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Adolescence at an all-male boarding school

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Ronald Smith was a quiet man. He had two dogs, a small house which he shared with his wife and her jigsaw collection and on the weekend he enjoyed fishing. He was also a school guidance counselor. The job was one he'd fallen into. He'd been happy working at the factory, but they'd not been happy with him working there and his sister in law had been teaching at West Planes high at the time. She's talked him up, he'd got the job, and he'd found his calling.

While Ronald had liked the factory he found that he loved the school. His room was a trove of information on colleges and scholarships and he took time for each of his students. Most were easy of course. They had a dream; he just needed to look through his alphabetic files for the answer for them. Some were harder and sometimes a case landed on his desk that demanded his full attention.

He began to hear good reports about Sam Winchester about a week after the boys had moved to the school. When prompted, teachers gave him similar but more exasperated stories about Dean. Two smart kids but their lives were in chaos. They were always tired in class; they'd be experts on one thing but never have heard of some basic principles.

Of course Ronald had met the boy's father when he enrolled them,and Mr Winchester had explained that his work kept them moving. Sam and Dean had never had stability and their education was suffering for it.

This was exactly the kind of case he was here to help with and, as always, he had a solution.

~*~*~*~

Dean wasn't sure how they'd gotten here, exactly. He'd been trying in this school since dad had yelled at him about the last school. Ok, so sneaking in to the chem. lab to have sex with the head cheerleader might have been an idiot move, he could agree with that in retrospect. What he didn't get was why his dad cared. It wasn't like Dean was going anywhere with this. It wasn't like he was smart or anything. When the hell was he going to need this stuff anyway? They all knew what he was going to do. The family business. It wasn't like he needed to graduate high school, the ghosts weren't gonna stop him and ask for his GED before they let themselves be exorcised.

Still, when he'd been called in to the school the last time his dad had gone ballistic at Dean, shouting and screaming about wasting time and causing fuss and how Dean needed to just keep his head down a little longer and work on this. About how Dean was a disappointment.

And, ok, he hate when his dad yelled at him like that. Hated being the disappointment. So he'd tried this time, he had. He hadn't fucked anyone. Well, this one girl, but she'd been the one to start it and they'd been discrete. He'd gone to nearly all his classes and he'd even tried to do some work. It was just stupid and infuriating but it was only one year then he could do what he was meant to. Something that would really made a difference.

When they came back from school one day and found dad waiting for them after a phone call from the school Dean knew shit was going to hit the fan. John was furious, wouldn't listen to a word they said, and stormed out for the night. The worst thing was he genuinely hadn't done anything this time.

Sammy had been quiet too, since apparently the phone call had been about him too - can you come in to school tomorrow to talk about your sons? He hadn't got the same yelling at that Dean had, just a disappointed "I expected better of you son", and what the hell. Did he not expect better of Dean? Or was Dean already failed away under eternal disappointment?

The next day dad turned up at lunch as asked. He hadn't gotten in the night before until three but had managed to scrape the stubble of his face, at least. Sammy looked like he wanted to bolt out the door, not go to the principal’s office, and Dean wondered if, for once, Sam had been the one to do something. But no, his little brother would never do anything like that. He was the brains of this operation.

The guidance counselor was waiting for them and ushered them in with a big grin and Dean hated him a little. If they'd done something bad enough to get called in to have a meeting then why was the guy grinning? Idiot.

"I'm so glad you could come," he said, sitting down in his chair and folding his hands in his lap. Dean stared at him incredulously; you'd think this was a tea party, not a dressing down.

"Yeah, what did Dean do this time?" his dad asked, and Dean flinched because he HADN'T. Not this time.

"Done?" the guidance counselor asked, and he had the nerve to look confused. "Well, he's not 'done' anything. I'm sorry; did you think he was in trouble?"

"Normally is," his dad said with a growl, and Dean wished the ground would just open up and swallow him whole.

"Oh no," the guidance counselor said with a dismissive wave of his hand. "He's not in any trouble, unless there's something I don't know." He said that with a conspiratorial wink aimed at Dean and Dean flinched because, yeah, not like they were friends here or anything. He didn't like that familiarity.

"So, why did you call me in?" his dad asked, looking even more annoyed, "I'm a busy man!"

"I just wanted to talk to you about Sam and Dean's prospects," the guy said, smiling.

"Their prospects?" his dad asked, and Dean snorted. Surely they all knew their prospects. He and Sam were going to hunt things, with their dad, until they met a fight they couldn't win. Then they'd die and that would be it.

"Yes," the guidance counselor said, that infuriating grin not leaving his face. "I'm sure you're aware that you have two exceptionally intelligent sons here. Sam's teachers made that clear to me almost straight away and it took a little longer to filter through with Dean as he refuses to engage but when he does work, his work is of an exceptional standard."

"Bullshit," Dean snapped, forgetting himself for a second and getting a smack on the side of his head from his dad for his troubles. "Sorry," he mumbled, rubbing at his head. "I just, I'm nothing special."

"Of course you are," the guidance counselor said with some kind of manic grin. "Your problem, the problem with both your sons actually, Mr Winchester, is the fragmented nature of their education. I know you move for work but it means that the boys have missed a lot of material and repeated other sections over and over. It's disadvantaging them, Mr Winchester."

"I agree," John said, tightening his jaw. "I want them both to graduate, but what do you suggest I do. Work means I've gotta move and I can hardly leave them home alone."

"Actually, I have a solution," the guy says, beaming like he just unearthed a pot of gold or something. He reaches in to a drawer and pulls out a booklet, placing it purposefully in the middle of the table. Dean's dad lean over and snatched it, leafing through it quickly.

"No way we can afford this, sorry," he said, throwing it quickly back down again.

"You wouldn’t have to," the guidance counselor replied. "They run a scholarship program in conjunction with local schools in deprived areas, this one included. They take in boys who show talent and would benefit from a boarding environment and I've already spoken to them about Sam and Dean, they agree that they fit the profile."

"What is it?" Dean asked, reaching forward and snatching the booklet then almost immediately throwing it back. "Oh, no way. I am NOT going to some stupid boarding school."

"A boarding school," Sam said, eyes immediately lighting up. He reached forward and grabbed the book himself, leafing through it with eyes wide.

"Yes, and a very good one," the guidance counselor said, smiling benevolently. "They know this is an emergency case so could make room, providing you were willing, as soon as next week. Full ride scholarships. They may want Dean to enter a year below where he is now, to make up for the gaps in his knowledge, but they are an outstanding school and we've seen excellent results from them before. In such a highly academic atmosphere I'm sure Dean will have no problem catching up."

"We'll have to think about this," his dad said, but something in his tone made Dean realize he meant that. He was considering this and that wasn't fair.

"No way," he spat. "I'm not going."

"We'll talk about it," is dad said again, no room for argument in his tone, and Dean knew he'd lost already.

~*~*~*~

"I'm not going to stay here," Dean informed his dad, crossing his arms over his chest. "This is so stupid. I've got no business being here. Sam, ok, kid's smart. But not me. And you need me!"

"Don't flatter yourself, kid," his dad snapped, clearly no more swayed by the argument now they were pulling in to the school then he had been over the last week. "I hunted for years without your help, I can do it again."

"You shouldn't have to," Dean replied. "I should have your back. It's what I'm going to end up doing, after all. What the hell is the point of any of this?"

"You're getting an education," his dad growled. "I'm not arguing with you about this, Dean. It's happening. They're letting you get away with not going down a year, just be thankful of that."

"Damn right they are," Dean muttered. It was bad enough he was going to have to be here a year, two was unthinkable. They'd sent a pack with vouchers for uniforms and a 'guide to life at St. Michael's school' when they'd been enrolled, and Dean hadn't been able to bring himself to read more than a page of the thing, though Sam had read it cover to cover about ten times.

"Stop being such an idiot, Dean. This is great," Sam said, and it made sense that he was happy about it. All this learning, great place some someone with a brain in their head like Sammy. But Dean, he had no place here. He reason to be here.

"Shut up," he snapped back, but Sam just carried on grinning.

Luckily, before Sam could launch into another of his explanations about why this was going to be the best thing ever they pulled up to the reception. A woman was waiting for them, young and pretty and Dean guessed this was going to be it for things to look at for a while. He couldn’t believe that of all things he was being sent to an all-boys boarding school.

"Hello," she said, looking pleased and surprised though Dean was sure they must look a mess. "I'm Miss Lees, welcome to St Michael's. I take it you're John, Dean and Sam."

"Yes," John said, and he looked about as comfortable as Dean felt. Miss Lees smiled in a way that was almost aggressively friendly, holding out her hand first for John, then Sam, then Dean.

"It's so nice to meet you," she said. "We have dorm rooms ready for you, I'll take your round, and I've assigned each of you an older student to show you around the place and make sure you're feeling at home. You'll each have a tutor, obviously. I'll be your tutor, Sam. I'll stop by tonight after C.O. to make sure you're settling in. Dean, your tutor will be Mr. James, he'll do the same for you?"

"What's C.O.?" Dean asked, still scowling. He didn't like this woman or this place and he sure as hell wasn't going to let her chirpy attitude draw him in.

"Oh, goodness, did you not read the pack about the school day? C.O. is registration, really. We take it at breakfast and then again at nine, after study. Quiet study if from seven to nine every night and you need to be in your room and working. I'm sure you'll get the hang of things quickly; your student mentor in house will have a copy of your full timetable for you. No, let's get your bags and get you settled in. Sam, you're going to be in Franklin house. Dean, you're in Lincoln."

"Hey, wait," Dean said, folding his arms over his chest. "Are you telling me that Sam and I aren't in the same house?"

She blinked at him, and then smiled softly, as though they were friends and she was trying to comfort him.

"I'm sorry," she said, touching his arm. "I know you'd like to be with your brother but you've joined us late, we need to fit you in where we can. Don't worry; you'll still have plenty of time to see each other."

"No way," Dean said, pulling back. He could cope with a lot of things, but not this. Sammy was his brother; he couldn't leave him behind here. Anything could happen to him.

"Doesn’t be an idiot, Dean," Sam said, looking at Dean like this didn't bother him. Like he didn't care that Dean wouldn't even be there if he needed him. "I'll see you all the time."

Miss Lees beamed at him as if Sam had just cured cancer or something, and Dean glared at the both of them, but by the time he was done glaring his Dad had pulled open the trunk and thrown their bags out.

"I've not got time for this, Dean," he said, as though Dean was being a problem again. "Come on and get your bag. Let's get you settled then I need to get back on the road."

And it was that tone, the one you didn't argue with. Dean didn't argue, what would be the point, he'd lost again already. He wasn't going to hunt, his dad was going to go out there and do this without him. He wasn't going to get to look after Sammy; someone else would be doing that. Some surrogate dorm big brother. What the hell was the point in anything anymore?

He hated it here.

~*~*~*~

Sam loved it here.

He had known he would from the minute he first opened the booklet Mr Smith had given them. The campus was beautiful, and it was normal. He was going to have a bed of his own and, ok, it would be in a dorm so it wouldn't be his own room but next year he'd have a room of his own and he had his own study.

Miss Lees had dropped him off and taken dad and Dean on and, okay, he was sad to see Dad go but this was his chance! His chance to have friends and to be normal and happy,. Everything he'd ever wanted just handed over to him like it was easy.

He'd been left with Lucifer, the head of house and, okay, he'd been a bit worried at being left with someone named after the devil but he seemed to genuinely be a nice guy. He'd helped Sam unpack, which made Sam extra happy that he'd hidden the gun and knife his dad had left him on his person, the gun tucked snugly into the small of his back, the knife in his boot. He'd shown him his study, the dining room, the freshman common room. Talked him through his time table and promised him that after lunch he'd take him on a campus tour, and then left him to settle in.

The first thing he'd done once he was alone was hide the gun and the knife. He had to be careful; under the mattress was no good because cleaners came in, and likewise for his drawers. In the end he pried a floor board up in the back of an airing cupboard he found on the top floor and hid them there. He wished he could just dump them, leave them behind entirely, but he knew if he did that then his dad would go mad at him.

When he got back to the dorm he had company. The other boys introduced themselves as Chuck and Ash and dragged him down to meet matron, a kind looking red head with tortoise shell glasses who showed him what to do with his laundry and how the tuck shop worked before returning him to Chuck and Ash who took him out with them to play a game of soccer on the close until lunch.

He loved it here.

~*~*~*~

The only good side, as far as Dean could see, was that he got his own room. Sure, as the last to join he had the smallest room, but it was his. He'd never had his own room before. Never had a bed of his own, and it was strange and terrible and the best thing ever all at once.

The rest was just bad.

Miss Lees had left him with Michael, the head of house. He was kind of a self-righteous dick and Dean had more or less hated him on sight. Okay, maybe he'd antagonized the guy, but when he'd started with a lecture on the grand and noble heritage of the school and how it was the role of every student to uphold the heritage in every way they could he was going to mock a little.

Michael hadn't seen the funny side of it, instead just launching in to a different lecture on the importance of being on time, accompanied by a color coded timetable and map, and Dean did kind of appreciate that the guy had been to some trouble for him but would have appreciated the gesture more without the undertone of "I've done this for you because you're too stupid to do it for yourself."

He'd left Dean with matron, a woman who looked like she hadn't cracked a smile in the last fifty years. She'd lectured Dean on the importance of cleanliness. How to do everything: when and how to wash, when and how to clean his room.

Idiot.

The place itself wasn't too bad. The campus was big and looked like there were a lot of places he could hide out and, well, there were no girls here and Miss Lees was smoking and all but he got the impression from Sammy's fan-girl face that if he got them thrown out of here he'd never be forgiven so he probably just needed to keep it in his pants.

He took the drawers out of the desk and stashed the weapons in the back of there, figuring nobody would find them. It wasn't a normal place to look anyway.

Took him about half an hour to figure out that his own room was going to be worse them useless. People kept just knocking and opening it. First matron to lecture him about towels, which she'd apparently forgotten the first time. Then some old guy who told Dean he was the house master and Dean was welcome to come to him with any problems (as if) then two guys asking him to play soccer (no) then Michael asking if he'd like a tour of the school (no) then finally a different guy to drag him for lunch when he didn't answer the bell.

He didn't answer to bells. He wasn't a dog. The other boy sent to find him, some other self-righteous snob he didn't catch the name of, didn't think that was an excuse.

In the dining hall the snob directed him to some food, rabbit food and no other options because apparently it was ALWAYS 'pasta bar' for Sunday lunch, then sat him down with a group of other boys of the same age who seemed to mostly want to discuss their golf lessons, which they were all apparently going off to after lunch.

Dean had never played golf in his life and had no intention of starting now, so he ignored them. He scanned the room instead. It was mostley the same kind of people. Idiots who thought they were something because daddy had bought an expensive school place for them. Shouting and gesturing and showing of their watches to each other like it meant something worthwhile about you if you had a posh watch.

There was only one kid who didn't seem to be taking part in the 'I'm better then you' Olympics, some weird scrawny thing who was sat talking to the house master so probably a swat. None of them looked like they knew how to have a good time at all.

He was so screwed.

~*~*~*~

Michael was a bastard and Dean hated him. It hadn't taken Dean long to come to this opinion. The other boy had finally approached him, well after he should have, about the campus tour. Dean had been kind of inclined to turn the pompous ass down. He didn't want to be here, didn't want to know the layout of the damn place and certainly didn't need to be condescended to by some guy who thought he was the next thing to god just because someone had left him in charge of the playground.

But, like it or not, the facts of it were that he was stuck here for now. He couldn't do anything about that and he'd promised Dad he'd give it a try. All he wanted to do was go hunting, but that would only be possible when he proved to dad that he could take order and, for now, proving he could take orders meant staying here and making nice. So Dean said yes.

The campus was boring, but Dean played at least a little attention and put at least a little effort into remembering where things are. All of the buildings were named after 'old boys' of the school so none of the building names corresponded to what they were used for or where they were or anything useful and through it all Michael droned on about the grand and glorious history of the school and how they all had responsibilities as pupils of the school and as future old boys to fulfill their potential and their destiny and become gentlemen that the school would be proud of.

Dean didn't tell him that he never had any intention of being someone the school would be proud of. Michael was mostly talking to himself anyway so it wasn't like it mattered.

Michael had apparently decided to save the 'best' for last and he finished them of in the 'Hill center' which was, apparently, posh idiot school talk for the library.

Dean could imagine Sam's face as he walked in to this place, and for a minute he felt horribly lost. It was a long time to be apart when, before this, they'd been joined at the hip. He'd never been this long without seeing or hearing from Sammy before, and that was wrong. Winchesters stuck together. If they didn't then what did they have left?

Dean made the appropriate noises as they walked round. Being able to trick someone into thinking you're interested or you care was an important part of the job after all. Got to talk to witnesses. Win their trust, be their friends. Michael seemed encouraged by Dean's new diligence and stopped paying as much attention to if Dean was listening or not and, when a group of preppy looking idiots in sports kit called out to Michael and he headed over to chat to them, Dean slipped away undetected.

He remembered vaguely where they'd dropped Sam of. It was a big campus but Dean had a good memory for directions, helped on a hunt. He'd have to remember to point that out to Dad next time they had the 'you're not hunting' argument.

He headed back in that direction. He'd go see Sammy now. He'd given the kid time to settle in, he'd probably be desperate to see his big brother by now. Probably be missing Dean as much as Dean was missing him. Probably be as sick of this place as Dean was. They could phone dad together and beg with him to let them go home, go back to hunting.

Down here, between these two buildings and on to the main pathway, then right and...

Dean walked around the corner and almost walked straight into another boy. He healed out his hand to steady himself and ended up gripping the boy on the shoulder. The other boy looked up at Dean and he didn't say anything. He just kept stared and, sure, Dean could be distracted by how weird that was for about five seconds, by the fact this boy had the bluest eyes and if this was a chick behind those baby blue's he'd totally be trying to bang her, but it soon got pretty damn awkward and even when Dean gave in and broke eye contact first he looked back up to find the other boy still staring at him.

"Erm, sorry about that," he said, stepping back, but the boy followed him.

"Who are you?" he asked. "I don't know you."

"I'm Dean," Dean replied, jutting his chin out. "What's it to you?"

"I like to know people," the boy said, and he smiled a little as if that was a special secret he'd decided to share just between the two of them. "I'm Castiel."

"Nice for you," Dean said, raising an eyebrow. Damn weird name, but it was a rich kid school. Rich people name their kids all sort of weird shit. "I've got to go. Going to go visit my brother."

"Who's your brother?" the weird kid asked, tilting his head.

"None of your business," Dean snapped. He moved to step past the weird kid but was followed, those eyes never leaving his, though his expression had fallen a little now and Dean felt almost as though he'd kicked a god damn puppy for fun, not told a weird kid no.

"It just looks like you're heading for Franklin house," the kid said in the most dejected tone of voice. "I just thought I'd tell you that it isn't visiting there right now, they won't let you in. If you want to see your brother you'll have to phone for him to come out and visit you, that would probably be best."

"What kind of stupid system is that?" Dean asked, throwing his hands up in disgust. "Why can't I just go knock?"

"Not allowed," the kid said, and again he looked so damn sad about it. Dean wasn't sure if he wanted to punch the kid of pat him on the head and tell him it was going to be okay. Though mostly punching him seemed the best response.

"Fine," Dean snapped. "I'll go phone him, just get the hell out of my way.

The kid stepped aside, a satisfied smile replacing the sad look on his face. Dean stormed past, pulling his phone out of his bag and firing of a text for Sam to come see him. Damn weird rich kids, he hoped that the rest of the school had better social skills then that guy or he was going to be in trouble.

~*~*~*~

Dean knew he was wrong about Sammy being ready to go home the second he saw the other boy. Sammy was practically bursting with excitement, he couldn't even sit down next to Dean. He kept bouncing up to gesture and pace while he talked. You'd think someone had shown him heaven, not just some posh rich kid school.

Dean tried to smile and be enthusiastic for his baby brother but his heart wasn't in it. He knew the way this would go now. Sammy loved it here; Dean couldn't spoil that for him. He got himself thrown out; they'd probably throw Sammy out too. Dean couldn't do that, not when Sammy was looking happier and more enthusiastic then Dean had seen him in a long time.

He was staying at posh school.

~*~*~*~

Classes were boring as hell. Dean wasn't just saying that because he didn't want to be here and he didn't see any point in learning this rubbish when he was just going to be a hunter, though none of that helped. They were genuinely just boring. He'd never taken being lectured too well and that's what they seemed to do here. He'd been 'excused' from studying Latin as he'd never seen it before in his life but they apparently expected a high level of performance from all their pupils, and Dean was starting to suspect he'd never graduate from here.

There were some ok things, though. They'd put him in kind of the idiot class. Only it was posh kid school so it wasn't really an idiot class, more a slightly less stupidly intelligent class. He was doing a few classes with the year below him to catch him up, and in one of those classes was Gabriel.

Gabriel was, Dean knew, a bit of a douche. The classes they put him in tended to be half kids who earnestly wanted to do well but were a bit thick and half kids who didn't want to work. Gabriel was the latter. It took Dean about five seconds to work him out as the class clown. He acted it anyway. Class idiot. Dean's first introduction to him had been in an English lesson where he'd asked questions all lesson containing song lyrics. It had been pretty funny, especially when the teacher didn't get it. Dean had made a point of talking to him after the class and, like that, he had an ally against the stupidity that was this school.

It wasn't like they were best friends or anything. He didn't do friends, they only slowed you down. Family was what was important, but Sammy was busy these days coming top in his classes and getting excited about things like the little nerd he was and Gabriel was a funny guy to pass the time with.

They'd hang out and plot pranks. Gabriel was a big joker, even called himself the trickster which Dean thought was kind of tacky though some of the other kids in the school called him that too with kind of awed looks on their faces. They didn't talk about feelings or cricket or whatever the hell else the other idiots in this school talking about, and it was good.

Gabriel was also full of stories about the school. The good stories, not the bad ones. Gabriel knew that Ms Whitechurch had almost been fired last year for being drunk in lessons and that Mr Jones had an affair with the science technician. He knew a host of stories about old pupils and Dean guessed at least half of them were made up on the spot but half of the fun was trying to work out what was true and what was a lie and, honestly, they were all funny stories so he didn’t care.

But he missed the hunting. He missed the rush, the thrill. He missed his dad. Dad had left them before, gone off to do something too dangerous for them to be involved, but Dean still missed him. Anything could be happening to him and there wouldn't be anyone there to have his back. He missed Sammy too, which was even more annoying as Sammy was here with him, he was just always busy. Dean would call him and he'd be in the library or he'd be playing soccer or he'd be having catch-up sessions or something. It was sickening. Bad enough that this school was so strict that he couldn’t just go out and see Sammy any time he wanted because of visiting hours and designated study time and stupid things like that.

This school was horrible anyway, but it was making him lose his family and that, he couldn't accept that. He needed a distraction, needed a case. Again, it was Gabriel who came through for him.

He came up to Dean in the corridor before maths one afternoon, sloping against the wall with a mischievous grin.

"Hey Dean," he said, "Heard a story today I thought you might like."

"Go on," Dean said, grinning his lazy grin. Gabriel's stories were usually good for a laugh if nothing else.

"Well, I heard this of some Roosevelt boys, so it must be true. You like supernatural shit, right? Apparently, the school is haunted."

"Yeah yeah," Dean said with a lazy shrug. He should have known it was a mistake to let Gabriel catch him reading that book of lore. "This and every other building on the planet."

"See, that's what I thought," Gabriel said with a shrug, "But the thing was, this story, it kind of made sense of something else I heard. I mean, not the ghost bit. Did I ever tell you about Malcolm Green?"

"One of your old boy stories?"

"Bit more suspicious then that. He was murdered on campus, about 90 years ago. Found naked in the woods, someone...well...let's just say it probably wouldn’t have been very pretty. One of the teachers was suspect, of course, but they never found anything to link him to it. I knew all that. The best bit? The teacher apparently became convinced that the ghost of the kid was following him. That's what I learnt from these boys anyway. He started to freak out, run out of the classroom swearing the kid was there watching him. Then, one day he was just...dead. In his classroom. Funny thing, he was killed in exactly the way that kid was killed."

"Sure," Dean said with a shrug. Gabriel was probably lying.

"Yeah. See, the other thing. Apparently he'd been seen again. Recently. In the science building, which is where the teacher died. What do you think of that?"

