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Lock Me Out, Take Me In

Chapter Text

Cas has been trying not to cry for the last two minutes and twenty-six seconds.

He's sitting on his front porch with his head in his hands, breathing deep through his nose while his leg bounces like he's trying to burn calories.

It's really not a big deal. He needs to man up and get over it. But it's not the fact that his brother has locked him out of the house at half past two on a Saturday morning that's bothering him. It's not that he's going to have to sleep on the porch in the cold and he's got nothing but a flimsy jacket on over a t-shirt. No, what's really bothering him is the look he knows he's gonna get from Luci in the morning. That pissed off, "I'm disappointed in you" look that he hates so much. What's bothering him is how much he knows Gabriel is freaking out right now, probably tossing around in bed wondering where his little brother is. That's what's stressing Cas out the most. That's what's got him keeled over on the front step, worrying his bottom lip between teeth that are starting to chatter from the cold.

He deserves it, though. He deserves the pain of knowing he let everybody down. He disobeyed, he stayed out way past fucking curfew, and he's supposed to be the good one. The peacemaker. The quiet, sweet little kid who does as he's told and takes his brother's orders.

So much for that.

After a while of worrying, he decides it's probably best to just accept the fact that he now holds the official title of Novak Household Shit-Disturber of the Week and stop feeling sorry for himself. He pulls his jacket a little tighter around his shoulders, standing up and looking out at the dark street.

There's the streetlight in front of the house across from his, blinking out periodically and making a cartoonish sort of buzzing sound every time it does. There are trees and shrubs sitting neatly on perfectly trimmed suburban lawns, rustling in the wind. There are cars parked in driveways and on the street, and windows of houses with nothing but darkness behind them.

Everything is quiet. Still. Predictable and familiar and ordinary. For all he knows, Cas could very well be the only person in the entire neighbourhood who's awake right now. It's peaceful in a shitty way, because it doesn't match how he's feeling on the inside at all.

Eventually he turns and starts to walk back around the side of the house. Maybe the back door's open, and if not, maybe he can jimmy open a window and crawl through. He'd go to Gabriel's room first, to ease his worries, then he'd tuck tail and go straight to Luci's to apologize and subsequently be yelled at. It'd wake the rest of the house, no doubt, but Cas has it coming anyway.

He's not a partier. He's really not. But he's smart enough to know that if you want to keep your social status, and your friend's respect, and your spot in the high school hierarchy, you don't say "no" when invited to a house party. You just don't. So he let Charlie and Meg drag him along, even though he despises the taste of teenage sweat in the air and the feeling of too-loud music reverberating in his chest. Even though the crowded rooms and the never-ending drunk chatter stress him out. Even though he'd told his brothers it was just a quiet night at Charlie's, and that he had a reliable ride home, and that he'd be back at midnight, yes, I promise, Charlie's waiting outside so I have to go now, goodbye, I love you.

He spent over two hours at that party.

Two hours of not really talking to anybody, and sitting around while his friends keep conversation going for him, and nursing a drink he doesn't like so people won't think he's a prude. By the end of it all, Charlie was crashed on the couch, too drunk to even think about driving, Meg had left with a boy she's too good for, and Cas? Cas had to walk home.

And now here he is, feeling stupid for believing the back door might have been unlocked, because of course it's fucking not. He can't force a window open, he's not strong enough, and he knows that breaking one with a rock will only add destruction of property and "being a reckless fucking idiot" to the list of offenses his oldest brother has undoubtedly started for him.

He sighs. Shoves his hands into his pockets. Feels the threat of tears sting his sinuses again and swallows thickly to suppress it. He's coming back around to the front of the house, trying to decide whether he should sleep sheltered on the porch and wake up with a backache, or on the grass where it's softer but there's nothing at all to keep him from the wind and cold. He sits down at his original spot, and that's when he realizes how tired he is. He's not drunk, and thank god for that because he would've passed out from exhaustion on the sidewalk halfway home. He always was a sleepy drunk. He yawns, not bothering to cover his mouth like he usually does, because who's there to judge him for the face he makes? He rests his chin in his hands and lets his eyes fall shut. Breathes for a minute.

And then there's the sound of tires rolling slowly on asphalt, and a puttering motor accompanying the quiet blare of the kind of music you'd hear in a backroads bar. It's coming down the street. Cas's eyes are open again, and there's a slick black car coming lazily toward his end of the street. It's going slow, probably slower than the speed limit, which is saying something because they're in a residential. It's like the driving equivalent of taking a midnight stroll; you're not in a hurry and you've got nowhere to be and you're not going any particular place for any particular reason.

As the car approaches, Cas can hear a man's low but lighthearted crooning over top of the music. The driver's window must be down. Cas kind of chuckles to himself, because this guy is very obviously under the influence. Soon enough he can see somewhat through the windshield, and it's a black ranch jacket and not-quite stubble and large hands tapping the steering wheel to the music. Cas doesn't know what makes the man stop, but he does. Maybe he notices Cas's morose expression, or maybe he's concerned about the kid sitting alone in the dark in the middle of the night, or maybe there's something so pathetic about the way Cas is sitting, hunched over and small and feeling sorry, that the guy has no choice but to take pity and stop to see what the deal is. Either way, he stops his car in front of the house and turns off the music and rolls the passenger window down before Cas even has time to feel awkward about it.

"Is everything okay?" He asks.

Don't talk to strangers, Cassie. It's Gabriel's voice in his head. But then there's Lucifer's, saying: You can't just ignore people, Cas. Be sociable. Small talk won't kill you.

"Oh. Yeah. I'm fine." Cas calls back, trying a polite smile that will hopefully feign contentment and make the man believe his lie.

The man in the car smiles back, and it looks a little bit sad. "Are you sure? It's real late, kid. You got a place to sleep?"

Cas goes for the humour approach. It's sardonic and he's tired. "The porch is as good a place as any," he says, a dry laugh following it that peters out almost immediately.

The man nods, a knowing look on his face. "Ah. I see. Locked out, huh? That's really rough."

Cas has the decency to look sheepish.

"God knows I've been locked out a good number of times in my day. Listen, you got anywhere I can take you? A friend's place?" He pauses, glancing up at the dark clouds that are starting to cover the stars. "It looks like rain."

Cas is a smart kid. He uses his common sense where and when it's due. "I... I don't think so. Thanks, though. I'll just... wait til morning, I think."

The man nods and turns back to the road, obviously not wanting to persist.

But the wheels in Cas's brain are turning. The man is right, it does look like rain. Cas can't afford to stay up all night wet and shivering, get sick, miss school. He hears yet another voice in his head, and this time it's Charlie reprimanding him for never taking risks. Being too cautious. Too scared. Timid. You never go out on a limb, she'd said to him once after he'd refused a ride with a classmate's older brother who he didn't know.

He shifts in his spot on the porch. Sure, he feels like a massive piece of garbage for making his brothers worry. For breaking the rules and breaking their trust. But... maybe locking him out was a bit harsh. Maybe Luci is too hard on him. Maybe... maybe it'd serve him right to wake up and realize that Cas is nowhere to be seen, and maybe he got attacked or kidnapped right from his own front porch and it's his own fault for locking the door.

He feels guilty as soon as he thinks it, but he knows for a fact that Luci won't feel guilty in the morning for making Cas sleep outside.

"Actually," he blurts out, and the stranger turns back to him, one eyebrow raised. "If you wouldn't mind- I mean, if you're offering, I do have a friend who lives close by..." he trails off, looking apologetic. He hates asking for favours, and there's a big part of him telling him not to do this. He squashes it down.

The man smiles again. It's practically a grin. Cas can see white teeth even in the dark and it's then that he realizes just how fucking gorgeous this guy is.

"Perfect," he says. "I'd feel bad leaving you out here all alone." He reaches over and pushes the passenger door open, and there it is, isn't it? The final decision being made for him. He's going to get a ride with this man, maybe pay him the ten bucks he has in his pocket by way of thanks, and go back to the party. It might be over by now, but the doors would still be open and he could crash next to Charlie or maybe on the floor.

Better than the porch.

The car smells like leather and the forest and something metallic that Cas can't quite identify. He puts his hands in his lap and tries to look small, feeling a little out of place and bad for taking up this guy's time and space. He can feel eyes on him, and he glances over quickly to meet the man's gaze.

"Thank you," he says simply.

"My pleasure," is the response. It's quiet for a moment, and then the guy is shifting a bit to face Cas more fully. "I'm Dean."

Cas gives a tight-lipped smile. "Castiel," he says, and is greeted with the same reaction he always gets.

"Castiel? Interesting name." And then the car's in drive and they're taking off and the man - Dean - turns his music back on low. "So where am I taking you, Castiel?"

Cas gives him the address and then tries to make himself relax a bit. He almost succeeds. A few minutes of driving pass and they make small talk for most of it, but eventually they're sitting in silence. Cas notes that they're taking a bit of a weird route, but he's never seen Dean before so maybe he's not from here and doesn't know the most efficient way of getting around. They're driving along a road at the edge of town, forest on one side and the backs of houses on the other, when Dean slows to a stop. He explains that he just has to do something real quick, and Cas assumes he's gonna go piss in the ditch, or something. It's a little weird and he lets out a small puff of breath as Dean leaves the car and he's left alone again. This is a strange night.

Dean is walking around the back of the car. Cas is watching him in the rearview, and Dean's eyes flick up to meet his in the reflection just as he lifts open the trunk. Cas feels the beginnings of a bad feeling, but tells himself it's only because he's in an unfamiliar situation. The car actually jostles a bit as Dean rummages in the trunk, and then Cas feels it lift up a bit, as if some weight's been taken out of it.

It's dark out. Cas doesn't want to pry, so he refuses to turn around in his seat and watch Dean flat-out. It's none of his business anyway, so he just looks in the mirrors and glimpses Dean's form in the darkness every once in a while. Subtle.

As Dean moves away from the car, Cas has to do a double take.

It looks like-

Dean is walking toward the ditch between road and forest-

And it looks like-

Oh, god.

Something terrible and suffocating rips through Cas's stomach, a bad feeling magnified, like all the fears he's been shoving down inside him since the beginning are being confirmed in one horrifying second.

Dean is carrying something in his arms, and there's a wave of long blonde hair falling down past his arm and blowing in the wind. It's unmistakable. He stops and adjusts whatever it is he's holding, and that's when a limp arm flops down, hanging next to Dean's side, fingers curled slightly but unmoving.

Cas is out of the car before he has time to process any of it, panic fluttering in his chest like he's a kid with a crush and the butterflies are trying to kill him. He leaves the passenger door open and all he knows is that his feet are pounding, pounding, pounding against the pavement. He can't know for sure what he saw. But he sure as hell knows what it looked like. In the back of his mind, he is distantly aware of a dull

thump

Behind him like something being dropped, and then there's a second pair of feet running along the road.

And they're coming fast.

Cas stumbles, his breath stinging his throat, his eyes wide and his arms pumping as he catches his balance. He doesn't have time to think. His actions are purely instinctual, not logical.

He doesn't dare look back, but he can hear the footsteps catching up to him and he thinks stupidly for a second that he should have joined track with Charlie when she'd asked him.

And then without choosing to, he's moaning out "no, no, no," because the footsteps are right behind him.

He doesn't have time to cry out as something large and heavy barrels into him from behind and the air is knocked forcefully out of his lungs.

His forehead hits the ground and there's a moment where he can't see anything. His arm is trapped underneath himself, and as soon as he's down, he feels two hands grab the back of his jacket and haul him up.

When he was a toddler, and he'd have tantrums, Lucifer would pick him up and drag him away with strength that he couldn't ever hope to beat. It frustrated him, because it wasn't fair that there was someone so catastrophically stronger than him.

It wasn't fair.

He's being dragged backwards and he's trying to find his footing, kicking nonsensically, and that's when he starts to scream. He's frantic. He doesn't know what he's screaming; if it's words or just noise, but eventually there's one impossibly large hand clamped hard over his mouth, and an arm snaked across his chest, under his armpits, supporting him from the torso and continuing to drag him back.

One of his sneakers falls off. Cas watches it recede, sitting motionless on the road as he's falling, falling, falling back.

They reach the car.

Cas is still screaming, and it turns into a pitiful moan as he's slammed against the frame of the passenger side door. He slumps down, his back leaning against the seat, his knees hitting the asphalt.

That's when Dean hits him.

Once-

Twice-

In the face, and he goes silent. The terror that he feels is muted now, and he can't do so much as lift a finger when he's forced into the car like a ragdoll. As soon as the passenger door is shut, however, his instincts kick in again and he has to get out. He has to. He grabs the door handle, but Dean is holding it shut. There's a bit of a wrestle with the door for a moment, the two of them both fighting for what they want, and then Dean relents and pulls the door open.

Finally. He's given up. Decided Cas isn't worth the fight. He starts out of the car, leading with his torso, and that's when Dean slams the door back in his face. He slouches back, pain exploding everywhere, everywhere. He thinks of Gabriel, and everything goes dark.


Chapter Text

Thud.


Thud.


Thud.


There's a knock at the door, but Gabriel doesn't ask to come in or wait for an answer before letting himself into the room.

"Hey, Cassie."

Cas is sitting on his bed, shoulders slumped over and hands clasped tightly in his lap. His feet only just reach the floor. He looks up, and he doesn't bother to try and hide the tears in his eyes or the waver in his voice. Gabe can always tell when he's been crying anyway, even despite his best efforts to hide it.

When his greeting is met with pouty silence, Gabe continues on. He sits next to Cas, not so close that he's imposing, but enough to prompt conversation.

"Michael told me what happened," he says. He doesn't sound sad or reprimanding or shocked. It's just a normal conversation, no judgement, and Cas is thankful.

He shrugs his small shoulders, staring at the floor. "I didn't mean to-" he tries, but his voice catches and he has to stop for the purpose of not bursting into tears again. He swallows, his bottom lip quivering. Takes a breath. Tries again.

"I didn't mean to mess everything up."

His voice is small, and it carries a weight that the voice of a ten-year-old shouldn't. But Cas has always felt things intensely and he's always taken things to heart and he's always held himself up to impossibly high expectations. When he feels, he feels deep.

"You didn't," Gabriel says softly. "It was just a fight, Cas. People fight. Brothers fight. Just because Lucifer has a bad temper doesn't mean you did anything wrong."

Cas doesn't look convinced.

Gabriel sighs and pulls him into a hug, cradling the head of messy dark hair against his chest. His hand moves in small circles against Cas's back and it's so selfless; so fucking safe, that Cas finally just lets himself cry. No restraints. He doesn't even apologize for the wet spot his tears leave on Gabe's shirt, because he knows his older brother doesn't care about something trivial like that.

"It's okay, Cas. Just breathe. You're okay."

Blackness.

Cas isn't inside the blackness, it's inside of him. It's all he knows.


Thud.


Thud.


Thud.


Charlie is banging her head against her writing desk. She's got a pile of homework spread out in front of her, algebra, which she hates and which Cas feels indifferent about. Her room is dimly lit with a string of fairy lights she keeps pinned around the perimeter of the ceiling; a warm light that reminds Cas of Christmas allowing her to see her homework. Not that she's doing any of it.

"I suck," she complains. "This is stupid."

"Just get it done," Cas says, very helpfully. "Doesn't have to be right. Just done."

She shoots him a look and he grins obnoxiously from where he's laying on her bed, splayed out on his stomach with his feet kicking up behind him like he's a girl from a teen-y romcom attending a sleepover.

"I can't get it done if I don't know what the fuck I'm doing," Charlie whines. "I just-- I'm an idiot. And I can't do it." She's got her hands out in front of her, kind of grasping at the air in exasperation. She groans, and before she can give herself a concussion by resuming her head-banging, Cas slides off the bed and walks over to her.

"Then I'll help you."

Charlie has stolen the piano bench from the living room to use at her desk, because nobody ever plays the instrument anyway. Her mother only kept it because it was passed down to her as a family heirloom. Cas sits down on it, the two of them pressed up against each other. He starts to explain the work to her as best he can, and it's unprofessional and a little unsure, but she seems grateful for the help either way.

By the time they've finished all the questions, Cas has got Charlie smiling and laughing at his jokes and forgetting all about the stress from a few minutes ago. It's such a nice moment and Cas feels so content that he puts a hand on Charlie's shoulder and when she turns to acknowledge it, he kisses her.

He's fourteen and he's never done this before, so it's chaste and a little boring, and short because Charlie pulls away almost immediately. Her cheeks are pink.

"Cas," she says with an embarrassed, breathy laugh. She looks down at her lap and tucks a strand of hair behind her ear.

Cas shifts a bit, pressing his lips together. That probably wasn't the right thing to do. "Sorry," he says sheepishly.

She tells him it's okay, and Cas stumbles over his words as he explains that I didn't really mean to, it just happened, I hope you're not mad. She reassures him she's not. They agree it's probably best for that not to happen again.

That night, he tells his brothers what he did and they laugh at him.

The blackness isn't relenting or going away, but it's starting to give. There's something in the back of Castiel's consciousness that's starting to push at it, fight the blackness, and he finds that he can bend it out of shape - push it into something thinner - if he really tries. His thoughts come to him in glimpses and shambles.


Thud.


Thud.


Thud.


Eleventh grade biology class. Three weeks ago. His teacher has brought a stethoscope. They're taking turns listening to each other's heartbeats, and Cas is surprised at how distinct the sound is.

Dun-DUN, dun-DUN, dun-DUN.

It's kind of unnerving, because it's loud but it can't be heard every second of every day. Cas wonders why the human ear can't regularly pick up that sound, that rhythmic beating, even when it's coming right from the center of who you are at all times.

One of his classmates has a heart murmur. It sounds like

ssh-waff, ssh-waff, ssh-waff.

At the end of class, Cas gets a papercut when he's putting his books away.

He can feel his heartbeat in his fingertip.

Castiel is slowly remembering that he has a body.

Somehow he knows that he has fingers, and a head, and legs and elbows and probably lungs and a ribcage and a brain, although he can't be sure.

Soon enough, he figures out how to reach himself through the blanket of blackness. He finds himself amidst it all and pulls hard on the strings connecting soul to body, cringing when some of them snap and become fly-aways. And then he's shifting back into his own body and some primal instinct deep inside him tells him to open his eyes.

As soon as he does, he wishes he were still unconscious.

There's a pounding in his head like thud, thud, thud, and there are concentrated points of pain standing out all over. The left side of his forehead, his right wrist, his left cheekbone, and his nose. Jesus christ, his nose. It's almost too much to handle, but lucky for him there are so many other things he can focus on instead. Like the fact that he's been stripped of his jacket, his remaining shoe, and his socks. Like the fact that there's something - probably duct tape - over his mouth, making it hard to breathe. And, oh, yeah. His hands are bound behind his back, and attached to what must be a pole or pipe going up the wall. It's a terrifying, damning realization.

He's sitting slumped against the wall of what appears to be a storage cellar or basement of some kind; all stony walls and dark corners and empty space. There's a mattress sitting on the floor to his right, barren of any sheets or blankets. Behind him and to his left, there's an open doorway in the wall. By craning his neck he can see a toilet and a sink. Other than that, nothing. Once he's surveyed his surroundings, the panic starts to set in.

Fuck. Holy fuck. How did he manage to get in this situation? This is something that only happens in movies. It happens in movies, and books, and on the news to other people. People who live in different places, who Cas will never meet and doesn't care to. It doesn't happen in his town. He never expected it to happen to anyone he knew, let alone himself.

How long has he been out? How long was he in that car? What are his brothers thinking right now? Where is the man who took him? What does he want? Is Cas going to die?

How is he gonna get out of here? How is he gonna get out of here? How is he gonna get out of here?

He wishes he can stand, but struggling against his restraints is exhausting and he doesn't want to risk worsening the sprain that he's already got in his wrist.

He feels helpless. Completely helpless. And the only reason he's not freaking out entirely is because he knows he can't afford to hyperventilate through just his nose while his mouth is covered.

Stay calm, Cas.

Thud, thud, thud.

God, his head really is pounding.

Thud. Thud. Thud.

Or maybe it's his heartbeat? He thinks back to ninth grade english class, Edgar Allen Poe and a stopped heart beneath the floorboards.


Thud.


Thud.


Thud.


It's all too late that Cas realizes the sound he's hearing is coming from above him, and that it's the sound of footsteps. And then there's a heavy lock turning and a heavier door opening, the sound of it all echoing down a dark hall to Castiel's right. The hall goes on for a few feet and then makes a turn, so he can't see anything.

But he can hear.

He jerks involuntarily, wincing at the pain it causes in his wrist. He's in suspense, in distress, and he knows that nothing good is about to turn the corner. Sure enough, there are a few more heavy footfalls, and then a towering form appears in the entrance of the room. It's dark, but not dark enough so that Cas can't recognize that deceiving grin. He starts to kick back, a futile attempt to shrink himself further away. His heels slide uselessly on the floor as there's nowhere for him to go. Dean starts to laugh. His shoulders shake with it, and it turns Cas's heart to ice. He stops kicking, frozen.

"Has anybody ever told you you're a runt?"

They have, as a matter of fact. He hears it all the time from his brothers. Sixteen years old and Cas is pushing 125.

Dean takes the first few steps into the room, and Cas knows his boots must be steel toes. He stands over Cas, looking down on him like he's a puppy kicked to the curb. He may as well be.

After a few seconds of staring, Dean silent and Cas breathing heavily through his nose, the older man crouches down on his haunches. His elbows are resting on his knees, and the look on his face reminds Castiel of a video he once watched of a murder trial.

"Sorry about the cuffs," he says, and Cas pulls at his wrists involuntarily. Winces. Doesn't dare take his wide eyes off the man in front of him. Dean reaches forward, using the knuckles of two fingers to stroke the side of Cas's face gently. It's tender, probably bruised, and Cas wouldn't be surprised if Dean's rings have left a cut or two on his cheek. Dean continues to touch his face, examining him the way a doctor would. Cas wishes desperately to be able to pull away, but he's already backed up against the wall and the cuffs behind his back are holding him in place. Dean starts to tsk, clicking his tongue with a pitying look on his face.

"Your nose is broken."

At the mention of it, Cas becomes freshly aware of the pain.

"I know we've had a rough start, but it was necessary. If it's okay by you, I can fix that nose and clean the blood off you, then we can see about that duct tape and we'll have a nice, civil conversation." He smiles.

It's not okay by Cas. It's really not. But how can he say it when his mouth is covered? How can he be sure that Dean would care, anyway?

Cas feels his chest tighten as Dean tells him to "hold still," and his hands start reaching up again for his face. All Cas can do is plead with his eyes, a small squeak forced back by the tape over his mouth. He is given no time to prepare, and suddenly Dean grasps his nose with one hand and gives a forceful twist.

There's a snapping sound as his bone is pushed back into place, or maybe it's a snick, and that's when Cas screams. It's guttural, an understandable reaction to the piercing pain. His eyes start to water and he's slamming one foot over and over into the floor to... he doesn't know why. It's not helping.

Dean waits patiently until the muffled scream subsides into sharp whimpers, and then he stands up. He goes into the bathroom Cas noted earlier, runs the tap, and emerges with a washcloth. Goes to work wiping blood from the battered boy in front of him.

Cas is crying by now, almost-silent sobs causing him to tremble as his terrified eyes follow Dean's every move. The scent of his blood fills the air as it dissolves with the warm water, and it makes it even harder to breathe. By the time Dean finishes, he's on his knees in front of the boy. He throws the washcloth down, looking far too cheery than what the situation calls for.

"There's some on your shirt, too. A lot, actually."

And without further explanation, he takes out a pocket knife from his jeans, ignores Castiel's distraught moan, and begins to cut away the fabric of his t-shirt. He throws the scraps to the side and Cas watches them land next to the cloth, which is now stained pink. He notices worriedly for the first time that there's a drain in the floor.

Dean rips the duct tape off. Cas rakes in a breath, his chest heaving, and there's a small noise from the back of his throat on every exhale.

His first word is "please". His mouth is unbelievably dry, and his voice is already strained from the screaming, so it comes out raspy and embarrassing.

"Please," he repeats, this time with a bit more clarity. "Let me go."

Dean shows no sign of acknowledgement, his expression unchanging.

"Let me go!" He persists, and it doesn't sound demanding, but rather desperate. "I want to..." he has to stop to let a stuttering breath out. He doesn't want to keep crying.

"...I want to go home. I want to see my family, please, you have to let me go! I... I won't tell anyone. I won't. I promise I--"

"Are you done?" Dean snaps. "Jesus, you'd think somebody would come up with something original for once. I've heard this exact speech a million times before, kid. It never works. It never fucking works."

Cas is rendered silent. His lip wobbles.

"I need you to shut the fuck up and cooperate, or I swear to god, I'll put your nose back the way it was."

The threat works. Castiel nods, deciding it's better to avoid pissing this guy off.

"Let's cut to the chase, shall we? I have all the power here. You and I both know you stand no chance against me if it comes down to a fight. You're not getting out of here. Do you hear me? You are not getting out of here."

Cas is fucking tired of crying, but that doesn't stop him.

"I'm going to make this next part very clear," Dean says, putting one heavy hand on Cas's shoulder. He lowers his voice, his head tilting forward. "If you do as you're told, we're gonna have very little problems. But if you talk back? If you disobey? If you try anything, any sneaky shit at all, there will be consequences. And you'll wish to fucking god that you'd have died of head trauma when I hit you with that door."

The boy is shaking by now, small tremors running through his body. Still, he manages to work up the courage to try his hand at one stupid act of defiance.

"My brothers," he says. "They'll be looking for me. They'll know I'm missing. They... they can track my phone! And they'll find me, and... and..."

"I have your phone, dipshit," Dean says. "I've made sure that nobody can ever track it. And I plan on sending your brothers some photos of what I do to you in the future. I'm sure they'd appreciate seeing you all cut up and pretty. How does that sound?" There's a self-righteous smirk on his lips. He pats Castiel's shoulder and stands up, dusting off his jeans. "I'll bring down some food in a while. We can take the cuffs off, trade them for a chain around your ankle. That way you can reach the can when you need to. I'm sorry our first real introduction is so short-lived, but I'll come back tomorrow and we can have a real chat... I think emotions are running rather high right now."

There's nothing to say. Not one thing that can save him. There's a moment where Cas is sure he's going to be sick on the floor. He watches Dean helplessly, searching his brain for even one retaliation. Nothing comes.

"I can't wait to get to know you, Castiel."

Dean turns and leaves, disappearing around the corner. Cas hears six separate beeps, then a lock turning. The door opens, and slams back shut. Dean retreats back up the stairs, and all Cas can do is listen.

Thud. Thud. Thud.


Chapter Text

After Dean leaves the basement, Cas falls asleep. It's hard because his whole face is stinging and his arms are starting to seize up every now and then from being held in place behind his back. The pole that his hands are bound to digs into his back, but there comes a point where his body succumbs to sleep despite the less-than-ideal conditions.

He jerks awake two separate times, falling immediately back to sleep. If he dreams, he doesn't remember it.

When he wakes for real, he's hungry. Really hungry. There's no way for him to tell how long he's been asleep; whether it's been half an hour or an entire day. Neither one would surprise him. He realizes with a sick feeling that he has to pee, and he lets his head fall back against the wall, his eyes slipping shut again. If Dean doesn't come uncuff him soon, if he's left alone for long enough, he's going to wet himself. He doesn't need to add mortifying shame to the ever-growing list of complicated emotions brewing inside him, so he hopes it doesn't come to that.

He wakes up. Didn't know that he'd fallen asleep again. His legs are crossed and he must've done it in his sleep, because jesus, he needs the bathroom.

"I... Dean."

He clears his throat, feeling stupid and scared. Tries it a little louder.

"Dean? Dean, I... I need."

He stops, groans in frustration, and his stomach grumbles right along with him. This whole thing is getting increasingly more terrible. When Cas last saw Dean, he'd said he would bring food in a "while," and come back "tomorrow" to chat. Cas suspects that this was a lie. He must have been asleep for a decent time, right? At least the whole night. Or... the whole morning. Or afternoon, or whatever the fuck time of day it was. He can't know for sure, and he hates it. Either way, it's been a long-ass time and Dean is nowhere to be seen.

Footsteps. There's a mixture of relief and terror in Cas's stomach that makes him feel like he's swallowed both a bottle of Smirnoff Ice and a glass of Gabriel's famous hangover cure at the same time. Contradictory. Doesn't help that he can practically feel the tumbleweeds rolling across his empty stomach.

The turning of a lock, the opening and closing of a heavy door, and footsteps coming down the hall. Cas wants to laugh with relief, but he'll restrain himself.

Dean is wearing a different outfit than when Cas saw him last; a t-shirt with some logo on it that looks like something Luci would wear, and dark wash jeans. Combat boots. This is the first time Cas gets a full view of Dean's arms, unobscured by jacket sleeves. He's not the body-builder type you'd see on the covers of fitness magazines, but it's still obvious that he's got muscle to spare. Cas watches the movements of tendon and muscle flexing underneath skin as Dean wordlessly bends down and begins to undo the boy's handcuffs.

When his arms are freed, they're stiff. Cas can't even bring them back in front of him. His breath hitches and he sucks in air through his teeth, slowly moving his arms out from behind him. But he takes too long, and Dean gets impatient, grabbing Cas's upper arm and hoisting him to his feet in one movement.

He cries out, his knees immediately buckling. But Dean is dragging him to the bathroom and he has no choice but to ignore his stiff joints and find his footing, or he'll end up faceplanting into the cold stone floor. A small shove and Cas is standing silently in the small adjoining room. Back to Dean. He doesn't sense movement behind him, which means Dean is just standing there waiting for him to piss, and under any other circumstance he would care.

But right now his bladder is killing him.

He's reaching for his fly to zip back up after he's finished, but Dean says, "just take them off."

"What?"

Cas turns to Dean, and his expression says that he definitely heard the order, he just doesn't want to comply.

"Take your jeans off."

It's straightforward with no room for argument, and Dean's got his hand out waiting, so what choice does Cas have? He pushes his jeans down his thighs, face starting to burn. He doesn't look at the other as he steps out of them and hands them over. Flashback to junior high phys ed class,  where Cas isn't even a hundred pounds and his classmates have taken to pointing at his exposed body as he changes in the locker room and naming all the bones they can see prominently.

His stomach growls, and Cas tells himself he didn't just see the smirk on Dean's lips.

He doesn't fight when Dean takes him back and fashions a cuff around his left ankle, a long chain once again connecting him to the pole. He doesn't feel like being hit. At least this time the length of the chain allows him to move around a bit, he can actually reach the toilet now. And at least his hands are free.

That is, until Dean picks up the discarded handcuffs from the floor and pins Castiel's hands behind his back once more. He panics. Struggles a bit.

"But I thought you said--"

"You thought wrong," Dean says gruffly. And he leaves.

About an hour later and Cas is curled up on his mattress for the first time. He hasn't been able to fall back asleep, so he lays awake trying to get comfortable and refusing to let himself think of home. If he thinks of home, he'll think of how much he misses the smell of it. If he thinks of home, he'll think about how Michael has been asking him for the last two weeks to clean his room and now he doesn't have the chance to. If he thinks of home, he'll think of his brothers sitting in clammy silence at the dinner table, hands clenched and feet tapping and jaws set as they all think about where their little Cassie could possibly be. He can't let himself remember the mornings spent bickering over who's taking all the hot water, or the once-in-a-while evenings where everybody's getting along and they're watching the game on tv or they're playing cards or they're wrestling. Above all, he will not think back to the night he was taken, when he seriously thought that if he were not to show up in the morning, it would serve Lucifer right to feel horrible for locking the doors. He will not think about how he imagined Luci wondering if his brother had been kidnapped right from his front porch. He will not think about it. He will not let himself miss them. Because if he starts, he will never, never stop.

