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Right Where You Want Me

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“It was a mistake," you said. But the cruel thing was, it felt like the mistake was mine, for trusting you.” 

- David Levithan, The Lover's Dictionary

 

“Say what now?” Castiel asked, not entirely sure he’d heard his grandfather correctly. He hoped he had misheard him or something because this situation just wasn’t going to fly.

His grandpa sighed, sitting down on the bed opposite his and folding his hands in his lap, all the while keeping his gaze locked on his grandson, “I said, we’ll be having a few people- a couple a’ teenagers- stay with us for the school year. Your sister set it up.”

Castiel’s eyebrows shot up at that, and, despite himself, he barked out a laugh. “And where exactly does Anna expect these kids to sleep? We live in a four-bedroom house, and my room isn’t exactly a viable option, as you can see,” he said, gesturing around his small bedroom, the one he already shared with his older brother, Gabriel. With how cluttered it already was, there was no way in hell they could even try to fit more than just them in this room.

That’s when his grandpa smiled, a mischievous glint in his eyes, “Oh, I don’t know about that.”

Castiel’s eyes narrowed suspiciously, “What did you do?”

“I may have added on a few extra rooms to the house, about three or four,” his grandpa said offhandedly like it was no big deal that he’d once again screwed with the laws of nature and magically poofed whole new locations into existence. “And they’re up in the attic, so your idjit of a father can’t bitch about exposing our kind to humans. Nobody even goes up there.”

“Um, and Dad okayed this little exchange student program?” Castiel asked. James Singer wasn’t exactly known for being accepting of things that weren’t ‘normal’. His father had left Halloweentown as soon as he turned eighteen, legal age in the human world, and upon starting school at a local community college, he met his mother, Amelia, and eventually the two of them settled down and had Castiel and his siblings. His father was now an English professor at Penn, and his mother had been an art teacher at the high school, but she had passed away when Castiel was seven from breast cancer.

His grandpa still visited, not willing to cut off his youngest son and his family just because he didn’t want to practice magic anymore, but the visits were limited only to Halloween. As a kid, Castiel had always found this a bit odd. Why Halloween? Most people’s grandparents were around for Christmas and Thanksgiving, but not his. Grandpa Bobby was only ever around one day out of the whole year, and for some odd reason, he’d chosen Halloween. Little did he know; it wasn’t up to him but was part of the whole ‘the-portal-can-only-open-on-Halloween-night’ deal.

Growing up, Castiel had no experience with the magical world, not even knowing that it existed outside of make-believe until he turned eight and, that Halloween, followed his too-curious-for-his-own-good older brother onto the bus that his grandfather boarded. They ended up in Halloweentown, and, well, here they were nine years later.

“Oh, let me deal with him,” His grandpa told him, not looking all that concerned about it, “Once I pull the education card, your father will be all but loading the kids on the bus here.”

“Uh huh,” Castiel said, highly doubting that any such thing would occur, “Let me know how that goes.”

“You have no faith in me, boy,” His grandpa said, grumpily, “I know how to handle your dad. I raised ‘im, didn’t I?”

“Just try not to get Anna into too much trouble, okay?” Castiel asked, knowing better than to question his grandpa. It wouldn’t do any good anyway. Robert Singer would do whatever he wanted no matter what anyone else said. “She’s already on thin ice because of the whole broom incident.

His grandpa chuckled, probably thinking about last year when he had bought Anna a broom, and a fast one at that. Anna, being a typical fourteen-year-old, had snuck out and taken it for a midnight ride and had very nearly exposed herself to humans by flying over Citizens Bank Park. It had been on the news, and thankfully she hadn’t been close enough for them to see it was a person, only the sparks that followed her broom. They had thought it was a shooting star, yet still his dad had been so mad that Castiel could almost see the little veins in his father’s forehead throbbing.

His grandpa nodded, “I won’t even mention her. No sense getting the kid in trouble for trying to do the right thing.”

“So uh, how exactly is this going to work?” Castiel asked, curiously, “The portal is only open on Halloween and school starts this Friday. Probably not the best idea to have them starting late when they’re already going to need so much help catching up.”

“We got a pass from the town council,” His grandpa told him, “Basically, they’re going to let the kids through on Tuesday, despite it not being Halloween. Apparently, they can do that.”

“If they can open the portal any time they like, why bother closing it off at all?” he asked though he had a vague idea of what the answer would be. Too dangerous. Humans hate creatures. Can’t expose ourselves. Essentially it all came down to one thing- fear. The people of Halloweentown didn’t trust humans not to come after them if they made themselves known, and so they would never risk it.

“Because the council is stuck in the past,” Grandpa said, clearly showing his distaste for the council’s stance. Had you asked him a few years before, he’d probably have sided with them, but after having met humans and even making friends with a few of them, he’d become a lot more comfortable around them. His grandchildren were half-human, after all. “They still believe that humanity is completely closed-minded. But really, it’s mostly them. Since our kind fled t, humans have changed. Slavery came about and for the most part ended, women got rights- though I still think there’s work to be done, and hell, same-sex marriage was legalized in the United Stars…”

“States,” Castiel corrected.

“… last year. I mean, granted it was never illegal in Halloweentown to begin with, but still. Humanity has come around in the past few centuries.” Grandpa said, shaking his head. “They ought to give ‘em a chance, or at least consider it.”

That first bit had caught Castiel’s attention, so he asked, “Never?”

Grandpa Bobby studied him like he was trying to figure something out, “Well, yeah. Same-sex relationships were demonized by humans mostly because of certain religions, right? That isn’t an issue in Halloweentown, given we don’t follow religion for the most part.”

Now that particular tidbit caught Cas’ attention.

“They don’t… none of them have an issue with it?” Cas asked, trying not to sound too interested in the answer, even though in actuality he was brimming with curiosity.

The people of Halloweentown never seemed particularly homophobic to him, but then again, he’d never thought about it. Now that he was thinking about it, though, he could recall dozens of times he’d walked past two men or two women holding hands downtown. He’d always just thought they were being friendly. But then, he was used to his world, where sometimes same-sex couples were met with hatred and disgust, so he didn’t expect any different from Halloweentown.

“Why do you ask?” Grandpa asked him, no judgment on his face, only simple curiosity. When he caught sight of his grandson’s facial expression, one of nervous dread, he reached across the divide between the beds, placing a hand on the boy’s shoulder. “You know it don’t matter to me, right? You’re my grandson and I don’t give a single damn who you’re with, so long as they treat you good.”

Castiel gave his grandfather a shaky smile, “Thanks. I appreciate that.”

“Yeah, of course,” Grandpa told him. He stood up then, patting Castiel on the shoulder as he went. “Just remember I’m in your corner, kid. And so are your brother and sister.”

Castiel didn’t comment on the fact that his father hadn’t been mentioned, but he understood. His grandfather had no idea what stance his son had on this issue, as he’d lived in the human world for going on two decades. And it wasn’t like anyone ever brought it up around him, so really, who knew how he’d react. He could take it well and hug Castiel, telling him he loved him no matter what, or he could just as easily scream at him, call him hurtful names and throw him out of the house, and, by proxy, the family.

It’d probably be best to avoid talking to his dad about that for a while.

 

 

Tuesday came faster than Castiel expected, and somehow there had yet to be a fight between his father and his grandpa. He’d been expecting the big blow up for the past three days, but so far, nothing. Not even a single peep about the exchange program out of either one of them. Castiel was starting to think that his grandpa hadn’t even told his father.

That morning, he woke to a crash from upstairs, up in the attic. He was so tired he almost went back to sleep, figuring that if it turned out to be serious, there were four other magically-inclined people in the house that could handle it, but when he heard a familiar voice shout a curse, his eyes shot open. No, it couldn’t be.

He threw on a semi-clean pair of jeans and a new t-shirt, hurrying out of his room and up the stairs to the attic. By the time he reached the top of the stairs, he was completely out of breath, heaving, trying to get air into his screaming lungs. He needed to go to a gym or something. Maybe, but probably not.         

When Castiel finally caught his breath, he could pick up on the sound of voices coming from somewhere to his left. He continued down what must have been the hallway of the addition his grandfather had created, following the voices until he found himself in front of a closed door.

 “I don’t see why you can’t just talk to him-”

That voice was familiar, if slightly deeper than he remembered. But then, Sam had only been about twelve when he last saw him and had been only on the verge of puberty. Four years had brought the younger Winchester’s voice down a few octaves, but that didn’t even begin to compare to the smooth baritone that answered him.

 “Because Sammy, what I did… you can’t apologize for that,” Dean replied, and Castiel heard him sigh, “What exactly do you want me to say, ‘Sorry Cas, I didn’t mean to help my dad almost destroy Halloweentown and the human world’? I don’t think that really does it justice, do you?”

Sam was silent, and in that silence Castiel took a chance and nudged open the door, revealing the two brothers.

As usual, their clothing struck him as a bit odd, but then, it was, by human standards. Dean was dressed in a tailored hunter green suit, a bright orange tie, and a pair of black patent leather shoes. His eyes were also lined with what looked like black winged eyeliner, making his brilliant green eyes pop even more than usual. It was very intricately done, almost like something out of a Lady Gaga video. Not only did it go out from under and over his eyes, but it came down to his high cheekbones in intricate swirls. To finish the look, his light brown hair was artfully spiked up. He must've spent hours on it if watching Anna try to do basic eyeliner and end up taking a half-hour was any indication. His younger brother, on the other hand, was a little less dressed up, wearing a pair of black pants and a black silk dress shirt, all underneath a velvety red cloak. Castiel wasn't sure he'd ever fully understand Halloweentown fashion.

Though he only got a quick look, he did notice a few things about the room his grandfather had created. For one, it was rather spacious. Much more spacious than his and Gabriel's room, at least, but that wasn't saying much. Also, the walls were painted a rich crimson and the bedding on both twin beds was black, although the sheets and pillowcases were the same red as the walls. There were two wardrobes, a desk, a nightstand, a stocked bookshelf, and a stand with a TV and cable box on it. He wondered how long that would last if the two boys got to messing with it because they inevitably would.

Sam, despite the conversation the two had just been having, smiled like he was happy to see him, while Dean merely stared, green eyes wide and full of worry. It was like he was waiting for him to do something, maybe to take his revenge and smite him. Castiel did nothing of the sort though he did try his best to return the younger brother’s smile.

 “Hello,” Castiel said awkwardly, “I uh- I didn’t mean to interrupt or anything. It’s just that Grandpa didn’t tell me exactly who was coming to stay with us and I heard your voices.”

 “Oh,” Dean said, obviously at a loss for words. An uncomfortable silence ensued, which was thankfully broken after only a moment by the other boy, who was nudged by his younger brother, who gave him a look. Dean chuckled nervously, looking down and scuffing his fancy looking shoe against the cream-colored carpet beneath his feet, “Yeah, leave it to Bobby to not tell people stuff. “

Castiel huffed a laugh. He wasn’t wrong. “Well, um, I’ll just head downstairs now. Maybe grab a bowl of Lucky Charms or something.”

Both brothers stared at him blankly. Oh, right. He kind of doubted there was cereal in Halloweentown. “It’s kind of like… well- it’s a food you generally eat for breakfast. Or we do, at least,” Castiel tried to explain, but his words didn’t seem to satisfy the curiosity of the two boys though Sam at least had the decency to nod. Figuring he ought to leave while he was ahead of the game, he reached for the doorknob behind him, holding the door open so he could close the door behind him, “Well, I’ll see you later, I guess.”

Dean cleared his throat, nodding, but not meeting the other boy’s eyes, “Yeah. Later," he murmured softly.

Castiel chose to leave it at that, shutting the door behind him as he headed for the stairs. Oh boy were he and his grandfather going to have some words.

 

Chapter Text

“For there to be betrayal, there would have to have been trust first.”

- Suzanne Collins, The Hunger Games

 

Castiel felt his anger building with each step down toward the ground floor. How in the world had his grandfather, who was not a dumb man by any means, thought that inviting Dean Winchester to stay with them was a good idea? His grandfather had been there when the entire thing with Dean’s father had gone down, hell, he’d almost died because of it, and yet here he was, inviting the son of the man who tried to kill him into his family’s home.

“Exactly what the hell were you thinking?” Castiel growled upon entering the Novak’s kitchen, only to find that not only was his grandfather not in there, but five teenagers were present instead, clearly the Halloweentown kids, if their appearances told anything. This wasn’t awkward at all.

“Cassie!” He felt an arm hook around over his shoulders, pulling his body up against the person’s own. Gabriel. “And how’s my favorite little brother on this fine morning?”

“Oh, just peachy,” Castiel muttered, pulling himself away and turning on his brother with narrowed eyes, “Where’s Grandpa?”

“Oh, he’s around,” Gabriel said, a knowing smirk on his face that made Castiel want to grind his teeth, or maybe even just flat-out choke the other man. He wasn’t quite sure which he’d prefer. His brother was fond of messing with people, but now was not the time to play one of his little games. Castiel opened his mouth, about to say just that when another voice cut in, making him turn.

“Hey, stranger,” He turned to meet the kind, familiar olive-green eyes of his old friend, Charlie. Her red hair was shorter now, in what appeared to be a pixie cut, but her smile was just as warm as he remembered. She stepped forward and Gabriel moved out of the way, giving them space. Or maybe he knew how close Castiel had come to lunging at him. Either way worked. Charlie wrapped her arms around him, squeezing tight, like she hadn’t seen him in years, which, she hadn’t. “How’ve you been? I haven’t seen you since…” She cut herself off, a hesitant expression coming over her face.

