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Open My Eyes

Chapter Text

It went from an ordinary day to the day that would eventually mark the beginning of the disappearance of normalcy from their lives, Dean’s in particular, in less than ten seconds.

Dean wasn’t actually with Sam at the time, although Sam had been speaking to him via cell phone. Dean hadn’t gotten to see Sam as much since his promotion, but they called each other often.

Sam had been driving, eyes fixed on the road, Bluetooth headset in his ear, when the other car came barreling into him. He had maybe a second to for the realization of what happened to sink in before the impact happened, and there’s the sound of breaking glass.

The next thing Sam knew, he was lying on his back on cold pavement, and there’s a figure blocking the sun. Blue eyes were squinting down at him as he sat up. Sam couldn’t hear anything for a minute, could barely even see, and then everything cleared up and the angel hovering over him said, “Are you all right?”

“Yeah,” Sam managed, somewhat out of breath, “thanks to you.”

The angel straightened up, and Sam blinked at the sudden rush of sunlight against his eyes.

“Seriously,” Sam said, standing too, “thanks.”

“Don’t thank me,” the angel said, not looking at him, “it’s my job now.” And then he spread his wings, huge black things, and took off.

Sam was too shaken to do anything other than call Dean. His Bluetooth had been lost in the crash, but his cell was still in the front pocket of his suit, virtually undamaged.

The phone didn’t even have time to ring once before Dean picked up, “Sam? Are you okay?”

“Yeah, I’m fine Dean,” Sam said, “I got into a car accident.”

“What happened?”

“Relax Dean,” despite nearly having just died, Sam had to roll his eyes at his brother’s tone. Dean always seemed to have trouble understanding that Sam didn’t want his older brother breathing down his neck all the time.

When it became obvious that Dean was waiting for an answer, Sam sighed and said, “I’m part of Protection for Pay now, remember? I almost got into a car crash, and my angel saved me.”

“It’s not your angel,” Dean bit out, “yeah, I’m glad you’re okay, but you’re not the only one paying it to do this. If you didn’t, it wouldn’t give you the time of day.”

“First of all, it’s not an it, it’s a he,” Sam retorted, “and second of all, he saved my life.”

“Which he wouldn’t have done if you weren’t paying him for it.”

“You’re the one who was always on my back, Dean, remember?” Sam snapped, “Now you don’t have to worry about it. I was hoping for a little support, but I guess I should have known better.” He hung up the phone.

Back at his work, Dean pulled the phone away from his ear and stared at it. Sam was hanging up on him more and more lately. Dean wasn’t entirely sure what he was doing wrong, but he felt like he was losing his brother.

He turned to the computer and pulled up SaveTube. Surprisingly, “Castiel’s” (from what Dean had read in the news, Castiel Godsent was the angel that had been assigned to his brother) latest save hadn’t been uploaded yet. It was kind of strange. Unlike other angels, Dean had a hard time finding much that Castiel had done publicly. But he was still an angel, and therefore he was a selfish bastard. They all were. But this one had saved his brother’s life, so he supposed there was something he ought to do.

***

The bar was dimly lit, filled with people. Every booth was jam-packed with people, and it was hard to find room to walk. It was, after all, the most popular bar in town. There was a space set apart, however, where there was only one person, sitting idly in a chair and staring at the wall. He didn’t have a drink, and no one approached him, but just about everyone glanced over every few seconds.

When Dean pushed the door open, a few people glanced his way, and from behind the counter Jo called out a greeting. Dean nodded to her, but that was it. The crowd didn’t part for him, so he shoved his way through.

Dean didn’t stop until he got to the roped off section. He all but completely ignored the rope, stepping over it. The man sitting there turned his blue eyes toward Dean in a look of confusion.

“Castiel Godsent?” Dean asked, not needing confirmation but asking anyway.

“That is me,” the angel replied, still frowning, “you’re not allowed-“

“Look, I don’t give a damn about where I am and aren’t allowed,” Dean interjected, “I just wanted to say thanks.”

“For what?” Castiel asked. He obviously had no clue who Dean was.

“You saved my brother’s life today,” Dean said shortly, “and I wanted to say thank you.”

“Your brother…Sam Winchester?” Castiel finally put together, “you do not need to thank me. I was simply doing my job.”

“Yeah I know,” Dean said harshly, “all you ever do is your job. But he’s my brother, and just because he has to pay you to keep him safe doesn’t mean I’m not happy that he’s alive.”

Dean turned to leave, but Castiel said, “wait.”

“What?” Dean asked irritably.

“I just…you do not seem to appreciate what angels do,” Castiel murmured.

“That’s because I don’t,” Dean’s tone said everything, “helping people for money is as bad as not helping them at all.”

“Your hospitals do the same thing,” Castiel countered, although there was something inquisitive in his voice, “is that different?”

Dean was tempted to fly off the handle at the angel, but he managed to calm himself. His retort was simply, “if you were human, you’d understand.” He left, Castiel staring after him in confusion, people whispering to each other as the man stalked out of the bar.

***

Dean honestly hadn’t meant to spend that much time talking to Castiel. He had just wanted to get in and get out. But, unfortunately, that hadn’t happened, and now the media was all over it. One of the few stories that weren’t about Angel City, a.k.a. Los Angeles, was accompanied by a shot of Dean standing over the angel, looking a lot more threatening than he had imagined. Apparently everyone was curious about why one of the local mechanics was talking to an angel. There were rumors circulating about how Dean must have met him through Sam, apparently forgetting that Sam and Dean were not on the best of terms.

Dean scoffed as he read the article and got ready for work.

Bobby was waiting for him at Singer Salvage, “heard you were talking to one of our local angels yesterday.”

“Does it matter?” Dean groused. He wanted to work, not talk about Castiel.

“Well, I know he saved Sam,” Bobby said, “I just figured you’d be grateful to the guy. It looked more like you wanted to rip the guy’s head off.”

“I don’t want to talk about it,” Dean muttered, sitting down behind the counter and kicking his feet up. Bobby accepted this to be the end of the conversation.

Dean wished that would be the end of it. He honestly did. As far as he was concerned, if he never heard about Castiel again, it would be too soon.

That wasn’t the end of it. Jo was the first one in, and Dean knew for a matter of fact that there was nothing wrong with her car, because he had just given it a tune up a few days ago. But she had come in and asked him to check it out again.

Normally when she dropped her car off with Dean, Jo would skip off with Dean’s baby. Jo was one of the few people (the list was comprised of her and Sam) other than himself that Dean would let drive his baby (or, more accurately in the case of Jo, couldn’t stop from driving his baby). This time was different. Jo followed him out to the garage, and Dean knew what she was going to ask before she even opened her mouth.

As he slid under the car, Jo said, “I saw you last night, talking to Castiel Godsent.”

“So?”

“So, everyone wants to know how you know the guy. They keep asking me, but I can only tell them that it happened in Mom’s bar. Honestly, it’s amazing that he comes in at all, given how it’s not exactly a five-star joint, but he never talks to anyone there. So why are you any different?”

“Maybe because I don’t give a fuck about whether or not an angel wants to talk to me. I just wanted to say thanks for saving Sammy’s life and be done with it,” Dean said, “end of story.”

“So there’s nothing else?” Jo pressed, “You don’t know him at all?”

“I know he’s an angel, and therefore an ignorant asshole,” Dean snapped.

Jo shook her head, “I don’t know why you feel that way about angels. They’re so amazing!”

Dean didn’t answer. It didn’t matter how many times he said it. No seemed to get that Dean wasn’t impressed by angels. Sure they could fly and stop time and stuff, but they never did it just to help out. They only ever helped people who were paying them for it.

Jo went to say something else, but Dean cut her off, “I don’t want to talk about Castiel Godsent, or angels, or anything else, okay? I just want to do my job.”

After that, Jo didn’t say anything else. As Dean had assumed, there wasn’t anything wrong with the car, and he’d told Jo exactly that, sounding a little surly as he did so.

After Jo had left, Dean had waited for another customer. And unfortunately, he hadn’t been disappointed. The only problem was that no one seemed interested in having their car fixed. All anyone wanted to know about was Dean’s conversation with Castiel the previous night. Dean was extremely tired of saying that he was just saying thank you for saving Sam’s life and that there was nothing else to it.

God, he couldn’t wait for this all to be over.

Chapter Text

Castiel had returned home confused. It was illogical for Dean Winchester to hate him so openly. Angels were loved. They saved people. Everything Castiel knew told him that Dean should have been falling over himself just because Castiel hadn’t brushed him off when he spoke to him.

That hadn’t happened. But why did he care? As far as he was concerned, Dean Winchester was just another human, the brother of one of his Protections. His opinion of Castiel didn’t matter.

“Castiel?” his sister had called from the kitchen the moment he entered the house, “is that you?”

“Yes, it’s me,” Castiel had responded. He entered the kitchen, bracing himself for the onslaught that was surely about to come.

“Look who’s finally home,” Gabriel had his feet up on the table and was sucking on a bright red lollipop. His lips were almost the same shade. “What’s up little bro?” the older angel smirked at him.

“Nothing,” Castiel murmured, “I just got home a little late, that’s all.”

“You know it’s one thing to be late because of a social event, but it’s entirely different to be late because you’ve been sitting in a bar, drinking with humans,” Anna chided him. His older sister had been the one to take charge of the house rules after their mother had died. That was, when his father wasn’t taking charge of them.

“I made a save today,” Castiel offered weakly, but he knew that wouldn’t satisfy his siblings.

“Yeah, we heard,” Gabriel still had that smirk plastered to his face, “we heard about it on the news. Which is odd, because I couldn’t find the video on SaveTube. And we were wondering what our silly little brother was thinking, not posting it.”

“I don’t like the attention,” Castiel muttered, “You know that.”

“I mean,” Gabriel went on, ignoring Castiel’s comment, “it couldn’t possibly be because it slipped your mind. You certainly weren’t busy talking to mechanics who don’t mean squat to the TV community. Why on earth would you do a silly thing like that?”

Castiel’s heart dropped out of his chest, “you heard about that? It’s been an hour.”

“So you’re not denying it?” Anna asked sharply.

Now Castiel knew what this was. It’s an intervention. They’ve done it before, and it always led to their father finding out. And when he found out about whatever it was Castiel had supposedly done wrong, Castiel had always ended up well in over his head.

“It didn’t slip my mind,” Castiel said, grasping at straws, trying to get the conversation into safer territory, “I didn’t post it on purpose. I just don’t think that’s something that needs to be advertised.”

“Of course it does!” Anna sounded scandalized, “Castiel, this is exactly why we live out here in Lawrence instead of somewhere like New York City, or I don’t know, Los Angeles.” Castiel flinched slightly at her tone. She always said Lawrence like she was talking about a dog that had pooped on her shoe. And when she talked about Los Angeles, Angel City, she sounded reverent, worshipful.

Castiel had long since been blamed by his family for their lack of popularity. After being commissioned, Castiel’s name had become almost completely obscure. He was practically a nobody in the angel community, and his family hated that. Gabriel did tons of commercials and Anna modeled for stores, and of course they did Protection for Pay, but it seemed that nothing they did could make up for their shy, messed up little brother. He was the freak of the family, and he hated it. But Castiel had lived with it for his whole life, and getting upset now wouldn’t change anything.

“When Father comes home, he’s going to be furious,” Gabriel sounded thrilled, like his little brother’s pain was the most exciting thing in the world.

Castiel was tired of having the conversation over and over again. He just wanted to go to bed and get some sleep. He could use it.

“I’ll be in my room,” he murmured, walking out of the kitchen.

“Don’t think this is over, Castiel!” Anna called after him.

Castiel ignored her. He didn’t believe it was over by any stretch of the imagination, but it felt better to get a few moments of peace in between the scoldings he had to endure.

In his bedroom, Castiel flopped back onto his bed less than gracefully. He stared up at the ceiling, which had long since been covered by a mural depicting famous scenes from angel history, as per his father’s wishes. Castiel knew every detail by heart, and had once, without his father finding out, taken a stepladder and proceeded to make a few additions of his own to the painting. No one had ever noticed, because no one ever came in Castiel’s room.

It wasn’t that Castiel went out of his way to be the bad child. It had just happened like that. Not that he would tell anyone, but on occasion Castiel had felt maybe the slightest hint of jealousy of humans. They could quietly be nobodies in peace, without others breathing down their necks.

That must have been part of the reason Castiel kept being drawn back to the thought of Dean Winchester. The way he had practically sneered down at Castiel, had had a retort for everything that Castiel had offered, it had made him feel…small. Yes. He had felt small and insignificant, and he had almost, almost agreed with this man that he didn’t know in the slightest. Castiel had wished more than once that the angels could go back to the old ways, saving people anonymously. Then no one would know that angels existed and Castiel could stay out of the spotlight.

Castiel didn’t try to push the thought of the…mechanic, Gabriel had said...from his mind this time. He considered the man’s opinion, how he had said that the way angels ran things was wrong. And maybe Castiel didn’t quite agree with his reasons, but he certainly agreed with the concept.

His father came home an hour later. Castiel knew the exact moment the door opened to reveal his father, because Anna was practically shrieking, “Castiel! Get down here!”

Castiel sighed and stood up, setting his book down on the bed. It was reluctantly that he traipsed down the stairs into the front hall to ‘greet’ his family.

His father had already hung up his coat, so he was waiting intently for Castiel. “Where’s my hello?” he asked, a smile that was so similar to Gabriel’s smirk playing against his lips.

“Hello, Zachariah,” Castiel bit out. His father never let his children call him anything resembling ‘dad’, and the closest they ever got was calling him ‘father’.

“Hello to you too, Castiel,” Zachariah responded, “congratulations, by the way. I heard you made quite an impressive save.”

And so it began. “Yes,” Castiel responded tersely.

“I tried to find it on SaveTube,” Zachariah continued, “but I forgot. You never upload your videos, do you? I have to beg and plead until you post them.”

Zachariah had never begged Castiel for anything. He had, though, once ripped Castiel’s angel-cam off of him and posted the videos himself before returning it.

“I’m sorry to inconvenience you,” Castiel had the appropriate answers drilled into his brain at this point.

“I accept your apology,” Zachariah said, and to anyone who didn’t know the family, it might have sounded gracious. From where he was leaning against the banister, Gabriel snickered around his lollipop, and Anna elbowed him to be quiet.

“Now,” Zachariah went on, “I was going to let this whole incident slide, but then I heard a very interesting rumor. Would you like to hear it?”

“Yes.” No.

“I heard,” Zachariah was still smiling, but there was that harsh glare creeping in behind the smile now, “that this evening you were in Harvelle’s Roadhouse. Which, I normally tolerate because you keep to yourself, if I’m not much mistaken.”

“You’re not,” Castiel murmured.

“See, the difference was, today I’m on my way home, and you know what I hear on the radio?”

“That I had spoken to a human?” There’s just the slightest trace of sarcasm in Castiel’s voice, not enough for Zachariah to pick up on.

“That you spoke to a human,” Zachariah repeated, twisting the phrase that had sounded perfectly innocent in Castiel’s voice into something that sounded much worse, like Castiel had sold his soul to the devil, “and if he had been a Protection of yours, I wouldn’t have been bothered. A little socializing with them is required every now and again. But no. You spoke to a human you didn’t even know. He wasn’t famous, he wasn’t on the radio or the TV, he can’t even afford Protection for Pay, and you spoke to him.”

“He started talking to me!” Castiel protested, breaking protocol. This was normally the part where Castiel apologized for the first time.

Zachariah frowned, obviously a little confused by Castiel’s retort, but he quickly gathered himself back together, “then you should have ignored him. You’re so good at ignoring any reporters that find you, why should some mechanic be any different.”

Castiel wanted to retort, wanted to say that Dean Winchester had only been thanking him and that was it, but he couldn’t force the words out of his mouth.

“You’re a disgrace, Castiel,” Zachariah spat, “you’re a disgrace to angels everywhere, but especially to your own family.”

For one, fleeting moment, Castiel saw red. “Why?” he ground out, “because I don’t lie down and let you walk all over me? Because I happen to like my life to be somewhat private, and not broadcasted for everyone to see? Yes, I spoke to a human that I didn’t know, and yes I’m aware that he wasn’t a Protection. But it’s not like he was proposing marriage! He just wanted to say thank you for saving his brother’s life! Is that really a crime?”

Zachariah’s face darkened, “go to your room, Castiel.”

“I’m not a child anymore,” Castiel shot back, “I’m twenty-five years old. You cannot continue to act as if I have to do what you say!”

“As long as you are part of this family, you do!” Zachariah roared back at him.

“I’ve never been part of this family!” and now Castiel was yelling, something rare enough that even Gabriel stopped smirking and looked surprised, “you all have walked all over me, and treated me like crap, and told me how to live my life, but not once has any of you asked how I felt about something! Am I even your son?” He didn’t give Zachariah a chance to answer, “You never treated me like you cared about me, and as far as I’m concerned, that means we’re not family!”

There was a deadly silence following Castiel’s words. He was breathing heavily, not realizing how exhausting it would be to get those words off his chest. He stared at Zachariah defiantly, waiting for him to make the next move.

It was with a great deal of restraint that Zachariah said, in a completely calm voice, “if that’s what you really think, you can leave. Good luck with life on your own, Castiel.”

Castiel blinked. Zachariah was giving him an unvoiced decision. Stay and beg forgiveness for what he had said, or leave until he was ready to do so. But the last thing Castiel was going to do was take back what he had said. So he turned away from his siblings and father, opened the door, and marched into the night without looking back.

Chapter Text

As soon as he was clear of the driveway, Castiel broke into a run, his huge black wings springing from his back and blending in with the night as he took off. He wasn’t entirely sure what he was going to do now, and part of him wanted to go back to what he knew. The majority of him rejected that idea. He was free now. Free from Zachariah, free from his siblings, free to make decisions that were his own. And yeah, he probably should have thought it through a little more, but the combined euphoria of flying and leaving was still rushing through his veins, he couldn’t bring himself to care too much.

He let himself fly, losing track of the time, and when he finally snapped out of his daze, the sky was lightening. He should find a place to lay low for a while, he knew. And there was only one person he trusted to talk to.

Setting down lightly behind Harvelle’s Roadhouse (which also happened to be where the owner lived with her daughter and a man Castiel believed to be called Ash), Castiel folded up his wings and knocked lightly on the back door.

Fortunately, it was Ellen who opened the door, and not her angel-smitten daughter. Ellen frowned at him in confusion, “Castiel? What are you doing here? Do you know what time it is?”

Castiel ducked his head. There was something about Ellen that made you want to apologize for whatever it was you may or may not have done wrong. “I am sorry for disturbing you,” Castiel said quietly, “but I couldn’t think of anyone else to come to.”

“Speak up, sugar,” Ellen said, the no-nonsense tone had an underlying confusion.

“My father kicked me out,” Castiel told her, finally looking her in the face, “and I know it’s a lot to ask, but I don’t have anywhere to stay…” He trailed off, unsure what else to say.

“Is that all?” Ellen asked, “You want to stay here for a little while?”

“I can pay you,” Castiel murmured.

Ellen waved that off, “don’t worry about that. The way I figure, I owe you one. It’s thanks to you that I get so much business, and I have some extra rooms anyway. But watch out for Jo. If she finds out you’re here, I can’t be held responsible for her following you around.”

“Thank you,” Castiel smiled slightly, “you are truly a wonder, Ellen Harvelle.”

“Flatterer,” Ellen muttered. Then, louder, she said, “you look exhausted. I’ll show you to your room.” When he hesitated, she gestured for him to follow her into the house.

The room was very simple, and resembled a one-bed hotel room. To Castiel, it looked like Heaven. “Thank you,” he said again.

“You’re going to be one of those guests that gets on your nerves with how grateful they are, aren’t you?” Ellen said with only a hint of a groan, “Get some sleep, angel.” She stepped out and closed the door behind her.

Castiel shed his coat and suit jacket (almost a habit for him to wear suits at this point) and collapsed onto the bed. Within seconds, he was asleep.

When he woke up again, sun was coming through the window. Castiel sat up and stretched, frowning in confusion for a moment before he remembered what had happened the previous night. He rolled his shoulders, wings aching slightly from using them for so long.

Despite wanting to stay in bed longer, it was already past noon, and Castiel needed to be prepared on the off chance that something happened to one of his Protections. He had considerably fewer of them than most angels, but there still were quite of few of them in the general area, and one or two of them had previously attempted to hurt themselves on purpose just to have him save them. Those were the people that Castiel didn’t understand. No matter how good he was, he wasn’t invincible.

And along the lines of needing to do things, Castiel only had the clothes he was wearing. He had some things buried in the back of his closet that, even if Zachariah tried to clear out his room (Castiel wouldn’t put it past him to pretend that Castiel had never existed at all), he probably wouldn’t find.

He pulled his coat back on (it was a trench coat, a gift from his mother when it was much too large for him, but he wore it as much as possible anyway), and pulled open the door. After checking to make sure Jo wasn’t there, Castiel went out the back door, taking care to walk almost a mile before taking off. It wouldn’t do to have reporters swarming the Roadhouse.

At this time of day, Gabriel was probably still asleep, but Zachariah and Anna would be long since gone. It was likely that there wouldn’t be anyone in the house to stop him. Even so, Castiel landed on his balcony rather than walking in the front door (all the bedrooms had them, including the guest rooms).

His room was untouched, thank goodness. Castiel went to his closet, pulling out a small bag as he did so. Unlike Anna, Castiel didn’t have very many outfits. Even Zachariah took pride in the number of suits he owned. Gabriel had less than Anna and more than Castiel, but still tended to wear the same thing until Zachariah or Anna (usually Anna) made him change.

After neatly pulling out and folding up a few less-than-fashionable outfits (hardly angel-typical, but Castiel enjoyed colorful sweaters with interesting patterns), Castiel went to duck out of his room again.

A voice stopped him, “hey, little bro.”

Castiel clenched his free hand, “Gabriel. I’m leaving.”

“I know,” Gabriel replied, “I’m not stopping you. You’re better off on your own anyway, assuming you can get your footing. I just thought you might want this.”

Castiel turned back to face his brother. Gabriel was holding a lollipop in one hand, and the other was stretched out like an offering. In his palm sat something Zachariah had taken from Castiel the previous year, which was the first time he had found out that Castiel had it.

“My journal,” Castiel said, reaching out and taking it from Gabriel’s hand, “where did you get it?”

“Nicked it off Zachariah when he took it from you,” Gabriel answered.

“Why?” Castiel couldn’t put more than just the one word into his question. He could have asked so many different ones right then.

Gabriel cocked his head slightly, “plenty of reasons. For one, even with all that talk about not liking the limelight, you were the only one who would come to my first audition with me. Same thing with my red carpet debut, and so on. Now that my acting career’s pretty much trashed, I can’t say quite as much, but the thought still stands. I figure that puts me in your debt, and Cassie, you know how much I hate to be in other people’s debt.”

The use of Castiel’s childhood nickname made him smile, “I know. I suppose this makes us even?”

Gabriel nodded, “now you should get out of here.” He winked and said, “I saw nothing.” With that, he disappeared down the hallway.

Castiel stared after him for a moment, then shook himself out and turned back towards the window.

***

By the time the day was over, Dean was thoroughly pissed. How was it that one stupid angel had managed to dominate so much of his life? He couldn’t even go back to the Roadhouse like he usually did after work, because all anyone would want to know was how he knew Castiel. It was infuriating.

Dean was itching to call Sam and apologize for what he had said the previous day, but pride prevented him from doing so. It used to be that Dean would give anything for his little brother, and Sammy idolized him for it. Dean had been there for Sam more than their dad had been, but that was to be expected. After their mother had died…well, to say home life went to Hell in a hand basket was putting it mildly.

Instead of going to the Roadhouse, Dean drove Baby out to where he went when he was looking for some peace and quiet. He went out to the lake.

The first time Dean had gone there, it had been as a family, the year before their mother had died. And that meant Dean, Sam, and both of their parents. Dean had been fifteen then, and Sam had been turning ten. Ever the fitness nut even then, Sam had coerced and pleaded with his best puppy eyes until Dean had agreed to go hiking with him. Dean had groused about the mosquitoes and the dirt. Sam had told him that he was a hypocrite because he spent half the time covered in motor oil and grease. Afterwards, they had fished and then eaten their catch for dinner outside the cabin their parents owned up there. It was one of the last times Dean remembered his family being happy.

Now, Dean parked Baby and headed for the water. Kicking his shoes and pulling his socks off, Dean waded a little ways in. The water was still warm for this time of year, and the sand squished pleasantly between Dean’s toes. It was about as quiet as the outdoors could get, with barely anything stirring.

Across the lake, Dean could just barely make out a deer drinking. The land on the other side of the lake consisted of a mountain and some very swampy areas. The bugs were huge. Dean only knew because one summer he had rowed across in a boat (in his mind, it beat hiking around by a long shot) and hiked partway up. Sam had been off at college then, after a big fight with their father about it.

The sun was setting, meaning that the lake was reflecting a beautiful collage of colors, the most prominent being reds and pinks. Dean knew he’d have to leave soon, before it got too dark, but he couldn’t tear himself away from the sunset just yet.

Glancing down at the water swirling gently around him, Dean noticed a slight rippling that wasn’t coming from him. A few feet away, a feather had landed in the water, jet black and oil slick. Out of curiosity, Dean picked it up. It didn’t look quite like a bird’s feather. It was too big to be from any bird that Dean had ever seen. In fact, it looked big enough to be from an a-

Dean snorted, disgusted with himself. Thanks to Castiel, he couldn’t escape them even out here. Tucking the feather in his pocket, Dean turned and headed back out of the water towards Baby. When he reached the shore, he picked up his socks and shoes. As he climbed into the front seat, Dean ignored the socks almost entirely, tossing them in the back seat, and yanking the shoes unceremoniously onto his feet.

It was almost completely dark as Dean pulled away from the lake and headed back towards town. He hoped that by tomorrow morning, everyone would have completely forgotten that Dean had ever spoken to Castiel Godsent.

Chapter Text

The following morning, Dean called Sam on his way to work. He managed to catch Sam when he wasn’t yet in the office, which was always a better time to talk to his brother. He was generally less irritable during those times.

“Hey Sam,” he started.

“Dean,” his brother responded, “why are you calling?”

“I wanted to apologize for getting on you yesterday,” Dean told him, “I was wrong to go off on you like that.”

“Thank you,” Sam sounded pleased. Then his tone turned a little more serious, “I heard you were talking to him.”

“You and everyone else,” Dean grumbled. This again?

“No,” Sam immediately said, “Dean, I mean…I just thought you didn’t like angels. So the fact that you were talking to one kind of surprised me. Can I ask why you were talking to him?”

Dean deliberated for a moment before saying, “I wanted to thank him for saving you.”

“Dean, you didn’t have to do that.”

“I know,” Dean said, “but you know I looked out for you when we were little. And you’re right, I don’t have to worry about it anymore.”

Sam sounded confused when he answered, “um…well, I’m glad you changed your mind. I actually have to go soon, but it was nice talking to you.”

“What’s up?” Dean asked, mostly because Sam’s voice had taken on a stressed tone.

“Nothing, it’s just this case I was assigned the other day,” Sam said, “I’m not really supposed to talk about it, but it’s pretty important that I win. My firm’s putting a lot of pressure on me for this.”

“You’ll do great Sammy, you always do,” Dean assured him.

“I don’t know, Dean,” Sam said, “I’m going up against one of Zachariah’s best.”

“An angel?” Dean had to fight to keep his voice steady. Zachariah Godsent ran the only all-angel law firm in the country. There were very few lawyers, but they could kill (not literally) in a courtroom, from what Dean had heard.

“Yeah,” Sam responded, sounding a little irritated (although Dean couldn’t tell who it was directed at), “anyway, I really have to go, Dean.”

“Yeah, I get it. Talk to you later.” Dean hung up the phone.

Just as Dean had hoped, no one was interested in talking to Dean about Castiel anymore. Whatever new angel thing that had happened had cleared everyone’s mind of that.

After work, Dean figured braving the Roadhouse was an option. Maybe he wouldn’t try to pick up any girls, but it was always a good spot to hang out anyway.

The parking lot was, oddly enough, almost empty when Dean pulled in. after parking Baby, Dean pushed open the doors, glancing around the mostly empty room. No one even looked up at him.

“Dean!” Jo waved him forward to the bar.

As Dean approached, he glanced over towards the section where Castiel usually sat. It was vacant, although Dean couldn’t bring himself to care, although he did idly note that that might be part of the reason there was next to no one at the bar.

“The usual?” it was less of a question and more of a statement. Dean nodded.

“Where is everyone?” Dean finally asked.

Jo shrugged, “I think there’s some big thing with the Godsent family that everyone’s trying to follow up on. No one’s really sure what it is, but there are rumors that Castiel wasn’t home last night.” She paused, “you didn’t scare him, did you?”

Dean snorted, “I highly doubt it.”

“Have you and Sam made up yet?” Jo asked, changing the subject when it became clear Dean wasn’t going to say anything more on the subject.

Dean frowned at her, “how did you-“

“Know about that? Please, I’ve known you since we were kids, Dean. I can tell.”

The door swung open again, and Dean wouldn’t have turned around, except for the fact that Jo’s eyes went huge, and she looked like she might have stopped breathing.

By the time Dean turned around, Castiel was already well inside the bar, and heading towards him and Jo. Dean thought for a second that the angel wanted to speak with him, and was mentally preparing a retort when Castiel stopped next to him.

The angel only glanced briefly at Dean, and then turned to Jo. Dean could feel eyes of the other people in the bar watching them as Castiel asked Jo in a very soft voice, “Can I speak with your mother?”

“Ye-yeah, sure,” Jo managed, looking almost paralyzed, “I’ll go get her.” She disappeared into the back room, stumbling slightly in her haste.

“You know Ellen?” Dean asked without thinking.

Castiel looked at him, and then glanced away again, “yes. I am familiar with Ellen Harvelle. I would consider her a friend.”

Before Dean could ask him to expand on that, Ellen was approaching them, “what can I do you for, angel?”

Dean balked slightly at the nickname, because really? But apparently Castiel was either used to it, or didn’t care very much, because he was already answering, “I felt that you should be informed that my father is…displeased with the events that occurred here last night.”

“Okay?” Ellen clearly didn’t understand what Castiel was trying to say, and honestly, Dean didn’t either. Jo looked dead to the world, her eyes fixed on Castiel, and Dean had to look hard to tell that she was in fact still breathing.

Castiel shook his head, his voice still quiet, “when my father dislikes something, bad things happen. You and your daughter both apparently pose a threat to him.” He glanced at Dean, “as do you.”

“What’s the worst he can do to us?” Ellen asked stubbornly.

“Uh, Mom? Zachariah Godsent is an angel and a lawyer. He can do a lot to us,” Jo pointed out.

The two things finally clicked in Dean’s mind, “wait, Zachariah is your father?”

Castiel’s head tipped to the side, his eyebrows pulling together as he regarded Dean, “yes, Zachariah is my father. Why?”

“I just…” Dean shook his head, trying to clear it, “I didn’t realize…I mean, I knew you were related, but-“

“You’re rambling,” Ellen cut in semi-helpfully, “spit it out.”

“Sam’s working a case against Zachariah’s firm,” Dean finally managed, “he said it was important that his firm win, but he wouldn’t really talk about it.”

Castiel shrugged slightly, “I wouldn’t know anything about it. My father and I were never on the best terms, now even more so.” He looked sad.

“So, you think Zachariah’s going to try to do us in?” Ellen asked, “Is that what you’re saying?” When Castiel nodded, she said, “We’re tough, angel. We’ll handle whatever your dad throws at us. Don’t worry about it.”

Castiel didn’t look convinced, but Ellen was already heading back into the kitchen. Jo hesitated for a moment before blurting out, “Can I get you anything?”

“Just water, please,” Castiel murmured absently.

Jo tripped over herself in her haste to get it. When she was out of earshot, Dean said, “That’s not fair.”

“What’s not fair?” the angel didn’t even look at the Winchester.

“You don’t even make an effort to pretend that you care about the people that are crazy about you, and they still rush to do whatever you ask. It’s not right.”

Castiel turned to face Dean, eyes narrowing slightly, “I care about others. I care considerably more than I should. What I don’t much care for is the tone you chose to take with me when I have done nothing wrong.”

Jo chose that moment to return with the water Castiel had asked for, “Here you go.” She was out of breath, and Dean wanted to throw up a little.

“Thank you,” Castiel mumbled, dropping a few dollars on the counter and retreating to his corner.

Once the angel was a good ten feet away, Jo started to breathe normally again. Dean glanced at her, “I’m pretty sure this obsession thing you have with him is unhealthy.”

“It’s not an obsession!” Jo flushed bright red, “he’s just really sweet.”

“How many times have you spoken to him?” Dean asked, an eyebrow raised, “saying please and thank you does not automatically qualify as sweet.”

“Like you would know,” Jo snapped, “he came to warn us! That’s sweet.”

Dean groaned, hitting his head on the counter for dramatic effect, “when am I going to get through to you that angels aren’t gods?”

“I know they aren’t gods, genius.”

“Then why do you worship them?” Dean retorted.

“Because they do wonderful things,” Jo replied instantly, “they save people’s lives. You should know, given what happened yesterday.”

“You mean with Sam?” Dean asked, “I don’t even want to look at his bank account to see how much that cost him.”

“Better money than his life.”

“You know what I think?” Dean began.

“Yes!” Jo said, throwing her hands up in annoyance, “everyone knows what you think, Dean, everyone! You never keep your opinions to yourself. It’s no wonder Castiel looks terrified of you.”

Dean frowned, “an angel looks scared of me?”

Jo gestured over Dean’s shoulder. When Dean turned to look, Castiel was sitting stiffly in his usual seat, occasionally glancing over at him and Jo, looking…well, Dean wouldn’t call it scared, but nervous was a good word for it.

Dean turned back to Jo, “whatever. Maybe if he’s scared of me, he’ll stop talking to me.” Then Dean hesitated, “how does he know your mom, anyway?”

“You mean other than the fact that he comes in here almost every night?” Jo asked, “When the Godsent family first moved here, they were very reclusive. Word is that they hated being relocated to Lawrence because it’s pretty small. Castiel was a lot younger then, and he was even shyer. Mom says he only came out in public once a month at most. Anyway, he came out here one night, when Mom was working her shift. She says it got really quite in here, and there he was, standing in the doorway and looking kind of miserable. And he just walked over to her and apologized for any inconvenience he might be causing but wanted to know if he could just stay for a little while. That’s literally how he put it, Mom says. Anyway, she said he could stay, and he just sat by himself for a couple of hours, and at the end of her shift Mom went over and asked why he was there. And you know what he said?” Jo’s voice had dropped to an excited whisper.

“No,” Dean resisted the urge to roll his eyes, “what did he say?”

“He said that his father had been getting on him, and that he just needed a place to relax for a little while. Mom told him he was welcome to come here whenever he wanted to, and he’s started coming regularly ever since then.”

“Hmm,” Dean murmured. An angel with daddy issues. Go figure.

There was the abrupt sound of a chair scratching across the floor, and Dean turned, for a brief second wondering if Castiel had been reading his mind (which was ridiculous because Dean knew angels couldn’t read minds). But the angel wasn’t heading in his direction. He was moving for the door, trench coat falling from his shoulders in his haste, and Dean could already see his shoulders shifting from across the room, despite the suit he was wearing (a considerably rumpled suit, plastered to his back as if he’d been sleeping in it). The moment the door swung to close behind him, Dean heard the sound of wings being unfurled.

“Where’s he going in such a hurry?” Dean muttered.

Jo looked at him incredulously, “one of his Protections is probably in danger.” She said it like it should have been obvious.

“Oh,” Dean refused to feel stupid for not assuming that, “what, he has to fly to get to them?”

The scathing look Jo gave him may as well have been fatal, “what, did you think they just teleported wherever they wanted to go?”

Dean didn’t know how to answer.

Chapter Text

The wind was biting at Castiel’s face, and Dean Winchester’s words were echoing through his head, but he forced all of that away. He couldn’t afford to be distracted from this. Someone’s life lay in his hands, and he had to focus on that.

It was unusual for Castiel to use his wings this much in this short a time, and they were starting to burn with the effort, but he pushed past that. Any pain had to be an afterthought, something he could worry about when his Protection was safe.

He zeroed in on the girl, speeding up the moment she was in sight, eyes narrowing against the wind. Time froze for a split second, Castiel still diving, arms instinctively closing around the girl as he pulled her away from the car about to run her over.

Time started up again, and Castiel lost his balance just long enough to crash into the pavement. He pulled himself up to avoid crushing the girl he had just saving, his aching wings tucking themselves into his back without conscious thought.

Unlike his save yesterday, this Protection was wide awake, “Castiel, you saved me!”

Castiel sighed, “Becky, you need to stop walking in front of traffic. It’s not okay to put yourself in danger.”

Becky had been a winner of the lottery held every year. She had won the chance to be protected by an angel for a year, free of charge. Castiel wasn’t entirely sure she was in her right mind, because it felt like at least once a week, he found himself coming out to save her from some self-inflicted danger.

Becky didn’t look ashamed of herself; rather, she looked excited, “you remember my name!”

Castiel didn’t respond. This was probably a lost cause anyway. With some effort, he forced his wings to unfurl and took off, heading back to the Roadhouse.

He landed out back, stumbling a little as he did so, exhausted. A little peace and quiet would be wonderful right about now. He managed to get to the room Ellen had let him use before crumpling onto the bed, asleep even before his head hit the pillow.

***

Upon waking up, the first thing Castiel did was drag himself into the shower. Like a hotel room, this room was equipped with a small bathroom. Once the water woke him up, he felt considerably better. He dried off and pulled on one of his sweaters (blue with a strip of snowflake-like designs) and a pair of jeans. After a brief attempt to smooth down his hair (an attempt that failed), Castiel pulled the door to his room open and left.

Wandering down the hallway, Castiel felt like he should maybe be worrying about Jo Harvelle finding him, but he couldn’t bring himself to care. So what if Jo found out he was staying with her family in a sense? Maybe she’d stop staring at him like that whenever he said something to her. If he was lucky, she might even start treating him like her mother did, like a normal person. That would be the day.

Moving towards the bar, Castiel found Ellen unlocking the kitchen. “Good morning,” he greeted her softly.

She looked up, “what’s got you up this early, angel?”

Castiel frowned, unsure if she was upset or not, “is it unusual to rise this early in the day?” It was only a little past nine, and Castiel had actually thought he’d been sleeping in.

“I’m not mad,” Ellen said, evidently reading the angel’s expression, “but you were asleep until pretty late yesterday. I thought it was normal for angels to sleep late.”

“Not in my family, it is not,” Castiel murmured.

“Well, as long as you’re awake, why don’t you help me open the place up, angel?” Ellen said, pulling the kitchen door open. Castiel followed her in, head cocked.

“What should I do?” he asked uncertainly.

Ellen turned, handing him a broom. “You can sweep up out there,” she told him, “I assume you know how to use that? Or do I need to teach you?”

“I can use a broom,” Castiel murmured.

“Good,” Ellen sounded pleased, “now get out there. We open in an hour, so I’d get a move on.”

Castiel stepped through the kitchen and into the bar. It felt odd, being on this side of the counter. He smiled slightly, and started working.

Maybe a half an hour later, the kitchen door swung open. Ellen glanced around, “not bad, angel. Keep up the good work, and I might hire you full time.”

Castiel smiled, but he shook his head, “I don’t need a job. But if you would like, I can continue to help you during the duration of my stay.”

“Hey, Mom,” Jo banged through the door, “have you seen-“ She froze when she caught sight of Castiel. “H-hi,” she stuttered, “I didn’t know you were here.”

Castiel dipped his head, “your mother has graciously allowed me to stay here for the time being.” There was no point in lying to the girl. She’d figure out on her own eventually.

Jo turned to Ellen, obviously surprised. “What’s that look for?” Ellen said sharply, “he needed a place to stay, and he’s been good for business. Stop gawking at him.”

Jo nodded quickly, then looked at Castiel again, “I um…I have something that you left here last night.” She disappeared for a moment, and a couple seconds later returned with a tan object folded up in her arms. She approached Castiel hesitantly, offering it out to him.

“Thank you,” Castiel murmured, taking his coat from her and pulling it on, “this means a great deal to me.”

Jo blushed slightly, “you’re welcome, I guess.”

“Stop standing around,” Ellen snapped, but there was affection in her voice, “we’re opening soon. I don’t want people to think we’re not taking pride in our work just because we’ve got an angel around.”

“Yes Mom,” Jo vanished back into the kitchen.

Castiel finished sweeping the floor, and when he was done he turned to Ellen for further instructions. In response, she took the broom and handed him a cloth and some glass cleaner, “why don’t you wipe down the jukebox? It’s been getting pretty dusty.”

Castiel did as requested and Ellen snorted, “Are all angels so obedient?”

Castiel shrugged, “I don’t know. I would imagine so, depending on the situation. My father taught me-“

“You father sounds like a jerk, angel. I wouldn’t listen to him if I were you.”

He didn’t respond, but his jaw clenched involuntarily. According to Zachariah, family was the most important thing, and it was a child’s job to obey their father.

Ellen flipped the closed sign to say ‘open’ a few minutes later, and Castiel put the cloth away where he had seen Ellen take it from. “Do you get many customers this early?” he asked the blond woman softly.

“Not usually,” she replied, “sometimes Sam Winchester will stop by before his heads out to the office, but he doesn’t come by very often. And we get a few customers around noon, but the real crowd doesn’t come until around five in the afternoon.”

Castiel nodded, “if you require no further assistance, may I leave?”

“I’m not keeping you here,” Ellen told him.

Castiel took that to mean he could be dismissed, and he exited through the front. There was something he wanted to do.

The town wasn’t more than a mile or so away, and it wasn’t like Castiel had an aversion to walking. The air was starting to warm up, but it was still relatively cool out. He knew it would take longer without flying, but after the past few days flying was one of the last things he wanted to do.

After reaching the main part of town, Castiel turned towards the library. Unlike other angels, Castiel was decently familiar with things that humans considered commonplace. He had been in a library once before when he was ten, trying to find a book, before Zachariah had shown up and insisted that they leave. He had kept Castiel on a short leash after that, never letting him out of his sight in public.

Castiel twisted his Divine ring nervously as he entered the building. The last thing he wanted to do was draw too much attention to himself. Fortunately, the library was mostly empty of people, save for a few on computers and one or two browsing.

Castiel examined the isle labels carefully before moving down the one labeled Fantasy. He’d always had a peculiar craving for books, particularly those that spoke of faraway lands, mystical enchantments, and creatures that lived in the dark.

He ran his finger along the shelf, his blue eyes scanning the titles. He was looking for one in particular, one that he had been forbidden from reading before he had managed to finish it. He hummed in satisfaction when he found it, pulling it off of the shelf and turning it over to examine the back. Then he moved towards the front desk.

When the woman sitting at the check-out desk looked up and saw him, her mouth fell open in surprise. “Castiel,” she said, her voice sounding shaky, “It’s truly an honor-“

Castiel put one finger to his lips, saying softly, “I wish to check out a book, but I don’t have a card. Could you tell me how to acquire one?”

“It’s easy,” the woman told him, opening a drawer and handing him one, her hands shaking slightly, “you just sign you name there, and tell us your address. It’s free.”

Castiel took the pen she offered out to him, signing his name on the card in neat handwriting, and then told her his address (or rather, Zachariah’s address). Then he checked out the book, thanked the woman, and left the library quietly, tucking his prize into his jacket.

The walk back to the bar was much more enjoyable. It was considerably warmer, and Castiel tipped his head back slightly, enjoying the sun. He was practically invisible to the passing cars, not worth more than a glance at best. It felt amazing.

Jo was behind the counter when Castiel entered the Roadhouse, her feet up on the counter, looking bored as she flipped through a hunting magazine. She glanced up when he closed the door as quietly as possible, and Castiel was relieved that the only reaction was for her eyes to widen slightly. He smiled at her before retreating to his corner. Sitting down, he took out the book he had borrowed and flipped it open. The pages felt soft under his fingers, and he began to read, his eyes devouring the words both eagerly and lazily. He had time. No one was going to take the book from him.

Chapter Text

Around lunch time, Ellen came to him, asking if he was hungry. Castiel politely declined, thanking her for the thought and telling her to come to him if she required assistance at the end of the night. She had smiled and shaken her head, mumbling about damn angels being considerate and why couldn’t they just sit there and look pretty. Castiel had chosen to take that as being figurative, and not an actual request. He was a little socially inept, though, so he wasn’t entirely sure.

After noon passed, the few people that had come into the bar trickled out, and Castiel was left alone with Jo again. There was quiet for a few minutes, and then Jo asked, “last night, did you leave because one of your Protections needed saving?”

Castiel looked up from his book, eyes narrowing slightly as he processed the question. Finally he answered, “Yes, one of my Protections was in danger.”

“Which one was it?” Jo asked, “I mean, I know it wasn’t Sam, otherwise Dean would have flipped out, but you almost never post any of your saves, so we’re all kind of in the dark.”

“I doubt you know her,” Castiel said just loud enough for her to hear.

“Try me,” Jo said, leaning on the counter.

“Her name is Becky Rosen,” Castiel finally said, “She wouldn’t normally be a Protection, but she won the Protection lottery, and I was assigned to her because of the location.”

Jo nodded, “I know about her. She’s got a whole blog, apparently. I don’t really go on it, because it’s a whole lot of talking about how you’re her soul mate and not much intelligent stuff. But a lot of people follow her.”

Castiel frowned, “I was not aware I was that popular.”

Jo nodded, “you’d be surprised. For staying away from cameras so much, you’re pretty much everywhere. I’m talking almost as famous as Jackson Godspeed famous.” She gave him a once over that had Castiel blushing slightly under the scrutiny, before saying, “if you look at the magazines, the polls are saying that you’re definitely making the list of top one hundred most attractive angels. That’s males and females.”

The only response Castiel had for that was, “oh.”

It was Jo’s turn to blush, glancing down as she did so. It was probably the most awkward conversation Castiel had had across a room, but at least Jo wasn’t completely falling over herself.

After that, they fell into a more comfortable silence. Jo went back to her magazine and Castiel went back to his book.

By the time the next round of people came around, Castiel was several chapters into his book, and Jo had tossed the magazine aside and opted for her phone for entertainment. Castiel hadn’t even looked up from his book, but Jo had huffed and put her phone back into her pocket, taking her feet off of where they had been propped up on the counter.

Castiel let Jo do her serving thing, because he had offered Ellen his help, and if she really wanted it, she would ask. He didn’t much like to assume things, because he hated to be wrong about things.

The eyes that watched him were always scattered when he was here this early. These people were oftentimes regular customers, and therefore used to seeing him there. At this point, he was adjusted to the watchers, and he could tune them out. He supposed it was something that all angels ended up being able to do, since eyes were always on them.

There was a slight lull around six, and Castiel absently guessed that people were in transit from work, or maybe eating dinner before coming out to the bar. At that time, Jo hesitantly approached Castiel, her hands clasped together. “Hey,” she murmured, “uh, my mom wanted to know if you planned on eating anything.”

Castiel made a mental note of the page he was on before closing the book and looking up at the blond girl, “is she offering or asking?”

“Offering,” Jo answered.

“Then I accept the offer,” Castiel smiled slightly.

Jo jerked her head, “come on, then.” Castiel followed her towards the kitchen, head bowed, a little uncertain.