Dean comes back down with a takeout container and a bottle of water. Cas doesn't know exactly what he's smelling, but it makes his mouth water anyway. Dean sets it all down on the floor and then sits next to it.

"My name is Dean Winchester," he says. "I'm thirty years old. I have a little brother named Sam, and an uncle Bobby. I like fixing cars, I dropped out of high school, and my favourite food is pie." He says it all matter-of-factly, as if it's normal and not fucking weird and he's at a job interview where Cas is the employer.

"Now you go."

Cas blinks at him, his mouth pressed shut. He feels exposed and uncomfortable and he doesn't want to be doing this, doesn't want to have anything to do with the man in front of him, just wants to eat. But there's an unspoken understanding between them that the food is only up for grabs once they get the formalities out of the way. He swallows so his voice won't be gravelly.

"I'm... I'm Castiel Novak," he says quietly. This is so, so hard. Foreign. Not right. "My older brothers are Lucifer, Michael, and..." he has to stop. He doesn't want to say his name in front of this psycho. Dean gives him a look to keep going, so he takes a breath and squashes his pride. "... And Gabriel."

There's a smile playing at the man's lips. He doesn't say anything, and a few moments pass. Cas figures he'd better keep going, because Dean sure as hell isn't going to.

"We're all named after angels," he explains. "Because... well, my dad was a freak about religion, I guess. Um... oh. I'm sixteen. And my best friend's name is Charlie, and I really like... English." There. That has to be satisfactory. He hated every second of it, but at least Dean can't say he didn't cooperate.

"That's really cool," he says with a smile that Cas remembers once regarding as gorgeous. "I'm sure you have lots to say about your brothers. Are you close? You get along?"

Cas gives a single nod.

"With your words, Castiel."

"...Uh, y-yeah," he stammers. "Yeah, we get along. Luci... Luci is the oldest, and I guess we fight sometimes. But Gabriel's only six years older than me, so. I'm... I'm closest with him."

"I'm close with mine, too. Practically raised him."

Poor bastard, Cas thinks. Dean shifts a little, giving a small exhale as he rests his elbows on his knees and clasps his hands between them. "What about your parents?" He asks. "What are they like?"

"... Dead," Cas says dryly. "That's what they're like."

Dean has a strange look on his face, like that's the most blessed thing he's heard all day.

"How'd they die?"

Jesus, they're really getting right to the point here, aren't they? Cas is looking at the man in front of him with suspicion all over his face, because he looks practically giddy waiting to hear about his parent's demise. It's... it's sick. And although Cas never knew his mother, and never liked his dad, it's still hard for him to talk about.

"My mom got really badly depressed once she had me. Overdosed a few months after I was born."

Dean says, with a distant smile, "I bet you feel responsible."

Cas swallows. Glances down at his feet. Speaks into the floor. "...Sometimes, yeah. I do."

"And your dad?"

"Car crash," Cas says simply. "He was drunk. There was nobody else on the road or anything, he just ran himself into a tree."

Dean nods, seems to be mulling over the tragedies in his mind. He looks a little dazed, like he's lost in his own thoughts; revelling in the idea that the little boy in front of him is broken and grief-stricken and feeling guilty. After a while he seems to come back to reality, Cas hears him clear his throat.

"I know you probably have a lot of questions, so I'll try to cover all the bases. I'm gonna be really honest with you, okay?"

Cas wants to scream no, it isn't okay, nothing about this is okay, you kidnapped me and broke my nose and tied me up in your basement and I'm pretty sure I watched you put a dead body in a ditch. Instead he says, "okay".

"You're not the first kid I've brought down here. There have been a lot of others, from all different states, too. And in the interest of complete openness, they're not all kids, either." There's a noticable change in the way Dean holds himself. It's like he's suddenly turned to stone - rigid and unmoving - like someone has stretched skin over a cold marble statue. His green eyes show no emotion and his voice somehow darkens. "I raped them, Cas."

The words grip Cas with fear and he feels his stomach churn. He's too scared to notice the nickname, which is usually reserved only for the use of his loved ones.

"Well, most of them, at least. Some of them I let go, and some of them I had to take care of. Do you know what I mean by that?"

He knows. He's known from the start. But he doesn't want to say it. Saying it out loud will only seal his own fate.

"You killed them."

By way of response, Dean leans forward and brushes a strand of sweaty hair out of Castiel's eyes. His hand linger's on the boy's cheek.

"If you behave, nothing bad is going to happen to you. I plan on keeping you around for a while. You'll find after some time that I can be a very good person, Castiel. But... what you have to understand is that that goes both ways."

God, if you're up there, fuck you.

"Once you've shown me you deserve it... once you've shown me you can be good, I'm prepared to give you privileges."

Fuck you and fuck your son, and fuck the holy spirit. Fuck all the angels, too. The angels can get fucked.

"Eventually, I'll even let you upstairs. You won't be chained up. You can walk around freely. Don't you want that?" Dean is grinning like he's the most gracious, most amazing person on the planet. Like he's Willy Fucking Wonka and Cas is a poor kid eating boiled cabbage. Like Cas should sing his praises. Look up to him. Love him.

He nods, forces a smile, and blinks back the tears in his eyes.

"Then I'm glad we're on the same page." Dean turns to the container he'd set down earlier. "Right," he says. "You can eat now."

Cas watches him open the container and begins to salivate. It looks like it's actually from somewhere arguably nice. Chicken and mashed potatoes and vegetables. Cas thinks sunday dinner, and laughs to himself. Dean watches him amusedly, pushing the container closer. Cas looks at it, then up at Dean.

"My hands." They're still cuffed behind his back.

"I know," Dean says, and picks up a piece of chicken with his fingers. A second goes by where Cas registers what's about to happen, and then his face falls. No. No way. No fucking way he's going to literally eat out of this guy's hand. It's degrading.

His head turns slightly to the side as Dean brings his hand closer, which makes him pull back again.

"Is something wrong?" He asks.

Cas stammers for a second, unsure what will be the right answer. He wants this food. He really, really does. And something tells him that Dean's not the kind of guy to put up with a lot of deviance. But... is it really too much for him just to feed himself? Does he have to allow Dean to feed him like he's two years old?

He shakes his head, but he can feel his face already starting to flush.

He lets Dean feed him the first piece. Chews. It's awkward and he hates every second of it, but what choice does he have? He swallows and it sounds too loud in the quiet basement; an embarrassing sound that makes him furrow his brow. Everything about this is a power play, Cas realizes. Dean fully clothed while Cas sits in nothing but boxer briefs. Dean with all the authority and Cas forced to rely on him for something as simple and necessary as eating a meal.

They don't talk, really. Dean just keeps ripping off pieces and Cas has to take them from him with just his mouth, finding it harder and harder to look the older man in the eye. He's sure his face is an obvious shade of red, because the burning feeling is yet to subside.

It's good, though. Food has never tasted better. He feels his stomach start to fill until there's no more chicken. But there's still broccoli and sticks of carrot, so Dean feeds him those, too. And then there's the lump of mashed potato, sitting alone in the container. Dean scoops some of it out with two of his fingers.

He's a murderer. A serial murderer and an admitted rapist and he wants Cas to eat mashed potato off his bare fingers.

Cas gives him a pleading look; tries to convey how much he doesn't want to do this. But Dean doesn't acknowledge him, simply pushing his fingers closer to Castiel's face, so he opens his mouth and closes his lips around them.

It's mortifying.

And he has to keep doing it until everything's eaten.

Dean makes him lick his fingers clean at the end.

Get it all, Cas. There you go. Good boy.

And by that point Cas is stewing in embarrassment and shame.

Dean unscrews the bottle of water next and holds it up to Castiel's lips, one hand on the back of his head to keep everything steady as he tips the bottle up. It's not easy to drink when you're not the one in control, and Dean doesn't seem to really care about Cas's say in the matter at all. The bottle's tipped up too high, so too much is coming out too fast, and Cas can't swallow it all in time. He tries. He really tries. But he chokes, coughs, sputters, and water drips down his chin. Dean takes the bottle away and he's laughing. Like Cas is a spectacle. He lets the boy catch his breath before he lifts the bottle again, and when Cas turns his head away, he grabs his chin forcefully and holds him in place as water slides down his throat. Cas feels sick.

It's the exact same thing as before and Cas is only human, can only drink so much at one time, but Dean is holding him in place so this time when he starts to choke, he has no choice but to just keep choking. He's coughing, inhaling liquid, and finally Dean lets him wrench his head away. He's got a mouthful of water.

He turns and spits it in Dean's face.

There's a crackling sound as Dean throws the bottle down, whatever water was left in it spraying across the floor. Then he stands up, and Cas is helpless as Dean puts his boot on his shoulder and kicks, hard. Cas goes crashing to the floor. His head actually bounces off of it. He cries out, but it's cut short as Dean slams a hand down onto the side of Cas's face. He's being pushed into the floor, Dean's fingernails digging into his skin, the bruised side of his face pressed painfully against the cold stone. Dean must be putting most of his upper body's weight onto that one hand, because Cas honestly thinks that any second, his skull will cave in and that'll be the end. He senses Dean lean down over him, hovering over him where he's pinned. He feels a drop of water drip down off Dean's face and land behind his ear, then roll down the back of his neck. He shivers. His mouth is gaping open, no sound coming out. Dean is an incredible force, a steady weight that refuses to relent.

"Apologize," he growls.

There's breath against the shell of Castiel's ear, and he feels a fingernail finally break the skin near his temple. A trickle of what must be blood makes its way across his forehead.

"Fuck you!" Cas yells, and it's a death sentence.

Without a word, Dean stands and grabs the boy's upper arm. Then's he's dragging him into the bathroom and lifting him onto his knees. He shoves him forward so his chest is pressed against the edge of the toilet, and it hurts. Dean is right behind him, chest pressing against his back, and Cas gives a little sob as Dean puts one hand on his forehead and pulls his head back. Then the fingers of his other hand are in his mouth again, except this time they're pushing pushing pushing,

Invading,

Intrusive,

Thick fingers shoved all the way to the back of his throat. They're scraping his tongue and the roof of his mouth and Cas gags forcefully. He feels fingertips against his soft palate, pressing, and his stomach heaves as he retches.

He tries so hard to rip free of Dean's grip but all he can do is thrash around a bit and gag. Dean leans forward, pressing into Cas from behind, making him lean over the toilet. Fingers going down his throat. Cas is making sounds like sickness and he's gagging and it's a horrible feeling, it's a nightmare, and then spit drips past his lips and down his chin and there's a tight pull in his stomach and he's throwing up.

Dean doesn't take his fingers out. He keeps them right where they are, making sure it's more than just a little spit-up. There's a lot of water and a good amount of food coming up, probably not the entire stomach contents but enough that Cas will be getting hunger pains again in another couple hours. Dean pulls back, washes his hands, ignores Castiel's wrecked sobs as he leans his head on the toilet seat and cries, still gagging every so often.

He feels Dean pulling on his hands and realizes that he's taking the cuffs off, presumably so he can wash up. His hands fall limply to his sided, knuckles dragging on the floor. Dean leans down and grabs a fistful of dark hair, lifting the boy's head slightly.

"Apologize."

Cas whimpers, his face contorting in conflict. But the fight has gone out of him.

"I'm sorry," he whispers, and his words are wobbly with tears and spit. "I'm sorry, Dean."

Dean lets his hair go and turns, taking the handcuffs with him.

Cas is left alone.


//


Approximately four days later, Dean speaks to him for the first time since the incident.

"I have something to show you."

And he leads Castiel upstairs. Out of the basement. Out of the dark. Into a building of some sort with endless hallways and spacious rooms and no windows and lights that are too bright.

He sits Cas down on a couch, in front of a tv. Turns it on.

Cas suddenly can't breathe and he's holding himself, fingers digging into elbows.

His family is on the screen. His brothers, sitting somber on the couch in the living room. Their faces are grim and there's a woman with a microphone.

"We just hope... we hope that maybe, by doing this, we can reach whoever is responsible for Cas's disappearance. Help them realize that what they've done is wrong."

It's Luci talking, and he sounds choked up.

"So... if you're listening, we're begging you not to hurt him. Let him go. He... he has a family. And we love him. We just want him back."

The angle changes, and this time it's Gabriel that speaks.

"Cas, buddy, if you're out there... If you're somehow hearing this... we love you. We're not gonna stop looking for you."

He starts to say more but suddenly his eyes well up with tears and he looks around, at his brothers, at the camera operators, and ducks his head. Breaks down.

There's more. There's a whole report on him, interviews with police officers and images of his missing shoe in a plastic bag labelled "evidence".  But Cas is barely paying attention. All he can think about are his brothers, and when it's done Dean turns the tv off.

Cas sobs uncontrollably for the next three hours straight.

Finally Dean has to hit him to make him stop.

Chapter Text

Dean's got a girl in the bunker.

She's young, with blunt fingernails bitten from a girlish habit she's yet to break and hair that even Dean can see has got split ends. She's the broken type. He could tell what kind of girl she was from the moment he saw her flashing her only good pair of high heels from her perch atop the bar stool. She was a good student in school, not a lot of friends, traumatic childhood events that she still considers normal occurences up the fucking wall. She's damaged. Doesn't think she's pretty, has never been apologized to by anyone in her life, and probably steals her sister's antidepressants when she needs a kick. It's all right there in the way she holds herself, the way she presses her red lips together and holds her arm like an insecure teenager being bullied in the school cafeteria. It's painfully obvious. Dean can read her like a book. Still, she's a mouth and a pair of tits and Dean wants to take his time with his little "downstairs guest", so he's sticking to hook-ups and alleyway blowjobs for now. Besides, even though Dean is perfectly capable of picking up classy women who're familiar with the concept of self-respect (thank you very much), sometimes he just wants a girl with issues who just needs his dick and the illusion of affection to fix her.

At first she's a little skeptical of the place, all secluded in the woods and underground and locked up, but when he tells her his dad was a survivalist and a war junkie, she accepts it as if it were any other shitty apartment and Dean's just any other guy. She probably likes the thrill of it, anyway. Probably gets off to gang rape porn so at least that's one thing the two of them have in common. Maybe she's thinking about all the shit Dean could do to her, how small she is compared to him and how much muscle he's got, and maybe she's fantasizing about too hard too fast and a pair of handcuffs, or something. If only she fucking knew what he was really capable of. If he decided to really show her, she wouldn't be fantasizing anymore. He'd have her begging.

He's fucking her like he loves her but really he's thinking about the kid he's got chained up in his basement. All wide blue eyes and a delicious mix of bite, bark, and whimper all in one little body. Dean likes the bite, don't get him wrong, because it gives him an excuse to exercise his control over the kid. Gives him an excuse to curl his hands into fists and watch a grimacing face flinch away. And he can't fucking wait to break that boy's fiery spirit, can't wait for the moment where he watches the fight go out of his glassy angel eyes. But he likes the submissive part, too. The head ducked, lips trembling, choked-back-whimpers part. It gets Dean high, gets him fucking horny if he's being completely honest, and sometimes it takes more self control than he'd care to admit to keep himself from pinning the boy down and sticking his dick in him while he's all wet-eyed and apologetic and weak.

But no. That's gotta be special. Gotta be the right time. And although he's counting down the fucking days, right at this moment he's got other - ahem - things on hand. One thing in particular, if we're getting technical. And he's waiting for this back-door whore (one pair of fishnets and a couple bucks away from being a full-on hooker) to either climax or fake it so he can finish up himself. Ladies first, after all. He's not a complete animal.

When she comes, he puts a hand around her throat.

She didn't ask for it but she may as well have, and it's not like he's actually squeezing so what the fuck does she have to complain about? He's not doing it for her anyway, he's doing it for himself, and he buries his face in her shoulder and bites down on scented body wash skin as he climaxes. Rolls off her when he's done. Ignores whatever breathy praises she gives because he's heard them all before; thinks about how lucky she is that she's leaving here alive tonight. Then after giving her some time to recover, he tells her to call her girlfriend to come pick her up. She complains passively, which is almost worse than outright, and Dean thinks about slapping her in the fucking mouth but he's in a forgiving mood tonight.

Dollar store eyeshadow smeared on his pillow when he gets back to his room after seeing her off. He takes the case off and thinks about how nice the outlines of a suffocating face would look underneath it.

//

Dean is itching for an opportunity to teach Cas a fucking lesson. He has over the days, of course, but so far it's all been small-scale. There have been beatings and threats and withheld meals, and of course the infamous regurgitation incident (the boy's voice was hoarse for days after that, made Dean fucking crazy). But ever since the news segment, Cas has been a little distant. Withdrawn. Understandably so; Dean can't really be mad about that. Even for Dean's standards, making Castiel watch that was a dick move. He loved every second of it, though. Nothing prettier than a boy in crisis. Point is, ever since then Cas has been arguably compliant and cooperative. It'd be awesome, if Dean didn't experience the urge to hurt things so often. Because now he's craving something else. He wants a reason to make Cas hurt, make him scream. He has so many tricks up his sleeve it's painful not to have a reason to use them. But he knows he can't get ahead of himself, not too much. Knows a punishment works so much better when it can be used as a teaching moment. You did something bad, now I'm going to hurt you. Turn that fucking kid into a mindless, obedient mess. That's the end goal.

That being said.

Cas doesn't necessarily have to have done something wrong to get hurt, right? Not all the time.

Not like he has a choice, either way.

//

"Get up."

Dean kicks the bottom of his bare foot and watches him stir. Notices how tired he looks, and realizes it's probably not due to lack of sleep.

Cas pushes himself into a half-sitting position, staring up at Dean and looking a little disgruntled at having been woken up. It's adorable.

"What time is it?" He asks.

He keeps doing that, keeps trying to catch Dean off guard.

"You know I'm not gonna answer that," Dean replies, smiling fondly at his little project. Cute how he thinks he has the right to know, but the knowledge of time and date is a privilege the boy hasn't yet earned.

Cas knows better than to roll his eyes by now, but he flops back down on the mattress in protest.

"I said get the fuck up," Dean insists, not angry but not entirely amused either. He doesn't do well with being ignored.

Cas sits up again. He's awaiting instruction, wondering what the big deal is. The past few days, Dean hasn't been down here for any reason other than to bring food.

He's got bedhead. Dean wants to cut his beautiful fucking hair off and watch him cry.

Instead he says, "Get over here," and points to the ground in front of him. Cas starts to stand up but Dean stops him with a wave of his hand. "Crawl. I want you on your knees."

Cas does that thing that hasn't been squashed out of him yet-- the little moment of hesitation when Dean tells him to do something that embarrasses him. It shows all over his face that he doesn't want to, but all Dean has to do is fix him with a look and he complies. It's not a far crawl, so he really has nothing to bitch about. Dean's only a few feet from the mattress. He doesn't know, though, to be concerned about why Dean wants him where he wants him.

Doesn't know what's in store.

Dean wonders if the kid has ever had his dick sucked before, or hell, if he's ever done the sucking. He reaches out a hand as Cas kneels in front of him, carding it through the messy black hair. "Up," he says, and Cas lifts himself so he's crotch-height. Now he's starting to look uncomfortable. Eyes shifting around, bottom lip caught between his teeth.

"I'm going to make you a deal," Dean says.

Silence from Castiel. Bated silence.

"You're not going to like it. There are a couple ways it could go."

Cas looks a little bit paler. "What... what is it?" He asks, worry dripping from his voice.

Dean smirks.

"If you let me cut you, I won't make you put my dick in your mouth."

Dean can practically feel the pang in Cas's chest from the way he reacts. He's slack-jawed and a little bug-eyed and it's fucking amazing, picture perfect, Dean wants this moment photographed and hung on his wall. He hasn't made Cas do anything like this yet, hasn't even mentioned it. He has to have guessed, though, by now. Has to have guessed it would come to something like this.

Cas is stammering, his cheeks reddening, and it seems as if he's coming up on the verge of pure panic.

It's very clear that he doesn't want either of those things, and Dean loves how much he doesn't.

"Hey, take a breath," he says. "Calm down. Deep breath. That's it, good boy, just keep breathing." He sighs, starts to pet Castiel's head. "You just have to make a decision, dear. Just say the word and we can get this over with."

Dean can see the internal struggle. The conflict. Cas looks so fucking powerless, just as he should.

"C... cut me?" He asks, voice small. "How... what does that..?" He's looking up at Dean with tears in his eyes.

"It won't be deep. It won't be excessive. That's all I'll tell you."

Cas is fucking torn up inside. Dean can practically hear his thoughts going a thousand miles an hour. He gets a disgusted, far-off look on his face and it takes Dean a second to realize he's zoning out. He does that, sometimes. Dean thinks it's an escape.

"Hey!" He snaps, shoving the side of Castiel's head. He sways to the side and catches himself before falling completely over. "Focus. If you don't choose, I'll do it for you."

Cas is breathing fast through his mouth. "...Hurt me," he says after another second, the decision final. "Just hurt me." He's frantic and terrified and it's then that he starts to cry. "I... I don't want..."

"I know, baby, I know." Dean says. Feigns sympathy. "But sometimes you don't have a choice, right? Sometimes you gotta do something you don't want to do." He tilts his head, looking down at Cas and letting his tone darken. "And if you don't do it nicely, I'll just make you do it, anyway. You understand that, right? I'm in charge?"

Cas nods. He actually reaches up, hooks his hands around the backs of Dean's thighs and pulls just a little as he nods, like he's eager for Dean to see just how much he understands. See just how good he is.

Now this is very interesting. It's not very often that Cas is the one to initiate physical contact.

Two minutes later and Cas is groaning through his teeth. It's not guttural or deep, but tearful and high-pitched and whiny. It comes in bursts. The poor kid is trying to hold it back, but he can't.

Dean is straddling his hips as he writhes on the ground. He's uncuffed the boy's ankle and used the cuff instead to restrain both hands above his head. Pulled the chain taut so he can't move around as much as he'd like to. Dean is watching the tip of his knife dip into soft skin every now and then, dragging down when it needs to. It's a small knife, something that'd been tucked into his back pocket, which makes for easy control. And it's sharpened, of course. Dean's father taught him nothing if not how to take care of his weapons.

Dean's hand slips (an accident of course, he wouldn't do something like that on purpose, not at all), and Cas yelps. His head cranes back, skull scraping against the hard floor, and Dean watches the muscles in his jaw twitch as he continues to grind his teeth together. Having a dick on his tongue probably doesn't seem like such a bad idea, now.

There's a sort of shk sound as blade slices skin, clean and careful and not too fast. Cas's moaning suggests it hurts like a bitch but Dean knows for a fact he's being very, very generous. Cas should be thanking him, really.

He's pulling at his wrists; at the makeshift restraints that keep them held above his head. As Dean cuts into him, he arches his back off the ground. Makes it harder to keep the cuts shallow when the canvas won't quit squirming, but Dean won't tell him to stop.

By the time he's done Cas has tear tracks running down the sides of his face and he's just gasping, drawing in little hitches of breath like one would with a skinned knee. Right now, Castiel thinks he's in pain. He thinks he really knows the feeling of a blade sliding under his skin, thinks he's experienced something so incredibly terrible and traumatizing. In reality, it's just a few cuts across the chest, sitting snug under the left collarbone.

WINCHESTER

There will be times in the future where Cas begs Dean, grovels on his hands and knees and fucking begs for something as tame and tolerable as this. He just doesn't know that yet.

Dean pushes his jeans down a little. Rubs himself through his boxers and watches Castiel, whose eyes are conveniently screwed shut against the sting of a fresh injury. Dean takes himself out and starts stroking unceremoniously. Reaches out to swipe a thumb through the blood collecting on the boy's chest, uses that to slick himself up.

Cas flinches when the wound is touched, and soon after his face twists up like he's suddenly become acutely aware of a strange sound, like skin on wet skin.

His eyes open and then go wide.

He opens his mouth and then very quickly shuts it again. Lets out a little mmph that indicates his discomfort, and then closes his eyes again and allows his head to fall back against the floor. Completely defeated. He can't do shit about this and he knows it.

Dean watches him listen to the sound of it, his hand still stroking steadily. Cas looks like he wants to start crying again, but Dean thinks his eyes are shut too tight for that to happen. If Cas were a few years younger he'd be saying "don't", he'd be saying "get off of me, that's gross, I don't want that". But he's old enough to realize that that won't get him anywhere, so instead he's letting it happen and looking more and more like he might throw up every passing second.

Dean's breath is picking up along with his pace. He's thinking about Cas's reaction to seeing the word carved into him and realizing what it symbolizes, and he's getting off on the power he feels in this moment. He watches Cas pulls at his hands, his face turned to the side to try and get as far away as he can.

Dean is keeping his side of the deal. He won't make Cas blow him. But jerking off a foot away from his face was never off the table.

Just a little while longer and Dean is close, so he says "look at me" in a gruff voice and then repeats himself when the kid doesn't fucking do anything. He's sterner the second time. Cas whimpers, actually fucking whimpers, and Dean is so fucking sick of not being listened to.

"I said look at me, bitch! Look me in the fucking eye."

Castiel's eyes are so tired. So tired and distant and when he finally tears his gaze up to meet Dean's, he even looks a little angry. Dean can see him actively struggling to maintain eye contact and not look... anywhere else. He laughs a little, licks his lips, his hips bucking a bit from where he's sitting on top of Cas.

"Look at it," he says.

Cas's brows draw together.

"I want you to look at it, Cas. Look at it and don't look away, or I'll let you choose which limb I break."

With outwardly obvious difficulty, Cas drags his eyes down Dean's face, down his chest, his stomach, and finally right where they're supposed to be. His expression is unchanging. He watches, has no choice.

A few more strokes and Dean is gone. He grunts quietly, watches his come paint the boy underneath him.

Across his bare chest (white mixes with red), his throat, his cheek.

Over pink lips sealed tight.

One eye squeezes shut, a rope of Dean's seed caught in amongst dark eyelashes.

Dean's breathing is ragged when he's done and he slides off Cas, tucks himself in, and stands up. Cas looks too scared to move. The one eye he can open is staring helplessly up at his assailant.

Dean looks down at him. So perfect like this, just like he should be, looks so small and scared and hurt.

"Would you like me to uncuff you?"

No response.

"I need to know what you want."

Cas forces himself to open his mouth. Tries and fails not to taste any of the come coating his lips, tries and fails not to gag.

He rolls over onto his side and spits onto the floor, and Dean suspects the kid is on the verge of vomiting because he's practically just drooling onto the ground.

"...I want to get cleaned up," he says after a while. His voice is cracking. Tears just under the surface. "I... I'd like my hands freed."

Dean releases his wrists, and then the cuff goes right back on to the ankle. Cas still has one eye shut tight. Dean doesn't bother to wait for the water to get warm as he runs a cloth under the tap, then throws it at Castiel's feet.

"I don't want any blood left on my floor, understand?"

Cas is already swiping at his face, grimacing at the texture as the cloth spreads come over his face before clearing it away. He nods.

"Tell me you understand, Cas."

"...Yes, I understand."

Good boy.

Chapter Text

Winchester.

Cas can only see a certain part of his reflection at a time in the small mirror that hangs above the sink. It depends on how he stands, how he tilts his head, how close he is. Right now, he's staring at his left collarbone. The word carved into it appears backwards, but he knows what it says.

Winchester.

There it is, framed perfectly by the mirror. He can't see his face, his stomach... he can't see any part of himself except for that one spot. It really is a fucking small mirror.

But that's pretty goddamn poetic, isn't it?

It's all he is. All that's become of him. His whole reflection.

Winchester.

He doesn't move, doesn't make any sound. His knuckles have turned white from gripping the edge of the sink, and the longer he stands there staring, the more they start to tremble. The image crosses his mind, fleeting but clear, of porcelain cracking under a hard, angry grip. Sharp ends of broken pieces prick fingertips and blood drips down into the sink, down the drain; shaking fingers leaving scarlet prints on the shattered remains of the sink's edge. He could pick up a piece of stained-red porcelain, use it to tear something up. He could hide it under his mattress and the next time that complete piece of shit tries to touch him, the next time he even comes close, he'll cut his throat and watch him choke to death on his own black blood. Or maybe use it on himself. Cut himself up just like Dean taught him how. Add another word to the one that was forced into him; take ownership of his own fucking body back. Winchester sucks, he'd make it say. Die, Winchester. Winchester should rot in hell. More blood, he thinks, more blood. He knows what it feels like now. Pooling on his chest, warm and weird and sticky and dripping down his ribcage, dripping onto the floor and he has to lie in it, Dean makes him fucking lie in it while he cuts him and then tells him to clean it up, makes him clean it up, Cas is going to kill that man--

But that's just a thought.

He's breathing hard through his nose, and there're steady waves of pain rolling back and forth behind his temples. He guesses it's probably due to how hard his jaw has been clenched for the last however many minutes.

Dean has made him do some fucking humiliating things. Things that happen between just the two of them, but burn in Castiel's mind forever. Let me feed you, Castiel. Let me stick my fingers down your fucking throat, Castiel. Tell me you're sorry. Crawl to me, Castiel. Answer me. Look at me, I'm in charge. On your fucking knees.

And this? This fucking branding - that's what it is, really - it's almost too much.

And then when you add...

When you add what Dean did after.

Insult to fucking injury.

Castiel keeps thinking about it and he wishes he didn't have to, wishes it would all just go away, but it's plaguing his mind and he's absolutely helpless. It's all still right there at the front of his memory, like he's a kid with a nightmare crawling into Gabriel's bed and trying to fall back asleep. The sound of skin on skin, then Dean's fingers scooping up Cas's fresh blood and the sound getting wetter. Dean forcing Cas to look him in the eye, then look at... look at him. Down there. While he jerks off. He can't stop thinking about the smell of it, musty and distinguishable and disgusting, something he never wanted to smell from a man like Dean. Then there was the feeling of it. Globs of it hitting his skin and covering his fucking face and all he could do was shut his eyes and close his mouth and wish as hard as he could for it to not be happening. He remembers how it felt when he started to wipe it away, slimy and slick and something he never, ever wants to feel again. And then-

And then there was-

The bitter-sour-saltiness of it when Dean made him open his coated mouth and speak.

Cas takes a breath and forces himself to think of something else. It's a hard thing to do, almost physical. His hands leave the sink's edge for the express purpose of pressing hard on either side of his head, squishing the bad memories out. Making them go out. He finally manages to think of nothing. He imagines a blank screen, a tinted window, a foggy field, a chalkboard wiped clean.

He goes out to his room.

That's what it is, isn't it? It's his room. It's fucking cold and poorly lit and he's chained to a pole going up the wall and he's got nothing but a bare mattress and a pair of boxers, but it's his room.

He sits on his mattress and stares in silence. Having a blank mind, Cas finds, is an absolute necessity for survival in this place. Sometimes, like just now, he has to fight for the invasive thoughts to leave his mind. Has to fight for that blank screen that's been so good to him. But other times, when Cas is in danger or he's being threatened or he's being made to do something terrible that he doesn't want to do, the nothingness just finds him. Envelops him. Easy and inviting. It's nice and it's safe because he doesn't have to think about anything, doesn't have to acknowledge everything happening to him. Dean hates it. Calls it his "escape". Says he's a pussy and he has to man up and face his challenges head-on whether he likes it or not.

Cas thinks Dean can go fuck himself.

It's not fair, so many things in his life right now just aren't fair. Cas has no idea how long he's been here. He has no idea where he is, or what the date is, or if he's the only prisoner being kept here. He doesn't know much about Dean. How many people he's killed, how he killed them. Whether or not he plans to kill Castiel someday.

