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The Exceptional Bad Boy

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“I don't like it here.”

These are the first words that come out of his brother's mouth since they arrived two hours ago.

Dean looks up from where he is sitting on the floor, surrounded by a few moving boxes and holding a flannel shirt in his hands, and he sees Sam, standing in the doorway to his room. Dean has kept the door open.

Sam is worrying his lower lip between his teeth and there is an unsure expression in his eyes. He looks at him and repeats his words, more emphatically.

“I don't like it here.”

He keeps his voice low so their father can't hear them, but it's more than obvious that he's tired and sad. Dean returns his look for a moment before he glances past his brother into his room. Sam's room is just as chaotic as Dean's room. There are boxes and bags, scattered on the floor and the bed, and he knows that it will take a while to clear everything out. And the other rooms are also full of boxes and things that need to find a place yet. Moving is just a hell of a lot of work.

Dean lost the interest in packing and unpacking after the third time they moved to a new town. Now, it's just exhausting and annoying. He's so sick of putting things into bags and boxes and of having to uncrate everything again. He barely remembers what it felt like to be excited about it.

“Dean, I don't want to stay here. I want to go back to Bobby.”

Sam stares at him pleadingly, and Dean can just stare back for a moment. Sam looks miserable. He's tired and sad, and his hair and his sweatshirt are too long. He's barefoot and he taps his toes against the wood floor. His feet have to be cold, and Dean wonders why he isn't wearing socks at least. He looks back up at Sam's face.

“I know, man,” Dean says, fiddling with the shirt in his lap. “But we can't. This is our home now.”

He tries to sound optimistic for his little brother, but Sam snorts.

“Yeah, for how long? Two months? Or three? Or maybe four months this time?”

Dean can't blame Sam for thinking like that. He scratches his neck.

Maybe. Or maybe we're staying longer this time. We don't know that yet, but let's make the most of it.”

Dean has said these words before, every time they arrived at a new house. Let's make the most of it. He's tired of these words and Sam is probably too, but what else is there to say? What else are they supposed to do, what else is he supposed to do? As the big brother, he has to keep on smiling, and thinking positive, and being optimistic, even though he doesn't feel like it.

“Yeah, sure,” Sam says unconvinced, looking at his bare feet.

Of course, Sam doesn't believe him. He has heard those words too often. And words can lose their meaning when they're said too many times.

Dean licks his lips, he wants to say something else – anything that will cheer his little brother up, if only for a while, because that's his job – but their father's voice interrupts them.

“Dean! Sam!”

Sam looks up, grimacing. Dean sighs, closing his eyes for a moment before shaking his head, puts the shirt back into a bag and gets up. Sam still has his puppy eyes fixated on him, he's even curling his lips, and Dean would give him what he wants if he were able to. He just can't resist this look on Sam's face, he can't say no to his little brother – he's physically unable to do so. But there is nothing he can do. He can't give Sam what he wants and it pisses him off.

It pisses him off that Sam isn't happy and that he hasn't smiled for a week. He hasn't smiled since their dad entered Bobby's house and announced with a sour voice that he got fired.

If he's honest, Dean has seen it coming and so did Bobby. They've even talked about it when John started to come back home late again, day after day after day, and it only got later and later every night. One day, he still came back before midnight and the next he came back around 3 am, reeking of alcohol and passing out on the couch. Dean already knew this procedure, but he hoped for Sammy – and also for himself – that they would have more time. He shouldn't be surprised anymore that he doesn't get what he wants.

But it makes him angry. Because the next morning, they had breakfast and John stumbled into Bobby's kitchen, hungover, and just grumbled in Bobby's direction that they were going to move out. That was the moment when Sam stopped smiling.

Dean followed John into the living room, asking what happened, although he already knew it. John didn't answer him, he just repeated that they were going to move out. Bobby stepped into the living room as well, and Dean glanced back into the kitchen. Sam sat there, staring at the table with sloping shoulders. He gritted his teeth and practically begged John to stay, but his father merely shook his head. Bobby tried to convince his old friend to stay, offering him a job at his garage. The glare John shot Bobby was full of rage and Dean backed away, although the anger wasn't directed towards him this time. He just did it out of habit. But Bobby held John's gaze until John shrugged his shoulders and went to his room.

The following days were filled with either tense silence or raging voices. The discussion about staying or leaving ended with a beer bottle thrown against the wall, Sam crying in his room, and a punch to Dean's jaw.

Bobby apologized to Dean, when they sat in the kitchen together later, sometime after John had gone out again. But Dean stopped him with a wave of his hand and just pressed the ice pack to his face, accepting the beer Bobby handed to him. That was two days ago.

They left Bobby's house this morning and arrived at their new house sometime in the afternoon.

Dean can understand Sam when he says he wants to go back to Bobby's place. Dean wants to go back as well. But they can't. So, he puts his hands on Sam's shoulders and turns him around, ignoring the glare he gets. He gives his brother a little push towards the stairs.

John Winchester is standing in the small kitchen and putting plates in one of the cupboards. Sam hesitates before he slumps down on one of the chairs around the kitchen table, and Dean leans against the door frame, watching John carefully. But he seems to be in a good mood right now, so Dean allows himself to relax a bit.

There is a moment of silence, and Dean wonders why their father called for them. Sam shoots him a questioning look. Dean shrugs and winks at Sam; he doesn't want him to worry. It seems that they don't have anything to worry about at the moment, but you never know with John Winchester.

“What do you say?” John asks them, breaking the silence, and Dean just looks at him, not knowing what he means. “The house,” John clarifies, waving his hand in an all-embracing movement to make clear what he means.

Sam mumbles something, looking at the old wooden table. Dean didn't understand what he said. Though, he is sure that Sam didn't say something nice about the house. John turns around. Either he didn't hear Sam's words as well, or he did. Dean swallows. He's not sure what he's supposed to say, but he already sees the anger flaring up in John's eyes, because of Sam.

“It's okay, I guess,” he says hurriedly, and John looks back at him.

For a moment, they look at each other and then John nods, seeming pleased.

“Yeah, I suppose it is,” he says, looking around once before uncrating some cups out of a box next to his feet.

Dean bites his lip, wondering for a few seconds if their dad has actually seen the house. But he supposes that it doesn't matter. John looks relaxed again, and that is what matters.

He looks over to Sam, who rolls his eyes. His eyebrows shoot up in surprise, but Sam already looked away again. Dean frowns. It's more than obvious that something's wrong with Sam, and he knows already what it is, but normally it is Sam who tries to calm John down again. Normally, it's Dean, who lets the words slip out of his mouth without thinking about them. Worry settles in his guts, while he's looking at his little brother.

John doesn't pay them any attention anymore, which is probably a good thing. Dean clicks his tongue once to get Sam's attention. Sam looks up, seeing Dean nodding towards the stairs, and he gets the hint. He gets up quietly and walks over to Dean. With one last look at their father, they slip into the hallway, go back upstairs and into Sam's room. Dean decides that he's going to help his little brother to unpack. He sits down on the floor just like he did in his own room, pulling one of the boxes closer and having a look inside of it. He looks up and sees Sam lying on the bed. He's just staring at the ceiling, his brow is furrowed.

“Come on, man. You'll feel better, when your room isn't a mess anymore,” Dean says, knowing how squeamish Sam is when it comes to the neatness of his room.

But Sam doesn't even listen to him as if he didn't care about how his room is looking right now. That's definitely not a good sign.

“Why did you say the house is okay?” Sam asks, pressing his eyebrows even more together.

“What was I supposed to say?” Dean asks back, taking some books out of the box and putting them on the floor.

He looks at the naked walls. They have to get Sam some shelves for all his books. He takes another book into his hand, pondering where to put them for now. He can't just put them in the middle of the room. Biting his lip, he thinks he should leave them in the box for now, but then he eyes the corner next to Sam's closet. Dean sighs. Well, the floor has to be good enough for the books, at least for a while.

“I don't know, the truth?” Sam scoffs and watches Dean going to the wall next to his closet, dragging the box with the books behind him and flopping down on the floor again.

Dean rolls his eyes, starting to stack up the books against the wall. “You know how dad would have reacted if I had told him the truth.”

Does he actually think the house is okay? I mean, it seems like he likes it.”

“I don't know. Maybe he does. And maybe it's really not that bad,” Dean mutters, staring at some books that clearly belong to Bobby.

But he doesn't say something about it and just puts them on the floor next to the others. Bobby will let them know when he wants to have them back – if he'll ever notice that six of his hundreds of books are missing. Maybe he even gave them to Sam as a parting gift because he knows how much Sam wanted to stay.

Sam huffs a small humorless laugh. “Have you actually seen the house?”

We're here for like two hours. Don't you think it's a little bit early to say that everything is bad?” Dean points out.

Sam has a lot of books, and it takes him a few minutes to stack them all up properly, but eventually, he's done. Sam doesn't answer him, and Dean glances up at his little brother again, and worry digs its claws into his stomach like an aggressive cat. Sam is chewing on his lower lip, still glaring at the ceiling as if it were to blame for everything. He looks so angry .

“Hey,” Dean says softly, pushing himself onto his feet and going over to Sam's bed.

He sits down on the edge and smiles at his little brother. Sam doesn't return the smile. They look at each other for a moment, then Sam looks away.

“Sammy, come on,” Dean tries, but Sam shakes his head.

“I don't want to be here,” he whispers and swallows hard.

“I know.” Dean doesn't know what else to say. He only knows how much this all sucks.

During the following hour, he puts Sam's clothes into the closet and he has to get a screwdriver because one of the doors almost falls off. Sam regards that with a resigned stare, but he doesn't say anything. While Dean repairs the closet, he darts glances at his brother now and then, but Sam doesn't move. With every passing minute, his worry grows and grows. He feels anger boiling in his veins, but he shakes his hands and puts the screwdriver back into the toolbox. He can't show his anger in front of Sam, because Sam will think that he's angry with himfor being angry. And that couldn't be further from the truth.

Dean could never be angry with Sam. He's angry with their dad. He's angry at the world. He's angry with himself. He's so fucking angry all the time. He doesn't want to be here as well, and he's furious that John made them pack their things and just leave once again. He's angry at the world because if things weren't the way they are, everything would be different. And he fucking hates himself for not being able to talk John out of leaving.

He feels Sam staring at his back and closes his eyes for a second. Then, he turns around and has a look into another box. He kneels down and stares at the photo albums, the notebooks, and several photos in different kinds of frames. He gulps, taking one of the framed photos into his hands. A small smile touches the corners of his mouth.

This photograph is a happy memory. He doesn't know who took it, but his whole family stands in front of their old house in Kansas, smiling at the camera because life was good back then. He looks at the younger version of his dad in the photograph, at the big smile on his face, and he knows he hasn't seen him this happy since...

He looks at Sam. Little Sammy, who is just a bundle of blankets and a patch of brown hair in the photo. He doesn't look at himself, how he's waving in the arms of his father. And he also doesn't look at the fourth person in the photo. Because although it's a happy memory, it still makes him sad. He wants to think about it, he wants to remember the good times. But he always feels so hollow after it. Maybe because he knows that they can't go back and that things will never be like they once were.

Dean holds the photo tightly in his hands and stands, walking over to Sam's bed and placing the photo on the nightstand. Sam cocks his head and looks at his brother's face questioningly before he has a look at the photo. He sits up and takes it into his hands. This way Dean can't see Sam's face anymore. But when Sam looks back up again, his eyes are wet, though he doesn't start crying. He nods to Dean. When he puts the photo back on the nightstand, a small smile is playing on his lips. Dean takes that as an equally small victory.

He feels even better when Sam gets up and goes over to a particular box. Dean doesn't know what's in there, but then Sam pulls it towards his desk and gets his pencil case out of the box. His school supplies. Dean sighs in relief. That is a good sign.

He joins Sam next to the box and helps him to put his heavy textbooks on the desk and the window sill. Sam gets his notebooks, some empty and some with drawings and little texts on the white paper, and puts them in a drawer. Dean is pleased with how much better Sam's room already looks, even though it still looks kind of empty. But it's tidier than before and that's a start. They will put some shelves on the walls for Sam's books and maybe also some color. A few posters would look nice, too. Dean thinks about getting Star Wars posters and maybe Harry Potter posters, but just because Sam likes it. It's Sam's room. He is supposed to feel content here. Dean knows that is something he can do for his little brother – he can make his room look nice. Maybe then Sam will accept this house as a temporary home.

At some point, John calls them again. This time, Sam doesn't need to be pushed. Dean follows him downstairs and into the kitchen, where John is already sitting at the table. They have a late dinner together that consists of canned ravioli that stuck to the roof of Dean's mouth. But he doesn't complain and neither does Sam.

He has the feeling that there are moments when John doesn't even realize he's eating, or that his sons are also in the room. They don't talk, and Dean focuses on the food and his surroundings, in order not to let the heavy thoughts that are crawling in the back of his mind come to the front.

Their new kitchen is really small. The cupboards look crammed together and the white paint is peeling off the wood. Dean knows they need a repaint and he also knows that he's probably the one, who has to do it. But as soon as he gets some wall color for Sam's room, he can also get some paint for the cupboards. Maybe Sam will help him with the paint.

The fridge is an old thing that buzzes loudly, which is the only sound right now besides them eating and the scratching of their forks on the plates. The stove and the counter seem like they have seen better days. To be honest, the entire house seems like it has seen better days. They're going to know after a few days how much of a problem this will be. But when Dean glances at his dad, he looks pleased.

Maybe it's just because they managed to be here in time, or because he got them some food, or because they have a house at least. Dean doesn't know. But John is smiling and Dean won't complain. As long as there is no fight, no shouting, no punches – it's okay. John is sober and in a good mood. They will see for how long it will last this time.

Sam doesn't eat a lot, but Dean doesn't mention it and neither does John. Though, Dean doubts that he even notices it. But Sam does eat a little bit and for now, that's enough. Dean just has to keep an eye on his little brother and to ensure that he'll eat more the next days.

When they finish eating, John leaves the kitchen without saying a word. Dean blinks at his father as he walks over into the living room. Sam looks after their dad as well and then at Dean. He is clearly annoyed, but Dean just shrugs. They can hear John rummaging around through the boxes in the living room. At least, he helps to unpack this time. At least, he's here. At least, there wasn't a fight since they entered the house. At least, John is sober.

Dean does the dishes and Sam helps him. Sam still doesn't look even remotely content, and Dean tries to convince himself that they just need some time. They need some time to adjust to this new house, in this new town. They just need some time. Dean needs some time. And Sammy also just needs some time. He just doesn't know how much time. But he hopes it won't be too long. He doesn't like seeing his brother sad or angry. It makes him feel sad and angry as well, especially if there's nothing he can do to help Sammy.

John, however, doesn't notice Sam's mood – or he ignores it, or he just doesn't care. Sometimes, he is hard to read, especially when he's sober. Even though that doesn't happen so often.

When they are done with the dishes, the clock on the microwave shows that it's 9:28 pm and John comes back into the kitchen. He doesn't say anything about the dishes, or that he just left after dinner without helping to clean up. Neither Dean nor Sam mentions it.

Their father calls it a night, because tomorrow is Monday – his first day at the new job, and Sam's and Dean's first day at the new school. John disappears into his bedroom that is downstairs.

They aren't allowed to go into his bedroom, no matter where they are. Dean doesn't question it anymore. He thinks it's just one of John Winchester's habits that he adopted after the incident that changed their lives so drastically. John adopted quite a few habits after it if Dean thinks about it – like drowning his feelings and thoughts in alcohol, hitting his children, and not keeping a job longer than for a few months.

Dean follows Sam upstairs and into his room again. His eyes dart over the two remaining boxes, and he sighs.

“We'll finish this over the next days, okay?“ he says tiredly.

Sam just nods, and they brush their teeth quickly in the tiny bathroom before they go back to Sam's room. All the rooms are kind of small, but they will have to do it. And the bathroom may be tiny, but they have a shower, a sink, a cabinet, and a toilet, so they can't complain. It was only the first day, and although Sam doesn't like it here – yet –, they already had worse 'homes'.

Dean remembers the four months when they lived in the car most of the time, or for a couple of nights in a very cheap motel. At least, they have a roof over their heads that doesn't belong to a car, but rather an actual house.

But he can understand Sam. After the last three months, this is a royal degradation. The last three months at Bobby's house were like heaven. Sam and he shared a room, and Dean already misses it. He misses Bobby and the comfort of his house. It felt like home . And now, they have... this .

So yes, he can understand Sam, when he says he wants to go back to Bobby. Dean wants the same. But the day John Winchester accepts help like financial support is the day hell is going to freeze. Dean still wonders how they managed to convince him to move into Bobby's house when John got a job in Sioux Falls.

Sam lies down onto his bed, and Dean tucks the blanket around his brother and ruffles his hair. Sam grumbles and smooths his hair back down. It's going to be a mess anyway when he wakes up tomorrow. The kid needs a haircut, but Dean's afraid they won't have the money for it. He will have to reach for the scissors, but it won't be the first time. Hopefully, Sam won't mind.

“Hey, tomorrow is another day,” Dean reminds his little brother, who yawns and rubs his eyes, blinking up at him.

“I don't want to go to school tomorrow,” Sam says quietly.

Dean's eyebrows shoot up in surprise, but then he sees how sad Sam looks once again.

“Who are you and what have you done with my brother?” he jokes because Sam loves learning and going to school.

But Sam doesn't smile and Dean sighs, sitting down on the edge of the bed. He ignores that the worry inside of him is intensifying, starting to chew at his heart.

“Listen, I know how you feel. I'm not saying that I'm happy with this, but we can't change it. We just have to make the most out of the situation.” He tries again to sound as optimistic as possible, smiling down at Sam.

“I don't want to be the new kid again,” Sam complains.

“Me neither,” Dean tells him earnestly.

And that's it. There is nothing he can say right now to cheer his little brother up, and he knows that. But he lets him know that he feels the same and that he's not alone. It pisses him off that that's the only thing he can do for Sammy right now.

He gives his brother another small smile. “Try to sleep now.”

Sam sighs but he closes his eyes, and Dean gets up and walks over to the door, switching the light off. With one last look at his brother, he closes the door behind him and enters his own room. He ignores the mess and pulls some sweatpants and a t-shirt out of a bag. He started to sort through the boxes, but mostly he helped Sam with his stuff today.

Dean shrugs. He's tired. Because of having to say goodbye to Bobby. Because of the long drive. Because of being careful around his father. Because of trying to make Sammy feel better. Because of sifting through boxes yet again. He just wants to sleep. Tomorrow is their first day at the new school, and he is so not looking forward to it.

He changes his clothes and slumps onto his bed. While he's slowly falling asleep, he thinks that he should do something nice with his room as well. But first, he has to take care of Sammy's room.

Dean is almost over that edge, he is on the brim of falling asleep, when he remembers it. Fuck. Before they left, he promised Bobby to call him when they have arrived.

He groans and contemplates doing that in the morning, but he knows Bobby wouldn't be so keen about that. He's probably already pissed that he hasn't heard anything from him yet. Therefore, Dean opens his eyes again and grabs his phone.

Bobby answers the call after the second ringing. “They say the short-term memory gets worse when you're older, so can you imagine yourself in like 60 years?”

Dean huffs a small laugh. “I'm sorry, Bobby. It was kind of a stressful afternoon.”

“Excuses, excuses, excuses,” Bobby grumbles, but Dean can hear the smile in his voice.

“You know me, Bobby.”

“Yeah, that's why I wanted you to call me.”

“Ah, so not just because you wanted to know if we arrived safely?”

“As if I cared about that,” Bobby snorts, but then his voice gets serious. “How are you?”

“I'm fine,” Dean replies without hesitation.

I'm fine. His standard answer to the infamous question how are you? – no matter who's asking it.

“Sure,” Bobby says. He doesn't push Dean, but he knows for sure that he's lying. And Dean knows that Bobby knows. “How's your dad?”

“Sober,” Dean answers and Bobby grunts.

“Well, that's something.”

“Yep,” Dean agrees, trying to stifle a yawn.

“And how's Sam?”

“He needs some time, I guess. But he'll be fine,” Dean says, trying to convince himself more than to convince Bobby.

“You guess, huh? Alright, and tomorrow is your first day at school? I promise this is the last question,” he chuckles, when Dean stifles another yawn.

“Yeah, tomorrow is our first day,” Dean affirms.

Dean, it may not be my business and I'm not trying to tell you how to live your life,” Bobby starts after a moment of silence, and Dean frowns. He can imagine what Bobby is going to say and he doesn't want to hear it. “But try to be... not like you were at the other schools.”

Dean grits his teeth. Yeah, he so didn't want to hear that. Of course, he knows what Bobby is talking about, but he doesn't know what to tell him.

“For Sam?” Bobby adds now, and Dean feels guilt pooling in the pit of his stomach.

He can't promise Bobby this. He knows that he will break this promise, so what's the point in disappointing him even more?

“I have to sleep,” he mumbles, pressing his phone to his ear and hearing how Bobby sighs.

“Okay. But call me now and then, just to let me know how things are going.”

“Yeah. Of course, Bobby.”

“And hey, Dean?”

“Yes?” Dean asks, biting his lip.

“Be careful. And take care of yourself.”

“Always. Goodnight,” Dean says, closing his eyes.

He waits until Bobby said goodnight as well before he ends the call and tosses his phone to the side. Another yawn climbs up his throat and he rolls over, facing the wall and trying to muffle all the thoughts in his head.

He knows that Bobby is right. And for Sam is a pretty, pretty good reason why he should try it at least. But he doesn't know if he'll be able to change. He's just so fucked up and he knows that. He's actually sorry for Sam because he has him as a brother.

So, he won't ever promise anyone that he will change, because he doesn't want to see the sadness, the disappointment, and the anger that come along with broken promises.

How often did John Winchester promise them that he will change? That he will stop drinking? That he will keep a job longer than for a few months? That they won't have to move again?

Dean lost count. And at some point, John stopped to promise them these things.

Dean doesn't want to think about that now, though. He just wants to sleep. But it takes hours for his mind to calm down enough to get some rest.

 

Chapter Text

“Dean! Dean, come on. Wake up!”

This is how he's woken up the next morning. He gets jolted awake by his little brother, who shakes his shoulder roughly.

Dean groans and blinks his eyes open, rolling on his back. Sam is standing next to his bed, already dressed, and his hair looks like it has seen a hairbrush this morning. Dean stares at him for a few seconds, surprised and still tired, and then he finally notices the fear in Sam's eyes.

“What's wrong?” he asks cautiously and looks at his alarm that he forgot to set yesterday; he was too busy trying to fall asleep.

But it's just shortly after seven o'clock. He hasn't overslept like he thought he had. Dean rubs his eyes to make the tiredness go away, but it doesn't work. He sits up and studies Sam's face, wrinkling his forehead.

“What's wrong?” he stresses now because Sam didn't answer him.

Sam is chewing on his bottom lip again and his eyes dart to and fro, to the open door and back to Dean's face, again and again. Dean follows his gaze, but there is nothing at the door. He swallows and looks back at his little brother.

“It's dad,” Sam says, keeping his voice as low as possible.

“What about him?” Dean asks warily.

“He wants to have breakfast with us,” Sam whispers. “And he's getting angry because you aren't up yet. He wanted to wake you, but I said I'll do it. You have to get up. Now.” Sam speaks faster than usual, the words are rushing out of his mouth.

Dean is confused and super fucking tired, but Sam's fear is contagious. He folds back his blanket and gets up. He hasn't gotten a lot of sleep last night, and the weariness makes his brain slow. He blinks down at Sam, only processing slowly what he is saying.

“Dad wants to have breakfast with us?” he repeats Sam's words wonderingly. They sound weird.

Yes,” Sam says. “Can you please hurry up?”

“Uh, sure,” Dean mutters, finally being awake enough to understand the seriousness of the situation at least. It's no laughing matter when John Winchester is angry. They both know that far too well. “Tell dad I'll be right there.” He grabs some fresh clothes and Sam nods, watching Dean disappear into the bathroom before going downstairs again.

Dean showers in under four minutes and quickly puts his clothes on. He runs his fingers through his wet hair a few times, and then it sticks up everywhere. He barely looks in the mirror, though. He doesn't have the time and he couldn't care less what he's going to look like on the first day at the new school.

The shower woke him up completely, and he doesn't want to leave Sam alone with their dad any longer. Not when he is angry, not when he is in a bad mood. Though, he doesn't know what has gotten into John. They never have breakfast together. Why today?

He goes downstairs and enters the kitchen. John and Sam are already sitting at the table. Sam is biting his lip, his chin is quivering, and he looks like he's on the verge of crying. Dean clenches his hands into fists at the sight, but then Sam locks eyes with him and shakes his head slightly, sneaking a glance at their dad before lowering his eyes again.

John is staring at Dean and he looks relatively calm, though his lips are pressed together to a thin line and his eyes are hard. When Dean just stands at the door, he lets out an exasperated sigh.

“Are you planning on sitting down at some point on your own, or do you need an invitation?”

Dean flinches, although he doesn't want to show any weakness in front of his father. Besides, John spoke with a normal volume. He didn't shout at him, but his anger is visible now. He raises an eyebrow at Dean when he finally sits down next to him and across from Sam.

Actually, Dean doesn't want to be so close to John right now. He wants to be as far away as possible from his dad, to tell the truth. But Sam is sitting right next to John as well, and if he'll start to throw punches, he should better aim at Dean and not at Sam.

Sam swallows, his throat rippling slightly, and he doesn't stop biting his lip. He's probably trying to suppress the tears, because if he started to cry now, John would definitely be furious. John never wants to see any tears.

Dean is sure the best is to play along with what John wants to do – having breakfast together.

He looks at the table. There are some sandwiches and fried eggs on two plates in the middle of the table. He prefers scrambled eggs, but he wouldn't dare to complain right now. He has the feeling that he is supposed to say something because John just sits there and stares at him with a cold look in his eyes.

Why is it so easy to forget that John Winchester is somehow even scarier and more dangerous when he's sober, as he is when he's drunk? Maybe it has something to do with the fact that he's rarely completely sober.

“This looks good,” Dean says after another long moment of silence.

To his relief, his voice is calm and steady, and he returns the look of his dad without blinking. After a few more tense seconds, John gives him a small smile and looks at the table as well.

“Thanks.”

He nods to Dean and starts to put fried eggs on everyone's plates. Sam and Dean glance at each other, and Dean smiles at his little brother. Sam relaxes a bit and takes a bite from his sandwich. John starts to eat as well and although Dean isn't that hungry, he does the same.

The sandwiches are basically just dry toast with cheap cheese and (cold) canned tomatoes, the coffee is kind of watery, and the fried eggs are a bit too salty and a bit too burnt for his liking. But what has he expected? John hasn't made a proper breakfast in years , so this is quite good for his first try after such a long time.

Though, Dean still misses the breakfast at Bobby's house with good sandwiches, scrambled eggs, fresh and crispy bacon,... He should stop thinking about that and just be glad that John remembered to buy food. It isn't a given that they have something to eat, because either John forgets to buy something, or he spends their money on cheap spirits.

Dean does feel a little bit better when he sees that Sam finished off his whole plate. John is pleased with himself again when he notices it as well. But Dean suspects that Sam only ate so much to put John in a better mood. After all, Dean did the same thing.

As long as John is pleased, and as long as they can manage to keep him in a good mood, it's fine. That's why they let him think that the breakfast he made was actually good. Maybe it will get better when he does it a few times. But Dean doesn't even know if they're going to continue having breakfast together, or if this was just a one-off.

They do the dishes and clean up the kitchen together, but it's kind of awkward. Dean doesn't know what to say or to do, and neither does Sam. John is calm again, but they still don't talk to each other. Dean doesn't want to say the wrong thing, and John simply needs to misunderstand or mishear something, so Dean figures it's better not to talk at all.

Sam and he go upstairs to get their backpacks when it's time for them to leave for school. Dean's backpack is packed and ready for school, but just because Sam did it. He insisted on it, so Dean let him do it. Sam slings his backpack over his shoulder and looks nervously at Dean when they go downstairs again. But he doesn't say anything. He doesn't say again that he doesn't want to go to school, probably because he knows that it wouldn't do any good. John doesn't want to hear anything like this. And he's calm right now. Sam is smart enough not to ruin that.

Their father is sitting in the kitchen, a newspaper in front of him on the table and another cup of coffee in his hand. For a moment, Dean is confused but then he remembers that his dad has the late shift today. He takes a deep breath before he knocks on the door frame once to get his dad's attention. John looks up from the article he's reading, and there is such poise in his eyes that it hurts. Dean wonders for how long it will go well before it all begins to crumble again.

“We're gonna go now,” he says, tightening his grip around the straps of his backpack marginally.

“Have a nice day,” is all John says before he continues reading.

Unsure, Dean turns around to Sam who looks at him with raised eyebrows, but then he shrugs and mumbles, “Thanks, you too.”

He pushes Sam to the front door and out of the house before John's mood is able to change suddenly – what happens now and then and for no apparent reason. They step out the door, and Dean closes it quietly, following Sam over their front lawn and down the street. He knows where the school is because he was there when Sam looked it up at his laptop in the room they shared in Bobby's house. Besides, it's just a small town.

They have to walk for barely 25 minutes, but it's cold. It's fucking cold, and they're both shivering. Their breath is a foggy cloud in front of their faces, and Dean just wants to get to the school, hoping that it'll be warm inside the building. But when they're almost there, Sam stops walking.

Dean doesn't notice it at first, taking a couple more steps before seeing that Sam isn't beside him anymore. He stops, too, and turns around, staring at his brother questioningly. Sam looks downright uncomfortable, he has an uneasy expression on his face and he's shifting from one foot to the other. If Dean didn't know better, he'd say Sam has to pee.

But he does know better.

He looks over his shoulder at the school building and then back to Sam, who's holding his gaze for only two seconds before looking down at his feet. Dean sighs and walks over to Sam, kneeling down in front of him so that Sam is the one, who's looking down at him. But Sam avoids to look him in the eye again.

“Maybe it won't be too bad,” Dean says quietly, letting a small smile grace his lips. “Mh?” He raises his eyebrows.

“I don't want to be the new kid again,” Sam mumbles and Dean chews on the inside of his cheek.

He knows what Sam means, knows how he feels. But there is nothing he can do. He closes his eyes and shakes his head. When he opens his eyes, Sam glances sheepishly down at him.

“Do you think I'm weak?” Sam asks quietly, so quietly that Dean almost doesn't hear it.

His forehead creases in confusion. He cocks his head to the side, looking at his brother's sad face.

“Why would I think that?”

“Because I'm scared,” Sam explains, looking back down at his feet. “Because I don't want to be the new kid again.”

Dean grits his teeth, because it hurts him when Sammy is hurting. He hates this.

Hey, listen to me, Sammy,” he says softly, waiting until Sam meets his eyes again. “You are not weak. You're one of the strongest and bravest people I know. But it's okay to be scared. It's okay when you don't want to do something. And I'm sorry that you have to do this, but you can do this. I believe that you can do it.”

A smile tugs at the corners of Sam's mouth. “Do you really think that?”

“Of course. I'd never lie to you,” Dean says, smiling back at him. “And if someone messes with you, I'm gonna rip their fucking lungs out.”

“Yeah, sure,” Sam snorts, actually smiling now. “Thank you, Dean,” he adds after a few seconds.

“Always, Sammy.”

Dean stands and together, they start walking towards the school again. But they only made a few steps, when Sam begins to speak again.

“Hey, Dean?”

Since Sam is walking behind him, Dean has to look over his shoulder. “What?”

“It's Sam, not Sammy.”

Dean chuckles. “Sure, Sammy,” he says and winks. He can practically hear how Sam rolls his eyes at him.

They enter the school building and walk through the unfamiliar hallways, past the lockers and the other students, who are already staring at them. Sam walks a little bit faster, so he's next to Dean again.

“You have no idea where we're going, right?” he asks.

Dean shrugs his shoulders. They have to get their timetables and to enroll. He doesn't care about this, but he does it for Sam. He thinks it's the best when they go to the secretariat. He just doesn't know where they have to go to get there.

“We could ask someone the way,” Sam suggests, when Dean stops in the middle of a hallway, because he doesn't want to wander around aimlessly anymore.

“Smartass,” he mutters under his breath.

He is pretty sure that Sam heard him since he looks like he wants to launch into replying to Dean's comment, just when someone steps up to them.

“You must be Dean and Sam Winchester,” the man says with a friendly smile, holding his hand out for them to shake. “Hello, I'm Mr. Wyatt.”

“Hello, I'm Sam,” Sam says politely and shakes Mr. Wyatt's hand.

Dean does it, too. “So, you're the guy they sent off to show us around?” he asks, studying the teacher's face.

He ignores the glare he gets from Sam. Mr. Wyatt doesn't look offended, though; he even huffs a small laugh.

“No, Dean. Sadly, I'm just the one, who has the pleasure of greeting you,” the teacher says, smiling, both apologetically and jokingly.

Out of the corner of his eye, Dean sees that Sam is smiling as well. He decides that he likes Mr. Wyatt, even though he is a teacher. He made Sammy smile, although he's feeling down, and that means a lot to Dean. Though, he won't admit it.

“You'll both get someone – a student – to show you around,” Mr. Wyatt continues, looking around in the hallway. “Ah yes, what a lucky coincidence.” He chuckles. “Please, wait a second.”

Dean and Sam look after him when he disappears around a corner. Dean assumes that the teacher has seen someone, who could show them around.

The other students still stare at them, when they walk past them, and all Dean sees is curiosity in their eyes. But he still doesn't like it. Sam doesn't seem to be very happy with all the staring either. They both just know how much it sucks to be the new kid.

Two minutes later, Mr. Wyatt comes around the corner with two students in tow. He smiles at them and then nods at the girl and the boy.

“Sam, this is Becky,” he says and points at the girl. “She will show you the school today and answer your questions if you have any.”

Becky is probably 13 years old, just like Sam. Dean can't decide if her hair is light brown or dark blonde, but he is also quite distracted by the big grin on her face. She seems pretty excited about the task that was given to her.

“Hi,” she squeaks, waving excitedly.

Sam glances at Dean before he forces a smile towards her, muttering a hello. Dean tries not to burst out laughing and coughs into his hand, getting another glare from his brother. Sam doesn't look very happy when he follows Becky down the hallway. Dean feels bad for him, but it's also kind of hilarious. Even Mr. Wyatt looks like he has to suppress his laughter.

“Well, the reason why I chose these two is that Becky is in Sam's first class this morning, just like Gabe here is in your first class, Dean,” Mr. Wyatt says, pointing at the boy now. “I thought it would be the most convenient way,” he explains, just as the first bell rings.

“The class starts in five minutes, so you better hurry up,” he says, smiling at Dean and clapping him on the shoulder. Then, he leaves him alone with the boy, who hasn't said a word yet.

“Gabe, right?” he asks, looking at the boy but not offering his hand for him to shake.

The boy stares at him for a few seconds but he doesn't offer his hand for Dean to shake as well.

“Gabriel,” he corrects him. “Only my friends can call me Gabe.”

He smirks at Dean, who raises an eyebrow. Okay.

“Fine. Gabriel, then,” Dean replies snidely, not sure what to think.

“Let's go. You don't want to be late on your first day, kiddo,” Gabriel says and starts walking.

Dean rolls his eyes and follows him through the hallways. “Don't call me kiddo,” he tells him harshly when he caught up with him again.

“Don't tell me what to do,” is Gabriel's only comment to that, and Dean shoots him an annoyed glare but Gabriel doesn't look impressed.

He chuckles, pointing a finger at Dean and looking at him as if he only realized now that he's walking beside him.

“I wasn't so sure what to think of you, but now I know,” Gabriel says, adjusting the strap of his backpack on his shoulder.

Dean creases his forehead in confusion. This Monday is really not going as he wanted it to. First, the tense and awkward breakfast with John, and now he's probably stuck with this weird-ass guy for the rest of the day.

“What do you mean?” he asks, because Gabriel stopped talking, waiting for Dean to react first.

Well, of course, I saw your clothes right away, but pfff, everyone can dress like this, can't they? And I sure as hell don't want to judge anyone just by their clothes.”

Dean looks down at himself and his clothes. He's wearing his usual blue jeans, a black t-shirt with an AC/DC logo, and a red flannel shirt under his brown leather jacket. He scoffs and looks back at Gabriel, who's making another waving movement with his hand towards him.

“But now, with the glare and everything, and the way you're talking,” Gabriel continues, “you're giving off these vibes.” He is nodding, but probably more to himself.

“What vibes?” Dean asks, getting more and more annoyed.

“Bad boy vibes,” Gabriel answers, grinning.

Dean gives him another glare, but he's not offended. He's glad, although he shouldn't be. He remembers what Bobby said to him when they were talking on the phone yesterday. But he makes the guilt go away before it can settle in his bones.

He is a bad boy. He always was, no matter where they were. He always had the reputation of a bad boy. And he didn't promise Bobby anything. He plans on getting the same reputation here as always. After all, it's the only thing he's good at.

A few other people are walking through the hallways. They nod at Gabriel or say hi, and stare at Dean curiously. Dean doesn't pay them much attention and before Gabriel can say more, they arrive at the classroom and enter it silently. Gabriel goes over to his seat immediately, and Dean just stands there for a second, gritting his teeth.

They have math and their teacher is an older guy, who introduces himself as Mr. Redfield. Dean nods to him and slumps down on his chair. He has to sit in the front row and he hates it. He'd rather sit in the back of the class. He can feel the others staring at him, but he ignores it for now.

The lesson goes by surprisingly fast, maybe because Dean is just daydreaming and not listening to the teacher right in front of him at all. However, the bell rings and Dean looks up, stuffing his notepad and textbook back into his backpack, wondering why he even bothered to put them on his desk. He didn't take any notes, didn't even open his book. Mr. Redfield didn't say anything about it though; maybe he doesn't care, or he simply didn't notice it.

Gabriel waits outside for him next to the door, but he starts walking down the hallway without saying a word to him. Dean just follows him. They go to the secretariat and meet Sam and Becky there. They both get their timetables and get told that there are some rules here, just like at any other school. No alcohol, no drugs, no fights. As if Dean cared about that.

Scowlingly, Sam tags along after Becky again, when they leave the secretariat. Apparently, Becky never stops talking and she's already doting on Sam. Dean would feel sorry for his little brother if he weren't stuck with Gabriel. The guy wears a Hawaiian shirt in the middle of January.

Dean wonders to what group Gabriel belongs here, but then he figures that he doesn't care. It doesn't even matter. From tomorrow on, he won't ever have to talk to this guy again.

“Okay. Listen, kiddo,” Gabriel says and stops at the end of a hallway.

Dean presses his lips together and shoots Gabriel one of his death glares. He knows how dangerous and intimidating he can be. After all, he never had a reputation of a bad boy for free. But Gabriel just snorts at him and puts his hands into the pockets of his jeans.

“I'll show you where your locker is and then I have to get something done,” Gabriel says and starts walking again. He looks at Dean and asks, “You're going to survive a few minutes without me, right?”

Gabriel talks with a voice he would use while talking to a little kid, and he is getting more and more on Dean's nerves.

“I'd be more than happy, if I had a few minutes where I don't have to see your ugly face,” Dean decides.

Gabriel laughs. “Oh, you have a sense of humor. That's great!”

Dean begins to wonder what is wrong with this guy. Or is something wrong with him? He never had any problems with getting his reputation as a bad boy. Maybe he has to smash some faces first or throw some punches. But he usually doesn't get in a fight on the first day for the sake of Sammy.

They go to his locker that is in the middle of some hallway, and Gabriel explains the way to his next class after he sneaked Dean's timetable out of his hand. Then, he goes away and Dean feels his anger flashing through his skull again. But he just shakes his head and puts all the stuff he doesn't need anymore into his locker.

He doesn't pay attention in his next class as well and doodles on a random page of his notepad with a scowl on his face. When he leaves the classroom, Gabriel isn't there and Dean is glad about it. Some kid, maybe a little bit older than Sam, walks past him, staring at him blatantly.

“You got a problem?” Dean snaps, glaring at the boy, who shakes his head quickly and starts walking faster.

A few people stare at Dean but he gives them a cold look and then they turn away. Finally, a normal reaction.

He finds a bathroom and takes a quick piss, but his mood doesn't brighten when he washes his hands and Gabriel enters the room.

“Ah, Dean-o, there you are,” he says loudly, leaning against one of the sinks. Dean grabs a paper towel and doesn't say anything, so Gabriel continues talking. “What did the poor kid do to you?” he asks with a smirk.

Dean looks at him. So, word travels fast here. Though, he just raised his voice a little bit at the kid. He didn't do something to him.

The bell rings. Dean pushes past Gabriel out of the bathroom, but the guy follows him, grinning from ear to ear.

“What's so funny?” Dean asks roughly.

“You'll get it soon enough,” Gabriel answers, but he doesn't stop grinning.

Dean runs his fingers through his spiky hair, exhaling slowly. This guy is starting to wear him out.

The rest of the way to Dean's next class, they walk in silence though, and Dean pretends Gabriel isn't there, to prevent himself from slamming the guy's head against one of the lockers.

His next class is Biology, and he sits down in the last row, taking the seat of another boy, who entered the room right behind him. Dean glares at him coldly and he doesn't even have to say something. The boy just gulps and sits down elsewhere. Pleased, Dean notices that the boy sits as far away from him as possible. He is sure that he's going to get the same reputation as always, no matter how weird Gabriel is behaving. Though, he wonders what he is supposed to get soon.

When the class is over, Dean is one of the firsts to leave the room and he spots Gabriel down the hallway, talking to some Asian looking kid. They fist bump and Gabriel walks over to him.

“Lunch break,” he exclaims, grinning once again. “This is going to be fun. You have no idea how much you brighten up my Monday,” he tells Dean, as they start strolling through the hallways again. Dean assumes they're on their way to the cafeteria.

“Dude, I have no idea what you're talking about,” Dean states, rolling his eyes.

“Okay, Dean-o. Strain your ears and listen closely to what I'm going to tell you,” Gabriel demands and Dean sighs, annoyed by Gabriel's strangeness once again.

“Hey, this is very important,” Gabriel explains. “You already got told all these rules from the hot secretary, but honestly, who cares about those?”

Before Dean can answer, Gabriel continues. “I'll tell you the real rules that are dominating this high school.”

Dean's eyebrows shoot up in surprise, but Gabriel did catch his interest. “Go on,” he decides.

After all, he wants to know the reason why this guy doesn't seem to be impressed by him.

Gabriel chuckles. “You come here and you think that you will just automatically be the new bad boy,” he says. “But did it ever occur to you that there already are bad boys at this school?”

Dean scoffs. “Of course. But that was never a problem. Why should it be here?”

Because here, you're having some real competition, kiddo,” Gabriel makes known.

Dean glances at him, eyes full of doubt. He was always the worst, wherever they moved, no matter the school. Honestly, why should it be any different here? But he doesn't say anything but rather lets Gabriel continue explaining.

“You have to know that there's some kind of hierarchy at this school. We have two bad boys and they both have their group.”

Dean notices that Gabriel uses his hands a lot when he's explaining something.

“Alastair is the runner-up. He's a super fucking creepy guy with dead eyes, evil grin, and just everything.”

Dean huffs a small laugh. “Really?” he asks, not convinced.

“Believe me, Alastair is the worst kind of person. He only has a small group of people around him, but they are dangerous. They do the usual stuff like shoving people around, insulting everyone, even the teachers, stealing things, getting into fights, drinking, doing drugs. Heavy drugs,” Gabriel points out. “But Alastair almost choke someone to death two years ago – this girl. She left the school after the, uh, accident. He also broke a lot of bones already. And he's just fucking creepy.”

Dean stares at Gabriel and by now, they are in front of the doors of the cafeteria. He stops and holds his hand out for Gabriel to stop as well.

“He almost choke a girl to death and he's still here?” he asks in disbelief.

“She never pressed charges and her family moved away. I don't know, man. Everyone just knows it was Alastair, and almost no one dares to stand in his way. As I said, he's super fucking creepy. He's a freak. You'll understand when you meet him.” And with that, he enters the cafeteria and Dean has no other choice but to follow him.

Gabriel takes an apple, a slice of pizza, and a bottle of water. But while they're waiting in line, Dean asks another question.

“Why is Alastair only the runner-up, then?”

With that kind of history, the guy should be at the top of the hierarchy, shouldn't he?

Chuckling, Gabriel replies with only one word Dean has no use for.

“Novak.”

“Novak?” he wonders, but Gabriel looks at him and points at the food.

Dean shakes his head, he doesn't want anything. Thereat, Gabriel just shrugs and leaves the cafeteria again. Dean trudges after him, confused. He thought they'd sit down at one of the tables.

“Where are we going?” he asks, but Gabriel doesn't give him a satisfying answer.

“You have to meet someone.”

Dean ponders if Novak is a name. He just asks. “This Novak guy?”

“Bingo.”

Gabriel starts eating his pizza with one hand. In the other hand, he holds the apple, and with his arm, he presses the water bottle to his side.

Dean wrinkles his brow. He doesn't know what to think of this Gabriel, but does he just want to go to this guy and introduce Dean to him? After all, there has to be a reason why this Alastair is only the runner-up. He wonders what's so special about this Novak that he is above a guy, who almost choke a girl to death. But Dean starts to smile. He thinks that a hierarchy is certainly a good thing. And he wants to be on the very top of it – looks like he's going to snatch 'the throne' away from this guy. A grin starts to spread on his face when they step outside. Finally, some good news.

Gabriel goes over to an assemblage of stone blocks that are scattered under some trees, finishing off his pizza slice. Dean follows him slowly. They are at the back of the school, and he can see the forest that seems to surround the whole town, starting a fair way off behind the school grounds.

Four people are sitting on the stone blocks right now, and Dean recognizes the Asian looking boy that Gabriel talked to earlier. He sits next to a girl with red hair that smoothly falls onto her shoulders, and there are two other boys. Dean looks at them and wonders if one of them is that Novak guy, or if they all just belong to him.

The girl looks up when they're halfway between the backdoor of the school and the stone blocks. A big smile appears on her face, and she starts waving towards them, or more towards Gabriel. Dean frowns and glances at the boy with the Hawaiian shirt. Does he belong to Novak? Dean thought that he has more of a nerd. He shrugs. He'll know it soon.

Gabe!”

The girl laughs and jumps from the stone block she's sitting on to throw her arms around his neck. The others are smiling and looking at them. Gabriel hugs her back and Dean snorts.

Hey, Gabe, you didn't mention you have a girlfriend,” Dean says mockingly.

Immediately, all eyes are on him but he just stares back.

Gabriel glares at him. “Charlie is not my girlfriend,” he says. “That would be E www .”

The girl, Charlie, shoves him a bit but she grins at him. “You just know that you don't stand a chance.” Facing Dean, she adds, “Hi, you must be Dean. I'm Charlie and I'm hella gay.”

She holds her hand out for him to shake. Dean shakes it after a moment of hesitation, taken aback a little bit by her openly telling him, a stranger, her sexuality. He'd never even think about telling them, people he doesn't even know, that he's bisexual.

“If you weren't gay, I'd have a chance with you,” Gabriel points out.

Only in your dreams,” Charlie shoots back.

Gabriel rolls his eyes, but then he winks at her. Dean has a look at the other guys. They're all staring at him, and he wonders what Gabriel told them. Charlie knows his name, so he assumes that Gabriel did tell them something about him.

“Does no one want to say hi to Dean, but Charlie?” Gabriel asks, almost sounding like a scolding parent of a little child.

Charlie goes back to sitting next to the Asian boy, who holds his hand up.

“Hi, I'm Kevin,” he says, smiling a bit and catching the apple Gabriel throws to him.

The other two introduce themselves as Garth and Gadreel. Garth is a tall, skinny, somehow funny-looking guy, but he also seems weirdly okay. Gadreel looks like he's silently judging Dean, only noticeable because of his eyebrows, but he doesn't say anything. Dean nods to them and looks at Gabriel, who's grinning at him again.

“What?”

Gabriel looks at the others and says, as if Dean weren't even there, “Guys, you just met the new bad boy in town.”

Dean is confused and more annoyed than ever. He rolls his eyes at Gabriel, but Charlie, Kevin, and Garth start to giggle.

“Didn't you tell him?” Gadreel asks Gabriel, who sits down next to Garth.

“'Course I told him, but you know how kids are these days. They never listen.”

Gabriel shakes his head as if he was sorrowful about it. Charlie looks at Dean with a small smile on her lips.

“I want to apologize for Gabe. He's always like that,” she says when she sees the look on Dean's face.

“He just said something about a hierarchy,” Dean says, without reacting to Charlie's words.

“There already are two bad boys,” Kevin points out.

Dean looks at him and nods. “Yeah, Alastair and Novak.”

He puts a hand into the pocket of his jeans. It's still cold, and he can't stand to look at Gabriel, who isn't even wearing a jacket. But he doesn't let it show.

“Exactly,” Garth says, leaning forward a bit to look past Gabriel and at Dean. “You can only decide what group you want to belong to.”

“And y'all belong to this Novak guy?” Dean wonders, almost snidely.

They all, but Gadreel, look like they are nerds and belong to those kids, who get shoved against a locker from time to time.

But before anyone can answer his question, Charlie's face lights up again and she stares at something behind Dean. Everyone starts grinning, looking expectantly at him, and Dean frowns.

Though, before he can turn around, someone behind him starts to speak.

“Is that the new guy, Gabe?”

Dean swallows, because the voice sends chills down his spine, but not in a bad way. He's pretty sure that he never heard a more attractive voice in his whole life. It's deep and sounds hoarse, but the words come out clear and smooth.

When he does turn around, he sees two people walking towards them. One of them is a girl with long dark brown hair, wearing a mini-skirt over fishnet tights and a black sweatshirt that doesn't fit the rest of her outfit.

But Dean doesn't pay her a lot of attention, because the boy, who has his hand around her waist, is the most gorgeous boy Dean's ever seen.

 

Chapter Text

“That's the new guy? Oh my, he's sure handsome,” the girl purrs in a pleasant accent Dean doesn't recognize (since he's pretty distracted), when she walks past him, looking him directly in the eye while she's speaking.

He hears Gabriel snort behind him. “I thought you had high standards, Meg.”

Dean knows it is an insult to him. He probably should at least feel kind of offended and show them that they can't talk like that about him. But he can't find it in him to care right now, and he doesn't even hear the girl's answer to Gabriel's comment.

He's totally lost . He knows at 100% he's never felt like this. He's never seen a person and could just stare at them because that's a thing that only happens in sappy movies and books, and not in real life. In real life, people aren't struck by lightning when they see the person.

But here he is, so far gone that he's not sure if he will be able to find the way back to reality. Because this can't be real, this can't be happening. Still, he just froze in place and looks at this boy, as if there were no other people around them, as if the others didn't matter anymore, as if they didn't exist anymore. Because only this boy exists right now.

It is so utterly strange and wrong , but Dean can't do anything about it.

The boy has let go of the girl's waist – Meg – and stands in front of Dean now, looking at him with a glimpse of curiosity in his eyes.

And that's the first thing Dean notices. The boy's eyes. Blue. Fucking blue. He's never seen such a blue before, especially not in the eyes of someone. Because this kind of blue doesn't exist – or so he thought.

They're even deeper than the guy's voice, almost endless, and as clear as crystal. They remind him of the ocean, of cold fresh air in the morning, and of the wonder when you're standing under a waterfall. They look like they belong in a fucking poem . What the hell is wrong with him?

The second thing he notices are the boy's fingernails, and his brow furrows in confusion. He stares at them in disbelief, noticing that his mind slowly starts to come back to reality. But it's like waking up from a deep sleep, and he still can just look at the boy in front of him.

His fingernails are red. The boy painted them.

Dean can't do anything else, so his mind just takes everything in. The clothes the boy is wearing. Black boots, neatly corded up and a bit muddy. Dark jeans that are purposely ripped at the knees and fit tightly around his muscular legs. The army pullover that's not as close to his torso as it could be, but it's still tight and it looks good . And just everything else. The very messy dark hair, something black on the neck of this boy that probably belongs to a fucking tattoo, but Dean can't see it properly, and the little silver nose stud.

That's it . He's at least halfway back to reality. And Dean can't help it. He scoffs.

This boy looks so surreal and so gorgeous at the same time, and it confuses him. The nail polish and the nose stud in combination with the outfit and just what he looks like come across so wrong and so right at the same time. Maybe wrong because Dean is seeing him for the first time, and maybe right because it all appears like it fucking belongs exactly the way it is.

He doesn't know how much time actually passes, and he doesn't even realize that he's gawking at this guy until he hears a low chuckle. He stares at the boy's face, who licks his lips and stares back at Dean, locking eyes with him.

“You got a problem?”

What?” Dean asks, again totally off guard, because this fucking voice sends goosebumps all over his body.

What the fuck?

He hears the others snickering and turns half around, just by instinct, blinking at them.

Gabriel is biting his lip, but he looks at Dean and says, “As I said, you brighten up my Monday, Dean.” Grinning at the boy, he adds, “I just love the different effects you have on people, Castiel.”

Castiel?

Castiel Novak?

It just puts itself together in his head, he doesn't even have to think about it. Castiel Novak. And holy fuck, does it match. Dean never thought that he'd be so pleased with how a name sounds.

Castiel Novak. He repeats it in his head. It sounds good. It sounds right. It fits. It's smooth and elegant, but still a little weird and without a doubt, it belongs to the guy in front of him.

“Dean, you should close your mouth, before you start drooling,” Meg tells him with her smoky voice and raises an eyebrow at him.

He finally gets dragged completely back to reality, where he's standing on the school ground with all these other people. How long is he already standing here like a fucking idiot, thinking about this boy, about Castiel?

Fortunately, he regains his composure quickly and he doesn't even blush. He glares at her disparagingly.

“Funny.” He grits his teeth, but he can't think of anything else to say.

Suddenly, he remembers what he wants. He wants to have his usual reputation. And he isn't playing a part in contributing to that at the moment.

Meg laughs and it's not an unpleasant sound, it's powerful and strong. He still doesn't like it, because she's laughing at him. Normally, no one dares to laugh at him. But nothing here seems to be like it is normally, and that is getting on his nerves and making him angry.

This isn't how he imagined his first day at the new school to go. He thought it would be easy to gain a reputation as a bad boy again because it was always easy. Why not here? Why is this guy here, Castiel, and ruins everything?

Castiel has walked around him and sits down next to Charlie, never stopping to look at him, what doesn't escape Dean's notice. He doesn't feel uncomfortable, although the look he gets seems to pierce right through him. He licks his lips, trying to stay in the present and not letting his mind run off the track again. He needs to focus on getting the reputation he wants.

Gabriel gets up and goes over to Castiel, whispering something into his ear, and a smile slowly appears on Castiel's face. Dean frowns at the sight, but mostly because he can't cannot notice how endearing Castiel's smile is. Again, it's his eyes – that's where most of the smile takes place. They're shining and it's like the sun dove into the ocean.

“Hey, no secrets,” Meg pouts.

“As if you didn't have any secrets,” Kevin says before Gabriel or Castiel can react.

“You're just too smart, Kev.” Meg ruffles his hair.

“Fine, no secrets.” Gabriel holds up his hands. “I just told Castiel about Dean-o's 'plan'.” He puts the last word in quotation marks, but in an exaggerated way.

Dean rolls his eyes and leans with his butt against one of the stone blocks, next to Garth. He can feel the cold as fuck stone through his jeans, but he doesn't want to stand awkwardly in front of the stone blocks any longer. He's still an outsider, though. He scratches his chin, looking at them and waiting. He doesn't even want to belong to them. And he sure as hell doesn't want to accept a subordinate role to Castiel Novak. Why the fuck is this guy at the top of the hierarchy?

Dean-o's plan?” Meg asks now, creasing her forehead in confusion.

This time, Charlie is the one to roll her eyes, but it's Gadreel who answers Meg's question.

He wants to challenge Castiel for the throne of the bad boys,” he says, voice oozing with contemptuousness.

Apparently, he already has a low opinion of Dean – as if he cared about something like that. He only wishes they would stop calling him Dean-o , but he won't say anything about it, because he'd only fall on deaf ears anyway.

Everyone laughs a bit at Gadreel's words, even Castiel. Dean ignores the warmth that starts to bloom in his chest when he hears Castiel's gravelly laugh, but then the blue-eyed boy locks eyes with him once more. Dean only hears Meg's next words distantly.

“He does look like a bad boy, though.”

Dean's eyes flicker briefly over to her, but Garth is faster than him and says, “Looks aren't everything.”

It's the first time Dean agrees with something one of them is saying. He stares at Garth for a moment and so does everyone else. Kevin and Charlie nod in agreement and a barely noticeable smile graces Castiel's lips. But Dean can't help it, he has to comment it. He simply doesn't want to agree with someone of them. Or he doesn't want to admit that he does.

“At least, I look somewhat like a bad boy,” he sneers.

There is a moment of silence, and everyone but Castiel is staring at him, trying to tell him something with their eyes. But Dean feels his anger rushing through his veins once again, and he doesn't even want to know what they're trying to tell him.

Today really isn't going like he thought it would go. He had to listen to all their comments about him, and they laughed at him. He knows that it's not good enough to start an actual fight, although he already started fights for less. But hell, he doesn't even want to start an actual fight. He just has to get something off his chest, he has to vent his spleen, at least a little bit. So, he says the first thing that comes to his mind.

I thought only girls would paint their fingernails.”

Gabriel doesn't even try to hide how he facepalms. Gadreel, Charlie, and Kevin close their eyes at Dean's reckless stupidity. Garth screws up his nose, and Meg smirks at him. Though they all have different reactions, they still manage to put on the same knowing expression. As if they already knew what consequences this simple sentence will have.

Dean shifts his weight from one foot to the other, chewing on the inside of his cheek. Maybe it wasn't just a simple sentence, not to them. Not to Castiel. But then he wonders why the hell he should care about that. Why the hell should he care if he said the wrong thing? He wanted to say the wrong thing. He isn't here to make any friends. He's here to get his usual reputation, and there's only one way to get it.

The smile completely disappears from Castiel's face as he stands. He eyes Dean, frowning just slightly, but his eyes are colder than ice suddenly and would probably put the Arctic to shame.

And?” he asks Dean in a low voice, making his already rough voice even huskier.

For the first time, Dean notices a hazardous glint in those blue eyes, and he thinks he's beginning to understand why Castiel is called a bad boy. But now it's too late. And isn't he a bad boy as well? There is nothing Dean has to be afraid of, and he especially doesn't have to be afraid of this guy.

Dean can be dangerous as well if he wants to. He lost count with how many faces his fists connected, how many times he shoved people to the ground, how many times he insulted other people. Dean Winchester is a bad boy, a bad person , and no one knows that better than he does.

When Dean doesn't answer, Castiel does.

You say that like it's a bad thing. Like it's a bad thing to be a girl. To be feminine. You say that like being a girl is a synonym for being weak.” He turns around, looking at Charlie and Meg and grinning at them. “That's bullshit. Girls are badass.”

He turns back to Dean, facing him fully again. He has his arms crossed in front of his chest, chin sticking out, and he's glaring at Dean. It seems as if he's thinking about his next words for a moment. Dean still doesn't say anything. He just glares back.

Did I comment on your almost painfully ugly band t-shirt, Dean?” Castiel asks, tilting his head to the side and stepping closer to him.

He is smaller than Dean, just a little bit, but he's still not looking up at him. He's looking down at him.

Surprised, Dean raises his eyebrows, not knowing how Castiel does this. But he just stares back into those blue eyes, because he doesn't know what to say . He's stunned.

“Everyone is expressing their personality differently, and you shouldn't make fun of how other people do it,” Castiel says quietly and dangerously, stepping into Dean's personal space.

Dean doesn't step back, after all, he is Dean Winchester and Dean Winchester always tries not to show any weakness in front of other people.

He looks at Castiel, who stares back at him, jaw clenched and eyes still like ice. Dean doesn't know whether or not he's going to start a fight, but if, then he's in. Screw his no-fights-on-the-first-day-policy . When Dean wins, everyone will finally understand that there is a new bad boy at this school and that the others are nobodies now. And he's going to win. He won't lose to this guy. He has never lost a fight before.

“You don't like it? Fine. But keep your opinion to yourself.”

With that, Castiel jerks his head briefly and Meg jumps up from her place next to Kevin, just as the bell rings.

Dean doesn't even understand that the conversation, the moment, is over and that there's not going to be a fight until Castiel slings his arm around Meg's waist again. They walk past him, back towards the school building. He is so smitten with surprise, he barely notices how his and Castiel's shoulder brush.

What the hell did just happen? Why did Castiel end it like this, without a fight? Why did he just walk away?

The others are collecting their things and throwing away their trash now. Gabriel steps closer to Dean, still smiling, and he shakes his head.

When six people are trying to tell you something with their eyes, are shaking their heads, showing you to stop talking, why don't you get it?”

Dean swallows and glares at him. “What? I wanted to say it.”

“You don't seem to understand,” Kevin says, shouldering his backpack.

Charlie pats Dean on the shoulder, looking softly at him. “That was a close shave,” she chuckles and Dean's forehead creases at her words.

“Means?”

Gadreel walks past them, glaring at Dean and shaking his head. “Castiel broke noses for far less. I don't get why he didn't start a fight.”

Dean scoffs and looks to the side, but Gabriel glances at him with a serious face. “Gadreel is right. You were lucky. We'll see what happens the next time.”

“The next time?” Charlie wonders as they start walking towards the backdoor of the school.

She looks at Gabriel and Dean questioningly. Gabriel stares back at her and then also at Dean.

“With that temper?” He smirks. “There will be a next time. And I'm pretty sure that there's going to be a fight. We should bet on who's going to win and who's going to lose.”

Dean doesn't say anything, but he thinks about Gabriel's words. Next time. Yeah, there's going to be a next time and when there's going to be a fight, he'll shove Castiel's face against a locker. It can't be that a guy with painted fingernails has a better reputation as a bad boy than him. It doesn't matter how gorgeous he may look. Fuck him. Dean's going to get his reputation as always, no matter how long it will take, how long Castiel and the others need to get it into their heads.

There is no one worse than him. And Castiel Novak is dead certain not worse than him.

They enter the school and their ways part. Charlie goes with Gadreel to their next class, and Kevin also disappears around the corner. Garth goes with Gabriel and Dean because Dean and Garth have their last class together. He wonders why Gabriel even bothers to go with them when Dean could also just follow Garth.

When they're in front of the classroom, Garth gives Gabriel a brief hug, nods to Dean and enters the room, but Gabriel holds Dean back. He is grinning once again. Dean clenches his jaw.

“Dean-o, you honestly made my day. You amuse me.”

Dean huffs a small breath and shakes his head. He just leaves Gabriel standing there, not awarding him with an answer. He enters the classroom, flopping down on a chair, glaring at everything and everyone. He balls his hands into fists and unclenches them again a few times to control his anger, trying to ignore the need to punch something.

In his last class, he takes a couple of notes and tries to listen to the teacher, focusing on the messy handwriting on the blackboard. Dean pretends there is nothing blue in the room because he doesn't want to think about blue . He especially doesn't want to think how fucking fast the bluest ocean is able to freeze, how fucking fast the sun disappeared from it.

He fucking hates blue.



* * *



Castiel meets Gadreel, Charlie, and Meg at the stone blocks after school.

It's only January, the second week after the Christmas break, and it's fucking cold. But the sun peeks through the clouds occasionally, even though the rays aren't warm. He prefers this weather anyway. Cold. Snowy. Rainy. He likes it this way.

He fishes for the cigarettes in the pocket of his coat that Meg is currently wearing. She takes the pack out of his hand and gets two cigarettes out of it, one for Gadreel and one for herself. She throws it into the air and Castiel snorts, catching it mid-air and taking a cigarette out for himself.

Charlie glares at them disapprovingly, pouting slightly when she locks eyes with him. Castiel winks at her and holds his lighter to the tip of the cigarette. Meg sneaks it from him, lighting her cigarette and also Gadreel's.

Do you have got anything yourself?” he asks, pointing at the cigarette from his pack, his lighter in her hands, and his coat over her shoulders.

Gadreel chuckles at that, but Meg shrugs. “I don't have to, as long as I have you, Clarence,” she jokes. “But I'm afraid I won't have you any longer.”

She takes a pull on her cigarette, her lips stretching to a smirk around it. Castiel stares at her, blowing smoke rings into the cold winter air. Her eyes are twinkling mischievously.

“Wow. Really?” Gadreel grumbles around his cigarette, looking at him and furrowing his brow.

“What?” Castiel asks sharply.

Charlie giggles, tugging a red strand of hair behind her ear. “Dean Winchester, huh?” she asks, wiggling her eyebrows.

Castiel huffs a small laugh, taking a long pull from his cigarette and enjoying the feeling of the smoke going down his throat. Gadreel locks eyes with him. A frown embellishes the features of his face, and Castiel already knows what he's going to say, but he lets him say it out loud anyway.

“I don't like him.”

“I do,” Charlie says with a smile. Everyone looks at her. “What? He seems sweet – somehow. The way he looked at Cas...” She shrugs.

Meg turns to Castiel, the cigarette dangling from her red lips. “He is handsome.”

“Not interested,” Castiel mutters, tapping his cigarette at the edge of the stone block and watching the ash fall to the ground.

He creases his forehead slightly. When he looks up again, three pairs of eyes are staring at him in disbelief.

Clarence, we aren't blind. We did notice how you were staring at him.”

He glares at Meg, gritting his teeth but not saying something. He finishes off his cigarette, lighting the next one up with skilled hands immediately. Charlie shakes her head and sighs; she wants him to stop. She wants all of them to stop smoking, but to no avail. She grabs her backpack and slings it over one shoulder.

“Peace out, bitches,” she says and gets up. “This bitch,” she points at herself and grins, “got a date.”

“Have fun,” Castiel comments, holding his fist out.

Charlie bumps her fist against his and then fist bumps Meg and high fives Gadreel. Still grinning, she disappears around the corner of the building.

“I have to go as well,” Gadreel tells them a few minutes later, straightening his jacket and stomping out his cigarette with his shoe.

Castiel waves at him briefly before he lights up another cigarette. Meg glances at him and he smiles, blowing a smoke ring to her face. She huffs a laugh, taking also another cigarette when he offers it. They smoke in silence until Castiel lights up his sixth cigarette and Meg takes it away from him.

Hey,” he complains, but Meg just closes her lips around the cigarette, taking a long pull and raising an eyebrow at him.

“You only chain-smoke like this, when something's bothering you. What is it?” she asks with a sly smile as if she already knew the answer to her question.

“Nothing.”

“Come on, Clarence. I know you.”

Nothing is bothering me.”

Castiel gets up and runs his fingers through his hair, messing it up. Meg looks at him, holding the cigarette between two fingers, and a smile is tugging at the corners of her mouth.

Dean Winchester,” she says, licking her lips, but it's not a question.

It's the answer to her question. But Castiel just scoffs and smiles at her, while he starts to walk away.

“Have a nice day!” he says over his shoulder.

“Wait, what about your coat?” she calls after him.

He slows his pace, turning around and taking a few steps backward. “You can keep it for today. But don't dirty it.”

But you know that I like it dirty.”

Castiel grins and looks up at the grey clouds above them when little snowflakes are starting to fall down. “How would I?” he shouts.

“We have to change that someday.”

He laughs and waves at her before he takes the path around the school building and leaves the school ground. On his way to Missouri, there is the occasional snowflake landing on the pavement, but it doesn't really start to snow – yet. The clouds are heavy and hanging low in the sky. Castiel hopes it's going to snow a lot very soon.

It only takes him fifteen minutes to arrive at Missouri's little shop. The golden letters on the display window still make him chuckle.

Missouri's Realm – Need Anything? You'll find it here and probably also something you didn't know you need

The little bell on the door jingles, when Castiel pushes it open. He makes his way along the shelves to the back of the shop, where the counter with the register is. The shelves are full of everything. Missouri sells decoration, dishes, pillows, make-up, books, pens and pencils, notebooks, candles, tools, tea, stuff to do arts and crafts, bread, scarfs, toys... just everything.

He knows that she bakes the bread herself, she makes all kinds of tea herself, and she also knitted the scarfs that are neatly stacked on top of each other. Cas chuckles, loving the atmosphere here. It's just Missouri, because the shop is not very big, and it all looks kinda cramped, and it's almost too much, but somehow it's perfect.

Castiel knows his way around, even though he hasn't been here for a while. Taking in the scent of dust, Missouri's perfume and the hardwood, regret makes him furrow his brow.

When he stands in front of the counter, he finds that Missouri isn't sitting there. But she hardly is. She always rummages around, cleaning shelves and rearranging all the items. Castiel doesn't understand how she's able to stay on top of things, since she sells so many different things.

It's January and he has a look at the decoration – a few weeks ago, Christmas decorations adorned the shelves and the shop window. Now, there are still some stars and strings of lights, but also some snowflakes and stuff you could have in a room all year long.

He inspects three little Buddha figures on the nearest shelf that he hasn't seen before. All three sit cross-legged and one is covering its ears, one is covering its mouth, and one is covering its eyes. He huffs a small laugh when suddenly someone smacks his head. He yelps surprised and turns around.

Missouri is standing in front of him, arms akimbo, holding a feather duster in one hand.

“Where's your coat, young man? Do you want to get sick?” she greets him and pulls him into a hug.

He chuckles. She's always so overly motherly.

“I gave Meg my coat,” Cas explains and Missouri rolls her eyes. “If that girl didn't wear mini-skirts in the middle of winter, she wouldn't need your coat.”

Castiel shrugs. It's not his job to tell Meg how to dress and neither is it Missouri's, although she tries it every time Meg accompanies him in the winter months.

Missouri sits down on one of the chairs behind the counter and points silently at the other one. Cas sits down next to her, returning her sharp look.

“It's nice that you found your way back to me again at last,” she tells him.

He looks down guiltily, fiddling with a stack of notepads that's laying on the counter. He knows that he hasn't been here for a while. He doesn't even know why he didn't visit Missouri in the last weeks. Somehow, he didn't find the time for it. Of all things, it had been Christmas and New Year's Eve, and he didn't visit her.

Or maybe, he doesn't want to admit to himself why he hasn't been here lately. After all, he knows what time of the year it has been for him. But he pushes this thought to the back of his mind.

“I'm sorry,” he mutters, but she holds up her hands and looks at him with much more warmer eyes, shaking her head slightly.

“Don't apologize, Castiel. I'm glad that you're here again. I missed you.”

Castiel smiles at her. He missed her, too. He missed her warmth, her concern, her friendly smile, and the comforting atmosphere that always surrounds her, wherever she goes. He already feels his mind calming down.

“And your help,” she adds, gesturing at the many shelves.

He bites his lip, looking around, but he can't help to smile at her again. He gets up immediately, taking the feather duster that Missouri put on the counter, and winks at her before he disappears behind a shelf.

The next two hours, he gives the floor a sweep with Missouri's old broom, he dusts off a few shelves, and rearranges the pillows on one of the upper shelves. He's still standing on the ladder when Missouri lets him know that she wants to close the shop in a few minutes. He nods to her and she looks at his work with a satisfied expression in her eyes. He sorted the pillows by color.

By now, his mind is completely calm and there are no racing thoughts inside of his head anymore. He isn't even craving a cigarette since he doesn't need it at the moment. He just needed Missouri and helping her around in her shop, like he always does now and again. That's the reason why his feet brought him here today.

After he stored the ladder away in a corner, he goes up to the counter again.

“Take your pick,” Missouri commands, pointing at the shelves.

Her tone of voice is already telling him that she won't take no as an answer, but he still tries.

“No, it's okay. I like to help you,” he insists, but she glares at him and points at the shelves once more.

“Take your pick, boy. But hurry up. I want to call it a day.”

Castiel chuckles and then sighs, but he starts wandering through the aisles again, knowing that he can't win an argument with this woman. He looks at all the different things on the shelves. He doesn't need something, nor does he want something, but maybe he finds something nice. Everyone always finds something in Missouri's little shop.

In the middle of an aisle near the door, he stops, hand still resting on a shelf where he let his fingers dance over the wood. He bites his lip. Without thinking, he takes the item that caught his eye from the shelf and stares at it in his hand. He tries to understand the sudden rush of warmth in his chest and why his thoughts start to bounce around in his skull again.

“Did you find anything?”

Missouri appears next to him and he jumps a bit. He didn't hear her. He didn't even realize how lost in thought he was.

“Oh, that's a lovely color,” she comments, eyeing the nail polish that's still in his hand. “I like green.”

Me too,” he mumbles, wrinkling his forehead.

Does he? He has never thought about it. He sees green every day, with having a forest surrounding the town he lives in. He's just used to this color, to the different shades of green in the trees and the bushes. But suddenly, he notices green. He sees it. He doesn't understand it, it's just a simple color. It's nothing special, right?

“Honey?” Missouri asks, staring at his face and trying to read his mind. “What's wrong?”

He knows he can always talk to Missouri, about everything and anything. She'll never judge him, she'll always listen and try to help as best she can. But he has no words for what's happening inside of him right now. It's strange. He can't explain it, because it's just a feeling, deep down in the pit of his stomach, caused by... green . By candy apple green. By the green of an ever-growing forest that the sun's light is shining through. By the green of the eyes of...

Castiel shakes his head, a small smile touching the corners of his mouth. He fiddles with the nail polish a bit, swiveling it in his hand.

“This just reminded me of something.”

Missouri looks into his eyes for a long moment, but eventually, she nods, saying he can keep it if he wants to. He tries not to think about it and tucks it into the back pocket of his jeans, flashing her a relieved smile.

She understands that he can't talk right now. But he can see that she knows something's off. He just doesn't understand it, not even knowing for sure what it is. That's the reason why he can't talk about it. He couldn't explain it anyway, even though he's sure that somehow Missouri would still know what he means. But the thing is, he wouldn't understand what he means.

They leave the shop, and Missouri turns the sign on the door from open to close before she closes and locks it. Then, she pulls him in for another hug. It's a silent way of saying I'm here for you , and he just smiles at her thankfully.

On the whole way home, he can't stop thinking. But there are no coherent thoughts in his head, nothing makes any sense. He just thinks about the nail polish, about green , and soft breezes over meadows. He thinks about lying down on the grass on a sunny afternoon, the smell of it wavering under his nose, the wind tugging at his hair like gentle fingers, and this comforting feeling like everything's going to be fine.

He hasn't had such thoughts for a very, very long time.

Castiel doesn't want to think about it, and as soon as the thought comes up that the new boy's eyes are making him feel and think like this, he takes it and throws it away, somewhere in the back of his mind. He has to tuck it away, hide it under layers and layers of other things, heavy things he also doesn't want to think about. He has to put this thought somewhere he can't reach anymore so that he'll forget about it. He can't think of it anymore. He can't allow himself to think like that. He already feels the panic... the fear... the darkness... that try to get hold of his mind, his thoughts... his heart .

He feels goosebumps covering his body, and he knows they have nothing to do with the cold. He closes his eyes for a second, and then he's already in his street. He swallows. Fucking green. He sees his brother's car in their driveway and knows that he's home, but he still hopes he can sneak some beers and maybe the whiskey bottle from the fridge in his room. Fortunately, he still has a lot of cigarettes. Anything that will keep his mind from thinking is good right now.

Because one thing is for sure. He'd rather drown in whiskey than Dean Winchester's eyes.

 

Chapter Text

Dean can't believe he forgot his cigarettes. He never forgets his cigarettes. But it's the third time he's sifting through his backpack today, and they aren't there.

He already noticed it in the first break, but he was too busy dealing with this Gabriel guy, and then the thing with Novak happened... And now he wants a fucking cigarette, but he can't find his pack.

Fuck,” he mutters and drops his backpack to the ground. As if he hasn't put them in his bag, he always does...

Dammit, Sammy,” he says out loud.

