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Roses Gold

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Castiel Novak, age 12, is in love with words. They're beautiful, wondrous things. They do so much. They elicit feelings, memories, spells, ideas. He loves so many words. Fantastical words like "balloon" and "combustion." They're exciting and imaginative. Dreams. Happy words like "cat" and "dandelion." But... there are words that Castiel Novak hates. "Hate." It's a strong word. He hates to use it. But sometimes it applies. Words whispered behind elegantly gloved hands. Words that are pretending that they shouldn't be heard, but can be. "Poor boy. With that eccentric father of his. After his mother passed, there's no hope for him. Poor, poor boy." Horrible. "Eccentric" is a good word, Castiel stubbornly believes. Eccentric pays to keep oil in the lamps, food on the table. Castiel is only twelve, but he believes that "eccentric" means "more brilliant than most people understand." Brilliant enough for people to be scared of.

Except for Castiel's second-favorite word. "Dean." He likes it because there's only one in his whole world. And Dean is lovely. The best friend he's ever had. Dean likes that eccentric father of Castiel's. He's always smiling wider than anyone else in Castiel's world when he says, "good day Mr. Novak. May Castiel come to play or is he busy helping with your inventions?" So polite. Castiel's not fond of the word "polite," however he admits that's probably because he's not so good at it himself. That's fine, though. Dean isn't polite with him, regardless.

And Castiel will not stand on ceremony in his workshop. That's another wonderful word, though in this case, may be a bit of an exaggeration. In reality, it is an old, abandoned house. Small, cozy, given back to the forest at the edge of the city over the years. There's magic in places like this, Castiel is certain. It's where man and nature meet without conflict. The wooden stairs leading up to the porch are soft with moss and rot. The house was handsome once, but now it's spectacular. The paint has peeled to nothing, vines and wisteria climbing up the endless windows to the observation tower at the very top. Plants have shoved their way through the floorboards inside, but Castiel knows where to step safely.

His work bench is near the kitchen in the music room. It's not much to look at. The wood is warped; stained with paint, nicks from knives, scattered with burns from volatile potions and spells. Even the tools are hand-me-downs, cast offs like the house. They're rusted. Some of the beakers and distillers are cracked. The metal boxes filled with springs, cogs, watch parts, non-volatile spell components, are all beyond use for a proper artisan, but to Castiel, they're more precious than gold. His father knows that, and it's why they're given to his son happily.

"Hello, Dean," Castiel says from the doorway.

"Hey, Cas," Dean answers, looking far too clean.

He's already removed his black frock coat and unbuttoned the dark red and black checkered waistcoat. He's even discarded his four in hand to the table, and rolled up the sleeves of his shirt. Mrs. Winchester would be appalled. Castiel thinks he looks wonderful. "What are you dressed like that for?" he asks.

Dean wrinkles his nose. "Mother had a party with the city council. I'm old enough to go."

Castiel slips his tweed jacket over his shoulders and rolls up his own sleeves. "Sounds boring."

"Yeah. S'why I'm here. You're always fun."

"I got sandwiches. You hungry?"

"No. I ate a lot at the party so I wouldn't have to talk to anyone."

Castiel smiles. That sounds like Dean. "Was it good?"

Dean gestures to a pristine red handkerchief on the bench. "Saved you some."

This is why Dean is his favorite person, second-favorite word. He pulls up the silk to reveal pastries of every color on God's beautiful earth. "I'll get fat," he beams.

"So?" Dean shrugs. "You've got a hole in your jacket again," he observes, nodding at the sleeve where the elbow has worn thin.

"Father's saving to buy a new one," Castiel answers, stuffing his face enthusiastically. The pink dainties are strawberry. He loves strawberries.

Dean watches him for a moment with a sparkle in his green eyes, then holds out his hand. "Give it here." At first Castiel thinks he means the desserts, and he's about to protest that Dean has already eaten enough. But then he glances to where Dean is looking. Ah. The jacket. Castiel tosses it across the table with his clean hand. Dean turns it over and inspects the loose leather patch Cain had put on it last season. "What're you working on today?" Dean mutters distractedly, digging for the needle and thread on the shelf next to him.

"Clockwork," Castiel answers. "I want to make some figurines for Father to sell. Little clocks."

Dean arches an eyebrow without looking up from his work. "Sounds good. What kind of figurines?"

"Angels."

Dean puffs a laugh. "Why angels? You're not religious." He bites his tongue between his teeth while trying to thread the needle through the tiny eye hole.

"They're beautiful."

Dean hmm's. But he doesn't disagree. He makes quick work of the patching, as always. He hasn't much talent with a needle and thread before on his own, but once he had seen that mending clothes was the single talent - in his mind - that Castiel did not possess, he set himself to learning it, and learning it well.

It pleases him the way that Castiel's brow furrows with consternation when he glances up from studying the collection of tiny gears to see Dean's finished work. "You could be a tailor."

"I could be a lot of things," Dean replies airily, "but I won't."

Talking like that troubles Castiel, though he's not entirely certain why. He just doesn't like it when Dean says things like that, as harmless as they may seem. Nothing is harmless. He has never encountered a truly harmless word, or string of words, in his life. Some sentences like to hide their true intentions, but those innocuous things are usually more dangerous than their violent counterparts. He suspects that Dean's statement is like that. He isn't sure how to diffuse it, but he tries. He says, "you can be anything you like."

It doesn't work because Dean scoffs, "has that ever been true of the aristocracy and their well-meaning parents?"

Castiel considers this. He doesn't know the actual answer. All he knows of the wealthy families are their strawberry sweets and Dean's willingness to run away from them. He says, "no, I suppose not."

Dean smiles at him, pleased at his answer. Such a sad thing. Castiel marvels at how brave Dean is. He may dislike the trajectory of his life that's been laid out persistently since his birth, but he accepts it without tears or anger. Another thing that Castiel doesn't understand is that sort of sacrifice. He hopes it doesn't hurt Dean. Most days it probably doesn't. But sometimes the light is a little dimmer. And all that Castiel can do is cast a bit more of his own.

"Did you practice the spell?" he asks.

"Yes, but I had to use the transmutation circle that you made. It won't work when I draw it."

"Let me see it?"

Begrudgingly, Dean takes a square of dark dyed cotton from his pocket and spreads it on the table. The transmutation circle drawn on it in chalk is crude and singed.

"It's as bad as you're handwriting," Castiel says bluntly. He didn't intend to sound unkind, but Dean is rarely offended by him. He seems to enjoy Castiel's honesty.

"I will never understand art or calligraphy," Dean says proudly.

"Both of which you need to accomplish alchemy without killing someone," Castiel mutters, studying every line of the drawing. "This is terrible," he finally confirms, intrigued. "What happened when you used it?"

