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Castiel Novak was sitting at the back of an intercity bus, using the loud music drumming in his ears from his headphones to stay awake. He may have been a little hungover. He was pretty sure nothing he was wearing was clean. He ended up using one of his sister’s body wash, so he smelled like flowers. At least he knew all his school work was in his backpack, if nothing else because he never pulled it out to work on it.

Ahead of him a few rows up sat the Winchesters. Castiel usually enjoyed watching the brothers on the bus, when it was just them three as the only students on there. He didn’t know whether or not Dean ever noticed Castiel rode this bus, too, but whether or not he did, Dean always let his guard down. On here, he was focused on his little brother. He smiled easily. Was kind. His little brother always looking up at him either affectionately annoyed or affectionately fond. He enjoyed watching them because it was a nice change of pace from the Dean Winchester that stalked the hallways of their high school.

Big boy alpha jock, quarterback and future prom king. Stereotypical. The Winchesters moved to the city sometime during his and Dean’s sophomore year, and Castiel had enjoyed picking away at the façade for years now. Cracking his persona. Bit by bit.

So, yes, he enjoyed watching what he assumed was the real Dean, mostly because he allowed Dean it. He could easily let himself be known, forcing Dean into choosing who he wanted to be in that situation. Because after all these years, he would know Castiel could use the information of him being soft and gentle with his little brother against him. Castiel definitely planned on doing that one day – revealing himself on the bus, that was, just to watch the guy squirm. But later, maybe, if he deserved it. Because if Dean turned out to be a big jerk and ruin the image his younger brother clearly had of him, just because Castiel Novak was on the bus, then that would be cruel.

The bus came to a stop near their high school, and as always, Castiel waited just a little, letting Dean get off before he did. And as always, as he passed the younger Winchester, he smiled and nodded at him, always getting back a wide grin and a friendly wave in return.

Then, as always, he followed behind Dean, waited for them to be properly enmeshed in the crowd so Winchester wouldn’t know where Novak came from, picked up his step, and as he passed Dean, slapped him on the ass and winked at him. And as always, Dean gave an annoyed huff and turned the corner.

The thing was, Castiel was pretty sure Dean wasn’t straight. It was what made hitting on Dean constantly so entertaining.

Castiel came out in middle school and was gruelingly punished for it. Most of his siblings had his back, but most of them were older and weren’t in his school. They couldn’t watch out for him every day. It helped to have the support of his father’s church then. Obviously, not everyone agreed with their church’s philosophy – the whole love one another? Yeah, most churches seemed to have conditions on that. What really helped the most, though, about the church having his back was that he learned to forgive his bullies.

And with the help of his brothers Luc and Gabe, he learned to forgive them as he learned to fight. He learned to forgive them as he learned how to throw a proper punch. He learned to forgive them as he developed a snarky personality and a quick-wit tongue.

He learned to forgive them as he learned to give as good as he got.

So, all those kids that would beat him up and shove him in lockers and write FAG on his lunchbox were now the ones Castiel loved to break into their personal space and make them squirm.

They always reacted in disgust, except Dean.

Castiel remembered the first time he saw Dean. He was walking across the courtyard heading into the school when the jocks he was passing shouted out sneers. He turned to sneer back when he saw that pretty, pretty boy. Dean was sitting on one of the concrete tables with his feet on the concrete bench attached, surrounded by the football team who was obviously trying to recruit him. Castiel swaggered on up, stepping between Dean’s legs a little, and asked who this adorable newcomer was. One of the jocks pushed Castiel away a little, said something insulting, Castiel was sure. But he ignored him, and so did Dean, watching Castiel curiously. Castiel pulled a Sharpie from his pocket, grabbed Dean’s hand, and wrote his number on his palm. Dean looked at him in awe. One of the jocks tried to shove him away again, but Castiel stepped back before he could, making the jock stumble. He smirked, not looking away from those green eyes, winked at him, then left.

Castiel knew Dean probably washed it off without thinking about it or was pressured into it by his new teammates. But still. He got an interesting reaction.

So, he had flirted with Dean ever since.

Winking at him when he caught his eye in class. Sending him air kisses in the lunchroom. Slapping his ass every chance he got.

That was it, mostly. Dean never sent slurs his way, try to beat him up, bully him, but also never stepped in to help either. This year, Castiel thought he wanted to test Dean’s boundaries more.

Yeah, Castiel thought to himself in his chem class, staring a hole through the back of Dean’s head. They were only a month into their senior year, and Castiel wasn’t planning on college or the like. He was probably going to move to California. This was his last year with the interesting Dean Winchester. The Dean who was all talk and no bite. The Dean all the nerds were afraid of yet had never given them any cause to be afraid. The Dean whose simple existence bothered all the stoners and punks just on the principle of his stereotype but didn’t seem to reciprocate those feelings. The Dean who was known as a bit of a manwhore among the cheerleaders, but never actually stopped Castiel’s advances.

He wanted to learn about this person. What made him tick? Who was he really?

Dean was sitting right in front of Castiel, leaned back in his chair. Castiel pushed himself up, hovering over his own desk so that he could bring his lips toward Dean’s ear.

“You know what I was just thinking?” Castiel whispered, his first couple of words making Dean jump. “I was thinking that I think you like me.” He lowered his voice some, trying to make it sexy. “I think you secretly enjoy the attention I give you.”

Dean didn’t move, still facing the front of the class and ignoring him.

“You know, I think about you sometimes,” he whispered, allowing lips to touch Dean’s ear briefly. “In the shower. Hot, steamy water hitting my body, hand on my cock, thinking of your pretty lips and what sounds you might make.”

Dean clenched his fists on his desk and turned his head a little to direct his words to Castiel. “What the fuck, dude?”

“Thought you’d like to know.”

“Yeah, well… I didn’t,” he answered, turning back to the front. It didn’t escape Castiel’s notice that Dean didn’t sit up and move away.

“See, I think I really want to experience that, Dean. Experience you. Feel you. Fuck you. Would you like that?”

Dean ignored him, and Castiel chuckled.

“You’re my new goal this year, Winchester. I’ve got eight months to hook you. Eight months to finally get you in my bed, moaning and begging, asking for more. Eight months to finally convince you to let me fuck you so hard, you forget your own name. My name will be the only one you can think of.”

Dean cleared his throat and squared his shoulders. “In your dreams, Novak.”

Castiel grinned, scooting just a bit closer so his lips were pressed firmly against Dean’s ear as he whispered, “Every night, Winchester. You’ll think of me every night.”

He flopped back in his seat before Dean could respond. No one around them really gave them any never mind. Castiel was always messing around with the jocks, so they probably didn’t think anything of it. But this time, this was different.

And judging by the tension in Dean’s shoulders, he knew it too.

“Hey, baby,” Castiel cooed as he threw an arm around Dean’s shoulders. It had been a couple of class periods since Castiel’s promise in chem, and Castiel didn’t want Dean to forget about it.

“What do you want, Novak?” Dean sighed. He rolled his shoulders minutely to knock Castiel’s arm off, which normally Castiel respected. This time was no different, but he made sure to rub his shoulder gently before dropping it.

“I already told you, darling. You.”

“Not gonna happen.”

“Maybe, maybe not. But I don’t shy away from a little courting.” Castiel quickly pecked Dean’s cheek before turning to walk down a different hallway. He wanted to look back so badly. He had never so blatantly crossed a line like that – unless it was to piss off one of the jocks, but if he didn’t act like it was a big deal, maybe Dean would allow it again.

The next time Castiel saw Dean that day was gym. Normally, Castiel was always purposely late for that class. Not only did he not want to subject himself to what the other guys could do if he showed up in the locker room, but he knew he genuinely made some homophobic pricks uncomfortable. When he was in a bad mood, sometimes he would show on time to snap and leer at them, but most of the time he didn’t bother with the headache. Coach Pitts knew, so he never counted him late. Truth be told, though, Coach Pitts never counted anyone late because he never noticed if they were late. If it wasn’t for his TA, he probably wouldn’t count absences either.

Today, however, Castiel showed up in the locker room on time.

Playing around with Dean, flirting with him, hoping to wear him down, that was all fine and good. But if the people Dean called friends would react violently and hatefully and cut Dean off because of it, both he and Dean needed to know right away. Castiel could be an ass sometimes, but he wasn’t that big of one. Not make a guy lose his friends because he had a fun, new goal.

As soon as he walked in, the locker room quickly became silent. Per usual. He spotted Dean in the corner with his friends Benny and Victor. Dean looked over at him, but his expression was unreadable, if not a bit hesitant.

“This is a no fag zone,” called out one of the football players.

Normally, Castiel would say something snarky and rude, a verbal battle would ensue, and it would always end with the jocks storming out with a “whatever, faggot”, then Castiel would change and they would all move on.

Not today. Today was for Dean.

Instead, he barely looked at the kid, then walked his way to his locker.

As he was opening it, another boy yelled out, “You deaf or something. You need to leave.”

Still, he ignored them and took off his shirt. He heard a few murmurs, whether it was because of him choosing not to comment or because of his wing tattoo, he didn’t know. He was down to his underwear when a pair of strong hands gripped him and slammed him against the wall by his locker.

“You’re asking for an ass-kickin', you know that?”

Castiel didn’t react. He let his eyes flick to Dean, still in the corner watching. He hoped the quick eye contact conveyed enough that Castiel was doing this for Dean, in some weird way. Then he looked back at the kid, Ken he thought his name was, and didn’t say anything.

“What the fuck is wrong with him? Is he broken?” another jock asked somewhere to their left.

“What?” Ken asked. “Did your balls get stuck in some poor queer’s ass?” When Castiel still didn’t react, Ken’s eyes hardened. “Fucking fag,” he gritted, then pulled his fist back and landed a punch across Castiel’s cheek. He hadn’t been punched in a while. Shit, he forgot how much it can hurt.

As he righted himself, suddenly there was Dean. “Dude, what the fuck?” he asked Ken.

“What do you mean?”

“He has literally not done anything.”

“He came in here to perv on us,” someone further back said.

“Really?” asked Benny in his southern drawl who had come to stand next to Dean. “Because it looked to me like he just wanted to change.”

“Yeah,” Victor backed him up. “If he can leave us alone, we can leave him alone.”

“Exactly,” said another jock. “Don’t be a douche, Ken. Leave him alone.”

Ken was staring daggers at Castiel during the exchange. Castiel so badly wanted to raise a challenging brow, but that wasn’t why he was here. Slowly, Ken stepped away, then he stormed out of the locker room.

“You okay?” Benny asked, standing in front of him now.

“I am, thank you,” Castiel smiled at him. Benny nodded at him before turning and walking back to his locker.

Castiel turned and finished getting dressed. He felt Dean watching him for a few moments, but then move away. Castiel hid his smile. That went way better than he thought it would. Not only did he prove to Dean that he could and would stop messing with his friends, but his friends proved they could do the same to him. It also seemed like not so many of them were really as closed-minded as he thought either.

Let the games begin , he thought to himself.

So let it be known that Castiel Novak was pursuing Dean Winchester.

Castiel honestly didn’t mean for it to become a thing, but there it was. After a week of consistent courting, it was bound not to go unnoticed.

Every time Castiel saw Dean in the hallway, he made sure to speak with him, touch him where he could – the small of his back, his shoulder, hooking their arms together. Dean would only allow it for a few brief seconds, but that was fine with Castiel. He would call Dean pet names constantly. He would even leave Dean little notes when he could, sometimes poetry, sometimes listing the things that made Dean beautiful, sometimes prose of all the sexy things they could do. He never found out Dean’s reaction to those notes since he only ever left them in his locker, but as Dean hadn’t punched him or yelled at him about them, yet, he continued.

In fact, Dean did very little to discourage Castiel. Sometimes he would ask Castiel to stop, but that was only during class when Castiel was distracting him. Castiel, of course, would immediately stop. One time, Castiel reached for his hand in the hallway, and Dean quickly jerked it out of his way, so naturally, Castiel respected that and didn’t try again.

Dean even kept allowing the quick peck on the cheek, which Castiel did every chance he got.

On Friday, there was an away game, so Dean would be leaving the school with the team. Meaning his little brother, whom he learned was named Sam by expert eavesdropping, would be riding the bus home alone. Castiel decided that was a perfect opportunity.

