 

When Dean is far enough down the hall, Castiel turns to the girl. “And you, young lady, you should think on your behaviour because perhaps you won’t be as lucky with the next family.”

 

---

 

Jessica is her name, and Sam says she’s in love with him – and not the other way around.

 

He leaps into Castiel’s bed, with his shaky newborn calf legs just to tell him, “I could never love anyone as much as you and Dean.”

 

Sam kisses Castiel goodnight and tucks him in. He doesn’t leave Castiel’s bedroom, though, because sometime last week he dragged his mattress into the room. It was one of those times his job sent him to another city to collect capsules. Dean wasn’t much help; he should have told Sam he needs to gain some independence. Instead, he encouraged it because it meant he’d have the other bedroom to himself.

 

Sam brushes his teeth and washes his face without Castiel having to say a thing. He whispers, “Sleep well,” and faces the opposite wall, snug underneath his own blanket.

 

“You as well,” whispers back Castiel. But he knows he won’t drift off for a while.

 

He never falls asleep right away, nor on the first try. Something about the dark and quiet combined makes his nerves jump. He keeps imagining a burglar breaking down the front door, and Dean, being the brave fool that he is, leaping out of bed first.

 

Dean can certainly hold his own against people his own age or slightly older, but Castiel doesn’t condone violence, and refuses to teach Dean more than the basics of self defense. That wouldn’t help him against someone with a weapon.

 

Sam probably wouldn’t be far behind, tugging at Dean’s shirt to get to the intruder. They not only look alike now that they’re both teenagers, but both have a fierce stubbornness that seems to flow through the household.

 

Novak or not, they all refuse to back down. And Castiel, if he has to see his babies – his boys that have clung to him through bad dreams and laughed at his awful jokes – hurt or killed he knows the only place he’ll want to go is with them.

 

This is what keeps him up. Not the sound of Dean’s laptop fan humming or the light glaring around all the rooms. Castiel huffs, knowing Dean is probably masturbating again, and throws off his blanket. He could at least remember to shut his door all the way.

 

Sam begins to roll over, so Castiel touches his forehead gently, whispering, “go back to sleep. I’m just going to the washroom.”

 

Sam nods, but makes sure to murmur, “Come right back.”

 

*

 

Dean is sixteen in two days and he insists on buying the supplies for his birthday himself. What he doesn’t mention is the grocery money he saved up from working at the mechanic shop down the road. His boss’s name is Bobby Singer, a crotchety but caring older man. Castiel assumes he growls at people to keep them at bay; to keep them from getting too close and hurting him. Dean is, fortunately, not one of those people.

 

While Dean is out (secretly buying groceries), Bobby comes by with keys for him. Only Sam is home, but he keeps them for Castiel to hand over.

 

---

 

All three of them sit at the precariously-leaning, round, wood table in the kitchen, watching each other with raised eyebrows and more than a handful of suspicion.

 

“Bobby stopped by today,” says Sam. He turns to Castiel, nodding.

 

Nodding back, Castiel pulls the keys from his pant pocket. “These are yours, Dean.”

 

Dean swallows, mouth slightly parted. “Did he tell you which—”

 

“I can’t say,” interrupts Castiel, smiling. He curls his hands in his lap once Dean takes them.

 

“I know which it is,” says Sam, getting up for a glass of orange juice in the fridge. From the sink, where he takes a cup out of the tray, he can see the front of the building. A grocery truck pulls up. “Dean, I think your surprise is here.”

 

“Awesome,” says Dean, pushing away from the table and rushing down the hall to the front door. He throws it open and leaves it that way, hurrying down the stairs.

 

“Wait!” says Castiel, groaning. He stalks down the hall where Dean went, waiting for the moment when this will all make sense. Maybe Dean flounced off to see the Impala Bobby left for him.

 

Sam stands behind Castiel, already starting to catch up on his six feet, and presses his body into his.  He looks at him with more than a little mischief.

 

“You were aware of everything, weren’t you?” asks Castiel, nudging Sam’s chin up with his knuckles. “I’ve raised such wicked boys.”

 

“I love you too, Cas,” says Sam, hugging the side of him.

 

 

*

 

“You’re too old to still sleep in my room, Sam,” says Castiel from underneath his arm. Dean is up late watching cartoon porn again, and he’s not interested in hearing.

 

“I’m only sixteen,” says Sam, folding his blanket back to climb in. “Besides, Dean doesn’t want to give my side of the room back.”

 

And that decides that, really.

 

For the next week, Castiel spends his lunch breaks searching through newspapers. They’re clearly not ready to leave the nest yet, but they do need their own bedrooms. And beds. Sam is so tall now that his feet hang over the edge. He’s a good head above Castiel and Dean.

 

---

 

Castiel goes to Lisa’s home while the boys are out at school. He takes a day off especially for it. She comes to the door flustered with her sweater falling off one shoulder, but she smiles and doesn’t tell him to come back later.

 

“Hey, Cas.  How’re you?”

 

She holds the door in a way that tells Castiel he’s not welcome inside. For the moment.

 

“Hello, Lisa. I’ve been all right.” He clears his throat. “I just wanted to thank you for all your aid over the years.” He looks down, feeling his eyes well up. He didn’t expect to be so affected, but it has been almost twenty years.

 

“W-what’s the matter?” she asks, closing the door to join Castiel in the hallway.

 

“It’s nothing of import. I’ll just be leaving in a couple weeks. My boys no longer have sufficient space here.” He presses a hand to her shoulder, the covered one. “I will miss crossing your path.”

 

“Aw, Cas,” says Lisa, dragging him in for a tight hug. “I’ll miss you, too.” She pulls back enough to kiss his cheek.  “Too bad it didn’t work out between us.”

 

Castiel shakes his head. “You seem content with your current boyfriend.” He strokes her cheek. “I will make sure to visit, if you’d like.”

 

“Of course,” she says, “and bring those troublemakers with you.”

 

 

*

 

As much as Sam loved to argue that he didn’t need his own bedroom, once they move to a different neighbourhood – closer to bookstores, schools, cafes – his protests dry up. Sam stays in his room so long that Castiel often checks up on him.

 

Knocking on the door, Castiel tries to turn the knob. It won’t budge. “Let me in please, Sam.”

 

The sound of one, two, three locks, then the door swings open. “What’s up?” asks Sam, his long brown locks falling into his eyes. He’s due for a haircut, Castiel thinks. But his skin is shining from either exertion or…

 

“I just want to know what you’d like for supper,” says Castiel, pushing the thought of his youngest jerking off all the way out of his mind.

 

“Oh,” says Sam. He licks his lips as Castiel raises a brow. “N-nothing. I’m fine. I’ll make a salad later.”

 

“All rig--” the door shuts, the locks sliding back into place. Castiel’s grateful for it; he might have been tempted to ask what Sam’s so preoccupied with.

 

Dean’s door is ajar. From that tiny crack, Castiel can see him on his back with his eyes closed, hands drumming in the air along to a classic rock song. He mouths along to the lyrics.

 

“Dean,” calls Castiel. He raps softly at the door to get his attention. “Dean?”

 

Seasons don’t fear the reaper,” sings Dean, his eyes still clenched.

 

Castiel isn’t worried about pushing inside; it’s obvious when Dean is masturbating, and he usually sticks to a bedtime schedule.

 

Standing at the foot of Dean’s bed, Castiel reaches for his socked foot and squeezes.

 

Dean jumps, pulling out an earbud. “Jesus, Cas. You scared the crap outta me!”

 

“Perhaps you should keep your eyes open next time,” he says, teasing. “What would you like for supper?”

 

“Don’t worry,” says Dean, waving a hand.

 

Tilting his head forward with a groan, Castiel pinches Dean’s big toe. “Explain what that means.”

 

God, it means I’ll make it myself. Just go watch TV for a bit and I’ll bring you a plate when it’s ready.” He shoves his earbud back in, and crosses his arms behind his head.

 

With his mouth slightly gaping, Castiel swallows and walks out of Dean’s bedroom. “Well, then.”

 

---

 

During Castiel’s lunch break, he calls Dean, “What should I buy for supper? I thought maybe Chinese would be suitable. You seem fond of their chicken.”

 

Dean coughs a few times, before saying, “Sorry.” He shouts something at Bobby (Castiel guesses) over the roar of an engine. The sounds are loud but all muffled to Castiel; he holds the phone away from his ear. “Hello?” says Dean. “I’ll pick up some stuff for us. Gotta go.”

 

The dial tone beeps a cruel rhythm in Castiel’s ear. “Very well,” he grumbles.

 

With very little finesse, and many typos that Castiel has to erase, he texts Sam about Dean’s plans for supper. Sam texts back:  I know. Later.

 

---

 

Castiel eats his packed lunch – roasted turkey sandwich with lettuce, tomato and cheddar cheese – at his desk, needing to reflect on his sons’ recent…behaviour.

 

For years, he couldn’t get them out of his bed. Sam refused to leave even a few months ago. Dean certainly matured more rapidly with the extra privacy of having his own room first. And the two years difference, Castiel supposes.  But Sam has always been the baby; is the baby. Dean had to struggle through Castiel’s constant overtime, Ben’s periodical tantrums, awkward scenarios because Castiel didn’t always have listen around to tell him “No Castiel, that shirt is for girls.” Not that it’s hard a negative effect, though. When Sam arrived, the moment he agreed to call Castiel ‘dada’ they were brothers. Blood didn’t come into the mix. And because of that, Dean ignored all of the previous mistakes, and had a new focus: a younger brother.

 

In a way, Castiel thought Sam would continue to cling to him until he finally found a young lady to date or marry. It was just him being hopeful. Now, Sam barely even makes eye contact, and when he does, Castiel feels like his skin is going to be singed off. There’s something behind his eyes when he speaks to Castiel now. Even the sudden drop of ‘dad’ for ‘Cas’ makes Castiel’s skin tingle. Dean, once again, stopped a long time ago, so it didn’t have much of an impact.

 

But there’s something about them now. They know everything about each other, without needing to go into the other’s room. Before he can tell Sam anything, Dean already has. When Castiel is tired, Sam tells Dean to go get food. When Castiel is upset, one of his favourite movies will magically appear on the coffee table. Sadly, their kindness doesn’t continue when he’s happy and wanting to spend time with them. Any invitation to eat in the kitchen or watch TV together is turned down. Deep down, Castiel knows a lot of teenagers act this way, he just never expected his clingy boys to do it, too. They’re different to him.

 

He’s dipping celery into caesar-bacon dressing when Chuck leans over his cubicle.

