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I didn’t, Jack says. I wouldn’t. I know that I...that I wanted to know him, that I chose him over you, but it was a mistake and I learned and I’d never…

You’re my father, he says, and it’s the first time Cas has ever seen tears in his eyes. He pulls Jack into his arms, and holds him, and tells himself it’ll be the last time he lets anything make Jack cry.

Of course, that’s a lie, because less than five minutes later, they’re staring at the bunker door from the wrong side, and all they seem to have left in the world at that point is each other.

[][]

It starts with a rumour.

It comes from the witches first. Signs and portents: dark omens like a storm where the clouds shed blood instead of rain. A pregnant woman that gave birth to something inhuman that drew its first birth (and its last) to scream his name.

And Sam…. Sam dreams of him for the first time since he watched Dean kill him. It’s worse, somehow, for that respite, and Sam stops sleeping soon after, using coffee and pills to keep himself awake.

Cas delves into his memories, and the Men of Letters archive, and tries to ignore the sharp whispering in that hateful voice, the lies and false promises.

When that fails, he remembers Sam telling him what happened after the reservoir, at night when he couldn't sleep and he couldn’t find peace.

So he takes his blade and slices it across his palm, and digs his thumb into the wound.

All it does is bleed, and he trembles at the mocking laughter in his head.

Didn’t Sammy tell you? That stopped working years ago.

[][]

It’s a week later, all of them feeling the sense of escalation, of helplessly speeding towards disaster, when Dean’s cell rings and he steps out to answer it.

When he comes back in the room, his gun is in his hand, and he tells both Sam and Cas to step away from Jack.

And he won’t listen, and then Sam won’t listen, and Cas tries. He argues against everything they say, tries reason and finally temper, because sometimes that’s the only way to get through to his humans.

It doesn’t work this time, and Dean makes Jack a promise - that if he sees him again after that day, he’ll put a bullet in him for sure.

Cas knows what it’s like to be disowned and abandoned by Dean. To feel safe and then have that ripped away from you with no explanation, just to be told to go.

He knows what it’s like out there, to have nothing, to have nowhere, and as bad as the hunger and cold and fear all were, it was nothing compared to the pain of being turned away by the humans he’d come to love.

He won’t let Jack suffer the same.

They fight with him over it, and Jack does too, urging Cas to stay, but how can he?

How can he abandon his son?

[][]

It’s a week later when Cas’s credit card is maxed out. The motel manager comes thumping on the door, and tells Cas he’d better have cash or he’s calling the cops.

All Cas has in actual money amounts to some five dollars and twenty cents. But he also knows that the manager is letting men and women bring their customers into the last room on the right and taking a cut of their profits.

Cas suggests he call the cops, and see who they turn out to be more interested in.

By unspoken agreement the manager leaves them alone after that.

But even with only one of them requiring food, five dollars and twenty cents won’t last long.

Jack doesn’t complain, but Cas knows he’s hungry. And he might get sick. Even if he doesn’t, he’ll still need clothes, and painkillers because sometimes humans can hurt even when they’re not sick.

And all of that takes money which brings him back to square one.

He tries, he truly does, but in the end it's the manager who suggests a way out of their difficulties when he sees Jack staring hungrily at the contents of the vending machine when Cas in desperation comes to see if he would employ him. Something, anything.

He tells Jack to go back to their room while he and his dad discuss things.

And then he asks Cas how come they're both well dressed, educated and clean, but can't afford a motel room or food.

Cas has known shame and temper and hurt but the why and how are not this man's business. He looks away, and the man makes a sarcastic huff.

Then he's locking the door and tugging down the blinds, making the office a little darker than before.

Or maybe it just seems that way.

He takes a twenty out of his pocket and sets it on the counter.

A twenty, he tells Cas, can feed a hungry kid for a couple of days.

All Cas has to do is earn it, but hey - he wanted a job, right?

[][]

Castiel is...different, lately.

Jack knows it was hard, impossibly so, leaving the bunker, leaving his home, and he will never forgive himself for being the cause even if he didn't actually do anything.

He doesn't understand why Dean and Sam were so sure of his guilt but he knows Lucifer scares them.

He scares Castiel too. Sometimes his father will flinch if Jack gets too close without him realising it and he thought it was because of what he was, the price of protecting him then and now, or because he had come to believe what the brothers did.

But then he noticed Castiel jumping at noises and movement that had nothing to do with him.