"Someone been seeing ghosts on campus and you only just heard about it?" Dean quipped. "Not very likely."

"Hey, my networks are impressive but even I make mistakes sometimes, okay. And it's not exactly the kind of thing I'd be looking for, just thought you might like it."

Dean would have said something more but while Gabriel had been talking the teacher had turned up and they were obliged to move in to class for another exciting instalment on whatever the hell it was they were covering at the moment.

~*~*~*~

When Sam rounded the corner on the top corridor and found Gabriel knelt by the door to Uriel's room he froze. He knew about Gabriel, of course, but only by reputation. Lucifer had gone to lengths to point the other boy out to him during those first few days, making it clear that Gabriel was trouble and if Sam knew what was best for him he'd avoid the other boy. Sam had taken that mostly to heart. After all, he didn't know Gabriel and the last thing he wanted here was trouble.

He'd also heard stories about Gabriel. It didn't take long for him to establish that the guy was almost a legend in this school for his pranks. It had made Sam vaguely reminiscent for Dean and prank wars carried out in the back seat of the impala whenever dad wasn't looking. But as much as he might enjoy a good prank, he needed to stay in this school.

Gabriel grinned at Sam and gave him a small wave, as if there was nothing unusual about being caught in this position.

"Hey, new kid," he whispered. "Don't think we've been introduced, I'm Gabriel. Who are you?"

"Sam," Sam said, taking a step closer. "What are you doing?"

"Probably better that you don't know," Gabriel said with a little shrug. "In fact, probably better that you're not seen up here at all, you know."

"Erm, sure," Sam said, glancing behind him to see if anyone had followed him up the stairs, but he was alone. He knew that was his cue to slip away but, oddly, he didn't want to. Rather, he kind of wanted to come nearer. To get a better look at what Gabriel was doing. He took a small step forward. "But...are you sure you're okay?"

"Yeah. Let's just say that Uriel's only getting what he deserves and leave it at that, alright kid?"

"Sure," Sam replied, giving him a small smile. Uriel was a bit of a bully, Sam had been trying to avoid him mostly but he'd seen him pushing around one of the other students at lunch yesterday when the teacher wasn't looking. If Gabriel wanted to spread a bit of justice then that was okay by him. "I just...I'll get out of your way."

"Good idea," Gabriel replied with an easy grin, and Sam turned, slipping back down the stairs and taking himself off to the common room. Half an hour later the entire house erupted into chaos as Uriel found that SOMEHOW, SOMEONE had managed to cover his bed in shaving foam. At lunch the next day one of the teachers came to sit near Sam and dropped the incident in conversation. They'd all been told to come forward if they knew anything, of course, but when the teacher asked if anyone knew anything or had seen anything she directed her gaze at him. For a second he thought it meant they were blaming him but, no, if they had any evidence then someone would have said something. That meant they had no real evidence it was Gabriel either. He could hand the other boy in...or he could not...

He smiled his sweetest smile and told the teacher he hadn't seen anything. On the way out of the room after lunch Gabriel squeezed his shoulder in a friendly way.

~*~*~*~

On top of all the stupid academic shit, the school made him take a sport. Dean wasn't opposed to the idea of sport on principle but he was opposed to the idea of him being forced to do sport. Especially more than once a week, and when it was proceeded by a preppy talk about how hard work would increase his confidence and concentration, which was complete bullshit. He also hated that he was automatically put in the last team, under the presumption that he could move up as he got better.

That proved to be harder then he'd thought it might be. He didn't want to do team sport but if he had to do it, he didn't want to be in the group with the fat kids and the kids with dodgy legs and the kids who smoked when nobody was looking so tended to cough up a lung every time they ran. He did his best, but while he was healthy he wasn't exactly a team player. Still, after only a few weeks he got moved up to the next to last team.

Some promotion.

He was already pissed off when he went in for practice. Sammy had texted him that morning with some bullshit excuse about work for why they couldn't meet up that afternoon, and seriously he was starting to think his little brother didn't WANT to spend time with him. Lessons had been ridiculous as usual; he didn't even share anything with Gabe on a Tuesday so he'd been alone in his misery and now sport.

Mr Evans had grinned at him like Dean should consider it a fucking achievement to be in the 'slightly less losers' camp. It wasn't an achievement though, not at all.

Didn't help that he'd got the timings wrong so he was late to practice and the coach almost immediately benched him once he was changed so he'd gone through all that and now he was sat here on this stupid bench with the stupid weird kid who'd gotten in his way when he'd gone to see Sammy on the first week, about the last person Dean wanted to see when he'd just been blocked from seeing his brother again.

The kid kept sending him weird looks, and it was kind of pissing Dean of. And, okay, Dean was spoiling for a fight anyway but it wasn't like it would be unprovoked if he punished the kid who'd been giving him funny looks all practice.

"Hey," the kid said, shifting a little closer, and Dean had to clench his hand around the bench to stop himself just taking a swing. "Did you get to see your brother?"

"Fuck of," Dean snapped, and the stupid kid looked so offended, like Dean had punched his puppy and not just sworn at him.

"I just wanted to help," the kids says, and Dean kind of wants to kick him because, seriously, is this kid an idiot. It's not like he's giving out welcoming vibes here, but the kid keeps talking even when any idiot could work out he's not welcome.

"Shut the hell up," Dean snapped. "I don't want to talk to you."

For a second he thought the idiot was going to be stupid enough to say something else but he seemed to think better of it, giving Dean a long look and shifting away. Thankfully, the coach called for Dean pretty quickly and he managed to get off the bench and leave the weird guy behind.

~*~*~*~

The next time Dean saw the guy it was two days later and he was hanging out with Gabriel. Sam had blown him off to spend time with library buddies again and Dean was too unimpressed for words so when he'd come across Gabe leaning against a wall and looking vaguely dissatisfied with the world, Dean had joined him. Gabriel has just nodded at him and launched in to a commentary about the people who walked past, which was always damn interesting.

He spotted the kid from a way of, and the kid must have spotted then too because he paused for a second, looking from Dean to Gabriel as if he was sizing them up, measuring how much of a threat they were. He took a long look down the other path and then visibly pulled himself together and started walking toward them.

And, ok, for a second Dean was kind of guilty. He didn't want to talk to the kid of be his friend or anything but at the same time he didn't want the kid to be scared of him. He'd been a bit pissy the other day but he wasn't exactly the kind of person who liked people being scared of him. That was kind of fucked up. But if he tried to do anything to make it up he'd end up having to make friends or something ridiculous like that and he definitely didn't want that. He wasn't that sorry.

Luckily, at that moment Gabriel looked up and spotted the guy, and a look that was almost malevolent crossed his face.

"Hey, hey Castiel" he yelled, waving. Castiel rapidly lost the confidence he'd been walking with, the head dropping and his shoulders hunching. Dean frowned; maybe it wasn't him the kid was scared of after all. "How you doing, kid! Get yourself over here."

Castiel kept his head down, though it was clearly too late to hide. Gabriel stepped forward and intercepted him, grabbing his shoulder and turning him towards Dean and tugging the book out of his hand.

"Don't," Castiel said, desperate. Gabriel wasn't listening though, dropping the notebook on the floor and stomping on it.

"Oh, sorry Cassy," he said, and his tone was nastier then Dean had ever heard him use before. "Look what happened. And we were being such good pals.

"I wasn't doing anything to you," the kid said, and he sounded more confused than anything, looking down at his book which Gabriel had somehow managed to tear as well as cover in dirt.

"And I didn't do anything to you, Cassy. We're just having a chat like model students, right. We should all get on and be friends at this school, right? Here, let me pick up the book you dropped." He leant over, intentionally kicking the book as he did, sending it flying towards Dean then giving Dean a grin as if he expected him to join in. the kid just looked lost, and Dean knew he could be a shit sometimes but he wasn't that much of a shit.

He leant over and picked the book up, dusted it of briefly with his hand and stepped forward to hand it to the kid, bypassing Gabriel's attempt to grab it back. The kid looked at him with such a ridiculously grateful expression; you'd think Dean had just slain a dragon for him, not handed over a notebook.

"Get out of here," he said, knocking Gabe's hand of the kid's shoulder. Gabriel glared at the kid ran. Dean kind of wondered why he hadn't just run in the first place, though maybe Gabriel would have just followed. This was apparently a side of his friend he'd never seen before.

"What the hell was that?" he asked as soon as the kid was out of earshot, Gabriel shrugged and looked a little embarrassed now he'd been called on his behaviour.

"Don't know, doesn't he just piss you of though? There's just something about that kid, makes me angry to look at him. Like, there's something about his face that makes me just want to punch him. Like he thinks he's better than the rest of us, and he never fights back or anything."

"'Course he doesn't," Dean snapped. "I mean, yeah, he's kind of weird but he was obviously scared of you. You like, that? People being scared of you?"

"No," Gabriel snapped. "I'm a trickster, not a bully."

"Dude, that wasn't a trick and it wasn't even a bit funny. I thought you were cool,"

Gabriel kind of gaped at him and Dean did the only thing he could do, he turned and walked away.

~*~*~*~

Sam couldn't sleep. Lights out had been an hour ago and the dorm was quiet. The chatter of goodnights that immediately followed lights of had died down but it wasn't yet long enough that Gregory had started snoring in his sleep or Carl had started up that weird snuffling noise he made. In theory it was the perfect time to drift off, but somehow Sam couldn't manage it. He missed the sound of Dean across the motel room from him. He didn't know why, it was weeks and he hadn't missed it before, but something about today had reminded him of it. Somehow he was homesick, homesick for cheap motel mattresses and the sound of cars outside, peppered with the occasional drunken shout and Dean in bed across the room, tossing and turning in his sleep.

He wasn't meant to get out of bed. The theory was he lay there until he fell asleep, but it was just creeping past eleven which meant Matron would probably be in bed already, and everyone would be in their dorms. Surely nobody would mind if he went down to the kitchen for some water?

He slipped out of bed as quietly as he could. Nobody said anything as he padded across the floor, so he guessed he was okay. The hallway was similarly deserted, though he heard music coming from Ash's door as he crept past the junior rooms. It was oddly comforting, he knew juniors and seniors didn't have lights out like the younger years, it was good to see proof of life though. Living with his dad and Dean, bedtime was a much more haphazard affair and while he did agree that having a set time to go to bed was probably good for him, it still felt odd and it was nice to see proof of people living outside the hours set by the school.

The staircase was deserted, the lights turned out, but Sam knew where things were, and he was used to walking around in the dark. It was a little creepy, though. The entire place had been built to look like one of those old English institutions, and while it looked kind of grand in the day, at night it was just kind of creepy.

He made it to the bottom of the stairs without breaking a leg, and then turned the corner to the kitchen. The door was closed but there was a faint glow along the bottom of it that told him the light was on. Matron would NEVER go to bed and leave the light on, that meant someone else was probably in there.

He nearly doubled back and went straight back to bed. He wasn't meant to be up, after all, and really the glass of water had just been an idea of something he might like, not something he desperately needed.

But he wasn't the kind to back down. There might not be anyone in there, after all. Maybe Ash was using the room then went back to bed, leaving the light on? Maybe he was worrying about nothing.

He crept forward, glad that his bare feet didn't make a sound on the plush carpet. As he drew closer he heard singing from inside the room and paused. For a second he held his breath, then it occurred to him that only one boy in the house would be up at this time in the kitchen singing a song as rude as that. He reached forward and opened the door.

Gabriel was stood at the counter breaking a bar of chocolate into pieces. A pan set on the stove beside him and a carton of milk was open on the counter top. He looked up when Sam entered, smiled, and then went back to whatever he was doing.

"Hey, Sammy boy," he said, his voice low and quiet. "What's a good boy like you doing up so late?"

"Don't call me that," Sam groused, stepping into the room and letting the door shut behind him. "Only Dean gets to call me Sammy."

"If I get Dean to say in writing that I can call you Sammy, can I do it then?" Gabriel asked, reaching up and opening the cupboard they kept cups in. He paused a second, studying them, and took out one of the bright green monstrosities that made Sam wince they were so loud.

"Not even then," Sam said, crossing his arms. He liked that he had a couple of inches on Gabriel, even though the other boy was older than him. Somehow, in his head, it made them more evenly matched. He was really looking forward to the day he was taller than Dean.

"Guess it was a long shot," Gabriel replied with a sigh. "So, back to the point, why exactly are you up? Matron not tuck you into bed properly?"

"Shut up," Sam said. Then, a little quieter, "I just...I couldn't sleep tonight."

Gabriel stopped when he was doing and looked at Sam, really looked at him. Sam shifted under the gaze, a little uncomfortable with being studied so intently. Then Gabriel smiled, turned purposefully and extracted another cup from the cupboard, one of the nice, nondescript white ones this time.

"Well, you're in luck," he said, "As it turns out, I'm just making some of my world famous hot chocolate and I've got enough supplies to make some for you too, want some?"

"Yes please," Sam replied quickly. He'd already heard legends about Gabriel's hot chocolate, he was glad for the chance to try it out himself.

"Awesome," Gabriel replied, grabbing the milk and filling both mugs then tipping them into the saucepan, dumping the broken up chocolate in after them. Sam inched closer, watching as Gabriel worked. He stirred the milk, and Sam found himself watching in interest as the chocolate started to melt, brown swirls rising to the top of the water.

"Anything in particular keeping you up?" Gabriel asked, but his tone was casual, not pushing. It was an invitation, not a demand, and Sam suddenly found himself wanting to share.

"I just miss my brother," he said, sliding down to sit on the floor next to the stove. "He's just...Dean's always been there for me. Always. Things have been, well, not perfect would be a way to describe my home life. But Dean's always been with me though everything. I'm not used to him not being around to protect me."

"What do you need protecting from?" Gabriel asked, and there was a note of worry in his voice.

"Nothing really," Sam reassured the other man. "Just...everything's a little bit more intense than I thought it would be. I feel like I haven't seen him in weeks and I want to tell him everything that's been happening."

"Yeah, it's like that around here if you let it be, and you seem like the kind of kid who'd let the place run your life. Let me guess, joined every club?"

"Just track and debate and science..." Sam said, defensively.

"And football," Gabriel reminded him with a smirk.

"We have to do that," Sam shot back, "It hardly counts."

"I know," Gabriel said, his grin softening. "Look, maybe you need to sort out a time with your brother when you skype with him just to say hi? Maybe for the last ten minutes of evening study?"

"We're meant to be working then," Sam said with a glare that startled a laugh out of Gabriel.

"Well, yeah, but nobody's gonna worry too much about ten minutes and it sounds like you need it. If I had a little brother like you I'd make time for him so I'm sure Dean won't worry."

"You're an only child, right?" Sam asked, and Gabriel winced.

"Yeah. Probably better that way, but I don't like talking about it. Come on, stand up, I'll show you the secret of the best hot chocolate ever."

Sam shuffled obediently to his feet and watched as Gabriel tipped a little vanilla essence into the mix before filling the mugs, then topping them off with a layer of marshmallows and a squirt of spray cream on top of that.

"See," he said, "The cream traps the heat so the mallows heat up quicker."

"I think this is going to give me diabetes," Sam commented, but he took his mug anyway and say back down on the floor. After a few seconds, Gabriel sat down beside him.

"Hey, Sammy," he said, fiddling with his mug. "I know I'm not Dean but if you want to talk about your day or something, I'm here."

"Thanks," Sam replied. He took a second to think about it, but it seemed like a good idea. He knew Gabriel was a good listener, for all he preferred to talk, and he already knew that despite his ability to get in to trouble he was very intelligent. "So, I have Mr. Grant for French and I think he hates me..."

~*~*~*~

When the cups were washed and put away Sam felt a lot better. Gabriel had listened and nodded and even offered some helpful advice, which was more than Dean ever did. As they crept up to the bottom of the stairs he turned to smile at Gabriel.

"Thanks for listening," he whispered. Gabriel just grinned back.

"Any time," he replied, reaching over to scuff Sam's hair. They crept back upstairs together and Sam was asleep as soon as his head touched the pillow.

~*~*~*~

It took Dean about an hour to get bored with his new status as having fallen out with Gabriel. He wasn't so much of a pushover that he'd go crawling back after only an hour, though. He had a point to make; he didn't hang out with bastards and if Gabriel was going to be a bastard then Dean wouldn't hang out with him.

He spent a while pestering Sammy to come hang out, or at least to go work in the library so Dean could hang out with him, but Sammy was apparently far too busy to see his older brother right now, doing important studying things. He'd ended up heading back to his house and letting them collar him in to a game of soccer in the back yard just for lack of anything better to do. The other guys in his house were kind of losers but at least he was talking to them all at the moment.

Most of the next day got swallowed by lessons and sport like usual but the afternoon found him with an hour free before dinner, Sam still eaten by his group project and nothing else in particular going for him.

He went to the library just on the off chance Sam was there and avoiding him, but he wasn't. The library did, however, remind him of hunting. It reminded him of long hours spent with his dad looking for just this bit of information that would make a case fall open. That had always been Sammy's thing really, he wasn't patient enough to pick through all the bullshit, but he'd been known to do the job when he was desperate. He wondered who was helping dad out with research right now. He hadn't even had as much as a phone call since they'd been left and, yeah, dad didn't tend to phone when he was on a hunt now they were both pretty much grown up but it would be nice to know he wasn't forgotten.

He was getting kind of sick of it, really. Seemed family was everything to Winchesters until it was easier to be without them, then it was optional.

He'd have given up then and gone back to house to mooch around the common room for the rest of the time until lunch if the clipping hadn't been out on the bench, and the nostalgia fresh in his mind. A teacher found dead in his room, the same story Gabriel had told him. And the thing was out, which meant either Gabriel had told the legend to someone else or it had come up in some other way. Maybe there was a case here; he could really use a good case.

In the end, he spent the rest of the break in the library fact checking. He may not be as good at it as Sam but he could still do it and if there was a case here, he would find it.

~*~*~*~

Researching the legend was all well and good but, yeah, Dean was never going to be a massive bookworm and it wasn't like he could research every hour of the day, he got lonely. Four days after they stopped talking Gabriel sang his presentation in history, complete with an elaborate dance routine, and by the end of it Dean was willing to be friend again.

For his part, Gabriel didn't seem to phased by losing and regaining Dean's friendship, carrying on much as he had before. Dean would have been kind of insulted but, well, Gabe was like that. He didn't know why he'd tried to prove a point by not being friend with a guy who did not, as a habit, let people close or let them hurt him.

The up-side of being friends with Gabriel again was he kind of knew everything. Or he had an answer for everything, at least, which was kind of the same thing. The evening they started talking again then hung out down by the sports field, and Dean asked Gabriel about some of the things he'd found out. Gabriel answered about all the trivial stuff but he had not more idea about graves than anyone else and gave Dean a really weird look when he asked so he dropped that line of questioning pretty quickly.

"Hey," Gabe asked as they passed a group of joggers. Campus was pretty quiet at this time of night but there were always a few people who would go out running every chance they got. Dean kind of wanted to trip them all. "You seen your brother yet?"

"Nah, kid's always too busy," Dean replied sullenly. And, yeah, he kind of was sulking. He'd tried but Sam just had to be the perfect student and do everything. He couldn't be a drop out like he and Gabriel were and come hang out by the sport field all evening. "Why do you want to know?"

"Nothing important, he was just asking me about you the other night and I was curious..."

"Hey, wait a second," Dean said, slowing. "You know Sammy?"

"Yeah, didn't I tell you?" Gabriel replied with a grin. "We're in the same house."

"It kind of sucks that you've seen him more recently then me," Dean mumbled, kicking futile at the ground. "He'd my brother."

"Yeah, I know. Like I said, he was talking to me about you the other day. Sounds like he misses you a lot but he's kind of busy. Don't know what to say to you, Dean-o. Give the kid some time to get used to this crazy place then maybe he'll be able to make more time for you."

"Hope so," Dean said with a sign. "Not used to being away from family for this long."

"Must be nice," Gabriel said, contemplative. "I've...well...I'm an only child and I've never really been close with my family. Singly mother and all that, she never really know what to do with me."

"Must be pretty loaded to send you here thought?" Dean asked, shrugging. "That'd be nice. Me and Sammy are only here on scholarships; our dad would never afford this."

"Oh, my mum can't," Gabriel said with a shrug. "My dad pays, but in return I'm not meant to know who he is or meet him or anything."

"Not meant to...so you do?"

"Dean, you should know by now that I know everything," Gabriel replied with a lazy wink. "Doesn't matter, anyway. I don't want to know him. Don't want him to pay for my stupid school or anything but when I say things like that in front of my mum she bursts in to tears and starts going on about my future, easier to just stick it out."

"Know what you mean," Dean said, setting of walking again. He hated the idea that Gabriel saw Sam more than him, but Gabriel was a good type, he'd look after Sam when Dean couldn't. At least he knew Sam had someone other than the average ass-hole student here to talk to him. "Come on; let's go throw some rocks at a wall or something. This school is driving me crazy, not even any girls to look at, think I'm going mad."

"Yeah, right back at you," Gabriel replied, though he seemed distracted. Dean let him of; guy probably hadn't enjoyed talking about his family. Not everyone could have a family as awesome as Dean's.

~*~*~*~

“Hey, Winchester!”

Sam’s focus snapped up from the book in his lap to the two boys approaching him. He’d decided to risk sitting outside for a while today, the weather was good enough after all. There was still so much to do, sometimes he felt like he was drowning in the work, but if he could come out here and read then at least it wasn’t so bad. Of course, the lack of the protective four walls of his study room meant he could be interrupted.

He knew these boys; they had some classes with him. Couldn’t remember their names right now and he knew that was bad but there was a lot to remember.

“Hey, guys,” he said, lifting a hand to wave at them. They weren’t smiling, so he guessed he wasn’t going to enjoy this. About the only thing he hated about the school was being the new kid. People didn’t make it easy to be new. To start with, there were so many stupid rules and traditions and somehow they expected him to knew them all right of the mark, which he clearly didn’t. Then there was the hazing. The kids who thought that he deserved what he got because he was new. And not only new but new and smart.

“’Cha doing, geek?” One of the boys asked, and Sam would have been tempted to ask if he got all his lines from cheesy teen movies but, well, he did want to try and walk out of this in one piece.

“I’m just reading,” he said, calmly. He risked a glance around, but they were on the walkway between the library and the music department, a bench Sam had picked out for this specifically because it was off the beaten track. “It for English.”

“You know, we were talking to Bradley, he says you never stop studying,” the smaller of the two boys said, poking Sam’s books. “We’re worried about you; guy goes mad if he does nothing but study. Wouldn’t want you going mad now, would we new kid.”

“I’m not going to go mad. Besides, there’s a lot to catch up on.” Sam replied defensively. Because it wasn’t enough that Dean was throwing the ‘working too hard’ card at him all the time, now random bullies were doing it too.

“Yeah, ‘cause you went to a regular school and now you’ve transferred here you think you’re something special, that right?” the smaller one sneered. Sam just rolled his eyes.

“Look,” he said, “I need to be going back to house...”

“Going to work more?” he was interrupted again. “’Cause we were just thinking we could hang out, have a bit of fun.”

“You’ve got to prove you’re not a complete nerd,” the taller one supplied helpfully, while looking like he was convinced there was no way Sam would prove this. “Everyone in this school’s got to find some way to cut lose, or you end up mad. Come hang out with us, prove that you’re not another head boy in the making.”

“What are you going to do?” Sam asked, scooping his book up. Head boy in the making didn’t sound too bad to him but he wasn’t about to tell these guys that, they’re probably get mad at him about it.

“We’re going down to the sport field,” the short one supplied. “We’ve got some cigarettes, going to have a bit of a smoke. I didn’t want to invite you but Wilson here says you need at least a chance to be cool before we write you of entirely. So, you coming for a smoke?”

“No,” Sam said, sure as anything. “Even if I did care about if you think I’m cool or not, I’m not damaging my lungs for you.”

“What, think you’re better than us?” the smaller one sneered. “I knew you were a complete square. Didn’t I tell you, Wilson? He’s probably going to go crying to his tutor or something now and get us both in trouble.”

“I’m not going to do that,” Sam scoffed. “I just don’t want to smoke. You guys can do whatever you want.”

“Well, if anyone finds out then we’ll know it was you,” Wilson said, apparently taking the initiative now his hand of friendship had been turned down. “And we know where you sleep.”