Sometimes he wishes for it to be sooner than later.

Dying wouldn't be so bad, he's concluded. It would be better than this fucking solitary confinement where most of the time he's alone with no mental stimulation, and the rest of the time he's talking to Dean or being hurt by Dean or getting fed by Dean. It'd be like his final, forever blank screen. His escape, but this time more definite and more solid and more real. He longs for that nothingness, thinks it'd be kind of nice, and thinks the girl that Dean dumped on the side of the road the night they met has it pretty lucky.

His chest aches for how much he misses his brothers. His real bed. Charlie. Going to school. Reading, showering, hearing his alarm go in the morning. But it's not enough to keep him going. If anything, it just weighs him down more. He's stuck in a slump and the memories of the things he loves only ever seem to taunt him. They're so fucking unattainable, so far away. In the movies, when someone's in a coma, they remember their loved ones and it's enough to pull them back up into the real world, motivate them, make them see that life is still worth living. Keep them from giving up.

But this isn't a fucking movie.

Sometimes Cas wonders if people are still looking for him. If he'll ever be saved. He hears Dean's voice telling him that he's never getting out of here, and he has no choice but to believe it.

//

"Smile, Cas."

Dean has his cell phone.

"I said smile."

Cas wonders what Dean's done to his phone to make it untraceable. Thinks about that instead of smiling.

"All you do is mope, Castiel. You never smile for me."

Cas looks at Dean like he's just now realizing the sky is blue. "I wonder why the fuck that is," he says dryly, and Dean really doesn't like that. Smacks him hard across the face.

"Don't get smart with me," he warns, accusatory finger pointed right in Cas's face.

He's tied to a chair. Dean's brought a chair down and tied him to it and now, for some godforsaken reason, he's taking photos like Cas is a model for some fucked up, deep web torture porn magazine. He can see the headline now:

Bruised and battered teen retires all hope! See inside for scarification details.

"I won't ask you to smile again."

"Then don't ask," Cas says, no hesitation. The instant gratification is worth the backlash, easy. This time, Dean pockets the phone and shoves both thumbs up under Castiel's jaw, pushing hard on the pressure points. Cas's head is forced back  and he makes a sound like he's choking, clenching his teeth hard against the pain. Dean doesn't relent when he speaks.

"I will cut that pretty little mouth of yours, and don't think I won't. I'm trying to have a nice fucking moment, I don't need your disrespect. Got it?"

"Mh-hm," Cas manages, staring right back up at Dean through heavy-lidded eyes. Dean lets go.

"Smile."

Cas forces his lips into the smallest smile he can. It probably looks more like a sneer, but it's honestly one of the fucking hardest things he's ever done. Smiling in this bitch of a situation.

Dean lifts the phone and takes a picture, praises Castiel for cooperating.

Calls him pretty again.

Then he puts a hand on Cas's shoulder and shoves.

His chair goes crashing to the side and he cries out before he even hits the ground, rendered silent when his head smacks into the hard floor. He groans, his vision going black for a few seconds as Dean drags him back up. When he's upright again, his head hangs, chin to chest. He feels blood start to drip from some unseen gash on his forehead, down the side of his face, down his neck. He tries to speak but it comes out as a pitiful moan. Makes Dean laugh.

Castiel feels a hand in his hair and his head is wrenched painfully back. Somehow in the last few seconds, Dean has taken out a knife and now he's holding it so impossibly close to Cas's face; to his eye. He's going to blind him. He's going to stab his fucking eye out, Cas is sure of it, but then there's a flick of Dean's wrist and Cas feels a sharp stinging going up his cheekbone. He realizes with a sick feeling that the sensation of your own blood streaming down your face is something you get used to very, very quickly.

Dean takes his knife away but he's still standing close. He lifts the phone up again to take another picture, and this time Cas smiles without being told to. He's learning how to handle pain. How to ignore it. How to survive despite it.

Dean uses his fingers to prod at the gash in Castiel's forehead. It's not gentle; blunt fingernails scraping over already-opened flesh, worsening the wound under the guise of caretaking. It fucking stings. Cas sucks air in through his teeth, feels more blood coming down his face. Dean wipes his very inconveniently dirtied fingers across Castiel's mouth, and Cas smells the metallic tang of his own blood more than he tastes it.

Another picture. This time Cas doesn't smile, probably looks very pained and uncomfortable. He thinks maybe Dean likes seeing him like that.

Cas is exhausted, he hurts all over, and it's completely terrifying to be at Dean's mercy when he's got a knife. He feels like a rat in a cage. Stuck, unable to move, no way out.

"Why are we doing this?" He asks. Voice hardened.

Dean smirks. He really is a good-looking guy. Cas despises him for it.

"I thought your brothers might appreciate a little update. See that you're alive and well."

Cas lets his head hang back. Defeated. He won't argue, he won't cry. He knows exactly how it'll go down. Lucifer's phone will up. He'll see he's gotten a text from his youngest brother and his heart will drop. Then he'll be fucking ecstatic. Think that maybe Cas just disappeared all those nights ago because he ran away, and now he wants to come back home. He'll open the message and it'll take him a good few seconds to process what he's seeing. That's when the screaming will start, everybody in the house will come running, and they'll all have a big collective breakdown as they realize that their baby brother is alive, suffering somewhere, they failed him, he's in pain, someone's hurting him. They'll call the police.

It won't help.

Dean isn't of this fucking earth. He'll get away with it. Nobody will ever, ever catch him. Nobody will ever, ever rescue Cas.

"That's sick," he says. It's not an objection, it's just a fact.

Dean raises an eyebrow, doesn't say anything. Cas knows he wants him to go on, so he steels himself and licks his bloodied lips.

"It's traumatizing, Dean. It'd be better for them to think I'm dead. They've been through enough."

"You really think that?" Dean says, a smile playing at his lips.

Cas hesitates, then nods. "Yeah, I do." It's hard to say but it's the truth. He can't imagine how hard they've been beating themselves up since his disappearance, and to no avail. Something like this might send one of them over the edge. "They... I'm not trying to argue, I just... they couldn't handle it. Knowing I'm alive and they can't do anything."

Dean clicks his tongue, pitiful, runs his hands over Cas's head and they come to rest at the sides of his face. He's still holding the knife in one hand.

"That's not what I meant, Cas. I meant, do you really think they're that torn up about you being gone anyway?"

Cas doesn't know what to say. He actually stammers, mouth opening and shutting again. After a while he decides it's not a rhetorical question and, as with most of Dean's, will require an answer. "I... yes. I do think so. Maybe you and your brother aren't like that but they care about me--"

"You're just the annoying little brother. Right? I mean... right? You told me yourself the next one up from you - Gabriel - is seven years older. That's a pretty big difference. You just have to wonder, would they really be all that sad to be rid of you? Or would they be... glad? Glad they don't have you as a burden anymore?"

Usually, disagreeing with Dean earns Cas a slap at the very least. Same with talking back, or not answering questions. But Cas can't help himself. He knows what Dean is trying to do, and it won't work. He swallows, looks the other straight in the eye.

"No. That's not the case."

There must be something in Cas's face, or maybe it's the surety in his voice, but Dean doesn't get mad. Instead he kind of laughs, a monosyllabic huff of air, shaking his head and stepping back.

"Whatever you say, tiger."

He shrugs and that's that, they don't talk about it anymore. Dean takes a couple more pictures (at one point he makes Cas stick his tongue out) but he gives no indication as to whether or not he still intends on sending them to Cas's family. Before he unties the boy, Dean asks, "Cas, will you kiss me?"

Cas looks at him, eyebrows knitting together and mouth pulled down into a frown. So fucking tired and so fucking wary. He's scared to say no.

"It's your choice. I'm really asking."

A tiny, hesitant shake of the head.

Dean gets him out of the chair but leaves it in the room.

//

Dean brings him books not long after. Cas can tell he's actually put some thought into it, too; it's all stuff Cas has talked about before. Expressed interest in. Stephen King and Patricia Highsmith and a copy of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, because that's always been a guilty pleasure. And they're all newly bought. Spines yet to be cracked, pages waiting to be dog-eared. It's weird, but Cas feels this kind of overwhelming gratitude towards Dean. Says thank you and genuinely means it. Dean ruffles his hair and tells him to enjoy and leaves. There's nothing bad, nothing painful, no blood, no insults. It's nice. A little strange. Cas thinks the word homely and then spends a couple minutes crying because he feels guilty.

But he picks up a book and starts reading.

After that it's more accommodations. He's still not allowed to wear any real clothes but Dean gives him a whole pack of new boxers, and some socks because it's getting cold. One day he even gets a blanket, which is something so nice that he's missed so much.

Every time Dean comes down to see him after that, he's got himself wrapped up in the blanket like a little kid. Dean thinks it's cute.

Cas doesn't really know what to think of all of it. Obviously he's grateful, and appreciative, and he doesn't want to jeopardize everything that's been given him. He thinks he's getting privileges for good behaviour, which Dean never explicitly states but is nice nonetheless. Still, there's a part of Cas's brain reminding him that underwear and blankets are considered by some to be basic necessities, not luxuries.

But Cas will take what he can fucking get and damn it, he'll see Dean in a little brighter light every time he gets it. It's instinct. Sure, Dean may be the one hurting him, but he's also the only one providing for him.

He can never tell, with Dean. Sometimes he's decent. Even arguably... nice. Especially recently. The truth is - the truth that Cas will never admit - he actually likes Dean when he's in his good moods. He can be pretty cool. Normal. It's a hard realization to come to, but these days Cas is such a big mess of confusing emotions that he's stopped trying to decipher them all. Stopped trying to fight. Other times, most times, Dean can be nasty. Downright evil. Even when things seem to be going well, his mood can turn on a dime, and Cas has to watch everything he says if he doesn't want to get the brunt if it. There's a darkness in Dean's ironically bright eyes that puts fear into Cas's heart and that's when he tends to shut down, reaching for that blank screen that brings so much safety with it.

Dean has asked Cas to kiss him a few more times since the first.

So far it's always been a "choice," but Cas feels that there's something more sinister under the surface. Keeps thinking about grown-up thighs straddling his hips and the sound of a zipper being pulled down. Nothing like that has happened again, not yet, but Cas figures it's only a matter of time.

//

"What is it?"

"If I told you, it wouldn't be fun."

Staring. Not moving.

A tiny white pill in the palm of a sweaty hand.

"Take it, Cas. I wanna see you take it."

Something is different today. Dean seems... heavier. He's not here to play around; not unless watching a defenseless teenage boy subject himself to the unknown effects of an unknown drug counts as play.

"Please don't make me get impatient."

"But I can't--"

"Castiel, I swear to god I will shove that thing down your fucking whiny throat myself. But I'm giving you the opportunity to do it first." He says it while running a weary hand down his face.

He looks tired.

Cas bites his lip, glancing between Dean and the pill. Maybe it's a hallucinogen, something recreational. Maybe Dean's gonna get off to watching Cas get high, or something. Cas thinks back to eight grade, the first time Lucifer ever sat him down and told him addiction runs in the family. "Stay away from that shit, Cas," he'd said. "You'll develop a dependance. It's in your blood."

He could just hide it under his tongue, but Dean's too smart for that. It takes a few more seconds of convincing himself, but eventually Cas tips his head back and drops the pill into his mouth. He swallows it with difficulty, his mouth having gone dry the moment it was placed in his hand. It tastes disgusting at the back of his tongue, bitter and maybe a little salty. Makes him gag. Sure enough, Dean grabs hold of his jaw and sticks a finger in his mouth; runs it under his tongue, in his cheeks, around his molars. Cas knows better than to let himself gag this time, lest Dean get some enjoyment out of it and keep going. Dean tells him to lie down with his blanket, and Cas obliges, although he's beyond confused and fucking riddled with anxiety.

Dean tells him good boy and leaves.

After a while he begins to feel tired. Cas isn't stupid, he knows it's probably because of whatever Dean gave him. But there's a big part of him that just doesn't care, and it's growing. So what? He knows it should bother him more than it does, but so what? If he dies, he dies. If this is what a drug trip feels like, then let it be. A few more minutes (hours? Days?) and Cas has stopped wanting to care. Stopped trying. It's textbook ignorance, sleepy and blissful and innocent. No worries in the world, everything lagging in his vision and having to slide into place every time he moves his eyes (blurred lines, it's all blurred lines and smudges and colours and shapes mixing together and fingerpainting with Gabe in the kitchen when he's seven). It's a patchwork existence, a state of limbo between asleep and alive and before he knows it it's a limbo between asleep and dead.

The next thing he knows, he's waking up.

He feels feverish. The first thing he notices is the pressure in his head, like he's been shoved underwater, and he stretches the sleep (drugged sleep, it was a drugged sleep, Dean drugged him) out of his bones. The next thing he notices is that it's dark, and he knows it for sure because his eyes are definitely probably mostly open, but he still can't see very well. Dean has turned the little lightbulb off. The next thing he realizes is that he's not alone.

He's on his stomach, spread out with his blanket twisted around him, a little disoriented and still gathering his thoughts but awake enough to know for sure that he is not alone.

There are a lot of concerning sounds coming from somewhere behind him. Scuffling. Heavy boots pressing into the floor and jackets rustling and small hands hitting a solid chest. Grunting from the backs of throats and choked back whimpers, laboured breathing that means somebody is fighting or crying or both. Whispered threats hissed out through clenched teeth. Cas hears still and little piece of and make you.

A sob.

He pushes himself up onto his elbows, eyebrows furrowed together. It's a strangely hard action to perform. It shouldn't be, should it? But Cas feels groggy and slow in a way he never has before. He somehow manages to get himself turned around to face the empty (not empty, definitely not empty, there are people) half of the room.

He can make out a solid shape which must be Dean's back, hunched over and hulking. On either side of Dean, on the floor, there are two sneaker-clad legs. Small. Kicking. Sliding back and forth on the floor and trying to push against Dean.

Useless, Cas thinks. Whoever is struggling should stop.

The two of them are still fighting against each other, that much is clear. There's still all the sounds from earlier, whimpers and cries that seem muffled or scared or quiet for some other reason. Cas sees Dean lift an arm back, sees that cruel fist being curled, and flinches as it's brought down.

The legs stop kicking, but the whimpers continue.

Even in the dark, Cas can see Dean pry a shoe off the leg to his right. Then the next one. Then there's a zipper sound that makes Cas want to puke. He closes his eyes for a second, one fist pressed hard against his mouth. He's biting back bile, breathing, trying to breathe, trying so fucking hard, but it's not easy.

He should say something, should move, should be useful, but he can't.

Blank screen.

His mind is becoming a blank screen.

A pair of jeans is thrown to the side, landing a few feet away from two small sneakers. There's crying now. Is it coming from him or from Dean's... victim? He can't tell. Cas hears Dean say "shut up" and whispers back "sorry".

A button snapped. A second zipper.

Oh fuck, oh fuck, oh jesus. This is actually more than Cas can handle.

Blank screen.

He's staring into the dark and he's seeing, he's hearing, he's observing, but he's not taking it in. Can't ever take it in. If he takes it all in it'll kill him. He has to stay detached, has to stay distant, has to preserve that sane part of his mind. Hide it away where Dean and the things he does can't get to it.

Dean's got everything shoved down to his thighs. No amount of darkness could ever, ever hide that sight from Cas. And then the two sock-feet are being lifted a little bit into the air with Dean's strong arms (too strong, too fucking strong, not fair) and then the man leans forward. Cas can practically feel the suffocating pressure of his torso pressing down on him. A wavering voice says "no--" and Dean shoves his hips forward with a little grunt.

That's when the screaming starts.

"Are you okay?"

Cas nods, shifts a little where he's propped up on a pile of pillows. Spreads his legs wider.

The other kid - Teddy, his friends call him - crawls up toward him. Leans over him, presses their mouths together. Cas snakes his arms around Teddy's neck, hooks one leg around his waist. He's a senior, plays football, smells like beer and apparently has a thing for freshmen.

They don't fuck, don't even get under the covers. But Cas lets Teddy put his hand down his pants and jerk him off, then gets on his knees and fumbles his way through an amateur blowjob. He doesn't think he's doing it right but Teddy insists it's cute. Even still, he has to finish himself off because Cas can't quite seem to get the job done. They lay together for a few minutes afterward and Cas thinks he's maybe got an actual crush developing, but then Teddy leaves and drives home and graduates four months later and Cas never sees him again.

He'd wanted it, though. It was different from what Dean did. He'd wanted it.

The screams are loud. It's not a huge room, and it's mostly empty except for Cas's new books and his mattress and the chair, so they're echoey and they're loud. Dean's still thrusting, his shape moving with it, and the outlines of small, skinny arms grasp at his back. When Dean pushes forward, that's when the kid screams. That's when the tiny hands make fists. That's when the toes curl and the legs jerk and Cas has to pull himself back to that blank screen.

Because he can imagine what it's like. Back pinned against the stone floor, legs pushed apart and up. Everything forcing and pulling and tearing and heavy. Dean on top of him.

It's terrifying. It's fucking terrifying.

The only reason Cas can still breathe is because it's not happening to him.

There's a noise that Dean makes sometimes when he's getting worked up, that he makes when Cas says something unintentionally arousing and he has to press a palm to the front of his jeans. Like he made that time-- that time that Cas doesn't think about-- the smell of it and the feel of it and it's on his pressed-shut lips but Dean makes him open them--

And then there's a little gasp and a pained moan like someone stubbed their toe and Dean's not so leaned over anymore, and he's pulling everything up. Cas hears the zipper again but this time it's a good thing, this time it means it's over.

He gets up and leaves the room like it's nothing. The sounds of a heavy door opening and shutting, then footsteps receding upstairs.

The sounds of someone crying like they've had everything taken from them.

Cas wonders if the kid knows he's there, or if he thinks he's alone. Either way, he doesn't say anything. What could he possibly say, anyway? He stays still on his mattress, curled up, knees to chest. The light comes on.

The boy is laying on his side, legs tucked up against his stomach and arms splayed like he just dropped them there and didn't bother to move them again. He's not as small as Cas originally thought; just looked that way compared to Dean. His face is red, tear-streaked. If Dean were here, he'd say it was pretty. He's staring right at Cas through glassy, unblinking eyes. He's quiet, though. Seeing Castiel must have shocked him into it. The only sound is his shallow breathing, a hiccup every now and then from the tears. He doesn't try to move, but after a while of staring back and forth he breaks the eye contact and looks instead at his discarded clothing.

Feeling like an idiot, Cas immediately scrambles forward and reaches for his underwear. He averts his eyes where it's due as the kid stutters through pulling his briefs on. Cas is sure it's difficult, can see the boy flinching every time he moves. He doesn't get his jeans on, doesn't try. He just lays there, rolling over onto his back. Cas opens his mouth to speak, but he hears that heavy lock turning somewhere down the hall to his right.

He freezes. Sees the boy tense up, too.

The door opens and shuts, but Dean doesn't appear as soon as he usually does. It's a sickening kind of suspense uncoiling itself in Castiel's belly. He doesn't know what this is all about but he knows it isn't good, whatever it is. He's turned his head to the hall, but Dean still isn't showing up. By now, the boy has turned toward the sound of the door as well. Waiting. Not sitting up, but supporting himself on his elbows and staring with dead eyes down the hall. They hear footsteps.

Cas swallows.

Dean appears from around the corner and it happens fast. It happens so fucking fast.

He's carrying a duffel bag in the hand closest to Cas, which he drops in the doorway. Without stopping, without even faltering, he keeps walking toward the boy laying on the floor, flicks open a pocket knife with the other hand, and stabs him twice in the abdomen.

Cas screams.

It's nothing like he's ever pictured before. No matter how many books you read, no matter how many movies you see, nothing can ever prepare you for watching a human being get stabbed five feet away from you. Cas catches a glimpse of the bloodied knife as Dean is putting it away and thinks Winchester.

Time has slowed down.

Through the shocked tears in his eyes, Cas can see a paled face and a heaving chest and blood absolutely soaking a grey t-shirt.

"What the fuck..." he stammers, turning to Dean. "What the fuck did you do to him?!"

Dean walks over to Cas and grabs him by the hair before he has a chance to flinch away.

"Look at me, Castiel. Look at me!"

Cas is shaking. He can't tear his eyes from boy, off to the side, lying on the floor, moaning and writhing as he bleeds out behind Dean. "He's going to die," he says. "Dean, he's going to die. He's... he's... Dean, he--!"

Dean shushes him. Places a gentle, loving, blood-stained hand around Castiel's throat and squeezes. Wide blue eyes meet cool green ones.

"Cas," Dean says, voice booming overtop of both Cas's panicked murmuring and the boy's just-been-stabbed cries of pain. "You need to focus. I don't know why you let that happen, Cas, but what's done is done."

Let that happen? But he... but he didn't... Cas whimpers, a defeated sound. He's confused and scared and probably in shock, and Dean thinks he just let that happen?

... Did he?

"Listen, baby. You need to make this right. You see my bag?"

Cas's eyes flick over to the duffel bag. He nods as much as he can with Dean's vice on his throat.

Dean stands, drags Castiel with him, shoves him over to it. He lands on hands and knees, glancing up at Dean for approval before opening the bag and looking inside. There's a first aid kit.

His head is fucking full of question marks but Dean just says, "you'd better fix him before he dies. Don't want that on your conscience as well, do you?" And leans casually against the wall.

Cas understands. If this is his fault, then it's his responsibility to fix it. He grabs the first aid kit, ignores the parts of him still foggy from the pill Dean made him take, and stumbles over to the boy. Chained ankle clanging across the floor. He falls to his knees once more, shaky hands fumbling with the white plastic box. He gets it open and he's panicking, doesn't know exactly what to do, but knows that if he doesn't do something a boy is going to lose his life and that death is going to be on his hands.

He lifts the boy's shirt up, and it's heavy with blood. Cas's fingers are already ridden with it. There's pools of it on his stomach, too much to see a clear wound, and Cas scrambles for any gauze he can get his hands on. Uses it to sop up hot blood. The boy is pale, so fucking pale, probably about to pass out from any number of afflictions. Cas sees a needle, some suture thread. It takes him too long to get everything set up and by the time he's good to go, he's rushing. Without thinking, he pinches the ends of a wound together and drives his needle through warm skin.

The boy is keening.

Cas cries out "I'm sorry, I'm sorry," a rambling mantra that's not enough, will never be enough, and soon enough he's holding back sobs.

His fault.

Let this happen.

Should have stopped it.

He doesn't know what he's doing, doesn't know how to stitch something up or dress the wound or tie it off or anything, so he ties a basic shoe-lace knot and it takes him a long time because everything is wet and slippery and red and unable to be made out. Dean hasn't said a word, and the boy is unable to. All he can do is try to push Cas away, which he does to no avail. Cas can't blame him, not really. He's been raped and stabbed and sewn shut all in under twenty minutes and he must be desperate for the pain to end. But Cas still has one stab wound to care for.

He goes for more thread and the boy groans, shoves at Castiel's hands as soon as they come near him again.

"I'm trying to help you," Cas says, voice tight and pleading. He needs him to understand.

But the hands keep pushing and if Cas persists, his needle could stick something he doesn't want it to. He tries to get the boy's hands away but they keep coming back, keep pushing, smearing blood across Cas's face and chest and shoulders and forearms.

"I'm trying to help you!" He pleads. Desperate. If he doesn't do this, he'll die. He will die. He has to let Cas help.

It doesn't let up. In his wrecked state, the boy probably thinks that Cas is just another abuser. After a few more seconds, Cas snaps. He can't take it anymore and he snaps.

"I'm trying to fucking help you!" He screams, suddenly indescribably angry. He grabs the boy's wrists, holds them in place with an iron fucking grip. "Stay still! Just stay fucking still!"


And he's yelling and they're both crying and the boy is bleeding and making these awful, fucking awful sounds (gonna haunt me, gonna stay with me in my nightmares, Cas thinks) that never relent and never die down and never go away. Dean is laughing from somewhere behind him. But Cas must have scared the boy because he stays still. Grits his teeth when the needle goes in. Closes his eyes when it's done and sobs quietly. Cas can see him striving for deep, calm breaths, but knows he's never gonna get them.

He's kneeling there, covered in streaks of blood from sewing the wounds and being fought by his patient.

He is fucking ashamed of himself. The blood looks like shame on his skin, vibrant and sticky and staggeringly obvious.

"Hit me," he says quietly. Says it into the floor. Shaky hands resting in his lap, needle discarded beside his knee.

"What's that, sweetheart?"

Cas feels a swell of tears in his chest, bites it back. "Hit me," he repeats, louder but still directed into the floor. Dean's voice is closer when he speaks again. Right over his shoulder.

"You know I can't stand it when you mumble, Cas."

That terrible, terrible feeling when you're trying to hold back tears. Cas swallows. Takes a few breaths, has to calm down.

Makes a fist and hits himself in the face.

In a second, Dean's got Cas's wrists held in one hand and is using the other to cradle him in close to his chest. Restraining him. Protecting him from himself.

"Why'd you do that?" He asks, sounding soft, not angry, and not disappointed.

"...I didn't do anything," Cas whispers. "I didn't do anything to stop it. I let it happen, and then I got mad at him."

Dean doesn't say anything, just rocks them back and forth a bit. Cas watches a stream of blood go down the drain in the floor.

//

It's sometime in the middle of the night. Dean's turned the light off again. The boy is still laying on the floor, partly because Cas decided it would be too risky to try and move him to the mattress and partly because he basically passed right out after the whole ordeal earlier. Sometimes he makes pained noises in his sleep.

Cas isn't delusional. He knows the boy is probably going to die, anyway. Even after all the trouble. The sutures are a hack-job at best and the wounds he sustained are serious, but he's alive for now.

He's got shaggy brown hair and Cas remembers hazel eyes. Long eyelashes. Pink lips.

He did look kind of pretty when he was crying.

Cas tries to sleep but the little washcloth he has didn't do a very good job of cleaning everything up, so the smell of iron is still ripe in his nose.

But the events of the day must have completely drained him; pushed him past the point of mental and physical exhaustion, because the next thing he knows, he's waking up.

Choking sounds.

Cas has a pit in his stomach and he doesn't want to roll over, doesn't want to see what's happening. He knows it can't be good, and he doesn't think he can handle this much trauma in one day. He rolls over anyway.

In a way, he's not surprised. He's horrified, don't get him wrong. Paralyzed with fear, a cold lighting strike tearing its way through his spine and making him freeze. But he's not surprised.

"Stop," he finally manages to say. It doesn't come out how he wants it so he clears his throat and says it again, but Dean just keeps on strangling the boy.

Fucking insane muscles straining in his arms, a death grip clenched around a ruined throat. Dean's crushing the kid's windpipe, thumbs pressed down so hard Cas is surprised they haven't broken through skin yet.

There are limbs flailing and fingernails clawing and it's useless, it's not gonna work.

"Dean, stop! Stop it!"

He scrambles out of bed and practically leaps onto Dean's back, but it hardly makes a difference. Dean ignores him. Cas is pounding and pulling and grabbing but Dean is (not fair) too strong, so he gives up and flops down on the floor and just as he does he watches the boy's eyes roll up into his head. And he goes still. And he's dead.

Dean picks Cas up easy, takes him back to his mattress and sets him down and presses a kiss to his forehead. Cas doesn't have it in him to cry anymore, so he just stares into the dark and finds that blank screen so he doesn't have to feel.

"Why did you have me stitch him up if you were just gonna kill him anyway?" He asks, monotonous.

Dean chuckles like this is all some silly mishap.

"It was never about him, Cas."

//

Two hours later he comes back from wherever he's gone to dispose of the boy - the body - and lays down on the mattress. Cas wraps himself around Dean's solid form, nuzzles his face into his neck like he's a lover and not the man responsible for completely terrorizing him. Cas knows Dean is a terrible person and that he's never going to recover from everything that happened today-- happened because of Dean. So he can't explain why he clings to him like a lifeline, but he does.

Before he knows why he's doing it, he pushes up, leans over, and kisses Dean on the lips.

There's a shocked, pleased sort of sound from Dean but he reciprocates nonetheless. It goes from chaste to downright shameful in a matter of seconds, and Cas really, really can't explain it.

He pulls back, licks the spit off his lips, returns to pressing up against Dean, and closes his eyes.

He never learned the boy's name.

Chapter Text

The first time Dean Winchester learns about pain is not the first time he licks blood off his teeth and spits it back out, nor is it the first time he realizes he can tell which ring his dad's wearing by the way it feels when it cuts his cheek. The first time Dean Winchester learns about pain is not the first time he's given a black eye, or fractures a rib, or gets his head shoved into a wall.

The first time he learns about pain is an army green, spit-drunk summer night when he's sixteen years old and well adjusted to the feeling of a belt buckle across his back.

The air is soupy and he knows he's still gonna have his brother's sweat on him by the time he gets to the shop. Sam's getting to that age where he's hanging off of Dean every chance he gets because he's fucking tiny and he can, and Dean doesn't have the heart to tell him that acting childish and clingy like that isn't cute, it's annoying as fuck. Okay, sure. Sam has kind of always been like this, and Dean can cut him some slack. Given the way they were raised, close quarters and no privacy and seeking shelter in whatever form of physical affection they could score, he's not surprised. He gets it, really. It's just that lately - the past year, really - the kid has been stuck to Dean like fucking glue and he really wishes he would cut it out every once in a while. Right now, he's pressed himself close to Dean, twelve years old and shiny with perspiration and holding his brother's waist as if that'll actually keep him from walking out the door. But Dean has to work, Bobby needs him, so he pries Sam off and leaves with the smell of little kid on his skin.

When he gets home, that's when he learns about pain.

His dad's car is in the driveway. Dean feels a tightening in his chest, because he didn't expect John back in town at least until Monday, and this means he and Sam have been alone in the house together for who knows how long? Sam's scared of their father, has every right to be, and John hates it. No way of telling the fucking arguments those two have already managed to get into while Dean was at work. When he gets through the front door he can tell something is off, and he thinks maybe it's the smell. Garbage? Has anyone taken the garbage out lately? A look over to the kitchen tells him no. He smears half-congealed motor oil across his forehead with one dirtied forearm, takes a deep breath and inhales Sam and old wood and whatever alcohol John's trailed in behind him tonight. He's tying up the garbage bag when he stops, because that's the other thing. Sam hasn't come to see him yet.

Usually he's bounding down the stairs and jumping into his arms and "I missed you" and all that shit, but tonight there's nothing. Dean gets the beginnings of a bad feeling in his stomach, and his mind automatically goes to the worst possible scenario. It'd be just his luck, right? But... no. It can't be that. If it was that there'd be noise and commotion and crying, and besides. John swore. He swore he'd never. Dean climbs the stairs feeling wary and the first stop he makes is Sam's room. Mere feet away from his own, for a plethora of reasons. Not that it matters, not that the kid needs his own room. Sam rarely goes a whole night without sneaking into Dean's bed anymore (which, frankly, makes it hard to have girls over). Dean looks down the hall at the door to John's bedroom, but it's shut tight and as far as he can tell, there's nothing going on behind it. They had a fight, then. It's not good by any means, but it's better than... anyway.

Dean knocks twice and pushes the door open, not bothering to wait for an invitation before he goes in. Sam's on his bed with pajama bottoms and a t-shirt too big for him, which is every t-shirt. He looks up and his eyes are raw like he's been crying, so Dean's sits next to him and holds him and rubs his back and doesn't ask what the fight was about. Half an hour and a couple lewd bedtime stories later ("gross, Dean, I don't want to hear about that, shut up"), and Dean's getting Sam under his covers and tucked in and hopefully calmed down enough to go to sleep. If he's lucky, Sam'll sleep through the night.