Dean runs his fingers through his hair. Sam has packed his backpack for school. He sighs. His little brother probably took the cigarettes and threw them away. He knows that Sam wants him to stop smoking, but he doesn't want to stop. Besides, he needs it now. He had a terrible day.

He never thought that the first day at the new school would be like this . And now he doesn't even have a cigarette!

He kind of wants to be upset about it and to tell Sam not to touch his stuff ever again – although he never vents his frustration on Sammy –, but the second he sees his little brother, he forgets about the cigarettes.

Sam looks like he did yesterday evening – sad and tired. But it's even worse. Apparently, his first day at the new school didn't go well, too.

Dean frowns and grabs his backpack, slinging it over his shoulder. “Hey,” he says to Sam with a small smile, wanting to ask him what happened, but Sam just walks past him.

Confused and surprised, he follows him. Sam walks faster than usual and he doesn't look back. His eyes are stubbornly bound forward. They don't talk during the entire walk home, because it seems as if Sam doesn't want to talk to Dean, and Dean doesn't want to do this publicly . He wants to talk to Sam when they're alone.

As soon as they've arrived at home and Dean closed the front door behind him, he grabs Sam by his shoulders and turns him around. It didn't escape his notice that Sam has wanted to go upstairs without talking to him.

What's wrong?” Dean asks right away.

There's no need to beat around the bush. It's more than obvious that something's wrong. He needs to know what . He needs to know whose fucking lungs he has to rip out.

What's wrong?” Sam asks back, staring at him in disbelief. His eyes are practically screaming with exhaustion. “How about everything?”

“Sammy...,” Dean starts, thinking he knows already what's wrong (or at least partly), but Sam shakes his head.

I don't want to be here. I want to go back to Bobby. I wanted to stay there. And I said it countless times. But nobody cares!”

Sam, that's not true.” Dean suddenly realizes how tired he is. He runs his fingers through his hair again. “I wanted to stay there as well. Bobby wanted us to stay. But dad...” He bites his lip, trying to think of a way to word it.

“Dad ruined everything,” Sam says quietly, fists clenched. “Why is he like that?”

Dean hates this day so fucking much. He stares at the ceiling for a moment and then back at his little brother. “You know the reason why.”

“Yeah, the accident,” Sam says and scoffs.

Dean frowns. They've only talked about it once before, and he doesn't want to talk about it right now. He wants a cigarette. But Sam doesn't seem as if he wanted to talk about it either. He looks at Dean for a few more seconds, then he turns around and goes upstairs. Dean doesn't stop Sam this time. He hears him slamming the door to his room shut and closes his eyes.

Fuck.

Slowly, Dean goes into his room, closing the door quietly and letting his backpack drop on the floor. Do they have homework? He doesn't know. He doesn't care . He didn't listen. The only really important thing is Sammy, is his little brother. And right now he is a lousy big brother.

He can feel his anger flaring up again, somewhere behind his eyes. Never is something like it's supposed to be.

They aren't the family they were supposed to be. Dean was supposed to be a good person. A boy who doesn't start to smoke at the age of 13. A boy who doesn't know how it feels, when bones break under his hands. A boy who isn't so fucking angry all the time.

Sam – Sammy was supposed to be a normal little kid. A kid with a stable home. A kid with a stable father. Neither of them was supposed to know how it is, when their dad comes back home late at night, too drunk to recognize them, and starts to swing at them, just because he can. Sammy was supposed to be a kid that has a mother...

Dean swallows. He needs a fucking cigarette.

After a few minutes of searching for his cigarette pack, he sees it laying in the bin. Sam did throw it away. Dean feels bad, but he ignores the feeling and grabs the pack nevertheless. He leaves his room and the house again, this time through the back door.

The forest, that surrounds this whole goddamn town, starts almost right behind their house. He just had to take a couple of steps, and then he'd stand among the bare trees. It's still fucking cold, and he hastily lights up a cigarette. He takes a long pull on it, satisfied with the feeling of the smoke finally going down his throat. But his anger doesn't disappear.

The only good thing right now is that there is nothing blue in front of him. All he sees are the trees and their backyard that's nothing more than a patch of brown grass and a few old boxes, stacked by the exterior wall of the house, and an old tire. The sky is covered with gray clouds; a few snowflakes already escaped them. Dean wonders when it's going to start to snow for real. He screws up his nose. He doesn't like snow or the cold. He hates winter. He hates it so fucking much.

Dean smokes two more cigarettes before he goes back into the house. His fingers are numb when he takes off his jacket. The cigarette pack is in his jacket pocket now to prevent Sam from throwing it away again.

He doesn't feel like going back to his room and sulking there. He knows that he has to unpack all the boxes in his room. It's not a lot of stuff, but still, it will take some time. There are also some more boxes in the living room. And if he had to guess, he'd say Sam won't continue to unpack today either.

He looks around, a scowl slowly appearing on his face. Dean clenches his fists. He can't stay here. The house just worsens his bad mood. The old furniture and the feeling of not being home make his head starting to spin. He needs to get out of here.

He wants to turn around when his eyes land on the cupboards in the kitchen, and he hits on an idea.

Taking two steps at once, he goes back upstairs and knocks on Sam's door. He doesn't wait for an answer though and just opens it. Sam is sitting at his desk, with his back to him, writing something down in a notebook.

“Homework?” Dean asks, voice calm and friendly.

Sam just nods, without looking up. Dean knows why Sam is like this right now, but he does wonder if something happened at school that was the last straw. He also isn't sure if Sam is angry with him , or if he's just angry at everything . In any case, Dean couldn't blame him. But maybe he can make him feel a little bit better, at least. Hopefully.

“Hey, I, uh, have to do something, but I'll be back soon. Okay?” he asks innocently.

Okay,” Sam mutters, shrugging.

Dean ignores the nagging feeling in his stomach. Normally, Sam would have asked where he's going, but now he doesn't seem to care. This will pass , he tells himself.

“Okay,” he says and smiles, but Sam still isn't looking at him.

He bites his lip but decides against saying something. It would be of no use anyway. So, he leaves Sam's room again, grabs his jacket downstairs and checks if he has his wallet and keys.

When he steps outside, it's early afternoon. Their father won't be back before 10 pm, but he still doesn't want to leave Sammy alone for too long. But maybe it's also good when he gives Sam some alone time.

Dean sighs ill-tempered and starts walking to the main street.



* * *



The open window makes it easy for the cold to get into his room. Castiel is shivering slightly, but he doesn't mind. He likes the cold. He enjoys it.

He's sitting on his bed, chain-smoking again. His pack is almost empty; he lost count how many cigarettes he has smoked since he came home. All he knows is that all the smoke escaped through the open window, that a few empty beer bottles are laying on the floor, and that it got dark outside as well as in his room. He didn't bother to turn on the light.

The whiskey bottle in his hand is still a little more than half-full, though. He takes another swig, grimacing. He doesn't like whiskey that much.

But the beers, the cigarettes, and the whiskey have the desired effect – clouding his mind.

An idle grin spreads on his lips, while his eyes focus on a small hole in his blanket. Eventually, a knock on his door makes him raise his eyes from the blanket.

“Come in,” he says, not bothering to hide the whiskey bottle or the cigarettes, and the door opens.

His brother leans against the door frame, glancing from the open window to the beer bottles on the floor to the full ashtray on the bed to the bottle in Castiel's hand, and only then to Castiel's face. He raises his eyebrows.

“Tough day?”

Castiel scowls at him. “Shut up, Lucifer,” he mumbles, raising the bottle to his lips again.

His voice is croaky, probably due to the alcohol and all the cigarettes, but he doesn't care. Why should he care?

Lucifer scoffs, rolling his eyes at him. He enters Castiel's room, turning the light on and stepping in front of his bed, without asking of course. Castiel squints at the sudden brightness. His brother takes the whiskey bottle out of his hand, and Castiel only protests slightly.

“Hey,” he groans, blinking at his big brother.

His eyes only become accustomed to the brightness slowly after sitting in the dark for hours.

“I think you've had enough,” Lucifer says, and there's no judgment in his voice. He says it matter-of-factly. “And dinner is ready, so move your ass downstairs.”

He leaves the room, leaving the door open. Cas contemplates just staying here on his bed, or at least getting up to close the door because he isn't even hungry. But after a few moments, he gets up and goes downstairs. For now, he ignores the mess in his room.

He isn't drunk, he just feels a little dizzy. He finds Lucifer in the living room, sitting on the couch and putting some casserole on two plates.

“Wow, you got up. I would have brought you something if you hadn't come.”

Castiel shrugs and slumps down next to his brother. The TV is on, and he watches how Hermione Granger punches Draco Malfoy in the face. He frowns, tilting his head and taking the plate Lucifer hands to him.

We only watched the first movie yesterday. Shouldn't we watch Chamber of Secrets today?”

Now, Lucifer shrugs his shoulders and starts to eat. “I watched it earlier when I came home.”

“Without me?” Cas asks, taking the fork into his hand.

You drank the whiskey without me. The whiskey that I bought.”

Lucifer points with his fork into Castiel's direction, squinting at him. Castiel bites his lip and then he grins.

Good point. How was work?” he changes the topic, not wanting his brother to ask why he took the whiskey bottle.

“Boring,” Lucifer answers, darting a glance at him.

He looks like he wants to ask what happened, but he doesn't. Castiel wonders when he's going to ask. He doesn't know what he's going to answer then – what he should answer. He doesn't even know himself what happened.

So after that, they eat and watch the movie in silence. Castiel helps Lucifer clean the dishes, ignoring the stares he's still getting from him. He hopes he can just go back to his room. Maybe he'll make it without Lucifer starting to ask questions.

But he isn't so lucky. As soon as he put the last plate into the cupboard, his brother starts to talk.

“What happened?”

Castiel looks at him and then at the door. He sighs. “Nothing.”

Yeah, sure. How about you tell me the truth?”

He takes a deep breath and stares at his feet. “It's nothing, really.”

“You wanna try that again? Because you're not convincing, you know?” Lucifer says.

Castiel scoffs. “It's nothing, it's... stupid,” he mutters.

So, something did happen?”

Castiel wrinkles his brow, leaning against the kitchen counter. “Nothing happened. It's just... there's a new boy at school.”

The words only come out of his mouth at a slow pace. Again, he has the feeling that he doesn't even know himself what's wrong. He doesn't understand it. So, how is he supposed to explain it to someone else? His head starts to ache.

“And?” Lucifer asks. “What did he do?”

Castiel looks at him, seeing the urge to defend his little brother in Lucifer's eyes.

Nothing happened. Really,” he adds because Lucifer doesn't look like he believes him. “I mean...”

Cas thinks about what Dean said to him – I thought only girls would paint their fingernails.

“What?” Lucifer asks, stressing the word.

“He just... he kinda made fun of my fingernails, but...”

“That fucker,” Lucifer mutters under his breath. “What did you do?”

“I told him to keep his opinion to himself and then I walked away,” Castiel answers honestly.

Lucifer seems torn apart between being disappointed that Cas didn't punch this guy, and being proud of him for being mature enough to just walk away from that idiot.

Cas thinks it's for the best when he doesn't mention that this idiot has the most beautiful eyes he's ever seen . He swallows. He doesn't want to think about that again. He doesn't want to think about green again. He stuffed the nail polish in the drawer of his nightstand as soon as he entered his room, suddenly angry with himself. Why did he keep it? He should have put it back on the shelf.

He can feel his brother's eyes on him. Lucifer probably knows that there's more to it. If Castiel only knew what that is, and what it exactly means. He has a hunch, but he doesn't want to admit it, and besides, that's impossible . That can't be happening. That shouldn't be happening.

“Listen, it was a long day and I just want to sleep,” Castiel tells Lucifer because his brother is still waiting for him to continue talking.

Lucifer thinks about that for a moment, without looking at Castiel's pleading face. “Ugh, fine. But clean your room,” he decides, turning off the lights in the kitchen.

Relieved, Cas follows him upstairs.

“Goodnight,” Lucifer grumbles, but he's smiling, and Castiel smiles back at him.

His smile disappears though, as soon as he's alone in his room again. The light is still on and his room is still a mess. Sighing, Castiel collects the empty beer bottles and puts them next to the door. He'll get rid of them tomorrow. After he put the full ashtray on the floor, he changes into sweatpants and a t-shirt, not looking in the mirror at the wardrobe door like always.

He already has the feeling that this week is going to be stressful and, because it's only Monday , he really hopes he's wrong.

Tuesday goes by, and Castiel realizes that he was indeed wrong. This week isn't going to be stressful. It's just going to be dreadful . Now, he wishes he hadn't been wrong.

Castiel knows that his friends are waiting for him and the new boy – Dean – to clash. He notices how they stare at him when they meet Dean in the hallways, or the cafeteria, or on the schoolyard. But Cas does everything he can to avoid staring at the boy with the green eyes. He ignores him. He pretends Dean isn't there. Because he doesn't want to clash with him.

To his cost, right on Tuesday, he has to acknowledge that Dean is in his English class.

Dean is already sitting in the back of the classroom when Cas enters the room. He doesn't know why, but it happens – he looks around boredly and his eyes meet Dean's. They stare at each other for a few seconds before Castiel looks away and sits down at his place in the front row, trying not to think about why Dean was looking at him.

But he could swear that he feels Dean still looking at him. He resists raising his eyes from his notebook to look over his shoulder, and he ignores the goosebumps on his arms for the rest of the lesson.

Wednesday and Thursday bristle with small difficulties. It starts with Cas being forced to stop pretending like Dean Winchester isn't there in one of the breaks, when a book crashes into the lockers, only a few inches away from his head.

Startled, he looks up. Tough, it wasn't Dean, who threw the book. It was Malachi.

Meg, who's standing next to him, rolls her eyes. Apparently, Malachi – one of Alastair's closest friends – wanted to daunt the new boy already, probably to make a first impression of what it would mean to mess with Alastair and his gang.

Alastair didn't show up yet. Castiel hasn't seen him since he left the school last Friday. He is unconcerned about that. Every day without Alastair is a good day, and it isn't unusual for Alastair not to come to school for a few days.

Besides, Castiel has enough to deal with. He doesn't want to have to keep Alastair in his place every single day. That's just annoying. Alastair should finally start to learn where his place is – beneath Castiel.

Or at least, he should tame his 'friends'. Like Malachi, who was so eager about bullying the new boy that he didn't even notice Cas standing only a few meters away from him.

After the book landed on the floor – Dean's math book –, there is an uneasy silence in the hallway. Everyone is staring at the three boys, not moving, not saying a word. Dean looks angrily at Malachi, but when he glances at Castiel his eyes fill with curiosity for a moment, though that gets replaced by even more anger almost immediately. It would have caught Castiel's attention if the circumstances had been different.

Now, everyone is looking at him, waiting in anticipation – or fear – for a fight. But Castiel didn't sleep well the last nights, so he's fucking tired, and he really has better things to do. He is content with just glaring at Malachi and watching him turning pale, while he's realizing his mistake.

Cas knows Meg is smirking behind his back. He gives Malachi one last withering glare before he turns around and walks away. Meg follows him, still smirking. She glances over her shoulder before they turn the corner. Cas can't help it; he does it, too.

Malachi isn't there anymore – he probably ran off instantly – and Dean just picked up his book from the floor. Castiel keeps walking before Dean looks up – before they lock eyes again .

The thing is, it doesn't seem like he can get away from Dean. Somehow he's always where Cas is, and how the hell is he supposed to ignore this boy? Castiel always tries to look in the opposite direction of Dean, but fucking shit, he can feel Dean's presence. He knows he is there.

And he catches Dean staring at him a few times. But it's weird because Dean gets angrier with every time. It's so visible in his green eyes and his clenched fists, although he tries to hide it. But his neutral facial expression can't fool Castiel.

Cas is already thinking about possible reasons why Dean could be angry when he realizes what he's doing. He frowns. He isn't supposed to think about this boy. What is wrong with him? He knows why he shouldn't think about Dean. Why he can't think about Dean.

It's Thursday, he's sitting with his friends in the cafeteria, and he makes the promise to himself that he's going to stop thinking about Dean Winchester.

On Friday, his promise to himself is already put to the test.

Castiel is on his way to the cafeteria together with Charlie and Kevin. They're talking about nothing particular and Cas forgets about it as soon as a loud bang interrupts them. They all look up, just in time to see how Dean seizes Gadreel by the collar and slams him against the lockers. Their backpacks are laying on the floor, completely forgotten.

Something just blows in Castiel's mind, and then everything happens very fast.

Before he knows it, he already stands next to the two boys, who are struggling with each other.

Dean doesn't let go of Gadreel's pullover, and Gadreel tries to get rid of Dean. Castiel can hear Charlie yelling something, but the words don't arrive in his brain. He grabs Dean's wrists, who only notices him now and he looks at him surprised.

Dean probably loosens his grip a bit just because he's confused for a moment, but Cas can pull him off of Gadreel. The green-eyed boy still stares at him, taken aback, and then he already gets slammed against the opposite lockers by Castiel.

“The hell you think you're doing, man?” he asks angrily.

What the hell I'm doing? What the hell are you doing?” Castiel asks back, feeling furious suddenly.

He hasn't felt this angry for a long time, and he doesn't even know exactly why he's feeling this way right now. He blames the fact that Dean attacked one of his friends, but he's also kind of distracted because he notices how close he and Dean are right now. And fuck , he could count the freckles on Dean's face.

He swallows. Fuck. Fuck this. And fuck this boy in front of him. He doesn't need this. He doesn't want this. Rage is pumping through his veins. There is a ringing in his ears. His grip on Dean's shirt tightens when Dean tries to move, and he pushes him back against the lockers.

“Get off of me!” Dean growls.

“Stay away from my friends!”

“Then they should stay away from me. I didn't start this,” Dean says, being just as angry as Castiel.

“What?” Gadreel shouts and Castiel turns his head slightly to be able to look at him.

Gadreel tries to shake off Charlie now, who has put her hands on his chest to soothe him. She's standing in front of him, putting herself between him and Dean. Kevin stands next to them, watching the scene carefully. He locks eyes with Cas and raises an eyebrow, but neither he nor Charlie say a word.

“I didn't do anything!” Gadreel says, his voice still louder than usual.

Dean begins to talk back, but Cas interrupts him.

“Shut up, both of you!”

His voice is even louder than Gadreel's, and he knows his anger is noticeable now, but that's all right. He wants Dean to know that he's angry, that he's downright pissed . Because of him.

I don't want to hear this,” he says, more quietly but also more dangerously, looking Dean in the eye again. “Because I don't care.”

Dean wants to protest, but Castiel already keeps talking. “You think you can just come here and mess everything up?” he asks Dean. “You want to be the new bad boy ? Please, knock yourself out. But if I'll see again that you hurt one of my friends, you have a serious problem.”

They look at each other for a few more moments, Castiel as dismissively as possible. He wants to make Dean aware of how much he despises him, once and for all.

Then, he lets go of Dean's shirt and takes his backpack out of Kevin's hand (apparently, he let it fall on the floor, just like Dean and Gadreel before him, but he didn't even notice it). Without looking at his friends or Dean, he walks away quickly, storming out of the school as fast as he can.

Castiel spends the rest of the break walking towards Missouri's shop, smoking two cigarettes, when he suddenly just stops. He wants to see Missouri, he wants her to calm him down again, because he knows for sure she is able to do that. And he knows that he wouldn't have to explain anything to her.

For a moment, he just stands there. It's cold, but it's enjoyable. The bitter wind tugs at his hair and numbs his skin, but that's okay. Castiel welcomes it. He bites his lip and closes his eyes, brooding over what to do now. But a few minutes pass, and he's still standing there. A car drives by him and it starts to snow.

With a sigh, he turns around, walking back to school. Though, he doesn't know why. He just does it, but he tries not to think about anything, especially not about that his last class for today is English. And the green-eyed boy is in that class.

Castiel is a couple of minutes too late. He apologizes briefly, not caring about the scolding look Mr. Wyatt shoots him, and sits down at his place without looking around. He feels weird. He tries to concentrate, but he isn't able to listen to Mr. Wyatt. Instead, he focuses on his breathing and on calming down. He's still angry.

He's still so fucking angry, and that's the reason why it takes him almost the entire lesson to figure out what's bothering him. He already felt it, when he sat down. Something is missing .

When he realizes it, he looks around to make sure. His eyes fall on the empty seat in the last row and he bites his lip, turning back to Mr. Wyatt. Suddenly, he feels dizzy.

Dean isn't there.

He looks down at his notebook. He only wrote the date on the page. He looks back up at Mr. Wyatt, who's still talking and completely unaware of Castiel's inner turmoil. And Cas wonders, why ? Why the fuck does it bother him so much that Dean isn't there?

 

Chapter Text

Dean doesn't remember for how long he's already stumbling through the forest. He barely remembers leaving the school building and going into the forest. Branches hit him in the face every so often, he gets caught on the bare branches of some bushes, and twigs break under his heavy boots. He hardly notices any of it.

He doesn't even notice the cold and the bitter wind, although he usually never misses the opportunity to complain about winter and the cold that comes along with it. But there's so much going on in his mind right now, and he just can't focus on the cold. Even though, he also doesn't want to focus on his thoughts.

At some point, he stops walking and leans against the trunk of a tree. Snowflakes get entangled in his hair, they land on his shoulders and the ground. He looks around and watches how it starts to snow heavier. Dean doesn't care. And he wishes he wouldn't care about anything , but he does and it makes him so angry.

With agitated hands, he fishes his cigarette pack out of the pocket of his jacket and finishes off the first cigarette with hurried drags. It doesn't calm him down, and neither does the second or the third cigarette. The thoughts are swirling through his head at full speed, and it's driving him crazy. He wants it to stop . He doesn't want to think about anything.

He doesn't want to think about how much he hates it here. He doesn't want to think about how much he wants to go back to Bobby. He doesn't want to think about how he isn't able to help his little brother to feel better. He especially doesn't want to think about fucking blue.

That's what's bothering him the most right now, because he can't get it out of his head. And he hates it because he knows exactly what blue it is, where it belongs – to whom it belongs.

Dean presses his knuckles to his eyes. God, he just wants this to stop . He scoffs. God is the last person that could help him.

He opens his eyes again, and there are only trees in front of him. For now, he ignores the blue in his mind, because he also has a different problem. He doesn't even know where he is. He didn't pay attention to where he's walking. He just wanted to get away from the school, from these people, from... him .

Fucking blue.

With a resigned sigh, he looks at his phone. Fuck. School ended 28 minutes ago. Sam has sent him a text message, saying that he walked home alone since Dean was nowhere to be found. Great. Now, he has a guilty conscience on top of it all.

He huffs a humorless laugh. He's out of favor with Sam at the moment anyway.

It started on Monday. It was an awful day. Sammy was in such a bad mood, and Dean just wanted to make him feel better. But of course, it didn't work as he wanted it to. He should have known better.

He bought some wall paint for Sam's room on Monday (white and blue) as well as some simple white paint for the cupboards in the kitchen. At first, everything was like he has wanted it to. Sure, Sam wasn't as excited as Dean hoped he'd be, but they moved Sam's wardrobe away and painted the wall behind it white. The other walls got some blue parts, and Sammy's room looks significantly better now. He was happy about it for like two hours, while they painted the cupboards in the kitchen.

And then, John came back home from work.

Dean still doesn't understand why it went so horribly wrong. Why John was so angry. He yelled at them for over half an hour – why they had bought paint... why they had wasted money on something like that... why they hadn't asked...

Dean tried to explain that he's bought the paint with his own money. John asked where he got that money. Dean answered that he's helped Bobby in his garage sometimes and Bobby did pay him. Somehow, this answer made John furious.

He yelled at Sam – Sammy who didn't have anything to do with it. Dean tried to keep Sam out of it, but it was already too late. John just continued yelling, finding more and more reasons to be angry with them. They didn't continue to unpack, Dean didn't do his homework, they didn't wait with dinner for him. It was a fucking catastrophe .

Sam was (and still is) mad at Dean, not necessarily for buying the paint, but for making things even worse. John was (and still is) mad at both of them for whatever reasons. There was a very tense atmosphere at home this week since they all barely talked with each other.

And then today this Gadreel bumped into him on purpose and honestly said Use your eyes, you idiot! … That was the last straw. Dean just grabbed him and wanted to beat the shit out of him, but Novak had to butt into it.

To top it all, since then Dean can't get blue out of his fucking head.

He starts walking again. Heavy snowflakes are whirling around him, it's even colder now, and he's freezing. He buries his hands into the pockets of his jacket, but his fingers are already numb.

It takes him more than an hour to get out of the forest. When he finally stands on firm ground again, he finds himself next to the place-name sign. He curses loudly, startling some birds above him. This fucking forest.

As he walks back home, he smokes three more cigarettes, ignoring the thoughts bouncing against his skull as best he can. He concentrates on the snowflakes that land on his numb skin, on the sound of his boots on the asphalt that's covered with a layer of snow – anything that doesn't remind him of blue .

Two cars drive past him, their headlights blinding him for a few seconds because it's late afternoon and due to the season of the year and the dark grey clouds above him, it's getting dark around him very fast.

He finally turns the corner and sees their house after another half an hour. The Impala is parked in the driveway, so their father is probably home. Dean swallows nervously, but he opens the door and enters the house. At first, he thinks he can make it to his room without anyone noticing him. But then, John comes out of his bedroom and stops dead, when he sees Dean standing in the hallway.

The hell have you been?” John asks loudly, and Dean cringes.

Terrific. This day just gets better and better.

“I just...,” Dean starts, not knowing what to say, but it doesn't even matter, because John interrupts him immediately.

You know, I'm so sick of you doing your thing and forgetting about everyone else.”

Dean looks at his father with raised eyebrows. He feels his anger running through his blood once again, and he clenches his jaw. Without thinking about it, he pushes his next words out of his mouth.

That sounds more like you, don't you think?”

“What?” John says angrily.

“Dean?“

Dean looks past John. Sam is standing on the upper steps of the staircase, his eyes wandering from John to Dean and back to John.

“Go to your room, Sammy. I'll be right there,” Dean says, trying to make Sam understand that he shouldn't interfere.

“No, you won't,” John says. “Not until we made something clear.”

“And what?” Dean asks aggressively.

“You don't talk to me like that!” John looks just as angry as Dean feels. “Now answer my question. Where have you been?”

“That's none of your business!”

“Watch your tone!” John says, pointing with a finger at Dean. “I'm your father. You have to respect me, and...”

Dean scoffs. “Respect you ?”

He can't do this anymore. This whole week has been a total disaster . The new school. All these people at the new school, from this annoying guy in the Hawaiian shirt to this douchebag Gadreel. All these encounters with Novak. All the failed attempts to make Sam feel better. The fight with John earlier this week. The tense atmosphere at home. And now this .

“How am I supposed to respect you?” Dean asks, looking at John in disbelief.

He doesn't pay attention to Sam who's shaking his head. John narrows his eyes. He's completely focused on Dean.

“What do you mean by that?”

That I can't respect you!” Dean shouts, ignoring Sam who looks scared now, probably because John is clenching his fists. “I mean, how? How am I supposed to respect you?” Dean continues. “You lose every job after a few months. We always move around. You won't accept help. You're never there. You're an alcoholic. I could go on and on.”

Suddenly, Dean feels so fucking drained and helpless. He runs his fingers through his hair. It's like his anger got pumped out of him all at once. He's just fucking tired . He wouldn't even care if John were mad at him now – or if he punched him.

Dean can practically feel himself going numb, and it scares him.

He looks at his father and then at Sam. John does look angry, but he also looks kind of surprised, and he doesn't move. Sam still looks scared, but he shoots Dean a questioning look, raising one of his eyebrows. Now, Dean is the one, who's shaking his head.

He scratches his neck and walks by John, who still doesn't move. He ruffles Sam's hair, when he's at a level with him, nodding towards his room. Sam follows him without saying a word, and Dean locks his door after they entered his bedroom.

Dean doesn't know what to expect. Maybe John wants to vent his anger later. Better safe than sorry , he thinks, and shrugs off his jacket, throwing it onto his desk chair. Sam sits down on his bed, still looking at him questioningly.

“What?” Dean asks, slumping down next to his little brother.

“What happened?” Sam asks quietly, seeming worried.

This is the first time they actually talk to each other since Monday.

“Nothing,” Dean says, his voice as quiet as Sam's; they're almost whispering.

“It doesn't seem like nothing,” Sam mutters, biting his lip.

Dean just stares at him for a moment. “It's not...“

...my business?” Sam asks, looking away.

Dean swallows. He tries to fight against the numbness inside of him. This is Sammy , he tells himself. You care about him. He's your little brother. You have to care about him. You have to be there for him, no matter what.

“I had a bad day and skipped my last class. I went into the forest and got lost,” he says honestly. “That's why I wasn't there.”

Sam looks at him and nods. “What happened? Why did you have a bad day?” he asks.

“Stuff happened,” Dean mumbles, shrugging his shoulders.

“Has it something to do with this Novak guy?”

Dean looks up, surprised. He licks his lips. “You know him?”

“I saw him a few times.”

“And why do you think he's the reason I had a bad day?” Dean asks, even though it's true – partly, at least.

“I don't know. I just heard some things, so I thought...”

“What things?” Dean sits up straight.

People are talking about him. He moved here about four years ago, together with his brother and his father. Mr. Novak is rarely at home, but apparently, his brother is kinda okay. But, uh, Cassiel...”

Castiel,” Dean corrects automatically, biting his tongue right away.

Blue comes back into his mind and takes control of his thoughts again. Fuck...

“Yeah, anyway,” Sam continues, not noticing Dean's discomfort. “He broke someone's nose. Some guy called him a faggot, and he just turned around and punched him in the face. And since then, almost no one dares to mess with him. He's still beaten up a lot of people from what I've heard.”

Dean huffs a small laugh, feeling the numbness slowly leaving his mind just like his anger did a few minutes ago. He bites his lip, wrinkling his brow slightly and trying to understand it.

“People are also talking about you,” Sam says casually.

Dean frowns, looking at Sam again. “Yeah?”

“Yeah.” Sam nods.

Dean can imagine what they're saying about him. He isn't sure if he wants Sam to hear it. But it's too late for that anyway.

They lapse into silence after that, and later Dean sneaks into Sam's bedroom, getting his pajamas and a book for him, and then into the kitchen, grabbing two cans of coke, two forks, and a pie for him and Sammy.

Sam doesn't ask any more questions. But he glances at Dean now and then. They still don't talk like they usually do. Sam is also still angry and tired, and Dean doesn't know how to make him feel better. He doesn't know what to do, what he could do or say. He's still fucking tired. He doesn't want to think anymore. He just wants to sleep.

At least, Sam doesn't have anything against sleeping in Dean's bedroom. They both know too well what can happen, when John Winchester is angry. And he's sober right now. Sometimes, it's even worse when he's sober.

Almost as soon as Dean switches off the light later, Sam falls asleep. Dean wishes he could fall asleep like that as well. But of course, it takes hours until his mind is finally calm enough to sleep.



* * *



Friday night goes by and Castiel's mind is in a haze, due to alcohol, cigarettes, and lack of sleep. It's almost 3 am, when Lucifer comes into his room, telling him to go to sleep.

“I'm not tired,” Castiel says, looking at his big brother.

He's barely able to keep his eyes open.

“You're a terrible liar, do you know that?” Lucifer asks, taking the ashtray and two empty beer bottles off the bed and putting them on the floor for now.

I don't want to sleep,” Castiel mutters, a lump forming in his throat.

He doesn't want to admit it, but either his dreams are about green and a certain boy, or they are about things he doesn't want to remember.

Lucifer looks at him, worry in his eyes. He tried to talk to Cas again, a few times. He wants to know what's wrong. Why Castiel is smoking and drinking this much again. Why it's so bad again. What happened.

Castiel can't talk about it. He visited Missouri this afternoon, but he also can't talk with her about it. Because he doesn't understand it. And he doesn't even want to think about it. So, he drinks and smokes, and it helps – to some extent at least.

Without saying a word, Lucifer leaves the room. Cas looks after him, confused and tired. When Lucifer comes back, he's holding a small bottle with sleeping pills in his hand.

“You have to sleep,” he says simply.

Castiel just nods, taking them and falling asleep shortly after, finally sleeping without dreaming.

When he wakes up, he feels good – rested. He hasn't felt like this for a while now. Sleepily, he looks at the alarm on his bedside table. It's 10:34 am. He stretches his arms and legs, and a yawn climbs up his throat. Closing his eyes again, he rolls on his side and pulls his blanket tighter around his body, getting comfortable again. It was very late, when he finally fell asleep, so he can sleep some more. Lucifer will wake him up when it's time for lunch.

But he's almost drifting off to sleep again when he hears them – two loud voices. He sits up immediately, still sleepy, still tired, and also confused. He furrows his brow, tilting his head slightly and trying to understand what the voices are saying, but they're getting quieter again.

He's pretty sure one of the voices belongs to Lucifer, but he wonders who else is there, and why they are fighting. He thinks he knows who it could be, but he hopes he's wrong.

Cas groans, sinking back into his pillows. Now, he is awake. He runs his fingers through his messy hair, yawning again. The voices get louder, but he still isn't able to understand the words they're saying.

He bites his lip, but then he gets up because there's no point in staying in bed when he can't go back to sleep. While he walks to the door, he thinks that he's probably wrong. But he knows that he only thinks that because he wants to be wrong.

Castiel shuffles through the hallway on the first floor, briefly stopping in the bathroom to take a quick piss and to have a quick look in the mirror. His hair is a mess, the strands are sticking out, and he has dark circles around his eyes. He's still fucking tired.

Nevertheless, he walks out of the bathroom and down the hallway, downstairs. He hears the voices again; they are coming from the kitchen. Cas stops at the foot of the stairs and just listens for a moment.

I can come here, whenever I want! It's my house!”

That's not what I'm talking about! I'm just saying that you could have announced yourself. One quick call or a text message – is that too much to ask for?” That's the voice of Cas's brother.

The other voice also belongs to a man and of course, Castiel recognizes it right away. So, he was right. Now, he certainly wishes he had been wrong.

“That's ridiculous!”

“No, it's not. It's...” Lucifer stops talking when he sees Castiel standing in the doorway.

They lock eyes for a moment, and Cas shrugs his shoulders before his eyes wander to the man, who's just turning around to see the reason why Lucifer interrupted himself.

“Castiel,” Bartholomew says coldly.

“Father,” Cas greets him, returning the cold look he gets.

He doesn't feel rested and relaxed anymore. His muscles are tense, his jaw is clenched, and he can already feel a bad headache starting to burn behind his eyes. This doesn't make anything better. Why is their father here?

He walks over to the counter, getting a cup of coffee. He turns his back to his family, pouring milk and sugar into the cup, stirring the coffee with a spoon and taking his time. Then, he makes the decision that he can just ask his father why he's here. That there's going to be a fight – that's for sure. They always fight. Why should they stall it, when there's going to be a fight anyway?

“Why are you here? Shouldn't you be in Boston?”

Cas turns around, taking a sip from his coffee and eyeing Bartholomew, who sat down on one of the chairs around the kitchen table.

Bart squints at him. “I was in Boston. Now, I'm here.”

Yeah, I've noticed. But why?” Castiel stresses.

He doesn't want Bartholomew here, and Bartholomew knows that. Hell, Bartholomew doesn't even want to be here.

As I already said to your brother, this is my house. I can come here, whenever I want. I don't have to tell you when, or why.”

Castiel scoffs, and he sees Lucifer's smirk.

“Fine. Don't tell us. I don't care anyway.”

“How's school?” Bart asks, ignoring Castiel's words.

“Why do you care?”

“I'm your father!”

“We didn't hear anything from you for a little over two months,” Lucifer remarks.

“We can't complain about that though,” Castiel mutters, and Bartholomew hears him.

“You just can't shut up, can you?” Bartholomew says quietly – dangerously; there's an angry twinkle in his eyes. “You always cross the line.”

Cas just scoffs again, returning the look of his father. Then, he shrugs, sipping his coffee.

“Sounds like me, doesn't it?”

Lucifer smirks again. But Bartholomew gets up. For a moment, it seems like he doesn't know what to say, and they just stare at each other. Lucifer straightens himself; he shoots Castiel a warning look, but Cas is already in such a bad mood, he can't believe he woke up only a few minutes ago, feeling content.

“It's always the same with you, and that pisses me off!” Bartholomew found his voice again at last.

Well, I could say the exact same thing to you!” Cas shoots back, putting his cup so fiercely on the counter, coffee splashes over.

Again, they're staring at each other, probably having the same thought in mind – i f looks could kill...

“Okay, that's enough,” Lucifer says loudly, putting himself between Bartholomew and Castiel.

That's not your decision, Lucifer,” Bart growls, staring at Castiel.

His eyes are full of hate, but that's not unusual when he's looking at his son.

“No, he's right,” Castiel says. “It's enough.”

With that, he turns away and leaves the kitchen before his father can stop him. Downright furious, he storms upstairs and into his room, slamming the door shut.

He groans loudly, burying his face in his hands. Why did his father have to come back just now?

Eyes still closed, he lets himself fall onto the bed, burying his face in the pillows. Maybe he can fall asleep again and forget that Bartholomew is here. He realizes that he didn't even ask how long he's going to stay, and Bartholomew didn't mention it.

Castiel hopes it won't be too long, especially because they already had a fight after being in the same room for only two minutes. The longer Bartholomew stays, the more fights they are going to have. And Cas is really not in the mood for that.

Right now, he just wants to go back to sleep. He wants to feel content again. Those few moments after he woke up were a bliss.

Castiel is so focused on falling asleep again, he barely hears the doorbell and someone opening their front door. A part of his mind notices it, though, and wonders who's coming over to their house on a Saturday morning. This part also wonders briefly if Bartholomew or Lucifer opened the door. But does it matter? He doesn't know.

His mind is half awake, half asleep, and it's not that bad. At least, the thoughts in his mind calmed down a bit.

He doesn't hear the steps on the stairs, so he jumps a little when his bedroom door gets opened all of a sudden, and a voice says, “Hello, darling.”

A British accent.

“Oh, no. Since when are you back?” Castiel asks, rolling on his back and staring at Crowley.

“Three hours,” Crowley answers, looking around with an amused smile and eyeing a few empty beer bottles on the floor. “Fun night?”

“Fuck you,” Castiel mutters, sitting up and glaring at Crowley, who shrugs his shoulders.

Cas bites his lip, staring at his hands in his lap. “Bartholomew is back.”

“Yeah, Lucifer told me.”

Castiel looks up again. He sees the questioning look in Crowley's eyes, and he wonders what he looks like to him. They haven't seen each other for almost four weeks. Castiel feels bad and he probably looks accordingly.

But he knows that Crowley won't ask him what's wrong, or what happened. He'll wait until Castiel volunteers information about it. And Cas realizes that's exactly what he needs right now. Someone who distracts him, who will talk to him about anything and everything but his problems.

“Breakfast?” he asks, and Crowley nods.

“Sure. Pamela's diner?”

“Yes.”

Five minutes later, they leave the house – after Castiel put on some clothes that don't reek of beer and cigarette smoke, and they told Lucifer where they're going. They didn't see Bartholomew, though his car is still there, parking in the driveway next to Lucifer's car.

They walk in silence to the main street. Crowley offers Cas a cigarette and he takes it. It's snowing again, it's cold, and Castiel is wearing his trenchcoat. He knows Crowley doesn't like it, but the Brit doesn't say anything about it. Besides, he's wearing that ridiculous black pea coat, so he isn't in the position to give clothing advice.

Castiel relaxes when they enter Pamela's diner. It's almost like Missouri's shop. Here is just a calming atmosphere, but in the diner, it's because of Pamela, who's talking to a black girl.

“Hey, Pamela. Billie,” Castiel greets them, a small smile playing on his lips.

“Cas!” Pamela pulls him into a hug. “Haven't seen you in a while. How are you?”

Castiel nods and shrugs his shoulders at the same time. “I'm okay.”

“Sure,” she says, but doesn't dig deeper.

Castiel is glad that he's mostly surrounded by people, who often understand when he doesn't want to talk, or when he can't talk about something. Pamela definitely belongs to these people.

They met a week after Castiel had moved here. He searched for a place to finish reading his book and it was raining heavily, and Pamela's diner was perfect for that. They started to talk and soon, this diner became an option to withdraw, and Pamela became a very good friend.

She's an energetic woman with wise eyes, a friendly smile and dark hair.

“Hey, Billie,” Crowley says with a smug smile after he greeted Pamela.

Billie hugs Cas, rolling her eyes and asking him quietly, “Did you have to bring him with you?”

Cas huffs a small laugh. “He'll behave.”

“Excuse me, will I?” Crowley asks.

“You will, or you'll get kicked out,” Pamela answers with raised eyebrows.

Apologetically, Crowley raises his hands and sits down at one of the tables, grinning. Castiel and Billie sit down across from him.

“Why can't I go anywhere with you?” Cas asks him.

“What?” Crowley asks, looking excessively offended.

Billie chuckles, and with that, the topic is settled.

“Hey, guys.”

Castiel turns his head and sees Madison coming over to their table.

“What can I get you?” she asks with a smile.

Madison is a waitress in Pamela's diner for two years now, and she's always friendly – as long as people are friendly towards her. Castiel likes that they have this in common. She is funny and has the kind of smile that makes other people smile.

“Coffee, black. And an English bagel with ham and cheese,” Crowley says.

Billie already had breakfast, but she takes another hot chocolate. There's nothing like Pamela's hot chocolate, it's simply fantastic since she's making it with original Swiss chocolate.

“French toast with bacon for me, and also a hot chocolate, please,” Castiel says.

Madison nods and writes it all down on her pad before she disappears into the kitchen.

“What are you doing here?” Castiel asks Billie.

She shrugs. “I wanted to have a peaceful morning. That kinda worked, well at least until you two came in here.”

“I didn't do anything,” Crowley says.

Billie raises her eyebrows at him, but before she can say anything, Castiel does.

“How was being back home?” he asks Crowley, who leans back into his seat.

“Demanding.”

Demanding?” Billie asks.

“I thought you were looking forward to going home for almost four weeks,” Cas says slowly, tilting his head a little.

Yeah, of course,” Crowley says with an impatient move of his hand. “I still love our house and the surroundings, and needless to say the alcohol is way better than here, but you know, the people there ruined it.”

Castiel scoffs and shrugs his shoulders. Crowley squints at him.

“I'm not wrong when I say that you understand what I mean. Family, right?”

“Right,” Cas says with a strained smile.

Billie looks at him questioningly.

“Bartholomew is back,” Crowley whispers loudly, and she nods in understanding.

Madison comes with their orders, and they eat in silence until Pamela sits down next to Crowley.

“Everything alright?” she asks, nodding at their half-empty plates.

They nod, and Cas smiles at her. “Like always.”

She smiles back, but he knows that she knows that something's off as well. Why can people read him so easily as soon as they get to know him better? He doesn't like being an open book.

He looks out of the window, avoiding the questioning look in Pamela's eyes and thinking of something to say. He tries to think of a topic that will distract the others, so no one asks if something's wrong, but he can't think of a good one.

Fortunately, that doesn't matter, because someone just entered the diner and is now standing behind Castiel.

“Well, look what the cat dragged in.”

Pamela and Crowley look up, and Castiel and Billie turn around. But of course, Cas already knows who's there. It's just like when Crowley entered his bedroom and started to talk.

Familiarity. Castiel doesn't want to admit it, but he likes it. He likes when things, and also people, are familiar. When he knows what he has to say, how he has to react, without even having to know it.

This time, it's not a British accent that reaches his ear, though. It's a Louisiana drawl, and a smile tugs at the corners of his mouth.

“You're almost too late, Benny,” Pamela says jestingly, looking at the watch on her wrist.

Benny adjusts the old fisherman hat on his head and huffs a laugh. “I'm dead on time!”

“That's why I said almost,” Pamela says, getting up. “You can say hello, but then I want to see you working.”

“Of course, ma'am.”

Benny slides in next to Crowley, looking at him for a moment.

“Since when you're back?” he asks, squinting at the Brit, and Castiel chuckles.

“This morning,” Crowley answers, rolling his eyes.

“Couldn't remember if I've seen you this week.”

Benny shrugs his shoulders, and Crowley locks eyes with Castiel, silently asking why Benny is a part of their group. But Crowley does this in almost anyone, so Cas just cracks a smile.

Madison walks by, flashing a smile while looking at Benny. Crowley giggles and Benny glares at him.

“She always does that,” he says, shrugging his shoulders once more.

Sure,” Crowley means sarcastically, taking a sip of his coffee.

“Shut up,” Benny snarls.

“Don't,” Castiel says quietly since Crowley wants to reply again.

They look at him and maybe they see that he doesn't want another fight right now – whether it were a serious fight or not, whether he had something to do with it or not.

They remain silent until Billie's phone makes a noise.

“My mom,” she says and looks at the screen. “She wants me to be home for lunch, so I gotta go.”

She gets up, and they say goodbye.

“See you on Monday,” Castiel says when he hugs her.

He and Crowley leave the diner shortly after Billie. They say goodbye to Pamela, Madison, and Benny who all have to work, but Benny only has to work till 6 pm and he invites them over. Castiel doesn't want to say no and Crowley can't say no, because Benny's mom makes the best burgers within a 100-mile radius.

Castiel sends Lucifer a quick text message, saying he won't be home until at least 11 pm. He thinks it's for the best when he does something together with his friends today to calm and distract his mind. And he thinks he's lucky to have friends like this.

At least, he's not in such a bad mood anymore. That's a start. Who cares about his father and what he thinks of him? Who cares about Dean Winchester, and his green eyes, and his freckles, and his deep voice?

Castiel can't help it. A tiny voice in his head says you , but he ignores it for now and follows Crowley to his apartment.

 

Chapter Text

The next days go by without something significantly happening, and suddenly it's already Wednesday. Dean doesn't know if he's looking forward to tomorrow, or not.

John hasn't spoken to him since Friday, and Dean wonders if his dad will say something tomorrow. After all, Dean is going to turn 18 years old.

But he won't do anything. Maybe he'll just steal some of the beers out of the fridge and smoke an extra cigarette. He can't throw a party anyway, because he doesn't have people he could invite to a birthday party. Who cares? It's probably just going to be another day.

On Thursday, Dean wakes up early and he hears how John, who had a night shift, comes home. He stays in bed until his alarm goes off, thinking about today. It feels just like any other day.

Dean doesn't feel special, because it's his birthday. John Winchester was against all this stuff after the accident – the fire. No birthdays, no Christmases, no Easter were ever celebrated again like they were before the fire.

This fucking fire...

Dean swallows. It's his birthday, and he doesn't want to think about this. Not today. But when he gets up and looks out of the window, he sees that it snowed last night. The street, the trees, the cars – everything is covered in white, and he remembers that it looked like this, the night when the fire did what it did.

He jumps a little when his phone starts to ring. Sighing, he looks at the screen. It's Bobby.

“Hey,” Dean says, tearing his eyes away from the snow outside.

“Happy birthday!” Bobby says cheerfully.

They haven't talked to each other since the first evening at the new house. Dean didn't want to bother him, and he still doesn't want that, so he isn't going to tell Bobby how bad things are already again.

“Thank you, Bobby,” he says, sitting back down on his bed.

“How are things going?”

“Good.” He rubs his neck.

“Good, eh?” Bobby says doubtfully.

“Yeah, I mean...,” Dean starts, thinking of what to say. “Dad is still sober.”

Well, that is good,” Bobby says.

Dean nods. “Yep.”

“And how's Sam?”

Dean bites his lip. How is Sam? He scoffs.

“Good. Sam's good,” he mutters.

“Sure, Dean,” is all Bobby says. Dean knows Bobby won't ask further questions like this, probably because it's his birthday. Or maybe he knows already that he won't get true answers. “What are you going to do today?” Bobby asks instead.

“What do you mean?”

“It's your birthday. Shouldn't you be celebrating, or something like that?”

“It's not like I have a lot of people to celebrate with, Bobby,” Dean says with a shrug, even though he's only talking to Bobby over the phone.

Silence. Dean feels awkward. It seems like his relationship with Bobby is shifting and changing, now that they don't see each other every day anymore. They used to spend hours together in Bobby's garage and fix cars.

Once again, he realizes how good it was at Bobby's. He sighs. Everything is so different.

“Hey, Bobby, I have to get ready for school,” is Dean's lame excuse to end the phone call.

But Bobby doesn't say anything about it and just wishes him a nice day.

Dean showers, gets dressed, and grabs his backpack, wishing he could go back to sleep the whole time.

Sam is already downstairs. He's waiting in the kitchen for Dean, who is a little bit surprised when he enters the room. Sam made breakfast – coffee and pancakes –, and there's a poorly wrapped present with Dean written on it, laying on the table and waiting for someone to unwrap it. Dean's eyebrows shoot towards the ceiling in surprise, and Sam steps in front of him and hugs him with a big smile.

“Happy birthday!” he says loudly, but not loud enough for John to hear in his bedroom.

“Wow. Thanks, Sammy.”

A smile tugs at the corners of Dean's mouth, and Sam grins up at him. They sit down at the table and Sam pours coffee into a cup for Dean, who takes the present, weighing it in his hand. He looks at Sam with raised eyebrows, and Sam smiles sheepishly.

“It's not much. Bobby gave it to me,” he mumbles, sipping at his coffee and scrunching up his nose.

Dean doesn't know why Sam is already drinking coffee anyway; he doesn't even like it.

Dean unwraps the present. It's a necklace with a golden pendant.

He looks up at Sam, who's staring at him expectantly. “I love it. Thank you, Sammy,” Dean says, hanging it around his neck immediately, and Sam's face lights up.

“Bobby said some amulets have certain powers,” Sam tells him, while they start eating.

Dean huffs a small laugh through a mouth full of pancake.

Certain powers?” he asks with a grin.

“Yeah. Maybe it will protect you.”

A sad expression makes its way into Sam's eyes, and Dean's grin fades.

“Thank you, Sammy,” he says again, more softly, and Sam nods.

Dean thinks Sam isn't mad at him anymore, and he feels lighter somehow because of that. And he thinks – he wishes – that maybe his birthday won't be too bad.

During the walk to school and the first period, Dean continues to believe that and he's in a relatively good mood. And then, from the first break, it all goes wrong.

It starts with seeing Malachi in the cafeteria, who gives him a weird stare. Dean looks unimpressed back at first, but Malachi only stops to stare at him, when there's a little turmoil on the other side of the cafeteria. Both Dean and Malachi look over there, where some kids – Ed and Harry (two huge nerds and best friends) among them – did an unsavory mess with their pasta on the floor.

When Dean looks back to where Malachi was standing, the boy is gone, and he wrinkles his brow. Malachi had a curious and excited expression on his face. Biting his lip, Dean sits down at an empty table, but he decides that he won't care about this. He takes a sip from his coke, and when he looks up again, he's met with a certain blue once again.

He can practically feel his gaze harden and clenches his jaw. Castiel blinks and looks away, but Dean stares at him for a few more seconds, shaking his head slightly.

This fucking gorgeous boy. He makes him so mad because Dean can't stop thinking about him . He can't stop thinking about this marvelous blue, and the black hair, and the deep voice, and how it felt to get slammed against a wall by Castiel.

Castiel Novak. Why is he here and ruins Dean's already ruined life a little bit more, just by existing?

Dean tries to think about the fact that it's his birthday and that he will celebrate with Sam later to avoid thinking about Castiel. But it doesn't work, so he leaves the cafeteria and goes outside.

The air is cold and hits him in the face. He groans. He hates winter so fucking much.

He looks around with a sour face and spots Charlie, Gabriel, and Garth sitting on one of the stone blocks. Charlie looks up and returns his gaze. Dean turns around and enters the building again. He doesn't want to think about Castiel at all . But his friends are everywhere. He sees Kevin in one hallway, talking with Gadreel and a guy wearing a black pea coat that Dean has seen smoking with Castiel outside once. Again, he turns around and walks the other way.

Nine minutes are left of the break when he turns some corner and sees three girls standing in front of the lockers. A girl stands across from them, leaning against the wall, and a boy leans against the lockers with his shoulder, facing the three girls.

Something is wrong. Dean just knows it.

The three girls seem tensed up, the other girl is smirking weirdly, and the boy is standing too close to the girls.

Dean looks at the scene, thinking. He has seen all the girls before, somewhere in the hallways, but he doesn't know their names. They are friends, he's pretty sure they're always together. The other girl has long dark hair and is undeniably beautiful, wearing tight jeans and a cropped top under a dark leather jacket. He doesn't know if he has seen the guy before since he can't see his face at the moment.

Carefully, he makes a few steps towards them, but no one notices him.

“You're all so sweet, especially you, Nancy,” the boy says. He looks at the other girl before continuing to talk, almost as if he were waiting for her to give her permission first. “I honestly can't believe you're still a virgin. We need to change that, don't you think?”

Dean hasn't felt this disgusted for a long time, but it makes him close the distance so that he's almost standing right next to the boy.

Maybe you should just fuck off, don't you think?”

Immediately, all eyes are on him.

“Who the fuck are you?” the boy asks, furrowing his brow, confused and angry about the sudden interruption.

“You must be Dean,” the girl says, and the boy looks at her questioningly, but she's only looking at Dean. He returns her gaze coldly. She seems curious. “So, we finally meet.”

“Excuse me, but who exactly are you?”

“I'm Ruby,” she answers, smirking again. Then, she nods to the boy. “That's Cole.”

“Dean?” Cole asks, now looking at Dean questioningly.

Winchester,” Ruby says, biting her lip. “The one who wants to be a bad boy, too.”

Dean scoffs a small humorless laugh, but recognition flashes in Cole's eyes. The three girls look at them, scared and curious at the same time. Dean looks at them for a second, but that's all the time he needs to make a decision.

“Go,” he says simply and he doesn't have to say it again.

Cole and Ruby can't even react, so fast do the three disappear.

“Who the fuck do you think you are?” Cole asks angrily, shoving Dean's shoulder.

Dean doesn't have to think about it, he just takes Cole's hand, twists it on his back and shoves his face against the lockers.

Who the fuck do you think you are, that you can just touch me?” he asks, twisting Cole's arm a little bit higher before letting go of him.

Cole groans in pain. He rubs his wrist and glares at him calculating, but he seems like he can't decide if he should punch Dean or not. Ruby stares at them, rolling her eyes at Cole with an expression on her face that clearly says what she thinks of him – that he's an idiot. She wants to say something but gets interrupted right away.

“What's going on here?”

Ruby and Cole look up, and a smirk appears on both their faces. But a cold shiver runs down Dean's spine. The voice is barely a snarl – cold, arrogant, and dangerous. It belongs to a boy, and Dean knows immediately that this is Alastair. He remembers what Gabriel told him on his first day and he hates to say it, but he has to admit that Gabriel is right .

Alastair is super fucking creepy. His cold eyes pierce right through his, and an idle grin spreads on his face.

“You are Dean.” It's not a question.

“You are Alastair,” Dean says, straightening.

“Ruby and I had a bit fun with some girls, you know? These sweet ladies, Nancy, Rachel, and Hester,” Cole starts to tell Alastair.

A gross recognition shines in Alastair's eyes. “ Sweet is not the word I'd use, but I know what you mean,” he says, and Cole laughs.

Dean swallows, but before he can do or say something, Cole already continues talking.

“He interrupted us and told them to go.” Cole flashes his eyes at him, gritting his teeth.

“Really? Why did you do that, Dean?” Alastair asks in a low voice.

He squints at him, but Dean isn't impressed. Yes, Alastair is creepy, but Dean is not afraid of him.

“Because it's disgusting, what he did and said to them,” Dean says calmly.

“Ah.” Alastair scratches his chin with two fingers.

“It wasn't any of your business,” Cole exclaims, unable to hide his anger.

Dean huffs a breath and simply returns the angry look he gets with a withering glare of his own. Ruby is too quiet for his liking right now, and he shoots her a look. She raises her eyebrows at him.

“He's right,” she says, shrugging her shoulders. “You should have just kept walking.”

Dean smiles at her and shakes his head. “I should have just kept walking? Do you think I'm scared of any of you?” He looks everyone in the eye for a few seconds.

Well, apparently you are as stupid as you look like.” Alastair laughs eerily, and Dean glares at him. Alastair takes a couple of steps towards him, never breaking eye contact either. “You shouldn't fuck with us.”

Don't worry, that won't happen,” Dean says, earning another glare from Alastair.

You don't know what you're doing, Dean. Don't pick a fight with someone you can't win against.”

I always win,” Dean says with a small shrug. He's certain this isn't excessively confidence.

“You will lose. More than you're willing to give.”

Yeah?” he asks, stepping closer to Alastair. “Listen, you creep. I don't care what you're saying or thinking, but let me tell you that it's the other way around. You shouldn't pick a fight with me.”

“And you think we should be afraid of you? Why?” Alastair furrows his brow as if he were seriously thinking about this question.

“You'll see,” is all Dean says, and then he wants to ditch them, the second the bell rings.

But Alastair blocks his way. Dean notices that Cole moves to the side so that he's standing behind him. Ruby doesn't move.

“Get out of my way,” Dean sighs.

His voice sounds as if he were talking to the annoying bully in first grade, and not to a creepy boy, who's a few inches taller than him.

“You don't want to be late for class, Dean?” Cole asks mockingly from behind him.

Dean doesn't turn around since he knows Alastair is a guy you don't turn your back on.

I really want to see why I should be afraid of you,” Alastair says slowly. “But I'm more afraid that you will realize you're the one, who should be scared. And you will realize that very, very soon.”

He grins broadly, but Dean puts on a bored expression and simply rolls his eyes at him. Alastair chuckles, but he takes a step to the side and out of Dean's way. They look at each other for a few more moments, and Dean waits. But no one does or says something. He shrugs his shoulders once again and leaves.

Cole doesn't look so happy, because they let him go. But Dean knows that Alastair will plan something. He will do something, and Dean doesn't even want to know what . It's not that difficult to imagine what a guy like Alastair is capable of. Dean thinks about the girl, who Alastair almost killed. The story just got more plausible after he met him.

Of course, he's five minutes too late for his next class and the teacher scolds him, but he barely hears her. He just sits down and ignores everyone for the rest of the lesson.

He thinks he knows the reason now why Malachi stared weirdly at him this morning. Malachi belongs to Alastair's group, therefore he had to know that he is back. It was just a matter of time until Dean and Alastair met. Ruby already knew who he was, and Cole had also heard about him. But he only remembers seeing Ruby somewhere in the hallways. Then again, he doesn't pay a lot of attention to most of the people around him – so, it's probably not almost a miracle that he didn't recognize Cole's face.

Dean doesn't see Alastair or any of his group again this day. He doesn't know if it's just a coincidence or on purpose, but he also doesn't care.

After school, he meets Sam outside, who's already waiting for him, and they go home. Dean decides to forget about Alastair and all the others, at least for the rest of the day – for the rest of his birthday. He wants to spend some time with Sammy, to celebrate a little bit, maybe watch some TV, and eat junk food.

A smile finds its way on Dean's face, and Sam returns it. They walk in silence, but it's not uncomfortable anymore. Even seeing the Impala in their driveway doesn't destroy Dean's good mood, although it means that John is home.

Sam looks at the car and then at Dean, but Dean ruffles his hair and opens the front door. He dips into the kitchen but it's empty, and some noises come out of John's bedroom, so he has to be in there. It sounds like he's pulling moving boxes over the floor. Dean wrinkles his brow; Sam and he finished unpacking in the rest of the house a few days ago. Has John still not unpacked all his stuff?

He glances at Sam questioningly, who shrugs his shoulders and goes upstairs. Dean follows him, and they have the silent agreement not to care about this today.

“What do you want to do?” Sam asks when they put their backpacks into their rooms.

He's standing in Dean's doorway, and Dean notices that he's grown again. Some day this kid is going to be taller than him, and he's afraid that day will arrive sooner than he wants it to.

Dean shrugs his shoulders. “Let's just watch some TV and eat something.”

“We could order food,” Sam says enthusiastically. “I have money.”

Dean chuckles. “You don't have to do that. I can pay for it.”

“No, it's your birthday,” Sam insists. “You don't need to pay for it. I'll do it.”

He goes into his room to grab his wallet before he goes back downstairs. Dean shakes his head, but he's grinning, and follows Sam into the living room.

Sam already turned on the TV and is sitting on the couch. Dean sits down next to him, taking the remote control from Sam, and zaps through the channels until he finds an old Clint Eastwood movie. He glances at his little brother, but Sam doesn't say anything about Dean's passion for old movies and Clint Eastwood for a change – probably because it's his birthday. Dean thinks that maybe this day comes with a few perks, after all. He relaxes and leans back on the couch.

“When do you want to eat?” Sam asks, mirroring his big brother.

“Later,” Dean decides.

He wonders for how long he will feel this good, if it's going to last for the rest of the day, when a door opens down the hallway.

Dean looks at Sam, who's already sitting up. There are footsteps in the hallway, and when Dean turns around on the couch, John is standing in the doorway to the living room. He squints at them and the TV. Sam turns down the volume.

“Hey, dad,” Dean says cautiously.

John doesn't answer.

“Everything okay?” Dean asks, biting his lip.

He assumes that John slept since he had the night shift. The TV wasn't loud, but immediately he starts to wonder if they woke him up, and Sam seems to have the same thought – both of them are forgetting that they heard John rummaging around in his room just a few minutes prior.

“What are you doing?” John asks grumpily.

Dean realizes these are the first words they're exchanging since last Friday.

“Just watching some TV,” Sam answers.

John doesn't pay him any attention, his gaze is fixed on Dean. Dean wonders if John is going to say something because of his birthday. Something tells him that he's not going to get a present from his dad, though.

“Why?” John asks.

“We just wanted to have a relaxed afternoon, and to celebrate a little bit,” Dean says.

“Why?” John asks, sounding genuinely surprised.

He looks from Dean to Sam and back to Dean, and they realize at the same moment that John doesn't even know that today is Dean's birthday.

Dean lets sink that in, and he doesn't know how to feel about it. Does it matter? He wants it to matter because he wants his birthday to be something special, but John doesn't think like this. To John, birthdays aren't important. It's not that unlikely that he forgets his son's birthday.

But still... it stings. Dean feels it like a pin in the back of his mind.

“Why?” Sam asks back in disbelief.

“Yeah, what's there to celebrate?”

Sam stares at Dean with mouth agape and he looks so utterly dumbfounded, normally it would have made Dean laugh. But right now, it's making him feel even sadder. Because for Sam, today is special. He got him a present and made breakfast for him. He wants to make Dean happy and to celebrate with him. He remembered his birthday. And John didn't.

John still doesn't know what's going on. He looks just as confused as Sam, and it seems so surreal to Dean. He wonders why stuff like this is always happening to him. Maybe he has no karma. Or simply no luck. Who knows?

“Dad, don't you know what day it is?” Sam wonders, looking back at their father.

“It's Thursday,” John answers instantly.

“No, I mean the date...,” Sam starts, but then the penny drops.

John closes his eyes for a moment, sighing exasperatedly.

That is what it's about? Dean's birthday?” he scoffs, and Dean looks at the couch, examining a little stain that suddenly seems terribly interesting.

“Of course,” Sam says.

“It's okay, Sam,” Dean says in a low voice, looking up again and at his little brother, who's shaking his head.

No, it's not. It's your birthday. We're supposed to celebrate it together. And he forgot it!”

“I forgot it. And?” John asks, shrugging his shoulders. “It's not important.”

Dean expected these words, but they still hurt. For a second, he wishes he could go numb again, but the numbness doesn't take possession of his heart or his mind this time.

It is important. And now you know, so you can sit with us, and we can celebrate together.”

Sam speaks confidently, and Dean looks at him in amazement. But John isn't impressed. He's getting angry.

No, I won't sit with you and we won't celebrate. Because even though I know now, I don't care. It's just another day in his miserable life.”

Dean glances at his father. John Winchester is sober. He knows what he is saying. He knows exactly what he is saying. And that means he's saying it intentionally .

Dean tries to understand what is happening all of a sudden.

“What?”

“You heard me. I don't care about your birthday. Whatever this here was, it's over now. Both of you, go to your room. Now.”

With that, John turns around, wanting to go into the kitchen.

“No!” Dean says – louder than he wanted, louder than he expected his voice to be.

Sam jumps a little, also surprised. John turns back around to them, crinkling his forehead.

“No?”

“No,” Dean says again. “Sam wants to celebrate my birthday. And I want to celebrate it with him.”

Out of the corner of his eye, he sees how Sam starts to smile. But his smile disappears again right away.

“I already said it. I don't care. Do I have to repeat myself?”

“Do it. Say it again. I don't care about that,” Dean answers and gets up.

John seems surprised, just like last Friday, but this time he regains his composure quickly and draws himself up to his full height. And John is still taller than Dean.

“Dean,” Sam whispers and Dean looks at him.

Sam slides off of the couch, making himself as small as possible.

“It's okay, Sammy,” Dean assures him, without even knowing if it's true.

“Nothing is okay!” John shouts suddenly, and they both flinch. “Sam, go to your room,” he says with a calmer voice, but he's clenching his fists.

Sam darts a glance at Dean, who nods once. Sam walks around the couch and then past John. In the hallway, he turns around and looks at Dean for a long moment, but then he does go upstairs. Dean noticed that Sam upheld a certain distance between him and John, and it breaks his heart because this isn't right .

When Sam's bedroom door is closed, there's silence at first. John stares at Dean. He's clearly angry, and Dean doesn't know what to say. But then John starts to talk.

It's always, always the same with you. I've had enough of that!”

You mean, you've had enough of me?” Dean scoffs, but John nods.

Yes. I've had enough of you. You're 18 now. You want to celebrate your fucking birthday? How about you finally move out of my fucking house?”

Dean blinks. The words that were just floating through his brain disappear all at once. He has no words for this – for what he's feeling right now. Words that he could say to his father. Somehow, they ran out of words. Did they already say all there is to each other and does it just end like this ?

He starts to wonder why the numbness doesn't show up this time.

“Leave.”

John points to the front door. He's so calm, yet so angry. Dean doesn't know what to say. He looks at the door and back to John. Is that really what he wants?

“Leave!” John yells and takes a step towards him.

That's it.

Dean thinks about Sam, but what else should he do? He walks out of the living room, past John, and grabs his jacket. Then, he's outside. It's cold. It's getting dark. Dean walks down the street, without knowing where he's going. He makes it to the main street, then he stops.

Fuck.

Fuck.

Sam. He has to go back. Who knows what John is going to do now. But maybe he's satisfied for the time being. He got what he wanted, after all. Dean left the house. But where should he go now?

He thinks about calling Bobby, and his phone is already in his hand, but then he tucks it back into his pocket. No. He will give John some time. He has his keys. He will go back later.

Sighing, he keeps walking. At the end of the main street, there's a bar. Without thinking about it, Dean enters it. It's relatively crowded, and he sits down on a stool right in front of the barkeeper.

“Hey,” Dean says, but the barkeeper barely looks at him as he takes an order from a woman.

Hey,” Dean says, louder this time.

But the barkeeper just walks past him to another customer without so much as looking at him. Dean lets him finish making the drink, and then he snaps his fingers.

I said hey.”

“Yeah, twice. Good for you.”

Dean blinks at the barkeeper, confused. He scoffs. At least, he finally answered him.

“I want to order a drink.”

“Also good for you.”

The barkeeper waves to a woman with dark short hair, who just entered the bar. Dean glares at him.

“How old are you? Are you even allowed to be here?” he asks him boredly.

Dean notices a British accent.

“I turned 18 today.”

He fishes his wallet out of his pocket, holding up his ID.

“That's not necessary,” the barkeeper says, not even glancing at Dean's ID.

He grabs a glass and starts to mix a drink. When he's finished, he puts the glass in front of Dean.

“What is that?”

A purple nurple.”

A purple nurple?” Dean huffs a small laugh. “Really?”

“Try it. You look like you had a shitty day.”

Dean looks at the barkeeper. He's a few years older than him.

“How much do I look like that?”

“A lot,” the barkeeper answers with a shrug. “Drink. And I'd apologize for coming across rude, but that's just how I am.”

Dean chuckles, taking the glass, and downs the drink. It's surprisingly good, and he orders another one.

He's just wondering how long he has to wait before he can go back home when a deep voice behind him starts to talk.

“Hey, Balthazar.”

“Cassie!”

The barkeeper with the British accent smiles at his new customer, and Dean turns around. Castiel Novak screws his face up – probably because of the nickname –, but he smiles at the barkeeper. They know each other.

Cassie?” Dean asks with a chuckle, looking at the blue-eyed boy in front of him.

Castiel returns his look, squinting at him. But he sits down next to him. Balthazar pours something into a glass and puts it down in front of Castiel, getting a nod from him.

“Balthazar thinks he's funny,” Castiel answers, rolling his eyes at the barkeeper, but there's still a small smile playing on his lips.

And god , maybe it's just the warm light in the bar – at least, Dean hopes so –, but this boy is so fucking gorgeous, and it's the last thing he needs right now.

What is he doing here? Dean just wanted to kill some time until he can go back home. Why did he go into this bar? He could have gone anywhere, but no, he entered the bar where Castiel Novak knows the barkeeper of all things. And of course, Castiel Novak does have to be here as well now.

Dean stares at the blue-eyed boy and he hates how endearing the sound of his name his. Castiel Novak . Fucking blue. Castiel stares back at him, curiosity lighting up the blue of his eyes. Dean shakes his head. He's had enough. This day just gets worse and worse. And now this .

“What's wrong?” Castiel asks suddenly, and Dean realizes he hasn't stopped looking at him.

“Nothing. I'm perfectly fine.”

Castiel tilts his head, looking at him questioningly. Dean clenches his jaw, tearing his eyes away from the boy because the word cute starts to float through his mind.

“You're not perfectly fine,” Castiel mutters, taking a sip from his drink. “To be honest, you look horrible.”

“Yeah, but no one asked you!” Dean says loudly.

Too loud. He didn't want to say it so loudly. Why is he saying things so loudly today? Is he losing control of his anger?

He runs his fingers through his hair. Castiel is staring at him. He's staring up at him. Dean didn't even realize that he got up. Balthazar shoots them a questioning look.

Dean is so fucking angry, he can feel it in every inch of his body. He has the strange feeling that today is going to be even worse than it already is. He has the feeling that something is going to happen.

The ocean turns to ice once again, and that only fuels his anger even more. Dean pushes the fact that it also makes him kind of sad to the back of his mind.

 

Chapter Text

Castiel has no explanation for why he entered the bar after seeing Dean Winchester entering it. All he knows right now is that he regrets it.

He stood outside for a while, just staring at the neon sign above the door. It was cold, and he should have walked home. It doesn't matter that Dean just entered the bar. It shouldn't matter. The look on Dean's face shouldn't matter. But Castiel hasn't seen such sadness on another person for a really long time. So, maybe it does matter someway.

Though, he tried to tell himself that he hasn't seen Balthazar for a while as he opened the door. But really, Dean is the only reason why he entered the bar eventually. He wanted to see this sadness from close up. And god , it makes Dean even more beautiful.

Those green eyes aren't filled with tears. But there is a layer on them, dulling them and making them shine at the same time – it confuses Cas. There is so much going on behind those eyes, a variety of shadows and lights. He's afraid there's much more darkness than brightness inside of Dean's mind. He also has the feeling that his own demons are looking back at him. Cas knows such sadness, the feelings that go along with it, and also the burden – as if the whole world were pressing on your shoulders.

The sudden wish to see Dean's eyes, his face and just him beam with joy takes over Castiel, and he doesn't know how to shake it off again. He can't even imagine how magnificent Dean would look then.

Dean doesn't stop staring at him. A few feelings are flashing over his face, but Cas doesn't know what it all means.

“What's wrong?” he asks.

He doesn't know why. He just knows there is something wrong, and he wants to know what it is. He doesn't want to see Dean like this anymore, even though he shouldn't think like this. But he can't help it. Castiel can do what he wants, but his thoughts and his eyes always wander back to Dean, wherever he is, whatever he's doing.

He bites his lip. Dean looks horrible, and he wonders what happened. His eyes flicker to Dean's clenched fists and then back to his face. To those green eyes that don't stop staring.

“Nothing. I'm perfectly fine,” Dean says.

I'm perfectly fine.

These words are so painfully familiar to Castiel. He's lost count to how often he already said them, how often he already lied about how he really is, how he really feels. And he can also see the lie in Dean's eyes now.

Cas tilts his head. What is Dean's reason? Why is he saying these words? Why is he lying? What happened to him?

His head is so full of questions, he barely notices that Dean clenches his jaw and finally breaks eye contact. Again, he doesn't know why he says something, he just does it. The words are just coming out of his mouth.

“You're not perfectly fine,” he mutters, having a sip of his drink that Balthazar put in front of him when he sat down next to Dean. “To be honest, you look horrible.”

Yeah, but no one asked you!”

Suddenly, Dean is standing, and anger darkens the features of his face. His voice is loud, even in the crowded bar. It's too loud. Castiel can see that Dean noticed it as well. Regret and even more anger are visible in his eyes, as he runs his fingers through his hair. Balthazar shoots them a questioning look, but Cas doesn't pay him any attention.

He looks at Dean, and his own anger flares up again. He can feel it prickling under his skin, wanting to burst out. Why did he enter the bar? Because he wanted to see Dean, or even to talk with him?

Oh, yeah. This is working splendidly .

God, this was so stupid. He was so stupid. He should have walked home. He could lie in bed right now, sleeping or reading. Or he could be in his living room with Lucifer, watching a movie. And not in this fucking bar with Dean Winchester, wasting his time.

Castiel gets up as well. Dean is a little bit taller than him, but that doesn't matter to Cas. They stare at each other, and Dean seems to be surprised for a second.

But he says again, “No one asked you.” He's shaking his head slightly.

“Yeah, you already said that,” Cas scoffs. “I just thought...”

“I don't care!” Dean takes a step towards him. “I don't care,” he repeats.

“I don't care that you don't care.” Cas shrugs his shoulders. “I just wanted to be polite.”

“Oh, telling me I'm looking horrible is polite?”

“At least, I didn't lie to you. You weren't honest with me.”

Oh, please.” Dean huffs a small humorless laugh. “Who are you? I don't have to tell you anything. If I want to tell you that I'm perfectly fine, then I do that.”

“I didn't say you shouldn't say that. I just mean that I was honest to you.”

I don't give a fuck about that. And I know that I look horrible. People don't need to tell me that. They need to stop doing that.”

“I wanted to know why,” Cas says, letting the words slip out of his mouth.

Maybe it will calm Dean down again, he thinks. But it has the opposite effect. Dean raises his voice again.

“Why? Why would you want to know that?”

Cas stares at the boy in front of him. Every word that is coming out of Dean's mouth is hard and aggressive. But underneath all the anger, Castiel still sees the sadness. And he knows Dean is angry, but Dean's sadness is not an angry sadness. Lucifer's sadness – that's an angry sadness. Castiel knows the difference.

Dean's sadness is a sad sadness. It chokes him, makes him feel empty, and invites the numbness into his mind. His anger is just a side effect.

There has to be a reason, or even multiple reasons, for Dean's sadness.

Cas wants to take it away from him, because no one should walk around with the expression in their eyes as he has seen in Dean's eyes. It's just wrong . And he wants to make it right .

But hell, he won't tell Dean any of that.

Biting his lip again, he returns Dean's gaze. “Forget it,” he says quietly, wanting to go.

He needs to get out of here. He needs fresh air and sleep, and not these fucking green eyes that are staring at him. But Dean steps into his way.

“You can't just go now.”

“Of course I can just go,” Cas says, confused but firmly.

“Leave me alone,” Dean says, stepping closer.

“Well, that's what I'm about to do,” Castiel says, not stepping back.

“No, I mean in general. In school, or if we meet on the street, or in a bar like today. Don't come up to me. Don't talk to me. Just leave me alone,” Dean demands sternly.