“That’s the best insult you can come up with?”

They all turned to see Gabriel walking up from the direction of the music department. Sam had never been so happy to see someone, not because he wouldn’t have been able to get out of the situation but because he couldn’t afford to have a fight on his record and he could feel the anger stirring in him. He got that from his dad and normally he was pretty good at controlling it but sometimes...

“What’s it to you?” the short one asked, and Gabriel laughed at him. Drawing level with them, he slung an arm around Sam’s shoulder.

“You ok Sammy?” he asked, ruffling Sam’s hair. Sam lent against him a little more, it was nice. Almost like the easy hugs Dean used to give him but not quite.

“Yeah, I was just telling these guys I don’t want to smoke with them.”

“I heard,” Gabriel said. “They’re idiots anyway. if they get caught it’ll be because they reek of smoke, not anything you did. Though I don’t think they’ll be bothering you anymore.”

The smaller one looked very much like he would like to go on bothering them but Wilson had stepped away, a worried look on his face. Someone who’d heard about Gabriel in advance then.

“No,” he said, backing of. “Didn’t know he was your friend. Just wanted to offer him a cigarette, we’ll get lost now.”

“See that you do,” Gabriel said with a grin, then without waiting wheeled Sam around and started walking him back towards house. It was strange; to walk along with the older boy half hugging him, but Sam liked it. It was too late for anyone else to really be out anyway so nobody was able to comment on the sight they made as they walked back to house.

“Thanks,” he said after a while. “I mean, you didn’t need to do that but thanks.”

“No problem, kid. I know you can take care for yourself but your brother would have handed my ass to me if he knew you’d been in trouble and I hadn’t helped. Think they’ll have chocolate cake for desert tonight?”

“Menu said cheesecake,” Sam supplied, leaning a little more in to Gabriel’s side. He liked it here, liked it a lot. “Though chef might have some left over from last night.”

“Yeah, I’ve got her wrapped round my little finger,” Gabriel grinned. “If there’s cake, I’ll get it.” With a final squeeze he stepped away, letting his arm drop and Sam wished he’d stayed there just a little longer.

~*~*~*~

It was typical that after trying to find time to see each other for so long, Sam and Dean would run in to each other entirely by chance. It was in the library and it was late. Most of the students were out doing sport so there weren’t many to look disapproving at the cry of joy Sam gave before running over to hug his older brother.

“Sammy,” Dean said, wrapping his arms tight around the kid. It seemed like forever since they’d seen each other and for a second everything was right in Dean’s world. He was here with his dinky kid brother and everything was going to be okay. “Where have you been?”

“Working,” Sam said, pulling back and flopping down in to the chair next to Dean’s. “This place it awesome, there’s so much to do and learn. I love it.”

“Glad for you,” Dean said, though he felt his heart fall a little. Some stupid part of him had been hanging on to the fantasy of this ending here. That somehow Sammy would have been lying before and he’d come to Dean now with tears in his eyes, asking to go home. No luck, though. Not that he’d really wish Sam unhappy; he just wished they’d have been happy together.

“What about you, what are you working on?” Sam asked, grabbing one of the clippings, and Dean sighed. He could see where this conversation was going to already. “What’s this?”

“It’s research, Sam. I heard a story.”

“Seriously, Dean?” Sam asked, dropping the clipping. “You’re looking for case.”

“I’m not looking for it. It came to me. Gabe told me all about it. You know him, right?” Sam nodded, though he didn’t look any more impressed to know the story came from Gabe. Maybe they weren’t as close as Gabriel had hinted. “I can’t just let things like this go.”

“Dean, if you get us thrown out of this school I’ll be so mad.”

“I’m not getting us thrown out,” Dean said with a sigh. “It’s just some research. Doesn’t even have to go anywhere but, well, if there is a ghost then I want to be ready for it.”

“Why can’t you just let all of this go?” Sam asked, gesturing at the piles of research. “That’s not the life we’re living right now, why do you have to drag it up?”

“It’s what I do, Sam. I’m a hunter. I get that you’re happy here but this isn’t the place for me. I should be out there hunting things...”

“You’d fit in here if you tried,” Sam interrupted. “You don’t even try.”

“I do too try. I’ve been going to my lessons. Turning up for all their stupid organized sports and their music lessons and not sneaking out at prep time or after lights out like a good little robot but damn it all, Sammy, I’m going mad. There’s not space for me here, you’ve got to see that.”

“I don’t,” Sam insisted, and Dean kind of wanted to punch him. This was the kind a place where you either had to fit the mould or they’d hammer at your corners until you did. You had to be stubborn to stay yourself here. Stubborn like Gabriel, or like him. “It’s just a school.”

“You like it here, I get that and I ain’t gonna spoil it for you,” Dean replied, poking at a research pile. “It’s not too long and I’ll be gone anyway, but I’ve got to do this too, Sammy. I wouldn’t be me if I didn’t.”

“Don’t you want to escape?” Sam asked, and dammit all but now he sounded sad. “From that stupid life. Never knowing what’s coming next. Never knowing if you’re going to be alive tomorrow?”

“I can’t.” Dean said simply. “I’m sorry, Sammy. I can’t.”

“Fine,” Sam snapped, grabbing his books again, and Dean’s heart just about broke to see his little brother walk away from his like that, but he let him. Sammy didn’t understand, couldn’t understand. This was all down to him in the end; he had to do what he could.

~*~*~*~

“I can’t believe he’d being like this,” Sam snapped. “I can’t believe we got an out for our stupid life. That we don’t have to live out of the back of a car or worry about dad’s drinking or anything and he wants to go back.” He stopped his pacing a while and looked down at Gabriel. He’d headed straight up to the older boy’s room when he got back from seeing Dean, needing to vent.

Gabriel was lying on his bed, a packet of sweets next to him and an uncharacteristically serious expression on his face. The expression was the most reassuring thing; it meant he wasn’t being laughed at. He hadn’t exactly told Gabriel about their past before now, but the other boy was taking it in his stride. That was why he’d come here, he knew Gabe would listen and not judge.

“I just don’t understand,” he mumbled, crossing his arms.

“I do,” Gabe said, shifting a little so he was sat up. He patted the bed and after a second Sam moved to sit next to him. “This school...it’s like the kind of place you need to be ready to give 110% to all the time. It’s a life, not a school. You can do that because you love to learn and you want what this place will got you. The future and the connections. People like Dean, like me, we don’t want that. Dean doesn’t want to go to college. I don’t know what he does want to do but he’s got a plan and it doesn’t include a degree. How can you give your heart and all of your time to something you know you don’t want?”

“I just don’t see how he can not want this,” Sam said, gesturing around. “All our lives we’ve had nothing, now we have all of this.”

“That’s another problem, though,” Gabriel replied. “Dean, he seems like a pretty independent guy. Doesn’t take orders or doing things just because it’s what’s always been done well. And, let’s face it, that’s what this place is all about. Doing what we’re told to do because it’s what’s always been done. Not really Dean’s style.”

“No, I guess not,” Sam said with a sigh, flopping backwards on to the bed. Gabriel laughed then reached down and ruffled his hair.

“It’s okay to be angry at him, kid. I mean, just in general it’s okay but this school seems pretty important to you and he does kind of want you to leave...”

“It’s not just that,” Sam mumbled. “It’s....I can’t explain it really but it’s like he’s trying to drag me back in to the life we had before while he’d smiling and saying he’ll not mess it up for me here. I can’t go back to living like that, Gabriel.”

“I know,” he said. Sam looked up at him and he did look like he knew. Or like he cared at least. This would be a whole lot easier if he could just explain the ghost side of it but he didn’t fancy being branded as crazy right now.

“Thanks for listening, Gabriel. I know he’s your friend, I shouldn’t complain to you.”

“Hey, you’re my friend to,” Gabriel replied, swinging himself of the bed. “Besides, I have some marshmallows in here, they should cheer you up. Let’s sneak down to the kitchen and try roasting them on the gas hobs.”

“Sure,” Sam said, though he kind of wished he could just stay there in a funk in Gabriel’s bed. Or maybe just in Gabriel’s bed without the funk. Either way, he gave it up to traipse down to the kitchen after his friend. Though they ended up setting fire to the marshmallows it was totally worth it.

~*~*~*~

Castiel tried to focus on his work, but it was getting harder and harder to do so. He knew he should be back at house by now, special dispensation or no, but he’d not been focusing properly lately and he needed good chemistry marks or father would be disappointed.

He didn’t know what it was about Dean Winchester. It certainly wasn’t his winning personality, but something about his drew Castiel. At first it had been a harmless curiosity but it was getting out of hand. He was dreaming about him. About talking to him and not being rejected, mostly. Though some nights...some nights he dreamt of kissing him. Those were good nights. But he couldn’t even achieve the first so the second was right out.

What he had achieved was a falling GPA and complete distraction. He hadn’t been getting work done because he’d taken to going to places Dean might be instead. He knew it wasn’t healthy, but he wanted to see if he couldn’t touch. Dean was so easy with other people. Seemed to have the entire school eating out of his hand, even Gabriel who had turned against Castiel as soon as he saw him. Castiel had never been that good with people, boarding school had been meant to socialize him but it didn’t seem to have helped. He knew he was odd, knew it was his fault that Dean didn’t like him. He just wished he could have a second chance.

He’d even tried to help. He’d noticed Dean going to the library more often and, well, he’d been curious. It hadn’t been hard to find out what he was researching, that stupid ghost story. He looked up a few things. He’d wanted to hand the articles he’d found to Dean in person but even he realized that would be creepy, so he left them lying on his desk instead.

The down side of that, though, was that his chemistry work hadn’t been done. That meant he’d had to ask for last minutes access to the lab. Luckily his tutor, Mr Ward, was one of the science teachers. He’d opened up and was working just down the hall in his office. That should make it less creepy but somehow it didn’t.

Castiel was sensible, he knew ghosts weren’t real. This place was still the most creepy place. It was weird enough being alone in a lab in the evening, but the chemistry equipment seemed to make it worse, somehow. Not as bad as the biology lab would have been with its specimens in jars, but still somehow like a mad genius’ lab. He didn’t want to be here.

Three more equations to balance and he could go.

He knew he should be thankful for the help, for being let in this later, but it was still creepy. It was talking twice as long because he was too jumpy to focus which lead to him thinking about the ghost then the research then Dean and if only he could just be friends, that would be enough.

A door slammed and he jumped, arm jerking out on impulse and knocking the pen pot over. He bent to pick them up, grabbing at then and trying not to let his imagination run away with him. It would be the wind, or another student come back for something. Mr Ward slipping in to a different room for something.

And then suddenly it was cold, so cold. As thought someone had dumped a blanket of ice of his back. He spun and there was a face, inches from his and white and dead and...

He screamed, and it was gone. He jumped to his feet and ran then, pen pot forgotten. He knew imagination and he knew reality and that...someone was there. Another student? Only where had they gone. He ran for the corridor, Mr Ward would explain that. He’d make it all make sense somehow, he was a teacher. It was something bad he’d eaten at lunch and his own overactive imagination, it had to be.

He didn’t knock on the office door even thought the sign said to. Mr Ward wan hanging from the light fitting, and it didn’t take a science genius to know that the unhealthy parlor meant he was very, very dead.

Somewhere in the building, somebody began to laugh.

~*~*~*~

It was quiet in school the next day. The emergency assembly had set the sombre mood, and all science classes were cancelled on account of the tragic suicide. Everyone was avoiding Castiel too which Sam had thought was horrible. It wasn’t his fault he found the body. Sam had made a point of sitting with him in their one shared class that day, which made the others in the class look at him oddly.

By the time he got back to house he was ready to blow off some steam, but apparently the rest of the student body didn’t agree with him having a break. Dinner was conducted in silence under the watchful eyes of the house master and all their tutors and they were checked on twice as often in prep, the door opening unannounced to let a teacher put their head in, as though they were scared that now the seed of suicide was planted in the school, all the students might try it.

By the end of c/o when they were free for the evening he was almost dying. Luckily, on the way out of the dining hall Gabriel snagged his elbow and he could have lept for joy.

“Hey,” Gabe whispered, pulling them in to the senior common room. It was deserted which wasn’t unexpected, given the circumstances. “This place is a bit miserable today, don’t you think?”

“Someone did die, Gabriel,” Sam said, though he was smiling already in anticipation of whatever the other boy had thought up. Gabriel laughed and squeezed his arm.

“Yeah, but why let that get in our way? I have a...game...I’d like to play. I was wondering if you could help me though?”

“Will I get in trouble?” Sam asked, though he knew already that he’d go along with it. Running around the house playing a trick with Gabriel had to beat sitting around pretending to be in mourning for a teacher he’d never met. Being with Gabriel would beat almost anything.

“Nah, don’t you worry,” Gabriel replied. “I’ve got this; I won’t let anything bad happen to you.”

“Okay then, what do you need me to do?” Sam asked, leaning forward.

“I thought we’d go for a classic tonight. Suits the mood, I think. I’m going to creep in to Lucifer’s shower while he’s washing and steal all his clothes, then I’m going to lock his bedroom door so he has to go down to Matron like that.”

“How on earth are you going to lock his door?”

“Oh, Sammy,” Gabriel said, throwing an arm around Sam’s shoulder. “Do you really think I don’t have a copy of the master key? The rest is easy; I just need you to act as lookout and to share the fun with me. A prank is much more fun if you have someone to share it with, right?”

“Definitely,” Sam agreed. He wasn’t sure he really had much of an opinion about the relative fun of pranks but he did know he wanted to spend time with Gabriel and that was as good an excuse as any.

The prank itself was pretty easy to pull off. Lucifer, along with a couple of other senior boys, had his bedroom on the top corridor and they shared a bathroom, so to stand lookout all Sam had to do was curl up on the steps with a book. This wasn’t unusual for him; he often came to the top of the house to get some quiet, so the few people who passed didn’t question him. Gabriel did his thing, told Sam nothing he didn’t need to know.

Sam had a pleasant conversation with Lucifer as he came up, a warning to Gabriel who was listening. It was getting late by then and the house was calming down. Sam was starting to worry that he’d have to be in bed before they saw this through.

Then, with ten minutes to go, Lucifer emerged back on to the stairs. He didn’t look at Sam, head held high, and he was completely naked. Sam had almost been hoping for him running down in fear but somehow his trying to maintain his composure while clutching a wash cloth to his groin was even funnier.

“Is something wrong?” he asked, and Lucifer did flush then but he didn’t say anything, just went ahead down the stairs. It was all Sam could do not to laugh.

Gabe snuck out a minute later, grabbed Sam’s hand and pulled him down the stairs quickly. Once they were both behind Gabe’s locked door it was like a pressure valve had been released and suddenly they were both laughing. Sam felt like he hadn’t laughed like this in years. It had been perfect, so perfect. The look on Lucifer’s face, it had been worth everything.

He leant against Gabriel, trying to catch his breath, but every time one of them calmed down they would remember and they’d laugh again. The bell for lights out went and Sam still couldn’t move, one arm thrown around Gabriel’s neck and the other clutching his side.

He finally drew himself back, took a few deep breaths and managed to calm his speeding heart. Gabe had calmed too, falling back on the bed with his eyes closed. Sam moved to lie next to him, giving him a fierce hug.

“Thank you,” he said, and Gabriel turned to him and smiled. Sam couldn’t tell you who moved first but suddenly their lips were touching. Soft and so close and Sam had never ever done this with another person before. He closed his eyes and pushed closer and Gabriel seemed to take it as a sign, taking control of the kiss and moving his lips, just gently, but it felt wonderful.

And then the lights out bell went again, a sure sign that Sam had been missed, and he pulled away, excused himself and ran back to his dorm.

He fell asleep with the thought of Gabriel in his head and his taste on his lips and everything seemed a thousand times more wonderful.

~*~*~*~

Sam didn’t know what he was expecting at breakfast the next morning but the cold shoulder wasn’t it. He’d gotten into something of a habit of eating with Gabriel, but Gabriel was already sat between two other boys when Sam came down and refused to meet his eye.

Did that mean the kiss was a mistake? Sam had been thinking about it for so long, maybe he’d been the one to make that first move. Maybe Gabriel didn’t like him like that, didn’t even like boys like that, and now he was disgusted. Maybe he’d never speak to Sam again.

He finished his toast in despair and waited until c.o. had been called before moving. His plan had been to intercept Gabriel at the door but the other boy was quicker off the mark and Sam had to go all the way up the house to his room to find him.

Gabriel didn’t open the door to the first knock but he did to the fifth, looking slightly flustered and oh god, Sam had been right, this was all terrible and it had been his fault but he had to know. He couldn’t just be ignored, if Gabriel hated him now he needed to know because Gabriel was the only friend he’d made since coming here that was worth having.

“I’m sorry,” he blurted. “I...I’m sorry if I made you uncomfortable last night or something but please don’t hate me.”

“Sam,” Gabriel said, brow creasing as he reached over to lay a hand on Sam’s shoulder. “What on earth are you talking about? You didn’t do anything wrong. I’m the one who should be apologizing. Last night...I should have pulled away. You didn’t know what you were doing and even if you did, there are so many better guys then me you could have, Sam.”

“You’re an idiot,” Sam said. He was so relieved, so very relieved that he barely noticed himself moving until he was nose to nose again, and then they were kissing. Gabriel tried to pull away but Sam followed, and then he gave in and it was wonderful.

When Sam finally let the kiss end he lent back and smiled. Gabriel was smiling too, though he looked a little confused on top of that.

“I want you to be my boyfriend,” Sam said, in case he hadn’t been clear enough. “Because you’re awesome. Do you want to?”

“I’m too old for you, Sammy.”

“Only two years older,” Sam replied. “That’s almost nothing. And I don’t want any of the boys my age, I want you. Will you.”

“Oh...screw it!” And then he was being kissed again and it was wonderful.

~*~*~*~

Castiel wasn’t an idiot. He knew enough to know the police would never believe his story. He’d seen something. As much as he didn’t want to admit it, he knew he’d seen something. He also knew that the thing he’d seen wasn’t human and that if he said anything about it they’d presume he was hysterical and call his parents and he’d have to endure another lecture about responsibility and not attention seeking.

He talked, but he just told them the basics. Said he heard a bang and when he went to investigate he found the teacher hanging from the ceiling. Everyone seemed satisfied by that, at least. They made some appropriate noises about patterns of depression and Castiel was given a day to gather himself before being sent back to class.

He contemplated sneaking out that day but the doctor had specified bed rest and matron seemed to take that very seriously. She came round every hour or so with a drink of a plate of cookies. Some of the other boys even tried to visit him but he drove them of quickly by being him. The teacher had been a good man and Castiel wouldn’t use the morbid popularity being able to describe his dead body hanging from a rope would give him for his own means. He had never needed popularity before and he certainly didn’t need it at this cost.

The one person he did want to talk to didn’t come, so in the end he had to track down Dean himself. It took him most of the day, especially since everyone seemed intent on stopping him and asking him if he was alright. Dean seemed to be avoiding his usual places too. He wasn’t in the library or down by the sports field. It was a stroke of genius that lead Castiel to look for him in the chemistry building.

Dean didn’t really jump in the traditional sense when Castiel pushed the door open and came in to the chemistry staff room. He ducked down behind the desk instead, almost practiced.

“I’m sorry,” Castiel said, shifting from foot to foot. “I didn’t mean to startle you.”

Dean looked up, frowning. He took a few seconds to climb to his feet properly and then came around the desk, grabbing Castiel’s arm and pulling him in to the room. Castiel’s heart fluttered a little at the touch, though he knew Dean wasn’t really interested in him but rather in finding out about the ghost.

“You need to be quiet,” Dean said. “We’re not even meant to be in here. This works, though. I was going to talk to you later. I need to know what happened here the night before last.”

“I’ve been trying to find you to tell you about it all day,” Castiel replied, flushing slightly. “I noticed you researching the ghost legend; I thought you might believe me. I think...I think I saw the ghost. Just before I found the body. I heard a bang, I told the police that but they thought he must have just kicked a chair or something. Anyway, it got really cold really quickly, like I was suddenly freezing. Then I looked around and there was this face, just for a second, then I think I screamed and it disappeared and when I went to find the teacher he was...” Castiel trailed of; sure he didn’t need to describe that for Dean. All the details were common knowledge by now anyway.

“It’s okay,” Dean said, patting his arm awkwardly. “That’s great. Can you show me where you saw it?”

“Of course,” Castiel said, stepping back out in to the corridor. It was easy to remember what seat he’d been in, and Dean examined the area thoroughly before standing back.

“I take it you didn’t tell the police anything about this,” he said, stepping back. Castiel nodded.

“They’d never have believed me, but you do?”

“Yeah, I believe you,” he admitted with a shrug. “Look, don’t worry about this anymore. I’ll take care of it.”

“I want to help,” Castiel said, and for a second he was shocked at his own boldness. He didn’t seek adventure, that wasn’t the kind of person he was. But he wanted to be with Dean, to spend time with him. He’d not been able to stop thinking about him; he couldn’t pass this chance up.

“It’s too dangerous,” Dean said, dismissive, but Castiel was ready to fight for this.

“I can help you research, at least. Please, Dean. I’m involved in this, let me help.”

For a moment he thought Dean would say no anyway, but then the other man’s features softened and he sighed.

“Okay,” he said, placing a hand on Castiel’s back. “You can help me, but if it gets dangerous you need to let me handle it. Alright?”

“Anything you say, Dean,” Castiel said, grinning. And he shouldn’t be so happy to be doing research but he would be doing it with Dean and that was amazing.

~*~*~*~

Dean didn’t have a clue how he’d ended up letting the weird kid hang out with him. Well, yeah, he knew the kid had asked all pretty and had shown an interest and that was more than Sam had done anyway and Dean was kind of awful at research so it wasn’t like he couldn’t use the help. He’d even been a little ashamed that he’d had to sneak a look at the guy’s book to get his name again but, honestly, who called their kid Castiel? That got shortened pretty darn quickly.

The worst part was Castiel was kind of awesome at this. Well, not as awesome as Sammy, obviously, but he had a way of thinking about things and he was obviously used to using the school library. They’d even managed to locate a reference to the grave which was kind of amazing, though it was pretty vague.

The other thing he hadn’t expected was that he’d enjoy the company. He’d thought he’d had enough with Gabriel but it was like Cas (yeah, Castiel was too hard to say, it didn’t mean anything) was giving him something else that had been missing with Gabe. He listened so earnestly and acted like anything Dean had to say must automatically be something worth hearing and that was pretty odd at first but, well, it was kind of nice too once you got used to it.

Long and the short of it, maybe he’d judged Cas too much at the start. Maybe he should have waited before declaring Cas weird and saying he’d have nothing else to do with him. Maybe Cas wasn’t so bad when you gave him a chance.

Not that Dean was going to hang out with him when this was done. The kid was still weird: still looked at him in that weird way and it just...it made him feel...it was weird. He definitely didn’t like it AT ALL and that’s all there was to it.

~*~*~*~

“Hey, Sam, I got us an out for tonight.”

Sam stopped, looking up to see his boyfriend (HIS BOYFRIEND) leaning over the railing a little further up. Two of the much coveted pink slips that meant they’d be allowed to leave campus and go in to town for the evening, until the heady hour of ten, were dangling from his fingers.

“You didn’t steal them, did you?” he asked, backing up the stairs. Gabriel huffed and carried on down to meet him, throwing an arm around his shoulder as they drew level.

“I’ll have you know I did NOT steal them. Somebody owed me a favor and they had influence so tonight I have an out for me and an out for you, would you like to go to a movie with me?”

“You’re asking me to a movie?” Sam asked, fishing the slip of paper out of Gabriel’s hand. The older boy sacrificed it readily enough, and sure enough there was a slip for each of them. Fully authorized and signed by the house master.

“Yeah, isn’t that the kind of thing normal people do on a date?” Gabriel asked, grinning and it was only when he said it that Sam realized just what this was. It was his boyfriend asking him on a date. He’d never been on a date before; something Dean had teased him about plenty. Never had a boyfriend or a girlfriend or anything, so no chance. He’d not thought that Gabriel would be the kind for going out on big romantic dates, making big gestures.

“Hey,” Gabriel said, offended, as though he could read Sam’s mind. “I’ll have you know that I’m perfectly capable of treating a guy right. I want to treat you right, Sam. Want to give you everything you deserve and if you’re stupid enough to want me for a boyfriend that just means I’m going to have to be the best boyfriend ever for you.”