“Hello,” Castiel said. “May I join you?”

The younger Winchester smiled at him and said, “Sure!” removing his backpack to make room for Castiel on the double seat.

“Castiel,” he said, holding out his hand.

Sam’s eyes widened as he shook his hand, “As in Cas?”

“Ah, I see your brother speaks of me?”

The kid shrugged, “Mostly complains that you don’t leave him alone.”

Castiel chuckled. “It’s true. I don’t. It’s why I wanted to speak with you.”

The kid narrowed his eyes suspiciously but didn’t say anything.

“Sam, right?”

“Yeah,” he said cautiously.

“It’s nice to meet you, Sam. I’m the guy who has a huge, giant gay crush on your brother.”

Sam’s eyes widen again, and then he began laughing. “What? No way!”

“Yes way. I’m trying to win him over.”

“I don’t think he swings that way. Sorry, man.”

“Ah, but I think he does.”

“What makes you think that?”

“Maybe the fact he lets me kiss his cheek every day, call him baby, and leave little love notes in his locker.”

The humour in Sam’s face slowly bled away as Castiel spoke.

They stare at one another for a few long moments before Castiel continued somberly, “I see you aren’t open-minded about someone you claim to love.”

“What?” Sam seemed to shake himself out of it. “No! No, I don’t care if he’s gay. Or bi. Or whatever.”

“So, the problem?”

Something behind Sam’s eyes darkened a little, but then Sam forced a smile and said, “No problem at all! I think it’s great. Just surprised me, that’s all. Dean must be pretty deep in the closet, if he is at all.”

Castiel noted Sam’s reaction but decided not to push it. “Indeed. Which is why I’m hoping for a little help? I’m in the process of winning him over, and… Well, see, I have a reputation.”

“Oh, that I know,” Sam smiled. “Dean says you terrorize the jocks. Well, he says you do the whole school.” Sam’s eyes looked him up and down, no doubt taking in his piercings, the holey jeans, the all-around bad boy persona. “Gender aside, are you sure you’re his type?”

Castiel laughed and shook his head, looking out the window. “I don’t know. But he has yet to actually reject me, so I’m keeping my hopes up.”

“Do you care about him?” Sam asked, sternly, the kid having turned serious while Castiel was looking away

“To a point,” he answered honestly. “Dean hasn’t let me in far enough though. You can’t care about someone if they don’t let you.” He felt a little bad implying there may be more for Castiel than the challenge, and mentally noted to make sure Dean didn’t expect too much if he finally gave in to his advances.

Something about what he said, though, seemed to register in Sam. After a moment, Sam nodded, “Yeah, I guess. But you aren’t just trying to use him, right?”

Castiel gasped and put his hand over his heart, “I would never!”

Sam’s lips twitched, but he remained serious. “If Dean comes out for you, then I hope you know what a big fucking deal it is. If he even is into guys, that is, which I kinda doubt. And I mean it. A big fucking deal.”

There was a warning in Sam’s voice, that something dark reappearing in his eyes. Castiel considered him a moment, then nodded. “I will respect that.”

“Good,” Sam said, easing back. “How can I help?”

On Monday, it was the first edition Cat’s Cradle by Vonnegut.

On Tuesday, it was an apple pie, fresh from a morning bakery.

On Wednesday, it was a bouquet of flowers with a list of their meaning: amaryllis for splendid beauty, anemone for anticipation, aster for patience, calla lily for purity and innocence, delphinium for lightness and fun, and hyacinth for playfulness.

On Thursday, it was a poem about sex in the rain that was just this side of romantic not to be all out porn.

On Friday, it was a $200 gift card to the auto shop in town with a note that said, “For Baby,” Dean’s beloved Impala that he rarely got to drive.

Castiel watched every day from the back of the bus as Dean showed the items to Sam (except for the poem). He had told Sam that Dean had yet to notice that he also rode the bus, and he thought Sam would spill his secret. Instead, Sam would smile at the presents and tokens and when Dean wasn’t looking, send Castiel a thumbs up.

Dean wasn’t necessarily gushing over them, Castiel could see that. And by the look of Sam, it was obvious Dean wasn’t saying who they were from either. But to Castiel, the important thing was that he kept them. He didn’t throw them away, disgusted.

He kept them.

This kind of thing carried on for about two months. Castiel would greet Dean every morning with a hand on his back, a kiss to his cheek, then a slap to his ass. He would walk Dean to class, even if his buddies were around, and slowly Castiel was able to get away with kissing Dean on the cheek in front of them.

He wasn’t exactly making progress to his endgame, but he felt it was very important for Dean to become comfortable with showing non-hetero affection. Castiel’s friends reported that Dean was asked constantly why he didn’t just punch Castiel and be done with it, and every time Dean apparently answered, “Eh, he’s harmless.”

At least once a week, Castiel would give Dean a flower, always with a specific meaning, and usually accompanied with a graphic drawing of them two. Castiel could be quite the artist when he wanted to be.

It was a good, solid foundation that Castiel could build on if he wanted. He felt totally in control of the whole damn thing.

Until one Wednesday evening, he received a text from an unknown number.

Hey Cas

What was that one poem you gave me?
Had something in it about a serpent?

There was only one person he gave poems to, so he was a bit caught off guard. How in the hell would Dean get Castiel’s number? Anyone that could have given it to him would have told Castiel he asked for it.

Don’t tell him Dean kept his number from all those years ago…

You are the one
I am lit for.
Come with your rod
That twists
And is a serpent.
I am the bush.
I am burning
I am not consumed.
To A Dark Moses by Lucille Clifton

Serpent supposed to be a dick, right?

Dean Winchester, if you’re asking so you can
regift that beautiful piece of literature to
someone with an actual bush, I will smack you into
next week.

Lol relax

I’m just now getting it

This whole time you didn’t know it meant dick?

I’m a jock

We don’t read

Says the jock with now three first editions of Vonnegut

XP

How did you get my number?

You gave it to me

Two years ago

And?

This whole time?

Maybe

My, my, Winchester

And here you try to act hard to get

You haven’t got me yet, Novak

Castiel smiled and decided not to respond. Dean was sniffing around his hook, but it wasn’t quite time to reel him in.

Now with the advantage of having Dean’s number, Castiel stepped up his game a little. Good morning texts every morning, goodnight texts every night, Castiel sending him details of what he would love to be doing to him at whatever moment, Dean never responding to those.

He would also send him texts wishing him luck before every game, before some tests, before an English class when Castiel knew he had a presentation. Randomly, when Castiel was thinking about Dean, he’d send him a quick text to let him know. Sometimes with a grapefruit emoji if he was masturbating to thoughts of the guy, other times with a blowing kiss emoji.

Dean didn’t always respond. In fact, he barely responded. But just like everything else, he allowed them.

When Dean was out of school for three days, Castiel would send him texts wishing him well, hoping he was alright, and to let him know if he could do anything. He didn’t know why he was out, but he also noticed Sam wasn’t going to school either. Not that he would admit it to anyone, but he really hoped everything was okay.

When Dean did come back that Monday, he had his arm in a sling, a black eye, and walked with a limp. Sam looked perfectly fine, but a little haunted like he did when Castiel spoke with him. He watched them on the bus, Dean seemingly going above and beyond trying to look like he was fine.

Castiel tried to catch Sam’s eye as he very slowly made his way off the bus. When Sam didn’t look at him, he stopped in front of him, basically demanding his attention. Sam finally looked up, a clear expression of “Don’t”. Castiel gave him a sharp nod, then followed Dean off the bus.

As soon as he caught up with him, Castiel hooked his arm around Dean’s good one. They stared at each other for a moment, then faced forward again, walking into the school without Dean pushing him away. In fact, Dean leaned closer to him. Castiel walked him to his locker, then to his first class. Instead of kissing his cheek, Castiel tilted more upward, and gently pressed his lips to the edge of his black eye, lingering longer than probably reasonable.

“J’espère qu’il pleut la prochaine fois que Ruby accroche ses princes pour sècher,” Meg sighed, letting smoke drift out of her mouth.

Castiel, Meg, Crowley, and Zar were the outcasts of the outcasts for the simple reason of being from very wealthy families. Currently, they were all hanging out in the alley between the science building and main school building, lounging a bit further away from the others outside smoking. They always spoke to each other in different languages when they were out there, just to rub it into the regular bums. Meg was laying across one the plastic tables there, her head in Zar’s lap while Crowley stood, leaning against the brick. Castiel was sitting on the ground beside them.

“Ne les accroche-tella pas entre votre fenêtre et la sienne?” Zar asked.

“Quais et?”

“Ensuite, vous perfez plusierus occasions si vous atendez le temps,” Crowley smirked.

“Vous devriez consulter Luc. Voyez si elle le rétablit par la suite,” Castiel added. They all snickered.

The side door leading out to the alley opened, and none other than Dean Winchester poked his head out. His eyes landed on Castiel almost immediately, and he made a beeline straight toward him. He flopped down beside Castiel, close, leaning against him, without a word. Castiel switched his cigarette to his other hand so he could wrap his arm around Dean’s shoulders, pulling him closer while mindful of his shoulder in case that was why his arm was in a sling.

“Que lest le problème avec votre chiot?” Crowley asked, smirking and clearly finding Dean amusing.

“Laissez-le être. Il a l’air triste,” Meg mocked.

“I don’t know what the fuck you’re saying, but if it’s about me, shut the fuck up,” Dean snapped.

“Chiot en colère,” Crowley leered.

“Non. Tous, laissex Dean seul. Je ne veux pas que tu l’insulte,” Castiel warned, knowing he probably sounded too snippy himself.

Crowley lifted up his hands. “Nos excuses.”

“Ne vous dites pas que vous êtes en train de tomber pour ce singe, êtesvous Castiel?” Zar asked.

“Quelque chose entre moi et Dean n’est absolument pas votre affaire.”

“Cas,” Dean interrupted in a low whisper, his face close to Castiel’s. “How do you say ‘kiss my ass’ in French?”

Castiel smirked at him and whispered back, “Va te faire foutre.”

“Va te faire foutre,” Dean threw at the other three.

All three of their eyebrows shot up but didn’t say anything. Instead, they turned toward each other and began discussing pranks to pull on Meg’s sister involving Ruby’s thongs.

Castiel pulled Dean a little closer, lifting his hand to thread it through Dean’s hair. Dean sighed and sagged against him, laying his head on Castiel’s shoulder and closing his eyes. Sam had told Castiel a lot of Dean’s favorite things, including some of the music he loved. So, Castiel hummed Simple Man softly between puffs of his cigarette, stroking Dean’s hair.

He really wanted to ask Dean what was wrong, what he was doing there, what had happened, but if the way Dean was acting and the look on Sam’s face earlier were anything, now wasn’t the time. It was kind of reminding him of the time Luc put their parents’ car in the wrong gear and accidentally drove it into the kitchen. Their mother had kept trying to yell, asking why he was even in the car, etc. That was until Luc looked her right in the eye and said, “We have a car in the house. Don’t you think we should deal with that first?”

This felt like that. He had a million questions of why’s and what’s, but there was a car in Dean’s metaphorical house. There was a shift in Dean, and Castiel felt like he should deal and adjust to that before anything else.

Once he had smoked another cigarette, he said softly, “You do realize I ride your bus, right?”

Dean's head jerked up to look at him. “What?”

“In the morning, afternoon.”

“Since when?”

“Since always. You just never noticed me.”

Dean looked at him flabbergasted for a moment, then let out a bark of laughter. Chuckling, he laid his head back down. “Fuck. How did I never notice you?”

“You’re always all eyes on your brother. It’s sweet.”

After a few more moments of silence between them, Dean whispered so softly, Castiel almost didn’t hear it, “I’d do anything for Sammy.”

Castiel squeezed him a little and nodded.

When the bell rang, Castiel kissed Dean on top of his head and helped him up. He walked Dean, arm in arm, to his next class, all the while telling Dean about the prank his friends settled on. Dean snorted and smiled, and when Castiel gave him a parting kiss on his cheek, he heard Dean whisper a small, “Thanks.”