Castiel sighed, reaching up and rubbing the back of his neck. Guess she was in-the-know on the situation at hand as well, “I already saw him, if that’s what you’re worried about.”

“Ohh, and how’d it go?” Charlie asked, looking a bit too eager for the circumstances. That changed in a moment’s notice, though, turning to mild concern, “Oh god, he isn’t lying in a pool of blood on the floor upstairs, is he? Screaming for help, no one around…”

“Charlie,” Castiel said calmly, placing a hand on his friend’s shoulder to urge her to stop talking, “You’ve watched wayyy too many human horror movies. You really need to learn to separate fiction from reality.”

Charlie leveled him with a look of disbelief, “Cas, I live in a world that most sane human beings don’t even believe exists. Is separating fiction from reality even really relevant to me?”

Well, she isn’t wrong.

“Touché,” Castiel said, removing his hand from her shoulder, “But anyway, no, he is neither dead nor maimed. He’s just as he was when he arrived.”

“I doubt that,” Charlie said under her breath.

“What?” Castiel asked, not quite following.

“I mean, he did see you, after all,” she said, a small smirk playing on her lips, and she continued in an annoyingly dramatic voice, “The boy he loved and betrayed…”

Castiel scoffed, rolling his eyes and crossing his arms. Loved. That was funny, but he was pretty sure Dean hadn’t even been honest about being his friend, let alone wanting anything more, “Dean Winchester did not love me.”

“No, I know that,” Charlie said, waving him off, “He still loves you. Never stopped.”

Gabriel, who had stood on the side of their conversation, saying nothing, cleared his throat, “Okay, well, on that note, maybe we ought to introduce you to our new tenants.”

Castiel didn’t even bother correcting his brother on his incorrect use of the word ‘tenant’ but instead turned his attention to the other people in the room. Before him stood a sour-faced blond girl dressed in a shimmery gold belly top and baggy pink pants, a rather lanky boy with a bit more facial hair than was normal for a human, and two human-looking kids dressed in dark clothing. The one girl had dark hair with blue tips and kind brown eyes, and the boy was wearing a black Greek fisherman’s hat as well as a black wool coat, but Castiel still couldn’t quite tell what kind of Creature they were. To him, in all honesty, they kind of just looked like a couple of typical gothic kids.

The boy wearing the hat stepped forward, sticking out a hand and smiling, showing off canines that were too sharp to belong to a human. A vampire, then, “Benny Lafitte, brother,” He gestured to the girl with the blue in her hair, “And that’s Dorothy Baum, my cousin.”

Castiel grasped his hand, shaking it just like his father had taught him- firm, but not so firm as to hurt the other person, “Castiel Novak, but I’m sure Gabriel’s already starting his shit-talking about me. But just a heads up, Gabriel is a compulsive liar. He also wet the bed until he was ten.”

“Hey!” Gabriel exclaimed, eyes wide, “You don’t just go telling people that, Cassie.”

“And stop calling me Cassie,” Castiel told him for what felt like the hundredth time, “I’m not a female, nor am I some cutesy prepubescent child.”

Benny laughed heartily, clapping Castiel on the shoulder, “Oh man, I get the feeling we’re really going to enjoy ourselves here.”

They all turned toward the doorway when they heard a squeak. It was probably the loose bottom stair. Someone probably should fix that, but his father refused to allow them to do it with magic. So naturally, it didn’t get done. His grandfather came in through the doorway then, Dean and Sam just behind him.

“I found a couple a’ strays wandering around upstairs,” Grandpa says, shooting a look that Castiel can’t quite read over his shoulder. Dean’s cheeks took on a pink hue, and he moved his gaze to the ground, even when Sam nudged him, a frown on his face. “You three are supposed to be taking responsibility for your guests. They’re new to this world, who knows what kind of messes they could get themselves into.”

“Grandpa, they’re people, not baby animals,” Castiel said although he kind of agreed, deep down. He didn’t want to make them feel bad about themselves for not understanding things, though. It wasn’t their fault. It was just how they were raised. “And this little program was Anna’s idea, not ours. So technically isn’t it her responsibility?”

“Woah, thanks,” Charlie said although she was smiling, “Glad to see you missed me.”

Castiel just shook his head. He turned his attention back to his grandfather, who was looking at him with an exasperated expression, “Come on boy- work with me here. Anna can’t do all this on her own. She’s gonna need help.”

“What exactly do you want me to do?” Castiel asked, crossing his arms, “Babysit them?”

“That sounds painful,” Dean murmured softly to his brother, looking concerned and hopelessly confused, “We’re not going to sit on babies, are we?”

Sam didn’t seem to understand either, simply shrugging his shoulders in response.

“No,” Castiel said, looking at the two brothers a bit oddly. Did that terminology not exist in Halloweentown? “It means that I’d basically be watching over you.”

“So no babies?” Dean asked, apparently needing clarification.

“No babies,” Castiel said, nodding, “I promise. And no sitting either.”

“I know they aren’t children, ya idjit,” Grandpa said in a grumpy sort of voice, “I just want you to look out for them. All this, the human world and all its rules and regulations, are all new to them. They need people to guide them.”

“Basically you’re our Yoda,” Charlie supplied, causing everyone else in the room to stare at her, making her blush and look down, “I hack into the portal sometimes to get my pop culture fix, okay? Give me a break.”

“We’re going to ignore how illegal that is,” Grandpa said, looking around at all the people in the room, who all nodded in response. “The main focus right now is on getting you guys settled, and I don’t just mean in terms of unpacking. Any ideas on how to do that?”

“We could take them out somewhere,” Castiel suggested, looking away when Dean turned his intense jade gaze on him.

“Oh, clubbing maybe?” Gabriel said with a sly grin on his face.

“Oh god,” Anna cut in from where she stood in the doorway, still in her pajamas and looking only half-alive. She was staring at Gabriel like he was an idiot, which yeah, he was, “Don’t ever leave Gabriel in charge of these guys. He’d probably get them drunk, and I guarantee that at least one of them would end up having to be bailed out of jail.”

“I resent that!” Gabriel said, looking almost truly hurt. “I’m very responsible, thank you very much. Remember that time I had to watch you and Cassie when we were kids? You survived.”

“Survived. That’s an accurate description,” Anna said, huffing a laugh. She turned to look at the other people in the room, who were watching in silent confusion. She explained, “We played hide and seek and Castiel climbed into the dryer and hid for twenty minutes before Gabriel here even found him. When we let him out he almost had an asthma attack.”

A new sort of confusion washed over the group of Halloweentown residents.

Castiel cleared his throat, “It means I was having a lot of trouble breathing. People can die from asthma attacks, but I was very lucky.”

He felt Dean’s eyes boring into him, but he refused to look over. He didn’t want to see his reaction.

“That was one time,” Gabriel argued though he sounded much more subdued. He looked genuinely guilty, “Fine, no clubbing.”

“Maybe the mall instead?” Anna suggested.

“Oh!” Charlie exclaimed, jumping up and down, “I’ve always wanted to see a human mall.”

“Now that, that’s exactly the kind of stuff all of you can’t do in public,” Castiel added, nodding toward Charlie, “You guys have to act like you’ve seen all this stuff before. No acting amazed seeing a toaster oven for the first time or acting terrified of the music in Hot Topic.”

“Although it is truly terrifying,” Anna added, “Unless you enjoy adolescent angst I’d avoid that store altogether."

“They have some good stuff there, Anna,” Castiel argued. Sure, Hot Topic could be a little much sometimes, and when you left you felt a little deafer than you did going in, but it was an okay store. He’d gotten some of his favorite fandom and band tees in there. “I got a lot of nice shirts from there.”

Anna smirked, coming up close to him and pinching his cheek, “Aw, our little Cassie’s going through his punk phase. How cute.” He slapped her hand off him and backed up, putting space between them.

“Sorry for actually having good taste, Belieber.”

“I’m very confused,” Dorothy said. This was the first time she had spoken in his presence, and Castiel felt his jaw drop, but he quickly fixed it, not wanting to discourage the girl from speaking again. “You keep mentioning all these things that we don’t know- toaster oven, Hot Topical, Belieber… what are they?”

A snort came from Gabriel at the words ‘Hot Topical’, but otherwise he was good. Castiel smiled, though he was also laughing on the inside, and answered Dorothy with as straight of a face as he could manage to bullshit in a moment’s notice. “A toaster oven is something you cook things in, Hot Topic is a store in the mall that mainly sells music and pop culture-based products, and a Belieber is a pathetic being with obsessive tendencies and horrible taste.”

Gabriel burst out laughing, unable to hold himself back anymore. “Good one, Cassie. I knew there was a reason we kept you around.”

“Gabriel, you’d probably be long dead by now without me,” Castiel said, raising an eyebrow at his older brother. “Either Anna or Dad would have snapped and killed you at some point if not for me. That’s why you need me.”

“Eh, semantics,” Gabriel said, shrugging. It was obvious he knew it was true too, though.

“Anyway,” Anna said, clearing her throat and looking hopefully at the group around her, “To the mall?”

 

 

Somehow Grandpa Bobby had managed to charm his beat up old Cadillac to fit eleven people inside it, but then, Castiel was beginning to stop even questioning when his grandfather did things like this. It was the new normal for him, what with the additions upstairs and now the car… and it was just too exhausting to ponder on too long.

And he was absolutely exhausted. Like, he could have curled up on the pavement in front of the mall and slept, he was that desperate. He couldn’t help but wonder how much of his being tired had to do with Dean.

“Okay,” Anna began, standing before the group with her hands locked in front of her, like she was trying to look professional or something. It only served to make her look more nervous, though. “So I was thinking we could split up into groups. I thought it might look a bit suspicious to have ten teenagers and an older man wandering around the mall together, so maybe we could break up into groups of two or three? And be sure you’re in a group with people who know some human stuff, just in case.”

They paired off rather quickly- Benny and Jo teaming up with Garth, and Sam joining Bobby, whom he was talking to about his experiences living in the human world for the past few years- and by the end, only Castiel, Dean, Charlie, and Dorothy were left.

“Well damn,” Charlie said, looking at the groups. She motioned toward the group with Benny, Jo, and Garth. “He’s your cousin and he ditched you for some random chick? That’s ice cold, man.”

Dorothy didn’t seem very bothered by it, her facial expression betraying no signs of hurt feelings. “He’s a big boy. And now that he’s of age to find a mate, well, I’m not going to hold him back.”

Castiel almost choked on air, hearing that. “By mate you mean…”

“Vampires mate for life,” Dorothy clarified. “Despite all those lies that dreadful Bram Stoker told about our kind, we’re a quite monogamous race.”

Castiel could only imagine what that meant. If vampires, Creatures that were known for being immortal, mated for life, then didn’t that mean they mated for always? That’s true commitment right there.

“Around the age of seventeen, our aging slows down to nothing, and we are considered full-grown,” said Dorothy, “Mating is simply a thing that goes along with that adulthood. It isn’t a requirement by any means, only something that is encouraged.”

“And other vampires would approve of Benny mating with someone who wasn’t another vampire?” Castiel asked curiously. Two people, one immortal and the other not, didn’t exactly sound like an ideal relationship to him.

“Oh yes,” Dorothy said, smiling for the first time since he met her and showing off her fangs, “Non-vampiric mates have many uses. They especially help curb bloodlust by-”

“Woah-oh, slow down there, sugar,” Charlie said, cutting Dorothy off with a sympathetic look in Castiel’s direction. “I don’t think you need to give him all the details. I think he was just wondering about the whole, ya know, never dying thing.”

“Oh,” Dorothy said, as if that hadn’t even occurred to her until then, “Well, the whole immortal thing is a myth. We live a very long time, yes, just like witches and other Creatures, but we can and do die.”

“Huh,” Castiel said. So there goes everything he thought he knew about vampires. “And the garlic thing?”

“Myth, for the most part,” Dorothy said, though her nose scrunched up. “Our heightened senses make the smell and taste of garlic rather overpowering, however.”

Dean had been silently standing off to the side and listening to their discussion for the past few moments, not looking at them but instead off in the distance at a rather nice car- a Camaro, he thought- but he cleared his throat and nodded toward the entrance to the mall. “The others are leaving without us, guys. Might wanna get a move on.”

“Dean’s right. We only have so much time here,” Castiel said, and ignored the gaze he felt practically burning a hole in the side of his face. “Now, we should probably start by getting all of you some… more human clothing.”

Castiel led them around the mall, letting them stop in whatever stores piqued their interest. For Dorothy and Charlie, that store turned out to be, unsurprisingly, Hot Topic. What with Dorothy’s penchant for dark clothing and Charlie’s love of all things pop culture-y, it turned out to be the best option for the two of them. Charlie walked out with a couple of fandom tees and a few trinkets, and Dorothy picked out a mixture of band tees (Castiel made sure not to let her buy any of the particularly awful ones, urging her more toward bands like Nirvana and Bullet for My Valentine, which seemed more her speed, if he was reading her personality right) and vinyl records, because he promised the girl he’d lend her his record player to listen to them. Jeans, on the other hand, came from Boscov’s. No way in hell was he paying so much just to allow them to own expensive-as-fuck pants from Hot Topic. Even with his grandfather’s mysterious stash of money, that idea was completely out of the question.