“You won’t need to try to do that,” Sam said with a shy smile. “Though dinner and a movie does sound good. It needs to be an action movie though.”

“Oh Sam,” Gabriel said, squeezing him close. “You have too much to learn! An action movie is never going to set the mood. Couples go to see romantic movies so they feel a little frisky themselves, it’s conductive to making out on the back row and other good honest first date activities.”

Sam did flush at that, because somehow it hadn’t occurred to him that Gabriel was going to want to make out with him on their date. Some of it must have shown on his face because Gabriel backed off a little, his arm relaxing.

“Hey, look, forget I said that. I know this is all new to you; we don’t need to rush in to making out in the back of the cinema. There’ll be plenty of time for the later; the important thing right now is that you’re comfortable.”

“Thanks,” Sam mumbled, leaning against Gabriel for a second. “I...let’s go see a movie and see how things go. I mean, it’s not that I don’t want to or anything silly like that. It’s just that I never have before.”

“Well,” Gabriel said, pulling him close. “I wouldn’t worry about that, because I have been told that I am an excellent teacher.”

~*~*~*~

“Do we have to do this?” Gabriel asked for the fifth time since they got here and Sam honestly wanted to smack him.

“Yes,” he said simply. There was no point going in to it again, Gabriel knew the reasons. Sam wouldn’t lie to Dean. and at the moment he wasn’t sure he could talk to Dean without mentioning Gabriel. In fact, he was sure he couldn’t. It was all going to come out anyway so they needed to tell Dean now. He’d have thought Gabriel would understand, being good friends with Dean and all, but the other boy seemed to think it was an awful idea.

“He’s going to punch me.”

“He won’t punch you.”

“He’s going to ban me from ever seeing you again.”

“He really doesn’t have that kind of power,” Sam replied with a sigh. He knew really that some of Gabriel’s objections were based in reality. Dean would probably be pissed, but Dean got pissed about a lot of things. If he lived his life trying to make Dean happy then he wasn’t going to have very much of a life.

“He thinks he has that kind of power, that’s what’s important.”

“No, Gabe, it isn’t,” Sam said with a sigh. “I’m not dumping you because of something Dean says. He might be a little...pissy. He’ll get over it thought. I’m not going to never have a boyfriend and at least he likes you, right?”

“Liking and wanting me to date his baby brother are two very different things,” Gabriel grumbled, but he reached over and took Sam’s hand in his. “I guess you’re worth it though.”

Sam blushed, then dropped Gabriel’s hand. It was still new and weird to be touching like that. He liked it but sometimes it was still overwhelming. Besides, it probably wouldn’t help their case if Dean turned up and found them kissing or something.

As if on cue, Dean rounded the corner. He looked...angry. Maybe not angry, but annoyed. Definitely not a good sign.

“Hey, Dean-o,” Gabriel shouted, raising a hand in greeting. Dean glowered a little, walking towards them quickly.

“This had better be important,” Dean snapped. “I’ve got work to be doing.”

“You doing work?” Gabriel joked, grinning. “There must be a pretty scary deadline coming up for you to be this committed to something.”

“Yeah, well, it’s important,” Dean snapped, and Sam had a sinking suspicion he meant the ghost thing. He’d been kind of hoping that Dean would drop it since, well, he was meant to be dropping it. This wasn’t meant to be their lives any more. He should have known better, though. With the accident in the library there was no way Dean was going to just ignore it, even though it was probably nothing.

“We’ve got something we want to tell you,” Sam started, and Dean’s face let up for a second. Maybe they could swing this, maybe he would see it for the good news it was.

“See, thing is,” Gabriel picked the sentence up, and when Sam looked up Gabriel was looking at him fondly. He couldn’t help but smile back. “The thing is that me and Sammy, we’re kind of dating now.”

There was silence for a few seconds after that while Dean processed. He looked between the two of them. Sam stepped in a little and Gabriel smiled, raising a hand to rest it gently on Sam’s shoulder.

Dean tried to punch Gabriel.

It was so sudden that he nearly succeeded but apparently Gabriel had some experience in dodging punches as he pulled to the side at the last second, avoiding Dean’s fist.

“What on Earth do you think you’re doing?” Sam snapped, stepping quickly between them. Gabriel didn’t seem the kind to back down from a fight and he really didn’t need his brother and his boyfriend having a brawl in the middle of the school.

“What am I doing? What are you doing, Sam? What’s he done to you?”

“He hasn’t done anything to me,” Sam snapped. “I asked him out.”

“Yeah right,” Dean snapped back. “He’s got to have tricked you in some way, that’s what he does. He’s not the kind of guy you want in your life, Sam. Trust me, I know his type. I am his type. You can do better.”

“You’re not my dad, Dean.”

“Might as well be,” Dean snapped. “Someone’s got to look out for you. This is ridiculous. I’m not going to let this happen. You need to dump him right now.”

Sam headed of the ‘told you so’ by stepping on Gabriel’s foot. He was pretty sure any remark the other boy made would only make the situation right now worse.

“You don’t have that power, Dean. I’ll date whoever I like and it’s nothing to do with you.”

“I’ll tell dad.”

“How are you going to do that when he won’t even pick up the phone to you?” Sam asked. He almost regretted it with the way Dean’s face fell but, honestly, it he was going to be an ass then he deserved what he got. “Come on, Gabriel. Let’s get out of here.”

~*~*~*~

Castiel had thought they were making good progress. Of course, things had been strained when they first began spending time together, but Dean seemed to appreciate what Castiel would do for the case and they grew used to each other. It was pleasant, comfortable. It almost gave him hope that there could be something more.

He knew it was a vain hope, but he kept it anyway. After all, stranger things had happened then a boy like Dean liking a boy like him. Not many, but they existed. And Dean seemed to like him, if only a little. He’d taken to smiling at him over the few days they’d been researching together. Not often, but sometimes. Castiel worked hard for those smiles.

Of course, Dean had been in the foul mood all day when Sam called. Castiel had been under the impression that Dean would normally be happy to spend time with Sam, but he’d been in a terrible mood. He wanted to find the grave, said it was vital, but they were struggling. The school library wasn’t as helpful as it could be and getting permission to go in to town was horrible. Castiel might have managed it under normal circumstances but his tutor had noted that after his ‘traumatic experience’ he was spending time with an ‘unsavoury element’ and had decided that he was clearly going off the rails.

He’d tried for Dean, but they’d been very firm with him about how a pass out of school would not be forthcoming so he might as well not even try. It was a little annoying. He’d been piled with extra work too, presumably to distract him for Dean. He finished it all in his room at night after curfew, at other times Dean was more important.

If Castiel had thought Dean was in a terrible mood before he stormed off to talk to Sam, he was in an even worse mood when he came back. It was obvious in seconds that Dean wouldn’t be able to focus so he gathered up their things and followed the other boy out in to the courtyard.

Dean waited until they were out of earshot of the other students before exploding.

“Did you know Sammy and Gabriel were dating?”

Castiel had not known, and it must have shown in his face because Dean turned around and hit a tree instead of hitting him. Really, it was a little shocking. He’d thought better of Sam. Though he supposed Gabriel must have good qualities, he had never shown them in Castiel’s presence. Sam had seemed like a sensible boy though.

“I didn’t even know Sam was in to dudes,” Dean spat, punching the tree again for good measure. “You’d think that’d be the kind of thing you’d notice.”

“Do you have a problem with homosexuality?” Castiel asked, because that would truly end any plans he might have. He forgot, sometimes, that he very gender could be an issue to him getting what he wanted. It was so unlikely that anyone he wanted would want him anyway that if they liked people of his gender or not seemed like a secondary consideration.

“No, course not,” Dean scoffed. “Well, I’ve not really met any gays before, but I thought I’d know that about my little brother. That he’d tell me if he was in to dicks instead of chicks, you know. I don’t even know how to act about a gay guy. What am I supposed to do?”

“Maybe I suggest you treat him exactly as you did before,” Castiel replied, raising an eyebrow. “Sam was likely homosexual before you knew he was. Gabriel also. And I...I am homosexual. Does that change how you feel about me?”

“No,” Dean replied, though he did look a little taken aback. “At least...I’m kind of being an ass about this aren’t I?”

“Yes,” Castiel said calmly. “You care about your brother deeply. This should be true irrespective of who he dates.”

“Guess,” Dean agreed, scratching his head. “I just...I don’t...”

“If you are worried about how you should talk with a homosexual man, you may practice talking to me. Though frankly the idea is a little ridiculous, you should talk to him as you always have. Would you like to go for a walk, we can talk while we do.”

“Sure,” Dean agreed with a sigh. “I probably need to understand all this better, maybe you can explain some of it. I mean, how did you even decide to be gay.”

Castiel sighed at that one, then launched in to an explanation as they headed towards the sports field. He hadn’t exactly been planning on spending his evening explaining homosexuality to Dean Winchester, but somebody had to do it and, well, as least Castiel might be able to help the relationship between Dean and his brother this way. He own relationship with his older brother Michael had always been strained, if he could help Dean and Sam not reach that point he would do what he could.

~*~*~*~

The worst part about the anger was that once it was gone, all you had left was betrayed. That’s how Sam felt by the time they got back to house, betrayed. His own brother, the person who had impressed on him from an early age just how much family meant, had turned against him so easily. It was awful and he hated it.

He avoided Gabriel even, though finding a moment’s peace was hard. The study rooms were private in theory, each of the students had their own, but whichever tutor was on duty came round to check on them, just walking in without knocking and asking how his prep was doing and all he wanted to do was scream and tell them his brother was being a complete ass.

After c.o. that night he went back to his study room even though he didn’t have to and he should probably have been getting ready for bed. In the end he curled up under the desk, as though he could hide there. He kind of liked confined spaces. When he was very small, he used to spend a lot of time in cupboards. It seemed silly now but he’d hide in them. When you know the monsters are real it’s pretty scary to be a kid. He couldn’t go crying to dad every time he was scared so he started hiding himself. Mostly when he was left alone, as though being inside a cupboard would make a monster that broke in to their motel room overlook him. It made him feel safe, though.

Curled up under the desk he felt that again. Hidden and safe, and finally he just felt hurt. He knew Dean could be...Dean. He hadn’t thought he’d react so badly though. After all, family is family. It shouldn’t matter who he dated or anything, Dean was want to love him anyway.

It was Gabriel who unearthed him, letting himself in to the room and locking it behind him and then, instead of dragging Sam out, getting down under the table with him and hugging him close in the confined space.

“You know, it’s past your bed time,” he said softly, and it was only when he moved to wipe the tears from Sam’s cheeks that Sam really realized he’d been crying.

“Sorry,” he mumbled, and Gabriel just made a shushing sound and pulled him tight.

“Dean’s going to come round, you know. It’s been a shock for him but give him a little time and he’ll come around. He loves you too much to do anything else.”

“I know,” Sam whispered, and he did. It didn’t make it hurt any less now but he knew that eventually Dean would forgive him and this would be something that they could all put behind them. They stayed there quietly for a few more minutes and that was one of the things Sam liked about Gabriel. The guy was funny, but he knew his audience. Knew when it was time to be serious as well as when it was time to laugh.

~*~*~*~

Castiel knew now that Dean was not homosexual. He did not seem to think of himself as bisexual either. Indeed, he had talked a little about his sexual history that night and he seemed almost aggressively heterosexual. He’d talked about the women he’d been with in almost lewd detail, presumably either trying to shock Castiel in general or more specifically to shock him out of his homosexuality.

He couldn’t let go of Dean, though. He knew loving him was stupid, that he didn’t want Castiel’s love, but Castiel loved him anyway. He wasn’t naive, he knew what this was.

His father talked about love a lot, love of god and from god. Castiel had prayed to feel that love so many times, and felt nothing. He’d believed himself broken, constitutionally incapable. Finding himself gay had been almost a relief in that it gave him a reason to not have the connection his father spoke of with their lord.

The point was, he’d believed he couldn’t feel love, but he’d wanted to, so he researched it. He learnt that there was no right way to love. He’d learnt about souls and chemicals in the brain and that in the end nobody knew and he’d content himself in that. He didn’t know, but nobody knew.

And then there was Dean Winchester. He knew he was rushing in to things as teenagers were want to do. He’d heard the boys around him talk about it often enough. They always loved their current girlfriend, and wanted to do lewd things with them. Castiel had never felt it before but now he did. He wanted to tell them that finally he could emphasize for he had fallen in love.

It should have been obvious from the first moment. He’d never fixated on anyone before like he did on Dean. There was no reason he should, either. Dean was good looking, of course. Handsome, unusually so even. There were many attractive boys in this school though and Castiel had never fallen before. It wasn’t as though he’d had much to recommend him in terms of personality early in their acquaintance either, but somehow that hadn’t mattered. It was as though he’d seen through the rough manner to the boy inside. The boy who cared so much and was so afraid to show it, who was used to losing everything he cared about, to not forming attachments because they hurt him.

Castiel had seen this and wanted to badly to be an attachment. The one who changed his mind and made him break his rules.

Of course, now Castiel was spoiled completely because now he knew. He knew he’d been right and he knew Dean was more. Knew he was worth the time and effort he would take. Castiel had managed to speak to him, to compare him to the ideas he held in his mind, and he still wanted him.

That was how he knew it must be love. He wanted to kiss him, yes, that was obvious. He wanted to spend time with him, to talk and to listen. He wanted to know the secrets Dean hid and he wanted to hold those secrets too, keep them safe and prove himself worthy of them. He knew Dean was flawed and yet he wanted those flaws.

He knew if he told anyone else they’d laugh at him. He was young, his love was incomplete. Insubstantial. He shouldn’t bother. But he loved all the same. He loved Dean Winchester and he knew now that it would not be returned, yet still he loved.

~*~*~*~

Sam’s entire face lit up as he spotted Gabriel coming down the corridor towards him. Given their age difference, it was unusual for them to run in to each other during the day. For it to happen meant that Gabriel had probably gone out of his way to make it happen and Sam appreciated that.

“Hey,” he yelled, gesturing, then when Gabriel waved back turned to quickly excuse himself from his friend.

Only Castiel looked almost scared. His eyes were wide and his jaw was clenched, definitely not a good thing. Castiel was staring straight down the hall, right to where Gabriel was. But he couldn’t be that afraid of Gabriel, someone else had to be down there. Sam reached out and snagged Castiel’s arm before he could move away.

“Are you ok?” He asked, and Castiel seemed to notice him again, giving him a scared look, and then Gabriel was with them.

Gabriel stepped up beside him, slipping an arm around his shoulder and pulling him round so he was stood facing Castiel, the other boy’s arm still held in his.

“I’m sorry,” Castiel said sharply, pulling away. “I should go.”

“Hey, what’s wrong?” Sam asked, trying to take a step forward, but Gabriel gripped him tightly and stopped him.

“Hey, if Castiel wants to get lost then that’s not something we have a problem with,” Gabriel said, and Castiel flinched. Sam didn’t want to think it, didn’t want to believe it, but there were only a few reasons someone would act that way and none of them were good. Before he could think of what to do, though, Castiel was mumbling a goodbye and basically running away from them, in the wrong direction for his next class. He’d probably have to double back on the floor below them, just to avoid walking close to Gabriel.

Sam turned and took a step back, looking at his boyfriend. The hall was almost empty by now which meant they should both be gone but something was very wrong here.

“Why was Castiel scared of you?” he asked, and Gabriel just raised an eyebrow as if he genuinely hadn’t noticed anything was wrong.

“I didn’t think he was scared of me,” he said, and that was totally a lie. “Maybe he’s just uncomfortable around your boyfriend? Kid doesn’t have many social skills.”

“He’s not as bad as all that,” Sam mumbled. Because, yes, Castiel struggled sometimes on the social skills front but he was basically a good guy. “Besides, I’ve never seen him act like that with anyone before. He was definitely scared. And you weren’t exactly nice to him either. What’s going on?”

“Nothing’s gone on,” Gabriel snapped, and he was definitely touchy about this. It wasn’t a good sign at all.

“Yes it is. Do you pick on him or something?”

“No,” Gabriel said, doing that shifty glancing to the side thing he did that meant he was probably lying. “Maybe he just doesn’t agree with my pranks. Some people hate me for that, or get worried that I’m going to prank them. But I only prank people who deserve it.”

“And what has Cas done to deserve it?”

“It doesn’t matter, Sammy. Just drop it.”

“It does matter, he’s my friend. I want to know why he’s so scared of you.”

“Then ask him,” Gabriel snapped. He took a step forward, then several back. His hands were clenched and his shoulders were tight, and Sam would have been worried if he didn’t have his dad’s training and an inch on him, as well as a strong suspicion that Gabriel was more likely to hit a wall then him. “Ask him and he’ll tell you what a horrible person I am then you can hate me like everyone else.”

“Stop being melodramatic,” Sam said with a sigh. He took the risk of stepping in to Gabriel’s space, hooking an arm around his shoulder and pulling him close. “Look, if there’s some kind of vendetta or something between you and Castiel well, I just want to understand why. I’m not going to hate you. I might not like everything you do but I’m not going to hate you.”

As he talked he’d rubbed Gabriel’s back and Gabriel had slowly relaxed, his fists unclenching and his body inclining towards Sam’s until he was lent against him. He sighed, then turned to hug Sam properly.

“Thanks,” he said. Sam would have preferred a few more details, but he’d never knows Gabriel to prank without provocation. Castiel must have done something to earn this treatment, though he couldn’t imagine what at the moment. He knew Gabriel would explain eventually, though. For now he just needed some reassurance and everything would work out alright.

~*~*~*~

Any normal person would find a teacher dead and not go out any more in the evening. Any normal person would be afraid for a while, hide behind other and be wary of being alone with a staff member, particularly if they knew a murdering ghost was responsible for the teacher’s death.

Castiel wasn’t most people. While finding a body had been traumatic, facing his father if his GPA fell would be more so. He was already the family disappointment, he didn’t need to make it worse. He’d been in the English block, anyway, not science. He hadn’t even thought about the ghost until he was heading back to house for c.o.

When the science block came in to view he did start to think about the ghost. They’d been talking to other students about it a lot for the last few days. Well, Dean had been talking to other students about it a lot. The other students didn’t tend to like him. Apparently he made them uncomfortable. They didn’t feel they could confide in him, but they did feel they could confide in Dean. They told him a lot of things, Castiel wasn’t the only one who’d experienced something weird in and around the science block. He’d taken notes as Dean had talked, and after they’d read them through together. Dean had been surprised that he’d been so good at it and patted him on the back, which had made the hours he’d have to spend in the evening when he should be having free time catching up with his prep worth it.

Dean had crossed of some of the experiences straight away, saying there were things the boys had claimed that proved they weren’t true. Some of them he’d been a bit suspicious about, but some he said were probably true.

Castiel hadn’t seen the point when what they needed was a grave, but Dean had told him sometimes a piece of a body that wasn’t in the grave would do it, and knowing when and where the ghost was acting might help them find something. Castiel suspected it was as much to keep them busy so they felt as though they were making progress but he didn’t say anything.

And now here he was, walking past the science building at night. It was a little scary, anyway. Campus was so quiet at this time of night, everyone in house. It was a cold evening too so even the people who might go out to socialize didn’t seem to have bothered. The ghost probably wasn’t interested in him, though. All the other boys who reported seeing it were...well...they had reputations for not being very nice. Castiel had no such reputation. He had seen it before, but it hadn’t tried to attack him, he was probably safe.

Probably.

He pulled his jumper tighter, wished he’d put on a coat. He’d known it was cold out but he hadn’t realized it was quite THIS cold. In fact, the temperature seemed to be falling quite quickly...

He slowed to a stop, pulling the jumper tighter around him. It was getting colder. Too cold. Cold like the last time he’d seen the ghost, and he was right outside the science block door.

He didn’t look around or try to investigate. Clutching his books, he started to run. He knew he’d look weird if anyone were out to see him, but most of the school thought he was weird anyway. He could cope with people thinking he was weird. He didn’t want to see the ghost again.

As if on cue, suddenly it was there. Castiel stopped, breathing heavy, and looked it at thing blocking his path. It was identifiable this time, a boy their age. For a second it looked at him and it looked almost sad, almost as thought it regretted what it was about to do, then it charged at him.

Castiel had never been particularly athletic so the one push was enough to send him sprawling back on to the pavement. The ghost climbed on top of him, face contorted with rag now, and pressed on his neck. If Castiel had thought a ghost would be insubstantial and incapable of really hurting him he was soon proven wrong. It was more than capable of pushing on his, cutting of his breath. He tried to push at it but it wouldn’t move, tried to scream but his throat wouldn’t move.

He wanted to scream from the unfairness of it all. Why him, why now? He’d done nothing to this ghost. Dean was just starting to trust him. He couldn’t die, wouldn’t. But the thing wouldn’t move.

And then, suddenly, it was gone. Flickering and then disappearing, and Castiel’s lungs were flooding with air. He reached out and a hand caught his, pulling him to his feet. He wanted to protest, wanted to say he needed to rest for a second, but an arm was around his waist and he was being half dragged along, out of the area of cold and safely down the path.

As the air temperature rose again his was dropped and he finally had a chance to catch his breath properly, coughing and breathing as deeply as he could in alternate bursts. Finally he looked up and Dean was sat on the grass next to him, breathing deeply himself and with a handful of rock salt.

“Dean,” he said, it felt like all he could say. Dean had saved his life.

“Yeah, looks like it was a bit meaner than we thought,” Dean replied, clutching the rock salt. “I wish I had a shotgun, though that should get rid of it for a little while. We should move further away, though. No use tempting fate.”

Castiel nodded, trying to climb to his feet. After a second Dean helped him, the arm going around him again and he felt as though the world narrowed to that contact. Dean must care about him, as a friend at least, because Dean had endangered himself to save him. Maybe this entire thing wasn’t so hopeless, maybe Dean did like him.

He looked over as Dean moved them, he was terribly close. He could lean over now and kiss Dean. If Dean didn’t kiss him back well, there were so many excuses. He could say he only wanted to thank Dean. Say that he was still disorientated from his hear strangling. He could even claim that the movement of their walking had knocked them together. He could kiss Dean and he may never have another chance like this again.

He kissed Dean.

He used his arm around Dean to keep them close as Dean stumbled to a halt, keeping their lips pressed together and his eyes closed so he didn’t have to see the rejection. He could feel it, though. Feel it in the stiffening of Dean’s shoulders, in the way the other boy moved back slightly, trying to break the contact.

After a few seconds Castiel let him, and when he opened his eyes and saw the confused look on Dean’s face all of his clever ideas and justifications escaped him. Dean blinked at him and he didn’t know what to say.

“I’m sorry,” he muttered eventually, and then he turned and ran. Luckily, they were almost at his door so before Dean could think to do anything he was home, slamming the door behind him and racing up the stairs to his own room, though he should have been at c.o. He’d ruined everything and Dean would never forgive him. Any chance he had of winning Dean around slowly, or even of being Dean’s friend, that was all over now.

Maybe he should just go back and let the ghost have him. It wasn’t as though he could make the situation any worse after all.

~*~*~*~

When Sam was called down to the door that night he had expected it to be Dean. He hadn’t expected Dean to be looking so agitated. He’d lived in his family’s pockets for many years and he knew the variety of expressions Dean had, this wasn’t a good one. This was panic, barely hidden because he wanted to keep it together. That expression on Dean’s face was the only reason he stepped outside, even though he was still angry at his brother.

“Thanks,” Dean said, pulling him away from the door. The guy who’d come to find him gave them a curious look but then shrugged and went back inside. He didn’t look like he was about to rush of to matron and tell that Sam had just gone out so there was that at least. “Look, I know I’m an idiot and you’re mad at me about it but I need your help.”

“What with?” Sam asked. Because Dean was an idiot and Sam was mad at him but Dean was also family and part of being family meant being there for each other.

“The ghost...it’s real. And it’s attacking people.”

“Are you sure, Dean?” Sam asked, frowning. “This is a boarding school, and Gabriel’s been spreading the story around.”

“I know, but I’ve seen it. And there are other witnesses who describe things that sound right. That Castiel kid, do you know him?”

“Castiel’s seen it?” Sam asked, raising an eyebrow. But then, it made sense. It had probably been involved in that teacher dying, if it was real. And Dean was right, if there was a ghost on campus killing people, they needed to do something about it.