After that, Dean started joining Castiel and his friends during lunch. He always sat beside Castiel, Castiel having his arm around Dean possessively in some way. His friends mocked them but otherwise welcomed the newcomer. They still spoke in different languages, and the four of them made it a game for Dean to guess the language or conversation. It was fun, Dean asking him how to say this or that in the language, then attempting to join in. Once Dean asked how to say, “Go fuck yourself on your pipe and leave Cas and me alone,” to Crowley, but instead what Castiel had him repeat was, “I want Cas’ cock so bad, I’d have him take me right here, right now.”

He and his friends laughed so hard, Dean eventually started swatting at Castiel, asking, “You had me say something about your dick, didn’t you?”

Them laughing harder was just a confirmation.

Now, instead of leaving his little tokens of affection in Dean’s locker, he handed them to him in person during lunch. Dean would smile, small, accept them without a word, and if the giving was accompanied with a kiss to the cheek, Castiel would swear Dean blushed.

Dean didn’t quite hold back his own affection, in his own way. Every time Castiel had a new piercing, changed his hair color, got a new tattoo (normally temporary), Dean would compliment him quietly, almost shy. When Castiel showed up one day in a new pair of skinny jeans, Dean looked him up and down, definitely blushed, and whispered, “You look good, Cas.”

Castiel said, “Thanks, baby,” kissed his cheek, and pinched Dean’s ass. That earned him a glare, but successfully eased the tension in Dean’s shoulders.

Dean was talking to him more openly, as well. He would tell Castiel about his day, about classes, about what he and his buddies were doing to put other teammates in their place when it came to bullying. Dean didn’t say it, but Castiel had a feeling that it had been mainly Dean that was now standing up against them and for the little guy, and his buddies gladly backed him up.

One thing he and his friends quickly learned was that, given the chance, Dean would talk anyone’s ear off about Sam. As such, they also learned quickly how to get Dean off the subject without being too rude.

In fact, the only reason why they were even somewhat nice to Dean was because of Castiel. They would mock him and insult him in different languages, but never in English. Castiel appreciated it, but he knew Dean could handle them. He also thought Dean caught on as well. Dean had no problem mocking and insulting them, too, and it was fun to watch them bite their tongue.

Sam and Dean acknowledged Castiel on the bus now. A few times, on Sam’s encouragement, they all sat together, but neither of them pushed Dean. He knew it was easier for Dean to accept Castiel’s attention around the outcasts – mainly because they truly didn’t give a fuck. And around the school because everyone was so used to Castiel. But Dean was different in public. He was always looking around, like he was going to get caught red-handed.

On the last day before winter break, Castiel found Dean at his locker as the last bell rang.

“Hey, baby,” he said, scooting up close to him as Dean was putting books in his bag.

“Hey, Cas. How’d you do on finals?”

Castiel shrugged. “They told me, but I don’t remember. Guess that means I passed, huh?”

Dean glared at him for a moment, but it was fond.

“Look what I got,” Castiel held up a mistletoe. “And,” from behind his back, he pulled out a present wrapped in gold Christmas paper.

Dean rolled his eyes, grabbed his present, and presented his cheek for Castiel. Castiel gripped Dean’s chin to hold him in place, and slammed a messy, wet, open mouth kiss on his cheek, making a loud, obnoxious smooching noise. Dean pulled back, laughing and shaking his head. “You’re a mess.”

“But you love me. Open, open,” he bounced, tapping the present.

Dean sent him a shy glance then began unwrapping it, careful with the paper. When he opened the box and saw what was inside, he froze. Inside were two tickets to a Papa Roach concert, and Castiel’s favorite pullover hoodie: dark grey, soft, old, had a couple of holes and some paint stains, but it was still his favorite.

Figuring Dean’s surprise was the tickets, Castiel was taken off guard when Dean handed back over the tickets, grabbed the hoodie and let the box drop to the floor. He stared at the hoodie for several long moments before he looked back at Castiel, curiosity, awe, and, Castiel thought, a little sadness in his eyes.

“But… This is yours? You wear it all the time. You love this hoodie.”

Castiel smirked and nodded. “I figured my favorite hoodie would look amazing on my favorite person.”

“Your… your favorite person?”

Castiel nodded again, his smirk turning into a fond smile of his own while he actively stomped down any analysis to the truth of the statement. He held up the tickets, wagging them in front of Dean. “Don’t forget these. I know Papa Roach isn’t your favorite, but Sam loves them.”

Dean slowly reached out and took the tickets back. “Wait, these are for me and Sam?”

Castiel nodded. “A present for both of you. Don’t you think the Winchester boys deserve a night out.” He winked at Dean, leaned over to give him another cheek kiss, and turned to leave.

He was halfway down the almost empty hallway before he heard Dean yell, “Cas, wait!”

He turned back, watching a frazzled looking Dean jog up to him, bag on his shoulder, hoodie slung across his arm, one hand holding tickets, and another holding a small box.

“Here,” Dean said, stopping in front of Castiel. “For you.”

Castiel looked down at the box Dean was holding out to him, shocked. Dean… Dean got him a present?

Castiel slowly reached out, grabbed it, and opened it. Inside were a pair of earrings that looked like Philip head screws, and a necklace with a long, bullet-shaped looking thing. Dean pointed to that first. “This is actually a pill holder. So, y’know, you don’t have to carry your anxiety meds in the bottle everywhere, and you don’t look like you’re sneaking in pot. And I noticed you haven’t gauged your top piercing here,” he said, flickering the top of Castiel’s left ear. “So, it’s regular sized earrings. Can’t say I never screwed you now.”

Castiel snorted, still staring at the items. Last year, Castiel got in trouble for supposedly sneaking in drugs. Everyone laughed at Castiel’s excuse that they were, in fact, prescription pills, because why would someone like Castiel need pills? However, he did. Luc came into the office with the doctor’s note, his main argument that Castiel wasn’t selling drugs was because Luc raised him better than to be that cliché about it. He had taken his pills a couple of time this year in front of Dean, but he didn’t think Dean noticed nor cared.

And the screws. They were absolutely Castiel’s style and something he would wear.

When he looked back up at Dean, he saw hesitation and nerves, but whatever Castiel’s expression was, it quickly made Dean beam.

“Merry Christmas, Cas,” Dean said, leaning over and… kissed Castiel, not quite on the cheek, and more like the corner of his mouth. With one last smile, Dean walked away.

Castiel stood there long enough for the hallway to become completely empty.

“Touché,” he whispered.

Meg and Ruby’s Christmas parties were always epic. Everyone showed.

Castiel was in green skinny jeans, combat boots, a giant white sweater with its collar so stretched, it hung off one shoulder, and a soft, loose Santa hat, wearing it like a hipster beanie. He was one joint and three drinks in, wearing his fake-bullet necklace pill holder and fake-screw earring proudly. He knew he was going to run into Dean at one point that night. Castiel thought, with actively pursuing someone, he would want his target to find him with someone else all up on him – spark some jealousy to push them to make a move.

However, with Dean, doing that just felt wrong. He had watched Dean several times hitting on other women. He was always the cocky alpha male. But he had a feeling that Dean was more of a shy wallflower when it came to other men. He was pretty sure showing interest in anyone but him would push him away.

“Puttana,” he said, addressing Meg. “Vieni a farmi trovare il mio bel ragazzo.”

She smirked at him, and they both rose from the couch they were on, watching Zar and Crowley do shots off of some girl’s belly. They pretty much knew where to find the jocks and cheerleaders. Close to the kitchen to keep drinking and close to the several rooms-now-dance-floors to get some action.

They found Dean sitting in an armchair in the corner of the huge living room. Head cheerleader Lisa was sitting on the arm of the chair, legs crossed and not touching Dean, but clearly trying to get his attention. Dean, however, was busying leaning toward Benny who was in an armchair pushed up against his. They were playing cards and laughing, two Solo cups resting on the window ledge by their heads.

“Come vuoi suonare questo?” Meg asked.

“Voglio prendere quella cagna.”

“Tu canti il tuo Zar interior, posso Ruby interiore.”

He smirked and nodded at Meg, and they slowly made their way to Dean, waiting for the pause in music while songs changed. As soon as it happened, Castiel slid on his knees up to Dean, arms raised up toward him pleadingly, and he said loudly, “Il mio Dean, il mio sole, la mia luna, le mie stele, è questo che mi tradisci?”

Several people around them started laughing as a new song drummed from the speakers. Benny was smirking, Dean was smiling at Castiel fondly, and an annoyed Lisa squeaked in surprised as Meg wrapped an arm around Lisa’s shoulder.

“La mia povera ragazza. Non lo sai? Tu interferisci in ciò che non può essere rotto. Prego, venga con me. Troverò una figa così, non avrai più bisogno di cazzo.”

Castiel, who was still trying to look imploring at Dean, cracked at little at Meg’s statement, doing his best to push down a smirk and a laugh.

Dean, however, laughed freely. “She just said something about pussy, didn’t she?”

“Excuse me?” Lisa snapped, trying to get out from Meg’s arm.

“Merely an… opportunity,” Castiel said in English. “Il mio caro Dean. Permetta al mio amico di mostrare a questa donna ciò che manca e mi permetta di mostrarvi quello che ti manca.” He scooted himself between Dean’s legs and lifted both hands to cup Dean’s face, rubbing his thumbs on his cheeks. “Non farmi più aspettare, amore mio.”

Castiel froze at his last words. Dean and Benny were laughing, clearly not noticing, but he could feel Meg’s gaze. He just called Dean his love, and not so much in a mocking way. But, Castiel quickly reasoning, he was currently acting. This was fake. Everyone knew that.

Dean grabbed his hands and held them to his chest. “If you get me another drink-o, then you may-o hang out-o.”

“Good job, Dean-o,” Meg leered. “Come Lisa. Castiel here is about demand Dean’s attention, and trust me, you don’t want to be around to witness it.”

Lisa huffed and finally shoved Meg away. “Dean?” she asked, sounding angry.

Dean let go of Castiel, and Castiel tried to respectfully slide back. He didn’t quite manage it. “Yeah?”

“Seriously?” she asked, nodding her head to Castiel and Meg.

“Hey, they’re cool,” Dean said.

“Yeah, Lisa,” Benny jumped in. “Give them a shot.”

“Dean,” Lisa said sternly, a quiet warning in her voice. She looked pointedly at where Castiel’s hands were resting on Dean’s knees, Castiel still perched between them.

“He’s harmless, Lis.”

“Harmless? You do know what he makes you look like?”

Castiel quickly stood, both he and Meg rounding on Lisa.

“Se dice fagot…” Meg grunted under her breath.

“Please,” Castiel said, taking a half a step away from Dean, clasping his hands together behind his back, “do tell. What do I make him look like?”

“Well,” she said, obviously awkward now. “You know?”

“Oh, just say it,” Meg taunted, a dangerous twinkle in her eye.

“I see.” He put a sturdy hand on Meg’s shoulder, silently telling her to back off. “Well, I feel sick and sorry that Dean has such closed-minded, judgmental, rude, and disrespectful friends. I hope you at least treat him with the respect and affection he deserves, though judging by just now, I sincerely doubt it. This is Meg, by the way,” he let go of her shoulder as she gave Lisa a very wicked smile. “She likes Dean. Shows him unconditional respect. She’s also very loyal, when it suits her. And guess what, protecting someone she likes against people who treat them like shit? It suits her. Just… wanted to introduce you.”

Castiel and Meg turned away at the same time and made their way back upstairs. Once on the landing, Meg hugged Castiel’s arm. “He’s coming around, you know.”

“I know.”

“And… you know it’s okay, right?”

“What’s okay?”

“To feel… Never mind,” she sighed dramatically, letting him go.

They silently grabbed Zar and Crowley and snuck out to the roof in the back and smoked another joint. The rest of them joked and laughed, but Castiel just stewed a little. How dare she? Thing was, he knew Lisa. She was a great girl. He wouldn’t have actually attempted anything in front of her. He had been very careful about that, allowing Dean space to breathe without feeling like he was torn between two selves.

