Actions

Work Header

The Chest Breathes Fire as Needed

Work Text:

Her body lies statuesque in the casket when Castiel opens it. Her blue eyes aren’t looking back at him, a mirror of his own; they’re closed, and the embalmer went a little crazy with the amount of makeup they slapped on her. Castiel’s mother is…was always very simple and kind – just the barest hint of flair. She never wanted to draw attention to herself, unlike his father, Zachariah. He’s all for the gaudy and flashy, with his Armani suits and gold watches. He looks more like a mobster than a business man most of the time.

 

Castiel leaves the casket open for his father, and sits down at the front row pew. The church is emptier than it should be; emptier than she deserves.

 

Zachariah takes a seat next to him, his eyes straight ahead. He murmurs, just loud enough for Castiel to hear over the priest, “I’ve never quite become attached to you the way a father should, but I think your recent behaviour has made it easier for me to move on. If you don’t smarten up and help me with the company, then I have no use for you.”

 

 

*

 

 

Dean’s idea of a good Friday night is inviting half the school over while his guardian is out of town celebrating with old high school buddies. Sam convinces him to throw the party in Bobby’s lakeside cabin instead; that way he and Castiel can escape from the throbbing music and sweat-drenched bodies without too much hassle.

 

---

 

The only reason Castiel shows up is because Sam said it was half his idea; plus, he borrowed the Impala from Dean so they could arrive in style.

 

“I don’t like any of these people,” grumbles Castiel as he steps out of the car.

 

Sam shuts his door, fighting back a smile. “I know.” He pats him on the shoulder. “I’m glad you came, though.”

 

Castiel looks up at Sam, frowning. He nods tersely after a moment, walking ahead of Sam.

 

For someone who gets bullied on a weekly basis, oddly, he carries himself like an army officer; someone who knows how to fight. That may be part of why they’re all drawn to Castiel; he looks like a challenger.

 

Castiel watches as Sam heads towards the cabin. “I refuse to go inside.” He glares as two girls in miniscule bikinis rush past them, giggling. They land in the lake just past the tree-line with a high-pitch squeal of glee.

 

“You don’t want to leave these hyper girls behind?” says Sam, grinning. “All right then. I’ll be…” He begins to walk away.

 

Castiel groans holding his head. “Wait!” He ends up following Sam inside where people are at least semi-clothed and more or less sober --for now.

 

---

 

Once inside, Sam goes for the virgin punch that Dean made specifically for him – since he’s still underage – and fills two red plastic cups to the brim. They remain in the ‘bar’ area (aka the kitchen) a little while, until the squealing bikini ladies from earlier barge in to refill their cups.

 

In all the commotion - and giggly half naked goodness - Sam misses when Castiel silently slips out of the kitchen. Sam trails after him, calling, “Cas? Cas, where are you? Don’t leave, please.”

 

He starts panicking when Castiel doesn’t answer; it wouldn’t be safe for him to hitchhike at this hour. Sam and Dean have to fend off enough countless drunken jocks (who forgot Castiel was a boy until he told them off with a deep growl) as it is.

 

“Cas! Don’t walk home!” shouts Sam, looking around the dark forest. The bonfires near the lake help him see a bit, but mostly those who Dean invited have showed up to the party. It’s a feat for Sam to even find is brother in this crowd of rowdy teens.

 

Sam keeps calling after him as he makes his way to the Impala. By the time he’s breathing heavily and almost completely out of breath, Castiel says, “I’m here, Sam.”

 

Castiel has his head on his knees, leaning his back against the car door. He looks up at Sam, defeated. “I haven’t left yet.”

 

Sam breathes out his relief, collapsing down next to him. “If you want me drive you back, I can,” he says, rubbing Castiel’s shoulder. “Is it your mom? Do you want to talk about her passing?”

 

“It’s not that,” murmurs Castiel, hiding his face between his knees.

 

Sam leaves his hand against the other boy’s shoulder, waiting. “Then what?”

 

There’s a slur of something. Castiel looks at his hands, turning them over slowly, distracted. Then repeats what he’d said, “I wish I wasn’t so helpless. I wish people would like me for what I have to offer and not what I can do.”

 

Sam takes Castiel’s hands, squeezing. “You’re a great person, Cas.” He leans the shoulder next to his. “Is someone here that you don’t want to see?”

 

“They’re all here,” corrects Castiel, dipping his head to where a few jocks are pushing the bikini girls into the lake. “I didn’t know Dean was friends with trash like them.”

 

A branch cracks off to the side, and both Sam and Castiel peer over from the side of the Impala to see. “Trash like who?” asks Dean, “Pretty sure most of my friends are awesome.” He circles around the car, kneeling in front of them. “What’s going on over here? You didn’t have any booze and you’re depressed anyway,” he teases.

 

Castiel smiles, shrugging a shoulder. Sam watches in awe as his brother’s charm cheers his best friend up for the millionth time. No matter what Sam does, it never seems as effective as one of Dean’s smartass comments. Maybe nice isn’t what Castiel is looking for.

 

Dean nudges Castiel’s chin up with his knuckles. “Some of the ‘trash’ found something cool. You guys interested in some fun?” he says, glancing over at Sam. “There’s geeky stuff involved.”

 

Castiel outright laughs, and Sam swallows the sharp retort he wants to throw at Dean. He settles on saying, “Yeah. Sounds good.”

 

---

 

Not that far into the woods, there’s a hole wide enough to fit maybe two bathtubs side by side.

 

A guy was out here trying to take a leak when he fell in. His friends helped him out, but they couldn’t stop laughing at the piss smell all over him, so he left. One of the laughers, Gabriel, went to get Dean and showed him where Chuck – the guy who peed all down his outfit – fell. Then Dean ran straight to his alien-loving, dorky brother and surrogate brother before he could leap in himself.

 

---

 

Dean guides them through the thick of trees with a flashlight. “Not much further.” He looks back at them, winking.

 

Sam rolls his eyes, shoving his hands in his pockets. “Is this another prank? If there’s a clown around I’m throwing you in the lake with the leeches.”

 

“Why didn’t I think of that,” mutters Dean, laughing as Sam tries to steal the flashlight from him. “Careful!” he says, yanking it back, “you don’t want us--”

 

The dirt around the hole crumbles as soon as Dean’s weight settles on it, and he falls into darkness taking the flashlight with him.

 

“Dean!” screams Sam, scrambling down into the grass to look inside the hole.

 

Castiel launches himself down, too. “Dean, are you all right?”

 

The flashlight points directly in their eyes as Dean laughs. “The look on your faces. Oh my god, priceless.” He holds his stomach as he continues laughing.

 

“You’re an asshole, Dean!” shouts Castiel, startling them both with his language. Castiel never swears. At least, not well.

 

“Whoa, whoa,” replies Dean, “I’m sorry, Cas. But seriously, you two need to get down here ASAP.”

 

Sam sighs, looking at Castiel. “I can’t leave him down there alone.”

 

“I know,” says Castiel, his gravelly voice turning the words to rubble.

 

Sam smiles in a way he hopes is reassuring. “I’ll go first.” He hangs from the ledge then lets his weight drop. He’s surprised at how easy it is to land. His height probably helped a lot. “Okay, Cas, I’ll catch--”

 

But Castiel drops straight in, landing on one knee like an action star about to pull out a katana. “I’m all right on my own,” he tells Sam.

 

Dean claps from further inside. “That was freakin’ awesome, dude.”

 

Sam wipes off his plaid shirt, asking, “So what was so interesting?”

 

“Follow me,” Dean says with a self-satisfied grin.

 

As he leads, Sam pays attention to the stability of the rocks; as if they might be crushed at any moment. It wasn’t planned for Dean to fall in after all (he hopes). Castiel follows behind him, a serious look on his face that says he’s just as unhappy as Sam about this little excavation.

 

“This way,” calls Dean, “watch your step.”

 

Sam barely misses the puddle he steps over and turns too late to Castiel, who steps in it with both feet. “This doesn’t feel like water,” grumbles Castiel, shaking his foot.

 

It’s sticking to Castiel’s running shoes like glue, making his feet suction against all the pebbles and dirt they come across. Sam can’t worry about that though because the ‘hole’ isn’t a hole at all but a tunnel that goes on for a good half-mile, getting narrower with each step until Sam is almost too tall to fit anymore.

 

Then Dean stops, pointing the flashlight straight ahead. “Here it is,” he tells them. “Check it out and thank me later.”

 

Sam gapes, more than a little afraid of what that glowing, green, pulsating boulder is. Castiel shoulders past both of them, ignoring as Sam tries to tug him back.

 

“I would just like a closer look,” he says sharply, pulling his sweater from Sam’s grasp.

 

Dean whispers to Sam, “Don’t worry. He’s usually careful.”

 

Usually,” Sam mumbles to him. This isn’t the usual science project, though.

 

Castiel stands in front of the meteor (or at least Sam thinks that’s what it is) and breathes hard through his nose. Sam gets closer just in case something goes wrong. Meanwhile, Dean keeps the giant thing lit up with his flashlight. It seems to pulse the closer they get, and Sam has a bad feeling in his gut but can’t help but feel like Castiel: it makes you want to touch it, even if only with a fingertip.

 

It changes from green to purple as Castiel reaches a hand out to touch.

 

Dean says, “I dunno if that’s a good idea, man.”

 

“I agree,” says Sam, unable to stop Castiel from stretching forward because of his own curiosity.

 

Then Castiel has a hand flat against the surface, and its whistle echoes loud and long through the tunnels, forcing them to cover their ears with both hands. As his nose begins to bleed, Castiel nearly falls forward against the rock, forcing Sam to catch him by his arm. His hold begins to slip with the high pitch screech that doesn’t seem to want to end; Sam falls against the rock with Castiel, both of them jolted with a force when their body makes contact.

 

Dean shouts, “Guys!” lunging for them, but the rock turns lava-red and screams like a fire engine. They all fall on the ground from the pain of it.

 

 

*

 

Somehow, he made it home in one recognizable piece. Castiel is lying on his back in his room when his father swings the door open. “Where were you last night, Castiel?”

 

There’s blood all down his white dress shirt; he tries to cover it as he sits up but his father must notice.

 

“What’s that? I don’t buy your clothes for you to ruin them!” he snarls, already stomping into Castiel’s bedroom.

 

“It wasn’t on purpose,” says Castiel, trying to crawl back to his wall and away from his father who is stalking towards him with that look.

 

His father raises his hand, and it comes down against the arms Castiel lifts to protect his face. “I told you what would happen if you caused trouble. Your mother just died and you’re out starting fights again.”

 

Castiel knows better than to talk back when his father gets like this. The last time he’d tried to explain that there were bullies or that he was injured in gym class, his father stripped him down to his boxers and hit him with his shiny new silver belt. The buckle made it difficult for Castiel to do anything except stand for over a week.

 

Zachariah grabs him by the collar, Castiel struggling to get out of his hold before the next blow. “You ungrateful little shit. She gave you everything…” Castiel hides his face but his forearm stings with the smack that lands. “She knew she was dying, hid it from me, and still…” His father grabs Castiel by the hair and pulls his head back. “Still! She did her best to make a useless son like you happy!”  His palm whips across Castiel’s cheek, the force of it knocking him to the ground.

 

Castiel shakes, flinching when his father kneels down at eye level. “You’re the one who killed her. Just keep that in mind, Castiel.”

 

His father walks out of his room, slamming the door on his way.

 

 

*

 

 

Sam wakes up on his bedroom floor. Dean is sitting on his desk chair, a bowl of cereal in his lap.

 

“How you feeling?” he asks, scooping up some Froot Loops to crunch on.

 

Sitting up slowly, Sam rubs his forehead. “A bit of a migraine.”

 

Dean tilts his head, eyeing his brother with creased brows. “But otherwise normal?” He takes another mouthful of cereal.

 

Sam nods, looking around his room. “How’d I get here?”

 

“Honestly, I have no freakin’ clue.” He drops his spoon in the bowl and puts it all on the desk. “But I have a feeling Castiel’s high-tech cell phone might help us.”

 

Sam shakes his head. “He’s not here.”

 

Dean pulls out something from his pocket. “His phone is though.”

 

---

 

As Castiel and Sam were lying on the ground with Dean screaming “Sam! Cas! Are you okay?” some kind of barrier formed that Dean couldn’t get through. The high pitched screech continued. Dean banged his fists against the barrier, trying to push through; then it finally collapsed, and he fell forward in the cave.