“Yeah, couple of times. He’s been helping me with some research.” Something jealous and nasty curled on Sam’s chest at that. He was meant to be the one who did the research and found out what was happening. He was meant to be the one Dean went to. Only Dean had come to him and he’d turned his brother away, so he couldn’t really complain now.

“Okay, so you’ve both seen it. Are you sure it’s the ghost of that student?”

“Yeah,” Dean said, determined. “All the evidence points that way. I found the grave too. Earlier tonight, found a record of the burial. I was just going to tell Cas when...well, I didn’t get to tell him but he’s fine now and we need to go dig a grave.”

“Dean, I can’t right now,” Sam hissed, looking back at the house. “I can’t just sneak out, I won’t get thrown out. We can go tomorrow after sport, there’s some time in the afternoon then.”

“More chance of being caught digging,” Dean replied, but then he shrugged. “I guess if not getting caught out of house means so much to you we can at least scope out the grave then, see if we’re going to be able to dig it through the day or if we need to come back at night.”

“Thanks Dean,” Sam replied, grinning. He knew it was a compromise that Dean wouldn’t have made for anyone else and it made him feel special that it was made for him. Made him feel like they could work this out, settle their differences somehow, if Dean was willing to give him space.

“Yeah, no problem,” Dean replied, pulling him in for a quick hug. “I’ll meet you tomorrow at 4 by the front gate, I’ll take care of spades and stuff.”

Sam nodded, squeezing Dean quickly around the middle then pulling back and retreating back in to the house. He didn’t particularly want to go grave digging tomorrow but maybe if he did he could fix things with Dean and everything would be good again.

~*~*~*~

Dean couldn’t sleep. He’d spent a good amount of time trying futile to convince himself that the reason he couldn’t sleep was the ghost, that he was still too wired up on adrenaline from the fight. How sad was his life that he was spending time trying to actively fool himself?

The truth was he felt thinking about kissing Cas. Not in a good way, either. He’d thought for a while that it was just girl deprivation. One of the things that drove him made here was the entire no girls issue. He kept being told about the mythical girl’s school across town, had even managed to spot some of them in their uniforms with their smiles. He definitely still wanted girls, and he wasn’t getting any. That should be enough to explain Castiel.

Only it wasn’t.

This thing with Cas, it wasn’t just a stupid adrenaline kiss (because it had to be the adrenaline. Cas would never have kissed him otherwise). There were a million other stupid details. He’d only known the kid for a week or so really but he felt like he’d known him forever. He’d been ignoring everything else to spend time with him and, a few times, he’d even forgotten how upset he was about Sammy because he’d gotten caught up in Cas.

Cas seemed to get him, in an odd way. And yeah, the guy was still a freak, but Dean was adapting worryingly quickly. The guy had no idea of personal space but Dean was just getting kind of used to having a conversation with someone who was close enough to kiss. He didn’t get pop culture or anything but he listened to Dean like what Dean was saying was something worth listening to, something important. Nobody had ever treat him like what he had to say was something important before. Well, Sammy sometimes, but not always.

And Castiel had helped him when Sammy had turned him away. Given up study time to sit and go through reams of pointless newspapers with him in the off chance they said anything useful. Dean had even enjoyed it. Once he got used to the odd, Cas had a weird, sarcastic streak that made him fun to be around.

When he’d been running across campus earlier to find him, he’d been genuinely excited to tell him that he’d found the grave. He’d been thinking of taking him with to dig it up, get him a bit more broken in as a hunter. He’d wanted that moment where Castiel looked at him like he hung the moon for the most ridiculous, mundane reason.

The attack, he’d like to say he’d have done that for anyone, but he didn’t think he would, that was the thing. He’d have tried to help and, okay, maybe he’d have done more or less the same thing but he’d have paused before throwing himself in there. He didn’t even stop to think until he was in there with his fist full of rock salt.

Even that could just be friends, but it was the kiss that stuck. That stupid kiss because it should have just been frustration and adrenaline but it wasn’t. Dean had enjoyed it. He’d wanted more of it. Not just because it was a warm body and it was a kiss and it had been so long but because it was Cas and that was scary because he wasn’t gay, he wasn’t. All he needed was his family, he didn’t need anyone else and he definitely didn’t need that someone else to be a guy.

Still, it wasn’t too late. He just needed to keep away from Cas for a while, give them both a chance to cool down. This was nothing, and he was going to prove it was nothing.

~*~*~*~

Sam should have known nothing would ever be simple. They made the trip to the graveyard quietly, Dean carrying the spade behind him in a bag meant for cricket equipment. Sam had been kind of impressed by the ingenuity, nobody would question them carrying that kind of thing through town.

Finding the grave turned out to be pretty hard, which was a blessing and a curse because it took forever even though they split up to look, but when they found the thing it was pretty well hidden. There was no way anyone from the road could see them digging here and even most of the rest of the graveyard was out of sight. Perfect for avoiding sneaking out at night.

However, there was a problem with the grave, one of the reasons it took so long to find. It was newly dug, and that never meant anything good.

“Shit,” Dean said when he saw it, his face sinking, and Sam couldn’t help but agree with him.

“Looks like someone else got here first,” he commented dryly, and Dean laughed.

“Looks like. Still, we need to check. Odds are there’s something down there missing but we can at least salt and burn what we’ve got.”

“Yeah,” Sam agreed. Stepping back. “Want me to dig? You can stand watch?”

“Nah,” Dean said, rolling his shoulders. “I’ve got some frustration to work out, I’ll dig first.”

Sam nodded, stepping back a little to give his brother space. He picked a place where he could see the entire deserted graveyard. The place was, luckily, on the outskirts of town so there were no overlooking buildings and it didn’t seem to be a popular place to visit, not that Sam could criticise other people for that. The thing was, after spending so long in graveyards it felt almost comforting to him. This kind of thing normally came at the end of a hunt when everything else had been put to bed and it was familiar, it nothing else.

It was also time consuming. He knew he had to see it through now but he knew they were probably going to be missed. He’d mentioned to Gabriel that he was meeting his brother though so hopefully he could just pass it off as them having lost track of the time.

When Dean hit coffin Sam drifted back over to join him. It took him a while to locate the missing bone, whoever had taken it had picked a smaller one, but one of the bones from the right hand was gone. Dean swore some more at that, then pulled a bag of salt out of his bag and dumped it on the grave before setting light to it.

“This just keeps getting more and more messed up,” Dean said with a sigh, sitting down to watch the bones burn. Sam glanced around again, but it was as deserted as ever so he took the risk and sat down next to his brother, resting his head on Dean’s shoulder.

“Tell me about it,” he agreed. “Trust us to land in a boarding school with a ghost infestation.”

“It is typical,” Dean replied, looping at arm around Sam’s back and pulling him close. They sat there for a few minutes and Sam let himself just enjoy being close to Dean again. He had missed this. He didn’t think it was healthy, they way they relied on each other like this, but it was good. He was happy like this.

“Sam,” Dean said after a moment, and Sam stiffened because if anyone knew how to ruin a moment it was Dean. “How did you know you were gay?”

Sam let himself relax back again. On the spectrum of questions Dean could have asked that was actually pretty tame.

“I’m not,” he replied, “I’m bisexual. I do like girls, Dean. I just like boys too.”

“But, how do you know?” Dean asked, and there was almost a note of distress in his voice.

“I don’t know?” Sam volunteered. “I just like Gabriel. I mean, I want to be close to him, to be with him. That not so weird, is it?”

Dean shrugged, but the moment seemed to be over, as much as it had ever existed. He pulled away and stood up, examining the grave and apparently finding it satisfactory since he closed the coffin lid again and began piling dirt back in. Sam moved over and resumed his post as watchman, glad to have gotten away so lightly on the grilling.

~*~*~*~

After c.o. that night Sam went up to Gabriel’s room. it was a pattern that they’d established since they’d started dating. Some nights they did other things, but Gabriel’s room was the one place they could be alone so they went back there a lot.

It wasn’t even dirty, though most of the other people who knew about their habit implied it was and matron had started coming in to check up on them at least twice an evening. It was just their way of finding a little time to be together. Sam would sprawl out on the bed, usually, and Gabriel would sit on his desk and they’d talk about their day or do work or, well, sometimes Gabriel got down from the desk and they’d kiss for a while but Sam wasn’t ready for more than that and Gabriel wanted it to be good.

That night Gabriel had been reluctantly reading and complaining loudly as he did so just in case anyone in the surrounding rooms thought he WANTED to be reading. The book was for a class though and he had to finish it.

Sam was spending the time thinking, lying on his back on Gabriel’s bed. He liked Gabriel’s room, the other boy had covered the walls with interesting pictures he’d found on the internet and other things, though no photos. It was almost a little sad that Gabriel didn’t have any photos of the people he loved on his wall. Even Sam had one sad picture of his dad down in his study room. His dad and Dean, leaning against the impala. He’d taken it on a disposable camera dad had bought him for his birthday. Most of the other pictures had been lost along the way but that one still remained. Sam had taken special care of it was they looked happy in it. Dean must have done something good because dad was smiling at him as if he’d just won a noble prize or something and Dean was smiling right back, glowing in dad’s praise.

With a sudden sharp pang he missed his dad. Missed the back seat of the impala and the smell of old leather and gruff hugs and a big hand ruffling his hair and telling him he’d done good.

Some of it must have shown on his face because Gabriel was suddenly there on the bed with him, arm around his waist and chest against his back. Sam relaxed in to the hug, let it ground him. He missed dad, but he had things here too now. For the first time he had a real home, he wasn’t going to let nostalgia ruin that.

“Hey,” Gabriel said, softly. “You okay?”

“Yeah,” Sam breathed, shifting back a little against Gabriel. “Just thinking about my family. My dad. You know, I haven’t heard from him since I got here?”

“That’s tough,” Gabriel mumbled. He gave a gently tug at Sam’s middle and Sam rolled obligingly, letting Gabriel put an arm under him and settling so he could look in to his boyfriend’s eyes as he spoke. “Were you close with him?”

“Kind of,” Sam said, wrapping his own arm around Gabriel. “I mean, we fought a lot. I wanted to be more normal. We used to move around a lot and I hated it. But, well, it wasn’t all that bad really. I miss him now. I think when I’m with him all I see is what’s annoying me right now, not the bigger picture. When I’m away from him I can see all the things I love about him and I miss him.”

“Sounds tough,” Gabriel commented. “At least you’ve got Dean, though?”

“Yeah, Dean’s always been the one who gets between me and dad when he fight. Did I tell you I spoke to him earlier, he was a bit weird but I think we’re going to be okay. Asked me how I knew I liked boys, so at least he’s trying to understand.”

“Yeah, he cares about you a lot,” Gabriel said. “Makes sense that he wouldn’t give you up over something as stupid as this.”

“What about you,” Sam asked, raising a hand on stroke Gabriel’s cheek. “You never talk about your family.”

“Not much to say,” Gabriel said with a shrug. “It’s always just been me and my mom. My dad, well, he sends money and stuff, pays for my tuition here because mom would never afford it on her own, but I’ve never actually met him.”

“That must suck,” Sam commiserated. It was bad enough to be missing a parent, to know that parents was alive and out there and just didn’t want to see you, that must be awful.

“Yeah, it does,” Gabriel agreed. “And now, I think we both need cheering up. Want to make out until matron catches us?”

“I’d rather not be caught,” Sam replied, blushing. “But I do want to make out with you.” And with that he leaned in to claim a kiss and stopped thinking about his family for a while.

~*~*~*~

The piece of bone gone missing sucked. The fact that it had been deliberately removed sucked more, because it might mean they were dealing with a witch or something and Dean HATED witches. The good thing was, if it was someone who’d done this, someone who was controlling the ghost, then that probably meant that if they looked at the attacks there’d be a pattern they could follow that would lead them to whoever had the bone.

The problem was, finding patterns and stuff was Sammy’s thing, not his, and Sammy had some stupid community group project so Dean was alone looking for answers. He was, in fact, entirely alone. The weather outside was unseasonably nice so the students had mostly deserted, he was the only one in the back upper room.

Well, him and his pile of research. The clue now had to be in the people who’d seen the ghost, which meant looking through again and deciding what the pattern was. Which were genuine and which were people trying to get a bit of infamy or pull his leg.

He was going through the witness statements, written up in Castiel’s need hand, for the third time when Castiel came in to the room. For a second Dean wanted to stand up and run. They hadn’t spoken since the kiss that Dean was definitely not thinking about. Winchester’s didn’t run though. Especially not from nerdy little boys who they could take in a fight anyway. With a sigh he gestured Cas over, maybe he could see something Dean couldn’t.

“Dean,” Cas said, edging closer. He looked like he was about to bolt, never mind Dean. “I feel that I must apologize for my behavior last night.”

“No need,” Dean said, making a sweeping gesture with his hand. “There have been some big changed in the case, let me fill you in.”

“No, Dean,” Castiel said, and for a second Dean didn’t know if the kid was going to cry or punch him. “I...I took a liberty and I have to apologize or I won’t be able to live with myself. I don’t know what I was thinking. Well, I do know what I was thinking but I was wrong. I know that someone like you...someone like you doesn’t want anything to do with someone like me. I should never have presumed...”

And Dean didn’t want to hear it. Didn’t want to hear it so badly. Didn’t want to think about it, didn’t want to talk about it, so he did the only damn thing he could think of to do. He kissed Cas again.

The relief at Cas shutting up lasted a few seconds before it was overcome by the feel of Castiel kissing him back. Castiel in his arms, pulling him close and kissing. A real kiss this time, and the guy obviously didn’t know what he was doing but he was a fast learner as he copied Dean, let Dean guide the kiss. And it was good, more than good.

Dean pulled back, stepping away quickly and looking around the still deserted room. Deserted for now but anyone could come in at any time and he did NOT need to be caught making out with a boy.

“Look, not now,” Dean hissed. “I don’t...I don’t know what’s going on but...do you want to kiss me again?”

Cas nodded, an almost awed look on his face and Dean nearly kissed him again right there and to hell with the consequences. He couldn’t quite bring himself to do it, though.

“Ok,” he whispered. “Ok. Tonight. Sneak out after lights out, meet me by the gardeners sheds behind the history block.”

“I can’t,” Cas hissed. “I’ve never snuck out, I don’t know how.”

“There must be a way, ask someone you trust in your house. There’s nowhere else around here we can have some privacy, it’s the only way.”

For a few seconds Dean really thought that Castiel was going to refuse, but then he nodded, gripping Dean’s arm tight.

“Yes,” he said, “Yes, I’ll sneak out.” And with the deal sealed they finally sat down and Dean showed him the progress they’d been making with the case.

~*~*~*~

It wasn’t that Castiel had never broken a school rule before, it was just that the rules he’d broken had always been small rules. He’d used matron’s printer without asking permission first and he’d taken an extra piece of cake at desert before everyone had one. This, this was something else entirely. Sometimes much more scary.

His first problem had been deciding which person to ask. It had to be someone he trusted, but that was a small enough group to start with. He didn’t really have friends, other then maybe Dean. He had acquaintances, nobody seemed to want to get that close to him. The few people he might trust, well, they weren’t generally the type who’d ever sneak out after hours anyway. So that left him with someone he trusted a little who probably wouldn’t be able to help and might tell anyway and someone he didn’t trust but maybe he could bribe.

The latter option seemed a better deal, and he had an idea who to ask. Uriel was a year above him but completely hopeless in maths. Castiel had traded a month’s math homework, which he could complete easily, for the secret to sneaking out. Apparently there was a door by the kitchens that was on a latch, so you could always get out. The problem was getting back in. If the door shut, it needed a key to be opened from the outside, so the trick was to leave a stone in the door to stop it shutting properly and to hope that nobody came along and used the door after you to notice it wasn’t shut.

The entire thing made him nervous. He thought about backing out so many times, but every time he did he remembered kissing Dean. Kissing Dean, really kissing him, was unlike anything he’d done before. It was perfect. He wanted to dedicate the rest of his life to kissing Dean. To having him so close, feeling him, sharing air. He HAD to sneak out.

He waited until matron had gone to bed. Well after. He lay paralyzed under his sheets for a while, as though any movement might draw attention to his plan and bring the entire thing crashing down around him. Eventually, though, the fear subsided enough that he could make himself move. Push the covers back. He’d stayed dressed under them so all he had to do was slip on his shoes and creep out in to the hall.

The house was strange this late. He wasn’t used to be being empty, quiet. Normally it was teaming with teenage life, people falling over each other and laughing. It was almost like a ghost house at night.

The door was where Uriel had said it would be, and Castiel could have cried from relief. It opened easily, and he only spent a few seconds locating a stone that would hold it that way. Just a little open, not enough to notice if someone came down to use the kitchen in the night but enough to let him back in.

He was really doing this.

If he’d thought the house was bad, campus was worse. He knew to give the science building a wide berth, the last thing he needed now was the ghost. Though maybe it would make him braver. It was what had made him brave enough to kiss Dean the first time.

He knew it was too late for people walking around, that the marshal would be in bed already. He was as safe as he could ever be, but he couldn’t stop his heart racing and his muscles tensing at every movement in every shadow. The adrenaline only seemed to make it better, though. He was getting closer, thoughts of Dean filling his head.

He’d dreamt of this, but never dared to hope. It was beyond anything he could have thought possible that Dean wanted to meet him like this. A small part of him was convinced this would be a trap of some kind. He knew Dean was Gabriel’s friend and Gabriel had been needlessly cruel to him since he’d first started at the school. This would be just the thing Gabriel would do.

But Dean had kissed him. Unprovoked, just kissed him. That had to mean something. Anyway, it was academic, he would go. Even if he knew it was a trap he would go, because it might be his only chance, no matter how slim.

When he rounded the last corner Dean was already there, scuffing the ground with his shoe. He looked at Cas with wide eyes, as though he hadn’t expected the other boy to actually show up. That was ridiculous, of course. Castiel was always going to show up, it was Dean who might not have.

“Hello Dean,” he said, whispering though he knew there was no way he could be overheard. Dean smiled at that.

“Hey Cas,” the other boy said in a normal volume. “Didn’t think you were going to make it for a second there. Didn’t get caught or anything, did you?”

“No,” Cas replied, blushing. He wanted to reach out and touch Dean, reassure himself that the other boy was here, but he didn’t know if he could. He’d never done anything like this before, had no frame of reference for what he could and couldn’t do. “I...I was nervous. I waited until I was sure everyone was asleep.”

“Guess that makes sense,” Dean said with a shrug. “You’re not thinking of chickening out on me now, are you?”

“No,” Cas replied quickly, giving in and reaching forward to touch Dean’s arm. Dean was warm and reassuring and wonderful. He was so close now, this was real. “Never. Are you?”

“No,” Dean replied, though for a second he looked a little less then certain. Then he squared his shoulders in determination, standing back. “No, I’ve got no second thoughts at all. Let’s...let’s do this.”

Cas nodded, stepping forward to close the gap again, bringing their bodies together and their lips so close. He could see everything from here, every detail of Dean’s face and he wished he had a camera to capture this, because surely nobody else could ever be this beautiful again. Nobody else so wonderful.

“So boys, what aren’t we chickening out of?”

Castiel froze at the sound of the marshal’s voice, but Dean didn’t. He stepped back out of Castiel’s personal space, turning quickly and scanning the area as though looking for an escape route. But then the torch light was on them. They had been seen and it was all over.

~*~*~*~

An early morning trip to the marshal was hardly Castiel’s idea of a good time, but they had been summoned. A part of him still didn’t believe the night before had actually happened, that he had been so stupid and that he had been caught. Another part of him didn’t believe that now he was going to be punished and he hadn’t even managed to steal a single kiss.

The marshal had declared it too late to punish them so marched them back to house. They’d gone to Dean’s house first so Castiel had stood through one set of disapproving looks there and then a matching set just for him at his own house. The stern warning to be at the Marshal’s office straight after breakfast was hardly needed, be then he was so ashamed he could never imagine doing anything wrong ever again. He’d never had the staff truly unhappy with him before, and though Dean seemed to take it in his stride, he couldn’t. His father was going to be called, he just knew it. There could be nothing worse than that.

He arrived early. He’d not been able to stomach any breakfast under the combined gaze of matron and the house master. Even toast had turned his stomach just to think about it. His stomach was still turning as he took a seat and waited to be called in.

Dean arrived exactly on time looking as calm as anything. He smiled at Castiel but Castiel couldn’t find it within himself to smile back. This might be acceptable to Dean but it wasn’t to him. It couldn’t be.

His father was going to be so very disappointed.

The marshal let them wait before calling them in, which only made it worse. He tried to work out how he could say this to not sound as bad, but he knew he couldn’t. Anything he could say would sound awful. The Marshal would want to know why they were out and he’d have to tell him and his father would be told and then...then he’d be more than just disappointed.

Castiel’s father didn’t hold with a lot of things. Boys being in love with other boys was one of those things. Bad enough to be punished for breaking the rules, but to be punished for liking Dean too much. To be punished for daring to want to be kissed...

But still, it would all come out sooner or later. Castiel didn’t intend to hide forever and he knew he wasn’t going to change. Maybe if his father found out about him now it would be okay. He could get used to the idea for the rest of the term and when Castiel came home he’d have come to terms with it.

The Marshal came to let them in. He looked stern, but he always looked stern. They filled in to the office in silence. Dean slumped in to a chair straight away, Castiel waited for the Marshal to tell him to sit, which the man didn’t do until he was seated himself.

“So, boys,” he said, leaning forward to rest his head on his hands. “Care to tell me what you were doing out last night?”

Castiel took a deep breath. This was going to hurt but it would be for the best, somehow. He wouldn’t hide, couldn’t lie. He’d deal with the consequences, it would be worth it to have Dean.

“We were going to play a prank,” Dean said, and Castiel spun to look at him. He hoped he didn’t look as shocked as he felt. Dean was going to lie. This couldn’t work. “Well, really it was mostly me. Cas has been helping me out with some homework, I just talked him in to this.”

“Really, and what prank were you going to pull?”

Good question. The Marshal was looking at Castiel but the words were stuck in his throat. He couldn’t think of anything, not on the short term like this.

“We were going to get in to the maths building and put all the chairs on the roof,” Dean said, as easily as if they’d been discussing the plan for weeks. “I thought it’d be funny to watch the teachers run around and panic trying to find them, but I needed someone to help me move the chairs. Cas kind of got talked in to it, though I did all the planning.”

“Is this true, Castiel?” the Marshal asked, looking at him. One word, it was only one word. Surely he could tell a lie if the lie was just a single word. Hardly a lie at all really. He’d been raised not to lie, he was terrible at lying. His hands always shuck, the words stuck in his throat. But Dean was giving him an out, trying to help him. This one time, he had to manage it.

“Yes,” he replied, and his voice was steady. “I’m sorry.” The Marshal nodded.

“Castiel, I’m disappointed in you being lead astray this way. I thought better of you. I think you need to give more thought to who you befriend in the future, stay away from people who will lead you astray. I’m going to leave punishment to your house master this time, but only because this is your first offense. Dean, I know you have a troubled background but I had hoped this school might help you turn around, that our pupils might be a good influence on you rather then you a bad influence on them. I’m afraid I’m going to gate you for the next week, which means you need a member of staff to sign you card every hour on the hour.”

Dean signed, but he seemed resigned. The Marshal talked for a little longer, threatened calling their parents next time and handing a card to Dean, then they were free to go.

They left the admin building in silence, and Castiel thought that might be it until Dean grabbed his wrist next to the languages building, pulling him off the track and down behind some out-houses.

“You ok, man. You looked a bit...”

“I’m fine, thank you,” Castiel said. “Why did you lie?”

“Couldn’t exactly tell the truth, could I?” Dean replied with a cocky grin. “I mean, do you want to have to explain that?”

“Well, no,” Castiel admitted. “But if we’d told the truth the punishment might not have been so harsh for you.”

“This isn’t so bad. I’d rather this then they call my dad and tell him I’ve gone gay. Fuck, he’d disown me or something. I should disown me, Cas. This isn’t me! I’m not gay! I’m just a regular guy, I like girls. It’s always been girls before but you...I don’t mind experimenting a bit on the side but nobody can know. My dad can never know.”

