“Do you think there's something wrong with me?" Castiel asked. Hannah paused; her pencil stopped scratching over her math homework as she stared up at Castiel, who had his English textbook laid out before him. His eyes were cast down on the book, but he didn’t see it.
"What do you mean?"
"Well, it's just that…at our age, shouldn't we want what the other kids want? Shouldn't we have at least kissed someone by now? Or, even wanted to try?"
"I don't think so. Not everyone matures at the same rate."
"Are you saying I'm not mature?" he huffed in amusement, thinking of his brother Gabriel. Castiel was positive he was more mature than Gabriel.
"There are different levels of maturity, Castiel," she pointed out, and he nodded.
Castiel Novak was 16 years old and he'd never been kissed. Nor, for that matter, had he been the one doing the kissing. Point was…well. That was the point. And normally, it wasn't a state of affairs he would have been much concerned with. Except that everyone else was.
Well, in a general sense, anyway. No one was making a big deal about whether or not he had kissed anyone, but all anyone at their high school was concerned about was dating and sex, instead of their studies. Even though no one said anything to him – or to Hannah for that matter - they heard plenty of their classmates get blasted for what others saw as a lack of experience.
He and Hannah would sit quietly at lunch and watch the dynamics of the other students playing out. The couples and their kissing, all the boasting. The seemingly inevitable falling outs. The rumors that somehow always made their way around the school. When they got together after school for homework, in the privacy of their homes, occasionally - like today - they would discuss it.
Neither of them got it. Neither of them was interested in anyone at their school. Oh sure, there were plenty of students who were aesthetically pleasing, but Castiel's reasoning was that as a would-be artist, it was of course something he would notice. None of them drew his attention and made him think "I want to date that person." And certainly not to the exclusion of everything else in his life. There wasn't anyone at his school that was the right fit, no one in his school who tempted him. Not that anyone at his school even noticed him or Hannah, usually, other than their teachers.
Castiel supposed he should count himself lucky. High school was rarely either the enjoyable or the horrific extremes he saw portrayed in media and movies; it was a chore to get done and over with, a stepping stone to bigger and better things, better schools and better teachers. He couldn't wait to go to college, to be around other students who actually wanted to be there. It was sure to be a more enjoyable experience.
Neither he nor his best friend were bullied, even though they were among the school’s outcasts. They were quiet, bookish - one might even say nerdy - and stuck with each other as they had since they’d met in elementary school. But aside from the occasional teasing, they were left alone for the most part.
Knowing that both Castiel and Hannah were self-sufficient, their parents didn't often bother them as long as their grades were decent, preferring to focus on the problem siblings in their families. Hannah’s only sister Hester, was not just a pest, but also petty. She loved to steal or destroy things and cast the blame on other people, Hannah being her favorite target. Castiel had enough siblings that giving each of them enough attention was chore enough. Gabriel was especially trying, though he didn’t act out like Hester did, and Castiel’s youngest brother Samandriel struggled at school. At least Castiel’s oldest brother Michael had moved out, so their mother wasn’t constantly running interference between Michael and Gabriel, or Michael and Castiel. Anna did all right, despite being the only girl in a family of boys, so she also didn’t need much support. And Jimmy was…
Castiel preferred not to think about Jimmy.
So, they were largely left alone at home and at school. Neither Castiel nor Hannah’s grades were high enough to cause them to become the target of jealous students. By and large, they coasted through high school unnoticed and unscathed. For the most part, Castiel was happy, though he sometimes wondered what it would be like to be as sociable as his classmates. Hannah told him not to worry about it. They'd graduate in a year and a half and probably wouldn't see most of these people ever again. What did any of it - their social standing, their love life (or lack thereof) - matter when they’d be gone soon? But he couldn't stop himself from worrying, despite Hannah's assurances.
The conversation with Hannah might have satisfied him if his brothers hadn't started pestering him about everything to do with dating and his lack of experience. This eventually led, later that month, to his attending a family gathering with his cousin Lucifer, who had also invited a few of his friends. Castiel was baffled by the idea that he could have brought a friend to a family party. If he'd known that was acceptable, he would have asked if Hannah could come. She would have made a great buffer between him and Lucifer.