Dean was a bit harder to shop for than the girls. He was picky and fairly bitter about not being able to wear his own clothing, but Castiel made it his goal to find something, anything at least vaguely normal, that Dean would agree to wear. He picked out a two band tees from Hot Topic, steering more toward Zeppelin and Queen, and a couple pairs of jeans from Boscov’s, but two shirts and some jeans did not make a wardrobe.

However, when they walked past American Eagle, with its display of plaid and denim, Dean came to a stop, an unexpected smile forming on his lips.

“Can we go in there?” Dean asked, his green eyes wide with an excitement that reminded him of a little kid on Christmas, begging his mother to let him please, please, please open the big present first. Naturally, it was very hard to resist, and so, of course, Castiel gave in quickly, although he knew his grandfather wouldn’t approve of spending so much money.

But who could say no to those eyes?

He’d never been able to.

 

 

“Cas!” Dean shouted as he bounded down the sidewalk toward his friend, huffing in breath like he’d been running for a while, which Castiel expected he had. He looked very much like how he did now, eye makeup and oddly colored suit and all. “You’ve gotta come with me, hurry up.”

Dean didn’t even wait to see Castiel’s reaction, which happened to be one of curious confusion, but instead took off back the way he’d come. Castiel hurried to keep up, but he found that it was very difficult. He’d never been very good at the whole ‘athletic’ thing, but he’d held his own decently well. Dean on the other hand was a whole different story. That boy was probably fast enough to be a receiver, you know, if Halloweentown had a football team.

Eventually he caught up with the other boy in front of a store that he knew very well. It was the same store Dean had been camped out in front of most of the summer, the local broomstick dealers.

“Dean-”

Dean held up his hand, effectively shutting Castiel up. “I know. You don’t like them and you think they’re dangerous. But I want one, Cas,” he said, his eyes wide and pleading, “Like, really bad.”

“I don’t see why you need my approval, Dean,” Castiel said, gesturing toward the rack of broomsticks. “But go right ahead. Just try not to kill yourself.”

Dean smiled like he’d been given the greatest present ever, but his attention soon turned to the selection of broomsticks. “I want that one,” he said, pointing to a shiny black one with silver bristles. On the handle, it read, Impala 67. It was beautiful, even to a person like Castiel, who had a hell of a fear of heights. “It’s a classic.”

“Are you sure your Dad will be okay with you buying this?” Castiel asked, hoping his friend wasn’t about to get himself into trouble with his father.

He’d only met the Winchester patriarch one time before and he was thankful not to have run into him again. He was a short-tempered man with cold hazel eyes and salt-and-pepper scruff who never seemed to show his children any affection. According to the bits of information given to him by Dean, unconsciously of course, as he’d never badmouth his father, he’d been like that ever since Mary, Dean and Sam’s mother and one of Halloweentown’s most well-known and well-loved witches, died in an incident in the human world when Dean was four. He assumed this to be the reason behind the man’s coldness, but he couldn’t be sure, not having met him prior to his wife’s death.

“Yeah, I mean, I guess,” Dean said, shrugging carelessly, “He’s the mayor of Halloweentown so I doubt he really cares all that much about some money here and there. Probably won’t even notice.”

A man with short balding brown hair and dressed in a nice black suit approached them, smiling welcomingly. Castiel knew that smile, the I’ll-say-anything-to-get-you-to-buy-this kind of smile, from when he’d gone to work with his brother, Gabriel, at Best Buy, and he’d witnessed it first hand on his sibling’s face.

“Hello boys,” The man said in a too-nice voice, gesturing toward the broomstick that Dean had picked out, whistling “You have some good taste. When I was your age I had to fly a Fiero 84 and let me tell you, that thing caught on fire so often I ought to have just used it to heat my meals.”

“Oh god, those things were awful,” Dean said, looking sympathetic toward the man’s misfortunes. Dean was always so concerned for other people. It was one of the things he lo- liked most about him. “Be grateful it never did that while you were up in the air.”

“Oh, I am, believe me,” The man, whose nametag read Crowley, said before his expression turned to an all-business one, “So you’re interested in the Impala 67 It’s a great broomstick, if a little bit of an older model. It’s very reliable, not to mention, one of our more stylish broomsticks.”

“Awesome,” Dean said, looking every bit convinced of what Crowley was saying.

Castiel rolled his eyes, deciding to step forward and do his friend a favor by not letting him get ripped-off. Just because Dean was too infatuated with this broomstick to think straight didn’t mean Castiel would let his friend be taken advantage of.

“How much?” Castiel asked, trying to match the man’s tone with his own firm, serious one.

“207 galleons,” Crowley said, as if that was a good deal. If he was converting correctly, that was about $1,000 in American dollars.

“I’ll take it,” Dean said, no hesitation.

“Jesus Christ, Dean,” Castiel said, looking at his friend with an are-you-serious expression, “Think about what you’re doing here. This is your father’s money. What would he say if he heard about this?”

Dean hushed his friend, turning to face Crowley with an excited look on his face, like an overeager puppy, “Can we take it out for a test fly?” he asked the man.

“Of course!” Crowley said, all too happily. He did just make one hell of a sale, after all. He took the broomstick down from the rack it was placed on, turning and handing it carefully to Dean.

Dean’s smile was the widest Castiel had ever seen it before, so bright and beautiful it almost knocked the wind out of him to witness it. And when he turned that lovely smile on Castiel, well, he knew that he’d do whatever Dean asked of him, no matter the stakes.

“Come with me,” Dean said, reaching over and tugging on his friend’s arm.

“Dean-” Castiel whined, looking at the broomstick like it was a snake going to bite him.

Please, I don’t wanna go alone,” Dean said with an adorable pout, and Castiel felt himself crumble immediately, despite the overwhelming dread that built in his gut, “You know you really want to. I mean, look at her.”

Dean held up the broomstick, allowing him to study it. It was quite aesthetically pleasing, for a death trap.

“Okay,” Castiel said, hesitantly. The pure happiness on his friend’s face when he finally gave in, though, made it worth it. “But you better not kill us, or I’m coming back and haunting your ass. I swear, I’ll make your life a living hell.”

Dean just laughed, holding the broomstick out and murmuring something under his breath that made the broomstick stay up in the air on its own when he pulled his arm away. Castiel’s surprise must have shown on his face, because Dean smirked, winking at his friend and placing a hand on the broom to lower it so he was able to mount it.

“Get on,” Dean said, nodding back to the open space behind him, “And hold on tight.”

Castiel got on and placed his hands on his friend’s shoulders, not entirely sure what Dean would be comfortable with him doing.

“You’re going to fall off like that,” Dean chastised him. He reached back, taking his friend’s hands and wrapping them around his middle. “You need to hold on like that, or hell, hold on tighter if you’re really concerned about it.”

“I swear, Dean-”

“I know,” Dean said, looking over his shoulder, that infuriating smirk still playing on his lips, “You’ll haunt me. I got it.”

Dean took off then, speeding into the sky much faster than Castiel felt prepared for. His arms held tighter to his friend’s middle, holding on for dear life, and no, he definitely did not whimper in fear when Dean flipped them upside down, which he later claimed was something he really did need to test, and no he did not do it just to mess with Castiel, although he wasn’t very convinced.

When they finally landed, Castiel felt shaky all over, his knees feeling weak, and not in a good way. He opened his mouth, fully intending to verbally unleash hell on his friend, but he found that he couldn’t, not when Dean looked so happy. He couldn’t, wouldn’t be that friend. So, when Dean asked him what he thought of it, Castiel nodded, telling him to go for it.

And that was the moment Castiel realized how deep he was in with this boy.

Too deep.


 

 So naturally, Castiel gave in, his resolve collapsing like a breakaway prop, something that looked sturdy on the outside but really, was just meant to break. Dean, of course, was ecstatic, and spent a good hour wandering about the store, picking out different clothes, mostly plaid, though. The boy seemed to have a love for plaid.

“Go try them on,” Castiel urged, gesturing toward the changing rooms toward the back of the store. When Dean just stared at him blankly, he sighed in irritation. “You just go behind those curtains and you put the clothes you picked out on. We’ll tell you if they look good.”

“Oh, okay,” Dean said, and disappeared with about ten different sets of clothing, much to the dismay of the worker who had assigned his dressing room, who couldn’t find a sign for any more than 8 items.

When Dean came out, Castiel was a little surprised and almost… disappointed? Dean, other than his intricate eye makeup, looked pretty human, and Castiel wasn’t entirely sure he liked it. The other boy was still wearing the slacks from his hunter green suit, but from the waist up, he could have easily passed as a human. He wore a plain black t-shirt under a red and black plaid shirt, and while it clashed horribly with his pants, the top half of him looked pretty good. The rest of Dean’s clothes were similar, either plain t-shirts or plaid shirts or button-ups, but they were all well-fitting and flattered the other boy.

Once they paid, and oh man was his grandpa going to kill him for spending so much on one person, they went toward the food court to wait for the others. Unfortunately, though, on their way there they passed a Halloween store. Amongst the usual Captain America and Supergirl costumes in the window were a vampire, a witch, and a werewolf.

“Is that really what they think of us?” Charlie asked softly, her tone betraying how hurt she was.

“Witches don’t exist to be sexed up,” Dean said, anger bleeding into his tone, “They’re people.”

“But humans don’t know that,” Castiel said, placing a hand on his old friend’s arm, “They think you’re make-believe, so to them they’re not offending anyone.”

“I still don’t like it,” Dean said, though his gaze turned soft when he looked at Castiel, “Hey, Cas-”

Before Dean could finish what he was trying to say, another voice, one that Castiel was unfortunately quite familiar with, cut in.

“Hey,” Raphael said, glaring at the group, but especially at Dean and Castiel, his smirk cruel and cold, “Looks like Cassie here’s found another faggot to play around with.”

The other boy, Michael, let out a laugh, “Yeah, maybe now he’ll stop trying to hop on my dick.”

Castiel scrunched up his nose in disgust. “You wish, Angeles.”

“Aw, and look, this one’s even all prettied up,” Raphael said, stepping closer to better inspect Dean’s face. “Did you dress up all nice for your little date with Cassie?”

Dean scowled, about to talk back and probably get himself into a lot more trouble, but Castiel squeezed his arm, drawing his attention back to him. He shook his head, a sign for Dean to back off. Thankfully, though he looked very reluctant, he did.

“You know, it’s been really nice seeing the both of you, but we’re actually meeting people right now, so we’ve gotta go.” And before either of them could do anything, Castiel lead all of them into the nearest store, which happened to be Sephora.

Charlie and Dorothy went off to explore the store by themselves, leaving Dean and Castiel alone for the first time. Castiel wasn’t sure what to do. He turned, meaning to start a conversation, probably no more than small talk, only to find Dean looking down, a sadness in his face that hadn’t been there before. The fact that there was any sign of unhappiness on the boy’s face made his blood boil. He wanted to go back out there and give those two assbutts a piece of his mind, but he knew that he had to help Dean and forget about them.

“How can I help?” Castiel asked, placing a hand on Dean’s shoulder.

“Help me take it off,” Dean asked sadly, with just a touch of anger. Castiel was confused for a moment before he realized Dean meant his eye makeup. The eye makeup he’d clearly worked so hard on. Dean must have seen the apprehension in Castiel’s eyes, because he sighed tiredly, “Please, Cas? I just want to fit in here. I don’t want to be the freak wearing makeup.”

Castiel purchased a pack of makeup wipes, although the price was fucking ridiculous, and settled Dean down on a bench right outside the store, getting right to work wiping off the black swirls from his face, turning them from beautiful patterns to smudges to nothing.

And if Castiel savored the feel of the other boy’s skin under his fingertips, well, who was to know.

A sadness sat in Castiel’s stomach the whole time, weighing him down like a ton of bricks, but when he showed him what he looked like in the camera on his phone, the relief that spread across Dean’s face lessened that load a bit.

 

Chapter Text

“Everyone suffers at least one bad betrayal in their lifetime. It’s what unites us. The trick is not to let it destroy your trust in others when that happens. Don’t let them take that from you.”

- Sherrilyn Kenyon, Invincible

 

When they were finally able to leave Sephora, once the two bullies had left, most likely to go torment other innocent people, Castiel’s group headed for the food court upstairs. In their mall, it happened to take up a whole wing of the floor, and it was filled with all different kinds of food- Chinese, Japanese, Cajun, Italian, Mexican, and then there were your typical Chick-fil-a, Auntie Ann’s, and a Dairy Queen. All the things that humans loved but deep down knew would probably play some role in their death, or at the very least their diminishing health, but really, who cared? If it tasted good, then oh well.

The smell of all the cooking food in the air made Castiel’s stomach growl, and he realized that he’d never actually gotten that bowl of Lucky Charms he’d promised himself.

“Are any of you hungry?” Castiel felt the need to ask. He wasn’t sure if they’d eaten at some point, whether before they’d arrived or if his grandpa had whipped something up for them. Grandpa Bobby would never admit it, but he was actually a very good cook. His chili was Castiel’s favorite meal, covered in shredded Mexican cheeses and a dollop of sour cream on top- and there went his stomach again, growling away and clenching from emptiness, making him feel ill. He really hoped they were hungry. He’d feel kind of weird being the only one eating.

 All three of them nodded though they were busy studying their new surroundings. The food court was pretty loud, with a mixture of pop music and talking, but he hoped it wasn’t too overwhelming for them.