 

“Are you willing to go on your first trip next week? Your boys are old enough now to survive for a couple days, right?”

 

Usually, Castiel would answer ‘no’, regardless of their age. Even a few months ago, before they moved, the answer would have been ‘no.’ there was always an excuse at the ready: Sam still sleeps in my room, Dean stays up too late to watch porn, they don’t know how to cook. But now that they both have their own room, their space to grow and be whoever they want to be, Castiel thinks it’s time for him to go. Maybe some time apart will make them realize how nice it is to have him around.

 

“Yes,” says Castiel. “How much luggage will I need to prepare?”

 

*

 

The trip changes everything on an almost molecular level. Before he left, Castiel hadn’t said how long he was leaving for. It was the hurt; the knowledge that even if he left for a month, they’d be perfectly capable. He left them a vague note purposely (leaving on a work trip temporarily) and ignored all calls and texts during that time – like he would if he were in the office.

 

Instead of being proud of the independence his boys have gained, the good job he did teaching them the basics of - life, more or less – he was upset. He wanted them to react. He wanted them to truly miss him. So, while Castiel essentially received a paid vacation in New Zealand, the land of trees – he finished collecting the capsules within the first two days – Dean called and called, leaving increasingly desperate messages. Simulating, in his own way, the four of the five stages of grief.

 

Okay, so, whenever you get this call me back. I’ll try again later.

It’s been five hours, Cas! What’s taking so long? Call me back!

I know you’re probably busy, but if you get a second, can you give me a call?

I don’t know what to do. Sam is totally bummed, and me too. Are you coming home ever?

 

The fifth, well; Dean didn’t really want to accept the situation, so he doesn’t get that far.

 

Sam didn’t give up either; his texts began short, but got longer and more frantic as Castiel let time pass. It was the hardest with him – the baby of the house. It doesn’t matter if he’s 6’4 now, and able to throw Castiel and Dean across a room. He still furrows his brows like a puppy left out in pouring rain, and Castiel can read that look in his messages. Dean just – Castiel has a different type of bond with him. They’re like siblings with a considerable age gap. He didn’t let himself stay a child long; Dean wanted to be cool; he wanted to be Castiel’s equal, too.

 

Castiel’s getting off-track, though.

 

He breathes, watching the brothers-unrelated-but-similar-looking scurry to the front door to greet him. The apartment is a pigsty, a real hoarder’s paradise. Castiel hopes this isn’t why they missed him so much. He’s not their butler or servant; they’re his family. He found them, he kept them, he raised them. He’s not paid to clean up dirty undergarments. It’s not exactly comfortable to say aloud, but they owe him. With love, at least.

 

Sam stands awkwardly in front of Castiel, clenching and unclenching his fists. After Castiel smiles, he moves forward and lifts him right off the ground. The air is punched out of his lungs, but he laughs through it. Relieved that he’s missed him. Dean’s mouth is hanging open, like he never expected to see Castiel again. And as Castiel pokes his cheek to get his attention, Dean swats his hand away.

 

“You’re a douche, Cas,” grumbles Dean, crossing his arms.

 

Castiel tilts his head to one side, blinking his dark lashes like a baby deer.

 

“I hate it when you do that,” snaps Dean. He hugs Castiel close, burying his face in his neck like he did as a boy. It makes a warmth fill Castiel’s senses, but goosebumps cover his skin. Dean steps back quickly. “Okay, enough of this. Let’s have some breakfast together.”

 

 

*

 

 

It’s better, Castiel decides. He feels useful again, now that they’ve built a chart. Some days, Castiel cooks, others, Dean does. Sam helps with dishes and studies languages – which is great for dealing with Castiel’s multilingual paperwork. On weekends, they pick a day and watch a film together – popcorn and soda included. It’s Sam’s only cheat day, whereas every day is Dean’s cheat day. But somehow, between part time mechanic classes and working for bobby, Dean manages to stay relatively fit. Castiel knows because he walks around shirtless, constantly showing off his body.

 

“Dean,” says Castiel, reading through his recent Chile paperwork. “What if we were to have visitors? Would you want Lisa to see you in this state?”

 

“C’mon, Cas,” says Dean, “I’m wearing a robe today.”

 

It barely stays closed when Dean moves about. He stretches out his arms. “Besides, maybe me and Lisa could--”

 

“Dean,” warns Castiel. “That is not funny. And you haven’t even bothered to put on shorts today.”

 

“Yep,” says Dean. One leg pops out of the robe, his foot flat on the coffee table. Right next to Castiel’s next pile of paperwork. “Check out this thigh. Dude, my work is so – satisfying.” He winks.

 

Castiel pushes away his foot with his own. “Please put shorts on, or stay in your room for the remainder of the evening.”

 

Sighing, Dean looks up to the ceiling. “What did I do to deserve such a prudish parent?”

 

Five minutes later, Castiel hears Sam say, “Ew, gross, dude. Go show your body to someone online.”

 

Sam’s reaction is quite…satisfying, as Dean put it.

 

*

 

With comfort and an understanding of the home dynamics – a balance having been restored, at last – Castiel’s sexual urges return as well. Even though he told Lisa they could only be friends, she’s still the only woman he allows himself to fantasize about. Beautiful, loving Lisa with her tan skin and warm gaze.

 

The upside to them all having separate rooms is that Castiel can tend to his needs like they have. Dean certainly isn’t stopping himself from watching cartoon porn, and Sam – well. Castiel isn’t sure when or where Sam masturbates, but he’s certain he must at some point.

 

However, that’s not what he’d like slithering through his mind as his hand creeps beneath his blanket. Suddenly, he worries he might make a mess in his bed, and Dean would never let it go. He could use a condom, but the sensations aren’t as gratifying that way. It feels chemical rather than organic – natural, as it should be.

 

The first press of a fingertip along the veins filling with blood makes him gasp. It’s barely anything, and he’s rutting against his sheets like a teenager. A mess is inevitable, if this is the case, so he flings his blanket down to his thighs; gets a good hold of his erection, and startles when a gasp comes from his bedroom doorway.

 

“Dean!” shouts Castiel, trying to cover himself as best he can, but somehow unable to let go of the length throbbing in his hand.

 

The door slams as Dean runs off to his room. Castiel frowns up at the ceiling, his treacherous hand tracing the veins along his cock over and over. If that isn’t enough, his traitor mind murmurs secrets to him: Dean was half naked again. You saw it, didn’t you? The way his stomach muscles rippled with that intake of breath. His robe was falling open enough that you saw his briefs. White ones that leave nothing to the imagination. Tight and pressed against his flesh.

 

This goes on so long Castiel finishes stroking himself, staining the blanket as he falls asleep. He can’t chase after Dean to apologize when he just used him as fodder. He used his adoptive son as a tool to reach a long-awaited climax, the most intense he’s had to date. It was beyond pornography, because there was a hint of longing that eased Castiel’s way. He… enjoyed imagining Dean watching him.

 

 

*

 

 

“No, Sammy, listen,” grits Dean. He’s pacing at the foot of Sam’s bed, having locked the door behind him. “Cas, our dad-brother-caretaker-whatever, was spread eagle on his bed with his hand on his dick!”

 

“What!” says Sam, sitting up in bed. He thought it was just going to be another cartoon porn plot being explained; one of the many Dean wants him to watch one day.

 

“And I think he said my name,” finishes Dean, digging both hands into his short hair. “Oh my god. Our dad wants to fuck me.”

 

“Dean…” starts Sam, getting out of bed. But Dean puts a hand up to silence his brother, and unlocks the door without saying anything else.

 

Sam stands and locks it back. Then he stays there, his heart racing for some reason. He makes it to his phone in the next five minutes, and texts Dean: I’m sure it was just a mistake.

 

We’ll see.  Dean sends back, and then smothers himself with his own pillow.

 

 

*

 

 

Castiel is religious. Not compared to the people hundreds of years ago, but for this time. As a child, his parents gave him a bible. They never told him what to do: study, quote from it or just read it leisurely. But he read it anyway.

 

At first, he regarded it as a book of fairy tales. The lowly man against terrible odds. The young couple making bad decisions that affect their children, and their children’s children, and so on. He got older, kept the book, despite losing his parents and his sense of self. (They died in a car accident while he was explaining to his babysitter about the siblings Kane and Abel. She said no one in real life could be that cruel; Castiel didn’t fully believe her.)

 

But as someone who read the bible as a hobby rather than with intent, as a life guide, Castiel feels unworthy of help form it in this moment. It doesn’t stop him from spending the next week in prayer, trying his utmost to shake the thoughts plaguing him. His sons, of all people, swim through his mind obscenely.

 

There is cruelty beyond comprehension in the bible – now stained from coffee and missing a page or two – and marrying of siblings, but there’s no mention of wanting to lay with sons – which somehow feels worse than all of the above combined. Castiel has officially outdone the bible’s most horrible people. Not that anyone he associates with cares about religion enough to understand the gravity of that.

 

 

*

 

 

It’s nearly impossible to find a church anymore, and even more so one with a holy person at the ready to hear his sins. But he finds one, and instead of taking a lunch, he drives to the tiny building that feels like a shed more than a religious sanctuary.

 

Returning home after praying and work is a struggle, but his boys still need him. He goes through the motions with them: cooking supper, watching some television, doing dishes with Sam. Then they all retire to their respective rooms, and the thoughts creep up on Castiel like they’ve been waiting for the right moment to pounce.

 

Dean hasn’t stopped walking around in his underwear yet. He smiles at Castiel during supper, making both of them flush as they eat quietly. He touches Castiel’s hand for a moment longer than necessary to pass salt or pepper. Meanwhile, Sam chews with his brows furrowed, his mouth curved in a disapproving frown. His thoughts are unreadable otherwise, and that scares Castiel more than anything.

 

Everything has changed once again, and Castiel doesn’t like it.

 

“Good night, Sam, Dean,” he tells them, heading down the hall to his bedroom. The only place he can deal with his thoughts and not be judged for them.

 

Sam’s room is between his and Dean’s. And he stops Castiel before he escape behind his closed door, one hand on his elbow. “Wait.” As he did when he was sixteen, he kisses Castiel on the forehead – even if now it requires a bit more bending, leaning to reach. “Goodnight, Cas.”

 

Castiel feels his skin heating up the moment Sam pulls away, a small smile across his lips. It’s even too difficult for him to nod, so he turns and walks into his room.

 

Everything has certainly changed.

 

---

 

“I’m telling you, Sammy.” Dean prods his brother with his foot. Sam came into his room this time. “If we looked underneath the kitchen table, Cas probably had a giant boner for me.”

