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It's the Getting Caught that Kills You

Chapter Text

Dean Winchester weaves through the crowd of people smoothly. He’s simultaneously trying to be as invisible as possible and to keep the ball of nerves in his stomach under control. Vomiting will definitely draw attention to him.

It’s not the first time he’s had to try to pick pockets to make ends meet, but it always makes him nervous. He’s only resorted to this a few times, when Bobby doesn’t have enough work at the tavern. The way Bobby looks destroyed when he has to send Dean away is enough to make Dean brush it off every time, make it seem like no big deal.

Bobby has been watching out for them for years. He’s an old Army buddy of John’s, probably the last one he still has, and Dean thinks he only lets John come around still because of he and Sam. The only reason Dean will take the help that Bobby offers is because Bobby knows. He knows what kind of position John has put Dean into, and while he doesn’t know exactly the lengths that Dean has gone to to take care of Sam, he probably suspects, and he doesn’t say a damn thing about it.

Like the hooking. Dean’s only done that a couple of times, too, and he’s only ever used his hand. Not because he thinks he’s better than the other kids his age who have to sell themselves, but because that always makes him plenty of cash to make sure Sam gets fed. There’s no need to do… More. Until it becomes necessary, anyway.

Stealing just intimidates him because… Well, what if he gets caught? Who the hell is gonna take care of Sammy? Sure, Bobby would step in, but that’s not his job, it’s Dean’s.

The circumstances rarely come together so he has to steal at all. Bobby can usually give him enough jobs around the tavern, as busboy or dishwasher or whatever, that he can make ends meet, make sure the rent gets paid and the table has at least enough food for Sam on it (and if it doesn’t have enough to feed both of them, Dean’s not above eating whatever other people leave on plates at the tavern). If that’s not an option, the street is usually a safe bet to make enough cash.

It’s just every once in a while, when the cops come sniffing around to make sure no underage people (read: one Dean Winchester) are working, Bobby has to lay low with helping Dean. He’d hit the corner, but on nice nights like they’ve had the last few days, there are way too many kids on the street for Dean to be sure that he would be chosen. Sure, he’s pretty, but there are less pretty boys who are willing to go further for less money.

So, stealing. Not his first option, but not his worst, either.

He moves along with the crowd, eyes scanning the people around him for a mark. Dean has no idea what the hell he’s doing, he’s bullshitting his way through this, but he knows how to read people.

It’s a skill he picked up (had drilled into him) from John, the ability to separate the gullible from the shrewd, the physically weak from the able, the smart from the not so much. It’s a product of John’s paranoia, which is one of the many, many reasons Dean lives his life the way he does, but it does help out in this one aspect, so Dean’s not really complaining.

It makes sure that Dean doesn’t take risks when it comes to stealing. He doesn’t, because Sam can’t take care of himself, twelve just isn’t old enough to do that (Dean doesn’t see the irony in this statement). He makes sure he stays as safe as possible, because God knows John Winchester, all around paranoid alcoholic who Dean only sees about once every three weeks, isn’t going to do it. He’s careful because he has someone else to look after. Dean’s life isn’t his own, it belongs to taking care of Sam.

As he walks and ruminates, he sees his mark.

Tall, taller than Dean, but probably not forever (Dean’s only sixteen, give him a break). He can only see him from the back, but he’s wearing a trench coat that’s nicer than pretty much everything Dean’s wearing, dark slacks, and good dress shoes. He’s got a mess of dark hair that hasn’t even come close to being tamed. When the mark turns to look across the street, Dean sees that he’s a knockout, damn, though he’s quite a bit older than Dean himself. He doesn’t have gray at his temples yet, but it’s coming. It doesn’t lessen the appeal at all.

The point is, though, that Dean can’t get a read on him. The man may as well be a blank slate when it comes to ticks or tells or anything. Which should send alarm bells going off in Dean’s head, but it intrigues him instead. The dude clearly has money, good money, if the cell phone he pulls out to check the time on is any indicator. He’s ridiculously attractive, aloof, and Dean can’t tell if he’s aware of all of his surroundings or none of them at all.

Even with all of that being the case, however, the problem is that there hasn’t been money coming in for about a week now. The cops, and Child Protective Services, have basically staked out Singer’s Tavern, watching for Dean, so he’s had to steer clear completely. Clear enough that he can’t even nab leftovers from the kitchen or the clientele.

John’s been gone for almost a solid month now, so nothing there. There very rarely is.

It’s warm out, the summer weather that drew the fair is also what’s screwing Dean over on the hooker front (heh). There are so many people, boys and girls alike, out on the corners that Dean would barely be able to find a place to stand.

What all of these things mean is that Dean hasn’t eaten in two and a half days. Sam had to skip breakfast this morning before school, which Dean despises doing. The rent that Dean doesn’t have the money for is almost due, too.

In short, Dean’s desperate.

He would normally give this guy a wide, wide berth, but he needs it. If he can get enough from this guy to not have to risk picking more pockets than strictly necessary, it just means he can get home that much sooner.

He walks casually until he’s closer, damn near on top of the dude. He appears to be kind of lost in his own thoughts, so Dean examines him further. Insanely blue eyes, incredibly handsome face, a mouth made for sinning and dirty talk. Something deep stirs in Dean, something he doesn’t let himself have because there’s no time for it. Not when he’s got to dodge cops, make sure John stays alive, and keep Sam fed and in school. He tries to tamp it down as much as possible, but it’s persistent this time, the wanting of this man that Dean’s about to rob.

In a different life, Dean would chat him up, flirt with him easily, find out if he’s gay. See if he’s willing to take Dean home and fuck him until it feels like his lungs are going to give out. If Dean really lets his mind wander, he’ll imagine making the guy breakfast the next morning, the guy taking him out to dinner. Watching movies on the guy’s couch, and maybe, maybe, maybe, building a life with this person, this man who looks capable enough to take care of Dean in a way that he’s really never been taken care of before.

Instead, Dean has this life. He’s not going to make anything with this man, he’s going to steal from him. He shakes the cobwebs from his head.

When the crowd moves, Dean moves with it. He waits a few minutes, trying to make sure the guy is thoroughly in his own head before casually reaching forward and slipping his hand into the guy’s coat pocket.

Before he can do much more, long, strong fingers wrap around his wrist. He’s been caught.


Castiel is done taking apprentices. It’s not that he doesn’t like the crew he has now. He’s just tired.

Benny is a good kid, charming and likeable. That accent is enough to make women and men alike fall all over themselves to appease him, making them easy targets. Castiel suspects he won’t be in the business for long, however. Benny is too… For lack of a better term, Benny’s too good. Benny is also sweet on a baker’s daughter down the street, Andrea, and has been spending most of his time with her. Castiel can see the writing on the wall, probably before even Benny can. Benny isn’t going to be a thief forever.

Garth is… Well, Garth is enthusiastic, if nothing else.

Garth gets caught more than any thief Castiel has ever seen in his life, but his face is so earnest that no one wants to accuse him in the end. Castiel almost dropped him after the second time he got caught, but something in his gut told him to keep the kid around. He shadowed Garth the next time he went out and just watched. He was absolutely flabbergasted when Garth chose a mark, clumsily tried to pull the man’s wallet out of his coat pocket, and was caught almost immediately. The man turned and snapped at Garth, but when confronted with Garth’s affable personality, ended up actually giving the boy a few dollars and walking away happy.

Castiel… Doesn’t know how that works, but it does, so he’s not going to argue with it. Garth will either be in the business for the rest of his life, or he’ll luck out and marry some sort of long-lost heiress. Castiel suspects there will be very little in between.

Kevin is good at it, very good. Almost as good as Castiel himself. He’s unobtrusive, unassuming, quiet, and quick. Kevin will be in the business forever, though he will probably leave Castiel’s crew and create his own someday. The thought makes Castiel sad, but very proud. Kevin has become an extremely talented thief, and has almost gotten to the point of being able to pull off rooftop jobs with Castiel.

So Castiel is fine. He doesn’t need more apprentices.

Which is why he’s confused as to why he’s here at the fair. He doesn’t like crowds, or fairs, or whatever it is the fair is celebrating (later, Castiel will find out that the most important moment of his life was at a cultural fair, and feel like a bit of a heel). He saw the event advertised in the local paper, and some part of him insisted that he attend.

Now he’s regretting giving into his gut. He could be enjoying a quiet, solitary, late breakfast at home, planning the way he’ll run the crew through their paces this afternoon. Instead, he’s here, a (admittedly unseen) part of this throng of people, where it’s loud and crowded and annoying. How incredibly irritating.

Just he’s deciding to go home, he feels a clumsy hand reach into his coat pocket.

For a moment, Castiel is genuinely, utterly shocked. Someone… Is trying… To steal from him?

The next moment, he’s incredibly amused. Someone is trying to steal from me, indeed.

He lets it go on for a beat, before he circles his fingers around the wrist (bony, probably young) in his pocket. The arm jerks and tries to pull away, but Castiel holds fast. “Oh, no, little one,” he tsks, “you’re coming with me.”

There’s no acknowledgement from the person behind him, but Castiel doesn’t need it. The person behind him is coming with him either way.

He leads the way, hand hard on the wrist in his pocket, to an alley. Once there, deep enough that few will be able to see them, he turns to see his assailant.

He’s young, an older teenager. Light brown hair, probably going to darken as he ages. Castiel notices in what he wishes was a detached manner that the boy is incredibly good looking, almost beautiful. Castiel guesses that he will become more rugged as he ages, but he will still be lovely. His green eyes are striking, though they’re wild and scared now.

“Calm down,” Castiel says serenely, addressing the panic first. “What is your name?”

“What? I’m not telling you that!”

Castiel smirks. “Of course you are.”

The boy shakes his head. “No way, dude!”

“Little one, you do not have a choice. You tried to rob me, and while I do not intend to bring the authorities here, if you do not tell me your name, I may be forced to.”

To his surprise, the boy snorts. “Dude, if you were gonna call the cops, you already would have.” The look in his emerald eyes changes from frightened to shrewd. “I think you got some reason to not want the five-o on your ass, either.”

Castiel frowns. “‘Five-o?’”

“The cops, man.”

Castiel tilts his head and studies the young man in front of him again, taking in more detailed information in the space of seconds. Secondhand leather jacket, too big for him, probably his father’s. Secondhand clothes, but they fit him better, probably from a thrift store. Dark circles under his eyes, he’s tired. His hands look rough, probably calloused, works for a living. Thin, not emaciated, but certainly doesn’t eat enough.

Dammit. “Why were you trying to steal from me?”

The boy blinks. “What?” His eyes narrow in suspicion. “Why do you wanna know?”

“Answer the question.”

His eyes shift to the left. “Just wanted some cash, man, I dunno.”

“Stop calling me ‘man,’ or ‘dude.’ You will address me as sir, little one.” The spark of defiance in those lovely green eyes sets something ablaze in Castiel, but he ignores it for now and speaks before the boy has a chance to. “And do not lie to me again, I will not tolerate it. Tell me why you were trying to steal from me.”

The boy’s eyes meet his again, searching, evaluating, weighing Castiel on some scale only the boy understands or knows about. Castiel keeps his gaze calmly, confident he will be found worthy.

“My brother,” the boy says roughly. “He’s only twelve, thirteen in a few weeks. He’s gotta eat, and it’s my job to look after him.”

Castiel frowns. “Have you no parents?”

The boy snorts. “None that are gonna take care of us.”

“Why are you stealing? You could get a job.”

“Dude, I’m too young to get a job by six months. I already work at-” he cuts himself off, looking at Castiel, a bit shaken. “Uh, no, I can’t get a job.”

It only takes Castiel a moment to consider all of his options.

Option one, he could summon the authorities, let them take this boy away, and leave his brother to fend for himself in what appears to be an unpleasant home life.


Option two, he could let this boy go. He will probably to haphazardly steal his way to someone else, someone who will contact the authorities, with the same result as the first option.


Option three, Castiel takes them with him. His gut pulls him hard in this direction.

The thing is, Castiel always follows his instincts. They are what got him through a dirty, crowded childhood, a home with too many mouths to feed. It was easy for Castiel to fade into the background with his quiet demeanor there. He was never abused in any way, but he was quite frequently ignored.

His instincts are what led him through his beginnings in theft. Clumsy, ridiculous attempts at picking pockets in dirty alleys and in front of bars. They are what brought him to Cain, and they’re what told him to let Cain take him home. They were honed by Cain, a master at the craft, until they were good enough to surpass Castiel’s teacher himself.

They are what told him it was time to strike out on his own. He woke up one morning in the loft they shared and just knew. Cain was understanding but heartbroken, and offered to help him set up in a new city. Castiel refused, but he stays in touch with Cain, loves him dearly.

More importantly, they are what tell Castiel which prodigies to choose.

So, as annoying as they are, Castiel always follows his instincts.

He heaves a sigh, irritated at himself. “What is your name?”

“I already told you, man, I’m not-”

Castiel’s free hand whips toward the boy to wrap around the back of his neck and squeeze, just enough to get his attention. He knows that, at some point, this boy will be taller than him. He’s already almost there, for God’s sake. For now, however, Castiel has this advantage. Those delightfully green eyes widen and his breath catches as he cuts himself off mid-sentence.

Castiel lets his voice drop to a deep growl. “I believe you told you not to call me that, little one.”

That defiance is back, though the boy doesn’t try to break his hold. “Why do you get to call me ‘little one,’ then?”

“When you catch my hand in your coat pocket, attempting to steal from you, you are welcome to choose something else to refer to me as. Until then, I believe I asked for your name.”

The boy stares hard at him again, evaluating once more. Castiel lets this happen without comment. He senses that if he pushes again too hard, the boy will fight him, and will refuse Castiel’s offer.

“Dean,” the boy says softly. “It’s Dean, sir.”

Castiel smiles, becoming entranced by the way the boy’s face is open now, vulnerable. He looks much younger than he has in the few minutes that Castiel has known him.

“Thank you, Dean. And what is your brother’s name?”

“I can’t tell you that, ma-” Dean cuts himself off. “I mean, sir, I’d prefer not to tell you that.”

“Dean,” Castiel says patiently, “I’d like to help you and your brother.”


“You’re in a bad situation. I happen to be in a position in which I can help you get out of it. You must come with me, however, you and your brother. Is leaving your home going to be a problem?”

Dean does try to pull himself back a little bit, but Castiel holds him still. “I can’t just go with you, dude! I don’t even know you!”

Castiel thinks about chastising Dean for the slip-up in calling him “dude,” but decides, for now, to address the boy’s concerns.

“Dean, my name is Castiel. You haven’t heard of me, because if you had, you wouldn’t have tried to steal anything from me. I’d like to offer you an extremely valuable opportunity, but it will require that you and your brother come live with me. You will be somewhere safe, warm, and fed.” He examines Dean closely for a moment. “I will make sure you will be able to go to school, should you so desire, but I’m afraid I must insist that your brother continue to attend. You will no longer clumsily pickpocket your way through big crowds, hoping that you do not get caught, nor will you have to continue to do whatever else it is you feel you must do to make money.”

Because Castiel is not naive to the ways of the world, no, or the way the world uses young men who are as good-looking as Dean. This truth usually gives him a sort of absent-minded ache, but when he thinks of Dean giving up his mouth, or the rest of his body, it fills Castiel with a sort of… Painful, anger (possessiveness). He would like to be the only one using any part of Dean, but he resolutely pushes that thought down, down, down.

“I can help you become someone great, someone who not only has the ability to take care of himself, but to take care of those he cares about.”

There it is, the spark. Taking care of his brother is what speaks to Dean loudest. Castiel files that tidbit away.

“What do you want, Dean? We can part ways here, never again to see one another. Or you can come with me, and I can change your life. What do you want, Dean?”

Castiel waits for the answer he knows he will receive.

Chapter Text

As Dean enters the two bedroom apartment he shares with Sam (and sometimes John) he wonders what the hell he’s gotten himself into.

Once he said “yes” to Castiel, the older man told him to go home, pack up his shit, and that he’d meet Dean and Sam here in a few hours. Dean gave him the address, and with a final squeeze to the back of his neck, Castiel was gone, disappeared into the crowd like an illusion. Dean’s still not a hundred percent sure that he wasn’t, in fact, an illusion.

He starts in “his” bedroom.

One of the bedrooms is permanently Sam’s. When John is gone, which is eighty-five percent of the time, which is still almost not often enough, Dean sleeps in the other one. On the rare nights when their father is there, they keep an air mattress under Sam’s bed for Dean. He hates that, though, because he read a pamphlet once at Sam’s school about how important it is for kids to have their own space. So he keeps out of Sam’s room as much as possible and stores his clothes in an old duffel bag of John’s, trying to take up as little room as possible.

(Dean genuinely doesn’t see anything wrong with this scenario.)

Because of this, it’s easy for him to pack his own things up. He just grabs the bag he always keeps them in, checks to make sure it’s closed, and walks it out to set it next to the front door. He grabs another duffel bag out of the hall closet and goes into Sam’s room.

Dean knows Sam like the back of his hand, so he knows what Sam will want to take, and what he’ll be okay with leaving behind. Dean wants them to leave just enough stuff that John won’t notice that they’re gone immediately. Not that he thinks his father will report them missing, but it pays to be careful. Just because John Winchester has had nothing but disdain for his sons since his wife died doesn’t mean he won’t try to keep them from finding something better.

As he packs Sam’s clothes into the bag, he thinks that the kid is hitting another growth spurt, and he’s going to need to find a way to get him some bigger clothes. He wonders if Castiel will be able to teach him fast enough that he won’t have to hit the street corner this weekend. He sincerely doubts it.