Instead, as usual, he was forced to attempt to make nice with his cousin and their family friends as his mother requested, rather than retreating to a corner of the house by himself, as he would have preferred.
This time didn't go as badly as many of his family’s past gatherings had. About halfway through the party, he found himself sitting near a pretty girl named April who was only a few months older than he. She was friendly, and agreed with Castiel that the house was too noisy and crowded, so they left so they could talk.
It turned out he and April had a lot in common. And when Castiel mentioned the colleges he was planning on applying to, she squealed in excitement.
“Oh my God! You’re an artist? Can you design a tattoo for me? I’ve always wanted one,” she gushed.
He flushed in embarrassment. “I’ve never, uh, done something like that before. I suppose I can try? What do you like?”
April hummed before answering, “I was thinking a heart, or maybe a butterfly – oh, I know! I can get both! A butterfly hovering over a heart – won’t that be nice?”
“Um, sure. Where do you think you would put it?” At least it was a simple concept and shouldn’t be hard to design.
“I haven’t decided yet.” April looked at him slyly, “But a friend of mine said she got hers on her ass. Maybe I’ll do that. Then only really special people will get to see it.”
All Castiel could do was blink at her statement. Why would someone want a tattoo on their ass? He shook his head. Just because he wouldn’t want that, who was he to judge?
April chattered on happily, their conversation flitting about and never solidly staying to one subject or another, but always engaging.
By the time he returned from their walk, it was time to go. His mother was both pleased and impatient so he and April exchanged phone numbers and tentatively made plans to hang out. He thought it might even qualify as going on a date. He wasn't sure; he'd never gone on one before. But even if he was wrong, April seemed like she could be a really good friend.
They decided to meet up again to see a movie about a week after they met - a comedy preferably, he was thinking something like Despicable Me and thankfully, it was a film they were able to agree on - but as neither of them had a license, Castiel was left with the unenviable necessity of asking his older brother Gabriel for a lift, which somehow turned into a family outing as Gabriel happily dragged their siblings, Samandriel and Anna, to accompany Castiel and April out on their 'date.'
Castiel frowned. Didn't having his brothers and sister along defeat the purpose of a date? He mentally shrugged since April didn't seem to mind and the movie was good. He was so confused. Maybe they weren't on a date? Regardless, he tried to sit as far away from his siblings as possible. Unfortunately, the theater was crowded and they wound up only two rows apart, much to Castiel's dismay and annoyance, as they threw popcorn off the back of his head throughout the movie. He scowled but April giggled at his siblings’ antics.
He still wasn't getting anything other than a ‘friend’ vibe from her, but he didn’t mind. Of course, now Gabriel was going around making kissy faces and asking when the wedding was going to be. Naomi gushed over the fact that he was "-dating! Oh my sweet darling! You're growing up so fast!" and the next thing he knew, April had been invited over for the family New Year's celebration.
The younger siblings (and the cousins) took over the den while the adults stayed upstairs in the kitchen and living room. Castiel made sure to get to the TV first so he and April could indulge in their love of cheesy movies together. It was one of the many things they had in common, though they had to fight with Gabriel throughout the night as he attempted to steal the remote back and change the station to the Food Network . Thankfully, the rest of their brothers and their sister were too busy playing games at the card table with their cousins to join in on Gabriel's taunting. Castiel was sure Gabriel was antagonizing them on purpose since he had long since been banned from trying to cook.
As midnight approached, April took him aside, crowding Castiel into a darkened corner behind one of the two doors out of the den. His back hit the wall with a thud; surprised, he started. He hadn't realized he'd been backing up as she advanced. His stomach twisted nervously as she invaded his personal space.
"Are you excited?"
"About midnight, silly." She beamed up at him as he tilted his head in confusion.
"I…I don't understand. It's just a countdown. I never understood all the fuss. Am I…missing something?"
"Didn't you know? It's tradition for people to kiss at midnight."
"Oh?" He swallowed. "Uh…I…um…I've…never kissed anyone." He flushed red as he admitted it and her eyes widened, a gasp escaping her.