 

Sam squints at Dean, mouth twisted. “Dude.”

 

“I know what it looks like, okay?” Dean scoffs. “People hit on me all the time.” He grins at Sam’s eye-roll.

 

“So what does it mean?” Sam sits on Dean’s foot accidentally-on-purpose.

 

“Ow, bitch.” He kicks Sam in the side. “It means he’s not our dad anymore.” He heaves a breath, looking away from Sam. “It means he doesn’t see us as his kids.”

 

“But I like having him as our dad.” Sam winces at how childish it sounds. “I mean, I made so many meaningful memories with him. He’s taught me a lot.”

 

“And now we can make new memories,” says Dean, chuckling softly. “Sexy ones. With him naked and teaching us about his body.”

 

“Dean, I’m serious.” Sam frowns, pushing his hair away from his forehead. “He’s my family. You’re my family.”

 

“Okay, fine, geez.” Dean sighs. “You nun. I can tell he raised you.” He props his feet in Sam’s lap. “What do you suggest then?”

 

“Let’s just…let whatever happens happen,” says Sam. He pinches Dean’s calf. “And stop coming on to our dad. Not cool.”

 

 

*

 

 

Castiel is too preoccupied with trying to remember whether he missed one of the capsules at last night’s excavation to hear Dean’s telltale whistling. The kind that lets Castiel know he’s in the middle of getting ready.

 

Castiel knocks once, in warning, but pushes the door open. “Should I pick up—”

 

Dean turns when he hears Castiel’s voice, thinking he’s outside the door. They both stare, mouths wide and gaping; Castiel with his hand frozen to the knob, and Dean with his hands pulling his elastic briefs open so he can step into them.

 

The same moment Dean’s penis twitches, Castiel gasps and turns tomato-red. “I-I apologize, Dean. I’ll buy- whatever I can acquire quickly.”

 

He dashes out of the bedroom, making sure the door is closed securely behind him. He hyperventilates in the confines of his own room, shaking his head every time his mind conjures up the length that Dean didn’t have a chance to hide inside underwear.

 

 

*

 

 

That evening, Castiel is still flustered and unable to make eye contact with Dean. He hands him a container with a burger and fries before rushing towards the bathroom. He needs to wash his mind of the morning with soap – if possible.

 

Once in the bathroom, Castiel turns on the water, and throws it onto his face by cupping his palms. He heaves in a few shaky breaths while telling himself it’s all right. He’s not related to me technically. He is my son, however – as long as I don’t give in to the urges everything will be all right.

 

“What?” asks Sam, pushing the shower curtain back. “Oh, shit.” He reaches for a towel, but there isn’t any hanging on the rack next to the sink.

 

Castiel can’t even begin to process his baby looking so grown up, rippling with muscles, water droplets sliding down his chest and collecting in the tiny thatch of hair around his – Castiel gasps – sizeable penis. He may, in all honesty, squeak a bit due to the shock.

 

“I- I am sorry, Sam,” he wheezes, rushing out. “Very sorry,” he says outside the door.

 

After a few silent moments, Dean calls out, “You forgot your towel again, Sammy?”

 

 

*

 

 

Castiel’s hair is half flattened to his cheek and spiked in the back. He didn’t have time to comb when his alarm rang for the last time; he was going to be at least ten minutes late. He ran out with a bagel in his mouth and a bag on his back. He forgot his capsule belt, too.

 

Once in the office, Chuck takes three looks at him and scrunches his nose. “Rough night?”

 

The chair creaks when Castiel falls into it, spinning towards his computer to log in. he nods, groaning as he types his password wrong a couple times. “My boys are…causing some stress.”

 

“Well, it’s that age, right?” Chuck leans on his cubicle with an understanding smile. “Not that I’d know. I don’t have kids for a reason.”

 

“it’s beyond what normal parents have to deal with, I think,” says Castiel, cracking his knuckles as he begins opening his work emails.

 

Chuck creeps around the cubicle wall and crouches down next to Castiel. “Tell me, man. I’m your supervisor. Besides, you’re already late so what’s so bad about chatting a bit with me?” He grins, raising an eyebrow.

 

Swerving to face Chuck, Castiel looks down at him. There’s a glint in his eye that seems more mischievous than caring; he’ll probably use whatever Castiel tells him in his future novel. He has mentioned writing in his spare time.

 

“I –” Castiel squeezes his eyes shut. “I’ve caught both of them in varying states of undress recently.”

 

Chuck snorts out a laugh. “Is that it? I’ve seen Balthazar in ‘varying states of undress’ and he pays me to do it, I’m pretty sure.”

 

“No, you don’t understand,” says Castiel, frowning.

 

Tapping his knees, Chuck bounces. “Then explain!”

 

“They are…the reason I was late this morning.” He clears his throat, eyes darting to the side. “I was having a dream about their nudity.”

 

That makes Chuck’s voice reach dog-whistle levels. “Oh my god, you had a sex dream about your adopted sons!”

 

“Shh! Chuck, please,” says Castiel, holding his forehead when coworkers look his way. “I’m having enough difficulty as it is.”

 

“Wow, that’s…” Chuck nods as if to himself. “Well, at least you didn’t make them I guess.”

 

Thumping his head against his desk, Castiel groans with displeasure. “You are not helping.”

 

“I don’t think it’s that bad. They’re growing boys. Probably really attractive, right?” He pats Castiel’s back. “Maybe they’re even letting out pheromones because of their age. Would explain why I used to jerk off so much when I got around girls as a teen.” He looks off to the side, as if reminiscing about his younger years.

 

Castiel twists in his seat to look at him, discomfort in his eyes. “That is more than I needed to know.”

 

“Anyway, I think it’s fine. Don’t worry.” Chuck stands and throws a smile at Castiel over his shoulder. “Let work take things off your mind!”

 

 

*

 

 

The following day, Castiel is disheveled again, so this time Chuck takes pity on him. “I’ll go ask hypothetical questions to people in the office.”

 

Dread fills Castiel for the rest of the day. The kind that sits heavy in your pit, not letting you eat because it’s so large it takes up the space of nourishment (and sanity, apparently; Castiel daydreams about his sons while on lunch break).

 

At the end of the day, right when Castiel has finally forgotten that Chuck is a monster in sheep’s clothing, he comes to his cubicle.

 

“So I asked Balthazar what he would do if he had two hot adopted sons,” says Chuck, eyes twitching from too much coffee. His tongue lolls out because he’s speeding, revving up like an engine to reveal a punch-line that no doubt ends with sex. “He said he’d sleep with them in a heartbeat.”

 

“Yes,” says Castiel, sighing. He packs his coffee mug in the side of his bag. “He would say that.”

 

“Why don’t you?” asks Chuck, his blue eyes shining with interest – and honesty. (And is that a smidge of hope? Castiel’s always suspected he was favoured by his supervisor.)

 

“Because – I” splutters Castiel, “because I’ve raised them. It’s unnatural. Families don’t progress that way anymore, not since the middle ages.” He isn’t careful when he forces his bag over his shoulder and the cup falls out.

 

Chuck reaches down for it and hands it to Castiel. “No one is going to judge you, you know. Those boys would be dead now if you hadn’t found them, Cas.”

 

“Good evening,” mutters Castiel, feeling uncomfortably tight in his skin.

 

*

 

A flu epidemic started spreading in the southern part of Canada before Castiel arrived in Montreal. To collect capsules from drunken, irresponsible parents (Balthazar’s words, not his).

 

It’s nothing frightening like H1N1 or SARS – which only seemed to exist decades ago when people still believed everything the media told them. He has a flu, sure, but it isn’t deadly. It gives him chills, dizziness, a stuffy nose – then a runny nose that comes with a wet cough. But Castiel isn’t just some low-level collector anymore; he’s been promoted to supervisor alongside Chuck, and he doesn’t want to disappoint Balthazar now that they’ve developed a professional relationship.

 

He sees it through: collects all 150 capsules he’s meant to in the first day, and doesn’t spend the rest of the week sightseeing like he would normally. Like he’d planned a month ago. he brings them all back to work with him, and stumbles his way home to his boys.

 

---

 

He’s tucked into bed, blanket up to his nose – at Sam’s command. That boy is surprisingly stern when he needs to be. He brings him tea and soup, sneaking in a cookie or two when Castiel starts to look miserable about his liquid diet.

 

During the day, Dean pops in and crinkles his nose in disgust. “It’s like a freakin’ biohazard in here.” He plugs his nose, saying, “I’ll be back after work.”

 

Castiel can only cough in response as Sam bustles back into his room with tissues and cough drops. “Do you need something for the fever?” he asks with his wrist at Castiel’s forehead.

 

“I’m all right, Sam. You should be concentrating on your studies,” groans Castiel, squeezing his eyes shut against the next onslaught of a cough.

 

Sam refuses, and helps Castiel put a cold cloth over his forehead.

 

---

 

A cold cannot be defeated without showering. So, on shaky legs, Castiel gets out of bed with Sam’s large hands at his shoulder and the small of his back. In the other room, Castiel can hear Dean whistling carry on my wayward son as he washes dishes. There’s a distinct potato smell as well; he’s cooking stew for supper.

 

They slowly trek to the bathroom down the hall, passing by the kitchen where dean’s eyebrows make a sympathetic wave. He catches himself, and says, “Yeah, disinfect yourself, Cas.” But he’s laughing, so Castiel doesn’t feel as insulted.

 

*

 

Sam brings him all the way inside the bathroom, and when he starts pulling off his shirt, Sam just watches him awkwardly, his eyes darting around the room. As if he may need to wash Castiel in the shower.

 

“I’m all right from here, Sam,” Castiel tells him, fiddling with the water temperature.

 

From between his legs, he sees Sam take his pile of clothes. He murmurs, “I’ll come back for the rest and bring you clean clothes.”

 

“Thank you,” says Castiel as he steps inside the shower.

 

---

 

True to his word, Sam returns with fresh clothes, and even slippers Castiel didn’t know he owned. As Castiel is shakily getting out of the shower, Sam catches him and wraps him in the towel like a child. His eyes aren’t focused on the nudity, as Castiel suspected, but he does drift a few times and steal a peek. Castiel only allows it because of how awful he feels.

 

It doesn’t end there. Sam insists on helping Castiel dress – save for his briefs; he lets Castiel, thankfully, do that on his own. He sits Castiel on the toilet cover and slips on his pajama bottoms, helps him pull on a thin, long-sleeved shirt and some white cotton socks. Then, Sam helps Castiel stand and almost decides to carry him in a marital style when Castiel is too woozy from his fever to walk very fast.

