Emmanuel looked up from where he was sweeping between the pews and saw the concerned face of Claire, the bright young daughter of a recent widow, peeking in through the large front doors.
"You're welcome to come in," he prompted, but she shook her head and stayed where she was, keeping herself outside. It had been long enough since his unusual arrival that most townsfolk, few as there were in a new settlement this far out west, had stopped being wary of him, but the children still were. He didn't blame them. Children usually were more perceptive to things adults ignored.
"There's two men here to see ya. They said they'd be waitin' at the Harvelle's saloon," she said, fingers tightening where he could see them gripping on the door. He took a deep breath and walked towards her, leaning his broom against the wall before touching a hand to her shoulder. She flinched at the touch and he dropped it back to his side quickly, giving her an awkward, apologetic smile.
"Thank you, Claire. You can head home."
She nodded, looking eager to get as far away as she could, but she hesitated a moment, tugging at the front of her dress. "Please, be careful, Father," she said, keeping her voice quiet, "They look real mean, like they'd shoot a man 'fore he could say nothin' even if he didn't right deserve it."
Her concern startled him more than the idea that his first visitors since his arrival were the violent sort. He'd been waiting near three months for some sign of his past to show up, and even with all of his memory gone, he'd always suspected it wouldn't be pleasant. But before he could say a comforting word, she turned around and darted off into the street, leaving him alone. He glanced over his shoulder, at the dusty floor he had only half cleaned and the empty pews he had grown accustomed to napping in, and wondered if he'd see them again. With a quiet goodbye, he stepped out through the doors and headed for the Roadhouse.
On most days, there were at least a handful of people milling around outside, but it was eerily empty now. He could already see the unfamiliar horses, jet black and giant, tied to the stand outside the Roadhouse. Whoever had come to find him, it was clear they brought bad news. But he didn't hesitate, keeping his pace steady as he walked inside.
What he'd expected was murderers, serial train robbers, a pair of violent fugitives. For all he knew, that was still who had come for him.
But they just looked like boys to him. Tired, worn and unfairly long-lived boys, rough hands coated in blood they never meant to spill, hunched over their drinks on the counter like the world had seated itself on their shoulders as soon as they were born.
When they heard the door push open, they looked up in unison and froze at the sight of him. None of them said a word—even Ellen had stopped cleaning the bar and fallen completely silent—until the one closest to the door, with freckles that stood out even on his scarred, tanned skin, stood up from his seat and said in a quiet, doubtful voice, "... Cas?"
The name Emmanuel had been kindly chosen for him by the man who had taken him in after he was pulled from the river, who had let him stay at the church and pretend to be a man of God when all he remembered was a verse of Romans and his back was covered in burns, scars the preacher called angel wings as if they weren't the signs of his past sins. The preacher had given him the name of a son he'd lost to illness many years ago, and it had never felt right fitting into the borrowed name of a well-loved dead man.
Cas still didn't remember anything, looking into the faces of these young boys, but he knew this name was his.
"You still sure you ain't got no problems up 'n leavin' town like this?"
The younger one was Sam, Cas learned about five minutes outside of the only town he could remember living in, and he kept asking that question. They were thirty miles away now, sun setting behind them as they headed back east towards Kansas, and he still hadn't asked the name of the man who'd given him back his own.
"I was a stranger to them. It won't matter none."
"Yeah, but... You said you still ain't rememberin' us, or anythin' from 'fore you were found. Could be we're lyin' to you. Maybe we were strangers, too."
They hadn't told him enough—or much of anything at all—to have a need to lie, but Cas didn't mention that.
"You know who I am, or who I used to be anyway, and I walked into that saloon expectin' to be shot dead because of it, but I'm still breathin'. I figure that's worth putting a little faith in the two of you."
That made Sam's brother halt his horse and round on Cas, making Cas' own borrowed horse startle and nearly tip him off her.
"Faith?" he parroted, sounding sick with anger. He looked so different now than he had before, when his face was nothing but reluctant hope. He was glaring at Cas, face twisted with a spiteful sneer, like Cas had robbed him blind and shot him in the back.
Hell, for all Cas knew, he had.
"That all you remember, huh? Not me and Sam, not what you did to us, just a whiff of that damned faith you used to curse me for not havin'? That faith that damn near got you killed 'cause you were fool enough to keep it?"
"Maybe it was the faith that saved me, Dean," Cas countered, unable to stop himself, before realizing a name he didn't know had tumbled out of him. He was fairly certain they hadn't been talking about a faith in God, either.