Once he zips up the duffel, he fishes an old backpack of his out of the back of the closet and begins to fill it with Sam’s books. The kid reads like nobody’s business, and Dean has always had trouble keeping him in books and comics, even more trouble than keeping him in clothes that fit. He knows which ones are Sam’s favorites, so he packs them as neatly as possible, as long with a few comics and a couple of knick knacks that Sam keeps on the shelf.

Satisfied that that’s all they’re going to need, he takes the two bags of Sam’s and puts them next to his own, just inside the front door. He looks around the living room and the kitchen, but doesn’t see anything that really means something to either of them.

It’s still a couple of hours until Sam gets home from school, so Dean doesn’t have an excuse to avoid going down to the tavern to talk to Bobby. He locks the door behind him carefully before he goes. It would be just his luck that someone steal all of their stuff the day he’s taking them to live with a thief.

As he makes his way out of the apartment and toward the tavern, Dean thinks about the absolutely insane decision he made this morning.

Everything Dean has done since he was four years old has been for Sam. Since the moment he carried his little brother out of the fire that killed their mother, and still managed to somehow take both of their parents from them, Dean has done everything. He made his meals, a six-year-old standing on a chair in front of the stove to cook macaroni and cheese. He shopped for him, making sure that jeans and shirts and jackets fit. He forged permission slips, talked to teachers, gave Sam a curfew, took him to get haircuts, and made sure he did his homework. Dean has tried to be everything for Sam, including careful.

Not just about the stealing or the hooking, although he’s always most scared that he’s going to fuck up and get caught while doing those. Dean’s careful about keeping any friends he makes at arm’s length, so they don’t know what goes on at home. Hell, he’s careful about the friends that Sam has. Luckily, they don’t spend any time at the Winchester’s apartment, per Sam’s request. While Dean’s thinking of consequences when he keeps people away, Sam’s embarrassed by basically their whole life. (It’s something that Dean tries not to take personally. He never asks for clarification, either, because he needs to believe that it’s John that Sam’s ashamed of, not Dean himself. If he finds out that’s not the case, it might just kill him.)

Dean is careful about making sure no one is watching too closely as he comes or goes. He’s careful about making sure no one knows he’s not going to school. He’s careful about getting John cleaned up and in bed before Sam gets home as often as he can.

Dean is just… So fucking careful.

One conversation with an incredibly handsome stranger and, on the outside, it certainly appears like he’s throwing it all out the window. It’s completely out of character for him, and he’s not really looking forward to explaining what’s going on in his head to Sam or Bobby. He knows he has to, he just doesn’t know how.

How can he explain how safe and secure Castiel made him feel, even if just for a few moments? How to explain the way he felt cared about when Castiel put his hand on Dean’s neck, how he wanted to bury his face in the man’s shoulder and let him tell Dean that everything would be okay in that silk over thunder voice? How is he supposed to make them understand that he is still being careful, that somehow he just knows that going with Castiel is the right thing to do?

That all just sounds like one long, drawn-out chick flick moment, and sorry, but no.

When he gets to Singer’s Tavern, he’s no closer to figuring out how he’s going to talk to Bobby about this, but it’s now or never. Especially since it’s a fucking ghost town in here (it’s too much for the universe to give him a few extra minutes to get his shit together, huh?) and Bobby has already seen him. He’s waving for Dean to join him in the kitchen. Dean goes obediently, his stomach still in knots.

Bobby’s the only person who knows. He knows almost all of the shit John pulls, the disappearing acts and the drinking and the occasional thrown fist. Bobby’s furious about all of it. His normally kind eyes cloud with anger when Dean comes in with a split lip, or a blackened eye or cheek. Bobby doesn’t know about every single thing, because that knowledge is for Dean and John alone, but Bobby knows most of it. He’s the only person that Dean will feel genuinely bad about leaving behind.

“Hey, kiddo,” Bobby says genially, washing his hands at the big kitchen sink. “Listen, they’re still keeping a real close eye on me, but I can give you some cash if you kids are runnin’ low.”


“Now, I know you ain’t a fan of handouts, but if it’s that big a bug up your ass, you can pay me back.”

Guilt clogs Dean’s chest as he looks at the only adult who gives a damn about him. Shit. “Bobby, no, it’s… Not about that. I mean, it kinda is, but I don’t need money.” He takes a deep breath. Like ripping off a Band-Aid. “I came to let you know that you won’t be seeing much of us for a while. I dunno how long.”

Bobby’s face is completely unreadable now as he stares at Dean. He tries not to fidget under the hard gaze.

“That so?” Bobby deadpans.

“Look, I got… An offer. For a job. Kinda.”

Bobby slowly crosses his arms and leans back against the sink. “Why don’t you go ahead and tell me about this job offer you got?”

Dean runs a hand through his hair, anxiety making his stomach roll. “I dunno how to say this, Bobby. You’re gonna think this is stupid.”

“Try me.”

So Dean spends a few quick minutes detailing what happened this morning. It’s kind of like in those cartoons where the main character is in a barrel and he knows he’s headed toward the waterfall, but there’s not a damn thing he can do about it. Dean’s that cartoon character, and for all of his desperate flailing and half-assed explanations, he’s going down that waterfall.

Bobby’s face has smoothed out completely, unreadable again as he listens. Dean finally gets himself to shut the hell up and just stares back, hoping against hope that Bobby’s not going to tear him a new one.

“And you don’t know this fella?”

“No, sir.”

“Never met him before.”

“No, sir.”

“Cas-tee-elle, huh?”

“Yes, sir.”

Bobby rubs his whiskery chin hard. “You tellin’ me the whole truth, boy?”

Dean feels his eyebrows go up in surprise. “What, this isn’t ridiculous enough for you?”

Bobby’s still looking him in the eye, looking for something that Dean doesn’t understand. “And you’re sure he don’t want anything from you for this… Charity of his?”

Realization dawns. “Oh, God! Bobby, no! No, he doesn’t… Want anything, Jesus. The hell kinda girl do you take me for?” Levity is his only defense, because Bobby’s not letting up on the laser eyes thing.

“I just know that you’d do some real stupid, dangerous shit to take care of Sam. I’m just makin’ sure someone’s lookin’ out for you, too.”

Dean can feel his face heat up as he blushes. As much as he wants to protest that he wouldn’t do that, that he wouldn’t sell himself to some dude to keep Sammy safe… That’s precisely what he does when he goes out onto the street, isn’t it? So, yeah, if that’s what Castiel was offering, Dean would agree in a heartbeat, and not just because Castiel stepped straight out of the wet dreams Dean used to have.

“That’s what I thought,” Bobby says grimly.

“Yeah, yeah, shut up,” Dean grouses.

“I want to meet this guy,” Bobby says suddenly.


“I want to meet him. Size him up for myself. Make sure he’s not takin’ you for a ride.”

“Aw, Bobby, you don’t-“

“This ain’t a negotiation, Dean,” Bobby says firmly, steel in his voice. “I’m meetin’ him, or I’m callin’ the cops the second I know he’s at your place.”

Dean glares, but there’s very little heat behind it. He barely wants to admit it, but he’s glad that someone else, someone he trusts, will meet Castiel, too. Dean knows he wasn’t taken in by good looks and blue eyes, but it will be nice to have some confirmation that Castiel has the right intentions, at least where Dean and Sam are concerned.

“Fine, I’ll ask.”

Sam Winchester knows exactly how lucky he is to have Dean.

He knows that not everyone gets a big brother like his. Sam goes to a pretty big high school, one that has its fair share of kids from bad home lives, so Sam sees daily how much Dean does for him. He knows how much Dean sacrifices for him, and he thinks that Dean probably hasn’t even told him everything that he does to make sure that Sam gets what he needs.

Unfortunately, Sam is also almost thirteen years old, and he’s just been told that Dean wants them to move in with a stranger he met in an alley this morning.

It takes Sam a few moments to process what Dean just said. “What?”

“I know it’s a little unusual,” Dean says, red-faced, a hand gripping the back of his neck, “I just think that this is probably the best thing for us-“

“Us?” Just like that, Sam is pissed. “Us? Were you even thinking about us? Dean, what the fuck is this?”

“Sam,” there’s a pleading note in Dean’s voice that Sam ignores. “Come on, man, you know I was thinking about-“

“So, what, you’re pulling me out of school so we can follow some guy you found on the street?” He makes sure to put enough of a sneer in his voice for Dean to catch his meaning. Not that Sam has a problem with Dean being gay. Hell, Dean’s never brought a guy over, nor had a guy meet Sam, so it hasn’t affected his life whatsoever, but fear and panic are making him want to hurt Dean as much as he himself is hurting.

It hits the mark. Dean winces. “Sam, look, it’s an opportunity-“

Sam snorts. “Yeah, an opportunity to think with your dick. I cannot believe you’re dragging me away from here just so you can get laid.”

Dean visibly pales, and Sam regrets the words immediately. He knows that Dean would never put his sex life ahead of Sam. Hell, Sam knows that there’s nothing Dean would put over his welfare. Dammit. “Dean, I-“

“No, no, I get it,” Dean says, the tiny tremble at the end of the words probably only noticeable if one knows Dean as well as Sam knows him. “Look, Sammy, I know I’m the stupid one. I know that you’re the smart one, and that you’re the one that’s going places, but I gotta make sure you get there. So I just need you to trust-“

Dean’s explanation, and Sam’s subsequent apology and protest that Dean is not “the stupid one” are both interrupted by a sharp knocking at the door. Somehow, Dean seems to tense up and completely relax at the same time. There’s pretty obvious relief shining in his eyes when he answers the door before Sam can say a word.

The man standing in their entryway is… Well, Sam was expecting a little more from someone who has captured Dean’s interest so thoroughly.

He’s taller than Sam, but Dean assures Sam that he’ll be taller than everybody, so that’s fine. The guy’s got dark, messy hair, what is probably perpetual stubble, and laser blue eyes that flick over Sam briefly before zeroing in on Dean.

“Dean,” the man says, his voice warm and gravelly and deep. “Is this your brother?”

Dean nods and steps back. “Yeah, ma-… Uh, sir. Yes, this is Sam.”

The eyes come back to land on Sam, and he’s officially just a little intimidated. “Sam,” the man says, “my name is Castiel. I’d like to help you and your brother, if you’d let me.”

Castiel immediately approves of the way Sam’s hazel eyes narrow in suspicion. The skinny (too skinny, they both are, they need to be fed before Dean goes out, and before I get my hands on- No, no, bad Castiel) teenager crosses his arms over his chest and glares at Castiel.


Castiel tilts his head to examine the boy further. It’s clear that Sam doesn’t trust him, which is smart. He can also feel the tension in the air, the boys were clearly arguing when he got here. He curses himself for not waiting outside the door and listening, but immediately moves on from the thought. What’s done is done.

There’s also nervous tension radiating from Dean, who’s practically vibrating at Castiel’s side, eyes flicking from him to Sam. Almost without thought, Castiel reaches up to place a gentle hand on the back of Dean’s neck, identical to the way he held on in the alley. He feels Dean relax beneath the touch, and files the information away for further use. (Not to be used in your spank bank, he scolds himself.)

“I have a sharp instinct about people,” Castiel says smoothly. “I believe that your brother is singularly suited toward my line of work, and I’d like to help him achieve his full potential. To do so, I would, of course, be more than happy to assist you in your studies, as well.”

The surprised tense of Dean’s neck beneath his palm and the way Sam’s eyebrows shoot to his hairline confirm Castiel’s suspicions. Dean is rarely made a priority. In his interactions with Dean earlier this morning, it was made clear to Castiel that Dean’s world revolves around Sam, which is admirable. Castiel, however, does not intend to make his relationship with Dean (a student-teacher relationship, for God’s sake, he’s sixteen!) revolve around anything but Dean himself. He knows now, based on their reactions, that this will be something new for the both of them.

“The work I do is extremely in-depth, and requires a particular setup to engage in. I happen to have everything we need to do so in my home, and there’s plenty of space for you to live there, as well.”

“Why can’t we stay here?”

Castiel takes a look around the dingy apartment, making sure to keep any judgement or negative emotions off of his face. “I can certainly make sure you’re able to stay here, if you prefer, but I live in a stellar school district, and would be able to care for the two of you much more easily if you came with me.” He shrugs. “Either way, the choice is yours.”

From the corner of his eye, he sees Dean look at Sam. From there, he’s able to witness a silent conversation happen between brothers. It’s over in a matter of seconds, and it’s conducted exclusively with facial expressions and body language. It’s fascinating.

“Well, you’re not going without me,” Sam insists, and Castiel is fascinated again when Dean’s face blushes bright red. How charming, he thinks, a bit dazedly, to himself.

“God dammit, Sam, of course I’m not,” Dean mutters, face glowing in embarrassment. Castiel fights not to imagine that blush travelling down his neck, his chest, to his-

No, he tells himself firmly. He’s usually much better controlled than this. The boy might actually be making him crazy.

“Well, then,” he’s grateful that his voice is as steady as ever, “that’s settled. Have you packed your things?”

Now Dean’s green eyes are on Castiel again, and he reminds himself firmly that this boy is a minor, and the things that he’s thinking are very illegal. “Uh, yeah,” Dean says, his blush still prominent. “I just, uh… Do you mind if we make a stop?”

After they drop the bags off at his car, Castiel is both intrigued and irritated as he enters Singer’s Tavern behind Sam and Dean.

He’s intrigued because he’s never had someone care enough about the people he takes in to meet him. Kevin and Garth are both orphans, and Benny’s mother was more interested in where her next hit of whatever narcotic she was hooked on then was coming from than where her only son was going. This will be new territory for Castiel.

He’s irritated at himself because there is a part of him that wants to stand up straight, address this Mr. Singer as “sir,” and generally act like he’s meeting the parent of a romantic prospect, which is ridiculous. He is an adult, he will conduct himself as such, and he will get this wanting of Dean under control as soon as possible. For God’s sake, he just met the boy this morning and he’s already obsessing over him.

He pushes his thoughts aside when he meets the eyes of a gruff older man over the heads of the patrons scattered throughout the building. He knows immediately that this is the person he’s here to meet.

Older, looks tired, probably gets here early and stays late. Looks angry, probably protective of the boys, already doesn’t like me.

The man gestures for the three of them to follow him to the kitchen, so Sam takes the lead and they obey. Castiel brings up the rear and tries very hard not to watch the way Dean moves in front of him.

When they get to the kitchen, Bobby turns to face them. “So you’re the guy who wants to… ‘Teach’ Dean.”

The implication behind the words makes Castiel raise an eyebrow even as Dean sputters. “Jesus, Bobby, what the hell? He’s not-“

“It’s quite all right, Dean,” Castiel interrupts. He turns to Bobby. “I appreciate that someone is keeping such a close eye on Sam and Dean. I want nothing but the best for them, truly.”

Bobby doesn’t soften. “And what, exactly, are you intendin’ to ‘teach’ him?”

The implication again. “I intend to teach him the ways of my profession.”

“Uh-huh. ‘Profession.’”

Castiel smirks. Bobby Singer is a smart man. “Indeed.”

Sam is frowning. “What profession?”

“I will not speak of it here,” Castiel says simply. “There are too many people who could overhear. When we get to my home, we can discuss it in depth, if you like.”

“Oh, yeah, we’re definitely discussing,” Sam grumbles under his breath.

Castiel ignores him to focus again on Bobby. “I was told you wanted to meet so you could put your stamp of approval on the move. Do we have it?”

Bobby doesn’t answer, just keeps his weighty gaze on Castiel. He returns it evenly, not giving a thing away. Although, he can see how Bobby would be a good parent. If Castiel were a much lesser man, and if he had not had to stare Cain down like this many a time, he would feel the urge to break under that look, to reveal his secrets in hopes that confessing would lessen his punishment.

Now, however, he’s much more used to doling out punishments than receiving them, so he is mostly unaffected.

A small eternity later, Bobby sighs. “Where you takin’ them?”

Castiel deliberates for just a moment. There is no harm in giving this man this information. “I live on the South Side. The apartment complex on Angel Boulevard.”

Now, here is a bit of vulnerability in the older man’s eyes. “Can I see ‘em?”

Castiel’s eyebrows shoot up in surprise. “Of course.”

Dean’s head whips around. “Really?”

Castiel frowns. “Why would I ask you to avoid people who care about you?” He never intended for them to be cut off from family. He never intends any of his charges to be cut off from their families, it just so happens that most of them don’t have anyone they want to stay in contact with, anyway. Castiel’s crew has become its own family, but he has no reason to keep Dean and his brother from this man who clearly cares deeply for them.

Dean blushes again. “I dunno… I guess I just assumed-“

“Dean watches too many spy movies,” Sam says frankly.

Dean smacks his brother upside the back of his head. “Shut up, bitch.”

“Make me, jerk!”

Castiel smiles, listening to them argue in hissed whispers. It doesn’t remind him of his own siblings, since he was never this close to any of them, but it’s still pleasant to witness.

He looks over at Bobby, and sees that he’s being measured again, and he seems to have been found sufficient.

“All right,” Bobby says gruffly. “But keep your cells on you, boys. I want to keep in touch.”

“Sure, Bobby, no problem,” Dean says easily.

Castiel looks outside, where the early spring still makes the days end too soon. “You are more than welcome to come back, gentlemen,” he says evenly, looking back to Sam and Dean, “but I’d prefer to introduce you to the rest of the crew and show you where you’ll be staying before the day ends.”