He checks in on John, too, not because he cares but because it's his fucking job and if the man has choked on his own vomit or something, it'd be better to know. He's fine, though. Passed out in bed with his boots still on and a shiner that he probably deserved, but fine. Pity.

Dean respects the man. Really he does. But that respect was borne of fear so thick that Dean would have drowned in it had he not turned it into something else; something tolerable (although he'd be lying if he said he didn't wish at times for John to disappear on some out-of-town bender and never come back). He calls him "sir" and "John" and anything but "dad", because it's a good way to show that respect. It's also a good way not to get yelled at for acting like a kid.

John's been hitting him since for-fucking-ever. At this point it's just part of the routine. Still hurts like a bitch, because it's not just fists but belts and wooden spoons and steel-toed boots and whatnot. And the last couple years, he's gotten creative, so it's not just being hit, either. It's being held under the freezing cold spray of the shower, fully clothed, and not allowed to change or dry off afterward. It's being denied food for a day or two, and getting cigarettes stubbed out on forearms and ribs and the neck. It's having things thrown at him and getting punished if he flinches.

It's seeing that look in John's eyes and telling Sam to go to his room, go to a friend's house. Telling him not to worry, "I can handle it, if he sees you crying it'll draw attention to you, go away, I'm alright. Everything's alright."

Because John and Dean have an understanding that he can use Dean as a punching bag as much as he damn well pleases, but under no circumstances does he lay a finger on Sam. Nothing has ever been more important to Dean than his little brother. He's whip-smart and a nuisance and totally, embarrassingly innocent, and is probably the only thing on this earth that Dean really loves. He has to be protected, from both the physical violence and the emotional trauma that it brings. Sure, little Sammy sitting up in his room with a pillow over his head, listening to his big brother crying through the walls as he gets beaten by their father is probably pretty taumatizing in its own way. But as long as Dean can put himself between Sam and the wrong side of John's drinking habits, then he goddamn will. He still worries, though. Worries that John is gonna get bored one day and hurt his little brother, and Dean knows he's not as strong as his father. Wouldn't be able to stop it. So every time John gets a little too drunk, or a little too angry, or starts talking sweet to his sons like they're his dead wife, Dean stands between him and Sam. Holds his hands out to stop his father coming any closer, fixes him with a stern look and reminds him of their agreement. Usually that's enough to stop him going for Sam, and more than enough to earn him the first right hook of the evening.

But still he worries.

Of course there's still the other thing, the thing on Dean's mind pretty much every waking moment, the thing that he's ashamed of and will not ever, ever talk about. He made John swear on his fucking life that Sam would never go through that, never experience it, and John knows that if Dean ever found out he'd broken that promise, hell would break loose. Damn right, it would.

Right now, Dean's content. His guard is up, it always has to be, but John is out like a light and Sam will be asleep sometime in the next half hour, so he goes to his room and opens the window. Leans halfway out, torso stuck in amongst the tangible heat of the night air. It's quiet and dark and nice, he can appreciate it, sue him if he likes to take a moment every once in a while and breathe in something sweet that doesn't want to hurt him.

Dean has always loved the stars.

He leaves his perch to light a cigarette and then goes right back, adding its orange glow to the night sky. Dean's surprised he's not a fucking junkie by now. He kind of should be, substance abuse runs in the fucking family and Dean learns by example. God knows his father has set a very bad one. Plus, nobody would blame him. Kid like Dean, using to the point of addiction would be very easily justified by his shitty life. For now it's just cigarettes, though. Cigarettes and alcohol on Friday nights. He doesn't let himself drink often, cause he always overdoes it and ends up piss-drunk at eight pm, ends up blacked out on the couch and unable to defend himself or anyone else for shit, so Sam is left to fend for himself. He's not proud of it, should really stop, but it's one thing he looks forward to during the week. When you don't sleep too easy, passing out is the next best thing.

He watches a cat run across the street, a black blur that disappears underneath a car as soon as it appears. Jenna Frasier loves cats, hates that Dean smokes. Let him blow it into her mouth once and spent the next five minutes coughing on and off, yelling at him when he laughed. Dean remembers kissing her on her little sister's bed while there was a party going on downstairs. He very nearly got lucky, but she started bitching about a spattering of bruises on his ribs. Got all concerned, wanted to fucking talk about it. Girls and their emotions and shit. So Dean told her to knock it off and drop the subject before she killed the mood and when she didn't, he got up and walked out, leaving her on Barbie bedsheets with her blouse unbuttoned around her waist and her purity ring sitting on the bedside table. He hasn't talked to her since.

He flicks his cigarette out the window, watches it spark as it hits the driveway. He imagines a spark flying up underneath the belly of his father's car, catching on some oil or gas and engulfing everything in fucking flames. It doesn't, though. It sits nicely on the pavement and waits to dwindle down to nothing.

Dean goes to check on Sam again, who's hiccoughing in his sleep from how hard he was crying earlier, then goes back to his room and gets in bed and tries not to focus on the smell of John Wichester there.

Four hours or maybe twenty minutes later, Sam comes into his room. Dean wakes as soon as the door opens because of course he does. He sits up, reaches a hand out for Sam, wishes the kid didn't have to cry so much.

"Nightmare?"

Sam doesn't say anything which is fine, it's whatever, he doesn't have to, it's just that usually Dean gets at least a nod. This time there's nothing. He climbs onto the bed, scoots right up close to Dean and as soon as their chests are pressed together he lets his face crumple and really starts to cry. Uses Dean's t-shirt to muffle the sound. Dean clicks his tongue, holds the back of Sam's head and rubs little circles on his back because what else can he do?

"You wanna tell me about it?" He asks, thinking about Jenna and her stupid need to talk about everything. Dean feels Sam shake his head against him, so he sighs and shuts up and holds his brother.

Eventually Sam's sitting up again and he's rubbing his eyes and doing that thing where he's trying so hard not to cry that he kind of starts to hyperventilate, and Dean offers up his hand to hold onto. Sam says, unprompted, "I'm not."

That's it. "I'm not". Nothing else. Dean waits because it's obvious that Sam wants to talk; stopped himself mid-sentence because he's scared of the reaction or unsure how to carry on and that's fair, we've all been there.

"...I'm not s'posed to talk about it."

Shit. This is not good. Secrets are never good, never in any circumstance, because Sam keeping a secret means that Dean is potentially missing out on some extremely Sam-worrying stuff. Which means he can't help him.

"It's okay, Sam. You know you can tell me anything."

Sam looks at Dean and he looks so conflicted, so pained, that it's breaking Dean's fucking heart. What could have him so worked up?

Sam takes a few more seconds to gather himself before continuing.

"I... I know you would want to know. But you can't freak out, okay? You can't get mad. I told... I promised..." he trails off, a silent stream of tears flowing down his cheeks and soaking his neckline.

Bad feeling. Bad, bad feeling in Dean's stomach.

"Go on, Sammy. I'm here."

Sam slumps against Dean's shoulder and presses his hands to his mouth, and his words come out quick, so the next thing he says can barely be heard.

"...Sometimes dad does some stuff that I don't like and I don't know how to make him stop."

Calm down, Dean. This isn't new, is it? Sam just means that he doesn't like it when Dean gets hit. Right?

John would never.

"Sammy, we've talked about this. He just has to take his anger out on something and it's better me than y-"

"No." Sam's voice is barely audible. "No, Dean. I mean... sometimes he... does some stuff to me."

It's dead silent in the room. Dean's gone stock-still, and there's this feeling like all the oxygen's been sucked out of him. He has to remind himself to loosen his grip on Sam's hand a little, and his next words are measured. Trembling, but controlled.

"Sam, does he put his hands on you?"

Nod.

"Does he make you-"

"Yes," Sam cries, because he knows what Dean is gonna ask. And he's crying out loud again and shaking like a fucking leaf. Dean knows how scared he must be, how hard it was for him to admit this.

Before he knows it, Dean is standing in front of his door. Staring at it as if he could see right through it, down the hall, into John's bedroom. As if looks could kill. Sam's there, pulling on his arm, fucking desperate and absolutely pleading. Come on Dean, I don't want to get in trouble, you can't tell him I told.

Dean shoves him off.

"How long?" He asks, gaze fixed on the door ahead of him. "How long has this been happening, Sam? Tell me."

Sam is standing there, wringing his little wrists, glancing between Dean and the door. His mouth is moving but no sound is coming out.

"Samuel Winchester, you tell me right fucking now."

Sam gives a little gasp. This is probably torture for him. "I think... ten months," he says small.

Now Dean knows why he's been so goddamn clingy. Why he never wants him to leave for work. Why he's been having so many nightmares.

In a second, the door's been slammed open and Dean is down the hall in six strides. Pushing John's door open. And then just like that he's on him, using a knee to roll him over, grabbing him by his sweaty hair to hold him down. Dean hits his father four times, yelling nonsense as he does, before the man wakes up enough to gain the upper hand.

Once John's decided that enough's enough, it's over. He's reaching over blindly to his bedside table (littered with garbage and bottles and rolling paper) and his hand finds the lamp. He smiles through bloody teeth and Dean gets one more swing in before he smashes the lamp base into the side of his son's head.

Dean goes crashing to the floor, stars behind his eyelids. He lands on something hard and it knocks the air out of him, digging into his back.

He can hear Sam screaming objections as John stands up, grinning like a fucking maniac, and grabs Dean by the front of the shirt. Dean feels a tooth snap out of its socket with the very first punch. Tries not to swallow it.

"You think you could get away with that, boy?" John slurs, and it sounds rough like all the rest of him. "Think your old man would just let that one slide?"

"We had a deal!" Dean screams, words wet with blood. He's fighting, wants so badly to get free and kick his father in the face until his skull caves in. That'd be nice. But he's not strong enough.

He hears a click and he doesn't have to look down to know that John's just pulled a knife on him. The pocket knife he keeps for god knows what reason, because when does a man like John ever need a weapon to defend himself?

Sam sees and freaks the fuck out, abandons his job as "terrified on-looker" and runs toward John. But it's like a fly trying to slow down a horse, and their father simply throws Sam to the side.

"Sammy, go to your room," Dean says, steady. Staring his father in the eye as he does. But Sam won't, he'll stay right there and think it's heroic and see something nobody should have to see. Such is life, right? At least Dean tried to warn him.

John pushes his blade against Dean's throat like he's about to give his son a tracheotomy.

"You need to learn some respect, Dean," John says, and pink spit flies off his lips, lands on Dean's cheek.

It's hard to speak with the weight of a fully grown man on top of him and a knife threatening to cut his throat, but goddamn it, Dean has words to say to this piece of shit. "You fucking swore. You swore you'd never touch him and you went back on that. You don't deserve my respect."

John looks over at Sam, who just cowers. Then he laughs. "Is that what this is about?" He asks, sounding entirely amused. "You pull a stunt like this and it's because of him? You've made a lot of stupid mistakes, son, but this might be the worst one yet."

Dean swallows, and feels his skin break. He doesn't dare wince. He can hear Sam crying in the corner.

"What did you think you were gonna do to me, hm? D'ja think you were gonna kill me, Dean? You think you have the balls for that?"

God, his breath reeks of cheap beer. Cheap beer and a sack of bullshit.

"No," Dean croaks out. "Just beat the shit outta--"

But he's cut off because John has punched him in the stomach. Sam is begging for John to stop, but the man probably doesn't even hear it. With one son pleading for his big brother's life and the other choking on air beneath him, John continues.

"What's done is done, Dean. Maybe if you took better care of your brother you could have stopped this a long time ago."

"Fuck you!" Dean spits, and that's when he starts to panic. He's pushing against John's chest and trying to buck him off with his hips, reaching for his face or his hair; anything he can scratch or pull or break. "Fuck you!"

John is just chuckling. Enjoying it.

"You made it so easy for me, Dean. You're always off trying to get in some girl's pants, as if anybody would ever want anything as dirty as you."

Dean knows it's true. He knows it.

"Always going off to work for Bobby, because he's just the perfect fucking father to you, isn't he? And I'm so terrible? Why don't you ask Sam how many times I fucked him while you were shit-faced on the kitchen floor, Dean?"

This.

This is when Dean Winchester learns about pain for the first time. This is when he learns that there is no fucking limit, that even when you think you've had it all, it can always dig itself a little bit deeper into you. Always hurt a little more. There's a limit to happiness in the world but pain can keep fucking coming until you're on your knees before it, groveling. Begging to either succumb to it or be free of it, but nobody ever seems to know that you can't do either. You just have to sit there and take it. What choice do you have? What fucking choice?

He lurches forward, hitting John's nose hard with his forehead. Blood drips down onto his face.


That's when his father stabs him.


It takes Sam forty minutes (and two times with his head stuck in the toilet because he thinks he's gonna throw up) to stitch Dean back together. Dean didn't have to try and convince him not to call the police, at least. The two of them know by now that even if the cops did give a shit, they'd do more harm then good.

John's left, gone somewhere far away for the next week or five.

Dean can't apologize. There's no way. Sam keeps seeing the look on his face and saying I know, Dean, it's okay, Dean. But the oldest brother will never forgive himself. Not for as long as he fucking lives.

After that, there's a loss of control. Dean failed himself, he failed his brother, so he may as well have just failed the whole entire universe. He needs to be by Sam's side every second. He even insists on standing outside the bathroom door when he goes. He never wants to be apart from him, not one more fucking time. He has to be close, has to get that control back, has to be in charge, has to protect Sam, has to make sure nothing and no one else can ever get to him, has to be the main person in the kid's life. The only person. The most important person. The person who can keep him safe and watch out for him and comfort him and never, ever let assholes like John Winchester near him again.

Sometimes he feels like he has to hurt something, too. He can't do that to Sam, so he spends his time trying to find new ways to give himself bruises. Prods at his stitches every now and then, seeing if he can make himself bleed.

Sam is sleeping in Dean's bed every night now, even if he doesn't want to. Dean makes him. Says it's the best place to protect him, the best place to control what goes on around them. Dean has this need to be closest to Sam, to take him back from their father. But Dean's not gonna take a thing from Sam, not in that way, so he looks for that sense of control elsewhere.

He starts inviting girls over to his house, and they're always the kind who act like they're into it the first time he slaps them across the face. A few more times though and some of them cry, but so far none of them have enough self respect to just leave. Dean takes that as an invitation to hit them harder. So he screws them into a mattress that's had too many people on it and he does it hard even if they don't want him to, grabbing handfuls of hair and digging his fingers into thighs until girls are biting back screams because they know his twelve-year-old brother is the next room over. The first time Dean fucks a boy, he looks like Sam.

After that, it's easier to feel in control.

//

Castiel is kissing him. Like, voluntarily.

At least I can stop asking, Dean thinks, and an amused sort of sound escaped his throat. His hand finds Castiel's waist, which is fucking thin, and he kisses the boy like he kisses everyone who's ever been down here. Possessively.

He knows Cas is gonna hate himself in the morning but that's alright; he'll get over it. Dean wants to tell him it's all part of the process, baby, you loathe yourself for loving me and then you show me just how devoted you are by putting that loathing to bed. Instead he just lets Cas curl up against him and fall asleep.

Chapter Text

When Castiel was nine years old, he watched Psycho with his brothers on halloween night. Lucifer never believed in censorship, always said that if Cas was old enough to understand something, then he was old enough to view it. So there were no refusals on his part when little Cas climbed up onto the couch and asked "can I watch too?" As a rather predictable result, Cas was plagued with a stubborn and persistent fear of Norman Bates, and refused to shower with the door shut for weeks afterward. The sounds of Marion Crane being stabbed to death haunted him, even causing him to lose sleep. It was unsettling and scary and gross, and Cas kept imagining a shadowy figure emerging from around the corner and stabbing him when he least expected it. It would sound just like in the movie, screeching violins and all.

Eventually, Luci had to sit him down and explain to him what a foley artist was. He showed Cas articles about the filming of the scene; how Hitchcock used chocolate syrup for blood and reversed his footage to make the killing look fast and believable. He even pulled up a video of a man stabbing a melon with a kitchen knife and asked Cas to close his eyes while he listened to it. It sounded like a melon being stabbed. He didn't believe Lucifer when he told him that that was the same sound he'd heard when listening to Marion die.

Even now, at sixteen, thinking about that sound makes Castiel uncomfortable. He's not scared of it anymore, and logically he knows it was never anything to be feared in the first place, but it still sets his teeth a little bit on edge. He's since watched much scarier movies, movies where the gore is up-close and personal (hell, he's fucking living one), and they hardly get to him. But ever since his childhood, he's never been able to get that one solitary sound out of his head, and it's all thanks to Hitchcock and Lucifer's lenient rules and halloween.

It's already the same story with the sounds of a boy his own age being strangled to death right in front of him.

It happened five days ago, and Castiel is a mess. He can't sleep and he won't eat, and his mind is an endless playback of those horrible, horrible sounds. When he lays down to sleep, he imagines Dean charging into the room with a knife in hand, Bates-style, or using his ridiculously strong hands to grasp and hold and squeeze and kill. It's a terrible way to live, if you can still call what Cas has "living". It's like he's an un-person, not totally gone but not entirely tethered to reality, either.

It could have been him.

It could be another boy here in his place, shackled to the wall, and he could have been the one stabbed and strangled just to teach the other a lesson.

That's the other thing. Dean had told him it was "never about" the boy, but what did that mean? What was Cas supposed to take away from it all, besides the obvious complete mental collapse? He doesn't know.

He wants a fucking hug. He wants his brothers. He wants to get out of this godforsaken torture chamber where every fucking day he's followed by the tainted thoughts that come with witnessing a violent and preventable death.

When Dean was raping the boy, screams were just tearing out of his throat. It was so guttural and raw and absolutely nothing like the movies, and Cas didn't even try to help.

He keeps remembering the feeling of slippery blood on his fingers, warm flesh giving in to his prodding, the feeling of pushing a needle through someone live and real and definitely feeling it. His stitching was patchwork, maybe hurt even more than the initial stabbing because it wasn't precise, wasn't clean, wasn't quick. It was messy and clumsy and cruel, and Cas will never forgive himself for contributing to that poor boy's suffering before he died.

And then what he did?

What he did after?

When he was not in his right fucking state of mind?

What the fuck was that?

Castiel has never felt so disgusted with himself. To kiss Dean - willingly and with hunger, as if he actually wanted it - that was the ultimate betrayal. Betrayal to himself, to his family. When he thinks about it, thinks about curling up in that man's arms and sleeping next to him, he feels a wave of shame engulf him. Pull him under. Drown him. It fills his lungs, he's gasping for breath, but all he can get are the rolling waves that threaten never to stop filling him up. All of that mixed with the trauma he's stuck with because of what happened to that boy?

It's more than Cas can actually handle.

In the last five days, he can't tell how much he's slept. Besides that first night, when he was exhausted, mentally and emotionally compromised, unstable... he's hardly slept through a night. Much like with Psycho, Cas is plagued. But this time it's much deeper than a simple childhood fear, it's something he can't decipher. Can't touch. Can't get rid of. It sits heavy in the back of his brain and makes him have full-on nightmares where he's screaming and bolting upright in bed, covered in his own sweat with his brother's name on his trembling lips. It makes him nauseous, enough so that if he eats more than what's absolutely necessary, he'll just throw it back up. And the panic attacks. There have only been a few times in Castiel's life where he's experienced something akin to the panic attacks he's been cursed with. They always happen when Dean's close to him, which sucks, because Dean is, unsurprisingly, a very impatient and extremely unhelpful person. But sometimes they happen when Cas is all alone, which sucks even more, because he can't breathe and he can't think and he's gonna die, he going to actually die, this is gonna kill him, and if it doesn't, Dean will.

It's all starting to really piss Dean off.

He doesn't want Cas to deteriorate. He wants him to take care of himself, which would be hilarious if it weren't so grim. Take care of yourself so you're strong enough to get back up the first time I hit you, Cas. That's what it means.

Cas is jolted out of his thoughts when he hears the lock to the door turning, and his breathing rate picks up. There are footsteps down the hall, and then too soon, he appears around the corner.

Cas presses himself against the cold wall, as flat as he can go, eyes wide and chest rising and falling rapidly. Dean rolls his eyes.

"Jesus christ, can you calm down? How long is this bullshit act gonna go on for?"

Yeah, it really is pissing him off.

Cas just shakes his head, tries to speak but he's kind of freaking the fuck out. It doesn't help when Dean moves closer to him.

"Cas, breathe."

But he can't.

Dean's crouching down in front of him now, with killer's hands.

He slaps Cas across the face, which actually shocks him enough to snap him out of it.

His mouth is open slightly and he focuses on the stinging in his cheek, focuses on keeping the tears welling in his eyes from falling.

"You know I've had about enough of this, right?"

Cas thinks about how Dean punishes him like a parent might. Like he has the right to hit him. Thinks about how the two of them are, arguably, strangers, and Dean still slaps him when he does something wrong like it's teaching him, training him. It's weird. Cas hates it.

"Answer me, Castiel."

It takes him a second to swallow. Nod.

"Yeah, I know."

And the feeling in his stomach is like the worst stage fright he's ever experienced.

"Look at me and say it again."

And Cas does. He doesn't even think to argue. He just turns his head back and forces himself to meet Dean's eye. It raises new panic in his chest but he just squashes it, because he can't afford the luxury of allowing it to take him over. If he does, Dean will hurt him.

"I know," he says. And without thinking about it, he adds, "I'm sorry."

Dean is studying his face, eyes darting across his features, and it feels like a violation.

"Right," he says. "I'm sure you are."

And then he stands up, and he shoves his hands into his pockets, and he's towering above Cas. Fucking leagues taller and laughably stronger. Cas knows this, and Dean knows he knows.

"Are you scared of me, Cas?" He asks.

Cas scrambles for an answer. He can't just ignore the question, because Dean doesn't like that, but which answer does he want? The truth? Usually, Dean wants the truth, and he can somehow always tell when Cas doesn't give it to him. But on the other hand, sometimes it's just better to tell Dean what he wants to hear. So what does he want? What's the right course of action here?

"...No," he says, after some hesitation. As soon as he says it, he knows he shouldn't have lied.

Dean gets this look on his face like he can't wait to prove Cas wrong.

"No? Well, in that case, why don't you come over here?"

Cas swallows. Steels himself. Gets up on two feet and shuffles over to Dean, the chain behind him scraping on the hard floor. It sounds like an omen.

Dean's looking straight at him, deliberate and grinning, and Cas knows it's a test-- one that he's already failing. He casts his eyes downward, unable to look at that evil face any longer. He's standing close, at least. He was brave enough to do that, but was it really? Was it really enough?

Dean is waiting. He's not saying anything. He knows the anticipation is killing Cas, knows it makes him want to fall to his knees and wrap his arms around himself and rock back and forth. And Cas is sure the man is having a hell of a time, making him suffer like this. He can feel a steady, hard gaze burning into him, but he refuses to acknowledge it. If he does, he'll spiral.

Dean repulses him.

After so, so long, Dean speaks.

"Kiss me, Cas."

A rock. A rock in his stomach. He feels spit pool in his mouth and can't swallow it. He gives a small shake of his head, barely detectable, but it's Dean so of course he sees it.

"I thought you weren't scared."

Cas doesn't say anything, but he thinks maybe he's beginning to tremble.

"What's the matter, Cas?" And Dean's voice is patronizing. "Just a few nights ago, you seemed to like doing it. Don't you remember? Show me how much you liked it, sweetheart."

Can't move. Can hardly breathe. Cas is stuck.

Dean chuckles, a low sound from the back of his throat. Cas thinks that if he were an animal searching for prey, it might sound like a growl.

"You didn't fight me before, Cas. In fact, you initiated it."

There are fingers on his neck, stroking the skin so softly it hurts. Cas tries not to flinch.

"Acted like a girl, Cas. Those pretty little lips of yours? Like a high school whore. Fuckin' jumped on me. Can't wait to get your tongue back in my mouth, can you?"

Cas blinks back tears and stays quiet, stays still. Lets Dean touch him, assault him with those pretty, disgusting words.

"It's okay to say you liked it, baby. I already know. You practically slept in my back pocket, remember that? Couldn't get close enough..."

Cas thinks Dean is working himself up a little, because his hands are everywhere. Touching his mouth, his shoulders, his hair. Well, one of them is. The other is pressing against the front of his jeans. Cas pretends he doesn't see it.

"Have to show you, baby?" Dean mumbles. "Jog your memory?" But he's already pressing his face into Cas's cheek, his neck. He doesn't dare move.

Dean grabs his chin with a firm grip, lifts his head up so they're facing each other. Holds him in place. Cas closes his eyes, breathing heavy through his nose. It's different from five days ago. Five days ago, Cas wasn't in his right mind. He wasn't thinking. He kissed Dean because he was vulnerable and helpless and had been deprived of a soft touch for so long, but it's different now. He knows better now. The man in front of him is terrifying, dangerous, someone Cas couldn't be paid to kiss. Not like he has a choice.

Dean's mouth is on his. He's frozen, shaking against the man's body pressed up against him. He knows it'll end badly if he pulls away, so he shuts off. Accesses that place in his mind where he doesn't have to think. Doesn't have to exist. Dean's lips are moving as if Cas were actually reciprocating, which he's not.

He stands there, arms at his sides, palms pressed flat against his bare thighs to keep them steady. His chin's tilted up and there's a grown man holding him, forcing a tongue between closed lips, and Cas feels himself start to panic. Trying to suppress it will only make it worse. He opens his mouth to let himself breathe a little easier, and that was a mistake, because Dean seems to take it as an invitation. A tear slips down his face silently, because he doesn't want to make Dean angry, but he can't stay here. He can't keep letting this happen. It's too much, too much.

Cas starts to pull on the man's arm, trying to make him let go of his chin. When that doesn't work, he pushes against his chest. It's all fruitless.

He's panting, his head spinning, and being this close to Dean - their mouths connected - is going to ruin him. He's starting to get frantic. He's not thinking clearly, all he wants is to get away, all he wants is for this to stop. Dean is kissing him and he doesn't want it, needs it so badly to not be happening, so he presses forward, biting down hard on whatever flesh is between his teeth at the moment.

He hears Dean cry out, swear, and then he gets shoved backwards. His eyes fly open as he stumbles, just in time to see a closed fist coming straight towards his face. It catches him right beside the eye, and it's so strong that his balance is thrown off and he collapses to the side. He clutches his face, incapacitated from the shock and the pain. You'd never think a punch can hurt as much as it does until you've received one.

Dean's lip is split and bloody when he puts a boot under Cas's chin and forces his head up. He looks down on him, anger evident in his features. Cas is starting to seriously regret his decision, and wonders when he's ever going to catch a break.

"Smart fuckin' move there, ace," Dean says through the blood in his mouth. His tone is dark.

Dean shifts his foot, the toe of his boot pressing against Cas's mouth. Cas is trying to lift up and away but Dean just follows him, and eventually his lip starts to hurt from where it's trapped between his teeth and the boot. He opens his mouth a little, and he should really fucking stop doing that, because it only allows Dean to take further advantage over him. There's the tip of a steel-toed boot against his gritted teeth, pressing into them. Cas's head is forced back, and he'd be dead if he tried to move away. He doesn't dare move away.

He looks up, breathing through his nose.

"Should kick your teeth in," Dean whispers, fists clenched at his sides. He gives the tiniest little shove of his foot, enough to make Castiel's head snap back a bit. Enough to hurt.

Cas makes a sound like distress, although he tries to conceal it. He's holding himself up on his hands, but Dean's forcing his head back and up, his neck craning, so his arms are starting to shake with the effort.

Dean leans down and spits blood onto his face.

He flinches, but he can't move much beyond that. His teeth are still bared. Spit drips down his face and pretty soon it's gonna go into his mouth. All he can do is stare up at Dean, beg him with his eyes for forgiveness.

"I think what we need is a little reminder about who's in charge here. Teach your ungrateful ass to show some respect." Finally Dean steps away and Cas lets his head hang, dropping down onto his elbows. Shoulders shaking.

Dean kneels in front of him, watching. Cas isn't crying, but he's got the same feeling in his chest that he gets when he does.

Dean runs a hand up Cas's cheek, spreads spit across his face; into his hair. Grabs hold and lifts his head up once more.

"You need to rethink your priorities, Castiel. Treat me less like someone to be messed with and more like someone to be feared."

Cas does fear him. He does.

"I mean, did you seriously think this would end well for you? What were you hoping would happen, trying to hurt me like that? Makes me wonder what the fuck has gotten into you."

Cas thinks. He thinks hard. And then his face crumples, because it's been so unbelievably hard, but Dean doesn't care. All he cares about is power.

"What's gotten into me...?"

Is Dean fucking serious? Is this a trick?

"I... I can't... I'm trying," he starts, and Dean scoffs like yeah, right. But he doesn't interrupt, so Cas takes it that he's supposed to continue.

"...I-I shouldn't have. I shouldn't have done that, and I'm sorry. Dean, I'm sorry."

"Sorry because you don't want me to ruin your shit," and Cas sees a muscle twitch in his jaw.

"No," Cas insists. "I mean it."

Dean sighs, loosens his grip a little. "You're going off the fucking rails lately, Cas. You wanna tell me why?"

Cas nods, eager for the chance to maybe gain some sympathy from Dean. Prove that his defiant act was provoked, justified.

"You're right. You're right. I noticed it, too, I feel like I'm going crazy. I can't help it, I can't control myself. I'm... I-I'm really fucking trying not to lose my shit around you, but you just... you scare the shit out of me!"

Without meaning to, Cas lets himself go. Usually he watches himself around Dean, tiptoes lightly and deliberately around the man's unpredictable temper. But right now he's snowballing, growing louder and more tearful as he goes on. He just wants Dean to understand how hard it is. As he speaks, he subconsciously grabs onto the front of Dean's shirt, anchoring himself physically as his mind unravels.

"And I know it makes you mad that I can't function, can't sleep, but I'm trying! I want to. I want to, I just keep hearing that boy... what you did to him, I-I panic, okay? I panic and I can't help it and I wish I could. And I am sorry for biting you, but you... you were too close, and I freaked out because that's all I can do. It's all I can do, sometimes."

Dean has one eyebrow raised. He's watching Cas closely, but his expression is virtually unreadable. There's no way to tell he how he feels about Castiel's words.

"But... you wouldn't leave me alone. And I needed to get away and I didn't want to hurt you, but--"

"Don't you dare make me the bad guy here," Dean interjects. It's a warning. "This isn't my fault. You made a choice. You could have stuck it out and cooperated."

"I wanted you to stop--"

Dean tugs a bit on his hair. Another warning.

"Cas. I hear you, okay? I hear you. I know it's a lot. I know you've seen a lot."

It's the closest thing Cas has ever gotten to comfort from Dean. He's crying, and this time it's part relief.

"You gotta get past it. You gotta get over yourself. I need you functional, Cas, I don't know what I'm gonna do with you if you let yourself become this... mess."

Cas knows. Cas knows what he'll do. It'll be strong hands and strained muscles and wheezing, choking sounds and flailing limbs and a last breath.

"So can you try to use some fucking sense from now on? That means no more panic attacks, no more pushing me away, no more stupid fuckin' decisions. No more fighting me. Sound reasonable?"

Cas nods.

"Good. You have to keep being a human, Cas. Can you promise me you'll do that? I need you getting enough sleep, I need you eating. I need you to cut the nightmares, cut the shit. Do you hear me? Can you do that?"