“If you leave my friends and me alone, then we won't have a problem.”

Castiel frowns, but he straightens himself. He isn't afraid of Dean. Dean chuckles, and goosebumps erupt on Cas's skin, but he ignores them.

“If you're hinting at the incident with Gadreel, I didn't start it.”

“I'm not hinting at anything.” Now, Castiel's voice is louder than usual. “Just if you want to be left alone, then you should leave other people alone as well. That's all I'm saying.”

Don't worry. I don't want to have anything to do with you and your friends anymore.” Dean grits his teeth. “I'm just saying, don't do something like today ever again.”

“I just entered a bar. I didn't know you were here. I'm friends with the barkeeper.” Now, Castiel is lying. But does it matter? “But don't worry, it won't happen again.”

“Sure.” Dean huffs a small breath.

What? Do you honestly think I came here, because of you?” Cas stares at him in disbelief. “Why would I do that? Or don't you believe me that it won't happen again? Why would I want to talk to you again? You're an asshole.”

“You're a...” Dean inhales deeply, but he doesn't continue speaking.

Either he doesn't know what to say, or he does know but isn't sure if he should say it out loud. But the beginning of his sentence came over his lips a little too quickly.

Castiel squints at him. “I'm what ?”

Dean shakes his head, opening and closing his mouth, without saying something.

I'm what?” Castiel emphasizes.

Dean looks at him, anger and sadness battling in his eyes – a fight Castiel doesn't understand. But Dean's anger wins.

“A faggot.”

All air disappears from his lungs, and he wants to lash into Dean right here and now and kick the shit out of him, but suddenly two strong hands are clutching his arms.

“Castiel, don't!” Balthazar. “Don't, he's not worth it,” he whispers into Cas's ear.

But Castiel's mind is clouded, there's a ringing in his ears, and he barely notices that everyone is staring at them. How loud have they been? He doesn't know. There was just Dean in front of him, his eyes and his voice. Nothing else.

He swears to God. What's wrong with him?

Balthazar lets go of him, but he puts himself between Castiel and Dean, who's looking at the floor now.

“I think it's best when you two leave now.”

Cas and Dean look up, and Balthazar turns around. It's Jody.

Sheriff,” Balthazar greets her friendly.

She's off duty at the moment, but Cas notices that Dean listens attentively at the word sheriff .

“Hey, Cas.” Jody looks at him questioningly.

He shakes his head slightly. “Hey, Jody,” he says quietly, not meeting her eyes.

Try to stay out of trouble, okay?”

I promise.”

Well, at least no one could say that he hasn't tried...

But he doesn't want to see the disappointment in her eyes, even though he isn't really in trouble. Nothing's happened, thanks to Balthazar, who held him back.

Without looking anyone in the eye, Castiel leaves the bar. He still hears how Jody asks Dean for his name. Then, the cold air is hitting him in the face, but it doesn't seem to get into his lungs.

I should have just walked home , he thinks as he tries to breathe normally. He doesn't know for how long he's standing there on the sidewalk before the bar.

“Hey,” says a low voice behind him all of a sudden, and Cas flinches.

Dean.

No. Cas closes his eyes. No, just... no.

“Leave me alone,” he says. “You wanted to be left alone. I'm going to leave you alone from now on. Just do the same.”

“I just... I just wanted to say that I'm so...”

Don't!” Cas hisses, turning around to Dean. “Just shut the fuck up and leave me alone, okay?”

He wants to walk away because he can't stand the look on Dean's face and the expression in his eyes anymore. Therefore, he turns away from Dean, but then there's a hand on his shoulder, turning him back around again. That's enough to flip the switch in Castiel's brain. He doesn't even think about it, he just raises his hand, hauls off and punches Dean right in the face.

Dean is so surprised, he doesn't even really make a sound. He just gasps a little as the blood starts to stream out of his nose.

“Don't ever fucking touch me again.”

Dean looks at him, totally perplexed, but Cas doesn't pay him any attention anymore and just starts to walk away.

He tries to walk as fast as possible without starting to run. He doesn't want to run. Maybe it will bring him back home faster, but it will also bring back the memories even faster. So, he walks down the main street as quickly as he can, and turns right on the corner, slowing down only a bit.

Castiel tries to focus on his surroundings. The hard asphalt under his feet. The cold air that's nipping at his skin. The remaining snow on the streets. The wind that's whistling in his ears. But he can't do anything about the thoughts and the memories that are still flooding his mind – drowning him.

Other hands on his shoulder that turn him around, much rougher hands. Two different pairs of hands, both dangerous, grabbing at him, at his body, slowly getting hold of his mind – crushing it.

Other voices in his head. Faggot . Again, two different voices. So loud. So rude. Either drunk, or high, or both.

Faggot. I know you want it.

Faggot.

When Dean said it, silence followed this word, filled with regret and sadness. But Castiel remembers hateful laughter that followed this word once.

Faggot.

He doesn't get this word out of his head. But he doesn't hear it in Dean's voice. The voices in his head are older. Scarier. Coarser. And they bring back more and more memories.

The heat that flowed through the town, that occupied the car and the empty apartment over the liquor store. The smell of their breaths, reeking of alcohol. The feeling of a needle that pierced into his arm, and the feeling of whatever they gave him flowing through his veins.

Castiel clasps his left arm with his right hand and tries to push the memories back, but it doesn't work. He tries to tell himself that it's been five years. Five fucking years . Why isn't he over it? He should be over it. Why can't he forget?

God, he just wants to forget.



* * *



It happens so quickly, Dean can't react. He doesn't even understand it. He just wanted to be able to look Castiel in the face to apologize properly, because he is such a fucking idiot .

How could he say something like that ? He didn't even want to say something like that. Hell, Castiel is right – Dean is an asshole. But that's not an excuse to say something like that.

He called Castiel a faggot . He has never called someone a faggot before. How could he be so fucking stupid? Out of all the things he could have said, he said this . Another reason to fucking hate himself a little bit more.

And the face Castiel made – as if he couldn't breathe anymore. Even if Dean had punched him, he couldn't have hurt him more than he did with this one word.

Dean remembers what Sam told him – that some guy has called Castiel a faggot and Castiel has broken the guy's nose. He chuckles, thinking that this has to be ironic somehow since he's walking home with a bloody nose right now. At least, it's not broken. But maybe it should be broken. Either way, it hurts and Dean knows he deserves the pain.

Broken.

This word flashes through his mind when he's on their front porch and sees that the right backlight of the Impala is broken. He swallows. His dad loves this car, not any less than Dean does, and he's always very careful with it – except if he's drunk.

With a sense of foreboding, Dean opens the front door. His nose has stopped bleeding, but his lower side of the face is covered with blood and his hands are as well, and his nose also still hurts. But he forgets about it for the time being, when he enters the living room.

John sits on the couch, empty beer bottles are laying on the coffee table and the floor, and there is an almost empty bottle of Jack Daniel's in John's hand. Dean's heart drops at the sight.

Terrific . Can his birthday get any worse?

Apparently, the answer to that question is yes .

“Ah, figured you'd be back some time.” John sets eyes on Dean. His words are slurred.

Dean is just able to stare back at his father for a few moments. Not even two weeks. They're here in the new house, in the new town, for not even two weeks, and John already fell off the wagon once again.

“Dad,” Dean starts quietly. He has the feeling he's been loud enough today. He can't stand any loud words right now. “Dad. Why?”

“Oh, you mean this?”

John holds up the bottle, an idle grin on his lips that reminds Dean of Alastair somehow. He feels sick, but he licks his lips and nods.

“You're to blame for this,” John mutters, taking a sip and wiping his mouth with the back of his hand.

Dean opens his mouth, but no words come out. He shakes his head, feeling the dried blood on his skin and lips.

“Whatever happened to your face, you deserve it,” John says, squinting at him. “Who did this? I kinda want to thank 'em for it.”

He's just drunk , says a tiny voice in the back of his mind, but Dean knows that this has nothing to do with the fact that John Winchester is drunk.

“Why?“ he asks again, but this time he means something else. He almost doesn't dare to ask, but he has to. If he doesn't ask, this question will be in his head and bother him at least for the rest of the night. “Why do you hate me so much?”

John looks at him, tilting his head a bit. “Because she died to save you ,” he whispers.

Dean already anticipated this answer, but hearing it tugs at the strings of his heart more than he expected it to. He sighs and nods, leaving John alone in the living room. He goes upstairs slowly and knocks on Sam's bedroom door.

“It's me,” he mutters, and Sam unlocks the door.

“Dad is drunk,” he says, tears in his eyes. “Where were you?”

“Doesn't matter. I'm back.” Dean tries to smile, but he fails.

“What happened?” Sam asks, looking up at him and eyeing the blood on his face.

“Doesn't matter,” Dean says shakily.

He nods towards his bedroom, and Sam follows him, already wearing his pajama. Dean doesn't even want to imagine how scared Sam must have been, with John coming home drunk and Dean not being there. He assumes John left the house shortly after he did and found another bar or just a liquor store.

Sam climbs into Dean's bed, looking at him questioningly, though he doesn't ask any questions. Dean goes into the bathroom. He wants to brush his teeth, and to change into his pajamas, and to wash off the blood, but he just stares at his reflection in the mirror for a long time.

He briefly wonders for how long John will keep his job, now that he started to drink again, but then he looks at the blue tiles in the shower. Blue. Fucking blue .

Castiel.

What has he done? He made this gorgeous boy angry and told him to leave him alone. Once again, he was the reason why the bluest ocean turned to ice in a matter of seconds. He called him a faggot. Dean won't forget the expression in Castiel's eyes when he said this word – the vulnerability and the pain. And this isn't even the worst.

The worst was what happened after Castiel punched Dean when they looked at each other for maybe a second.

The frozen ocean – it just shattered , right in front of him, into a million pieces.

And it's Dean's fault.

Later, when he's lying in bed next to Sam (in his bedroom, with the door locked), who fell asleep after some time, he still can't get the agony in Castiel's eyes out of his head, or his words.

Don't ever fucking touch me again.

What happened? What is the reason for Castiel's reaction?

As he lies there in the dark, staring at the ceiling, he makes a decision he will probably regret. He wants to know the reason why. He also wants to make up for what he did. Because no matter how terrible he's feeling right now, Castiel is feeling even worse.

He can't change the situation with John. John won't ever forgive him. Dean won't ever forgive himself. But maybe he can change the situation with Castiel.

The thought that he wants to be the new bad boy starts to nag at him, but he brushes it off. The decision has been made. And they won't stay that long in this town anyway, so maybe it doesn't even matter if he gets his bad boy reputation here, or not. But if they didn't have a lot of time left here, he should hurry up. He doesn't think he'll be able to leave if he didn't make things right first.

Dean is glad when midnight comes and goes. Finally, the worst birthday ever is over.

 

Chapter Text

Castiel doesn't even know how, but he makes it home.

The last few meters to the front door seem to be insuperable, but then he's finally inside and closes the door behind him. His head feels too heavy for his neck right now, and he thinks it might explode if he's not able to calm down quickly. But he tried the whole way home to calm down, and nothing worked.

He's drowning. He's fucking drowning; the memories are suffocating him, and they won't stop coming. More and more memories fill his mind until there is no space for anything else. It's like there are bricks in his head, neatly piled up, and there's not even air between them. And he can't break them apart, no matter how hard he strikes at them.

He needs to lie down. He needs to sleep and to calm down. But principally, he needs to stop thinking.

But just as he steps on the first step to go upstairs and into his room, Lucifer comes into the hallway, smiling at him.

“Hey.”

Cas swallows. “Hey.”

He sees that Lucifer wrinkles his forehead and wonders if his voice sounded a lot different than usual, and also what he looks like. He feels like being very close to a panic attack and breaking down (an all too familiar feeling), and he hopes he doesn't look like it. Castiel doesn't want Lucifer to worry even more about him. He has to deal with this alone . He can't bother his brother with something like this again and again.

“Everything okay?” Lucifer asks, leaning against the white stair-rail.

Cas nods. “Yeah, I'm fine.”

I'm perfectly fine.

Lucifer looks at him questioningly, squinting a bit, but there's something he wants to tell, so he doesn't ask again.

“Dad left.”

Cas looks at him for a few seconds. “Yeah?”

“Yeah. He packed his things, said goodbye and drove away. I don't know when he'll be back.”

Castiel nods again. Bartholomew isn't here anymore. That's a good thing, right?

In the last couple of days, he tried to avoid his father as best he could, but there were still several encounters. They met in the kitchen, or the living room, and glared at each other.

On the one hand, Cas is glad that Bartholomew isn't there anymore, but on the other hand, he couldn't care less – especially because the thought that he also tried to avoid Dean at school squashes into his head and between all the bricks. Of course, his mind is able to make up space for this thought.

He didn't want to see Dean as well. Still, you followed him into the bar , a muffled voice in the back of his head says. This is just splendid.

Now that Lucifer said what he wanted to say, he eyes his little brother, concerned again.

“Are you sure that everything's okay?”

“Yes, I'm sure.” Cas tries to smile, but he has the feeling that he's not convincing. “I'm just tired,” he says, even though he knows that Lucifer knows this excuse very well. “I think I'm going to bed early today.”

“Okay,” Lucifer says hesitantly, but he lets him go for now.

Castiel goes into his room, locks the door behind him, and leans against it. I'm perfectly fine. He scoffs. And then the tears start to come.

Fuck fuck fuck.

Fuck.

He presses his knuckles to his eyes, but his whole body trembles and painful sobs claw at the back of his throat. He swallows hard, pressing one hand on his mouth. Everything feels wrong and really messed up right now.

With shaking hands he removes his clothes until he's only in his boxers. Still crying, he climbs into bed and buries himself under his blankets.

I'm fine. It's okay. I'm okay,” he whispers into his pillow, knowing that nothing is okay, knowing that he is not okay.

The memories are still flooding his mind. They're written all over the bricks, and Cas can only try to keep breathing.



* * *



Dean has a plan when he enters the school building the next day. He wants to talk to Castiel and to apologize sincerely. Castiel just has to listen to him, no more than five minutes. Dean wants him to understand that he deeply regrets calling him a faggot, and he wants him to know that he knows himself that he's an asshole and also an idiot.

Dean wants to fix the blue. He can't get out of his head how the frozen ocean just shattered, right there in front of him – because of him. He doesn't get over the pain in Castiel's eyes, and he wonders why it is there in the first place.

Who did that to this gorgeous boy? What happened to him? Why did he react the way he did? Dean wants to know and he wants to fucking fix it.

In the first break, he wanders through the hallways, looking for messy black hair, but he doesn't see it anywhere. In the second break, he goes outside and Castiel's friends are sitting on the stone blocks, talking and laughing together, but Castiel isn't there. Dean frowns and bites his lip. Maybe Castiel went to the bathroom?

Dean hides behind a tree and smokes a cigarette, waiting a few minutes, but still, Castiel isn't there.

He goes back inside because it's fucking cold. He suspects that Castiel is avoiding him on purpose, but he also hopes that he'll be in the cafeteria during lunch break. But no – Castiel still doesn't appear.

Dean is waiting for those blue eyes, that he'll look up and see blue, though he doesn't want to admit that.

With the thought that he'll see Castiel in his English class, he smokes another cigarette outside. He constantly has to push the nervousness out of his mind, telling himself that there's no reason to be nervous. He's just going to apologize to Castiel after this lesson, and that's it.

In anticipation of finally seeing those blue eyes, he enters the classroom and lets his own eyes wander over the other students, but his heart dives. The blue-eyed boy isn't there.

Lost in thought, Dean sits down at his place and gets his book and notepad out of his backpack. He looks around again, but there's no doubt that Castiel isn't here. Dean wonders if Castiel skipped class because of him. He isn't sure how to feel about that. But he also doesn't know for sure if this is even true. He needs to know for sure.

Impatiently, he waits for the lesson to be over and leaves the classroom as soon as the bell rings.

Either Castiel just skipped class because of him, or he isn't there at all. Dean needs to know, hence he has to ask someone.

Just when this thought starts to form in his head, he spots Kevin at the end of the hallway. He doesn't want to do this, but he thinks so what. As he keeps walking, he's shaking his head at himself. But then he's already standing in front of Kevin, so he might as well just ask him.

Kevin looks surprised when Dean says hey to him.

“What do you want?” he asks warily.

“Just wanted to know if you have seen Castiel today?”

Dean shrugs his shoulders as if it weren't really important to him. Kevin looks at him questioningly, scratching his neck. Then, he shrugs his shoulders, too.

“Cas is sick.”

“He's sick?” Dean repeats a little wonderingly.

“Yeah, his brother called the school, and Cas texted us. He's sick, lying in bed all day.”

“Are you sure?”

Dean feels weird asking that, but he's so confused that he doesn't care about it.

“Why would Cas lie to us?” Kevin asks, but he doesn't wait for Dean to answer and shakes his head as he goes away.

Dean doesn't care about that as well and turns around, slowly walking out of the school.

He doesn't know what to think of this. Is Castiel actually sick? How long has he been outside last night, wandering around, before going home and to sleep and waking up sick? Or did he tell his friends that he's sick, so they don't ask any further questions?

Why would Cas lie to us?

Maybe because there's something they don't know, Dean thinks, remembering Castiel's reactions and the pain in his eyes.

Dean also doesn't know what to think of Castiel pretending to be sick to avoid seeing him today.

Guilt puts itself onto his skin, and it's an unpleasant feeling. It's a heavy layer, and he can't just take it off, even though he wants to throw it in the nearest dumpster and forget about it.

Sam is already waiting for him outside, and they walk home in silence.

The weekend passes, and Dean ignores Sam's questioning glances. He smiles and helps him with his homework, and tells him he doesn't need to worry, whenever Sam asks him what's wrong. Of course, Sam does notice that something's off. His little brother knows him too well.

And of course, Dean does notice that Sam is still worrying about him, but there is also something else that's occupying his mind most of the time, so at some point, Sam stops asking Dean what's wrong. He knows that Dean won't tell him anyway.

Dean doesn't want his little brother to worry at all, but how could he not worry, when their father continues to disappear for a few hours and to come back home dead drunk? Dean can't pretend he doesn't worry about John as well, or more about what he could do in this condition.

Though, the thing is John doesn't do anything . He doesn't talk to them at all, and when he's home, he shuts himself away in his room. Neither Dean nor Sam tries to approach him because they know that it would be of no use.

Dean thinks a lot about Castiel. Of course, only because he needs to find a proper way to apologize to him. He tells himself that there is no other reason.

Monday comes and Dean wakes up, feeling nervous and also stupid for feeling nervous. He's just going to apologize properly to Castiel and that's it, he reminds himself again. There's absolutely no reason to be nervous.

On their way to school, Dean wonders if Castiel will be there. He can't pretend to be sick forever, right? At some point, he has to come back to school. Dean bites his lip, thinking how Castiel didn't come to school at all, because of him .

The first lesson doesn't go by as fast as Dean wants it to, but then the bell rings and he grabs his backpack, leaving the room. Out of the corner of his eye, he sees that Gabriel is looking at him, but he ignores it. He still doesn't want to talk to the guy, who's wearing Hawaiian t-shirts at the end of January.

Dean doesn't know where to look for Castiel, but he decides to start outside. Maybe he's sitting with his friends on the stone blocks – if he's there.

The cold wind is hitting him in the face as soon as Dean steps out of the door. God, he can't wait for summer.

A group of people is sitting on the stone blocks. Dean sees Charlie, Meg, Garth, Gadreel, and (to his relief) Castiel. The wind tousles his already messy dark hair, he's wearing a trenchcoat, and he takes a pull on a cigarette. Dean isn't able to avoid noticing that it looks kinda hot.

He shakes his head, pushing this thought to the back of his mind and telling himself that it is about something else right now. The apology. He wants to apologize for what happened on Thursday. He can't think about how hot Castiel looks right now – or always looks. Dammit, Winchester. You have to concentrate.

But Dean also doesn't want to talk to Castiel in front of his friends. It's probably best if he'll just wait and catch Castiel alone, he decides. Yeah, that's a good plan. A very good plan.

It's just that Castiel doesn't seem to go along with it. He's spotted him.

For a moment, their eyes meet and a small smile tugs at the corners of Dean's mouth, but then Castiel looks away, nudging Meg with his elbow and getting up. Dean's smile falters, and he watches Castiel and Meg disappearing around the corner of the building, giving him a wide berth.

Dean frowns. He has no option but to enter the school again, since Castiel's friends are getting up as well now and he doesn't want them to see him, too.

Castiel and Meg probably entered the school through the main entrance again, because Dean sees them in one of the hallways. But he can't go over to them, because he's already late for his next class and there are too many people around them. Besides, Castiel takes Meg's hand and pulls her into the other direction – away from Dean.

During the next days, this happens again and again and again. Whenever Castiel sees Dean, he turns around and walks away as fast as he can. Dean can't blame him, but he gets angrier every time. He's not angry with Castiel, no – he's angry with himself. Because, although he can see Castiel's face always just for a few seconds, he's able to see the sadness that's still lingering in his features and his blue eyes.

Dean has no idea how he is supposed to apologize to Castiel when Castiel doesn't want him to apologize. There are times when he wonders why he even wants to apologize.

Is he just doing it for himself, to make himself feel better, and to convince himself that he's not such a failure? Or is he doing it, because it's the right thing to do , because he wants Castiel to feel better, and maybe even to convince Castiel that he isn't such an asshole?

Sometimes it's the first thought he believes, sometimes it's the second, but there are also moments when he believes it's a mixture of both thoughts. And then, there are these moments, when he doesn't even know what to think, what to believe.

All he knows for sure is that Castiel is trying his best to avoid him. Dean wonders for how long it will be like this. He doesn't want to admit an awful lot of things – not even to himself – and one of those things is that he doesn't like to see Castiel turning around as soon as he sees him. But he can't change that and he doesn't want to go after Castiel, not when Castiel is trying so hard not to be in the same room with him. Dean would feel stupid if he did that.

But every Tuesday and Friday, they have English together. Castiel has a seat in the front row, whereas Dean is sitting in the back of the class, so he has the whole lesson to stare at Castiel absentmindedly. Though every time he finds himself staring at Castiel, he shakes his head and tries to concentrate on something else, but it's always evanescent. His thoughts and his eyes always wander back to Castiel, if he wants to or not.

On Friday, he's glad when he leaves school and walks home together with Sam. He doesn't want to think about Castiel anymore. Maybe he gets an opportunity to apologize next week, and then he'll be finally able to put all these thoughts out of his mind and to start working on getting his usual reputation.

He starts to wonder if he even should apologize to Castiel at all, or if he should let it alone. But he ignores these thoughts, whenever they come to his mind, because he can't help it. He needs to apologize.

For the weekend, he wants to spend some time with Sam, maybe call Bobby, and get drunk, a little bit at least. Of course, it doesn't go as planned.

Why did he even expect it to go as planned? He shouldn't be surprised anymore that almost every week something bad is happening. Maybe he will get used to it eventually – or maybe he is already used to it. Either way, it hurts and it tires him even more.

It's Saturday and since John left the house early – even though he came back home late last night – and since they don't have anything in the fridge anymore, Dean decides to go grocery shopping. He asked Sam if he wanted to go with him, but Sam mumbled something about math homework, so Dean left and went to the supermarket alone.

Sam is in a very bad mood again, because their father is drinking again.

Most of the time, John is either drunk or half-drunk, and in a very bad mood as well. Dean wonders for how long he's going to keep his job this time. And what's going to happen if he gets fired again. For how long are they going to stay here?

Since they don't have a lot of money (a lot of alcohol is expensive – apparently ), Dean only buys essentials, ergo the grocery shopping doesn't take a lot of time. He couldn't have been away for longer than 45 minutes – he had to walk because John took the Impala. But still, when he comes home, it's too late.

He doesn't need to see the Impala in the driveway to know that John is home. He can already hear John's voice on the street. He pauses, his grip on the shopping bag tightens, and he hopes, although he knows better, that the loud voice doesn't come from their house.

But of course, he recognizes his father's voice immediately; he knows exactly what it sounds like when he's drunk and yelling at them.

He enters the house quickly and rather carelessly puts the bag on the floor in the hallway. With a bad feeling deep down in the pit of his stomach, he enters the living room.

John is there, standing in the middle of the room – he's yelling and gesticulating frantically, and he's drunk. Sam is also there, making himself as small as possible, not looking John in the eye – and he's crying silently. The armchair stands between them, but it isn't able to protect Sam from John's fury and his harsh words.

Dean doesn't know what this is about, he doesn't know what Sam has done or hasn't done, and why John is so angry. But he knows that he has to protect his little brother.

When he steps into the room, Sam looks at him. His eyes are red and puffy, and there are still tears streaming down his cheeks and dripping onto his shirt. John keeps yelling at him, without even realizing that his other son is there as well now.

“Dad?” Dean asks carefully, stepping closer.

Sam shakes his head, but Dean ignores him. Maybe he can calm John down, or at least distract him from Sam. He takes another step closer.

“Dad?” he tries again, louder this time.

He doesn't know if John actually doesn't hear him, or if he's deliberately ignoring him. But either way, he just keeps yelling. Dean doesn't know what else he is supposed to do, so he reaches for John's arm to get his attention. But that is a big mistake.

At the touch, John spins around immediately. He's so fast, Dean can't even react – just like when Castiel hit him. But John's fist hits his jugal bone, below and beside his left eye.

Dean's head jerks to the side, and he presses a hand to his face, taken by surprise. John glares at him before he walks past him. Dean and Sam stare at each other, neither of them able to comprehend what just happened. Then, John's bedroom door slams shut. They both flinch.

Sam walks over to him, taking his hand that's still pressed to his face, so he can examine his face.

Dean can practically feel a black eye forming, but he doesn't care about that, not when Sam doesn't stop crying. He kneels down, looking Sam in the eye.

“What happened, Sammy?”

“I'm so-sorry,” Sam sobs, wiping his face.

“What happened?” Dean asks again.

Sam looks bashfully at the ground and tells him what happened in a low voice. He's still sobbing.

Sam called Bobby because he didn't want to be here any longer. He asked him if he could come to get them, and at that moment John came back home. He heard what Sam told Bobby on the phone and got angry, prying the receiver out of Sam's hand and holding it to his ear. He glared at Sam while he yelled into the phone that Bobby shouldn't dare to show up here. Afterward, he just hung up and since then he was yelling at Sam.

When Sam finishes, Dean closes his eyes for a second.

Sam is still crying and rubbing his eyes with the sleeve of his shirt.

“I'm s-sorry. I ju-just was s-so ang-angry and s-s-sad.”

“Shh, Sammy, it's okay,” Dean whispers, pulling his little brother into a hug.

“But yo-your eye...,” Sam starts, but Dean just shakes his head.

“It's okay. It's nothing.”

But remorse is shining brightly in Sam's eyes when he pulls away from Dean.

“I just wanted to get away from him,” he whispers, and then the tears stop.

He looks so tired . He shouldn't be this tired, Dean thinks. He just wants Sam to be a happy kid.

Dean sighs. “Come on, go to your room. Do you have any homework?”

Sam nods, wiping his face again.

“Okay, I'll be right there.”

Sam walks past him, still sniffling a bit. Dean runs his fingers through his hair and watches Sam going upstairs. He stands still for a few seconds after he heard how Sam closed the door behind him, but no noises are coming from John's bedroom. Their father is probably asleep now.

Dean grabs the phone that's laying on the couch; maybe John threw it there after he's yelled at Bobby and hung up.

Bobby. Dean dials the familiar number and presses the phone to his ear, starting to walk around in the living room.

“What?”

“Hey, Bobby. It's me,” Dean answers.

“Dean! Is everything okay?”

Well, depends on how you define okay, I think.”

“Sam told me to come and get you.”

“Yeah, I know. He's told me.”

“John is drinking again.”

“Yeah,” Dean says.

“Why didn't you tell me?”

Bobby doesn't yell at him, but he's talking louder than usual, and his frustration is audible.

“I didn't want to bother you,” Dean mutters.

I want to be bothered, Dean. I'll start driving in a few minutes.”

“What?!”

“I'm coming to get you, just like Sam wanted me to. Don't tell me that you don't want that.”

“Bobby, I don't think this would be a good idea,” Dean says exhaustedly.

“Do you want to stay there?”

“Doesn't matter. We can't just... okay, listen. Right now, everything is cleared. You don't have to come.”

“Are you sure, Dean?”

“Yeah, I am sure. We just need...”

“...some time?” Bobby asks, voice oozing with doubt.

Dean huffs a small breath. “Maybe,” he says quietly, furrowing his brow.

“Okay. I'm not getting in the car like I wanted to. But you gotta promise me something, boy,” Bobby grumbles, sounding really serious.

“What?” Dean asks, swallowing nervously.

You're going to call me when something happens again. No matter what. You understand?”

“Yes, Bobby. I understand,” Dean says. “I promise I'll call you.”

“Good. Now, take care of Sam.”

“I will.”

The phone call is over. Dean puts the phone away, slowly going upstairs. He's trying not to think about that he only promised Bobby to call when something happens to soothe Bobby. John isn't Bobby's problem. Bobby had enough trouble with John.

Dean knocks on Sam's door.

“Come in.”

He opens the door and sees Sam sitting on his desk chair, writing something onto a page of a notebook. Homework. Dean has also homework – English and History. But he has no motivation to do something right now, so he lies down on Sam's bed, staring at the ceiling and starting to bite his lip. His face still hurts, but he doesn't care.

On Monday, the black eye is still visible, but Dean ignores the stares he gets from the other students. He's focused on apologizing to Castiel again, but he hasn't seen the blue-eyed boy today. Yet. He assumes Castiel is still trying to avoid him, and he still can't blame him for that.

But in the lunch break, he's finally lucky. Or maybe it's just a coincidence. Who knows? Dean doesn't care, though. He's just glad that he's finally alone with Castiel.

He went to the bathroom and entered it, lost in thought, letting the door shut. When he looks up, Castiel is there, washing his hands and returning his look. Dean notices that Castiel eyes his black eye, looking at him quizzically.

Dean shrugs his shoulders. “It's nothing,” he says, pointing at his face. “I've looked worse.”

He doesn't know what to expect. But he definitely doesn't expect Castiel to chuckle.

“Somehow, I have no problem believing you that.”

Now, Dean is looking at Castiel questioningly, who huffs a small breath and throws away the paper towel he was holding in his hands. He walks past Dean slowly, leaving the bathroom. Without thinking about it, Dean follows him.

Of course, he notices that Castiel is behaving differently right now. He's completely calm . Most importantly, he doesn't run away from him and he doesn't try to avoid him. He is looking Dean in the eye. He lets him even walk beside him.

“So, uh, I wanted...,” Dean starts awkwardly, being taken aback. “I mean, I'm, um, I'm really sorry, you know...”

He's afraid his apology won't sound like he means it with all the stammering, but Castiel stops him with a wave of his hand. Dean stops talking immediately, feeling awkward as fuck.

“It's okay,” Castiel says quietly.

Dean looks at him, not knowing what to say. They stop in the middle of a hallway. Castiel returns his look, a small smile touching the corners of his mouth.

“It's okay,” he repeats softly.

Dean is still feeling awkward, but he can't help but smile back. He opens his mouth because he has to say something . It seems like Castiel is even waiting for him to say something. But before he can think of something good to say, someone is calling his name. Both, he and Castiel look up to see a girl walking towards them.

She has red hair, just like Charlie, but hers is longer, going down almost to her waist. Her blue jeans flatter her long legs pleasantly and she's wearing a simple white blouse. She is more than just pretty, but Dean wonders what she wants from him. He can't even remember seeing her somewhere before.

“That's Anna, Anna Milton. She's in my French course,” Castiel tells him, stepping back a bit when Anna stops in front of Dean, a huge smile on her face.

“Hello!” she says.

“Hi,” Dean answers, looking at her curiously.

What could she want from him?

“I'm Anna. Anna Milton.”

“Dean Winchester.”

“I know,” she says with a sly smile.

“You know?” Dean raises his eyebrows. “Well, what can I do for you?”

She smiles at him, stepping a bit closer. “It's early in February,” she tells him, “and in about two weeks, there's this party. I wondered if you wanted to come.”

“A party?” Dean asks. “Where?”

“At my house. My parents are out of town.”

In about two weeks, Dean thinks. Oh, no...

On Valentine's Day?”

“Yeah, exactly.”

Now, Anna is grinning up at him, tilting her head a little and playing with a red strand of her hair with her fingers. She's flirting with him.

Out of the corner of his eye, Dean sees how Castiel demonstratively doesn't look at them, but Dean's sure he does listen to what they're saying. And Dean can see the expression on Castiel's face. He looks at Anna again, who's waiting for his answer.

I'm sorry,” he says, shaking his head. “Not interested.”

Neither in the party nor you.

But he doesn't say this out loud, because he doesn't need to. Anna understands it right away. Her grin disappears and she stops being flirtatious, only to start sulking. Throwing her hair back, she turns around and walks away, keeping her head held high and not regarding him with an answer.

Dean scoffs and turns around as well, facing Castiel again, who's still standing there. He waited for him. Dean smiles at that. Castiel tilts his head slightly when Dean suddenly starts to grin.

He doesn't feel awkward anymore. Dean can't explain it – maybe it's the expression on Castiel's face when Anna flirted with him. In any case, it makes him say his next words out loud, instead of holding them back. He wants to see Castiel's reaction.

He smirks at Castiel, who raises his eyebrows at him now, silently asking what's going on.

“Jealousy looks good on you.”

Castiel reacts variously, much to the joy of Dean. The first moment his cheeks flush, and he looks at Dean surprised. Then, he straightens himself, jutting his chin forward and glaring at him.

Jealousy? Oh, please,” he scoffs before he quickly walks past Dean.

Dean doesn't care about Castiel just ditching him. A chuckle escapes his lips, as he watches how the blue-eyed boy disappears around the corner at the end of the hallway.

Slowly, he heads to the classroom and his last lesson for today, feeling as relaxed and as good as he hasn't for days.

 

Chapter Text

One week has passed since Dean tried to apologize to him.

It's shortly after 5 am and Castiel should be asleep, but he just woke up after having another nightmare. Cas is used to it by now, but he hates it nevertheless.

He's sitting in bed, the blanket laying loosely over his crossed legs, leaning against his pillows, staring absentmindedly at the ceiling and wishing he could sleep without having any nightmares.

He's feeling 'okay' again – as far as one can say that. He doesn't have another word for how he's feeling. He's not happy, not even content, but it's also not as bad as it has already been before. It's still gray around and also inside him, but at least there's no rain right now.

Of course, he's having nightmares again, but apart from that, he's okay.

Or maybe, he's still having nightmares. Again. Still. He can't tell the difference anymore. How much time has to pass for it to be again instead of still ?

And why can't his mind just shut up for two minutes? He doesn't want to think about anything. He wants to sleep. If he fell asleep right now, he still could sleep for one hour and 43 minutes. That'd be nice.

But he doesn't fall back asleep, and his thoughts wander and wander until they're back to a certain boy. Cas sighs. He doesn't want to think about Dean, but when has he ever been able to stop his mind from forming thoughts, ideas, questions, or pictures?

Dean.

Castiel remembers how they met in the boy's bathroom at school. Dean had a black eye, and Cas wondered what had happened. Apparently, the question was written on his face, because Dean started to talk. But he didn't want Dean to apologize.

He wonders if Dean knows that, but all his emotions are almost always visible . In the expression on his face, in the expression in his eyes, and in the movements of his hands. His entire body language is so easy to read. And Castiel has seen the regret, right the moment after Dean had called him a faggot.

Sure, the word brought back a lot of memories, but anyone could have said it. It just happened to be Dean, and he didn't even want to say it. Castiel knows how anger issues work. Dean couldn't control it, although he hesitated to say it. But the anger pushed the word over his lips, and it was so clear that he wanted to take it back immediately.

Cas isn't mad at Dean. He never was. He just wasn't able to control how he reacted to this word.

And then Dean touched him, and that triggered him even more. It was a whole series of untoward events, and Castiel needed some time to sort everything out. That's the reason why he avoided Dean at school, why he turned around as soon as he saw him, and why he pretended to be sick on the Friday after it had happened.

He didn't want to see Dean right away again, just so that everything could surface again.

But now, it's okay. He's not angry at Dean. Cas even regrets hitting the green-eyed boy.

Besides, Dean wanted to apologize, and Castiel thinks that says a lot about him, although he doesn't want to think about it. Or about Dean. But he can't help it.

Jealousy looks good on you.

Castiel huffs a small breath, shaking his head. Why did Anna have to come up to Dean just then? He shouldn't care about it, though. He shouldn't care about Anna flirting with Dean and inviting him to a party. It simply shouldn't matter to him.

Unfortunately, it does – in one way or another. He doesn't know. But apparently, Dean was able to see it.

He doesn't want to admit it, not even to himself, but he knows that he didn't like it when Anna was flirting with Dean. So, maybe he was indeed jealous . But he has the feeling that jealous is the wrong word for it. He simply didn't like to see her flirting with him. If he were jealous, that would mean that he likes Dean. And that's not true. Right?

Okay, yes. Dean is beautiful to look at. He has beautiful eyes and – at this point, Cas should already stop.

He runs his fingers through his hair. It also doesn't matter that Dean is beautiful. It shouldn't matter. But it does, and Castiel is so confused. He doesn't want to think like this, so why isn't he able to stop?

He should think about other things.

Bartholomew isn't here anymore, and Lucifer's and his routine is back. They also haven't heard anything from their father, and they're more than glad about that. It means Castiel is able to feel comfortable at home again. It means there are no fights, there is no shouting and no glaring. Lucifer knows how much all of that always drains Castiel on strength.

Cas wants to concentrate on his schoolwork now. On the one hand, it's going well; on the other hand, not so much. At the moment, he has good grades, but he still can't completely focus on school and learning. Dean is still always there – in the hallways, in the cafeteria, in the classroom, or in the back of his mind.

He's getting used to looking up and seeing green, and he can't do anything about it.

It's weird, though. Whenever he looks at Dean, Dean either starts to look back, or he's already staring at him. They're always maintaining eye contact for a few seconds until someone looks away again.

They also don't talk to each other. They haven't talked with each other since Dean noticed Cas was jealous (or whatever) because of Anna, and Cas just ditched him. But the atmosphere between them is not bad if anything. And if only Castiel knew what it means.

Because they aren't talking to each other, but sometimes he's catching Dean staring at him, or Dean catches Castiel staring at him. Sometimes they even smile when it happens, but they always look away again. And Dean gets in a few fights with other students. It's more shouting and bumping into each other than anything else, but it seems like Dean is finally starting to concentrate on getting the bad boy reputation that he wants to have.

Castiel wonders why Dean even apologized, why he bothered to apologize at all. He just could have let it go and try to get a bad boy reputation right away. He didn't have to apologize. So, why did he want to apologize?

This isn't the only thing Castiel is thinking about. He's mostly thinking about Dean, and he has a lot of questions in his head. Another one is why Dean didn't respond to Anna's flirting. Cas hates this question, but it has gotten its teeth into his brain, and he can't pull it out. He shouldn't care about that either. Right?

Still... he wants to know why Dean didn't flirt back. Anna is a beautiful girl, usually not a girl a guy like Dean would reject like this.

It's not like Castiel isn't secretly glad that Dean didn't flirt with Anna. It's just that he can't wrap his mind around a reason why Dean didn't flirt with her at all.

And then Dean said this. Jealousy looks good on you. Why did he say it? Why did he grin at Castiel like that , when he said it to him? Why did he even say it at all? Castiel doesn't understand it. Dean looked like he felt good about himself after he had said it.

But what Castiel hates the most at the moment is the fucking fact that Dean was cute , when he tried to apologize. He started to stutter, and he fucking blushed, and he couldn't even form one coherent sentence. He was so flustered, and it was fucking cute, and Castiel fucking hates it.

To top it all, Gabriel is insisting on going to that damn party Anna is throwing this week, of all things on Valentine's Day .

Cas already wondered if the party was actually going to take place, or if Anna just told Dean that there'll be a party to get him to come over to her house. But Anna throws a lot of parties; her parents are the richest people around here, and they have a nice big property. Castiel has already been to a few parties there, but he didn't go in the beginning, when they've just moved here.

Anna had flirted with him as well, just like she did with Dean; she had invited him to a party as well, and he had rejected her as well. It's nothing personal, but Anna tends to be spiky very quickly when something isn't the way she wants it to be.

He had tried to explain to her that he isn't interested, because she's a girl and he is gay . It's not that hard to understand, but of course, she had been offended. Now, they talk to each other from time to time, and only about schoolwork, and sometimes he goes to her parties, but that's it.

This time, he doesn't want to go to Anna's party. But most people will go, and many of his friends will as well, and they want him to come with them.

Cas tries to resort in excuses. The party will take place on a Thursday, and the next day they'll have school normally. He thinks that that's a good point, but Meg thinks otherwise.

“When has school ever stopped you from going to a party?” she asks, raising her eyebrows at him. With that, his point is invalid, since Castiel isn't able to offer something in reply to that.

He also tells them that they aren't even invited, but they never are, and nobody cares about this anyway. They still always just went, and Anna never complained about it. Most people aren't invited and everyone, who wants to go and hears about the party, just goes. That's the way it works.

So, they go to the party this time as well. Eventually, his friends have talked Cas into it.

On Thursday, Castiel ignores most couples in school (fucking Valentine's Day) and around 8 pm, Meg, Crowley, Charlie, and her girlfriend Dorothy are standing before his door.

Yesterday, Castiel's last hope waned. He thought that Lucifer will tell him he can't go, because the party takes place midweek. But no, the fucker honestly offered to drive them to the house of the Milton's .

Now, his brother is talking to the others while Castiel takes one last quick look in the mirror. He still doesn't want to go, so that's the reason why he took only small pains to choose his clothes tonight. He's wearing army jeans, black sneakers, and a grey sweater. Something simple.

When he comes downstairs, Charlie is in the middle of introducing Dorothy – her girlfriend. Castiel has to acknowledge that the others are also just casually dressed.

“Charlie, everyone knows Dorothy by now,” Meg says, and Charlie pouts.

Lucifer hasn't met her yet. Besides, we're officially together now.”

Meg rolls her eyes, and Crowley and Castiel chuckle. He sees how Dorothy is smiling, a faint blush covering her cheeks.

“You ready?” Lucifer asks, and he nods.

They all get in the car; Lucifer is sitting in the driver seat, Cas is riding shotgun, and Crowley, Meg, Charlie, and Dorothy are squished in the backseat, whereas Dorothy and Charlie are sharing a seat.

The Milton's live on the outskirts of town; it's the top part of the area. Well, their house is simply about in the middle between this town and the next, but that's what people are saying.

They drive a little more than half an hour, and then Lucifer drives through the gate onto the property of the Milton's. The driveway is a broad gravel path that ends at a small roundabout in front of the steps before the entrance. The roundabout is only there because there's a marble fountain in front of the house. Castiel likes this fountain a lot because it isn't exorbitant.

They get out of the car, and Lucifer tells them they should call him when they want him to pick them up again. Charlie takes Dorothy's hand, and they enter the house. Castiel is the last one to go in, since he looked after Lucifer's car, a little bit wistfully.

The party is already in full swing. There are a lot of people, far more than there were cars in front of the house in the meadow. Cas screws up his nose. Charlie and Dorothy disappear into the crowd, already starting to dance. The music is loud; some pop song is playing. Castiel won't see Charlie and Dorothy very often this night.

Crowley and Meg want a drink, so they dive into the crowd as well. There are a few tables in different rooms with alcohol and snacks. The people around them are already partying, drunk, and in high spirits. Soon, the others belong to them.

Gabriel, Ash, Garth, and Gadreel find them relatively fast. Gabriel's cousin drove them. They're already well supplied, to go by the drinks in their hands. Gabriel disappears right away again, following some girl back into the crowd. Gadreel also finds a girl to dance with, and Meg takes Castiel's hand, wanting to pull him with her.

But he shakes his head, smiling at her apologetically; he doesn't want to dance. Meg understands, and it doesn't take long for her to find another boy to dance with. Crowley, Garth, and Ash keep standing with Cas.

He hasn't talked to Ash in a while. Now, Ash is drunk, which means that he makes even more jokes and talks louder than usual. But they have to raise their voices anyway, because of the loud music. It doesn't surprise anyone that Ash was invited by Anna. He's a little bit odd, but whenever there is a party you can count on Ash taking care of the music and the light. Everyone likes Ash.

Crowley asks if Billie were there, and Castiel shakes his head, sipping at his drink. He doesn't want to get drunk, he just wants his hands to have something to do. He tells Crowley that Billie and Kevin aren't there, because their mothers didn't allow them to go.

The others get slowly or quickly drunk, and Benny comes over to them, holding Madison's hand and pulling her with him. They're also drunk, and she's smiling sheepishly. Cas raises his eyebrows, but Benny shoots him a look that says Oh, shut up . They talk for a few minutes, and nobody is mentioning them holding hands, but when they go dancing with each other again, Crowley snorts.

“I didn't know that they're a couple,” Ash says.

His words are a little slurred, but he still downs another drink.

“They aren't,” Cas says. “I think they're just starting to go out with each other.”

He's sure that Benny would have mentioned it if he and Madison were already a thing.

Some time passes and Castiel notices that he's starting to feel more and more uncomfortable. He's not in the mood for dancing or getting drunk. Luckily, the others don't notice it; he doesn't want to ruin their night.

Only Crowley seems to suspect something. He doesn't ask what's wrong, though, but rather if he could get something for Castiel.

I could get you anything,” he offers. “Cocaine. Acid. Psychedelic mushrooms?”

Cas scoffs and he can't deny that Crowley's offering is delightful, but he still declines. He doesn't even know why. Crowley just shrugs his shoulders, but Cas notices that he shoots him questioning glances now and then from that moment on.

Usually, he doesn't decline when Crowley offers him something. He bites his lip, putting his glass down on a table.

“I'll be right back,” he says, wanting to get some fresh air and to smoke a cigarette.

But he forgot his cigarettes at home, or maybe Lucifer took them away; he isn't sure. He doesn't want to go back inside and ask Crowley for a cigarette, although he's sure that the Brit has his cigarettes with him as always.

So, he just sits down outside, on the steps that lead to the front porch.

It's around 11 pm now, and it's a cold but clear night. Cas could try to count the stars that are twinkling above him, but he's content with simply staring at them.

He doesn't know for how long he sits like this, his head tilted back and a small smile playing on his lips. It calms him down, and he forgets that he doesn't even want to be here. Maybe it's not that bad after all. At least, his friends are having a lot of fun.

He stays like this, lost in thought until he hears a familiar voice that asks, “What's so interesting up there?”

Cas drops his gaze, down to reality and down to a pair of green eyes that is staring at him curiously.

He doesn't answer Dean right away. He looks back at him for a few moments, probably just as curiously as Dean himself.

“I thought you weren't interested,” Castiel says slowly, remembering what Dean has said to Anna.

“I changed my mind.” Dean shrugs his shoulders. “But only about the party,” he adds quickly as if he thought it's important to tell Cas that he's still not interested in Anna. “I mean, free alcohol.”

Castiel huffs a small laugh, nodding understandingly. He doesn't stop looking at Dean, and Dean doesn't stop looking at him.

He thinks Dean will go inside, diving into the crowd, drinking, and maybe flirting with some girls. Maybe Anna just isn't his type. Cas doesn't know how to feel about this, but shouldn't he feel nothing at all at this thought anyway?

Dean doesn't go inside, but rather sits down next to Castiel, who looks at him in surprise. There is an appropriate distance between them, but they're still close, and in the light of the exterior illumination Cas can see the constellations of Dean's freckles.

He looks away. He doesn't want to think that it's more likely to count all the freckles on Dean's skin than all the stars in the sky. He doesn't want to think about how far down the freckles may go – if they are everywhere on Dean's body.

Castiel clears his throat, looking down at his hands. He's still shivering with cold, but suddenly he also feels too hot.

“What's that?” Dean asks, and Cas looks back up.

Dean is also looking at his hands, brow furrowed. Cas drops his gaze back to his hands and the small tattoo on the palm of his left hand. He feels a smile tugging at the corners of his mouth.

“A tattoo,” he answers Dean's question, holding his hand up, so Dean is able to see it properly.

It's a small tattoo that means a lot to Castiel.

“A note?”

“Yeah,” Castiel says, still smiling slightly.

Dean looks at him questioningly. “What for?” he asks.

Castiel stares back into these green eyes for a moment before he answers.

“I love music. It always helps me feel better, or it just calms me down. Whenever I look at this tattoo, it reminds me of that.”

Dean nods, still looking at the tattoo. Cas lowers his hand again, wondering why he told Dean something so personal. He wants to change the topic.

“It calms me down,” he continues speaking, “just like a cigarette would do if I hadn't forgotten my pack.”

He huffs a small breath. When he looks at Dean again, Dean is smiling and fishing a pack of cigarettes out of the pocket of his jacket. Without saying a word he offers Cas one, and without thinking about it Cas takes it, as well as the lighter Dean hands to him.

With skilled fingers, he lights up the cigarette, taking a long pull and breathing out. He knows that Dean is watching him from the side, but he doesn't look back at him. Dean lights up his own cigarette, and they smoke in silence, letting the smoke escape their lungs into the cold night air.

Castiel doesn't know what to think of this. Why is Dean staying here with him?

He glances at Dean after all, who seems completely relaxed. Cas notices that he is calm as well. He looks at the ground. It's probably just the cigarette; smoking always calms him down, just like the tattoo on his hand. It has nothing to do with the fact that Dean is sitting next to him. Probably. Maybe.

Cas can feel it in his guts. Comfortableness is settling within him. He's comfortable in Dean's presence.

He really should get up and go back inside to his friends. But he keeps sitting outside with the boy he wanted to hate.

Maybe he does hate Dean. Or he just hates how easy it is to sit with him in silence and smoke, and also how easy it is to talk with Dean. He doesn't even know what they're talking about. The words just come out of his mouth, he doesn't have to think about them. Dean answers him, or he asks a question, or he tells him something. Why is it so easy? It's as easy as talking with his friends...

Cas swallows. Maybe he should get up and get away from Dean. But then, he realizes that's not what he wants. He should want to stay away from Dean. He shouldn't want to continue talking with him. It's Dean Winchester , after all.

Dean has called him a faggot. Cas searches for anger in his heart and his mind, but there is none. He's not mad at Dean. He thinks it would be easier to walk away if he were mad at him. He wonders if he's supposed to be mad at Dean.

They stopped talking. Castiel doesn't remember when they stopped, but again, the silence isn't uncomfortable. He definitely should go, maybe even run away. He should get as far away from Dean as possible because he shouldn't allow himself to feel so comfortable around him.

But Castiel doesn't do what he should do. Instead, he takes another cigarette from Dean, ignoring the questioning glances he gets from the green-eyed boy. He'd like to know what Dean is thinking right now, but of course, he doesn't ask him.

Cas doesn't know for how long they are already sitting there when Benny comes outside. He was searching for Cas, wanting to know if everything's okay. Now, he's looking at him with raised eyebrows and a knowing look, after he found him with a boy outside – and it's Valentine's Day.

Castiel wants to explain that it isn't like that. He briefly wonders if he wants it to be like that. But he drives this thought away, getting up from the steps. He doesn't know what to say, but he doesn't have to say anything.

Surprised, he has to watch Dean and Benny introduce themselves to each other – it seems that they are on good terms with one another right away.

Cas would like to tell Benny that Dean and he aren't anything and that it was just a coincidence that they met outside. They talked to each other for a while, so what? It doesn't mean anything. It shouldn't mean anything.

But Benny and Dean are already going inside and are talking, and Castiel follows them, eyeing Dean suspiciously. Why is Dean going with them? He doesn't know. Maybe Dean doesn't even know it himself. Maybe it's just because he doesn't know anyone else here.

Cas kind of has to remind himself that Dean is new in town; somehow he forgot about that since he's already this comfortable around the green-eyed boy – too comfortable.

They go over to a table, and Benny and Dean are getting drinks, but Castiel doesn't want anything. He listens to their conversation with half an ear; they're talking about cars. He looks at Dean, who still seems relaxed.

Cas noticed that his shoulders tensed, the moment Benny came outside. Now, he's calm again, and Cas notices once again how fucking green Dean's eyes are, and how endearing his smile is.

A few minutes later, Crowley finds them and he's not as delighted about Dean's presence as Benny seems to be. He stands next to Castiel, looking at him and rolling his eyes when Dean puts two canapés at a time in his mouth.

Cas has to suppress a smile at the sight, especially when Crowley says loud enough for everyone to hear, “Who invited the squirrel ?”

Dean swallows. “What?” he asks, looking at the Brit.

“What?” Crowley asks back with an innocent voice.

Castiel is chuckling, and Dean darts a glance at him. Did he only imagine it, or did Dean's eyes get softer as they wandered from Crowley to him?

He looks at the dancing crowd, avoiding Dean's eyes because his recent thought makes him feel oddly warm. Luckily, Madison comes over, laughing loudly. She grabs Benny's arm and pulls him into the crowd again, probably to continue dancing and making out. They distract Dean, who looks after the lovebirds, and then Charlie and Dorothy appear next to them all of a sudden. They are both drunk, giggling, and holding hands. When Charlie sees Dean, she screams his name.

Woah,” Dean says, as Charlie hugs him.

Dean,” Charlie says solemnly and points at Dorothy. “This is the love of my life.”

Dean raises his eyebrows, looking from Charlie to Dorothy and starting to grin.

“The love of your life?” he asks in amazement.

“Yep,” Dorothy says defensively, putting an arm around Charlie and kissing her on the cheek.

Charlie is practically glowing. She takes Dorothy's hand and they disappear once again – probably to continue dancing and making out, just like Benny and Madison.

“They've only been dating for a few weeks,” Crowley says, shaking his head.

Cas shrugs his shoulders. He loves Charlie, she's like a sister to him. And she's drunk right now. If she wants to introduce Dorothy as the love of her life to Dean, she is allowed to do so. He can't stop her from doing it, and he won't even try.

He knows perfectly well that Charlie believes in love at first sight and soulmates . She doesn't care about what other people are saying, and she won't let anyone tell her that Dorothy and she are going too fast.

Castiel is lost in thought for a few moments, and at first, he doesn't notice that Dean is staring at him again. But then he does and returns Dean's look. He raises his eyebrows, and the green-eyed boy shrugs his shoulders.

Cas doesn't know what he's supposed to say, if he's supposed to say anything at all. Maybe Dean will go now and try to find other people he can talk to, but he still doesn't move. And when Cas tears his eyes away from Dean, he also notices that Crowley isn't there anymore. He frowns.

Fuck. Fuck, Crowley. Did he just leave him alone with Dean? Seriously?

Castiel looks around, but he can't see Crowley anywhere. Since when is the Brit so fast?

But he doesn't have the chance to continue looking for Crowley or even to search for him. Dean is staring at the other end of the room with mild panic in his eyes.

“Oh, no,” he mutters and locks eyes with Cas before he pulls him around the corner.

It happens very quickly, but somehow Castiel knew that it was going to happen, although he doesn't know the reason why – he doesn't want to think about how he saw it in Dean's eyes.

He looks at the green-eyed boy questioningly and curiously, and then he realizes that they're standing very close. They haven't been this close since Cas punched Dean in the face.

He remembers how he slammed Dean against the wall after Dean and Gadreel were at each other's throat. This time, Cas is the one leaning against the wall, and Dean is the one standing in front of him – but he's not touching him. He only pulled very briefly at his arm to get him to move, probably remembering how Castiel reacted the last time he has touched him without warning him.

Castiel's thoughts are a mess. They are whirling around in his head at an excessive speed, and he can't get over how gently Dean grabbed his arm to pull him around the corner. He inhales deeply before he speaks again.

“What was that?”

“Anna was there,” Dean says apologetically. “I didn't want her to see me, you know?”

Cas nods, wondering why Dean doesn't step back. They're so close, a lot closer as when they sat on the steps outside. There is still some distance between them, but it's not enough and at the same time it is too much. He wants to ask Dean if he could step back a bit. But he doesn't do it, because Dean is distracting him.

Again, he can see all the freckles on Dean's face and he's wondering once more how far down they go, and if he were able to count them. Again, he notices just how fucking green Dean's eyes are.

The word beautiful flashes through his mind, even though it has no business there.

He should say something. But what? He can't think of something, not for the life of him.

And now – now Dean is looking at his lips, so blatantly, normally it would make Castiel laugh.

But he rather thinks that he hasn't kissed anyone in years. To be honest, the first and last time he's kissed a boy was a disaster. So, he shouldn't want this. He really, really shouldn't want this. And maybe he doesn't even want this. Maybe it's just curiosity speaking when he wonders how it would feel to kiss Dean because he hasn't kissed someone for so long.

But he knows better, although he doesn't want to admit it. He keeps wondering how Dean's lips would feel upon his, and fuck , he just needed to lean forward a little bit, and then he'd know.

Is Dean thinking the same? Are the same questions running through his mind?

Cas wishes he knew, but he doesn't, and he doesn't know what to do, and he also wishes someone would tell him what to do – what he is supposed to do. There is a voice in his head, telling him it's wrong . He shouldn't want to kiss Dean. He shouldn't kiss Dean. There are so many reasons why he shouldn't do it, and why he can't do it.

Castiel really should know better.

Fuck. Fucking hell. What is he going to do? Is Dean going to do something? Or will they just stay like this forever, staring at each other's lips and wishing the other one would do the first step?

Castiel has to make a decision. He knows that. He has to decide. Or hasn't he?

Apparently, not tonight, because suddenly Gabriel is there, being loud and drunk and looking at Dean in surprise.

“Dean-o!” he slurs, squinting at him and slinging an arm around Cas. “Didn't know you were here.”

He lets go of Cas again, swaying a bit. But he isn't able to concentrate on them for long and gets distracted by Gadreel, deciding to walk over to him. Castiel can see them for a few seconds before they disappear into another room.

He looks at Dean again and a chuckle climbs up his throat, but somehow it gets stuck. Is he only imagining this, or is Dean blushing ? It's not much, but he could swear that Dean's cheeks are slightly colored.

Dean clears his throat, looking down briefly and then at the watch on his wrist.

“I, uh, I have to go home,” he mutters, looking at Cas once again.

“Curfew?” Castiel asks, feeling like his voice sounds weird.

He stares at Dean, not wanting him to go and feeling plain stupid for that. It's probably best if Dean left now.

“No, I promised my little brother not to stay too long,” Dean explains, a small smile touching the corners of his mouth.

“I didn't know you have a little brother,” Cas says, wrinkling his brow.

A smirk finds its way onto Dean's lips. “There are a lot of things you don't know about me.”

Cas knows that Dean probably just meant this as a joke, maybe he even flirted with him, who knows? But he believes Dean. He has already noticed it when they were at the bar. There is so much going on in Dean's mind, behind those beautiful green eyes, and Dean doesn't want anyone to see it.

But Castiel can see it. He just doesn't know what it is exactly, and maybe he doesn't even want to know. Doesn't he have enough secrets and problems on his own?

Cas believes that Dean has a lot of secrets as well – dark secrets. He can see it. He can see the endless shadow on Dean's soul and all the demons that are lurking behind him. Doesn't he have enough of those as well?

He wants to reply to Dean, although he doesn't know what, but then something catches his eye. He is looking over Dean's shoulder, and there is someone on the other side of the room, watching them.

Alastair.

Cas frowns, straightening himself. For a few seconds they lock eyes, but then Dean starts to talk again, and Cas looks back to him. When he glances back to where Alastair was standing, he's not there anymore. Cas bites his lip, confused. What is Alastair doing here, and why was he watching them?

“Do you have a little brother, too?”

He needs a moment until his brain understands Dean's question. Dean hasn't seen Alastair, and Cas decides not to tell him that he was there. What would be the point?

He shakes his head. “No, I am the little brother,” he says, smiling a bit. “I have a big brother.”

Dean nods, smiling back at him. Then, he leaves and Cas has the feeling that their goodbye was awkward more than anything. He tries not to think about it and downs some drinks, ignoring the fact that he didn't want to drink tonight.

Suddenly, it's around 2 am and Charlie calls Lucifer, and he comes to pick them up.

They say goodbye to their friends; they can't find Benny and Madison anywhere and assume that they already left together. Crowley finds them with Meg in tow, who writes her number on some boy's hand before she gets in the car.

Castiel doesn't ask Crowley why he left him alone with Dean earlier.

Charlie falls asleep on Dorothy's lap, and Dorothy wakes her gently when they're in front of Charlie's home. Dorothy is going to stay there for tonight; that's what they arranged with their parents. They drive Meg home and then Crowley to his little apartment.

Castiel thinks he's unusually still on the drive home, but no one seems to notice; they're all tired. When it's just Lucifer and him, his brother asks how the party was, and Cas shrugs his shoulders, answering that it was okay.

Back home, they say goodnight before they go to their rooms, but Cas doesn't go to sleep. He sits on his bed, cross-legged, and stares at his hands and his fingernails. They're navy blue. He's biting his lip again and without thinking about it, he starts to rummage around in the drawer of his nightstand until he's holding the green nail polish in his hand.

He doesn't know for how long he only stares at it, remembering the afternoon in Missouri's shop, and that the green reminded him of Dean's eyes. It still does since it is almost the same color as Dean's eyes.

Almost going through the motions, he gets up again and goes into the bathroom. He tries to be quiet, so he doesn't wake up his brother. He removes the blue nail polish on his fingernails and puts on the green with skilled fingers. He isn't thinking about anything; he just moves his hands and concentrates on what he's doing.

When he's done, he stares at his green fingernails and thinks about Dean yet again. They were standing so close after Dean pulled him around the corner. Did they almost kiss? Or is Cas just imagining everything? Was Dean thinking about something entirely different the whole time?

Does it even matter? Nothing has happened. Does Cas want something to happen? He shouldn't want this and he shouldn't think about kissing Dean. He shouldn't think about Dean at all.

All of a sudden, Castiel is angry with himself. What the fuck is he doing? Why is he allowing himself to feel and think like that?

As quickly as possible, he removes the green nail polish again, but he is unable to bring himself to throw it away. He puts it back into the drawer of his nightstand.

Stupid. So fucking stupid , the voice in his head whispers, and he agrees with it, lying down on his bed and closing his eyes. Just fucking stupid.

But the tingling sensation in his stomach, when he thinks about Dean and about kissing him, stays.

 

Chapter Text

Castiel has thought that he could finally start to stop thinking about Dean, but quite the opposite is happening. He thinks even more about Dean, and the reason for that is probably that he also spends more time with Dean.

Really, it's weird. He wants to stop thinking about Dean and to hate him because that would be easier than liking Dean and enjoying to talk to him. But, instead of getting away from Dean, he's getting closer to him. It's not a lot, but they talk with each other, and it's exactly like when they sat outside on the steps in front of Anna's house – easygoing.

They just start to talk to each other, whenever they meet in the hallways at school. Most of the time, they're talking about trivial things. Cas wants to hate it, but he can't. He's only able to hate how much he likes talking to Dean, and that he doesn't stop to do that.

His mind is telling him that he should stop doing that . And man, does it have good reasons why he really should stop talking to Dean.

But then he's already talking to Dean again, and he notices that Dean's eyes sparkle when he talks about his dad's car or his little brother Sam. He notices that he can't see Dean's freckles when there's bad light, and he doesn't like that. He notices that Dean runs his fingers through his hair fairly often, and his hair is such a soft brown tone, and Cas wonders what it would feel like to run his fingers through it. He notices that Dean always wears a leather jacket that's a little bit too big for him, and he assumes it belonged to Dean's father. He also notices that the features of Dean's face are too hard sometimes, but as soon as he's smiling his face lights up again.

Cas learns that Dean is allergic to cats, that he likes rock music, and that he knows a lot about cars. And he also learns that Dean loves his little brother, that he avoids talking about his father, and that they have one important thing in common.

It happens during a break. Castiel is on his way to his locker when he meets Dean. As always lately, they start a conversation, and Dean walks to his locker with him.

Somehow, they start to talk about their families. Dean tells him that he's proud of Sam, because he's good at school, and Cas chuckles, saying that Dean reminds him of his own big brother when he's talking like that. Dean asks him what it's like to have a big brother and to be the little brother. Cas closes his locker, leaning against it and thinking about Dean's question.

“It's... great, I'd say. He's always there for me and tries to protect me, and of course, it's also the other way around. But he thinks he has more responsibilities because he's the older brother.”

“Well, he's not wrong.”

“Maybe it's a big brother thing,” Cas says, smiling and adjusting the strap of his backpack on his shoulder.

“Maybe,” Dean says, returning the smile.

“Do you think there are also things that only fathers do?” Cas asks suddenly, biting his lip.

He doesn't even know where the question is coming from. With a frown, he looks at Dean, but the green-eyed boy is looking at the wall across from them – his eyes are hard and his jaw is clenched, and Castiel realizes that he shouldn't have asked this question of all things.

“Probably,” Dean answers after a while.

By now, Cas thought he'd just skip the question and change the topic. Dean's voice is filled with bitterness, and Cas stares at him.

He has to think of Bartholomew and he is sure, when Dean would have asked him that question, he'd answered it as he did. Even with the same tone of voice. And that can only mean one thing.

I'm only guessing, but your father won't win the price father of the year either,” Cas says.

He wanted to ask a question, but it didn't sound like a question; there's no question mark at the end of his sentence.

Dean is looking down at the floor now. Cas notices that he frowns at the word either , but Dean doesn't say something.

Castiel assumes that Dean belongs to those people, who don't want to get pity from others. So, he isn't going to pity him. But the least he can do is letting Dean know that he can understand how he's feeling.

Cas doesn't want to jump to conclusions, but he remembers the two black eyes Dean had, and only last week, he had a scratch on his chin and since yesterday, there's another cut on his hand. He didn't ask Dean how he got these injuries, but if he had to guess, he wouldn't have to guess very long.

He looks Dean over, who's still not looking at him, and Castiel decides that he won't ask Dean any questions about his father. He has no right to ask questions, and it's more than obvious that Dean doesn't want to talk about this anyway. He probably wouldn't even answer him.

But there is one thing that Cas needs to know. He can't even explain why he feels the need to know about this. And he isn't sure how to start asking about it.

“I think there are certain things that only certain people do. You know, big brothers and sisters, little brothers and sisters, fathers, mothers...”

He shrugs, not stopping to look at Dean, who's starting to bite his lip. Dean looks up again and past Cas.

“I guess so.”

“Yeah,” Cas says, tilting his head a bit. “My mom used to look into my closet and under my bed before I went to sleep to see if any monsters were hiding there. She did that every night.”

A small smile graces his lips at the memory.

She used to do that,” Dean mutters. He looks at Cas questioningly. “Now, of course, you're too old for that. But you still only live together with your brother and your dad. What about your mom?”

Cas inhales and exhales, not looking at Dean anymore. He swallows.

“She's dead.”

To say those words still hurts. He wonders if it's ever going to stop hurting. Probably not.

“She's dead?” Dean repeats.

Cas glances at him and he sees what he wished he wouldn't see in Dean's eyes – a knowing look.

“I'm sorry,” he says, but Cas shakes his head, not wanting Dean to apologize for it.

He waits for a few seconds, and then Dean confirms what he was thinking.

“My mom is dead, too.”

He says it as quietly as possible, and Cas wonders if Dean heard the pain in his voice like he just heard it in Dean's voice. Castiel realizes only now that he had wanted to have something in common with Dean, other than the bad boy stuff. But not this.

“What happened?” Dean asks.

They lock eyes again.

“Cancer,” Cas says, voice slightly strained. “She had cancer.”

The bell rings, and they both jump a little. Dean grabs his backpack, shouldering it as he starts to walk away slowly. He looks at Castiel.

“When did she die?” he asks.

“I was nine,” Cas answers, following Dean.

They walk in silence to the end of the hallway. Dean has to go right, and Cas has to go left. He wants to ask Dean what happened to his mother, but the words don't pass his lips.

“When I was six, there was a fire in our house,” Dean says before he walks away.

Cas just stands there in the middle of the hallway for a few moments before he remembers that he's supposed to be in a classroom.

The next time he sees Dean, they don't waste any words on this topic. It's like they haven't talked about it at all. But they did talk about it, and Cas doesn't get it out of his head. Dean was even younger than himself when he lost his mother.

When I was six, there was a fire in our house.

Dean's mother died in that fire. Castiel doesn't even want to imagine such a situation. It was enough for him that his mother got the diagnose breast cancer . The thought that he had three more years with his mother than Dean had with his messes him up.

He kind of wishes he hadn't asked Dean. Honestly, why did he feel the need to ask anyway? He still isn't able to answer this question. It also kind of surprises him that Dean answered him – that Dean was honest with him. After all, Dean didn't have to tell him anything. Maybe he did it because Cas was honest with him as well.

But they don't talk about it again. In fact, they don't talk about a lot of things. They completely avoid talking about their parents again. Sometimes, they talk about Sam or Lucifer, but only a little bit, and that's it. Neither of them mentions their parents ever again.

When Dean comes to school with another bruise on his face, Cas doesn't ask him any questions. When Cas gets a phone call from Bartholomew during lunch break and fights with him over the phone, and is upset and short with Dean after that, Dean doesn't ask him any questions. And they also don't talk about why their families moved here, and what has been before they arrived in this town.

At times, Castiel starts to wonder what there even is to talk about with Dean.

Dean likes cars – Cas isn't interested in cars. They listen to different styles of music. They dress differently. But then they start a discussion which Game of Thrones season is the best, and Dean is baffled when Castiel tells him that he has read the books. Vice versa, Cas is baffled when he hears that Dean has never at least watched Harry Potter.

Really? Never?”

No. Sam has, though. But I never wanted to. I think Sam has also read the books.”

But why? It's Harry Potter.”

So? It's just a few books and movies.”

That'd be like if I said the Impala is just a car.”

Dean has looked so shocked. Cas has to chuckle, just when he thinks about it.

That's the other thing. It's not only that they always find a topic to talk about. Dean also makes him smile and laugh, and Castiel hates it with all his heart.

He's not the only one, though. Gadreel is underwhelmed by him spending more and more time with Dean Winchester. He thinks Dean is a complete idiot. Every time they meet, they always almost start another fight.

Castiel wishes his other friends would agree with Gadreel; maybe then it'd be easier to ditch Dean. But Charlie and Dorothy are over the moon with Dean, and Benny likes Dean anyway. Apparently, it's a little bit obvious that Cas likes Dean as well because Charlie and Dorothy start to giggle and beam at them, whenever they meet them together in the hallways. Add to this, all the jokes and innuendos Gabriel and Meg are making all the fucking time. They're even insisting that Cas is developing a crush on Dean – what is absolutely idiotic. He isn't developing a crush on Dean. He can't do that. He isn't doing that. It's simply impossible and the last thing Castiel wants at the moment.

But it's almost bothering Cas even more that Kevin, Garth, Ash, and also Crowley aren't saying anything about Dean. Especially Crowley, because the Brit must always butt in. Crowley has an opinion on everything , but he doesn't say something about Dean. He and Dean growl at each other from time to time, but besides that – nothing. Absolutely nothing and Castiel isn't sure whether it pisses him off or not.

He even called Crowley on it once, when they smoked together on the stone blocks after school. But Crowley just smiled at him with a smug expression on his face, shrugging his shoulders and changing the topic.

Luckily, his friends have other topics to go on about as well.

Benny and Madison are officially together now. And of course, Charlie and Dorothy are a couple as well, and the others are trying to tell Charlie that she shouldn't call Dorothy the love of her life already . During almost every lunch break, they're talking about that Charlie and Dorothy should take it slow. Charlie is downright scandalized at that.

It's Wednesday and Cas meets Dean on the way to the cafeteria in a hallway. They start to talk as often happens lately, and they go to the cafeteria together. Cas gets a water bottle, but Dean doesn't want something. Cas sees Charlie, Gabriel, Ash, and Gadreel sitting at one of the tables.

It's raining heavily; big raindrops are pattering against the window panes. Castiel starts to smile at the sight.

“Please, don't say you like rain,” Dean says, screwing up his nose.

Cas huffs a small laugh. “I love the rain.”

Dean rolls his eyes.

“Hey, you wanna sit with us?” Cas asks, biting his lip.

Dean looks back at him, hesitating noticeably. He glances at the table where Castiel's friends are sitting.

“You don't have to,” Cas says hastily, feeling stupid and awkward. “It was just a question.”

He shrugs his shoulders. Maybe he shouldn't have asked this question, he thinks, but then Dean nods.

Sure, why not?” he says, already starting to walk over to Castiel's friends.

Cas follows him, trying to hide his smile and to ignore the voice in his head that's whispering wrong . Dean will just sit with them – why is that wrong? he wants to ask back. But he already knows the answer. He doesn't know what Dean and he are, and he shouldn't want them to be anything. But here he is, inviting Dean to sit with him and his friends, even though he really should know better.

They arrive at the table, and apparently, Cas's friends are talking about Charlie's and Dorothy's relationship yet again.

When you've found the right person, you know it,” Charlie just said.

Gabriel shakes his head. “You're only 18.”

“So?” Charlie asks, shrugging her shoulders and taking a sip from her apple spritzer.

“Cas!” Gabriel exclaims, getting up and pulling at Castiel's arm, so he sits down next to him, and completely ignoring Dean for the moment, who sits down next to Charlie.

She smiles friendly at him. Meanwhile, Cas tries to ignore Gadreel, who's already scowling at Dean.

“Cas, what do you think about it?” Gabriel asks, staring at him.

Castiel glances at Charlie. “I'm not going to interfere in a relationship that doesn't involve me.”

“Thank you!” Charlie says, looking at Gabriel and shaking her head.

We don't want to interfere, we're just worried about you,” Gabriel defends himself.

“Very cute, Gabe,” Charlie says, huffing a small breath. She turns to Dean with a very serious expression on her face. “Dean, do you believe in love at first sight?”

At the very moment, Meg walks over to them, and all the others are already rushing upon her, asking what she thinks about Charlie's and Dorothy's relationship. Because of that, Charlie and Cas are the only ones, who hear Dean's answer to her question.

“Maybe,” he says, a small smile playing on his lips, and he shrugs his shoulders.

Dean seems a bit embarrassed and looks away. But Charlie's face lights up, and Cas feels himself going red in the face. He tries to pretend he doesn't see that she's looking at him, a big grin on her lips, or that Dean is also staring at him. But then their eyes meet nonetheless, and they both look away immediately. There's a tingling in Castiel's stomach that quickly spreads out through his entire body.

Fuck.

He tries to concentrate on the conversation of his friends again. Meg has sat down, and everyone is staring at her. Gadreel says that Meg is also seeing the guy that she met at Anna's party. But Meg shakes her head.

“We just make out with each other, when we meet.”

“Yeah, you can't compare Meg with Charlie,” Ash points out.

“Exactly!” Charlie means, smiling triumphantly.

Cas watches his friends, who continue to discuss. They're all laughing and smiling, and it's not so serious anymore. But now and then, he glances at Dean, who doesn't participate in the conversation as well. He seems lost in thought, a small smile tugging at the corners of his mouth.

Do you believe in love at first sight?

The question pops up in Castiel's head and he can't help it, he stares at Dean. His mind forms the word maybe on its own anyway.



* * *



Dean can't believe how fast time is passing. They're already here for almost three months and it's almost a miracle, but John still has his job. Though, Dean wonders for how much longer it will go well; he's wondering about this since they moved here. After all, John is drinking again, spending most of their money on cheap spirits, so he thinks he has every right to wonder about this.

Most of the time, John is drunk or half-drunk, and there have been a few fights. Dean thinks that he always got off lightly. It's more important to him that nothing happens to Sammy anyway. So far, John didn't set his hands on Sam, but just because Dean was always there.

He got another black eye from John. It was late and Sam has just gone to bed. Dean turned off the light in the kitchen and the living room, and John came home. Dean thinks he didn't even recognize him. John was swaying a bit, and Dean didn't do the same mistake again; he didn't touch John. But he still stood too close to his father, and John punched him.