"Really? You've never kissed at all ?" she exclaimed. He nodded, closing his eyes. "So no French kiss? Not even a peck on the lips? Never…" She trailed off as he shook his head, eyes still closed, his face even redder, the heat of his flush noticeable in his embarrassment. Great, now she knows how different I am and she won’t want to hang out with me any-
"That's okay. I'll teach you." He opened his eyes as his train of thought completely derailed.
" What ?"
She nodded at him and he felt relieved that his inexperience hadn't driven away a potential friend. In the other room, the adults started chanting a countdown and he went from relieved to nervous in under a second. He gulped as he looked down at her. She crowded closer and reached her hands up to cup his cheeks and pull him down.
"You'll want to open your mouth a little," she whispered. At the enthusiastic shout of “ONE!”, his stomach twisted and he hesitantly leaned forward and pressed his lips against hers, parting his lips as she'd instructed. He almost recoiled as he felt her tongue slip inside his mouth. He held still as he tried to imitate what she did but he felt uncoordinated and…and stupid.
Finally she drew away with a smile and he was at first relieved that it was done and then anxious all over again. The kiss hadn't…hadn't done a damn thing. He hadn’t felt anything! He didn't understand what all the fuss was about. There was something wrong with him! The sinking feeling in the pit of his stomach intensified.
She acted like nothing had changed but he knew it was only a matter of time before it came out that their kiss hadn't meant anything to him. Surely she’d know that he hadn't felt anything, not a frisson of excitement or arousal or anything , and then she'd be offended that he hadn't found her attractive enough. Gabriel always said that he could tell how ‘into him’ his partner was just from a kiss. Then again, that was Gabriel.
Yet April acted no different than she had been acting all night. She still sat close with him on the couch as they watched an old Godzilla flicks. She teased his family mercilessly as the others attempted to wrestle control of the TV back from Castiel and April (they had hidden the remote - Castiel was amazed that Gabriel hadn’t found it yet). Castiel felt like he was ready to jump out of his own skin every time she touched him, but he didn’t see any change in her behavior.
Within the hour, the 'night' officially ended. Castiel was relieved when April left with his cousins, taking the apparently one-sided awkwardness with her. Before his brothers or Anna could quiz him, he hurried to his room, shut the door, and locked it for good measure. Were Michael around he might respect Castiel’s space, Samandriel certainly would, but Gabriel couldn't be trusted not to barge in.
Pulling out his phone, Castiel debated texting Hannah. Her family didn't celebrate New Year's, so she probably wasn't awake. It was times like these he really wished Jimmy was around. With a sigh, he put his phone down and rolled over on the bed, pulled the blankets over his head, waited for sleep to claim him, and tried not to think about what had happened and how awful he felt about...about, well, all of it. The awkward kiss and his reaction to it, and his worries about how April would feel if she knew he hadn’t been into the kiss. He groaned and pushed it out of his mind as best as he could.
When Castiel woke the next day, he was anxious to talk to Hannah. He knew she wouldn’t make light of the situation, but when he texted her, there was no answer. Frowning, he walked to her house. It was only as he stood in the empty driveway that he remembered that they were on a family vacation. But that didn’t explain why hadn’t she answered her phone. Had something happened to her?
As worried as Castiel was, he was unable to find out anything more because by the time Hannah and her family returned, Castiel had fallen ill and he was out of school for almost two weeks and she still hadn’t answered any of his texts. He was sick enough that he missed his family’s monthly visit to see his brother in the hospice and his mother wouldn't let anyone visit Castiel, either, lest he prove contagious. As such, Castiel didn't get the chance to talk to Hannah until over four weeks later. He spent those weeks frustrated, thoughts of April and the kiss they had shared swimming through his head. Already miserable because he was sick, thinking about their kiss only made him feel worse.
Before he fell sick, he had attempted to contact April, even though his stomach was a tangle of knots. The phone call had been...less than stellar. She’d seemed distracted before she had blurted out that she had to go and hung up. And that had been that. Maybe April had finally figured out that he’d not enjoyed their kiss and now she was mad at him. But what about their friendship? Wasn’t that worth anything?