He snorted to himself thinking back to the beginning of the year, when he wanted to make Dean torn by saying hello to him and his brother on the bus. He wasn’t too sure what changed, except for the fact that he knew now Dean wasn’t a stereotypical jock. Dean was simply trying to do the best he could, and he simply wasn’t ready nor had enough courage yet to just let himself be himself. Dean had spent a lot of the time playing a part, as Castiel had slowly learned watching Dean open himself up to him and his friends, and watching him around his brother, and a few close buddies like Benny and Victor. Why he was playing the part, Castiel didn’t know, but he didn’t get the feeling it was for asshole reasons, or even just closeted reasons.

Or maybe so he hoped.

After they were finished smoking, they made their way back to one of the game rooms with a bar. This was technically the wing of Meg’s and Ruby’s older brothers, but they were away at college. Meg and Crowley had installed the bar at one side. Some kids were playing pool, but most of them were lounging on several couches and chairs. They made themselves comfortable near the corner of the bar, Castiel throwing himself on a plush beanbag. Meg took the one next to him, Crowley took an armchair he pulled over, and Zar made himself happy sitting on the bar. One of the hired students to serve drinks came over and handed them what the kid knew to be their favourites. Castiel downed his quickly then asked for another.

By the time a few other students joined them, Zar in the middle of a story of meeting a few hookers in Paris, Castiel was halfway through the next drink. He wasn’t listening. He was honest to god pouting, and he didn’t care. Dean was pretty, and with people like Lisa in his life, he doubted he could get anywhere with him by the end of the year anyway, he thought self-deprecatingly. Here he thought eight months would have been enough. Now he was down to five.

“Hey,” Meg flicked him on the arm. He looked at her, then to whatever she was nodding at.

Dean, Benny, and Victor had just walked into the room, the three of them obviously looking for someone. When Victor’s eyes landed on Castiel, Victor nudged Dean and nodded his way. Dean looked over, smiled at Castiel, and the three came over.

“Hey,” Dean said softly, flopping himself down on the same beanbag chair as him. Castiel smiled at him, lifting his arm to allow Dean to slot himself beside him. Dean snuggled perfectly close to him, his hand landing comfortably on Castiel’s thigh.

“Hey,” Castiel whispered. Maybe he smoked a little too much, but he felt awed and excited that Dean searched him out. That Dean was there. “You don’t have to be with me, you know.”

“I know,” Dean smiled at him. “I want to be.”

“Got it!” Zar’s voice knocked them out of their little bubble. They looked over to see Zar smiling at his phone that was pointed at them, and Benny, Victor, and Crowley hovering over him to look.

“Too cute,” Victor said.

“Send it to me,” Meg requested.

“Did you take a pic of us?!” Dean asked incredulously.

Zar just smirked, tapping away at his phone and not answering.

“Send it to me!” called Castiel.

“Hey!” Dean swatted his leg but keeping his hand on it afterward.

“Oh, hush,” Castiel smirked at him. “They said too cute. I want to see.”

He dug his phone out of his pocket as it vibrated with a pic text from Zar. He opened it, leaning closer to Dean so they both could look.

The picture was them both staring at each other like they were the only thing on the planet, and Castiel didn’t think it was the pot and alcohol that made him think so. He quickly saved it as his background, knowing Dean was watching, and tucked his phone back in his pocket.

The rest of the night was amazing, if Castiel did say so himself. They mostly stayed in that room, Dean always right beside him, and both sets of their friends joked, drank, and laughed together. Dean allowed Castiel to kiss on him some, the jaw, the neck, his hands. God, Castiel could barely keep his hands off the man, but he did his best to remain respectful. He did lose himself at one point, nipping on Dean’s ear, licking around his jaw, rubbing his hand around the small of his back.

“Cas,” Dean whispered, a quiet request for him to stop.

“Sorry,” Castiel breathed, pulling back a little, trying to catch his breath. “You taste so good.”

Dean chuckled and squeezed his knee. “Me, or the alcohol?”

“Both. And together is just… bone-worthy.”

Dean chuckled again but pulled away a little more. That was the farthest they got, and Castiel was more careful that point forward. He was happy Dean still allowed the random peck on the jaw and closeness though.

Eventually, Dean and his friends had to leave. Castiel crashed at Meg’s, as he usually did. Before he passed out, he texted Dean.

You made my night incredible. Miss you already

A week later brought with it the real Christmas.

The Novak Empire was what they were known as in the corporate world. Castiel legit had no idea what they did. Growing up, when asked what his parents did, he would simply answer, “They’re Novaks,” and that was answer enough.

He had no reason to take the bus, or to go to the school he did, or to allow his clothes to get holes, except for the simple reason that he wanted to. That was one thing Luc and Gabe always taught him. They were going to learn to be Novaks regardless. They could at least also learn to be normal people. Michael and Anna agreed and did the same growing up. Hannah, Uriel, and Zachariah, however, did not. Castiel was raised more by Luc and Gabe than anyone else, and they all three shared the same philosophies and ideals. Michael and Anna were more like-minded, slightly different but not that far. Their other three siblings always sided with their mother; their father usually siding with them. Add the extended families together during holidays, and needlessly to say aspirin was giving out with dinner.

Luc and Castiel both learned quickly that looking presentable during family holidays was simply easier than the arguments that came from not doing it. He hated taking out his piercing and making sure his hair was his natural color, but these dinners only came by a few times a year.

He was donned in fitted black slacks, a button-down dark red shirt, a black vest and tie, and suit jacket. Most everyone looked the same. Altogether, there were over forty people coming for dinner. Compared to the other Novaks, their house was like a cottage, even though it could easily have forty people in it for a dinner. This was the reason the family wanted to have Christmas every year at their place. More “homely”.

Castiel was fully dressed, wasting time with Luc and Gabe while their guests began to file in. Luc had spiked the club soda since Castiel would be the only one drinking it. The smaller children, or rather the youngest Novak generation, would be having juice and water only. He was just getting a good buzz, Luc, Gabe, and he congratulating themselves at being ignored so far, when one of the hired hands interrupted them.

“Mr. Castiel?” she asked, looking among them.

“Yeah?” Castiel answered.

“There are a couple of people downstairs by the kitchens asking for you.”

“What?” Castiel asked, both Luc and Gabe looking on studiously. “Who?”

“They said they’re the Winchesters?”

Castiel gut twisted a little. He had daydreams about Dean randomly showing up for a good dicking, but there was no reason for him to, no less with his younger brother. Castiel drained his drink, handed the glass to the woman, and headed down to the kitchens. As soon as he walked through the door, he saw them. Dean and Sam were basically holding onto each other, waiting in the corner by the back door, watching the kitchen buzz hot and busy in preparations.

Castiel rushed toward them, the kitchen staff parting for him easily without pausing their work.

“What’s wrong?” he asked as he closed in.

“Cas?” Dean did Castiel a quick once over, clearly liking what he saw, but quickly brought himself back to the moment. “Cas, I’m so sorry.”

“Please,” Sam begged, his voice sounded small. “We… we need help.”

Castiel nodded, observing them both. Then he grabbed Dean’s free hand that wasn’t around his brother’s shoulders and dragged them through the kitchens, up the stairs, and to his father’s study. Once the door was shut, he asked, “What happened?”

“It’s nothing—"

“Dean,” Sam stopped him.

“It’s not!” Dean snapped at Sam, silencing him. “It’s really nothing. We… We just don’t have anywhere to stay tonight. Normally, we’d go to Bobby’s, but Bobby’s gone for the holiday, Ellen too, and Benny doesn’t have room, and Victor can’t, and we just… we just need a place to crash. That’s all.”

Castiel nodded, watching critically as Dean verbally tap-danced in front of him. Sam had crossed his arms, looking down at the floor. Castiel noted Sam had grown taller over the last few months. Dean looked desperate, apologetic, but mostly… scared, he thought. Castiel thought back to when Dean’s arm was in a sling. He had a similar look then. It was significant, and not new, that was clear to him.

Several ideas flitted through his mind, including an abusive home, an abusive relationship, a pimp, anything.

Dean began to look defeated the longer the silence stretched, and Castiel without thinking crossed over and pulled Dean into a tight hug. “It’s okay,” he whispered, quiet enough he hoped Sam wouldn’t hear. “You both are safe here, and you can stay as long as you need. I’ll give you whatever you need. It’s okay. You’re safe.”

Dean held him back – tight. Painfully so, actually, but Castiel let him. He was clearly barely holding himself together. When he felt Dean relax some, Castiel blindly reached out a hand and pulled Sam into the hug, to the chuckles of both the Winchesters.

They stayed that way until a door opened, and Castiel heard his father’s quiet, “Oh!”

They broke apart, Castiel noting the watery look in Sam’s eye, and turned toward his father and mother.

“Hey,” he greeted them.

“Castiel,” his mother nodded. Tessa Novak always had a bubble of calm around her, but her children knew better. Her tone was asking for a quick explanation and solution before Novaks rained down and threatened to drown them.

“This is Dean and Sam. They need a place to stay tonight, maybe a few nights.”

As well as he knew his parents’ inflections, they knew his. They both looked surprised, then his father beamed after looking at how close Dean and Castiel were standing to each other. “Perfect! You both can join us for dinner.”

Castiel blanched, “What?!”

“Castiel, this is a perfect opportunity,” his mother smiled, stepping closer to them. “Naomi and Raphael are coming tonight.”

Castiel’s blood ran cold. “No, Mom. I don’t want to subject them to… them . Dean and Sam need… not them ,” he argued.

His father stepped up to join his mother. “They’ll be fine. And we have spare suits. What do you say?” he looked at the Winchesters hopefully. “A night of dress up, free obnoxious food, and being made to feel like shit all night?”

“Wow… that… that sounds—" Dean cut himself, obviously unsure if this was a joke or not.

“Exactly what tonight is,” Castiel answered, turning toward Dean. “You don’t have to do this. My parents are just hoping for something to distract me from causing a scene.”

Dean smiled at Castiel, fond and affectionate. Castiel heart picked up a little, and he forced himself to ignore it. It was only because Sam and Dean Winchester were about to be subjected to the Novaks. That was all.

“Please,” his mother asked, placing a hand on Sam’s shoulder. “You both are more than welcomed to stay here for as long as you want, whether you join us or not. But if you both help keep three of our sons reeled in some, I will personally see to it you both have your own permanent rooms that you can use absolutely at any time. I’ll have keys made even.”

Both the Winchesters were smiling, the tension and anxiety and fear having now left them.

Castiel, however, was humiliated. “Mom…” he groaned.

“I would be happy to keep Cas in line, ma’am,” Dean grinned. “What ya say, Sammy?”

“Do you guys have a big Christmas tree?” Sam asked excitedly.

His mother and father smiled down at the fourteen-year-old, eyes twinkling at the innocence that question provoked. “Of course,” his father said. “But we save the last and most important decorations for tonight. Would you like to help?”

“Hell yeah,” both Winchesters said, causing all three Novaks to smile.

“Castiel,” his mother said, turning to him. “Get these boys settled and changed, and we’ll see you down there.”

As soon as his parents left, Castiel rounded on them. “Et tu, Brute?”

Sam snickered. “Free food, yo.”

“Yeah,” Dean smirked. “And I mean,” he gestured to Castiel up and down. “Pass up a chance to see a Castiel in rare form? Not a chance.”

Castiel set the brothers up in separate rooms, making sure they had towels, borrowed suits with sizes to the best of his guess, and pajamas and clothes for the next day. He didn’t ask why they came with only the clothes on their backs, and he wasn’t going to.

He waited at the top of the main stairs for them, and eventually, Luc and Gabe came looking for him.

“Hey,” Gabe said as they joined him. Neither brother looked the least bit concerned, but Castiel knew if they weren’t concerned, they wouldn’t have looked for him. “Did you pay someone to get you out of this?”

“And can we join?” Luc asked.

Castiel smiled at his brothers. Luc just recently graduated from college, and Gabe was in his junior year. No matter the age difference, however, the three of them were thick as thieves… Literally. They would all turn on each other if it worked out better for them, and they would all understand if the others did. Because of that, there was a weird sense of loyalty and respect among them.

“No. Dean Winchester and his little brother Sam need a place to stay tonight. Mom and Dad invited them to join dinner. They’re getting ready now.”

“Dean?” Luc asked. “This is the boy you’ve been spending all semester trying to get in his pants?”