As Dean spoke Castiel felt his heart sink. He couldn’t help but feel a little sick as Dean’s diatribe. He’d known Dean had reservations but he’d presumed they were at least both thinking about this in terms of a relationship they might have with each other. It appeared Dean was only thinking about experimentation. A little kissing in secret, but nothing else. A part of Castiel could take that, would take anything he was given, but a larger part of him knew it wasn’t what he wanted. Not even a little. He was a romantic, nothing would change that. He didn’t want a quick fumble now and then, he wanted a boyfriend. He wanted Dean to be his boyfriend.

So, would he reject Dean? Or maybe he should try. Maybe he could work on him, talk him round slowly.

“Anyway, doesn’t matter,” Dean said with a sigh. “Need to focus on this ghost first. Meet me and Sammy after class in the library? We need to work out who took the bone.”

“Yes,” Castiel said, because that at least he could do. He’d started this, he was going to see it ended. He had to, he was a target here too.

“Great,” Dean replied, and then he was gone. Not even a little kiss of a touch of the arm, and Castiel felt empty. He’d been wrong about where this might go, so wrong. He knew that now, but something in his heart still wanted Dean and he didn’t know how to stop it.

~*~*~*~

Something was going on between his big brother and Castiel. Sam wasn’t stupid, though he knew Dean thought he was still too young and naive to notice these things. Nobody could be naive enough to not notice this. Dean had been going to great lengths to avoid looking at Castiel for too long. He’d been much more focused on the research then Sam had ever seen him before and even when they were talking he seemed to be trying to avoid the other boy’s eyes.

Castiel, on the other hand, was staring straight at Dean all the time. He was studying him like he was trying to decide if he should kiss him or punch him and, honestly, it was a little scary. Castiel had always been kind of intense but the way he was looking at Dean now...creepy.

He had more sense to get in the middle of whatever was going on, though. Dean definitely wouldn’t thank him for it, so what was the point. He liked them both but if they were content to stand around staring at each other like that, he wasn’t going to be the one to comment on in. They’d only yell at him.

Dean had seemed agitated when he’d appeared at break and insisted Sam come to the library to help with research. He’d not been surprised by his brother dragging him in to the research, but the agitation was new. He’d thought there might have been some progress with the case, but there wasn’t. They were still sorting through statements looking for a link between the victims and trying to work out if they were genuine or not.

Doing this with just Dean would have been bad enough. He’d have thought Castiel would help with the atmosphere but whatever was going on between the two of them was only making it worse. He kind of wished he’d brought Gabriel. He’d been thinking he needed to tell Gabriel. After all, it was an important part of who he was, this entire supernatural thing. He knew what his dad would say, but he didn’t care about what dad would say right now. Dean would disapprove too, but he didn’t get a say when Castiel already knew (even if Castiel had found out for himself instead of being told).

The thing that really stopped him was the thought of Gabriel’s reaction. It was hardly a usual thing to confess, and unless he was willing to throw Gabriel to the ghost to make a point he had no way of proving it. He didn’t want to lose his boyfriend over a life he was trying to leave. Even if he wanted Gabriel to know, to understand.

“Maybe we’re doing this wrong?” Castiel said, prodding at the statements a little. “We’re looking at what they said, maybe this point is going back to who they are.”

“You mean the fact that they’re all trouble makers?” Sam asked. He’d thought that sounded like the best bet, but there was a problem.

“Not all trouble makers,” Dean reminded them, risking a glance with Cas. Their eyes locked, and both of them seemed to forget to look away. It was kind of uncomfortable, them staring at each other like that. He’d never seen Dean act this intense about somebody before.

“No, Cas is obviously the problems,” Sam said, attempting to break the moment. Dean reluctantly turned away, though Cas carried right on staring at what was now the side of Dean’s head. “So the rest might just be someone targeting people who are bad, maybe someone who’s concerned about the reputation of the school or something, but Cas is personal. This has to be someone who has a personal vendetta against Castiel.”

Castiel looked uncomfortable at that, looking away from Dean’s face to gaze at his own clenched fists. Sam sighed, this was going nowhere, there was no-one.

“Sam,” Dean said softly, glancing again over at Cas as soon as he’d said it. Cas was refusing to meet his eye now and that was weird. “Just...just think about what you said for a second there. We’re looking for someone who’d punishing people who’ve done wrong, and has a personal vendetta against Cas for no reason we can work out. Doesn’t that sound familiar?”

“No,” Sam shot back, though something uncomfortable coiled in his stomach. “That’s the point, there isn’t anyone like that.”

“Gabriel is,” Castiel replied, and the fact that he sounded almost apologetic didn’t soften it a little. This was crazy, so clearly crazy. Yes, Gabriel was a little...well...he kind of did fit the description. But he wouldn’t, it wasn’t his style. He just wouldn’t. Sam would have known, would have seen. He wasn’t blind, there was no way.

“Sam, calm down,” Dean said, his voice sharper than usual, and Sam realized he was gripping a witnesses statement so tightly it was crumpled up in to a ball in his hand.

“It isn’t him.”

“We’re just trying to rule people out,” Dean said, and he sounded comfortable but that’s how he worked. Sounded calm and reasonable but he’d already made his mind up. It wasn’t Gabriel though. Gabriel pranked, he didn’t try and kill people. Didn’t hurt them really, just their pride.

“No, I know you, Dean. And I know him. He didn’t do it.”

“Sam.”

“No,” San snapped, and Dean scowled at that, standing and walking around the table towards him. Sam took a step back, then another. He couldn’t do this. Couldn’t stay here with this weird tension between his brother and Cas, listening to them accuse his boyfriend of being the person to do this. He wouldn’t.

He turned and he left. He didn’t say goodbye, didn’t stop until he was behind the door of his own study. He couldn’t do this, they were wrong. So very wrong, and he was going to prove it.

~*~*~*~

Sam knew Gabriel hadn’t done anything wrong, couldn’t have done anything wrong. It was ridiculous. But he couldn’t get it out of his head. It did fit, and anyone who didn’t know Gabriel like he did might suspect him, he could see that. It didn’t change the fact that they were wrong. So very wrong. He just needed...

It was ridiculous. He shouldn’t need to do anything. He should let it go, never mention it again, but he couldn’t stop thinking about it. Couldn’t stop thinking that it made sense. Would make sense if it wasn’t so very wrong.

Dean wouldn’t let it go, though. He wouldn’t take Sam’s word for it and he wasn’t naive enough to think his brother wasn’t dangerous. They both were, he’d practically grown up with a gun in his hand. If shooting was a sport they offered here then he and Dean would top all the leader boards, that much was certain. Dean thought Gabriel was dangerous, thought he needed to do something about it. The least he could do was make sure Gabriel was prepared.

Justification in hand, he headed to Gabriel’s room. Gabriel smiled at him when he let himself in, but the smile fell away almost instantly. Apparently it was just that clear on Sam’s face that this wasn’t going to be a pleasant evening for either of them.

“I...I need to talk to you,” Sam said, sitting down on the bed, and Gabriel’s shoulders tensed. For a second Sam’s heart felt like it had stopped, as though Gabriel had confessed, before his brain helpfully pointed out that he’d used the ‘we need to talk’ line and of course Gabriel had tensed up.

“Don’t worry, Sam,” Gabriel said softly, turning around. “I knew something like this was coming. We’re...it was stupid to think we could be something. Clearly we can’t. I’m not good enough to...”

“I’m not breaking up with you,” Sam interrupted, standing up and walking over to Gabriel. Gabriel stood to meet him and Sam pulled the other boy in to his arms, resting his chin on Gabriel’s shoulder. “It’s...it’s something about me, actually. I need to tell you something. It’s not you, and I’m not breaking up with you. I hope you won’t want to break up with me when I’m done.”

“Don’t be ridiculous,” Gabriel laughed, squeezing him close. “I’m never going to want to do that.”

Sam pulled back and kissed him quickly, then stepped back. He needed to be able to see Gabriel’s face as he did this.

“Okay, the thing is, this is something about my family. It’s important that you know it, though. I’m going to tell you what it is and then I’ll tell you why it’s important that you know. It’s...it’s something a bit weird.”

“Oh, don’t worry,” Gabriel said, waving a dismissive hand. “Your family hardly has any kind of monopoly on weird. Did your mom run of with the milkman?”

He knew it was meant to be a joke but Sam couldn’t help but wince. Gabriel’s face fell and Sam had to lean forward and kiss him again to make it alright. After all, he might not have permission to kiss Gabriel again after he’d go through this.

“No, my mom died,” he said, backing up slowly to sit down on the bed. Gabriel moved around, sitting next to him, close enough to touch if Sam chose to but not initiating everything.

“I guess it all started with that. I was too young to remember her, six months old. Dean can remember her, just. The thing is, the thing that might freak you out. Her death wasn’t normal. I mean...it was Supernatural.”

“Supernatural,” Gabriel said, and his disbelief was evident in his voice though Sam didn’t turn to see it on his face.

“I know, it sounds ridiculous. The thing is, most of the monsters you’ve been told don’t exist, they all do. I wouldn’t believe it but I’ve seen them. My dad, when he realized what happened to mom he started to hunt them. My entire life we’ve moved from state to state, motel room to motel room, hunting things. I’ve seen things...things I’d never expect anyone else to believe. Ghosts, monsters, demons. Dad tried to leave me out of it a little, I generally did the research, but Dean’s been hunting for years. We basically grew up with guns in our hands, that’s why he’s a bit protective of me, I think. Dad used to go off on hunts and leave him in charge. It’s...horrible. We never knew when dad left if he was going to come back or if this would be the one. Dean lives for it, I think that’s why he hates it so much here. Dad isn’t proud of what he does here but I’ve always wanted to get out, I don’t want this to be my life.”

He didn’t realize he was shaking until Gabriel touched him, an arm around his shoulder drawing him in to his boyfriend’s side. He turned and wrapped his arms around Gabriel from the side, burying his face in Gabriel’s shoulder.

“Please believe me,” he whispered, gripping Gabriel tight.

“I believe that you believe,” Gabriel said, reaching a hand to tangle his hand in the other man’s hair. “And that this is really important to you. Maybe you can find a way to prove it to me later?”

“Yeah,” Sam mumbled. He didn’t want to take Gabriel in to that kind of danger but at the same time he knew it was important that he understand, that he knew his past.

“So, why tell me this now?” Gabriel asked. Sam winced, he’d almost forgotten about that part.

“Okay. You know the ghost story that’s been going around campus, the one about the science building?”

“Yeah, it’s a good one. True, too. I checked it.”

“Yeah, too true.” Sam said with a sigh, pulling back a little. “The ghost is real, and it’s been attacking students. Me and Dean, we went out and tried to fight it but someone’s stolen some of the remains so we can’t get rid of it until we find them.”

“Do you need some help tracking them down or something?” Gabriel asked, eyebrow raised. Sam wished it was half that simple.

“No, not exactly. I’m sorry but, well, whoever has the bone could control the ghost. The thing is, the people it’s attacking...it’s people who cause trouble and, well, Castiel.”

“Okay?” Gabriel asked, not making the connection. Sam sighed.

“Dean thinks you’re a suspect.”

Gabriel raised an eyebrow, and for a second Sam was horribly afraid he was going to be offended. Then, just as suddenly, the other boy burst out laughing.

“Seriously,” he asked, throwing his arm back around Sam and pressing his face in to his shoulder. “Me? I mean, shit, if I had a ghost I wouldn’t be attacking people. I’d be trying to prank as many people as I could. I’d have the thing fly in to a class and tap a teacher on a shoulder, not creep around at night killing people!”

“Yeah,” Sam said, relaxing finally. Gabriel might not believe him yet but he was, at least, listening. He wasn’t angry either. “I said that to them. They’re just caught up on this Castiel thing. I mean, it’s not like he has many enemies but he’s seen the thing twice.”

Gabriel sighed, drawing back, and Sam turned to look at him. He looked almost tired.

“Guess you want to know what my deal is with Castiel, right?”

“You don’t need to...”

“No, but it’ll be easier if I do. You’ll probably find out in the end eventually. Look, the thing is, Castiel is my half brother.”

“Seriously?” Sam asked, eyebrow raised. “You target him because he’s a half brother?”

“No, not entirely. I mean...okay, I should tell you the entire story. We share a dad. Castiel doesn’t know. Our dad, he’s a preacher. He tours the country spreading the word of god, and by the word of god I mean the legs of any woman who’ll let him. My mom was just one of many. He’s always given her money for me, paid for me to come here, but I’ve never met him. I’m not the only one. Michael is my half brother. Lucifer too. Some others.”

“But Cas is different?”

“Yeah. Cas is legitimate. The rest of us, we get money but we don’t get a father. Cas gets a father. He doesn’t even know how lucky he was, how many brothers he has who’d kill to be him. The favored son. I know it’s not his fault, he doesn’t even know we exist, but I still hate him.”

“I guess that makes sense,” Sam replied. He couldn’t imagine hating his brother. Dean drove him mad some times, he could probably punch him right now, but he loved him. That was probably their history together, though. Maybe, if he was the outsider and Dean was the favoured son, he’d hate Dean too. “I’m sorry.”

“Hey, not your fault,” Gabriel said with a grin. “I should really get over it. I just...”

“Why don’t you tell Castiel?” Sam asked, reaching up to run a hand down Gabriel’s cheek. “I mean, maybe if you did then you and him...maybe you could be brothers? I mean, even if your dad’s a bit of a jerk, it doesn’t mean you can’t have a brother.”

“I just...how horrible would that be. I pick on him for years and suddenly tell him he’s my brother? I’d punch me if I were him.”

“I don’t know,” Sam replied. “I don’t know Cas that well but he seems like the forgiving kind. You should give him a chance at least, maybe he’ll surprise you.”

“I guess you’re right,” Gabriel agreed. “Can we make out for a while now?”

“Sure,” Sam said with a laugh, leaning forward to meet Gabriel’s lips. Maybe things really were going to be alright between them.

~*~*~*~

“We need to talk.”

Castiel looked up from his work. Homework had, again, fallen behind a little to this thing with Dean so while Dean was distracted with mandatory sport activity, Castiel had been taking the time to catch up with some work. The essay wasn’t anything too difficult, but it was important that he score well so he’d been working hard on it. Matron had agreed not to tell father about his little slip earlier but he needed to keep his grades high or she would.

He’d half expected to be interrupted, though. His life at the moment seemed to consist of a string of interruptions. He didn’t expect that it would be Gabriel doing it. When he heard the other boy’s voice he tensed and sat up straighter. This was the last thing he needed today.

“I don’t think I have anything to say to you,” he said, hoping that would be enough to keep the other boy away. Though Gabriel had never respected that before. He didn’t know what he’d ever done to Gabriel, he wasn’t sure he wanted to know. Whatever it was had clearly been horrific to warrant this torture.

“Right, yeah,” Gabriel said. He looked almost tense, which was odd. He ran his hand through his hair and looked at Castiel, studied him. Castiel shifted under that gaze, he didn’t like being examined like that when Gabriel had already made his judgement. “Look, Sam told me all about what’s happening, what you guys are doing. What you suspect.”

Castiel stood at that, glancing around for an exit. Gabriel would blame him. If this had soured things between himself and Sam, he could no doubt be here to take it out on Castiel. He needed to get away before that could happen.

“Hey,” Gabriel said, raising his hands in front of him, palms out. “Hey, I’m here to apologize, pretty much. Sam...he made me realize that, well, the way I’ve been acting towards you is kind of shitty. Really shitty, actually.”

“It took Sam for you to realize this?” Castiel asked. Gabriel raised an eyebrow and he could have kicked himself. Why did he always say these things and end up in trouble like this?

“Nah, I know I’ve been a shit to you. I’m not stupid. Look, the thing Sam thinks I need to explain to you is why. It’s not...look, I’m not proud of how I’ve been acting, but I am what I am. That’s the worst excuse ever but there it is. Look...shit, there’s no easy way to say this.”

“You don’t have to say it,” Castiel interrupted, his hands balling in to fists at his side. “I don’t want to hear anything you have to say. I don’t want to hear your justification, or try to understand you. All I want is for you to go away and leave me alone.”

“I would,” Gabriel said with a shrug. “Thing is, Sam’s just going to keep pushing me. He might be right too. I mean, wouldn’t it drive you mad eventually, why you? You didn’t do anything to me, not really.”

“So you hate me for no reason.”

“That’s the thing, Castiel. I don’t hate YOU. Not really. Don’t even know YOU. I hate what you are.”

“What I am?” Castiel asked, eyebrow raised. “I’m nothing important. Why would you hate me for what I am?”

“You’re something very important,” Gabriel said, stepping a little closer. “Look, there isn’t an easy way to say this. I’m about the worst person to be saying this...I’m your half brother.”

“You are not,” Castiel said, instantly. It was ridiculous, he was an only child. How could he have a half brother he had never heard of, never met. Gabriel was lying, trying to justify his actions or playing some kind of cruel trick.

“Wish I wasn’t,” Gabriel muttered. “But, fact is, your dad and my dad are the same person. Go look who pays me school fees if you don’t believe me. It’s kind of ridiculous because I’ve never even met the guy, that’s why I hate you. You’re the legitimate son, the one who gets to have a father and not just be a disappointing liability.”

“My father is a man of god. He wouldn’t...”

“Oh, he does. You think I’m the only one? You have other brothers here, Castiel. Probably sisters at the girls’ school. I know of a few of them, never met them though. It’s kind of messed up, some of our half brothers could be dating some of our half sisters.”

“Shut up,” Castiel snapped. He couldn’t believe this, wouldn’t believe this. His father wouldn’t. He was a man of god, a man of strength! But...he did go away a lot. For long periods, preaching. Castiel had always thought it was just, well, his father spreading the word of god. But his father was a man, and not as good of a father as Gabriel clearly would like to think he was.

Was it just some accident of birth that he should be the legitimate son, the chosen heir. If he did tell his father of his own sins, his lust for men, would he be thrown out. Maybe his mother too, he couldn’t stand to think of her suffering for his sins. Maybe his father would pick one of the other boys. Re-marry, make him legitimate. Someone who could preach like he could. Someone who could make him proud.

No, this was wrong. It had to be wrong. Gabriel was still talking but he couldn’t listen. This HAD to be wrong.

He didn’t even think to pick up his things, he just left. Gabriel didn’t try to stop him, as if he knew what he’d done. All of Castiel’s life he’d dealt with being the focus of his father’s attention. The only son who would have to carry the mantle of this perfect man of god. A man who gave his life to his church and to preaching. He attracted billions in donations for the church. A man who apparently used the church as a way of having sex, who used those donations to fund his own illegitimate children in school. Who wouldn’t even see those children.

Though maybe that was a lie. Or maybe it was just Gabriel he wouldn’t see. Maybe the others were already being manipulated. Maybe he was already using them.

He’d always wanted brothers and sisters.

He knew it was ridiculous, but when he got to the registrar’s office she wasn’t there so he let himself in. The computer systems were easy to work and there it was, in the records. Gabriel’s school fees, charged to Castiel’s father. It wasn’t a lie. Or it was...maybe it was a charitable donation. It had to be...

Only then his father would declare it. Would run it through the church. He preached loudly about his charitable work to encourage others to do the same. If he was funding underprivileged students to attending boarding schools then surely he would tell people to try and encourage them to do the same.

He wished he could phone his father, just ask. They’d never had that kind of relationship, though. His father would deny, belittle. He would mock Castiel for believing this. He couldn’t tell him.

But it had to be true.

He reached up and touched the name on the screen, as though he could make it disappear. He could click it, get a complete list of the students this man funded. Were all of them his half brothers?

He moved the mouse over, hovered for a second, but then shut down Gabriel’s record. He didn’t want to know, not right now. This was enough, knowing his father had lied. Knowing Gabriel was his half brother. Of all the people. He had dreamed his entire life of brothers and sisters. Someone older to guide, to protect, to show compassion to. Friends who couldn’t leave him, who would stand with him thought whatever life presented because they were family. It must be some kind of joke that he finally had a brother and it was Gabriel.

It was too cruel.

He left the office though he didn’t know where to go. He thought about heading back to the library to get his things but Gabriel might still be there. He couldn’t see the other boy now. Couldn’t look at him and know they were brothers but that Gabriel had still hurt him so badly over so many years.

He wandered out towards the sports fields instead. Dean was finishing up so Castiel watched. He watched as Dean ran, as he laughed, focused. Dean was beautiful. Too good for Castiel, but Castiel still wanted him. Wanted to lose himself in him. He wanted to stop being Castiel, to go in to those arms and emerge instead as Cas. Gabriel could have the family, his worthless father. He didn’t want to be that person any more. He would be someone else. Someone Dean chose.

Dean finished, Castiel watched him pack away. Waited for him to come over, which he did.

“Did you find something out?” Dean asked. And he meant the case, always the case, but Castiel felt a prickling behind his eyes.

“Gabriel came to speak to me.”

“What did the little shit say?” Dean asked, jaw clenching. “Do I need to punch him?”

“He told me why he’s treated me like this for all these years. Or how he justifies treating me like this, anyway. He is my half brother.”

Dean didn’t say anything, just lay a hand awkwardly on Castiel’s arm. He couldn’t fix this, couldn’t take it away, but he was still here and Castiel felt the tears begin to flow. He let Dean lead him from the field, let him take them somewhere private. Once he was sure they were out of view he wrapped his arms around Dean, lay his head on the other boy’s shoulder, and Dean let him. He even healed him back, though is arms were still. After a few minutes he began to relax. Began to move, trailing his hands up and down Castiel’s back. Relax against him a little, hold him.

This was what Castiel wanted, all Castiel wanted. To be here with Dean like this. Here where nobody could see them. He wished they could run away. He would, if Dean would have him. Escape together in to the world. They could hunt monsters, do anything Dean wanted if he’d just keep holding him like this.

By the time Dean kissed him he was desperate for it. He kissed back passionately, losing himself in lips and bodies. He wanted to be here always, to forget everything else, and so he pulled them further back into the shadows and let Dean help him forget.

~*~*~*~

Castiel woke feeling a little as he imagined he would feel if he had won the lottery. He had sleepwalked through much of the previous evening. He’d not expected it, but what he’d done with Dean seemed to largely eclipse what Gabriel had said in his heart. Maybe it had worked, what he’d wished for. Maybe he was reborn now. Cas, not Castiel. Somebody new. Somebody not bound by his father but free and able to love anyone he wanted.

He was aware as he drifted through the day of people giving him odd looks but he couldn’t care less. They meant nothing when he knew that Dean had held him. Dean had touched him like that. He had to mean something, to be that close to a person.

He wasn’t naive. He didn’t go skipping through the halls singing, though he may want to. He knew that really this changed nothing. Dean would not suddenly be his boyfriend, not would hold his hand in the hallways or any such thing. But it did mean that Dean cared about him. Maybe he could only have Dean in quiet, stolen moments. It was still much better then never having Dean at all.

He filled himself up with these thoughts, these feelings, and used them as a shield against other thoughts and feelings. He wouldn’t think about his father, about Gabriel. He could only think about Dean. He would only think about good things. It was how he would survive this.

Dean sought him out at lunch and he let himself feel that joy as he went down to let Dean in to the house. Let himself lead the other boy up to his bedroom with his head held high, because he knew he was important to Dean. Knew Dean cared. That was all he needed, that would be enough.

Dean looked a little nervous to be in Cas’ room. He gave in to his kisses quickly though, returning each one enthusiastically, and this was what made Cas want to sing. This enthusiastic proof that Dean did feel something, that this wasn’t all in Cas’ head.

“You’re keen today,” Dean said, and Cas kissed his jaw. “You like what we did yesterday?”

“Yes, Dean,” Castiel replied, wrapping his arms around Dean. “I think I’d enjoy anything if it was you.”

“Sure,” Dean said, though he tensed a little, pulling back a little. Cas frowned at this, letting go and stepping away.

“Did I say something wrong?”

“No, of course not,” Dean said, reaching for him. Castiel stepped aside. “Can we just go back to making out?”

“I said something that made you uncomfortable,” Castiel noted, frowning. “What was it. I won’t do it again.”

“You didn’t. Can we not talk now?”

“It was the talking. What I said made you uncomfortable. That I would enjoy anything if it was you. What in that made you uncomfortable?”

“Look,” Dean said, clearly uncomfortable now. He was looking around, looking for an exit. He wanted to escape. “I just...I’ve got stuff to do. I only came over here to tell you to meet us in the library after classes. We’ve got work to do. I’m going to have to go.”