When he finally returned to school, he was still pale and weak, with dark circles under his eyes. No one except his teachers or Hannah seemed to have missed him, but he hadn’t expected anyone else to. When he joined Hannah at the lunch table, she smiled but then paused and took a good look at him, her eyes widening.
"Are you alright, Castiel? You don't look so good." Hannah’s expression was concerned, her voice soft.
"I'm fine, Hannah,” Castiel explained. “I couldn't stay cooped up at home any longer. Mom was smothering me." Hannah hummed understandingly. Naomi had a protective streak of her children, especially after…
"How's Jimmy?" asked Hannah hesitantly. Castiel closed his eyes. He’d gone to see Jimmy before he’d gotten sick, before the holidays. Things were, as always, unchanged as Castiel stared down at his brother, a lump in his throat. Jimmy was so pale, so still, nothing like the active child he’d been. His hair was combed back neatly. Jimmy would have hated it. Before the accident, even Gabriel hadn’t been able keep up with Jimmy. Seeing him trapped in a bed never stopped hurting.
"He's…the same. But thanks for asking." Castiel forced his eyes open, gave her a wan smile, and she nodded. Hannah was the only one of their classmates who remembered that Castiel had a twin brother. Jimmy had been in a coma for the last 6 years and Castiel despaired of ever being able to talk with him again. He knew his mother lamented what had happened to Jimmy too, and so Castiel couldn't fault her for being overprotective of the rest of her children – it was why he still didn't have a permit, much less a driver’s license– but it was still so constricting .
"I tried to text you," he said into the awkward silence after a few minutes, taking a huge bite of the sandwich he'd brought from home. Peanut butter and jelly. He supposed it was a childish sort of lunch, but he took comfort from it.
"My phone broke, and my parents refuse to replace it. It's not fair. I'm being punished for someone else's actions." She glared down at her lunch and he was mildly surprised when it didn't burst into flames, her expression was so fierce.
"Hester?" He didn't need to ask, but he did anyway and she sighed and nodded.
"Hester,” she said flatly, affirming his not-quite-a-guess. "What about you and April? You said she was coming over for New Year's, right? How'd that go? And what school does she go to again?"
"I don't remember. Not around here though. And, um…" He hesitated, putting his sandwich down as it suddenly lost all flavor.
"Castiel, what happened?"
"Can we not talk about it here?" he pleaded.
"I'll meet you after school,” she agreed with a nod. “My place or yours?"
Castiel shuddered. "Dear God, not mine. I need a break from mom." She smiled and agreed but Castiel couldn't finish his lunch anyway, even though Hannah and he switched to happier topics, talking about her vacation instead. When the final bell rang, Hannah met him at his locker and the two walked back to her house. He hoped her sister wouldn't be there. The possibility of meeting Hester was the one downside to visiting Hannah's house. Normally they would have gone to Castiel’s home, but he truly couldn't take being around Naomi any longer.
They settled in her room, closing the door to keep their conversation private in case anyone came home early - thankfully, Hester wasn’t there, but she might return at any moment. They took out their homework but they weren’t ready to start working on it. Hannah sat on her bed as Castiel dropped to the floor and leaned against the wall, book propped on his raised knees.
"Okay, what happened?" Hannah broke the silence.
"Well…we, um, we kissed. On New Year's." Castiel fidgeted nervously, picking at the pages of his book.
"What was it like?" She asked, only mildly curious.
"Wet. And…I think I need practice? It didn't…really...seem like much? I must have done something wrong. I called a few days later but she rushed off the phone. I've texted a couple times since but there hasn't been an answer so I stopped. I haven't heard from her since. I must have been awful. But still...I thought, even if it didn't work out, we got along really well. Couldn't we be friends?"
"Not that I have much experience myself, but from what I've seen at school, exes don’t normally part on good enough terms to stay friends."
"That's dumb, nor would it apply since we weren’t dating. We’re not exes." Castiel countered.
Hannah opened her mouth to reply but was interrupted by Castiel’s phone ringing. It startled them both and Castiel jumped, his books sliding to the floor, and patted down his pants and slipped a hand into his pocket. Pulling his phone out, he frowned at the caller ID.
"It's Lucifer," he said, puzzled.