 

“That would be embarrassing, Sam,” groans Castiel, holding his head. Sam’s hands touch the side of his face and his forehead. “Please, I’m all right.”

 

“You’re burning up,” murmurs Sam, leading Castiel out by the small of his back again. “You’re eating in bed. I don’t care if you make a mess. I’ll wash the sheets.”

 

Sighing, Castiel agrees with a nod.

 

They pass the kitchen on the way back to his bedroom, and Dean sends Sam an inquisitive look. Sam says nothing back, but his face must speak volumes because Dean grumbles and removes one of the places he had set up. Castiel slightly dislikes their nonverbal conversations; mostly because it wasn’t something he taught them and he can’t participate.

 

In his room, Sam tucks him in, pushing a couple pillows behind him for when he brings in the tray of stew that Dean made. When he goes into the kitchen, Castiel’s mind feels fuzzy and warm. The smell of fresh clothes and the comfort of being taken care of lead him quickly into sleep.

 

It’s disrupted by Dean shouting, “Goddammit, Sammy! You already helped him shower and stuff. Let me at least bring him the food I made!”

 

“Don’t call me Sammy anymore,” he shouts back. “I can pick you up and throw you like a paper ball.”

 

“I’d like to see you try, bitch,” snaps Dean, spoons clinking in the kitchen.

 

Sam growls out some profanity mixed with ‘jerk’ and there must be some sort of a struggle in the kitchen, from the groaning and rumbling voices.

 

“Will you both behave?” roars Castiel, going into a coughing fit that lasts five minutes and takes him out of his previously peaceful haze.

 

“We’re sorry, Cas,” says Dean as he rushes into the room with a tray of stew. “I hope you like it. I found the recipe online.” He stands there to watch Castiel take the first bite. “And?” he asks, his mouth hanging open with excitement.

 

“It’s very good, Dean, if a bit salty,” replies Castiel, wiping the side of his mouth with a tissue. “Thank you.”

 

“Salty, check. Okay, I’ll be in the kitchen if you need me. Sam’s about to do homework,” he tells Castiel, smiling. “I told him that’s what you’d want.”

 

“Exactly right,” says Castiel, humming around the next mouthful of soup. “I’ve changed my mind. It’s perfect, Dean.”

 

Dean goes bright red, a wide grin spreading across his face. “Awesome,” he says, scurrying away before Castiel can offer him any more compliments.

 

---

 

After the initial bug hits, it makes Castiel so groggy he can barely leave bed. Sam does have to carry him bridal style at that point, because he refuses to be ill and foul-smelling all at once. Dean whistles in the other room along to Cashmere, frying up some burgers and having prepared a bowl of salad to go along with them.

 

“When I see, when I see the way, you stay –yeah,” sings Dean underneath the sizzle of beef on the pan. “When I’m down again.”

 

Castiel can still hear him in the bathroom and tells Sam, “When did he have time to become such a competent vocalist?”

 

“Don’t let him hear you say that,” mutters Sam, pulling Castiel’s shirt over his head. “We’ll have to hear him sing all the time.”

 

“I don’t believe I asked to be undressed,” chides Castiel, narrowing his eyes when Sam reaches for his pajama ropes and tugs.

 

“You can barely walk, Cas,” says Sam, touching Castiel’s forehead to make sure he’s not burning up again. “I’ll go get some fresh clothes.”

 

Castiel is dumbfounded for a moment. He wonders why Sam didn’t take this opportunity to remove his underwear as well, maybe stare longer than necessary because of how unwell Castiel is feeling. Then he’s shocked by how it’s disappointment mostly swimming through his mind rather than any other emotion. He quickly shimmies out of his briefs and kicks them aside, climbing into the shower stall.

 

---

 

Dean’s burgers are fantastic. Well, whatever Castiel can taste through his cold. He tells him as much. “These are delicious,” he says, his mouth full.

 

“Thanks, but gross, Cas,” whines Dean, waving a hand at Castiel. “I don’t need to see how good it tastes.”

 

“My apologies,” says Castiel, closing his eyes as he takes the next bite. “These make me – very happy.” He chuckles softly, moaning with the flavour.

 

Dean’s flushed red again, and he nods, clapping his hands together awkwardly. “Um, thanks. I’m gonna - do homework and-” He jerks a thumb towards the door. “--tell Sam to do his, too.”

 

“All right,” says Castiel, pushing his salad around with a sigh.

 

“You gotta eat some of that, Cas,” says Dean pleadingly, “or you’ll never get better.”

 

Castiel nods with a slight frown. “Oh, and don’t forget today is—”

 

“--garbage day,” finishes Dean, smirking. “I’m on it.”

 

 

*

 

 

A couple of days later, when Castiel feels less like a sack of bones about to collapse any moment, he groans and wiggles out of bed to find Dean cooking supper and Sam nowhere at all.

 

“Where’s Sam? Does he have a date?” Castiel asks, hopeful that he’s moved on from flirting with his father. He leans against the kitchen table, Dean’s back to him.

 

“No,” snorts Dean, “he’s in that dorky math club. Their tournament starts today.” He flips the red pepper and cheese omelette over. He glances sidelong at Castiel. “Do you need help setting up the shower or something?”

 

“I – I’ll be all right,” he says, stumbling over his feet as he leaves the kitchen, walking backwards. The look in Dean’s eyes means trouble, and now Sam isn’t here to work as a buffer.

 

“I’ll bring you some clean clothes,” Dean calls after him.

 

---

 

Castiel showers on auto-pilot: his hands slippery and soapy slide down his chest, between his thighs, then at his top and lower back. He lets soap run in the middle where he can’t reach, too afraid to call Dean for help. Too afraid of where else his son might touch if the offer seems too much to resist.

 

As he finishes rinsing and drying off, Dean comes into the bathroom with a stack of clothes. He doesn’t leave it on the toilet seat and leave; he hands Castiel the briefs and waits, his back against the bathroom door.

 

“You’re going to watch me get dressed?” asks Castiel, an added scratch to his voice because of the cold.

 

Dean crosses his arms over the clothes he’s holding, smiling.

 

With the towel still secure at his waist, Castiel slips the briefs on underneath so Dean can’t see anything beyond his chest and thighs. Dean huffs out a laugh, passing him his pajama pants next. Castiel slides them on, his eyes boring into Dean’s; challenging him to reveal his true intention. Next he’s handed a flannel, plaid shirt that buttons up. He sighs, when Dean licks his lips, watching with rapt attention as he does them one at a time.

 

Castiel narrows his eyes, hanging the towel on the rack. “Dean, we’re going to discuss your behaviour when I feel--”

 

Dean steps into his personal space. “My behaviour?” He wraps his fingers around Castiel’s wrist. “I’m not the one who looks so edible even while half-dead.”

 

“Dean,” warns Castiel, trying to pull his wrist away. Dean lets go. “I don’t appreciate the way you’re speaking to me. I’m your father.”

 

“Technically,” whispers Dean, leaning close enough to press his lips to the shell of Castiel’s ear. “You’re not.”

 

Castiel shivers; his whole body filled with cold and heat at once. Those lips feel so lush, warm against his skin. He wonders what they’d feel like against the rest, lower down, in more sensual places –

 

“Dean!” snaps Castiel, pushing him back firmly. “Stop this now.”

 

“Okay, fine,” says Dean, shifting to the side so Castiel can leave the bathroom.

 

Castiel hurries to his room, feeling the burn of Dean’s eyes trailing down his body. He’s surprised Dean let him get dressed at all if he’s this intent to have him. Footsteps sound behind him as he leans over to put on socks.

 

“Dean, I told you –”

 

But Dean lifts Castiel easily and drops him on the bed, thighs bracketing his and breathing hot against his mouth. “I want you so bad, Cas. Please.”

 

“No, Dean, we can’t,” says Castiel, turning his head so the kiss lands on his cheek instead of his mouth. “Listen to me: I raised you.”

 

“I want you,” begs Dean, lips dragging wet and soft against the side of Castiel’s face, down the side of his neck. “I saw how you looked at me.” He kisses his throat. “I heard you say my name.”

 

Castiel feels his cock hardening, twitching where it’s pressed against the bulge in Dean’s jogging pants. “This isn’t natural,” moans Castiel, staring up at the ceiling.

 

Dean tips his head to look into his eyes. “How does it feel, though?”

 

*

 

Sam finds the bathroom door open and the light still on; Castiel’s dirty clothes is in a messy heap on the tiled floor. “Cas?” he calls, peeking in the kitchen where the oven is on unattended. “Dean?” he asks, walking down the hall to the bedrooms.

 

When he pushes Castiel’s bedroom door open, the wood barely creaking with the movement, he’s startled at what he finds. Dean has Castiel pinned down across the bed, his legs spread apart, both of them moaning and grinding. Each kiss is more desperate than the last, Castiel’s skin flushed bright red as he whimpers while Dean sucks and chews on his bottom lip. When Dean moves to his neck, dragging his teeth against his pulse, Castiel moans out, “Dean, please.”

 

Sam’s hands are balled into fists, his eyes burning with envy. Jealousy. Something he’s never felt in his life. He wants this; he’s wanted it for a while – months at least – but he knew it wouldn’t be socially acceptable. He knew Castiel would turn him down, but Dean –

 

“Dean, stop,” moans Castiel, his hips pushing against Dean’s; his body not in total agreement with his mind for the moment.

 

“Can’t,” groans Dean, sucks a red mark against Castiel’s collarbone. He sinks his teeth to get a reaction; Castiel thrusts hard against him, nearly dislodging him. “God, you taste so good.”

 

Sam’s mind is reeling with emotions. He drops his schoolbag loudly in the doorway. “Hi, guys,” he says with as much sarcasm he can pour into two words.

 

Jesus,” says Dean, jumping up to his feet. “You scared the crap outta me, Sammy.”

 

Sam,” he grits in response, cutting his eyes at Dean. He crosses his arms over his chest. “I think you’re burning supper by the way.”

 

“Oh, shit,” says Dean, awkwardly rushing out of the room with a hard-on that makes him even more bow-legged than usual.

 

Sam keeps glaring until he’s gone. He turns to Castiel, walking over to the bed. Slowly. “Do you need help getting settled in?”

 

“I, uh, yes,” agrees Castiel, trying to flatten his ruffled, black hair. “Sam, I apologize—”

 

Sam moves in swiftly, grabbing Castiel’s shoulder before he can stand up from the bed. He kisses him softly, drawing out a thin protest between their lips. Castiel’s mouth is still wet from Dean’s and that should bother him, but instead he sucks the taste and cups the sides of his face, pulling at his bottom lip. Savouring it. “I forgive you,” says Sam, as he steps back, their mouths so close he can feel the heat of Castiel’s.