 

Oddly, Dean wasn’t frantic anymore; he stopped what he was doing and got off the ground, even taking the time to wipe his jeans. With one jerk of a hand and a flick of the wrist, both Sam’s and Castiel’s bodies began to levitate. When Dean turned towards the cell phone that happened to be filming it all, he crouched down and picked it up; his eyes weren’t green; they were yellow. The video cut out.

 

Sam slowly turns to face Dean. “That…that was you.” He rolls his chair an arm’s length away.

 

“Whoa, Sammy,” says Dean, trying for placating. “I don’t remember any of that happening any more than you do.”

 

Sam rolls his chair further. “But it was you.”

 

“I know.” He reaches for Sam when he tries to move further. “Stop rolling away! I swear I’m perfectly fine, and whatever happened, well…”

 

“So you just suddenly gain telekinetic powers in dire situations? Jesus, Dean, how many times have you been down there?” Sam’s voice is beginning to get high from panic.

 

“Twice, three times tops,” he says, sighing, “but I swear there was never any creepy shit like that. It usually just glowed for a while then stopped.”

 

“So what’s going to happen to me? And Cas?” asks Sam, rolling his chair slightly closer.

 

“I don’t know, man.” Dean scrubs his nape. “I promise I’ll help you guys. It was my idea.”

 

Sam nods, breathing out in relief. “Okay, good. Shouldn’t we give Cas his phone back and tell him about this?”

 

“Why bother the guy right away?” says Dean, shoving the phone back in his pocket. “Let’s give him the day to rest and whatever and tell him tomorrow when we pick him up for school.”

 

“Fine, but we have to tell him,” insists Sam, narrowing his eyes. “This could be dangerous.”

 

Dean frowns, taking his bowl with him as he stands. “I know.” He has one hand on the knob. “I’m really sorry, Sammy.”

 

 

*

 

 

Castiel frantically searches in his jacket pockets and discarded pants for the last thing his father bought him. He’s a panting, sweaty mess when his father bangs on the door. He swings it open, glancing around at turned over drawers and rumpled blankets, a wild look in his eyes.

 

“I knew you lost it,” snarls Zachariah, grabbing a fistful of Castiel’s hair. “This is what I get for buying a five hundred dollar phone?” He doesn’t smack his cheek to leave him stinging this time, he punches.

 

Castiel’s lip splits with the force of it. “I’m sorry--”

 

Zachariah shakes his hand, loosening his gold wedding band, and sliding it back on his finger. “I’ve been calling for twenty minutes. You were supposed to help me with my work today!” he snarls, twisting his hand in Castiel’s hair.

 

In Castiel’s mind, another fist hits and breaks bones. Another hit would keep him from school and the only two people who matter anymore. Another hit would make him cry in desperation and his father always, always makes the beating worse when he shows any weakness. The only time he didn’t hurt him was when his mother was still healthy and working alongside him.

 

Zachariah is saying something threatening involving a fist to Castiel’s gut. But he can’t hear over the white noise perforating his ear drums. He vaguely sees a hand, closed tight, red from impact, drawing nearer to his face, but it never reaches its mark. It’s kept an inch away, like some outside force is protecting Castiel, until Zachariah growls and drops his son against the carpeted floor. He’s given up.

 

“Find it,” Zachariah urges, kicking his son on his way out.

 

 

*

 

 

As usual, Sam and Dean are parked a block from Castiel’s home. He never explained to them why this is necessary, and they have yet to ask for his reasoning. His father knows of their friendship, and tolerates it purely because John Winchester was one of his best workers – before the fire that killed half the workers, including both of the Winchester boys’ parents.

 

But if Zachariah knew that the children were driving Castiel to school every day instead of Raphael – Zachariah’s business colleague and partial sponsor – well, Castiel doesn’t want to find out what he’d do. (Raphael, on the other hand, was perfectly satisfied with leaving the job to the Winchesters; he considers the public school system an abomination. High school most of all.)

 

There’s still some pain in his face as he gets closer to the Impala. He brushes a gentle finger down his cheek and bites back a hiss. Last night, he did his best to ice his face and even borrowed the neighbour’s daughter, Anna, to help him with concealing the bruises. But he knows his friends. And how well their eyesight works when abuse is involved. They’ve had to deal with it themselves with their own father. However, only when he drank too much.

 

Castiel is five steps away from the back seat door when Dean throws his door open and meets him there. Sam hangs out of the passenger side window, frowning at his brother. Castiel glances at him and Sam smiles awkwardly.

 

Opening his mouth, he tries to say, “I’m fine,” but Dean beats him to it.


“You’re not fine. What happened?” asks Dean. “Is it because we had your phone?” He doesn’t reach forward to check the injury, but Castiel steps back anyway.

 

“No.” He moves around the car, further from Dean and his inquisition. “Maybe I’ll walk to school today,” he tells them flatly.

 

Sam rushes to follow after him. “Wait!”

 

The only reason Castiel stops is because of the panic in Sam’s voice; the way the worry creeps in like it never does. Sam’s always been good at consoling others while masking his own fears.

 

“What?” snaps Castiel, pushing his hands into his pockets as he faces Sam. “I don’t want to discuss my father.”

 

Sam nods, handing Castiel his phone. “That’s fine. I get it. But – your phone…”

 

Castiel narrows his eyes at the mysterious tremble in Sam’s fingers. “What?”

 

“There’s something you need to see on it.” Sam shuffles his feet, looking back at Dean who waves a hand in question, gesturing to his watch. “You sure you don’t want a ride? You might be late otherwise,” says Sam cautiously.

 

The phone feels burdensome as Castiel slips it into his overcoat pocket. “All right, but on one condition.”

 

Smiling, Sam starts to say, “I’ll tell him--”

 

“No, no. I was going to ask that we watch whatever’s on my phone together,” he snorts. “I’m aware that Dean is persistent and neither of us can control that aspect of him.”

 

“Right,” replies Sam, chuckling. “Come on, Cas.” He pats him on the back.

 

---

 

At lunchtime, Castiel stares at the screensaver for a while, processing. Sam feels himself breathing harder, preparing to defend Dean if necessary. If he’s a monster or something, the aliens did a damn good job creating this doppelganger. Sam’s watched Dean eat an entire cherry pie and then still have room for a burger. Only Dean is capable of this so far. And he did it again last night…

 

Dean flexes his hands, checking if anything levitates – a chair, Sam’s shoe maybe. Sam pinches him, peering over at Castiel to make sure he didn’t notice. Dean hisses though, and that snaps Castiel out of his internalized reaction.

 

Castiel clears his throat.  “So you’re some sort of demon?”

 

“No!” shouts Dean, defensively. He scoffs, “‘Come on, dude. You know me, man. When have I ever been rotten to you or Sam, or anyone else for that matter?”

 

Sam nods fervently. “He was probably just affected by the rock like we were.”

 

“So he’s a good demon, then?” asks Castiel, glancing at Dean warily from the corner of his eye.

 

Sam shakes his head, and Dean grumbles out, “I’m right here. Don’t talk about me in the third person.”

 

Someone on a nearby table shouts, “Faggots!” at them, but the lunch monitor who takes his job way too seriously (Michael), grapples the kid’s hand before he throws a carton of chocolate milk at their table like he’d planned to.

 

Dean stands, considering if the week of detention is worth punching that stupid kid. Sam shakes his head, already reading his brother’s obvious thought patterns. Castiel, next to Sam, continues looking at Dean like he may use his glowing, yellow eyes to incinerate them if he isn’t happy.

 

Just for that, Dean has to—

 

Gabriel laughs like a hyena when Michael stops Dean’s fist before it breaks Gabriel’s nose. So, Dean head-butts Michael in retaliation. What could possibly prove to Castiel that he’s himself more than getting into trouble?

 

 

*

 

 

Castiel sends Dean text messages now that he can again – in between hiding the scratches on the screen from his father’s eyes. It helps that he has it again; keeps him from getting battered on a daily basis. He also sends Sam messages during class or after school, mostly about Dean. He notes that Sam sounds irritated after the fifth one.

 

 

Just go visit him if you miss him so much

 

All right

Will you come with me?

 

You know I wasn’t serious

They won’t let us in

 

We can get into trouble as well

Is that satisfactory?

 

How?

 

Alastair is at practice for the moment

 

No way! Alastair?

 

Yes. I didn’t enjoy his tongue in my mouth last year

 

Nononono

Think of something else

Even Dean is afraid of that guy

 

Fine

Meet me @ the entrance to school tomorrow

 

 

*

 

 

Sam stands in front of Castiel. “What’s the plan?”

 

Castiel looks beyond him, to some point down the hall. “Be patient, Sam.” Castiel’s gaze gets more serious, concentrated.

 

“O-kay,” says Sam.

 

Sam starts to turn to see what’s down the hall and gets only a glimpse of an orange vest running at them full speed. Castiel pulls the fire alarm. Sam feels a body crash into his from behind and sees the arm that catches Castiel by his coat, ripping one of the buttons. Michael takes no prisoners when he’s on duty.

 

---

 

The three of them in detention was perhaps a stupid idea, but so was following Dean into a pseudo-cave, touching a foreign rock, and ignoring that his brother may be some kind of demon-professor Xavier. Also, Castiel has been feeling less helpless than normal, without being able to pinpoint why.

 

Sam stares at a blank page. They’re supposed to write an essay on why it’s wrong to do bad things in an educational environment. Dean writes down “It’s not wrong if you’re a demon” and shows it to Castiel; they both chuckle like schoolgirls. The teacher monitoring shushes them, simply because he wants to concentrate on the book he’s writing.

 

It’s only the three of them, Castiel realizes belatedly. He quietly rolls his pencil back and forth across his sheet of paper. It’s just as pathetic as Sam’s, but he feels better now that he  knows Dean wasn’t really insulted over the demon comment.

 

Sam leans over to tell him something; Castiel hears words but understands no meaning. The shape Sam’s mouth makes around each sound is nice, mesmerizing even. So much in fact that there’s a stirring in Castiel’s pants that he’s often tried to ignore in favour of keeping his friendship intact.

 

Dean suddenly says, “Dude!”

 

Castiel startles out of his reverie and turns to him. He’s worried he’ll tell Sam, on the other side of Castiel, about the half-boner in his pants.

 

Instead, he points one shaky finger and says, “How are you…?”

 

Sam’s eyes are wide, too, when Castiel tries to find what they’re seeing.

 

Through the sound of his heart pounding, he can hear his pencil still rolling back and forth across his desk. He’s not touching it; he’s covering the bulge in his pants. He sucks in a breath and the pencil rolls off the edge.

 

The teacher scowls at them when he looks up from the notebook he’s scribbling in; they start writing their essays in complete silence.

 

 

*

 

 

Because Zachariah is working late, Castiel can spend time at the Winchesters’ home, where Bobby not only tolerates him, but offers an ear when Castiel looks particularly crushed by his father’s tantrums.

 

Bobby is fixing a car out back as he lets them know, “I’ll be making steaks in a bit.” He didn’t even have to look up from the rusted engine he’s working on. And in Bobby-speak what he just said means “You’re welcome to join us, Cas.”

 

Dean makes a triumphant sound at Bobby’s announcement and shimmies his way up the stairs to his and Sam’s bedroom. Castiel numbly trails behind them, not even managing to laugh when Dean shakes his butt in Sam’s face to get a rise out of him.

 

Once in the room, Sam is surprisingly the first one to prod Castiel. “How’d you do that before?” He sits on his bed and Dean lies on his back on his own.

 

Castiel sits cross-legged on their floor. “I wasn’t aware I was.” There’s no reason to mention that his mind was elsewhere, imagining Sam’s mouth doing more interesting things.

 

Dean digs around in his bedside drawer, and pulls out a package of Jolly Ranchers. He chews on one noisily, eyeing them both. “Can you do it again?” he asks, throwing a candy for Castiel. “I’ll give you this whole bag if you prove your demon powers are superior to mine,” he teases. Dean rolls his eyes and tosses Sam a handful of them when he makes a sour face at his big brother.

 

They land haphazardly across Sam’s bed. He leans over to pick them up, his back thankfully to Castiel. “Don’t pressure him,” he tells Dean, his voice muffled by his blanket he has his face pressed into.

 

Castiel can’t help but look at Sam’s ass from this angle. It’s right there in full view, flexed in a gorgeous stretch, the skin of his lower back bronze and glorious, making Castiel want to jump on the bed and scatter the candies once more so he can keep watching a while longer. It takes a bit for Castiel to register Dean’s knowing laugh in the background of his fantasizing.

 

“Ho-ho-ho,” says Dean, grinning. “I see how it is.”