"Your cousin?" she asked. Castiel nodded and slid his thumb across the face of the phone.
"Hey Cassie!" His eyes narrowed at Lucifer's tone. It was the " I have gossip " tone. Past experience told Castiel that Lucifer didn’t care if his gossip was hurtful; he’d talk happily about anyone regardless.
"Don't call me that." Castiel huffed in exasperation.
"Yeah, sure, Cassie.” Lucifer never cared about Castiel’s preferences. “So, I thought you should know that I did let April know you were really, really sick the last few weeks." This time Lucifer’s tone was clearer, almost gleeful, though he tried to hide it with sympathy. Castiel was suspicious instantly.
"Just thought you'd want to know that she didn't seem to care much. Just shrugged and said, 'Oh well.' I mentioned she might want to visit you and she said 'What for?' So…what'd you do to piss her off?"
Castiel’s stomach sank .
So I did do something wrong. Was she never interested in being my friend? Was dating and eventually sex all she wanted? And when I couldn't measure up, she just dropped me?
"I have no idea," Castiel said shortly. "I have to go, Lucifer. I'm busy."
"All right Cassie, I'll keep you updated."
If Castiel closed his eyes, he could almost see his cousin’s maniacal smile and he shuddered even as he hung up. He’d detested Lucifer since Castiel had caught him torturing a poor cat when they were younger.
Hannah waited a few moments for Castiel compose himself. Finally, she asked, "What happened?"
"Well, Lucifer just confirmed that April couldn't care less about me as a friend. So I guess that backfired."
"It's alright, Castiel,” Hannah said brightly. “There are other fish in the sea." He shook his head as they returned back to their homework, but he couldn't stop wondering whether there was something wrong with him.
Castiel felt even more broken when his mother’s favorite brother died and all he felt was intense relief. Everyone around him was grieving, but Uncle Zach had always made Castiel uneasy.
Castiel dreaded each wake. People assumed he was grieving and kept pulling him into hugs that lasted too long for his comfort. He was unwilling to pull away from the awkwardness because he didn’t want to belittle their grief or their attempts to comfort. He spent most of his time at the funeral parlor sitting in a corner, or out in the hall, trying to hide from the crowd.
Zachariah was buried in the same graveyard as Castiel’s father, Chuck, though Zachariah wasn’t related to Chuck’s side of the family. Julian, Castiel’s paternal grandfather, was the graveyard caretaker and he said a few words over Zachariah, all the usual platitudes Castiel had stopped believing in years before. The religion his father, Chuck, had believed so strongly in no longer brought Castiel any comfort.
Michael, of course, had something to say about Castiel’s lack of emotion. When it came to Castiel, he always had something unkind to say. Memories of their argument at Castiel’s father’s funeral were part of why Castiel hid throughout Zach’s. Unfortunately, Michael had other ideas. He waited until most of the well-meaning friends had attendees had gone, leaving only family in the house to witness his tirade against Castiel.
“Are you some kind of an alien ?” Michael's lips curled into a sneer as he blocked Castiel’s escape route.
“What?” After the fight at his father’s funeral, Castiel had expected Michael to treat him poorly now that Uncle Zach was dead, but he hadn’t thought Michael would make a public scene.
“Don’t you care about anyone other than yourself?” hissed Michael. “You didn’t even mourn Dad properly – you’re more concerned with Jimmy, who isn’t even dead!”
“How dare you?” Castiel seethed, his hands clenching into fists. “You don’t know the depth of my feelings! Just because I don’t choose to make a spectacle of myself!” There was no need for Castiel to admit that in Uncle Zach’s case, Michael was right, and Castiel truly didn’t care.
“Our grief is not a ‘spectacle,’ you disrespectful little – ” Michael started, but Naomi’s voice cut him off, sharp and angry.
“Michael! This is neither the time nor the place.” Their mother paused, her voice gentling, “Not everyone grieves in the same way. Your brother has always been more reserved than, say, Gabriel.” Michael snorted and rolled his eyes. Naomi narrowed hers but continued. “At such times, a family needs pull together, not tear each other apart. Your behavior is unacceptable. You need to show the proper respect.”
