It was dark, it was cold, and Castiel wondered if there was a storm approaching, for the night air was damp, giving the wind a bitter bite. He pulled his over-sized beige trench coat tighter around him as he walked up the hill; he was so far out of town that there were no paths to walk on, so he stuck tightly to the left hand side of the road so he could be seen and easily avoided by any oncoming traffic.
He could hear the river rushing past him at the bottom of the embankment, and he slowly started to make his way across the bridge. Now he was here he wasn't feeling quite as confident as he'd been when he'd started walking up here. He let the small hold-all he'd been carrying drop to the ground, and a shiver ran up his spine as he carefully negotiated his way over the railing. At this late hour no-one should be passing by, and for that Castiel was relieved. Everyone should be safely at home, tucked up in their nice warm beds. How Castiel wished that was where he was right now.
* * *
"You are a disgusting sinner, and I want you out of my house!"
"But father, where am I—"
"SILENCE!" his father bellowed, and Castiel flinched at the harshness of his tone. "I don't care where you go, just that you do not return to this house again until you are willing to seek the good Lord's forgiveness."
Castiel's elder brother, Michael, hovered at the doorway.
"Father," he started.
"Upstairs, Michael," their father cut him off. "Pray to God that your brother here sees the error of his ways and repents, before it is too late for him to do so." He turned to Castiel. "Pack your bags – take only that which you need and is yours, and do not return. You are no longer welcome here."
* * *
What Castiel wouldn't give to be able to go home and slot back into his old life – but he couldn't. He couldn't change who he was, no matter how much he might wish to. Fresh tears began to fall as the enormity of his decision finally hit him.
This wind stung his cheeks where the cold air met with damp trails, but Castiel couldn't feel it – not really. It was nothing compared to his father's vicious attack on him. He allowed himself one final glance up at the heavens, as he prayed through tears to a God who hated him; prayed that He would look after his family, and for His forgiveness.
"I'm sorry." Castiel looked down at the river below, black under the night sky, oblivious to the black car that had just started driving across the bridge. "But I just can't go on alone any longer."
"Hey! Hey, you on the bridge! Hey!"
Castiel's hand involuntarily clenched tighter around the railing as he flinched in surprise. He turned to the stranger's voice, astonished at both that anyone else would be up here so late at night, and also that they would take the time to notice him.
"Hey, wait! Don't!" the man continued, as he got out of his car.
Castiel gripped the railing behind him tighter as he viewed the strange man who walked hesitantly up to him.
"I'm Dean," the man introduced himself.
Cas just looked at him, as if unsure of what to say.
"Uh, never mind. Can I..?" Dean trailed off, motioning closer to Castiel, who nodded after a moment's pause. Dean didn't fail to notice the way his knuckles whitened as he tightened his grip on the railing, as if afraid Dean would grab his hand and prise it off. Not that the thought hadn't crossed his mind, but slowly does it.
"So, uh, you're a long way from town."
"So are you," Castiel replied.
Dean laughed emptily. "True." When he saw the man was waiting for more, he elaborated. "I was on my way home."
Castiel nodded at that.
"What about you? Can I offer you a lift home?"
The man shook his head.
"No? Okay, then."
They both stood in silence for a moment, Dean unsure of what to say next.
"You got a name?" he asked eventually.
"Cas..." The other man swallowed. "Castiel."
"Castiel? Strange name."
"My family is very religious."
"Oh, right. So it's some Biblical name, then?"
Now it was Castiel's turn to give an empty laugh. "Something like that, yes."
Dean pulled his collar up to keep the chill off. "Listen, it's getting cold up here..."
"Then go home – don't let me keep you."
"No, that's not what I..." Dean sighed. "Look, I'm not just gonna walk away from this. From you."
Castiel looked Dean in the eye for the first time, then, and Dean found himself temporarily lost in sea of blue. He knew he was staring, but he couldn't stop himself as he drowned in the young man's confused gaze.
"But you don't know me," was all Castiel said.
Dean hesitantly put a hand over Castiel's. "That's not how this works, Cas," he said gently. "I'm a part of this, now – I walk away, I might as well be the one to shove you off this bridge."
"Don't say that, Dean. You are not responsible for me."
"Well someone has to be." Dean immediately realised his mistake when Castiel turned away from him. His stomach clenched as he watched Castiel look down at the swirling river. "Look, uh, I'm not really good with the whole talking thing, I know that – but if you want to talk I can listen?" he pressed desperately.
Dean didn't know when the rain had started to fall, but when Castiel shivered he realised that the poor man's shirt must be soaked right through.
"Come on, Cas. Let me take you home."
"I haven't got a home to go to," Castiel admitted quietly; so quietly that Dean barely heard him. His hurt and broken expression hit Dean like a punch in the gut.
"You do now," he found himself saying, and he gave Castiel's hand a reassuring squeeze. "Let me take you home," he repeated.
Castiel stared at him as if unable to comprehend why Dean was being so nice to him, and it was all Dean could do to hold his gaze.
"That... would not be a good idea."
The smile that had slowly started to spread across Dean's face quickly disappeared. "Will I tell you what's a worse idea?"
Castiel looked at him.
"Dying," Dean said simply.
"That would be my choice to make, Dean."
"Take it from someone who knows what it's like to lose people you care about." Dean could feel tears pricking but he ignored them. "I won't believe there aren't people who'll miss you if you die here tonight."
Tears were falling down Castiel's cheeks. "Then there is nothing more I can say to you, Dean, for I have no-one. Not any more."
"You got me," Dean said gruffly, clenching a hand around Castiel's wrist. Dammit, he was going to save this guy's life if it killed him. "If I didn't care, I wouldn't be standing here freezing my ass off."
Castiel looked at him and Dean stared at him right back, unwilling and unable to look away. He must have seen something in Dean's eyes in which to believe, for he turned to climb back over the railing. Dean let go of the man's wrist so he could wrap an arm around his shivering waist instead to pull him over, but whether it was the sudden gust of wind that threw Castiel off balance or the wetness of the railing that caused him to lose his grip, Dean's hand clenched around air. It felt like time had stopped as he watched Castiel flail for a grip on something, anything – but then the man was falling backwards with a scream into the choppy waters below.