Dean shrugs. "Nothing."

"Something would have happened," Castiel counters.

"I burned the curtains," Dean grins.

"Was your mother thrilled?"

"She forced me to attend the party as punishment."

Castiel believes that. "We can use mine." He holds out the cotton to Dean, who stuffs it unceremoniously back into his trousers. "Watch carefully." He collects the ingredients and carefully spreads them out on top of his own transmutation circle. Blobs of blue, green, and white seaglass, small rusty cogs and wheels. A stained piece of some kind of metal. A clock face rescued from a broken wristwatch.

Dean leans as closely as he dares to watch Castiel's work. Castiel would be lying if he said he didn't very much enjoy how excited and enthralled his friend looks every time he watches a transmutation. It's the one thing he doesn't seem to mind Castiel - or anyone - being better at.

Castiel presses his thumbs at the bottom of the circle, the others curved up towards the sides. He loves doing this. He can feel the crackling of earth energy around him, standing up the short hairs on the back of his neck and arms. The trick to alchemy is timing. It's about patience. His eyes burn hot for a moment, flashing unearthly blue-white, and it's then he begins to raise his hands from the circle slowly. The circle glows red, sparkling up, the light clinging to the pads of his fingers like honey. As the circle grows up, so do the raw materials, shining and taking the form he has designed for them.

Dean says nothing and holds completely still. Even the slightest break in concentration can have disastrous effects, and Dean doesn't want to be thrown out of the workshop.

It's difficult to see the creation being made through the wavering energy circle, but it is definitely taking the shape of an angel. Castiel pauses his hand movements for a moment and then brings his thumbs and forefingers together, ending the spell.

"Ah!" Dean exclaims in quiet wonder.

Castiel nods in satisfaction. It's turned out exactly as he'd planned. The angel is only tall as his hand, and just about as wide. It's soft curves, the body in milky green glass, edged with blue. The oval wings are white, edged with delicate filaments in rose gold. In its round hands it holds the clock, now ticking mutedly. Castiel turns it around to face Dean, ready for his appraisal.

Dean leans in, taking in the details, touching the ruffles in the dress, the flat circle of the halo. "It's incredible," he whispers. His green eyes shine when he meets Castiel's. "How do you wind it?"

"You don't," Castiel answers. He taps the latch on the clock and it pops open. Inside, the cogs and springs glow red. "It's run by alchemy. It never needs winding or setting. Perhaps the spell will need to be charged again in a decade or two, but once I perfect the symbol, it won't even require that much." He lifts the angel to show Dean the miniature transmutation circle etched into the bottom. "This keeps it functioning."

"Amazing," Dean says, accepting the angel and turning it around and around. "You could become the best alchemist in the city, even more than your father."

Castiel flushes at the compliment. "Thank you. You may keep that one, if you wish."

Dean clutches it like an invaluable treasure. "Are you sure? You don't want to sell it?"

"No," Castiel smiles. "I can make more. That one is for you."

"Thank you," Dean beams.

"It's nothing," Castiel says.

"I have to go," Dean says uncertainly. "It's getting late."

Castiel glances up, surprised at the darkness. Time had gotten away from him. But the son of a merchant worries about such things less than a son of the mayor. Castiel stands from the bench and lights the two sooty oil lamps. "Give your family my regards," he says, though he knows Dean won't. It's for the best.

"Don't stay here all night," Dean says. "It's wet. You'll catch chill."

"You fixed my coat, I'll be fine," Castiel answers dismissively, already focused on gathering the parts for the next angel to keep the loneliness of Dean's impending departure at bay. Dean returning home is the least favorite part of his day. But then it's over and he is consumed by his work until the lamps run out. When he moves to pick up his jacket, he spies the glitter of a gold coin on the table. He picks it up. Dean must have left it. For the angel? Why? It's ten times what it's worth. "That was a gift," he murmurs, disappointed for some reason that he didn't fully understand.

~ o ~ x ~ xoXox ~ x ~ o ~

The Winchester estate is one of the finer buildings in Stull City. It stands proudly near to the City Council buildings, less imposing than them only because it is shorter. But it is just as beautiful, with marble entries, brass awnings, and a stained glass roof over the arboretum. The garden in the back is small, but still a luxury in the middle of the city. And the family boasts a great amount of land on their summer estate in the country, besides. Dean enters his home through the back wrought iron gate, through the herb garden, and into the kitchen.

"I know that's Dean," Ellen says from the sink where she is scrubbing the fine china from the party. "You had better remove your boots and put them under the table so your mother don't see them and scold you again. I'll have Bobby clean them later."

"You're my favorite person in the world," Dean grins, doing as he's told, and stooping to unlace his shoes.

She lets out an inelegant snort. "You've got your father's silver tongue. Were you off with the Novak boy again?"

"Cas is my best friend," Dean says, jumping up to sit on the tiled counter next to her, plucking a ripe red pear from the fruit bowl and polishing it on his vest.

"I'm not your mamma, boy. I happen to like him, too."

"'S'nothing wrong with him," Dean mumbles around the pear.

Ellen snaps him with a hand towel for talking with his mouth full. "I know that. You know that. It's the father, not the child."

"Nothing wrong with Master Novak, either," Dean says carefully. None of the adults speak of such things to him. Children aren't to be bothered by adult problems, or even understand them. Dean doesn't, really. However, he has learned in his limited way that some adults will tell him more than they mean to if he doesn't ask them too many questions. He's become very adept at making statements.

Ellen does not disappoint. "Not in the troubling sense, no. He's... not all right in the head, some say. Probably all them spell and chemical fumes. Breathing that in can't be good for a body's proper constitution."

Dean sees fit to roll his eyes at that. "It's not true. Master Novak isn't mad; he's happy."

Ellen turns her head and levels him with a look he has no hope of interpreting. "Sometimes I believe you're smarter than you let on. Now run off and go to bed. I won't have your father yelling at me for keeping you up."

Dean does as he's told. Antagonizing Ellen is always a terrible idea. He's more scared of her than his father. He's silent in his stocking feet as he scrambles through the hall and to the sweeping grand staircase. As he tiptoes past his parent's room, he sees light spilling from under the door, but he goes on unmolested towards the end of the upper rooms. He slips into his bedroom and lights only the lamp on his oak desk. The rest of the large room is bathed in shadows that used to frighten him when he was younger. The bookcases used to make long, sinister curves that met with the study table and chairs in the center of the floor, creeping the darkness to his four poster bed. When the summer storms came back then, he'd call for his mother, and she and Sam would sleep among the goose feather pillows and imported cotton sheets. It never felt crowded, and probably still wouldn't, though he's grown.