“Please, Dean. Don’t. I need to know what I did wrong.”

“You didn’t do anything wrong.”

“Dean, you are important to me.” The tensing again. That was it. It was a profession or an implication of feeling that made Dean flinch like that. Dean did not want to hear of Castiel’s feelings for him. Did not want to talk about them. “Why do you not like my saying that?”

“Why have you got to complicate things?” Dean snapped, his hands balling in to fists. “Isn’t this enough? We have fun, isn’t that good enough?”

“No,” Castiel said bluntly. “I know you care for me, why does it make you uncomfortable when people express their feelings?”

“Guys don’t say that kind of thing,” Dean said shortly. Cas snorted.

“Guys say those kind of things all the time. If you were with a woman you’d tell her you care about her, why am I different?”

“I’m not gay.”

“Then what did we do yesterday?” Cas asked, raising an eyebrow. “The physical is fine as long as we don’t acknowledge it, don’t talk about emotions at all. Dean, I can’t do that. This isn’t anything for me, I care about you.”

“Shut up,” Dean hissed. “I don’t...I CAN’T.”

“You can.”

“Fine then, I won’t. I just...this isn’t who I am, Cas. It’s not who I want to be. I can’t talk about emotions and shit, I just can’t. You want all that then you’re going to have to find someone else.”

“I don’t want someone else.”

“Then you’re going to have to put up with me,” Dean snapped. “I don’t do chick flick moments. I’ll...the sex stuff is fine. You don’t have to think, you just do it. But don’t start thinking I’m in love with you or something because I’m not.”

It was a little like being punched. A punch he should have seen coming, should have blocked or dodged, but now it was too late and it was landed. Dean seemed to realize he’d made a mistake immediately and started to apologize but it was too late. Cas just shuck his head, turned away. He’d known it, really. Hadn’t wanted to admit it but he’d known it. Dean didn’t love him, it was just physical. Just like his father hadn’t loved Gabriel’s mother, and maybe that’s why Gabriel was so angry. There had never been any love, just a physical expression. He could understand that now. He wondered if Gabriel’s mother had loved his father as Cas loved Dean, had felt this anguish as knowing their love wasn’t returned.

“I didn’t mean it like that,” Dean said, and Cas laughed because how else could he have meant it. Maybe he only meant that he didn’t mean to tear Cas’ heart out, still beating, and hold it high for the world to see. Didn’t love him but didn’t want to hurt him either, but that wasn’t possible.

“I think you should leave,” he said.

“Will you still come after class?” Dean asked, and Cas had to think. It would be horrible, all he wanted to do was curl up and cry. It seemed now that he wouldn’t have anything he wanted. No perfect family, instead he lived inside a lie. No Dean, no love. But still, he had an obligation. He’d come this far, he’d see it through.

“Yes,” he said. “I’ll help with this. But now I need to be alone. Can you show yourself out?”

Dean nodded, and he looked so miserable, but then he was gone and Cas was left alone.

~*~*~*~

It was crunch time and that meant focusing on the research. Someone was controlling the ghost and that meant they could attack people at any time, there was no time to waste. Apparently, someone had forgotten to tell the rest of the group that.

Sam had brought along his boyfriend, which was a stupid move. He was still insisting there was no way Gabriel could be behind any of this but Dean wasn’t quite willing to let the theory go yet. If the pieces fit, after all. Gabriel seemed to be the only one who wasn’t horribly uncomfortable. Or at least he was the only one doing any kind of job of pretending not to be horribly uncomfortable. He was laughing and joking as always, though he wasn’t getting much of an audience reaction. Dean certainly didn’t feel like laughing. He’d thought Gabriel was a friend. Friends don’t go and turn your little brother gay behind your back.

Okay, so maybe Gabe hadn’t turned Sam, but he was still dating Sam. Dating Dean’s little baby brother who was far too young to be dating anyone. Especially someone older and experienced like Gabe. Dean kind of hated that. Sammy wasn’t meant to grow up. He wasn’t meant to get new people. It was meant to be him, Sammy and dad in the Impala hunting. Not him and Dad with Sammy of somewhere else with his boyfriend.

Add to that Gabriel’s asshole move of treating Cas like scum even though they were family. Dean knew he didn’t understand a lot about how normal people functions, but he knew family. Family was important, you didn’t turn away your family. But that’s what Gabe was doing, and that wasn’t cool.

Cas was...Dean had honestly expected him not to turn up but he was here. He knew what he’d done to Cas was a bit of an asshole move too, probably why he was so angry at Gabe. He hadn’t known the kid was in love with him though. That was big and scary and it just freaked him out. Love wasn’t something he could have. He knew what his life was going to be. Hunting things, saving people. Him and Dad. Not him dad and Cas...though would that really be so bad? Looking in to the back seat and having Cas there, doing that thing he did where he concentrated so hard that his forehead wrinkled up like an old man. So bad to have Cas there to have his back in a fight, to eat junk food with in diners, to crawl under the covers with at night...

He kind of hadn’t expected how much his asshole move was going to hurt. Not Cas, he got that, but him. He thought it would be kind of a weight of, having that out there. He wasn’t gay, he wasn’t in love with Cas, that wasn’t going to change. Turns out he was wrong about at least some of that, though. He cared about Cas one hell of a lot, as it turns out. The look of hurt on Cas’ face, he’d wanted to just...

But he wasn’t gay. He didn’t love Cas. It was just this place. Just chemicals in his brain, it had been so long since he’d been with someone, it was just his body playing tricks on him, trying to trick him so he’d get more ass.

Not that they’d done THAT.

His life was so screwed.

Cas was here but still so obviously mad. Mad at him, mad at Gabe, Sammy was the only one he’d managed to exchange a word with. Dean didn’t want to talk to Cas either, or Gabe, though he knew he kind of had to. Sammy just seemed pissed with Dean, probably for daring to suggest that his boyfriend was anything other than perfect.

Damn, they were messed up.

“Okay, look,” Dean said, finally sick of the tension. “We’re all kind of pissed right now, but we need to sort this thing out. Someone’s doing this. If it isn’t Gabe, then who is it. Who else has a problem with the trouble element of this school and Cas?”

“I’d almost say a teacher,” Gabe said with a shrug.

“A teacher?” Sam asked. Kid looked shocked, you’d think nobody had ever suggested to him that a teacher could do wrong before.

“Sure, think about it. Who hates problem students more than teachers? Maybe one of the straight A kids but they’re gonna only go after the kids in their classes. The people you’ve got sightings from are over all the years. Cas, is there a teacher you’ve pissed off?”

“No,” Cas said, sounding kind of pissed at the entire idea that there could be a teacher who was less than 100% happy with him.

“Ok, none that you know of,” Gabe agreed. “But, look, why don’t we look at the ones we know and see if they have a teacher they all have in common? Probably someone in science.”

“Why science?” Cas asked, frowning.

“The teacher who died, a science teacher. Maybe he was the reason for all this and that’s why the ghost didn’t attack you the first time. But then when the teacher figured it actually worked they decided to use it to attack students who’d been messing with them too.”

“That...that actually makes some sense,” Dean said, grabbing the list of names. “I mean, I guess the teacher didn’t really fit the pattern we had going but we didn’t think...haven’t been thinking all along. Crap, okay. Sam, can you go look up these guys’ teachers?”

“Yep,” Sam said, beaming. That fixed him, at least. If Dean was just nice to Gabe, apparently, that would be enough to get Sam back in his life. He could do that.

“What about the attack on me?” Cas asked, frowning. “I mean, how do we explain that?”

“Teacher could have got nervous that you saw what was going on?” Dean said, flopping back in his chair. “Or maybe that’s nothing to do with them. The ghost saw you the first time and didn’t hurt you, right? Maybe it recognised you the second time but was just...trying to get your help or something. Ghosts are kind of messed up, it could have been trying to get your help but ended up hurting you instead.”

“Yeah, we’ve seen things like that before,” Sam agreed with a nod. “It’s as good a theory as any.”

“Alright,” Gabriel said, grin in full force now. “Come on Sammy, let’s go get those student records, well have this cracked in no time.”

“Yeah,” Dean said, glancing over as Cas. Cas was pretty determinedly not meeting his eyes. Fuck, this was messed up. He couldn’t stay here alone with Cas because he did feel something. That was the ridiculous thing. He wasn’t gay, but there was something there. Cas was different somehow. A friend, but not like Gabe. More like Sam, in that he kind of wanted to protect him, but not like Sam because...because he wanted to touch him. But maybe that was just the isolation and the lack of girls. Once he had a girl again, he’d be right again. Definitely.

“I’m gonna...” he said gesturing at the door, and Cas just nodded. It wasn’t running away, he just needed to make sure he didn’t make things worse.

~*~*~*~

Since he definitely wasn’t running away from Cas, the sensible way to prove that was to do something useful. He went and gathered up some salt first, and matches. He wished he had his lighter and a shotgun but dad had taken all that with him. Wasn’t like he could run round school with a shotgun out anyway. That would get them expelled and then Sammy would never talk to him again, though it would remove the problems Gabe and Cas were bringing at the moment.

Didn’t take too long to get supplies though, and he knew getting the records and sorting through them might take a while. If we went back, well, he was going to do something he’d regret. Didn’t think he could take much more of being that close to Cas and, well, best he found something to distract him.

Checking out the science building seemed like the best plan. It was later, after all, so the teachers shouldn’t be there. They were looking for an object, too. The odds were pretty good that he could just find the thing in a drawer and that would be the end of things.

He wasn’t thinking about what happened when they were done with this yet. It wasn’t the first time he’d gotten tangled up in someone’s emotions, it was the first time he wasn’t going to be able to cut and run after.

Getting in to the building was easy. There was an alarm, of course, but it wasn’t particularly difficult to deal with. A couple of locked doors weren’t particularly challenging either. He’d kind of expected better from such an expensive school but he knew he shouldn’t complain about an easy entry.

The teacher’s offices were easy to find. Each teacher had a desk, most of they were cluttered messes of folders and marking and worksheets. He checked all the drawers first, two teachers had locked drawers. If he were going to keep a piece of human bone lying around in his office, he’d put in a locked drawer. Though this person was clearly crazy so they might do anything.

The drawers were pretty easy to break in to, though he had been picking locks since he was old enough to hold a lock pick, more or less. He’d always been good at them too, something he’d taken a lot of pride in. Might not be as good at the book work as Sammy but if there was ever a good you needed opening, he was the sibling you went to.

The first drawer turned out to not be very interesting. Just a mark book and some pencils. The second drawer was gold. Wrapped up in a handkerchief at the back, a tiny bone. One from the little finger, but the looks of it, which was what Sammy said was missing from the grave. It was weird that such a small thing was all you needed.

He started hunting around for something to burn it in. It’s need to be metal, couldn’t do to leave melted plastic around. In fact, he’d probably better take it out of the office. Go fetch Sammy, find a quiet corner away from the science building and burn the thing. Then...then he’d worry about after. He slipped it in to his pocked and stood, rolling his shoulders. This had been almost too easy, after all that hard work.

Then something smashed in to the back of his head and everything went dark.

~*~*~*~

Dean’s masculine pride might have been able to take that he might just maybe have some feelings that weren’t in the strictest sense brotherly for Castiel, but getting knocked out and tied up by a chick was something he couldn’t take. He didn’t even know the teacher really, Mrs Maguire. He’d seen her around, but she’d never made much of an impression on him and he’d never been in her class. He recognized her, though, as he woke up.

Sadly, it wasn’t the first time he’d woken up tied up. Part of the job, sometimes the supernatural got the drop on you. That’s why you didn’t work alone, why he shouldn’t have been here alone. He’d recognized what was happening before he’d even woken up fully and had tried to pull his hands free. She’d got him tight though, which was stupid. Hands and feet so he couldn’t run.

She was sat on the steps of what looked like a basement they were in, the bone fragment clutched in her hand. Looked like she’d been crying, but he didn’t exactly had any sympathy for her. She could cry all day for all he cared. All he wanted was to get free.

“Hey, Miss,” he said, twisting his wrists around. He’d be able to slip this if he could only get it a bit loser. “Erm...sorry I was poking around your office but what the hell?”

“I’m sorry,” she whispered, turning the bone in her hand almost compulsively. “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean for this...I’m just sorry. You should have stayed out of it.”

“Out of what, I don’t understand,” Dean lied, twisting his wrist left then right. There was a little give. Maybe she hadn’t tied the knot right.

“I can’t let you go,” he said, clutching a corner of the cloth the bone was wrapped in. Her distress might have been more genuine if he didn’t suspect she was about to try and murder him. “I was only going to kill one, I didn’t even think it would work. I mean, who believes in something as ridiculous as ghosts? I don’t. But...it worked. I’m not sorry, but maybe I shouldn’t have tortured the students. They torture me though, you know. Every day, they say whatever they like to me or about me, like I’m not even a person. Like I don’t mind taking their abuse. But I am, I do. They make me cry, you know. Just because they can. I just wanted them to like me, or fear me. Either would do. But now...now I’m going to have to do it again and I’m sorry but it can’t be helped.”

“Look, lady,” Dean said, tugging at the ropes. Clearly she wasn’t going to buy the innocent act and let him go, better to level with her. “You’ve got no idea what you’re messing around with here, just give me the bone and I can sort this out.”

“No,” she said, clutching it tighter. “No, I’m sorry. This is the end, I’m sorry.”

She stood, and Dean saw a flicker out of the corner of his eye. She started to back up the stairs and the temperature started to drop around him in a way that was entirely too familiar.

Well shit.

He yanked at the rope but it held annoyingly firm. If he could just get another few centimeters he might stand a chance of getting his hand out but he couldn’t manage. Then suddenly it was there. For a second his vision was filled by this sad, tearful face, and then he was being picked up and thrown back against the wall. And damn did it hurt, he couldn’t do anything to cushion himself or break his own fall tied up like this so he hit the wall hard on his shoulders, then dropped straight down on his ass before he could steady himself.

The teacher was at the door now, turning the handle. He shouted to her again but he knew it was no use, she looked almost crazy, almost like she was enjoying the show. Whatever she told herself to sleep at night, she didn’t think this was an monstrous as all that.

The ghost grabbed him, yanked him in to the air and threw him again, and as he hit the wall he saw her finally open the door. The pain made him close his eyes for a second, but when he opened them again she was gone. In her place was Cas, looking determined and heading down the steps.

“No, Cas. Go after her, she’d got the bone,” he yelled, but Cas carried on in to the room, rushing down the last few steps.

“Gabriel and Sam are chasing her,” he explained, looking around. The ghost was gone from sight for now but the temperature told them it wasn’t far. “I came for you.”

“Get these ropes off me,” he demanded, turning to offer Cas his wrists. Cas dropped down behind him and the touch of a warm hand on his arm as the ropes were removed was worryingly reassuring. As soon as he felt the rope slacken he yanked his hands free and reached down to tug at the knot around his ankles.

As he did, the ghost appeared again out of nowhere, only it didn’t grab him this time. It grabbed Cas’ arm and for a second they were frozen, staring at each other, before the ghost moved, throwing Castiel forward and sending him in to a pile of boxes.

“Cas,” Dean shouted as the knot came lose. He kicked his legs free as the ghost slammed in to Cas again, knocking his back against the boxes and fastening hands around his throat, and seriously what was it with this ghost and choking Cas? He jumped up, reaching for his blazer pocket and thank fuck she hadn’t searched him. His hand closed around the bag of salt and he pulled it free, ripping it open and flinging the entire thing at the ghost.

It disappeared, leaving Cas gasping for breath, but it must have been getting stronger as it reappeared again almost immediately in a corner of the room. Dean swung around, putting himself between Cas and the ghost. He didn’t have any more salt, didn’t know how he was going to fight this.

It moved forward, knocking Dean back against Cas and pressing on them both, then suddenly fire and Dean could have shouted for joy. Sam and Gabe must have done it because with a horrible scream the thing was gone and he collapsed forward, panting on the ground. Cas followed him a few seconds later, dropping to his knees.

“You okay?” Dean asked, reaching back to touch Cas. Cas gripped his hand then pulled. He pulled to Dean had to turn to face him. Pulled him closer still and leant and then they were kissing again. Kissing and panting and they were alive, they’d done it. He’d never had anyone to kiss right after a hunt before, never when he felt this high and he couldn’t even thing. The entire world existed for a second in the soft moans that spilled from Castiel’s lips, in the way his hand tightened in Dean’s, in the way he gave himself up so fully to the kiss and the things Dean could do to him, could make him feel.

And he did feel.

Things might have gotten more complicated if not for the sound of Sam moving down the hallway upstairs. Dean pulled back with a groan and pushed Cas away. Cas looked at him, hurt, but he couldn’t. Not now.

“I’m sorry,” he said, and he meant it. In so many ways. But not now. Instead he headed over to the stairs to meet his brother, hoping he didn’t look too thoroughly kissed.

~*~*~*~

Gabriel was good at telling stories. He’d never imagined his skill at cooking up a lie would have such a practical application but he’d spun a story of missed study dates, looking for their friends and the teacher attacking them that made them look downright sane and credible next to the teacher ranting and raving about bones and ghosts. Even when the police turned up, called by the staff member who’d heard the initial trouble, they managed to keep it together. Sam gave them his big puppy dog eyes and clung to Gabriel’s hand like he was traumatized and had them all eating out of the palm of his hand in minutes.

In fact, it was all going swimmingly with one exception. Dean and Castiel. They’d come out of the basement looking guilty and well kissed. Sam didn’t seem to have picked up on it and Gabriel wasn’t about to tell him without permission but it had been kind of obvious. They’d been avoiding each other since though, acting almost afraid of each other, so it looked like trouble in paradise already. There was only one thing to do in a situation like this and that was interfere.

He turned Sam over to Dean as soon as they were allowed to go and headed off to find his own half brother.

It was still kind of weird to think about Cas as a brother. Not that he wasn’t, but that Gabriel was so used to thinking of him as the son he should have been. Sam was right, he hadn’t ever tried to talk to him. Didn’t really know him at all. But he got an idea he was going to get to know him and that, when he did, the kid wouldn’t be so bad after all.

“Hey, Cas,” he said, approaching. Cas was sat on a wall a little way away from the main action staring in to space, his hands clutched in his lap. “Want to talk, little brother.”

“I’m not your brother,” Cas replied, his tone flat. “Not really. It implies a kind of relationship we don’t have, we only have blood and hate.”

“Yeah,” Gabriel said with a sigh, dropping on to the wall. “I guess that’s my fault. I kind of, well, can we start again please?”

“Start what again?” Castiel asked, turning to look at him. He looked pissed, right about trouble in paradise then.

“Us. I’ve been an ass, but I’m not so bad when you get to know me. I want...I want to be your brother. You know, someone who’s got your back, kind of like Sam and Dean. I get that we won’t ever be as close as them or that you’re not gonna trust me right of, but I want to try. I think we can be friends, at least. So, can we start again?”

For a second he thought Cas was going to reject him outright, and he couldn’t really blame him if he did. After a second, though, the other boy nodded and Gabriel let himself react.

“Thanks, bro,” he said, slipping an arm around Cas’ shoulder and giving him a squeeze. Cas give him a look that was slightly mutinous but didn’t push him away so that was a start.

“Look, I know you don’t want it but can I give you some advice?”

“I think you will whatever I say,” Castiel replied with a bored expression and Gabe couldn’t help laughing.

“You’re right, I probably will. Look, about Dean. Dean is an idiot. I don’t know him too well but I do know the guy’s issues have issues. He’s a mess. I’m not saying don’t go there, I think I’d be too late to say that anyway, but just be aware that you might have to play a long game here. He likes you, but he’s scared of liking you. Give him some time and space and he’ll come to you, but you’ve got to give him that time and space first.”

“How will ignoring him help the issue?”

“You’re not ignoring him. Look, you trap him now then he’s just going to panic and push you away. He’s panicking already, I think. I mean, I don’t know Dean as an expert subject but I know people and he seems pretty panicky. Let him get over that and he’ll come to you.”

“Do you really think so?”

“Probably,” Gabriel said with a shrug. “I mean, I can’t promise anything but, be his friend. If he’s going to fall for you he will and it’ll get to a point where he can’t deny it. If you push him to be your boyfriend now then he’s going to run. It’s not going to be easy, it’s probably going to be as painful as shit and it might not work, but I think it’s the only realistic chance you have.”

“Will you help me?”

“Of course,” Gabriel said with a smirk. “What are brothers for?”

~*~*~*~

Dean knew he had some talking to do, and he hated having some talking to do. He was kind of dreading it, actually. This was about the time he’d normally be getting in the car with Dad and getting the hell out of town. He didn’t do messy emotional fallout. He didn’t do talking and sorting through the mess of feelings that seemed to have settled in his chest. But he couldn’t run right now. Needed to, couldn’t.

Sammy came up to him when they were finally allowed to leave and gave him a big hug. He hugged back, thankful to just be with his brother. He’d never really thought Sam wouldn’t come through for him but there had been a moment in there where he’d been genuinely scared. When the ghost had been on them and he hadn’t known if Sammy was going to manage.

Holding Sammy made it a lot better, because whatever came next, he had his brother. And Sammy was family. He knew he pulled some shit sometimes but the great thing about family was that no matter what ridiculous thing he did, they had to be there for him.

Which meant he had to be there for them too.

He stepped back, looking at Sam properly. His brother looked tired, and a little distracted. He was scanning the crowd already, looking for Gabriel. Gabriel. Dean hated to admit it but he’d come through for them. When things were tough and they needed him he’d been there, as good as a real Winchester.

He didn’t fit in to Dean’s dream of how life would be, but he was starting to realize he was never going to have that life. He wasn’t stupid, he knew what Sammy wanted. Sammy wanted picket fence and normal and going to college and a job that didn’t involve killing anything. They were never going to be a family of hunters forever. And maybe a part of accepting that meant accepting some other things too.

“Thanks, Sammy,” he said, ruffling his hair. “You really came through for us back there.”

“Hey, no problem,” Sammy grinned, ruffling Dean’s hair right back. “Isn’t saving your ass what a little brother’s for?”

“Hell yeah it is,” Dean growled, swiping at Sam’s hand. “Look...I’ve been a bit of an ass, alright?”

“Yeah, you have,” Sam agreed, but his smile was playful. “Which part of you being an ass are you talking about exactly.”

“Oh, being smart now, are we?” Dean asked, raising an eyebrow. “I’m talking about the part where I’ve been an ass to you and Gabe. I’m sorry. I know it’s none of my business who your boyfriend is.”

“No, it isn’t,” Sam agreed. “Though I’d like it a lot if you approved. I mean, I know you have reservations but you have to admit, Gabe’s a pretty cool guy when you get down to it. I know you like him really.”

“He did really help us out today,” Dean agreed, slinging an arm around Sam’s shoulder. “And, yeah, I guess you could do a lot worse. I mean, I’m not saying you couldn’t do better, but you could do worse.”

“That was almost a complement.” Dean’s head snapped round to look at Gabriel who was sauntering over, a smirk on his face. “Is it group hug time yet?”

“No way,” Dean replied, pulling back. “I might not hate you at the moment but you’re gonna have to work a hell of a lot harder if you want to be family.”

“What, do only family get hugs around here?” Gabriel asked with a pout. Dean just glared at him as Sam laughed. After a second Sam stepped forward, pulling Gabe in to a tight hug, and Dean managed not to blush too much though he wasn’t quite sure where he was mean to be looking.

“I’m...I’ll leave you to it,” he mumbled, stepping away. He ignored Gabriel’s laugh as he headed off in the direction he’d last seen Cas. He was going to like this talk a lot less, because he knew what Can wanted and he knew he couldn’t be it. He needed to have this talk now, though. Needed to stop this before it got too big again and one of them ended up being really hurt.

Cas was sitting on a wall and actually looked more thoughtful then miserable. Dean wasn’t sure if that was a good thing or not. He hadn’t wanted Cas to throw himself at him or burst in to tears or anything, he just wasn’t sure what to make of this look. As he came closer Cas gave him a small smile and he found himself smiling back.

“Hello, Dean,” Cas said, and he nodded, turning to sit on the wall with a little space between them.

“Look,” he said, swinging his heel back to kick the wall. “I’m just gonna say this ‘cause, well, I don’t want to make a mess of this. I’m not...I’m not gay. I know I kissed you again and I like kissing you and all, you’re getting pretty good at it, but I’m not gay. Kissing is one thing, anything else is, well, it’s something else entirely. I can’t be in love with a guy.