At the little window to the kitchen, Ellen was waiting with two plates of food. “Good, you’re actually eating,” she said in satisfaction when she saw Castiel, “I was beginning to wonder if angels needed to eat.”

“It is…not unusual for angels to skip several meals,” Castiel didn’t meet her eyes, “but it has nothing to do with whether or not we require food.” He knew Jo was looking at him in confusion, but he didn’t want to look at her either. She admired the angels, and the last thing she needed was to know the secrets to how angels stayed in a state of such unreachable perfection.

Jo carried her plate to the counter, and Castiel went around the other side, pulling up one of the stools. Ellen was a good cook (Castiel assumed Ellen was the one cooking, although it could have been Ash or someone he didn’t know), and for Castiel, who had lived off a mix of take-out, microwaveable food, and Anna’s cooking (if it could be called that), it was probably the best thing he had ever tasted.

“Keeping me company?” Jo sounded like maybe she was trying to make a joke.

“It is better than eating alone,” Castiel shrugged, taking another forkful of food.

“Do you eat alone often?” Jo asked conversationally.

Castiel looked up, examining her, “is this going to go on some fan site?”

Jo shook her head, “not if you don’t want it to. It’s kind of obvious you don’t like the media. But I can’t guarantee that I won’t tell my friends that I got to talk to you.”

Castiel nodded, “I’ll tell you about me if you’ll tell me about you.”

“Why would you want to know about me?” Jo asked, “I’m nobody. I’m not famous.”

“Precisely,” Castiel murmured, “you’re not famous. I know next to nothing about you. When your life isn’t broadcasted for everyone to hear and see, the act of telling someone about who you are means so much more.”

“Okay,” Jo smiled a little incredulously, “um, so, I asked if you ate alone a lot?”

“I typically eat with my sister and brother,” Castiel said, “it’s not a particularly social meal, because Anna spends almost the whole meal on the internet, and Gabriel doesn’t touch food unless it’s coated in sugar.”

“What about your father?”

“He doesn’t eat with us very often. He usually comes home too late for that.”

“You don’t get along with your father, do you?” Jo’s tone implied that it wasn’t really a question.

Castiel shrugged, “I suppose not. I never saw much of him and I never argued with him, but I certainly did not agree with his views on things.” He shook his head, and then asked, “what about you? Where is your father?”

Jo bit her lip, “dead. He, uh, died in a hunting accident.”

“I’m sorry,” Castiel murmured.

Jo forced a smile, “he was a good man. I think you’d have liked him. He wasn’t crazy about angels, but he appreciated what they did for humanity.”

Castiel didn’t have an answer for that. Instead, he asked, “How old are you? You look like you should still be in college.”

“I’m twenty-three,” Jo muttered, “I could be at college, but I’m no genius like Sam. We can’t afford it. Anyway, Mom needs someone to look after this place. May as well be me.”

Castiel cocked his head, “it seems that money is more often given to those who don’t need it. That is very unfortunate.”

Jo laughed slightly, “You mean the angels? People are paying you to save their lives. I’d say that’s worth a lot.”

He shook his head, “I don’t agree. Lives should be cherished, and we should not consider saving them a business.”

Jo shook her head, eyebrows pulling together, “you’re not like the other angels, are you?”

“I don’t know what you mean by that,” Castiel muttered.

“Well, you talk different for one,” Jo said, “like, I don’t know, like you’d expect an angel to talk before everyone knew they weren’t just part of religion. And you’re almost never in the media. It’s almost like you don’t want anyone to know what you do.”

“I don’t,” he replied, “It’s my life. No one else should have the right to see every aspect of it on a whim. There are times…there are times I wish it would all disappear. The fame, the money, Protection for Pay especially. I wish angels could go back to how they were, saving people without the recognition.” Castiel bit his lip, frowning, “I’ve never told anyone that before.”

“I won’t tell anyone, I promise,” Jo assured him.

She looked like she was about to say something else, but then Ellen was calling, “Jo! Finish up! It’s almost six-thirty.”

Jo glanced at Castiel with a smile, “sorry. Back to work and all that.” She took her clean plate, and Castiel’s too, and brought them back to the kitchen before resuming her spot behind the bar.

Castiel returned to his seat in the corner feeling a little confused. He was still new at the whole socializing thing, but he was also pretty sure that you didn’t go around telling people you barely knew things you wouldn’t dare say to your own family. Maybe it was the fact that Jo seemed to possess her mother’s compassion, or maybe Castiel just really needed someone to turn to, but he trusted her.

Jo was kept busy over the next few hours, and Castiel kept himself busy with his book. The part of his mind that wasn’t occupied with reading kept an eye on Jo, watching her interact with people. She was patient, he was realizing, extraordinarily patient. She was patient with the people who took too long to decide on drinks, and she was patient with the men who were trying to hit on her. Getting that kind of attention would have made Castiel squirm and stutter and look away from people, but she met it head on with a smile plastered across her face that looked almost real. Zachariah had considered angels to be above humans, but Castiel was certain that the angels could learn a few things from Jo.

Chapter Text

Dean was pissed. Last night the angel had ducked out in a hurry, and naturally Dean had panicked, fearing it was Sam who was in danger. He had tried calling his brother, but Sam was still at work, and he always turned his personal phone off during work hours. Dean had tried calling Sam’s office before, but Sam obviously had caller ID because he never picked up.

Dean had left in a hurry, annoyance evident. It wasn’t like the angel posted his saves, so Dean wouldn’t know if it was Sam until Sam called (assuming he did), because there was no way that Dean was checking one of those angel-stalking websites.

Sam hadn’t called that night, so Dean had to assume he was safe (well, he didn’t have too, but that was a far better idea than assuming he was dead). Dean had gone to work and gone about his business like he always did, and put Sam and the angel from his mind. There were better things to worry about, things that wouldn’t give him a headache.

Except there was pretty much no one who needed their car checked up, so Dean had just about nothing to do. He could watch the news, but if he did that, there would undeniably be something angel related on, and he wasn’t in the mood to see that. But on the other hand, maybe there were Doctor Sexy reruns playing. It couldn’t hurt to check.

Flicking the TV on, Dean was about to go straight to his usual channel when he realized who was on screen. Zachariah Godsent, the man whose firm was about to face Sam’s firm in court, looked like he was about to give a statement. Dean leaned back in his chair to watch. Maybe this would be interesting.

On screen, Zachariah began, “when my family and I came here, I don’t know what I expected. This is hardly Angel City, you know. But the locals here have been kind to us, both me and my children. You accepted us, did not interfere with what we did. But I’m afraid my youngest child has been led astray by some of you. As a father, I cannot stand for this. For whomever it is harboring my son, and you know who you are, I want you to know that I will not rest until my son is home with me.” His eyes were dark, almost frightening, and Dean had to look away to convince himself that he wasn’t scared. When he looked back, Zachariah appeared much calmer, “I also wish to make plain that the upcoming case my firm will be partaking in is of the utmost importance. The criminal must be put away before he can harm anyone else, and I assure you that is just what I will do.” He nodded at someone off screen, “thank you for listening, Lawrence.”

The TV cut to some commercial, and Dean turned it off, suddenly a little sick to his stomach. He didn’t know which lawyer Zachariah was sending, but he suspected Naomi, who was at the top of the firm, practically a partner. Either way, whoever it was would be going up against Sam, and from the way Sam had spoken about it, it was very important the he win the case. But going up against an angel meant that it was unlikely Sam would win. A jury was more likely to sympathize with an angel than a human, unfortunately.

Dean needed something else to work on, so he went out back to where Bobby kept the cars that no amount of work would fix, the ones he turned into scrap metal. At Dean’s insistence, Bobby let him work on demolishing some of the cars while he waited at the desk.

He didn’t even realize how late it was getting until Bobby came back and insisted that he left, telling him that he wasn’t going to pay Dean any overtime. Dean had been surprised when he got into Baby and glanced at the clock; it was already past six-thirty. Dean almost never worked that late. Not since…

He shook that thought away. Thinking about exes was one of the last things he wanted to do, right up there with anything angel related. Getting drunk, though, that sounded fantastic. He couldn’t go to the Roadhouse, because no doubt Castiel would be hanging around there again, and last time Dean had gotten drunk there, he had ended up hitting on Jo and had received a slap that hurt more than he would care to admit. He wasn’t keen for a repeat of that night, and there were other bars closer to town, although the Roadhouse was his favorite.

He opted for one that served, not only alcohol, but pie as well. Dean loved pie about as much as he loved his brother, which was to say, a lot. In a place like this, he could get drunk and eat pie at the same time, essentially killing two birds with one stone. As long as he could stand the TV blaring some angel news channel or other, he would be fine for the night.

***

Despite intentionally trying to read slowly, Castiel had a good chunk of his book done by the time closing came around. A lot of people had begun leaving around eleven-thirty or so, and by the time it was midnight, almost everyone was gone. Jo shooed a few last people through the door and flipped the sign to ‘closed’, locking it. She turned to Castiel, “you going, or what?”

“I offered to assist with closing,” Castiel told her.

Jo looked a little surprised, but she went over to the cabinet where her mother had gotten the cloth this morning. She pulled out a rag, dampened it with water, and tossed it at Castiel, who had stood up and moved towards the counter, leaving his book on the chair. He caught it as she said, “you can start wiping down tables.”

Castiel obeyed, missing the look on Jo’s face as she watched him get to work. After a moment, he heard her moving to work on tidying up the counter.

He and Jo worked in silence for a while. Then, abruptly, her phone was going off. She answered it, “this is Jo.”

Castiel kept working, not meaning to eavesdrop, but Jo wasn’t exactly trying to be quite as she huffed, “really Dean? And you had to call me?” She paused, listening to Dean (Castiel assumed that meant Dean Winchester), and then said, “fine. Fine, I’ll drive you home, but this is the last time. I’ll be there soon.” She hung up.

Castiel turned to look at her, head cocked, “you’re leaving?”

“I have to get Dean,” Jo muttered, “This is the third time he’s made me do this in just this month alone!”

“Made you do what?” Castiel asked.

“Made me pick him up because he was drunk and couldn’t drive,” was Jo’s response, “I mean, it’s great that he called someone instead of trying to drive himself, but does he really have to call me?”

Castiel wasn’t sure what the appropriate response to that was. Instead, he said, “I could come with you. That way you wouldn’t be stuck walking home afterwards.”

Jo smiled, “thanks. I wasn’t going to ask, but I’m glad you offered.” She gestured for him to follow her out the back to where her car was parked. Castiel climbed into the passenger side, taking care not to get his coat caught in the door when he closed it.

Jo got into the driver’s side, not bothering to buckle her seatbelt as she started up the car. Instinctually, Castiel reached across her, grasping the seatbelt and pulling it into place. Jo glanced at him, raising an eyebrow in question.

Castiel rested his hands in his lap, staring out the windshield before answering her unspoken question, “just because you’re in the car with an angel doesn’t mean you should ignore safety laws.”

As she pulled away from the Roadhouse, Jo shook her head, “right. Angels aren’t allowed to save people unless they’re their Protections.”

Castiel kept quiet, not looking at Jo. This wasn’t something he wanted to discuss with anyone, much less someone who was as inspired by angels as Jo was. There were rules to follow that everybody knew, and of course there were the unspoken rules of the angel community, enforced by the council. If the car crashed, Castiel wouldn’t be allowed to save Jo’s life. Those were the rules, and all the angels were supposed to follow those rules. That’s just how it was.

When Jo pulled up to a bar in town, she parked and got out. Castiel followed her out, closing the door quietly. Dean was waiting outside the bar, leaning against the brick wall, looking surly.

“Ready to go?” Jo asked him.

Dean nodded, gesturing towards his car. Then his eyes flickered over to Castiel, realizing he was there for the first time, “what are you doing here?” His tone was less than kind.

“He’s here so I don’t have to do any walking after shuttling you around,” Jo responded before Castiel had a chance, “now get in the car.”

Dean got into the passenger side of his car, and Jo threw her car keys at Castiel, “not a scratch, okay? Just follow behind us.” Then she climbed into Dean’s car and it purred to life.

Castiel got into Jo’s car. He didn’t own one himself (not going out in public much meant he didn’t need one, because he always went with either his sister, brother, or father, and the few times he didn’t, it was close enough that he could fly there) but he did know how to drive both standard and stick-shift. He pulled away from the curb, following Jo and Dean. He had no idea where they were going, but it didn’t really matter. It was unlikely that he’d have a lot of occasion to come back.

When Jo stopped the car outside a rundown house, Castiel parked behind her. There wasn’t really a driveway, just a sort of path covered with stones that made driving on them a little annoying.

Castiel got out of Jo’s car as Jo shepherded Dean into the house. He only caught bits of what she was saying to him, but most of it was various threats and he definitely caught her saying, “-ever make me do that again and I’ll spam your email with all the gay angel porn I can find on the internet.” After that, she actually pushed him past the doorway and closed the door in his face.

Castiel was pretty sure he was bright red as he got back into the car on the passenger side. Jo climbed in too, closing the door with a little more force than was strictly necessary. “You seem annoyed,” Castiel commented, looking away to hide the flush on his cheeks.

Jo half sighed, half huffed, “a little, yeah. The entire ride over here was nothing but drunken mutterings about why on earth I would bring an angel along with me. He really doesn’t like you.”

“He doesn’t know me,” Castiel murmured, more to himself than to Jo.

She chose to respond to it anyway, backing the car away from the house, “no, he doesn’t. But it’s not just you. He’s against pretty much all angels. He tolerates you at his best.”

“And at his worst?” Castiel wasn’t sure he wanted to know.

“He can get pretty aggressive,” Jo admitted, “he’s never been in close enough proximity to an angel during those times to actually hurt one of them, but he’s gotten violent. He’s pretty scary during those times, but he’s been a lot better about it lately.”

“Why?”

Jo bit her lip, “it’s not my place to talk about it.”

“Of course,” Castiel said immediately, “I understand.”

The rest of the ride was done in silence. When they got back, Jo and Castiel found that Ellen had finished closing up. Castiel bid Jo goodnight before returning to the room he was staying in. He changed into something a little more comfortable to sleep in and curled up on the bed. For a brief moment, the thought of just what Dean might do to angels at his worst played around in his mind, but before he had much time to dwell on that he fell asleep.

Chapter Text

Morning came, and with it harsh light. Castiel blinked his eyes open. He squinted for a moment, face still mostly pressed into the pillow (he hated sleeping on his back), and checked the clock. It was still only a little past eight. Castiel groaned and shifted so most of the light was blocked out. Yes, as an angel there were nights you only got an hour or two of sleep, but Castiel had been up until past midnight, and he enjoyed getting more than the customary eight hours of sleep.

The only thing that kept him from falling back asleep was the knock on his door. “Castiel?” Jo asked softly, “Are you awake?”

Castiel groaned, pushing himself out of bed and moving shakily to the door, pulling it open, he squinted at Jo, “I am now.”

Jo took one look at him and covered her mouth, fighting back giggles. Castiel frowned at her in confusion, and she finally calmed down enough to force out, “sorry, but your hair” and then doubled up laughing. Castiel ran a hand through his hair awkwardly, wondering what she was talking about, but apparently that just made it more amusing, because Jo was leaning against the wall trying to stay upright.

“I’m sorry,” she repeated, taking a breath, “I’m sorry, but your hair’s sticking up and it looks very funny.”

“What, you think angels look perfect all the time?” Castiel said without thinking. At Jo’s expression, he sighed, “of course you did.” He leaned against the doorframe, using one hand in a vain attempt to flatten his unruly hair, “what did you want?”

“Oh, not me,” Jo said, “my mom. She wanted to talk to you about something.”

“Tell her I’ll be with her in a moment,” Castiel responded, already moving to close the door. It took him a few minutes to get dressed and properly comb his hair into something a little more manageable (unless he had a professional hairdresser do it, it never seemed to want to flatten out), and then he was opening the door again. Jo had disappeared, and Castiel assumed she had gone back to her room. He moved towards the entrance to the bar, hoping that’s where Ellen would be, because he had no idea where else to find her.

She was in the kitchen, thank goodness. Castiel cleared his throat as he entered the room, and she looked up. “Jo said you wanted to speak with me?” Castiel said hesitantly.

“Sorry to wake you up so early,” Ellen told him. She was leaning over the sink, apparently doing dishes, and her voice was raised to accommodate for the running water.

“It’s quite all right,” Castiel replied, “what did you want?”

“I got a call last night,” Ellen said, glancing over her shoulder at him, “from your father. He wanted to know if I knew where you were staying.”

Castiel swallowed hard, “what did you tell him?” He moved a little closer to the woman, wanting to hear her better.

“I told him it wasn’t his business,” Ellen replied, “You’re a big boy. You don’t need your father chasing after you all day long. Besides, if you’d wanted him to know, I expect you would have told him already.”

“I would have, yes,” Castiel sighed. Then he said, “thank you for not telling him.”

“Not a problem, angel,” Ellen said, but when she turned off the water and started drying the dishes, Castiel caught a frown tugging at her lips.

Castiel went over to her and took the cloth out of her hand, picking up a glass and drying it, “was that all?”

Ellen’s hands curled into loose fists, like she wasn’t sure what to do with them, before she picked up another cloth to help Castiel, “no, it wasn’t.” Castiel waited patiently, and finally Ellen said, “There’s a rumor going around, that an angel was found dead a few weeks ago.”

Castiel frowned, head cocked, “that does not seem odd. Angels can die. It is not common, but it is not impossible.” Although he was pretty sure if it had happened, he would have heard about it.

Ellen shook her head, “well, it’s unlikely that an angel ripped his own wings off before it died.”

Castiel froze, but Ellen continued, “I’m not saying it’s anything more than a rumor, but from what I’ve heard, the angel was found drenched in blood with his wings ripped off. Whoever killed him apparently wrote a message in the angel’s blood.”

Castiel thought he might be sick, “what did it say?”

Ellen shrugged, “it’s a rumor, so obviously the story varies. But nothing good, I can assure you. I just thought you might want to know.”

He forced himself to remain calm as he asked, “do you know who the angel was?”

“Well, according to what I heard, it was Samandriel Brightson,” Ellen told him softly.

Castiel knew Samandriel. He wasn’t quite local, but other than Castiel’s own family, Samandriel lived the closest to Lawrence. He was a good deal younger than Castiel, barely seventeen years old, but he also preferred to stay out of the public eye. Samandriel did post his saves and attend events, but he went to fewer events than most angels his age did. Castiel had met him at one of Zachariah’s parties (thrown just to show the other angels that Castiel wasn’t holding the family back), and they had spent most of it holed up in the library discussing whether or not Gabriel’s latest commercial was sexist (oddest topic Castiel had ever discussed with someone, but it had been a fun conversation). Castiel had liked Samandriel, despite their age difference. And now he was most likely dead.

“Thank you for telling me,” Castiel said softly, drying the last dish and putting it away. He forced his expression to remain neutral. The last thing he wanted to do right now was cry. He’d been told before that he was too sensitive, and that he shouldn’t cry so much.

“You okay?” Ellen asked him.

“Yes,” Castiel said as calmly as he could manage, “but I would like confirmation of this. As you said, it was a rumor, and there possibly no truth to it. There is no use getting worried over something before confirming that it is in fact reality.”

Ellen gave him an odd look, but all she said was, “all right. I’m sure you can talk to Benny Lafitte. He works with the police force around here. He’d know if an angel’s turned up dead.”

“How can I get ahold of him?” Castiel asked.

“Well, unless you can confirm over the phone that you’re an angel, I’d recommend going down to the police station,” Ellen said, “they don’t give out information to just anybody. Do you know where the station is?”

Castiel nodded, “yes. I am aware.”

“If you don’t want to walk…or fly, I guess…you could ask Jo for a ride,” Ellen told him, “I’m sure she wouldn’t have a problem with it.”

“Yeah, I’d be fine with that,” Jo said from the doorway.

Castiel jumped slightly, not realizing she was there. Ellen frowned at her daughter, “how long have you been standing there?”

“A few minutes,” Jo muttered, looking a little guilty.

“I thought I told you, it’s rude to eavesdrop on people,” Ellen scolded.

“It’s all right,” Castiel murmured, watching Jo’s face, “it’s pointless to act as if there are not threats in the world, and it was likely your daughter knew something about this anyway.”

Jo nodded, “there are pictures all over the internet. It’s awful, really awful.” She hesitated, “still want that ride?”

Castiel nodded, “thank you.”

One short, silent, only moderately awkward car ride later, they were pulling up outside the Lawrence police station. Jo followed Castiel out of the car when he got out, squinting slightly in the sunlight. He glanced at her, “are you coming with me?”

Jo shrugged, “not if you don’t want me too, I guess. I can wait in the car.” She sounded nonchalant about it, but Castiel could see in her eyes that she was kind of hoping he’d let her come in with him.

Castiel considered the options for a minute before saying gently, “I would prefer it if you remained in the car. I will not be long.”

Jo nodded, looking maybe a little sullen, but she got back in the car. Castiel turned and entered the police station. It wasn’t quite as cold inside (the weather was starting to take a more frigid turn, and if Castiel had cared to make a note of it, the first snowstorm was surely right around the corner), and there was only one man occupying the room. Castiel approached him, “I’m looking for a Benny Lafitte. Are you him?”

“That depends on who’s asking,” the man said, his accent sounding distinctly southern.

“Castiel Godsent.”

At that, the man looked up, eyes widening slightly in surprise, “Mr. Godsent? What are you doing here?”

“Castiel is fine,” the angel said, “and if you are in fact Benny, I’m here looking to confirm a rumor.”

The man nodded, “yeah, I’m Benny.” Then his face darkened slightly, “you must mean about the angels.”

Castiel raised an eyebrow, “you mean more than one?”

Benny looked uneasy, “I’m not supposed to discuss it while the investigation is still ongoing.”

Castiel leaned forward, placing his hands on Benny’s desk, “this is important. I need to know what happened to the angels.” He was trying to look intimidating, and part of him hated that he was using his status against someone.

Benny hesitated for another moment, and then said, “I suppose you’re not just anybody. You’re Zachariah’s boy, right? If he knows about the murders, then it can’t hurt that you do too.” Castiel waited for him to continue. “We’ve had two angels dead in the last month,” Benny finally told him, “Samandriel Brightson and Muriel Holyspirit. Both of their throats were slit, and their wings had literally been ripped out of their backs. Whoever did it placed them on the ground next to them, so it looked almost like they had spread their wings, only with a lot more blood.” Benny didn’t shudder, but there was an almost unnoticeable tremor in his voice that Castiel barely picked up on. Benny continued, “But that wasn’t it. Whoever killed them wrote a message in their blood, same one both times.” He pulled open a drawer, taking out a folder and handing it to Castiel. Flipping it open, he realized there were only a few photos in the folder, three of each crime scene. Both angels’ bodies had been placed near streetlights, creating a sort of halo effect around them. The sight of their torn out wings made Castiel want to throw up, and he took a breath to calm himself. On the wall behind both victims, the messy, dripping message read ‘the angels will fall’.

Castiel snapped the folder shut, trying to calm down, trying not to betray the abrupt dizziness he was feeling at the thought of all that blood, the thought of how brutally two of his kind had been murdered. He handed it back to Benny, fighting the grimace that threatened to cross his face. “Do you have any idea who might have done this?” he asked, proud that his voice was still steady, if a little higher than normal.

“We’re compiling a list of suspects, but we don’t have anything to go on,” Benny admitted, “the angels are all pointing fingers, but there wasn’t a scrap of DNA at the crime scene that didn’t belong to the victim, aside from what you’d expect on a city street.”

“Thank you,” Castiel murmured, “that is all.”

Benny nodded, “sure thing.” He looked a little uncomfortable, but Castiel just swept out of the police station.

Jo had turned the radio on when Castiel returned to the car, but at the look on his face, she turned it off again, “hey. You all right?”

“No,” Castiel muttered, “I’m not. Someone is murdering my kind in horrible, evil ways. I’m certainly not okay.”

Jo looked a little taken aback as she started the car, “okay, sorry for asking.”

Castiel sighed, “I am sorry. It is…upsetting for me to see such things. It baffles me that such monstrosities can exist in the world.”

“Who do you think might have done it?” Jo asked, “I’ve never heard of an angel being killed before.”

“Not just one,” Castiel said softly, causing Jo’s eyes to widen. He looked at his hands, clasped together in his lap, “I’ve never heard of an angel being killed before either, not like this. But it has happened twice now, and I expect it will happen again until the killer is caught.”

“All the people in Lawrence seem so nice,” Jo muttered, keeping her eyes on the road now, “I just can’t picture any of them killing an angel, you know?”

Castiel didn’t answer. He remembered only too well someone who might have reason to kill angels, someone who (for some unknown reason) could hate angels, who could get violent against people who adored them. He didn’t much like the thought of that, the thought that maybe he had come into contact with a murderer. It left a possibility that Castiel might be included on the list.

Jo glanced over at him, evidently trying to read his expression, “what?”

Castiel shook his head, “nothing.”

Jo didn’t question him further. Castiel wasn’t sure if she was aware how shaken up he felt. Castiel was scared; probably more scared than he had been in his entire life, but he kept it firmly tamped down, his expression unreadable as always. Angels dying just wasn’t natural, literally. Even born immortals were just that, immortal. Angels could only die if the Council took their wings and abilities, or if they were killed by another angel, or, apparently, if their wings were ripped out and their throats slashed. Castiel had never heard of an angel dying like that, and the thought made him feel nauseous all over again.

Returning to the Roadhouse was a quiet affair. Castiel didn’t have much to say, and Jo seemed to be able to tell that he didn’t want to talk. She let him sit there in silence, glancing at him out of the corner of her eyes every minute or so. Castiel chose to ignore her, favoring thinking over what was going on to saying anything. There was no proof that the killer was human, in fact it seemed unlikely, because as far as he was aware, only angels were able to kill angels, but that didn’t mean that it necessarily wasn’t a human. Castiel’s mind kept telling him that there was an obvious target, someone who made it plain that he wasn’t fond of angels and didn’t want them around, but could he really be a killer? There was a piece missing, Castiel knew. He was no detective, but he was sure that once it showed up, all of this would make sense.

Chapter Text

Ellen was waiting for them at the Roadhouse, or maybe she was just waiting behind the bar for customers. Either way, the moment Castiel and Jo walked in she shot a questioning look at them. Jo just gave a shrug, but Castiel walked past her towards the back, murmuring as he passed her, “the rumor was true.” He knew Ellen was surprised, but he didn’t offer any further explanation. If this case was about the killer, then maybe Castiel should be rooting for his father rather than Sam Winchester. When it came down to it, who did he trust more, angels or humans?

He moved through the kitchen and down the hallway to the room he was staying in. Pulling the door shut behind him and turning the lock until he heard the click, Castiel promptly flopped backwards onto his bed, covering his face with his hands in a pseudo-attempt of blocking the images from his mind. He didn’t do blood or gore. He couldn’t handle this. His stomach churned uneasily, and it was all Castiel could do not to throw up.

When he pulled his hands away from his face, Castiel could see that flakes of snow were starting to drift down from the sky outside. His line of sight to the window wasn’t the best, given that it was located over the bed and he could only see it when he strained his eyes upwards, so he rolled onto his stomach, propping himself up on his elbows, to get a better look. Sure enough, the first snowfall of the season was underway, albeit a little earlier than expected.

Castiel enjoyed snow, if only for the reason that it gave him an excuse to curl up in a warm sweater with a book. And there was something poetic about snow too, something the romanticist hidden deep inside Castiel couldn’t help but appreciate. He tugged the sleeves of his sweater a little farther down around his wrists, the action almost subconscious. It was entirely possible that the chill that ran down his spine was an imagined draft, triggered by the snow. It was also possible that Castiel’s mind had already moved past the snowfall and back onto the murderer. It was impossible for him, an angel, to feel one hundred percent safe right now.

Assuming it to be the cold, Castiel tucked his coat more tightly around him, feeling the comforting shape of his journal press against his chest from where he had tucked it into his front pocket. He was grateful Gabriel had gotten it for him, because he had a lot written in it (or tucked between the pages) that he had been upset to lose. In a house where Castiel had been the freak, not allowed to really be himself, it had kept him grounded. The journal was a place where he could be who he wanted without anyone telling him how he should act or look or what he should do.

Outside the wind was picking up, rattling the windowpane ever so slightly. Castiel frowned. The snow was picking up, coming down more thickly. He could barely see past the window with how thickly the flakes were starting to come down. Wasn’t it a little early in the season for a blizzard?

His thoughts changed so quickly, Castiel almost got whiplash. He gasped in pain as he felt something in his chest constrict, feet moving before he was consciously aware of it. He recognized the feeling, although it usually wasn’t this painful, and it wasn’t until his wings were open and he took off that Castiel was certain of what he was doing.

One of his Protections was trapped in the blizzard, and he had to save them. Never mind the fact that the snow felt freezing on his wings and where it touched his bare cheek and neck, someone’s life was in danger. He knew that there were some angels who wouldn’t risk it in this kind of weather, given the possibility of being battered by the wind, but Castiel wasn’t that kind of angel.

He had no idea where he was going, just followed the feeling of his Protection blindly. He didn’t recognize any of the surroundings (although that may have just been the fact that everything was coated in white and he could barely see though it), but he knew he was getting close when he heard the yelling. Castiel went into a dive, not needing to see to know the most direct path to his Protection.

He was over a lake. He didn’t realize it until he hit the water, soaking through the sleeves of his trench coat and into his sweater. His arms wrapped tightly around the struggling human and tugged upward as he pulled out of the dive and tried to level out. Unfortunately, the human wasn’t having any of that and refused to stop struggling against Castiel’s grip. In accommodating for the extra weight and attempting to offset his Protection’s movements, Castiel ended up flying straight into a patch of trees. Normally he could handle banging into a few trees, but careening headfirst into a forest was never a good idea, and Castiel cried out in pain as he felt rather than heard a sickening snap from somewhere over his left shoulder.

The two people, angel and human, tumbled to the ground, Castiel ending up flat on his back with the human lying across his legs. They were both perfectly still for a moment, Castiel more out of pain than anything else, and then the man was surging upright.

“Why do you keep showing up?” he demanded angrily.

Castiel blinked, trying to focus (not an easy feat, between the snow swirling around him and the fact that the pain in his wing was making him a little dizzy). He must have hit his head pretty hard because that voice had sounded an awful lot like…Dean Winchester. He squinted for a moment, and then everything was clearer, and the man he had just saved (most definitely Dean Winchester) came into focus, glaring down at him with his arms folded across his chest, shivering and dripping wet.

“I saved you?” Castiel frowned, thoroughly confused. Dean wasn’t a Protection. Castiel shouldn’t have been able to know he was in danger. He had long since learned to tune out the frequencies that didn’t belong to his Protections.

“Well I sure as hell didn’t just drown,” Dean snapped. For someone who had to be freezing (Castiel knew he was, and he wasn’t the one soaking wet) and who wasn’t dead, he was being very snippy.

Castiel wrapped his trench coat more tightly around his body, but that didn’t do much to assist in warming him up, given how wet his sleeves were. He sat up and tested his wing, wincing and biting back a cry when he confirmed that yes, it really was broken. There was no way he was flying home. And in this weather, it was unlikely that pulling Dean out of that lake would do any good. Without a mode of transportation and heat, they were both going to be dead by nightfall. Well, Castiel might live. He’d never heard of an angel freezing to death (although most angels he knew didn’t exactly go around saving Protections when there was this much snow falling either), although he figured if he didn’t die it would at least be very painful for him. This would not end well.

“Why were you in the lake?” it was the first logical question to come out of Castiel’s mouth.

“I was out on the lake when the storm hit,” Dean responded tersely, “I tried to get back to shore, but the water got too choppy. My boat flipped over, and I couldn’t exactly swim to shore.”

“You were going to drown,” Castiel said, trying to think this out logically, “that’s why I felt you.”

“Felt me?” Dean sounded borderline creeped out.

“Your, uh,” Castiel looked for the word, having a little trouble thinking under the circumstances, “your frequency. All humans have one. It’s what allows angels to find them when they’re in trouble.” He shivered, wincing as the vibrations ran through his wings, “I must have picked up on yours subconsciously.”

“Good for me.” It was hard to miss the sarcasm.

“You’re alive thanks to me,” Castiel frowned, “you should be grateful.”

“You didn’t have to save me,” Dean shot back, “I don’t have to give a rat’s ass.”

Castiel closed his eyes, taking a breath. Arguing with Dean wouldn’t solve the problem they were faced with right now, and it was only getting colder. “I doubt we can walk back around the lake,” he said aloud.

Dean hesitated, “actually, I think there is a place we can make it to. It’s a little ways up the mountain, but not too far.”

Castiel got to his feet unsteadily. He had to keep his face neutral. He wasn’t allowed to show pain, especially not now. “Lead the way,” he said softly, pleased that his voice didn’t waver.

Dean started walking, stumbling a bit through the snow, and Castiel followed. They weren’t moving very fast, but that was to be expected. Castiel could only hope Dean knew the way and that they would get there soon.

Another thought occurred to him, the one that had been ringing through his head earlier, before any of this had happened. How he had considered the possibility that Dean was killing angels. And he was alone with the man in the middle of a blizzard, where no one would be able to find them for hours at the least, but more likely days. Was he really willing to risk it? Did he have any choice?

What seemed like hours later, Dean stopped walking and looked back at Castiel, “this is it.”

Castiel looked up, definitely lightheaded now and having trouble seeing clearly. It looked like a cabin, tucked away in the woods. Dean kicked at the mat (it had frozen to the ground) until it came up and he was able to peal a key from the underside of it. He unlocked the door stiffly, and Castiel followed him inside.

It wasn’t much warmer in the cabin, but he didn’t particularly care. He felt dizzy and his vision was going blurry and the only thing he felt on his skin was cold. He was considering passing out, and it sounded like a very good idea to his addled mind. He leaned unsteadily against a wall as Dean moved shakily though the cabin. Castiel watched with half-closed eyes, unable to see clearly but interested none the less. It became apparent after a minute that the man was starting a fire. It took him a few tries to get it going, but when he did Castiel had to close his eyes fully against the bright light.

Dean was leaning over him then (when had he sat down?) and tugging him up onto his feet again, “come on.” He moved Castiel towards the fire and Castiel didn’t fight him. He was too tired to fight. Dean pealed his trench coat off of his shoulders and Castiel let out a whine as the fabric tugged against his wing. Dean froze and let out a curse. After that he was gentler as he removed first his coat and then the sweater Castiel was wearing. Castiel let out a halfhearted complaint, but he wasn’t sure what he said. Everything was getting blacker by the minute, and a few moments later he passed out completely.

Chapter Text

When he came to again, the first thing Castiel noticed was that the pain in his wing had lessened, so he was able to think considerably more clearly. The second thing he noticed was that he had been semi-wrapped in a blanket (it looked vaguely like a toga and Castiel supposed that it was to accommodate for his wing) and was still situated in front of the fire, which was now roaring in the fireplace. And lastly, he noticed that Dean Winchester was sitting on the couch behind him, wrapped tightly in his own blanket and watching him.

When he realized Castiel was awake, he nodded, “you’re back. I thought I lost you for a while there.”

Castiel shifted, the blanket falling into his lap to reveal his bare chest. He twisted around, trying to get a good look at his wing. The right one had tucked itself back into his back, but the left one…

“Is that a…splint?” Castiel’s head tipped to the side in confusion.

Dean shrugged, “I’m no angel doctor, but I figured your wing was broken. My brother broke his leg once and my dad showed me how to set it. I figured it couldn’t be too different.” Dean’s eyes flickered to Castiel’s back, settling, not on his wing, but on his Immortal Marks. They were the same black as his wings, arranged in delicate swirls down the small of his back.

“Thank you,” Castiel said softly, wishing he’d look away. He stood, hoisting up the blanket and draping it over himself carefully before moving to the couch. He sat as far away from Dean as possible, tucking his knees up to his chin and letting his wing drape off the couch and onto the floor.

“You have black feathers.”

Castiel stared at Dean in confusion, “yes.”

“Have you been following me?”

Castiel shifted uncomfortably, “of course not. Why would you ask that?”

Dean was watching him with careful green eyes, “you’re the only angel I’ve seen with black wings, and I found a black angel feather out here the other day. It wasn’t you?”

Castiel shook his head, “I’ve never been out here before.” That was odd. He had never heard of another angel having black wings.

Dean pursed his lips. He was silent for a moment, but then he said, “The snow’s still coming down pretty hard. It looks like we’re going to be stuck here a while. I tried to contact Sam, but my phone’s waterlogged. Unless you have one, we can’t call for help.”

Castiel shook his head in answer to the phone question, and then asked softly, “where are we, exactly?”

“It’s this place my family owns,” Dean answered, “we used to come up here a lot, but now it’s only me who does. I spend a lot of time up here in the summer especially, so I decided to make it a little homier. I moved in some of my things, and presto, summer home-away-from-home.”

Castiel glanced around, taking in the cabin fully for the first time. It wasn’t much to look at, but it wasn’t bad. It had a sort of cozy feel to it, despite the lack of furniture. There were a surprising number of blankets piled on the floor considering it had apparently been a summer retreat, but that wasn’t what Castiel really noticed. Hanging over the fireplace was a picture, and if he leaned forward slightly, he could see it clearly. It looked like a family photo; a younger Dean and Sam (almost unrecognizable) standing with a bearded man and a blond woman. “Is that your mother and father?” he asked softly, gesturing to the photo with one hand, the other tucked into the blanket for warmth.

Dean’s face closed off, “yeah.” Apparently that was a sore subject with him, and Castiel took note of it. The last thing he wanted to do was upset Dean, considering the man had just gotten him out of the freezing cold and patched up his wing.

Speaking of which… “Why did you help me?” Castiel asked, “I thought you hated angels.”

Dean paused before answering, looking like he was having difficulty choosing how he wanted to say it. Finally he answered, “Well, you did save my life. And angel or not, I don’t want to be held responsible for someone’s death, especially the death of an angel hotshot like you. I’ve seen the magazines, you know.”

Castiel didn’t know. He had no purpose for the tabloids, and therefore didn’t read them. At his blank look, Dean said, “you’re ranked pretty high popularity-wise, although if you ask me, you sound like a work-a-holic.”

Castiel stiffened, wondering if he should take offense to that, but Dean’s face remained neutral. After a moment, Castiel decided to respond with, “my working habits aren’t any of your business.” He considered it, and then added, “and I don’t know why you’d care if you had an angel’s blood on your hands. You seem to hate them enough.”

Dean looked horrified, “that’s kind of harsh. Just because I hate an idea doesn’t mean I’d want people who believed in that idea dead, much less be the one to kill them. Would you kill someone just because you hate them?”

“I don’t hate anyone.” Was that an honest answer?

Dean snorted, “Yeah right. What about your dad? I heard he was a real jerk to you. Or the people on the blogs who talk trash about how you’re not a proper angel, don’t you hate them? And I’ve made it pretty clear I don’t like you and I’ve acted pretty rude to you. If you don’t at least hate me-“

“I don’t hate you,” Castiel interrupted him with a frown, “I agree with you on several points. What I don’t particularly enjoy about you is your opinion of me. Forming an opinion of someone based off of potentially misguided notions of their species is idiotic, and quite frankly marginally chauvinistic.”

Dean blinked, “wow. Big words for such a little angel.”

Castiel rolled his eyes, “I don’t see how my height correlates to my intelligence.”

Dean was silent for a moment, and then said, “Maybe you’re not bad for an angel, but that doesn’t make my idea of angels misguided. I have firsthand experience with them, and I know how they work.”

Castiel tipped his head to the side, “what sort of firsthand experience? I was under the impression neither you nor your brother has ever been in contact with an angel prior to me.”

“We weren’t,” Dean muttered, “that’s the problem.”

Castiel didn’t say anything, just waited for Dean to keep talking. After a few minutes it became obvious that the green-eyed man had nothing more to say on the subject, or at least nothing that he was willing to share with Castiel.

“But seriously,” Dean said finally, and Castiel thought he was going to continue with the conversation, but evidently Dean had chosen to backtrack, “I don’t understand how you’re not completely fed up with me right now. You know I don’t like you, or at least what you are.”

The angel shrugged, “it’s not like I have anywhere to go.”

“Good point,” Dean murmured.

They fell back into silence, Dean’s eyes fixed on the crackling fire and Castiel’s eyes fixed on Dean. He shifted slightly, trying to find a more comfortable angle without hurting his wing, and winced when this proved impossible. A feather dropped from his wing onto the floor, but bending over to pick it up wasn’t an option, so he left it there, his eyes dropping away from the man sitting across from him to stare at the feather, pitch black contrasting nicely with tan floor.

Castiel could hear the wind raging outside, accompanied by several thuds against the roof of the cabin that he presumed to have been caused by snow. It was almost strange, the lack of noise from inside (nothing but the soft crackling of the fire) contrasted with the loud roar of nature just outside the walls. Had he been more poetic, he might have written a poem about it.

His hand drifted to where the pocket of his trench coat normally was, and he felt a brief flare of panic run through him. He wasn’t wearing his trench coat. Somewhere in the back of his mind, Castiel recalled Dean removing it along with his sweater before he had passed out. The angel’s eyes searched the cabin frantically for a moment before he saw it, hanging up neatly, drying out next to his sweater. His shoulders relaxed, but Castiel hadn’t even realized that he had tensed up. This was the moment he really became aware of what he was wearing (or rather, what he wasn’t). Of course he had noticed it before, but now Castiel was wondering if Dean was in a similar state of undress, considering the conditions of the human’s clothing.

Bad Castiel, he scolded himself. Questioning if Dean was wearing anything under the blanket tucked around him was not an acceptable use of thought, and the angel wondered where on earth the thought had come from.

In the background, his inner voice whispered to him. Dean was attractive, after all, and it wasn’t as if Castiel couldn’t appreciate that without being attracted to him. As long as he kept his thoughts to himself, it was perfectly okay to think whatever he wanted. Dean, of course, would probably be very angry if Castiel brought it up, given the human’s attitude towards the angel thus far.

Castiel was startled out of his thoughts by Dean getting up (at least he had the confirmation now that Dean was in fact wearing clothes; he had on a black t-shirt with an open plaid button-down layered over it and a pair of well-worn jeans) and moving towards the fire. He watched as the man stoked it before getting up to grab another log from the pile by the door. It took him a moment to arrange it on the fire how he wanted it, and then he was moving back to the couch without a word, wrapping the blanket around himself again. The silence wasn’t hostile, per se, but it wasn’t the most comfortable of silences in Castiel’s opinion.

***

Dean fought to keep his expression calm, but inside he was fuming. There was a damn angel in his cabin, sitting on his couch. Part of him wanted to blame his anger solely on that, but that wasn’t the truth. The truth was: Castiel had gotten under Dean’s skin. He hadn’t seemed as full of himself as other angels had (indignant, certainly, but not full of himself), and he had this way of talking that made Dean either want to record it and turn it into a new Shakespearian play or throw something at the guy. And how he had called Dean out, challenged him about his opinion of angels being racist? That had gotten to Dean in a major way.

A lot of it was how Castiel had just said it and was now sitting there, looking marginally interested in his surroundings, glancing at Dean every now and again. Every time those blue eyes landed on him, it was like the angel was looking at him through a magnifying glass, and it made him uncomfortable. Another major factor was that Castiel had flat out said he didn’t mind Dean. Dean had told the guy he hated angels and as far as Dean was concerned, Castiel should hate him on principle for that alone. But he didn’t, and Dean just couldn’t figure out why. Not knowing was unsettling. Dean liked things in black and white, and it was becoming more and more apparent that everything about Castiel came in startling shades of gray.

And then there were the questions. Castiel seemed to want to know everything, but the last thing Dean wanted to do was tell the angel his life story. It was bad enough that he had to share this part of his life with him.

Dean allowed himself to glance over at Castiel again, and his eyes met the angel’s. Castiel had his head tipped in what might have been confusion, and his expression was as blank as Dean’s was. It was unsettling, the way Castiel was looking at him, like he was reading Dean’s mind. And, just because Dean was both a little paranoid and immature, he though ‘you’re a dick’ at the angel.

There was no change in Castiel’s face, and Dean scolded himself for acting like a child. He could handle a day or two of the angel. At least, he hoped he could. It was either that or toss him out in the weather, and Dean would feel like a grade-A douche if he did that. Not to mention, Jo would never let him hear the end of it. But if it got to be more than a few days, Dean wasn’t going to be happy.

He turned to say something to the angel, but sometime since Dean had last looked at him, Castiel had drifted off again. His head rested against the back of the sofa, his broken wing folding forward of its own accord so it sort of covered him like the blanket. Which reminded Dean; as soon as the guy’s sweater was dry he was giving it back, assuming it would fit over the wing. He wasn’t exactly comfortable with the angel walking around without a shirt on. And given the weather, he figured Castiel probably wouldn’t be comfortable either.

He wanted to fall asleep like Castiel had, but that wasn’t an option as long as the fire was going, and dean didn’t feel like putting it out right now. Besides, it was another thing he could use to hold a grudge against the angel. Dean was good at doing that. After all, why should he forgive a species that killed his mother?

Chapter Text

When Castiel woke up again, Dean wasn’t on the couch anymore. The angel sat up, rolling his shoulders and stretching out his aching muscles as his eyes swept over the cabin, looking for the man. The fire was still going, so unless Dean didn’t care about the cabin potentially burning down (did Dean even know the risks? Castiel knew next to nothing about him) then he was still somewhere close by. Sure enough, a moment later Dean came through the only door in the cabin that didn’t appear to lead outside, shutting it tightly behind him.

“We’re snowed in,” Dean informed him when he saw that Castiel was awake, “the snow’s slowing down a bit, but even if it stopped there’s no way we’d be able to get out.”

“That’s unfortunate,” Castiel murmured, standing up and grimacing as his lower body complained. His legs were still stiff from the position he’d been sleeping in.

Dean snorted, “That’s one way to put it.” He tossed something as Castiel, “here.”

Castiel just barely managed to catch the bundle of clothes that Dean tossed his way. He glanced from the clothes to the human, and realized Dean wasn’t looking at him. In fact, it looked a lot like he was specifically trying not to look at him. Castiel didn’t understand the reasoning behind not looking at him, but he (very carefully) pulled on his sweater anyway. He hissed when it got caught in his wing before he managed to pull it on successfully. He left the trench coat folded carefully over the arm of the couch, ensuring nothing would fall out.

Now Dean was looking at him again, and Castiel wondered if it was the fact that he’d been shirtless that had bothered Dean. But he didn’t ask, because the way Dean was looking at him now was almost incredulous. “What?” he asked self-consciously.

Dean shook his head, “is that what the kids are wearing these days? That’s about the strangest fashion trend I’ve ever seen.”

What was wrong with his sweater? “I highly doubt that,” Castiel responded, “and I happen to like wearing this.”

“An angel without a fashion sense?” Dean asked, “Is that even possible?”

Now Castiel was offended, “there’s nothing wrong with how I dress!”

Dean rolled his eyes, walking across the cabin to a spot behind the couch, and Castiel turned, watching him. Apparently there was an entire mini-kitchen set up.

“You get running water up here?” Castiel asked.

Dean looked over his shoulder, “yeah. No electricity though.”

Castiel moved over to where Dean was, careful not to bump into anything with his wing, “I can see why you enjoy this place.”

Dean shrugged, “it’s better when I actually plan to make a trip up here, especially because I’m not normally freezing my ass off.”

“Still,” Castiel murmured, “if I had a place like this I would hate to leave.”