Sam sighs. “This is all so crazy,” he says ruefully, but he turns to lead the way out of the restaurant.

Castiel smiles. Sam is a flexible child, it seems, if it has only taken about an hour for him to go from fighting with his brother to resigning himself to his fate. Castiel thinks he’ll get along well with Kevin.

Dean shoots Castiel a shy smile as he follows Sam out, which damn near kills Castiel. He’s still having a hard time bringing his mind out of the gutter when Bobby clears his throat.

It’s only years of practice that keeps Castiel from flushing guiltily. He looks back at the man who’s essentially the father of the boy he was just undressing with his eyes. Bobby is just staring at him again, there’s no heat or anger there.

“I’m trustin’ you to keep those boys safe,” the man says gruffly. “Closest thing I got to kids, and I might not know what this ‘profession’ is, but I can tell you that I don’t mind trackin’ you down and kickin’ your ass, should something happen to them.”

Castiel smiles. I’m getting threatened by the boy’s father after all, romantic intentions or no. “I expected nothing less,” he says smoothly.

Chapter Text

Dean cannot believe how well that went. He’s not even ashamed of the way he’s kind of staring Cas in awe as the man leads back them to his car a few blocks away.

He doesn’t know what he thought would happen, but it wasn’t this easy transition. Beside him, Sam’s walk is loose-limbed and easy. Sam’s always been a laid-back kid, but his quick acceptance of the situation before him thrills Dean. It signifies trust, it means that Sam has faith in Dean to make these decisions for them. Oh, sure, the reminder that Sam’s the smart one, the important one, it stung a little, but it’s not like Dean’s never been reminded before. And as long as he’s taking care of his little brother like he’s supposed to, Dean’s all right with coming up in second place.

It was… Weird, to say the least, when Cas implied that the reason he wants Dean and Sam around was because of… Well, because of Dean. That… Doesn’t make any sense. In his head, he understands that Cas would have had no way to know about Sam, or how smart Sam is, or how much better Sam is, since the only one of them they saw was Dean himself. It’s just… It’s just that, even after Cas saw Sam, he still made it sound like Dean was the reason he’s doing any of this. He even put his hand on the back of Dean’s neck again, like he wanted to comfort Dean.

And, okay, it’s not like Dean’s never received reassurance or comfort before. Bobby’s been great, and ever since Dean and Sam were little, he was the one they’d seek out when they needed an adult. As he got older, Dean’s gotten comfort from partners, one-night stands and flings. Not long-term comfort, and definitely not meaningful, but it’s not like Dean has been without any sort of kind touch.

It’s just that… It’s that when Cas touches him, just that big, warm palm on Dean’s neck, thumb running absentmindedly through the hair at his nape, it feels like it’s because Cas thinks that Dean’s worth something, like maybe he could care about Dean. It’s silly, and not something that Dean’s holding out for. He knows his place in the world, and it’s to get Sammy off to bigger and better things. Maybe once Sam is settled in whatever big-time career he wants, Dean can worry about himself. Until then, it’s a no-go, and God knows Cas isn’t gonna wait around that long.

Dean’s okay with that. It’s just a little fantasy he has, that Cas might care about him, or take care of him, or maybe make it so Dean doesn’t feel so tired and weighed down and a little bit scared all the time. He knows it’s not realistic, so he doesn’t put stock into it. It’s just nice to think about.

He’s thinking so hard about these things that he almost runs straight into Cas when the man stops on the sidewalk. Internally shaking the cobwebs from his mind, he looks up to see that Cas’ body language has changed, subtly but absolutely. He’s shifted so that he’s shielding the Winchesters, keeping them behind him. Dean’s first instinct, which he follows, is to grab Sam and shove him behind himself. His second instinct, which he also follows, is to assess the threat, and the only way to do that is to peek over Cas’ shoulder.

A curvaceous woman stands in front of them, one hand on her hip, the other twirling a lock of her fiery red hair around a finger. She’s smirking, but there’s no friendliness in the gesture. Her eyes are cold and almost lifeless, and they’d be completely blank without the sort of unstable anger they seem to be radiating at Castiel.

Cas, for his part, has stilled, but shows no outward signs of hostility. “Abaddon,” he says smoothly.

“Castiel,” she purrs. “It’s been so long, darling.”

“Oh, I don’t know, it certainly doesn’t feel like it’s been long enough.” It’s the first sign at all that Cas isn’t happy to see this woman.

She pouts. “Aw, is someone still sore over Boston?”

Cas doesn’t react at all. “What do you want?”

“What makes you think I want anything?”

“Because you’re a sociopath who does nothing if she does not have a reason.”

She sighs. “Oh, Castiel, always the flair for the dramatic.”

“Yes. I’ve always been told that I’m too flamboyant,” Cas deadpans.

A brilliant smile blossoms on her face. It would warm her up if it looked like she meant it at all. “Oh, Cassie, dear, it’s so good to see you again. I’m so very glad I ran into you. I’ve moved into town, and I’m delighted that you’re the first to know!”

“Abaddon,” Cas says severely, ignoring her sarcasm. “Do not do anything stupid while you are here.”

Her happy, simpering demeanor drops in an instant, and Dean realizes that this woman is a barracuda, a wolf among sheep, a goddamn shark. She’s crazy.

She takes a step forward, and Dean tenses when she gets up in Cas’ face. He wants to step in, to intervene, but before he can do any such thing, he feels Cas’ fingers brush against his own. It’s a simple touch, and just for a moment, but it gets the message across perfectly. Dean stays where he is, fuming.

Abaddon’s pretty face is marred with a sneer. “I will do whatever I goddamn please, Castiel. Your precious Cain isn’t here to protect you anymore.”

“He was just as important to you as he was to me. And I seem to recall being able to take care of myself quite effectively.”

The sneer becomes more pronounced. “Oh, I don’t think any of us were as close with him as you were, Cassie.”

Cas takes a deep breath, but it seems like he’s just gathering his patience instead of being alarmed. “What do you want, you vile woman?”

She smiles again, and again, it doesn’t soften her face at all. “Oh, I want so many things. But the first thing I’m going to do is to take this town from you. And then,” her eyes shift to meet Dean’s, and he takes a moment to be so, so glad that Sam’s hidden behind him, “I’m going to take all of your little ‘charity cases’ away from you.”

Cas doesn’t even bat an eye. “I’m sure that’s what you think will happen, Abbie.” The condescension in his voice, and his words, shouldn’t be such a turn on. Dean has a problem. “What is actually going to happen is this.” He leans forward, so he’s almost whispering in her ear, but Dean can hear every word. “You may come here, and you may work here. This city is plenty big enough for both of us. However, and I’d like you to pay attention here, Abbie, if you lay a finger on one of my charges, you will never stop regretting it. Our work isn’t the only thing I learned from Cain. Have I made myself crystal clear?”

Satisfaction, fear, and rage flash in Abbadon’s eyes in turn as Cas talks. When he’s done, she leans back and beams a smile at him. “It was just so lovely to speak with you again, Castiel. We simply must catch up the very moment we have a chance.”

Castiel just stares her down. “I would rather lay siege to hell than speak with you again, Abaddon. You have your warning. I would heed it, were I you.”

She sneers again before turning to sashay away. Dean can feel that his eyes are wide and that he’s pale as he stares after her.

“Cas,” he croaks, barely stopping himself from saying something less formal in time. “What the fuck was that?”

“Language, Dean,” Cas sighs, but it’s pretty obvious that his heart’s not in it. He doesn’t start forward again, but he glances over to where Dean has moved to stand next to him. Sam stands on the other side, and they watch her walk away together.

“The man who taught me the craft, our craft,” he says, eyes sliding to Dean for a beat before returning to the retreating figure. “He had several students. Cain was normally a… Very good judge of character, but he made a mistake when he took Abaddon on. Her story was tragic, and she needed someone to help her, but make no mistake, boys. Sometimes, when someone’s life has been hard, it… Warps them, makes it difficult for them to think like others do. It may not be their fault, but remember that just because someone’s past has been difficult doesn’t mean that they deserve sympathy in our present.”

Dean whistles low. “Damn, Cas. What’d she do?”

A beat of hesitation. “A story for another time, perhaps.” Cas straightens a little bit, which makes Dean realize that he was crouched, just a little bit, in defense of he and Sam. “Make sure to avoid her, boys. If you see her or she approaches you, leave immediately and come to find me. Understand?”

Dean ignores the little thrill of heat that goes up his spine at the steel in Cas’ voice. “Yes, sir.”

When they get to the apartment building that Cas and his crew live in, it’s taking all of Dean’s willpower to not fidget in the passenger seat of the pimp-mobile that Cas calls a car. He tried to give the seat to Sam, both because he would prefer Sam be the first priority here and to hide his own nervousness, but Cas would have none of it (“Get in the front, Sammy.” “Actually, Sam, I would appreciate it if you sat in the back. Dean, get in the passenger seat.”). Which would be fine, except that it made the whole ride awkward as hell for Dean. The restraint it required to keep himself from reaching over and touching Cas was monumental. The result is that he’s a little jumpy when they pull into the parking garage.

“Do you have a car?” Cas asks, his deep, rolling voice carrying easily in the quiet garage.

Dean shakes his head. “Nope.” At Cas’ raised eyebrow, Dean feels himself blush a little. “Sir,” he adds hastily.

Sam frowns as he pulls the bags out of the trunk. “What about the Impala?”

“That’s Dad’s, Sammy.”

“Don’t call me that,” his little brother replies immediately, then he frowns again. “And it’s more yours than his.”

Dean sighs. Another fight they’ve had so often that their lines are practically scripted, rehearsed, set in stone. A fight he doesn’t particularly want to have in front of Cas. “No, it’s not, and we’re not doing this again right now, hear me?” When Sam opens his mouth to argue, Dean frowns and points a finger at him. “I’m serious, Sam, not right now.”

The stubborn scowl on his brother’s face makes Dean worry that he’s not going to drop it for a moment, but Sam finally just grabs his bags with a huff and turns to Cas, clearly ready to go. Dean’s relieved, but he’s also kind of embarrassed that it happened in front of Cas. To cover, he grabs his bag and turns to meet the older man’s gaze head on, trying to control his blush.

“Lead on, sir.”

As he leads them through the garage, Castiel can’t help but file quickly through everything he’s learned about the Winchesters in the last few minutes.

For one, their father is a sore spot, but Mr. Singer is not. Interesting.

Second, his first assumption was correct. Sam is the golden child, at least in Dean’s eyes. Sam seems to be a bit more reluctant about that particular train of thought, but Dean clearly lives by making sure Sam comes first. Infuriating, but also interesting. Because, again, Castiel has no intention of putting Sam first. Oh, yes, he’s sure that the younger man is bright, and his instincts tell him that he could grow to be quite the thief someday, but Sam is not who Castiel is interested at all. Quick as Sam might be, both intellectually and with his fingers, Castiel’s focus is solely on Dean.

Something about Dean tells Castiel that he could not only be good, but he could be spectacular. He could rival the greats, should he get the proper training and care. His name could be whispered amidst names like Asa Fox, Daniel Elkins, and Cain himself, when the few people who know those particular names whisper them at all. There will come a time when Dean can flash those beautiful green eyes, curve his lips into that shy smile, and the world will eat out of the palm of his hand.

This is why Castiel can’t let himself fall prey to those charms. Because not only will Dean be good, probably better than Castiel, even, but Dean deserves it. His good heart and pure soul shine from him like a beacon. It’s so painfully obvious that Dean is a good, selfless person. That kind of light, Castiel knows, can attract darkness, both from those who covet it and from those who seek to corrupt it. Castiel doesn’t know which category he falls into (oh, oh, you lie, oh Castiel, do not lie to yourself, you covet the boy so badly you can hardly breathe around it, he’s beautiful and you’re terrible, leave him be, do not think about how he will look on your bed or taste on your tongue), but he is determined to protect Dean from those who would do him harm.

Only, of course, because of what a good thief Dean will be someday.

(Oh, Castiel, do not lie to yourself.)

He shakes his thoughts away as they get to the elevator, irritated with his lack of focus. He pushes the button for the top floor when the doors close. He examines the boys in the reflection, and is not surprised at all to find both of them staring right back at him.

“I own all of the apartments on the top floor,” he says in response to their gazes. “You will be granted one to share. There are three other boys in the crew. They each have their own apartments.” Cas nods to the younger Winchester. “You’ll be granted your own when you come of age, should you choose to stay with us. Until then, I must insist that you live with Dean.”

Dean’s eyes are wide. “Like… A whole apartment?”

“Indeed. You’ll have the one across the hall from my own, as our side of the building has two-bedroom layouts as opposed to the one-bedrooms the rest of the crew require.” And so it will be easier for me to lure you to my own bed and- No! No! Get a hold of yourself!

Luckily, Sam’s excited hazel eyes are enough to distract Castiel from his own treacherous thoughts. “Two bedrooms?!” He smacks Dean on the arm. “Dude!”

“Shut up, Sam,” Dean says hastily, but he softens and smiles at Sam’s raised eyebrows. “Yeah, yeah, it’ll be all right, just don’t piss yourself, princess.”

Sam grins at his big brother, and Castiel feels a strange warmth in his chest as he watches them interact. He tells himself it’s just budding fondness, and that no part of it is envy. Because that would be ridiculous. Because that would mean that he’s envious of Sam and his interactions with Dean, and Castiel doesn’t want any more interactions with Dean.

Lying to yourself.


Castiel clears his throat as the elevator reaches their floor. “The apartment at the very end of our hall is one that we all use. I’ll get you the keys to your apartment now, and keys to the communal space by tomorrow, as they must be made.” He walks into the hall, confident the boys will follow. Hurried footsteps behind him reward his surety.

He goes to the big shared apartment first, unlocking it and sweeping inside ahead of Sam and Dean. The first thing he sees is Benny standing in the big, open kitchen, in front of a pot full of something that smells incredible. The boy turns around and grins, his ice blue eyes crinkling at the corners, his already ridiculously full beard bunching up.

“Heya, boss.”

Castiel nods. “Benny.” He steps in to let Dean and Sam come in behind him. “This is Dean and Sam Winchester.”

Unless one knows Benny very well, one wouldn’t see the way his shoulders tighten infinitesimally, but Castiel does know Benny very well, and it’s obvious to him.

“They joinin’ the crew?”

“Dean will be. It remains to be seen if Sam will do the same. Until then, he will be attending school.”

Benny gives the Winchesters a long, searching look. It’s insolent, but Castiel lets it slide. The crew is less like a band of thieves and more like a family, at least for the boys, despite the fact that it wasn’t necessarily what Castiel intended to do. They are important to him, of course, but the connections they’ve all formed to one another are entirely their own. They are very close knit.

Which is why Benny is sizing them up this way. It’s unusual for Castiel to bring someone back without speaking to his crew first, much less two people.

Sam, as smart as he is, doesn’t seem to have noticed the other boy’s appraisal. He’s looking around the apartment, eyes wide with wonder, drinking in every detail.

Each apartment, even this shared one, is fully furnished with sturdy but high quality furniture. His boys will be less likely to wander, or do something stupid, if they have something nice to come home to, Castiel has found.

He also suspects that young Sam is looking for clues as to what Castiel’s profession is. He won’t find any, but Castiel is glad to see him trying to protect his brother like this, probably the only way he can. Even more probably, the only way Dean will let him. So Sam hasn’t yet noticed Benny’s scrutiny.

Dean, on the other hand, is meeting it head on. He’s looking back coolly, like he has nothing to prove at all. There’s quiet strength and defiance in the way Dean stands there, his one duffel (compared to Sam’s two, don’t think Castiel didn’t notice) over his shoulder. Here, with Sam to protect, be it from physical danger or simple derision, Dean is in his element. There’s no trace of the vulnerability that Castiel knows is beneath on his young (lovely) face.

It’s a few moments before the tension on Benny’s features relaxes into a much more genuine smile. “Well, the more the merrier. Come on in, dinner’s ready.”

Castiel finds himself relaxing, too. He is… Strangely invested in the crew’s acceptance of the Winchesters, and if Benny approves it will smooth much of the way for them. Castiel finds himself wanting this to be as simple a transition as possible for them.

He’s starting to get truly angry with his own inability to be impartial when it comes to these boys (just one boy, really just the one). It’s ridiculous, and if he doesn’t get it under control, it’s going to become problematic. He ruthlessly reins himself in, turning his attention back to the room.

As he does so, he realizes that the silence has gone on just a beat too long. He straightens. “Will the others be home for dinner?” He ignores the quizzical look on Dean’s face, the calculating one on Sam’s, and the damnably knowing twinkle in Benny’s eye.

Mercifully, the Cajun says nothing. “Yessir. Garth’s probably already home, and Kev’s due back from the library any second.”

Dean is sure that what he’s experiencing is culture shock. Because not only is he sitting down at a huge table with a very well home cooked meal in his very full belly, the people sitting at the table with him seem… Happy?

Family dinners at the Winchester household are nothing like this.

Despite the initial visual shakedown, Benny’s good people. There’s kindness in his eyes and in his booming laugh. He seems to be the oldest of the crew, besides Cas, and he’s one hell of a cook. Plus, anyone who feeds Sammy full to bursting like Benny just did is definitely on Dean’s good side. He’s sitting across from Dean, arms crossed and laughing at something that Garth’s said.

Garth is… Well, Garth’s something else. He’s a real happy dude, but it doesn’t seem out of place. Garth’s optimism is a nice complement to Benny’s big, steadying presence and Kevin’s soft-spoken brilliance.