Castiel scanned the room, trying to spot the other two groups. Naturally, it was Gabriel that caught his eye, using two French fries as fangs and hissing at Benny, who was rolling his eyes, though there was a smile on his face. He motioned for the others to follow him, and they approached the table, one of those really big booths, where Castiel sat down across from his brother, sighing in relief. Thank god that was done with. He never expected shopping, of all things, to be so exhausting.

Dean chose the seat right next to him, unsurprisingly, and Benny’s grin faded away. “What happened to your…”

“I wiped it off,” Dean said, and the sadness in his voice was almost palpable. “Turns out it isn’t socially acceptable for human boys to wear eye makeup. They called me a faggot, whatever that is. It didn’t sound like a compliment, though.”

“They called you a pile of twigs?” Benny asked, narrowing his eyes in confusion. “That’s just odd.”

Castiel hesitated, not wanting to upset the boy further, but knowing that he had a right to know the meaning of the awful words thrown at him. “It’s a human slur, Dean. Basically, it’s meant to be degrading toward men who like other men, or sometimes even men who even appear to be a bit feminine.”

“And wearing makeup is feminine?” Dean asked, looking surprised like this was completely new knowledge to him. “In Halloweentown, everyone can wear makeup. It’s not a matter of gender.”

“Yeah, well, humans kind of suck at understanding the whole gender thing,” Castiel said a bit bitterly. He wished the human world was like that, accepting and non-judgmental of differences. But then again, Halloweentown was built by outcasts, Creatures who had been run out by humans who were unwilling to live peacefully amongst each other. Humans tended to prefer to punish others for being different from them. “And the whole sexuality thing… we’re coming around, but we’ve got a long way to go. More and more people are coming out, but it’s still not entirely safe for people like me.”

Dean looked stunned. “Like you?”

“I’m gay, Dean,” Castiel said, his voice calm and level. This was the first time he’d ever openly admitted it. He’d never even officially told Charlie, despite knowing that she herself was attracted to women, although whenever they had talked about people they liked, he noticed that she tended to use he/him pronouns to describe his. Something flickered in Dean’s eyes then, something he wouldn’t let himself believe was hope, but Dean said nothing, biting his lip. This made Castiel a little nervous. “Is that going to be a problem?”

“No, I mean… I just didn’t know that,” Dean said, meeting his old friend’s eyes with a hesitant look. “How long have you known?”

“I mean, I didn’t fully understand what being gay meant until I was about twelve, so officially then,” Castiel explained though he felt sort of uncomfortable being the sole focus of Dean’s attention. “But unofficially? I knew I didn’t like girls that way from the time I was about eight or nine when my classmates and friends started getting in ‘relationships’. This girl in my first-grade class, Meg Masters, asked me to be her boyfriend and I just knew that something about being with her didn’t feel right to me, so I said no.”

“Does your family know?” Dean asked, glancing over at the other end of the table, where Anna and Gabriel were mingling with the Halloweentown kids. “I mean, are they accepting of it?”

Castiel didn’t really know how to respond to that, as he and his family had never really had that discussion. Sure, there were plenty of moments where he could have brought it up, for instance when his grandfather mentioned it just a few days prior, but something always held him back, made him shut up and keep it to himself. He didn’t want to think it, but he knew the reason was his father.

James Novak wasn’t a bad man- distant, yes, but not bad. He clearly loved his children, as proven by how hard he had worked after their mother had passed away, trying to be both the parent and the lone provider. But the thing that put Castiel off was his father’s distance, and his tenancy to judge others. What about him, though? Would his father judge him for his sexuality, or would it not matter to him? It was times like these that he wished he knew the man who raised him better.

“My grandfather and siblings seem to know, though I’ve never confirmed it for them, and they all seem okay with it,” Castiel explained, playing with a thread on the end of his long-sleeved shirt. “As for my father, I’m not entirely sure what he thinks. He works a lot, so he and I were never very close. I don’t know what his stance on same-sex marriage or homosexual individuals is.”

“Does he seem to you like the type who’d be angry?” Dean asked, and something in his eyes told Castiel that he might not just be curious for Castiel’s sake.

Castiel sighed, and despite his own feelings of frustration, he responded, “I don’t know, Dean. For all I know he could toss me out on the street like I’m nothing the moment he finds out.”

Dean was quiet for a moment, an odd look on his face. Worry, Castiel thought it might be. “And where would you go if he did that?”

“I don’t think my grandfather would be too happy with him for doing that,” Castiel said with a snort. Grandpa Bobby would be fucking livid if James kicked him out, “So, I don’t know, maybe he’d go back to Halloweentown and let me live with him? It’d probably make my training a lot easier, honestly.”

“But you’d be losing everything, Cas. Your friends, your siblings- everything,” Dean said, clearly taken aback by how unaffected Castiel was by the whole idea.

The thing was, though, Castiel wasn’t indifferent. The idea leaving the human world and going to Halloweentown permanently absolutely terrified him, and it made him want to crawl even deeper into the closet, maybe until he hit Narnia or something, if it would only keep him from being thrown out of his human life. He’d miss so many people- Hannah, his best friend, and then were his teammates on the lacrosse team, Balthazar and Alfie. And that’s not even mentioning his siblings. But he refused to let Dean in on that, to see his weakness. That wasn’t a side of yourself you showed to people you weren’t sure if you could trust.

“I have friends in Halloweentown,” Castiel said, trying not to let any of those worries seep in and affect his tone.

Dean narrowed his eyes disbelievingly, “Oh yeah, like who?”

“Charlie, Dorothy, you, Benny, Sam, not really Jo, but Garth seems nice,” Castiel answered, though it occurred to him after a moment that he’d included Dean in the list of his friends, and it seemed to have caught Dean’s attention too, because he was studying Castiel carefully, like he was trying to figure something out. To break the awkward silence, or at least to make Dean stop looking at him like that, he said, “And then there’s always Lucifer.”

Dean raised an eyebrow, scoffing, although an unidentifiable emotion flickered in his eyes, “You and Lucifer hung out?”

Lucifer is Halloweentown’s own resident “bad boy”. He’s a warlock and the son of the town’s new mayor, Naomi Hayes, the woman that replaced John after the whole incident.

Anyway, Lucifer, or Luke, as he preferred to be called, had taken to hanging around downtown Halloweentown when Castiel was younger and still trying to get used to the whole ‘I’m-a-warlock-and-there-is-a-whole-different-world-of-people-like-me’ thing, and he’d sort of taken Castiel under his wing. He’d shown him all of the local haunts (no pun intended), and he’d even helped out at Grandpa Bobby’s place a few times. Luke had actually been Castiel’s first kiss as well, though it was kind of awkward. He’d acted as somewhat of a teacher for him, teaching him what he knew. But ever since his grandpa had moved to the human world, Castiel hadn’t seen much reason to go back, and so he hadn’t seen the other man for quite a while.

“A little,” Castiel said offhandedly. Dean didn’t need to know the extent of what had gone on with Luke. “Sometimes he’d help out at Grandpa’s and we’d talk.”

Before Dean could say anything, Castiel’s stomach growled rather loudly, enough so that Charlie and Dorothy broke off their conversation to look over at him in concern.

“You alright, hun?” Charlie asked worriedly.

“Uh,” Castiel said, not sure how to respond to that when he felt like he did. The nauseous feeling was back, making Castiel clutch at his stomach uselessly. “I’m just really hungry. I haven’t eaten yet today.”

“Well, let’s get some food in you,” Dean said, standing up and looking around at the different options, but seeming like he was mainly trying to figure out what any of this food was. “What do you want?”

“Don’t worry about it. I can get it myself,” Castiel assured the other man, attempting to stand up, but he felt a hand grip his forearm. Castiel groaned. Really? All he wanted was food, and here he had Dean trying to play babysitter with him. Hell, it wasn’t even like he’d fainted or anything, it was just his stomach growling. “Dean, seriously, I got this.”

“Let me at least come with you,” Dean said, looking at Castiel with concern in his eyes and a slight pout on his lips, just enough to be noticeable, but not enough to stop being cute- no, not cute. What was he thinking? Dean Winchester was not cute.

Castiel pulled his arm back from the other man’s grip like he’d been burned, causing Dean to look at him in confusion.

“Cas-” Dean tried to say, but Castiel wouldn’t let him have the chance, turning away before he could see Dean’s reaction. Instead, he faced the others, forcing a smile.

“Anyone else hungry?” he asked, hoping that at least one person would come with them. Anyone at all. He’d even take Jo, who he’d never spoken two words to if it meant he wouldn’t have to be alone with Dean. Not when he was thinking things like that.

Thankfully, Charlie all but bounced out of her seat, taking hold of Dorothy’s arm and pulling her up out of her seat as well. “I’ve always wanted to try pizza.”

Castiel smiled at his friend’s excitement, happy to see that she was, for the most part, enjoying her experience in the human world so far. “Pizza is one of humanity’s greatest inventions. How about I buy a couple of pizzas for all of us to take home? Everyone should experience eating a slice of pizza at least once in their lives.”

Everyone seemed satisfied with the idea, so Castiel went up, trailed by Dean, Charlie, and Dorothy, and ordered five large pizzas: two plain, one vegetarian, and two meat lovers, all sans garlic, so as not to irritate the more delicate senses of their vampiric friends. He also ordered two large orders, which came in buckets, of Buffalo wings for them all to share, as well as three two-liter bottles of soda. He didn’t want to overwhelm the Halloweentown kids with the taste of Mountain Dew Voltage, so instead he went for with the more tame Coke, Sprite, and, although he found it utterly revolting, Dr. Pepper. Gabriel, a self-proclaimed sugar addict, loved the too sugary-sweet taste of Dr. Pepper, so he figured maybe someone out of the crowd would like it. If not, well, there was still Gabriel to finish it off.

Gabriel chose that moment to come wondering over to Castiel, a huge bag of blue gummy bears in his hands and a toothy, blue-stained smile on his face. Castiel rolled his eyes, although he wasn’t really all that surprised by the sight before him. In all honesty, this was tame for Gabriel, who once came home with a five-pound bag of Swedish Fish, which he managed to devour in only three days. How his brother, a man who had been taken to be tested for diabetes more times than Castiel could confidently say, wasn’t overweight was a miracle in-and-of itself.

“Yes, Gabriel?” Castiel asked his brother, whose shit-eating grin was already annoying him.

“I’ve noticed our poor Dean’s been looking a little down lately,” Gabriel said, and he glanced over his shoulder to where Dean stood with Sam, talking in hushed tones.

Dean was frowning, shaking his head at something his brother said and, most surprisingly, gesturing toward Castiel. What made the situation even more awkward was when Dean’s gaze landed on him, leaving the two of them staring at each other while Dean’s hand was gestured in his direction. Dean’s face flushed bright pink and he cleared his throat, breaking their eye contact and turning back to his brother, who was smirking. He looked rather pleased with himself.

Gabriel hummed, breaking Castiel from his trance and making him turn to face his older sibling, who was stroking his chin in that bizarre way people did when something fascinated or confused them. “Interesting, very interesting.”

“What is?” Castiel said, a little too harshly. He tried to cover it up with a look of annoyance, but Gabriel saw right through it.

Gabriel raised an eyebrow and smirked like he was trying to suggest something. When Castiel simply stared at him, still not getting it, Gabriel sighed, finally saying, “That, even after all these years apart, you two muttonheads are still crazy about each other.”

Castiel sputtered, attempting to argue back that no, Gabriel must be delirious because Castiel was not in love with Dean. How could he possibly be in love with the boy who had taken his ability to trust others and snapped it into a gazillion tiny pieces?

He wasn’t, though,

“That’s what I thought,” Gabriel said, sounding immensely satisfied with himself. Castiel, on the other hand, mostly wanted to punch his brother in his smug face. “Now, before you take your frustration about your sad love life out on my beautiful face, I’m gonna go over there. Maybe our lovely Genie girl will want to share my gummy bears, if you catch my drift,” With a parting wink, Gabriel left, making his way over to said ‘Genie girl’, who still had an unamused look on her face.

Gabriel was wrong about him and Dean. He had to be, right? Dean only wanted to be friends again, like they were before. He didn’t have any romantic motives behind his actions. And anyway, it wasn’t like his little crush when he was a teenager was ever mutual, and even if it was, that crush was long gone.

At least, he kept trying to tell himself that.

 

On the ride home, Castiel somehow managed to end up sitting right next to Dean, all the way in the back row. Alone. And it was all because his grandfather just had to become buddy-buddy with Sam, who was sitting up in the front seat with Grandpa Bobby, talking about grimoires and the different spells Sam had learned at school- because apparently magical schools did really exist outside of Harry Potter.

Sitting with his ex-friend was somewhat awkward. Eventually, he put in his earbuds to listen to music, and Dean just stared at him like he had ten heads. It occurred to Castiel that Dean probably had never seen earbuds before in his life. He doubted they were a thing in Halloweentown, not with the way Dean was looking at him like he’d done something amazing.

Because he wasn’t entirely sure what to do with that situation, Castiel opted to do what he did best- avoid things. Instead, he turned his attention to his phone, yet another device Dean was unfamiliar with, going to Amazon Music and scrolling through his music before finally settling on Taylor Swift’s latest album, 1989 and hitting shuffle.

After a few minutes of peace and quiet, Castiel felt a poke in his arm. And another one. And another.