At another time, John punched him in the face and only hit his chin. Dean had a scratch there for a few days. It happened before they went to school. John came home from a night shift, and Dean and Sam were having breakfast. Dean told Sam to go upstairs, as soon as John entered the house. They didn't make a mess in the kitchen, but John perceived it as such .

The cut Dean had on his hand the other day is already healing. John threw a few plates through the kitchen, and Dean is just glad that he didn't hit Sam or him with them. After John disappeared into his room, Dean picked up the shards, but he cut himself on one.

Though luckily, they're able to avoid John most of the time. They lock themselves in one of their rooms when John is there, or they go to the park, or simply for a walk. It's especially good, when John has a late shift because that means they don't see each other at all on that day. John isn't up when they go to school, and when they come back home, he already went off to work. When he comes back home, Dean and Sam are already in their rooms.

Somehow, their life together is working. Mostly, just because they're simply avoiding one another.

But still, Sam is in a better mood. He gets along at school and he sees that Dean does as well. Every so often, they talk with Bobby over the phone. Dean feels bad whenever he thinks about the promise he gave to Bobby since he doesn't stick to it.

He tells Bobby that John is still drinking and that there were a few fights, but he doesn't tell him that John punched him again. Dean doesn't want Bobby to stand before the door one day. John might open the door, and then what? He'd be furious, and everything would worsen even more.

At school, everything is okay. Sure, Dean doesn't have extremely good grades as Sammy does, but he also doesn't care about this. He knows that he's the most comfortable, when he's with Castiel, and he also knows that that's probably wrong, but he can't help it.

Since the party at Anna's house, they talk to each other frequently. Dean enjoys that. He is able to make Castiel smile and laugh fairly often, and every time those blue eyes light up for a few seconds, he can forget about how it was when the blue shattered into a million pieces.

He has told Cas ( Cas – he hasn't called him that out loud so far; he only does it in his mind) that his mother is dead. He wouldn't have done it if Cas hadn't told him first that his mother is dead as well. Dean doesn't like that they have this in common, of all things.

Since they found out about it, they haven't talked about their families again. Sometimes, they mention their brothers, but not their parents. Dean is sure that Cas has problems with his father as well, but he doesn't ask him any questions about it. Castiel doesn't ask him any questions about John either. They avoid talking about them because it's easier, and Dean doesn't even know why he should tell Castiel about any of his problems.

But one of his problems is also that he doesn't know what they are .

He knows that he wanted to kiss Cas at Anna's party. He's sure that it was also quite obvious. But he didn't do it, because of Cas – in his blue eyes were questions upon questions and underneath them, Dean could see the fear. It would have been wrong to just kiss Cas then and there. And after the party, Dean didn't know how Cas was going to react when he'd see him the next time.

But they talked to each other, and then again and again and again. Of course, they didn't talk about that moment, when they've just looked at each other at the party. But Dean thought that maybe Cas wouldn't want to talk to him at all, because of it.

He was wrong. Castiel wants to talk with him and by now, Dean has sat with him and his friends a few times already – and he just ignores Gadreel intentionally, who's always scowling at him.

Now, it's the end of March, it's Friday, and his last class for today is English – together with Castiel.

There's something in the back of his mind since they started to talk to each other every day, and it's bothering him. He wants to spend even more time with Cas, can you believe that?

So, all day long he already has this idea in his head, and he isn't sure if he should go through with it. He doesn't want to make a fool of himself.

Castiel is spending the lunch break outside with Meg, Crowley, and Gadreel, while Dean is wandering through the hallways. He doesn't know when he decides to do it, but then he's already in front of the classroom. He's never this early – maybe that's the reason why Mr. Wyatt is so surprised to see him.

Dean doesn't sit down at his usual place in the last row, he sits down in the front row. Mr. Wyatt darts a questioning glance at him, but he doesn't say something about it, and then the other students are already entering the room.

A girl walks in and sees Dean sitting on her seat, and she is noticeably upset about it. But she doesn't come to him and ask him what he's doing, even though it seems like it for a moment. She just sits down in the back of the class, and Dean chuckles lightly to himself. He knows that he doesn't bother to get the bad boy reputation he wanted at the moment, but oddly enough he also doesn't care about it at the moment.

Castiel is one of the last students that enter the classroom. When Dean looks up, he sees him standing in the doorway and staring at him. Of course – after all, Dean is sitting on the seat next to Castiel's. He can see the question in Castiel's eyes, but Mr. Wyatt starts the lesson, and he has to sit down.

He glances at Dean while getting a pen, his book, and a notebook out of his backpack. Dean smiles at him and looks at Mr. Wyatt, who's just turning around to write something on the blackboard. Dean looks at Cas when a little note is placed on his notepad. Cas just continues writing down what's standing on the blackboard, but a small smile is gracing his lips. Dean looks down at the note, and the first thing that comes to his mind is that he likes Castiel's handwriting.

What are you doing?

He bites his lip.

I was bored there in the back.

When Mr. Wyatt turns around once again, he puts the note on Castiel's desk. Cas reads it, huffing a small breath. He answers with a single word.

Sure.

No other class before has been this good, and without hesitation, Dean decides to sit next to Cas again. Because they haven't been this close for such a long time yet, and Dean notices all those little things he's already noticed before all over again.

The little head-tilt Cas does once in a while is simply adorable , and so is the way he squints at basically everything. His dark hair is as messy as always, and Castiel messes it up even more by running his fingers through it from time to time, probably doing that on purpose. Dean bites his lip again, wondering – and not for the first time – what it'd feel like to run his fingers through Castiel's hair.

On Tuesday, when Cas enters the classroom, Dean is already sitting there in the front row again. He raises his eyebrows at him, but Dean just shrugs. He sees the smile on Castiel's face and knows that it was the right decision.

On Friday, Cas isn't surprised when Dean sits down next to him once again.

Dean can't believe it, but the whole week, he was always just waiting to see Cas again, to see those blue eyes again, and to hear this gravelly voice again. But it's the last week before spring break, and he has no idea what he's supposed to do the next week, other than to be bored stiff. Besides, he won't see Castiel and somehow that is bothering him the most, even though he won't admit it.

But Sam has other plans than to be bored the whole time. He convinces Dean to do their homework together and afterward, they go to the park. They also go grocery shopping together and watch movies in the living room – when John isn't there, of course.

It's a little bit more difficult to avoid John, who keeps forgetting that it's spring break. Whenever he's only half-drunk, or even almost sober, and it's midmorning and he sees them in the house, he asks them why they aren't at school.

On Thursday, it's reasonably good weather. The sun is peeking through the clouds, but partly there aren't any clouds at all, and Dean and Sam spend most of the afternoon at the park since John had a morning shift and is at home now. There's a small playground, and they sit down on the swings. Dean smokes two cigarettes, listening to the creak of the swings. Sam watches Dean with a sour expression on his face.

“What?” Dean asks, already knowing the answer to that question, since Sam is staring at the cigarette in his hand.

“Why won't you stop smoking?” Sam asks.

Dean looks at him, taking another pull on his cigarette and exhaling slowly.

“I don't know, man,” he answers. “I just can't.”

He sighs, shrugging his shoulders once. He's sorry because he knows how much Sam hates that he's smoking.

His little brother just nods and doesn't ask any further questions as to smoking. Dean wants him to smile again, so he gets up, stomping out the cigarette with the heel of his boot, and says that they're going to get some ice cream on the way home. It works. Sam's face lights up and for the moment, he forgets about the cigarettes and that Dean won't stop smoking.

It's not like he doesn't want to stop, Dean thinks, walking and licking at his ice cream. It's just that he has more reasons to continue smoking than he has to stop.

The ice cream improved Sam's mood again, and they start to talk about how this girl, Becky, is still trying to get Sam's attention, whenever they're meeting at school. Dean laughs and Sam scowls at him, but then he grins as well.

They just left the main street, when someone bumps into Dean.

At first, he thinks it's an accident and kinda waits for the other person to mutter a quick sorry , but the person stops walking and looks at him, an idle grin on their lips. It's Cole.

“Hey, Dean,” he says slowly, glancing at Sam.

Dean automatically steps to the side, hiding Sam behind him, and Cole cracks a smile and his knuckles. Dean can see it in his eyes – Cole is seeking a fight.

Maybe it'd be best if he knocked Cole out before he can do something. But Sam is pulling him by the sleeve, grabbing his arm and holding him back – he doesn't want Dean to fight. But it's no good, because in the millisecond when Dean glances at his little brother to decide what to do, Cole is starting to lunge at him.

Due to that, Sam is pushed to the side, and then Cole is already aiming at Dean's face. Dean avoids the blow, ducking and hitting Cole just below the costal arch. Cole grunts, pushing Dean away and this time he's able to punch him in the face, and he hits Dean's jaw. Dean tilts his head, tasting blood in his mouth. Cole grabs his arm, probably wanting to pull it behind his back, but Dean grabs his wrist, yanking at it and causing Cole to stumble forwards.

They both deal a few blows, and the only thing on Dean's mind is to keep Cole away from Sam . He can hear Sam shouting, but the words don't reach his brain. He's just thinking that he fucking hates this guy when Cole manages to throw him off balance, and he falls to the ground. Cole spends no time and quickly kicks Dean in the ribs and also in the guts right away.

Dean's breath catches. Fuck.

He's waiting for the next kick, the next hit – he doesn't know what Cole's going to do – and Dean thinks, maybe he'll be able to grab his foot, his leg, his arm, or whatever and make Cole fall as well. But nothing happens. Dean looks up just in time to see how someone tears Cole away from him and dashes him roughly against the exterior wall of the nearest house.

Dean sits up and sees black combat boots, tight blue jeans, a trenchcoat, and red fingernails – Castiel.

Cole has the good sense not to mess with Dean and Castiel, and he bolts.

Dean is stunned, but he takes the hand Cas is holding out for him and lets him help him to get up. Though, he doesn't have the time to think about what it feels like to hold Castiel's hand in his own because Cas lets go as soon as Dean is standing. Also, Sam is right beside them, looking at Castiel, completely astounded.

Dean feels awkward; he suddenly remembers that Sam has already heard some stuff about Castiel, and Cas seems to feel a bit uncomfortable because of the way Sam is looking at him since the amazement slowly makes way for distrust.

Castiel looks at Dean, and Dean can just stare into those blue eyes for a second.

Uh, Sammy this is Cas – Castiel,” Dean corrects himself quickly, not looking at Castiel.

He hasn't called him Cas before.

For a moment, he's quiet, rubbing his ribs where Cole's shoe hit him. He already knows what his upper body will look like tomorrow – there are going to be two big bruises. Awesome. He bites his lip and looks at Cas again.

“This is my little brother, Sammy.”

“Sam,” Sam corrects him automatically and rolls his eyes. He looks at Cas. “Hi.”

“Hi,” Cas replies, smiling a bit.

The tension between them eases, when Sam thanks Castiel for saving them. Dean has the feeling he missed something really important because suddenly Sam and Cas start a conversation and also start to walk. Dean looks after them, confused, and follows them.

He doesn't take part in the conversation and just watches them. They're talking completely casually with each other. Though, Sam looks questioningly at Castiel's fingernails quite often (Dean reminds himself that Sam never met Castiel before) and after a few minutes, Cas notices it.

“What?” he asks.

Sam shrugs his shoulders. “Your fingernails...”

“What about them?”

“They're red,” Dean says and Cas looks over his shoulder, squinting at him.

“Actually, they're raspberry-colored.”

Sam giggles and also looks at Dean, who starts to grin, shaking his head. Cas grins back at him (what's causing a massive turmoil inside of Dean, because it's breathtaking) before he turns around again.

Castiel doesn't ask once where they're going, but Dean knows that Sam took the path home. When they turn into their street, Dean stops walking.

“Hey, Sammy.”

Sam turns around; he and Cas stop walking as well. Dean checks if the Impala is in their driveway, but it isn't, so John isn't home.

“You can go ahead, I'll be right there.”

Sam raises his eyebrows, and Cas looks at him curiously, but they don't say something about it. Sam says goodbye to Cas and leaves. Dean waits until he sees that Sam entered their house before he steps closer to Cas.

“Is something wrong?” Castiel asks.

Dean smiles at him, shaking his head. “No, I just wanted to thank you.”

Cas huffs a breath. “Never mind,” he says, shrugging his shoulders.

Dean tilts his head a bit. “No honestly, you saved my ass there.”

Only after Cas starts to grin again, Dean realizes that he's always trying to make the blue-eyed boy smile and laugh. And yes, he wants another smile, another grin, another laugh, because everything's fine when the blue ocean is sparkling.

They agree on Cole being an utter asshole and also a coward, and they both laugh when they talk about how he ran away.

“What a lucky coincidence that you were there,” Dean says.

“I was on my way to a friend, who owns a little shop,” Cas tells him. “She asked if I could help her a bit. And then I saw you and Cole fighting.”

“Oh,” Dean says, feeling guilt pooling in his stomach. “I'm sorry that we kept you back from that.”

Though, Cas just smiles at him, shaking his head. “No, it's fine. Really,” he says. “It was nice. To make Sam's acquaintance, I mean.”

Dean grins. “Sure. And that you got to beat Cole up a little bit was...”

“...a lucky coincidence?” Cas says, grinning once again.

Dean laughs, looking at the ground. When he looks back up again, Cas is staring at him.

“No, really, Dean. I like Sam. He's nice. And very smart,” he adds.

Dean nods. “Yeah, that sounds like Sammy.”

Something enters his mind, and he starts to chew on the inside of his cheek.

“Raspberry-colored?” he wonders, looking at Castiel's fingernails, barely able to restrain another grin.

Cas cocks his head. “What do you mean?”

That's just fucking red,” Dean says, totally serious.

Cas purses his lips. For a few seconds, they look at each other, then they explode with laughter. Dean doesn't even know why it's so funny. But Castiel is laughing, and the sound of his gravelly voice laughing sends goosebumps all over Dean's body. He wonders whether he should ask Cas if he wants to come in, or not. After all, John isn't there, so it's the perfect time. But then, Castiel looks at the watch on his wrist, frowning.

“I'm already running quite late,” he says, looking at Dean. “I'll better hurry. Missouri is probably already wondering where I am.”

Dean nods, ignoring the sinking feeling in his stomach, but rather thinking that Missouri is probably the friend, who owns the shop and whom Cas wanted to help.

“Okay, then... bye,” Cas says, rubbing his arm.

“Bye,” Dean says. His mouth is dry, he licks his lips, and then the question that's on his mind is already bubbling out of his mouth. “We'll see us on Monday, right?”

Cas, who already made a few steps, turns around again, a soft smile touching the corners of his mouth.

“Right. We'll see us on Monday.”

Dean watches Cas go, while a smile finds its way onto his lips, but he's still wondering what the fuck is going on. Why did he feel the need to ask this question? He hates that the answer is already there in his mind. Because he needs something to look forward to.

He shakes his head, even though he knows he's already missing the blue ocean. He slowly walks the last meters home, and he remembers the question Charlie asked him once during lunch break and his answer to that question.

Do you believe in love at first sight?”

Maybe.”

Dean can't help it, he can't stop smiling. He isn't even able to fight the warm feeling that starts to spread through his entire body.

Love at first sight.

He knows that he looked at Castiel after he answered the question.

Maybe.

Fucking shit. That's such a stupid thought, he thinks and opens the front door, but the smile on his lips is still there.

 

Chapter Text

With the spring break being a thing of the past, the finals are a lot closer now. Castiel can't believe that he's going to graduate school in just a few weeks. It feels so surreal.

He's not the only one, who can't believe it. The other seniors can't believe it either. They barely talk about something else. With a few – like Crowley, Garth, Gadreel, and Meg – Cas can talk factually about it, but there are some students – like Charlie – who are getting a little anxious.

What if I'll fail?”

Cas lost count of how many times Charlie already asked this question.

Charlie, for God's sake, shut up. You won't fail.”

Cas also doesn't know anymore how often someone already told Charlie this – even though it doesn't calm her down, at all.

And he doesn't know himself how to feel. He's nervous because of the exams, but also because of all the plans the others are making, or more specifically, have already made . Right. They already have plans.

Castiel doesn't.

It's like the time is running through his fingers, far too quickly for his liking. Every minute, he's reminded of the fact that it's wasted time because he isn't doing something. He's only studying for his exams. But he isn't so sure if he also studied when his friends wouldn't make him do it.

To be honest, he's not motivated. Why would he be? He hasn't made any plans. He has no idea what he's going to do when he graduated from high school. He isn't working towards something. Where is he supposed to get motivation from?

Nevertheless, he tries to calm Charlie down, when she gets too anxious, and he encourages all his friends to go after their dreams and goals. In return, he sits down and listens to their plans, their dreams, and their goals, while he's feeling more depressed day by day.

What is he doing with his life? What does he want to do with his life? What are his plans, his dreams, his goals?

He doesn't know.

He doesn't know, he doesn't know, he doesn't know. And it pisses him off.

But he doesn't tell anyone. He doesn't tell anyone about how he feels, because he doesn't want to make the others sad. They are so excited. Soon, they'll be done with school and go to college, or take road trips, or whatever. They are looking forward to whatever the future holds for them. Castiel has lost this ability a long time ago.

Since his friends are determined to get him to study, they're planning kind of sleepovers. They are going to spend every weekend at a different house, studying with each other and preparing for the exams, and the one who's hosting has to provide them with food. Usually, the parents are the ones, who take care of the food.

Charlie's mom will make her excellent casseroles, Benny's mom will make her famous burgers, and Kevin's mom will make cupcakes among other things. Though Kevin is not a senior, he's still helping them to study.

Tomorrow is the first weekend they're going to spend studying. Charlie told him about it yesterday, being happy because Dorothy is going to be there as well. But she's also mad because Benny is going to spend the weekend with Madison.

This is something important. I mean, sure, we still have a few weeks, but still! I'll spend time with my girlfriend as well, but I'll also start to study. Why can't he just bring Madison, too?” she complained.

Cas just shrugged his shoulders. He didn't know what to say. On the one hand, he can understand Charlie; on the other hand, he can't. So, he waited until she was done ranting and calmed her down again, giving her some chocolate.

For him, going to school has become... kind of boring? It's just that they are finished with the learning material and only repeat everything again and again. Castiel gets why they are doing this. What he doesn't get is why some students still don't know anything.

Alastair is the only exception. Alastair already had to repeat a year, and nobody thinks that he's going to graduate this year either, not even he. But Alastair also doesn't care about it.

Castiel never understood Alastair. He doesn't even want to understand him. Alastair is just sick. He hates him – they hate each other – and he doesn't want to think about him too much.

Maybe he'd rather concentrate on the English lesson, a little bit at least. Mr. Wyatt shall not talk himself blue in the face for nothing.

Cas looks down at his notebook, chewing on the inside of his cheek since he didn't take any notes. He looks to his right and is surprised, when his eyes meet Dean's, even though he shouldn't be surprised anymore.

Dean often stares at him. Castiel often stares at Dean. This is how things are between them lately. They still talk to each other every day, maybe even a little bit more. Cas tries not to think about it, but it scares him because he has no idea where they're going, or where he wants them to go.

Dean writes something on his notepad, sliding it towards Castiel, so he can read the words. Cas already noticed that Dean's handwriting is messy but readable. He likes it. It fits Dean.

What are you thinking about?

Was it so obvious that he was lost in thought the past few minutes? Or is Dean already able to read his mind, just like his friends can? Hopefully not.

He shrugs his shoulders and writes two words beneath Dean's question.

Nothing special.

He sees how Dean presses his lips together before he shrugs his shoulders as well. Cas looks at Mr. Wyatt, wondering whether or not he should tell Dean what he was thinking about. He decides against it because he didn't even tell his friends. And Dean is... well, Castiel has no idea what he is. Besides, they stopped talking about personal stuff, so why should he bring up his worries about his future?

After the lesson, Cas catches Dean in the hallway before he leaves the school to meet Sam outside like he does every day.

“Hey,” he says and feels stupid since they saw each other like 30 seconds ago, and just sat next to each other for an hour and a half.

“Hey,” Dean replies nevertheless, a small smile playing on his lips.

“We are going to start studying together at the weekend. For the finals, you know. I wondered if you liked to join us?”

Dean stares at him for a few seconds. “Who is we ?”

“Me and a few of my friends.”

“Benny?” Dean asks, and Castiel knows he's asking this because Benny and he get along very well.

A sinking feeling settles in his stomach, and he shakes his head.

“No, Benny won't be there.”

Dean bites his lip and runs his fingers through his hair, and Cas isn't able to avoid thinking that it looks sexy . He swallows, looking around and watching the other students as if he cared about them.

Fuck.

The sinking feeling intensifies, and Castiel thinks he might get a headache. He shouldn't think that Dean is sexy; bad enough already that he thinks Dean is beautiful. But he can't think like that about Dean.

“So, what do you say?” he asks, staring at the wall behind Dean.

“I'm sorry, but this isn't my thing, so...,”

“What? Studying?”

Dean huffs a little. “Yeah.”

“What about the exams?” Cas wonders.

Dean adjusts the strap of his backpack on his shoulder. “Sammy will get me to study at some point, I think.”

Cas chuckles, looking at Dean. “Okay, then.”

Dean leaves, and Castiel can't wait for finally being done with school for good, even though he doesn't know what he's going to do then.

Saturday afternoon, they meet at Charlie's house, spreading themselves out in the living room. They study for a few hours, provided with lemonade and candy, before Charlie's mother tells them that dinner is ready. As always, her pasta bake is exquisite and as always, Gabriel goes back for seconds – twice.

Castiel allows himself to relax in the company of his friends, trying to avoid thinking about Dean and that the green-eyed boy isn't there. But he figures that it wouldn't have gone well anyway, with Dean and Gadreel being in the same room for so long, as he watches how Charlie and Dorothy feed each other with small pieces of the pasta bake.

Charlie looks so happy. Cas is happy for her, he really is. She's one of the best friends he's ever had; of course, he's happy for her now that she has Dorothy as her girlfriend.

But still, when they're sitting all together in the living room again, later that night, surrounded by textbooks, notepads and all the flashcards they made, Cas feels his mood change. Suddenly, he's feeling sad.

It's that sinking feeling in his stomach again, like he felt when Dean told him he didn't want to come – just deeper, more pronounced, more persisting. More permanently. It settles in his guts, squashing between his organs, pressing against his ribcage. He swallows, rubbing one hand over his side as if he hoped that the feeling would go away then.

He stares at his friends, feeling weird and sad and empty – because... because why ? Because of them? No, not exactly.

Because they have a lot of plans, and he doesn't have any plans. Maybe it's because, when he looks at them he can see a future, their futures, but when he thinks about himself he doesn't see a future. At least, not a promising one.

Castiel is sitting on the couch with crossed legs, looking around at his friends.

He looks at Gabriel, laughing and holding a lollipop between two fingers while he reads a paragraph in a textbook, sitting in an armchair. He doesn't know what exactly Gabriel is going to do after school, but he knows that Gabriel will be happy. He's always optimistic, sarcasm is his middle name, and he resonates with confidence. He will continue to wear those awkward Hawaiian shirts, and somehow he won't look as awkward wearing them as others would. He will continue to be serious only in absolute serious situations, and otherwise, he will continue to tell as many dirty jokes as he can.

Next to him, on a pillow on the floor, sits Kevin, pressing his eyebrows together, while writing some more math formulas down. Cas just knows that this kid is going to go places. He will go to college in two years, and maybe ten years from now, he will already be a successful math professor. Who knows? Maybe Kevin will be president someday. Either way, his mother will always be proud of him, just like she already is. Castiel is also proud of Kevin. He knows very well that Kevin's life has changed completely in the last three and a half years.

Cas remembers the day when he saved him from Alastair, Cole, Ruby, and Malachi.

He saw Kevin every day, and every day Kevin got beaten up, pushed into lockers and walls and on the ground, and they also stole his money, his food, or his school stuff. One day, Castiel snapped and he beat the shit out of Cole, because the others were clever enough to run away, especially because two teachers were already on the way over to them.

But Cas didn't stop, and since especially that day he has his reputation. Since that day, Alastair and his group hate him. Since that day, he belongs to his friends. Since that day, Cole is more than just afraid of him, what's the reason why he ran away as fast as possible after he pulled him away from Dean the other day. A small smile touches the corners of his mouth at the thought.

Castiel looks at Charlie and Dorothy, who are sitting together in the other armchair, huddled up to one another. Charlie looks over her Biology flashcards, while Dorothy stares at her, occasionally playing with a strand of Charlie's red hair, or kissing her on the cheek. Charlie is smiling happily. Maybe Castiel only realizes right now that Charlie is truly in love for the first time. He knows that she and Dorothy applied to the same college and already got accepted. Yeah, Charlie will be happy as well.

Gadreel and Crowley are sitting on the couch with him. He looks at Gadreel, who sits on his left, a pillow on his crossed legs and a notepad on top of it. Chemistry is his weakest class, but if he's able to pass it with a C , he'll be more than happy. He told Cas that he already has an apprenticeship place in a health club. He also told him that he will try to smoke less, which surprised Cas a little bit. After all, it was Gadreel with whom he smoked his first cigarette when he was 15 years old. But he's proud of Gadreel. He knows that Gadreel doesn't like Dean, and as always Castiel values his opinion, and he will continue to value it. Gadreel will be happy as well.

Crowley is last. Castiel stares at the Brit for a few moments, how he squints at the flashcards in his lap, and he sighs internally. Unlike Charlie and Dorothy, Crowley won't go to the college in the neighboring town – he's going to go to New York. Castiel hopes that they will continue to be friends, even though the distance is going to suck. But maybe they can visit each other, and Cas knows that it's Crowley's dream to go to New York. He supports him and he knows that Crowley will also be happy.

He stares at the opened Biology textbook in his lap, but the words become blurred when he tries to read them. So, he stares at the illustration of the human heart on the right page and pretends to memorize how the heart functions, until Charlie's mother comes into the living room around 2 am, telling them that it's enough for today.

She helps them pack their things, and Castiel listens absentmindedly to Charlie as she explains another Harry Potter headcanon to Dorothy, while they walk to her mother's car. As nice as she is, she offered to drive them home.

Since there's not enough space, Charlie and Dorothy, who sleeps at Charlie's place again, stay at home. Castiel hugs them both before he gets in the car. Maybe he hugged Charlie a little bit tighter than necessary, due to all his worries and his fears of loss, because she looks at him with a weird expression on her face. Her eyes are asking if he's okay, and he shrugs his shoulders halfheartedly, nodding.

The whole drive home and also later, when he's lying in his bed, he thinks that he's far too young to have a midlife crisis, but here he is – again. What do you call this then? A quarter-life crisis? God, he's only 18 years old.

He shakes his head and lies on his side, pulling the covers tighter around his body. It's April and although it's getting slowly warmer, the temperatures were low today again. So, typical April weather. It even drizzled this morning, but then the clouds scattered, only to come together again later on.

If he turned around and looked out of his window, he would see the clouds. But he doesn't want to; if there were stars instead, maybe then he'd turn around, but he's also really tired right now. He stares at the wall and slips into a dreamless sleep, faster than he thought he would.

It seems as if Castiel just blinked, and then it's suddenly already in late April.

It's strange but he feels like he's in a good mood and a bad mood at the same time. He wonders if that's even possible, wandering through the hallways to his locker, because he needs the textbook for his next class, and he forgot to put it in his backpack this morning.

“Hey, Cas!”

He puts the textbook into his backpack, trying to hide his smile as Dean comes closer. Since the incident with Cole, Dean calls him Cas .

The first time, after Castiel helped him up and Dean introduced him to Sam, it was an accident and Dean was visibly flustered. He corrected himself immediately, probably hoping that Cas didn't notice it. But Cas heard it and he hoped that neither Dean nor Sam noticed how fast his heart was beating.

The next time they saw each other, after spring break, Dean called him Cas again, and Cas didn't say anything against it, so Dean continued to do it. Why would Castiel say something against it anyway? He likes it. It sounds different when Dean calls him Cas .

“Hey,” he says now, only smiling a bit. “What's up?”

“I wanted to ask you something,” Dean starts, leaning against the locker next to Cas's.

Castiel nods, showing Dean that he can continue. Dean returns his smile.

“Do you know any places here where the food's good and relatively cheap?”

Castiel presses his eyebrows together, closing his locker and staring at Dean in surprise.

“Why?” he asks, licking his lips.

“Well, because I don't know a place here where the food's good and relatively cheap.” Dean chuckles a bit. “I didn't have the chance or the money to try something out just for fun lately,” he admits.

“But now you do?” Cas wonders, without thinking about if he's allowed to ask such a question.

But Dean just shrugs. “I'm afraid I have to.”

Castiel swallows. I'm afraid I have to. Why? It's nagging at his insides and for a moment, he doesn't even know why. Then, a memory hits him.

Jealousy looks good on you.

Fuck. Fucking shit. No. No, he's not jealous. So, what? Maybe Dean has a date, and that's the reason why he's asking where the food's good and relatively cheap here in this town. Castiel shouldn't care about that. He shouldn't worry about that.

Maybe it's Anna , the voice in his head whispers, and he stares at his plain black backpack. Fuck, he has to know.

Why?” he asks again, looking at Dean, who seems confused for a second.

Then, the green-eyed boy laughs. “Oh, Sammy's birthday is soon, on May 2 nd , and I want to do something with him. Something kinda special. You know, what I'm able to afford at least.”

Oh...

Oh, fuck.

Suddenly, Castiel feels so goddamn stupid. He thought... fucking shit, he thought that Dean had a date with someone else, and it fucking bothered him? Seriously? What the fuck is wrong with him? It doesn't have to bother him. It really, really shouldn't bother him. But somehow it does, and he's mad at himself once again.

He forces a small laugh out of his mouth and tries to relax again. He mirrors Dean, leaning against his closed locker and placing his backpack at his feet.

“What?” Dean asks, staring at him, amazed.

Cas shakes his head. “I do know a place where you could go with Sam.”

“Really?”

“Yeah. Pamela's diner. She's a friend of mine, and her food is really good, and you don't need a lot of money. I'm sure Sam will love it there. And you will, too.”

“That sounds great,” Dean says, relieved and glad.

Castiel feels the same, but for different reasons. He's relieved and glad because Dean doesn't have a date with someone else. He wonders what he would do, how he would feel if Dean had a date with someone. He wants to tell himself that he doesn't know, but deep down he does know, and he hates it. He would be jealous.

He swallows. He wants to hear Dean's voice again to distract himself from his thoughts, even though he isn't sure if Dean is the right person for that. But still, he has to try it. So, he asks the first question that comes to his mind, without thinking about it.

“How old will Sam be?”

“He's turning 14. We're four years apart.”

Castiel doesn't know what he expected – probably rather nothing. But Dean's answer scratches at the wall in his mind – the wall he so desperately tries to maintain in place. The noise it causes is loud. Screeching. Lasting.

Cas thought that the wall would be strong enough by now. Sure, after Dean called him a faggot, there was a crack in the wall, but he was able to fix that again. But now it seems as if the wall were made of glass. The slightest tapping is enough to shatter it.

He's turning 14.

Castiel's head starts to swim. No, no, no.

But there are already cracks in the wall once again.

Happy birthday, Castiel! Now, you are 14. Isn't that great?

Fuck.

He tries to look at Dean, his brow furrowed, and he sees Dean's lips move, but he can't hear what he's saying.

“What?” he asks weakly.

“Hey, man, you're okay? You're looking pale.”

This time he hears Dean's words, even if they're still indistinct. He also hears the concern in Dean's voice, but he isn't able to comprehend the meaning of the words. He doesn't know what Dean's asking, doesn't know what to answer. Fucking hell, he can't breathe .

He can't fucking breathe. The air doesn't seem to reach his lungs anymore, or maybe something is squeezing his lungs. Weirdly, he does know what's going on with him – he's having an anxiety attack. But he probably only knows what's going on, because he knows far too well what that feels like.

He only notices that he's shaking when his entire body is already trembling and his vision blurs. He doesn't know how he's able to keep standing. With shaky hands, he rubs his eyes and runs his fingers through his hair, forgetting for a few seconds that Dean is still standing right in front of him, watching him with worried eyes.

“Cas?” Dean asks, reaching out one hand to grab Castiel's shoulder, maybe to prevent him from falling over.

But Cas doesn't even think about this possibility. All he thinks about is that he isn't able to stand someone touching him right now. He slaps Dean's hand, when it's mere inches away from his body, and takes a step back.

“Don't fucking touch me,” he hisses.

And then he does what he's best at and what he always does – he runs away .

He doesn't notice that he grabs his backpack, turns around, and runs until he's outside and already crossed half of the schoolyard. He doesn't think about how it's only the first break and that he has other classes today. Hell, he doesn't even care about it.

He moves his feet as quickly as he can, dodging a few passersby along the way, but not even looking for cars when he crosses the street. A part of him wishes that a car would hit him, but the wish is ungranted.

Cas makes it home; his hands are still shaking, and it takes a while to cram the key into the lock. By the time, he's finally inside the house, he feels dizzy more than ever. A tiny part of his brain reminds him that Lucifer isn't there, but rather at work, and he's glad. He doesn't want his brother to see him like that – yet again. He can't do this to Lucifer again.

The reason why this is happening seems so small and insignificant, that it's almost downright ridiculous what a fuss he's making. But it isn't small and insignificant, not to Castiel. If it were, he wouldn't have this huge fucking anxiety attack right now.

Thank God, Lucifer isn't there , he thinks, since he barely makes it to his room. Cas doesn't even close the door. He wants to, but his hand misses it, and he just collapses on the floor.

He's on his knees at first, and then he doubles up with pain. His forehead hits the dusty wooden floor, and his hands clutch at his head, tearing at his hair. He's pulling at his dark messy strands until his scalp is sore and his head is throbbing.

But it doesn't help, because the fucking wall in his fucking head just fucking broke, and it's exactly like a broken dam, just that there's no water flooding his brain but memories.

He wonders why the hell Sam Winchester has to turn 14 just now, and why the hell he bothered to ask Dean how old Sam is turning at all.

Make it stop. Please.

He doesn't even know who he's addressing, but he does know that there's no one, who could make it stop. He wants it to stop. It fucking hurts. Fucking hell. He can't breathe. He can't fucking breathe. Why are his lungs so fucking useless?

Castiel tries to compensate for the pain on the inside by hurting himself on the outside, as he always does. He's scraping at the skin on his neck with his fingernails, knowing it will be red soon and there'll probably be marks. But although he knows that no amount of physical pain will cover the pain on the inside, he has to try it at least, anything if he'll just be able to breathe normally again. He just wants to be able to breathe.

Fuck fuck fuck fuck.

Why does this have to happen?

Cas swallows hard, but there's a lump in his throat, and he just sobs and sobs and sobs. His throat hurts, and he licks his lips dryly. He doesn't cry. There are no tears, and he doesn't even know why. But he can't find it in him to care about that right now.

Because he remembers his 14 th birthday and everything that happened before and after it. All those events , small and big, that fucked up his life even more – as if it weren't already fucked up enough after his mother died of breast cancer when he was only nine years old.

His skin feels too thin and too tight, and there's an odd tingling in his fingertips. It takes him about five minutes until he realizes it's because he's holding on to his trenchcoat – that he hasn't even taken off – too tightly. His hands are clenched into fists, his knuckles are white, his fingernails are digging into his palms through the thin material of the trenchcoat. He slowly breathes out, his lungs feel unsteady, and he releases the tension out of his hands, at least. He gulps, his throat rippling, and he has to cough.

It feels like hours, but it's probably only a few minutes Castiel needs until he sits up; he's moving very cautiously. He's afraid if he moved too fast, the wall in his head would falter even more, and he doesn't want even more memories flowing through his mind.

It takes him another minute to put his head between his knees, finally trying to calm down. He's breathing shakily and he can't hold his hands still since they're also still shaking. He reminds himself to breathe – in, out, in, out – until he's breathing relatively even again.

Cas closes his eyes for a few seconds, shaking his head and regretting that movement immediately, since the memories in his mind are like shards, leaving new cuts and tearing open old wounds.

Green flashes through his head.

Dean.

Castiel presses the palms of his hands to his eyes until he sees dots that blur his vision when he opens them again. God, Dean looked so hurt, when Cas slapped his hand away, when Cas didn't want him to touch him, when Cas told him again not to fucking touch him. He stared at Cas with big, round, green eyes, a pained expression on his face.

Cas swallows, concentrating on his breathing once more. He stares blankly at the wall, one minute, five minutes, ten minutes, fifteen minutes. With every passing second, he can feel himself going a little bit more numb until his skin is prickling uncomfortably.

Just what did he think he's doing?

Why did he even allow himself to feel and think about Dean like this ? What the fuck did he think he's doing? Or even better, why didn't he think at all?

He's sitting on the floor, completely quiet and not moving, but in his head, he's screaming at himself. The words and the guilt get tangled up with all the memories that are still resting in his brain, and he knows that he has to put all the shit back behind the wall and that he has to rebuild that wall again. He already knows that he's going to cut himself on all the shards since they're slippery from all the guilt. He isn't sure if he'll be able to do it. But he has to.

Absentmindedly, he fiddles with the hem of his sweater, feeling so heavy and so empty at the same time. With glassy eyes, he looks around his room, but he doesn't take anything in. He runs his fingers through his hair; his scalp is still tingling from pulling at his hair too fiercely earlier.

His fingers touch his forehead, his cheeks, and his lips. His face is dry because he didn't start crying. He doesn't feel like crying. His eyes aren't filled with tears, and there's no burning at the back of his throat, or in his nose. For now, he won't start crying.

Suddenly, Castiel feels foolish.

He's such a fucking idiot. He likes Dean. He likes to talk with him, he likes to see him smile, to hear him laugh, to hear him talk. He thinks Dean is beautiful and smart and funny, and so much more than the bad boy he's trying to be. He thinks he is able to see behind this mask Dean puts on every day, and Dean is always on his mind, one way or another. He feels comfortable and happy around Dean, when he sees him, and when he hears his wonderful deep voice.

It's so ridiculous and foolish, and just plain stupid.

Now, he can admit to himself that he has a goddamn crush on Dean Winchester.

Why the fuck did he allow that to happen?

He even thought about kissing Dean. He wanted to kiss Dean. He wanted to feel his lips against his own, to feel Dean's body against his own. A quiver runs down his spine, and he shakes his head.

He got so happy when Dean started to call him Cas .

Stupid. So fucking stupid.

This has to stop. All of that. Right now. He can't have a crush on Dean. He can't like Dean. He can't think about Dean like that.

Castiel presses his hands on the floor, bringing himself to get up. He feels dizzy, and his legs are shaking, and he kind of wishes to pass out, because of what he's about to do. But he still forces himself to stumble into the bathroom, locking the door behind him, in case Lucifer comes home early.

He slumps against the door for a moment, closing his eyes and holding his breath for a few seconds. Cas bites his lip, hard, but not hard enough for it to start bleeding. Then, he releases his breath through his nose, pulling himself together as best he can. He has to do this.

Slowly, he walks in front of the mirror that's hanging on the wall above the sink. His eyes are fixed on the white and blue tiles on the floor. He needs a few minutes, but then he raises his eyes and looks in the mirror.

He's still shaking, but he examines his face. His bottom lip is red, because he bit it too hard, and it's a weird contrast to his pale skin. Normally, he isn't pale. His face and his neck are tanned, and the rest of his body would be too if he showed it to the sun in the summer. He grits his teeth and looks his reflection in the eye.

Castiel has gotten a lot of compliments for his pretty blue eyes, but since they complimented him on them, he doesn't want to hear something like that anymore. Now, his eyes look tiredly back at him, the blue has no edge anymore.

Cas hates it to look in the mirror. He hates it with all his heart because he hates what he's seeing when he does it. Usually, he avoids to look in the mirror, especially when he's undressed, but now he considers it necessary. So, he forces himself to do it.

Because he has to stop thinking about Dean. He has to stop liking Dean.

His mind told him to stop for weeks, but he didn't listen to it, and now he realizes it's been right all along. It's wrong, and he shouldn't do it anymore.

And let's be real! What did he even expect? He knows for sure why it would have never worked between him and Dean if ever something happened between them. His past... his past is the reason why he's this unstable person that's barely able to function normally.

What did he imagine? A relationship with Dean? That's the furthest from what is realistic. Castiel has to be realistic. He has to think rationally. He can't strike up a relationship with Dean, or with anyone. He knows that it doesn't work. He knows all the reasons why it will never work. He has to remind himself of them again. It has to click, so he stops thinking about Dean and can forget about this stupid crush.

Castiel hesitates because he hasn't done this for ages, and he also really doesn't want to do this now, but it's much needed.

Wth trembling fingers, he takes off the trenchcoat and lets it fall to the floor. A small weird sound escapes his lips, but it's almost inaudible. He ignores it. He ignores that his lips start to quiver, and he ignores that his hands are shaking so much that he's almost not able to pull his sweater over his head. When he finally manages to do that, he lets it fall onto the ground as well.

He has closed his eyes without noticing it, and now Cas is scared to open them. He doesn't want to. He doesn't want to see himself, to see his bare torso. But he tells himself that he has to do it. He has to get over this stupid crush that he has on Dean Winchester because he can't have a crush on this boy. He knows the reason why.

Come on , he tells himself, come on, just get it over with. You know that this is the right thing to do.

The right thing... yeah, this is necessary.

Castiel opens his eyes, blinking at his reflection and sucking in a breath. He clenches his fists. For a moment, the world stops and all Cas feels are the goosebumps on his skin.

And then the realization hits him. It's blunt, and he has been there before.

The moment he truly understood that his mother is dead and that she won't come back.

The moment he realized that he's queer, and the moment he realized that his father will never accept him for who he is.

The moment he realized that he's cruelly lost both his parents. His mother's dead, not there anymore; and his father's there, but out of reach as well.

The moment he understood he wasn't a careless child anymore, on the day of his mother's funeral.

The moment he lost his innocence and something inside of him broke, maybe even worse than after his mother had died, when those two men took what wasn't theirs.

The moment a razor blade touched his skin for the first time, and he knew he couldn't go back.

And all these other moments, when depression and anxiety ate away at him, ruining his teenage years that were supposed to be one of the best times of his life.

Now is the moment he realizes that Dean doesn't know him. Not really. He hasn't seen Castiel and he doesn't know about his past and all the dark, dark thoughts in his head. If he did, he wouldn't stay. He wouldn't even want to look at Castiel anymore. Dean would turn around and run away from him as fast as possible.

Maybe Dean seems interested right now, but if he knew the truth about him, he would want to get away from him and never speak to him ever again. Castiel is convinced of that, especially because he's seeing himself in the mirror right now. How much he wishes he'd just see the tattoos on his skin.

Swallowing, he runs his fingertips over his arms, barely grazing his skin. There's only one word in his mind – disgusting . His body, what his skin looks like, is disgusting. He, Castiel, is disgusting.

He looks away, and tears are forming in his eyes. He tries to swallow all the feelings and thoughts down, since there's already nausea pooling in his stomach, wanting to climb up his throat. Fuck, fuck, fuck. If he threw up now, the memories in his head would be even clearer, and then he'll throw up again, and then he will start to cry.

Anxiety scrapes at the back of his mind. He looks down at his arms, and suddenly he's in another bathroom, where all the tiles are white, or they were before the blade collided with his skin.

Castiel yanks himself back to here and now, gripping the sink and watching his knuckles turn white. Fuck.

He closes his eyes, fighting against the urge to throw up, because if he threw up, he would remember how it felt to lie on that dirty mattress in the tiny storage room of the liquor store, because they couldn't wait anymore to touch him and they didn't even make it upstairs at first. He would remember how it felt to throw up back then, his body aching everywhere where they've touched him – and they've touched him everywhere – and how it felt to lie there in his pool of vomit, not being able to move since he was still pumped full of whatever they gave him in the back of their van.

He lets go of the sink and digs his nails into the skin on his lower arms, knowing very well that all the scars there and on the rest of his body will stay forever. He feels dirty and used, but he also knows that a shower won't help.

Castiel wishes he'd go numb again, but he doesn't. Suddenly, he's just tired. His arms dangle beside his body, too heavy to use, and he doesn't pick up his trenchcoat or his sweater when he leaves the bathroom. He's barely able to get out of his pants and into a t-shirt and sweatpants, and when he crawls into bed, hugging a pillow to his chest to get rid of the tension there (of course it doesn't work, though), he feels so drained. But he still doesn't cry.

When he hears Dean's voice in his head, he clenches his fists.

He's turning 14. We're four years apart.

Again, the memories are moving, wanting his attention, and he feels phantom pain all over his body. He presses his face into a pillow until he doesn't get enough air into his lungs.

Castiel knows that Sam Winchester's 14 th birthday will be nice, because Dean will do his best, for that reason alone. Sam's 14 th birthday will be so different than Castiel's had been. But still, the memories keep coming, keep cutting, keep tearing open his scars, and he hates it, and he hates himself.

The tears only come, when he promises himself, when he takes the oath to no longer speak to Dean and to tell him that he should leave him alone for good.



* * *



“I would sing if I could, but I don't want to scare my other guests away, so I'll let it alone.” Pamela laughs, putting the apple pie on the table and between Dean and Sam. “This,” she points at the pie, “is on the house.”

Dean looks at her in amazement. “What?”

“It's on the house,” Pamela repeats. “It's Sam's birthday!”

Sam's smile widens even more. Since they sat down at a table by a window, he hasn't stopped smiling. A reason why is the woman standing next to their table.

Pamela – who insists that they call her Pamela and certainly not Ms. or Ms. Barnes – is a dark-haired woman, full of energy, sass, joy, and laughter. She is beautiful and one of the nicest people Dean's ever met.

To be honest, he's a little overwhelmed by how friendly she is towards them, even though they only met today. But Sam is happy, he's glowing with happiness and he's smiling, and Dean is so relieved.

More than anything, he wanted Sam to have a nice 14 th birthday. And so far, it's working.

Sam's eyes are still shining when they leave the diner. Pamela pulled them both into a hug when they made their farewells, and Dean was too stunned to hug her back, but she didn't say anything about it and just smiled at him.

It's late in the evening, and the first stars start to sparkle above them. The sky is clear, no clouds are in sight. It's May 2 nd and slowly, the summer is coming along, putting out feelers to the world. The air is getting warmer day by day, and soon it will be warm enough to wear a t-shirt, even at night. The ice cream will melt while they're still trying to eat it. The sun will burn their skin and will heat the asphalt and every car that's not parked among the shadows. It will be pleasant to walk through the forest. The trees are already green again, flowers are growing everywhere.

Dean loves summer, for the mere fact that his mother died in November – winter.

When it's hot outside, temperatures going up and up, it's hard to remember the details, like the snow on the window sills, on the streets, on the cars, on the rooftops. It's hard to remember the icy air that was such a contrast to the heat of the fire.

Dean shudders. He doesn't want to think about that night, about his mother and her death. It's Sammy's birthday, after all.

His little brother is smiling at him, and when they turn into their street, he thanks Dean for an awesome birthday. Dean returns the smile, sighing gladly. Sam had an awesome birthday. That's all that matters for now.

While they're walking home, he's able to pretend for a little while longer that Sam is a normal, happy little kid on his birthday, like there are many out there.

John is in his room when they come back. Dean closes quietly the front door behind them before they sneak upstairs.

They stayed longer at Pamela's diner than planned, the atmosphere there was just too amazing, and they both were glad to get out a little. They haven't seen a lot of the new town, even though they live here for a while already. What's the point in getting to know the town, when they are going to move away again anyway?

Even though it would suck if they moved now because finals are going to start in about two weeks. But Dean doesn't think that they are going to move soon. John still has his job, against all the odds. Maybe he'll be able to keep it a few weeks longer. Dean wants to graduate, and after that, he won't care anymore, if they moved again.

They go to Sam's room. Dean wants to sleep there tonight. All-day, he tried to spend as much time with Sammy and to think about him and his birthday. He's hoped that Sam would distract him enough not to think about Castiel, and most of the time, it did work.

But Sam falls asleep at some point, and Dean glares surly at the dark ceiling.

Don't fucking touch me.

Dean clenches his fists under the blanket, biting his bottom lip. These words are haunting him for a week now.

Don't fucking touch me.

He hasn't even touched Cas – and he remembers far too well the incident before the bar when he grabbed Castiel's shoulder and turned him around, and Cas punched him in the face. One week ago, he already remembered this incident, and that's the reason why he hasn't touched Cas. He just put out his hand, so he'd be able to support Castiel if necessary since he looked like he would faint at any moment.

And then Cas just ran away, and Dean didn't see him for the rest of the day. He was worried about Cas. Meg even came to him in one of the breaks to ask if he had seen Castiel because he just fucking disappeared. Dean was anxious. He didn't know where Castiel went – now, he assumes he went home, but who knows? – and he didn't know why Castiel ran away in the first place.

He still doesn't know.

The next day, Cas was at school again, still pale in the face, his hair even wilder than usual, his eyes and his voice blunt and tired, but still looking gorgeous. But that didn't make anything better.

Castiel was – and still is – behaving differently towards Dean. He's cold, dismissive, and harsh. When he looks at him and talks to him, what didn't happen very often lately, Castiel's jaw is set, and his ocean blue eyes are frozen again. Dean hates the frozen ocean, because the ice seems thicker than ever before, and somehow he knows that it isn't going to shatter again. Castiel Novak completely withdrew from him.

He can't read the emotions on Castiel's face anymore, because Cas refuses to show them to him.

Dean would like to say that Castiel's face is neutral, whenever they met in the hallways the past days, but really, it's more unapproachable than anything. Everything – the way Castiel behaves, the way he talks, his whole body language – is telling Dean that Cas chooses to hate him all of a sudden.

And Dean doesn't even know why, since Castiel doesn't bother to explain it to him.

He has tried to talk to Cas a few times, but either the blue-eyed boy ignored him completely, or he told him in the most rugged way that Dean should leave him the fuck alone .

Dean just wants to understand it. Is it him? Is it something he did? If so, where did he go wrong? What did he do? Why did Castiel just stop to talk to him?

He has even asked Benny to talk to Castiel for him. But Benny came to him afterward, shrugging his shoulders and adjusting that old fisherman hat on his head that he always wears, telling Dean that Castiel has blocked all questions rigorously.

Dean is frustrated and he misses to talk with Castiel. He misses Cas .

He tries to focus on the fact that Sam had a nice birthday today once again. But he still has to think about Cas, since it was Castiel, who recommended Pamela's diner to him. Dean shakes his head and exhales slowly. He ignores Sam's light snoring and looks at his little brother. Sam had a nice birthday. That's worth something, right?

Sure, John completely ignored the fact that it was Sam's 14 th birthday, but after the disaster that had been Dean's birthday in January, they didn't expect anything else. But maybe because of this, Dean has felt the desire to make Sam's birthday even more wonderful.

Wonderful is a stupid word, but it's the first that comes to his mind. Sam mumbles in his sleep and turns around, facing the wall and having his back to Dean now. Dean wishes he could just sleep as well. But for the life of him, he can close his eyes as often as he wants, he doesn't fall asleep. It pisses him off. He swallows and starts to go over today in his head again.

This morning, he made breakfast for him and Sam – John slept and he didn't get up before they left the house to go to school. Sam got a cool new pocket knife from Dean – school went by in no time – and in the afternoon, they talked with Bobby over the phone. By late afternoon, they went to Pamela's diner. The food was really good, especially the pie, and Sam did have a very nice birthday, thanks to Dean.

At least, today he didn't fail, Dean thinks, and his thoughts wander off to Castiel once more. He sighs. It's so silly and foolish to lie here in bed and to think about a boy. Meanwhile, Sam is sleeping deeply next to him, and probably not even an earthquake could wake him up right now.

And Castiel is still going around in Dean's head. Shit.

Slowly but surely, he's getting annoyed with Castiel. It's not fair that Cas just ditched him without a whimper. It's also not fair that he doesn't even bother to explain it to him. Dean thinks that Cas owes him an explanation – or at least, at first he did think that, but suddenly he's not so sure about it anymore. Does Castiel owe him an explanation? Dean starts to chew on the inside of his cheek. What are they anyway? Can't Cas just do whatever the fuck he wants to do?

Dean huffs a breath. Well, if Cas can do whatever the fuck he wants, then he, Dean, can do whatever the fuck he wants to do as well.

And if Castiel Novak wants to be left alone, Dean thinks bitterly, then he will leave Castiel Novak alone.

During the next days, Dean tries to ignore Cas the way Cas ignores him as best he can, and he doesn't try to talk to him again. He constantly has to remind himself that Castiel doesn't want to talk to him anyway and that Cas wants to be left alone. But he's handling it somehow because he has to, although it comes at a price.

He's in a bad mood all the time, and it just gets worse and worse and worse. He fights with John, he's even out for it, and his dad obliges willingly since he's drunk enough for it. Dean gets into a few struggles at school as well, and he's pleased when his fists connect with some faces and stomachs, and when he sees small bruises littering his knuckles.

It happens on the next Tuesday. Some boy – Dean thinks his name might be Andrew – bumps into him and Dean knows that it was unintentionally, but right after it happened the boy and he lock eyes. The boy looks scared, and at that precise moment, Dean decides not to care about Castiel Novak anymore.

Honestly, what did he expect what's going to happen between them anyway?

He drops his backpack to the ground, grabbing the boy's collar and pushing him against the nearest wall as hard as possible. The boy gasps, when his back collides with the wall, and the books he was holding slip out of his hands.

Dean is angry. He is mindlessly furious – with Cas, with himself, with this boy, with everyone and everything, and with nothing, all at the same time.

His grip on the boy's collar tightens and Andrew – if that's even his name, though Dean doesn't care about that – whimpers. Dean knows that this boy didn't do anything, but he also doesn't care about that. The boy is here, Dean is angry, and he will take it out on him.

Without thinking too much, he pushes the boy to the side, causing him to stumble and fall on the floor with a thump.

“What the hell,” the boy mutters weakly, but before he can say anything else, Dean already dealt him a blow.

And when he lands punch after punch on the kid's face and upper body, Dean realizes that this is the only thing he's really good at – hurting people.

He's good at punching and insulting other people. He's good at harming other people, he's good at making them feel bad about themselves. He's also really good at saying the wrong thing at the wrong time. He's good at drowning in self-loathing and whiskey. He's good at breaking things and people. He's good at ruining things.

He's good at being a bad person.

So – why would Castiel Novak even like him?

Dean doesn't even notice that there's a crowd, rallying around him and the boy. He only sees the people around him, when he hears distinct shouting from down the hallway, what sounds suspiciously like teachers making their way through the crowd. He is still full of rage, but he disappears before the teachers are there, leaving the boy there on the floor.

He hurries outside and lights up a cigarette with numb fingers, even though the air around him is warm, taking long drags and closing his eyes. He pinches the bridge of his nose, gritting his teeth when he finishes the cigarette, knowing he has to go back inside the building.

He stomps out the cigarette with the heel of his boot and contemplates if he should skip his next class – English. With Cas. He doesn't want to see him and he wants to see him, and he tells himself that he hates Castiel Novak, clenching his fists and still feeling the rage boiling in his veins. He wants to punch something again, he wants to punch someone again, to hurt someone again – maybe even Castiel.

Dean sighs, craving another cigarette but still turning around, pushing the door open and entering the school building again.

He thought that he would lose his head, because of all the blind rage that's going to fill him, when he sees Cas. But to his surprise, the contrary is the case.

Dean enters the classroom just in time, and when he looks up, seeing Castiel in the back of the room, it calms him down. The blue of Castiel's eyes calms him down; Cas is returning his gaze for a brief second before looking away. Dean sits down in the front row, thinking he should feel mad, seeing Cas sitting in the back row, being reminded of how Castiel stopped sitting next to him in class. But he isn't, and there's no urge inside of him anymore to punch something or someone.

But as soon as he's out of the classroom, Castiel storms past him, and he doesn't have the blue ocean anymore to calm him down, he starts to scowl again.

And it just keeps getting better.

In the middle of his next class, his patience snaps. He can't focus anymore. The talking of the teacher annoys him, and the chattering voices of his classmates annoy him even more when they answer a question or whisper behind the teacher's back. So, he raises his hand, when the teacher is about to start another wordy explanation, and asks if he could go to the bathroom.

He washes his hands too long, it's unnecessary, and the water is too hot, burning his skin. His hands are already red and scarred, and there are fresh bruises and scratches. He turns off the water abruptly, grabbing a paper towel and drying his hands. He leaves the bathroom without looking in the mirror once.

Dean steps into the hallway, the door slowly closing behind him, and he wonders if he should go back to the classroom or not – what's the point anyways? But he stops dead when he sees Alastair leaning against the lockers across from the bathroom.

He's briefly asking himself why Alastair isn't in his class, but then again, does it matter? Alastair is there and he's staring at Dean with his cold, eerie eyes as if Dean were a piece of meat. For a moment, he stares back at Alastair, back into those eyes, and a shiver runs down his spine.

He remembers that he told Alastair he's not afraid of him. This might be true, but still. Alastair is fucking creepy, and Dean doesn't want to be alone with him. He intends to walk away and ignore Alastair, but then the guy starts to talk.

“Hi, Dean,” he says slowly, with his nasal voice; it's more than just unpleasant.

Dean looks at Alastair warily. He noticed that Alastair watched him the last weeks, especially after the day Cole had attacked him. And since their first meeting, Dean is waiting for Alastair to do something because he threatened him, and Alastair doesn't seem like a guy, who utters empty threats. But until now, Alastair didn't approach him again.

“What happened to you and Castiel?” Alastair asks suddenly, an idle grin spreading on his face. “You're not talking with each other, or hanging out with each other lately.”

Dean's anger grows with every word that comes out of Alastair's mouth.

“Fuck off, Alastair. That's none of your business.”

“Why so rude, Dean? I'm just being curious, and I noticed that something did happen between you two.”

Alastair behaves unimpressed and shrugs his shoulders, never stopping to look at Dean with his cold eyes. He steps closer, tapping his fingertips against his thigh, sometimes slow, sometimes fast. The expression in his eyes changes slightly; it's still an unnerving and odd expression. But now, there's a hungry glow in his eyes that's making Dean feel uneasy. It's disturbing. Alastair is just super fucking creepy.

Dean exhales slowly and starts to walk; he wants to go back to his classroom. But Alastair blocks his way.

“You haven't answered my question, Dean, thus we're not done here.”

Alastair's voice is calm, but his fingertips are tapping impatiently against his thigh now. This is silly and stupid, Dean thinks. Besides, Alastair is standing far too close for his liking, so Dean doesn't think and just acts. He pushes Alastair away from him, both his hands connecting with Alastair's chest.

That backfires.

Alastair is a cranky guy, tall and lean, almost like Garth, but Garth isn't creepy like Alastair. However, Alastair is way faster and stronger than Dean expected him to be.

He grabs Dean's right arm and turns it quickly onto his back before Dean has a chance to react. It's painful, and there's a pop in Dean's shoulder. He grits his teeth when Alastair shoves him against the lockers and his face hits the metal.

Dean squirms, but Alastair's grip just tightens, and he pushes Dean's arm a little bit higher, increasing the pain in Dean's upper body. Alastair holds his other wrist against the cold metal as well, and he presses right up behind Dean, who has to suppress the need to gag.

This is disgusting – Alastair is disgusting. He can feel his foul-smelling breath on his neck, and he clenches his jaw.

Oh, by the way, Dean. You can call me Al,” Alastair says, his lips brushing against his ear. “And now – what happened, Dean? Between you and Castiel, I mean? Did you have a little domestic?” He chuckles lowly.

That's enough. Dean throws his head back and Al is standing so close, he hits his upper jaw. Alastair yelps in surprise, loosening his grip on Dean and stepping back a bit, giving Dean the chance to kick his leg, hitting his shin with his work boot. Dean smiles an angry smile because he knows that he just hurt Alastair.

Al's knee gives way and he stumbles to the side, finally letting go of Dean, who doesn't wait until Alastair has a chance to recover. Dean ignores the sharp pain at his head where he connected with Alastair's face, the spots where Al's fingernails dug into his skin, and the throbbing pain in his shoulder. He turns around, seeing Alastair standing slightly bent-forward and kneeing him in the guts.

Al sucks in a sharp breath, but that's the only thing he can do before Dean pushes him away again, and this time Alastair goes down. Dean wants to kick him again, he wants to hurt Alastair as much as possible, venting his anger a little bit at least. But Alastair grabs his leg, causing him to fall as well. Dean grunts, when his head hits the floor, and he sees how Alastair bobs up, anger convulsing his face, and he probably wants to lunge for Dean again.

But a loud “Hey!” interrupts them.

It reminds Dean of when Cas saved his ass from Cole after the douchebag attacked him. For a brief moment, he thinks it's Castiel again who's saving him, but it's just his Biology teacher.

“What do you think you're doing?” the teacher asks, angry and irritated.

Dean swallows, still feeling his anger in every cell of his body. He doesn't need Castiel Novak to save him. He doesn't need the blue-eyed boy at all. He could have trounced Alastair on his own.

They have to follow the teacher to the principal's office. For Dean, today is over. It's just completely fucked.

He notices with satisfaction that Alastair is limping and that Al's nose is bleeding. He looks at his wrists; it's still visible where Alastair's fingernails have been, and Dean screws up his nose.

Al has to see the principal first. He seems uninterested in the whole situation, and on the entire way to the principal's office, he stared at Dean. Dean doesn't like the way those eyes are looking at him. What the hell is wrong with this guy? He thought he was already fucked up, but Alastair brings the turn of phrase fucked up to a whole new level.

Dean sits on a chair in front of the door that leads to the principal's office. It's an old, awkward chair and it creaks when he shifts weight. He sighs, staring at the door and wishing he was in the classroom, so he wouldn't have to be here.

After ten minutes, Alastair leaves the office. He closes the door behind him, grinning at Dean as if they were sharing an inside joke.

“Your turn,” he says, taking a little bow.

He walks down the hallway and disappears around the corner. Dean looks scowlingly after him; a few seconds pass before he remembers that he's supposed to talk to the principal as well. He gets up, knocks shortly twice on the door, and opens it right away without waiting for an answer.

Bad-tempered, he enters the office, and it comes to his mind that he hasn't met the principal yet. He doesn't even remember if he has seen him before. He only remembers the name. Mr. Richings.

Dean's first thought is that the principal's office is very tidy when he looks around. The floor is covered with ruby carpet, and the walls are almost all over with shelves and cabinets. There are a lot of books and folders, and only a few decorative items like a huge pot plant near the double window.

Right in front of Dean is a desk, and behind the desk sits a man, who's writing something down on a white piece of paper. Dean squints at him, indecisive about what to do. Before the desk is a single chair, and he thinks that Alastair sat there just a few moments ago, and he doesn't feel like sitting down there right now. Besides, the man, who Dean assumes is the principal, still didn't bother to look up and at him yet.

When the man starts to speak, Dean is surprised.

“Don't procrastinate. Sit down. I don't have all day.”

Dean is so taken aback, he sits down without hesitating, and he notices that his anger slowly subsides. This isn't how he pictured the principal. He doesn't know what he expected, but not this elder, leaner man, who's wearing a black suit.

“So, you are Dean Winchester. We haven't met yet, but the teachers told me about you. I'm Mr. Richings.”

Dean's eyebrows shoot towards the ceiling. This is not what he expected when he entered the office. Mr. Richings's voice is a somehow slow, languid drawl that gives the impression he's sitting on this chair for a long, long time already, and that there's nothing he hasn't seen or heard already. He appears downright ancient .

Mr. Richings looks expectantly at Dean, and Dean thinks he's supposed to say something now. He asks the first thing that comes to his mind.

“What did the teachers say about me?”

“Oh, good and bad,” is the certainly not satisfactory answer he gets, but he still just nods.

Dean hesitates, biting his lip – should he say something about the incident with Alastair? After all, that's the reason why he's here.

“So...,” he starts, trailing off again right away.

Mr. Richings is staring at him with old, bored but wise eyes, and Dean feels awkward.

“You want to tell me what happened from your point of view.” It's not a question.

Dean nods, but the principal stops him with a wave of his hand before he can even start to speak.

“That's not necessary,” Mr. Richings states.

“Why not?” Dean wonders surprised again.

Mr. Richings huffs a small, humorless laugh. “I know Alastair for longer than you do, Dean. I have to deal with him for years by now. That's why I already know that he lied to me when he told me that you have attacked him first.”

Dean's anger boils up once again when he hears what Alastair said of him. He grits his teeth, clenching his fists automatically. This fucker. He runs his fingers through his hair, tugging at it. Alastair is such a fucking asshole.

He swallows and looks back up at the principal, running his tongue over his lips. He's still so fucking angry and he's sure that it's quite obvious. But Mr. Richings doesn't say anything about it. He tells Dean instead that he suspended Alastair for the rest of the week, but also that he doubts the boy is ever going to change.

Afterward, Dean waits for his own 'verdict'. He doesn't want to tell Sam, let alone John, that he doesn't need to go to school for the rest of the week, and he especially doesn't want to tell them the reason why. But clearly, he'll get the same punishment as Alastair – or so he thinks.

But Mr. Richings just stares thoughtfully at him for a long moment before he tells him he can go home for today, but just for today. Tomorrow, he's going to attend his classes normally again. Dean presses his eyebrows together, wondering for a moment if he misheard the principal's words. But apparently, he didn't. Once more, Dean is surprised by Mr. Richings.

For the principal, the conversation is over.

“You can leave now,” he says, already starting to put a stack of paper in front of him and to fill in the first form.

Dean leaves the office, quietly closing the door behind him, a little bit confused.

By now, the class is over, and he's able to get his backpack out of the classroom before the teacher locks the door. He slings his backpack over the shoulder, wandering through the hallways, hoping that he'd see Sammy somewhere, but he doesn't.

Dean isn't in the mood to go home and he doesn't remember what shift John has today, so his father might be home. He doesn't want to run into John and to have to explain why he's home early. So, Dean takes a very long walk and he goes anywhere but the forest. He doesn't want to get lost again; he has to pick up Sam later.

He walks through the town that he still doesn't know, and a part of him thinks that he could get to know it now, but he passes all the houses, shops, and people without seeing them. He's lost in thought.

Dean thinks about everything and anything. He wonders for how long they'll stay here, and although he wants to graduate before they move again, he doesn't want to be at the same place as Alastair anymore. He thinks about this fucker and how he looked at him. It was weird and creepy, and he hates Alastair with all his heart. He doesn't know what's wrong with this guy, or what he wanted from him today, but he knows for sure that he has to keep an eye on Alastair. He'll probably try something like today again.

Dean thinks and thinks and thinks. And he smokes – a lot. His pack is empty when he arrives back at school, and he doesn't remember how many cigarettes he had left when he left school today. But he figures that it doesn't matter. He already smoked them, it's too late anyway now. So, he doesn't have to care about it.

He's mad when Sam tells him he already heard about the fight with Alastair. Apparently, word spread fast of it.

Sam asks him if he's okay, and he shrugs. He doesn't know. It doesn't matter.

He's frustrated, because during the walk he also thought about Castiel, and he's thinking about him again. He's mostly frustrated because he's going round in circles. And he hates it. He hates that he misses Cas, the sound of his voice, and the blue of his eyes. He hates that Castiel won't talk to him anymore, and he hates that he doesn't get any explanation for that. He also hates that it bothers him at all. He hates that he started to like Castiel Novak. He hates that this gorgeous boy messes with his head so easily. He tried to tell himself that it's just another boy , but he knows that that's not true. He knows that Castiel is different. That Castiel is special. And that he likes him. A lot.

Dean likes him much more than he knew he does, and only when Cas stopped talking to him, he realized how much he likes this boy.

He likes Castiel far too much for his liking.

He drops Sam off at home, making sure that John is snoring in his room and telling Sam that he should start doing his homework.

“Where are you going?”

“Just to the gas station. I need new cigarettes,” Dean explains, ignoring Sam's pout. “I'll be right back.”

Dean buys two packs of cigarettes and a sixpack beer. Thankfully, the gas station is just a few streets away from their house, so he doesn't have to walk that far. He thinks he's walked enough today. Especially, because all the walking and all the thinking were no good.

But now, on his way home and in a bad mood once again, Dean finally decides to get his bad boy reputation for good. Fuck Alastair. Fuck Castiel Novak. Fuck everyone and everything – besides Sammy. Everything but Sammy doesn't matter.

He should have gotten his reputation as soon as they've arrived in this town. How could he be so stupid and lose sight of his only goal? Because of a boy?

Dean scoffs, adjusting the sixpack beer in his arms. He shakes his head. Yeah, he was fucking stupid. He pretended to be a good person , because of Castiel. And maybe because of Sam.

But he isn't a good person. He has never been. So, why should he pretend any longer?

 

Chapter Text

“Do you feel like shit? Because you look like shit.”

Meg's sweet voice reaches Castiel's ears, and he blinks up at her. Her dark hair frames her face delicately, and the piercings in her ear and her nose are sparkling in the sun, as she sits down next to him on the stone block. Cas watches her movements and how she's fiddling with a loose strand on one of the holes in her blue jeans, but he doesn't answer her.

He does feel like shit, though. In the last ten days feeling like shit has become his constant norm once again. Hesitantly, he meets Meg's eyes.

“Have you slept lately?” she asks, glancing at the bags under his tired blue eyes.

Cas glares at her, taking another pull on his cigarette.

“Since when you're acting so caringly?” he asks.

Meg passes his question by, shrugging her shoulders and biting her lip. Cas glances at her and then at the ground again.

To tell the truth – not that he's going to do that, but still –, he doesn't get more than three hours of sleep a night lately, and he's already wondering if the dark circles around his eyes are ever going to disappear again.

It's lunch hour and he sat alone outside on a stone block that's heated up from the sun until Meg came outside and over to him. He can feel her staring at him from the side. Castiel finishes smoking his cigarette, flicking the butt to the ground and stomping it out with the heel of his shoe. He doesn't meet Meg's eyes again, not even when she starts to talk.

“You know, we – that means me and the others – have talked about you,” Meg informs him.

He sighs. It was only a matter of time before his friends would try to ask him why he and Dean don't speak with each other anymore, and what has come over him.

Since he still doesn't answer her, Meg continues speaking.

“There has been a pretty long and extensive conversation about you. We have garnered some ideas on how we could help you.”

Castiel can't help it, a small smile touches the corners of his mouth. It's just like his friends to do something like that. They all met and sat together, and talked about him and how they could help him. They don't even know what this is about.

That is Meg's next point. Of course, they've also talked about why Cas could be behaving differently.

The most believe that your changed mood, your changed behavior, has something to do with Dean Winchester since you two aren't talking anymore.”

Cas's face falls slightly. Well, they are right, but still... – he also hasn't explained to his friends what happened between Dean and him, why they aren't talking to each other anymore... he had to explain other things as well then, and he can't do that.

Meg looks at him and then at her hands in her lap, muttering under her breath why she's the one, who has to do this . Cas cracks another small smile. Somehow, it's comforting that Meg also feels uncomfortable right now. She hates having these heart to heart talks.

“Look, Clarence. We've decided that we won't ask you what happened, and you don't have to tell us anything if you don't want to.” She nudges him until he raises his eyes and looks at her. “But you have to let us help you.”

Castiel swallows, starting to chew on the inside of his cheek. He hesitates because he doesn't want to drag his friends into this, who don't have to have anything to do with it. But Meg's eyes are hard and stern, and she's waiting for an answer. He exhales slowly – and then he nods.

She seems relieved, getting up from the stone block and holding her hand out for him. He takes it without hesitation and follows her to the cafeteria. He doesn't ask why they're going inside, he doesn't have to; he already figured why. All his other friends are in the cafeteria. They pushed two tables together, to be able to sit all together. They're talking, but they must have waited for them, since everyone looks up, when Cas enters the cafeteria with Meg.

Charlie gets up as soon as she sees them, impatiently waiting for them to come over to their tables and throwing her arms around Castiel's neck when he's finally within reach.

“You don't have to try and pretend you're okay any longer. I know how exhausting that is,” she whispers in his ear, so he's the only one, who hears her words.

His throat is rippling when he swallows, but he smiles at her when she lets him go. They sit down and everyone is staring at Cas, who is a bit embarrassed, but also relieved. It was indeed really fucking exhausting to pretend he's feeling okay, and he wasn't even very convincing.

No one says a word, but rather everyone just looks at him, as if they're waiting for him to start talking. A small blush creeps up his neck, and he rolls his eyes at them, trying to diffuse the tension.

“Come on, guys. Don't look at me like that. It's awkward.”

Cas grabs the water bottle that's standing in front of him on the table and fiddles with the plastic wrapped around it. The others start to chuckle, and Castiel allows himself to relax, reminding himself that these are his friends and they want to help him, and he doesn't even have to tell them what's wrong. They're not pushing him to say something, they're not prying.

He laughs a bit too, and then he asks whose idea it was to send Meg to talk with him. Gabriel answers his question.

“She was the logical choice because she isn't good at something like that, but she also wouldn't have started to cry.”

Gabe glances at Charlie, who looks back at him.

“What?” she asks defensively.

Cas smiles, looking at his friends and feeling warm all over, but at the same time, he feels bad. He was so concerned with his interests, he was so self-absorbed , he didn't notice how worried his friends are because of him. He couldn't even say if he missed something important in the last days because he was always so lost in thought.

But Charlie and Dorothy, and also Benny and Madison, are still holding hands, so at least he didn't miss a breakup. He has to be there for his friends as well. It's not their fault what happened to him and that he's so fucked up. He can't just abandon them like that.

He clears his throat, and immediately all eyes are on him again.

“So, what's your plan? How you're gonna help me?”

“Gabe, explain it,” Benny says, and Gabriel presses his eyebrows together.

“What does that mean? Am I the boss now?” he asks with a smirk.

Crowley rolls his eyes. “No, it just means you should explain it. Maybe because it was your idea.”

“Oh.”

“Okay, if you won't explain it, then I'll do it,” Charlie says, leaning forward and propping her elbows on the table.

What? No, it was my idea, so I'll explain it,” Gabriel says instantly.

Then, just do it, Gabe. Don't make such a fuss,” Gadreel says.

Gabriel rolls his eyes, but he smiles, and then he looks at Castiel, who's biting his lip. Castiel raises an eyebrow as if to tell Gabe silently go on .

“Okay. I thought, and the others agreed with me on this, that you should get a chaperone.”

He looks expectantly at Cas. Castiel stops biting his lip and looks from Gabriel to the others.

A chaperone?” he asks doubtfully.

“Yeah, it's a good idea,” Kevin means, and Gabriel beams.

“I concur!”

Meg shakes her head. “It's not what you think, Clarence. You don't get a watchdog . No one's going to tell you what to do, or when to do it. It simply means one of us will accompany you all day, and you can talk with that person, and they will plainly distract you.”

“Exactly,” Gabriel says, pointing at Meg and thanking her for explaining it properly.

Cas has the feeling that he won't have a say in this. And the idea is not that bad. He thanks his friends and says he's on board with their plan, and they all have the same relieved expression on their face.

Castiel doesn't mention that they only have five weeks of school left and that the plan won't work anymore after they've graduated since they won't see each other daily anymore. He doesn't want to discourage them, not when they're making such an effort. And he hopes himself that his friends' plan will prove to be successful because his plan doesn't.

They decide that Meg is his chaperone for the rest of the day, and then the lunch break is already over. Meg might not be so good at this, but today it's enough for Castiel not to be completely alone with his thoughts.

Meg gets it not so bad after all; in fact, she's getting it about right. She manages that they only ever almost meet Dean, on their way to their last class, or after school finishes. So, Cas doesn't have a lot of time to gaze after the green-eyed boy.

He misses Dean and he hates it. He hates it so much.