Tonight after pulling on his night clothes, he sits at his desk, pulls the alchemy angel from his breast pocket. He holds it to the light, watching the colors shine along the polished wood.

There's a soft knock on his door that he doesn't bother to answer. It wouldn't matter anyway.

"Welcome home," Sam says.

"Did they ask where I had gone?"

"No," his little brother assures him.

They never do. "Were you worried for me?"

"Why would I be?" Sam laughs and comes to the desk, sitting on it and swinging his legs.

"You're such a bitch."

"Jerk!" Sam gasps, but he's not angry. No one in the whole world swears in front of them, and less than no one allows him to do it himself. They're quite fond of it in each other's private company. He catches sight of the angel. "Wow, that's real pretty! Did you make it?"

"Cas did," Dean says, passing it over. "It's an alchemy clock, see the bottom?"

Sam flips it over. "Yeah. Cas is amazing at this! He'll take over his father's shop, won't he?"

"Some day," Dean shrugs. "Maybe he'll be a city alchemist."

"Ugh," Sam groans. "That's so much school! How could anyone do so much school?"

"You love school," Dean laughs.

"Yeah, but I don't wanna be in classes for the rest of my life!"

"You're eight years old. Everything longer than tomorrow seems like the rest of your life."

"I'm not ready to be old and stupid like you," Sam quips.

Dean scoffs, but then they're quiet. He watches his little brother turn the angel this way and that, a thoughtful look on his face which becomes actively avoiding his brother's eyes. "Sammy?" Dean prods after a minute.

Sam puts the angel down. Stares at it. His hazel eyes fill with tears and he sniffles loudly.

Alarmed, Dean grabs for the handkerchief he'd wrapped the angel in for safekeeping, dabbing at his brother's cheeks. "What happened?"

Sam shakes his head.

"Sam, you can tell me."

He shakes his head more vigorously.

Dean flicks Sam's ear. "Tell me."

"Ow!" Sam protests, rubbing at the abused spot. "That hurt!"

"It stopped your crying, though. Tell me what happened."

Sam bites his bottom lip, but Dean can see he's worn the boy down. After a pause, Sam says softly, "they're sending you away."

Dean sits back. "What?"

"Mother and Father are sending you away to school next year!" Sam whispers fiercely. "They were talking about it over tea after you left. They didn't think that I was listening. But I was." He sniffles again. "I don't want them to send you away."

Dean's heart clenches. "They won't," he says weakly. "They wouldn't. There's no reason. I'll speak with them tomorrow. Please don't cry, Sam. I'm not going anywhere."

"Promise?"

"Yes. You wanna stay in here tonight?"

Sam leaps off the desk and runs to Dean's bed before he changes his mind, wiggling under the covers. Dean grins and shakes his head, shooing his brother to the other side after turning off the lamp.

~ o ~ x ~ xoXox ~ x ~ o ~

"I give you too much freedom, my son," Cain says mildly as Castiel slips in the back of the store well after dark. He doesn't even look up from his workbench.

"I was crafting," Castiel answers. He steps beside his father, watching his large, deft hands putting the innards back into a beautiful mahogany grandfather clock face.

"Are you still attempting to teach Winchester's boy how to do alchemy?"

"It may be a lost cause," Castiel smiles, pulling up a stool and sitting beside him. "He's hopeless."

"Few have the innate talent to perform such a science fused with art. What did you make?"

Happy for his father to ask, Castiel opens his satchel and lines up six angels, all identical except for their colors. "I made them for you to sell."

"Remarkable," Cain murmurs, abandoning his repairs to inspect each one under his magnifying glass carefully. "Oh, you've made them self-sufficient. Castiel, the craftsmanship is astonishing for your age. For any artisan. You really wish to sell these?"

"Only if they are good enough. I'm not sure of the design. Or if the spell will hold-"

Cain places a warm hand over his son's smaller one. "Castiel, you may not fully be aware of the finer arts of owning a shop such as this, but the goal is to produce products that are both beautiful and practical. Those items have the most value to people in this day and age. These clocks are that. They would be beautiful on any parlor table or bedroom stand. And they will tell the time accurately for a long time to come. I believe that we could sell a great deal of these. More, if you wish to make them."

"Yes!" Castiel says excitedly. "I found the seaglass on the shore, and the clock parts were scraps. There's no cost to make them."

Cain nods contemplatively. "Wonderful. Then you may display them in the shop. Perhaps by the summer you will have saved enough to give yourself a treat."

"The money is yours," Castiel disagrees. "Ours, rather. I... Father, I know you don't like to talk about it, but we could use the extra money. I am willing to help."

Cain faces his son, eyes looking full, and strokes the boy's messy hair, resting his large palm on the back of Castiel's neck. "Things will turn around. But in the meantime, I won't insult you by saying you're imagining things. It is difficult, especially with your mother's passing... but things will turn around."

A suspicious lump forms in Castiel's throat. "Yes. Until then, let me help."

"The burdens of adults should never fall on children," he says softly.

"But they should on family," Castiel adds.

Cain smiles. "You're incredibly brilliant, Castiel. God blessed me the day that you were born. Promise me you will cease growing up too quickly."

"I'm happy, Father. I swear it."

Cain pulls Castiel to his side for a brief hug. "Good. Who patched your jacket? It was frayed before."

Castiel holds his arm up. "Dean fixed it for me."

"I like him," Cain says, turning back to his work.

"I do, too," Castiel agrees, comfortable spending the evening watching his father work. He's getting tired, lulled by the same sounds and movements he's known all his life. Cain is a large man, and his fingers are thicker than most artisans of his type, but he's gentle and sure with everything. He never drops a single screw, his hands never so much as tremble. He can draw an intricate transmutation circle in seconds. Castiel hopes to be just like him one day.

"Get yourself to bed, son," Cain says when Castiel slumps forward on the bench.

He blinks several times, yawning. "Good night, Father." He shuffles to the short wooden staircase into the apartment above the shop. Compared to other shops, their home is large. There's a small galley kitchen, removed washroom, and two bedrooms shut off from the living area. Castiel's bedroom is only large enough for his bookshelf, single bed, and a small table, but it's cozy, and he loves it. He doesn't bother to turn on the lamp considering that he barely has his clothes off before he's on the bed, fast asleep.

~ o ~ x ~ xoXox ~ x ~ o ~

Breakfast is a serious affair in the Winchester household. The entire family is required to attend every day, unless bedridden. Not that Dean minds. He's always hungry. Mary insists on the time because they would never find a second to be collected in the same room uninterrupted otherwise. John is not even allowed to read the newspaper at the table.

Dean and Sam enter the dining room together, dressed for the day. Mary is already pouring a cup of coffee for herself and her husband when the boys appear. "Good morning," she says brightly. "Did you boys sleep well?"