Dean gave him a disbelieving look, leaning against the counter behind him, “you’d want to stay in a place like this? No electricity, out in the sticks? I thought angels were into all that luxury stuff. Besides, if you want one so badly, can’t you just buy one?”

“In answer to the first question, yes, I would want a place like this. It’s peaceful, away from people with cameras and shouting fans. And I never really bought into the luxury stuff. I mean, I suppose the size of my library is a benefit, but most of the books I’ve read a hundred times, and they all are so religious. It’s unfortunate.” Castiel paused, thinking, before continuing, “And to answer your second question, yes, I suppose I could buy a place like this if I wanted. Problem is, any transaction would have to extraordinarily discreet and even then it would probably be discovered, and people would come looking for me. And that’s assuming my father would allow it, which he most certainly would not.”

“What are you, five?” Dean asked, “You don’t need your father’s approval for everything. You’re…” He stopped, evidently thinking, “How old are you, anyway?”

“Twenty-five.”

Dean raised his eyebrows, “you’re twenty-five. You’re younger than me.”

“How old are you?”

“Thirty-one.”

“That’s not much older than me,” Castiel pointed out, “six years isn’t that many.”

“Maybe to an angel it’s not,” Dean said, “you’re not going to look more than, what, thirty years old tops? Ever? Everyone else is going to get older and older, so I don’t think they’ll agree with you on that.”

“I think you misunderstand angels. I’m not a True Immortal, only a born one. I-“ Castiel cut himself off, shocked. Of course Dean hadn’t misunderstood. Humans didn’t know. They weren’t allowed to know. It was one of the rules.

“You what?” Dean asked, noticing that Castiel didn’t appear inclined to finish the statement.

“I’m not supposed to say,” Castiel forced himself to be monotone, blank. It was his go-to defense for any mistakes, any slip-ups. There were some things that humans could not know, and it was not Castiel’s place to tell those things to anyone, much less a human who hated angels. That would have been tantamount to suicide.

Dean rolled his eyes, “cut the crap. Who’s telling you not to say it? Your dad?”

“Try the archangel council,” Castiel said levelly, “there are rules. And you’re the last person I should be telling the secrets of my people.”

“Why, because you’re scared I’ll use it against you?” Dean’s tone was mocking.

“Precisely,” Castiel snapped, “angels are being murdered, and if you ask me, someone as anti-angel as yourself seems to be a pretty good suspect.” The moment it was out of his mouth, Castiel regretted it. Dean had been kind to him, fixing his wing and allowing him to stay. He wasn’t a suspect anymore, not in Castiel’s mind, or he would have killed him already. Right?

Dean’s face was shocked. It took him a full minute to respond, “You think I’m killing angels? I didn’t even know angels could die, much less that they were, and suddenly you think I’m the one who killed them?”

“I’m sorry,” Castiel apologized, his blue eyes wide, “I shouldn’t have said that. I didn’t-“

“Didn’t what?” Dean snapped, moving into the angel’s personally space angrily, “if I had been the one killing angels, why are you still alive, huh? You’ve gotten on my nerves plenty, but I haven’t done a thing to hurt you.”

Castiel backed up, “I know, I know. I’m sorry. I stopped thinking it was you a while ago. I don’t know why I said that. Please believe me.” It wasn’t exactly an ideal time to bring up that his broken wing was technically Dean’s fault.

Dean stopped advancing on him, and Castiel relaxed minutely. The human considered him for a moment, and then said, “You’re scared of me. Jo said so before but I didn’t believe her. Was that because of the angel’s-being-murdered thing, or was it something else?”

“Given the fact that I didn’t know about the murders until this morning, I’d say it was something else,” Castiel replied. As an afterthought he added, “I’m not scared of you. I mean, a moment ago I was, but in general I’m not.”

“Why were you scared of me a minute ago if you thought I wasn’t the killer?” Dean asked, “I mean, that’s what you said.”

Castiel deliberated before responding, “I’m what you would call pacifistic. You were getting in my space and acting with anger. In my mind, the correct response in that situation is to back away slowly and hope they don’t hit you.”

Dean gave that a few seconds to sink in and started laughing. Castiel frowned, unsure what was so funny. After a moment Dean said, “forget angel, you’re the strangest person I’ve met period.”

“I don’t think I understand,” Castiel said hesitantly. This was an odd reaction from someone who had been furious with him a few minutes ago.

Dean shook his head, “everyone knows you’re kind of strange for an angel, even people who try to avoid them as much as possible, but you’re weirder than I thought.”

“Should I be offended?”

“I wouldn’t be,” Dean shrugged, still smirking slightly, “being weird isn’t necessarily a bad thing.”

“So, just to clarify, you’re not going to throw me out in the snow?” Castiel asked.

“No, don’t worry about that,” Dean answered, “I’d hate having to explain to Jo that her favorite angel got frostbite or, you know, died thanks to me.”

“Well that’s a relief at least,” Castiel muttered.

Chapter Text

Dean backed a few steps away from the angel, returning to the small kitchen area and rummaging through the cabinets. After a moment, he pulled out a can of tomato soup, looking triumphant. Castiel watched as he went to work preparing it, and it was silent for a minute or two. Then, as Dean turned on the stove, Castiel asked, “If you have no electricity, how can you have a stove?”

“It’s a gas stove,” Dean answered, not even looking at him, “it doesn’t need electricity. Honestly, I only had it installed because I’m too lazy to get up and start a fire in the morning.”

Castiel cocked his head, moving a little closer to watch over Dean’s shoulder, but not close enough to get in his personal space. Dean glanced over his shoulder at Castiel, as if feeling the angel’s gaze on him, “you okay? You’re kind of staring.”

“I apologize,” Castiel murmured, looking away and backing up again. He didn’t socialize much, but he had been told before about his staring problem.

“It’s alright,” Dean said immediately, “just makes me a little uncomfortable, you know? Like you’re judging me or something.”

“I’m not…judging you,” Castiel frowned, unsure as to why Dean would think of it that way. It wasn’t Castiel’s place to judge anyone, not given his own behavior. He returned to the couch. As he did so, he asked, “You wouldn’t happen to have some books, would you?”

“Nope, sorry,” Dean responded, “We used to, but Sam took them all with him when he went to college and I never got around to getting any of them back.”

“Oh,” well that was unfortunate. It was likely that he would have to spend at least two days stuck in this cabin with Dean. Castiel wasn’t sure he would make it that long without something to entertain him. He had a feeling he got on the human’s nerves in a way that made both of them distinctly uncomfortable. He had been very hesitant to talk about his family, and Castiel wasn’t stupid. If he considered his conversations with Dean, to assume that something tragic involving both his family and angels was perfectly reasonable. It would be much better for everyone if Castiel had something to do that would ensure he kept his mouth shut, because otherwise he was certain his curiosity would get the better of him.

That’s when he remembered his journal. He sat up, twisting around just enough to snag his coat off of the arm of the couch. Still tucked into the inside pocket was his journal. He pulled it out, fingers brushing gingerly over the cover. It’s been a year since he’d been able to add anything to it, but he knew if he flipped open to any page, it’d have the date printed in Castiel’s neat handwriting in the top right corner, just like he remembered doing. He wondered briefly if Gabriel had thought to read it when he had taken it from Zachariah, but his dismissed the thought. If Gabriel had seen what was inside, his brother would have done something.

Castiel turned to the first page, letting out a breath he hadn’t realized he’d been holding as he took in the familiar handwriting. The date was from five years ago, and scrawled across the page was an excerpt from a song his mother had sung him to sleep with when he was very young. He had originally gotten the journal because he missed her, and it was a way for him to feel like she was still with him. She had died a year prior to him getting it.

Castiel swallowed hard, forcing back the memories. His father had kept his mother under his thumb much the same way he kept Castiel under his control. She had been a lot like him, Castiel had been told a few times, and Castiel considered this accurate. They had both been all but prisoners in their own house. They had both wanted a quiet life with their family. And, he recalled this with more clarity than he believed he should have, they both had the same bright blue eyes.

“Earth to Castiel,” Dean snapped his fingers in front of the angel’s face, and he jumped in alarm.

“You startled me,” Castiel said, closing his journal quickly and setting it next to him on the couch.

“Yeah, I could see that,” Dean responded. He held out a bowl, and it took Castiel a moment to actually take it from him.

“What’s this?” he asked, frowning down at the bowl cradled in his lap.

“Soup,” Dean said it like it was obvious (it kind of was, and Castiel supposed he should have phrased the question differently), “I made it. You’re supposed to eat it.” He sat down across from Castiel, “you are familiar with eating, right?”

His patronizing tone didn’t even cause Castiel to flinch (and what was with the human going back and forth between hostile and friendly like some kind of bipolar Ping-Pong ball?). Castiel’s voice was level when he said, “perhaps not as familiar as I should be with it.” He picked up the spoon resting against the rim of the bowl and took a cautious sip. It wasn’t that bad, considering it came from a can. He’d tasted much worse, courtesy of Anna.

Dean’s frown made Castiel uncomfortable, “what’s that supposed to mean?”

“It’s not of importance,” Castiel muttered, gaze settling on the bowl in his lap as he took another spoonful. He hadn’t noticed the hunger until he started eating, but he supposed that was to be expected. He was accustomed to that by now.

“What, angels don’t need to eat or something?” Dean asked, looking dubious, “or is that also something you’re not allowed to tell me?”

“It’s not that I don’t need to eat,” Castiel responded. He didn’t finish the thought. He hadn’t told Jo when she had mentioned it so why should he tell Dean?

The human didn’t seem like he was going to give up as easily as Jo had, “generally that statement has a follow-up. As in ‘it’s not that I don’t eat, I just-insert weird reasoning here-‘. So what’s your weird reasoning?”

Castiel shifted uncomfortably, swallowing more soup as an alternate to talking. After a moment of internal debating he decided to answer with, “let’s just say I didn’t get this body from physical activity.”

Dean looked horrified, and Castiel stared at his soup, feeling kind of ashamed of himself. His answer was vague enough that in other context it might be taken to mean something else, but given the discussion at hand, Dean knows exactly what Castiel is talking about. It takes the human what feels like hours but was probably only minutes to respond, “You starve yourself? You have to know that’s not healthy.”

“Of course I know that,” Castiel snapped, “it’s not like I was raised in a situation where I had good role models. Do you not understand that my family has a reputation to uphold? That my entire species has a reputation to uphold? Angels are supposed to be perfect! We’re supposed to look like the photo-shopped human models that you see in magazines, but we’re supposed to look like that naturally! So yes, I am perfectly aware of the negative side effects on my health, but I don’t have a lot of options.” Castiel knows he’s underweight by human standards if you remove the added weight of his wings. He’s always been aware of this. But the pressure from his family and from his way of life mean he’s never bothered to do anything about it aside from wishing he had Gabriel’s metabolism. Gabriel was one of the lucky ones who could eat anything he wanted and never gain a pound. His brother liked to say that it was his compensation for being so short.

Dean blinked at Castiel’s outburst, clearly not expecting the angel to get so upset. “I’m sorry?” he tried, the words sounding a little awkward on his tongue, as if he was not accustomed to saying them.

Castiel sighed, tucking his chin and curling up as tightly as possible without spilling his soup, “I apologize. I should not have gotten so upset, but it is a bit of a sensitive topic.”

“I can see that,” Dean said softly. Then he added, “Does the role model bit of the rant have anything to do with not having a lot of options part?”

Castiel glanced up at Dean before looking back down at his lap, “yeah, something like that. That wasn’t my dad so much as my sister. Zachariah didn’t really care about how I looked, but then, if you’ve ever seen him then you’d understand why. But Anna, she was all over that. She was always dieting and stuff like that, and she somehow always managed to rope me into it. I just…I didn’t see any other option.”

Dean raised an eyebrow, “did you ever consider just not doing it?”

“You have to understand,” Castiel murmured, “I grew up thinking I was inadequate. I’ve always had…book smarts, I think you call them, but as far as my family is concerned, as far as angels in general are concerned, that’s not a good thing. I have to have good social skills so I charm everyone around me, or I have to be sharp enough to outsmart anyone in the same room, and if I can’t be either of those then I have to at least look good enough to make human females literally faint in my presence. Needless to say, I quickly figured out I was far too socially awkward for the first option and saw too much good in people for the second option, so as far as I was concerned my only choice was the third option.”

Dean winced, “well, given Jo’s reaction to you, I’d say you’ve achieved that, at least.”

Castiel bit his lip, “yes. She seems very…impressed with me. I believe I enjoy it more when she considers herself my friend rather than my admirer, however.” It was true enough. Castiel liked Jo. He liked her loyalty and her sense of humor. And recently, the blond girl had seemed less worshipful of him, and Castiel thought that was a good thing.

Dean’s look was curious, “you would rather her be your friend?”

Castiel nodded, “friends see all of your flaws, but unlike others they do not judge you for them. They support you when you need it instead of assuming you are always in control of yourself. I don’t have many friends, just people who worship me or are disappointed by me. It’s an unpleasant feeling.”

“You’re lonely,” Dean sounded a little surprised, “is that what I’m supposed to be getting from this?”

“I don’t particularly care if you get anything from this or not,” Castiel told him, “it is my understanding that the moment we are able to part ways, it is likely I will never see you again, whether that be your doing or mine.” That was what Dean had been saying, right? He didn’t want anything to do with angels.

Dean shrugged, “yeah, I guess so. We don’t exactly travel in the same social circles.” There’s just a hint of displeasure in his voice, and Castiel assumes that it was directed towards the fact that Castiel’s ‘social circle’ is made up mostly of angels.

“Not true,” Castiel found himself arguing, although he wasn’t sure why, “We are both friends with Jo and Ellen.”

Dean was silent for a moment before responding, “Look, you’re right, seeing you again isn’t high on my list of priorities, and I suspect the same goes for you about me. You don’t need to justify anything.”

Chapter Text

Castiel looked away, lips pursed ever so slightly in annoyance. He finished his bowl of soup and stood, taking it back to the kitchen area and rinsing it out before leaving it on the counter. When he returned to the couch, Dean had picked up his journal.

Castiel snatched it out of his hands, sitting down and frowning, “you shouldn’t touch things that don’t belong to you.”

Dean raised an eyebrow, “dude, you’re sitting on my couch. That’s not a very good argument.”

He had a point, and that was irritating. Castiel forced himself to bite his lip in order to keep from retorting. He forced the anger to settle in the pit of his stomach, not exactly bottling it up, just tamping it down. Letting his emotions get the better of him made him appear weak, and that was not something he could afford to do right now. Dean seemed to consider himself above the angel, above angels in general, and Castiel was not about to stoop to his level. He had to keep a level head and a calm mind. Flying off the handle would do him no good, as he was stuck here with Dean for the time being.

When he had calmed himself down a little, Castiel responded, “you offered me shelter here, and I appreciate that, but that does not mean I am okay with you looking through my things.”

Dean groaned, “god, you’re going to talk like that the entire time, aren’t you?”

Castiel frowned in confusion, “I do not understand.”

Dean waved a hand, gesturing to Castiel, “the weird talking thing. You sound like an English teacher or something.”

Oh. Yes, Castiel remembered Jo mentioning that he had an odd way of speaking. He hadn’t considered it a bad thing, and as far as he was aware, neither had she. Was there a problem with the way he spoke? When he voiced this question, Dean shrugged, “I wouldn’t say there’s anything wrong with it, it just sounds kind of weird. I’ve never heard anyone talk like that before.”

Castiel nodded, “I’ve been told it is out of the norm. I suppose it is logical that you pointed it out.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?” Dean asked, sounding a little offended.

The angel gave a shrug, flinching slightly when it jostling his wing against the couch, “I only meant that you have a habit of pointing out my flaws. You’ve already covered the way I dress, my eating habits, and of course my species in general. It only makes sense that you would point out the way I speak as well.”

Dean looked like he was about to argue, but apparently thought better of it. As he went back to his soup, Castiel turned his attention away from the human and went back to observing the cabin. The picture above the fireplace had disappeared, and Castiel wondered if Dean had removed it while he had been asleep. There weren’t any other pictures in the cabin that Castiel could see, but there might be some in the room Dean had been coming out of, unless of course that had been the bathroom, which seemed unlikely, given the glimpse he had caught of the room as Dean had moved through the doorframe. It had looked more like a bedroom, albeit a very empty one.

Castiel hardly noticed when Dean moved to put his bowl in the sink, noting it only because he felt the couch shift. He was much more interested in examining what looked like a pencil drawing on the wall, almost out of sight because of the way it was tucked into the space behind the fireplace. Zachariah had never let Castiel draw on the walls, although he had tried many times as a child. The little sketch brought a smile to Castiel’s lips, despite him not being able to make out what it was. It looked like it was maybe a name, though. It had that sort of shape to it, long and drawn out rather than a cluster of scribbles all in one area. Castiel could sort of see in his mind’s eye a much younger Sam and Dean writing their names on the cabin wall just to prove it belonged to them.

It wasn’t until he realized that Dean hadn’t returned to the couch that Castiel tore his eyes away from the spot on the wall (and if he had felt like it, he really could have gotten up and looked, but he was in a comfortable position). He frowned, looking around the cabin for the human, but he couldn’t see him. It was a small enough space that Castiel could see into every corner of the room, meaning Dean was either outside (which proved highly unlikely, as the whole reason they were stuck here was the weather) or in the other room. And as the door had been shut tightly before and was now standing slightly open, Castiel figured the latter was a much more likely option.

He debated getting up just to see what was on the other side of the door, and maybe see where Dean had gone to, but he chose to refrain from doing so. He had gotten upset with Dean about looking through his journal, and he would look like a huge hypocrite if he just up and went nosing around. So he remained on the couch, fingers brushing over the cover of his journal again, a soothing and familiar feeling.

***

Dean resting his forehead against the wall and took a deep breath. Handling the angel had turned out a lot more frustrating than he had expected. It wasn’t like Castiel was a particularly bad guest; he just was testing Dean’s patience with both the angel and himself. Dean was finding it harder and harder to hate the guy (not that he’d flat-out hated him in the first place, but as an angel Dean hadn’t been very fond of him) the more he learned about him. There was a lot of his life that Castiel seemed perfectly open to sharing with Dean that, had the situation been reversed, Dean wouldn’t have shared with a near stranger. He supposed it came from having your social life broadcasted for everyone to see. Even so, Dean was pretty sure these things couldn’t just be found in a magazine. Castiel had looked extremely uncomfortable while sharing.

In addition to the fact that Dean was starting to feel bad for him, the angel was acting a little snippy with him, which almost (but not quite) countered the feeling. Castiel snapping at him when he’d looked at the guy’s notebook thing had startled him. Honestly, it startled him every time the angel raised his voice even slightly. And it wasn’t like Dean had been reading it or anything. He’d just flipped through it quickly.

Okay, Dean was kidding himself. He’d been curious when he’d seen it at first, wanting to know what the angel had written in it. Most of it had been drawings though, with writing scrawled in the margin, and there had been a few pages with ordinary objects tucked between them, possibly taped in to keep them from falling out. Before Castiel had taken the book back from him, Dean had definitely noticed a page with a black feather and a bright blue one. He figured the black feather was from Castiel’s wings, but he wasn’t sure who the blue feather belonged to.

Regardless, Dean wasn’t sure how to handle the angel. If he was being perfectly honest, he would admit to himself that it had been his fault that Castiel’s wing had broken, meaning it was his fault that they were stuck here together. Which brought him to another question: why had Castiel saved him? He had sort-of asked back when it had first happened, but he hadn’t actually figured out why. It honestly didn’t make sense, and it conflicted completely with what he knew of Castiel’s personality. The angel followed the rules to a tee, and as far as Dean was aware, saving someone who wasn’t a Protection was one of the biggest offenses an angel could commit (not that he looked into it, but as a lawyer Sam was full of interesting little facts like that).

He didn’t want to go back into the other room just yet. The cabin had a total of three rooms: the ‘living room’, which was where Castiel was now, the ‘bedroom’ (which did in fact have a bed in it, but not much else), and the bathroom (and Dean was extraordinarily grateful that Sam and his mother had insisted on it back when the cabin was being built, because going outside in this weather wasn’t really worth it).

So yeah, he couldn’t fully get away from the angel, but he could step into the other room to think. Castiel was interesting to say the least, but trying to keep up with him was worth a headache. Dean didn’t understand how everyone did it. It was hard enough keeping up with one angel, but dozens? That sounded exhausting.

There was a lot to consider about how the next few days would progress. The day was maybe half over, and the snow was just barely starting to slow down. Dean gave it maybe another two days, tops, and then they could start making their way back. Neither of them had access to a cell phone or a way across the lake, so they’d have to walk. Hell, Dean wasn’t even sure how long it would take for Castiel’s wing to heal. It could be fixed by the time they were ready to get out, or it might not heal for a long time. He couldn’t guarantee anything, so he’d have to ask the angel himself. That wasn’t his only question either, so he might as well spend his time with Castiel getting some answers.

Satisfied with himself, Dean pulled away from the wall, straightening up. He had collected himself, and now he was ready to go back into the other room with the angel. He strode over to the door, feeling more confident, and realized he hadn’t shut it fully behind himself. Dean pushed it open and made sure it was shut behind him before moving back to the couch.

Castiel had been reading from his notebook, looking half-asleep, but when Dean entered he saw the angel glance up, regarding him with those eyes. Privately Dean wondered if other people were as fascinated with the angel’s bright blue eyes as he was. He then proceeded to shove away that thought because it sounded girly. As a rule, Dean had no chick-flick moments, in his head or otherwise.

Chapter Text

Castiel watched as Dean settled himself back on the couch. There was a moment of silence before Dean said, “I’m not familiar with angel biology.”

Castiel raised an eyebrow, “I’m mostly human as far as I’m aware. Having wings does not mean that I’m built differently from you.”

“Yeah, I know,” Dean muttered, looking a little uncomfortable, “I just meant about your wing. I have no idea how long it will take to heal, and we’re only going to be stuck here a little while longer.”

“Oh.” Castiel considered that for a moment. He wasn’t entirely sure himself about how long it would take to heal. “I don’t know,” he admitted, “I would estimate a few months at the longest. Angels do heal faster than humans, but not by much.”

“I’m sorry,” Dean blurted out.

Castiel was taken aback, “about what?”

Dean looked away, appearing shocked (Castiel assumed he had not planned to apologize for whatever it was that he was apologizing for). He shook his head before responding, “It’s technically my fault that you broke your wing, and I realized I never apologized for it. So I’m sorry. You got stuck here because of me.”

“But you’d be dead if I hadn’t,” Castiel pointed out.

“Not necessarily,” Dean pointed out, “if you had saved me but I hadn’t fought you on it, we’d both be alive and neither of us would be sitting here right now. So yeah, I’m sorry I made you break your wing, and thank you for saving me.”

When Castiel had been taken aback a moment ago? That was nothing compared to how he felt now, “are you feeling all right? Is the cold getting to you?”

“What?” Dean frowned, “no, why?”

“You don’t sound like the Dean Winchester I have become acquainted with,” Castiel explained, “that Dean Winchester would never apologize to an angel, and he certainly would not thank one for something.”

Dean shrugged, “maybe I’m just trying to be a decent human being. Besides, you saved my life. That’s a pretty big deal, even more because I’m not one of your Protections. You could get in serious trouble.” He paused, considering, and then asked, “Why did you save me?”

Castiel shrugged, “I don’t know, I just…I felt you, and I could tell you were going to die. I didn’t want to be responsible for somebody’s death. It’s second nature for me. All angels feel the pull when a Protection is in danger, but most don’t feel the same urgency that I do. I can’t…I can’t let someone die when I could have done something to stop it. So when I felt that you were in trouble, I assumed you were one of my Protections and it just happened.”

That was when the full impact of what he had done hit Castiel. He could lose his wings for this. It must have shown on his face, because Dean immediately said, “Hey, relax. No one needs to know what happened. We’ll think of an excuse.”

“You’d do that?” Castiel was surprised, “you’d cover for an angel, even though you hate them?”

“I’d cover for you,” Dean corrected him, “and I don’t hate you. Just take being an angel out of the equation, okay?”

Castiel frowned, “are you sure you are all right?”

Dean chuckled softly, “yeah, I’m sure. You’re a good guy, Cas, and I’m sorry I was a jerk to you just because you’re an angel. You’ve never done anything to me. It wasn’t you that-“ He cut himself off, and Castiel cocked his head, intrigued.

Rather than ask about the fact that apparently Dean had decided to shorten his name, Castiel asked, “it wasn’t me that what?” When Dean stayed silent, not making eye contact, Castiel leaned forward, “Dean, what were you going to say?”

Dean sighed, still avoiding looking at Castiel, “look, I’ve never told anyone about this, all right? I mean, Jo and Sam probably know without me saying it, but that’s just because they know me really well, and Sam’s my brother.”

“I understand,” Castiel said softly. But he didn’t say anything else. He wanted to know what it was that had Dean so on edge.

Finally Dean said, “There’s a legitimate reason I don’t like angels. It’s kind of personal, so it’s not something I share with people.” He looked like he was arguing with himself for a moment before he said, “I don’t know if you knew this, but my mom died a while ago.”

Castiel shook his head, “no, I don’t believe I was aware of this. I’m sorry.” He was already pretty sure he knew where this was going.

“I was sixteen,” Dean muttered, “and there was a fire. They’re pretty sure it was started by a faulty electrical socket or something like that. My mom didn’t make it out of that fire, but my brother, my dad, and I did. I don’t think it would have bothered me so much, but there was an angel who lived just down the street. I saw him when I got outside. He was just standing there with a bunch of our neighbors, and I thought to myself ‘he could have done something’. He could have saved my mom, but he didn’t. Angels are supposed to save lives, but no one in my family was covered. It didn’t matter to him that he could have saved my mom’s life, it just mattered that we wouldn’t have been able to pay him. After that I guess I just started hating angels, blaming them for my mom’s death and stuff like that. The whole system is corrupt.”

Castiel was startled to realize that Dean was crying. He shifted his position on the couch so that he could be closer to the human and gently put a hand on Dean’s shoulder, “I’m sorry. I agree with you, Protection for Pay isn’t what angels should stand for. And I know it’s going to hurt to hear this, but the angel who could have saved your mom? He might have wanted to. He might have stayed up every night since then and hated that he didn’t do anything. But he made a decision, because saving someone who isn’t a Protection is one of the worst offenses an angel can commit, and the price for doing it is extremely high.”

At Dean’s questioning look, he admitted, “it’s not common knowledge, but it’s not forbidden information. If an angel saves someone who isn’t a Protection, they’ll probably lose their wings. The Council will mortalize them.” And in some cases, kill them, but he wasn’t about to mention that. He took a moment to tell himself that it wasn’t the topic at hand and he could worry about it later before saying, “but that’s not important right now. Your mother died when she could have been saved, and I wish I could offer sympathies that would take away the pain, but clearly that is not within my power to do.”

Dean stared at him, “you’re saying my mom is dead because an angel had to choose between saving a life and risking losing his own?” Castiel was going to assume that meant in the long run, given that he was pretty sure Dean was not aware of the Council’s habit of killing the angels they mortalized.

“That’s one way to put it, I guess,” Castiel said. He abruptly realized his hand was still on Dean’s shoulder and he quickly drew it back. Personal space, he reminded himself.

Dean shook his head, “well that puts it in perspective. I mean, yeah, I’m still upset about it, but that’s a valid point. And it has been almost fifteen years. That’s a long time to hate someone.”

Castiel tried not to make a face, “maybe you should just move on. You don’t have to miss your mother any less, but you don’t have to go around like avenging her is the only thing that matters either.”

Dean looked at him for a moment, then buried his face in his hands, “oh god, we’re having a chick-flick moment, aren’t we?”

Castiel was confused, “I don’t think I understand.”

“Never mind,” Dean said, “can we just cut the touchy-feely stuff please?”

“All right,” Castiel said slowly. So he changed the subject, “why did you call me Cas?”

Dean shrugged, “Castiel is a mouthful. Calling you Cas is easier. If you don’t like it, I won’t call you that.”

Castiel thought it over for a moment, and then responded, “I’m fine with it. No one’s ever given me a nickname before.”

“Oh really?” Dean looked skeptical, “so Ellen calling you ‘angel’ all the time wasn’t her having a nickname for you?”

Castiel blushed a little, “I try not to think about that. It’s a little weird. I’m aware that ‘angel’ is a human term of endearment, and it’s odd to be referred to by my species, but not unpleasant enough that I would have her stop.”

Dean laughed, visibly more relaxed than he had been previously, and Castiel was glad that (it appeared) Dean would be less hostile towards him in the future. “You kind of remind me of my brother,” Dean said, his tone almost affectionate (Castiel assumed it was because he was talking about his brother), “he’s kind of a know-it-all and he talks a little like you do.”

“Good to know I’m not the only one,” Castiel said dryly. But he was glad that Dean had warmed up to him. It had been pleasant to be confided in, even if it was with sad information. He and Dean were more alike than Castiel had realized, although at the same time, he wasn’t sure that now was the best time to share about his own mother’s unfortunate end. He was a little hazy on the proper etiquette for a situation like this, but he was also relatively certain that telling someone who was grieving that you had lost someone wasn’t a good idea.

Chapter Text

The silence they slipped into was a comfortable one, and Castiel didn’t feel the need to fill it. He rarely felt this comfortable with silence, which was essentially a vicious cycle for him as he didn’t like the silence but was usually too nervous to initiate a conversation. Castiel realized he was closer to Dean on the couch than he had started out being, but it didn’t bother him much, and it gave him more room to stretch out his wing.

Another feather dropped to the ground and Dean let out a little snort, “are you going to be shedding everywhere the whole time?” He didn’t sound particularly annoyed, which was a relief, only mildly amused.

“If anything, it would be called molting,” Castiel corrected him, “and my wing is healing. That means feathers are going to fall out. It happens.” He shrugged, “but yes, they will be falling out for several days, I imagine. I apologize if it bothers you.” The last bit was tacked on as a formality; he was pretty sure Dean didn’t really mind.

Dean smirked, “I bet if I put it online that I had some of your feathers, I could sell them and make a lot of money.”

Castiel briefly wondered if he should take offense to that. Dean hadn’t sounded like he was trying to make a joke at Castiel’s expense, but still. The idea of selling his feathers unsettled him. “I’d prefer it if you refrained from doing that,” he finally said.

Dean took in the look on his face and immediately said, “Hey, I was joking. I wouldn’t actually sell your feathers. That’d be like you selling my hair or something. It’d be weird.” The angel subconsciously noted how quickly Dean had jumped to reassure him.

“Thank you,” he murmured, “I’d hate for other people to have my feathers. It’s kind of personal, especially back before angels revealed themselves. My mother told me stories about how when angels lost a feather they would give it to someone they loved. I grew up on stories like those, and I wouldn’t want to tarnish them.”

Dean’s expression morphed into something Castiel couldn’t quite identify. He wondered if he shouldn’t have mentioned his mother, but before he could say or do anything Dean’s face was back to neutral. “My father used to tell me stories,” the human said softly, “I never really wanted to listen to him, though.”

“Why?” Castiel asked cautiously. Personal information was still unstable ground when it came to Dean Winchester, and Castiel didn’t want to overstep his boundaries.

Dean shrugged, “I don’t know. Maybe I thought I was too old for stories by the time he started telling them to me. After Mom, it wasn’t really the same at our house.”

Castiel shifted slightly, because they had just come back to the topic he had been expecting them to avoid. “It is my firm belief that you’re never too old for stories,” he finally managed.

The human nodded, “yeah, you like reading, right?” Castiel nodded. “I never really got into reading,” Dean muttered, “there were a few books I liked, but I didn’t have much time for them in general.”

“I know what you mean,” Castiel responded, “my father didn’t condone the types of books I enjoyed reading, so I had to do it when he wasn’t around, which was surprisingly difficult, given that he’s almost never around.”

“Well that’s something we have in common,” Dean said, “my father was around a lot, but he wasn’t really there. He was really drunk a lot.”

Dean’s tone implied a little more than just drinking involved in this, particularly given the involuntary flinch in the human’s face. Castiel felt kind of guilty, which was illogical, because he’d had nothing to do with Dean’s life before recently, so he shouldn’t consider any of what Dean was telling him to be his fault, but the feeling was there none the less. It was an uncomfortable sort of itch under Castiel’s skin that made him want to apologize and hide his face at the same time.

He chose the first option, “I’m sorry. I cannot say I fully understand the predicament, as I did not experience it, but I can sympathize, if that would make you feel better.”

“Thanks,” Dean said softly, “but it won’t. That part of my life’s over, anyway. And if I’m going to embrace the whole ‘out with the old and in with the new’ thing, then I may as well do it fully, right?” He glanced at Castiel, “you’re not bad, Cas. Kind of weird, but you’re a good listener. I never thought I needed one of those. Hell, I avoided talking about my problems for years, but I don’t know. Maybe I just figured everyone would judge me. But you’re not judging me, are you Cas?”

Castiel swallowed hard, “no.”

Dean smiled just slightly, “I didn’t think so. You don’t seem like the kind of person who judges other people. But you’re a good listener.”

“I try,” Castiel glanced away from Dean, eyes settling on the window. The snow had almost stopped completely, and it was getting dark out fast.

Dean apparently wasn’t done talking, “I can sort of see why Jo looks up to you. I think we’d be friends, if the circumstances were different.”

Castiel turned back to face Dean, head tilted, “why can’t we be friends under these circumstances?” He could see no reason why they couldn’t be.

Dean shrugged, “I don’t know. We just don’t run in the same social circles. You’re not exactly the kind of person I’m usually friends with, and you have to admit I’m not the type of person you’d be caught dead with in public.”

The words were followed by silence as Castiel turned them over in his mind, frown on his face. He was not pleased with the human’s opinion of this at all. Turning over to tuck himself against the cushion of the couch, he muttered, “I’m going to sleep now.” He gingerly tucked his injured wing over him, blocking out the light and hopefully any further attempts at conversation.

“Hey,” Dean tapped his shoulder, “Cas.”

The angel shifted his wing just enough to look up at the human through the blanket of feathers, “what?”

Dean looked uneasy, “we can’t let the fire run if we’re both asleep, and I’d like to get some shut-eye too.”

Castiel raised an eyebrow, “I don’t see how that is a problem.”

“When I put out the fire, it’s going to get really cold in here,” Dean explained, looking awkward, “There’s a bed in the other room, and we’re both mature adults, and it would be warmer anyway…” He trailed off, watching Castiel carefully.

Castiel pushed himself back up into a sitting position, “you think we should share the bed in order to keep warm?” It explained the awkward look on Dean’s face, anyway.

Dean nodded, “you don’t have to. I just thought-“

“It makes sense,” Castiel said, “and you are correct, we are both mature adults.” He stood, Dean automatically doing the same. He let the human move forward first though, pulling the blanket off the couch as he followed after him.

Dean pushed open the door to the bedroom, gesturing for Castiel to enter. He did, taking care to tuck in his wing just enough so that it didn’t hit the doorframe. Dean disappeared back into the other room, and shortly after Castiel heard a hissing noise and the room became almost pitch black. A minute later, though, there was a light in the doorway, and Castiel realized that Dean had lit a candle.

“We have a bunch of these,” the human said by way of explanation, “it’s not as good as a flashlight, but Sam was pretty indignant about the likelihood of batteries ending up trashed outside and how bad that is for the environment.” Castiel couldn’t be sure in the dim light, but he was relatively certain that the statement was accompanied with an eye roll.

“He’s right,” the angel responded, yawning slightly and stretching himself out on the left side of the bed. He slept on his stomach, and that meant Dean was unlikely to bump into his wing in the night.

“He usually is,” Dean groused, but there was affection in his tone. Castiel saw the light of the candle bob and shift as Dean set it down by the bed, and then he felt the mattress dip. There was some shuffling around, and then Castiel felt a blanket being tossed over him, surprising him a little, but he didn’t move or question it. And a few seconds later, Dean blew the candle out and Castiel settled comfortably into the darkness and fell asleep.

Chapter Text

Castiel woke up to surprisingly non-harsh light. As he opened his eyes, he attributed it to the fact that the snow on the window was acting as a filter. He didn’t feel like moving just yet, as he was both comfortable and warm. His wing wasn’t hurting in the slightest, but it was stretched out next to him, the tip of it grazing the floor.

Wait. Castiel pushed himself upright, confused. Somehow, during the night he had shifted until he was pretty much in the middle of the bed. Dean wasn’t in the bedroom, and Castiel really hoped that the human hadn’t gotten upset with him. They had been just starting to get along.

He shifted his position again so that he was on the edge of the bed, feet resting on the floor. Even through his socks he could feel the cold of the wood, and he shivered slightly. bracing himself, he stood up and walked over to the door, which was ajar, a hint of warmth seeping into the bedroom from the main part of the cabin. Moving into the enticing heat, Castiel saw a fire in the fireplace and Dean with his back to the room, working over the stove.

Castiel cleared his throat, and Dean glanced over his shoulder, smiling at the angel, “good morning.”

“Someone’s pleased,” Castiel noted, moving forward until he could lean against the back of the couch, watching Dean.

“The typical response would be ‘good morning’,” Dean informed him, smile still in place.

“Good morning,” Castiel said, “are you cooking?” He inwardly cringed at the question, hoping that Dean interpreted that as ‘what are you cooking’.

“Yeah,” Dean responded, “you were still pretty much passed out when I woke up, so I figured I’d make breakfast. I found a box of oatmeal, so we’re having that.” He shook his head, “really wish I had some bacon.”

Castiel glanced out the window, “the snow is stopping. We might be able to make it out of here today.”

Dean followed his eyes to the window. The snow had almost completely stopped, and the sun was coming out. “Maybe,” he said, “if it doesn’t start up again. I’d hate to be halfway around the lake only for it to start snowing again.” He cringed, “my baby’s still parked out there. I hope she’s doing okay.”

Castiel frowned, confused, “your baby?”

Dean looked at him, “my car.”

“Ah,” Castiel murmured, “you refer to your car as a she?”

Dean shrugged, “nothing wrong with that.” He pulled the pot off the stove, “we don’t have any maple syrup, so you’re going to have to eat it plain.”

“I’ve had worse,” Castiel told him, accepting a bowl and a spoon from the human. Dean took his own bowl and deposited himself on the couch. Castiel opted not to sit down, but he did turn so that he was facing the other man.

“How’s your wing doing?” Dean asked around a mouthful of the oatmeal.

Castiel stretched his wing out, testing it, “better. It is certainly less painful. But I doubt I will be in any condition to fly for a while.”

Dean grimaced, “that’s unfortunate. Any idea what we’re going to tell people when we get back?”

Castiel thought about it, “no idea. Telling them the truth would be very bad, but a convincing lie would be tricky. As you said yesterday, we do not travel in the same social circles. There is no logical reason as far as I’m aware for why I would be out here if not to save your life.”

Dean looked worried, “yeah, I couldn’t think of anything either. It’s going to be pretty hard to bullshit through this.”

“Do you have much experience with bullshit?” Castiel inquired.

Dean snorted, “I’ll say. I can talk circles around pretty much anyone I want to.”

“So modest,” Castiel smirked.

Dean smacked his arm, “we can’t all be little goody-two-shoes like you. Some of us have to lie to get us through the day.”

The angel fidgeted, wing rustling, “I’m not as innocent as you might believe. I’ve had to lie before, I just did not find it a pleasant experience.”

“Really,” Dean didn’t look entirely convinced.

“Yes, really,” Castiel replied. He wasn’t entirely sure why it was so important that he convince Dean of this, “the lifestyle I am required to live means that honesty is not encouraged, especially given my take on certain things. You try being an angel and telling your family that you think Protection for Pay is corrupted and that all the wealth and fame is completely unnecessary, and see what happens to you.” Castiel shuddered at the idea. There was no way he would ever tell his family about that.

Dean considered it, “yeah, I can see how that would be a bad idea.” He gave Castiel what the angel could only describe as a once-over, “you’re the only angel I’ve ever heard of who’s practically allergic to wealth.”

Castiel frowned at him, “well that was uncalled for. Are we back to insulting my fashion choices?”

Dean laughed, “Nah, but you have to admit, the sweater’s a little ridiculous.”

“I don’t have to admit anything of the sort,” Castiel said stiffly, but he didn’t feel particularly annoyed. It felt more like he and Dean were being more playful in their conversation than it had before. It was an almost domestic situation, and Castiel wouldn’t admit it, but he was enjoying it a lot. The oatmeal was pretty good, too, and Castiel noted that Dean probably could cook a lot of other things as well, given that he lived alone (a fact that Castiel was mostly certain of, considering what he had witnessed so far of the man) and looked considerably well fed.

The distraction from the situation was abrupt and instantaneous, and it crashed over Castiel like a tidal wave, his bowl slipping between his fingers to crash onto the floor. His other wing was unfurling before he could consciously react, but Dean beat him to the punch. He was off the couch and in front of the angel in about two seconds, “Cas, what’s going on?”

Castiel had to wrestle with his instincts, trying desperately to regain control over himself, “one of my Protections…Becky, I told you no!” He could barely force the words out, but he wasn’t even sure who he was talking to.

“Hey, Cas, look at me,” Dean’s voice sounded distant to Castiel even though he was so close to him, “you can’t help her, okay? I know you want to, but you’ll only end up hurting yourself. There’s nothing you can do.”

As abruptly as the feeling had hit him, it was gone, and Castiel swayed dizzily for a moment before focusing again. Dean had a hand on his shoulder, he realized, and the human was definitely in his personal space. “I’m fine,” Castiel murmured, shaking his head to clear it, and Dean immediately backed up, “she’s okay. She’s still alive.” He tucked his good wing into his back, shaking out the other one (another feather dropped out of it).

“See?” Dean said, “everything’s fine. No one got hurt.”

Castiel leaned heavily against the couch, staring at the dropped bowl on the floor, “but someone might have.”

“Yeah, you,” Dean frowned, “why would you do something that put yourself in danger?”

“I told you,” Castiel finally looked up at Dean again, “it’s instinct. I have to try to help, even if there’s nothing I can do.”

“No offense, but that kind of instinct could get you killed,” Dean told him.

Castiel chose not to answer, instead crouching down to pick up shattered fragments of the bowl from the ground. Dean knelt down too, and Castiel diligently avoided his eyes.

“I’m serious,” Dean said, “what are you going to do if you try and save someone and you get hurt?”

“I managed well enough this time,” he pointed out quietly.

Dean straightened up, still kneeling, “I wouldn’t use this as a good example of saving someone.”

Castiel grimaced, “I suppose that’s true. I guess I am like my mother.” He stood, carefully depositing the shards of the bowl on the kitchenette’s counter, and Dean followed suit, looking confused.

“What do you mean, you’re like your mother?” the human asked carefully.

“Do you have something to clean that up with?” Castiel gestured towards the mess of oatmeal left on the floor, ignoring Dean’s question.

Dean grabbed a couple of cloths out of one of the kitchenette’s cupboards, tossing one at Castiel, “are you going to answer me, or what?”

Castiel thought it over. He would have to tell Dean the whole truth about angels saving non-Protections. But Dean had opened up to him, and it was only fair that he do the same. The angel knelt back onto the floor to clean up the mess as he began, “my mother died too. It was six years ago, just before I completed my Guardian training. I was distraught. She had been the only one in my family who truly understood me, and I’ve always been told we were a lot alike, in both appearance and mentality. I didn’t fully understand just how important following the Council’s rules was until after her death.” He forced himself to stop, take a breath. He could feel the tears welling up in his eyes, and it wouldn’t do to have Dean see him cry.

“What happened?” Dean asked softly.

“She disobeyed,” Castiel said softly, “one of her Protections was in the car with his daughter, and she couldn’t bear to let the child die, so she saved them both. The council couldn’t allow that, so they covered it up as best they could and they brought my mother in.” He had to pause again before continuing, “I was with Gabriel when I found out. We were at some party of his, and I remember Anna running in crying. She told me to find Gabriel, that we had to go home right away. When we got there, a representative of the council was waiting for us. He told us what had happened to our mother. I never got the chance to say goodbye to her.”  Castiel couldn’t stop the tears from rolling down his face, “I had a feather that she had given me when I was younger, and when I got my journal, I put it in there with one of mine. Sometimes I pretend I’m writing to her, and that she’ll get my messages. It’s stupid, but it makes me feel better. I mean, what happens to an angel when they die? It’s better to think that’s she’s up there watching over me than the alternative.”

“Hell?” Dean asked softly.

Castiel shook his head, “not existing at all.”

Dean was silent for a moment, and then he said, “I’m sorry. That must have been rough.”

“It’s no worse than you losing your mom,” Castiel pointed out.

“Yeah, but I’ve had fifteen years to get over it. You’ve only had six.” The human’s logic was sound, but that didn’t make Castiel feel any better.

He looked out the window, “maybe we should start walking.”

Dean didn’t look pleased, but he accepted the subject change, “I don’t know. Are you sure that it’s not just going to start up snowing again?”

“Of course I’m not sure,” Castiel said, “but we shouldn’t be waiting much longer. The sun’s up, and it should be getting warmer out. This is the best time of day to get moving, and I suspect you want to get out of here just as much as I do.” That was a lie. Castiel wasn’t actually all the fond of the idea of leaving this place. It felt more like home here than anywhere else ever had, and he would be sorry to leave it, but that was necessary. He couldn’t stay, and Dean wouldn’t want to either, he was certain.

“Yeah, you’re probably right,” Dean muttered, “get bundled up, we’ll leave in a few minutes.”

Castiel, other than what he was already wearing, only had his trench coat, so he pulled that on. Dean came back wearing several layers, and Castiel wondered if he always wore that many clothes, or if he had extras here at the cabin. Either way, he didn’t ask.

“Ready to go?” Dean asked him.

Castiel nodded, “yes.”

Dean put out the fire, and Castiel instantly felt colder, the chill sweeping the room. Dean pulled open the door and gestured for Castiel to move. He did so, exiting the cabin without a backwards glance. It was even colder out here, with snow still falling, although very gently, the majority of the flakes getting caught in the trees overhead, already overloaded with snow and looking like they might collapse under the weight any minute. His wing felt frozen already, but that didn’t matter. What mattered was them getting out of there.

Chapter Text

They started walking, Castiel following after Dean in silence. His shoes weren’t made for this kind of weather, and were soaked through almost instantly, but Dean’s evidently were, because while Castiel was walking with a limp after only a minute or so from the cold, Dean’s stride didn’t change. Castiel was actually having a little trouble keeping up, but he didn’t say anything.

The rustling of the tree branches above made the angel tense up. If any branch lost the snow piled up on it, it could easily bury a human being (or an angel). The last thing he wanted right now was to be covered in snow on top of being freezing cold already.

Dean glanced back at him, “everything all right, Cas?”

“Fine,” he responded, eyes still flickering between the ground and the trees above him. Then he added, “How long do you expect us to be walking?”

Dean shrugged, “in the summer it usually takes a few hours. With all the snow on the ground, it’ll probably take longer than that.” He seemed remarkably casual about this, and Castiel couldn’t figure out why he wasn’t freezing to death. He briefly wondered if he should be concerned about the fact that he couldn’t feel his wing.

They were silent for a long time, and Castiel busied himself by considering possible ways to explain why he had been missing for three days. He wondered for the first time if Ellen had even been concerned that he was gone. He tried to recall what the last thing he had said to her and Jo was, but found that he couldn’t. It felt like a lifetime ago.

Dean stumbled and cursed, calling over his shoulder, “careful, it’s icy.”