Castiel didn’t say anything. Instead, he crossed his arms and looked down to the floor.

“Ooh,” Gabe cooed. “Does little Cassie have a little crushy?”

“Are you blushing , Castiel?”

“He must be hottie.”

“Why haven’t you hit that, huh?”

“Is he straight?”

“Is he uninterested?”

“Is it because you’re bad in bed?”

“Maybe because he knows your punkass ain’t worth it?”

“I bet it’s because Cassie as a tiny weenie—"

“Or maybe he’s a fucking gentleman,” came Dean’s angry voice.

The three Novaks looked over to see a pissed off looking Sam and Dean standing there, arms crossed, both looking absolutely impeccable in their suits.

“Is that mine?” Gabe asked, pointing to the suit Sam was wearing.

“Damn. Dude looks better in it than you ever did,” Luc said.

Gabe slapped Luc on the arm, “Better than you looked in that tux at that last auction.”

The two turned and started making their way downstairs, bickering and shoving each other, not giving their guests another look. The fact that they were insulting each other instead of the new guests coloured the exchange pretty welcoming for them.

Castiel was looking anywhere but the brothers, rubbing the back of his neck with his other hand in his pocket. The Winchesters came here for somewhere to stay because they trusted Castiel enough for that. And there he was talking about Dean like an object to his brothers.

“Sorry,” Castiel mumbled. “They mean no harm. I… I didn’t mean any harm or anything. I promise. You’re both—"

“Hey,” came Dean’s soft voice, a warm hand on his shoulder. He looked up, not to find an angry Dean but a… soft one? “It’s okay, Cas. Come on. Let’s get some grub.”

Castiel looked to Sam, assuming he would at least find an angry Sam. Instead, he found a smiling Sam, one who looking supportive?

So, Castiel just misjudged what just happened. He cleared his throat awkwardly, forcing himself to let it go and return to what was at hand. “Right. About that. So… We’re Novaks?”

“You don’t say,” Dean laughed, taking a step back, giving Castiel space.

Castiel sent him a glare, then continued. “You both will probably be ignored. Don’t take it personally. With luck, we’ll all be ignored. But please, don’t take anything someone in my family might say as my own personal thoughts, opinions, or beliefs. The Novak clan seem to be thoroughly divided on a lot of issues. Normally, I don’t hold my tongue, but my parents knew what they were doing by inviting you,” he sighed heavily. “I won’t do anything that might throw heat on either of you. However, I can’t promise for anyone else.”

“We can hold our own,” Dean smirked, slapping a seemingly proud hand on Sam’s shoulder. “Don’t worry about us.”

“Yeah,” Sam nodded. “Now, take us to the food.”

Castiel led them downstairs and into the ballroom where a giant, pretentious table sat. All the Novaks were being seated, and Castiel led them to where Gabe and Luc were sitting at one of the far corners. Luc sat at the corner, and Castiel sat on the other side, Dean beside him, Sam beside Dean.

Slowly, everyone was seated, and the toasting began. Luc snuck Cas, Dean, and Sam alcohol, Dean only allowing Sam one drink. Castiel, Luc, and Gabe began their regular game of bad lip reading. During each speech, one of them would cover his ears and quietly whisper the most ridiculous lip reading they could. Dean and Sam snickered throughout, and after forty-five exhausting minutes of different Novaks bragging and boasting about their year and family and success, waiters came out to hand out food.

Through most of the dinner, Luc, Gabe, and Castiel mainly quietly informed the Winchesters of different family members, making jokes, and also just joked around in general. All the while, Luc and Gabe would pointedly call Castiel gentleman.

“Pass the water, Gentleman.”

“I’m sorry, what did you say Gentleman?”

“And then there was Gentleman, dressed in all black…”

Castiel was a little embarrassed but mostly found it funny. Seeing Castiel’s good humour about it, Dean and Sam relaxed after around the seventh time he was called that. It didn’t pass Castiel’s notice, nor did Dean’s hand on his knee the first time he was mocked for it.

Overall, by the time most of the dinner was over, the three Novaks and Winchesters were all enjoying good humour and laugher. As the table started to quiet some, the Novaks tensed.

This was the portion of the dinner where the older, wiser, more successful but ultimately estranged Novaks got to lay their annual judgment on a few.

Luc was the first to be attacked.

“So, Luc,” Naomi called from across the room, ensuring everyone was going to be listening. “You graduated in May, did you not?”

“Sure did. Completely naked under my gown and everything.”

His tone was bitter, and no one dared laugh.

“Why haven’t you joined the business?”

“Because I don’t want to.”

“Your family needs you,” Raphael spoke.

“Really?” Luc sneered and gestured around the room. “And I would make a significant difference with you lot involved?”

“We can always use fresh, young minds,” Uriel spoke up.

“Ah, there we go. My mind isn’t fresh. In fact, it’s pretty rotten with all the drugs and sex.”

A lot of the older Novaks bristled, and their mother hissed a warning from the front. Castiel felt Dean tense, and Castiel gently reached over to rub his back, hoping it was soothing. Whoever was the first to be put on the metaphorical stand was the one who set the tone for the rest of the night. It was why nannies and babysitters generally waited around while they ate, so they could whisk the youngest ones away if needed. At Luc’s tone, several women flocked to the table, grabbing anyone under sixteen, and leading them out.

This included Sam.

“But,” Sam tried to protest against the sweet looking woman.

“Go, Sam,” Dean ordered.

“We’re going to finish decorating the tree. Would you like that?” she asked Sam.

Sam huffed. He was too smart to be tricked like that, but after catching Castiel’s pleading eyes, he nodded and left.

“I thought everyone was going to decorate?” Dean asked, whispering close to Castiel’s ear.

“My immediate family sometimes does as tradition. Unless… unless. Then the kids do it to have something to do while we engage in war.”

Dean’s hand found its way to Castiel’s thigh, squeezing it, while he squared his shoulders. Castiel smiled at him, watching. Dean looked ready for battle, and Castiel couldn’t help but feel like the hand was a protective gesture.

First, it was the attack on Luc. Then Michael. Then Gabe. Then Chuck, their father. Then on Rachel about her son Alfie. Castiel had rubbed Dean’s back, leaned close to him, trying to help him relax. It worked for a while. Until…

“I see you’re still a fag, Castiel,” carried Raphael’s voice.

There was such a halting of everything at his words, there were a couple of squeaks of silverware on china. Dean froze beside Castiel, and Castiel pointedly removed himself from Dean’s side to sit straight, in hopes of making himself look bolder as well as relaxing Dean and getting attention off him.

While he did this, however, his father, mother, Luc, Gabe, Michael, Anna, Hannah, and even a few cousins and distant relatives stood up in a fury. This was one of the main reasons why Naomi and Raphael rarely came to these things. They wanted the others to believe they were better than them, but in truth, it was because they were barely welcomed.

“What the fuck did you just say about my son?” Tessa spat.

Castiel cleared his throat loudly, getting everyone’s attention, as he stood and buttoned his jacket. After everyone sat, allowing Castiel the floor, Castiel smirked at Raphael. “I’m sorry, Uncle. I didn’t quite hear you over the outrage of your bigotry. What did you ask?”

Raphael considered him, clearly deciding his best card. After a tense silence, he said, quietly, glancing towards Dean, “You’re still living in sin.”

“Sin,” Castiel repeated loudly and proudly. If the air was thick before, it could be cut with a knife now. This was the main dividing factor between Novaks.

“Yes, sin,” Raphael said loudly, standing himself. “We are here to celebrate the birth of our Savior, and you bring your boyfriend to flaunt.”

“First of all,” Castiel raised his voice, “he isn’t my boyfriend. He merely tolerates me. Secondly, you say we’re here for Jesus, but not once have any of us mentioned him or anything concerning Christianity until now. And third, and what I hope is for the last time but is doubtful, a physical, biological, natural reaction, is not a sin.”

“Come now,” one of Castiel’s great uncles stood, face red and clearly drunk. “Let the boy stick it where he wants!”

Naomi stood, shaking a finger at this great uncle, “If people like you didn’t encourage him—"

She was quickly interrupted by both Luc and Gabe, standing and saying at the same time, gesturing to each other dramatically “May we remind you we have both slept with guys. We’re bisexual!”

Suddenly, the room broke out, several people standing, people yelling over each other. Not wanting to be around any of them, including Dean’s reaction to such a scene, Castiel quietly spun on his heels and left. He quickly took as many shortcuts as he could to get to the top part of their mansion, sneaking out onto the roof after grabbing a bottle of tequila and some pot.

He drank as he wallowed. Nevermind the embarrassment of forgetting he wasn’t free to touch Dean like he did, that accidentally put Dean in the line of fire, he was mostly hurt. He had such a large family. He didn’t care so much about Naomi or Raphael, or all those cousins he never talked to. What hurt was the silence of Uriel, Hannah, and Zachariah.

At least this was one area his mother agreed on. There was nothing wrong with him. With any sexuality or romantic orientation.

He drank some of the bottle and smoked a joint, enjoying being high up, how cold it was, the snow falling around. After a while, he heard cars being started up. He was near the valet area, and he knew members of his families were having their cars brought to them to leave. Soon, only his immediate family and the Winchesters would be in the house. A big part of him hoped Uriel, Hannah, and Zach would be there in the morning. That they would accept his gifts, or better yet, have gifts for him. He doubted it though.

“Hey,” came a small voice.

Castiel turned quickly to see Sam’s face smiling at him. Somehow Sam found his way to the attic window Castiel usually used to get out onto the flat area of the roof.

“What are you doing here?”

Sam shrugged. “Dean told me what happened. We’ve been looking for you.”

Castiel sighed, taking a long drag from the bottle and looking back up at the stars. “I think I humiliated Dean.”

He didn’t know why he said it, but he felt like he could trust Sam. Hell, he felt like Sam was his Dean-diary, in a way. He pulled his cigarettes out of his jacket’s pocket while he heard the cautious sound of Sam slowly climbing out the window and scooting next to Castiel.

“You didn’t,” Sam said once he was situated.

Castiel took a drag and said as exhale, “How do you know?”

“Because he’s worried about you. And… and he feels guilty for not standing up for you.”

Castiel snapped his head to Sam. “What? Why?”

“He…” Sam sighed and adjusted to sit cross-legged, looking up at the stars himself. “He said your family was attacking you for being gay, and he just sat there. I’m… I’m sorry for that. It’s… hard. For Dean.”

“Sam,” Castiel sighed, taking another sip. “Dean has nothing to be sorry for. I was the one all over him. I brought attention to him. I know he… I know he isn’t ready. Or isn’t at all. I just... I should have been more responsible. And then… I left.”

He felt Sam’s hand on his shoulder, squeezing and shaking him slightly. “You should have. Dean said your whole family started fighting about you. Honestly, I’m surprised Luc and Gabe came to your defence.”

Castiel snorted. “Why? They always do.”

“Well…” Sam shrugged. “Just the way they were talking to you in the hallway…”

“Oh.” Castiel let out a loud, long breath. “I suppose I embarrassed Dean then too. How… How much did you both hear?”’

“Most of it,” Sam answered. “But you didn’t embarrass anyone.”

Castiel took a big gulp of liquor than handed Sam the bottle. “Don’t let me have any more.”

Sam chuckled. “Okay.”

They were silent for a long while, then as Sam opened his mouth to speak, Castiel quickly interrupted. “We need to get inside. It’s cold, and you need sleep.”

Before Sam could properly answer, Castiel was urging the kid through the window. He walked him to his room, taking back the liquor bottle. He climbed another set of stairs that led to his room, quickly took a shower and put on black sweats that hung off him, grabbed the bottle and sat in his bay window in a corner of his room.

His room wasn’t that big, compared to others in the house. A double bed sat in the center against the opposite wall of the door. He had his own bathroom to the left of his bed. There was a desk beside that, a walk-in closet opposite, a dresser by the door followed by two bookshelves, and the bay window – the only window – in the far corner. His walls were plastered with posters of movies and bands, but mostly drawings he did. Clothes were scattered everywhere, random things littering the room, a classic rich kid, punk room.

There was a knock at the door.

“What?” he called, expected Luc.