Can he? He doesn't think so. It's so easy for Dean to say, but for Cas to do? That's another story. He thinks about the debilitating fear, the incessant paranoia. You can't just shut something like that off with the flip of a switch. Cas is suffering from trauma. Definitely serious, probably permanent. He can't just choose to put it all behind him.

He takes a long moment to respond, eyes searching the room like there'll be some kind of solace in the prison-like walls, and Dean's question echoes in his mind.

Can you do that?

"I don't know," he whispers.

He sees Dean thinking. Sees the wheels in his head turn.

Sees him decide.

"Then I'll just have to teach you."

//

Dean is pulling Cas down the halls of his bunker, and all the boy can do is comply. Give in to the aggressive hold on his wrist, try to keep up with Dean's stride in his weakened state. If he weren't focusing so hard on staying upright, he might be trying to take note of the layout of the place.

They end up in the kitchen. Cas is looking around at dirty dishes and shiny countertops and pots hanging from hooks on the walls, and Dean snaps in his face to get his attention. He shakes the boy's wrist as he talks, like he's reprimanding a toddler who's threatened to run away.

"Hey. Let me be very clear, Cas. I'll forgive you for what you did, this time. But the next time you pull a stunt like this?" He reaches up, touches his torn lip. Pulls away a finger dotted with blood and wipes it on his jeans. "Your brothers are getting a fucking hand in the mail."

Cas swallows thickly, and he understands.

"I can only hope this'll snap you out of your fucking self-pity-party," Dean mutters, dragging him over towards the wall. Cas has a sick feeling, because he doesn't know what's about to happen, but he knows it can't be good. There's a stove, maybe Dean's gonna hold his ear against it like Teddy Duchamp. Or maybe he'll press his hand against a cutting board like it's a slab of meat and chop the fingers off. Cas curls his hand into a precautionary, protective fist as Dean reaches a large metal door in the wall. He keeps his hold on Cas's wrist as he opens it.

It's a walk-in freezer. Like the kind restaurants have way in the back. He knows, because Michael used to work as a cook at this kind-of-fancy place in town, and Cas got to go back into the kitchen once. There were lots of things stored in there, but what Cas remembers are the meat hooks.

He stares into the freezer, then looks up at Dean with a puzzled look on his face. He doesn't ask any questions, just waits for instruction. Dean lets go of his wrist and instead shoves him forward, hand flat between his shoulder blades.

Stumbling forward, the shift in temperature is obvious. It's cold enough to be uncomfortable for anyone, but Cas is small and skinny and hardly wearing any fucking clothes. He feels it worse. He takes in the metal floor; the frost-covered shelves. There's not much on them, not as much as a restaurant would need, anyway. Makes sense because as far as Cas knows, Dean lives in this bunker all by himself. But it doesn't matter about how full the freezer is, what matters is that Cas has no idea how any of the stuff in here is useful to him or Dean in the context of punishment. He turns - turns to ask Dean what he's supposed to do, why he got brought up here in the first place - and he does it in time to see Dean beginning to shut the door.

He realizes what's happening almost comically late, and lunges forward.

"Wait!" He cries, and he manages to get one skinny arm through the door just before it closes. He grabs onto Dean's arm, sticks his face up close to the crack in the door.

"Don't leave me in here," he says, sounding disbelieving, and sort of betrayed. "You don't have to! It doesn't make sense--"

"You told me you couldn't do what I asked of you. Those were your words. I'm merely giving you some incentive to improve."

"I was wrong," Cas insists. "I was just confused! I'll... I'll try. I can try, Dean, I'll be better--"

But he's cut off once more as he feels Dean grab his hand and force the fingers back. His knees bend to accommodate the pain, but he can't retract his arm unless Dean lets go. His mouth is open, and there's a cry of pain stuck in the back of his throat that won't come out. Someone once told him that fingers can snap as easily as a carrot.

"You had your chance," comes Dean's voice through the door, and then Cas is allowed to pull his arm back. He draws it back in, cradles his hand to his chest, and gives a little squeak of indignation as Dean pushes the door shut with one final slam.

This is not good.

He's got the heel of his good hand pounding against the door as soon as it's shut, and he can only hope Dean can hear him as he calls out. He doesn't want to be left in here, not when he's already shivering and it's only been a few seconds. Who the fuck locks a human being in a freezer?

"Dean, let me out!" He yells, but it's out of desperation instead of anger. "Please, I promise! I promise I'll do what you ask!" But there's no indication that Dean hears him or even cares, so he takes a defeated step back and presses his lips together to keep from crying.

It's really fucking messed up, when he thinks about it.

Dean is doing this to him because he's having normal reactions to traumatic events. He wouldn't punish a war veteran for having flashbacks, so why is he punishing Cas for diving off the deep end after all he's been through? He's been kidnapped, chained up in a basement, beaten on countless occasions, made to endure degradation and mockery, and forced to give himself up completely to his captor. He depends on Dean for everything: food, the little clothing he has, entertainment. It's shameful and humiliating, and he has no say in the matter. He's been cut, gagged, slapped, and worse. He's been forced to watch another boy raped and murdered right in front of his eyes. Add all of that to the guilt he feels for willingly kissing Dean that night, seeking solace in him, and taking actual comfort in the man's arms? The toll it's taken on his brain to know that he did such a thing on his own, without being told? Without being forced to? It's a miracle he's not hearing fuckin' voices by now. Cas can't be blamed for the panic attacks. He can't be blamed for the nightmares. He can't be blamed for the insomnia, or the loss of appetite. He can't help it. He doesn't want those things, but he has them, and he can't help it. Doesn't Dean understand that? He's not making the choice to disobey, he's just reacting. Reacting like any scared little kid in his shoes would. It's not fucking fair.

His bare feet are already killing him from the cold floor, so he opts to sit down. It's not much better. His ass is freezing in a matter of seconds, only a thin layer of cotton between him and the floor. He pulls his knees into his chest, wraps his arms around them. He's always hated the feeling of shivering, how tense his muscles become as they shake from the cold. Luckily it's not too terrible now, but it will get worse the longer he's in here. He has no idea how long that'll end up being. He wouldn't put it past Dean to leave him for hours, maybe even the whole night. Cas wonders if that could be detrimental, if he'll get cold enough to contract illness or just fucking freeze and die. No way to tell.

It's terribly boring, and Cas is miserable. It doesn't take long for the cold to become virtually unbearable-- he's completely exposed, nothing to protect him from the bite of it. A few minutes pass and Cas is really shivering now. His teeth are clenched and on the verge of chattering, and he couldn't relax his jaw if he tried. Rubbing his arms doesn't help, moving around improves nothing, and breathing warm air into his palms is completely useless.

He never really used to think of the cold as a physically painful thing, but after the first twenty minutes locked in the freezer, that changes for good.

He can't remember how long ago it was that he laid himself down, but be remembers flinching with each portion of bare skin that pressed into the floor. He's curled up on his side and everything is freezing, it's fucking numb, he can't actually comprehend how cold it is. If he ever gets out of here, he will literally do anything for a blanket or coat.

Has he been sleeping?

Is he freezing from the outside in?

How long has it been?

It's dark. Pitch black, actually. There's nothing to see and nothing to do and nothing to focus on but the chill seeping into his bones; settling into the nooks and crannies of him. Cas can think of nothing but how badly he wants to feel warmth again. It aches, the sensation of it aches. It's piercing and controlling and Cas wants to succumb to it. His blood has stopped running, his thoughts have stopped forming, all he knows is what it means to be cold. Frosty the fucking snowman, except his name is Cas and he's a human being and there's no magic in this story. Every muscle in his body is involuntarily tensed, shivering almost violently by the time the door opens again. It feels like it's been five seconds and five hours all at once. Castiel's brain is fried - no, totally frozen - and time doesn't matter anyway, when you can't escape a feeling like ice in your bones.

There must be some sort of temperature control, something Dean used and turned way way way down. "Ice age" setting. "Windstorm in the winter" setting. "Make a teenage boy forget what it feels like to have a dick attached to his body" setting.

It's cruel. It's inhumane. But that's who Dean Winchester is: he knows what he wants and he has no qualms relating to morals or ethics on how to get it.

He has to walk into the small room and pick Castiel up off the floor, because the poor boy has lost all the energy he needs to move. Cas doesn't speak, doesn't acknowledge Dean in any way. He's being carried bridal style but he's still curled into himself in a way that would preserve body heat, if he still had it. Dean carries him out of the freezer, out of the kitchen, and down a hall. Cas is shaking in his arms. Eventually, he manages to wrap stiff arms around the man's neck, and he feels himself start to give in to the heat radiating off of Dean. Without deciding to, he cranes his neck up and shoves his face into the space between Dean's chin and collarbone. Cold lips against hot skin. He breathes into Dean's neck, shuddering breaths that can't be helped, and if the other minds at all, he gives no indication.

They go into a room, a bedroom, lit with a dim yellow light that seems almost natural. Cas can't be sure, though. He has no idea what the sun looks like anymore. There's a desk and some shelves and a bed with dark grey covers, but that's all Cas has time to take in from over Dean's shoulder before he's dropped.

No warning, no care, no caution. Dean just drops him.

His elbow smashes into the floor as he lands and he yelps, curling into it immediately. In any other situation, he would stay on the floor and wallow until Dean yelled at him to get up, but he already misses Dean's warmth.

He pushes himself onto shaky knees, stuttering to his feet. His jaw is still clenched, his hands and shoulders still shake.

Stepping forward, Cas clings to Dean again. Wraps his arms around his waist and presses his face into a searing, solid chest.

Dean puts two strong hands on freezing shoulders and shoves. Cas goes tripping back, where he stands dejectedly for a few seconds. But it's fucking irresistible. As long as Dean is within reach, Cas has to be close to him. He bites his lip, holding back a whine of complaint, and tries his luck again. This time his arms are slung around Dean's neck and he slumps against him, practically hanging. He stands on tiptoes and inches himself closer to Dean, even though that's impossible. His grip is desperate and it's like he's pressing forward all the time, pushing further into Dean's body heat, holding himself against the feeling of a warm body.

"Please," he whispers against Dean's jaw. It sounds stocky and stiff and he has to force it out through his teeth, but he says it. "Please."

And Dean's pushing him away again but this time it's gentle, it's saying fine, just be patient, and he lifts his t-shirt up and off. Unzips and steps out of his jeans. Sits down on the bed and opens up his arms to Cas, who falls into them. Dean lays back, still not saying anything, just letting Cas burrow into him as he needs to. Cas is sprawled on top of Dean, which would bug him in any other circumstance. But right now he's revelling in the feeling it brings. He's sure it doesn't feel as great for Dean as it does for him, all cold gangly limbs and a shivering form against his own, but he seems not to care too much. Cas sits up only for the purpose of grabbing the blanket from the foot of the bed and pulling it over himself, covering the two of them with it as he lays back down. His head is tucked under Dean's chin, their bare chests pressed close, and Cas has snaked both hands around and under Dean. He feels two strong arms wrap around him and he's too busy loving it to feel ashamed. He lets out a moan of what could be interpreted as relief, his lips parted and pressed once more against Dean's burning skin. He's pretty sure nothing has ever, ever felt this good before.

Dean's hands are running up and down his back, their legs are intertwined, and the blanket is forming a nice little pocket of slowly building heat. The cold has yet to leave Castiel's body, but he can stay here and experience the warmth externally until it does.

When Dean mutters "C'mere" into the dark, Cas doesn't hesitate. Doesn't even think. He just obeys, lifting his head and crawling up a bit and crashing his mouth against Dean's, and it's funny because this very thing is what brought him so much agony just earlier today. He feels Dean wince a bit, and then remembers why as he registers the feeling of a split lip underneath his own. It doesn't matter, though. The kiss is long and deep and exactly what Castiel needs because it means that he's taking everything Dean has to offer, connecting to the source of heat in every possible way. It's ongoing. Needy but not vulgar, not sinful. When he opens his mouth and feels Dean's tongue slip past his lips, Castiel just about dies.

And so they lay like that for who knows how long. The time it takes for Cas to stop shivering, and then some. And when Dean finally gets up to take a piss, Cas misses him.

//

"Where did you get that?"

Cas swallows, staring with wide eyes at the tiny bottle in Dean's hand. Dean furrows his eyebrows.

"Do... do you really need me to answer that..?"

"You know what I mean!" Cas says. He's back in the basement-cellar-dungeon-whatever, and besides a bit of a runny nose, the events of two days ago have left him unaffected.

"Well, obviously I got it from his room. I don't understand why you have to ask."

Cas groans, slumping back against the wall and letting his head hit it. "I mean what were you doing there? What were you doing at my house?" And his voice comes off weak and broken. He can't bear the thought of Dean being there. Breaking into his home. Touching things that don't belong to him, laying green eyes on his sleeping, unsuspecting brothers. It makes him sick. Makes him feel weak in the knees. Makes him miss his life so, so much.

Dean shrugs, throws the prescription bottle at Castiel's feet. GABRIEL NOVAK, it reads. CITALOPRAM. TAKE ORALLY AS DIRECTED.

"He needs those," Cas says, sounding rather pathetic. Small. He looks up at Dean again and suddenly there's anger in his eyes.

"What did you do to them?" He asks, and stands up on his feet. "Did you hurt them? Where were they when you broke in? Did you watch them sleep, attack them?" And he's stepping closer to Dean, jabbing a finger at him, ready to scream and fight and break down and die if he hears that his family has been hurt in any way.

But Dean just lifts a hand, right hand crossed above his left shoulder, a threat that leaves a phantom sting on Castiel's cheek, and he flinches away. Drops his gaze. Is humbled.

"Relax," Dean hisses.

Cas steps back, lets his shoulder hit the wall. Continues to stare at the floor, rubs at his eyes a little.

"I didn't fucking touch them," the man continues. "They were all fucking asleep, I didn't even see Gabriel's face. He was all covered up in blankets." He stops, looks Cas up and down, and scoffs. "...You should consider taking some of those," he says snidely.

"When you do terrible things, do you honestly think you're in the right? Or do you know you're in the wrong but just don't care?" Cas asks quietly to his feet. "I don't know which is worse."

Cas is expecting to be hit, but Dean just clicks his tongue.

"See, shit like this is why I had to take myself on the tour of your place, Cas. Oh - by the way - there's a really cute shrine of you on the coffee table. Pictures and candles and everything."

Cas glares at him.

"Anyway, I had to do it because even after your little time-out the other day, you're still not giving me everything I need from you. You just don't get it. You're still holding onto the past, when I need you to grow a pair and forget it and devote yourself to me. Make sense?"

"What does this have to do with my house?"

Dean chuckles. "Well, I figured if you had some motivation to take my word as law, give yourself to me mentally, it'd make the job a little easier. So I thought that I might swap these pills out for ones more... damaging. Put them right back where I found them, wait for good old Gabe to take them and then spit out his own insides. I won't have to, of course, if you get rid of your unwillingness, all the fucking defiance, the pushback... then he'll live a long natural life and we'll all be happy."

Cas has started crying. This isn't fucking fair. He doesn't understand what Dean wants, or how to give it to him. And it's not like he's been defiant at all lately. After being made into a human popsicle, Cas has been so good. He forces himself to lie completely still and convinces himself he's tired enough to fall asleep, he eats everything, like he's supposed to, even when he's not hungry, he never complains and he makes himself breathe evenly and calmly when Dean's in the room. But the man is still not satisfied. Still searching for excuses to get to hurt Cas, get to threaten him. And now it's Gabriel who's going to get hurt. That's the thing, is that Cas really believes Dean. He has every reason to. There' no doubt in his mind that standing in front of him is a man capable of true, unadulterated evil. The thought of Gabriel dying for the sake of Castiel's own pride, his refusal to obey Dean completely, is intolerable. As long as Dean continues to be dissatisfied with Castiel's behaviour, his family is at risk.

Through tears, Cas shouts, "You can't just keep using them against me!"

And in a split second Dean is right up close in his face, eyes flashing in anger.

"Then give me a reason not to!" He yells.

There's silence. They're both just breathing. Finally Dean says, voice eerily even: "You're mine. Start acting like it."

Cas sniffs, wipes tears on the back of his hand, his chest heaving every now and then with hiccups from the crying.

"I don't know how," he whispers.

Dean smirks. Crocodile-spider-lion. When he speaks, his words are slow and measured.

"That depends, Cas. What are you willing to do, hm? What lengths will you go to protect your family?"

There's a suggestion behind the words, and Cas knows what Dean is insinuating. He knows what's being played at. He knows exactly what he must do to prove to Dean that he can go against everything he believes, everything he wants, in order to serve him. Prove that he's nothing and Dean's everything and Cas would do anything asked of him. True devotion, true admiration. He can be a good boy. He can do the things Dean wants him to. There's not a thing he wouldn't rather do, but right now it's not about him, might not be about him ever again, and that's the whole point. Dean matters. Dean matters. Dean matters. Cas's autonomy does absolutely fucking not. He swallows, eyes sliding down Dean's body as he thinks about what he has to do.

He drops to his knees.

Chapter Text

Cas has done this before.

Dean can tell by the way he sinks to his knees, back rigid and movements practiced (if a little shaky). He can tell by the look on his face: resigned, forbearing. His cheeks are pale and his adam's apple is bobbing as he swallows again and again, either preparing himself or trying not to vomit. Either way, it doesn't make a difference to Dean.

Cas has done this before and it shows in the way he sits back on his heels, licks his lips, steadies himself with one hand on Dean's thigh.

The other on his fly, pulling the zipper down tooth by tooth.

Dean stays quiet, has to. Has to let Cas do all the work, otherwise it means nothing. If Cas is forced to do this, it doesn't prove a thing except that he can be bullied and threatened into doing something he doesn't want to. No, it has to be all him. All on his own accord.

It's painfully obvious that he'd rather be doing literally anything else, but he's gonna do this anyway. They both know it.

Dean's zipper is undone now and Cas has pushed the denim back a bit, getting it out of the way. He watches the boy hesitate for a second, and then he reaches a wobbly hand up and puts it on the growing bulge in his boxers. Dean tilts his head, keeping still to let Cas do his own thing. He doesn't want to push, now, does he? It's all about pacing.

Cas rubs, and he's not looking at Dean's face. He's not really looking anywhere, at least not seeing. His eyes have gone blank, like he's spacing out. But still his hand rubs at Dean's dick just the way it's supposed to, so who's he to complain? Eventually he can't help but to buck into it a bit, and Cas takes that as a sign to get on with it. He's probably putting it off. If he could, he'd rub Dean off here and now, make him come in his underwear like a pre-pubescent kid and call it a day. But he's not going to. He may be scared, but he's going to go all the way. Dean knows he is. There's no better way for him to show his devotion, no better way for him to tell Dean exactly how far he'll go to protect his family.

Good to know.

After another moment, wavering fingers curl over the waistband of Dean's boxers and pull.

Dean's dick bounces free and Cas wraps his hand around the base as soon as he can, like if he takes too long to think about it he'll end up convincing himself not to. Dean bites his lip as Cas squeezes a bit, a groan sitting at the back of his throat. He cards his fingers through Castiel's hair.

"Doin' good, baby," Dean says, and Castiel's eyes flick up to meet his for the first time.

His eyes are glassy, wet, and it makes the blue of them stand out even in the dark lighting. His cheeks have somehow gained all their colour back in favour of a deep pink, which frames his shame beautifully. Fuckin' perfect, like a doll or a painting or Snow White.

Cas takes in a few deep breaths through his nose, steadying himself, and then brings his hand up the shaft of Dean's cock. Squeezes just the right amount, and Dean knows he's done this before. He moans, quiet and short, his fingers finding a gentle grip in Castiel's hair. The boy is kind of staring off to the side, near Dean's hip, but it doesn't matter. He's doing his job.

His free hand is still on Dean's thigh, fingers curling into denim. He kneels there and jerks Dean off, aided by the slick of pre-come leaking from the tip. He looks so adorably conflicted about what he's doing, so corrupted and lost and upset, that Dean can't help but laugh a little.

"It's okay, Cas. You wanna look at me? Eyes up here."

Cas obeys. He meets Dean's gaze again and this time he holds it, his hand still working back and forth. Dean starts to thrust into his fist, small movements growing in impatience. He loosens his grip in the boy's hair and drags his hand down his face instead, thumbing at his lips. Cas knows what it means. Knows what Dean wants.

He falters, drops his gaze again. But his hand has stopped moving and Dean has to bite his lip to ground himself, keep himself from taking what Cas has got to give.

Parting his lips, Cas lurches forward. But he pulls back again, presses his lips together hard. He's thinking too much. He glances up at Dean's face again like he's unsure, like he wants to ask "do I have to?" and Dean just raises his eyebrows.

Cas takes a long breath, nods a little to himself, and wraps his lips around the head of Dean's cock.

And--

Holy fuck.

Dean wishes he hadn't waited so long to make Cas do this. There's a hot little tongue against his slit, sliding back and forth, and it feels like fucking heaven. Dean pushes his hips forward a bit, can't help it, and Cas gags a little. He pulls back, coughs, and then he's right back on.

His hand has started pumping again and this time he takes a little more into his mouth, tongue flat against the underside of Dean's shaft, cheeks hollowing as he sucks.

This is what he should look like, Dean thinks. This is what this little boy was made for. Hell, maybe what all little boys were made for. Put a dick in their mouths and they've suddenly accomplished everything they need to in life. Can't get any prettier, can't be any more useful.

Suddenly Cas drops his hand and instead grips the backs of Dean's thighs, uses them to pull himself down as far as he can go. It's only about halfway, but it's impressive. He swallows a couple times, and Dean groans when he pulls back again and releases him. Fuck fuck fuck.

Cas's breath comes heavy, he's sort of gasping as he regains it. Once he's composed he just sits there, letting his head hang. Dean chuckles.

"Had some practice, haven't you?" And he's almost petting the boy's head, a gentle gesture not well suited for the situation. "Blow some high school pretty boy, Cas? Under the bleachers, maybe. Or in the locker room. Or maybe it was in his bed, huh? Was he a senior? Did he make you feel special?"

Cas whimpers. Dean could get high off the feeling he gets when Cas looks like this: all ashamed and uncomfortable and completely submissive. He grabs his chin, forces his head up again.

"You're not done, sweetheart."

But this time Cas resists. Dean tries to pull him forward again so he can finish the job, but he's pulling away. Pulling in the opposite direction, trying to distance himself.

"Cas," Dean says sternly. The boy whimpers again, his mouth clamped shut as he turns his head. Dean rolls his eyes.

"You didn't have a problem with this thirty seconds ago, Cas."

But Cas still resists, like a switch has been flipped and he's realized how much he doesn't want to do this.

Fuckin' kid.

He's got fists on Dean's thighs, pushing, trying to get away, but Dean still has a hold on the back of his head. In a second, he decides to let go.

Cas falls back, catching himself on his elbows. He stares up at Dean, scrambling back until his shoulder blades are up against the wall. Dean stands there, staring at him. His dick fucking aches, because jesus, he was practically done and then Cas had to go and... what is this, anyway? A protest?

"Castiel, come finish what you started."

He shakes his head. Dean feels himself smirk, a dry laugh tumbling out of his throat. He'd have thought by now that Cas would know better than to say no to him.

"This is happening whether you like it or not, Cas. You don't have a choice. Do you understand that? You can do it on your own, or I can make you."

Cas is getting that look in his eyes. That helpless look. Scared, like he knows exactly the kind of trouble he can get himself into by refusing. Dean realizes what's about to happen, and it pisses him off. He speaks quietly, a threatening sound that he knows will whip Cas into shape.

"Don't you dare start crying, Castiel."

A few seconds later and Cas is visibly shaking with the effort of keeping the tears from spilling over, but he's back on his knees and shuffling forward again so Dean can't complain.

Tongue on his dick again and this time it's slower, more hesitant, reluctant even. Cas should feel grateful. It's a fair deal, Dean thinks. One little blowjob and his family lives. He has half a kind to remind Cas of that, but the boy seems to remember it on his own accord as he starts to put a little more effort in.

When Dean comes, he does it down the boy's throat with a groan. He's got his hands on the back of Castiel's head and maybe he gets a little bit carried away, because he's dragging him forward and thrusting into a wet mouth and forcing himself in. He holds Cas there and the boy has no choice but to swallow, his eyes pleading with Dean as his throat works around him.

By the time he lets Cas go, there are tears streaming down his face. Not because he's in distress, but because he's been choking on a cock too big for him.

He collapses to the front this time, catching himself on his elbows, and rakes in the breath that Dean hadn't let him take. There's spit and semen on his lips and he gags, torso heaving with it as a string of spit falls to the floor.

Dean takes a moment to bask in the high and then tucks himself back into his briefs, pulls his jeans back up. He smirks at the sight of Cas on the floor, listening to him sputter. He goes into the bathroom, filling up a glass of water and setting it down next to Cas's hand. He looks like a fucking dog, on hands and knees and panting with his head down. Makes Dean want to put him on a leash.

"Such a good boy, Cas," he praises, and he hears a stifled sob coming from down by his feet, directed into the ground. The kid won't look at Dean.

He leaves Cas on the floor, but before he goes, he undoes the shackle around his ankle. Show him that good things can happen when he behaves.

Besides, it's not like he'll try to escape; wait at the door and attack. Dean doesn't think that Cas will be trying his luck against Dean's own strength anytime soon.

//

Castiel's mouth has become Dean's new favourite thing.

It's really bad news for Cas, but Dean is living life on the fucking top. He's glad he waited as long as he did to make Cas suck him off. It's been a few months since they... met, not that Cas has the privilege of knowing that. It was worth it, Dean thinks. Different than anything he's done before, but worth it. Most kids get a night or two, a week at most, and Dean usually gets right into all the good stuff before getting rid of them when he's had enough. But Cas? Cas is worth keeping around. With him, Dean knows it's best to take it slow.

That being said, it gets harder not to just pin him down and rape him with every passing day. And, of course, "taking it slow" no longer applies to blowjobs, because they've already crossed that line, so Dean isn't holding back on that front.

Anything to do with those pretty pink lips, Dean wants. He makes Cas kiss him like a whore, and he's good at it. Makes him suck his cock whenever he feels like getting off, because that's at his disposal now and goddamn it, he's gonna utilize that. Once he backed Cas's head against the wall and shoved into him, giving him nowhere to go. By the time Dean came, Cas's eyes were rolling back and he was about ready to pass out. Not that Dean would have cared. A mouth is a mouth, whether or not the person is conscious.

He's learning to submit. More and more, he gives in to whatever Dean wants him to do. Knows that it's best not to put up a fight. Obviously he's still just a kid, has still got a primal sort of snark in him, some predetermined steeliness that'll take a long time to squash. But that's okay. That's what Dean's here for. He'll just keep on punishing Cas until he learns to bite his tongue and give up the push-back. The refusal. The fight-or-flight. The punishments are a win/win, for Dean that is. He gets to hurt something and it earns him brownie points with Cas, because after the pain comes the comforting and that's what's gonna make Cas fall for him. The gentle touches and the kind words and the praise and the aftercare.

But Dean is always gonna be Dean. He can't change who he is. Sometimes, he gets ticked off or downright angry, and he forgets to include the nice stuff. He just takes, and inflicts, and you know what? Sue him. Cas always has it coming, anyway.

Dean makes him choose the method: do you want me to hit you until you cry, or cut you until you've learned your lesson, angel? D'you want to go two days with no sleep, or no food? If you can take all of me without gagging, I'll give you another blanket.

Cas doesn't like dean's dick, but he'll learn.

He still does that blanking-out thing every now and then, and it's annoying as shit. Cute, but annoying. Dean has taken to twisting his wrist every time he does it.

"You want me to stop, Cas?"

"Y-yes!"

A harder grip.

"Say it."

"I wa-ant you to stop!"

Gasping breaths, tears running down cheeks.

"Why should I?"

"Y-you'll break it. It's gonna break."

"Maybe that wouldn't be such a bad thing, Cas."

Sobbing. Full-on sobbing. Jesus, this kid's pain tolerance really can't be built up for shit.

"Please, Dean, it hurts. You're hurting me--"

"Are you gonna start paying attention, listening to what I say? Hm? Gonna stop staring off into outer space?"

"I promise. Yes, I promise. Please just let go!"

Everything's coming up Dean. He's got a system. It works. And the best part? He doesn't have to follow it if he doesn't want to. He doesn't need a fucking reason to hurt Cas, he doesn't need to explain himself. Doesn't have to answer to fuckin' anybody. He can put off Cas's rape, draw it out as long as he fuckin' wants, make him wonder when it's gonna happen. And at the same time, he can force him to go down on him until he's clawing for air. And what's Cas gonna do? Overpower him? Talk him out of it? Come up with an ultimatum? It's unlikely.

Dean is in control. He's got the upper hand at all fuckin' times, and nobody would believe the kind of power trip it's giving him. He controls what happens to Cas; whether he lives or dies, when he eats, when he fucking breathes. It's delicious.

And nobody can stop him.

//

"Dean, please, no."

"What's that, angel? I couldn't hear you."

Hands held behind his back. Blue dress tie from the back of Dean's closet knotted perfectly, scrawny fingers clawing at silk.

A piece of cloth shoved between his teeth and tied around his head, another one over his eyes.

They're in Dean's bedroom. A fucking luxury, if you ask him. It's only once before Cas has been in here, and it's a million times better than the basement. Honestly, he should be thanking Dean. Expressing gratitude, offering favours in return for the kindness. Instead he's whining through his clamped-shut teeth all while Dean's trying to give him a gift.

Getting him naked was difficult. He fought more than Dean would have liked. All it took was some yelling and a couple slaps to the face and two strong hands holding down skinny ankles, and the boy's underwear was off. Dean hasn't even properly molested Cas yet, so he doesn't really understand why he's being such a little bitch about it. There's still progress to be made, he supposes.

The room is dark and Dean's got a glass of whiskey in his hand. He's leaning against his desk, looking down at where Cas is sat back on his haunches. There are snatches of whimpers coming from Cas, but other than that it's silent. Dean likes to draw it out, the stillness, especially when Cas can't see. That way he never knows what's gonna come next. Suspense - fear - is half of Dean's power, anyway.

It doesn't hurt, either, that Dean is fully clothed. In a dress shirt at that. Nice pants. Cuff links. The whole deal. Nothing quite like a nice degrading power imbalance to really show someone their place.

"All you gotta do is grind up on me a bit, baby. It's not that hard."

Tears soaking the boy's blindfold.

"C'mon, Cas. It's right there in front of you. Feel for it."

And then, when Cas doesn't move:

"I'm not gonna wait much longer. Trust me, you really don't want me to get impatient."

Cas seems to understand. He hesitates, and then scoots a little bit closer until his groin is pressed up against the toe of Dean's wingtip.

"That's it." Emphasis on the thaaat's. "You always make me feel so good, sweetheart, now it's your turn. Don't you want that?"

He's sure it's fucking humiliating, but that's kind of the whole point.

"I asked you a question, Cas."

If the boy's eyes were uncovered, he'd be giving Dean that adorable, confused-and-questioning look. Puppy-dog eyes made brighter with tears. But Dean ignores his confusion, just waits for an answer.

Cas sighs, blowing air out through his nose.

"I wan'it," comes the muffled response through the cloth. It doesn't sound like much coming through the makeshift gag, but Dean understands.

"Then show me," he says. Takes a swallow from his glass. "We're not leaving 'til you show me."

There's a long moment of complete silence, neither of them moving. It's Cas's move, Dean has nothing more to say, but the kid's not doing anything. He's just sitting there, head drooping a little bit, as if that will help cover him up or hide his shame. Dean can wait all night, he has nothing to do. It's Cas who needs to pick up the pace, if he wants to get back his clothing. Get back to his bed.

He's blushing so hard, his chest is pink.