Castiel focused more on where he was walking, trying to avoid anything that looked too icy, but evidently nature was against him today, because his foot hit a large patch of ice and he skidded forward, crashing into Dean’s back.

The human helped steady him, “I thought I told you to be careful.”

Castiel glared at him, “I was being careful.” His wing puffed up a little, as if unconsciously making an effort to intimidate Dean. It didn’t work.

“Well, be more careful,” the human returned before setting off again, thankfully at a slightly slower pace. Castiel tried to brush it off, feeling like his pride had been wounded.

He lost track of the time they had been walking, feeling slightly dizzy from inhaling the frigid air. Everything on the edges of his vision was starting to blur, and he stumbled more often. Castiel was relatively sure that he couldn’t feel his feet at all, and his hands were rapidly becoming the same way. He rubbed them together in a vain effort to warm them up a bit.

“Want to take a break?” Dean asked, and Castiel breathed a sigh of relief.

“Yes,” he responded quickly.

The human cleared some of the snow off of a tree root (only managing to partially clean it off) and sat down, gesturing for Castiel to join him. As the angel perched next to him, Dean reached over and wrapped his arm around him. Castiel tensed, unsure where the sudden show of affection had come from.

“Sharing body heat,” Dean muttered, sounding almost like he was talking to himself, “it’s the best way to keep warm in these conditions right now.”

Oh. Of course that was all it was. Castiel internally berated himself for thinking otherwise and even more so for the strange feeling of disappointment that he had been wrong in guessing the reason. He curled closer into Dean’s side and found that the human was right. Dean was radiating warmth, and Castiel burrowed into it (he was not cuddling, he was not!). It was nice to feel the heat, and he wasn’t aware his hands were moving until Dean hissed.

“Your hands are freezing, Cas,” Dean said, and Castiel realized he had moved them under Dean’s shirt without noticing. He moved to retract them, but Dean caught them between his own, rubbing them in an attempt to warm them up. Slowly, Castiel began to regain the feeling in his fingers.

“Thanks,” he finally responded when Dean let go of him. Castiel tucked his hands up into his sleeves, clasping them together and leaning more into Dean. The human returned the gesture, and Castiel struggled to tell himself that he wasn’t pleased by that.

Finally, Dean murmured, “we should get going. The clouds are starting to roll in again. We’re a little more than halfway there, we should just have another hour or two, okay?”

Castiel nodded, reluctant to move but forcing himself to anyway. God, what was wrong with him? He followed behind Dean in a daze, not registering that the chill was already creeping back into his hands or the fact that it stung a little every time another feather dropped out of his wing.

They were both silent, the only sound the light wind brushing through the trees and making Castiel shiver. He hated the cold with a passion right about now.

Time flowed more quickly than Castiel had thought possible, because it felt like minutes rather than hours when Dean said, “almost there.” It startled him out of some fuzzy thought that his mind had been playing without him really paying attention to it.

When they stumbled out of the woods, Castiel saw what he assumed to be Dean’s car (Baby?) covered in a good chunk of snow.

Dean made a noise of distress, moving over to the car and brushing his fingers over the end Castiel assumed to be the hood, “I’m so sorry, Baby. I’ll fix you up as soon as I get home, promise.”

Castiel ignored the fact that he was talking to a car and helped Dean begin to clear off the snow. When enough was finally off the car and onto the ground, Dean reached into his pocket, apparently looking for something. He swore.

“What?” Castiel asked.

“I don’t have my keys,” Dean responded, “so unless you have a way to get into the car without them, we’re stuck out here for a while.”

Castiel reached into his coat pockets, numb fingers digging in and searching around. Dean would kill him if he so much as suggested smashing the windows, so he kept that thought to himself. Then his fingers closed around something and he pulled it out and handed it to Dean.

The human looked surprised, “you carry around a lock picking kit?”

Castiel shifted uneasily, “it looks kind of bad, I know, but it’s surprisingly useful.”

Dean shook his head, “I’m debating whether I should be freaked out or impressed.” He fiddled with the lock for a moment, and then there was the sound of a lock clicking. Dean climbed into the driver’s seat and unlocked the passenger seat for Castiel, who in turn got into the car. It took some rearranging for him to get his wing to fit, but finally he settled into a semi-comfortable position.

The first thing Dean did after starting the engine (Castiel wasn’t sure how, and didn’t think he wanted to know) was turn on the heat, which Castiel was extremely grateful for. As the car warmed up, Dean began his attempt to back up, but the snow was very thick, and it was a slow and intense process. Finally, Dean managed to get to the main road, and from there it was easy.

Finally, Castiel said softly, “what are we going to tell people.”

Dean sighed, “I don’t know, man. I’d hate to be the reason you lost your wings. Worse, I’d hate to be the reason you’re dead. Imagine having that on your conscious.”

Castiel let out a sigh of his own. Dean had put it together. He knew that Castiel could lose his life for saving him. He stared out the window. There was maybe one or two other cars on the road, but everyone else would be holed up for the time being.

Chapter Text

As they approached the edge of town, Castiel leaned forward in his seat, frowning. “Dean?” he asked softly, “why are there police cars surrounding town?”

“I don’t know,” Dean responded, looking equally as confused. He slowed down further, coming to a complete stop as a police officer stopped in front of the car.

Dean rolled down his window, “Is everything all right, officers?”

“We’re going to have to ask you to step out of the vehicle, sir,” one of them responded.

Dean glanced over at Castiel, and then did as the officer asked. The next thing either of them knew, Dean was being bent over the hood of the car, placed in handcuffs, and read his Miranda rights.

“What’s going on?” Castiel demanded, getting out of the car too.

“This man is under arrest,” Castiel realized it was Benny Lafitte, and that he didn’t look too pleased about it, “he’s been charged with kidnapping and suspected of murder.”

“Whose kidnapping?” Castiel demanded.

Benny raised an eyebrow, “yours.”

Castiel was stunned into silence, frozen as Dean was hustled into a police car, which drove away, leaving Castiel and Benny in a face off. When he recovered, he said, “Dean didn’t kidnap me.”

“I suppose you just up and went with him of your own free will then?” Benny asked, look of displeasure still on his face, “I’ve got statements from witnesses saying that Dean Winchester kidnapped you.”

“Really?” Castiel’s tone was harsh, “whose statement?”

Benny looked even more uneasy, “for one, Zachariah Godsent.”

Castiel briefly saw red, but he kept his mouth shut. He really was going to kill his father. “So you think he’s responsible for the murders too?”

Benny pursed his lips, “between you and me, Dean may have a thing against angels, but he’s no killer. I don’t know what to think anymore. But I’m sure as hell not going to put up a fight against Zachariah Godsent. It’s better for everyone that way.” He paused, “now, we’re going to have to tow this car, so I’ll give you a ride.”

Castiel nodded tersely, fuming. Missing for three days, and suddenly everyone thinks Dean’s kidnapped him and killing people. In spite of himself, Castiel recalled how he had accused Dean of being the killer, and kind of hated himself for it. He was so upset as Benny drove him that he didn’t realize where they were going until it was too late.

Zachariah was waiting for him outside the house, smug smile on his face. Castile got out of the car simply because he had no other options, glaring at his father as he did so.

“Castiel, I’m so glad you’re home safe,” Zachariah said, the words sounding fake. Castiel felt a twinge of something he couldn’t identify at the use of his full name.

Zachariah moved in to hug him, a display simply because Benny was still sitting in the car watching them. Castiel ducked under his arm and stormed into the house, slamming the door shut as loudly as possible behind him.

Gabriel and Anna were waiting inside, in front of the staircase. Castiel was only moderately surprised to find that they both looked concerned. “Are you all right, Cassie?” Gabriel asked immediately.

“What happened to your wing?” Anna asked before Castiel could answer Gabriel.

Castiel chose not to say anything, brushing past his siblings and ascending the staircase. He could feel another feather drop free of his wing, but he didn’t care. He didn’t stop until he reached his room, locking the door tightly behind him.

Castiel climbed onto his bed, burying his face into the pillow and screaming as loudly as he could. He had gotten Dean arrested. True, they had been planning to lie about what happened, and this had just dropped into their lap, but Castiel wanted to cry. Instead he vented his frustration by yelling into the pillow until it left his system. It didn’t, but his throat got too hoarse to continue, so he curled up on his side instead, wing tucked over him like a blanket.

There was a knock on his door, “Cassie?” It was Gabriel, “hey, let me in. Look bro, I know you’re upset, but you’re just going to make yourself feel worse if you don’t talk to anyone.”

Castiel debated for a moment, then got up and unlocked the door. By the time Gabriel opened it, he was already back on the bed, in the same position. Gabriel sat down next to him gingerly, like he was afraid Castiel might bite him. “You look awful,” his brother commented.

“Thanks,” Castiel bit out.

“No need to get snippy,” Gabriel shot back. Then, in a kinder tone he said, “What happened?”

“Apparently, I was kidnapped,” Castiel muttered into the pillow.

“No, I mean what really happened?” Gabriel asked, “I know whatever Zachariah said is probably a big fat lie, so I’d like to know the truth.”

“The truth?” Castiel asked, “If I tell you, you have to swear to not tell anyone.”

“Cross my heart,” Gabriel responded immediately, only sounding a little immature and condescending.

Castiel sighed and pushed himself into an upright position, “Dean didn’t kidnap me. I didn’t go with him either.” Gabriel raised an eyebrow, but he let Castiel continue, “I was at the Roadhouse, and I felt that pulling, like when one of your Protections is in danger. Only, it wasn’t a Protection. It was Dean.”

“You saved him?” Gabriel asked, sounding shocked.

Castiel nodded, “I did. That’s how I injured my wing. We ended up spending a few days at a cabin his family owns because we got snowed in. We only managed to get back here today.”

Gabriel sat quietly for a moment (impressive, considering this was Gabriel). The look on his face indicated thinking and concern. Finally, he supplied, “you broke the rules.”

“I did,” Castiel responded, voice coming out detached. There wasn’t much else to say now.

“Like mom,” Gabriel added, “except she actually saved one of her Protections in the process. I kind of doubt that you did the same. Am I right?”

Castiel nodded, staring at the wall, “it was just Dean, no one else.” The last time he had sat on this bed, the most he had worried about was a fight with his father. Now he was facing potential punishment from the council, assuming they found out the truth. Of course, with Dean locked up, that wasn’t as likely to happen.

As if voicing Castiel’s thoughts, Gabriel said, “Hey, at least if the guy’s locked up and the story is kidnap, then you should be fine.”

“That’s a lie, Gabriel,” Castiel said tiredly, “am I really going to spend the rest of my life living a lie that someone else had to go to prison for?”

Gabriel winced, “well, considering the circumstances, if he’s convicted of kidnap, it’s not too far off the mark to suspect that he was involved in the killings too.” Castiel’s head shot up to look at his brother, but Gabriel cut him off, “yeah, I know about those. My point is, it’s entirely possible that he’ll get a death sentence, especially if Zachariah gets his way.”

Castiel shuddered. The thought of Dean dying because of him brought a twist to his stomach and the taste of bile to his mouth. He recalled Dean saying something about how he wouldn’t be able to live with himself if Castiel’s death had been his fault. The angel suspected that he was feeling something similar to that occurring right now.

“I can’t let him die because of me,” Castiel said aloud.

Gabriel put a hand on Castiel’s shoulder, “you didn’t. You saved his life, and you know the consequences of that.”

Castiel shook off his brother’s hand, “I didn’t just save his life, Gabriel. If it hadn’t been for him, I would have died out there.”

“And if it hadn’t been for you, he would have died without you even having to step outside,” Gabriel countered.

Castiel stood up, shaking his head, “it’s not as simple as that.”

Gabriel stood too, frowning, “then maybe you should explain it to me, because you’re not making sense. Like, even less sense than you normally do.”

“I can’t explain it,” Castiel said honestly, “I don’t know. I just don’t want him to die. If I had been okay with that, I wouldn’t have saved him in the first place.” That was the best explanation he could give, because Castiel didn’t understand it himself. Dean Winchester shouldn’t have mattered as much as he did, but after the past few days all Castiel could think was that Dean didn’t deserve jail time, and he certainly didn’t deserve to die, over what had happened.

***

Dean paced back and forth across the floor of the holding cell in the police station, frustrated. He was aware that coming up with an excuse had been something he and Cas had struggled with, but this wasn’t an option he would have chosen. He hadn’t gotten to see the angel’s face when they were taking him in, but he’d heard what sounded like indignation, so that was a little encouraging.

“Mr. Winchester?” he recognized Benny’s voice. They were sort of friends, less so now (although that had occurred before he had been locked up), “you have a visitor.”

Dean brightened immediately. Had Cas come to get him out of this?

“Dean Winchester.” That was definitely not Cas. The excitement darkened as he recognized both the voice and the face. “I wish I could say that I was pleased to meet you, but I’m certainly not.”

Dean gritted his teeth, “you’re Zachariah.”

“Oh, so you know me?” Zachariah seemed remarkably calm, “can’t say I’m surprised. You took my son from me.”

“I didn’t kidnap him,” Dean spat, “if he came t-with me, it was of his own free will. I can guarantee that.”

Zachariah stepped closer to the bars, and gestured for Dean to do the same. He did so hesitantly, frowning. “I think we both know what really happened,” Zachariah murmured, “my son did something unspeakable, and for some reason you are responsible. I cannot allow you to take my son from me like that. So you’re going to go with the kidnapping story, and I’ll make sure they know that you weren’t the one who killed the angels.”

“And if I don’t cooperate?” Dean shot back, his tone just as soft as Zachariah’s but considerably more angry.

Zachariah’s expression twisted into a leer, “well, then I can ensure that you go from a life sentence to a death sentence. How would you like that?”

Dean bit back a few choice phrases about where Zachariah could shove his offer, and instead responded with, “you don’t have any evidence. I didn’t kill anybody, and I didn’t kidnap your precious angel.”

Zachariah shook his head, clicking his tongue in disappointment, “you underestimate my resources. I assure you, once I am done there won’t be a doubt in anybody’s mind, even your own, that you were the one who did it.”

Dean snorted, “Why do you care so much? I thought you and your son weren’t on good terms at the moment.”

“He’s still my son, even when we have our disagreements.”

“Disagreements?” Dean repeated, incredulous, “last I checked, he couldn’t stand you. I can’t say I blame him.”

Zachariah’s face darkened, “don’t push me, Winchester. You won’t like the result.” He moved away from the cell, “I’ll be back to check in on you. Think about my offer.”

This time Dean really did tell him what to do with his offer, but Zachariah was already gone. Dean slumped against the cell wall, furious. Yeah, he could understand why Cas was at odds with his father. The guy was a total dick.

Chapter Text

Gabriel called in a doctor to take a look at Castiel’s wing. Castiel was already beginning to get annoyed with his brother, because the older angel refused to leave him alone. He stayed with Castiel the entire time the doctor was checking out his wing (with a remark that it had been set pretty well), leaning against the wall, watching.

The doctor had been instructed not to ask questions, but Castiel didn’t like the way her eyes kept flickering away from his wing and onto his face, looking curious. Every time he caught her looking, she would glance away with a blush.

When she finally left (after resetting Castiel’s wing and informing him that it would be a month or so at least before it healed, and to check in with her again in a month to see), Castiel said to his brother, “you can leave now.”

Gabriel didn’t look convinced, “how do I know that if I leave you alone, you won’t do something stupid?”

Castiel sighed, “If I was to do something stupid, I highly doubt you could stop me.”

“And what if I didn’t try to stop you?”

Castiel hesitated, thinking it over, trying to decide if this was a trick question or not. “I think I would go to the Roadhouse,” he decided, “I owe Ellen an explanation for why I left so suddenly, and I left some things there anyway.”

Gabriel studied Castiel for a moment, and then said, “Okay. Let’s go.”

Castiel started, “what?”

“You heard me,” Gabriel said, standing up straight, “we’re going to the Roadhouse. I’m driving you.”

“Why?”

“You’re not flying,” Gabriel pointed out, eyeing his wing, “and I’m not about to let my baby brother walk anywhere when there’s a killer on the loose.”

Castiel made the split-second decision not to argue with his brother (a good decision, given the fact that Gabriel was very persuasive, and if Castiel refused, he would just argue until Castiel was convinced, and that would just waste time and energy), and stood up to follow him down the hall and into the garage. Gabriel liked to indulge in just about everything, which meant he had an appreciation for nice cars. Castiel, lacking the interest and knowledge, couldn’t have told you the name of it if he wanted too. He climbed into the passenger seat, taking care that his wing was situated in a way that would keep it from being caught in the door and wouldn’t obstruct Gabriel’s view of the road.

Gabriel whistled merrily as the garage door opened, and Castiel decided not to complain. Instead, he was patiently silent the entire car ride. He wasn’t sure how Gabriel knew the way to the Roadhouse, but he wasn’t going to ask, because Gabriel being quiet was generally a good thing, and he’d put up with a bit of whistling to his brother chattering on any day.

Pulling up outside the Roadhouse, Castiel got out of the car. What he hadn’t expected was for Gabriel to follow him. “You’re coming inside?” he asked hesitantly.

Gabriel shrugged, “why not?”

Castiel chose not to argue and enter the bar, door swinging open and a rush of warm air enveloping him almost instantly. Jo was sitting at the bar, feet propped up on the counter, just like the last time he’d seen her there. There were only a few other people in the bar, and they all turned to look (and then stare when they saw who it was) at the sound of the door opening. Jo looked up too, and her eyes widened. She was on her feet quickly.

“You’re back,” she said, sounding shocked, when Castiel and Gabriel approached the bar. As an afterthought she added, “And you brought your brother.”

Castiel nodded, “may I speak to your mother?”

“Of course,” Jo responded, scuttling into the kitchen. She reappeared a moment later, wincing, followed by Ellen.

Castiel didn’t have the chance to say anything before Ellen glared at him and snapped, “Kitchen, angel. Now. Bring shorty with you.” And then she had disappeared back the way she had come.

Castiel ignored Gabriel’s protests of, “shorty? I’m not that short!” and followed after Ellen. Gabriel was close behind, still muttering under his breath.

As the door swung closed behind the two angels, Ellen rounded on them (well, mostly Castiel, but as Gabriel was directly behind his brother it gave the impression that her anger was directed at both of them), “you’d better have a very good explanation, worrying me like that.”

“I apologize for any concern I may have caused you,” Castiel murmured, “I did not intend to frighten you.”

Ellen snorted, “I’d hope not. I see you come in after you find out about what happened to those angels, and the next thing I know you’re not in your room and I can’t find you anywhere! The snow was so thick I was worried that you’d freeze to death somewhere. Or worse, that whoever it was killing the angels had found you. But no, I hear today that Dean Winchester’s been arrested on a kidnapping charge, and that you were the kidnapped angel in question. The Winchesters are like family, so you’d better get to telling me what this is all about.”

Castiel took a moment to decide what to say, and then gave her the overview. Lying to Ellen would just make him feel guilty, “I went out in the blizzard to save Dean, and you can’t tell anybody that or I would be in a lot of trouble, and then you will have to worry about my life. Dean and I got snowed in, but his family owns a cabin up where I found him, so we stayed there. Today we came back, and next thing I know, Dean’s being arrested and there’s nothing I can do about it.”

Ellen pursed her lips, considering Castiel’s explanation carefully. Finally she asked, “Dean’s been arrested?”

Castiel nodded, “the assumption was that he kidnapped me. It’s not that hard a conclusion to draw, even if it is inaccurate. But I think my father is going to make a pretty good attempt to keep it the only conclusion, and my father almost always gets what he wants.”

Ellen smiled slightly, looking positively devilish, “then it’s a very good thing that there’s an ‘almost’ in that sentence. What are you proposing we do, angel?”

Castiel took a breath, thinking, “I’m not sure yet. But I can’t have Dean going to jail on my conscious, especially not if it ends up being more than just an imprisonment. Knowing Zachariah, he’ll do his very best to pin anything he can on Dean. For example, the angel killings.”

Ellen looked at Gabriel before glancing back at Castiel again, “Your father’s a real pain, angel. Okay. Why can’t you tell them the truth?”

“The rules of the council state-“ Castiel began.

Gabriel cut him off. “Cassie!” he hissed, “we aren’t allowed to-“

“I don’t care what we’re not allowed to do,” Castiel snapped back, “Dean will go to prison otherwise, and I trust Ellen. Besides, the archangels’ view of the world is flawed, and I don’t trust them. They killed Mom!”

“And if you go around telling humans ancient secrets, you might end up like her!” Gabriel yelled.

“Boys, boys,” Ellen held out her hands in a time-out gesture, “I have customers out there who are going to get really interested if I have a couple of angels shrieking back here, so keep the volume down, all right?” She turned back to Castiel, “answer the question.”

Despite his brother’s mutterings, Castiel said, “Dean’s not one of my Protections. He’s not paying for the service, which means I’m not allowed to save his life. My mother broke that rule, and she was mortalized. The archangel council removed her wings and killed her. If anyone finds out that I saved Dean, and word gets to the archangel council, the same thing could happen to me. Protection for Pay is taken very seriously by the council. So telling them what really happened is out of the question.”

Ellen looked thoughtful, “and you want me to help with an alternate option?”

Castiel nodded, and Gabriel did too, although he looked very sullen about it. Ellen pursed her lips, obviously thinking. Castiel could see a little crease form in her forehead.

“I have an idea.”

They all turned. Jo was leaning against the kitchen doorway. “What have I told you about eavesdropping?” Ellen scolded.

Jo rolled her eyes, “Castiel drops off the face of the earth and then abruptly returns and you expect me not to try to find out what happened?” She glanced over her shoulder into the bar, and then turned back, “look, I’m not going to tell anyone about any of this. You can believe that.”

“Can we?” Gabriel seemed to be regretting his decision to come with Castiel at this point.

“We can trust her,” Castiel confirmed for him. To Jo, he added, “you said you had an idea?”

Jo grimaced, “you’re not going to like it, and Dean won’t be pleased either.”

“Well, they aren’t the only ones,” Gabriel pointed out, “and I’m pretty sure that’s the situation we’re in now anyway, so how much worse could it be?” This being said by the man who thought it had been a good idea to shove Castiel out of a window in an attempt to get him over his fear of heights (which wasn’t a problem anymore, but Gabriel’s solution certainly hadn’t helped one bit, and had put Castiel in a cast for three weeks besides).

Jo glanced at her mother before speaking, “you and Dean have been a pretty big subject for a little while now, ever since that thing between you in the bar the other day. The commotion’s died down a bit, but everyone’s still curious about what’s going on between you two.”

Castiel frowned, “there is nothing going on between Dean and myself.”

“We know that,” Jo said, gesturing to everyone in the room, “Dean knows that. But the people out there don’t know that. Everyone’s looking for a bone, and if you throw them this one, it gets Dean and you both off the hook.”

Castiel pursed his lips, “are you suggesting that Dean and I pretend we were…” He wasn’t entirely sure how he should finish the sentence.

Jo shrugged, “look, I said it wasn’t a great idea, and I know you and Dean don’t get on very well, but it’s the only solution I could think of. The press eats up affairs and eloping and all that stuff. Pretend you and Dean had some steamy love affair thing, let it soak in for a while and keep up the profile, and then have a huge fight in public to end it, and your problem is solved.”

Castiel glanced at Gabriel, looking to see what his brother thought of the idea. Gabriel had his head tilted, considering, “you want Cassie and Dean to fake a relationship to get Dean out of jail?”

“Well, it would keep Castiel out of trouble too,” Jo said, “probably.”

Gabriel turned to Castiel, “I’m thinking this is a good idea.”

“You telling me that it’s a good idea doesn’t convince me it’s a good idea,” Castiel told him, but he was considering it carefully. Dean probably wouldn’t be pleased with the idea, but he might play along with it if it was his only chance of getting out. “Zachariah would be furious,” Castiel finally said, “his son falling for a human? That would ruin his reputation in the angel community.” His face broke into a smile, “okay. If we get Dean in on this, I’m in too.”

Gabriel clapped Castiel on the back, “that’s my baby bro.”

Ellen looked more troubled, “I’m not sure Dean will like this.”

“I know Dean won’t like this,” Jo said, “but he knows he won’t like jail, and if he’s given any opportunity to get out, he’ll run with it.”

Castiel nodded, “agreed. Now the question is how to accomplish it.”

Gabriel grinned, throwing an arm around Castiel, “lucky for you, you have someone on your side who knows all about how the news industry works. Leave it to me, and Dean-o will be out in a few hours tops.”

Chapter Text

Dean was sitting on the uncomfortable stone bench, leaning back against the wall. Benny had stayed away, up by the front desk most likely. It had been a little awkward, given their history. Benny had been there for Dean through his last breakup, and them being friends made Dean being arrested harder for the both of them.

Now, though, he heard raised voices coming from the front of the police station. Dean stood, moving closer to the bars in an attempt to hear more clearly. He perked up at Cas’s voice, but then confusion washed over him as he took in what Cas was saying.

“I don’t care that he’s being held for questioning,” Cas snapped, a surprising not of authority in his voice, “I won’t stand to him being held here. Don’t think I won’t tell your commanding officers that you stood in my way.”

Benny must have left, because it was a different member of the force that Dean heard respond to Cas, “of course, Mr. Godsent, I apologize. It’s highly irregular.”

“I know,” Cas’s voice is kinder now, “which is why if you let him go now, I won’t say a word against you. I’ll even allow the police to come and question Mr. Winchester, providing it’s on his terms. Agreed?”

“Agreed,” the other man replied.

Dean heard the sound of footsteps, and backed away from the bars, definitely confused. He had honestly sort of expected Cas to try and get him out, but now that the angel was here Dean was honestly surprised.

The angel and the policeman (Dean didn’t know his name) rounded the corner. Cas had ditched the trench coat, and was dressed up in a business suit. There was an undeniable air of power around him, even if his wing was visibly damaged. The door was unlocked quickly by the officer’s shaking hands, and then Cas was striding into the cell towards Dean. The next thing he knew, the angel was pulling him in for a hug.

Dean tensed, unsure what was going on, but then Cas was whispering in his ear, “play along.”

“What?”

“Play along,” Cas repeated, and then pulled away. There was a little grin on his face that Dean could only describe as love-struck, and he kept his hands on Dean’s wrists, “I’m so sorry this happened. I wish I could have gotten here sooner. You’re not mad, are you?”

“Of course not,” Dean managed, because that seemed like the answer Cas wanted, “are we leaving now?”

“Of course!” Cas responded, “this nice man has agreed to let you go. We can go home.”

That threw Dean off guard a little, but he got out, “then what are we waiting for?”

Cas smiled, but now Dean could see a little tension creep in around his eyes. The angel let go of Dean, and gesture for them to leave the cell. The officer stayed still, staring after them.

“What’s going on?” Dean hissed at Cas.

Cas’s face was smooth again, nearly expressionless, “a jailbreak, of course. I can’t explain anything right now. I just need you to look happy, grab my hand, and ignore the cameras.”

Okay, so the surprise thing was going to be a pattern then. “What?” Dean got out, but then Cas had gripped his hand, smile firmly back in place, and pushed open the station doors, dragging Dean out with him.

Immediately there were people shouting and pointing cameras at them. Microphones were shoved towards them, but Cas deftly ignored everyone around him, opening the door of a very nice looking car and shoving Dean in before climbing in after him.

Once inside the car, Dean needed a minute to get his brain in working order again. Cas had an expression of concern on his face, fingers nimbly buckling his seatbelt, and then Dean’s too when he didn’t do the same. Dean had to move back a bit to accommodate for Cas’s wing in the close quarters. He was pretty sure one of the soft feathers brushed against his cheek, but right now he had more important things to worry about, “what the hell was that?”

“A rescue mission,” The man driving the car responded, taking his eyes off the road to grin back at Dean, “Cassie couldn’t stand the thought of leaving you in jail, so we came to get you. Everyone else who’s in on it is back at the Roadhouse. We’ll explain everything there.”

“You look familiar,” Dean said numbly. What the hell was going on?

“Gabriel Godsent,” he replied, “Cassie’s big brother. I hear you two got into some trouble.”

“Yeah,” Dean responded, finally adjusting to the strange situation. A week ago, he wouldn’t have set foot in an angel’s car if you paid him, but here he was being speed away from prison in a car that current had two angels in it. Then he asked, “Who else is involved?”

“This whole thing was Jo’s idea,” Cas said from beside him, “Ellen is assisting as well. She was quite distraught when we went missing.” Gabriel made what sounded like kissing noises, and Cas snapped, “oh, grow up.” Then he finished, “and there is one or two others assisting as well, even if they are not aware of the full plan.” Gabriel didn’t stop with his little noises, and Cas glared at him.

“What?” Dean asked, looking back and forth between the two angels, “did I miss something?”

“Nothing!” Gabriel chirped annoyingly, “oh, Cassie, do I get to be best man at your wedding?”

“Enough!” Cas actually raised his voice a little, enough to startle Dean and make Gabriel twist around and raise his eyebrows. Cas looked at Dean, “Jo’s plan may have involved us telling the media that we’re an item.”

Dean’s brain slammed to a halt, and it was a minute before he was able to respond, “You told them what?” His tone came out a little harsher than he meant.

Cas winced, shrinking back against the seat, “it wasn’t my idea, but it was the only one we had. We don’t have much time. My father will be on the warpath, and we need to get this problem wrapped up as soon as possible, or more angels are going to keep dying, and my name might end up on that list!”

Now Dean was confused again, “I’m sorry, did we change topics?”

“Cassie’s brain works too fast,” Gabriel supplied helpfully.

Cas sighed, “I don’t doubt my father will attempt to pin the angel killings that have been occurring on you. We need to figure out who the real killer is, and expose him and get him locked up before that happens. Then the only thing left is your alleged kidnapping of me. The plan was to have us publically announce our relationship, keep that image up until we catch the killer, and then break up in a very dramatic and observed fashion.” Cas glanced at Dean out of the corner of his eye, “we were going to explain this all to you at the Roadhouse, but I suppose I should have anticipated you wanting answers.”

“Damn right I want answers,” Dean muttered. Then, louder, he asked, “we have to pretend to be in a relationship? I’m not sure a lot of people are going to buy that. I made it pretty obvious that I had a thing about angels.”

“Gabriel can help with that,” Cas said, although he didn’t sound thrilled, “he’s an actor. What you did isn’t important anymore. Gabriel’s in charge of media, which means he’s going to help us sell the relationship.”

Dean glanced back towards Gabriel, who blew a kiss into the rearview mirror. He sighed, “How long?”

“I’m going to presume you mean how long we have to pretend we are involved,” Cas responded, “unfortunately, I can’t give you a straight answer. It could be a few days, or it could be a few weeks. The hope is that it won’t take very long, but with the number of people involved, it’ll be difficult to pin down the killer.”

“So this whole thing is hinged on finding out who killed the angels?” Dean asked, “Which, by the way, no one has told me anything about.”

“That’s why we have Benny Lafitte waiting for us with Ellen and Jo. He’ll fill you in on what he can. He believes that you’re innocent, but we can’t give him the full story,” Cas explained.

So Benny was involved in this too. Dean wondered how the angels had managed to rope him into it. Then again, Ellen might have had a hand in it too.

***

At the Roadhouse, Castiel got out of the car, feeling more relieved than anything else. They had gotten this far. But still, the hard part was ahead of them. It was one thing to get Dean out of jail. Finding an angel killer, and actually catching him, was going to be a lot more dangerous, and, if what the police had found so far was anything to go by, a lot more difficult.

Dean and Gabriel followed him into the Roadhouse, which Ellen had closed down for the day. “This is more important,” she’d said.

“Ellen?” Castiel called out, “we’re back!”

“It’s about time,” the blond woman groused, “Dean Winchester, you just can’t keep out of trouble, can you?” Her tone was affectionate, though.

“Sorry, Ellen,” Dean apologized, but he was grinning.

She pulled him into a hug, and then released him, “we’re not out of the woods yet. Benny and Jo are in the back.”

“Get them out here,” Castiel told her, “we need to get to work. We need to find this guy before anyone else gets hurt, Dean included.”

“Jo!” Ellen called, “the angels are back with Dean!”

A moment later, Jo was practically running through the door, Officer Lafitte following more slowly behind her. Jo didn’t stop running until she hit Dean, hugging him, “Castiel was worried sick about you!”

Dean looked curiously over at Castiel, who blushed and shook his head. “Cas was worried about me, huh?” Dean asked Jo, “then why are you the one that’s clinging to me like a monkey?”

Jo released Dean quickly, “okay, we were all worried about you. But Castiel-“ She stopped, “what did you just call him?”

Dean glanced over at Castiel, “Cas. It was a nickname I gave him the other day. It was a lot easier to say than Castiel, and he was fine with it.” He kept his eyes on Castiel, as if trying to confirm this with the angel.

Castiel nodded, “I can understand if saying my full first name is annoying to some people. A nickname wasn’t exactly a hardship.”

Gabriel smirked, glancing back and forth between Dean and Castiel, “well, looks like my job just got a whole lot easier. If you two would just allow a little physical contact, we’re good as gold.”

Castiel glared at Gabriel, and noticed Dean doing the same, even as Ellen chuckled and Jo tried to suppress a smile, “that’s not what matters right now, Gabriel. It would be a good of you remembered that.”

Gabriel saluted, “yes, sir!” That was followed by a collective eye roll from everyone.

Officer Lafitte approached Dean and handed him the file he was holding, “this has everything that we know about the killings. I’m breaking a lot of rules right now, so this better be worth it.”

Dean flipped open the file, skimming over it, his face twisting up in a grimace every once in a while. Finally he snapped it shut, “okay, we are dealing with one sadistic bastard here.”

Castiel nodded, “hence the concern. I would not be surprised it these angels were tortured before they were murdered.”

“’The angels will fall’?” Dean quoted, “what’s that supposed to mean?”

“Could mean a lot of things,” Officer Lafitte answered, “if we knew, we’d have the field narrowed down quite a bit.”

Gabriel frowned, “are we really supposed to be trusting people this unintelligent? Look at it!”

“Gabriel!” Castiel admonished.

“If you know what it means, why don’t you explain it then?” Officer Lafitte said sharply.

Gabriel rolled his eyes, “’the angels will fall’? The way their wings were torn out and spread? The weird halo effect going on? Have you people not been reading the papers? This guy’s a copycat. It’s not identical, but things like this have happened before. Never with angels, but roughly the same idea. Guy who did it was hugely religious, and also insane. He was convinced he was a demon, and that the apocalypse was coming.” Gabriel looked around at the blank faces, Castiel’s included, “I’m surrounded by people out of touch with the media, aren’t I?”

“So you think this guy is another apocalypse enthusiast?” Dean asked.

“The idea of heaven losing to hell, or angels falling, I’d say that sounds pretty apocalyptic, don’t you think?”

Officer Lafitte pursed his lips, looking annoyed, “I hate to admit it, but shorty’s right. Problem is, that still doesn’t help us much.”

“Actually,” Ellen said, “it does. It eliminates a portion of the population, because this guy probably goes to church.”

Castiel glanced at Dean, “okay, we have a place to start. Gabriel, you said that this was a copycat? Officer Lafitte, I recommend you and Ellen check out the stuff at the police station for similar cases. Jo, you’re the media follower, so you should see if you can find anything about apocalypse enthusiasts. Gabriel, can you get the gossip mill running please? As helpful as you’ve been, you’re too blunt to be working with the cops.” Gabriel made a face, but he didn’t complain.

“What about me?” Dean asked.

Castiel smiled slightly, “we’re going to church.”

Chapter Text

“Please explain to me why we have to dress up for this?” Dean groused, “People show up to church in jeans and a t-shirt all the time.”

Castiel gave up trying to straighten his tie, frowning at the failure of a knot, “I’m a high profile figure, and therefore I’m expected to be well-dressed in public. As my boyfriend, you are expected to do the same.”

“I’m not your boyfriend,” Dean muttered under his breath. Then he reached out and fixed Castiel’s tie, “seriously, have you never tied one of these before?”

“In the instances where I’ve needed one, I’ve always had someone else to do it for me,” Castiel said softly, looking away. Dean let go of him a moment later. He shifted uncomfortably, not used to having his wings out in public. They were standing in the church parking lot, partially hidden by the car that Gabriel had lent them (Dean had actually stroked the hood and called it beautiful).

“It’s going to start soon,” Dean said, “we should go in.”

Castiel nodded, following after the human. The chilly wind felt pretty good on his wings, ruffling his feathers in a soothing way.

“Have you ever been to church before?” Dean asked softly as they approached the front doors.

Castiel shook his head, “even highly religious angels prefer not to associate with humans in this setting. We have places of prayer that separate us.” He frowned, “it seems a little ridiculous, but that’s how society works, I guess.”

Dean didn’t respond to that other than to give a nod of agreement (whether that was to the bit about it being ridiculous or agreeing about how that was how society worked, Castiel didn’t know), and pulled open the church doors, gesturing for Castiel to go in front of him.

Castiel breezed past Dean, consciously adopting the confident demeanor that would allow him to get through a social scenario without blushing or stammering. Dean followed him in, their footsteps echoing softly in the spacious church. Already there were people gathered in the pews, and the priest was in the front, already beginning. When he caught sight of Castiel and Dean, he smiled, but simply continued what he was saying. Castiel sat down in the back, and Dean settled in next to him.

Castiel leaned back in the pew, looking around the church and studying the other patrons. They looked like good people for the most part. There were several families gathered, one with only a father and his two children, another with both a father and a mother, and one with just a mother and a single child.

Glancing at the human next to him, Castiel noted that Dean was also studying the people around them. He took this opportunity to study the man. Dean cleaned up well, as Gabriel would say. He wasn’t quite as dressed up as Castiel was, but he was wearing a dark button-down with dress pants, and the look suited him just as much as the numerous layers had.

Castiel looked away from Dean uncomfortably, and returned his gaze to the other people. The ones sitting alone seemed to be a more viable candidate for serial killings, but none of them looked particularly ominous. Certainly none of them looked disgusted or upset in any way when the priest mentioned heaven and angels (and in this context, Castiel enjoyed the portrayal of angels. They were less self-centered, holy beings. Castiel would have loved to be more like them).

As the priest drew to a finish, Castiel felt frustrated. He could see Dean’s irritation as well, a look that he did not much enjoy on the human’s face.

Dean leaned over to him, “come on, Cas. Sitting around here isn’t getting anything accomplished. We should go.”

Castiel hesitated for a moment, glancing around again, but then he nodded at Dean. In one motion they stood, and Castiel led the way out of the church. He felt a little off balance with his wings out, but for angels, it was a way to attract attention, and Gabriel had advised him to have them out as much as possible in public for a while. The attention was necessary.

Dean reached over and swatted at his good wing, “I don’t think it’s possible to walk next to you without getting a mouthful of feathers.” His tone was mostly annoyed, with just a hint of amusement underneath, but it made Castiel uncomfortable none the less, and he shifted out of Dean’s reach. Dean nodded, “right.”

“I didn’t say anything,” Castiel murmured.

“You were thinking pretty loudly,” Dean countered, “it’s fine, I got it. Don’t touch the wings.”

“That would be preferable,” Castiel responded.

Dean nodded, “so where to now?”

Castiel pursed his lips, “are you hungry?”

“Yeah.”

“Then we’ll get lunch.”

In retrospect, Castiel knew that going out to get lunch with Dean wouldn’t help their search at all, but he wanted to do it. It wasn’t that he was enjoying all the attention, but it was nice to have some time with Dean where the man wasn’t snapping at him every other sentence.

Dean’s eyes widened when he took in the place as they drove up, “there’s no way I’m allowed in here. I thought this place was angels only.”

The restaurant was spacious and open, designed for there to be plenty of room for angels to stretch their wings. It wasn’t as fancy as some other places, but Gabriel had recommended it to Castiel. He said the desert was pretty much the best thing ever.

“You’ll be allowed in,” Castiel said confidently, pleased when his voice didn’t betray how he was actually feeling, “you’re with me, remember?” As Dean parked the car he added, “Don’t forget to smile.”

Dean shot him a look, and then reached for the door handle. Castiel did the same, taking a deep breath and pushing open the car door.

The cameras had already been flashing as they pulled up (paparazzi loved to hang around places with were angel-exclusive, claiming all the juicy stuff happened there), but it was so much more intense out in the open. Without even thinking about it, the moment he was around the front of the car, Castiel was reaching for Dean’s hand. The human gave it willingly, his grasp tight, a small smile on his face. The crowd parted for them, but that didn’t mean that people weren’t attempting to shove microphones at them. Gabriel had told Castiel that under no circumstances should he answer any questions without Gabriel being there to do damage control.

Entering the restaurant was a relief, because it meant none of the other people could follow them in. Dean’s smile dropped ever so slightly, glancing at Castiel, “how the hell do you put up with that?”

“Normally I don’t,” Castiel responded softly. He approached the host, smile firmly in place, “table for two, please?”

The angel looked back and forth between Castiel and Dean for a moment. He honestly looked like he was considering saying no, but Castiel narrowed his eyes slightly, giving his best ‘I’m a Godsent and I can speak to my father about suing you’ look. The host nodded and smiled, “right this way.”

They ended up tucked away from the other angels there, which was fine with Castiel, even preferable. He had both of his wings extended, but the chairs had been designed to accommodate for that. Dean looked moderately uncomfortable, shifting awkwardly in his chair and glancing around.

Finally, he said, “you know I never come to places like this, right?”

Castiel cocked his head in confusion, “I am aware. You do not associate with angels. Therefore, you would never have had an occasion for an angel to take you to a place like this.”

Dean shook his head, “that’s- I mean, fancy places, Cas. I don’t go out to fancy restaurants, like, ever.”

“Ah,” Castiel couldn’t help feeling a little foolish about his misconception. He supposed he should have understood that, given the human’s natural style of dress and how out of place he looked. Well, Dean seemed to think he was out of place, anyway. To Castiel Dean looked like he belonged there more than Castiel himself did.

The waiter came over, and they both ordered. The moment the angel stepped out of earshot, a silence fell between them. Castiel could feel Dean’s eyes on him, and he avoided the human’s gaze.

“You know, normally when people go on dates, they look at the other person,” Dean said mildly.

“I thought we weren’t a couple,” Castiel muttered, but he lifted his eyes to Dean’s.

“No, but they don’t know that,” Dean told him, gesturing to the other patrons, “they’ll think something’s up if you refuse to look at me.”

“Unlikely,” Castiel responded, “I’m not known to be particularly social. Other angels would likely just put it down to nerves on my part.” This was essentially the truth. Castiel’s whole body felt tense, ready to take flight any moment should this prove to be a poor choice. Of course, flying away wasn’t an option with the state of his wing, but Castiel was good at running, so that was an alternative.

“You look like you’re considering running,” Dean remarked.

Castiel tensed up further, “I’m finding it difficult to believe you’re not a mind reader.”

“Nah, you’re just an open book,” Dean told him, “not hard to figure out what someone’s thinking if it’s pretty much always written across their face.”

This was news to Castiel. He’d been told that he was essentially expressionless. Dean was telling him the opposite.

Their food arrived, and this time the silence was due to eating. Castiel picked at his plate, uncomfortable, recalling his conversation with Dean about his eating habits. The human seemed oblivious to this, but Castiel was having trouble thinking of anything else. He pushed his plate away after a moment, no longer hungry, but feeling guilty none the less. Dean was right about how he treated his body, but it wasn’t an easy habit to break.

“I hear the desert here is fantastic,” Castiel informed Dean, if only for something to say, “Gabriel recommends it.”

Dean raised an eyebrow, “and because Gabriel likes it, that is supposed to encourage me to try it?”

Castiel shrugged, “for all his shortcomings, Gabriel does know his deserts.”

Dean snickered slightly, but smiled, “do they have pie at a place like this?”

“I would expect so,” Castiel responded.

As it turned out, they did. Castiel was forced to shift awkwardly in his seat as Dean made sounds that did not belong in public around a mouthful of pie. When he finally couldn’t take it anymore, he blurted out, “you seem to be enjoying yourself.”

Dean looked up at him, looking a little guilty, and swallowed down his mouthful, “sorry. But your brother was right, this is to die for.” He speared a piece on his fork and offered it to Castiel, “Here, try it.”

Castiel gingerly took the fork out of Dean’s hand (there was no way he was going to eat off of Dean’s fork while Dean was still holding it) and swallowed the piece of pie. Dean was right, it was delicious. He handed Dean his fork back, nodding, “it is good.”

“Good?” Dean said, looking shocked, “it’s divine!”

Castiel looked away, feeling a smile pulling at his lips, “yes, alright, it’s divine.”

Dean pointed his fork at Castiel, “you should consider yourself special. I don’t share my pie with just anyone.”

Castiel raised an eyebrow, “I believe I’m paying for your pie. It would be rude to refuse me a bite if I had asked for one.”

“But you didn’t,” Dean pointed out, “I offered.”

“What exactly are you trying to convince me of?” Castiel asked, fixing his gaze on Dean.

The hunter looked taken aback for a moment, like he wasn’t sure the answer to the question, but his expression was back to his default of cocky, “I’m just saying, I don’t make friends with a lot of angels.”

“You don’t make friends with any angels,” Castiel pointed out, not meaning to let the bitterness leak into his voice, but failing to prevent it.

Dean frowned, “what, you think we aren’t friends?”

“I know we’re not friends,” Castiel bit out, standing up and dropping the money for the meal (cash; Castiel was good with numbers in his head) onto the table, effectively telling Dean without words that the meal was over. They were going back to the Roadhouse.

Chapter Text

The silence in the car was deafening, but Castiel couldn’t bring himself to care. He knew Dean was looking at him, and he could tell the human was about to say something, but he never did, and Castiel refused to look at him and ask. He didn’t want Dean to say they were friends, because that would be asking for too much. Castiel was certain that the moment this whole thing was over, he would never see Dean again. They weren’t friends. Castiel wasn’t allowed to want them to be friends. That was just how it worked.

When they walked into the Roadhouse, Gabriel was grinning, “congratulations, you two. Keep it up, and you’ll be couple of the year.”

Castiel wasn’t in the mood for his brother, “just tell me Ellen and Officer Lafitte found something.”

“Church didn’t go well, I take it?” Gabriel asked, leading the way back to the kitchen.

“Not really, no,” Dean answered.

Ellen, Jo, and Officer Lafitte were waiting for them. “Tell them what you told me,” Gabriel addressed Ellen.

Ellen grimaced, “well, we may have a suspect. Dean, I’m sure you remember your brother’s upcoming trial. The one that was such a big deal?”

Dean nodded, “yeah, why?”

“The guy Sam’s persecuting is named Lucifer Holyflight. Apparently the least of his crimes are apocalypse related graffiti, and the most serious charge is kidnapping. The angels are confident that he’s been falsely accused, but I’m pretty sure this is our guy.”

Castiel pursed his lips, thinking, “How sure are you? If we can’t prove anything, then we may as well give up.”

Ellen looked worried, “there’s no solid evidence against him. Sam’s probably going to lose the case, which means he’ll be walking free. It sounds like it’s him, but there’s no way of guaranteeing that he’s the one who killed the angels without any sort of confession from him.”

“No angels have died since he’s been taken into custody,” Gabriel pointed out.

“That’s like saying that just because Bruce Wayne is Batman just because they’ve never been seen in the same room together,” Dean said.

“Well, Bruce Wayne actually is Batman,” Jo responded.

Castiel could feel the beginnings of a headache, “it’s a good start. Officer Lafitte, is there any way you’d be able to speak to him?”