“You okay?” came the soft voice of Dean.

“Dean?” he asked, snapping his head over as the door opened and standing. “What… You should be in bed.”

“Dude,” Dean chuckled. He walked across the room, up to Castiel. “You should be too.”

Castiel huffed, falling back against the bay’s seat and taking another gulp. “I don’t sleep during holidays.”

“Clearly. I don’t blame you,” Dean replied, sitting next to him. Both were sitting sideways to look out the window, their legs easily tangling together. Dean took the bottle from Castiel and took several gulps from it himself. “How drunk are you?”

“Not at all. I even tried to smoke some, but… I guess tonight’s not the night.”

“Good,” Dean whispered, setting the bottle on the floor. His hands found Castiel’s, and he held strong. “Cas?”

Castiel looked over, finding a very nervous Dean. “Yeah?”

Dean swallowed, then leaned over. Their lips came very close together, but at the last second, Dean moved and began kissing down Castiel’s jaw, then mouthed around his neck.

“What are you doing?” Castiel breathed.

Dean’s hands travelled up his arms then to his bare torso. Dean moved closer, pressing as close as he could, sucking on his neck and rubbing his sides.

Castiel would be thrilled if it wasn’t for Dean shaking, trembling, and basically acting like a virgin being put in a room with a whore.

“Dean…” Castiel groaned, equal parts pleasure and disappointed. He grabbed Dean’s wrists and pushed him away. “Dean, you don’t want this.”

“I do,” Dean said, though he didn’t sound confident.

Castiel sighed and stood, walking away and scrubbing his hair. “No, you don’t.” He turned back to Dean who had also stood. “What are you doing?”

“I…” Dean swallowed again, looking Castiel up and down. He slowly walked up to him, resting his hands on Castiel’s hips and resting their foreheads together. “I know I’m… me. But what your brother said… Cas, you are worth it. You’re worth this.”

Dean moved to start kissing Castiel’s neck again. His fingers gripped harder, and he started sucking a bruise to Castiel’s neck. It was going to leave a hickey. Castiel couldn’t bring himself to stop him right away, his breath quickly being shallower.

But eventually, he did. He made Dean stop by pulling him into a tight hug. “Stop,” Castiel whispered. “Talk to me. What do you mean?”

Dean seemed to relax in his embrace. He hugged Castiel back, tightly. “What he said. About how I might think you aren’t worth it? You are, Cas. I’m sorry I’m so… I’m so sorry.”

Now it hit Castiel. Sam and Dean’s reaction. What Sam was saying on the roof. He smiled and buried his face between Dean’s neck and shoulder. They thought his brothers were being serious.

“I know, Dean,” he said softly, kissing Dean’s neck a couple of times, then moving up to his ear. “I know I’m worth it, Dean. But here’s the thing,” he planted one firm kiss by Dean’s ear and whispered into it, “you’re worth the wait.”

Not until Castiel said those words out loud did it ring true to him. God, Dean was so worth it. Maybe, just maybe, Dean wasn’t just a conquest. A challenge. A goal. Maybe… Just maybe… But only if there was an actual ending to the waiting.

Dean seemed to collapse in relief against Castiel, making Castiel laugh. Eventually, they both were laughing, and soon enough they were letting go, and Castiel was leading Dean out, wishing him a goodnight.

Castiel pulled his covers tightly around himself that night. But he did actually fall asleep.

Castiel woke very early the next morning, and then he woke up one of the house’s hired hands. He sent him to town with a list, calling the stores beforehand and paying extra so that Sam and Dean would also have present under the tree.

Two hours later, the presents were added, and his mother and father were looking knowingly at one another, making Castiel feel defensive.

Sam and Dean were the last ones downstairs. They were both in the jeans and t-shirts Castiel had gotten for them the night before. They ate breakfast with them, everyone in a good mood. No one mentioned how Uriel and Zachariah weren’t there, but Hannah was. She was easy, relaxed, and seemed to have left her opinions at home.

Unfortunately, something happened before they could get to gifts. An emergency at one of their companies. Because Castiel had still refused to even announce if he was going to college, let alone even applied, Castiel was sternly pushed into his father’s office to observe.

Five hours later, he, his father, Gabe, Michael, and Hannah left the office to a mostly empty house.

Sam and Dean were gone. They left a message to thank the Novaks for their stay, the food, and the gifts. Castiel had a text from Dean with the same message. It was all very… polite. He tried texting back, but with no answer. Dean was a little standoffish that morning, so Castiel decided to just let him be.

Dean was willing to, in his words, give Castiel what he was worth. In a weird way.

Dean was clearly interested.

And Castiel… damn it all to hell, Castiel cared about the guy.

He was setting himself up for heartbreak. He just knew.

Dean never contacted him.

Castiel spent the rest of break high. Or drunk. Or both. He was pretty sure he left Dean a drunk/stoned message one night, but as he never heard back, he chose to let it go.

The thing of it was, Castiel felt… hurt. He was hurt that Dean didn’t stick around on Christmas, hurt he didn’t text back, hurt he didn’t hear from him. He didn’t know when he started really caring, but he did.

But Dean?

Maybe that was the thing. Somewhere along the way, he started to care, and he had to realize that Dean didn’t. Not in the same way. After all, Castiel had gone way above and beyond to shower Dean with affection, attention, desire, the works.

And what exactly had he gotten in return? After months ? Hundreds of dollars? So many flowers? His hand cramped once writing out a poem, for fuck’s sake. In return, he got one sincere kiss. A little closeness. Dean dubiously throwing himself at Castiel because he felt sorry for what a horrible family Castiel had.

Months. Carefully picking out flowers every week without fail. Carefully picking out books, poems. Drawing them together. Sure, sometimes they were basically porn, but others weren’t.

Castiel spent months.

And without him realizing it, he actually gave more than material things. More than time and money. He gave Dean… something, in him. Something of himself.

None of it was good enough, apparently. Those few times of a little something from Dean? Versus every fucking day that Castiel reached out? Dean wasn’t obligated to give Castiel anything, and Castiel didn’t want anything Dean didn’t want to give. He just apparently chose not to acknowledge that was exactly what Dean was doing, giving him only what he wanted to give: nothing.

Fuck it.

Fuck him.

And damnit, it hurt.

The first day back from break, Castiel woke up hungover. Probably one of the worst hangovers he had experienced, which was saying something considering his rebellious history. Somewhere in his mind, he recognized he just turned nineteen, and that was probably really sad.

That thought was drowned out by him rushing to the bathroom and puking his guts out.

He was able to shower and put on clean clothes – plain jeans, a plain black t-shirt, and a blue jacket – and made it to the bus. He rushed to the back where it was mainly empty, pressed himself to the side, and laid his fever, pounding head against the cold glass.

He fell asleep almost immediately, and it felt like seconds before a hand was shaking his shoulder. He jerked and looked up to a worried looking Sam.

“This is your stop,” Sam explained. The last of the people who normally got off here were stepping down.

Castiel jumped up, snagging his bag, yelling a, “Thanks, Sam, I owe you!” as he ran off the bus.

He lasted all of two class periods before he decided to call a fuck-it and left.

He didn’t go to school the next day either.

Or the next.

Finally, he knew he had to go. He only drank a little the night before, woke up feeling fine, shaved, showered, and was cleared eyed as he looked out the bus window, listening to his music.

He tried not to look at Sam and Dean got on the bus. Dean hadn’t done a damn thing to reach out to Castiel, and Castiel was letting him go. So, he pointedly ignored them, and even Sam as he got off the bus. He ignored Dean for the first time in years as he passed him in the hallway that morning. Ignored him in class. Ignored him in the next class. Hid out during lunch in a stairwell. Ignored him like a goddamn pro.

It wasn’t until Castiel was walking towards the bus stop that someone grabbed his arm, twirling him around.

Dean was looking at him, equal parts worry and annoyance in his eyes.

“What?” Castiel spat.

Dean looked like he had been slapped. “What? What? That’s a great question, Castiel.”

No. Nope. No way. He wasn’t going to pull the full name shit.

What?! You want to act annoyed and mad, Dean?” Castiel growled, stepping forward, knowing his expression was what made Dean take a step back. “Tell me, have you thrown away every flower? All those drawings and poems, they, what? End up underneath a greasy fast food bag in the garbage?”

Dean looked confused but gulped.

“What have I not done, Dean? Or better yet… What did I do that after everything I have done that to make you think it’s okay to just, I don’t know, forget I exist?”

Dean paled, but Castiel pressed on.

“If you really, actually aren’t interested,” Castiel growled quietly, letting all his hurt and frustration bubble in his voice, “then why didn’t you fucking tell me? I spent this whole school year making a fool of myself, haven’t I? Something you and your homophobic dick friends have laughed at all year, yeah?” He knew he was letting his worst, most irrational insecurities get the better of him, but he didn’t care. Not anymore. “Well, not anymore. Fuck you. You know, that night you said I was worth something . You know what I’m worth, Dean? I’m worth the person I’ve constantly and daily gave my attention to, to at least let me know he was okay. So screw you !”

He yelled the last part, then quickly spun on his heels, walking right past the bus station, planning on walking to the closest place where he could hide until he could take another bus.

Castiel went to school the next day and continued to ignore Dean. In fact, he was ignoring most people. He trusted himself enough to know that most of what he perceived of Dean, he was correct. He knew himself and what others thought, of him, of Dean, of him and Dean. But something changed between them, and Castiel’s endgame wasn’t the same. He didn’t know what it was, but he knew it wasn’t what it was at the beginning.

But that was mute now. There was no endgame. Dean had managed to hurt him, and that was the end of that.

That Monday, Castiel opened his locker to find a dozen flowers with a handwritten poem. By now, thanks to all the flowers he gave to Dean, he recognized the flowers and what they meant: beauty, admiration, new beginnings, joy, faithfulness, honor, gratitude, passion, and promise. The poem was from the eighteenth century, one depicting an apology to a lover.

Castiel sighed a loud breath, holding the flowers close to him.

Dean.

Dean was finally, finally reaching out. And just like that, his new resolved crumpled completely.

He wore the flowers. Some he had Meg help him weave into his hair. Most he taped or stabled to his bag, his jacket, his shirt. The poem he kept to himself, but he wore the flowers proudly, happily.

He was sitting with his back to the alley’s side door during lunch, crossed legged on the edge of the table, laughing with his friends, when warm arms wrapped around his waist. He looked over his shoulder and smiled at a soft-eyed Dean.

Dean leaned down and whispered in his ear. “You were right, babe. I know it’s hard, with someone like me. I’m trying. I’m working on it. But I promise to try harder. Just… if you really like me, please don’t give up. Please.”

Castiel stretched his arms above his head, grabbing at Dean’s shoulders to pull him closer. He turned and reached up to kiss Dean’s temple. “Worth the wait. I told you that,” Castiel whispered back. “Just don’t… act like I’m nobody. Don’t… give me nothing but waiting.”

Dean squeezed harder, then they adjusted to where Dean was sitting behind him, arms around him, and they joined in the odd, multilingual fun. The best part was how close Dean held him, and the few times Dean kissed his neck.

The next couple of weeks were… the best Castiel could ask for?

Dean and Sam sat with him every day on the bus. Castiel respected Dean acting like they were just friends, but still, it became normal to sit together.

Then they would walk together to each other’s lockers, then Castiel would walk Dean to his classes.

He still bought Dean a gift once a week, and a flower of significant meaning.

Dean… accepted it.

Two weeks.

And Castiel hurt .

As he watched Dean and Sam get off the bus on Tuesday, he texted Luc and Gabe asking if they could have an “emergency I might be an idiot please help” meeting.

Five hours later, he found himself resting in the big chairs of their parents’ entertainment room while Gabe and Luc made them drinks. By time Luc made them a third drink, Castiel explained and unloaded everything.

“Dude,” Luc laughed, throwing himself down on a seat. “You’re whipped.”

“And totally screwed,” Gabe added, unhelpfully.

“So, I am an idiot. And wasting my time?”

“Why haven’t you just boned him?” Luc asked, twirling his drink in his hand.

“He… scares easily. I was trying to ease him into it.”

“And fell for him in the process?” Gabe snorted incredulously. “You? Damn. Talk about a rom-com.”