 

“I’ve no idea what you’re talking about, Santa,” deadpans Castiel, covering his crotch with a corner of his beige coat, just in case there’s a bulge again.

 

“Sure you don’t,” mumbles Dean. “Anyway,” He throws the bag of candy at Castiel. “…try moving one of these and it’s yours.”

 

Castiel nods, a concerned look adding years to his otherwise youthful face. He spreads the candies in front of him with both hands – waiting for Sam to be sitting attentively, facing him. He wouldn’t want his best friend to miss out on this if he succeeds.

 

“Whenever you’re ready,” says Sam, giving Castiel an encouraging smile. He unwraps an orange square, popping it into his mouth in wait.

 

Just that simple movement, something Castiel has seen countless times, makes him want to whimper with want. He’s not felt like this in years; not since he met Sam and was saved from Balthazar’s bad-touch. Not since his family started falling apart, and Sam’s too. But things are different now; there’s something growing anew, coursing through the roots of their friendship. The excitement of youth gaining on the troubles he experiences at home. Maybe it’s all the meteor’s doing.

 

Sam is gaping when Castiel opens his eyes, blinking slowly, a ten-second count between each flutter, glancing at Dean who’s whistling and laughing. Clapping his hands like he’s at a Zeppelin concert.

 

Castiel’s almost frightened of how fast the candies are moving, swirling around his open palm but never touching him. They pass between his fingers when he spreads them, and the wrappers come off when he raises the other hand to gain more control.

 

“How are you this good already?” asks Sam, leaning closer to make sure this isn’t a trick. “That’s seriously amazing, Cas.”

 

Dean laughs, adding, “I don’t regret giving you the bag at all, man.”

 

Castiel chuckles with him, a flush creeping up his cheeks at the joint praise.

 

Bobby yells from downstairs, “Food’s ready, boys!”

 

 

 

*

 

Dean promised Castiel to try and use their ‘gift’ in the near future, and tap into that power he used the night they touched the meteor. Sam said he’d make sure his brother wasn’t slacking off as he’s prone to do when a pretty girl passes by.

 

It’s important to Castiel that they stick to it; he doesn’t want to be the odd one in their group. They’re a unit, and it’s important to him they stay that way. If it means him throwing his gift in the wind, then he’d gladly do so. But their words make him fall into a peaceful sleep, regardless of the consequences.

 

 

Except that during the night, while Castiel is in a deep sleep dreaming of his friends and all they’ll be capable of if they’re like him, his father opens the door to check that he isn’t out partying. The problem is that Castiel’s phone is also his alarm in the morning, and the vibration comes out muffled if he puts it face down on his desk. Also, he hasn’t had time to fix the screen yet…

 

Castiel’s blanket is torn off and he puts his arms up instinctively, from habit. His father slams the phone in his face to make sure Castiel is wide awake for what comes next. “You just had to make me angry when you’ve been doing so well,” says Zachariah, seething already.

 

At the sight of a fist coming nearer, Castiel goes to that place he’s gone to the past couple of days; where Sam’s smile leaves him breathless and his lips are inviting; where there’s only the sound of his heart beating and blood rushing in his ears as he pictures stealing a kiss from his best friend; where objects move without him looking, touching or even being aware of the newfound gift. Castiel goes there, and when he comes back out he’s naked and his body aches all over, but his bookshelf has moved in front of his bedroom door. He’s alone.

 

Castiel sleeps easier knowing that he can move objects that heavy.

 

 

 

*

 

 

 

It only takes one glance for Sam to notice the fresh bruises (and limp) Castiel has gained since last night. Dean isn’t as vocal about his disgust with Zachariah today because he knows what they plan to do at lunchtime.

 

Castiel walks up to Dean in the cafeteria line-up, pulling him away by his sleeve. “I would like to skip classes today.”

 

Sam wants so badly to complain, mostly because Castiel didn’t grab him first, but it makes sense why he chose rebellious Dean. He looks down at his tray: salad, creamy soup and a bottle of water. The line moves forward by one and Castiel tells Sam, “You’re joining us.” So he leaves it all there and does.

 

---

 

They head to a park where a couple is walking their black Labrador pup. They leave and Castiel takes a seat on one of the swings. Sam sits next to him and Dean sits on the end, kicking up sand. They swing in silence, waiting for whatever Castiel has planned.

 

“Should I…?” Dean begins to ask, but then slaps Sam hard on the shoulder. “Holy shit, dude! Look at him go.”

 

Castiel swings back and forth, his legs still and his hands folded in his lap. This couldn’t be explained by wind because there isn’t any. Luckily, there isn’t anyone around for them to have to explain this to either.

 

“Now you try,” Castiel tells them as he slows down.

 

If its belonging he wants, that’s what they intend to give him. They promised he’d never be alone again.

 

Dean goes first, swirling up sand that eventually turns into a desert storm – if they were ants. It makes Castiel happy all the same to know someone else in their group is getting there, to his level of weird.

 

Sam concentrates on his turn, imagining the awe of coloured candies, pencils rolling and the gorgeous indigo Castiel’s eyes turned when he focused enough to pull off the wrappers. His breath strangles out of him in a rush and his eyes snap open with excitement. He’ll finally get to see some magic of his own. But there isn’t anything spectacular to watch. There isn’t much of anything except Dean’s mini sand annoyance covering his feet.

 

“Guess I didn’t get lucky like you two,” Sam says, a sullen cloud settling in his stomach.

 

Castiel shakes his head, his mouth hanging open. He points with an unsteady hand to a tree across the park. Every single leaf is on the ground, every last one, while all the surrounding trees don full manes of vibrant green.

 

“Wow,” mutters Sam, squeezing the chains of his swing. Was that really him? Did he really do that?

 

“Whoa, Sammy,” says Dean, “can’t believe you thought you drew the short stick.”

 

“I had faith,” says Castiel, sounding altogether pleased instead of his usual deadpan voice.

 

Sam clears his throat, fighting back a blush.

 

Dean rubs his palms together, a smirk on his lips. “Let’s try some more tricks.”

 

---

 

At night, Castiel can’t sleep right away. Pebbles, paper, leaves, sand – it became simple enough to move the more they practiced. Dean is taking a bit longer getting the hang of specifics - delicate items, anything that requires a lot of control - because he’s barely had any over himself. He thinks the cause for his failing is that he didn’t have direct contact with the meteor; although, he went a few times to the site by himself. Castiel, on the other hand, believes it’s due to their roles within the unit.

 

Dean has always been more flashy: the brawn, the protector of Castiel and Sam’s more feeble bodies. They’ve always excelled at precision and efficiency, having to find quick ways to escape situations, which is why they can split a leaf in half with nothing but a flick of a wrist. But each time Dean attempts the do the same, his leaf ends up in pieces so small they might as well be invisible. He’s their guardian and Castiel is absolutely fine with it – so long as Dean doesn’t slip and rip them to ribbons.

 

As Castiel contemplates his day, Zachariah – Castiel refuses to acknowledge that they’re family since regaining the vile memories of last night – prowls outside his door, banging like it will convince Castiel to open up. It doesn’t. It won’t.

 

The bookshelf provides a much needed barrier between innocent and fiend. Zachariah sounds nice from outside with his smooth voice, but Castiel isn’t a client, nor is he naïve. As soon as he’d let him in, he’d beat Castiel into oblivion, breaking only what isn’t needed for studying and then take whatever’s left. Take what he desperately needs.

 

The photo next to Castiel’s bed floats towards him as he motions it his way. His mother’s blue eyes are piercing, her dark hair in disarray but never taking away from her beauty. She was always the most beautiful mess of a human being. He knows he looks too much like her to be safe with his remaining “family.” Castiel sends it back silently, shutting off his light just by closing his eyes.

 

Zachariah continues his hysteria outside but Castiel knows he will have to tire eventually.

 

 

 

*

 

 

 

School is a different place when you don’t have to use fists (like Dean is so fond of) to get your point across. Sam’s able to flip Luke’s (some people nicknamed him Lucifer because he’s just so sneaky sometimes with his pranks) tray before he gets to their table with it. Luke falls on his back, slipping and sliding on leftovers that were meant up to mess up their clothes. Everyone laughs – at him.

 

Dean considers using his fierce powers to break off a chunk from the ceiling and letting it land on Gabriel’s table, but Sam convinces him of the downsides; of which there are many. Dean could mess up and make it fall on Gabriel instead of next to him. Or Dean might take too much concrete and put the students above (and below) in danger. Or someone could sit next to Gabriel and end up a victim of circumstance.

 

They’re better protected now and good with minimal control but they haven’t gained foresight. They can’t predict the future.

 

Castiel groans in frustration because he’s aware Sam has a point – “However.” He pulls Gabriel’s chair out from under him easily, watching Dean’s reaction as Gabriel falls with a carton of chocolate milk in his hands.

 

Sam understands Castiel’s need to prove himself; to show he’s not weak anymore. He just hopes Castiel knows how far he’s going.

 

Dean cracks the table in half, just to scare Gabriel properly, and turns to laugh boisterously in Castiel’s direction. The two of them aren’t the best combination, Sam decides, (he swears it has nothing to do with his slight jealousy over their bonding).

 

---

 

They’ve skipped last period – at Castiel’s stubborn request – and are lounging in the Impala, dozing as cars with motor boats, mountain bikes and kayaks pass them by. Dean usually parks by the side of the road where they can get out and walk down towards a lake or a river, but today Castiel just wanted to people watch a bit.

 

Castiel sits up in the back seat, leaning out the window as something catches his attention. “Isn’t that Balthazar’s motorcycle?”

 

A silver and red painted Yamaha zooms by on the back of a shiny, new pickup truck; most likely his father’s.

 

“Sure is,” says Dean, starting up the engine. “You thinkin’ what I’m thinking?”

 

Castiel looks at Dean in the rear-view mirror, smirking.

 

Sam straightens up when they begin to go after it. “Guys! We were supposed to be setting the rules while hanging out.” He holds up the pad of paper and pen. “Remember?”

 

“Later,” grinds out Castiel, his eyes focused solely on catching up to that pervert’s bike.

 

Dean barks out a laugh, pressing harder on the gas. “What he said.”

 

Sam makes sure the first rule is consensus, because they’ve completely ignored his opinion. Not that it’s any different from before they got these ‘gifts’; but it is more dangerous.

 

They speed up, reaching a highway; which is both better - since they won’t get a ticket - and worse, because there are hundreds of people driving alongside them. The danger level has just peaked and Sam feels his heart bounce in his chest.

 

“Maybe we should just wait until his dad stops somewhere,” suggests Sam, raising a brow hopefully.

 

“No,” says Castiel, gripping the side door with the determination of a rabid bull, “this is less suspicious.”

 

“Good thinking, Cas,” says Dean, stepping on the gas until they’re right behind the pickup truck.

 

Sam starts to say, “What are you thinking?” (As in rule #2: discuss in advance what the plan of action is when experimenting with powers to prevent--).

 

Dean leaves one hand on the steering wheel and flicks the wrist of the other. Castiel does the same simultaneously. Neither of them said a word to each other and that’s exactly what Sam wanted to avoid. His eyes are glued to the front, but the clench in his chest tells him all he needs to know.

 

The truck starts spinning out of control. The front bumper smashes into a minivan with two kids inside and the back bumper knocks a man on a black motorcycle over. He slides with his leg trapped under the seat of his bike, as a car from behind him screeches forward, clearly slamming on the brakes.

 

“They won’t make it!” shouts Sam, frantic. He closes his eyes, knowing how stupid that would be for anything regarding precision (knife-throwing, hair-cutting), but in this case it works. It always works.

 

The man levitates; Sam feels it. And he pushes the man over to the side, where cars go to get towed. Meanwhile, the minivan hits a bump and rolls uncontrollably, over and over, as Castiel watches on in horror. It hits the car in front, a yellow hybrid that fortunately stops its momentum. But the yellow car hits the one in front, and another car comes at them from behind. A pile of them all stuck in one lane of the highway. The red truck continues to spin and when it stops, it catches fire in the front near the driver. The bike in the back is still intact all the while.

 

Dean’s the first to throw the door open and rush to help whoever needs it. Sam goes after him, running to Balthazar’s father who’s stuck inside the truck. “Cas!” he calls with urgency. “The door is smashed in, help me get him out.”

 

Castiel leaves the anonymity of the Impala, out into the consequences of what his and Dean’s reckless behaviour has caused. He can’t move his legs towards Sam, but he doesn’t need to be close to use his gift anyhow. The door is thrown across the highway, zigzagging through injured people, and down below where there may be others walking. (Castiel can only allow himself to consider the dangers of that later, when his mind stops boggling over his selfishness.) Balthazar’s father limps out, Sam keeping him standing with a shoulder to lean on. Dean waves his jacket at the fire and others join in with water to put it out.