Castiel doesn't want to think about Dean anymore, but he thinks about him all the time. So no, his plan is not working, since he still likes Dean. He's still not over Dean. The only thing he accomplished to do is making Dean hate him .

Sure, this leads to the whole not talking with Dean anymore, but not to Cas finally forgetting about Dean Winchester, let alone getting over him and this stupid crush he has on him.

He still has a crush on Dean. A massive crush.

It was hard as fuck to ignore Dean and to tell him that he should leave him alone. But it was even harder to watch Dean actually leaving him alone, to watch him ignoring him as well. Castiel should be glad about this since it's what he wanted, but he isn't. He feels miserable.

He has to watch Dean finally getting his bad boy reputation, and he knows once again people are just waiting for him and Dean to crash and start a fight.

Maybe, just maybe it would help him to get over Dean, if they had a real fight, Cas thinks as he watches Dean pushing some freshman kid to the ground outside before Meg pulls at his hand and he tags along after her, tearing his eyes away from Dean.

Castiel is angry with himself for having a crush on Dean Winchester.

It's so unnecessary and the last thing he wanted. The past five years he managed not to fall for anyone. There's only been one boy he has kissed, but that was a disaster anyway and even more a reason not to be interested in anyone. In addition to that, he wasn't attached to this boy, they weren't even together, so afterward, it was more than just easy to ignore boys and not to want anyone.

And then Dean came, and in a split second, Castiel was already head over heels for Dean. It's so absurd, and he tried to resist it, but it just got worse and worse – his feelings for Dean just intensified more and more. Now, he's stuck with this crush on Dean that doesn't go away, and it's unfair because he can't have Dean.

Besides, Dean hates him now. Castiel already thought that Dean would be mad at him when he just stopped talking to him without providing any explanation, and he was right. Dean is mad at him. After a couple of days, he didn't try again to talk with him, to get an explanation from Cas, even though he has even sent Benny to him once to get answers.

But now... Dean doesn't miss him, Dean doesn't need him – and Castiel knows that. He also knows that he shouldn't miss Dean. After all, Dean Winchester is just a boy. He's just another boy, that's all.

What a pathetic lie.

The next days Gabriel, Kevin, and then Garth are his chaperone for the day. They aren't able to keep Cas away from Dean completely, after all, they still have English together. But Cas's friends are able to distract him.

Gabriel is even more talkative than usual, and he makes jokes and buys junk food for them. They bet how many chicken nuggets they can eat before they start to feel sick, and afterward, Missouri has to make them one of her special teas, so they don't throw up in her shop.

Kevin helps Cas to study, and they reorganize his folders and flashcards. Kevin underlines important stuff with different highlighters and puts sticky notes inside the folders to distinguish the different topics, while he tests Cas orally. Castiel watches Kevin's swift hands and answers questions about math formulas, the first world war, and how to write an analysis correctly.

Garth asks Castiel a lot of questions throughout the day, so Cas is the one, who has to do all the talking. Garth broaches the different subjects, again and again, getting Cas to talk a lot more than usual. That's a good way to keep him away from thinking about Dean, and Garth is an excellent listener.

On Friday, Charlie is his chaperone and slowly, Castiel is getting used to this. He's glad about having such good friends.

Charlie talks with him about movies and TV shows. She is quirky, and talks and asks as much as Castiel does. Also, she is clever enough not to mention Dorothy, probably because she thinks it would make Cas sad to hear about her relationship when he and Dean don't talk to each other anymore. And she's not so wrong. As happy as Cas is for her that she has Dorothy and that their relationship is going so well, he doesn't want to talk about it too much, when he still has this crush on Dean.

When they enter the cafeteria, Dean just got a coke from the grumpy lady at the serving counter, and Charlie and Cas silently agree that it's okay to get in line now since Dean is already on his way to an empty table. Charlie starts to talk about having a Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit marathon, and Castiel listens to her, but out of the corner of his eye, he sees Cole and Malachi entering the cafeteria.

He doesn't think about it too much until they walk straight up to Dean, and Cole throws the first punch out of the blue. Malachi doesn't wait either and hauls off right away as well. Cas still doesn't think about it, but he starts to move, making a few steps in their direction.

His brain only catches up with what he's doing, when Charlie puts her hand on his arm, and he looks at her. She seems sad and screws up her nose when Dean hits Malachi's chin with his elbow, but she's shaking her head determinedly. Cas bites his lip and he looks over to Dean one more time, but then he tears his eyes away from the fight.

Charlie is right – he shouldn't get involved in it. What would Dean even say, when Castiel butted into the fight? He'd probably be mad at him and hate him a little bit more.

So, Cas follows Charlie out of the cafeteria, down the hallway, and outside. They go over to the stone blocks, sitting down on one of them. It's warm, downright hot. The air is heavy, and Castiel envies Charlie, who's wearing a Game of Thrones t-shirt, whereas he wears a black sweater. It's a thin sweater but still, it's already too much clothing. Sadly, he's also wearing tight jeans, and he curses the summer. But he still pulls his sleeves down a little further.

Charlie doesn't mention it. None of his friends asks him why he's never wearing any t-shirts or shorts in the summer, and Cas is grateful for that. He doesn't want to have to explain it. Suppressing a sigh, he looks around and tries not to think about all the scars he's hiding and that he doesn't want anyone to see.

And then, he spots Alastair.

Castiel furrows his brow. Alastair is standing off the school premises, at the edge of the forest between some trees, and he's staring into the direction of the cafeteria. The longer Cas watches Alastair standing there, the surer he is that Cole and Malachi attacked Dean because Alastair wanted them to. There's no way it's a coincidence that Alastair is standing there at this very moment and stares through the windows of the cafeteria.

He grits his teeth, knowing exactly that he's doing what he shouldn't do – thinking about Dean. But he has heard of Dean's and Alastair's fight; who hasn't? – word gets around and after all, Alastair was suspended for the rest of the week after it. That is probably the reason why Alastair sent Cole and Malachi to beat Dean up now – to take some vengeance.

Castiel starts to wonder if the fight in the cafeteria is still going before he reminds himself not to think about Dean once again. He shouldn't care about it. He doesn't have to care about it.

“Ugh, he's such a freak. Do you think he's watching the fight?” Charlie asks.

Cas turns around to her; she's looking past him, over to where Alastair is standing, and she's grimacing. Only slowly, realization spreads across her face and regret settles in her eyes, because of her words. She bites her lip, looking at Cas apologetically, knowing very well that she just reminded him of Dean.

He shrugs his shoulders. “Probably,” he says, not wanting to elaborate on this topic.

Charlie understands and silently apologizes for starting to talk about something that has to do with Dean. Castiel clears his throat, giving her a small smile. He thinks she has no idea what it means to him that they're able to communicate without words. He has to tell her sometime. For now, they change the topic, talking about possible movie marathons they could do for the rest of the break.

As always on Friday, English is his last class and Castiel is already sitting on his new place in the last row when Dean enters the room. And god, Dean's face is a mess, and Cas actually flinches when he sees it.

But from what he heard in the hallways, Dean won the fight. And apparently, Cole and Malachi look even worse than Dean, and they got sent to the school nurse, who has to check if they needed to go to the hospital. Cas finds that hard to believe since Dean's face is already in a pretty bad condition.

Dean's lip is split, there's still some blood right under his nose and a scratch on his chin, and a big red-purple bruise is adorning his right upper jaw, somehow complimenting the green of Dean's eyes. Cas knows that this bruise is only going to get darker over the next days until it'll start to fade.

Of course, with Castiel staring at him openly, they lock eyes eventually, and there's a fierce satisfaction in Dean's eyes – now, he has the status of a bad boy for sure.

Castiel swallows, breaking eye contact after a few seconds. Fuck it, Dean looks hot , and it's more than impressing that he won against these two guys.

He thinks it's not fair that he has a crush on Dean, and Dean can move on so easily. He also thinks about Anna's party in February, how Dean looked at his lips back then, and Cas is sure that Dean was interested in him.

But that's clearly over.

Cas knows that for sure, because a few days later, he stumbles around a corner, already being late for his next class since he had to smoke a third cigarette. He stops dead when he sees the only two other people in the corridor.

Dean and Anna.

They don't even notice him since their tongues are pretty busy with each other at the moment.

Castiel is only able to stare at them for a few seconds, nevertheless, he takes everything in. The way Dean's hands are either on Anna's waist, pulling her body flush against his, or buried in her long red hair, and the way he's holding her up against the wall. Anna's hands are on Dean's neck and in his hair.

Cas turns around, but he doesn't go to his next class.

Crowley, his chaperone for today, finds him outside on one of the stone blocks in the next break – chain-smoking yet again. They were supposed to have the class, that Cas just skipped, together.

“Where have you been?” Crowley asks, with his eyebrows pressed together, when he's standing in front of Castiel.

He looks down at him, hands in the pockets of his pea coat that he's still wearing despite the warm weather. Cas thinks he looks weird without the pea coat, though. He shrugs, but he doesn't reply to Crowley's question, but rather asks one himself.

“What do you have?”

Cas's voice is husky, due to all the cigarettes that he smoked, but he doesn't care. The cigarettes didn't help, he needs something stronger, and he knows that Crowley has something stronger.

Castiel returns Crowley's gaze and he knows that Crowley wants to ask what happened, but he doesn't. Good. Castiel wouldn't have answered him anyway. He thinks Crowley knows that, and that's the reason why he doesn't even bother to ask.

Instead, the Brit just says, a small smirk playing on his lips, “Everything you want.”

Castiel nods, stomping out his last cigarette and ignoring the something that's tugging at his insides, making him want to throw up. He starts to leave the school grounds, walking towards the trees, and Crowley follows him, not mentioning that their last class starts in a few minutes. Cas doesn't care about this. He tries not to think, while they walk along the edge of the woods. There's no path, but he knows where he's going. He hears Crowley behind him, stomping on some loose branches and leaves on the forest floor.

Crowley pulls his keys out of a pocket when they arrive at his apartment, and Cas waits impatiently for him to open the door. He has been here many times already, and the small apartment is more than familiar.

They enter it, Crowley locks the door behind them again, and they're standing in the living room right away. Crowley doesn't have a hallway. The door on the left leads to the bedroom, and the door to the right leads to the bathroom. In one of the corners of the living room is a kitchen nook.

Just give me a second,” Crowley mutters, taking off the pea coat and hanging it on the coat rack before disappearing into his bedroom.

Cas swallows, rubbing his arm through his blue sweater. Sometimes, his scars start to itch again, feeling fresh and new all of a sudden. He licks his lips and sits down on the couch.

This is stupid. Something like that shouldn't make Cas feel like this . It's so fucking ridiculous. He runs his fingers through his hair, tugging at some of the strands, looking out of the window and in the near forest. His thoughts are still racing. He hates it so much.

Crowley comes out of his bedroom and sits down next to Castiel on the couch. He's holding a small plastic bag in one hand, and a grin lifts the corners of his mouth.

“Is this adequate to begin with?” he asks, and Cas eyes the white powder in the bag.

Cocaine.

He nods, and Crowley pours a small amount of the cocaine on the coffee table. Castiel never asked the Brit where he always gets all the drugs, and he sure as hell won't start asking questions now. Crowley uses his bank card to make a neat line of the cocaine and rolls up a sheet of paper. He leans down and snorts the entire line, without blinking. Castiel copies him and doesn't hesitate as well. He thinks briefly that their movements are far too smooth because this isn't the first time they're doing this, but then the effects of the cocaine hit him, and this thought gets kicked out of his head.

The itching of his scars stops and gets replaced by a tingling that spreads all over his body very quickly and somehow gets into his body as well after a few seconds. The familiar feeling of flying takes him over, and he forgets Crowley for a moment until the Brit says something. Cas just starts laughing. He doesn't even know what Crowley said, and it probably wasn't even funny, but it's easier to laugh. He's laughing until his stomach hurts and tears are prickling at the corners of his eyes, and Crowley is laughing as well, probably not even knowing why they're laughing.

But Castiel knows if he weren't laughing, he'd be crying or punching something – or someone. Laughing feels easier and certainly better right now. So, h e continues laughing softly, holding his stomach and thinking about all the things he could do but isn't going to do.

He could get over this stupid crush he has on Dean Winchester and just beat the shit out of him, simultaneously beating all the feelings he has for the green-eyed boy out of himself. Or he could go up to Dean and kiss him, making him forget that he's ever kissed Anna Milton because kissing Castiel is so much better.

He could also tell Dean everything, everything he ever did and said, and everything that's ever happened to him, and all the reasons why he's so fucked up and why they aren't talking to each other anymore. Cas could explain everything to Dean, so Dean could at least understand that this isn't about him, that it has nothing to do with him. It's only Castiel. It's his fault because he's the one that's so fucked up. He's the one that's simply not good for other people.

Maybe he could even get over what those two men did to him five years ago and maybe then , he had a chance with Dean.

But all of this is only happening in his mind. It's not actually going to happen, not any time soon. But Castiel doesn't think about that. He just enjoys all those possibilities the cocaine is planting in his head, all those things he could do right now if he weren't sitting on this couch.

The effects of the cocaine don't last very long though, and they go for a second round. Castiel doesn't regret it, although he starts to think about sweet stellar constellations that look suspiciously like freckles on smooth, tanned skin under two seas of green .

They spend the rest of the day in Crowley's little apartment. After the effects of their second round of cocaine fade away, they smoke – Crowley has plenty of cigarettes – and drink the beer from Crowley's small fridge. A couple of hours go by, and they go for the third round of cocaine and drink a few more beers. Castiel gets lost in a forest that only consists of evergreen trees in his mind, probably due to the cocaine, until he passes out.

It's shortly after midnight when he wakes up with a grunt, his neck sore from sleeping on the couch in an uncomfortable position for too long. His joins protest, when he stretches his arms and legs, and he grimaces, slowly getting up and shuffling to the bathroom. His full bladder is what woke him up in the first place.

Crowley is still sleeping, when Cas enters the living room again. He gets a glass of water before he sits back down on the couch, avoiding to sit on Crowley's feet since the Brit stretched out his legs in his sleep after Castiel got up. Absentmindedly, he grabs his phone, taking a sip of the cold water.

“Oh, no,” he sighs, when he sees that he has over a dozen missed calls and also a couple of texts from his brother.

He runs his fingers through his already messed up hair, and even though he doesn't want to, he gets up again, still feeling somewhat dizzy. It takes some time to wake Crowley, and he barely stays awake long enough for Castiel to thank and farewell him quietly.

On his way home, the pleasantly fresh night air almost sobers him up completely. Castiel likes to be alone outside at night. Everyone else is asleep, and with the stars twinkling above him, he has the feeling he's the only person on this entire planet, and that makes it easier not to feel so unbelievably worthless like he does every other minute of the day.

He comes home to a pissed off big brother, who demands to know where the fuck he was the whole day without telling him.

“I was with Crowley. We were at his place. I go there quite often, and you know that.”

“I have nothing against you spending time with Crowley, or going to his apartment, Cas. That's not the point,” Lucifer says, stopping him from just sneaking into his room. “The point is that I don't want you to go off without telling me. I was worried, okay? Neither did you answer my calls, nor did you text me back.”

“I'm sorry, okay? I forgot to tell you, and at some point, I fell asleep. As soon as I woke up, I went home.”

Lucifer eyes him, and Castiel prays that he doesn't have any cocaine left on his face.

“I'm sorry,” he repeats, and he means it. He doesn't want Lucifer to worry about him.

“The next time, just tell me, okay?” Lucifer says, and Cas nods. “And now tell me what you took.”

Lucifer crosses his arms in front of his chest, waiting patiently for his little brother to answer him. Cas looks down at the floor, biting the inside of his cheek before blowing out all the breath from his lungs and looking up at Lucifer again.

“Cocaine,” he says quietly.

Lucifer sighs, closing his eyes. They both know Castiel hasn't taken any drugs the last couple of weeks, and Cas knows Lucifer's been glad about that.

His big brother shakes his head slightly and then he pushes Cas towards the stairs. Castiel looks at him questioningly, but Lucifer just says that it's late and sends him to bed. Cas doesn't complain, and as soon as his head hits the pillow, he falls asleep.

When he wakes up, he screws up his nose, because he reeks of beer and cigarette smoke. He didn't bother to change his clothes in the night, he was too tired. Now, he regrets that.

He gets up, grabs some fresh clothes, and goes into the bathroom to take a long shower. He stands under the hot water until the soreness of his muscles ceases, and he wakes his brother up. After the water ran for about ten minutes, Lucifer knocks on the door.

“Cas?”

“Yeah?” He turns the water off, so he can hear Lucifer properly.

“Why the fuck are you already up?”

“What do you mean?”

“It's 5 am.”

“Really?” Cas wonders. He didn't look at the time when he got up.

“Yeah. You're okay?”

“I'm fine,” Castiel answers, surprised.

He didn't even sleep for five hours, but somehow he doesn't feel remotely tired anymore.

Lucifer lets him finish showering calmly, and when Cas goes downstairs, the table is already set and heavy with plates. Lucifer made breakfast for them, or more for Castiel. He looks at his big brother with raised eyebrows, glancing at the overdone breakfast. There are omelets, pancakes, and toasts on three different plates. On another plate are cheeses and cold cuts. There are bowls with cereal and also fruits.

Cas would think that it's ridiculous, but then he sees the expression in Lucifer's eyes, and his brother just says that it's as compensation for the alcohol, the cigarettes, and the drugs. Castiel huffs a small breath, but he sits down and obliges his brother without grumbling, and he eats a little bit of everything.

Castiel remembers only little what happened yesterday, and what he did with Crowley. But he remembers the reason why he's feeling so rough however very well. He saw how Dean kissed Anna Milton. Cas scoffs. Who'd have thought jealousy is such a pain in the ass?

Lucifer drives him to school this morning, grumbling that it's only an exception, but Cas is glad that he doesn't have to walk. Slowly, his lack of sleep becomes noticeable, after all.

In the first break, Meg joins him and Ash briefly to bring him two cans of Red Bull .

“Thank you,” he mutters, opening one can right away and putting the other in his backpack.

“Don't mention it,” she says, smirking and eyeing him once, probably taking in how shitty he looks before going away again.

Ash is the right guy to be his chaperone for today. He's quiet and gets Cas a sandwich with cheese and ham from somewhere, even though it's not lunch break yet. Ash also doesn't ask Cas why he looks even shittier than usual. He just learns French vocabulary with him and tells him that Charlie and he are going to bet who's able to hack the computer system of the school fastest.

Castiel is listening to him, but he can't help it. He's thinking about how he's going to see Anna in a few minutes, during French class.

He chews on his lower lip when he farewells Ash at the end of the break and goes to the classroom. He doesn't want to skip a class today, so he sighs and pulls himself together, following the others and sitting down in his usual seat.

Anna enters the room when Cas is already sitting, and he automatically looks at her. But it's not as bad as he thought it would be. Sure, he notices once again that Anna is certainly beautiful, even though she's scowling. But luckily, they sit in a way where Cas isn't able to look at her without craning his neck.

The thought that she knows now what it feels like to kiss Dean stings, though. Cas hates it. He also hates himself for liking Dean – for still liking Dean. It doesn't help that he tells himself Dean would hate him either way, even if he never stopped talking to him without any explanation. Dean would hate him. At some point, Dean would have started to hate him anyway; Castiel is a firm believer in that.

There were moments, when he thought about giving Dean an explanation, to tell him everything and scare him away, but Cas could never actually bring himself to do that, so he abandoned this thought again.

This afternoon, Ash accompanies him to Missouri's shop. While Cas scribbles absentmindedly on some notepads, Ash and Missouri talk about school and what Ash wants to do after graduation. Castiel already knows about Ash's planned unplanned road trip, so he zooms out after a while, but Missouri listens carefully to Ash. She's a very, very good listener.

Eventually, Ash and Missouri turn to Cas, who stayed out of the conversation so far, and face him. Missouri asks him what he wants to do after school; she couldn't remember if he already told her something. Cas thinks she knows exactly that he hadn't told her anything yet, and he also thinks that she also already knows the reason for that.

His fear for the future overwhelms him once again, crushing him and his lungs. He tries to swallow past the sudden lump in his throat, but it doesn't work.

“I... I don't have any plans yet,” he tells Missouri and Ash in a small voice, feeling somehow ashamed because of it.

He fiddles with the page of the notepad he was scribbling on. But Missouri regards his answer with a warm, soft smile that makes her brown eyes start to shine.

“Would you like to work officially in my shop?” she asks gently.

Cas stops fiddling with the sheet of paper and looks at her with wide eyes.

“Really?” he asks.

Missouri chuckles. “Of course, honey. You will get paid and everything, and you can start whenever you want after you've graduated.”

Castiel feels better instantly, and he nods. Yes, he'd like that.

For the rest of the time they're there, Missouri tells them about the flowers she wants to start selling soon. She has already ordered them, and she tells them all about the different meanings of the flowers. The whole time a small smile is playing on Cas's lips. Slowly, he realizes that he has a plan now. He knows what he's going to do after school now, to begin with at least, and he feels somewhat lighter.

When they leave, Missouri gives him a long, warm hug, and he sinks into it.

I know that nothing feels okay right now. I'm here if you ever want to talk about it,” she says quietly.

And when they pull apart and Cas looks into her gentle brown eyes, he almost spills. But he pulls himself together once again, because fucking hell, he wants to tell someone about Dean, but how is he supposed to explain the thing with Dean and why they aren't talking anymore?

He never told Missouri what happened to him, even though she's one of the few people that have seen his scars. The other people are Meg, Lucifer, and his father. Cas is sure that Missouri and Meg know what kind of scars are on his body, but he never explicitly told them, although he's also sure that somehow Missouri just knows what happened to him.

Still, maybe he should just shut up.

Cas thanks her quietly, but just because he doesn't trust his voice completely. He sees nothing but genuine worry in her eyes, and he bites his lip.

Ash walks him home because he's that kind of person.

Once more, the feeling that he doesn't deserve his friends is rushing over Castiel like a high wind.

Later, when Cas finished studying for his first exam tomorrow – math, of all things – and he's lying in bed, he contemplates telling Missouri about Dean. He could just tell Missouri all the reasons why he likes Dean, why Dean is so different and so, so special. He doesn't have to tell her that he doesn't want to hurt Dean, although he already did, and he hates himself for that. But as expected, Cas pushed Dean away in order not to hurt and then lose him, but he did hurt and lose him nevertheless.

Cas doesn't have to say that he thinks he's broken like a shattered glass bottle on concrete floor. He doesn't have to say that he thinks he's worthless and not good enough, especially not for Dean. Not for Dean, who deserves everything good and all the happiness in the world, and Castiel can't give him any of that.

But he could just tell Missouri about Dean, though he isn't sure yet if he's going to do it, or not.

So, he puts his headphones into his ears after a while, because loud music always helps with everything, and eventually, he falls asleep.

He wakes up, the music is still playing, and when he blinks his eyes open and looks at his alarm, it's shortly after 6:30 am. About 20 seconds later his alarm starts to ring. Cas jumps a bit and turns it off, grimacing and lying on his back now.

At first, he doesn't listen to the music, but rather fully wake up slowly, but then the song's lyrics that's currently playing start to arrive at his brain.

'Cause I won't give up without a fight

If you love me let me go

If you love me let me go

Cause these words are knives that often leave scars

The fear of falling apart

And truth be told, I never was yours

The fear, the fear of falling apart

Yet again, Castiel thinks about green, freckles that look like delicate little stars, about cigarette smoke in front of a marble fountain, bruised knuckles, and a deep voice that calls him Cas and makes it sound so different than when the others call him that, and suddenly he feels sad.

He sighs, a tight feeling in his chest. Fucking Dean Winchester.

Lucifer wishes him the best of luck for his first exam after breakfast, and then Cas leaves the house, meeting Garth, his chaperone for today, in front of the school building.

Garth is able to calm Cas down, who's suddenly getting nervous. What if he hasn't studied enough? What if he'll fail? His fingers are twitching, and he doesn't look at anything for longer than two seconds. He feels too heavy, and there's a glimmer of panic at the back of his mind. He realizes that this is how Charlie felt during the last weeks, and he wonders why he's only feeling like this just right before the first exam.

Kevin comes over to them, wishing them the best of luck and saying that they're going to ace since they've studied so much. Castiel envies Kevin, who doesn't have his first exam today and therefore has also no reason to be nervous. But then something comes to his mind, after Kevin's last sentence. He looks at Garth.

“What are the others doing, when it isn't them, who's looking after me?”

“They're learning together for the exams,” Kevin answers.

“Or they're thinking about strategies to help you feel better,” Garth adds.

Cas bites his lip, looking at the floor. Yeah, he certainly doesn't deserve his friends.

“I always spend the day with only one of you,” he says, scratching his neck and looking up again.

“Yeah, we all agreed on that being the easiest and most relaxed way for you,” Garth says, shrugging his shoulders.

Castiel just nods; he's a little bit overwhelmed by a lot of gratitude towards his friends.

The math exam works out, better than he would have thought, and he leaves the classroom with a good feeling. He and Garth go to Garth's place and they study together for their history exam tomorrow.

Castiel thinks that maybe he could tell Missouri about Dean on the weekend, but then it's actually already Saturday, and he's still not sure about it.

He's sitting outside on their front porch together with Meg, and they're smoking. Music is playing in the background and every so often, they sing along to it, or they just hum the melodies. They talk about anything but school and finals because they agreed on taking some time off today from all the studying. But of course, Meg notices that he's miles away. She asks him what he's thinking about, taking another pull on her cigarette.

“I just wanted to visit Missouri,” Cas mumbles, picking at some grass blades that grow at his feet.

“Why don't you go visit her then?” Meg asks, pressing her eyebrows together.

Castiel shrugs; he doesn't know. He hasn't made a decision yet.

He's not good at making decisions. Either, he can't decide at all, or when he makes a decision, he regrets it deeply – like pushing Dean away and stopping to talk with him, even though it was the right thing to do. But still, he doesn't want to tell Missouri, only to regret it later on.

But he wants to talk about Dean, really talk about Dean, and forget about all the bad stuff for a few minutes.

Cas wishes he were good at making decisions. He wonders how other people do it.

Together with Lucifer, they make spaghetti alla carbonara and while they're eating, Cas does make a decision. He will go to Missouri.

They clean up the kitchen – they made quite a mess, but it was fun – and then he farewells Meg, whom he releases earlier today. He needs to go alone to Missouri.

He tells Lucifer where he'll go and then he hits the road. Since it's on Saturday afternoons, and Missouri's shop is only open from 8 to 12 on Saturdays, Cas goes to her house.

Missouri isn't surprised when she opens the front door and Cas is standing on her front porch. She just ushers him into the kitchen and tells him to sit down. Castiel assumes she expected him to show up one of these days, so he doesn't say something about it.

He sits down at the kitchen table, and Missouri pours some chocolate milk in two glasses before she sits down across from him, putting one of the glasses in front of him. Cas takes a sip and returns Missouri's look. There's a knowing expression on her face.

“I wanted to talk,” Cas says slowly, and she nods.

She waits patiently while he tries to find the right words to say. He doesn't know where to start.

“I like someone,” he says eventually, wrinkling his brow, but not stopping to look Missouri in the eye.

She still doesn't say anything, probably not wanting to interrupt his thought process. Cas bites his lip and looks at his hands, and he thinks about how he slammed Dean against the wall after he and Gadreel fought with each other, and how he held Dean's hand briefly when he helped him up after Cole had attacked Dean.

He just starts to talk, without thinking about the right words .

He finally spills and tells Missouri about Dean, about the day they met and that the green nail polish reminded him of Dean's eyes. And god, those eyes are so freaking beautiful – the most beautiful eyes he's ever seen. They're so green , and whenever he looks into them, he feels like he's standing in the middle of a clearing, and it calms him down. It's always a shame when he has to stop looking into Dean's eyes, because the green is so addicting, and Cas never wants to leave that clearing. He always wants to feel that calm that he feels when he's with Dean.

He tells Missouri how much he likes Dean. That it's a lot. He likes him so fucking much, it's tearing him apart. It's hurting since he's never liked a person that much before, and Castiel isn't able to comprehend all these feelings.

He tells her how much he enjoys talking to Dean, and it's not just because they never seem to run out of things they can talk about, but rather because of the deep grumble that is Dean's voice. It's like thunder mixed with the noise of a well-kept car engine, and the only reason this comparison comes to Cas's mind is that Dean likes cars so much. But Dean's voice can also be so soft and gentle, warm and loving, for example whenever Dean talks about his little brother, or whenever Dean calls him Cas .

That's another thing. The way Dean says his name, whether it be Castiel or simply Cas . It sounds different, it feels differently, whenever Dean is saying his name. It's not like when his friends or his brother, let alone his father, say his name. It's like Dean gives his name meaning. It's like his name belongs right there, on Dean's lips. Castiel feels warm, whenever he hears Dean saying his name because he feels safe. His name is safe in Dean's mouth, and somehow that doesn't feel weird, it just feels good .

Dean can make him smile and laugh so easily. No laugh or smile of Cas in Dean's presence is ever forced. Castiel just thinks that that's something important, and Missouri simply nods, still not wanting to interrupt him, especially now that he's finally talking.

Cas shifts in his chair, and then he tells her that he just knows there's more to Dean than meets the eye. Dean always tries to hide it. It's as if he built a thick wall around himself, around his heart, and it's so high, it will prevent everyone from seeing all his secrets, all his demons, and all his pain. But somehow Castiel has the feeling that he's able to see right through this wall, and he doesn't understand it. He sees Dean's pain in his eyes, sees his secrets dripping from his lips, sees his demons lurking right behind him, but he doesn't know what it all means. And he's denied access to the details.

But Castiel wants to know everything . He wants to know everything there is to know about Dean. He wants to take all his dark thoughts, all his demons, and all the pain, and just throw it all away because no one should walk around with such a burden.

He tells Missouri about the night when he met Dean in the bar and about everything that happened there. She doesn't like it when he tells her that Dean called him a faggot . But he tells her about the regret that shone so brightly in Dean's green eyes right after it happened, and how Dean tried to apologize. He says that he was never mad at Dean for it, even though sometimes he wonders if he's supposed to be mad because of it. But he can just see that Dean is a good person. To Castiel, it's so obvious, but even Dean himself doesn't seem to know it. And Cas wants to change that.

He'd love nothing better than to make Dean sit down, to sit down close beside him, and to tell him all the good and beautiful things that come to Cas's mind whenever he looks at Dean, or simply thinks about him. He wants to show Dean that he is truly beautiful .

After a small pause, Cas licks his lips and he tells Missouri about Dean's family. Dean's mother is dead as well, and Castiel hates that they have this in common, of all things. He thinks Dean only told him about his mother since Cas told him first that his mother is dead, too.

He thinks there's something wrong with Dean's dad. So often, Dean would come to school with a fresh bruise on his body, and worry and even more sadness in his eyes, even though he didn't get in any fights at school. Cas notices that Missouri furrows her brow at the mention of Dean's father, and he assumes she has heard about him. Missouri hears a lot of things because she talks to a lot of people. Maybe she knows what's wrong with Dean's father, but Cas doesn't want to hear that right now, so he starts to talk about Dean's little brother Sam. He tells her how smart Sam is, how he's able to hold an intelligent conversation with Cas. He tells her that he thinks Dean is an amazing big brother that loves his little brother with all his heart.

Missouri continues to listen to him, nodding and smiling softly, and not interrupting him once. When Castiel eventually stops talking, she clasps her hands on the table and looks at him.

“You haven't told Dean any of this.”

Cas shakes his head. He wonders if he should tell Missouri about the bad things now – that Dean and he aren't talking anymore. But that isn't why he came here. Maybe he'll tell her on another day.

Missouri sighs. “You like him a lot.”

“Yeah.” Cas sighs quietly. “I have a crush on him.”

This is the first time that he said those words out loud. He glances at Missouri, putting his empty glass on the table. She cocks her head.

Honey, I'm afraid these feelings are already a little bit more than a simple crush.

Castiel stares at her with wide eyes. He swallows and looks down at the table surface. More than a simple crush . Fuck. That's all he needed. He runs his fingers through his hair, looking up at Missouri again.

“That's not a bad thing, liking someone so much,” she says, voice calm and gentle. “In fact, it's a good thing.”

Cas shrugs his shoulders halfheartedly. A good thing.

Yeah, maybe it would be a good thing if Dean and he were still talking to each other, if he hadn't made Dean hate him, if Cas had a different past and were a different person. If he were different, if he were better , if those things hadn't happened to him, if he didn't have depression and anxiety, if he didn't feel so worthless and like he's never good enough, if he were a person that deserves someone like Dean and that is good enough for Dean – yes, then it would be a good thing to like Dean so much.

But since all these things aren't true, it's the worst thing that could have happened to Castiel, after all that has already happened to him.

On the way home, Castiel realizes that talking about Dean and the feelings he has for him made it all slip from his mind into reality. In his mind, it was all just his thoughts and it was inside him , and now it's out in the world, even though he only told Missouri about it. Now, it feels more real and it's pressing down on him. He wonders how the fuck he's supposed to get over this beautiful boy now.

He knows that he isn't able to have Dean, although he wishes he were able to. Castiel is just too fucked up. It's summer and hot, even though it's in the evening now. But the air is still heavy, and he's wearing a sweater to hide all the scars on his arms. He thinks about Meg, who wore a crop top and shorts today, and he envies her. He envies everyone, who doesn't feel the need to hide their body in the summer.

Yeah, Dean would never want him. But hell, Castiel wants Dean, and apparently, he has to live with these feelings for longer than he thought and wanted to.

 

Chapter Text

Dean ignores Cas as best he can, gripping his bottle of coke tightly and starting to walk over to an empty table. He's in a bad mood either way, but the grumpy lady at the serving counter didn't exactly brighten up his mood.

He flops down on a chair with a snort, scowling at everyone and everything in sight. Out of the corner of his eye, he sees Castiel and Charlie joining the end of the queue in front of the serving counter, waiting to get something of the crappy school cafeteria food. But Dean looks away before he and Cas might lock eyes.

Charlie's red hair is what caught his attention in the first place, but of course, his eyes wandered over to Castiel immediately, who's wearing tight blue jeans and a black sweater. Dean wrinkles his brow, already wondering why anyone would wear something long-sleeved when it's so hot outside. He grits his teeth when he realizes that he's thinking about Cas once again, even though he wants to stop doing this all the time.

The gap between him and Cas is getting bigger and bigger with every day that passes, so Dean should stop thinking about him. But during today's lunch break, Dean doesn't have the time to get lost in thoughts of the blue-eyed boy again anyway.

The first punch comes out of the blue and hits his ribs on the right, knocking the air out of his lungs. The second punch comes from the other side and hits his head, rattling him and his thoughts. Dean doesn't even know what's happening, and then he's already sprawled over the dirty floor of the cafeteria. He gets back up right away, ignoring the dizzy feeling in his head, but he gets shoved into a table as soon as he's standing again.

The people around him gasp and stare at him and his attackers with wide eyes, being undecided about what to do. But as soon as Dean recognizes Cole and Malachi as the ones who are attacking him, he knows exactly what he has to do, and he makes short work. He hits Malachi's chin with his elbow and rams his fist in Cole's lower abdomen, enjoying how both of them grunt in pain and how Malachi's head is thrown back, when Dean's elbow collides with his face.

Dean is angry. He is always so fucking angry, and he's finally able to vent his spleen.

He isn't aware of all the people around them anymore, and he doesn't even notice that he collects some pretty fierce strokes himself. Though he tastes blood in his mouth, and something warm runs out of his nose over his lips and his chin as a trickle. But he doesn't care about it. It just feels too damn good to land punch after punch on either Malachi or Cole; that feeling is blocking everything else out.

Cole and Malachi are fighting back, but it's of no use. They don't stand a chance against Dean right now, he's too fucking angry. He's seeing red, and damn he might be fucked up, but this feels so good. Dean wasn't even expecting a fight today, and now he's so in for it, it's almost frightening.

He doesn't know for how long they're already fighting. Probably for a few minutes or so. But during those minutes, he doesn't have to think, and it's a bliss. Adrenaline is rushing through his veins, and while he beats the shit out of those two guys, he's able to forget about everything else.

At some point though, the teacher, who's supervising senior lunch, and a few other teachers can separate the boys from each other. Dean doesn't want to stop fighting, no matter how much his knuckles are already hurting; he'll just continue to ignore the pain. He wants to continue inflicting much worse pain on Cole and Malachi.

He wants to stay in this state of mind, where he doesn't have to think and where he's able to forget about all the shit that happened in his life so far. When he isn't able to think, he doesn't get reminded of how fucked up he is.

God, he's so fucked up.

But he can't find it in him to care about that at the moment, although everyone is looking at him as if he were crazy. They're looking at him with a mixture of fear and awe flittering over their faces, even the teachers. Dean realizes that it's one of the few times anyone has seen him being involved in a fight. The most have some sort of respect in their eyes, and they all are likely to make some mental note to stay away from him and not to mess with him, or they'll end up like Cole and Malachi.

Malachi is only still standing because a teacher is holding him up. His left eye is already swollen, the skin around it blue, red, and purple, and he isn't able to open it. His nose is bleeding, there are several cuts on his face, a bruise on his chin, and he's holding his ribs, where Dean rammed his knee twice .

Cole is braver, but probably just because he's too stubborn and too proud, and too much of a coward to hang his head in shame in front of Dean. He keeps his head held up high, showing off the big bruises on his temple and lower jaw. Blood is dripping from his lip, and there's a cut on one of his eyebrows. Both Cole's and Malachi's knuckles are bruised and bloody, like Dean's.

But as Malachi is staring at the floor, Cole's eyes are fixated on Dean, and there's pure rage burning in them. Dean glares back, unimpressed and too pleased with himself to care about Cole's anger. After all, Cole is to blame for what he's looking like now. He and Malachi attacked Dean. They started this and only got what they deserve.

All the teachers know that Dean is the one, who got attacked, but he still has to go to the principal's office. That bugs him, and he rolls his eyes, but he does follow the teacher, who has to make sure that he actually does go to see the principal.

Meanwhile, Cole and Malachi have to go to the school nurse first. A satisfied grin flashes over Dean's face, and he's sure that Cole saw it, since he's gritting his teeth. But Dean is still angry when he's sitting on the chair in front of Mr. Richings' desk again. He wishes he had had more time to beat the shit out of Cole and Malachi – to let his anger out just a little bit more.

He clenches his fists, examining his bruised knuckles and the dried blood that clings to his skin. Screwing up his nose, he looks back up at Mr. Richings, who hasn't said something since he asked him if he didn't want to go to the school nurse as well. Dean simply shook his head at the question. He doesn't like doctors or nurses that much, and though his face hurts, it's not as bad as it could be, or has already been. He'll survive.

Mr. Richings keeps staring at him, and Dean slowly starts to feel uncomfortable, because he can't read the principal's eyes. He wishes he knew what he's thinking, but there's an unfathomable expression on Mr. Richings' face. So, Dean has to wait.

Eventually, the principal leans forward in his chair, elbows resting on his desk, hands clasped.

“You can go home for today, Dean. But again, you won't get suspended.”

Dean's eyebrows shoot up towards the ceiling in surprise.

“What?”

“You are the one, who got attacked. Everyone saw that. You defended yourself, and even though I disapprove that you got carried away doing that and didn't stop, I don't blame you.”

Dean realizes that the principal could suspend him easily if he wanted to, but he decided against it. He wonders why. Dean doesn't want to be pitied by anyone, but he's not sure that that's Mr. Richings' motive.

“You can go now, Dean.”

But Dean shakes his head. “I want to stay.”

Again, Mr. Richings keeps silent for a few minutes before he allows him to stay. Dean nods and gets up, walking over to the door and already opening it, when the principal says his name. Dean looks over his shoulder. Mr. Richings is looking at him thoughtfully.

“Take care of yourself.”

Dean's brow wrinkles in confusion, but he regards the words with a nod and leaves the office. Biting the inside of his cheek, he heads for the nearest bathroom. He makes sure that he's alone in there, then he locks the door and finally has a proper look at his face.

Wow. His face is a mess. His lip is split, and when he darts his tongue out, carefully touching the relatively small wound, he screws up his nose. There's a scratch on his chin, but it will heal soon. Dean eyes the fat red-purple bruise on his right upper jaw, huffing a small humorless laugh and knowing pretty well that that won't heal quickly. He prods at it with his fingertips and winces. Yep, that hurts like a bitch.

Sighing, he grabs a paper towel and holds it briefly under cold water before he washes the blood off his face. He has to ascertain that the collar of his blue shirt, that he's wearing under the usual flannel shirt, is already stained a little with blood. But Dean doesn't care, and just shrugs his shoulders, throwing the paper towel away.

He feels better, even though the adrenaline left his body by now, and he smirks when he thinks of Cole and Malachi. What two absolute idiots and cowards they are! They attacked him two by two and still lost the fight.

He scoffs and rolls his eyes, leaving the bathroom when the bell rings, signaling the beginning of the next class. English – with Castiel. A weird feeling rolls through him at the thought of Cas, but he shakes his head and ignores it since he doesn't even know what it means.

He doesn't pay attention to the stares and all the whispers that seem to follow him through the hallways, but still, satisfaction spreads out in his body.

Dean enters the classroom, and immediately all eyes are on him – that figures –, but he's only interested in one pair of eyes. Cas is already staring at him, the blue completely focused on him, and of course, they lock eyes for a few seconds. Dean's heart skips a beat when he notices that Cas's eyes are wandering over his face, taking in all the injuries before looking away, and Dean curses it for that.

He sits down, knowing that his heart skipped a beat, because of the odd expression in Castiel's eyes – a beautiful mixture of sadness, amazement, confusion, and being impressed –, and he starts to think about it right away, even though he doesn't want to.

Remember? You hate Castiel Novak , the small voice in his head scolds him. He grits his teeth, calling his mind's attention back to the fact that now, he has the status of a bad boy for sure.

When the lesson is over, Dean's the first, who leaves the classroom. Slowly but surely, his bad mood comes back. Of course, it does. It always comes back, one way or another. And Dean hates it.

He meets Sam in front of the school, who adjusts the straps of his overfull backpack when they start to leave the school grounds. Sam notices his bad mood, but he doesn't mention it. Dean is sure that his little brother already heard about the fight since everyone was talking about it in the hallways, but Sam doesn't ask about that either. He just eyes his bruised face very briefly, and Dean can practically feel him sighing inside.

Sam already noticed his constant bad mood and his changed behavior in the last days, but Dean won't talk about it to him and slowly, Sam's mood is worsening, too. Fucking codependency.

Dean does know that he's not the only reason why Sam is also in a bad mood – after all, their dad is still drunk more often than not – but still, he's blaming himself. He knows Sam would be in a better mood if his big brother were in a better mood as well. But Dean isn't, and he isn't able to pretend he is, although he knows how much it sucks.

Sam wants to talk about it because he loves those chick flick moments and heart to heart talks, but Dean can't talk about this with Sam. He doesn't want to put this burden on Sam's already loaded shoulders. This is something he has to deal with on his own, and Sam shouldn't worry about him, but of course, he does.

Again, Dean tries to think of a way to finally stop thinking about Castiel, since the blue-eyed boy is the reason he's in such a bad mood, because fucking hell, he misses him.

He lights up a cigarette, ignoring the way Sam looks at him and the glowing tip of the cigarette, and then he spots Alastair. He's just standing there, not very far from where they're walking, and he returns Dean's look, a smug smirk staining his pale, sunken face.

Dean presses his eyebrows together, confused and irritated for a few seconds until he realizes that Alastair sent Cole and Malachi to beat him up, probably since he isn't able to afford to do something like that again. Dean returns the smirk; Alastair's plan didn't work. Cole and Malachi were the ones, who had to see the school nurse, making sure that they don't need to go to the hospital. But why seems Al still so pleased with himself then?

He doesn't like the way Alastair is staring at him, so hungrily and possessively, as if he had every fucking right to look at Dean like that. But he doesn't, Dean thinks, and he watches how Al's eyes start to drift to Sammy, calculating and still hungrily.

Gritting his teeth, he grabs his little brother's arm and drags him along, picking up speed without listening to Sam's protests. The quicker his little brother is out of Alastair's reach, so much the better. Though, Dean would like nothing more than to go over there and punch the smirk off Al's face, he and Sam leave and cross the road, heading home.

The next days, Dean is busy trying to ignore Alastair, who keeps staring at him – not exactly unobtrusively – and also to ignore Cas, who seems to be fucking everywhere. Dean just can't stand seeing him at the moment. He's telling himself that this gap between Castiel and him is a good thing, because after all, it's what Cas wanted, and after some time Dean wanted it too – what a pathetic lie.

He misses Cas so much and wants nothing more than to make him smile again, to see those blue eyes light up again. Damn it, since when he's such a fucking sap?

He shouldn't give a fuck about Castiel Novak anymore, it's that simple. Hell, he doesn't want to give a fuck about Castiel Novak anymore. He has enough problems, he doesn't need the blue-eyed boy to be one as well.

John is still drinking, and that's a fucking huge problem, although Dean can steal some beers or whiskey out of the fridge because of that from time to time. But he wishes he had something stronger anyway. At the last school that they went to, there was a guy, who would get him weed from time to time. That was cool. Now, he only has cigarettes and alcohol, and sometimes it's not enough . Sometimes, he's craving something stronger, but he has no idea where to get something stronger.

How can he forget about Cas? Dean wants to forget about him, but how is he supposed to get over this gorgeous boy, who hates him now? Dean has no other explanation for why else Cas should just stop talking to him. Even though, he has no idea what he did that made Castiel hate him.

A few days pass, and then Dean sees Anna Milton at her locker in an otherwise empty hallway, since the bell rang already two minutes ago. She hastily puts another heavy textbook in her backpack, and an idea hits Dean like lightning.

You want to forget about Novak? the voice in his head pipes up.

He screws up his nose, because he thinks he can't do this, and he isn't sure if he really wants to do it, but the voice in his head is reminding him that he can't have Cas – and if he wants to get over him, he might as well get together with someone else.

Dean isn't convinced of that and already turned around again to go the other way, biting his lip, but then he's just like fuck it and goes over to Anna. She sees him walking towards her, slinging her backpack over one shoulder and looking at him questioningly. They haven't talked since Dean rejected her when she told him about her party.

But Dean isn't planning on talking much now anyway, so he doesn't say something and just takes her backpack gently from her and puts it on the floor. Anna lets him guide her to the opposite wall, leaning against it, her lips curving up in a flirtatious smile. He gets closer, waiting for a few moments and making sure that he doesn't do this against her will.

But Anna kisses him first.

She puts her hands on his neck, on the back of his head, raking her fingers through his hair. Dean automatically puts one hand on her waist and the other one on the side of her face. They kiss for a few minutes, Dean pushes his tongue into her mouth and buries his fingers in her long red hair.

When they stop kissing, they're both a little out of breath, and Dean looks into Anna's hazel eyes, searching for something inside of him. He has to feel something for her. But there's nothing. He doesn't feel anything for her. She's just a girl that thinks he's attractive and hell, she's beautiful. But he knows a kind of gorgeousness now that's hard to top.

Dean feels weird, stepping back a bit, and Anna is still smiling up at him. Guilt drips from the back of his throat into his stomach like acid. Fuck.

She tugs a strand of hair behind her ear, looking up at him through her lashes.

“Well, Dean. I didn't know if you ever came around, but now... I'm already late for my next class. We'll talk later, okay? Okay.”

She walks around him, grabs her backpack, and kisses him briefly before she leaves for class, completely oblivious to his inner turmoil.

He grits his teeth, picking up his backpack that he doesn't remember putting on the floor as well, and leaving too – just not for his next class. He leaves the building, he practically runs through the doors and outside, and then to a gas station straightaway. He buys a sixpack beer and more cigarettes, even though his pack is still almost full.

Dean goes home – John isn't there, thank god – and locks himself in his room, in case John does come home. He doesn't remember what shift John has today, but does it matter? He locked the door, so John isn't able to come into his room, without breaking the door open.

Dean flops down on his bed, opening a beer and taking a big swig. He feels strangely wired – it's unnerving.

He finishes the beer, putting the empty bottle on the floor and lighting up a cigarette. He considers to open his window, but he doesn't want to get up. He puts his ashtray onto the bed and watches how the ash falls into it while he tries not to think.

He doesn't want to think about that Anna's eyes were hazel and not blue , and that he'd rather bury his fingers in messy black hair than in her red hair, and that he'd rather kiss other lips . Fuck, fuck, fuck.

So, this is what it feels like to kiss the wrong person.

When it's time for it, he throws the empty beer bottles away and empties the ashtray. He doesn't want to, he wants to stay locked away in his room, but it's time to pick Sammy up from school. Dean doesn't want him to go home alone, not when Alastair could be there. Maybe he's watching Sam as well, maybe he knows that Sam is his little brother by now.

Alastair seems obsessively interested in Dean, and he has no idea why, but it grosses him out. He needs to protect Sammy and dear god, if Alastair ever dared to lay a hand on Sam, Dean would rip him apart.

He waits for Sam in front of the school building, glad that there are no teachers around that could ask him why he missed his last classes. Sam comes outside and tells him on the walk home that he got an A in his latest math test. Dean ruffles his shaggy hair – the kid needs a haircut soon – and says he's proud of his little nerd. Sam smiles sheepishly.

John still isn't there, when they enter the house and go upstairs into Sam's room. Dean helps Sam with his Biology homework, and then Sam urges him to study some more for his upcoming exams. Dean grumbles a bit, but he's glad about the distraction. When he tries to memorize math formulas and facts about World War II, he doesn't think about Castiel, or how wrong it felt to kiss Anna.

Later, Dean fixes them a quick dinner, just some mac and cheese, and then they go to sleep. He's so fucking exhausted and he doesn't even know why. Thankfully, he falls asleep relatively quick, although he sleeps fitfully.

The next morning, Anna comes over to him as soon as she sees him, and Dean sighs internally. A big grin makes her eyes glow, and he wishes he could tell her something else than what he's going to tell her. She's a beautiful girl, but Dean feels nothing for her at all.

Hey, Dean,” she says, standing closer than she would do normally. Dean is glad that she doesn't try to kiss him, though. “I wanted to know if you liked to come over to my house tonight. My parents are out of town again.”

There it is. A clear as fuck invitation – to fuck – and hell, Dean thinks he should say yes, but he just can't. When it already felt so wrong to kiss Anna, how would it feel to sleep with her? He'd probably be more than just miserable after it, so no. He's not going to do that.

He shakes his head. “No, I'm sorry, Anna.”

You're busy tonight, or...?” she asks, looking up at him questioningly.

No, I'm not busy. I just don't want to come over to your house tonight.”

And why not?” she asks snappishly. “We kissed yesterday. Where were you by the way? We wanted to talk later, but I didn't see you again.”

Anna, listen. I know, we kissed and I started it, but to be honest, I acted on impulse.”

That doesn't have to be a bad thing,” she says, trying to smile flirtatiously again, but he can already see that she's beginning to realize where this is going.

Dean smiles at her apologetically. “Anna, I'm not interested in you.”

He knows that it might be hard to hear those words, but then again, Anna doesn't seem to have any hard feelings for him.

Who says I'm interested in you? I just wanted to... you know what? Go fuck yourself. I'm done with you.”

To be fair, this is the second time Dean rejected her, even though he has kissed her yesterday. So, he deserves this, but he also doesn't care about Anna's words. They don't hurt him. Anna isn't hurt either. Maybe he injured her pride, but that's all. Man, she is pissed and runs around with a sour face for the rest of the day, and apparently, she doesn't want to talk to him ever again. It's all right with Dean, though. He has enough to do with trying not to think about Castiel Novak all the time.

Dean wants to kiss Castiel. It's the only thing he can think about since he kissed Anna yesterday. He wants to kiss Castiel, which will probably feel like a hundred times better than kissing Anna, just because it's Cas . He wants to run his fingers through Castiel's messy dark hair and feel his lips against his own. He just wants to grab the blue-eyed boy and kiss him until they both can't breathe, and he wants to do other things with Castiel.

Damn, this boy is fucking gorgeous, and Dean can't deny that he already thought about it. Of course, he did, with Castiel running around like that, just existing , when of course Cas has to wear these fucking tight jeans every day that hug his legs – and his ass – just right, and it's doing all sorts of things to Dean.

He just didn't pay it too much mind, since Cas looked scared at Anna's party when it seemed like they were about to kiss, and after that, they started to talk with each other, and Dean thought they were going in a certain direction . And then Castiel just stopped to talk with him.

Now, Dean can barely think of anything else than this boy, and he hates it. It's driving him crazy. If it were someone else, he'd tell himself that it's just another boy – who the fuck cares, right? – but this is Castiel Novak, and he's fucking gorgeous, and it's not even funny. Because he doesn't want to think about Castiel anymore, he doesn't want to think like that about Cas anymore, since it's of no use, and he wishes his dick would agree with him on that.

Fucking hell, he's not a horny teenager anymore, so could he please stop acting like one? And he isn't some 15-year-old girl with an unrequited crush on some boy, who thinks because of that the world is ending – although sometimes it does feel like it. But he doesn't want to think about it too much. After all, he's Dean fucking Winchester.

Sam is trying to draw his attention more to the upcoming exams, and Dean is studying a lot, mostly at night because lately, he isn't able to sleep anyway. Dean has trouble sleeping easy and falling asleep in the first place. This is also a problem in the night before his first exam – math, of all things – and as always, no matter if he's drunk or sober, he feels the desire to jump into the ocean.

It's stupid, but he longs for the fucking ocean so much. He wants to see it and be embraced by it, and to calm down, and to breathe in its closeness. God, it's silly and downright ridiculous, and it makes him mad since he knows for sure that he doesn't mean the ocean – he's talking about Castiel and his ocean blue eyes.

Dean wouldn't mind drowning in them at all if it just meant that Cas was there, and it kind of scares him. He craves the ocean – Castiel – so fucking much; he hates it. He doesn't want it, but he isn't able to stop it. It's getting worse and worse, and that just has to be unhealthy.

He should be kind of happy at least since he finally has the bad boy reputation he wanted. But now, he wants something else, and he can't have it, and it sucks.

He rolls onto his side, pressing his face into the pillow and tucking his hands under it. He sighs. Just why do Castiel's eyes have to be this fucking gorgeous blue?

When his alarm wakes him up, Dean's already in a bad mood. John has an early shift today, so it's just him and Sam, quietly eating cereals for breakfast. They walk to school, and before they enter the building and part ways, Sam wishes him the best of luck. Dean can just nod and smile halfheartedly at his little brother, and when he walks through the hallways, he's already scowling again.

He hates it, but his heart calms down a bit when he sees Cas standing in a hallway, together with Garth and Kevin. Later, he sees him in the room where the exam takes place. Of course, Dean has to sit in a way where he's able to see Cas, but Cas isn't able to see him.

Castiel is gorgeous. It's that simple actually. And it's just a fact. His dark hair is as messy as always, and some strands stick out at strange angles as if he had just climbed out of bed – it's natural sex hair.

Cas is cupping his chin in one hand, the elbow resting just below the sheets of paper on his desk, and with the other hand, he's writing. Dean can see that his brow is wrinkled slightly and that he's moving his lips silently when he reads his answers through.

Cas is cute, and he is gorgeous, and just everything Dean wants at the moment.

He looks down at his sheets of paper, swallowing and finishing to write down an answer. He should concentrate on this exam before he pops a boner right there and then. That would be a little hard to explain.

Biting his lip, he skims through the rest of the questions, and a small smile sneaks onto his lips. He knows the answers. He knows how to solve these math problems. Relief fills his chest, and he looks up one more time to glance at Cas before he starts writing again.

He does better on the exam than he thought he would, and he is glad about that. Dean leaves the classroom with a good feeling, thinking when the math exam went so well, the other exams will be a piece of cake as well. But his good mood doesn't last very long – as he should have expected. He sees Castiel leaving the school together with Garth, and suddenly he's angry.

Why is he always so angry? He can feel the rage in every cell of his body, it sets his nerve endings on fire, but in a more than just unpleasant way. It's practically hurting.

Dean clenches his jaw, leaving the school building. Without thinking about it, he takes his anger out on the next jock he sees before he goes home.

Sam continues to study with him, asking him questions and helping him to make flashcards with important facts to several topics. They call Bobby, telling him about how school is going and that John still spends most of their money on cheap spirits.

Dean gets drunk on the weekend, and John shouts at him for something they both won't remember the next day. John is drunk as well, and Dean doesn't understand half of the words he's saying. Sam waits patiently for the fight to be over, and it only ends after John pushed Dean so hard against the kitchen counter that there's a bruise embellishing his ribcage. It knocks the air out of Dean's lungs for a moment, and John uses it to disappear into his bedroom, slamming the door shut and locking it behind him.

Sam helps Dean upstairs, briefly examining the bruise before letting his brother lie down onto his bed. Dean's drunken mind feels hazy, and he mumbles something, seeing Sam's forehead creasing in confusion.

Sleep, Dean,” Sam sighs and leaves the room, closing the door quietly.

Dean rolls onto his back, thinking how the hell he's supposed to sleep, but then he's already falling off that edge, and his eyes slip closed.

He dreams of the ocean, warm water surrounding his body as he swims, feeling like soft hands gently touching his skin. The water is so blue , and Dean dives into it until he's completely underwater. He keeps his eyes open, and everything seems so intense and man, he's in love with this color. He wants to stay here, even when there's not enough air in his lungs anymore.

Maybe he shouldn't fight it. It doesn't have to be a bad thing – to die surrounded by so much beauty. At least, he will die in peace. The water warms him, and it doesn't matter that his lungs are screaming for air, because he barely notices it. But then he blinks, and suddenly he's awake again, staring at his bedroom ceiling instead of the blue ocean.

Dean feels strange. He smacks his lips. Did he just have a dream where he was drowning and he enjoyed it? Maybe he's even more fucked up than he originally thought.

He runs his fingers through his hair, concentrating on breathing even. What the hell is just wrong with him?

He's halfway through with the exams and so looking forward to finally graduating, when he meets Gadreel and Castiel in one of the bathrooms at school after another exam. He wants to wait for Sam to be through with his classes for today and to go to the park with him since John has a day off today. Neither of them is very keen on spending more time with their father than necessary.

It only figures that he has to run into Castiel of all things, Dean thinks.

Gadreel just washed his hands, drying them with a paper towel, and he looks up, when Dean enters the room, the door closing behind him with a slight creak. Gadreel grimaces, when he sees Dean and keeps scowling at him.

But Dean pays that no mind because Cas is weirdly staring at him. Dean licks his lips. A really sad expression lingers on Castiel's face for a few seconds before he's able to hide it from Dean. He looks at the blue-eyed boy questioningly, trying to figure out what's going on in Cas's head, but he already put on that mask that shields all his emotions from Dean.

All of a sudden, Dean feels the urge to talk with Castiel. It's a loud grumble deep inside of him. He wants to sort everything out, and then he wants to make out with Cas, forgetting about everything bad that ever happened between them, since they just made everything right.

The urge burns so intensively inside of him that he even forgets about Gadreel being right there for a moment. But then Gadreel says something, and Dean's eyes and his attention snap back to him.

What you're staring at, douchebag?”

Man, Dean doesn't like this guy.

Whatever do you want?” Dean asks aggressively, already dropping his backpack to the floor and being ready for a fight.

Gadreel steps closer, eyebrows pressed together angrily, and he seems to be in for it as well, throwing his paper towel away. Dean wants to beat the shit out of this guy, just like he did with Cole and Malachi. As always he doesn't care that he shouldn't project his anger onto random people, who don't do much more than looking askant at him.

But Castiel swiftly steps between them, and Dean doesn't know what to think, because they're standing so close suddenly. He and Cas weren't so close for a long time, and it silences his mind and even his anger a bit. Dean curses himself, because fucking shit, really ?

He even almost misses how Cas says to Gadreel, “Go. I got this.”

Dean's forehead creases in confusion. What? Why is Cas stepping in a gain?

Gadreel looks confused for a moment as well, and then he's looking angrily at Dean again, but he does leave. When the door closes with a click, Dean realizes he's alone with Castiel. They haven't been alone for weeks, and an odd warm starts to bloom in Dean's chest, no matter how coldly Castiel is looking at him. He missed the ocean, and it doesn't matter that it's frozen right now, although Dean wants to see it thaw again.

Dean swallows and asks the first thing that comes to his mind. “What are you doing?”

Cas stares at him, suddenly seeming uncertain as to what he's doing, why he told Gadreel to leave. Dean huffs a small breath and runs his fingers through his hair, tugging briefly at the brown strands. When he looks into Castiel's blue eyes again, he almost spills. He almost tells him how much he's missing him. The words are already on the tip of his tongue, wanting nothing more than to get out, but Dean swallows them, ignoring the bad taste they're leaving in his mouth. Fuck.

He walks past Castiel, in order not to look at him for a few moments. He wants to pretend that he needs to wash his hands, but he doesn't make it to a sink. Castiel grabs him abruptly and dashes him against the wall, putting his forearm against Dean's throat immediately to keep him in place.

Dean stares at him, slightly shocked, but more surprised than anything. Cas is even closer now, there are only a few inches between them, and he can feel the warmth radiating off Cas. Dean thinks about his recent dream, where he almost drowned in the warm ocean, and he doesn't know how to feel.

All he knows is that he likes having Cas so close to him. This isn't like when Alastair attacked him; Dean isn't disgusted and he isn't afraid. The way Cas is standing so close, bodies just almost pressing together, and how he's holding him up against the wall – it's hot.

Thank god, he doesn't blush, when he remembers that he jerked off to thoughts of the blue-eyed boy in front of him last night. He knows – fucking hell, really? He's already done this a couple of times by now, and he should feel disgusted with himself, but he can't help it. It's the only way he can have Castiel, and it sucks, and it's fucked up, but it feels so good. He can get so lost in thoughts of Cas, and he doesn't have to think about the consequences for a while. He only does this, when he's done.

The consequences are that he's even more attached to this boy, but he doesn't know how to stop. It's so stupid and weird. He has never felt like this before. He has never felt these feelings for a person before, and he wants it to stop. But how is he supposed to do that?

The voice in his head starts to speak yet again. Hey, remember? You hate him. And no, you don't want to kiss him right now.

That's not true, of course. Dean wants to kiss Cas. He wants to kiss him all the time.

It seems to make Cas unsure that Dean is so calm and relaxed, although he just hurled him against a wall and is still pressing him against it. His eyes wander over Dean's face questioningly, but Dean isn't scared of Cas. His inner turmoil is caused by different feelings than fear, and he takes advantage of Castiel's sudden uncertainty, without thinking about it.

He flips them over, so Castiel is the one, whose back is pressed against the wall, and now Dean is the one, who's pressing him against the wall – and that doesn't feel so bad either, fucking hell.

Cas looks at him, startled and maybe a bit scared, since his eyes widen a little when his back hits the wall, and his breath hitches for a moment. But he doesn't say anything. Dean puts his hands on either side of Castiel's head, and now he's also the one, who doesn't know what to do.

God, he wants to kiss Castiel so badly. Can't he just do that, and then everything's fine ? Maybe all his other problems will be magically fixed if he just kissed Cas.

Okay, that's too much. But he's sure all his other problems won't matter as much anymore, if he could just have Castiel.

Dean?” Cas asks quietly, carefully, and they just stare at each other.

Dean thinks Cas can see every little emotion that's flickering over his face, and also all his insecurities that seem to be plastered on his skin right now. He feels uncomfortable because of that, but also so comfortable , because Castiel is so close. And Dean still doesn't know what to do.

But he notices that Castiel relaxes, just slightly, and he doesn't seem to be scared anymore. He returns is look questioningly, and the sad expression is back in his eyes.

Why is Castiel sad? Because Dean wants to kiss him, and it's so painfully obvious? Or because Dean still hasn't kissed him? Dean searches for the answer to that question, but he only sees the sadness deep in Castiel's blue eyes, darkening the blue marginally.

What should he do? What is he supposed to do? What's the right thing to do? What does he want to do? And why is everything always so fucking complicated? Why can't he just have Cas? Why can't he just be a good person and good enough for the blue-eyed boy?

And what if Cas doesn't even want to kiss him? What if Dean is making their whole situation even more painful and also awkward right now?

But what if Cas wants to kiss him?

Dean hates this so much; what the fuck is he supposed to do? Why are there only questions and no answers in his head? Why was it so easy to say fuck it , and just walk over to Anna Milton, and to kiss her? Why can't he do this right now and kiss Castiel?

Because Anna was the wrong person, and Cas is the right person. Because Cas is special and means something. He is gorgeous, and Dean wants to kiss him . Dean wants him. That's why it's so fucking hard. Because Cas is worth something. But not Dean. He is too good for Dean. Dean's not enough for him. Cas deserves so much more, so much better than Dean.

So, why is he still staring back at Dean without saying a word? And why the fuck is he looking so sad? He could have pushed Dean away and just leave, but he stayed. Why? A small spark of hope settles in his heart, even though Dean doesn't want it to.

Maybe he should risk it. It can't get even worse, right?

All of a sudden, the door opens with a loud bang. The one, who opened it, did it so violently that the door crashes against the wall. Dean and Cas both jump in surprise and back away from each other a bit, looking at the boy, who's entering the bathroom with a big grin on his face.

Alastair.

Well, look what the cat dragged in,” he says, biting his lip.

Dean feels his anger coming back just at the sight of Al.

Fuck off, Alastair,” he says fretfully.

Hell, he was so close to finally kiss Castiel.

What is Al even doing here?

Dean looks at Cas, who doesn't look any less angry. But there's also a glimmer of suspicion in his eyes as he glares at Alastair. Dean looks at Al warily, remembering all the times he caught him staring at him with his cold eyes. He's sure by now that Alastair spends far too much time watching him and maybe even thinking about him. But he doesn't know what Al wants from him.

Now Alastair is also looking so weirdly – so stalker-like – at Castiel. What the hell is wrong with this guy?

Al clicks is tongue at Dean's rude words and tone of voice, shaking his head slightly, grinning and staring at them – like a freaking psychopath.

Castiel steps in front of Dean, slowly and calmly, as if he didn't want to show all of his emotions to Alastair, but he's still looking at Al skeptically. He has raised one eyebrow, glaring at Alastair, and once again, Dean can understand why Al is only the runner-up and why Castiel is at the top of the hierarchy.

And now that this glare isn't directed at Dean, he has the chance to admire it. Castiel looks even hotter. He truly looks like a bad boy, a badass. Dean bites the inside of his cheek, knowing that this isn't the right time to think about something like that, but he can't help it.

What do you want, Alastair?” Cas asks in a low voice, menacingly and boredly at the same time.

Al looks from Dean to Castiel, both questioningly and calculating. Dean's sure Al also noticed that Castiel stepped in front of Dean. Dean just doesn't know what it means. And he doesn't know if Alastair has seen them, how they stood against the wall, so close together, almost kissing.

That still pisses Dean off, and he still wants to kiss Cas. But does it matter if Alastair has seen them like this? Does it matter to Al?

Apparently, yes – somehow at least.

So, you're talking to each other again?” Alastair asks with a smirk.

Dean darts a glance at Cas, who's clenching his fists, and he suddenly looks like he's about to attack Alastair. He doesn't understand this shift in Cas's expression, but he does understand that they shouldn't start a fight here.

He'd like nothing more than to inflict as much pain as possible on Alastair, but he has a weird feeling in his stomach – it's like his subconsciousness is trying to tell him that it would be wrong. Dean goes with his gut.

Carefully, he puts a hand in front of Cas without touching him, just holding his hand a few inches away from his torso, but stepping a bit closer to him, so he's able to look him in the eye properly. Castiel tears his eyes away from Alastair and looks at him. Dean shrugs his shoulders, briefly glancing at Al.

He's not worth it. Let's just go.”

He doesn't look over at Alastair to see the reaction to his words. He keeps his eyes on Castiel's face. Cas creases his forehead slightly and hesitates noticeably, but then he inhales and nods. Dean nods as well, and they go past Alastair, who's squinting at them, to the door.

Dean picks up his backpack on the way, and his hand is already on the doorknob when he sees a sudden movement next to him. One of Al's bony hands wraps around Castiel's upper arm, holding him back, and then pulling at his arm quickly without a warning, and punching Castiel in the face. Cas's nose starts to bleed immediately, and he groans, but Dean didn't hear it break.

He drops his backpack again, grabbing Alastair, who's grinning idly at Cas's bloody nose, and pushes him hard against the wall next to the door.

Castiel wipes the blood under his nose with the back of his hand a bit, but a small stream already ran down over his lips and chin, so he's smearing the blood more over the bottom half of his face. He gently grabs Dean's wrists, who lets go of Alastair's collar and lets Cas draw him aside.

Dean watches how Castiel stares at Al for a moment, angrily and somehow patronizingly. A small smirk is playing on Castiel's lips, and he glances at Dean before he hauls off and lands an impressive punch across Alastair's jaw, whose head connects with the wall behind him. Al growls, glaring at Castiel with pure hatred now.

Fuck off,” Castiel tells him, his voice low, and gravelly, and dangerously. “And now go, or you'll regret it.”

Cas is still standing very close to Alastair – too close for Dean's liking, but he bites the inside of his cheek a little harder and doesn't say something, because Castiel seems to know what he's doing – and for a moment, they just glare at each other.

Dean tries not to look too amazed at Castiel, but holy shit, he is in awe by the blue-eyed boy. He likes to think, when he's alone with Cas again, he can just push him gently against the locked door and kiss him until they forget that Alastair ever interrupted them in the first place.

Al's smirk is gone by now, but he does actually leave, glancing to and fro between Cas and Dean.

Dean stares at the closed door after Alastair left the room. Castiel turns around and goes over to the sinks, grabbing a paper towel and wetting it before looking in the mirror. He washes the blood off his face and his hand, and there's a strange twinkle in his eyes. It unsettles Dean.

He stares at Cas and knows that he doesn't have the guts to do what he wants to do – to kiss Castiel, to push him against the wall, and to make out with him. It doesn't feel right to do this right now. There's something else that's more important.

Are you okay?” Dean asks, not stopping to look at Castiel.

He's glad that Cas isn't running away from him again. But then Castiel returns his look, and Dean has a lump in his throat. For two seconds, Castiel allows Dean to see his brokenness, and he doesn't have to answer Dean's question anymore since the look in his eyes says it all.

I'm sorry,” Cas says quietly, tilting his head a little bit and looking at Dean. “Believe me, I am sorry.”

He throws the paper towel away and walks past Dean, leaving the room. Dean is confused and stares at the place where Cas just stood a few seconds ago. But he doesn't follow Castiel.

For what did Castiel apologize?

The next days, whenever they see each other and lock eyes, it feels different again. Dean knows something has changed, but he can't quite grasp it. He does realize that Cas (probably) apologized for stopping to talk to him without giving him an explanation. But what does it all mean?

They did almost kiss – again, just like at Anna's party, but it was even more intense –, and Dean doesn't know how to feel. He still wants to kiss Cas, and he's still angry with Alastair for interrupting them. Maybe he would have kissed Cas if Alastair hadn't dashed into the room.

Did Castiel want to kiss him as well, or not? Does he think about him, too? Does he miss him, too?

He is sorry for ditching Dean as he did. And Cas relaxed when Dean stood so close to him. He relaxed and he stayed there, waiting for whatever Dean would decide to do. But Dean didn't have the chance to make a decision with Alastair barging in.

He'd like to think that he would have kissed Cas at some point, that he would have done it.

But, now what? Should he go to Castiel and try to talk to him? He doesn't know. But Dean decides to stop pretending to himself that he hates Castiel Novak. It didn't work anyway, though it still feels like a huge burden is lifted from his shoulders.

He can admit, at least to himself, that he likes Cas – a lot. Maybe it's even a crush.

Hell, it is a crush.

He has a crush on the blue-eyed boy, but how couldn't he? Dean is bisexual, and Cas is the most gorgeous boy that ever walked the earth. Of course , he has a crush on him.

But his bisexuality doesn't tell him what he's supposed to do now.

Sam tries again to ask what he's always thinking about. He seems to notice that Dean's mood changed somehow once again. Dean doesn't know what to tell him. He's not out to his little brother yet, so Sam doesn't know he's bi.

He bites his lip, looking at Sam, who's sitting on his desk chair and just finished his homework. Sam raises his eyebrows. Dean sighs, crossing his legs where he's sitting on Sam's bed.

I like someone,” he says hesitantly, glancing at Sam.

Sam's face lights up immediately. “Who is it?” he asks with a grin.

Dean scoffs, shaking his head. “As if I'm going to tell you that.”

Sam purses his lips, but he seems to know that Dean won't tell him who it is. So, he thinks of another question.

Does she know?”

Dean smiles a little, and for now, he rolls with the wrong pronouns. “No, I haven't told her.”

Why not?” Sam asks curiously.

Dean huffs a breath, throwing a pillow at Sam. Sam catches it with a snort.

I can't just go up to her and tell her.”

His little brother cocks his head. “But how is she supposed to know then?”

Dean ponders over that for a moment. He thinks that Cas already knows, or at least assumes, that Dean likes him. But then again...

Maybe I don't want her to know.”

Doesn't that suck?”

He huffs a small humorless laugh. “Yeah, it's... it's complicated, I guess.”

Do you think she doesn't like you back?” Sam wonders.

Dean returns his look, shrugging his shoulders. “I'm not sure about that,” he says, and it's true.

He has no idea what's going on in Castiel's head, whether Cas likes him back or not. Sometimes, he thinks there's no way Cas could ever like him, and then there are moments like the one in the bathroom at school, and he thinks – he hopes that Cas does like him back.

Sam smiles at him, throwing the pillow back to him. “If you tell her, you'll know.”

Dean nods halfheartedly. The way Sam says this, it sounds so easy. But Sam doesn't even know half the details. Dean knows that it isn't this easy.

Sam briefly looks out the window; it's dark outside, and the street light illuminates the asphalt in an orange glow. Dean rubs his face, glancing at Sam's alarm clock on the nightstand. It's shortly after midnight. John left the house a few hours ago, and Dean assumes he'll be back maybe around 3 or 4 am.

So, that's why you're in a bad mood lately?” Sam asks carefully.

Dean darts a small glance at his little brother before he looks at his hands.

Yeah,” he says quietly.

His guilty conscience pipes up, and he feels bad. Because he was in a bad mood, Sam was in a bad mood often as well. It wasn't fair to Sam. Dean is the big brother, so he has to act like a big brother. He's supposed to be there for his little brother, and not to be the reason why he's in a bad mood.

Hey, let's go to bed,” Dean says, after a few moments of silence, and Sam just nods, packing up his stuff.

They brush their teeth quickly, and Dean tucks Sam into bed, thinking that his little brother is slowly getting too old for this. But Sam doesn't seem to mind, wishing Dean a goodnight and closing his eyes, when Dean turns off the light and closes his bedroom door. Dean walks over into his room, letting his body fall into bed and sighing.

The last exams pass by in a blur, and Dean is busy with studying, thinking about a certain blue-eyed boy, being a better big brother, retaining his bad boy reputation, and keeping an eye on Alastair (who didn't approach him again so far). But he still hasn't talked to Castiel. He doesn't know what he should even say. Or if he should just kiss him finally. He's bad at making decisions, and it sucks.

Sam tried a few times to find out who it is that Dean likes, but Dean didn't tell him. He doesn't think that Sam will be mad at him or stop talking to him when he tells him he's also into boys. But coming out isn't easy. Dean doesn't know how to start this conversation with his brother. So, he just smiles whenever Sam tells him to just talk to her .

Dean wishes it were that easy, that he could just go over to Cas, talk to him, and tell him that he likes him and that he wants to kiss him. If he knew what Cas is thinking about him and the whole situation, maybe then he'd do it. If he knew for sure that Cas does like him back, then he would do it.

But he doesn't know what Cas is thinking, and it doesn't look like Cas is going to make the first step and talk to him either. Since Castiel apologized in the bathroom, they only locked eyes now and then, but they didn't exchange any words.