"Yes, Mother," they say in near-unison.

"Get your food while it's still warm," she advises.

They go immediately to the buffet to fill their plates. Breakfast is the only meal they serve themselves, and that's another reason why Dean likes it best.

They're seated and eating when Mary says, "Sam, I noticed your bed empty this morning. Did you spend the night with your brother again?"

Before either of them can answer, John tuts, "aren't you too old for that now?"

"I'm sorry, Father," Sam says.

He smiles. "Not to worry. But you will need to get used to your own room soon."

Sam looks confused by the vague statement, though he's heard the reason yesterday, but Dean has caught the meaning. He straightens in his chair, already dreading what is about to happen. Suddenly he's no longer hungry. "Father?" he asks carefully.

John puts his fork down on his plate neatly, dabbing the corners of his mouth with a napkin. "Your mother and I have been talking about your future, Dean."

His tongue is thick in his mouth. "Oh?" he croaks.

"Yes," Mary says. "You're old enough now that your father and I think it's time for you to go to the academy in the capital. It's the best boarding school in the country. Your father and I both were educated there."

Sam is slumped small in his chair, lower lip trembling as he pokes at his eggs. Dean glances at him. "Why do I have to go?" he asks.

John looks genuinely surprised by the question. "Why do you not want to?"

A lot of reasons. "Because my home is here. My friends, my family." Cas. "I don't know anyone in the capital."

John waves that off. "You'll make friends. And you will know someone, besides. Middleton's daughter, Celeste, it's also beginning there this year."

He has no idea who that is. He's seen the Middletons at family parties before, naturally, but their daughter has never been with them. Dean has very little use for girls. They laugh strangely and don't like to run, from what he's seen of them. They're no fun at all.

"Please, can you think about it some more? I want to stay here."

"Darling, don't be unreasonable," Mary admonishes lightly. "The school has already accepted you. Spaces are limited. It's an honor to be invited there."

Why would honor matter to him? Inexplicably, Dean feels an intense surge of anger. His life is here! He's needed here! Who will tuck Sam into bed every night and make sure he's not scared? Who will allow him to share the bed when the storms are terrible? Who will patch Castiel's sleeves? He has a hundred reasons rattling around in his head. But all he can manage through the spines in his throat is, "I don't want to go."

His father sighs. "Well, you are, so that's the end of it."

The chair screeches against the polished floor as Dean shoves it back. "I would like to be excused," he says harshly.

John opens his mouth, but Mary puts her hand over his arm. "Of course," she says.

Dean can't flee fast enough. He runs straight to his room without pause, digging his satchel out of the bottom of his armoire, stuffing it with shirts and trousers, papers and pens from his desk. He practically flies around until the satchel is full, and then speeds down the back stairs to the kitchen, avoiding any of the staff who may attempt to speak to him. No one is around. His cleaned boots are shined in the mudroom thanks to Bobby. Dean yanks them on, and then he is away from the suffocatingly huge house, on the familiar path to the workshop at the edge of town.

It's only inside the muted sanctuary that he can stop, heart pounding wildly in his chest, body shaking with anger. Fear. He stands in the center of the reclaimed house, sucking in huge, gasping breaths, ashamed of the burning tears running down his face.

"Dean?"

He swings around. Cas. Castiel is standing in the doorway in a pool of dappled sunlight among the moss and vines breaking through the broken floorboards. He's beautiful, Dean realizes. Like a faerie. Like the angel he made. Dean can't explain the way his heart feels so full, but he can't deny it, so he doesn't try.

"Cas," he says brokenly, dropping the satchel. "I'm being sent away. I don't wanna go. I don't wanna leave here. I don't wanna leave you." He covers his face with his hands, great hiccuping sobs crashing from him.

He feels a warm body close to his. Hands on his shoulders, pulling him in. He sinks into the sensations, crushing himself against Castiel. For the moment, he feels safe.

He has no idea how long they stay that way, warmed by the early sunlight, ignoring the damp of the encroaching woods around them. Eventually, Castiel takes a step back. Dean slumps away, scrubbing at his face with his sleeve. "Are you all right?" Castiel asks in his typical quiet way.

"No," Dean sniffs.

Castiel holds out his hand. Dean takes it and is guided back to the cozy workshop. Dean collapses onto the bench, listening to Castiel light a burner to make tea in the bent up brass kettle. He makes the best tea in the world, in Dean's opinion.

Seeming as though he can read Dean's mind, Castiel begins to talk calmly. "My father taught me how to blend teas," he says. "My mother owned a tea shop before she met him. She knew the best plants, flowers, and fruits to use. How to dry them properly. She taught him, and he taught me after she passed away. I do not remember her much, but I remember the smell of the teas always in the house." He slides a cup across the table.

Dean wraps his hands around it. "I hate tea," he says. "Except for yours."

Castiel smiles, then it fades. "Why are your parents sending you away?"

"School. They want me to go to the academy."

"In Angel's Gate?"

"Yes."

Castiel sits down next to him. "That's amazing, isn't it? It's the best school in the country. Not many people are lucky enough to go there."

"I know that!" His angry voice echoes through the room. "My mother and father have said the same damn thing to me." In the face of Dean's anger, Castiel is silent, and Dean is guilty. He hadn't meant to shout. "I'm sorry," he says in a more measured tone.

Castiel sips his tea for another silent minute. "I'm a little envious of you. The academy has the biggest library in the world. All the things you'll learn... I'm envious."

Dean feels worse than ever hearing that. He realizes that the academy is only a dream for many. In theory, it only accepts the brightest students in all of the core disciplines. In reality, money and influence can do much more. If not for that, Dean's certain Castiel would have been accepted, had he applied. He hates hearing Castiel's envy. Wonders if his friend is more willing to see him gone than he is to be going. "Cas... you're really fine with seeing me go?"

"No," Castiel answers immediately, blue eyes shining significantly into Dean's very soul. "Dean, I will never want you to leave."

He doesn't know why the words feel a lot bigger than they sound, but all that's important in this still moment, is that Castiel means them.

Chapter Text

Dean doesn't leave the rest of the day, and Castiel doesn't ask him to. They read books, climb the trees, make more of the angels that Dean chooses the colors for and Castiel crafts. And when the light finally begins to wane, for the first time ever, Castiel says to Dean, "shouldn't you be getting home?" And Dean looks so forlorn - scared - at the very idea, Castiel takes it back right away and says, "why don't you come to supper? My father will like to see you."

"Yes!" Dean agrees quickly. "Thank you."

Everything is all right again after that.

Cain is just closing the shop when the boys arrive in the twilight. He appears only mildly surprised to see Dean, but smiles widely. "Welcome home, Castiel. Hello, Dean."