When Castiel said he'd found work at the motel, cleaning the rooms, Jack had hoped it would get better. That maybe worry about how to care for him was to blame.

But if anything Castiel seems worse and Jack doesn't understand.

Castiel is his responsibility just as much as Castiel feels Jack is his.

Especially now it's just the two of them.

So he will find out what it is that's distressing the angel. And then he’ll deal with it.

[][]

So, now he knows.

[][]

There's a lot that Jack still doesn't understand about people. Their peculiarities, their reasoning. What makes them happy and what makes them sad and what makes them ashamed.

He knows why Castiel spends so much time in other rooms now, and it isn't to clean. The money he saw the manager give to Castiel after is probably the money that later paid for Jack’s dinner and that winter coat in the Goodwill store that his father insisted he’d need because it's almost winter.

And the manager doesn't harass them any more about money for the room.

Jack is...is torn. Because he knows Castiel has done all this for love of him, and is probably keeping it from him out of humiliation and a desire to protect him.

And Jack rages because this is his fault. If not for his stupidity in going to Lucifer, he would still have his powers and wouldn't need clothed or fed. They might even still be in the bunker because he would never have let those Winchesters turn them out.

The Winchesters.

As much as Jack hates himself, he hates them more.

Maybe it's a good thing he doesn't have his powers any more. He isn't sure he wouldn't scour them from the face of the planet.

[][]

It's such an odd thing. Castiel can use his Grace to clean and restore his body and clothes. But it isn't enough and he can never make himself go back to their room before he showers and changes.

He spent a few of their precious dollars to buy himself some cheap clothes and a backpack to keep them in but it was a necessary expense.

He couldn't return to Jack so tainted. He is going to keep this as far from Jack as possible (just like the hunger, the cold, the threat of homelessness and the fear that Lucifer might indeed have returned).

Cas is doubtful now that his brother is back. He hasn't heard the voice since they left the bunker and he wants to call them and see if they have, if they're okay.

But his humans...No, they're not his anything now. Dean and Sam had made themselves clear.

So he doesn't call. He will take care of Jack, like he'd promised Kelly he would.

And he tells Jack he's long been overdue a change of outfit and a shower is relaxing after his work and Jack is trusting enough to believe it and goes to make him coffee and gets him to rest as best he can.

It's not the bunker. But he’ll do the best he can to make it a home.

[][]

Three months later, there's a knock at the door. Castiel had always warned Jack not to open it without him there but then a familiar voice calls through the door and Jack recognises it.

He yanks it open and there they are, filling the doorway with their bulk and looking miserable and ashamed and relieved and guilty all in that same moment.

We’re sorry, they say and they ask where Cas is so they can tell them both together what happened, and Jack thinks if he was the son of Lucifer rather than Castiel, if he was whole, that he would make sure they were sorry.

Maybe he would anyway, with Castiel running through him more than Lucifer. Because he knows very well where his father is, and what he’s doing.

There's a bitter part of him, so furious on Castiel’s behalf, that would dearly love them to see what they've done, to suffer guilt and horror and know why ‘sorry’ isn't enough.

But Castiel wouldn't want them to know any more than he'd wanted Jack to.

Protecting them and protecting himself.

So Jack tells them he'll be back soon, they can wait, and Dean says something about Cas leaving Jack alone.

And Jack tells him that Castiel is out earning money so he can eat and that at least is true and it shuts Dean up like a slap.

Jack doesn't deny himself the vicious sense of pleasure at that.

[][]

Cas sensed they had come while the man was on top of him, had him pressed into the mattress with a hand on Cas's neck, excited by his apparent vulnerability.

He pushes himself up and the man staggers back, spluttering and off balance.

He tells Cas to get back on the bed, trying to regain control when the only control he had was driven by the cash in his wallet.

He even gets in Cas's way as he tries to leave. Cas taps two fingers to his forehead and by the time he's stepping over him and opening the door, he's dressed once more in his suit and coat and he ignores the manager and runs to their room.

[][]

It starts with a rumour.

The Winchesters have targeted their coven. And nobody survived the Winchesters. Their bunker is impregnable. They are skilled and lethal. But they also have an angel in the family.

They're untouchable.

But these witches are resourceful. They have contacts: alive and dead and inbetween, demonic and divine, and so they come up with a plan.

They will let the Winchesters destroy themselves. First they will get the angel out of the way, complicated since he has endured much for them, from them, but stayed with them. But they have an idea there too.

And it works.

[][]

It's Sam who finds it.