“Ugh,” Castiel grunted, throwing his head back. “Now what?”

“Cut your losses,” Luc said simply.

“But,” Castiel weakly tried to argue, “Dean asked for me not to give up.”

“Oh, well, in that case,” Luc answered sarcastically.

“Of course,” Gabe added. “Cassie, you’re clearly wasting your time. And you’re moving to California in a few months.”

“Not to mention, you’re obviously hurting for this boy. He’s stringing you along, and you’re just letting him.”

“Yeah, come on, Cassie. You’re a Novak. One of the best ones. We string, we aren’t strung.”

“Exactly. If you care about him, just tell him to either pull his head out of his ass or piss off.”

Castiel nodded. He truly thought Dean was sincere. He believed Dean liked him, but was he willing to give a little? To try? But he couldn’t give what Castiel wanted, needed, to feel happy and secure.

“Fine,” Castiel said. “You’re right.”

“Duh,” Luc snorted. “Gabe, tell Cas about that chick that tried to drag you along. What was her name? Kelly?”

“Kali. Dude, Cassie, listen to this shit…”

He and his brothers had a good time after that, trashing exes and basically lifting each other’s self-esteem. Luc and Gabe always had outrageous sex stories, and sometimes Castiel had some of his own to contribute. Unfortunately, he didn’t this time. The best he had was the sweet way Dean would smile at him sometimes, when no one important was looking.

The next morning, Castiel decided to drive to school. He stopped by the floral shop he mostly used and ordered a blue rose. A dark blue one. Krissy behind the counter smiled at him, told him it would be about ten minutes.

Blue roses weren’t natural; they were as exclusive as a black one because they had to be made, dyed, but simply cut. The florist had to take a white rose, the symbol of innocence and purity, and manipulate it. It was why black roses symbolize death and farewell.

The blue rose represented the unattainable and mysterious, or rather, the desire for it. They say, “I cannot have you, but I can’t stop thinking about you.”

While Krissy dyed the rose, Castiel sat in one of the waiting chairs, pulled out a piece of notebook paper, and wrote:

My dearest, darling, most beautiful Dean,

I meant what I said when I told you that you are worth the wait. I still think so.

You are worth the world.

And it hurts.

I know I’m about to sound like a dick when I say, I don’t know when you became more than just a challenge. A badass, alpha jock that I could turn. Bragging rights and a good senior year distraction.

But you did. You mean more to me than anyone else ever has. I ended up being the one on your hook, and you’re stringing me along. Maybe you were right to hold me at arm’s length, not let me in. At the beginning. But not anymore.

After graduation, I’m moving to California and starting the next adventure in my life. These last few months, I need to focus on that, I think. Not on someone mostly unavailable.

You asked me not to give up, and I’m sorry. I’m so sorry because I can’t do this.

I hope you find love and happiness, Dean. I hope whatever keeps you locked away you’re able to break free from. I wish I could be there to see you become your own person. To see you not be so afraid. To see the real Dean standing proud and strong. I hope you can soon so that you may enjoy yourself and your life as long as possible, and not end up in a dead-end marriage and job that does not bring you happiness.

Remember that you deserve the world, Dean. Your heart is so good. Your smile is too beautiful to allow it to falter. You are strong, Dean. Do not settle in your life. Do not settle, ever.

Take care of yourself, mio amore.

Castiel

Castiel hid out in the stairwell at lunch again. He perched himself at the top, cracking open the window, smoking a cigarette.

“Dumal, chto naydu tebya zdes’.”

Castiel smiled, turning slowly to face Meg.

“Ya nachinayu dumat’, chto my znayem slishknom mnogo yazykov,” Castiel mumbled.

“Don’t be ridiculous. You can’t know too many languages.” She hopped up on the window ledge next to him, looking out over the parking lot. “I saw our puppy pouting, figured I’d find you moping around too.”

“I don’t think we’ll be seeing too much of him anymore.”

“What happened?”

“I like him.”

“Ah.” She was silent for a few moments as she lit her own cigarette, taking a few puffs. “You know that’s okay, right?”

“Maybe. I don’t know what kind of boyfriend I’d make, but I don’t think that really matters. Dean would never…”

“Be queer, here, and refuse to disappear?”

“Something like that.”

They smoked in silence, then made their way arm and arm to their next class before the bell. They chose to sit in the back, away from most of the other kids. He felt Dean’s eyes on him when he entered the classroom five minutes later, but Castiel refused to look. He didn’t want to see whatever Dean might have been thinking or feeling.

A big part of him wished he never got that stupid wild hair to chase Dean, but there was a small part that cherished the little things Dean did give him. He fingered his bullet necklace, then quietly took it off and put it in his bag.

Time to move on.

A few weeks later, Castiel found himself at another party, this time Crowley’s. He thought he had been handling his mourning period pretty damn well. He sobered up, for one. His friends were planning on a European tour after graduation, and he agreed to go. Meanwhile, he had been researching California. He didn’t technically have to work at all, but he thought it would be fun to work at a few local shops. Meet new people, see where he ended up. His parents weren’t really pressuring him to go to college, and the sad fact was, even if he did go into the family business, the way half the Novaks thought of him would make business dealings unnecessarily difficult.

For once, he decided to remain sober at a party. He played some cards, joked around, pranked Zar. Then he spent a good while on the dance floor, laughing, grinding up against guys and gals alike. The girls didn’t mind because they knew he wasn’t interested, and the guys didn’t mind because the girls were with him. It was fun.

“Hello,” a voice came into his ear.

He turned and smiled. “Zeke, Zeke, Zeke. How have you been?”

“Bored, mostly,” Zeke smiled back, grabbing Castiel’s hips and pulling him close. Zeke went away to college the year before. Neither of them were serious about the other, but they had some good times.

Castiel wrapped his arms around Zeke’s neck. “Maybe I can entertain you?”

“Exactly what I was thinking,” Zeke mumbled, and then they were kissing. Dirty, full of teeth, tongue, and unashamed grinding. Castiel moaned loudly. It had been so long . He was so stupid to keep little Cassie locked away while he chased Dean. “You like that,” Zeke mumbled, moving to mouth Castiel’s neck.

“Got no idea. It’s been too long.”

“Then it sounds like we both have some energy to burn.” Zeke grabbed Castiel’s ass, grinding on him hard, attacking his mouth again. Castiel moaned again, giving as good as he got, gripping Zeke’s hair.

“Room,” Castiel managed. “Private room.”

They stumbled backwards, not breaking their wild, dirty kiss, as they pushed their way off the middle of the dance floor. Castiel heard some people’s annoyed cries or an occasional, “Watch it!” Eventually, Castiel was slammed against a wall. He lifted one leg and hooked it around Zeke’s hip. Fuck the private room.

They only got in another minute of hot and heavy before Zeke was being ripped from his arms. “What the fuck?” Castiel cried, stumbling as he had to get both feet on the ground. By the time he looked up, he saw Zeke’s head turned and Dean staying in front of him with a fist, clearly having just punched Zeke.

“What the hell, man?!” Zeke yelled. Dean had a hold on Zeke’s collar and raised his fist, obviously about to punch the man again.

“Dean!” Castiel yelled, grabbing his shoulder and trying to pull him back.

Dean just knocked him back and punched Zeke again.

“Dean!” Castiel tried again, while Benny came up, trying to pull Dean away, but Dean got in two more punches, one of them in the stomach.

“Don’t you ever touch him again!” Dean yelled as Benny and now Victor was pulling Dean away. Zeke fell to his knees, coughing, one arm holding his stomach and the other helping keep him up. Castiel rushed to him, dropping on his knees himself, a hand on Zeke’s shoulder.

He looked up at a livid Dean, still being held back by his friends. “What the fuck , Dean?”

Dean roughly flailed his arms, knocking his friends off. He gave Castiel a withering stare that was enough to have Castiel gulp and wonder if Dean was about to attack him . Then Dean spun around and stormed away, knocking back people who were standing by watching.

“You didn’t say anything about a boyfriend,” Zeke wheezed. Benny had run after Dean, but Victor stayed. He and Castiel helped Zeke up.

“He’s not my boyfriend,” Castiel answered, softly. “I’m so sorry, Zeke.”

Zeke wiped some blood from his split lip and levelled Castiel with a stern stare. “Good. I would hate for you to have ended up in an abusive relationship.”

Castiel snorted. “Hardly. Come on, let’s get you cleaned up.” He nodded toward Victor, who looked apologetic, and led Zeke to the nearest bathroom.

He was able to convince Zeke to let it go, not to press charges – if not for anyone, for Crowley since it was his house, but needless to say, the mood was effectively ruined. Zeke lectured him about healthy relationships and dangerous men, and Castiel hated that a lot of what Zeke said made sense, despite knowing how good Dean was. They ended up sitting on the front porch for a while, Castiel telling Zeke about Dean, and Zeke finding at least twelve things wrong with it all on both parts.

Eventually, the conversation died down. They gave each other a parting hug, and Zeke went back inside to find another hook up. Castiel sat on the porch a while longer. What Zeke said made sense. Dean had no right, no matter how jealous or whatever he was, to have punched Zeke. What he did wasn’t a romantic gesture, nor something that Castiel should take as a reason to try for Dean again. He wasn’t going to fall into that trap. He did before when Dean gave him those flowers. He tried to just let himself go back to before. Dean gave flowers, clearly that made everything okay.

Castiel snorted to himself. That was Dean’s second chance. Castiel communicated what was bothering him, and Dean didn’t change. He said he was trying, but his actions didn’t reflect it, overall. If Castiel was a different person, maybe eventually, but there he was.

With a heavy sigh, Castiel left the party.

Sunday night, Castiel woke with a start. He looked at his phone, barely noted it was just after two am, when a heavy body fell on him.

“What th—"

“Cas,” Dean’s voice sighed. The body on top of him tried to sneak its arms around him, but Castiel began pushing him away.

“What? Dean? What are you doing? Did Mom actually give you a key?”

“Need you,” Dean mumbled, trying again to pull him to hold.

“Are you… You’re drunk, aren’t you?”

“Drunk on you,” Dean snickered.

Castiel pushed him away again and leaned over, turning on the lamp by his bed. He inhaled sharply at what he saw.

Dean had a nasty bruise and a cut on his temple, a split lip, bloody nose, and the odd way his shoulder was angled, something was wrong with it. “Holy shit,” Castiel whispered, sitting up and cupping Dean’s face. “Dean, what happened?”

“’Son’t worry about it.”

“Jesus,” Castiel mumbled, pulling Dean out of bed.

“No,” Dean protested, trying to pull Castiel back in. “Sleep. Tired.”

“No, hurt, bleeding. Come on.”

It took a lot of annoying huffing, Castiel basically carrying the jock, and a lot of Dean’s drunken protests and mumblings to get him downstairs.

“Castiel?” his father’s voice rang out. He was standing in his study’s doorway. “Dean?”

“Dean’s hurt,” Castiel informed. “He needs to go to the hospital.”

“No, no, no,” Dean whined, pushing away from Castiel. “No hospitals.”

“Yes, Dean,” Castiel sighed, strengthening his grip. “You’re hurt.”

“I’ll call a car,” his father informed, retreating back into his study.

Castiel led Dean out toward the front, setting him on the steps while they wait for a car. His father stepped out to tell them a driver was on their way and asked if Castiel wanted him to come with. Castiel declined, promised to update him, and asked for him to call Castiel out of school tomorrow. Dean too. His father handed him some shoes and a coat and wished him luck.

Castiel sighed and sat next to Dean.

“What happened?”

Dean shook his head, looking crestfallen at the ground. “I tried, Cas. Sammy and I. Tried to ease him into the idea. Dropping hints. Didn’t work.”

“What are you talking about?”

“I can’t leave Sammy with him, Cas. I just can’t.”

“With who, Dean?”

Dean just shook his head, and Castiel was completely thrown off when he heard a sob.

“Oh, Dean,” Castiel sighed, wrapping his arms around him. Dean fell into him, resting his head on Castiel’s chest.

“I’m so sorry, Cas. I’m so sorry. I’m so, so sorry.”