"Good evening, Master Novak," Dean greets politely.

"No need for formality. Are you staying for supper?"

Dean glances to Castiel who asks, "can he?"

"Of course," Cain says. "If no one will be missing you."

Dean holds up his satchel. "Cas invited me for the night. No one will be waiting up for me."

Luckily, Castiel has always had a talent for remaining expressionless in the face of Dean's bold lies and terrible jokes. He's no slouch here, smiling hopefully at his father. "Very well," Cain says. "You both are filthy. Go wash up and I'll set another place at the table."

Castiel grabs Dean's hand and runs with him up the stairs to the apartment. There's water already in the basin by the bathroom. They take turns scrubbing their faces and arms, stripping down to their undershirts. Back in the bedroom, Dean digs in his satchel for a clean pair of trousers and shirt, shaking them to clear the wrinkles. He almost bumps into Castiel when the boy tries to open his small armoire in the cramped space. That resolves itself into minor tussling and a great deal of shouting laughter and hissed curses at one another.

They're both tousled and flushed pink from scrubbing, but Castiel laughs at Dean's unkempt appearance once they're finally presentable. "You look nothing like an aristocrat now."

Dean plucks at his plain white cotton button-down. "I'm not tonight."

Castiel beams at him. "Are you sure we shouldn't send word to your parents?"

Dean shrugs petulantly and pulls up his suspenders. "They wanted me gone, so I'm gone."

"Dean..." Castiel makes an abortive gesture. Stops. He doesn't know what to say. He shakes his head. "Let's see what Father is making for supper."

Dean is more than happy to do that. They step into the living area, open to the galley kitchen where Cain is now standing at the stove stirring a large brass pot and humming. There are three cracked bowls at the table with three hand painted tea cups. The wooden table, worn smooth over the years, is small - it can hardly seat four - and Dean feels a surge of love for the home. It's smaller than his bedroom all told, and he adores it.

There's no avoiding anyone or anything here. No way to hide or keep secrets. Well, maybe a few, but everything worth having is out in the open from the small altar for Castiel's mother tucked beside the window to the green plants and herbs stuffed into all the other unused space. Everything is just right, and Dean takes his leisure soaking it in, forcing away the thought that he may not be back for a long while, if ever again. It's foolish to think he can run away forever, but he's stubborn with the dream.

Even the altar is both beautiful and practical. The offerings and marker are nestled into the bottom of a grandfather clock that Castiel and Cain had made together after Mrs. Novak's death. Castiel winds it with reverence every Sunday morning before breakfast while changing the offerings of flowers and fruit. Dean has watched him do it before and it had touched on something nameless and deep within him to see his best friend's soft smile as he'd wiped the dust diligently from the clock and set it fresh for another week.

Shortly, the clanking and conversation from the kitchen draws his attention back to the present. The growling of his stomach helps as well. "Smells wonderful," he remarks. "Is there anything that I can help with?"

"No, of course not; you're a guest," Cain replies. He gestures to a loaf of bread with his ladle. "But my lazy son can slice that for us." He winks at Castiel with a playful grin and Dean wonders what it's like to have such a father.

Castiel smiles serenely and takes the cutting board with the bread to the table, sitting down at his place, slicing it carefully with the large knife. Dean sits beside him and watches the domestic scene with a strange kind of longing. He loves watching Ellen cook when she isn't ready to throw him out of the kitchen with the compost. She will sometimes sneak him and Bobby bites. There's laughter in kitchens. Warmth beyond what the oven and stove produce. Castiel and Cain are no different. They work together to bring a wholesome meal to the table. Cain fills the serving bowl with the stew. Castiel prepares the tea pot and sweetens it with honey. The three of them sit together closely, serving themselves generously with the beef stew and buttered slices of rosemary bread.

"This is delicious!" Dean exclaims, scooping up huge spoonfuls of the meat, potatoes, carrots, and onions. Such a home doesn't require standing on ceremony, and Dean relishes trying to discover just how much food he can pack into one bite.

Cain grins. "I realize it's more of a winter dish, but the nights have started to cool, and the price of beef lately is difficult to pass by. Growing boys like the pair of you need as much nutrition as can be found, considering it seems like young men grow a second stomach until they reach adulthood."

It's true. Dean can't remember the last time he wasn't at least vaguely hungry minutes after eating enough to burst. "I've never had this kind of stew before."

"Oh?" Cain asks. "Well, I suppose it's not much of a high class dish. Hearty and filling are the only requirements."

"It's not that," Dean says with a small laugh. "It's that my mother hates soups and stews. She said proper meals are not meant to be drunk."

Castiel snorts, covering his mouth with his napkin to hide his mirth. Cain is far less inhibited, laughing loudly. "Well, if you think of it like that I wouldn't have a taste for it, either."

"I think it's a shame," Dean says. "I could eat this every day."

"That's a pleasing thing to hear," Cain says. "You're welcome to as much as you like."

Dean indeed eats his fill until he can't manage another bite, resting back in his chair with a sigh. Castiel refills his tea cup for him.

They relax in contemplative digestion for several minutes, and then Cain remarks, "I saw the both of you from the window coming up the road. You looked melancholy as I'd ever seen."

Castiel stands quickly to begin removing their dishes.

Dean casts his eyes down to the table.

Cain glances between them. "I won't pry," he says finally.

"It's because of me," Dean says in a single breath. He presses his fingers to the leftover breadcrumbs scattered on the table, collecting them and brushing them onto his napkin. "My parents have decided to send me to the academy in Angel's Gate next month."

Cain makes an enlightened noise. "You are displeased with their wishes?"

"Yes," he admits. "I love Stull City. I wish I didn't have to leave it."

Cain folds his arms over his chest. "That's understandable. Home is home. But, you will return to it again. With such an affluent family, goodness knows they won't keep you away forever."

"I know that," Dean mumbles, feeling the oily swirl of belligerence oozing up in his chest.

But Cain surprises him. "Dean, as an adult, I feel as though I can tell you this with some authority: the world is large, and when you have a chance, you should explore the corners. Stull City likely feels to you as large as the ocean. But it's a tiny star in the midnight sky. You're being offered an adventure such as any explorer has ever had. And I ask you, what twelve year-old boy is not keen for an adventure?"

Dean stares at him wide-eyed. "No one has spoken of it that way. All they talk about is the education I'll be getting. And not many twelve year-old boys care about that. Besides Cas, of course."

"Some of us know the value of an expensive education," Castiel snaps sourly from his place at the sink.

Dean pushes up and goes to help him, despite Cain's light protests. He takes up drying the dishes that Castiel scrubs clean. "I'm not saying I don't," Dean protests. "I simply prefer Master Novak's opinion on it."