Castiel tried to ignore Dean, he really did, but after the seventh or eighth poke, he just couldn’t take it anymore, yanking his earbuds out and all but growling, “What?” Dean, for his part, looked more than a bit frightened by the other boy’s outburst. Castiel almost felt bad, but his frustration was still thrumming steadily in his veins.

“I’ve been trying to get your attention for the past minute now,” Dean justified though he looked like a kicked puppy now after Castiel yelled at him. “Why didn’t you answer me when I tried to talk to you at first?”

“I didn’t hear you,” Castiel explained, holding up his earbuds and dangling them so Dean could see. “These allow me to listen to music, and generally I can’t hear things when they are in my ears. I wasn’t ignoring you.”

At least not at first.

Dean studied the object, reaching out his hand for Castiel to let him see it. When Castiel did, he brought up closer to his face so he could see it better and poked it. “How can you possibly listen to music on these?”

“There are wires that plug into my phone, which has access to music and then there’s some stuff with the internet and-” Castiel was no technological genius, so he wasn’t sure where to go with this conversation. And if the puzzled look on Dean’s face said anything, he’d only served to make him more confused. Instead of trying again and inevitably failing, Castiel took back the earbuds and reached over, placing one- the correct one, by the way- in his right ear. This made Dean give him an odd look, but he didn’t fight it. Castiel smiled reassuringly at the other boy, saying, “Here, I’ll show you.”

He scrolled through the tracklist for 1989, finally coming across the perfect song, but he made sure the volume wasn’t too loud, not wanting to scare Dean. Castiel couldn’t resist the smirk that formed on his lips as the song started to play.

I stay out too late
Got nothing in my brain
That's what people say, mmm-mmm
That's what people say, mmm-mmm

I go on too many dates
But I can't make them stay
At least that's what people say, mmm-mmm
That's what people say, mmm-mmm

But I keep cruising
Can't stop, won't stop moving
It's like I got this music
In my mind
Saying, "It's gonna be alright."

'Cause the players gonna play, play, play, play, play
And the haters gonna hate, hate, hate, hate, hate
Baby, I'm just gonna shake, shake, shake, shake, shake
I shake it off, I shake it off
Heart-breakers gonna break, break, break, break, break
And the fakers gonna fake, fake, fake, fake, fake
Baby, I'm just gonna shake, shake, shake, shake, shake
I shake it off, I shake it off

From the way Dean seemed to be hanging on every word that Taylor sang, Castiel figured he liked it. And who was he to judge if he did? He was a fan of Taylor Swift himself. In fact, it might even be nice to have another guy who likes her around. Unfortunately, Dean suddenly did not look pleased.

“Ugh,” Dean groaned, pulling the earbuds from his ears with a scrunched up nose and a shake of his head. “Okay, I believe you, but that is definitely not my kind of music.”

Castiel shrugged, not really taking offense to that. Yeah, it would have been nice to have someone around who liked things he liked- not that he planned on being the best of friends with Dean or anything- but he understood. Dean seemed more like the classic rock type, anyway.

 

Castiel had been lounging around on his bed later that night, reading the summer reading assignment he still had yet to finish. It was The Road by Cormac McCarthy, which wasn’t an entirely awful book, although he found himself hating the father. What kind of person, or better yet, what kind of father allowed a child to suffer through the end of the world, going hungry much of the time and constantly being on the lookout for danger. As messed up as it might sound, the mother had the right idea. It probably would have been kinder to have killed the boy instead.

He made it about two-thirds of the way through the book before he set it aside in favor of going downstairs to see what everyone else was up to. But on his way down the hall, he passed the staircase leading to the attic and heard music coming from upstairs. Specifically, he heard Taylor Swift.

The site he saw when he got upstairs and to the source of the music, Sam and Dean’s room, made him immediately cover his mouth to keep from laughing.

Dean Winchester, Mr. Taylor-Swift-isn’t-my-kind-of-music, was singing, off key, he might add, along to ‘Shake It Off’, which was playing from a radio that was sitting on the desk. And not only was he singing along, but he was dancing too. Very badly.

After Dean busted one especially horrific move, Castiel couldn’t help it anymore and started cracking up. Dean, who hadn’t heard him come in, turned around with a look of surprise on his rapidly reddening face.

“Having fun?” Castiel said, still giggling from a combination of Dean’s little show and his reaction to being caught in the act.

“This isn’t- I was just trying to familiarize myself with human music,” Dean said, although if the look of embarrassment on his face said anything, it was that he was a liar.

“You know, there’s nothing wrong with liking Taylor Swift, Dean,” Castiel said, moving further into the room and coming to stand next to the other boy. “She’s a very talented young woman, and many people love her.”

“But they were playing one of that boy Justin Bieber’s songs in one of the stores we went in and you all said he was terrible. I was worried Taylor Swift would be the same, and that maybe you were just…”

“Messing with you?” Castiel asked him. He wasn’t very surprised, though. It wasn’t like he’d been very welcoming to Dean since he’d arrived, having mostly avoided him. He didn’t really blame Dean for thinking that the only reason Castiel was talking to him was because it was all a joke. He felt like such a dick.

Dean nodded, then looked away, apparently not wanting to see Castiel’s reaction. He probably expected Castiel to laugh and tell him it had all been a joke after all, and confirm his fears. Dean might not be his favorite person at the moment, but he found himself feeling bad that the other boy felt this way.

“Dean, just because that happened doesn’t mean I’m going to make your life hell,” Castiel told him, trying to catch his eye. Dean refused, though, and Castiel felt even worse. “I- I’m willing to start over. Or try, at least.”

“I didn’t know,” Dean said softly.

“What?” Castiel asked. Didn’t know what?

“I didn’t know my Dad was going to do those things. The only thing he told me was that he was going to make things better for the people in Halloweentown by opening the portal to the mortal world,” he said, shaking his head and scoffing, like what he’d said was ridiculous. “Should have known better, but I thought opening the portal might be a good thing.”

“Why?” Castiel asked curiously. What about the human world mattered so much that he’d go along with his father’s plans?

“You were there. I missed you.”

Oh.

Well, that wasn’t expected.

But before Castiel could ask him to elaborate, Dean had started talking again. “If I’d have known what he’d been planning to do, I wouldn’t have helped him,” Dean said, his voice full of regret and frustration, and something in that tone made Castiel believe him.

Castiel hesitated, studying Dean carefully one last time. “You get one more chance,” Castiel told him, making Dean’s head shoot up, his green eyes growing wide with shock. “That’s all. Nothing more after that.”

“You-” Dean said, but he didn’t get the chance to finish because Castiel was already walking out the door.

But just before he left, Castiel turned and glanced at the other boy over his shoulder, and said softly, “I missed you too.”

He closed the door behind him.

Chapter Text

“Deciding whether or not to trust a person is like deciding whether or not to climb a tree, because you might get a wonderful view from the highest branch or you might simply get covered in sap, and, for this reason, many people choose to spend their time alone and indoors where it is harder to get a splinter.”

- Lemony Snicket, The Penultimate Peril

 

The next few days went by very fast, and soon the group of ten teenagers, plus Grandpa Bobby- who had been hired as a history teacher, as he had received degrees in American History and teaching at Temple University during the time he’d lived in the human world- were left standing on the sidewalk in front of Truman High. There was a certain air of nervousness amongst them, and it had been like that, progressing a bit more as the first day moved near, for the past few days.

“That’s a school?” Sam asked, his voice full of curiosity and wonder. “It looks like a castle.”

The four-story building before them was made of brick and what Castiel thought might be cement, though he couldn’t be sure of it, as he wasn’t very familiar with building architecture. It had arched doorways at the front that led to a courtyard where students tended to eat their lunches on nice days, and there were four towers on each outer corner of the building. So yeah, it kind of looked like a castle, he supposed.

“More like a prison, really,” Castiel replied with a scoff.

“It ain’t that bad,” Grandpa Bobby assured the younger boy, who looked even more worried now. Castiel wished he hadn’t said anything. “Castiel here is just a pessimist. I meet most of the staff and they seem nice enough.”

“Yeah, probably because you’ve got a thing for our lovely Principal Mills, Gramps,” Gabriel said, smirking at the other man, who had turned to glare at him. “Gosh, I was just kidding. Yeesh, you people need to lighten up and take the sticks out of your asses.”

Before one of the Halloweentown kids could inevitably ask about the supposed stick in their ass, Castiel cut in, saying, “Gabriel don’t you have to get to work? You were only supposed to drop us off, not stand around and crack jokes.”

“Fine,” Gabriel huffed, crossing his arms like a petulant child. “I know when I’m not wanted.”

Gabriel all but stomped back to the car, clearly trying to draw attention to himself like the drama queen he was, but, all the same, he got back in the Cadillac and drove away.

“Gabe’s weird,” Sam said like that was just fact, which Castiel supposed it was. It wasn’t like Gabriel really showed his serious side to the kid, so weird was pretty much the extent of what he knew about the oldest Novak sibling.

“Agreed,” Castiel said simply, before returning his focus on the situation at hand. He squared his shoulders and turned to the group. Really, it should be Anna leading the Halloweentown kids, since she’d been the one with the brilliant idea to invite them to the human world in the first place, but as she was only a freshman, she didn’t even know the ropes yet herself. “Everyone ready?”

“As I’ll ever be,” Jo said, causing everyone to turn their attention on her. Jo almost never addressed the group. Actually, Castiel didn’t think he’d ever heard her talk to more than maybe two people at a time. This was new. Jo’s eyes narrowed into challenging slits, daring someone to say something about it. No one was dumb enough to do it, though. Who knew what a genie might do when she’s angry? Poof you into her lamp and leave you there, listening while you beg to get out for her own sick amusement? That might be more a Jo thing and less a genie thing, however.

“Okay,” Castiel said, turning the attention away from the genie and back onto himself. “So I guess we should get going. Homeroom starts in ten minutes. It's pretty much a class where all they do is make sure you’re here, and then you talk with your friends for the rest of the period, and since it’s the first day it’s better to get there before all the good seats are taken.”

Once they entered the building, having pushed and shoved like a bunch of impatient children, Castiel’s attention was focused on reading everyone’s schedules, trying to figure out where each person had to go. There was the small blessing of him, Charlie, Dorothy, and Dean, and then Sam and Anna, all having the same homeroom. Everyone else, unfortunately, was split up into different homerooms, which made him worry. What if something went wrong? Benny, Jo, and Garth had never been to the human world, and who’s to say they would know how to handle a situation if one happened?

Thankfully they had at least fixed the problem of their wardrobes, changing out their more out-there attire for something more normal for the average human being. Today they were all decked out in either jeans, skirts, or leggings (which Anna insisted all of the girls invest in because they were ‘an absolute must’), and, if Castiel did say so himself, they did look pretty human.

Castiel was startled out of his trance by a hand being placed on his shoulder. He turned, wide-eyed, to face the other person, only to find Balthazar Roche standing next to him, his usual cocky smirk playing on his lips. Only today there was something a little extra, a flirty quality if Castiel had to guess, but he was probably just imagining it. There was no way…

“Cassie, my dear,” Balthazar said, smiling brightly and squeezing Castiel’s shoulder. “How was your summer break? I see you got quite the tan there.” Balthazar gave him a once over and shot him an impish grin. He removed his hand, much to the dismay of Castiel, who had always had a bit of a thing for the other boy, even with his reputation of breaking the hearts of boys and girls alike. 

Castiel, in spite of being fairly confused, managed to respond with a rushed and slightly stuttered, “Um, I guess. My family and I spent a week down the shore like we usually do, so, you know, some tanning apparently happened.”

“Good, good,” Balthazar said, and Castiel didn’t know to expect it, but there was suddenly a hand on the small of his back, Balthazar’s hand. Castiel felt his face flush a stinging red. “I went back to London this summer to visit family. Actually, we-”

“Hey, Cas?” Castiel heard a hard voice say from behind. It was a voice he knew very well. When Castiel turned to look at Dean, he found the other boy looking absolutely livid, though he hid it well. It was only because he knew Dean so well that he could tell. Just based on the set of his jaw, the coldness of his usually lively green eyes, and the cool politeness of his voice, it was very clear to Castiel that Dean wasn’t happy, not at all. “Think we could steal you away from your boyfriend for a moment? We kind of need your help.”

Castiel excused himself, assuring the other boy that he’d be back in just a moment, and turned to follow Dean back to the group gathered near the doorway with a blonde girl named Becky that Castiel knew from his Sophomore English class.

Becky was an odd girl. She was a bit obsessed with the world of pop culture, specifically in the form of shipping. Castiel didn’t really mind this, but the extent to which the girl went, writing incredibly detailed smut about her ships, made him a bit uncomfortable. She was nice, though, and Castiel knew she meant no harm in her work. He just wished she hadn’t felt the need to show him samples during class that year.

Dean stopped when he reached the group, turning back to face Castiel with a look on his face that he almost thought looked like jealousy, but he knew better. Dean had never wanted him in that way, and his unrequited crush was doomed to remain exactly that. Not that he wasn’t completely over it by now, after four years of radio silence. He was definitely over it.

That sounded like a lie even to him.

“What is it, Dean?” Castiel asked with a sigh. He didn’t want to deal with this right now. Talking to Balthazar was simple, and it didn’t come with the same tangled up strings that talking to Dean had. He just wanted a bit of simple right at the moment. Was that too much to ask?

“Oh, I’m sorry, did I interrupt something more important?” Dean asked much more harshly than he’d ever heard the other boy talk. It was actually quite off-putting, to be completely honest. “I mean, we’re kind of completely clueless here and it’d be much appreciated if you’d focus on walking us through this hellish day instead of flirty with some pretty boy douchebag.”