“Shh,” Castiel tried to comfort, stroking Dean’s back and hair. “It’s okay, Dean. Whatever happened. It’s okay. It’s going to be okay.”

“It’s not okay, Cas. I lost you. I lost you.”

“Shh, I’m here.”

“But you aren’t.”

Castiel sighed and was thankful when a car pulled up. “Come on, Dean. Up you go. That’s it. Easy. Just follow me, that’s right. Good, Dean. Into the car – watch your head. There we go.”

The driver shut the door, and Castiel continued to hold a slightly sobbing Dean as they made their way to the hospital. Castiel hummed, rocking him while Dean spewed drunken words, and all the while, Castiel filed them under a ‘review later’ tab in his brain.

“It’s all my fault, Cas. And I can’t fix it. I can’t. I can’t leave Sammy alone with him. And I want you. I want you so much. I want to just let go and be with you. But then there he is. And I don’t want him to kick me out. I can’t leave Sammy with him. And what if he hurt you, huh? What if you came over and he saw? What would he do then? And he’s not a bad man, Cas. He’s not. It’s me. I’m the broken one. And I lost you,” Dean held onto him tighter. “I lost you. I couldn’t even have you, and I lost you. Why couldn’t you have stayed, Cas? But that’s not fair. That’s not fair on you. You deserve someone so much better. I’m so sorry, Cas. I’m so sorry.”

Dean was a mess by time they arrived at the ER. He didn’t want to let go of Castiel, and the nurses eventually had to relent and allow Castiel to stay with him. They took him down to x-ray, then set him up in a bed with an IV to sober him. By that point, Dean was quiet, eyes dry, but looked so haunted. Castiel held his hand as they set his shoulder, put his arm in another sling. Luckily, he didn’t need any stitches. The nurses gave him an ice pack and some antibiotics.

After a couple of hours, a nurse knocked lightly on the door and asked to speak with Castiel.

“Listen,” she said once they were out in the hallway, “Mr. Winchester doesn’t have any insurance, and his emergency contact isn’t answering. He’s no longer a minor, so I’m afraid we can’t keep him here.”

Castiel nodded, rubbing his face. “Let me call my father, Charles Novak.”

“N-Novak?” she asked, recognition clear in her face and tone.

“Yes. I’m sure we can cover any bills.”

The nurse nodded. “Okay.”

Half a day later, the Novaks found themselves a few thousand dollars less filthy-ass rich and a Winchester asleep in a guest room. Castiel had waited at the bus stop the Winchesters always took after school and brought Sam home with him. There were sitting in the guest room, both of them sitting on either side of Dean on the bed.

Castiel had a lot of time to think, and it was clear. Sam and Dean lived with an abusive man, most likely a father. From the sound of it, if he found out about Dean’s sexuality, he would kick Dean out, and Dean didn’t want to risk leaving Sam alone with him.

“The hospital said Dean wasn’t a minor anymore,” Castiel said quietly after some time.

Sam nodded. “His birthday was in January.”

“You do realize that that means he could become your guardian and you both can leave, right?”

Sam nodded again, eyes not leaving his brother. “That’s the plan, once Dean graduates. He already got a job and is saving money. Once he has a place and can prove he can take care of me, he’s going to file for custody.”

Castiel hummed his approval. “That’s a good solution. But I have better one.”

“Yeah?” Sam asked, finally looking at Castiel.

“You and Dean stay here where it’s safe while Dean gets ready to get custody.”

Sam smiled. “I’d like that. Though… Dean never wanted to get you involved.”

“Well, too late. He should have thought of that before he crawled into my bed drunk and bleeding.”

Sam chuckled. “Dean might be harder to convince.”

“I think between the two of us, we can do it.”

Sam took the first crack at Dean once Dean woke up. Castiel decided to wait in the den, watching television, but not really paying attention. He was too lost in his head, trying to decide how he felt. No matter between him and Dean, he wanted the brothers to stay with them, where it was safe. He was more than willing to put aside his feelings and hurt and whatever for that.

But, Dean cried on him, cried about how much he wanted Castiel, and why he couldn’t. It made sense. A part of him wanted to feel guilty that Castiel never tried to dig deeper, even when he suspected something. But he didn’t think it would be something like that. Or, rather, hoped. But, he didn’t feel guilty. Dean simply wasn’t treating him right. It was fine and dandy when it was a game, the chase, etc, something entirely consensually casual.

It became more than that, and they both knew it.

The Novaks were a lot of things, could be as unhealthy as the rest, but if nothing else, they loved themselves. Castiel liked himself too much to be treated so unfairly.

Sure, it was a little ironic that he didn’t mind treating others unfairly, but hey, if they liked themselves, they wouldn’t stand for it either.

A loud bang brought him out of his thoughts, along with stomping and yelling. He jumped up from his seat and caught up with two arguing Winchesters in the hall.

“Dean,” Castiel spoke.

Dean twirled around and paled. “Cas…”

They stared at each other for a few moments before Dean slowly starting walking toward him.

“I’m… I’m so sorry. For… for everything.”

Before Castiel knew what he was doing, seeing Dean look so hurt and defeated, he was moving.

Dean didn’t even seem surprised. Their lips collided gently, like a breath. Dean’s arms enveloped around his waist while Castiel’s hands pulled Dean closer by the neck. The kiss was so soft but assured. It was also quick.

“Don’t you fucking dare,” Castiel growled. “You and Sam are staying here. End of discussion.”

Dean simply stared at Castiel with an unreadable expression.

“Dean,” came Sam’s small voice. “Don’t hurt both Cas and me because of, what, pride? Dad doesn’t care about us, but Cas does. I do. Let us care about you back.”

“He’s right,” Castiel whispered. “So, we’re going to go get your stuff, buy you new things, set you up with your own room, and then I’m going to pop that ass cherry of yours.”

The crudeness seemed to knock Dean out of whatever headspace he was in with a snort. He smiled fondly at Castiel, shaking his head, then crashed their lips together, kissing Castiel like it gave him life, like it was the only thing he was born to do.

They must have gotten too into it, though, because soon there was a loud, awkward cough. Dean pulled back, glancing at Sam, then smirking. “Get used to it, Sam.”

“So, we’re staying?” Sam asked, eyes shining bright with hope.

“Yeah, Sammy. We’re staying.”

Castiel refused to have the brothers enter their old house. Instead, he sent some men, all of whom could hold their own. Luckily, the house was empty, and they were able to retrieve the brothers’ things without a problem.

After they were settled, the brothers and Castiel had a quick dinner. They caught up with each other, how things in their lives were going. Nothing much had changed, except Sam said Dean had been moping around.

Castiel and Dean couldn’t get their hands off each other, though they remained PG. Just touches here and there. Hand holding. Pecks of lips, actually on the lips. They walked hand in hand as they dropped Sam off to his room for bed. Then Castiel casually led Dean to his own door, wanted to push Dean through it and ravish him, but not wanting to scare Dean away. So, he didn’t invite Dean in, just tried to say goodnight at the door.

They kissed, opened mouth, holding tightly onto each other. Dean surprised him when he was the first to initiate tongue, then surprised him even more when Dean grabbed his ass, slamming their hips together.

Dean moaned into his mouth and pulled away some. “I want to fuck you.”

“Dean,” Castiel started. “You don’t have to. I know I can come on strong, but—"

He was cut off by Dean attacking his lips and pushing him into his room. Castiel could hardly protest as Dean began sucking marks – honest to god hickeys – down Castiel’s throat, ripping his shirt off him. Dean pushed him down on the bed, tugged his own shirt off, then stared down at Castiel.

“Do you have idea how hard not touching you has been for me?” Dean asked, voice raw with obvious desire.

Castiel smirked and palmed himself through his jeans. “I’m starting to get an idea.”

Dean slowly crawled over Castiel, hands caressing his torso, eyes washing over him like he was worshipping Castiel. Then, they ramped it back up quickly, dirty, moaning and groaning as they tongues fucked each other’s mouths, hands pulling hair and gripping ass, their feet toeing off their shoes and socks. At one point, Dean sucked on Castiel’s tongue ring, which should have been awkward but was actually hot as hell.

“Here I thought you’d be a gentle Bambi in bed,” Castiel muttered, sucking Dean’s nipple, trying to get Dean to sit up enough to undo his belt.

Dean growled, pushing Castiel back down while sliding off. He undid Castiel’s pants, grabbed them by the ankle, and yanked, causing Castiel to scoot down a few inches. “Not a chance, Novak,” Dean smirked, whipping Castiel’s jeans off the rest of the way. As his eyes gulped Castiel up while he began to slowly take off his own jeans, Dean said, “When I saw that douche doing to you what I’ve been daydreaming about for months, I just saw red.” He roughly removed both their underwear, then towered over Castiel again on the bed, roughly biting his lips. He sucked another mark on Castiel’s jaw, then below the ear. “You’re mine , Novak.”

“Yes,” Castiel moaned, bucking his hips up. “Yours, Dean.”

He blindly reached out a hand, searching through a bedside drawer for lube and a condom while he kissed Dean with everything he had, spreading his legs. Dean snatched the lube from him, and Castiel briefly wondered if Dean knew what to do.

That question was answered quickly as Dean sat back, poured lube in his hand, grabbed one of Castiel’s knees to hold his leg up, and began gently propping at his hole.

“Oh, Dean,” Castiel moaned as a finger slipped by the rim. He fisted the blanket on either side of his head, closing his eyes and savoring the feeling. He knew Dean was watching him as he squirmed and whimpered, fucking back on Dean’s fingers the more they were added. Before he knew it, he was begging. “Please, baby. Please. I’m ready.”

Dean pulled his fingers out and quickly put on the condom, lubing his erection. He lined himself up, then looked up at Castiel. Whatever Castiel’s expression was made Dean’s eyes soften. Dean leaned over him and kissed him, gently, as he pushed in. Castiel wrapped his legs around Dean’s waist to help get him as far deep inside as possible. As Dean slowly began to move, he kissed across Castiel’s cheek down to his ear.

“This is for all the times I made you wait,” Dean whispered, picking up pace. “For all the times I pushed you away. For every flower, for every poem, for every present, for every touch I didn’t return, every kiss I didn’t give you.” Castiel held onto Dean’s shoulders as Dean got faster and faster. He moaned loudly every time Dean hit his prostate. “I’m sorry I made you wait so long.”

Dean kissed every area he could touch as he slammed into Castiel. He noticed a different kind of wet being left behind each kiss, and as Dean kissed his mouth again, Castiel realize Dean’s split lip was bleeding. He could taste the copper and whined to it. The injury landed by his father, for who knew what, now ravishing Castiel. It felt almost like a promise.

“You’re… you’re bleeding,” Castiel tried to breathe.

Dean nodded but didn’t stop.

Together, they fulfilled a fantasy they apparently both had had for months. They moved together, a tangle of limbs, rough and gentle, pulling and shoving, grabbing and sucking, until they tumbled over into pulsing, tingly orgasm. It honestly didn’t take long at all.

Sweating and breathing hard, Dean pulled out and collapsed on top of Castiel. When he caught his breath, Castiel asked, “Everything you thought it’d be?”

“Better,” Dean chuckled.

They woke early the next morning, still naked, cuddled underneath the covers. Castiel was pretty sure his parents knew where Dean slept, and he was positive they would have words about it. It didn’t matter, though, because after Dean blinked the sleep from his eyes, he smiled bright and big at Castiel.

“So, no regrets?” Castiel asked.

Dean kissed him soundly. “No. Just you watch, Cas. I’mma be the best damn boyfriend you’ve ever seen.”

“Mmm,” Castiel hummed. “Are you sure? You know I’m moving, right?”

“Maybe I’ll come with you.”

“You’re trying to get custody of Sam.”

“Maybe I’ll drag him along.”

“He has a home here.”

“Maybe he’ll want to move.”

“Dean…”

“Maybe I’ll convince you to stay.”

Castiel sighed, pulling Dean close. “We’ll see,” he mumbled as he kissed him.

Yet, somewhere in Castiel’s mind, he remembered Sam once talking about how much he wanted to go to Stanford. The possibility didn’t seem impossible.

When it came down to it, the possibilities were endless. He felt decidedly optimistic, and thought, whatever their futures, they were both worth the blooming hope in his chest.