Kevin really is a genius. As soon as introductions were made, he asked Sam what he’d like to study for, and the two of them were off to nerdville. Dean is fiercely glad that there’s someone here who puts Sam at ease.

Then there’s Cas.

Dean is discovering more and more that he has no fucking idea what to make of Castiel. Oh, he’s not regretting his decision at all. He’s just had a few moments to really think, and he has no idea what Cas’ endgame is. What does he actually want with Dean? Sure, as long as he takes care of Sam, it doesn’t really matter what happens to Dean, he’d just like to know what’s in store.

He also isn’t sure if there’s any significance to where he’s sitting, which is directly to Cas’ right. He wouldn’t think anything of it, honestly, but there was a moment when they were sitting down. Benny pointed out the places he wanted Dean and Sam to sit. Dean caught Cas giving Benny an unreadable look, to which Benny just grinned cheekily. Cas sat down stiffly, and though Kevin looked surprised when he came in, he didn’t seem upset at being moved down the table.

Even as the thoughts are circling in his mind, he sees Sam yawn for the third time in ten minutes out of the corner of his eye. When he turns, his little brother is rubbing one of his eyes hard. It makes him look a lot younger than his almost thirteen years.

Dean turns back to Cas to ask about their room, but the older man is already pushing his chair out to stand. “I’m going to show Sam and Dean to their apartment so they can get settled in.”

Garth’s face contorts almost comically. “Oh, man! Y’all should have said something! Y’all must be exhausted!”

Dean smiles at the genuine nature that makes up Garth. “Yeah, I’m a little beat. Sam?”

Sam nods. “I’m pretty tired.”

Castiel is standing and nodding to Benny. “Thank you for cooking.”

Benny nods back, his eyes still twinkling with a shared secret. “No problem, boss.”

Cas scowls, but motions for Dean and Sam to follow him. “If you’ll gather your things and meet me at the front door, I’ll get the keys to your apartment.”

They grab their bags obediently and wait at the front door for Cas. When he joins them, he has two keys in hand, dangling off of simple rings. He hands one to each of them. “These are to your apartment. If you lose them, it’s all right, I’ll just need to know absolutely as soon as possible.”

They nod and follow him out. Dean’s still feeling a little dazed by the whole thing as Cas leads them down the hall. This morning, he woke up thinking about how they were out of eggs and out of money. Now he’s following someone who’s possibly the most attractive human being he’s ever seen to the home that same guy is bankrolling for them so that Dean can work for him and Sam can go to school. He’s also just eaten the first, even abundant, meal that he can remember having in quite a while, maybe years. They’re somewhere that’s presumably safe, warm, and away from their father.

What the everloving fuck?

Cas stops in front of a door and unlocks it with a third set of keys from his pocket. “I’m the only other person who will have a key, which is for safety reasons, nothing else.” He meets each of their gazes individually before he opens the door. “I will, for no reason, enter your domain without your express permission. This space is yours, both of you, and can be utilized however you see fit. Is that clear?”

Dean nods, and Cas opens the door.

The apartment is similar to the one they ate dinner in, but it’s a little bigger. There’s a big living room area, a decent-sized kitchen, the front hall that they’re all currently gathered in, and three doors off of the main rooms.

Cas points to each door in turn. “There’s a bedroom there, the bathroom in the middle, and another bedroom there. There are some dry groceries in the cabinets, but we’ll go to the market tomorrow to get whatever else you need. There are towels for the bathroom and sheets for the beds in the linen closet.” He smiles at each of them. “I will leave you to get settled. Please don’t hesitate to come get me if you need anything.”

Despite his words, he stands next to Dean and watches as Sam excitedly looks around the apartment, his earlier weariness apparently forgotten. He turns back and grins, his hazel eyes shining. “Dude! This is awesome!”

Dean’s heart thuds in his chest as it lifts. It isn’t often he gets to see Sam this uncaringly happy. The kid is zooming around, opening doors, practically bouncing, and something in Dean aches at the sight.

“Cas,” he says softly, still watching his brother. “Can I, uh, see you outside for a second?”

Cas’ eyebrows go up in surprise. “Of course, Dean.”

This is it. He’s going to ask you how you can be such a pervert, of course he’s seen the way you’ve been looking at him, you’re damn near a stalker, he’s going to ask what the hell you-

The door clicking shut behind them interrupts his thoughts, and he gathers himself to look over at the young man standing next to him.

Dean’s chewing on his lip (dear God in heaven, lend me strength), looking down at the ground so Castiel can’t see his eyes. His hands are held behind his back, a bit awkwardly around the duffle bag still slung over his shoulder. He looks, for all intents and purposes, like he’s about to apologize.

There’s a tense silence, then Dean lets out a sharp exhale and rubs the back of his neck. His eyes flick up to Castiel’s. “Sorry, I’m not good at this kinda thing.”

Castiel tilts his head. “What kind of thing is that, exactly?”

Dean takes another deep breath and finally meets Castiel’s eyes head on. “Thank you,” he says, and the only sign of vulnerability is the way his voice wobbles, just a little bit, at the end of the last word.

“Dean, I-“

“No, no, I’m serious, Cas.” Dean casts a fond look at the door. “I can’t… I wouldn’t be able to do this without you, ma- uh, sir.  It’s, uh… I guess I just… It means a lot to me, to look out for Sammy.” Dean’s sweating a little bit (you are not going to lick any part of him), but his eyes are steady as they hold Castiel’s. “I really don’t know how to repay you.”

Castiel’s mind is working a mile a minute, and none of it is virtuous. He has a myriad of things he can think of that Dean can do to pay him back. Any number of positions, of depraved acts, of filthy activities he wants to do with him.

Fortunately (unfortunately), the shadows in Dean’s eyes put a damper on his libido. Dean is experiencing pain over this, over his inability to get a decent apartment and furnish it completely, which is ridiculous. No matter what kinds of things Castiel wants to do with him (all kinds of things), Dean is only sixteen. This shouldn’t be his responsibility.

Quite without his permission, he finds himself laying a hand on the back of Dean’s neck again. It’s tense when he first touches, but he feels the boy relax beneath his touch and has to fight the wave of porn-worthy images before he can speak again.

“Dean,” he puts a bit of force behind his words and squeezes, just a bit. “You don’t have to worry about Sam anymore. I know you will, regardless of what I say, but please understand that I meant it when I told you that I would be taking care of the two of you from now on. The only thing either of you should concern yourselves with going forward is Sam’s studies and your training.”

They gaze at each other for a long few moments, and Castiel has no trouble imagining keeping himself locked onto those green eyes for much, much longer before Dean speaks.

“My training,” he says slowly, “to become a thief.”

Castiel smirks. “No, Dean. Your training to become an excellent thief."

Chapter Text

Waking up the next morning is… Disorienting, to say the least.

Instead of in his dingy apartment, in a room that’s not quite his own, Dean wakes up burrowed in soft sheets, beneath a heavy blanket. His alarm wasn’t set, but habit has him waking up as the sun starts to spill through the window in his bedroom.

His bedroom.

Dean takes a few minutes to wallow in it, wiggling deeper into the covers and thinking about the differences between this morning and the one yesterday. The difference between worrying how he’s going to feed Sam and wondering about what to feed Sam, since they have so much at their disposal. The difference between wondering what he’ll have to do today and wondering what he’ll get to do today. Amazing.

It all comes down to one dark-haired, blue-eyed, totally off-limits thief.

Down boy, he tells his morning wood, which twitches and perks up at the thought of Castiel. As sexy as his savior is (and sweet Jesus), Dean can’t ruin this good thing by thinking with his dick. He can’t trash the chances that Cas has given Sam just because he wants the older man to fuck him until his vision is blurry and his mind is blank. Living up to the accusations that Sam hurled at him before Cas got here yesterday just isn’t an option.

Not that Dean is under the impression that Cas would want him, anyway. Dean’s aware that he’s only sixteen, and that he has nothing to offer Cas, but it’s a nice little fantasy to indulge while he’s still mostly asleep and as comfortable as he can ever remember being.

When his bladder finally takes precedence over laziness, he rolls out of bed and throws on a pair of sleep pants that are so old they’re almost transparent in places and hang low off of his hips. On his way to the bathroom, he bangs his fist on Sam’s bedroom door. “Rise and shine, Sammy!”

There’s an indistinct groan on the other side of the wood. It’s just the first of at least three times Dean will have to try to rouse Sam, so the lack of response doesn’t bother him. He goes to the bathroom, takes care of business, and brushes his teeth quickly. Once done, he goes into the kitchen to start breakfast.

Cas was right on the money when he said yesterday that there are only dry groceries in the apartment so far. But there’s coffee, which is essential, and there’s a box of muffins from a local bakery that are about the size of Dean’s head, so at least Sam will be fed.

He starts the coffee brewing in the coffee maker (which is loads nicer and about ten years newer than the one they have at the old place), making it strong enough so the smell wafts through the apartment. He also sticks a couple of the muffins in the microwave for a few seconds to warm them up before going to bang on Sam’s door again. “Sam!”


“Right.” Satisfied that Sam is slowly pulling himself from the depths of sleep, Dean moves into the living room. There’s a little loveseat and a couple of chairs in here, as well as a low coffee table in the middle, on which rest a couple of remotes. Dean turns the TV on and switches the channel to a news station. It’s something he vaguely remembers his mother doing before she died, watching the news while she got ready to greet the day. Dean started doing it around the time John checked out as a father, and now it’s as deeply ingrained in his morning routine as the coffee is.

So he keeps an idle ear on the TV, listening to the newscaster’s drone while he pours himself a cup of coffee and pulls the muffins out to put them on plates. He brings everything back to the living room, arranges it all on the coffee table, then goes to bang on Sam’s door again.

“Sam! Last time! Ass outta bed, kid!”

“I’m coming, I’m coming,” Sam grumbles, and Dean grins.

The younger man comes out in a t-shirt that’s too small and pants that are too short, another reminder that he needs new clothes soon. His hair seems to be sticking straight up from his head, making Dean laugh as he pours Sam a cup of coffee and dumps a few spoonfuls of sugar into it. “Lookin’ good, kiddo,” he chuckles as he hands over the mug.

Sam squint-glares at him. “Shut up, jerk.”

“Bitch,” Dean returns automatically as they both move to the living room. Sam’s eyes light up at the sight of the muffins, and he begins to devour it as soon as his butt hits the couch.

Dean waits to see if Sam will want another one before he eats his, purely so he won’t have to get up again before he’s ready. It’s for naught, because as soon as Sam starts eyeing the second muffin predatorily, there’s soft knock on the front door.

Dean pulls himself to his feet, leaving his coffee cup on the table with a sigh. He stretches as he walks to the door, reveling in the feeling of having gotten a good night’s sleep. It’s not something that happens very often in Dean’s world.

He takes a look through the peephole before unlocking the door, because he’s not an idiot.  When he sees wild black hair and a white dress shirt, he doesn’t hesitate to pull the chain and open the door eagerly.

As soon as Cas’ eyes land on him, Dean remembers that he’s shirtless, his own hair is still a mess, and the pants he’s wearing are only staying up by the grace of God.

Smooth, Winchester.

Dean Winchester is trying to kill him. It’s the only explanation Castiel can come up with on the spot, and he’s rather impressed with himself for coming up with even that much in the face of a very rumpled, very shirtless (read: half-naked, dear God he’s half-naked) Dean. He had hoped, in what he now knows was in vain, that sleep would lessen the effect that the teenager has on him.

This is not the case.

The expanse of flesh available to Castiel’s eyes should be more illegal than anything he’s ever done in his life. Dean’s chest is all tan skin, trim waist, broad shoulders, pink nipples, and smooth. He’s going to be devastating once he fills out, as if he’s not bad enough for Castiel’s peace of mind now. There’s a pair of threadbare sweats hanging off of those lovely hips, and Castiel wants to mark the skin up there, leave dark marks along the boy’s waist, lay claim to him visibly.

He takes all of this in in the space of just a moment before he looks into Dean’s eyes. Once his gaze is settled on the younger man’s face, Castiel feels a bit more like he has control of himself.

Until he sees the lovely blush that blooms high on Dean’s cheeks, slowly travelling down his neck.

“Uh… Mornin’, Cas,” Dean says shyly, rubbing the back of his neck.

“Good morning, Dean.” Dear God, when did his voice get that low? Is it always like that? The way Dean’s eyes widen fractionally indicate that it is not. “I hope you and Sam have settled in satisfactorily.”

“Oh, uh, yeah. The place is real nice. Thank you. Again.” Though Dean is stuttering a bit, earnest sincerity is shining in his eyes.

Yes, the only explanation is that Dean is trying to kill him.

Castiel clears his throat. “You’re very welcome, Dean. I was wondering when the two of you will be ready to go grocery shopping?” Thinking of how thin the pants that Dean has on are, “We’ll get the both of you clothes, too, if you don’t mind doing it all in one day.”

Dean frowns. “Clothes?”

Ah. Castiel tries to be delicate here. “One of the reasons we’re able to live here and do our work uninhibited is because we blend in. Which means that we have to dress a certain way, at a certain… Level of quality, if you will, so that we don’t stick out. I’ll need you and Sam to do the same.”

The frown is deepening on Dean’s face. “Uh, I mean, you’ll have to give me a few days to come up with the money for new duds. It looks like it might rain today, I can hit the stre-“ A deeper red blush stains Dean’s face. “I mean, I can come up with the cash if you give me some time.”

Something hot and angry twists in Castiel’s stomach, though he’s careful to make sure nothing of the sort shows on his face. He knows that Dean is planning on prostituting himself for money, and he knows it’s none of his business, but it infuriates him, though for a different reason than it did yesterday.

Yesterday, it was possessiveness, plain and simple. Castiel wants to be the only one who has access to Dean’s body, the only one Dean is writhing in pleasure under. He wants him moaning Castiel’s name and begging for any number of delicious activities while Castiel and Castiel alone teases him.

It has been, however, one hell of a few hours.

Now, standing here looking at Dean, who’s still sleep rumpled and warm, it’s protectiveness that makes Castiel burn in fury. How dare their father leave Dean to this? What person in their right mind could look at Dean and not see someone who needs to be protected, someone who needs to be cherished? It is so incredibly obvious to Castiel that Dean is special, it baffles him that anyone could treat him so callously.

He reaches out to hold the back of Dean’s neck again (this is becoming a habit stop it right now), his fingers brushing the tips of Dean’s as the boy puts his own hand down at his side. He aches to press his forehead to Dean’s, to get up in his space, to breathe the same air the boy is, but he holds himself back. Inappropriate, uncalled for, you shouldn’t be touching him at all, you pervert.

“Little one,” he says firmly, and he does take one small step closer to Dean, a compromise between what is right and the urge to sweep Dean into his arms. “I cannot tell you what to do with the time you are not training with me. If that… Profession is something you’d like to continue to pursue, I will not stand in your way. However, you and your brother are my charges now, and it is my responsibility alone to provide the two of you with whatever you may need. If you feel that you must, for whatever reason, seek out money on your own, I won’t lift a finger to stop you.” He smiles a bit, watches Dean’s green eyes go wider and wider. “However, today you start training for a much more lucrative profession, and I hope it will make it unnecessary to continue the other.” Castiel has to force the next words out, because he is so uncharacteristically uncertain that he will be able to keep his emotions hidden. “Please,” he says softly. “Let me take care of you, Dean.”

The silence stretches between them for a few incredibly long moments. Dean’s eyes are flashing with emotion, making no attempt to hide the way he’s feeling. Surprise, suspicion, awe, and gratitude shine in those green eyes, and it makes Castiel want to fall to his knees and beg Dean to let him touch him, to let Castiel take him, have him.

The boy is driving me insane.

When Dean speaks, it’s soft, almost like a secret, and the words hit Castiel square in the heart.

“Okay… I mean, yeah. Uh…” Dean takes a deep breath. “Yes, sir.”

Dear God.

Okay, Cas is trying to kill him. Dean doesn’t know why, but it’s the only thing that makes sense.

First, it was that… Moment they had at Dean’s front door, which will still turn his insides into mush if he thinks about the way Cas looked at him, the feel of Cas’ fingers against his own.

Then there was clothes shopping. During which, Dean followed Sam around to make sure everything fit, even made sure that everything was a little too bit so that Sam has room to grow into them. While Dean was doing that, Cas was following him, making sure that, piece for piece, Dean got just as many clothes as Sam did. It was… Unnerving. Dean’s used to just wearing whatever he can get his hands on. He’s never had to worry about color or fabric or fit, not for himself, anyway.

But there was Cas, making sure that Dean’s clothes hugged him the right way, or commenting that a dark green Henley brought out the green in his eyes, or suggesting that Dean look at getting himself a new leather jacket. Dean protested a lot of the purchases Cas made, especially the jacket, but Cas just ignored his objections and decked Dean out like a king. As uncomfortable as it made him, there’s a pit of warmth in Dean’s stomach that won’t go away no matter how much he tells himself that Cas does this for all of his “charges.”

After they hauled all of the clothes back to Cas’ car (and the amount of bags that are his simultaneously boggle Dean’s mind and make him blush profusely), the older man suggested they go to lunch before they grocery shop. Dean was worried, because Sam is a damn garbage disposal these days, and Cas took them to a mid-range restaurant, which usually translates to “completely out of Dean’s range.” Cas didn’t bat an eye, though, when Sam basically inhaled twice as much food as he or Dean did, he just slipped a credit card into the little leather folder that the waitress left on the table, and from what Dean managed to peek at, left her with a generous tip.