Officer Lafitte shook his head, “I can’t interfere with the trial. Things could get ugly very quickly if an angel gets charged with murder, even just suspected murder. And since we have nothing solid to go on, I can’t obtain a warrant.”

Castiel paced across the floor, thinking. “If the police can’t get involved, then someone else will have to,” he thought aloud.

“Except there’s a bit of a problem with that,” Gabriel said, “He’s an angel. So, obviously if a human approached him they’d get nowhere, especially if he really is our guy.”

Castiel looked at his brother, “I’m aware of that. I wasn’t suggesting a human speak to him.”

There was silence for a minute. Then Dean said, “Cas, are you crazy? If the guy really is killing angels, talking to him is probably to worst idea in the history of horrible ideas.”

“Do we have any other options?” Castiel snapped.

“Yes!” Dean retorted, “If Sam is working against Lucifer, then it’d be kind of hard for Lucifer to not talk to him. If we got Sam involved-“

“How do I know we can trust him?” Castiel knew getting angry at Dean was pointless. This wasn’t what he was upset about, and he needed to get it together and actually work towards getting out of this mess. “I’m sorry,” he said in a much softer voice, “I didn’t mean to get upset. Getting Sam involved makes sense, so long as-“ He cut himself off, aware that Officer Lafitte didn’t know everything. Instead he finished, “so long as he’s careful about it. If Lucifer suspects that others know about his actions, assuming he is the one responsible, then he may attempt to hurt your brother in order to find out whom.”

Ellen clapped her hands, “well, now that that’s sorted out, maybe you lot could run along so Joanna Beth and I can actually do our jobs?”

“Yes, of course,” Castiel said, “we’ll be going now.”

Officer Lafitte nodded, “I need to get back to the station anyway.” With that, he was gone.

Dean looked at Castiel, “where are we going?”

Castiel raised his eyebrows, “to speak to Sam, of course.”

***

Dean couldn’t quite get used to the wings. Even after spending time cooped up with Cas with the angel keeping his broken wing out, it felt weird to see them. The guy almost radiated power, which contradicted the frown on his face. Dean could tell Cas was worried.

That wasn’t what was bothering Dean, though. Cas had freaked out at him, and Dean wasn’t sure what he had done wrong. One minute they were enjoying themselves together, but ever since lunch, Cas had been treating him coldly.

“This is it,” he told the angel, pulling into the parking lot of Sam’s firm, “he should be here right now. I don’t think he’ll actually be in court until later today.”

“Good,” Cas murmured distractedly.

Dean turned to the angel, being careful not to get a mouthful of feathers as he did so, “before we go in, I need to know what’s up with you.”

Cas frowned, “I do not understand.”

“Really?” Dean asked, “Because you’re acting like I did something wrong and I’d like to know what it was, if you don’t mind.” There was a distinctly sarcastic tone to the words.

“Oh,” Cas looked at his hands, which he had clasped together in his lap, “I apologize. I did not realize that I was upsetting you.”

“Shit Cas, I’m not upset,” Dean felt a little bad for bringing it up, because the angel looked a bit like a kicked puppy-dog, “but how am I supposed to do things right if you don’t tell me what I did wrong?”

Cas sighed, “we’re not friends, Dean.”

Dean blinked in surprise, “what?”

Cas looked up at him, “back at the restaurant, you made a comment that would have implied that we were friends. We are not friends, Dean, and it is likely we never will be. Putting on a façade for the cameras is one thing, but I would appreciate it if you did not do it in my presence.” With that, the angel opened the door and got out of the car.

Dean stayed where he was for a moment, frozen in shock. That was what this was about? What had happened at the restaurant? He hadn’t realized Cas would get so upset over that. More surprising was the fact that Cas didn’t think they were friends. Well, Dean wasn’t exactly buddy-buddy with the angel, but they had also been through a blizzard together. You couldn’t go through that and be just acquaintances, could you? But if Cas wanted nothing to do with Dean outside of sorting this thing out, Dean wouldn’t push.

He followed Cas out of the car. The angel was waiting patiently for him, expression mostly neutral, only a hint of frustration in his eyes. “Let’s do this,” Dean said, moving towards the building. Cas trailed after him, a forced look of confidence on his face. The only reason Dean could tell it was forced was the way Cas’s hands were balled into fists under the sleeves of the trench coat.

The people at the front desk looked a bit alarmed to see Dean and Cas, but Dean smiled charmingly at them, “is Sam Winchester in?”

“Yes he is,” the woman responded, seeming a bit distracted by Cas’s wings. Or maybe it was the blue eyes. It could have been either.

“Could you tell him his brother needs to talk to him, please?” Dean asked, trying not to feel a twinge of jealousy at the woman’s diverted attention.

She focused back on him for a moment, “sorry?” Dean repeated his request, and she nodded, “yes, of course.”

While she dialed Sam’s office, Cas looked at Dean uncomfortably. “How do you put up with people looking at you?” he asked softly.

“What makes you think I get people looking at me?” Dean said, only a bit of cattiness in his voice.

Cas looked even more uncomfortable then before, “no reason. It’s just…you are-you are what I believe to be considered…rather attractive, so I would assume you got the same sort of looks that people give me.”

Dean raised his eyebrows, “is that just you calling yourself hot?”

“I didn’t say hot,” Cas countered, “and no, I merely meant that my wings are considered to be beautiful and therefor draw many looks. The compliment was solely intended to be directed at you.”

It was hard to be jealous of the guy when he so clearly disliked the attention. Dean nudged the angel with this shoulder, “aw, Cas, you’re making me blush!”

That caused Cas to blush slightly, the slightest hint of pink tinting his cheeks. At the same time, the woman at the desk said, “Mr. Winchester will see you now. His office is on the third floor.”

“Thank you very much,” Dean smiled at her. He looped his arm around Cas’s, enjoying the look of abrupt alarm on the angel’s face, “come on, Cas.” He all but dragged Cas down the hall towards the elevators.

It wasn’t until they were in the elevator (which was empty) that Cas shook Dean’s arm off, “what was that?”

Dean shrugged, “you said we had to keep up the image of us being in a relationship in public. I’m pretty sure that this counts as public.”

Cas looked uneasy, but didn’t say anything else. Dean was grateful that the angel had his wings pulled in tight to his body. If he hadn’t, they probably would have filled up the whole elevator.

On the third floor, Dean stepped out of the elevator with Cas following him. The angel seemed much more hesitant here than he had when they were on angel-only territory. “I’d have thought you’d be comfortable in a law firm,” he commented quietly.

“What would give you that impression,” was the response.

Dean shrugged, “isn’t your dad a lawyer?”

“Yes, Zachariah has his own firm,” Cas replied, “but I do not see what that has to do with the statement you made.”

“So Zachariah never had any take-your-kids-to-work days?” Dean asked.

“No,” Cas confirmed, “that form of parenting was one that he was not particularly fond of. He favored a more dominant expression of family.”

Right. Cas and his screwed up family. Dean wouldn’t wish a Godsent family reunion on anyone.

Dean could see Sam’s office through the glass. His brother was sitting at his desk, looking stressed. Dean smiled reflexively at Sam’s assistant, who he recognized, “hey Jess. I’m here to see Sam.”

Jess smiled at both him and Cas, “not going to introduce me to your friend?”

“Oh, right,” Dean wrapped an arm around Cas’s shoulders, “this’s my boyfriend, Castiel.”

Jess looked surprised, “boyfriend?”

“Yes,” Cas said softly, avoiding looking at Dean, and smiling gently at Jess instead, “it’s a bit of a story, though, and we really need to see Sam.” He paused, “I’m sorry, how are you acquainted with Dean?”

“I’m Sam’s fiancé,” Jess explained, “so Dean knows me through Sam.”

Cas nodded, “I see. I wish you happiness with your future husband.”

“You too,” Jess said, winking, “he’s a keeper, Dean.” She got up and knocked on the door, “Sam? Dean’s here.”

Chapter Text

Sam made a vague ‘let him in’ gesture, and Dean strolled into his office leisurely, Cas following behind him a bit more cautiously. “Hey Sam,” Dean greeted him.

“This better be important, Dean. I’m in the middle of one of the biggest cases of my life, and-“ Sam looked up fully, eyes widening when he took in Cas, “Castiel? What are you doing here?”

“I’m here with your brother,” Cas responded, “it’s about your case, I assure you.”

Sam frowned, leaning back in his chair, “I’m listening.”

Dean rapidly explained the half-true version of the story: telling Sam about how he and Cas were together, how Dean had been accused of kidnapping Cas and Zachariah threatening to pin the angel murders on him too. “We think the guy you’re persecuting is responsible, but there’s no solid evidence,” Dean finished, “without that, he walks free and I could end up behind bars the moment Zachariah manages to make it look like I’m guilty.”

Sam looked confused, “I’m up to date enough on angel news to understand why Zachariah would be upset about you and Castiel being together, and it makes sense for him to make it look like you kidnapped him. Hell, it even makes sense that Zachariah would try and find ways to make it look like you’re behind the angel killings. But there is one thing that I don’t get.”

“And that is?” Dean asked.

Sam looked at Cas before turning his attention back to Dean, “a few days ago, you were calling Castiel an ‘it’ and being your usual anti-angel self. So there’s no way I can believe that you and Castiel are in a relationship.”

Cas didn’t look particularly startled, although he did look a little miffed, “you referred to me as an ‘it’? Anti-angel or not, to classify me as less than human does not work in your favor, Dean.”

Dean had to take a minute for his brain to catch up. Of course Sam would know that he and Cas weren’t together. “Look,” he said, “acting like me and Cas are dating is in everyone’s best interests right now, okay? Leave it alone.”

“Then how am I supposed to know that you didn’t really kidnap him?” Sam asked.

“Would I really do something like that?” Dean was offended.

“I know you wouldn’t, but other people don’t know that, Dean. All they know is that you hated angels a few days ago. You’ll be lucky if the media believes your story.”

“My brother Gabriel assured me that would not be a problem,” Cas put in, “in his words, ‘anti-angel people are entirely hypocritical and would definitely bang an angel over a desk if the opportunity arose.’” He seemed oblivious to the surprised cough that Sam made. Dean personally did his best not to choke on air.

“You can’t just say things like that, Cas,” he told the angel, “we’ve talked about Gabriel: he’s not a good person to be repeating.” He was going to have a talk with Gabriel later about things that were and weren’t okay to say around Cas, who didn’t seem to have a proper brain-to-mouth filter. Maybe it ran in the family.

Cas cocked his head to the side, “why not?” He seemed genuinely confused.

“You just don’t, okay?” Dean said. Then he turned back to Sam, “look, I know it’s a lie, but we have to go with it. A lot of people could get hurt if we don’t.”

“Who?” Sam asked.

Dean hesitated, glancing at Cas before answering. The angel nodded slightly, and Dean admitted, “Cas could die, and that’s along with whatever angels Lucifer gets to, assuming he is that one that’s killing them.”

Sam sighed, “Naomi’s biggest defense for Lucifer is that he’s an angel himself. Why would he go around killing other angels?”

Dean shrugged, “human serial killers kill other humans all the time. It’s not exactly a far stretch to imagine.”

Cas pursed his lips, looking thoughtful, “if an angel is behind this, then it is likely that he is targeting specific angels, rather than any angel that he comes across. There has to be some logic behind the victims, a pattern. Isn’t that what investigators do, look for patterns?”

“What are you suggesting?” Sam asked. Dean was honestly impressed. He hadn’t expected Sam to accept all of this so easily.

Cas paced across the office between the desk where Sam was leaning forward, watching intently, and the couch that Dean was sprawled across, still watching, but with slightly less rapture. Finally he said, “Samandriel and Muriel were both a bit eccentric as far as angels are concerned. Samandriel agreed with me on many topics, including Protection for Pay. Muriel worked with humans on a day-to-day basis as part of her job, and she seemed to enjoy their company. Have there been any other victims?”

Sam shook his head, “no one since we brought Lucifer in. Although I have checked records, and before he came to Lawrence there was a series of deaths in Detroit.” He shuffled through some papers on his desk until he found the folder he was looking for and opened it, “so there was Inias Heavenson, Rachel Lightspirit, and Rebecca Holyheart. And before that in Chicago, Hester Templeton turned up dead.”

Cas frowned, “some of those names sound familiar. Inias, Hester, and I were in Guardian training together. Inias didn’t want the publicity that came with being an angel, and Hester felt that who she saved was her business, not the council’s.”

“So you’re saying that’s the pattern?” Dean asked, “The angels that are being killed are chosen because they don’t fit in with the council’s idea of angels?”

Cas shook his head, “not exactly. Assuming that’s the pattern, it wouldn’t be the council that’s doing this. It’s far too public to be them.”

“Maybe they hired Lucifer as a hit man?” Sam suggested, “Like an assassin for hire?”

Dean watched Cas’s forehead crinkle up, unable to help smiling at the angel’s face. “It’s a possibility, but unlikely,” Cas responded, “there must be something else. These angels don’t act like an angel is expected to act. Aversion to fame, being against Protection for Pay, blending in with humans.” He paced some more.

Dean had an unpleasant thought, “what color are Lucifer’s feathers?”

“I don’t know,” Cas responded, looking confused, “why?”

“I’ve seen them,” Sam interjected before Dean could answer Cas, “they’re black. They’re almost the same color as Castiel’s wings.”

The feather from the lake. Cas had said he hadn’t been following Dean… “I think he was watching me.”

A pair of blue eyes and a pair of brown eyes both blinked at Dean. “What do you mean, you think he was watching you?” Cas said, voice a bit lower than normal. His expression had changed from startled to angry in a matter of seconds.

“I found a black feather by the lake the other day,” Dean explained, “that’s why I asked if you had been following me. How many angels have black wings?”

“Two that I know of,” Sam said, “Castiel and Lucifer. Do you really think…?” Dean nodded. Sam frowned, “why would Lucifer be stalking you?”

“That was the day after I first met Cas,” Dean said, “think about it. Cas doesn’t go out in public much, and he always avoids cameras. He comes to the Roadhouse on a regular basis, which isn’t exactly a place where angels hang out.” He glanced at Cas, “and you’ve told me you don’t like Protection for Pay.”

Cas’s eyes widened, “you don’t think he’s been following you looking for me, do you?”

Dean shrugged, “all I know is that it’s almost impossible to get you out of the house, and when you are you’re always surrounded by humans. And the only one that people knew you talked to was me. If you were going to kill an angel like that, how would you go about finding them?”

“I’d follow the person the angel spoke too,” Cas said softly.

“It’s a very good theory,” Sam said, “but it’s just that. Unless you have evidence, I don’t think you’re going to be able to prove anything.” He stood, “it was nice to see you Castiel, but I do have a trial to attend. I need to get going.”

“Of course,” Cas said, nodding, “Dean and I will go then.”

“Try not to get into trouble,” Sam said, directing it more at Dean than at Cas, “I’d hate to see your court case.”

“Will do, Sammy,” Dean said, more for his brothers sake than an intention of following through on it. He stood, “come on, Cas.”

Cas followed Dean out of Sam’s office. Jess waved at them as they passed, and Dean gave a little wave back. When Cas looked away, she winked at Dean and mouthed, “don’t let him go.”

The fact that Jess so obviously believed the lie was a bit unsettling to Dean, but he ignored it and reached for Cas’s hand in the elevator. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Cas’s forehead crinkle up, but the angel just gripped his hand tightly, not saying a word.

Once they had climbed into the car, Cas said softly, “they should be filming the trails. We should watch it.”

Dean nodded, “so, back to the Roadhouse then?” Cas nodded.

When he pulled into the parking lot, Dean got a pleasant surprise. He forced himself to park the car fully before sprinting out of it and over to the Impala.

Chapter Text

Castiel watched as Dean very carefully checked over his baby. The level of affection he had for the car was quite impressive, and also a little disconcerting. He could barely imagine being that attached to an inanimate object. He didn’t exactly make cooing noises at his journal.

“Benny managed to bring it back,” Gabriel said, startling Castiel. He hadn’t noticed his brother, but there he was, leaning against the railing in front of the Roadhouse, “figured you’d want it back.”

“Not a scratch,” Dean said, sounding pleased.

Gabriel rolled his eyes, “so what did Mr. Lawyer say?”

“It seems there is a pattern in the angels being killed,” Castiel informed his brother, “however, until we have solid proof, there is nothing we can do about it.”

Gabriel frowned, “so now what then, fearless leader?” Castiel knew Gabriel was making progress because there was only a slight hint of sarcasm.

“Watching the trail,” Dean answered for him.

Gabriel nodded, “then I guess I’m going home. Behave, you two.” With that, the angel popped into his car and sped off, leaving Castiel staring after him.

Castiel turned to Dean. Without even thinking about it, he blurted out, “you could come to my house, if you’d like.”

Dean looked surprised, “really? You’re just going to invite me over?”

Castiel glanced away before answering, “Yes. I don’t see anything wrong with inviting you over, and the television in my house is likely to be better quality than yours.”

“Normally I’d be offended by that, but you’re probably right,” Dean replied, “okay, get in then. I guess I’m your ride.”

“I need to get my things from Ellen first,” Castiel told him, “I’ll be right back.” He walked into the Roadhouse. Jo waved at him from the bar, and he nodded at her. After picking up the few items he had brought over, he returned to the Impala, climbing into the passenger seat and tucked his wing carefully into the small space.

“Ready to go?” Dean asked.

Castiel nodded, “yes. I believe you will need directions?”

“Yeah, that’d be nice,” Dean said, pulling out of the parking lot.

Castiel was quite for most of the ride, although he did speak up each time Dean needed to make a turn. He honestly wasn’t sure what had possessed him to invite Dean over to watch the trial, but he was actually glad he had.

“This is it,” he said finally, and Dean pulled into the driveway, whistling.

“I knew angels were pretty well off, but this is impressive, especially for Lawrence.”

“Anna refused to move unless the house was similar to the design of her favorite house in Angel City,” Castiel told him, “an ocean view obviously wasn’t an option, but Zachariah did the best he could. He and Anna are accustomed to a certain level of finery. Gabriel and I are much more lax about it, although he does have a taste for fancy cars and beds.”

Dean made a face, “I didn’t need to know that last bit, Cas.”

Castiel frowned, head falling to the side in his usual gesture of confusion, “all the beds in the house are of high quality. I do not understand how mentioning that Gabriel appreciates this fact would disturb you.”

“Of course you don’t,” Dean muttered, shaking his head, “where do I park?”

Castiel shrugged, “anywhere in the garage.” He rolled down the window and reached out, punching in the code that opened it.

Dean’s eyes widened when he took in the cars, “you have got to invite me over more often. These are beauties!” He pulled into a free spot and parked, getting out and examining the one next to them (Castiel didn’t know any of their names, beyond the fact that Gabriel liked to name his cars after actresses). Castiel got out himself, watching Dean with a guarded expression. The way Dean had said it, like he hadn’t considered that of course he wouldn’t be coming over after all this was done, caused an unpleasant sensation in his stomach.

“Would you like to see the rest of the house?” he asked softly.

Dean turned to face him, and his expression changed, his eyebrows pulling together, “of course. Yeah, lead the way.”

Castiel did just that. They did have a front door, and both it and the door in the garage led into the front hall, which opened up into several other rooms. He noted how Dean’s eyes widened when they got to the base of the stairs. He paused, watching the human, who was slowly spinning, trying to take in as much of it as possible.

“You actually live here?” Dean asked.

“Of course,” Castiel responded.

Dean shook his head, “this place is huge. It’s like palace or something.”

“That’s a bit of an exaggeration, Dean-o,” a voice said from the top of the stair. Gabriel was leaning on the railing, looking down at Dean and Castiel, a lollipop twirling in the hand that wasn’t being used to brace himself against the railing.

“Right,” Dean said quietly, “whole family lives here. Forgot about that.”

“I’m sorry,” Castiel wasn’t sure where the need to apologize came from, “if that’s a problem-“

“Nah, don’t worry about it,” Dean said immediately, “just means we’ll have to keep short-stack on the other end of the house.” He grinned at Castiel playfully.

“Don’t worry, lovebirds,” Gabriel shot back, “Cassie, why don’t I make myself scarce, and you show Dean-o your bedroom?” He grinned, practically disappearing into the hallway upstairs.

“Winged douche,” Dean muttered, and Castiel noted that his cheeks had the faintest bit of pink.

“Are you feeling alright?” he asked, “you look flushed.”

Dean shot him a disbelieving look, “and just when I thought you couldn’t get any more oblivious.” He shook his head, “come on, Cas. Let’s go see this impressive TV of yours.”

Castiel cocked his head, “the one in my room or the one in the family room?”

“Your room,” Dean decided after a moment, “I do not want to have to deal with any of your family right now.”

“Alright,” Castiel said, starting to ascend the stairs, “this way.”

Dean followed him up the stairs and down the hallway until they came to his room. Castiel pushed the door open and gestured for Dean to enter first.

“Wow,” Dean said softly, looking up at the ceiling, “that’s…that’s amazing.”

Castiel followed his eyes, “Zachariah had it painted. He believed very much in the greatness of angels, even before we revealed ourselves. Most of the rooms in the house have a similar mural on the ceiling.”

“It’s cool,” Dean said, “but I can’t imagine having to sleep with that looking down at you.”

Castiel shrugged, “I sleep on my stomach, so I don’t have to see it. Besides, you get used to it after a while.”

“If you say so,” Dean muttered. Then he added, “So. Trial?”

Castiel nodded, “of course.” He opened the cabinet that kept the television closed off from the rest of the room, grabbing the remote and dropping onto the bed cross-legged. He stretched his wings out over him before clicking the button that would turn the television on. As an afterthought, he patted the bed, “sit.”

Dean hesitated (Castiel couldn’t think why), but then he settled into a comfortable sprawled position next to Castiel, who shifted his wing slightly so that it draped more behind him, so as not to touch Dean with it.

It took a bit of channel surfing to find it, but finally Castiel found the news channel that was covering the trial. Dean had found it humorous when Castiel had fumbled with the remote. He wasn’t really accustomed to using a television, as he preferred to read, and if he had to use it, Gabriel tended to man the remote. It was easier that way (despite Anna’s complaints that Gabriel never picked anything good before she flounced off to her own room).

The trial hadn’t started yet. Dean looked over at Castiel, “you think Sam’s going to lose, don’t you?”

“It’s the most statistically likely possibility,” Castiel responded, “I have faith in Sam, but between the lack of solid proof and the fact that he’s going up against angels, there is no way that Lucifer will not walk free.”

Dean frowned, “then what are we going to do?”

“I don’t know,” Castiel admitted, “but I know that we are not going to let him hurt anyone else.”

Dean hesitated before saying, “Cas, you know you could be a target, right? You fit the pattern.”

Castiel shrugged, “I figured as much when you pointed it out back at Sam’s office. I am well aware of the risk, but it’d be selfish to hide away to protect myself instead of fighting back to protect other angels.”

“I don’t believe you,” Dean shook his head, “aren’t you even a little worried about your safety?”

“No,” Castiel responded, frowning, “I’m far more concerned about your safety.”

Dean blinked in surprise, “what?”

“You said you found a black feather, and that you think Lucifer was watching you. We’ve established that the most likely explanation was that he was trying to find me through you. We’re taking that even further with convincing the media that we’re a couple. It’s likely that the moment Lucifer walks free, if I really am a target, he’ll use you to try and get to me. That puts you in danger.”

Chapter Text

Dean hadn’t even considered that, but now that Cas brought it up, he could see that as a possibility. What threw him off was that the angel looked genuinely concerned about it. Of course, this was Cas after all. Dean had seen him try and fly with a broken wing because he’d felt that one of his Protections was in danger. The guy would probably feel awful if something happened to Dean.

Cas wasn’t looking at him anymore, his focus back on the TV. Dean glanced at the screen too, gaze fixing on it when he saw Sam. His brother was cool and composed, but Dean knew Sam, and therefore could tell that Sam was worried. He didn’t think he could win this case any more than Cas did.

Opposite Sam, the angels looked smug, Naomi in particular. She was the only one standing, but she had her wings out and puffed up. They were a sort of light grayish-blue color that brought out the different flecks of color in her eyes. Dean knew enough about angels to know that this was an intimidation tactic as well as a show of power.

Lucifer, on the other hand, was sitting, leaning back in his chair with his feet up on the table, looking completely at ease. He wasn’t smirking per se, but he had a satisfied look on his face. His wings were folded into his back, but Dean knew that if they were out he’d see that they were nearly identical in color to Cas’s.

Cas leaned forward slightly, and Dean felt Cas’s wing drag against his back ever so lightly. He felt the angel tense up next to him for a moment, and Dean forced himself to remain still. After a few seconds, Cas rearranged his wing so that it wasn’t touching him. Dean surprised himself by actually feeling a bit disappointed. Cas had soft wings, and they felt good against his skin. But that wasn’t exactly something he could say without it being weird, so Dean kept his mouth shut.

Onscreen, the trial was beginning, with Lucifer being called up to the stand. Dean was very quickly lost on what was happening; Sam was the lawyer, not him. He really had no idea what was going on, but judging by Sam’s body language, it wasn’t going well.

Next to him, Cas made a soft noise of displeasure, and Dean looked at him. “The jury is already leaning towards the angels’ side,” Cas explained quietly, “I told you, it’s not really a fair trial. Sam’s going to lose.”

“I can’t believe this actually makes sense to you,” Dean muttered.

“My father’s a lawyer, Dean, of course it makes sense to me.”

Dean rolled his eyes, “Sam’s my brother and none of this makes sense to me.”

Cas regarded him with curiosity, “I didn’t think this was a difficult concept to comprehend.”

“It’s not the concept I have trouble with,” Dean responded, “I just don’t speak legalese.”

Cas nodded, “yes, I understand how that might be difficult to understand. Unfortunately, Zachariah treats the house very similarly to a courtroom. Problem is, the jury is bias.”

“I take it the jury is Anna?”

Cas made a face, “you would be correct. Anna used to be rebellious, but ever since Mom she’s been a good little soldier for Zachariah.”

Dean felt guilty. He’d behaved similarly after his own mother’s death, until he’d realized that his father was just going to drag Dean down with him. After that he’d gotten away and never looked back. “Nobody’s perfect,” he finally said.

During the brief silence, Cas’s attention had returned to the TV. When Dean spoke he merely nodded to let Dean know he had heard him, his gaze unwavering, “I expect they’ll make their decision any moment now. It can’t last much longer without any solid evidence, and everything Sam has, Naomi can counter.”

Dean had to agree. Sam was losing badly, as was evident when the judge finally stated that the verdict was ‘not guilty’, and Lucifer stood up, pleased look firmly on his face. He approached Sam, and although the cameras did not pick up what they were saying, Lucifer offered his hand for Sam to shake. Dean really didn’t like how the look on the angel’s face turned into something just a bit more menacing.

Abruptly the screen went black, and Dean looked at Cas, who had the remote in his hand. The angel looked troubled, but Dean didn’t have to ask why. “We’ll figure it out,” he said, just for something to say, “Lucifer won’t be out for long.”

“I know,” Cas said softly, “I won’t let that happen. I won’t let anyone else get hurt.”

“This isn’t just your responsibility, you know,” Dean told him, “you don’t have to carry all the weight.”

When Cas looked at him, the angel’s expression made him look much older than he actually was. “You don’t understand,” he said softly, “I do. It’s my responsibility, my job to figure this out.”

“Cas, don’t-“

No, Dean, you don’t get it,” Cas snapped, “it has to be my job! I can’t let anyone else…” His voice trailed off, and broken was the only way Dean could describe it. “I can’t risk anyone else getting hurt,” Cas finished, voice rough.

Dean couldn’t believe how distraught Cas sounded, “but you’d risk your life?”

“Of course,” Cas said immediately, “that’s my job: to put myself in danger to save other people.”

Dean shook his head, “if that’s what you think, you’re just as wrong as the winged douches that think Protection for Pay is all about making money and not about helping people.” Cas started to respond, but Dean cut him off, “no, let me finish. You seem to forget that you have just as much right to protect yourself as you do to protect other people. Hurting yourself isn’t going to help other people. You broke your wing because I was stupid, and one of your Protections could have died because of that. That alone should tell you that hurting yourself isn’t worth it.”

“And if I hadn’t saved you, you’d be dead,” Cas argued, “are you really going to tell me it wasn’t worth it?”

“You could end up with even more than a broken wing, Cas, don’t forget that,” Dean shot back, “so no, I wouldn’t say I’m worth it.”

Cas looked horrified, “how can you say that?”

Dean was standing now, yelling at Cas, “your life is just as important as mine, but you don’t seem to get that!”

“Don’t even pretend the world wouldn’t be better off with one less presumptuous angel strutting around like they own the world,” Cas looked close to tears, standing too and refusing to back down.

“That’s not who you are, Cas, so don’t even try and convince me it is!” Dean took a breath, trying to calm down. He didn’t want to yell at Cas, “look, I’m sorry, but I can’t agree that the world would be better off without you. The world could use more people like you.”

Cas shook his head, sitting down again, “I can’t allow myself to believe that, Dean.” He avoided looking Dean in the eye, “you can go home if you’d like, and let me think.”

“And if I don’t want to?” Dean asked, pushing his hands into his pockets, “I’m just saying; it’ll look really good for us if people find out I spent the night.” Dean had no idea what possessed him to say that, but the look on Cas’s face was worth it.

Cas bit his lip, looking concerned, “you can stay. There are plenty of extra rooms if you’d like to sleep there.”

“Or I could stay here, and we could have a sleepover,” Dean teased. The alarmed look on Cas’s face told Dean that maybe the guy wasn’t as oblivious as he’d led Dean to believe. “Relax,” Dean felt the urge to say, “I just don’t want your father coming across me alone. I have a feeling bad things would happen.”

Cas nodded, “that makes sense. Would you like something to eat?”

Dean nodded, “that’d be great. What do you have?”

Cas shrugged, “not much, to be honest. Between diets and the fact that no one besides me is home half the time, we don’t actually keep that much in the house.” After a moment, he added almost shyly, “we could order pizza.”

“God yes,” Dean grinned, “I get the feeling you’ve never had meat-lovers pizza before. Am I right?”

Cas nodded, “yes.”

“You have to try it,” Dean told him, “it’s magic, I swear. Not as good as pie, of course, but as far as pizzas go it’s amazing.”

“Alright,” Cas agreed, “should we ask Gabriel or…?”

Dean shook his head, “make him fend for himself.”

Cas smiled slightly, “alright. I’ll be right back.” He slipped out of the room.

The moment Cas was out of sight, Dean flopped down onto his bed, promptly making himself comfortable. He wondered if Cas had any good movies, but given his trouble with the remote, Dean doubted he had any discs. Maybe they’d be able to stream something.

Normally, the thought of spending the night in some guy’s bedroom would bother him, but Dean couldn’t bring himself to care. It was Cas, so it wasn’t like the guy was going to make any innuendos. Hopefully Dean would be able to deal with Gabriel in the morning, but he wasn’t worried about that yet.

***

When Castiel returned to his room ten minutes later with the pizza (as it turned out, companies delivered much faster when they heard the one signing the receipt was an angel), it was to find Dean stretched out across his bed like he owned it. He stood in the doorway for a moment, debating on whether or not he should say something.

He didn’t have to, as it turned out. The moment Dean realized he was there, the human was sitting up, looking eager, “that was fast.”

Castiel nodded, “being an angel does have some merits, I suppose.”

Dean grinned, “I’ll say.” He made a motion for Castiel to hand him the box, so Castiel obliged. Dean glanced at him, “you don’t have a problem with eating on your bed, do you?”

Castiel shook his head, “not at all.”

“Good,” Dean sounded pleased, and he pulled the box open, inhaling with appreciation. He glanced over at Castiel again, “we could watch a movie while we eat, if you want.”

Castiel sat down carefully next to him and handed him the remote, “knock yourself out. We get nearly every channel you could think of, and we can stream any movie you want.”

Dean grinned, navigating the television with much more ease than Castiel had, “sweet.” He flicked through a few movies before he finally did a search for Star Wars. “Have you ever seen these?” he asked.

Castiel shook his head, “I can’t say I have.”

“We’re fixing that right now,” Dean said triumphantly. He clicked on A New Hope and settled in as the opening credits began to play.

Castiel frowned, “I thought this was the fourth movie.”

“Everyone knows you watch the last three first,” Dean told him, “now shush! I’m reading.”

Castiel wondered if all humans were like this, or if Dean was just a bit odd. Either way, he settled in next to Dean, wing arranged just as carefully as before. The human was already almost done with his slice of pizza, and Castiel picked up one for himself, examining it with interest, eye flickering back and forth between it and the screen that Dean seemed so captivated by. He took a hesitant bite of the pizza before deciding that yes, it was enjoyable. He managed to finish off the slice, which for him was pretty impressive, and then sat back and watched the movie.

It was confusing to say the least, but Castiel didn’t mind, as it allowed him to watch Dean make quite a wide array of expressions. He murmured at the television every now and again, sounds of outrage or triumph alternately, as if he was the one in the movie instead of just watching it. Castiel only understood about half the movie, but that was okay. He got to file this away along with his other memories of Dean.

When the movie was over, Dean allowed him up to throw away the pizza box. “But come right back,” he warned, “we’re marathoning Star Wars tonight.” Dean had followed the statement up with a grin.

Castiel had returned to see that Dean’s position had shifted. He had stolen one of Castiel’s pillows and was using it to prop his head up as he lay on his stomach. “Good, you’re back,” he said quietly, “get the lights.”

Castiel didn’t know what to do other than flick the lights off and join Dean on the bed as he pressed play for the second (fifth? Castiel found this concept a bit confusing) movie. Castiel chose to arrange himself so that he too was resting on his stomach, wing folded at an uncomfortable angel to keep it from touching Dean. He wasn’t sure how the human would react to having Castiel’s wing over him, so it was better to just keep it out of the way.

Dean made a pleased noise, and Castiel allowed himself to drift into the movie, rather than letting thoughts get in the way.

Castiel wasn’t quite sure how it happened when he thought about it later, but sometime between when the movie started and ended, he and Dean had ended up practically mashed together, with Castiel’s wing draped over Dean’s back in a parody of a blanket. It should have bothered him more than it did, but Castiel couldn’t bring himself to move. Instead he stayed still, but not tense, and when Dean put on the third (or sixth, whatever) movie, he didn’t say anything either.

Without any comment from Dean, Castiel relaxed, feeling his eyes growing heavy. He’d been all over the place today, so naturally he was tired. Castiel felt himself drift off, but he didn’t concern himself too much with that. He trusted Dean.

Chapter Text

When Castiel woke up again, Dean was half curled up against him, still snoring quietly, still fast asleep. Castiel’s wing was tucked around Dean, and he noted that the position was actually fairly comfortable. They hadn’t moved much from the positions they’d been watching the movie in, with the exception that they were much closer. And by closer, Castiel meant that one of Dean’s legs was thrown over his own, and the human’s forehead was pressed into his shoulder, fingers wrapped tightly around Castiel’s bicep.

Castiel worked to carefully extract himself from the position without waking Dean up. He had a feeling Dean wouldn’t like it much if he woke up and found himself that close to Castiel.

The most Dean did was frown slightly in his sleep when Castiel peeled his hand off of his arm. He didn’t wake up, and Castiel took care to be quiet when he moved into his private bathroom, pressing his forehead against the door once it was closed. What was he thinking? Why had he let Dean stay with him in the first place? This was setting them up for a lot of pain (particularly on Castiel’s part). Worse still, Dean was even more of a target for Lucifer now. Being near Castiel put him at risk. It didn’t matter that he felt better when Dean was in his sight. Dean’s safety was more important than Castiel’s peace of mind.

***

Dean woke up alone, confused. It took him a minute to figure out where he was. Then it came back to him. He had spent the night at Cas’s house, and they’d watched movies until they’d fallen asleep. He was in Cas’s room, on Cas’s bed. But the angel wasn’t in the room.

Dean pushed himself upright, frowning at the empty room. Reflexively, he looked at the clock. It wasn’t too early, only about eight o’clock. For a moment, he felt a rush of panic; had Lucifer taken Cas? That feeling was immediately banished when Cas stepped out of the bathroom attached to the bedroom, replaced with relief (Dean internally scolded himself; of course Cas was fine).

“Dean?” Cas asked, frowning in that way of his, “are you alright?” He looked concerned, and Dean couldn’t help but wonder what he must look like to make the angel worry.

“I’m fine,” Dean assured him. He took a moment to really look at Cas, and struggled not to laugh at the way his hair was sticking up. It normally was messy, but now…

“Good,” Cas said distractedly. He picked at the hem of his shirt, the same one he’d worn yesterday. That reminded Dean of something.

“Can I use your bathroom?” he asked, “I kind of need a shower.”

“Of course,” Cas said, “it’s all yours.” He gestured to it with one hand, moving over to the closet and pushing the door open.

“Thanks,” Dean smiled, moving into the bathroom and shutting the door behind him. He stripped and turned to the shower, which was surprisingly uncomplicated. Dean would have expected lots of buttons, but it was pretty standard. As he turned it on to warm, he had to admit that the pressure was much better than it was in his own shower (of course, his house was also much older than this one).

Once the water was warm enough, Dean stepped into the shower, enjoying the feeling of intense warmth. Cas didn’t have an fancy soaps or anything (another surprise, although it shouldn’t have been at this point), so washing was simple and quick, not giving him much time to think. When he stepped out, it occurred to him that he hadn’t asked Cas about clothes, and given how long he’d been wearing his own, he wasn’t entirely fond of the idea of putting them back on.

Dean wrapped the towel around his waist and pushed the door open. Cas was sitting in the bed, clad in a white button down and black slacks. Dean wasn’t sure the guy owned a single pair of jeans. When he looked up at Dean, Cas’s eyes widened almost comically, and his gaze immediately went to Dean’s face. It was sort of flattering in a strange way, but Dean just said, “Do you have clothes I could borrow? I don’t really have anything to change into.”

Cas gestured to the closet, “I’m not that much smaller than you, so my clothes should fit you okay. You’re welcome to anything you want to wear.” He seemed hesitant.

“You’re sure?” Dean asked, “You don’t sound very happy about it.”

Cas shrugged, “it doesn’t bother me, if that’s what you’re asking. I’m just a bit distracted this morning, I guess.”

Dean moved over to the closet, looking through the different options. Cas’s closet was organized just as neatly as his room was (which was to say, very). Nearly all of the pants were slacks or dress pants of some kind, and the majority of the shirts were button-downs, and, in the very back, some sweaters much like the one Dean had teased him about.

Dean didn’t bother commenting on Cas’s lack of t-shirts and jeans, and instead just grabbed a light green-button down and a pair of pants at random. He debated going back to the bathroom to change, but decided it didn’t really matter to him. If Cas had a problem with it, he’d say something. So Dean dropped the towel and pulled the clothes on without saying a word.

When he looked back at Cas, the angel’s eyes were fixed firmly away from him. It was almost funny, in Dean’s opinion. “So,” he started, “breakfast?”

Cas nodded, standing up, “alright. Come on, we should have something in the kitchen.”

Dean followed Cas back down the stairs and into a room off of the main hall. It looked like a standard kitchen, with the exception that every surface was spotless, and everything was either marble or had a chrome finish (or, in the case of the table and chairs, was high quality mahogany). Dean almost didn’t want to touch anything.

Cas noticed his expression, “I know, it’s kind of extravagant, but Anna designed most of the house. Extravagant is just her taste.” He sounded almost apologetic.

Dean shook his head, sitting down at the table, “don’t you ever feel like you’re living in a museum?”

Cas shrugged, “I spend as little time as possible in any part of the house with the exception of the library and my bedroom. I guess I’ve gotten used to it.” He moved over to the fridge, opening the door and frowning slightly before closing it and doing the same to the freezer.

The face he made prompted Dean to ask, “what?”

Cas closed the freezer with a sigh, “Anna seems to have taken it upon herself to replace any food that might be considered edible with her idea of healthy food, which, as you’ve likely guessed, is not particularly good for anyone.”

“She has a habit of doing that,” Gabriel sauntered into the kitchen. He glanced at Dean, grinning, “hey Dean-o. I see you spent the night.”

“Shut up,” Dean muttered. Gabriel had too much energy for this time of day.

Gabriel pouted, “And I thought we were finally starting to get along.” His expression morphed into a grin very quickly, though, and he bounced over to the cabinets, climbing up on the counter to reach them. His really was ridiculously short for someone with that kind of presence. Gabriel took a minute to root through the cabinet before pulling out a box of Lucky Charms and tossing it at Cas, “catch!”

Cas caught it, frowning at Gabriel, “I don’t understand…”

Gabriel closed the cabinet and plopped into a sitting position on the marble counter-top, “you’re obviously looking for breakfast, and thanks to her Royal Highness, all we have is food that even rabbits wouldn’t eat. She doesn’t go into my cabinets, so I’m bequeathing to you a gift from my personal stash. Enjoy.”

Cas looked over at Dean, who shrugged. It wasn’t like they had many options. Cas poured them each a bowl (with milk, thankfully), and passed one to Dean before sitting down himself.

Gabriel hopped off the counter and snatched the box back before returning to his previous position. Dean looked up from a spoonful of cereal to see the angel digging through the box and pulling out the fake marshmallows, popping them in his mouth and grinning.

“The trial did not go well,” Cas informed his brother, “but we suspected as much.”

Gabriel nodded, “I watched it too.” His eyes flickered to Dean, and he grinned mischievously, “Your brother’s hair is unbelievable.”

“Tell me about it,” Dean muttered under his breath. Why Sam didn’t cut it was a mystery to him, and why Jess let him keep it that long was even more so.

Cas shot Dean a worried look, “I don’t like the way Lucifer was looking at Sam. I’d be concerned about that, if I were you.”

“You’re concerned about it anyway,” Gabriel quipped. Dean shot him a glare, which the angel returned with his typical smirk, popping another handful of marshmallows into his mouth.

“Sam can take care of himself,” Dean said to Cas, “I wouldn’t stress over it.” He had a feeling that the blue-eyed angel cared more about it than he did, and that if angel wings were anything like hair, Cas would turn his black wings gray stressing out over it.

Cas picked at his bowl of cereal, still frowning, “people are dying, Dean. If Lucifer really is the one behind it, then I suggest you regard this whole situation with more caution.”

“And I suggest you not give yourself an ulcer worrying about things you don’t have control over,” Dean returned, “honestly, Cas, it’s ridiculous.”

Cas’s eyes flashed, “someone needs to try and get control of this situation, or people will keep dying. It might as well be me.”

Gabriel snorted, and Dean shot him another glare. “What?” the golden-eyed angel said in mock innocence, “I think it’s adorable when you two argue like an old married couple. I’m shocked we haven’t heard a happy announcement yet.”

Dean stared at Gabriel, and out of the corner of his eye he noticed that Cas’s eyes were fixed on the table. Gabriel kicked his feet up onto the counter, leaning back against the side of the fridge, setting the box of cereal down, “oh come on, Dean-o, don’t give me that look.”

“Shut up, Gabriel,” Cas muttered.

Gabriel pointed a finger at him, “who’s the one managing your press? That’s right, me. That gives me a lot of power. Stay on my good side.”

Dean glanced at Cas, who was now glowering at his brother. Dean reminded himself not to piss Cas off, because he’d been on the receiving end of that glare. It honestly had felt like Cas could burn a hole in him just by looking. Wing out or not, it was one of the few times that Cas really let on that he was more than human.

“Aside from all that,” Dean finally said, breaking through the tension between the two brothers, “what exactly is our game plan from here? Lucifer is walking free and, assuming we’re right in thinking it’s him, he’ll kill again.”

“I don’t think you should be going anywhere alone,” Cas addressed Dean, “it’s not safe for you.”

“I’m not having someone following me around like a shadow,” Dean said, “that’s not an option.”

“I don’t care who is with you, as long as you’re always with someone,” Cas argued back, “we already know that Lucifer has been following you. There’s safety in numbers. Getting caught alone could be very bad for you.”

Dean would have retorted, but he could see that Cas had a point. He wasn’t exactly keen on letting a serial killer angel kidnap him to use as bait in an angel trap. Because that’s exactly what he would be, Dean knew. Cas would sense he was in danger, and he’d come for Dean without thinking about the danger it would put himself in (or maybe he’d think about it and then blatantly ignore it). That kind of selflessness was dangerous. “Fine,” he agreed, “but I don’t know how long it’s going to be until we figure out how to catch him, and I do not want people watching me while I sleep.”

Cas opened his mouth, probably to argue, and then closed it again. “Alright,” the angel said softly, “no watching you while you sleep. Got it.” He turned to Gabriel, “you’ve got the agenda for the day planned, I assume?”

Gabriel positively beamed, “I thought you’d never ask!” He hopped off the counter, pulling his phone out of his pocket, “it’s only a rough schedule, so if we need to change it a bit that’s fine, but-“

“Wait,” Dean held up a hand, “what are you talking about?”

Gabriel looked amused, “I have, with a bit of help from the lovely Ellen and Jo Harvelle, planned out what everyone should be doing for the next few days. Between maintaining the public image of your relationship, trying not to get anyone killed, and figuring out how to stop Lucifer, you’ve got a lot of on your plate. So I’m here to help you manage that time.”

Dean resisted the urge to groan, and instead huffed out a breath, “alright then, what’s the plan?”

Gabriel tapped at something on his phone, “Benny’s already looking through Lucifer’s files, Jo’s on some social media sights raising awareness, and Ellen is probably still sleeping, but the moment she’s up she’ll be back to work at the Roadhouse. Sooner or later, Lucifer will figure out that Cas hangs out there a lot, if he doesn’t know already, so we need to keep our eyes peeled on that front.” He scrolled some more, “which leaves your morning free until lunch, which you’ll be having with Sam, and then afterwards you’ll be going on a lovely date with Cassie. That’ll be your choice, just let me know in advance.” Gabriel looked very pleased with himself.

Dean took a moment to allow all the information to sink in. “So, I have a few hours to myself, but they won’t really be to myself because Cas thinks I need someone watching me, then lunch with Sam and a,” he tried not to choke on the word, “date with Cas. I can do that. Maybe I’ll go hang out at the Roadhouse for a while.” He looked at Cas, “what about you? What’re you doing today?”

Gabriel cut in before Cas had a chance too, “aside from your date, Cas will be spending most of the day with me. Once we make sure you get to the Roadhouse in one piece, we’re going shopping!” He seemed much more excited than Cas did, which was to say that Gabriel was excited and his brother was not.

Dean raised his eyebrows, “shopping? Why would you go shopping?”

Gabriel gave Dean his best ‘duh’ look, “have you seen the way my baby brother dresses? We need to get him some new clothes.”

“There’s nothing wrong with how I dress,” Cas said sullenly, “I’m not even wearing a sweater today.” He wasn’t, and the button-down and slacks looked good on him. In this instance at least, Dean had no complaints about what Cas was wearing (not that he should care in the first place).

Gabriel rolled his eyes, “no, but your outfit is still boring. You need something that looks good and draws attention to you. You have wings. Use them!”

“What’s that supposed to mean?” Cas asked, not exactly angry but starting to lean towards it. Dean stayed silent. He was pretty sure he didn’t want to get in the middle of this.

“You need to strut, Cassie,” Gabriel told him, “show off a bit. That’s your problem, you know. You have all these opinions, and if you put in some effort you could do something about it, but instead you hide in the shadows. Get people to notice you, get them to listen to you, and then get things done. It’s as simple as that.” He glanced back at Dean, “so yes, shopping. We’re going to turn shy Cassie from a sparrow into a peacock.”