Finally he pushes his hips forward, his dick sliding across the top of Dean's dress shoe. Cas is so embarrassed, so hesitant, that it's going to take a while for him to actually get hard.

Too fuckin' bad.

Dean takes another swig, watches from where he stands as Cas continues to thrust against him. The poor boy keeps stopping, head turning up like he's looking at Dean through his blindfold. But he knows he has to keep going, get it over with, so he does. Eventually (and it does take a while), he gets to the point where it's actually doing something for him.

He's picking up the pace, grinding down against the shiny leather of Dean's shoe like it's a pillowcase or a palm, his forehead rested against the man's thigh.

Dean can't even begin to imagine what the kid must be feeling right now. "Humiliation" probably doesn't even scratch the surface. Still, he does as he's told, practically humping Dean's leg because he has no choice.

Jesus, drugs aren't shit for Dean compared to the high this feeling gives him. He thrives on power. If he's not in the position to degrade someone else, he's not living.

He finishes his drink and sets it down on the desk next to him, taking the opportunity of a free hand to smooth down Cas's hair.

"That's it, baby. Keep goin'."

Cas says "mmph". Dean doesn't know what the fuck that's supposed to mean, but it conveys a weird mix of desperation and embarrassment. He chuckles, fingers tracing down the side of the boy's neck.

"Best to keep quiet now," he says. "Just focus."

Cas is breathing rather heavily through his nose, still leaning his head against Dean's legs as he thrusts. It can't be comfortable, but friction is friction is friction. Another minute or so and he's groaning through the cloth, movements becoming jerky as he coats Dean's laces with come.

He slumps, shoulders shaking slightly, pathetic little moans coming from the back of his throat.

"Good boy, Cas," Dean coos. "So fuckin' hot, baby."

He reaches down, unties the gag, and pulls it from Castiel's mouth.

He immediately lets out a rush of air, mouth hanging open as he breathes. He's licking his lips, probably trying to get some moisture back on his tongue. Dean holds his face in his hands, leans down, and kisses him. Cas has to let it happen, sort of welcomes it, actually. It's the least sexually invasive thing Dean's done to him in days.

After a moment, Dean's hands trail up to the knot in Castiel's blindfold. He starts to work the fabric undone, but stops. Clicks his tongue.

"...You know, you made a pretty big mess, Cas."

Cas tilts his head. His voice is gravelly when he speaks. "I-I... I couldn't..."

"Hey, it's okay, it's alright. You just gotta clean it up, is all. We're gonna keep this on until you're done, okay?" Dean tugs on the cloth over Cas's eyes.

Cas stays quiet, sitting back and waiting. Waiting for a rag so he can clean, maybe.

Cute.

"Well? What're you waiting for? Get to work."

Cas bites his lip. There's something he's not getting, and he knows it. "How am I s'posed to..?"

He trails off, because Dean's fingers are at his mouth. Tracing over pouty lips, feeling the curve of his cupid's bow. He pushes his thumb inside Cas's mouth, pressing gently on the tip of his tongue.

He leans down again, this time so Cas can hear his quiet, sinister tone.

"Clean it," he says darkly, thumbing at his tongue.

Cas seems to get it at that, because he whimpers like a little kid. He looks like he wants to protest so badly, but they both know he won't.

Dean thinks he sees the wet spot in his blindfold grow a little. Such a sensitive kid, Cas is.

"I won't ask again," he warns.

Cas presses his lips together, scoots himself backwards a little. Then, with his hands still tied behind his back, he bends down and hovers above where he guesses Dean's shoe is. He guides himself by letting his shoulder touch Dean's leg as he trails all the way down, feeling his way and stopping when he gets where he wants to be.

He stays like that for a while, breathing. And then, quickly, like he's made up his mind, he sticks his tongue out and licks a stripe up the toe of the dirtied shoe. His own come collects on his tongue and Dean has to press a hand to the front of his pants as he watches. If Cas has any complaints, he doesn't voice them. He just keeps at it, tongue sliding over smooth, shiny black leather. He starts to pull back up but Dean stops him.

"Didn't get it all," he scolds.

Cas makes a sound at the back of his throat like protest, but swallows thickly and leans back down.

Good boy.

He can't see, and he'd probably rather be doing anything else, but he does his job. Tracing the tip of his tongue along the edges of the shoe, then flat against the toe. Cleaning it off as if he likes it, even up to the laces to lap up the come splattered there. When Dean is satisfied, he kicks his foot up a little, lifting Cas's chin with his toe.

"Hold still," he says, and then gets down on his knees. Unties Castiel's hands, tosses the tie to the side. He looks at Cas's lips, red from being worried and pressed together, and shiny with spit. Leaning forward, Dean takes the boy's bottom lip between his teeth and bites down just enough to elicit a squeak of pain. Cas's hands fly up to Dean's shoulders, but when Dean starts to kiss him, he reciprocates.

Cas's mouth tastes like musk and salt and Dean leans hungrily into it, pushing Cas back until he's lying down with Dean between his legs.

He won't touch Cas between the legs, not now when he's exhausted and probably sensitive and has already done everything that's been asked of him. No, that'll come later. Right now the kid deserves a break.

So Dean kisses him and eventually takes his blindfold off and tells him that if he's good, if he continues to show Dean that he can obey, then maybe Cas can start staying upstairs for longer. Unsupervised, unrestrained. And wouldn't you like that, Cas? Wouldn't you like being upstairs with me most of the time?

He would, Dean thinks. And if he doesn't, he'll learn to.

Chapter Text

Don't ask Cas what he's feeling. Just don't.

He doesn't know; may not ever know again for certain. For the last few daysmonthsyears, everything inside him has been building and building, a boiling pot of water ready to spill. Every emotion, every thought, every impulse-- they're all clashing against each other. Grinding up against the very essence of who Cas is and he can't decipher any of them if he tried. It's a scary feeling, not to know your own mind. To have all concepts of morality and freedom and self-advocacy thrown out the window. It's gotten to the point where Cas is terrified that some divine force is finally just going to reach down and turn off the heat, and the water about to spill over the sides of the pot will just settle. Still there, but stagnant and simmering and void.

He doesn't want to become void. He doesn't want to be stagnant and emorionless. He doesn't want to become a robot; a puppet. But he fears that soon he won't be able to handle all the inner contradiction, and he'll give himself away to be Dean's toy. He thinks of his brothers, how hard they'd want him to fight. To think of himself as a moldable, usable un-person isn't bearable.

But is that what he is already? When he complies with Dean's orders, is that what he becomes?

He obeys Dean to survive. He obeys Dean to avoid being hurt and hit. He obeys Dean so that his face doesn't get shoved under the running tap, cold water pouring down his nose and throat. So that he won't get sweet-smelling smoke blown in his face, making him cough and laugh and feel like jelly in his limbs. So that he won't be blindfolded and restrained, unable to tell where the blade of Dean's knife is going to land next. He obeys Dean so that he'll stop holding his wrist in a vice, an iron grip, threatening to break it if he stares into space for too long.

He obeys Dean to heal.

But...

Maybe...

Maybe he does it because he likes the reward, too.

Maybe he obeys because sometimes when he does, Dean calls him good boy and caresses him and strokes his cheek and presses soft kisses to his lips. And he likes it.

Sometimes Cas analyzes his behaviour and thinks, I'm already there. I'm already his toy. His thing. Gabriel would be so disappointed.

But then something rushes to the surface, something that says this is wrong and fight back, and there it is. The constant, nagging cycle of back-and-forth, of indecision, of fleeting, contradictory urges and thoughts.

His mind is the puzzle that he and his brothers always bring out at Christmas, trying and failing each year to solve. Giving up before they've figured it out. It feels hopeless and messy and that hopelessness is so debilitating, so dehumanizing, that Cas does not want to fall prey to it anymore than he already has.

He thinks about everything Dean does to him. What he ever did to deserve it. By now, he's an experienced sexual assault victim. He knows what it feels like to have a grown-up hand sneak under the blanket and down his underwear in the middle of the night. He knows to hate himself and he knows that Dean doesn't care if he does. So he puts his hands where he doesn't want them and he puts his tongue where it shouldn't be and he moans pretty like he's supposed to, when he's supposed to, the way Dean likes. And if he ever fights back (only every once in a while, the fight is leaking out if him day by day), he gets punished.

That's where the pain comes in.

The funny thing about pain is that it's always new every time. In fact, it might just be the one thing that nobody in the world could ever, ever get used to. If Cas ever gets out of here (a funny thought, really, he should become a comedian), he's going to have fucking revolutionary things to say about pain. He remembers a book Lucifer explained to him once, in dumbed-down words because Cas was young and the book was mature. Something about the future and the government and sex and rats in a cage on someone's face and two-plus-two. "Nothing in the world is worse than physical pain", or some shit like that. Then the main character gives in at the end and surrenders himself to the very thing he opposed for the whole entire story just because he couldn't stand to be hurt anymore. "They broke his mind," Luci had said.

Real nice fuckin' book.

Dean has been letting Cas upstairs more and more, just like he promised. He doesn't have to wear a chain around his ankle when he's in the basement anymore either, which is nice. Not that he ever moves anywhere he couldn't have while shackled anyway, but it's the sentiment that counts. Some people might be stupid enough to lift the back part off the toilet and wait by the heavy door for Dean to come through and then bam, right when he opens the door, smash, right into his head, fucking knock him out and then get on top of him and slam it into his skull until his brains are soup and his bones are dust and his eyes pop out and get crushed and his blood is everywhere on Cas's hands and porcelain weapon and bang bang bang bang--

But.

No, thanks.

It wouldn't work, anyway. Dean'd just get mad before he could even get a swing in and overpower him like always and actually Cas would prefer to live, thank you very much.

The upstairs is nice. Really, really nice. It's cavernous, with lots of confusing hallways and rooms and whatnot, but some doors are locked and Cas is scared to go in others. Scared of what he might find.

There are no phones. No landlines. He's never seen Dean's cell phone, if he even has one, and he's sure his own is either smashed by now or hidden where he's never gonna find it.

No radios, either. No computer. One laptop he found sitting on a table once, but it had a password and Dean mocked him when he caught him trying to decipher it. Then, when the mocking was done, he slammed his head into the table and told him not to test his luck.

No windows. Only one exit, as far as Cas could find. There's a big main entrance, high high ceiling and a few large tables, and big curved staircases on either side of the room going up to the door.

There's a vestibule. The door that leads right into the building, the one that Cas can touch, is always locked. Passcode-protected, and Cas isn't smart or strong enough to break it even if he did have the balls to try. And then there's a small buffer space between that door and the one that he assumes actually goes outside. The first door has a small window, and sometimes he likes to look through it at that second, unreachable door and pretend like he's staring outside at the sun and the grass and the sky.

It's been a while since he's seen those.

Being allowed free range has also presented Cas with multiple opportunities to arm himself. He's thought about it more than once, but he's not brave enough to carry through. There are endless options in the kitchen alone: heavy frying pan, steak knife, grater. Hell, he could take the whole damn knife block with him to defend himself. Elsewhere there are letter openers, vases, razors, screwdrivers, chairs. Things he could potentially use to protect himself, use to hurt Dean. Kill him. There's just one small issue.

If Dean dies, the passcode to the door dies with him, and Cas will be left to starve alone with a decaying body in the bunker.

Upon realizing this, Cas's thoughts turned on a dime. Instead he'd started thinking about escaping a different way: taking that same steak knife and slicing himself open with it. How fucking poetic, right? If his family can't have him-- if the world can't have him-- then neither can Dean.

But it's all merely speculation. Cas is too afraid to do something like that. Afraid of what would be waiting for him on the other side, of what it would feel like to die alone and defeated. Most of all, he's afraid of failing, and being found out by Dean, and being made to wish he had succeeded in the first place. Besides all that, it's not like Cas could really kill himself. He's still got hope, as stupid as that sounds. He's still got a normal life to look forward to, at the prospect of ever getting out of here.

And so he stays. Never leaving, never changing, never doing anything about this life.

He doesn't look good.

What he loves about upstairs is that there's so much light, even in the bathrooms. He gets big mirrors and bright lights and that's great, except every time he looks at himself he feels a tightness in his throat.

Sick. That's how he looks. Skinny and sore and droopy, sallow skin and bags under his eyes. Tiny bits of stubble. Dean says he'll get him his own razor soon.

And then there's the embellishments. Tiny white cords of scar tissue littering his torso, his arms. Shiny and taut and itchy, but arranged in neat little rows at least. Dean is nothing if not precise. Redder if they're new, bloodier if they're really new. There are bruises, too. Green and yellow on his ribs, tiny red splotches on his wrists. Large, deep purple spots on his jaw, his cheekbone. A black eye, every now and then. Raccoon eyes whenever he gets hit on the back of his head, his brain colliding with the front of his skull and causing dark pockets that show what a perfect little punching bag he can be. And, of course. Of course there's the one. The one that fills Castiel's gut with a squirming, sticky shame every time he sees it.

WINCHESTER.

Right there under his left collarbone, just as Dean left it. Just as Dean branded him. He doesn't want to talk about it.

He still has to earn the privilege of being upstairs full-time, and he's trying. It's hard and humiliating and wrong and it goes against everything he's ever stood for, but god help him, he's trying to please Dean. After all, he's not sure how much more he can take of that basement.

Every time Dean drags him down there again he realizes more and more how much he hates it, how badly he longs to stay out. With each time Dean grabs his upper arm and starts pulling him toward that fateful flight of stairs, he fights a little bit harder not to go. Once in his panic, stumbling over his own feet as Dean manhandled him toward the basement, Cas slammed a closed fist against the man's chest three times in a row before being stopped, and that sure didn't win him any brownie points. But he can't help it. His hatred for - and fear of - that place is growing.

Besides, sometimes when he's upstairs Dean lets him sleep in a real bed. Cas would take that over the basement any goddamn day.

It helps to remember who he's saving by cooperating. Helps him behave himself and prove he can be good by remembering that with every obedient choice he makes, his brothers are safe another night.

God, he misses them. The weird texts he used to send to Gabe. Homework help from Michael, who was patient and always taught a little bit more than he needed to. Luci, who he never got along with the best, but who always had the best interest of the family in mind and did what he had to to keep them afloat. He misses the quiet nights, the four of them each doing their own thing but being comfortable in each other's company. He misses begging Lucifer for a dog and labeling his food in the fridge lest Gabe eat it all and stealing shirts from Michael's drawer when his were all dirty. Fighting for the hot water in the mornings, going out for drives in the middle of the night just to show each other the good music they'd discovered recently. He'd kill for the chance to have one more night with them. One more night to tell them goodbye, and he loves them, and he's sorry.

Dean tells him he needs to move the fuck on or he'll never be happy again, and Cas wants to say well, you got one half of that sentence right.

Despite it all, Cas supposes he can find good moments. He kind of has to, to keep from going completely insane.

Sometimes, Dean plays the guitar to him. He's not a phenomenal player but he's got a good voice, a voice like sea salt. Low and warm and reminiscent of a campfire.

Sometimes he reads to him, Cas cradled in the crook of his arm and Dean doing all the different voices into the top of his head. That can be enjoyable, because Dean always asks questions or says I don't get it and then Cas gets to explain it to him, gets to use his analytical brain and talk about symbolism and parallels and everything else he finds interesting. It's stimulating, like having conversation with a normal, sane human being, or being back at school.

Sometimes Dean pets Castiel's sweaty hair and kisses his forehead and soothes him while he falls asleep after a particularly rough day.

Other times, he calls him a stupid pig and tells him his family is probably glad they don't have to put up with him anymore and leaves him trembling, bruised and suffering on the cold floor.

It's called balance.

Either way, something inside of Cas acknowledges that this is his life now. Whether he likes it or not, this is what he's got. Lump it or leave it.

Makes things a little easier.

//

It's a rainy day when it happens. Castiel knows this because Dean comes into the bunker trailing water behind him, his hair laying flat over his forehead. Cas can see the drops of it fly off him as he moves, the sleeves of his jacket turned shiny with the water and reflecting light. Dean makes a face and gestures to himself like get a load of this shit, and Cas laughs. Then he stops, frozen or maybe a little choked up because he realizes that it's the first time he's done that since being here.

"Fuckin' pouring," Dean says as he comes down the stairs. He sheds his jacket, flinging it over the rail with a wet flop. As he does, Cas notices that he's carrying a plastic bag, carefully bunched at the top so to keep the contents inside dry. Dean doesn't say anything about the bag, just kicks his boots off and claps a soggy hand on Castiel's shoulder as he passes, leaving a wet handprint on his shirt.

He stops, turning back slowly with an eyebrow raised.

Castiel cringes. He'd forgotten about his little trip through Dean's laundry, and he's unsure how the man will react. He bites his lip, looking off to the side.

"That's... new," Dean says.

"I'm sorry," Cas spits out almost immediately. "You didn't say your room was off-limits and I thought... I thought you might not mind--"

"Relax, kid." He reaches out, grabs a bit of fabric near the collar and tugs. "Should have gotten somethin' from the drawers. This one's been worn."

And with that, he leaves. Probably to his room. Cas stands there for a moment, his heart pounding. That could could have gone a lot worse. Like, a lot. In fact, he was expecting it to. That's the thing about Dean: he's unpredictable. His mood can change like the flip of some cruel, cold switch.

For some reason, Cas finds himself shuffling after Dean. Following the few drops of water still finding their way to the floor from Dean's hair. He stands in the doorway, watching the man towel off whatever needs drying. Without turning to him, Dean says, "what's up, Cas?"

Cas starts a little, unaware that he'd made his presence so clear.

"U-um... I guess I just didn't want to be alone," he admits quietly.

Dean smiles, walking over and pulling Cas into his chest. His breath hitches as a particularly sore spot on his cheekbone hits a solid sternum.

"That's okay," Dean says. "I'm here now." He pulls back, but keeps a hand between Cas's shoulder blades. "C'mon, I have something for you."

They walk to Dean's bed and sit. There's an uneasy feeling in Cas's stomach, as there always is, but there's also something nice about having Dean's arm pressed against his own.

Dean turns to him, something playing on his face that Cas can't quite pinpoint.

"Do you know what day it is, Cas?"

What kind of question is this? Dean already knows the answer. Cas hasn't been allowed to know the date since he was taken. It's just another tactic Dean uses to get the upper hand, state his authority over Cas. It's supposed to demonstrate how completely and utterly powerless the boy is, and honestly? It works.

"... No," Cas says cautiously. "I have a feeling you're about to tell me."

Something flashes in Dean's eyes and he reaches for the plastic bag Cas noted earlier. He opens up the top, grabbing whatever's inside to pull out.

It's... a birthday card. Not one of those stupid cheesy ones, but a nice one with metallic lettering done in blue. Dean looks expectantly at Cas, and it takes him an embarrassingly long time to get it.

But when he does, it's like a blow to the chest.

Dean seems to know the exact moment it click's in Castiel's brain, because he starts to grin widely. It's obvious that he's enjoying this. Either he thinks he's doing something so fuckin' kind for a kid on his birthday, or he knows exactly the caliber of what he's doing and it delights him nonetheless.

"Happy seventeenth, Cas."

Cas can't breathe. He really, really can't. He looks up at Dean with shock evident in his features, eyebrows turned up.

"I-I..."

Dean just smiles, his head tilted.

"Y'know, Cas, the thing about cards is that you're s'posed to open them."

Cas swallows, blinks hard to keep the tears in his eyes. If what Dean's saying is true, then that means... oh, god. That means Cas has been here for nearly six months.

Six months? That doesn't sound right. It can't have been. A few weeks, maybe. A month, month and a half at most. But six? It's not possible. This must be a trick, another way for Dean to send Cas into shambles just so he can pick up the pieces and build them back up into his own twisted version of the boy again. That has to be it.

Cas opens the card, and the first words out of his mouth are "tell me this is fake."

He doesn't look up as Dean puts a hand on his arm and rubs, just keeps staring at the card. It's rage, now. Injustice.

And sorrow, of course. Always there under the surface, under everything else. Horrifying loss, and a constant ache, and sorrow.

"You tell me, buddy. Look like their handwriting to you?"

And it does. Right there inside the card are three signatures, each unique and genuine and accompanied by a long, heartfelt note. His brothers. It's obvious they've written him this birthday card out of pure sentiment, or maybe for closure. Maybe they think he's dead and his spirit will happen upon their words, maybe they think it'll put him at rest. Maybe they wrote the card as an act of denial, or maybe so that Cas can have something nice when he finally finds his way back to them. Whatever the reason, it's obvious Dean has stolen it from some mantel or shrine or display; this card meant as a tribute. This card placed carefully next to a photo of Castiel back when he was alive, maybe. An act of rememberance.

Cas wonders briefly what fresh circle of hell Dean Winchester crawled out of in order to exist here on earth, and then he breaks down.

Dean frowns, pulls him close against his chest once more. "Thought you'd be a bit more appreciative," he says, sounding genuinely disappointed. With that Cas wrenches himself away from Dean, jaw set and hands clenched tightly around the stiff paper, distorting it slightly.

"They should be saying these things to my face," Cas says. "They should be looking me in the eye and telling me this in person! Not through some stupid card!" He throws it down, abandoning his brother's symbolic anecdotes and messages of hope.

"Watch yourself," Dean warns quietly, the softness of his voice juxtaposed against Cas's own hard-edged tone.

"Fuck you," Cas spits.

Silence.

"Take me back. Take me back right now."

Dean doesn't respond, which enrages Cas even more.

"Let me be with them! You can't keep me here forever, Dean. I want to leave! I... I hate you. I fucking hate you! I want nothing to do with you."

Dean still doesn't say anything, but there's something in his eyes that looks like a dangerous mixture of anger and amusement. Cas stands up, egged on by Dean's refusal to react. He picks up the card and shoves it against the man's chest, hard enough to make him sway back a bit.

"You can't keep doing this." And the anger has given way just a tiny bit, allowing a tiny bit of sadness to sneak itself in and settle down in Castiel's voice. "You can't keep me here. You can't. You can't."

"And what're you gonna do about it, Cas? Hm?"

Cas is crying, shoulders shaking. He makes a fist and forces himself to let it go. He can't hurt Dean. Not because he himself is weak, but because Dean is a leviathan.

He shakes his head, disgusted by the man in front of him. He has nothing more to say, and any more defiance could earn him some serious punishment.

Dean watches him, studying his face. Then he gives a rough, barking laugh.

"You gonna make me stop, Cas?"

Breathe, Cas. Just breathe. He's trying to get a rise out of you.

In a flash, Dean reaches out and snatches Castiel's wrists up in his hands. Cas immediately starts trying to pull away, digging his heels into the floor.

"No!" He cries. "Let go of me! Don't fucking touch me!"

"Then make me stop," Dean teases. "C'mon, baby. You hate me so much, stand up to me. You hate being here? Then get out. Make me stop and get away from me and get out. Do it."

Cas is trying, he's struggling, and panic starts to rise in his chest. This is too much. Things are moving so fast and emotions are so high that his brain doesn't have time to catch up with his words, his actions. Of course, he can't escape Dean's grip. No way in hell. But he can try.

Dean stands, drags Cas forward a little. Like a ragdoll, that's how easy it is for him.

"Stop whining and do something about it," he says, his words biting.

"Stop it! Let go!"

But he won't.

Dean's voice is raised now - he's almost yelling - and paired with Castiel's desperate, angry pleas, it serves to escalate the chaos in the room. Raise the stakes. Put fear in Cas's heart.

"Why don't you fucking kill me, Castiel? Why don't you? Go on."

And he raises Cas's hands, forcibly lifting them up and up, until they're pressed against Dean's throat.

"Now's your chance, Cas! You'd better take it while it's on the fucking table!"

And Dean is so close, Cas can see the veins in the white of his eyes. See the spit flying from his lips, the lines where his eyebrows are furrowed. He cringes away, knees buckling, but he can't collapse. Dean is holding him up by the wrists, and Cas can feel the muscles of the man's throat underneath his fingertips. Dean's in his face, yelling, intimidating, doing everything he can to scare Cas shitless. It's working. Tears stream down Castiel's face and he sobs into his shoulder, turned away from Dean so he doesn't have to stare at those terrifying green eyes any longer.

"You can end this, Cas. Isn't this what you want? Don't you want this!?"

"No!" Cas screams, on the verge of hysteria. He's losing control, and losing it quickly. "Let go, let me go!"

And they're screaming over each other, and Cas is crying, and Dean is fucking furious, and suddenly the roles are reversed and it's Dean who's got his hands on Castiel's throat.

Cas doesn't know when it happened, but he's on the ground. Dean's knees are pinning his arms down at the elbows and jesus christ, it hurts. He's got his big, meaty hands wrapped around a delicate throat and he's pressing his thumbs down viciously, no restraints.

Cas gags, his vision going spotty almost immediately. If he could throw up he would, but it wouldn't get past the iron grip Dean has on his neck. His legs are kicking and his hands grasping for anything they can reach, although he isn't aware of it. All that exists in the world is the pain in his throat, like you wouldn't fucking believe, and the incessant thought that this is it.

This is it.

Dean is going to kill him. He's going to die today - right now - and Dean's going to dispose of his body, and his remains will be found and his brothers will lose all hope they didn't want to admit they still had.

Dean is dark and pissed off and scary as shit as he leans over Cas, and he gives no sign of stopping.

Just as Cas starts to give in to the blackness creeping toward the center of his vision, the pressure is released and Dean is gone from his line of sight.

He rolls over, clawing at his throat. He retches, dry-heaving and managing to scrape in a stubborn breath. His voice is raw as he pants, his head hung low and his stomach convulsing with each gag.

He feels Dean standing behind him, but doesn't have the energy to look.

Thankfully, he is given a few minutes to recover. He's not crying anymore, was shocked out of it, but he's got a headache and a sharp, pounding pain in his throat that will take more than a few minutes to recover completely.

"What do you have to say for yourself?"

Cas can't think straight. In fact, he's probably not thinking at all. The only thing that matters is breathing. He coughs, holding himself up with one hand while the other prods carefully at his throat, where large bruises are most definitely forming.

Dean grabs his forearm, hoisting him to his feet.

Cas won't look at him. He can't. If he does, he'll be scared into submission and he doesn't want that. He leans heavily away; as much as is possible. It's still a chore to breathe, and Dean is shaking him slightly as he speaks.

"I was gonna take my time with you," he says quietly. "I was gonna wait for a time when I was in a good mood, take it slow, make it nice. I don't think I can do that anymore."

There's no way for Cas to know for sure what Dean is talking about, but he's got a pretty good guess and he can practically feel his spirit breaking already.

"No," he says quietly, gravel in his voice.

"You don't get to say 'no' to me after that stunt you just pulled," Dean says venomously. And he starts dragging Cas back toward the bed.

"No," the boy repeats, using his free arm to bar against Dean and try to push himself away. He digs his feet down into the floor but it's no use, doesn't help. Dean is the crocodile and Cas is the tiny bird perched on its teeth, ready for heavy jaws to snap down on him at any moment.

Dean shoves Cas down and he lands on his back on the bed, then immediately tries to scramble back up. He has to get away. But Dean is there - always there to stop him - and he uses one hand square in the middle of Cas's chest to pin him down again.

There's a sudden moment of quiet, where the two are staring each other straight in the eye, Castiel's wide with fear and Dean's bright with anger.

Or maybe... maybe it's hunger.

Crocodile.

Then Cas's shirt is being worked over his head and he struggles, but it actually just helps to get it off even more. As Dean sheds his own, Cas scrambles back on the bed until his shoulder blades hit the headboard.

"Don't," he pleads as Dean comes forward, but the man just shushes him, grabbing an ankle and dragging Cas back toward him.

"This'll be a lot better for you if you cooperate, boy."

Cas swallows, his mouth clamped shut.

"Strip," Dean orders, and he's talking about Cas's underwear.

No way. No fucking way. Cas isn't going to help with this process, not if he can help it. But then... then he sees Dean's rough hands twitching at his sides, and decides that maybe he can avoid being manhandled any more if he just gets it over with.

He feels a stinging in his eyes which must mean he's crying, but he lifts his hips anyway and pushes his underwear down his thighs, exposing himself for the taking. Dean pulls them off the rest of the way and they're discard on the floor. Cas curls into himself, knees to chest. He closes his eyes tightly at the sound of a belt buckle being worked undone and tries to gain control of his breathing, although it's difficult for a multitude of reasons.

He feels a weight on the bed and even through his closed eyelids, Cas can see shadows fall over him as Dean gets closer. There's a hand on his cheek and then a mouth on his, but he doesn't respond to it. That is, not until blunt fingernails dig into his side and he draws in a sharp breath, allowing a tongue to slide into his mouth.

He's pushed back, lying down with Dean's weight on top of him. He's going to he crushed but there's not much he can do about it, so he just tries to shut it off. Go somewhere far away in his brain, somewhere colourless and quiet where boys don't get kidnapped off their front porches and men don't rape and brothers are never, ever separated.

"Have you ever been fucked?" Dean asks, hot breath on Castiel's ear.

He shivers, tries to cringe away but where can he go?

"No," he whispers, because it's true, isn't it? He's fooled around with people but he's never... he's never done that.

Dean chuckles. Cas can feel the soft fabric of Dean's boxers - and something stiff underneath it - grinding down on him.

"Dean, please," he chokes out, his hands gripping the man's shoulders as Dean sucks hickeys into his skin. "L-let's do something else."

He's trying to sound cheerful, trying to sound cooperative and helpful and happy. Let's do something else, Dean. I'd be glad to. Anything but this. Anything.

But there's no response. After a while Dean sits back up, reaches over to his bedside table for a small bottle of lube. Cas tries to clamp his legs shut but Dean's between them, so he just presses his hands to his face and pretends this isn't happening. Dean squeezes a scarily small amount onto his fingers and rubs them together, and Cas feels his chest tighten.

"You ready, baby?" Dean asks, as if Cas has the option to say no.

"Don't do this," he tries. "Please. I don't... I don't want--"

Dean clamps a hand over his mouth, and the reality of the situation sets in. Cas struggles, prying at the man's arm, trying to kick him away. He's frantic, calling out from under Dean's hand, but it just presses down harder and Cas sinks into the pillows. When Dean's free hand wrenches one of his legs to the side, he gives up.

There's a wet finger at his hole and he jumps, feeling a tear slide down his cheek. Dean is grinning to himself, tongue poking out between his wolf's teeth. The finger circles his entrance and then pushes in without warning, and Cas moans defeatedly. It doesn't hurt, necessarily, but it feels indescribably wrong. Dean draws it out halfway, then pushes back in. Cas arches his back in an effort to get away, but it's not like he has anywhere to go. Dean pumps his finger in and out a few more times, before suddenly adding another. Another muffled moan from Cas, his hands clawing at the sheets. This shouldn't be happening. This is so fucking wrong, so evil, so bad.

Three fingers now, and it hurts this time. He yelps, his face contorting. He looks at Dean but can't see him due to the tears clouding his vision.

Dean's fingers are moving inside him, rubbing, and when he bends them slightly, Cas's eyes roll back in his head.

Dean's laughing.

"There you are," he says. Cas cranes his head back, feeling betrayed by the spark he feels deep inside his belly. But then the fingers are gone and Cas clenches around empty space, feeling a deep ache that he's never really experienced before. Dean's hand is still over his mouth, and it's getting a bit hard to breathe.

He sees the man's free arm working to push his boxers down, and whimpers. He hears that sound he's used to by now, the sound of slick skin on skin.

Dean leans forward, his hand still down where Cas can't see it. He feels something pressing against his hole, pressure building up and up.

"Relax," Dean says, his voice husky. He's hovering over Cas, his eyes dark with lust. "Relax, Cas."