It's the smallest hex bag he's ever seen, the workmanship of amazing precision. It's buried right at the bottom of his duffle, fastened to the lining and he only finds it because Dean's adamant the Curien book of curses and cures is in there and if Sam doesn't want to move his lazy ass to go look, Dean will.

Sam doesn't want Dean anywhere near his things. He tells him that. One paw on any of his things and he’ll do something about it.

There doesn't seem to be an hour that passes without them at each other's throats. Cas isn't there to play buffer. They both miss him but it hurts that he chose Jack over them. It hurts that Jack betrayed them.

It still doesn't seem real.

It's when he sees the bag that he wonders if maybe it isn't.

They burn it together.

And, just like that….

[][]

Jack isn't interested in their excuses. He hears what they're not saying as much as what they are.

The hex bag played on their fears of Lucifer, nudged in that direction by the witches who feared them. It made them act on their distrust.

And that made them turn him and his father out.

And the things Castiel has been made to do since….

When Castiel bursts in, it's clear what he fears at that point and it isn't Lucifer.

Neither brother seems able to raise their eyes from the ground.

But then their story is told and Jack’s thinking it makes no difference at all when Dean says they should get their things so they can start for home.

Home.

[][]

The truck is bone dry, there not being money for fuel, and that slams into Dean's gut like a punch.

He, they, have a fucking lot to find out about the past few weeks and a lot to apologise for. He has no idea what made those witches think they were coming after them but it's settled now though the damage is done.

And he knows it probably can't be fixed. He'd seen the way Jack was looking at them, through him. Kid knows. He knows that deep inside them, that kernel of doubt remains, because without it none of this would have happened.

And Jack knows something else too. He knows exactly what Cas has been doing this past few weeks to support him. And it wasn't cleaning rooms.

They siphon gas from the Impala into the truck and Dean suggests Jack ride with Sam so that he can get Cas alone, get the truth from him.

He shouldn't be surprised when they both say no.

Looks like it's him and Sam that can't be trusted now.

[][]

Sam doesn't sleep much that night. Both Cas and Jack are home but it doesn't feel that way. He knows it doesn't for them because he and Dean threw them out, and there's a story to be told there. He suspects Dean will try to drag it out of Cas, but he also suspects it won't work.

But whatever happened, it's what led to it that they need to address and so Sam gets up and goes to Jack’s room and knocks and asks if he's awake.

He is and he tells Sam he can come in. It's his bunker after all.

Sam tries not to skulk inside and stands there awkwardly. It comes to him then that he doesn't know what to say.

Jack seems willing to wait, like he thinks Sam deserves that empty difficult silence.

Words come to mind but he discards them in the same moment. They all sound like excuses and maybe that's all he has.

So he starts at the beginning, with a stranger in the night so many years ago.

[][]

Dean knows Cas will come to him. He wants to go to the angel but he owes Cas letting him do this in his own time.

So he sits in the war room, neutral territory, and waits.

Cas sits opposite him and that screams inside his head that this finally he can't fix. It's too much, by itself and on top of the other things that's happened between them.

But when he knows he should be saying sorry all he can say is what he does. You left me. You went with him and you left me.

And just like that the crack, widened and split, breaks open with the pressure and the dam bursts.

Jack took Cas once when Kelly drove off with him. Then again at the portal when Jack did something to him. And then all of that led to Cas dying and that Dean thought was the last time Cas would ever leave him, the final time.

And then Cas was back and Dean swore it was the final time.

Until he left again. He feels like he still can’t find the words, like he never can when it comes to Cas. Never the right ones at the right time, anyhow, because they always seem to end up here.

And he knows that some of the times Cas left was because he sent him away, he’s not denying that. And because sometimes he made it impossible for Cas to stay.

But he doesn’t think he has it in him to take it even one more time. No matter how or why, it’ll finish him. Put him under for the last time.

Because he needs Cas in his life, he wants him there, and he loves him. He loves him as hard and as deep as Cas loves them, and he doesn’t know why he can’t say it until he’s this broken.

Cas has Dean in his arms a moment later, rocking him gently, the gentle caress of Grace moving to smooth him.

And he makes Dean a promise. That though he can’t promise never to be taken, he can promise never to go.

Dean hugs him back. Maybe in their lives that’s as good as it gets.

But anything trying to take his family is going to have to go through him first.

And in the morning, he’ll find a way to smooth things over with Jack, and make it clear he is - still - family.