Whatever anger had been in Dean's face—and the man was Dean, Cas knew, beyond a shadow of a doubt that he was, and he wondered how he could ever forget—drained and for a moment, the hope was back, as if the slip was a sign of who Cas used to be coming through. But when Cas said no more, the hope disappeared and he turned his horse back around and started up again.
"Dean—" Sam called out, and Cas had almost forgotten he was there.
"Make camp," Dean shouted back, bursting into a gallop, leaving the two behind. When Sam slid off his horse with a sigh, Cas followed suit, making sure to slip the clerical collar from his shirt and throw it on the ground, the last remnants of his borrowed life left behind.
It was about a week's ride to where they were headed, and after the first day, most of the riding went by in silence. At night when they had to stop for sleep and give their horses a break, Sam tried to make them talk, if only to stop himself from going crazy and talking to himself, but Dean stuck to grunts and never responded in more than four words, and Cas did his best to be as monosyllabic as possible.
Dean never really looked at him when he could avoid it, even if Cas spent much of the day staring at his back as he rode behind him, wondering when, or if at all, he'd learn what he'd done that had hurt these boys so much. But so far, he doubted Dean would talk about it, and what little Sam admitted to knowing, he wasn't sharing either.
The night they stopped before their last day's ride back into Lawrence, Cas waited until Sam was asleep and stood up from his bedroll to crawl over and poke at Dean's side.
"Quit it," he said sleepily, waving an arm ineffectually at Cas in an attempt to make him stop. Cas started to push at his side then with his whole palm, but it wasn't until he slid it up to Dean's arm that he suddenly snapped awake and flailed hard, nearly smacking Cas in the face and making him fall backwards into the dirt. "What?" he hissed, looking angry and embarrassed.
"I wanted to ask you somethin' is all."
"I ain't got nothin' to say to you, so just—"
"Did I always have the burns?" Cas asked anyway, cutting Dean off and making him fall silent.
Cas was (re)learning that Dean always jumped to anger at first, even if he wasn't actually that upset, not to keep anyone out but to keep a great many things in. Cas had found himself thinking a lot the last few days if he'd ever seen inside Dean, learned the things he hid behind stubborn silence and disinterested glances, touched the parts that were still raw despite the layers and layers of scars trying to keep them safe.
The silence dragged on, and though Cas hadn't held out much hope that he'd get an answer, he felt himself feeling disappointed anyway. But the silence was less hurt than before, filled more with guilt and apology, and that felt good enough that Cas didn't press for more.
But Dean surprised him, answering after a long while, "Not always."
Cas hummed, folding himself into a comfortable sitting position while Dean lied back down, staring up at the night sky.
"How'd I get 'em?"
Dean smiled then, a rueful, unsure thing, and it made Cas' mouth go dry.
"You'd settled in a town, I ain't sure how long. I'd only known you a week or so back then when me an' Sam came through, but you'd been runnin' from your family, not long enough they'd stopped lookin', and they found you. Your brothers set the town on fire to get back at you for leavin'. Burned the whole damn place to dirt, but you ran into each an' every house and dragged out every person you could. Sam and me, we tried to help, too. Didn't save many, but it was more than woulda got out if you hadn't done what you did. The last house fell apart while you were still inside, killed the girls you were in there tryin' to save, burnt those scars into your back. I ran in and dragged you out 'fore the rest of the beams killed you."
Dean was staring at him now, like he hadn't since the very first moment they'd laid eyes on each other again in that saloon, and Cas couldn't help staring back.
"What did I do to you? And your brother? What made you so mad at me?"
He didn't want to, but he had to ask now, knowing he might not get another chance. Whatever they were taking him back to Kansas for, he had a feeling it might end up with him dead, and he wanted to know what he'd be heading to Hell for.
"You turned into 'em. Just like your brothers. You hurt Sam in a way I can't say I'd ever forgive you for."
Dean sat up then, slow and cautious, and after a moment's hesitation, reached a hand over to grab Cas by the arm and tug him forward. Cas followed easily, eyes never leaving Dean's.
"Then you told me you'd done all of it 'cause of some faith you had in me. Made me try to kill you, which I thought you'd never forgive me for, only to watch you drown before I could save you. And now, turns out you can't even remember your own damn name."
He laughed then, soft and sad, and Cas wanted so desperately to fix things, to make him laugh like a boy who hadn't been born with the world set on burying him, but all he could think to say was, "I remembered yours," and it wasn't enough for everything, and there probably never would be, but it was enough for now, and Dean's hand slid up Cas' arm to his neck and pulled him the rest of the way in for a kiss.