Dean was not going to laugh at that mental image, he was not. The idea of Cas anywhere near as flamboyant as a peacock was ridiculous, and very funny. “Good luck with that,” he managed, finishing off the last of his cereal. He stood up, “I’m going to head out.”

Cas stood up too, “we’re coming with you.”

“You’re taking your own car,” Dean told him.

“Of course,” Cas nodded. He looked at Gabriel, “you said you were coming, right?”

Gabriel bounced on the balls of his feet, “’course I am. Let’s get this show on the road!”

Chapter Text

The drive to the Roadhouse was disconcerting. Gabriel even pulled into the parking lot, parking next to him and giving a little wave. Cas just watched him. It wasn’t until Dean stepped into the bar that he heard Gabriel’s car pull away.

Jo was sitting at a table off to the side, hunched over a laptop (most likely borrowed from Ash). She looked up when she saw Dean, “I didn’t know you were coming.”

“Cas seems to think in need 24/7 watching,” Dean told her, “I figured this would be the best place to hang out for a while.” He sat down across from her, “Gabriel said you were covering the internet front?”

“If you want to put it that way, yeah,” Jo responded, “I’ve got just about every social media sight covered, both with spreading your and Cas’s ‘relationship’ and the whole angel killing thing.” She hesitated, “Dean, I like to think I know you pretty well. This isn’t exactly normal behavior for you.”

“What isn’t?”

Jo threw her hands up, “any of this! You’re hanging out with angels, for crying out loud! In my book, that means something’s wrong with you.”

“I’m fine, Jo,” Dean said, frowning at her, “I’m just a little stressed out about this. People are dying and-“

“Angels are dying,” Jo corrected him, “and for me, that’s just as bad as a human dying, because I actually like the angels. You hate them! You shouldn’t care that they’re being murdered. But for some reason you do, and that makes me think that there’s something going on with you.”

“An angel saved my life,” Dean responded, “I wasn’t his Protection, but he saved me anyway. Cas has told me a lot of things to change my point of view. He’s different.”

Jo snorted, “next thing you know, you’ll be telling everyone that you two are actually in a relationship.”

Dean tensed up, “why does everyone seem to think that I like Cas?”

“I don’t know, maybe because we actually know you?” Jo said, “I haven’t seen you this happy since Lisa.”

“I don’t want to talk about that,” Dean said immediately.

Jo raised her hands in a gesture of surrender, “fine. But you should take a good look at yourself, Dean Winchester, because I’m starting to think that everyone around you knows you better than you know yourself.” With that, she immersed herself back in her computer.

Dean knew Jo well enough not to try and get anything else out of her, so he sat there awkwardly for a moment before moving over to the jukebox. This was going to be a very long morning.

A few hours later, Dean’s phone rang. He glanced at the caller ID as he picked up, “hey Sam.”

“Dean,” his brother greeted him, “so, according to a Gabriel Godsent, I’m supposed to be having lunch with you today.”

“Yeah, that’s what he told me,” Dean responded, “I’m not sure how much he told you…”

“Well, I know you, Castiel, and Gabriel were all watching the trial, so you know it went very badly. And if Gabriel was telling the truth, then apparently you need the details from the case?”

“I guess so,” Dean had the urge to track down the short angel, shove him in a sack, and drop his off of a pier, “he doesn’t tell me anything important.”

“He also said you’re at the Roadhouse,” Sam said, “Do you want me to meet you there or what?”

“Actually, that’d be great,” Dean said, “Ellen was talking about how she doesn’t really get to see you much. She’d probably be thrilled, and we could always just eat here.”

“Okay, I’ll see you in a few minutes.”

Dean hung up the phone, feeling surprisingly happy. With any luck, he and Sam would make it through this without fighting. Dean hated fighting with his brother, and lately it seemed that that was all they did. After watching how Gabriel and Cas interacted, Dean had decided that he wanted a relationship that was more like that with his brother. Gabriel and Cas did fight a bit, but they also saw a lot more of each other.

When Sam walked in, Ellen practically pounced on him, “Sam Winchester! Did you think you could get away with not coming to visit me?”

“No ma’am,” Sam responded wisely.

Ellen wrapped him up in a quick hug. When she let him go, she admonished, “next time, don’t wait until your brother’s in a right mess to come and see us.”

“I’ll come more often,” Sam promised. He made his way over to where Dean was sitting, “hey.”

“Hey,” Dean responded. He fidgeted in his seat slightly. This was the first time he’d spoken with Sam in a casual setting (even if it wasn’t for casual reasons) in a long time.

Sam sat down and pulled out a file, “this is what I had on evidence against Lucifer. I don’t know how much help it’ll be to you, but it’s a good place to start.”

Dean pushed it off to the side, “I’ll look at it later.” He hesitated, “are you alright?”

Sam gave him a funny look, “of course I’m alright. Why wouldn’t I be?”

“Cas is worried about you. He thinks Lucifer might be taking an interest in you, or something like that,” Dean said, “it’s not a bad reason to be concerned about you.”

“I’m not a child, Dean. I can take care of myself,” Sam responded.

“I know,” Dean said quickly, “I just wanted to make sure you knew. Everything’s spiraling out of control. Makes sense to check up on the people you care about.”

Sam nodded, “okay. I get that.”

Ellen walked over, placing two plates down in front of them. It didn’t matter that they hadn’t ordered. Ellen was essentially a mother to them, and she knew them well enough to know exactly what they would have ordered had she given them a chance. “Thanks,” Sam told her, always the polite one.

Ellen just nodded and walked away, giving them some space. Dean dug into his burger, watching Sam. He could tell that his brother was resisting the urge he always got to tell Dean how unhealthy he was eating, and instead Sam said, “So I hear your relationship with Castiel is going well.”

“Who told you that?” Dean asked.

“Do you mean, besides the newspaper?” Sam asked, quirking an eyebrow, “you’re pretty much the biggest news Lawrence has had in a long time.” He stopped, and then corrected himself, “the biggest news Lawrence has been able to print in a long time, anyway. You guys are pretty much everywhere.” He shook his head, “but actually, I meant Gabriel. He said you spent the night with Castiel…” The way Sam’s voice trailed off, it was obvious to Dean he was asking a question rather than stating a fact.

“Yeah, I spent the night,” he admitted, “I was over there to watch the trial, and then we ended up watching the first Star Wars trilogy until we fell asleep.” He waited for Sam’s response nervously.

His brother didn’t respond for a few moments. “Isn’t that a bit extreme for a cover story?” Sam asked finally.

Dean shrugged, trying to appear nonchalant about it, despite the nervousness he was feeling, “it’s not a big deal. I just spent the night. It’s not like anything happened. Besides, if I have to pretend we’re in a relationship, I might as well get to know the guy as well as possible, right?” Was it just Dean, or did he sound really defensive?

“Okay,” Sam didn’t look entirely convinced, but he accepted the explanation, “speaking of relationships, you do know Jess expects you to be at the wedding, right?”

Dean swallowed hard, “I know. But last time I checked with you, you wanted nothing to do with me.”

Sam gave one of his dry laughs, “Dean, I was mad. Of course I said that. It doesn’t mean I don’t want you as my best man.”

“Best man,” Dean repeated, “Sam, half the time you can’t stand me. Why would you want me as your best man?”

“You’re my brother,” Sam said in exasperation, “just because we fight doesn’t mean you don’t matter to me.” He paused, looking more playful, “come on, Dean. I’ll even let you wear a clip-on tie.”

Dean smiled. He couldn’t stay mad at his brother, “I don’t think there’s any reason for that, but the offer is appreciated.” To clarify, he added, “I meant the tie bit. I’d love to be your best man.”

“Thanks,” Sam said, “it means a lot, you being there.”

Dean reached across the table to clap Sam on the shoulder, “I wouldn’t miss my baby brother’s wedding.”

“It’s still a few months off,” Sam said, “will you and Castiel still be together then, or what?”

Dean shrugged, “we don’t know the exact time frame, but I really don’t think it’ll be that long. I’d give it a month at the absolute maximum. We’ll only need to keep up appearances until a bit after we catch Lucifer.”

“What does that have to do with this?” Sam asked, “I mean, I get that the two things are sort of connected, but that doesn’t mean you need to hang out with Castiel the entire time.”

“Cas is worried about me,” Dean admitted, “He doesn’t think I’ll be safe on my own. It’s just easier for everyone this way.”

“If you say so,” Sam murmured.

Dean felt defensive, “what’s wrong with hanging out with Cas? I thought you liked angels.”

“And I thought you didn’t,” Sam returned, “really Dean, there’s nothing wrong with it. I just didn’t think you’d be all that interested in spending time with him.”

Dean really wanted to argue back, but he chose not to. He didn’t want to fight with Sam today. Instead he focused on his burger (it really was very good; he’d have to thank Ellen later). Sam followed his lead and ate his salad in silence. Dean reached over to the file he’d pushed away and flipped it open. There were eyewitness notes that had been marked up in bright red pen, along with pictures of varying levels of blurriness. It wasn’t that bad a case, but Dean knew how compelling angels could be.

“This should help a lot,” he told Sam, “thanks.”

Sam nodded, “just make sure Zachariah doesn’t know I gave it to you, okay? I don’t want to think about what he might do.”

“He’s one scary bastard,” Dean agreed, “seriously, I have no idea how Cas and Gabriel put up with him.”

The look Sam was giving him was a bit odd, “are you sure you’re going to be okay with this ending?”

Dean frowned at him, “what are you talking about?”

Sam shrugged, “I’m just saying, you seem kind of attached to Castiel. I mean, between the nickname and the fact that you seem to be having a problem with not working him into a conversation, it’s kind of obvious that for some reason or other you actually like the guy. Are you going to be able to walk away from this when it’s over?”

“Of course I’m going to be able to,” Dean replied, eyes narrowing at his brother, “Cas is cool and all, but that doesn’t mean I’m going to want to spend time with him after we’re done with this Lucifer business.” Not to mention, Cas didn’t seem particularly interested in seeing much of Dean afterwards. The angel was sending Dean a lot of mixed messages.

Sam raised his hands in surrender, “okay, I believe you. It’s just weird. I meant it when I said that I didn’t think you and Castiel were in a relationship, but the more I talk to you the more it’s looking like that could actually be a possibility.”

Dean bristled, “it’s not.”

“Yeah, you’ve made that very clear,” Sam assured him, although Dean couldn’t tell how honest his brother was being. Sam stood up, “I should probably get back to work. My boss isn’t exactly happy with me, given how I lost the case.”

“He can’t have been to surprised,” Dean said, standing up too, “even the best lawyer would have trouble going up against the angels. It’s just how it works.” He gave Sam a quick half-hug, “take care of yourself, okay?”

“I will if you do,” Sam replied, grinning a bit at Dean. He put some money on the table, “make sure Ellen gets that.”

“You say that like you’re not going to see me to say goodbye,” the blonde woman groused, appearing out of nowhere. She was terrifying when she snuck up on you.

“Sorry,” Sam apologized, reaching down to hug her, “I’ll come back soon.”

“You better,” Ellen warned him, “or I will march down to your work and drag you here myself.”

Sam chuckled, “okay, I get it. Bye, Ellen.”

“See you soon,” she replied.

Sam nodded at Dean, and then at Jo, who was still at the booth, and left, door swinging shut with a loud noise behind him.

Chapter Text

Ellen turned to Dean, “you make sure he keeps good on that promise, or I’ll beat the both of you.”

“Yes, ma’am,” Dean responded, grinning at her.

Ellen moved back to the kitchen, muttering something under her breath. Dean was spared from having to figure out what to do by his phone ringing. He answered it without even looking, “hello?”

“Hello, Dean.”

“Cas,” Dean said a bit more enthusiastically than was probably necessary, “what’s up?”

Dean could practically hear the angel’s blush over the phone, “Gabriel has finally released me. He says we should meet up now.”

“You’re finally free, huh?” Dean really wanted to see what Gabriel hand managed to convince his brother to wear, “I’m at the Roadhouse. Do you want to meet here, or somewhere else?”

“I don’t know,” Cas replied, “I suppose it depends on where we would be going. I know you just ate, so going out to lunch wouldn’t be great, but did you have any idea of where you wanted to go?”

“There’s not all that much to do in Lawrence,” Dean responded, “maybe we could see a movie?”

“As long as you’re okay with sitting in the back,” Cas told him, “my wings aren’t exactly see-through.”

“That’s fine,” Dean didn’t really care about where they sat, “is there anything good in theaters?” That was directed both to Jo and Cas.

Cas responded quickly that he didn’t know, but Jo pulled up the theater’s website and listed off what would be playing in the next hour. Dean repeated the names to Cas.

“That horror one sounds okay,” Cas responded, “what’s it called again? Hell Hazers?”

“Specifically Hell Hazers II: The Reckoning,” Dean replied, “but I didn’t think you’d be into horror movies.”

“Why not?” Cas asked, “because it’s not very angelic? I’m allowed to like media that isn’t the Bible, Dean.”

“I know,” Dean said quickly, “I just meant that you don’t really look like the kind of person to like horror movies, even without the angel thing being a factor.”

“So are you okay with that movie?” Cas asked hesitantly.

“Seeing as just about everything else is a sappy romance movie? Yeah, I’d much rather see Hell Hazers.” Never mind that Dean didn’t at all mind romance movies (or children’s movies, for that matter). He had an image to keep up, after all. Although he did suspect that Cas wouldn’t really care if Dean was into chick flicks.

“Then we can meet at the theater,” Cas responded.

“You’re actually going to let me drive on my own,” Dean teased, “I thought you weren’t going to let me out of your sight.”

Cas made a sort of coughing noise, “I might have sent Gabriel over to watch you. I suspect he’s there by now.”

Dean looked out the window, but he didn’t see anyone, “well, if he is, then he’s hiding.” He stepped outside, “I’ll be there in a few minutes, alright?”

“Okay, see you then.” Cas hung up. Dean stared at the phone for a moment before slipping it back in his pocket.

“Did he hang up on you? That’s just rude.”

Dean jerked, looking up towards the sound to see Gabriel sitting on the roof, legs dangling over the side, wings spread. They looked almost honey colored, but a bit darker. The golden hue matched his eyes, making his hair seem even browner in comparison.

“Cas wasn’t kidding when he said he sent you,” Dean managed, “you could have come in, you know.”

Gabriel shrugged, “what, and get in the way of your family time? No, I’m sure you and Samsquatch would be much happier if I left you two alone.” He hopped down off the roof, wings puffing up to catch him so he didn’t plummet to the ground and break his ankle. The angel smirked, “and maybe after seeing your brother’s size, I was forced to go up on the roof to combat my massive insecurities about my height.” The sarcasm dripping off his voice gave Dean the urge to punch the guy in the face.

He resisted that impulse, instead saying, “Look, I’ve got to meet up with Cas now, and if he wants you to come with me then you’d better get in the car now.” He pulled the driver’s seat door open, and looked up at Gabriel (funny, he barely had to look up at all) as he sat down, “your other option is to cling to the car roof while I drive.”

Gabriel snorted, moving around to the passenger’s side and opening up the door. He folded his wings into his back as he slid into the seat, “you say that like it’s something I wouldn’t do.”

Dean started Baby and pulled out of the parking lot, “what, so you’ve done it before, then?” He had to admit, he was kind of curious. Even if he couldn’t stand Cas’s brother, the guy was certainly interesting.

The answering grin would have told him everything even if the angel didn’t open his mouth, “more than once. Girls love it, angel or otherwise.”

“I’m starting to think it’s impossible for you to take anything seriously,” Dean muttered, not really directing it at Gabriel.

The angel responded anyway, “who me?” He gave Dean his best innocent eyes (unsurprisingly, not very good), “serious is my middle name!” The effect was somewhat ruined by the way his face melted back into a smirk even as he said it.

Dean decided to swing the topic back to where it had been before Gabriel had been…well, Gabriel, “so, is car surfing one of those things that angels normally do for fun, or are you just weird?”

Gabriel placed a hand over his heart, gasping in mock hurt, “I can’t believe you would say that to me! You hurt my feelings.” He pouted at Dean.

The angel fully deserved the responding eye roll, “yeah right. Just answer the question.” Having a conversation with Gabriel was like fighting a battle. A very confusing battle where your enemy enjoyed humiliating you and everyone else and wasn’t afraid to make fun of themselves in the process.

Gabriel rolled his eyes right back at Dean, “yes, it’s something angels do. If you haven’t done it at least once in your teenager phase, then you’re pretty much a loser.” He glanced at Dean with a smirk, “oh wait…”

Castiel, I am going to throttle your brother, Dean thought to himself, “yeah, sorry to disappoint you. I’d be happy to drop you off on the side of the road if I’m not cool enough to be seen with you.”

Gabriel’s smile became a bit more genuine, “you’re not as stupid as I thought! I’m impressed.”

Dean bit back a retort. Spending time with Gabriel was a pretty good way to convince himself that cutting ties with Cas after the whole thing was over was a fantastic idea. How did Cas manage to live with this guy?

“Oh, he loves me,” Gabriel scoffed. Apparently Dean had said the last bit aloud.

“And yet no one else can seem to stand you,” Dean said. They were getting close to the theater, and for that Dean was grateful.

Gabriel must have noticed too, because he leaned forward and said, “You’re going to love what I picked out for him.”

Right. Before he’d flown over to annoy Dean, Gabriel had taken Cas on the shopping trip of doom. Seeing as most of what Dean had seen Cas in was sweaters and suits (although not at the same time), he had to admit, he was curious to see what Gabriel had managed to wrestle his brother into getting. Gabriel kept taking, “and his wings are all shiny and everything. I don’t think you appreciate how hard it is to get Cassie to have them groomed properly.”

“You’re taking a lot of pleasure in this,” Dean noted.

“He’s my brother,” Gabriel responded, “I’m supposed to take pleasure in torturing him. And once you see him, trust me, I won’t be the only one who gets pleasure out of this.”

Dean pulled into the parking lot of the theater, parking his Baby as quickly as possible, “okay, you get out.”

Gabriel pouted, “but we were having such fun.”

Dean opened his own door, pointing at Gabriel as he unbuckled his seatbelt and climbed out, “you got me here, now you can go.”

Gabriel got out too, but instead of leaving he crossed his arms, leaning against Dean’s car, “please, please at least let me stick around to see your reaction. I want pictures.”

“I’m sure you’ll see them on the news,” Dean groused, “now leave!”

Gabriel pouted again, but he unfurled his wings with a flourish, “fine then. I’ll be in touch later.” He took off gracefully (not that Dean had expected much different), and disappeared.

Dean turned away from the car, scanning the parking lot for the telltale black wings. He couldn’t find them for a moment, and moved closer to the theater, wondering if Cas was there yet. He kind of figured that the angel would have been there already, but then again, if he’d arrived before Dean, he’d have been crowded by cameras and people asking questions. Dean was very much aware that Cas wasn’t much of a people person.

He purchased the tickets anyway, before exiting. He leaned against the wall outside, waiting for Cas.

He didn’t have to wait for long. Cas apparently didn’t drive anywhere, so the only reason Dean knew it was him was because when a black car (not a limo, thank god) pulled up, people immediately took notice. That was always a good indication that an angel was arriving. His suspicion was only confirmed when the door opened and Cas stepped out, shy smile on his face, head down.

Dean moved towards him, and Cas looked up and caught his eye. The angel looked relieved, a tension Dean hadn’t noticed leaving his shoulders. When he reached Dean he pulled him into a hug (which Dean hadn’t been expecting) and kissed his cheek (which Dean had definitely not been expecting). Before he pulled away, Cas said softly, “sorry, there are cameras watching.”

Dean made sure he was smiling when they separated, not that he had to work too hard to do that. Now that Cas had moved away from him, Dean was able to take in the angel’s full appearance, starting with the extremely glossy black wings that were spread in a showy fashion. Then Dean’s eyes moved to Cas’s outfit, and he struggled to breath properly. Gabriel had somehow managed to get Cas into very tight skinny jeans and a much looser blue V-neck that matched his eyes perfectly.

Cas’s face turned bright red when he caught Dean staring at him, “I look ridiculous.”

“Ridiculous is not the word I would use,” Dean murmured. He forced himself to look Cas in the face, “right. The movie starts soon, so we’d better go in.”

Cas nodded, “yes, we should.” He sounded awkward, but Dean couldn’t blame him. He was probably well outside his comfort zone. Cas offered his hand to Dean shyly, and Dean took it, pulling the angel into the movie theater behind him.

Chapter Text

Castiel was definitely going to kill him brother. It had been bad enough that Gabriel wanted to take him shopping at all (and then to get his wings groomed. He felt like a show dog), but to have to actually wear the clothing? He supposed that should have been obvious, but Castiel had thought he’d at least get a day to get used to the thought of wearing something so showy.

Dean seemed to appreciate the outfit, though. That had been something of a surprise. Certainly, he hadn’t seemed ashamed to stare at Castiel.

Either way, Castiel was very glad that movie theaters were dark inside. Dean kept ahold of his hand, turning to Castiel, “hey, are you going to want anything to eat or…” He trailed off.

Castiel shook his head, “I’m not hungry.” And then, because of the way Dean was looking at him, he added, “I already ate as well.” Not really a lie, as he and Gabriel had stopped off for coffee and a pastry before going shopping.

Dean shrugged, “we should still get popcorn. It’d be weird not too.”

Castiel took his word for it, even though he wasn’t sure what Dean meant by that, “I’ll pay for it since you paid for the tickets.”

For a moment it looked like Dean was going to argue, but then he stopped and nodded, “okay.” They got a small popcorn, and then they walked into the theater where the movie would be playing. As they took a seat in the back row (with Castiel on Dean’s left so his bad wing wouldn’t be jostled), Castiel realized that Dean was still holding onto his hand. He let go of it quickly. If Dean noticed, he didn’t say anything.

The commercials were still running, so Castiel said softly, “I’m sorry if kissing you out there upset you.” Dean hadn’t showed any signs of discomfort, but that could also have been an act.

Dean made a noncommittal gesture, “it’s fine, Cas. You were right, there were cameras. And the whole point of us going out like this is to make everyone think that we’re going out like this.” He paused, and Castiel could see the frown on Dean’s face, even in the dim lighting, trying to make sense of his own statement. After a moment he continued, “Besides, it was only on the cheek. It’s not like you kissed me on the lips or anything.”

“You do understand that it’s entirely possible that at some point we might have to kiss,” Castiel told him, “we’re supposed to be in a relationship, after all. People expect us to kiss.” And that was just talking about people on the street. Anyone who worked for a newspaper or magazine would be egging them on in the hopes of a money shot. But he chose not to mention that. With any luck (not that Castiel had much of that, it seemed), that wouldn’t end up being a problem.

Dean nodded, “yeah, I get it. Don’t worry about it.” He didn’t exactly look pleased at the thought, though. Castiel could definitely see tinges of annoyance in his expression.

“If you really don’t want to-“ he began hastily.

Dean cut him off, “Cas, I just said, I’m fine with it.” He sounded a bit aggravated, so Castiel stopped talking so as not to upset him further. He clasped his hands together in his lap, staring at the floor. Thankfully, he was spared from having to say anything else when the lights fully went out, and the previews started playing. Dean relaxed in the seat next to him, but Castiel found he couldn’t. He was thankful for the armrest between them, as it made the likelihood of him brushing against Dean somewhat less. Of course, that didn’t factor in his wing.

The previews ended, and the movie began, and already Castiel knew that they should have gone to the romantic comedy two doors over. To be fair, the first Hell Hazers hadn’t been all that good to begin with, so it wasn’t really unexpected that the second one was going to be pretty bad as well. The special effects did seem somewhat better, though.

A glance over at Dean told him that the human was just as unimpressed with the movie as Castiel was. He resisted the urge to apologize for the bad pick, and instead stole a piece of popcorn out of the bag, which rested in Dean’s lap. He chewed on it slowly (apparently this was out of the norm, as most moviegoers apparently ate popcorn by the handful) and leaned back in his seat with a sigh.

Dean snickered very quietly next to him, “I’d forgotten how bad Hell Hazers was.”

Castiel looked at him in surprise. In the nearly black of the theater, Dean’s eyes appeared to be sparkling. This time he didn’t stop himself from apologizing, “I’m sorry.”

Dean shook his head, “don’t apologize.” He snorted, “If anything, it’s worth it to see everyone’s reaction. I think there are some people who are genuinely scared.”

“Horror movies aren’t for everyone,” Castiel pointed out.

Dean was quiet for a moment before saying, “true.” He glanced around, “I’m not sure if that guy is staring at us because we’re talking or because you’re an angel.”

Castiel followed his eyes, trying to make out the man Dean was talking about. It was too dark for him to make out much of anything though, so Castiel gave up after a few seconds of searching, leaning closer to Dean so he could say quietly, “to be honest, it could be either.” His eyes flickered towards the door of the theater, surprised he couldn’t see anyone with a camera peering in at them. That would only last for so long, he supposed.

As if reading his mind, Dean murmured, “When the reporters figure out how to sneak in here, they’re not going to buy that this is a date with you mimicking a wax figure over there. Relax.”

Castiel hesitated, and in those few seconds Dean had lifted up the armrest and wrapped one hand around Castiel’s shoulder, pulling him closer. He tensed up further as his wing automatically accommodated, wrapping around Dean’s shoulders and draping into his lap. Castiel’s stiffness allowed Dean to arrange him, pulling Castiel’s head onto his shoulder and tucking the rest of the angel’s body right up against him.

“You don’t understand what the word ‘relax’ means, do you?” there was a hint of laughter in Dean’s voice.

Castiel focused on that. He slowly worked the tension out of his muscles until he was resting against Dean, fingers curled around Dean’s bicep, looking like pretty much any other movie-going couple, except that in his case he had wings.

“There we go,” Dean said softly. Castiel could barely hear him over the scream of horror that the woman onscreen emitted, making a good portion of the people in the theater jump.

Castiel closed his eyes, fully relaxing into Dean and letting out a little sigh. Dean smelled like him, which made sense because he’d used Castiel’s soap, but underneath that he smelled like apple pie and engine grease, which shouldn’t have been a good combination, but was definitely interesting. He wondered vaguely if Dean would comment on Castiel smelling him, but he wasn’t being too obvious about it, so hopefully the human wouldn’t notice.

Castiel associated people with colors and scents. He wasn’t entirely sure how odd that made him, because he’d never asked, but that was how it had always been for him. His sister Anna was candy apple red, spring rain, and strawberry shampoo (when he was much younger, he’d asked if that was why her hair was red). Gabriel was honey gold and neon splotches, second-hand perfume and chocolate éclairs. His mother had been the blue of her wings, hot chocolate, and lemon-scented laundry detergent. His father was dark greys and leather (like his briefcase). Now Dean was catalogued nicely in his mind, a nice spring green to go with the way he smelled. And if Cas pressed his cheek into Dean’s shoulder a little more, there was the faintest hint of worn leather, different from his father, more like a leather jacket that had gone through the wash.

Because he was caught up in Dean’s scent, it took Castiel a little while to notice the fingers combing through his good wing. Dean had rough hands, the kind you got from doing manual labor for a living (mechanic, obviously), and the contrast between hardened skin and soft feathers was actually quite pleasant. Castiel wasn’t sure if Dean was aware of what he was doing, but regardless he was enjoying it. He flexed his wing slightly, resisting the urge to groan when the movement caused Dean to tug slightly at the feathers. He cuddled against the human, not bothering to check if any paparazzi had gotten in yet. Dean had been the one to initiate it, so he couldn’t really complain.

The movie was drawing to a close. Onscreen, the protagonists had almost all been carried away by the monsters (at least, Castiel was pretty sure that’s what had happened. He wasn’t paying enough attention to confirm that was what was going on), and in the theater people were getting restless, checking watches to see if it was almost over. Castiel couldn’t blame them. He wanted to get out of there. Really, he wanted to check in with Gabriel and Office Lafitte to see if they could manage to get a warrant (or anything useful) on Lucifer.

“It’s almost over,” Dean reassured him, “then you can call your brother.”

“Are you sure you can’t read minds?” Castiel mumbled into Dean’s shoulder.

Dean chuckled softly, “you were getting all fidgety. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out what was bugging you. Wait another ten minutes. It’ll probably be over by then.”

It wasn’t. The movie wasn’t actually over for another fifteen minutes, but Castiel wasn’t going to argue that with Dean. When the credits started rolling, the lights came up, and Castiel somewhat reluctantly untucked himself from Dean’s side. Dean stretched, standing up with him.

“Time to go?” he asked softly.

Castiel shook his head, “we should wait until most of the people clear out. It’s going to be crowded out there, and I don’t want to bump into anyone with my wings.”

“I know it’s supposed to attract attention,” Dean said, “but why can’t you at least tuck in your good wing?”

Castiel sighed, “I’m supposed to be behaving the way angels normally behave, at least to an extent. That just happens to include what Gabriel likes to refer to as ‘peacocking’. A lot of angels do it just so people will notice them.” Unspoken, he thought, as if they didn’t get enough attention anyway.

Dean nodded, and they waited a few minutes in silence, until they were the last ones in the theater. “Ready?” Castiel asked Dean softly.

The human nodded and reached out to take Castiel’s hand without any prompting. Together they left the empty room and stepped into a much fuller one.

Chapter Text

Castiel knew that he would never get used to the camera flash. He felt blinded, but he forced himself to keep his eyes open and his head up, maintaining a smile even as he gripped Dean’s hand more tightly for support. Dean squeezed his hand gently, and they pushed through the crowd of reports shouting questions at them (even as the manager of the theater begged them to take it outside).

Outside, Dean pulled Castiel to where he had parked Baby. Castiel tucked his good wing into his back before getting in, making an attempt to keep his broken one out of the way as much as possible. He pulled out his phone, dialing Gabriel’s number.

Dean groaned, “you’re calling him, aren’t you?”

“Gabriel is the one who’s planning everything,” Castiel responded, “I need to know what we should be doing now.”

Dean sighed, “I miss how it was before Sam started Protection for Pay. I didn’t have to worry about angels or complicated schedules or insane murderers. Everything was so much easier.”

Castiel would have responded, but Gabriel picked up at that moment, “hey, baby bro. How was the date?”

“I would not recommend going to see Hell Hazers two,” Castiel responded dryly, “I’m calling to check in.”

“I figured as much,” Gabriel responded, “Benny’s got zilch on Luci, but Jo’s been making a bit of headway. We should keep an eye on him for the next few days, and if we’re lucky we’ll be able to stop him from hurting anyone else.”

“What, like put a tail on him?” Castiel asked, “If he’s been killing before, don’t you think that’ll be too obvious?”

“I’m still working out the details,” there was what sounded suspiciously like a lollipop being unwrapped, “anyway, I’ve got everything on this end under control for now, so you can spend your evening in the usual way.”

“The usual way?” Castiel repeated in confusion.

“At the Roadhouse,” Gabriel groaned, “you know, sometimes I really feel like I’m surrounded by idiots.”

Castiel ignored that comment, instead asking, “And what about Dean?”

“Hey, don’t I get a say?” Dean asked from the driver’s seat.

“Dean can do whatever he’d like,” Gabriel said, “if you want him to be followed, that’s your decision, but I’m unavailable for babysitting tonight, so you’ll have to get someone else to do it.”

Castiel put his hand over the phone, “Dean, Gabriel said you’re free for the night. Is there anything in particular you’d like to do?”

“Why, so you can stalk me there?” Dean asked. He was much more sullen now.

“Actually I’ll be at the Roadhouse this evening,” Castiel responded, “but I still don’t like the idea of you going off on your own. It could be dangerous.”

“I should probably talk to my boss about the days I’ve missed,” Dean said, “he probably won’t be too happy with me.” As an afterthought he added, “So I won’t be alone. And if it makes you feel better, I’ll even call you after I’m done talking to him, okay?”

Castiel hesitated, but Dean was already driving in the direction of the Roadhouse, and arguing would just paint him as the bad guy in Dean’s mind, so he kept his mouth shut and simply nodded.

When Dean pulled into the parking lot for the Roadhouse, he didn’t even bother pulling into a space. He just stopped the car, “okay, I’ll talk to you later.”

Castiel didn’t move for a minute, because that was how long it took him to process that Dean was pretty much kicking him out of the car. During that minute, Dean was staring at him expectantly. “Yes,” Castiel finally responded, “alright.” He pushed his door open and stepped out of the car.

He barely had time to close the door before Dean was pulling out of the parking lot. Castiel stared after him, a slight frown on his face. He understood that being alone was something that Dean might want after spending so much time around him (and Gabriel as well), but the abruptness of it shook him a bit. Shaking his head, Castiel turned to enter the Roadhouse. The door opened with its usual soft creak, and people turned to look at him, eyes wide. In this instance, he couldn’t blame them. It was very likely that he and Dean’s relationship was today’s big piece of gossip.

Castiel made his way over to where he usually sat, keeping his head down so he didn’t have to look at anyone. When he went to sit down, he was surprised to find the book he’d checked out of the library resting on it where he’d left it. It felt like ages ago that he’d been reading it, but he hadn’t managed to finish it. So he picked it up gingerly, sat down, and opened it to the page he’d last been on. He tucked himself into the chair as best he could, settling into the story contentedly, even as worry about Dean dug at the back of his mind.

The door swung open again, and Castiel wouldn’t have noticed if it hadn’t been for the unexpected shift in volume. Suddenly all conversations dropped to a whisper. Looking up to find the cause of the abrupt quiet, his gaze caught on a man fast approaching where he sat. When he got within a few feet of Castiel, stepping neatly over the little rope that separated him from the rest of the bar, Lucifer smiled, “hello Castiel. Mind if I sit?”

Castiel couldn’t find his voice as he stared up at the other angel, but he didn’t seem to need to answer, because Lucifer took the chair across from him without waiting for Castiel to speak. He leaned back in his seat, legs kicked up on the table between them, “right. Let’s talk.”

Only then did Castiel find his voice, “what are you doing here?”

“Well, I heard the food was good and the service even better,” Lucifer responded idly, examining his nails casually rather than looking at Castiel.

“Why are you really here?” Castiel said with a bit more force.

Lucifer chuckled, looking up at him, “aww, how cute. Shy little Castiel’s trying to act all grown up and intimidating. Really, it’s adorable. I wish I’d brought my camera.” He pulled his feet off the table and leaned forward, “I’m here to talk to you, of course.”

“From what I hear, you don’t like to talk,” Castiel said warily, “you like to do things.”

Lucifer smiled, “clearly you’ve been getting your information from the wrong source. I like to talk very much. If I also happen to like to do things, that’s my business.”

“If people are getting hurt, then it becomes my business,” Castiel responded.

Lucifer clicked his tongue, “who said anyone was getting hurt?”

“It doesn’t take a genius to figure out what you’ve been doing.”

Lucifer frowned, “what I’ve been doing? Castiel, all I’ve been doing is pulling a bit of a publicity stunt. Do you really think anyone would have listened to me if I hadn’t gone on trial? All that was just a way to promote my new book. A bit dramatic, I know, but these days you have to go big to get attention.”

Now it was Castiel’s turn to frown, “you wrote a book?”

Lucifer nodded, “I don’t know what you think I’ve been doing, but I can assure you it’s nowhere near as bad as you’re making it sound. The only thing I’m guilty of is being a drama queen.”

Castiel considered him. Lucifer’s face was open, honest. The other angel even had his wings tucked into his back, which could be read as a sign of submission (although Castiel was less sure of the context). He chose his next words carefully, “how would going on trial make people want to read your book? Was it even mentioned?”

Lucifer looked at him with a touch of pity in his expression, “oh, Castiel. You really don’t understand how publicity works, do you? I don’t have to say a word about my book at my trial. I just have to get noticed. After that, the cameras follow me around even more than usual, I get tons of interviews, and everyone wants to hear what I have to say. That’s how you get people to pay attention to you.” He gave Castiel a once-over, “but you wouldn’t know that, would you? Who picked out your outfit? I’m guessing it was that big brother of yours. Pity you have to go to him for advice. After all, he’s out of the loop now. What would he know about dressing to impress someone?” Lucifer leaned closer, “you’ll never keep him, you know. Pretty boys like Dean Winchester can’t be entertained by a guy like you for long. And in that, well, let’s just say you’re definitely going to remind him that you’re not a girl. Not the best move on your part.”

Suddenly Castiel felt very self-conscious. He’d thought Gabriel had done a good job picking out his outfit, especially since Dean had seemed to like it. But what if the human had just been humoring him? For a brief moment, Castiel forgot that he and Dean weren’t really together, and he wondered if Lucifer was right.

Then the moment passed, and Castiel remembered. He remembered that it didn’t matter if Dean was entertained by him, or if Castiel wasn’t a girl, or if Dean liked his choice in clothing (even if Gabriel had picked them out). None of it mattered because once this was over, Dean and Castiel wouldn’t be seeing much of each other at all.

Lucifer seemed to be waiting for Castiel to say something. When Castiel instead remained silent, the other angel leaned back in his chair again, stretching back and making himself comfortable, “or maybe this will work out for you. Who knows? Maybe Dean won’t want to give up the spotlight. After his last relationship, I wouldn’t blame him for wanting to get something big out of this one.”

Castiel didn’t know how to respond. Without really thinking about it, the words slipped out of his mouth, “what do you mean, after his last relationship?”

Lucifer looked at him, incredulous, “you don’t know? Oh, Castiel, that is adorable. You’re like the picture of innocence, Castiel. I can certainly see why the people here like you.” Lucifer leered over at Jo, who was watching them from behind the bar. She turned away quickly when she saw he was looking at her. Lucifer turned his attention back to Castiel, “you know you’re the first man he’s ever been with? His last breakup was pretty terrible, so I can’t blame him for trying to switch sides. I don’t think that will work out so well, though.”

Castiel ignored the jab at him, “that doesn’t answer my question.”

The pity was back in Lucifer’s eyes (had it ever left?), and he said, “I’m not surprised he didn’t tell you. Her name was Lisa. She was such a sweet girl, but I guess she couldn’t cope with the self-pity, the drinking, and the daddy issues. I’m not sure how anyone could put up with all that for long, even that delectable brother of his.”

“Stay away from Sam,” Castiel said without thinking.

Lucifer looked hurt, “he’s your Protection! I wouldn’t dream of touching him! Well, unless that’s what he wants…”

Castiel forced himself not to lunge forward and slam his fist into Lucifer’s face. “Tell me more about Lisa.”

Lucifer’s smile was more of a leer, “oh, are you jealous? You should be. He loved her so much, and when she left him he wasn’t the same after. She broke his heart, and I don’t know if he ever got over it.” He seemed genuinely delighted by this, but Castiel could feel his own stomach twisting horribly.

Dean was in love with someone. She had left him. Given that information, it was a wonder Dean had agreed to this. Unless…maybe he’d had an ulterior motive? Being in a relationship with an angel was almost a guarantee to make someone else jealous. If Dean wanted Lisa back, then maybe he thought that this was a good way to go about doing it? It didn’t explain why Dean was okay with hanging out with Castiel even when there were no cameras watching, but it was enough to make Castiel feel sick to his stomach.

Lucifer patted Castiel’s knee, “I’m sorry you had to hear this from me. I know I’m probably not on your list of favorite people right now.”

Castiel stared at the floor, feeling numb and oversensitive at the same time. He couldn’t bring himself to say anything, so he kept quiet.

Lucifer hesitated, and then he repeated his previous action and stood up, “I’ll see that a signed copy of my book makes its way to you, Castiel. Enjoy your evening.” The other angel left, sweeping out of the Roadhouse in silence, leaving the door swinging shut with a snap behind him.

Chapter Text

Castiel didn’t look up for a long moment. He could feel eyes watching him, likely a pair of them being Jo’s. Instead of looking up at the blonde girl, Castiel stood, tucked his book under his arm, and walked out of the Roadhouse. Unlike Lucifer, he made sure the door shut quietly behind him. It was dark now. Castiel probably should have eaten dinner at the Roadhouse, but he wasn’t hungry. The only sensation was an ache that echoed through his entire body. There should have been fear. After all, it was dark out and Castiel was walking home while the angel killer was still out there somewhere, and it was so cold. But he couldn’t bring himself to care.

He did reach his house without any problems. He wasn’t sure who was home, but he suspected Gabriel was probably still out. Castiel pulled open the front door, slinking inside as quietly as he could. He shut the door silently behind him. The lights were on. That meant somebody was home.

“Castiel.”

Okay, apparently someone was both home and waiting for him. Castiel turned around, scanning the front hall until his eyes locked onto the figure at the top of the stairs. A pair of blue eyes looked down at him from under a head of bright red hair, features twisted into a look of disapproval.

“Good evening, Anna,” he greeted his sister tiredly. He straightened up, taking the stairs two at a time.

Anna turned as he moved closer to her, watching him intently, “you were out with that Winchester boy today.”

“Yes.”

“Zachariah told you not to see him, Castiel.”

“I know.” He was in front of his sister now, and he moved to step around her.

Anna blocked him, “why would you directly disobey him? Honestly, it’s like you’re trying to be rebellious.”

Castiel looked her in the eye, “maybe I am.” He was really not in the mood to talk about this right now. Really, he didn’t think he’d ever be in the mood to talk about it.

Anna looked outraged, “Castiel, we’ve given you a thousand chances, but this is going too far. You’re bringing your shame down on us, and I won’t stand for it!”

Castiel bit back the urge to yell and said quietly, “let me go to my room, Anna. I’d like to go to bed.”

“I’m not done talking to you,” Anna snapped back, “as if it wasn’t bad enough that you’re hanging around with a human, you’ve got Gabriel doing it too! And not only that, it’s Dean Winchester, who hates angels and lets everyone know it!  So please enlighten me as to why you would feel the need to be so rebellious that you would actually-“

“Shut up!” Castiel’s voice echoed in the nearly empty hall. Anna blinked in surprised, but Castiel was at the end of his rope, “maybe I love him! Maybe I don’t and I just like to spend time with someone who doesn’t feel the need to change everything they don’t like about me! Or, I don’t know, maybe I feel bad for him because of what Zachariah is trying to do to him! I could be around him for a million different reasons, but you’d never know because you’re too busy trying to lay down the law that you don’t actually care how I feel.” He was in Anna’s personal space now, and he knew it, but he didn’t back down, “I am not some dirty secret to hide away. I am not shameful, and I do not regret a single one of my actions. So don’t you dare try to act like you’re our mother, because you’re not. You never could be her, because she wasn’t ashamed of me, and if she was still alive and knew about Dean, she’d welcome him with open arms.”

Anna was speechless, staring at her brother in shock. Castiel glared at her, “I’m going to my room now. Do not disturb me.” He stepped around her frozen figure and made his way down the hall.

Inside his room, Castiel slammed the door shut behind him and threw the book he was still holding onto across the room. It hit the wall with a loud bang and dropped onto his bed. He practically tore his new clothes when he yanked them off, replacing them with a plain gray sweater and a pair of soft jeans. Only then did Castiel collapse, falling to his knees next to his bed and burying his face into the comforter. A tear leaked from his eye, absorbed by the fabric. Then, all at once, he was crying, sobbing softly into the bedspread and clenching his fists to grip at nothing.

He wasn’t even sure how much of what he had said to Anna was true. He knew there was at least partial truth in what he’s said. Anna was not their mother, nor was she anything like their mother. He didn’t regret a single one of his actions, not even saving Dean. But beyond that, he had no idea if there was any truth to his words. All he knew was that he felt raw and aching and horrifyingly broken and empty. He hated that feeling, hated Anna for making him feel that way, hated Lucifer for telling him those things about Dean and Lisa, hated Zachariah for what he had tried to do to Dean, hated Gabriel for making him go out in public and act like someone he wasn’t, hated Dean for going out on that lake in the blizzard, hated Benny for arresting Dean, hated Ellen and Jo for letting him stay at the Roadhouse where Dean had been able to find him, hated Sam for getting into the car accident that started this whole mess, and hated himself. God, he hated himself. He hated himself for hating all of those people, because he didn’t really. More than that, he hated himself for how broken he felt right now, for how weak he felt as he wept, and for how much he desperately wished to curl up in the cold darkness outside and wait for the angel killer to find him so he could throttle the man for hurting so many people.

Castiel managed to drag himself into an upright position before climbing onto his bed, placing the book gently on his nightstand, and curling up under the covers. He didn’t feel the need to replace his clothing with something suitable for bed. After all he’d just changed, and he was comfortable enough. Castiel pressed his face into the pillow, trying to take a deep breath and failing miserably. He hadn’t even turned the light on in his room, so it was already dark, and that was okay. The dark was okay, and it meant that if Castiel happened to look up at the ceiling he wouldn’t see that awful painting. But he didn’t look up at the ceiling. Instead, he kept his leaking eyes closed and tried to fall asleep.

He had almost gotten there when the door creaked open. He debated snapping at Anna again, but instead he kept his eyes firmly shut and hoped that she’d go away.

“I know you’re awake,” not Anna, it was Gabriel, “Anna said you yelled at her. Are you okay?”

Castiel didn’t bother answering his brother. He just curled more tightly in on himself. Gabriel reached out and stroked his hair, “it’s okay. Everything will look better tomorrow, Cassie. It always does.” He pressed a kiss to Castiel’s forehead, a rare display of affection, and left the room quietly.

Castiel wished he could believe him.

***

Relieved was a good word for how Dean was feeling right now. Free with a hint of confused anticipation was also rather accurate. He’d spoken to Bobby, apologizing for missing work and promising to make it up to him. Bobby had responded with a grunt, saying, “Just as long as that angel of yours doesn’t have you missing anymore work days, we’ll pretend it didn’t happen.”

After that, Dean hadn’t been sure what to do, but no way in hell was he calling Gabriel to ask. Cas’s brother annoyed him to no end, so the less Dean had to speak to him, the better. So, without anything else to do and no angel to shadow him (stalk him, more like), Dean had gone home.

His house had been dark, exactly as he’d left it. The keys had been left in the Impala before Dean had taken that dip in the lake (thank god), so breaking in wasn’t necessary. The heat hadn’t been turned on, so Dean made that his first order of business. Winter was well on its way, and freezing to death wasn’t exactly a pleasant option.

As he’d collapsed onto his bed, relishing the feel of having his own mattress under him, Dean wondered if he should be worried.  Cas had sounded terrified of the thought that Lucifer might snatch Dean up. Dean decided that getting some sleep that night was an option he would very much enjoy, so he’d chalked it up to Cas’s paranoid tendencies and crashed hard.

All of this was followed by Dean waking up the next morning with a bucket of water the temperature of Antarctica splashed unceremoniously on his face.

Coughing and sputtering, Dean attempted to dislodge himself from the soaking blanket, enough water dripping down his forehead to obscure his sight. He blinked rapidly, and the world swam leisurely back into focus, revealing a very angry looking angel holding a bucket standing over his bed.

Dean sat up abruptly, “what the hell?”

Gabriel glared down at him, intimidating despite his height. His honey-gold wings were stretched all the way out, tips brushing against the walls. “Would you like to explain to me why my brother spent last night crying himself to sleep?” the angel asked angrily.

Dean took a minute to allow his sleep addled mind process the words falling rapidly out of Gabriel’s mouth before actually answering, “How the hell am I supposed to know what Cas was doing last night?”

For a moment, Dean wondered if Gabriel was going to smite him. Instead, the angel responded with, “You’re the last person I know was with him. He doesn’t like to talk to people at the Roadhouse, so the only thing I can think of is that you did something that has him like this.”