When Dean hears that he passed all his exams with relatively good grades, his mood brightens so much that he thinks maybe he'll talk to Cas during prom .

But again, things are getting worse and Dean really, really shouldn't be surprised anymore.

He comes home with Sam after the graduation ceremony, and he still can't believe that he graduated, that he's done with school for good. He's in a relatively good mood when they enter the house and hell, maybe he's going to kiss Castiel tonight. That's a very good reason to be in a good mood, isn't it?

But his good mood starts to fade, when he spots John in the kitchen, drinking straight out of a bottle of Jack Daniel's . John glares at them, wiping his mouth with the back of his hand.

Dean's first thought is that their dad is home early – he had a morning shift, a perfect excuse not to come to Dean's graduation ceremony. Dean didn't mind it, because Sam was there, and that's enough for him.

He squints at the clock and realizes that John isn't just home early – he's too early. He shouldn't be here already, he should still be at work. Dean has a presentiment, and he looks at John and the bottle in his hand warily.

Hey, dad,” Sam greets him, eyeing the bottle in John's hand as well.

He darts a glance at Dean, and they're both waiting for the inevitable. They don't have to wait very long, though. John is silent for a few moments, swaying a bit, and then he puts the bottle on the counter and looks at them.

I got fired today.”

Dean feels the disappointment washing over him and clinging to his skin, even though his brain needs a few seconds to catch up to what his dad just told them. Nevertheless, his heart is dropping right away.

Five months. That has to be a new record,” Sam says bitterly, loud enough for everyone to hear.

John's eyes start to wander over to Sam, and Dean is already getting ready to hold John back, thinking of things he could say to calm his dad down again. It's not like he doesn't agree with Sam's words, it's just that he knows they will make John angry.

And John looks furious for a moment, reasons enough for Dean to step in front of Sam to protect him. There's the usual rage burning in John's eyes, but it's weirdly dull and only lasts for a few seconds. It just flickers out, like a candle that got blown out by the wind. John's shoulders slump as soon as the rage disappears from his eyes. Without another word, their father walks past them, not looking at them anymore, and locks himself in his bedroom.

Dean looks after their dad, confused and also angry. John got fired – once again. Where do they go from here? It was only a matter of time until John would lose his job again – they all knew that –, but now that it did happen, it feels strange. It feels different from all the other countless times when John has lost his job.

Usually, there was always a fight. John was always angry at everything, so he would shout at everything while drinking until passing out. But now, he didn't throw a fit. Maybe he's postponing it, although it would be the first time.

They go upstairs and into Sam's room after a few minutes, when John doesn't come out of his bedroom again. Dean locks the door, in case John wakes up and wants to vent his spleen. It sucks, but Dean won't go to prom tonight. He can't leave Sam alone with John, not when nobody knows what their father is going to do.

Sam smiles at him apologetically before he starts to write something down in a notebook. Dean flops down on Sam's bed and waits. He's waiting for John to wake up and start throwing their furnishings around. He's waiting for John to come upstairs, yelling their names and banging his fist against the door. He's tensed, but he has to be ready when John gets controlled by his fit of rage again. He has to protect his little brother.

The afternoon drags on, and Sam keeps writing and drawing in the notebook, and Dean keeps staring at the ceiling until it starts to get dark outside and his stomach starts to growl. He bites his lip, but Sam is hungry as well, and they haven't heard anything from John so far. So, Dean sneaks downstairs and hastily throws together a few sandwiches. They both feel better with a full stomach, and around 11 pm Sam crawls into bed next to Dean and falls asleep a few minutes later.

Dean needs longer to fall asleep – as always actually – and he's still waiting for John to do something, but nothing happens. Their dad doesn't come out of his room. He doesn't start throwing a fit. He doesn't shout and demands to see them, so he can take his anger out on them. None of the usual stuff happens, and it almost freaks Dean out even more.

He's pissed off because he missed prom and his chance to kiss Castiel, although a tiny voice in the back of his head is asking if it weren't for the better anyway. Maybe Cas doesn't want to kiss Dean and Dean has just imagined all these little indications that he might want to kiss him. He didn't get a lot of sleep last night, and his mind is almost an even bigger mess than normally.

The Impala is still standing in the driveway the next morning, and they hear loud snoring that's coming out of John's room. Sam scoffs at that, muttering under his breath that at least one of them is getting some peaceful sleep. Dean scoffs as well, and they eat toast with Nutella and cheese strings for breakfast in comfortable silence – apart from John's snoring, but they try to ignore it.

After they cleaned up the kitchen, Dean sighs and grabs his phone, dialing Bobby's phone number.

Thought I wouldn't hear anything from you again,” Bobby answers the call grumpily.

Dean realizes that he hasn't called Bobby for a while. He pinches the bridge of his nose.

Sorry about that, Bobby.”

Don't mention it. Why you're calling now? What happened?” Bobby says, and Dean imagines that Bobby just shrugged his shoulders.

Dad got fired,” Dean says unceremoniously.

Well, that's a good reason to call.”

You don't sound very surprised,” Dean notices.

Why would I be surprised? Are you surprised that he got fired?”

No, not really,” Dean admits quietly.

You see? I'm more surprised that he kept the job for so long,” Bobby scoffs, and Dean huffs a small breath. “What now, boy? What are you going to do?”

I don't know,” Dean says, telling Bobby how John locked himself in his bedroom yesterday and hasn't come out since then.

Maybe he'll finally get his act together.”

Do you really believe that, Bobby?“ Dean asks, wrinkling his forehead.

Bobby is silent for a second, then he huffs a small humorless laugh. “No, not really.”

Dean doesn't know what else to say on the topic of his alcoholic father, so he tells Bobby all about the graduation ceremony. Bobby is proud of him and he tells him that. Dean feels better, hearing these words. It means a lot to him, more than he'd like to admit.

Thanks, Bobby,” he mumbles.

The summer holidays start, and it's all feeling so strangely and insanely odd because Dean knows that he won't go back to school in a few weeks. He didn't think that he'd graduate with the grades he did, and he didn't apply to any colleges. He doesn't know what will be in a few weeks, and he's not so sure if he wants to know it.

Sam keeps asking where do they go from here – if they are going to move again. Dean isn't able to answer his little brother's questions, because he doesn't know it either.

John keeps behaving differently, and they don't know what to expect. Their father doesn't come out of his bedroom for anything else than going to the bathroom and to get something to eat once in a while, and he always ensures that neither Dean nor Sam is setting eyes on him.

And that again keeps Dean on edge. John behaves almost like a deer that wants to prevent at all costs to be caught in the headlights. He never did something like that before. John Winchester is always eager to fight, he never avoids any confrontations. What's wrong with him now? What's so different this time?

Dean has no idea what John is going to do next, but he has the feeling that John doesn't know that either. It irritates Dean. He wonders why everything has to be so different in this town, and why things aren't the way they always used to be. He needs to have a certain routine. He doesn't like it when things are changing. And now, so many things are different than usual, so many things have changed all at once.

He waits a couple of days to see if John falls back into his normal behavior. But it doesn't happen. So, one night Dean tucks Sam into bed and goes into the kitchen, sitting down on one of the chairs around the table. He'll wait for John to come out of his room, and then they'll talk. They have to talk.

Dean went to the park with Sam, or they walked into the forest in the last days, but not too far since it would have sucked to get lost. Dean remembers the one time in winter when he got lost in the forest, shortly after they've moved here. It was a bummer, and he wants to spare Sam of making this experience.

Around 1 am, John emerges from his room and comes into the kitchen, wearing old sweatpants and a t-shirt with several holes in it. He squints at Dean but doesn't say something. Dean watches him going to the fridge and opening it, and he sighs.

Dad, can we talk?”

John doesn't answer, but rather rummages through the fridge, taking the milk carton and sniffing at the milk. Dean rubs his eyes – he's tired, but he knows he can't give up so easily.

Dad?” he tries again, speaking louder this time.

John turns around and glares at him, but he puts the milk back into the fridge and closes the fridge door. Dean bites his lip, but he thinks he's allowed to continue speaking. He simply asks John if they are going to move again. John seems to think about that, his forehead creasing, and he looks at his son for a long moment.

No,” he replies just as simply, but sternly.

Then, he goes back to his bedroom, locking the door behind him once again. Dean stays in the kitchen, feeling puzzled and helpless. He has a few hours until Sam is going to wake up, and in the early hours of the morning, he makes a decision.

John doesn't come out of his room again that night, and Dean doesn't get a wink of sleep, but he announces to Sam that he's going to get a job. His little brother isn't surprised by that, he just nods, biting his lip.

Yeah, we need the money,” he says.

Dean agrees; they don't have any real food in the fridge anymore, and all Dean has left are 20 dollars in his wallet. He doesn't know if John has any money somewhere in his bedroom, but he figures that that's not very likely.

He looks at Sam and then at the floor, sighing. That he'll get a job, that's a given and not the decision he made last night. What he decided has to do with Sam and it sucks, but he knows it will be the best for his little brother.

Sam looks at him questioningly, noticing that he's feeling uncomfortable. Dean doesn't beat around the bush and gets the words out before he's able to chicken out of it.

Sammy, you'll go back to Bobby.”

Sam blinks up at him. “What do you mean?”

What I just said. I don't know how fast I'll be able to get a job, and I don't know what dad is going to do. I can't look after the both of you. I'm sorry. And this way I don't have to worry about leaving you alone with dad.”

Dean can see that Sam understands why this is necessary, but he's still mad.

I don't want to go back to Bobby without you.”

It's only for the summer holidays,” Dean says, smiling a bit. “In a few weeks, you'll come back, and then I'll have the money that we need.”

Sam doesn't meet his eyes. “Did you talk with Bobby about this?” he asks, and Dean shakes his head.

Not yet. But I'll call him.”

Sam just nods and goes upstairs into his room. Dean knows he's doing the right thing, but he's still feeling bad because of it.

He calls Bobby and of course, Bobby approves of taking Sam for a few weeks.

Don't you want to come, too, Dean?” he asks.

Dean expected this question already.

No, Bobby,” he says quietly. “I have to stay here. I'll get a job and look after dad.”

After the phone call, he feels even more miserable. The thought that John would have said no to Bobby as well is nagging at his insides, but he pushes it to the back of his mind for now.

They don't bother telling John that Sam is going to leave for a while. Dean is sure that John won't be too keen on it, but he'll be the one, who has to deal with that. He'll tell John about it, when Sam isn't there anymore, when Sam is out of reach of their father's anger. Dean doesn't care that he's going to take the brunt of it.

Sam seems like he wants to say something about that, but he bites it back. He probably knows that Dean wants to be the one, who has to deal with it.

Dean helps his little brother to pack up all his stuff, and it feels weird, because usually they always pack their stuff together, but this time only one of them is going to leave. Dean distracts himself by putting Sam in a chair in the bathroom and poorly giving him a haircut. Sam doesn't waste any words on it, though, and just thanks him, when he's done.

They spend the rest of the day watching crap daytime TV, and neither of them mentions that Sam is going to drive to Bobby tomorrow.

Bobby paid for the bus ticket they bought online, and Dean fully intends on giving him the money for it back as soon as possible, although Bobby said that it's no problem.

When it's time for them to leave the next day, they go to the bus station. Dean gives Sam a piggy-back ride, struggling a bit under Sam's weight since he's grown quite a bit yet again. Sam pinches his ear and calls him a wuss when Dean complains about it. Dean chuckles, but his heart is heavy.

They have a few minutes left before the bus comes, and Dean puts Sammy's bag and also Sam down. Sam stares down the street, fiddling with the strap of his backpack that's hanging on his shoulder.

“Hey,” Dean says, kneeling down in front of Sam. “You're nice to Bobby, okay? I don't want to get a call saying I can have you back earlier,” he jokes, and Sam rolls his eyes.

“I'm not a little kid anymore, Dean. You don't have to tell me something like that.”

“Yeah, I know,” Dean says. “Take care of yourself. And call me regularly. When something happens, you call me right away.”

Sam nods, pressing his lips together. “Okay,” he says and looks past Dean.

The bus just drove around the corner. Dean stands again and grabs Sam's bag. The door of the bus opens and Sam enters it, taking the bag Dean is handing him. Suddenly, Sam is hugging him. Dean automatically slings his arms around his little brother.

“Take care of yourself, too, Dean,” Sam mutters before he lets go of him.

Dean smiles and nods. “Always. You know me, Sammy.”

“It's Sam,” Sam snorts, but he's smiling back at him.

Then, he shows his ticket to the bus driver and looks for a place to sit. He decides for a seat near the window, so he can wave Dean goodbye. The bus drives off, and Dean waves back until the bus disappears from his sight. He just stands there for a moment, biting his lip a little too hard, but then he sighs and turns around.

He goes home. John is still sleeping, when he enters the house; he didn't even notice that they left the house. Dean wants to wait for John to notice that Sam isn't there, and only then he's going to tell him about where Sam is. He nods to himself and goes upstairs into his room.

He feels awful. He keeps telling himself that it's the right thing to send Sam to Bobby. At least, Sam will have nice summer holidays, and he won't have to deal with John, and he also won't have to worry if they have enough money or food.

Dean is going to deal with John and whatever he's going to do, and Dean is going to worry if he has enough money or food. Bobby will take care of Sam. Maybe they'll go fishing, or Bobby will get Sam to help him in his garage. Bobby also has tons of books Sam wants to read, the little nerd he is.

Dean tries to relax and to smile. Sam will have it good at Bobby's place, that's for sure. And that's all that matters to Dean. He doesn't care about himself. He doesn't care about what John is going to do to him, when he finds out he sent Sam to Bobby, as long as his little brother is safe.

That's the reason why he denied himself to go to prom. He wanted to go, he wanted to talk to Castiel and to kiss him, but then John got fired and he couldn't leave Sam alone with their father.

Sure, nothing happened, but if something had happened and Dean hadn't been there, he wouldn't have been able to forgive himself for that. He is the big brother, and his job is to protect his little brother. No matter how much he wanted to see Castiel.

Hell, he still wants to see him. He still wants to talk to Cas. He still wants to kiss the blue-eyed boy.

And he didn't put Sam before Castiel. Dean put Sam before his wishes. Just like always.

Dean swallows, looking at the ceiling with a scowl on his face. He wonders why his life has to be like this . Why he had to lose his mother when he was only six years old. Why his father had to start drinking and beating up his children after he lost his wife. Why he had to develop such intense feelings for someone he can't have.

Sometimes, he just wonders if maybe his entire existence is simply a complete joke to the universe.

 

Chapter Text

Scribbling down the order of an elderly man, and nodding and smiling at him, Cas tries not to freak out. He hastily passes it on to Benny before he goes over to another table.

Lunchtime is one of the busiest times at Pamela's diner, and it's only Castiel's second shift here – he's not used to this kind of stress. Besides, he's not nearly as fast as Pamela or Benny, due to this only being his second shift, and somehow it's bothering him. But both, Pamela and Benny told him that he's doing well already and that he just needed some time to accustom himself.

When lunchtime is over, it gets quieter again, and Cas has more room to breathe. It's a good thing that he's feeling so comfortable at Pamela's diner. He knows he wouldn't be able to face this kind of stress if he weren't feeling this comfortable here.

Crowley is his next guest, grinning up at him from his seat. It's so hot outside that the Brit abandoned his pea coat today.

“What can I get you?” Cas asks, grinning back at his friend.

“A coffee, black. That's all. How's it going?”

Cas just shrugs, looking around. “It's okay,” he mutters.

Crowley squints at him, but he doesn't say anything about it. “Do you want to come to me after work?”

Cas bites his lip. “Is it okay, when we go to me?” he asks.

Lucifer wants to have dinner together today, and he knows that if they went to Crowley's apartment, they would get drunk or high, and then he'd never be home in time.

“Sure,” Crowley says, immediately agreeing without asking any questions.

“Great. My shift is over in half an hour.”

Time goes by relatively fast, and then Cas and Crowley farewell Pamela and Benny. Pamela says she's glad to have him, and Cas smiles back at her sheepishly, knowing he's not that much help yet. Benny is still sulking and in a bad mood, but no one mentions it, though Castiel and Crowley shoot a quick look at each other.

They leave the diner and as soon as the door is closed behind them, Crowley starts to giggle. Cas huffs a small laugh, rolling his eyes.

“It's not funny.”

Yeah, it's hilarious,” Crowley says defensively.

Castiel begins to say something, but Crowley cuts him off.

Come on. He isn't heartbroken. The problem is just his injured pride.”

“I know, but still...,” Cas says, pressing his lips together.

“Nah, he's just sulking,” Crowley means. “It'll be over soon, at the latest when he starts his apprenticeship after the summer break.”

Castiel thinks about that for a moment, and he cannot do otherwise but to agree with the Brit. Benny's heart is not broken, he's just mad and sulking. It won't last too long. Crowley reads off his face that he knows he's right, and Cas shakes his head.

“Benny won't talk about it, though. But I don't even know what exactly happened. Do you?” Crowley says, looking at Cas from the side.

Er, Benny and Madison went to prom together, and then there was a fight. I don't know what the fight was about, but Madison left, and now she has quit her job at Pamela's diner and apparently, she is about to move back to her mom.”

He screws up his nose, trying to think of something else, but he can't remember anything else about the breakup. Even though prom was only a week ago, it's already a distant memory. The only thing that's still distinct in his mind is the fact that Dean wasn't there. But before he can start to think about the green-eyed boy, Crowley starts talking again.

“I barely remember something from prom,” he chuckles, and Cas is just able to huff a breath, blinking at his feet.

They walk in silence for a few minutes, and Castiel notices that Crowley is eyeing him. He sighs.

“What?”

“How are you?” Crowley asks bluntly.

“I'm fine,” Cas replies right away, the words rolling off his tongue a little bit too quickly.

Here's a tip. Don't lie to a liar.”

Cas scoffs, but he doesn't know what to say. He bites his lip.

“I have something to do,” he says hesitantly after another moment of silence.

“And that's enough?” Crowley wonders doubtfully.

“For now,” Cas decides, putting his hands into the pockets of his jeans, “it has to be enough.”

He knows that Crowley isn't pleased with this answer, but the Brit doesn't dwell on it. Instead, he means that it's nice of Pamela to offer him a job like Missouri did. Cas agrees with that, but he also thinks that Pamela just needed someone, now that Madison isn't there anymore – and after the summer break, Benny is going to stop working at her diner as well.

When they arrive at Castiel's home, he's a little sweaty, since he's wearing a sweater, although it's hot outside. He's feeling uncomfortable, but he knows he'd be even more uncomfortable when his scars were visible.

After a quick hello to Lucifer, they go upstairs into Castiel's bedroom, and Crowley flops down on his desk chair, looking out of the window and snatching his ashtray that's been on the window sill. Cas sits down on his bed and tosses Crowley his cigarette pack. They spend the afternoon talking, drinking beer and soda, listening to music, and smoking.

Crowley is going to fly to New York in a few days. It's their main topic of conversation.

“How excited are you?” Cas asks.

“Very,” Crowley replies simply, shrugging his shoulders. “But my family took already care of finding an apartment for me, so I don't have to worry about that. Everything else is also cleared by now. The only thing I have to do is find a job.”

Cas nods. “Sounds good.”

He can relate to wanting to have a job and one's own money. This way Crowley won't depend completely on his family, just like Castiel and also Lucifer don't depend on their father, especially now that they both have jobs.

As always, Crowley starts complaining about his music at some point.

“Like really, you're always listening to the same band, when I'm here. Are you just doing this to annoy me?” he asks jestingly.

Hey, Panic! At The Disco is amazing,” Cas shoots back, raising one eyebrow at Crowley, who's shaking is head.

But Cas is smiling and damn, he knows he's going to miss the Brit.

Towards evening, Lucifer calls them downstairs, and they make hamburgers together. Lucifer asks about New York as well while they're eating, and Crowley answers all of his questions, but Castiel notices that his friend is looking at him a few times as if he wanted to say something. He's shooting Cas an especially long look when he's leaving.

It's after midnight and Cas is tired, but that's not the only reason why he ignores the way Crowley is looking at him. He doesn't pry, because he isn't sure if he even wants to hear what Crowley is almost about to say.

When Crowley left the house, Castiel says goodnight to his brother and disappears into his bedroom, trying to forget how close Crowley was to say whatever it was he wanted to say.

Two days later, he has his first shift at Missouri's shop. But he already wakes up in a bad mood somehow, so he showers bad-tempered, and makes himself some toast and coffee with a sour face.

His brother is still asleep, and Cas remembers that Lucifer has a day off today. Before he leaves the house, he knocks on Lucifer's bedroom door, waking him up and telling him he'll go to Missouri now.

Lucifer answers with a muffled, “Have fun.”

Castiel huffs a breath, shaking his head. “Bye.”

Summer is in full swing, and it's hot outside. Castiel hates it so fucking much. He's wearing grey jeans and a simple white t-shirt under a thin red jacket that's only purpose is to hide his scars. He sighs, rubbing his arms and hoping that the air conditioning system in Missouri's shop is working.

Missouri is happy to see him, as always. Although today is his first day working here, it's a little different than at Pamela's diner, because he's familiar with most of it. There are only two new things, the contact with the customers and the dealing with the register. But Cas realizes quickly that that's no big deal for him.

Unfortunately, it's not a busy day and Missouri has to call a lot of people, mostly the producers of the items she's selling and doesn't make herself. That's why Castiel has a lot of time to think, and he doesn't enjoy it. He's trying to avoid thinking about Dean, so he thinks about his friends.

Charlie and Dorothy are still a cute couple, totally in love with each other, and in a few weeks, they will go to college together. Kevin has also some time until the new school year starts for him, and he wants to spend most of the summer break in his room, either studying or playing video games.

Gabriel will go to college as well, which is kind of a big surprise. No one expected Gabe to go to college immediately, not even Gabriel himself. Crowley will leave the day after tomorrow and start his new life in New York.

Benny and Gadreel are going to start their apprenticeships next month, and Ash and Garth already hit the road the day after prom. They both wanted some time off before they start their lives after high school.

Castiel thought about a road trip as well, but he doesn't know why he decided against it. Though, he also doesn't know why he should have decided for going on a road trip.

Halfway through his shift, he gets a text from Meg that says they're all going to meet at the bar later to give Crowley a farewell party. A smile tugs at the corners of Cas's mouth for the first time today. He replies he'll be there, trying to look forward to it.

But when he's in the aisle where the nail polish is, something is pulling at his insides, and he gets reminded of Dean, of the green nail polish that's still in the drawer of his nightstand, and of the green of Dean's eyes that burned so intensely in the bathroom at school, when Dean pressed him against the wall.

Damn it , he thinks and sighs heavily, running his fingers through his hair a bit too roughly, swallowing hard and continuing to sweep the floor.

Twenty minutes before his shift ends, a customer enters the shop. The man buys so many things that Cas is finally busy and isn't able to think about Dean anymore. He assumes that the man is passing through town, buying a few gifts for his friends and family. Missouri joins them after a few minutes and helps Castiel with everything. The man leaves the shop with a happy smile on his face, laden with a couple of paper bags, two minutes before Cas's shift ends.

When he says goodbye to Missouri, she asks how he's feeling. Castiel doesn't want to lie to her, so he shrugs his shoulders, and a knowing expression slides onto her face.

“I've already told you this. I think you should talk to Dean.”

Cas breaks eye contact and looks at the floor, and Missouri keeps talking.

These feelings that you have for Dean aren't going to disappear all of a sudden. And after what you told me about what has happened in that bathroom at school, it seems very likely that Dean does like you back.”

Cas bites his lip, not knowing what to say, so he doesn't say anything at all and keeps staring at the floor.

“Honey, look at me,” Missouri demands gently, and Castiel raises his eyes hesitantly.

“Communication is important. If you don't talk to Dean, how are you going to find out what he's thinking and what he wants from you? And Dean doesn't seem to hate you like you thought he did.”

He shrugs his shoulders halfheartedly. He doesn't know. That's the reason why he told Missouri about everything that has happened in the bathroom. He told her about Dean and Alastair, and that it was so obvious what's going on in Dean's mind. He wanted to kiss him. And hell, Cas wanted to kiss Dean as well. He wanted Dean to kiss him, and he's mad about Alastair interrupting them, but he's also kind of glad about it.

Castiel thought that Dean would hate him, that he doesn't want to have anything to do with him anymore. But he was wrong, and now he doesn't know how to feel about the whole situation.

His heart is saying that Missouri is right, but his anxiety is telling him something else.

Missouri sighs, sensing his inner turmoil.

You're a good person, Castiel. You are good enough. And you are a very good catch. This Dean is more than lucky that a boy like you has feelings for him.”

Cas huffs a small laugh, feeling strangely sad, heavy, and like he's about to start crying. Missouri sounds so serious and like she means what she just said to him. Fuck, he knows she does.

It's not a bad thing that you like him,” she tells him again, but Castiel can't bring himself to believe that.

He's so fucked up. Dean deserves someone better, and it just makes everything even worse that Dean does like him back apparently, because that means that he could have Dean, but he can't have Dean.

Missouri pulls him carefully into a hug, and Cas wraps his arms around her.

“I'm only telling you that you should talk to Dean because you're going to regret it if you didn't do it. You could miss out on one of the best things that will ever happen to you. You never know.”

Castiel goes home and he doesn't get what Missouri said to him and the look in Dean's eyes in the bathroom out of his head. Lucifer knows that something is wrong, and Cas is sorry that his brother is worried about him once again.

He has a snack together with Lucifer before he sets out for the farewell party. Castiel is one of the first to arrive and he grins at Meg, who's standing behind the counter. It's her third day of work, and she's complaining that Balthazar takes too much delight in rushing her all the time – of course, Balthazar denies that with a smirk.

Kevin is the next to arrive and he sits down next to Cas.

“I can't stay very long,” he tells them. “My mom doesn't want that.”

He's only allowed to be here because everyone knows he won't drink something, and neither Meg nor Balthazar would ever give him an alcoholic drink since they know Kevin's mom would be furious. And no one would ever dare to mess with Mrs. Tran.

Just as Kevin ends his sentence, Charlie and Dorothy enter the bar, of course walking hand in hand. They spot Cas and Kevin and come over to them, giving them both a hug and sitting down next to them. Gabriel, Gadreel, and Benny show up in the next ten minutes, and they all sit down at one of the bigger tables. Balthazar already provided them with peanuts while they're waiting for Crowley, who is last to arrive like it was planned – Billie sent her apologies, but she can't come due to some family matter.

Crowley isn't keen on this surprise farewell party at first. He loves to be the center of attention, just not like this , not when there are so many emotions involved. But then he sits down as well and buys the first round because Charlie has an excellent expression on her face that's a mixture between a pout and a glare.

They talk and drink; Balthazar and Meg bring them everything and always stay a little longer at their table than at the others.

Around 9 pm – the bar is crowded by now –, Kevin has to leave, and Benny offers to drive him home since he has an early shift tomorrow anyway. Dorothy leaves shortly after that because her mom called her and wanted her to come home. She farewells everyone and kisses Charlie on the cheek.

The rest of them stays until after midnight, but they mostly just talk and play cards. Cas can relax in the company of his friends, and he's even able to push Dean out of his head for a while. But he notices again that Crowley is looking at him weirdly and again, the Brit doesn't say what he wants to say.

Castiel tells himself that his friend would talk to him, if it were really important, especially because he's going to leave soon. But he knows that's just an excuse to stop wondering about what it is that Crowley doesn't tell him. Cas has the hope – and also the fear – that Crowley is going to talk to him before he leaves for New York. But two days later, they're on the way to the airport, together with Charlie, Gadreel, and Benny, and Crowley still hasn't talked to him.

He wonders if Crowley doesn't have the guts to tell him whatever it is that's on his mind. But then again, it's Crowley – he always says what he wants to say. Why not now? What's holding him back?

But he doesn't tell Castiel, although it seems like it for a few seconds when they farewell each other. Cas looks at him questioningly, and Crowley puts on an amused smirk.

“See you around!”

On the way home, Cas is wondering if it were best when Crowley would just talk to him. But he can't decide since he doesn't know what it is that the Brit isn't telling him.

Charlie interrupts his thoughts after a while, looking at him in the rear-view mirror. He's sitting in the backseat with Benny since Gadreel called shotgun.

“What do you think? Shall we go to Pride next weekend?” she asks excitedly.

Cas grins back at her. “Sounds good. You're in too?”

He looks from Benny to Gadreel, and they return his smile and nod. Charlie urges him to call Dorothy and the others to tell them immediately. He rolls his eyes, but gets his phone out of his pocket, calling Dorothy, Meg, Gabriel, and Balthazar, and invites them to go to Pride with them together next week. All their friends agree on it, and Castiel feels lighter, knowing he's looking forward to it.

He's feeling good, even though he just said goodbye to one of his best friends. But he and Crowley are going to remain friends, no matter what – that's for sure. They'll just live in different places now. Stuff like this happens, when you get older and finish school. It's not the end of the world. It's not nice either, but it's one of the things that are inconvenient, but you are okay with it somehow.

However, Castiel's good mood only lasts until Charlie drives into his street, and Benny asks if that weren't his dad's car in their driveway. Castiel turns his head and looks out of the window, and as Charlie parks next to his father's car, his heart is already starting to sink.

Charlie screws up her nose, looking at the car as well, and then Lucifer opens the front door and walks over to them, a resigned but angry expression on his face. Castiel gets out of the car, staring at his big brother.

“Hey, guys.”

The others wave at Lucifer, but Castiel doesn't bother with a hello.

“What is he doing here?” he asks.

Lucifer shakes his head, biting his lip. “I don't know. But he'll stay for the rest of the month.”

“What?”

Castiel looks at Lucifer with wide eyes. No. No no no. For the rest of the month? That's almost three weeks. He doesn't remember the last time Bartholomew stayed this long. He can't even remember if he ever stayed this long since they moved here four years ago.

He swallows. He knows he has to go in there now and face his father. With a sigh, he farewells the others, who are looking at him sympathetically.

Together with Lucifer, he enters the house, wishing he were still in the car with his friends. Castiel looks at the staircase longingly, but Bartholomew is already calling his name. He sighs again, shaking his head and closing his eyes for a moment before entering the living room.

His father is sitting on the couch, bent forward, and not looking up from the newspaper he's reading when Cas steps into the room.

“Hello, Castiel. Where were you?” he says, changing pages.

“Charlie, Benny, Gadreel, and I drove Crowley to the airport,” Cas answers honestly.

“Who?” Bartholomew asks uninterested, still not looking at Castiel, who rolls his eyes.

“I just did something with some of my friends,” he says. “Why are you here?”

Finally, his father looks up and at him – probably because of his aggressive tone of voice, Cas thinks.

We already had this discussion the last time I was here, and we won't have it again. This is my house, and I can come whenever I want. Period.”

Bartholomew's tone of voice isn't any less aggressive than Castiel's has been. Cas sighs internally, but he shrugs his shoulders.

“Fine,” he mutters, turning around.

“Castiel. Stay and have a seat.”

He locks eyes with his brother, who's leaning against the door frame and raising his eyebrows at their father's words. Cas is also surprised and confused. He rubs his face, turning half round to Bartholomew again.

“Why?”

“Because I want to talk to you.”

“Since when?” Cas wonders bluntly, the consequence being that his father slams the newspaper on the coffee table.

“Sit down. I won't say it again.”

“I'd rather stand,” Castiel says, crossing his arms in front of his chest and returning the cold look Bartholomew is giving him.

His dad grits his teeth. “This is not how it's going to be for the rest of the month,” he says sternly, looking at the both of them now. “I am going to stay for a while, whether you like it or not. And we are going to spend time together.”

“Yeah, well, we'll have to spend time with each other at another time,” Cas says, looking at his watch. “I have to go.”

“Where to?” Bartholomew asks angrily.

“Work,” Cas answers defensively. “I have a job now. Two jobs, actually.”

Bartholomew's eyebrows shoot towards the ceiling in surprise. Castiel just looks back at him.

“At least on that score, I'm not a disappointment.”

Then, he leaves without another word to their father, who doesn't say something else as well. Lucifer follows him into the hallway.

“I'm sorry,” he says quietly, looking at him with worry in his eyes.

Cas shrugs his shoulders. “It's not your fault.”

He walks to Missouri's shop, arriving a bit too early, but that's okay. While he's cleaning different shelves and rearranging all the items on them, he talks to Missouri – about his father, about Dean, and also about Crowley. As ever, Missouri listens to him without interrupting him until he doesn't know what to say anymore.

Cas is feeling better when he has gotten everything off his chest for now. Missouri might not know exactly how to help him with everything, but that he just has someone, who listens to all he's saying feels already extremely helpful.

He still doesn't know what to do about Dean, although Missouri advises him again to talk to him. Castiel just nods halfheartedly.

“What about my dad?”

“Oh, honey, I know it's a difficult situation. But you have to try not to lose your peace of mind, even though he's there.”

Cas rubs his neck. He knows she's right, but it's easier to think about this right now when he's not near his father. He isn't sure if he's able to stay calm when Bartholomew says something provocative to him. But he knows he has to try it, at least. He keeps telling himself that it's only for about three weeks. That's not forever, although it's certainly going to feel like it.

He also tells Missouri about the way Crowley looked at him, and how close he was to say something to him. She looks at him for a moment.

“Maybe he wanted to ask you a question. Did you think about this possibility, too?”

Cas wrinkles his brow. “Yeah, I mean... no, not really, to be honest,” he mutters, biting the inside of his cheek.

“He will tell or ask you eventually, whatever it is that's on his mind,” Missouri assures him, and Cas nods hesitantly.

“Sometimes, people need some time to think things through. The weight of words can be really heavy. Maybe he isn't sure if he should say them out loud.”

Castiel looks at Missouri for a long moment before he hugs her. She seems surprised but hugs him back.

“Thank you,” he says quietly.

Later, when Missouri and he just closed the shop, Crowley calls him. Cas farewells Missouri by waving at her, and presses his phone to his ear, starting to walk home. The phone call doesn't last very long, though. Crowley only called to tell him that he arrived safely and that everything's fine.

When Castiel enters the house, Lucifer is in the kitchen, throwing together some pancakes. Cas decides to help his brother to avoid Bartholomew, who's still sitting in the living room, now with his laptop in front of him.

But they have dinner together, and it's extremely awkward. Castiel hates it and he knows that Lucifer hates it as well. Their father is trying to have a normal conversation, but it's far too obvious that he's not interested in what they are saying. Cas doesn't want to talk to him, and he doesn't even know what they're supposed to talk about. They're making small talk, and that's already terrible.

Over the next few days, Castiel's mood worsens more and more, mostly because of his father.

Charlie and Dorothy visit him, and it's supposed to be a fun afternoon, watching a few movies and talking about everything and anything. But Bartholomew is there as well and he makes no secret of what he's thinking about Charlie's and Dorothy's relationship.

He's visibly grossed out, and it jars on Cas's nerves, and of course, he isn't able to keep his mouth shut. He completely forgets about what Missouri told him – that he should try not to lose his peace of mind, just because his father is there.

“What is your problem?” he asks Bartholomew, who said something under his breath after Dorothy pressed a kiss to the corner of Charlie's mouth.

“What do you mean?” Bartholomew asks back, knowing exactly what Castiel is talking about.

Cas snorts, shaking his head. Charlie pulls at his sleeve, urging him to sit back down.

“It's fine, Cas. We don't care.”

But I do,” he says, looking at her and Dorothy, who's shaking her head slightly as if to tell him just leave it be.

“Looks more like you're the one, who has a problem,” Bartholomew says dismissively.

Cas tilts his head a bit, squinting at his father. “Oh, yeah, you're right. Your homophobia is indeed a problem for me. I wonder why.” He huffs a small, humorless laugh. “Good thing you're not going to Pride with us.”

With a scoff, he lets himself fall back onto the couch, crossing his legs and looking at the TV screen. He didn't pay any attention in the last minutes, and he doesn't know anymore what the movie they're watching is about. Dorothy gives him a weak, apologetic smile.

“You're going to Pride? When?” Bartholomew asks slowly.

“Next week,” Castiel answers brusquely, not looking at his father.

“No.”

Now, Cas does look at his father. “What do you mean – no ?”

“You won't go to Pride. That's what I mean. I'm not allowing it.”

“I'm not asking you if I can go,” Cas says, a little bit confused about where this conversation is going all of a sudden.

“I don't care. You won't go to Pride as long as I'm here – as long as you live under my roof.”

Bartholomew takes his cup and gets ready to leave the living room. Castiel can just stare at his father for a few moments, not knowing what to say. Seeking help, he looks at Charlie and Dorothy, but the two look just as speechless as he feels.

Bartholomew's words only slowly start to make sense to him. He can't believe this. But he knows that this is the straw to break the camel's back.

Since this is kind of a family affair and not Charlie's and Dorothy's problem, Castiel asks them to leave.

“What? No,” Charlie says hurriedly, looking pleadingly at him.

“We'll stay.” Dorothy nods, shooting Bartholomew an angry look.

“Guys, I appreciate it, I really do, and I love you both, but please, go. I can handle this.”

He ignores his father, who scoffs behind him. Cas is pretty sure that he also rolled his eyes. Charlie crosses her arms in front of her chest, her eyes full of doubts.

“Please, go. I'll call you later,” he promises quietly.

Dorothy is biting her lip, and when Charlie looks at her, she shrugs her shoulders. Charlie sighs resignedly.

“You'll better call, alright?”

Castiel gives her a small smile and nods. The girls grab their coats and give him each a big hug before they leave the house. He swallows as he watches Charlie's car turn right at the end of the street. Lucifer comes downstairs.

“Did Charlie and Dorothy already leave?”

“Yeah.”

Cas sighs. Why does nothing ever go as planned?

With an uneasy feeling in the pit of his stomach, he goes back into the living room, where Bartholomew is still standing. His brother follows him, looking from their father to Castiel and back, wondering what's going on. Castiel is wondering as well what exactly is happening, and why it has to happen right now.

Bartholomew is staring at him, angrily and dismissively. There's hate in his eyes when he's looking at his youngest son. Seeking help, Cas looks at Lucifer, who still doesn't know what's going on. Confused, he returns Castiel's look.

“Dad doesn't want me to go to Pride next weekend,” Cas explains quietly, and Lucifer rolls his eyes, staring at their father.

“What?” Bartholomew asks, throwing his arms up in the air.

The next twenty minutes go by in the blink of an eye. There's a lot of shouting, mostly from Bartholomew and Castiel, and a few very ugly words are said. Lucifer interposes himself between Cas and their father, trying to calm the waves, but none of the things he says are of any use. Bartholomew listens to neither of them. It's a complete disaster.

Later, Cas lies in his bed, his phone on his chest – put on speaker –, talking to Charlie. She called him because he didn't get back to her like he said he would. He was so upset and afraid he'd take it out on her. Now, he's feeling weirdly drained, and his voice sounds almost apathetically when he tells Charlie that he's grounded.

“You're 18, Cas!” she says furiously.

“Yeah, tell that my father,” Cas sighs.

He rubs his eyes, feeling so strangely tired. He didn't even do anything today. He didn't have to work and he just watched some TV with Charlie and Dorothy. But of course, he knows why he's so fucking tired – because of the fight with Bartholomew.

“You okay?” Charlie asks quietly.

Cas bites his lip. “No, not really,” he answers, huffing a small breath. “Hey, you and the others, you can go to Pride next week, okay?” he says. “I don't feel so good anyway, and I'd probably just ruin it either way. And now that I'm grounded, I'm not allowed to go, so...”

Oh, no, Cas. I already talked to the others. No one wants to go to Pride without you,” Charlie tells him, and he feels guilty immediately – awesome.

Charlie notices his bad mood because of this and tries to cheer him up, but it doesn't work. And Castiel doesn't want her to be sad because of him, so he ends the phone call after a while.

He doesn't think he'd be able to sleep properly, but he falls asleep surprisingly quickly. Cas doesn't even notice that Lucifer checks in on him, relieved that his little brother is able to sleep after all, but scared of the next morning when Cas will look at the calendar and see what day it is and what day will be in a month from today.

Lucifer was scared of this with good reason.

When Castiel comes into the kitchen that morning, he's still in a bad mood, and it doesn't get better. Absentmindedly, he has a look at the calendar and stops dead. It's June 17 th . That's all he needed. A month from today is the anniversary .

He gulps, but all of a sudden there's a lump in his throat. Lucifer is staring at him worriedly, already opening his mouth to say something, since he knows what's going on, but then their father enters the kitchen as well. Bartholomew doesn't know what's going on. He doesn't even notice that Cas is terribly pale and looks devastated.

Of course, Lucifer does notice it, but Cas doesn't meet his eyes. He doesn't want to see the worry in his brother's face, so he turns around and leaves the room.

This night, Castiel's nightmares come back at full tilt, and they're dealing with only one subject – what happened to him five years ago.

The days go by, and Castiel's inner turmoil starts to become visible on the outside. He barely sleeps and he also doesn't eat as much as he should, and he tries to compensate for that with a lot of alcohol and cigarettes. The result is that he's feeling even worse, and it's just going more and more south.

He's feeling especially bad because he isn't able to do anything about it. It all just happens, and he isn't able to stop it. It's like he's watching the whole situation from someone else's point of view, fascinated and disgusted at the same time.

His father is completely oblivious to the whole situation, or maybe he's ignoring it since that's the easiest thing to do for him. Castiel isn't in the position to ignore it. Lucifer and his friends, they also don't ignore it, even though they could – but they don't want to, because they care about him, so they're trying to cheer him up.

Lucifer is the only one, besides their father, who knows exactly what is wrong with Cas at the moment. His friends don't know, but they aren't asking any questions.

As sad as it is – it's usual for him to behave like this around this time of the year. At the latest, when it's around the end of June, Castiel's mood changes drastically.

He has a hunch that Lucifer told them not to ask any questions, but he asked his friends not to do it, too. Of course, they have obliged every year, and they're doing it again this year.

Castiel works as much as possible. On the one hand, he's trying to avoid Bartholomew – he's still mad at his father, because he wasn't allowed to go to Pride, and he's also still grounded. On the other hand, he's secretly hoping that if he's so exhausted, at some point he has to sleep properly and without dreaming. At least, just one night once in a while. But it doesn't work.

Apparently, for now, it is enough for his body to function with only the bare necessities. Lucifer and the others force him to drink water and to eat something once in a while. Pamela and Missouri are glad about all the help they're getting from him, though they're eyeing him worriedly as well.

To tell the truth, Castiel isn't worried about himself. He hardly cares about himself. But he does care about his friends and his big brother, and he doesn't want them to worry about him. Of course, he knows that he can't make them stop worrying, but he doesn't like that they do it. He thinks he doesn't deserve it, and he's feeling bad because the others are feeling bad – because of him. It all just sucks, and he hates it so fucking much.

During some nights he can't sleep at all, no matter how tired he is – and by now, he's super fucking tired all the fucking time –, and he listens to music or watches a movie or a few episodes of a TV show on his laptop, or he reads. Sometimes, he just lies there in his bed, thinking and drowning in self-loathing.

He's still thinking about Dean – a lot. He misses the green-eyed boy, and he hates that as well. Thinking about Dean hurts since he still wants him, but he can't have him. Though he isn't able to stop thinking about Dean.

One night Dean creeps in his nightmare, and when Castiel wakes up, he has to run to the bathroom and throw up. He was back in the little apartment over the liquor store, lying on the floor. Dean was there, looking down at him. He still has the smell of booze in his nose, when he's puking his guts out, hanging weakly over the toilet bowl. But that isn't the reason why he's feeling so miserable.

It's the look on Dean's face. He tries to tell himself that it was just a nightmare and that it wasn't real, but he can't get the disgusted look on Dean's face out of his head. Dean's beautiful eyes were full of hatred, and Cas couldn't stand it.

He woke Lucifer up, who comes running into the bathroom as well, worry dispelling the tiredness in his eyes. Carefully, he reaches out for Cas, knowing that his little brother doesn't like to be touched when the memories are drowning him.

Lucifer places a hand on Castiel's shoulder, who swallows repulsively. There wasn't much in his stomach that was worth throwing up, and now his throat is burning. He flinches slightly at his brother's touch, but then he allows it and lets Lucifer comfort him and bring him back to bed.

Lucifer stays with him until he falls back asleep.

It's a restless sleep Castiel falls into, and he wakes up even more tired. He blinks his eyes open and sees Meg sitting on the edge of his bed.

Hey,” she says, scooting over and eyeing him.

He wonders for how long she's already here and waiting for him to wake up. He won't complain, though. Cas is glad that Meg is here. He's glad to see her, like always.

Meg sticks with him for the whole day. They spend some time in his room, but they also go outside for a while, sitting on the stairs of the front porch. It kind of reminds Cas of how he sat with Dean on the night of the party at Anna's house, but he banishes this thought out of his head with Meg's help.

She's a great distraction. They smoke, talk, and listen to music. Meg never complains about his music. She also makes him eat something, even though he doesn't want to since he doesn't want to throw up again. But he eats a little bit and keeps everything inside. Both, Lucifer and Meg are relieved that he's accepting their help.

Shortly before lunchtime, Cas and Meg leave the house and go to Balthazar. Meg is free today, but Balthazar has to work for a few hours. They arrive at the bar just when Balthazar's shift is over. Castiel and Meg are holding hands, both of them knowing exactly what it means. They're just friends, and Cas is gay, but it's comforting to hold Meg's hand.

A lot of people already thought that they're a couple because sometimes it might look like it. But as long as Cas and Meg know where they stand, it's enough for them. And yes, sometimes it may seem like they're flirting with each other, but it's just teasing.

Meg only had to take one look at Cas, when they've met for the first time, and then she knew that he's gay.

Balthazar knows that something's wrong, he also knows what time of the year it is, but he's still glad to see Castiel. They go home with him; Balthazar has a modern, but comfortable apartment downtown. It's only a few minutes to walk from there to the bar, and he doesn't own a car. Castiel isn't sure if Balthazar even has a driver's license. But he can cook – well, not as good as Missouri, or Benny's mom, or Pamela, but still – and he fixes them some chicken fricassee.

They talk about movies and TV shows, and that Meg is getting better at working at the bar (at the beginning, she smashed some glasses accidentally, and Balthazar is still making fun of that). In the afternoon, Castiel has to work at Missouri's shop for three hours, so Meg and he leave Balthazar's apartment, to arrive at the shop in time.

Missouri brings them ice cream, and while Cas is cleaning some of the shelves, Meg makes some flower crowns. Castiel knows that they're watching him and tries to put on a neutral expression, but it's still obvious how miserable he's feeling.

The next days there's always someone to distract him – Lucifer, Meg, Benny, Balthazar, Charlie, Dorothy, Kevin, Missouri, Pamela, Billie, Gabriel, Gadreel. Castiel knows that he has an amazing big brother and also amazing friends, but he still feels so low, and he slowly but surely loses interest in basically everything. The phantom pains in his scars flare up again and again, and he can't do anything about it. He still isn't able to fucking sleep.

Time is flying. Suddenly, June is sliding into July, and the anniversary is nearing more and more.

Cas is scared and gets drunk more often again. He has a vast number of fights with Bartholomew, mostly about trivialities, and all of the fights are pretty unnecessary. But it feels good to yell and to let his anger out a bit, so Castiel is out for fights. Besides, it doesn't take much to make his father angry.

Lucifer tries to break up all the fights and to stop Castiel from provoking them in the first place, but to no avail. He doesn't get through to Castiel anymore, and he isn't the only one. The others are having more and more problems distracting Cas and cheering him up since he's going numb again.

It scares all of them, but mostly it scares Cas himself.

Bartholomew leaves on July 5 th , and Castiel thinks he should be relieved, but he doesn't feel anything. It scares him a lot, but nothing is scaring him as much as his nightmares and the thoughts in his head.

It was five years ago. Five fucking years. Why can't he get over it? He just wants to get over it. He doesn't want to feel like this anymore. He doesn't want to go numb again. He doesn't want to lose himself again. He doesn't want to push away the people that are most important to him. He doesn't want to be so fucking tired. But he can't change it.

After Bartholomew left, Charlie, Dorothy, and Gadreel visit him at home. They're sitting in the kitchen, four glasses of lemonade are on the table, and Cas doesn't say a lot. He notices that the others are desperately trying to find a topic he shows interest in, but he isn't interested in anything. And he is so sorry and also so ashamed.

Hey, what about a new tattoo? I want one now. Maybe we could go to the tattoo parlor together,” Charlie says enthusiastically.

Castiel looks at her, but only for a few seconds before he looks away again.

I don't have the money for a new tattoo,” he says quietly.

Not yet. But you will have it soon, when you've worked for a while,” Gadreel says, shrugging his shoulders. “I want a tattoo as well. We could all go together.”

I don't want a tattoo,” Dorothy says, raising her hand, but then she shrugs. “But I would go with you.”

Yeah, maybe,” Castiel mutters, knowing that it sounds like a no.

The others aren't disappointed. They are far too worried to be disappointed. Castiel hates this so fucking much because he knows it's his fault. He's so incredibly sorry, and he hopes the others do know that.

He talks with Crowley over the phone a few times and also one week before the anniversary .

Crowley loves New York, he thinks it's the greatest city on earth, and they talk a bit about it. He already found a job as a waiter and met a few people. College starts soon for him, and he's looking forward to it. Cas envies the Brit just a little bit.

He assumes that Crowley has talked to the others, and when he asks him how he's doing, Castiel doesn't feel like lying anyway.

I feel like shit.”

I've heard you don't get a lot of sleep.”

So, Crowley has talked to the others.

Nightmares,” Cas sighs.

About what?”

Cas doesn't know what to answer, so he remains silent until Crowley sighs.

Fine, you don't have to tell me. But the others told me that they weren't able to distract you anymore from what's going on in your head, and it scares them.”

Castiel is glad that Crowley is honest with him, but his guilty conscience is stirring in the back of his mind once again.

And?” he asks in a low voice, angry with himself. His friends shouldn't have to worry this much about him.

What about a new distraction?”

What do you mean?” Cas wonders, wrinkling his forehead.

There's a small pause before Crowley asks the next question.

You've ever talked to that Winchester guy again?”

Cas tenses up at the mention of Dean. He grits his teeth. What does Crowley want?

Why?” he asks, not caring that his anger is audible now.

Crowley doesn't answer him at first. There are a few moments of silence, and it's unnerving.

What, Crowley?” Cas stresses.

Do you remember Anna's party in February?” the Brit asks suddenly.

Yeah...,” Cas replies hesitantly, wondering where this conversation is going now.

And that I left Dean and you alone?”

Cas swallows, not knowing what to say, but Crowley doesn't wait for him to answer the question and just continues talking.

And that I never said something against him?”

What's your point?” Castiel asks, angry and confused.

Crowley sighs again and hesitates noticeably before he answers him.

The only reason why was because I could see that Dean does you good.”

Cas has absolutely no idea what to say to that, and now there's silence for a few minutes, and he presses his phone against his ear. He hears Crowley breathing and knows that he didn't hang up already. After a while, Crowley changes the topic, and they talk about New York again, but shortly after that, they end the phone call.

So – now Crowley has finally said what he wanted to say the whole time. And Castiel doesn't get his words out of his head.

...because I could see that Dean does you good.

He feels miserable. He wants Dean. He needs Dean. He can't have Dean. He misses Dean. He wants to see him and to hear his voice again. And he wishes he weren't this fucked up person.

Castiel's nightmares intensify in the nights before the anniversary , and he always wakes up screaming and tossing in his bed, and Lucifer always comes running into his room, already knowing this procedure from all the years this is going on by now.

Cas is so sorry since his brother doesn't get a lot of sleep either, because of him. Lucifer always stays with him for the rest of the night, soothing him and talking to him quietly, even though Castiel always slaps his hands away in the first moments after waking up.

The day before the anniversary Castiel is sitting on his bed, fresh cuts on his arms that are burning satisfyingly, and he's holding the green nail polish in his hand, simply staring at it for a long time. He feels so frighteningly numb.

Without thinking about it, he throws the nail polish away eventually, not even looking at it. He doesn't feel anything.

Lucifer forces him to eat a little bit in the evening, but after the next nightmare, Castiel has to throw up again. Though, this time he didn't scream and he also didn't wake his brother. He only slept for about an hour; it's not even midnight when he falls back into bed, but he can't go back to sleep and just stares at his alarm clock with glassy eyes until the anniversary is there.

Cas swallows convulsively. He knows that today is going to be more than awful. It's going to be even worse than all the bad days in the last weeks combined. Today is going to be the ultimate bad day.

He buries his face in his hands for a while, and then he scrambles for his cigarette pack, but smoking doesn't help. Looking at the tattoo on his hand doesn't help either. At some point, he pulls his headphones out from under a pillow and turns the music as loud as possible. It's hurting, but god, he doesn't want to think and he doesn't want to drown in memories again.

I'm a fly that's trapped

In a web

But I'm thinking that

My spider's dead

Lonely, lonely little life

I could kid myself

In thinking that I'm fine

That I'm skin and bone

Just a king and rusty throne

Oh, the castle's under siege

But the sign outside says 'leave me alone'

He wants Dean. Or at least, to hear his voice, to see him, and to look into these beautiful green eyes.

When he goes downstairs, Lucifer is already up and making coffee. Neither of them mentions what day it is, but it's floating heavily in the air between them, and Cas sees the dark worries in his brother's eyes. They both don't know how the day is going to be – what Castiel is going to do.

Cas has a day off today since he didn't want to work. He knows that he wouldn't be able to concentrate, and he doesn't want to make a mess in Pamela's diner or Missouri's shop. The chaos in his head is already bad enough and too much to deal with.

Lucifer had a day off as well, but a colleague is sick and he has to cover for them. After he left, Castiel doesn't know what to do. He wishes Crowley were here, so he could get some drugs to numb his mind, at least.

Crowley was smart enough not to give him something before he left for New York since he knew what time was coming up soon. Now, cigarettes and alcohol aren't enough, but Cas still wants to try.

But Lucifer again was smart enough not to leave any alcohol in the house. Fucking hell. He knows that Cas would despise it to leave the house today. But he needs something. It's weird, but today he doesn't go numb of all things.

He wishes he were numb, though.

Castiel grabs his wallet, and even though he really doesn't want to, he sets out for the supermarket. He ignores everyone and everything around him and buys almost absentmindedly alcohol – whiskey.

But when he steps outside and blinks in the harsh light of the sun, a man bumps into him. He's probably homeless and he smells like he drank an entire liquor store. The smell triggers Castiel; he's staring at the man with wide eyes, breathing heavily. The homeless person only blinks once at him before entering the supermarket, probably already forgetting about him.

Cas has to run away a few meters, clutching the bottles he bought to his chest, and then he's throwing up behind a bush. He feels wretched. Memories are flashing through his mind like white lightnings.

He has to throw up again – until his stomach is more than empty and seizing, and his esophagus is burning. With shaking hands, he wipes his mouth. For a moment he closes his eyes, feeling strangely defeated. Still shuddering, he opens his eyes again and looks around.

Nobody is there, nobody saw him, and before someone shows up Castiel disappears into the forest that's surrounding this whole goddamned town. He only has to go a few meters into it, then he's already out of sight. He sits down and leans against the trunk of a tree.

Castiel drinks until he's dizzy, until the pictures in his head start to fade, and the voices in his head start to get quieter. At some point, he gets up again. By now he's so drunk, he is barely able to stand. He has to hold fast onto a tree trunk, feeling the rough bark under his hands, and the newer cuts on his arms are giving pain. But Cas is staring at the green treetops above him.

Green.

He wants green. He needs green. And that means only one thing – Dean.

His feet start to move without him having to command it. Although he's drunk, Cas somehow remembers the way to the street where Dean is living, and he thinks he also remembers what house Sam entered when he'd accompanied them.

He doesn't meet anyone on the street. It's early in the afternoon, and all the people are at home or work. Castiel doesn't pay this too much attention. He's more focused on not stumbling over his own two feet.

He doesn't know what he's going to say to Dean, and he doesn't even care how Dean is going to react. Castiel just wants to look into those green eyes again. He wants to go back to that clearing and forget about all the pain for a few seconds, at least.

For a moment a delicate thought scares him – what if Dean isn't at home? But he tells himself that he'll wait for him, then.

Cas is swaying, and he almost does fall over his own feet, but somehow he's able to regain his balance. The bitter taste of the alcohol still lingers on his tongue, and he swallows, but the taste doesn't go away.

He turns the corner and is in the street where the Winchesters are living. Castiel keeps walking, past a few houses, and then he makes a couple more steps, but suddenly the world is spinning too fast. His mind is in a haze, he squints at the houses around him, and then he looks down the street again, just as a black car drives around the corner and parks in front of one of the houses.

Swallowing again, he stares at it, but he can't think straight anymore, and he has the feeling that the driver of the black car is staring back at him – even though Cas isn't looking at him, but rather his car.

Then, his vision goes dark, and he faints.



* * *



Dean is walking through the town, once again in a bad mood. When is he ever not in a bad mood lately?

It's summer and hot, and even though he prefers summer over winter, the heat is ticking him off. He's wearing a black t-shirt and his usual jeans – he doesn't do shorts.

The graduation ceremony is only two and a half weeks ago, but it feels like it was ages ago.

He's walking down the main street, and when he has to stop at a red light, he lights up a cigarette. He just got a new pack and he also didn't want to go home just yet. So, he's walking through the town and by now, the streets are partly familiar. He sees his face in a shop window, and the gash that's still healing. The light turns green, and Dean keeps walking.

The cut starts above his left eyebrow and extends a bit along his eye down his temple. It's still nasty, even though it's already a week old. The guy at the gas station, where he's gotten his new cigarettes, was weirded out by him and the wound in his face. Dean simply ignored it, since he's used to it. He crosses a street and tries not to think about it too much.

John noticed far too quickly that Sam isn't there. When Dean told him that Sam is going to spend the summer holidays at Bobby's place, his dad wasn't too keen on it, and he started to throw stuff around and to yell at Dean.

One of their kitchen chairs is broken, and half of their tableware got smashed to smithers by John. It also didn't help that John was half-drunk, but it was better still than if John had been completely drunk. Though, his dad still threw one of the shards at him and hit his face.

That Dean sent Sam to Bobby doesn't make the situation easier in any case, but living together with John has become even more difficult in general.

Dean arrives at their house and is glad John isn't there. He hates being alone with his father, but he knows that he made the right decision. It's a good thing that Sam is out of reach of John, at least for a while.

He briefly wonders where John is right now, but then he shrugs. His dad is probably at a bar, although he shouldn't have any money for that anymore. But it's not Dean's problem at the moment, so he makes himself mashed potatoes with ketchup, watches some TV, and smokes a few more cigarettes.

Around 2 am, John comes home, and Dean disappears into his room. He still doesn't know what's wrong with his father, but he also doesn't know what he could do, so he leaves him alone – though that may not be the right thing to do.

But during the rare occasions, when they meet somewhere in the house – most of the time, it's the kitchen –, John is even more aggressive and physically abusive towards Dean than usual. For the moment Dean is blaming the bottled-up energy John certainly has to have since he doesn't work anymore.

If nothing's going to change, then he would have to deal with it at some point, whether he likes it or not. But not tonight, Dean thinks as he lies down and listens to how his father crashes into the wall a few times on the way to his bedroom.

Dean still has trouble falling asleep, even though school is over now and he doesn't have to feel bad, because he didn't study and/or didn't do his homework. He also doesn't have to worry about Sam at the moment. But a certain blue-eyed boy is still on his mind.

Ah, fuck that. He wants to sleep; he has to work tomorrow. It will be his third shift at one of the garages in town.

It didn't take a lot of time to find a job. Sure, a bar, a gas station, and the other garage didn't want him, but the owner of the second garage offered him a job, although he eyed Dean's bruised face for quite a long moment.

Dean wants to prove everyone (and also kind of himself) wrong. He wants to prove that he isn't a complete failure. Fine, he won't go to college, but he knows a lot about cars and hell, he wants to work, he wants to do something. That has to be worth something, right? At least, Dean thinks that way and apparently, his new boss is thinking the same.

Bobby and Sam were happy for him – he called them right away after he's gotten the job. He kept it a secret from them that John threw a fit because Sam isn't there anymore. Of course, they asked if John has already noticed it, but Dean told them that John was in one of those moods, when he doesn't care about anything. He isn't sure if they believed him, but what of it?

Since Sam is only a little over a week at Bobby's place by now, there's not a lot they could talk about over the phone. Sam is spending a lot of time reading and drawing. So far, Bobby didn't get him into his garage to help him. Dean smiled at that. His little brother isn't interested in cars.

He misses Sam, but he reminds himself that he did the right thing.

Sam also asked about Dean's crush again, and Dean only told him that he can't think about that right now – which is true. He has enough on his plate for now. Though he still misses and wants Castiel. And it still pisses him off that he wasn't able to talk to Cas during prom, because he didn't even go. Such a lost opportunity.

The work does distract him, and he's earning good money. He tries to spend as little as possible on food, beer, and cigarettes. Since John doesn't talk to him anymore, he didn't have the chance yet to tell him that he has a job now.

Dean talks a few more times with Bobby and Sam over the phone, but other than that – besides the talking to his boss or his colleagues – he's spending his time alone. Now and then, he gets a little drunk, and he's glad that the work is fun and satisfies him.

He still spends a lot of time thinking about Cas. Maybe he should get a second job – more money and less time to think.

The days pass, and there are a few more encounters with John, but Dean never needs stitches, and that's something. Nobody at work says a word when he shows up with a black eye – by now, they know who his father is, and they probably have their thoughts on the matter.

Things do get a little awkward and tense when one of his colleagues tells him he fought with his dad last night. Dean blinks at him and doesn't know what to respond to his story.

John was drunk – what's no surprise, though – and drove in the car of Dean's colleague in the parking lot of a bar. Dean's colleague is pissed, what's understandable, and Dean apologizes on behalf of John.

He is angry as well and tries to talk to his dad, but John doesn't listen to him, not even a bit. Fortunately, it's just a minor car body damage. On this day, Dean decides to take away the keys of the Impala from John. He's lucky – John assumes that he lost the keys somewhere and just curses loudly before he passes out on the couch. Dean doesn't correct him. Besides, it feels good to drive his baby again.

He's still dreaming of the ocean and of kissing Castiel, and he's still jerking off to thoughts of the blue-eyed boy every other night.

But Dean doesn't know how he's feeling. Sometimes, he's so numb and he can't shake the numbness off, so he drinks and smokes, though it only helps partly. His bad mood worsens steadily.

It happens one early afternoon when he comes home from work. He drives around the corner, into their street, and pulls into their driveway. There's a guy, standing in the middle of the street and staring at him and his car. Dean stares back at him questioningly.

Then, he recognizes the messy black hair, and he even thinks that he can see the blue of Cas's eyes glisten, although Cas is too far away for that. What the fuck? What is Castiel doing here?

It's not that Dean isn't happy to see him, but it seems odd, the way Castiel is just standing there, swaying a bit, and Dean can't think of a reason why Cas should be here.

And all of a sudden, Castiel just topples down and remains to lie in the middle of the street.

Oh, shit!

Dean freezes for a second before he hastily gets out of the car and runs over to Cas. Thank god, this is a less traveled road, he thinks as he goes down on his haunches next to Castiel. He tries to think straight and runs his fingers through his hair. He gently touches Castiel's shoulder, trying to wake him up, but Cas doesn't wake up, not even when Dean is shaking his shoulder.

Cas?” Dean says, voice heavy with worry.

He swallows and shakes Cas's shoulder again, harder this time, but the blue-eyed boy still doesn't open his eyes. Dean bites his lip and looks around, but there is no one, who could help him. Besides, the neighbors are staying away from them after all the shouting and all the fights they've witnessed by now. He doesn't even know whether John is home or not, but then again, his dad wouldn't be much help anyway, especially if he's drunk.

Speaking of – Castiel smells like a crappy liquor store, and there are stains on his wine-red sweater from some liquid, probably booze. Gosh, how much did he drink? What is he even doing here? And what is Dean supposed to do now?

It's probably best when he gets Castiel off the road for a start. So, Dean slides his hands under Cas's body, placing them on his back and the hollow of his knees, and scoops him up. Castiel is heavier than expected, although Dean already noticed that he's neither skinny nor weakly, but somehow Cas is looking like a small child right now.

Dean sways a bit under the weight of Castiel in his arms, but then he regains his balance and presses Cas closer. Cas clings to Dean's t-shirt with both hands and nuzzles his face into his chest. Dean resists the temptation to bury his face into Castiel's dark hair, but rather carries him to the Impala.

Clumsily and afraid of dropping Cas, he opens the passenger door and carefully lets Cas slide onto the seat. Breathing hard, he straightens himself and looks at Castiel, whose eyes are still closed.

Should he drive Cas to the hospital? He sighs, and something on the ground catches his eye. Pressing his eyebrows together, he picks it up. It's a wallet – Castiel's wallet.

It must have fallen out of his pocket. Dean starts chewing on the inside of his cheek and takes Cas's ID card out of the wallet (there's no driver's license, but he doesn't ponder on that too much). Castiel's physical address is not that far away and without further ado, Dean decides to drive Cas home.

He closes the passenger door and gets in the car as well. With one long look at Cas, he starts the engine. He drives slower than usual and checks up on the boy next to him every few seconds. He's strangely nervous – what is he supposed to say if Cas woke up? But he worries for nothing since Castiel doesn't wake up during the drive, and then they're already there. They only drove about ten minutes.

There's a car in the driveway, and Dean assumes that it belongs to Castiel's brother, since their father is rarely at home. He parks next to it, and another question pops into his mind. What the fuck is he supposed to say to Castiel's brother? After all, he's showing up with his unconscious little brother.

Dean gets out of the car, goes quickly around it, and opens the passenger door. Cas still looks so peaceful.

This isn't how Dean imagined meeting the blue-eyed boy again. It's making him sad; he wonders what's the reason why Cas got so drunk (and showed up in his street) when he gets him out of the car. Pressing Cas to his chest once again, he shuts the car door and goes to the front door, ringing the bell awkwardly.

It only takes a couple of seconds, then a young man is opening the door. At first glance, Dean sees absolutely no resemblance between Castiel and his brother. But that thought fades into the background for the time being, due to the worry that's flashing over the man's face, followed by a sad resignation. Dean is a bit confused by that, but he clears his throat, and the man looks at him.

Uh, I... I'm Dean Winchester. I went to school with Cas, and when I came home today, he was in my street and just fainted, and I didn't know what else to do, so I drove him here...” He trails off.

But the man nods. “Thank you, Dean. I'm Lucifer – Castiel's big brother. It's probably the best if we lie him down.”

Lucifer . Weird name, Dean thinks, but then again, so is Castiel . Dean shakes his head briefly, focusing again.

Where?” he asks.

His room is upstairs. Shall I...?”

Lucifer is already stretching is arms, reaching for his little brother, but Dean shakes his head determinedly. He doesn't even know why.

No, I got him.”

He enters the house and goes upstairs. Lucifer follows him and opens the last door on the right side. Cas's room is relatively big, kinda messy, and there are way too many pillows on the bed. But Dean just lays him down carefully, gently.

The moment he's not holding Cas anymore, his hands feel empty. He swallows, rubbing his face. In a way, it was comforting to hold Cas like this.

Lucifer stands next to him, looking down at his little brother, who seems to be asleep now. There's silence, and Dean has the feeling he's invading someone's privacy – whether it's Lucifer's or Castiel's, he isn't sure; maybe both –, so he decides to leave.

He already made a step in the direction of the door, but then Lucifer starts to talk. His voice is quiet, and it seems like he doesn't even notice that Dean is still there. But Dean is still there, and he thinks he should go, but he can't. Though, it doesn't take long for him to regret staying.

It's the same, every year. It just gets worse and worse. I don't... I don't know what to do anymore. He won't talk to me. He's my little brother, and I'd do anything for him. I want to protect him, but I can't, and I already failed to do so more than once.”

Dean furrows his brow, looking from Cas to Lucifer to the bedroom door and Lucifer again. What is he talking about? Hell, does Dean even want to know?

It's been five years, and every time I think he's over it, it gets worse. I don't know how I could help him. I still don't know everything that happened. But he was only 13. It was a normal day, he just visited a friend, and then he didn't come home.”

Yes, Dean doesn't want to hear that, but he keeps staring at Lucifer with wide eyes.

I called his friend, who said that Cas had already left, and then I called the police. Two days. It took them two days to find him, and they've only found him because he escaped and somehow he made it to a gas station. He was bruised and covered in blood, of course, someone called the police, when they saw him. I thought... I thought he was dead. For two days, I thought my little brother was dead.”

Lucifer's voice is hoarse, and Dean's heart feels heavy and empty at the same time.

They raped him.” Lucifer's voice breaks at that small sentence. “They just... and he was never the same. They kidnapped him and kept him in their apartment. They drugged him. He told the police everything, but he didn't want me to be there. And he could never bring himself to repeat everything, so I don't know about everything they did to him. But I've seen his scars, what they did to his body...”

For a moment he trails off, and Dean is sure that Lucifer isn't aware of him still being there. Dean has the feeling he can't breathe properly. There's a sick feeling in the pit of his stomach.

And they were never charged.” Lucifer licks his lips. “They've ruined his life and never had to pay for it. He couldn't deal with it. Some nights, he still wakes up screaming. He was in so much pain – hell, he still is, and it's so obvious. He just wanted it to be over. I don't know how he's survived the months after it had happened. And then he turned 14, but it was a disaster and after Christmas... I think he just didn't want to start another year.”

There's something wet on Dean's cheek, and he only slowly realizes that he's crying.

I got home early. He was in the bathroom, the door wasn't locked. There was so much blood already. I didn't think he'd wake up again. But he did, later in the hospital. I won't ever forget the look in his eyes the moment he realized that he was still alive. He was disappointed. I don't know how he's surviving now. I mean, he didn't try to kill himself again, but sometimes I'm not so sure if I did him a favor, when I called 911.”

Dean looks at Castiel, wiping his face. He still isn't able to get his legs to move.

My little brother, who changed already after our mom had died, broke more and more. And our father just looked the other way and didn't care, and I couldn't do anything about it.”

That's it. Lucifer finally stops talking, and Dean's head is spinning. It's too much. Lucifer is crying silently, and there are still tears clinging to Dean's eyelashes and cheeks.

Why is the numbness never there, when he needs it?

Dean finally turns around and leaves. He almost falls down the stairs, trying to get out of this house as fast as possible. He flees, even though he knows he can't run away from the things heard.

Dean runs out of the house, breathing hard, but closing the front door quietly before running over to the Impala. He drives home and he doesn't think while he's driving. His mind is completely blank. But back home, he feels the burden.

He just accidentally heard Castiel Novak's life story – well, shortened, but still. Lucifer just told him Castiel's darkest secrets, the things he didn't tell Dean, and probably also not his friends. The things he didn't want anyone to know.

But now, Dean does know and everything makes so much sense, it hurts. Why Cas is always wearing something long-sleeved. Why he was scared of kissing Dean. Why he reacted the way he did when Dean called him a faggot and touched his shoulder to turn him around. Why the frozen ocean just shattered. Why Cas pushed him away.

Why Cas is broken.

Dean wanted to know what happened to this gorgeous boy, but now he's not so sure about that anymore. Hell, he wanted to fix it, whatever it is, but how is he supposed to fix this ?

Shakily, he gets out of the car. Oh, fuck, he's feeling so strange, and the back of his throat is burning like he's about to start crying. He wipes his face angrily. No, he won't cry. He has no right to cry, absolutely no right. These awful things happened to Castiel, not to him – why is he feeling so terrible now? He has no right to feel this way.

John isn't there, and Dean slumps down on the couch. How can the world just keep turning, just keep going on after he found out something like that?

Anger is flooding his mind. He's angry at the world because this happened to Cas. He's angry with the men, who did this to him. He's angry because these men didn't have to go to jail. He doesn't even want to know how it feels to have something like that done to you and knowing that the people, who did it, got away.

Dean feels like throwing up. Castiel was only 13.

And then comes the worst, most selfish thing to his mind.

He can't have Cas, because of it.

He gets up and gets a beer out of the fridge. He hates himself for thinking that, but they're both fucked up. They're both a mess, they're both pure chaos, and what happens when two storms collide? Their problems will only duplicate. There's no balance, no compensation.

Suddenly, the beer tastes nasty, and he pours the rest of it away. He sighs heavily, running his fingers through his hair. He wishes there was someone, who'd tell him what to do.

He's kind of angry with Lucifer for telling him in the first place, but then again, he can't blame the guy. Lucifer looked so done, and it seemed like he can't talk to someone about it, so he just spilled. He probably thought he was talking to himself. His anger towards Lucifer fizzles out relatively fast.

Dean tries to think of what to do now, but then he hears his name, followed by loud banging on the front door. John. Dean closes his eyes for a second before he leaves the kitchen and opens the door for his father.

Dad, where are your keys?”

If I knew, I had used them, don't you think?” John answers grumpily, pushing past Dean, who rolls his eyes.

Well, you could know where you've lost them, so...”

John glares at him, he's drunk, but not aggressive right now. He goes into the kitchen to get a beer out of the fridge. Dean shakes his head, closes the front door, and goes upstairs into his room, without another word to his father.

He wishes Sam were there to distract him. He's thinking about calling his little brother, but leaves it alone, since it wouldn't be the same.

He can't stop thinking about Castiel and what Lucifer told him. God, Dean feels so sick. Cas didn't deserve this, no one deserves this, and Castiel certainly only deserves all the happiness and all the good in the world.

The next days, work doesn't help to keep his mind off Castiel, and he isn't able to get what Lucifer told him out of his head. It's horrible, and Dean feels bad, and he feels even worse for feeling bad because he has no right to feel bad.

Some nights, he still wakes up screaming.

Dean has nightmares himself and he remembers the night of the fire, the night when his mother died, far too well, but he never wakes up screaming. He wakes up silently, shocked and in pain, and sometimes tears are staining his face, but he never screams in his sleep.

Lucifer doesn't know how Castiel survived the last years. Hell, Dean doesn't understand it either.

How much pain is a human being able to endure before breaking, and for how long are they able to keep going after being broken?

Cas did already break – he got brutally torn apart. But then again, he wanted to kill himself. It didn't work, but he couldn't bear the pain anymore. Dean honestly wonders why Cas didn't try to kill himself again, and he hates himself for that thought.

The next nights, he sleeps even less than before and he's so fucking tired and drained, and angry. And he doesn't go numb again. But he's also feeling so damn wired as if he were live and that's what keeps him running.

At the end of the month, he pays all due bills and he's proud of himself for being able to do that.

He wonders what Castiel is doing now, if Lucifer told him that Dean's brought him home, and if Lucifer told him that he's told Dean everything, though that was only accidentally. Dean also wonders how Cas would react to that, but he's not sure if Lucifer were even aware that Dean was there and heard everything.

It's around 8 pm, John just left the house to go God knows where – probably a bar –, and Dean is sitting on the couch in the living room. He's watching TV, he found another old Clint Eastwood movie, when suddenly the bell is ringing.

Confused, he looks up, only getting up hesitantly and turning down the volume of the TV. The bell rings again, longer this time. Fuck, what if it's Castiel and he wants to talk?

Dean, can you open the door? This bag is heavy.”

Sam?” Dean asks, even more confused, but he walks down the hallway and opens the front door.

Sam is standing on their front porch, with his backpack and bag, a proper haircut, and a little bit taller again. He smiles up at Dean.

What are you doing here?” Dean asks.

Sam is home too early; he was supposed to come back only in a week.

Yeah, I'm happy to see you, too,” Sam scoffs, walking past Dean and letting his bag drop to the floor before giving his big brother a bone-crashing hug.

Dean huffs a small breath, hugging Sam back. “No, seriously, dude. What are you doing here?”

Sam lets him go. “School starts next week. I wanted to spend some days of the summer break with you.”