Castiel went silent, trying to will a response from his lips, but found that he had absolutely no idea what to say. It wasn’t a lie, exactly, as there had been some flirting going on, at least on Balthazar’s part, but why was it any of Dean’s business? A burning rage began to simmer in Castiel’s gut, lit by the four years of silence on Dean’s end and the betrayal that led to their messy parting of ways.

“First and foremost, Balthazar is not my boyfriend, he's my teammate, and even if he were, you don’t have a say in what I do,” Castiel ground out, trying to keep himself at least somewhat under control. The last thing he wanted was to draw a crowd and let the whole school in on his and Dean’s history. “Second, you aren’t a child, Dean. You went to school back in Halloweentown, I assume, and it really isn’t that much different here. You go from class to class and you learn some stuff. It isn’t that hard.”

“Halloweentown doesn’t run schools the way you humans do, Cas,” Dean said, his voice low in order to avoid being overheard by the less aware students around them. “Our schools are very… liberal. We break up into different schools based on our species, magic-using Creatures in one and non-magical Creatures in another. In mine, we could use magic and we had duels and—”

And basically you go to Hogwarts,” Castiel said with a smirk. When Dean just looked at him, confusion spreading over his handsome face, Castiel just shook his head. Halloweentown people were incredibly lacking in their pop culture knowledge. Well, all but Charlie, that is. She probably knew even more than he did. “I’ll lend you my Harry Potter books. You might enjoy them, that is, if you can understand the basics of the human world. For instance, do you know where London is?”

“England,” Dean said slowly like he was afraid he would be wrong. “We had a basic Human Studies course in school, but I’m not an expert on the subject, as you can tell.”

“Yup, definitely Hogwarts,” Castiel said to himself softly. He remembered then that there had been an actual point to this conversation and attempted to bring that back around. “Dean you know that I can’t hold your hand through this whole experience, right?”

Dean sputtered at that, going red in the face and looking awfully nervous. Castiel only just then realized what he’d said and he felt his own cheeks begin to heat up. “No! Not like that. I meant that figuratively, like, I can’t be there with you all the time, helping you figure everything out. You’ll have to do some of this on your own.”

“I know that, okay? But while you were over there making googly eyes at your boyfriend, Garth almost blew our cover,” Dean told him, glancing back over his shoulder at the werewolf, who was still talking animatedly with the blonde girl. “Becky asked where we were all from and he almost told her the truth.”

“Did someone stop him?” Castiel asked as a feeling of dread flooded through him. The last thing he needed was for the whole school to think he was carting around a bunch of crazies, or worse, to actually believe Garth.

“Yeah, thankfully Jo talked over him and made up some town called Hallow in Canada or whatever,” Dean said, sounding as relieved as Castiel now felt, although Dean still looked a little worried. “That is where we’re supposed to be from, right? Canada?”

“Yes, Dean,” Castiel said and, without realizing he was doing it, placed his hand on Dean’s arm in a comforting gesture. He quickly removed it as soon as he noticed, though, making sure not to make direct eye contact with the other boy after that. “You’re doing fine.”

“Okay,” Becky called, loudly enough to draw the attention of the entire group, who had previously been chattering excitedly amongst themselves. Castiel noticed that Balthazar had not left as he’d thought he would, but had rather moved to stand next to Becky, who it was apparently his job to assist in showing the large group where to go. “So thankfully the office decided to not make this incredibly difficult and managed to split the seniors into only two different homerooms. So whoever is in Ms. Barnes’ homeroom can follow Balthazar and those in Mr. Adler’s can follow me.”

“Wait, what about Sammy?” Dean asked Castiel, an anxious look in his eyes, having immediately caught onto how his younger brother, a sophomore, was not mentioned in Becky’s instructions. It took a moment for Castiel to mentally catch up with what was going on, but before he could, Dean was already talking again. “Somebody is going to help him out, right?”

Castiel looked around the room, searching the crowd of kids for a short boy with shaggy brown hair. His eyes finally landing on Sam, who was on the other side of the room talking to a girl about his age with long curly blonde hair. They were both smiling and appeared to be getting along, although Sam’s cheeks were turning pink, obviously from something that the girl had said. Overall, Sam seemed fine.

“I think she’s got it covered,” Castiel told Dean, who smirked when he saw what was going on between the two younger teens.

“Go, Sammy,” Dean said proudly, and, surprisingly, nudged Castiel. “Look at ‘im, already a babe-magnet, and the kid’s only fifteen.”

“I’m not sure how appropriate it is for you to be calling a sophomore a ‘babe’, but yes, it does seem that they are getting on well,” Castiel admitted. He was happy that Sam was settling in well, at least.

“Hey! Are you guys coming or what?” Charlie, who had been standing in Balthazar’s group, called out to them. The groups were beginning to make their ways down the hall, apparently toward their respective homerooms, and here they still were, talking away.

Dean, however, got right on figuring things out. “Well, it looks like I’m in Ms. Barnes’, what about you?” Dean asked, leaning over to look at the schedule in Castiel’s hands. “Guess that makes two of us then.”

Castiel’s eyes scanned the page and, sure enough, Dean was right. They were both in the same homeroom, meaning Dean, Balthazar, and him all in one room at the same time.

 


 

 

Surprisingly, homeroom did not turn into the blood bath he’d expected, although it was still incredibly awkward. Somehow fate had managed to set it up so that he sat right between Dean and Balthazar, who spent all period warring for his attention, as Balthazar had evidently noticed how unhappy their talking made Dean. And being the troublemaker he was, naturally, he felt the need to make things even worse. By the end of the period, Castiel found that his neck was sore from turning back and forth between the two boys. He was not looking forward to dealing with the same thing the next day.

By first period, Castiel was already exhausted and ready to go home, but, unfortunately, he still had about six more hours of torture to go. And it wasn’t because he didn’t like school because he did. He loved learning, but with the added distraction of keeping an eye on the Halloweentown kids, who he’d begun to mentally refer to as his charges, he found it difficult to enjoy going over the syllabus for his Senior English class, which he also happened to share with Dean.

The only other Halloweentown kid in that class was Jo, who sat two rows to his left and spent most of the period staring at Dean, who sat in front of him and over to the left one. The expression on her face was, for once, unguarded, and full of open longing. It appeared Dean had an admirer. He wondered if the other boy even knew of Jo’s feelings for him, but before Castiel could consider that further, Jo’s gaze slid over to him and they made eye contact. He’d been caught.

The intensity of the glare she shot him made his stomach clench, and he quickly looked away from her and down at the syllabus on his desk, trying to go back to listening along while the teacher listed off the books they’d be reading that year. Normally this was the part he enjoyed most, hearing about all of the new pieces of literature he’d be exposed to, but with the knowledge that he now had a pissed off Genie on his hands, that was no longer very important.

He just really hoped Jo wasn’t actually the type to trap him in her lamp to die.

At the end of the class, Castiel tried to hurry and pack his stuff up before Jo could say anything to him, but as soon as he was out the door, he found himself being pushed back into a wall. Castiel wasn’t sure where Dean was right then and normally he wouldn’t mind them being apart for a while, but with an angry Genie up in his face, he found that he kind of wished the other boy was there.

“Um, can I help you?” Castiel asked, only to end up wanting to slap himself. He’d probably just made things even worse for himself simply by talking, but it was too late to do anything about it. The girl’s eyes narrowed at him, and her glare seemed to almost pierce through him.

“Why were you looking at me?” Jo asked, sounding defensive. If he were dealing with just about anyone else, he’d have responded sarcastically, but given how little he knew about Jo, he knew better than to risk it.

“I just—”

“You know what? I really don’t care what your excuse is,” Jo said, cutting him off. “I already don’t like you, Castiel, and now you’re causing trouble for me.”

“How am I causing trouble?” Castiel dared to ask her.

“Well, for one, you broke Dean’s heart and left him all alone after that thing with his dad,” Jo said, looking at Castiel as if he were the lowest kind of scum. “He needed you, and you just ditched him.”

“I don’t think that’s any—”

“So help me, if you say it’s none of my business, I will kick your ass,” Jo said, effectively shutting Castiel right up. “Dean was and is my friend, and you hurt him, which means you’ve pissed me off. And I’m pretty much the last person you want to piss off, buddy.”

“But you want him to be more, don’t you?” Castiel said, taking a chance and letting out what he’d been thinking. “You like him. You like him a lot.”

When Jo opened her mouth to defend herself, Castiel only raised his eyebrows, effectively making the girl stay silent.

So he was right, after all. Huh. Interesting.

“You better not say anything to him,” Jo said, trying and failing to sound threatening, only really coming off as scared.

“I won’t,” Castiel said, but before Jo could sigh in relief and go back to making threats, he added, “That is if you leave me alone. The way I see it, we’d both be happy… or content, at least. I get to go about my business without the fear that you’ll come after me if I do something you don’t like, and you get to keep Dean as your friend. We both win.”
“Fine,” Jo relented though she sounded anything but happy about it. “But you hurt him and our deal is off. It won’t matter much what he thinks of me if he’s crying over you.”

Crying? Why the hell would Dean Winchester be crying over him? But Castiel was done with this conversation and didn’t want to continue it by asking her to explain, so he let it go. He nodded in agreement and Jo backed up, letting him move away from the wall. He looked around the hallway to see if anyone had noticed their little exchange, but thankfully everyone seemed too busy rushing to their new classes to pay them any attention.

“Remember what I said,” Jo warned him, giving him one last glare before disappearing down the hall. He wasn’t sure where she was going, or if she even knew where she was going, but he really didn’t want to spend another moment in her company, so he let her go.

Their conversation had left him with one question, though— what had happened with Dean after the portal had closed again that Halloween?

Castiel thought it might be about time he asked.

 


 

 

Castiel had planned to ask about what happened, really, he did, but as soon as he arrived at the table they’d chosen in the back right corner of the cafeteria, he’d immediately found himself bombarded with questions. Questions like ‘How are we supposed to get food?’ (Answer: ‘It’s in those brown paper bags that I gave you this morning’) and ‘Why do the servers have nets on their heads?’ (Answer: ‘So hair doesn’t get in the food they’re making. Would you like finding someone else’s hair in your food?’) were his responsibility to answer, and by the time he’d ensured that everyone was settled, he was exhausted. Much too exhausted to go dredging up the past with his ex-crush so they could have a heart-to-heart.

And then, of course, there was Dean’s usual mother hen behavior when it came to Sam.

“Are you sure he’s okay? He’s all on his own for the first time in a new place and I don’t want him to get into any trouble,” Dean rambled, picking at the crust of his peanut butter and jelly sandwich. He looked over and met Castiel’s eyes with his own worried green ones. “You don’t think he’ll get into any trouble, do you?”

In all honestly, Castiel wasn’t sure. Sam was a smart kid, but shit happened sometimes. He tried to answer as truthfully as possible, though, “I think Sam’s capable of taking care of himself, Dean. He’s fifteen, not five.”

The other boy sighed, nodding his agreement, “I know but the kid’s kind of my responsibility. Ever since Dad got himself locked away I’ve really been the only one looking after him, and if something happened to Sam, I don’t know what I’d do.”

Castiel considered his options at the moment— he could either a) awkwardly bring up what was seemingly a painful time in Dean’s past right then, or b) he could shut up and let Dean enjoy his lunch, saving the painful memories for a later time, hopefully away from the public eye, just in case things got ugly (i.e. Castiel fucked everything up and Dean got pissed about it).

Ultimately, upon studying the other boy’s facial expression, which showed inner turmoil of some kind, most likely involving the younger Winchester and his adjustment to human life. Castiel didn’t blame him, not really, but it did confirm for him that he should wait to bring this particular subject up. The last thing Dean needed right now when he was already stressed out, was to worry about something that was already done and over with. Instead, Castiel decided that getting Dean out of his current funk was what should take priority right then.

“Anna is with him, you know,” Castiel reminded the other boy, who looked over at him with surprise written on his face like he hadn’t expected him to say anything else. With the way Castiel had been acting lately, back and forth on his dealings with Dean, one minute standoffish and the next friendly, only to return back to being unfriendly, he didn’t really blame him for his reaction. “And then there’s that girl he was with earlier. I’m not sure of who she is, but she seemed friendly enough, like the type to take a new kid under her wing.”

“I hope so,” Dean said, sounding somewhat relieved. Castiel was thankful he could give him the comfort of knowing that his brother was in good hands.

Before either one of them could fully appreciate not having the burden of worrying about Sam, however, a, unfortunately, familiar duo approached and stopped in front of their table.

Raphael gave Dean a smirk and upon studying the other boy, that smirk only widened. “Aw, did the little faggot wash off his makeup because he got made fun of? Or did he go home and cry it off?”

Castiel felt his jaw tighten and he shot them the hardest glare he could muster. “Fuck off, assholes.”

“I don’t think this concerns you, Castiel. This is between us and your boyfriend here,” Michael said smoothly, his expression cold and under control, not giving any hint of what the dark haired bully was thinking.

“We aren’t boyfriends,” Dean said, finally speaking up. Castiel wasn’t quite sure why, given he’d said the same thing at the mall, but to hear Dean say it almost hurt. It felt like an ache in his rib cage while simultaneously feeling like he’d been sucker-punched in the gut. “We’re just friends, right Cas?”