But the boy just keeps staring, wide eyes taking in the sight of the man on top of him. He couldn't relax if he tried. Dean licks his lips, then says, "suit yourself".

And he pushes in.

Cas cries out, grabbing onto Dean's arms with a vice grip. The man isn't going slow, he's not hesitating. He's pushing all the way in and it's a pain that Cas can't comprehend. It's quick and unfair and deep, something internal and incessant that threatens to rip him apart.

Cas feels torn, like this is something impossible that Dean is forcing. He's small and weak and that's never been more evident than in this moment. He sobs, drawing in a breath when Dean finally moves his hand in favour of grabbing hold of the boy's hips. Dean pulls back, and Cas feels him slide all the way out.

"Please," he chokes, and Dean shoves back in.

Cas groans, teeth clamped shut and bared. As Dean starts to thrust in and out, his sobs become more and more rhythmic.

Dean is grunting, lips right next to Castiel's ear. He's whispering obscenities that Cas wishes he couldn't hear, like fuck, so good for me and you cry so pretty, sweetheart and you like it, don't you?

He knows it's futile, but Cas continues to beg.

"S-stop it! Dean, please," and he sounds so pathetic he can't stand it.

"Cover your mouth, Cas."

Another whimper.

Dean gets mad, grabs Cas's hand and slams it against his mouth.

Cas cries through his own hand this time, stifling himself. Nice and quiet for Dean. The man picks up his pace, hips snapping forward. Cas slides back a bit with it every time, his legs shaking. He slings his free arm around Dean's neck and pulls him close, needed something to hold onto.

Dean fucks him into the mattress, lifting his hips for easy access. Cas can do nothing but take it, dig his fingers into the muscles of Dean's back and press back his own cries.

Every now and then Dean hits that same spot as before and it feels sinful, something that Cas might enjoy if the circumstances were different. But right now it's just intrusive, an overstimulation.

He thinks this will never end.

Dean keeps calling him sweetheart and baby and he's making grown-up sex noises, grunts and moans that Cas hates.

There are lips on the side of his neck and Cas tilts his head to the side instinctively, closing his eyes and praying for this to be over.

He just wants it to stop.

Dean continues to pound into him, but it gets quicker and quicker until he's practically panting.

"Tell me you love me," he growls against Cas's throat.

What?

When Cas doesn't comply, Dean bites his shoulder hard enough to make him yelp.

"Tell me you love me, Cas."

Cas lets his hand fall to the side and he swallows, feeling the stifling closeness and the suffocating heat of Dean's body on top of his. He's covered in a layer of sweat, but he doesn't know if it's Dean's or his own.

"I..." he trails off, fighting to speak when he just wants to cry. "I love you."

Dean moans, and Cas gasps as Dean shoves forward again.

"I-I love you, Dean," he repeats.

"Again."

This. This is what's going to break him. Cas could keep his dignity throughout all the rest of what Dean has done to him, but this might just be the extent of what he can handle.

"I love you," he whispers, strain evident in his voice.

Dean makes a strangled noise, slowing down suddenly. Cas can feel him shuddering slightly, and there's a feeling like something hot pushing into him. He closes his eyes, lips pressed shut, whimpering as Dean climaxes.

After a few more seconds of laboured breathing and clenched muscles and terrible closeness, Dean pulls out and rolls to the side.

Cas mewls at the absence, immediately curling into himself. This is a different kind of pain, something he doesn't know if he'll ever recover from. He feels Dean snake his arms around his stomach and then there's a hand on his dick, and Cas starts.

"No!" He exclaims through his tears, shoving Dean's hand away. "No!"

"Whatever you say," Dean laughs, pulling Cas close. The boy is crying silently, a dull ache enveloping his entire lower half. He wants to go, wants to shower, wants to sleep. But he'll stay here and endure it until Dean decides he can do something else, because in this world, Dean is fucking God. His word is law, and nothing anybody else thinks or says or does matters.

Nothing.

//

Cas lays on his mattress, back in the basement.

He's trying to conjure up some feeling, some remorse or guilt or hatred or sadness or anything, anything to release the knot he feels in his stomach, but there's nothing.

He feels nothing.

He can't even cry, not anymore. He never did get to read everything his brothers wrote on that card, but it's such a minuscule thing now that he can't bring himself to care.

At some point in the night, Cas snaps awake. Up to that moment he'd slept heavily, but now he's up and he can't get back to sleep and something's bothering him but he can't figure out what. He lays there in the dark, stomach churning with unease. He forces himself to take a deep breath. It's nothing, he tells himself. He's just unnerved by the events of earlier that night. But even still, something's gnawing away at his conscience.

It's not until much, much later in the night that Cas realizes what's bothering him.

When Dean shut him in the basement, dragged him down here once he was sated and sobered from the assault, no longer willing to fight, Cas never heard the thunk of the door's lock clicking into place.

He isn't stuck down here.

Dean has left the door unlocked.

Chapter Text

Dean is well aware that he's not what most people would call a "good person". He's known it since he was a kid, and he's smart enough to look back on his childhood and know that at least he's always been this way. At least his shitty personality isn't a choice, something that can be corrected or fixed. He was born rotten, raised in filth and anger, taught by example to be rough and crude and unforgiving in his violent tendencies.

Violence is rooted in his past, so deep that he'd feel upturned and empty without it. The seed started with his father, the horrible things he'd say to Dean when Mary wasn't around, the things he'd do. It sprouted as Dean got older, growing right along with him. John got worse as Dean outgrew his Skechers and overalls, and eventually little Sammy got a taste of it too. The seed finally bloomed when Dean started adopting his fathers' bad habits as his own: when he stole his first wallet, smoked his first cigarette, punched somebody weaker than him for the first time, hit a dog not-quite-on-accident and left it in the middle of the road.

He'd tried to protect his brother from it all, protect him from turning out the same as him, but there was only ever so much he could do. He tried and failed, and so protector became bystander, and bystander became perpetrator, and perpetrator became partner in crime.

Sam was the first person who really suffered at Dean's hands, but the past is the past and they both know it. For all the "brotherly" fights and "playful" punches, neither one of them blames the other for anything. They both lived the same childhood, both know what it's like to have violence stuck underneath your fingernails like stubborn splinters of wood. Sam's taller and not as charming and he's perhaps a little more compassionate, but mostly the two of them turned out the same.

So you see, at least Dean's not alone in his personality. He's not the only one. There are others like him in the world, other terrible, horrible people. Other murderers, apologists, assailants. He could lean on that fact, justify his actions, blame them on his upbringing if he really wanted to. And he would, if he cared at all.

The thing is, he doesn't. Dean is well aware that he's not what most people would call a "good person", and he doesn't give two shits.

The world is messy and dark and cold and he's learned that if you want something, you've got to take it. If other people have a problem with the way Dean Winchester lives, let them come to him with fists raised and let them leave crawling on the floor, soaked in their own blood with pleas of mercy thick on their lolling tongues.

Let them.

//

It takes Cas almost the whole fucking night to realize the door is unlocked. By the time Dean hears the creak of the metal door opening followed by hesitant, bare footsteps, he's bored off his rocker. He'd hoped his little captive might have been a little more intuitive, a little brighter, but this is a lesson in patience and, apparently, lowering your fucking expectations.

Cas thinks he knows the bunker, but he's barely scratched the surface in his days up above. It's a big place, maze-like, with doors that lead to nowhere and hallways that lead to a new place every time you walk through the dark of them... or so it seems. You'd have to be an expert to really navigate the place, and this claim is proven by two happenings: Cas is fumbling around in the dark, getting lost on his way, and Dean can trail him in the shadows and under doorways without even being glimpsed.

Part of Dean wondered if Cas would be too scared to go for it, but he supposed that in the end, hope will always trump fear, no matter how valid that fear is.

Cas is pattering around in his bare feet and boxers, small shoulders shaking visibly even in the dark. It took him five minutes just to climb the stairs leading up from the basement, as he kept stopping to listen for Dean-- and have multiple small panic attacks. Dean was sure in those moments that the kid would scurry back down and tuck himself in, but he stuck it out and eventually made it all the way upstairs.

His boy keeps surprising him.

He sets a careful pace, keeping his steps light as he follows Cas through the bunker. He can hear the boy's heavy, terrified breathing from up ahead of him, and he makes sure never to get too close. Cas keeps whipping his head around at non-existent sounds, eyes wide and lips parted. He's scared. Scared of getting caught, scared this is a trap. But every time he looks, Dean melts into the shadows like he is one, and a look of calm momentarily passes over the boy's features before he continues on down the halls, thinking he's safe.

Cute.

They make it all the way to the kitchen before Cas has his first real panic attack, crumpling to the floor with his back pressed against the wall.

Dean watches with interest, eager to know what his victim will do next in this unsuspecting gane of cat-and-mouse.

Cas is breathing hard through his mouth, hands clasped on either side of his head as his chest heaves. He's looking around frantically, as though he's been sleep-walking and is just now realizing where he is.

What he doesn't realize is that this isn't so much a trap as it is a test.

Tonight, Dean took what was left of Castiel's innocence. It was something he waited a long time to do, wanting to get it just right. He knew from the start that Cas was special, that he was worth waiting for. In that moment, Dean wasn't just powerful, he was power. He took something Cas can never take back, and it was ownership and infliction and greed.

"I love you," Cas had said. I love you. Wet through his tears, wobbly through the spit on his lips.

Shaky legs, skinny waist, fingernails digging into Dean's shoulderblades. An exposed throat, gritted teeth, grunts of pain and horror and disbelief and shame. Happy seventeenth birthday, Castiel. I won't give you anything but I'll sure as hell take, take until you're cowering underneath me with your legs spread like you want it.

The rape wasn't a choice, but the unlocked door? This is a chance for Cas to prove himself. Show Dean he can truly be trusted. All he has to do is give up now, before it's too late. Just realize the kind of position he's in, and call out for Dean, and say I made a mistake, please forgive me, I didn't mean it.

Dean would cluck his tongue and take hold of Castiel's wrist, maybe press his hand to the hot stove or break a couple fingers, and then that'd be it.

But if Cas makes the choice to leave? Dean will have to make sure it's the last time he ever tries it.

Cas drags himself to his feet after what looks like a considerable amount of inner turmoil, and they're on the move again. When they reach the entry hall, Dean takes up post against a far wall, watches Cas climb the stairs slowly. When he gets to the top, he puts his hands against the door and stares out of the little window, silent and still for a long time. A held breath, a speck of dust suspended in a beam of sunlight.

And then he turns around and goes back down the staircase.

Dean thinks maybe Cas is forfeiting, but really he just grabs a paperweight off one of the tables and trudges right back up.

When Cas finally works up the courage to raise the small stone weight, ready to smash it through the window in pursuit of freedom, Dean can't help but chuckle at the sheer audacity of this kid.

At the sound of it, Cas whips around, paperweight raised and eyes glowing white in the dark of the bunker. Dean stays silent for a few long moments, unmoving as Castiel's eyes scan the vast room and its adjoining hallways.

He was going to give Cas the chance to redeem himself, make the smart choice, retreat with tucked tail, but the window is as good as smashed already.

He decides, what the hell.

He stands, and hears Cas cry out at the sudden movement. Moving slowly towards the staircase, Dean watches as Cas frantically whirls around and slams the paperweight into the window.

The force isn't enough. He drops the weight, curses, and fumbles with it as he tries again. Dean can hear him crying.

On his third try he succeeds, glass shattering inwards on the floor of the vestibule between the two doors. Dean reaches the bottom step, smirking. Cas is muttering nonsense to himself, making desperate sounds between his laboured breaths.

He places his hands on the broken window frame and cries out as his hands are sliced open by the broken glass, but he hoists himself up anyway.

Dean starts to climb.

Cas is sobbing, trying hard to lift himself up. He's weak, and in pain from earlier events. But fear is one hell of a motivator.

He gets himself up and fits his front half through the window. He's just small enough, his skinny frame coming in handy for once. Dean can see blood as he slides through the window, his torso falling victim to the shards of glass. Dean is just a few feet away now and Cas tumbles through the window, a thump sounding from the other side of the door as he lands, accompanied by the tinkling of more glass. Dean is at the top of the stairs now, and he stops in front of the broken window.

Cas stares back at him, mouth slack, silent tears streaming down his face. Neither one speaks. There's virtually no space between them, their air shared and tense. If Dean wanted to, he could reach his arm through the window, grab hold of Cas's hair, and slam him against the door until he dies knowing his mistakes. Lucky for the kid, Dean is feeling gracious. Cas's face is pure terror, and jesus, it's satisfying. After a while the boy starts to whimper, clearly torn between his options. It's obvious he doesn't want to turn his back on Dean to open the final door between him and the outside world. Dean just stands, giving him a hard, close-mouthed grin. Cas's face crumples as he gives in to the tears, the situation becoming too much for him.

Poor thing. Dean isn't a bit sorry.

Slowly, without breaking eye contact, Dean raises his hand and starts to punch in the code to the door.

Cas makes a sound of panic and turns, wrenching the door behind him open to reveal the dim forested landscape surrounding the bunker, just barely lit by the sun starting to come up over the horizon.

He runs.

Dean completes the code, pulling open the first door and then striding through the second, which Cas left open in his haste. His boots tread over broken glass and then grass and then dirt as he stalks after his prey. It's a manhunt, and Dean has the upper hand.

Cas crashes recklessly through the brush, tearing a path that even a blind man could spot. Dean follows his panting, his doomed moaning, his footsteps and his clumsy strides.

Castiel, you reckless boy. You've caused yourself a world of hurt.

At last, Cas finds the dirt road leading into Dean's property. If he keeps following it, he'll get to the highway.

Dean sees him up ahead, stumbling along the road, losing stamina as he goes.

He could end this right now, but that would be too easy. He wants Cas to get a taste of success first before he shoves it back down his throat and makes him sorry to ever have taken a breath on this miserable earth.

The boy breaks free of the tree-lined pathway, stuttering out onto the paved road. He trips, crashing hard into the ground, but he's on his feet the next second, and now he's calling for help.

That's right, sweetheart. You plead all you want. The only one who can hear you is me, and the justice I'm going to bring you is made of fucking hellfire.

Castiel's voice is raw and pathetic as he calls out to nobody but a cruel god who wants nothing more than to watch him squirm.

"If you weren't running before, you'd better start now," Dean calls out on a growl.

Castiel whips around.

Dean raises his gun.

Chapter Text

Castiel's heart is racing.

The silence seeping out of the shadows is haunting, and he keeps imagining little sounds everywhere he goes. The creak of a door, a light switch being flipped the next room over, footsteps following him from a ways back. But every time he looks, there's nothing there; the bunker is silent. Empty. He stops frequently as he makes his way through the maze of the building, checking over his shoulder and pausing with every sound - real or imaginary - he hears.

When he gets near the kitchen something clicks inside his brain, and he realizes what he's done.

If Dean catches him out sneaking around, he's dead.

He's fucking dead.

It takes him a long time to work through the panic that settles into his bones then, and he has to allow himself a small, quick mental breakdown on the floor before he's pushing himself to his feet again and taking off in the direction of the only exit.

Standing on the landing at the top of the stairs is surreal. He's never been this close to the door, never even been up the staircase before. Never had a reason to be. But now he's staring through the small window at the other door, the last two solid things between him and a normal life.

His breath fogs up the glass, a white smudge that ebbs, disappears, reappears. It reminds Cas of his own fucking courage. Because now that he's standing at the door, he's not so sure he can do this. He keeps expecting Dean to come bounding into the room at any moment, righteous anger evident in his eyes, fury balled into his trembling fists. Cas places his hands on either side of the window, presses his forehead to the cool glass and forces himself to take a few deep breaths.

You can do this, Cas. Think of Gabe. Think of their faces.

He turns and sneaks back down the staircase, grabs the first heavy thing he sees. It's a stone paperweight, and if he weren't running purely on adrenaline, he might have stopped to think about what a useful coincidence it was to be sitting right there on the table. Handy.

He goes back up the stairs, and by now he feels sick. Light-headedness is a common occurence under Dean's control, but this time it's almost too much. He gives his head a shake, forcing a small, steady breath out through his pursed lips.

Dean really did it. Cas had begun to think that maybe the violation would never come, but in the end, it had come and it had come hard, fast, painful. Cas remembers Dean's sweat, a hot and heavy torso pressing down on his own. He remembers a hand on top of his mouth, blocking the air, demanding silence. Pliability. Compliance.

Cas thought he knew helplessness, but he didn't until the moment Dean wrenched his leg to the side and pushed in without restraint. There was nothing he could do but take it, whimpering like a kid at times and letting out strained, wrecked groans through his gritted teeth the next.

He won't go through that again. He won't. Instincually, recklessly, without deciding to, Cas raises the paperweight, ready to smash the window and this life to fucking pieces.

The chuckle is quiet, distant, but damning.

Unmistakable.

Cas whips around, fear gripping his heart. He presses his bare back to the cold metal of the door behind him, eyes so wide it hurts as he scans the dark entry hall beneath the railing. Dean's here, he has to be. That laugh was too real.

Cas can see nothing but tables and chairs, shelves of books, hard floor and shadow. He's holding the paperweight out in front of him, feeling like he's about to throw up. Dean might strangle him, or throw him over the railing, or beat him to death, or worse.

And then the man stands, his chair scraping back, a dark shape in the shadows that had been invisible before.

It's in this moment that Castiel's heart stops beating, and it's in this moment that he realizes Dean Winchester is not human; cannot be.

He emits a sound like pure fear and turns, smashing the weight into the window finally.

It doesn't break, Cas's shaky, malnourished limbs proving too weak for escape.

Maybe he doesn't deserve freedom.

From the corner of his eye, Cas can see Dean getting closer to the bottom of the staircase. He's sure he's crying by now, but he can't afford to stop and check. He bends to pick up the paperweight that he'd dropped, scrambling with it in his tv-static fingers. He slams it into the window, and a spiderweb crack is all he's awarded with.

Mumbling frantic nothings, Cas gives it a third try and cries out in relief as the glass shatters inwards, small shards exploding onto the floor. Dean is so close now, and in a few more moments he'll be within arm's reach. Cas grabs the ledge created by the now empty window frame, gives a small squeak as he feels the skin of his palms tear open on the shards, and starts to hoist himself up.

It's hard, but he does it. He has to. If he wants to avoid death at the hands of the force that is Dean Winchester, he has to.

His small body fits through the window too easily, and he tips with a thud onto the floor.

He groans as he lands hard on his shoulder, glass immediately pushing into the skin. He feels blood trickling down his chest and realizes suddenly that he got cut there, too, on his way through the broken window frame. When he stands up, Dean is staring at him.

Cas freezes, thinking absolutely nothing and absolutely everything at the same time. He stares into those unforgiving eyes, beautiful and green even in the darkness, and feels tears slip down his face.

Dean doesn't say anything, doesn't even click his tongue or laugh. He just stares, a sly grin on his face like he can't wait to make Castiel pay.

The boy gives in to his tears, a small sob tearing out of his throat. If he turns, if he looks away, anything could happen. It's like he's frozen in time, stuck in space, suspended.

Catch me, Gabriel, I'm falling.

Help me, anyone, anyone, anyone.

Without breaking eye contact, Dean begins to unlock the only door separating them, and Castiel runs.

//

The outside world is disappointing.

The ground is a muted grey, like a painting faded by the low light of the morning. The grass is cold and stiff with frost under his feet, the dirt hard and crumbly. Where once Cas would have seen a pretty, mysterious forest, he now sees ugly, snarled trees: obstacles in his path to liberation, a stretch of land taunting, neverending.

It's been a while since he's exerted himself like this, almost six months, to be exact. The only running he's ever done in the bunker had been during the rare, playful, happy moments with Dean. Add all that to the fact that the ground is uneven, the air is biting cold on his bare skin, he's already having a hard time breathing due to anxiety, and that Dean is infinitely faster than him - stronger - bigger?

Cas is losing the fight before it's even started.

He stumbles over the uneven ground, brush and branches hitting his skin as he runs, only one goal in mind. Get out.

He trips more than once, but never lets himself fall. He has to keep going. His knees scrape the ground one time, his knuckles another. But he's always pushing, continuing, escaping.

And Dean is always there just behind him.

Suddenly Cas bursts through the trees onto a packed dirt road, and the unexpected solidity of the terrain catches him off guard. His breath is coming fast and shallow, scraping dry at his throat. Soon, he won't be able to keep going. His poor health and the doom of this situation will get the best of him. But he follows the road nonetheless, and it takes a bit of restraint not to break out into screams of triumph and tears of joy as he reaches a paved highway.

He can hear Dean behind him but still he runs, the numbness in his limbs telling him keep going.

Just one car. One car is all he needs. One jogger, one nearby neighbour, one soul. One soul is all he needs.

"Help!" he screams, gravel and glass and dread in his throat. "Help me, please!"

He is so close. He can hear his brother's laughter, can see their warm expressions, can feel their hugs and pats on the back. He cries, arms hanging at his sides, back bent as he drags himself forward. He's slowing, drained of energy and oxygen, screaming for that one soul to hear him.

But it's just him and Dean.

"If you weren't running before, you'd better start now," comes the gruff voice from behind him.

He turns, despair tight in his chest.

Dean raises his gun.

//

By the time Dean reaches him, Cas is a shaky mess. It took him all of two seconds to fall to his knees and beg forgiveness, beg mercy.

Sharp pebbles dig into his knees as he grovels, his hands held up above his bowed head defensively.

"Please," he sobs into the ground. "Please, I'm sorry, I don't want-- I need you to... I'm sorry, please, oh jesus! Oh-hh..."

Dean stands before him, unmoving and silent.

Cas feels the barrel of a gun press into the top of his head and he cries out, flinching away, throwing himself sideways. His vision is blurry from terrified tears, and he barely registers the pain across his body from the glass, branches, and hard ground.

He turns onto his stomach and begins to drag himself away, but Dean stomps down hard on the back of his right calf, pinning him to his spot, and he screams. Presses his forehead into the asphalt. Feels sobs wrack his body, choke him into submission.

"I'm sorry," he wails, a string of spit trailing from his lips to the ground.

There's a hand in his hair and then Dean smashes his face against the ground. Cas feels his nose break.

"Why don't you call for help again?" Dean suggests. He doesn't sound angry, but delighted. "Go ahead, Cas. You got all the way out here, I'll let you get a few good screams out before you go back in."

Before you go back in. It's not just a possibility, it's not a mere chance, it's a surety. This is over. The unlocked door was not a mistake, and Cas realizes he was being tested from the start. It was a test he was destined to fail, and now he'll learn his lesson.

"I want to hear you, Castiel. I want you to know that nobody is coming for you."

Cas lifts his head, fingernails pushing into the ground.

"Help me," he whispers, and his shoulders convulse with sobs.

"Louder," Dean says.

"Help me!" Cas tries again, pushing himself forward on the ground.

Just one person. Just one.

"Somebody help! Please! He-elp me! Ple-ease--"

The heel of Dean's boot slams down onto Castiel's hand and his words cut short, his mouth agape in shock and pain. No sound comes out.

Dean twists his heel, grinding his foot down, and Cas feels the pop of his fingers dislocating-- or maybe they're breaking. He can't tell, but either way, they'll be crooked for the rest of his forsaken life. The scream that comes out of his throat is patchy and guttural, and he knows he'll have no voice by the time Dean finally kills him.

"How did you think this would end?" Dean asks from somewhere above him. "What good did you think would come out of this?" He crouches, turns Cas over onto his back like roadkill. Blood from his smashed nose runs down his cheeks now; into his mouth. He sputters, sounding like a wounded animal and feeling even worse. His arm is splayed out to the side, his useless, broken hand twitching at the end of it.

"You left it open on purpose," Cas groans.

Dean just gives him a pitying look.

He should have known.

Stupid, stupid boy. You deserve whatever he's about to give you.

Cas is trembling, body sliced open by glass and earth, heart racing, head pounding. He sure as hell wants to be dead, wants this to be over, but when Dean grabs hold of his hair and sneers in his face, he is scared.

"You've broken the trust we spent so long building up, Cas. I can't just let you get away with that."

That's when Cas starts to laugh.

He starts and then can't stop, his mouth open in a grin, licking blood off his teeth as he stares up at Dean.

"You fucking kidnapped me," he says. It takes a terrible effort to even speak, but he doesn't care. "You kidnapped me and chained me up in your basement and beat me." Dean starts to speak, but Cas cuts him off. "You murdered a boy in front of me. You locked me in a freezer."

He must be delirious. That's what this faded, careless feeling is, isn't it? He's losing his sanity.

"You raped me, Dean."

Somewhere, a bird starts chirping as the sun comes up and up.

"You raped me and made me think you'd kill my family if I didn't comply with everything you say."

"Enough monologuing," Dean spits. "I never claimed to be perfect. This is about your mistakes, Castiel, not mine." Then he says, "give me one reason why I shouldn't kill you right here, right now."

Cas is still laughing when he replies, with no hesitation, "because I love you."

There's silence for a moment, so he says it again. And once more after that. He says it through the blood bubbling on his lips, he says it despite the blinding pain he feels. The scariest part is that, for all Dean's done to him, it's completely true.

Dean stands, kicks him abruptly in the ribs, and then drags him unceremoniously into the trees by the side of the road. Cas sees his only chance at survival slipping away, away. He is helpless.

Just as they reach the cover of the trees, just as they cower down, just as Dean pulls Cas into his chest and slams a hand over his mouth, using his other hand to shove a gun into his ribs, Cas sees a car come over the hill down the road. He's instantly sobered from whatever hilarious, dizzying insanity spell he experienced a second ago, the reality of the situation crashing down on him. A car is coming toward them, toward the exact spot they were laying mere moments ago. If the driver looks hard enough, they'll see blood on the road.

One soul.

He's too late.

Now it's Dean's turn to laugh as Castiel moans.

No words can describe what he feels. In this moment, he breaks. His hope is shattered, his determination crushed by a man with startling green eyes and wolf's teeth. The car blurs past without slowing, the driver blissfully unaware of the scene hidden in the bushes just a few feet off the side of the road.

When Dean shoots him, Cas doesn't make a sound.

//

Stillness. Stillness and bated silence and a stinging in his left cheek.

"...Did you just hit him?" Gabriel asks incredulously, his voice a threatening quiet.

Lucifer starts trying to defend his actions at the same time Cas starts crying.

Gabriel pushes past their oldest brother, sweeping Cas into his arms and doting on him immediately.

"He's eight,he hisses over his shoulder, anger evident on his features."

"I-I... I got overwhelmed," Lucifer stammers. "I told him I needed some quiet, I fucking told him to quit pestering me, and--"

"There's no excuse," Gabe snaps, shutting the other up immediately. Cas is still crying, Gabriel taking him by the hand and leading him away to safety.

"It's okay," the boy says through his tears as Gabe takes him away. "It's okay, Luci. I forgive you."

//

Death feels an awful lot like being dragged across  a dirty forest floor.

The grim reaper looks an awful lot like a cruelly beautiful man wearing flannel and a ranch jacket.

His scythe looks an awful lot like a large hand clamped around a skinny white ankle.

--Oh, is that blood?

Hm. Cas wonders briefly why his fingers are bent at an awkward angle when he holds them up to his face to inspect the blood, then he remembers.

He's still being pulled along, and he can hear his father saying lost boy, scrubby kid, go clean the dirt off your face. He finds the source of the blood - most of it at least - somewhere in his side, and realizes that it's pouring steadily. Won't stop, won't staunch, leaving a red stain on the ground as he skids over roots and pebbles. It's rather annoying.

Bread crumbs, he thinks, and doesn't know why.

At some point it registers faintly that he's in indescribable pain, and that's when he blacks out.

And wakes up screaming.

A dark ceiling, bright lights. When he tries to move, he realizes he's strapped down. Wrists, ankles, hips. A strip of soft leather secured tightly over his mouth. Any sound he makes, he'll be forced to swallow back down. He feels cold metal at his back, feels the ache of the various injuries he's sustained in the last hour. Bruised ribs, maybe fractured. Broken fingers. Shards of glass embedded into his skin, cuts across his cheeks from the whip-like tree branches, a freshly broken nose.

The bullet hole in his side.

When he hears heavy footsteps his heart seizes, and when Dean swims into his sight, holding gauze and a pair of pliers, Castiel's screams are magnified.

"I have to get this bullet out of you, love," Dean says sweetly. "So I can sew you back up. I can't have you dying on me, now. That'd be too kind." And digs suddenly and relentlessly into the wound.

The boy's voice is tortured as he shrieks, writhing as much as his bindings allow.

Nothing is real in this moment, nothing exists, except for a fiery pain and the smell of metal.

Tendons in his arms strain as he pulls on the bonds at his wrists, his toes curling and feet kicking against the attack. His knees slam into the table again and again as he twists and thrashes against his restraints, but in the end it's all useless.

The pain is more than he can actually bear.

A steady stream of tears flows from his eyes as his face contorts in terror and pain. It's sharp, deep, coming from his side, and he can't get away. That's the worst part. That's what's cruel. He can try to escape, but he's pinned down and Dean is there, chasing after him with his cold metal tools, tearing his flesh open like he's already dead and this is an autopsy.

Might as well be.

The man must have gotten the bullet out by now, must still be doing this only for the sheer pleasure he derives from it.

Castiel's voice breaks and his screams become silent sobs, wracking his whole body. This moment will never end, not until he mercifully blacks out again.

Dean will always be there.

Cas will always be sorry.

Chapter Text

"I know that look."

First of all, fuck that.

"You've done it again, haven't you?"

Dean doesn't say anything. He looks down at the glass tumbler in his hand, ice long since melted, and taps his fingers against it so that he doesn't have to think about anything else. He hears a long-suffering sigh come from across the table and briefly considers telling his brother to stop being such a drama queen, but silence seems better.

"Dean," Sam chides. "We've talked about this. You can't just keep... acting on your instincts every time you get the urge. I mean, that's what this is about, right? That's why you called? What did you do this time?"

"Would you keep your voice down?"

Sam makes a show of staring out across the bar, searching for a stray listening ear. Then he shrugs. "I don't think any of these shitfaced people are listening, Dean."

Fucking sarcastic asshole.

Dean runs a hand down his face.

"Tell me," Sam urges.

Dean supposes his brother's gonna keep at it until he gets what he wants and that's irritating as shit, but at least this time he's lowered his voice.

"I... I don't know what to tell you, Sammy. I did what I do best."

"You can't even say it, can you? Christ, how bad is it?"

"Bad, okay?" Dean snaps. "It's bad. I fucked up."

Sam lets a long breath out through his nose. "Dean, I can't help you if I don't know exactly what it is we're dealing with here."

There's a long silence. Logically, they shouldn't be discussing this in a crowded bar. If someone were to overhear Dean talk openly about his crimes, and Sam, the ever-supportive yet slightly concerned younger-brother-slash-therapist... that'd be some serious "I'm reporting both of you to the authorities for suspicious behavior" shit. But Dean doesn't trust himself to be alone right now. After a while, he speaks.

"I'm in too deep," Dean says quietly. He's staring down at the grease streaks on the table, too shaken and unfocused to even consider moving from his spot. "I've never let it affect me like this before, Sammy."

Sam purses his lips, then cautiously says, "you got attached."

Dean nods once.

"You got attached, and... and what?" Sam lowers his voice even further. "Did you... you know."

"No. He's alive."

Sam looks like a weary father trying his best. Dean tries not to feel bad about it.

"... He's alive, but I fucked everything up. He got out--" Dean hears Sam's breath catch in his throat. "--and I went after him. Hurt him bad. Shot him in the side, and I--"

Sam shushes his brother as inconspicuously as possible. "Dean? Why don't we go somewhere else."