Sweet, man,” Dean says, and Sam rolls his eyes. “And why didn't you tell me?”

It's a surprise, duh,” Sam says as if it were the most obvious thing in the world.

So, Bobby bought you another bus ticket?” Dean asks, wanting to keep this in mind since he still intends on giving the money back to Bobby.

No, I bought the bus ticket,” Sam says.

With what money?”

Well, with some of the money I earned by helping Bobby in his garage.” Sam grins at him.

Dean's eyebrows shoot towards the ceiling in surprise.

Bobby always told me you didn't want to help him.”

That was also a surprise. This way you don't have to pay that much for my school supplies.”

Dean ruffles Sam's hair, chuckling.

Is dad here, or not?” Sam asks now, and Dean shakes his head.

He left like half an hour ago. Come on, let's bring your stuff to your room.”

He grabs Sam's bag, and they go upstairs.

You hungry?” Dean asks, putting the bag on Sam's bed for now, while Sam is putting his backpack next to his desk on the floor.

Yes,” he exclaims. “And how!”

Dean huffs a laugh, shoving his little brother to the door. They make hot dogs, and Sam tells him about all the books he read in the last weeks. Dean listens carefully to him; he missed his brother.

When they cleaned up the kitchen, Sam starts to yawn.

You tired, man?” Dean asks, smiling softly and looking at the clock.

It's still relatively early, but Sam had to endure a long bus ride today. Sam shakes his head, rubbing his eyes. Dean presses his eyebrows together.

You can go to bed, Sammy.”

No, I bought a movie. It's really good, and I want to watch it with you.”

We can watch it tomorrow,” Dean says, shrugging his shoulders, but Sam shakes his head again and goes upstairs.

When he comes back downstairs just a few moments later, he's holding a DVD case in his hand. There's a big grin on his face. Dean chuckles and looks at the cover.

The Greatest Showman?” he says skeptically, recognizing Hugh Jackman. “What kind of movie is it?”

Sam bites his lip. “Er, a musical,” he answers hesitantly, and Dean screws up his nose.

A musical? Really, Sam?”

It's good,” Sam says quickly, pursing his lips.

You've seen it already?” Dean asks, wondering why the hell Sam wants to watch it with him then, and Sam nods.

He wants to say no, but Sam does his fucking puppy eyes, and how is he supposed to say no to that ? So, he says yes, but grudgingly, and he starts to regret it within the first 30 seconds of the movie. But Sam is smiling, and he made himself comfortable on the couch, and he seems completely relaxed, and that's enough to make Dean smile.

He notices that Sam is eyeing him to see his reaction, so Dean does him the favor and watches the movie, actually concentrating on it. Though, he does think it will be shit (yeah, okay, Zac Efron and that Zendaya chick is all his bi heart could ask for, but still).

Dean never thought that he'd be swept up in such a movie, but when the credits are rolling on the TV screen, he's taken by it. Apparently, that's quite obvious and Sam smirks at him.

Wasn't so bad, huh?”

He just scoffs and gets up, putting the DVD back in the case and handing it to Sam, who's yawning again.

Okay, now it's time for bed,” Dean says, and he doesn't have to say it twice.

He tucks his little brother into bed after they brushed their teeth, but he doesn't go to bed himself. Dean goes back downstairs into the kitchen and leans against the counter, staring out of the window.

His mind is racing once again, and he almost curses Sam for making him watch that movie, but just almost, since he did like it. Although it flicked a switch inside of him. He isn't sure, but he thinks that that's the reason why Sam wanted to watch it with him so bad.

His mind doesn't shut up, but it takes him until after midnight to allow the realization that it wasn't just selfish, but downright stupid to think that Cas and he won't ever be together, because of Castiel's past to hit him.

Only then, it also hits him that Cas is probably thinking the same and that that's the reason why he pushed him away in the first place.

Suddenly, Dean feels hollow. Cas has to think that he wouldn't want him because of his past, because of what happened to him.

Dean closes his eyes for a moment and takes stock of himself, but he is dead certain that he still wants Castiel. That he knows now what happened to Cas doesn't change anything. It doesn't change the feelings he has for Castiel in any way.

He licks his lips and knows that he has to make a decision. It takes another hour to do so, and then John comes home, drunk as usual but in a kind of good mood. Dean brings him to his bedroom door, and John pats his shoulder.

Tomorrow, John is going to notice that Sam is back, and there will probably be another fight, but Dean doesn't want to think about this just yet. Nevertheless, when he is finally lying in his bed, there's a small smile on his lips, no matter how nervous he is now.

John is still asleep when Dean and Sam leave the house the next morning. Dean has to work and he decided unceremoniously to take Sam with him, so he's not alone at home when John wakes up and finds out that he's back.

Sam took books and stuff to draw and write with him, and he's allowed to sit down at the desk in the office of Dean's boss.

Surprisingly, Dean's shift passes by in the blink of an eye – at least for him. While Sam packs his stuff, Dean is thinking about the fact that he can't bring Sam home now. Either John will be there or he will come back, and he doesn't want to leave Sam alone with their dad. But he also can't take Sammy with him.

He bites the inside of his cheek and wonders where he could bring Sam, and then he hits on an idea – Pamela's diner. Yeah, that's good.

They get in the Impala. “Hey, man, I've got to do something. Is it okay if you spent some time at Pamela's diner?”

Sam shrugs his shoulders. “Yeah, sure. What are you going to do?”

Uh, well. Remember, I told you I like someone?” Dean asks, rubbing his neck awkwardly.

Sam raises his eyebrows, already grinning at him. Dean pulls into the parking lot of Pamela's diner and turns off the engine, facing his little brother again.

I'm... I'm gonna make a move.”

Sam's face lights up immediately. “Does that mean I'll meet her soon?”

Dean huffs a breath, flicking Sam's ear and getting out of the car. His brother follows him, looking at him.

At least, tell me how it went, okay?” Sam pouts as they enter the diner.

Dean smirks. “Mh, maybe.”

Pamela is thrilled to see them again and insists that Dean eats a slice of pie before he leaves. When he's sitting in the Impala again, he knows that Sammy is in good hands.

Nervously, he starts to drive. The Greatest Showman is laying in the glove box, and Dean knows for sure that he wants to do this. But he doesn't know how Cas is going to react.

Nevertheless, he drives to Castiel's house and parks in the driveway. This time, Lucifer's car isn't there, which means that he isn't home, which might be a good thing.

Dean pockets the DVD case and gets out of the car, ignoring his tenseness. Without thinking about it too much, he rings the bell – before he might get in the car again and drive off.

Cas opens the door, looking gorgeous as ever, wearing black sweatpants and a blue hoodie that compliments his eyes. And damn, the last time he saw Castiel, Cas had his eyes closed the entire time, and Dean missed the blue ocean so fucking much.

Castiel seems pretty surprised, seeing him standing on his front porch, but there's also something else in his eyes that might be fear. Dean bites his lip, wondering what Lucifer told Cas.

Dean,” Cas says, and fuck, his name sounds so good said with this gravelly voice.

Hey,” Dean says awkwardly.

Maybe he should have thought about this a little bit more because now he doesn't know what to say, where to begin.

What are you doing here?” Cas asks.

There is sadness in these blue eyes again.

Dean answers honestly. “I wanted to see you.”

Castiel's eyebrows shoot up in surprise. “Why?”

You okay?” Dean asks carefully, and Cas breaks eye contact, shrugging his shoulders halfheartedly.

I... uh, I have to thank you, I guess,” he says quietly, looking at Dean sheepishly. “For bringing me home after... you know...,” He trails off.

So, Lucifer did tell him that Dean brought him home, at least.

Nah, it's okay. It was no big deal.”

No, I have to apologize,” Cas says, but Dean shakes his head.

No, you don't,” he says sternly.

Castiel looks at him questioningly, and Dean returns his look. It hurts to know what happened to Cas, but it's so fucking good to see him again, to see the blue of his eyes, and to hear his voice. Dean feels so fucking happy because of that. He's talking to Cas again.

Can I come in?” he asks.

Cas tilts his head at those words, still looking sad.

Dean, what do you want? What are you doing here?”

I thought we could spend some time together.” He smiles at the blue-eyed boy, who is silent for a moment. “Please,” Dean says, but Cas shakes his head briefly.

I don't think this would be a good idea, Dean.”

Dean looks down. “Why not?”

Cas doesn't answer, and he looks back up.

Cas, I...”

Castiel looks so sad, and he's silently begging him to go and to stay at the same time. Dean knows Cas is broken and he knows now to what extent, but he's still the most gorgeous person Dean has ever seen. He still wants him, so he finally has the guts to say his next words.

I miss you.”

Cas stares at him, totally taken aback, slightly shaking his head, but he doesn't seem to know what to say.

I just want to watch a movie with you. I think you'll like it.” Dean sees the hesitation that's still covering the blue, but he ignores it. “My little brother made me watch it yesterday, and I thought I'd hate it, but I liked it.”

Carefully, he steps a little closer, and Castiel doesn't step back.

I'm asking for not even two hours. Please, Cas.”

Dean tries his best puppy eyes look, and Cas huffs a small laugh, running his fingers through his messy black hair. Dean holds the DVD case up, and Castiel stares at it for a few seconds.

Then, a smile tugs at the corners of his mouth. Dean wants to kiss that smile, but he knows that would be too much. His heart already starts beating twice as fast at the soft expression in these fucking blue eyes and Castiel's next words.

That's my favorite movie.”

 

Chapter Text

Dean is standing a little awkwardly in Castiel's hallway and has a look around. A white staircase leads upstairs, framed photographs adorn the wall, there's a shoe rack and a coat rack, both white-lacquered and a contrast to the dark plank floor, just like the staircase. It's pleasantly cool inside.

Cas closes the front door and rubs his right arm, looking at Dean as if he didn't know what to do now.

Your favorite movie?” Dean says, raising one eyebrow and trying to break the ice – it's only a thin layer, but still, it's there.

They haven't talked for weeks, after all. But Cas starts to smile a little, and suddenly the ocean is glistening. Dean has to swallow.

Well, one of my favorite movies. You thought you'd hate it?” Cas says, pretending to be offended.

Dean huffs a laugh, following Castiel into the living room. There's the same dark plank floor as in the hallway, a big blue couch, two equally blue armchairs, a glass coffee table, a cabinet, a TV, a fireplace, and more framed photographs. Dean doesn't see Castiel's father on any of these photos.

He has no idea why Cas let him in – into the house and also in a metaphorical sense. But hell, he's glad that he did, and he doesn't want to start asking any difficult questions right now. He doesn't want to get kicked out in no time. He doesn't want to screw this up.

Castiel takes the DVD case out of his hand and puts the DVD into the player, turning on the TV by remote control. He's chewing on the inside of his cheek.

Do you want to drink or eat something?” he asks.

Dean shakes his head, and Cas sits down on the couch, looking at Dean and smiling sheepishly. He seems nervous – what is very endearing – and fuck, Dean is nervous as well. He really doesn't want to mess this up. He sits down next to Cas on the couch, returning his smile with fake confidence.

You wanna start...?” Dean asks after a few moments.

Cas looks at him, taking a deep breath, and then he nods and presses play.

Dean doesn't sit very close to Cas (definitely not as close as he wants to), in order not to scare the blue-eyed boy. But he also doesn't sit as far away from him as possible. There's just an appropriate amount of space between them, enough that they won't touch each other accidentally. Dean doesn't want things to be awkward and he tries to relax, leaning back and hoping that Castiel is able to relax, too.

He eyes Cas over and over, and it's evident that he has watched this movie many times. He starts to smile before certain scenes even happen and sometimes, he mouths the lines. It's unbelievably cute. But Cas also eyes Dean again and again, and sometimes their eyes meet for a few seconds before they're able to look away quickly, both of them smiling.

During all songs, Dean watches Castiel attentively, and Cas also knows the lyrics to all the songs. But during the duet of Zac Efron's and Zendaya's characters, he's smiling softly, though he seems sad by the end of the song.

Neither of them says something until the credits are rolling. Castiel gets up and puts the DVD back into its case, holding it in his hands and staring at Dean, who's still sitting on the couch.

Time is up,” Dean says slowly, returning Cas's look.

He's not able to ban the sadness completely from his voice.

In return Cas nods slowly, wrinkling his forehead and looking at the DVD case. He bites his lip and then opens his mouth, as if he wanted to say something, but it takes him a moment to do so, and Dean doesn't pry. He waits nervously, his heart fluttering in his chest.

We can do this again.”

Watching a movie?” Dean asks, feeling hope rise inside of him.

Or something else. If you want to.”

Cas looks at him again, just in time to see the big grin that appears on Dean's face. Dean gets up from the couch and goes over to Cas, gently taking the DVD case out of his hands.

Of course, I want to.”

Of course,” Castiel repeats, starting to grin as well.

The sun hits the ocean, making it sparkle as if the surface were furnished with a million stars. Dean wants to kiss him right now – he wants to kiss Cas all the time, but especially right now – but he looks away before be does something rash. Cas isn't okay and that's more than obvious; he's looking so fucking tired. But Dean is able to make him smile again and for now, that's enough.

Can I have your number?” he asks. “That's the easiest way to arrange to meet,” he explains, shrugging his shoulders.

Castiel hesitates, but then he shrugs as well. “Okay.”

They exchange phone numbers, Dean is feeling strangely giddy, and Cas walks him to the door. Before he opens it, he holds Dean back, who looks at him questioningly.

Thank you, Dean.”

For what?” Dean wonders and Castiel looks away for a moment, but then he meets his eyes again.

Just...,” He shrugs, trailing off and biting his lip.

Dean gets the impression that Cas is quarreling with himself and he swallows, thinking of what to say. But all of a sudden, Cas steps closer, kind of hesitantly but still, and then he's wrapping his arms around Dean. Dean is surprised – pleasantly surprised – and he huffs a small laugh, hugging Cas back.

He knows that they're hugging for longer than maybe necessary, and definitely for longer as is customary, and a warm feeling spreads through his whole body. He automatically hugs Cas tighter, and when they let go, they're both smiling.

Dean leaves the house with a good feeling. There's a pleasant tingling in his stomach – fucking butterflies probably. Castiel took the step and hugged him first. It couldn't have been any better as a start.

He picks Sam up at Pamela's diner, who looks at him expectantly. In front of Pamela, he's able to control himself, but as soon as they're in the car, Sam is bombarding him with questions. Dean chuckles, telling his little brother to calm down. But he's in such a good mood that he's willing to share some details with Sammy.

We watched a movie.”

And?” Sam asks.

And we hugged,” Dean answers and he can't help but start to smile.

Sam thinks about it for a moment. “So, was that your first date?”

Dean bites his lip. “Not really.”

Oh... but you'll see her again, right?” Sam asks excitedly.

Yes. We agreed to that.” Dean hesitates before he continues speaking. “When someone's special, it's okay to take things slow.”

He parks in front of their house, and Sam is grinning at him.

Oh my god. You've got it bad.”

Dean rolls his eyes and gets out of the car, but he's smiling, and when they're in their kitchen, Sam asks one last question for now.

You like her a lot, don't you?”

Dean looks at his little brother and nods. “Yes, I do.”

While Sam gets a can of coke out of the fridge, he sends Castiel a quick text, just saying that he's arrived at home. Cas answers right away – that's a good sign, right? – asking if Dean just wanted to make sure that he didn't give him a fake number. Dean smiles at that, ignoring the look Sam shoots him.

He replies maybe . And then, I'm glad you didn't do that, though .

I'm glad you were here.

Dean stares at that sentence for a few seconds, and his heart is beating loudly in his chest.

Me too.

He can't stop smiling; even if he wanted to, he wouldn't be able to stop. Sam raises his eyebrows at him.

Wow ,” he says quietly, knowing that he has never seen his big brother like this before.

And then, John is standing in the doorway. They didn't even know that he's home, and now he's glaring at them. Dean knows instantly that their dad is sober.

Hey, dad,” Sam says, trying to smile at John.

After all, they haven't seen each other for a few weeks. Dean pockets his phone, carefully getting up and wanting to put himself between John and Sam in case of a fight.

You're back,” John says, superfluously.

He's sober, what's almost a miracle. Dean is tensed up since he doesn't know what to expect. But he's intentionally moving slowly, in order not to anger John even more.

Sam nods when John doesn't say anything else. “I'm back.”

School starts soon,” Dean throws in, and John shoots him another glare.

It's a tense and uncomfortable situation that only lasts for one or two minutes. Because suddenly their father just shrugs and leaves the house. Sam and Dean look at each other, confused, and Dean shrugs halfheartedly.

He still behaves weirdly. I don't know what's wrong.”

Some things stayed the same, though.”

Sam eyes the new scar on Dean's face that he didn't mention so far. Dean hoped that Sam wouldn't ask any questions. And he doesn't. He doesn't ask what happened. He must have known that Dean wasn't completely honest with him and didn't tell him everything when he was at Bobby's place.

Dean is feeling bad because of that now. Ignoring his guilty conscience that's tapping against his skull, he suggests ordering pizza tonight. Sam agrees on it and somehow, Dean has the feeling that everything's okay between them.

Later, when he's lying in bed, he takes his phone in hand and taps on his messages. He isn't sure whether to text Cas or not and what he's even supposed to text. After a few minutes of staring at the ceiling, Dean decides to send Cas a simple goodnight .

It's around 11 pm, and Castiel asks if Dean were already going to sleep, making him huff a laugh.

Already? he asks.

Cas replies quickly. I guess I don't have a normal sleeping pattern.

Apparently.

Dean smirks, looking at the screen of his phone.

Goodnight, Dean.

He puts his phone back on his nightstand, thinking that today was rather successful, and he falls asleep with a smile on his face.



* * *



When Lucifer comes home around 7 pm, Castiel is in the kitchen – and he's cooking. The soundtrack of The Greatest Showman is playing, not loudly but also not just as background music. Surprised and a little bit scared, he looks at his little brother, who seems relaxed. There's even a small smile playing on Cas's lips. Lucifer doesn't know what to think.

Castiel hasn't smiled in weeks. There was the time before the anniversary, then the actual anniversary, and then again the time after the anniversary. He didn't have many reasons to smile.

Now, it's still the time after the anniversary. So, what happened?

Hey,” Lucifer says, and Cas turns half around.

Hey.”

You're cooking.” Somehow, it sounds more like a question.

Castiel shrugs. “Yeah.”

He doesn't say anything else, and Lucifer doesn't know if he should be relieved or worried. Maybe, he's both at the same time. The days before and after the anniversary were more than hard, and the anniversary was a disaster, after all. He had hoped that Castiel would stay at home that day, but he didn't and thank god, that boy found him and brought him home. Although, Lucifer doesn't know why he left without saying something.

All in all, Lucifer has a lot of reasons why he should be worried about his brother. But now, he seems weirdly okay . That's kind of scary.

While Castiel finishes cooking, Lucifer sets the table, trying unobtrusively to keep an eye on Castiel. But really, Cas seems okay somehow, and he wonders what's the reason for that. He knows that Cas didn't have to work today. What happened that put him in a relatively good mood?

Of course, Castiel does notice the looks Lucifer is shooting him, and he knows that it has to be strange and maybe even a little bit scary for his big brother to see him like this. But Cas is feeling okay at the moment.

Hell, Castiel is more than a little scared himself, but he knows exactly why he's feeling okay – because of Dean.

When the green-eyed boy stood in front of him today, Castiel was so surprised and also so afraid, since Lucifer told him that Dean had brought him home on the day of the anniversary. Castiel doesn't remember any of it. He remembers getting drunk and wanting to see Dean, but that's it. He doesn't know what happened then. And he didn't know why Dean should want to see him again.

But Dean said that he misses him. And Cas realized once again how much he's missing Dean. Of course, there was also the movie. When Dean showed Cas what movie he wanted to watch with him, he decided to let Dean in. Sure, initially he was nervous, and the whole thing was terribly uptight, but Dean was also nervous and somehow, that calmed Castiel down.

During the movie, they looked at each other again and again, and then quickly looked away again and again. But they were both smiling. Cas felt comfortable in Dean's presence once more. And during that one song – the duet of Zac Efron's and Zendaya's characters –, he took encouragement from it, though in a way, it also made him oddly sad. Cas thinks Dean noticed that.

However, Castiel couldn't get Missouri's words, what she told him regarding Dean, out of his head the entire time.

These feelings that you have for Dean won't disappear all of a sudden.

Communication is important. If you don't talk to Dean, how are you going to find out what he's thinking and what he wants from you? And Dean doesn't seem to hate you like you thought he did.

It was very difficult to bring himself to do it, but he did tell Dean that they could do something together again. The grin on Dean's face was worth it.

Of course, I want to.

That simple sentence made Cas weirdly happy, and at first, he didn't even realize what he was feeling. He didn't recognize the happiness inside of him, because he hasn't felt like this for a long time. It was strange and scary, and just odd, but it felt like he was rediscovering something inside of him, even though he couldn't say what it was.

They even exchanged numbers, and Castiel can't believe that he agreed on that. But the hug was what took most strength to do. It was also absolutely worth it because Dean hugged him back. Cas knows very well that they hugged for longer than it's usual, but somehow he doesn't mind. He doesn't even care. It felt nice to hug Dean.

Maybe because of all that, he managed to kind of flirt with Dean, when they were texting, and to be brave enough to tell Dean that he's glad he was there.

All things considered, right now Cas is feeling okay and he knows it's noticeable.

Lucifer and he eat in silence for a few minutes, and the music continues playing. The Greatest Show. This Is Me. Then, his brother asks.

No Panic! At The Disco today?”

Castiel shakes his head slightly. “Was in the mood for this,” he mutters, and Lucifer nods hesitantly.

After dinner, they watch some TV, but they both know that Castiel is miles away. He keeps thinking about today and Dean. He missed the green-eyed boy so fucking much, and it felt so good to see him again, to hear his voice again. And the way Dean hugged him back – it felt amazing. Cas can admit that to himself.

When he goes to his room, he knows that he won't be able to sleep yet, so he gets his DVD of The Greatest Showman and sits down on his bed with his laptop. About 20 minutes later, he gets another text from Dean.

Goodnight.

A smile flashes over his face. Without thinking about it, he replies, You're going to sleep already?

Already? Dean asks, and Cas huffs a breath.

I guess I don't have a normal sleeping pattern.

Apparently.

Smiling, Cas writes, Goodnight, Dean.

He puts his phone aside and continues watching the movie.

The next days, Castiel and Dean are texting now and then, and it makes Cas smile every time. He knows very, very well that they're kind of flirting with each other, and it scares him, but it also feels so good. He remembers Missouri's words – It's not a bad thing that you like him – and decides to talk to her about it.

Of course, he has to talk with Missouri about this, and she seems relieved, because Dean and he are finally talking to each other again, and because Cas had the guts to say that they could do something together again. She doesn't say it, but he has the feeling that she's kind of proud of him, and maybe she doesn't even have to say it since Cas just knows.

Furthermore, she reinforces Castiel's decision to talk to Dean again, and she also tells him that he should meet up with Dean soon. Cas thinks about this and wonders what Dean and he could do. He isn't able to come up with anything useful. But the next time he talks to Charlie, she gives him an idea.

There's this new movie about zombies playing in the cinema, and she wants to watch it – for whatever reason. Castiel isn't a big fan of movies about zombies, but Dorothy isn't able to go and watch it with Charlie on Saturday, and Cas suggests on a whim that they could watch it together.

Her face lights up immediately. “Really?”

Cas chuckles. “Yeah. Hey, let's ask the others if they want to go with us.”

Charlie nods happily, but just Benny, Gabriel, and Meg are available on Saturday. Cas bites his lip. Sheepishly, he asks Charlie if he could invite someone else as well.

Who?” she asks surprised, wrinkling her brow.

Her red hair had grown quite long, but a few days ago she cut it again. The hair tips are just softly grazing her shoulders now.

Uh,... maybe I'm talking to Dean Winchester again.”

What?”

Charlie stares at him with mouth agape.

Yeah.”

Cas shrugs awkwardly. There's a glint in Charlie's eyes, and she starts to grin, elbowing him. She tries to hide it, but he knows she's beside herself with joy because of it.

Of course, you can invite Dean,” she says, not being able to stop grinning.

Castiel rolls his eyes halfheartedly. He's fairly sure that she's going to tell the others, but that's alright. Benny, Gabriel, and Meg are going to see Dean on Saturday anyway if he'll say yes. But just as a precaution he calls Crowley himself, since the Brit should hear it from him. Besides, he has to apologize to Crowley and also to thank him. Crowley was right, after all. Dean does him good, and now Castiel can start admitting and allowing that.

Though, Crowley doesn't want to hear any of that.

Oh, stop talking , Castiel. I don't want an apology or a thank you from you. First of all, I didn't do anything. And besides that, I'm just glad that you did something.”

But still, I have the feeling that I need to apologize to you. I wasn't exactly fair with you.”

I didn't have a problem with that,” Crowley answers. “I knew not to take it personally.”

Cas nods, even though Crowley can't see that.

Okay. So, it's all good?”

It's all good,” the Brit affirms, huffing a small breath.

Cas exhales with relief. Their conversation comes to an end, and they agree on ending the phone call, but before Castiel can hang up, Crowley says something again.

Hey, Cas?”

Yeah?” he asks.

It's a good decision.”

A small pause occurs.

I hope so,” Castiel says quietly, but he appreciates Crowley's approval.

Afterward, Cas isn't sure whether to text or to call Dean to ask if he wanted to go with them on Saturday. He's fiddling with his phone, but then he sighs and nervously presses the green button. Dean answers the call after a few moments.

Hey,” he says, sounding surprised but also happy to hear from Cas.

Dean is at work – he already told Castiel that he's working at one of the garages in town, and in return, Cas told Dean that he's working at Missouri's shop and at Pamela's diner – but he has a break right now, and they can talk. Before he can chicken out, Cas just asks Dean, biting his lip while waiting for Dean to answer.

Yeah, I'd love to,” Dean says. “But I have to talk to my brother first. Is that okay? I'll get back to you later.”

Cas doesn't understand what Dean's little brother has to do with it, furrowing his brow, but he agrees.

Yes, that's okay.”

He has to work today as well – a late shift at Pamela's diner – and he waits impatiently for Dean to text him. Pamela notices how distracted he is, but she doesn't mention it since it doesn't interfere with Castiel doing a good job.

When he finally gets a text from Dean, saying he can go with them on Saturday, a smile lights up Castiel's face. He ignores the questioning look Pamela shoots him and quickly texts Charlie, who's going to reserve the movie tickets.

On Saturday, they meet in front of the cinema at 7:30 pm. Charlie picked Cas up and then Gabriel, and Benny and Meg came together. Dean is the last one to arrive and he seems nervous, but that's dying away relatively fast.

Benny and Charlie are really happy to see Dean; Charlie even hugs him. Cas and Dean also hug very briefly, and Gabriel and Meg start to tease them again a little bit right away, especially when Charlie ensures that Dean and Castiel are sitting next to each other in the cinema hall. Dean doesn't seem to mind any of this, though. Cas is glad about that.

They watch the movie – that's not as bad as Cas expected it to be – and when they step out into the close night air, Castiel envies the others. He's the only one, who's wearing something long-sleeved, but of course, no one mentions it.

They make their farewells. Cas hugs Benny and Meg and wants to hug Dean again as well before he follows Charlie and Gabriel to Charlie's car. But then, Dean asks if he should drive Cas home, and Castiel could swear that he hears Charlie saying Yes! under her breath.

He hesitates briefly, looking Dean in the eye, but after another moment he nods.

Yeah, sure.”

He doesn't react to the looks of the others and just farewells also Charlie and Gabriel, but he sees the grins on his friends' faces. Cas ignores them completely since he's already pretty nervous because he's going to be alone with Dean again.

Dean has parked his car close by here, and they walk the few moments in comfortable silence. Before Cas gets in the car, he tries to remember that time, when he drove with that car once already. But he still can't remember, although he's standing right in front of the car, and he doesn't want to continue thinking about that day.

The sky is clear and star-studded, and Cas enjoys the view. He knows that the drive won't be too long and that's a great pity because he wants to be near Dean for a bit longer, although that's a scary thought.

When they're there, Dean parks by the side of the road in front of his house, turning off the engine and facing him. The lights are still on, so Lucifer is still awake; he probably waited for his little brother to come home.

Castiel looks at Dean, who's smiling softly at him. The realization hits him that this is actually happening. He's sitting in this car with this beautiful boy, who's looking at him the way Charlie always looks at Dorothy. Castiel has to smile at that thought, even though it is downright frightening.

I'm glad you asked me to do this,” Dean says quietly as if he were scared to break the silence.

Me too,” Cas replies, returning Dean's smile.

I'm also glad that you called me instead of just texting,” Dean admits after a few seconds, and Castiel looks at him questioningly.

Why?”

Well, it was nice to hear your voice again,” Dean says, looking out of the front window.

Castiel sees the faint blush that's covering Dean's cheeks suddenly, and he looks fascinated at the green-eyed boy and swallows.

Good to know,” he says low-voiced and forces himself not to look away, when Dean looks at him again, a little taken aback.

Cas chuckles and shakes his head, being staggered by himself. He is still terrified, but the way Dean is smiling at him tells him it's okay.

This time Dean hugs him first, carefully and gently, and also a little awkwardly in the confined space of the car, but Cas lets it happen and he allows himself to melt just a little bit against Dean. Again, they hug for quite a long time before Cas gets out of the car, waving Dean goodbye. There's a smile on his face when he enters the house, and his brother looks at him questioningly but doesn't say anything about it.

A few minutes later – Castiel is already in his room –, Dean texts him that he's arrived safely at home and another Goodnight, Cas .

Cas thinks about Dean's words, what he told him in the car – well, it was nice to hear your voice again – and sends him a voice message, without thinking about it too much.

Goodnight, Dean.”

On Monday, Castiel is working at Missouri's shop and tells her all about Saturday, since it's helping him to understand everything that's happening. He's also voicing misgivings, but she instantly calms him down.

The only thing that matters right now is that you're feeling better, because of Dean.”

Then, she tells him that she'd like to meet Dean, the sooner the better. Cas is a little surprised by that, but he promises her to ask Dean if he wanted to accompany him on Wednesday when he has his next shift at the shop.

After work, he meets up with Meg at the park. They blow smoke rings in each other's faces, and Meg tells him about slimy men that are passing through town and think they have every right to flirt with the young barmaid.

What about you and Dean?” Meg asks eventually.

Castiel knew this question would come up at some point.

What about us?” he asks back innocently.

I don't know. Are there any dirty details?”

Meg smirks at him, and Cas rolls his eyes, chuckling.

No,” he says expressly.

You mean, not yet,” Meg says with a sly smile.

Cas shakes his head, opening his mouth to say something, but she just continues talking.

No, but seriously, Clarence. We're all glad that you two are talking again.”

They look at each other, and Castiel is biting his lip.

He does you good, Cas. That's just a fact.”

Meg shrugs her shoulders, smiling at him. Castiel sighs, but he smiles back at her.

Back at home, he calls Dean, who agrees on accompanying him on Wednesday afternoons.

Shall I take you there?” Dean asks immediately.

Yes, I'd like that,” Cas answers, wondering if Dean can hear the smile in his voice.

As promised, on Wednesday afternoons Dean picks him up at home – Lucifer isn't there, he has to work as well –, and they drive to Missouri's shop.

Who exactly is this Missouri?” Dean asks, sounding a little nervous.

She's a very good friend of mine,” Castiel answers with a smile, but he's also a little nervous, wondering what Missouri will think of Dean after he's told her so much about this boy.

Right on cue Dean asks another question, shooting him a quick look.

Have you told her about me?”

Maybe a little bit,” Cas replies evasively.

Missouri is happy to see them both, but she's scrutinizing Dean as soon as he enters her shop. Cas can see that Dean doesn't know what to think of her. And then, she separates them for a start. Castiel is said to clean in the front of the shop, and Dean is said to follow her into the room at the back of the store that is functioning as her office.

Dean looks back at Cas, both questioningly and also a little skeptically, who just shrugs his shoulders and grabs the broom.

Dean and Missouri talk for about 15 minutes with each other. Then, Dean comes over to Cas, who's sitting behind the counter with the register on it, since he just served a customer. Dean sits down next to him on the other chair, and Castiel looks at him. Missouri is still in her office and apparently, she's talking over the phone with someone now. He can hear her voice, but he doesn't understand what she's saying.

What did you talk about?” Cas asks as innocently as possible, trying not to show how curious he is.

Dean shrugs and looks around. “She just told me to... to treat you right,” he says quietly.

Cas blinks at him, feeling the faint blush on his cheeks, and he looks away, not knowing what to say to that. Dean starts fiddling with a pen, and Missouri comes briefly out of her office, holding a folder in her hand.

Could you organize this, honey?” she asks, and Cas nods, taking the folder from her.

The phone rings again, and she goes hastily back into her office, closing the door behind her. Castiel opens the folder and starts working. Dean watches him silently, making it harder for him to concentrate properly. After a while, he returns Dean's look.

You know, you don't have to stay. This is boring for you.”

But Dean shakes his head. “No, I want to stay.”

Why?” Cas asks, huffing a small breath, and Dean just stares at him for a long time.

He has the feeling that there's something Dean's not telling him; he can see it in the depth of Dean's green eyes, but he doesn't know what it is. Castiel remembers how it was the same with Crowley, and he wonders what keeps playing on Dean's mind. He liked to know, but he doesn't dare to ask.

It's working well, their rapprochement. Cas doesn't want to ruin it again. After all, he has the guts to flirt with Dean, or to flirt back, when Dean's flirting with him. It feels nice – more than nice. It feels amazing. It's amazing to spend time with Dean again.

Since they're talking to each other again, Dean has been nothing but honest with him. So, whatever it is that's on his mind, he will tell him eventually – when he's ready to do so. Castiel remembers the advice Missouri gave him regarding Crowley.

Sometimes, people need some time to think things through. The weight of words can be really heavy. Maybe he isn't sure if he should say them out loud.

That's applying to Dean as well, right?

Besides, Dean's honesty is one of the reasons why Cas is allowing the whole thing to happen in the first place. Also, Dean is so careful with everything he does and says, and Castiel appreciates that.

When Dean gently takes his hand into his now, Cas is shocked and has to take a deep breath. Hesitantly, he looks at Dean, who's nervously looking back at him.

That's why,” Dean says, his voice weak.

He's staring at Castiel, silently asking for permission. Somehow, Cas knows that Dean wouldn't be mad at him if this weren't okay for him. But it is okay.

Cas swallows; he has a lump in his throat. Nevertheless, he nods, seeing the relief in these green eyes right away. Dean bites his lip, probably to hide his smile, what's very endearing. Castiel closes his eyes for a moment, exhaling shakily before continuing to work, a warm feeling spreading through his whole body, starting from the hand Dean is holding.

They're holding hands, and Cas can't believe that this is happening. He forces himself not to hide his smile because he wants Dean to know that this is okay. That this is something he wants to do.

Suddenly, his shift is already over, and Dean offers him to drive him home. Cas nods, and Missouri comes out of her office again to farewell them. She still has some work to do, but there's a gentle smile playing on her lips when she looks at them.

Could you go ahead?” Cas asks Dean, who hesitates noticeably but he leaves, glancing at Missouri a bit uneasily.

Cas looks after Dean and then he asks Missouri what she and Dean talked about earlier.

I gave him a piece of advice and I also told him that he can always come to me when there's a problem,” she answers.

Castiel nods, but as to that, he doesn't ask any further questions. There's something else that's giving him more cause for concern.

You told him to treat me right.”

Yes, I did. Does he?” she asks, scrutinizing him now.

Cas huffs a breath, furrowing his brow. “Yeah, I think so.”

He smiles at her, and she returns his smile.

Dean waits for him at the car, leaning against the hood. Castiel has to smile at the sight, and Dean smiles back at him, though he's looking at him questioningly.

Missouri likes you,” Cas states, and Dean huffs a small laugh.

She's a special person. And she cares about you.”

I know.”

Does she always say what she thinks and it always sounds so, I don't know, wise ?” Dean wonders, going around the car and opening the driver's door.

Cas chuckles, getting in the car as well. “I think so. Yes.”

I don't know why, but the way she is, she kinda reminds me of Bobby,” Dean says absentmindedly, starting to drive.

Who is Bobby?”

Bobby Singer. An old friend of my family,” Dean answers, and Cas nods.

Do you have to go home right away?” Dean asks all of a sudden.

Cas stares at him for a moment. “No. Besides, my brother is still working. Why?”

Dean shrugs a little. “I just thought we could do something.”

And what?”

Castiel smiles. He's glad to be able to spend even more time with Dean. It definitely beats being alone at home.

We could go to the park,” Dean suggests, and Cas agrees on it.

It's still summer what means it only gets dark late in the evening, and it's only shortly after 7 pm. Dean parks the car near the park, and they walk to it and enter it.

Since it's still summer, it's warm – Dean is only wearing a dark blue t-shirt over grey jeans. But he's also wearing his work boots, like always.

They sit down at a table near the playground. A woman is there, pushing a baby stroller, and also a young couple, probably just a few years older than Dean and Castiel, and they're going running. Besides them, Cas and Dean are alone in the park, or at least in this part of it, and they are also undisturbed.

Cas looks up, but of course, there aren't any stars yet. The sky is still blue and on the horizon, he sees a few shreds of grey clouds that wouldn't bring any rain. When he looks back down, Dean is staring at him.

They're sitting next to each other on a bench, and Dean scoots a little closer. Castiel's heart starts to beat faster, and he doesn't know if he's ready for whatever happens next. He isn't even sure if he's ready just to talk about it.

But Dean only takes his hand again, making his heart almost leap out of his chest, and intertwining their fingers this time.

This is okay, right?” Dean asks softly, squeezing his hand.

Cas smiles sheepishly. “Yeah, this is okay,” he says quietly, almost whispering.

Dean starts to draw small circles on the back of Castiel's hand with his thumb to calm him down.

This feels nice,” Dean says, interrupting the silence.

Above the trees there are some birds, flying around. Cas's smile widens. He agrees with Dean, but he doesn't say anything. He doesn't want to say the wrong thing and ruin it. Because this does feel nice. And he isn't good at this.

Suddenly, a thought flashes through his mind, and he bites the inside of his cheek. This could be exactly such a wrong thing to say and to ruin everything.

What?” Dean asks, noticing it right away and never stopping to move his thumb soothingly over the back of Cas's hand.

You aren't gay, right?” Castiel asks, pushing the words out before his courage is able to falter and looking at Dean, who's looking back at him for a few seconds.

Then, he starts to laugh. Cas can just stare at Dean at first, since dear lord, this boy truly is so fucking beautiful . While Dean's still laughing, Cas starts blushing because of what he's thinking.

What's so funny?” he wonders eventually, tilting his head a bit and worrying that he indeed said the wrong thing.

Nothing, it's just... that you're asking this now .”

Dean chuckles – a magnificent sound.

But yes, I'm not gay. I'm bisexual.”

Cas nods, slowly realizing that he thankfully hasn't said the wrong thing.

Okay.”

Is that a problem for you?” Dean asks, seeming worried all of a sudden.

Now it's Castiel, who's squeezing Dean's hand reassuringly.

No, of course not,” he says seriously, looking Dean in the eye, who nods, relieved and calmed down again.

He's also smiling again. “But you are gay, right?”

Right,” Cas answers, watching a bee that's flying past him.

Just wanted to make sure,” Dean says, and Cas huffs a small laugh.

Quickly, Dean presses a kiss to Castiel's hand, who stares at him with wide eyes. Dean smirks at him, not letting go of his hand.

You're blushing,” the green-eyed boy whispers and Cas shakes his head slightly, running the fingers of his free hand through his hair.

A small pause. Another bee buzzes quite close beside him, and the birds are chirping. They're still holding hands, and the sky slowly decides to change color. The blue is crossed by pink streaks by now.

It's adorable,” Dean says, and everything just keeps going, although Castiel's heart skips a beat or maybe two.

He swallows and huffs a small, skeptical laugh. He can't believe he's allowing this to happen.

First, Dean points at their interlaced fingers and then to and fro between them.

Is this okay?”

Castiel looks at the boy in front of him and he doesn't understand the adoration in Dean's eyes, and he also doesn't understand why everything's happening so fast all of a sudden. But again, he remembers something Missouri's told him.

You could miss out on one of the best things that will ever happen to you. You never know.

Yes. This is okay, Dean. More than okay.”

 

Chapter Text

It's Tuesday. Dean's shift at the garage ended a few minutes ago, and he's standing outside, smoking another cigarette.

He cleaned up the garage a bit in addition to finish fixing a motorcycle today. Speckles of engine oil are staining his grey t-shirt and he's glad that he's going to be home soon. He wants to change his clothes, but that's not the real reason why he's looking forward to this afternoon.

Castiel will come over to spend some time with Sam and him. Sure, they won't stay at their house, and Cas won't come inside for the simple reason that Dean wants to avoid a collision with John Winchester. But they will go to the park, and Dean hopes that it will be fun.

Cas wanted to see Sam again. Dean hesitated, and then he had to tell Castiel that Sam thinks his big brother is seeing a girl since he doesn't know he's bisexual. Cas was surprised by that, but he promised not to say something to Sam about it. Dean was relieved, especially when the blue-eyed boy didn't ask any further questions. Though he wanted to explain it to Cas, at least briefly, Castiel just waved away.

Coming out isn't easy. I understand that.”

For now, they left it at that.

To be honest, Dean doesn't know what Castiel and he are. They aren't boyfriends. They aren't even dating. Sure, they're trying to see each other as often as possible, between work and everything else. Dean has to look after Sammy and also after their father, and he has some responsibilities. He has to make sure that there's enough food in the house and that all the bills are paid. Cas has even two jobs, he has his big brother, who wants to do stuff with him, and also all his friends.

Every time they see each other alone, they're holding hands. But that's all. They haven't done anything else than holding hands – which is completely fine. Dean knows the reasons for it, and it's really like he told Sam. When someone's special, it's okay to take things slow.

And Castiel Novak is far more than just special .

Dean is already so happy, because he gets to see the blue-eyed boy, to spend time with him, to hear his voice, and because Cas allows him to hold his hand. That's enough for him, more than enough. Cas is letting him in slowly but steadily, and so far he hasn't tried to push Dean away again. He's learning to trust Dean, who's trying to be as honest as possible with Castiel at the moment.

They're going slow – so what? Dean isn't going to complain. They are going. They are finally making steps in the right direction. That's all that matters to him.

Dean is feeling better himself, because of Castiel. As soon as he's with the gorgeous blue-eyed boy, he's able to forget about his anger, his sadness, and his worries. He can forget that he's fucked up and a loser, because for whatever reason, Cas decided to let him in.

Now, all that matters is that he coaxes another laugh out of Castiel's mouth, that he throws the sun into the ocean as often as possible, that he holds Cas's hand, that he compliments this wonderful boy, and that he shows him he isn't going anywhere, at least not without him. He wants to show Cas that he won't disappear all of a sudden and that he won't leave him alone.

It feels so good to be finally able to show Cas his feelings for him and to know that it's okay. He got the okay from Castiel himself, and it's just awesome.

Dean stomps out the cigarette with the heel of his boot, smiling absentmindedly and getting in the Impala. On the way home, he hardly has to pay attention to where he's driving, because by now, the streets of this town are familiar.

While he's drumming the beat of the song that's playing on the steering wheel, he thinks that it's hard to believe how long they're already here. They moved to this town in January and now, it's August. They've never stayed this long at one place before, except for the first six years of Dean's life. But back then life was different, maybe better because his mother was still alive.

Dean hates what comes next to his mind – that he hadn't met Castiel if his mother hadn't died. Angry with himself, he shakes his head. He shouldn't think about stuff like this too much.

He stops at a red light, mouthing the lyrics to Highway to Hell , when he sees him – Alastair. Suddenly, all muscles in Dean's body are tensed, and their eyes meet for a few seconds.

Alastair remained unchanged. The pale ill-looking skin, the eerie grin, and the cold eyes are still like Dean is remembering them. He feels a spate of hate overrunning him at the sight, at the way they're staring at each other.

Dean hasn't seen Al in weeks, and if he's honest, after the graduation ceremony he didn't waste much thought on the creepy guy. But now, he sees Alastair again, who's still staring at him with this hate-filled, yet hungry and downright greedy look in his eyes.

Dean doesn't know what to think, but it's sending chills down his spine, and certainly not good ones. He feels uncomfortable and he is just able to stare back at Alastair for a long moment.

Then, the light's green, and the driver in the car behind him is beeping at him. He keeps driving, watching Alastair in the rear-view mirror, and decides to tell Cas about this as soon as they're alone.

John isn't home when he enters their house a few minutes later, but Dean doesn't mind. They haven't talked to their father since he found out that Sammy's back. But there haven't been any fights and that's something positive, Dean thinks. Neither he nor Sam found out what's going on with John and since they aren't talking, they aren't going to find it out any time soon.

Though, that doesn't have to be a bad thing. Of course, they are avoiding each other and this isn't how it's supposed to be, but that there are no fights is a really good thing – especially if you consider the last few years, when there was a fight every day and almost every day, it ended with a fist colliding with Dean's face (most of the time).

Sam is sitting at the kitchen table, finishing his homework. He agreed on meeting up with Castiel right away, without asking any questions. He's excited to see Cas again since he enjoyed talking to him after Cas saved them from Cole and when they were walking home together.

Even though Dean's not ready to come out to his little brother just yet, he wants Sam to like – if you like, to approve of – Castiel. So, he's a bit nervous.

Cas wanted to be here in half an hour. Dean has time to shower quickly and to put on some fresh clothes, and then he forgets about the efforts of the hard work of today so far.

When the bell rings, he puts on his best smile while he rushes downstairs. Sam is in his room, he just brought his stuff upstairs, and Dean wants to have a few moments alone with Cas. He opens the front door and finally, he's looking into those blue, blue eyes again.

The gorgeous boy that's standing in front of him smiles back at him, and Dean allows himself to get lost in this smile for a few seconds before he hugs Cas, who automatically wraps his arms around him to hug him back. Dean knows how much negotiation all this costs Castiel every time, and that's the reason why Dean would never pressure Cas into doing something.

They let go of each other when Sam comes downstairs and says hello to Cas with a smile. He seems genuinely happy to see Cas again, and Dean lets out a small sigh of relief. As soon as they leave the house and start walking to the park, Sam and Castiel start a conversation. Dean is relieved that they seem to get along so well.

It's another warm day. Dean is wearing an AC/DC t-shirt and jeans, and Sam is wearing jeans and a simple white t-shirt. Only Castiel is wearing a red, long-sleeved sweater and ripped jeans; Sam seems surprised by that, but thankfully he doesn't mention it.

They spend a few hours at the park, and their topics of conversation are ranging from Harry Potter to the importance of bees. Most of the time, Dean doesn't take much part in the conversation. He simply enjoys that they're being together, and since Sam is so focused on talking and listening to Castiel, he can watch Cas untroubledly inconspicuously.

They laugh a lot, so the ocean is shining brightly the whole time, and Dean can just bask in it. At some point, they even start trying to deduce the other people at the park like Sherlock Holmes, and they fail miserably, but it makes them laugh even more.

When it starts to get dark, they bring Sam home. His little brother farewells Cas and enters the house, while Dean stays with the blue-eyed boy for another moment.

Do you have to go home already?” Dean asks, biting his lip.

What's the alternative?” Cas asks, stepping a little closer.

The alternative would be that we go back to the park and have some alone time.”

Sounds good,” Cas says after a moment, and Dean takes his hand briefly, squeezing it slightly.

Wait a sec!” he says, before going inside and making sure that John isn't there.

Lately, John doesn't come home before midnight, so why should it be any different tonight? Besides, Dean doesn't want to stay away for long anyway (only as a precaution nevertheless).

Cas and he go back to the park – it's around 10:30 pm by now – and they sit down under a tree, near the playground and the bench where they held hands for the second time. Immediately, Dean takes Castiel's hand, automatically intertwining their fingers, and of course, it doesn't escape his notice that Cas starts to smile at that.

Cas is still insecure, but he's allowing it, and that's a good sign and also a big step. Dean is strangely confident of the future of their relationship, of where they are going from here.

Without beating around the bush, he tells Cas about Alastair. Castiel listens carefully, furrowing his brow, and it's like what Dean just said casts a cloud over his face.

I've seen Alastair as well,” Castiel says. “A few times actually.”

Dean looks at him, a little surprised. “Really?”

Cas nods. “Haven't you heard?”

What?” Dean asks curiously.

Alastair's disappeared,” Cas says, shrugging his shoulders.

Dean frowns. “What do you mean?”

Well, clearly he didn't completely disappear. But he was supposed, and still is I think, to repeat the last school year – again. He didn't show up, he didn't come back to school. Apparently, he's keeping a low profile. Nobody knows where he is, or what he's doing. He doesn't have any family here, and Malachi is the only one from his little gang, who stayed in this town.”

What about Ruby and Cole?” Dean asks, looking at Cas.

His thoughts are racing, because of all this new information. He didn't know about that. He also didn't care, since – as previously mentioned – he didn't pay much thought to Alastair lately. He didn't have any reason to, not until he saw Al again and realized that he's still watching him somehow.

Cole joined the army,” Cas answers, leaning his head against the trunk of the tree. “And Ruby left the town, too. I doubt that she'll ever come back. She always hated it that she had to accept a subordinate role to Alastair.”

They keep quiet for a few moments, just holding hands, and Cas looks up at the stars through the branches of the tree. Dean looks at Castiel, enjoying the view and the presence of the blue-eyed boy.

They're both wondering about the same questions. What does Alastair still want from them? Why is he still watching them? Sure, Al is a super creepy freak, but that can't be the only explanation for this. Right?

Dean asks those questions out loud, but Cas shrugs once again.

In turn, Alastair always hated it that he had to accept a subordinate role to me.” He smiles grimly.

But then, they don't talk about this topic anymore. Dean wants to enjoy his alone time with this gorgeous boy for a little while longer. So, he tells him how glad he is that Sam and he get along so well, and Cas starts to smile.

Sam is so smart. It takes absolutely no effort to have an adult conversation with him.”

I've noticed,” Dean laughs. “You two talked a lot.”

Cas chuckles lightly. “You're very smart as well, Dean,” he says seriously.

Dean shrugs halfheartedly, rubbing his neck awkwardly and looking at the ground. He presses his eyebrows together.

Nah, I'm not,” he says eventually.

You are,” Cas emphasizes.

If you say so,” Dean says after a moment of silence, not looking at Cas.

Castiel squeezes his hand. “I know so.”

Dean stares at their intertwined fingers, a small and shy smile playing on his lips.

Two days later, Dean has a day off, and Castiel has a late shift at Pamela's diner. They meet up around 9 am; Dean comes over to Cas's house.

Lucifer isn't there, he's working, and Dean is thankful for that. He isn't sure if he could see Lucifer and keep a straight face. But by now, he is sure that Castiel's brother doesn't know that Dean had heard everything he'd said, because Cas would've talked to him about it. Or worse, he wouldn't be talking to Dean anymore, at all.

That's the reason why Dean didn't volunteer to tell Cas that he knows about his past yet. He's scared that the blue-eyed boy will stop talking to him then – once again. Well, it would be a reasonable reason this time at least, but Dean still doesn't want that. He wants to continue spending time with Cas. It's such a good feeling that he's finally able to do that again. And now, he's even able to hold Cas's hand and to hug him.

He also considered the possibility that Lucifer just didn't tell Castiel. But if Lucifer remembered that Dean had heard everything and if Lucifer were aware that Dean had been there, when he'd said those things, Lucifer would have confronted Dean with this by now. Right?

Therefore, Dean assumes that Lucifer doesn't know, that he doesn't remember it, and that he indeed isn't aware of what he said out loud and what Dean heard. But no matter what, it doesn't calm his inner turmoil down.

Somehow, Dean wants to talk about the things heard with Castiel, but then again somehow he also better not want to do this. How the fuck is he even supposed to raise this topic?

He isn't good at this anyway. Although he's already trying to be honest with Cas about his feelings, but still. He just isn't good at this – talking about feelings, these heart to heart talks, speaking about serious and important topics. That's also the reason why he hasn't come out to his little brother yet. Because he doesn't know where and how to start. This stuff is so unnecessarily complicated, and it always makes him feel uncomfortable and awkward.

Besides, Dean wonders if it were even the best when he told Cas, if he's even supposed to tell Cas. But then again, that's kind of selfish, because he doesn't want to tell Castiel for his own sake. Doesn't Castiel deserve to know that Dean knows about his past?

But when Cas opens the door for him that morning and smiles at him, Dean knows he's not ready to tell him, not yet. Though now, he realized that he has to tell Castiel.

Maybe his inner turmoil is a little bit obvious because Castiel is looking at him questioningly. But Dean just shrugs and shakes his head briefly before he hugs Castiel tightly. Cas seems surprised and also a little worried, but he hides it behind another smile, hugging Dean back and taking his hand. He starts to talk about random stuff, and Dean is grateful for that.

They go upstairs and into Castiel's room, sitting down on his bed. They're both sitting cross-legged across from each other, just a little space between them, so their legs aren't touching. But they're still holding hands.

Dean squeezes Cas's hand, knowing how hard this all is for him, and that it isn't going to change easily all of a sudden. That's really okay with him. But Dean would like to have a little distraction right now from all these thoughts in his head, so he presses a kiss to Castiel's hand once again, watching how Cas's breath hitches in his throat. Castiel's mouth is agape and he seems to have forgotten the end of the sentence he was just saying. He's staring at Dean quizzically, but also kind of happy and relieved, and dear god, suddenly the ocean is sparkling so fucking much.

Dean starts smiling and Cas starts blushing at the same time. And fuck , Dean wants to kiss Cas, but he doesn't want to overstep any of Castiel's bounds. Although, he would like to know what other effects he has on Cas.

But he hits on an idea – a small compromise perhaps – and he hopes that it's okay.

Without letting go of Castiel's hand, Dean leans forward and Cas stares at him with wide eyes, but he doesn't flinch and he doesn't back off. So, Dean is able to kiss his cheek.

Cas seems to be paralyzed from shock – he's not blinking, he's not moving at all. Suddenly, Dean is scared of having gone too far, of this being too much for Castiel.

Oh, god. I'm sorry, I'm so sorry, Cas,” he stammers, thinking of what else to say, of what to do now.

Then, Cas finds his voice. “No, no,” he says quietly. “Please, don't... don't apologize.”

Dean nods slowly, biting his lip, glad Cas is still allowing him to hold his hand. He looks down at their interlaced fingers, in order not to have to look into Castiel's eyes at the moment. The whole thing is kind of embarrassing. He didn't want to make things awkward between them and now, he acted just on impulse. Fucking hell. How could he be so stupid? Dean's angry with himself and presses his eyebrows together.

All of a sudden, there's a hand on his cheek. The touch is tentative, and he looks back up again to see the softest expression ever in Castiel's blue eyes.

It's fine, Dean,” he says, his gravelly voice so gentle like never before. “Don't be mad at yourself. Everything's fine.”

Cas chuckles slightly, throat rippling, but he's blinking again. Dean realizes once again how difficult this has to be for him.

I'm not mad at you, Dean,” Cas continues, voice still quiet and gentle. “Okay?”

They look at each other for a long time, and Dean simply takes in the softness and the reassurance in Castiel's eyes.

Okay,” he answers eventually, smiling sheepishly, his heart beating loudly and a little too fast since Castiel's hand is still pressed against his cheek.

Dean leans into the touch, slowly and carefully, and Cas returns his smile. Then, he also takes Cas's other hand – the one on his cheek – into his other hand, holding them both tightly.

It's just... you have to tell me if something's not okay, and you have to be honest. I promise I won't ever be mad at you for it.”

Castiel's smile doesn't fade away, but it seems like he doesn't know what to say. After a while, he simply nods. A small pause, and they keep looking into each other's eyes.

Thank you.”

You don't have to thank me,” Dean says seriously, putting Cas off.

They continue holding hands and change the topic. Cas has introduced Dean to a band (Castiel's favorite band) called Panic! At The Disco , and they're listening to some of their songs now. Dean isn't really into it, but it's Cas's favorite band, so he doesn't say anything against it. Besides, Dean has noticed that the music is helping Cas to relax.

They talk about their work, and Dean gushes about the Impala for a few minutes, while Cas listens carefully, even though he isn't interested in cars. Dean appreciates that. Maybe Cas also noticed that Dean isn't into this kind of music, but doesn't say something against it, because it's important to Castiel, and Cas appreciates that as well.

After a while, they go downstairs and into the kitchen. Cas gets some things out of the fridge and different cupboards, so they can make some sandwiches. Dean notices different postcards that are attached to the fridge door with fridge magnets. He points at them.

From your dad?” he asks a little doubtingly.

Cas huffs a small, humorless laugh. “No. They're from Ash and Garth. They're both on a road trip since the day after prom.”

Oh, okay,” Dean says, having another look at them.

Cas comes over to him to stand right beside him, also looking at the postcards.

They hitchhiked together for a while, but then they've parted company. Garth went to Washington, New York, and Boston. He stayed with Crowley for a few days in New York. Ash went to Los Angeles, San Francisco, and also Seattle. Just to name a few cities they've been to.”

He always pointed at the respective postcards, and Dean nods, kind of impressed and a little jealous.

That's awesome,” he says, and Cas smiles softly at him, tugging at his hand and pulling him away from the fridge and over to the table.

They eat in comfortable silence until Cas's phone vibrates multiple times. He ignores it at first, but it doesn't stop and then he picks it up, shooting Dean an apologetic look. He stares at his phone for a few moments, apparently reading something, but he's pressing his eyebrows together and grimacing.

What's wrong?” Dean asks.

It's Charlie,” Cas mumbles, quickly writing a short reply to all the texts she sent him.

What about her?”

Nothing. It's just... she keeps asking if I wanted to do something on my birthday this year.”

When's your birthday?” Dean asks wonderingly.

September 1 st ,” Castiel says. “But I don't celebrate it,” he adds quickly.

Dean realizes instantly (and with horror) that he knows the reason why. He remembers one of the things Lucifer told him, regarding Castiel's birthday.

And then he turned 14, but it was a disaster and after Christmas... I think he just didn't want to start another year.

Dean has to swallow. “Really?” he asks woodenly. “Why not?”

Cas shrugs, not meeting Dean's eyes, because he doesn't know that Dean already knows. Dean's inner turmoil reaches another summit (or plumbs new depth – depending on how one looks at it). It feels like there's a hurricane inside of him, upsetting everything.

How old will you be?”

Dean drops the previous question and asks another one. He doesn't even know why. He didn't like the sudden silence between him and Castiel, who's biting his lip now. Maybe this was also the wrong question, Dean thinks, but eventually, Castiel answers him.

19,” he mumbles, not staring at Dean, but rather at the table surface.

Dean nods, carefully taking Cas's hand again that has been laying on the table. Cas briefly opens his mouth, as if he wanted to say something. But then he decides against it, finally looking Dean in the eye again and smiling softly, though it seems a little forced. Nevertheless, Dean returns the smile right away, although he's thinking frantically, and his thoughts are going round in circles.

Around 1:30 pm, he drives Castiel to Pamela's diner and they arrive just in time. He even enters it with him, to say hello to Pamela at least, who he really likes. Sadly, Benny started his apprenticeship two and a half weeks ago, and now he's working at a restaurant in the next town to train as a cook.

Pamela is a little surprised to see them together; she didn't know that they know each other. Since Dean and Castiel didn't talk to each other, when Dean was here for the first time, he didn't tell her that it has been Castiel, who's recommended her diner.

She urges Dean to stay and eat a slice of apple pie, and she doesn't take no as an answer. Though, Dean didn't even think about saying no – Pamela's apple pie is one of the best things he's ever eaten.

He sees Cas smirking at him behind Pamela's back before he starts to work. Dean shakes his head slightly and sits down at a free table. Pamela places a plate with a huge slice of apple pie in front of him and goes back to work. But five minutes later, she sends Cas into the kitchen to help there with something (it's not very busy right now, only a few tables are occupied and all the guests are served for now), and she sits down across from Dean. He looks at her, a little taken aback and confused.

Are you two together?” she asks bluntly, but softly.

As a result, Dean almost chokes on his mouthful of apple pie. He has to cough but still manages to stammer a word.

W-what?”

He looks at the door to the kitchen to see if Castiel is coming back already. He kinda wishes Cas did.

We're not together,” he says when he finally finished coughing.

Pamela raises her eyebrows at him, a knowing smile playing on her lips. Dean is a little in discomfort because of that and shifts around in his chair.

Seriously, we're not together,” he says, trying to emphasize it.

If you say so,” is all Pamela says, shrugging and still smiling. “But I've seen the way you look at him, and the way he looks at you. So, you can't tell me there aren't any feelings involved. You're just not together – not yet.”

She gets up, and Dean tries to chuckle, but it sounds more like he's awkwardly clearing his throat. Castiel comes back from the kitchen, they automatically look at each other, and Cas gives him a small smile before he goes over to a new customer. Pamela is grinning at Dean now, and he rolls his eyes halfheartedly, but he knows she means well.

He finishes his slice of apple pie off and farewells Castiel with a hug before he drives home. Just when he parked in front of their house, Sammy comes back from school.

Where have you been?” Sam asks, already grinning just like Pamela did about 20 minutes ago.

Shut up,” Dean grumbles as they enter the house together.

How's it going between you two?” his little brother asks before he goes upstairs to bring his backpack into his room.

Dean shrugs. “Good, I guess.”

Have you kissed?”

Dean turns around to Sam, pointing at the stairs.

Don't you want to go to your room to do some homework?” he complains.

I take that as a no,” Sam answers, snickering, and quickly goes upstairs and disappears into his room before Dean can reply to that.

The next day, Dean and Sam go grocery shopping together – John has locked himself into his bedroom and only leaves it when they aren't there or sleeping, yet again. They both are glad about the peace in their home that's there at the moment, but they also know that it's elusive.

Dean is just waiting for it all to get blown up again.

In the supermarket – Sam is about to pick out some pudding – they meet Charlie, Dorothy, and Kevin. Charlie basically attacks Dean, jumping at him and laughing loudly.

Jesus Christ!” Dean exclaims, and Sam almost drops the basket with their groceries.

The people around them are staring at them, either amused or irritated. Kevin apologizes to Dean right away, saying that they weren't able to stop her. Charlie looks at him offended, running her fingers through her red hair. Dean notices that it's shorter than it was the last time he saw her.

He chuckles, pushing Charlie a little bit, and she starts to smile. Dean introduces them to Sammy, who remembers seeing them at school, but he's never talked to them before. It doesn't escape Dean's notice that Sam doesn't even bat an eye, when Charlie points at Dorothy and introduces her, proudly as ever when she's talking about her.

That's my girlfriend, Dorothy.”

Kevin, Dorothy, and Charlie are grocery shopping themselves right now, but only snacks and sweets for their video games marathon. Without hesitation, they invite Dean and Sam. Dean looks at his little brother, shrugging.

What do you say?”

Sure,” Sam answers, smiling. “Why not?”

So, Dean and Sam bring their groceries home first before they drive over to Kevin's house, where the marathon is going to take place. They get to know Mrs. Tran, Kevin's mom – a small, kind, but energetic Asian woman.

Charlie and Dorothy are already there, and they all make themselves comfortable in Kevin's room, with heaps of pillows on the floor. They remind Dean of all the (a little unnecessary) pillows on Castiel's bed, and he's still intending to ask Cas why he has so many pillows.

Most of the time, they're watching Charlie and Kevin, how they beat each other at different video games in turns. They cheer them both on while eating all the sweets the others have bought earlier.

Dean and Sam are having a lot of fun, and they're all laughing often, and Charlie always flips Kevin off, whenever she loses.

At some point though, Charlie gives Sam her controller, who looks at her with wide eyes at first but then takes it quickly. Charlie does it because she'd like to talk to Dean. She nudges him with her elbow, and he follows her to one of the corners at the farther end of Kevin's room. They take some pillows with them and sit down again.

All the time they're sitting there, they only talk to each other as quietly as possible, so that Sam doesn't overhear any of their words. But as soon as Sam starts playing, he's only focused on the game and his conversation with Kevin. At the end of the night, Dean is going to realize amazedly that Kevin and Sam are getting along swimmingly.

Dorothy joins them in the corner, sitting down on a pillow next to Charlie. Dean stares at the girls, a little bit dumbfounded.

So, Dean,” Charlie starts. “What about you and Cas?”

She raises one eyebrow at him and they both, Charlie and Dorothy, look at him expectantly. Taken by surprise, Dean huffs a small breath. But then again, somehow this isn't that much of a surprise, since Charlie is one of Castiel's best friends, after all. Dean should have expected such a question eventually.

What do you mean?” he asks now, as innocently as possible.

Charlie flicks his arm slightly, but she's grinning. “You know what I mean.”

Dean shrugs a little. “I don't know,” he answers honestly. “We're just hanging out together.”

And?” Charlie coaxes.

We're holding hands, maybe.”

Yes!” Charlie exclaims as quietly as she can, looking at him excitedly now.

That's all?” Dorothy asks, just to be sure, grinning as well.

Dean simply nods.

To be honest, I wasn't sure if you're gay, although you seemed to like Cas from the first moment on,” Charlie admits, shrugging her shoulders slightly. “It's a shame because I have awesome gaydar.”

Well, I'm bisexual,” Dean says quietly.

Sam and Kevin are still engrossed in the video game.

Oh,” Charlie says, and Dean's afraid of her saying something against it. But then her face lights up. “Even better. That means I can still talk to you about girls.”

Dorothy stares at her, scandalized, and now, Dean starts to grin as well. He's relieved and glad, and he's just feeling comfortable.

Charlie quickly apologizes to Dorothy, kissing her. Dean smiles softly at them. They're a cute couple. He hopes they know how lucky they are and he kind of wants to tell them, but when he's looking at them now, he realizes that they already do know this.

Did Cas talk to you about this?” he asks curiously.

But they shake their heads.

Not really,” Dorothy says.

But after going to the movies together, it was kind of obvious that something is going on between you two,” Charlie adds.

So , everybody knows, or...?” Dean wonders, scratching his neck.

Not everybody,” Dorothy says teasingly, huffing a small laugh.

Charlie snickers. “The others don't know about it, though Benny, Gabriel, and Meg are assuming things since they went with us to the movies and well, they have eyes .”

She's quiet for a moment, just looking at Dean, who looks back at her, wondering what she's thinking. But he doesn't have to keep wondering for very long.

You're cute together,” she says. “And you're doing Cas a world of good.”

Dean smiles sheepishly, trying not to blush. This isn't what he expected Charlie to say. Well, he didn't expect her to say anything really, but still.

Hey, maybe you can talk to Cas about his birthday,” Dorothy says suddenly.

Dean looks at her questioningly, but Charlie is already shaking her head.

No way, babe. Cas doesn't want to celebrate once again, and I'm afraid we have to accept and respect that.”

He never celebrates his birthday?” Dean asks, even though it's unnecessary.

At least, as long as we know him, he never celebrated his birthday,” Charlie answers.

Both girls seem sad about this, and after a few moments of silence, they admit that they'd love to celebrate Cas's birthday with him. Especially, because they're celebrating all other birthdays together.

There's an ache in Dean's chest because he kind of knows at least why Cas doesn't celebrate his birthday. Though, he doesn't know exactly what happened on Castiel's 14 th birthday. It has something to do with his rape – so much does Dean know, but Charlie, and Dorothy, and Castiel's other friends don't know about this. Hell, Dean isn't even supposed to know about this.

They continue talking – and Kevin and Sam continue playing – but they change the topic. In about two weeks college starts for Charlie, Dorothy, and also Gabriel, and they're all excited about it. Dean tells them a bit about his work at the garage.

At some point, Charlie logs off, because of the subject (like Cas, she isn't into cars), and she apologizes with a small grin before getting up and joining Sam and Kevin in front of the TV screen again. But Dorothy and Dean keep sitting in the corner and continue talking about cars and especially motorcycles since Dorothy is a sucker for them. They talk about different models of motorcycles for about an hour, and Dean is astonished by how much Dorothy knows about this topic.

Around 1:45 am, Kevin's mom brings their cozy get-together to an end. They farewell each other, and Kevin and Sam agree to meet next weekend again. That makes Dean smile because he noticed that this did his little brother good. Besides, Kevin is a very good influence on Sammy, and they are also going to see each other at school.

Tired but content, they arrive at home and just when Dean opened the front door, John arrives as well. Dean sends Sam upstairs and to his room already, and he brings their half-drunk father to his bedroom.

After he said goodnight to Sammy, he lies down on his bed, realizing once again that he needs to talk to Cas.

But when the fuck should he do it?



* * *



Castiel leaves Pamela's diner around 11 pm. He stayed longer than he should have, but Pamela's replacement for Benny didn't feel good and had to go home, or rather to see a doctor. Pamela has thanked Cas countless times for his additional help, but he didn't want to hear any of that.

Sure, she's his boss, but she's also his friend, and he wanted to help. Besides, in the evening, it's one of the busiest times at the diner that's full of people then. Therefore, Pamela needed his help, and he was happy to volunteer it. And by now, Castiel comes square with the work at the diner.

The air is relatively mild, and it's rather enjoyable to walk home. He needs about 25 minutes to walk from the diner to his home, and vice versa. But Dean driving him to work this noon – that was rather enjoyable as well, for the simple reason that he was able to spend some more time with the green-eyed boy.

Cas has to smile at the thought of Dean, he can't help it. Ever since Dean has held his hand for the first time, a switch – or maybe even multiple switches – in Castiel's head has ( / have) been flipped. Although it's Dean, who's making all these first moves – like kissing him on the cheek –, Cas allows it all to happen, because he wants it to happen. He wants to be able to allow it.

Sure, he has no idea what exactly they are, what exactly it is they have, but it feels so damn good. Besides, he doesn't want to put any labels on them. Not right now, at least. That would be too much pressure, and he thinks Dean would understand that if he asked such a question sometime soon.

He's halfway home and hoping that Lucifer put some dinner aside for him. After all, he has let his brother know that he would work longer hours and that he could start with dinner without him. Castiel is hungry. Even though he's allowed to eat for free at the diner, he didn't have the time to do so today. He's thinking about what Lucifer might have cooked for dinner when he stops dead.

It's dark, a few stars are sparkling above him, and he's standing in a byroad. Half of the buildings are residential houses, the other half are older stores. All buildings seem a little bedraggled in the filthy light of the few street lights.

Under one of those street lights, a familiar shape is standing – Alastair.

They stare at each other across the street for a few long moments. Castiel can see the hatred in Al's otherwise cold eyes. He assumes that his eyes are filled with as much hatred as well. Cas remembers that Dean told him he has also seen Alastair somewhere in the town. He has seen Al a few times already, but always in the daytime.

Seeing him now in the evening, when it's dark outside, is something entirely different. Cas knows very well what Alastair is capable of doing, who's always been a freak.

In a way, Castiel knows he is a freak, too. He hates that it was Alastair, who pointed out someday that they aren't poles apart, but rather have at least a few things in common. He grits his teeth and suddenly, he decides to confront Alastair right then and there and to ask him what the fuck he wants from them.

But then, a car door slams shut somewhere nearby, and the bang makes Castiel turn his head in the direction from where the noise resounded. He has been so fixated on Alastair that he almost completely forgot about his surroundings.

When he looks back to where Al was just standing, he's only looking at the lonely street light.

Castiel looks around quickly, but he's standing alone in the street. Alastair disappeared. Wow , he thinks. Once a creep, always a creep.

Castiel ends the day with a good deal worse mood than he has started it with. He arrives at home a few minutes later, wondering what's going on with Alastair, why he's practically lying in wait for him and also Dean, why he's watching them and following them.

Al's obsession with Castiel is comprehensible somehow when you think about it long enough. Cas was always his opponent, his competition, and Castiel always won. But Al's obsession with Dean is weird and sick, and Cas doesn't understand it. He starts wondering how long it will take Alastair to do something more than just watching.

Cas picks at his food. Al having the potential to be a stalker isn't a big surprise, though.

Don't you like it?” Lucifer asks suddenly, sitting down next to him at the kitchen table, pointing at Castiel's still full plate. “It's made with lots of love.”

He smiles halfheartedly at his big brother. “No, it's great. Today has just been exhausting. I'm a little tired,” he tells Lucifer, who nods.

What else?”

Mh?”

There's something else. Something you're not telling me.”

Lucifer looks at him, he's downright scrutinizing him. Sometimes, Castiel hates that his brother knows him so well and can read him so easily, so at first he just shrugs in response to what Lucifer said. He doesn't want his brother to be falsely alarmed.

But then, he tells him about Alastair nevertheless. Lucifer wrinkles his brow, while Cas is talking.

What do you think it is that he wants from you?” he asks when Cas finished his little report.

I have absolutely no idea.”

When Cas is finally lying in bed that night, he's still bothering his head about Alastair, even though he doesn't feel like doing so anymore. Besides, he isn't able to achieve a satisfying answer.

Eventually, he makes the decision that for now, they probably have to wait for whatever is going to happen next.

A few days go by without something significant happening, though. Both, Cas and Dean don't see Alastair again, and Castiel just had to make sure, so he asked Dean if he's seen Alastair again. He knows Dean wouldn't lie to him about that.

But he had to ask him over the phone since they're also not able to see each other at the moment. They both have to work a lot, especially Dean, although it's Castiel, who has two jobs. Dean's boss has received a lot of orders lately. But it also means that Dean is getting a bonus for all the extra work, and that's the reason why he's doing it in the first place since they need the money.

Dean has been honest with Cas about that, just like with everything else. Castiel thinks it feels weirdly good to be able to trust someone like he's trusting Dean by now.

They're texting a lot, and that's also fine. As long as he just hears something from Dean, Cas is content. Dean always thinks about him and writes him in the morning, and during his breaks, and at night. It's sweet, and it always makes him smile. Castiel isn't used to this kind of attention, but he slowly starts to think that he could get used to this.

And then, they both have more time and can meet up again, and it's also fine. Maybe a little bit more than just fine, because they're able to hold hands.

But Cas knows that there's still something on Dean's mind, distracting him and even making him kind of sad. He can see it in Dean's green eyes. It's like there are wisps of fog swirling over that beautiful clearing, and soiling it. Dean still hasn't talked to Cas about it.

Castiel is a little worried about what it might be, but he tries not to pay it too much thought, so it doesn't drive him completely crazy.

If Dean's ready to talk about it, he will talk about it. That's what Cas keeps telling himself. All he can do is wait (im)patiently and give Dean the time he needs. Somehow, he just owns Dean this. It wouldn't be right to pressure Dean into telling him now, not when Dean never pressured Castiel into doing something.

But then comes the day, when Cas gets to know about what burdened Dean's shoulders so much, and he remembers once again what Missouri has told him.

Sometimes, people need some time to think things through. The weight of words can be really heavy. Maybe he isn't sure if he should say them out loud.

And once again, he realizes how right she's been. The weight of words can be fucking heavy.

Even though, those words needed to be said, Castiel wishes Dean hadn't said them.

It happens three days before his birthday.

Castiel's mood is worsening slowly but steadily anyway, because of his birthday that he's going to ignore intentionally as best he can. Only Dean can break through the dark clouds that are hovering above him yet again. Dean's hand in his, Dean's green eyes, Dean's deep voice – these are all things that are able to distract Castiel.

Dean and he are taking a walk through town. This is something they haven't done before. Sure, they've walked together through town before, but this time Dean explicitly asked him if he wanted to do that today.

It's Thursday, and they both have an afternoon off. Cas said yes to Dean's request, and he doesn't even know what's wrong, why he's feeling so strangely worried. He just knows that something is wrong and that he's feeling like this. He can't explain it.

They don't hold hands, but that's fine. There are people around them, and Castiel wouldn't want to hold hands right now anyway. At some point, they leave town and walk along the edge of the forest until they're alone.