Now they’re in a farmer’s market, which is like Sam’s wet dream. Cas gave Sam a wad of cash and said, in that serious voice of his, “I trust your judgment, Sam.” Which, in Cas speak (which Dean is quickly becoming fluent in) means, “Go crazy, kid.” So Sam’s darting from booth to booth, trying to look discerning as he selects fruits and vegetables to buy. Dean thinks the kid’s probably mostly full of shit, but he looks so happy that Dean just shoves his hands into the pockets of his new leather coat and walks next to Cas as they follow at a much more leisurely pace.

“He seems… Excited.”

Dean chuckles. “Yeah, he probably is. He’s kind of a health freak. They made him take this nutrition class last year and he started in on me about ‘we don’t eat enough vegetables, Dean’ and ‘we should go for runs, Dean.’” Dean drops his voice down from the falsetto he was using to imitate Sam and scoffs. “Like I had time to go for runs even if I did I want to, which I didn’t, because I love myself. And the eating better thing…” He shrugs. “Dunno, that shit’s expensive. I mean, I did what I could when I had the money, but I just… Couldn’t always get the stuff Sam wanted.”

He sees Cas stiffen up subtly out of the corner of his eye, and Dean immediately begins to berate himself. Dammit. He doesn’t want Cas to pity he and Sam. Yeah, it was bad, but Dean’s kind of proud of the way he got them through it. Maybe he did some shady things, but Sam never had to do a damn thing, and the kid was always fed and clothed, even if he wasn’t eating “farm fresh vegetables” or wearing name brand clothes.

Before he can work himself up into indignation, however, Cas speaks.

“Dean,” he says, his rumbly voice low so it doesn’t carry, “I haven’t said it yet, but what you have done for your brother is exceptionally admirable. There are not many people in the world who would so thoroughly put their own interests aside to care for another. It’s remarkable.”

He just knows that his face is glowing bright red. “It’s nothing,” he says softly.

Cas just hums. “It’s clearly not.”

And while they follow Sam around as he becomes more and more weighed down with bags and packages, if maybe Dean walks a little closer to Cas so that their shoulders brush and bump against each other… Well, maybe Dean’s all right with that.

Castiel knows that he’s going to hell for the way he thinks of Dean, and after just twenty-four hours of knowing the boy, he also knows that he’s all right with that.

He knows, he knows that he acted inappropriately at the clothing store. Maybe Dean didn’t notice, being as flustered as the teenager was at having any attention at all directed at him, but Castiel knew he was going overboard, and from the knowing looks the shop assistant was shooting him, he was being transparent. Luckily, Sam and Dean were too distracted to see anything amiss.

It is impossible, though, to ignore the way clothes look on Dean. It would have taken a stronger man than Castiel is to not want to drape Dean in good fabrics in shades that show off Dean’s own glorious coloring. He never stood a chance.

Now, as he strides to the shared apartment to join the crew for Dean’s first day of training, he wonders if he will ever stand a chance against Dean.

When he gets to the apartment and opens the door, Dean is already there in the kitchen with Benny. Castiel can’t help but notice that Dean is wearing clothes he got today, a dark pair of jeans and a black Henley. The sleeves are pushed up, where his arms are crossed against his chest, and he’s laughing at something that Benny’s said. It speaks to the long practice Castiel has had making sure his emotions don’t dictate his actions that he doesn’t stumble and fall flat on his face at the sight.

Garth is sitting on the couch in the living room, his nose buried in a comic book. Upon Castiel’s arrival, he looks up and grins. “Heya, boss,” he says easily.

“Hello, Garth.” At the sound of his voice, Benny and Dean turn to look at him. Castiel gives them a perfunctory nod. “Dean. Benny.”

“What’s up?” Benny asks.

“I believe it’s time to begin Dean’s training.”

Garth hops to his feet. “I’ll start up Jeff.”

Benny heads toward the door. “I’ll go get Kevin.”

Dean is frowning as the other boys flee the room. “Who the hell is Jeff?”

Castiel chuckles. “You’ll see.”

They watch in silence as Garth goes to each room of the shared apartment and pulls what looks like random pieces of abstract art from the walls and into the living room. Once he has all of the pieces there, he begins to assemble them, clicking them into place next to one another. After a few minutes, and after Kevin and Benny have joined them and are also watching Garth work, a mannequin with a blank face, about as tall as Castiel himself, is standing in the living room, facing them.

“Holy shit,” Dean says softly, eyebrows raised.

Kevin has a bundle of clothes in his arms, and with Garth’s help, they dress the mannequin quickly in boxers, a pair of slacks, a button-up shirt, and a zip-up hoodie. He also has a hat on, which does nothing for Castiel’s purposes, but it seems to amuse Garth and Benny, so he lets it slide.

“Dean,” Kevin says proudly. “This is Jeff.”

“And Jeff is the mark,” Garth says, holding his hand out to Castiel.

From his pocket, Castiel produces a long strand of string with bells tied on at seemingly random intervals. He hands it to Garth, who begins winding the string around Jeff strategically, the way Castiel showed him months and months ago.

Once he’s wrapped, Jeff looks like a normal mannequin, who happens to also be covered in string.

Dean’s green eyes are sharp with interest, and there’s a subtle tension in his spine that Castiel knows well. It’s hunger.

Oh, yes, you will be amazing.

“Jeff has a wallet in his front right pocket, one in his back pocket, and one in the left pocket of his hoodie,” Castiel says seriously. “Your job is to take one of these. Any of them, for now, it’s your choice. There’s only one caveat, which I’m sure you can guess.”

“Gonna go out on a limb and say it’s ‘don’t ring the bell,’” Dean says dryly.

“Very good.” Castiel nods to Kevin. “A demonstration, please.”

Kevin nods and starts at the other end of the room. He meanders forward, pulling his phone out of his pocket, looking for all the world like a normal teenager, and not one of the most gifted pickpockets Castiel has ever had the pleasure of watching work. He comes to stand next to Jeff, eyes still on his phone. There’s seemingly no action, then Kevin walks away, as if he was waiting at a crosswalk and just got the signal that he could go.

Now, of course, he drops character, grins smugly, and waves the wallet he took from Jeff’s pocket.

Castiel smiles back. “Well done, Kevin.”

“Holy shit,” Dean says again, suitably impressed.

“Indeed.” Castiel waves his hand. “Now, Dean, I’d like you to attempt to do the same.”

There is no declaration of surprise, or protest that he doesn’t want to train in front of the rest of the boys. Dean just nods, that glint in his eyes, and takes his position where Kevin started.

It’s clear from the beginning that he’s tense, too wired to be successful. There’s a sort of nervous energy floating around him, but he’s also determined, steady in his desire to prove himself. He stands next to Jeff, one hand casually in his pocket, the other tapping his thigh in a random staccato. Castile sees his hand move toward the mannequin’s pocket, but Dean is fast as he takes the wallet. Unbelievably fast. How the hell did Castiel feel him in his own coat pocket before Dean got away yesterday? You’re going to be better than I am, even. Regardless of how fast he is, four bells ring.

Four bells.

Only four bells.

The reason the mannequin, the clothes, the string, and the bells are set up the way they are is deliberate and well thought out. It’s Castiel’s own design, built to let the bells ring at the slightest movement, the slightest provocation. It builds skill, it makes the practice tense enough to pay attention, but the sound is light enough that it doesn’t induce panic. It took him a year to perfect it, and when he showed it to Cain, he was well rewarded.

So the fact that Dean set only four bells off on his first try is making Castiel’s head spin with possibilities. Dear Christ, he isn’t going to be good, he’s going to be great. Castiel knew, of course, he has these instincts for a reason, but for the first time, he thinks that maybe he won’t be the best person to train Dean.

“Dammit.” The spat word brings him from his reverie enough to see Dean frowning down at the wallet in his hand.

“That was amazing,” Benny says with feeling.

Dean looks up and frowns at the Cajun. “But… I mean, the bells rang.”

“Only four,” Garth is ever cheerful. “That’s still less than I ring when I practice with Jeff.”

Kevin is nodding. “That’s true. That was really impressive, Dean.”

Dean turns a calculating eye onto the mannequin. “Yeah,” he says, clearly distracted. “Yeah.”

And here, here is why Castiel should be training Dean. Dean needs reassurance. Dean does not believe he is good enough, or that he will be good enough. Dean needs someone he trusts to say the words.

“It was well done,” he says simply.

Green eyes snap up to his own, and a genuine smile graces Dean’s lovely face, and Castiel is doomed.

“Thanks, sir.”

The same abstract art that makes up Jeff is featured in each apartment on the floor that Castiel owns. Once Garth shows him how to disassemble and reassemble the mannequin, Dean seems to settle into his own thoughts. He listens to the rule about the mannequin not being assembled after he goes to bed (if the only incriminating evidence is art on the walls, the police can’t claim anything untoward is happening), then quietly helps Benny with dinner for the team. When Sam gets back from school, he and Kevin go to the end of the table and start talking about something that Castiel cannot for the life of him follow.

Dean is soft-spoken all through dinner.

That night, Castiel goes to sleep to the faint sound of bells ringing over and over again, late into the night.

Chapter Text

A few weeks after Dean and Sam move in, Castiel is watching the sun go down from the bedroom window in the shared apartment. He had the bedroom converted into a study when he purchased the floor he and his crew live on. It’s where he conducts a majority of the paper side of the business, and where he brings associates to meet with him.

Now he sits at his desk, which faces the big window, and watches the sunset as he contemplates.

The Winchesters have settled in beautifully. It was a bit of a gamble, but Castiel went ahead and paid to have Sam enrolled in the same private school that Kevin attends. The boy is flourishing there, receiving high marks in all courses. The only reason Castiel knows anything about it is because Dean frequently brags about Sam, about how smart his younger brother is. Sam will blush and protest, but Dean hears nothing of it and continues to sing Sam’s praises. Sam never says anything about his own accomplishments, but Castiel is glad that he at least shares them with Dean, and that Dean shares them with the rest.

It’s the only thing Dean shares.

Castiel supervises each of Dean’s training sessions (and if Benny gives him a cocked eyebrow at that, at least Garth has the decency not to say anything), so he knows very well that Dean is exceptional. He knows that, in just a few weeks, Dean has mastered working with Jeff. Castiel is even planning on taking Dean with him to a music festival this weekend to work the crowd, to see him in action. It’s the fastest he’s ever taken a student from the mannequin to the street.

He wishes he could make Dean see his worth. Where Castiel sees someone who has mastered pickpocketing in a remarkably short amount of time, Dean sees someone who didn’t get it right on the first try. It’s extremely frustrating.

He’s shaken from his thoughts by a soft knock on the door. “Come in.”

Kevin enters the room looking nervous, and Castiel immediately puts all of his concerns aside to focus on his charge. “Kevin? Is everything all right?”

Kevin gives a jerky nod that Castiel in no way believes. “Yeah, yeah, definitely.” He swallows hard. “I, uh, wanted to let you know that we’ve had some reports about that new gang? That Abby lady?”

Castiel nods gravely. “Abaddon, yes. Go on.”

“Uh, just that she’s definitely making waves. Smash and grab jobs, no finesse at all,” the disdain in Kevin’s voice makes Castiel swell with pride, “but they’re definitely, uh, making an impression. Public awareness will be up.”

Castiel nods. “We have plenty saved. It won’t hurt us overmuch to stay away from building and burglary work for a few weeks until it dies down.” When Kevin’s eyes dart away, Castiel tilts his head. “Was there something else?”

“I just… Sam says that he was with you when you guys ran into her.”

“He was.”

“He says that she… Uh, that she threatened us.”

Ah. That’s what Kevin is concerned about. “Kevin,” he says firmly, making sure his voice is confident, “I will let no harm come to any of you. Please do not worry yourself overmuch. I will deal with Abaddon, should she become a problem.”

It works, it must, because there is relief in Kevin’s eyes. “Of course, I know that. Sorry.”

“Do not apologize, I appreciate the vigilance.”

“Okay. I’m gonna, uh, go to bed.”

“Good night, Kevin.”

“’Night, boss.”

As soon as the door is shut behind the teen, Castiel turns to stare out the window again. He steeples his fingers and rests his index fingers against his chin as he watches the sunset.

He is concerned about Abaddon. She’s a wild card, completely “off her rocker,” as Dean would say. She holds a grudge against him, and Castiel still doesn’t have a clear picture as to why. Not that it matters.  None of it matters. She won’t be putting a hand on any of his crew.

Castiel sighs deeply, settles into his chair, and thinks.

Bobby Singer trusts Dean Winchester implicitly with the care of his younger brother.

Bobby has watched helplessly as Dean has sacrificed over and over again, has given up nights and weekends and things he’s wanted or needed to make sure that Sam comes first, that Sam is taken care of. Bobby is furious that Dean ever felt he needed to do so, and he hasn’t spoken a kind word to John Winchester in almost a decade because of it.

So when Castiel came sniffing around, Bobby was prepared to tear the man apart limb from limb to make sure he wasn’t taking advantage of Dean. Bobby knows that Dean would let himself be taken advantage of, without missing a beat, to make sure that Sam is taken care of. No matter how much it would hurt Dean, as long as Sam is safe, he would do anything.

Castiel was a surprise in many ways. He’s intelligent and observant. His speech was quiet but powerful, like he knows he doesn’t have to be loud to be heard. The way he dresses is nice but not overly so, not enough to draw attention to himself.

Most important for Bobby was that, when Castiel was in his kitchen, he had eyes only for Dean.

Maybe it’s sappy, and maybe it was stupid to let them go. But Castiel looks at Dean like Dean is worth something, like Dean is valuable. Bobby knows that, of course, and he knows that Sam does, too, but it’s something that others so rarely see in the boy. Bobby couldn’t help but trust that Castiel was going to take care of the Winchesters.

A few weeks after he sees them for the last time, he still believes that.

When he sees Dean come into the tavern, the sight of him strengthens that belief tenfold.

Dean’s eyes are bright as he scans the dining room for Bobby. His hair has been cut recently, and not by his own scissors this time. He’s putting some weight on, so he’s losing the gaunt look he’s always had. His clothes are, like Castiel’s, nice, but not too nice.

Probably most strikingly, there are no bruises on Dean’s face.

Maybe seeing this teenage boy on the verge of health isn’t that big a deal. Maybe seeing his green eyes sparkle wouldn’t strike anyone else like it is Bobby. But Dean Winchester, as he is right now when he sees Bobby and grins wide and guileless, is one of the best things he’s ever seen.

Sam gets home from school that night exhausted but happy. He tosses his bookbag into one of the armchairs in the living room and plops down onto the couch next to Dean.

Dean’s eyes are glued to the TV, but he still asks, “How was school, kiddo?”

Sam shrugs. “All right.”

This is a lie. School is great. It’s amazing. Sam has never been to a private school before, and he’s never been so challenged. There are some classes in which he has to work to keep up with the rest of the class. It’s exhilarating.

His only wish is that Dean would come with him.

His brother looks over and grins. “Yeah? They teaching you how to keep that big head of yours screwed on straight?”

Sam would say that he doesn’t know where Dean got the idea that he’s not very smart from, but it would be a lie. He knows that, until Sam himself was old enough to know how to fight back, their father spent Dean’s life telling him that he’s not smart, he’s just a soldier, he’s worthless. Sam has tried to tell Dean that none of that is true, but he thinks that his words fall on deaf, unbelieving ears. When Cas told Sam about the school, he asked about Dean attending, too. Cas answered that it was Dean’s choice, and Dean scoffed when Sam confronted him about it.

“The book learning’s all about you, Sammy, I’m just making sure you get there,” was all he said.

No amount of protest from Sam has changed Dean’s mind so far, which is annoying as hell.

“Something like that,” he murmurs.

The only saving grace of the situation is that Dean seems to be on track to being a very, very good thief. Yeah, normally Sam would have some strong words about that, he would protest and fight and scream until Dean wasn’t doing something illegal to put food on the table. The look of pride on Dean’s face when he was finally able to use Jeff without ringing of the bells, though, erased all doubts from Sam’s mind. Is it illegal? Yeah. Immoral? Definitely. But the shaky confidence in Dean’s eyes when Castiel praised him for his work is worth more than any of that, in Sam’s book.

Not to mention it’s all so interesting.

Sam doesn’t want to be a thief. He’s actually thinking about being a lawyer, both because it’s fascinating and because he thinks his brother might need to be bailed out of jail someday, and it’s about time he was able to help Dean. The way that Castiel does theft, and therefore is teaching his crew how to steal, is kind of amazing.

It’s things like making sure you brush your teeth with flavorless toothpaste before you go out, to make sure you don’t smell like whatever food you just ate or minty toothpaste. It’s the selection of clothes for the day of “going out,” to make sure that you perfectly blend into the crowd you’re in. It’s the way you walk, the way you talk, it’s so in depth. Sam has seen the way Castiel speaks normally, upper class, but he can also slip into the vernacular (which was hilarious), or curse like a sailor, and none of the words sound rough or unfamiliar on his tongue.

It’s worth mentioning that watching Dean practice his upper-crust speech has had Sam in stitches every time he hears it, too. He’s getting good, though, and he’ll get even better.

So, yeah. Sam wishes Dean wasn’t doing this. He wishes they had any sort of normal childhood. He wishes that Dean didn’t feel responsible for him. It’s one of only two real downsides to this whole thing.

The other downside, of course, is the tension.