 

After Sam helps Balthazar’s father into an ambulance, he and Dean start towards the Impala to make sure Castiel is okay.

 

Castiel can’t resist, even now, going further, going towards what started all this. Their backs are turned and it’s the only time he has, so he gestures with one movement and the bike shakes. It doesn’t end up in pieces; it’s crushed into an unrecognizable metal ball. That sounds oddly familiar to Castiel.

 

When his nose starts to bleed, Sam sprints towards him, catching him before he collapses next to the Impala.

 

---

 

Bobby’s standing over Castiel when he awakens from what he hopes is a dream. Sam and Dean are nearby but asleep from all the excitement (more like trauma). He helps Castiel sit up when he sees him struggle to his elbows on the bed.

 

“What damn fool nonsense have you boys been up to?” grunts Bobby, tipping his trucker hat up to give Castiel a hard look.

 

Castiel shakes his head, wringing his hands in his lap. “It’s my fault. I’m sorry.”

 

Bobby grumbles, “Idjit,” then bonks Castiel on the back of the head affectionately. “Then stop it, you’re a family, and they’ll go along with any stupid plan you can think up. Even Sam with all his sense seems to lose it when he’s around you.”

 

Castiel rubs the back of his head. “I understand, sir.”

 

“And goddammit, don’t worry me like this again,” says Bobby, squinting at Castiel while he gets up. “I’m too old for it.”

 

The smile takes Castiel by surprise but Bobby returns it, albeit with an awkward twitch to his lip. At least it’s genuine. At least he isn’t trying to fool Castiel with softness that doesn’t exist like Zachariah. He’s gruff, tough and serious most of the time but his love makes up for it. The Winchesters had told Castiel many times, he just never saw it until now.

 

As soon as the door closes, Dean jumps out of his chair, and launches his body at Sam who’s also feigning sleep. They both scoot their chairs closer to Castiel – after a few more punches and kicks – nudging his arms and legs to make sure he doesn’t feel left out, but also to check that he wasn’t lying about being okay.

 

“Guess you’re fine,” says Dean, leaning back comfortably.

 

Sam still wants to check more thoroughly, but just thinking it makes him blush a fiery red. “I’m glad you’re all right,” he squeaks out.

 

Castiel smiles at them, rubbing his hands together nervously. His eyes get wide all of a sudden. “What time is it?” He throws his blanket off, nosing around for wherever they put his coat and shoes. “My dad--”

 

“Is going to be told by Bobby that you passed out after a major nosebleed,” explains Sam, ushering Castiel back to bed without much luck.

 

Dean joins in, pushing at Castiel’s shoulder. “Yeah, dude. Bobby can put the fear of God in anyone. Chill out.”

 

“I can’t stay,” says Castiel, forcing them back with a small amount of his ability. Too bad they aren’t as strong as he is yet. He bends down and finds his shoes underneath the bed. There’s no candy, though – which means it was Sam’s bed he was sleeping in.

 

Sam stops Castiel by gently turning him to face him. “Just promise you’ll take it easy. I’m worried about what we can do. We’re getting stronger.”

 

Dean crosses his arms, grinning when Castiel looks over. He even gives a thumbs up. Castiel is not amused.

 

“I will be careful,” Castiel tells Sam.

 

“Promise me we’ll follow some simple rules,” says Sam, holding on to Castiel’s shoulders. He frowns in Dean’s direction. “No more revenge sprees.”

 

Dean puts up his arms in surrender. “Sure, whatever makes you feel better, Sammy.”

 

“Yes, Sam,” says Castiel, removing one of Sam’s hands to squeeze it. To make his words mean something. “I will try my best.”

 

---

 

Home is another hell entirely.

 

Zachariah doesn’t even let Castiel in the door before he’s on him. He hasn’t even said a word; doesn’t even spare a thought for whether his son is hurt or distraught from what’s happened. He just slams Castiel into the nearest wall, which happens to be the living room.

 

“I knew that accident on the news was you and your friends,” he spits, pressing a hand against Castiel’s chest to keep him pinned. “And look what you did to the clothes I got you.” His fingers move up to enclose around Castiel’s neck, tightening enough to make him wheeze on his next breath. Castiel uses both hands to get out, scratching and tugging against Zachariah’s new pinstripe suit, but he can’t loosen the grip. Not without his mind.

 

Castiel wants to choke out, “I’m sorry,” because that usually calms Zachariah enough that his anger settles. So he’ll give Castiel a moment to breathe in without obstruction. But he won’t let up; won’t let him say a single word in his defense.

 

Instead, Zachariah grips harder, leaving a necklace of future bruises while his other hand starts to pull open Castiel’s buttons. He says, “I’ll clean you up real nice, then it’s off to bed.”

 

Castiel can’t stop him; his father is tearing at his shirt, drawing the shirt-tails out of his pants and pushing those down to his knees. And Castiel isn’t doing against this assault. Why? Why isn’t he?

 

Because he misses his mother too? He understands that his father is still grieving but this is how he solves it? Because his father was once kind enough to drive him to school on the way to work? Because they’re blood being the same means more than morals do?

 

Castiel’s eyes flutter and water from the restriction, so his father eases just enough, which pushes his survival instinct to the forefront of his mind. His mind where he’s now chiseling deadly weapons against this man. His mind that’s the same as the Winchesters, not this stranger that snarls and rips through him nearly daily.

 

If his father refuses to act like one, Castiel can’t feel guilt for ruining the rest of their relationship.

 

One hand throws the dishes from the kitchen into the side of Zachariah’s face and the other strangles him with his own hundred dollar mess of a tie. When that isn’t enough, when his father isn’t wearing the same fear he’s been carrying every night, Castiel digs further inside himself and draws out more power.

 

The walls crumble before he even looks at them. Photos and clothes and furniture swirl in a tidal wave of havoc, slamming into Zachariah’s body without prejudice.  None of it matters; he destroys it all; none of it was chosen by Mom.

 

Castiel leaves his father there, moaning in pain. He searches for the photo of her kept upstairs, as well as the things she gave him. He doesn’t look back on his childhood home when he steps out the door. This isn’t where his family is anymore.

 

If his father can drag himself out fast enough, he won’t be smothered by the debris of their life together falling apart.

 

 

*

 

 

The Winchester (and Singer) household becomes Castiel’s home when he shows up on their porch with a backpack of his stuff and that photo of his mom.

 

It’s harder to knock than usual, given the situation. “Hi, sorry to disturb you at this hour…”

 

Sam knows he’s staring at his friend, but he just never thought it would turn out this way. Bobby, though, comes barrelling through like he knew this would happen all along. He ushers Castiel in, closing the door behind him. “There’s no set time for family, son,” he tells Castiel softly. His gruff edge is missing this time.

 

And that’s just the right button for Castiel’s mask to come off. He’s crying so hard he can’t recognize the sound; and Bobby’s bringing him over to the couch, rocking him through it as Sam starts to tear up. Sam’s best friend, stronger than any bully or ruffian, is falling apart right in front of them, and he would have never guessed it to hurt this much.

 

Castiel sounds like he’s dying, which he might be. Or mourning for his mother, and what his father used to be: someone he could trust and count on; someone who loved him, and didn’t expect miracles from him. Someone who wouldn’t have considered killing his son if he didn’t strip his clothes off at the click of forefinger and thumb.

 

From the kitchen, Dean silently creeps into the living room where Bobby continues to console Castiel - where Sam sits next to them, moving forward every few seconds because he wants to be able to give Castiel support as well, and also to see his face. Dean doesn’t worry about interrupting; he sits in front of Bobby and Castiel’s knees on the floor, and tells Castiel, “Welcome to the family. Officially.”

 

Castiel stops crying long enough to look down at Dean, and force a smile on with the little relief he’s being given. It was supposed to be Sam’s words that got him to stop. The best friend is the one who puts pieces into right slots and makes life worthwhile again. Not the best friend’s brother, not the charmer, the one who sleeps with all the girls (and boys) and doesn’t show an emotion unless absolutely necessary.

 

But Dean’s the one who slips in easy and makes Castiel launch himself at him for a long hug. Not Sam, not the best friend, the one secretly in love with him. There’s a phantom ache in his arms, where he squeezes against his thighs, wanting so badly to be the one holding Castiel through this misery. What’s wrong with him?

 

Castiel needs someone; Sam should be happy he’s come to their home at all, not be jealous of his brother’s comfort with him.

 

Later, when the dust settles and Castiel isn’t flushed from crying; is started to slink into being one of them, Sam will be able to tell Castiel what’s wrong with the world. Starting with the fact that they’re not together romantically (and ending with the shock of Zachariah not being behind bars).

 

---

 

There’s not much of a difference between how much Castiel saw the brothers before, and how much he sees them now. What’s changed is what he sees of them.

 

Sam is a morning person – big surprise – and tries constantly to get Dean to jog with him. Dean, on the other hand, is not a morning person – also not a surprise – and groans and shouts until Sam finally gives up, defeated, and slinks away on his own.

 

Castiel changes that ritual by volunteering to go with him.

 

“Really?” Sam tries to cover his explosive glee with a warm smile. “You don’t have to. I mean, you didn’t sleep much last night.” Is it creepy that he noticed?

 

“I want to,” says Castiel, pulling on a t-shirt with a Metallica logo fading across it. It’s one of Dean’s shirts; Sam’s clothes wouldn’t fit him. And perhaps it would be overwhelming to be that close to ‘him’.

 

Sam swallows the tiny whimper that wants to betray him and be set free. Somehow, the shirt, with a hole near the collar and one at a corner near Castiel’s midriff, seems better suited on him. He looks electric in it; feisty like he’s never been.

 

“Well, okay,” says Sam, “Bring some water.”

 

---

 

Castiel also sees how much pornographic material Dean has stashed all around. Not because he’s sharing a room with them; he’s using the guest one down the hall (though he keeps falling asleep between their beds while watching movies; they’re his comfort zone).

 

It’s accidental. Completely.

 

One day, Sam goes out to get produce (and pie for Dean), and Dean leaves Castiel in his room to go get some soda. Castiel’s bored of waiting for him to return and starts to snoop around. The thing with his ability is that it helps him be sneaky; he can find secrets so fast now.

 

Top drawer, candy; second one, condoms and lube (lube? Maybe there’s something Dean isn’t telling them) and the third one has a fishing magazine – which is more than a bit suspicious. Dean hates eating fish, why would he practice the sport? As he’s turning pages, another magazine, thinner, falls out from between the creases. Busty Asian Beauties. That makes more sense.

 

After Castiel finds that first gem, which makes him feel as accomplished as if he were hunting for Easter eggs, Castiel becomes intent on finding the rest.  It’s like Pringles or Lays potato chips – whichever of them insists that one isn’t enough to satisfy. Castiel’s never personally tried them and put it to the test, however.

 

But as he searches, he finds more and more of these magazines. There’s one in the candy drawer, rolled up small enough to fit into a family-sized bag of Skittles. There’s one underneath the bedside table that Castiel must have carelessly stepped on one day; it’s ripped on the first page. There’s one in Dean’s pillow, within the stuffing. And the only reason he finds that one is because he throws himself flat on Dean’s bed, arms crossed behind his head when he hears someone approaching the room. He can’t be ungrateful and act like a spy, finding all their guilty pleasures.

 

Luckily, it’s Sam, carrying a grocery bag with a piece of pumpkin pie. “Where’s Dean?”

 

Castiel shrugs; wants to whistle but that’s the top suspicious reaction he could ever have. “He told me he was getting a beverage.”

 

“Where? He’s not in the kitchen,” says Sam, frowning. He puts the pie on Dean’s dresser and slips out of his shoes.

 

“He didn’t specify,” says Castiel, his nose intrigued by the faint smell of pastry wafting over to him. “Where did you buy that?”  He can’t help but ask.

 

Sam points a thumb over his shoulder. “Down the street…” He trails off. “Why? Did you want one?”

 

“Some other time,” replies Castiel, jumping off Dean’s bed and squeezing past Sam in the doorway. “I have to practice using my ability.”

 

---

 

Dean is gone for most of the evening. He texts Sam about this amazing blond he’s met, but neither Sam nor Castiel know if he means a girl or a guy. Not that it matters either way. He also tells them not to wait up, which they weren’t planning to; it’s a school night. Even Bobby knew to go to bed at his regular 10pm; used to Dean’s spontaneous disappearances.