Cain waves his hand dismissively. "Books will always be in libraries. Schoolwork will always be done. Lessons will always be learned. Life experience is altogether different. It will not wait for you. Those chances are fickle. They will find someone else if you fail to respond."

"I would be a coward to insist on staying," Dean surmises.

"Yes," Cain says plainly.

"I see." He's not angry to hear it. Few people are so honest with him. He doesn't always like his feelings protected so much. He can't learn the important things in anyone's heart that way. For that, he's glad that he came here.

Only the sounds of the ticking clock and the clanking of dishes fills the room for a while. When Castiel and Dean have completed their chores, the three of them step over to the living space. Cain reclines in a weathered leather armchair while Castiel and Dean curl up on the upholstered couch to read some of the battered books on alchemy from the small shelf behind them.

Dean starts to yawn first, Castiel soon to follow, and Cain sends them both to bed.

Before they disappear beyond the doorway, Cain asks, "do your parents really know you came here tonight?"

Dean shakes his head and answers, "they'll know where I am."

Cain nods. "I shall send my apologies along with you tomorrow."

Castiel doesn't light the single lamp in his room, but there is plenty of it through the window from a streetlamp in the alley outside. He has a spare set of light cotton pajamas for Dean to wear, worn soft with countless washings. They're a bit short in the legs, but he doesn't mind.

Castiel pulls down the thin sheets and they both sit facing one another cross-legged on the mattress. "Would you like to see something?" Castiel asks after a time of staring seriously at Dean as he is want to do, as if he can stare out the thoughts in his head just by not blinking.

"Yes," Dean answers morosely. Anything to cheer him up. Castiel is an expert at that.

Grinning, Castiel reaches to his table and picks up a sealed glass jar with a transmutation circle on the lid. Inside it is full of what appears to be water and some sort of oil. Dean only gets a moment to wonder about it, then Castiel tugs the curtains closed so that they're pitched into complete darkness.

The next thing that Dean sees is the red glow of Castiel's alchemy and the unearthly blue flash in his eyes as he activates the spell. Dean draws in a sharp breath. Then the red begins to fade. The jar begins to pulse with dim green lights no larger than fireflies. "What is it?" Dean asks, transfixed.

"Faerie lights," Castiel answers, carefully placing the jar between them. It's warm where it touches Dean's knee slightly. "They're not really magical. It's only a trick. The transmutation circle is to warm the water and light the oil. It floats around and looks like faeries."

"Your alchemy is... it's something," Dean struggles for the words. "It's so much like magic."

"It is a little bit," Castiel answers with humor. "It would only be engineering without the magic component."

Unwaveringly watching the dancing lights, Dean murmurs, "you told me before that you are envious of me for being able to go to the academy, but in truth, I'm the envious one. Everything that you create is so beautiful." He taps the jar's lid. "This is how you see the world. And it's more beautiful than anything I will ever see traveling it. I don't see what you do."

Castiel's grateful that it's too dark for Dean to notice his blush. Quietly he says, "one day when I have enough skill, I hope to make machines and things that will change people's lives. But I love these things, too. They make me happy. I hope they make you happy, too."

"They do," Dean confirms. He reaches for Castiel's hand and curls their fingers together. "Thank you, Cas. For all of this."

"I am always here for you, Dean."

"I don't know what I'd do without you."

"Maybe we will be lucky enough to never find out."

~ o ~ x ~ xoXox ~ x ~ o ~

Dull, gray morning light slips through the crack in the curtains, beaming right across Dean's face. He scrunches his nose, burying his face down into the pillow. He's about to fall asleep again when the dawn wakes Castiel, and he wiggles around onto his stomach with a noisy sigh, shoving Dean towards the edge of the bed.

"Gonna fall," Dean mumbles.

"Don't care," Castiel rasps.

"Rainy days don't mean laziness, as much as we wish they would," Cain says loudly from the doorway. Both Castiel and Dean groan in unison which makes Cain chuckle. "Time to pay the price for staying up into the odd hours. Breakfast is on the table, and then I'm sure Dean's family would enjoy seeing him."

He doesn't wait for answers, but the boys roll themselves out of bed presently and dress groggily. Cain has made them pressed orange juice and oatmeal with molasses for breakfast. Dean eats slowly, lingering in his new favored place for as long as possible.

Castiel helps him collect his belongings and walks him down the stairs into the dark shop below.

"I've never seen it like this before," Dean says, looking around. "It's strange being in a closed shop. It's so quiet."

"I would never come down here in the night," Castiel admits. "When I was smaller, it scared me. I thought that there were ghosts in every corner."

Dean waggles his eyebrows. "There may be."

Castiel shoves his arm with an uncomfortable giggle. "Don't say it. You'll make them real, and I'm too old to believe in ghosts."

"I believe in them," Dean says softly, tiptoeing towards the front door, having scared himself a bit. "I've always believed in them."

"Ghosts stories on rainy days are bad luck," Castiel says just as low, infected by Dean's mood. He peers around at the bobbles and clocks, gears and jars filling the shelves around the glass counter case. The ticking of all the clocks sounds ominous.

"But you don't believe in ghosts?"

"I believe that you believe in them, and that is plenty good enough for today."

Dean chuckles as Castiel pushes him to the door and unlocks it. Dean takes a half step out under the awning, watching the rain. "Have you got an umbrella?"

Castiel reaches to the coat rack and pulls out a black umbrella. Dean grasps it, but Castiel doesn't let it go immediately. "Do you feel better today?"

"Loads," Dean answers. Dean lies. "Thank you, Cas."

"You're always welcome here. Be safe getting home." He lets the umbrella go and Dean flicks it out smartly. He leaves quickly into the gloom before he finds another reason to stay. It's early enough still that he only needs dodge the occasional person or carriage on the road, but he's not too damp by the time he's tramping into the kitchen.

Ellen and Bobby are there preparing breakfast, unsurprised to see him.

"Dragging tail home early, aren't we, boy?" Bobby says. He sounds rude but rarely actually is.

"I didn't want to impose on Master Novak for too long," Dean answers belligerently because he knows Bobby won't mind.

"Your father thought as much," Ellen says over her shoulder. "It's the only reason he didn't send for the police to find you."

"Am I in trouble?"

"I'm sure I don't know. I keep to my own business."

Dean rolls his eyes. "How will they punish me? Sending me to my room without supper, or send me away to the capital?"

Ellen tuts sharply and Bobby laughs. She gives him a hard look, but Bobby isn't cowed by his wife. "He's got fire in him," he shrugs.

Ellen is far less impressed. "And a mouth big enough to eat his foot." Then to Dean she says, "you'd better be going upstairs to assure your mother you're none the worse for wear."