She turned and the brothers stood silently, watching her retreat, her heels clicking against the floor. Reluctantly, they glanced at each other – Castiel wary, Michael still glaring, his lips pressed tightly together. Then he, too, turned, and stalked away. Castiel watched Michael go, willing his fists to unclench. He startled when an arm fell across his shoulders.
“What an ass. I have no idea why mom didn’t slap him in the face,” Gabriel said. He patted Castiel on the back. “Don’t take what he said to heart, ‘kay li’l bro? You listen to mom instead.”
Castiel carefully looked around to make sure no one else was in earshot before he responded to Gabriel. “It’s just…I’m not sure he’s wrong, Gabe.”
“What do you mean?” Gabriel tried to catch Castiel’s eye as the younger teen shrugged.
“What is wrong with me? Why I didn’t cry at dad’s funeral? Or…or today, at Uncle Zach’s?” The name left a bitter taste in Castiel’s mouth. Castiel pulled his attention back to Gabriel.
“Yeah, well, I hate to say it, because I know mom loved him, but I didn’t really like Uncle Zach either. He always looked at me funny. Gave me the heebie jeebies.” Gabriel shivered exaggeratingly and managed to get a small smile from Castiel.
Castiel felt better to hear that, but…the smile faded “What about Dad?” he asked quietly.
“Cassie, you were a kid. Dad did a shit job of connecting with anyone under 16. Not that he was much better with folks older than that…but…” Gabriel shrugged and continued. “He wasn’t around much either, and when he was, he was always pushing his religious agenda. Don’t know about you, but that used to bug the hell outta me. And you did mourn, just not for Dad. Frankly, Jimmy meant more to this family than Dad did,” Gabriel said, grabbing Castiel in tight a hug. “Don’t let Michael get to you, okay? Being different isn’t bad. Being an asshole, on the other hand…well, not sure there’s a cure for that.”
Castiel snorted a laugh and Gabriel grinned. Dropping his arms, he took a bow and said, “Now I must be off, as it looks like my work here is done. I need to spread my cheer on this oh-so-somber occasion!”
With a sigh, Castiel watched him head towards a group of cousins talking by the food table. Gabriel was good at socializing. Castiel could have faked sympathy, but he would rather be alone than pretend he’d ever liked Uncle Zach. He slipped away when no one was looking his way and escaped outside despite the cold. He was glad when the funerals were over.
Valentine’s Day was soon after the funeral and Castiel briefly entertained the idea of doing something for April. He hadn't heard from her in months and whatever they might have been was moot now. Lucifer still called him up to gleefully expound on how April had given Valentine’s cards to every cute boy in school (including him) and Castiel rolled his eyes at Lucifer’s pointless attempts to stir drama.
Once the holiday passed, Castiel finally managed to put April out of his mind, and with her most of his doubts about himself, long before the next family gathering in early May.
Of course, April was there.
It had been more than four months since they'd seen each other last. At his mother's request, Castiel was still trying to get along with Lucifer, so he had no choice but to hang out with April too.
She acted like nothing had happened.
She greeted him cheerfully, slung her arms around one of his and tried to snuggle up against him as they sat in Lucifer’s room. Castiel was stiff as a board and immensely confused. What, exactly, was going on?
Every time another of Lucifer’s friends arrived, April introduced Castiel as her boyfriend. He tried to question her with a look, not wanting to make her appear foolish in front of her friends by correcting her, but she was either ignoring him or didn't catch his discouraging expression. The day was agony as he waited for a chance to get April alone so they could talk.
Finally, finally , they had a moment to themselves. She smiled at him happily and his gut churned. He had to confront her. He took a breath.
"April, I don't understand. Why are you telling everyone I'm your boyfriend?"
"Cause you are," she beamed.
"But we haven't even spoken in months,” he said. He felt horribly guilty even though he didn't think he’d done anything wrong. “And shouldn't one of us have actually asked the other out? That…is how it works, isn't it?"
"What are you saying?" April’s asked, her face blank, making Castiel flounder, unsure of how to proceed. Did she truly not understand, or was she mad and trying to hide it? With no social cues to go on, he forged ahead and nourished the small hope that she wouldn’t react badly.