 

Castiel isn’t, though. All the times Dean and Sam have hung out, he’s stayed and paid attention. It’s true that family doesn’t need to worry about being ever-present, because they’re tied to each other regardless. As friends, they didn’t always have time for each other, so they marked moments, and respected them. With friends, if you stray too far, you’re forgotten. A family is different – at least, that’s how Castiel thought it was.

 

Castiel is family now; he’s a permanence to the Winchesters’ home like he hadn’t expected. Dean is confident that when he returns, there won’t only be Bobby and Sam there, but Castiel too. They’ll stay connected even if the time they spend isn’t as concentrated.

 

A couple of hours after supper, Sam knocks – he wonders if he’s still training – and Castiel opens the door with his eyes closed. The awe is showing on Sam’s face but there’s not a chance he can see it with the way he’s focused.

 

Castiel concentrates on the tower of cards in front of him, visualizing where the queen of hearts goes, where the three of spades follows; how they all align – without once using anything but what he’s seeing in his mind. At the base of their powers - at the very source of its complications, violence, and beauty -  lies the truth to it all: imagination. They can do virtually anything if they train their minds to pinpoint each goal and reach for it. The strength of their gift is in believing you can push it further.

 

After fifty-two cards make the most balanced pyramid Sam’s ever laid eyes on in his life, Castiel snaps out of his gift and looks up. “Did you need me for something?” His smile is bright without teeth showing.

 

To let me kiss you, or get on my knees. Strip for you, worship your body. From that moment, Sam knows he’s listened to too much of Dean’s taunting over the years. Every lewd act seems appropriate to voice for some reason too. But it’s not like Sam to actually mean any of it. Or press upon it. Except when it involves Castiel; his emotions are always seconds away from being exposed around him. It’s a miracle he hasn’t confessed yet.

 

“Teach me how you use your power so well?” says Sam, joining Castiel on the carpet, his feet tucked under his knees to keep from playing footsie with him.

 

“I’m surprised you haven’t asked sooner,” admits Castiel. He swings his hand above the impressive tower of cards and the wind makes all the beauty collapse on itself without a chance.

 

There’s something eerie about how quickly something that took so long can be destroyed, but Sam doesn’t mention that to Castiel in case he relates to it in a way that triggers thoughts of his so-called father.

 

“I’ll tell you two observations I’ve made,” starts Castiel, leaning slightly closer as if sharing the mysteries of their vast universe. To be honest, Sam has been feeling pretty mysterious lately, thanks to that rock.

 

“What are they?” Sam chokes out as his eyes trail down Castiel’s face, stopping at his mouth. To listen and not miss anything, he convinces himself. Not because at night Castiel’s lips seem even more chapped and begging for his assistance.

 

“The first is that thoughts of love bring the safe, practiced ease that you and I have. These gentle glimpses make it easy to cut out delicate things, like a tumour for example, if we had to,” says Castiel. He shakes his head at Sam’s look of horror, squeezing his shoulder to calm him. “No, I haven’t attempted it.”

 

Sam nods, letting out a breath. “And what’s the other?” He moves in closer because he can; using the excuse Castiel had, valid or not.

 

This time, Castiel’s dark lashes flutter over his blue eyes as he too, glances down at Sam’s lips. “Using anger is what makes power like Dean’s possible. Explosive and only with damage in mind,” says Castiel, forcing his gaze up to meet Sam’s.

 

“Yeah?” asks Sam in a slight rasp. He feels the heat between them nearly bursting with what little restraint they have left. He doesn’t know why they’re both ignoring the tension, this fusion that crackles when Dean isn’t around to smother and diffuse it. If he’d noticed it sooner, he wouldn’t be so ashamed of the nights he spends picturing himself slipping into Castiel’s room and making him moan into Sam’s mouth.

 

The moment Castiel seems to realize the same, both of them leaning in to finally make fantasy a real experience, Dean plays a drum solo on Castiel’s bedroom door. He flicks the door open, and hovers in. Literally.

 

“Check this shit out,” boasts Dean, his arms outstretched. “I can levitate myself. How d’you like them apples?”

 

Sam would be furious if this wasn’t exactly as unbelievable as Dean claims it is. “Wow.” It’s a struggle to move away from the bubble he and Castiel were starting. “How did you figure that out?”

 

“I fell off a bridge and nearly died but caught myself before I went splat on the concrete,” says Dean between his teeth, mumbled and low enough that he won’t have to go into detail. “Oh, you know,” he says louder, “I do silly things at night.”

 

“Silly?” asks Sam, chuckling with one brow raised.

 

“Silly,” repeats Dean. “Now do you two punks want to learn this trick or not?”

 

“Certainly,” says Castiel, standing up so quickly Sam gets whiplash. He outstretches a hand for his friend. “You’ll want to know this too, yes?” Castiel asks Sam.

 

*

 

Sleep is a joy now, not an escape from Castiel’s inability to conquer his father’s will. Bobby wakes up in the night to make sure Castiel’s not gone; that he’s still hanging on to them and not worrying about what his father might have planned. That he doesn’t think he’s overstayed his welcome, and returning to old misfortunate habits.

 

Dean and Sam watch as many movies with Castiel as he wants, until he passes out; and depending on how tired they are, they either throw a blanket over him or one of them gets him cozy in his own room, tucked in and perfect.

 

Tonight, he went to bed on his own to save them the trouble. It took a lot of sweat and a couple of nosebleeds, but Castiel got the hang of Dean’s new trick. He promised Sam he’d teach him, alone, how to do it too.

 

As he sleeps, he imagines skies so blue they seem fake. Paintings are more realistic in comparison. It continuously stretches on, and Castiel looks below to find spots of trees, little green herbs or blades of grass from this view, at this height, from this angle. He’s flying, he realizes. He feels more like a plane. White blobs get in his face, thick to the touch but gone as he breathes them in. He likes how smooth they are; liquid against his lips – almost like a kiss. Soft bundles of them that he uses to glide his way towards orange hues with a bright, crimson centre. Sam is with him, next to him. He blinks, and Sam is inside him, kissing and driving his hips like a piston. He knows he’s moaning Sam’s name out loud, partially awake, a hand down his pants. He just can’t keep it in tonight. He screams when Sam thumps a perfect rhythm between his thighs and fills him with the same white liquid bliss that he was using to climb the sky.

 

The person who leaves him with a mess of stickiness along each thigh is also the one who finds him – hovering six inches above his bed. His eyes shut tight.

 

Castiel’s body crashes hard against the bed; then, he’s perfectly awake. His eyes are almost as comically wide as Sam’s, who is frozen in place.

 

---

 

With no worries of not seeing Sam and Dean tomorrow – or showing them what a monster his father has been – he stops skipping school. And because he goes, the Winchesters go also; they’re still an unbreakable unit.

 

Their practice time, therefore, shortens. After school, when homework is over and done with, they’ll pick a room and see how they’ve progressed.

 

Dean can make pyramids as long as his eyes are open; Sam can almost complete one with his closed. Dean levitates high enough to touch the ceiling and, after a few welcome bruises from rough landings, Castiel gets the hang of it - feels like it could be a cinch to push it even further. What’s the point of having a gift if you don’t stretch the limits of it?

 

“I don’t know, Cas,” says Sam, rubbing his palms on his jeans. “Outside there’s no ceiling, no roof. There’s nothing to stop us.”

 

“Exactly.” Castiel leaves his coat behind, and slips on a plaid shirt to feel like he’s in a sports team; they all match.

 

Dean shoves his hands into his leather jacket, crossing his legs at the ankle. “Yeah, all right. Sounds like fun.”

 

---

 

There’s a farmhouse nearby – Sam’s only request that they had to abide by. That way, if something went wrong, there’d be someone around to call for help (or at least see them floating out of the atmosphere, and tell Bobby; he deserves to know).

 

Dean floats up easy like breathing, but he can’t go any higher than he does at home.

 

“You’re holding back,” Castiel tells him, meeting him at ten feet in the air, nothing but grass and dirt below to catch them. “In your mind, you still see the ceiling. You’re worried what will happen if you fall from higher up.”

 

Dean grunts out a protest, but can’t say that Castiel’s entirely wrong. “So what do I do?”

 

“Sam and I will keep you close to us,” says Castiel, giving Sam a wink that’s meant to be funny. It makes Sam’s heart leap instead; he wants to hold on it and kiss it from his mouth.

 

“I don’t know if I can get that high…” Sam says, but Castiel blinks at him like he’s dumb.

 

The wind feels stronger in his hair, blowing into his eyes; getting them watery. It wasn’t this strong a moment ago. Sam looks at Dean who has his fist in his mouth to keep from saying anything. He’s closer, not above. Castiel’s baby blues have Sam locked on to him and ignoring his fear. Before he knows it, that smile is right in front of him with Castiel grabbing hold of his arm.

 

Castiel whispers for only Sam to hear, “I told you how effective love was.”

 

Sam gasps when he realizes he’s gone as high as they have. His feet dangle like strings are holding him up, but his brother and his best friend are right there with him, so he doesn’t drop like he expected.

 

Dean claps loudly because he knows it’s safe to now. “Knew you had it in you, Sammy.”

 

“I had some help,” says Sam, looking around at no one in particular. “Do we go higher or something else?”

 

Castiel tugs at Sam’s sleeve, leading him over to Dean. He pushes them together so he can slide over to a different spot. Hovering, he says, “I have an idea.”

 

Castiel climbs the air with his arms up as though grabbing a ladder.  It works but takes too long to move. He tries swinging his feet at the same time, like he would if swimming, but that makes each movement awkward and unsteady. He ends up flipping a few times and the momentum sends him higher above.

 

In a second, two blinks at most, Castiel disappears. And no matter which direction of the sky, or down at the field, they look, he’s just nowhere.

 

“Cas?” says Dean, trying a weird one-handed shuffle to circle around as he needs.

 

“Cas?” says Sam, but he’s more openly panicked about it. Flapping like a fuckin’ bird so he and Dean can spot Castiel faster.

 

Up above, miles from where they are, the clouds disperse in a strange way. Too fast, like a rocket is shooting through them. Then the blue and green plaid colours Castiel has on come into focus. His arms are stretched in front of him like superman; like he was born to do this. Like it was always his destiny to be able to use this power to his full advantage.

 

“I’m all right,” Castiel says softly when he stops in front of them.

 

“You both need to try flying.” He sighs, taking in a deep breath with an awe-filled smile. “It’s the most wonderful thing I’ve ever experienced.”

 

“I can tell,” grumps Dean, “you look like you just had ten orgasms.” He punches Castiel in the arm playfully. “And that’s for ignoring us to be with the sky, you slut.”

 

Castiel laughs, shrugging like what he’s done couldn’t be helped. “I expect you’ll enjoy it the most then, Dean.”

 

Sam laughs, ducking his head so Dean doesn’t see.

 

---

 

Dean’s only got awkward frog-swimming mastered – which is still impressive, but not enough for him to feel comfortable in the air without them. Sam and Castiel take turns holding onto his hand (or wrist, whichever lets him still feel like his own man), and speed off through the clouds like nothing he’s ever seen.

 

Sam spins with Dean holding on to him, and ends up being pinched or smacked because of it. But he’s never gone too far; he knows how afraid of flying his brother is.

 

Dean tells him, “Nah, I’m okay with you. I trust you won’t let me splatter like jelly. You wouldn’t want to scare that poor old farmer down there.” He smirks and Castiel zooms by with his shirt blowing in the breeze from his speed.

 

On Castiel’s turns, he and Dean are in charge of hiding while Sam seeks them. They’re a good team for not being discovered because they both challenge…everything. In a flock of geese, within a cloud that’s an angry grey-navy, on the underside of an airplane – no place is too dangerous for them to be. So long as Sam doesn’t find them.

 

But there’s always a stop sign that shows up along the road, eventually. And that sign comes in the form of an army jet they couldn’t have seen coming if they knew about it. While Castiel is still the fastest among them, Dean hasn’t reached his speed potential, and clings to Castiel when it gets really windy or a storm starts crackling. But that jet smashes through them like bowling pins, not seeing, and they both end up unconscious, falling from a place only skydivers should be.

 

Luckily, its Sam’s turn to find them, and they have a rule of always calling out as needed (every couple of minutes). He hasn’t heard their voices in five at least, so he begins to worry. “Dean? Cas?”

 

There’s no answer, and it makes Sam shudder. He drifts left, right, popping inside of clouds, even banging on plane windows, but nothing. He feels nothing. And that’s something they haven’t discussed yet; they’ve become linked because of their telekinesis. But Dean won’t let Sam say it aloud because that would be deemed a chick-flick moment. And we can’t have that.