“I didn’t do anything,” Dean defended himself even before he considered his last conversation with Cas. But after he thought for a minute, one thing did come to mind, “shit, wait. I told Cas I’d call him after I got done talking to my boss about the days I missed, and I forgot to. Do you think that’s got him upset?” He honestly couldn’t imagine how Cas could cry himself to sleep over not getting a phone call, but maybe…?

Gabriel shook his head, “Cas is emotional, but even he wouldn’t be that emotional over something like that. You’d better think harder.”

“Why are you assuming I did something?” Dean asked, “It could have been Ellen, or Jo, or maybe Cas just got himself worked up over something he thought of. The guy does spend way too much time in his head.”

Gabriel crossed his arms (the movement somewhat hampered by the bucket), “maybe, but he hasn’t done something like this in a very long time, not since what happened to Mom. So if you had even the slightest hint of something to do with this I will-“

Gabriel’s threat was cut short by the sound of Smoke on the Water coming from somewhere in the room. The angel raised an eyebrow at Dean, who scrambled to find his phone, finally extracting it from the middle of a collection of car magazines on the nightstand. He answered it, “hello?”

“Gabriel’s not home,” Cas’s voice sounded somewhat incoherent, like he’d just woken up with a mouthful of pillow, “is he bothering you?”

“Heya, Cas,” Dean greeted the angel, “nah, he’s not bothering me at all. I love waking up to a cold shower in the morning. It’s the best.” He gave the angel above him an annoyed smirk.

Cas was silent for a moment before saying, “I apologize. I did not realize he would see fit to go and disturb you. If I had known I would have dissuaded him.” Crap, now Cas sounded like he was blaming himself.

“It’s not your fault, Cas,” Dean told him, “I heard you were feeling pretty crappy last night. It didn’t have anything to do with me, did it?” If Dean was being honest with himself, he was only partially asking to prove Gabriel wrong. He really did want to know if Cas was alright.

“No,” Cas finally responded after a pregnant pause, “it had nothing to do with you.”

“Really?” Dean asked, “are you sure about that? Because it sounds kind of like you’re lying, Cas, and I’d really hate it if you were lying to me right now.”

“It was nothing you did directly,” Cas assured him, “I spoke to someone last night. He had…concerns. He also told me some things about you.”

Now Dean wanted Gabriel to leave. He didn’t need the angel to get involved in whatever business Cas had heard about last night. “I want you gone in the next five seconds,” he told the angel.

“Oh…” Cas said softly.

“No, not you,” Dean rushed to reassure him, “I was talking to your brother.” By the time he looked up again, Gabriel was gone. “Okay,” he said, “who were you talking to and what did they tell you?”

There was another silence, and then, “Lucifer.”

Dean felt frozen for about three seconds before he spoke, “Lucifer. Like, angel-killing, evidently fancies my brother Lucifer?”

“Yes, Lucifer,” Cas confirmed, “but I’m not entirely certain he’s the one who has been killing the angels.”

“Yesterday you were sure it was him!” Dean said in exasperation, “what the hell could have changed you mind?”

“I don’t know, but the way he was talking…Dean, I believed him when he said all he was doing with the trial was trying to get attention.” The way Cas said it made Dean want to hit something, because Cas sounded terrified that Dean was going to shoot down what he thought. Somewhere in the back of his mind he remembered that Cas had grown up with Zachariah as a father. Anyone who had been raised with a parent like that probably had been told many times that they were worthless or stupid or something even worse. Dean had seen Cas’s self-esteem first hand, and he hadn’t liked it one bit.

“Okay,” he responded, trying to keep his voice neutral, “I’m going to say that we won’t rule him out as a possibility, but I trust your judgment. That makes finding the killer a bit harder, but we’ll figure it out.” He couldn’t help tacking on, “so, uh, what did he say about me?”

“He told me about Lisa.”

Silence echoed that statement. Lisa. Cas knew about Lisa. Lucifer knew about Lisa. Dean told himself not to panic. He’d buried the thought of his last girlfriend as best he could, but that didn’t mean she wasn’t a player in this game too. “Tell me, Cas. Tell me exactly what he said,” Dean barely succeeded in keeping his voice steady.

“He-he just said that she was your last girlfriend, and that she broke your heart,” Cas stammered, “he said she left you? And that you hadn’t gotten over it?”

Was it Dean’s imagination, or did Cas sound a bit upset by that? Dean ran a hand through his still-wet hair, “yeah. Well, yeah she was my last girlfriend and she broke my heart when she left. It still hurts, but I wouldn’t go as far as to say I’m not over it.”

From the sound on Cas’s end of the line, Dean was pretty sure the angel had just let out a breath, “oh. Okay. He, uh, also mentioned that I’m the first guy you’ve dated. I-I know we’re not really dating, but, uh,-“ The angel stuttered through the words.

“Cas, hey, listen to me,” Dean felt the urge to comfort Cas, “look, you being a guy has nothing to do with anything, okay? And you’re right, we’re not dating, so does it really matter?” He hesitated, “is that what you were upset about last night?”

“Yes. No. I don’t know,” Cas sighed, “I’m honestly a little confused right now, Dean. Lucifer said a lot of things, and I don’t think he meant to make me feel bad, but he did. It’s not your fault.”

“Look, I have to work today, but I’ll see you tonight, okay?” Dean said.

“Gabriel hasn’t-“

“Gabriel can go fuck himself with his schedule,” Dean may have said that especially loudly in case the short angel was still hanging around, “we’re hanging out tonight. Preferably at your place, but wherever you want to go is cool too.”

Cas hesitated before saying, “alright. I’ll see you later then?”

“See you later, Cas,” Dean smiled, “and hey, if you feel like putting a tail on me today, I won’t even complain.”

He could almost hear Cas’s smile through the phone as the angel said, “we’ll see.” There was a click.

Dean stared at the phone in his hand for a few seconds before remembering why he had ended the conversation with Cas in the first place. He had to work, and if he didn’t start getting ready now, he was going to be late, and Bobby would not be happy about that.

He got dressed in a rush (not that it mattered, as Dean’s options in clothing weren’t particularly diverse) and scarfed down some toast as quickly as he could before he was out the door.

Bobby nodded to him when he came in, “you can work out back. We got a few cars in that just need a bit of a tune-up. Information’s on the dashboard.”

Dean returned the nod and went out back, rolling up his sleeves.

Chapter Text

Castiel still felt a bit lightheaded when he hung up after talking to Dean. He wasn’t sure what he’d expected, but the news that Lisa (while still having broken Dean’s heart) was no longer a problem had him smiling like an idiot. It was wrong, really, to be so happy about it, but Castiel couldn’t help it. To say he’d been upset over it was putting it mildly, and maybe he’d lied just a bit to Dean when he’d said he wasn’t sure exactly what he was upset about. He had definitely been distressed over the thought of Dean still being interested in Lisa, but he had also been telling the truth when he’d said that he was confused. Castiel wasn’t sure how he felt right now.

Dean accepting that Castiel didn’t think Lucifer was the angel killer was both satisfying and frustrating. It was good to know that Dean trusted him, but the fact remained that they had been set back in figuring out who had really killed the angels. He would have to remember to let Gabriel know about this bit of information. He had no idea if his brother would agree with him, but Castiel knew that Gabriel would be open to options. Although he didn’t say it, it was apparent that Gabriel was concerned about the killer by how invested he’d become in everything, as well as being concerned about Castiel. Gabriel wouldn’t shoot down any of Castiel’s ideas like Anna or Zachariah would, of that he was certain.

Castiel pushed those thoughts to the back of his mind for the time being, instead stepping into his bathroom. He needed a shower, and his wings needed a good grooming (he’d gotten a professional one yesterday, but the products had made his wings feel awkward and uncomfortable). As he undressed he debated about whether or not he should put a tail on Dean, but he decided against it. Nothing had happened so far, and Dean was an adult. He could take care of himself. Castiel put his nervousness down to habit and stepped into the shower, stretching his wings out carefully. He kept the broken one curled carefully on the outside of the shower, so as not to get it wet.

Washing his wings always felt good, but that was nothing compared to how good it felt to groom them. He was looking forward to that. When he was younger, Gabriel would do it for him, teasing him about braiding his hair when they were done. Castiel smiled at the memory.

About ten minutes later (washing his wings always took up the majority of the time in the shower), Castiel stepped out and toweled off, almost completely ignoring his hair (it was sticking up at funny angles in little clumps, but he didn’t need to bother with it just yet, and it would only get messed up again). He hesitated in front of his closet before resignedly pulling out a pair of skinny jeans that Gabriel had gotten him yesterday and yanking them on.

Gathering up the materials he needed, Castiel sat on his bed, stretching his wings out until they were spread fully, taking up most of the room. He set the bottles he’d grabbed onto the bed, making sure they were firmly closed so they didn’t spill onto the comforter. Castiel snapped open the cap of the first one and coated his hands in the lotion before carefully twisting around to reach the base feathers close to his back. He only could stretch so far, which was why grooming was typically a pair or group activity, but Gabriel wasn’t home to help and Castiel didn’t want to talk to Anna, assuming she was home. The years with Zachariah when Gabriel was off working on his acting career meant Castiel had gotten fairly proficient at grooming his wings himself.

The feathers felt slick to the touch, but that was more likely because of the oil on his hands than his wings. His hands ran smoothly over the feathers, starting at as close to the base as he could reach and ending at the very tip of the wing, which was curled in towards him to be accessible. Each feather had to be straightened out and coated with oil. It didn’t hurt, even on his broken wing, but he could feel the little tugs of his hands. Castiel actually liked that feeling, although he knew for some that it could be rather like brushing knotted hair-extremely painful and not at all fun.

After the oil, he dried his hands off on the towel he’d used after his shower (which was conveniently dropped next to him on the bed), and picked up the next bottle, which was more of a lotion. He picked his way through the feathers again, and then a third time with the final bottle, until his wings looked glossy and sleek. Fluffing them gently to dry them, Castiel stood up, tucking them in just enough for him to be able to move around, and put everything away neatly where it belonged. Only then did he move to the closet to grab a V-neck at random and tug it on, minding his wings as he did so.

Castiel moved to the mirror, wetting his hands with water rather than hair gel. He hated using product in his hair, because much like what the stylists used on his wings, it made it feel stiff and awkward. He’d much rather have messy, uncontrollable hair than use hair gel.

Running his wet fingers through his hair was not like running them over his wings. His wings generally cooperated with him. His hair, on the other hand, did anything but. All the water managed to do was separate the clumps into a mass that still stuck up, but was a bit more manageable. It took a few minutes of wrestling with the dark locks for Castiel to give up, like he always did, and just run a flattened hand over his hair in a half-hearted final attempt to make it lay flat. It didn’t, but Castiel called it a loss and moved out of the bathroom feeling a good deal cleaner and a bit more ready to face the day.

Downstairs, Anna was sitting at the breakfast table. There wasn’t any food in front of her, likely because she was on some diet again that wouldn’t require her to eat for another few hours at least. Castiel regarded her warily as he entered the kitchen, moving to the fridge to see if by some miracle something new had been put in it. There was nothing, but upon inspecting the freezer he found a box of frozen waffles with a sticky note on it, with the words “you’re welcome” scrawled across it in Gabriel’s handwriting.

Castiel opted for those, putting two for himself into the toaster before glancing at Anna. A spur of the moment decision had him asking, “do you want any?”

Anna looked up at him from her phone, clearly startled. Somehow she still managed to sound scathing when she said, “no thank you.”

Castiel shrugged inwardly and put the box back in the freezer, plopping down at the table across from Anna as he waited for his waffles to be done. His sister didn’t look up for her phone as she said, “I spoke to Zachariah about the things you said to me last night.”

“I assumed as much,” Castiel responded, although he couldn’t remember the thought ever actually crossing his mind.

“He wants to have a talk with you.”

“Doesn’t he always?” Castiel bit out, trying and failing to keep his tone level. The words came out with the sharpness he had hoped they wouldn’t. He took a breath before he asked, “and if I don’t want to talk to him?”

“It’s not an option,” Anna said casually, “he’ll speak to you whether you want him too or not.”

Now Castiel didn’t try to keep the harshness out of his voice, “should I make an appointment with his secretary?”

Anna looked up at him now, “really, Castiel, you’re being childish.”

“And you’re acting like he’s the shepherd and you’re just a sheep,” Castiel shot back. He got up as the toaster made the dinging noise that meant his waffles were done. He set them on a plate, hand reaching towards the fridge for syrup without thinking about it. Castiel consciously chose to withdraw it.

He turned back towards his sister, sitting down again to eat out of habit. But instead of taking a bite, he said quietly, “I did not want to fight with you this morning, Anna.”

“Nor I with you,” Anna replied, “but it seems that neither of us will be getting that wish.”

“I just need you to understand,” Castiel pleaded, “you used to have your own mind, your own way of thinking. Now all you do is parrot what Zachariah says. You should be happy for me. I’ve finally found someone who interests me, someone who cares about me. Other big sisters would be thrilled if their brothers found someone like that. But you’re disappointed in me.”

“Of course I’m disappointed in you,” Anna said, “your interest is in a human. If he’d been an angel, of course I’d be happy for you, but he’s not. More than that, he’s encouraging you to behave in ways that aren’t like you, Castiel. I don’t approve.”

Suddenly Castiel wasn’t interested in eating anymore. He pushed the plate away and stood up, “I’m sorry you feel that way, but you’re wrong. Dean doesn’t encourage me to behave in any way. But when he’s there I don’t feel afraid of being myself. He understands that I’m not exactly the way you think I should be, and he’s more than okay with that.” For the second time in two days he walked away from his sister, but this time Castiel was not leaving in tears.

Back in his room upstairs, Castiel reached for his phone, dialing Gabriel’s number from memory. His brother picked up after two rings, “what’s up, Cassie?”

“Dean will be at work for most of today, so I figured I would call you. Something happened at the Roadhouse last night.” Here, Castiel paused, unsure how to continue. Fortunately, he didn’t have to.

“Yeah, I was just hearing about that,” Gabriel replied, “you had a conversation with Lucifer. There’s a lot of speculation around that, little bro. You want to shed some light?”

Castiel took a breath, “I don’t think Lucifer is the angel killer.”

There was silence for a long moment. Then, “care to share why with the rest of the class?”

“The way he was talking to me,” Castiel said, “I just…I don’t think he was lying. He told me the trial was a publicity stunt sort of thing, and he didn’t seem to have any clue what I was talking about when I sort of brought up the angel murders.”

“Why would you bring those up with him if we though he was the killer?” Gabriel said, sounding exasperated, “you’re not very good at this, are you?”

“I didn’t say anything about the killings,” Castiel reassured Gabriel, “I just mentioned that people were getting hurt and I implied that he might have something to do with it. He didn’t have a clue what I was talking about. I really think he didn’t have anything to do with it. Lucifer may be an unpleasant attention seeker, but I don’t think he’s a killer.”

Gabriel was quiet for a little while, evidently thinking it over, “I’m going to need you to be absolutely sure. We have too much on this guy for you not to be.”

“I am sure,” Castiel said, “I don’t think it’s Lucifer.”

“We’re not going to dismiss him entirely as a suspect,” Gabriel warned, “we don’t have enough of them or enough proof one way or the other to do that. But we’ll look into other options, okay?”

“Okay,” Castiel replied, “is there anything I can do to help?”

“Now that you mention it, I have something pulled up for you to do. It will be recorded, not live, so you don’t have to worry about that, but-“

“Wait,” Castiel cut in, “what are you talking about?”

“You, little brother, are going to be interviewed, and the recorded interview will be playing tonight. Everyone’s dying to hear about your and Dean’s tryst.”

“Does Dean know?”

“Well, I was going to tell him this morning after I was done chewing him out, but I was sent away so you two could talk in private,” Castiel could picture Gabriel’s pout, “but to answer, no he doesn’t. I’d recommend letting him know about that at some point. Or don’t, I don’t really care as long as he doesn’t say anything that contradicts your story. You’ll need to think of one, you know.”

Castiel gave himself a moment to accept the situation, and another to get over the urge to throttle his brother for scheduling press without letting him know first. When he felt calm enough, he said, “I’m going to need to know the time frame.”

“Don’t worry about it,” Gabriel said immediately, “you just hang around the house, and I’ll come to pick you up in an hour or so. It’ll be over by the time Dean’s out of work, believe me. It shouldn’t take too long.” In Gabriel speak, that meant the interview itself wouldn’t take very long. But knowing Gabriel, that wasn’t accounting for the time needed to do hair, makeup, etc. (all at Gabriel’s insistence, of course).

“I don’t suppose I have another option,” Castiel said dryly.

Gabriel’s tone sobered up, “I know you hate me bossing you around, but don’t worry. It shouldn’t be for too much longer. Of course, it’d be sooner if it really was Lucifer doing the killings, but oh well. We’ll figure it out.”

“I’ll speak to you later,” Castiel told his brother.

“See ya, Cassie,” Gabriel hung up.

Castiel set the phone back on his nightstand and moved plucked his library book off of it. Settling comfortably onto his bed, he flipped open to the page he’d been on last night. With any luck, he’d actually be able to finish the thing before Gabriel got there. It was almost a bench marker in this whole event, Castiel decided, and getting done with it would just be that much sooner that the rest of it was over too. He just hoped that wasn’t wishful thinking.

Castiel still had a fairly large chunk to go when Gabriel sauntered into his room, “hey Cassie. Are you ready to go?”

Castiel closed the book, nodding and pushing himself into an upright position. “Are we leaving immediately?” he asked.

Gabriel made a motion for Castiel to get up, which he did, and then circled his younger brother. Castiel was used to being scrutinized like this and allowed Gabriel to examine him. Finally Gabriel ran his hands over the wrinkles in Castiel’s shirt as if it would smooth them out and said, “That’ll be fine. Yeah, we’re going now.”

Castiel nodded, noting that Gabriel’s own outfit was a little closer to “high-end” fashion than what he normally wore, which meant his brother intended to be there as a buffer of sorts. Castiel didn’t have an agent, not like Anna and Zachariah had. Gabriel used to, but after his acting career had died, he’d fired him (as he’d been well within his rights to do, as the guy had been stealing money from Gabriel). But Castiel had never wanted one, and when his mother had still been alive she’d understood that. After her death, Gabriel put himself between Castiel and Zachariah, flat out telling their father that it was Castiel’s decision, and what did it matter to him? After that, if Castiel had a need to be out in public in a way that involved cameras and answering questions, that became Gabriel’s job.

The car Gabriel had selected was not a limo (thank goodness) because Castiel had no doubt that Gabriel would try and coerce him into one at some point or another. Instead it was bright red, sleek, and from what Gabriel said about it, an all-around beauty of a car. Castiel couldn’t exactly pass judgment on it himself, but he did know that it would attract a lot of attention, which was probably what Gabriel was going for. It was a convertible, but Gabriel had the top pulled up (likely due to the fact that the weather was cold), which was a relief.

Castiel climbed into the passenger side obediently, keeping his broken wing tucked in as best he could. Gabriel slid behind the wheel, looking much more graceful than Castiel had, and grinned over at him.

Castiel found himself unable to return the smile, so he did not try. He stared out the window as Gabriel pulled out of the garage and brought them on their way. Lawrence was very small, especially as far as angels were concerned, but nearly every city with angels in it had at least one recording studio, even a makeshift one.

When Gabriel pulled up outside the studio, there was already a small group waiting for them, but thankfully that group was not comprised of photographers or cheering fans. Unfortunately, the people it comprised were the people who were about to make Castiel feel very violated. They were the hair, make-up, and wardrobe team.

When Gabriel got out of the car, Castiel stayed in his seat, watching Gabriel greet the men and women by name and kissing them on both cheeks. When Gabriel turned to give him a warning look, Castiel unbuckled his seatbelt and reluctantly stepped out, immediately surrounded by Gabriel’s team (because that’s really what they were, he was just lending them to Castiel). He was swept along as they began to walk towards the dressing room, chatting with Gabriel and poking and prodding him, speculating about colors and whether they should make him change clothes or not.

Finally sitting in the chair they had deposited into, Castiel let out his wings and then stayed stalk-still as the team circled him, discussing things over his head. Gabriel leaned against the mirror in front of Castiel, grinning and occasionally throwing in a comment of his own.

After a few minutes of heated debating, a set of clothes was pushed into Castiel’s arms. He obediently stripped off his current outfit, ignoring the other people (he couldn’t afford to be body-shy), and then pulled the new clothes on. It was closer to the suits he was used too: dark grey button-down covered by a lighter grey suit jacket (left open), coupled with a matching pair of dress pants and shoes, and finished off with a grey tie even lighter than the jacket (hanging a bit loose around his neck deliberately). The lighter set of greys made his hair and wings look blacker in compassion, which was likely what they had been striving for.

Castiel sat down again, patiently letting a few people mess around with his hair a bit, talking about styles that they might be able to use. Gabriel took the opportunity to move behind his brother and straighten out a few of the feathers that had gotten messed up on the car ride over. Then he retook his position by the mirror.

The people arguing over his hair had finally managed to make it lay mostly flat, sticking up just a bit in the front (and Castiel really hated how much product they’d used in it), and moved on to his makeup. Honestly, it was easier to sit still and let them work on him than to argue and say he didn’t want it, but he did glare at Gabriel with his eyes, keeping the rest of his face blank and impassive.

He wasn’t female, so instead of going with purple eyeshadow like one of the women said she was just dying to try on him, they went with a more neutral light pink to accent the blue, beige liner to make his eyes look bigger (yes, because he really needed that), and finished with just a hint of mascara to make his eyelashes look longer (although one man said he didn’t really need it because his eyelashes were fine). Beyond that, Castiel stopped paying attention, but he knew they were doing something pretty much all over his face to keep it from shining in the light, which wouldn’t look good on camera, and something else that would accent his cheekbones.

When they finally let him up, Gabriel thanked the team and held out his elbow for Castiel to take with a smirk and a wink. Castiel didn’t take it, just gave his brother a look. “You’re no fun,” Gabriel pouted as they left the room, heading for the studio.

“I don’t understand why I have to go through that process,” Castiel complained.

“Makeup isn’t just for women, you know,” Gabriel scolded, “besides, you look wonderful.”

“I know it’s not just for women,” Castiel responded, “but that doesn’t mean I have to go through it.”

“Well stop whining. You need to look fabulous talking about your new boy toy, so you should really be thanking me.”

Castiel didn’t bother arguing back. He knew it would just be a waste of time. Besides, he was pretty sure Gabriel actually liked it when they played Barbie doll with him. How exactly was he supposed to get it across that he hated it to someone who loved it? So he didn’t bother trying.

As they stepped into the studio, a man rushed up to them, “thank god you’re here! You’re on in ten minutes!”

“I assure you my brother will be prepared to go on then,” Gabriel spoke for Castiel, “let Crowley know we’re ready to work with his schedule.”

The man, probably an intern, nodded and rushed off again, and Gabriel turned to Castiel, who was essentially having a nervous breakdown right there in the studio. How was he supposed to go through with this? He hated cameras, he hated doing interviews, and to make matters worse, it would be Crowley, of all people, sitting across from him.

 Gabriel snapped his fingers in front of Castiel’s face, “hey, bro. Look at me. It’s not live, you know that. You’ll do fine. Just answer the questions as best you can and go. It’ll be over before you know it.”

“Promise?” Castiel managed.

“Promise,” Gabriel said, reaching out and gripping Castiel’s hands tightly, “and you know I would never lie to you.”

Castiel relaxed, not completely, but enough that he wasn’t hyperventilating anymore. He could do this. Gabriel believed in him, and this was something that needed to happen. Gabriel wouldn’t let him freak out. Everything would be fine. Maybe if he repeated it in his head enough times, he’d start to believe it.

Gabriel shoved him gently towards the center, “go on. They’ll be waiting for you.”

Castiel nodded, walking in the direction Gabriel had pushed him on unstable legs. Fortunately, he’d be sitting down; otherwise he might collapse and pass out. That would be very embarrassing.

Crowley was in fact waiting, standing off to the side while a woman with a lint roller brushing down every inch of his suit. He smiled at Castiel, although it looked a bit more like a leer as far as the angel was concerned, “Castiel. How very nice to see you.”

“Hello, Crowley,” Castiel responded politely, “are we going on soon?” His gaze flickered back to Gabriel, who was standing by the cameraman and watching him.

“Any minute now,” Crowley told him. The woman with the lint roller stood up from where she had been crouching at his ankles and Crowley said, “thank you. You may go now.” She turned and walked away. Crowley’s attention returned to Castiel, “Well then, I think we’re about ready. This way, please.”

Chapter Text

Crowley really didn’t need to lead him, because the little stage was obvious, brightly lit and very visible. Still, Castiel followed, only sitting down in the chair designated for him after Crowley had sat down. Someone who Castiel assumed was either a director or a producer (he really wasn’t familiar with this situation) called, “two minutes!” Castiel really didn’t know what the fuss about timing was. It wasn’t like they were live. Maybe Gabriel knew.

Castiel and Crowley were both silent as the two minutes ticked down. Castiel really didn’t like the way Crowley was looking at him, almost like he was a piece of meat that had been dangled enticingly in Crowley’s face and he was trying to decide how he wanted it cooked. It shouldn’t have been a surprise, really, how tense Castiel was, given the circumstances.

Finally, people were calling the final countdown, and then the camera was rolling and Crowley was doing his little introduction before smiling over at Castiel and introducing him.

“Not that you really need to be introduced,” Crowley added, “Everyone’s been abuzz about you these past few days.”

“That’s what I’ve heard,” Castiel said passively, trying to smile.

Crowley nodded, “there’s been rumors about a rift between you and your father. Care to elaborate?”

Castiel felt a brief moment of panic. This wasn’t what they were supposed to be discussing. But then he forced himself to calm down and tried to think about what Gabriel would do in his place. After a moment he said, “Well, things have never been completely smooth between us, but what family doesn’t have a few rough spots?”

“Well said,” Crowley smiled, “but I think we both know that that’s not what we’re really here to talk about, is it?”

Castiel shook his head, “not from what I’ve heard, no.”

Crowley leaned forward, “everyone’s dying to find out, you know. About what exactly is going on between you and, what was his name?”

“Ah, Dean,” Castiel felt his cheeks flush a little, “Dean Winchester.”

Crowley looked almost like he was going to coo, “I take it that you’re not just friends, then?”

“Would you take off to spend three days alone with someone you were just friends with and not tell anyone about it before hand?” Castiel returned calmly.

Crowley clapped his hands, “so it’s true, then? You and Dean ran off together?”

“Running off together is a bit of a strong way to put it,” Castiel said, “you make it sound like we got married or something. That’s not something in the cards just yet.”

“But it might be in the cards in the future?” Crowley pressed.

Castiel took a moment to decide how to answer. He looked at the floor before saying softly, “I hope it is. I really hope it is.”

“Aww,” Crowley murmured, “you love him, don’t you?”

“The past week has been a bit crazy for me,” Castiel felt the need to stall for a minute, to try and answer the question without answering the question, “Dean’s been a grounding force during that time, and I don’t know where I’d be without him. When I’m with him…I don’t have to worry about what everyone’s going to say.”

“And do you know what people are saying? About you and him?”

Castiel considered, “I know some people think it’s insane. I’m an angel and he’s a human, after all. But I know other people are very excited about the idea of us being together.”

“And what about Dean? How does he feel about all of this?” Crowley seemed both eager and professional at the same time.

“I don’t know,” Castiel admitted carefully, “I think we both can agree I’m not the best when it comes to interacting with people. But I do think Dean cares for me as much as I care for him. And I know he doesn’t care what other people say about us. That much, I know for sure.”

Crowley’s smile looked far from genuine, “so, young love? What does Daddy Zach think about that?”

Castiel looked at the floor to get his bearings before answering, “He’s not very pleased with me. He doesn’t think Dean is a good influence. But I’ve already said that I don’t care what people think about me and Dean, and that extends to my father as well. If I love him, then that’s my business, not theirs.”

“But do you love him?” Crowley asked, “You never answered that question.”

There weren’t many ways that Castiel could answer this question. And only one of them would suit the purpose of the interview. So he smiled bashfully and said, “Yeah, I think I do. I think I love him.”

Crowley clapped his hands together, looking excited. His leer turned to the camera, “that’s all we have time for, I’m afraid.” He looked back at Castiel, “thank you.” He offered out his hand, and Castiel took it and tried not to grimace.

“And…we’re done,” the cameraman called.

Castiel immediately pulled his hand away from Crowley in the politest manner he could and stood up, anxious to get out of there. He hurried over to Gabriel, ignoring Crowley watching him retreat.

Gabriel clapped him on the back, “see? Was that so bad?”

“That was horrifying,” Castiel muttered.

His older brother chose to ignore Castiel’s complaint, “that’ll be airing soon, in no more than a few hours, I expect. That gives you plenty of time to relax this evening. Do you want to run through make-up and get all that stuff off?”

Castiel waved the idea off, “definitely not. I’m not going back in there. I’ll wash it off at home.” Really, he was anxious to get to Dean. He needed to make sure Dean knew about the interview. Unfortunately, he wasn’t sure when exactly Dean would be off from work, and they hadn’t made arrangements for transportation. He didn’t know if Dean would be driving over himself, or if Castiel was going to pick him up.

The ride home was silent. Well, almost silent. Gabriel seemed to get that Castiel wasn’t in the mood to talk to him, but that didn’t stop the older angel from cranking up the radio and singing along obnoxiously. Gabriel could sing really well…when he wanted too. This evidently was not one of those times.

When Gabriel pulled into the garage, Castiel barely waited until the car stopped moving before jumping out and running for the house. “What, is my company really that bad?” Gabriel called from behind him.

Castiel didn’t answer. He all but flew up the stairs (and he might actually have, had his wing not been broken), not wanting to meet up with Anna or his father in the event that either of them were home. Castiel slipped into his room without seeing either of them, and immediately deposited himself on his bed, bouncing slightly as the mattress accommodated the weight change. He pulled out his phone and dialed Dean’s number, praying silently that he wasn’t interrupting anything important.

Dean picked up after four rings. Four long, agonizing rings, which gave Castiel enough time to have a very small amount of anxiety dumped on him. So, when Dean picked up, Castiel felt vaguely like he was suffocating.

“Hello?” Dean asked. Castiel attempted to respond, but nothing came out. “Hello?” Dean said again, “this is Cas, right?”

“Uh, yeah,” Castiel finally managed, “it’s me. I’m not interrupting anything, am I?”

“No, you’re fine,” Dean responded, “I just got off of work a couple minutes ago. What about you?”

“I, uh, just got home. Gabriel dragged me to…this thing.” Oh, that was really wonderful. Evidently telling Dean over the phone wasn’t going to be an option as long his brain didn’t cooperate with his mouth. Castiel really hated being socially awkward sometimes.

“So, I’m just now realizing that I said I’d come over and we’d hang out this evening, but we never decided how I was getting over there.”

“Well, you have your car, right?” Castiel responded, “It’d probably be easiest if you just drove over here. Is that okay?”

“That’s fine,” Dean said, “I’ll be over in a little while, okay? I’m covered in engine grease and I’m in desperate need of a shower.”

Castiel was not thinking of Dean in the shower, he was not. “Alright,” he managed, “just let yourself in when you get here. If Gabriel gives you a hard time, just ignore him. I’m not sure if Anna or Zachariah are home, but avoiding them shouldn’t really be a problem.”

“Got it,” Dean told him, “I’ll see you soon, yeah?”

“Yes. Okay.”

Dean chuckled, “bye Cas.”

“Goodbye Dean.”

There was the telltale click that meant Dean had hung up, but Castiel stayed in that position for another minute or so, with the phone still pressed to his ear, cursing himself for his lack of eloquence when talking to one Dean Winchester.

Shaking his head, he finally dropped the phone onto his nightstand and began unbuttoning the shirt that Gabriel’s team had gotten him into. He needed another shower, but this one would have to be significantly longer. The stuff in his hair was high quality and all but waterproof. It’d be a while before he got all of it out.

***

Dean hung up the phone and tossed it onto his bed. He stripped out of his grease-stained undershirt (he hadn’t bothered to put his t-shirt back on after working on the cars, and truth be told he was freezing) as he walked down the hallway towards the bathroom, depositing it on the floor outside. The tile was uncomfortable under his bare feet, and he turned on the water so it would warm up as he undressed.

After showering in record time, Dean dressing in a t-shirt, followed by a long-sleeve button-down that he left hanging open, paired with jeans. He tugged on a jacket as he headed out, locking the door behind him.

When he pulled up to the house Cas and his family shared, Dean checked the clock. It’d been less than twenty minutes since Cas had called. Dean decided not to think about why he might have been so eager to get over to the angel’s house.

He parked Baby in an empty spot in the garage and entered through the door he’d come in last time. Gabriel was nowhere to be found, although Dean did notice that the golden-winged angel seemed to delight in leaving a trail of candy wrappers off down a hallway Dean hadn’t gone through yet. Similarly, Anna and Zachariah were absent; although there was no sign that they’d been there in the first place.

Dean ascended the staircase, trying to remember which room belonged to Cas. One door was left ajar, and Dean poked his head in.

“Wrong room, Dean-o,” Gabriel tossed a pillow in his face, “unless your intent was to creep on me, in which case, well done for finding my room. Now get out.”

Dean did as suggested, ignoring how Gabriel called suggestively after him, “I’m sure Cassie will be very happy to see you!”

Most of the doors in the hallway were closed, so Dean wasn’t entirely sure which room belonged to Cas. Instead of opening them all, Dean made his best guess and carefully pushed open the door. He relaxed when he noticed the painting on the ceiling, along with the little touches that told him the room belonged to Cas (books scattered haphazardly on shelves and feathers poking out from under the bed). The angel himself, however, did not seem to be in the room.

Just as Dean was about to call for Cas, the door to the bathroom attached to Cas’s bedroom swung open abruptly to reveal the angel, wings fluffed up and dripping wet (along with the rest of the angel’s body), clad only in a blue towel wrapped around his waist. The angel yelped slightly at the sight of Dean, stumbling back into the bathroom and out of sight.

Dean forced back a laugh and called out, “interesting choice of attire. I’ll give you points for it matching your eyes.” He moved towards Cas’s closet and pulled out a pair of sweatpants and a long-sleeved t-shirt that looked comfortable and felt soft to the touch. He tossed them into the bathroom after the angel, “here.”

“Thank you.” Interesting. Cas’s naturally deep voice got quite a bit more high pitched when he was embarrassed. Dean would have to remember that. It was actually kind of adorable.

Dean deposited himself onto Cas’s bed to wait, and a minute later, Cas appeared in the bathroom doorway, fully clothed, although still somewhat wet, and with his wings still spread. He was blushing bright red.

“Dude, you’re an angel,” Dean said, “body-shy is one of the last things I’d expect you to be.”

Cas’s ruffled a towel through his hair, looking away, the blush slowly fading from his cheeks, “well, you’re just learning all sorts of things about me, aren’t you?” The angel tossed the towel back into the bathroom. Dean noted that he still looked tense.

“Something’s bugging you,” he said.

Cas twisted his hands together, looking a bit nervous, “it’s not so much that something’s bothering me. I’m more worried about it bothering you.”

When Cas didn’t say anything else, Dean sighed and patted the bed next to him, “okay, spill. What’s got you thinking that I’m going to be upset?”

“The thing Gabriel dragged me to today,” Cas began, “it was, ah…it was an interview. For a talk show. They recorded it, so I didn’t have to do it live, but…well, the topic was you.”

“Me?”

“Well, both of us, really. Our relationship.” Cas looked at Dean, and the human could see the concern in the angel’s eyes, “I mean, I know you knew this sort of stuff would be happening, but I might have, um…saidIlovedyouoncamera.” The last bit came out so fast that Dean almost didn’t hear it.

He gave it a minute, but when Cas’s gaze turned towards the floor without any sign of the angel speaking, Dean probed, “did I hear that right? You were in an interview about our relationship, and you said you loved me?”

Cas peeked up at him with a timid expression, “uh…yes?”

Dean allowed himself a few seconds to process that information, “okay.”

“Okay?” Cas repeated, looking confused.

Dean shrugged, “isn’t that kind of the idea? We’re supposed to be selling our relationship, and no offense, but I don’t exactly see you as the type to casually go out with someone. I mean, you sort of seem like the kind of person who gives a relationship all or nothing, you know?”

The moment the words were out of his mouth, the force of them hit Dean. Cas was only pretending to be in a relationship with him, sure, but that didn’t make what Dean had said any less true. He frowned at the angel, “that was what it was about, right? Selling the relationship?”

“Of course,” Cas said quickly, “the whole point of this is so I don’t die, right? It has to look realistic.”  

“Right,” Dean said quietly, but he wasn’t sure that the topic was fully satisfied. Cas still looked a bit on edge. Instead of asking, he changed the subject, “okay. So, unless you’ve got any other news to spring on me, I was thinking we order dinner in again, and either watch a movie, or maybe play a board game?”

Cas nodded, “we should definitely order something to eat. I’m starving.”

Dean raised his eyebrows but didn’t say anything about it, “we had pizza the other night, so how about Chinese? I know a place that makes really good egg rolls.”

Cas nodded, “yeah, that’s fine.” At some point during the conversation, he had shifted towards the center of the bed instead of sitting on the edge like Dean was, and had begun carding his fingers through his wings.

Dean gave him a funny look, but just reached for the angel’s phone where it was sitting on the nightstand and dialed the number. After ordering, which took a little collaboration between them, Dean hung up and turned so he could get a better look at what Cas was doing.

The angel was running his fingers through the black feathers, straightening them out. It looked like he was having a bit of trouble with some of the ones farther back, though.

“Need some help?” Dean asked.

Cas’s eyes went wide, “no, it’s fine. I’m fine.”

“You’re sure?” Dean asked, a little confused as to why Cas looked so startled, “it’d probably go faster if I did it. If you’re worried about me hurting you wing, you should probably remember that I was the one who made a brace for it in the first place.”

Cas looked hesitant for a minute, and then he said, “alright.” He twisted around so his back was to Dean, wings spreading out to almost encircle the human.

Dean carefully worked his fingers through the feathers, finding that they were still slightly damp to the touch, although most of the water seemed to prefer clinging to his fingers rather than the slick feathers. It was soothing, in a way, like how he used to card his fingers through Sam’s hair to lull him to sleep when they’d been younger.

Chapter Text

Castiel wasn’t sure about how good an idea this was. Touching an angel’s wings was generally only done by family or by a partner. Dean was neither. Castiel figure that Dean didn’t know about the particular rituals of wing-care, but he was also pretty sure that if he had known, the human wouldn’t have offered. But Dean was being so gentle, and his hands felt so good on Castiel’s wings, that he couldn’t bring himself to ask Dean to stop. He just hoped Gabriel didn’t walk in.

“Your feathers are really soft,” Dean commented quietly, his voice muffled a bit by the layer of feathers between them.

“They generally aren’t quite this soft,” Castiel responded, “but this is the second time I’ve worked with them today, and I had them done yesterday as well.” Not quite the truth, Gabriel had made him sit and get them done, but close enough.

Dean made a noise, more to acknowledge that Castiel had spoken than anything else, and continued what he was doing. Every now and again Castiel felt the human’s fingers tug a little more roughly at a feather that was particularly out of line. A few of the ones from his broken wing dropped onto the bed.

“You’re still shedding,” Dean commented idly.

“Not shedding, molting,” Castiel returned, “and it’ll probably keep happening until my wing heals, maybe longer.”

Whatever Dean’s reply might have been was cut off by the doorbell ringing. Before either of them could move to get it, Gabriel yelled from down the hall, “I got it!”

Castiel felt himself tense up, and forced his muscles to relax. “Should we let him get it?” Dean asked softly.

“If he doesn’t want to pay for it, he’ll just send for one of us,” Castiel reasoned, “but he did take off like a rocket, so there’s no sense in chasing him down.”

There was a sound that made Castiel think Dean was nodding, but he couldn’t turn properly to look because the human was still grooming his wings. Dean hadn’t actually stopped the entire time they were talking. He felt them flutter nervously at the sound of Gabriel’s footsteps on the stairs, and Dean coughed, “thanks for the mouthful of feathers, Cas. Try to hold still.”

“Sorry,” Castiel murmured softly, just as the door opened. He twisted his head just a bit to the side so he could see Gabriel, whose face bore a look of absolute delight.

“Aw, that’s adorable,” the older angel teased, “Where’s my camera? I want a picture of this!”

“Buzz off,” Dean snapped, “Did you get the food or what?”

Gabriel tossed the bag of Chinese food onto the bed casually, grinning, “You two are so cute. No wonder the media loves you.”

“Gabriel,” Castiel said warningly.

Gabriel raised his hands is surrender, “fine, no pictures!” As he turned to saunter out of the room, he called over his shoulder, “by the way, your interview is playing in a few minutes, Cassie. If you want to watch it, I’d turn the TV on.” And then he was gone, leaving behind the smell of chocolate and a temporary silence.

The latter was broken when Dean asked quietly, “Are we going to watch the interview?”

“Only if you want to,” Castiel responded, “I’ve already seen it…well, sort of. Regardless, I don’t need watch it again, so it’s down to you.”

Dean was quiet for a moment before he said, “Yeah, I’d like to see it.” His fingers were suddenly absent from Castiel’s feathers, “okay, I think your wings are done.”

Castiel fluffed them out, the slight breeze sending the few dropped feathers flying off the bed. He nodded, “I would agree.”

Dean hunted for the remote, and Castiel watched from the bed, opening up the bag of Chinese food so they could eat while they watched the interview. Dean finally found it and flicked on the TV. It only took a few minutes of channel surfing to find it, and then Dean settled back on the bed with Castiel.

They watched in silence, the only sound other than the TV coming from the containers of food as they were opened and emptied. When Castiel felt he was done with his, it was still almost half full, and Dean finished it off for him. The human’s eyes were glued to the screen, watching with interest, his face occasionally twisting into something that Castiel couldn’t quite identify.

When the interview ended, Dean muted the TV and remarked, “Crowley’s really a dick.”

Castiel laughed, somewhat relieved, “yes. He really is. I don’t know if you could tell, but I was very near panicking onscreen.”

Dean waved a hand, “nah, you looked fine. You were all adorable and blushing and stuff. The public’s going to eat that up, you know. Jo is crazy about that sort of stuff.”

Castiel gave Dean a small smile, “I’m choosing to take that as a compliment, so thank you.”

Dean shrugged, “it’s fine.” He shifted, looking uncomfortable for a moment, but then any signs of discomfort vanished and he said, “So what movie were you thinking?”

Castiel shrugged, “I’m not particularly familiar with the options, so why don’t you pick something?”

Dean nodded and flicked through the options before settling on the Lord of the Rings. “It’s a long movie, but it’s worth it,” he explained.

Castiel nodded, shifting so he was comfortably arranged on his stomach. Dean leaned back against the headboard, and Castiel’s wing shifted to cover the human’s legs without him even thinking about it. Dean didn’t make any sign that he wanted Castiel to move to the angel stayed like that.

In his mind, Castiel chastised himself. He shouldn’t be getting so comfortable with Dean, but he was. He knew, instinctually, that it wouldn’t end well, but Castiel couldn’t help being so relaxed around the human. He felt safe for one of the first times in his life, and if holding onto that hurt Castiel in the long run, so be it.

***

Dean wasn’t watching the movie, not really. He knew that Cas was paying attention, based on the way the angel seemed to be, for the most part, ignoring him and that Cas’s eyes hadn’t left the screen the entire time. Dean, on the other hand, was struggling to pay attention. His eyes only flickered to the screen occasionally (he had seen the movie before, so he understood what was going on even without paying attention). The rest of the time his gaze flickered around the room, and onto Cas himself.

The angel was finally relaxing around Dean, a fact that Dean was of two minds about. On one hand, he liked that Cas was getting comfortable with him. It was better for the public image, and it made Dean feel like Cas was actually trusting him after their brief period of distrusting each other in the very beginning. On the other hand, Cas relaxing and feeling comfortable around Dean set them both up for a very difficult situation later on. Dean had no doubt in his mind that he and Cas ran in different circles, which is to say, Dean socialized with humans and Cas didn’t socialize at all if he could help it. Once they figured the situation out (aka, dealt with the angel killer and ‘broke up’), there wouldn’t be any reason for them to see each other again. Besides, they had planned to make the breakup very public and dramatic. Remaining friends after something like that would look very odd. No matter how Dean spun it, he couldn’t see him and Cas remaining friends. So for Cas to be so at home around him (and in all honesty, the reverse was true as well-Dean couldn’t remember the last time he’d been so at ease with another person, Sam included) was just setting them up for trouble. Dean didn’t wish that kind of hurt on anyone, much less Cas, who was sweet, shy, and had the disposition of a lamb.

Dean absentmindedly ran his fingers over the feathers of the wing in his lap, just barely touching them. The black mass fluttered slightly, and then settled, relaxing into Dean’s gentle petting. He smiled slightly. Yeah, Cas was adorable, even if Dean didn’t want to admit it out loud (actually, hadn’t he already told Cas that he was adorable? Maybe the context had been a bit different). Dean didn’t want to consider why he thought Cas was so adorable, because he resolutely refused to believe that he’d be with the angel for much longer. After Lisa (and Sam, and both his parents), keeping himself from getting hurt was as much in Dean’s interests as not hurting Cas.

Dean adjusted the pillow behind him so that the headboard didn’t dig into his back so badly, and leaned his head back against it, turning his attention back to the movie. He let his hands continue to stroke over Cas’s wings gently, as long as he didn’t disturb the angel. He was pretty sure Cas was close to dropping off into sleep as it was, so he allowed himself to drift. Towards the end of the movie, he shifted again until he was lying down on his back, staring up at the painted ceiling through almost-closed eyes. Cas must have noticed the change in position (which, to be fair, was fairly obvious), because when the credits began rolling the angel got up, shut the TV off, and flicked the light switch, plunging the room into darkness with the exception of the moonlight coming through the glass door to the balcony. Dean kept his eyes closed, not pretending to sleep per se, but giving the allusion of it. Cas climbed back onto the bed, this time with his head near the headboard, less than a foot away from Dean. The angel’s face was pressed into the pillow, facing away from Dean, but his wing was once again draped over the human. Dean decided it wasn’t anything to be bothered by, and drifted gently into sleep.

When Dean woke, it was still early, not even eight if Cas’s clock could be trusted. It wasn’t the time that he was noticing, however. The fact that he could see the clock was what caught his attention, because Dean was no longer lying on his back, and he wasn’t facing away from the angel. Sometime during the night, Dean had moved so that he was pressed right up against Cas, his arm wrapped around the angel and his leg tossed over Cas’s. Dean’s face had been buried in Cas’s shoulder, but upon awakening, he’d moved just enough that it no longer was. Dean knew it hadn’t been Cas who’d moved because the angel was in almost exactly the same spot as before, only moving a little to accommodate for Dean’s unexpected…cuddling. Before Dean could extract himself from the position, however, Cas stirred.

The angel blinked sleepy eyes up at Dean, “you’re cuddling me again. You do that quite a bit in your sleep.” Apparently sleepy Cas had even less of a brain-to-mouth filter than awake Cas did.

Dean was somewhat mortified. That meant this wasn’t the first time he’d done this. Moving away from Cas, he said, “I’m sorry. It’s not like I’m doing it on purpose.”

Cas shrugged and slumped back against the pillow, clearly not ready to be awake yet, “s’ okay. I don’t mind.” He was already half asleep again.