Every time Cas and Dean are in a room together, well, Benny calls it “eye fucking.” Garth always protests and calls it “eye making love.” Kevin and Sam both think it’s just ridiculous. It’s incredibly obvious that they want each other. The other boys lament that they haven’t fallen into bed together yet, but Sam usually stays quiet when they discuss his big brother and their fearless leader.

Because Sam knows why they haven’t.

For Castiel, he thinks it’s about Dean’s age and his own position of authority. He thinks Cas doesn’t want to take advantage of Dean, or to use his own power over him to do the same.

For Dean, it all comes back to self-worth.  Sam doesn’t see any situation in which Dean feels like he’s good enough for Castiel, no matter how much bullshit that may be.

So Sam doesn’t get mad when they make goo-goo eyes at each other. He doesn’t really complain when you could cut the tension with a knife. It doesn’t bother him that they seem to orbit one another very carefully, never coming too close, but never going too far, either.

It really just breaks Sam’s heart.

“Earth to Sam,” Dean is saying. “You ready for dinner?”

Dean takes his place next to Castiel at the dinner table after he’s helped Benny pass the food around, and for the five hundredth time, marvels at what his life is now.

Cas says he’s taking Dean to some sort of outdoor concert this weekend, and he is stoked. Jeff is all well and good, after all, but he’s not a real person. Dean is excited to get out into the real world to put himself to the test. Cas says he thinks Dean will do really well, and Dean’s starting to believe him despite himself.

He passes food around for everyone, just letting the chatter of the crew wash over him. Garth’s kind of loud, pitchy voice is always light and cheerful. The dude radiates happiness, and it’s hard to be annoyed with him for it because he’s so damn nice. Kevin is quiet, but smart, with a cutting sense of humor that almost always catches Dean off guard. Benny’s voice is deep, and the Cajun accent hides the fact that he’s shrewd as hell, taking in everything around him and drawing conclusions without a damn bit of it showing on his face. Sam, of course, is always nerding out at the table. The only reason his nose isn’t shoved into a book right now is that Cas forbids it at the dinner table.

And then, of course, there’s Cas.

Dean is aware of Cas in a way he’s never been aware of another human being. Every word that rumbles out of Cas’ mouth sends shivers up and down Dean’s spine. The spark of pride in Cas’ eyes during their lessons has Dean’s chest puffing up and his own lips pulling up into a smile. Warmth always seems to radiate off of Cas, seeping into Dean’s bones and making him feel safe.

Dean has never wanted someone like he wants Cas, nor has he ever been so sure that he can’t act on it.

It’s not the age thing, God knows Dean’s done shadier shit with older men. It’s just… Cas. Cas is smart, and good at the job, and caring, and a whole host of things that Dean is not. Dean’s not oblivious, he knows that Cas wants him, but if they gave it a shot, and when it went downhill (because it would go downhill), where does that leave Sam? Homeless? Back in public school? Now that they’ve had a taste of this, Dean’s not willing to let his little brother go back to that.

Not while he can do something about it, anyway.

So Dean smiles and jokes around with the crew, and hopes to God that Cas doesn’t notice that he’s avoiding his gaze.

That night, back in his office, Castiel picks up the phone and dials a number that he still has memorized by heart.

“Castiel,” the smooth voice says, and he feels parts of him relax that he didn’t realize were tense.

“Cain,” he says warmly. “How are you?”

The older man hums. “I’m doing well. The bees are thriving, you know.”

Castiel smiles. “You and your bees.” His tone is warm with affection.

“I’m going to assume that you weren’t calling just to make fun of me,” Cain’s voice is as fond as Castiel’s is. “Is there something wrong, dear?”

Castiel heaves a sigh. “Several things.”

“Start with the least troubling, we’ll work our way backward.”

He runs a hand through his hair. He knows it does nothing to help its unruliness, but it’s an old habit that he can’t seem to break, especially late at night when his mind is heavy with worries. “Well… It’s a boy.”

“Isn’t it always?”

“He’s just… He’s wonderful. He’s thoughtful and kind, he takes care of his younger brother, he’s entirely selfless.” He’s rambling, God help him.

“You’ve taken him as part of the crew?”

“I have.”

“How is he?”

“He’s…” Castiel closes his eyes. “He’s incredible. I daresay he rivals you or I.”

“That’s quite a compliment coming from you.”

“I mean every word.”

“What is the trouble then, love? Don’t tell me he’s hideous, you’ve never been that shallow.”

He smiles ruefully. “I wish that was the problem. No, he’s extraordinarily beautiful.”

“Then what’s wrong?”

Castiel is quiet for a moment before answering. “How did you handle your attraction to me?”

Cain doesn’t miss a beat. “I fucked you, dear.”

Castiel is surprised into long, loud laughter. When he gets a hold of himself, “Before you fucked me.”

“I was seducing you,” Cain says, his deep voice smug as hell.

Castiel rolls his eyes. “You’re insufferable.”

“You love me.”

“I do.”

Cain hums. “What’s holding you back from making this boy yours?”

“He’s a boy, Cain. He’s sixteen.”

“So were you.”

Castiel sighs and leans back in his chair. “So I was.”

“What’s the real problem, Castiel? Don’t lie to me anymore, love.” There’s steel in Cain’s voice, just a touch of the old hardness, and though Castiel is much more used to ordering his partners around now, it still makes him shudder with a whisper of want.

“He’s… Softer than I was,” he says gently, an apology in his tone. “He has suffered so, so much. I do not wish to add to his suffering, and I do not wish… I don’t want him to think he’s beholden to do this for me, or to let me do this to him, as some sort of payment for making him part of the crew.”

There are several beats of silence while Cain absorbs that. “Can you not just tell him that?”

“I don’t think he would believe me.”

All those years ago, when Cain first propositioned Castiel, when he was still mostly long, skinny limbs and a burning desire to prove himself, it was easy to enter their arrangement knowing that it was entirely separate from their lessons. It was easy to let Cain rule him in bed, then argue with him while they talked about jobs. When they fell in love, it was easy to just let one another take over their whole lives. It wasn’t until Castiel started to feel restless that it became clear that, as long as they’d been together, it wasn’t to last. Sometimes, on his dark or difficult days, Castiel wonders if he didn’t make a mistake.

Although, thinking of Dean’s shining green eyes or the smile that’s getting quicker and easier every day, it’s hard to believe he didn’t make the right call.

“I don’t want to hurt him any more than he’s been hurt.”

“Oh, my,” Cain says, and the love in his voice makes Castiel beam. “You don’t just want him, you want him.”

He sighs. “I do.”

“Well, that’s a bit of a different animal, isn’t it?” Cain muses. “I advise patience, Castiel. You are impossible not to fall in love with, and if you’ve been making moon eyes at him like you did at me, he will come to you eventually.”

“I did not make moon eyes at you!” Castiel splutters indignantly.

Cain chuckles. “Darling, that’s all you made at me.”

It’s so easy to slip back into this banter with Cain. “You fell in love with my youthful elegance.”

He can hear the smile in Cain’s voice. “That I did, my love. That I did.”

Castiel is struck with a fierce yearning for the man on the other end of the line. He knows he did the right thing, that at some point, he would have felt smothered and stifled if he’d stayed. It’s moments like these, though, when he misses his life with Cain terribly.

“I love you, you know,” he says softly, smiling wistfully.

“And I you, my dear,” Cain responds immediately. “But I think that I will not be the sole inhabitant of your heart soon, hmm?” There is no jealousy or bitterness in his voice. When Castiel told him that he needed to go, Cain sent him with his blessing.

Castiel’s smile widens. “I think… You may be right.” He lets his smile slip away as he remembers, again, that Dean is not his only concern.

Cain, ever the mind reader, beats him to the punch. “What else is bothering you?”

“Do you remember Abaddon?”

Chapter Text

The sun beats down on the crowd, warming everyone just enough. Alcohol is flowing freely, as it is wont to do at weekend-long music festivals, and the crowd is pleasantly drunk for the most part. There’s a big stage situated in the middle of the park, and the bands have done a good job of keeping the crowd in high spirits.

Castiel couldn’t have chosen a better day to let Dean get his feet wet.

The boy stands next to him without fidgeting, his posture relaxed. The only sign that he’s not here to enjoy the concert with the rest of them is his eyes, which are sharp, alert. He watches and weighs each person who passes by, debating the pros and cons of each mark. The way he dismisses most of them makes Castiel swell with pride.

Picking pockets is just as much about choosing the mark as it is about stealing anything at all.

When Dean finds said mark, Castiel approves very much. The man is about Dean’s height with a medium build. He’s walking carefully, but not stumbling. His eyes are bleary, but not completely hazed over with alcohol. He’s looking around, but not paying much attention to what he sees. He’s perfect.

Almost as perfect as Dean.

When Dean casually begins to meander forward, Castiel takes a step back, loses himself in a different part of the crowd. Oh, he’s never far away enough to intervene if necessary (and if anything involving Dean ever came to blows, he doesn’t know how he’d react), but he’s deep enough into the throng of people that Dean can’t see him. As far as Dean knows, he has no safety net.

Castiel watches sharply as Dean wanders up to the guy, and the way he bumps into him looks flawlessly accidental. Dean laughs a little too loud, and the way the man grins says that he thinks he’s found a kindred spirit in drunkenness. Castiel can just watch and marvel as Dean builds a friendly rapport in just seconds, and has the man leaning on him in minutes, laughing so hard he can barely stand.

He’s incredible.

Christ, I want him.

When Dean starts talking to a third person, Castiel frowns but doesn’t interfere. Dean has superb instincts, and Castiel trusts him, but he moves closer to the scene, anyway.

It’s only another few minutes before Dean is letting his mark lean against the third man, all three of them laughing and joking. Dean salutes them, then stumbles his way to Castiel. It isn’t until he’s out of sight of the other men that his walk straightens out and he moves again with the unconscious grace of youth (just like he will move in my… No, no, stop it). While he is always extraordinary in Castiel’s eyes, Dean blends in very well with the other members of the crowd. Only his twinkling green eyes give away that anything is amiss.

He comes to stand next to Castiel again, body language still shockingly casual. “How’d I do?” he murmurs after a few moments. It’s only a subtle movement of his hand in the pocket of his jacket that shows Castiel that he has a wad of cash there.

“Very well.” Castiel tries to be constructive with his praise when he’s teaching his crew, but it seems to flow out of him with ease when it comes to Dean. Dean is just so good.

His crooked grin sends a bolt of emotion through Castiel’s chest that he refuses to examine. “Yeah?”

Castiel smiles. “You know you did very well, Dean.”

The boy laughs. “Damn right I did!” Even his little celebration is quiet enough not to disturb or alert the people around them.

“How do you feel?”

Dean’s smile is bright and happy. “I feel great, Cas.” His eyes are intensely green in the sunlight. “Actually, I kinda feel like this crowd hasn’t given us everything it can.”

Castiel cocks an eyebrow, desperately trying to quell the fire rushing through his veins at the mischief on Dean’s young face. “Is that so?”

He looks around at the concert. The reasons that it was a perfect place to let Dean try his first pickpocket are all good reasons to continue. Namely, few people will be focused enough to really stop them, and when they sober up, they’ll be embarrassed enough that they won’t say anything about missing cash. Or, even better, they’ll think they lost or spent it and don’t remember.

“Very well, little one,” Castiel says, his own smirk spreading across his face. “Let’s get to work.”

For each haul that they bring home, it’s split evenly between each person who was part of the job, then into percentages.

Thirty percent, Castiel explains, goes to what he calls the “house fund.” Dean takes that to mean it helps pay the bills for the apartments, as well as groceries for the shared apartment where they all have dinner together every night. Castiel explains it also pays for things like doctor’s visits, dentists, and the like. “It would be terribly humiliating to be caught because someone recognized bad dental hygiene.”

Another thirty percent goes into an “individual fund” that Castiel has set up in each of their names. He says it’s for things like college or houses, but Dean’s not thinking about any of that shit. College? Never. He’s not smart enough for college. Hell, he didn’t even finish high school. For Sam, maybe, so he lets that slide. But a house? The hell would he want a house for?

He thinks that until it occurs to him that, at some point, Castiel is gonna want him out of here. Sammy will probably be long gone to whatever fancy college he decides on by then. Once he realizes that he’ll have to leave, as much as he wants to stay here, and as much as he doesn’t want to be alone, he stays quiet about the money being put away for his future.

He just… Tries not to dwell on it.

The rest of the money is just his, though, to do whatever he wants with it. He and Cas walked away from the festival with around a thousand dollars between the two of them. It kind of boggled Dean’s mind, especially when, once Cas was done splitting up the dough, he handed Dean two hundred dollars cash.

“The hell is all this for?” he asked.

Cas just raised his eyebrows. “It’s for you, Dean. For whatever you wish.”

He just said it so… Casually, like it was obvious that it’s for Dean. Like this money that isn’t for rent, or food, or school books, or anything else that he (Sam) needs, like it’s all for him. He goes back into the apartment in a daze and spends a long time sitting on the couch, just staring at the money in his hand.

After not too terribly long, he gets a warm feeling in his chest. Because this is what Castiel makes him feel like. This is what it’s like being taken care of. This is what it’s like to not have to be scared every day of not being able to feed Sam, or that they won’t have a roof over their heads. He feels a twinge a guilt about how little he’s thought about John the last few weeks, but his dad hasn’t reached out to him at all, and mostly? Mostly, Dean just feels grateful.

It’s a dangerous emotion, but since he’s certain that he can keep it secret, he lets himself bask in it before he rolls the money up and puts it in his sock drawer.

A few weeks after Dean’s first job, during which they’ve hit several more small venues, there’s a knock on the shared apartment door.

Castiel, who is running Garth through his paces with Jeff (again, endlessly, fruitlessly), frowns. The only people who have any reason to come to the apartment not only have a key, but Castiel knows where they are. Sam and Kevin are at school, Dean and Benny are hanging out in Benny’s apartment, and Garth is here, with him.

Bless the boy, though, he’s endlessly optimistic. “We have a visitor!”

Castiel is not so thrilled. “Indeed. Stay here, Garth.”

“Whatever you say, boss.”

When Castiel looks through the peephole, he relaxes. He takes a deep breath to brace himself for the whirlwind that’s about to happen, then opens the door wide.

She’s grinning at him, like she always does. Her bright red hair is longer than it was last time he saw her, he likes it. She’s wearing her customary t-shirt and jeans, has bulky headphones resting around her neck, and her hand is held up in the Vulcan salute.

“Hello, Charlie.”

“‘Sup, chief? Where my bitches at?”

Charlene Bradbury, a name she chose mostly by herself, partially with Castiel’s advice (“I want to be called Charlie.” “And you can be called Charlie, but your full name must be Charlene.” “But I hate that.” “Such is life, dearest.”) remains the only child who sought him out. At thirteen, she also remains his youngest apprentice.

Charlie is not a good pickpocket at all. She’s a bit of a disaster in crowds. She’s a passable burglar at best, although her roof work is miles ahead of her crowd work.

She is, however, an incredible cyber thief.

Castiel didn’t do much to train Charlie, as she had been as knowledgeable as she could get when she’d gotten to him. What he tried to do, and what he feels he did fairly well, was to instill morals into her.

Now, he knows, Charlie views herself (rather accurately) as a Robin Hood type character, stealing from the grossly rich and giving back to the needy. She prefers animal welfare organizations, he’s noticed, although she’s made quite a few donations to other institutions, as well. Though he doesn’t understand how her form of thievery works, he knows that it does, and he’s extremely proud of her and everything she’s accomplished.

After dinner that night, where there were introductions and reunions (Charlie was only here for a bit when Kevin was first brought into the crew before she left to make her own way), Charlie joins Castiel in the office.

“‘Sup, chief?”

He smiles. “Hello, Charlie. Are you enjoying your visit?”

It’s because of Charlie that Castiel is able to do most of what he does for his crew. She’s the one who sets up bank accounts, acquires or forges school records or official documents, and has scoped out a potential mark on more than one occasion. Though she calls herself a “freelancer” now, a significant amount of Charlie’s time is still spent working for Castiel.

“Good, good,” she says easily as she flops down in one of the armchairs facing the desk. “Got a good crew this time.”

Castiel smiles. “Yes, I think so, too.”

“Kevin’s still too fucking smart for his own good.” She grins. “Although he’s not a fan of cyber thievery.”

“Kevin believes in the honor of the craft in its original form.”

Charlie scoffs. “Old men, you two are kindred spirits of old men.” She eyes him carefully before speaking again. “So… Dean’s something else, hm?”

A surge of jealousy rears its head (she’s pretty she’s outgoing and vivacious she’s age appropriate) before he’s able to remind himself that Charlie is as gay as he himself is. He hums noncommittally.

Charlie and Dean got along very well from the moment they laid eyes on one another. Rapid-fire speech about Star Trek and Star Wars and any number of things Castiel has no frame of reference for left his head spinning. Sam’s eyes were fond when he accused them of “geeking out,” and Castiel got the impression that Dean doesn’t have many friends, if he has any at all.

Charlie rolls her eyes. “Okay. Let’s address the UST.”

He frowns. “UST?”

“Unresolved sexual tension.”

Unbelievably, he feels himself starting to blush. “I have no idea what you’re talking about,” he says, voice tight with tension.

She nods wisely. “So… We’re lying to ourselves?”

Not to ourselves, no. “Charlie, nothing is-“

She holds a hand up. “No use lying to me, chief. Not only do I know you, I have eyeballs, and have therefore been witness to the pining.”