 

Dumbfounded is the only look on Castiel’s face as Sam helps him lie back comfortably. He throws the blanket over Castiel, touching his forehead to make sure he’s not overheating. Sam’s fingers linger at the curve of his jaw then wipe the shine from his lips.

 

“You can’t just kiss me whenever you please,” mutters Castiel, his brows drawn together. He puts his hands in his lap to cover the erection still there, made worse by Sam’s unexpected kiss.

 

“It’s only fair since Dean got to,” says Sam, smiling as he walks to the doorway. “I’ll bring you supper whenever it’s ready.”

 

 

*

 

Although Castiel would like to say everything went back to normal after that incident, he can’t. It’s a couple more days of his sons – more like caregivers the way they look at him – catering to his every need. He continues to be wary of them – every waking moment. But Dean sticks to glances, winks and his usual chores (cooking, school and garbage). Considering Sam has more access to Castiel, and a hidden affection for him that Castiel knew nothing of, he is surprisingly disciplined. The most he does is peck Castiel on the forehead before bed, like he did in his younger years.

 

Then Castiel feels better, and with that comes more energy, and a chance to help out his boys at last. He’s been feeling guilty about their extra load, but as soon as he jumps back in, they have more time. More free time. More opportunities to harass him now that he’s almost completely healed.

 

---

 

“Hey, Cas!” calls Dean from his room; he leaps into bed and yanks his boxers down when he hears footsteps coming.

 

“What— ” Castiel chokes on the rest of the words, looking down at the carpet then up at the ceiling fan. “Dean, I don’t appreciate you calling me for this.”

 

“Come on, just look,” taunts Dean, spreading his legs wider. He cups himself, the other hand slowly teasing up his shaft, squeezing at the base. “Please, Cas.”

 

“Dean, stop,” says Castiel, a frown tugging at the sides of his mouth. “I’m the one who raised you. This isn’t appropriate.” He gulps when out of the corner of his eye he sees Dean stroking faster.

 

“Then why aren’t you leaving?” moans Dean, spitting into his palm to make the next stroke an easy slide. “God, this feels so good with you there.”

 

Castiel swallows thickly, pulling at the sleeves of the sweater Sam bought him. “I merely came in to ask what you’d want this evening.”

 

You,” purrs Dean, slipping his fingers through the pre-come collecting at the head of his cock. He lets it drip down his shaft, nice and slow, and the next tug makes a wet slap that echoes in the otherwise quiet bedroom.

 

Castiel exhales sharply, and can’t help but glance briefly at the obscene image Dean makes. He whimpers when their eyes meet, fleeing towards his own room. Just in case his body gets any ideas his logic doesn’t approve of.

 

 

*

 

 

Sam tosses Castiel a box of jelly beans, his favourite: Mike & Ike. Eyes widening behind dark blue frames, Castiel accepts them with a growing smile. “When did you have time to purchase this? I thought you had to prepare for the next math tournament.”

 

“I went before school,” says Sam with a satisfied smile. “I know how much you like them.” He sits down at Castiel’s feet on his bed. “And I won’t even complain about how bad they are for you.”

 

Castiel pushes his glasses into his hair. “Really?”

 

“Promise,” says Sam, patting Castiel’s knee. “But they are bad.”

 

“Yes, I’m aware.” His long-suffering sigh is eaten up by a giggle. “I won’t consume it all in one sitting.”

 

“Hope not. Dean’s making pizza.” Sam stands, glancing at Castiel over his shoulder. He seems to take pause at what he sees: Castiel in large, woolen socks, his glasses tucked in messy, black hair, cradling a blue box of candy like a diamond. “You’re really adorable,” he murmurs.

 

Castiel’s cheeks burn with his son’s attention. “Not particularly.”

 

Sam takes three steps to the side of his bed, bending down so they’re eye to eye. “Yes.”

 

Castiel’s breath catches in his chest; his heart thumping like a jackrabbit against his ribs. He’s frozen here, Sam’s hazel-green eyes keeping him from rolling to the other end of the bed, where it’s safe.

 

Sam smiles, moving in for a soft press of lips. “You really are.”

 

*

 

This continues for days, on and off: Sam complimenting him, massaging his feet after long work days collecting capsules; Dean making his favourite foods, walking around with his robe hanging open, often without underwear. By the time the weekend comes, Castiel is so distracted by everything he wakes up in a panic, thinking it’s Monday and he’s late for work.

 

Dean is walking by his bedroom, a toothbrush hanging between his lips. “What’s up? Did you miss your fave cartoon or somethin’?”

 

Sam is clicking through channels, on the living room sofa across from Castiel’s room. He tilts his head back and looks at them upside down. “Why aren’t you still sleeping?”

 

“I – I” Then he looks at his clock, and shifts through some of the settings until he finds the date. Saturday. Not Monday. He lets himself fall back in his bundle of blankets, groaning with relief. “I will sleep another hour,” he tells them.

 

“Sure,” says Dean, going to the bathroom. But not without flipping his robe open and closed first. Castiel gets a flash of thigh mainly.

 

“Yup,” says Sam, his focus back on the TV.

 

---

 

The day is spent lazily. They order pizza, eat it in front of the TV while watching Lord of the Rings (the first and best), and then let their limbs hang off the sofa like a bunch of drunken, old men ready to scratch their hairy bellies.

 

Dean scratches his eyebrow while he says, “That Arwen chick could totally save me.”

 

Sam steals popcorn from the bowl in between Castiel’s legs. He says, “What about Galadriel?” giving Castiel a smile charged with promises. Things Castiel isn’t ready to admit wanting.

 

On the other side of Castiel, Dean hogs the bowl of barbecue chips like his life depends on it. One of his knees hangs over the sofa’s armrest. Sam is sitting much less sprawled, despite his limbs nearly trapped below the coffee table.

 

Dean chews on his chips, licking his thumb. “Galadriel’s cool, too.”

 

Castiel laughs, shaking his head. “Is there any beautiful woman who doesn’t interest you?”

 

Sam leans forward, watching Dean closely, popping some popcorn into his mouth. He’s grinning for a reason Castiel can’t decipher; it gets wider when Dean glares his way, throwing a chip that he catches with Castiel’s bowl. He puts it back gently in Castiel’s lap afterward.

 

“I don’t want to be with Lisa,” says Dean, getting up abruptly, and putting his bowl of chips on the table. “I need to piss.”

 

Sighing, Castiel turns his head to Sam’s side. “Did I upset him?”

 

“He’s just moody,” murmurs Sam, stroking the hair at Castiel’s nape. He presses his chest to Castiel’s arm and shoulder, folding a knee under his body. “He’ll be fine in a bit.” He presses a kiss to the side of Castiel’s face, right next to his lips. Closer than anything Castiel was prepared for.

 

Castiel shoots up, handing Sam the bowl. “I need to – prepare my bedding.” He nods shakily, his gaze fixed on the crooked family picture over Sam’s shoulder on the wall. “Continue the movie. No need to pause.” He forces a smile, rushing away.

 

---

 

Dean doesn’t return to the living room, and neither does Castiel. Sam stays there, and watches quietly, his long limbs stretched out to the edge of the sofa and beyond. His ankles hang over the armrests.

 

When Castiel peeks out of his bedroom, he sees Sam staring up at the ceiling mostly, and Dean briefly passing by his room for a glass of orange juice in the kitchen. They don’t speak to each other, beyond a long look they share in silence. It goes on long enough for Castiel to imagine an entire conversation between their gazes.

 

Why’d you leave?

 

Felt like it.

 

I’m bored.

 

Watch porn.

 

Don’t want to. We’re not all like you.

 

Not my problem, bitch

 

I hate you, jerk

 

Then Dean smirks at Sam, and gives Castiel a once-over as he glances in the crack of his bedroom door. It’s telling, that look. Of what? Castiel doesn’t know yet. He’s not sure he wants to.

 

Sam gets up, shuts the TV, brushes his teeth then goes to his bedroom. Forgetting to close his door all the way, Castiel falls asleep, drifting easily because of his full stomach of carbs and greasy food. He feels bad for not telling them goodnight.

 

---

 

It feels too warm at first; a stuffy heat that makes him want to strip out of his pajamas and kick the blankets off. He would if he could move his limbs. He’s too tired to try and crack his eyes open, and it’s probably just his pillows piled up on top of him. Sam always says they might suffocate him in his sleep one night.

 

Castiel likes this warmth now that he’s used to it. It surrounds and touches him, gently, down his arms, up his thighs, across the flat of his stomach, down the middle of chest. He feels too hot; needs his clothes off, but he doesn’t want open his eyes. Groaning, he moves side to side, trying to get his pants down. But there’s no way for him to get his shirt off – except when there is.

 

Arms touch him, carefully, from both sides of his bed. A weight settles on each thigh, keeping them spread. He moans because two mouths latch onto his neck, then his cheek. The right uses teeth, the left uses tongue. Then they switch, as if having come to an understanding of what Castiel needs in the bedroom: balance.

 

A calloused hand slides up his thigh, toying with the bottom of his boxer shorts. Castiel can barely see when he gets one eye open, but he recognizes the ash-blonde spikes that greet him. The green eyes staring at him, while his fingers sneak in from underneath. He touches his length, squeezes. Castiel moans, but it shifts into something desperate, a heave, when a brown hair tickles his nose as teeth sink into his right nipple.

 

He’s kicking his feet, but it tickles, it hurts, it feels so good. It’s making him wheeze with pleasure. He throws his head back; his eyes refusing to open. Refusing to believe his sons would crawl into his bed, long after they should be asleep, and drag down his boxers evenly like they’re currently doing.

 

But Castiel’s chest aches when they reach between his, circling and circling his rim. And both their hands are large, so he can’t tell which one is the first to jerk him. The sound of spitting is a reminder of an event Castiel wishes he’d forgotten, but the slide down his cock makes him writhe, and a large, warm hand pins him. Keeps him from shifting away. Sam’s lips, they have to be because they’re from the right, slide down his chin, neck, land just below his ribs. He bites the skin there, and Dean strokes faster, harder.

 

It’s a dream, Castiel whispers, biting down on his bottom lip. Nothing real can feel this good, this so full of sin. Dean is chuckling, a rasp of a laugh, as he sucks at Castiel’s lip.

 

“Do that again,” he says, jerking his length faster.