 

It’s unfortunate, but it’s also a good thing. Because it means Sam now knows there’s something very wrong. He soars through the deep rumble of clouds, and breaks through just in time to see both the people he loves free-falling.

 

Sam’s flying down, darting towards them so fast his lungs can’t keep up with all the air he’s gulping. He holds his breath so he can get closer, both arms reaching for them, a few miles from impact now. He can’t carry them both, that’s a given, but he knows there are trees and crops around that can provide enough cushion for a landing. All he needs is to grab…one…of…them.

 

Dean shakes out of his daze, automatically trying to shake Castiel awake so they can save him. Sam grabs Dean’s jacket, panting, but they don’t look at each other until they’ve latched onto Castiel. They both say, “Brace yourself.” Then its grass and dirt, and they’re rolling like the most flexible gymnasts in the business (but without the joints and practice to accommodate). Castiel coughs as his head thumps against Sam’s chest. Dean reaches out his arm, the one not paralyzed because of Sam’s giant body, and pats his brother in what’s meant to be loving relief.

 

“Thanks,” pants Dean, closing his eyes. “I officially hate the army.”

 

Sam swallows, his face red from exhaustion. “What…,” he breathes, “…was it?”

 

“Fighter jet,” grits Castiel, trying to sit up even though Dean’s head is pillowed on his knees.

 

“Yeah,” says Dean, “and not even a nice-looking one.”

 

Sam groans, feeling for Dean’s face, then smacks his forehead. “Be happy you’re not dead.”

 

 

 

*

 

 

After things calm down and they stop playing dangerous games in the sky, life becomes normal. Well, as normal as it can be considering what they’re capable of. And because everything is easygoing, something has to go terribly wrong.

 

The shit always hits the fan at some point. Castiel knew it would, he just hoped it would be long after he’d graduated.

 

One night, when Castiel is home alone, waiting for Sam and Dean to bring back supper (and pie) to surprise Bobby when he finishes work, there’s a knock at the door. When he opens it, it’s like the air is sucked out of his lungs and he’s left empty and panicking. Zachariah is standing in front of him.

 

Castiel stares at him, the scars and bandages that mean he’s hurt, but not nearly enough if he’s back. Not dead under the rubble of Castiel’s bed falling through the second floor, clearly. “What do you want?” says Castiel sharply, even though he feels weak enough to faint.

 

“Here,” says Zachariah, stepping back and leaving Castiel with a folded paper.

 

The note is threat after threat: I’ll have you sold on the black market – not foster care, nor orphanage. I’ll make sure the world knows how dangerous you are. They’ll know your ‘family’ is harbouring a criminal who dares to hurt his own father. And that’s only the beginning if you don’t come meet me.

 

The address isn’t familiar, but of course it wouldn’t be; Zachariah had to buy a new place to live.

 

---

 

Castiel tells them he’s meeting someone from school to help them with homework. The lie feels terrible rolling off his tongue, but he flies off, knowing they can’t track his speed yet. It doesn’t matter if they believe him so long as they’re not involved with his father. If he finds out they do what he does, their unit will be squashed along with any happiness they have. Zachariah has built too many connections to be cut down easily.

 

---

 

 

Zachariah lives alone; Castiel’s still his only family. He opens the door, shuffling aside to make space. Something is going to go wrong quickly, because Castiel knows his father will pick a fight or blackmail him into surrender soon enough. He won’t let Castiel go as long as he’s breathing, and Castiel doesn’t want to take away his life when he has so much time to live in misery. Better he suffer than be killed swiftly. Deep down, Castiel knew he’d given Zachariah enough time to escape the collapse of his home.

 

The door shuts with a click, and red lights go on – just above the keyhole. Castiel twists towards it to turn the knob, and Zachariah snaps handcuffs on each wrist, latching them to a chain installed next to the door.

 

He backs up, watching Castiel fume silently. “See, I wasn’t just licking my wounds. I was figuring out ways to prevent you from running.” One of his fingers traces Castiel’s lips and its soft, until it’s not, and he’s wrenching Castiel’s jaw open. “You’re going to spend an hour with me every week so I don’t report you missing to the police and you can keep living with your pretend-family. Got it?”

 

Castiel’s face burns with fury, a single tear running down his cheek. He nods, wondering how long it will take him to figure out how to snap metal. More anger needed, he guesses, but that would also put his unit in jeopardy.

 

“You’re so good now that you don’t live with me anymore,” says Zachariah, purposely wearing a lecherous smile. He opens his pants and lets them fall to the ground without ceremony. Castiel leaves the fear inside his body, and sends his mind off to memories of wind and sky and Sam’s kind smile.

 

 

*

 

 

Even without struggling, Castiel has bruises to hide from the Winchesters. The one on his stomach when his father collided into him and knocked him over. The ones on his ribs from being thrust into over a metal that’s uneven and slippery. There’s a pattern of them between his thighs from when Zachariah insisted on holding him at an exact angle, and drove into him hard enough to put out his hip (if he was eighty).

 

Anna is still nice enough to keep his secrets, and gives him a kit to touch up the bruises until they heal (until there’s more, realistically). The upside is that his unit is who he sees daily, not his blood relative. They go to school, come home, do homework and pretend to be normal teenagers until Bobby leaves to see friends or falls asleep on the sofa; then they practice that little bit of extra that makes them abnormal, that one thing they have in common. That one more notch that keeps them connected beyond genes.

 

It’s a quaint little schedule, and Castiel sleeps soundly most nights. Until he realizes the following day he has to see his father and be used as a vacant slot to fuck into. That’s when Friday nights become a burden.

 

---

 

Sam notices Castiel’s smile is quick to fall away when he thinks he’s safe to show his true feelings. He wants to encourage him to open up; wants him aware of everything he and Dean would do to fix whatever’s wrong, but Castiel refuses to watch movies with them and even starts locking his bedroom door.

 

Normally, Dean is better suited at cheering Castiel up; but this sadness is different. It’s deep and raw, and he won’t stay and talk about anything once they’re done practicing telekinesis, like he knows he might open up. Those kinds of conversations aren’t Dean’s forte anyhow, so Sam takes the leap ahead.

 

“Let me in please,” whispers Sam, so Bobby won’t wake up and scold him for being up so late.

 

But the door is unlocked tonight; Sam slips in so quietly. Castiel still has his shirt up, dabbing disinfectant and cover makeup over the knuckle marks Zachariah put on his back. He kept punching Castiel to keep him tightening around his dick. And then slapped both thighs when Castiel wouldn’t come quick enough. The marks are worse this time; the wrong time for Sam to ninja-sneak his way in.

 

“Don’t look,” growls Castiel, fumbling his shirt back on.

 

Sam walks in carefully, treating his best friend like a startled lion; something fierce enough to rip his throat out, but only if frightened enough. “I didn’t want to, but I did see.”

 

Castiel sighs, his shoulders slumping as Sam gets closer. “I don’t want to discuss it.”

 

And that sounds painfully familiar to Sam, too much. It means it’s Zachariah’s doing again, and Castiel has been keeping the abuse under wraps for – who knows how long. Probably, for a very valid reason. Sam won’t push him if that’s the case.

 

“Can we just talk then? About other stuff?” asks Sam, taking a seat at the edge of Castiel’s bed. “I promise I won’t bring up anything else.”

 

“All right,” agrees Castiel, facing Sam despite knowing he has the gashes on his face still out in the open. “Please lock the door, Sam.”

 

---

 

Despite how dark the circles around Castiel’s eyes are, Sam stays true to his word. He doesn’t ask him why he’s seeing his father; why he hasn’t come to them for help; why he’s still so afraid when he has a decent, loving family now. Instead, they compete over who can build a card tower the fastest and Sam doesn’t mind that Castiel wins every time, because he’s getting closer to beating him. Also, Castiel is smiling again, and it’s such a pretty sight that he’s afraid to lose it.

 

It’s as Castiel is placing the topmost card that Sam can’t help but reach over to touch the purpling around his left eye. He’s not breaking his word because they aren’t discussing anything. He’s observing, he’s mourning in silence. It’s affection not meant to bring up sorrows that Castiel isn’t ready to vocalize.

 

Castiel’s lashes flutter, his hand slipping. The tower tumbles over because of it. “You did that purposely to win,” says Castiel, but his smile’s not faded yet.

 

“No,” says Sam, pressing his fingers along the stubble growing in at a snail’s pace. “I just wanted to see if you felt as beautiful as you look.”

 

“I’m not a woman, Sam,” says Castiel, his voice lower, grittier. It rolls around in Sam’s stomach, and settles like a welcome weight.

 

“I definitely know that.” Sam leans forward, tilting Castiel’s chin up. “But beautiful isn’t gender specific last time I checked.”

 

Castiel’s breath comes out in shuddery increments when Sam pushes his lips apart with a thumb. “I…thank you then,” stutters out Castiel.

 

“Just let me kiss you, Cas,” whispers Sam, his eyes focused on the cut, rough against his fingertips. He needs to kiss Castiel better before it gets too hard to look at what’s been happening to him.

 

“All right,” Castiel’s lips say as Sam moves forward to claim them gently.

 

Castiel has Sam pinned against the ceiling, climbing over him with incendiary lust in his eyes. He’s wanted this just as much – if not more – than Sam has. And while normally he’d let Sam do and take as he wants, his father’s been making him feel too helpless for that lately. He slips his hand into Sam’s jeans, not bothering to open or see, or slow down long enough to give him time to think how his first experience was taken by a pedophile that just so happens to share his blood. Sam’s panting, his hands curling gently in Castiel’s hair, guiding him in for another kiss. But Castiel gasps when he sees Sam’s erection; sees how real this has become. That sex is moments away and he has no idea what the proper way is with someone he loves because his father shamed him by opening him up with toys and food items - rough thrusts, tearing him each time he pushed in hard.

 

Sam’s cupping Castiel’s face; his eyes look wild and unseeing because they’ve somehow gotten outside on the roof. “Hey, hey! Look at me. I’m here, Cas. Just me. I just wanted a kiss.” He presses his forehead to Castiel’s. “I don’t expect anything else,” he says.

 

Castiel’s lungs are screaming for air, and when he sucks in, he realizes he’s been holding his breath for a while. “Sam,” he heaves out, finally seeing the utter concern on his best friend’s face. He’s an earnest mess, hair mussed and face sweaty from what they started, but his hazel eyes are saying that the only important thing is that Castiel is okay with this.

 

“I’m better now,” he tells Sam, leaning on his wide shoulder, breathing in the familiar smell. The most ridiculous part isn’t that they’re outside on the roof at midnight, Castiel freaking out with his hand down Sam’s pants; it’s that through it all, Sam still craves Castiel with a gut-wrenching pull that’s keeping him rock hard.

 

Sam moans when Castiel gives a tentative pull to his cock. “You don’t have to,” he says, petting Castiel like more than the universe relies on Castiel’s happiness. “I have two perfectly good hands of my own.”

 

Castiel knows how to do this part. His eyes closed, he hovers over Sam. His mouth latches onto Sam’s shoulder through cotton and he sucks everything he’s been feeling to the surface of Sam’s skin.

 

“Cas,” he whimpers, hanging on with both hands as Castiel’s fingers trail down his length, rub the shaft twice, then move back up to hold onto the head.

 

“I’d like to do this for you,” says Castiel, kissing the middle of Sam’s chest. “I’ve wanted you since the first day.”

 

Sam deflates with the confession, squeezing his own eyes closed. “Don’t say things like that.”

 

Castiel finds Sam’s mouth, swallowing sounds that seem pained, but couldn’t be anything but utmost relief. The kiss turns wet, going off mark against teeth and chin and cheek. And Castiel murmurs, “I’ve dreamt of this.”

 

Sam shivers beneath him, holding Castiel’s still as he tries to keep his breathing steady. “Cas, please, don’t.”

 

Pinning Sam down against the uneven scrape of the roof, Castiel shushes him with a kiss, tongue circling and prying out every sound known to man, as he tugs on Sam’s hard length, the pinnacle of his desires.

 

“Cas,” he moans, wrapping his arms around shoulders that are narrow, but no less strong. “Cas, please, we don’t—” Sam knows if he gets this once, at all, he’ll want it forever. He won’t know how to go on if he can’t have it anymore.

 

“I am offering this,” whispers Castiel. He rubs the slick, spreading it down the base, and starts a nice rhythm. One that makes Sam shake as it progresses; steadily climbs in speed. By the time Castiel is gnawing on Sam’s neck, he’s flushed down to his chest and exhaling rough breaths, squeezing Castiel closer on each slide up his cock.