He considers for a moment, trying to deceive her again, but gives it up as a lost cause. “Yes, well, I don’t intend to act on the pining.”


He looks up at her with a cocked eyebrow. “Excuse me?”

She shrugs. “He clearly wants you back. Why not make a move?”

“He’s sixteen, Charlene.”

She makes a face. “Don’t call me Charlene. And so?”

“He’s a child.”

“So he’s old enough to put his ass on the line for you, but not old enough to get into that sweet ass?”

“… Must you be so crude?”

She beams. “Alas, I must.” Sobering, “Seriously, Cas. What’s going on?”

He runs a hand through his hair. “He’s sixteen, Charlie, and he has experienced so few good things in life. He’s… Faced a lot, with remarkable poise for his age.”

“So shouldn’t you want to give him some of the good things he’s missed?” she suggests gently.

“I cannot take advantage of him like that.”

She smirks. “From what I saw today, he wouldn’t mind getting taken advantage of.”

He sighs. “Charlie, it’s… I am the first adult with the means and inclination to take the responsibility off of his shoulders, to take care of him. It… Any feelings he has are clouded by that. Misguided hero worship at most.”

There’s deep sympathy etched onto her features now. “And, let me guess, you’re not just gonna talk to him about this.”

“It would be taking advantage. I don’t… He might feel obligated to indulge my feelings to keep his place here, especially for Sam. Even if I insisted that he wasn’t beholden to me…” Castiel shrugs. “It’s enough of a consent issue that I’m not willing to move forward.”

Charlie is frowning, but she doesn’t argue with him, for which he’s grateful. It’s strange enough talking about this with someone who’s just a few years older than Dean himself, but Charlie was one of his charges.

“Well, that blows, chief.”


“Well, onto brighter subjects, I’ve been teaching the children how to internet.”

Castiel smiles, thankful for everything that Charlene Bradbury is. “And how has that gone for you?”

“Well, Sam showed some interest in my kind of work, so point one for me. And Garth, weirdly enough, has got some serious hidden talent.”

“I refuse to be surprised by anything Garth does anymore.”

Dean is shooting the shit with Benny in the Cajun’s apartment after dinner, thinking that it’s about time to head back to his own place, when Benny gets that look in his eye.

“So… Castiel.”

Dean groans. “Not again, Lafitte.”

Benny is on some sort of mission from hell to get Dean to confess how he feels to Cas, which is never going to happen. He doesn’t bring it up every time they hang out alone, but often enough that Dean usually makes sure at least one other person is with them.

Dean just doesn’t know how to explain how much better Castiel is than him. Dean was barely able to take care of Sam, who is just one kid, and Cas has all of this. Cas is a famous thief, and Dean is some nobody he rescued.

He leans his head back against the couch, his eyes closed. Normally he laughs it off, makes a joke at his own expense, but somehow it’s not coming to him today. “He’s not looking at me twice, Benny,” he says softly, a rare moment of pure honesty. “Hell, I’m nothing.”

There’s a beat of silence, then a strong hand clapping down on his knee. He raises his head and looks directly into Benny’s ice blue eyes.

“Nothing, you ain’t, brotha,” he says gently, and it takes Dean a moment to even parse out a meaning through the accent. “And besides, if you don’t think he’s been looking, you ain’t been paying attention.”

That’s enough of that. “Come on, Benny, you know everyone’s got an eye on my sweet ass.” He smiles dashingly to sell it.

Benny rolls his eyes, just like Dean wanted, but he does not stop talking, which is not what Dean wanted. “Joke all you want, Dean. I think the two of you are dancing around each other for no reason, is all.”

It takes Dean a long time to fall asleep that night, wondering if Benny is right about the way Cas looks at him, wondering if it even matters.

That night, Cas and Charlie meet in the office again, this time for business.

“All righty,” she says, settling at the desk and cracking her knuckles. “What am I looking for here?”

He’s leaned against the desk next to her, staring out the window, frowning. “Abaddon must have a plan of some sort. I need to know if we can find out what it is.”

“… And whatever other dirt I can dig up on dear old Abbie, so we can take her down, right?”

Castiel smiles vaguely. “Do whatever you feel is right, Charlie.”

She pats him on the hip without looking up from her computer screen. “Aw, Cas. I was gonna do that, anyway.”

Chapter Text

Dean’s never really had a routine that didn’t revolve around fear.

Fear of his father. Fear of eviction. Fear of Sammy starving to death. Fear of Sam’s teachers or friends finding out about how the Winchesters live. Fear of discovery when he had to turn to stealing. Fear of discovery when he had to hit the streets. Fear of getting Bobby in trouble when he helped Dean out.

So Dean knows a lot about fear. He’s never had an absence of it like he does now.

Because now? His routine is built around… Well, routine.

When he gets up in the morning, he makes breakfast, wakes Sam up, and watches the news until he sends the kid off to school (Kevin’s old enough to have a license and a car, so he takes both of them). Once Sam is gone, Dean does things like clean the apartment, do the laundry, or just sit and watch TV with a second cup of coffee, which is something that he’s never done in his life, and is quickly becoming addicted to.

Late mornings and early afternoons mean work. He runs paces with Benny or Garth, or he learns a little about what Charlie does. He has absolutely zero interest in doing the job the way she does it, but it’s cool to watch her work. If he’s not doing any of that, he’ll sometimes accompany Benny to grocery stores or markets to shop for the shared apartment. Dean swears he’s learned more about fresh goddamn vegetables since they moved in than he ever wanted to know.

Afternoons and evenings, once Sam is home and settled, or once Dean knows that he and Kevin are safely at their after school whatever activities? They belong to Cas.

There’s always a quiet sort of pride in Cas’ eyes when they do crowd work together and Dean comes back with almost as much as Cas has. He’s never beat the older man, but he’s determined to do it, and Cas is encouraging the dream. Dean’s never had this much money in his life, he hardly knows what to do with it. With the little amount of free time he takes for himself, he goes to thrift stores or used bookshops and buys whatever strikes his fancy there. The bookshelf in his room is slowly filling up. He forgot how much he likes reading.

Cas has even started keeping him inside and teaching him the basics of roof work. There was admiration in his voice when Cas admitted that it’s the fastest he’s ever moved a student on from simple picking pockets, but he’s certain that Dean can handle it, and Dean would rather die than disappoint Cas about anything, much less about this.

On his rare nights off, he’ll sometimes go see Bobby. They’ll hang out at the tavern, and it’s more like two adults meeting up than a kid coming to a parental figure for help. The weather is starting to get kinda cold again, so Bobby starts bringing up Dean’s seventeenth birthday, which makes him roll his eyes. Dean’s never celebrated a birthday in his life, at least not since his mom died, and he’s not gonna start now. It’s great hanging out with Bobby, though, especially now that he’s on more even footing with the man.

Sammy’s happy with his school, filling out and shooting up tall now that he’s being fed good food regularly. Dean’s never needed much more than that to be happy, and now he has it, and he has so much more he never even thought he could dream about, much less have.

So it makes sense that as soon as he gets comfortable in his new routine, something comes along to remind him about fear.

Castiel is a light sleeper, and always has been. Maybe a holdover from his childhood, or his time with Cain’s charges (before he was sleeping in Cain’s bed, of course). Whatever the reason, while he has very little trouble going back to sleep, the slightest disturbance wakes him up.

The shouting across the hall is not the slightest disturbance. It’s loud, and while he can’t hear the words being said, the tone is angry and biting. It sounds like Sam, which is what drives Castiel out of bed.

Though he’s had less reason to be so lately, Castiel has seen how thoughtless Sam can be with his words when he’s angry. He’s sure it’s part of being a teenager, but there is no one in the world with more power to hurt Dean than his younger brother. It’s the urge to protect Dean that has Castiel tugging on a pair of sleep pants and throwing on a robe before he goes out in the hall.

Garth is standing just outside his own door down the hall, a concerned expression on his face. Castiel waves him back into his place and waits until he hears the door click before he turns to the Winchesters’ apartment.

How much should I interfere? Should I do anything at all? Is this overstepping my bounds? Am I letting my inappropriate affection for Dean color my actions?

Being shocked out of sleep and having adrenaline propel him out of his home has left him feeling a little fuzzy. He’s still working out the best course to take when the door flings open to reveal a furious Sam Winchester.

Sam clearly dressed in a hurry. One of the flannel shirts he and his brother favor is haphazardly buttoned over his torso, and his shoes are untied. He’s already got his backpack slung over one shoulder and his hazel eyes are snapping fire. His breathing is labored.

He doesn’t even seem surprised to see Castiel standing half-dressed in his door, just glares at him. “Maybe he’ll listen to you,” he snarls, before storming his way down the hall. Castiel watches as he knocks on Kevin’s door until the other boy opens up, then goes into the apartment and slams the door behind him.

Castiel takes the door in front of him, left open by the irate teenager, as an invitation. He enters cautiously, torn between wanting to check on Dean and not wanting to embarrass the boy if he catches him in a moment of vulnerability. Contrary to his charges’ belief, he does remember being Dean’s age.

He needn’t have worried, Dean is leaning back against the counter, scrubbing his hands against his face. His bare shoulders are slumped in defeat, but his eyes aren’t wet when he looks up to see Castiel standing there. Just tight with tension.

“Are you all right, Dean?” he asks as he slowly makes his way into the kitchen, not wanting to startle or upset Dean more, but unable to deny the urge to be closer to him.

Dean huffs out a sigh and places his hands on the edge of the counter behind him. His arms flex as he grips it hard. “I, uh. I dunno.”

“Would you like to talk about it?”

Dean shrugs and settles his eyes somewhere down near where his bare feet peek out from beneath his sleep pants. “I, uh. Dad called.”

Castiel cocks an eyebrow, though Dean isn’t looking at him. “Oh?”

“Yeah. Yeah, he, uh, he sounded kinda drunk, and I dunno, it’s like, seven in the morning. It’s weird that he’s still drunk, or drunk already,” Dean says with a humorless chuckle, running his hand through his short hair. “Anyway, I told Sam that I was gonna ask you if I could skip a couple of hours today to go check on the old man, and he just… Flipped out.”

“Why would he… ‘Flip out?’” Castiel asks, using the air quotes his crew makes so much fun of in the hopes of drawing even a small smile out of Dean.

It works, and he’s rolling his eyes as he answers. “I just… Look, Dad told me to come home, and I think he’d throw a fit if I didn’t. I mean, it’s the longest we’ve gone without seeing him, and I don’t… I don’t want him getting suspicious and trying to get us go back. And it’s not just that, it’s…” Here, Dean swallows hard. “He’s family. Before we came here, he was the only family we had, and Bobby says that family don’t end in blood, but I still gotta go check on him.”

Despite the warmth that threads through his heart at the implication that Dean now sees the crew as family, Castiel tilts his head. “Sam disagrees?”

Dean snorts. “Yeah, Sam thinks I should leave him in the dust.” He takes a deep breath, and it’s then that Castiel really notices that Dean is shirtless, too. He wonders if he should tie his robe shut now, or if that would just draw attention to the fact that there’s so much bare skin present.

“He just doesn’t get it,” and the way Dean’s voice tightens in distress thoroughly distracts Castiel from his dirty thoughts. “He doesn’t get how bad things got, and that I was taking care of both of them, and I can’t just stop ‘cause I like Sammy more. I mean, Sam knows what went on, but he didn’t know everything, I… I couldn’t let him know everything, I wouldn’t, because the kid’s too smart for his own good, and he would have gotten in the way, and I couldn’t let Dad hit him instead, I just couldn’t, and I-“

Castiel acts on instinct, desperate to soothe the ache in Dean’s words. He takes the last step forward that separates them and wraps Dean up in his arms. Before he even has time to worry that he’s overstepped, Dean’s arms are winding around his waist in turn, beneath his robe, to hold Castiel just as close. Dean buries his face in Castiel’s neck, his breath shuddery and damp against Castiel’s skin.

Castiel threads the fingers of one hand through the hair at the back of Dean’s neck, soothing him with soft sounds and a gentle press of lips to the boy’s temple.

“Go to your father, Dean,” he whispers, even if the words pain him. “You can take as much time as you need, you know that. Sam will calm down.”

“I hate fighting with him, Cas,” Dean whispers, and Castiel aches for this (his) boy. “He just… He doesn’t get it.”

“I think Sam perhaps sees more than you realize,” he answers, keeping Dean close against his chest, “but the reason he doesn’t see it all is because of you, little one. It’s an incredible gift you’ve given him.”

Dean shrugs, but doesn’t loosen his hold on Castiel. “I guess.”

They hold one another in silence for long, lovely minutes until Dean pulls away with a blush and a muttered excuse about “getting this over with.”

When Castiel goes back to his room, he thinks ruefully that he just took a giant step backward in his efforts to keep his hands off of Dean.

Still high off of Cas’ embrace (awesome), it takes a second for the feeling of dread to really sink into Dean as he enters the apartment he used to share with his brother and his father.

John Winchester is sitting at the shitty, beaten up table that’s shoved against the only free wall in the kitchen. He’s slumped in his chair, his eyes red and watery. It strikes Dean with surprise, seeing his father. He’s been around the crew for long enough now, people who go out of their way to take care of themselves, that it’s a shock to see someone who so clearly has a blatant disregard for his own person.

Goddamn, he looks like shit.

It’s not until Dean’s almost right on top of him that John even looks up, and it takes a couple of beats even after that for him to focus enough to recognize his son.

“Dean,” he slurs, and Dean’s spine tingles with the low, angry note in his father’s voice.

Shit. “Dad,” he says evenly. “How ya feeling?” He stoops low to sling one of John’s arms over his shoulders and help him stand.

John squints at him, and does only the bare minimum to get on his feet. “The fuck have you been?”

Somewhere better. “Out with friends.”

“It’s too goddamn late to be out of the house,” John gripes. “And where the fuck is your brother?”

Dean rolls his eyes. “Sam’s at school, Dad, because it’s nine in the morning.”

Dean forgot. He forgot how fucking fast John Winchester can be, even when mostly drunk or hungover or whatever sort of limbo in-between he’s at right now. Maybe especially then. He’s just spent so much time around people who have no urge to hurt him, he’s gotten out of the practice of dodging hits.

The blow catches him absolutely unawares, and Dean almost goes down when pain explodes at his cheekbone. John has suddenly found the will to stand on his own, and the fist he struck Dean with is still balled up at his side when Dean manages to swing his bewildered gaze back to look at his father.

“Fuckin’ backtalk me,” John sneers. “Hanging out with your punk friends, learning how to goddamn disrespect your goddamn father.”

Dean is suddenly way too tired for this. No, not just tired, exhausted. He can’t imagine how he put up with his dad for so long when just a few minutes in his presence again has Dean feeling worthless, like he can’t do anything right at all. Christ, he was just trying to help the man stand.

“Yeah,” he says softly. “Sorry, Dad.”

John snorts and starts to sway on his feet again. “Fuckin’ right you are.”

Dean looks around the kitchen, one hand still held to his cheek. There aren’t any bottles around, which means that John is hungover, not drunk. He’s losing energy. That hit to Dean was probably all he had in him.

Dean just sighs again. “Let’s get you to bed, Dad.”

John gives him the stink-eye, which Dean would find kind of hilarious if he didn’t think it was so goddamn pathetic. “Telling me what to do, boy?”

Dean digs deep to find the patience he used to have with his father. “No, Dad. I just think you’ll be more comfortable in bed is all.”

John hmphs, like he barely believes it, but he spins in place to head to the back bedroom. When he sways too far to the left, Dean lunges forward to catch him. “Easy, now,” he murmurs, guiding his father to bed.

Anger gone, forgotten in the alcoholic haze in which he lives his life, John’s much easier to handle now. Dean leads him to bed and helps him lie down. He strips his father’s boots off, revealing socks with holes in them, and tugs off his jacket. It was nice a long time ago, and Dean can still see the echoes of the father he used to have in it. Before the weight of the world rounded John’s shoulders, before the habit of drinking more than eating thinned him out, wasted him away where he used to be bulky. Oh, he still throws a mean right hook, and he can have some scary strength in small bursts, but overall? John Winchester is a diminished man.

He’s snoring by the time Dean lines his boots up by the door and hangs his jacket up on the corner of the headboard. He tilts his father’s head to make sure he doesn’t choke on his own vomit (real classy roots you got there, Winchester) and walks out the door.

Out of habit, he checks the apartment for cleanliness. It’s obvious his father hasn’t been here very much, and the place is covered in dust. Even if he doesn’t live here anymore, it makes him itch to clean, and Dean finds himself carefully sliding out of his own, much nicer, leather jacket, hanging it in the coat closet, and rolling his sleeves up.

Cleaning is therapeutic for Dean. He can lose himself in the dusting, the sweeping, the washing of walls. It allows him to think, really think about how different his life is now. How he looks forward to every day as he sits on his couch and drinks coffee. How he used to wake up filled with dread and a gritty determination to see Sam through at least one more day. He thinks about all of the things he had to do, he had to do, to get them by. Now, even if Cas kicked them out today, Dean would never have to sell himself again.

Suddenly overwhelmed, he peels off his gloves and pulls his cell phone out of his pocket. He opens it and types a quick message.

To: Cas
Thank you.

He slips his phone back into his pocket, pulls his gloves back on, and goes back to work, feeling better.

When he gets to the bathroom, the smell makes it immediately clear that his father got sick in here, and didn’t quite make it to the toilet before puking his guts out. Dean wrinkles his nose and almost walks out, but ultimately can’t bring himself to do it. John will do a cursory clean up of the room at most, and the thought of his father living in filth like this fills Dean with a deep, gut-wrenching guilt.