Dean kicks off his boots and does so, running up the back stairs and directly into the dining room. Mary is there already, tidy in a sky blue and white striped day dress, but with her hair undone, loose curls of gold around her shoulders. She's hovering near the silver coffee decanter and running her fingers along the rim of one of the porcelain cups.

Seeing her like that, obviously worried, not fully dressed, Dean experiences the first tug of shame since he'd run away last night. "Mother," he says.

She swings around, and without a word gathers her skirts so that she can rush to him and hug him tightly. "Dean," she whispers onto the top of his head, smelling of rosewater and soap.

With a start, Dean realizes he is nearly as tall as her now. "I'm sorry," he mumbles into the ivory brooch pinned to her chest.

She presses her hands to his face, pushing him back a little to have a good look at him. She brushes his unkempt hair from his forehead. "Well, you look all right," she says with a delicate sniffle. "Were you really at Castiel Novak's house?"

"Yes," he assures her.

She kisses the top of his head. "Your father is furious, but it's worry for you, please remember that. You can't run off like that. You didn't at least think to send word?"

Dean hangs his head. The shame is very heavy now. "I asked Master Novak not to. I lied to him. Told him I had your permission."

"Of course you did," she says wryly. "Have you eaten?"

"Yes."

She nods. "You'll sit with us, anyway. And make it up to your brother as well. Sam cried for you."

Dean rubs his nose. He didn't think that he could feel worse. But he can always feel worse when he hurts Sam.

"Dean!" Sam is in the room and on him as if the thought of him summoned his presence. He hugs his big brother around the waist almost painfully.

"All right, Sam," Dean says soothingly, trying to unstick the boy.

"I told them you were with Cas. I was right, wasn't I?" he demands, accusation and relief in his hazel eyes.

"Yes," Dean answers.

Sam kicks him in the shin making Dean yelp, and then saunters off the best that an eight year-old can do, to start serving himself from the hot dishes that Ellen and Bobby have brought up.

Dean takes a small amount of food for himself to be polite, and doesn't worry much until John walks into the room. He says nothing, goes straight to the buffet table, neatly fills his plate, sits at his place at the head of the twelve-seat table, accepts the cup of coffee from Mary, and then stares at Dean.

"Good morning," Dean croaks.

"Yes, good morning," John answers.

Silence. No one is even touching their food. "I'm sorry, Father," Dean murmurs.

"What for?" John asks pointedly.

"For running off last night."

"That is not what you're sorry for," John counters.

Dean's head comes up to level the man with his most hostile look. It won't do anything, but he means it at least. "Very well. I'm sorry for worrying you. I'm not sorry for going with Cas."

"Cas?" his father enunciates distastefully.

"Castiel Novak, Master Cain Novak's son," Dean grits through clenched teeth. "You know who he is."

"Yes, I do," John says softly, heatedly. "That boy is a poor influence on you."

"No, he's not!" Dean protests, unable to keep his voice down.

It angers him further when his father remains calm. "He inspires you to run away from home; from your responsibilities. To not send word of where you were while your mother stayed awake all night worrying. To have you galavanting off God knows where every day. To inspire mutiny towards your best interests."

Dean flies to his feet, palms slamming to the table. "You're wrong, Father!" he shouts, hot tears burning in his throat. He won't humiliate himself in front of his father. And he won't allow unkind words against Castiel. "None of that is true! Castiel is my best friend!"

"Then we're sending you to the academy at the correct time so that you can learn how proper friendships are supposed to function."

"John," Mary says warningly, but the words are said.

Dean throws his napkin down on his plate with force. "I'm going to my room. Excuse me." He doesn't care how childish he seems. It's too suffocating to listen to his father say such awful things about his best friend. Castiel means everything to him! There's not a "poor influence" of a bone in his body! He can't even be shamed by his tears as they're for Castiel, not himself. His father can kick rocks with his opinion on that. He doesn't know Castiel or Cain.

He thumps onto the bed face down, pounding at the pillows until the rage has burned itself out and he's left with nothing except emptiness in its wake.

~ o ~ x ~ xoXox ~ x ~ o ~

In the following days, Dean is forbidden from seeing Castiel. Forbidden even from wandering from the house unless he is in the company of Mary or John. Mary mentions to him that she finds the restrictions excessive, but that John is only concerned for his well being. Dean hates how the adults insist that his well being should make him so miserable. It's almost a week before he can so much as get a letter to Castiel. He persuades Bobby to deliver it when he's due to stop in town for some supplies. He takes it with a pitying look and tucks it into his pocket, promising to pass it along and bring back any reply Castiel might have.

Aside from that, Dean keeps to his bedroom except for meals. Mary visits him regularly to talk and bring him treats, but Dean is subdued and won't be removed from his tantrum.

Sam is the only one fully undeterred. He stays in Dean's room with him for a long time every day, heedless of the sunshine and fine weather as most eight year-olds are crazy for. He bothers Dean until he'll play cards and chess. Sits in the alcove by the window to read, and peppers Dean with all manner of topics that he doesn't expect much involvement in, only asking questions when it appears his older brother is finished moping for a minute or two.

"Why haven't you started packing yet?" Sam asks during one such time a week before Dean's departure to the capital city.

"I won't be bringing much with me," Dean answers. "Only clothes, really. Everything else will be provided by the school."

"Are you still hoping that Mother and Father will change their minds?" he asks idly, fiddling with the clockwork angel as he has taken to doing when antsy but unwilling to be parted from his brother.

"It's not in my nightly prayers," Dean remarks idly.

"Then why'd you tell Cas that?"

Dean gives his little brother a sharply suspicious look. "How do you know that?"

Sam doesn't even have the decency to look embarrassed. "I read the letter you made me take to him yesterday, and he told me about it after he read it."

"You're a shit," Dean says first off. Then, "saying I want to stay isn't the same thing. I know I won't. I just want to."

Sam makes a face. "You're talking in circles like Father with all of those politicians."

"That's good, isn't it?" Dean says moodily. "He wants me to be just like him one day."

Sam abandons his post at Dean's desk and flops onto the bed beside his lounging older brother. "He's not so terrible. Loads of people respect him. He does good things for the city. And he loves us."

"Of course," Dean says sarcastically. "That's why he won't listen to what I want."

Sam turns over onto his back. "I don't want you to go, either. But you will come back on holiday, and one day I'll go to the academy, too, and then we'll both be smart and have good jobs here in Stull."

"I'll bring you presents. What would you like?" Dean asks, steering the topic away.

Sam brightens considerably, listing off a dozen toys and knickknacks he'd like. Dean smiles. He'll remember.

It's an hour until Sam gets bored and tramps off to find something else to amuse himself.

Alone finally, Dean sits at his desk and digs out the letters from Castiel that he's hidden in the drawer. They've managed to exchange three letters in as many weeks, and Dean misses his friend terribly.