"--He hasn't said a word since. Like he's gone mute, or something. Won't even cry anymore, except for when he thinks I can't hear him."

One of Sam's fingers reaches out and rests on Dean's knuckle, stopping him from carrying on.

"I really do think we should talk about this somewhere else," Sam says flatly.

Dean blinks like he's coming out of a stupor. Stands up after a moment and grabs his coat.

"I ain't perfect," he mutters as Sam rises from his own seat.

"I know, Dean." And they walk together out the door. "I know."

//

Sam stands at the foot of Dean's bed, staring down at the tiny, stationary lump of blankets that is Castiel.

"He's been like this how long?"

"Couple weeks," Dean groans.

"He's probably in shock."

"Yeah, but... a couple weeks, Sam."

"Doesn't matter. You could be in shock for a whole month. Two, even."

"So what the hell am I supposed to do about it?"

"Well," Sam says, an annoying edge to his voice, "you could have started by not severely physically abusing him."

"Look, if I'd known he'd act like this, I wouldn't have shot the kid."

"It sure as hell doesn't look like an act, Dean--"

"No offense, Sam, but this isn't a good time to lecture me on morals. Okay? You're no saint either."

Sam's got a sour look on his face, but he doesn't argue.

Through all of it, Cas stays still as a block of wood. Even his breathing is too shallow; there's no rise and fall of his chest to be seen. Dean sits down next to him and lays a hand on his bony shoulder.

"Wake up, Cas."

The boy shifts, pressing two fists into his eye sockets like it's seven-thirty on a Monday and Dean's a nagging mother trying to get him up for school. Dean casts Sam a look, then focuses his attention back on the living corpse under the covers.

"I know you're awake. Don't ignore me."

Beautiful blue eyes flick open and stare straight ahead. Dean tugs on Castiel's shoulder so he rolls onto his back, but all the boy does in acknowledgement is drag his eyes up to meet Dean's in a lazy sort of haze. He does nothing else to indicate that he even knows what planet he's on.

"I want you to say hello to my brother."

No response.

"My brother, Cas. His name's Sam. You're gonna sit up and you're gonna say hello."

Slowly, Cas presses his palms to his face and takes in a shuddering breath. Dean rolls his eyes. Cas stays like that for a long moment: breathing deeply but shakily through his nose, face smushed into his hands. It gives the distinct impression that he's willing himself not to cry.

"Jesus," Sam mutters under his breath. Dean sees him turn away, and feels a twinge of guilt in his chest. For what, he doesn't know.

It's not like this is a new thing. It's not like Sam is totally unaware of the things Dean has done; the things he does. But Dean's always been more inclined toward the sadistic than Sam has, even if the younger Winchester does have some unsavoury hobbies of his own.

It started a million years ago, when Dean was a kid. A fucking kid, chubby-cheeked and motherless and utterly without positive influence, unless John's influence counts as positive (it fucking doesn't). Dean learned - no, he was deliberately taught - to be a violent person. The abuse started when he still had all his baby teeth. All of them. It started when he still wore velcro shoes, when he still wasn't allowed to sit in the front seat of his dad's car, when he didn't even know the five times table yet. So, yeah. Beg Dean's fucking pardon if he tends to be a little violent.

He can't help the inclination.

(Sam says the inclination doesn't matter, so long as Dean "chooses" not to go through with it. At the end of the day, they both know that's bullshit and there's no real choice at all. At the end of the day, Dean will keep fucking kids and murdering innocent people, and Sam will keep turning a blind eye and showing up once every six months to clean up his brother's messes.)

Finally Castiel sets his palms flat against the mattress, and Dean watches as he pushes himself up, elbows and shoulders jutting out like he's a zombie building himself back up from bones. When he's sitting up at last, the sheet slides off his little torso and Dean can feel Sam trying not to comment.

Castiel's body looks... about just as bad as his face. His nose is crooked, and a yellowing bruise blossoms from the bridge of his nose to his under-eye. Thin, barely-there lines of scar tissue line his cheeks: tree branches whipping at him as he ran. The scars on his torso are more pronounced, more scattered. Some are red and thick, others are pale grey and chalky white, twisting into the skin around them, damaged tissue meeting clean flesh. These are from the shards of glass that Castiel had to drag himself over. He's got those marks on his palms, too. Underneath the scars from the glass are old knife wounds. Products of Dean's boredom, old punishments, entertainment. Neat little stacks of horizontal lines across Castiel's shoulders, chest, and hips. There's the branding underneath the boy's left collarbone: WINCHESTER. Dean thinks absently that he's going to have to go back over that one of these days, if it keeps fading like that.

Then, of course, there's the bullet wound. Dean knows his way around a needle and some suture thread, but even then, he's not a professional surgeon. On Castiel's right side is a sizable mass of gnarled pink scar tissue, sitting just under his ribcage. The whole length of his torso is red and green with the aftermath of some pretty bad bruising. Cas curls in toward his side instinctively as he sits, as if protecting the vulnerable part of him from the men in the room. But even as he sits with those wide, vacant eyes clinging to Dean and Sam where they stand, he doesn't speak. He is a silent building, abandoned years ago, the support beams inside the empty cavern of his chest cracking and crumbling into more and more dust with every day that passes.

"Say hello, Cas," Dean insists. Cas shifts his gaze to Dean, eyebrows drawn in like he's weighing the risk over the reward for keeping his mouth shut.

"See? He won't," Dean says to his brother, as if the boy isn't sitting two feet away.

Before Sam can say anything, Dean steps forward, grabs Cas by the ear, and tugs.

Cas lets out a soft whisper of breath, the mere suggestion of a pained "ow". He reaches up, pulling on Dean's wrist with both hands, but Dean just pinches harder. Digs his fingernails in further. Tears spring into Castiel's eyes, and he whines like a kicked puppy. But that's all.

Sam looks concerned. Whether it be for Castiel's comfort or the fact that the boy refuses to speak, Dean can't guess. "Enough," he says. "That's enough, Dean."

Dean releases his grip on Castiel's ear, and his fingernails come away rusty with blood. Cas clamps one hand over his ear and presses his lips together tightly, whimpering softly on every exhale.

"Yeah," Dean breaths, his chest puffing out slightly. "It is enough. Castiel, say hello to my brother." Here he leans in closely, lips brushing just barely against the shell of the boy's bloody ear. "I won't ask again, Cas. You can do what I say, or you can spend your night in the basement."

To his credit, Sam lets Dean be the boss. He's still got the scared little thirteen-year-old in him, living in awesome fear of big-brother-Dean. His superiority. His strength.

Telling the whole truth, Dean prefers it that way. But although Sam isn't making any outward objections, Dean can still see that under the surface, he's just itching to reprimand him on the value of human life and the corruption of morality and he's just a kid, he's scared, he's scarred, go easy on him and other hippie bullshit. He sees it in the way Sam locks his jaw down tight; the way his eyes dart between the boy on the bed and Dean himself. They'll need to talk, alone. Privately. For now, though, Dean has other issues to deal with.

He hitches one eyebrow up, staring at Cas like a challenge. Fear and uncertainty are clear on Castiel's face. He locks eyes with Dean, then slowly forces his gaze to meet Sam's.

Dean sees him swallow. Lick his lips. Swallow again.

Another quick glance at Dean (to make sure he doesn't get hit or pinched or shot), and Castiel opens his mouth.

"Hello," he utters. His voice is flaky and strained from disuse. It cracks on the first syllable. As soon as he says it, he turns his face to Dean's, looking for praise.

Did I do a good job, Dean? Are you happy again? Do I get to go back to sleep, now? Is your brother going to shoot me?

Are you?

Dean sticks his hand out - watches Castiel flinch - and forces his splayed fingers through sweaty, stiff hair. Jesus, this kid needs a shower.

A kiss to his temple, a hand on his back to help him lay back down.

Dean nods to Sam, and they step outside the room.

//

Cas wants to clear his throat; wants to get rid of the dirtiness that came with speaking aloud. The grit of it is still stuck at the back of his tongue, an ache that won't be swallowed away. He hadn't chosen to stop speaking. Not really. He got shot and bam, the choice was made for him. In one single second, one single gunshot, Dean Winchester stole Castiel's voice, amongst other things. He stole his voice, stole his sleep, stole his safety. Now he wants to force it back into Cas: make him speak properly and politely, make him endure strange formalities and introductions.

He lies flat on his back, his left hand splayed out on the bed next to him. His right hand he holds close to his chest, curled into a gentle fist. The fingers are still bent at an angle, like Cas is a doll and his imperfections are simple manufacturing errors. Products of a careless handler.

Nobody wants something like that.

It's a strange thing, listening to a conversation you know you're not supposed to be hearing. Especially when you're the main topic of discussion. Cas stays silent and unmoving, listening to the uneasy shuffling of feet and the strain of hushed voices from the other side of the door. He feels like a half-thing, discarded, alive enough to be left on the lonely side of a door, but dead enough that Dean and his quiet, calm brother felt no need to remove themselves entirely from his vicinity.

He hasn't lost all control. He has to remind himself of that every once in a while. He's still alive. And although sometimes his mind seems disconnected, his thoughts scattered and uncontrollable, Castiel Novak is still flesh and bone and there is still blood rushing through his veins and he can still breathe and blink and shift and sleep. That has to count for something.

The bullet ruined him in a way he can't understand, but he will not lose himself to the ruin.

Sam Winchester's voice is deep in a way Dean's isn't. Dean's is deep and booming, like lightning cracking through a dry, dusty valley. Sam's is deep and enveloping, like being plunged into the black end of a bottomless lake. Neither is particularly comforting.

Cas hears the discussion only in snatches.

How long?

Six months... more like...

He closes his eyes.

That's the longest you've ever--

I know.

A lull in the conversation.

... Do with him, Dean?

I don't want to... it'll just have to be...

The next sentence, Castiel hears clear as a bell.

You can't just take the kid out back and shoot him like a dog.

Dean replies, you know I wouldn't do that to a dog, Sam.

Cas would like to say he feels some sort of fear at hearing it, but he doesn't. The words wash passively over him like water over stones.

He needs a break.

... Been laying around for the last... doesn't need any...

There's a hard sigh from the other side of the door, and then the brother, Sam, says, he needs... he's never going to... need to get him out of this fucking bunker.

At that, Castiel bolts upright. His various lingering injuries scream their protests, but he doesn't care. Cas cannot leave the bunker. He can't. Leaving the bunker means crashing to the ground and Dean stomping on his calf and crushing his hand into the road with the hard heel of his boot, and a smashed nose and blood on the road and a kick to the ribs and a hand over his screaming mouth, and being dragged into the woods and a car roars past but nobody cares and Cas is gonna be here forever, forever, and Dean is laughing as he sobs. Leaving the bunker means getting shot with a fucking gun and Cas can still hear the shot ring out in his ears. He can still feel the pliers digging into his open wound as he thrashes, restrained, on a cold metal table. He cringes at the memory, his hand hovering over his scar. He cannot leave this place.

But then the muttered words grow softer and softer and the shadows under the door disappear and he hears footsteps retreating down a long, empty hallway. He lets himself breathe. Maybe Dean can talk Sam out of it. Maybe Cas can tell them that he's fine. That he doesn't need to leave. He'll be good. He'll talk again, if that's what Dean wants. He'll even try to stop crying in his sleep. Just as long as nobody makes him leave this place.

The cost was too great last time.

This is all quickly becoming too much. Before today, everything Cas knew about Dean's brother came from passive comments and absent-minded stories and anecdotes. Now all of the sudden the man is standing at the foot of Dean's bed (Cas's bed, too), staring at Cas like he's a rabbit with a broken leg. Staring at Dean like he's a child who needs to be chided. Standing there, hulking in the room, taking up so much space, not saying much. Standing there, watching Dean hurt him, seeing the marks on Castiel's bare body. Yet it never occured to Sam to say, "hey, Dean, this is all profoundly disturbing and I think I'd like to phone the police." No. Instead, the man stands and silently observes and then calmly steps out of the room to discuss what to do with Cas.

How about get him the fuck out of here, asshole?

With a start, Castiel realizes that Dean's brother is the first human being he's interacted with in upwards of six months. Other than Dean himself, of course.

Yeah, this is too much. It's too fucking much and Cas misses his own brothers, misses them so completely that it physically hurts inside his chest, and when Dean finally steps back into the room, Cas is sitting up and crying. Scared and confused and so fucking tired and hurting and--

Dean is standing. Staring at him. Cas bites his lip and stares right back, scrambling for the right thing. He doesn't want to offend Dean with the wrong look or the wrong gesture or too loud of a breath.

"You're more trouble than you're worth," Dean says bluntly.

Cas thinks, then shoot me in the head next time. But he doesn't say it.

"My brother wants to help you."

But Castiel isn't stupid. The childlike hopefulness got pounded out of him a long time ago. He doesn't dare think that that means what it sounds like. Here, help can mean anything. Help can mean a blindfold tied too tightly around Cas's eyes. "This will help you follow orders, Cas." Or an old rag stuffed into his mouth. "This will help you learn not to talk back to me, sweetheart." Help can mean Dean forcing Castiel's jaw open and shoving his hot, hard dick down his gaping throat and saying, "isn't this helpful, Cas? Aren't I so nice, helping you learn how to do this like a good little slut?"

When Dean produces a syringe from behind him, all Cas can do is blink out a couple tears, offer up his neck, let his eyes roll back as a cold flush is sent through his veins, and collapse into Dean's waiting arms.

The last thing he sees before everything goes dark is the silhouette of Dean's brother appearing in the doorway.

The last thing he thinks is, take me home.

Chapter Text

When Cas wakes up, he starts to cry.

At first, his brain can't make sense of anything around him. It takes him a good minute to even realize that he's crying, let alone decipher the reason. Be it the cold sunlight streaming in on him, the clean white sheets enveloping him, or the effects of Dean's drug still coursing through his veins, the precise reason for his tears remains unknown.

When he tries to lift his head, he finds that his body does not want to cooperate. He blinks and cries and breathes, unable to do much else. In front of him, he can see a streaky window with brown curtains pulled to the side, and on the outside, the sky is puckered and swollen, the colour of dish water.

Rolling onto his back is even more impossible than lifting his head, so Castiel only manages to do so much as flap his hand uselessly by his side. His head jerks and he can bend his elbow; the beginnings of control starting to come back to him. The strangest part of it all is not the sluggishness of his limbs or the wide window (a real window!) or the bed sheets that smell like soap instead of like Dean. The strangest part is that he seems to be completely alone.

A soft little strangled noise escapes his lips as he tries and tries to push himself up and around. After a few minutes of trying, he has to release the tension in his body and take a break. Whatever Dean injected him with, it does not want to give Castiel his body back just yet.

It feels rather nice to lay still, so he gives up on turning over, succumbs to the deep comfort of the bedding, and lets tears soak through his eyelashes and into the pillowcases.

And then he hears a door open.

In an instant, Cas's guard is up. He's learned by now that vulnerability is a dangerous thing; exposure can get you killed. And now he's caught indisposed on a bed, splayed out for the world to see, take advantage of, exploit. And he can't move and someone's in the room with him and it's probably Dean and what happens when Dean asks a question and Cas can't answer? What happens when he can't lift his head to look Dean in the eye? Will the man view it as defiance?

How is Dean going to hurt him this time?

Cas feels shards of glass embedded into the flesh of his palms. Feels jolts running up his legs as his bare feet pound on pavement.

Hears a gunshot.

Behind him: footsteps. Soft, carpeted footsteps.

Cas screws his eyes shut, steels himself against unrelenting waves of dizziness and panic, and fights his jelly-filled limbs for control. He sputters, somehow managing to get his forearms under him. He starts to push up, but it feels like his bones and his brain can't cooperate; feels like his thoughts are scrambled eggs. He can feel himself trembling with effort.

"Hey, hey, go easy."

A warm hand lands on his shoulder, another one around his wrist. The hands have a voice but they don't have a face, and they make Cas lay back down. They plant themselves on his chest and help him roll over onto his back.

Then there's Sam. Cas looks up at his face but can't say much; can only let out a shuddering breath.

"Don't feel so good, huh?" Sam asks, a warm smile slapped on his face like this is all a joke. "Don't fight it, okay? Let it wear off on its own."

Cas hears the words but he doesn't register them. His entire body is encased in concrete and he is standing fifty feet outside of it, watching himself from a cruel distance, unable to do anything but observe.

He feels his eyes roll back in his skull and he cranes his head back into the pillow, pushing his skull hard into the mattress, and what the hell did Dean inject him with? And then some invisible hand yanks on some invisible string tied to every fucking muscle in Castiel's body and everything. Just. Seizes.

The world tilts. Cas can hear things around him, but there's no way of telling which direction they're coming from. No way of telling which sounds are coming from inside him and which sounds are coming at him from the outside. There are voices, he thinks. More than one. They're loud and they sound too big. Something is wrong.

There's a flash of white behind his eyelids, and Cas feels himself gasp in a breath.

And then, suddenly, Dean Winchester is swimming into view and saying "oh, fuck," and he's grabbing Castiel's forearms and saying "Sam, what the fuck is wrong with him?"

Sam swats Dean's hands away and says, "give me your belt."

There are a few seconds of blackness, then there are a few seconds of suffocating, then the inside of Cas's mouth tastes like how leather smells.

It carries on for another long moment: Cas thrashing on the bed and Dean freaking the fuck out and Sam staying calm and kind as always.

Cas doesn't know much about what's happening. His brain isn't working well enough for him to wrap his mind around anything in particular at the moment. All there is is panic and pressure and volts running through him and Cas is deep underwater, drowning.

The one thing he does know for sure is that he is absolutely fucking terrified.

Something hot dribbles down Castiel's cheek, accompanied by a wet, choking cough. Cas doesn't even have time to properly register what's happening before Dean is ripping the belt out from between his teeth and forcing him onto his side and then Cas is throwing up.

When it all finally, mercifully stops, Dean is a mess. Cas has been moved onto the other bed, the sheets of the first one stripped off and disposed of. Cas feels like he's coming out of a dream. He's groggy, light-headed, exhausted. More exhausted than he's ever been in his whole life.

Sam is beside him, smoothing his hair back, checking his pulse, pulling his eyelids open to check the pupils. Cas can't bring himself to respond very enthusiastically, but Sam seems satisfied enough just for the fact that he's alive.

One less body for the Winchester brothers to get rid of.

Dean is pacing the length of the motel room. Every now and then, Cas opens his eyes and takes in his surroundings, but mostly he just lays on his side and twitches.

The room is absurdly silent, save for the muffled pacing of Dean's footsteps. After so much chaos, the silence is welcome.

I was dying, Cas thinks. I could have died.

He's not sure how he feels about that just yet.

The Winchesters give Cas a good amount of time to recover. Cas thinks one of them might have injected him with something again, this time to stop the convulsing instead of render him unconscious, but he can't say for sure. Either way, all three of them seem to be needing some time to process what just happened.

Time passes, then more time, then more time.

Dean approaches the bed every once in a while, but can't seem to bring himself to touch Cas. He just keeps looking at Sam, the two of them conversing without words. Eventually, he excuses himself to go buy water and food and probably a couple six packs.

In the silence, Sam Winchester sits and watches Cas. After a moment, he asks, "how are you feeling?"

Cas turns to look at the man, his head lolling on his shoulders like a ragdoll. He feels like a ragdoll. He wouldn't be surprised if he looked like one, too. After a couple attempts at answering the question, Cas still can't form the words he needs. His throat is too parched. Another attempt at speaking and he starts to gag, so Sam fills up a glass of water and helps Cas sit up, one hand on the back of his head while the other one brings the glass up to his lips.

Cas turns his head away when he's had enough, and Sam sets the glass down.

"I'm okay," Cas says after mustering up the strength to speak. His voice sounds like being dragged over gravel. He would know.

Sam gives him a pitying look, and Cas closes his eyes. He feels a hand brush the hair away from his forehead again, and without meaning to, Cas leans heavily into it. It feels nice to have a gentle touch coming from someone who's never hit him before. Dean's affections are nice, when Cas gets them, but there's always the underlying threat that a caress could turn into a slap in a second.

"You don't look okay," Sam says. "I'm sorry."

At that, Castiel's eyes flick open again. He stares hard at Sam, scrutinizing his face for any sign that he may be lying. Any sign that this is a trick.

On one hand, Cas is wary to trust Sam. On the other hand, he so desperately needs someone to trust. So desperately wants to believe that men can still be kind. Can still be genuine.

Even those related to the likes of Dean Winchester.

Cas feels tears sting his eyes. "It's not your fault," he whispers to the gentle giant beside him. His chest heaves with every breath. He feels pin-pricks all over his skin. "It's mine. Don't feel sorry for me."

Sam frowns. "Is that what he tells you? Has he made you think you caused all this?"

"It's the truth," Cas utters, turning his face away from Sam's. He can't look at him anymore. "If I'd just been home by the time I was supposed to, I wouldn't have been out on the porch when... when he..."

"That's enough," Sam says, firm but kind. He reaches out and touches the spot beneath Castiel's collarbone where Dean's name is carved into his skin. Cas feels his heart kick.

"My brother..." Sam starts, and Cas knows he is trying to find away to approach the infinitely complicated subject of Dean. "My brother means best."

Sam winces at the look Cas shoots him.
"...Okay, I take that back. But he... he's not a bad person."

These words of comfort are quickly starting to sound like some fuckin' apologist bullshit. Cas furrows his brow, but lets Sam continue.

"When we were kids, our dad didn't treat us so good." Sam keeps glancing at the door, like Dean's gonna come barging back in any second. "Pounded the shit out of Dean for no reason. Any time he felt like it."

Cas is silent. Stony.

"I'm not saying there's an excuse for what he does, I'm just saying that we were raised on violence." Sam opens his mouth like he's going to say more, but then he just shakes his head.

When it's clear that Sam isn't going to say more, Cas fixes him with a hard-eyed stare and hisses at him with a ferocity he didn't know it was possible for him to possess. "You don't know a thing, do you? You have no fucking idea what he does to me."

Sam swallows. Cas can hear it.

"I dropped a plate once. In the kitchen. It shattered. As soon as it hit the ground, Dean slammed my head into the counter and then cut me with one of the shards."

Silence.

"He likes to play games, too. Yeah, we have a lot of fun together. You want to know his favourite? I'll tell you. He likes to hit me with his belt, but I'm not allowed to make any noise. As soon as I make the tiniest fucking sound, you know what the punishment is?"

Sam's face is dark, and Castiel's voice is fire.

"For every scream, that's one more night I'm not allowed to fall asleep. The worst it ever got, I was so tired I started hallucinating."

"Cas..."

"Sometimes he throws things at me, and if I flinch, he gets to hold my fingers in the flame from the stove."

"Cas."

"He killed someone right in front of me. Raped him and then stabbed him and then made me stitch him up. Didn't matter. Dean strangled him to death anyway."

"Cas, I think you should stop. You'll work yourself up--"

"Told me it was my fault the boy died."

"That's enough."

"Once, he put his dick down my throat until I blacked out, and when I came to, he was still fucking my mouth--"

"I said enough!" Sam snaps, slamming his hand down on the bedside table.

Castiel just laughs.

"Is this making you uncomfortable?" He asks quietly; threateningly. "Does it make you uncomfortable to hear what your precious brother does to me?"

"He never claimed to be a saint."

"This is my life!" Cas yells, and it hurts his throat to speak so loudly.

For a few tense seconds, the two just stare at each other.

Then Cas says, quietly: "there are two kinds of people."

Sam looks annoyed, but he also looks ashamed for being annoyed. It's a delicate line to walk, but Sam Winchester walks it perfectly.

"There are people who would hear those things and be horrified. People who would take one fucking look at me and help me escape."

"And then there are people like me," Sam interjects. "Right? That's what you were going to say?"

Cas nods.

"Well I'll tell you something, Castiel. People like me? We make people like Dean look like angels."

He's probably bluffing. There's not a single thing imaginable that could ever make someone look worse than Dean. But still, the words send a cold chill down Cas's spine.

There was a hope that Castiel didn't know he was harbouring until it was crushed. A hope that somehow, at some point, Sam would help Cas get back to his family. He doesn't know if he should laugh or cry.

Crying wins, in the end.

As soon as the first tear drops, Sam is back to his regular old self: wiping the tears away, whispering soft comforts to Cas, caressing his face with those big, warm hands. Cas can't even be scared of him. He just does what he does best and accepts the facade of care from his captor. That's all Sam is.

Just another captor.

//

By the time Dean pulls into the parking lot and shoves his key into the lock, it's dark out. He drops his bags of groceries on the table, toes off his shoes, and sheds his jacket.

Sam has somehow coaxed Cas into the bath, and Dean leans in the doorway, watching the two of them for a minute. As soon as he appears, Cas locks eyes on him. Sam glances back over his shoulder, but then turns his attention back to Castiel. He's not even using a cloth or anything, probably worried that it would aggravate any of Cas's given wounds. He's just kneeling there beside the tub, kneading soapy water into Cas's skin with his hands.

Dean is mildly surprised that Cas is letting him. He raises one amused eyebrow, watching Cas's eyelids flutter shut as Sam massages his back. The kid reminds Dean of a cat: loving the attention, asking to be pet, completely shameless.

"There's food when you two are done," Dean says, but nobody acknowledges him. He clears his throat and tries again. "How's he feeling?" He asks, folding his arms across his chest as he looks to Sam for an answer.

Cas opens one eye and stares at him. "I'm fine," he says flatly. Dean suspects that there's a silent no thanks to you tacked onto the end of that sentence.

He's beginning to feel a bit attacked.

Sam sits back on his heels, hands dripping onto his own knees. He looks at Dean like I got this, then leans into Cas.

"You wanna eat?" Dean hears him ask quietly. Cas looks at Sam, then up at Dean. He knows he's not supposed to ignore a question.

"I don't think I can." His voice is small. He looks at Dean when he says it though, knows that Dean doesn't want to be treated like he's invisible.

Good boy.

Dean speaks up before Sam can.

"That's okay. You don't have to eat yet, but I want you drinking water, alright?"

Cas nods, and Sam starts to help him out of the tub.

A couple minutes later and the three of them are back in the room, Cas looking tiny wrapped up in a white towel and perched on the end of the bed. Sam and Dean stand against the table, picking at food while Cas takes small sips from a bottle of water.

"I know nobody wants to talk about it," Sam says, which is a fucking terrible way to start a sentence, "but we need to avoid another... episode. I don't know exactly what happened this morning, but we don't want it happening again."

Cas hangs his head.

Dean feels a muscle in his jaw twitch.

"Dean, what did you give him? To get him here, I mean?"

Dean watches as Cas tries not to make it obvious that he's paying very close attention.

"Ketamine," he says. "Just a sedative. Shouldn't have caused any sort of seizure."

Castiel winces at the word.

Sam purses his lips, considering. "His body was already under stress," he muses. "Maybe that had something to do with it."

The three of them sit in consideration for another moment, before Sam asks, "has he taken any other drugs recently?"

"Toradol," Cas pipes up. "As a pill. For the pain."

But Sam shakes his head. "I don't think that should have caused any problems."

Dean shifts his weight, regarding Castiel carefully. "He's too skinny," he says slowly. "Got no weight on him. Maybe I... maybe I gave him too much, y'know? Maybe an ordinary dose was too much for him. An overdose."

Sam shakes his head, but not because he disagrees. He mutters "jesus" under his breath for what feels like the millionth time.

"You okay, Cas?"

The boy has sunken into himself, his face closed in and his nose crinkling like it does before he starts to cry. He looks up at Dean, lets out a breath that sounds like he's trying his best not to cry.

"I don't want it to happen again," he whispers, his voice wavering.

Dean clicks his tongue, pity dripping from his lips. "Oh, Cas," he breathes, and Cas immediately reaches his arms out toward him. He needs him. It's clear as day in the boy's face, in the way he sobs when Dean accepts and wraps his arms around a skinny waist.

They go down together, Cas laying back, curling into Dean's chest. He clings onto Dean likes the man is a lifeline.

Dean's okay with that.

A second later and Dean is pressing kisses to Cas's cheeks, his neck, his chest. Cas is sobbing, his chest heaving with it, clinging onto Dean with bony arms.

It's been a while since Cas kissed him on the mouth, and the feeling of his sharp little tongue against Dean's own sends sparks flying in Dean's belly.

From somewhere behind him, Dean hears Sam chuckle dryly, then hears the door open and shut. He'll be gone for the rest of the night.

Dean could take this as far as he wants, but he won't. This little outing is supposed to be a break for the kid; a way of coaxing him out of his post-gunshot stupor. A way of healing him. Dean has enough control not to make that about him.

He's gentle as he peels away Cas's damp towel, though, dropping it onto the floor. Gentle as he pushes the boy's clammy-cold little body into clean white sheets.

He licks kisses into Castiel's open, pink mouth, his cheeks wet with Cas's tears.

By the time they fall asleep, Cas's body is flushed pink, the bed warm where their bodies are pressed together.

Dean believes that Cas will heal.

//


Six months.


Six months, two weeks, and three days.


That's how long Cas has been gone.


Gabriel's been counting.


It was Cas's birthday a couple weeks ago. He turned seventeen.

Luci told them they shouldn't celebrate; told them it was crass. But in the end, he wrote in the card, too. He lit the candles on the cake that nobody ate. The brothers just let the candles melt to stubs, dripping down onto waxy icing as they sat in silence around the table, Castiel's chair aching and empty.

Some asshole stole the card off their front porch, but they didn't touch anything else from the little shrine-of-Cas.

Lucifer doesn't like the shrine either. He says all it does is make people walk by and think about dead things. Gabriel tells him to eat shit.

There's no proof that Cas is dead. And until there's proof, Gabriel refuses to believe it.

The police are shit at their jobs, in Gabe's humble opinion. Castiel's investigation is ongoing, but what that really means is that there's no body, so they can't officially close the case. It doesn't mean they've done anything useful in terms of actually finding the kid.

The guilt ate Luci up pretty hard at first. If he hadn't locked Cas out, he wouldn't have had to go in search of a place to sleep. That's what everyone thinks happened.

There's no way to tell what happened to Castiel between point A and point B. The only clue was a sneaker left behind on a quiet backroad, and there's been nothing but silence since it was found.

Gabriel's functioning well enough. Michael's doing okay, but he won't stop watching videos about kidnappings. Won't stop reading about human trafficking, articles about the worst cases of human captivity. Gabriel, Lucifer, and the therapists all agree that this is probably not an effective coping mechanism.

Cas is gone.

There's no way to fill the hole left behind in his absence.

All the Novaks can do is keep living, keep going to work, keep enduring small talk and stares from strangers.

They have to be careful when it comes to hope, though. Hope kills.

Gabriel wishes he could talk to Cas, wherever he is. Tell him that nobody's given up on him.

Not yet.

Not ever.

Chapter Text

Sike this isn't an update I'm just here to tell you that my WIP chapter for this fic got deleted when I got a new phone. I had like... several thousand words ready for the next chapter and now I'm pretty unmotivated lol. Don't worry, I'll do my best to continue updating this fic. I'm not giving up on it. It's just gonna take me some time to rewrite everything I lost!

In the meantime, I would love it if you messaged me on tumblr @cynicalwhump and let me know what you want to see from this fic. I'm interested in satisfying some of your cravings in the next few chapters, if possible. Maybe we can bounce some ideas off each other :)

As always, thank you all so much for the support and dedication you've shown this fic! I can assure you: Cas's story is nowhere near done (much to his misfortune). See you hopefully soon at the next chapter! <3