He goes to get the cleaning supplies, just ready to get this over with. At least it’s just alcohol. It looks like John didn’t even try to soak any of it up with food last night. Once he’s done, he puts the gloves and cleaning supplies away under the sink, then takes a look at himself in the mirror.

“Ouch,” he says softly, prodding gingerly at the rapidly darkening bruise just below his eye. Not gonna be able to do crowd work like this. He’s not terribly worried about that, he’s more than pulled his weight as far as money being brought in. He can take a week off, and by that time, he can wheedle Charlie into covering him in makeup if he needs to.


Once he leaves the bathroom, he heads into the kitchen. He’s not surprised to find it pretty barren, and he has to close his eyes and lean his forehead against the cabinet in defeat for a moment. Dammit. Despite how tired he is, despite how much he wants to go home (home) and crawl into bed and sleep for a week, he can’t leave the place like this. His dad’s gonna fucking starve to death if Dean doesn’t make sure there’s at least some food here.

He pulls his boots on, then reaches for his jacket. As he slides the soft leather on, he gets just a moment of comfort. Just a beat of warmth, the memory of blue eyes looking into his while a big, warm palm cups the back of his neck. It bolsters Dean, and if it doesn’t actually make him smile outright, it does lift his spirits.

His cell phone vibrating in his pocket does so even more.

From: Cas
For what?

Dean smiles for real now.

To: Cas

It carries him through running to the grocery store.

From: Dean W.

Castiel frowns down at his phone, feeling like the teenagers he cares for more and more as the minutes tick by. He won’t admit out loud that he’s anxiously awaiting Dean’s return, but at least to himself, he can admit that he’s anxiously awaiting Dean’s return.

Not that he’ll come here, he thinks sourly. He’s sitting in his own kitchen waiting for the sound of the door across the hall, knowing that the way he feels about Dean is completely out of hand. He knows that Dean will go home, that he won’t want to be around anyone. If even a small part of what Castiel suspects about John Winchester is true, it will drain Dean to be around his father. He’ll go straight to bed (maybe he’ll undress slowly, an unconscious tease, or he’ll fling his clothes off haphazardly, his only- No, no, no, stop it!) and probably sleep the day away.

Not that Castiel has studied Dean, or the way he deals with stress.

He sighs and pushes the phone away from where he’s been staring at it for the last forty minutes. He has responsibilities to attend to. Charlie thinks she has a bead on Abbadon’s movements. Abbadon has hired someone named Azazel, who has apparently presented somewhat of a challenge as far as digging into his background. It’s only made Charlie more determined, and Castiel should really go to the shared apartment to check on her. She tends to absorb herself into her projects, and she-

The tentative knock at his door has him up out of his chair and halfway across the room before he manages to temper the excitement burning in his belly. I haven’t felt this much since Cain.

He opens the door to admit Dean, and all of his good feelings immediately flee.

A tired smile tugs at Dean’s lovely mouth. “Heya, Cas.”


At Castiel’s shocked, severe tone, Dean’s face falls, almost crumples. Castiel immediately reaches out to gently cup Dean’s neck and tug him inside. Dean comes willingly, standing close to Castiel as he closes the door behind them. He keeps his hand on the back of the boy’s neck.

Once they’re safely inside his apartment, he turns back to Dean, sliding his hand around to gently cup his chin. “What happened?” he asks.

Dean shrugs, his eyes dropping from Cas’. “Just Dad being Dad,” he mumbles.

Gingerly, oh, so gingerly, Cas’ thumb comes up to caress the bruise on Dean’s face, just below his eye. “I see.”

Another shrug. “It’s no big deal.”

Castiel frowns, and he uses his hand to gently tip Dean’s face up until he’s looking Castiel in the eye. “Dean,” he says softly, upset.

“He just…” Dean swallows hard. “Dad’s, uh… Dad’s kind of a drinker,” he whispers, eyes darting back down again.

Castiel sighs and, in this moment of weakness, tilts his forehead to press it against Dean’s. He wants to insist that it is a big deal, that it’s a problem. He wants to find John Winchester and tear him apart for laying a hand on Dean, for daring to touch this boy. His boy.


He’s so desperately angry, and the feelings of helplessness are making him rash, making him do this he wouldn’t normally allow himself. Castiel presses a kiss to Dean’s forehead, keeping him close. “I don’t want you to go back there, little one,” he confesses.

Dean sighs and relaxes in his hold, making Castiel shudder just a bit. He leans forward and loops his arms around Castiel’s waist in a casual manner that has his breath catching in his throat as Dean leans into him. “Yes, sir.”

Chapter Text

Dick Roman is a horrible human being. Not that Dean is overly concerned about the morality of the mark at any given moment, but it’s kinda nice to know that he’s stealing from someone who not only can afford to lose it, but who also deserves to lose it.

Charlie’s the one who brought Dick to Cas’ attention. At first glance, Roman Industries is a kind of shell company. They have their hand in a lot of pies, from automotive manufacturing to medical testing to snack cake companies. Not really the kind of thing Cas usually involves the crew in, Dean knows, but it’s right up Charlie’s alley.

As impressive as Roman Industries’ defenses are, and Dean has been assured that the answer is “very,” Charlie went through them like tissue paper. It turns out that, though he makes quite a bit of money from the cars and labs and Twinkies, most of Dick’s profits come from his shadier dealings. He’s involved in shit like large-scale drug dealing, importing illegal firearms, and human trafficking.

When Charlie revealed that last charge, the look on Cas’ face let Dean know that they’d be going after Dick. So much of the sex slave trade that makes up a majority of trafficking is centered on victimizing lost children. The very same children from whom Cas tends to find new parts of the crew. Those blue eyes darted to Dean for a moment while Charlie was talking, and he knew Cas was thinking about Dean selling himself, about how quickly it could have gotten so much worse if the wrong person had come along. When Cas told Charlie that they’d be both burgling and cyber-stealing from this motherfucker (Dean might be paraphrasing here), Dean knew that it was more about him than it was about money.

Dick is currently on an “extended holiday,” so his giant fucking house is empty. It’s the perfect opportunity to rob him blind.

Dean gets back to the bedroom they used as an entry point before Cas does. He wants to pace, or fidget, or maybe jump on the bed like a little kid while he waits, but he does none of that. He stands next to the window, attention split between the view outside and the door of the room, and waits for Cas to meet him here.

He also somehow manages to resist the urge to mess with his stupid uniform shirt.

Even though the place is empty, Cas still insisted they look the part. Cas says that only amateurs (read: idiots, he means idiots) would break into a house wearing black clothes and ski masks. Cas says the point is not to dress to avoid getting caught, but to dress as if getting caught is an inevitability.

“It’s not about whether or not we’re there,” Cas explained as he chose what they would wear. “We’re there, we’ve been caught. They know we’re there. Our goal is not to convince someone that we are not there, but to convince them that we belong there.”

Which is why Dean’s wearing the long sleeved grey button-down shirt and black slacks that make up the uniform for the cleaning company Dick Roman employs. If they get caught (not fucking likely), they’ll just claim that they got their schedules mixed up.

It’s a good plan. It’s a great plan. Just another way in which Cas is definitely a master of his craft. It’s just that the uniform… Well, when it’s on Cas, it’s distracting, to say the least.

Cas is criminally (heh) hot. His ass fills the slacks out like no one’s business. The grey shirt stretches lovingly over his broad shoulders and chest. Even though Dean kinda feels like a kid trying on his father’s clothes, Cas looks good.

When the older man walks back into the bedroom, Dean takes the opportunity to check him out again. His hair has been combed into submission for once in his life, but his eyes still sparkle in the minimal light they have in the room.

“Are you ready to go, little one?”

Dean smiles. “Yes, sir.”

In the weeks since Dean last saw his father, when he went to Cas first for comfort, Dean has completely given up fighting the feelings he harbors for Cas.

Oh, he’s not going to make a move. The things that held him back before are still relevant, if not even more so these days. It’s just that he’s all right with it now. He doesn’t try to stop himself from checking Cas out as he walks down the hall behind him. When Cas smiles and Dean’s heart stutters in his chest, he doesn’t berate himself for being a stupid kid with a stupid crush anymore.

Because it’s not just a crush. He doesn’t just want to hold Cas’ hand, or for Cas to fuck him into oblivion. He wants both. Dean doesn’t think he’d be really happy with one or the other. No, he’s just selfish enough that he wants everything Cas has to offer. He wants to fuck Cas, but he wants to hold him, too. He wants to go out to dinner with Cas, and he wants to stay in and just watch TV with him. He wants to help Cas build a closer crew, help choose their charges, become Cas’ partner in every way conceivable.

He wants to be with Cas forever.

And that’s just not fair, because Cas deserves so much better than Dean. Cas deserves a grown-up, first of all. Someone who has their shit together, someone who’s confident. Cas doesn’t need some teenager with too much baggage who won’t leave his younger-but-smarter brother to his own devices.

All of that’s fine, though, because Dean’s decided to be okay with it. He’s all right with being mostly in love with Cas, falling deeper every day. Hell, he can’t think of anyone he’d rather have unrequited feelings for.

So, really. Dean’s all right with it.


When they get back, Dean’s too wired to go to bed just yet, so he offers to take everything from tonight’s job to the shared apartment and divide it accordingly. Cas agrees after a beat, and Dean watches as the older man goes to his own place for the night, then heads into the apartment.

He’s alone here tonight. Garth is already in bed, because Garth is somehow a seventy-five-year-old in a kid’s body. Sam’s at Kevin’s place, since there’s a big biology test coming up that they’re both nervous about. They’re probably still cramming for it, actually. Benny’s with Andrea again, much to no one’s surprise. Dean thinks there’s gonna be a ring soon, but Cas has thrown his vote in with Andrea being pregnant before Benny makes a more permanent move.

Dean tries to keep his thoughts away from Cas as he sorts the loot into piles. Bank statements, complete with account numbers, go into a stack to give to Charlie, so she can really fuck Dick up. There are a few bundles of hundreds from the safe that Cas cracked (a skill he’s promised to teach to Dean once he masters burglary) that he puts aside to be divided up. Finally, there’s a couple of watches that are probably worth ten grand each. They’re stupid, but they’re also small and mass-manufactured, so Dean couldn’t resist. Cas rolled his eyes, but he didn’t say no. Dean slips those into his pocket so he can take them to the local fence tomorrow.

Unfortunately, that’s all he really has to do tonight. They got a lot, and he’s glad of it, but there’s not much else to keep him distracted from his thoughts.

His thoughts about Cas.

He deserves better, and you’re fine with that, he insists to himself as he sits down to count the bills from the bundles. You’ve gone this long without someone, you didn’t just wake up one morning and start needing people.

No, another voice, just as persuasive, says in his head, you’ve just been with Cas for over six months now, coming up on a year, and you’ve wanted him the whole time.

Dean sighs. Maybe he’s not quite where he wants to be on the whole “I’m cool with Cas not wanting me back” train after all.

When the front door opens and Cas makes his way into the dining room where Dean sits, surrounded by piles of their ill-gotten goods, Dean starts to think maybe he’s not okay with anything at all.

Castiel is in love with Dean Winchester.


He worked so hard to not get attached to the green-eyed boy. He exercised all of his willpower to stop his thoughts in their tracks when they wandered. He hasn’t even masturbated to the image of a flushed, thin chest and plush, ridiculously biteable lips.

And still, he failed. Miserably, spectacularly, and utterly has he failed at not having feelings for Dean.

It’s just that Dean is so… Good. Though he’s only seventeen, he’s old in his soul, wise beyond his years. He’s selfless and irreverent and everything that Castiel has ever needed in his life, all wrapped up in a completely unavailable package.

So many things work against him. The age difference, of course. Castiel is a firm believer that age is just a number, but it’s more than years than separate he and Dean. It’s just as he told Charlie, Castiel himself might be the first person in Dean’s life to tell him that he’s good, that he matters. He’s the first adult to take care of Dean, and not the other way around, full-time. That alone would skew the boy’s way of looking at him.

He also keenly feels the power imbalance between them. No matter how hard he tries to insist that it’s not necessary, Dean is always going to feel far too indebted to Castiel for him to feel comfortable approaching the boy. If Dean did say yes, Castiel would never be sure if it was because Dean really wanted him, or because Dean feared what would happen to his brother and himself if he upset Castiel by saying no.

Honestly, though, all of that is perfectly all right. He’s perfectly fine with loving Dean from afar.

Are you really?

He wonders, sometimes, if this is how Cain felt before they fell into bed together. By that time, of course, Castiel knew well enough what was going on, and encouraged Cain’s attention eagerly.

If only Dean would do the same.

The thought of it nearly makes him stumble on the way to his kitchen. The image of Dean’s green eyes, downturn in faux coyness, of his plush mouth, caught between his teeth as he demurely bites his lip. Castiel wants to wreck him. He wants to mark the boy up, turn him into a trembling, babbling mess. He wants to make Dean come so hard the boy sees stars, wants to make him cry out until he’s hoarse.


With the strange combination of nostalgia, adoration, and arousal swirling in his gut, he knows that sleep will continue to elude him for a while now. That’s all right, he needs to look over some paperwork that Charlie sent over, anyway. She was able to find some information about Azazel, but because of the Roman job, Castiel has been exceptionally distracted. Since this promises to be a sleepless night, it will be the perfect opportunity to go through it.

He makes his way to the shared apartment and assures himself that it’s not because he knows Dean might still be there.

Shit, shit, shit.

Cas is coming in. Fuck. It’s not that Dean doesn’t want to see Cas, obviously. He loves being around Cas, but right now all he can think about is how he can’t have Cas, about how he’s not good enough for the older man to even look at him twice, much less want him. Right now, he’s struggling with the idea that he’ll never get to kiss Cas.

Right now, it might not be the best time to see Cas, but he doesn’t have much of a choice, because the older man is standing in the kitchen now, an unreadable look on his face. He’s still wearing the grey shirt and black slacks from the job, but he’s just got socks on instead of shoes, and the top few buttons of the shirt have been undone, revealing tanned skin pulled taut over a delectable collarbone.


“Dean, is everything all right?”

“Dean, is everything all right?”

As much as Castiel is currently debating on whether or not it’s a good thing that he’s alone in this room with Dean, concern for the boy overrides everything. Dean looks a little ill, almost like he’s in pain. It makes something deep and protective flare to life in Castiel’s chest.

He wants to sweep Dean into his arms, carry him back to Castiel’s bed, and wrap him up in blankets until he feels safe, sheltered. He wants to hold Dean and press chaste kisses to his face until he feels warm and loved. Of course, he also wants to fuck Dean so badly it’s almost a physical pain in his solar plexus, but that’s beyond the point now.

None of that is an option available to him, so he settles for asking after Dean’s well-being.

“Thought you went to bed,” Dean says gruffly, his voice scratchy and strained. It makes Castiel even more desperately curious as to whether or not Dean’s actually sick. With Sam’s exams coming up, it would only be right of me to offer to care for Dean myself while he’s ill, some crazed part of his brain is already rationalizing.

“I wanted to get some paperwork that Charlie sent about Abaddon and her gang.”

Dean’s eyes are on the table. He brings one of his hands up to rub the back of his neck, and Castiel tries not to find it appealing. “Oh, yeah. The, uh, the printer went off.”

He wants to insist that Dean tell him what’s wrong, but he’s not privy to that. He’s not Dean’s lover, or his boyfriend, he’s essentially his boss. He has no right to demand information from the boy.

So he smiles tightly. “Thank you, Dean.”

Maybe it’s because he’s moving closer to Dean, since he has to move around the table to get to the office. Maybe it’s because he was already looking at the boy. Maybe it’s because, since the moment he laid eyes on him, Castiel has been more in tune with Dean than he has any other human being he’s ever come in contact with.

Regardless of the reason, Castiel doesn’t miss the way Dean’s breath catches a bit, or the way his pupils dilate as he looks up and stares at Castiel coming toward him.

He stops, standing just in front of where Dean is sitting. He watches as Dean, seemingly almost against his will, turns in his chair to face him. “Dean,” he says, his voice low, soft.

“Y-yeah, Cas?” Dean’s voice is trembling just a touch.

“You know…” Castiel thinks for a moment, wanting to choose his words very carefully. “You know… You know that you can talk to me, yes? That there’s nothing you should be embarrassed or hesitant about coming to be with?”

Dean swallows hard, and Castiel is helpless to do anything but follow the movement. “Yes, sir,” the boy whispers.

Castiel can feel arousal start to pool in his belly. “And you know I won’t be angry or disappointed with you for doing so?”

“Yes, sir.” This boy is trying to kill me.

“Are you certain that there’s nothing you’d like to tell me?”

The question hangs in the air between them. Castiel feels like he’s having an out of body experience. He’s standing too close to Dean, can feel the heat radiating off of him. Move back, for God’s sake.

For Dean’s part, he looks heartbreakingly tired. He somehow manages to look incredibly old, and still so young that it makes Castiel’s heart hurt. His hands are clenched into fists at his side. He’s gazing up at Castiel with those green eyes that seem to be begging him for something. It takes a few beats of staring into them to realize what it is.

I can’t.

Well, I can, but I shouldn’t.

I could go to jail, and not even for stealing. In fact, I’ll probably go to hell.

Dean lets out a soft sigh, like a resolution has been made, and Castiel realizes that it has.

But who lovelier to go with than Dean?

When their lips meet for the first time, it’s because they’re meeting in the middle.