“Yeah, friends,” Castiel said reluctantly, even drawing the attention of Dean, who narrowed his eyes at him in confusion before apparently just letting it go and turning back to the bullies with a glare of his own.

“Huh,” Raphael said, studying the both of them, “Either way, I think you’re a fag. Real men don’t wear makeup. And you know what happens to sissy men who wear makeup around here?”

Dean didn’t respond, only scowling at the duo.

“We teach ‘em a lesson in how real men ought to act,” Raphael answered his own question, cracking his knuckles with a menacing smirk on his lips. “And I think it’s your turn, princess.”

Dean glare faded away and suddenly he was smirking, looking anything but afraid of the boys in front of him. Castiel was confused by this, worrying that maybe Dean had lost his mind or something because no one looked at a pair of bullies the way he was right then unless he was either crazy or up to something—

That explained it.

Castiel looked closer at Dean and found his eyes locked on Raphael’s, staring at the other boy like he was trying to find something, or rather, to make something happen. Castiel may have been a little behind in his magical training, but he at least knew that a witch didn’t need to speak his or her spell aloud for it to work, so long as there was a strong enough motivation behind it.

And right about then, Castiel figured Dean had a pretty strong motivation to cast.

“Dean,” Castiel said softly, trying to take Dean’s attention away from his spell. When Dean still didn’t look away, Castiel placed his hand gently on top of Dean’s fisted right hand, which lie on the table right before him, “Dean.”

Dean blinked, turning to face Castiel with a slightly dazed look on his face.

“Not boyfriends, huh?” Raphael said, letting out a laugh. “’Cause that shit looks pretty fucking gay to me.”

Dean’s eyes widened and he pulled back his hand from Castiel. Before he could even question what had just happened, the attention of the group was drawn toward a familiar gruff voice.

“Now, I know you boys aren’t over here starting any trouble,” Grandpa Bobby said, looking pointedly at Raphael and Michael, who he clearly did, in fact, think were up to something. “I may be new around here, but even I know that this school doesn’t tolerate harassment of any kind, and unless my hearing is going, I do believe I heard you mocking these two boys for their sexual preferences. Am I right?”

Raphael, adamant bigot he was, had undoubtedly opened his mouth to say that yes, that’s exactly what they were doing, but luckily for them, Michael wasn’t quite as stupid as his friend. The dark haired boy feigned a friendly smile, “Oh no, sir, of course not. We were just over here talking and trying to get to know the new kid.”

“Uh huh,” Grandpa Bobby said doubtfully, evidently not believing a word that came out of his mouth, but deciding to go with it. “Well, I’d get a move on before my better judgment kicks in and I send you to the office for harassment and discrimination of another student.”

Neither of the two boys looked very happy about being told off by a new teacher, especially one as no-nonsense as Grandpa Bobby. Thankfully, however, they did as they were told and left the area, although, for the rest of the lunch period, Castiel could have sworn he felt someone staring at him.

Chapter Text

I made a banner for this. What do you think?

 

By 1:40, about an hour before school ended for the day, Castiel was utterly exhausted. He just wanted to go home, crawl into his bed and stay there forever. Unfortunately, as it was only Wednesday, he still had two more days left before he could spend the weekend in bed, Hump Day be damned. The upside, however, was that he only had one class left, and it just so happened to be his favorite subject— history.

When he walked into the classroom he’d been assigned to for the class, he was a bit surprised to find Grandpa Bobby at the desk in the front of the room, scratching at his salt and pepper beard as he fiddled with something on the computer. Castiel had taught him the basics— Google Chrome, why he should never ever use Internet Explorer if he wanted to actually get anything done, Microsoft Word, and Spotify (something his grandfather was deeply enjoying though his newfound love of folk music was quickly growing tiresome).

Castiel, knowing how stubbornly independent his grandfather could be, resisted the urge to go check on him— it wasn’t like anyone there was really expecting even a human old man to know how to work a computer properly. Instead, he moved to his preferred seat, close to the back of the room but right next to the window. This window, in particular, gave him a perfect view of the track and the sports fields, where students in gym class were being allowed outside to enjoy the beautiful fall day by walking the track or playing soccer in the field in the center.

On the track, Castiel spotted Sam walking with Jessica, the girl from earlier. The younger boy was smiling like he was truly enjoying himself, and laughing at something Jessica had said. It seemed as if things were really going well here for Sam, and it was only just the first day. He’d expected things to be a lot more difficult than they actually were turning out to be, what with them not being from the same world as the people around them and having to pretend that they were, but it seemed that at least Sam was doing well.

“Is that Sammy?” A voice said directly next to Castiel, causing him to jump a bit in his seat before turning to face the source, which happened to be none other than Dean. He meant to yell at him for sneaking up on him like that, he really did, but when Castiel caught sight of the proud smile on Dean’s face as he watched his brother successfully navigate being human, his anger faded away.

“I’d say he’s adjusting pretty well, wouldn’t you?” Castiel asked the other boy, who nodded, eyes never leaving the track. He cleared his throat to call Dean’s attention back to him, because, despite his and Dean’s rocky relationship, he didn’t enjoy being ignored. Dean’s gaze turned to him, his green eyes appearing even brighter in the light of the sun that shown in through the window.

“Yeah,” Dean said, breaking eye contact as he took the seat right in front of Castiel and sat sideways in the seat so he could talk to him, but his eyes were right back on him the second he sat down. A small smile formed on his lips though he seemed to want to keep it hidden for some reason. “I think everyone’s doing pretty well, actually. Apparently a few of them are already starting to join clubs and stuff. And Garth was even asked to play football, whatever that is.”

Castiel laughed at that though he hadn’t intended to. Dean’s expression changed to one of confusion, along with something else that made the blond boy’s face redden and caused him to bite his lip, a nervous habit of his, apparently, and look down. When he realized that he must have upset the other boy, he fought down his laughter and tried to catch Dean’s eye.

“Dean, I wasn’t laughing at you,” Castiel assured, bringing his head down to rest on his folded arms on the desk, hoping it’d make the other look at him. “I mean it. I was just laughing because, well, look at you.”

Dean scoffed, looking even more upset now. “Yeah, thanks. I appreciate that, Cas. Makes me feel so much better.”

“No, that’s not what I— ugh, I meant that just looking at you I can see that you’re exactly the type of guy everyone would expect to be on the football team. You’re musclebound and masculine and well, you’re pretty easy on the eyes,” Cas admitted, trying to fight the blush that threatened to stain his cheeks and expose him.

“You mean other than my eyeliner?” Dean asked, sounding less angry, but still not exactly happy. “Because last I checked, that made me a ‘faggot’.”

The memory of the look on the other boy’s face, one of dejected resignation, made his blood start to heat up in his veins. He could say he didn’t care about Dean all he wanted, but even he admitted that the blond boy didn’t deserve to be treated like a freak for what he liked, just like Castiel wouldn’t deserve it for liking guys (if he ever made it out of the closet alive).

“Fuck them,” Castiel said, his voice firm and leaving no room for argument. “They’re nothing but ignorant, bigoted assholes that hate anything that doesn’t match up to their idea of what a man should look like. I liked your eyeliner, and obviously, you did too, so fuck them if they have a problem with it or you. They’re nobody.”

Dean didn’t seem to know what to say to that, staying silent and staring at Castiel like he suddenly sprouted a few more heads and maybe even some extra limbs to match. He shook his head, as if snapping himself out of some sort of trance, and met the other boy’s eyes with a look of gratitude, saying softly, “Thanks, Cas.”

“Okay, I finally got this stupid attendance sheet to work, so I guess we can get started,” Grandpa Bobby said, interrupting anything that Castiel could have said to Dean. “Is Tessa Abbott here?”

For the next five or so minutes, Grandpa Bobby took attendance, calling off name after name that was listed on his computer screen, and checking them off with the mouse if they responded. He came to and passed both “Castiel Novak” and “Dean Winchester”, which happened to be the last name on the list, leaving the class to stare at the older man, waiting for him to do something.

“Um,” Grandpa Bobby said, looking around the room at his class and looking suddenly unsure of what to do. This wasn’t an expression Castiel was used to seeing on his grandfather’s face, and it made him pity his grandpa, although he knew his sympathy wouldn’t be appreciated. Castiel, because he hated seeing that look on the older man’s face, picked up one of his new textbooks and held it in front of himself, where his grandpa could see it. A look of relief came over the older man when he caught sight of the book, nodding and saying to the class, “Right, now we’ve gotta assign you all textbooks.”

With that, he moved to the cabinets along the wall opposite to the windows, opening one and setting to finding the books he needed.

“Does this guy have any idea what he’s doing?” A girl, Ruby Cassidy, scoffed to her friend, an unfamiliar brunette who happened to catch Castiel’s narrowed gaze over her friend’s shoulder mid-agreement and quickly shut up. Ruby, who wasn’t one for not being agreed with, knocked her hand on her friend’s desk, effectively scaring her. “Hey, snap out of it.”

“Sorry,” The girl said softly, pointedly not looking in Castiel’s direction. When she noticed that Ruby was still waiting for a response, she nodded and said, “You’d think the guy had never taught before, which can’t be true, since he looks like, a hundred.”

Castiel was just about ready to say something scathing that would knock Ruby right on her arrogant, bitchy ass, but before he could, he felt a hand on his shoulder. He looked over his shoulder to tell them off too, but he was met with familiar green eyes, also narrowed angrily as he looked at the girls. When Dean’s attention turned to him, his gaze softened into something like understanding, and the grip on his shoulder loosened though he didn’t move his hand.

“Don’t even bother with them,” Dean said, shaking his head. “Bobby is going to be awesome and they’re going to be too busy being stuck up bitches to even enjoy it. They’re the ones missing out here.”

“I’d still have liked to turn Ruby into a ferret, Mad-Eye Moody style,” Castiel muttered, realizing belatedly that Dean had no idea what he was talking about. He really needed to lend this boy his collection. He waved off Dean’s questioning look, saying, “Just more Harry Potter stuff, don’t mind me.”

“Charlie told me there are also movies, right?” Dean asked him. “Should I just watch those instead?”

“No!” Castiel said loudly. He had always been a vehement supporter of reading the books first, especially in the case of Harry Potter, which had been a vital aspect of his childhood. “I mean, the movies are great, really—hell, there was a point in time where I was convinced I was in love with Draco Malfoy—but it’s really better to read the books first and get the full experience. Like, a lot of human children grew up with these books, waiting from book-to-book for the next one to come out and going to the bookstore on the day it went on sale, waiting for hours in long lines to get a copy. These books mean a lot to us, and I feel like you’d really like them too if you gave them the chance.”

Dean was now smiling widely like he was truly happy about something. Castiel narrowed his eyes suspiciously.

“What are you smiling about, Winchester?” he asked in a mock-threatening tone.

“Nothing,” Dean said seriously, raising his hands up in faked surrender, but the smile stayed firmly planted on his face. When he noticed that Castiel didn’t look convinced, he chuckled, looking down at the floor. When he looked back up, it was with a more controlled expression, although he was still smiling slightly. “Really, it’s just… I’m so obviously new to all of this human stuff, and here you are, ready and more than willing to introduce me to everything humanity has to offer. It’s kind of sweet.”

“Oh,” Castiel wasn’t quite sure what to say to that, or well, he didn’t know what was appropriate to say to that. Did he reassure the other boy? Or maybe he should try to downplay the whole thing, save himself some trouble down the road by cutting off any connections now. After all, it was Dean himself who had ruined Castiel’s ability to trust… and yet, he found he couldn’t do that either. “I, um, I’ll be sure to drop the first book off to you later on, okay?”

Dean, who had appeared relatively tense throughout Castiel’s silence, seemed to relax at that, and even let out a breath that Castiel, had he not been intently studying the other more, probably wouldn’t have even noticed. Dean’s smirk returned full force, seemingly fueled by a new sense of confidence, and he said with a wink, “Looking forward to it.”

Castiel blushed bright red and turned around, saying nothing in return.

Thankfully his grandfather chose that moment to plop a stack of textbooks on the table at the front of the classroom, gesturing toward it and saying, sounding slightly winded, “I’m going to… read off the names… corresponding with each book… once I catch my breath.”

“Maybe this is a sign the old man needs to start working out?” Dean’s voice said into Castiel’s ear, his hot breath tickling against the appendage and causing him to shiver and suppress a chuckle, because right at that moment, his grandfather’s eyes met his, narrowed in such a way that Castiel knew he’d heard every word. Dean let out a chuckle, and then said, “Oops.”

Maybe you ought not to piss off one of Halloweentown’s most powerful warlocks,” Castiel shot back, “Just a thought.”

Dean, thankfully, didn’t say anything for the rest of the period.

 


 

 

At the end of the school day, Castiel had been more than ready to get home and pass out for a few hours or so, but apparently that wasn’t on the itinerary for today. Instead, the ten of them stood in a deserted hallway in the lower level of the school, where almost no one ever went unless they were going to the art room or the music room, both of which were still way down the hall from them. And what’s worse, they were just staring at an old yellowed locker that Grandpa Bobby was gesturing to like it was actually something special.

“Oh yeah, this doesn’t look strange at all,” Castiel muttered to himself, “Nine kids and a teacher just standing here staring at a locker.”

“No one is even here, Cassie,” Anna said, nudging her shoulder against his, “Lighten up, will you?”

“What do you think?” His grandfather asked, looking at each of them in turn, only to realize that none of them had any idea what the hell he was talking about. He sighed, opening the locker and showing us the inside, which, again, showed nothing but a cheap-looking locker mirror. “It’s a Looking Glass.”