"I'm saying we're not dating, April. I mean, maybe we could have reached that point but we hadn't progressed to dating dating and…I don’t think I'm wrong...if we cared about each other, shouldn't we have made an effort to see or talk to each other at all these past four months?" He didn't mention that he had made an effort, since he wasn't interested in dating her anyway. He’d hoped to salvage their friendship, but he was certain he was torpedoing that possibility with this conversation.
"Does this mean…are you breaking up with me?" She looked at him uncomprehendingly and he sighed, rubbing at his forehead with his right hand.
"I'm saying we were never together to begin with, and I don't think we should try to be either. To be honest, I don't think I'm boyfriend material. And you don’t seem like you're interested in anything other than that."
"Oh." Her face had finally broken from its blank, uncomprehending mask to show the shock underneath. Tears pooled in her eyes but didn’t fall.
"I'm sorry, April." God dammit . Castiel wasn't in the wrong here! But if that was true, then why did he feel like he was as she stared at him, clearly upset?
"Castiel!" Naomi called to him and he turned toward the sound of her voice, taking a step that way before stopping to look back at April.
"I'm sorry, but I have to go. Are you going to be alright?" His question seemed to snap her out of her daze and she pasted a big grin on her face despite the wetness of her eyes. He almost flinched at how fake her smile was.
"Oh, yeah, sure, I'm fine! Go on! Don't want your mother hunting you down, right?" He hesitated another few seconds and then nodded, walking away only after he tried to impart a farewell on his way out. She merely nodded and turned away from him and he sighed as he joined his siblings at the front door with his mother.
Gabriel goofed off in the car as Castiel stared out the window with guilt clouding his thoughts. Samandriel and Anna both fell asleep quickly, and Castiel could only be grateful that Gabriel was in the front seat and not the back. It made it harder for Gabriel to notice anything was wrong and make a brotherly attempt to help.
The ride wasn’t long, and he couldn’t wait to get out of the car and back to the safety and privacy of his room. He’d barely shut the door when his phone rang. He groaned when he saw it was Lucifer. Resigned, he answered.
"Cassie, Cassie, Cassie, what did you do?" chided Lucifer. Castiel was surprised at the lack of snark in his cousin’s voice. There was some smugness perhaps, a great deal of curiosity, and something else Castiel couldn’t identify but surely meant nothing good.
"To what, specifically, are you referring?" Castiel was pretty sure there was only one thing Lucifer could be talking about. Lucifer only ever called about April..
"After you left, April broke down. She stumbled into my room and dropped on the bed sobbing. When we asked her what was wrong, she was all wailing and crap, 'My boyfriend broke up with me!' and then she went ballistic! You don't even wanna know how much stuff she broke. Why'd you break up with her?"
Castiel sighed and rubbed his forehead. He felt a headache coming on. Just wonderful. "I didn't break up with her because we were never going out to begin with. We haven't seen each other since New Year’s. We’ve hardly even talked since then. How could anyone think we were dating?"
"But she told everyone that she was your girlfriend!" Lucifer sounded stunned. "Why didn't you say anything when she kept calling you her boyfriend at the party?"
"She must have had her reasons, which was why I spoke with her privately. I didn't want to shame her in front of her friends. but there was no way I wasn't going to clear that up with her."
"I suppose that makes sense," Lucifer said dubiously.
After a few more minutes of useless, pointless chitchat with his least favorite cousin – no wait, second least favorite, there was always Metatron – he hung up and turned off his phone. He flopped down on the bed and stared at the ceiling.
Was there something wrong with him? Or had everything that had gone wrong been April’s weirdness? Or maybe there was something wrong with both of them ? Castiel wasn’t sure if something was wrong with April, but he was positive there was something wrong with him. Why wasn't he attracted to anyone? Why didn't he care if he ever dated or kissed? Left to his own devices, he’d be fine if he never did those things. He'd always been a little different…maybe Hannah was right. Maybe he was just a late bloomer.
He had to stop thinking about this. Dating wasn’t all there was to life, so why couldn’t he just let it go? All thinking about it did was make him anxious, and he hated feeling that way.