 

“I – I’m going to…”

 

Sam lets out a long, unsteady breath, his chest heaving as Castiel guides him through the orgasm. His fingers slow to a stop, tightening around the base to get the last of it out. Then Castiel sucks his fingers one by one while Sam’s eyes stay screwed shut.

 

“Are you all right?” asks Castiel, combing his hair back from his sweaty forehead.

 

Sam catches Castiel’s fingers, drawing them into his mouth. “I’m better than that.” In tiny increments, his eyes open, pupils dilated and darker than usual. He draws Castiel in by his nape and devours the taste of himself in such an innocent mouth. This time, Castiel is the one left panting as Sam finds the right spot just below his tongue that makes his hips buck up for more.

 

 

*

 

 

Castiel wakes up in Sam’s bed, a bit disoriented but feeling rested all the same. He curls around him a while longer until Dean groans and rolls over, giving them both a smile wide enough to crack his jaw.

 

“Good morning, Sunshines,” Dean says, scratching his stomach. “I see you two slept well. Cas, your hair is looking extra messy this morning.”

 

Sam garbles out, “Shut up, jerk.” Then throws the blanket over Castiel’s head to hide him.

 

“See, I’d call you bitch, but you look more like an anteater right now.” Dean chuckles, escaping out of the room before the pillow can smack him in the forehead. The one Sam launched with his eyes closed.

 

Castiel starts stretching his legs to get out of bed but Sam wraps his arms around him, whispering into his hair, “We can tell Bobby to say we’re sick. Spend some more time together.”

 

It’s a fine idea, really. But – “I have a test, and so do you. We’ll spend time after school.”

 

Sam sighs, but lets Castiel go. “Can I have something to help me wake up?”

 

Pushing the blanket down, Castiel nuzzles Sam’s cheek and places a soft kiss there. “All right? Let’s get ready now.”

 

---

 

Exams are easy, especially when your study partner, slash boyfriend, is Sam Winchester. Their reward system is pretty interesting as well: a kiss for each correct response. But Sam sticks to basic places – nowhere below Castiel’s waist. He knows how uncomfortable that still makes him, and he’s respectful of it.

 

Dean leaves them alone more often now, sneaking in to throw candy at them and snap pictures that he doesn’t put up anywhere (he doesn’t know how to use Instagram or anything that requires a smidge of computer knowledge beyond Microsoft Word and Google; which Sam’s unwilling to teach him). He does continue practicing his levitation and advanced floating, but he still doesn’t feel safe doing it without them around to hold him up. No one blames him after the free-fall he and Castiel did not long ago.

 

Sam is content with how things are going: not too quickly, because he doesn’t have much experience to speak of, but not so slow that he doesn’t have memories to use when he’s in the shower, hand wrapped tight around his cock, panting into the steam from the water. Castiel only gets more beautiful the more time he spends with him. Though, the bruises and marks never seem to go. Instead of making Castiel uncomfortable by asking, he helps cover them and treat them. He’s gentle with each touch, and it gives him an excuse to see Castiel with barely any clothes on.

 

---

 

One night, Castiel’s sitting between Sam’s legs, and they overhear Bobby on the phone downstairs. He’s screaming into his cell phone, swearing up and down the road, taking whoever that is through the encyclopedia of profane words.

 

It’s only when they get themselves to stop laughing, both clutching their stomachs, and hiding the sound against shoulder and neck, that they hear what’s happening.

 

Dean comes home in that moment, too.

 

 

“I don’t care what kind of payment I’m getting. How am I supposed to find another job at my age?” shouts Bobby, loud enough to be heard three streets over.

 

“Oh, yeah? You sound real sorry, you son of a bitch! You’re not the one who’s got young’ns to feed, now are you?”

“What does my age gotta do with anything? I’m the best damn worker you’ve got and you know it.”

 

Sam hears footsteps coming up the stairs then Dean pushes the door open, his expression completely blank. He lands on his bed, flat on his face, not saying anything.

 

Castiel asks, “Is this really bad?”

 

Sam kisses the top of his head. “I think so.”

 

 

*

 

 

From there, it only gets worse. But not the average kind of worse, the kind that makes you want to set fire to yourself, tie a rope around your neck, and jump off the nearest bridge while you’re at it (hoping there’s no water at the bottom).

 

Friday night, Sam sleeps in Castiel’s bed so they can kiss until one of them falls asleep or the sun comes up. Neither of those things happens because they’re still kissing, mostly unconscious, hands tangled and hips aligned as their mouths do nothing more but gently rub. It’s more of a caress than a kiss at this point but it feels nice enough.

 

 Around noon, Castiel wakes up with his hard-on rubbing against the flat of Sam’s stomach. Some time while they were kissing, his boxers must have slipped down. Sam, on the other hand, is snoring softly, his head tilted back as if baring his neck to Castiel.

 

He can’t help but chew on the soft skin, his hips dragging slickly across Sam’s middle. He’s leaving trails of his arousal, he knows, but he can’t stop now that he’s this hard. The orgasm is building like a coaster going up with its passengers. As he’s pressing hard, catching on Sam’s hips, and once on his matching hard-on, Sam whimpers his name. Castiel falls over the cliff that he’s been climbing.

 

Castiel’s still slightly dazed when he realizes what he did. He used Sam; made him into some object to rut against like an animal would. He’s taken something from him, stolen the privilege of seeing Castiel have an orgasm because of him. He could have woken him up at any moment, allowed him to see how comfortable he’s become, but he didn’t. He let him sleep and left a mess behind instead of letting him join in.

 

As Sam begins to stir, Castiel leaps out of bed and gets a washcloth. He wipes most of it away before Sam completely wakes up. But it doesn’t keep him from going back to the toilet and throwing up. He’s disgusted with himself. He’s reminded of his father.

 

---

 

Then it’s time to meet his father – which is always a pleasure. He knocks, gets pulled in, expects the cuffs that are snapped on (and he knows how to break them now, but he hasn’t found a reason to do that yet; it would put his family in trouble); but doesn’t expect to be led into the living room where five other men are all seated with wine glasses and cigarettes between their lips.

 

The look of betrayal is obvious; he feels it travel from his gut to the muscles around his mouth. Zachariah doesn’t even pay him mind and tells the men, “Here’s the prostitute I told you about. He’ll let you do almost anything.” They begin to cheer. “I’ve roughed him up good a few times, and he’s still come back.”

 

They laugh like Castiel is the one with low morals; like he’s the one who wants this and enjoys it. Like he’s the one lying to his colleagues or whoever these despicable people are who are willing to gangbang an underage boy in front of each other.

 

But he doesn’t stop them and tell them this is his father selling him like a cheap whore. He doesn’t scream or cry for help. Or cry at all. He takes it, bears it, like he has the past few weeks with his father. Even when they take out chains and whips, burn him with candles and try to cut up his skin. He lets them do it all, because he knows when it’s all over, he’ll be back home with his family. And maybe this won’t be so bad if his father lets him have some money so that he can fulfill this role he’s thrust in him to satisfy these strangers.

 

---

 

There isn’t any money given to him, by his father or anyone. He lies and tells them he’s paid him in advance, that Castiel got it before he’d arrived. In the end,  his only solace is that they didn’t use him all at once.

 

It’s all over, but that’s when his anger wants to explode. With eyes swollen and stinging with hot tears from the pain and humiliation of being used repeatedly, and a body that now feels unworthy to be touched or even looked on by Sam, he staggers his way home.  Nothing could keep him from feeling like maybe he shouldn’t return to his new family at all, but he does. They’re all he has and as far as he knows they still want him around.

 

 

*

 

 

Bobby’s on the phone with a creditor when Castiel finally snaps. He was staring at his window, trying to pry it open with his mind, with no luck. Something so simple and he can’t accomplish it, because his gift is what put him in the position he was last night. That curse -  into a gift at all if it makes him feel weaker than before – is what gave his father the leverage he needed to call all his work pals over and fuck him so many times he can’t even open the window.

 

His legs shake too much to walk over there and do it manually, and he expected to be able to do it with telekinesis – no problem.

 

“I don’t have the money right now. I’m between jobs,” says Bobby downstairs.

 

Castiel tries to block him out and focus on turning the window’s lock, but he can’t even budge it. If only he’d gotten some money from being shoved into by six men without condoms, hands hard, smacking and pulling, scratching and drawing blood from his skin. If he’d at least made a hundred dollars, Bobby wouldn’t have to worry about taking care of him. He could just be an invisible body floating in and out, seeing Sam and Dean, going to school, and helping with chores once in a while. He wouldn’t be causing them trouble. He’d be solving problems.

 

He couldn’t leave his room today because he couldn’t walk. He had to use his power to get home and into his room. Sam’s had been alluring, but he would have woken him up because of how unstable he was; how completely empty of control.

 

And thinking it over, that might be what’s causing him problems with using it now. His body was already on the edge of shutting down, and he had pushed it even further, without giving it any fuel to live on. He’s so weak he can’t even lift his arms up. That had made Sam gasp this morning.

 

Although Sam had made that promise, Castiel saw he was seconds from breaking it – which Castiel understands. If their places were switched, and Sam was the one that looked like he was beaten by a gang of men, he would be out for blood. But Sam didn’t push it. He just told Castiel to stay home, he’d bring some treats back for him after lunch, and then they could fall asleep cuddled up to watch movies later that night.

 

It sounded so stupidly nice that Castiel started crying when Sam left for brunch with Dean. How could Sam even want someone so used up he might as well be a real prostitute? Why would he want spoiled goods; someone who’s been fucked by people twice his age, people he doesn’t even love so many times he lost count?

 

Bobby throws the phone across the kitchen when the conversation doesn’t go how he wants and curses when it breaks as it hits the wall.

 

Likewise, Castiel sees his window shatter open, then he’s flying outside, his shirt catching on the edges and ripping a patch off. He ignores it, and any other thoughts that are trying to keep him rooted.

 

---

 

Sam runs up the stairs to meet Castiel with a plastic bag with goodies in it to cheer him up. He had looked worse than usual this morning and he knew he couldn’t ask why. Dean isn’t as giddy about the presents but he follows Sam up just as quickly. They swing his door open and both their hearts stop.

 

The window is open, broken, a piece of fabric hanging from a shard. They don’t know how they get downstairs so fast, but Bobby’s there, his head in his hands. “I’m sorry,” he tells them. There’s water in his eyes when he looks up. “I think it’s my fault he’s gone. He heard me hollering on the phone again then…” He pushes his cap down to cover his face as he starts crying. “Just go get him and tell him it’ll all be fine. I don’t want him back with his father.”

 

He doesn’t have to tell them twice.

 

---

 

Seeing red had never been a problem for Castiel in the past, not when his mother was alive or even after she died. Not while his father had become unbearable to live with. But sometime after touching that meteor, everything became like blades too sharp, piercing right underneath the surface of his skin. It’s the same as an itch that, if left unscratched, would certainly kill him in the end.

 

Castiel tells himself it’s just what happens when you touch foreign objects, but he can’t say that for sure, because how much experience does he have exactly? How often does a meteor radiate a gift? And as far as Castiel knows, he and Sam weren’t the only ones to touch it, but they’re the only ones affected by it. He still hasn’t figured out why Dean was, too.

 

It’s with this going through his mind that wind blinds him, forcing him to close his eyes against the water welling up. His throat is hoarse from something, a scrape of skin burning against his vocal muscles. And he doesn’t realize why it burns like acid, until his ears start ringing from the pitch. He’s still screaming as he flies. His nose starts bleeding, but he ignores it; he knows where his father is.

 

---

 

Dean prays to all the gods he doesn’t believe in that they won’t be stopped because he’s driving like a madman, and now Sam’s nose is dripping blood like a fuckin’ faucet. They’re swerving through cars like it’s a drag race and Sam lurches each time, his head lolling from the loss of blood. He can barely see two feet in front of him, but there’s a pull to follow Castiel no matter what’s happening.

 

“He’s going to get his father,” says Sam, holding his head when it starts throbbing from the anger Castiel is exuding like radiation poisoning. “He’s so angry, Dean. I’ve never felt him like this.”

 

“Yeah,” says Dean, “I can…feel it too.”

 

Usually, Dean won’t admit it, or perhaps he just hasn’t been in tune enough in the past to feel it, but if he can then they’re in more trouble than Sam thought.

 

---

 

Castiel sees his father pull up in a Mercedes, straightening his cufflinks when he steps out. He hovers just above him, waiting for the moment when he’s all alone. Then he barges in, smashing the door down with his fingers trembling. His nose drips on the floor, and Zachariah gawks at him like he’s a monster come to drain him. That doesn’t sound bad at all.