The latest one he's read so many times as to have it nearly memorized.

Dean,

I'm sending this letter back with Sam. Please don't be surprised if it is opened when you receive it. Sam is quite curious as to the contents. I hardly mind. He seems to be the only one in either of our families who believes there is nothing wrong with our friendship.

Your father came to the shop yesterday to speak with my father. They talked for a long time. I'm still not sure everything that was said between them, but by the end of it, your father gave mine several coins and left. I asked what they were for since he bought nothing, and Father said it was for the inconvenience of having another mouth to feed for the night. That he was clearing the debt promptly. My father seemed angry about it, as was I. Mr. Winchester assumed us poorer than we are, though considering the wealth of your family, it's to be expected.

I'm sorry, Dean. It is supposedly unacceptable for people of such different social standings to be so close after a certain age. I asked my father what's the reason for it, and he said your family is worried that I will take advantage of you in any way that I can. Try to take your family's money or influence above my "station."

Did you ever feel I did that to you?

I wouldn't, Dean. Please believe that. I love you. You were - and are - my best friend. That is all I ever wanted with you. The things we shared before in our workshop. If we can never be allowed real friendship again, I want you to know that. I don't even know what "power" and "influence" are, except words that I hate. And if they hurt me and my friends, I don't understand why I should want them, anyway. I only ever wanted to spend time with you.

Cas.

Dean folds the letter and puts it away again. He had sent a reply back with his assurances of their friendship without doubts, but has yet to hear back. And... their time is running out. He needs to let Castiel know. To make sure that he understands.

"Dean, enough of this," John says from right inside the door.

Dean jumps, startled suddenly from his own thoughts, banging his knee under the table. He watches his father and says nothing.

"You must pack your belongings and finish preparing for your move. It's only three days away."

"I'll do it," he says moodily.

"Dean - "

"I said I'll do it!" He can't stop the anger always flaring when he so much as sees his father. He stands up from his chair. "There's no need to worry, Father. You'll be rid of me as you wanted right on time."

John's mouth opens with an immediate retort, but he stops himself. Closes his mouth. Sighs heavily. Begins again. "This is not about being rid of you, Dean. This is about offering you the best opportunity for a bright future."

"Horseshit!" Dean hollers, beyond able to keep it all bottled up any longer. It's a fierce thrill of joy that zings through him at his father's startled look at the swearing. "It hardly matters where I go to school! You've told me my whole damn life that the Winchester family built this city from sticks! I don't have to go away to school to have a place in society! I don't have to give up my best friend in the world to keep our family's standing intact!"

John's brow furrows. "Dean, is that what you-" The second his hand touches Dean's shoulder, the boy jerks back violently, rattling into the table, his elbow crashing into the small stack of books behind him, scattering them to the floor with the shattering of glass.

John draws back with a disappointed look on his face. "Very well. You have three days to be ready. I'll see you at supper."

He's gone then and Dean swings around, swiping the books up angrily and slamming them back down on the desk. And then... "no," he whispers. Castiel's angel! He stoops down to his knees, delicately picking up the broken pieces. It's completely ruined. It's in no less than five pieces, the clock face broken, too.

Unbidden, tears spring to his eyes. Aside from the letters, the angel is the only thing he has left of his friend. Maybe he can... he scrubs at his eyes, then sits down in his chair. He pulls out the transmutation circle he'd tried to fix properly after showing it to Castiel, and spreads it out on the desk. The broken angel goes in the center. He can do this. He can. It's important. Focus.

He presses his fingers along the edges of the circle just as Castiel did, and calls on the magic he knows is in him somewhere, drawing his fingers up slowly. He feels the crackle shoot up his arms, golden light clinging to him as he moves his hands higher. For a moment, everything goes as planned. But halfway through, there's a snap, and the energy shoots painful lightning up his arm. He gasps and instinctively yanks his arms back with a curse.

The magic pops away.

With despair, Dean surveys the mess he's made. The angel is whole again, but the clock isn't ticking, and the wings on the angel have been singed black by his ineptitude. He cradles it in his hands and cries himself to sleep right at the desk.

~ o ~ x ~ xoXox ~ x ~ o ~

It's pitch black when Dean wakes, neck aching from where it rested on the wooden desk. He's unsure of the time, though his lamp is low on oil now, so it must be late.

He pushes up and stretches his arms over his head. Sees the broken angel. His sadness seeps back. "Cas," he says. He glances towards the window. Three days. Three more days.

Unacceptable.

It's the wrong thing to do, but Dean is past caring. It's only three more days. He tugs on a pair of boots and opens the door to his balcony. He's never fancied a broken leg or arm, but this is the only way now if he wants to see Castiel once more. Without a second thought, Dean climbs onto the balcony railing and scales the trellis all the way down to the garden without incident, sprinting away into the night.

He's below Castiel's small bedroom window minutes later, sweating, shaking with adrenaline. He grabs a handful of pebbles from the road and tosses them up one at a time against the glass. He can see a light on, but it takes him six throws before there's a face peering down at him. Dean waves wildly to get Castiel's attention, and immediately the face disappears.

The door to the shop opens seconds later. Castiel is outside in his green striped, button down pajamas and boots, wide-eyed. "Dean!" he exclaims quietly, glancing up and down the silent street. "Are you running away from home again?"

"No," he says, giddy to see his best friend again. "I only came to say goodbye. I'm leaving in three more days. And..." his gaze slides down to his feet. "I wouldn't be able to see you before if my father had his way."

"I see."

Dean grabs Castiel's hand. "I'm so sorry, Cas. I didn't mean for any of this to happen. We can still be close, can't we?"

When their gazes meet again, it hurts Dean to see Castiel's bottom lip trembling. "Yes," he says in a crackling voice.

Dean reaches into his pocket and pulls out the angel. "I broke it," he says miserably. "I tried to fix it, and I made it worse. I made all of it worse, and I'm sorry, Cas."

Cas cups Dean's face in his warm hands, frowning. "It suits you. It's fixed."

They stare at each other, frozen in silence. Dean wants to remember Castiel as he is now in the low light with messy hair and a frown that brings out his dimples. He came all the way here and he has nothing to say. "I'll write you," he says eventually.

Castiel presses the angel and a letter from his pajama pocket into Dean's hands. "I'll be waiting." Then he does something that Dean will remember for the rest of his life. He presses his lips to Dean's, salty with tears, and only for a split second before pulling away and running back into the shop without saying another word.

Dean doesn't care about words. Actions are so much better.

When he arrives back home undiscovered, he goes straight back to his room, tucks the unopened letter into the bottom of his steamer trunk to be read when he needs it the most, and begins to fold and pile his clothes on top of it.