Cas knows that it's Dean, who's leading the way, and he's secretly hoping that Dean just wanted to come here, so they'd be able to hold hands without prying eyes around them. But deep down, he knows that they're here, so Dean can finally say whatever it is that's been on his mind for so long already.

Dean stops walking, and Cas does, too. Dean is looking at the ground, at the grass at his feet. He's toeing at it with his work boot and it's odd, but the first thought in Castiel's head is that the green of the grass is not nearly as rich as the green of Dean's eyes.

He doesn't know what Dean is thinking right now, but he can see that he's biting his lip, a little harder than maybe necessary. Castiel stares at him, nervously and also scared. What would Dean tell him?

Slowly, Dean looks up, and Cas sees the dark, dark shadows that are casting a pall over his loved clearing. It's obvious that Dean has to gather all his courage; he's nodding, but more to himself.

We need to talk about something.”

Cas nods as well, more hesitantly.

About what?”

I'm...,” Dean starts, trailing off right away. He gulps. “I'm sorry. Like really, really sorry. Maybe I should have said something sooner. Hell, I definitely should have said something sooner. I just... I didn't know how to, okay?”

Dean looks at him, almost pleadingly, but Castiel is just able to blink at him stupidly.

Dean, what the hell are you talking about?” he asks, and at the same moment, he has a presentiment.

It's crawling up his back, and it feels like the shadows from the clearing are trying to seize hold of him. Cas shakes his head briefly, focusing on Dean again. Dean runs his fingers through his brown hair, taking a deep breath.

I know it,” he says.

You know what?” Cas asks tonelessly.

For a moment, they just look at each other.

I know what happened to you five years ago,” Dean says quietly, and Castiel's mind goes blank.

It feels like someone is pouring ice into his veins. Eventually – years could have gone by and he wouldn't know – he gasps out one word.

How?”

Cas is desperately trying to realize what's going on. But he can't grasp it, though he can feel it. It's the all too familiar feeling of things falling apart right in front of his eyes, and he can't do anything about it.

Dean exhales shakily. “Remember the day you got so drunk and showed up nearby my house, and I brought you home?”

Castiel isn't even able to nod. He's staring at Dean, digging his nails into his arm and feeling like throwing up. He can't believe this is happening.

On that day, Lucifer told me,” Dean says.

Cas looks at him in disbelief, wanting to scoff, but no sound is coming out of his mouth. His brother would never do this to him. There's no way. Lucifer would never... he knows what it meant – something specifically horrible – and he wouldn't do that to his little brother.

But Dean continues speaking and explains it.

He just spilled. I think he was talking to himself more than anything and didn't even realize that I heard everything he said. It was an accident.”

Castiel doesn't know what to say, what to do now, hell he doesn't even know what to think. Why didn't Dean tell him sooner? Or better, why did he tell him now, when Cas was thinking it's going well between them when in reality he had already fucked up? What was Dean thinking? Why did he even start to talk to him again, then?

Cas...,” Dean says, stepping closer, holding his hands out and reaching for him.

But Castiel flinches and steps back. He doesn't want to hear what Dean wants to say because a thought just struck him. He doesn't want to hear that Dean thought he could do this, but now he realized he can't, because of what happened to Cas five years ago. Castiel doesn't want to see hatred or disgust in Dean's green eyes when he's looking at him.

So, he steps back more and more, until he finally turns around and goes into the forest. Strangely enough, he knows exactly where he is and where he's going, but thankfully he doesn't have to think about it. His feet are doing all the work, while he hears that Dean is following him.

He doesn't turn around again since he doesn't even have the energy to tell Dean that he should leave him alone.

 

Chapter Text

Fucking hell,” Dean mutters under his breath, when he stumbles over a protruding root once again .

He has absolutely no idea where they are. The only thing he does know is that they are very, very deep in the woods by now. He has a look around, but there are only a lot of trees surrounding him, and also many bushes and shrubs. All in all, there's a lot of green, and he couldn't even tell from where they came.

He bites his lip, continuing to follow Castiel through this damned forest with no end in sight. Cas hasn't turned around again and if he's noticing that Dean's still behind him, he doesn't let it show. Dean assumes they're already walking for about 45 minutes.

He knows for sure – and that's a scary thought – that he won't find the way out of here again on his own. By now, he may be familiar with the town, but since the one time in winter, when he had been lost in the forest, he hasn't concerned himself with the forest again, even though it's surrounding the whole town. Sure, he went into it with Sam a few times, but never this far. They only went into the part of the forest near the park.

So, he's depending on Cas right now – on condition that the blue-eyed boy isn't stumbling blindly through the forest. But Dean has the feeling that Cas knows exactly where they are going since he's leading the way singlemindedly. By the look of it, he has to trust Castiel. Though, Dean does wonder how much farther they will go.

He didn't dare to say something to Cas so far, because his previous words seemed to have ruined pretty much everything they had built up in the past weeks. But he's afraid if they don't reach their destination soon – wherever that may be –, he will have to say something.

Even though he knows that these words had to be said, Dean is fucking angry with himself for saying them. Or at least, for the way he said them. He should have said it differently, he should have worded it differently. But he simply isn't good at this and besides, he was fucking nervous. After all, this is a grave topic and this is also about Castiel, who is super fucking important to Dean. Of course, he was nervous, and also scared – after how it went, apparently with good reason , he thinks, dodging some low branches.

He keeps a very close eye on Castiel, therefore he notices immediately when Cas is finally slowing down.

For quite a while already, Dean can hear the babbling of a brook, and now they're closing in on it. Dean is able to catch up with Cas a little bit and then, he has a first look at the stream. It's broader than expected, but the steady flowing of the water is weirdly comforting somehow.

They're following the stream for a few minutes until they come to a spot where it bends slightly to the right. During the past 150 meters, they walked a bit downhill, but at the bend, there's a hill, towering above the stream. A cluster of trees is huddling on that hill, which seems to lean over the brook a bit. That's their very destination.

Cas is heading for it and reaches the top just a few moments later. He sits down on the dry grass, leaning against the trunk of one of the trees. Dean hesitates and looks around. What are they doing here? Why did Cas come here , of all things?

But Dean doesn't know what else he is supposed to do, where else he is supposed to go, so he follows Cas, still unsure. At the top of the hill, he stops and just looks at Cas, who doesn't return his look. Castiel pretty much ignores him at first, staring into the forest on the other side of the stream. Dean follows Castiel's gaze, but there's nothing special on the other side. There are just even more trees; he never really thought about how deep this forest actually might be. The only potentially special thing here is that this spot is the most peaceful place Dean's ever been at.

He walks carefully over to Cas, who's still not moving a muscle. Eventually, Dean sits down next to him, at a remove from the blue-eyed boy, and he leans against the trunk of a different tree than Castiel. It's quiet and really peaceful, but it's also starting to strain his nerves. Should he dare to break the silence, though?

Dean clears his throat and opens his mouth, but no word is coming out of it. On the one hand, the harrumph was already too loud in his ears, and on the other hand, he can't think of anything to say. What the fuck is he supposed to say? He doubts that Castiel would want to hear another apology from him.

It's also not helpful that there's a voice in his head, screaming you fucked up you fucked up you fucked up the whole time.

He swallows, but only when Cas finally turns his head and looks at him, the blue of Castiel's eyes silences the voice in his head. Even though the ocean is dull and dark as if a thunderstorm were going on right above it. Dean's heart contracts at the sight, knowing the storm is his fault.

You shouldn't have followed me,” Cas says suddenly, his voice raspy as if he just chain-smoked an entire pack of cigarettes.

What do you mean?” Dean asks.

Well, it's a little unnecessary, don't you think?” Cas asks quietly, looking at the ground between his feet. “You could have just let me walk away and that would have been that.”

Dean licks his lips. “I don't know what you're talking about,” he admits, just as quietly.

Cas looks hesitantly back up, and in his eyes is an old and profound pain from a gruesome wound. He tilts his head a bit, staring at Dean.

I don't want to hear it. I don't want you to say it. I already know it, so what's the point in telling me?” His voice is still quiet, but full of hurt.

Dean returns his look, a bit confused now, but he thinks deep down he already knows what Cas is talking about. Though, his brain isn't quite there yet.

You know what already?”

Cas shrugs his shoulders halfheartedly and looks away once again. He sighs.

That you don't want to see me anymore. That you thought you could do it, but now you realized you can't.”

He is talking to his feet, while Dean just blinks at him for a moment.

I thought I could do it, but now I realized...,” he repeats, wonderingly and stupidly at the same time.

And then his brain finally catches up and – fuck .

No no no no. Oh, fucking hell.

Oh god, you think...?”

Appalled, Dean stares at Castiel. Now, it's the blue-eyed boy who looks confused.

What?”

You think that I don't want to see you anymore because I know now?”

Yes,” Cas says, but it sounds like a question.

Cas, I started to talk to you again after I found out,” Dean says softly.

I know,” Castiel replies, his voice sounding bitter all of a sudden. “That's a thing I don't understand, and I wanted to ask you why you did that in the first place.”

Dean stares at him, mouth agape, and his mind is clattering. Slowly, he turns more to Cas, sitting cross-legged on the forest floor and facing the other boy.

You want to know the reason why I did that?” he asks seriously, and Cas nods, furrowing his brow. “Because I don't care.”

You don't care.”

Cas scoffs, looking more confused than ever. There's a small moment of silence and a breeze is causing the leaves above their heads to rustle. Castiel shakes his head slightly, staring at Dean in disbelief.

You don't care?” he wonders slowly as if the words sounded strange to him.

Dean nods. “I don't care. I don't care, Cas. I do still want to see you.”

Cas has to let that sink in first, but suddenly he huffs a laugh – humorless and painful. He runs his fingers through his dark hair, and Dean looks at him questioningly.

What?”

That's... that's just...” Cas doesn't seem to know what to say. He shrugs halfheartedly and looks at Dean again. “Dean, you don't know what you're talking about.”

Dean wrinkles his brow. “What do you mean by that?”

Cas shakes his head more determinedly, putting his hands on the ground and pushing himself to his feet. Taken by surprise, Dean stares at him for a few seconds before he rushes to his feet as well.

What do you think are you doing?” he asks.

Castiel backs away from him. “I'm going home.”

Wha- no, you aren't. You can't just go now.”

It's better this way, Dean. Believe me, you don't want this.”

You mean, I don't want you .”

Cas nods once. “Yeah,” he says.

Can't I speak for myself?” Dean asks and walks up to Cas again. “Because you're really wrong about this.”

Castiel's blue eyes are filled with deep doubts as he looks at him now.

Come on. Let's sit down.”

Why?” Cas asks defensively.

Because I think we need to talk,” Dean answers. “ Please , Cas.”

I'm not good at this, Dean,” Cas says quietly, staring at him like a deer caught in the headlights.

Me neither,” Dean admits. “Especially because of that, we need to talk. So, there's no room for misunderstandings anymore.”

Castiel crosses his arms in front of his chest – a form of self-protection – and shoots Dean a look he isn't able to read.

What do you want to talk about?”

Well,” Dean starts. “Let's begin with something more simple. Where are we?”

In the forest,” Cas replies immediately, looking at the stream.

Dean huffs a breath. “Actually, I meant to ask – what is this place? Why are we here? Why did you come here?”

Castiel hesitates, taking a few deep breaths and closing his eyes. When he opens them again, he looks at Dean.

I don't know,” he answers eventually, shrugging his shoulders. He bites his lip and sits back down. “I always come here – to think, and to have some time alone.”

Dean nods, carefully sitting back down as well. “It seems like a good place to think.”

A weak smile tugs at the corners of Cas's mouth at that. “Yeah,” he says quietly. “It is.”

He swallows, and Dean waits patiently for him to sort his thoughts first before continuing to speak.

I've never been here with someone,” Cas admits, voice still quiet.

Surprised, Dean looks at him. “Really?”

Cas nods. “I always come here alone. I found this place a few weeks after we've moved here. But I've never told anybody about it, not even Lucifer.”

Why not?”

I kinda wanted it for myself.” Cas huffs a little. “You know, this place is the only one in this whole goddamned town, where I allow myself to think about my mom because it reminds me of her.”

He wrinkles his forehead as if he's wondering why he told Dean this. Dean didn't expect this to be the answer to his question.

That's a very good reason to come here,” he says, voice quiet and gentle.

He has never found such a place. They never stayed long enough in one town and besides, thinking about his mom makes him sad and it hurts, so he tries avoiding to do it most of the time. And although they've been here for months, he still hasn't found such a place. Maybe because he isn't even looking for it. But this is not the right time to wonder about this.

Cas sighs and again, he looks like he's about to run away. Dean sighs as well.

Please, don't do this.”

Cas glances at him. “Don't do what?”

Don't just run away, please.” Dean scoots a little closer. “No matter what you're going to tell me, it's okay. I won't leave.”

Castiel pinches the bridge of his nose. He looks sad and like he's uncomfortable. Dean just wanted to give the blue-eyed boy some reassurance, but there's pain flashing through the ocean and causing great waves.

Dean.” Cas is shaking his head again. “Don't say something like that. You can't promise that, and I'm not even expecting you to stay.”

But I'm going to stay. No matter what. Just... just talk to me.”

Didn't you think about the possibility that I don't want to talk?” Cas asks, and Dean starts to chew on the inside of his cheek.

He did think about this possibility, but he thought that it's more important for them to talk to each other finally, and he wanted to focus on that.

Do you mean you don't want to talk in general, or you don't want to talk to me?”

I don't know,” Cas says, not looking at him. “Maybe both. Or maybe I just can't talk about this.”

Dean nods slowly. Nevertheless, he doesn't want to pressure Cas into doing something he's uncomfortable with.

Then, we don't talk about it.”

Cas's throat ripples as he swallows, wrapping his arms around his knees.

Can't you just leave?”

This question hurts, but this whole thing isn't about Dean, it's about Castiel. So, he simply ignores the pain and shakes his head, even though Cas still isn't looking at him.

I told you I'm not going to leave. And I can't leave you, especially right now, when you're feeling like this. That wouldn't be right. But we don't have to talk. We can just sit here until you want to go home.”

I don't understand. Why are you doing this?”

Because I like you. And you like me, don't you? We're more than friends.”

Not the point, Dean.”

Yes, this is exactly the point, Cas!” Dean says loudly.

Cas looks at him with wide eyes, and Dean is surprised by himself. He didn't want to raise his voice. He isn't even angry, it's just that he wants Cas to understand and to realize that he won't leave, and why he won't do that.

I'm sorry, I just...” He swallows. “Castiel, this is exactly the point. I like you. You like me. That's why I'm here and that's why I'm telling you I won't leave. That's why I'm going to stay. And yes, I know about your past, but you know what? I decided to talk to you again after I found out about it.” He looks emphatically at Cas. “I'm trying to be as honest with you as possible, even though I'm not good at this. But I'm trying. For you, Cas. And I'm being honest, when I tell you that at first – I mean right after I found out – I thought we couldn't be together, because of what happened to you.”

Cas opens his mouth, probably to interrupt him, but Dean lifts a hand to stop him.

Please, let me finish. Because that's only what I thought at first. It was selfish of me, immediately thinking that I couldn't have you, because of what happened to you, and then I realized that you're probably thinking the same, and...” He shrugs a bit, biting his lip. “I also realized... well, I mean I thought about it and I came to the conclusion that you think I wouldn't want you, because of what happened to you. And I was right.” He pauses for another moment, pressing his eyebrows together. “Does that make any sense?” he asks and looks at Cas, who just shrugs his shoulders, but he's returning his look, at least.

I don't know.”

Humph,” Dean makes, biting his lip again. “Well, to bring this confusing explanation to an end, Sam made me watch The Greatest Showman and then this realization hit me, but I was dead certain that I still want you. And I still am.”

Dean...,” Cas whispers, tilting his head and leaning it against the trunk of the tree. “Please, stop talking.”

Dean mirrors him. “Castiel, that I know now what happened to you doesn't change anything. That's what I'm trying to tell you. It doesn't change the feelings I have for you.”

Silence. Not complete silence – birds are chirping, a squirrel shoos over a branch at the top of a tree and disappears again, leaves are rustling, the brook is murmuring. But there's silence between them .

Castiel is staring at his hands, jaw clenched, wrinkled forehead, lips pressed together. Dean swallows with a click.

I decided to talk to you again. I came over and wanted to watch The Greatest Showman together with you. The rest you know,” Dean says quietly. “Cas, I understand you. I understand why you've pushed me away, but you don't have to do that anymore. I'm not going to let you do this again. Not after you've let me in again. I mean, why did you even do that?”

I'm not sure,” Cas answers hesitantly. “I just... didn't think about it, I guess. The movie is to blame for it, a little bit at least. And then you held my hand for the first time and everything after that – it felt good.” He shrugs. “I just didn't think about it.”

That's okay,” Dean says reassuringly, but suddenly Cas shoots him a glare.

No, it's not okay. It wasn't fair to both of us, but especially to you. I should have thought about it more. Because it's not going to work.”

It ...,” Dean says, swallowing hard. “You mean us .”

The storm is still raging above the ocean, and it's breaking Dean's heart.

Yeah,” Cas says, voice breaking at that one word.

Castiel...,” Dean starts, but now Cas lifts a hand to interrupt him, and he's shaking his head.

Please, Dean. No, please. You really don't know what you would get yourself into. Besides, I'm not able to give you what you want.”

I want you , Cas,” Dean says, and the blue-eyed boy scoffs.

No, you don't, Dean.”

How can you be so sure of that?” Dean asks.

Because I'm fucked up!” Castiel practically yells, and Dean flinches. “I'm fucked up, Dean. I'm a fucking mess, and you don't even know half of it. Why would anybody want this?”

Because this is how it works,” Dean says desperately. “It's not just about the good stuff, and the funny things, and sunshine, and whatsoever . It's also about the bad stuff, the dark things, and all the problems. It's about wanting someone even after you know about their darkness. Lucifer told me everything, accidentally and shortened, but still. And I still want you.”

Cas is still shaking his head, and suddenly he looks so fucking tired once again.

I don't want to do that to you, Dean. You deserve better.”

That's my decision. And honestly, it's the other way around. You're the one that deserves better, but I promise that I'll always try my best for you.”

For a long time, Castiel looks at him and there's an odd twinkle in his eyes.

Dean, are you kidding me? You're beautiful .”

Dean blinks at him, huffing a small breath – amazed. Is there a word for feeling like you've just been punched, but in a weirdly good way? He doesn't know what to say.

What?” he stutters eventually.

You're beautiful, Dean,” Cas repeats, making it sound like the most obvious thing in the world. “And you deserve someone, who can give you everything and even more. Someone, who's not such a mess.”

We're both a mess, Cas,” Dean states, shrugging his shoulders. “I didn't choose to like you, but I'm choosing to stay. The only thing that I'm asking you to do for now is, please, don't shut yourself away again.”

Cas opens his mouth but doesn't say something.

Cas, please,” Dean says, scooting a little closer once again. “Please.”

Castiel looks at him and when he finally nods, he seems to be just as surprised as Dean, but it takes a load off Dean's mind. Though, he notices that Cas has a hard time asking the next question.

What did Lucifer tell you?”

Dean swallows, looking at his hands. “Well, he told me what happened to you, that you didn't come home, he called the police, and they couldn't find you for two days.”

43 hours,” Cas says low-voiced.

What?” Dean asks.

43 hours. That's the almost exact time. I recalculated it, I don't even know why.”

Dean nods slowly. “Lucifer said the police wouldn't have found you if you hadn't escaped.”

That's probably true,” Cas says, swallowing. “I don't remember how I got out of there. I only remember running to a gas station. I fell a couple of times, I think.”

He wrinkles his brow. Dean's heart feels so fucking heavy right now.

Dean,” Cas starts again, and all of a sudden the ocean is so fucking deep, and Dean feels like falling into it. “You said you're sure about this, and I believe you. I believe that you do think that. But I'm telling you that you can't be sure about this since you don't know everything.”

And you think that I'd leave if I knew everything?” Dean asks after he thought about Castiel's words for a moment.

Cas shrugs, not looking at him again.

But I already told you, Cas. No matter what, I'm going to stay.”

Don't... please. You can't promise that.”

I can.”

Dean, I already pushed you away once, because I know that you'd hate me and wouldn't want me if you knew.”

Yeah, I get that now. And I wanted to hate you because you just stopped talking to me without giving me an explanation. But I couldn't hate you. Cas, I could never hate you.”

Dean, you have to understand. This is not easy for me. It's anything but easy, but you have to understand, therefore you have to know.”

Castiel takes a deep breath. “I almost died,” he whispers. “If I hadn't escaped, the police wouldn't have found me in time. So, I almost died and you have to know that I wanted to die. I wanted it to be over.”

But you've escaped,” Dean says slowly, trying to read Castiel's mind, but failing.

He tries to link what Cas just told him to what he already knows.

Yes, I did. And that's the point, Dean. I escaped and I had to go on after it. I had to keep on living, and I didn't want to. Didn't Lucifer tell you what happened after Christmas that year?” Castiel says, still whispering.

Dean clears his throat. “He did.”

That's what you need to understand, Dean. Five years later, and there are still days where I wish I had died, or that my brother hadn't found me.”

For the second time in his life, Dean experiences how heavy and oppressive silence can be. The first time was when his mother died. None of them said much at that time. Sure, Sammy was only two years old, but Dean didn't say a word for weeks. Now, there is such a silence again.

Not silence in general, because there's still the wind, rustling through the treetops, and all the animals, and the brawl of the stream. But there's real silence between him and Castiel, just like earlier but even thicker. Slowly but surely, there are questions, cutting their way through his head, from the back to the front, and they're nagging at him, now more than ever.

He has the feeling that Cas regrets what he just told him, that Cas has the feeling he's said too much. That's not the case. After all, the blue-eyed boy did exactly what Dean wants him to do – being completely honest with him. Still, Dean is afraid that the situation is slipping from his grasp.

Before he can stop himself, he's already asking the questions that are pounding against the top of his skull.

Why didn't you try to kill yourself again? How did you survive in the last years?”

I have absolutely no idea,” Castiel whispers. “It's not that I didn't think about it again, but maybe... maybe I was scared of it not working again. You can't imagine the disappointment I felt when I woke up in the hospital and realized that I was still alive. But the worst was that it changed how my brother and my father looked at me.”

What do you mean?” Dean asks.

He'd like to hold Cas's hand, but he doesn't dare to take it.

Well, my father already hated me before my suicide attempt, but ever after he despises me. And Lucifer always looked at me with such sadness and also anger in his eyes, because he couldn't do anything for me, and I think because he partly blamed himself for pretty much everything that happened. Sometimes, he's still looking at me like that. I know how difficult this all is for him, and I don't want him to be sad, or angry, and I don't want him to worry because of me . I hate it so much.”

He loves you,” Dean says, and Castiel nods.

I know that. It's just... I don't want to be a burden, Dean. Why did you think none of my friends know anything about this? I haven't even told Missouri, though she's seen my scars and she probably has her thoughts on the matter.”

So, you wouldn't ever have told me?” Dean wonders. “Even though, we seemed to go in a certain direction?”

Cas bites his lip, hard. “I don't know.”

Where did you think we were going?”

As I said, Dean, I didn't think about it,” Cas says defensively.

Don't get me wrong,” Dean says hastily. “I'm not mad at you. I just wanted to know.”

How can you not be mad at me?”

Cas presses his eyebrows together, looking at him questioningly.

I don't have any reason to be mad at you. Are you mad at your brother now?”

Cas thinks about this for a moment, starting to chew on the inside of his cheek.

No,” he says eventually. “I can understand it. He probably just spilled, as you said. He doesn't have anyone, who he could talk to about it, so...”

Dean nods, staring at the stream and watching how the water is running over stones and soil.

Can I ask you something?”

You just did. But yeah, you can.”

Dean has to suppress a small smile. “Why did your father already hate you?”

Because I'm gay,” Castiel says simply, but his voice sounds bitter.

Dean raises his eyebrows at him, and Cas huffs a breath.

I knew that I'm queer from an early age on and I made no secret of it. I talked about boys instead of girls, and he hated it. I came out 'officially' when I was 11.”

Dean feels genuinely sorry for Castiel, and he realizes that John would hate him even more if he knew that he's bisexual.

You probably have more questions, right?” Cas asks, smiling weakly at him.

Dean shrugs. “Yeah, sure. But you don't have to hear them, let alone answer them if you don't want to.”

Cas takes a deep breath, running his fingers through his hair. “Ask away.”

Dean is surprised and he bites his lip, wrinkling his forehead.

Whenever you said to me that it's okay – did you mean it, or did you just say it for my sake?” he asks after a moment. “Because I wanted you to be honest. I don't ever want to do something that's not okay for you.”

I was honest with you, Dean. It was okay, everything we did. It would still be okay.”

Would?” Dean wonders and Cas bites his lip.

If you still wanted to.”

Of course, I still want to. I've told you that nothing has changed.”

There are still doubts in Cas's beautiful eyes, but Dean already figured that this isn't going to be easy. And that's fine. He doesn't want easy. He wants Castiel – with everything that comes with that. He's never been so sure of something and it's frightening, but god, he would do everything and more for this boy.

He'd jump off the edge of the world if it meant he could hold Cas's hand at the end of the day. He blushes at his thoughts and looks to the side, rubbing his neck and thinking about his next words for a few minutes.

Your past belongs to you, Cas. We aren't able to change it, and I'm sorry about that. I'm sorry about what happened to you and what you had to go through. From the first moment on that I realized there's something... wrong, that something bad has happened to you, I wanted to fix it. I still do. Though, I don't know if I'm able to do that. But what I'm able to do is to be by your side and to show you that you're not alone. I don't care about your past – with that, I mean it doesn't affect my feelings for you in any way. But I do care about your future, and if you let me – if you want to –, I'd love to be a part of it.”

Castiel isn't smiling, but the ocean is sparkling nonetheless, and only when Cas looks away, Dean realizes his blue eyes are filled with tears. Cas rubs his eyes, sniffling a bit.

I thought you'd said you aren't good at this.”

Dean huffs a small laugh. “I'm not. I just said what I'm thinking.”

You know, I'd love it as well, to have you in my future. But then I need to know for sure that you won't just leave.”

Cas looks at him again. Dean returns his look and then he scoots closer again, this time until he's able to lean against the same tree trunk as Castiel, who's looking at him questioningly.

You mean, some sort of proof?” Dean asks.

I don't know,” Cas whispers, looking honestly confused.

Dean can't help thinking that it's adorable. For a long moment, they look each other in the eye, and Dean feels his heart pounding in his chest, loudly and strongly.

He remembers Anna's party on Valentine's Day, when he wanted to kiss Castiel, and also how wrong it felt to kiss Anna. He looks at Castiel's lips. Slowly and carefully, he raises a hand, grazing Cas's cheek, his jawline, with his fingertips.

Castiel swallows audibly, and Dean leans closer. With his thumb, he touches Cas's bottom lip ever so gently.

Be honest,” he whispers. “Is this okay?”

At first, there is no reaction from Cas at all, but then he nods once and that's all Dean needs. He bridges the small gap between them and then his lips are pressed against Castiel's. He's being gentle; it's a soft kiss that makes his skin prickle everywhere.

The kiss lasts for a few seconds, Dean pauses for a breath of air and kisses Cas again and again. Castiel kisses him back hesitantly; one of his hands is gripping Dean's t-shirt tightly. Dean moves his hand away from Cas's cheek to the back of his head to rake his fingers through Castiel's soft hair.

A combination of a firework on the 4 th of July, the atmosphere at a concert, watching a meteor shower, and finally finding what you've been looking for is exploding inside of him.

Yes, this is better than kissing Anna Milton. This is better than kissing anybody he's ever kissed before. This is what it feels like to kiss the right person.

When they stop kissing, he sighs happily. Dean can't remember if he's ever felt this warm before. He opens his eyes – he also doesn't remember closing them – and he sees that Cas's eyes are still closed. All at once, he's afraid that it's too much, that it was too much for the blue-eyed boy, but when Castiel opens his eyes after a few seconds as well – holy shit, the ocean is on fire .

Cas chuckles nervously, letting go of Dean's t-shirt, and Dean smiles softly, hesitantly touching Cas's face. Castiel takes his hand, and they intertwine their fingers.

I promise I won't leave,” Dean whispers.

He doesn't want to demand too much of Cas, so for now, he doesn't tell him what he just felt. It's downright scary, and he couldn't even really explain it anyway. But now that he has kissed Castiel, he knows for sure that he wants this for the rest of his life.

How is this enough for you?” Cas asks, and Dean knows right away that he means himself . “How is this good enough for you?”

Dean squeezes Cas's hand reassuringly. “You are enough, Cas. A thousand times enough.”

He's hoping with all his heart that Cas will believe him one day. For now, he just gives the blue-eyed boy another sweet kiss, since for now, he has to believe for the both of them.

You wanna go home?” he asks.

He lost any sense of time, and he couldn't say for how long they've already been here.

What about your other questions?” Cas wonders.

That were enough questions for today,” Dean decides. “If that's okay, we'll continue this conversation on another day.”

Cas bites his lip, and a blast of air goes through the flames in the ocean, but the fire doesn't go out.

Okay,” he says, and Dean hears the fear in his voice.

Again, he presses a kiss to Castiel's lips and then he gets up, not letting go of Cas's hand, and pulls him up.

So, where do we have to go?” he asks, looking around.

Cas looks at him quizzically, squinting a bit. “You don't know?”

Dean shakes his head, admitting that he got lost in the forest once, when they've moved here. That makes Cas laugh a little, but he's still looking so insecure. He leads the way, and Dean knows without the blue-eyed boy, he wouldn't have found the way out of here again, or at least not so fast.

They still have to walk for about an hour until they're finally standing on a street again, but they're close to Cas's house. They don't meet anyone on their short way to Cas's home, but even if, Dean wouldn't have let go of Castiel's hand.

Lucifer's car is parked in the driveway, right next to the Impala. Dean realizes they've been in the forest for quite a long time. Damn it , he thinks – Sammy. But his little brother hasn't tried to call him (Dean never has his phone on mute, just in case Sam tries to get in touch with him), so hopefully everything's fine at the Winchester's household.

Hey, I have to go home now, to look after Sammy,” he tells Cas when they're standing on the front porch.

I understand,” Cas says, but he looks like he doesn't want Dean to go.

Suddenly, he's hugging him, and Dean wraps his arms tightly around Castiel, pulling him even closer.

When do you have to work tomorrow?”

I have a late shift at Missouri's shop,” Cas mumbles into his shoulder.

I'll meet you there, okay?”

Cas nods as he lets him go. There's so much Dean wants to say, but he doesn't know how to, and it would just be too much. So, he simply says Bye and drives home.

He doesn't exactly know how to feel, but no one can say that today hasn't been successful. In the beginning, it didn't go as he expected it to, or like he hoped it would go. That they went to this place in the forest was very unexpected. But then, it got better.

Fucking hell – they've kissed . Dean's finally kissed Cas and he won't ever let this boy go. He isn't able to comprehend completely what he's feeling for the gorgeous blue-eyed boy, but he doesn't need to, not yet. They're going to figure everything out together .

Dean parks in their driveway a few minutes later and a grin sneaks onto his lips.

He's kissed Castiel Novak!

He's going to show Cas every day that he'll stay, no matter what, like he has promised him. Just because they both have fucked up pasts doesn't mean they can't have a bright and beautiful future – together.

Right?



* * *



Cas watches Dean driving away until he can't see the Impala anymore. He doesn't know how to feel – not at all. He's weirdly pumped and tired at the same time.

Lucifer opens the door behind him and yanks him back to reality.

Wasn't that this Dean?” his brother asks, and Castiel turns around.

Lucifer is leaning against the door frame with his shoulder, hands in the pockets of his jeans, looking at him questioningly. Cas just nods, walking past him and entering the house.

Is everything okay?” Lucifer asks, slightly worried.

Castiel stares at him for a moment; he feels like he's in a dream and about to wake up.

Yeah, I think so,” he answers, almost absentmindedly.

You think so?” Lucifer asks doubtingly, and Cas nods again.

There's a lot he has to think about, and he'd like to be alone for a while now.

Are you and Dean friends, or...?” Lucifer wonders, rubbing his neck.

Cas squints at his big brother.

What do you mean?” he asks, trying to sound innocent.

He licks his lips. Lucifer's question whirled up his thoughts.

I looked out of the window, when you two arrived,” Lucifer says casually, leaning against the staircase now.

Cas bites his lip, staring at their shoe rack.

Dean and I are friends,” he mutters. “He is nice.”

You were holding hands,” Lucifer states, and Cas shrugs.

He's decided not to tell his brother that Dean knows what happened to him, because of him. He doesn't want to hold this against Lucifer, and maybe it's even for the better. This way, Castiel didn't have to start telling Dean about his past; he doesn't know if he had been able to do that. So, isn't it easier somehow, now that Dean knows and Cas knows he knows? He isn't sure about that yet.

Are you two dating?” Lucifer asks carefully.

Cas shakes his head. “No, we're friends. Dean's just... he's nice. Maybe he means something to me,” he admits.

Lucifer nods slowly. “Just be careful.”

Cas knows what he means, but they don't talk about it. His brother makes dinner (some sort of pasta, Cas doesn't pay a lot of attention to what he's eating), and Lucifer seems to understand that he doesn't want to tell him about Dean right now. At least, he doesn't ask any further questions. Castiel is grateful, and after dinner, he retreats to his bedroom.

Before he lies down on his bed, he quickly puts some cozy clothes on. One arm tugged behind his head, he's staring at the ceiling. His other hand is laying on his chest at first, but a few minutes later, he touches his lips with his fingertips absentmindedly.

It takes him a few more moments, but then the realization hits him like a train – fuck .

He and Dean have kissed . They've fucking kissed. Dean has kissed him. Castiel sits up again, still touching his lips.

Dean Winchester has kissed him and he, Castiel Novak, has kissed him back!

A smile tugs at the corners of his mouth. Fucking hell, he has kissed Dean back, and nothing bad happened. He presses his eyebrows together, in disbelief.

Nothing bad happened – neither did he have an anxiety attack, nor did he run away.

He lets himself sink back into his pillows. Hope is blossoming inside of him; it's like a small flower that manages to break through a closed snow cover in the dead of winter. It feels weird and unfamiliar, and Castiel furrows his brow. Kissing Dean felt good – it felt fantastic, and Dean kissed him again and again, and that means he liked it as well, right?

Cas starts biting his lip again. It seems so wrong that Dean still wants him, even though he knows about Cas's past now. Dean still doesn't know everything, but as much as today Castiel hasn't talked about his past in years .

Maybe he shouldn't have done this. Maybe he shouldn't have let Dean kiss him. This way, Cas only encouraged him, and Cas could have an anxiety attack at any time. He could push Dean away and hurt him again at any time. Dean could start to hate him at any time, although he said that wouldn't happen.

Castiel doesn't know what to do. A part of his mind is telling him that he shouldn't even take a shot at it, and instead, he should call Dean immediately and tell him that he changed his mind and that it isn't okay. But this isn't what Cas wants. After all, he let Dean in, and now even more. He wants Dean.

He swallows, and his heart starts whispering, and maybe he should listen to it. Don't they say Listen to your heart, but take your brain with you ? If he listened to his heart, that wouldn't mean he left his brain behind. And his heart is telling him to see what will happen next.

What if Dean is going to stay, despite all of Castiel's problems? That'd be great. Cas trusts Dean – it's so strangely easy for him to trust Dean, and to be comfortable with him. And if Dean wants him, shouldn't Cas just enjoy it?

But to be able to listen to his heart, he has to gather all his courage and to leap over his anxiety. He tries to breathe steadily. Well, no one said it'd be easy. Of course, it's hard, but isn't it so worth it? Isn't Dean worth it?

All of Castiel's fears – if he were able to face them, if he were able to overcome them, and could have Dean then, wouldn't it be worth it?

Cas nods to himself. Maybe he doesn't understand why Dean still wants him, but maybe they can figure things out together . With this thought in his head, he falls asleep and this time, he sleeps without dreaming for about ten hours.

Though, when he's sitting in Missouri's shop the next day, he's nervous all over again. How is it going to be, when he sees Dean again? What is going to happen, what are they going to do? How is Cas supposed to behave?

Missouri notices his nervousness and eyes him now and again, but she doesn't ask any questions. Cas hasn't told her yet what happened between Dean and him since he had to explain a lot more then. And he can't do that. It's hard enough to try to open up to one person. Besides, he always had the feeling that she already knows.

But his nervousness and all his worries (he's afraid it's awkward between them now) disappear as soon as Dean enters the shop, and Castiel sees his face.

Horrified, he jumps to his feet and comes to meet Dean. They stop before one another.

Hey,” Dean says softly, but Cas doesn't react to that.

What happened?” he asks, eyeing the big scratch on Dean's forehead that hasn't been there yesterday.

Dean looks like he barely slept last night, or even not at all. Cas prods gently at Dean's face, not even realizing what he's doing until he's touching Dean's skin. The green-eyed boy flinches a bit, carefully taking Cas's hand in his.

It's nothing,” he says, trying to give him a reassuring smile.

Doesn't look like nothing,” Cas says, wrinkling his brow.

I agree with Castiel,” a voice behind them interferes in their conversation.

Missouri is there, a pile of plates in her hands that she quickly puts on a shelf. She doesn't mention that Dean and Cas are still holding hands, she just peers at the wound on Dean's face. After a few moments of silence, Dean is said to follow her. Castiel goes with them and they enter Missouri's office. She gets a small bottle out of one of the drawers.

Dean sits down on a chair, while Missouri drips a few drops of a liquid onto a cotton pad. She cleans the wound with it, and Dean grimaces. Cas assumes it stings, but Dean doesn't complain about it. Instead, he quietly thanks Missouri.

Her phone rings suddenly, and Cas and Dean leave her office. They sit down behind the counter.

What happened?” Cas asks again, staring at Dean, who shrugs.

My dad was drunk,” he mumbles eventually, not looking at Cas. “It's no big deal. It happened before, and it will happen again.”

Cas would like to tell Dean that it's, in fact, a big deal, but he knows Dean doesn't want to hear this. Of course, Castiel has noticed Dean's former injuries – he came to school with a black eye or a new scratch every other day, after all. Though, Cas has never said something about it. What would be the point? They both just don't have the best dads in the world. Still, he's feeling sorry for the green-eyed boy.

Is Sam okay?” Castiel asks, and without thinking about it, he takes Dean's hand and slowly intertwines their fingers.

Hesitantly, Dean looks up and god , he looks so fucking tired. Cas remembers that Dean said yesterday he's a mess as well. Now, Cas has the feeling he can see all of Dean's demons lurking behind him. He doesn't want to add all of his demons to that. He doesn't want to be a burden for Dean, and maybe it'd be selfish to 'keep' Dean because he's making him feel better.

But when Cas looks Dean in the eye now, it seems that the demons are backing off. He doesn't understand why or how, but maybe – just maybe, for whatever reason – Dean needs him as much as Castiel needs him. Maybe he does Dean good, in a way that they both can't comprehend. It's just happening and maybe it's a good thing.

Cas wonders where they will go from here, but maybe it's going to be fine because Dean is going to be there.

The green-eyed boy smiles at him. “Yeah, Sammy's okay. He was at school and now he's with Kevin. They're friends, I think.”

Kevin told me.” Cas nods, returning Dean's smile. “I'm glad Sam is okay.”

Me too.” Dean squeezes his hand softly, licking his lips. “How are you?”

I'm feeling weirdly okay,” he answers.

Dean stares at him for a second. “Is that a good thing, or...?”

Yeah, it's a good thing, Dean.”

Dean seems relieved. He helps Cas clean up the shop a bit, and to reorganize some of the shelves. They don't talk that much while they're working, and Cas is half expecting to wake up and Dean to disappear.

He doesn't mean to be clingy, needy, or pushy, but he takes Dean's hand as often as he can and simply tries to stay close to him the whole time. Dean doesn't appear to mind, though. They talk normally about trivial things, and Dean makes silly jokes to make him smile and laugh as often as possible. And Cas does smile and laugh, although it feels kind of strange, but just because it's still so unfamiliar.

Whenever Castiel is able to make Dean smile or laugh, it's like being in the forest on a warm summer day, and there are rays of sunshine peeking through the green of the trees. It warms Cas's heart and blocks out his shadows.

He's trying to take in as much as possible – the feeling of Dean's hand in his own (warm, heavy, and reassuring), the sound of Dean's voice (rough and soft at the same time, like rolling thunder and pattering of drizzle mixed together into one sound), and just little things about Dean, about this beautiful, beautiful boy, that Dean himself probably doesn't even notice.

The way he bites his lip and presses his eyebrows together when he's thinking. The way he stares at Castiel when he manages to make him smile or laugh – so wonderingly and in awe that it makes Cas's heart beat faster. The way he walks with his bow legs, so confident and unsure at the same time sometimes. The way he also tries to be as close to Cas as possible – he subtly shifts every so often so that their arms or hands brush together.

It's all so incredibly sweet , and Castiel doubts that he'd be able to tell Dean to leave him alone right now.

After his shift, they farewell Missouri, and Dean asks him if he should drive him home. Cas hesitates, but then he nods, reminding himself to push his fears to the back of his mind. When they're sitting in the Impala, he takes Dean's hand again, because it's easier then to do so.

Dean parks in front of Cas's house. They're still holding hands, and Cas is glad Lucifer isn't there since he doesn't want to get out of the car just yet.

You okay?” Dean asks quietly.

Castiel just nods, looking at the green-eyed boy.

You sure?” Dean wonders.

Yeah, I'm sure, Dean,” Cas replies, looking at their interlaced fingers.

Cas's fingernails are painted red today, just like on the day, when he met Dean for the first time. It's weird what details stick in the mind.

What are you thinking about?” Dean asks.

I just remembered something,” Cas mutters, looking at Dean again.

And what?” the green-eyed boy asks with a smile.

I had painted my fingernails in a similar color as I'm having now when we first met.”

Dean looks at Castiel's fingernails as well, and a smile tugs at the corners of his mouth. “I remember that, too.”

You do?” Cas asks, amazed.

Yeah, of course.” He bites his lip, coming a little nearer to Castiel, who swallows. “You wanna know the first thing that came to my mind when I saw you for the first time?”

There's a tingling in the pit of Cas's stomach, and Dean's green eyes are sparkling like two emeralds in the sun.

Cas nods slightly. Dean lifts his other hand, carefully touching Cas's face. Castiel feels the heat on his cheeks as Dean traces a line from his temple to his chin with his forefinger. He thumbs over Cas's cheekbone, whose breath catches in his throat.

I thought you're the most gorgeous boy I've ever seen.”

Immediately, Castiel searches for the lie in Dean's face – in his eyes –, huffing a breath in disbelief. But there's no lie, or at least he isn't able to find it. Dean starts to grin. Maybe Cas isn't able to find the lie, because there is no lie.

Really?” he whispers, holding Dean's hand tightly.

Really,” Dean whispers back.

Cas expects him to ask what he thought when he had seen Dean for the first time, but Dean doesn't do that.

Do you wanna know what I'm thinking right now?” he asks instead.

Castiel looks at him questioningly, and his heart is already almost jumping out of his chest since they're so close. He exhales shakily.

Tell me what you're thinking right now.”

Dean chuckles, staring at Cas with adoration in his eyes. Then, he lets his gaze drop to Castiel's lips. Cas's heart is beating so loudly by now, he's sure Dean can hear it.

I want to kiss you again.”

Cas is surprised by how fast his heart is able to beat, but it wouldn't be much of a surprise if it just stopped right now. He blinks at Dean, who's giving him the time to understand his words. A few moments pass by, and it slowly starts to be getting dark.

Can I kiss you again?” Dean asks, his voice quiet and soft. “It's okay if you say no,” he adds, gently squeezing Cas's hand.

Cas nods slowly. He wants to kiss Dean again, and although his anxiety is trying to suffocate him, he's telling himself that it's okay. This is Dean in front of him, and the green-eyed boy is still here, despite everything , and this beautiful boy is also thinking about kissing him.

Castiel takes a deep breath. “I want to kiss you again as well.”

Dean smiles widely at him, leaning forward, and then his lips are on Castiel's again.

And Cas – Cas stops thinking and also worrying. His mind goes blank, blissfully this time, and he just feels . Dean's lips are warm and so soft, and Cas melts. It's even better than their first kiss, even though he doesn't know how this can be possible.

The kiss is sweet, full of unspoken words, and Castiel can feel the reassurance Dean's trying to put into it.

He has closed his eyes and there's just Dean – his lips, his hands, his smell. Dean smells like cheap body wash and cigarette smoke, but there's also something that's just Dean. Cas can even taste it. It's strong and refreshing, and it reminds him of the fact that there are good things in this world.

Dean tastes like a mixture of heavy rain and sunlight, trapped in a small box with holes in it to let some rays out.

Cas kisses Dean back, hesitantly putting his free hand on Dean's neck, threading his fingers through Dean's hair, pulling him a little closer while doing so. Dean pulls in a sharp breath through his nose, huffing a small laugh against Cas's lips before continuing to kiss him.

There are goosebumps prickling on Cas's skin, and it feels like there is something warm, burning inside of him, so brightly that it kicks his demons out of his head for the time being. It's like Dean is able to put some of his sunlight into Cas through the kiss.

There's no urgency, no rushing. Dean nips gently at Cas's lower lip before he pulls away. All of Castiel's nerve endings seem to be on fire, but it's a good feeling. It's a very good feeling since it doesn't hurt at all.

He opens his eyes. Dean is still right in front of him, still so close, and they're even still holding hands. Carefully, Dean drops his hand from Cas's face and presses it against Cas's chest, right over his heart.

Castiel knows that his heart is slamming against his ribs, and Dean knows that now, too. There's a relieved glint in the depth of Dean's eyes. Without thinking about it, Cas mirrors Dean, pressing his hand against Dean's chest. Dean is so fucking warm, and his chest is firm, and his heart is beating with almost the same rhythm as Castiel's. They both start smiling at the same time.

Cas stares at Dean, taken aback – mostly by himself if he's honest. This whole thing is hard – Castiel didn't expect anything else –, but he thinks he's doing well, considering how difficult it is to ignore his demons, his worries, and his fears.

Dean brushes his thumb over Cas's lips, saying what Cas is feeling as well.

Wow.”

Cas blushes again. Dean's grin widens as he's staring at him.

That's still adorable.”

Cas looks down and at their intertwined fingers, hiding his smile. Dean gently puts his hand under his chin, making him look back up again. He presses another sweet, sweet kiss to Cas's lips that only lasts for a couple of seconds.

What was that for?” Cas sighs.

Dean's hand is still on his chin, and he leans into the touch. Dean shrugs, leaning a little closer once again, but this time to lean their foreheads together.

Feels good to kiss you,” he mumbles, putting his hand back on Cas's cheek, who covers that hand with his own.

So good,” Dean says and briefly kisses him once more as if he wanted to emphasize his words.

Castiel's head is swimming a bit. He agrees with Dean, but this is a lot to process. His mind hasn't caught up yet with everything that's happening.

He concentrates on his breathing; he doesn't want to get a panic attack, he doesn't want to run away from Dean again. But strangely, his breathing is already even. He wonders what that means. Maybe it has something to do with the fact that Dean can hold his demons off. He presses his eyebrows together.

Look at me,” Dean demands softly. “Be honest,” he continues, when Cas raised his eyes. “Is this okay?”

Cas thinks about this for a moment. He isn't sure what he's exactly feeling. He knows that his demons will creep back as soon as Dean's not there anymore, but for now, Dean is doing what everyone else failed at – keeping Castiel's demons at bay .

It feels good to be so close to Dean, and even better to kiss the green-eyed boy. Cas has feelings for Dean, and Dean is reciprocating. So, how selfish is it of Castiel to allow this to happen, when this is what Dean wants?

It's okay,” Cas says and he has to give himself a push, so he leans forward.

He captures Dean's lips with his own, threading his fingers through Dean's brown hair again. Surprised, Dean gasps a little but starts kissing Cas back eagerly after two seconds, sighing happily. Cas closes his eyes again, actually enjoying the drag of Dean's lips against his own. He can't think of anything he'd rather do right now.

Woah,” Dean breathes out when Cas pulls away.

Dean's cheeks are flushed, and there's an idle smile on his lips. Cas swallows, slowly returning Dean's smile.

He doesn't know for how much longer they would have stayed in the car if Lucifer hadn't come home already. Cas sees his brother's car first, and Dean turns around and sees it as well.

I should get home. Sammy's probably already waiting.”

Cas nods. “Okay. Then, bye.”

He kind of wants to ask when they'll see each other again, but he doesn't.

Just as he gets out of the car, Lucifer parks next to the Impala. Dean waves Cas goodbye and drives off. Castiel looks after him, waiting for Lucifer to get out of his car.

Wasn't that Dean?” his brother asks, opening the front door.

Yeah, he drove me home.”

They enter the house, and Lucifer raises his eyebrows at him.

Drove you home, huh?” he asks, seeming unsure if he should start grinning, or not.

Cas huffs a breath, rolling his eyes halfheartedly, and goes upstairs.

There's a flutter inside of him, starting from his chest through his whole body. It's a little unnerving, and he knows it has to do with Dean because his anxiety caused by his upcoming birthday feels differently.

On Saturday, he doesn't hear anything from Dean and he doesn't know if that's a good or a bad thing. But then he wakes up again and it's Sunday, September 1 st – his birthday.

He lies in his bed, staring scowlingly at the ceiling, trying to ignore the fact that it's his birthday. Castiel also tries not to think about what happened on his 14 th birthday five years ago.

Lucifer knocks on his door, opening it slowly. “Morning.”

Morning,” Cas mutters, looking at his big brother.

Do you want to have breakfast?” Lucifer asks carefully, purposefully not mentioning that it's Castiel's birthday.

Cas shakes his head. “I'm not hungry.”

Lucifer bites his lip, nodding. “Just say, if you changed your mind.”

Yeah, sure,” Cas says, and Lucifer leaves, quietly closing the door behind him.

Castiel tugs his blanket tighter around his body. Maybe he can go back to sleep and just sleep this day away. That'd be great.

He's already half asleep again when the bell rings. He hears Lucifer answering the door and distantly wonders who's there. Then, there's another knock on his bedroom door. Cas creases his forehead, turning towards the door, but still staying in bed.

Yeah?” he asks, and Lucifer comes in again, looking at his little brother questioningly. “What's wrong?” Cas asks, confused, staring just as questioningly back at Lucifer.

Suddenly, he's afraid that his friends are there and want to celebrate his birthday with him. But thankfully, that's not the case.

Um, Dean is there and he wants to see you.”

What?”

Cas's heart drops, and he starts wondering if that's even worse than if his friends were there. What the fuck is Dean doing here, today of all things? He does know that Cas doesn't celebrate his birthday.

He sits up, biting his lip. He does want to see the green-eyed boy, though. He fiddles with the hem of his blanket.

He can come in,” he decides, abandoning himself to an impulse.

Lucifer seems surprised, but he doesn't say anything about it. “Okay. I'll send him upstairs.”

30 seconds later, Dean is standing in the doorway of Castiel's room, looking as beautiful as ever. Cas realizes he's sitting cross-legged on his bed, a blanket covering his legs and his hair is probably a complete mess. Thank god, he's wearing a long-sleeved shirt. But hell, he doesn't even know what time it is.

Morning,” Dean says, a smile tugging at the corners of his mouth as he closes the door behind him.

Morning,” Cas says, shifting a bit, when he notices how Dean is looking at him, taking everything in.

All of a sudden, Cas feels uncomfortable, because he's realizing how ordinary he is, especially compared to Dean. He has no idea what this beautiful boy is seeing in him, but – incredible as it sounds – the smile on Dean's face tells Cas that Dean likes what he's seeing.

Did I wake you?” Dean asks, and Cas shakes his head.

Not really.”

He glances at the alarm clock on his nightstand; it's 9:34 am. He looks back at Dean, who's standing a little awkwardly in the middle of the room. Castiel plucks up courage and reaches out his hand.

Come here.”

Dean starts to smile even wider and walks over, sitting down on Cas's bed and taking his hand.

I should've asked if it's okay when I come over.”

No, it's fine. I'm just a little surprised. I mean, what are you doing here?”

Dean runs his fingers through his hair. “Well, I wanted to take you out. Nothing big, just to Pamela's diner, if that's okay.”

Cas blinks at him for a moment. “Why?” he asks stupidly.

Dean shrugs his shoulders. “I just want to. It's not to celebrate, you know,” he adds quickly, and then Cas understands.

Hang on a sec,” he says, letting go of Dean's hand and staring at him with wide eyes. “You mean a... a date ?”

Cas himself can hear the panic in his voice, and Dean realizes his mistake instantly.

No,” he says hastily. “I mean yes, technically, but we don't have to. I just... that was just a thought, just an idea. I'm sorry, I didn't think it through. We can just go as friends.”

Dean looks at him apologetically, biting his lip, and he stops rambling.

All the courage Castiel has used to overcome his fears, his shadows, in the last days seems to be gone. Maybe he has burned all his courage up – is that possible? Suddenly, he's feeling hollow.

Dean, please don't apologize,” he says quietly, looking at his hands. “It's...,” he searches for the right word, “sweet, I guess, that you want to go on a date with me. But I can't... I... that would put a label on us, and that's something... I'm not ready to do. It's not that I don't want to go on a date with you. I just can't do this. Because it would mean something...”

Cas realizes he's the one, who's rambling now, and then there's a finger on his lips.

Cas, stop,” Dean says softly. “It's fine. We don't have to put a label on us. If you don't want to, or if you aren't able to, then we won't do it. It's that simple and not a problem. I told you, I'm not going to leave. Just always be honest with me, like that. Okay?”

He takes Castiel's hand again, and Cas swallows, nodding insecurely. How can this be enough for the green-eyed boy?

Dean presses a kiss to the palm of Cas's hand. “We're going your pace, okay?”

Castiel stares at him in disbelief, and then he nods – much to his surprise. Maybe this is selfish, but after all, Dean is the one who's initiating all this.

Dean bites his lip now, briefly glancing at Castiel's lips, but he doesn't kiss him. Instead, he starts smirking at him and then he runs his fingers through Cas's hair, huffing a laugh.

You should get dressed and try to get rid of this bed hair. I mean, it's cute and it looks good, but people might talk.”

Castiel feels his cheeks turning red and he slaps Dean's hand away.

Out,” he grumbles, pointing at the door, but he can't help it, he starts to grin.

God, what is this boy doing to him?

Dean laughs and leaves the room. Cas runs his fingers through his hair as well and gets up slowly. Almost absentmindedly, he gets dressed – dark jeans and a blue sweatshirt – and goes downstairs.

Lucifer is standing in the hallway.

Dean's still there. He's waiting in his car.”

I know,” Cas says, putting on a pair of white shoes. “We'll have breakfast at Pamela's diner. I don't know when I'll be back.”

He grabs his trenchcoat and his wallet.

There are worries in Lucifer's eyes, though he's trying not to show it.

I thought you weren't hungry.”

Cas shrugs, fiddling with his phone. “I've changed my mind.”

He understands his brother and he's worried himself. He knows how dangerous this could be for him, especially if Dean left suddenly. But he said he wouldn't do that, and Cas knows he has to take the risk, otherwise, this isn't going to work.

See you later,” he says and leaves the house.

Bye,” Lucifer says, following him to the door. “Take care of yourself.”

Sure,” Cas says, smiling at his brother, walking over to the Impala and getting in.

Dean is smiling at him and he sets off as soon as Cas closed the passenger door. Ten minutes later, they park in front of the diner and get out of the car. The air is mild but still warm. Summer isn't ready yet to make room for the fall. But Cas will be glad when the temperatures are finally going to drop and it's normal to wear a pullover.

They enter the diner.

Cas!” Pamela exclaims, looking from him to Dean with raised eyebrows. “Didn't expect to see you today.”

We wanted to have breakfast,” Cas says, smiling at her, and she nods, showing them a free table by the window, where they can sit.

Castiel has the feeling there's something Pamela knows and he doesn't, but he isn't sure. He looks at Dean, when Pamela goes over to other customers, to find the green-eyed boy already staring at him, a fond expression on his face.

What?” Cas asks.

Nothing. I just thought that I'm really glad you're here with me. You could've said no,” Dean admits.

But remember, this isn't a date,” Castiel says as quietly as possible, staring at the table surface and flicking at some crumbs.

I know,” Dean replies. “But hey.”

Cas looks up, and Dean continues talking.

I thought that we could say this is our first unofficial date. And when you're ready for actual dating, then we'll have our first official date.”

Dean leans forward, resting his elbows on the table. Castiel looks at him with wide eyes, and yeah, there are his demons again, dragging all his fears and his worries behind them.

What if I'm never ready?”

Dean wrinkles his brow. “Do you really believe that?”

I don't know,” Cas mutters. “I just want you to be clear on what you're about to get yourself into. I'm a mess.”

Just so you know, I'm already into you,” Dean says. “And you're a work in progress , Cas. I am, too. And that's completely fine.”

Cas knows there's no point in arguing with Dean about this. So, he shakes his head and looks out of the window. Again, he realizes that this isn't going to work if he doesn't take the risk. He looks at Dean, who's studying the menu now, and he knows that he has to tell Dean everything eventually. And then it's up to Dean to decide if he still wants to stay with Castiel, or not.

That Dean's going to leave is always a possibility from now on. Cas trusts Dean, but right now he's the only one, who completely knows how truly fucked up he is. So, of course, he thinks that Dean is going to leave as soon as he knows everything.

Cas also knows that it will cost him a lot of strength to tell Dean everything – maybe even more than he has. But the green-eyed boy deserves to know.

And if he still wants Castiel when he knows everything – even though that'd be a miracle, but still –, then Cas would be the luckiest guy in the world.

 

Chapter Text

Cas briefly smiles at Pamela, when they walk past each other. She winks at him, but the stress is causing a wrinkle between her eyebrows.

It's lunchtime, which means it's very busy at the diner right now, and Castiel is trying to stay as calm as possible. Though, they're only three – Pamela, Cas, and the new girl, who looks like she's going to faint at any moment. All tables are occupied and all customers either want to order, to pay, or to complain.

At the very same time, during the whole hustle and bustle, Charlie, Dorothy, Gabriel, and Meg enter the diner. Luckily, they're able to just find a free table and Meg waves to Cas. He waves back at her, taking another order from an elderly woman, and quickly walks over to their table.

Hey, guys.”

Hey, Cas,” Charlie says. “How's it going?”

Good. There's just a lot going on. What can I get you?”

They all want a hot chocolate – Gabriel with extra cream –, and when Cas brings the cups to their table, Dorothy asks him if they could come home with him after his shift.

Sure,” Cas says, looking at his friends a little bit surprised.

Gabriel starts to grin, and Charlie nudges him with her elbow.

Poker face,” she hisses.

Ouch!” he complains.

Meg rolls her eyes at them.

Alright,” Cas says, looking at his friends in turns, but he doesn't have the time to ask any questions.

He wonders what they are up to. He's afraid they want to do something, because of his birthday that's a week ago by now. Somehow, he can understand that they want to celebrate with him, but they really can't rejoice him by doing that. And actually, he's told them that often enough. But if this is not about his birthday, what is it all about then?

Fortunately, he also has a lot to do for the rest of his shift, and he isn't able to keep pondering over it. But 28 minutes later, his shift is over, and Pamela takes the time to hug him. He hugs her back, and then she looks at him for a moment.

How's Dean?” she asks suddenly, and Cas automatically thinks about yesterday, when Dean and he were at the park together – they held hands and kissed again.

He's fine, I guess.”

Pamela smiles at him. “He's a great boy.”

Cas chuckles sheepishly, running his fingers through his hair and messing it up a little bit more. He just nods, returning her smile. He leaves the diner together with his friends, and they all wave Pamela goodbye before they squash into Charlie's small car and drive to Castiel's home.

During the drive, he already tries to get something out of his friends, but everyone remains quiet, and Gabriel puts on a grim face – his poker face, or so he claims.

Cas is nervous when Charlie is parking next to Lucifer's car. As always, Lucifer doesn't mind when Castiel's friends come over, and now he's just glad that they have enough food in the house, especially since Gabriel eats for two.

At first, they talk about work and college and watch a movie – Warm Bodies .

Castiel is the one, who asks what's up with Charlie and movies about zombies because it was Charlie, who suggested it. Though, he has to admit that the movie is good and funny. But when the credits are rolling, Dorothy turns off the TV, and they all put on 'serious' faces. Gabriel has to bite his lip to suppress another grin.

Cas looks at them one by one, with raised eyebrows. Lucifer comes into the room as well, but he keeps to the sidelines, leaning against the door frame, arms crossed in front of his chest.

Okay. What's going on?” Cas asks, huffing a breath.

Well,” Charlie starts. “The others kinda did this, when Dorothy and I became a thing, so now we're doing this for you.”

What are you talking about?” Cas asks, although he thinks he already knows what this is all about.

You and Dean-o,” Gabriel says, wiggling his eyebrows.

Cas rolls his eyes. “Dean and I aren't together.”

But you are well on the way to being together,” Meg states, and the others nod.

Castiel locks eyes with his brother.

We just want you to be okay, Cas,” Lucifer says. “We don't want you to get hurt.”

Castiel nods slowly. “Thanks, guys. That's... very sweet of you, but it's not necessary.”

Charlie squints at him, and he can see that she's thinking about something. Then, she claps her hands once and gets up. Everyone looks at her, and she smiles.

Change of plan,” she announces, and all the others are just as confused as Castiel.

Cas, follow me,” Charlie says and gets ready to leave the living room.

Wait, what are you doing?” Dorothy asks, holding her hand out to hold her girlfriend back.

Charlie turns around again. “Going to Castiel's room, together with him, so we can have a one-to-one,” she explains.

Castiel grimaces, but everyone else seems to understand something.

Good idea,” Meg says, nodding approvingly and sipping on her coke. “Hurry up, Clarence,” she adds, directing towards Cas.

He sighs but understands that he doesn't have a choice. Therefore, he gets up and follows Charlie upstairs and into his bedroom. They sit down on his bed, and Cas looks at her expectantly.

A one-to-one? Really?” he huffs, running his fingers through his dark hair.

Yeah. I realized that we've caught you off-guard a little, so I thought this would be easier for you.”

Thank you, Charlie. I appreciate it, but there's nothing to talk about.”

Dean told me you're holding hands, that's not nothing,” she scolds him. “That means something, Cas.”

But we're not together,” Cas repeats stubbornly.

Charlie shrugs her shoulders once. “Not yet.”

He chuckles, looking away.

Have you kissed?” she asks suddenly, and Cas can't do anything about it – he starts blushing.

Oh my god,” Charlie squeals, throwing her arms around him.

Confused and taken by surprise, Cas hugs her back.

That's amazing,” she says when she lets him go. “You're so cute together.”

We're not together,” Cas repeats weakly, and a knowing smile lights up Charlie's face.

But you like him, right?”

Cas shrugs, rubbing his neck. “Yes, I do.”

Charlie looks so fucking excited, and Cas starts to smile at her.

You're an awesome best friend, do you know that?”

She flashes him a grin. “Of course, I am and of course, I know that.”

Cas huffs a laugh, shaking his head.

But you're taking care of yourself, yeah?” she asks, all of a sudden serious again.

Castiel nods. “Yeah, of course.”

Good,” Charlie says softly. “Because we love you, Castiel.”

Cas tilts his head, looking at her, and then he hugs her. “Love you, too.”

The next day, Cas tells Dean about the gayvention . Dean laughs about it, taking Cas's hand.

They're at the park, sitting on the swings. It's not cold, that's why Cas is only wearing a thin grey sweater under his trenchcoat and ripped blue jeans. Dean is even just wearing a dark blue t-shirt under his leather jacket, but he's beautiful as ever.

You have amazing friends. They care a lot about you.”

I know. I still felt a little awkward,” Cas admits.

I can imagine,” Dean answers, chuckling softly.

So, what did you want to tell me?” Cas asks, remembering the beginning of their conversation when they both said they had something to tell.

Dean looks down and shuffles his feet. “I know that we're not a couple, but I'd still like to tell Sammy about us. You know, to come out to him.”

He still doesn't look at Castiel, who squeezes his hand now.

That's fantastic, Dean,” he says softly, and the green-eyed boy looks up.

Really? You wouldn't be mad?”

Of course, not. First, you asked me before doing it, and that's greatly appreciated.”

Dean chuckles again, shaking his head slightly.

And second,” Cas continues, “I'm proud of you. Coming out can be a really difficult thing to do.”

Dean looks around, and Cas follows his gaze, but there's no one else around. The green-eyed boy gets up and stands in front of Cas, putting his hand on Cas's cheek and leaning down. Cas clings around Dean's wrist as they kiss, and something warm is blooming inside of his chest, right where his heart is beating at least twice as fast as usual. He smiles into the kiss.

Cas is a little overwhelmed by the affection that's causing Dean's eyes to glisten brightly when they end the kiss and look at each other.

Thank you,” Dean says, smiling fondly at him.

Cas shakes his head. “You don't have to thank me. I didn't do anything.”

That's what you say.”

Cas chuckles and presses a kiss to the palm of Dean's hand, instead of saying something. There's a grey blanket of clouds above them, but it cannot dampen Cas's mood. Not even, when it's slowly starting to rain.

They agree on going home and Cas walks Dean home since Dean's house is nearer to the park than Castiel's.

Will you tell me how it went?” Cas asks when they turn the corner.

Yeah, definitely,” Dean promises. He bites his lip. “I'm nervous,” he admits quietly.

That's normal,” Cas says reassuringly.

Sure, but that's the reason why I don't know yet when I'm going to tell Sam.”

Take as much time as you need. But I can already tell you that I think Sam will be fine with it.”

I hope so,” Dean says, shrugging.

Cas nudges him gently. “He loves you. You're his big brother. Every little sibling looks up to their big brother.”

Dean is silent for a moment. They reach his house and stand still.

I'm just afraid that it's going to change the way he looks at me.”

I understand that,” Cas says, nodding.

If anyone understands that, then it's me , he thinks bitterly.

Carefully, he wraps his arms around Dean, who hugs him back immediately.

I'm here for you,” he says quietly, and the green-eyed boy hugs him more tightly, pressing a kiss to the side of Cas's neck, whose skin starts to tingle at the exact spot.

He huffs a breath, letting go of Dean. Castiel sees it in Dean's eyes right away. The green-eyed boy wants to apologize for the kiss.

Don't,” Cas whispers. “It's fine.”

Really? Because I didn't think about it, I just did it, and...,” Dean says quietly, but Cas interrupts him.

Dean. Everything's fine.”

Cas means it. He's trying to let Dean in, more and more, and simultaneously to push his demons away, more and more. It's not easy, but he's trying his best and that's all that matters, right?

Dean nods relieved and smiles. “Okay. See you then.”

Cas returns his smile, stepping back. “See you then.”

He walks home, smiling to himself. Somehow, he's excited, because Dean is going to come out to his little brother. It's a great thing and also a great step, and Cas feels touched because Dean wants to tell Sam about him – about them . That's a big step, even though they aren't together.

Cas reaches his house, noticing that his brother's car isn't there, so Lucifer isn't home, and he fishes his keys out of his pocket. Just as he opens the door, a familiar voice is calling his name.

Surprised, Cas turns around and sees Garth walking towards him – who's the last person he expected to see right now.

Hey, what are you doing here?” he asks, totally taken aback, but he hugs Garth tightly.

I'm back,” Garth announces superfluously. “I missed my mom and you guys,” he adds, and Cas smiles.

We missed you, too. Come on in.”

They enter the house and go into the kitchen. Castiel gets two cans of coke out of the fridge, giving one of them to Garth, and they sit down at the kitchen table.

Good to see you, man,” Garth says, taking the can of coke from Cas, who smiles.

You too. How are you? How was the road trip?”

Awesome. Best decision of my life.”

Garth is grinning and then he tells Cas all about New York and his short time with Crowley.

Crowley's apartment is small but modern and also comfortable. Cas nods at that – Crowley has sent him pictures of his apartment.

Garth says the Brit was a good host, and he also met some of Crowley's new acquaintances . Cas grins, shaking his head. Of course, Crowley found his people in New York, but he knows the Brit is going to make it far, just because he's Crowley.

At some point, Cas wonders if the others already know that Garth is back. Upset, Garth facepalms. He shakes his head, telling Cas that he came right here after he said hello to his mom.

But let's call them now.”

They both grab their phones and shortly afterward, the bell is ringing. Gabriel is the first to arrive, happy about the distraction from learning. Kevin and Meg arrive at the same time and Benny, Charlie, Dorothy, and Gadreel met on the way to Castiel's house and arrive together a few minutes later.

Lucifer comes home an hour later to find the house full of people. A little confused, he enters the living room where they spread themselves out.

What's going on?” he asks, still holding two shopping bags in his hands.

Garth is back!” they all yell simultaneously and enthusiastically, and laugh.

In a way, Garth is the man of the moment, and though he seems a little uncomfortable with this new role of his, he willingly tells them everything about his road trip. Lucifer gets rid of the beer he bought.

The spontaneous party ends with them ordering pizzas, and since most of them have to work the next day, Lucifer takes the part of the adult and sends everybody home after they've eaten.

Garth thanks and hugs them all.

Before Cas goes to sleep – he has an early shift at Pamela's diner tomorrow – he quickly helps his brother to clean everything up. But there's no huge messiness, and then Lucifer sends him to bed as well.

When Cas is lying in his bed, he grabs his phone and calls Dean.

Hey,” the green-eyed boy answers the call.

Hey,” Cas replies softly.

Is something wrong?”

No, I just wanted to say goodnight. And to hear your voice.”

It's still hard for Castiel to say something like that, but he knows it's worth it since he can hear Dean's smile in his voice when he speaks again.

Then, sleep well, Cas. Goodnight.”

You too. Goodnight, Dean.”



* * *



Just two days ago, Dean told Cas that he wants to come out to Sammy, and so far, he wasn't able to gather up enough courage to do so.

Cas told him to take his time, but actually, he just doesn't have the guts to do it. What if Sam were going to think differently about him then?

Dean's sitting on a chair behind the counter in Missouri's shop, lost in thought. Castiel has a short late shift that's almost over. The blue-eyed boy is smiling at him.

Everything's okay?”

Dean nods hesitantly, and Cas sits down next to him.

Have you talked to Sam?”

No, no yet,” Dean answers, a little glumly.

But he doesn't want to burden Cas with this, therefore he changes the topic.

Have you seen Alastair again?”

Castiel accepts the new topic immediately, without saying something about it, and shakes his head.

No, not lately. He disappeared again.” Cas shrugs his shoulders. “I don't know if that's a good thing, or not. I mean, I'm glad when I don't see Alastair, but I do wonder what he's up to.”

Dean understands that. He huffs a small, humorless laugh.

He's a freak, so probably not something nice, I guess. I bet he already has one hell of a criminal record.”

He looks at Cas, who's not laughing at his joke at all. Instead, he returns his look with wide eyes. Castiel looks like he's not sure if he should tell him whatever it is that's suddenly on his mind. He's biting his lip too hard, and Dean lifts his hand, gently pulling Cas's lip from his teeth, and Cas lets him do that.

What's wrong?” Dean asks.

I have a criminal record,” Castiel blurts out.

Surprised, Dean looks at him. “You have a criminal record?”

Cas nods, biting his lip again. “Yeah,” he admits.

But before Dean can ask some questions, Missouri comes over to them, reminding Castiel that his shift is over. They leave the shop, practically running to the Impala since it's raining. When they're sitting, Dean doesn't start the engine and sets off right away. He faces Cas, who returns his look only hesitantly.

I'm sorry I haven't told you earlier.”

Don't apologize, Cas. You don't have to. I won't throw bricks when I live in a glass house.”

Cas looks at him questioningly, and Dean nods.

Yep. I have a criminal record as well.”

What did you do?” Cas asks, and he seems weirdly relieved.

I broke into a supermarket to steal some stuff. Mostly food.” Dean shrugs.

Why did you do that?” Cas asks. “If you don't mind me asking.”

Dean takes Cas's hand, slowly intertwining their fingers.

I don't mind. I did it for Sam. It happened at a time, when our dad disappeared again and again, often for days. We needed food and didn't have any money, so I stole something. But I got caught. I was at a facility for juvenile offenders for two months. I was 15.”

Cas nods understandingly, and Dean instantly knows that the blue-eyed boy doesn't judge him.

What about you?” he asks.

Cas looks at their interlaced fingers. “I have a criminal record of assault.”

He shrugs his shoulders halfheartedly, looking out of the window.

What happened? If you don't mind me asking,” Dean says softly.

A smile touches the corners of Cas's mouth at that.

I don't mind. I just got into a lot of fights, especially in the time right after we've moved here.”

When was that?”

Um, a few weeks after... after I've tried to kill myself,” Cas answers quietly. “For that – I mean, for moving away, because of me – my father hated me even more, although he rarely spent time at home.”

He wrinkles his forehead, and Dean carefully runs his fingers through Cas's dark hair. He wants to ask why they had to move away because of Cas, but he figures that would lead them directly to continuing the conversation they had in the forest, and he wants to wait a little longer until they're doing that. So, he asks another question.

Why did you get into a lot of fights?”

He hopes this question only broaches the subject ever so slightly. Since Castiel does answer him, he assumes it's okay.

It was easier then, somehow. This was the way I dealt with my pain. I just picked someone – sometimes people who didn't even do something – and beat the shit out of them. I didn't have to think while doing so. I projected all of my problems onto other people. This way, I got my reputation as a bad boy.”

Someone called you a faggot and you broke his nose,” Dean says, remembering something Sam has told him.

You've heard about that? Yeah, it's true. At some point though, I started to pick only people who deserved it. You know, like Alastair and his 'friends'. But all in all, I was a pretty terrible person.”

Was,” Dean emphasizes, pressing a kiss to Cas's hand, but the blue-eyed boy scoffs.

I've just realized that it's also satisfying to help other people, but I still got into fights. Do you remember Jody?”

Who?” Dean asks, a little confused.

Sheriff Jody Mills. You've met her at the bar, where Balthazar is working.”

Dean furrows his brow, and it takes him a few moments, but then he remembers her.

Yeah,” he says. “Yeah, I remember her. What about her?”

She had to arrest me a couple of times. But I think she felt pity for me because she tried to help me. A few months before you moved here, I've had to promise her to try staying out of trouble.”

She always arrested you, because of assault, or...?” Dean wonders and Castiel shakes his head.

No, I've got drunk pretty often, and also in public. Lucifer hated that, but he hated especially when I was high.”

Dean's eyebrows shoot towards the ceiling in surprise. “What did you take?”

A lot,” Cas says. “Crowley used to get me anything I wanted. Though I haven't taken anything in months, and I'm sure Lucifer is glad about that.”

I've smoked weed a couple of times,” Dean admits.

Cas chuckles slightly.

What?” Dean asks.

We're really messed up, aren't we? I mean, what are we talking about?”

Dean starts to giggle, reclining his head, and then he kisses Castiel.

Because that's his favorite thing at the moment, and he doesn't think that's ever going to change. Kissing Cas and Cas kissing him back – yeah, that has to be his favorite thing in the whole world. He'd love nothing better than to do this all the time since to kiss the blue-eyed boy is so fucking addicting.

This is better than any drug, though,” Dean whispers against Cas's lips and kisses him again.

Cas pulls away, smirking. “Sometimes, you are cheesy.”

Oh, shut up,” Dean scoffs, pulling Cas closer again, and continues to kiss him.

Cas sighs into the kiss, chuckling lightly before kissing Dean back again.

Today, the ocean is bright and endless, sparkling as if there were stars hidden right beneath the surface.

Dean knows he'll never get enough of these blue eyes. He swallows, a little overwhelmed by all the affection he's feeling for Cas when he drives him home.

It feels good to see Cas talking relatively freely, and being open to and honest with Dea