“You don’t really want me anyway. I mean, you don’t even know me. I’m messed up, Cas. The things I want from life and the things you want from life will never match up. Even if we did try, you’d end up hating me and I’d end up hating you and it’d be horrible. I need to hunt, need to save people. It’s what I’m good at. What I’ve been training for all my life. You, you’re going to go to college and get a job and you’ll forget about me and all my mess. I mean, it’ll be better that way.”

“Can we be friend?” Cas asked, and he sounded to very small that Dean just wanted to bring him close, but that was ridiculous. He was meant to be pushing Cas away, not bringing him closer.

Friends, though. He could do friends. He didn’t mind having friends, and if Gabe was going to be making kissy faces with Sam all the time now, well, he’d need a friend to distract him.

“Yeah, I can do friends,” he said, nodding. “We could be good friends, you and me. Will that be enough for you? I mean, you’re not going to be like trying to kiss me or something, are you? Because it’s probably best if we stop all of that right now before it goes any further.”

“Yes, Dean. I can just be a friend and I won’t try and kiss you,” Castiel said, and he sounded kind of fond. It was weird. Nobody had ever sounded fond of Dean before. “I want to be your friend, if you’ll let me.”

“Yeah,” Dean said with a grin, finally letting himself relax. “Friends. This is going to be awesome.”

~*~*~*~

Dean kind of expected the entire thing to fall apart as soon as it started, but it didn’t. After all, Cas had as good as confessed that he loved him, but he seemed content with being friends and Dean wasn’t going to argue with what worked. The rest of the term was pretty dull, actually. He ended up missing the only mixed social because of the gating thing as punishment for seeking out to see Cas. It was kind of messed up that they only had one mixed social a term. Everyone seemed like complete idiots about it too, like they didn’t know what to do with themselves when given an evening to get some.

Cas sat it out with him, in the library working. And it was okay that he noticed Cas because he’d still had no female company. It was alright that he noticed how good Cas looked when he frowned, but how much better he looked when he really smiled. It was alright that he noticed Cas’ hands, wondered about how they’d feel in him again, doing other things, because he was sexually frustrated.

In the end, he spent a lot of time with Cas. Cas was good, he’d sit and explain things to Dean and not act like Dean as an idiot for asking like some of the teachers did. They’d spend hours going over things and though Dean was working at a higher level Cas was great at filling in the gaps of things he’d missed.

Nobody was more surprised than Dean when his end of term exams came back good. He’d thought he was going to fail out, but he didn’t. He was glad, too. Not that he’s started thinking they were worthwhile or liking the school or anything, but he had a routine here now. He’d study with Cas pretty much every evening, and it was good. Every Saturday he spent some time in the afternoon with Sam and on a Sunday he, Cas, Sam and Gabe would go out for lunch. It was pretty okay.

Christmas was a bit of a washout. The school kicked them out so they were back in a motel room with Dad. Gabe and Cas had both offered to take them home but, in truth, they both needed to see their dad. Dean had just missed him. Most of the time it was a quiet kind of missing, but sometimes it was a sharp missing. After all, his entire life had been about pleasing his dad, of course he wanted to be with him.

The problem was, there was a hunt. There was always a hunt. Sam was pissed, the school had gotten his hopes up with fairy lights and a special Christmas dinner and instead they had a motel room and TV dinners. Sam also took the time at home to tell Dad about him and Gabriel.

Dad took it badly. Ranted for a while about how no son of his would be gay which lead to Sam stomping out and disappearing off to god knows where. Dean had stayed behind like the good little son, trying to reason. He’d tried to tell Dad that Gabe was a good guy, that Sam could do a lot worse, but then it all turned on him and why didn’t he stop this and how could he let this guy lead Sam astray.

His dad eventually boiled down to “at least you’re still a man” which made the part of Dean that liked Cas’ hands and his weird sense of humor and the way he didn’t get things and the way he looked at Dean like he was the center of the universe curl up protectively. He took the time to go out and find Sam, a couple of blocks away sat crying down the phone to Gabriel, and hugged him until he calmed down.

That night was the only time he phoned Cas over the holiday. It was weird and awkward but somehow made him feel better.

He also didn’t get any time to go out to bars, between the hunting and Sammy’s little revelation. That was why when he saw Cas again he hugged him and held on for maybe a bit too long. Cas didn’t say anything though so it must have been alright.

Second term they played hockey, and as much as Dean hated organized sport he did enjoy running around and hitting things with a stick. Cas seemed to creep in to more and more corners of his life as time went on. They’d meet after lunch to talk. Not study, just talk. They’d lie on the hill by the maths building and tell stories, share ideas, complain about classes. Sometimes they’d sit a bit too close and Dean would put his hand on Cas’ arm for a little too long but Cas didn’t mind.

Some Sundays Gabe and Sam would be too busy to join them, as term went on, so they’d go out for lunch with just the two of them. The first time it was weird, almost like a date, until Cas asked him if Wendigos were real and then it was just like their lunches.

He finally made it to one of the mixed socials two weeks from the end of term. It was the weirdest party he’d ever been to. The girls stood around in groups giggling and looking at the boys and the boys stood around in groups giggling and looking at the girls. Occasionally someone from one group would break of and go to someone from the other group and gradually couples moved on to what passed as a dance floor. It was all well-lit and above board with no alcohol or funny business. Dean still managed to sneak away with a girl called Anna with long red hair and a lovely smile. He knew Cas was watching them dance but he tried not to think about it. Tried not to think about Cas when he kissed her, or when he took her out back.

Cas had disappeared when he came back in to the hall and he was kind of worried until he showed up as normal for lunch on Sunday. It was then, when Cas smiled to see him, that Dean realized he was in trouble because sleeping with Anna hadn’t made that part of him that he was starting to think was entirely too fond of Cas by anyone’s estimation go away.

Spring break was long and torturous. Back in motel rooms and he still loved the hunting but he kind of missed having Gabe and Cas around all the time. It was almost like they were family by now, it was weird to go so long without them being around. He phoned Cas, in the end. He’d just wanted help with homework but they talked for nearly three hours, until he ran out of credit and his dad yelled at him for wasting money.

He went out a lot, slept with a lot of girls, but none of them managed to make the tightening when he thought of Cas go away. Not even the girl who convinced him to wear ladies underwear, though she got closest.

He was kind of sad, in the end, when he went back for his last term. Classes were going well and it was looking like he’d graduate soon, but that would mean being back hunting with Dad full time and he loved the hunting and he loved his dad but he also loved Sunday lunch and he was getting pretty attached to long afternoon study sessions.

The last term was exams, the big ones. It involved a lot of time in the library. When he got back, Cas presented him with a colour coded study chart and Dean was so in trouble that he actually hung the thing on his bedroom wall just so he could look at it and think about Cas sat at home over the holiday painstakingly making it and thinking about Dean as he did it.

But he wasn’t gay.

~*~*~*~

“Sam, come over here!”

Sam stopped and turned. A few of the boys from his year were sat around in the lobby, a stack of cards in the middle of them. He lifted an eyebrow and wandered over to investigate.

“We need to do you card,” Gregory explained, waving the cards at him.

“What card?” Sam asked, reaching out and trying to snag it, but Gregory just pulled it away.

“Your last chance bar card, idiot. I think we should put down Pamela.”

“That’s a good one,” Raymond agreed, nodding. “How about Anna. She’s definitely out of his league, it’ll be really funny.”

“What is this, exactly?” Sam asked, trying to move in again. He kind of hated that he’d been at this school for so long and he still didn’t know all the little customs and traditions. He definitely didn’t know why a card was being filled out with all these girls’ names for him. He didn’t even know them, though he was pretty certain Anna was the girl Dean had been with at the last mixed social. Just thinking of her made him a big angry, Cas had been so broken up. He and Gabe had given up their evening to sit with him and calm him down. In the end it had been alright, he wasn’t entirely sold on Gabe’s long term plan though.

“Yeah, what is this?” Gabe asked, stepping up from the other direction and grabbing the card. Sam grinned as Gregory blushed, letting it be pulled from his hand. “Anna? Why Sam, you dark horse.”

“I have no idea what’s going on,” Sam informed his boyfriend, stepping round to throw an arm around him. He’d grown through the year and now had a few inches on Gabe. He was kind of wondering how big he was going to be at the end of all this.

“Well, you’re in luck because I’m just the man to explain,” Gabriel replied, reaching over and snagging the pen from the table. The other boys in Sam’s year were suddenly very quiet. They were all a little in awe of Gabriel, his tricks were legendary and only seemed to be getting worse as he moved towards his final year. Sam hadn’t dared to ask him what he was working on for next year yet, he was sure he’d find out eventually.

“See, Sammy, this weekend is the last mixed social of the year.”

“Already?” Sam asked, raising an eyebrow. The mixed socials normally came at the end of term.

“Well, yeah. The end of term’s going to be busy with exams. Since it’s the last mixed social, we call it a last chance social. It used to be only seniors who did it, but it’s kind of spread. The idea is, on these cards you write down the people you wanted to get with but didn’t. Everyone in both schools does one, and then they’re matched up and if you say someone who says you, then you get an e-mail telling you about it so you can get together at the party.”

“That’s kind of creepy,” Sam said, fingering the card. “And I definitely don’t want these people down, then.”

“Oh, most people treat it as a joke but, yeah. There’s always some drama and hurt feelings, it makes it one of the more interesting socials. I think there’s been a problem with your card, though.” He flipped the lid of the pen and crossed out the girls names, replacing them with his own five times. “There, that looks a lot better.”

“Much,” Sam agreed, taking the card. “Want to do your card now?”

“Yeah, I’m putting Kali on mine. She’s smoking hot. I’d love to explore Pandora with her.”

“Gabriel.”

“Only you Sammy. Only ever you.”

~*~*~*~

Dean didn’t want this card, but he knew if he didn’t do it then someone else would do it for him and the guys in his house were jerks. This was the worst idea ever. Were all the people here so bad at getting laid that they needed a service like this to set them up? Couldn’t they just chat to each other like normal people. Go up to the person they liked.

The problem with this was the only knew one girl, Anna, and he didn’t want to get with her again. Even if he put her down just to fill space, it could get really awkward if she put him down too and thought he was being genuine.

He’d asked some of the guys in his classes and they’d given him ideas. Jess was meant to be smoking hot in a blonde leggy way, but a bit too young for him. More Sammy’s age, if Sammy wasn’t in to short guys who were a bit asshole-ish. Lisa sounded good, or Pamela, who was apparently easy and fun.

He hadn’t asked Gabe, because Gabe was in big gay love with his brother. He hadn’t asked Cas because...

It was weird to have something like this that he couldn’t talk about with Cas, because he talked to Cas about everything. Everything.

He jotted in Lisa and Pamela. He put in Kali too, everyone know about Kali, everyone wanted Kali, she was a safe bet. He made up the last two names. Sarah and Jane. There had to be a Sarah and a Jane, right?

He steadily ignored the traitorous part of him that wanted to fill in Cas’ name. Cas had been as good as his word about being friends. Not a thing had been said since that night in the science block about them being anything other than friends, the other guy had probably gotten over him by now. Or, more likely, he’d spent enough time with Dean to realize what a mess he was and that he’d be better with just about anyone else.

Not that he cared. Not that he wanted Cas to want him. He wasn’t gay. Cas was like a brother, that was all. Only not, because he sure as hell didn’t think about Sam like this.

~*~*~*~

“I can’t do this anymore, Gabriel,” Cas said, twirling the card in his hand. It was Thursday but they were having brother time. Sam and Dean were off somewhere, so Cas and Gabe were together. They’d been talking about the card for a good hour. Gabe wanted Cas to fill it in normally, Cas wanted to tear it up and throw it in the bin. “I love him, more than I ever thought I could. I can’t not tell him.”

“I know, and I think you’re nearly there, little brother,” Gabriel said, twirling a pen between his fingers. “I just don’t want you to fall at the last hurdle. Let him get with who he’s put on his card and realize that none of them will be as good as you. Then you can go to him.”

“No. I can’t, Gabe. I can’t watch that again. Anna was hard enough.”

“I know,” Gabe said with a sigh. They all remembered that night. Cas had been a mess, had wanted to go to Dean and offer himself, beg Dean not to do this. Gabe knew, though, that Dean still thought of himself as straight. He’d only have rejected Cas.

Now, now it was less clear. He was it in Dean’s face, sometimes. Dean was starting to realize just how awesome Cas was and how lucky he’d be to have a boyfriend like that. He didn’t think he was quite there yet though, but he knew Cas couldn’t wait much longer. It had been killing him, being so close and yet not being able to do anything about it. Gabe knew there was no way he’d be able to be around Sam all that time and have all these feeling and not be able to even hug him.

“I can’t be his friend, Gabe. It’s killing me. I need to let him know. If he rejects me...if he rejects me it’ll be the worst thing ever but at least it will have happened. I won’t be sat around waiting for it any more. I feel like I’m trapped in purgatory or something, waiting for Dean to notice me and I don’t think he ever will. I just...I can’t.”

“Alright,” Gabe said with a sigh. “I still think that if you sit this out, he’ll come to you, but let’s re-work the plan. I don’t want you to die from a broken heart, after all, just when we’re getting to be such good friends. Put him down. I don’t think he’ll have put you down but put him down.”

“In ever box. I don’t want anyone else but Dean.”

“Okay, in every box. I’ll make sure Dean gets to see what’s on your card, then he’ll be prepared. At least then he’s got no excuse to run or do something stupid.”

“When has he ever needed an excuse to do something stupid?”

“Good point,” Gabriel said with a laugh. “Okay, we can work this. I just hope for you that it works out, kid. I’d hate to think of you losing him after all this work because you rush at the last 100 meters.”

“Now’s the time, Gabriel. I know it. Do you have a pen?”

Gabriel handed the pen over with a sigh. He hoped this worked out. Otherwise Sunday lunch was about to get very awkward.

~*~*~*~

Gabe found Dean that evening down by the sport field. He knew he went jogging in the evenings, which made him laugh since Dean had used to mock joggers so much. He’d just sat on Dean’s preferred route and waited for Dean to come past.

He had kind of debated with this, but he knew Dean was the kind of guy who acted on instinct. If Cas surprised him with a confession then he was going to end up saying or doing something he might regret later. Better to let him plan out what he was going to say then potentially break the heart of the brother Gabriel had just worked so hard to get.

Dean came to a stop when he saw him, dropping down on the bench and stealing a sweet from the pack Gabe was eating.

“What are you doing out here,” he asked, unwrapping the sweet. “Shouldn’t you be with my brother.”

“I’ll see him later,” Gabe said, “Need to talk to you first. Sitting comfortable?”

“Yes?”

“Okay, it’s about the last chance social. Have you filled out your card yet?”

“Course. Why?”

“Who did you put on it?”

“Why should I tell you that?”

“Erm, because it’s important,” Gabriel said, rolling his eyes. If Dean had just been sensible enough to put Cas then everything would be alright. He got a feeling that Dean wasn’t half that capable though.

“I don’t know, some chicks. Kali, some others who’ve probably never heard of me. I made some names up.”

“But not Cas?”

“Why would I put Cas?” Dean asked, tensing up. Interesting, he had something to hide. Maybe Gabe had underestimated how far Dean had fallen. Maybe he was ready for the final push.

“Because you’re in love with him, obviously,” Gabe said, rolling his eyes, and Dean actually blushed. He’d never imagined that he’d see Dean blush, not in a million years, but there he was. It was only faint but it was enough to prove that, yes, Dean had it bad too.

“I am not,” he protested, but it was too late. Gabriel had already seen.

“Please, you’re obvious. It’s okay you know, he likes you too.”

“He doesn’t,” Dean said, hand clenching. “He used to, back at the start, but he doesn’t now. We’re friends, that’s all. It’s all he wants now and that’s fine. It’s better than fine, even. It’s great.”

“Dean...”

“My dad was so angry at Sam for being with you, keeps saying at least I’m not a disappointment. I can do that. My dad means a lot to me, and Cas doesn’t even want me. Not now he knows me. It’s not so bad, really. Me and Dad, hunting things. And I can still be friends with Cas.”

“Cas loves you.”

“He doesn’t.”

“He told me he did,” Gabriel said, keeping his tone low and even. He had an idea about John Winchester. Of course he did, Sam had called him in tears often enough. He didn’t know the specifics though. of course Dean wouldn’t want to disappoint his dad. That might be harder then he thought. “Yesterday. He showed me his card, too. It’s just your name over and over. He loves you, Dean. Fuck knows why but he does.”

“I can’t disappoint my Dad.”

“Then you have to disappoint Cas.”

“I don’t want to...”

“You can’t be what both of them need, Dean. You can’t be your Dad’s straight son and Cas’ boyfriend. Looks like you can take you pick of one or the other, but not both. Either you’re going to let down your dad, or you’re going to let down Cas again.”

“What do I do?” Dean asked, and he looked so lost.

“Can’t help you, sorry,” Gabriel said with a sigh. “You’ve got to ask yourself what’s worth more to you. If you disappoint your Dad you’ll still be his son, even if he is a bastard to you. I think Cas is reaching his limit. He told me he can’t be friends with you any more, Dean. I think if you walk away this time, it really will be it. So, it’s your choice. I can’t help you.”

~*~*~*~

Dean walked in to the last chance social without a plan.

He’d gone over his conversation with Gabriel so many times, he was starting to get sick of it. He certainly felt sick about something. He’d told himself he couldn’t have this, didn’t want it. Cas was just a friend, he wasn’t gay. Neither of them were gay.

He still wasn’t gay, but the thought of Cas leaving hurt. The thought of no more lunches, no more evening study sessions or walks or Sundays out. No more smile or frown or that little laugh Dean sometimes shocked out of him, like he couldn’t quite believe he was laughing at this. No more terrible jokes or weird staring contests.

The thing was, all of that should fade to insignificance when he thought about upsetting his dad. He’d lived his entire life to this point trying to be the perfect little soldier for his dad. Where Sammy had been protected, Dean had always been on the front line of Dad’s war. It wasn’t a war for people who weren’t real men, and people who slept with other men seemed to fall into that boy for his dad.

But Dean didn’t really believe that, not any more. Wanting Cas, and thought he tried to deny it he did want Cas, that didn’t make him weak. Sam could still fight and love Gabriel. Gabriel was still the master of pranks when he loved Sam and maybe Dean could still be a badass hunter and...like Castiel.

But Dad wouldn’t see it like that. Dad would be angry. He’d been so angry with Sammy, it would be worse with Dean. He knew he had no chance of hiding it, either. It he wanted to be with Cas it was going to be work. He was going to have to learn to talk to him in the phone and he was going to have to come back here more often. He’d do it, but his dad would notice. They lived together in a car. It was a pretty big car but, still, there was no way his dad wouldn’t notice.

And then he would be the disappointment.

All this was going though his head as he walked in. He looked around and Lisa caught his eye almost instantly. Lisa was gorgeous, everything he’d list of under his ideal woman to look at. She’d put him down too. He’d got the e-mail that morning. She smiled at him and started to come over and he smiled back. It would be easy. He’d kiss her, she’d let him. They’d have sex, see each other a couple of times maybe and then break if off. Nothing world moving but nice. He’d carry on as he always thought he would. Alone.

As she drew close he looked up. Cas was stood in a corner watching them. Watching him. Waiting to see. He must known by now that Dean hadn’t put his name down. Must be thinking it was all over already.

Lisa lay a hand on his arm.

“Want to dance?” she asked. She smiled, and she did have a lovely smile. A lovely girl. Everything he should be.

“Sorry, darling. I’m afraid there’s been a mix up,” he said, and his feet started carrying him to the corner of the room. He didn’t know where they got of doing that. He hadn’t made his decision yet, there was still time. Still a chance of the life he wanted, of being his father’s son and hunting things and a different woman in every town.

But as he drew closer he saw the look of hope on Cas’ face and he knew that, after all, his decision was made. Cas looked...he looked beautiful. And happy. And Dean had put that there. Cas mattered to him, a lot. He mattered in ways that Dean hadn’t known he could matter, way back when they first met. His dad was going to go mad, everything was going to be horrible between them for a long time, but he would get through that. He would get through that because he had Castiel.

“Dean,” Cas said, the word breathed out like a prayer.

“Cas. Heard you put me on your card.”

“You didn’t,” Cas said.

“I’ve...I’ve kind of been an idiot,” Dean admitted, smiling. “I should have. I don’t want to dance with Lisa, or Anna, or anyone else. Do you really still want me?”

“I never stopped wanting you, Dean,” Cas said, and his voice was tender.

“Well, I guess you can have me, than,” Dean said with a grin, then lent forward to pull Cas in to a kiss.

 

EPILOGUE

It was past midnight when the knock finally came at the door. Castiel was off the couch and moving towards the door before anyone else could do more than blink. He’d been waiting for week for this. The others could have their turns in good time, he got his first.

Dean was stood at the door, grinning, his bag on his shoulder. Cas didn’t hesitate, stepping forward straight in to Dean’s arms. Dean pulled him closer, clinging as thought he couldn’t get him close enough. Cas would agree with that. Sometimes he wanted to disappear in to Dean’s arms and never be seen again. He could be happy to just exist in the circle of Dean’s embrace.

“Hey, miss me,” Dean mumbled in to his ear, and Cas laughed. Of course he’d missed him. Two weeks was nothing to some of the separations they’d had over the last two and a half years, but he still didn’t like it. He’d keep Dean here all the time if he could but he knew Dean could never be happy like that. He had to hunt. All Cas could do was make sure he always had somewhere to come home to.

“You know I do. How was the drive?”

“Too long,” Dean replied, leaning in for a kiss. Castiel sighed against his lips, he’d never get bored of Dean’s kisses. Every one of them was special, every one made him feel loved.

“How long can you stay?” he asked when he drew back.

“I think at least until new year,” Dean said, running a hand up and down Cas’ back. “Dad’s taken a case near Bobby so he’s going to head there when he’s done. Means I should be free for a while, if that’s alright.”

“Of course it is,” Cas replied, leaning in for a kiss. “Come through, the other will want to see you.”

Sam and Gabriel were where he’d left them, in a pile on the couch. Sam was sat with Gabe sprawled in his lap being pet like an overindulged cat. A re-run of some terrible Christmas special was playing on the TV but neither of them were really watching it.

“You don’t have to knock, you know,” Gabe called, tilting his head back. “This is your house too.”

Dean flushed. He clearly hadn’t gotten used to the idea of having a home yet. Their father had bought it for them because Castiel had begged. When he had revealed that he knew about Gabe and the others his father had been furious, so he’d taken the opportunity to throw in the “my boyfriend Dean Winchester” card and got himself disowned for a six months, which had included a rather interesting summer when the four of them had ended up at Gabe’s house. In the end he’d been taken back, though his farther was still clearly uncomfortable with him. The house was meant as an apology. He’d been less than impressed when he found out Gabriel and Dean had moved in too but he couldn’t do anything about it. Gabriel and Cas hadn’t specifically picked the same college, but it had kind of worked out that way. Sam had made it his first choice too so next year it would probably be the three of them, and Dean when he was travelling though. Still, the entire thing was new to Dean. He’d never had a home before.

“Stop teasing him,” Cas said, holding tight to Dean’s hand. Dean snorted, dropping his bag on the floor.

“He wasn’t,” Sam supplied, running a hand through Gabe’s hair. “You really should start treating this like home, Dean.”

“I treat it just fine,” Dean huffed, slinging an arm around Castiel. Cas smiled, turning and hiding his face in Dean’s shoulder. He wanted to stay like that forever, or at least until after new year’s day. Just standing here breathing Dean in.

“How’s final year going?” Dean asked, carrying the conversation on over Cas’ head. Sam laughed.

“Yeah, it’s good. I’m glad to be here for Christmas though. And now you’re here we can decorate. I want a real tree, and lights!”

“Definitely,” Gabe said. “Lots of lights. And candy canes. And mistletoe.”

“What do you need mistletoe for?”

“More kisses, of course. Got to make the most of you while I can. I don’t know why you need to go back to that school. You should drop out and move here, I’ll keep you!”

Dean laughed and Cas drew back to look at him. He was beautiful. So happy and alive and all his. Then Dean looked down at him and smiled and everything in the world was alright. Here under his roof he had his family, the man he loved. Nothing could be better.

THE END