 

Sam moans into Castiel’s ear, his hips shifting closer, and he’s hard underneath his underwear. Castiel feels the wetness seeping, sticking to his bare skin. He’s so very naked between them. A bare thigh with tiny hairs tickles at his own, the knee moving against Castiel’s balls on the right side.

 

Sam tells Dean, “Don’t make him finish yet.”

 

Castiel pants when he hears it; turns his face to the sound of his youngest’s voice, puckering his lips. Sam doesn’t disappoint. He kisses with tenderness, pleasure to be giving pleasure. He sucks at Castiel’s lips, tangles his fingers in his hair to get a better angle, and dips his head back.

 

Dean groans, “Fuck, yeah, that looks amazing.” His hand slides faster against Castiel’s cock, up and down, grip slipping because of the pre-come collecting; Dean keeps going for it with his palm and using it to make the whole thing dirtier. A filthy, noisy mess of slapping.

 

It sounds so much like fucking that Castiel’s breath gets trapped in his chest.

 

Turning to the left, he whispers, “Kiss me.”

 

And Dean laughs out, “Thought you’d never ask.”

 

His hand moves from its spot, but a larger one grips, just as slick somehow, and Castiel whimpers as Dean’s tongue darts into his mouth. Eager to taste and take for the first time. it’s as Dean is pulling at Castiel’s bottom lip with his own that he realizes Sam’s fingers are wet because of his own arousal; he wiped the pre-come from his length, down the shaft, and is pulling Castiel to the edge of arousal.

 

Dean’s kisses get louder, sloppier. And he misses at times, kissing Castiel’s chin. But his hand reaches down, helps Sam stroke, and he moans just as Sam did. The same sound echoing through the bedroom, driving Castiel to the brink of what he can take.

 

“Please,” he whimpers, his eyes finally open.

 

They’re both panting, red-faced, clothes forgotten and bed covers rumpled around them. Their fingers work so well together Castiel can’t feel the transition, but he sees it. And once he looks, his cock twitches, throbs in their grip, and he loses all control. He comes, and comes, and groans as every limb goes stiff. And they’re still hard on each side of him, humping against his hips, but they don’t ask for help.

 

They cover him back up with the blanket, and kiss him on the lips.

 

“Goodnight,” says Sam, brushing the hair from Castiel’s forehead.

 

Dean nuzzles the left side of Castiel’s neck. “Time to sleep, Cas.”

 

And he’d be a fool if he didn’t listen to them after such a perfect orgasm.

 

 

*

 

 

 

The bed is empty when he wakes up, but he sees the dents there, the unmistakeable shape of two grown men having slept with him. There’s ruckus in the kitchen that tells him they’re still home. Castiel doesn’t know if what he dreamt was actually reality, but he’s not sure he can handle the truth yet.

 

He slips into the bathroom, letting the warm water sluice down his face, his hair sagging into his eyes. It’s like being in his own world, here in this cubicle, feeling the warmth fill the mediocre bathroom until the mirror fogs up. He’s sighing happily, until he feels a presence behind him, gripping his stomach, reaching lower down to cup his balls, tug on them.

 

He startles and nearly falls, so the arms pull him back tighter. A head rests on his shoulder while a hardness prods at his ass. The sensual laugh can only belong to Dean. He kisses the side of Castiel’s face, jerking him off quick enough that he’s hard by the time the water starts going cold. Then he moans in his ear, licking up his neck, as he begins to thrust his cock between his ass cheeks.

 

Castiel is shocked to realize the choked sound that surges is from him, that he’s humping forward in the warm circle of Dean’s palm.

 

Dean is perfectly at ease. “Yeah, yeah, Cas. Do that, come on. Fuckin’ come for me.”

 

The water makes it hard for Castiel to see, but he leans his head back on Dean’s shoulder, and their lips tangle in a slippery kiss. A warm, wet press of mouths, and Dean pushes his tongue in, stealing the sounds of Castiel whimpering as he leads him closer to the end of this.

 

When Castiel comes against the shower wall, both arms braced against the tiles to keep from slipping, Dean thrusts a couple times, holding his hips still. Then a splash hits the back of his thighs and the lowest part of Castiel’s back.

 

He kisses the nape of Castiel’s neck before slipping out with a, “See you later.”

 

Castiel blinks against the coldness of the water; he’s still dirty. And now he’s arguably dirtier than he was when he entered. But he’s too exhausted from that first dream, the one with his boys on both sides, tugging him to completion, to worry about this one. Just yet.

 

He leaves the shower because the water is freezing now, and he needs to get ready for work, even if he’s filthy. It’s not like Chuck or Balthazar really pay attention to him anymore now that he’s been working there for so long. They trust him like family.

 

Maybe that’s the wrong way to describe it considering the circumstances.

 

---

 

As he sits on the edge of his bed, still in his boxers and pulling his black slacks up with just a shimmy of his hips, Sam comes into his room. “Hey, I’m going to school in a bit.”

 

“All right,” says Castiel, offering a smile that borders more on the polite side than comfort.

 

Sam moves forward then drags himself on his knees when he’s close enough. “Do you need anything?”

 

“W-what would I need?” asks Castiel, holding onto a white, sports sock. The weather’s been colder lately.

 

“Anything,” says Sam, lowering his eyes down at the open zip of his pants. “Just tell me.”

 

“I – I can’t think of anything,” stutters Castiel, lashes fluttering as his heartbeat speeds up.

 

But Sam doesn’t care what Castiel needs, because he takes what he wants. And it blends into one, common goal on this Monday morning: Castiel’s release.

 

Luckily for Sam, but unluckily for Castiel, enough time has passed for his erection to swell when Sam pulls him out of the slit in his boxers – those awful clover ones. He giggles at them, looking up at Castiel with a devious smile as he mouths the head, sliding his tongue around the head. Castiel is shaking with need now; he knows what the answer would be if Sam asked again.

 

And as if reading his mind, Sam says, “Are you sure there’s nothing you need?”

 

Castiel grips his pants, desperately wanting to fist in Sam’s long, brown hair. “Sam, please.” Maybe he’s asking to stop, but secretly he wishes Sam to interpret it as a plea for this to go quickly.

 

Sam hums as he takes as much of Castiel as he can, bobbing faster and sloppy. The wet suction of a welcome heat after that icy shower that Dean left him in. God, Dean was naked, and his length was sliding up between Castiel’s ass, bumping his rim. He’d wanted so bad at that moment to feel him push in, but instead a sticky warmth had flooded out, staining his skin. He wonders if any of it remains now as Sam sucks, moaning around the head, dipping down to gnaw on the veins as they pump blood so quick, Castiel’s beginning to feel light-headed.

 

“Sam,” whimpers Castiel, finally tangling his fingers in that gorgeous mane of hair. It will never feel the same again, if he asks for a trim or for Castiel to help him wash it. the innocence will be soiled by the memory of this instance, with Sam’s mouth wet and pink, open around his cock, sucking greedily like this is all he’ll ever want –

 

And Castiel loses it when Sam groans, tongue vibrating against the slit of his cock. As he pulls too hard on Sam’s hair, his son gasps and shivers between his thighs, hands shooting out to hold on to Castiel’s hands.

 

He trembles for a few moments, as long as Castiel. His eyes seem to roll back in his skull.

 

“I – I need to change,” whispers Sam, wiping his mouth with the back of his hand as he stands. “I’ll see you after school.”

 

Castiel falls back against his bed, pants still open, his cock hanging out wet most at the head, glistening with spit and flecks of come. And his stupid sock is still in his hand. He’s not sure how much more of this he can take.

 

*

 

Sam is the first one home, always. Dean usually gets distracted by skin mags and cool cars because there are a lot of collectors in the neighbourhood. Of both those things.

 

Today is no exception, Sam arrives first, drops  his schoolbag on the floor in his room and rummages through the fridge for a snack Castiel would approve of. By the time he’s done munching on baby carrots, Dean pushes through the front door, sweating and panting.

 

“Sammy,” he says, “Castiel didn’t show up to work today. I tried calling him and he didn’t pick up.”

 

“Did you try texting?” asks Sam, approaching his brother slowly. He can see how worked up Dean is getting, not that it’s without reason.

 

Dean stares at Sam like he’s ready to punch if he doesn’t like the next thing out of his mouth. “Don’t you think I tried that? And why would that matter when his job doesn’t even know where he is.”

 

“Okay, I’m sorry.” He puts up his hands in surrender. “I just don’t understand why he would disappear like this.” Then Sam swallows, looking down at his feet. “It’s because of me,” he whispers.

 

Dean wrinkles his brows. “What? What’d you say?”

 

Sam doesn’t reply, just pushes past Dean and out the door. He doesn’t take his keys, his jacket or anything. He runs so quickly down the stairs that Dean can’t catch up by the time he’s out the front door.

 

He looks left and right, seeing him nowhere. “Fuck,” he growls, running back up the stairs to lock the door and get his jacket.

 

 

*

 

 

I know you don’t want to speak to me right now ‘cause of what I did, but Sam ran off. And he’s looking for you. I have no idea where he went.

 

That’s the text Castiel receives from Dean as he’s eating his third slice of pie at the bakery in their old neighbourhood. He misses this place: Lisa, Ben, the way his kids used to listen to him and weren’t big enough to pin him down and –

 

He finishes his pie, holding his head.

 

He doesn’t want to have orgies in his garden in the middle of the afternoon while neighbour kids flock around to watch, take pictures or whatever else they can before their parents drag them away.

 

He doesn’t want his love life to feel like a sideshow act; he wants to be loved and respected, and cared for. His sons know how to do the majority of that, but they’re his sons; he raised them.

 

Look, I didn’t mean to freak you out. But Sam ran out the house saying ‘it’s all my fault’ and I have no idea what he’s going to do if he doesn’t find you.

 

A puddle of melted vanilla ice cream is left in his dish. The waitress comes over, picking it up. “Do you want another slice? On the house.” She smiles.

 

“No thank you,” he says, sighing. “I have to go find my son.”

 

---

 

Castiel had gone to Chuck, wild-eyed and disheveled. Unshaven and unhappy. Chuck took him under his arm, into his office, asking, What’s wrong, Cas? What’s wrong? Tell me. It’ll be okay.”

 

When they’d gotten into Chuck’s office – in a constant state of disarray – finally Castiel felt at ease enough to spill the ink of his heart. He cleared his throat to make sure it wouldn’t crack as he said, “I’m a bad father.” But it still did; his eyes welling up briefly, until he wiped them away. All the while, chuck’s eyes softened and he rubbed his shoulders. “I’m a terrible father. I let my children, my boys, think it’s all right to have relations with me.” He shook his head. “Because I wanted so badly to be with them. I wanted them as close as possible.” He started crying and chuck was nice enough to rock him through it. “I’m a bad person,” he said.