“So does this lead to Wonderland or something?” Castiel asked, receiving a stern look from his grandfather—who was more than familiar with mortal literature, mostly because he made a point to have brought new books back to Halloweentown with him when he’d visit, one being Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland—and confused stares from the others, all except Charlie, who, as a “realm hacker”, as she’d proudly called herself, really was a blessing to have around in terms of pop culture references. “It’s a book. A girl goes through a mirror and ends up in an alternate universe called Wonderland.”

When no one said anything, Grandpa Bobby continued, clearing his throat, “No smartass, it doesn’t lead to Wonderland. It does, however, lead to our new hideaway.”

The others began whispering amongst themselves excitedly, only to be silenced by Grandpa Bobby once more. “How about we head on inside before I answer any more questions, huh? It’s the most private place on campus.”

Grandpa Bobby then turned back to the mirror, running his pointer finger around the edges of the mirror, then saying, “Aperi speculo.”

The mirror’s surface then began to move freely, as if were waves in water, starting to glow a luminescent blue. Grandpa Bobby beckoned them all forward.

“Now what?” Castiel asked.

“Now we go in,” Grandpa Bobby said, moving forward and, just when Castiel expected him to walk right into the locker door, the mirror expanded, filling the whole door, and his grandfather stepped right through, leaving only a ripple on the surface of the mirror in his wake.

The others looked at each other as if willing someone to go first, and finally, with a sigh, Sam stepped forward.

“Do you have any idea how sad it looks that a fourteen-year-old is willing to go through and not you?” Sam asked, shaking his head and also stepping through.

Next went Benny, then Jo, then Charlie and Dorothy, then finally Garth, which left only Castiel and Dean standing there in the hallway, just looking at the mirror. When Castiel looked up to ask Dean if he wanted to go first, his face was pale with fear.

“Dean?”

“I’m fine,” Dean said though it was quite obviously a lie. He bit down on his lip as he studied the mirror, a look of apprehension on his face. “Just, this reminds me a lot of…”

Oh.

Oh shit.

 


 

 

It was just a few hours after the dance, and Castiel was seated next to his father and grandfather, both of which were sitting solemnly, watching as the mayor climbed the steps in front of City Hall, then turned to face the crowd that had gathered around.

The mayor, a dark-haired woman in modest clothing—or modest by Halloweentown standards— said, meeting the eyes of the man before her, one John Winchester. He stood at her side, hands bound behind his back and held in place by two large men, one of which was a werewolf and the other a ghoul, glaring harshly but saying nothing.

“What happened today was a tragedy, and I’m regretful that it happened,” the woman said, bowing her head as if in remorse. “But we will find justice today for our fallen friends, and for the world which was very nearly destroyed by this man.”

The crowd went silent and everyone’s gaze moved to John Winchester, whose face had turned a bright red, whether from anger or embarrassment. Surprisingly, because Castiel was sure this man wasn’t even capable of feeling it, John looked almost… afraid.

If he hadn’t almost killed his family, friends, and just about everyone in the Mortal Realm, he might have even felt sorry for him.

“As the Interim Mayor of Halloweentown, I, Naomi Adler, sentence you, Jonathan Winchester, to life imprisonment within a Witch’s Glass,” she said, looking down and studying a paper that sat on the desk in front of her. “This sentence is to be punishment for the two counts of murder, two of child endangerment, and finally, for endangerment of the very existence of the Mortal Realm.”

From off to the side, in an area heavily guarded by the police, came a cry that made chills run down Castiel’s spine, the pain in it was so potent. When Castiel looked over, he found that Dean had removed himself from the care of the police and was attempting, though he was being held back, to move toward his father. The older man didn’t acknowledge him, though, speaking volumes about his parenting in that one gesture, even more so than years of being friends with Dean had.

And Castiel, in theory, understood why Dean was upset. Witch’s Glasses were used to imprison the worst of Halloweentown’s prisoners, the ones who couldn’t be restrained by mere bars. In a Witch’s Glass, you were alone at all times, except for when meals were delivered to you via a spell.

Witch’s Glasses were essentially the solitary confinement of Halloweentown, only worse.

The police eventually restrained Dean, and, as he was being led back to his seat, Dean looked out and the crowd and he could have sworn that they made eye contact for the first time since the dance. The other boy’s tearful green eyes widened and filled with what, if Castiel wasn’t so angry, he might have called regret, but instead of reacting, Castiel turned away.

 


 

 

“I’m sorry,” Castiel said sincerely, trying not to let the pity he felt seep into his voice. He knew Dean wouldn’t want to hear that. “Do you want to not go in? I can stay here with you.”

Dean quickly shook his head. “No, I can do this,” he said, then took a deep breath, stepping toward the Looking Glass and glancing back at Castiel, motioning for him to follow him, “Come on.”

He hesitated for a moment, but closed his eyes and stepped through the Looking Glass.

Castiel followed close behind, and when he made it through, he looked around at the room, which was done up in a very Halloweentown-like fashion. There were comfy-looking burgundy velvet couches, an oriental rug on the floor, dark wooden tables with matching chairs with burgundy seat cushions—most likely for study—and a, in his opinion, tacky crystal right in the middle of the ceiling. And lastly, there was a creepy ass suit of armor sitting right next to the entryway that Dean kept eyeing like it was going to hurt him.

“And this will be our hideaway from the mortals. I hope you all like it because you’ll probably be spending a decent amount of time here,” Grandpa Bobby said, looking around the room, most likely admiring his work.

“Actually,” Garth said, cringing when it echoed from how loud he was, but continuing on, “I was asked to join the track team.”

“And I joined Video Game Club, the GSA, and STEM,” Charlie added.

Apparently Jo was also asked to try out for cheer, Dean and Benny were trying out for football, Dorothy joined the GSA and the Cooking Club, and Sam was encouraged by Jessica to join the Debate team. Grandpa Bobby looked over at Castiel and Anna, raising an eyebrow.

“And what about you two?” he asked.

“I’m in cheer,” Anna answered, smiling warmly at Jo like they now shared some kind of secret.

“Just STEM,” Castiel said, though he added, much more softly, “And maybe GSA.”

His grandfather smiled and placed a hand on his shoulder, squeezing it gently.

Grandpa Bobby was proud of him.

He was kind of proud of himself too.

 


 

 

After Castiel woke up from his three-hour nap later on that day, he went to his bookshelf, searching for the book he needed on the top shelf, where all his favorites were—Lord of the Rings, Vonnegut, Game of Thrones, and, of course, Harry Potter. Grabbing the first book in the series, he headed up the attic stairs and toward Dean and Sam’s room. He knocked, waiting for one of the boys to answer, and when one did, he found himself face to face with Sam Winchester.

“Hi Sam, is Dean in here?” Castiel asked, trying to fight the urge to look for himself, as he knew that wasn’t exactly polite. He held up the book in his hand. “I brought Harry Potter for him.”

Sam glanced back into the bedroom as if checking permission from his brother, who he assumed nodded because the door opened all the way and he was welcomed in. Sam let him by but stayed by the door, awkwardly shifting his weight from one foot to the other.

“I’ll um, leave you two alone,” Sam said simply, stepping out and shutting the door behind him.

Cas was a little confused. Why did Sam feel like he had to leave? He was only dropping off a book, then going back to his room (AKA the cave) to screw around on his laptop like he usually did, it’s not like there was anything going on that should make him uncomfortable.

When Cas turned his attention to the other side of the room, which he presumed, if the utter mess that was on the floor was any indication, was Dean’s. Dean was sitting on the unmade bed, looking down at his lap like he was avoiding eye contact, though Cas couldn’t figure out why. Really, all he was doing was dropping off a book. It wasn’t a big deal.

“So, I um, I brought the book I’m lending you,” Castiel said, moving across the room and almost tripping over all the clothes scattered on the floor, “Harry Potter, remember?”

Dean said nothing.

“It’s about this boy, Harry, who lives with his abusive aunt and uncle and their snobby son Dudley who gets whatever he wants while Harry gets absolutely nothing ever—like this kid doesn’t even have a real bedroom for the longest time, and he sleeps in the cupboard under their staircase—and one day he gets a letter from this school called Hogwarts that specializes in magic. He learns that he’s a wizard, which is basically exactly like a warlock—though the girls are witches still—and he goes away to this school and finds out all about this new world and about his past and…” Cas stops himself, realizing that he’s been rambling and that he’s most likely going to end up spoiling something for Dean, which he doesn’t want to do. If this is the first time Dean’s ever being exposed to Harry Potter, he wants Dean to experience it on his own and enjoy the adventure without any of his bias. Because for Cas, half the magic of reading a book is that you get to experience the whole story as if it’s new and happening right then like it’s your adventure instead of one that must be shared. Castiel tried to hand the book to Dean, but he wouldn’t take it, and so Castiel placed it next to him, suddenly unsure of what to say.

“You ever plan on cleaning in here?” Castiel asked, trying to sound joking. Dean usually responded well to jokes, so he figured it was worth a shot. “I actually think I may have narrowly escaped death when I almost tried over your shoe over there.”

Dean looked up and met Castiel’s eyes, and in that moment, Castiel was reminded of that boy he saw standing up on the stage at John’s hearing, alone and afraid, his bright green eyes dull, “Do you really hate me, Cas?”

Castiel didn’t really know how to respond to that.

He knew for certain that he was angry at Dean, furious even, but hate? Could Castiel really bring himself to hate Dean? Had you asked him this before the “exchange program”, he probably would have answered with a definite yes, but now it wasn’t so simple. Looking into the eyes of the boy he once considered a friend, he couldn’t find it in himself to feel any hatred.

“No,” Castiel said quietly, though honestly.

“Jo said you did,” Dean said as he focused on folding and unfolding his hands in his lap. “She said that you told her that, because of what I did, you could never forgive me. That I’m dead to you.”

“Jo’s a goddamn liar,” Castiel said, feeling the anger begin to boil in his gut. Was Jo really so jealous of him that she felt the need to hurt Dean over it? That was just low. When you care about someone, you want to protect them, not hurt them. “All I ever said to her was that she needed to mind her own business. That girl doesn’t know how to not involve herself in shit that isn’t her business, does she?”

Dean huffed a laugh, running a shaky hand through his hair. “Not really, no,” he said.

Castiel didn’t know what to say after that, as Dean didn’t say anything more and he’d basically said everything he’d needed to already. Just when he started wracking his brain for something, anything to talk about, Dean spoke, snapping him out of his thoughts.

“I was wondering something,” Dean said, sounding nervous, “Like, don’t feel obligated to answer if you don’t want to, but I figured I’d ask.”

“What is it?” Castiel asked curiously.

“Could you ever forgive me?” Dean asked, sounding just this side of hopeful, though he quickly added, “I mean, I only ask because you basically shot down what Jo said and so I figured maybe it might mean you could—forgive me, I mean.”

“Well,” Castiel said, thinking it over and wondering how he could explain this to Dean. “Forgiveness generally starts by beginning to build trust again. I used to trust you with my life, but now, I don’t know. If I could trust you again, I could maybe forgive you.”

“So I just have to earn your trust again?” Dean asked, raising an eyebrow.

“Hey, it won’t be that easy,” Castiel said, not liking that Dean was acting like it was something he could do quickly and move on. “There’s a lot to forgive.”

“I know,” Dean said, looking at Castiel with a weak smile. “But I’ll get there, I promise.”

Castiel didn’t know how to respond to that, so instead he pointed to the book next to Dean’s thigh. “You might wanna get on reading that. There are six more where that came from.”

“Six?” Dean asked, disbelieving. “You’re kidding.”

“Oh no,” Castiel said with an amused smirk, “And heads up, they only get more and more depressing, so be warned.”

“Castiel Novak, what have you gotten me into now?” Dean groaned, shaking his head though he was smiling. “Remember when we played that game, the one where you ring the doorbell and run away? We went up to Gort’s house and did it five or six times and he got so mad. It’s a really good thing he never caught us.”

“Ding-Dong-Ditch?” Castiel clarified, a smile growing on his face. “Oh, Gort would have probably gone and bitched at Grandpa like there was no tomorrow.”

“And then Bobby would have bitched at us,” Dean said, laughing.

“Definitely,” Castiel said, imagining how that would have gone over.

Bobby would have been pissed, not just because of their prank, but because then he’d have to put up with Gort, who was Halloweentown’s resident junkman and among the grumpiest people he’d ever met. He hated pretty much everyone, preferring to spend time in his mess of a house. He was like the worst kind of hoarder, and what’s even funnier is he wasn’t even in denial of it.

When Castiel turned to tell Dean what he’d been thinking, he found that that the other boy was suddenly much closer than he had been before. Castiel, blue eyes wide, stared at the blonde boy, not really sure what else to do and all the while Dean studied him intensely with those captivating green eyes of his like he was trying to make a decision.

“Dean?” Castiel asked softly, feeling both nervous and, strangely, hopeful. Of what he didn’t really have the capacity to think about right then.

Dean snapped out of it and gave him a forced-looking smile, saying, “Yeah, Cas. I’m fine.”

His eyes told another story, though, as they had always been the key to figuring Dean out. His eyes always gave how he was feeling away, as they had always been very expressive. And now, looking at them, Castiel almost thought he saw disappointment lurking in them. But that couldn’t be it, could it?

What did he have to be disappointed about?