Dean relaxed against the pillows as well, keeping a careful distance from Cas. He stared up at the ceiling, which he could just barely make out in the dim light of the morning. Rather than dwell on embarrassment, he strained to make out the design that Cas was forced to live with. The religious scene was…interesting. Although Dean wasn’t entirely sure that it had been Zachariah’s idea to put little hats on the cupids, and the ring of flowers bordering the entire mural looked like a different type of paint, matching the hats’ colorful designs more closely than the drab greens and blacks that most of painting was made up of (obviously there was blue and pale pinks, but nothing that would have stood out to Dean’s eye).

Dean couldn’t imagine growing up like Cas had. He’d gone through Guardian training, of course, and that in and of itself was demanding, but he’d also had school just like Dean himself had gone through. On top of that, being in an angel family would have meant lots of family outings and things like that. Add in the fact that Cas’s mom had died and his father had become pretty much an oppressing tyrant (along with his sister as an accomplice to their father), and he had to live with Gabriel on an everyday basis, it was a wonder Cas wasn’t horribly screwed up. His eating disorder aside, Cas had actually turned out okay.

Dean’s thoughts wandered, gradually becoming more and more lucid as he woke up more. He knew Cas was slowly waking up next to him, but he paid little mind to the angel. Finally, though, when the clock read eight-thirty, Dean figured getting up soon would be in their best interests. He nudged Cas, “come on. Wake up.”

Cas made a noncommittal noise, “mph.”

Dean swung his legs over the side of the bed, standing up and stretching, “hey. If you get up in a few minutes, we can go out for breakfast before I have to go to work.”

Cas opened one eye to glare at Dean, but he forced himself off the bed, every move drawn out, giving Cas the appearance that any moment he might crash back to the bed, fast asleep.

Dean couldn’t help but laugh quietly. Cas in the morning was definitely something interesting. Rather than watch the angel, Dean moved to Cas’s closet. He’d forgotten to bring a change of clothes, so he’d have to find something that fit him to have breakfast in. He’d stop by his house later to change before work.

Once he actually got going, Cas moved quickly. He was fully dressed and messing with his unruly hair before Dean was halfway ready to go. Finally, Dean said, “okay. I’m ready.”

Cas ran his fingers over his hair again before giving up on it and nodding, “alright.”

Climbing into the Impala with Cas in the passenger seat felt surprisingly natural. The angel was careful with his wing, and although he was shedding (sorry, molting) slightly, for the most part he made less of a mess than most people Dean let ride in his car.

“I know a diner a little ways out,” Dean told Cas, “you have a preference?”

“As long as it’s not too enclosed,” Cas responded.

Dean judged both of their outfits for warmth, and then said, “We can sit outside if we need to.”

Cas nodded absentmindedly. The angel seemed very interested in looking out the window rather than at Dean. Most of the snow had melted, but there was still a very light dusting in some places along the road.

Dean pulled into the diner’s parking lot after only a few minutes. It really wasn’t that far. The people there didn’t know him, per se, but they were somewhat familiar with him, so when they sat him and Cas outside without much fuss, Dean was only moderately surprised. Cas was very polite to the hostess, and she in turn didn’t show any sign that he was anything other than a regular person.

The moment she was gone, Cas said softly, “I like it here. They’re very nice.”

“Yeah,” Dean agreed distractedly. He stared at the menu. Or rather, he stared at Cas over the top of his menu. Dean hadn’t planned on ordering anything different than what he normally got, so there really wasn’t a reason for him to have a menu, but it gave him an excuse to stare at Cas without seeming creepy. The angel was carefully observing his menu, eyes flicking slowly over each individual item with interest. His blue eyes were thoughtful, head tipped to the side ever so slightly. He was evidently fascinated, and that fascinated Dean.

Cas closed the menu gently, “I think I’d like the omelet. It has ham in it.”

Dean closed his own menu and cleared his throat, “yeah, I hear they make good omelets.” He usually got a breakfast sandwich when he came here, so he really didn’t know, but something in him made him want to keep some sort of conversation going.

Cas nodded, his eyes fixed on Dean’s green ones. Dean shifted, a prickly feeling on the back of his neck, making him swallow automatically and rub the back of his neck. Cas’s stare was intense, even when he was just looking at you. He wore the angelic name and wings with grace, and with how out of touch he could be with the world on occasion, sometimes Dean wondered if he hadn’t stumbled across a real angel (meaning, one of the old ones rather than a born Immortal).

“Cas,” Dean said finally, “you’re staring again.”

“Oh,” Cas said softly. His gaze flickered to the table, shoulders hunching, like he was curling in on himself. “I apologize,” he murmured, “I did not mean to make you uncomfortable.”

“It’s fine,” Dean said quickly, “it just takes some time to get used to. You look kind of like you want to smite me a lot of the time.”

Cas didn’t have time to say anything else because the waitress had come over to take their orders. Dean noticed that Cas only made minimal eye contact with her, just enough to be polite. He felt kind of bad for making that comment, because now Cas seemed to have withdrawn again.

When the waitress left, Dean leaned forward, “hey. I didn’t mean that as a bad thing, Cas.” When the angel kept his eyes fixed on the tablecloth, Dean snapped his fingers under Cas’s nose, “hey. Look at me.”

Cas’s eyes shot up to meet Dean’s so fast, Dean wondered if he had gotten whiplash. “You need to stop taking what other people say as something bad, okay? Not everyone is going to try and ‘fix’ you. There’s nothing wrong with you. You’re quirky, and anyone who doesn’t appreciate that doesn’t deserve to know you.”

The corner of Cas’s mouth twitched into a small smile, “thank you, Dean.”

Dean waved it off, “just being honest.”

They fell into a companionable silence, relaxing in the chilly morning air. The end of Cas’s nose and the tips of his ears were already a bright pink from the cold, but he wasn’t shivering. Dean himself couldn’t feel the cold either, wrapped up as he was in Cas’s clothing. It was still early enough that not many people were out, save for the ones working. People in cars driving by did double takes when they caught sight of Dean and Cas, so the first thing that Cas said after several minutes was, “I hope we don’t cause an accident.”

The angel looked so concerned that Dean had to laugh, “People know what they’re doing. They’re not idiots.” He paused, “well, not complete idiots, anyway.”

Cas fixed him with another one of his intense looks, “I believe people have the capacity to be quite intelligent.”

Dean didn’t know how to respond to that, and he was thankful when the food arrived seconds later. He dug in, and was pleased to see Cas doing the same. For once, the angel actually cleaned his plate. Dean wasn’t sure if he should say anything about it, so he kept quiet and smiled at Cas when he asked if they had to go.

“I have to be a work soon,” Dean said regretfully, “but I’ll drop you off at your place first, okay?”

Cas nodded, taking the check from the waitress before Dean could. The moment she was gone, Dean snatched it away from him, “uh-uh. This is my treat.”

“It makes more sense for me to pay it,” Cas argued mildly, “thanks to my family I have more money than I know what to do with. You should save yours.”

Dean shook his head, “don’t care. I’m taking the bill this time, and you’re not going to fight me on it, capisce?”

“I capisce,” Cas said, his tone indicating that it was only a grudging agreement.

Dean grinned, satisfied with his victory, and paid the bill before grabbing Cas’s hand and dragging him to the Impala. Cas looked slightly alarmed, but Dean wasn’t sure if it was from the sudden movement or from the fact that dean was holding his hand. Either way, the angel got in the car willingly.

After dropping Cas off at home, Dean stopped at his own house to change into clothes that actually fit him properly and wouldn’t get ruined if he wore them to work.

When he finally got to work, Bobby gave him a look.

“I know I’m a little late,” Dean said, “I got a bit held up. I’ll work late today.”

“I didn’t say anything,” Bobby muttered, but he nodded at Dean.

Dean grinned back and rolled up his sleeves, flipping through the list of clients for the day. He was kept busy right through his shift, and didn’t even have time for a lunch break. As promised, he worked late to make up for the time he’d missed, and it was already getting dark by the time he was ready to leave.

Dean said goodbye to Bobby and walked out into the chilly evening. He fished the Impala’s keys out of his pocket, fumbling a little from the cold. He heard the sound of flapping wings behind him, too close and too loud to be anything other than an angel. “Buzz off, Gabriel,” he snapped, “did Cas send you to check up on me, or are you just being a…” He didn’t finish the sentence. He could see the angel’s distorted reflection in Baby’s windows, but not enough to make out a face. But Dean knew for a fact that, distorted image or not, Gabriel wasn’t that tall.

He turned around abruptly, but before he could get a good look at the angel, he felt a sickening pain somewhere over his left ear and collapsed to the ground, vision blurring.

“Oh, I’m not Gabriel,” the angel cooed, “and little Castiel didn’t send me to check up on you. But I think we’ll have fun together, you and I. And once Castiel comes to your rescue, it’ll really be a party.”

Dean would have tensed up, had he not been in agonizing pain. He knew that voice. He’d only heard it a few times, but he knew it. Unfortunately for him, Dean couldn’t do anything because another blow struck him, and the world dissolved into blackness.

Chapter Text

Castiel didn’t know what to do. Gabriel hadn’t given him any instructions as to his activities for the day, so he was at a loss. Fortunately, taped to the fridge was a note in Gabriel’s loopy, hard-to-read handwriting.

Cassie,

Lucky for you, I have nothing planned today. Enjoy your freedom.

Gabe

PS: since I know you’re the type who hates to sit around and feel useless, why don’t you head over to the Roadhouse to talk to Jo and Ellen? Since you don’t think Lucifer is the one killing the angels, we need new leads.

Castiel removed the note from the fridge, hoping that neither Anna nor Zachariah had been in the kitchen since Gabriel had written it. If either of them saw it, Castiel was moderately sure that they wouldn’t be pleased, and would likely try to stop the investigation. He folded the note up into tiny squares and placed it in his pocket.

Going to the Roadhouse was a good idea, Castiel decided. Gabriel was right. They did need new leads, because before they had only been looking into Lucifer. If it wasn’t him, then all the work and research they (but mostly Ellen, Jo, and Benny) had done would be pointless.

Seeing as there was no one to drive him, and he couldn’t fly, Castiel decided he’d walk to the Roadhouse. It was close enough that he could make it, and if he walked fast he wouldn’t be cold. Besides, he didn’t want to inconvenience Gabriel by asking for a ride.

As the sun rose higher in the sky, everything started to warm up, and Castiel found he didn’t have to walk so fast to keep out the cold. It was a beautiful morning, and by the time he got to the Roadhouse, Castiel was much more relaxed than he’d felt when he started out.

The bell rang as he pushed the door open, and Jo looked up from behind the counter. “Hey Castiel,” she greeted.

Castiel smiled back at her, “you may call me Cas, if you would like.” He really did enjoy the nickname Dean had given him.

Jo raised her eyebrows, looking surprised, but she just gave him another smile, “sure, Cas.”

“Gabriel recommended I spend some time searching for leads on the angel killer,” Castiel told her, “I’m not sure if he informed about my doubts on Lucifer?”

She nodded, “yeah, he let us know. I saw him talking to you here the other day. Is that what changed your mind?”

Castiel nodded, “yes. I do not believe Lucifer is the killer. He isn’t the kind of person I would want to associate myself with, but it wouldn’t go as far as to presume him a murderer.”

Jo shrugged, “I’ll take your word for it, but if you ask me, the guy’s kind of a creep.” She reached under the bar and pulled out a computer, “here. Knock yourself out.”

Castiel accepted the laptop from Jo and moved over to his usual seat, setting the computer on the small table. He flipped it open, frowning when the first screen to come up asked for a password. “Jo,” he called, “how do I log on?”

“The password is doctorbadass, all lowercase, no punctuation, and no spaces,” Jo replied, “it’s Ash’s laptop, but he lets me borrow it.”

Castiel nodded and typed in the password. The computer opened up to the internet. Already, multiple tabs had been pulled up. Most of them were social media sites, and Castiel disregarded them except to glance over them briefly. There were two that Castiel wasn’t sure of, one which looked like some sort of website to post stories on, but the moment he realized that Jo was evidently reading about him and Dean engaging in…activities, he switched to the other one, blushing furiously. The other tab had Wikipedia pulled up to the page on Lucifer Holyflight. Castiel skimmed the first paragraph of the article, but he found nothing on it the he considered to be of importance, so he stopped reading.

Castiel pulled up a new tab, hesitating, and then accessed the local news page. His eyes flickered over the articles, searching for anything that might mention the angel killer even remotely. There was a tiny section in an article about Zachariah discussing a case involving “unfortunate circumstances”, but there was no further mention of it. A little further back there was an article about Dean’s arrest and release, but there was only speculation about as to why. Castiel moved into the comments to look, and he found a bit more on the subject. Someone (maybe Jo, maybe not) knew about the angel killings and was talking about how Dean was likely arrested for that reason. There was a link to information on the killings, and Castiel clicked it, interested.

The information was old. It didn’t just come from Lawrence, but from Detroit and Chicago too. Castiel leaned forward, adjusting the screen so he could read it better. When he finished reading, he felt disappointed. They already knew all of it. There was no further information, just a theory that the killer had to be an angel, because everyone knew that humans didn’t know how to kill angels.

Castiel sighed, going back to the news site and continuing his search. A few hours later, Gabriel sauntered into the Roadhouse, “thought you got my note. Any luck?”

Castiel shook his head, sitting up straight in the chair and stretching out all of his sore muscles. His position had barely changed in over an hour. “There’s nothing I can find that we don’t already know,” he murmured, “there are no other suspects, no evidence of any kind, nothing that could link anyone to the murders. There’s not even a scrape of proof that Lucifer, the one person we considered, is behind it. It’s like the killer is a ghost.”

Gabriel rested a hand on Castiel’s shoulder, “you look exhausted, which is impressive, considering you’ve just been staring at a computer for most of the day. Why don’t you go home, okay? I’ll take over for now. I don’t have anything better to do anyway.”

Castiel frowned up at his brother, “are you sure?”

“Yeah, of course I’m sure,” Gabriel waved a hand, “go on, Cassie. You look like you could use a nap.”

Rather than complain and tell Gabriel that he wasn’t a child anymore, Castiel nodded and stood. Gabriel took his spot behind the computer, and Castiel walked out the door.

If he hadn’t been before, Castiel was well and truly exhausted by the time he got home. He practically dragged himself up the stairs and into bed. Dropping onto the bed on top of the covers, Castiel closed his eyes and was asleep almost instantly.

Castiel almost never dreamed. But maybe it was something about falling asleep during the day, or maybe staring at a screen for so long had done something to his mind, but Castiel did not sleep entirely peacefully.

The dream had started out nice enough. Dean had been there, grinning at Castiel from next to him on the bed. But then his smile had turned darker, almost a leer, and Dean’s shirt had torn from his body as enormous wings burst from his back. Suddenly they were no longer on the bed, but in an empty room, Castiel backing into a corner. Even when he could go no farther, Dean kept advancing, those horrible wings brushing up against Castiel, each feather razor sharp, cutting deep gashes into his skin. Castiel cried out in agony, but Dean just covered his mouth with one bloodied hand. Castiel choked as the blood dripped into his mouth, the taste bitter on his tongue. Dean’s other hand reached around Castiel’s back and found his Immortal Marks, the place where his wings connected to his back. Fingers wrapped around the base of Castiel’s wings, tightening to the point of discomfort. Then there was a harsh tug, a sickening squelch of flesh separating from bone, accompanied by a blinding pain that made Castiel dizzy. Dean laughed, a dark and terrifying sound, and Castiel screamed into Dean’s hand, thrashing and jerking awake.

The moment he was even remotely lucid, Castiel ran to the bathroom and threw up. The bitter, acidic taste reminded him of the blood in his mouth, and it took everything in him not to vomit again. Castiel flushed the toilet and moved to the sink, splashing his face with water in an attempt to calm himself down. The cold did help a bit to ground him, but not much. Taking a deep breath, he fluttered his wings, both still fully intact, and checked his skin for lacerations. There were none. There was no blood. He was fine, not accounting for his still-pounding heart.

It was a few minutes before Castiel managed to get his heart rate down again. The dream had unsettled him, leaving behind an itchy feeling under his skin that wouldn’t go away. It would have seemed foolish to others, but Castiel wondered if the dream had been some sort of warning, but what kind? Was it telling him to stay away from Dean, that being near Dean would only hurt him? Or was it something else?

Maybe he was just being a superstitious fool. Castiel shook his head in the hopes of clearing it, moving back into his bedroom and depositing himself on his bed. He reached for his phone on the nightstand without looking, fingers closing around the metal. He dialed Dean’s number, checking the clock as he did so. It was just after six, but already the skies outside were darkening with night.

The phone rang through to voicemail, “This is Dean Winchester, please leave a message and I’ll get back to you.”

“Dean,” Castiel began, trying to think of what he wanted to say. Had he really had a point to calling the human? Maybe he could play this off as just being overprotective. Dean would buy that, at least, and it was already too late to take back the voicemail. Taking a breath, he said, “I haven’t seen you today, and you haven’t contacted me, so I was just wondering if you were alright. Call me when you-“ Castiel cut himself off, staring at the nightstand in confusion. Instead of just the one book he’d checked out from the library, there were two. He plucked the top one off, frowning. The cover was just a simple, flat black color, without any markings. Castiel opened to the first page, and his eyes widened. The phone dropped out of his hand and onto the floor with a thud that Castiel didn’t hear.

The Rise After the Fall, it read, by Lucifer Holyflight. Castiel swallowed hard around a sudden lump in his throat, but it wasn’t the title, or the angelic name that really made him nervous. Scrawled in an unfamiliar handwriting was the following note:

Hello, Castiel. I told you I’d get you a signed copy of my book. I’m sure you’ll just love it. Kisses!

Lucifer Holyflight

Oh, right. I have your toy. He’ll be so much fun to play with! If you don’t want people to raid your toy box, you really shouldn’t leave it unguarded. Hero that you think you are, I know you can’t resist a threat like this. You want to see Dean Winchester alive and breathing, you come and find me. It’s as simple as that. And may the best angel win.

Castiel wondered for a moment if he was going to be sick again. He unfolded his wings, stretching and testing them. There was no way he’d be able to fly in this condition. He hadn’t healed enough yet. It was almost ironic that Dean had been the one to break Castiel’s wing when he’d been saved, making it much more difficult for Castiel to come to his rescue a second time.

Still, he couldn’t let anyone hurt Dean. This was his fault for trusting Lucifer, his fault for believing in the best of people, his fault for not keeping Dean safe. Castiel threw on his trench coat and hurried downstairs. As he did so, he reached out with his consciousness. If Dean was in danger, maybe Castiel could get a sense of where he was. Humans had very specific frequencies, and if Castiel could just find Dean’s, maybe he could save him. It wouldn’t be too hard. Castiel had sensed Dean’s frequency before on accident. Finding it on purpose would be much easier.

When he locked onto it, the force hit him like a brick wall, and Castiel staggered backwards a few steps. Dean was in pain. He needed help, and now Castiel knew where to find him.

Driving was the easy part. It wasn’t that Castiel didn’t know how, per se, but that he chose not to.  Still, he figured Gabriel would forgive him for borrowing one of his cars. Castiel knew he was breaking driving safety laws, but he didn’t really care. As long as he got to Dean before it was too late. He’d deal with any potential repercussions later.

He jumped out of the car the minute he reached his destination. Lucifer had chosen the tallest building in the city (which honestly, wasn’t that tall, maybe ten stories high, fifteen at most, but Castiel had seen much bigger out in Angel City). Either Lucifer was more of a drama queen than he’d originally let on, or he did it deliberately because Castiel couldn’t simply fly to the top. He was probably gloating.

Castiel took the stairs two at a time. It was frustrating, undignified, and a complete waste of time, but it was the only way to get to Lucifer and Dean. And given the angel’s flair for dramatic that had appeared thus far, Castiel figured he’d better go straight to the top. There was a set of service stairs leading to the roof. The door had been left ajar, and Castiel exited the building onto the rooftop.

Lucifer didn’t look up when Castiel approached, although he had to have heard him. The angel was humming to himself, or maybe to Dean, who was currently laying in a crumpled heap at Lucifer’s feet. From where Castiel was, it looked like Dean was unconscious.

“I came,” Castiel said quietly, but there was a power behind his words.

Lucifer turned to face him, grinning, “So you did. I see you got my little note.”

Castiel was aware of his wings puffing up, stretched completely in an intimidation attempt. Lucifer chuckled, “not the same with a broken wing is it?” His own wings spread, lifting from his back. They were monstrous, so dark it looked like they were absorbing the light around them. Castiel’s own wings tended to reflect light off of them, shimmering a deep blue-black in the night.

“You don’t need Dean,” Castiel tried to keep from sounding feral; the words just barely avoided coming out as a snarl, “let him go.”

Lucifer looked offended, “of course I need him! If I’d just wanted to kill you, why wouldn’t I have done it when you were sleeping? I left the book, after all.” The angel shook his head, seeming disappointed, “no, no. Killing you would have been so very easy. But believe me, Castiel, I don’t want to have to kill you.”

“Let me guess,” Castiel growled, “you didn’t want to kill Samandriel either. Or Muriel, or Inias, or any of the other angels you’ve killed. You didn’t want to kill them either?”

“I didn’t want to kill them,” Lucifer looked regretful, “but it had to be done. They weren’t proper angels. They had to be eliminated before they tarnished our species’ name further.”

Castiel was taken aback by Lucifer’s honesty, because he was being honest, for real this time. Lucifer regretted that he’d deemed it necessary to kill the other angels, and wasn’t that a surprise coming from a kidnapper and a murderer.

Castiel’s eyes flickered to Dean, and he took a step forward. If he could keep Lucifer talking, distract him, then maybe somehow he could save Dean. “What do you mean, they weren’t proper angels?” Castiel asked, his eyes boring into Lucifer’s, “they all respected humans. That’s our job, isn’t it? To watch over the humans and keep them safe?”

“No!” Lucifer spat indignantly, “we do not serve humanity! We are the superior race, and they should serve us! Surely you’ve heard the story of my namesake, cast out of heaven for refusing to love humanity. We are greater than them, and our creator greater still than us. Why should we love such pitiful creatures when all they do is hurt themselves and others around them?”

“Because they care,” Castiel said, forgetting his current goal for just a moment, “just as we care for our brothers and sisters, they care for their families and friends. What’s the difference between us and them? Wings? Immortality? We don’t even truly have that, and you know it.” He was so close to Dean now. If he could just-

Lucifer grabbed Castiel by the lapels of his trench coat, hauling him away from Dean again. He shook his head, clicking his tongue, “see, this is the problem. If you had repented, renounced humanity and its filth, then you would be allowed to live. I might have even let your boyfriend here go. But you had to be all righteous and stupid. You were going to try and save him, weren’t you? Tell me how you planned to do that.”

Castiel was silent. He hadn’t had a plan. He hadn’t thought it through.

“That’s what I figured,” Lucifer smiled unkindly. He released Castiel’s coat with a shove, but didn’t back away himself, “I’m not going to kill you yet, don’t worry. In a few minutes, lover boy will wake up. If he’s as loyal as I think he is, then he’ll try to save you. Maybe even offer up his life instead. And you know what I’ll do?”

Lucifer was silent, and Castiel realized with a start that he was waiting for an answer. “What will you do?” he asked very softly, struggling to keep from looking at Dean.

“I’m so glad you asked!” Lucifer’s face split into and even wider smile of undisguised delight, “I’m going to kill him, of course! I’ll push him off the building, and see just how much he likes flying then. And do you know what I’ll do after I’ve taken his life instead of yours?”

Again he waited for an answer and again Castiel whispered, “What will you do?”

Lucifer’s grin twisted into a sickening leer, “then, once Dean Winchester is dead, I’ll kill you too. It wouldn’t do to have you walking around telling other people about me.”

“You say that like we’ll actually fall for it.” Even bruised and lying on the ground, Dean looked defiant, glaring up at the angel standing above him.

“How long have you been awake?” Lucifer asked nonchalantly, not even looking down at the human.

“Heard pretty much your whole spiel,” Dean said, struggling to rise to his feet. Lucifer lazily prodded him down again with one foot, keeping his weight on Dean’s chest to keep him down.

“Oh well,” Lucifer looked slightly regretful, “I suppose I’ll have to be a bit more creative now.” And without warning, a blade was in his hand. Well, the handle was in his hand. The other half was buried in Castiel’s chest.

“Cas!” Dean cried out in panic, but Castiel was too busy staring down at the knife in surprise. He suddenly felt a bit dizzy.

“It won’t kill you,” Lucifer assured him, “not yet. I’ll have to remove your wings first. But after I do, you won’t be able to heal from that wound.” He went to reach around Castiel’s back, and the angel automatically closed his eyes, waiting for the pain from his dream. Backing up didn’t even occur to him, with the way his mind was already beginning to shut down.

Instead of pain, however, there was a cry of outrage, and a dull thumping noise. Castiel opened his eyes to see Dean crouching on top of Lucifer, whose wings were beating at the ground in an attempt to throw the human off. Dean held on with his legs, arms busy throwing punch after punch at Lucifer, “you don’t touch him, you bastard!”

Castiel wanted to help, but the knife had fallen out when Lucifer had been pulled away from him, and blood was seeping out of his chest, making him collapse shakily to his knees. The motion distracted Dean for a moment, but that was long enough for Lucifer to gain the upper hand. The second Dean looked over at Castiel, Lucifer surged up, grabbing the human and using a great deal of strength to kick him across the rooftop. Dean was doubled up on the ground, and when he coughed, blood dribbled out of his mouth. Lucifer stalked over to him, “I’ve had enough of you.” With that, Lucifer grabbed Dean’s shoulder and hauled him up, shoving him over the edge of the roof.

“No!” Castiel screamed in horror. He ignored the roaring in his ears, the feeling of his body emptying itself of blood. He got unsteadily to his feet, panting slightly with the effort, “no. No, Dean-”

Lucifer turned back to him, looking annoyed, “I think yes. Now, where were we?”

Castiel snarled, grabbing Lucifer’s shoulder and shoving him to the ground. The other angel looked alarmed, but Castiel didn’t care. One hand found the knife that had previously been in his chest, and he closed his fingers around the metal. The other pressed down on Lucifer’s throat, not enough to crush it, but enough to cut off his air supply.

“If you thought I was just going to lay there and let you kill him, you are very sorely mistaken,” Castiel spat out. He hauled Lucifer into an upright position by his throat and reached around his back with his other hand. Lucifer’s eyes widened, recognizing the gesture, and his mouth opened in a wordless scream as Castiel dug the knife into the base of Lucifer’s right Immortal Mark, slicing upward through it, severing the skin around the wings to reveal the bone. He did the same thing on the other side. Only then did Castiel release Lucifer’s throat, and the angel screamed with the pain.

Castiel stood up, flipping Lucifer over and placing a foot on his back. The skin bearing the angel’s Immortal Marks were in tatters, and he cried out, begging Castiel to stop. Castiel didn’t care. He gripped one wing in each hand and yanked with what strength he had left. Lucifer howled as the wings pulled out of his back, leaving a bloody mess behind. Castiel flipped Lucifer onto his back again, and the angel let out another cry of pain as gravel and dirt were crushed into the open wounds.

Castiel stood over him for a moment with moving, not even blinking, and Lucifer spat, “just kill me already.”

Castiel finally blinked, staring down at Lucifer, who was covered in both his and Castiel’s blood. He looked down at his own hands, smeared with darkly glistening blood and fought the urge to throw up. He shook his head, backing away from Lucifer, breathing suddenly shallow, “I’m not going to kill you. I’m not a killer.”

With that, he collapsed onto the roof next to Lucifer. The blood loss was finally getting to him. It wouldn’t kill him (although it might kill Lucifer), but that didn’t stop his head from clouding until finally he was pushed into blackness.

Chapter Text

Castiel woke up with a throbbing pain in his head and an ache in his chest. He blinked, his vision swimming for a minute before it cleared up, and the painted ceiling came into focus. He wasn’t on the roof anymore, clearly. He shifted his head to the side, monitors and machinery coming into view. Castiel took a moment to organize his thoughts. He was on his bed, in his room at Zachariah’s house. He was hooked up to…something that looked like it was monitoring his heart. An IV drip was on the other side of the bed, one end of the tube inside his arm. The bag was full of a clear liquid that Castiel couldn’t identify, and the label on the bag was too far away for him to read it properly.

The door opened, and Gabriel stepped in. “You’re finally awake,” his brother smiled, “we were starting to worry.”

Castiel frowned, and then the full events from the rooftop crashed into his head, making him wince at the intensity of the memories. “Dean,” Castiel managed, “is he…?” He couldn’t finish the sentence.

Gabriel narrowed his eyes at Castiel, crossing his arms and moving to sit on the bed, “you know, for someone who spends most of their time reading, you can be pretty stupid sometimes.”

Castiel blinked in surprise, unsure how to respond to that.

Gabriel continued, “Did it even cross your mind to call me? Honestly, Cassie, rushing in alone like that was probably the stupidest thing you could have done.”

That wasn’t making him feel any better. “Dean,” Castiel said again, more urgently, “Gabriel, what happened to him?”

The other angel snorted, “You’re lucky I was on my way home when you tore out of the driveway in such a hurry. I figured something had happened, because you never drive unless it’s an emergency, so I followed you. I considered going up after you, but I thought you could use some ground support.”

“Get to the point, Gabriel,” Castiel urged.

Gabriel rolled his eyes, “the point is that when Luci sent Dean over the side, I caught him. He’s fine, for the most part. A bit beaten up, but that’s to be expected. Most of the bruises have already faded. Honestly, you were in a lot worse condition when I got to you. He’s been asking about you, by the way, but Zachariah won’t let him in the house.”

“How long was I out?” Castiel asked carefully.

“A couple days,” Gabriel told him, “the doctors said that they weren’t sure how long it would be until you woke up. They’re not used to treating angels.”

“What happened to me?”

Gabriel raised an eyebrow, and Castiel quickly amended the statement, “I mean, you said I was in bad shape. Lucifer stabbed me, but I didn’t think it was the bad.”

“You must have been pretty out of it,” Gabriel murmured, “Cassie, you lost a lot of blood. They had to give you a transfusion. It wasn’t anything you could die from, but it was still pretty serious. I was honestly really worried about you.”

Castiel nodded, “okay, I get that.” His eyes flickered to the IV, “what’s that?”

“I’m not a doctor, so I couldn’t tell you the technical name, but it’s pretty much a bag of liquid nutrients,” Gabriel supplied helpfully. His expression darkened a bit, “when they were treating you, they mentioned that you were ridiculously undernourished. For now, you’re on the drip, but when you get off it, we’re going to have to work on that, okay?”

“Okay,” Castiel agreed softly. He certainly wasn’t going to argue with Gabriel about it. He was silent for a moment, and then asked, “Dean’s been asking about me?”

Gabriel smiled. Not a smirk, and actual smile, “yeah. He was freaking out about you getting stabbed. I told him you’d recover, but that didn’t stop him from coming by every day to see if you were awake yet.”

Castiel felt something warm flood his chest, something other than the dull ache there, “can I see him?”

“If it was up to me, I’d have let him come in ages ago, and I don’t think he would have left. But Zachariah’s being pretty harsh about it. He says if Dean so much as comes up the driveway, he’ll call the cops. Dean’s been checking in with me from a little ways down the street.” Gabriel shook his head, “Cassie, we really need to get you moved out, for good.”

Castiel bit his lip, “we can talk about that later. I want to see Dean.”

“I’ll tell the doctors that you’re up, and they can come in and check you out,” Gabriel said, “if they think you’re up to it then we can see about having you see Dean, okay?”

Castiel nodded, and Gabriel stood, walking out of the room. Castiel closed his eyes again, hoping his headache would leave by the time the doctors came in.

No such luck, but the doctors were very polite about it. Nurse Masters was businesslike, and the doctor who set his wing (Castiel didn’t know her name) kept blushing but stayed professional.

“You’re recovering just fine,” Nurse Masters told him, “we can unhook you from all this now, so that’s a bonus. I wouldn’t recommend walking too far for the next day or so, but beyond that all we can tell you is to eat better and not put too much strain on your wing.”

The other doctor added, “Based on how it’s healing so far, I’d say you shouldn’t have to keep off it for more than another week or two.”

Castiel wasn’t all that surprised. Angels did heal extremely quickly after all. Gabriel popped his head into the room, “so can he go?”

Nurse Masters nodded, “he’s free to go.” They pulled out the IV and unhooked him from the other machine, and then left.

Gabriel helped Castiel into a sitting position, “I called Dean. He asked if we could meet up with him at the Roadhouse. Is that alright with you?”

Castiel nodded. Part of him was slightly disappointed that Dean didn’t want to see him alone, but Castiel also knew that if he really had been unconscious for a few days, Ellen and Jo would be worried too. It was better to see all of them.

He swung his legs over the side of the bed, holding still for a moment when his head started to spin, and then resolutely standing without Gabriel’s help. “You might want to change first,” Gabriel pointed out, eyeing Castiel’s hospital gown.

Castiel agreed. Gabriel stepped out of the room, and Castiel tugged on a pair of the looser jeans that Gabriel had made him get what felt like ages ago, followed by a blue sweater. Gabriel raised his eyebrows at Castiel’s choice of outfit when he left his room, but didn’t say anything. In silence the brothers walked down to the garage. Gabriel selected a car and slid behind the wheel and Castiel into the passenger seat.

Neither of them spoke until they pulled into the Roadhouse parking lot, which was surprisingly empty except for a few cars (the Impala, the ones Castiel knew to belong to Ellen and Jo, and one he didn’t recognize). “You ready?” Gabriel asked quietly as the got out of the car.

“Of course,” Castiel responded, but he knew what Gabriel was really asking. It was all over now, and the relationship charade didn’t need to continue. This would be one of the last times Castiel would ever get to see Dean Winchester. The thought weighed on him, and he pushed it into the back of his mind. Castiel didn’t want to be thinking like that right now.

Gabriel pushed the door open, and ushered Castiel into the bar in front of him, closing the door behind them both. Castiel barely had time to take in the occupants of the bar before a blond girl was nearly flying at him, wrapping her arms around his body.

Castiel winced, “careful, Jo.” His chest still hurt a bit, but he wrapped his arms around the girl anyway, “it’s good to see you.”

“I’m so glad you’re okay,” she murmured into his sweater, “Dean was freaking out, and by default freaking the rest of us out more than we were already.”

“I was not ‘freaking out’” Dean commented from somewhere in the bar, “I was just worried, that’s all. Guy took a knife to his chest!”

Jo pulled away from Castiel and swiveled around, hands on her hips, “don’t deny it, Dean Winchester. You were terrified!”

Castiel looked at Dean, who was blushing profusely, “it’s a perfectly reasonable reaction when someone gets stabbed in the chest in front of you.”

“Yeah, tell yourself that,” Sam Winchester chuckled. He looked at Castiel, “good to see you up and about.”

Castiel nodded, “thank you.” His eyes flickered back to Dean, who was staring at him (and who looked away the moment he realized Castiel was looking at him). He turned to Ellen, who beckoned for him to come to her. He approached her cautiously.

“Don’t look so scared, I’m not going to give you an earful,” Jo’s mother told him. She hugged him too, more gently than her daughter had, but with no less feeling, “I’m just glad you’re safe.”

“It’s my fault I got into that mess anyway,” Castiel said softly when she let go, “if I hadn’t trusted Lucifer-“

“Hey,” Dean interrupted him, frowning, “there’s nothing wrong with trusting people, so don’t go blaming this on yourself.”

Castiel looked at him, “you of all people shouldn’t be saying that! If it hadn’t been for Gabriel, you’d be dead right now!”

Dean stalked over to him until they were less than a foot apart. “Listen to me, Castiel Godsent,” Dean said in a low voice, “Lucifer had everyone fooled. There is no more blame on you than anyone else. So don’t you dare try and ruin what is supposed to be a happy occasion by feeling guilty and blaming yourself, do you understand?”

Castiel’s mouth felt dry, “I understand.”

Dean smiled softly, and hugged Castiel with a surprising intensity, “good. I’m glad you’re okay, man.”

Before Castiel could hug him back, Dean had already let go, and was backing away. “Besides,” he joked, “that voicemail you left? Good to know you care, even if it ended up being a couple hours long. I’m guessing it didn’t occur to you to hang up the phone.”

Castiel felt disappointed. Dean was playing the whole thing off as a joke? But Castiel locked that feeling up as well. Last time to see Dean, he reminded himself, don’t ruin it.

There was one thing that had been nagging him, something he really needed to know, “what happened to Lucifer?”

Everyone exchanged glances. Ellen bit her lip, and Jo became very interested in the floor. Castiel could put two and two together, “he’s dead, isn’t he?”

Dean nodded, but Gabriel was the one who spoke, “he’d lost a lot of blood, Cassie. More than you had. And with his wings torn out and his Immortal Marks shredded…he wasn’t technically an angel anymore. He couldn’t heal himself like you could.” Castiel realized with a start that Gabriel was looking at him cautiously, like any moment Castiel might become violent. Everyone else looked uncomfortable, with the exception of Dean.

“I killed him,” Castiel said softly, looking at the floor. He didn’t know what else to say. It felt unreal, like any moment someone would tell him that it was a joke, and that Lucifer had survived. No one said that.

“Pretty much, yeah,” Ellen responded gently, “but no one’s blaming you for it, angel.”

Castiel felt the urge to throw up at the thought, and swallowed it down, trying to relax. Sam was the one who changed the subject, “so, I guess this means you and Dean are going to break up.”

Castiel didn’t want to talk about that either, but at least it was the slightly less horrendous option to discuss. He glanced over at Dean, “I suppose it does.”

Jo chimed in, “considering how much you guys were in public for the couple of days, people are wondering what happened. The Lucifer thing was pretty much covered up, so no one knows about that, and they’re wondering if you had a fight or something. Breaking you two up shouldn’t be difficult.”

Was it Castiel’s imagination, or did Dean look unhappy about Jo’s words? “Breaking up in public might not even be necessary,” Castiel said thoughtfully, “if we just avoid each other, people will probably ask, and all we have to do is tell them we broke up.”

“Are they going to buy that?” Sam asked, “I mean, you did kind of go on air and tell the world you were in love with Dean.”

Castiel shrugged, “they’ll buy it. Dean never made any public allusions to being in love with me, so all I have to do is stay out of the spotlight for a few days, which is more than fine with me, and then look heartbroken when I come out again. People will assume Dean broke up with me.”

Gabriel nodded, “that makes my job a lot easier. As much fun as playing coordinator and babysitter for you lot has been, I’m exhausted!”

Dean rolled his eyes, “no one asked you to, you know.”

“If it wasn’t for me, nothing would have gotten done!” Gabriel shot back, “admit it, you needed me.”

“Boys, boys,” Jo said, “You’re both pretty. No need to fight over it.” The look Dean fixed her with was shocked and irritated. Gabriel, on the other hand, preened and released his wings, puffing out his glossy feathers.

“Put them away, Gabriel,” Castiel said tiredly. His brother shot him a pout but did as Castiel told him. Both angels sat down, and the humans joined them, all clustered around a table.

“My wing will be healed soon,” Castiel informed Sam, “but I’m not going to charge you for the time it was broken.”

Sam waved it off, “it’s not really important, Cas. Don’t worry about it.” Castiel felt a little pleased that Sam was using his nickname as well.

“I’m still sorry about breaking it,” Dean murmured.

Castiel didn’t comment on Dean’s statement, “I won’t be seeing much of any of you after this.”

“If you think you get to stop seeing me, angel, you better think again,” Ellen said sharply, “Jo and I care about you, and you’d better check in with us.”

Castiel was spared having to reply by Gabriel grinned and putting in, “you’d just miss the free publicity.”

Ellen pointed a finger at him, “Don’t think I’ll hesitate to keep tabs on your feathered butt too. All of you need to keep in touch. God knows what you’d get up to on your own.”

“Yes Ellen,” Sam and Dean chorused, smirking at each other.

She swatted at Dean, who was closest, “I mean it.” Her tone turned softer, “besides, I could use the company.”

“I didn’t mean I would come any less,” Castiel said hurriedly, “I just-“

Ellen waved him off, “relax, angel. I know.”

Gabriel tapped Castiel, “not that I’m not loving this, but we need to leave.”

“Why?” Dean immediately looked defensive, “why can’t you stay?”

“As touching as it is that you want my presence,” Gabriel smirked, “Cassie and I have to get home.”

Now it was Castiel turn to look at Gabriel, “why?” His expression, however, was pleading.

Gabriel stood, leaning a hand on his shoulder, “I know you want to hang out more, but any longer here and Zachariah will throw a fit. He’ll probably come looking for you, and I’d hate to have him and Dean-o in the same room. That wouldn’t be very pretty.”

Castiel gave a resigned sigh, “got it.” He stood too, glancing around at the collection of humans, “I guess this is goodbye?” It was more of a question than anything else.

Jo stood up and hugged him again, “for now.”

Castiel hugged her back. “For now,” he agreed, looking over her head at Ellen. He didn’t say that it really was goodbye between him and Dean. He kept that to himself.

“I’ll see you around, Cas,” Dean said awkwardly.

Castiel nodded, “sure. Yes.”

Gabriel rolled his eyes, but his expression was sympathetic, “idiots. Come on, Cassie. We really have to go.”

Castiel followed his brother out the door, looking back over his shoulder for a moment, and just barely catching a look on Dean’s face that was surprisingly close to disappointment.

In the car, Gabriel said softly, “You know, you don’t have to cut all ties with him.”

“What?’ Castiel frowned at his brother.

Gabriel looked a bit exasperated, “Dean, you idiot. You two don’t seem to get it. If you want to see each other, see each other. It’s not exactly rocket science!” Castiel opened his mouth to comment, confused, and Gabriel cut him off, “yes, I know it’s not literally rocket science. It’s an expression, Cassie. My point is, you don’t have to give him up.”

“Yes I do,” Castiel said softly, looking out the window to avoid meeting Gabriel’s eyes, “I don’t get to keep him, Gabe. It would hurt both of us too much.”

Gabriel sighed, “Suit yourself. But for the record, you’re both idiots.”

They pulled into the driveway, and Castiel tensed up automatically. Zachariah was waiting at the front door, tapping his foot and looking expectant. Anna could be seen hovering over his shoulder, her hair vibrant in the sunlight. She looked less expectant and more concerned, although Castiel didn’t know who it was directed at or for what reason.

Gabriel parked the car, and they got out. “No chance of running to your room,” Gabriel muttered, “We’re going to have to sit through this one.” They walked into the front hall, where Zachariah and Anna had moved to as well. Zachariah’s arms were crossed, but he was smiling in a way that made Castiel’s stomach churn.

“Castiel, Gabriel,” Zachariah greeted smoothly, “nice of you to finally join us. I do hope talking to us won’t inconvenience you too much.”

“Lay off him,” Gabriel snapped before Castiel could, “he’s been stabbed by a maniac. It’s not like he hasn’t had a good reason not to talk to you.”

Castiel was startled. Before, Gabriel would never have stood up to Zachariah for his sake. Zachariah clearly hadn’t been expecting it either, because his face twisted into a disbelieving scowl, “clearly Castiel has corrupted you, Gabriel. I didn’t expect this from you. Unless you’ve been spending time with the humans too?”

“As a matter of fact, I have,” Gabriel said boldly, “and there’s nothing wrong with that. The ones I’ve been around care more about Castiel than you do, that’s for sure.”

Zachariah now looked more outraged than anything else, “how dare you say that! Castiel is my son, and I lo-“

“No,” Castiel snapped, finally finding his voice. He stepped up to stand beside Gabriel, “we have this argument over and over again, but you never seem to get it into your head. You don’t love me. You love having a little army of your own to stand at your back and do your bidding. You don’t love your children, you love your soldiers.”

That left the room speechless for a minute, before Gabriel grinned, “Cassie one, Zachariah zip.”

“Gabriel,” Anna hissed, “don’t.”

“What?” Gabriel shot back, “I don’t know why Castiel stays here after all this time. He has his own money, he’s an adult. He could leave, but you’ve bullied him into staying. That’s the only reason I’m here too, to look after him. The moment he leaves, I’m gone.”

Castiel looked at the floor. He hadn’t realized that he was the reason Gabriel had stayed. If he’d had known, he would have left sooner. He looked up at Zachariah, “you’re making me choose between you and the humans. Father, I do not wish to have to choose. But if I have to, I choose the humans. The few humans I’ve known have shown me more compassion than you have my entire life. I’m sorry, but I choose them.” He turned towards the stairs, “I’ll be in my room for now. But I plan on leaving within the week.”

“Castiel, stop this foolishness at once!” Anna demanded.

“It’s not foolishness,” Castiel said without looking back, “what was foolish was to stay for this long when I’m clearly not wanted.” He hesitated on the first stair, and then glanced over his shoulder at his sister, “besides, you said I was bringing shame on my family. Now you don’t need to worry about that.” He turned back an ascended the stairs.

Behind him, he heard Gabriel’s voice say, “Well, that means I’m out to. I’ve got a place to stay all set up, don’t worry.”

Castiel didn’t suspect that Zachariah would worry. He wasn’t as sure about Anna. But the only emotion Zachariah would feel about his two sons leaving was fury, of that Castiel was certain.

In his room, Castiel replayed his conversation with Gabriel in the car. Dean…Castiel didn’t want to talk to him again. It would hurt too much. His eyes zoomed in on an object lying on his floor, and he picked it up. He hesitated, and then started looking for an envelope.

***

It had been two days since Dean had last seen Cas, and already Dean was feeling the hole where the angel had wedged himself into Dean’s life. Cas had torn open a little hole to fit into what Dean had thought was a complete life (sure, Lisa had walked out and left a hole, same as dad, but they both had closed up, leaving scarred but healed spots behind), but the hole hadn’t hurt. Cas had slotted into his life like he’d belonged there all along. And now that he had disappeared, Dean was feeling the loss. The hole wasn’t closing up. Maybe it would with time, but already it hurt more than Lisa had.

Bobby had noticed it. Dean had shown up to work, but he’d been remarkably out of it. Bobby had told him to stop grousing over the angel and just call him. But Dean couldn’t do that. If Cas had wanted to talk to Dean, wouldn’t he have called?

The evening of the second day, though, there was something. Dean had grabbed the mail, and tossed it on the table, but after dinner he’d sorted through it. Most he ignored, tossing aside, but one letter stood out. The thickness of the envelope wasn’t enough for there to be a letter in it, which was weird. But what had stood out to Dean, though, was the name on it. It was addressed to him, from Castiel.

Dean eagerly tore open the envelope, turning it upside down. Out fell a single, black, feather. It looked different than the one Lucifer had left. This was definitely one of Cas’s feathers. And Dean recalled what Cas had said about giving feathers to other people.

Dean reached for the phone, staring at the feather. He glanced away only to make sure he was dialing the phone right. He pressed it to his ear and listened to it ring. After a moment, it stopped.

“Hello Dean,” Cas said softly.

“I got your message,” Dean told him, “you want to meet up?”

Cas was silent for a moment. Then he said, “Dean, do you…do you understand what it means?”

Dean chuckled, “yeah, Cas, I got it. That’s why I think we should talk.”

He could almost hear Cas’s smile over the phone as he said, “pick me up tomorrow night at eight?”

“Wear something nice,” Dean teased.

“I’ll see you then,” Cas responded.

Before he could hang up the phone, Dean said, “you know, your brother is kind of right. We’re idiots for not seeing this.”

“Not idiots,” Cas corrected, “just a little out of touch. I’ll see you tomorrow, Dean.”

“Can’t wait, Cas.” And honestly? He really couldn’t.