 

With a dry click, Chuck told Castiel, “you’re one of the best people I know. Much better than Balthazar and I’m dating that jackass.”

 

Castiel laughed, his face red from crying. “I had an inkling that was the case.”

 

“Tell you what,” said Chuck, “take the day off. And I’ll take all your calls and work. Just go have some relaxing time to yourself.”

 

Frowning, Castiel asked, “What if they call for me?”

 

“I’ll tell them you’re not here.” Chuck nudged Castiel’s cheek. “Okay? Don’t worry.”

 

Castiel nodded, with a relieved sigh. “All right.”

 

*

 

Dean doesn’t want to see if Castiel is coming home. He takes his jacket and keys, leaving a note on the fridge – which is more than he did for them – that says he’s gone to Lisa’s. Knowing Sam, he thinks they’ve pushed Castiel into the arms of his only competition. He’s always assumed Lisa would steal Castiel away from them one day.

 

---

 

Sam bangs on Lisa’s door, not even worrying if she’s home or not. He bangs, and bangs, and bangs, and Ben swings the door open, looking grouchy and asleep, crust in his eyes.

 

“Man, this better be an emergency. I was up ‘til four –”

 

“Cas is missing,” blurts Sam, huffing out a breath.

 

That pops ben’s eyes wide open, sleep begone. “Oh, wow. Come in.”

 

They sit in the living room, where Dean used to spend hours kicking ben’s ass at fighting games and racing games, while Sam watched Castiel do paperwork, cooking, and hum under his breath when he was really concentrated. He gets a bit choked up at the thought, rubbing his eyes when they feel damp.

 

Ben goes into the kitchen, and comes back with a glass of water. “Here. Mom’s not home, but I texted and she said she didn’t hear from Cas since last week.”

 

“Thanks,” mutters Sam, sipping the water. “I’m sorry for dropping this on you. I know we were never really close—”

 

“No, hey,” says Ben, bumping Sam’s shoulder playfully. “We’re family. I’ve known you guys forever.”

 

Sam smiles, bumping back. “I appreciate that.”

 

Breathing into his hand, Ben makes a sour face. “God, why didn’t you say that my mouth smells like a dragon’s ass?” Laughing, he goes down the hall and into the bathroom. “Make yourself at home. I’m just going to wash up.”

 

---

 

While Ben whistles and sings high-pitched tunes in the shower, there’s a knock at the door. Sam can’t get off the couch fast enough; throwing himself there in case it’s Castiel; breathing hard when he finally reaches the knob, and turning. He nearly shuts the door in Dean’s face from disappointment.

 

“Hey,” says Dean, looking around the apartment. “Why are you the one answering the door?”

 

“Ben’s in the shower,” sighs Sam, going back to his spot on the couch.

 

“So I guess Cas isn’t here,” grunts Dean, following Sam’s lead and plopping down on the couch.

 

“Nope,” confirms Sam, looking down at his hands; he wrings them together, until his knuckles turn white.

 

“Guess we pushed too far, Sammy,” says Dean, ruffling Sam’s hair when he looks over. “We, not you. I went after him, too. We’re in this together, like we’ve always been.”

 

 

*

 

 

Castiel goes home first, hoping that Dean has found Sam and brought him back. He hasn’t. He does, however, find the note intended for him. The reasonable part of himself knows that he’s too old for freak-outs over his children, but he’s experiencing one all the same. If not knowing where Sam is and Dean being gone to that same unknown place isn’t worthy of his pulse quickening and his palms getting clammy, nothing ever will be.

 

The kitchen table is on the receiving end of his freak-out: he bangs his fists against it, leaning his head on the edge as he slowly slips to the ground. Once he’s kneeling beside it, panting, his fists hanging loose at his sides, he breathes. In through his nose, out through his mouth. In this renewed state of calm, he closes his eyes and tries to remember what he would have done in the past when Sam had a fever of 100 or Dean broke his leg.

 

At that time, he would have carried them in a craze down the hall to Lisa’s apartment, and begged for her advice and help.

 

That’s it: Lisa.

 

---

 

Castiel knocks as calmly as his shaky, sweaty hands will allow him to. His nerves are fried, and he doesn’t know what he’ll do if the boys aren’t here, but he can’t think of that because Ben is opening the door. “Cas!” he says.

 

“Cas?” Sam and Dean both say from the living room sofa.

 

He can’t get past Ben fast enough; forgetting his manners entirely to shove him aside, and get to them. Likewise Dean and Sam trip over each other, over the carpet, and bang their limbs into furniture, rushing to reach Castiel.

 

Sam pulls Castiel in first, squeezing so hard Castiel has to hold his breath. He’s happy to feel that way if it means it’s joy, though. Dean shuffles to the side of them, and hugs Castiel from there, patting Sam’s head as he nuzzles into Castiel’s neck.

 

Castiel’s eyes are definitely wet when he tells them, “That was irresponsible of me. I am truly sorry.” He touches their backs gently. “Let’s go home.”

 

---

 

The kitchen table seems an unlikely key element, but it comes into play again as they sit around it to discuss in the privacy of their home, rather than in front of Ben who doesn’t need to be mixed up in this more than he is.

 

Sam wrings his hands below the table. “I didn’t mean to go that far. I –”

 

“We both got carried away, Sammy,” interrupts Dean, smiling at him. “And it wasn’t right for us to do that when you said how uncomfortable it made you.” His expression is so serious, Castiel wonders if it’s the same Dean he raised.

 

Sam swallows thickly, his eyes downcast and focused on his lap. “We don’t do it again.”

 

With a shake of his head, Castiel tells them, “No.” He glances between them just in time to see both their eyes widen.

 

“No?” they ask.

 

“We have a bond,” says Castiel, putting his hands, palms up, on the table for them. As expected, Sam is quicker to accept the gesture for what it is. But Dean submits in the end, albeit not without an eye-roll.

 

“I was afraid of what others would think,” continues Castiel, holding both their hands more tightly. “But it shouldn’t matter. We are content in our home. Our lives are our own. We have a deep understanding of one another.”

 

“You mean sex is okay too?” asks Dean, quirking a brow. Sam chuckles softly next to him.

 

“Yes, I am including the sexual aspect,” says Castiel, his smile widening. “I love you both deeply. Please tell me you’re aware of that.”

 

“I don’t know, Cas,” says Dean, pulling his hand away. He scratches his neck. “You seem closer to Sam.” He gestures between them with a shake of the hand.

 

“Don’t you dare imply I love you less—”

 

Dean barks out a laugh. “I was kidding, man. I know, Cas.”

 

Sam smacks Dean’s arm with his other hand. “You picked a bad time to make a joke like that.”

 

Shaking his head, and letting out a long-suffering sigh, Castiel says, “What would my life have become without the two of you?”

 

“A snorefest,” quips Dean, stretching and pushing his chair out. He looks in the fridge, talking to them from in there. “What do you want to eat in celebration of our future gay sex?”

 

“Dean!” exclaims Sam. “You don’t even know if Cas is finished telling us what he wants to say.”

 

Castiel rubs the top of Sam’s hand, smiling. “Always trying to defend my rights. I appreciate your concern, but I’m done. Let’s discuss supper.”

 

---

 

After all the running around and hide and seek, Castiel convinces Dean to put his pot down and take a seat at the table to relax. With a quick wink in Sam’s direction, he rushes over to the drawer below the utensils one, and grabs a handful of flyers. Castiel offers them to Dean. “You can decide what we’re eating as a family tonight.”

 

Needless to say there’s a reason Castiel only usually allows Dean to choose their menu on his birthday. His taste for unhealthy treats has only worsened over the years, sadly. After they’ve scoffed down cheeseballs and pizza, mini burgers and soda, McDonald’s apple pies and ice cream sundaes, Sam excuses himself to his bedroom with a headache and a bloated stomach. Meanwhile, Dean is gleefully opening the top button of his jeans to let his stomach hang out freely. Castiel has to escape a few minutes later for the convenience store, where he buys gastrointestinal remedies for himself and Sam.

 

Somehow, despite all that – and the worrying that came before – Castiel considers this a good day. He’s lost the weight that had been pressing against his chest, ruining his sleep and making him careless with his work. Work that is precious to him because it brought these boys into his life.  The best part is that he knows now his boys won’t leave him; they’ll grow older, get more handsome, make him seem like a dirty old pedophile, but they’ll stay by his side. They’ll always belong to him – at least, that’s what they’ve said.

 

*

 

Castiel is reading in bed, blanket thrown about his waist, when Sam knocks on his bedroom door.

 

“I’m not feeling too good still. All those cheeseballs,” he says, making a queasy face.

 

“I can understand,” says Castiel. He folds his glasses and puts them on his night stand. Afterward, he takes his copy of “The Hobbit” and stuffs it into one of the drawers. “Would you like to stay here tonight?”

 

“I- I, yeah,” says Sam, already climbing into bed on the opposite side.  He looks at Castiel, then leans over to see the night stand. “Can I have another one?”  he asks, pointing to the plastic bottle of antacids.

 

“As long as you haven’t passed the recommended dosage,” says Castiel. Scrunching his brows as he reads it, he tells Sam, “As needed. Take the bottle then.” When he faces Sam, with a soft smile, Sam is even closer than he was. “What is it?” he asks, quiet.

 

“I want to kiss you.” There’s a red mark on his bottom lip from teeth; he’s been chewing.

 

“Okay,” Castiel breathes out, staring.

 

Sam moves forward with one easy movement, resting his hand on Castiel’s knee over the blanket. The touch of his lips sends a shiver down the back of Castiel’s neck, and he reaches forward to cup Sam’s cheek, curling his fingers in his soft hair. When he tries to draw back, Sam chases his mouth, holding onto Castiel’s nape. Keeping him close and deeply in the kiss. After only a couple minutes, they’re panting and flushed from it.

 

“That was--,” Castiel takes in a shaky breath, “--pleasant. Thank you.”

 

“My pleasure,” says Sam, focused on the swell of Castiel’s lips.

 

Castiel licks his lips, from nerves mostly, and Sam sucks in a tiny, quiet breath. His eyes dart up to meet Castiel’s.

 

“I don’t know if I can sleep here after all,” says Sam.

 

Leaning his weight on his arm closest to Sam, Castiel moves in again, says, “Why?” He’s whispering barely loud enough for even them to hear. “I would enjoy your company.”

 

“A-are you sure?” asks Sam, his fingers already trailing up Castiel’s flannel shirt. “I’m struggling a bit.”