 

He flies into his father, throwing him out the backyard window then leaves him there dizzy and fumbling as he wrecks everything in his new home; paintings, closets, doors, windows, appliances, furniture, all. His arms feel heavy by the time he latches on to the walls with his mind, bringing them crumbling down, one by one…

 

Then he feels Sam nearing before he hears his voice.

 

He stops dead where he is, right below a beam he’s just broken into two large chunks. It falls onto him.

 

---

 

“He’s hurt!” shouts Sam. “Stop the car, I need to help him.”

 

“Wait a minute, Sammy,” says Dean.  “You have to lead me to him. I can’t find him on my own.”

 

“I can’t wait. He needs me.” Sam swings the door open and uses whatever of his power he can to get to Castiel before anything gets worse.

 

---

 

Zachariah lifts most of the beam, surprising Castiel that he’d bother at all. But then he drags Castiel across the destruction and the cracking tiles like a dog, making sure to pull his hair every once in a while to show him who’s boss. “With all your magic tricks, you still haven’t been able to kill me, you prick.”

 

He drops Castiel in the yard, watching him clutch at his stomach, choking on the dust that went into his lungs as everything started falling. “It’s not over,” Castiel grits, his nails scratching against the grass.

 

“I’d say it is. I’m going to call the authorities and that’s the end of this sideshow.” He leans down close to Castiel’s ear to tell him, “You’re no son of mine. I never wanted you to begin with.”

 

Zachariah starts dialing 911, but Castiel forces himself up on his knees and elbows. He looks over at the man with scars from a near-death, and imagines the bruises he’s hiding underneath his fancy clothes. This isn’t his father, he says under his breath. This was never where he belonged. He’s nothing at all. He means nothing. Therefore it doesn’t matter what happens to him.

 

“Then I think we’re finished,” says Castiel, glaring at his father from beneath his dark hair, one of his eyes swelling from being dragged across the floor.

 

“What was that?” snaps Zachariah.

 

The red curtain of hatred is back before Castiel knows it, and he rushes forward like a bull drawn to the sight of blood. He lifts his father with him into the air, zipping past birds and planes, sliding unnoticed through them all to reach clouds filled with rain about to fall. A storm’s coming, he knows, but he can’t wait for lightning to zap his father. He’d rather – let – him –

 

Zachariah gets smaller and smaller as Castiel stays above, watching him plummet for the first and only time from the highest point Castiel’s ever gone. Nothing flies up here; there’s no one to figure out what he’s done; he can’t be linked to his father’s death, especially if he disappears once he makes sure the body is mangled and squashed in the dirt.

 

---

 

Sam sees flailing arms and swoops in instinctively to catch whoever it is. But it turns out to be Zachariah – who seems more insulted that there’s someone else with Castiel’s power than the fact that his son just willingly dropped him.

 

“Let go of me, you shit,” he says, trying to kick Sam in the stomach. “I’m going to tell everyone about what you and my son can do. Everyone will know that you’re aliens. They won’t know what to do with you, will they? I hope they kill you,” he finishes.

 

Sam is seconds away from dropping him, until the Impala comes into view. Then he goes to a safe height, and lets him go right next to it. He tells Dean, “Keep him there. I’m going to get Castiel. He’s still in the sky.”

 

“No problem! Go get your man!” says Dean, fist pumping at his brother with a grin. Sam smiles when Dean clocks Zachariah in the back of the head to knock him out.

 

---

 

Castiel screams because his skin feels like it’s burning; he knows his father isn’t dead because Sam is close by. He pushes through where he is, moving clouds around until he sees Sam coming towards him.

 

“Leave me alone,” Castiel tells him, taking off across the clouds towards the one that seems the most likely to produce a strike.

 

Sam zips on his trail, saying, “I can’t, you’re part of the family. Dean’s here with me.” He pants as his body starts to give out, and sees Castiel start zigzagging like he won’t hold out much longer either. “Bobby told us to come get you.”

 

Castiel turns around, floating near a dark rumble that’s set to spark any second. “I’m no good, Sam Winchester.” He starts crying, the streaks mixing in from the blood from his nose. “I’ve been spoiled goods from the beginning.” He laughs, but his tears keep flowing. “Do you know how many times I’ve had to shut my mind off as my father violated me?”

 

Sam feels his stomach drop to the soles of his feet. He…hadn’t known it’d gone that far. If he had – if he knew when he caught that son of a bitch – he would have pile-driven him into the ground head first and taken a life sentence for Castiel. Later, he’ll tell Dean they have to rough him up well. Later, when Castiel trusts them again; when he realizes how much they love him. How much he loves him.

 

“None of it matters, Cas,” shouts Sam over the stirring of the thunderclouds. “You know why?”

 

“Why?” Castiel sobs, openly bawling now.

 

“Because I’m in love with you.” He approaches slowly, so as not to make Castiel do something he’ll regret. “I love you…and you’re my family.”

 

Castiel doesn’t zoom off like he could; he stays and even lets Sam put his arms around him. They’re both shaking from the abuse of their powers. “Let me take you home. We’ll figure this all out.”

 

It won’t be that simple. “It isn’t that simple,” howls Castiel, shoving the only boy he’s ever loved away. “I need to make sure you’re never in danger of being found out.” All that matters is his unit’s safety, and for that, Zachariah has to be taken down. He has to die, by Castiel’s hand, because that’s only fair, isn’t it? It’s the only ending that makes sense. Then he can think on his mistakes in jail, and the Winchester household can be a family again – without him. They’re too good to need him.

 

Sam’s nose stings when he Castiel starts gathering more power. “No, please!” he begs, “Cas, let me help. We can send him to jail. For life! Then you’ll be free. Bobby can adopt you.”

 

“That sounds like a pleasant dream,” Castiel replies, closing his eyes. “Move away now, Sam.”

 

The clouds roar, so loud this close that they both have to cover their ears. It grows in intensity until flashes of silver light start zipping through it like bolts, each one longer and wider than the last. And when Castiel’s nose starts pouring again, Sam can’t even see clearly anymore, let alone think of a way to calm him down.

 

“What are you doing?” he asks, because he has to know how far this is going.

 

“I’m ending this. I know where he is,” says Castiel. “Don’t get in my way.

 

A massive thunderbolt grates its way from the cloud faster than the speed of sound. And it’s in that moment that Sam sees it all slow down to a crawl. Castiel is killing his father, below, down on the ground. He’s throwing out lightning and starting the storm before it’s meant to. He’s aiming it for that place he dropped his father, the same place Dean is waiting in the Impala –

 

The same place –

 

The same –

 

“No!” Sam bellows, his voice slipping into a frenzied roar of panic. “Dean is down there!”

 

Castiel’s eyes snap open, his lips trembling with recognition, but they both know it’s already done.

 

---

 

Dean knows a storm is coming; smells it like anyone would. The thick smell of it fills his lungs with a sick sense of dread. He can’t put his finger on it, and that’s never been the case before. He usually likes rain. In the back seat, Zachariah seems almost peaceful his eyes closed and snoring as if his knockout was planned. Figures that even under stress or violence, the asshole is smug about it.

 

He turns the radio on, but all he gets is static, which isn’t the norm. Something about this storm doesn’t bode well. His senses have never been wrong. He looks out the window, and the clouds are rumbling something fierce. They seem to be moving faster, towards him even. He considers driving off to where the clouds aren’t looming so deadly but that would mean leaving Sam and Castiel behind, and he’s not willing to risk it in case they call for him.

 

Then Sam is screaming like Dean has never heard in his life, making all the hairs stand up on his forearms. He tucks back in his car, ignoring the way the clouds have gotten darker, but then it’s bright, and when he leans out the window to see why, he’s frozen solid – staring at lightning the width of a building coming down faster than he kick his door open and get outside.

 

There’s a second of excruciating burning, white-hot and endless. Then it’s over.

 

---

 

Sam lands next to Dean’s lifeless body first. He lifts him up, turning his face and pressing his cheek to his mouth to see if he’s breathing. He’s not.

 

A few seconds later, Castiel falls in the grass beside them. “I – I don’t understand. Why--” He clears his throat. “Why--” he chokes on his words. “Why wasn’t he flying? Why didn’t you have him with you?” He looks down, his eyes running tears down his cheeks. “I…I don’t understand.” He collapses to his knees.

 

“You know why!” Sam shouts, cradling Dean in his arms. “He can’t control it like us. He’s not good in storms.” He shakes his head, petting that ridiculous point of Dean’s hair that’s now flattened from rain and dirt and the filth on the ground. “Wake up, come on,” he whispers. “You’ve gone through worse,” he says. “You’ve drowned and woken up after an hour.” He presses Dean to his chest, rocking him. “Come on. You can’t give up now.”

 

Castiel wants to reach for them but his hand doesn’t make it. His fingers shaking, he digs his nails into the ground. He doesn’t even know if his father died in all this, but it doesn’t matter now. He has lost the battle. He lost.

 

“I’m so sorry,” he says, whimpering into his sleeves. “I never meant for this.”

 

Sam cries in the collar of Dean’s leather jacket, not raising his head to acknowledge Castiel’s apology. He knows he had good reason to be angry, but Sam also has one now. And if he looks, sees the broken man in front of him, he’s going to lash out and destroy what’s left of Castiel. That’s not what needs to happen.

 

Dean wouldn’t want that.  He’d want them to be happy, even without him.

 

 

 

*

 

Sam and Bobby are dressed in classic black with white dress shirts. Castiel attends the funeral, too, but he hides where they can’t see him. His father’s funeral passed a few days ago, barely anyone showed up, and no one took the microphone to talk about how good of a person he was. There was no point lying anymore since he was dead, Castiel guesses. He only went there to ask God to please send him to Hell for all that he has caused.

 

At Dean’s funeral, however, Castiel tells him everything he never thought he’d be saying to an open coffin. He seems different in a suit with his hair slicked. He doesn’t look like the rebel who could make Castiel laugh even through the pain his father kept giving him. He looks robbed of his youth, of his glory, and it’s all Castiel’s fault.

 

He has to leave the funeral early. He’ll send Bobby and Sam flowers tomorrow.

 

---

 

Castiel can’t face going back to the Singer home. He figures it’s better to call it Singer now that Sam is the only… He holds back a sound trying to rip through his throat. He covers his mouth with both palms when it doesn’t work, sliding his back against the tree he’s leaning on. He’s in that park where they used to meet; the one a few blocks from his home where Dean picked him up every morning and drove him secretly to school. And it’s rotten now. He falls to the root of the tree, eyes burning with tears. But he won’t let out a sound; he’s not worthy, since he’s the one who did it. He’s the one who broke apart his unit – the only thing he ever cherished enough to die for.

 

It’s while he’s leaning over that hands rest on his shoulders, and when he looks up, Sam is there, his eyes swollen from crying. He kneels next to Castiel, both of them staring at each other like they’re strangers, but then Sam makes a noise like his heart is breaking, and Castiel tugs him forward, hiding Sam’s face in his neck.

 

He whispers, “I’m sorry. I’m so sorry,” over and over until the words are heavy on his tongue; until he doesn’t know if it’s English anymore. Sam cries through it, his black suit a mess once they walk out of the park and to the Impala.

 

“Bobby wants to see you,” says Sam, holding Castiel’s hand.

 

Castiel notices that Sam’s eyes are so dark he probably hasn’t been sleeping at all.

 

“I can’t,” Castiel tells him, looking away when he feels his eyes water. He can’t cry for Dean when he’s the one who caused it. He deserves to feel this stabbing pain in his centre. “I took his son away.”

 

Sam shakes his head, grabbing Castiel’s shoulders. He’s angry as he says, “Don’t you get it?” He’s squeezing too hard, leaving marks on Castiel; he can’t stop it. “You’re his son, too. You’re one of us.”

 

Castiel rubs at his eyes, shuffling forward to rest his head on Sam’s chest. “How can I live with this?”

 

Sam pulls him closer, kissing the top of his head. “We’ll figure it out. You don’t have to do this alone.”

 

It’s the first time that Castiel knows he won’t be punished for a mistake. Bobby’s not going to beat him when he steps through the door. Sam doesn’t hate him if the way he’s curling his fingers in his hair is anything to go by. For once, his mistake will be overlooked. The one time he’s done something truly terrible and expects to pay for it.

 

But that’s just how Singers and Winchesters work.

 

Sam drives them home, humming a tune Dean used to when they made their way to school. Castiel leans his head on his shoulder, and Sam sings loud enough for them to pretend Dean’s doing it.