 

Castiel breathes out, “Then don’t.” He kisses Sam, tangling his fingers rough in Sam’s hair, climbing in his lap for a better position.

 

The groan that rips out of Sam’s throat is clear as daylight, and loud in the quiet of Castiel’s bedroom. Dean must have heard it from his room, through the walls, even if he was walking outside it would be ringing in his ears.

 

Which is why Castiel isn’t surprised to hear a panting Dean creep into his room without knocking, standing there to watch, as he rubs himself against the bulge in Sam’s lap. The sharp intake of his breath mirrors Sam’s, and they make eye contact over Castiel’s shoulder, turned on and pleased.

 

Dean’s weight makes the bed dip while he crawls forward, between Sam’s legs, stroking down Castiel’s back. “I’m here,” he says softly.

 

“I know,” says Castiel, tucking his face in the crook of Sam’s neck to bite a pattern of his affection.

 

There’s hesitation in Dean’s touch, just as there was in Sam’s words, so Castiel turns to look at him. “What are you waiting for? There will be no formal invitation.”

 

“Damn it,” curses Dean, shaking his head. “Even your weird way of talking is gonna make me hard now.”

 

Sam turns Castiel back to him, pressing kisses along his jaw, grinding up as Castiel presses down. Dean untangles them to tug off Castiel’s shirt, then plasters himself as close as he can – chest to back, a heart absorbing the heat of soft skin.

 

While Castiel moans between them, baring his throat and spreading his thighs for more friction, pressing back to feel Dean’s body against his, their hands cross once, twice. Sam finally takes hold of Dean’s, guiding it down to Castiel’s erection, and they stroke together. An understanding in their touch that can’t be simulated; it’s a bond, unspoken but ever-present.

 

It would have been difficult for Castiel to voice his jealousy of it in the past, but not now. Not now that they’re his, and this is stronger than ever. “Touch him,” Castiel tells Sam. “You should share what you’re experiencing.”

 

Dean doesn’t move away, doesn’t wince or grumble in disgust as Sam reaches for his lips. He stops, inches away, Castiel watching over his shoulder, holding his breath for this moment that will change everything. With a slight shift forward, Sam’s fingers are in Dean’s mouth. He moans, or maybe Dean does.

 

Castiel can’t distinguish the sounds; can’t even hear them clearly over his own. Their other hands are still pressing inside his pajama pants, stroking firmly down against the wet spot in his boxer shorts.

 

Sam pulls his fingers away, lifting Castiel easily to a standing position. “Pull them down,” he says.

 

Castiel tries, but Dean is faster, sliding pants and underwear down in one fluid motion. He sits back in his spot, and Dean scoots forward to lean his chin on his shoulder. Sam bends his knees, bracketing them both, pressing in close. Castiel closes his eyes; he knows what they want, and maybe he’s making it harder for them to follow through.

 

Maybe if he’s quiet enough - doesn’t move - they’ll go through with it.

 

“Open your eyes,” urges Dean. “You need to see this.”

 

Sam darts forward, mouth open as he kisses Dean from the side of Castiel. Their hands tangle in each other’s hair; Dean slips one down Castiel’s chest, pinching his nipple; Sam finds Castiel’s length, squeezing the base. The resulting sound is definitely pained, but they redeem themselves with a sloppy kiss that they share with him, both of their lips parted, mouths wet and swollen already. They go back to each other, a scant inch from where Castiel’s eyes burn from not blinking. He can’t miss this.

 

With soft, needy sounds, Castiel circles his hips against the bed sheets, unaware that his fingers have found their way inside Sam’s briefs; that he’s tugging him closer and closer to release. Dean thrusts his cock up and down Castiel’s back, shoving in closer when it’s not enough; when it’s too soft and not quite the right touch of rough.

 

Castiel stops Sam, pushes him back with a hand on his chest. He turns so he’s sideways to both of them, his legs dangling off the bed. Dean’s nails dig into his spread thighs, and Sam traces the bumps down his spine, but he’s determined to get them both off first.

 

After having them wiggle out of their underwear, he takes them both in hand from either side, and jerks as fast as they’ll let him. A glob of pre-come spurts from the tip of Sam’s cock, and Castiel licks it up greedily off of his thumb instead of using it to ease the way.

 

“Goddamn,” pants Dean, throwing his head back. “I see why you closed your eyes now.”

 

“Keep them open,” chides Sam, reaching forward to touch the head of Dean’s cock. “We’re not finished.” His fingers follow Castiel’s rhythm easily, as he helps jerk the length that’s pulsing with a near-climax.

 

“Ah, fuck!” moans Dean, digging his nails into Castiel’s thigh. “Come here, Sammy.”

 

With his chest pressed to Castiel’s shoulder, he keeps stroking, lips parted and huffing out tiny breaths. “What do you want, Dean?” he asks, his voice low.

 

Castiel drags his mouth across Sam’s cheek, sucking a kiss there as he feels Sam’s length getting harder, wilder in his grip. He squeezes when it feels like he might be too close, just to drag it out a bit.

 

After Dean’s caught his breath, opened his eyes that were screwed shut, he tells Sam, “We need to come at the same time. Okay? Can you do that?”

 

Sam nods, meeting Castiel’s mouth in a kiss that’s mostly tongue and heat, and wet, wet breaths of warmth. They kiss for a moment more, before Dean pulls Castiel away and attacks his mouth the same way he’s getting stroked by Sam and Castiel: fast and rough. A grunt falls from Castiel’s mouth when Dean bites into his lip, pulling the plumpest part between his teeth. Sam sinks his teeth into Castiel’s collarbone on the other side, muffling his soft wheezes as his hips push up into Castiel’s hold that’s dragging him so close to the best orgasm he’ll ever know.

 

“I’m close,” whimpers Sam, gnawing on Castiel’s shoulder. “Dean?”

 

“Yeah, me too,” he breathes, kissing along Castiel’s chin, rubbing his lips against the stubble growing there and using the gruffness to distract him from how quick he’s going to blow all over their hands.

 

“I’m gonna,” pants Sam, nuzzling into the crook of Castiel’s neck. “Ah, ah, please!”

 

Castiel whispers into his hair, “Just let go,” pressing his fingertips in the slit where pre-come keeps oozing out.

 

Sam shouts, “Fuck!” as he comes, his teeth leaving a hard red line across Castiel’s pale skin.

 

On the other side, Dean jerks his hips up into Sam’s hand when he squeezes because of his orgasm, and groans out, “Fuck, yeah.” Castiel keeps tugging at his cock as he thrusts into his palm, slick and slippery enough to finish him off.

 

“I would like to taste it,” Castiel tells Dean when his eyes slowly drift open, a glassy haze to his lovely green.

 

Dean bites his bottom lip and spurts in strings of white across Sam’s loose hold and down Castiel’s palm in his release. He slumps forward when it’s over, dropping gentle kisses along Castiel’s neck. Sam breathes softly on the other side, hips jerking once in a while with aftershocks.

 

“I’m exhausted,” slurs Sam.

 

Dean hums, darting out his tongue to collect some sweat against Castiel’s neck. “Same.”

 

“Good,” says Castiel. He lets go of Sam and Dean’s lengths, licking both hands clean as they shiver and whimper, watching him collect the remnants on his tongue with gusto. He makes a contemplative sound. “The taste is not unpleasant.”

 

“Jesus, Cas,” says Dean with an incredulous laugh.

 

“Are you even real?” asks Sam, falling back against the pillows.

 

“Very much,” says Castiel. He pats Sam’s thigh. “You want me to tuck you in?”

 

Dean makes a rumbling sound in his chest, tracing the faint muscles in Castiel’s chest and stomach. “Can I sleep here too?”

 

Castiel kisses his forehead. “Of course.”

 

*

 

“I thought you meant to sleep?” asks Castiel, his voice rough from only having had three hours of sleep.

 

Dean is somewhere beneath the blanket, behind Castiel, while Sam is sleeping softly at his front, arms wrapped securely around Castiel’s waist. A wet tongue makes its way across Castiel’s shoulder blades, lathering all the skin as it goes. “But you’re still hard,” whines Dean, shifting his hips in against Castiel’s ass. “Don’t you want a blowjob or something?”

 

“In the morning, maybe,” says Castiel. Dean’s cock feels firmer when he bumps into Castiel again. “It’s four in the morning, Dean. Let’s sleep for now.”

 

“I can’t,” whispers Dean, rolling his hips. He’s careful as he unwraps one of Sam’s arms, putting it around his hips instead of Castiel’s. “And if he was awake, he’d be helping me make you feel good.”

 

Castiel sighs when he feels Dean’s lips against the nape of his neck. It doesn’t end there, though. He trails his mouth all the way down his spine, stopping only when he reaches the top of Castiel’s ass. Spreading his cheeks delicately, his breath puffs against Castiel’s hole. He tenses, squeezing the muscles. No one’s ever done this for him.

 

“Dean,” he moans. “I have work in the morning.”

 

“I’ll be quick,” quips Dean, his tongue prodding at the muscle, following the quiver of it as it tightens and relaxes. He pushes in easy, lapping at the warm flesh with hungry noises. “My god, maybe I lied.”

 

“Dean, please,” begs Castiel, accidentally pressing his nails into Sam’s hip where it was resting calmly.

 

“Shh,” he says, “I’ll make it good.”

 

True to his word, he starts fucking his tongue into Castiel with hard pushes. Then alternates with long stripes of his tongue as he laps at his entrance, groaning and gnawing on the heat of it when Castiel doesn’t make the right noise; the needy, uncontrolled ones.

 

When Castiel starts pushing back on Dean’s tongue, holding him in place with an arm, Dean spreads him wider and sucks at the bundle of nerves, spitting to get it even wetter for when he pushes a finger in up to the second knuckle.

 

That makes Castiel cry out, “Yes, Dean!” and he’s trembling through his orgasm that collects mostly in the sheets beneath them. Luckily. Sam might be disappointed if he knew he wasn’t part of this round – that was never meant to happen.

 

After a few shaky breaths, and Castiel checking to make sure he didn’t cover Sam in his release, he turns to Dean. “That was very enjoyable.”

 

“Mmm,” says Dean. His arms tighten around Castiel’s thighs, his legs now peeking out of the bottom of the blanket.

 

“Dean?” asks Castiel, trying to wiggle around. Dean won’t let him.

 

The next sound he hears is Dean’s loud snore, and feels it vibrating against his right ass cheek.

 

“Is this the outcome of my decisions?” murmurs Castiel, burying his face in his pillow. Sam throws a leg over Castiel’s hip, beginning to snore as well.